"Please Sparks? It's too hot to stay inside! The sun isn't even out!" Cassidy pleads. It is an unusually warm day, a festering heat coming from the marshy north in a dense fog. Cassidy's now short snow colored hair is plastered against his face and neck. Beads of sweat glide across his forehead. He brushes sweat away from his violet eyes. Violet eyes that are staring into Sparks' amber ones. Imploring him to concede. Sparks sighs and nods his head. Cassidy beams, hands clapping together in glee.
They walk over the castle grounds, heading southeast towards half of the main fields. Near the fields, tucked behind overgrown garden hedges and between a group of slowly growing trees, five rivers converge to form a small lake. Just large enough to be a comfortable swimming hole for one or two people. The lake diverges into nearly a dozen smaller streams that all move towards the fields and serve as the water sources for many of the produce there.
It was Colin who had discovered the pool in the first place. He had been on an errand for the Chef. Sent to retrieve ingredients from one of the farmers. He hadn't been paying attention and had fallen into the still water. He had immediately told Sparks and Cassidy. After his errand was complete and he was reminded after Sparks asked him why he was so wet. It had become a sort of retreat for the trio ever since.
Cassidy leaps into the water, sending glimmering droplets flying. Ripples radiate away from the prince's body. His pale skin now gleaming with an almost ethereal light. Three years of page training has caused toned muscles to form on the boy's chest and arms. While his face retains its cherubic grace there is a sharpness in his jaw that is testimony to the maturity lying just beneath the surface. He swims to the edge, crossing his arms atop the soft grass and resting his chin atop them. He smiles contentedly. His eyelids droop and hang lazily as he gazes up at Sparks from beneath his light lashes. Sparks sits mere feet away, the prince's clothes folded neatly beside him.
"Greetings humans!" The voice is melodic and excitable, it's pitch somewhere between the trickle of the nearby streams and the crashing of waves against the shore. Cassidy spins around in the pool. He slips as his arms leave the bank, going beneath the cool water. Sparks jumps up and lunges for him, hands wrapping around his prince's arms and pulling him back up. The younger coughs, expelling the water from his lungs with every convulsion. Sparks releases his charge's arms with a hissed order to get out of the pool. Cassidy obeys and scrambles out. Standing behind his guardian he changes quickly, not caring that his clothes were going to be uncomfortably wet in seconds. Sparks' glowing amber eyes are trained on the newcomer, a smiling head resting opposite him in the lake. The head has sharp masculine features with pale, frostbitten looking skin and deep sapphire blue eyes. It's hair, floating around it like a life ring, is a pleasant sea foam green.
The water shifts. It begins to swirl around the head in gentle strokes. The head begins to rise. Water bellow it moves and slowly begins to form the uneven outline of a human's body. The body begins to gain depth and definition, water trickling down from the still smiling head. The finished product is that of an undefined human's. It is neither tall nor short, neither fat nor thin. Its hair has fallen to its waist and has darkened minutely.
"My name is Aquanious and it is a great pleasure to finally make your acquaintance. I did not mean to startle you. I just wished to meet the infamous half human fire elemental and his little princeling charge. I admit I have been here for quite a while. Over a decade by your standards. Humans are so much more interesting than elementals, really. Elementals always complain about the same things, their magic and their human neighbors. Really if they dislike them so much they should just move. I never imagined an elemental would couple with a human. Most cannot stand them. I, however, adore humans and their little nuances." He speaks fluently and holds himself nobly. The water elemental gives the pair a cordial smile. Coral pink teeth flash behind blue lips. Sparks and Cassidy stare at him, violet and amber eyes wide. Sparks' eyes stray south, following along the wavy contours of the other elemental's body. They freeze. His head slowly tilts to the side, a strand of burnt orange hair falling before his eyes. Aquanious blinks his sapphire eyes slowly, hair shifting to an easy blue with streaks of brown and red. His eyes flick to follow Sparks'. He hums in understanding, hair returning to its previous hue.
