Ari lives in a world where everyone is born with a black mark on their wrist. This mark determines their abilities and their rank in life. For Ari, her mark is outside of the main four, and this makes her an outcast, forced into hiding where she is and who she is.

When the Queen finds out she's been hiding under her own roof, she has to run, leaving her family behind, to find sanctuary in one of the hidden colonies. This plunges her into a war that she is now one of the main pieces in. Now she has to train, to fight to save the very country that abandoned her.


4. Chapter 4

Chapter 4

I went first. Faben and I stood on opposite sides of the arena, both in our battle stances, ready to fight.

“The rules are as follows,” he said calmly, “No major damage, obviously no killing, and you are only allowed to use your Ice magic.”

“Fair enough.”

“Ready?” he asked.

“Always.” I crouched lower, closer to the ice.

He threw his hands toward me. A large pillar of ice hit me at an angle, sending me sprawling on the ground. I blew some hair out of my eyes, sending him a daggered glare.

“You said you were ready.” He smirked. Well if that was how this was going to go.

I slammed my hands down on the ice, encasing him in a frozen cocoon, holding his arms down. He broke out of it almost instantly.

“You don’t need your arms free to control the ice, just your mind.” Said Faben.

Fine, if I couldn’t disarm him, I’d have to disable him. I broke off a chunk of ice, willing it to shift shape in my palm, and pushed into a roll. Just at the end I whipped out my hand, throwing the now knife shaped shard of ice at Faben. It was safe; something I already knew how to do, just with a new material.

On the way to him, in mid air, I pulled at my connection to the shard, changing its form. It wrapped around his neck, the knife now a snake-like structure, cutting off his air supply. He made a gasping noise, trying to suck in gulps of air but failing. He sunk to the ground, mouth hanging open, and tapped the ground three times. I released my hold on the ice.

He took in a huge, deep breath, coughing slightly at the sudden release of pressure.

“Impressive, I wasn’t expecting that.” He gave me an appraising look.

“I was trained well.”

“I can see that,” he nodded, “Good tactics; do something your opponent isn’t expecting.”

He looked a bit lost for a moment, rubbing his throat absentmindedly.

“I thought that was going to last a bit longer,” he stood back up, removing his hand and placing it back by his side, “I think you’re fine on combat training. Maybe we should stick to techniques, distance training, that sort of thing with you.”

I straightened up and nodded; that made sense. I glanced back at Kane. He was just standing at a safe distance, staring off into nothing. It was odd seeing him act so much like a Water mage; I’d never seen one up close, only heard of them. But at the same time, it felt comfortable; he wasn’t as intrusive as the others. I had the sense that he would just leave me to my business, exactly what I preferred. He’d be easy company.

We swapped places, him taking his spot in the arena opposite Faben, me sitting where he watched my battle from. He gave me a quick glance before they started, maybe even a small smile, but I was too far away to really be sure.

His fight took longer than mine; both boys taking turns throwing the other around. I imagined when we returned to our hut Kane would be extremely worn out.

Faben was now prepared for any tricks like mine, so they both just took turns throwing each other around the arena. Right then Kane seemed to be winning; Faben was getting shakier on his feet after every hit.

But then one massive hit threw Kane straight into the edge of the arena. I heard a loud crack and a groan escape his lips.

I was up straight away, running toward him at lightning speed. His eyes were closed when I reached him and I felt the side of his face, turning his head; checking for any wounds.

“Who was it who set the ‘no major damage’ rule?” My voice was a hiss. I could be fierce when I felt one of my own was in danger, and right now Kane was the person I indentified with most in the colony.

“He was giving as good as he got.” Faben sounded defensive, but I heard the worry in his voice also.

“I’m okay,” Kane’s eyes opened slowly, thank goodness, “Just a little bumped and bruised,” he sat up, holding his hand out to Faben who shook it after a slight pause, “The best man won.”

I chuckled, then realised I’d been staring into his eyes for a bit too long. I shifted back, giving him some air.

“You’d better stay awake tonight just in case,” Faben scanned Kane’s eyes, checking each one, “You might have a concussion.”

Kane turned to me, “That’s fine, Ari can keep an eye on me; make sure I don’t nod off.”

I smiled and nodded. Faben raised an eyebrow, “A girl on your room overnight?” he pursed his lips, “Well alright, but if you feel any dizziness, nausea, neck pain,” he narrowed his eyes in warning, “Anything, come straight to me; we have a healer in the compound that could help with any major injuries.”

“You have a healer?” I was impressed; it was an extremely rare ability. Most healers, once their power is discovered, are revered within their community.

“Yes, he’s not very powerful, but he comes in handy to take the edge off massive injuries. He’s saved quite a few lives whilst he’s been here.” He wore an expression of pride.

I looked back at Kane, double checking for any other injuries; any bleeding. His suit was still a clean, bright white. That was another plus to fighting on the ice; it was almost impossible to get your clothes dirty.

