I watched as Drake was ripped away from me and tossed in a completely different direction to where I was being taken. I glanced at where Carmen and Ash had just been…. They were gone. I tried to fly under the wind gusts but had no luck; I pulled my wings back into my body with difficulty. I allowed the tornado to carry me where it would, there was no point fighting it. I closed my eyes as the wind knocked me around the sky, whipping me back and forth like a discarded piece of trash or a fallen leaf. Eventually the wind slowed down and I spread my wings. Eyes open I steadily glided to the ground.
My feet touched the ground and I sat on it and crossed my legs, taking deep breaths. In…….and out……..In………and out. I reached out with my mind. Searching for Drake. But I couldn’t find anything, just complete blackness, no animals, and no angels. Nothing. I felt alone and lost. I heard footsteps to my right; I focused on that with my mind. I frowned; there was nothing, not even a flicker of conscious. I got to my feet and spun in a circle, something flashed past me through the trees, but it was too fast for me to follow with my eyes.
I began to run through the forest, searching for a hint of where I was, I knew I was still in Wolke von Englen because it had begun to rain and when I looked up I couldn’t see any clouds peeking through the trees at me. I trudged through the undergrowth, branches flicking at me as I passed through them. I saw something flicker through the shrub in front of me. A flash of silver, I ran ahead, not thinking of what it might be that it could be dangerous. I ran into a clearing, a man was standing there. I drew my sword. The man’s wings were spread, a fierce smile on his face, his eyes wild. He had his sword drawn and he looked ready to kill.
He ran at me, sword raised above his head, he swung it down at my head, I saw it coming towards me; I saw my eyes widen in the reflection of the sword. I closed my eyes and swung my sword up, meeting his mid-air. He growled at me, I just smiled and let a low guttural growl rip from my throat. It was his turn for his eyes to widen.
“All bark and no bite?” I asked smugly, pushing him back into a tree. Leaves fell down on top of him. His wings flicked in agitation. I bared my teeth at him, I am a fire angel. I was ripped away from my only connection to my past, the only thing that kept me going. I had been ripped away from him and I didn’t know where he was or where I was. I felt the fire burn through me, my fire. I played with it; it stretched and bent to my will. I barely had to focus on it; the fire was a part of me, part of my soul. I moulded it and moved it, with a fierce cry I whipped it at the angel slumped against the tree, it left scorch marks on him and set the tree on fire.
The angel disappeared in a puff of smoke, not how they usually did. Usually charred remains would be left; I guess it happened differently here. Wolke von Englen held a lot of surprises. I watched the tree burn, I wondered what would happen if I did this. I took away the fire, the tree went back to normal nothing scorched or burnt. I let the tree burn some more, it had almost burnt to the ground, I took the fire away, and the tree stood their normally. Interesting. Just as I was about to try my little game on the whole forest, a rustle and thump came from my left. I turned and chased after it.
I stumbled over roots and tripped on rocks, running after it through the forest. I had no idea what ‘it’ was, I just knew I had to find ‘it’. I came to another clearing, something disappeared through a gap in the trees. Disappearing like it had never existed in the first place. Was it real or was I seeing things? I cautiously walked into the centre of the clearing, spinning slowly in a circle, taking in all the forest that surrounded me. I couldn’t find where I entered and I didn’t know what to do next. A small creature entered the forest; I wasn’t sure what it was. But I knew it wasn’t my familiar. It had the body of a lion, strong and proud, its tail flicking from one side to the other and for a head; it was the head of a woman. A sphinx, why was there a sphinx here? I was right; this place is so much different to Earth.
I circled the sphinx, her eyes watching me. “Why so edgy Ember?” I jumped when she talked, how did she know my name? Why was I edgy, I didn’t really know why. Partially because I was lost, partially because I couldn’t find any living being or thing anywhere, even when there was someone just metres away. “Have you tried flying?” She tilted her head to the side, looking at me like I was something to eat, maybe for her I was. I did as she suggested and tried to spread my wings. They stayed clamped at my side. The sphinx smiled as if she knew what would happen.
“What do you want?” I asked, frustrated that nothing was working, that I was basically a human again.
“I want an answer.” She began prowling towards me, slowly, as if stalking prey. She edged around me, trying to get behind my back, I spun around, watching her closely, checking her feet to see if they were bent, ready to spring at me. Her tail flicked and she smiled a slow smile that showed her teeth. Yellow and pointed like that of a lion, hungry and hunting
“What kind of answer?” I asked. I had heard rumours about sphinxes, one was that they told riddles to whoever wished to pass down their road, if travellers answered correctly they could pass, if not then the traveller would be slain. Most did not have the right answer; however in legend there was one. Oedipus answered her riddle correctly, causing the creature to throw herself off the rock where she lay.
“An answer to my riddle,” I was right, but I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.
“What is your riddle?” I asked, hoping to distract her ravenous eyes from looking me up and down like I was some kind of delicacy, which to her I probably was. I could see she was thinking, about what I wasn’t sure. She lay on the ground.
