Elemental Emotions – Episode 5

Episode 5: Elemental Flight

“Thank you,” Zene reached up to a tree to pull an apple from a low branch.

“Did you just thank the tree?” Nevetes looked over at her.

Contentment was flowing through her, “I wonder who we’ll meet next.”

The hem of her flowing shirt moved with her as she danced over a nest of mushrooms. She didn’t want to crush them.

There was indifference in Nevetes’ tone, “out here, they’d need trackers. Probably more werewolves. Though if they do have a chamrosh, it’d be smart to bring it out here.”

“What? No,” she moved after him. “I mean friends. I wonder what friend we’ll meet next.”

“Friend?” He was watching as she hopped over a fallen tree. “We just unloaded the human.”

“Unloa…” the word made her balk. “Bryn..!”

“Needed protection,” there was almost no movement from his jacket as he moved ahead. “That’s all it was.”

“No,” she had to hurry to catch up. “Lovey said a friend is someone you enjoy spending time with. Someone you share interests with, and things in common with.”

“I share nothing in common with a human,” there was heavy distaste.

“It’s more than…”

Nevetes coldly cut her off, “have you forgotten that it’s humans that hunt you? You should be avoiding them, not seeking them out.”

Her feet stopped moving. Before her heart, her left hand was a light fist. “Bryn is our friend.”

“There wasn’t much fight from your friend when you left him with the other humans.”

Her eyes grew wide with the words. Bryn didn’t fight, not much. She knew she would have argued to stay, but wasn’t that because she was more invested? She had a reason to stay by Nevetes’ side. Bryn really didn’t. Or was it because he didn’t want to? Doubt settled in.

Emotionless, Nevetes was pointing out, “you’re falling behind.”

“No,” the shake of her head was a way to push away dark thoughts.

“What?” he paused. His dark eyes taking note of her as she came closer.

“Bryn is ourfriend. He did what we asked because we needed him to. That’s what a friend does,” she couldn’t afford to listen to the doubt. It wouldn’t be fair to her friend. Arms were stiff at her side, her hands were balled into fists. “Why are you mad at him for doing what you asked?”

Anger lit the back of his eyes, “I don’t care what he does because I don’t have a human as a friend.”

“Why do you hate all humans so much?”

“You need a reminder, look to the scars at your back.” The bitterness was thick as he turned his back on her.

She flinched. Tears sprang to her eyes. Hurt radiated through her. “Bryn isn’t like them.”

“All humans are.”

“What about Elementals?” there was anger in her tone. Fear and doubt spurred that anger.

He kept his head up with his back to her, “Elementals are pawns in whatever scheme the humans have.”

“But what am I to you?” the question was firm even though her voice was soft.

It had made him pause. Head turned slightly down, it seemed that he would not look directly at her, “I tolerate you because you have answers I can use against humans.”

“Oh really?” there was flat anger in her voice that was new to her. “I didn’t realize I was so difficult to be around.”

“We are not friends, Zene,” he glared darkly over his shoulder. “Primals and Elementals are enemies. The only thing we should have in common is our hatred of the humans. But it seems you can’t wait to get back to them.”

Her fists shook. Her eyes danced. Her lip trembled. Abruptly, she spun about.

“Where are you going?” he demanded on an exhale.

“To make your suffering easier!”

He moved to stop her. The light in her eyes that she couldn’t see stopped him short. The world around him shot up in a wall of tree branches, leaves, and thistle. Surprise was heavy in his expression just before it was concealed by the bramble.

On her side of the barrier, she told him angrily, “good luck with your answers.”

“Zene,” his tone was an order that she didn’t listen to as she stormed off.

“Ach!” nails dug into the palms of her hands. “How dare he! Tolerate me? What a jerk!”

Tears fell off her cheeks to be absorbed by the ground. The overcast day with the brisk wind fit her mood now. Her arms swung powerfully as she walked briskly. There was no effort made to wipe away the tears. She moved with speed and purpose in a purposeless direction.

