Authors: Nicole MacDonald
Feel the Burn,
Book three, BirthRight Trilogy
Published by Nicole MacDonald at Amazon
Copyright 2012 Nicole MacDonald
Cover copyright 2012 Lisa Vella
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents may have been inspired by genuine events but have been written and used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission in writing from Nicole MacDonald
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Catherine (Cat, Kitty-Cat)—One of the four main girls Fire Elemental
Sian (Sianny, Sianus)—One of the four main girls Water Elemental
Kassandra (Kassie, Kass)—One of the four main girls Air Elemental
Laura (Loi)—One of the four main girls Earth Elemental
Alek (Al)—Head of Griffon Guard, heir to the throne, rides Loushka, a female griffon with red undertones
Daron—Member of Griffon Guard, rides Nesha, a male griffon with blue undertones
Sabyn (Sab)—Member of Griffon Guard, rides Tomiar, a female griffon with green undertones
Rumal—Member of Griffon Guard, rides Kerak, a male griffon with gold undertones
Gredel—Member of Griffon Guard, rides Phroma, a female griffon with violet undertones
Yakov—The late King's adviser
Lieutenant Ignatius (Iggy)—A Lieutenant of the General Guard
Lieutenant Rashid—A Lieutenant of the General Guard
Lieutenant Patel—A Lieutenant of the General Guard
Lieutenant Belsesus—A Lieutenant of the Centaur Cavalry, Aswaran Division
Lieutenant Larvaste—A Lieutenant of the Centaur Cavalry, Aswaran Division
Lieutenant Chaieth—A Lieutenant of the Centaur Cavalry, Aswaran Division
Oomoth—A soldier in the Centaur Cavalry, Aswaran Division
Jenviet—The Sorceress of Vo'Arum (also known as The South)
A note to the reader, this book utilizes multiple points of view. A full line space between text denotes a change in point of view.
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A tangy, salty, taste on my lips broke through the darkness. I blinked awake, trying to swallow but my tongue felt thick and awkward. An absolute lack of saliva made me painfully aware of an aching thirst and parched throat. Blinking again, I tried to make sense of where I lay, my limbs heavy and aching on a dense soft surface. I groaned, then broke into a hacking cough. Red flashed behind my eyelids. Each cough felt like a file scraped the back of my throat and I rolled onto my stomach, trying to contain the coughs while tears squeezed out. Then a different scent; musky, spicy and undeniably male registered in my brain like a bolt of lightning. I gasped, his name searing through my mind.
The physical pains and desires—throat, body, thirst—vanished when sheer agony tore its way into my soul, mind seizing the memories of those barely human screams and the body contorted in anguish that I’d seen through our link. Then blackness. A sense of complete absence that terrified me; nothing from him or the girls, stranding me alone in the dark. A creak broke through the thoughts and the room tilted, the mattress beneath me swaying. I gasped in shock, flailing for a hold but the sway reduced to a gentle rock. With wide eyes and a frantic pulse I stared around the darkness, trying to make sense of the dim shapes. Tentatively I pushed up to sitting, unsure now if the swaying was a fault with the room or my dehydrated body. Something brushed my hair and I flinched away from the oddly low ceiling.
Amongst the dim shapes in front something moved and I stiffened, a hiss of fear slipping out. A glow began to radiate from the center of my chest and I made a choked sound while staring at my arms. I watched my energy swell out beneath my skin like molten fire. With a mind of its own the living flame spread through my limbs until I lit the room like a roman candle.
Kassie stared in awe and horror when the fire claimed Cat. Even her friend’s beautiful long red hair turned to fire, the tendrils coiling and moving around her shoulders. Cat gasped and shuddered, staring at her hands while she sat in the berth bed tucked in the furthest wall. Dread gnawed at Kassie while she watched her friend’s transformation to full Elemental.
Is this what we all look like? Consumed by our energy?
Nothing recognizable remained; even Cat’s green eyes now burned a dark red. Kassie unintentionally curled her hands into fists while she pushed the terror down.
No wonder Jenviet will slaughter anyone to get to us, what a gift! I wonder how much damage Cat can do in this form?
The sheer power emanating the few feet between them had Kassie’s own gift reacting, the amber energy flowing easily from the spot behind her heart. It lifted her mass of bronze curls, making the hair undulate mid air. She absently brushed a curl out of her eyes, her gaze locked on Cat. Curiously enough it didn’t trigger their link to re-establish. Kassie frowned, staring absently now as she focused inward, trying again and again to reach Cat. The energy Cat put out didn’t sound like normal.
