LRF Contest: Firecracker Singed

**FIRECRACKER SINGED:** The moon shone bright, despite the rich orange light of the slowly declining sun. Singed stood in the shadow of his workshop, high above the bustling streets of the city. His balcony gave him an almost idyllic view of the preparations. There was a tangible buzz in the air, a sense of fervent anticipation. But he was not one to stand and marvel at spectacle. He had work to do. Another Lunar Revel meant only one thing to the chemist. Business. Whether to that explosive little girl or that damned catfish, everyone wanted pyrotechnics, and Singed could deliver. With one last look out into the evening air, he stalked back into his workshop, the fabric parting noiselessly to reveal the cramped interior. The only light was that of a few dull, crimson chemical lanterns over his workbench. In his line of work, any open flame could halt production in a very dramatic manner. Singed shuffled over, muttering to himself while selecting a multitude of nameless chemical components from the shelves fixed to every accessible wall. Taking his sturdy iron mask from its rack and securing it firmly over his face, he set to work. With the precision of an artist, despite his bulky gloves, the ingredients began to disappear into the rapidly changing paste in the vessel in front of him with a swirl or a hiss. Often he would pause to rub a tiny amount of mixture between his thumb and forefinger, chuckling to himself at the fizzle of colourful sparks. So invested he was in his work, the changes around him went almost entirely overlooked. A dense mist had begun to fill his workshop, seeping in from every corner. Not the kind of choking smog associated with the production of firecrackers, but a deep and immeasurably heavy blue vapour. Only when the glow of his lamps began to falter did Singed turn around to register his surroundings. Stumbling to the door to his balcony, he flung the fabric open and breathed deeply into the night. Singed was not unfamiliar with bizarre fumes, but to his surprise, the atmosphere in his workshop remained as stifling as ever, with little to no diffusion into the open air. Tearing off a piece of the red drapery that hung from his doorframe to cover his nose and mouth, Singed stalked back into the chamber, making a beeline for his workbench. Squinting through the darkness, he made out the figure of a man, illuminated as a red outline by the lanterns against the dark background. “We’re closed.” Singed called out warily. “If you want fireworks. You’re going to have to wait.” A figures head rolled back, giving out a heavy laugh. It seemed to resonate the very foundations of the workshop. Singed began to retreat. Before he could put his foot down again the man was upon him, moving faster than Singed’s eyes could follow. In an instant, he was knocked against the shelves with the creaking crunch of splintering wood, the man’s hand gripped firmly around his neck. The man’s grip was cold as ice, freezing Singed’s breath in his throat. The iron mask was ripped from his face, giving him full view of the intruder’s face. The icy rigidity of the man’s hands were nothing compared to his petrifying stare. His skin was deathly pale, and marked with symbols stretched across his muscular form. The man gave Singed a cold smile. “You make fireworks, am I correct?” Singed opened his mouth to retort but the man’s grip tightened tenfold, causing singed to gasp for breath. He gave a strained nod. “I also understand that you used to use your talents for far more Useful things.” A smirk crossed the man’s azure lips, revealing a set of sharp white fangs. “You see, I’ve been planning a significant… _performance_.” The man explained nonchalantly. “For this year’s Lunar Revel. One requiring help from a man of your skillset.” An intense pain shot through Singed arm, which had been frantically searching for anything to help his escape the unending grasp. The man lifted his other hand in front of his face, a claw, radiating with a ghostly essence. The brass shackles that hung from the man’s wrists was wrapped tightly around Singed’s arm. Singed squirmed in the man’s grip. Several spirits, moulded with the head of wolf began to work their way from the man’s outstretched arm, retaining the same blue glow, towards the chemist’s face. The man sighed. “How disappointing.” As the canine spirits approached inches from Singed’s face, he was filled with adrenaline. He pushed forward, grabbing the man with every ounce of his remaining strength, using his weight to launch the man forward and over his shoulder. The man impacted the wall behind singed with a bone shattering crunch. Singed grabbed his pack from the table nearby and bolted towards the open door of his balcony. As he vaulted the railing to the tiled roof bellow he glanced behind him to see the sheer rage plastered on the face of the tattooed man. Clattering to the slates as he began to run, Singed pulled a cord on his pack, initiating a hissing of increasing intensity. Just as the man lunged down in pursuit, a great crack pierced the air and the space between the two combatants was filled with the blinding flashes of firecrackers. Singed began to laugh, the custom with these situations, as he tore across the rooftops, dislodging tiles, causing them to clatter to the flagstones bellow. The explosions behind him grew so intense, Singed felt himself being carried along by the shockwave induced in the air. As he reached the end of the block, he leapt across the gap to the watchtower beyond. Pausing for a moment to breathe, he looked out at the thick cloud of smoke behind him, small flashes of light still bursting into view only to be extinguished a few seconds later. Almost as quickly as it had started, Singed’s laugher was cut short. From deep within the dense smog, a pair of huge brass chains erupted forth and wound themselves around his ankles, binding him in place. With a roar, the pale man followed, propelled through the air by the binding chains. When he reached Singed, the impact sent the chemist sprawling across the open stone of the watchtower. The man stalked towards singed, brushing off the ash that had covered his already ghostly skin. He began to brandish his chains, his face a visage of intense distaste. Singed scampered back on his hands and knees, desperate to escape. In a last ditch effort, he hurled his pack at the man, collapsing to the ground with the strain. The pale man caught it with ease, wrapping his chains around it to brace the impact. “Of all things.” He began patronisingly, “I did not expect stupidity one of your-“ He was cut off abruptly. The prone singed had begun to laugh, subtly at first, increasing in intensity until it had reached almost maniacal levels. “This may hurt…” Singed said in a hoarse and breathless voice amidst his laughter. Not many remember that Lunar Revel. Its memory is widely outdone by that of the great firework that lit up the evening sky a few days before; a pale blue nova plastered against the rich orange light of the slowly declining sun, and the Laughter that accompanied it, well into the night.
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