After several hours of traveling, the Queens caravan was finally coming to a stop. The sun had already left the sky, leaving the moon, full and shining, to stand watch over the darkened land. The four large carriages pulled into a small clearing, right along the forest filled with shadows. The caravan formed a semi-circle, creating a barrier between what would be the camp and the unknown threats that might lurk within the forest.
Salaman sat atop the lead caravan. He had been watching for any signs of danger which might cause harm to the Queen, or to the young princess that was also traveling with the caravan.
Salaman was a boy of about 15, from a large city within the region of South Telmene. His hair was like a blazing fire, as red as any flame. He wore an outfit of red and orange. The outfit consisted of a vest, pants, and shoes. This was the uniform of his team. A team of Elements.
Only a few people in the world possessed the powers of an Element, and Salaman was one of them. He could create and manipulate fire. A useful skill. The rest of his teammates each possessed their own skills.
First, there was Gnemo, an 18-year old, dark skinned boy from a tribe of canyon Indians, who could control the element of earth. He was the most skilled and most powerful member of the team, and because of that, he was the leader.
Then there was Sylphie, a 17-year old female from a group of cliff dwellers, who commanded the wind. She was tough and rebellious, but also very smart. She formulated the attack plans.
Last there was Udina, a 16-year old girl from a small island off the coast of Telmene. She could control water. She was the gentle, quiet one of the group. The only one she really talked to was Salaman.
Suddenly she joined him on top of the caravan.
“Hi, Salaman,” she said quietly.
Salaman turned around, startled. He had been staring blankly into the dark.
“Oh, hey Udina. You scared me.”
“Sorry.” She swept her long blonde hair out of her eyes, trying to see through the darkness. “What are you up to?”
“Oh, just watching out for any danger,” he said. “But don’t worry. If anything happens, I’ll protect you.”
Udina giggled. It was cute how big his ego was.
“Why, thank you,” she said. “I have much faith in you.”
Salaman smiled. He always felt good talking to Udina. It was quiet for a while as the two gazed at the stars.
“Hey,” Salaman said suddenly, “What’re the others up to?”
“Gnemo is putting up lanterns, and Sylphie is feeding the carriage horses, I think,” Udina replied. “They’re probably going to need you to start a fire to cook dinner. Actually, I was coming to get the food out when I saw you up here. I better go get it.” Udina climbed down the side of the carriage and went inside.
Suddenly something made a noise in the forest. Salaman jumped and turned his attention to the forest. He looked in the direction of the sound. A squirrel came running out of the shadows of the trees.
Just a squirrel. Salaman laughed at the fact that he had jumped because of a squirrel.
“Salaman!” someone yelled. “Stop laughing and get your butt over here and start a fire!” Salaman back towards the camp to see Sylphie stomping towards him.
“C-c-coming!!” he called, as he jumped off the carriage.
In the forest, a boy, sat poised in a tree. He had been carefully following the caravan for the past few hours, planning an attack. He had been sent by the lord of North Telmene to kidnap the princess that was traveling with the caravan to the South Kingdom.
The boy was about a year younger than Salaman, and he was dressed in a dark purple outfit, with white sleeves, and he wore a white headband on his forehead. His short, spiky hair was dyed purple, like his clothes, and it had a single white streak running through it. Strapped to his back was a golden staff, which had an encircled pentagram emblem on the top.
The time to attack draws near, said a voice inside his head.
“Yes, Lord Donovan, I know,” the boy said. “I won’t fail you.”
If you do fail, then prepare for the consequences…
“Yes, my Lord.”
Salaman sat back and put his hands on his stomach.
“Ah, that was some good food.”
“Glad you enjoyed it,” Gnemo said. He was on the other side of the campfire, doing push-ups. “Makes me feel better about assigning you to the first watch. Sylphie, you’re on first watch, too.”
“What!?” Salaman jumped up. “We were on first watch last night! I’m tired!”
“Yeah?” Gnemo asked. He stood up and walked over to Salaman. He towered over him. “Well Udina and I have been awake since second watch. That’s about 19 hours. Now follow my orders and stand watch.”
Salaman slowly turned around and headed off towards the carriages. He climbed back up onto the carriage he had been sitting on earlier.
“Who does he think he is? I don’t remember electing him leader. I would make a much better leader than he would. I’m tired too.” Salaman stared up at the stars. “One day…I’m gonna be a hero. And then nobody can tell me what to do.”
