From the Embers First Look

Cover

Hello once again, readers!!! As promised, here is a sneak look at From the Embers!!

Prologue

 

 

“This just in,” a woman’s steely voice said. She paused, her eyes skimming over the monitor, taking in the words that were displayed on the screen before she had to deliver them to the thousands that tuned in.

Her eyes came to a hasty halt and she stiffened in her seat. She looked off to the left, stealing a breath. “I can’t believe it,” she mumbled to herself, her lips quivering. Her heart threatened to leap out of her chest.

She looked back up at the camera with a strained smile, her face paling as she tried her best to resume her composure. But the sound of the paper rattling in her hands was a dead giveaway.

Something was wrong.

She stared at the light in front of her that read “on air” and swallowed, regretting for the first time the duty that came with being a news anchor. Another weak smile pressed on her lips, her mind running blank.

Someone from behind the camera ushered her on with a small hand wave. She was fully aware of all the curious stares in the studio. Something she had never paid any mind to before.

Her co-anchor cleared his throat.

She shook her head, pulling herself together. “I don’t quite know how to put this.” Her voice was almost inaudible. “It seems there has been a phenomenon. One that cannot be explained.” She stopped, knowing that so many lives out there were unaware of what was to come next. Knowing she was about to forever change those lives with the next words she would speak.

“We have been advised by the Department of Homeland Security to evacuate immediately to your nearest advised shelter. Our world is under attack.”

The camera zoomed into her face for the deliverance of that last sentence that hung at the bottom of the screen like a noose. The room quieted. She paused once again, regretting the next words that were to leave her mouth, but knowing it was of great importance. The world depended on it.

“Our world is no longer ours as we know it.”

The screen went fuzzy, and the earth began to rumble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

A Homecoming

 

 

I woke to the sound of screaming. They were my screams—blood curdling and full of agony. My senses were bombarded with the awareness of being back in the magical realm. Of all the pain and heartache. Of all the many mistakes I had made.

My eyes fluttered open and burned as they strained to focus in on my location. Rain pattered to the ground, splashing up from the cold, cavern floor that I rested on.

As I pushed myself up, I felt something cold in my hand and tried to focus on that instead of the sharp pain shooting throughout my limbs.

I held a glowing, light blue stone. The Stone of Immortality. My skin pricked underneath its pulsating power. Images of what had happened in the Hall of Knowledge flash through my mind in no particular order.

“Aurora?”

It was Lexi. She was right beside me, still alive. Without caring about the pain, I leaned over and pulled her into a hug, swearing that I would never let anything happen to her ever again.

“Okay, you should stop now.” She sounded repulsed. She placed her hands against my shoulders and firmly pushed me back to a safe distance away from her.

Guilt replaced every bit of excitement I felt at seeing her face. Though she was here, she wasn’t the same, and there was nothing I could do to fix that. Choices had been made and Lexi had paid the price.

I just wished the price hadn’t been her life.

I swallowed the awful lump in my throat as my eyes finally adjusted to the dull light of our realm. “Where are we?” I asked, trying to rub away the obscurity that seemed to have taken over my memories. The pressure felt good against my temples.

“The Obsidian Chasm,” she said sharply.

The realization of where I stood struck hard, like a weighted fist to my stomach. “Wait, I’m home?”

“Do you remember anything?” Lexi snapped, her hands flying out in front of her. “The altercation in the Lair of the Stone? Zordon evolving into a Fate? The war beginning? Iliana?” Her cheeks were burning red by the time she finished.

Frustration pulled my brows together. “Yes, but it’s all mixed up…” I said, my hands still rubbing the ache out of my temples. My brain buzzed with pain as I tried to recall all of my mortal memories. It was all right there at the tip of my tongue, but a fog of confusion seemed to be separating the connection. Almost like a dream, or a nightmare.

“Well, try to un-mix it then.” At her dull, snide tone, I stopped rubbing my head and looked at her. She was dusting black ash off her white robe, her lip curled in disgust.

She looked like a puffed up cloud inside of her Celestian robe. They spared no expense in setting themselves apart from the other beings in our realm.

“You really are a Celestian then?” I tried to contain the sorrow that filled me and leaked out into my voice, because I knew she wouldn’t be one if it hadn’t been for my choice. If I hadn’t let her die.

She shoved her chin in the air, standing quickly to rid herself of the black ash that made up our surroundings. Huffing loudly when the soot refused to budge, she then chanted something that returned her robe to pure white.

“Little Flame?” I heard from behind me. Astral had appeared out of nowhere.

Tears burst from my eyes as I turned and jumped into his arms. “You’re all right!”

“It appears so,” he said with a hearty chuckle, wrapping his large arms around me. I squeezed him just a bit tighter, grateful for the sound of his sensible voice. After a brief returned squeeze, he pulled back, his soothing grin stretching across his face beneath his beard. “And what have we got here?” He eyed the Stone, the reflection of it casting tiny pearls of light in his dimmed eyes.

I glanced down curiously. It was the most beautiful ultramarine color I had ever seen, shimmering in the palm of my hand like a frozen piece of crystal clear water.

“Iliana said I’d need this.” The thought twisted my stomach. I remembered her saying I’d need it, but I don’t remember why.

Lexi coughed obnoxiously loud, gaining our attention. “That’s all well and good, Aurora, but do you remember why you need it?” Her arms were crossed over her chest with a taunting glare in her eyes.

My enthusiasm vanished. Of course she would call me out. I could barely look at her because although she is starting to get on my nerves, there is too much guilt to allow myself to be upset with her. She deserves to be upset with me, and giving her that is the least I could do.

“Not exactly. Weren’t you working under her command? I hoped you would know,” I said.

“Figures.” With narrowed eyes, she turned from me and muttered something to Astral. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound pleasant or polite.

I felt my face harden. With a heavy sigh, I turned and stared out into the sheeting rain. It fell at a rapid pace, preventing me from seeing beyond the opening of the Chasm.

“Well,” Lexi said with a sigh, “I’m sure Iliana left out that detail for a reason. So, despite this small set back, there are more important things to consider.”

I turned to face her.

Her hands are folded neatly in front of her. She stared evenly at me. “The end of days has begun. There’s much to catch up on and very little time to do so. A lot has taken place while we were away.”

“Catch up on what? And what do you mean by a lot? How long were we gone for?” I asked, trying to shake the sinking feeling in my stomach.

Her gaze fell flat.

Astral shifted and took a gentle step in between us. “Forgive her, Alexis. Being in the Hall of Knowledge for such a long time does make one dizzy-minded.”

“But I wasn’t there for that long. Hours if anything,” I stated. I was confused and felt on the verge of snapping. The dragon in me felt suppressed.

His smile was patient when he tilted his head at me. “Oh, but it was much longer, Little Flame. You’ve been gone for almost a year in the time of the living. We are in November…again.”

The faint scent of smoldering embers mixed with rain swept up in a light breeze, awakening my numbed senses. Like a flash flood, memories swarmed my mind, ending with the moment everything had changed for the worst.

When the images stopped, I looked up at him, tears blurring my vision. “Come, you must see for yourself,” he said with a sad smile and an extended hand.

