Authors: Ceri Clark
Tags: #elements, #magic, #ya, #elementals, #fantasy, #Magi, #young adult, #Elementi, #powers, #children
Children of the Elementi
Copyright © 2008 Ceri Clark.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to cericlark.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
I would like to thank my husband who has supported me through the years and everyone at Myrddin Publishing who have helped make this book happen.
I would like to give special thanks to my friend, editor and talented author, Alison DeLuca.
Prologue: End of an Empire
They crept down the dark corridor. The two darkly clad figures moved stealthily, throwing anxious glances behind them as they went. Dappled patterns of light and shadows played over the ancient stone walls from the torch the man carried, revealing a seemingly endless portrait gallery of long-dead royalty. Each painting hung in oppressive grandeur, the solemn faces seemed to reprove the pair as they passed.
Nuin kept her breaths shallow mindful that the sweet smell of the burning trika-wood torch only barely hid the underlying reek of the disused corridor. She wished they could have used glow-sticks, but they would have been missed. She sighed. If they wanted to warn her husband, this was the only way.
Nuin gasped as pain ripped through her. Her hand grasped the wall and her knees buckled in a half-crouch.. Kiron, only a few steps ahead turned and lurched back to steady her.
“Are you well, my lady?”
He took in the drained paleness of her skin against her chestnut hair and blue velvet gown in the flickering light.
Nuin stroked the slight curve of her stomach, the only clue to her condition.
“I’m fine.” She brushed tendrils of hair away from her eyes.
“We could have come through the front door, my lady.” His voice held gentle reproach.
She shook her head. “We have to do this. You heard the Seer. There is danger somewhere. I-I’m not imagining it. We have to warn him.”
Kiron touched her stomach and smiled with reassurance. Using his honed senses he began to check the baby’s life signs. His awareness quickly shot through the upper layers of skin, through the rushing sound of his old friend’s blood vessels and still further until he reached the smooth regular beat of the child’s heart. He smiled again.
“He’s fine. Although it’s amazing that you still don’t show, even after nearly six months.”
“I wanted to surprise him. If my stomach was out here,” Nuin extended her arms out in front of her. “I wouldn’t have been able to. I hope we’re not too late!”
Her eyes roved over the wall and her thoughts returned to the portraits. The color on each picture frame represented the five great families. On the right, she recognized the white frames of her husband’s ruling family, and on the left, the colored frames of their consorts - many shared her own blue water element.
Kiron held out his arm and Nuin gratefully used it as a support to help her stand. She steadied herself for a moment more, fighting a brief spell of dizziness before they moved on again. It wasn’t far to the inhabited part of the palace and within minutes they paused at an intersection. Nuin gratefully leant against the stone wall, savoring the coolness while Kiron edged forward to check the way ahead.
As he moved to round the corner, the door to the king’s apartment creaked. Curious, Nuin quietly stepped nearer to the corner to stand beside Kiron. Who would visit this late? Her eyes widened in disbelief as her breath caught in her throat. She saw a figure leaving the royal apartment - the visitor - the long dark hair, the blue crystal around her neck - it was like looking in a mirror!
The woman halted mid-step and turned sharply. Instinctively Nuin and Kiron scrambled back from view and held their breath as the woman’s eyes narrowed. She seemed to examine the hallway. Kiron shook his head in disgust at himself and moved to challenge the stranger but Nuin’s hand shot out and grabbed his arm. Shaking her head at him, her sharp gaze warned him to stay. He balked but nodded reluctantly in response. Searching for a moment more, the woman turned again and carried on down the corridor.
As the footsteps faded, Nuin straightened, shaken by the strange encounter. Who was that? What was that? She rushed to the open door. At the threshold, she paused. Where was Malo? Taking deep breaths to quell her rising panic, she scanned the room, looking for the familiar and reassuring shape of her husband.
At that moment she heard it. There was a groan from the far side of the room. She saw a hand slide away from the rich fabric covering the bed. She felt her lungs tighten in fear. What was happening? Rushing round the bed she saw her husband half-collapsed on the marble floor. He was clutching his chest, gasping for breath. Beside him lay a spilled wine cup.
“Poison,” she breathed, “Kiron, come quickly.”
Only seconds behind, Kiron brushed past her to his liege’s aid. Using his heightened senses he scanned the king’s body. In his mind’s eye, he could see the poison. It glowed with an evil, hot, vivid purple as the liquid ran unchecked through the king’s blood. The deathly color spread slowly but steadily, he saw, and half of the king’s body was already affected. Anguished, he knew there was nothing he could do. The poison had advanced too far. They were too late. He glanced at Nuin.
“I’m so sorry. I can only stop the pain. He has only a few minutes at most.”
“Do it!” Tears flowed from her eyes.
