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.”
“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.
“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.
“What are we going to do?”
Tier couldn’t answer. He wasn’t even sure.
The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Sept 18th.
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Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!
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