Post Reply My Memory Is the Key part 6
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27 / F / In my own little...
Posted 7/15/09 , edited 4/6/10
Find Part 1 here
Find Part 2 here
Find Part 3 here
Find Part 4 here
Find Part 5 here

Last Update to the Story ::
April 5 2010 {{ A Confrontation!? OMG }}
July 15 2009 {{ The Truth }}

Chapter Twenty

A week later, Ember was walking in the forest with Peter, when Tomarr, who was accompanying them, growled at something in the bushes. Before she knew what was going on, Peter stood in front of her, waving his arms at something that roared. Tomarr roared louder. Peter was swept away, and a large bear stood before her. Peter was trying to get up, groping for a stick to fight with. Tomarr was confronting the bear.

She just had time to see a red and black collar around the bear’s neck before it charged at her and she went out cold.

She stood in the white clearing in the forest again. This was the third time she’d been in this unconscious world.

“We’re Back again?”

Ember looked around to get a look at her conscience but could not see anything but the blindingly white trees.

“Do we still have to play this game?” she called to herself.

“We only play it as long as you think we should.”

Ember sighed, and turned around. “Why am I here this time?”

“We know the answer to that.” She couldn’t be sure if it was herself that had said it or her other self.

After a long pause, filled with only the sound of the wind, which was an addition since the last time she was here, she heard, “Pyro.”

It felt like a million needles were piercing her through the heart. She coughed, and collapsed to the white ground.

“Don’t say his name! It hurts too much!” She gasped on the ground, fighting to gain control.

“You know what’s best for us.”

“We need to forget about him!”

She opened her eyes and Peter and Tomarr stood over her. Tomarr pushed Peter aside, and covered her face with licks.

“Hey, Tomarr. Sweet, sweet Tomarr…” she looked down for a moment and took a huge intake of breath to keep from crying. “I’m alright.” On the outside…

Peter was standing over her again. “Ember, are you alright?” He was anxious.

She smiled, and said, “Yup. I’m fine.” She put the white world to the back of her mind. She got up and brushed herself down.

“What happened?” She looked at him quizzically.

“Well, the bear attacked, and when you went out cold, I grabbed a stick and Tomarr leapt before I could do anything heroic.” He smiled meekly. “Then the thing ran away.”

She stood thinking for some time. As they started to head back to the palace, she said, “I’ve seen a lot of animals here, and none of them have been violent. That was odd. One of the mother bears let me play with her cubs once. Why would this one be wanting to pick a fight?”

Peter shrugged, and said, “Who knows.” Peter raised his hands, weighing the possibilities. “Maybe it’s mating season and it though we were a danger to its… Bearhood.” He laughed a little; he was not able to use the word ‘manhood,’ for bears were not men. Tomarr was off ahead of them, keeping a watch. Peter leaned closer to her and whispered, “I’m just glad you’re alright.”

She smiled and nodded. “Me too.” Tomarr was now so far ahead of them that he’d most likely just wait for them at the Palace.

“Hey, you know, I think we’re closer to my cottage, how about we go there? It’s getting kinda late anyways.” She agreed, and they changed direction to get to his cottage in the mountains.

When they got there, it was indeed dark, and he let her in to a ready fire that was soon blazing. Peter did this with no help from Ember. She smiled and sat down.

He brought her hot tea and some coffee for himself. After sitting in silence for a while, he said, “Hey, you want to see some of my glass? I keep it in the basement.”

She nodded eagerly, and said, “oo, yes!”

He took her hand and led her down the stairs, flipping on a switch on the way.

As the light turned on, glittering glass shone on shelves, neatly arranged by the maker. She looked on in wonder, at little figures, balls hanging from shelves, and little glass trinkets.

Ember stood at one of the shelves, looking at the glass. There were things in green glass, black glass, red, orange and blue glass. All the colors of the rainbow filled Ember’s senses with delight. She actually felt happy right now, for the first time in a little over a week. All the glittering made her eyes glow red and dance with the delight.

Peter looked at her eyes and smiled. “You’ve got beautiful eyes, Ember.” She turned from the shelf and looked in a daze at him. She smiled sadly, thinking of the other person- no, the first person- to say that to her. But he could have taken it as a tender, appreciative smile.

He edged closer, and reached past Ember to the shelf. He brought his hand in front of her, in which he held a little red glass box with a silver clasp that had been on the shelf in front of her. He kept his eyes on hers, and opened it slowly. She gasped, and her hands went to her mouth.

The ring sparkled white in her eyes, and she gazed at it for a long time, not reaching for it.

