A young girl snaps her fingers impatiently. She can barely raise a spark. The other children laugh, only Maya stays, encouraging her.
The girl tosses her dark red hair in a show of defiance, trying to ignore the jeers. She walks off, breaking into a run as soon as she is out sight. She can hear Maya following her, as she sprints faster, the forest blurring around her.
Tears cloud her vision, everyone can control their element, but her fire is almost non-existent.
She doesn't notice the trees shifting, their branches out of control. She's too upset, as she sits with her head in her hands, to see the hot geysers springing from the ground where her bare feet touched it. She doesn't realize that the wind is speeding up and the temperature is becoming unbearable. But Maya is there. And Maya knows. Her 13 year old mind realizes there's something wrong with the image she's seeing, that her friend is influencing the earth much too much for an ordinary Elemental, and the fact that the girl's powers are so weak confuses her even more.
She does, however, know that too much energy is being given out. Her friend has looked up and is now frightened. Maya nears her, and tries to stop her, but the girl is too upset. The earth begins to tremble and the wind howls. Maya can't stand the heat anymore, but then everything stops. Her friend has fainted, her beautiful features heavy with exertion.
Maya's eyes are wide and wary as she tries to pull the girl to her feet. Somehow she manages to wake her up, when suddenly her arms are flung around Maya and the girl bursts into hysterical sobs.
Her sobs hurt Maya as if they are her own. She tries to soothe her best friend.
"Shhh…It'll be okay, Aliya…"
"Shh…It'll be okay, Aliya, Shhhh…" Maya still soothed her best friend in the same way as she had done when they were 13. Aliya's powers had suddenly increased after that day. She had not specialized in an element; though she had more power over all the elements, alone, than the village elders had in their respective elements, combined.
Her power, however, came at a huge price. Aliya was the world's most independent soul. Argumentative, feisty, hot-headed, out of control, impractical, rash, intelligent, stubborn and dangerous all of these and more had been used to describe Aliya at one time or the other. Maya agreed with these adjectives but she hated the fact that they refused to see that Aliya never intentionally hurt people; the power within her was too powerful for a single person to control. And for someone who needed everything her way, these out of control powers were a trial. Aliya tried to escape into the woods when she lost control so that no one was near her, and Maya knew she was ashamed of the fact that Maya refused to stay away when she was at her weakest. Maya, on the other hand, would not let Aliya think she was an abnormality, a freak, and had accepted her, long ago, simply for herself.
"If only she was willing to give herself a chance, maybe others would give her one too," Maya mused unhappily.
Aliya always fainted after her 'episodes'. It seemed the energy drain was too much for her to withstand while conscious. Maya had tried everything, back when they had hidden Aliya's powers from the rest of the village. When she lost control, there was nothing you could do but wait it out. They had managed to hide the fits for about a year but on Maya's fourteenth birthday, a snide comment about Maya's financial situation had inflamed Aliya.
Since then, it seemed, the Inner Elementals were always trying to make Aliya one of them. Beautiful, deadly, rich and powerful, the Inner Elementals ran everything. They lived inside a thick wall, away from the rest of the village, hence their name. Even in school, the Inner Elemental children formed the crux of social life.
Aliya stirred. "Maya…why are you still here?" she murmured. Then she sat bolt upright and held her head and screamed, "We're late!"
Maya rolled her eyes at Aliya's dramatic oh-so-obvious announcement. Aliya was embarrassed, she knew it, and she knew Maya knew it; this was her way of coping with embarrassment - playing the fool, or arguing. Maya respected that and started off to school, with her best friend.
They ran into roll call, breathless and panting. The teacher looked up, "Alyianne Roa and Maya Oshei. Welcome to the class, oh great and powerful savior and her faithful sidekick," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "Thank you for gracing us with your presence, oh glorious ones, now take your seats and wait for your next teacher in silence."
He ticked their names of his thin heat-sensitive pad and muttering angrily about arrogant kids who wasted his time, he stomped out of the room, much to Aliya's obvious relief. It really wasn't her fault she had been late. Aliya sashayed down to the back of the classroom and Maya followed.
"Well, we sure arrived with a bang, didn't we?" Aliya tentatively joked after a few moments of awkward silence. However, it was too late; Maya had seen her flinch at Mr. Orwa's words and had noticed the hurt his unwarranted comment had brought out in her eyes. But such comments were so numerous since Aliya had refused to join the Inner Circle, that to ward them of was an exercise in futility. Keeping her council though, she smiled and nodded while readying herself to take notes.
"Oh no!" Aliya suddenly groaned making a distasteful face. Maya looked up and silently agreed with her. Lavanya, a powerful Inner Elemental, who had often offered Aliya various material objects in return for using her powers for military gain, was to be giving the customary beginning-of-the-year speech to bored 17 year olds who had, by now, heard it often enough to know it by heart.
