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SPRING

First Edition

Copyright © 2017 Alejandra González Iturrioz


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from the author.


This story is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.


Cover design by Ibet Sakoda

Cover illustration by Joanna Haber

Earth Symbol by Donovan De León



http://www.acornpublishingllc.com/



www.leleiturrioz.com




ISBN-13: 978-0-9983098-6-6






To:


My badass beta readers!


Eva Martín

Paola Pavón

Adriana González Márquez

Ignacio Villalobos (Aka – Tidus/Clon)




Moonstrand

The Forest of Color”


Chapter 1

First Flowers

GAIA TOOK ANOTHER STEP, and her foot stumbled. “Watch it,” gasped Edan with a hoarse voice as he took her hand and curled it around his forearm for a better grip. Gaia’s fingers tingled against his skin. She could feel the three scars from the runes he had burnt on his arm.

“Don’t let go,” he whispered.

It wasn’t in Gaia’s character to let Edan treat her like a delicate princess but she let it that time, after all, it was really hard walking around with a blindfold.

Use your other senses,” Gaia could hear Donovan’s voice chanting inside her mind.

After the big attack on the second camp and the start of their nomad days towards Terra, Edan decided to have Hunter train Priyam and Gaia on the art of tracking and sensing danger. With the help of Donovan to translate Hunter’s sign language, of course.

At first it was terrible. They smashed against many trees, got their arms, legs and faces cut by branches, tripped on rocks, and fell into ditches. Donovan made so much fun of the fact that Gaia managed to survive Azazel but would be killed by a branch, that Edan asked Veter to baby-proof the forest until they could sense better… or sense anything at all.

A few weeks passed and Gaia was there, walking around with a blindfold trying her best to know what was happening around her.


Gaia took a big whiff. This time, she was able to detect the fresh smell of cut grass, the mix of flowers that gave a sweet fragrance. She could hear the movement of the clean, crystalline water and the birds chirping on the trees swaying back and forth with the gentle wind.

Then, she had a feeling… she’d been there before.

I know this place, she took another whiff. Ahh, that smell! But where? WHERE!? Gaia shook her body and gave little jumps around the soft grass.

Confused by her actions, Edan leaned closer to her ear. “What on earth are you doing?” he asked without losing his grip.

“Shut up, I’m concentrating.” Gaia heard Edan chuckle. It took her entire willpower to resist glaring at him but she was trying to sense the place, and she was going to achieve it.

OK, OK… I can do this, Mother freaking Nature… Think G, think. A small current of wind grazed Gaia’s hair. Her skin shivered as goosebumps crawled down her neck. Truckee...? she thought for a second. Yeah sure, they just saved you from there but why not!? Let’s bring G back to the most dangerous place on the planet… oh, but I miss Truckee… Damn it! They’re right, I’m terrible at this. Out of guesses, Gaia quivered, her patience wearing thin. “Are we there yet?”

“Almost there!” She could hear the excitement in Priyam’s voice.

“I still don’t see the reason for the blindfold, Priy.”

“And ruin the surprise? Never!” Priyam placed her hand against Gaia´s shoulders to stop her. “Besides, we are here.”

Edan removed the blindfold. Sunlight assaulted Gaia’s eyes, blinding her. She blinked several times. Once her eyes adjusted, she saw it… The new camp.

There was a river surrounded by flowers, a section of forest, the training grounds, the bungalows resting on top of a hill, and in the middle was the First Tree full of different types of flowers. It had pink flowers that looked like Juliet roses, purple sakuras, white peonies and golden tulips.

“No way!” Gaia gasped beyond thrilled. “It’s just like the first camp!”

Made on purpose,” Hunter signaled before untying his brown leather wrist gauntlets.

“What? How?”

“Perks of controlling nature, Moja Princeza.” Veter placed a few bags next to Willow’s bungalow. They were on the move and there was no place for extra luggage.

Floyd pushed his weapons on top of the wooden table. “After the third camp we realized how bloody terrible you are at learning new landscapes.”

“After the fifth camp we came to the conclusion that you will never improve,” Pink added while juggling a black cassette tape between her fingers.

Icarus shook his head. “Absolutely never, ever,” said Donovan.

“Not a bad thing,” Priyam jumped in to save her best friend. “Apparently not all Mother Natures come with a GPS.”

“It’s not my fault. We change camps every two days.”

“And on that note, we decided to build the only place you managed to learn.” Priyam leaned closer to Gaia. “It was Edan’s idea. The blindfold was mine.”