“Ember, this can be yours…” he paused, a bit unsure for a moment. “If you’ll be my wife…” He looked up into her eyes, for he was now kneeling, and when she didn’t answer right away, he hastily said, “I know we really just met, and you don’t really know me, and I’m just a glass blower and you’re the Queen… but… I love you Ember. If you could be my wife, I’d be the happiest man on earth.”

For a moment, Ember’s thoughts raced. She was frantic with thoughts that this would turn into another disaster. But Peter had been so nice to her, and they’d connected right away. She already felt like she’d known him all her life. She drew in a heavy breath, closed her eyes, and decided something that would change her life forever.

She opened them again, happy tears in them. “Yes,” was all she said.

The very happy young man leaned closer to Ember, the smile of a lover on his face. His lips met hers, and he dipped her a bit, kissing her for the first time.

Ember couldn’t help comparing it to Pyro’s kiss. That first one… She closed her eyes, unable to think about that and feeling guilty for thinking about it while she was kissing Peter. She couldn’t be sure now if the tears were happy or sad.

Peter straitened up, and looked her in the eyes. “… Is something wrong, Ember…?” He said, hesitantly. He had noticed during the kiss that something was wrong.

Ember blinked away the tears, and smiled. “No, nothing is wrong, Peter. I’m just so happy.” She wiped the tears off of her right eye, but Peter beat her to the left. He wiped it gently off her check, and then kissed her there. She smiled.

Peter then led her by the hand back upstairs. He had a triumphant smile on his face, and was truly overjoyed.

The next morning, Ember was delivering the news to Fang and Goldenwing. They were both frantic, glad that Ember seemed happy, but still worried. They had both taken a strong liking to Pyro and felt this was wrong somehow.

When Fang relayed this tentatively to Ember, she looked at him coldly.

I told you long ago to stop worrying about me. I can take care of myself. She was angry at her friend, and hurt that he’d mentioned Pyro’s name in front of her. He knew it hurt her.

I’m not worrying about you, Ember. I’m just making sure you’re absolutely sure of this. Fang’s voice was just a tad reproachful.

I am. Ember’s reply was so solid that her friend could not object.

He didn’t press her further, and reluctantly agreed to marry the two. He knew he would never do it unless she was absolutely sure of it, and was even now dealing with a fierce battle within him.

Goldenwing was anxious too, but excited to get a wedding underway.

Because a wedding had already been planned, the anxious Ember and Peter would be married in one week. She was overjoyed, and he was too.

He spent a lot of time at the palace, getting used to it. But he never slept there. If he had, he would have slept in what had been Pyro’s room. She shuddered, and tried not to think of Pyro. She still did, but without pain anymore, because she had Peter. But she still wondered about him, and where he was.

At two days until the wedding, Ember was walking alone through the Throne Room, sitting in it and trying to extract memories.
She did get one.

Ember and her older sister were playing in the throne room when it was empty. She was very young.

She sat in the Queen’s throne, and was dangling her feet over the edge, her sister sitting in the King’s throne, pretending to give orders to imaginary servants and subjects.

The large doors to the Palace opened, and her mother walked in, with her little friend, whose name she still could not recollect. His face was familiar, but she still couldn’t think of where from. She knew that she knew where she’d seen the face, but her mind seemed to blot it out.

He walked shyly up to the girls. This was only his second meeting with Ember, she remembered, and he stared wide-eyed up at her, sitting as majestically as she could on the throne. But she was slipping forward, and slid off, landing lightly on the raised dais. She called him over, not hearing the name from her own lips, and he timidly walked over. She got impatient and ran to pull him faster. After a few minutes, it was just like the first meeting, and they were playing comfortably.

Her mother looked on, happy that her youngest daughter had gotten a new friend who she seemed to like a lot.

Ember opened her eyes, and sighed.

The night before her second wedding day, Ember was happy as a clam. She resolved that she would not see her groom before they were at the alter this time. She could not help attributing Pyro’s disappearance to her seeing him, which was bad luck.

She smiled happily and settled into bed, anxious for the coming day.

And she had a dream.

She was in Peter’s house. She smiled to herself. She heard Peter’s voice from the basement, and followed it. She went down the stairs, and found him standing in the middle of the room.

She tried to get his attention, but he seemed to be frozen. Time seemed to be frozen. He was looking towards a shelf, the one that had held the little ring box. But it was not a shelf anymore. It was the bars to a cell.

She stared in horror. She could not look, but she could not look away. Pyro lay in the cell, thinned and disheveled almost beyond recognition. And he looked miserable.

Ember looked at Peter for an explanation, and time slowly flowed back into the room. Peter smirked at Pyro, who was clinging to the cell bars desperately.

