I stopped at the sidelines and walked over to the water cooler. As I filled my cup, I watched Summer take a pass from one of the other players and run up the sideline. Wow, I thought. She was amazingly fast. Summer moved the soccer ball from foot to foot, making it seem as if the girl guarding her was standing still. A defender came forward to block. Summer pushed the ball to the right and whirled around her, coming out of the spin behind the defender, receiving her own pass. She touched the ball quickly with her right foot and drilled it into the net with her left. Some girls cheered and a few came forward to slap her on the back acting like her speed was completely normal. I yelled out a cheer and Summer looked at me with a grin.
I was trying out for an open spot on the team. One of the midfielders broke her leg at practice yesterday by stepping in a gopher hole walking to her car after practice. When I told Summer that I used to play soccer, she suggested that I come out to practice and talk to the coach. I was unsure if it was a good idea, I mean, I hadn’t played in a few years, but the coach ran me through some drills and talked to me about my conditioning. My skills were a little rusty, but Summer told the coach she’d work out with me and help me get back into shape.
Summer ran towards me from the end of the field and I filled a cup with water and handed it to her. “You’re really fast!” I said.
“Yeah, speed runs in my family,” she said. She drank the water down quickly and pointed to the football field where the boys’ soccer team was practicing.
“Check them out,” she said. I noticed Cole setting up for a shot on goal. Ben, the goalie, was hopping from side to side, mouthing off to him. I could just make out his words, “You know you’re not going to get one by me, Cole. You might as well quit trying.” Cole grinned and flicked his fingers at him. I was surprised when a dust devil, filled with fresh blades of grass, twisted towards Ben as Cole took the shot, the ball sailing towards the right corner of the goal. Ben, his t-shirt whipping around him and blades of grass slicing towards his face, took a giant leap from the opposite side of the goal. He shouldn’t have been able to save that shot, I thought, but he swiped a hand out and palmed the ball, scooping it back out towards a player on the other side who dribbled it back into a line of players waiting their turn to shoot. As he turned back towards Cole, I could’ve sworn I saw his eyelids fold up together over the center of his eyes, but he blinked and it was gone. The wind died down, and the grass settled back onto the ground. Of all the strange things about that save, what struck me was that Ben made it while not wearing any gloves. I said as much to Summer, she grinned and said, “That boy has great hands.” The way she said it made me wonder if we were still talking about soccer, but the boys’ soccer team did finish last year with a 12-0 record, so I let that comment slide, figuring I’d get the full scoop later.
I saw Ben and Cole laughing with each other, and when they high fives I noticed their hands stuck together slightly. Cole said something to Ben as he pulled his hand away, wiped it off on his leg, laughed, and walked back to get in line to take another shot.
As I turned back to Summer our coach blew his whistle and we fell in line behind some other girls to run a couple of laps to end practice. Boy, I need to get in shape quickly, I thought, breathing heavily.
“Avery, stop by my office tomorrow for your uniform,” the coach said. He was marking something off in his notebook. “You’re on the team.”
“Sugar, I knew you had skills!” Summer nudged my arm as we ran down the track.
After school, when I didn’t have practice, I started working in my aunt’s tea shop. The shop not only sold tea, tea pots, cups, saucers and other tea items, but also had a few little garden tables where you could “Come Sit a Spell” and have hot or cold tea and a snack. The overall feel of the shop was very soothing and feminine, but there were shelves full of books and magazines that customers could borrow, so we had both female and male customers frequently stay in the store for an hour or so. The tea bins were full of Darjeeling, Chamomile, Earl Grey and other familiar brands, but there were also special mixes that Brenna created out of different plants, herbs or flowers from her garden. We had regular customers who came in weekly for Brenna’s special mix of Sleepytime or T-Eaze. The purpose of the first was obvious from the name, and the second was to help soothe muscle pain or arthritis. Brenna promised that she would teach me about herbs and their natural properties for healing when I showed interest in her special brews.
It was a Thursday afternoon in mid-October when I opened the door of the shop and entered, the smell of black tea and vanilla soothing my senses. I glanced to my left and noticed a customer at the bookshelf with a book in his hand. Usually at this time of day we had several customers, and a couple of regulars sitting at a table, but the shop was empty and Brenna was not there. This was unusual when there were customers in the store. I walked toward the counter and lifted up a latch. A section of the counter swung open, allowing me to step behind it. I bent over to set my backpack down on a shelf under the counter. When I straightened, I was surprised to find myself nose to nose with the man who had been standing across the store when I entered. He was average looking, with brown hair, and was about six feet tall. He was wearing black slacks and a white button down shirt, which in itself wasn’t that unusual, but he was also wearing a pair of sunglasses and black leather driving gloves. The store was dim from the late afternoon sun, and typical of Southern California weather for October, it was in the mid-eighties outside. The glasses and gloves struck me as slight overkill on trying to look cool.
