Eyes of Ember – Chapter One
I can’t wait any longer, I just can’t! I really really want to share the first chapter of Eyes of Ember with you guys! I know I said I was going to wait until the Facebook page reached 500 fans, but you guys have been waiting so patiently – I don’t want to make you wait any longer! I was going to post a ‘deleted scene’ from Kiss of Fire when I reached 300 fans, but I couldn’t find it (my computer crashed not too long ago, and took that with it) That combined with my impatience to share chapter one with you wins out! So, here you are – the first chapter of Eyes of Ember, the sequel to Kiss of Fire and the next installment in the Imdalind series!
Keep in mind this is still in ARC format so small editing errors may be prevalent. Enjoy it!Text Copyright ©2013 by Rebecca Ethington The Imdalind Series, characters, names, and related indicia are trademarks and © of Rebecca Ethington. The Imdalind Series Publishing rights © Rebecca Ethington All Rights Reserved.
I am going to kill Edmund LaRue.
I repeated the words to myself as a reminder that the thought was still there, that my conviction was still true.
The thought started as just an ember of possibilities in my mind when I saw Edmund wipe the last of Ryland’s memories from him three nights ago, when I saw all memories of me erased for the last time. If it had been more than an ember, if I had been more powerful I would have done it then. But as it was Ilyan had grabbed me and dragged me away from Ryland. Being dragged from the one person left in the world that I loved had snapped something deep inside of me and the thought had grown, the ember growing into a spark.
A spark that promised me I would be the one to kill Edmund. Edmund had destroyed my best friend, my love. And I owed him what was coming to him.
The thought became a flame when I visited Ryland for the last time, when I saw that adorable little boy look back at me and tell me my eyes looked like diamonds.
I could feel the flame in me then, what had begun as an ember growing into an inferno of hatred, desire and power.
Although my mind was set on its course, my chosen path clear, my heart and body have not gotten the message.
My heart trapped me in an inexplicable heartbreak that I cannot escape from, try as I might. My body aches with the emotional pain, erasing any desire that I may have had to move.
I know it is not natural, and somehow I know that this is beyond a normal heartbreak, that something else is wrong, but I still accept it. In turn, I accept my lack of determination to fight it. Even though in the back of my mind, burning with a heat that burned with a heat that scared deep into my soul, the desire to strike Edmund from the earth still reigned.
And so I lay still. An emotionless mask in place as my soul battled with itself. My mind planning Edmunds demise while my heart and body ached for what it could not have, what was taken from me.
I would have stayed locked in my indecisive torture forever if Ilyan was not so persistent.
“Silnỳ, it’s time to wake up.”
Ilyan’s voice was soft in my ear, his hand resting against the side of my face. His fore finger rested softly on the mark below my ear. The mark that had destroyed my life. I pushed his hand away and covered my head with the thick comforter in an attempt to ignore him.
“You have to get out of bed sometime, prosím Joclyn.” He replaced his hand over the blanket, the weight pushing into my shoulder. I wished he would move away. I didn’t want his comfort; I wasn’t even sure I needed it.
“Leave me alone,” I said, my voice harsh.
“I can’t do that, Silnỳ. You know I won’t.” Ilyan’s Slavic accent grew deeper as he spoke.
I knew he wouldn’t leave me alone. He had been trying to get me out of this bed for the last three days.
I had watched him as he moved around the tiny studio apartment we were trapped in. My eyes followed him as he made bowl after bowl of vegetable soup, forcing me to eat and drink when I wouldn’t even bother talking to him. I watched him as he sat at the table working on some project or another. He had made a bed of blankets on the small space of floor near the bed, content to give me space and privacy but also too scared to go far. I had listened as he spoke on the phone with Ovailia, updates of who had arrived in Prague coming in every hour on the hour. Part of me wanted to be there, with Wyn, but the other part reminded me how much danger I was in and how important it was I stay hidden.
Ilyan had even called Wyn and prompted me to talk to her from her hiding post somewhere in California. Nothing Wyn said helped either. I ignored it all.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted, what I needed. The desire to seek Edmund out right then was strong, but I still couldn’t blast that desire out behind the wall of anger and pain my heart had built.
The pressure of Ilyan’s hand increased as he moved to rub my back. I shied away from the contact even more, it made me uncomfortable. He wasn’t supposed to be the one to comfort me, but the one who was, was gone forever.
I didn’t even want Ilyan to touch me.
I pulled down the blanket enough to look out at him, my heart clenching at his eyes. His face was so full of worry, his straggly blonde hair, longer than usual, hanging down to his shoulder blades.
“Hi,” he whispered at my appearance. “How are you feeling?”
I closed my eyes, unsure of how to answer him. I was angry, and mad, and in pain and sad. It shouldn’t be possible for one person to feel so many emotions.
