A Violent Idea

This is chapter 16 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 16

A Violent Idea

Ellen hugged her knees, hoping there were no spiders this far underground as she sat on the stone floor of her cell. Outside the bars, her troll sentry sat still as a statue, his black silhouette dancing in the torchlight in front of him.

The girl thought over what she had learned, considering how it could possibly help her escape.

She knew a few things now that she hadn’t before; that she was the Elemental of Air while Rose was apparently the Elemental of Spirit, that her sidhe heritage was sylph, that Hephaestus had spies among his Earth-Born who worked for Adams, and that herself and her siblings apparently had magical — what Romin had called glamour — powers that were linked to their particular elements.

These were all important things to know. However, she couldn’t see how any of them could help her now.

From what Ellen had heard, Mae had had a visitor in her cell to help her escape. Ellen didn’t know what a sylph looked like, but even if it was hideous, it would be a welcome sight to her now.

Somehow, she felt that wasn’t to be her lot.

Suddenly, she heard a low growling sound. Her heart leapt into her throat before she realized it sounded strangely familiar.

The troll was snoring.

Great, she thought, beating her forehead against her knees. I bet anyone else would be able to find a way to use all this to their advantage. Me? I’ll rot in this cell with no ideas at all.

What is a sylph, anyway?

Her mind raced with images her mother had shown her of faeries. They came in all different colors and styles, and there were thousands of different types, but she couldn’t remember any of them being called by the title Sylph.

This was a dead end. Unless she knew what a sylph looked like, there was no way she could try to turn into one, if that would even help. And anyway, even if she managed to, the dwarf would return and see her as a sylph and know that Rose was actually the Elemental of Spirit and not Ellen.

That wouldn’t happen if Ellen could help it.

As long as these two — and Adams — thought Ellen was their biggest threat, Rose, and maybe even the others, would be safe. Or, safer anyway.

As long as Rose was safe in the first place.

Ellen grumbled, rubbing her forehead against her knees in frustration. OK, so the sylph idea is a dead end. What about my element itself?

She scowled as she remembered Dreadaxe’s words.

“… Air be also the most weak and pitiful o’ the elements …”

Weak and pitiful? She wasn’t weak and pitiful!

She sighed. Still, air was pretty flimsy, all things considered. Quinn had his boulders and steel. Kat had her hurricanes and floods. Mae had her pyres and fireballs. Rose …

Ellen stopped her list in her head, looking up in thought. Rose. What powers did Rose possess? Romin had never said, and Dreadaxe had seemed to think whatever they were they were powerful indeed.

But what could the powers of Spirit possibly be?

The girl shook her head hard. This line of thinking was not going to help her now. She had to focus.

How could she use air to her advantage here?

The troll choked on its saliva, its snoring turning into a half-cough before settling down once more. The keys at its wide green belt — the only clothing the hulking, furry giant wore — jangled as it shifted position.

Inside Ellen’s mind, something stirred that she did not like at all.

Air.

Breath.

She could probably stop someone’s breath. She could probably kill someone that easily.

But could she really? Licking her lips worriedly, she stared at the snoring troll, contemplating her options.

 *              *             *

“Theeeeeeeee Aiiiiiiir-Eeeeeeempreeeeess seeeeeeeks nooooooooot heeeeeeer Eeeeeeeleeeeemeeeental, Maaaaaaaaster. Sheeeeeeee caaaaaaares noooooot fooooooor theeeeeee goooooooings-oooooon oooooooooooof anythiiiiing but her ooooooooooown plaaaaaaaaaneeeeee, aaaaaaaaaaaaaas youuuuuuuuu weeeeeeeeeeeell knooooooooooow. Weeeeeeeee knoooooow nooooooot wheeeeeeereeeeeee sheeeeeeeee is.”

“Then you had better start looking. Your Empress may not care where the Air-babe is, but I am certain that the Queen cares. I mean to find the brat before She does, understood?”

“Yeeeeeeees Maaaaaaaaster.”

With a curt nod, Adams looked around at his assembled servants as he listened to the Aerie Plane report. Besides Dreadaxe, who was busy carrying out orders in the Earthen Plane, all his most trusted and valuable spies were there.

