Authors: Shannon Reber
(Awakening Book 1)
Copyright © 2016 by Shannon Reber
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
Published by Magic Fire Publishing
This book is a work of fiction. Incidents, names, characters, and places are products of the author's imagination and used fictitiously. Resemblances to actual locales or events or persons living or dead, is coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Table of Contents
My niece graduates high school this year, so this book is for her. I hope your life is less trying than Shayla’s, but that you laugh even more than she does. I love you like crazy, Lauren!
The thud of boots on limestone sounded like thunder during an autumn storm, something I hadn’t heard in years. I held my breath and wedged myself deeper into a declivity in the wall. They could not find me that time. They always found me though. They always made me pay for trying to escape.
I touched the raw skin on my wrists while my back ached from my last punishment. It couldn’t matter anymore. I was going home. Even the thought of it was like a victory.
I turned my attention back to the area around me. I had to focus away from fear and onto escape. There were many sounds, the trickle of water, the fading sounds of boots on limestone, the squeaky chatter of bats, the slither of snakes, my own inhales and exhales.
It was time. I couldn’t hide any longer. I had to get away.
The dark beauty of the cave system was incredible as I ran. My eyes took in every detail. It was a place which made me feel so many things, the very stones like family. No. My family was in the human world. The stones were simply friends.
I moved as fast and quiet as possible. Every part of me shook with excitement. Freedom, after eight years. I was about to get away.
I smiled, though couldn’t let my relief matter. I had to concentrate on getting out before they noticed my escape. Everything else was secondary.
My body jerked in shock as a hand clamped over my mouth to silence my startled scream. I was pulled back against a hard body.
No. Please. Not yet. Let me be free, please.
To be caught that time was more than I could handle. The Black King had explained in excruciating detail what would be done to me if I tried to escape again.
But no. Not a chance. There was no way I would go down without a fight.
I turned my mind to the stones and called out to them. They answered eagerly, always willing to do whatever I asked. They slammed the one who held me back into the wall of the cave, holding him in place as he tried to use his own magic to free himself.
I stepped closer, furious to have been caught so easily. “How did you find me?” I asked with a prayer no more were on their way.
He sneered. “The Black King told me to watch you. He also told me to whip you raw when you tried another of your escapes,” he said and used his power to fling my stones away.
There was no way I would allow him to either whip me, or take me back. I would be free.
I raised my hands and that time called not on the stones, but the air. It answered without hesitation, even more eager to help me than the stones had been. It was an amazing feeling, the air not under my control, but a friend happy to do any favor for me.
“Hold him still,” I asked and the air complied without a qualm.
The trouble was, something else was behind me. I could feel it. The air told me it was true, but if I took my attention away from the guy the air held, he would be free and he would be just the tiniest bit mad at me.
I had been told that my power would grow along with my body and it was true. My magic was far stronger than it had been when I was little. But I was only seventeen and my last punishment had taken a lot out of me. The elements wanted to help, but my ability to call to them was seriously limited.
“How dare you use your unnatural magic on us, you abomination!” someone shouted and a blade was pressed into my back.
I focused everything left inside me on the stones and pleaded with them to help. They tried, but my call was weak. I was too young to hold both air and stone at the same time.
There was no way I would release the one guy and let them both wail on me. That escape had been my last hope. The Black King had plans for my magic which could not be allowed. If I didn’t comply though, he would torture me in ways which made me feel sick even to think about.
I asked the air to keep holding the guy up despite the tiredness of my body and mind. Before my strength was entirely sapped, I kicked back at the guy with the knife as hard as possible, with a prayer that blade wouldn’t run me through. He grunted in pain, but I had to keep my mind focused on the one the air held up.
An arm snaked its way around my waist and his blade touched my stomach like a threat of what would happen if I didn’t stop. I ignored it and punched back straight into the guy’s nose.
Staggering pain shot through my rib, but I ignored it too. My head spun as I punched and kicked backwards to get away. I had to get away. I had to be free.
The guy who held me jerked like he was in pain. He let go of me, then I heard a scuffle, like two males fought. Something wet and sticky was right where the pain radiated through my rib, but I could not look. I had to focus on the air so the other guy couldn’t join in the fight.
Then a figure darted around in front of me and dispatched my prisoner. My mouth fell open in shock. Dorian’s stone knife was red and wet as he pulled it from the other one’s chest and turned to face me with that bloody knife pointed at my chest. He had been distant with me over the past few months, but I hadn’t expected . . . we were friends. Well, we were at least as much friends as two immortals could be when one was being held against her will and the other worked for those who held her.
I took a step away from him, then another, but kept my eyes fixed on him.
No. Please, not him. Not like this.
“Dorian?” I asked, my voice weak as my trembling knees gave out. The pain in my rib grew worse. My vision flickered, but if this was the end, I had to know. “I thought . . . I never thought it would be you, Dorian. I—” but I broke off, looking down at that hideous pain.
What I saw made me want to throw up. One of the jagged bladed, stone knives stuck out of the rib on my right side. Oh. I truly was dead. Those knives were beyond vicious.
