A group of ten twelve year old boys stand in a neat line, rain baring down on them. Shivers jolted their small forms at every drop. The swords held in their shaking hands send water flying with every tremor. Sparks stands off to the side. His eyes are trained on a specific boy, one with long, snow white hair shivering on the end. He hears, more than he feels, the rain as it falls on him. The crystalline drops of water sizzle when they touch his skin. He impatiently moves the coal in his mouth from one side to the other. He glanced over at the King, standing far off in the doorway of the castle. The King had given the order that the training was to start today just a few hours earlier. Sparks let out an agitated breath. He was going to miss the days when all he had to do was supervise, and participate in, play.
An old knight is lecturing the boys. He paces in front of them, feet wearing a rut into the muddy ground. He stops every so often to correct a boy's grip or stance. The boys try not to fall as the knight manhandles them into the correct position. With a word from the knight the boys pair up. Movement form the corner of his eye catches Sparks' attention and he turns to catch the King slipping back into the warmth of the castle. Sparks finds himself envying him. He turns his amber eyes back to his charge. He growls lowly as the prince is knocked to the ground by his sparring partner. The boy, one of the higher ranking nobles' sons, points his sword at Cassidy's throat and laughs.
"I have defeated the prince! Now I'm going to take over the throne!" he boasts. Cassidy glares petulantly at the boy.
"You'd have to kill me first," he challenges. The boy stops laughing and looks down at him. A frown darkening his face in the cold haze of the rain.
"I can do that," he replies. Sparks steps in before he can do anything. He pushes the boy back,, stepping between him and Cassidy. His teeth are bared and the flames of his eyes are swirling just behind their veil. The boy's blue eyes narrow to thin slits. He raises his sword and brings the tip to Sparks' throat. He has stretch because Sparks' has reached his maximum height of five foot eight. At seventeen, the half elemental has stopped growing and looks like an adult in both human elemental societies.
"Move, mutt," the noble orders. Sparks merely looks down his nose at the noble boy. The boy stretches further, pressing the sword into Sparks' skin. The half elemental raises a hand. It glows faintly. He curls it around the sword tightly. Blood begins to drip from his fingers and fall to the ground beside the rain. Slowly, steam begins to rise from Sparks' hand. The metal around it begins to glow red. Then orange. Then a near blinding white. The metal bends and warps beneath Sparks' fist. Sparks' amber orbs are still locked with the noble's blue. A tongue of flame escapes from them to lick Sparks' cheek tenderly. The noble's son yanks his arm back in an attempt to free his sword. There is a sharp sound and the noble drops his sword in surprise. It falls to the ground with a sickening slap. Mud flies and falls on their shoes. The sword lays there, perfectly severed in two. The other half remains in the older boy's steaming grip. Sparks brings the fragment of sword to his lips. He moves his lips over the cool metal in questing caresses. The bitter taste sends a thrill down his spine. He licks his lips, eyes closing in pleasure. Tempered steel is a rare treat for him, and always served to satisfy the fire burning within his core. It is the equivalent of solid chocolate for elementals.
Cassidy gets up to stand beside him. He touches his arm, causing amber flames to reveal themselves once again. Cassidy blinks at the look Sparks gives him. Smoldering and curious at the same time. He motions for him to leave. Sparks obeys, giving the prince a bow in show. He casts a glare back to the noble boy who had dared challenge his prince, giving the piece of sword a long swipe of his tongue that leaves it white hot and smoking in the rain. The old knight shouts at the boys to get back to training and hands the boy a new sword. He changes the sparring partners, casting a suspicious look over to Sparks who is once again enjoying his treat.
The training continues on as normal. The rain moves away, leaving behind clouds that grow progressively lighter as the sky goes on. Sparks eyes it suspiciously. Sunset was too far off, by Sparks estimation, for it to be comfortable for Cassidy. He looks over at the group of boys, brows furrowed. To pull him from training now would be the boy's downfall. He falls back on his heels and stares at the lightening sky. He clenches his hand. The cuts have since closed but are still tight and pull at the surrounding skin.
"Alright, that's enough away with you lot!" the knight shouts. Most of the boys drop their swords and run inside before the knight can say anything. Cassidy stares after their jeering faces. Lost in the dust of their laughter. He looks around at the discarded weapons. Sparks appears at his side, a curious sound resonating from his throat. Cassidy smiles up at him, throwing his own sword to the ground before wrapping his arms around his guardian's waist. Sparks ruffles his hair fondly.
"Back inside," he coaxes. He feels Cassidy's nod and begins to maneuver him inside the safety of the castle as the day's last rays of sun fall. The knight grumbles to himself about insolent children as he picks up the training swords. His eyes fall on the broken sword, lying covered in bloodied mud. A surge of anger rolls through him before it is replaced with something calmer. Having witnessed the elemental fight for his prince, their prince, he can not help the feeling of acceptance. Of a sort of camaraderie between them. He had, after all, done something similar with the First King.
