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Emma L Adams

Aflame: Legacy of Flames Book 3 (Paperback)

Aflame: Legacy of Flames Book 3 (Paperback)

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Book 3 of 3: Legacy of Flames

It's not easy pretending to cooperate with the magical authorities when everyone thinks you're a terrifying dragon shifter who wants to unleash destruction on humanity.

Ember and her sister Cori are finally reunited, but the shifter-hunting Orion League are gearing up to play their final hand and wipe out all supernaturals. Despite being held captive by the Mage Lords, Ember and Cori refuse to give up on their plans to find the other dragon shifters. But if the hunters get there first, it'll be an all-out bloodbath.

Ember and her friends race the clock to find out the truth lost with their memories, but between the League's threat, a too-tempting ex-hunter, and the plight of her people, Ember must pick a side. If she chooses wrong, it may be the end of all supernaturals in this realm.

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Dragons don’t enjoy being kept in cages.

The cell the mages had locked me in was a fairly nice one—not a dungeon, nor a cramped space like the one the Orion League had locked me in when I’d been imprisoned in their Stronghold, but a small room, sparsely furnished. The bars in the door were the only sign of my imprisonment. That, and the fact that they wouldn’t let me out, not even to speak to my little sister. They’d even given me new clothes, seeing as I’d lost most of mine in our old house. They had money to burn. Tons of it. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stay here until London’s supernaturals had stopped trying to hunt me down. A relatively stress-free existence, though a boring one. But the fire inside me would never be quenched, not until the Orion League was utterly destroyed.

I paced the room one side to the other, grinding my teeth. That I hadn’t shifted yet was a miracle, though the entire prison was covered in protective wards which might even be dragonfire-proof. I didn’t want to antagonise the mages any further, and if I threw a tantrum and wrecked the place, I’d have even less chance of getting to speak to Cori. Besides, I sort of saw the reasoning behind their decision to indefinitely lock me away. I’d helped a criminal escape justice and then accidentally sent him to an unknown location where even the mages couldn’t find him. Okay, so he wasn’t really a criminal, though he’d spent most of his life on the wrong side of the law, supernatural or otherwise. The Mage Lords didn’t see it that way, though. Anyone who’d ever worked for the Orion League automatically got the death penalty if caught. Even someone who’d renounced them. The League, as per usual, had skipped town and left the rest of us to clear up the aftermath.

I stopped pacing as the door clicked open, and Lord Smyth came in.

He was one of the leaders of the Mage Lords in this region, and would probably be quite reasonable under normal circumstances. After a bitter struggle against the hunters which had cost several mages their lives, finding a dragon was what he’d least wanted to have to deal with. The Mage Lords had never known we existed.

“Ember,” said Lord Smyth.

“Yes?” I tried for politeness. I didn’t know how to speak to authority figures because I usually went out of my way to avoid trouble. For a dragon shifter, it’s kind of essential. Lord Smyth was a tall black man who, like all the mages, wore a tailored suit every time I saw him. He had two modes: stern and slightly less stern. Looked like it was the latter today.

“I apologise for leaving you alone for such a long time. We’ve had… considerable trouble happening outside.”

“The hunters?” I asked. “Have you found their fortress yet?”

“No, we haven’t. Are you certain that’s what you saw?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “Surely there aren’t many places to hide a moving island.”

“You’d be surprised,” said Lord Smyth. “I’ll want to have words with you about that later, but I came to give you the opportunity to speak to your sister.”

My attention sharpened. “Cori?”

Please, let me speak to her. I was the big sister. I was meant to take care of her. Instead, I’d screwed up. Cori and I were the last of our kind left in the city, possibly the world. We didn’t know for certain, because our memories had been erased before we’d been left on a train bound for London with nothing but a notebook containing the little known about dragon shifters. Since then, we’d formed an unusual but tight-knit group of fellow shifters, people I’d die to protect. Getting us all locked up in here had definitely not been on my plan.

“Yes. She confirmed your story about the Orion Stronghold, and clearly has no memory of most of the events following her capture.”

“I told you why.” My nails bit into my palms. “They drugged her. We’ve been in hiding for weeks because the hunters would have taken her back, and either used her in their plans or killed her.”