Steeling himself, Kiron knelt beside Malo. The healer carefully lifted a flap on a small leather pouch that hung around his waist. His fingers shook with nerves but he held them with his other hand to still them as he glanced at Nuin to see if she had noticed. He took a deep breath and picked out a small green crystal, he cupped the jewel in his hands and held it up to his eyes, simultaneously relaxing his muscles as he began to concentrate into its depths. A swirl of dark green answered his call and he felt his powers gather focus and grow.
As they grew, he directed the energy into the king and began to synchronize with the other man. Kiron could feel the pain the king suffered while he blocked the other man’s emotions. The agony nearly blinded him, and he fought for control. The pain built in intensity, and he had to fight to concentrate. Slowly, linked to Malo’s mind, he began to create a virtual wall. Brick by brick it grew to trap the pain behind. As he imagined placing the last brick, both men visibly relaxed.
Already weak from using his ability, Kiron again gasped. He stumbled backwards from renewed pain but caught himself on the edge of the bed.
“Sephone! I can’t feel her anymore!” he explained as Nuin tore her eyes from her husband. A profound sense of loss almost overwhelmed him. “The Earth Queen is dead, something is really wrong. We have to go.”
Nuin shrugged Kiron’s hand off her shoulder.
“I cannot leave Malo.”
“You must go for the sake of our son.” Malo took hold of an elaborate gold chain from round his neck. “Make certain he gets this. He will not be able to rule without it.”
Nuin frowned, reaching out for the chain as she reached for the necklace. “You knew?”
He smiled back, “Of course I knew. I have the powers of all the elements. Listen, you need to go to the Citadel. I was expecting something to happen but I honestly thought we had enough guards here or I would never have called all the Elementi into one place. I never thought... I never considered this kind of trickery. I can already feel the absence of Earth and Fire in the Matrix. Both Sephone and Vilcin must be dead. The Magi have finally found their way in.”
As Malo spoke, Nuin felt a sharp wrench in her chest as though the core of her being was ripping apart - Father! All thoughts ceased as the pain became unbearable but as quickly as it started, it ended leaving her trembling. As her eyes cleared, she tried to deny the death of her father. The Water King! How could this have happened now? He was so strong, he should have been a match for any traitor, but with Malo weakened, she choked at the thought. If he was dying, then they wouldn’t be able to join their powers. She looked down at her husband. Everything should have been perfect, the Empire was at peace, their baby would have been the future. She never even had a chance to tell her father about him. Nuin couldn’t comprehend how this could have happened. The Elementi had become too trusting and now three of the most high were dead. She looked again at her husband for answers but his body lay lifeless.
Before she could take it in, Kiron grasped her arm and pulled Nuin away from the fallen High-King,
“We have to go! Your child is our only hope; he is the last of the Omnax line. We have to go before they close the Gate. We must get to the Citadel!”
Dazed, she let Kiron guide her away from her husband’s body. They could both hear the distant clash of swords through the ancient oak door. She stared widely about the room. There were no secret passages, the walls were solid stone. The rich hangings taunted her of safe locations through the Empire. Each wall depicted a vista from the four lands, the plains of the Earth Queen, the Mer City on another wall. Although beautiful, she also knew they were there to help visualize a place to escape to but she didn’t have the technology to transport there. The sounds of pursuit were coming closer. There was something about the tapestries she had to remember… Nuin pulled a ring off her hand. She stared at it in wonder as an idea began to take root.
“No need. Before Malo left for the city last month, he gave me this ring. I couldn’t understand why at the time.” She stroked the clear jewel. “Only an Omnax power should be able to use this and I only have the water talent. Although if Malo knew about the baby, perhaps... I might be able to tap the baby’s powers? Why would he give it to me otherwise…?”
Unsure but knowing she had to at least try, Nuin looked inward. She felt the strong pulse and the tiny thread of magic running inside her small baby’s veins. As she was taught as a child, she pictured the four different elements as colors. There was red for fire, green for earth, yellow for air. Last, her own blue element of water answered her call, as familiar as an old friend. As the colors entwined together to make a strong white cord of power, she clutched the ring and called the energy to it.
There were sudden, loud footsteps in the hall outside. She knew they had no time to spare. She looked at Kiron but he was already running to the half-open door. He kicked it closed and heaved a heavy cabinet in front. Once the room was secured, he took Nuin’s hand.
With one last tearful glimpse at her husband, she grabbed Kiron’s arm tightly and made one final push with her mind. She felt the cord resist. Panic flashed in her mind as the door visible above the cabinet in front of them splintered. She grew cold with fear as the tip of a sword broke through, announcing the invader’s arrival at the door. She pushed again, praying to any god who would listen.
The world exploded into fragments and a bright blinding light overtook them.
CHAPTER ONE: JAKE
Jake blocked out the sound of shouts from downstairs and carried on tapping on his keyboard. Every night! His parents had never been like that.
He slammed his hands on his keyboard and stared glumly at the nonsense he had just written. The essay would never get done. In frustration, he deleted everything he had just written.