tagSci-Fi & FantasyEmber Ch. 06 - Final

Ember Ch. 06 - Final

bySofBlack©

Author's Note:

This is the last chapter of Ember's story. She shows up in other stories, so this isn't her last appearance in the series. She will appear in at least 14 of the 16 stories I've mapped out for my Draga-verse.

As with Nadya's story, I'm already working on a more polished version with more detail about Ember's visions and ancestry, which I didn't really go into in this version. I am interested in hearing what you think of the story overall. Too short? If so, what do you think it needed more of? Anything in it you could have done without?

The next story in the series is halfway written, but I am writing it concurrently with other stories in the series, so I wouldn't be able to post it start to finish as quickly as I did Ember. I am trying to decide if it would pressure me into getting it done faster if I start posting it unfinished or if I should finish at least the rough manuscript first so I don't get yelled at for taking too long. :)

Iamfirehorse - I hope you like this chapter, too.

PallasAthena123 - Hopefully this answers some of your wonderings.

Anon (4/2/19) - My female characters will never settle for less than what they want. I also dislike stories that start out with strong women who settle into being less for the sake of an orgasm or two.

LovableCherryPie - Thanks for the compliment. I thought I lost you back in Nadya/Nadia. Nice to see you didn't give up on me.

Cantfightfate - Hopefully this is fun.

Anon (4/3/2019) - Thanks very much!


**********

"I'm going to need a place to stay while I'm here." Ember paced in front of Musette's bed in Selene's room. "I want to be near Musette, but I'm not staying with Stryx."

"There are more rooms in my tower. You can have any one you like."

"When Stryx gets off that wall he's probably going to come looking for me," Ember said. "It'll be easier for all of you if I'm not in here."

"Stryx cannot enter my tower if I do not allow him to," Serene said. "Do not worry."

"How long is Stryx going to be hanging on the wall?" Ciaran asked.

"Until he's sorry, or I let him down."

Idris laughed out loud. "Well, I don't think he's going to be coming up here anytime soon."

"We should have stolen a laptop before we came up here. I could show you some of my sunrises and sunsets."

"Your laptop is downstairs somewhere," Ciaran said. "I thought you might want it, so I brought it with me when I went to your house the first time. Karov has it."

Ember smiled. "I'll get it from him later, then. Thank you, Ciaran."

Selene waved a hand. "You know you can come and go freely from here. You can go to your house and bring back whatever you want."

"Clothes," Ember breathed. "My jeep! I need to find my car, too." She stood. "I can poof there right now."

"Wait," Selene laughed. "You should not try to go so far so fast. It is much harder to 'poof' as you call it, over long distances to a place you do not know well. You don't know if other people are there, and if you appear in the highway, you could be run over! For now, you must travel the more usual way and take a car."

"I can still go right now, though." Ember sighed. "It will be nice to have some of my own things again."

"There are still mages in Port Storm." Selene pointed out. "They thought you were a witch when they took you before. If they realize you are strygoi they will stop at nothing to re-capture you. Night has fallen. Take Idris with you."

"I can't leave Musette," Idris protested.

"I can take care of myself now," Ember argued.

Selene held up a hand. "You can do much to protect yourself now, but you are newly made and still learning. And Idris, you need to find out more about your Dragă. Go with Ember to their house. See where she lived, what she liked. The more you can come to know her the better your chances of reaching her. I cannot leave my tower, but I am quite capable of watching over Musette while you are gone. She will be safe with me."

"I should go, too," Ciaran added, "in case we need to be gone longer than tonight. I can stay with you during the day if Idris needs to return here."

The three of them took one of the SUVs. Through their new bond Ember felt Stryx's anger as she left, which turned into anxiety as she got further from the compound. The bond was constantly trying to reassert itself in her mind and it was a never ending battle to keep it shut down. She kept her eyes closed, concentrating on feeling nothing until they arrived at the rest stop.

It only took a few minutes to locate her jeep in the trees. It had been well hidden and remained undisturbed. All her cameras, her small, rugged-ized laptop, her phone, and even her keys were still in it. Her car started right up and Idris got in beside her. As she went to pull out of the lot she stopped. "Do you know if there have been any news reports about a woman's body being found in this area?"

"No," Idris replied. "You're thinking the wolf woman might still be here."

Ember nodded. "If it hadn't been for her I would never have become strygoi, and I'd likely be dead right now. She saved my life. I can't go without at least looking for her. She deserves more than to be left on the side of the road like trash."

Ember parked her jeep and got out. What had happened when she had been kidnapped was still fresh in her mind and she was able to lead Idris and Ciaran to the spot Mjesec had fallen.

'I don't smell any decay," Idris said.

Using a small shovel Ember kept in the jeep for camping chores they dug through the snow that had fallen in the last two days, but the woman wasn't there.

"I'll look into it," Ciaran said. "If she can be found I'll find her."

Ember thanked him and got back into her jeep. Idris joined her and they resumed the drive to her house in the city.

"How are you and the others so different from him?" She didn't have to specify who she meant.

"You're not only a new witch, you're new to the world of vampires, too. You're judging him Stryx by human standards, and he's never been human," Idris explained. "Stryx was not vampire made, he was vampire born. He's never seen the sun when it didn't burn him, so he can't understand why you would miss it. He's never felt human emotions like the rest of us have. Sometimes it's hard for us to feel them after we are changed, but we can at least remember having them. He's never had that experience. Vampires are by nature covetous and jealous creatures."

"He certainly understands those emotions," Ember muttered.

"But I have never seen him act the way he did when you summoned him to you. He nearly went out of his mind when we couldn't find you. Vampires are creatures of the earth, but he didn't hesitate to go into the ocean and board a boat at almost sunrise, not knowing what he'd face to look for you."

"I'm not denying he's brave or that he saved me from the mages. But he can't expect me to like the smothering, overbearing attitude."

"Maybe he wants you to treat him like he treats you."

"Like property?"

"Like he belongs to you. Like he is yours and you would do anything to keep him. Like you don't want to live without him."

"He doesn't even let me touch him." Ember scoffed.

"Vampires are much stronger than humans and while lust is something vampires are familiar with, passion is new to him. If he loses control he could hurt, even kill you, without meaning to. Being in control allows him to rein himself in and keep you safe. Do you feel nothing for him?"

Ember blew out a breath in frustration. "It would be easier if I didn't. I hate him for trying to own and coddle me, but I'm drawn to him at the same time."

"Humans can love easily; a vampire gets one chance, if, and only if, he finds his Dragă. Most vampires aren't capable of love, and for those that are, finding the one person in the world meant for them is nearly impossible. A lot of us give up and shut down. Living with that hope and knowing it's not likely to happen is too much. Stryx never expected to find you, and you two come from very different worlds. Before you write him off, maybe give him a chance to learn something about yours."

**********

At her house, Ciaran kept watch outside while Idris accompanied Ember inside. She used the rugged-ized laptop from her jeep and the Wi-Fi to send the photos she'd wanted so desperately to include in their show to her partner Viktoria, who only complained a little about how late they were. Photos seemed like such a trivial thing now.

She walked into Musette's room and sat on the bed, smiling as she saw the stuffed owl she'd bought for her sister as a joke. She picked it up and cuddled it to her chest.

"Will you tell me about your sister?" Idris stood in the doorway to Musette's room.

"Your Dragă, you mean?"

A pained expression crossed Idris' face and Ember regretted her bitter words. Idris was not Stryx. "I'm sorry. How about I just tell you about Musette. Not my sister, not your Dragă. Just Musette."

Idris took a seat on the bed next to her. "I would love to hear about Musette."

Ember handed him the stuffed owl. "This is Mortimer Aloysius III. I got him for Musette as a Christmas present a few years ago." Ember smiled. "That same Christmas she got me a blue jay because an obnoxious one made a nest in the tree outside her window and woke her up up early every morning. She's always staying up late and sleeping half the day away. We used to joke that she was a... a vampire."

"What does she do for work?"

"She does hair and make-up at a salon. Their customers love her. She always knows just how her clients want to look when she's done with them and makes it happen." Her face fell. "I'll have to call them and tell them she's not going to be back for a while."

Idris handed her the owl and she hugged it to her chest again.

"I should have listened to her. She knew something bad was going to happen to us the day the men kidnapped us for the mages. I should have paid attention to her and we should have run."

"They were watching you before that day," Idris said. "They would have just followed you."

"How could we have not seen them? How did they find us in the first place?"

"Jael will get all the information he can out of the mage we have, and we'll do everything we can to rid Port Storm of mages."

When Ember remained quiet, he gestured to one of the many photos of the twins Musette had around her room. "Musette has a beautiful smile."

Ember nodded. "It goes with her laugh. I love hearing her laugh."

"I very much want to hear it."

"Oh, hang on a second." Ember tapped and clicked at her laptop. She didn't use it for much, preferring to work on a larger screen for photos, but she had a video of her sister she'd taken when Musette had accompanied her on one of her overnight trips to shoot a sunrise. She found the file and turned the screen so Idris could see it.

The video was taken in the dark, but a lump under some blankets could be seen.

Ember's voice said, "Musette, come on. Get up. The sun is going to rise in an hour."

The blankets groaned. "It's not natural for people to be awake right now."

"If you don't get up I'm going to drag you out of here by your ankles."

"Mortimer, attack." The command sounded like it was given through a yawn, but the stuffed owl flew at the camera.

"How do you always have such good aim with your eyes closed?" Ember laughed. "Come on. You said you wanted to see the sunrise."

"I was mistaken."

Ember's voice turned cajoling. "I brought you hot chocolate."

The blankets moved and Musette's face was revealed. "Show me."

A hand holding a plastic mug entered the shot. "It has marshmallows. A pair of big, fluffy ones."

A hand shot out from the blankets. "Gimme."

"Nope. If you want it, come and get it."

Musette's eyes narrowed. "I'm going to kill you."

"Well, if I'm going to die, I may as well enjoy this hot chocolate myself."

"You keep your lips off my pair of big, fluffy marshmallows!" Musette exclaimed.

There was a beat of silence in the video, and then Musette's laughter filled the room.


Ember hit a button and the video paused. "I told her about you, and that I think you are her protector like Stryx is mine. And I told her about Dragăs." She turned to face him. "If you can get her back, please bring her back."

It was almost dawn when they finished packing things for Musette and finally headed back to the compound.

**********

Stryx spent the next two days trying to get through to Ember. She was hidden away with her sister in Selene's tower, and Selene wasn't letting him in. He tried to use their new bond, but for the most part Ember kept it shut down. He was both infuriated and fascinated she could close him off so easily, and he did not appreciate the irony that something he'd used to try and pull her closer to him enabled her to push him away.

When she'd come into the kitchen he'd been dumbstruck. His Dragă, a strygoi. She'd hurled him into a wall and pinned him there with her accusations about the way he treated her. He'd been forced to feel all her resentment, her anger, her disappointment, and the most frightening, the utter truth of her words as she said she would hide her blood scent and leave him. He'd never felt emotions before, especially powerful ones like those, and he didn't like them.

He was very young when the massacre in Dacia had occurred, but he'd been old enough to know what was happening in spite of his parents trying to hide it from him. All the Dragăs, because they had the potential to become strygoi, had been targeted. Not directly—the men coming after them were too cowardly for that. Instead they'd targeted loved ones. A mother trying to protect her child would do anything, including letting herself be captured and killed, strygoi powers or not. Daughters protected mothers, sisters protected sisters. One by one the strygoi had fallen, and then they mages had gone after any woman in the bloodlines with the potential of becoming a Dragă.

When the mages had come for Selene his father had gone down under a mob of men and they hadn't seen him since. Selene had escaped and brought them here, where they'd started their lives over. The effort it took for her to bring them all here had been great, and combined with her grief over her vampire it had overwhelmed her. She had been almost catatonic for years, and Stryx had been raised by the vampires of the Vitiate.

They'd raised him to be the king they all expected he'd become. He gave orders. Everyone did what he said. He'd been trained to fight even before he was strong enough to hold up a sword. He'd been taught strategy. He studied his enemies, learning their tricks and customs.

But the vampires had not taught him about love.

What would have been the point? He could only love his Dragă, and all the bloodlines had been wiped out. Or so they had thought.

Sometimes Ember wasn't aware she'd let the bond open and he could feel her. The first few times it had happened he'd pushed his anger and resentment at her and she'd snapped the bond closed. So he'd learned to be very still and quiet when it happened.

He'd felt her happiness as she remembered something about her sister. He'd shared in her elation when she mastered something Selene was trying to teach her. He'd felt her amusement at something someone had said to her. He had never felt anything like these emotions, either, but he liked these feelings. They'd quickly become an addiction he craved more than anything else. Even more than just sensing these emotions from her, though, he longed to be to be the reason she felt them.

He especially liked when the bond was open while she slept. She dreamed of him. He couldn't see her dreams, he was no dream walker. But he knew the yearning and passion she dreamed of were for him.

So, all was not lost.

Stryx was nothing if not a predator. He knew how to study his prey. He knew how to plan a hunt. He knew he needed to find the perfect weapon, and he knew how to be patient and wait for the ideal moment to strike.

Ember had a gallery showing coming up. He'd felt her worry and stress over it. He couldn't get to her in Selene's tower, but the gallery was a public place and she had to be there.

He had hunted his Dragă before and sated himself in her body when he'd found her. He would hunt her again, but this hunt would be different. This time he would hunt for her heart.

**********

Ember spent two days willing Musette to wake up, learning to use her new strygoi magic, showing her world of sunrises and sunsets to Selene, and stressing out over the upcoming show. She was distracted by the bond numerous times because the second she wasn't actively focused on keeping the connection closed it flared to life and she felt what Stryx felt.

"He's driving me crazy," she complained to Selene.

"It will get easier to keep the bond closed the longer you do it," Selene said. "He is having a worse time of it than you are, if that helps."

"It would help if he wasn't so...so...ugh..so Stryx!"

Selene smiled. "Everything that's happening to him is just as new as everything that's happening to you."

"I thought it was rare for a vampire to find his Dragă," Ember said, watching Idris as he cradled Musette. He was utterly devoted to her and rarely left her side.

"It is, but in this case it is only a little surprising. Every vampire here is descended from the vampire that created the first strygoi, either created directly by him or one of his line. They are all capable of love. And strygoi magic runs in maternal bloodlines. Musette isn't just your sister, she is your twin; if you are strygoi, so is she."

"She's always had feelings about things that are going to happen. She couldn't see the future, but she knew something bad was going to happen to us the day we were kidnapped. She always just knows things. It makes more sense that she's a witch than I am. I've never been unusual."

"I don't know about that," Selene said. "I have seen photos of sunrises and sunsets before, but not like these." She waved a hand at the laptop. "I think there is some magic in yours."

A particularly strong feeling of longing washed over Ember. She flinched and shut the connection down—again.

"He is very stubborn, isn't he?" Selene said, giving her a soft smile.

"Stryx is your son, isn't he? When I became strygoi I saw you holding two boys, and Idris told me Stryx was born a vampire. I'm guessing that's only possible between vampire and strygoi parents?"

Selene nodded. "Stryx is my son, and he was just a boy when the massacre occurred, but he was old enough to understand what was happening. Even as powerful as strygoi are, we were still hunted down and killed. It's not so surprising he would go to extremes to keep you safe."

"I don't mind being safe. But I hate the way he just thinks he just owns me."

"If it means you are safe, he will take your hatred."

"Idris said I'm judging him by human standards and I can see how that's not fair, but it's also not fair to expect me to give up everything and become someone I'm not."

"He has no power over you now, and in spite of how he's treated you he's a smart boy. Help him understand. Teach him what you need him to be. I think you'll find he can learn."

Ember sighed. She had a show to get ready, and a sister to awaken. She did not have time for drama from the caveman-vampire. "After the show is over and all I have to worry about is Musette, I'll try."

**********

Ember walked into the gallery, dropped her garment bag on a chair and looked around. She went to every one of the photos she had on display to make sure everything was exactly right. Of course everything was perfect. Only it wasn't, because Musette wasn't here with her.

"Ember," a smoky voice called her name and she turned to see Viktoria coming towards her. As usual, she was a study in dark and light. Her long platinum blonde hair was perfectly straight and fell down her back. Her pale blue eyes were set off by dark, smoky eye makeup. Her alabaster skin contrasted against what Ember guessed Viktoria considered to be a black dress, although Ember would never dare wear something like it herself. It seemed to consist of nothing more than strings arranged with artful care from her shoulders to her hips. The strings were attached to a black floor length skirt, but in spite of the fact there was yards more material to it, the way it clung to her body and the hip-high slits in the sides seemed to reveal more than it hid.

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