Home > Recurve (Elemental #1)

Recurve (Elemental #1)
Shannon Mayer

Chapter 1

A dream, just a dream was what a piece of my mind told me, but the terror and pain ‘just a dream’ evoked seemed no small thing. Yet, I couldn’t escape it.

The new growth of the pale green ferns tickled my bare legs, stroking my ankles as I tiptoed through low lying bushes, a giggle trembling on the edge of my lips. I wrapped my fingers around the vines climbing alongside me, as I peered through the mist of the forest. Hide and seek was my favorite game, well, my and Cactus’s favorite game. The sound of his footsteps reached my ears a split second before he ran around the side of a medium-sized redwood. I dropped to the ground and wiggled my fingers. Vines and foliage moved swiftly at my request, covering my body, and hiding me from his view. I covered my mouth with my hands, stifling the laughter as I watched him stand there in a huff, his legs spread wide.

“Lark, I can’t find you. Are you cheating again?”

Lips clamped tightly, I almost fell for his trick, my leg muscles bunching to push me out of my hiding spot. I would never cheat. I was a king’s daughter, after all. Even though I was not a legitimate heir, I was still a princess. At least, in my own head. As such, cheating was not allowed.

But then I saw the curl of a laugh on Cactus’s lips as he spun in a circle, looking for me.

“Lark?” He put his hands on his skinny hips, and blew out a long, noisy sigh. “Fine, you win. Again. You’re just too good at this.”

I curled my finger into the soil and pushed a gentle pulse of power through the ground, and into the soles of Cactus’s feet. He turned toward where I hid, a smile on his face as he felt my call to him. This was something we’d just learned, how to reach out to each other through the earth when we were close to each other.

I sat up and waved at him, the vines sliding off my shoulders. “Over here, silly loser.”

Groaning, he tromped over to me. Red-haired and green-eyed, he was as much an anomaly in the Rim—our home here in the Redwoods—as I was with my blonde hair and eyes of different colors. One amber, one green. We’d found each other in the early summer months when the low fog was deep on the woods, and we’d been inseparable ever since.

“Do you want to hide now?” I patted the spot beside me, clearing away the foliage so he could sit.

“No, you’re too good at this game for me. What else can we play?”

I looked into the air above us at the heavy fog making up the clouds of the forest. There was one place we were supposed to never go. Close to the edge of my father’s kingdom, right next to the human roads that led to their cities. A place forbidden to those who weren’t Enders—the kingdom’s guardians. A thrill of excitement went through me at the thought of seeing a human in person, and not just in a book. Cactus, though, would be hard to convince. “Why don’t we go exploring?”

His eyes narrowed. “Where? We know the forest better than anyone, what more can there be to explore?”

A grin slid over my lips. “The Edge.”

His eyes popped open wide. “If your mother catches us, we’ll both get a beating.”

I snorted and slid a piece of grass through my fingers. “My mother doesn’t lay hands on me, not like yours does.” I cringed as the words slid out. I put a hand on his arm to soften them. “Besides, my mother is busy with the baby. She won’t even know we’re gone.”

And just like that, we were off. I didn’t know how big the cloud forest actually was; at ten, I didn’t pay attention to those kinds of things. The redwoods were our home, where we were safe to run and play from morning’s first light until late after the sun had set. But I did know that the human road on the outskirts of the forest was to the west, and the closest city from there was to the north. A place where there were cars and electric lights, a place where the women wore pants and the men wore earrings. At least, that was what I’d seen in Belladonna’s, my oldest stepsister, Rolling Stone magazine.

“The date on it was funny, not like how we count seasons,” I told Cactus. “November nine, one nine seven two. I asked my mother what that meant and she said it’s how humans do things. They have to label everything.”

Cactus grunted, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t interested in human things.

Belladonna had shown me the ‘magazine’ just the other day and the images had burned into my mind. I wanted to see if they were real or not. If the humans really did all those strange things.

“Lark, do you think one day the other elementals will like us? Maybe Fern even?” His eyes darted to me, and then away to the treetops.

I climbed over a large, half-rotten log with flowers sprouting out of the composting material, then reached back to help Cactus up. “Of course. Because one day they will see just how strong we are, and that we could be heroes. And Fern will see how handsome you are, and stop being so mean to us. Maybe she’ll even let you kiss her.” She was the worst of the bunch, worse than my own siblings even, always teasing and making us look bad in front of others. That didn’t stop Cactus from staring at her with longing every time we saw her. She was, after all, the prettiest girl in the forest. No, that wasn’t true. My mother was the prettiest girl in the forest with her long blonde hair and violet eyes that seemed to see through a person.

His eyes lit up. “Really? You think she would let me kiss her?”

I nodded, not bothered that he mooned after Fern. “My mother told me one day you and I would be heroes, and she would never lie about that. Why wouldn’t Fern want to kiss a hero?” Even so, I felt a twinge in my heart. Cactus wasn’t really that strong with earth, not like he should have been. His talent lay more in his father’s realm.

He was more Fire and I’d heard that his mother might be sending him to the Pit to be with his father’s family. To train there.

A shudder rippled through me. Half-breeds like us, a child who carried two types of elemental abilities, had a much harder time making it in the world. But that didn’t mean we wouldn’t make it. Just meant there was more work to do. That’s what my mother always said.

“Cactus, do you ever get to see your father?”

He shook his head, and I watched in fascination as his face suddenly seemed ten years older. Like he grew up right in front of me. “No.”

“Do you want to?”

The age fell away from him and he was just my friend again. “I don’t know. I get scared sometimes. My fire gets away from me, and I can’t hide it. I think my mom is going to send me away.” His voice lowered. “My father, I don’t think he’s a nice man.”

I clutched at his hand, lacing our fingers together and squeezing them tightly. Not like his mother was all that kind, either. How she had a sweet boy like Cactus, I didn’t understand. “I won’t let her. You’re my only friend, and I’m yours. No matter what happens, we’ll always be friends.”

He smiled at me and I smiled back. I looked away in order to get our bearings. “We’ve veered off track, I think.”

Cactus didn’t let go of me as he turned, which meant I went with him, looking back the way we’d come. “Did you hear that?”

We both went still, listening to the sounds of the forest. The steady calls of birds had gone silent, and even the bugs seemed to have dulled in their constant songs back and forth about where the best place to burrow was. Only the steady dripping of water plunking through the leaves and the fog was left of the sounds I’d expect. Around me, the foliage trembled, as if a wind blew, but there was no wind. This was not the forest I knew, the paths I’d grown up on. Then a sharp, cold blowing gale that didn’t belong in the forest coursed down through the treetops, drawing tendrils of the condensed air with it.

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