“Of course it was,” Gaia mumbled under her breath, still feeling butterflies in her stomach at the idea of Edan thinking of how to make things easier for her. “Thank you. All of you.”

Willow placed her wooden box next to the weapons Pink was cleaning. “Thank us by being on time to class.”

“Couldn’t you at least make the camp without bugs this time?” Synthia whined while trying to get a ladybug away from her now unevenly colored hair.

“Also, this is yours.” Edan took out a twenty-four-inch Japanese sword with a white and turquoise handle and a matching cover, and handed it to Gaia. “Try not to kill everyone with it.”

“Ahh! A mini Katana!” Gaia couldn’t believe it. She was about to reach for it when Floyd took the sword away from Edan’s hands.

“Mini Katana?” Floyd yelped, repulsed by Gaia’s utter lack of knowledge in armory. “It’s a Wakizashi!” Floyd hugged the sword, refusing to let her have it. “Edan, she’s not ready for it.”

Edan stretched his hand to take back the sword. “She is. You are her teacher after all.” Unable to stop his leader’s decisions, plus having received such a cool compliment, Floyd gave the sword back to Edan.

“It does look like a mini Katana,” Veter whispered to Donovan, who nodded while on the verge of laughing.

“Meh… It looks OK,” Priyam said dragging her words with apathy as she opened her bag.

“Don’t pay too much attention to her, Edan,” Gaia inspected the craftsmanship of her sword. “She’s been moody when it comes to weapons ever since Floyd forbade her to work with knives.”

“I’m ‘moody’ for obvious reasons.” Priyam took some junk food out of her bag and opened the BBQ chips.

Veter cackled from across the table with enough force to be heard throughout the valley. “You stabbed him on the leg, little Prisum,” he pointed out as he passed Pink the rest of the weapons she needed to clean.

Pink couldn’t lift the sword Veter was passing her, she was laughing so hysterically. Tears rolled down her cheeks; tears that made her eyes look even bluer than they already were. “Best training day ever, mate.”

“I didn’t stab him in the leg. I accidentally stabbed him in the leg,” Priyam corrected the Viking man. “Big difference.”

“You know, Priyam,” Floyd rested his wounded leg on a big log next to where Hunter was siting. “Being accidentally stabbed by someone feels the exact same way as ‘just’ being stabbed by someone,” he grunted. This set off another round of uncontrollable laughter.

“And here I was, thinking you were used to it by now,” Priyam teased the twin as she finished eating a BBQ chip.

“You lassie, are as cold as a snowflake,” stated Floyd with a grin on his face.


Unmindful of her surroundings and concentrating on her surprise gift, Gaia kept inspecting the Wakizashi. It was beautiful.

Not too long, not too short. Its weight was minimal and the color was gorgeous. Hanging from the handle was a white lotus flower. Gaia passed her finger over the flower. The lotus petals tickled her skin.

She took the cover from the sword, and the blade made a swishing sound. “It’s stunning," she mumbled while her gray eyes traced the thin silvery blade. Nearest to the handle, there was the phrase ‘IGNIS’ engraved on the blade. Gaia ran her hand over the letters.

“It means Fire,” explained Edan. “I engraved it. That way you can make it burn. It will never melt no matter how hot. Give it a go.”

Testing it out, Gaia turned her hand on fire. The flame crawled from her palm to her fingers to the handle and down the shiny blade. “Incredible.” She turned it off before facing Edan. “You made it?”

“Yes, he did,” Donovan passed his hand over Edan’s shoulders. “It took him over a month.”

Edan shrugged his shoulders trying not to look annoyed with all the unwanted attention.

Over a month? Gaia did the math. That was before my Eighteenth Spring. She couldn’t help to wonder why on earth Edan was working on something so special for her when he couldn’t stand being near her.

“Wait… you’re a chemistry teacher who so happens to also be the leader of this bunch of ETs, a fire wielder, great cook, and…blacksmith?” Priyam asked as she rummaged through the pile of armaments. “Are you also an oracle?”

“Everyone from Emberdale learns how to forge their own weapons,” Shui clarified as her delicate hands helped sorting Willow’s seeds.

Captivated, Gaia stared at the small red ring on Shui’s left pinky. She remembered that a week ago, she caught Veter cutting a red ribbon and curling one of the pieces around Shui’s finger, shaping it into a delicate ring. Then, Shui took the other piece and did the same on Veter’s left pinky.