His nose, being an inch from my own, startled me and I took a step back. Not liking how close he was, I loudly asked if I could help him with anything and he tilted his head slightly to the side and didn’t answer. Even though he was wearing dark sunglasses, I felt his gaze run up and down my body, ending on the gold ring on my right hand. The ring started to get that tingling feeling, like it was a battery charging up. I moved my left hand over to touch the ring and twisted it. I asked again, “Sir, is there something I can help you with?” I didn’t know what he wanted, but I didn’t think he was here to buy tea.
“I am looking for Brenna Cameron, or her niece?” he said, leaning forward just slightly over the counter. The counter was about a foot and a half wide, a pretty large barrier between us, but I felt threatened by his intensity. Just as I was about to respond, the chime on the door jingled and the door to the shop opened and Cole stepped inside. He glanced quickly around the store and walked to stand behind the man at the counter.
“Cole! Is it time for us to head to the movie already?” I raised my eyebrows at him and kind of jerked my head towards the man in front of me. I had no idea what Cole was doing here, but I was very glad for the surprise visit and hoped he didn’t mind I was using him as an excuse. “I just need to wait until Brenna comes back, then I’ll be ready to go.”
If Cole thought my behavior was weird, he covered his surprise well. “It’s cool, we have time.” He said, and moved slightly to the side, removing his hands from the pockets of his sweatshirt.
The stranger stepped away from the counter and faced Cole, like they were two gunslingers in a western movie. He stood with his hands away from his body, and a humming energy filled the air. I saw Cole clench his hands into fists and the ground rumbled. A teapot that was sitting on a burner behind me shrieked, steam rising out of its spout. Scared by the abrupt sound of the teapot, I jumped, and a yellow bolt of energy shot from my hands and hit a bookstand across the shop. Books flew, and a few pages littered the air. I gasped in shock and started to lift my hands, when I noticed the steam from the still shrieking teapot whirl around the stranger’s hands and face, turning them red with heat. The man glanced briefly from me to Cole, turned, and raced from the shop.
Cole relaxed his hands and went to the door, turning the sign from Open to Closed.
“Are you ok? Did he hurt you?” He came back towards the counter just as Brenna entered the room through the door to the kitchen, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. She paused in the doorway, looked at the books littering the floor of the store.
“What happened?” she asked in concern.
After I lifted the shrieking teakettle off the burner, I flipped the latch on the counter and moved towards Cole. “Did you see that? That lightning bolt, or whatever? I think that came from me!” I exclaimed. Since my first day of school, there were little things that I had noticed and tried to overlook about myself and my new friends. Ana’s skin changing colors, Summer’s speed, Cole making the dust devil on the soccer field, Ben’s leaps and grabs in the goal, and the little bursts of power coming from me, or my ring. I grabbed Cole’s arm. “And you, too, Cole. The steam from the kettle wrapped around that man and burned him! Did you do that?” I said.
Brenna looked at Cole and turned to me and said, “Come on honey, let’s sit down, I think we need to have that talk.”
Brenna logically explained that there was an entire world of “Other” races. My mother’s family, the Camerons, were witches. Not the witches you see kids dressed up as for Halloween, but Seers and Spell Makers. These powers followed the mother’s line and developed when girls turned sixteen. Before that age, the extent of their powers were undetermined, and they lived a normal childhood. On the eve of a girls sixteenth birthday, at the stroke of midnight, she would go her transition, a kind of trance. When she’d wake up her abilities will have manifested. Some women were only mildly powerful, like my Aunt Brenna. She woke and had immediate knowledge of herbs and plant life. She uses her knowledge to create teas that help people feel better, both in health and spiritually. My mother’s talents were in being able to see the truth, a kind of human lie detector. Their mother, my grandmother, was one of the strongest Seers the Cameron family had seen in the last century. She had been able to make predictions of the future that had been known to come true. I listened to all of this incredulously, but then remembered how my mother would always know if someone had the money to purchase her survival kits or was trying to take advantage of us.
Brenna went on to tell me my father’s family were Elementals. Elementals were men who could call on the four elements, Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Their powers developed only on the male side of the line at twelve, when the boys were entering puberty. My father was one of the strongest Elementals to be born to his line in the last century. His ability to call on all four elements had given his family tremendous wealth and power. With the ability to call on Earth, he could transform land, creating mountains or valleys where there were none. His use of Water could create new lakes, or cause drought conditions. Air could strip trees of their leaves, or create music whistling through forests. With Fire he could warm the coldest night, or burn down cities. By using combinations of the elements, he could do wonderful things or cause great harm.
My grandmother had foreseen a prophecy that said the birth of a child mixing the blood of these two families would cause a power shift in the world, ending the peace that had lasted between the Others for the last two hundred years. Because of this prophecy, the two Others, who had been close allies, separated. Their leaders made sure that all of their children went to separate schools, not giving them the opportunity to meet, on the off chance that they would fall in love and have a child. Also, they all agreed to keep their children ignorant of this prophecy.
