Six years ago
“Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!” I yelled through the open window. My mom came out of the house and gasped.
“Skyra, get down from that tree right this instant!” She shouted back.
My mom has never used that tone with me. I began to cry, and wiped my tears with both hands. Suddenly, I fell. Being twenty or thirty feet high in the tree, that fall should have seriously injured or killed me. Strangely, I slowed down, and landed on my feet at the base of the tree, right in front of my half scared, half angry mom.
“What were you thinking?! Climbing that high in a tree?! You scared me to death when you fell! You know what I’ve told you, Skyra. You could have broken a bone, or worse, been killed! You must never, ever, do that again. Understand?”
“Yes, Mommy. But that was fun!”
“What was fun?”
“Falling from the tree was fun?!”
“Yeah! Because I slowed down and landed on my feet in the fall!” I turned my head and saw a man watching us. He was dressed in black and had sunglasses on.
A year ago
I raised my hands in the air, a broad smile on my face. I had just won the School Running Championship, ahead of everyone else in my grade! The weird thing was though, while I ran, a strange wind came and pushed me faster. I never knew I could run so fast. Turning, I received the trophy and said thanks to the man who handed it to me. Wait a second. It feels like I should know this man. Oh well. I mentally shrugged and thought, what does it matter if I know him?
On the way home, my mom said, “Skyra, how did you run so fast? I’ve never seen you run so fast in your entire life!”
I replied, “I don’t know, but at least I won!”
These memories and others rush through my mind as I process what the strangely familiar man in front of me has just said. That I have the power to bend air to my will? Hold on. I know who he is. He’s been there, in all of my memories with me demonstrating some way of having the power to control and distort air. But still!
“That’s not true.” I say out loud.
“Oh, but it is. So I ask you again, will you join us? After all, you don’t usually see people with the air element power walking down the street.”
“Oh yeah? And why should I ‘join’ you?”
“I teach a school, where kids with all sorts of elemental powers come to learn.”
“Right…” I say sarcastically. There’s something secretive about this guy, something I don’t trust.
“Look, just come join us and learn, okay?” I can tell this guy is losing his patience.
“And what if I say no?”
“Then I will force you to come!” And before I can do anything, he grabs my wrists and slaps a hand over my mouth. I struggle and try to scream, but the noise is muffled and no one is around. He drags me to a van, gags me and ties my wrists and ankles together, then throws me in the back. I hit my head on something hard, and the world slowly spins into black.
I wake up, and think for a moment, who am I? Then I remember. I sit up and groan. My head throbs where I hit it. Looking around, I see that I am in a prison cell-like dormitory. I notice a girl with two long braids down her back staring at me from the other side of the room. Trying for friendliness, I say, “Hi.”
She continues staring.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Academy for Kids with Elemental Powers,” says a voice from the doorway.
I turn to see who said that. A guy is standing in the doorway, and he looks fifteen.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
He ignores me and continues, “So anyway, this place has been around for who knows how long, we all have elemental powers, everybody has either the water, fire, air, or earth power, but you can go on and learn the advanced arts, like if you have the fire power, you can learn to create and control lightning, if you have the air power, you can learn to control Ice, you can learn plant when you have the water power, and you can control metal when you have the earth power.”
When he finishes, he leaves, and I am let alone with the girl again.
“So, ummm…what’s your name?”
“I am not obligated to speak with such a lowly being like you.”
“Oh. Okay then.”
She turns her head sharply to the right and stares at the wall, which is a very nice olive color. Oh yeah, that’s sarcasm.
I pass the time by examining every inch of the room, looking for a way to escape. When that guy came in, he opened the door. That seems impossible. After three hours of search, I give up. This room cannot be broken out of.
An hour later, it’s time for dinner. The door opens – really? – by itself. We walk out, and I choose a random passage. Suddenly, a jolt of electricity zaps me. The girl I share a room with just smirks.