“What’s that about?” Gaia asked Donovan in a whisper.

“The matching symbol,” he explained back then. “There’s a legend that says that matches are connected by red ribbons. Always connected by fate, never to break apart. Some Asian cultures still have the same belief. Once the match is completed, the couple exchanges rings.”


“Is Emberdale like a night club?” Synthia’s voice took Gaia out of her memory.

“No, it’s one of the five main cities of Terra.” Donovan sat on top of the table next to Hunter. “Emberdale is the city inside the Obsidian Volcano.”

Priyam took a thick long sword from Pink’s duffle bag. “You guys live in a volcano?” She swung the sword. “Cool! How safe is that?”

“It’s not that safe,” Shui replied moving away from the blade’s reach. “Though most residents are fire wielders, therefore it’s alright.”

“What Shui’s politely trying to say, is that fire wielders are crazy insane.” Willow took the sword away from Priyam’s hands before she could accidentally kill someone. “No offense, Edan.”

“Wait… Emberdale?” Gaia turned to Edan. “I thought you were from Nádúr Noc.”

Edan lowered his eyes as if he was afraid Gaia would see something she shouldn’t, making him take longer than usual to answer. “When I was nine, I lived half a year in Emberdale.” Edan pointed at the sword Gaia was carrying. “In there, I learnt how to do that.”

“Among other things,” Donovan winked and Willow glared at him with discontent. “What?! He should be proud of that. I know I am.”

“What other things?” Gaia asked.

“No way!” Priyam screamed. She took out a crossbow from the bunch of weapons. She aimed to where Willow and Hunter where standing and the whole group ducked. Priyam shot, piercing a pear right in the middle.

“Are you crazy?” Willow yelled. “You could’ve killed us!”

“Please.” Within seconds, Priyam recharged the crossbow and shot. “I have the highest score in the Walking Dead videogame.” This time the arrow hit the center of a wooden stick Hunter was holding. “I always pick Daryl.”

“Great technique,” Veter carefully inspected the pear. “I admire your master Daryl for teaching you how to shoot like that, little Prisum.”

Gaia, and the rest of the humans who understood who Priyam was talking about, laughed.

“Trained or not trained, that was stupid of her.” Willow took a bag of seeds and threw it to Gaia, who didn’t come close to catching it. “Let’s go, time for class.”

Gaia placed her sword on the table then picked up the bag of seeds from the floor. “See you later.” She grinned at Priyam then followed Willow to the training grounds.



* * *

Halfway up the hill, Gaia took a step forward, but when her foot touched the ground, she saw a small child’s foot running across the grass. “Willow!” She screamed but no voice came out.

She recognized the feeling, the same one she had in her dreams, but that was the first time she wasn’t asleep when it happened. Is this also a memory? It was.


Six-year-old Gaia’s body ran across a shallow part of a crystalline turquoise lake. The memory was hazy, she could see the other children playing with her, but the memory was so unstable she could barely recognize them.

“Red! Don’t wander too far.” She heard a child’s voice and immediately recognized it was Edan’s.

Red… she repeated the nickname that Edan often called her in her memories.

“I won’t.” Little Gaia began to jump around. “I just want to make waves.”

“And you will, just after Shui finishes her test,” he said. For a brief moment, Gaia was able to see eight-year-old Shui bending a huge bubble of water up in the air. She had the same water tribal mark on the back of her wrist that grown-up Shui had. Wow, she’s so young and yet she has the same mark… Gaia was sure the symbols weren’t birthmarks because Nobu had an identical mark and just like Hans, Willow had the same symbol. If it’s not a birth mark, then what does that mark mean? Gaia wondered.

“Captain.” She heard a soldier’s voice. “We need assistance.”

A strange feeling swept over Gaia at hearing a man call someone, other than Edan, Captain. Luckily for her, little Gaia turned around and saw who the soldier was talking to.

It was Hans, the leader of the Elder Clan. He was tall, blond, with Donovan´s electric blue eyes, and had a fresh scar from a bear’s claw. Gaia knew his bear attack and the discovery of Donovan’s gift of talking to animals must have been recent. Next to Hans was Nobu, Shui’s father and second in command of the Elder Clan.

“An eagle brought a message.” The soldier carried the bird closer to the warriors.

Hans flashed a big proud smile. Even if little Gaia couldn’t understand his reason for smiling, teenage Gaia did. His son was one of the few people who had the gift of talking to animals. Donovan was special.

“Son!” Hans extended his hand in Donovan’s direction. “This soldier needs your help.”