“He’s on his own just like he wants,” she bit out. But the tears fell to betray her.

The forest moved around her, providing her a clear path to follow. And because she didn’t want to be followed easily, she utilized her power to cover her tracks and make the path to her inaccessible. Her eyes glowed brightly beneath the tears.

Now behind her, the cage of thorns broke in a mighty burst! His efforts were at the cost of his jacket. A single tear at the right forearm. The glare he gave was a reflection of his state of mind.

“Emotional idiot,” he groused.

From the tops of his eyes, he glared after her. He moved his steps in the other direction. The wind pushed him as though it were urging him on this path. His hair brushed over his ears. His jacket hugged him. Stiffly, his arms hung at his sides.

“She can do whatever she wants,” he muttered behind his teeth. Angrily, he slapped a branch out of his way. His boots crunched over the dry leaflitter. “I have my purpose.”

In his mind’s eye he saw her; bedraggled yet determined as she pulled herself from the well. The decision had been made then. His eyes fell, though he didn’t slow his pace or change his direction. The sigh that came out was filled with emotion. Understanding brewed beneath the surface that he wasn’t in the mood for.

“Primals don’t have emotions. We’re just soulless beasts,” he bit out the words. His eyes belied his statement.

Dark clouds were moving in overhead. Her face was turned up to them. Arms crossed lightly over her chest did little to keep her warm as the wind pulled at her shirt. She let out a sigh as she dropped her gaze back to the forest. She’d come to its edge. Well, just a temporary one. A meadow!

“What advice would you have for me Carla, if you were here?” she wondered with sad longing.

Slow steps had her moving out into the meadow. It used to be her favorite place. Now, her expression was touched with regret and loss. Tall grass moved about her. The wind pulled her hair and her shirt. Her pale eyes had found something that made her feet and voice be still. Ahead, on a small knoll, knelt a girl in a torn dress. Her short, wild green hair danced in the wind. Her dark, joyless eyes were to the ground as she seemed to be slowly following something.

In the gloom, they were nearly invisible. Like the petals of a blooming flower wings moved out from her back. Dark smoke which seemed to make them up wove about, making it difficult to get a count on the wings. With a quick strike the girl reached out to the grass to snatch something from the ground. A pleased grin revealed serrated teeth which bit into the large beetle she’d captured.

Zene’s lightly closed fist touched her chin. She took a single step. The girl looked up with fierce eyes that reminded her very much of Nevetes. What remained of the beetle was pulled into her mouth. Hunched over, the girl was ready to flee or to fight. A single leg from the beetle fell from her lips to the ground.

“I won’t…”

The girl lurched forward, coming straight for her! A breath escaped Zene’s lips. The girl was smaller than she, but Zene was only Zene. What could she do? She wasn’t a fighter. She wasn’t Nevetes.

“I’m an Elemental,” her voice was soft to contrast the determination resting in her eyes.

In her eye, the mark glowed bright. Flowers all over the meadow bloomed suddenly and fiercely. The girl with the dark wings came to an abrupt stop. Wonder sparkled within the smoky dark eyes.

Tendrils of vines rose around the flowers. Some of the flowers closed-up while others remained open, creating a sort of dance. Before the girl the colors wove together to create the image of the girl. As she saw her own reflection within the flowers, the girl let out what might have been a burble of laughter.

She turned about to see the meadow coming alive in the gloom of an overcast evening. Delight made those dark eyes sparkle. The wings at her back moved outwards, moving in a dance of their own.

Other than two. Those two lay limp along her back. The smoke was minimal on those two alone, revealing the very tangible base of those wings. The skin at her back was inflamed. She’d been injured!

“You’re hurt,” she spoke softly so as to sooth the girl. “That’s why you snarl, because you’re in pain.”

“Mmmeaaee,” the girl uttered the sound with effort. She’d turned to look at Zene.

“Mae?” Zene repeated in question. Her eyes smiled, “maybe that’s your name?”

“Mmmeaaee,” the girl repeated. Her eyes had fallen back to the flowers. She nudged them with her delicate claws, wanting them to continue their dance.