Almost like it’s on an entirely different frequency, Kassie mused and she refocused her gaze on her flaming friend. I thought Ignatius had exaggerated, though it’s not quite the same. Nothing is burning. The description of the hellish fire creature unrecognizable as Catherine, while everything around her burned, shocked them all when the Lieutenant had told of taking Cat to Elena, to sever the link to Alek. It had been the only way to stop the ever mounting energy Cat put out, her body’s reaction to Alek’s torturous end. Kassie flinched at the memory of the glimpses she and the other girls had seen before Elena cut the link. Those shrieks, she thought with a shudder, and goosebumps rose over her arms. Even the awful moment when Elena severed the link to Cat, the sudden extreme and violent wrenching from deep within, had been preferable to Alek’s screams of pain.
Ignatius never looked so humble as when he brought Cat back on Sito. Far from the send-off intended, the three hundred thousand soldiers of the Centaur Cavalry arrived in time to witness the dark-haired Lieutenant cradling Cat to his chest while Sabyn and Gredel helped him down from the dragon. The massive tan dragon watched sorrowfully when Ignatius handed Cat over to Sian, Kassie, Loi, and Leseach, and then threw his head back uttering a long mournful bellow. Nesha, Kerak, Phroma, and Tomiar added their cries to his, supporting Loushka who lay on the ground amongst them, the red-maned griffon’s eyes dull while she moaned in pain at the severing of her link to Alek.
I wonder what medicine Elena gave Cat, Kassie thought. It must have been strong to work on her, let alone knock her out for the last three days. I didn’t think anything worked on our Elemental forms. A hissing sound distracted her from the thoughts.
The broken whisper of tears was Cat’s voice, even if the body bore no resemblance to her friend. Another hiss broke the silence and Kassie watched Cat’s energy dim. The tears that fell from her eyes hissed when they evaporated on her heated skin. The room, so visible a moment ago, rapidly darkened when Cat wept in earnest, her brilliant red light dimming further. Kassie hurried over the small space of floor, reaching a hand toward her friend while she vanished from view in the night. Groping carefully along the edge of the berth bed, Kassie brushed against her and with gentle pats, found Cat’s hand. It locked around hers and she scooted onto the bed next to Cat, rolling her weeping friend into her arms. The five inches Cat had on her in height weren’t noticeable with how tight Cat had tucked her body. Kassie’s heart ached at the soft, helpless cries and rough gasps of breath.
‘Oh, Cat,’ she whispered in the dark, stroking a hand over her friend’s hair while hugging her tightly with the other arm. ‘Honey, I’m so, so sorry.’
The room rocked and I jolted in surprise, gulping a sob. Kassie squeezed me gently.
‘Shhh. It’s okay. We’re on one of the ships.’
Those words stunned me and the tears stopped. I lay there, the darkness adding to the numb sensation that spread throughout, fogging my mind.
‘Breathe, Cat.’ Kassie gave my shoulder a light shake and I nodded dumbly, not realizing till then that my lungs burned for air.
Are we really sailing South? It didn’t seem fathomable. How could we leave without Alek? How could he be dead? I could still see his navy eyes, creased in amusement when I teased him before he left. His scent from the pillow beside me only increased the strange detachment. With my eyes closed, I could see his hands on my skin, feel his lips on mine.
My heart beat a strange, hollow drum within the cage of my chest while the realization began to hit, each thud jarring my body as the horror set in.
Jenviet had ripped him from me, torn my soul in two while she gleefully tortured him. I whimpered in the dark, jamming my hands over both ears in an attempt to stop the awful memories. The high, inhuman shrieks he’d made and the searing pain when she ran bolt after bolt of lightning energy through him. My teeth and bones ached in memory of the pain and I felt my throat working while my body tensed, feeling and seeing it all again in my mind. His large hand with those blunt, square tipped fingers, lay limp against a smooth stone floor and through his eyes I’d seen her and felt his heart racing while she approached. Wide, eager, white eyes focused on Alek, her rose bud lips curled in a cruel smile and dainty manicured hands extended like claws while a silver energy sparked from the tips. Alek breathed shallowly, once, twice, and I heard his heart breaking call in my memory.