“Ember, so impatient, I see you have questions, why not ask them and let me answer.”
“It’s so sad when people die with unanswered questions. Your life should be complete when you leave this world, Everyone’s should.”
“Maybe my life is complete.” I bit back.
“One’s life is not complete if one hasn’t found everything they’re looking for. Neither is it complete if they are still curious or have something to ask about.” She looked bored. I watched as a small rabbit crossed in front of, oblivious that it was now about to become a snack. As soon as the thought was in my mind her paws flicked forwards and clamped the now struggling rabbit to the ground. Her claws dug into its side, leaving gouges across its body. Steadily she lifted its still squirming body into her mouth. Her jaws snapped shut, ripping off its head. For some reason I couldn’t look away. I was completely mesmerised. I watched her chew it, blood dripping down her chin, I heard the crunch of bone on tooth, just minutes later she was finished. My stomach growled, breaking my trance.
“What’s your name?” I asked as she glanced at my stomach, hunger still filling her eyes.
“My name is Emeteria. Any other questions?” she began to clean the blood from her paws. Although she was half woman she still had many of the traits of a lion.
“Why can’t I use any of my abilities, why can’t I fly, why couldn’t I sense where the man was or where you were or where any living thing is, I don’t think I can even use my fire?” I was exasperated. I had been trying to save my old race, trying to stop them becoming corrupt, to avenge my parents. I’d given up my humanity and become an angel but now I basically was a human again, just with wings I couldn’t even use. She looked up from cleaning herself, staring into my eyes.
“This is a test of skill and knowledge. To be an angel doesn’t mean you can rely on just your abilities, there will be times when you may not be able to use them, when they won’t work against your opponent. That is why most angels fail this test, why a lot of them aren’t able to fight or take years to train. You and your friend Drake will be two of the small group in Wolke von Englen who will be some of the angels’ greatest warriors and fighters. Many have fallen and joined the Corrupt or become rogue because they weren’t allowed to turn those they loved. Turned angels are supposed to cut all ties with the human world, their families can either be made to think that they never existed or that their dead or something less hurting, just as long as they never see them Ever again.” I thought of Drake and his little sister, what would happen to her, did Drake know he would never see her ever again. “There are only a few more tests for you to pass, if you survive mine that is.”
“I think I’ve gotten the answers I need.” She nodded.
“Drake does feel the same way for you as you do for him, it just might take time for him to know what to do. Be patient but not too patient. The time may come when you have to make the first move, before it is too late for both of you.” I nodded, that was the answer to my last question, I just wasn’t sure I should ask.
“ And the riddle?” She nodded her head, and sat up, with her paw she gestured to the ground in front of her. I rolled my eyes and sat in front of her. Smiling, Emeteria told me her riddle.
“No legs have I to dance, no lungs have I to breathe, No life have I to live or die yet I do all three. What am I?” I memorized her riddle, examining each part thoroughly. I needed to get the answer quickly. I didn’t think I had any chances to get it wrong only one chance to get it right or I would become Emeteria’s dinner. I stood up and paced, walking from one end of the clearing to the other. This wasn’t far though, only a few steps, it didn’t help much. Eventually is sat back on the ground. I lay back and closed my eyes. I knew Emeteria wouldn’t do anything, she may be hungry and want to eat me but I sensed she would play fairly.
I cleared my mind, breathing deep breaths, calming my thoughts. No legs have I too dance…no lungs have I to breathe…..no life have I to live or die…yet I do all three….I knew the answer was close it had to be, in myths the sphinx would ask the travellers that wished to ask a riddle with the answer being them. But this didn’t convince me the answer was angels but it was something close to me. I played with the fire inside me, its warmth giving me strength and inspiration. It danced from tree to tree, burning them to embers and then dancing to the next tree, leaving the first tree looking even more vibrant and alive then before. The fire breathed life into the trees. I let the fire die down then snapped my fingers and brought it back to life.
Something jolted inside me, that was it, the answer to the riddle. The sphinx halted in licking her paws, peering up at me through her colourless, lifeless eyes, the black abyss threatening to swallow me whole. “So what answer can you give me? Are you sure it is correct? You realise if you are wrong you shall never see your friend again, you’re mission to save whatever of humanity is left, will fail, falling to pieces without your help?” I pushed my shoulders back, standing straight, Emeteria would not push me down or scare me away.
“I have my answer for you, I can feel in my heart that is right. In my heart there is the fire, dancing breathing, no legs and no lungs, the fire does die and the fire also lives, yet it has no life. The answer to your riddle is fire.” Emeteria smiled at me, eyes darkening, smoke escaping her mouth, swallowing her, clouding my vision, blocking her from view, taking her from the world. Impenetrable, her voice came from within, warning me of what was to come, urgent and abrupt.
“Ember, pay attention to what is around you, there is no way you and Drake will survive without watching your surroundings. Don’t let your humanity control you. Or they will discover what you are, and stop you, in any way possible.” I tried to peer through the fog as it began to dissipate, but she was no longer there, her voice was just floating in the air.