“I am not obligated to speak with you, lowly being, but I must say that you are heading in the wrong direction. The meal hall is this way. Whenever you feel a – wait, what element are you?”
“I am not obligated to answer questions from such a high and proper being as you,” I say, mimicking her tone. “But I am an air elementalist.”
“Ungrateful wench. Lowly being, I am only trying to help. Whenever you feel a slight shock, you will know that you are going in the wrong direction.”
“Ok. But how am I supposed to get out of this place?”
“Just because I helped you this once doesn’t mean we’re friends, you idiot!” she snaps.
I decide to follow her. After a few minutes, she says, “Why are you following me, lowly being?”
I reply, “Well, I don’t know where the meal hall is, so I thought I’d follow you to see where it is.”
“I get to dine with the other high members of the school. You,” she says with disgust, “get to dine with other lowly beings just as stupid as you.”
Oh. That makes sense. At least, it explains why she calls me a “lowly being.”
“Well, can you take me there?”
“ME?!?!?!? Take you THERE?!?!?!?!? If I get caught heading there, the teachers will think I WANT to sit in there, and then I will have to sit in there. For a WEEK!!! Do you know HOW SHAMEFUL that is?!?!?!?!?!?”
“Well, no, I don’t know how shameful that is, but I do need you to take me there.” I admitted.
“Why you little-”
“Girls! What are you doing?!” says a new voice from down the hall.
The snotty braid girl says, “Mademoiselle Foodle, I was just taking this lo- I-I mean new girl to the meal hall.”
“Oh really? Then explain WHY I heard YELLING from down the hall?”
“I see…no reason to explain why?”
“No, it’s just that, well, I saw Kalani and Melina having, err, an argument. And, umm, they were yelling at each other.”
“Mmhm. Right…” she said in a tone dripping with sarcasm. “And where did they go? This hallway has no turns or side passages for quite a while. I expect you want me to believe they flew through the ceiling?”
“Oh, well, umm…”
“Lying, were you?”
“Yes you were. From the first day you came here I expected you to be able to remember that silence is needed in these halls. Clearly, I was wrong. Your punishment will be…sitting at the newbies’ table. FOR A WEEK!”
“The newbies table?! But-but it’s so-so-so-”
“So what? Full of newbies? At least you’ll be with your new friend.”
“FRIEND?!?!?!?!?! Friends with this-this- lowly being?!?!?! The idea itself horrifies me!”
“That is your punishment. Or would you like it changed to a month instead?”
The girl drops her gaze, but I can tell she’s seething with anger. She flashes me a look of pure disgust.
“Stupid lowly being,” she mutters under her breath before stalking off.
I take a few steps after her when Mademoiselle Foodle says, “And YOU!”
I freeze where I am and slowly turn around.
“As for you, because you are new, I will let you off the hook. Just this once. After all, I have a thousand students who I must attend to, and they all MUST be punished!”
I find my way to the “newbies” meal hall by choosing random passages and going the other way when there is a slight shock. Finally, after about an hour, I am there. When I enter, loud noises nearly kill my eardrums. I hear people talking, people yelling, people cheering others on during a wrestling match – seriously? In a cafeteria? – and people doing a lot of other random things that I personally feel they should not be doing.
Suddenly they die down, and everybody looks at me. I stare right back at them, when one of the girls stands up and says, in a loud clear voice, “Hey, newbie,” putting disgust on the word as though it’s the worst thing anyone could call me.
Right after she says this, everyone starts laughing. I feel my face flush with embarrassment. Seriously, does everyone have to pick on me? Then my eyes find someone who has a sympathetic look on her face. Immediately, I know I have a friend here. So, in response to the insult and for everyone laughing, I simply shrug.
Everyone stops laughing instantly. All of their eyes flick from the girl to me.
“Are you challenging me to a fight?” The girl’s eyes narrow and she glares at me.
Again, I shrug.
