Two men ride through the kingdom atop two pitch black horses. The men look almost exactly the same with the same sandy blonde hair and fair skin. They wear no armor, only black tunics and pants that match their steeds. They sit tall, looking straight forward. The horses trot along easily, their gaits matching perfectly. A pair of swords rest on either side of both men, naked to the world. Light glints from the sharp blades. Warning the Kingdom's people of their masters' danger. They ignore the wide eyed fearful stares they are getting from the farmers. Whatever snow they had accumulated from passing through the mountains has melted in the near summer sun. The men follow the dirt path through the fields. It was made as an afterthought for travelers and carts carrying goods to or from the castle. Farmers and farmhands move off the roads at the sight of the men and their horses. One of the men lets out an irritated sigh. His companion glances at him from the corner of his eye. He smirks and begins to spur his horse faster. The first catches on to the others plan and grins wildly. His horse snorts and tosses its head. Feeling its rider's excitement. The man barely has to touch the beast's flank before it bounds forward.
The men race through the fields across the dirt road. Two blurs of black winding through the sea of gold. The horses' breaths grows ragged but the riders ignore them. Content with riding their mounts to the bone. They see the castle through the trees lining the fields. Their mounts are forced to slow so they can pass between two of the larger trees. The men duck their heads to keep from getting hit by the lowest of the branches. They see a lone figure walking back to the castle just ahead of them. One of the men urges his horse forward.
"Excuse me but do you know where we can stable our horses?" he asks. Sparks jumps. His eyes flare as he looks up at the man. The black horse dances away from the half elemental, suddenly uneasy. The man reins in his horse, forcing it to a sharp stop. The other man walks up to them, his own horse seeming reluctant to do so. Sparks eyes them both with fiery eyes. Horses, while not a particularly uncommon sight for him, were not amongst his favorite of beasts. Only one reason being that he is not allowed to burn them.
"If you follow the wall until it bends then follow it down you are bound to find a guard or someone else capable of helping you. As it stands I am unable to do so," he replies curtly. He bows his head and continues on his way. The men watch him until he slips through the kitchen's door. The men look at each other. Light blue eyes locking.
"The mutt then?" the one who had spoken to Sparks inquires of his companion. The other nods.
"Almost assuredly. Unless there is a fire elemental living underneath his nose and he doesn't know it," he remarks. The first snorts and rolls his eyes.
"Unlikely." They chime together. The laugh at their shared joke and begin to lead their horses to along the castle's wall. Following Sparks' advice. Doing this it does not take them long to meet a guard who hurries to aid them.
The King raises a pale eyebrow at the twin men kneeling in front of his throne. Even from his seat he can see the grins threatening to split their faces. He knows they are watching him, even if their eyes are staring down at the stones of the castle floor. He motions for them to rise. At the slightest movement of his hand they do so. He calls them forward with a simple twitch of his finger.
"You have news?" he asks in a low voice when they are close. They nod simultaneously.
"Oh yes," one speaks.
"Interesting news," his brother adds.
"Very interesting news," the first elaborates.
"Pertaining to the Fountain," they say at once. Their voices are as low as the King's, respectfully so. The King smiles. It is a dark, almost sinister smile that draws his eyes into shadow.
"Wonderful," he chuckles. The twins smile at him. The King straightens and stares over the nobles. All of whom are discreetly matching his conversation with the newcomers from the corners of their eyes.
"Prepare yourselves, for tomorrow we shall behaving a ball in celebration of our guests!" He shouts. The twins wince as his booming voice vibrates pass their ears. The nobles burst into excited whispers. The women scurried off in small groups to plan their outfits for the evening. The King orders a guard to find and bring him his son. The guard runs off in obedience. The King turns back to the twin men.
"You will be staying in the nearest town. In the inn there. Free of charge, of course," he tells them. He looks up as the prince enters the room. He smiles at him a nice smile even as his eyes shine with fiendishly.
Cassidy fumes in his room later that night. Sparks and Colin are with him, siting on his bed while he paces angrily across the carpet. Colin wonders why he hasn't burnt a hole through the embroidered cloth before he remembers that, besides being raised by one, Cassidy is not a fire elemental. Sparks follows his friend's progress through his room. His gently burning eyes shinning brightly in the dimly lit room.
"I cannot believe he wants me to escort her to the ball," Cassidy complains. Sparks gives him a sympathetic look. While the woman Sparks' father has ordered him to go to the ball with is by no means ugly, she is well known throughout the castle to have a temper worse than an elemental's. Belonging to the wealthiest of the noble families, and one of the highest ranking, Lady Jezebel Armay Winston is amongst the few ladies at court of marriageable age. Therefore, the most likely of all the court ladies to be chosen as the prince's date. Cassidy throws his arms up in exasperation. Sparks sighs and pats the bed beside him.