“Well, well. Tomorrow, your precious Ember won’t be yours anymore. She’ll be mine!” He laughed, and Pyro winced, and Ember could feel his world fall apart. She felt in him the same piercing she’d felt every time his name was spoken to her.

“All I had to do was knock you out, drag you here, and then make her think I loved her! Ha! How could anything love someone so depressing and simple?”

Here Pyro looked enraged. “Take that back, scum! If she’s happy I can stand it, just barely, but you’d better not speak like that in front of me anymore, and if you hurt her in any way, I swear I’ll kill you!” He glared evilly at Peter, and tried futilely to break free and get at him.

“And you watched her accept my proposal, too! She stood right here. You could see her, but she didn’t even know you were there, not that it would have made a difference, by the look of it. How much did it hurt, seeing the woman you’re literally dying for fall in love with someone else?” He grinned menacingly at Pyro, and acted the scene out again, just for Pyro.

“’Oh, Yes, Peter, I’ll marry you!’” He laughed out loud, clenching his belly and doubling over with it.

Pyro just glared ahead of him, not looking at Peter. Ember felt a knife in her heart. He was glaring in her direction. It made her feel like he could see her, and was glaring at her. “Pyro! I’m right here! Can’t you hear me? Can’t you see me?!”

“And the best part is, she completely forgot about you so easily!”

“No, Pyro! I didn’t ever forget you! Don’t believe him, please!”

“In one week, she went from loving you to loving me, without so much as a question! She’s so inconsistent! Flimsy! Easy!”

Pyro reached through the bars of the cell, futilely trying to choke Peter. “You bastard! I told you not to talk about her like that!” He tried to get Peter, but he easily stepped out of the way. Ember was almost sobbing now.

“Ha. She’s weak minded. She can’t even see through my acting. Though I must admit it was pretty good that night I proposed, wasn’t it? She accepted it! She thought I was serious! Haha!”

Pyro glared at him. “You don’t deserve her! She has more worth in one fingernail that you’ll ever have in your whole body, your whole life.”

“Oh really? I, Surtas, have wooed and conquered the mighty Ember, queen of Flaria! I’ll have my power to control Fire, and I’ll be King! And just in time, too! Only had a few weeks left! I am victorious!”

Ember froze. She was too disgusted to even think about what she’d done.

She knew this was no ordinary dream. It was too real. This was actually happening, right now.

And she’d agreed to fill the last condition. She’d told herself to be careful, hadn’t she? Hadn’t Fang, and Goldenwing? She blinked a few times, and felt all the shame that was due to her on the occasion.

As she looked on in horror, Peter/Surtas shifted form, and he became a vulgar middle-aged man. His brown-blond hair slowly shifted to white-blond, and his eyes to a cold blue, instead of gentle sea-blue. He also shrunk a few inches, and Ember scowled, disgusted at what she was about to marry, and suddenly aware of the danger she was in.

She ran to the bars of the cell, calling Pyro’s name. She reached through the cell bars, and tried to touch him. Her hand went through him, and he didn’t seem to notice. She couldn’t get through to him.

She shrunk to the floor, weeping with the pain and folly of the past few weeks, and found herself back in the bedroom, one of her earliest dreams. It was bare, and the diary lay opened on the floor. The page was blank.

She blinked, tears trickling down her face, and then closed her eyes, falling to the floor.

Chapter Twenty-One

She woke up with her head on a pillow soaked with tears. She was crying out loud, and Hima was chirping softly in her ear. She clutched at her pillow in agony.

“Oh, Pyro!” She cried. “What have I done?” She cried into the pillow, letting out all the emotion she’d carefully dammed up. Now she knew that Pyro still loved her. He hadn’t left her, as she’d thought. And now that she knew that, she wondered how on earth she could have thought it possible. All his declarations of love had meant nothing in her hasty conclusions, and she was paying for it now.

She lifted her fingers to her lips, which burned. She’d kissed him! She didn’t know how she could have done it. She must have been so depressed when Pyro was gone, that she hadn’t been thinking. But now she saw the light, and in it, she could see all the scars and blemishes of the past weeks.

And this afternoon, she was going to have to marry that man. The man that took away the man she really loved, who had tricked her when her heart was trying in vain to heal, obscuring it.

But he was so nice! She closed her eyes, confused and hurt. She couldn’t make anything out, her eyes blurred with tears.

She held herself, feeling like she’d be sick. Her head hurt now, from thinking and crying.

After a few minutes, she wiped her eyes, and pet Hima, ever thankful to her for seeing her through her moment of dread. “Oh, Hima… what have I done?” Hima just chirped sadly, and nudged Ember’s forehead with her own.