Six-year-old Donovan ran towards his father. “What is it, father?”

Hans squatted in order to see his son eye to eye. “We need you to translate this eagle’s message for us,” he explained. “Can you do that?”

Donovan nodded his head. He was beyond happy that his father, one of the greatest earth wielders and Captain, needed his help. Donovan faced the eagle. “Hello, great eagle. What message do you have?”

The eagle spoke to little Donovan. “Eagle says he was flying on top of the Wilds trying to look for something to eat,” Donovan translated. The eagle squawked. “Then, the eagle saw a Draak.”

“Impossible!” the soldier barked.

“Let him speak,” Hans commanded and the soldier took a step back obeying his Captain’s orders.

“At first the eagle was scared,” Donovan continued his translation. “Then the eagle saw the Draak flying towards his babies’ nest. Forgetting his fear, the eagle followed the Draak until he saw it… an army.”

“An army?” Hans turned to face Nobu. “Has Emberdale finished their army?”

“No, Captain,” Nobu took out a rolled cream-colored paper from his leather belt. He gave the names and statistics a quick check. “According to our last communication with Emberdale, they are still gathering soldiers.”

The eagle gave a mighty squawk at this information. “No. The army was not from Emberdale…” Afraid to say the word, Donovan pursed his lips in a thin line.

“What is it, my son?”

“Father, the eagle said… Ifreann.”

Hans, Nobu, and the soldier’s eyes opened wide. Even after the war in her dreams, and some other terrible memories, this was the first time Gaia had seen Hans this scared.

“Are you certain of this, Donovan?” Hans asked.

“Yes, father,” Donovan answered without hesitation.

For a brief moment, Hans stared at his son. He paid attention to his smile and his blue eyes, as if he was memorizing him before saying goodbye. “Nobu, call Mor, and prepare the kids. We are sending them across the barrier at dawn.”

Nobu looked at Shui while she wielded multiple water bubbles over little Gaia’s head. “What about the princess?” he asked.

“We ride tomorrow to Nádúr Noc.”

Gaia’s stomach clenched and bile rose in her throat. She knew The Six were going to make it but she also knew this was Hans’ and Nobu’s last day. Soon they’ll save her life, and no matter how much she tried or begged for it, there was no way she could save them now. The sickening feeling of not being able to help, or at least warn them, gave Gaia the sensation of breathing under water, unable to gasp for air.


“Earth to Gaia.” Gaia heard her name echo in her head. “Gaia!” She heard the voice for a second time, only this time was so close she was able to recognize it.

“Willow?” the name came out of Gaia’s lips. She then noticed she was back from her memory.

“Yes. Are you done spacing out?”

“Sorry,” Gaia said, hoping Willow wouldn’t notice she’d been lost in her thoughts.

Willow shook her head, then turned on her heels and pointed at a bag of seeds. “Now that you can wield earth, take out a seed and bury it in the dirt. Next, place your hands on the dirt right on top of where you buried the seed.”

“I thought Mother Nature doesn’t need seeds to create trees.”

“Mother Nature doesn’t… but you do,” Willow corrected her with a grin. “Creating a tree is insanely difficult. You need to imagine the tree. Every single part of it, the roots, the trunk, the way it would feel against your palm, the way it would smell, then you would have to name it, to recognize it… and then blow your soul into the tree. Just like you needed a lot of training… and luck, to create the supernova, you will need to learn how to grow from seeds first.”

“Got it.” Gaia followed the orders; she took a seed from the pouch, placed it on the dirt, and covered the dirt with her palm. “Like this?”

“Yes,” replied Willow. “Now close your eyes and concentrate on nothing else but the plant’s soul.”

Gaia closed her eyes and pictured the seed. She took a deep breath and tried to empty her thoughts like Edan taught her. Accept the moment, take control…she heard his voice.

Gaia released the air through her mouth and concentrated. She could feel the warmth of her hands passing all the way towards the seed and the seed began to beat like a heart. Gaia could see the beats in her mind; colorful waves that ran from the center to the corners of the seed, one after the other. She felt how the seed cracked. A small strand of leaf came out.

Slowly pushing up until it pierced through the dirt. She opened her eyes the moment she felt the vibration of the roots growing, taking their place on the earth. The plant spun and spun until it reached Gaia’s chest. The leaves became fuller, and the trunk hardened, turning into a gorgeous bush. Tiny flowers bloomed from the bulbs and green berries grew until they matured to black. Gaia’s face beamed with excitement as she looked towards Willow. “Did you see that!? I did it.”

