Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.
Disclaimer; Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing. Hope you all enjoy it.
“There are chains on top of this building.” Tier stared up through the opening in the ceiling of the ancient building. Pale clouds skittered across a pale blue sky and marring it were huge metal links. He couldn’t see what they were connected to, the ceiling blocked his view.
“They’re huge.” Rale whispered. Tier nodded.
“What at they doing there?” Geb asked.
“Why didn’t we see them at the crossroads?” Tier mused aloud. He saw Rale shrug in the corner of his eye. “How would we get up there to get a better look?”
“Why would you want a closer look?” Rale asked incredulous. He gestured up towards the ceiling. “Can you fly?”
Tier snorted and glanced over at Geb. The young man was poking at the vines covering the far wall. “I want to see what they are.” He gave a half grin. “I’m curious.”
“There’s an old stairway behind these vines.” Geb called. He moved some of the vines revealing an archway and a dark, shadowed passage.
Tier glanced towards the blanket covering Xin’s small ‘room’. She hadn’t stirred since the day before. He considered checking on her, but decided against it. Letting her rest seemed a better idea. He turned his attention back to the gaping hole and Geb’s stairs. They were set deep in the rock, and he felt the skin on the back of his neck tingle the closer he got to them. Tier looked down at Geb.
“How safe are these?”
Geb placed his hand on the bottom step and closed his eyes, Tier felt a solid ‘pulse’ of the boy’s powers. “They’re solid.” Geb opened his eyes, grinning. “A shaper made them a long time ago.”
Tier nodded, and cautiously placed his foot on the first step.
“Those are far too steep for me. They look more like a ladder. You fall and you’ll break your neck.” Rale grumped. “I’ll wait down here.”
Tier nodded and carefully ascended the steps, Geb at his heels. The stairs curved to his right, ascending towards the top of the cliff. Around the first bend it was nearly pitch black. He felt his way up the steps around the next bend and realized he could see. Dim, though with each step it got brighter. Then he was stepping out onto a flat area. He stared, trying to grasp what he was seeing. A plateau. Not the roof of a building.
On either side of the doorway stretched huge chains, tethering a wide slab of floating rock to the plateau. Tier resisted the urge to rub his eyes. How did the ancients do it? He shook his head. Sky City Hyrfett.
“Look at how high it goes.” Geb whispered.
“Stay by the stairs. Just to be safe.” Tier instructed.
“How did they do it?” Geb asked.
Tier shrugged, touching the chain. The metal that made up the links, were as big around as his arms. The links were as tall as he was. Slung between them on some sort of cable were steps. He swallowed, glancing down at the skyhole and swore. The steps to the top of the building he could handle. This?
“Are you going to climb them?” Geb peered with wide eyes.
“Hell no.” He motioned the stairs. “Go back down, I’ll be right behind you.”
Geb nodded, carefully making his way back down the stairs.
Tier was about to follow when he felt the flutter use of power. He halted, turning slowly, scanning the horizon, looking for the source of the power. It came again, brushing against his mind. In the distance he saw a smudge of dark gray clouds. Smoke? He looked up at the slab of rock that floated in the air. If he were on that thing, he’d get a better view of the smoke. He felt the fluttering power again and gritted his teeth. He had to find out where it was coming from. He tested the bottom step. The step itself wiggled a bit, but the chains didn’t budge. He stared up at the floating rock.
“I’m insane.” He murmured. The power fluttered again against his mind. He took a deep breath. Step by precarious step, he ascended the sky stairs to reach what he hoped was a sort of stable ground. He snorted. Stable? Floating in the air? This trip was making him crazy. He reached the slab of rock and placed his foot on the dark reddish brown rock. It didn’t budge, didn’t move. He peered around. What looked like rock underneath was covered in tall grasses on top. He stepped toward the middle of it. A breeze rippled the grasses, bending them wave-like.
He stared around, slow, his mind refusing to accept what his eyes saw. In the distance, dotting the air above the canyons, were other floating rocks, also held by the immense chains anchoring them to the ground.
