Necia Phoenix

SF & Fantasy Writer

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 23

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“And you were unable to glean anything at all from Sandau?” General Dyrnos asked with a scowl.

“No.” Tier sat in the War Hall in the Imperial Palace. At the table sat his father and others in the Nekarian High Command. All eyes were on him. His head pounded as though the room was full of holiday drummers. It started shortly before arriving at the Palace, and wasn’t letting up. “Lord Nesh escorted Rale and I out within a day of our arrival.”

General Dyrnos sighed and shook his head. “Typical.”

“And your mission for the Seeress? Was it successful?” The Emperor asked. The silence was heavy. Tier could see the concern written on the faces of the men and women he’d trained with and mentored under for years. Even his headache faded momentarily, as if awaiting his reply. His gut twisted.

“Both a success and a failure, sir. I was forced to leave behind those I was sent to find.” He said slowly.

“But you found the Water Master’s daughter though?” Lord Faruq asked, leaning forward.

Tier studied the man for a long time, heart pounding in his ears. “I was not told I was seeking anyone’s daughter.” He pulled out the little black scroll the Seeress had given him on his departure and unrolled it, skimming over the contents before handing it to the Lord. “Those were my orders.”

The Lord frowned, reading it, and handed it to the woman sitting beside him. It was passed around in silence before returned to Tier who dropped it on the table top in front of him.

“That raises questions,” The man began.

“Which are irrelevant.” The Emperor cut him off. He pinned Tier with a sharp look. “I know your time in Sandau was limited. From what you saw, how well do you think they’d fare in a siege?”

Tier frowned. “The longer you wait, the stronger they’ll be. They are expecting us to move. Right now, the city walls are more decorative than functional, from what I saw. But they’re being buffered.”

The Emperor nodded and leaned forward. “Next winter I want Sandau to be ours.”

Tier leaned back in his chair, the headache was close to blinding. The others were nodding though watching him.

“Shortly after you left on your mission, Jaktor fell. And two days ago, Lord Chiron sent word that the fort finally fell. That gives us two clear paths towards Sandau and the northern lands. I want you at the head of that army.” The Emperor leaned forward. “I want you march out as soon as the passes clear in the spring.”

“I live to serve.” Tier murmured, rubbing his temples.

The meeting continued, discussion of the recent victories and future plans, but he participated less. With each passing moment it felt like claws were scratching at his mind. When the meeting ended he stayed sitting, letting the others leave before he stood.

“Chiron wrote a fairly nasty letter regarding your passing through.” The Emperor said gravely, standing.

“Did he?” Tier forced his eyes to focus on his father, his heart drumming loud in his ears.

“He indicated that he felt you switched sides.”

Tier blinked. “What?”

“He said you threatened to rip his arms off. Over the woman he claimed was the water master’s daughter.”

Tier exhaled in a hiss. “I didn’t threaten to take his arms off. I told him if he touched her I wouldn’t restrain myself.”

The Emperor chuckled. “You scared the shit out of him.”

“Good. He threatened her well-being and publicly insulted her, repeatedly.” Tier stood. “Be assured, my loyalty is to Nekar, and has always been so.”

“And the woman?” The Emperor raised a hand. “I have never known you to threaten violence over a woman.”

“She saved my life, father.” Tier said slowly. “If for no other reason I owed her.”

“Perhaps when you take Sandau she will still be there.” the Emperor said softly. “Bring her back…”

Tier shrugging. “She’s an Elemental. There are far more elementals in the world than we’ve been led to believe.”

The Emperor’s eyes went wide and he nodded. “I see. It is most unfortunate. Maen seems to have no interest in taking a wife,”

“Father,”

“Your mother wants grandchildren before she dies.” The Emperor grinned at him.

Tier snorted, rubbing his forehead. “Before I forget, I wanted to warn you Chiron is running Delebeg into the ground.”

“Howso?”

“He’s managed to keep the water limited to the royal grounds, doling it out to the rest of the city in limited amounts.”

“Interesting.”

“I believe there is trouble, possibly civil unrest brewing in Delebeg.” Tier leaned against the back of the chair he’d been sitting in. “I know you are focused on taking Sandau, but perhaps you should wait.”

“Tier,”

“The problem in Delebeg is a storm-cloud brewing. When it lets loose,”

“We cannot give the northerners a chance to build up their defenses.” The Emperor held up his hand. “We will address the Delebeg situation, but right now those passes are our ticket to the plains. We,”

“We who?”

“What?”

“You said we, you and whom else?” Tier studied his father. The man who had towered over him as a child, frightening him, seemed diminished. Age was showing, and realizing it, he was startled. His father, old?

“The Seeress has outlined her plans for the future. She wants,” the Emperor chuckled. “I want Sandau as a province.”

“It would strain our manpower over time. The Sandau are not to be taken lightly.”

“No. Of course not. But they don’t have what we do. We have the Gods on our side. The Seeress,”

“Who rules Nekar, father?”

The Emperor froze, his face stern. “Tier, I rule. I am the Emperor, do you doubt my power?”

“No!” Tier swallowed. “If the Seeress doesn’t rule, then why does she have such influence on what decisions you make?”

“Tier.” His father’s voice was heavy. “To ask such questions is unwise.”

“Why? You’re the Emperor.” Tier refused to back down.

“Without the Seeress our family wouldn’t be in power. Our people would nothing but nomads wandering the deserts. We, as a people, owe her. If she asks me for the moon, I will do everything in my power to give it to her.”

Tier nodded, gripping the back of the chair. “It has been a long trip. I still have to report to the Seeress.” He spoke carefully.

“Welcome home son.” To his surprise the Emperor embraced him. “Tonight is the Festival of Hope. Maen and Hannah are both here, stay. Join us. Your mother would be very pleased to see you. Tomorrow you can go and report to the Seeress, but for tonight, stay. It has been a long time since you were in these halls.”

“I will.” Tier forced a smile. Despite being home, where he knew he belonged, he felt empty. He missed Xin.

 

His old rooms were pristine, large, decorated as befit his station. They were hollow. It had been years since he’d been in the Palace for an extended period of time. He preferred his estates, far simpler, out of the way. It would be a while before he’d be able to get back. He’d come in earlier, to clean up before meeting with his father, and left his travel things beside the large bed. Now he stood, trying to think around the pain. He did a quick check of his weapons, untouched as were his bags. He sank on one of the chairs at the desk staring at the hard leather covering. What was she doing now? Learning no doubt. Launi said she’d assign teachers to ensure she could improve their gifts. Gifts, not a curse. When had he stopped thinking of them as elementals? He couldn’t remember. She was just Xin, who had faced far more in her life, who had risked far more than he had.

“Is she beautiful?” the soft voice broke through his thoughts. He half turned towards the door, unable to keep from smiling. His younger sister leaned against the door jam. Hannah smiled at him, her dark eyes sparkling from some inner joke.

“What?” Her question barely registered past his headache. It had been almost two years since he’d seen her. She was less the gangly child and more a young woman.

“The woman you threatened Chiron over. It’s all over the palace. Is she beautiful?” She stepped into the room, her long skirts rustling loudly with each step.

Tier half turned away lifting one of the bags. For a brief moment he could almost see Xin, her large soft blue eyes twinkling. “She is, exquisite.”

“Why didn’t you bring her back, then?” Hannah asked coming up beside him. She leaned against his shoulder.

Tier sighed. “Wouldn’t have worked, Hannah. She’s not exactly an ally.” he met his sister’s eyes. She frowned.

“Oh.” She sighed. “Still, you should have anyways. I would like to meet a woman who had my brother threatening to tear a man’s arms off!” She grinned up at him.

“That was an exaggeration. Aren’t you supposed to be in Arhein?” He needed to change the subject.

“I wanted to come back here for festival. And father is planning to find me a husband.” She leaned against him. “I was hoping you’d be home soon.”

“I see.”

“Will you then be around for a while?” She stepped back as he stood. Tier smiled down at her.

“I’ll be here for the festivities tonight.”

“Oh good, there’s supposed to be some sort of unveiling.”

“Unveiling?” Tier frowned.

“One of father’s new pet projects. Finding a way to cross the mountains by air instead of on foot.” Hannah shrugged. “They’re supposed to be showing off the new air-carriage at the height of the festival.”

“Father didn’t say anything about that. Is that why Maen is here?”

“Possibly. No fighting with him, please. I’ve seen the two of you in the same room.” She batted her eyes at him.

“I’ll try to keep my mouth shut.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.” He gave her a quick hug. “I have an awful headache though, squirt. I need to nap this off before tonight. I’ll see you at the festival.”

She smiled, going back to the door. “I’ll hunt you down if you don’t show.”

He chuckled and nodded. “I’ll be there.” She turned to leave then whirled back around, her skirts twisting about her legs, hands clasped tightly in front of her.

“Do you miss her?”

Tier gritted his teeth. “Go on squirt. My head is about to burst.”

She sighed and left, closing the door behind her gently. He stared at it for a long time before making his way to the bed. Once in it, he closed his eyes, hoping sleep would take away the pain, but sleep was a long way off. He could see Xin in his mind’s eye, as she had been in the kitchen in Sandau. Those overlarge eyes, soft hair that felt like silk in his hands. He hoped, prayed to whatever god might be listening that when they marched on Sandau she would be gone.

~*~

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Quick update.

Ok, so last year was not the easiest year I’ve ever had. This year is going to be better. I refuse to believe otherwise. So here are a few things I’ve got on the plate.

2015 Writing/pubbing lineup

Elemental Truth;

I am not going to dwell on it. I’m working on it daily. I’ll post chapters as they’re ready. I’m hoping that by the end of this month it will be ready to be pubbed. I’m also going to be releasing it in print, though I’m not sure when it will be ready.

The Bastard Prince, The Sarukai Lord, The Dragon Gates & Crossroads

I love this story. and I hate it. Which makes me sad to say. Once I’m done with the E1 edit/publishing, I’m diving into the Zandercrack and it’s going to be published. This year. Even if it kills me XD.

Those projects could easily swamp me this year. But here are other things I’d like to try to check off the list;

The Fallen. Two maybe three scenes and it’s DONE. >.<
Zombiestuff  –  I have more storires set in this world I want to tell.
Crown of Bones – Fantasy Adventure series, with female protags.
Space Opera
PHFR (prehistoric-fantasy romance)

 

There are other things but right now I have to focus on E1 & Zander. Those have been sitting for way too long. It’s the year to dare to be bad I have to. My sanity depends on it.

I’m also hoping to take one of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops (you can find them over here) because I want to improve in many areas. Anyways, there’s more on my mind, but I’ve been catwaxing all day. Time to finish the typo sweep and post the next chapter of E1.