She sighed, and stared into space for a moment, unsure what to do.

Do I need a plan? How can I free Pyro? Oh, Pyro!

She stood up, brushed herself down of imaginary dust, and stared strait ahead. She walked into her closet, and picked out a suitable outfit. Something that would look good, but that was sturdy.

She picked a comfortable but stylish black shirt with a white collar and cuffs, and black jeans. She was on a mission of revenge; it deserved a dark and angry look. She walked back into her bedroom, a steely look of determination on her face.

Hima landed lightly on Ember’s shoulder and chirped happily, ready for action.

Ember looked over her shoulder at her companion for life, and smiled. “We’ll wing it.”

She stepped onto the balcony, and saw Tomarr prowling in the grass. She whistled, and he raised his head, his ears perked, and stood motionless for a few seconds. He looked straight at her and then came bounding.

As he ran, Ember made a disk of flame and Hima spread her wings to fly alongside her. She lowered the disk and Tomarr jumped on. He licked her hand, realizing that she was finally back to herself. He could also sense some prospect of seeing his pal Pyro again. He had not been able to hear his friend’s thoughts since he left.

“We’re going on a little journey. Fun, yes?” Her eyes danced with a mixture of feelings, mostly love for Pyro, anger at herself, and the utmost hatred for Surtas.

She realized something, and lifted her hand in front of her face. She looked with disgust at the ring Pet- that Surtas had given her. She tore it off her finger, and threw it to the ground, with hot flames licking it. She didn’t look back as she pulled a chain around her neck from under her shirt; the flames would not burn the grass. Pyro’s ring was on the gold chain, and she undid its clasp and slipped the ring off of it, and onto her finger. She’d been wearing the chain ever since that day, and it had made her feel a little better. She hadn’t completely abandoned him. A piece of him was always close to her heart.

She sped off towards the cottage that Surtas was “living” at. She wondered who had actually lived there, before the curse was put on the land. She also wondered if it was just an illusion. She remembered Fang telling her something about a certain magic Surtas had. He could fool people into thinking they saw or heard or felt something. That was how she had not seen Pyro right on the other side of the wall from her! She beat herself inside for what she’d done to Pyro. How miserable he must have been!

When she got to the cottage, the sun told her it was near 10:00. She hadn’t gone so fast because she needed to feel the wind on her skin a little more to calm herself and prepare herself.

She lowered the disk to the ground, and Tomarr leapt off. Hima glided to land on her shoulder, and she jumped nimbly off the disk.

She stooped in the bushes for a moment, deciding what to do. Just break in and say, “You jerk,” or make him think she didn’t suspect anything yet, to get closer to Pyro? She decided that she’d play along for a few moments, lead him to the basement, and then kick his butt in front of Pyro; just for Pyro.

She nodded, and led the way to the front door. Hima was still on her shoulder, and understood the plan with one look from Ember. Tomarr seemed to know it too, for he was pouncing on a butterfly as she knocked on the door and Surtas appeared, looking surprised, but happy.

“Hey, isn’t it bad luck for the bride to see the groom on the wedding day before the ceremony?” He was smiling playfully.

She shrugged. “Not sure. Hope not, because I couldn’t stand not seeing you!”

He nodded, seeming to accept that explanation, and gestured her in. She took her usual place by the fire in the rocking chair, and he made tea and coffee, as usual. She smiled as she took the tea.

They talked for a while, and at a convenient time, Ember put in, “Oh, I’d love to see some more of your glasswork! As a wedding present?” She looked pleadingly at him, and he smiled, and relented.

He took her hand and led her downstairs again, where he kept his finished glasswork; she tried not to scowl at his touch, lest she give herself away.

She looked with acted awe at all the glass again, and said, “oh, Peter. You do such good work! These are so beautiful!” She picked up a glass tiger that stood on the shelf that concealed Pyro’s cage, and looked at it with false wonder. It was actually quite a good tiger, but it couldn’t be real, she told herself.

She looked at the wall behind the shelf, trying to look through it to Pyro. It was no use, so she turned to Surtas again, drawing closer than she would have if she had a choice. She smiled playfully at him, and said quietly, “Oh, Peter. I love you so much. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She beat down the pain in her chest at these dishonest and disloyal words.

A playful smile played over Surtas’s lips, and he leaned closer to her, saying just as quietly as Ember, “Really? You love me that much? More than anything?” He wrapped his arms around her, and she tried not to flinch at all. His touch made her skin crawl, and she wanted to edge away, but she had to fool him for just a few more seconds. She knew what he was trying to do, too. He was making Pyro’s last view of Ember into one he couldn’t bare.