"Sit," he orders. Cassidy obeys. He drags his feet over to the bed and crumbles onto it beside his friend. He pouts now, like he did as a child, and begins to sulk. He rests his head on Sparks' shoulder and continues to pout there. Colin giggles at the prince. He reaches behind the fire elemental and pats Cassidy on the head. Cassidy groans in response to the affection but Sparks can feel the smile where the prince's face is pressed into his shoulder. The eldest of the trio looks around the room with mildly curious eyes.
The room has not changed much, Sparks decides as his glowing eyes taking in everything. The fire place is the same, if used less. A fire burns there now more for its warmth than any real need for light. The books in the bookshelves flanking the fire place are disorganized, with many laying flat on the shelf and piled on top of each other. The prince's clothes, too, are thrown haphazardly about the room. Though they seem to be centered around his chest of drawers.
"We can probably find a way to sneak out tomorrow. It's going to be in the main hall yeah?" Colin speaks up. Sparks feels Cassidy nod and relays the affirmative to the chef. Colin smiles widely and mischievously. His golden hazel eyes sparkle in the flickering light of Sparks' own amber eyes.
"We can pretty easily sneak a prince out of a room full of nobles. Have Sparks do a little magic trick with the torches and slip out the front door when no one is looking. Maybe have someone's dress catch on fire," Colin elaborates. Cassidy bursts out laughing, falling from Sparks' shoulder and onto his bed. Sparks is staring at the chef with wide eyes. His mouth is twisted into an awkward grin, like he is trying hard not laugh along with his former charge. Finally, he gives in, barking out a laugh. The flames of his eyes dance in amusement. Colin is smiling, too. Happy just to have made his friends laugh. Even if they are laughing at him. He stands, still smiling.
"I should head back to the kitchen. Since we are having a ball tomorrow it would be best for me to start the food tonight. Less work for tomorrow means I can send at least some time with you guys," Colin announces. Cassidy stops laughing long enough to see his friend off. He waves goodbye and wishes the chef luck in his endeavors. Sparks does the same but adds a promise to visit during the evening and help warm the food. With his own farewells Colin leaves. The door closes with a resolute bang behind him. Sparks and Cassidy sit in silence, save for the faint crackles and pops of the fire in the fireplace.
"Sparks," Cassidy begins quietly. He is still laying on his back on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Sparks hums questioningly, his own eyes staring at the low burning fire.
"I miss Thalie." The prince's voice brakes a little at the end of the confession. Sparks' heart squeezes painfully in his chest. He flops back on the bed beside his friend. He turns and wraps the taller man in his arms. Cassidy curls into them, burying his head in Sparks' chest and curling his hands into Sparks' shirt. The fire elemental doesn't say anything as Cassidy cries. Just offers what little comfort he can give his first and oldest friend.
The King sits with his back to the door. Once again surrounded by countless papers and faintly glowing candles. The men stand on either side of him, heads bent and hair falling across their faces. They keep having to push it back, to free their blue eyes to scan the maps and notes littering the large table.
"Here," one of the men announces from the King's left. His long finger is hovering over a map of the Kingdom, right above the middle of the marshlands. His brother moves to his side to investigate. The King watches them as they talk in hurried whispers. Seemingly arguing. They stop suddenly and nod in tandem.
"Here," the second echos. His finger joins his twin's hovering over the map. The King follows their fingers to the spot on the map. A grin spreads over his face. The twins glance over and see this.
"The guardian is gone now," the first says.
"So there's nothing stopping you from taking that power," the other adds. The King's grin widens. His green eyes flash in the candle light.
"Wonderful." His voice sends shivers down the twins' spines. Blue eyes dart to similar blue eyes nervousness spiraling within their depths. The candles flicker in a sudden wind. A few hiss before they are blown out.
The music filters throughout the entire castle alerting any who did not previously known about the ball that it is going on. Ladies walk arm in arm with their lords, stepping from carriages in long gowns of the richest colors. Deep blues and purples and greens float just above the gray stones. The dress colors are broken only by the occasional red and the constant see of black from the men. The ladies all wear necklaces and rings of fine gold and silver. Voices intermingle with the music playing. The ladies high and the lord's low. Their shoes, lined with a sort of hard leather for hours of dancing, strike against the stone floors with loud clacks. Various palace staff scurry amongst the crowds of nobles. They keep their heads low, fixed to the stone floor. If one was carrying food, shuffling it from the kitchen to the main hall, another would walk in front of them. Leading them through the throngs of eager nobility.
The main hall is large enough to hold every noble residing in the Kingdom, along with the guests and musicians, and even many of the palace workers. The lords lead the ladies across the middle of the room, over the rug lined stone floors. Following in time with the fast paced music pouring over them like rain. The throne has been moved to make a stage of the musicians. Tables dragged in from the dinning hall line the walls bellow the torches with large spaces between. Food covers the tables, still steaming from their time in the kitchen. Cloth covered benches sit in between the tables. Cushions of varying colors and softness. Many nobles not dancing are lounging on these benches, ladies fanning themselves with elaborately decorated fans and sipping at sweet wines in frosted glasses. Maids and kitchen hands inch along the walls in vain attempts to stay out of the nobles' ways.
