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Borrowed ember, p.1
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       Borrowed Ember, p.1

         Part #3 of Fire Spirits series by Samantha Young
Borrowed Ember
Page 1

  Prologue - Each Thread Pulled, Unravels Us

  Milions of granules of glittering sand were suspended in the air al around them like a curtain of fragmented earth that enveloped them entirely. Bright sunlight shot through al the spaces in between each grain. Ari stared in awe for a moment, vaguely wondering if she would be able to create the same effect with the desert sand. It was like a fat funnel—as though a tornado had swept over the ground in a powerful, frantic dash only to have someone even more powerful hit the pause button on it.

  Despite the extraordinary visual impact, Ari was more impressed with its purpose. It was a cocoon of privacy alowing mother and son to talk freely without sly and eager ears overhearing their words.

  Turning her attention to Lilif and her son, The White King, Ari prowled around them. She was now used to her visions, or dreams, or whatever they were, and more than eager to learn more from them. The White King towered over his beautiful mother who appeared as if she were no older than him. Her tal, graceful frame was wrapped in a white dress, like a toga, a strangely colorless garment for Lilif—the jewels in her ears and on her fingers providing the only sparkle of color. Her dark locks were puled back in an elegant coiffure, a thin circlet of diamonds winking in the sun from its tight situation across her forehead. Entranced, as she always was by the female Jinn, it took Ari a moment to remember her real father’s presence. His curious silence drew her eyes towards him as Lilif looked up lovingly into his face. As soon as Ari took him in she stopped, transfixed by his expression. For Ari, The White King was the coldest Jinn she had ever met. Only once had she witnessed him lose his cool, and even then it was the most controled anger she’d ever seen. White was the master of the blank expression, so it was with great surprise that Ari looked upon this younger version of the Jinn King and saw love and respect in his eyes, and a soft quirk of a smile on the corner of his lips. He was vulnerable before Lilif. Unguarded. More human, somehow.

  “You know I love your theatrics, Mother, but is this realy necessary?” he smirked, gesturing to the sand cocoon around them.

  Lilif’s eyes narrowed. “Of course. Or have your brothers not caught your ears yet?”

  Immediately White frowned. “Red and Glass are trying to cause mischief. I think father put them up to it. I assure you, I don’t believe them. ”

  “Good. ” Lilif placed a gentle hand on his forearm. “That brings me such relief, my son. I would never hurt any of my children. How can they accuse me of such an abominable thing?”

  “Father,” White answered grimly.

  “That’s why I have brought you here. ” Lilif stepped back from him, wringing her hands in a way that made Ari think she was lying. She frowned. This was not the Lilif Ari had come to know from her earlier dreams of her. “Azazil is trying to turn you al against me. ”

  “Why? What has happened?”

  “We have been disagreeing often on his selfish pursuit of pleasure. He seems to be uncaring of our ways, of our purpose. I fear that soon he wil even begin

  interfering in his sons’ purpose —that he may upset the balance by influencing you al to interfere in one another’s days, to interfere with the Importants’ destinies.

  His petulance, his propensity for boredom wil destroy everything. Do you fuly understand what his childish irresponsibility wil lead to? Over time, each destiny that is broken, each path that is turned, each road that is lost, wil create cracks in the fabric of nature, of time, of space and of light. The realms wil start to colide into one another, until there is nothing but a wasteland of dust. Only the strongest wil survive. Only the immortal and the very powerful. We’l have to begin anew, alone in one, smaler world…”

  Ari felt the breath leave her body at Lilif’s prophecy, her stomach churning with fear. Were her words true? Is that realy what would happen if Azazil lost control of it al? Is that what The Red King had meant when he told her that the consequences of her using the Seal against the Sultan could be catastrophic? She gulped, suddenly very glad she had taken his advice.

  Attention drawn back to White, Ari realized he was just as aghast. “So everything wil be gone, but us?”

  “Almost. Azazil was the one who forewarned me of the consequences of tampering with the threads of our existence, and yet I believe, in the end, it wil be your father that brings such a disaster to fruition. ”

  “Do the others know this?”

  “If they don’t, we have to tel them,” Lilif whispered hoarsely, her eyes huge with concern. Ari narrowed her own eyes, not quite as taken in by Lilif as her son obviously was.

  “Mother, we cannot let Father play these games he has been playing these last few years. Balance… the balance is our purpose. ”

  Lilif nodded wearily. “It is. I brought you here to make you understand the importance of us standing united against your father. Even if that means standing united against your brothers. ”

  The White King straightened with determination. “Gleaming wil want to know of this. He is just as suspicious as I am of Red and Glass’ offensive claims of late. ”

  “And Shadow?”

