“Velius, it’s time to go.” Amaris called out to the unusual young Dragon. It had been a few years since the dark Dragoness found his egg in the forest and things seemed to be going well so far. Velius had grown a good amount though he was still very young for a Dragon. His wings had strengthened enough so he could glide for short periods of time and he was steadily getting better at flying. Straight, pointed, golden horns had begun to grow on his head with a row of spines and fur that ran down his back.
“Do I have to?” He whined trying to claw at the ground as his adopted mother lifted him up by his tail. The two were returning home from a rather pleasant trip to Hala. Usually Amaris disliked going to town, but she wanted Velius to see around and play with some of his friends. The last thing she wanted was for him to end up as an outcast like herself.
“It’s almost dark out, Velius. I’ve told you many times that it isn’t safe out alone-especially at night.” Sightings of the weird creature in the forest had risen in the last few weeks but there was never any trace of such a beast whenever someone went out to investigate the rumors. While Amaris believed that everyone was probably just seeing some weird patterns of shadows formed by the trees and plants in the forest. However, she was not going to take any risks.
“Fine.” Velius muttered and let the Dragoness carry him back to their home without further protest. He was thankfully obedient most of the time, though his curiosity often got him into all sorts of mischief. “Can we explore the forest some more tomorrow then?”
“What have I said about that?” She muttered, making sure not to drop Velius as she spoke- not that she has not done so in the past.
“It’s not safe for you to go wandering about there.”
“But you’ll be there too!” He pleaded and tried to look up at his mother to give her his most innocent face. “Anyway, the monster everyone talks about only comes out at night!”
“There is no monster there, Velius. It’s all just silly superstition. If there were something like that in the forest, it would have been confirmed by now.” Confirmed by some sort of dead body or an attack, but Amaris left that part out.
“So if there isn’t a monster, why can’t I go?”
“Because-“ Amaris realized she had destroyed her own argument against him going.
“Alright, I’ll think about it!”
Sure enough, the next morning Amaris found herself walking through the forest with Velius riding on her back between her wings which were folded against her side. The forest was rather quiet and calm despite the rumors of some strange, supposedly bloodthirsty, creature. “It’s really green out here!” Velius looked in awe at all of the trees and plants that were scattered in high density across the area. “Are all forests like this?”
“Most are, but they all have different types of plants and trees.” A loud rustling brought Velius to his feet.
“What was that?”
“Don’t worry,” Amaris caught of glimpse of white amongst the trees. “It’s only-“
“It’s the monster!” Velius jumped in shock and ended up falling off Amaris and into a patch of muddy ground. A nearby fern was lit up in flames.
“-Soyala.” Amaris sighed. A large white bear walked out and stomped the, thankfully small, fire out with one large paw before nuzzling Velius with her nose. She was a large white bear- not a polar bear though. She had long black claws on her front paws that looked like they could tear through just about anything. Although bears were usually seen as aggressive and stubborn, a gentle gleam could be seen in her dark eyes. She was wise- but fierce when she needed to be.
“That makes seven elements now.”
“What?” Velius, still slightly in shock, looked up in confusion.
“Soyala, you know better than to sneak up on him like that.” Amaris gave the bear a stern look.
“It’s all harmless fun.” Velius, finally relaxing as he realized that it was only Soyala, began to swat at the small diamond-shaped pendant that hung around the bear’s neck. There was a crystal in the middle of the pendant with the symbol for ice within. On the back of the pendant there was some ancient text engraved in the silver metal. This pendant was the sign of one of the elemental warrior. Each one had their own pendant that bore the symbol of the element on it and had different text on the back.
“Oh yes, like the time Itzal scared him last week.”
“That was but a little tremor.” Velius had proven capable of using many elements, though he was not aware of it. Aalok occasionally reminded her that they would have to train the young Dragon to control these abilities at one point or another, but Amaris wanted to put that off for as long as possible.
“Oh, yes- it only collapsed one or two buildings.” Amaris retorted. Velius, oblivious to the fact that the conversation was about him, scrambled up onto Soyala’s back and settled into her thick fur to keep warm as the weather around Hala was usually cool or cold- never hot. Had Soyala realized how muddy the young Dragon had gotten when he fell of Amaris, she may have reconsidered allowing him to climb on her back.
