I could feel the flames licking at my ankles, my bare toes burning, the fire grazing gently at my feet, like some demented lover. I couldn't go any faster. It was impossible, and inevitable. I was going to die.

There was no escape from the burning inferno below me. It was a giant column of swirling fire, barreling after me, filling all the nook and cranes in the gigantic vertical shaft that I had previously used to rest on my flight down.

The flames roared in my ears, but even that wasn't enough to cover the music. The music...it was deafening. It was the music controlling the fire. The music raised a giant crescendo and fire lurched forward to touch my feet. It quieted so it was barely audible over the barreling roar of the fire and the column retreated, hovering just below me as I shot skyward. A bead of sweat dripped into my eye and I nearly hesitated in midair with the instinct to rub it. The shaft I was flying up seemed to have no end. I couldn't even see the top. The earth seemed to go on forever, vanishing into the darkness above. My flight upward started to become monotonous. I couldn't think, couldn't feel, just be.

It was a cruel fate, to be burnt to death, but at least I would die underground, under the heavy, brown earth, where I belonged.

My drifting turned into a dreamlike state and I seemed to hover instead of fly. Somewhere is front of me, a small spark floated. It was several dozen feet it front of me, rushing ahead. I watched it as I darted forward. The heat below me, sans the natural heat of the shaft, seemed nonexistent. The spark turned into a man and I nearly flew into him.

His soft flaming red hair fell down in limps close to his shoulders, and his blazing red eyes pierced my own brown ones. A black robe with red markings and ancient languages covered his shoulders and body. His feet, unlike mine, were covered in leather boots. In his right hand, lying down at his side, was a pale silver flute. He stared at me and raised his flute to his lips.

"No! Don't!" I said, darting forward, my hand outstretched. The fire, which had been moving below me, came to a standstill. The man stared at me, bringing the flute down from his mouth.

"Why not? You deserve it for what you did," he said, the chill in his voice so obvious that I actually shivered despite the heat. "You should pay for what you did."

"But all I did was come down, and..." I drifted off and averted my eyes, that feeling of guilt washing over my body, covering my eyes, trying to pull me away into it's dark, cold clutches. I knew what I did; I was just so pathetic that I didn't want to get punished. He sneered at me.

"What you did was...unforgivable, even to the White One."

"No..." I cried, clutching at my hair. "You-you agreed, you said..."

"It doesn't matter what I did, just what you did."

"But I didn't do anything! Please...let me go..." He still stared at me. Even though he usually was stubborn, for that one second I thought that he might actually change his mind.

"Hmm..." he hummed thoughtfully. "No." He raised his flute to his lips and a single, piercing, haunting note filled the cavern. I heard the halted fire roar below me.

"NO! Stop!" I reached forward and actually grabbed his wrist. I gasped as I felt my fingers wrap around the bone. His skin was burning like fire. He gave me a momentarily startled look, before a sneer spread across his face, his teeth bared.

"What do you think you're doing?" he growled at me.

"Trying, trying to stop you," I mummered, slowly letting go. My gaze was suddenly back on the flames below us.

"You shouldn't," he said, his voice stern.

"I know," I moaned, eyes locked on the fire. For some reason he seemed to reconsider. "But I'll do anything for you if you let me live," I pleaded.

"All right," he replied smoothly, almost carelessly. I was so shocked that I actually jolted in midair, flinching. I looked up at him and gaped.

"Really?" I gasped out.


"What-what do you want me to do?" I exclaimed, happy that I was going to see tomorrow. I hesitated again, seeing the look across his face. He said his demands clearly, and it was not what I wanted to hear. I gaped slightly, and his mouth turned into a twisted grin.

"No..." I muttered, putting some distance between us. "No...anything but that..." His smile dropped and he shrugged aimlessly.

"You said anything, that's my anything," he said plainly, looking me straight in the eye. I tried to hold his gaze momentarily, before looking away and down at the fires.

"But that's almost worse than death; it is worse than death!" I moaned, clutching at my shoulders, rubbing my arms. He shrugged again. I pulled my feet up to my chest and looked pleadingly up at him.

"Then die." I looked back down at the fire, which was humming slightly as if it was a loyal pet waiting for its meal. I tried to reconsider his demands--no! I grabbed at my hair again. I couldn't! No, my life wasn't even worth that.

"Kill me," I sobbed, pulling my legs closer. After a moment of nothing happening, I glanced back up at him. He almost looked disappointed.

"You really want to die?" he asked, as if he was trying to deal with a particularly stubborn child. I winced and nodded.

"It's better than...that..." I muttered. He shrugged carelessly, that loneful look dropping from his face.

"Your choice." He put his flute to his lips and started playing a haunting melody that aroused the fires below. I pulled away from the sparks of the fire lashing out at my legs as it slowly rose towards us. I floated near the side of the cavern, pressing my back against the rock. The flames roared up and pushed me towards the wall, engulfing me. Just when my clothes started burning off my flesh, I started melting into the wall, the coolness engulfing me, sending shivers throughout my body in contrast to the fire scorching at my face. Just as rock was about to fill my vision, I saw a pair of burning red eyes.