NPhoenix

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 22

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“Traveling with the Imperial prince must have been interesting.” The Seeress of Sandau, a slim woman Lord Nesh addressed as Lady Launi, sat on a delicate looking chair at a dainty table. Like the furniture, she looked as though a strong wind would blow her away. Her face, ageless, was serene, her long fingers laced together in her lap. Behind her, leaning against the wall beside the door, stood Lord Nesh. He was tall, broad shouldered, and surrounded by an aura of power. As tanned as his people and, Xin quietly admitted to herself, he was very attractive. She swallowed a surge of guilt and tried to focus on Lady Launi’s words and avoid looking directly at either Lady Launi or the Lord Nesh. The murals gave her chills which left her studying the tabletop. Lady Launi’s soft voice broke through her thoughts. “He acted honorably?”

“If you are asking if he raped me, no. Nor did he or Rale ever threaten to. Next question.” Xin stared hard at the pale eyed creature. She wasn’t sure where Lady Launi was looking and it added to her unease.

Lady Launi bowed her head, lips twitching. “Prince Tier’s reputation,”

“I’m well aware of his reputation, my lady.” Xin swallowed. She was going to get herself in trouble.

“Of course. You would be.” Lady Launi smiled.

“What is to become of Geb and I?”

“Earth Master Iro and Water Master Euka have agreed to take you on to train you.” Lord Nesh said. Xin looked up at him in surprise. “Water Master Euka also trained Corrin, when she arrived here.”

Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. “Corrin?” Vague memories beat at her. She shoved them away. Now was not the time to dwell on the past, hazy and indistinct as it was.

“Your mother I believe.” Lady Launi touched her arm. “Lady Xin,”

“I am no lady.” Xin muttered. Lady Launi shook her head.

“You are a water elemental. You’ve already managed great feats with your gifts. You have earned the title, Lady. Now, your mother is not in Sandau at the moment. She has a small house which stands open most of the year,”

“No.” Xin swallowed and shook her head. “That wouldn’t be right, not without her knowing I’m here.”

Lady Launi nodded and opened her mouth as though to say something when a knock at the door made them jump. Lord Nesh reached over and turned the knob. A slim woman with wild curly red hair stepped into the room. She nodded at Lord Nesh and smiled warmly at Xin.

“Aitelle, you are interrupting.” Lady Launi said. Aitelle flinched.

“I know. I apologize.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “The whole city is afire with rumors about General Corrin’s daughter.”

“I’m certain it is. The resemblance is quite striking.” Lord Nesh said. “There will be many curious eyes watching them.”

“I’d rather be back in the desert.” Geb scowled.

“Me too.” Xin murmured.

“I live in an old stable near the river. There are lots of spare rooms. Right behind it is a stream. You’d be able to practice your skills without drawing a crowd. And beyond the stream are the training grounds.” Aitelle looked at Geb. “You’d be able to work on your skills. It’s out of the way, not prone to lots of foot traffic and people usually try to avoid it.” Aitelle glanced at Xin. “As long as you don’t mind sand dragon musk, you are more than welcome.”

“Sand dragon?” Xin stared. Did the woman keep a dragon?

“Aitelle is from the canyons to the West, near where you and your traveling companions were. Her people were slaughtered by the Nekarians.” Nesh said grimly. “She acquired a baby sand dragon before coming to Sandau.”

“I rescued Ryuu from the soldiers and he chose to follow me.” Aitelle corrected him and then spread her hands out. People don’t bother us. It would be a place for you to get comfortable here.”

Xin glanced at Geb whose eyes were wide, watching the red haired woman. He looked at Xin.

“I think it’s a good idea.” His voice was barely audible.

Xin nodded. “I do too.”

“Shall we consider it as decided then?” Lord Nesh asked.

Launi inclined her head.

“With all due respect then, Ladies, I have meetings to attend.” He gave a slight bow and left. Lady Launi sighed.

“I’ll be needed at those meetings also.” She tipped her head to one side. “Aitelle,”

“I’ll give them a tour of the place.” The woman grinned.

 

“The city has stood for close to two thousand years, they say.” Aitelle said as they made their way along a side road towards the outskirts of town. “And they say even before it was a city there has always been a settlement here.”

“Why?” Geb asked. Aitelle pointed at the river.

“The river. It connects Sandau to the coasts. Here we are.” Aitelle pointed towards the two storied building. A rough path lead to the wide wooden door. In front, fenced off, was a large stable-yard with a shed leaning against the building.

“The plateau behind the stable is the training grounds. You can’t see the stream from here, but trust me, it’s there.” Aitelle motioned them to follow her as she simply floated a hand span off the ground to the porch. She waited beside the door.

Geb pointed. “Xin look, in the shadow, do you see that?”

That was a large something, coiled tightly in a mound, the tip of its tail twitching. Xin’s mouth went dry and the thing uncoiled its head. The sand dragon, far smaller than the ones they’d encountered in the canyon, shook its head, the frills making a rusting sound. Its eyes narrowed as it spotted them but it simply laid its head back atop its coils.

“He won’t hurt you or attack. Unless you step past the fence.” Aitelle advised.

“I’ll keep that in mind. What happens once we’re trained?” Xin asked.

“Training never stops. We always strive to improve and get stronger. Once you’re advanced enough, then you’ll be free to go wherever you want. Well, you could leave right now, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Aitelle shrugged.

“Why?”

“Nekar and her mindset is like a plague. And being Corrin’s daughter, it might not be a good idea for you to travel abroad.”

“I see.” Xin stared up the road they’d walked down. The curious onlookers had halted at the top of the hill. She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at them.

“At least no one here will try to stone you if you use your gifts.” Aitelle said.

“Or chase us out of town.” Geb leaned against the fence and looked up at Aitelle. Again, Xin got the sense of far greater age than the boy had years. “When will the Masters be here?”

“Probably in the morning.” Aitelle opened the door. “Come inside and I’ll show you around. Consider this place home for as long as you need.”

Xin swallowed and nodded. “Thank you.”

 

Lady Launi stared at the mural, at her nemesis. She felt within the room, and herself, the coils of uncertainty and doubt stirring. Long ago, Kera, the Seeress of Nekar, had been a near unstoppable force. Launi was still in training in the far north when the war broke out. How could she hope to stand up against the mad creature now? Kera might be south of the mountains that blocked Nekar from the rest of the world, but Launi wondered how long she was going to stay down south.

“She has stayed in Nekar for a thousand years, my lady. We always knew she would creep back north.” Lord Nesh said. Launi glanced at him. Waiting patiently behind him, stood the elemental masters and several commanders in charge of Nesh’s forces. She looked back at the mural as Nesh continued. “At least the Lady Nekita isn’t part of this any more.”

“Very true. I couldn’t have stood against them both.” She stared hard at the mural. The youthful faces. “Yet ’tis not her I worry about.” Nesh made a sound.

“He’s a Nekarian butcher, my lady.” Nesh’s voice was bitter. “He wouldn’t think twice anout grinding this city underfoot.”

“The man encountered was a far different man than the rumors would have us believe him to be.” She looked up at Nesh. “And he is the first male Spirit Elemental I’ve encountered in my lifetime, perhaps the first since the Founding. Untrained he blocked me. What might he do, were he trained properly? And we have sent him back to her, to be slaughtered. What secrets are hiding beneath the veil Kera has cast over that land? Is he the only one? Or are there others, hiding their abilities to stay alive.”

“I’ve reports of periodic religious purges. Perhaps that is what is behind them.” Earth Master Iro suggested.

“You sure she’ll kill him?” Someone else asked. “If he is powerful, as you suspect, what are the chances she will train him as her pupil instead?”

“Slight. She couldn’t even accept Nekita’s presence, her own twin.” Launi turned, looking over the assembled. “I doubt she would accept the help of a male elemental.”

“But the possibility is there?” Lady Iro said. The slim Earth Shaper sipped from the tea cup and tipped her head to one side. “That would make things interesting.”

“Interesting is an understatement, Lady Iro.” Lord Nesh said dryly.

“I should have found a way to convince him to stay.” Launi murmured.

“Too little information too late, my lady.” Lord Nesh said. “He will not abandon his people. If he is as honorable as Corrin’s daughter claims…”

“It’s sad how deluded Nekar is.” Lady Iro said wistfully.

“Sad, yes. And dangerous.” Lord Nesh said. “A deluded man with a sword can still kill.”

“Through the minds of those two men she’ll learn I’m here. And when she realizes it, I fear she will make her move north. The war will accelerate.”

“The second Seeress War?” Someone asked. Launi shook her head.

“The first one never ended. Only paused briefly.” Launi eyed each of them. “Prepare the elementals. Someone needs to get word to Corrin and let her know she is needed back here.”

“Last I heard, she was going to be meeting up with her lover on The Prancing Dragon.” One of Lord Nesh’s advisors said.”It runs cargo up and down the eastern coast.”

“We’ll send message to Tyrsleth.” The Water Master said. “She’ll be happy to hear about Xin. She was heartbroken about leaving her behind.”

“Say nothing of Xin.” Launi said quickly. “The young woman has reservations, and concerns.  I will honor those.”

“Yes my lady.”

Launi turned to the Earth Shaper. “Lady Iro, find the old passages under the city. Make sure they’re sound. Prepare them.”

“Prepare them for what?” Iro whispered. Her dark eyes wide.

“War.”

The silence stretched and Launi turned back to the mural, resuming her study Kera’s smooth, child-like face. She felt the others hesitate and leave, all but one. She smiled. He would stay. He always did. She glanced at Nesh, eyebrow arched.

“How soon do you think Nekar will march?”

She studied him for a long time. “Soon, Nesh.” She turned back to the mural, staring hard at the Seeress Kera. “Too soon.”

~*~

I’m on a mission to finish the edit and get this thing up for sale before the end of the first week of 2015. It’s months late and for that I apologize. 

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 21

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

The house was a small building near the river. The pull of the water tugged at Xin as she stepped into the sparsely decorated main room. An archway led to a small kitchen and stairs set against one wall led up to what she assumed a loft or bedroom. It reminded her of the house she grew up in.

“Is there a reason we’re being detained?” Rale’s voice broke through the sudden nostalgia. Xin glanced at him. His jaw was clenched, eyes locked on the Lord of Sandau. Lord Nesh’s eyebrow arched.

“You are Nekarian. Need there be any other reason?”

Xin swallowed as Lord Nesh’s gaze landed on her. His eyes narrowed.

“An elemental traveling with a Nekarian butcher,” he clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Makes one wonder.”

“It was my choice to travel with them, my lord. Their manners have been impeccable.” Xin said. She bit off an insulting remark. It wouldn’t have helped anything.

“Indeed.”

“He saved my life.” Geb said. Lord Nesh looked at the boy, his lip twitching. For a moment Xin thought the Lord would smile.

“For what purpose, I wonder. Nekarians are not known for kindness to Elementals.”