"Us elementals can change our corporeal form at will. We are pure magic, there is no such thing as gender to us. You humans seem to find it important so we tend to assume a gender upon assuming a more, human, appearance when in the corporeal plane," he explains. He gives Sparks a sly grin. The younger flushes. He looks away, clenching his fists. Cassidy makes a curious noise and looks up at his guardian. Aquanious takes a step forward, moving as fluidly as his elemental affinity. Sparks tenses, throwing an arm in front of Cassidy and forcing him back. He narrows flaming eyes and his hair gives off a thin stream of steam. His entire body is screaming a warning to the other. Cassidy takes a few steps further back. He trusts his friend. If he saw the new elemental as a threat, then Cassidy would treat him as such. Aquanious stops. His blue eyes fill with tears. His body shimmers. Sparks growls, hair erupting with a whoosh of flame.
"It. Saddens me. That you think I would harm you and your princeling." Aquanious' voice quivers. His entire being shrinks to over half its previous size. His hair is stormy gray pulled into tight curls. "I would never! I just. I want nothing more than to aid you! To, if it's not too much to ask. Which it is appearing to be so. I, truly, if you could find it somewhere deep inside you, I wish to be your friend." He slumps, looking smaller than the small form he had pushed himself into. A gentle hand comes rest on Sparks' outstretched arm. Sparks looks out of the corner of his dimming eyes at the young prince. Locking eyes, a silent conversation passes between them. A silent conversation punctuated with rapid arm and hand movements. The other elemental watches curiously. His hair shifts restlessly between gray, and red splattered blue. The colors blur, swirling together in a curious concoction of steely blue and orange. The curls have relaxed and he slowly begins to regain his previous height.
"We would be happy to have you as a friend." Cassidy's voice is warm and welcoming. In a split second he is ripped form Sparks' side. The fire elemental starts. His hair and eyes snuffed out in the shock. The prince find himself being help tightly against a surprisingly solid chest. Aquanious is hugging him. Sparks folds his arms over his chest. He exhales, a puff of dark smoke escaping from his nose.
"I ask that you release my charge. Now," he growls. Aquanious looks at him through a waterfall of hair. He complies with little hesitation. The two opposing elementals now face each other again. Aquanious has changed to match Sparks' body type almost exactly. His hair is a deep blue that matches his eyes and falls in gentle waves to his waist.
"Cass, go back to the castle." Cassidy stares at his guardian. A look of pure horror has crossed his face. For as long as he can remember, Sparks has never even been in a different room than him. The older male was a constant in his life. He felt tears spring into his eyes.
"He does mean to abandon you, little princeling. He is only being cautious. Fire and Water do not necessarily get along. We are each others weaknesses. It is only natural for him to be wary. I do not take offense to this. I may not like our kind's politics, or how it is so infused into our beings, but I do understand them. If you do not wish to leave, I suggest standing back a ways and hiding behind a tree or two. As elementals, we will settle this in a less than peaceful way." Cassidy hurries away in compliance, reluctant to leave his guardian completely but uneasy of the oncoming danger. Sparks sees him duck behind a large oak tree and peek his head back out to observe their strife. Aquanious gives Sparks a lavish bow. He smiles playfully, sapphire eyes dancing with mirth. Sparks returns the smile with a snarl.
Sparks rakes a sandpaper adorned hand through his hair. The fire ignites in its wake. His eyes are closed but Aquanious can see the ribbons of flame pouring from beneath the dark eyelashes. They slide over and down his face, leaving a trail of glowing embers in their stead. The ribbons twist and turn, twining around every available member of their host they can reach. Sparks opens his eyes. Fire has encompassed his entire being. Burning away everything. A lone scrap of cloth, tattered and charred, flutters to the ground. Sparks stands there. A mass of pure heat and light. A full embodiment of his element. The grass that had been growing around the edges of the pool whither before they are consumed by Sparks' flaming body. Aquanious appraises his opponent. He knows this is the first time the half elemental has taken his full elemental form. He can see it in his stance. In the way the flames are raging about him in mass confusion. He smiles, coral teeth sharp as a shark's. He will go easy on him.
