Disclaimer; Okay folks, here it is, Elemental Truth, first of the Elemental Wars stories. It is in the final stages of editing. Hope you all enjoy it.*
She was a beautiful devil, and she held us in the palm of her hand. ~ Emperor Tousan year 20
Oracle of the Seeress of Nekar; year 1028 of the Empire of Nekar
Tier stared down the steep hill at the cluster of buildings in the valley below, not feeling the heat of the afternoon sun. He fingered the small black scroll, sighing. One didn’t ignore a summons from the Seeress, no matter who he was. He urged his horse on ignoring the chills creeping up his spine.
The Oracle of the Seeress was a complex of buildings, nestled in a narrow valley between snowcapped mountain ranges. Half the complex was dedicated to the local god, whose name escaped him. The other half was the home of the Seeress, last of the Spirit Elementals.
A cold breeze whipped up the path, passed through him. His horse sidestepped, nickering before inching forward. In the courtyard below, priests of the local god had spotted him and waved. He raised his hand in greeting and shook himself. Just a meeting with the Seeress.
The wind grew colder and he felt a heavy pressure building at his temples. It was almost enough to make him halt. With a near audible snap, the pressure was gone, and he again felt the wind, though now it was warm on his cold skin. His horse side-stepped and balked, ears flat on his skull.
“You’ve faced worse than this, old friend.” Tier murmured, patting the warhorse’s neck. “You don’t even have to speak to her, that’s my job.” The horse snorted, pranced in place. “Come on.”
Step by step, he coaxed the horse through the open gates, and once inside it shifted uneasily. The priests who’d been waving at him were nowhere to be seem. Tier frowned as he patted his horse’s neck, looking around. He was reluctant to dismount, taking in his surroundings. Three sides were a covered walkway. A tall, arching doorway gaped at him. It probably lead into the main Oracle. The south wall was a square doorway, with the doors wide open. A stable walkway, horses poked their heads out of their stalls looking in his direction. Beyond the walkway was a corral which he’d seen from up the pass.
The arching doors swung open and several priests came out; their long gray robes looked hot. The bottom hem was frayed and knotted with strands of colorful ribbon. The symbolism was lost on Tier. He was not a religious man. A strong, hot wind kicked up, and their robes billowed and snapped around them. Tier’s horse snorted, sidestepped again and rolled his eyes at the sound.
“Your Highness, we have been waiting for you.” A wrinkled, stooped priest, with a long gray beard, reached up to grip the warhorse’s bridle, rubbing its nose gently. His beard wagged above his toes which peeked out from beneath his robes.
“Where is the messenger we sent?” The priest peered up, squinting. Tier sighed.
“He was killed in a scuffle with bandits along the way.” Tier said, he pulled the small bag of humble belongings from his saddle-pack and handed it to the priest. “I buried him up near the Jaktor border.”
“I see.” The old priest tucked the bag into his robes, sighing. “We will hold a bonfire for him tonight. Thank you, your highness.”
Tier inclined his head. It was the least he could do for the half grown boy. “Do you know what the summons is about?” He asked, dismounting. A younger priest took the reigns and led his horse towards the stable area. The other priests milled about, expressions unreadable.
“I don’t know, your Highness. We obey, we do not question.” The Head Priest said apologetically.
“Figures.” Tier scowled, wiping at his travel dusted breeches. “Don’t tell the peons, eh?”
“Your Highness!” The High Priest scowled at him.
Tier shrugged. “Is there a place to clean up?”
He turned, recognizing the voice, and grinned. A tall, lean man came through the gate, dropping the reins of his tired looking horse as a priest scrambled over to grab them. Rale Hassof, his younger cousin, strode towards him arms outstretched. He was one of the few noblemen Tier trusted. It had been close to three years since he’d seen him.
“What are you doing here?” Tier asked as they clasped arms. Rale pulled a black scroll from his pocket, wiggling it between his fingers.
“I got a summons. You get one, too? I thought you were up in Jaktor, trying to take the city. His excellency has kept you busy.”
“I was, but the messenger said it was important and it couldn’t wait. General Dyrnos is there, they don’t need me to hold the siege.”
“It is going well, then?”
“We should take the city by winter.”
The High Priest, hands clasped in front of him, cleared his throat, and gestured towards the doorway. “Gentlemen, the Seeress is waiting for you, if you will please follow me.”
Icy fingers clawed up his spine, and the pressure at his temples was back. It increased until it was a steady, throbbing pain in time with his pulse. On the edge of his awareness, he heard a low song, a familiar, haunting tune he couldn’t place. He halted, staring out of the arching gate at the fields beyond. Silver mist crept toward him, covering the ground and the closer it got the louder the song grew.
A ghost mist. Spirits of those who died violently. Tier gritted his teeth. He shouldn’t be able to see them, it was said that only those touched by the spirits were able to see them. He couldn’t look away. Shapes appeared in the mist, hovering several horse-lengths from him. Tiny tendrils of mist crept towards him, hesitant. Faces formed dark gaping eyes and mouths open in a silent scream. The song reached a deafening roar.
“Your highness?” The Priest’s voice cut through the song. Tier jumped, the mist vanished as if it never was. With it the song faded away.
“Are you coming?”
“Yes.” Tier nodded curtly. He took a final long look towards the fields outside the gate, rubbing his palms on his pants, before following the Priest.
