It was not technically a prison. Even if it had been, Aodh did not think he’d mind. He had sunlight and fresh air, a stone house that did not catch fire, and copies of as many books as he wanted to read. He had teachers working with him patiently on his still-unreliable fire powers, and, more importantly, people helping him create Workings that protected his own body from the results of his flames.
He didn’t think he could leave, but Aodh did not mind all that much. He remembered too well what happened when his power got out of control.
Still, when Luke came walking up the lane, Aodh found himself tensing. He resisted the urge to run and hide; there was nowhere he could hide from Luke; there was nowhere he could really hide from anyone, if they really wanted to see him.
Luke was accompanied by three younger-looking men. As they came closer, Aodh saw that one of them was tall, over eight feet. One of them had gills and a green tint to his complexion. The third had a tail, tucked around into his front pocket. All three were carrying large bags and wearing plain black clothing.
“Hey, Aodh. These three would like to talk to you for a few minutes.” Luke stepped back. He wasn’t scowling; he’d been scowling for months. But he wasn’t smiling, either.
The one with the tail stepped forward and offered a seven-fingered hand to shake. “Hey, Aodh, I’m Conrad. I hear you can get pretty hot.”
Aodh shook the hand, a little surprised. Most people didn’t want to talk to him. “I can, uh. Yeah.” He winced. He could melt steel when he focused, but sometimes that meant his control of his protective Workings failed him. “Yeah.”
“We’ve got some monsters we need to kill, and it seems like extreme heat is a big weakness. Think you could help us?” His smile was self-disparaging, but Aodh noted he held himself much like Luke did, and he had a series of scars below his chin, running down under his shirt.
Aodh swallowed. “Is this the, uh.” He didn’t have a TV. Televisions didn’t survive around him. “The… war?”
“Yeah.” Conrad’s smile slipped away. “It is, and we could use all the help we could get.”
Aodh looked down at the ground for a minute. “I could help? Really help?”
“Man,” Conrad admitted, “you might be our only hope.”
It was going to hurt, a lot. But nothing would ever hurt as much as those first few months. “I’ll do it.”
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