“I will call you Mae,” Zene was satisfied. She dared another step closer.

The girl she now called Mae jumped back, her teeth bared once more.

She smiled as she claimed a seat upon the ground. With her hand moving, she brought a small bush to life. The thorns told her which flowers it would produce. A rose bloomed. It held the same color as Zene’s hair. Zene’s movements helped show Mae that it was her that was calling upon the flowers. One single step was taken by Mae to bring her closer.

“I know that trust takes time,” she was looking at the flower. “I guess Nevetes showed me that. I always thought trust was granted. He believes it’s earned. But I don’t mind earning it. I’m not a killer. I’m not just some tool either.”

The last had her gaze shifting backwards and her words turning hard. Mae didn’t seem to notice. She was absorbed in the flowers Zene was bringing open.

Her sights were back upon Mae. “What happened to you?”

More roses were in bloom. The girl smiled. She sat up taller with her knees resting comfortably upon the ground. Was it a show of trust? Beneath the dirt and nearly hidden by the gloom, there was a symbol on the dress Mae wore. Jagged marks that crossed. Maybe a badly drawn M. Zene’s brow furrowed.

“Not an M. I think they’re mountains. Two mountains beside each other. With a valley.”

Her voice had trailed off softly.

“Hope rests in a valley,” she was putting something together. “Are you from Hope? Are we close?”

Mae wasn’t paying attention. She was busy with the flowers. She held her hands over them, much like Zene did. Was she perhaps trying to do what Zene was?

“Are you,” Zene’s eyes were wide, “an Elemental too?”

Of course, there was no answer from Mae. Zene looked upon Mae’s wings. The two broken ones were lifeless upon her back. The pain must be alive for the red of the skin was so bright and raw. If Mae were an Elemental, she didn’t have the power or knowledge to heal herself.

“Mae,” she called to the girl, and waited for Mae to look.

When Mae did look upon her, Zene gestured with her hand to the flowers. They danced and moved with her hand. Mae smiled. Then Zene stopped the movement. Mae uttered a noise to insist the dance continue. Mae’s dark eyes looked upon her. Carefully, she reached out a hand to Mae’s back.

Mae growled. Zene kept her hand and gaze steady, “trust can be earned.”

There was a glow coming from her hand. Thanks to Nevetes, she now knew that same glow rested in her eyes. Mae watched, her eyes glancing from Zene’s eyes to her hand. Perhaps she was putting something together in her mind. Maybe it was just trust. The growl went away. Mae’s attention was back to the flowers.

“I’ll take that as a sign of trust,” her smile was a touch tremulous.

She reached out. Her hand moved over the inflamed skin. Touch was not necessary. With her left hand, she moved the flowers so that Mae had something to focus on. With the right, she let her healing power flow. It began with the skin at her back. Whatever had happened, Mae was in pain. And it was this pain that drove Zene to act.

Slowly, the healing power moved to the wings setting bones to rights and healing torn muscle. As with the petals on the flowers in bloom, Mae’s broken wings began to bloom. The smoke surrounding them was growing in strength. They moved out from her body to join the other smoky petals.

Mae turned her head towards her back and towards Zene. In those dark eyes she saw a hint of red light. So much like Nevetes that it was impossible not to see his face. Need kept her power flowing.

Desire opened her mouth, “there are things about you that remind me of him. I wonder… I wonder if he’ll come back.”

Mae continued to look at the flowers.

“He says he can only tolerate me. So maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s all the worth I have. And it wasn’t enough to…keep him here.”

The expression in her eyes was sorrowful. She kept her focus on the wings that were healing.

She sniffled, “I wasn’t enough to keep her here either. When you’re not enough, everyone leaves.”

The light of her hand and the smoke of Mae’s wings mingled. It was reminiscent of lightning in a storm that the clouds overhead seemed to promise.