“I hurt,” I said, my voice creaking in uncertainty.
“Where?” He asked, his voice rising in alarm.
“In my heart.” It was the best response. While my heart did hurt, it was more than that. Everything was clenched and broken inside of me. I had heard the term broken heart before, but this felt more like broken everything. My heart clenched and seized together, but my body felt tight and wound together with a hot wire.
And underneath it all… the desire for revenge only grew.
“I know how you feel.” My heart reeled and swelled with anger. I knew he meant well, that he was trying to connect with me; but it felt like he was invalidating my feelings.
“How could you possibly know how I feel?” I snapped. Ilyan didn’t back away from my harsh words; he rubbed his hand against my spine, the pressure dulled through the blankets.
“Edmund has taken away something from me too, Silnỳ. He was my brother as much as he was your other half, your mate. I can’t help but feel that I failed you as much as I failed him.” I opened my mouth, to yell at him, to blame him for everything that had gone wrong.
I wanted to yell at him for not teaching me to use my magic better, for not training me the right way. I wanted to blame him for taking me into a veritable battle unprepared, but, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t all his fault, and he didn’t deserve all the blame. It was my fault too, my fault we had lost Ryland.
“I failed him too, Ilyan. I failed you, I failed everyone.” I pushed the blanket away from myself as the frustration at what I was saying hit me. “All you asked me to do was get him out and I couldn’t even do that.”
I cringed at how bitter my voice sounded, how angry each syllable tasted against my tongue.
I shifted my weight as I moved to sitting, the pressure in my sore joints building as I moved. Ilyan reached out, his hands moving over mine, helping me to sit as he moved to sit next to me. My back seized and I swayed as I sat, my body torn between crying, yelling, and finding some way to disappear.
“You didn’t fail, Silnỳ,” Ilyan’s hand moved from off mine to rest against the skin of my cheek. His hand was hot with the warmth of his powerful magic that pulsed just underneath his skin. Ilyan kept his ability restrained inside of him, just the opposite of Ryland who would comfort and heal me with every touch.
Ilyan caressed my cheek, letting his fingers trail behind my ear to rest on my mark. Ilyan kept his hand there, his eyes wide as he looked into me. I could tell he was trying to understand what was inside of me. I wished I could tell him, but even I didn’t know.
“I did,” I spoke harshly, “And now I am alone.”
I wasn’t sure if I spoke of my loss, or spoke in anger at the new reality Edmund had made for me. Both thoughts occupied the forefront of my mind, each vying for placement.
“You have me, Silnỳ, and you have Wyn. We are both here to help you through this.” I stiffened his touch, I knew he was. But I was still scared to let anyone else in. My heart hurt too much. I was broken now more than ever.
“I know.” I whispered, trying to find the strength. “I just want him back, Ilyan. I just wish…”
“I know,” Ilyan said, his voice cutting me off softly. “I want him back too. But he is gone, Joclyn. There is no finding him, his mind has been erased.”
“Please don’t…” I begged. I didn’t want to hear it. My heart was already pounding enough with that knowledge.
I moved away from him, my body leaning against the wall as I slid back into the bed.
“Why did we have to fail?”
“Everything happens for a reason, Silnỳ,” he said. “Perhaps we must move through this trial to meet our true purpose.” His voice had taken on the regal air that was so fitting for him, as the ruler of the protectors of magic, the Skȓítek’s. I cringed against his tone.
“True purpose.” I repeated, shocked to feel the flame within me grow stronger.
Ilyan ran his fingers through the stubble of hair on the back of my head, his hand stretching over the skin of my back that was revealed by my shredded club clothes I still wore. I pulled away from his embrace, my stomach twisting at his intimate touch.
“What do you want to do, Joclyn, what is your true purpose?” Ilyan asked softly.
His words were like gasoline on an open flame, I felt the web of heartbreak and confusion shatter inside of me, the remaining fragments swallowed up by my determination. I could see everything before me, my true path as it was laid out.
“I want to avenge Ryland. I want to be the one to destroy Edmund LaRue.” My voice rang clear through the apartment, the power behind it causing Ilyan’s eyes to widen in shock.
“You want to fight?” Ilyan asked, his voice somewhat awed.
“Then I will teach you everything you need to know,” Ilyan said as my heart jumped in anticipation. I could feel my soul piecing itself back together with the simple thought.
“Everything?” I needed to make sure, before Ilyan had only taught me the basics and it had ended badly for everyone. This time I needed to know everything.
“Yes, Silnỳ. This time you need to know everything. Before, I had hoped that by bringing you two together I would be able to unlock your true ability. That’s why I taught you so little, and it was very foolish of me. But now, Ryland has lost his memories of you and become the puppet of his father. He is now only a weapon at Edmunds disposal. Ryland will stop at nothing to hunt you down and kill you Joclyn. If you wish to be the one to avenge your mate. Then you must prepare.”
