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There was fire on Earth before the fire god came. There has always been fire. What Yangin-Atep gave to humankind was madness. Yangin-Atep's children will play with fire even after they burn their fingers.

It was only Yangin-Atep's joke, then and for unmeasured time after. But a greater god called down the great cold, and Yangin-Atep's joke came into its own. In the icy north people could not survive unless the fire god favored one of their number.

Cautious men and women never burned themselves twice; but their people died of the cold. Someone must tend the fire during the terrible winters. Twelve thousand years before the birth of Christ, when most of the gods had gone mythical and magic was fading from the world, Yangin-Atep's gift remained.

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle The Burning City | The Burning City | PART ONE