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  • C.A. Lightfoot

Excerpt from Dark Ember

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Swift unwound Helio from her neck, nuzzling the baby wyrm before handing him to his chosen master. Rhama tucked the creature into his pocket. Jonas shifted uncomfortably in his seat, turning to look back out of the window as they crossed the river toward the castle. Rex felt Ember wake slowly from where she had taken an extended rest.

She seemed thrown by the change of elements around them. She shook herself to wakefulness, sending Rex a single thought:

Water?

Rex imagined himself soothing the drake within him, running his phantom hands over her shining scales. Ember, surprised by this, began to purr as he had heard Helio do just moments ago. Satisfied that Ember wasn’t going to light the carriage on fire, Rex opened his eyes again as they pulled to a smooth stop.

“Apolline?!”

Swift grimaced at hearing a child call out. Rex’s eyebrows shot to his hairline.

“Apolline! Apolline!”

The hunter opened the carriage door to a sea of tiny faces. At least half a dozen children had crowded around the carriage, all dressed in comfortable smocks spun from fine material. Swift bounded out of the carriage, kneeling so that the little ones could practically jump all over her.

Rex peered out of the carriage, finding Swift listening to the little voices shouting everything at her from “Look at my new pet lizard” to “where have you been?!”

The males stepped down from the carriage one by one, skirting the space where Swift was greeting her many siblings. They appeared to range in age from only five or six to the early teens.

Unsure where to go, they remained back a ways, watching as their friend spoke to the little ones. Several moments later, the open doors of the castle revealed a pair of finely-dressed Elves as they approached.

The male was quite tall, with a willowy sort of frame draped in sapphire cloth that shimmered in the light. He had pale skin, wide blue eyes, and a sharp nose. His pointed ears parted dark hair that danced around his shoulders.

The female was infinitely lovely, ethereal in the same ways Rex had found Galadriel in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Her skin was dark, much darker than Swift’s, and her enormous eyes were the color of sparkling emeralds. Black hair was elaborately braided, piled atop her head so it shone in the light. Her dress clung to her thin frame, folds of gathered silk dyed an almost impossible shade of brilliant green.

They, quite plainly, looked as though they had stepped out of the fantasy novels Rex and Jonas loved.

“Apolline.” The female called out, forcing Swift to raise her head over the gaggle of little ones. Her smile was tight, but it broadened when she turned to the male.

“Drusilla. Father. Thank you for the welcome.”

“Of course.” Swift’s father had a kind voice, his tone low and smooth. Rex found it sounded something like Swift’s own voice, only in baritone. “Your friends are most welcome. I’ve had rooms prepared and dinner will be on the table shortly. There’s no need to dress, but I’m sure you will all want to refresh yourselves after your journey.”

Swift’s smile only widened. She was right, it seemed. Her father practically oozed kindness.

“Father, these are my friends: Jonas Guzman of Earth, Reginald Muñoz of Earth, and Rhama Blackbane of DeRoc.”

Rhama bowed at the waist, nudging Jonas to do so, whom elbowed Rex to follow. They all dipped quickly, awkwardly, and were rewarded when Swift’s father grinned.

“A pleasure, truly. I’m Seville, and this is my wife Drusilla.” He turned, gesturing for them to enter the massive palace through doors with giant carvings of horses rising from the water.

Drusilla had already begun chasing the children into the house, making the squeals of laughter echo off of the walls. Rex felt his heart clench as they stepped inside. No matter how large this castle stood, it was a home. How had they done that?


~~Thanks for reading!


-C.A.


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