Dark heirloom an ema mar.., p.12
Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 12
Jesu’s sultry voice whispered my name. His thick accent slid off his tongue like silk. I smiled. Or tried to. A blank darkness filled my mind. My thoughts leaked out slowly, as though my brain had turned into molasses.
“Ema, can you hear me?”
Sure can. I think.
“Ema, if you can hear me, it is imperative that you do not change back right now, okay? Stay a wolf, do you understand?”
A what? Is that you, Jesu? I was looking for you. I had the weirdest dream. Where are you anyway?
“Stay a wolf, Ema, do you hear me? Do not shift back yet.”
There’s a wolf in here?
My eyes blinked open. White light made me squint. I lay against something hard and uncomfortable, and my joints ached. I wanted to stand, but I waited for my eyes to adjust to the light. After a few moments, I remembered my eyes would never adjust to this amount of brightness, so I tried to stand. A sharp pain surged from my right shoulder and shot down to my ribs. I collapsed under the weight of the pain, whimpering.
“Stay down.” Jesu patted my head.
I tried to ask him what was going on, but my voice came out in high-pitched barks and whimpers.
I looked at Jesu. He looked back with pleading eyes and patted my head. “Just stay quiet, all right?”
I nodded to let him know I understood, but I’d never been more confused. A few images blurred in and out of my vision. I had to squint to make them out. A counter with a steel sink stood across from me. I lay on a steel table of some sort. The scent of alcohol-based cleaners gave a hospital feel to the room. I could smell the aroma of domestic animals, no longer here, but having passed through not too long ago.
I could only guess Jesu and I were at a veterinary clinic, but that didn’t make sense. Maybe the cat got into an accident? Except I was the one laying on the table with pain pulsating in my shoulder.
That’s when I remembered the reindeer. I groaned as everything fell into place. We were here because of me. I couldn’t recall what happened after I attacked the reindeer, but I had the odd feeling I’d been shot.
A man with predominate indigenous features, wearing a white lab coat, stepped into view. Feathers were tied to his shoulder-length hair, reminding me of the ceremonial headdress my father used to keep in a trunk along with other Native American artifacts.
Jesu and the man exchanged some words in Finnish. The man held his palm out for me. I stared at him, not sure what I was supposed to do. Jesu nudged me with his elbow.
Right. Be a dog. I sniffed the man’s hand and nearly gagged. He smelled of sour body odor and cheap laundry detergent. Yet, the sound of his blood pulsing just under his wrist triggered an unquenchable thirst. Again, I struggled to get up. Jesu pushed against my bad shoulder, sending me screaming back onto my side.
The man spoke to Jesu, gesturing with his hands. Jesu slid his palms under my chest and belly, and lifted me. I didn’t try standing again. The dull ache in my shoulder made it impossible to put any weight on my right foreleg.
“Just stay still,” Jesu whispered.
The man unwrapped gauze from my chest and shoulder. I pushed my snout against Jesu’s arm, trying to hide from the smell of blood. Though I could hear three heartbeats in the room, only one excited me.
He probed around the wound. I whimpered in pain as his eyes grew wide with shock. He spoke to Jesu while poking my shoulder. I nipped at his fingers. Jesu nudged his elbow hard into my side as the man quickly drew his hand away.
A few more minutes of talking passed between the two men while I waited uncomfortably on the table. The ache in my shoulder dulled by the time Jesu lifted me into his arms and carried me out of the tiny office. The wind ruffled my fur. I glanced over Jesu’s shoulder and looked around at the little village. A small shop, a café, and a church stood surrounded by forest. Dirt roads the size of pathways connected the cottage-like buildings without so much as a traffic light or stop sign between them.
Jesu carried me several feet down the side of the road, looking over his shoulder twice to see if anyone was watching. There wasn’t a single person out at this hour. He ducked into the woods, and then broke into a sprint. I wanted to howl with pain as my shoulder bumped against his chest with every step. He didn’t stop until we were a good distance away from the village, somewhere between the woods and the lake.
He set me on the ground.
“Change,” he snapped. He tossed some rumpled clothes at me, and then turned away. I quickly transformed into my vampyre self and got dressed, pausing to carefully maneuver my right arm into the sleeve of the wool top. The wound had already scabbed. Moccasins, baggy jeans, and a maroon-colored, long sleeved T-shirt made up my new wardrobe.
“What is the matter with you?” Jesu faced me.
I frowned. “Where are my other clothes?”
He ignored my question. “You were supposed to wait for me to find you after you landed. Instead you decided to go to a Sami reindeer farm for a snack. What were you thinking?”
“Hey, don’t blame me, I was thirsty.”
“Did you try feeding on energy?”
I winced. I forgot about that. “No.”
“That was the entire purpose for coming here, and you did not even try it? You do realize we cannot come back here for several generations now.” He grumbled on in Finnish while pacing.
That detail had never crossed my mind. “I forgot. I’m not used to this. Do you have any idea how badly I wanted to rip off that guy’s hand?”