I nodded once and attempted to cast aside the last of my self-pity, my pain and heartbreak. It didn’t leave, it became just another new fragment of the broken person I had become. A part of me, but I was already becoming stronger than it. Ilyan squared his jaw and stood to face me, his hand extended toward me.
“Then come, it’s time to begin.”
I widened my eyes, he didn’t mean now did he? But it was obvious he did. He jaw was clenched, his eyes holding that maniacal power I had seen in him so many times before.
I breathed deeply, preparing myself, before I took his hand. Ilyan pulled me to standing; my joints swelling in subtle pain as I moved. I stood facing him for a moment, my shoulders squared in defiance. I had only been standing a moment before I knew something was wrong. My head swam as my body seemed to turn on the spot, my balance leaving with the crazy motion. I shifted sideways as my body fell, Ilyan’s arms jumping out to steady me just in time.
“Are you alright?” Ilyan asked. The alarm in his voice surprised me. I nodded my head, the room spinning less and less.
“You haven’t stood in a few days, I suppose it is to be expected.” His voice was low, as if even he didn’t believe his words. His grip on my elbow tightened a bit, worried I would fall again.
I looked up to him, surprised to see deep worry lines in his forehead. He looked at me for before grabbing one of the half filled glasses of water that he had been forcing me to drink from for days.
Ilyan walked me toward the small bathroom that stood across from the tiny closet that was half taken up by a stacked washer-dryer combo. I looked behind me reluctantly; the small queen bed was pushed up against the wall that backed against the bathroom, the tiny kitchen to the side of that. The only floor space to speak of was between the bed and kitchen and a sliding glass door that led to a tiny balcony, and most of that was taken up by Ilyans make shift bed. The idea of spending any amount of time in this claustrophobic space was nauseating; sharing it with another person was terrifying.
“I want you to take a shower; there are clothes in the bathroom for you.”
Sitting on the sink counter in the bathroom was a small pile of clothes, on the bottom a black hoodie I had never seen before.
“Where is Ryland’s hoodie?” I asked; unsurprised by the alarm that laced my voice.
“It’s gone, Joclyn. When we failed, many of our number fled to the Motel, they were followed. Anything that was left there was destroyed out of necessity.”
My heart sunk and my head swam again, Ilyan’s hold on my elbow increased as my body swayed to one side.
“Maybe now is not the time for a shower.” he said.
I looked down; my shirt was only scraps of fabric, my stomach still covered by dried blood and ash. I touched the residue, my mind flashing memories of that night, of how Ryland had dug the tiny blade into my chest. I swallowed hard, willing the tears to stay away.
“Now is fine,” I said.
“Good, but first…”
Ilyan placed his hand against my face, his eyes boring into me as he rushed his magic into me. It grew and swelled and flowed through me. I looked to him, wondering what he was doing, but he only smiled at me, his blue eyes twinkling. My head began to prickle as his magic congregated there, my hair growing back to where it was before. I felt each individual strand sprout out of my skull and grow black and straight as always.
Ilyan removed his hand as his magic left me. I turned to look at myself in the mirror, dark black make-up smeared all over my face, bright silver eyes twinkling among the smudges, but my hair was long again, if not a bit longer then it had been originally.
“Of course,” he said as he turned on the steaming water before moving toward the door. “Enjoy your shower; I’ll have a surprise waiting for you when you get out.”
The door clicked shut; I didn’t look at it for long before turning toward the sink that I leaned against. My reflection was staring at me in the mirror, my mouth opening at the haggard face that looked back at me. All my battle wounds were still visible, much of my body covered with dried blood. I ripped off what was left of my shirt and followed the trail of dried blood to a small scar that now lay over my heart.
The small line of raised skin stood out where Ryland had stabbed me in his attempt to kill me, at the party, when he didn’t remember me, when Edmund was controlling him. The scar was rough from where he had healed me in the brief time that he had regained control of his body. The last time he was himself, before his mind had been erased forever.
I ripped my eyes away from the scar to the ruby necklace that hung around my neck, my heart quivering at yet another gift from him. I reached up and grabbed it, removing the chain from around my neck, scraping my blood that had dried to the beautiful ruby off with my thumb nail to reveal the bright stone underneath.
I hadn’t touched the stone since I had pushed my magic into it three days ago, since I had seen an adorable five year old boy who had promised to take my pain away, and said he loved my eyes. I didn’t want to enter the Tȍuha ever again; I didn’t want to be reminded that Ryland was gone.