“Would that be a yes? I am extremely powerful you know. Actually, the best fire elementalist out of,” here she pauses to dramatically sweep her arm around. “All the people here who can control fire.”
Well, this is definitely going to be tougher than I think.
“I don’t know. Do you want to fight?” I ask.
“Hmm…if you’re not afraid to.”
Seeing the girl who looked at me in a nice way shaking her head, I almost decide not to fight.
“Well actually, let’s just not fight.” I say.
She squints at me again. “Did I hear you say you don’t want to fight? Are you a coward?”
“I am not a coward!”
“Then prove it by showing you’re not afraid to fight me!”
Uh oh. I had just worked myself into a fight that could not be avoided. Yikes.
“Losing your nerve?” she jeered.
“I will fight you.” I say quietly.
“How about…tomorrow at midnight. The Rosetta Room.” Earlier today, while I was heading toward the meal hall, I had passed a room called the Rosetta Room.
“Sure. If you can even find your way there!”
Her buddies all laugh. Suddenly an idea strikes me.
I say, “Hey, aren’t you a newbie too?”
She looks nervous. “Uhh…well, actually, umm…”
“Well, are you? Oh wait, don’t tell me. If you’re not a newbie, you must have been punished and sent to eat here for…how long? A week? A month?”
“No. Just today. But too bad for you, you have to sit here for quite a while!”
I laugh. “Really, being a newbie is better than being punished and having to sit here for even a day.”
“You-you-you little-” At this point of rage, she’s stuttering so much she can’t even really talk right. “You little-you little- you little-you-you aren’t even fit to eat out of trash cans!”
“Really? Then what am I eating right here?” I say, pointing to my tray. (The food came while we were arguing, but I never really noticed it.)
“Hmph!!! You don’t deserve the meal in front of you.” Then, I see another girl stand up and walk over to the person I was just arguing with. Rage shoots through me as I see the girl I share a room with walk up to the other girl. Snotty braid girl whispers into the other girl’s ear, and she gets a wicked smile on her face.
“I change the rules. It’s two on two. Emberana and I will be a pair. I bet nobody will pair up with you!”
I look around nervously. Finding the nice girl, I sent her a silent message: Will you do it?
For a few seconds, she looks hesitant. Then she slowly stands up and says, “I will be on a team with…”
Again, she gets my silent message.
“I will be on a team with Skyra.”
“You?” screeches Emberana.
“Yeah.” She calmly replies.
“Fine. Be on the losing team.” Emberana says.
The girl who volunteered to be on my side walks over to me and introduces herself.
“Hi. I’m Coronalia. They’re both fire type elements, so since I’m a water elementalist, we should have a slight advantage.”
“Nice to meet you. Thanks for sticking up for me back there. You know I’m Skyra, and from my name, you can probably tell that I am an air element person.”
“I guessed from the second I saw you. You don’t look solid enough for an earth person, but you aren’t much like me, so you couldn’t be water. Oh yeah, you didn’t look proud and all ‘high and mighty’ like most fire people, but you looked pretty nice, tall, and, well, you have the grace of an air elementalist.”
“Oh. So you tell people apart like that?”
“I have to tell you something.” I say hesitantly.
“What?” Coronalia asks.
“Well, I…don’t know how to use my power.”
“Oh well, I can give you a crash course. Here, are you done?” she asks, taking my tray.
“Yeah, I’m full.”
“Ok then. Wait right here.” She takes the tray and dumps it. Then she puts it on a revolving tray rack, which slowly turns and takes the trays to whoever cleans them, I guess.
When Coronalia comes back, she takes me to an empty classroom. We practice.
“So first, close your eyes and relax.”
I do that, and I feel energy flowing through my body.
“Now, breathe in deeply.”
“Ok, now reach into your soul and imagine yourself as light as air, as graceful as the wind, and, well…just like whatever else air is like.”
Hmm…strange tingling sensation. It starts from my toes and spreads up my body, slowly, until my head fills with energy.
“You did it!” Coronalia says excitedly.