“Of course I do, I am a vampire too. You just do not get it. You cannot give into your instincts every time you get a little bit thirsty. You have to learn to control yourself. The farmer shot you. He shot you, Ema. You could have died.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Well I told you I wasn’t ready for this.”
“Life is not going to wait for you to be ready.” Jesu stopped pacing and faced me. “You have to learn how to take care of yourself and make due. I will not always be there to save you.”
“Who put you in charge of me anyway?” I growled.
“My mother,” Jesu blurted out.
We both froze in shock, staring wide-eyed at each other. It took a moment for Jesu’s words to sink in.
Jesu turned his back to me. “I do not want to talk about it.”
“Oh, but I do! Your mother put you in charge of me? I would have expected Jalmari, sure, even Maria, but your mother?”
Jesu walked to the edge of the cliff, where the sapphire waves crashed against a wall of rock. He sighed while gazing out at the fading night sky.
“Let’s just concentrate on getting home.”
“Fine.” I closed my eyes, about to take off, when Jesu grabbed a hold of my left wrist.
“Where do you think you are going?”
“To the castle.”
He shook his head. “Not by yourself. This time you are coming with me.”
I tried to pull my arm from his grip. “I don’t need a babysitter. I’m fully capable of—”
“Of what, hmm? Eating a corralled reindeer? No, you cannot even do that right. You cannot even follow simple directions.”
“Let me go. I never wanted to be a vampyre anyway.”
Jesu’s expression softened. His brow and pale blue lips fell into a frown as he loosened his grip. He lit a cigarette, sighing loudly as he breathed out a cloud of smoke. I rubbed my arm and scowled at him, but he didn’t notice.
“We won’t make it back to the castle before sunrise. We might as well camp on Lusmasaari.” He nodded to the west, in the direction of a large island not far from the coast.
“Whatever,” I mumbled.
Jesu placed his cigarette between his lips, then, in a flash of movement, he wrapped one arm around my shoulders, and one under my knees, lifting me. He broke into a sprint toward the cliff and jumped. I locked my arms around his neck and screamed a
Jesu’s feet hit the ground with a hard thud. I bounced in his arms, still not breathing or loosening my grip from his neck. He grunted in discomfort. I opened my eyes and glanced around. We were on the lake, literally. Jesu stood on a frozen patch of water. The tide splashed against his shoes and sprayed my back. My pulse and breathing hadn’t relaxed yet, and I didn’t think they would any time soon.
I looked at Jesu. A big grin stretched across the left side of his face, his cigarette still intact between his lips. I slapped the stupid cigarette out of his mouth and watched the tide carry it away.
“How dare you, I almost had a heart attack! How did you know we would land on ice like that?” I tried to wiggle free of his grip.
Jesu frowned. “Don’t squirm. We did not land on ice, I can walk on water.”
I relocked my arms around his neck. “You can what?”
“I can manipulate the elements. It is a Draugrian power.” He began walking along the lake, carrying me in his arms. I arched my back and looked down. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wherever Jesu’s shoe touched the water, the waves stilled and froze solid. I leaned over his shoulder and looked behind him. When he lifted his foot, the ice instantly melted.
I gulped at the inky-black void below us and imagined what it might be like to fall in. Of course, in my mind, I pictured the scenario the way it would be if I was still human—the shock of ice water paralyzing my muscles and causing me to sink instead of float, my lungs gagging and burning as I sucked in water instead of oxygen, and drowning.
I wondered how the water would affect me now that I was a vampyre. I bet it would be just like taking a bath. My body wouldn’t go into shock from the cold because I couldn’t feel cold. Therefore, I wouldn’t sink or drown. Actually, I wouldn’t even fall; I could fly, after all. I shook my head. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the things I was capable of now. It was so much so soon.
“Are you scared?” Jesu’s gaze fixated on me. “You were staring at the water like you were afraid you would fall in.”
I sighed and shook my head. “I was, but then I realized all I have to do is spread my little vampyre arms and I’d never fall again.” I tried to smile, but could barely crack a grin.
“You say that like it’s bad. Most people would give their soul to fly the way the Neo-Draugrian do.”
I wondered if Jesu wished he could fly. I shook my head. “It’s not that I don’t like flying. In fact, it’s truly incredible to be so free in the sky like that. It’s just…”
How could I explain this? “It’s just not normal. Not human.”
Jesu nodded as if he could possibly understand. He kept his gaze downcast and walked on in silence, until we reached the shore of the island. Gently, he set me on my feet.
“Come. There is a cave not too far inland. We must hurry though, before the sun rises.” He led the way through the forest. Dead pine needles crunched under my feet with every step, and it got harder to see as the sky brightened with the coming dawn.
“It is just another few meters.” Jesu stepped over a rotting log. I flew over it and decided to continue hovering along behind Jesu, just a foot off the ground.
“How do you know there’s a cave here?”
“I explored all the islands on Inarijärvi years ago. There it is, just up ahead.” Jesu nodded at a mound covered in leafless vines and tawny branches. We made our way to the mouth of the small cave as the first rays of sunlight leaked over the horizon.
