The wall of flames rose up again, this time almost growing out of control, as the man stood before it, willing it to grow ever stronger.
As he laughed, he pointed to those around him, daring them to challenge him once again. None approached, not even a word was uttered as the onlookers shuddered in fear which struck them to the core.
Finally, one small boy stepped for ward. As the glow of flames lit his face, his eyes reflecting the dancing pattern they made, as the hair – blonde and long – of the boy whipped around with the gusts blowing away from the power of the flames, he said, “I will.”
The man lowered his hands, then, and looked at the rest, encompassing them all within his vision. “See?” he asked, his voice crackling as the fire, itself, was. “Only a little one has the courage to make a stand.”
He raised his hand again, this time holding it open, palm up, directing the boy to come take it.
The little one stepped ahead, nervous but sure, and, after wiping the sweat of his hand off on his pants, he took the old man by his outstretched fingers and stepped closer.
The staff raised again, this time inching the fire further up, further than it had been before. The heat of it washed over all present, forcing them to take a step backward, away from the licking, burning cavalcade. The air grew thin, so hot they could barely breathe in it, but none could run, none could bring themselves to leave the circle they had been drawn into.
The old man turned to the flame, directing the boy follow his lead. Together, they stood, watching the orange and white light as it danced before them.
Then, with a single step, followed by another, they entered the flames.
A moment later, the flames were gone, as were the courageous two.
The gathering broke apart within minutes, each going back to their homes, knowing the time would soon come when they would see their world either come to an end, or be saved.
Only the passage of time would tell.