The Dark Winter was over. The first day of spring marked the beginning of each year on Mikaia. It was a joyous time. Jaymar was awake early and eager to practise some new moves with his favourite weapon the cudgel.
Jaymar, a 12-year-old boy, lives on the island of Auroras Minor with his mum and dad, in a fishing village called Little Haven. Jaymar wants to become an apprentice to his dad. He hoped he could go with him this year on a trip to the southern mainland, Auroras Major and see some Animoids. There are no Animoids on Auroras Minor, but he had heard they looked weird and were a little bit creepy. Some of his schoolmates had been to Auroras Major and seen them.
Jaymar is of average height and build for his age. He has a good boyish look about him with long blond hair down to his shoulders. He is an only child. He would love to have a little brother to play with and boss around. His dad, Raum, is a merchant who trades in spices and material goods between Auroras Major, Auroras Minor and many of the other smaller islands dotted around the equator.
Life was good on the island and Jaymar’s family lived comfortably with his dad’s business prospering. Auroras Minor only has one Princedom. Prince Irwin and his family rule the whole island with humility. The Prince kept a large militia on the island and enforced a policy that no Animoids were allowed to live on the island.
Over one thousand years ago Mikaia had no Animoids. Back then Mikaia was ruled by the “Council of the Elements”. There was a balance between nature and all living things, humans and animals lived in harmony. That all changed when the Council was broken. Dark forces began to develop and the first Animoids started to appear. Animoids are creatures that have human bodies with animal features. Now, nearly half the population of Mikaia was Animoid. They come in all shapes, sizes and animal types.
Mikaia is a primitive world where horses and horse-drawn carts are the main means of transport and sailing ships plough the vast oceans. There are no major governments. City-states control small domains which are ruled by Princes, lesser nobles, merchant families or Centurions. Mikaia is made up of two large landmasses; one large island, Auroras Minor and thousands of small islands. One landmass is located at the North Pole and it is covered in ice all year. It is the domain of penguins, walrus and polar bears. Many sea creatures migrate to its shores during a very brief summer. The southern landmass, Auroras Major stretches up from the South Pole to nearly the tropics. Just less than half of the southern landmass is also covered in ice and snow for most of the year. The bulk of the islands are scattered around the equator. The main population lives around the coastline of Auroras Major. Auroras Minor lies just under two days sailing North of the horn of Auroras Major.
Many human families fled Auroras Major nearly three hundred years ago when a noble, Prince Hakeem and the rogue Centurion Sullikana, led an army of Animoids which swept across the horn of Auroras Major plundering many Princedoms and killing thousands of people. The Animoid Uprising saw the end of the High Prince of the West. Eventually, Melfor the then Head Master of the High School for Elementals, was compelled by the High Prince of the East and many other nobles to intervene and end the war. So, the Head Master, the High Centurion and many other Centurions fought alongside the High Prince of the East and destroyed the Animoid army, killing both Prince Hakeem and Sullikana.
Melfor was also mortally injured in the war and died shortly afterwards. Some say he was over 200 years old at the time of his death. There have been three Head Masters since then. The current Head Master was only appointed to the position recently and he was said to be a very mysterious person. Only a few trusted Elementals attend him and apparently, no one has ever seen his face.
Jaymar finished his schooling last autumn and this year he had several options open to him. He could enrol in a College of Commerce, enter the local militia as a cadet or become an apprentice to a local business. He really wanted to work for his dad as an apprentice and continue the family business.
Jaymar didn’t have many relatives, his grandparents had all passed away. He has an aunt who is his mother’s sister and he has a godfather, Ambrose. Ambrose is a bit older than middle-aged but seemed very old to Jaymar. Ambrose is taller than most men and his hair, which he keeps on the shorter side, is greying at the temples. He wears a well-trimmed goatee beard, which is also starting to grey.
Ambrose lives in a small cottage towards the middle of Auroras Minor but only stayed there for short periods each year. He is often away on the mainland, only returning for the period of the Dark Terror, during winter or sometimes at the height of summer.
A moon cycle on Mikaia lasted twenty-eight days and ten moon cycles made up a full year The Dark Terror of winter, which lasts for three moon cycles, had passed. The Dark Terror didn’t reach the islands even though it did get dark during winter. Only on the southern mainland did people live in constant fear of raids from the Dark Terror during the dark period of winter.
