A short story/prequel to “Scorched” (Linked Trilogy Series)
The chronological order of the prequels are:
This work is fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, cities, or events are entirely fictional.
No part of this story may be produced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
The strong smell of horses wafted through the autumn breeze. Bark scratched through my thin shirt as I shifted my back against the oak tree. When Isaac Nilson nodded and started walking through the yard, I straightened my posture and casually hovered my hand near the knife by my waist. Hopefully his extra two inches of height and broad shoulders wouldn’t give him too much of an advantage over my military background. But I had heard legends of this creep’s strength and I refused to be caught off guard.
Chocolate’s wet fur scent covered Isaac’s pheromones as my lab waiting by my heel for orders. “Good girl, but you could’ve bit him if you wanted.”
I didn’t take my gaze off Isaac’s gray eyes, cold and glaring. He probably didn’t remember the one time we met as boys, when we both still had parents. He could’ve at least put on a shirt. The closer he strutted, the stronger his scent —sweat, leaves, rain, and Magik— they all clung to his skin, allowing me to decode his past twenty-four hours.
Before he got too close, I crouched quick and scooped a handful of dirt into my palm, then rubbed it over biceps, forearms, face, and under my shirt for protection. My personal shield. The comforting scent of earth calmed my racing heart for just a moment, until he spoke.
“Are you Jadox?” One of his blond brows rose high.
I nodded and my hands clenched into tight balls.
Isaac’s crooked smirk rose when he eyed my fists. “So… is the dirt warrior paint?”
I lowered my chin and studied him. He didn’t look as powerful as the rumors told. That man-bun seemed to better fit a model than the reputed the strongest Mystier trainer in Vayu. Maybe my sister had just made up those stories.
“Not a big talker? Okay, then.” He lifted my note and let the wind flap the paper onto my nose. “What’s up with the threat, man? You know you can’t come into Vayu.”
Of course he’d say that. But things had to change. Now, the only option was to work together.
“You’d be welcome into Draven,” I said cooly, monotone, wondering if he’d believe me.
He frowned, crumpling the paper into a ball. “Your voice is deeper than I thought. Think a goddess granted you with a baritone to make up for your tiny dick?” He chucked the paper at my cheek.
After crouching to pick up the litter, I shoved it back into his palm. “I need inside Vayu’s library. Now.”
“Go home, Mr. Griffin.”
The only way to keep everyone safe was to convince him. My jaw ground together, like mashing cement between my teeth, but I kept my voice calm. “I’m willing to trade.”
Isaac pointed a finger in my face. “There’s nothing of yours that I want. Plus, if you think for a second, I’d help you Link—”
I shook my head. “It’s not about Linking. I just wrote that to get your attention.”
Wrinkles formed on his tanned skin. “Then why do you need the library?”
“Gemm had a vision.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of your crazy grandma, the famous Gemm Griffin.” He snorted and rolled his eyes.
Asshole. I breathed in deeply and counted in my mind one, two, three, four…
He turned toward the country house surrounded by windmills and flags. “Go home.”
Tension clamped in my chest and energy circulated in the Mobius loop tattoo on my hip. Power surged through me, desperate to be used. Tension coiled in my head, turned to a substantial pressure until it spiraled up and out of my skull. Come. A boulder obeyed. It flew off the ground and into my grasp. I squeezed it tight, then threw it directly in front of where Isaac was walking away. The rock slammed into the ground and he tripped over it, crashing to the earth. Now dirt caked his skin too, but that wouldn’t do a Vayuian like him one fuckin-ounce of good. He scrambled to his feet and leaves started spiraling by his knees in the wind.
“You Draven shit-head,” Isaac yelled.
I tilted my head. “As I was saying, Gemm had a vision that someone still has the Elidi necklace and plans to use it…soon. I need the library to figure out how to stop the person from using it.”
His jaw dropped and the wind he was controlling went still. “That’s impossible, all four necklaces were destroyed during The Fall.”