She smiled and closed her eyes a bit, and said, “Actually, no.” She rammed her knee up, and watched Surtas fall to the floor, clutching himself in agony. The house flickered, but only for a second. She looked at the wall with the shelf, and caught a glimpse of Pyro in his cell, but only for a split fraction of a second. It was still enough.

She turned back to Surtas, who was getting up. He was still smiling pleasantly, and said, “Ember, what was that about? Did I do something unsatisfactory?” He got closer, hoping that Ember was just in a bad mood or something.

She got into fighting stance, and said menacingly, “You know what I realized?

I realized you’re a liar and scum, and that I have more worth in one of my fingernails than you ever will in your whole body.” She smiled pleasantly. Then she looked meaningfully at the shelf, hoping Pyro would see and understand.

Surtas’s eyes narrowed, and became cold blue, like his true eyes were. “So, you found out my little secret, did you?” He laughed. “Hah, it doesn’t matter anymore though! You’re gonna marry me, even if you don’t want to! You’ll forget all about this and you’ll marry me. Then I’ll get the fire, and the kingdom! You can’t stop me now!”

She charged at him, and shouted, “Not even if I kill you?” She took him by surprise for a moment, but he quickly regained his composure and balance, fighting back. She aimed some kicks at him, and threw a few punches, but he dodged them all. He was too fast.

He made his way, dodging Ember’s attacks, to an old and seemingly ornamental display of two large crossed swords. She soon found out that it was not merely ornamental. The blades rang in the air as Surtas pulled them out, and held them ready, laughing. “Ha! Can’t beat me at swordplay! You don’t even know how to use a sword, do you?”

She hid the smile in her heart as she closed her eyes, concentrating on the sleek sword sitting in her room. She wondered why she hadn’t thought to bring it with her. But on an impulse, she thought some words and the sword was in her hands, out of nowhere. She smiled at Surtas, who looked dumbfounded.

“Guess again.” She lifted the blade. It felt right in her hands. She knew she could do great things with it, just feeling how familiar it was in her hands, at her command.

She swung, and Surtas raised his blades to block the blow, staggering back a few feet. “You’ll have to do more than that to get me.” He sniggered, full of himself and sure he would be able to knock her out with no problem, and erase her memory of last night, or whenever it was that she found out his secret. Then all would be back to normal.

They commenced in a bitter battle.

She swung her blade skillfully, but he parried every blow with the ease and skill of years of training, whereas Ember only knew that she could wield the blade well.

He struck her hard, and she blocked most of them, but sometimes a slicing pain would shoot up her leg or arm, once on her cheek.

After a while of just trying to hit him, she began to add some physical attacks. She jumped over him, spinning, and used her free hand to flip back up, slashing with her blade. It caught him in the arm, and he clutched it in pain. Rage clouded his face, and he forgot about making her his wife. Now, he just wanted her out of the way, even if that meant he would end up failing. He came at her, running.

Ember stood her ground, and jumped out of the way and over him at the last second, slashing downward. She got his cheek, and thought she had him for good.

He looked at her menacingly, smiling. “You think that’s enough to get me?!” As he said it, the wound on his cheek slowly vanished.

Oh, crap! Can he heal himself? Why hadn’t I thought of that before?!

She backed up a step, as he advanced, swinging the swords he held. She was backing up to the wall that was Pyro’s cell.

She realized this, and stopped backing up. She planted her feet firmly, and prepared to attack Peter. He got closer, closer, closer…. She swung fully, and left a deep slash in his chest, which immediately smoothed over.

Oh crap…

He struck her with the back of his hand, and she fell over. She lay on the ground, her face down and her arms sprawled in front of her. She panted, and tried to pull herself up, but instead found herself pulled up by strong hands. Surtas pushed her into the shelves, and glass clinked and fell, spreading glittering shards all over the floor. None of it hit her, but it got close. She stood up, wiping her forehead with her arm.

She was enraged, and using the blunt of her sword, struck him a hard blow that sent him flying into another shelf across the room. Glass fell over him, but he healed himself almost before he bled.

Finally, Ember realized that she could not beat him with just sword-power. She had to use her other powers.

He got up wearily from where he’d fallen, and circled her.

Her eyes blazing, she focused her thoughts on the sword she held in her hand. In seconds, it was enveloped in flames and shone in the dim light of the basement. She smiled at Surtas, who stood gazing at it, his eyes sparkling. In his moment of distraction, Ember sent a ball of warning flame at his stomach, making him fall backwards, into another shelf. He sat on the floor against the tatty shelf, rubbing his stomach, and shaking his head, with yet more glass falling around him.

