Seperated

This is chapter 13 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR

Chapter 13
Separated

Ellen stared up at the rough ceiling, watching the flames from her fireplace dance with the shadows. There was no way she was going to be able to sleep, even though she was exhausted. Romin was nuts to expect it of her. She frowned, remembering their conversation.

Mistress, it is certain that your sister is safe.

You seem pretty sure, but how do you know?

She was last seen jumping through a Fire Gate with a salamander in her arms.

OK… so?

So, Salamanders don’t have the power to create Fire Gates. Either she did it herself …

I doubt that. She doesn’t know the first thing about magic!

… or the Fire-Lord sent for her. Either way, she’s safe in the Pyre Plane by now.

Ok, but what if she did do it herself and ended up in the middle of space or something?

Romin had had no answer to that, instead telling Ellen to get some sleep. Ha. Like that was going to happen. Kat was who knew how many miles underwater, Quinn was dwarf brainwashed and Mae… nobody could tell Ellen with any certainty where Mae even was, let alone if she was safe.

With a sigh, she patted Rose’s sleeping form next to her. At least she still had her baby sister. Nobody was going to take her away.

Over Ellen’s dead body.

***

“We’ll begin with goblins. They be easy ta kill, once ya get the hang o’ it. Course, that be only after ye practice some with yer powers, Lad.”

Quinn nodded absentmindedly at the dwarven AxeMaster, his mind on what had just happened. After Mae’s escape, Hephaestus had insisted the boy begin training right away, as it was most certain that she would return soon to seek vengeance on the Earth-Born for her imprisonment, with a Fire-Born army to back her up.

The dwarves weren’t worried about the army; if they couldn’t handle a simple battle, especially on their own soil, they weren’t fit to call themselves dwarves. But there was only one way to beat an Elemental.

With an Elemental.

And so, when the vast majority of the dwarves had gone to their beds, Quinn had followed Hephaestus’ most skilled AxeMaster down into a warren of empty caverns near the dungeons.

To train so he could defeat his sister.

“Why isn’t Illthan teaching me?” Quinn had asked as they descended further into the dark, uninhabited parts of the dwarven realms.

The AxeMaster had swatted the air with a “bah” at the question, then grumbled an answer Quinn hadn’t expected. “Illthan Bogearth ain’t worth the leather in yer sword strap when it comes ta fightin’ lad. He ain’t no warrior.”

The boy hadn’t asked any more, afraid to make the AxeMaster angrier than he already seemed, but it concerned him that the mention of his friend and teacher had gotten such a negative reaction. Apparently, there were still some things Illthan had not taught Quinn about dwarven ways.

Things that had a lot to do with the KnowMaster himself.

The AxeMaster turned his back to the boy, grumbling under his breath as he collected stones of different sizes and shapes into a pile. Quinn sat on a boulder, thinking as he watched the dwarf work. He didn’t like the idea of fighting Mae, and not only because she was much bigger than him. Despite the fact that she was always mean to him, she was his sister. Sure, he had gotten her arrested, but she had it coming to her, anyway. Her people wanted to kidnap babies, after all. Quinn was a hero, he couldn’t let that happen!

Still, he didn’t want to hurt her.

The AxeMaster finished his work, wiping his hands together with a clap and turning to the boy.

“Now, lad,” he said gruffly; he seemed to be a very gruff dwarf overall, “pick up that little ‘un on the top o’ the pile.”

Quinn looked at him, confused. With a shrug, the boy stood up.

With a singular stroke, the AxeMaster swept the handle of his huge battleaxe under Quinn’s legs, tripping the boy up and causing him to land hard on his behind.

“OW!” Quinn cried, pouting up at the dwarf. “What’d ya do that for?”

“Yer not ta pick it up with yer hands, ye cur,” the AxeMaster growled. “Yer ta pick it up with yer powers.”

Quinn stood up, backing away from the axe’s reach and rubbing his behind. “I don’t know how to do that,” he whined. “Illthan never taught me that.”

The AxeMaster snorted. “Course he didn’t! He ain’t a warrior, as I’s said!”

“I like him more than you anyway,” Quinn mumbled.

“What’s that ye said?”

“Nothing.” The boy thought for a minute. “So, how do I do it?”

Again, the axe handle swept the boy to the floor.

“OW! Stop DOING that!” Quinn yelled, frustrated. “My butt hurts!”

“Then learn, lad,” the AxeMaster’s voice was a bit softer now, and Quinn looked up at him, questioningly. “If ye can’t learn down here with me and mi axe, ye don’t stand a chance against yer sister and her fire in a real battle.”

The dwarf’s tone was soft, but deadly serious. For the first time since meeting Twwwwp, the gravity of what he was doing hit Quinn like a hammer.

He was a hero… but heroes got hurt, too.

***

A shadow swept across the sleeping forms of Ellen and Rose, silent as the night. Leaning down, it easily took the toddler up in strong arms.

Leaning down, the shadow whispered, “Forgive me Mistress, for this. It is the only way. May The Great Queen guide your steps from here on out.”

Without another sound, Romin disappeared from the room, taking a still sleeping Rose with him.

A rough hand clapped over Ellen’s mouth, waking her instantly from a sleep she hadn’t realized she had drifted off into. The room was almost pitch black, its only light coming from the glowing coals of what was left of her fire. Above her, she could just make out two featureless shadows in the murk. One, which belonged to the hand on her mouth, was short and stubby, the other, huge and hulking. She tried to scream, but it came out in a muffled cry.

