Exclusive Excerpt from The Enchanter’s Flame
by Michele Notaro
He slowly stood and turned away from the tree. “Brace yourself, Seb. It found us. Stay right behind me.”
I drew my weapon and looked everywhere, but couldn’t see anything. When Ailin took a few steps forward, I followed right behind him. I wasn’t sure how close he wanted me to stay, but I figured he’d tell me to back up if I needed to.
The ground rumbled under our feet, shaking like something huge was coming at us. I saw a red light in the distance through the trees, but it was getting closer and closer until it finally stopped fifteen feet away from us. It was like a red gas swirling around. It had no solidity, but it carried such a strong evil energy, I could feel it from where I stood, and my hands began to shake a little as I aimed my gun. But what good would a gun do against gas?
The red gas spoke, “We meet again, Sebastian.” Hearing it say my name made a shiver rack my whole body. Why the hell is it talking to me? “Seems we have some unfinished business left.”
The gas suddenly solidified, forming into an eight-foot tall red creature with huge black horns and eyes that were endless pools of black—creepy as fuck. It had black talons on the ends of its red fingers. It moved one of its huge muscular red arms through the air, and a force of energy hit me like a ton of bricks, sending me flying backward until I hit a tree. I coughed and wheezed, trying to pull air into my lungs. Sera had flown off my shoulder, but I could hardly see anything that was going on. Sera? Luckily, I hadn’t let go of my gun, so I aimed it in the direction I thought the demon stood even though I could hardly see. Is Sera okay? Ailin?
“Your fight is with me, demon,” Ailin yelled, gaining the petrifying creature’s attention.
“Sera?” I rasped out and heard a little meow close to my feet in response. She shook out her head and sneezed, but otherwise looked unharmed, thank god.
“Don’t move, Seb!” Ailin yelled before muttering something I didn’t understand and throwing his arm out in my direction. Suddenly, a green haze surrounded Sera and me, like we were stuck inside a translucent green bubble. I squinted through the bubble and saw Ailin surrounded by a green energy that looked like it was radiating off his skin. “Stay inside the protection shield,” Ailin shouted to me, sounding out of breath. “Sera, protect him.”
The kitten hissed and walked to the front of the bubble, watching her owner and the red demon fighting. What Ailin thought a small kitten could do, I didn’t know, but maybe he just wanted to acknowledge her since he’d locked her in with me.
I tried to keep up with the fight, but it was hard to see what was going on with the green and red sparks shooting in every direction. The ground was rumbling as Ailin shot energy balls at the demon. At least, that was what they looked like. Unfortunately, they kept bouncing off the demon’s hide. The demon was shooting its own red energy balls at Ailin, but Ailin evaded them or shot them with his energy or somehow made them dissipate before they reached him. The trees around us were getting burnt, and when the demon sent a huge ball at Ailin, and Ailin redirected it, one of the trees split in half. Thank god Ailin had been able to push it out of the way. I didn’t even want to think about what would’ve happened if it had hit him.
I lifted my gun and aimed for the demon, but Ailin was in the way, and I wasn’t sure what would happen to this weird bubble if I shot a bullet at it.
The demon suddenly flew at me. I put my hands up in front of my face and prepared to take a hit, but the demon crashed into Ailin’s bubble. It banged and punched, but it couldn’t get through. The demon turned back into its weird gassy substance and surrounded the entire bubble. I turned my head back and forth, trying to figure out what to do, but the red gas was everywhere I looked. Sera was hissing at my feet as the demon shook the bubble rigorously, and I was afraid that the gas was going to find a way inside the bubble, but suddenly, there was a flash of blinding light and a loud roar. I closed my eyes and hunched over Sera, tucking my head down to protect us both from the assault, expecting the bubble to burst. I heard a loud hiss and Ailin’s voice in the background, but everything was so loud, I couldn’t pick out individual words.
I opened my eyes at the sound of another loud hiss. The demon’s red gas was swirling around the bubble, but through it, I could see Ailin surrounded by his green energy with his palms out and green light shooting from them. The demon hissed again, then suddenly flew through the air. Before it flew from my sight, I heard its voice in my head whispering, “I will have you Sebastian Cooper Fitz, your Sage cannot protect you forever.”
I shivered at the strange feeling of having that thing’s voice in my head, and chills popped out on my skin as I began to shake with fear. I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. Get out of my head!
“You belong to me now, Sebastian. I will have your blood. I will have your soul.”
I couldn’t breathe. It was going to take me, kill me. That thing’s voice was the creepiest thing I’d ever heard. When it was finally out of sight, I blew out a breath and sagged down until I was kneeling on the ground, and I could pull Sera into my arms. The cat meowed at me and snuggled into my neck.
Ailin ran over and placed his hand on the bubble. After a few seconds, the bubble disappeared into a light mist that drifted away on the wind. Ailin walked closer and knelt in front of me. He gently cupped my cheeks so I’d look him in the eyes, and he searched my face as his hands generated a warmth on my skin that tingled from his palms over my face and scalp, then over my entire body. He was healing my scrapes and bruises from being thrown against the tree.
When I closed my eyes and savored the feeling, Ailin whispered, “What am I going to do with you, fragile human?” Then he pulled my shaky body toward him and pushed me to rest my forehead on his shoulder. He rubbed my back. “Shh, it’s okay. He’s gone now. I injured it enough that it will need time to regenerate. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
I nodded and Sera jumped off me as Ailin pulled me even closer, and I wrapped my arms around his waist. I wasn’t happy that he’d had to protect me, but I couldn’t deny the fact that I wasn’t equipped to take out a fucking demon. So I had to set aside my pride and appreciate the fact that Ailin cared enough to make sure I was okay.
He hugged me for way longer than was strictly necessary, but we’d already moved past what was normal, so I didn’t pull away. The longer we stayed like that, the more something settled in my chest until finally, I felt okay enough to deal with everything.
Ailin and I parted, and I stood up right away, not really wanting to look him in the eyes after that.