I Am the Way: Chapter 1

I woke to the feeling of something heavy lying on me. I forced my eyes open and looked down into Ember’s softly glowing eyes. I frowned at him, trying to get him to realize without speaking that he was heavy. It did not work.

“Get off,” I said firmly as I moved to sit up; he got off, leaping easily to the floor, and I flopped back onto the bed since I was no longer weighed down by a large wolf. What an odd dream, I thought.

I lay there for a few minutes longer, relishing the warmth of my bed and staring at the thatched roof as I contemplated the dream. I finally shrugged it off and my thoughts drifted to more pressing matters. It had been a few weeks since my mother had disappeared. I had no idea where she had been taken to or even why she had been taken. I missed her terribly and was about ready to try and go after her. Half of the items I would need for the journey were packed, but I was afraid to leave. How could I leave home? Where would I go? I did not know which way they had gone. And besides that, where would I stay when I did leave? We had no tents, and there was no money to buy one.

I did not want to get up, but I finally sighed and tossed the blankets aside, swinging my legs off the bed and sitting up. The stone floor was cold on my bare feet as I stood and walked to the wash basin, bathing my face after a yawn. The shock of the cold water made my breath catch. I quickly changed from my night gown to my work clothes—a boy’s shirt and a pair of pants with leather shoes that were as light as they were durable. Mother had brought the shoes back from her last trip over a year ago and they were still whole and bore no marks despite the hard work I did in them.

When I was ready, I picked up the prepared food bags, walked outside with Ember by my side, and was greeted with a cacophony of animal noises as small blasts of each element flashed from the pens. A smile came to my face before I could help it, and I skipped over to the pens, bypassing the large fire pit in the middle of our small plot of land. The fire pit was surrounded by nothing but dirt for about ten feet then the grass began, soft and green, extending to the river and past it into the forest. The house stood about fifty feet from the fire pit right up against the trees, and the shed was about thirty feet from the house to the north up against the trees that separated our property from the village of Paxtonvale. Both buildings were roughly constructed out of wooden beams and planks, which was how most of the village was built. My eyes traveled over the familiar sight before turning to look at the pens.

They were little more than wooden planks with rope strung between them, but the animals were so well trained that they did not even think about trying to eat, burn, hop or fly over, dig beneath, or freeze and break the fence. We had raised most of them from babies and it showed in the way they crowded at the fence, wanting to be near me. We had found them wandering around the forest near our homes, and a part of me wonders if they were drawn here. No more have come for years.

I walked over to the fire animals first, Ember following faithfully. The pen was mostly bare, dry earth, but it did have a single tree in it. The tree bloomed red flowers every spring and their fragrance was sweet. I took a deep breath, enjoying the scent. We raised our fire Elementals for their heat. They give out heat from their bodies and we can grow crops in the winter if we have them walk the fields three times a day then sleep there in between the rows at night. Our Phoenix Inferno sang a part of his lovely song before taking off from a branch and landing on my shoulder. A Phoenix was a fire Elemental that was extremely strong despite its size and that spout fire at will. Our Phoenix’s feathers were soft, silky, and warmer than my skin. Each tail feather was longer than my forearm with rich golden decorations tracing each one. His beak was a beautiful rose color while his eyes were startling silver, gleaming with knowledge and kindness.

I stroked the beautiful red neck, and he gave another coo and took off. The gold on his wingtips, tail, and head plumage gleamed in the rising sun as he landed in the tree in the middle of the fire yard. Our Flaring Foxx and Tindre Tigre ran to me, nuzzling me with their warm bodies. The Flaring Foxx was a gentle night creature, the tip of its tail glowing with red fire almost constantly. Ours, named quite appropriately Flare, was a fiery orange with contrasting blue eyes. The Tindre Tigre lets out a burst of white-hot fire to burn his enemies before attacking with heated claws and teeth. Ours was named Blaze and he was colored red with bright yellow stripes going crosswise across his back. His black eyes honed in on the sacks I held in my hand. I stroked them both before grabbing the bag with red lining around the top and dumping out raw venison onto the dusty ground.

Most fire Elementals were carnivores and as I was unwelcome at the village where the butcher shop was, I had learned to hunt in the forest at a young age. I went into the southern part, which connected to an enormous, unexplored wood—“Never go too deep inside, Filynora,” my mother always warned. With all of my practice I had had, I could outshoot any boy in our village, and a lot of the men, too, which did not make me any more popular with the villagers. At least I assumed I could still outshoot them. I took over an archery contest when I was eleven and won. They had pretty much banned me from competitions and from entering the village unless I had business. I did not care. Much. The sound of soft growls brought me back to the present and I watched as the fiery creatures began playfully fighting for the meat, though they knew as well as I that each would get his fair share.