I glanced behind him where a child ran through the backyard. “Would you bet your son’s life on it?”
Before I could even inhale, Isaac was an inch from my face. “Don’t you ever threaten Wes.”
“What if someone with Elidi powers uses the necklace? We don’t know what it’s capable of. They could hurt your kid without even trying.”
Isaac’s shoulder’s sagged and he squinted to something behind me. I turned briefly, only to see birds flying over the mountain trees. Chocolate barked and wagged her tail, as if she could sense whatever Isaac was staring at.
He sighed. “You swear you’re not trying to Link?”
“No, I’m not stupid.” I ran a hand through my annoyingly thick hair, forgetting that dirt would layer each strand.
I’d be insane to consider it. After two Linked eighty years ago, making them legends, our barriers were weakened, Ordulls learned of our existence and half the Mystier population was wiped out. Linking created mass devastation.
He paused. “Fine, I’ll give you two hours to research. But, only if you wash all that dirt off first.”
“You want me to go into Vayu defenseless?”
Prick. I stormed toward his house where the hose faucet stuck out from the siding, but Isaac bolted in front of me and placed a hand on my chest. Son of a bitch!
“Don’t go near my family. There’s a stream on the way, you can wash off there.” He pointed into the woods. “Let’s go.”
After I turned toward the line of evergreens, a ribbon fluttered just ahead, dancing in the breeze. Before I knew what was happening, the ribbon looped around my wrists and cuffed them together tight.
“What in the Abyss! Let me out.” I pulled, trying to rip out of its restraint. Useless. My heart raced. Every muscle tightened as I commanded a tree branch to snap in half. It launched toward Isaac.
Isaac jumped out of the way at the last second. “Seriously?”
He dashed forward, rage fuming in his gray eyes. “No, I’m giving you what you want. But don’t think for a second I won’t take every precaution. None of your wretched kind have been inside Vayu since The Fall. Goddess, I should blindfold you too.”
I tried to burst out of the restraints again, muscles flexing and veins throbbing. “Mother Nature!”
Isaac froze. Amusement sparked in his expression, full of so much boyhood he looked identical to the kid that was wandering around his yard. “Mother Nature?” He exploded with laughter, bending in half. “Is that your idea of a swear word?”
I marched aimlessly further down the path. “We don’t have time for this.”
“Well, then come on, man, pick up the pace,” Isaac said.
Bite me. Jogging with my hands tied in front of my stomach wasn’t the most graceful I had been in my twenty-eight years of life. The forest reminded me of home. Living life as a nomad, I hadn’t seen Draven for years. I missed the village full of elaborate treehouses deep within the woods and all the children—brown skinned like me— running around the gardens or swinging on vines. I could even picture my sister with her side-braid sweeping the earth while she kneeled, planting seeds and tending to the vegetables. I’d have to go back sometime soon while Gemm still had a few years left. Our grandma would probably hate me for leaving Alaska to care for our place alone.
They left me first.
I concentrated on the earth, and a ping of power slashed through my tattoo. Before Isaac could respond, a large tree root sprouted out from the earth, tangling around his ankles. He slammed to the ground. That’ll bruise.
“Two can play this game,” he growled.
“I dare you.”
He huffed and moved forward. We wound through trees and buses, around weeds and vines until I could smell a river close by. I inhaled deeply. Fish. My stomach rumbled and my mouth watered, desperate for a real meal. Then the sounds of the rushing current came next. Chocolate ran up ahead.
“Alright, macho-dirt man, go wash all that crap off of you, then we’ll enter the barrier.”
“You want me to swim while tied up?”
Isaac grinned. “I need some entertainment…”
“Are you always this arrogant?”
“Are you always this boring?” he spat back.