We stepped closer to the ledge where the lava had once majestically spewed over and into the chasm below. I gasped. The lava was no longer there. Instead, a piling of decaying Draconta bodies, human and dragon, was grotesquely strewn across the expansive space. Plumes of smoke rose from the cooling of the rain, hardening the lava that had once warmed the hearth of the Draconta.

The boards used to cross the Chasm on that awful day led all the way up to the opening, now singed with footsteps marking the steps of battle. I dropped to my knees, letting the Stone fall from my hand. I had failed them. I had failed my destiny. The words of the prophecy burned in my mind. I was chosen to protect the dying race…my family, and I had failed. I felt my throat tighten to the point of suffocation.

Lexi snatched up the Stone, tucking it into her robe with a muddled huff before she turned her back on the Chasm. If anyone should be upset, it should be her. She was raised here and yet it seemed as if she never knew this place. Never cared. I had taken that from her.

I swallowed a few times, trying to clear my throat enough to speak. “What happened?”

“Oh for Fate’s sake, exactly what I said before, Aurora. The end of days happened. The fall of the Draconta happened,” Lexi said harshly. “And now Zordon’s darkness, his power, his taint…it has spread across the lands of this realm, sucking the very essence of the elements. Nothing is balanced. It is as if he has swallowed the sun itself.”

I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. What could I say?

Astral’s hand rested against my back, trying to soothe me. “That is why you must be our New Dawn, Little Flame,” he said. “You must return things to normal.”

I looked up at him, shaking my head in denial. “How?”

I winced when Lexi sucked her teeth. Astral shot her a menacing look, but it didn’t chip through her icy exterior. She rolled her eyes and looked away from him.

“All of my people. My grandparents, Soothe, Zane, my parents, Fenn-” I broke off, the tears now plummeting to the sooty earth. A sickening sob sat in the middle of my throat, held on by thin threads of control.

Lexi snuck a glance at Astral, and then said, “They are all fine.” There was pity in her voice, enough to strengthen my control. She shuffled her feet and looked down, a small sigh leaving her lips. “Well…most of them.”

I bit the inside of my cheek, scared to ask the next question that I knew I could not avoid. I had to know. “Most?”

She looked up, her hazel eyes creasing in pain. “Your mother…” She let the words hang in the air between us as she looked away, refusing to hold my gaze.

My mind raced back to the cavern the night that everything had changed for the worst. My mother had been Zordon and Gwenevere’s prisoner. Gwen had used Irisi’s dark magic to compel Eralise to do her bidding so that she and Zordon could penetrate the layers of enchantments only meant for the royal Draconta to pass through. When they succeeded, it was I who had to lead them across the steps to reach the Stone.

Panic pounded in my heart at the memory as my breathing picked up. I reached around to my back, searching for the searing pain of the knife Gwen had so easily driven into me.

Lexi’s voice sounded distant as she spoke. “After Zordon touched the Stone and ported you both, my mother was left behind with your mother. She had already lost it long before.” She stared off into the shallows of the Chasm.

I thought back to the day of Lexi’s untimely death. The blood she choked on while clinging on to her last few seconds of life, seconds that would forever haunt me. That is what had inevitably driven Gwenevere to madness.

“She couldn’t handle the pain,” I admitted solemnly, remembering the crazed madness that filled her eyes the night she had betrayed us all and went rogue.

Lexi looked at me. “No, she couldn’t.” It was a simple answer. She took in a deep breath, tucking a fallen strand of hair back behind her ear, and then pushed her shoulders back. “And in the end, she felt the pain would be healed with revenge—a lot like my father’s way of thinking, I suppose. And when you disappeared with Zordon, she could take it no longer. She gave your mother over to the Dark Saar.”

“Alexis!” Astral barked.

Her cool demeanor had returned.

I felt like I had been stabbed again, only this time straight through my heart. I tried to choke back the sob that filled my throat, pushing me to the point of unbearable madness.

My mother was dead. I had killed the Dark Saar’s leader, Searamin. What did they put my mother through to avenge his death?

Astral scowled at Lexi and then bent down, tucking me into his huge form with a hug. “It will be okay, Little Flame. I’m sure it was quick.” But something in his voice told me that his words were a generic response. The imaginary knife twisted in my heart.

An eerie scream ripped through the air, but this time it was not my own. I pushed out of Astral’s arms and turned in the general direction of the sound, searching for whomever it came from.

“What was that?” I asked, wiping away the tears from under my eyes.

“Screams of the damned.” Astral let out a heavy sigh. “When a Dark Saar takes an innocent life without turning them, they imprison their souls to relive their own death eternally.”

My people were subjected to being tortured for all of eternity because of my fatal error. My poor lack of judgment. I swallowed back the bile that rose up with my burning guilt.

Lexi exhaled loudly. She must have felt my weighted gaze because she turned back around, her stare saturated with blame. They were once her people too. Maybe she was beginning to remember that?

I wanted to say something, anything to fix it, but the words never came. There was nothing that could change the course I had taken. The choices I had made—like sending Lexi to the grave, or weakening the barrier in hopes of finding Soothe, or even disobeying my grandparents to go after Zordon who I clearly wasn’t ready for. Had I just waited, maybe they would still be here. Maybe we would have won.

Lexi cleared her throat, pulling me from my internal struggle. “Look, I know this must be hard for you, Aurora, but we really must be going. Iliana gave me strict instructions before she sent us back, and I must stick to them if we are to rectify this.” There was nothing in her tone. No anger, sadness, hurt—nothing. She was empty.

“What about the rest of this place? You mean to tell me no one’s here anymore?” I brushed away Astral’s attempt at soothing me and glanced down at the sea of my wasted heritage.

“Look for yourself, but you’re only wasting precious time.” Lexi’s hand was extended towards the cavern entrance.

I didn’t hesitate. I ran as fast as I could towards the Courtyard, praying that there was something left behind to turn all of her words into lies.

Without the bright flow of lava, I had to use my dragon sight to see in the pitch-black cavern. I rounded the corner to the Courtyard and skidded to a stop, feeling my heart slam against my chest. Snapping a flame to my fingertips, I touched it to my shoulders and let it run down my scaled body. My breath came and went in rapid, uneven torrents. There was nothing I could do to calm myself. The fear of what I was about to see was too great.

The panic only grew when I finally looked up from my panting chest and into the fire-illuminated Courtyard full of dark shadows and stories of deep pain.

The grass was no longer vibrant and glowing from radiant rays of rainbow light. Instead, it had decomposed underneath the cavern roof’s shattered crystals that lay like broken pieces of a mirror. The ethereal throne was cracked straight through the middle, crumpled pieces of stone piled around it. A barricade of fallen stone filled the entrance to the tunnel that led to the Great Hall.

Everything became a blur behind the haze of tears in my eyes. I stumbled over the rubble as I moved forward without purpose, managing to duck as a swarm of bats moved from left to right. The air was thick and damp. There was no music to be heard, no chattering amongst the crowd.

It was as Lexi had said, abandoned.

I didn’t hear his steps, but I felt his presence in my mind. Astral walked up behind me. His eyes were glowing, the blue color mixing with the light from my fire against the cavern walls. “They had no choice but to abandon the Chasm, Aurora. The handful of dragons that remained were ushered to leave as soon as the Dark Saar infiltrated the Courtyard. What was left of the Draconta split up and now wait in hiding for the day when the Progeny will save them.” His hand squeezed my shoulder, but I felt no reassurance. Only pain and anguish.

