The presence of the strange fire had persisted but didn’t change or grow. The fire-dwellers had increased in number. Each experience was unique. They had not organized themselves or tried to force any structure on the fire.

Those with the anti-fire sentiment didn’t interfere once it was confirmed that no damage was being done. With glum resignation, they accepted the bizarre phenomenon was now part of their culture. 

Maral, the original fire-dweller, spent so much time there that it had become her new normal. She was still dedicated to her work with the endearing, yet troublesome invasive vineage. However, every moment she could spare was spent with the fire. She was a seeker, embracing the new and the odd. 

At some point, she began to subconsciously engage in a silent conversation with the fire. An odd concept or question would occur to her, and she would respond to it in thought. Then, chasing on the heels of her response, there would be a new concept in reply. Although this was extremely unusual, it did not feel unnatural.

Everything changed the day she heard this question- what is the purpose of your life?

It was easily answerable; all Gnomes’ life purpose is to care for and guard the forest.

What if your purpose is different?

This made her extremely uncomfortable. Certainly, a few other Gnomes had left the burrow to pursue their dreams, though rare it was not unheard of. But Maral was content and happy here. She felt created to do her work. She was excellent at it. She decided to ignore the question. 

But the question would not ignore her. It clung to her until her seeker-self was compelled to considered the notion that perhaps her purpose might be something other than what was familiar. Slowly, she began to change and dream of someplace new, an unknown city. It was hazy in the daylight hours, just on the outskirts of her imagination. The details remained so consistent that she became convinced the place existed and it was calling to her. 

And so, shockingly even outrageously, she planned to go on her first adventure. Unbeknownst to her, this would be the adventure of her life. If she had known what awaited her or how she would change the world, she would never have started but she didn’t…. and so, she did.