Boring, my ass. I’m the one who will save the damn world when I find that Elidi necklace. Scents of different animal packs wafted through the breeze as I moved closer to the river. Bears were close by. And deer. I sniffed again. A pack of wolves had walked by a few hours ago. My spirit animal. Too bad I abandoned my own pack. Gemm always said there were positives and negatives to each spirit animal. I could hear her voice now, ‘Once there was a boy with deeply rooted instincts, but he lacked trust in others.’
“Was she right, Chocolate?” I whispered.
I clutched a tree branch awkwardly and lowered myself into the river, carefully placing my sneaker on a rock so the current wouldn’t sweep me away. Drowning wasn’t on my desired list of deaths to experience. An explosion from a volcano would be a cool way to die. Nah, maybe avalanche. Or mudslide. No, quicksand. Regardless of the way, it’d be soon. I had never expected to see my thirtieth birthday with my lifestyle.
Isaac shouted something, so I dipped under water to mask the sound of his cocky voice. My shoes grew heavy and my clothes stuck to my skin. I watched the fish swim in a school, moving in unison. A team. That concept no longer meant anything to me. Not anymore. Not after they kicked me out of the Ordull army. Not after my family abandoned me. Now it was just me and Chocolate. Sometimes loneliness stabbed me, leaving invisible gashes for my soul to leak from.
Suddenly, a floating log knocked into my back, and sent me sprawling and thrashing. My leg slipped and a sharp edge scraped into my calf. Fuck!
A high-pitched bark called me back up to the surface and I gasped for air “I’m okay, girl. It’s just a scratch.” Blood dripped down my leg, plinking red into the water. Checking to make sure Isaac couldn’t see, I centered myself, focused on the pain, and chanted in my head: Terra Angakok Terra Angakok.
The wound stopped bleeding and a fresh layer of skin formed over the open site, healing it instantly. I hauled myself back up the bank, sliding down into the mud in the process, covering my lower half. I shook my hair out, sending droplets spraying in all directions.
“Jeez, man, you’re filthier now than when you went in.” Isaac threw a blueberry at me. “Take your time, your highness.”
Yes, I’d take my damn time. Sniffing the air, the north smelled of burning leaves. The east smelled like the river. South—an Ordull town full of entitled, bratty, ignorant citizens. West— a charging station for hoverboards.
“One more thing, before we go in.” His voice turned concerned. “Uh…how old were you…when you got your tattoo?”
I wasn’t expecting that.
“Seventeen. Same as most.”
His attention faltered, covered by a distant look. “Have you ever heard of someone maturing at age ten?” When Isaac trudged ahead, I followed in sloshy shoes.
“You’re really not a big talker, huh?” He stopped quickly. “Well, this is our border. You’ll need to focus your energy. It’ll sting.”
I nodded knowingly, then paused. “Wait, you have to hold Chocolate.”
He frowned. “What?”
“Well, I can’t do it since you cuffed me. Bring her with you.”
Isaac stared down at my panting dog, who looked up to him with sweet brown eyes. He groaned. “Ugh, fine.”
I tensed, prepared for the zap, like an electric current coursing through my veins. The most terrifying part was that during that moment, all my power would be sucked away. Electricity had a similar effect, same as old telephone poles—Mystier’s weakness. Isaac gulped in air then stepped forward with Chocolate in tow, both disappearing ahead.
My heart rammed against my chest. I had no idea what Vayu would look like, what kind of people would be inside, or what threats might hunt me down. But I had to go in, there was no other choice. Their library contained the only information about Elidi’s necklace. And if it was still out there somewhere, I had to prevent it from being used—to keep all Mystiers alive. Hopefully no one would be stupid enough to use the necklace, but I couldn’t take that chance.
I sucked in a deep breath and stepped forward through the barrier. A jolt attacked, running through me, knocking me to my knees until I hit the ground on the other side. Chocolate licked my face happily.
Isaac roughly pulled me up by my soaked collar. “Toughen up.”
I glared while side stepping him. “We should hurry.”
