Excerpt from Dark Ember
A long one this week, do enjoy!
He had mastered the element of fire with startling accuracy.
Swift watched for three days as her father teased out the power of the drake from within her new friend. As she recalled from her childhood, he exemplified patience and kindness. Swift enjoyed watching her father work, offering more than once to act as a target so Rex could work on controlling the magic within him.
Being bonded with a drake eased the access to the magic, but it could still spiral out of control.
With the fire magic now under some semblance of control, Seville had turned to the other abilities given to Rex by the creature nestled at his heart.
There were many theories about what the drakes could do. Separating myth from reality might have to be left to the priests her father had called to the palace under the guise of a party.
Swift felt a little badly her mission had usurped her sister’s party, which was the only reason she had allowed Simone to pick out her ballgown. The blasted thing was pink.
Refocusing on what was happening in her father’s library, Swift shifted at her perch in one of the wide window seats. Seville had been trying to work with Rex on his shielding and empathic abilities. For some reason, these things were much more difficult than creating manipulative balls of flame or breathing fire.
Seville hadn’t got over the breathing fire, he had taken to calling Rex a dragon.
Rex exhaled sharply, his outstretched hand dropping against his side as Swift clued back into the conversation. He rubbed at his face, the gesture weary. They were, currently, trying to get Rex to shield himself from weapons flung in his direction, which should have been a no-brainer. Mages were taught shielding almost from the start. For Rex, it had so far proved almost impossible.
When Seville spoke again, it was with infinite patience.
“My friend, you are thinking too much.”
“That’s probably the first time I’ve been accused of that.” Rex quipped with a weak smile.
Seville grinned in response, pacing before her friend thoughtfully. For their session, her father forwent his fine robes and sweeping coats. Instead, he had pulled on loose-fitting linen shirt and soft doe-skin trousers over supple leather boots. He looked more the blacksmith’s apprentice now than she could recall him in the last years. She was reminded, painfully, of the life she’d led before her mother’s death.
The grief would never leave her, not really.
“Your bond with Ember is complete.” Seville said the name with reverence. “We’ve seen that numerous times over the last three days. It is not only Ember’s magic, not any longer. Think of it as the air you breathe. It fills your lungs, but sustains you both. Feel that breath in the way your hearts beat as one, how your emotions become hers. Your magic is linked in the same way.”
“Why am I waiting for these mages to arrive?” Rex teased. “I’m getting everything I need from you.”
Her father flushed under the praise. Swift ducked her head to hide the smile she couldn’t keep from her features.
“Concentrate.” The Elven prince insisted. “You have mastered your innate element. Magic flows through your veins, has seeped into your very flesh. You and your drake are one. What knowledge she has, you now possess.”
Rex schooled his features into concentration, closing his eyes. Swift shifted on her window seat, lifting her bow from the floor with a flick of her toes. She caught it mid-air, nocked a blunted arrow silently.
Magic shimmered in the air around her friend after a few moments of silence.
Aim for his chest. Her father slid into her mind easily, a welcome whisper among her own thoughts. Use a real arrow.
Fear increased the pounding of her heart, the empathic part of their connection showing her his true intention. Swift changed arrows quickly, surprised her fingers did not tremble as she did so.
They had kept a small shield of Seville’s making over Rex’s body as they practiced, a sort of failsafe to see her friend from harm. Since he could not seem to produce a shield under the agreed upon circumstances, Seville had decided to subtly change the game.
Swift sent a quick prayer to any gods listening before she pulled the string back of her bow and let the arrow fly.
She expected Rex to need a healer’s attentions, braced herself for the yelling that she had shot him in the chest.
To her surprise, though, Rex was laughing.
Swift opened her eyes. Fear closed them without her permission as she released the arrow.
Her friend stood where he had been, the arrow lying harmlessly at his feet.
Seville had a grin on his face that was like the sun coming up.
“You knew I had not shielded you. How?”
Rex sputtered for a moment, glancing up to Swift’s perch. He jabbed a finger at her with a good-natured scowl on his handsome face. “That was mean. Just plain mean.”
He turned back to Seville as Swift hopped down from her seat, jogging toward the men as Rex answered her father.
“I just knew.” Rex said with a shrug. “It wasn’t Ember, not her voice. She was letting me deal with it. But I knew. I knew I was in danger. The magic just welled up and spread out.”
“You’re toying with the edges of real control.” Seville said, pride evident in his voice. “A bit more practice and you’ll be able to do amazing things with your magic.”
Swift caught the shift in Rex’s posture, the pride that came with her father’s praise. She gently nudged her friend’s shoulder with her own, rewarded when Rex turned that smile to her. Over the last days, so much had changed for her friend, but he kept that smile. Such optimism. No matter what was thrown at him, Rex wouldn’t let it get him down.
Ember, she thought, had chosen well her champion.
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