  “Yes, Shadow also. Gilder and Lucky, I am not so sure of. You know they like to maintain cowardly neutrality. ”

  “Don’t speak so harshly of them, White. We may yet be able to appeal to their inteligent natures and their sense of honor. They do believe deeply in their purpose just as you do. ”

  “I shal leave now and speak with them. We need to prepare them. We need to stand strong and try to counterbalance any unwritten chaos that upsets the balance. ”

  “Hurry. ” Lilif reached up and stroked his cheek lovingly.

  “I wil. It is my duty. ” With a respectful bow of his head, White stepped back and the flames of the Peripatos engulfed him.

  Ari’s eyes slid slowly back to Lilif and she watched, somehow unsurprised, as the Ifrit’s entire demeanor changed. The prim white toga slid around her body with a life of its own, reshaping itself into a shimmering drape of a dress that clung to al her luscious curves. Two revealing slits ran up the length of the dress on either side, flashing her shapely legs from foot to thigh. Magical, invisible hands uncoiled her hair until it hung loose and wild to her waist. The manipulative, dangerous gleam that Ari had come to know was back in Lilif’s dark eyes, the familiar cruel twist returned to her ful lips as she sneered at the space where White had just minutes ago been standing. “Just like your father, White. In more ways than you’l ever realize. ”

  Before Ari had time to even attempt to work out Lilif’s meaning the sand exploded in a scream al around them and Lilif’s voice joined its whine. Grains sliced into Ari’s skin and eyes, and she slapped at the attacking desert with useless heavy arms.

  Claustrophobia gripped her chest and Ari slammed forward reaching for air, her eyes opening into the dark of the unfamiliar bedroom suite. Heart pounding, Ari slumped with relief as pale light from the huge moon outside the balcony iluminated the iron-framed bed she was in, as wel as the Moroccan iron screen and matching furniture.

  Mount Qaf.

  The momentary relief evaporated as she remembered.


  The Gleaming King.

  Charlie. His trial.

  Her fingers curled into the light silk comforter. Her uncle, The Red King, had put her in one of the rooms within his quarters of the palace. Despite his proximity, Ari stil feared being within the Sultan Azazil’s home in Mount Qaf. Corridors away from him. Only corridors away from Lilif’s dangerous and enigmatic twin, Asmodeus.

  But only a room away from Jai. Her shoulders relaxed from their position by her ears and gradualy the rest of her began to unwind. She lay back down to stare at the ceiling and wondered if she should fe
el guilty that Jai’s presence could bring her such comfort when miles beneath the palace Charlie was locked up in a dungeon awaiting his trial tomorrow?

  Awaiting the trial that would determine whether he lived or died.

  Ari already knew the outcome.

  There was no way in hel she was letting her best friend die. No way.

  No matter what.

  1 - I’m a Mountain Against the Wind

  Faling back to sleep was impossible. Ari didn’t even know how she’d managed it in the first place.

  She watched, huddled on her bed, as the moon drifted further away and the sky lightened. The winter sun began to play peek-a-boo over the mountains, the

  emeralds waking up under its playful gaze.

  Finally, Ari breathed inwardly, hopping out of bed. She hurried into the colorful bronze, blue and gold Moroccan tiled bathroom, rushing through a luxurious shower and blow-drying her hair with a hairdryer that looked surprisingly like the one she’d left back in Ohio. The Red King certainly wanted her to feel at home. Wel, she never would, but she couldn’t help but feel grateful to her uncle for trying.

  With adrenaline pulsing through her body, Ari rummaged through her smal bag for a clean pair of jeans and a tank top. The little gremlins she’d come to know and hate played kick-bal in her stomach as she concentrated.

  Red, she caled through the telepathy, somehow knowing he didn’t mind her being informal with him, You there?

  Two seconds later flames hissed to life at the doorway and The Red King stepped out of the Peripatos. His long, bright red hair was puled back into a braid that brushed the bottom of his spine, and he wore black leather trousers that laced up the side. His torso was bare, his powerful build making Ari uncomfortable as the muscles of his biceps rippled under the gold circlets around them as he moved towards her. She noted the thick gold cuffs around his wrist and the ruby studs in his ears. He was dressed to impress. He was dressed for the trial.

  Red’s sharp, pale blue eyes flicked across her face, checking for… what? Injury? Sorrow? Concern? “Are you alright?”

  Ari shook her head. “I want to see Charlie. ”

  “I already told you, you can’t. ”

  An ugly, unexpected flare of anger burned in Ari’s chest and she gulped hard trying to hold it back down. She needed to stay calm. “I just want to make sure he’s okay. ”

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