“Those buildings were expected to collapse soon anyway. He only made it happen earlier.” Soyala fluffed up her fur. “His abilities are harmless- for the time being at least.”
Amaris was silent for a few short moments as she watched Velius. Soyala was a regular visitor so the odd Dragon had grown quite close with her over time. “What did you want, anyway?”
“Mommy, what’s that?” Velius motioned to something in the forest, but neither Amaris or Soyala turned to look.
“In a moment, dear.” She looked expectantly at the bear.
“To deliver a gift from Aalok.” The Eastern Dragon, though Amaris would never openly admit this, had been a great help with caring for Velius since he had been born.
“A gift?” Soyala reached into the bag she often carried around with her and pulled out something small and shiny. It was a pendent- much like the one Soyala was wearing, except that instead of a icy blue crystal, it had a very dark, almost pitch black, crystal. The symbol for the dark element could be seen through the clear gem. The metal around it was silver in color with a long thin chain attached to it.
“He had Tamotsu make it for you.”
“Tell Aalok I don’t want it.”
“It’s the mark of an elemental warrior. As much as he likes to believe that I’m one, he should know by now that I have no intentions of joining.”
“He predicted you would say something like that.”
“Then why bother?”
“He wants you to take it regardless. It only has meaning if you give it meaning.” Soyala gave a sympathetic look to the dark elemental. Aalok was always trying to be kind to Amaris, but sometimes he tried a little too hard.
Amaris grabbed he pendant. Not even she could have denied the elegance of the dark gem. It shone brightly even though it’s color was that of night. The details Tamotsu was capable of putting on even small pieces of metal like this one always amazed the Dragoness. Even with her sharpest claw could she etch a design so neat and precise. “And why isn’t Aalok delivering this pendant himself, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“We both agreed that the chances of him returning home unscathed were very slim had he done so.”
Amaris grinned. “That’s probably true.” The Dragoness could imagine taking a few swipes at Aalok for even thinking of this.
“Speaking of Aalok…” Soyala looked up to the sky where the Eastern Dragon was flying in the unusual way that his wingless species managed to do.
“Aalok! Get you tail over here!” Amaris growled. The light elemental came down, cautiously avoiding tree branches, and landed on the ground next to Soyala.
“Is something wrong?” He looked at Amaris in bemusement.
“Explain this.” She held up the pendant.
“Oh… that!” Aalok grinned nervously. “I thought it would be nice to give you something to celebrate the fact you haven’t tried to kill anyone in a while- and vice versa.” Soyala chuckled lightly just before he whispered in her ear. “I also thought you were going to give that to her sooner!”
“With the emblem of an elemental warrior?”
“It wasn’t just my idea! Everyone agreed upon this!”
“Well, Onatah and Shant no, but the rest of us did.” That was not a surprise. Shant and Onatah, mostly the latter, were very aggressive against Amaris and made little effort to conceal their dislike. Shant, at least, did try to make an effort to treat her with respect despite his dislike of dark elementals. Onatah, on the other hand, made extra effort to make Amaris’ life miserable.
“Agreed doesn’t necessarily mean they supported the idea.”
“Must you be so negative about everything?” Aalok sighed.
“Velius, what is it?”
“Can I go explore?”
Amaris looked at Soyala. “Soyala, can you keep an eye on him?”
“Of course.” The bear lumbered after the young Dragon as he scampered off into the jungle.
“So, what is this really about?” She said as the two were out of sight. Aalok looked away from Amaris. “I know something is going on here.”
Aalok began to look uncomfortable. He never liked being the bearer of bad news. “Garan thinks something terrible is going to come. He isn’t sure when or what, but-“
“Garan is young and inexperienced. He could be wrong.” Amaris cut Aalok off. Garan was the youngest- and newest- member of the elemental warriors. Amaris did not know much about him other than the fact he was a rare type of Wolf that were thought to have died out long ago.
“He may be young, but he’s one of the best spirit elementals we’ve had in a long time. I wouldn’t dismiss his concerns so quickly- the nightmares he’s been having recently have not only kept him from getting sleep, but the rest of us as well. If he is even a tiny bit correct, things won’t end well.”
“What does this have to do with me, anyway? If you’re asking for my help, the answer is no.”