“Wha???” I say, opening my eyes and looking at myself. “Whoa, is this still me?”
I am wearing a sparkling silver jacket on top of a gray shirt and pants that feel as light as air. If somebody told me to put this on, I would say, “no,” because I’d think it’d look horrible! Surprisingly, it actually looks good on me. I mean, I’m not trying to brag, but still.
“Ok, now attack me.” Coronalia instructs.
“What?” I say.
“You heard me. Attack!”
“But what if I hurt you?”
“Not likely.” she says.
“Fine.” I delve into my soul and find a barrier. Driving my mind against it, it breaks and I am allowed access to my store of magic. Summoning an air ball, a throw it against Coronalia. She lifts her hand and uses water power and deflects it. It is sent right back at me, and somehow, I absorb it.
“Not bad, for a start. But it will have to be more powerful if you want to beat those two.”
I dive in deeper and find a stronger blast to throw at her. This time, she deflects it again, but it’s harder because it’s stronger. Again, I absorb it.
“Ok, that’s enough practice for now.” Coronalia says.
She’s panting, and I ask, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” She replies. “If you make it even stronger, they won’t have a chance!”
“It’s midnight.” I say to Emberana.
“I know!” she snaps at me.
We walk to the Rosetta Room. When I go inside, I see a huge room with walls that are bare. There is nothing in this room. Suddenly, a swishing noise comes and the other girl comes out with Coronalia.
“Ok, we’re all here,” she says.
“Yeah. You two,” says Emberana, pointing at us, “Stand over there. Cyndra and I will stand over here.”
We walk over as they walk to their places.
Cyndra shouts, “Ready, set, START!”
The duel had begun.
Immediately, I shift into my air form and try to grab some magic. Using it, I make it into a weird air ball like thing and throw it at Emberana, with an aero blast following it. She tries to dodge it, but it’s too quick; one of the advantages of being an air elementalist.
The dull noise of impact is followed by a shriek of pain. I instantly lower the power to a gentle tickle. Emberana slowly gets up, but she looks barely conscious.
“Do we just have to knock them out?” I ask Coronalia.
“Yeah!” she replied.
That seems easy. Emberana is almost unconscious, and Cyndra doesn’t look much better. However, they still have enough power left to attack. Emberana creates a HUGE fireball, which she aims at me. I freeze. Coronalia didn’t teach me how to deflect hits.
The fireball comes, and still I am frozen. Suddenly, I move. Turning, I don’t even pause as I throw a random bit of power at the fireball. It stops dead in its tracks, and turns toward Emberana. She smirks and absorbs it. Then, she throws another fireball. This one is smaller, but it’s a lot faster, and I am too slow to dodge it. I scream as it burns my skin. The searing pain lasts only a moment, but it feels like infinity. I drop to the ground, writhing around until I am sure the fire is gone. Then, I retaliate and send a powerful blast of wind at Emberana. It slams her against the wall, and she gasps. Then she goes limp, and I am sure she is unconscious.
Looking around, I see that Coronalia and Cyndra are still fighting. I join in and rapidly shoot blasts of air at Cyndra. Suddenly, another burning pain hits me in the back, and I scream and fall to the ground. Coronalia turns and looks at me, and in that moment, a fireball hits her. She falls next to me, and I see that even though she has some resistance against fire, being a water element and all, she is still injured. The pain still has not left, and I twist around, screaming, until the world slowly turns black.
I wake up in a strange room. Looking right, I see Coronalia in a bed next to me. I try to sit up, and immediately my back burns. I fall back onto the bed with a gasp of pain.
Suddenly, a nurse-like person comes in. She walks around my bed and rolls me over. Peeling off the bandages is excruciating, even worse than getting burned. I grit my teeth to keep from screaming my head off. Then she puts some sort of painkiller-y medicine-type thing on it; at least, it doesn’t hurt anymore. The bandages are a relief, because my back is feeling cold from the air. The nurse treats Coronalia and leaves the room.
