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