By Nicola Rakuljic
When I reach the classroom, I am out of breath and confused from the directions, or more like the circles my brain was going in. I reach up to knock on the door and it swings open. There stands a girl with the same colour hair as the one that was in front of me on the way to the hall. Her hair looks exactly the same as that girl. That’s weird.
“Amber! Thank goodness you’re here!”
I frown as I am pulled inside, seeing that all the lights are off and everyone is huddled in the corners. I am pulled towards one of them and placed next to the two boys who were separated this morning. Where we really there at the hall all day? Or had I been daydreaming all day? The sun was definitely setting.
“Where’s the substitute?”
“He got called by one of the knights. They said they had to talk to him for a bit. I don’t know what is happening.”
“We saw you were still in the hall when we were ushered out, but we couldn’t go get you. The knights acted as if you weren’t there.”
I look over at the girl who spoke. She looks scared, huddled up to an older boy who has his arms protectively around her. I nod at her, and then look down at my hands.
The knights, the guards, couldn’t see me? Of course they could, I was there. I was right there.
But, the only ones who saw me when I was in the hall where the people who knew me, my classmates, those two boys, and that old man.
“Amber? What happened in the hall?”
I continue looking at my hands, clenching them into fists and opening them again.
“I don’t know. I dazed off, and then there was an old man next to me. It was just us. He told me not to throw away my dream, and then he disappeared. When I was walking back here, I don’t know, fire appeared near my feet. I-“
“You can use fire?”
I look up and there is amazement and wonder in everyone’s eyes. Confused, I nod, and everyone begins to whisper to each other.
Knock, knock, knock.
The whispering stops, and we all turn towards the door. The ones closest to it scoot away, clutching themselves, trying to breathe as quietly as they could, afraid.
Knock, knock, knock.
Whoever it is, they’re persistent. The girl who pulled me inside, who I’m beginning to suspect was the girl in front of me in the line, walks over slowly. She reaches out for the doorknob.
Knock, knock, kno-
She pulls the door open and a fist flies through. There stand two boys, one with his back turned and the other with his fist raised and halfway through the doorway. He blinks and lowers it, tapping the shoulder of the boy behind him.
“Yo Brendan, they opened up.”
“I’m Kalee. Tell me who you are and why you’re here or else I won’t let you in.”
“I’m Evan, this is Brendan, and we need to hide.”
I get up from where I’m sitting and stand next to Kalee.
Brendan’s eyes grow wide as he recognises me and he says in disbelief,
Kalee looks between us questioningly and I explain,
“These two were one of the only ones to even see me after… you know….”
Kalee nods and moves out of the way, allowing the boys inside. Brendan still looks amazed that I am here, and Evan is staying as close to him as he can.
Once they are both inside, Kalee does a quick check of the street before closing and locking the door. Then she turns to us and pushes Brendan and Evan towards a corner. I follow and sit down next to the older boy with the young girl in his arms. He smiles at me and whispers,
“I’m Sean and this is Caroline.”
I nod at him and smile at Caroline. She hides her face in his chest and he sighs.
“We don’t know what’s going on…”
“No one does, Sean. That’s why we need to figure it out together,” Kalee states before looking at Brendan and Evan, “Can we trust you two?”
I zone out, staring at the door, hoping the door would open to reveal the substitute teacher or someone who could explain this mess to us kids. First I basically disappear from everyone’s view, then the substitute teacher is called to talk to the knights, and then I find out I can control fire. Or briefly use it, I don’t think I have that much control over it.
I know deep in my heart that I want to find my home, but if I leave now, I’ll be leaving without answers. My fellow classmates, who need someone to help them, won’t know the truth about anything.
What do I do? What do I do?
“Amber? If you leave, we’re all going with you, right?”
I look at Evan, confused. I go to ask how he knew what I was thinking, but my mouth betrays me.
“What else did you think was going to happen?”
I do not wish to alarm you, but I have recently been told by my Master that she wishes for me to stay at the outskirts longer.
