The Unknown Element

This is chapter 15 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 15
The Unknown Element

“Be ye ready ta answer mi questions, lass?”

Ellen nodded, swallowing hard. She couldn’t keep from glancing at the troll fearfully.

“Look here, lass. Ta me.”

She forced herself to focus on the dwarf, Dreadaxe he had said his name was. She nodded again.

“Good, lass. Now, tell me true, why be ye here with yer siblin’s?”

Ellen furrowed her brow, confused. What an odd question! She thought everyone on the open planes knew about this elemental stuff. “I… uh… Romin…” she floundered.

The dwarf growled. “Try again, lass. I be well aware that the elf brung ye here. That not be mi question. Mi question be why you?”

Ellen swallowed hard again. She had never been so afraid in all her life; her throat felt dry and itchy. “I… Romin said we were The Elementals,” she said, the first thing that had come to her mind.

Dreadaxe shook his head. “There be but four Elementals, lass, yet the elf brung five o’ ye. The lad’s Earth, the Water Princess already went ta her folks and the Fire Sorceress escaped the dungeons in a way that leaves no question ‘bout her element.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Now, the way I sees it, Air be the only one left, and seein as how Air be also the most weak and pitiful o’ the elements, I says ta myself, Dreadaxe, Air’s gotta be the babe. Makes more sense that way, it do.” He narrowed his eyes at her, leaning in closer. “So, I gotsta ask again, lass. Why be ye here?”

Ellen thought frantically, trying to remember anything she had heard from anyone about what the five elements even were, or, for that matter, what hers was specifically. The only bit of information she could remember at all wasn’t even about her …

She grabbed it anyway. It may be a straw, but straws were all she had.

“What’s the Air Elemental? I mean, like Earth is a dwarf?” she asked, trying to sound naive.

Dreadaxe shook his head hard, grumbling openly. “What be ye gettin at, lass? Everyone knows Air’s a sylph! Now tell me whatcher doin’ here afore I make ye!”

Ellen tried to hide her surprise. Sylph! Not elf! That meant she was the Air Elemental and Rose … Rose was the mystery! The dwarf had the wrong sibling!

Knowing that fact gave Ellen a strengthened sense of courage she never knew she could muster. She was still afraid of her captors, still afraid of what they could do to her, but at least they didn’t have Rose.

… or did they?

She remembered suddenly that Rose had not been in bed with her when she was awakened so rudely. If they had grabbed her first and now had her hidden somewhere else in these underground caverns… and if they found out that she was the one they wanted instead of Ellen …

She had to protect her baby sister. But she needed more information!

Thinking fast, Ellen blurted out the first thing that came to her.

“My people will come for me!”

Dreadaxe looked around the dungeon cell dramatically, then laughed. “What people, lass? Humans? Har har! I told ye, ye ain’t no Elemental. There be only four and we know who they be. Chances be, ye was born inta the wrong family and the elf brung ya along jest ta help ye not feel left out. Elves be like that, all mushy and weepy. Bah!” He leaned into her again, his face within an inch of hers. She could smell his musty breath.

“But jest in case we’s wrong, it’d be good ta know fer sure.”

Ellen swallowed again, mustering her courage to take a chance. “Can I ask a question?”

“Ye didn’t answer mine, lass, so why would I answer yers?” he replied, sitting back on his haunches again.

“I don’t know the answer to yours,” she admitted. “But if you answer mine, I may be able to figure it out.”

The dwarf thought for a moment, then nodded. “Aye, then ask away lass.”

“Dwarves are Earth-Born, right?”

The dwarf nodded, confused. “How kin that help ye answer mi question?”

“I wasn’t done.” Ellen took a deep breath, hoping that her question wouldn’t give too much away. “So then, what are elves?”

The dwarf’s confused look deepened. “They’s Spirit-Born, o’ course. Everyone knows that!”

“Spirit’s an element?” she blurted out in surprise before catching herself. She slapped her hands to her mouth, but it was too late.