“Ye yell again, lass, and it’ll be the end o’ ye,” the short shadow whispered.

With a whimper, Ellen nodded, and the hand left her mouth. Before she could utter a word, she was thrown over the shoulder of the large shadow-creature. It was wet and hairy, and smelled of sweaty mildew, like a very dirty wet dog. She fought to keep herself from gagging as it carried her out of the room.

As the door closed behind them, her eyes strained towards the lumpy shadow of her bed, panicking as she realized with a deep dread that it was now entirely empty.

***

Kat tossed and turned in her opulent bed, unable to sleep. The next day she would begin her training, and while the idea of becoming a mermaid excited her, the thought of harming another creature with her water powers made her sick to her stomach.

Maybe he’s all gross looking, she thought, trying to envision Adams as a monster with three heads and slimy skin. She shuddered. Yeah, that’d help. Like squishing a bug. Good thing I don’t have to fight him alone.

She smiled softly as she was reminded of her siblings: Ellen, always so protective of her; Mae, so smart and tough; Quinn, her little buddy brother; And Rose, so adorable and cuddly.

She sighed. She missed them.

The mermaids were all very nice, but she had yet to really get to know any of them, not that she hadn’t tried. She had asked many of them questions about their friends and families, but had always gotten the same reaction.

Giggles.

The mermaids were very nice, yes, but also, apparently, very stupid.

Kat had seen other water creatures at the banquet and around Atlantis, and she hoped that some of them might not be so dumb. Without her siblings to play with, she was beginning to get very lonely.

She hoped she would see them again soon.

***

The moment Mae’s running feet hit the rusty red soil of the Pyre Plane, she burst into flames.

The sudden flare-up caught her off guard and she tripped, rolling over and over again in the dust, a human fireball. Finally, she landed with an “oomph”.

Still on fire.

She held up a flaming hand, looking at it curiously. There was no pain, no blistering. It was as if the air around her body was torched instead of her skin.

Sethiss had jumped from her arms the moment she had caught fire. Now, he scampered up to her, cocking his head in his birdlike way.

“My queen, why have you not shifted to your dragon form?” he asked, confused. “Your human form cannot sustain you here, as you can see.”

Mae looked at the salamander, raising an eyebrow. “Dragon form?” Her words sounded like the crackling of a campfire.

The salamander nodded. “Hurry, my queen. My Lord will not see you like this, and your human form will soon …”

Before he could finish, Mae shuddered, rubbing her arms. “OW!”

The burning had begun to get warmer than was comfortable, and it was getting warmer.

Sethiss nodded. “It will get worse, my Queen. The Pyre Plane was not meant for human habitation.”

Mae’s eyes grew wide. The last thing she wanted was to burn to death in a fire world. “How do I turn into a dragon, Sethiss?” she asked, beginning to panic. “Please! Tell me!”

The salamander flicked his tongue out, thinking. “You need only think your dragon name,” he said. “Forgive me, my Queen, I forgot that you still know so little.”

“I’ll forgive you when I’m not on fire anymore!” Mae snapped, the flames beginning to make tiny prickles of pain all over her body. “What’s my freeking dragon name? Come on!”

Sethiss cocked his head again. “I do not know, my Queen. None know a dragon’s real name but the dragon themselves.”

“Well that helps,” the girl retorted, automatically beginning to slap at the flames that still covered her. It was pointless, she knew, and she forced herself to stop and think about this in a rational manner. She took a deep breath, remembering how she had made the Fire Gate, and tried to forget the painful heat as she closed her eyes.

Hopefully, her name would come to her as the magical words had in the dungeon.

Ignoring the heat was almost impossible, but she knew that if she couldn’t concentrate, she would die. And in a very excruciating way, at that.

A name echoed in her mind.

Mae.

She grumbled, frustrated. Of course her name was Mae, but that was her human name! What was her dragon name?

Again, her name repeated itself: Mae.

Slowly, the pain began to recede.

Mae gasped in hope. Maybe her human name was her dragon name!

Mae! She thought with more force. My name is Mae!

Great relief flooded though her as she felt the flames die instantly. Opening one eye and then another, she watched the ground move further away in fascination. It didn’t hurt, but she felt a strange, strong pressure within her muscles and a gentle prickly feeling all over her skin as her body grew in size and changed shape. Her fingernails grew long and sharp, darkening to a deep black color even as the skin of her hands toughened into leathery red scales. Her combat boots stretched to their limit and burst as her now wickedly clawed feet ripped out of them. She felt her mouth elongate into a lizard like snout, sharp ebony barbs growing out of it from between her nostrils, then continuing down her back, ripping what was left of her already shredded black t-shirt. Her teeth sharpened into enormous deadly barbs and a pair of black, spiral horns grew out of her red-scaled forehead. She grew a tail, and lastly, out of her back sprouted a magnificent pair of red and black scaly bat wings.

She stretched her wings out fully, feeling their power with giddy excitement. Their span was far wider than she was now tall. She dug her clawed hands into the ground, pulling out gigantic chunks of rusty soil as easily as she had picked up her books at home. Her tail beat against the ground behind her, a powerful, barbed club.

Deep inside, she began to feel a rumble. It grew in intensity and strength before bursting out of her mouth as a satisfying roar that shook the countryside. She felt entirely, completely, and wonderfully alive.

Sethiss bowed low to her. “My queen, you have now truly returned.”

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