“I killed Searamin,” I said.

“And now they have a new leader.” He didn’t have to tell me who. It was all a part of Zordon’s plan.

Lexi appeared on the other side of me. Her face was expressionless when she looked out into the Courtyard. She stuck her hand out and then looked at me, waiting for me to take it. It was time to go.

“When all of this is over, I’m sure the Draconta will return to their home.” Astral was valiantly trying to reassure me, but he failed to realize I wasn’t a little girl anymore. His words could no longer mend my screw-ups.

With regretful tears, I took Lexi’s hand. She ported us to the ruins just outside the cave in the other realm. The realm where I had been sent away as a child to live a normal life amongst non-magical humans. Like the magical realm, there was no sun to see through the swirling mess of clouds. Only suffocating darkness.

The lush tropical forest Lexi and I had hiked through long ago to make it to the cave was no longer there. In its waste were stumped trees and fallen shrubbery. I bit my lip, realizing the sick feeling that had been in the pit of my stomach for so long might never go away. Not after all of this.

“STOP RIGHT THERE!” someone shouted in warning.

I spun around to face the ruins where the voice had come from. Amongst the wreckage was a swarm of armed military guards posted around tanks, guns pointed in our direction.

I instantly froze.

To my left where Lexi stood, a glimmer of a wry smile appeared at the corner of her mouth. The same smile I had grown to love. She snapped her fingers and then everything froze.

“How did you-”

“She is not the Alexis you once knew,” Astral repeated. “She is a pristine being, even more powerful than I. She has the blood of The Fates in her. It will take time for the old her to return.” He looked down at me, murmuring under his hand, “Just be glad that she is on our side.”

“Is she like a Fate now?” I peered over at her in caution.

She huffed loudly. “My father has taken the Hall while on the hip of his creator, Saeth, and then he locked all of The Fates away, including Saeth. That is why Iliana sent me with you—to keep me away from him. She seems to think I would actually consider helping him.”

I winced at her words.

She threw me a nasty look. “Well? Look at the damage you’ve caused.”

Astral hissed through his teeth. “This was not a part of Iliana’s instructions, Alexis.”

Without warning, she was at my shoulders, spinning me around to show me just what it was she was talking about. “She needs to know.”

A hole that reached to the heavens and stretched farther than any Great Wall created an open pathway through the two realms. Shadows poured through the barrier like a heavy storm. Screams of horror filled the skies from afar.

Firemen hid behind the tanks, spraying water up into the sky that was now frozen in time, but the Shadows continued to flood through the barrier like death’s veil. They seemed to be heading north.

“Where are they going?” My neck craned as far back as it could go. All I could think about was Mily. Had she gone to California like we asked? Was she safe?

“Wherever Zordon has commanded them to go,” Lexi answered, her voice sounding distant. She dropped her gaze and looked back at me. “I suspect the capital of the United States. Overthrowing the leading nation is said to be the start of his reign.” She walked back towards the barrier.

Seeing this stirred the dragon in me. “We have to do something.” Flames furiously danced along my fingertips. She didn’t move, didn’t even acknowledge that I had spoke. I grabbed her by the arm, forcing her to face me. She glared at my blazing hand, but I didn’t budge.

“No offense, Aurora, but you are nowhere near ready.”

I didn’t like how she said my name and caught myself clenching my fists at my sides.

She continued on, unaware of the buttons she continued to push. “Do you think following the Shadows and having your butt handed to you is the answer? Because I certainly don’t. And that is not what Iliana sent you back for.”

“So then what is all of this?” I asked with my arms out. “A dig? A way to get even with me, Alexis? Do you not think that I beat myself up over the choices I have made? Don’t you know how sorry I am? How much I wish I could have taken your-”

“Come on,” she said loudly, cutting me off. “We need to find the rest of the group first and let them know you are alive. Maybe then we can begin to repair the damage.”

I closed my mouth, knowing there was nothing more I could do or say. At least not in that moment. My heart jolted at the thought of seeing Fenn again. What will he think when he sees me?

What if he had moved on?

Astral cleared his throat. He shook his head when I looked at him—still reading my thoughts—and then pointed his chin back towards Alexis who was in the middle of a speech.

“…you will ignite hope in everyone or so Iliana thinks.” Her hands were waving to and fro. “An army must be gathered, Aurora. You must fight back, prepared and ready. Only then will you fulfill your destiny.”

“And what about Mily?”

Astral stopped in his tracks, shifting uncomfortably. “Aurora, some things have changed.”

I didn’t want to ask, but my lips betrayed me. “Things like what?”

“This realm, as you know it, is shifting. It’s growing weaker from the swarm of magic that has inhabited it. Natural disasters are appearing more and more-”

“What about Mily?” I asked again, this time with panic weighing like an anchor on my voice.

“Oh, for Fates’ sake, Mily is fine for now,” Lexi blurted out. She impatiently weaved a small portal open to show me Mily’s soft face. I hugged myself in relief and smiled. In her arms were the triplets. She held them close to her, singing softly into their hair. I felt the heat behind my eyes and quickly looked away.

“She went to California like you suggested. What Astral meant was, with the realm shifting, quakes have begun to spread throughout this world. California has been struck hard, but Mily managed to remain relatively safe.” She threw in under her breath, “Hopefully it will stay that way in time for you to get your act together and save both of the realms from Zordon.”

I couldn’t help but glare at her as threads of smoke wisped from my nostrils. She treaded dangerously close to my daily limit of insults.

I took a firm step in her direction. “I have tried to do nothing but just that, Alexis.”

She pursed her lips at me. Her robe spun as she turned away. “Let’s go then,” she challenged over her shoulder, snapping her fingers to unfreeze time. As the ungodly screams resumed, I dug my fingernails into my palms and then stepped through the portal. 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

A Bittersweet Reunion

 

 

The next place I found myself was the last place I ever expected to be-the Rebell Island of the Orient Magium to the east.

Underneath a grim sky, the Lyceum sat on the edge of the floating island. The oriental building was painted in white with sage green trim. As the Lyceum rose, the floors seemed to tilt into themselves to create an triangular shape, leaving the top floor a small opened point where the murky clouds could float through.

We were standing in the middle of an intricate sand garden lit by many torches. Pools of water rested on either side of the garden, flowing around the stone base of the Lyceum and off into the ocean that moved below the island. The light from the torches melted into the pools of water, creating a pale shade of orange that skimmed along the surface. Statues of women and men, poised regally inside the pools, held pots and baskets with water spilling out of them.

In the midst of the garden was a group of disciplined Oriental Mages practicing elemental magic. The robes they wore had golden thread intricately woven into brightly colored fabric. Gold wire wrapped around the many dark beards covering their chins.

Raw energy swarmed past us in bolts from every side. The Mages skillfully moved through the sand, careful not to ruin the pattern that had been raked into it. I don’t think they realized we had appeared.

My dragon Foresight kicked in, sending me images of what was to come moments before it happened. I dropped to the ground right before a bolt of electric energy slammed into me. It whizzed by and collided with another spell that absorbed it.

“Get up and shift!” Lexi shouted at me. She knelt down and grabbed my arm, jerking me upright.

