By Nicola Rakuljic
The Fire Tribe
You lick your lips as you stare at the board, trying to make sense of your teacher’s writing. Why were the notes written about the creation of the Water Tribe if you were in the Air Tribe and the whole class was talking about the Elemental Valley?
“Now remember, the people who have left in search of the Elemental Valley never come back. No one ever sees or hears from them again. Do not try to follow their lead. After all, who wants to leave this beautifully peaceful and ordered tribe?”
You half-listen as you scribble your notes down.
You don’t care that a bit of ink has smudged itself onto the cuff of your crisp, white shirt.
You don’t care that your tie isn’t straight, nor do you care how scuffed your shoes are.
You don’t care that your writing is just scribbles instead of the perfect print you had been taught.
You don’t care that the princess is mentioned at the end of class, or that it is compulsory to attend the ceremony and listen to her speech.
You don’t care about anything other than the fact that you have made your decision.
You are going to go to the Elemental Valley and escape the ordered life of the Air Tribe.
Yellow plains stretched out away from the window, contrasting with the blue, cloudless sky. Boundless dunes raised above, dipping back down to begin again. It amazes me how each dune was different, yet they all looked the same. It reminds me of my classmates, alike but differing in the slightest personality trait or look. One of the things that is always the same is their opinions, like the fact that sand makes up the dunes.
I turn my attention back to the substitute teacher who looks at me disappointingly. I sigh and drop my head down to look at my work. I have barely written anything and we have to hand them in this lesson. I answer the questions as best I can in the limited time I have, though my mind still wanders off towards the never-ending plains.
I don’t remember much of my home other than the yellow plains and cloudless forget-me-not blue sky. It doesn’t help me for everywhere has the same plains, the same sky, the same warm wind, the same burning sun. All I know is that where I am now is not where I’m meant to be.
The few windows that are scattered around the walls of the room are tinted and have heavy wooden shutters on them. The thick stone walls make the small room feel smaller than it is, and I wish that we had a practical lesson lined up instead. Maybe then I would be able to pay attention to the substitute.
RING! RING! RING! RING!
“4 rings…” The substitute whispers before composing himself and clears his throat.
“Now, everyone, line up in 2 straight lines at the door. Quickly, quickly!”
Everyone scuttles around, making a huge fuss over who was in their line. One of the little boy cries when his best friend is placed in the other line by the substitute. The little one receives a glare from the substitute and shuts his mouth quickly. Tears silently run down his face and his best friend glances over and smiles sympathetically at him.
I stand at the end of one of the lines playing with my hands as the substitute gets to the end. He gives me a whole body glance and takes my hands from each other, gripping them just tightly enough that I can feel him shaking.
I let them fall from his grasp to my sides, staring straight ahead at the head of the girl in front of me. Her hair looks really nice, a natural dark brown with some strands tinted gold from the sun. She looks older than me, and I feel like I should know her, but I never made the effort to talk to people.
Making a distressed, yet satisfied noise, the substitute makes his way to the front and walks outside into the yellow plains. Holding my breath, I watch everyone in front of me file out before I take a step. The second my face is outside, the warm sandy breeze hits it and I scrunch up my eyes. I lift my bandana from where it is tied around my neck up over my mouth.
I can see the two lines march off towards the village hall and I follow. I pass by stone buildings of all sizes, with families walking out of their doorways. Above each door is the insignia of the King, burnt permanently into the stone. A shiver racks my body and I quickly catch up to my line.
I never liked the insignia when I was younger, and I still don’t. The King’s hand had a fire drake curled around it and its eyes always seemed to follow me wherever I went. I shake that thought away from my mind, telling myself that it is just something burnt onto the buildings to make sure we know who our leader is.
In my line, I traverse over the cobblestone pathways that lead towards the centrepiece of the village, the hall. I traverse further and further into the land surrounded by buildings, and further and further away from the boundless plains that I cannot help but long for no matter where I am.
My Master has requested that I go collect some ingredients from the outskirts of our little Ice Tribe. I will not be able to write to you for about a week as I travel, and it will take 3 days for any letter I write over there to reach you.
I hope you feel better, and you forgive Father.
Your loving son, James
Apprentice of Master Alexandria, the 5th Master of the Ice Tribe
You sit on your bed, focusing on the air underneath the piece of paper in front of you. With all of your might, you wish for it to float even a little bit above the desk.
You have your hand out, palm raised upward, wishing, wishing, wishing. You close your eyes, focusing your concentration on the small, white, thin, bright slip in front of you.
Nothing. There is no pull on the soul, as it has been described by your friends, there is only the tightening of your chest and the constant ringing in your ears. You open your eyes to find the paper in the same position. You sigh, your hope falling and lying prone to the rejection and horrifying thoughts that you put yourself through every day, and you get up, trudging towards the balcony.
You stop, hope flaring up again as you feel the wanting to try again, and your eyes flutter close. You open your palm towards the balcony doors and focus this time on the air surrounding the handle. Frowning, you imagine the air pushing down on the handle and pushing out to open the door.
A brisk breeze presses up against your face and you open your eyes. The door swings wide open on its hinges, allowing the wind from outside into your room.
You shake your head in disbelief before you step forward and outside. The wind surrounds you and a smile creeps onto your face.
The wind gently cupped your face and you felt as if you belonged.
Air wants to be free.