The Air-Born spy who spoke at the moment was a will-o-the-whisp. The tiny glowing flicker hovered about five feet in the air and spoke in a soft voice that was half wind and no emotion. Like all of its kind, the color of the will-o-the-whisp’s glow was the only way to tell how it felt about anything. At the moment it was white, which was its peoples’ standard color and only meant it had no particularly strong feelings about anything at the moment. It had a name, but the windy, native language its people spoke was so alien to Adams’ human tongue that he couldn’t pronounce it, so he simply called it Spark. It had not been easy to capture Spark, and it had been more difficult to torture it into obedience, but Adams’ mastery of Air glamour had been a valuable tool in bringing it about, and, as the sorcerer had predicted, the will-o-the-whisp had become a very important tool, indeed, in Adams’ plans for the Air-Born.

The selkie from the Aether Plane looked more interested in her black fingernails than the Air-Born report. She was average for her kind, her sleek, long brown hair a perfect match to the seal fur she wore when in the water, her large, pupil-free eyes so dark brown as to look black, and her body tall and lanky. Over her darkly tanned skin she wore the typical clothing of her kind while in human form — a simple brown woven fur dress made from her own shed seal fur and no shoes. Her name was Leerya, and unlike the others she had freely come to Adams, bending knee to him and giving her loyalty with no need for persuasion. Adams still did not know her motives, but she had been a faithful servant for a very long time now, proving her loyalty in ways that would make many others run screaming, so he wasn’t too concerned. At least, not at the moment.

Lastly, from the Pyre Plane Adams had procured a salamander who went by the name of Ithiss. He was a rare prize, indeed, as salamanders were entirely loyal to dragons — especially the Fire-Lord — by their very nature. Birthed with the use of strong fire alchemy by elder Wisens, salamanders were literally created to be the lap dogs of their dragon masters. Ithiss, having come to The Great Empty to gather samples of the unstable terrain for his Wisen master, had been caught by surprise by some of Adams’ roving newmen, the only way a dartingly fast salamander can be caught at all. The sorcerer, using some of the strongest fire glamour in his arsenal, had managed to turn the salamander to his side, but not without damage. Like the vast majority of Fire-Born, Ithiss had been born brilliant. He no longer had that particular trait. Of course, Adams was more than willing to sacrifice the sharp mind of a salamander for the chance to earn a spy who was, to his Fire-Born masters, entirely above suspicion. The salamander’s black scales were accented by the orange crest of spikes that ran from his head down to his tail and he wore no clothing save for a small black belt slung across his chest that held four tiny but wicked poison daggers, dipped in basilisk venom.

Adams had other Traveling spies, of course, and these were not the only ones he had situated around the power seats of each plane, but these were his oldest and most trusted, the ones who ordered the others.

At least, the others they knew about, anyway.

As Adams opened his mouth to speak, the great doors at the end of his audience hall were thrown opened with a loud BOOM that shook the walls, and Dreadaxe bounded in, followed closely by two of Adams’ very large newmen guards.

“Master, forgive!” one shouted as the other grabbed Dreadaxe by the scruff of his neck, hauling him bodily into the air. “The dwarf gave not the password, instead flying by us as if he meant to harm! We were not quick enough to stop.”

“Him,” Adams corrected.

The guard, a badger-like creature of mud, metal and fire, looked at him in confusion.

“You were not quick enough to stop him,” Adams explained. “Proper grammar is key, Aaron.”

Before the guard had a chance to reply, Dreadaxe screeched out choked, frantic words.

“Master! The fifth siblin’! She be the Elemental o’ Spirit, master! Spirit!”

Leerya snorted. “Spirit is not an element, dwarf. How silly!”

Adams nodded in agreement, though his eyes were on the second guard, a cross between a vulture and the swamp creature. “Let the dwarf go, Billy. He’s obviously lost some of his mind, but that is certainly not much of a loss.”

Billy dropped Dreadaxe on the ground, his eyes still on the sorcerer as the dwarf scrambled to his feet and ran to the foot of Adams’ chair.

“Master, do ye think perhaps this be somethin’ ta worry over after all? I knows as well as everyone here that there be only four Elementals, but there do be five planes. An’ The Psyche Plane be the very seat o’ the Queen Herself! If there be a Spirit Elemental we dunna know ‘bout … ”

He let the end of his sentence hang in the room; everyone could well imagine the consequences of that possibility.

“Really, Master, are we to assume that the Queen even needs an Elemental guarding her back?” the selkie said with a snort. “It’s ludicrous! Why would she bother?”

Spark flashed light blue, meaning it agreed. “Nooooot toooooo mentiooooon thaaaaaat theeee Spirit-Boooooorn toooooook nooooooo part in theeeeee meeeeeeeetings thaaaaaaaat biiiiiiiiirthed theeeeeeee Eeeeeeeleeeeeeemeeeeeentaaaaaals in theeeeee first plaaaaaace.”