The smell inside Vayu was different, sweet and wholesome like cotton candy. Magik blew through the air like a never-ending streamer, flailing and rippling around me. I breathed it in with hesitation.
“Follow me.” Isaac strutted ahead.
Panting, we reached the edge of the city, Chocolate ran ahead. Light reflected off buildings in banners of silver. I could smell roasted chicken, corn, and rice. Lunch time. It wasn’t the smells that shocked me breathless, but the scene. A phenomenal city with outrageous skyscrapers towered in front of us, atop a mountain peak. I had never seen anything like it, even in all of my wanderings through Ordull. The artistry of the building’s shapes teased me to turn my head sideways to inspect them at a different angle.
Isaac patted my back with a genuine smile. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Speechless. Vayu must have twenty times the population as Draven, and a hundred times the resources. Silver, blue, and white buildings sparkled like diamonds and almost every structure seemed to prioritize large windows. Though, everything felt bare—crystal clear—cold.
“That one’s the library.” Isaac pointed and led me forward.
People bustled about on the smooth streets, biking, scootering, or on hover boards. Isaac blocked me with a stiff arm as a motorcycle zoomed by, almost running over my drenched shoe. The vehicle had been silent, without so much as a sputter.
I nodded to his watch then the motorcycle. “So you use solar power, too?”
“Yup, Vayu has no batteries, wires, outlets, chords, or electrical current of any kind.”
“At least my powers won’t be blocked then,” I whispered to Chocolate, “…but neither will Isaac’s.”
We zig-zagged through the packed downtown streets, lined with white tents of a produce market. Scents catapulted into me. Apples. Oranges. Cinnamon. Freshly cut grass. Vanilla. Barbeque. Dog shit.
I looked down. “Chocolate! Use the grass next time!”
Isaac smacked my back, hollering in laughter. “That’s why I don’t have a pet.”
And you are why I don’t hang out with people.
I cleaned up after my loyal pup. She was a better companion than any Mystier or Ordull after staying by my side for eight years. She moved toward a striped building with sharp architecture that resembled the shape of a kite, standing majestically in the center of the town square.
I stalked past him and into its grand open lobby. Immediately, the scent of dusty old novels and maps overwhelmed my senses.
The eastern side of the room lacked a wall, opening instead to manicured rose gardens. Enormous windows, the height of the ceiling, let in natural light that beamed off spotless hardwood floors. But there wasn’t time to bask in it.
“Take off these cuffs.”
We were stuck in a stare off and I could smell his irritation boil under the surface, so to push him a bit further, I asked, “Where is the spell book?”
Isaac frowned. “I thought you wanted to research the necklace.”
I moved toward the giant spiral staircase in the middle of the room—almost invisible since it was made of glass. “Yes, but I need a spell to neutralize it.” I climbed, twisting higher with Chocolate slipping on every other step behind me since water from the river still dripped from my clothes.
Isaac raced after. “No one has touched the Spell Book since The Fall, and one of my jobs is to keep it safe.”
“And my job is to keep my tribe safe. I can’t do that if someone stupid blows up all our hope again.” I spoke over my shoulder as a flying book whizzed by my ear and down to the first floor. “After 81 years most Mystiers have forgotten all of the shit our people went through. They’re starting to get too comfortable, too lazy. Ordulls might find us.”
“I won’t let that happen. But you can’t see the Spell Book.” Isaac’s voice snarled as he lunged for my ankles.
I fell and smacked my hip bone on the stairs. My knife fell out and clattered down the glass steps. He grabbed it, pointing the sharp end right at my heart. Chocolate growled and I raised both cuffed hands to my nose.
“Easy, Isaac. You have witnesses.”
Two stories below people gathered, pointing up, gasping and murmuring at our scene.
Isaac’s smirk snaked up his face. “You really think they’d care about the death of Jadox Griffin from Draven? You’re a nobody.”