I whisper, “Psst! Psst! Coronalia! Wake up!”
She groans, but doesn’t wake up.
“Coronalia!” I whisper again, louder this time.
“Uhhnnn…who is it? OW! My side hurts!”
“Coronalia, it’s Skyra.”
“Ohh…are you okay?”
I hurt everywhere, especially my back and ribs.
“Well, since I’m alive, I am fine, but it burns. A LOT!” I say.
“Actually, I probably hurt less, because I’m a water element, but it’s still painful. The good thing is, because we’re elemental, there won’t be any scars. The skin will grow back like normal, and we won’t look any different. We also heal really fast, like it only takes a few hours before we look normal.”
Oh. That’s a relief.
Just then, Mademoiselle Foodle comes in. She comes over and says, “What were you girls thinking? Getting into a fight like that? You know you could have been seriously injured! Skyra, I know you are new, but you should have more sense than that! And Coronalia, you know about this!”
“Sorry.” I mutter.
“Coronalia, tell me how she did.” says Mademoiselle Foodle.
Wait a second. Did I hear her right? Did she just ask Coronalia to tell her how I fought in the–technically; well you can’t call it a duel with four people–battle?
Coronalia replies, “She did way better than most beginners. And with only a bit of help from me! All I taught her was the basic get into the form, prepare some magic, and shoot! She actually deflected Emberana’s fireball!”
“Really? Hmm…” is Mademoiselle Foodle’s reply.
“Yeah!” says Coronalia. “I think she should learn with the Medium group. Well, I haven’t seen her sword skills yet, but there’ll be plenty of opportunities. Just, before she goes with the Medium group she’ll need to know all the basics, but other than that, she’s fine!”
“Okay…what do you think, Skyra?”
“Wha-? You’re asking me? Bu- but I thought you were mean! I- I mean, no offense, but you weren’t that nice with Emberana.”
“Hmph! That little snotty know-it-all brat? Of course I wasn’t nice to her! I never am! She’s a stuck-up annoying little girl. Now, do you want to go to the Medium classes?
“Uh, yeah! Yes, I do!”
“Ok then. I shall arrange it. We still need to see your sword skills, but do you think you’re up for it now?”
“Umm…now? Maybe. Let me try to get up.” I attempt to get up, but the pain is too great, and I fall back on my bed with a gasp of pain.
“No, you are not ready to show me yet. Stay here, I will come back in a few hours.”
And with that, Mademoiselle Foodle leaves the room.
I just gape, my mouth hanging open.
Coronalia says, “Well, we’re in the same class!”
I ask, “You’re in the Medium class?”
“Ohh…Is Mademoiselle Foodle usually this nice?”
“Only to the less stuck up kids.”
“That makes sense. The other day, she got pretty mad at Emberana for yelling. Is it true that you need to be really quiet in the halls?”
“Yeah. Do you want to know who teaches the classes?”
“Ok then. Mademoiselle Foodle is Headmistress, and she teaches the Challenge level elemental and sword classes. But the thing is, almost nobody are in those classes. Only the most talented and skilled go there. Actually, right now I can name the three people in the class. They are Desato, Karamu, and Illiria. Anyway, Emberana and Cyndra might actually make it to the Challenge class. They are in the Advanced group right now, but they’re really good. Well, the teacher of the Advanced group is Miss Catta. She’s fairly nice, but she loses her temper easily, and she has about this much patience,” Coronalia said, holding up two fingers a centimeter apart. “So I don’t want to think about being in her class. And for us, our teacher is Mr.…umm…well, he has a really long last name, and it’s something like this. Mr. Kaletinoytagooglogashlabonbonifferansim, blah, blah, blah, I forgot the rest, but well…he told us to just call him Bob, or Mr. K. Ok, so the early or Beginner class is taught by Ms. Melani. She is really nice, so I guess that’s why they chose her to put up with the kids who have no idea how to do things. Well, those are all the teachers, and don’t forget that. Well, you should rest now, so you can do sword stuff later.”