Sparks walks through the tightly packed room leisurely, even in in clothes he does not usually find himself in. He is dressed in an outfit not unlike the ones the men are wearing. Cassidy had joked that if he had to dress like the rest of them, then Sparks had to join him. His shirt looks like tarnished gold and fits him loosely at the sleeves, tightly at the chest and waist. His pants are an oaken brown, fitting him in the best possible way. Accentuating his every feature. Sparks is all too aware of the people staring at him as he passes them. Men and women alike. He smirks, his lips turning up into a devious smile. His eyes scan the crowd for the prince and his chosen lady. He does not need to look, as a guard stationed at the door announces their arrival.
"Prince Cassidy and Lady Jezebel Armay Winston now entering!" the guards voice breaks through the song playing. Everyone turns to see their prince, eyes shinning expectantly. Gasps follow the rustling fabric and turning heads. The music has since stopped and all eyes in the room, had they not been turned to the entrance, are turned there now.
Cassidy walks into the room, dressed in white shirt that fits him like Sparks' and black pants. On his left arm Lady Jezebel Armay Winston stands tall and proud. Her straight black hair falls down to her shoulders, held back by a silver tiara inlaid with moonstone the color of Cassidy's hair. Her skin is golden, as if she spent hours in the sun, but the smoothness of it belies field work. Her dress falls down to the floor, a similar violet to Cassidy's eyes. In her left hand is a silver based fan made with the same purple cloth as her dress. She cracks it open and holds it in front of her mouth, hiding her red painted smile. Black ink paints a picture of a large spider spinning her web across the velvet expanse. The ladies of the court murmured their appreciation and jealousy. The men merely nod, hiding whatever emotions they happen to be feeling behind carefully crafted masks.
Cassidy's face beings to hurt as the smile he plastered on it becoming tedious to maintain. He can feel the arrogance rolling off the woman at his side in droves. He resists the urge to scowl. His violet eyes scan the crowd, searching desperately for his former guardian. If anyone could get this woman off his arms, Cassidy thinks, it is Sparks. The half fire elemental is still not looked highly upon by the various nobles at court. Lady Jezebel Armay Winston tugs on Cassidy's impatiently and he allows her to drag him further into the hall and into the middle. She forces him to assume the dominant position in a dance and the music resumes. Other couples join in shortly after, moving along gracefully to the tempo of the music. Cassidy twirls his date along to the song with the ease of many hours of practice.
"Oh Cassidy this is simply wonderful is it not?" Lady Jezebel Armay Winston asks in a wistful voice. Cassidy nods absently. His eyes continue to scan the crowd, changing direction with every turn he and his partner takes. The music swells and picks up in tempo. Cassidy follows the speed change without thought, pushing his partner hard and faster. Ignoring her sharp remarks of abuse against her person. The prince can feel eyes on him from every direction but none of them are the burning eyes he is so familiar with.
After the song is over Lady Jezebel Armay Winston wrenches herself from Cassidy's yielding arms. She glares at him, gray eyes raging like a storm at sea. Cassidy blinks back at her in confusion. While he is not, oblivious, to the reason behind the woman's anger the prince does not have it in him to care about it.
"If you do not care to do dance with me," she hisses, her white teeth bared, "then I ask that you do not do so. There are plenty of other men here who are more than willing to be my partner." Cassidy bows low to her, murmuring a word of apology to the irate woman. He walks to the side of the room just as the ensemble starts up another song. A slower song with a flowing rhythm clearly meant to draw the dancers closer. Sparks meets him at the edge of the dancing couples. A sly smile plays across his face.
"What happened to your lady?" he asks teasingly. Cassidy mocks a forlorn sigh and passes a hand over his face dramatically. Sparks snickers.
"She left me," he bemoans as he begins to lead Sparks through the maze of nobles. The song plays on and the pair finds themselves standing idly along the edges of the crowd, nearest the closed doors and warmest food. They linger here, fading in and out of sight with the ever shifting crowd. They pick up on the whispered rumors while they wait. Rumors of the week, day, and hour. They do little to entertain them and only serve to alert them of when to move. Sparks sighs, quickly growing bored. Cassidy looks up at him, violet eyes sharp and knowing. They hesitate, staring at Sparks' rapidly dimming amber orbs, before he nods. Sparks catches the movement and smiles. His eyes light up once again burning brightly. Cassidy plucks a frosted glass of wine from the nearby table and takes a casual sip. Sparks runs a hand through his hair his eyes focused somewhere in the distance. An older lady dances, twirling too close to a torch. The hem of her dress flies up. Sparks' eyes narrow minutely. The deep blue dress catches fire. It takes only a second before the woman's current partner notices the flames and alerts the woman. The scream that follows is ear splitting, shattering the gaiety of the evening's festivities. Every guard in the room, including the ones stationed at the doors, rush to investigate. Sparks gives Cassidy a playful wink before he takes the few steps forward he needs to push open the doors and slip out. Cassidy takes another sip of wine before he follows.
