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Authors: Tess Williams

Tags: #fantasy, #magic, #fantasy series, #romantic fantasy, #teen fantasy, #young adult fantasy, #demon hunter, #young adult series, #ember series

Ember

BOOK: Ember
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Ember

Tess Williams

_

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Tess Williams

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~ ~ ~

Chapter 1
Stupid

“FOLLOW ME child, and stay quiet . . . I
think we've had enough surprises for one day.”

Although the man spoke sternly to me, I could
hear the weakness in his voice.

A small smile crossed my face. I had only
just met Cornelius and I already felt close to him. My mother used
to say that life-threatening situations bonded people quickly and
if you ask me, today qualified.

But I can't think about today right now, I
need to wait till I'm alone.

I followed Cornelius briskly down a long
hall. So long in fact that, thinking back to when I was outside, I
would not have believed it could fit in this building. Yesterday
this thought might have held my attention, but in comparison with
the rest of the house was utterly unremarkable, therefore quickly
forgotten.

After passing a seemingly countless number of
doors Cornelius pointed to one on my right. I turned the handle and
entered a rather spacious, yet cozy, room. From floor to ceiling on
most of the walls were row upon row of books. Old books. Brightly
colored books. Some that seemed to even glow faintly.

“This is my personal study,” he said. “Most
know better that to bother me here so you should go unnoticed.”

I nodded slightly. Since I was a young girl I
had been obsessed with books and always dreamed of having a small
library of my own. Now it seemed I would be staying in one, at
least for a while.

As I ran my finger along the edge of one of
the dusty tomes, an orange glow in the corner of the room caught my
eye. It wasn't a flame so much as a small fire, but burning on,
well, on nothing, on . . . air.

When I went to question Cornelius I found I
couldn’t speak, in fact I couldn’t even remove my eyes from the
flickering light. I stood there, enthralled by its elegant and
unpredictable movements. The flame glowed brighter and I moved
closer. It was crackling louder now. I could almost touch it.

“Jaden! That will be quite enough.”

In an instant the fire returned to its
original state and I almost toppled onto the floor.

Regaining my senses, I looked around the room
to see a boy leaning against the wall in the corner. The amused
smirk on his face told me he was at least in some way responsible
for the hypnotic flames. For a moment his gaze had the same effect,
but
unlike
before I quickly regained composure, slightly
irritated that I was allowing myself to be toyed with so
easily.

Cornelius broke the silence.

“How many times have I told you to stay out
of here?”

Jaden ignored him. “So this is the girl
Ikovos has been spouting about? And here I thought he was letting
his imagination get the better of him again.”

I thought back to Ikovos fondly. He had been
very friendly towards me . . . quite the opposite of this boy.

“Are you even listening to me, Jaden? You
know how uneasy it makes me when you use your powers in here. Do
you know what could happen if you lit one of these books?”

He moved his eyes off me to Cornelius. I
couldn't help but let out a breath.

“Oh Corni, you know I would never let
anything like that happen to your study. I love this place.”

“Well, love it or not, you are to stay out of
here until I can find a proper space for the girl.”

He stood up straight. “Yeah, yeah. I figured
you were gonna say that. I gotta go anyways. Master Thoran has me
and Vos scouting early tomorrow. I think I have you two to thank
for that.” He let his eyes rest on me again.

“Heh, still on that wild goose chase is he?
Pfft. Mad man.” Cornelius’s head shook with a sigh. “Before you go
could you dampen the fire?”

With glance from the boy the flame dimmed to
a deep maroon. He then gave me a patronizing bow and headed for the
door.

“Wait,” called Cornelius. “I must speak with
you a moment.”

Jaden nodded and they both moved towards the
edge of the room, conveniently out of my earshot.

They spoke in hushed tones. After a while
Jaden glanced up at me, back down, then nodded once to Cornelius
before slipping out into the dark hallway.

One look at my face must have told Cornelius
what I was thinking.

“He's really sweeter than he seems.”

“I get that a lot,” I muttered under my
breath.

“What?” he allowed.

“Nothing.”

“Alright then. Let’s get you to bed. You've
had a long day.”

On this point, at least, I agreed, and after
Cornelius laid a blanket and pillow out on the doughy couch I sunk
down into it.

As he headed for the door I called after him.
“Cornelius . . . ?” He looked back at me. “Thank you for . . . for
giving me a chance.”

He smiled. “You're welcome, my dear. Now get
some rest.”

And with that I was left alone in the small
library.

God, what a day. Now that I have a while
alone I should reprocess all that has happened.

Well, today started like any other day. I
woke up only to wish that I could fall asleep again, maybe fall
asleep forever. It wasn't that my life was bad, in fact there
wasn't even anything I could consistently complain about. I just
didn't belong in my world, and it didn't belong to me.

I mostly tried to pass the time, dreaming of
an adventure I knew I'd never have. Sometimes I hated myself for
it, not really understanding why everyone else was so content with
life, while I was left wanting by it.