"Why is she giving the speech?" Aliya hissed. There wasn't much love lost between them. Lavanya, and everything she stood for, irked Aliyato no end. Aliya's attitude and refusal to comply with the Inner Elementals' wishes, irked Lavanya to no end. They were constantly at loggerheads, each trying to compromise, but neither willing to.
"Be quiet, she'll hear you," Maya shushed, giving Aliya a sympathetic glance all the same. She however shared Aliya's question. Why was Lavanya, a powerful Inner Elemental wasting time on something so meaningless?
"Good morning!" Lavanya began, brushing her dark hair off her flawless chocolate complexion, and beaming her 100 watt smile at them, "I expect that you know my speech better than me, so let's get it over with!"
If she had expected people to laugh, she was sorely disappointed. Blank glassy eyes greeted her from the faces of every teenager in the room. After an awkward pause she smiled and continued, "Back when there were seven continents, a huge wave caused the apocalypse of the known world. To the surprise of our ancestors, who knew nothing of the elements, one of their continents was able to withstand the apocalypse without help. It was called, Africa. The soil of this land was imbued with the strength of the elements, such that it naturally put up an elemental barrier against the wave. These elements were experimented on for a long time before we were able to absorb the elements. The tribes began to fight, and soon it was discovered that one person could only have one element under their control. Still the damage and decrease in population that has occurred ever since the apocalypse is major. It is definitely for the greater good of the land if we unite under one leader and if any clan has a member who has the power to make this possible, I would say they should consider it their duty to do so," giving Aliya a pointed glance which she ignored, Lavanya continued, "But that's not my only reason to be here!" she trilled, a sickly sweet smile on her face, "My nephew, Dimitri, will be joining our school. I'm sure you'll all make him feel extremely welcome, but I thought it would be a good idea to appoint a helper to him for his first few weeks."
Maya glanced at Aliya, who having zoned out at the beginning of the speech and payed a little attention when Lavanya gave her real reason behind being in their school, was now back to doodling in the corner of her palm pad.
"…So I was thinking maybe Aliyanne can help Dimitri around school for a while? Aliyanne?"
Maya nudged Aliya, confused. The class was muttering and whispers filled the room. Why did Lavanya want her nephew to be friendly with the girl with no control? Wouldn't Dimitri want an Inner Elemental friend?
Then she saw the boy who had sauntered into the class. He was stunningly handsome, albeit in a different way. In a clan where shades of brown were the predominant skin color, the boy had tanned unblemished skin and ice blue eyes that cut into your soul. He had jet black, unruly hair, which he kept brushing from his face and high cheekbones. His build was lean without having bulging muscles. And he was clearly embarrassed. "Lavanya, I'll be fine. There's no need really…" he muttered under his breath.
Aliya's eyes narrowed. She had heard him. So he was embarrassed to be seen with her, was he? She was definitely not babysitting Lavanya's nephew. She opened her mouth to speak when Maya, who was normally quiet, shot her a warning glance and shook her head. Aliya couldn't afford to offend more people.
"She would love to, ma'am," Maya's clear voice resounded in the uncharacteristically quiet classroom.
Dimitri hated politics. He knew exactly why his aunt had suddenly decided that it was more beneficial for him to leave the exclusive private fire training he had been receiving to join school. She was trying to use him to get on someone's good side. He wondered which Elemental family he was supposed to be befriending this time. His eyes swept over the classroom, his aunt normally made him befriend girls, who were unable to resist his easy charm and casual good looks.
"…So I was thinking, maybe Aliyanne can help Dimitri around school for a while? Aliyanne?"
The whole class turned towards two girls sitting in the back row. One was doodling on a piece of paper, oblivious to the rest of the class, until her friend nudged her. The girl had beautiful waist length dark red hair and wide grey eyes. She was slender with tan skin, an oddity just like Dimitri's. But somehow, just her appraising look was captivating. She unconsciously began to chew her lower lip; even that action was pretty on her. Her friend had the classic clan good looks, caramel skin, long, black hair that was intricately braided into a veil down her back, and deep chocolate eyes. The friend blushed in vexation as everyone stared at them, so he tried to save them some trouble. "Lavanya, I'll be fine. There's no need really…" he muttered to his aunt. One death glare from her was enough to shut him up. Lavanya was very dangerous when annoyed.
The red head, Aliyanne, narrowed her eyes at him and seemed to be about to say something when her friend interrupted, "She would love to, ma'am."
Aliyanne sat back down, mutinous, and shot her friend an if-looks-could-kill glare. Rolling her eyes, the girl skipped up to them. "My name is Maya, and this is –,"
"Aliyanne," he interrupted, interestedly.
"Aliya," the red head snapped.