Mae was healed, and Zene sat back to watch, letting her power ebb. The girl with the strange wings moved about the flowers that had so wholly enchanted her. The wings on her back bloomed just like those flowers. They would carry the girl where she wanted now. Back to herself, Mae uttered noises that were probably happy.

She’d done something good, so she let herself smile. Mae’s dark wings bloomed. And though she couldn’t see them with her eyes, Mae felt the difference Zene’s healing had brought. Her vicious little teeth were in a grin. Hands were lightly pounding the earth.

“You seem happy,” she smiled. Mae practically preened. “I guess it’s hard to be happy when you’re hurting.”

The words struck softly. Her gaze fell over the meadow.

“What’s broken cannot be whole.”

Mae quirked her head in question. The sadness in her tone had been caught by Mae’s ears.

She explained even if the words would be lost, “it’s something my sister once said.”

Within her mind she recalled the details of that day. Bright sunlight lit the world. The woods were alive with the music of the creatures within it minus one. A baby bird that her sister had found. A tear was in her sister’s eye.

To Mae, she continued to recount the moments, “a baby bird had fallen from the nest and didn’t make it. I thought that I could heal him, but she said that he was broken. His soul was now gone, and what’s broken cannot be whole.”

Already Mae’s attention had wandered, testing out the wings with short flights. Zene stared off into the woods, lost to a realization.

“But I think her words were deeper than even that. How can your heart ever be whole if it’s broken?” She was looking far off, “Nevetes.”

“Neaeennee,” Mae seemed to be mimicking.

It brought Zene’s attention to her. “I was raised by my sister who loved me. I know what that feels like. But, if he was raised by the people that tortured us, what would that do to him? I keep wanting him to see things like I do, but how can he? He wasn’t raised with love. And yet, despite that, he still helped me.”

She watched Mae play among the flowers. Innocent, carefree, even somewhat oblivious.

“I gotta find him so I can apologize.” The breath that followed was heavy and sad, “I really was a dummy!”

Mae landed before her, a smile lighting up her face. The dark eyes and pointed teeth made the happy expression a little frightening. She smiled anyway because to her, Mae was beautiful! The first drops of rain fell to the earth. She’d felt their arrival and welcomed them. Rain made everything fresh and new again.

Mae was less inclined to endure the cold rain. With a shake of her head, Mae was flittering off into the woods. Zene, it appeared, was on her own. That was okay with her. She held her arms because they were cold. Her eyes were closed as she turned her face up to the sky. Familiar trembling shook her shoulders.

“Bloody damned idiot,” he grumbled. Distance had not made his mood better.

He leaned his back against a tree. With arms folded over his chest he glared in the direction she was in.

A familiar voice inquired, “misplace the prisoner? Or did you give in to your primal instincts and bleed her dry?”

Claws were out and already his eyes glowed red. From the trees, Kihivas slammed to the earth. His eyes held the same look. Both moved at the same moment to come together in battle. Nevetes slammed his right fist into Kihivas’ face. As he was thrown back, Kihivas kicked out with his foot hitting Nevetes square in the chest. He was sent back into the tree he had been resting against. He launched off. They met hard. Both fists slamming painfully into each other. Neither flinched. Nevetes threw Kihivas. Kihivas gripped his sleeve and pulled him along. They tumbled through the air.

“They will find her,” Kihivas threatened.

Nevetes twisted the arm to force Kihivas into the ground to absorb the hit. Clumps of dirt and saplings were churned up. Kihivas growled around the inconvenient pain. They came up, both unaffected by the battle and both ready to engage further.

Kihivas taunted, “unless you already killed her. I would have.”

Nevetes rushed low, dropping his right shoulder at the last moment. Kihivas was backhanded into the air. Claws ran deep between his shoulder blades, but the jacket took the worst of it. Still, he was pulled into the air with Kihivas. His jacket flew out as his knees lifted up. It allowed him to kick down as he twisted his hip to force his body into a spin. His left hand crashed down hard against Kihivas’ face. Blood precede Kihivas’ movements to the ground.