The laughing pair dashes through the hallway, through the dinning hall devoid of people, and through the kitchen. Colin looks up at them as they enter. He smiles at them. His face glows in the light of the burning fire. No food rests there now, it being well enough into the evening for most, if not all, food to be in the main hall. Cassidy collapses onto a chair by the table, a relieved sigh escaping pale lips. Sparks pats his back sympathetically. Colin tugs open the door and gestures outside curiously.
"Shall we go see our friend of the moonlight and water?" Colin asks. Sparks flushes and looks at the oaken table. Colin notices this and gives his older friend an impish smile. Cassidy looks over at the half elemental with a raised eyebrow. Somehow the gesture is both questioning and understanding at the same time.
"Yeah, let's go. I haven't seen him for a while," the prince answers. Colin blinks, head tilting to the side. He blinks golden hazel eyes in thought.
"Neither have I," he says finally. Sparks snorts in amusement. He raises his head to let amber eyes meet with Cassidy's violet ones.
"He still might be mad at you, to some extent," he comments. Cassidy frowns, the look morphing into a playful pout.
"Alright out with you two. We should leave before someone comes looking for you, Cass," Sparks growls in an equally playful manner.
Aquanious greets his friends warmly. His sea foam hair stained with more pink than normal. Sparks sits at the edge of his pool and lays back onto the soft grass. Colin and Cassidy sit on either side of him, deigning to not lay back. Aquanious stares blankly at the frosted glass in Cassidy's pale hand. His sapphire eyes unmoving from the red liquid laying docilely in the glass.
"What is it?" Aquanious asks.
"Wine," the prince replies. Cassidy extends the glass to the water elemental. Sparks sits up in curiosity.
"Want to try it?" he asks. Aquanious nods and takes the frosted glass from the prince's hands. He sniffs the dink curiously, his hair a mix of steely blue and orange. Sparks, Cassidy and Colin look on in amusement as the water elemental brings the glass to his frostbitten lips. Aquanious' sapphire eyes flick to Sparks uncertainly. He smiles at him reassuringly, giving the other a brief incline of his head. The water elemental's eyes close behind icy blue lids as he tips back the glass. The red liquid pours from the transparent glass to disappear between Aquanious' lips. He finishes the drink quickly. He licks his lips, his tongue darting out to retrieve drops of the red liquid that had escaped the glass and landed there. Sparks gulps and blinks. His wide amber eyes are burning darkly.
It does not take long for the alcohol in the wine to affect the water elemental. Aquanious blinks rapidly, his blue eyes growing lighter in the moonlight. His body shifts, becoming more aquatic than corporeal. It wavers in shape and even in color. A faint tint of red mingling with the frosty blue and pale white. The water elemental begins to shake, his eyes filling up with red tinted tears. Sparks eyes him uneasily.
"Aqui, you okay?" he asks softly. His friend turns to him and sniffles. He flings himself into the half elemental's arms with a wild sob.
"Why don't you love me?" he wails. Sparks is taken aback. His amber eyes flashing in surprise. Cassidy and Colin jump away from the water splashing over the lake's bank from the water elemental's sudden movement. Aquanious tightens his grip on the younger elemental, feeling that everything is collapsing around him. Or at least his body is falling apart and he can do nothing to stop it. He feels the tears flowing down his face. His element leaving his body in waves in a desperate attempt to escape him. Like he left the other elementals. Is this his punishment, Aquanious asks himself, for breaking every rule, spoken and unspoken? Sparks wraps his arms around the unstable water elemental. He can feel the water elemental shaking. Can feel him trying to keep himself from falling apart.
"I do love you," he replies in a soothing voice. The water elemental stops shaking. He pulls back a fraction and stares up at the other elemental. His sapphire eyes wide and pleading and hopeful.
"You do?" he asks. Cassidy and Colin can hear the desperation in his voice. They look over at Sparks, catching his amber eyes over a watery shoulder. He brings up a hand and waves them away. They obey uneasily. Casting worried glances over their own shoulders back at the elemental pair. Sparks listens to them closely as they walk away. Once he thinks they are far enough he places his hands on Aquanious' shoulders and pushes him back. Amber eyes search lightened sapphire eyes.
"What's wrong Aqui?" Sparks asks quietly. Aquanious looks at him with blue glassy eyes. He blinks them slowly, as if just noticing Sparks.
"Wrong?" Is the water elemental's response his head tilting to the side. His hair is an inconceivable cacophony of color. Sparks' amber eyes narrow to thin slits. He leans closer to the water elemental. Scrutinizing him. Aquanious giggles, the sound high like the trickling of water down reed pipes.
"You're cute," he announces. Sparks raises a fire colored eyebrow.
"And you're drunk," Sparks dead pans. Aquanious pouts, lips turning down delicately. The water elemental moves back into the water. He submerges himself within it until only his eyes are visible. They stare at Sparks, displaying all emotion and no emotion. He exhales loudly, the sound reverberating throughout the water. The lake rises gently. Not a lot, Sparks notices, but enough to overflow the streams leading away from the lake and to the fields.