“I don’t want to kill you, Surtas.” I want you thrown into eternal servitude in the underworld; just what you deserve and will get in a few days.

He got up, and said, “No way am I gonna give up or run away.”

She shook her head, and regretted having to kill him. But he was forcing her to it.

She raised her eyes to the sky, and raised her arms. Her body was enveloped in fire, and her blazing eyes stood out even in the swirling flames. She walked towards him, getting ready a blast that would char him and leave almost nothing. The fear was plain in his eyes. He knew he was done for. But he was more in awe of her powers than in fear of them. His amazement and obsession with the controlling of fire would be his downfall. He could only stare as she put her hands together above her head and brought them slowly down again, aiming at him.

“This is for Pyro!” She screamed, and sent the flames surrounding herself at Surtas, channeling them around her outstretched arms and through her hands. The high-powered attack did what it was supposed to do, and also drained all of Ember’s energy. The illusions around her flickered and went out as Surtas fought for life and lost. He could not heal as fast as he was being destroyed by the insistent flames.

She fell forwards, and just caught sight of Pyro running to her, now that his barrier was no more. She closed her eyes and smiled, letting the darkness engulf her.

And then it was all white.

Chapter Twenty-Two

The white forest surrounded her, and she called to herself.

“Hello? Are you there? Er- am I there?”

“Yes. Turn around.”

Ember turned.

She saw the little girl from her dreams on the other side of the clearing.

“Fira?” The little girl nodded. She walked towards Ember, and as she did, she grew taller and older, and Ember watched as she aged, until she was standing in front of herself, a perfect copy.

“Wha- what?” Ember was utterly confused, and looked down at her feet. “You said you were me. My conscience…”

Fira smiled and said, “I am.” Fira reached out, and touched Ember lightly on the forehead.

After some moments of silence, the memories flowed back and the dreams made sense for the first time. She looked up at herself, and smiled, relieved to know things again. She finally felt like she knew what was going on. She could remember it all now. Her whole life was before her, and she finally understood. That friend in her memory had been the Adam in the dreams. And now she just had to find Adam for her memories to be complete. She needed to find her best friend.

Princess Fira smiled at Queen Ember, and nodded, to show that she was also glad that the memories were back.

Ember looked around, wondering why she was not back with Pyro by now. She desperately wanted to be back with him, to let him know she was okay and apologize for the rest of her life for what she did. She looked at Fira.

“Am I dead?” She finally asked.

Fira looked thoughtful, and said, “We could say that. Every time we are here, we’ve had a near death experience at least. This one was most likely the closest. We used every last shred of energy defeating Surtas. But we’re not dead yet, don’t worry.”

As if to prove the point, the white forest faded, and she closed her eyes.

Her head hurt. She felt like she’d been hit by a truck. She realized she had been holding her breath, and took a gasping breath, coughing. She found the power to open her eyes, and breathed heavily. She looked up, and Pyro’s face was close to hers. He pulled her up into a hug, and didn’t let her go for a long time. He had been kneeling over her for a few minutes, while she faced herself in the white forest, thinking she was dead this time. She hadn’t been breathing, and she had not had a pulse.

She could not sit up, and was held up only by Pyro’s clinging to her.

She just found the strength to whisper, “I’m so… sorry… Pyro,” before closing her eyes and sleeping.

When Ember opened her eyes next, she was laying in her bed. The warm glow of morning sunlight shone in her face, and she blinked. She blinked a few more times, and tried to sit up, finding that she was stiff. It hurt, but she sat up eventually, and could see Pyro asleep, sitting in a chair next to her bed and with his head resting on his folded arms on the bed near where her hand was. She had the feeling that he’d been holding it.

As she moved and got herself comfortably sitting up, he stirred also, and jumped awake once he realized he’d fallen asleep. He shook his head and looked around. His eyes fell on Ember and he rushed to a standing position, leaning over her. “Ember…” He was speechless after that much, and sat next to her and just enveloped her in a huge hug. She blinked tears away, and they trickled down her cheeks. “Oh, Pyro, I’ve been so horrible to you! How could I have done that?! I- I…” she fell silent and cried more.

“Shhhhhhh… Ember, don’t beat yourself up. It wasn’t your fault. It was all Surtas, you didn’t do anything to anyone.” Pyro patted her back and rubbed it soothingly.

“But you watched me… you watched me say yes to that man… me kiss… hi-” she closed her eyes slowly, and sighed miserably. “How could I have done that to you? How can you forgive me?”

