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Fire destroys.

Devours everything in its way, from proud, tall buildings to low, wooden chapels to pale, innocent children to the bravest of volunteers.

Lemony Snicket curled his cold fingers around the mug of brandy and held on to it as if it were his last lifeline. He was charred, not burnt, but charred, from the all-consuming heat of his comrades leaving this lowly world in a burst of dazzling wildfire. They were pillars of flame, burning like beacons throughout their lifetimes, but the flames that burn brightest die young. He was a slow, black coal, the sole spark he called his heart sputtering weakly. For he was a coward, not like Kit, not like Jacques, not like Monty or Dewey, or any of the countless others who'd suffered, burned, di-

Not like her.

All he could do was ponder these thoughts in an empty silence, still clutching the amber liquid as he took in his surroundings; the half-dead pub in which he sat.

And he thought about her, all chocolate curls and azure eyes that gleamed with the fire of life. He did not want to think how long it had been since the light had left those eyes.


A white hand, a woman's, slid into his field of vision, reaching across him for a fairly clean cup that lay to his right. As the hand withdrew back to his left side, he noticed that the fingers were slender, and the nails were painted a dark, dark black. As black as a world without fire.

He breathed an earthy, bitter scent that triggered memories that he would much rather stayed locked in the back of his mind. The hand reappeared, and this time it gripped his mug and gently but firmly slipped it out of his grasp.

"I see you've grown out of root beer, Mr Snicket?"

He didn't want to turn around, but he did. He couldn't stop himself, and he doubted anyone could.

He didn't see chocolate curls, or azure eyes.

Midnight hair, and a smile that could have meant anything.

For a moment, the emerald fire in her eyes was all he could see.