The Elementals

This is chapter 14 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 14
The Elementals

Quinn stared one-eyed at the little rock perched on the pile of stones, his face scrunched up in concentration. Suddenly, the rock began to tremble. Quinn gasped happily, looking at the AxeMaster with glee.

“Didya see that? Didy … OW!” He cried as the rock hit him on the back of the head.

The AxeMaster grinned. “Aye, I saw that! Ye’re not ta hit yerself, young Sir,” he said with a snort. “Now, try again.”

Rubbing his head, Quinn did as he was told. Only to be hit again in the forehead. “Ow!”

“Again.”

“Ow!”

“Again.”

“Ow!”

“Again, young Sir. Catch the rock with yer hands, not yer head, fer The Queen’s sake!”

Again, the boy was thwapped on the head. “Ow!” Quinn’s bottom lip began to tremble as he fought back tears. This AxeMaster was so mean! His head had never felt so hurt in all his six years of life, and the dwarf wasn’t even giving him any band-aids!

“Hold yer hands up, young Sir. Why’s that so corrodin’ hard ta git?”

Quinn sighed, rubbing his head. “I was too busy thinking about the rock,” he admitted. “This is hard!”

The dwarf slapped him on a shoulder. “Aye, but it’d be harder still ta die in flames, young Sir.”

“Mae won’t kill me,” he said with an uncomfortable laugh. “Will she?”

The AxeMaster just stared at him.

Quinn sighed. “OK, I’ll try again.”

“Good lad.”

***

“Oomph!” Ellen grunted as she was rudely thrown to the ground. Crab-walking back in fear until she hit a stone wall, she rubbed her eyes.

In the flickering light of two torches, she could only blurrily make out her captors, her glasses having been forgotten on the nightstand in her rooms. One, she knew from his stance and accent, was almost certainly a dwarf. The other’s origins she couldn’t begin to guess.

The dwarf handed his torch to his companion, who placed both in holders on the wall, then squatted down to peer at Ellen with an evil grin.

He was very scarred in his tattooed face, even for a dwarf, with a dark patch over one eye and fiery, braided hair and beard. His uncovered eye was bright blue and glinted with malice. Ellen sniffed back fearful tears.

“Wh… what do you want?” she squeaked out.

The dwarf spat a loogie on the floor beside her before answering. “Allow me ta introduce miself and mi friend here, lass. I be Dreadaxe, mi Lord’s most trusted war advisor,” he snorted. “And this here be Rowerg. He be a troll. Ye ever hear o’ trolls, lass?”

Ellen nodded, glancing fearfully at the hulking, hairy troll.

Dreadaxe smirked. “I kin see ye have. Good. Then I don’t have ta tell ye what trolls kin do ta little lasses what make em mad.”

Ellen shook her head silently, eyes wide.

“Good!” The dwarf rubbed his hands together. “Now, do ye know what makes Rowerg madder than anythin’ else?”

Again, Ellen shook her head.

Dreadaxe leaned in closer to the girl, his grin widening into a venomous smile. “He jes’ hates it when little lasses lie.”

***

Kat stood open-mouthed, dumbfounded at the news one of the mermaids had just brought to her rooms. The others chattered and giggled noisily, as if it was interesting though silly gossip that would never touch them.

Kat, however, felt like she had been punched in the stomach.

She had gotten a choppy story, at best, from the excitable news-bearing mermaid, but it was more than enough to worry her greatly. Mae, lost in dwarven dungeons, Ellen and Rose disappearing in the middle of the night. When she had asked about Quinn, the answer had been a shrug, and questions about Romin were met with the same.

“Who cares about a silly boy and a silly elf, Princess?”

Kat did. She cared a great deal.

And yet the mermaids continued to titter and giggle, seemingly oblivious to the girls’ dread.

Was she their Princess or wasn’t she?

Kat balled her hands into fists. With a growl, she turned to the crowd, glaring angrily. “Get me a bubble and take me to Papa Poseidon. Now.”

Her orders were met with swift action. Well, at least they knew enough to do what she told them. They couldn’t be her friends, but they could be her tools.

To save her real friends… her family.

***

Crack!

The fist-sized rock hurled itself from the pile, smashing against the wall with a satisfying smack and bursting into a million pieces that fell to the ground as dust.

Crack! Crack! Crack! BOOM!

With the largest boulder now a pile of gray powder in the corner, Quinn lowered his hands, breathing hard, and looked at the AxeMaster with a grin.