Kitten, I’m sorry…
The memory of the sudden extreme blinding pain made my body stiffen and a hoarse shriek ripped out from my parched throat.
‘Hush!’ Kassie’s arms locked tight around me and brought my mind back to the present. Tears ran down my face and my mouth worked, with nothing coming out at first. The tight cries were so high in my chest it made my lungs ache like my throat, before the rough, foreign sounding sobs escaped. Each sharp inhale sounded desperate and I squeezed Kassie’s arms when she pressed harder against my quivering back, his name slipping from my lips while I begged it not to be true, the despair sucking me down.
Cat’s anguished sobs caused tears to silently trace down Kassie’s face and she pressed a damp cheek to Cat’s shaking back. Cat gripped her arms like a drowning woman, whispering Alek’s name in such a tone of despair it tore at Kassie’s heart. Hours passed while she gently rocked her friend in the dark, holding her as tight as possible. It hit Cat in waves and in one of the lulls Cat whispered to her in a broken, monotone voice, almost unrecognizable.
‘I don’t know what to do.’
‘There’s nothing to do at the moment, Cat. It’ll take a couple of weeks to get there. Then we’ll kill her.’
Beneath her hands Kassie could feel Cat’s heart rate slow and knew she was close to sleep.
‘Will that help?’ Cat whispered in an exhausted, confused voice. ‘Will it?’
Kassie swallowed when a lump rose at that childish, sad question and squeezed her friend tight again.
‘It will. Go to sleep, Cat.’
No matter how exhausted I felt, sleep refused to come. I half dozed, the tiredness numbing my brain enough to keep most of the pain at bay. Breathing felt bewilderingly difficult and I ended up trying to copy Kassie, listening to her quiet breathy snores while she slept. Around us the room slowly lightened and I watched with indifference. It was a small room, with a round table and three wooden chairs tucked in at the center, the door on the far wall, and narrow windows down one side. Brief snatches of salty sea air wafted by and I stared at those windows before turning my head to see the bed we lay in. Set into the wall the berth bed was just large enough for two and the ceiling of the bed low enough that Alek would have smacked his head had he been here. A smile touched my lips when the image of him doing it and cursing sprung to mind. Tears followed the thought and my heart ached at knowing I’d never see him do that. I pressed both hands to my face, weeping quietly, trying not to wake Kass.
How am I meant to live without you? Why didn’t I go for the run? Oh god, that means Yakov is dead too.
I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier and a sense of guilt weighed heavy when I thought of Yakov, his friendly, warm face and comforting hugs that reminded me so much of my Earth dad. Jerky sobs racked through my tired body while I thought of dad and Yakov, hands pressed to my open mouth again and I cried, wishing desperately for a hug from one of them and feeling even more alone. Yakov wasn’t coming—he shouldn’t have been dragged into this. He wasn’t meant to die! Anger and despair mixed and I squeezed my hands into fists, pressing them against my lips while my nails dug into my palms.
Al, Yakov, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
Why didn’t I go for the run? I berated myself again and again, feeling my arms shake with anger and exhaustion while I imagined being there with them when it happened and launching myself at that psychotic blond. My fingers twitched at the thought of sinking my nails into the pale flesh of her throat and ripping it open. The sound of harsh, almost insane frenetic breaths distracted me from the images and I felt a jolt of shock at realizing I made those desperate sounds.
Swallowing, I winced at the dryness and was reminded of my thirst. Detangling myself from Kassie’s unconscious hold, I sat up and felt my head spin. Closing my eyes and taking a slow, steadying breath, I waited for the spinning to abate. When it did I slowly climbed down, the bare wooden floor cold and rough under foot while I edged to the table, a hand to my head as my brain threatened to explode with each step. Set in the middle of the table, a tall pitcher of water seemed almost too good to be true and with shaking hands I slowly poured a glass. The feeling of that cool liquid flowing down my throat made my eyes damp with relief and that reminded me of just how dry they were too. With shaking hands I poured a little water into a palm and awkwardly attempted to bath each eye—most of the water went down my top but some made it into my eyes. The soothing liquid stung at first and I blinked rapidly, relieved when the awful dry puffy sensation abated. About to pour another glass, I paused when the room rocked and sat back; vaguely curious as to whether I might get sea sick. Every time I’d been sailing on Earth dad had insisted on my taking sea-sick tablets.