"Aqui come here," Sparks orders. The visible part of the water elemental's head shakes. His sapphire eyes narrow. He pushes a wave to the fire elemental. The wave morphs half way to him into the shape of a hand. Beckoning the younger elemental to join him. Sparks sighs.
"Alright, alright," he mutters. He hesitates for a brief moment before pulling himself forward and into the pool. Almost immediately upon entering he finds himself with an enthusiastic water elemental wrapped around him. Said water elemental's face is floating in front of him, smiling widely and showing coral shark teeth. His face has changed. It is sharper, more refined and elegant. His ears are pointier and face drawn back to accentuate sharp cheekbones. He brings his new face closer to Sparks'.
"Like it?" he asks teasingly. He brings up his right hand and brushes it over Sparks' pink dusted cheek. The flames of his eyes spiral in confusion. Roaring against their thin cages. Aquanious sweeps his thumb over Sparks' raging eyes. Sparks closes them briefly. When he opens them again Aquanious is looking back at him with an expression he is unable to read.
"Aqui?" His voice is quiet. Almost lost to the streams' frantic trickle. The older elemental leans forward and grazes his cold lips over Sparks' burning ones. He pulls back with a tentative smile that looks out of place on his current face.
"Elementals don't feel emotion," Aquanious states. Sparks stares at him, not understanding. "Not often. It takes a lot to make us feel something other than nothing. And a lot takes a long time. Long time. Longer than a human life long time." He shakes his head. His almost entirely coral pink hair sweeping around him in the water.
"But. But, but, but. I fell for you so fast. So very fast. Rapids fast. It's not something that happens." He buries his face into Sparks' chest. Grabbing hold of the fabric like a small child. "You are so interesting I just wanted to learn about you! But learning turned into liking that turned into loving and I just. I don't." He breaks off. Sparks stays silent as the water elemental takes a deep breath. The water pours toward him in waves. Rushing to its master's comfort and aid.
"I don't know," he finishes. Sparks slides his fingers through Aquanious' flowing hair. Catching the pink strands every once in a while. Sparks bows his head and presses his lips to the top of the water elemental's. They remain like that. In near complete silence. The streams have died down, returned to their usual pace.
"I don't either," Sparks admits. His voice is muffled from where his face is still pressed against the other elemental's hair. Aquanious shakes his head and removes himself from Sparks' embrace. He stares at the younger elemental. His sapphire eyes sharper than they had been and burning with an intensity Sparks has never seen. Sparks growls deep and low in his throat. Unease mixed with a challenge. Aquanious surges forward. He claims Sparks' lips with his own in a fiery kiss that chills the fire elemental to the bone. Sparks responds in kind. The hand in the water elemental's hair grips it hard, using the hold to push him closer and keep him there. Aquanious' hands slip from Sparks' shirt. Moving through the water easily. Cold hands meet burning skin. Searching, caressing, tasting. Steam rises around them. It swirls in the moonlight. Patterns forming unnaturally in the air above their heads. They do not notice.
Aquanious tugs at Sparks' shirt floating just bellow the half elemental's arms. He glares at Sparks impatiently when the other only laughs. He calls the water to him. Summoning his element from all around him. Without moving his arms from around Sparks' waist the water elemental force his shirt off him. He tosses it carelessly on the shore. He grins at Sparks now drenched in water. His hair plastered to his face and neck. Every strand the same dull rusty color. Sparks growls again. His eyes erupt into passionate flames, echoing the fire burning wildly within him. He tugs Aquanious to him roughly even though the other elemental goes easily. He locks their lips together again. His tongue plunges into Aquanious' mouth, nipping and biting everything it touches. Aquanious' own tongue meeting with Sparks', fighting with it. They pull away suddenly. Panting and steaming and sweating. At some point Sparks had lost his pants. Either taken off willingly by him or stolen by the other. It doesn't matter. Neither can remember and neither care. Sparks moves forward and pushes himself into Aquanious forcefully. Aquanious pushes back with just as much force. Water mingles with the fire burning within him. They work together to bring their masters to the brink of pleasure, and finally, after both are pleading with the other for release, over it.
The water holds the elementals as they calm down. Return to themselves after the high. The sudden explosion of overwhelming bliss. Sparks opens his amber eyes. He stares back at the moon staring own at him. He shifts and feels Aquanious shift with him. Blazing amber meets freezing sapphire. He reaches out a hand and entwines it with a few stray locks of the water's hair. Or maybe it is just water. He can't tell anymore.
"I know," he says finally. His voice hoarse. The water explodes into a vibrant pink color. Aquanious is smiling. Wider and brighter than Sparks has ever seen him. Sparks smiles back lazily before his eyes slip shut and he drifts into sleep. The water elemental coils protectively around him. He looks up at his matron and thanks her silently. He tucks his head beneath Sparks', listening to the half elemental's heartbeat as he allows the water to pull him into sleep as well.