It is private information, but I fear I will not be able to get back for the ceremony.
I will do my best to live up to your expectations and show my Master that I am indeed her best pupil.
Your loving son, James
Apprentice of Master Alexandria, the 5th Master of the Ice Tribe
It has been 3 years and you have still not come home. If you stay away for longer, my hatred for you will grow. Come back as soon as you can so that we can settle this and become a happy family again.
Your son, James
Apprentice of Master Alexandria, the 5th Master of the Ice Tribe
A bright green in this brown and grey world.
Acts of kindness performed and acceptance given.
Innocence disappearing at the view of destruction.
Dead plants, fallen logs and broken dreams.
Tears freely falling onto a withered flower.
Petals regaining colour, standing up straight.
Green spreading through grey grass.
A gasp of innocent wonder.
Earth wants to grow.
You walk to the centre square, your heart surprisingly light at the revelation and consequent decision that you had made only moments before. You spot a familiar black ribbon amongst the wave of white clothes.
You make your way to the ribbon, staying close to the walls of the buildings surrounding the square, moving around people as they mingle and chat quietly. You hear snippets of various conversations as you creep forward slowly.
“I can’t believe that they’re still teaching about all the different Tribes at that school. They’re just leading those poor children on to believing that all the Tribes are as kind as we are,” One man grumbles to the woman beside him. She nods, but makes no noise to agree with him.
“When will the Princess come out?”
“Have you heard? The leaders are planning on recruiting the graduates into the army. They plan to fight the Chaos Tribe for land.”
“How has your apprenticeship at, what was the place called? The Scribes Hole? How has it been going?”
“Hello Hailey. How are your children today? How long until they are sent off to school?”
You listen to the proper, polite, posh way that is required in your Tribe. It was taught to you at the age of 4, and even at that, you had been unwilling. As a young boy, all you wanted to do was learn what you wanted, when you wanted. You didn’t want to sit still in class, listening to the teacher feed you information and regurgitate that information for tests.
You find that the black ribbon is closer now, and you can see the person that it belongs to, leaning against a wall, her head bent down, watching the crowd through her eyelashes. Your eyes widen as you make eye contact with her, and her mouth twists into that mix between a grin and a smirk that you’ve only seen her pull off.
Your eyes flicker to her lips as she mouths something at you. ‘Camden – see you’ is all you can make out as you try to push your way to her without being violent. After a few moments of struggle, you find her hand in yours as she pulls you closer to her.
“Hey Marissa.” You whisper to her, your stomach trying to float away as you realise that she purposefully took your hand and hasn’t let go.
“Have you made your mind up Camden? Will I be expecting a partner?” You know that she only means a partner on her journey to the village Veritas near the border. You know that the term is only used platonically, and that she’ll leave when you get there. She won’t come with you to the Elemental Valley.
You nod, afraid that if you speak, you’ll beg her to stay with you after you get there, beg her to join you when you go to the Elemental Valley. But then she’d know that you have your own plans, and she’d think that you’re going with her to go to the Elemental Valley, rather than because you are her friend.
And that’s all you’ll ever be: friends. Even as she grips your hand and pulls you away from the crowd, talking a million miles an hour about her plan, how she’s not going to ever come back because she wants to experience true freedom, you know that you’ll never be more than this.
You shake the thought from your head. You’re going on a journey with her, and you get to be free after that, in a place where you’re not forced to do things you don’t want to do. You’re going to be having a better life when you leave.
You smile at the back of her head, unable to stop the idea of spending the rest of your life with her playing out in your head. You’ll deal with your feelings later. For now, you revel the feeling of her hand in yours.
Illuminated by the clear moonlight, a clump of teenagers lounge along a dock, their legs dangling over the each, toes dipping into the water below. One has their hand out, eyes closed in concentration, as a column of water rises slowly. The group cheer as a unit while the girl grins in relief.