I stepped into the water pen and was greeted with a gurgle as Raine, our Hydro-Hum, darted around me. I loved the Hydro-Hum because it was basically a gigantic multi-blue colored hummingbird. Ours had beautiful blue-green eyes and feathers that were five different shades of blue. When threatened, she released a stream of acidic water from her thin, black beak and flitted in circles, releasing droplets of water from her body until a water-cloud surrounded her. If she kept at it long enough, she could make a dense fog that would surround and disorient her enemies. I stroked Raine’s head, cooing at her, then laughed as she splashed water droplets on me. We raised her and the other water Elementals to water our crops. No matter what time of the year, we could water the crops, even in the middle of a drought.

The water pen was a large pool fed by a runoff I had dug off to the side of the river. The pool was quite deep at one end, but tapered off as it got closer to where I stood. I paused right at the edge of the water to call the rest of the water creatures by whistling. My own special whistle was created by vibrating my tongue as I whistled, and the animals always reacted to it.

A spray of water arched up and our Cloudburst Dolfyn Misty bubbled herself into the air. Cloudburst Dolfyns are quite strange. They can do a trick with the water where they bubble it underneath their bodies and fly. They accomplish this by using their unique abilities to manipulate the water so that little air bubbles are mixed in with the water droplets. The water heats up and the air grows hot, lifting them into the air. Misty’s rich blue eyes gleamed as she nuzzled me, promptly soaking me wherever she touched me. I smiled and kissed her long grey-blue nose. She whistled happily, using her tail to propel herself in a circle above me as our other water Elemental swam over.

Our Glacier-Bear lumbered out of the water. His fur was lightly tinged silver-blue, and his eyes were purple. Icicle was a little different than the other water Elementals. He could freeze water and his fur retained water that he somehow turned into a slushy substance to keep him cool. His teeth were like ice, hence his name, and he was always cold to the touch. He loved winter and would play gleefully in the snow with the other Elementals. When Misty impatiently bumped me, I reached into the blue lined bag and pulled out a mix of meat and vegetables, tossing them into the pool. All three creatures dove after it, the water splashing me. I chuckled softly and moved to the air creatures.

Their pen was flat and grassy, with several large trees in which the creatures could play. Our Glider Monkey, named Glide, chattered from one of them and jumped over to a closer tree. When he ran out of trees to land on, he leaped into the air and glided over to float around me. Glider Monkeys can control air currents. They are some of the least powerful of the Air Elementals, but funny creatures nonetheless. Glide was a pleasant orange-brown with small black ears and a long tail that he used to balance and hang from trees, and his eyes were yellow. We raised the air creatures, not for crops, but for fun. They were like my Ember in that.

Our Zephyr Batt, who we called Gale, screeched and blasted air in my face as he swooped by. He landed on my shoulder and opened his mouth, letting out another gust of wind. He was a dark purple, with big black ears and sharp teeth. I wasn’t sure how he generated the wind he was constantly blowing out, but it was always nice on hot summer days to have that breeze on my face. His beady gray eyes looked at me expectantly. I pet his ears as I reached into the white-edged bag and tossed out fruit for them. We had fewer Air Elementals than any of the other elements. They were so hard to catch and keep; all flying Elementals are. The only reason we had a Glider Monkey and a Zephyr Batt was that my mother and I had found them as babies and had kept them in a cage in the house until we were sure they would not leave.

I stepped into the last pen, which was bare, packed dirt, and was greeted by a rumble as Dusty, our Terra-Bear, waddled to me. I stroked his dusty fur as he prodded the fully brown bag with his nose. His large black eyes were focused entirely on the bag, and he hardly noticed me. Most large Earth Elementals that I know of create earthquakes, but there are many different kinds of Earth Elementals.  We raised the Earth Elementals for cultivating the soil in spring. Dusty could make straight rows if pressed, and I loved how easy it made it. We did not need a plow, which was good because we didn’t have the money for one.

After a moment of no gratification, he stomped, making the ground crack beneath his feet. Muddmoles crawled from the cracks and swarmed my feet, nuzzling me blindly as they made little noises, begging for food. The little creatures secreted mud from their skin and, in a large group, could turn earth to mud beneath the surface. It was quite unpleasant to walk over their nest, which was why I did not go too far into their pen. Ever.

