Disclaimer; Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing. Hope you all enjoy it.
“Traveling with the Imperial prince must have been interesting.” The Seeress of Sandau, a slim woman Lord Nesh addressed as Lady Launi, sat on a delicate looking chair at a dainty table. Like the furniture, she looked as though a strong wind would blow her away. Her face, ageless, was serene, her long fingers laced together in her lap. Behind her, leaning against the wall beside the door, stood Lord Nesh. He was tall, broad shouldered, and surrounded by an aura of power. As tanned as his people and, Xin quietly admitted to herself, he was very attractive. She swallowed a surge of guilt and tried to focus on Lady Launi’s words and avoid looking directly at either Lady Launi or the Lord Nesh. The murals gave her chills which left her studying the tabletop. Lady Launi’s soft voice broke through her thoughts. “He acted honorably?”
“If you are asking if he raped me, no. Nor did he or Rale ever threaten to. Next question.” Xin stared hard at the pale eyed creature. She wasn’t sure where Lady Launi was looking and it added to her unease.
Lady Launi bowed her head, lips twitching. “Prince Tier’s reputation,”
“I’m well aware of his reputation, my lady.” Xin swallowed. She was going to get herself in trouble.
“Of course. You would be.” Lady Launi smiled.
“What is to become of Geb and I?”
“Earth Master Iro and Water Master Euka have agreed to take you on to train you.” Lord Nesh said. Xin looked up at him in surprise. “Water Master Euka also trained Corrin, when she arrived here.”
Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. “Corrin?” Vague memories beat at her. She shoved them away. Now was not the time to dwell on the past, hazy and indistinct as it was.
“Your mother I believe.” Lady Launi touched her arm. “Lady Xin,”
“I am no lady.” Xin muttered. Lady Launi shook her head.
“You are a water elemental. You’ve already managed great feats with your gifts. You have earned the title, Lady. Now, your mother is not in Sandau at the moment. She has a small house which stands open most of the year,”
“No.” Xin swallowed and shook her head. “That wouldn’t be right, not without her knowing I’m here.”
Lady Launi nodded and opened her mouth as though to say something when a knock at the door made them jump. Lord Nesh reached over and turned the knob. A slim woman with wild curly red hair stepped into the room. She nodded at Lord Nesh and smiled warmly at Xin.
“Aitelle, you are interrupting.” Lady Launi said. Aitelle flinched.
“I know. I apologize.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “The whole city is afire with rumors about General Corrin’s daughter.”
“I’m certain it is. The resemblance is quite striking.” Lord Nesh said. “There will be many curious eyes watching them.”
“I’d rather be back in the desert.” Geb scowled.
“Me too.” Xin murmured.
“I live in an old stable near the river. There are lots of spare rooms. Right behind it is a stream. You’d be able to practice your skills without drawing a crowd. And beyond the stream are the training grounds.” Aitelle looked at Geb. “You’d be able to work on your skills. It’s out of the way, not prone to lots of foot traffic and people usually try to avoid it.” Aitelle glanced at Xin. “As long as you don’t mind sand dragon musk, you are more than welcome.”
“Sand dragon?” Xin stared. Did the woman keep a dragon?
“Aitelle is from the canyons to the West, near where you and your traveling companions were. Her people were slaughtered by the Nekarians.” Nesh said grimly. “She acquired a baby sand dragon before coming to Sandau.”
“I rescued Ryuu from the soldiers and he chose to follow me.” Aitelle corrected him and then spread her hands out. People don’t bother us. It would be a place for you to get comfortable here.”
Xin glanced at Geb whose eyes were wide, watching the red haired woman. He looked at Xin.
“I think it’s a good idea.” His voice was barely audible.
Xin nodded. “I do too.”
“Shall we consider it as decided then?” Lord Nesh asked.
Launi inclined her head.
“With all due respect then, Ladies, I have meetings to attend.” He gave a slight bow and left. Lady Launi sighed.
“I’ll be needed at those meetings also.” She tipped her head to one side. “Aitelle,”
“I’ll give them a tour of the place.” The woman grinned.
“The city has stood for close to two thousand years, they say.” Aitelle said as they made their way along a side road towards the outskirts of town. “And they say even before it was a city there has always been a settlement here.”
“Why?” Geb asked. Aitelle pointed at the river.
“The river. It connects Sandau to the coasts. Here we are.” Aitelle pointed towards the two storied building. A rough path lead to the wide wooden door. In front, fenced off, was a large stable-yard with a shed leaning against the building.
“The plateau behind the stable is the training grounds. You can’t see the stream from here, but trust me, it’s there.” Aitelle motioned them to follow her as she simply floated a hand span off the ground to the porch. She waited beside the door.
Geb pointed. “Xin look, in the shadow, do you see that?”
That was a large something, coiled tightly in a mound, the tip of its tail twitching. Xin’s mouth went dry and the thing uncoiled its head. The sand dragon, far smaller than the ones they’d encountered in the canyon, shook its head, the frills making a rusting sound. Its eyes narrowed as it spotted them but it simply laid its head back atop its coils.