I glanced down at their tight, scornful faces, all directed at me.
A baby wailed and someone shouted. “Isaac, you need backup?”
I didn’t know how many of them had mastered their air power, or how strong they’d be, but I couldn’t fight them all, especially when still cuffed.
In the moment it took me to form a plan, Chocolate darted over and smacked straight into Isaac’s knees. He toppled backward, dropping the knife and rolling down a couple stairs. A woman below screamed. Bolting upright, I climbed as fast as possible, slipping in my wet shoes on every other step.
“Chocolate, come!” I yelled over my shoulder as I reached the third floor of the library.
We jogged side by side through a long aisle of bookshelves. My heart jackhammered in my chest. I had to get my damn wrists free. But Isaac still had my knife. Thump. Thump. Thump. His heavy steps chased me down.
Wind flew through an open window. Books flew off the shelves and smacked into my neck. I ran faster. Panting. Muscles burned. I turned at the end of shelves and a maze of bookshelves stood before me. Where’s the Spell Book?
Chocolate sped to the right. I followed. Sweat dripped down my temples. Wind soared into the room and papers formed a tornado in front of me, blocking our path. I clenched my teeth and concentrated on my energy. A shot of power scorched my tattoo and I summoned every speck of dust from this library into a massive ball, the size of a hay bale, then chucked it behind me into Isaac’s path.
“What the?” His footsteps stopped and sneezes erupted from his arrogant mouth, yet I charged ahead.
Right. Left. Right. Lost in the maze. Left again. Crap! Chocolate whined, slowed, and looked up at me. I bent over, trying to catch my breath. A soft female’s humming sounds came from around the corner.
I could use her as leverage.
Signaling to Chocolate, I put one finger to my lips and tip toed around, ready to wrap the stranger inside my cuffed arms and cage her to my chest. Just in case Isaac recovered from the dust blitz. I wouldn’t hurt her, but she didn’t have to know that.
I froze when a rose floated and danced in my sightline, spinning and leaping in the air for show.
“You’re a quick one, but Isaac is still stronger than you.” A slender woman about my age with blue powder dusted on her cheeks batted her long, record-breaking lashes. “It seems as though a savage Draven pissed off my Isaac.”
Savage? What the actual fuck!
She held three books and pulled one more off the shelf. “Oh, you probably prefer the term native.”
I shook off her comments. “Can you uncuff me? I won’t hurt you.”
The woman circled around me, like a spider about to catch its prey. “What’s in it for me?”
“Your life. I need to find the Spell Book. If I don’t, who knows how many will die, including you.”
Her smile disappeared. “When?”
I could smell Isaac’s sweat and fury closing in behind us. “We don’t have much time and he won’t listen to me. Do you know where it is?”
She glanced behind me. “I’ll make you a trade.”
“Show me the Spells first.”
She cocked her head to the side and moved closer, rubbing that long fingernail just over my belt line and sending shivers up my spine. “Kiss me, first.”
“What? Why?” I hadn’t even remembered the last time I kissed a woman. Maybe in the army. Five years ago, as a dare.
“I just found out my dickhead boyfriend has been sleeping with his baby momma.”
Thump. Thump. Thump. Isaac’s footsteps grew nearer and the wind picked up in intensity. A whole cart of books fell over.
I eyed her. “What’s your name?”
“Zephyra.” She licked her lips.
“Zephyra, do you want to die?” I prowled down a random aisle in the bookshelf maze, hoping it would lead me to an exit. She stayed hot on my tail.
Her breathing increased. “You’re serious about this threat?”
“Do I sound like I’m playing games?”
She rushed past me. “Fine, come on. Hurry up, it’s in the basement. There’s an elevator this way.”
Right when we turned the corner, I locked eyes with the wind demon across the room. Isaac gestured slitting my throat and pointed straight at me. He bound forward, but the elevator door opened and Zephyra tugged me inside. Chocolate squeezed through the doors right before they closed on her poor tail. The silence was deafening compared to the roar of the wind upstairs.