“Yet you sought safety with members of the League.”

He meant Giselle and Astor. No matter what I said, he and the other mages refused point-blank to accept they’d had a change of heart. Didn’t stop me trying to explain. “No. None of us worked for the League.”

“The man found to be impersonating an employee was a League member. He’s also the one you claimed to be dead. I’m sure you understand the dilemma this puts me in. You lied to us.”

“Because you’d have killed him,” I said. “He renounced the League and helped us get Cori out of their Stronghold. Then he helped us find safety when nobody else would.”

And I’d repaid him by snapping at him at every turn. Okay, Astor was insufferable and irritating, and he’d admittedly been involved in kidnapping the last dragon to be a prisoner of the Orion League… but they’d manipulated him. Malkin used the Moonbeam to turn shifters into killing machines, sent his hunters in to kill or capture the shifter as a mercy, and recruited new members from amongst the surviving victims, who’d seen ‘evidence’ shifters were bloodthirsty beasts. It was the easiest, most efficient way to build an army who didn’t question their purpose, and it was all based on a lie. Astor had joined at twelve after losing his family to dragon shifters, and had risen through the ranks as an efficient killer. But when the truth had come out and the hunters had scattered in the faeries’ invasion, he’d seized his chance to escape and gone into hiding with Giselle—the other ex-hunter who’d reluctantly helped us, and was partly the reason we were in this mess.

Lord Smyth’s eyes narrowed. “Your sister can’t confirm your story.”

“That’s because she was unconscious. Have you talked to Will or Becks? They were with me the whole time. They can confirm everything I say is the truth. Kit, too, though he didn’t wake up until later.”

“Yes,” said Lord Smyth. “But they might be lying to aid you.”

“They don’t need to,” I argued. “We’re all prisoners here. Even though we helped you fight off the hunters.”

“As I said, I’m considering your sentence,” said Lord Smyth. “We can’t have people who aided and abetted dangerous killers running around, considering the League’s recent attacks. However, I’d like to offer you the chance to speak with your sister.”

“On what condition?” I asked warily.

“That you tell me the truth. What do you know about the Moonbeam?”

“Not enough,” I said honestly. “It can create—portals. But I don’t know where to. That’s what happened to Astor and Giselle.”


I bit my tongue, frustrated to have ended up on this subject again. We’d needed the Moonbeam to wake Cori up from her coma, but Giselle had tried to steal and destroy it because of the way Malkin had used the device against hunters and shifters alike. In doing so, she’d fallen into the portal the Moonbeam created. Then Astor had followed, picking the unknown over an instant execution at the mages’ hands. But aside from creating portals and giving shifters a power boost, I didn’t know what other powers the Moonbeam hid. Neither, apparently, did the Mage Lords. Though the one thing I did know was that it didn’t work for anyone else the way it did for shifters, even if Malkin had used it against us all these years.

“I really don’t know anything, sir,” I said to Lord Smyth. “If I knew how the Moonbeam worked, I wouldn’t have nearly been killed by it.”

He looked at me for a long moment. “I see. In that case, you may come with me.”

The door opened, and he beckoned me out. The corridor walls shimmered oddly, because of wards which would probably give me a nasty shock if I tried shifting or attacked. Mages didn’t always flaunt their power, but it was there.

The mages didn’t particularly like shifters. Old prejudices, or something. They didn’t want to hunt us into extinction like the hunters did, but our punishments were always more severe than they were for other supernaturals, and they wouldn’t put their lives on the line for us. As a dragon, I knew they didn’t have much of a clue what to do with me. I wasn’t supposed to exist. I could also snap handcuffs and locks with my bare hands, so they’d used mage marks and witch wards to seal me into the room. Even then, I felt like I was walking into a trap as I followed Lord Smyth through the corridor. My friends’ cells were spread out elsewhere. We were kept in isolation, not that we could hear one another through the walls anyway.

I just wanted to see Cori. That was all.

A small room beckoned, bisected by glass like a prison visiting room. On the other side of the glass sat my baby sister.

