Avelyn was young, nearly five years old, the first time she touched the flames burning brightly on her father's desk. Their glow was captivating, drawing the young girl in, begging her to hold the light in her hands rather than force it to remain perched on a pillar of wax.
Their beauty was deceiving, and she screamed when her hand made contact with the fire.
"Avelyn!" her father scolded. "Eir is not a toy. Captive fire will burn you if it gets the chance."
The young girl glared at her father, failing to comprehend why such beautiful flames had betrayed her trust. "It bit me!" she said indignantly, as though this was not the response she had expected from her efforts to free it from its stick of wax.
Her father sighed. "Look at my hands, Avelyn. What do you see?"
She traced the edges of shinier skin on his hands, not comprehending.
"They're burns, Avelyn. It's what happens to your skin when you touch fire. Fire is hot, and it hurts you when you touch it. It leaves marks to prove it."
"Always?" she asked, uncomprehending.
Her father nodded. "Yes, my little one. Fire will always burn you, and me, and your mother and brothers and aunts and uncles and even the house. It cannot be allowed to go where it doesn't belong."
"But what if it comes off the candle by mistake?" she asked, suddenly fearful.
Her father laughed. "That's what the palace magicians are for. They can catch fire that escapes from the candles."
Avelyn's eyes widened. "But how can they catch fire if you can't touch it?"
"I'll tell you a secret, Avelyn," her father said. "They study the old scrolls in the library for years and years and years and finally, when they're smart enough, they can touch fire and it doesn't hurt them."
The girl smiled. "Daddy, I'm going to get smarter than the fire magicians."
He smiled, but she could not see the sadness behind his eyes. "If you do that, Avelyn, you'll be a fire mage. Do you know how long it's been since there's been a fire mage in the world?"
She shook her head.
"It's been almost four hundred years. Do you know how long that is?"
"As old as you!" she shrieked.
Her father barely held back laughter. "No, Ave. Older than me. Older than Grandpa, even."
"Grandpa's old. That's a really really long time, Daddy. But it's ok, I'll get smarter than the fire magicians and I'll be the first fire mage Grandpa ever gets to meet. Okay?"
Her father smiled. "That will be wonderful, Avelyn. But for now, it's time for princesses to be in bed. Are you ready to sleep now so you can look for the fire scrolls tomorrow in my library?"
"Yes," the girl said. "I need to find them fast so that I can be smarter than the fire magicians."
The king kissed his oldest daughter's forehead before she went running off to bed, then allowed his head to drop to his hands. He knew better than most that practicing fire without the aid of a magician was not only illegal, but highly dangerous. He would just have to hope that, should his daughter ever find the scrolls of ancient fire knowledge, the task of actually becoming a fire mage would prove too difficult and she would give up before she did anything royally stupid.