I am tired, and as she says that last sentence, I yawn and close my eyes, drifting into sleep.
A few hours later, I wake up to find Mademoiselle Foodle standing over my bed.
“What do you want now?” I grumble.
She lets out an impatient sigh. “Skyra, I want to see how good your sword skills are.”
“Wha? Oh yeah.” I say.
Jumping out of bed, I hesitantly take a few steps, and when there isn’t any pain, I say, “I can try the sword stuff now.”
“Ok then. Follow me.”
Mademoiselle Foodle leads me to a room with weapons on the walls. I see axes, swords, javelins, spears, knives, throwing knives, tridents, some bows with full sheaths of arrows, and so on.
“Where did you get all these weapons?” I ask.
“It’s been collected over the years. Now, we need to find you a suitable sword.” And with that, she takes me through a door, where racks and racks are filled with nothing but weapons.
“Here you go,” says Mademoiselle Foodle. “You find something you like, and when you’re ready, call me.”
I walk around the racks, looking at weapons, occasionally picking up a spear, or maybe a javelin, but the balance isn’t quite right. Finally I get to the sword rack, and there are about as many different swords here as there are all the other weapons combined!
I look around, and am drawn to a pair of swords. Picking them up, they feel like extensions of my arms, and I carefully slide them out of the sheaths. One blade is different shades of sky blue, though occasionally gray. Looking at it, I am reminded of the sky. The other sword is as clear as glass, and when I look through it, it’s like I’m seeing things through my own eyes. On both of them, just above where the blade goes into the hilt, is a clear blue gem.
“Ok, so you choose this pair, eh?” A voice from behind me says.
I jump and drop the swords. Picking them up, I turn around. Standing behind me is an elderly old man, with battle scars all over his arms.
“W-what do you want?” I ask.
“Ok, nothing,” he replies. “Mademoiselle Foodle told me to see what kind of sword you got. I wasn’t expecting this.”
“Ok now, do you need somebody to practice sword fighting with?” he asks.
“Yes.” I reply.
“Ok then. Karamu, come here!” The guy who came into our room before came here, and I stare at him. He winks.
“Ok,” This old guy is starting to annoy me. “So ok then, you have to fight this girl and tell Mademoiselle Foodle how she did. Got it?”
“Yeah, whatever,” he says in a carefree tone. “Bet I’ll beat her.”
“Ok, Karamu, that’s not fair. You are in the Challenge class. She is a beginner. Ok?”
“I get it.” he repeats.
“Ok then, come here.” The old guy beckons to us, and leads us into a place for practice apparently. The room has dummies and experimental weapons, like target dummies for the archery, spear-throwing, and javelin-throwing people, dummies to beat up with swords, and a lot of other dummies for other things. Anyway, I go to a square on one side of the room, and Karamu goes to a square on the opposite side.
“Ok, you can start now.” the old guy says, then backs out of the room.
Immediately, Karamu charges toward me and slices downward with his sword. I clumsily block it, but it pushes me off balance and I fall. His sword comes around and stops an inch from my neck.
“Too easy,” he says, and offers me a hand to help me up. I don’t take it and get up myself.
‘Just wait,’ I think. ‘I’ll show you.’
Again, we get into position, and he charges again. I block it better this time, and try to swing at his neck. He dodges it easily, and slices his sword at my legs. The blade grazes my legs, and blood seeps out of the cut. Minor pain lances through my body, but I grit my teeth and try to ignore it.
This time, I swing at his legs, and when he is busy blocking it, I try to slice at his neck. His sword flashes up, but I cut his left leg. Then I swing crazily, blocking all of his attacks and slicing at him. Sometime during the battle, he gets a second sword, and we are evenly matched.
Eventually though, I tire, and he slowly forces me down until my swords lay on the ground, and his are pointing at my neck.