They were led to a small, torch lit room filled with heady smoke. Blue cord wound around the stone support pillars. In the center of the room was a raised dais, draped with blue cloth. Tier’s gaze was drawn to the slim, pale form in the center of the dais. She was a woman-child, draped in thin gauze-like white strips of cloth. She lay on her back, arms and legs sprawled out, hands twitching. Her hair, thick silver curls, moved as though it had a mind of its own. The chills were back. This was the ages old Seeress?
“He is here, holy one.” The priest bowed low, turned and hurried back up the hallway.
She turned her head, looking towards him. Tier took a step backwards. Her eyes were white. No color, no pupil. A dead, emotionless gaze staring at him.
“I’ve been waiting for you.” She whispered. “I need your help, you must find the elementals.”
Tier couldn’t tear his eyes away from her, both repulsed and fascinated. The air stilled, the chamber silent. Somewhere Tier heard water dripped. The Seeress moved in exaggerated, fluid movements, somehow in time with the water. She stood, diminutive; the sheer fabric strips did nothing to hide her lush, young figure, nor her pasty-pale skin. Her movements were stiff, first fast, then slow, her hair and clothes floated around her as though she were underwater. Tier’s heart was pounding painfully in his chest, the hair on the back of his neck was on end.
“My lady, the Elementals nearly destroyed the world.” The priest said from the doorway, his voice admonishing her like a father would a daughter. She didn’t glance his way.
Tier shot a look at Rale. His cousin’s eyes were wide, his face pale.
“The world is out of balance and we need the elementals to fix it.” Her voice was soft, sultry, almost too low to hear. The Seeress turned her head towards them. “If they can’t be found, and brought here, there will be disaster.” She lifted one slender hand, pointing in Tier’s direction. “Find them. There isn’t much time.”
Tier heard a rush of air moving through the chamber, darkness closed in around him. His head throbbed; a chill crept up his back. He stood in a circle of light, unable to see the rest of the chamber.
“What?” His own voice startled him. He heard nothing else, not even the dripping water. He strained to listen. There, a whisper of movement, a rustling of fabric, soft breathing at his ear.
“The world was plunged into darkness, my prince.” The Seeress’ whispered. He cringed, his skin was trying to crawl away on its own. Her voice conjured up images of silk and satin, and his stomach churned dangerously. “Some of the Sprit Elementals survived. We warned the great kings what would happen, but they wouldn’t listen. It was the others, the shapers, who did the damage.”
“I thought the shaping elementals were all extinct.” He forced the words out.
“There are a few who survived. They’re hidden in the shadows, waiting to destroy what I have worked so hard to rebuild.”
“They want what I have.” Her voice went brittle. “Power. If you bring them here, they can be forced to fix what they’ve destroyed. And heal the damage to the land.” She sighed against his ear. “You’ve seen it yourself, during your travels.”
He felt cool hands on his forearm and tried not to flinch away. Her voice dropped and he could almost feel her thin form pressing against him.
“If we are to save our world, we must find them.”
Tier felt the darkness closing in on him, wrapping around him. A cloak of shadow, blocking everything but her voice.
“Do not forget, my prince. If you do, we all will suffer and perish.”
He felt as though he was falling. Images, confusing and violent, flashed through his mind. Her voice echoed in his ears.
“Another war is coming and if the elementals are not found, it will tear our world apart.”
He opened his eyes trying to remember when he’d closed them. The Seeress stood in front of him, expression as blank as her eyes. His head pounded.
“You will go and find one water user, one fire wielder, one air dancer and one rock shaper.” Her voice was cool. She circled him, he felt like a mouse and she was a great cat ready to pounce.
“That is impossible, with all due respect, Holy One, they’re extinct. All gone.” Rale protested.
“Where would I go to find them?” Tier asked. She trailed a finger across his back and as she circled back in front of him, across his chest stabbing at him with an overlong fingernail.
“You start south, near the Fortress of Dhaul.” She trailed her fingernail downwards. Tier clenched his fist, slapping her hand away wouldn’t be received well. One didn’t slap away the Seeress if one wanted to live to old age. She looked back at him and dropped her hand. “You will return them to me. Do I have your word on it, dear prince?”
He hesitated; so many things could go wrong. “What if I don’t find any? What if they refuse to come with me?”
“Do your best, if they refuse to join you, return to me. We’ll reconsider our options.” Her head tipped to one side. “Can you do that, your highness?”
He stiffened, the insult loud in his ears. “You have my word of honor.” He forced the words out. There was an odd ring to them, like the closing of a lid. The Seeress smiled and turned towards Rale.
“You go, account for everything you see.”
“What?” Rale blinked, looking back and forth between Tier and the Seeress.
“You are my witness. Can I hold you to that, Lord Rale?”
Tier felt his cheeks burning. He gritted his teeth and met Rale’s startled eyes over the top of her head and gave a sharp nod.
“You have my word.” Rale choked out. The Seeress inclined her head, turned, and walked with the slow, stop start motion, back to the dais.
The priest stepped between the Seeress and Tier, handing him a newly sealed black scroll, before bowing and leaving again up the passage. From the shadows came several pale, female attendants, helping the Seeress back onto the dais.
“What is this?” Tier held it up.
“Your orders.” She looked over her shoulder at him. “Just in case you forget what they are. Till we meet again, your highness.”
Next chapter will be posted Thursday, June 5th.
(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix
*There might be some formatting adjustments as I figure this out, please bear with me.