He put her at arm’s length from him, and said, “Ember, anything you ever did or do in the future is forgiven. You know I can’t hold a grudge against you.” When this didn’t seem to cheer her up, he tried a little more explanation. “I admit, I was pretty hurt when he first started to gloat at how you were getting on without me there. He told me how you trusted him immediately, and how you told him everything… it did hurt, but then he told me how you were before he found you, and I felt horrible, only because you were so unhappy because of me. Anything he said after that, except when he insulted you, I could handle. I’ll admit it was pretty hard watching him propose… and you saying yes..... but I thought it would make you happy! You did look happy then. And that made me a little happier. Even if the source of your happiness wasn’t me.” He smiled at her. “And when you came down that day, and looked at the glass things for the second time, I saw you looking through the wall, as if you knew I was there. I was right there, following you the whole time. We were so close for a minute there. I could tell there was a something in your eyes that wasn’t there the last I’d seen you down there. It was something I’d known in them before. And then I saw you fake him into getting closer, and when you kicked him,” his smile broadened. “Well, that made me pretty damn happy. I was cheering you on the whole time, and when you fell and weren’t breathing I was so sorry that I didn’t have a chance to tell you all this. I thought you were dead, and for those few minutes, I was in agony, wondering what I could do with myself without you in my life.” He drew her into another hug.

She was still filled with self-loathing, but his story had brought a bit of her spirit back. She wrapped her arms around him and held him close.

“But how can you forgive me for giving up on you so soon?” It was all she could say.

He smiled, and said, “Like I said, I’ve already forgiven you for everything you could do in the future or could have done in the past.” After a short pause, he added, “or you could just cook me great meals for the rest of my life.” He squeezed her tight for a second or two, and said, “That was another thing that kept me going. He never once mentioned you cooking for him.”

Here she laughed through her tears, happy that Pyro could still make her cheerful, even when she was so miserable with herself.

Pyro put her at arm’s length again, and looked into her eyes, watching them dance with love and pain. “I’ll forgive you if you’ll still marry me; if I can still make you mine,” he said softly.

She flew at him with a kiss as her answer, first on the cheek, then on the lips. They held each other close like that for a few moments, and they were still hugging each other close when Fang and Goldenwing landed on the balcony.

They stuck their heads in, and Ember wished she could get up and hug them.

You guys were right. I don’t know why I didn’t listen.

Don’t worry about it. What’s done is done. There’s no need to dwell on it.
Fang’s ever-formal response.

Goldenwing, who was a little more emotional, burst out, “Oh, Ember! I’m so glad you’re alive! None of us knew what had happened to you that day, and we searched all over for you when you were late. We decided to try his,” she spat it out, “house. We found it none-existent, and you laying unconscious with Pyro, Tomarr and Hima where it used to be! We flew you back here, and you’ve been sleeping ever since!” Ember could see the tears in her friend’s eyes.

Ember looked puzzled for a moment. “Wait. How long have I been sleeping?” She turned to Pyro.

“I was just getting to that part…” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head embarrassedly.

“It’s been five days, Ember.” Fang gazed at her with a look of significance. Today is the day that the time limit would have been up for Surtas.

She gasped. “Five days!” She spluttered for a few minutes. Finally, she settled for a weak, “five days?”

Pyro nodded slowly. She shook her head, her eyes wide for a moment. But she smiled as she realized that it was over, finally. Surtas was dead, and she was free. She had her memories, and she looked at Pyro, trying to figure out if he had his. Fang and Goldenwing left them, with a silent good-bye in her mind.

As she looked out the window to the mountains, Pyro lifted her carefully out of the bed, and carried her to the swinging loveseat. He set her down, and sat down next to her, wrapping her up in his arms, where she felt safe and happy. She smiled, and watched the morning unfold in front of her. Tomarr played in the grass, and Hima was perched on the railing, chirping happily at Ember.

She and Pyro talked, and after a short while, Ember heard Pyro’s stomach growl. He told her to pay no attention, but she immediately found enough strength to lead him down to the kitchen and make him an omelet for breakfast. A few times, he had to catch her before her legs buckled underneath her, but besides that, she was fine. She finally felt right; cooking for the man she loved and would never stop loving. She never had stopped loving him, really. She was just too confused when Surtas found her, and had taken refuge in a cheerful face and shiny glass, taking them for diamonds. He’d taken advantage of her pain.

As Ember watched Pyro chow down, she was itching with questions unasked. She wanted to know if Pyro had his memories so badly. But she’d wait.

She satisfied herself for now with watching his delighted red eyes dance.

When he was done, he carried her back up, since she was weaker after walking and being active. He sat on the loveseat again, and laid her across his lap, hugging her.

Fang and Goldenwing flew up again presently, and Fang asked, So, when do you think you’ll be strong enough to get married?

