Authors: Madison Daniel
THE EMBER SERIES
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, duplicated, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Text Copyright © 2013, 2014, Madison Daniel
All rights reserved
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
Algonquin, IL 60102
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.
Edited by: Elizabeth A. Lance
For Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Cover Art by Madison Daniel
“For my burning heart.”
~ Watch Over You: Alter Bridge ~
“Who’s going to save me?”
“Don’t you mean, who’s going to watch over you?” the haunting voice asks.
“I guess, I will...” I mumble.
“You’re so strong, Son,” the voice echoes, revealing a lost friend.
“Thanks, Uncle Frank,” I say, louder. The outline of my deceased uncle comforts me.
“Why is it so dark in here? Turn on the lights, my boy,” Frank’s welcoming smile greets me in the pitch dark room. I can now see him…barely.
“I can’t,” I sulk.
“Sure you can, Max. You can do anything,” he says, proudly.
“I couldn’t save you.”
“That’s not true.”
“I can’t even save myself,” I say, stepping into his ghostly shadow. From behind him comes a new heat, a sign that this is just a dream. My chest fills with an anxious twisting of nerves.
“Find your light, Max. Find me,” he pushes. His faint shadow begins to disappear and I panic. Rushing forward, his shadow pulls farther and farther from me. The darkness begins to vibrate like an earthquake, shaking me to my core.
“I’m trying. I can’t seem to reach you!” I yell, stretching out my arms. “I can’t reach you. Not from here. Please, Uncle, help me. Don’t go. I can’t do this alone!”
The dark room falls away, leaving me in a free-fall. Thunder explodes all around me and flames push for my cold skin. They begin to sear my flesh, torturing me.
I try to run.
The flames make that impossible.
I try to hide.
It’s no use. The fires are moving too fast. I am blind now, scarred by this nightmarish inferno.
“Uncle?” I scream out.
I am alone. I am broken. My faith fades away...
“All I’ve ever wanted is to have something beautiful to sing. My world has shown me such sights, such wonders. Love, hate, passion, fear. I am the sum of these experiences. My inferno has taught me this; love is forever, love is sacrifice. I burn for YOU.
- Max Valentine
~ Hurricane: Theory Of A Deadman ~
Mount Haleakala (House of the Sun): Maui, Hawaii
Midnight - 12:01 a.m. - June 19th
“I can’t breathe…”
I keep slipping further. Damn it, I won’t give up. Not this time. I won’t let go. The torrential rain felt like knives to my burning skin. The wind scratched at my eyes, drying the leftover tears along my cheeks. The muddy ground I clung to was shaking with such force now, that it took all my strength to hold onto it. If the tremors got any worse then I would surely be thrown away from this mountain.
“Damn it!” I cursed. The smell of lava-soaked carnage was everywhere. The sulfur turned my stomach. I tried with all my might not to let her see the sickening feeling on my face. She reached for me again, but I was still too far to reach her. I pushed myself forward.
“I’m coming!” I screamed louder, but the monstrous mountain roared with new life. A rainbow painted scratch
es of lightning, rippling along the edge of the volcano sending smoke and ash into the sky. The devastation stabbed at the corner of my eyes. With a grunt, I pushed my body forward. Smoke rolled from my shoulders like a locomotive.
“Max!” she wailed again, only this time her voice cracked. It killed me to hear her like that. I had to try harder…for her. My one true love. My everything. My soul.
A wall of fire cut its way between us. The flames were bright red and orange, and pulled toward me as if I was an extra-absorbent fire sponge. Black smoke slammed into me, followed by the hottest of infernos. My skin instantly absorbed the explosion, sending me flying backwards, crashing into the wet dark mud. I tried to get up quickly as the ground shifted under me. Suddenly, a giant crack appeared revealing the bright veins of molten lava below. I gasped in shock.
“Oh, shit…” I coughed, as my body instinctively controlled the swirling flames around me. Bright fire twisted through the heavy air, zigzagging back and forth in a dizzying display. With a tight fist I slammed the flames into the ground, making them disappear in a violent puff of smoke.
“Max!” she screamed again. My head whipped toward her scream. Her face fell white in horror as the trembling ground below her crumbled away. She fell from my view, over the edge of the mountain and I lunged forward. Streaks of white fire trailed from my head and shoulders. My hands ignited into burning balls of fire.
“No!” I cursed, as my body shot forward like a bullet. My fingers stretched outward, reaching for her…any part of her. I would not lose her again. I could not lose her again. I’d rather die.
“Help!” she begged, dangling from the tips of my fingers. With a gasp of air I pulled back the flames along my hands, trying not to burn her. As my legs gave out, slamming my body to the harsh and charred dirt, I got my first real look at the nightmare we were now in.
“Oh no, not again…” I mumbled, as the familiar sight of my true love dangled from my weakening hand over the edge of this exploding mountain. The drop was so far down I couldn’t make any sense of the actual distance. It was so extreme that the ground was blurry and dark. Wind swept along her hair and face reminding me of the exact moment I lost my little sister years before. With a shake of my head, I chased the paralyzing memory away for a split-second. Digging my knees and elbows into the ground, I tried to pull
her to me. It’s no use though, my grip was too slippery from sweat and blood. Quickly, I slithered forward, biting the terror down in my throat. I can’t lose her, not like this.