Sparks strikes out first. What was formerly his arm reaching out to the water elemental in a tight cone. Aquanious blocks it easily. He calls on his own element to aid him. As he had not long ago been in his aquatic form, his response is immediate. A wall of water sweeping through the air, headed by his flared palm. The two elements collide and a burst of steam fills the atmosphere around them. Sparks' temper flares at being denied. Fire spreads across the moist ground, searching for purchase. While he is doing so, Aquanious takes the opportunity attack. He calls on the water laying calmly behind the other elemental. It rises up, a tightly coiled serpent. Sparks hears the roaring behind him but is unable to act before Aquanious brings it pounding into him. The water elemental smiles, satisfied, at the steaming boy standing on shaky legs in front of him. The water did little to harm Sparks, but it did extinguish the flames of his full elemental body. Sparks wobbles, breath coming out in ragged gasps. He blinks rapidly, the fire in his eyes a mass barely burning embers. He sucks in a desperate breath, then collapses.
Cassidy runs up to his guardian, dropping down beside him and checking to make sure he is breathing. He gives a long sigh in relief and whips his head to glare at Aquanious, fire burning in his eyes to rival Sparks'.
"What did you do to him? I thought you said you wanted to be our friend!" He shouts. Tears are once again boiling at the edges of his violent violet eyes. Aquanious raises his hands in an almost desperate plea for peace.
"Rest assured, he is fine. Exhausted, perhaps. That was his first time, and I imagine his body is not used to such exertion. There is not a whole lot for him to feed upon around here, either. Which was to his detriment. Fire, unlike Water, needs to be fed constantly in order to maintain its strength. He should awaken momentarily. It is quite warm out today and as he is only a half elemental he is not bound to the-" Aquanious is interrupted by Colin's cheerful voice calling out for his friends.
"Oh Cass, there you are! I was looking all over for you until I realized that you would probably have come here to escape the heat." The boy smiles at his prince before noticing Sparks lying beside him.
"Why is Sparks naked?" he asks. His hazel eyes drift to Aquanious, taking in the unusual tint to his skin and the gentle waves moving through his hair.
"Why is there a water elemental here? Did he hurt Sparks?" His eyes are wide and he rushes to join his friends' sides. Aquanious watches their interactions. His form shrinks again, mimicking that of a small child's. His hair becomes sharp as a sea urchin's spikes and the dark green of seaweed.
"He didn't hurt me." Sparks' voice, like the scraping of a poking iron against the back of a furnace, surprises everyone. Amber eyes are locked on Aquanious. They are burning again, though not with hostility or anger. No. They are burning with begrudging consent and a warm acceptance.
"He said he wouldn't and he didn't. Aqui wouldn't go against his word like that." The water elemental can feel a warmth spread throughout his body. One he never remembers feeling before. Cassidy looks down at his guardian and friend, the man he has put all his faith in. He nods. The action barely discernible from a bow.
"Aqui, then," he concedes. Colin smiles at the stunned water elemental.
"Hi," he chirps. Aquanious has swelled in height, towering over the three boys many times over. His hair is a vibrant cacophony of greens and blues and oranges. A gentle breeze washes over the group. Aquanious looks up at it, a frowning tainting his features for a brief flash of time. Sparks sits up, knees pulled to his chest. He smiles wearily at his friends.