“It’s none of your business, Lord Nesh.” Rale said. He stepped between Xin and Nesh. The guards shifted, hands going to their swords, though they didn’t draw. Nesh held a hand to one side and the guards slowly relaxed. “Our reasons for traveling together are our own.”

Nesh’s eyes narrowed. “As are my reasons for detaining you. Stay in the house, leaving might be detrimental to your health.” He turned and left. The guards exchanged dubious glances and followed him. Xin looked at the closed door, her heart hammering in her chest.

“Now what?” Geb asked.

“We wait for Tier.” Rale glanced at them and went to the stairs. “That’s all we can do.”

Tier was quiet when he returned. Outside the guards that had accompanied him were speaking quietly with the guards at the door. Xin swallowed as he glanced at her, then locked eyes with Rale. He jerked his head towards the kitchen and the two men stepped into the other room leaving Geb and Xin staring at each other. She could hear the men talking, their voices were low but urgent.

“Xin?” Geb touched her arm. “What’s happening?”

Xin shook her head. “Let’s go find out.”

Neither man looked her way when she entered. Rale pointed to an empty chair at the coarse table near a window. Xin sat, unable to look away from Tier.

“We’re being escorted back to Nekar.” Tier said. He met her eyes. “Without you or Geb.”

Xin looked back and forth between them, her mind frozen. She’d never planned to go to Nekar, but being left this way. She forced herself to breathe. They’d be returning without Elementals. “Your mission. If you go back without us,”

“The decision is out of my hands.” Tier hesitated and looked away. “The Seeress will understand.”

Xin doubted that. “What will happen to us?” she whispered.

“The Seeress here is arranging for you both to be trained in your elements. She believes returning to Nekar would put your life in danger.” His jaw clenched. “I believe she’s right.”

Xin stared at the whirls in the tabletop.

“There are other Elementals here?” Geb’s voice was loud in the quiet room.

“From what she said, there are masters in every element.” Tier said.

“The Seeress isn’t going to like it.” Rale’s voice shook.

“She doesn’t have to like it. Our hands are tied.”

Rale nodded. “We leave in the morning then?”

Tier nodded. “Get some rest Rale. We’ll be riding hard to get back to Nekar.” He left them sitting, stunned.

Xin stared at Rale. “What is he not saying, Rale?”

Rale shrugged. “I have no idea. I haven’t seen him like this.” he looked at her and swallowed. “This is better. You will be safer than in Nekar.”

“I know.” Xin stood glancing around the small kitchen. Fear was raging in her head. Not for her, but for Tier and Rale.

“Xin,” Rale began.

“He’s right, Rale.” She looked at him. “You’d better get some rest.”

His things were piled on a narrow cot in one of the rooms upstairs. Tier knelt beside it, trying to clear his mind. Heavy footfalls announced Rale’s arrival. His cousin was swearing with each step. Tier gritted his teeth. He couldn’t let Rale know what he knew.

“Any particular reason we’re being tossed out of the country?”

“We’re Nekarians.” Tier shrugged and upended his travel packs. He needed to repack and there were some things he couldn’t risk taking with him.

“And?”

“Sandau is on the verge of war with Nekar.” Tier shrugged. “We’re lucky they’re not going to hold us captive. Or for ransom.”

Rale hissed. “Don’t say that. Don’t want to give them any ideas!”

Tier snorted and stared over the pile on the cot. His papers, travel notes, the cloth wrapped book, and the box from Dhaul. All of it important. His gut twisted. If he took it with him…

“Tier, I don’t trust these Sandau people. Or their Seeress. Did you see the way Nesh was looking at Xin?” Rale asked in a rush.

Tier studied him. “Xin can hold her own against an arrogant backwater Lord. As of this afternoon,” he swallowed looking back at the stuff. “I’m no longer responsible for her well being.”

“And what about Geb?” Rale asked after a moment.

“Launi is arranging for them both to be trained by masters in their element. They’ll be safer here than anywhere I would take them.”

“Launi?” Rale stared at him. “On a first name basis with their seeress?”

“If anything she’s far more approachable than the Seeress of Nekar.”

I don’t like it.” Rale murmured.

“Go check the stores in the kitchen. See if there’s any food we can take with us. We’ll ride hard to get home.”

The silence stretched. “You’re trying to get rid of me.” Rale accused.

Tier said nothing.

“You’re keeping secrets, Tier.”

He just looked at Rale until his cousin turned and stomped down the stairs swearing under his breath.

Tier leaned against the cot. My secrets will be the death of me.

He lifted the book, staring at his family’s crest before opening it and flipping back to the last entry. The symbol sitting beside his grandmother’s name. The symbol of the Seeress; the eye with coiling ends crossed through what looked like scratch marks. His stomach roiled and he flipped back through the book with trembling hands. The symbol was there, every four or five generations. He fought bile rising in his throat. She was his grandmother. He closed the book, staring at it.

“Great gods.” He whispered. The stronger a blood bond, the more control a Spirit Elemental has over those close to her. He rubbed his forehead.

Seeress Kera controlled the throne.

He stuffed the book, the box and almost all of his traveling papers into the smaller pack and stared at it. If it fell into her hands, it could get him and others killed. He pushed the bag beneath the cot, pushing it as far as he could and straightened. To protect Rale, to keep Xin safe and maybe even slide out of her scrutiny he had to keep quiet. Perhaps Launi or her minions would find it. If they did they could… Could what? Destroy her?

He swallowed. He was thinking like a traitor. She’d led their people to the great success. Without her, Nekar wouldn’t exist and their people would be nothing but nomadic barbarians. He laid back on the cot, staring up at the rafters.

 

Tier was kneeling by the wall where the packs were. Xin hesitated at the top of the stairs. She wanted a moment with him, before he left. Just a few months of traveling with this man had changed her, and now he was leaving her behind. No, she was staying where things would be safer for her. She tightened her robe and forced herself to go down the stairs. He turned and stood eyebrows arching.

“Kind of late, what are you doing up?” There was an edge to his voice. Xin forced a grin.

“I could ask you the same thing.” She stepped over motioning the bags. “Leaving in the middle of the night?”

“The guards are soft.” he said with a shrug. He turned towards the kitchen, an empty bag in hand. “I think it might do them some good to have a change in plans.”

Xin chuckled and followed him. He lit the lamp from an ember in the stove and set it on the small table. The glow gave the kitchen a warm, homey feeling, or was it him standing there? Xin swallowed, forcing back regrets.

“You’re mean.” She leaned against the door jamb watching him pack things into the bag. He glanced her way, the crooked smile directed at her made her stomach knot.

“I know. But those guards, if they know how to ride a horse I’ll be surprised.”

Xin chuckled, but her smile faded quickly. She swallowed several times as he continued raiding the pantry.

“Will you ever return?” She had to know, He looked at her, and gave a barely perceptible shrug.

“When I return it will be as a conqueror.” His voice was low. “Whatever you can learn from these people, do so, then get far from Sandau.”

“How soon?”

“Couple years maybe?” He looked a touch sad. “If Chiron’s forces are successful, they’ll given Nekar an opening to Sandau.”

“Oh. You think Chiron’s forces will win?”

“Eventually.” Tier shook his head, looking down in the bag in such a way that his hair, longish and tousled obscured his expression. Xin frowned.

“She is not known for understanding or kindness.” she whispered. He nodded.

“True. At this point though it is out of my hands. Launi won’t allow me to take you or Geb with me. The Seeress will fume, but I’ve done what she’s asked.” He tied off the bag and set it down beside him. Xin nodded, staring at the bag, at his feet, the floor, anywhere but his face. She feared she would cry if she did.

“It’s not fair.” She said forcing herself to meet his eyes, heart pounding. He nodded. Xin felt the prickles in her eyes, the tightness in her throat.

“Life never is.” he said.

She shook her head. “That doesn’t help.”

He held out his hand and Xin took it, letting him draw her closer. His hands, rough and strong yet gentle as he folded his arms around her pressing his lips against the top of her head. “It never would have worked, we both know that.”

“I know.” She pressed her forehead against his chest feeling his strength, fear for him and what might happen raging. She wanted to beg him to stay with her. He lifted her chin, with a finger, forcing her to look up at him.

“You are far safer here, Xin, more than you realize.” His thumb brushed her lower lip and she could feel his hand pressing against her back, warm through her robe and nightgown.

“I know.” she pressed her palms against his chest.

He kissed her and every thought vanished in a sudden heat. She closed her eyes, savoring the taste of him the feel of his arm around her When the kiss broke they stood for several heartbeats in silence, forehead to forehead. Words were useless and thinking hurt. Xin stepped back, reluctant to leave his embrace but terrified of what might happen if she stayed.

“I should go back to bed.” she whispered.

“Might be a good idea.” his voice was hoarse, his breathing harsh and his eyes so intense she feared she would burn up in his gaze. “Before we get into trouble.”

“Be careful Tier.”

She half ran back up the stairs to her room, her body on fire and bittersweet tears filling her eyes. She heard the footfalls outside on the landing and heard Tier and Rale talking in low voices in Nekarian. She heard the front door open, the murmur of the guards protesting the middle of the night leaving and the closing door echoed in her ears.

~*~

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 20

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

 

The walls of Sandau were under construction. Xin stared in silent awe at the complex scaffolding. The wide road leading to the main gates was filled with wagons and other traffic on foot. On the other side of the road, she saw the wide river. On either bank and in the center of the river were stone towers and, she guessed, watchers keeping an eye on the river traffic. River barges were moving up and down the river taking their wares north to Tyrsleth or south towards the southern cities of Jaktor and Begara. Xin shook her head. It was far bigger a city than she’d thought.

“Looks like they’re bringing in the harvest.” Rale said in an odd tone. Xin studied him. The lord appeared a bit pale, almost ill.

“With all the people, we should be able to get in and out easily.” Tier said. He sounded doubtful.

“Where exactly are we going?” Xin asked. “We’re here, at Sandau. Now what?” She looked back and forth between them and swallowed. “You didn’t plan for this, did you?”

Tier looked thoughtful. “We find a inn, and see if we can locate either an air elemental or a fire elemental.” He met her eyes. “We’ll go from there.”

“We have to keep our heads down.” Geb said.

Tier shot Rale a dark look. “Yes. We must. Which means you keep quiet.” There was a hint of power to his voice that sent shivers up Xin’s spine. Rale swallowed and nodded.

 

They dismounted and joined the crowd moving into the city. Xin cringed as the guards watched her go by, but they made no move to stop them. Tier made a couple inquiries about lodging and they were directed to a small inn, near the river. Xin’s stomach churned. Several people halted, staring as they passed.

“Tier,” Xin touched his arm. He nodded but didn’t look at her.

“I see. Stay close to Geb.”

The inn was a small building in need of repair. A sign directed them around the back of the building to the stable yard and barn. And standing in the stableyard were several grim looking guards. Patrons of the inn were watching from the windows and doorways.

A tall, darkly tanned man in rich red clothing stepped from behind the guards, studying them with a grim expression. Xin swallowed when she met his eyes. One of his eyebrows raised, though his gaze passed her.

“Prince Tier, if you and your, companions will accompany us.” his stared at Xin before looking back at Tier.

“Have we done something wrong?” Tier asked. There was an edge to his voice. The crowd watching started whispering. Xin touched his arm. Whatever power he might be hiding, didn’t need to be displayed. Not now. The man’s eyes narrowed and the guards closed in around them.

“Your reputation precedes you, your highness. The fall of Jaktor is unforgivable. This way.” He turned moving rapidly up the wide street.

Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. Tier’s expression was blank as he followed the man. She nibbled her lower lip and glanced down at Geb. “Come on.”

“Are we in trouble?” Geb whispered, his hands shook.

Xin shook her head. “We aren’t.” She looked at Rale and Tier. “They might be.”

“Come on my lady, Lord Nesh doesn’t like waiting.” One of the guards said behind her. She turned to look at him. He was younger than she, barely into manhood. He flinched. “Please, my lady.” He motioned the way the others were going and she nodded.

 

They were led to a large square building with pillars lining the outside supporting a balcony. Above the entry were two seals side by side. One looked like a torch, the other was an odd collection of symbols Tier felt he should have known, but he couldn’t place. The man in red went up the wide marble steps and into the building without a glance behind him. Tier followed at a loss. Servants collected their horses, leading them around the building, and out of sight.

Tier’s gut churned. The proprietor of the inn, in that little village, must have sent word ahead of them. How else could the guards have gotten there so quickly?

They were led into large, sparsely decorated room with a circular table. The man in red turned, facing them. A glance dismissed the guards. Tier studied him. There was power, contained and kept under rigid control. This man was no minor lord, no flunky doing someone else’s bidding.

“I find it concerning that the youngest son of Emperor Talon is in my city.” The man said in a low voice.

“A personal trip, not official, Lord Nesh.” Tier gritted his teeth. The man kept looking at Xin and it was getting aggravating. And Nesh wasn’t the only one. He’d seen the people stopping, staring at her as they’d traveled through the city. She stepped closer to him, her hands tight fists at her sides. Geb was gripping her arm, his knuckles white.

“There is no such thing as unofficial in Nekar.” Lord Nesh said. “Why are you in Sandau?”

“None of your business.” Tier said.

They glared at each other. Lord Nesh’s jaw clenched and he took a deep breath, then let it out, eyes flickering past Tier. Tier felt a whisper of sound, saw out of the corner of his eye a flickering gray shape. As he turned to get a better look, a tall narrow panel swung open, revealing a hidden door and passage, and from it stepped a slender, short robed figure. Pale hands pushed the hood of the robe back, revealing a youthful pale face framed by soft, white-gold hair. Her colorless, pupilless eyes gave sent Tier’s heart racing.

A seeress? Tier swallowed,. The Seeress of Sandau, old, half remembered stories gave him her title, though he could remember nothing else. He barely heard Rale’s whispered curse over the pounding of his heart in his ears.

“Lord Nesh, escort the Elementals, and Lord Rale, to the waiting house near the river. I will speak with his Imperial Highness.” She moved through the room with an ethereal grace. Far smoother than the Seeress had.

Lord Nesh looked for a moment as if he were going to protest, but the seeress rested her hand on his arm. They stared at each other for a long, silent moment and Tier heard a whisper, almost like standing at the end of a hall and overhearing a distant conversation. There was no pressure, no tell-tale signs of the seeress using any sort of power. Lord Nesh inclined his head and motioned for the others to follow. They all looked at Tier first. Xin looked frightened, Rale ill and Geb confused. Tier nodded. They didn’t have much of a choice.

 

Tier locked eyes on this Seeress, his heart was pounding in his ears. He waited for it, the pressure in his head, the feeling of something moving in his mind. She smiled and motioned the hallway.

“It has been years since a Nekarian dared grace these lands. There are things we need to discuss.”

In silence she led him to a circular room adorned with murals of winged creatures, soldiers and several pale figures. In the center of the room sat a small table with two elegant chairs. Dainty tableware adorned it, the cups small and steaming with rich red liquid.

Tier stepped towards the murals, the feeling of an ice cold finger trailing up his spine sent chills through his body. The first mural was of two women, pale and beautiful. Youthful, timeless, the one in the foreground was her, the creature responsible for him being there. Tier frowned, looking at the second woman. They were identical. Except for the eyes. The second woman’s eyes were a pale blue.

“Who is this woman?” Tier asked before he could stop himself. He suspected he knew. The old stories of the founding of Nekar rushed to mind.

“Nekita. Once she served as Voice of the Spirit Elementals. Before she betrayed her own people.” The Seeress of Sandau sat at the table, watching him. “They were twins, though they served different orders. They tried to tear our world apart.” She motioned him over to the table. “At first Nekita resisted, but their blood ties made it difficult.”

“Why?” Tier asked.

“The stronger a blood bond, the more control a Spirit Elemental has over those close to her. Unable to resist for long, Nekita joined her sister. After their descent, the Spirit Elementals were forbidden to have children.”

“Ancient history.” Tier tore his eyes from the eye symbol to meet the Seeress of Sandau’s gaze. She tilted her head to one side.

“My name is Launi, I have been the Spirit Elemental representative for Sandau for a very long time. My order is from the Northwest, a place of ice unknown to Nekar.”

Tier studied her, taller than Xin, shorter than he, unlike the Nekarian Seeress there was something almost friendly about her. She felt approachable, though he could feel her presence heavily in the room.

“Why have you detained our company?” He asked, hooking thumbs in his sword belt. She motioned the empty chair.

“Sit, your highness. You have been on the road for a long time, haven’t you?”

“I am not one for tea parties, my lady.”

Her hand lowered slowly, resting on the table.

“You are far from home, your highness, and wary. Sit.” He felt the crack of power in the last word. His legs moved him, unwilling, to the table though his mind was screaming at him to stop. He gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to drop in the chair. He glared at the woman he could have easily broken in two. He felt a pressure against his mind and gritted his teeth, jerking his head to one side, as though trying to shake off a fly.

“Stay out of my mind.” It came out as a growl and he realized he’d drawn his sword. The pressure faded as rapidly as it had grown and they both stared at the point, which hovered near her throat.

Her eyes narrowed. “Not in over a thousand years,” she whispered, leaning forward. “Put the sword away your highness, and please join me. I fear you are in much danger from Kera. Far more than I realized.”

“Stay out of my head, and we’ll talk.” He sheathed his sword, eyes locked on her. Out of the corner of his eye a gray ghost flickered moving closer. He glanced its way.

“You see ghosts.” Her voice soft. A smile flickered across her lips. “You can feel when you are in the presence of an elemental, can’t you?”

He said nothing, his heart resuming its pounding.

“When an elemental uses their powers you feel the pulse of power, don’t you?”

“Just saying yes to one of those things is a death sentence in Nekar, milady.” he forced the words out.

“But we are not in Nekar, your highness and you’ve been traveling with two elementals.” She lifted her dainty looking cup. “Sit down, your highness, you are looking decidedly gray. If you were to fall over, you’d smash my table.”

“Rules are the rules.” Tier murmured. His head spun. How had she known?

“Why did you come to Sandau, your highness? I could simply take the information from your head. But that would be a battle neither of us is prepared to wage.”

Tier took a steadying breath. “I was ordered to locate one of each elementals and bring them before the Seeress.”

“Why?”

Tier frowned, trying to remember exactly what the Seeress had said. “To repair the world…”

“Repair the world?” Launi looked at him incredulously.

Tier said nothing. Now, away from the Seeress, seeing everything he’d seen, it sounded ludicrous.

“Why send you? She has an entire nation to order about. Why the imperial prince?”

“We don’t question her.” Tier said grimly. “That could be very unhealthy.”

Launi nodded. “Yes. Yes I suppose it would be. So you collected these two, the water elemental and the earth shaper?”

“They agreed to come with us.” He frowned. “For a time at least.”

“I see.” She sipped at her drink, frowning. Tier felt the hair on the back of his neck tingle. She was doing something, but the power was so subtle he wasn’t sure what. “There is a term for what you are, your highness. Spirit elemental.”

“No.”

Launi continued, setting her cup down. “That is why Kera sent you. You can feel other elementals. And she knew it.”

Had it come from any other source, Tier would have laughed. But her expression, the tone of her words… She believed it. Looking back…. He almost believed it.

“I am no elemental, my lady.” he said stiffly.

“When you return, she will take your mind apart. She will want to see where you have been, who you have been associating with. And when she is done with you she will kill you.” Launi rested a finger on the table.

“I am not so easily killed, my lady.”

“No, I’m sure you’re not.” Launi leaned back. “But Kera doesn’t like competition. She has tools, abilities at her disposal that you can’t possibly imagine. Any elementals, aside from herself and her select group of acolytes are killed.”

“What do you think, would have made her think…” he stopped. Memories of seeing bodies in a river. His parents told him it took the Seeress herself to calm him as a child. He stared at Launi.

“She chose you to undertake this quest for two reasons, you could feel the elementals and by doing so it would prove once and for all that you are, without a doubt, an elemental yourself. A potential rival.”

Tier took a deep breath. “Surely you aren’t pointing this out, out of the goodness of your heart.”

“You need to learn to master your abilities. If you return south,”

“I have business back home, my lady. My duty is to the Empire.” He gritted his teeth. “And the Seeress. I will not go back on my word.”

“Knowing she will try to kill you and you still return?” Launi asked softly.

“Seeress Kera does not rule Nekar, my lady. My father, the Emperor, does.” He rested a hand on the table. “I ask you again, why have you detained my group? We have no quarrel with you.”

Launi stared at him slowly shaking her head. “Our two nations stand on the brink of war, your highness. Your reputation is known even here. We cannot have you roaming around.”

“This is a private matter.”

“But you are still a powerful man, in control of a equally powerful army that could be used against us. Nesh believes you are a spy.”

“I couldn’t care less for what that man thinks.”

“I do, your highness.” She trailed her finger along the tabletop. “And among your group you have a woman who is a water user from Dhaul. I recognized her. She is the daughter of Water Master Corrin.”

“Water Master? General Corrin?” Tier’s heart sank. His conversation with Chiron flashed to mind. What exactly had he said to Chiron? He couldn’t remember but now, the look on Chiron’s face… He knew. Somehow he was certain his slime of a cousin knew who Xin was. How the hell had he missed that?

“Yes, General Corrin. We cannot allow you to leave Sandau in the company of the General’s daughter. Her life would not be worth much in Nekar. Nor the Earth shaper. They are a rare group, like the water elementals. Kera has almost succeeded in wiping them all out.”

Tier nodded, unable to think of anything to say.

“On the morrow, Nesh’s men will escort you and your cousin out of the city and back to Nekar.”

It would be best, he told himself, Xin would be protected here, so would Geb. Launi just took the choice out of his hands.

 

 

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, Dec 16th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 19

 
Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

 

It was less a tunnel than a very narrow gorge that wound its way through a very tall plateau. Far above, light tricked between the cracks, lighting up their path. The horses didn’t like it. Tier and Rale resorted to carefully securing spare tunics over their heads and leading them. Geb smoothed the passage, and in places widened the way. They spoke little, and when they did their voices echoed.

They reached a wide cavern shortly before night fell, and found themselves standing at the base of a huge carved structure. Statues, similar to the ones in the canyon, lined the walls of the cavern. A tall opening was guarded by two carvings of sand dragons, somewhere in the distance the wind whistled through the gorge, echoing through the cavern and sending chills up Xin’s spine. She couldn’t take her eyes off the gaping doorway and jumped when a hand touched her shoulder.

Tier’s eyebrow arched and he motioned behind him. “Lets try to make camp, don’t worry about that doorway.”

She nodded and watched him make his way back over to the horses.

Dinner was a muted, quiet affair and they turned in shortly after. When she woke the next morning, the doorway to the structure was sealed by rock.

“Geb, did you do that?” Tier asked in a low voice.

“No.” Geb looked at him, eyes wide. “I didn’t feel anything.”

Tier nodded.

“Lets get going, this place is creepy.” Rale said, his voice hoarse.

 

They made their way through a narrower tunnel that stopped abruptly. Geb placed his hand on it, head bowed.

“These tunnels feel like they were closed off a long time ago.” He looked up and pointing towards the sliver of sky overhead. “Someone closed it. I think some further ahead collapsed over time.” He looked up at Tier. “I think whoever came through here was in a hurry.”

“I wonder what they were running from.” Xin murmured.

“Sand dragons?” Rale suggested.

“Nekarians?” Tier shrugged.

“No.” Geb looked back and forth. “I think these tunnels are older than Nekar.”

Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. “How can you tell?”

Geb opened his mouth and then closed it and shrugged. “I can’t explain.”

“Any clue as to how long this goes?” Tier asked.

Geb shrugged. “Half a day, maybe? I can’t tell. The tunnels ahead feel very strange.”

“Can you open them up?” Tier placed a hand on the stone, frowning. Xin wanted to ask him what, if anything, he felt, but she bit her lip. Rale was watching them both closely.

“I can. But it might take some time.” Geb sat and put both hands on the floor beside him. “They were masters who passed through here.”

The rock slowly melted apart, like wax near a flame. Darkness beckoned. Rale lit the torches without a word and handed one to Xin.

 

They went slowly through the tunnel, Geb paused periodically to reopen closed off passages or clear debris. Tier watched the youth closely. Though he looked frail and on the verge of starvation, his abilities were astounding, but he was still a boy. Barely a child who had gone through a difficult time. Tier feared the boy would push himself too far.

“There’s nothing beyond this wall.” Geb said, pressing a hand against the rock. “We’re almost out.”

“Let’s hope there are no sand dragons on the other side.” Rale said.

Tier touched the boy’s shoulder. “It’s probably daylight. It’ll be blinding.”

Geb nodded and bowed his head. The rock melted aside slowly, a pin point of light appeared, pouring into the tunnel. Tier squinted, his eyes tearing in the light. He stepped out of the tunnel once the opening was large enough, leading the horses. Sand met tough grass, stretching before him as far as the eye could see was green. Prairie.

“Shit.” Rale’s voice was low. “It’s Sandau, isn’t it?”

Tier hesitated and nodded. “Yep.”

Rale swore again.

“So which way?” Xin asked.

Tier glanced at her, gut twisting, and looked back over the grasses gently waving in a breeze he couldn’t feel. East was Sandau, west, the desert and the sand dragons. He motioned towards the distant line of green.

“We’ll make for the trees and see if we can’t find see a village or something.”

 

The light grew dim as they reached the forest. Distances were deceiving and Tier was tired. They all were, though no one said anything. Not even Rale. They took little time setting up a camp and getting things started for food. Geb was staring, face unreadable, all around them as they worked.

“Something wrong?” Tier asked after Rale and Xin left to go get some firewood.

“It’s all very green. Isn’t it?” The boy looked up at him, his eyes far older than his body.

“They say the further north you go, the colder it gets. There are some places that never thaw.”

“Thaw?” Geb frowned, peering towards the trees. “As in ice?”

“And snow.” Tier grinned at the boy’s awed face.

“The only snow I ever saw was on Lord Farook’s head!” Rale said, halting in front of them, arms full of sticks. His clothes were muddy and showing some travel wear. A far cry from the arrogant lord back in Dhaul. “I thought I saw some twinkling lights in the distance. Could be a town. Towns have inns and supplies.”

“See any sign of troops?” Tier asked.

“Troops?” Xin frowned at him.

“Lord Chiron was going to try to take the fort. I’d expect there to be troop movements from Sandau.”

 

It was barely day when they broke camp, making for a distant road Rale had spotted. They pushed through the grass sending birds flying. The road was a wide swath of dirt running north to south. It was pleasant, though a quiet journey. They reached a crossroads that with a weather worn signpost stuck in the middle. Xin frowned, the language one she’d never seen before. Tier swore, leaned forward and glanced at Rale.

“We’re in Sandau all right.”

Rale pulled his horse to a halt. “This is bad.”

“Rale,”

“What if the gods smiled on Chiron while we were in the canyons and he took the fort? That would put us at war with Sandau.”

“We can’t get back to Delebeg from here without going back through the canyons. If we get near the fort, we’d be on the wrong side of the mountains.” Tier leaned forward, staring towards the distant river. “We could try to skirt along the mountains to reach Jaktor.”

Rale nodded and looked at Xin. Her stomach flopped, his frown deepened before he looked back at Tier and shrugged. “We need an inn, I need a bed, a meal at a table and a bath. I’m not the only one.”

Tier nodded, though he didn’t look like he cared much for the idea. “According to that,” he pointed at the signpost. “There’s a town up this road. We’ll make for it. We have to keep our heads down.”

 

They rode on in silence, south on the road, once moving off to one side as a patrol on fast trotting horses passed. Their uniforms were red and black, orange flames embroidered on the backs of their black tunics. Xin frowned. Flames. Fire elementals? She glanced at Tier but he was just watching them as they disappeared in the distance.

The road angled east, and in the distance Xin could see a village and far beyond it, near the river, a collection of buildings.

“That would be Sandau.” Tier said in a low voice, he half turned and pointed towards the distant cliffs behind them. “The other side of those cliffs is Delebeg.”

“There’s smoke.” Geb said.

“The fort?” Xin asked.

Tier shrugged.

They reached the village as the sun was sinking in the west, casting brilliant oranges and pinks over the sky. There was a large building, an inn, a local told them, which served as a meeting hall and tavern. The proprietor met them in the stable yard. She was a slim, unsmiling woman who eyed them all with suspicion.

“The stables are around back.” She said, her voice very low. “I’ve only got one room to spare. Bathing hall is on the first floor.” She rattled off a price that made Xin wince. Tier nodded.

“Food?”

“I can have the servants bring it up for you.” She narrowed her eyes, looking back and forth between Tier and Rale. “You’re Nekarian.”

“On a personal vacation.” Rale said. “I’ve never been outside Nekar! So I thought I’d take a look see. My father thinks I’m a fool for it, but it’s a grand world, wouldn’t you say?”

The woman snorted. “If you say so.”

Rale turned to Geb. “Boy, take the horses to the stable!”

Geb glared and glanced at Xin before taking the reins and going in the direction the woman had pointed out.

“The room is up the stairs and all the way to the end of the hall.” The woman told Rale. Rale nodded, glanced at Tier.

“Pay the good woman, would you?” and flounced up the stairs.

“Insufferable.” The woman commented as Tier handed her the money.

“You have no idea.” He said, motioning Xin to go ahead of him. As they reached the top of the stairs Tier sighed. “I’m gonna kill him.”

“He’s going to get himself killed if he doesn’t watch it.” Xin leaned against the wall, looking up at him. “Do you think it’ll cause us trouble?”

“I don’t know. I’m not familiar with Sandau people. I keep telling him to tone it down. I don’t think he quite gets it.” Tier jerked his head towards the room. “Come on, lets make sure he’s not dirtying up the place.” He draped an arm over her shoulders. Xin smiled and leaned against him. She didn’t want to think about what would happen when they reached Nekar.

He dropped his arm and pushed the door open and chuckled. Rale had fallen face down on the nearest bed, legs and arms out like a puppet.

“MMmmmffmm.” Rale’s voice was muffled.

“What?” Tier crossed his arms and moved to one side as Geb entered the room, his eyes wide as he looked around.

Rale turned his head. “I said, I think I have reached paradise!”

“You’re getting the bedding dirty, Rale.” Xin pointed out. She went to her pack and glanced at the men. “I don’t know about you, I’m going to take a bath. And get clean before I throw myself on the bed!”

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues Dec 9th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Coming up for air

In short, we’ve been struggling as a family. My son has been fighting addiction and it has dragged our whole family & routine down the drain. I’m working to find a balance between family, writing and other endeavors. I’ve found a stress easement with some new pets (ball pythons) which have helped with the general out of it I’ve been fighting.

I am sorry. I failed getting E1 up and posted on time. I probably lost what readers I have. If any of you are still around, light a candle, rub buddah’s belly, pray, whatever that y son can get a handle on his issues and that I can help him.

I’m working on the next couple chapters. The edits needed are minor, just a few tweaks and it should be done. I’ll try to get them scheduled this week. Again, I’m sorry. Life derailed me horribly and sometimes you just have to refocus.

NPhoenix

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 18

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

The horses bolted towards the round structures as the sand dragon coiled, snake-like, between them and the breach in the wall. Xin inched backward, feeling the wall of one of the buildings behind her. The dragon was moving forward, head swaying beck and forth. From its snout were long, thin rope-like whiskers that swayed hypnotically. Its eyes narrowed, lips curled back, revealing long sharp fangs.

“Xin, do you feel the water anywhere?” Geb asked, his voice low. She tore her eyes from the advancing beast and felt for it. She frowned, half turning and looking up at the building behind her. She pressed her hands against it and looked down at Geb.

“It’s here.”

The dragon gave a wheezing warble darting forward. Xin looked towards them in time to see Rale dive out of the way and Tier swinging his sword, lopping off one of the whiskers. The creature yowled, jerking back from the two men. The whisker flopped on the ground, reminding Xin of a fish out of water. Tier and Rale both backed up, towards Xin.

Geb tapped her hand and she looked at the boy and back up at the water cistern. She met Geb’s eyes and nodded, pressing her hand against the wall of the building. Geb made a motion with his hands, drawing the stone apart like a curtain, and Xin held the water, keeping it from pouring out. The dragon wasn’t close enough.

Tier reached them, sword still pointed at the dragon. “I don’t think we’ll be able to kill it.”

“Just get it distracted so we can slip away.” Rale said.

“Do you think it’ll follow us?” Geb asked.

Xin focused on the water, waiting as the dragon moved closer, still swaying back and forth, blood dripping from its whisker stump. Xin narrowed her eyes, watching the beast loom closer.

“There is a passage back behind the water tower.” Geb was saying.

“The horses?”

“They ducked down it.”

The dragon struck, mouth open, and Xin pushed the water out in a powerful stream, catching it in the mouth and knocking it backwards against the rock wall. They heard the loud crack as its head hit the huge stones and it fell, twitching in the mud as the water stream lessened.

Tier crept closer. “It’s still breathing.” He looked at Xin. “Just knocked out.”

“Uhm, Tier.” Rale pointed. “It wasn’t alone.”

Xin stared, trying to wrap her mind around it. From the breach slithered three more sand dragons, half the size of the one they’d knocked out.

“Oh this is not good.” Tier backed up rapidly. “Get down that passage back there. Geb! Are you sure the horses went down there?”

“Yes!” Geb grabbed Xin’s arm. “Come on!”

Xin blinked, the daze broken. She nodded and followed the rock shaper around more tumbled rocks and through a tall, narrow opening in the cliff wall. The crack ran all the way up the cliffs, letting sunlight trickle through, though it was dim. She turned just inside as Tier and Rale darted through, the beasts snarling and snapping behind them.

“Geb!” Rale yelled.

The boy was already in action, his hands on the rock, pulling it closed. The Sand dragons roared on the other side, their claws scrabbling at the rock that had been shaped between them and their prey.

Xin leaned back, trying to catch her breath.

“The horses are back here, packs intact.” Rale called. Geb disappeared around the corner and Xin looked up at Tier.

“Tier?”

“I think that was a mother, trying to feed her babies.” He said, his tone odd. Xin gripped his arm. He didn’t look injured, but she was worried by the look on his face. He looked down, glancing back the way Rale and Geb had gone before looking back at her, sliding his arm around her waist pulling her closer. “You all right?”

She nodded, leaning against him, she felt safer than she had in a long time, even with the sand dragons snarling at them on the other side of the rock. “I’m just shook up. You?”

“About the same.” He looked towards the rock and shook his head before meeting her gaze again. “I shouldn’t be, the way this journey has been going I should be used to the impossible.” He lifted his hand, hesitated and pushed a strand of hair from her face. Her skin tingled where his fingers brushed her cheek. She swallowed. He was an imperial prince! She was a nothing. But the way he was looking at her, she wondered if he was going to kiss her. She halfway hoped he would. She nodded, trying to focus on what they were saying not what she felt.

“It’s been pretty unbelievable.” She said, her heart pounded in her ears. They were very close, and the way he was looking at her warmed her to her core. He leaned forward, hesitated, brushed her lips with his, his arm tightening around her as she opened her mouth, and leaned into the kiss. His taste swirled around ehr, spicy, addictive. Hers. They parted slowly, Tier searching her face. Xin smiled hesitantly as he brushed her cheek with his fingertips.

“We’d better join them before they come looking for us.” He said hoarsely. She nodded, leaned forward and kissed him again. She wanted to find a little place to just curl up with him, to forget the mission, forget the trip, and just be.

“Thank you.” She said softly. She stepped away as footfalls approached. He chuckled.

“My pleasure.”

Rale and Geb came around the corner looking excited. Rale halted, excitement fading as he looked back and forth between them. An eyebrow arched and he cleared his throat.

“The passage goes further on, though it’s going to take some doing to get the horses through it.” Rale peered at Tier. “Everything okay?”

The sand dragons on the other side of the rock roared, shaking sand from above.

“Just fine.” Xin smiled at Rale and moved past the lord and the baffled looking rock shaper into the wider passage beyond. She felt Tier watching her, and forced her breathing to calm down. Her heart was still pounding in her ears, and she could still taste him, almost feel his arms around her.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct 23rd.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Boosting the signal

On oct 15, the daughter of a dear friend got a call no parent ever wants to receive. Her precious daughter had fallen down the stairs at her auntie’s house and was in emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen. Little Naomi passed away, and her mother, grandmother and the rest of their family and friends are in shock. I’ve known the family over ten years and *I* am having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

If you, dear readers, could share the link I’m going to post, to help their family cover the funeral costs and maybe light a candle/say a prayer for Courtney (Naomi’s mother). She was trying to get herself on her feet to take care of her darlings. My heart is breaking for her. And when you have, please, if you have children of your own, hug them close and let them know you love them. You never know what tomorrow may bring.

 

 

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 17

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

Two towering statues guarded the entrance to the canyon. Their features were worn from time and weather, leaving their gender impossible to guess. At their feet, peeking from beneath the sand and rock, were cobblestones. Tier gazed into the canyon, the cobblestones lined the canyon floor. He glanced up, looking for the floating rocks he’d seen when on the roof of the ancient building. Nothing but blue sky with white clouds skittering by.

“It’s a road.” Xin said, bringing his thoughts back to the canyon.

“It looks like no one has been down this way in years.” Tier leaned forward in the saddle peering at the narrowing canyon. “We might have to dismount and lead the horses if it gets too narrow.”

“I don’t like the look of it.” Rale said. “It looks, evil.” From the canyon, on the wind, came a low howl sound. Tier glanced at Rale. Blood drained from his face and he slowly shook his head. “No.”

“Come on Rale, it’s not as bad as the Dhaul Fortress.” Xin said lightly.

“I’m not going through that.” Rale pointed. “Did you hear that? No. Absolutely not.”

“Don’t worry Rale, I’ll protect you.” Geb grinned at him. He pointed at the ground at the statue’s feet. “It just a road. We stay on the cobblestones, we’ll be fine. It’s straying off the path that will get us into trouble.”

Rale gave him a dirty look.

“One word Rale,” Tier said. “Seeress.”

“Shit.” Rale rubbed his face with his hand. “Fine, after you.”

Tier snorted and urged his horse between the two statues, into the canyon. The only other place they could go was south, back to Nekar and the Seeress, and he wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Not yet. He’d found two Elementals, and felt another one using power somewhere beyond this canyon.

Aside from the wind and their own passing, there was no sound. Though the canyon did narrow, they stayed mounted, and as the shadows lengthened Tier called a halt. Up ahead, in the distance, tucked beneath an overhang was what appeared to be some sort of cottage. He and Rale exchanged dubious glances and they carefully made their way toward it.

“It’s been empty a long time.” Xin dismounted and glanced at the men. “I say we stop here for the night. I don’t think we’ll make it to the city before nightfall.”

Rale groaned. “I’d go through the night. I want out of this,” the wind picked up, a long whistling howl that made the hairs on the back of Tier’s neck stand up. “Canyon.”

“I’m with Xin.” Geb slid off of Rale’s horse. “I’m tired and I’m not going through that at night.”

They all looked at Tier. He stared past them. The canyon curved in the distance. He frowned.

“Tier.” Xin’s voice dragged him out of his thoughts. He exhaled slowly.

“We’ll stay the night. Rale see if there’s a place to tie up the horses.”

Rale dismounted and stomped off, leading his horse to the other side of the building, grumbling under his breath.

The cottage was filled with nearly a foot of sand. There was nothing resembling furniture, though it probably rotted away long ago. Tier started a fire in a place that looked like it might have been a fire pit. Xin knelt beside him.

“If that was smoke we saw, wouldn’t we be smelling it by now?” She asked in a low voice. Tier looked at her and nodded. “So if it wasn’t smoke, what was it?”

Tier frowned, looking down at the dark ruddy sand. He scooped up a handful and let it fall between his fingers. “Dust storm maybe?”

“And,”

“Maybe air elemental?” He barely whispered, though Rale and Geb were in an animated discussion about something. Xin looked at the fire.

“So now what?”

“We keep going. Check out the city, though I’m guessing it’s empty.”

“If there was an air elemental, it must not be that empty.” Xin stood glancing at Geb and Rale.

Tier said nothing, looking back at the fire. Air or fire, the problem would be convincing whatever it was to join them.

 

 

“That’s a hell of a city.” Rale whispered. The canyon opened up to a valley divided by huge walls and beyond the walls, built upwards into the cliffs, were structures, though Tier couldn’t tell if they were homes or something else entirely.

“It reminds me of a bee hive.” Xin pointed. “The wall is breached over there.”

“Nekarians?” Geb asked. They all looked at Tier. He shrugged and turned his horse towards the breach.

Sand was piled along the bottom of the walls in huge drifts, some taller than he was. The walls themselves were made of huge oddly shaped blocks of stone. Unlike the walls he’d seen in Jacktor and Nekar, these were thicker, octagonal and fitted puzzle-like, resembling a honeycomb.

He dismounted, leading the horse towards the large tumbled stones, half covered in sand. Old scorch marks on the stones and the walls themselves hinted at a deadly battle.

“I wonder who they were.” Xin murmured.

“And who attacked.” Geb pointed. “There’s burn marks up there.”

“I wonder who won.” Tier looked up at the structures on the cliff-side. “Unbelievable.”

“Tier, is that, smoke?” Rale asked.

Tier looked in the direction Rale pointed and swore. “No.”

“Sandstorm!” Geb darted through the breach. “There’s a building here, big enough for the horses.”

They scrambled inside as howling wind carrying a wall of sand advanced. It was cramped and stuffy and when the wind and sand reached them, it filled with choking air and dust. They huddled, for how long Tier wasn’t sure. When it finally passed, the shadows had lengthened and the air had an odd, ruddy color to it.

“That’s what we saw.” Tier rubbed his forehead. He was about to suggest heading back towards the canyon when he felt it again, a flutter of power against his mind. This time it was further away. He leaned back against the wall trying not to swear aloud.

 

“It’s no wonder it was abandoned.” Rale said. They’d stayed the night in the long, low building and were exploring, cautiously, the ruins between the wall and the buildings. “No food, no water,”

“There is water.” Xin corrected him. “I feel it, in this direction.” She motioned towards two tall circular buildings.

“Aside from that, I don’t know how a place this big would support any kind of,” Rale hesitated, looking up in the sky. “Population.”

“Floating rocks maybe?” Tier suggested.

“Shouldn’t we see them? From here?” Xin asked.

“One would think.” Rale snorted. “Hey Geb, no wandering off!”

Tier followed Xin towards the round buildings, looking for any wisps or ghosts of the city’s former occupants. Nothing. He glanced back towards the city wall. There must have been a vicious battle. The death toll must have been staggering.

“Tier, look at what Geb found.” Rale’s voice had an odd hollow tone to it. Tier sighed. Rale and Geb hurried over to him, Geb held a strange cloth covered something in his trembling hands. Rale’s face was pale. “This fabric,” He handed the package to Tier. “It looks familiar.”

It was heavy, square and the gray fabric was wrapped several times around it. He carefully unwrapped it, pausing when he reached a hem complete with a knotted tassel. The tassel reminded him of the priest robes at the Oracle.

“Priest robe, perhaps?”

“Why would a priest of Nekar come out this way to hide something?” Geb asked.

Tier looked at Rale who shrugged, and continued unwrapping. When he reached the item it was wrapping, his breath caught. The cloth fluttered to the ground, unnoticed.

“A book?” Geb asked.

“Not just a book.” Rale’s voice sounded strangled. Tier couldn’t tear his eyes away from the dark brown leather cover. Set in the center, in gold filigree, was a large eye; curling up on one end, down on the other and sliced across by three slash marks. The symbol had dominated his childhood, was embroidered on every Nekarian flag that flew.

“I don’t believe it.” Tier swallowed and crouched. He felt a bit light headed as he carefully opened the book.

“I’ll be damned.” Rale whispered. “What is this doing out here?”

Tier shook his head, carefully turning the gold edged pages.

“Ok, we’re in the dark over here.” Xin knelt beside him, touching his arm. “What is it?”

“It’s a national treasure.” Rale answered before Tier could form words. “The genealogy of the Imperial household.”

“It was stolen before I was born, I’ve only heard tales of it.” Tier murmured.

Rale took the book and glanced at Tier. He flipped back to the first two pages, running his finger over the precise script. “The first Emperor, and his wife. The further you go, the closer to now the book gets. It lists every major union to the Imperial House, every child born, every death.” He flipped back to the last page with writing. “Looks like it stops right after your parents got married.” He looked at Tier.

“That fits.” Tier took the book back, leafing through the pages casually. “Father went to enter Maen’s birth in it and discovered it was missing.” He frowned as he turned the pages. Every now and then he caught sight if the Seeress’s symbol besides names. He returned to the first page, then slowly flipped towards his parents’ entry. Every Empress had symbols of their households drawn beside the name. But every four or five generations was her symbol. He closed the book and glanced down at the cloth mind racing.

“It’s been around since the beginning of the Empire?” Geb asked incredulously.

“For a book over a thousand years old, it’s in very good shape.” Xin said.

“They say the Seeress used her powers to keep it as though it was new.” Tier said.

“Or it gets replaced every few generations, to make it look like it is preserved.” Xin crossed her arms. “I wouldn’t put it past them.”

“This is a priest robe then.” Rale lifted it up. “Who would have done this?”

“I don’t know.” Tier hesitated.

A loud rattling and clacking sound bounced off the city walls and the cliffs, a shadow fell over them, swaying back and forth. Tier stood, aware the horses bolting back towards the round buildings. The caster of the shadow towered above them, it’s head larger than the horses and framed by a large red frill. The sharp snout opened revealing huge, thin sharp teeth. It hissed and Tier stepped back slowly, hand on the hilt of his sword.

“What is that?” Rale choked out.

The frills shook, accompanied by another long rattling sound. The tongue snaked out, forked at the end.

“That’s a sand dragon.” Geb whispered.

“A what?” Rale drew his own sword, standing beside Tier.

“A sand dragon. They’re supposed to be myth!” Geb grabbed Tier’s arm. “We have to get out of here, I think it might be hungry!”

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct 16th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 16

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

“There are chains on top of this building.” Tier stared up through the opening in the ceiling of the ancient building. Pale clouds skittered across a pale blue sky and marring it were huge metal links. He couldn’t see what they were connected to, the ceiling blocked his view.

“They’re huge.” Rale whispered. Tier nodded.

“What at they doing there?” Geb asked.

“Why didn’t we see them at the crossroads?” Tier mused aloud. He saw Rale shrug in the corner of his eye. “How would we get up there to get a better look?”

“Why would you want a closer look?” Rale asked incredulous. He gestured up towards the ceiling. “Can you fly?”

Tier snorted and glanced over at Geb. The young man was poking at the vines covering the far wall. “I want to see what they are.” He gave a half grin. “I’m curious.”

“There’s an old stairway behind these vines.” Geb called. He moved some of the vines revealing an archway and a dark, shadowed passage.

Tier glanced towards the blanket covering Xin’s small ‘room’. She hadn’t stirred since the day before. He considered checking on her, but decided against it. Letting her rest seemed a better idea. He turned his attention back to the gaping hole and Geb’s stairs. They were set deep in the rock, and he felt the skin on the back of his neck tingle the closer he got to them. Tier looked down at Geb.

“How safe are these?”

Geb placed his hand on the bottom step and closed his eyes, Tier felt a solid ‘pulse’ of the boy’s powers. “They’re solid.” Geb opened his eyes, grinning. “A shaper made them a long time ago.”

Tier nodded, and cautiously placed his foot on the first step.

“Those are far too steep for me. They look more like a ladder. You fall and you’ll break your neck.” Rale grumped. “I’ll wait down here.”

Tier nodded and carefully ascended the steps, Geb at his heels. The stairs curved to his right, ascending towards the top of the cliff. Around the first bend it was nearly pitch black. He felt his way up the steps around the next bend and realized he could see. Dim, though with each step it got brighter. Then he was stepping out onto a flat area. He stared, trying to grasp what he was seeing. A plateau. Not the roof of a building.

On either side of the doorway stretched huge chains, tethering a wide slab of floating rock to the plateau. Tier resisted the urge to rub his eyes. How did the ancients do it? He shook his head. Sky City Hyrfett.

“Look at how high it goes.” Geb whispered.

“Stay by the stairs. Just to be safe.” Tier instructed.

“How did they do it?” Geb asked.

Tier shrugged, touching the chain. The metal that made up the links, were as big around as his arms. The links were as tall as he was. Slung between them on some sort of cable were steps. He swallowed, glancing down at the skyhole and swore. The steps to the top of the building he could handle. This?

“Are you going to climb them?” Geb peered with wide eyes.

“Hell no.” He motioned the stairs. “Go back down, I’ll be right behind you.”

Geb nodded, carefully making his way back down the stairs.

Tier was about to follow when he felt the flutter use of power. He halted, turning slowly, scanning the horizon, looking for the source of the power. It came again, brushing against his mind. In the distance he saw a smudge of dark gray clouds. Smoke? He looked up at the slab of rock that floated in the air. If he were on that thing, he’d get a better view of the smoke. He felt the fluttering power again and gritted his teeth. He had to find out where it was coming from. He tested the bottom step. The step itself wiggled a bit, but the chains didn’t budge. He stared up at the floating rock.

“I’m insane.” He murmured. The power fluttered again against his mind. He took a deep breath. Step by precarious step, he ascended the sky stairs to reach what he hoped was a sort of stable ground. He snorted. Stable? Floating in the air? This trip was making him crazy. He reached the slab of rock and placed his foot on the dark reddish brown rock. It didn’t budge, didn’t move. He peered around. What looked like rock underneath was covered in tall grasses on top. He stepped toward the middle of it. A breeze rippled the grasses, bending them wave-like.

He stared around, slow, his mind refusing to accept what his eyes saw. In the distance, dotting the air above the canyons, were other floating rocks, also held by the immense chains anchoring them to the ground.

“How was this made?” Xin’s voice broke his thoughts. He turned, in time to see her step onto the rock, her eyes wide as she peered around. He motioned her over.

“I can’t tell exactly where the edge of the rock is.” He said quickly. The last thing he wanted was for a fall. “Thought you were sleeping.” He said as she stopped beside him. She looked up at him and grinned.

“I woke up to Rale swearing at you. He said you lost your mind.” Xin turned slowly. “This is unbelievable. What do you think they were put here for?”

“Fields of grain, perhaps. For the floating city.” Tier frowned. The fluttering against his mind was back. He looked north, peering at the gray cloud. “What does that look like to you?”

“Smoke.” Xin said, touching his arm. “Though I’ve never seen smoke acting like that.”

“I felt,” he hesitated. “Power use.”

“Fire elemental perhaps?” Xin gasped. “Did you see that?”

Tier nodded. The smoke had cleared, just for a brief moment, and he saw a city against a low mountain. He took half a step, trying to see through the clouds swirling back over the city. Xin gripped his arm.

“That is a really long drop.” She said when he glanced down at her in surprise. She looked a bit flustered, releasing his arm and crossing hers.

“I’ll be careful.” He looked back towards the cloud. “If that was smoke, the city could be on fire.”

“Do you think a fire elemental might have done it?” Xin asked. A strong breeze kicked up. She leaned closer, staring towards the smoke. “How would we get over there?”

Tier looked down towards the canyons. “That looks like it might be a road right to the city.” He pointed at a canyon that curved toward it. “We could make for that city, see if we can find who was using power.”

“And hope they’re friendly?”

Tier snorted and glanced at her. “You were.”

“Geb wasn’t.” She pointed out.

“He was protecting himself.” Tier touched her arm and pointed to the distant tree. “Is that what I think it is?”

“A tree?” She grinned. “This is amazing. It’s so peaceful.”

“It is.” Tier stepped around her, moving closer to the chains. “It’s very high up though.”

Xin laughed. “Are you going to have a problem getting down?”

“Of course not!” He motioned her ahead of him. “Lets go tell them what we saw. We’ll head out in the morning.”

“You’re insane.” Rale scowled.

“I survived.” Tier pulled out the map, staring down at it. “This is the crossroads.” He frowned.

“That city isn’t on the map.” Xin said.

“We’ll work our way north.” Tier glanced at Geb. “Any idea what that city is.”

The boy shrugged. “I’m just an ignorant tribesman.”

Xin lightly swatted his shoulder. “Geb, you are a font of lore we’ve never heard. I wouldn’t call that ignorant.”

Tier was in the process of tucking the map back into his travel packs when Rale touched his shoulder, jerking his head to one side.

Tier followed, frowning.

“Is this a wise move, cousin? I’ve never heard of much exploration in this area.”

“Is any of this wise?” Tier crossed his arms and glanced back at Xin.

“We turn her and Geb over to the Seeress, and she’s going to kill them both.” Rale hissed.

Tier looked at him. “We don’t know that for sure.”

“Tier, I’ve seen the looks between the two of you,”

“Rale,” Tier began.

“I’d have to be blind to not see it. Are you willing to risk her life on the chance that the Seeress won’t kill them?” Rale shook his head.

“What’s your interest?” Tier crossed his arms.

Rale looked toward Xin and Geb, and then back at Tier. “All my life I’ve been taught elementals are monsters. But those two are anything but monstrous. And I’m certain they’re not the only elementals left, not like we’ve been led to believe. The Seeress did gave us an out.”

Tier frowned. “Rale, if we tried anything, aside from what she’s expressly ordered, she’ll know. She’ll read our minds.”

“And she’d kill us.” Rale’s shoulders sagged. “What do we do?”

“For now? We go north.” Tier looked back at Xin. “From there,” he shrugged. “We’ll see.”

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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An Update

So this past summer we went through a lot of crap. The two biggest things were issues with one of my kids and the housing. This past week I spent most my time dealing with court stuff to get my son home (runaway, got in trouble with law stuff thanks to a few really BAD kids). He came home last night and we’ve been figuring out handling things (very complicated) such as school, dr appointments and things like that.

 

This has taken precedence over my writing and the serial. I do apologize, and I felt you, my readers, deserved a better explanation than ‘I’ve been busy.’

I am working on getting this back on schedule. Please be patient.

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 15

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“If we go to Sandau we pass beyond Nekarian rule. With the trouble at the border, it’s not be a good idea.” Rale said tapping the map.

“Can you think of any other place we could go? Where else would there be elementals?” Tier asked.  “We can’t guarantee that the northern cities on the map still exist. How long has it been since there was contact with them?”

Rale shrugged and they both glanced towards Xin and Geb who still slept. “I didn’t know they were even up there.”

“You’re right, the Sandau Plain is going to be on high alert. If we can’t go that way.”

“Have you ever traveled outside of Nekar before?” Rale asked.

“A few times. Just outside the borders. The General Yorma situation.”

Rale nodded.

“The what?” Xin asked from where she lay.

“Yorma was a general from the Jaktor area. A few years ago I was ordered to locate his son in one of the villages far outside Nekar.” Tier shook his head. “I found out later that they used the boy as bait to bring his father to Nekar. When his father arrived, both were tortured, then executed. When word reached the city we were trying to take, they surrendered.”

Tier paced, trying to get his mind off of it. There was so much more than that though. The boy had been Geb’s age, perhaps a little bit younger. He’d trusted Tier. Tier did his job, turning the boy over, but when he discovered the child’s fate… He pushed it from his mind. He’d followed orders. But that thought brought him no consolation.

 

Xin stretched, stood, and glanced around the camp. Geb still lay on his side, watching the men. His brows pulled together in a frown. She took a deep breath and tensed. The back of her neck tingled and she felt an odd shift in the air. Xin scanned the rocky canyon walls, the longer she stood, the stronger it got. She felt a whisper in her mind, an insistent pull. She rolled her sleeping mat, securing it before stepping away from the campsite, putting distance between the movement of her traveling companions, trying to listen.

She closed her eyes. The whisper of water, silent since they left the river, danced along her nerves. Beckoning her, teasing her. Somewhere close there was water, a lot of water. She reached out, feeling for it.

She heard movement behind her and glanced over her shoulder, heart pounding. Tier was watching her with a deep frown.

“What are you doing?” Tier asked, his voice low.

She stared up at him, blinking several times, mind racing. He knew she was looking for water. “Taking a walk…”

“No, you’re doing something. I felt it. Did you find water?”

The whisper in her head grew to a roar as she nodded and turned towards a jumble of rocks,possibly an old rockfall piled up against the canyon wall. “How did you know?” She whispered. She could feel Rale and Geb watching them.

“I told you, I felt it.” He hesitated. “Whenever you or Geb use your magic, I feel it. Where is the water?”

Xin swallowed, her throat parched, and pointed at the old rock-slide. She hurried over to it without a backward glance, her heart still pounding. She needed to be near the water. She pressed her palms against the rocks and closed her eyes. Somewhere beyond the rubble was water. She backed up, taking in the old pile of rubble.

“You aren’t thinking of climbing that, are you?” Rale called.

She ignored him, placed her foot on one of the stones. A hand gripped her arm. She glanced up at Tier.

“Geb, see how sturdy these rocks are.” He pulled her toward him, not hurting her but not releasing her either. “Wouldn’t want you to break your neck, now would we?” he murmured. Once she was away from the rocks he released her.

Geb limped over, placing his hands on the rocks. “They’re not safe to climb.” He said. He inhaled and bowed his head.

Power rippled through the ground and the rocks shifted. They looked soft, like bread dough. They started to drip, them melt into the ground, separating separating like a curtain being pulled aside.

“There’s a passageway though.” Geb sat back, breathing hard. “It’s been hidden a long time.”

The passageway was lined with tiles of bright blue and green. Moisture wafted their way, and in the distance water trickled. She darted up the passage, ignoring Rale’s protest, stopping at the top.

She stood under an arch, lined with those same little tiles. Before her was a wide, round structure, built into the cliffs. Above it, a round hole allowed sunlight to pour in. At the far end of the chamber was a waterfall, trickling from a spout high up in the cliffs, pouring into a wide pool.

Xin felt her breath catch in her throat as she stepped towards it. Vines with little white flowers hugged the cliff face. The entire far wall was coated with a carpet of greenery filling the room with a light floral scent, broken only by the praying statue of a long forgotten goddess. Along the sides of the room were archways and passages, some closed off with rubble. There were arches higher up and Xin realized it was a three storied tall inner chamber of some ancient building.

The water called to her. She stood at the edge of the pool, staring down. On the bottom was a mosaic, but she couldn’t make it out. The call of the water was too loud. Xin held out her hand pulling the water towards herself in a large bubble. She let it move through the air, shaping it first into a whip then a halo, the sun sparkling through it cast rainbows around the room. Geb sent a rock whizzing through it stopping it just before it hit the surface of the pool.

Xin pulled a smaller bubble of water from the pool and ‘tossed’ it in his direction, smiling when she heard the resounding splash and shriek from the boy.

“That’s not fair Xin.” Geb sputtered. “I can’t throw a rock at you.”

She flashed a grin at the boy. Tier and Rale were tying off the horses, shooting furtive glances her way.

“Geb, could you seal off the entry to that passage?” Tier asked. “I think we’ll rest here another day, refill our water skins.”

Geb nodded, limping towards the entry. Xin looked back at the water only half hearing Rale speaking.

“Elementals are handy to have around, eh Tier?”

She needed to be in the water. Her skin, slightly burnt, and dried out from the desert sun begged for moisture. There was no thought. She dove into the water, blocking out conversation, feeling the water around her. The cool shock on her moisture deprived skin was almost painful. She let herself sink to the bottom, staring around the gently sloping pool. A grate against the far wall was clogged with algae and other things.

She felt suspended from everything, the journey, the odd relationship with Tier, her past a murky mix of Matau and half remembered warnings from her mother. She propelled herself to the surface, her mind blessedly blank.

It took all she could muster to break the surface of the water, the pull to stay under in the cushion of calm was strong. A hand gripped her arm, hauling her, coughing, from the water. She felt the rock beneath her feet, but could only stare at the pool, partially aware of a blanket being draped around her shoulders. She blinked looking up at Tier confused. He was frowning at her.

“What?”

“You were under there for a very long time.” Rale said on her other side. His voice sounded strange. Tier nodded, dark eyes intense.

“Make a note, no more deserts for water elementals.” he said gruffly.

“Good idea.” Rale replied.

Xin shuddered despite the hot air, a chill moving through her numb limbs. Don’t go under. The half remembered voice in the back of her mind warned. She allowed Tier to steer her to an archway with one of the blankets hanging over it. On the other side was a small room. Her sleeping mat had been laid out on top of a raised platform with her travel bag leaning against wall beside it. She shivered, so tired. She could barely keep her eyes opened.

“You need to get out of these wet things.” Tier said gently rubbing the blanket on her shoulders, and down her back. Xin turned, looking up at him. He was a touch grimmer looking than usual.

“I couldn’t control it.” She whispered. Tier nodded, he pushed a dripping strand of hair from her face, wiping the water from her cheeks. Tender. Very tender. “I’ve never, not been able to control it.”

“Do you think it will happen again?” His expression had softened with her admission.

Xin looked down considering it. But he was very close, too close. The kind touch, was sending her senses reeling. It was a small room, a barest blanket separating the outside from the inside, and Tier was a big man who filled the room with his presence. It made it hard to think. She took a deep breath, focusing on the water. The pulling was faint, a mere light tug instead of the suffocating drag.

“I don’t think so.” She met his intense gaze and he nodded and dropped his hands.

“Get some rest.”

He was gone so quickly she felt bereft. Xin stared at the slightly stirring blanket slowly sinking to her sleeping mat. Crazy, it was crazy. She wanted him to come back. She wanted him. She trembled. He held her life in his hands.

 

Tier stared down at the mosaic at the bottom of the pool, trying to clear his head. She’d looked far too vulnerable. He shook himself. Bad. Very bad. She was a water elemental, an enemy of Nekar. A charge, to be taken to the Seeress. He couldn’t get involved.

He crouched, peering into the clear water. The mosaic caught his eye. A man and a woman, standing on a field of green, floating in the sky. Hyrfett perhaps?

“Is she going to be alright?” Rale asked, breaking his thoughts.

“Yeah. She’s just shook up a bit.” Tier looked up towards the small center of the skylight overhead.

“Tier.”

“Hmmm?”

“What are we going to do?”

Tier couldn’t answer. He wasn’t even sure.

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Sept 18th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

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Announcement

OK, so the house we’re in has a ceiling caving in, multiple bathroom leaks and a landlord who is unwilling to fix it. While I’ve gone to court to try to force him to fix it, that has done nothing to help the situation (but given us LOTS of headaches) and we’re just DONE.

IMG_1278 the master bathroom started losing tiles about a month after we moved in.

IMG_1284Due to leaks from the UPSTAIRS bathroom, my ONE cupboard is falling off the wall.

IMG_1286My upstairs bathroom’s access panel which the landlord refuses to send a contractor to fix. We now have a leak (again) from this same pipe and everytime the kids take a shower I end up with 2 inches of water on my kitchen floor.

IMG_1290This is the kitchen ceiling. That panel fell down Summer 2013. They STILL haven’t fixed it

IMG_1281The other part of my kitchen ceiling. Mind you, my oldest is 6’5, that ceiling brushes his hair when he walks under it. And it has sagged even further since this picture was taken one month ago.

 

SO.  We just landed another house. We’re packing our things, and getting ready to move this next weekend. I’ve got to gather kid stuffs for transfering schools etc etc…

I’m trying to nail down the next couple chapters of the serial so I can schedule them before the move. I don’t know how long I’ll be internet silent, though I’ll be on twitter.

I apologize for the hiccups with the serial. This summer has been one of the most challenging I’ve had.

NPhoenix.

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