Undeterred beyond a growl, Kihivas pushed off the ground to come back for him. They met in the air. Nevetes’ left hand kept Kihivas’ right from tearing out his throat. Kihivas’ left fist connected solidly with Nevetes’ side. Nevetes’ knee hit ribs. As Kihivas’ leg came up, Nevetes kicked down viciously. There was as crack as bone fractured. They moved apart.

Kihivas landed hard just a moment before Nevetes did. Both were breathing a little heavier.

“The blood of an Elemental; you tasted it, right? Do you get any special powers from it?”

There was a snarl touching his lips as he went for Kihivas. The slash of his left hand was evaded by Kihivas as he pulled his shoulder in. As their shoulders met lightly, Kihivas shoved hard into Nevetes. It threw Nevetes off his feet. Kihivas gripped his face and shoulder. Fangs came for Nevetes’ exposed neck.

“I think our own blood would grant power,” he laughed. “The blood of a predator.”

The sky opened up at the time fangs broke skin. Nevetes’ fist slammed viciously hard into Kihivas’ stomach. It was a painful way to be released from the bite, but it was effective. Kihivas hit the trunk of a tree with enough force to take the tree down with him. Nevetes came through the rain for his foe without hesitation.

The tree was used as a weapon that he narrowly dodged by leaning back. Kihivas was following the tree that he’d thrown. Nevetes elbowed the ribcage sending Kihivas back the way he’d come from. Droplets of rain fell in slow motion in the spot Kihivas once occupied. Kihivas’ bare feet and claws slowly brought about a halt. Blood boiled in his gaze.

“Why are you doing this?” Kihivas demanded. The malicious joy was all but forgotten.

Nevetes finally gave a reply, “because it’s my choice.”

Kihivas slammed his fist into the ground sending up the rain that was beginning to pool, “it’s awful out here!”

Nevetes tilted his head. He wasn’t disagreeing.

“So why? I know it’s not the Elemental. You could never stand them.” Kihivas knelt on the ground, his claws deep in the earth. The two buns atop his head reminiscent of dog ears when he knelt like that.

“I never had respect for them. Something with enough power to kill our kind, and they allow themselves to be a tool used by humans.” Nevetes stood tall, with only his gaze cast slightly down so that he looked upon Kihivas.

“How is that different from Primals?” there was a sneer in the tone.

“Exactly,” he agreed with mild enlightenment.

Kihivas leaned back as the word registered. Slowly, he stood and matched Nevetes. Loose strands of hair held tight to the wet skin of his face.

Nevetes continued, “we’re all just tools to the humans, if we let them use us.”

“You can’t just change that.”

“I already did,” the statement was final.

Kihivas shook his head, “orders are to bring you back. I can’t stop until I do. And when I do, the Elemental’s blood becomes mine. So everything you did will be for nothing.”

A high-pitched whistle brought their discussion and their fight to an end. Both cringed with more than irritation. Dangerous looks were cast towards the source.

“You can decide not to answer that,” Nevetes told him.

“Even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t stop me from hunting you down,” the threat was clear. They stood opposite each other. Nevetes tall, calm, and poised. Kihivas’ shoulders were slightly forward, his claws were poised to strike, and hot anger lit his gaze.

A cloud of dust was left where each had stood. They came at each other with deadly focus. Kihivas, claws up and poised to strike. Nevetes, claws bared yet at his waist and chest with his shoulders relaxed. As they met, Nevetes spun inward. His left hand had a hold of Kihivas’ neck. The right hand took Kihivas’ arm and forced it down. Kihivas spun forward. The hand at his neck had a tight hold. As they spun, Nevetes threw Kihivas towards the sound of the whistle as it rang out a second time. Kihivas was lost to the woods.

Poised once more, darkness now filled the gaze at Kihivas’ back. He nodded very slightly to acknowledge the words spoken and the situation as it now was. Silently, Nevetes left the battleground.

The grass moved around her like it did in her dreams. Only, in her dreams it was the afternoon sun that rained down upon her. The wind brought an icy chill to the rain that soaked her through. The heavy downpour hid the tears that her expression gave away.