Aquanious awakens first. The feeling of wind brushing against his exposed skin and the sweet scent of flowers, water lilies. He opens sapphire eyes and searches the sun filled sky. A wayward leaf drifts from one of the nearby trees and lands beside him.
"It is not much, but there is not much air can carry," a lilting disembodied voice says casually. Aquanious plucks the leaf from his elemental and examines it lazily. It is light green, still a baby in terms of the short lives of leaves. The veins break from the stem, growing lighter as they travel to the tips. He can see basic patterns formed by the whitening veins. Bends and breaks made at regular intervals along the inside of the leaf. It is pretty, Aquanious thinks, for something so young and fragile.
"What is it for?" he asks. He keeps his voice soft, merely a whisper in the wind.
"Congratulations, of sorts," the new elemental replies easily. Aquanious sweeps his other hand down Sparks' arm and over his chest. His sapphire eyes narrowed. The half elemental squirms beneath the touch, still very much asleep. He curls tighter in on himself and moves closer to the water elemental. Aquanious wraps his arms tighter around Sparks in response, smiling faintly at the being bellow him. He hears the air elemental's laugh all around him.
"Do not worry. I will not take away the happiness you worked so hard acquire," the voice placates. A jet of water shoots to the sky. A warning disguised as a playful gesture between friends. The air elemental flies around the pair, gracefully dodging the water being shot at it. Aquanious rests his head on the fire elemental's damp hair. He watches the sky, still twirling the leaf between his fingers. It reminds him of Sparks, somehow. He does not know why, nor does he try to. He feels the younger elemental move beside him once again. This time stirring from sleep instead of merely reacting within its boundaries.
"It seems it is time for me to go. I wish you the best, truly I do," the air elemental notes. Suddenly a corporeal face is floating in front of Aquanious'. It stares at the water elemental, gray eyes darting from feature to feature, like fish startled in a pond.
"Something is going to happen, Aquanious," it says gravely. The water elemental's sapphire eyes narrow into thin slits. His whole body tenses. The water begins to crawl over itself. Struggling frantically as it reacts to its master's suspicion and fear.
"It is in the air. We can feel it. Whatever it is it's coming from that castle," gray eyes dart to Sparks who is beginning to blink bleary amber eyes at the world around him. "Be careful, cousin. It may not bode well for you when it comes." With a final whisper against the water elemental's ear the air blows away. Ruffling Sparks' hair as it does so. The fire elemental feels the air rush over him. He shivers, the chill of the morning permeating the water and his human skin. He turns to Aquanious with a bright smile that quickly turns into a frown.
"Aqui what's wrong?" he asks. His voice is soft and concerned, the tone people use when they know something is troubling someone they love. He waves a hand in front of the water elemental's hard sapphire eyes. Aquanious shaves his head, dispersing all thoughts of prophetic winds and bad tides. He turns his attention to the younger elemental by his side. The one staring at him with troubled amber eyes.
"Nothing you need to worry about," Aquanious replies. Sparks frowns, obviously displeased by the answer given to him. He is about to speak when Aquanious dunks him, forcing him bellow the water, his element. Sparks struggles, arms and legs flailing. His eyes have slammed closed, to protect his fire from its opposing element. He's scared at first, fear coursing through his body alongside the undying fire. Then he feels it, the gentle ebb and flow of the water against him. His head resurfaces. He knows this because he can feel the cool air against his wet skin. He opens his mouth, taking in as much of it as possible in lung filling gulps. He does not open his eyes. The water is pushing and pulling against his naked body. He can feel it all around him. He feels it emphasized at points when he knows the water elemental wants him to. His face relaxes gradually. It eventually morphs into a look of contentment. Sparks' lips are parted slightly, his muscles unmoving save for the occasional twitch. Aquanious slows the water's movements. Stopping altogether not long after. Sparks opens his amber eyes to Aquanious' face staring down at him fondly. Sparks idly notes that the water elemental's hair is entirely pink with only a few stripes of dark gray scattered amongst the brighter strands. The fire elemental reaches up and tangles his fingers in those pink strands. He tugs on them, bringing the water elemental closer to him.
Colin looks out the window facing the eastern fields. He shuffles uneasily on his feet. Both he and Cassidy are worried about their friend but are unable to do anything. The sun is shining too brightly for Cassidy to go looking for him and Colin is too busy. The kitchen has recently been given new ingredients, most of which have to be preserved in some way or else they would be wasted. The chef sighs and looks over the the prince. His head is bowed, escaped snow drift hair hanging in front of his face and shadowing it form view. The prince works steadily at chopping the variety of vegetables in front of him. He is wearing clothes he borrowed from Colin and a hat to cover his obvious hair. He is in hiding. From the guards sent by his father. From the punishment he knows is coming after he so grossly disobeyed and embarrassed the King the night before. The other kitchen workers scampering about the kitchen ignore him. Too scared of the chef to be afraid of the King.