“Gnemo’s right, y’know.” Sylphie had climbed up onto the carriage. “He and Udina have been up for a long time. They need to sleep more than we do. Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean that you deserve to go to bed. The world doesn’t revolve around you, Salaman. Get that through your thick skull.” Sylphie started climbing back down. “I’ll be patrolling the Eastern side of camp if you need me.”
Salaman sat in silence for a while. What Sylphie had said was right. He put his head in his hands.
“I’m such a loser,” he said.
“Well, that’s no fun,” said a voice. “What am I supposed to call you?”
Salaman turned around. A boy was standing on the caravan, staff in hand. He had silently jumped from the trees when Salaman was lost in thought.
“Who are you?” Salaman asked. The figure was fairly visible in the moonlight.
“The name is Toman, of the fifth Element,” the boy replied. “I’m here for the Princess of the Sand.” The boy swept his staff along the ground, and took Salaman’s legs out from under him. He landed hard on his back. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Toman jumped down off of the carriage and into the camp.
Salaman slowly got to his feet. His back was sore.
“Fifth Element?” he said. He looked around. “Hey, where’d he go?” Salaman looked towards the camp and saw the intruder making his way slowly towards the Queen’s carriage at the front of the line. Salaman could’ve jumped down and attacked directly, but he decided upon a more interesting attack plan. A small red-orange glow was growing in his hand. Once it had reached the size of an orange, Salaman hurled it at the boy like he was playing a simple game of baseball.
The flaming orb was headed straight for its target. But it fell short, and the flame went out as it hit the dirt. Toman turned around and looked at the scorch mark on the ground and then up at Salaman. He then pointed the tip of his staff towards Salaman.
Salaman suddenly felt weak. He suddenly fell to his knees. He tried to stand up, but he was unable to support himself.
Toman stood, his gaze and staff fixed upon Salaman. Suddenly a large gust of wind knocked Toman down to his hands and knees and causing him to drop his staff. He stood up, and grabbed his staff and looked towards Salaman. He was about to continue his mysterious attack, but another gust came up behind him, and he fell again. This time, he got up and looked around.
From in front of the Queens carriage, Sylphie stood by one of the lanterns and waved at Toman, smiling. Toman growled and charged at Sylphie, fists raised. Sylphie was able to dodge his attack, and he ended up punching the carriage instead. A scream was heard from inside.
“It’s alright, Your Majesty,” Sylphie called, dodging another swing from Toman. “Just a small problem. Under control.” Sylphie dodged a third attack before deciding to fight back. A swift kick to the side sent Toman to the ground.
Wasting no time, Sylphie ran to the last carriage and climbed up. Salaman was sitting rubbing his back.
“You alright?” Sylphie asked.
“Yeah. What’s up with this guy? He says he’s ‘the Fifth Element.’ What’s that about?”
“Fifth Element?” Sylphie thought for a moment. “Isn’t Spirit the considered the Fifth Element?”
“Spirit? How does that work?”
“He can control the life force of others…and maybe even their bodies, I think. That’s what he was doing to you. He was sapping your life energy. He almost killed you.”
“Whoa. Good thing you came along and stopped him.” Salaman started climbed down.
“You owe me,” Sylphie said, following him.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” Gnemo and Udina were running towards the two. “I heard someone scream and went and woke Udina. Is something wrong?”
“Some kid…” Sylphie started.
“His name’s Toman, and he controls the Fifth Element, which Sylphie says is Spirit, and he tried to kill me!” Salaman said, quickly, so the words almost blended together. Luckily, Gnemo was able to work out what he said.
“Well, where’d he go?” He asked.
“I took him down over by the Queen’s carriage.” Sylphie pointed towards the carriage, which was lit by the lantern. Toman wasn’t in sight. “Wait…where is he?”
“Oh no! The Queen!” Gnemo broke into a sprint towards the carriage. The others trailed along behind him.
“I…He was right here,” Sylphie said when she got there.
“His staff is gone, too,” Salaman added.
Gnemo went to open the door to the Queen’s carriage when it was kicked open. Toman stepped out into the camp. His arm was wrapped around the princess’ throat, his hand covering her mouth.
Princess Pandora was only 13, hailing from a tribe of Sand Nomads. Her face, arms, and feet were wrapped in bandages to be protected against the harsh desert environment. She wore a hooded tunic and pants, both brown and sand covered. Her short, messy brown hair was also fairly sandy. She was shaking as Toman held her captive.
Salaman stepped forward, a fireball already growing in his hand, but Gnemo held him back.
“You’ll hurt the princess,” he said.