I scowled at her and snatched my arm away, trying to refrain from blushing in embarrassment. My dislike for her was currently outweighing my love. I let my dragon side take over, welcoming the feel of my wings breaking free. I flexed them, feeling the itch to stretch from wingtip to wingtip.

Lexi floated up into the air, spinning faster than I had ever seen anyone spin before. Somehow, she absorbed every bolt of raw energy without even flinching, preventing them from striking us. Her robes emanated a radiant white light that blinded the group of men, stopping them in their tracks. They shielded their eyes with robed forearms, slowly backing away from her. I even had to turn away from the blinding light.

“Show off,” Astral scoffed.

As the light began to fade, I looked back at her. She came to a slow stop. “You will kneel before the Progeny. She has come for your deliverance.” Her voice was otherworldly and nothing like the Lexi I once knew.

If my face could turn anymore red than it already was in my dragon form, I’m sure it would have. My eyes grew wide as all of the Oriental Mages turned to look at me, their eyes filling with something that had been long gone—hope.

One-by-one, they began to kneel into the patterned sand, a quiet murmur sweeping over the island. My eyes scanned the men before me, searching for the only face I really cared to see. My heart raced as each face I passed pushed me further from the thought of reuniting with my one true love.

I glanced back at Lexi, my eyes scrunching in question, and then turned back, trying to remain calm. My lips began to tremble as doubt consumed me.

And then, like an angel sent to answer my prayers, his voice rang out over the murmurs. A voice that I could never forget.

“Rory?” Fenn shouted from the entrance of the wooden-framed Lyceum. He looked as if he had seen a ghost. Zane stood next to him. The staff in his hand fell at the sight of me. Fenn stumbled down the steps three at a time, seeming unsure if I was a mirage or not. His eyes never left mine.

“Fenn!” I called out as everything around me disappeared. I ran for him like I had never run before in my life and jumped into his arms, squeezing him as he spun me in a circle. I was finally home.

“I thought you were gone,” he said into my hair, crushing me into him. Pain marked his voice. He kissed the side of my face, inhaling my scent while lightly tugging my hair back to meet my gaze. His lucent blue eyes were filled with tears and searched my own while his fingers continually ran through my slicked-back hair.

“I was given a second chance.” I tried to swallow my nerves as I ran my fingers along the contours of his stubble-covered face, reveling in every detail. Too long had it been since I had felt his lips.

Without thought, I kissed him, clenching my hand in his messy hair and vowing to never end this moment. His lips were the only place in the world where I felt happy and at peace. The only place where everything made sense.

But not everyone felt the same. “Aurora, compose yourself,” Lexi scolded under her breath.

I reluctantly pulled back.

“Lex?” Fenn questioned breathlessly, gently setting me down and turning to her. He opened his arms; his crooked, hesitant smile rapidly spreading across his face. “My two favorite girls are alive!”

She awkwardly stepped into his embrace as if it were a mere reflex rather than a need. I looked back out into the men watching the spectacle before them, trying to enjoy this moment.

Zane cleared his throat, grabbing my attention. I couldn’t tell for sure, but there seemed to be a longing ache in his eyes, and then a sliver of a smile picked up the corners of his mouth. “You’re back.” The sound of awe in his voice matched the expression on his ruggedly handsome face.

I wanted to jump into his arms and hug him just as tight as I had hugged Fenn. We understood each other in ways that no other could. We believed in each other. We shared the same fear about the darkness inside of us. But I stopped myself from fear of the feeling not being mutual.

He must have picked up on it though because one second he stood there smiling at me and the next I was in his arms being squeezed to death by him.

“How have you been?” I asked him through a huge smile, laughter squeezing out of me. His musky smell warmed me through. It felt good to hug my friend, but I resisted the urge to nestle my face in his neck. I didn’t want to send out the wrong signal.

“Never better,” he said into my hair. His voice was soaked in sarcasm as his fingers dug into the flesh of my back. When we stepped back, his smile grew wider, brightening his deep, dark brown eyes. “I’m so glad you’re back.”

“Me too. It’s good to see you,” I said nervously, hiding my blush by fidgeting with my hair. He laughed and I knew he could see right through me. The unspoken between us said more than our words ever could.

“Why are you wearing this?” I heard Fenn ask Lexi. Zane and I both turned to look at them. Fenn picked up one of Lexi’s sleeves with a curious face and then dropped it.

I linked my hand through Fenn’s, waiting for him to look at me. “She’s not our Lexi anymore.”

Zane reached out to squeeze his sister’s shoulder affectionately. She jumped in response, her eyes peering down at her shoulder. He pulled away from her, pain clear in his eyes. She never knew he was her brother before she died, only that he had flipped sides. But if she knew about Zordon, then she must know now.

Fenn turned and furrowed his brow at me, looking between us for some sort of explanation. I softened my voice. “She is a Celestian now, Fenn. She doesn’t completely remember who she used to be. Astral said it would take awhile for the effects of being in the Hall of Knowledge for so long to wear off.”

She spun on her heels to face us, a complaint already on her lips. “Quite frankly, it’s not of any importance, now is it? Can we please see Kaede now?”

Fenn and Zane stared at her for a moment, completely dumbfounded. “Sure thing,” Fenn said in a strange tone.

“Good.” With her chin pointed high, she walked past us and through the crowd of Mages who were still gawking at me.

“Kaede?” I panicked, turning back to Fenn and Zane.

“Relax,” Fenn added quickly. “He has never been on Zordon’s side. He turned in the battle at the Obsidian Chasm. Gabe had set it all up. Even though we didn’t win, his efforts helped us retreat far enough to save what little we had left. Most of us came here. The dragons went west to the Nymph Magium in hopes that they would be swayed to fight along with us.”

“Where’s my father?”

He looked at the ground. “He’s…umm…he’s resting,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.

I bent just enough to catch his eyes, and pulled his gaze back up to me. “So when can I see him?”

“Soon.”

“Gabe?” I asked, remembering his soul being ripped from him before I killed Searamin as if it were only yesterday. What if Gwenevere had finished him off too?

His eyes grew distant and empty, his expression hardening. “Gabe was never found. We’ve searched for him, but we just don’t know. Either she took him with her or she killed him.”

“Are you okay?” I asked, barely able to get the words out. I reached for his arms, rubbing them soothingly. They were even bigger than I remembered. I jerked my head back just enough to give him a once over. Actually all of him was bigger, like he had done nothing but work out over the past year.

“For the most part,” he answered sadly. “I heal quick, remember?” His attempt at a joke brought a faint smile from him. I smiled sympathetically in return.

“He prepared us for what was to come in battle,” Zane chimed in with a thoughtful expression. “If it wasn’t for Gabe’s thorough planning, we might not have made it out of that Chasm. He is a strong fighter and I don’t doubt that he will survive.” Fenn smiled in thanks at Zane. He squeezed Fenn’s shoulder and gave him an understanding nod. 

“How did you both get away? When I last saw you, you were down in the pit of the Chasm,” I asked.

Astral walked up to us, gripping both Fenn and Zane’s shoulders in greeting. “I don’t want to interrupt your reunion, but we should be there when Alexis greets Kaede.”

Fenn turned quickly, a wide grin now taking up the whole of his face. “Astral! Are you serious? The whole pack together again? This is the best day of this year so far!”