The dwarf was about to reply when he stopped suddenly, a look of worry crossing his face. “Spirit’s… an… element?” he asked, more to himself than the girl. She could almost see the smoke rising from his pointed ears as he muttered to himself under his breath, thinking hard. Finally, he stood up, knocking dust from his pants. “Mi Lord’ll be needin ta know o’ this fer sure!” He turned to the troll who had stood silently behind him the entire time. “Watch her. Don’t let her outta yer sight, ye hear! She may be an Elemental yet, and if she be, then she be the most powerful one o’ them all!”

“But why would Hephaestus care if I’m an Elemental or not?” Ellen called as the dwarf slammed the cell bars shut behind himself and the troll.

Dreadaxe chuckled, grinning at her with an evil glint in his one eye. “I’m sure the Earth-Lord cares not a hill o’ gold fer this information, lass. But mi Lord Adams, now, he’ll be very interested.”

***

“My Princess, I fear I have not been entirely truthful with you. Please, sit down.”

Kat did as she was asked, lowering her bubble into its cradle beside Poseidon’s throne. She had gotten to the point where she could navigate it herself, having taken it out on a couple of runs around Atlantis with her mermaids, both for sport and to go somewhere else for once.

Even four gigantic, opulent rooms can start to feel tiny when you’re stuck in them.

Being underwater, Kat didn’t know how much time had passed between her arrival in Atlantis and the mermaid’s news, but Poseidon had not been available when she had asked to speak to him at first, and she had had quite a bit of free time since then. Despite the Water-Lord’s words to her at the banquet, nobody had come to train the girl yet, and she had tried to sleep twice, which to her made this her third day there.

Poseidon’s brow furrowed worriedly. “My Princess, I had hoped not to have to tell you these sad things. I had hoped to make your stay with us peaceful and comfortable.”

Kat looked at him, concerned. “Papa Poseidon?”

“You come to me asking for help to find and save your siblings. I would gladly give my kingdom to make you happy. But… that, I cannot do,” he admitted sadly.

“But, why not?” Kat cried, astonished and dismayed. “They need my help!”

“It is certain they could use help, yes, but not yours. I doubt they would accept your help, as it was.”

“Papa, what’s going on?” the girl begged, tears beginning to well in her eyes.

“War, Princess,” Poseidon said, shuddering. “The other sidhe are in an uproar over war.”

“But… war? With who?”

“With us,” the Water-Lord answered sadly.

“But… why would they want to go to war with us?”

Poseidon shrugged. “That is a question I have been mulling over for a long time now, Princess. I simply cannot fathom why anyone would threaten the Water-Born. We have always been a peaceful people.”

“Well,” Kat mused. “What are they saying?”

“Nothing definite. Just threatening to attack Atlantis, murmuring amongst themselves that war is at hand, creating secret military posts on their planes …”

Kat looked around. “But it’s so peaceful here!”

“I know!” The Water-Lord agreed, frustrated. “I simply don’t understand their animosity!”

“No, I mean I haven’t seen or heard of any attacks since I got here,” Kat explained.

“Oh, well nobody has attacked yet,” Poseidon admitted.

“But you know for sure they’re going to?” Kat asked. “How do you know?”

“All my most trusted advisors have told me so,” the Water-Lord explained. “They have always kept me updated on news outside of the Aether Plane, as I can’t leave it myself.”

“You can’t?” Kat asked, surprised. “Why not?”

Poseidon looked out the giant round window at his kingdom, his gaze loving. “None of the Sidhe Royals may leave our Planes, Princess. We are bound to them in more ways than loyalty. Their very existence runs in our veins.”

Kat’s eyes grew wide. “So if the others destroyed the Aether Plane …”

The god nodded. “They would also destroy me.”

***

Quinn lie on his back, looking at the rocky ceiling as he tried to catch his breath again. His sword lie at his side, still vibrating from the last blow that had felled the boy.

He groaned as he saw familiar boots clomp up to him. The AxeMaster held out his hand.