Once we’d have almost looked like reflections of one another. Her bright hair was freshly brushed, but mine was coming out auburn at the roots, not fast enough to overtake the black dye I’d put on as a disguise. I was seven years older, and had taken care of her as long as I could remember. She didn’t look hurt, or as confused as she’d been when she’d awoken. She gave me a faint smile through the glass, but it prevented us from touching one another.

“Hey, Cori.”

“Hey, big sister.” She smiled. Tears pricked my eyes. So many times I’d been afraid I’d never see her smile again. Even after we’d got her out of the jail, she’d been comatose and unresponsive. I’d literally held her life in my hands, knowing if I screwed up again, I’d lose her forever. Now she was awake and alert, and nothing else mattered.

I pointedly ignored the mages standing guard either side of the glass. “You’ve no idea how glad I am to see you. You have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Sounds like you managed to get into trouble.” Her smile faded. “A lot of trouble.”

“Pretty much. Do you know what happened?”

She shrugged. “Yeah, you got me out of jail. Then you needed the Moonbeam to wake me up, and had to steal it back from the hunters. Something about a boat?”

“They’re living on a boat now,” I explained. “We didn’t manage to take out all of them. The leader, Malkin… he disappeared. I set him on fire and snatched the Moonbeam off him, but I’m not sure if he survived.”

“I hope not.” She looked down. “He was awful. Worse than the others. But I’m confused. The mages are saying you let one of the hunters escape then lied about it. Why?”

“An ex-hunter,” I said. “Astor. He helped us get into the jail. And find the hunters again. But he’s wanted by the mages for being part of the League, and he… sort of escaped through the Moonbeam. Accidentally. It created some kind of portal.” I glanced at the mages, who were pretending not to listen. “So now I’m here because they think I was aiding a criminal. And it’s unfair to punish you, too, but they didn’t know the full story.”

“Actually… Ember, they’re thinking of letting me go.” Her teeth worked over her bottom lip. “Because I don’t remember anything. But… but they think I might be an asset because I got to see the League from the inside.”

“An asset? Don’t do it, Cori. They don’t have a clue what the hunters are really doing.” I didn’t think the mages would hand her over to them willingly, but if they dragged my baby sister into danger again, to hell with this. I’d burn them all.

My hands clenched over the metal chair’s edges. Where had that thought come from? I’d been cooped up for too long. I didn’t want to kill the mages, however much they’d inconvenienced us. I’d been an absolute saint during my captivity, all things considered, but it was because cooperating was the best way to keep Cori safe. She’d been through enough crap already.

Cori frowned. “I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”

“Cori, they think we’re criminals. And they don’t know the hunters like you and I do. Malkin… if he lived, he’s still out there. He saw me shift.”

Her eyes widened. “They said you shifted, but… but I thought you couldn’t now.”

“I can. It’s probably why they don’t know what to do with me. Because I might accidentally breathe fire and burn the place down.”

She snorted. “You would never.”

“I would too.” I’d breathed fire several times since her captivity. She hadn’t witnessed any of them, nor the lives I’d taken. If I could find a way to keep her safe forever, even if it involved taking more lives, I would. But they mages would never be our salvation. The hunters wanted them dead, too.

“Ember, Coriander,” said Lord Smyth. “Your time’s up.”

“But it’s only been a few minutes,” I protested.

“We have an urgent appointment to attend to. All mages are to report in. I’ll escort you back to your room.”

“What—” I winced as he pulled me to my feet by my upper arm. “That’s not necessary. Ow.”

He didn’t let go. Mages rushed up and down the corridors, and the tantalising scent of clean air wafted through from an open window. Well, as clean as London air got, anyway. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Trouble.” The lightning mage steered me around the corner.

“Not the hunters?”

His silence made me twist my head to look at him. “What? Did they kill someone else?”

“No. From what I gather, we caught some of them.”

“You caught—” I stumbled as he let go, all but shoving me into my cell again. I fought the urge to shove past him to see what was going on.

“I have to leave,” said Lord Smyth. “I’d ask you not to break anything in my absence. I may be some time.”


The door slammed. “Dammit.” 

