A story from the series: Folk Tales from the Twelve Dominions
The lantern lighters are tall bodied creatures, transparent and fire proof. They live in the space between the material plane and the celestial plane and are themselves celestial beings. It’s hard to tell how tall they are since their environment has only one thing in it: rows and rows of black limestone pedestals each with a single flame. Each flame is fuel for a life dwelling in the material plane. The rows of lanterns stretch over sloping hills in all directions. There are twelve boundaries that distinguish fields of lanterns called halls. Each hall has one lantern lighter tending the flames. They wear their hair long, some straight and others curly. Though they don’t wear clothing in the traditional sense, they don’t appear nude. It is more that they wear the light of the sunset.
The lantern lighter of the twelfth hall is facing a particular struggle. She breathes on the lanterns to reignite their fire, but they keep falling back to weakness. Some barely flicker. Looking over the fields, she sees many fields of short yellow flames. Additionally, there is an entire district far dimmer than the rest. Those flames glow a dim cinder red, except for one. Her determination swells against the fear of her fields dying. She marches to the strong lantern that burns tall and straight among the red. Dangling her figures above the strong lantern, she asks for a bit of fire, in the usual way, with which she can spin a string of fire to graft into another nearby lantern, adding strength. But, the strong lantern holds her fire tight. The lighter recoils from the flame in horror. This has never happened before.
Without ideas, she begins to lose confidence. Watching the strong lantern for a while, she lets her mind wonder, hoping an idea will surface. In her mind she perceives a fantasy of a better world where fires dance and the sound of crackling is louder than thoughts: light-laughter from end to end. But, her discouragement grows, and she is near to collapsing. And, then worse, the strong lantern flickers a few quick hard twists and dims to the deep cinder red like the others in the dimly red district.
Her heart breaks. Tears, iridescent and white, bubble from her eyes. Clinging to the square top of the pedestal with both hands, her head drops, a heavy question on her heart: why?
In the silence she prays. Her head hangs. Her eyes close. She waits for a revelation. A…