“Again.”

Tiredly, Quinn took the dwarf’s hand and began to stand, only to be swept onto his back once more.

“Never trust yer opponent lad,” the dwarf growled into his ear. “Now git up.”

They had been sparring for Quinn didn’t know how long; each time the boy had been the loser. He was sore, hungry, and exhausted.

But still he stood up, took his sword in his hand, and faced his mentor.

He would be a great hero dwarf if it killed him. He was starting to think it just might.

“Didye ever think o’ using yer powers with yer weapons, lad?” the AxeMaster asked, giving a rare bit of advice.

Quinn lowered his sword, caught offguard by the idea. No, he hadn’t thought of that. Of course, all he knew how to do was throw rocks at walls. How could that help with a sword?

Before he had a chance to consider this, the dwarf was on him, battleaxe raised high. Quinn had just enough time to crouch and roll, tucking his head and legs in as he had been taught. He jumped back up a few feet away just as the AxeMaster’s blade hit the stone wall where the boy had been with a loud clang. Without wasting a beat, Quinn held up his sword again, its cold metal blade glinting in the torchlight.

Quinn gasped as realization struck him. That was it! Metal! Metal was earth, too!

The boy rushed at the dwarf, holding his broadsword high, concentrating on its metal blade. Just as he reached the AxeMaster, he swept the sword down at an arc. The dwarf easily anticipated this clumsy attack and raised his axe to block it.

Quinn braced himself for the now familiar ringing clang of metal against metal.

A bright blue flash blinded him as his blade cut right through the axehead like it was nothing more than melted butter.

The axe fell to the ground in two pieces with a whump-clank between himself and the dwarf.

Quinn stared at the ruined weaponry in shock. Nothing should have been able to cut through that axe; it was made of the strongest alloys known on any plane of the earth, crafted in the Forges of Valor by the very Earth-Born themselves!

And yet here it was, lying sundered at his feet. He swallowed hard, looking up at the AxeMaster with a worried expression.

“I’m sorry I ruined your axe.”

To the boy’s surprise, the dwarf smiled, clapping him on the shoulder hard. “Mi lad, ye’ve gone and done it! Yer the Son o’ Valor, true, an’ well on yer way ta earnin’ yer warrior tats!” The AxeMaster pointed at the boy’s sword. “That be Ulfgin, the Great Sword o’ Valor ye hold, mi lad. Yer axe be called Wroargar. They’s made fer none but the hand o’ the Son o’ Valor, an’ when they’s both used with his earth powers, well, ain’t nuthin kin stand in his way. Not even Fire-Born sorcery. Now that I know ye kin wield ‘em properly, ye kin know their names.” The dwarf winked at the boy with a grin. “Names have power, they do. And now that I know yer a true dwarf-brother ye kin know mine, too. I be called BattleHammer, and mi true weapon ain’t that axe ye broke. I wouldn’t have trusted mi beautiful warhammer against yer powers, Sir Quinn. I may have gotten mi head knocked around a bit in my life, but I ain’t that stupid.”

***

Mae landed with an unceremonious thud against the side of the tower, her claws scraping frantically against the smooth black windowsill. She managed to thoroughly tear up the ivy that grew there before she caught her balance, landing inside with a great thump. Sethiss was thrown from her head, skidding to a halt on a gigantic purple rug in the middle of the circular room.

The space was huge, encompassing the entirety of the main tower body in circumference. Its ceiling rose tall enough to comfortably accommodate a full-sized dragon; Mae figured in human terms it was at least thirty feet high, the lofty conical roof crisscrossing in gray wooden rafters. Strange red and yellow birds with black beaks and talons and great, long tailfeathers nested in these, squawking loudly at Mae’s ungracious entrance.

