"One, two, THREE!"
Ember bit her lip and raised a slender finger.
She pointed it at an empty fireplace. Suddenly, smoke billowed out of it, choking
Ember. She staggered away to make way for an adult Fire Faerie. Miss Flame swept
her arms through the smoke and it vanished. She glared at her student and walked
away. Twenty fireplaces surrounded the room, and nineteen had brightly burning
fires. The heat would have dried up any Water Faerie. The twentieth fireplace
had several forlorn-looking sticks of wood that looked burnt and frail - the
failure of Ember's attempt to conjure a fire.
"Ha ha! You mucked up again! Nah-ni-nah-ni-nah-nah!"
The prettiest Fire Faerie in the room pointed her finger at Ember. She was laughing
so much her body was shaking. Effortlessly, she shot flame at Ember. Ember yelled
and stamped out her burning dress. The class hollered and giggled, yelling unkind
- very unkind - things at Ember, who stood hanging her head, her clothes limp
and burnt as her fireplace.
"Enough!" yelled the teacher, Miss Flame. "Ember,
if you cannot conjure a fire by tomorrow, I shall be forced to do something
you really don't want me to do." Her voice was tired, exasperated, and sorrowful.
Then her voice was crisp and brisk again. "Homework, spit fire from your fingers,
have it around for three seconds, then vanish. All of you except for Ember.
Ember, actually make fire. Or else."
Ember hung around after the rest of the class
had left. Miss Flame looked at her pitifully.
"Another shot? One more go? Just another shot?"
asked Miss Flame. She swept Ember up to a fireplace. Ember tried. Tried her
hardest. A tiny speck shot out, before burning into nothing.
"I'm sorry," said Ember sadly. "I can't do it.
I can't make fire." She ran off crying. (Well, flew off crying.) Her little
home was soon in front of her. She reached out a hand for the crystal doorknob.
And then she thought, 'Do I really need to go here? What if I ran away? What
if I left?' She was very tempted to leave, but she knew she could not survive
without fire. She sighed, twisted the doorknob, and entered.
"Something wrong, honey?" Her grandmother's razor
voice echoed from her chamber.
"If I don't make fire tomorrow, I'm doomed,"
answered Ember sadly. "There's no hope. I'm a failure. I should be a Water Faerie,
judging by all the fire I can make. I've always loved water. Maybe it quenched
my fire." Ember forced a weak laugh and went into her room. She tried to light
her own personal fireplace and failed. Her grandmother came in and tried to
coach her, but Ember had no hope of passing the test tomorrow.
Ember awoke and screamed into her pillow. She
tugged on her Fire Faerie Elementary robe and swallowed a Cherry Faerie Bubble.
She tried many many times to make fire again, but it was simply impossible for
her. As she went to school, her grandmother came with her, promising support
and protection. She was last into class, and firing smoke and tiny flecks of
flame from her fingers as much as she could. At last, entered Miss Flame. All
the girls completed their homework, and as they did so Ember struggled to light
her fireplace. Nothing. Nothing. Her turn came. She stood at the fireplace with
the 19 other girls and Miss Flame watching, and prayed. She prayed in the name
of her grandmother, of Queen Fyora, and all she held dear that she could do
this. She breathed deep, and shot. Shot nothing but smoke. A black plume flew
around and she rushed at the fireplace, hidden. She struck a match and dropped
it in. She tried to light the fire again and then stepped back. The thick smoke
cleared and everyone looked at the fireplace. Nothing. Blank as it had been
before. Ember tried again and again to make it work but nothing happened. Suddenly,
she felt herself shrink and glass walls surrounded her. A massive cork stopped
the top of the bottle and she wheeled. A blue Lupe grasped her bottle in his
paw and then ran. Balthazar had another Bottled Faerie.
Ember screamed and pounded on the bottle. Tears
streamed down her eyes. Her grandmother was firing fire at Balthazar but he
had some kind of shield. Ember saw everything vanish as the Lupe ran around
the door. Ember wanted to be free. She tried to fire flame but nothing happened.
She sat down and cried. Suddenly she looked up. Her grandmother was flying after
the Bottled Faerie and her captor. Suddenly, the magical clouds ended and Balthazar
had nowhere to run. The Haunted Woods, black and forbidding, loomed below. The
blue Lupe saw the elderly Fire Faerie tearing up to him. He wheeled to the edge
of the clouds and dived down with skill that would have shamed an Olympian.
Rolling in the air perfectly, he waved the bottle at the horrified grandmother
An Eyrie Carriage with two owners inside flew
past. Balthazar was so surprised he lost grip on the bottle. The Bottled Faerie
Ember dropped into the carriage, landing in the girl's bag. The blue Lupe roared
in fury and his massive paws swiped the air. But Ember was safe, for now.
The Eyrie Carriage met up with a massive space
shuttle and the pair of owners stepped in. The girl nearly forgot the bag but
at the last second ran back and grabbed it. Ember could see nothing, but she
knew the girl was in the space shuttle going to the Space Station.
After ten minutes of gut-grinding shuttle flight,
the boy, girl, and bag got out into the Space Station Terminal. The girl suddenly
sneezed violently and dropped the bag. Ember's bottle rolled out. Her legs flew
and she struggled to maintain stability. Finally, the bottle stopped rolling.
Ember found that if she moved her legs, she could roll the bottle all by herself.
She rolled into a door with a massive black splat on it. The door opened and
she fell in, crash, onto a hard floor. The bottle broke and Ember was free again.
To her surprise, several other Faeries were there
watching something. Ember went to join them. She looked down onto the pitch
and her mind went blank. Six or seven pets stood in a ring, passing a bright
blue ball around. The ball pulsed unhappily sometimes and then, it broke! Around
and around the new ball went, and then broke! Ember knew she had to do that,
it was so exciting! But she didn't know what the game was called. She turned
to the Air Faerie next to her.
"Hey, you're gonna think I'm stupid and all that,
but what's this sport thingy called?" asked Ember nervously. The Air Faerie
"Gormball. Everyone knows what Gormball is. Hey
guys," she turned to her friends, "this weirdo doesn't know what Gormball is!"
"Hush, Breatha," said a Water Faerie nearby.
"Don't be so mean." But Ember heard none of this and she spoke again:
"I've gotta do that. I'm gonna play Gormball!"
she cheered. All the Faeries nearby mocked her, but Ember didn't care. She couldn't
make fire, but this could be her way to fame!
Ember walked out of the stands and entered the
next round. She put her name down on paper and dressed herself specially. A
bell sounded and she took her place in the circle.
Quickly she learnt how to play and what to do.
She wasn't that good at first, but soon she became a pro. Within days, she had
been nominated for the World Tournament. Ember had found her new buzz. She had
never used magic, so what was it to her if she was soaked in gooey water once
or twice a day? The dying embers of her life had at last come alight.