Astral chuckled, bowing his head slightly. “It’s good to see you too, Fenn.” He looked over at Zane. “And of course you, Zane.” Zane nodded, smiling a little. 

As we walked across the graveled earth past the Mages who still rested on one knee, my head dipped low in embarrassment. I wasn’t sure what to say or if I should even say anything at all. Not with everything that had happened. My hand stuck out by my side and gave a weak attempt at a wave.

Zane chuckled from beside me, a sound that used to irritate me. I smirked up at him.

We took the stone steps two at a time, trying to catch up to Lexi who was dead-set on reaching the top. The steps seemed to go on forever, high into the clouds.

“I can’t believe it,” Fenn whispered to me, his head pointing to Lexi. He reached out for my hand, my skin tingling from his long lost touch, and squeezed it.

“It suits her though,” said Zane. “Her attitude fits that of a higher being.” All three of us smirked at that.

When we reached the top of the steps, Kaede was already there, waiting beneath his mithril armor. He bowed at the waist and then stood back up, pressing his arms to his sides.

Raven-colored hair rested against his back in a thick, tight braid with strings of gold woven throughout. An intricate goatee and mustache with shaven swirling designs wrapped around his thin, pale lips. Slanted brows shadowed his bronze eyes lined in black liner. 

“Progeny.” His accent was sharp. He bowed his head in my direction.

I bowed in return as a knee-jerk reaction, glad to be behind my scales. “My Liege,” I said.

“For someone so young, you have experienced so much pain.” His words and his sympathetic tone hit home. He leaned in close enough for only the two of us to hear. “But you know what they say. Those who never give up have better odds at winning.” He winked at me, his bronze eyes full of wisdom.

I felt an odd grin prick at the corners of my mouth. He was not what I expected him to be. He was…better.

“Alexis, I presume,” he said as he turned in her direction, bowing. She bowed slightly, wearing a mechanical smile. “Astral,” he said, extending his hand instead of bowing. Astral chuckled as he shook it.

He clapped merrily. “You must come inside at once. This is a joyous day, one that we have waited far too long for. We have much to discuss and even more to celebrate.” He motioned for us all to follow him as he headed into the Lyceum. “I was just on my way to meet with my advisors. They will be pleasantly surprised.”

Fenn’s hand still held mine as we followed Kaede through the winding halls. Kaede told us the walls were made from a rare chocolate-colored cypress wood. Sliding wooden doors were paneled with paper and separated each room. Most of the light came through the paper, giving the rooms we passed through a flat glow.

He explained that the paintings and intricate carvings decorating the top panels of every room told the history of the Lyceum from the time of its creation.

We rounded a corner and came to a long hallway with a strip of red carpet lining the center of the floor. Kaede slowed to a stop and started to speak before he turned to face me. “At the end of this hall is my advisory room. My advisors do not yet know of your return so do not be afraid of their shock. They are all Archion Mages and older than any Arch Mage alive.”

“I am honored,” I said quietly, ignoring the butterflies that bombarded my empty stomach.

His eyes creased in pleasure, and then he turned and proceeded down the hall, his hands folded neatly behind his back. When we approached the sliding door, two heavily armed guards stepped aside, bowing in Kaede’s direction. He bowed back.

I bowed to them as well, unsure of what else I should do. I suppressed my giggle when Fenn and Astral both followed suit, looking just as unsure as I felt.

When Kaede slid the door open, all three of his advisors turned to face us, their faces compressed in puzzlement. Two oddly familiar faces were there, but they looked somehow out of place.

It only took a second for their gazes to turn from confused to aware. Fully aware. At the same time, they all rose up to their knees, bowing on the pillows they had been sitting on.

“The Progeny has returned,” one of the Archion Mages said in awe. His silvery beard covered his entire wrinkled face in scraggly curls. Long, thin strands of snow white hair were combed back atop his head. Black eyes gleamed with canniness beneath his bushy eyebrows.

“She has, Mizu,” Kaede agreed gleefully, “and I have invited her to sit with us.” He presented me with an arm wave and gestured to a plush scarlet pillow at the opposite end of the long coffee table that the advisors sat around.

“Of course,” Mizu said at once, his voice and eyebrows rising in excitement.

Fenn and Astral followed and sat on either side of me. Lexi and Zane sat on the right side of Mizu. An eerie echo filled the room from the sound of the wind beating against the thick paper.

I looked around, noting that the council sat with their legs crossed. I did the same. A Geisha in an elaborate violet-colored kimono approached the three of us, offering warm tea on a bamboo tray.

“Thank you,” I murmured, taking it and sipping greedily. Within seconds, my cup was empty, and I was left licking my lips. The fresh, sweet floral taste awakened my taste buds and left me craving more. My empty stomach felt like I had just eaten a full meal. The tea was enchanted.

The Geisha must have seen how thirsty I was because, without asking, she moved her sleeve aside and leaned in with perfected discipline to refill my cup. The delicious aroma of plum blossoms rose before me with the swirling steam, making my mouth water.

Fenn quietly sipped on his tea, smirking behind the rim of his cup as he watched me. I bit my lip, trying to hide my smile.

Kaede cleared his throat after finishing his tea with one hearty sip. “First, let me introduce you to my most trusted advisors. You’ve already met Mizu,” he said, pointing in his direction. Mizu slightly bowed his head. I smiled over the rim of my tea.

“That is Lian.” Kaede gestured to a bald, wrinkly little man to the left of Mizu. Lian bowed his shiny head, his shaven face bearing no emotion. “Next to him is Banjamin—he is the eldest of the advisors.”

Banjamin was like all the rest, quiet featured and emanating wisdom. He had white hair that was pulled back into a tight bun and a beard that fell below his waist, twisted with thin wooden bands. He politely tipped his head in my direction. “Far too long we have awaited your rise from the embers.” His majestic voice slurred with an accent like Kaede’s.

A different Geisha appeared at his side, pouring more tea into his cup. He waved her off, still staring in my direction. “You will return us to prosperity, Progeny…no matter the cost.” There was no threat in his voice, just a pure statement of truth.

“He is a Seer,” Kaede explained, moving to stand behind him. In a gesture of brotherhood, he placed his hands on both Banjamin and Lian’s shoulders. “These three men you see here are my most trusted advisors. They have each served the Liege before me and have remained faithful to our people over the centuries.” His kind eyes beamed with pride.

The other two Mages, the ones who seemed familiar, looked up at Kaede impatiently. Kaede laughed. “Oh yes, and this is Albert and Ghandus. They used to serve Zordon.”

“Before he turned evil,” Albert added.

“He was always evil, Albert,” Ghandus scolded.

Albert elbowed Ghandus in the side. “You don’t know that for sure.”

Ghandus winced and then elbowed him back. “Do too!”

“Gentlemen,” Kaede said through a strained smile, “we are welcoming the Progeny.”

The twins lowered their argument to a mutter as Kaede took his seat on the other side of Lexi. After another short swig of tea, he looked up at us pensively. “Reports from our Runners came in early this morning. It seems the Nymph Magium is considering the Draconta’s request to aid them should there be another battle. That was before the news of your return. More Runners have been sent out to alert the remaining dragons and factions of your arrival. And of course,” he looked directly at me, “to alert the Draconta King and Queen.”

