When he woke in the dark of the sump, he found the space across the water aflame, the trash dancing with yellow light, cast in amber. A huge bonfire piled high with every conceivable item of furniture. Plastic junk and hap-level doors and pallets and rubbish of all kinds. The smell was horrific. By its light he saw a crowd that had gathered there, silent and still like the watchers of some arcane drama. Women and men and children of every age. None appeared to be armed. Instead they looked like a conclave of refugees, straggled celebrants in some initiation ceremony.
He approached cautiously, stayed in the shadows of the trash piles. The crowd did not move. Instead their eyes remained fixed upon the flames as if this and only this had come to assume a new and all consuming significance in their minds.
He walked amongst those assembled. One or two turned to offer greetings. Others remained silent, focussed, consumed. Mothers hugged their children, held the hands of their men-folk.
Fire-tenders stalked the ash-band, their hands wrapped in rags, toting pikes or long staffs, topped with incinerators that they used to provoke the fire, hoisting and rearranging the pieces that stubbornly refused to burn. They worked solemnly and in silence and he heard not a sound from the collected watch. The whole scene carried with it a biblical air of primitiveness. All present reduced in the frame of their humanity to a basic need for shelter, for food, for warmth. No words were spoken. No eulogies were lent. Instead silence had become the means of worship, punctuated by the fire itself, the spitting and hissing of boiling tar. He stood mesmerised, watched the sparks rise, revelling in the heat to be found there like a devotee to some obscure god.
It occurred to him that they were waiting for something.
There were tunnels and coolant pipes beyond the fire and in the glimmering light he noticed figures waiting on the periphery, insubstantial and transient, clad in furs and wearing horrific masks. The sight of them made him shiver. They watched with black dispassionate eyes, bipedal and tall and alien, unmoving like totems, elemental in the jumping and riotous dark. Their feet were shod in rags or the remains of shoes and in places were missing altogether, revealing claws or metal assemblages, chiselled and shaped to resemble as much.
He could not be certain.
The fire-watch paid them no heed, appeared not to notice them at all.
He stumbled, light headed and dizzy, slumped to his haunches in the rot and ruin, damp with the failing sump tide. The fire crackled, seemed to pulsate with heat. And the tunnels and the scrap lands beyond were haunted and echoing within the ceaseless wheels of its own silence.
Gene Cult Fire-Watch
Within the hidden Temple there are several sub-sects. One such sub-sect has adopted the curious belief that only a well tended, perpetual fire will set the hives of Seccundus free. The Fire Watch have taken it upon themselves to create and perpetuate this fire, collecting all that will burn and hoisting it upon the flames. In this way they have attracted quite a crowd amongst the local sump dwellers.