"Col, you think you can run back to the castle and grab me some clothes? Or at least a pair of pants?" Sparks asks. The brunette blinks widening hazel eyes. He flushes and stands rapidly. He bows, as if he had just be given an order by one of the nobles, and runs off. Aquanious takes his place beside Sparks. He rests his head against the others shoulder and content sigh escaping his frost-touched lips. Sparks gives him a lazy glare but otherwise allows it. Cassidy gives a pleasant smile and settles down on Sparks' other side. They watch for their absent friend. The leaves that adorn the few trees surrounding the small lake brush against each other as the wind picks ups. Aquanious pulls against the water at their backs, creating a gentle rhythm as it presses against the banks. The streams that are moving towards the fields pick up. Their melodic trickles making a sort of lullaby for the trio. A song of the time.
Colin returns, dumping the new clothes atop Sparks' head and disturbing the three from their half slumber. The humans bid the water elemental farewell as Sparks dresses. Aquanious encourages them to visit as often as they are able, assuring them that he will remain here for as long as he can sustain being in the corporeal plane. They give him a confused look but he just smiles and shakes his head. Brushing off their questions by turning to a fully clothed Sparks. They stand close together, as close as they can get now that Sparks' fire has been rekindled and it reacts against Aquanious' water. The elder elemental smiles at the younger. His sea foam green hair ventures out to twine around pieces of Sparks' fiery locks. Steam rises but he ignores it.
"If you ever find yourself alone," blue eyes dart to the boys standing a little ways away, "come to me. I have much to teach you, about our shared heritage. Even if your little princeling or Col are around I will teach you. It would perhaps benefit them to know such things. It is just," he trails off and glances away.
"If there is ever time. We are often kept busy, and today was a rarity," Sparks replies shortly. Aquanious deflates. His hair darkens and retreats, curling tightly in on itself. Sparks turns to leave.
"See you again sometime, Aqui!" he calls before ushering the playfully complaining humans away. Aquanious stares after him. His hair has relaxed into a blue the same shade as that of his lake. He takes a step back and begins to fade. He smiles a bright, coral pink smile just before he rejoins the water and is wrapped in its parental embrace.
Colin leads the way through the kitchens. Past bags and barrels and boxes of food and herbs. A young woman, still a girl in Sparks' amber eyes, passes them. She greets Colin warmly and he returns the sentiments in with a friendly quip. She giggles, the sound forcing itself through Cassidy's brain and into his thoughts. He stares after her. Her long light brown hair trailing behind her in a braid that is coming out at the ends. He stands there, transfixed, until Sparks pulls pulls him along. He looks back after a few pacing, searching for her within the maze of people and materials. Disappointment flashes through him when he can not find her again. He continues on, mind replaying her laugh.
That is all he hears as the knight lectures him about some sword technique or other. Her forgets about her, briefly, as he is forced to defend himself in sparring practice. He goes through the motions with ease. Blocking and swiping with the dull training sword given to them. The only difference being the two nobles attacking him. Punishment for arriving late. Sparks stands off to the side, twirling a willow branch between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. A bored look overcoming any other emotions that would play on his face. His fingers pause in their game and the branch bursts into flames. He relishes in the burn. In the light. In the heat. He reflects on the day's previous events. On the water elemental he had accepted so quickly into his life. Into Cassidy's life. As the branch turns to ash at his finger tips, and the wind sweeps away the excess, he decides to put it to the back of his mind. For now, as night descends and his eyes begin to glow like living torches in response.
Deep within the castle's walls the King stands surrounded by the flickering flames of seemingly undying candles. His hands are laying flat on the paper laden table. The papers are full of harshly scribbled notes in varying shades of black and red. Bloodshot eyes rake across the yellowing pages. His mouth moves silently, forming the words 'well' and 'power' over and over as a manic mantra. His breaths disturb the candles, and they flicker harder than before. In the near darkness the King looks crazed, and any onlookers would have long since fled.
Days later a storm is surging across the Kingdom. Cassidy sits on his bed and stares out the gilded windows at the pouring rain. He winces, every so often, as lightning streaks across the sky, catching him off guard. That, and the thunder that follows it, does little to deter the prince from his place at the windows. Storms as harsh as this are uncommon this far inland. Ever since he was a baby he was fascinated by storms. As he watches he remembers the stories Colin told him. About how elementals were to blame for the harshest of storms and worst of disasters to strike humanity. He looks at Sparks, huddled at the back of the room by a dim but roaring fire. The half elemental's back is turned facing him. His shoulders hunched to show his displeasure.
