My first attempt.
The fire must not go out.
I stared into its depths, using my mind and soul to help it climb and grow. It kept the bitter chill of the air off my face and chest, and I had to resist the temptation of drawing out some of its heat to warm my shirtless back. Instead, I gave it some of my heart. It chilled me to the core, but I saw it flare with new ferocity.
I steadied my shaking limbs and spinning head, and piled on more branches. The leaves were seared off quickly. The wood was damp, and burned slowly, filling the air with smoke and making my lungs burn.
The fire demanded more.
I darted into the woodlands beside the field, suddenly embraced by the late autumn’s chill. I gathered branches with numb fingers, coughing painfully and gritting my teeth. I soon had another armful.
The fire hungrily accepted the new fuel. I warmed myself by it, letting my blood return to a healthy temperature and my extremities become less numb. It crackled, as if in thanks.
But it wanted more.
I returned to the woods again. I was tired, but there was no time for rest. The fire must stay alive. Most of the good branches in the immediate vicinity had already been scavenged during the long night, so I was forced to push deeper, further into the cold.
I reminded myself that I needed the fire, and it needed me. We were as one. I brought it into the world, and in return, it would grant me power. In this chill night, the fire and I were equals.
Once again, I returned with more wood, and piled it on. The fire blazed higher. I collapsed to my knees and began to cough again. My breath came in slow, painful rasps. I was forced to draw out a fraction of the fire’s heat to restore strength to my limbs.
The fire was not pleased.
It burned the sides of my face, causing me to wince in pain. I could smell my skin cooking. It sent me out into the cold again to gather more wood, as I was no longer allowed to warm myself.
As I gathered branches, I began to resent this bonfire. Had I not created it? Was it not unlike my child? Perhaps it was something that had been here much longer than I, and I had simply awakened it.
When I returned, the fire’s heat thawed my burnt cheeks, causing them to burn with pain once again. I masked my resentment and fed it. If I could just make it through the night …
The fire needed to grow, to expand. The admittedly meager allowance of damp wood was all I was able to feed it, but it was not enough. This had gone further than I had planned.
I returned to the forest, dropped to my knees, and momentarily closed my eyes in apology for my coming course of action. The bonfire crackled angrily behind me, snapping me out of my brief period of inaction.
With all the willpower I could muster, I began to sap the life from the forest around me. I could feel the ground turn to ash and the hibernating trees twist and wither. The land would forever be stained with my corruption, and would never truly recover.
Trying my best to keep the life force inside of me, I returned to my new master. I fed it the warmth, along with a little of my own. It burned hotter and higher, but I was still cold. Fatigue was thick in my limbs, and my head was spinning.
“Grant me a portion of your life,” I pleaded, “so that I may go on.”
Grudgingly, the fire channelled me a sliver of warmth. It wasn’t much, but it would keep the pulse in my body.
I returned to the forest, gathering more wood, reluctant to steal any more life. I hated my cruel master. Perhaps I could find some way to snuff it out before it became more powerful …
I fed it and waited until I could feel my hands. Focusing my attention, I drew in a surge of heat from the fire, hoping to catch it off-gaurd. I could hardly bear it, and I felt my body begin to burn itself up, but still I sapped more.
The fire responded to the assault violently, lashing out at me, searing my skin and trying its best to pull back the heat. I stumbled backwards out of its reach.
In the snow, I collapsed and began to spasm violently, coughing up mouthfuls of flame and screaming as every cell in my body smoldered. The heat was released around me, melting the snow and causing the air to shimmer with heat.
The fire was inside my mind.
Involuntarily, I got to my feet and stumbled into the forest again, leaving a thin trail of smoke. For hours, the fire slowly grew to its former glory, with me stumbling back and forth in a tortured dream-state, carrying wood.
Sometimes, I would try to break free, but I would be punished with searing heat in my head. I was fully the bonfire’s slave now, unable to fight or flee.
How I hated my master.
What had I done. I had found something ancient and evil, and given it unwholesome life. Now, it would snuff me out as it ascended. I had to fight back. To fight was my penance. My life and soul no longer mattered. All that mattered was vengance.
With a sudden surge of willpower, I broke free for a few precious seconds and threw myself on the bonfire. My twisted form smothered it enough that it lost its grip on my mind, and I was able to stay in place.
The two of us fought for a long time. The skin was seared off my flesh, and every inch of my body was aflame with cleaning pain. Just as flesh was seared from my bones, corruption was seared from my mind. For a few moments, I was truly free.
But even in death, the thing remained.
Dead, I got to my feet. Now the fire and I truly were as one. It lived inside me. Most of me had gone elsewhere, but a shard remained, slave to the fire. A flame burned in my chest and stomach, the new spirit occupying my now nigh-vacant shell.