The cave provided just enough shade so that I wasn’t completely blinded by the sun. A bright yellow haze leaked from the opening and blanketed the inside, forcing me to squint. I sat in the farthest corner I could fit into comfortably with my knees to my chest. Jesu sat across from me, leaning against the wall of the cave with his legs spread out in front of him. He handed me his sunglasses. I had left mine in my room, thinking we’d be back before dawn.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, and put the glasses on. He nodded and fiddled with his lighter for a minute, opening it and then closing it again, before deciding to light a cigarette. I noticed he didn’t squint like I did.
“How do you do that?”
He inhaled smoke. “Do what?”
“Keep your eyes open in the light. Doesn’t it bother you?”
Jesu shook his head. “I am not using my eyes. I can see everything I need to see right now with my ears and my nose.”
“But, your eyes are open.”
“That does not mean I am using them. You could do it too, you just need to practice.”
What was it with him and practice? I saw no reason why I should have to master vampyre powers. I didn’t plan to stay here, and I wouldn’t need to walk through walls or fly when I got back to Chicago.
We had an entire day to waste, though, and only a short time went by before I got bored. What was worse, with nothing to occupy my mind, my thirst crept back up. I had to do something. Talk, at the very least, but I was sick of talking about myself.
“Tell me something about yourself, Jesu.”
Smoke escaped from his lips while he flicked ash on the ground. “What would you like to know?”
I really wanted to know what he meant when he said his mother had put him in charge of me earlier, but it already looked like a long day. I didn’t want to make this uncomfortable.
“Anything. We spend so much time together, yet I don’t know anything about you, except you’re Draugrian and you can manipulate the elements. What does that mean, anyway?”
“It is exactly what it sounds like. The earth, air, water, and fire are mine to control.”
“Can you make fire out of thin air?”
He chuckled. “I cannot make anything out of thin air. I only manipulate the elements already around me.”
“To what degree can you manipulate them?”
A sly smile stretched across his face. “I can swim through the earth as though it were liquid. I can hold fire in my hands, and create tornados with the flick of a finger. Of course, I am not as powerful as a vampyre.” He shrugged.
“All right.” He took out his lighter and flicked it open. The yellow flame caught immediately. The light it emanated forced me to turn away and watch from the corner of my eye. Holding the lighter in his right hand, he snatched the flame with his left as though snatching a marble. I held my breath and reminded myself that his hand wouldn’t burn.
Holding his fist out, he opened his hand one finger at a time. In the center of his palm, the little flame flickered and danced, changing from yellow, to orange, to blue, to yellow again. I was awestruck that fire, the most feared and most respected element, could look so innocent, so fragile, in Jesu’s hand.
“If I touch it, will it burn me?”
He snickered. “Of course it will.”
I laughed too. “Yeah I guess that was a dumb question, but it doesn’t burn you. Are you nonflammable?”
He shook his head. “Fire can burn right through me if I do not keep it under control. Look close, under the flame. It never really touches my skin.”
Scooting closer, I saw that he was right. The flame hovered just a centimeter over the flesh of his palm. With our numb skin, he would hardly feel the heat.
“How does it work?”
“Same way your powers work, I suppose, through concentration. It’s like telekinesis, only limited to the elements. It took me a long time to learn to master fire. In the beginning, I burned off at least half my body hair.” He chuckled.
“Do something with it. Manipulate it.”
His smile dimpled his left cheek. “What would you like to see me do?”
“Can you make a fireball and throw it?”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Let’s see it then.”
Never breaking eye contact with me, he cupped the flame in his palms as it grew and swelled. Moving both hands in a circular motion, as if rolling dough or packing a snowball, he molded the fire into a perfect, blazing circle without ever actually touching it. He held the fireball in his left hand and pitched it. Thunder sounded as the fireball cracked against the back wall of the cave. Orange embers and black pebbles exploded around us.
Suggesting a fireball might not have been the smartest idea. The cave now glowed bright orange. I had to turn away from the excess light. Jesu turned too and shaded his eyes with a hand.
“What other powers did the Draugrian have?” I asked to take my mind off the bright light as I hugged my knees to my chest and hid my face between them.
Jesu took a long drag on his cigarette before answering. “That is all.”
My head snapped up. “That’s all? You can’t fly, you can’t phase, you can’t do anything else?”
Jesu chuckled. “I would say manipulating the elements is pretty good. Besides, not all clans have extra powers. Some have nothing more than sensitive senses.”
“Must suck for them.” I shrugged before hiding my face between my knees again.
“They can be a bit envious, yes.” Jesu licked his lips. “Actually, there is one other thing the Draugrian could do, maybe two.”
“I knew it,” I perked up. “So let’s hear it.”
“The Draugrian vampyres were psychic.”
I shifted my head just enough to peer at him. “You mean they could predict the future?”
“Were they any good at it?”
“Of course. Humans used to pay the Draugrian to tell them their future.”
“Weren’t they scared?”
He shook his head. “The Draugrian were a peaceful clan, the first and only clan to ever openly co-exist with humans. Some say they were too nice, unable to defend themselves, and now they are extinct because of it.”
by J. D. Brown have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes