Necia Phoenix

SF & Fantasy Writer

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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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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 14

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

 

Chapter 14

Twisted pillars of metal stuck out of a mound of huge boulders. At its base, shadowed by debris, was a collection of blackened and burned buildings, surrounded by a broken wooden fence. The old gate lay on the ground, half covered by dust and dirt. An old and tattered Nekarian flag fluttered in the mild breeze, hanging from a leaning pole stabbed into a pile of blackened bones just inside the gate.

Tier pulled his horse to a stop, staring at the bones.

“It looks like Chiron forgot a few details.” He murmured. He looked at Xin. She was shaking her head. “He said nothing about this.”

“They flattened the village, didn’t they?” Xin asked softly.

Tier looked away, unable to meet her eyes, and dismounted. He needed to take a closer look. He went cautiously around the bones, not wanting to disturb them. He didn’t see any wisps, but he felt them, watching. Waiting.

“Tier, why would Chiron do this?” Rale’s voice was loud in the eerie silence.

“Why does Chiron do anything?” He glanced back. Rale and Xin were leading the horses through the gate, following Tier’s path. Tier saw a movement in the rocks beyond them. The boy was still following them. He chuckled and turned back to the village, carefully moving through the single street.

At the far end of the street was the local small temple. A shrine to the gods, and the only building untouched by fire. A parchment was nailed to the door. The sound of gravel beneath his feet was loud in his ears. He hesitated, when he reached it, glancing around. No wisps. No ghosts. He shook off his unease and straightened out the faded and partially rolling parchment. He frowned, scanning over the old edict.

“What does it say?” Xin asked at his elbow. He glanced down at her, she was facing the street.

“Just a decree that the Seeress ordered this village closed.” He stumbled over the last word and looked around at the burned out huts and finally at the distant pile of bones. “I don’t understand it. The canyon folk are poor, though their work in the mines made many a merchant rich.”

“Perhaps there was an uprising.” Rale suggested.

Tier shrugged. “I don’t recall hearing anything. According to Chiron they were descendants of the Air elementals. That rubble is what’s left of Hyrfett.”

“That’s why.” Xin said looking up at him. “She wanted to get rid of anyone who might be an air elemental.”

“And then send him to go locate one?” Rale asked. “Doesn’t make sense.”

Tier moved down the steps of the small temple and made his way towards the pile of bones. He felt a whisper of power being used. He turned scanning the buildings. It wasn’t the earth boy when he’d used his ability, it felt solid. This barely brushed against his mind. He felt it again, further away, then it faded.

“Tier?” Xin touched his arm. “What is it?”

He shook his head. “Thought I,” he stopped. In the doorway of one of the burned out huts stood the pale outline of a child. Tier swallowed. The outline got thicker, the form more solid. It was a little girl, watching him. Her ghostly hair moving in the wind. “Thought I heard something.”

Xin narrowed her eyes and glanced towards the house. “Do you,”

“No.” he said curtly and strode back towards the horses. He needed to get out of this place. The longer they were there, the greater chance for him to see the souls of those massacred. Neither Rale nor Xin argued with him about heading towards the crossroads further south.

“You can travel openly with us and get a share of our provisions or creep behind us like a wild animal taking our scraps. It’s your choice.” He called to the boy hiding in the ruins. There was no reply, no sound and Tier shrugged, pulling himself up on his horse.

He led them back south towards the distant crossroads and away from the little ghost girl who still watched him from the door of the house.

 

 

The crossroads was a dry dusty square with old iron cages hanging from a set of large, man-made wooden frames. There were remains of people still in the cages and Xin would have preferred to keep going but Tier called a halt, voice sharp. Rale said a few choice words in Nekarian as he dismounted and for a moment Xin’s breath caught. Tier glared at him but said nothing.

Xin went about helping them set up camp listening as they snapped back and forth. Rale finally snarled something and went towards the cages, muttering under his breath. Xin took a deep breath and went over to Tier who was glaring after his cousin.

“You are being a total ass, you know that?” She said.

He looked at her. “I am, am I?”

“You’ve been short with him,” she jerked her head towards Rale. “Since we left the burned out village.” he snorted and turned to leave but she grabbed his arm. “Oh no, don’t go walking away. You saw something, what?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Tier,”

“It has no bearing with right now.”

She shook her head. “You are an awful liar.”

He ran his hand through his hair not meeting her eyes. “There was a ghost child just watching us. Those people were poor, there was no uprising, they were murdered in their sleep.”

Xin let her hand drop. “It wasn’t your doing, Tier, it’s not your fault.”

His lips pressed together. “No, but it was men like me who did it. I don’t think any of them questioned it. Not a single one.” He met her gaze before turning and walking away.

Xin watched him for a moment, then went to the small simple fire and sat, staring at the flames.

 

Tier stirred the fire, glancing over at his companions. Rale was facing away from the fire and snoring. Xin was facing the fire, sleeping. He stood, glancing out at the darkness that was pressed against the firelight. He didn’t see any spirits, for once, but he did see the huddled shape just beyond the ring of firelight. He lifted the water skin shaking it lightly, the water sloshed loud in the still silence.

“You must be thirsty.” He said softly, not wanting to wake the others.

No sound though he was certain the boy was listening.

“We won’t hurt you. I’d like to talk to you.” Movement, the child crept closer.

“Why?” the voice was rough, cracked.

Tier set the water down and moved closer to the fire where he sat, legs crossed staring at the shadows beyond the wall of darkness.

“I have never met an Earth Elemental before.” Tier admitted. “I was told there were none.”

The boy crept into the light, picking up the water skin with trembling hands. He drank quickly, throat moving with each swallow. Water dribbled from the corner of his mouth. When he lowered it Tier got a good look at the boy’s face. Swollen, dark bruises under his skin. One eye was swollen shut and his nose looked broken and he was studying Tier as much as Tier was studying him.

“We have to hide.” The boy said, dropping to a crouch.

“How’d they discover you?”

“Rocks falling.” The boy looked down, trailing his fingers in the dirt. “Don’t wanna talk about it.” He glanced to Tier’s right then back. “Where are you going?”

“Not sure.” Tier admitted. “Trying to decide. I’m supposed to find an Air Elemental and a Fire Elemental.”

“The Air Elementals fled to Sandau.”

Tier blinked several times. “What?”

“Legends. Nekar marched against Hyrfett and those who survived, fled to Sandau. At least that’s what the elders said, when the priests weren’t around. They say the Fire Lords of Sandau protected them.”

Tier stared, dumbfounded. “So outside of Nekar, this is common knowledge?” he wasn’t directing the question at the boy, but Geb nodded.

“The elders believe the power to move the rocks comes from evil spirits.” Geb leaned forward. “They believe it will destroy the world if it is used, that it will release the ancient demons from slumber.”

“The spirits have nothing to do with those powers.” Tier said, his mind running in circles. What the hell was he going to do?

“It’s like breathing.” The boy held out his hand and a group of small pebbles floated up, a solid rumble of power rippled across Tier’s mind as the pebbles spun in a slow circle.

“Amazing.”

The pebbles dropped with a clatter and the boy looked at him startled. “Just pebbles…”

“And I have to actually reach down and pick them up.” He did so, scooping a small handful of little rocks.

The boy shrugged glancing away. Tier followed his gaze and smiled. Xin.

“She can do amazing things with water.” The boy said, voice hushed. He looked at Tier guiltily. “I didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“She harbors no ill will against you.” Tier said.

Geb nodded, yawning. Tier stood and went to his pack. He turned towards the boy, handing him his cloak.

“Go lay down, get some rest. It’s been a long day.”

The boy looked at the cloak then back up at Tier. “Thank you.”

Tier shrugged settling on his sleeping roll. It was a long time before he was able to get to sleep.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, Aug 19th.

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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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 13

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

 

Chapter 13

The canyons were a maze of narrow passages winding through rock. Etched out by rivers, ages past, they’d always unnerved him as a youth. Tier followed the footprints in the dirt, trying not to think too hard about what he did. If he gave it too much thought, he’d make himself go insane.

The boy’s trail led them along a narrow path that led down into a steep ravine. Tier halted, considering. The boy’s abilities might have killed someone. Tier dismounted, staring towards the edge of the ledge. They’d need to be careful. Tier didn’t look at Rale and Xin when they caught up. They were full of questions and he had no answers.

“What did you just do?” Rale demanded, dismounting. “That,”

“We don’t have time to discuss it.” Tier crouched near the edge of the ledge, staring down at the river winding between pillars of stone far below. The path down was a paler rock than the surrounding stones, and crisscrossed, back and forth down to the ravine floor. He frowned, stood and stepped back. Power rippled across his mind. A loud crack echoed through the canyons and the path broke from the cliff wall, tumbling to the ravine floor below.

“I glad you weren’t on that!” Xin said, touching his arm. She glanced down into the ravine.

“Me too.” Tier frowned.

“He’s right by the river.” She looked back at Tier. “Is there another way down?”

“I don’t know.” Tier scanned the area. There were other high canyon passages. “This place is a maze.”

Xin nodded and stretched her hands out, palms down. Tier watched, trickling power, a whisper in his head, accompanied her hand gestures. She raised her hands up over her head, rotating her hands till they were palm up. A thin stream of water lifted crept upwards.  She spread her fingers and the water gained a flat mushroom-like top. Xin nodded, glancing at him.

“What are you doing?” Rale asked, his voice hushed. She grinned and clenched her hands into fists. There was an odd crackling sound and Tier realized the water hardened into thick ice that glistened under the sun.

“Watch my horse will you?” She didn’t wait for an answer, instead stepping onto the flat ice and lowered her hands. The water platform sank back down to the ravine.

Tier swore.

“Did you know she could do that?” Rale whispered.

“No.” Tier shook his head. “No I didn’t.”

 

Xin’s heart pounded as she stepped from the ice platform onto the narrow sandy bank. The boy backed up, his mouth open in a perfect ‘o’. His ebony skin glistened under the sunlight, his tight, curly hair filthy and twig ridden.

Xin eyed him, noting the blood dripping from a split lip and his left eye so swollen she doubted he could see out of it. He crouched, baring his teeth like an animal and growling.

“Can you speak Dhaul? Or Common Nekar?” Xin asked. She stayed near the water, feeling the current.

The boy held out his hand, a large rock wobbled and lifted. He made a fist and the rock shot towards her. She pulled water from the river, knocking it aside before it hit her face. The water and rock hit the cliff, the rock clattering to the sand.

Xin directed another stream of water towards the child, knocking him into the water. She raised her hands, the water lifted him out of the river and set him back on the river bank. She pulled all the water from his ragged clothes, removing dirt, blood, and debris. When she stepped back, she struggled to catch her breath. The boy lifted his hands, turning them back and forth, his eyes wide

“I don’t want to hurt you. Do you understand?” Xin tried again, hoping he wouldn’t try to fight anymore. She was tired, she’d never used her abilities in this way.

The boy sneered and crouched, fists in front of him. He said something, his words unfamiliar to her.

“I don’t understand.” She spread her hands out in front of her, hoping it wasn’t threatening to him. He pointed to the water and said something else, punctuating each word with a stomp that sent ripples through the ground.

“That man up there just saved your life.” Xin said. “He also saved mine. The least you can do is thank him.”

Pebbles lifted from the ground, wobbling, and the boy snarled. Xin shook her head, walking away from the boy, along the river.

“He’s on a mission for the Seeress of Nekar.” She said glancing over her shoulder. “She wants him to find elementals.” A pebble was flung her way. She directed water between her and it, freezing and dragging the pebble back to the river. She turned and looked at the boy. “Nice try.”

Pebbles began flying in her direction and she moved a wall of water between her and the boy, freezing it as the pebbles hit it. A larger rock smashed through the ice and Xin leapt out of the way, landing hard on the sand.

She stood up, lifted her hands, and directed the water to coil around the boy. A stone flew her way and she didn’t move fast enough. It glanced off her forehead and she stumbled, stunned and dizzy, the water splashing. She touched her temple, and looked at her fingers. Crimson. She wiped her fingers on her tunic. Water erupted from the river, wound around the kid and froze. She stomped over to him glaring.

“I’m done being nice.” She snapped.

“Are you gonna kill me now?” He spoke common Nekarian, his voice cracked and low.

Xin blinked several times. Her anger faded and her heart twisting. This was just a child after all. “You can speak a language I understand.”

He said nothing, but two large tears dripped down his cheek.

“Can you make another walkway come down from the cliffs up there?”

He closed his one good eye.

“No one is going to kill you.” She lowered him down and pushed the water back to the river. He looked up blinking.

“My people,”

“Tier ran them off.” Xin glanced up the cliff side, far above Tier and Rale waited. She swallowed looking back at the boy.

“The big man?”

Xin nodded and wiped her face with her hand, staring at the smear of red on her fingers.

“I’m sorry.” the child crept backwards. Xin eyed him, tired.

“What is your name?”

He looked down, using his long toes to make paths in the dirt.

“I can’t just call you boy.”

“Geb.” He said glancing up at her. “I have no family name.”

“Earth shaper Geb, I am Xin.” She held out her hand. The boy looked at her hand then looked up at her. She lowered it. “Okay. The man who stopped your people, he was sent on a mission to find elementals.”

“Why?”

“He wasn’t told.”

The boy sneered at her. “And you want me to join you?”

She studied him. He was older than she first thought he was, though small and thin. Twelve maybe? Ten? “How old are you?”

He said nothing but held out his hand. Xin took a step back, fighting her aching head. She wasn’t sure she could do another battle. Around them the small rocks began to shift and bounce on the ground. From the cliff face a wide pathway shot out, winding back and forth. Xin stared at it and looked down at Geb.

“Thank you. I owe them my life. That is why I go with them. They haven’t harmed me in any way.”

Geb swallowed, running a boney hand over his face. Xin wanted to hand him her rations, but they were in her pack, on her horse. It was criminal how thin he was. “I don’t believe you.”

“Then stay.” Xin turned and stepped on the stone, glancing over her shoulder. “You’ll be lonely down here, but if that’s what you prefer, then good day.”

 

She picked her way up the steep slope, aware that Geb was following her a discrete distance behind. She didn’t look behind her until she stepped onto the ledge, but she couldn’t see the boy. Tier gripped her arm pulling her from the ledge edge.

“Next time warn us before you do something like that.” His voice odd. He pressed a cloth against her temple. “That looks nasty.”

“I didn’t have time to warn you.” She glanced at the boy who was creeping up the path poking over the cliff, but Tier put his hand under her chin making her look back at him as he dabbed at the wound. She scowled. “It’s not deep!”

“It’s still bleeding bad.” Rale handed Tier another bandage. Xin batted at them both, scowling.

“I’m fine.” She met Tier’s narrow gaze.

“The boy?”

“His name is Geb. He was panicking.” She glanced back towards the ledge. She couldn’t see him, though she felt he was there.

“How badly was he injured?” Tier asked gruffly, stepping back.

“Busted lip, one eye looks swollen shut, and thin. Tier, he looked almost skeletal.” She looked back towards the ledge. “He didn’t seem interested in coming with us.”

“We can leave some of the rations and water,” Rale said, shuffling through the bags.

“Good idea.” Tier went to his own pack and pulled out a spare tunic. “Didn’t look like he had many clothes either. It gets cold out here at night.”

Xin turned towards the ledge, hoping to see the boy.

“The canyons are no place to stay.” Tier called.

“There are hiding places.” The boy growled back, though he was still hidden.

“Aside from what we’ll leave behind, there’s no food, very little water,” Tier crouched, setting the folded tunic on the ground and taking the water skin and rations from Rale. “We have more, are traveling on to other safer places. You’d have a better chance with us than without.”

“You have a great gift!” Rale added. “I’d like to see more of what you can do.”

A hiss drifted from the rocks, but the boy didn’t show himself.

Tier turned, expression thoughtful. “Let’s give him space. The water and food won’t last long. If we backtrack we’ll find the old road. If Chiron’s maps were right, it should lead straight to Hyrfett.” He looked at Xin. “Do you need to sit down before we continue?”

