"Fire! Fire in the village!" A man cried, pouring water into the flames that were enveloping the village's town hall.
"Run, run!" Screamed a young woman, as she grabbed her child's hand and ran. The child's name was Leela. She was 9 at the time, and she was terrified. Fire had always been something of interest to her, a source of entertainment. Never had it been something dangerous, never something that could kill. Her mother was pulling her along, not taking into account grace, or even gentleness. For there were bad things here. Things worse than fire. Humans with skin made of ember. Anyone they touch with their wands, or their knives, or magic item of choice, turns into one of them. Suddenly, Leela's mother tripped.
"Leave me!" She said. "My ankle is broken, and I cannot walk. Run!"
"No! I can't and I won't and-"
"GO!" So Leela ran. Tears hit the ground behind her, as she knew she would never see her mother again. She heard her mother's scream, and spun her head around, but she was gone. Her mother was gone.
"Oomph!" Leela slammed into a body, and fell back. The man radiated heat. An ember creature. Leela tried to back up, tried to get up, tried to run away, but it was too late.
"Hello darling..." It was her father. He had been changed into one of them. Those things. He pulled a sword from a sheath tied to his cloak, and with the flat end of it, touched the gleaming blade to Leela's head. She felt feverish, very feverish, and looked down at her hand. It was made of burning, flaming, embers. He tried to tap her again, one more tap with the sword to transform her completely, one more to make her lose all emotions but hate and anger, but Leela was already up and running. She sprinted away, wanting to keep her happiness, wanted to keep her old life. People screamed as she ran past, terrified she was going to transform them. She didn't want to hurt anyone, she just wanted her mother and her father and her brother Uri back, she just wanted to be human. She ran towards the forest, desperate. She could start a new life there, try and live normally. She could just say she had a skin condition. The forest grew nearer and nearer as she ran faster and faster, and a dagger appeared in her pocket. Instinct told her that it was her magical item. She pulled it out, tapped it to the side of her head, and thought about herself flying. It might work, she thought. She slowly rose into the warm summer air.
"YES!" She cheered, and breathed a sigh of relief. She was out of danger. She flew towards the forest, towards the sunset, towards a new life.
Zooming through the sky, Leela felt the humid air brushing past her face. She could tell it was going to rain. She looked up toward the clouds, and saw they were growing. Grey, huge, and looming, filled with rain. She flew faster, trying to get to the forest so she could make a shelter, and so she wouldn't get wet when it started to rain. Water extinguishes fire, and sun she didn't know what large amounts of water would do to her new body. She shivered, as raindrops began to fall. Leela knew she could run faster than fly, so she started to lower herself to the ground. Her feet reached the ground gracefully, and as soon as she landed she started to sprint. Somehow, she dodged raindrops, and made it to the safety of the forest, with its large trees covering her head so she wouldn't get wet.
Leela found some sticks that were large enough to make a lean-to out of, and she built a little shelter. She knew she would be out here for a while, so she took her new dagger out of her pocket. She examined it, looking for any details. It was a beautiful blade, and it had a hilt embedded with jewels. She turned it over in her hand, wondering what else it could do. She decided to take it hunting with her so she could get some food. She ran into the dark forest, looking for prey. Suddenly, a bunny ran past her. Yes! She thought to herself, and walked towards where it was eating its little blade of bright green grass.
"C'mon..." Leela muttered to herself, hoping the bunny wouldn't hop away if she got closer. She plucked a small blade of grass, and held it out for the bunny to eat. The bunny hopped closer and closer, hoping for more food, but all it would get was a knife in the back. Leela had thrown her knife, and it hit the bunny square in the spine.
"Yes!" Leela said to herself. Now, if she rationed herself, she would have food for days. She picked up the bunny carcass, and brought it to her little hut. She cleaned it, and got all the meat that she could cook. Grabbing lots of sticks on the way home, Leela could now make a fire. So she did. She grabbed the piece of flint she always kept in her pocket, and started a fire. She put the bunny meat on a stick, and started to cook it. She rotated it, 'round and 'round, until it was cooked to perfection. Leela took the meat off the stick, and bit into it. Naturally, she burnt her tongue. She sighed. The meat was juicy and tender, delicious. She ate the rest of her meal quickly, not bothering to save it. She could cook the rest tomorrow. Making a bed out of leaves, Leela thought about what was going to happen to her. She didn't feel any different, except the fact that she was very warm, all the time. Leela decided she just needed to sleep. Maybe it would be all better in the morning. Maybe it was all a dream. She would wake up in her house in the village, with her mother, and her father, and Uri. But it wasn't a dream. She woke up the next morning the with the same unusual warmth, and her new, crackled skin. She sighed. This was terrible. She didn't even want to think how this would be with only hate and anger. Leela decided she wanted to make sure no one else got the fate that she had. She decided she wanted to help people escape from Ember Creatures.
The flame gripped the darkness, glowing red, orange, yellow. It burned as the old man read by the candlelight. Gnarled, his old hands turned the pages as images of emerald dragons and knights and shining armor flew in his head. Suddenly, the man's dog began to howl. It was a low, mournful sound, like the dog was saddened for a fallen brother. The dog started to stare out the window, at a figure growing near. It was glowing red, like an ember brightly flickering. The dog started to bark quite loudly as the figure neared the door. It was a small girl, probably a child, wearing a cape. The cape billowed behind her, flowing in the night air. The doorknob to the old man's cabin slowly turned, and the door flew open. The man looked up from his book, and saw the girl, her cape billowing behind her. She strolled over to him, and moved her hand her hood. Pulling it off, the man could see her face. It was crackled but beautiful, in a terrifying way. It glowed red and orange, like a dying flame. It was ember, the man realized. He gasped.