Zephyra took out a small blade from a keychain and sliced the tight ribbon in half, freeing my hands. I shook both hands, trying to regain sensation and get the blood flowing again. They started tingling just as Zephyra pushed me against the elevator wall.
“Keep your promise.” She winked and held out her watch.
“What are you doing?”
“Recording this. It’s got to really piss him off. So, give me your best stuff.”
She crushed her lips to mine in response, angry, messy, and chaotic. She felt wrong, tasted wrong, smelled wrong. But Zephyra still knew how to use her tongue. She squealed in delight, pressing her leg against me. There was a good chance my next kiss would be five more years from now so I took advantage while I got the chance. I swirled my tongue with hers and let her soft lips explore for a bit, until she finally backed off and the light in her eyes had vanished into something mysterious.
The elevator dinged and the door swished open to a dark hallway. It caught me by surprise compared to the severe contrast of bright light and open space in the library. Everything smelled of earth. Soil. How deep are we? Chocolate sniffed and walked ahead slowly, then turned for a signal.
“Easy, girl.” I nodded forward.
She cautiously inched forward, out of sight, into the shadows. Zephyra could have very well led us into a trap. Her heels clickety-clacked against the floor. Each time she stepped forward, an automatic light on the ceiling turned on, brightening only a little more at a time. I kept my attention on Chocolate’s scent in the distance, making sure she didn’t wander too far off.
“So, tell me about Draven. My friends and I don’t know much about Mystiers from other cities.”
I matched her steps. “What do you know?”
If she were smart, she’d lie or stay quiet.
“Draven tribes have earth power. People from Elidi control fire. Everyone from Cydon manipulates water in some way. And Ordulls have no Magik and can’t know about us.”
How does she only know the basics?
“How often are you outside your dome?” We reached Chocolate and a door at the end of the hall that was sealed shut with a keypad placed to the side.
“Only when I drop Wes off at his mom’s in Ordull.”
I stopped, cemented to the floor. “Wait, Isaac’s kid is mixed?”
Zephyra clapped a hand to her mouth and shook her head. “I…I wasn’t supposed to say that.”
“Does the kid’s mom know he might have Magik?”
She rolled in her lips and walked faster, but I grabbed her wrist and spun her around. “Tell me!”
“Let go of her!” Isaac’s voice boomed from somewhere close.
She wriggled free and slapped my face. A fierce sting pierced my cheek.
“Don’t ever grab me like that.” She stomped back toward the elevator, leaving me to face Isaac.
I ran to the sealed door that might hold all the secrets to save Mystiers. Isaac grew closer, the scent of fury projecting off his skin. I jabbed in a random code. A red button flashed.
“What’s the code?” I demanded.
“You shouldn’t have come down here.”
“I need answers.”
Isaac’s heavy hand clomped down on my shoulder and spun me around. His fist slammed into my cheek, sending me stumbling back. My back smacked into the wall. Pain rippled down my spine and a loud grunt choked my lungs for a moment. The hallway spun, fading in and out of focus. I lurched forward and rocketed a punch to his nose, but he ducked too fast. I could tell by the gleam in his eyes that he was trying to summon Magik. I smiled. No wind underground, asshole.
He swiped a foot behind my knees. I crashed to the ground. My kneecaps smacking into the concrete. Chocolate dove for Isaac’s hand.
“No!” I gestured for her to retreat, then rolled out of the way. “Stay back, girl.”
Isaac chuckled. “Awe, you’re just a softie at heart.” He stormed towards my pup and put his hand on her chest. “Guess you’ll learn your lesson the hard way.”
His face started turning red from exertion, but I didn’t know what the Abyss he was doing. Until Chocolate collapsed in a heap. Her chest wasn’t rising or falling.
“My power is air.” He winked. “A dog needs oxygen, am I right?”