He sank down behind her. His left leg moved over top of hers, sheltering both of her bent legs. The wind at her back was blocked by him. His narrowed, annoyed gaze followed hers up to the clouds.

She held both her arms across her torso. “I know we grew up very differently. I’m sorry I forgot that.”

There was a shared response that had her leaning into his body as his arms moved around her. His left arm moved across her chest to hold both her shoulders within a single arm embrace. The wind howled, but from the protection of his arms she was safe and warm. Together they watched the tall grass of the meadow bow to the wind.

“I may not understand,” he began softly, “but I can understand that it’s important to you that I try. So, I can…try.”

Her eyes were closed. “And?”

That signature sigh escaped, “and…we are…friends.”

She let out a contented ghost of a laugh. It was more than enough for her heart. Her fingers slid into the hand that held her shoulder.

“I came to say goodbye,” he sounded sad.

“How come?” she continued to hold onto his hand.

“The humans continue to put me in their path, so now they’ll regret their mistakes.”

“And you’re worried it’ll be dangerous,” she walked it through.

“It will be,” he affirmed, still holding onto her.

“Those people use my kind to control yours. And they use your kind to put fear in mine. So, I have as much reason as you.”

“It’s not the same,” he wasn’t willing to argue this.

“They took my sister from me, Nevetes. That perfect day in the meadow,” the confession wasn’t easy. “I wasn’t strong enough to stop them then. But I am now. You can use me.”

He shook his head, his arms kept her warm, “you aren’t a tool, and I won’t use you like one.”

She smiled despite everything, “then how about a friend who wants to help you?”

“You,” he hesitated but the words did come out, “are the only one I don’t want to push away.”

“Then I’ll stay,” she decided for them.

“No,” he refused. And granted her an explanation, “Kihivas said he’s to bring me back. Not you. Which means…”

She’d turned around in his embrace to look upon him. Fear shone in her eyes, “when did you?”

But she saw the evidence that gave the truth away. His neck still bled where he’d been bitten. The forceful extraction of the teeth had left jagged holes. Lightly she touched her fingers to his collarbone.

“What happened?”

“A mistake I won’t let happen again,” he brushed the wound off. It was easier than admitting that Kihivas held talent.

“I’ll heal you,” she was already pulling on her power.

“No,” the refusal came quickly.

“Nevetes,” she argued with gentle firmness.

“You’ve overused your power today. For flowers it seems,” he’d taken note of the meadow they sat in.

“Well, there’s a little more to that,“ she reclaimed her seat at his gentle, silent direction.

In the dark and the rain, Mae was nearly invisible since she sat hunched low to the ground. The dark eyes were particularly dark in the night. The drumming of the rain nearly blocked the sound of Mae’s growl. At least to Zene’s ears. Nevetes had picked up on the girl before Zene had. His arm was protective around her.

“It’s okay,” she spoke carefully. “I call her Mae. She’s a friend of the woods.”

Mae foolishly stared Nevetes down. His arms around her spoke of familiarity between the two. His stance was not in challenge of Mae. But Zene was a friend to Mae, in Mae’s way.

Nevetes met Mae’s eyes directly in challenge. She growled and her wings fluttered opened.

“She’s just scared for me,” Zene tried again. “But it’s simple…”

Nevetes growled back deeper. There was presence in his stand even when he wasn’t standing, and ferocity in his gaze. Mae shrank back, her stance moving to submissive as she crouched down.

Zene sighed, “I guess that’ll work too.”

“A friend of yours?” he quipped.

She smiled, “yes.”

Mae took in Zene’s smile and must have been satisfied that she was safe. She sat hunched uncomfortably in the rain watching the two of them.

Zene pointed out, “I think she escaped Hope.”

Nevetes’ eyes looked sharply at the girl.

“I think maybe she might be an Elemental, like me,” there was hope.

“I doubt there’s anyone like you. Elemental or not.” He considered Mae, “I’ve never seen an Elemental that looks like this. Don’t know of a Primal either.”