The dwarf nodded thoughtfully. “Ye learn fast, young Sir, when ye kin focus, an that be a fact!”

Quinn grinned wider. Once he had gotten the hang of aiming them, it had felt great to fling the rocks and boulders against the stone walls with nothing more than the power of his mind (though he did move his arms like he was throwing them as well; it felt more dramatic that way). No matter how large the rock, it seemed, Quinn could command it to do whatever he wanted.

“Could I do that with a whole mountain?” the boy asked, excitedly.

The dwarf nodded, pleased. “In time, young Sir. Fer now, I’m thinkin’ it’s time ta bring out yer sword.”

Quinn grinned even wider as he lifted both hands to pull the broadsword from its sheath on his back. It was heavy, but easy to hold, balancing in his fists perfectly.

The dwarf returned the boy’s grin, pulling his own axe from his belt. “And now, young Sir, we’ll see how ye be with yer dwarf-crafted weapons!”

***

Mae roared with delight as she swooped and spun in the orange-tinted air. Once she had gotten used to the lift and drag of her wings, flying had almost come natural to her, and when Sethiss had climbed on her head between her horns and told her to take flight towards the Fire-Lord’s tower as he directed their course, she had eagerly done so.

Walking? Ha! Who needed to walk ever again when they could fly!

Her winged shadow raced along the ground of the Pyre Plane, its landscape a fiery mixture of grays, reds, oranges, purples and black. The soil, mostly a powdery brick red, was dotted with black cacti-like plants that sprouted sharply petaled flowers of deep purple and bright red. Every orange-tinted horizon ended in a mountainous silhouette, and other closer mountains rose glassy black here and there, looking as smooth and sharp as gigantic flint arrowheads. In between and along many of these mountains a great forest grew, the dark gray branches of its trees sharply raised to the sky, waving jagged-looking red leaves toward the enormous orange sun. Here and there were situated small tent-like structures, made up of a kind of purple-gray hide that Mae couldn’t identify. Those who lived within these homes she couldn’t see, as they all seemed to be inside as her shadow passed overhead.

“Sethiss, who lives there?” she asked as they glided past a third cluster of homes. Her snout and forked tongue, like her wings, would take some getting used to, but she could still speak pretty well.

“Moltens, my Queen,” he answered with a shrug. “They are a weak, sniveling Fire-Born race, though there have been times they have caused us trouble. Take a left at that mountain.”

“What are they like?” she asked, banking left.

“Small, red, humanoid. Ugly.” The salamander shrugged. “They don’t even have scales, so they wear dragon hide clothes to protect their weak skin.”

Mae growled. “Dragon hide?”

Sethiss nodded. “Mostly from already deceased dragonkind, my Queen. Though a few have been known to try their hands at dragon slaying, I’ll admit. However, very, very few even come close to succeeding.”

Mae shook her head, disgusted. It didn’t matter where they had gotten them; someone wearing a dragon hide was like someone wearing human skin. Sickening.

They had just cleared a particularly large mountain when the Tower came into view. It was impossible to mistake for anything else, rising jagged and tall out of another gray and red forest. Its main body was a perfect cylinder, covered so thick in climbing purple ivy-like plants that one could barely see its original construction of shiny black mountain rock beneath. It was topped by a thick gray wooden cone of a roof, also covered in ivy. At irregular intervals along the towers side sprouted smaller turrets, also capped by gray roofs and also covered in the purple ivy. Though unlike the straight central structure, these turrets were constructed in odd, jagged angles.

Near the top, just below the main shingled roof, was a large open window wherein flickered firelight. No other windows or doors graced the ivy-hung walls.

“Is that it?” Mae asked Sethiss, nodding towards the lofty tower.

The salamander hissed happily. “Yes, my Queen. You see before you Inferno Tower, home to Peril Roma, Fire-Lord of the Pyre Plane.”

***

Romin sighed happily, taking a deep, exhilarating breath of clean air as he gazed around at his home.

The Psyche Plane.

It could have been argued that of all the Planes this was the most beautiful, the most peaceful and the most wonderful, except that nobody who bothered to try and argue the other side had a chance of winning that debate. The Psyche Plane was, after all, the Seat of The Great Queen Herself, the very birthplace of the world! It was here that all earth creatures, great and small, sentient and instinctual, sidhe and human, had begun, and it was here, and only here, that the original beauty and vitality of the earth remained untainted.