“I feel fine at the moment, bit of a headache but that’s it.” Typical man, refusing to admit to pain until it was too late.

“And if it gets any worse, you will tell me,” I put as much force behind my words as I could, “I don’t care if you’ll feel less of a man, you just better not die one me in the night okay?” I playfully shoved him in the leg. He sent a glare of mock anger back at me.

“Less than twenty four hours together and already you can’t live without me, is that it?” I laughed, louder than I had in a while.

“Anyway,” Faben interrupted our banter, “I think we’re done for the day. Why don’t you both go back to your hut; you’ve learnt a lot for a first session.”

“Okay.” I reached for Kane’s hand, pulling him up with me. I was tempted to hold some of his weight; help carry him back, but one look at his determined face told me he’d be fine on his own.

As he moved, one of his sleeves rode up, revealing the black mark that was the sign of all elementals, including Optiva.

It was a small mark, just on the inside of our wrists. It was an image of four arrows pointing outwards, like the four points on a compass. I liked to think it symbolised the four elements and the connection between them all. Every elemental had that mark, including the Optiva. That was what had made it so hard for my parents to figure out what I was; they had to wait until my abilities started to emerge, which was around the age of six or seven for most children.

Kane caught me looking and pulled his sleeve back down over it, hiding it from my view again.

We spent most of the walk back in silence, thinking about our new skills. At least, I assumed that was what he was thinking of. I just thought about the ice, I felt closer to it than before the training. Like the ability to control it made it more solid to me, more real. I always felt like I was bonding with an element when I bended it, like I wasn’t just connecting to the physical element of it, but its emotional side also; its soul if you will. I kind of felt sorry for the non-elementals; the ones with what seemed like randomly allocated powers. They never had this feeling.

When we re-entered the hut the training area was empty. Daxon and Saskia weren’t fighting anymore.

“Dax?” Kane yelled, but there was no response. He turned back to me, “Looks like it’s just us. Anything you particularly want to do with our free time?” He smirked, but I saw him wince from his head injury.

“Very funny, no,” I folded my arms, “And we probably shouldn’t do anything for a while; you’ve got to rest.”

“Oh yeah, my concussion.” His tone was annoyingly nonchalant.

“Yeah, that.” I stared him down.

“Fine, want to go sit down in my room?”

I gave him a look that I hope made it clear that nothing was going to happen. He gave a small laugh.

“I didn’t imply anything, that was all in your mind.”

“Yeah, well it better not be in yours,” I glared at him, “I’m sitting in the chair.”

He rolled his eyes, “Of course,” he said and walked into his room, gesturing for me to follow.

His room wasn’t much different to mine; I guess that was the standard design. Though he had added a few personal touches; a plant in one corner of the desk, a few photographs on the walls of stunning landscapes—home maybe?—and the occasional item of clothing strewn about the floor.

“Nice room,” I scanned the walls again, “You don’t have any photos of your family?”

Kane sat down on the bed and looked at the floor.

“No,” he scuffed one of his feet, “My family died when I was very young.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” I felt like I’d put my foot in my mouth.

“It’s alright, I don’t remember them really,” a sad smile turned up a corner of his mouth, “I was taken in by a local orphanage; other water elementals with no parents or just no place else to go.”

“Then why don’t you have any pictures of them?” I frowned; maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up.

“I was a bit of a loner. I mean, most waters aren’t the warmest of people, but I still never got along with anyone that much,” he shrugged, “That was why it was so nice coming here; different people, a new start, maybe an unbelievable future for any one of us.”

I snorted lightly; unbelievable was a good word for it.

“And I thought my start in life was a bit rough.” I lowered myself into the chair by the desk and gave Kane a friendly smile. He looked up, curiosity in his gaze.

“You’re an orphan too?” he asked.

“No, well, my dad died when I was young,” he gave me a look of pity which I’m sure mirrored one I’d given him earlier, “He was the one who trained me in everything; knife throwing, self defence, archery.” My voice trailed off at archery, my mind wandering to the beautiful bow I’d seen in the training room earlier. I wondered if it was still there.

“Hey, do you want to see something interesting?” I asked. Interesting was an understatement, but I think we both needed a bit of a distraction. That, and I really wanted to get back to something I knew how to do.

“Sure,” Kane nodded and winced again, “I don’t have to do anything do I?”

“Only standing and watching,” I assured him, “And maybe some applause if you feel you have to.” I threw him a cheeky grin and he smiled back; a successful distraction.

Out in the training room the walls were still covered in weapons. I scanned across the rows of knives and sticks till I reached my bow.

“There you are.” She felt just like I imagined; light and smooth, but extremely well balanced. I slung the arrows across my back in their holster and turned to Kane, “Ever done archery before?”

“Nope,” he shook his head, a smile on his face like he was just waiting to see what I would do next.

“Follow me,” I headed toward the door but turned back when he hesitated, “What’s wrong?”

“We aren’t allowed out of the compound unsupervised.” He didn’t sound worried, just like he was stating a fact. I sighed and put my hands on my hips, he was such a water mage; rule followers, goody two shoes and just plain boring.