Maya placed a placatory hand on Aliya's arm and smiled warmly, though her eyes were wary. "Welcome to our school," she said softly to him. Aliya looked about as distrustful as she could get. Good, he decided, she won't fall for Lavanya's traps so easily then.
"All right," he held up his hands in mock surrender. "Aliya."
"Yes, Dimitri," she shot back, without missing a beat.
Really, her attitude was starting to get on his nerves. Why was she being so defensive?
"What's your problem?" he snapped angrily, "I've never even seen you before. You're definitely not an Inner Elemental. Why do you have such an attitude problem? You could be polite and then we can both go our own ways."
She tossed her head defiantly, then started shaking, "Why? Do only Inner Elementals have permission to cop an attitude? What are the rest of us, ordinary mortals?" she spat venomously.
He was about to answer when suddenly the earth began to shake. The wind rustled and the temperature definitely went up. The quakes all seemed to centre on Aliya.
"Aliya! You have to take control! Just till we get you into the forest. Please Aliya, you don't want to hurt them, you'll regret it tomorrow! Aliya!" Maya was screaming, her cool façade dropping and raw fear filling her eyes. Aliya's eyes glowed like orbs as she struggled to control the power flowing from her. Instinctively, Dimitri reached out to her. Holding her hands tight, he stared into her eyes and tried to will her to calm down, she was trembling with exertion, her body temperature soaring, then suddenly, just when he was cursing whatever made him reach out to her and look like an idiot in front of so many people, she stopped. The earth stopped moving and her breathing steadied. He squeezed her hand as she slowly took control, all the while staring right into his eyes.
Suddenly, a bolt of electricity flew through their hands and they let go as though they'd been stung. Dimitri took in Maya's look of extreme shock, while the other kids' had various expressions ranging from confusion to disbelief. Aliya seemed to register the same things, because she took one look around and sprinted, Maya behind her, not caring where she went.
Aliyanne, now he remembered why her name was familiar. She was the cursed one, the Child of the Prophecy, the only Elemental with the power of all the elements. Lavanya grumbled about her lack of co-operation almost on a day to day basis. Personally, he thought Aliya was right, but to say that in front of Lavanya would be like committing suicide. Poor thing, he thought, no wonder she hates me, to her I'm just Lavanya's nephew. Then he shivered as he remembered the electric shock that had coursed through his body after her fit.
Aliya ran, as fast as she could. Dimitri made her uncomfortable, her fits never ended until she was unconscious and exhausted. But today… she remembered how he had captured her in his gaze, dragging her out of her fit with his ice blue eyes. Clutching her head in confusion, she sank to her knees, realizing that, in her hurry to run away, she had reached an unfamiliar meadow. Suddenly, a wave of melancholy hit her. She was weak after her fit, soon dangerous vibes coursed through her body, and she passed out.
The soldiers drag the middle aged woman out of her home. She has been treating the Outer Elementals with her powers. She looks defiant and unearthly even through her humiliation. She pierces everyone in the crowd with her clear green eyes, making them feel guilty, though they are unsure why.
She is roughly pushed towards the guillotine, but she smirks as though she knows something the blood hungry crowd doesn't. They can detect a glint of amusement in her eyes. It unnerves them. She opens her perfectly formed lips, and speaks in a carrying voice, "A child shall arrive. More powerful than any Inner Elemental, she shall rebel against you. But a curse shall befall her, until she can find the one who can control her spirit . Should she not, she'll bring happiness to those that interact with her, but be cursed for eternity, ruled by sporadic fits. The prophecy has been made. The countdown has started. May the challenge, begin."
The crowd was entranced, whether by the prophecy or the musical voice delivering it, it was hard to tell. The lady, taking advantage of the situation, slid a dagger from her bodice and thrust it into her heart, retaining her dignity till her last breath.
Aliya coughed, her head spinning. "What did I just see?" she mumbled, confused. Then the pieces fell into place. She was the cursed one. For eternity. That meant she was the one who was ruled by the fits. Tears broke out, falling thick and fast. Forever. How would she manage it? The fits controlled most of her life already, how could she give more of it to them? She was out of control, she needed to stop. The earth was quaking and she could barely stand. Strong emotions were forbidden to her for this very reason. She fainted again.
The earth was shaking hard. Everyone was being taken to safe house. Dimitri was being pulled in the other direction. A magnet like attraction was drawing him into the forest. He had reached a meadow; the quakes were harder over here. The whole earth was orienting itself around her body. The girl's. Aliya's.
He reached to her again; it was hurting him not to. She looked so fragile, all alone on the ground. He drew her to him and absorbed the power she was radiating. She calmed in his arms. The quakes stopped. Her eyes flickered open.
In a low voice, so he barely heard her, she said, "Maybe, eternity won't be that bad, after all."
A faint smile graced her face as she succumbed to sleep, this time with his hand clasped in hers.