“How was this made?” Xin’s voice broke his thoughts. He turned, in time to see her step onto the rock, her eyes wide as she peered around. He motioned her over.
“I can’t tell exactly where the edge of the rock is.” He said quickly. The last thing he wanted was for a fall. “Thought you were sleeping.” He said as she stopped beside him. She looked up at him and grinned.
“I woke up to Rale swearing at you. He said you lost your mind.” Xin turned slowly. “This is unbelievable. What do you think they were put here for?”
“Fields of grain, perhaps. For the floating city.” Tier frowned. The fluttering against his mind was back. He looked north, peering at the gray cloud. “What does that look like to you?”
“Smoke.” Xin said, touching his arm. “Though I’ve never seen smoke acting like that.”
“I felt,” he hesitated. “Power use.”
“Fire elemental perhaps?”
Xin gasped. “Did you see that?”
Tier nodded. The smoke had cleared, just for a brief moment, and he saw a city against a low mountain. He took half a step, trying to see through the clouds swirling back over the city. Xin gripped his arm.
“That is a really long drop.” She said when he glanced down at her in surprise. She looked a bit flustered, releasing his arm and crossing hers.
“I’ll be care.” He looked back towards the cloud. “If that was smoke, the city could be on fire.”
“Do you think a fire elemental might have done it?” Xin asked. A strong breeze kicked up. She leaned closer, staring towards the smoke. “How would we get over there?”
Tier looked down towards the canyons. “That looks like it might be a road right to the city.” He pointed at a canyon that curved toward it. “We could make for that city, see if we can find who was using power.”
“And hope they’re friendly?”
Tier snorted and glanced at her. “You were.”
“Geb wasn’t.” She pointed out.
“He was protecting himself.” Tier touched her arm and pointed to the distant tree. “Is that what I think it is?”
“A tree?” She grinned. “This is amazing. It’s so peaceful.”
“It is.” Tier stepped around her, moving closer to the chains. “It’s very high up though.”
Xin laughed. “Are you going to have a problem getting down?”
“Of course not!” He motioned her ahead of him. “Lets go tell them what we saw. We’ll head out in the morning.”
“You’re insane.” Rale scowled.
“I survived.” Tier pulled out the map, staring down at it. “This is the crossroads.” He frowned.
“That city isn’t on the map.” Xin said.
“We’ll work our way north.” Tier glanced at Geb. “Any idea what that city is.”
The boy shrugged. “I’m just an ignorant tribesman.”
Xin lightly swatted his shoulder. “Geb, you are a font of lore we’ve never heard. I wouldn’t call that ignorant.”
Tier was in the process of tucking the map back into his travel packs when Rale touched his shoulder, jerking his head to one side.
Tier followed, frowning.
“Is this a wise move, cousin? I’ve never heard of much exploration in this area.”
“Is any of this wise?” Tier crossed his arms and glanced back at Xin.
“We turn her and Geb over to the Seeress, and she’s going to kill them both.” Rale hissed.
Tier looked at him. “We don’t know that for sure.”
“Tier, I’ve seen the looks between the two of you,”
“Rale,” Tier began.
“I’d have to be blind to not see it. Are you willing to risk her life on the chance that the Seeress won’t kill them?” Rale shook his head.
“What’s your interest?” Tier crossed his arms.
Rale looked toward Xin and Geb, and then back at Tier. “All my life I’ve been taught elementals are monsters. But those two are anything but monstrous. And I’m certain they’re not the only elementals left, not like we’ve been led to believe. The Seeress did gave us an out.”
Tier frowned. “Rale, if we tried anything, aside from what she’s expressly ordered, she’ll know. She’ll read our minds.”
“And she’d kill us.” Rale’s shoulders sagged. “What do we do?”
“For now? We go north.” Tier looked back at Xin. “From there,” he shrugged. “We’ll see.”
The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct th.
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Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun
Thanks for reading.