Jaymar was up well before his mum and dad. He threw on a pair of long pants, a jumper over his nightshirt, his favourite pair of ankle boots and grabbed an overcoat and beanie as he rushed out the back door. Outside he picked up his cudgel, a wooden pole one and a half metres in length. The air was still very cold, and some dark clouds were gathering out to sea. His house backed onto a lane that led down a steep incline to the foreshore. Jaymar often went down to the harbour to look at the boats and dream of sailing to the mainland and the other islands.
Today, he headed along the beach and then climbed the bluff at the end of the bay. The bluff commanded a great view of the bay with its protected harbour and long beach. The day was a rest day and the village was very quiet. No school, no work or trading is done on a rest day and everyone could enjoy a relaxing morning with their families. Other children from the village were out playing or doing small chores around their houses as the village slowly started to stir.
Jaymar often spent time alone on the bluff practising his defensive or attacking moves with his cudgel. He would also go walking in the nearby hills. He has a gift with animals, and they would come up to him and walk with him in the forest. He didn’t know why but he enjoyed their company and often spoke to them as if they could understand him. After an hour of practising the new moves, his dad had recently taught him. Jaymar started feeling hungry. It was time to head home for breakfast. As he picked up his things, he noticed the dark clouds had moved in from the sea, hanging low over the village.
Suddenly, a flash of lightning and thunder cracked just a short way off the bluff. It gave Jaymar a scare. He raced down the slope towards the back of the village. Once off the shoulder of the bluff, he came to the ring road which runs all the way around the back of the village. He decided to follow it around rather than cut back to the foreshore and home the way he had come. Still jogging along, wanting to get home before any rain came, he passed a large old tree on the edge of the road. Lightning flashed again, this time it seemed to be right over his head. He naturally ducked in response. The lightning struck the old tree and split it in two with one half falling towards the road. Jaymar realised he was about to be crushed and threw his arms up to protect himself, yelling out “STOP”. A gust of wind blew in and around Jaymar, almost knocking him over. Slowly, with eyes half-closed, expecting the worst he looked up. Amazingly, the massive tree trunk and branches were hovering in the air just above his head and arms. The branches and leaves were thrashing about in the swirling wind. He quickly moved away from under the tree trunk and stood there stunned.
’What had just happened?′ He took a deep breath and just gazed in wonder at the tree. Suddenly, it crashed to the ground. He jumped away. Dust and bits of the tree flew everywhere. After dusting himself off, he surveyed the scene. Branches large and small were broken and scattered all over the road. Gouges were dug into the road where the tree had crashed. Jaymar knew he had just escaped being crushed and possibly killed. He turned and ran home to tell his dad and maybe later they might come back to have a closer look at the tree.
Many kilometres away near the middle of the island, Ambrose was sitting at his kitchen table having his morning brew, when suddenly he felt a shiver on the back of his neck and the very distant sound of thunder. He immediately turned and looked around the room thinking that perhaps something unseen had entered his cottage. Or was it something else? The feeling he had just experienced could often be felt when an Elemental had performed a powerful invocation. The strength of the feeling often determined how close or how powerful the Elemental was. Ambrose is an Elemental and the shiver was minor, so he thought the invocation was not strong enough for the person performing it to be that close. However, he was not taking any chances. He quickly got up and went out the front door.
The area around his cottage was clear for a hundred or so metres. If a powerful Elemental was nearby, he would certainly feel them. A felt nothing. A quick check both front and back assured him that no one was there and that the power he felt must have occurred a long way off. This puzzled Ambrose as the main group of Elementals on the island were in the capital Princeton, working as priests, ambassadors and advisors to Prince Irwin. To his knowledge, there was no Centurion currently on the island. Princeton was many kilometres away and he knew that none of the Elementals could have wielded the power to cause the feeling he just experienced. Somewhere a powerful Elemental, perhaps a Centurion, had arrived on the island and Ambrose needed to find who and where they were.
Jaymar made it home just as the rain started to fall. Flashes of lightning were now occurring more frequently, and thunder rolled around the bay. His parents were both in the kitchen having started their breakfast.
“Did you get wet?” Asked his mum.
“No. It’s just started.” Jaymar replied, placing his cudgel by the door and he removed his coat.