“I’m fine Tier, just tired. Hey!” Hands on her waist, he lifted her up. She swung her leg over her horse’s back, grabbing at its mane, getting herself settled. When she looked back, Tier was walking back to where his horse waited patiently.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Aug 14th.

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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Elemental Truth Chapter 12

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

 

 

Chapter 12

 

To Xin’s relief, Lord Chiron was absent from the courtyard when they gathered in the cool pre-dawn. Lady Vieno stood serenely at the base of the steps. Her eyes sad, though she smiled at Xin.

“There are rumors from the south, that there are tribal people gathering near the canyons.” She said, turning to Tier. He nodded, tightening the girth of one of the horse’s saddles.

“Any idea why?” Rale asked.

“There were whispers about an Earth Elemental.” Vieno shook her head. “I don’t believe it though. More likely there is some tribal skirmish.”

“Elementals are extinct, right?” Rale grinned at her.

“Perhaps.” Vieno’s smile faded. “When I was a child I saw an Earth Elemental lift a wall of rock between her and some attackers.”

“What happened to her?” Tier asked.

“She was executed.” Vieno said shortly. She handed him several water skins. “Stay on the main roads, avoid the tribal people. They have gotten very aggressive in recent years.”

“Anything else?”

“Just visit more often.” Vieno gave a low bow and smiled again at Xin before turning and making her way up the wide steps.

They filed out of the courtyard in silence, walking through the dingy city streets towards the tall gates. Once they left the city, making their way along the well-worn dusty path Rale called a halt.

He eyed Tier. “You’re planning on going to the old town, aren’t you?”

“Do you want to go back to the Seeress and tell her that we heard a rumor of an Earth Elemental but didn’t look into it?”

The silence stretched. Rale stared off towards the distant cliffs and swore under his breath.

“I didn’t think so.” Tier turned his horse back around and led them down another narrower path. Xin and Rale exchanged dubious looks but followed. Scrub-brush and priest-trees dotted the sandy landscape, the branches of the priest trees reached up towards the clear blue sky, a plea perhaps for water? She felt no moisture, no call of water. They picked their way along the old path, making their way cautiously through old gullys and a dried up river bed.

Distance was tricky. What looked like it should have only taken a few hours at most to reach the mountains, by nightfall the mountains loomed in the distance, and Tier called a halt.

“We should reach it by midday tomorrow.” He dismounted.

“How does anyone survive in this place?” Xin asked, following his lead. They talked as they prepared the small camp; a small clearing with some deadwood around the edges.

“How? Hells with how, why? What’s here?” Rale indicated the dried scraggly brush. “The only water controlled by Chiron, or whoever sits as Governor. Can’t grow food, why would anyone bother?”

“Gold.” Tier pointed towards the mountains. “There’s gold and other rare minerals in the mountains. It costs to keep the Empire running. Delebeg has some of the richest mines in the world.”

Xin shook her head. “The pursuit of gold, what a waste. Personally I’d like a nice dip in a stream.”

“The river used to wind all the way to the northwest canyons.” Tier said. “When I was here as a youth, we went up to the dried out lake. I remember Vieno talking about how the lake dried up during the war of the Elementals.”

“I heard her say that once the whole Delebeg region was a forest too. Ages ago.” Rale looked at Xin. “In the center of the city is a huge tree stump, as big as a house.”

“Old legends say that when the tree sprouts again, Delebeg will be freed of the empire.” Tier snorted. “One hears all sorts of odd things when one is creeping through hidden passages.”

“I thought those passageways were just rumor!” Rale whistled. “Wish I’d known that before we left.”

“I’m sure you do. I found them after arriving here.” Tier grinned. “I was a bit troublesome when I got here, I was trying to find a ways out of the palace.”

“Why were you sent up here?” Xin asked.

“Maen and I wouldn’t stop fighting, and father got tired of having to separate us.” Tier rubbed the bridge of his nose, sheepishly. “It got a little bit violent.”

“I heard there was some sort of knife fight.” Rale commented.

“There was that too.” Tier shrugged. “I told you, we never got along.”