“Maybe not,” she backed down from the discussion. “I was wondering, do you think that if we freed other Primals and Elementals, that we could find a way to live in peace with humans?”

“I doubt it,” he was annoyed. “According to humans, Primals waged a war that lasted centuries. None of the species could get along. And humans were caught in the crossfire.”

“That’s why they use Elementals,” she recalled.

“They use them up,” he stressed. “As much as they use Primals up.”

“Either way, we’re here. So, this time, couldn’t we all find a way to get along? Elementals could be a buffer between the species. All of them. Even humans.”

“A leash, you mean.” His tone softened, “Would be a miserable existence, always settling disputes and reprimanding the children.”

Her smile was a little sad, “but if it helps, then it would be worth it.”

“It wouldn’t work,” he burst the bubble. “There will always be humans that won’t give up control. There will always be Primals itching to fight their own battles. And what happens when an Elemental goes rogue?”

“I think I should try.”

“I won’t let you,” he was firm.

Her head moved to the side towards him in question.

“I won’t let you be disappointed by them,” he held her close.

The meadow stood empty and calm. The clouds which had brought the rain were now gone, though that rain remained heavy on the flowers. The rising sun brought a sparkle to the refreshed land. The wind, so strong during the night, was now a gentle caress.

From the protection of the woods, smoky-dark eyes watched fiercely as the strangers to the forest moved through her meadow. Shiny bodies, and a familiar white uniform. It was that one she watched. At her back, the wings itched to move. The angry eyes focused in her direction kept her still. A standoff. With purpose he stepped on the flowers left for her. Delicate fingers bit into the bark of a tree.

“What the hell did this?” the shiny strangers talked among themselves.

Angry eyes made his move. Deadly speed brought him to the woods. Quick reflexes brought Mae out of danger. Deadly claws slammed into the ground where she’d been. She landed far back, deeper into the woods. He came quickly for her. And sailed on past as she dodged the blow meant to take her life. Serrated teeth let out a growl of challenge. Her wings brought her to him. He shifted. Blood-red was the color of the eyes. Claws caught her on the cheek, drawing blood. She spun around the moment her feet touched ground. He was already at her side, catching her roughly and throwing her through the woods. She bounced off a tree.

The landing was hard. With effort she pushed up out of the dirt and leaves. At her back, a wing was once again broken. She looked at it lying limp along her arm. With a roll of her shoulder she pushed it up. There was a subtle crack as bone set. In her eyes, a dark light shone mutely.

“Elemental!” the angry-eyed one questioned.

She uttered a sound, “mmmeaaee.”

From her hands, dark smoke like that of her wings poured out. The plant life around her withered at its touch. The angry eyes staring her down, glared even darker. He saw the challenge and he met that challenge head on!

The path of a massive landslide shaped the landscape now. A swath of barren rock marred the sides of two mountains. It had come from both sides, taking out every tree and many massive boulders in the path to come to this point. Nearly completely buried now, what lay beneath the mountains was a mystery not likely to be uncovered.

And at the threshold stood a barrier. He looked calmly upon it. The wind was forgotten here in the valley. The heat of the day which moved behind them was as thick as the oppression raising the hairs on the back of his neck. “Wraiths, an untouchable guard.”

She stepped up beside him. The silver in her teal hair caught the last of suns rays as she tucked it behind an ear. Her fearless gaze held his, “what’s a wraith?”

“An angry spirit,” he told her. From the ground he picked up a pebble. When it landed, a spirit appeared. Half the head was caved in. The limbs were broken in multiple places. Guts fell from the stomach that held a large portion missing. The gruesome image revealed a worse death.

Zene’s gasp was soft and her hand touched his arm. Pity was in her eyes. “We have to help them.”

She moved forward to face the need the spirit had. But this wasn’t a wound to be healed. He made it simple, “I can’t fight what I can’t bite.”

“But I can’t leave them like this,” determination was in every bit of her posture.

He gave in with a sigh.

by: Selina Elliot