The inferno raced forward, and Kashti faced it unblinking.

There was nothing there to dispel – not anymore. Maybe the first spark had been magical in nature, but it had struck grass and brush that hadn’t known rain for weeks. The soil was parched and cracking, the leaves withered, the branches easy fuel for the flame. And as it spread, it built, gaining in ferocity, in raw, destructive heat. And so it spread ever faster.

When it had finished, there would be nothing left but ash and cinders. Or so it would be, if this assault hadn’t been directed at him.

The Kethran closed his eyes, head tilting back, and took a steady breath. Hot wind ruffled his white fur, his azure wrappings, his ice-blue feathers. He ignored it. It was irrelevant.

The wind was getting scorching hot as the flames drew nearer. He ignored it. No thoughts of heat could be allowed to cloud his mind.

The roar of the fire was growing almost deafening as the heat came close enough to be painful. He ignored it. He would suffer no distractions.

For one perfect moment, all that filled his mind was the purity of cold.

One moment was enough.

He cast it out from him, his hands thrusting forward, fingers spread – not in any meaningful gesture, but merely as an echo of the direction of his will. A blast of cold swept out from him, swirling about him – cold and motion did not cooperate so smoothly as did heat and motion, but he made it happen all the same. Winter’s frozen heart engulfed him, sending a chill wind out in all directions. What branches and grass hadn’t yet been swept up by the flame turned brittle and shattered into innumerable splinters, swept up in the vortex.

The flames billowed away from the chill wind, fighting it, resisting it, straining to advance just a bit more. A fringe of cold worked into his very blood, spreading through his veins with each beat of his heart, but he ignored it, putting more and more power into that frigid whirlwind. The storm of cold halted the fire, then pushed it back – enveloped it – and, finally, snuffed it out entirely.

Kashti staggered, gasping; but he couldn’t afford himself more than that one breath of delay.

“Fire, is it?” he called to the figure standing off in the distance, where the grass gave way to bare rock. “See what I can do with fire, then!”

Fire was not his strength; his greatest talents lay in cold. But he was not so focused that he couldn’t manage it to some degree, and he had power aplenty; he could afford a bit of inefficiency. After the inferno that had threatened to sweep over him, thoughts of flame came quite easily indeed to his mind. A gout of it came into being, arcing over the devastated soil at his will.

Any fire contained some tiny trace of water. This fire contained more than most, trailing great billows of steam. And when it was reaching the limit of his range, his thoughts turned from the heat that sustained it, to the same wintry breath that had doused the earlier flames. All that water froze even as the flames winked out, and the air filled with the glittering shards of his retaliation.