A nervous, dreaded tingle tickled underneath my scales and up my arms. The last time I had been with my grandparents I had done nothing but disrespect them. Would they even want to see me?

Lian’s old, crinkly voice chimed in. “I have prayed so many years for this day.” What seemed like a smile broke the imprinted frown on his ancient face.

“We never gave up hope that this day would come,” Kaede added, steering me away from my inward thoughts. “And now we can begin to gather a strong army that will protect both of the realms from more destruction.” He looked confident of both himself and me as he sat back into his pillow and took another healthy sip of tea.

I shifted uncomfortably. “How will we be able to accomplish this? Zordon is now a Fate. He is immortal.”

Zane stiffened and tilted his cup up to his mouth, hiding behind the rim.

I looked over at Astral for help. He seemed to be transfixed with the pattern of tea leaves that rested at the bottom of his cup. I knew that he knew I was looking at him. He was always in my mind. So why was he avoiding this subject?

“Astral.” Kaede’s smile was stern. “You didn’t inform the young Progeny?”

Astral side-eyed me, setting his teacup back down on the table and leaning into the conversation. “You know how quickly things change, Kaede. How words are misinterpreted. I didn’t want to tell her unless I knew for sure.” He kept his head tilted down.

Kaede nodded and then looked back at me, piercing me with his gaze. “Then I guess luck is on my side today. I get to bear the good news.”

“Good news?” I asked, narrowing my eyes on Astral.

“While I was in the good graces of Zordon, I did some digging,” Kaede continued. “I found something that, if known to the general public, could place the race of Priests in danger.”

I was officially lost.

His eyes grew spirited as he lowered his tone. “There is rumor of an elixir, Progeny. An elixir that can make an immortal mortal once more.”

The already quiet room grew deafeningly quiet.

“Kaede.” There was clear warning in Astral’s voice as he turned in my direction, palms flat on the table. “It is not a sure thing, Little Flame.” He looked dead at Kaede. “Which is why I have not said anything yet.”

Kaede rolled his eyes, his head following the motion and landing in his propped up palm.

“Remember that discussion we had long ago about the Priests? About how dangerous and untrustworthy they are?” Astral continued, looking back at me. “Even if they did create such an elixir that could undo immortality, it would be near impossible to retrieve. Especially after your last encounter with them. It is too dangerous.”

I shuddered from the memory of our last encounter. The one that involved Zordon stealing a drop from the Pool of Virtue and Fenn and Eve going missing. The one where one of the sacred Priests died, leaving the rest to take their vengeance out on Zane, Zhax, and me. It was the day everything I had so carefully planned spun out of control.

“We should search for other possibilities and not such fascinating, unrealistic stories,” Astral finished evenly. He made sure to meet eyes with everyone around the table.

My stomach dropped. “But-”

I was cut off by a light knock on the door. It slid open. Brohm stepped through and bowed. When his eyes found Lexi’s, his face filled with a mixture of anguish, confusion, and joy.

“Alexis, you’re-”

“Brohm,” Kaede said airily, his mood shifting back to civility. “Have you brought word concerning our enemy’s current endeavors?”

He was a Runner?

Brohm nodded, painfully looking away from Lexi and towards Kaede. “My Liege, Zordon’s focus has solely been on the other realm. Word is that he is meeting with the Liege in the Polar Magium in a few days.”

“Perfect,” Kaede said, rubbing his hands together. “This is our opportunity to stay under the radar. Our first strike will be on his headquarters—the Lyceum on Pyre Island. If we can take it out, we are one step closer to weakening his hold on this realm.”

I tried to refrain from staring at Kaede with an open mouth. “The Lyceum on Pyre Island?”

His face screwed up.

I shook my head to shake the confusion. “I meant to say, we are going to attack the Lyceum?”

Brohm exchanged glances with Kaede. A long, trying minute passed before Kaede’s face erupted into a smile. “As soon as our army is strong enough, we will. Isn’t that what we should be doing?”

Banjamin shifted on his pillow. “Shouldn’t we let the Progeny rest? We have days before the other Runners return from Nymph Island. There is plenty of time to set plans in stone and recruit the army needed to accomplish this. She needs to adjust to all that has happened around her.”

Brohm looked displaced as he stared at the side of Lexi’s face. She hadn’t even noticed him yet. I wondered if she even remembered their relationship.

I could feel Kaede watching me and looked over at him. He eyed me thoughtfully, as if he hadn’t even considered letting me rest. As if I should be leaping into action at this very moment. Suddenly a huge smile stretched across his face, and he clapped his hands excitedly. “Excellent idea, Banjamin,” he said jubilantly. “It will give us ample time to prepare the celebration of the Progeny’s return. It will be held tonight.” He hesitated, the delight in his eyes shadowed with doubt. “You will be rested enough for that?”

“Oh, yes,” I said instantly. It was my first day back, and already I was stirring up a new batch of doubts. I made a vow to myself to change that this time around.

His smile brightened at once. “Good. Throwing a grand party is my wife’s forte, and she will be thrilled to begin.” He leaned into the table, his eyes perking up in secret. “And I have to admit, we haven’t had much to celebrate in quite some time.”

The other men promptly nodded in unison, agreeing with the sad truth.

Kaede continued. “A guard will escort you to your room where you can rest for a while. I’m sure a moment of quiet solitude would be good for you now that you have returned. You will be notified before the festivities begin.” He stood. The rest of the men stood right after him, awaiting my departure.

I blinked. That was it?

“Thank you.” I bowed, took Fenn’s hand, and walked out. I peered over at Lexi and Zane who remained seated. They were in no hurry to leave. As I passed Brohm, I placed my hand on his shoulder and gave him a sympathetic smile before crossing into the hallway.

Astral followed me, sliding the door closed behind us. Following the guard, I slouched down the hallway towards our rooms.

“Sometimes I can’t help but wonder, why me?” I was having trouble wrapping my mind around everything that had changed. Around everything that would probably never change.

“Because despite what you may think, you’re strong and smart and meant for this,” Fenn said as he braided his fingers through mine.

The main reason why I was upset surfaced and spilled out of my lips. “It was my fault.” I didn’t bother with hiding the guilt in my faint voice. “Even if she returns to her old self over time, she will probably never forgive me. I can’t even forgive myself.”

I couldn’t say her name. I didn’t feel I had the right to speak it out loud. She never deserved the fate she was dealt, and now, now she would never have the life she deserved.

Both Astral and Fenn stopped and looked at me. Astral was the first to speak. “Though the circumstances may have led you to believe that it was your fault in choosing her death, you must remember one thing—The Fates have ultimately done this to us. Saeth and his betrayal to their laws have caused all of this.”

He looked away in anguish, seeming to regret his last words. Even though he spoke the truth, I knew it still wasn’t easy for him to openly go against those he had served for so long.

“How?”

“Because of greed, Aurora. After Gidius created the dragons, Saeth felt he could do even better. He could create a being more cunning and powerful. A spawn from his very flesh. That is how Zordon came to be.”

“Is that when I was created?”

Astral looked over at me. “Though his Oraculus was ripped in half and deemed for another, you weren’t created for a while. It took Iliana some time to find the perfect solution to create an ultimate rival. A dragon creation against the human creation.”

