The Elementals have ruled over the land of Daevarith for all of kingdom's recorded history. The Fire Elementals hold strong to the top of the social hierarchy; followed by their counterparts, the Water Elementals; then the Earth; and finally, Air. Those deemed powerless by Placement, a team funded by the Daevarithian government to place each person in their proper class, fall to the very bottom of the chain and are called Blanks.

Fourteen year old Arcana Mason, a Firehead as they are not so endearingly called, was born to two of the highest regarded Fire Elementals in all of the land and has lived a life of ease and luxury. The best food, the best clothing, the best education- only the finest things in life, and they're simply handed to her on a shiny silver platter.

Yet when she and her private tutor, an Earth Elemental named Gilligan Troye, make a discovery while analyzing an old Blanks census run by Placement itself, privileged Arcana will stop at nothing to discover the meaning behind their findings, even if that makes her a target for those dedicated to keeping the secret hidden... Even if it means loosing the lavish lifestyle she's always known.

What if the whispers are all true? What if the old folk legends aren't as fantastical as they might have seemed? A power much greater than even that of those with Fire talents may be lurking in the shadows of the impoverished, the powerless, and Arcana is determined to find it regardless of the costs.


2. Prologue [ P ]

I stared intently at my pale reflection, which glimmered darkly back at me with a morphed and sinister stare as it reflected off the two-way glass in the examination room, mocking me, bringing to the surface my deepest fear: that today, I would disappoint my parents. I knew that behind the glass men and woman roamed around checking the devices that would inevitably deliver my fate. They were called Placement, nameless and faceless drones of the government with no other duty than to assign elementals to their appropriate rank. My parents, who were awaiting this day on pins and needles, were two of the most well-known and respected Fire Elementals in all of Daevarith. Captain Burkas Mason and Lady Zelina Mason, flaming Firehead extraordinaires! Though I'd never let the two of them catch me referring to them by such disrespectful slang. "Examination will commence in T-minus three minutes," a monotonous voice called out through the loud speaker.

"Umm... Hello?" I called out, my voice shaking as I spoke and reverberating throughout the room. "I- I don't think I can do this!" It felt as if my body were being overrun by ice, and I shivered, narrowing my eyes at the dead bolted door that hindered my escape from that dreadful room. I sighed heavily as there was no response to my plea. After all, it was my time. At the ripe pliable age of ten, Placement swooped in, gathering any child who met the requirements to determine what type of elemental magic he or she would practice, if any, therefore simultaneously determine the child's societal ranking. "T-minus two minutes."

Fire users were said to be the most powerful of the elementals, and for that reason, they were the top of the food chain. Nothing was out of their reach, especially particularly powerful fire users such as my parents. My father commanded the Daevarithian army, and my mother was a well-studied and much admired socialite. The next level down on the chain was the Water users. As the balance to the Fire Elemental, they were also extremely powerful, but still fell lower in rank as Water Elementals had less capability for destruction than their counterparts did. The tier below water was reserved for Earth users. Sturdy and reliable, their magic was strong, but with a higher level of consistency, Earth Elementals couldn't cause as much damage as the higher ranks. The bottom rung of the elemental hierarchy were the air users. Air magic was wily and unpredictable, often falling far from the mark and labeling Air Elementals as the weakest of the bunch. But the worst and most shamed calling was that of a blank, the child of an elemental who exhibited no powers at all. Blanks were the scum of society and were treated as such.

My greatest fear was that I wouldn't have a talent for fire using. My parents would never be happy with any of the other ranks, not with the stature they held. I couldn't imagine the chaos that would erupt were Arcana Mason to be anything but a fire elemental. Even thinking otherwise was preposterous to my family. I wrung my hands together in sheer anticipation. The wait was killing me. If I had to go through the trials, the least they could go was get the ball rolling! "T-minus one minute."

"Finally!" I huffed under my breath, carefully counting down each second. You've got this, Arcana, I told myself. Nothing was going to stop me from proving I was worth something, certainly not a silly little test. I relaxed my stiffened body, letting my muscles loosen and my chest fall as I exhaled deeply. This was it... the beginning of the rest of my life. Or the end, a little voice in the back of my head snickered, but I pushed the thought away. Failure was not an option for a Mason, a fact my father had drilled in my head at a very young age. When the word zero formed on my lips, the lights above me flickered, diming to a faint golden glow.