“Good.” Willow took out a green seed bag and threw it to Gaia’s hands. “Now, grow all of these.”

Gaia opened the bag. There must have been over a hundred seeds inside. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Do I look like I’m kidding?”

“It will take me ages.”

“You are Mother Nature.” Willow smiled, her freckled straight nose wrinkled. “You should be able to grow a forest within minutes.”

“But…”

“Great.” Willow turned around and walked away. “If you need me I’ll be with the group, you know, relaxing.”

Gaia sat down next to the bush. She let herself fall backwards on the soft grass. “You think you can help me? You do half I’ll do half?” Gaia talked to the blackberry bush she had wielded. “No? What if, you help me and… I’ll make your berries bigger?”


Willow walked next to Shui, who was drinking her tea while watching Gaia talking to the plant. “Do you have to be so hard on her?”

Willow sat down next to Shui. “Yes.” She smiled and fixed her pale-blonde ponytail.

Shui wielded some tea into an empty wooden cup next to Willow. “You should try to get to know her. You might find her quite likable.”

“I already do,” she admitted in a low voice. Shui lifted her thin eyebrows in surprise. “Besides,” Willow added, “to be able to wield the growth of a plant after a few weeks of getting her earth element… I think she’s magnificent.” Willow took a sip of her tea.

“Then why did you teach her how to grow plants that soon?”

“I like to see her struggle,” Willow chuckled. “Also, I knew she could do it.” Her face became crestfallen, evidence of the sadness she felt inside. “Which makes it harder, and easier, to see why he always picks her over me.”

“He didn’t pick her over you.” Shui set her tea on the table and placed her hand on Willow’s back. “He picked her over everyone. You’re not flawed, it’s just Nature’s will.”

“I know, still hurts though.” Willow and Shui stared at Gaia as she wielded the seeds into plants while babbling away to the blackberry bush. “She’s so weird.”

* * *

That night Gaia could barely sleep, she kept trying to remember the vision she had and why did she have it without sleeping? Was that something common? Or was that a bad sign? Edan… No, he’s always opposed of telling me any single detail, why would that time be any different… She thought about it for a brief moment as she rolled between her fingers the small rock with the Algiz rune that Pratt gave her the day of their deal. Pratt can… Gaia opened her eyes.

Light as a feather, Gaia tiptoed out of her bungalow then ran to the forest. There she knelt down and planted a seed in the ground. Useful little power. She put her hands full of tiny cuts on top of it. A beautiful bush of white irises grew from it.

Gaia took one of the flowers, checked to see that no one was in sight, then stuck the flower on one of the branches of the trees, hoping that Pratt was close enough to see that she wanted to meet.

Chapter 2

Babysitting

THE NEXT MORNING GAIA jumped out of bed earlier than usual. Peering out the window of her bungalow, she saw it. The orange marigold flower stuck on a faraway tree branch. Yes!

She put on some yoga pants and a light olive-green jacket, and ran out of her bungalow.

“Stop. Turn. Where do you think you are going?”

Damn it… Gaia turned around to find Edan drinking a morning tea while staring at her with amusement, one side of his mouth turned up in a half smile.

“For my morning jog,” she replied, trying to act natural.

“Priyam!” he called.

Yawning, Priyam stuck her head out of the bungalow’s window. She was still rocking her morning messy bun. “Zup, Fireball?”

“How do you feel about escaping the camp and having to run twenty-five clicks to the nearest town?”

“The same way the Evil Queen feels about Snow White,” said Priyam between yawns. “Why you ask?”

“I will assume that’s a negative feeling.” Edan pointed towards Gaia. “You are going with Gaia.”

“What!?” Gaia turned around, walking closer towards Edan. “If you’re doing this because you think I’m going to escape to another town then don’t. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“She’s not a babysitter, she’s your best friend.” Edan took a long sip from his hot tea and smirked. “Go. Have fun.”


* * *

As they walked to the forest, Gaia glared at Priyam. “Stop smiling.”

Priyam pushed her plum lips together trying to suppress her obvious amusement. “You got to admit, Fireball is getting sassy.”

“Yeah…” Gaia sighed. “Too much hanging around with you.”

“Aww, stop it. You’re making me blush.” Priyam slapped Gaia’s shoulder and noticed the unusual path she was taking through the forest. “You aren’t going for a jog, are you?”

“Nope.”