Colin hears the kitchen's back door open and whips his head to see Sparks, clothes and hair still wet, standing in the doorway smiling sheepishly. Colin blinks dumbly at him a few times before he rushes forward and wraps his arms around the older man in a tight, relieved hug. He leads Sparks to the fire, ordering one of the girls to bring a stool. She complies hastily and Sparks is pushed onto the stool and given the harsh order to stay there until Colin was able to talk to him. Even though he had never experienced it before, Sparks felt a lot like a child caught doing something he shouldn't have. He stretches his hands out to his element. Smiling when the flames reach out as well and wrap around his wrists. He can feel the fire pulling him up and out of the chair and into the warm expanse of promised light. He almost accepts the invitation. Almost gives in to the all too welcome comfort of overwhelming heat and blinding light. He resists, choosing instead to remain just outside the fire but accepting what warmth and light it gives him from afar. He listens to the bustling of the kitchen around him. Sparks closes his eyes and tilts his head back. Thoughts of water, surrounding it, being surrounded by it, float around in his mind. He smiles at them. His fire reacts to them, rising and stretching like a tired lion. Locks of hair that had dried faster than their brethren flicker to life as tongues of flames. They dance along to the rhythm playing in Sparks' head bellow them.
Cassidy keeps stealing glances at his former guardian sitting not even ten feet away from him. He wants to hit him, to hug him. To yell at him for staying away for so long, for making him think he had left. He wants to thank him for returning, safely and at all. He forces himself to focus on the task Colin had assigned him. The knife in his hands feels foreign to him. Too light and too flimsy. It cuts the vegetables well, one swift flick of the wrist is all that is needed to slice the greens into manageable pieces.
The day passes without circumstance. The various kitchen workers maneuver around Sparks as if he is not there. Even Colin and Cassidy largely ignore the fire elemental taking up a space in front of the kitchen's large hearth. Sparks remained there silent and unmoving. Amber eyes staring into the empty expanse of flame. Again he is tempted by the flames. Tempted to join them in their nothingness. He reaches out to them. His mouth opening in a silent cry. The fire moves to him. A strand of light and heat extending to wrap around his fingers. Sparks' amber eyes flicker. His body shimmers and for a brief moment his consciousness is lost. Lost to the endless nothingness of light and heat that is his element. A hand falls onto his still corporeal body. He snaps back to it. All fire in the room is extinguished for a short second before Sparks' mind returns to him. The fires return to their previous levels. Burning steadily as if nothing had happened. Sparks looks over his shoulder at Cassidy's violet eyes shimmering in the firelight. It is now that the fire elemental notices the absence of others in kitchen, save for Colin diligently packing away sack after sack of spices.
"Where were you?" Cassidy asks. Sparks looks back to the fire burning happily within the stone confines of the hearth.
"With my element," he replies. Cassidy's violet eyes narrow in slight irritation.
"This morning, I mean," the prince clarifies. Sparks looks back at him.
"Same place as I was when I told you and Colin to leave last night. In the arms of a water elemental," the half elemental states. While his face remains impartial his voice and eyes show his amusement. Cassidy blinks dumbly. Through the prince's vibrant eyes Sparks can see his brain working. Violet eyes widen comically. Cassidy's mouth drops open and a faint noise, a squeak of understanding and embarrassment, escapes his parted lips. Colin pokes his tousled brown head out from behind a stack of boxes to stare in a similar fashion at the fire elemental. Sparks' indifferent facade shatters and he bursts into laughter. The sound resembles the crackle of the fire burning not too far away from him. It fills the room with more warmth. Cassidy huffs and pushes the fire elemental, sending him flying from his stool and onto the floor. Sparks lands with a thud though he remains laughing. Colin let's out a hearty chuckle.
"Prince Cassidy I politely request you come with us," a guard says, breaking the ambiance of the room. Everyone stops laughing. Cassidy turns cold violet eyes on the guard. Sparks stands and moves beside his former charge, his own eyes narrowed. The fire within them burns steadily. Their light makes shadows dance over the half elemental's glowing face. The guard takes a step back. He eyes Sparks uneasily. His eyes dart to the prince standing tall beside his former guardian. Former guardian but ever constant guard dog.
"Please, your highness. The King wishes to have an audience with you." the guard stammers. Cassidy finally takes pity on the guard. He places a hand on Sparks' arm, fingers wrapping around the man's bicep. He squeezes, once. A silent warning. Sparks stops growling but does not take his eyes off the guard. The guard coughs uncomfortably before turning and walking out of the kitchen. Cassidy and Sparks follow him with Colin tagging along behind them curiously.
Cassidy stands in front of his father. His stance strong, shoulders back, and head held high. His sword sharp violet eyes stare right into his father's green ones. Sparks stands directly behind his right shoulder. The King is sitting on his throne leisurely staring down at his son. He is impressed, on some level, that his son is brave enough face him with such outright arrogance. The King straightens himself.