 

It took her a long time to finally fall asleep, the heat of the day had turned to a bone chilling night. She dreamed of a river winding through the Delebeg valley. It was not the dry and dead desert, instead it was a lush forest. In the center of the valley towered a tree, taller than any she’d seen before. There was a loud, steady pounding, like a heartbeat. And with each strike the land changed. From green to brown, and the tree whithered.

She half sat up, blinking blearily towards the fire. The pounding didn’t cease with her waking. She heard it, in the distance.

“What is that?” She startled herself asking it aloud.

“They’re a long ways away, Xin.” Tier said. He stood on the edge of the circle of firelight, facing the dark. The firelight glinted off his sword. “You might as well go back to sleep.”

She could hear yelling in the distance, almost yipping like wild dogs. “I don’t know that I can with that. Do you know what they are saying?

“No.” He looked her way, the shadows hiding his features, giving him a far older look. “They resist most interaction with the Empire, except for the Seeress and her priests.”

“So they adhere to her laws.” She frowned.

“Usually.” He looked back into the dark. “There hasn’t been an uprising in recent years, that I’ve heard about, though Chiron complained about them.”

“I don’t like Chiron. He’s greasy.” Xin admitted.

Tier chuckled. “He is.” The drums pounded on. “Try to get back to sleep.”

 

The village was a collection of mud huts, divided by the road that led to the cliffs. Blocking the road, garbed in an assortment of rags and leather, were villagers in a circle around something huddled on the ground. The villagers parted, allowing them to pass, though they glared at them. Xin swallowed, eyes locked on the small figure on the ground. A child. They’d encircled a child.

A thin, wiry man carrying a spear decorated with bones and feathers, stepped between Tier and the child. He pointed the spear at Tier, rattling something off in in a language she couldn’t understand. She looked sharply at Tier who pointed at the man then towards the scrub brush.

The man shook his spear, feathers and bones rattling loudly, yelling.

“Tier this isn’t a good situation.” Rale hissed.

“He’s a child, Rale.” Tier pointed at the huddled form. “We can’t let them kill him, elemental or not.”

The child pushed up, crouching low, dark eyes staring at them. He flung his arm up. Solid rock shot up from the ground, leaving a crater, and flew through the air towards the assembled. The crowd scattered, screaming. Xin’s horse jerked and she hit the ground, the air in her lungs whooshing out. She gasped rolling to one side as the boy ran down the old street towards the narrow opening in the cliffs that led to the canyons.

The tribal people were yelling around her and Xin was hauled to her feet.

“You hurt?” Tier’s voice was loud against her ear.

“I’m fine. He ducked into the canyons.” She looked around, Rale had her horse and Tier’s and was still mounted. Tier had drawn his sword and jerked his head towards her horse.

“Get ready to ride.”

She nodded, shaking as she pulled herself back up on her horse. Tier backed up slowly.

“Your interference has cost us dearly.” The old man hobbled towards them. Tier towered over the man, pointing his sword at him.

“From this point on this is an Imperial matter.” Tier’s voice was low but the man in front blinked several times, his body weaving back and forth. “The road is Imperial territory and you and your people are trespassing. Be gone.” The last two words were accompanied by a rolling power, a low whisper that skittered across Xin’s senses. It wasn’t directed at her, rather the group watching them, but it made her tremble. Imperials weren’t supposed to have that kind of power. The tribesmen’s eyes glazed and they turned and stumbled out into the brush.

Xin’s horse sidestepped uneasily and she glanced at Rale who was slowly shaking his head, eyes wide.

“How the hell?” Rale stared at Tier.

“Let’s go.” Tier said curtly, remounting. He turned his horse and took off at a rolling canter, following the child’s path. Xin and Rale exchanged stunned looks.

“How did he do that?” She whispered.

“I have no idea.”

~*~

 

The next chapter will be posted Tues, Aug 5th.

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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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 11

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

 

 Chapter 11

“She said you’re on a mission for the Seeress.” Vieno said, her voice low. Tier glanced towards her then back to his bags.

“I am.” He closed his travel bag, meeting her eyes. “There wasn’t an option to turn her down.”

“Why you?” Vieno clasped her hands together, shaking her head. “No, what goes on in the mind of the Seeress is known only to her. What has she sent you for?”