“Or more plainly, Gidius versus Saeth,” I said.

The guard stopped at the end of the hall in between two sliding doors. He guided Astral to one and Fenn and I to the other. He bowed and then left.

Astral paused just outside his door, partially sliding it open. “Sadly, yes. We can only hope that Iliana had intended for all of this to happen.” There was something in his words and in his eyes that told me he held something back. He always wore a solemn look when he kept information I should know to himself.

“What do you mean? What aren’t you telling me?”

He forced a smile. The same smile he always used when he wasn’t going to explain any further. “Rest up, Little Flame. There will be plenty of time to discuss the matter. I’m sure Fenn has enough to share with you.”

I frowned at his back as he slid the door shut behind him. Fenn didn’t hesitate to pull me into our room.

My shoulders slumped forward. “Of course he can’t just come out and say it. I feel so lost.”

Fenn lightly kissed the side of my head. “Don’t worry, I will fill you in.”

There was a cushioned mat in the far corner draped in silken sheets. At the other end of the tiny room stood a small dresser with an oil lantern as the only source of light. I walked over to the dresser, looking for something a little more comfortable to wear. My options were limited to a pink or red Kimono. I opted for the red.

I shifted back into my human form and shrugged off the armor, forgetting about Fenn standing there, gawking at me. I slid the silken material on, shuddering from the luxurious feel of it against my bare skin.

And then I felt Fenn’s warm breath against the back of my neck. He trailed soft kisses along my shoulders, spun me around and into his arms, and cradled my neck as his blue eyes devoured mine.

“You don’t know how much I have missed this, Rory. A year. A whole agonizing year I spent thinking I would never see or touch your beautiful face again. The seasons changed, our birthdays came and went.” He gently rubbed his thumbs over my cheeks and then across my lips. “Everyone swore that it was over. I told them it couldn’t be the end but the beginning. That you would come back to me. But after so much time had passed, I began to think…” he trailed off, kissing me to finish his sentence.

I leaned into him, kissing him with everything I had in my soul. I loved him more than I could ever love anything or anyone. His hands hungrily gripped my back as he crushed me against him and then lifted me off the floor. In two strides he laid me gently onto the mat and cuddled up next to me, brushing the hair from my face.

“I missed the softness of your hair,” he confessed, twirling his fingers through my hair while staring into my eyes.

“I’m here now,” I said distractedly, wondering why he had stopped kissing me. All I could see were his lips, desperately wanting them to resume their pleasing torture.

A smug grin tugged at the left side of his mouth. “What are you thinking about?”

I scrunched my face at him, huffing as I propped up on an elbow. “Seriously?” My eyes dropped to his lips. “I was thinking about kissing you, but know I’m thinking about your ginormous muscles, Fenn. Or should I call you Hulk?”

He looked down at his bicep and flexed. “They are pretty ginormous, right? Zane came in handy as a workout buddy.” I lightly punched his chest. He chuckled, shaking his head. “Rory, Astral is in the next room. And he is in here.” He pointed to my forehead.

My face reddened seven shades of scarlet as I tossed his hand away from my face. “No, he’s not.” I sighed and lay back down, staring at the painted dragons on the ceiling, trying to stop the tingling feelings that sparked along my skin from his touch.

He kissed my cheek. “I love you.” His tone was serious and filled with longing. “You are my everything.” I turned my face to his. He planted a long, deep kiss on my lips, letting his hands roam down my sides. I reached my hand up to his hair, weaving my fingers through its thickness and rolled him over, pinning him to the bed.

I bit my lip coyly, smiling down at him. “I thought we weren’t going to do this,” I teased, running my hands over his smooth muscles. My hair fell in his face. He reached up, using his fingers to hold it back. He looked playfully distraught as our bodies rested against each other.

He flipped me back over, pinning me underneath him and holding my hands above my head. A spark of lust shot through me. I loved the feel of his body on mine.

His lips were close to mine. “We’re not, although I would love nothing more than to explore what’s under that Kimono.” He dragged a slow, teasing finger along the neckline. My skin was on fire as a breath caught in my throat.

I was more than ready and willing, but with a heavy sigh, he stopped, letting my hands go. He sat back against the wall with his knees bent in front of him.

I couldn’t think or see straight. All I wanted was him. I waited, wondering what would happen if I just tackled him.

“I should probably tell you a few things, like Astral suggested.” His crooked grin peeked out as he avoided my eyes. Why was he changing the subject now?

I cursed Astral. “Fine.” I huffed and plunged my hands through my hair. “Like what?” I sat up, pulling the Kimono tighter around me.

“I’ll start with the changes that you probably aren’t aware of. For starters, shortly after you disappeared, word spread quickly about Zordon’s reign in the Hall of Knowledge. All of the Outlaws in the Swamp have moved to the Pyre Lyceum. It’s now central headquarters for all things evil. And to make matters worse, they have banded together to destroy both realms. Even the Polar Magium joined his side. As it stands, all Magiums are basically split down the middle. Zordon and his followers against the last of the Draconta, the Orient, and the Nymph.

“That’s why we haven’t fought back. We haven’t had the manpower. It has taken all of our strength just to remain safe here. Since you left, we have been attacked twice by factions outside of the Orient. So far, it has been nearly impossible to take action against him, especially in Mily’s realm.”

His eyes dropped to his hands twirling nervously against his knees.

I scooted closer to him. “Do you think what Kaede said about the elixir is true? Maybe that’s what Iliana meant about there being another way for me to destroy Zordon. But she said something about you…third of three, so that couldn’t be the answer…” I broke off in thought.

I didn’t want to tell him that if I didn’t figure out what she was talking about, the chance of me killing Zordon without dying myself was very slim. The very thought made my stomach turn sour.

He stretched his legs out, crossing his arms over his chest. “I wouldn’t hold my breath, Rory. You saw how the Priests were. And why would they have an elixir like that? How would they have made it?”

“They do experiment heavily,” I pointed out.

“I think we should go with what Kaede suggested and focus our intent on the Pyre Lyceum.” He looked at me, his blue eyes narrowed. “Destroying the Pyre Lyceum would throw a wrench in Zordon’s plans. It would stop the attacks on all of those who have yet to be recruited into our army.”

Put like that, it did sound like the best idea for now. One step at a time.

“Plus, it would probably take away the manpower he has that helps him with his creations.”

I almost didn’t want to ask. “Creations?”

His face grew somber. “It’s just a rumor since we don’t really have any sources, but supposedly he is hauling dead bodies to the Swamp. We don’t exactly know why, but we’ve heard it is to create an army.” He leveled his gaze at me. “An army that can’t be killed.”

“Zombies?” I couldn’t help the cynical laughter that bubbled out of me.

He leveled his gaze on me. “I’m serious, Rory. It makes sense. Why else would he want Na’shir? It’s what Necros do—they summon the dead…use death as their weapon.”

I perked my brows at him and sort of snorted. “A zombie army? Really?”

He chuckled. “Okay, when you put it like that.” He shook his head, his laughter dying off. “I don’t know. I doubt it would be like what you’re thinking. Like from the movies back home. From what I’ve read about the Necromancers, the dead they raise can think for themselves but are bound to serve their creator.”

I swallowed hard. “That would surely change things.”