My parents, despite these obstacles still managed to meet. As Brenna talked, you could see the love she had when she spoke of her family, my own family, I realized. When she talked about the Elementals I heard a note of suspicion, especially when she spoke of my fathers line. She told me of how my parents met, and how it was partly because of her. Brenna’s love of herbs and plant life meant she often took walks in the woods, and her sister, Diana, joined her on many days. One day the two of them came upon my father practicing his Earth power by pushing dirt into small piles. He was using Air on a small group of leaves to make them run the small mounds of dirt as an obstacle course, or a kind of race course, entertaining himself. When my parents looked into each others eyes, Brenna could tell they were immediately attracted to each other, and soon they were meeting in secret, both of their families unaware of the risk they were taking.
Over the next year, Mathis and Diana fell in love with each other, and when Diana turned eighteen, they decided to tell their families they wanted to marry. Unaware of the prophecy, they didn’t realize that conversation was doomed from the start. Both families were enraged, forbidding them from seeing each other again. But they were too late. Diana was already pregnant, and not knowing what else to do the two of them ran away together.
“I can’t believe my mom didn’t tell me any of this!” Amazed at hearing about the Others, I looked over at Cole, sitting in the armchair to my right. “How do you fit in? Obviously, from that display earlier, you are an Elemental?” I asked and he nodded.
“Your father is friends with Cole’s father, honey. Your father arranged for Cole’s family to move here a couple of years ago, hoping that you and your mother would someday come through town to see me.” Tears filled Brenna’s eyes, “But we never expected you to show up on your own.”
Remembering what brought me to town, I nodded slowly, then had a thought and looked up at Cole in excitement.
“Is my father still alive?” He had disappeared when I was six years old. I could only visualize him from a photo I had of him tossing me into the air when I was a baby. I was giggling and my father had a big smile on his face. I wish that photo had been a full shot of him, but it was only a profile. Even so, I could tell that I looked like him, having the same two-toned blonde and brown hair.
Cole answered, “Your father is now the First Sentinel of the Elementals.” He said that with a very serious proud look on his face, and I realized from his reaction that this was a big deal.
At my questioning look Brenna explained, “The First Sentinel is the leader of the Elementals. As leader he sits on the first seat of the Committee, a combined group of Seers and Elementals who make the decisions and laws for our people. Years ago the plan was for him to immerse himself back into Elemental society, so that he could provide some sort of protection for you and your mother. Your father has used his abilities over all four elements to gain power and rise through the ranks until he achieved First Sentinel status.” I was confused by the sadness in my aunt’s voice as she told me this and I looked to Cole for an explanation, but he didn’t understand and went on to explain more about their hierarchy.
Cole said that those with powers over several elements were considered more valuable and were given higher levels of training so that they could become Guardians.
“Guardians? Of what?” I asked. This was a bit much to take in. My mom and I had been on the run for nine years, but my dad was now the leader of his people? When had that happened? If he was the leader, why had my mom and I moved around constantly? My head was spinning with all of this new information, and I looked back at Cole, trying to focus on what he was saying.
Cole ran his hands through his hair. That, combined with the earlier battle, had given him a cute, rakish, rather disheveled look. His hair stood straight up in the front around his cowlick, and his eyes had turned purple with intensity. “A Guardian is taught to use his powers offensively and defensively, serving the Committee. Your father moved my family to Dover so I could be your Guardian and protect you.”
I remembered seeing him at soccer practice when the wind kicked up suddenly, and then here, today, with the ground shaking and the steam burning that man. “But you’re the same age I am! How can you protect me?” I asked.
Cole looked slightly embarrassed, but straightened up in his seat and said, “I have been in training to be a Guardian since I gained my powers four years ago.”
Brenna jumped in with an explanation, “Cole can use three elements, and because his father and your father are close, and you both are close in age, he was assigned to you.” She looked undecided, but continued, “When your mom became pregnant by your father, it was assumed by the Committee that it was you that was prophesied. The first child born from the union of a Seer and an Elemental, since your Grandmother’s vision.”
I glanced down at the ring on my right hand and reached over with my left in nervousness. Cole quickly covered my hand with his and gave it a squeeze. “I don’t think you should twist that ring,” he said, “it seems to be a focus for your powers.” I remembered earlier when I had zapped the bookshelf, and nodded, confused.
“But, until I got to Dover, I haven’t had any powers!” I declared, looking back and forth between Brenna and Cole.
“Girls don’t develop their powers until they are sixteen,” Brenna said, then took a breath and continued, “and the fact that yours are materializing before you’ve turned sixteen may mean that the prophecy is correct.”
Great. I just moved to a new town, found an aunt I didn’t know I had, made some friends who just so happen to have some kind of freaky gifts, and found out my father was alive and the leader of an Other race that I didn’t even know existed before, and that I am a part of. What else could happen? Oh yeah. “So who was that guy in the store and what did he want?” I asked, looking anxiously at the doorway into the store, afraid someone was going to come storming through it.
“I’m not sure,” Brenna said, “but, there was a group of both Seers and Elementals who weren’t happy about your mom and dad, so my guess is that he is from that group.”
“OK, great.” I said, thinking that we needed to step up our security on this place if I was going to have this group popping in to do who knows what to me.