Most of the curved wall was covered in bookshelves stacked high with books of every size, shape, color and style; Mae was certain some of them even came from her own plane. Along with these books there were literally thousands of scrolls tucked in here and there in no discernable order. One of the few open areas of wall was taken up by an enormous black fireplace in which a blaze roared strong and hot, another held an assortment of posters of the solar system, maps of the elements, a chalkboard on which was writ strange symbols and letters, and the like. Everywhere there were thick, gray wooden tables covered in an assortment of bottles, jars, peetrie dishes, microscopes, various skulls and full sized skeletons, open books, scattered papers, and beakers of different sizes and shapes in which multicolored liquid bubbled over small candle flames.

Standing at one of these tables, its back to Mae, was an imposing dragon twice the size of herself. Somehow she instinctively knew this was a male. His wings and spikes were purple-tipped, but otherwise he was entirely ebony in color, his scales so deeply black that they glittered with a bluish glint when he moved. Something small and brown was strapped around his head, belted in the back.

“Now, is that any way to enter someone’s home?” the dragon asked, his attention still on his task. “Quite rude, that seemed to me. Do you know how to knock?”

Mae cleared her throat. “I… sorry?” she asked, moving to walk towards him.

The dragon held out a clawed hand, stopping her in mid-stride. “Sethiss,” he said, still not turning around. “What have you brought to me?”

The salamander skittered up to the dragon, bowing low at his tail. “My Lord Peril Roma, may I introduce to you Sorceress Mae, Daughter of Alchemy, Wielder of Athenal!”

Peril Roma replied to this with a snort, smoke rising from his nostrils into the ceiling above. “I would think our Elemental would have better manners.”

“Hey!” Mae complained. “I said I was sorry!”

“Quite,” the Fire-Lord said with a nod. “Now, let us see what this child looks like.” Placing something on the table before him, he turned around to face Mae, and she could see what he had strapped to his head. Over the dragon’s eyes he wore a pair of brown goggles. They looked to Mae like the ones pilots used to wear a long time ago, only these had many lenses attached to them, some raised up and out of the way on tiny hinges. On a dragon the effect was somewhat comical, and Mae fought to keep from laughing.

Peril Roma studied her for a moment, shaking his head. “Now why is she so… oh yes.” He reached up and pushed the goggles higher on his forehead. His eyes were the same color as Sethiss’, red and black, and their depth was astonishing; Mae felt she could lose herself entirely within his wise stare. “There. That is much better. Now, then.” He looked Mae up and down, then snorted.

“This is not our Elemental, Sethiss.”

The salamander started, his shocked look darting from Peril Roma to Mae and back again.

“But, my Lord, she made a Fire Gate, and …”

“Many dragons can do that, salamander,” the dragon said, waving a claw at the girl dismissively as he turned back to his work. “And this one is hardly fit to be called a dragon at all.”

Mae stood dumbfounded for a moment. Not the Fire Elemental? Of course she was! How else could she have done everything she had done? This dragon was insane!

With a grumble, she stalked up to the dragon. Opening her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, she coughed instead, a large puff of smoke rising from her throat to the nesting birds above. She cleared her throat and tried again. Another cough.

She grabbed her throat with clawed hands, coughing more and more, smoke now billowing out of her open maw.

Why couldn’t she talk?

Peril Roma held up a clawed finger. “It is better to be seen doing one’s work than heard grumbling over it,” he said cryptically.

Mae stared, her coughing stopped. What on earth did that mean?

“There is a broom in the closet over there,” he continued, pointing at one of three doors in the wall she hadn’t seen before.

Still Mae stared, now entirely confused.

She saw a flurry of movement out of the corner of her eye as Sethiss pointed wildly at the closet door, then back at the mess the girl had made of the window.

Mae scowled. Chores? The dragon wanted her to do chores?

She opened her mouth again to complain, only to be caught in another smoky coughing fit.

“I do hope she is not as stupid as she seems,” Peril Roma said to Sethiss. “Or it will be such a very long time before she is our Elemental, and from what I have been told, we don’t have even a very little time.”

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3 Responses to “The Unknown Element”

  1. […] « Jessi’s Five Simpl(ified) Steps to Signing with a Big-Name Publishing House The Unknown Element […]

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