Ithiss nodded excitedly. “Yes, yes! And the Queen has great power, but she can’t use it violently against anyone! The Queen is bound by old, old laws about that. Why, if that weren’t true … ”

He stopped short, his red eyes glancing at the sorcerer fearfully, the end of his sentence hanging like his own noose in the air. “… then the Master would have been destroyed eons ago.”

Dreadaxe growled. “And ye mean ta say ye canna see how ye both jest answered each-other’s questions?”

The room was silent. Adams folded his hands in his lap, sitting back thoughtfully.

“So you feel, dwarf, that the Queen has created her own Elemental that can use her powers to kill me?”

“Not bound by the same laws, nae,” Dreadaxe said with a curt nod.

Adams thought this over while his spies and guards watched silently. Finally, he nodded back. “This possibility is unsettling, but one I must consider nonetheless. I had hoped to have a little fun with our Elemental children, who don’t remember what their ancestors did to me nor are very powerful yet in their glamours, but I see now that was a fool idea.” He turned to the dwarf. “Kill the girl immediately. Give her no chance to retaliate, for if you are correct in her element, you will pay dearly for even a split second of hesitation. Bring the boy to me, however. I have… special… plans for him.”

Dreadaxe nodded curtly. “Aye Master. An’ it will be done.”

Adams turned to Leerya. “What do you make of your Princess?”

The selkie shrugged. “I have no idea, Master. Those dehydrated mermaids stay around her constantly. I can’t get close enough to see her, let alone speak with her.”

“Not acceptable, Leerya,” Adams said, eyeing her through his steepled fingers. “Are you not a courtesan of Poseidon’s court? Is that not why I agreed to your service in the first place?”

The selkie stuck her nose in the air haughtily. “Of course I am, Master.”

“Then use your position to get close to the Princess!” Adams boomed suddenly, making the selkie jump and shiver, all trace of arrogance erased from her seal-like face. “What good is a female courtesan who can’t even talk to a princess?”

Leerya nodded meekly, her eyes now on her bare toes. “Yes, Master.”

“Find her weakness and bring it to me,” the sorcerer added in a softer tone.

The selkie nodded again. “Yes, Master.”

Adams then turned to Ithiss. “What about the Sorceress? What do you make of her?”

The salamander wrung his clawed hands, his forked tongue flicking out excitedly as he spoke. “She is a very beautiful dragon, Master. I imagine even Peril Roma is taken with her, though he is being very hard on her at the moment, but that is a Wisen’s way, of course …”

“I did not ask if you had a crush on her, Ithiss,” Adams said in slow, deliberate tones as if he spoke to a very young child. “I want to know if you feel she is a threat at the moment.”

The salamander’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, no Master Adams! She is not even thinking about you! Her mind is on her brother, your Sorcererness.”

Adams raised an eyebrow. “Her brother?”

“Yes, yes! The Earth boy! She wishes to repay him for imprisoning her… and I dare say she wishes to do him great harm. Great, great harm! It is all she talks about, when the Fire-Lord will allow her to talk.”

Adams returned his attention to the dwarf. “What is this about imprisonment?”

“Yer orders ta tell Hephaestus that the Fire-Born threaten our babes, Master,” Dreadaxe explained. “The Earth-Lord took the news bad, as we guessed he would. Took it out on the Sorceress who was there at the time, shuttin’ her up in the dungeons.”

“How did she escape to the Pyre Plane then?” Adams wanted to know.

Ithiss answered. “My brother Sethiss, he busted her out, he did!”

Slowly, a smile began to spread over Adams’ face. “So Earth and Fire are gearing up for a fight.”

“Seems that way,” Ithiss replied, answering the sorcerer’s rhetorical question as he tended to do.

“What a wonderful side effect of my war rumoring!” Adams laughed, turning to Dreadaxe and Ithiss. “Nevermind about bringing the boy here, dwarf. I think I’d like to see what his sister will do with him, first. You and Ithiss must make sure this battle happens in The Great Empty.” He grinned wider. “I do dearly wish to see this!”

“But, Mi Lord, yer plans fer him … ”

Adams snorted. “I think, my dear dwarf, that watching two Elementals tear each-other to bits is worth a bit of sacrifice, don’t you? I haven’t been properly entertained in so very, very long!”

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