There was no way I would allow myself to live long enough to be taken back to the Black King. I knew what he’d do and that could not be allowed. I took the knife’s hilt in my hand and pulled it out as fast as possible. The agony was beyond words, but at least my blood would spill there and not in the Black King’s presence.
And it did spill. Blood gushed from that wound as I dropped the stone knife. Tears filled my eyes as it hit me. I’d never see my mom and dad again.
Dorian jumped forward then leaned down to push my arm out of his way and pressed a wad of cloth against the wound. It hurt, but the pain in my heart was much worse. I had thought we were friends, but he was no friend at all.
I opened my eyes after a little bit, surprised to find myself still alive, more surprised that Dorian carried me. Had I passed out? Looked like I must have.
The Black King wouldn’t let me survive the day. I hadn’t escaped at all. I was a failure to my bloodline.
“Put me down,” I said, trying to make my voice as forceful as possible.
Dorian didn’t stop, didn’t look at me, didn’t even acknowledge the fact I had spoken.
“I need to walk. I will not let him kill me while you’re holding onto me. Put me down,” I demanded, determined not to appear weak in front of my enemy.
“I will get you out, Gray One. You will not die,” he said, his eyes straight ahead.
“You’re letting me go?” I asked and hope came to life again.
He didn’t respond.
“I . . . I’m really going home?”
Dorian nodded. He set me down, then lifted my shirt to examine my rib. “There is much damage, but I will take that from you shortly. Your people can never know where you were. You must not tell them,” he said with a nod, pressing that cloth to the wound again.
My people. I couldn’t believe the idea. I would see my family. The rest I could handle, so long as Mom, Dad and my sister were there with me. “Where are we?” I looked around to distract myself from the pain. We were still in the cave, but the magic of the stones could have brought us pretty much anywhere in the time I’d been unconscious.
“We are but a few miles from your home in America. It is called East Virginia, is it not?”
I shook my head. “Close, but no cookie. It’s called West Virginia, Buckhannon to be specific,” I corrected. I tried to smile at him as though there wasn’t so much pain ripping through my body.
“Cookies?” he asked and shook his head. “Forgive me, Gray One. I brought no food for you.”
A genuine laugh escaped my lips. “It’s a human saying, Dorian. I’ve told you this before.” It was fun to remember the quirky slogans I had heard as a child, to remember my human friends.
“Ah,” Dorian said with a nod, his eyes turned back in the direction we had come from, apparently in search of danger.
“Dorian, he’ll kill you for letting me go.”
He didn’t respond, but lifted me into his arms and began to walk.
“Come with me,” I said as he turned his eyes down to meet mine. “You and I look more alike than me and my sister do. We could say you’re my cousin or something. I’d bet you anything my mom and dad would help you, since you helped me escape.” And it was true. We had been mistaken for family several times. We both had dark hair and paper white skin, though his eyes were black.
He swallowed hard and looked back to the front. “I must remain, Gray One.” He shook his head. “And the Black King will not kill me. He will place me in the traitor’s cells for the duration of my days. It is where I belong.”
“No, it’s not. You are no traitor. You guarded the Black Queen loyally.”
“The Queen died under my guard, Gray One. This is shameful.”
“No, it is not. What’s shameful is that Gerik murdered her and stole her crown,” I said with a shiver. I recalled that day two years ago, the pools of blood and how Gerik had turned his evil smile on me as he placed the blood soaked crown on his head.
Dorian didn’t respond.
“Please, please come with me,” I begged as he stopped and set me on my feet, but he kept hold of my arm.
“My place is with our people,” he said again. He touched his fingers to my temples. “Be well, Gray One. Go with the blessings of the Black elves and the eternal friendship of the house o
“Dorian, no. I—” I began, but he shook his head, his eyes focused on mine as he turned his magic on me.
His power was warm and soothing as it pulsed through my system. My rib heated to an almost painful level, then cooled, the injuries on my back and wrists from earlier feeling the same. Everything inside me was suddenly at peace. The only thing which would be left of that horrible injury was a scar.
Tears filled my eyes as he hunched in, my injuries having been passed into his body. I hated that, but knew he could ask the water all around us to heal him. It was an amazing ability, one I didn’t have the skill to use just yet. After my awakening, he said I would, though not yet.
He ran his fingers over the points to my ears. Those points rounded until I was left with human looking ears. His glamours were the most powerful of our people, so it was clear I would be hidden well with the humans.
Dorian looked hard at me for a long moment before he spoke. “You will forget the time you spent in this land. You will forget what was done to you. You will forget that elves and all other immortals exist. You will no longer believe in magic. You have no magic. You will be nothing but an ordinary human girl,” he said and released me, his eyes moist as he turned to walk away.
My mind went entirely blank.
I could hear footsteps, but no one was near me. Where was I? How had I gotten there?
I blinked confusedly. I stood in the mouth of a cave, but had no memory of anything about the walk to get to that place.
My eyes turned down to look at the town which was spread out in the valley below. Home. I had to get home. It was all that mattered.