I threw the necklace into the sink basin, the stone clinking loudly against the porcelain. Seeing it there in the sink made me want to grab it, hold it in my hand and keep it safe. But the stone was cold, the magic now a weak bridge between us. I hadn’t felt it grow warm since that day, I hadn’t felt the pulse and beat of Ryland’s heart emanate from it. The connection had died.
The bathroom filled with the steam of the shower and I was surrounded by the sweet smelling fog. It smelled vaguely of plant life, making me wonder what Ilyan had placed in here to react to the steam that way. Something to help settle my nerves I was sure. The hot mist seemed to fill my head and I swayed again, my hands clenching to the sink in an effort to steady myself.
I turned the cold water of the sink on with one quick movement, before my hand returned to its position against the sink to keep me upright. The water flowed over the ruby, removing bits of blood and letting it swirl away and down the drain. I let it flow for a minute before shutting it off, leaving the necklace to sit in the bottom of the sink, bits of blood still attached to the smooth surface.
I slunk out of my pants and stumbled into the shower. My feet stumbling, and my head swimming. My stomach shifted, the lack of contents adding to my swirling world.
I almost fell into the small shower only to lean against the wall as the spinning stopped a bit. The hot water scalded against my skin, but I didn’t care. I let the water run over me as it burned the heavy makeup off of my face, washed the ash and blood from my body and singed away the dirt and rubble from Ryland’s home. The heat from the shower did not help my dizziness; it seemed to grow until I was leaning against the side of the shower, breathing deeply in an effort to regain some stability.
It wasn’t working.
The spinning was only increasing, I looked at the faucet of the shower, trying to steady myself, but it didn’t work. The silver fixture moved and spun and duplicated itself, even though I was holding still. I could have sworn my head was growing, the skin heavy and tight against my expanding skull.
My eyes closed as I breathed in the steam, hoping that somehow the dizziness would leave. It got worse. I was forced to stumble out of the shower, hair unwashed, only to have my foot catch on the shower curtain and send me slamming into the ground.
My shoulder impacted hard with the tile, a jolt moving down my spine. I yelled out at the pain, trying to right myself. The dizziness expanded and I collapsed onto the floor. The cool tile under my skin seemed to clear my mind a bit, so I focused on it.
“Joclyn!” Ilyan yelled through the door, his voice panicked. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” my voice was muffled by the tile. I wasn’t sure Ilyan heard me, he continued to pound on the door. I tried again but his panicked yelling drowned out my muffled my voice. Great, he was going to barge in and I was lying, naked, in the middle of the bathroom floor.
I forced myself up and grabbed the hoodie and pajama pants, pulling them over my still damp body. Just as I pulled the hoodie down, my body collapsed again and the door flung open allowing Ilyan to tumble into the room, his blonde hair swinging.
“Joclyn!” he called into the steam.
“I’m here.” I was surprised by how weak my voice was. I knew I wasn’t feeling good, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I shook my head hoping that the dizziness would leave, but it only got worse.
Ilyan caught sight of me and kneeled down, next to me. His hand flew to my cheek, his magic plunging into me as he checked for any form of injuries.
“I’m fine, Ilyan.” I battled his hand away from me, breaking the connection.
“Are you sure?” His accent was so thick, I barely understood him.
I nodded, but I was starting to wonder if I was. This was beginning to feel more like I was being drained, and less like a dehydrated dizziness. I didn’t know how to explain it, it was as if someone was reaching inside and scrambling everything together.
Ilyan wrapped his arm around my waist and lifted me to standing, his body supporting me as my head continued to spin. I didn’t dare say anything so I let him lead me out of the bathroom, surprised at the smell of bacon and eggs that had filled the small living space.
“Bacon?” I asked, hopeful. Ilyan was what could only be described as a vegan, having never eaten meat within the last few centuries. The fact that he would even attempt to make bacon and eggs was humorous as well as hopeful.
“Yes,” he grimaced, “I just hope I did it right. I am hoping the influx of protein helps you.”
Ilyan helped me to sit at one of the high chairs at the tiny table. A plate that was full of bacon already sat in the center of the small wooden round, and my heart soared. What was sure to be a full pack of perfectly crisp and browned bacon sat in all its greasy goodness before me. I hadn’t eaten meat in what felt like months and even the smell was making my mouth water.
“Thank you, Ilyan.” I smiled brightly at him, ignoring the swelling and swimming that was going on inside my brain.
His eyes were shinning so joyfully, it wasn’t just happiness I saw behind his eyes, there was something more, something I couldn’t quite place. I looked at him, trying to figure it out, when the swelling grew into something painful and I called out, clutching my hands to my head.
I could barely make out Ilyan calling to me, yelling for me. The pain continued to grow as my vision blacked out; the air swirling past me as I fell from the chair.
I never felt the impact, but I could have sworn I heard someone laughing.