“Wise choice,” said Toman. He smiled as he started backing away, stepping towards the forest. But then the unexpected happened. Pandora elbowed Toman in the gut. Hard. Toman gasped. The girl followed up by elbowing him in the chin, and when he let go, she spun around and sent a heel kick to his head. Toman fell to the ground, clutching his stomach. Pandora took two steps away from him, and then fell to her knees crying.
The team stared at her in surprise.
“Wow,” said Sylphie. “Didn’t see that coming.”
“Th…That…That was sooo cool!” said Salaman. Udina ran forward to the princess’ side.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I hate fighting,” Pandora replied. She was still shaking.
“It’s alright. You don’t have to fight anymore.” Udina wrapped her arms around the princess.
Toman got to his feet, staggering and holding his stomach with one hand, and wiping the blood from his mouth with the other.
“You’ll pay for that,” he said, stepping towards the princess. Suddenly a fireball hit him in the chest, burning through his shirt and scorching his chest. He looked towards Salaman.
Salaman was already forming another, larger fireball.
“Leave…Now!” Salaman commanded.
“Like you scare me?” Toman said. He took another step towards the princess. Suddenly a rock wall shot up in front of him. Gnemo was standing to his right, with his arms crossed.
“You heard the kid,” Gnemo said. “Get out of here.”
Toman pulled out his staff and pointed it at Gnemo. Gnemo suddenly fell to the ground. Sylphie rushed over to help, but suddenly felt weak as well. She looked and saw that Toman was staring at her while at the same time pointing his staff at Gnemo, getting them both with the same attack. One thing she hadn’t noticed before was that his eyes were pure white when he was using his power.
A barrage of fireballs hit the grass in front of Toman, and they erupted into a large firewall. Toman broke his connection with Gnemo and Sylphie and stepped back. The heat was intense. Suddenly, Salaman burst through the flames, and sent his fist into Toman’s other cheek. Toman fell.
“I told you to leave,” Salaman said. Toman looked up at him. Then, moving pretty fast for someone in his condition, he spun around and once again took Salaman’s legs from under him. Salaman fell onto his back again. Toman stood up.
“I’ll let you win this time,” he said. “But we’ll meet again. You can count on it.” Toman turned and headed back towards the woods, walking with a slight limp. He seamlessly merged with the darkness of the forest.
A stream of water poured over the wall of fire, eliminating it. Udina had redirected some water from a nearby river into the camp to get rid of the flames. Some of it was still flowing out of the forest, moving like a serpent.
Udina and Sylphie ran to check on Salaman. He was out cold.
“Well,” said Sylphie. “He’s getting that sleep that he wanted.”
“He deserves it,” said Gnemo, stepping from behind with the Queen. She had been tied up by Toman. Her shining white night gown was torn, and her golden hair was messy. She had obviously tried to fight back. Gnemo had just untied her. “He’s a real hero, this kid.”
Toman sat in the forest, at the top of a tree, well illuminated by the full moon. He looked to the stars.
Toman, said the voice of Lord Donovan in his head, You’ve failed to capture the princess, didn’t you?
“Yes, my Lord. I apologize.”
You’re apology is worthless. You promised me that failure was not in your attack plan. The consequence for your failure is a severe punishment. I am thinking death.
“What!? But, my Lord, I tried! I am weak now, but I can rest, and serve you again in the near future!”
There was no response.
“My Lord?” Toman asked.
I am feeling rather forgiving, Toman. I am thinking of a punishment that I find to be less severe, but you may find it to be worse than death.
“Excuse me, my Lord? What do you mean?”
Toman started to protest, when suddenly his world went dark.
“Wh..wha…What did you do to me!?” he screamed.
You’re not strong enough. You’ve been weakened by the light…You will now live in darkness alone. The light is no longer there to hold you back.
“But…You…I…I’m blind!” Toman started to sob. “How can you expect me to fight and become stronger when I’m blind?”
Trust me. Return to my Spire. I will train you to use this punishment to your advantage. You will uncover skills that you never knew you had…You will be invincible, Toman.
“But my Lord,” Toman said, “How am I supposed to find my way back to your Spire like this?”
I have already sent Chimer to pick you up. He should already be there.
A roar indicated to Toman that Chimer was already there. The large purple-scaled dragon rose on leathery wings from the forest, as trees crashed around it. The dragon came up next to Toman and nudged him with its large nose. Toman blindly found the saddle strapped to the dragon’s back and climbed on. Once he was settled, Chimer started their journey to Donovan’s Spire in North Telmene. Toman stared blankly at the starry sky, which he would never see again.