They say he did it because he asked to sit by an innkeeper’s fire one night and was denied with a lie. The innkeeper said that there was “not enough fire” to warm the man who was dressed in rags and filth. He appeared to be a beggar, but he was not a beggar. He was a warlock. And he was none too pleased by the innkeeper’s response. It was no surprise that he should cast a curse. What was surprising was that he did not just cast the curse on the innkeeper himself, but on the innkeeper’s entire country.
It had a name, but everyone simply called it the Company. The Company was prosperous, prestigious, and pervasive. Dominating all industries from sea to sea. Exploring and founding even beyond the sea. It was a coveted position to be a worker in the Company. Those who attained the highest ranks were envied and revered all the more. For in those ranks, one was not a mere “worker.” One was a Hand. The Company had many Hands. And these Hands reached into every corner of the known world. The Company did not tolerate weak Hands. Only strong ones.
There was no great mystery about how one could become a Hand. One had to meet and complete the Challenge of the Hand.
Jane knew about the salamander. The salamander was capable of regenerating its limbs, to a certain degree. As such, it had been studied by scientists who sought to unlock the secrets of tissue regeneration. Wound-healing in humans was a messy and half-hearted affair and sometimes lead to more harm as useless scar tissue formed where living, operating tissue had once been. The process could go so far as to render an organ completely useless, the only solution being to replace the organ. Even the human liver, with its great capacity for regeneration had its limits. But Jane worked with a particular group of scientists studying the liver and the salamander, who joined with another group who were studying the effects of aging. They believed they had struck upon a treatment, a combination of gene therapy, the application of small doses of radiative energy, stem cells, and even specific bacterial cultures to induce regeneration of wounded tissue.
Jane knew about the salamander. The animal’s mythical association with the element of fire. Fire cleansed and fire sealed. It was a good symbol for their project.
“Tell us a story first!” the boy said.
The grandmother had started tucking in the children for bedtime. But she now glanced over at the eldest, who was sitting in her bed with her knees drawn up. The grandmother had already indulged them by letting them stay awake later than they should have. And yet…
How could she pass up the chance to tell a story? Especially to such a cherished audience. Still, she had to make them earn it.
“Ask me a question,” she told the eldest. “If there is a story to the answer, I will tell you that story.”
She continued her tucking in and noticed that the girl’s siblings watched their elder sister with expectant eyes.
The girl thought for a while and then she asked, “Why is the ocean salty?”
They’re a lot like us. The Promethians. That’s not what they call themselves, but I could never really pronounce (or spell) the proper word, so I call them the Promethians. And others started calling them that too. Because after all, they gave us fire.