"What- What are you?" He stuttered. The creature smirked, and the embers that were her skin crinkled (if you could call it crinkling).
"Well that's no way to treat a lady, now is it? I'm a who, not a what."
"No you're not. You're made of ember! You can't be human." The man said, gathering up his courage. He pointed at the ajar door, which was letting in cool winter air. "And you are no lady! You've broken into my house!"
The girl looked infuriated.
"I'm trying to help you," she whispered. "And my name is Leela. I was a lady. Now come with me unless you want to be one of us. Ember creatures."
The man stood up from the comfort of his puffy, soft chair.
"Why should I trust you?"
"Because I'm your only chance." She pointed her small finger out the window. The man looked through the glass, and saw three more figures. These ones were bigger, men. They were not children. They were full grown, and in black flowing capes like Leela's.
"These creatures are proud of the fact that they are Ember Creatures. They don't want to be human again."
"You do? You want to be human?" Leela sighed, and sat down. "Yes, but that's not important right now. We need to go. Now! Do you have a back door?"
The man nodded. He pointed towards the kitchen.
"Okay, time to go then!" She said, and pulled the man towards the back door, away from the comfort of his home. He didn't know this, but he wouldn't be seeing it again. The pair heard the door being knocked down.
"Leela, traitor... We know you're here..." The three men said in unison. Leela swore under her breath.
"They've found us!" The man whipped his head around, and saw the ember creatures looking around his living room for them.
"Out the door, out the door!" Leela whispered. They ripped open the door, sprinted out of it, and slammed it shut. They ran out on the beach, away from the tide, away from the cabin. They hid behind a rose bush that the man had grown.
"Tell me your name." Leela said, out of breath.
"Why?" The man demanded.
"Just tell me!"
The girl drew a knife out of her cloak. She uttered an incantation, and tapped the man in the head with the flat side of the dagger. James suddenly started to float. He gasped, and looked towards the ground, slowly drifting away, into the starry night sky. Leela herself started to fly too, and she grabbed James's gnarled old hands. Nervous, he stared at her crackled ember face.
"Bring me back to the ground..." He said slowly, quietly.
"What? We'll die! They'll kill us!"
"Bring me back to the ground!" He shouted. Leela refused. Suddenly, flaming arrows whizzed past. Leela looked down and saw that the Ember Creatures had whipped out bows and started firing. She saw an arrow come barreling towards them, and she wrapped her fingers around it. She caught it just as it hit James.
"No..." She muttered, as James screamed. Blood dripped from his limp body He had gone unconscious, or so it seemed. He could be dead, Leela though, and it's all my fault. He opened his eyes, however, and Leela breathed a sigh of relief.
"Drop me. I'm just slowing you down. I'm an old man... You're just a child..." He said sadly, with a hint of gratitude in his voice. "Just drop me."
"No!" Leela said, surprised. The old man closed his eyes, and made the best decision in his long, old, life. He let go of Leela's hand.
Free-falling, James was flailing as Leela was shooting towards him. He felt the cold night air brush past him, and saw the bright stars flickering in and out of view. Leela's tears were hitting him like rain.
"No no no no no no..." Leela muttered to herself. Sadness floated through her body as she realized she was too far away to catch James. He was dropping towards the ground, fast.
"PULL UP!" James yelled to her. He wanted her to live, even if she lived as an ember creature. And then he hit the ground. He died instantly.
"NO!" Leela screamed. The Ember Creatures were walking towards the body, and one of them touched it with a wand he had pulled out of his cloak. She watched as James's old, withered skin became crackled, red. It radiated heat, even as far away as Leela was. She swooped away, tears streaming down her face, evaporating on her burning skin.
"I just want to be human again!" She shouted. Shaking her fist at the sky, she flew away from James, away from the Ember Creatures, away from her troubles. She flew towards the moon, which was glowing white and radiated light. This was the third person she had failed to save. The first was a young boy, about 8, whose mother ended up turning him, the second was a teenage girl, about the age of 14, and she had died in a fire, and now James. She sighed. She was the only Ember Creature who had emotions, and it was very lonely. Anytime she found a human, the other Ember Creatures would catch up and try to kill her. Either the human died, or was left behind. It had been 500 years since she had turned, and she hadn't been friends with a human for more than a week. Leela started to fly back to her little hut. It was the only place she felt safe. No one knew about it, even the Ember Creatures. She wasn't hunted when she was at home.
The cool night air flowed across her face, as she glided through the sky. Her hair whipping behind her, her cloak flying in the wind. She landed gracefully, and in a run. Opening her door, she took out her knife so she could cut off a piece of deer that she killed yesterday. She summoned fire from her finger, and made a stick a torch. Then she saw them. The Ember Creatures. They had found her little hut, and now they were going to kill her. She screamed. They ran towards her, slowly, menacing. One of them took a wand out of their cloak. He tapped her in the temple, and everything went black.
When Leela came to, she was in a potato sack. She was being dragged on the ground. She took a deep breath, in through her nose, out through her mouth. Suddenly, she was lifted out of the bag, with a hand clapped over her mouth.
"Scream, and die." Said the ember creature holding her, and dropped her. He then grabbed her by the arm so she couldn't run.
"Where are we going?" Leela demanded. The Ember Creature laughed.
"Like I would tell you!" He snorted. So they walked. And walked some more.