“We’re not going far. Besides, I have a pretty good weapon right here,” I shook the bow, “And it’s not like we can’t take care of ourselves.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” He trailed off a bit at the end.

“Well okay then, come on.” I waved him on and kept on walking.

* * * * * * *

We kept up a solid pace until we reached the edge of the forest. I smiled looking up at the branches towering above; they were leafless from the cold but I still got a little rush of happiness at being in a familiar territory.

“Okay,” I got an arrow ready to shoot, “Pick something, as far away as you want.”

Kane raised an eyebrow at me, “Sure,” he scanned the forest for a while, then pointed off into the distance, “That tree.”

I followed the direction of his arm, “The one with the big knot in the trunk?” He nodded.

Too easy I thought and raised the bow, pulled the string back—it felt very powerful, a good longbow—aimed and let go. I felt the light breeze of the arrow passing close by my cheek, and heard the thunk of it hitting its target. Bullseye.

“Make it a bit harder next time.” I smirked and nudged him with the end of the bow.

“Fine,” he smirked back and pointed again, “How about that tree stump?”

I searched the trees till I found it; very far away, almost at the end of my range. Almost.

I quickly set up another arrow and let it loose, flying straight into the cut off trunk. This time my grin was huge, and a little smug.

“Show off.” Kane shoved my shoulder. I dramatically stumbled backwards, a mock expression of shock on my face. He laughed, his mind far away from our earlier conversation.

I paused, hand on my hip and sent him an expectant look, “Well?” I asked.

“Well what?”

“Aren’t you going to go get my arrows back?” I tilted my head and he snorted; unsure whether I was serious or not.

“Hey, I’m injured,” he tapped his forehead, “Remember?”

“Oh, poor baby,” I pouted, “I thought you were ‘fine’,” I mimed quotes in the air, “So much for being all strong and manly huh?” I got a glare for that.

“Alright,” he set off into the woods, “But if I get some sort of brain aneurism from all this manual labour you’re making me do,” he shot me a look over his shoulder, “I’m coming back and haunting you.”

I laughed.

“Don’t think I’m lying.” He warned.

Once he’d retrieved my arrows I put them back in their holder and just stared at Kane for a moment.

“What?” he asked, suddenly self conscious.

“Nothing, it’s just—” I broke off, searching for the words, “You’re hard to figure out.”

“Figure out how?” he frowned.

“You seem so thoughtful most of the time; so... Water, and then you come out with these jokes and you’re laughing...” I trailed off, “You seem like two different people in one body.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“No, more like a confusing thing.” I smiled; he looked odd. Not sure if he should be offended or not.

“You’re not allowed outside our border unsupervised.” The voice appeared as if from nowhere, shocking us out of our conversation. Kane muttered an ‘I told you so’ under his breath. I decided to play the innocent new girl.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t know.” I flashed the owner of the voice a grin which I hoped looked apologetic. He was just another guard; they seemed to have a lot of those.

He grunted, “Well now you do,” he turned to Kane, “And I know you know the rules.”

Kane dropped his gaze to the ground whilst I tried to look sad. The guard’s eyes softened slightly, a barely perceptible change.

“Don’t let it happen again, come on.” He gestured with his arm toward the compound and started to lead us back. Kane and I sighed and exchanged a look, then set off behind him. He nudged me when we were halfway.

“For someone who’s only been here a day you’re a lot of trouble.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” I tilted my head up, pointing my nose at the sky. Kane rolled his eyes at me. The guard gave me a disapproving look over his shoulder.

He dropped us off back at the training hut where I dropped off my bow and arrows back on their hook and was on the way back into Kane’s room when Daxon came out of his and almost collided with me.

“Oh, sorry,” he smiled, checking out my suit, “So they’ve got you both all decked out now huh?”

“Yeah, we’re on magic training. Apparently it’s compulsory.” I fiddled with some of the material.

“Fair enough,” he looked behind me at Kane, “So you guys know each other now then?” There was something in his voice, if I hadn’t thought it was completely unnecessary I’d have thought it was jealousy. I sighed; boys.

“We do.” Oh great, now Kane was doing it too. I tried to give Dax an unimpressed glare, but he was too busy staring down Kane.

“So I’m on my way to the food hall, want to join me?” Dax focused back on me.

“Not tonight thanks, I’m not good with being around too many people,” I moved to stand beside Kane, “Besides; I’ve got to make sure Kane doesn’t go to sleep. He got hit pretty badly in training.”

“Oh okay,” he shrugged, only mildly annoyed, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

“Yep.” I smiled as he headed out, and then followed Kane back into his room after grabbing some food from my backpack.

I spent the rest of the night just hanging out, keeping an eye on Kane, and reading a book that he lent to me. It was pretty uneventful; luckily nothing more happened with his injury and eventually he convinced me to take a small nap after seeing my eyes drooping. The morning came faster than I expected, and with it another day of training.

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