“Vieno,”

“Tier.”

Tier glanced around the room. It looked secure, but Chiron’s home was riddled with old passages and hidden niches. There could be any number of listeners. He held out his hands, Vieno nodded, moving over to the wall, pressing her palm against the stucco.

“There are old secrets, some that should never be overheard.” Vieno met his eyes. Light flared up under her palm, streaking out on either side, bathing the room in a soft red glow. She looked up at him, her lip twitching.

“How did you do that?” He asked. She shook her head.

“It would take too long to explain. What has the Seeress asked you to do?”

“She ordered me to locate elementals.”

“What?”

“And bring them back to her to help mend the world.” Tier ran a hand through his hair.

“Mend the world?”

“That’s what she said.” Tier felt his stomach twist. Now, miles away from the seeress it felt a very thin explanation. Vieno paced slowly not meeting his eyes.

“She wiped out the elementals, generations ago.” She said. “There’s another reason she wants you to bring them to her. It’s impossible, there are no more.”

“That’s what I thought.” Tier said slowly. Vieno halted and looked at him. Her eyes widened as it struck her. She nodded.

“I see.” Vieno pressed her fingers together in front of her.

“I can’t figure out what I’m missing.” He admitted.

“She sent you to Dhaul?” Vieno scowled.

“Aye. But gave us no indication as to where we needed to go next. We figured that the earth shapers were originally from this area, so we came here. Not sure where to go from here though.”

“It’s futile, Tier. There have not been reports of Earth Shapers since I was a child. And as far as I know there are no more air weavers.” Vieno’s eyes narrowed. “The fire wielders were all in the Sandau and plains region, as far as I know there are none.”

“There were rumors in Jacktor that the Lord of Sandau is a fire lord.”

Vieno waved her hand, shaking her head. “No, we would have heard such news here. There’s something she didn’t tell you.”

“I worry that this isn’t,” he hesitated. “The honorable path.”

“You question her?” Vieno asked softly.

Tier swallowed. “Not exactly.”

“One can be loyal to Nekar, but not to her, you know.” She said it softly. Tier stared at her, the words echoing in his head.

“She is Nekar.” He murmured.

“I don’t believe that. And neither do you.”

“Just saying that can get me killed, Vieno.”

“Serving her, will get you killed.” She touched his hand.

“Perhaps. I doubt that she’d call on the Imperial household just to kill me off though.” Tier pointed out.

Vieno inclined her head. “This is true.” She pressed her hand against the wall again and the color faded. “Sleep well, dear one.”

She was gone before he could say goodnight.

 

Vieno hurried through the old city, stepping gingerly over sprawled drunks and piles of rubbish, her mind whirring. She barely glanced at the archway she ducked beneath, though she paused, looking around once before sliding behind the ragged cloth that hung over the doorway. Two men inside stood, startled and hastily bowed.

“Lady Vieno, we weren’t expecting,”

“Do you have a runner available?” She asked. She didn’t have much time, her absence couldn’t be noticed.

“Yes my lady, but,”

“I need you to send this to Lorn.” She held out a small black feather. Both men frowned.

“A feather?”

“The recipient will know its meaning.” She pierced the men with a cold look. “Can your runner leave now?”

“Of course I can!” A slender man stepped into the room from the hall, bowing deeply. He took the feather from her staring at it with narrow eyes before looking at her. “It cracks?”

“Slightly. You have a name?”

“Anil, my lady. At your service.” He bowed again. Vieno smiled. Yes, this one would do nicely. “This must be delivered to,” He held out his hand.

“Ambassador Xeresel.” Vieno clasped her hands in front of her. “It is vital you get this to him, as quickly as possible.”

He tucked the feather into a bag which he hung on his belt.

“When you return, report to me directly at the palace.”

“Yes my lady.” He gave his fellows a salute, bowed again to Vieno, and ducked out the door.

Vieno nodded, glancing at the two startled men. “You didn’t see me.”

“Of course not, my lady.” They sat, backs to the doorway.

She slipped from the room, glancing around. Anil was nowhere to be seen. She took a deep breath and began to make her way back to the palace.

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, July 31st.

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. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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