“Exactly. But the good thing is, there are some Necros left who aren’t following Zordon. We just have to figure out a way to bring them to our side.”

My thoughts touched on Irisi. I hoped that she was okay. She would be a wonderful ally to have. “We have to find Irisi. If we save her, maybe it would keep Na’shir from joining Zordon.”

His grin grew devilish. “I love it when we’re in sync. That’s exactly what I’ve been telling Kaede. He never wanted to make a move, but you heard him today. If the attack on the Pyre Lyceum is successful, then we might have a chance to safe her. If she’s being held there.”

A knock lightly pattered on the papered door. Fenn got up and I quickly followed suit, tying the Kimono tightly around my waist. He slid the door open, but I couldn’t see past his large form. I could barely make out the other person telling him that the festivities to celebrate our departure would begin in two hours.

I tapped on Fenn’s shoulder and patiently waited for him to move so I could see. When he turned, my jaw dropped.

Echelon out ♥

From the Embers News!

From the Embers Sale

Hello once again, readers!!! Guess what? Tomorrow, the cover and release date will be announced for From the Embers!!! To celebrate, my publisher has dropped the prices on Born in Flames and Embracing the Flames, so grab your copies now!!

AND…

Everlasting is in beta hands, and goes to my editor on Monday!!!

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!

I can’t. I’m still trying to keep up. A part of me keeps thinking I’m forgetting something. I’m excited, anxious, nervous, delirious, and everything in between. I can’t WAIT to share the cover with you tomorrow. It’s the end of a trilogy, and the beginning of a new series. Crazy.

Any who, any bloggers interested in being a part of the reveal, you can sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1yGB875mfEkuFXvI5GyFEWj8igWLK6IRAlvfGQsPU4DU/viewform.

After I send the information out, I’ll be putting together the blog tour.

So that being said, I have to go. Lots to plan for!

Echelon out ♥

Nomination and Giveaway

11867_10200564229502068_1027526276_nHello once again, readers!!

You read that right! Embracing the Flames (Born in Flames Trilogy, #2) has been nominated for Book of the Year with Young Adult and Teen Readers blog.

Oh snap!

(hang on while I freak out and do like fifty back-to-back cartwheels)

Okay, I’m back…and out of breath.

It’s always a wonderful feeling when I find out one of my novels has been nominated…even if it doesn’t win. Just to be in the company of the other nominated books is a win in itself. I’m humbled by the fact someone actually thought of me. That it actually touched them and left an impression. What more could an author ask for?

There are also a ton of other categories and awesome books up for nomination so please follow the link above and vote for your favorites. ♥

In other news, I will be taking over Raven Reviewz today for the 12 Days of Christmas Author Takeover. It’s an event on Facebook. I’ll be giving away some goodies so if you’re looking to have some fun today, join the event and participate in the activities!

So yeah, that’s all she wrote for today. Still trucking away at Everlasting. I have about seven more chapters to read through and then it will be beta time with a few trusted peeps.

Echelon out ♥

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12 Days of Christmas Ebook Winner!!!

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Hello once again, readers!!! The 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop has ended which means…I have to pick a winner for the complete Born in Flames Trilogy e-book set!

Brace yourselves for this. I know you have waited all your life to hear this news.

Drumroll please……………

And the winner is: Elizabeth from Book Attict!!!

Thank you to everyone who participated! It means a lot. :)

Happy Holidays!

Echelon out ♥

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From the Embers Copy Edits Giveaway

TeaserHello once again, readers!

The copy edits are done!!!! *happy dance* *cart-wheel* *high-five*

I felt just as I did when I first typed the words ‘the end.’ Emotional, happy, sad, proud…my characters have come a long way and I am very happy with how everything turned out in the end.

From the Embers is one step closer to seeing the light of day. Hopefully soon I will be able to do the cover reveal. It’s done…I am just waiting on my publisher now.

But I digress.

Now for some fun.

Ebook Giveaway

To celebrate finishing the copy edits for From the Embers, how about we do a pre-giveaway (tomorrow I will have a bigger giveaway taking place). All you have to do is like and comment on this post to be entered to win not one, but TWO ebooks. Born in Flames AND Embracing the Flames.

Oh snap!!!

I know…I’m cool like that…not. o_O

The giveaway will end tomorrow and the winner will be announced shortly after. :)

Echelon out ♥

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Teaser Tuesday

Teaser TuesdayHello once again, readers!

It’s Teaser Tuesday…oh snap! Since I am deep in From the Embers copy edits (over halfway now), I figured I would share a teaser from it.

So here goes nothing:

“The day has come for us to choose our path of allegiance, and we gladly stand behind both you and our brother, Astral. Aside from The Fates, we are the oldest race in this realm.” He stood up, and his height seemed to grow with the depth of his words. “We hold the power to rewrite history, and I will be damned if I am going to stand by and let Zordon do it for us.”

The Ancients behind him broke out in cheers that shook the Lyceum walls. Maybe we really did have a chance.

And scene.

This is spoken from one of the Ancients who have come to stand behind Aurora and Astral before one of the battles that take place in the story. I can’t really say any more than that. I don’t want to give anything away. :)

I am so excited for this release. The story has shaped up nicely and I feel the end does my beloved characters justice. I can’t wait.

That being said, I just started the Elf on a Shelf tradition in my house since my little ones are old enough now to understand what’s up. The named our elf Eric. Last night he broke into my craft box while we were sleeping, and this was what we woke up to:

1454758_10202157371329618_713709688_nHe made the kids a Christmas Countdown paper link chain. Each link has a specific activity we have to do for that day. Today we have to have an inside picnic. My kids are so in love with him. It’s awesome. Can’t wait to see what he gets into tomorrow. o_O

Echelon out ♥

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser TuesdayHello once again, readers!!!

How is your holiday week so far? Good? Busy? Anyone preparing for Black Friday?

I am entertaining my two year-old and six year-old. And by entertaining I mean being tied up and put in their closet jail. But it’s okay, they left me alongside of plush Buzz and Woody so at least I am in good company. And I am let out when they grow hungry on good behavior from time to time. Help me! Who could ask for more?

Sounds fun right? o_O

Any who, today is teaser Tuesday and since I am now working on approving the copy edits for From the Embers, I figured I would share a teaser from chapter 1.

She was staring at me. “The end of days has begun, or as your old realm is calling it, the war. There is much to catch up on and very little time to do so.”

“Catch up on? What month are we in?” I asked, shivering.

Her gaze fell flat.

Astral shifted and took a gentle step in between us. “Forgive her, Alexis. Being in the Hall of Knowledge for such a long time does make one dizzy-minded.”

“But I wasn’t there for that long. Hours if anything,” I stated. I was confused and felt on the verge of snapping. The dragon in me felt suppressed.

His smile was patient when he tilted his head at me. “Oh, but it was much longer, Little Flame. You’ve been gone for almost a year in the time of the living. We are in November…again.”

And scene. A lot of mixed emotions bombard Aurora when she wakes in the realm. A lot of time has passed and a lot of hope was lost. She must reunite the people in the realm in hopes that they will fight back against Zordon and his steadily growing army.

Are you as excited as I am?

On another note:

Best Friends

 

 

 

 

 

Yes that is me and my bestie author Sonya Loveday. You should check her out. ;)

That being said, Echelon out ♥