It was a deluge. The sky was grey and the winding forest road was an ocean of sucking mud. Thunder rolled over the treetops, but far away, where one may hope to see blue skies, there was only monochrome. Grey today, shadow tomorrow.
A spindly man in a red cloak walked the road, hood pulled low, and something dark lurked in the trees. With a crackle, and a low rolling bout of thunder, the dark thing spoke.
“Red cloak, long you’ve walked. Why don’t you take a seat away from the rain?”
The figure stopped.
“You with the red cloak, why don’t you stay under a bough and listen to a story? Only for a moment, take a respite from the quagmire, it’ll be much drier.”
“If long you’ve been following me, why should I trust a faceless voice?”
“Red cloak, why don’t you take a seat? I’ll explain it all, should you desire.”
“I should desire. The road is long and my legs tired. Tell me, what is your tale?”
“There once was a fire that never grew weary or tired. It burned with an evil desire; it burned to feed its pain. Deep in the woods, its flames grew higher until it became a pyre. A pyre to drive you insane.”
The man leaned against a tree off the road. He kept his hood low and shook the water from his red cloak. “Come now. I rest my legs for this weary old tale? I’ve heard it a thousand times, a thousand times more I don’t need.”
“Red cloak, why won’t you listen? The tale is barely a glisten.”
The man crossed his arms under the cloak.
“The fire grew higher and it spoke to any close enough to listen, ‘why don’t you cast yourself on me?’”
Thunder rolled. The dark thing encircled the man in the red cloak, growing deeper.
“Red cloak, why won’t you take a seat? The tale is sweet. A flame that never will retire. A pyre. And it said, ‘why don’t you cast yourself on me? I promise you won’t feel a thing.’”
The man chuckled, a low inhuman noise, but the darkness continued.
“Now please, give yourself to me.”
“Do you wonder who gave words to your tale?”
The dark thing stuttered, close around the red cloak’s hem. “Cast yourself on me-”
“Words are carriers for magic, but do you wonder why you blunder?”
The dark thing hissed in frustration--it’d spoken words to twist the mind, why didn’t they work?--and the man continued.
“A pyre that would drive you insane, fires growing higher. True transpire, the fire is a purifier of desire. Now please, give yourself to me. I promise you won’t feel a thing.”
His eyes were coals, burning with evil desire. Darkness expired in a swirl of sparks, whistling and snapping.
It cried out in vain, but the man only said, “Pray you don’t hear the refrain.”