Storms of Darkness
I took in the scent around me of wheat and earthy soil, enjoying the smell more than most would. While it didn't smell exactly of home, something about nature felt right to me. I had always been an outdoorsy type, and while gardening took much too much patience for me to enjoy it, I did love the way it smelled. If I had known I would be getting into this situation, I probably would have tried a little harder to develop my green thumb. I loved hiking and hunting and the way freshly cut grass smelled and the way the earth changed right before it rained.
As Paeris squeezed my hand, I was forced back to reality.
We stood in front of a small quaint house that looked as if someone had made a bunch of them and plopped them down all along a field. The wooden door looked hand crafted, the symbol of Spiris etched into the doorframe, three pronged spirals floating down around the edges.
The door opened, Keya's smiling face appearing in the doorway. She looked as gentle and sweet as she had at the party, though less dressy, her hair entangled with small flowers. Her dress was a soft green and looked comfortably worn. I returned her smile, warmly.
"Alaray, welcome!" She gushed, motioning for me to enter her house.
The inside was nothing like the outside, beads hanging from the walls and a tapestry hung over the back of the couch. Crystals and small rocks lined the bookshelves along the walls.
"Your house is beautiful, Keya." I said kindly.
"Can I get you anything? Water? Tea?"
"Oh no, thank you."
"Keya, Ray and I were hoping you could help us with your element." Paeris mentioned, squeezing my hand again.
"Oh, of course! What do you wish to know?"
I thought, tipping my head as I focused on how different her house was from the castle. I almost wondered if I could ask to live in a house similar to this one instead of in the cold castle.
"Why do you live here? Why do you not live in the castle?" I asked, hoping it didn't come across as rude. "And what exactly do you do for the Council?"
Keya laughed. "I love how fearless you are. Straight and honest, to the point. No chatter like your sister. You will be a wonderful leader. Honest. To be respected."
I frowned at the mention of Allie. The woman before me seemed not to notice.
"Well, as the Head of Spiris, I am in control of our food supply. I work closely with the Head of Fluvis, Liliana, to be sure we have sustainable crops. I make sure we are well fed and help to keep our land bountiful."
I nodded. This made sense. I had yet to meet Liliana, but I hoped she was similar to the woman before me.
"In regard to the Council... well, I'm not invited to many meetings. I'm old and a little too soft hearted for those types of things." She sighed softly. "I just work the fields. While Earth is a force to be reckoned with, we generally are peaceful."
My face softening, I nodded at her words as I fought against the conflicting feelings on the situation. Keya was so wise and gentle, it hurt my soul to know that she wasn't respected more. I mentally started a list of things that would change when I came to power.
"Has Earth manifested yet?" She asked softly, motioning for us to follow her through the house.
"I, uh," I shifted. "I don't even know." I said, pushing my hair behind my ear awkwardly.
"I mean, I was told that I had set curtains on fire once. And healed a bird once. And I guess dream walking is a thing." I confessed, listing off my accomplishments. Keya smiled at me fondly, nodding more to herself than me.
"Come with me."
I followed her, leaving Paeris alone in the house and retreating to the field where Keya directed me. She sat then, patting the ground in front of her as if to welcome me to a seat.
"Close your eyes. Breath deeply." She said softly, closing her eyes as well and relaxing. I followed her instructions, if a bit warily. "Do you smell the earth around you?"
"I smell dirt and grass and... rain?" I said slowly, trying to tune out everything but my sense of smell.
"Now focus on that. Focus on the strength of a mighty oak tree. Feel in your veins the connection with their roots." Keya whispered.
I imagined a white light traveling along my veins, as if I were planted alongside the tree she had described. I felt a quake start in the soles of my feet and travel outward, the ground shaking around me. I yelped, popping my eyes open and searching around me for the cause.
Keya laughed to herself, clearly amused at my reaction.
"You are a strong one, aren't you?" She asked, patting my hand with her own. I was surprised by the toughness of her skin on mine. "If you become too in tune with the earth, you will cause an earthquake."
I swallowed, hearing Paeris coming out of the house worriedly. Keya waved him on, as if to tell him to stop hovering. I smiled instantly at the knowing look on the woman's face.
"He cares for you, you know." I nodded, feeling my cheeks warm slightly.
"We are friends." I whispered, hating how obvious my infatuation was for him. "We've only known one another a few days."
Anything could still happen. Cage was out of the question now, but I still felt guilty admitting that I could fall for someone else. I refused to acknowledge the idea that one could fall in love in a matter of days or hours.
"Besides, I don't have time for infatuations right now. I have a million other things to do and learn." I continued, closing my eyes again to focus and avoid her sad look.
"Is there ever really an appropriate time to love someone? It happens quickly and on accident." Keya said softly as she patted my hand again. "Stand, Your Highness. Focus on the field around you. Focus on the strands of wheat and imagine them growing tall and strong."
I pictured the vast field behind me, the stalks growing toward the sun. I pictured them swaying in the breeze, a harsh gust of air whipped past me.
Keya sucked in a sharp breath of air in front of me, causing my eyes to fly open again. The color had drained from her face as she looked past me.
I turned slowly, mirroring her gasp as I took in the towering field of wheat. The stalks stretched unimaginably high, almost unnaturally so. They bowed against their own weight, almost as if they were bowing to me.
"Well. Harvest will come a little sooner than planned this year." Keya mused, chuckling softly under her breath. The sky darkened above us, as if changing with the storm brewing inside of me. While I was happy that I could manifest earth, I still felt like a failure.
"Alaray," Keya said softly, almost fearfully as the wind whipped around us. "If you fear your abilities, you will only bring out the darkness in yourself."
She gasped then at the wind whipping around us, gripping my wrist a little too tightly. "You must choose to fight your fear with your light or you will release your darkness... just like your mother."
I turned to face her then.
I wondered if that was how the darkness inside of me would win, just like the prophecy said: by trapping me with fear and leading me to death where I would be stuck in darkness forever. I wondered then if the darkness inside of me would win.
I didn't want it to win.
As I felt Paeris move beside me, his presence engulfing my senses, the storm inside of me settled.
The storm outside of me stopped with it.