(1 of 1. Originally posted on July 07, 2023 for the prompt “The Concert”)
Helen glared at Erick across the twenty-foot-wide sandbar where the villagers had banished them until they reconciled. Low tide would give them a few extra feet, but at peak high tide this evening they would be reduced to a dozen feet of sand. They couldn’t avoid each other. A barrel of water and a bag of food rested between them. Enough for three days, and they’d been lucky to get that much, with the shortages.
“You cold-hearted, arrogant, perverse woman.” Erick’s blue eyes threw sparks between them. “You’re just being stubborn.”
“I’ve been perfectly cool-headed and reasonable.” Helen allowed herself a small smile, to demonstrate her composure. She kept her hands tightly clasped so they wouldn’t spoil the illusion. “You’re the one who has to heat things up and blow them out of proportion.”
“Reasonable? What kind of solution have you offered for the drought?” Erick’s face flushed. “The villagers have hardly enough food themselves. They can’t support both of us any longer. My talent is necessary, yours is not. Find yourself another village.”
“Not necessary? I freeze out pests before they can multiply, and cool the air to protect new seedlings during unseasonable hot flashes. What are you going to do? Burn everything?”
“I warm the ground to protect the plants from unexpected frost. And I can protect people from freezing, too. Nobody dies of hot weather.”
“When it freezes people can light fires, and put on warmer clothes. But when they work the fields on a hot day, there’s only so much they can take off. For your information, heat can kill. I protect the workers.”
“They rest in the shade through the hottest part of the day, anyway. I don’t know anyone who’s died of heat, but I’ve known a few who froze to death. In a blizzard I can heat the entire meeting hall and offer it as shelter. They’d have to burn a whole forest to heat that place with fire.”
“When’s the last time we had a blizzard? Anyway, we’ve wandered off the point. Neither of us can make it rain, and without rain no seedlings will grow regardless of temperature. We need to work in concert to solve this, not bicker like hot-headed children.”
“Isn’t that just like you? As soon as you start to lose the argument, you change the subject.” Erick flung out an arm, expelling the heat that had built up inside him. The resulting wave seared the air around the water barrel, evaporating their water supply.
“Idiot!” Helen focused on the area around the barrel, dropping the temperature. But the damage was done. The water vapor had spread too far, blown by the wind created by the sudden temperature change. It cooled enough to liquify, but most of it dropped into the sand around the barrel.
Erick stared at the wet sand for several seconds, then looked at Helen, wide-eyed. “Did we just solve the drought?”
Helen nodded. “I think we may have. We’ll have to figure out how to move the vapor where we want it. But if we can do that…”
They spent most of the day experimenting with moving air. A stray seagull feather sped up the process, giving them a clearer visual of air movements and leading to the discovery that, with precise temperature manipulations, they could create a cycle that moved air up, across, down, and back again. Some time in the afternoon Erick started evaporating sea water to add moisture to the cycle. By nightfall they’d half-filled the water barrel.
Erick tilted his head back and laughed as the latest wave of magically generated rain poured down on them. He gave Helen a crooked smile. “You know, you are pretty cool. Perhaps I could stand having you around after all.”
“Well, you’re kind of hot.” Helen eyed the muscles under Erick’s wet shirt. “And I’m a little chillier than I’d like to be. Why don’t you come over here and warm me up?”