“Shannan! That was so cool!” Flynn gushed, taking her hands in his, pressing into her personal space. A scoff escapes Shannan’s mouth as she drops Flynn’s hands like they were on fire, and she moves her head away, rolling her eyes at his behaviour.
“Yeah, not really. The saying is ‘water wants to travel’ and well, I want to go to the main island. I just concentrated on that.” Shannan admits, waving her hand, looking towards the rest of the teenagers around her, checking their reactions.
Flynn laughs, “Well, that’s better than the rest of us.”
Lucas cocks his head, thinking for a second before he lights up in plain mischief.
“Hey, Flynn? If you really want to be able to control water, how about you travel to the Elemental Valley?”
Flynn looks over to Lucas, moving away from Shannan. He frowns, taking in this information before shrugging and saying,
“Well, it’s far away, and I’d have to swim there, so… no thanks.”
“What, you chicken?” Lucas taunts, as the other kids, interests piqued, crowd around Flynn.
“Hell no!” Flynn exclaims, his face turning redder at the prospect of losing a challenge. “I’ll prove it!”
“Well then, we need someone to go with you to make sure you actually go. How about… Erwin.” Shannan declares while Erwin grimaces. He knew that this was just Shannan’s revenge for him laughing at her pitiful attempt to answer a question in class because she wasn’t listening.
“No. Not happening.” Erwin barks out, teeth gritted at the prospect of having to spend extended time with Flynn, a cocky kid who takes everything as a challenge.
“Come on, Win. It’ll be fun!” Flynn chimes with a grin splitting his face. Shannan and Lucas look at each other and try hard to stifle their laughter.
“Don’t call me that. And I’m not going,” Erwin hissed out as he stood up to walk away.
“I’ll help pay for your degree if you go.” Shannan offers and Erwin falters in his stride. His mind spins in circles. He doesn’t want to go with Flynn, but when he gets back, he can finish his degree and get a really good job. But to be able to do that, he has to deal with Flynn. But he’d be set for life when he gets back.
He relents, “Fine,” and everyone cheers. Flynn gets up to shake hands with Erwin, who refuses by turning his back to Flynn.
“We meet here tomorrow at 9 in the morning. Pack tonight or tomorrow morning, I don’t care. I’m not bringing your body back if you die.” Erwin’s voice is steady, and his strides are equal and paced as he walks away, showing none of the conflict going on in his mind.
Flynn grins, watching his partner’s back disappear, knowing at least some of the things going on in Erwin’s head. A challenge is a challenge and they are all the same to Flynn. He has to prove that he can do this. He will travel to the Elemental Valley and make it back alive.
I snuck into Father’s study once again. His papers were strewn all over the desk, untidy as per usual. However, there was a huge map covering most of it, portraying all of the Tribes and their territories.
It was interesting, because on this one map there was a plethora of markings, arrows pointing towards the Tribes and words written underneath. There was one arrow that pointed to the Elemental Valley and underneath it read ‘war against them’ with no explanation as to why they wanted to start a war.
Really, the military leaders and our King are quite stupid when it comes to decisions. The only thing that they think solves conflict is war, when really that creates more conflict. They persecute people, they discriminate and they think they’re doing good for the community. It’s a shame that all the intelligence in the room is suffocated by stupid decisions.
Father has always told me to respect my elders, but if my elders do not respect me, why should I respect them? If they do not understand that their actions have consequences, when will they learn? When will they learn that the things that the community wants is the exact opposite of what they propose?
Anyway, there was a piece of paper that had the number of weapons and soldiers the Chaos Tribe has. There was also a very accurate description of their plan for war against the Elemental Valley.
What would happen to the quote on quote “Strongest Tribe in All the Lands” if they were stopped by the Elemental Valley? They would crumble, and maybe the world would be better. Maybe the arrogance and stupidity that breeds in the leaders would be destroyed, beaten until it is no more.
Anyone who goes against the King and his son will be persecuted.
Father will be sending me to one of the farthest towns in our territory so that the surrounding towns would be able to send troops, or get the troops ready for battle.
As always, the illogically named,