Rage enveloped me. I torpedoed forward into Isaac. His concentration faltered and he released control on Chocolate. It crossed my mind to use every bit of strength and impale him with the metal from the walls. But then the entire library would crush all three of us. So, I used the old fashioned, military way. Straddled him. Rocketed punch after punch to his face. He writhed under me and tried to shield his face.
Blood coated my knuckles. His eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he went limp. I jumped off his pathetic body and saw Chocolate rise on shaky legs, then pushed buttons again on the keypad.
It beeped loudly. Shit. I looked down at Isaac’s unconscious body, then entered ‘Wes’” It flashed red again and a siren blared. My heart leapt out from behind my ribs at the manic sound. I crushed my hands over my ears as Chocolate started pacing. A loud whoosh sound came from the other end of the hall, where Zephyra had disappeared into the shadows. Without warning, the walls trembled and a roaring wind catapulted towards us. No!
I shielded Chocolate, sprawling myself over her, protecting her face as wind gushed over us frantically. I squeezed my eyes shut. My eardrums felt about to burst. My heart slammed faster. Harder. Threatening to escape. Using every ounce of energy to fight against the power of the wind machine, I forced my hand up high and pressed another key combination into the code system. The siren blaring continued.
“Aaaaah!!” I screamed, unable to hear my own voice, but my throat turned immediately raw. “Help!”
Then a light beamed ahead, urging me forward. I didn’t care who my savior was, we needed to get out of there. I crawled low, dragging Chocolate behind me by her collar, following the light. Blind from the stinging wind and deaf from the roar, I groped the smooth, cold floor until pressure decreased and the sound quieted. A flash of light beyond my lids triggered me to open my eyes.
In a brightly lit, near-empty room stood a single podium. Chocolate laid trembling on the floor in a puddle of her own urine.
“Oh, girl.” I couldn’t hear my own voice, just muffled sounds, as I crawled the rest of the way to her side and petted her soft ear. “It’s okay.”
She nuzzled my palm and licked my finger. My body shook and I was unable to hear a thing, but my scent was stronger.
Terra Angakok Terra Angakok.
I waved a hand over Chocolate’s ears to repair whatever damage had been done. And just like that, my hearing also healed, little sounds turned crisp until the sounds of Chocolate panting were clear as day.
I closed my eyes once more and took a deep breath to calm myself. An image of the treehouse I had built as a boy flashed like a photo reel, the trunk’s ladder reaching to the highest sturdy branch and the extravagant wooden structure I created with my bare hands. A sense of ease washed over me. Home.
The smell of Magik stung my nostrils strong. I whirled around, fists clenched by my chin, ready to fight. My gray-haired Gemm stood before me. I gasped. Not possible. Hot tears burned behind my eyes. I reached out to collide into a hug, but only met air. She was a hologram. Fake. Just like all my relationships. I sighed.
“Once my grandson returned home,” Speaking in her usual crypted story-book style, her voice seemed so real, making my heart twitch with longing, “…and he changed the world for all Mystiers.”
I could almost smell her garden and the cookies she often baked for me and Alaska.
“Once a boy was lost, but he found the answers in a woman named Kyra Kozelski. The woman with the golden tattoo is the key.”
A pounding sound came from the other side of the door. For the first time, I looked around, and realized the Spell Book was right in front of me, laying open in the middle of the podium.
I snapped my attention back to her assertive, strong voice. “Once there was a clock that ticked down until time ceased to exist. Find Kyra, then bring her to Draven. Leave the Book, my child.” Her hologram flickered until it disappeared.
Another loud thud came from the other side of the door. Someone was forcing themselves in with tools, maybe my knife. I hovered my hand over the Spell Book and held my breath.
I know what I need to do.
**Please read Kyra’s Ruin as the last prequel, taking place after these events**
***Scorched will publish 3/3/23. Preorder your copy today on amazon***