"You have been growing more insolent as of late. You need to be punished. You need to be shown that such such behavior is not acceptable. Killing that girl was not enough. Perhaps killing that pet you are so fond of will make you see," the King says. His voice a casual drawl covering the harshness of his words. Though not hiding them. Fear douses Cassidy's system. His muscles tensing. He goes for a sword that is not there. He can feel the heat radiating off of Sparks. Their close proximity to each other allowing the flames raging atop Sparks' head to reach out and nearly touch the prince. Sparks snarls, baring his teeth at the King.
"Guards, you may take the elemental," the King orders dismissively. Sparks moves before any of the guards do. He rushes to one of the guards, catching him off guard. He knocks the man to the ground. Flames pour from his body, dripping onto the stone floors with sickening hisses. He leaps away before the man can scream for help. The King stands, his emerald eyes narrowed.
"Guards!"he shouts. He begins moving down the steps leading up to his throne. Cassidy steps forward. The King pauses and looks back at his son. He places a ringed hand casually on the bejeweled hilt of his sword. The message clear, 'you are unarmed.' The prince smirks. That's where your wrong father, he thinks.
"Sparks!" he calls. The half elemental looks over to his prince attentively, a dog awaiting an order from its master.
"Grab a sword for me?" Cassidy asks sweetly. Sparks can see the battle readiness in his eyes. The dark sharpness appearing from bellow the surface of Cassidy's being. He nods, once, sharply. He is moving again faster than a human can move or perceive. He is on another guard, stealing the sword from its scabbard and slamming his fist in the man's nose.
"Here you are my lord," Sparks quips as he hands the sword to the waiting prince. Cassidy smiles at him, a dark smile reflecting the sharpness of his eyes.
"So you wish to challenge me then," the King chuckles dryly. His green eyes locked on Cassidy. Out of the corners of his eyes Cassidy can see the guards begin to walk forward. Spurred into action by the obvious threat on their king. Sparks roars. In a second he has formed a ring around father and son. A ring of living fire keeping everyone at bay. Cassidy breathes thanks to his former guardian and points his stolen sword at the King.
"I see," the King muses, "if that is what you want. I will not hold back." The King withdraws his sword. The blade gleamed in the light of Sparks' fire sharp and dangerous. He wields the sword, blade easily the length of Cassidy's arm, with an ease the prince hasn't seen even in the most experienced of the Kingdom's knights. Cassidy grits his teeth and charges. The sound of steel striking against steel ricochets around the room. The swords slide against each other before Cassidy is forced break the parry. He steps back a few paces. He raises his arms quickly to block the King's attack. His arms burn. Muscles straining against the force of the attack. He bites down on his lip, drawing the first blood. In a daring move he breaks the parry again and swings his blade around, catching his father in the side. Drawing the second blood. The King retaliates quickly, bring his sword around to slice through the skin of Cassidy's hand. The fire surrounding them flares in response.
Sparks struggles to hold himself back from joining the battle. It is not his to fight. Though he has his reasons to hate the King, to wish for his death, he holds back. His order was to take care of the prince. His job was to raise him. His purpose is to be his friend and brother. All of them calling for the fire elemental to protect the younger male. Sparks looks out at the battle from his wall of flame. There is nothing he can do now but wait.
Both men are panting. Their arms shake with the weight of the swords in their hands. They waver on their feet. The ground is painted red with their blood, flowing freely from a variety of wounds. Cassidy takes a step forward, his legs nearly buckling under the pressure. The King smiles grimly.
"You are weak," the comments. He straightens and spreads his arms. A false gesture of peace. "We can stop now and forget this ever happened. I will take only the mutt as a consequence of your actions." Cassidy spits on the floor, blood mixed with saliva falling into even more blood.
"May you burn in his flames, father," he mutters. He rushes forward, forcing what little remains of his energy into his legs. The rest go to his arms. His blade screams through the hot air before connecting with, and slicing through, the King's neck. It is a clean cut, made by one who knows his craft. The King's head falls to the ground with a resolute sound. His emerald eyes are wide open in shock and fear. His mouth frozen halfway through a scream. Cassidy staggers, his legs weak from use. Sparks breaks the wall and returns to the prince's side. He stands tall beside him. His form once again resembles a wolf with a thin tail of chained fire. He growls at the guards he held back. At the nobles and castle staff who rushed to the room when they heard about the conflict.
For a long time no one moves. All too afraid and shocked to do anything but stand staring. Colin is the first to move. He steps forward until he can feel the heat given off by Sparks' fire. He nods to the fire elemental then kneels before the pale prince. Slowly, others move to join him. First those who work in the kitchen. Then other people who work within and around the castle walls. Then the knights and their squires. The pages follow shortly after and many of the older nobles and their grandchildren around Cassidy's age. Soon the only one people left standing are the highest nobles. Those who were the most loyal to the King and therefore given a high rank. They look around them, at the bodies kneeling before the young prince. They look back at Cassidy with his bloody sword in hand and elemental by his side. One by one, they kneel until the entire hall is filled with bowed bodies.