He is not the only one who had noticed Sparks' defense of their young prince. A woman, a noble by her elaborate dress and the way she holds herself; head held high and with an aura of condescension hanging about her like perfume. Her dress is made of a blood red velvet and hugs every contour of her body. It is adorned with thin gold chains falling asymmetrically across both arms. Her skin is second only to the prince's in fairness and rival to the finest porcelain. She's holding a silver fan with black paper in her left hand. A matching silver ring entwines her right pointer finger, a tight spiral of metal that is set with a small obsidian arrowhead. Her brown hair is done up in a series of elaborate knots and coils, held in place by gold pins inlaid with rubies. Her eyes glow yellow in the brightening sky. A sly smile slips across her lips. She raises her fan to those lips and taps them, once, before she opens it with a flick of her wrist. The crinkle of the paper fills the air and reveals the silver outline of a stalking cat with red painted eyes.
The night is visible through the myriad of windows in the dinning hall. The torches are shifting against the stones of the walls behind them. Most of the large oak tables strewn about the room are empty. There are only four people in the room, excluding the usual array of guards. Sparks, Cassidy, and Colin sit together, playfully shoving each other between bites of food as they sit on the table's matching bench. The dinning hall is rarely used, unless the King decides on a whim to throw a feast, by the nobility. The room's other occupant sits a few seats away from the boys, book open in one hand and fan moving rapidly with the other. Cat-like eyes keep darting to the small group. The noble woman resists the training to open her fan and hide her smile. She knows it would draw at least the half elemental's attention. And she did not want that quite yet. As it is, Sparks notices her. As the only sword less being in the room, she stood out. He kept half his senses trained on her. All the heat he is feeling comes radiating form her.
The night goes by slowly. Cassidy and Colin are trading horror stories with Sparks listening idly. Occasionally he would chime in to Cassidy's story and tinker with a word or two before lapsing into silence once again. The woman heaves a sigh, sounding bored. She closes her book with a loud snap, causing the two younger boys to jump and stare at her as if just noticing her presence. Which they have. The woman stands. She bows to the prince as an apology, then turns and walks away. The end of her blood colored dress sways as she walks. The red changes shades as the light hits it differently with every arc.
She approaches the half elemental the next day. In the hallway in front of the prince's room. She stands before the seventeen year old, looking up into his amber eyes. The top of her head, when her hair is not brought up in a complicated show, would barely brush against Sparks' chin. Sparks looks down at her, an unusual cold seeping into his eyes. Cassidy stops walking and looks back at his friend. His pale eyebrows furrow, violet eyes filling with confusion. He recognizes her, faintly,from the night before. Her dress is similar to the previous day's, only blue and with a wider skirt and silver, instead of gold, chains. The pins in her hair are also silver and this time they are inlaid with bits of turquoise. Her yellow eyes reflect the low light given off by the torches.
"Yes?" Sparks asks. His tone is flat. No emotion shows on his face. His body language, however, shows his restraint in his tight muscles and the subtle clenching and releasing of his jaw.
"I want you to kiss me," the woman states, She is not holding her fan and her fingers itch for its familiar weight. The widening of eyes and the raising of eyebrows are the only reactions Sparks gives. Cassidy blinks rapidly at the woman's words. At her boldness.
"I am tired of waiting!" The woman declares. Her eyes glint as she glances over to the shocked prince. "There is no point in hiding anymore. Kiss me!" The woman flings her pale arms around Sparks' neck. She presses into him, body molding unevenly to his own. She raises her lips to meet his. Her breath escaping in a delighted hush. Sparks' reaction to the perceived threat is immediate. He pushes her away roughly. Then stands immobilized with wide amber eyes. She falls to the hard ground with a grunt. Cassidy rushes up to him. He wraps his hands tightly around one of Sparks' own. He glares down at the woman. His body shakes in barely restrained anger. His eyes spark with fury.
To him, the woman is an invader. A thief. She tried to to steal Sparks from him. A crime he saw as the greatest of offenses. This woman has no right to touch Sparks. Sparks is his. His guardian, his friend. His brother and his cousin. His alone.
"Leave us alone," he orders. His voice is deep. The woman stares up at him, surprised by his possessiveness. She stands abruptly and brushes the imaginary dust from her dress. She glares down at the prince, now.
"He will not be yours forever," she hisses. She stretches the fingers of her left hand, like a cat flexing its claws. "One day you will grow up and you will no longer need him, so he will leave. Leave and never return to you. Because you will be living as the new king in charge of this miserable country." She storms off looking ever bit, so Sparks thinks, like a wet cat. The half elemental growls at her retreating form. Having regained control of his body once again. Control save for his left hand, which is still being held tightly by the white prince. The prince who is doing his best to squeeze it until Sparks can no longer feel his lost appendage. Sparks maneuvers his head to peer at the darkness descending over his charge's face. He raises his free hand and ruffles the boy's spectral hair.
"Don't worry about it. It won't happen for a while. If it ever does. I'm not planning on leaving you, even after you don't need me anymore," he soothes. His voice is as warm as the fire burning within their room. Like the flames they relax Cassidy and the young prince relaxes his hold. He doesn't let go entirely, however but Sparks does not mind. Once blood returns to them, he curls his fingers around Cassidy's own in a gentle embrace. He gives them a gentle tug and the pair return to the safety of their room.