"Initiate Air protocol." The robotic voice rang out through the silence, and I had to remind myself to breathe. The chair I sat on sunk down into the ground below me, and I fell heavily to the linoleum-tiled floor with a plunk. I grumbled in irritation as I lifted myself up, brushing at my dusty tights. I peered at small metal pipes that extended out from the walls, pouring buckets and buckets of sand into the small room. A light breeze picked up, swirling the fine particles around in a vortex. As it picked up speed, the pieces grated against me, rubbing my skin raw and making it bleed in some spots. I tried as desperately as I could to will it away, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't.

"I can't!" I howled in pain, salty tears streaming down my face and onto my lips, spilling into my mouth as a yelped. "Make it stop!" My skin burned so badly, and I thought the force of the whirlwind would rip my face right off. Just as the agony was about to surmount the level I could bear, the dirt devil fell to the ground, vanishing as quickly as it had come.

"Air protocol failed. Reset." I closed my eyes as the sand was suctioned from the room. I wasn't in the mood to have a microscopic bit of rock floating around in my eye, scratching it all up and making it impossible to see clearly. "Initiate Earth protocol." As I blinked my eyes open, the first jagged spear jutted from the ground a few feet away from me. I bolted and dodged as more and more shot from the ground, appearing faster as time went on. Before long, I found myself pressed up against the wall in the corner or the room, eying what looked to be a foot of empty space separating me from the nearest stone. Two more popped up then a third right before my nose. I glanced around, realizing I was out of space, and clamped my eyes shut. I let out a squeak as I anticipated being skewered by a needle-sharp column of solid earth.

"Earth protocol failed. Reset." I dropped to the ground, my legs feeling like jelly despite the sense of relief that washed over me. As the last of the jutting stoned slipped below the surface, I picked myself up, knowing there was still more to come. "Initiate Water protocol." From the same tubes that had emptied sand into the room earlier, water flowed at a steady pace, slowly filling up the room, first reaching my ankles, then my waist not long after. Panic started to consume me as the rushing water sloshed at the level of my chin. I floated up with the current, my feet dangling helplessly, until my head bumped against the celling, and the water level began to rise again, quickly submerging me completely. I held my breath, opening my eyes in the fresh water as I searched for a way to get more oxygen, but there was nothing. My thoughts felt fuzzy, and my vision was clouded as if I were looking though frosted glass. I was on the verge of blacking out as water started to drain out. I sputtered, coughing up water violently as I gasped for air. "Water protocol failed. Reset."

"No, really," I muttered, still feeling as if I had liquid swishing around in my lungs. "I couldn't tell." That meant I only had one test left then. Either I was a Fire Elemental or a Blank. The realization ignited my resolve. I was no Blank. I couldn't be. I bit my lip, glaring at the panel that hid the control room. "Is that the worst you've got?" I hissed, tossing my hands in the air challengingly.

"Initiate Fire protocol." Finally, the moment I'd been waiting for. Lights flickered, the light in the room fading, when suddenly the flashed out entirely, throwing the room into complete darkness. I sat waiting for something to happen, but it seem that there was nothing. I shivered as an icy chill clung to my skin, making goosebumps rise to my skin. I tried rubbing my arms, hoping the friction would warm me up a little, but it only seemed to be getting colder and my damp skin was not helping in the slightest. If it got any colder in the room, I might die of hypothermia before I got out of there. That was it! I focused as hard as I could, drawing from every corner of my body as I imagined heat flowing from my skin. My eyes were still pressed shut when the temperature in the room slowly started to creep up. "Fire protocol passed. Examination complete." Those words cued me to look around. My body glowed with a faint orange hue, sizzling with heat.

"I'm a Fire Elemental," I said in disbelief, staring at my hands, "I'm a Fire Elemental!" I was ready to jump for joy, but fatigue swallowed up any energy I had for celebration as I collapsed to the ground in a moment of weakness. I lay on my back, staring up at the white pockmarked ceiling, as the main door swung open. A woman in casual business attire, the sole human who watched over and regulated Placement, stood above me, a drone at her side.

"Take her to the Infirmary, and get her settled in the Examination Recovery ward," she commanded the bot. "I will inform her parents of the results. They will be eager to see her." She turned on her heels, fleeing from the room as if it were some accursed place. The last image I saw as I fell into the void of unconsciousness was the cold black eyes of the Placement drone as it lifted my small body into its arms, cradling me against the sleek metal chest plate that covered the wiring and mechanics that made the contraption come to life.

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