“Come and sit. I’ve made porridge today.” She commented.
Grimhilda is a lovely looking woman with blond flowing hair. She is of medium build and has a warm smile with which she now greeted her son.
Throwing his coat and beanie in the corner, Jaymar sat down next to his dad and waited for his bowl of porridge. Raum is a big strong frame of a man with light brown flowing hair. His ancestors had been warriors, bred strong for battle. Raum’s father had retired from the Princeton militia years ago and settled in this little coastal village to set up a merchant business and become a trader. When he passed away a few years ago, Raum had been a warrior in the militia. He decided to turn down the position of Captain of the Guard in Princeton and take over his father’s business.
Jaymar thought, ′should I say anything about the tree to mum and dad or not!′
His dad interrupted his thoughts. “Jaymar did you hear me?”
“No, sorry dad. What did you say?” Jaymar turned and looked up at his dad.
“I said, I am going to Princeton for supplies, take orders and make other travel arrangements. Do you want to come with me?”
Jaymar jumped up and threw his arms around his dad’s neck, yelling, “Yes, Yes”.
“Okay, settle down. You will need to help your mother pack your clothes and provisions for a 20-day trip.”
Raum smiled down at his son and then turned to Grimhilda. “I hope you don’t mind. I get the feeling Jaymar wants to be my apprentice. Plus, later this year he could come to the mainland on one of my trips.”
Jaymar couldn’t control his excitement and jumped up from his seat and did a little jig. “Thanks Dad, I won’t let you down.”
Grimhilda knew that this time would come, and she was so proud of her son. She walked over to her husband. “You should drop by and see Ambrose, either on the way there or on the way back. You know he doesn’t stay long at home once the winter has passed. Also, remember that Jaymar should have been ‘tested’ by now, as he turns thirteen in the next moon cycle.”
Raum had forgotten about Jaymar’s actual age, he just knew that he had finished school and was ready for the next phase of his childhood. This meant Jaymar was going to experience things with him like going to Princeton and the mainland. Twelve is the age that children could be ‘tested’ for Elemental abilities. Depending on their ability and strength of Elemental powers they would, at age thirteen, be then invited to study at the High School for Elementals. Raum and Grimhilda had no history of any Elemental abilities on either side of their families and Raum hadn’t considered that Jaymar might have any Elemental powers. In the last hundred and fifty years, only one child in their village had been found to have Elemental powers. So, it was not something that the local people thought of or often talked about.
Raum then remembered Jaymar telling him that some of his friends had been tested just before winter, but none of them had shown any Elemental signs.
“Ok, I will arrange for Jaymar to be ‘tested’ by an Elemental while we are in Princeton.” Raum finished his porridge and stood up to leave for the harbour.
“I am going down to check on the ship and will be back this afternoon. Jaymar, get yourself ready and we will leave for Princeton early tomorrow.” Raum walked over and gave Grimhilda a quick kiss on the cheek and left by the front door.
“Mum! Does being ‘tested’ hurt?” Jaymar sat back in his seat and looked searchingly at his mother.
“No, not at all. When I was ‘tested’, many years ago, they just got you to perform a few simple tasks with earth, water, air and fire.” She moved to the table and sat down with her own bowl of porridge. “It’s nothing to be scared about.”
Jaymar replied. “I’m not scared.” He paused then asked. “What do Elemental powers feel like?”
Grimhilda was a bit puzzled by the question, she had not thought about Elemental powers having a “feel”. In fact, she had not witnessed anything associated with Elementals in her lifetime.
“I have no idea Jaymar. I think it depends on the Elemental powers and gifts. I haven’t witnessed any invocations and we don’t see many Elementals here in the village unless they come to ‘test’ one of the children. The only other time we see Elementals is when we go to the Wind House of worship.” There was silence for a while and then Grimhilda, feeling that her son was troubled about something, inquired. “Why do you ask?”
Jaymar turned, stood up and said. “No reason, I suppose I am just curious.” He left the kitchen and went to his room. He lay on his bed and wondered if the incident with the tree had been because of an invocation. The rest of the day went by as usual with Jaymar performing his normal chores.
Ambrose returned to his cottage, packed a travel pack, put on his normal travelling clothes, locked up his house and left for Princeton looking for answers.