Ember smiled, and turned to Pyro, then back to Fang. Shouldn’t be too long, she said. Maybe in two days.

Pyro wanted in on it. “What was that?”

“Oh, Fang was just wondering when I’d be strong enough to get married.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“Two days,” she said and smiled, leaning on his shoulder. Goldenwing made a joyful noise deep in her throat, and a puff of happy smoke flew from her nostrils. Fang looked over at her, an odd happy look on his face, as far as dragons went.

“Goldenwing, I’ve never seen you so happy!” He puffed a bit of smoke himself, and chuckled a bit.

Goldenwing sighed. “Well, I haven’t ever been this happy!”

Ember smiled at her friends. She got up slowly, bracing herself and feeling a bit dizzy as she stood, and walked to them. Fang lowered his head to her eye-level, and she hugged him around the neck, stroking his scales. My best friend, all my life, and for the rest of my life.

Later that night, Ember and Pyro sat in her room, and talked over what happened the day he disappeared. She felt she could forgive herself a little easier, and could handle talking about it.

Pyro was explaining what had happened to him. “Just after you left me, Surtas came. He told me that if I didn’t go with him willingly, he’d kill me and then you in your sleep. And when I glanced at my spear, leaning against the wall, he said it was no use to fight. He knocked me out after he forced me at sword point to write that letter to you. I thought it might have been easier for you to cope with my leaving if you thought I didn’t love you. I didn’t want you to worry about me… But I could not have been more wrong..... So anyways, he knocked me out, and when I came to, I was in that cellar…” He shuddered. “All I could think about was how you were doing. If you were alright, if you missed me…” Here, Ember sighed sadly. “And he would take me just enough bread and water to keep me alive, nothing more. He wanted me to see you for the last time as his wife to be.” The vengeful tone in his voice was all for Surtas, but Ember couldn’t help feeling ashamed again.

“Every afternoon, he’d come down and relate to me how much you looked up to him and how he was sure of your having forgotten me already. I tried not to let him get to me.

“And then when you came down and kicked his disgusting butt, I felt all at once that everything would be okay. I knew you’d win. But when you weren’t getting up after he hit you, I felt really scared. I thought you’d be killed…” He closed his eyes for a long time, and then said, “And then you killed him, and everything went away; no more bars. I thought you really were dead for a few minutes. You didn’t have a pulse, you weren’t breathing, no signs of life. And then you woke up. It was a miracle.” He smiled brightly at her.

After a moment of silent contemplation, she said quietly, “You should have fought him.”

He looked at her, confused, and she explained. “Pyro, he didn’t want me dead. If I died, there wouldn’t be anyone left for him to fulfill his last requirement.” At his further perplexed looks, she realized he didn’t know about it; she’d never told him about it. Then he can’t have his memories back yet. Everyone in the Kingdom knew. She explained the whole thing to him, from his deal with the Queen and King of the time, and his three requirements, and his deadline. “And he wouldn’t have killed you either. He was so bent on making you suffer the most before he killed you. He wanted you to see it all. So you should have fought him. You would have won, or at least driven him away. He may have been strong, but he was stupid.”

After silence, Pyro said, “So we could have avoided all of this?!” His eyes were troubled.

She tilted her head to the side, thinking. “Well, no. Just delayed it some. He would have devised another plot and come back soon. But it would have hindered him greatly; I would have known he was here.” She sighed, and closed her eyes, angry with herself. “He was bluffing! If only we’d seen it coming! I knew his deadline was coming up! I should have been more careful! All this pain, this suffering on both our parts would have been less, and if I’d been aware of the time of year, none at all probably!”

They were both silent, until Pyro said, “So why were you looking through the wall behind the shelf? Did you know I was there or something?”

She smiled, and tapped her head. “You know those weird dreams I get?” He nodded. “Well, the night before that I had a dream. I watched him talk to you, and I saw the pain on your face, the way you tried to get him when he insulted me. You were very loyal, even though I wasn’t…”

He hugged her tightly, and said, “Don’t think about that. You were hurt and confused. Your heart knew I would never leave you while your brain was trying to take in what the note meant. You couldn’t think. Don’t blame yourself.”

After a few sighs and a pause, Ember continued. “So I saw the truth in that dream, and knew what I had to do.” She smiled. “And I heard what you said about me having more worth in one fingernail than he does in his whole body; that’s why I said it back there, so that maybe you’d understand that I knew.”

He laughed. “I’d been wondering about that!” He hugged her again, and adjusted the blanket that covered her.

She closed her eyes, and before she could stop herself, she was asleep again. She still did not have energy enough to stay awake much longer.

He smiled and carried her back to her bed, pulling the cover over her.

More soon O___O
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