"Sparks, do elementals really cause storms like this?" he asks. He can see the slight raising of his friend's shoulders in a half hearted shrug. Cassidy frowns. Disappointed with his answer. He is about to turn back to the window when Spark's voice fills the empty air.
"If you really want to know you can ask Aqui after the storm has passed, and it's not too bright out."
"Why can't we go now?" Cassidy asks drawing his question out into a playful whine. Sparks swivels to glare at him.
"Because there is no way I'm going out into that," he snarls. "Even for you." Cassidy gives him an over dramatic sigh in response before sticking his tongue out at him and returning his gaze to the falling rain.
The ground is moist from the storm the night before. The boys' feet sink into the mud with every step, much to Sparks' chagrin. As promised, Sparks leads the way to the small lake they had met the water elemental. Cassidy marvels at the drops of water reflecting the light of Sparks' hair back at them as they pass.
"Aqui! Cass has a question for you!" Spark's calls out to their friend. His voice rings out in the post-storm air. Cutting through the peaceful haze. The water in the lake bubbles. Aquanious bursts forth, illuminated by Sparks' flames. He smiles at Sparks, a few strands of sea foam hair reaching out to him like seaweed in the tide. His eyes are half lidded. His body relaxed and shifting like his hair.
"What can I answer for you, little princeling?" he asks. His voice is soft but holds carefully restrained excitement behind coral cages.
"Is it true that elementals cause storms like the one we had earlier?" Cassidy asks. Aquanious hums thoughtfully, stepping out of the pool to stand beside Sparks. Their shoulders brush together. Sparks tenses but doesn't pull away. He can feel Aquanious' happiness in the subtle ripples pulsating throughout his body. They seem to culminate where his shoulder touches Sparks', as if enticing Sparks to share in his contentment.
"Yes and no. While it is true that elementals will start things, like storms or earthquakes and the like, in order to harm humans, as many humans are led to believe, it is hard to tell whether something was actually an elemental act or a natural one. Even then, elementals are everywhere. We are the wind, the air you breath. The rain and the water you drink. The earth you walk in. Even the fire in your hearths. There really is no difference between a natural phenomenon and an elemental made one," he explains. His eyes have strayed back to Sparks. They linger on his hair, in awe of the power he holds back so easily. Power that can be so devastating, so destructive, yet so helpful. Sparks catches him staring. Their eyes lock briefly. Burning amber and cool sapphire. Amber darts away from the intensity of the sapphire's gaze. Sparks can feel his face burning, and not in the familiar burn of his fire. Murmuring farewell to the older elemental, he walks away, grabbing Cassidy's arm and dragging him along. Cassidy shouts goodbye to Aquanious. Aquanious waves them off. A wide smile on his face that threatens to split it in half.
The blush on Sparks' cheeks persists as he walks with Cassidy back to their room. He answers Cassidy's complaints and questions with a brief 'I'll explain later.' Cassidy falls silent at his guardian's tone. Fifteen years of knowing the man had taught him every single nuance of his speech. And Cassidy can tell, just from those three words, that Sparks is confused and angry. At himself. Why? Cassidy doesn't know. But he decides not to press his guardian for the information. The elder would tell him when he wanted to.
Aquanious smiles as he watches his friends walk away. The smile fades quickly as a gust of wind passes overhead. He huffs, crossing frostbitten arms over his chest. His hair turns stormy gray and he glares at the air above him.
"He has a right to know. You and everyone else might not agree with me and, to be frank, I do not care if you do or do not. Now leave. Your presence has been angering me for some time," his voice is clipped and sharp like the rocks carved by ocean waves. The wind blows over his lake, rippling the surface. A warning the water elemental does not pay attention to.