I’d hardly got half a conversation with Cori. But it was clear the mages had been speaking to her. Of course, they wanted information from her captivity. I’d been through several interrogation sessions myself, where I’d explained everything I remembered about the escape from the Stronghold. Unfortunately, because that jail was abandoned, the information was all but useless to the mages now. Since they hadn’t been able to find the hunters’ new fortress, they were at a standstill. As to Malkin himself—I doubted the hunters would still be attacking us if he’d died when I’d torched the building he’d been standing on in our confrontation over the Moonbeam. They were nothing without him.

Twenty minutes crawled by, in which I amused myself by bouncing a rolled-up ball of paper at the wall and doing hand-stands, like a kid confined to their room. Another ten minutes. What in the world were the mages doing which involved calling all of them out at once?

A knock on the door. Was someone else here? It’d be just like my friends to formulate an escape which involved luring the mages away, but we hadn’t had the chance to think of a way out before they’d locked us up. Not like when we’d been in the Orion Stronghold, however badly things had gone when we’d been in there. Please tell me someone actually managed to come up with a plan.

“Who’s there?” I asked.

The half-faerie, Kit, peered at me through the bars. “Hey, Ember.”

“Kit. What are you doing here?”

“This place is weird, isn’t it? The walls are purple.”

“That’d be the wards. They let you out?”

He nodded, strands of black hair falling into his eyes. “Yeah. They couldn’t find evidence I’d committed any crimes. Then I explained that I’d been held prisoner in the Stronghold, and they let me go. After making me promise not to come back in.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go,” he said unnecessarily. “So I never actually went outside the building. I glamoured myself and waited until everyone was gone.”

Faeries. Even most half-bloods I’d met didn’t like to lie, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t deliberately interpret the words of a command in such a way that let them do the opposite. After the frustrating day I’d had, I was grateful to talk to at least one of my friends.

“Well, we did break the law. No way around it. Unless they decide Astor’s innocent—which is pretty unlikely. I don’t know where the Moonbeam sent him. Have you seen the others?”

He shook his head. “I slipped in here as soon as they left. You’re the first person I’ve seen. They’re keeping us all separate in case we talk to one another.”

“As soon as they left?” I echoed. “You mean the mages?”


I waited for the rest of his response, but it didn’t come. Faeries could be so literal. “Do you know why?” I asked.

“No. It’s urgent, whatever it is. Nearly every mage in the place went to the river.”

“Weird.” Really weird. We were supposed to be high-security prisoners, though admittedly the wards did as good a job as the mages did at keeping us caged. “I don’t suppose you can undo the wards?”

“No. Faerie magic and mage magic aren’t compatible. The most I can do is cast a glamour.”

“Damn.” I peered at the corridor over his shoulder. Mage marks had been carved into the walls, unreadable glyphs which promised a world of hurt to anyone who tried to break out. “Okay. Listen. Can you do me a favour and check whereabouts they’re keeping my notebook? And the Moonbeam?”

“Oh, I know where the Moonbeam is,” he said. “It’s in their security room—you know, the one we passed on the way here. I don’t understand why they keep their stolen artefacts in the same building as the prison, but I don’t get the mages anyway. Why lock you up when you saved the city?”

“Because of Astor,” I said. “I don’t suppose there’s any hint of where he might have ended up?”

“No. The mages keep arguing about the Moonbeam. It won’t work for them.”

“Good,” I said. “It’s made for the shifters. I mean, it’s safe here, but I wouldn’t put it past Malkin to have a plan to get it back.” Knowing Malkin, it involved murder.

“No.” He frowned. “It’s odd. Malkin never mentioned the Moonbeam when he spoke to me in jail.”

“He didn’t? I guess he knew it wouldn’t affect you, since it’s made for shifters.”

“Maybe.” He tilted his head. “There’s someone coming.”

He disappeared. Or, that’s what it looked like—glamour enabled faeries to hide themselves from anyone who didn’t have the Sight. The mages were pure human, so none of them had the ability to see faeries when they didn’t want to be seen. But neither did I. I hoped he’d be able to get out without triggering any wards. I hated not knowing what was going on outside. I wanted to get out, get Cori and my friends away from here, and then find us a new home.

A familiar cold, metallic smell passed me by. I stiffened. I could never mistake that aroma.

The hunters were here.

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