Still, every day I pushed myself forward
trying to make the best of things.

I would be lying if I said this didn't cause
me to acquire an . . . unusual personality. I had a family. When I
saw them they called me by Evelyn Avest, my unfortunate name. I had
always preferred Eve and, when given the chance, would pass it off
as my full title.

My family was usually wrapped up in the
happenings of the small town we lived in. Tiver. I on the other
hand counted the moments until I could sneak away into quiet
solitude. Inevitably this separated me from my family and as I grew
older it was not uncommon for me to go whole days without seeing
them.

“I wonder if they even know I'm gone,” I
whispered, snapped back into the present. The flame still burned
strong, but had become such a dark shade of red that it barely lit
the room. “Wait a minute,” I considered, as I recalled a previous
thought. “I guess today did start a little different than
most.”

This morning I awoke outside, at the top of a
hill where I spent most of my time. A giant, almost mountainous,
rock that slanted up sharply to a flat plateau at its peak. A
wonder in itself, but that is not what I loved about. It was the
view that you see from the top of the ridge that made it
irresistible for me to return. Below was the most brilliantly blue
lake you could ever imagine. It reflected the sky above in a way
that made you forget what was up and what was down. The cliff hung
over it thirty feet above the water, and beyond the lake laid a
misty forest called Sharadeen.

This morning it was especially murky which
only contrasted the lake further, making it shine as bright as
ever. It might have been painful even to look at if not for the
morning mist that still lingered across the water, peacefully
following the winds chosen direction.

“Well,” I said to myself as I let out a big
yawn. “I might as well test the water.” And with a bit of a sprint
I propelled myself off the cliff into the cool lake.

“Okay, test complete, much to cold.” I
squealed, then swam quickly back to the shore before ringing out my
hair and glancing down at myself disapprovingly.

I realized now it wasn't such a good idea to
jump in the water, considering what I was wearing.

My pants consisted mainly of two scraps of
leather on each leg with string going down either side holding the
pieces together. I had a plain blue shirt on that had suctioned
itself to my skin and gone somewhat see-through, sleeves hanging
well past my hands as usual.

I sighed.

You see I was always the person that girls
pointed at giggling, asking their friends how I could possibly
stand to look like that in public. It wasn't that I didn't care, it
just seemed no matter what I did I never looked pulled together
anyways. Every once in a while my sister would dress me up in her
clothes and do my hair. I had to admit at these times I got my fair
share of the good kind of attention. But for the most part I was
the walking fashion faux pas of Tiver.

Spending the morning asleep in the sun hadn't
darkened my unalterably pale skin a bit. I attempted to run a hand
through my un-tamable hair, no such luck. I spun to look at it in
the waters reflection. It was that exactly awkward color that
couldn't be called brown, but didn't qualify as blonde either. I
called it caramel to make myself feel better. As wavy, curly, and
frizzy as ever, I quickly arranged it into a loose braid, tucking
the leftover strands behind my ears.

“You come here often?” came a voice behind
me.

I jumped.

“I'm sorry,” chimed the voice again as I
turned towards it. “I didn't mean to frighten you.”

It was a man, a very tall and, honestly quite
handsome man.

“No, that's alright. Yes. I do come here
often.” I said it confidently. Something about the way he was
looking at me made me uneasy. Something in his eyes.

“Well now, why haven't I noticed a young
beauty such as you running around my lake?” he asked with a witty
smile.


Your
lake?”

“Why yes, I am a wizard,” he boasted. “Shaper
and controller of all things liquid.” He proceeded to juggle small
balls of water playfully from hand to hand.

I looked on trying as best as I could to hide
my fascination. “I've heard rumors of people like you, but I never
believed they might be true.”

Still fumbling the water between his hands he
spoke in a big voice: “Well then you shall come to see my home so
that you will be the one with the stories.”

Not a good idea,
said a little voice
inside me. But there was something about him . . . like he was some
dark mystery that I had to follow if I wanted to get anywhere,
ever
.

“How far away is it?” I asked. Why was I
going along with this? I wanted to say no and run away.

“Just a short trek away from here
that-a-way.” He pointed with his hand and the destination made my
stomach squirm.

“The forest?” I exclaimed.

“Why yes,” he responded charismatically.
“It's really a beautiful place once you get inside. You just
have
to come.”

Again the longing to say no was overpowered
inexplicably . . . though maybe not as much as I credited.
Finally
something new and unexpected had happened to me. I
knew I would never forgive myself if I backed down now.

“Alright,” I said, subconsciously ignoring
the fact that I was agreeing to follow a complete stranger into a
dark forest.

He let out a wide grin. “I knew you would
warm up to me. This way.”

I followed in step, wondering even as I
worried about my fate what other great powers this man
possessed.

*

It took less time than I thought it would to
reach the forest. Now, when it comes to practical things, I'm not
easily frightened, but there was something about this place.
Something eerie, yet beautiful.

BOOK: Ember
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