“No, we aren’t asking you to help us, but…” Amaris studied the Eastern Dragon’s expression. Aalok was terrible at hiding his emotions and at the moment he was clearly very nervous and concerned. “It’s Velius we’re worried about.”
“He’s a child, Aalok. He poses no threat to anyone and has never shown any signs of aggression.” Yes, the odd Dragon was very curious and mischievous at times, but he was well behaved and usually acted upon good intentions.
“Not yet, maybe, but he’s already showing signs of using over half of the elements. That is something you don’t see often, if ever- especially in one as young as Velius.” It was true that mastering elements that you were not born with was a difficult task, but it was not impossible. It was unheard of for anyone to have competent skill in all twelve of the elements though.
“Only half.” Aalok brushed over the burnt foliage with the tip of his tail and gave her a questioning look. “A bug bit Velius, so I killed it.” Amaris did not want Aalok or anyone else to know that Velius had fire abilities. Fire elementals were considered highly dangerous due to how volatile their abilities tended to be.
Unfortunately, Aalok could tell that she was lying- but he didn’t push the issue. “If you say so. Anyway, Garan is concerned that Velius’ abilities will be too much for him to control sooner or later. That quake he created last week only solidified his concerns.”
“Wait- Garan told Itzal to scare Velius, didn’t he?” Itzal was easily the most intimidating of the elemental warriors. He could not be described as mean, but he was not really gentle either.
“Well-“ Aalok looked away from Amaris.
“And Nereus approved of that?”
“Aalok, he’s only a child!” The Dragoness growled with a protective fury over her adopted son. “He isn’t some sort of test subject for you or any one else to experiment with!”
“Amaris, calm down. You know Nereus won’t allow any harm to come to Velius. He just wants us to keep an eye on him for anything unusual… aside from the obvious. As far as we’re aware, there has never been a Dragon like him before- if he really is a Dragon. We have no idea if he possess any other types of abilities or traits besides the elements.”
“He may have fur and feathered wings, but I have no doubt that he is a Dragon. If you want to keep an eye on him, please do so without trying to frighten him or treating him like he’s different. He deserves to live a normal life like everyone else.”
“Amaris, you don’t understand.”
“Understand what?” She hissed, losing what little patience she had left.
“Nereus wants to…” Aalok paused as he tried to put the words together in a way that would not result in his immediate death. “Nereus wants to take Velius to base so we can all keep an eye on him and watch over his training.” The light elemental braced himself for what was to come. He would not blame Amaris if she took it all out on him- as long as it was not anyone else.
Amaris, however, was lost for words. While the unusual Dragon was not her own child, she was just as protective over him as if she really were his mother. “I won’t allow it.”
“Nereus himself ordered this, Amaris.”
“Did he say what would happen if I refused?”
Aalok shook his head. “No, he didn’t, but I promise you- he is not going to take no for an answer.”
The dark elemental still could not believe what she was hearing. “And you’re okay with this too?”
“No, Amaris. I tried to dissuade him from doing this, Soyala, Ebele, and Tamotsu were also against it, but that quake was the last straw.”
“So you’re going to take my son away from me just because he can use more than one element?”
Aalok gestured to the pendant in Amaris’ possession. “Look at what I gave you.” The darkly colored gem shone brightly, even in the shade of the forest. For the most hated element, it gave a beautiful glow. “Nereus- and many of the others- agreed to allow you to join us so that you can still be with Velius.”
“So I have to join up with you just to be with Velius?”
“It’s just an offer.” Aalok seemed rather disheartened at the whole mess. Amaris realized that he really did not want any of this to happen. “Nereus will find you tomorrow morning to hear your answer.” At least they were giving her a little time to think on it- or to run for it. “Oh, if you try to run, Garan will be after you.” Or not.
“Leave.” She growled softly. The light elemental bowed his head and began to head away when Soyala returned. Immediately both Amaris and Aalok saw that something was wrong. Velius was not with her. “Where is he?” The dark Dragon growled with such fury that both Soyala and Aalok were startled.
“I do not know.” Soyala exchanged a quick glace with Aalok. “He was there- then he wasn’t. I never took my eyes off of him.”
“Looks like he used a spirit or shadow ability.” Aalok could sense that the Dragoness’ fury had subsided to concern for her son. “If that is the case, he could be anywhere. Soyala, help Amaris search. I’ll go get some help.”