Romin stood in a sun-dappled clearing surrounded by towering leafy trees, beside a small, brush-choked brook that babbled and trickled softly under its canopy of green. Everywhere the forest sang its song of joyous life: birds calling to each-other in their soprano singsong, frogs croaking their throaty cries from the banks of the brook, insects twittering and flittering about. Underlying this glorious cacophony of nature, the most beautiful sound of all to Romin’s pointed ears, a soft, warming melody of song wove its way around and through every living plant, animal and creature of the Psyche Plane. It was a very old song, one that had been sung from the foundation of the world, and one that would not cease until the world ended. It was a song that one heard and felt deep within the very being of one’s soul, and it came, as it always had, from the throats of his own people.

Yes, he was home.

The elf glanced down at Rose who remained cradled in his arms, fast asleep. Her beautiful little sun dappled face twitched a bit, likely in response to a dream.

Romin hoped it was a happy dream.

He had brought her home, as well, though she had never been here before. It was the home of her people and his, the elves, a home that they had earned from The Great Queen along with the title of Spirit-Born. Though they were not the only Spirit-Born sidhe, they were the only ones who had not begun as such, their people having originated as Earth-Born instead. But as a reward for their loyal and steadfast service to both The Great Queen and goodness itself within all the planes, She had welcomed them to make their homes here in Her own realm long, long ago, before the closing of the Earthen Plane Surface, even before the creation of the first Elementals.

Every free-Traveling elemenentalist could visit the Psyche Plane, and many did, but after eons of mistreatment of their own homes, it took quite a bit of trust for the Queen to allow any sentient creatures to actually live here.

The elves had been the first — and so far the only — to earn that trust.

Romin was proud of his heritage and of his specific place in service to The Great Queen. He had never failed to serve Her with the very best of what he had.

Until now.

He sighed, lying Rose down gently on the soft, mossy, leafy ground. Though overjoyed to be home, his heart was troubled.

He had failed Her in this, perhaps the most important task She had ever given him.

It was true he had delivered Kat and Quinn to their people, and Mae was likely in the Pyre Plane as well, but Romin himself had not delivered the Sorceress to Peril Roma, and Ellen remained in the Earthen Plane with no way of knowing how to reach her own Air-Born people.

He could only console himself with the understanding that he had had no choice.

Though rumors and gossip of war had been brewing for some time now among the physical sidhe planes, and there had even been treaties written up between some, it had not been anything the elves had worried over, as the planes had been at peace with each-other for more time than anyone could truly remember. None anticipated that the mutterings of a few unhappy sidhe could disrupt this long-standing peace.

The elves had been more concerned by far that the imprisoned sorcerer Adams seemed to be amassing a vast army of his own ill-birthed creatures whom he called newmen within The Great Empty. Though the sorcerer himself could not leave his prison, it was not certain whether he could find a way to get his warriors through, and when it became clear that he was not only intending to do just that, but that his army was far more vast than they had ever dreamed, the elves had taken the issue up with The Great Queen.

She, in turn, had given the order for Romin to bring The Elementals back to their people before Adams had a chance to unleash his deadly forces upon the unknowing and entirely unprepared mortal humans on the Earthen Plane Surface.

For, as always, his own people were the target of Adams’ violence.

Romin had set out on his task with full confidence that The Elementals could easily defeat Adams as they had before. After all, they had been created for just this purpose. Of course, these were not the original Elementals, and they would need training and time on their planes with their people in order to be ready for the second Great Battle against Adams and his ilk. But the elves were certain they had caught the sorcerer’s intentions soon enough to give The Elementals the time they would need.

The elves had not anticipated that the rumors and gossip of war among the sidhe people would have turned into something so much more.

After seeing the distressing reactions of both Poseidon and Hephaestus, Romin had spent some time within the dwarves’ underground home listening to the Earth-Born talk about this growing war. He had heard many worrisome things, but Hephaestus’ imprisonment of Mae had been the last straw. Romin had run out of time before he had even known he needed it.

And, above all else, Rose had to be protected.

The elf looked down at the sleeping babe lovingly. He had formed a very strong bond with the girl over their three years of time together as he had taught her not only of her elven heritage but her own Elemental powers as well. He loved her dearly, and the idea of anything bad happening to her stabbed him with extreme pain. However, his own feelings were not enough of a reason for him to abandon his duty to The Great Queen and leave Mistress Ellen to her own devices among the dwarves. No, it was not only his own love of Rose that had forced his hand in this desperate move to protect Rose from the war that brewed among the sidhe.

She had to be protected. Above all others, for the sake of goodness itself, Rose could not fall to harm.

For her powers could save or destroy them all.

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