“He won’t hurt you or attack. Unless you step past the fence.” Aitelle advised.
“I’ll keep that in mind. What happens once we’re trained?” Xin asked.
“Training never stops. We always strive to improve and get stronger. Once you’re advanced enough, then you’ll be free to go wherever you want. Well, you could leave right now, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Aitelle shrugged.
“Nekar and her mindset is like a plague. And being Corrin’s daughter, it might not be a good idea for you to travel abroad.”
“I see.” Xin stared up the road they’d walked down. The curious onlookers had halted at the top of the hill. She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at them.
“At least no one here will try to stone you if you use your gifts.” Aitelle said.
“Or chase us out of town.” Geb leaned against the fence and looked up at Aitelle. Again, Xin got the sense of far greater age than the boy had years. “When will the Masters be here?”
“Probably in the morning.” Aitelle opened the door. “Come inside and I’ll show you around. Consider this place home for as long as you need.”
Xin swallowed and nodded. “Thank you.”
Lady Launi stared at the mural, at her nemesis. She felt within the room, and herself, the coils of uncertainty and doubt stirring. Long ago, Kera, the Seeress of Nekar, had been a near unstoppable force. Launi was still in training in the far north when the war broke out. How could she hope to stand up against the mad creature now? Kera might be south of the mountains that blocked Nekar from the rest of the world, but Launi wondered how long she was going to stay down south.
“She has stayed in Nekar for a thousand years, my lady. We always knew she would creep back north.” Lord Nesh said. Launi glanced at him. Waiting patiently behind him, stood the elemental masters and several commanders in charge of Nesh’s forces. She looked back at the mural as Nesh continued. “At least the Lady Nekita isn’t part of this any more.”
“Very true. I couldn’t have stood against them both.” She stared hard at the mural. The youthful faces. “Yet ’tis not her I worry about.” Nesh made a sound.
“He’s a Nekarian butcher, my lady.” Nesh’s voice was bitter. “He wouldn’t think twice anout grinding this city underfoot.”
“The man encountered was a far different man than the rumors would have us believe him to be.” She looked up at Nesh. “And he is the first male Spirit Elemental I’ve encountered in my lifetime, perhaps the first since the Founding. Untrained he blocked me. What might he do, were he trained properly? And we have sent him back to her, to be slaughtered. What secrets are hiding beneath the veil Kera has cast over that land? Is he the only one? Or are there others, hiding their abilities to stay alive.”
“I’ve reports of periodic religious purges. Perhaps that is what is behind them.” Earth Master Iro suggested.
“You sure she’ll kill him?” Someone else asked. “If he is powerful, as you suspect, what are the chances she will train him as her pupil instead?”
“Slight. She couldn’t even accept Nekita’s presence, her own twin.” Launi turned, looking over the assembled. “I doubt she would accept the help of a male elemental.”
“But the possibility is there?” Lady Iro said. The slim Earth Shaper sipped from the tea cup and tipped her head to one side. “That would make things interesting.”
“Interesting is an understatement, Lady Iro.” Lord Nesh said dryly.
“I should have found a way to convince him to stay.” Launi murmured.
“Too little information too late, my lady.” Lord Nesh said. “He will not abandon his people. If he is as honorable as Corrin’s daughter claims…”
“It’s sad how deluded Nekar is.” Lady Iro said wistfully.
“Sad, yes. And dangerous.” Lord Nesh said. “A deluded man with a sword can still kill.”
“Through the minds of those two men she’ll learn I’m here. And when she realizes it, I fear she will make her move north. The war will accelerate.”
“The second Seeress War?” Someone asked. Launi shook her head.
“The first one never ended. Only paused briefly.” Launi eyed each of them. “Prepare the elementals. Someone needs to get word to Corrin and let her know she is needed back here.”
“Last I heard, she was going to be meeting up with her lover on The Prancing Dragon.” One of Lord Nesh’s advisors said.”It runs cargo up and down the eastern coast.”
“We’ll send message to Tyrsleth.” The Water Master said. “She’ll be happy to hear about Xin. She was heartbroken about leaving her behind.”
“Say nothing of Xin.” Launi said quickly. “The young woman has reservations, and concerns. I will honor those.”
“Yes my lady.”
Launi turned to the Earth Shaper. “Lady Iro, find the old passages under the city. Make sure they’re sound. Prepare them.”
“Prepare them for what?” Iro whispered. Her dark eyes wide.
The silence stretched and Launi turned back to the mural, resuming her study Kera’s smooth, child-like face. She felt the others hesitate and leave, all but one. She smiled. He would stay. He always did. She glanced at Nesh, eyebrow arched.
“How soon do you think Nekar will march?”
She studied him for a long time. “Soon, Nesh.” She turned back to the mural, staring hard at the Seeress Kera. “Too soon.”
I’m on a mission to finish the edit and get this thing up for sale before the end of the first week of 2015. It’s months late and for that I apologize.
If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.