*SPOILER ALERT* If you haven't finished the Tree of Ages series, Forest of Embers contains some book 5 spoilers. Stop reading now if that's you!
Hey everyone! For those who don't already know, Finn is back! Tree of Ages : Dawn of Magic will be a multi-part serial with installments of approx 40,000 words each. This story takes place roughly a year after the events of The Oaken Throne. The first book, Forest of Embers is coming in December! Here's a little sneak peek of what's been going on with Finn and Company since the barrier to the in-between fell.
Fire consumed the forest ahead. Vibrant flames licked up the sappy bows of hundred year old pines. Finn tried to take a deep breath, but coughed on smoke, searing her lungs and throat. The fire elementals were always the worst to deal with. Utterly wild, living only for destruction, they were almost impossible to control. She’d once seen an entire city destroyed by their kind.
She tossed her forest green cloak back and lifted her arms, focusing on the fiery figures dancing between the burning trees. They were small, like children made of pure flame, but she could not think of them as such, not since she’d made it her task to put them down.
The ground rumbled beneath her feet, rippling toward the elementals like something alive. As the ripple reached the first of the chaotic forms, soil exploded upward, engulfing the fire children, pulling them downward, putting out their flames one by one.
She shuddered from the effort as a cloud of dust and smoke surrounded her. There were still more elementals further into the blazing forest, but she couldn’t reach them amidst the burning boughs. She might have been of the Dair, a denizen of the earth, but she was far from immune to fire.
No matter, one of the nearest elementals let out a steaming hiss, spotting her beyond the smoking earth that had swallowed its kin. She stood there, arms trembling, waiting for it to attack. She was weaker than she used to be. It would be an effort to fight them all.
“Get down you idiot!” Anna’s voice hissed. Her iron grip suddenly crushed Finn’s arm, tugging her back as the nearest elemental charged.
Finn winced, then ducked behind an unburnt tree with Anna just as a ball of fire sailed past the place she’d been standing. The fireball exploded on the ground, smoldering dead pine needles and small green plants.
“We shouldn’t have come out here on our own,” Anna groaned, her dark hair falling forward over her piercing brown eyes. A fitted suede vest topped her cream-colored blouse, now both stained with soot. Pale ash caked her black suede breeches.
Finn glanced around the tree trunk to see the elementals approaching en masse, more cautious than the first. “I didn’t think there’d be so many.”
She looked up at the sudden beat of massive wings, spotting a reptilian shape blocking out the sun. Its body spanned the length of six grown men lying head to toe, covered in tiny gleaming white feathers that in the bright sun passed as scales. It circled the area where they hid, then swooped down, opening its massive beaked maw. Glittering ice cascaded forth, hitting the ground just a few paces away from where Finn stood, before angling back toward the elementals.
Shielding her face from flecks of ice, Finn peeked around the tree to watch the burning forest turn white.
“About time,” Anna grumbled behind her over the tinkling of cracking ice. “Stupid dragon.”
The dragon swooped back up into the sky, did one large circle over the forest, then swooped back down, slow enough this time to land near her icy mess. Finn watched as the creature glanced around, her spherical lilac eyes hopeful. An inquisitive chitter escaped her beak.
Finn stepped out around the tree and held out her hand toward Naoki.
Stomping her massive talons in excitement, Naoki trotted toward Finn, much more agile than seemed possible for her size. Reaching Finn, she lowered her long neck and rubbed her feathered cheek against her palm.
Finn smiled. She and Naoki were spirit bonded. No matter how far she traveled, the dragon would always be able to find her.
She stroked past the dragon’s cheek onto the nearest curved ivory horn. The pair at the crown of her head were the largest, though two smaller sets crept down her jaw. The horns had sprouted once the dragon reached adulthood, making her much more fearsome than the sopping wet feathered baby that had landed on Anna’s ship, what seemed like a very long time ago.
“Can we go now?” Anna asked, approaching her back with a wary glance toward the icy forest.
All hints of flame had been extinguished, and the fire elementals with it.
“Yes,” Finn agreed, though her stomach lurched at the thought of what awaited her. When she was away from the fortress, reining in any Faie who overstepped their bounds, she could push away her sadness, but it was always there for her come evening. It was her fault that it had happened. If Iseult died, it would be a death on her hands, and hers alone.
Seeming to sense her thoughts, Anna gripped Finn’s shoulder. “We’ll figure this out. For now, he’s being tended by the best Aos Sí healers, and protected by the best Aos Sí warriors.”
Naoki watched their conversation, blinking lilac eyes as if actually understanding their words.
With a sigh, she gave Naoki a final pat on the head. “Let’s go. Kai will be furious we ran off without him.”
Anna snorted. “More like you ran off, and I followed so you wouldn’t get yourself killed.” She turned and started walking back in the direction of the fortress.
Finn hung her head as she followed. She couldn’t just wait by Iseult’s bedside day and night, utterly helpless. It felt good to do something, even if it wasn’t what she wanted most.
Naoki stalked after them, weaving her way through the trees. She’d likely get distracted and venture off at some point, but come morning she’d be curled up in the fortress courtyard, fast asleep.
Anna tugged Finn aside moments before she would have walked straight into a bramble patch. “Watch where you’re going. You’re our only hope, remember?”
Finn frowned as the fortress came into view. The only hope. The only person capable of reining in the Faie, not that it mattered. The mages and non-magical humans were all intent on killing each other regardless. She was bailing water from a quickly sinking ship.
Sometimes she wanted to just let it sink. She wanted to fade away before any of her loved ones could die around her. She’d suffered great loss once, and though she’d accepted it and let go, she was not sure she was capable of doing so again.
Forest of Embers is part one in a (probably) 5 part storyline detailing the future events for the Tree of Ages characters. While this story is a continuation, it can be read independently of the original series (I hope) :). Coming soon!