“Look at me…” I called to her. “Look into my eyes. Don’t look down!” She twisted slowly in my hand, nodding up to me with her eyes half closed. “I got you. I promise.”
“Hurry…” she huffed in a thick cough. The volcanic fumes were crowding our lungs now. I felt a wretch building in the pit of my stomach
Damn it, focus, Max!
At that horrifying moment things became a whole lot worse.
In the distance the sound of the circling blades of a large helicopter grew closer. My heart doubled in my chest. He found us. He would never let us go. From below me she panicked.
“He’s coming! Help me!”
I ignored the incoming chopper and held my breath. With my strength fading, I reached down with my free hand, locking it around both of hers. Her fingers were cold and they squeezed around my other hand like steel. My grip was tight but not tight enough to pull her up. Suddenly, the helicopter buzzed the air above me, sending a torrent of wind and debris into me. She slipped from one of my hands, leaving only my original hand clutched around three of her fingers.
“No!” I bellowed, but it couldn’t be heard over the engine of the chopper. I only had a few seconds left in my failing grip. Instantly, I slammed my free hand into the ground and it ignited into a red burst of fire. I gritted my teeth together and let out a cry of pain. The crimson flames exploded upward in a blast so intense that it lit the top of the mountain up like a lighthouse.
“Leave us alone!” I screamed, and pushed harder. The pulse of fire doubled in size and slammed into the belly of the mechanical beast. Its steel gut shattered in an instant, and the flying machine spun out of control. It fell backwards toward the crumbling mountain. The pilot tried to jump from the crashing deathtrap, but my flames caught him in midair like a flyswatter. His charred body fell into a puddle of rain just yards away from us. The rest of the helicopter crashed into the ground in a ball of fire. Its giant spinning blades shattered everywhere. I turned from it, and slid my burning hand along the ground in a long line that formed a barrier of flames that stood twenty-feet high. With another gasp I cooled the flames along my hand and lunged forward just as she fell from my loose grip. Slow motion fell upon me as I watched her eyes fill with unbelievable terror. She was screaming, but I could no longer hear her. I could only hear the breaking in my heart.
“Nooooo!” With my hands shaking, one of them found her wrist just enough for me to stop her descent. Her other hand latched onto mine like a vice again. Her fingernails dug into my skin, drawing fresh hot blood. Time sped back up and the numbness in my ears began to fade, leaving only the sound of her crying uncontrollably. Without thinking, I jerked her upward toward my chest that was now hanging almost fully over the edge too. I pulled her to me and twisted my body over, sending her back to the edge, just enough for her to get a grip. She resisted letting go of me at first
, but I pushed her forward, making sure she was safe next to the protective wall of fire I had created. She looked around at everything in disbelief, and then back down to me. I smiled at her just as the ground gave away again, and I began to fall.
“Oh, God!” she screamed, and reached out for me. It was too late though, I was too far gone. I closed my eyes and jammed my fists forward, and hoped I’d find something there as I did. At the last possible second, I did…a patch of dirt with a large sharp lava rock that was still on fire. My hands grabbed it with the last of my strength. It
’s hot outer shell cut into my flesh like melting butter. I couldn’t feel the pain for some reason, maybe I was in shock. It didn’t matter though, I was safe. I was still alive. I had to get back up to her.
Lightning flashed from behind me just as a fresh curtain of ice cold rain fell down on me. It felt amazing…life saving. With a second wind, I crawled upward, not even noticing that my hands were no longer cut. Quickly, I found the crumbling edge and she was there, waiting with arms opened wide, and a huge smile. Getting to my feet, I ran to her, scooping her into my arms. She felt wonderful. Even in this out-of-control nightmare all around us, she was heaven. I squeezed her tighter.
“I love you,” I whispered into her ear. Her hair was filled with blood and soot, but I buried my face in it anyways. I would never leave her side again.
“I love you too…”
Just then, the protective wall of fire began to fade to nothing as the rain washed it away. The erupting mountain settled slightly, filling me with hope. In the near distance was the broken and destroyed pile of what was left of the helicopter. Letting the sight settle my nerves a bit, I realized that there was still time to get us off this mountain. There was still a chance to get her out of here, safe and sound.
I was wrong.
With the sickening pop of a gunshot my world came crashing down. She fell lifeless in my arms as I turned to find him standing there. His face was covered in blood and burned skin. He fell to his knees laughing, coughing up blood in chunks. The large gun slipped from his fingers, falling to his side. I looked back at her in my arms. The gaping hole in her chest was absolute. Her blood was painted along my clothes and body. Her skin faded to a ghostly white and my legs gave out. Together we tumbled into the messy earth. The rain faded away and my world stopped.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I gave up. I was done. I was alone. I was cursed. I whispered into the wind…