They come in different forms of animals; all the Elementals do. Nobody is sure what they are for, though. Elementals have been around for as long as our village elders can remember. Stories of their violent attacks on Humans are still told, some of them generations old. If a person kills a wild Elemental, they are respected and honored. I have sometimes caught several of the older boys trying to sneak into our pens to kill one, but they never succeed. I run them off with my bow and my beloved pets every time, scaring them away easily. I knew that people were scared of them, but they were excellent guard animals, as well as fun pets. They were interesting and I loved them for it. They were just as out of place in this world as I was.

I had stood there for so long without giving out the food that our Terra-Bear finally got tired of waiting, running me over in his impatience. I yelped in surprise and suddenly Ember was on top of him. Earth exploded up beneath them as Dusty snapped, and fire flashed from Ember’s pelt as they fought. I scrambled back, watching with wide eyes as they tore into each other. The other Elementals began to converge on them to join in. Terrified that there would be an all out brawl, I let out a wild yell for them to stop.

All movement ceased and Dusty and Ember were frozen, facing each other. Ember still glowed with the beginnings of fire and my Terra-Bear’s claws were pawing at the ground, making the earth ripple. I walked forward then smacked both of them on the tips of their noses. They both yiped in pain and skittered away from each other. I poured out the contents of the plain brown bag, then turned and left the pen as the earth creatures began to eat.

I stepped over the ropes and Ember crawled to me on his belly, eyes wary. When I patted my thigh, he leaped up with a happy bark, overjoyed that his mistress had forgiven him. With a snicker, I walked toward a large fenced in area to the east of our house. Our four horses stood inside the pasture, standing at the edge of their wooden fence staring at me and patiently waiting for food. Each was a different color, representing his own element.

Elemental horses were the hardest to keep. They were wilder than any other creature. There were contests to ride normal wild horses in the village every few years. Only boys and young men were allowed to compete. I know without a doubt that I could beat every one of them because I have ridden our Elemental horses. It had taken years and years of practice, but I had finally gotten them to trust me enough to let me on their backs without bucking me off. Even my mother, who worked with Elementals nearly all her adult life, could not do that. She was chased out of the pasture every time, so she was resigned to never riding them.

Flame, our fire horse, had a brilliant orange and red body and red eyes, along with a mane and tail that changed like fire from red to orange to yellow with every color in between. His hooves were bright yellow and he was the feistiest out of all the horses. Rainstorm, our water horse, was blue. His mane and tail were like flowing water, ever shifting. His eyes were dark blue with hooves the rich dark blue of the sky just before night fell completely. He was fickle, sometimes still and gentle, and other times raging and wild.

Our earth horse, Loam, was reddish brown, with mud colored eyes speckled with black. His hooves were black and his mane and tail were black, too. He was a little too red to be called a bay. His personality was decidedly calm and, though he wasn’t always friendly, it was hard to rouse his temper. But when somebody did, the earth might swallow them whole. Finally there was Whirlwind. He was beautiful. His coat was almost as pure as snow where it was white, but had speckles of green and brown and red and blue and purple. His mane and tail were streaked with color, too, and his eyes were a bright purple. His personality was free, and that is the best way to describe him. He was usually running, trying to catch the wind. At least that is what I assumed he was doing.

After Flame whinnied, I smiled and placed their grain in the trough, giggling when Flame nuzzled me before dipping his head down to eat. They were all so affectionate toward me. I had spent many long hours training them all, which showed in the way they treated me. All the creatures loved me more than they loved my mother, who had worked with them longer.

I stroked each of the horses one last time then turned to walk to the shed. Hanging the bags on the nails, I looked over our supplies, disappointed to see that I would have to go into the village to stock up on grain. It also looked like I had to go hunting to replenish the meat. I did not mind hunting, but I hated going to the village. All the boys teased me about how much I acted like a boy, and the girls watched me with dark expressions and spoke about how improper I was. The adults were no better, treating me with cold detachment, though they never turned down my business. Where else were they to get their leather? I hunted a lot and our supply was the biggest around. It was what my mother and I did all our trading with.

I returned to the house and stripped out of my work clothes, donning an old grey dress and carelessly tossing my other clothes onto the bed. I had learned through experience to at least attempt to act like a girl when I was in the village, so I always put on my one and only dress. I looked down and could not help but notice how short the dress was becoming. It was up to my knees. That would get me some snide comments. I tried to ignore that fact as I ran a comb through my long, golden brown hair and swept it up into a bun.

After smoothing my dress, I picked up a basket filled with various pelts and walked outside. Calling Ember, who bounded toward me from across the yard, I set out on the dirt path leading to the village.

 

The link to my whole book. 🙂 https://www.amazon.com/Am-Way-Book-Scrolls-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00W4I8ZEY?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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