Priyam frowned. “You aren’t going to make me run twenty-five clicks, are you?”

“I’m finding that idea more appealing as the time passes, but no, the place is pretty close.”

Lightbulb! Priyam realized why they were walking alone around the forest. “You’re meeting him, aren’t you? The creepy boy?”

“Yes.” Gaia helped Priyam climb a large rock. “And he’s not creepy.”

“If you have a sixth sense, don’t doubt it, follow it,” said Priyam in a very dramatic tone.

“Where did you get that phrase from?”

“Floyd,” she said. “He thinks I have a sixth sense for recognizing weirdos. Trust me, Pratt’s a weirdo.” Priyam finished her sentence when she noticed Gaia was staring at her with a twinkle in her eye. “Why are you smiling like that?”

“Since when do you quote Floyd?”

“Since he’s right.” Priyam looked around the place. “Is this your usual time and place?”

“No. If I need to see him I leave a white iris tied to a tree.” Gaia lifted the marigold flower. “If he wants to see me he leaves this.”

“If I didn’t think the guy was a jerk, I would actually be proud of you, you crazy little spy.”

“Thanks.”

Priyam examined the flower as they kept walking. “I still don’t like you sneaking around to see this guy.”

“I don’t like it either. I wish I could tell the guys.” Gaia whispered in case Pratt was close enough to hear them. “On the other hand, I have no choice.”

“We always have a choice.”

“Priy, you don’t understand. You know who you are, where you came from, how to help others.”

“You do too, now.”

“Knowing my name and my birthplace isn’t enough. Pratt tells me more. He explains my memories and every doubt I have, unlike Edan.” Gaia felt a stabbing sting after mentioning Edan’s name. It had been a few weeks since he’d rejected her. She wished that being Mother Nature would magically prevent her from feeling that bad, but it didn’t. Mother Nature or not, she was still an eighteen-year-old girl who got her heart broken. Crap…

“Edan’s just protecting you.”

“From what?” Gaia snapped more than she wanted to. “They’re my own memories, what’s so damn dangerous about them?”

“Oh… I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the guy from Memento?” She glared at her best friend. “All I’m saying is that I trust Edan’s judgment.” Priyam gave Gaia her orange flower back. “Yes, he’s irritating, grumpy, a perfectionist, and he’s overprotective, but that’s it, he’s just protecting you.”

“So you’re on his side?”

“Against you, never. Against this Pratt guy, yes.”

“Give Pratt a chance. He’s not a bad person, even Mor misses him.”

Priyam took a moment, thinking things through. “Fine… I hope you don’t regret this.”


Finally, Gaia and Priyam reached a circle of trees. The thick trunks made it harder to see around the place. “It must be around here.”

“Are you sensing him? Are you using your inner power?”

“No.” Gaia leaned down and took some orange petals that were on the ground. “He leaves these petals so I know where to find him.”

“Adorable.” Priyam swung from one of the tree’s low-hanging branches. “Speaking of sensing, how come Hunter doesn’t sense this guy?”

“Because Hunter senses evil, and clearly, I’m one of the good guys,” said Pratt, who had snuck up next to them.

Priyam glared at him. This was the first time meeting him, and she was not that impressed. “Clearly,” she barked with a bitter tone.

“You must be Priy.”

“Priyam to you,” she corrected him. “You must be the Terrian who keeps kidnaping my friend.”

“Priy!” Gaia gasped.

“The name is Pratt, and I’m not kidnapping her. She’s here willingly.”

Priyam took a step closer, “Really?”

Gaia jumped in the middle of the two. “Stop it, both of you.”

Without taking his hazel eyes from Priyam, Pratt took the white iris out of his pocket and handled it to Gaia. “You left this?”

“Yes, I saw another memory.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“In my dream, I was playing around with Shui, Donovan and the rest. Donovan’s and Shui’s dads were grading us on our skills when a soldier came with bad news,” Gaia explained. “They kept talking about an army. They were very afraid of one thing: Ifrun, Ifan, or something like that.”

“Ifreann,” Pratt corrected her.

“Yes.”

“Ifreann is not a thing, it’s a place,” Pratt clarified as he walked closer to Priyam, taunting her, measuring her up.

Annoyed, Priyam took a few steps forward, showing him she wasn’t someone he would want to mess with. “Like Terra?” Priyam asked.

“More like Nádúr,” Pratt added, clearly pleased with the fact that Priyam engaged in the conversation. “Ifreann is a city in Terra.”

Gaia frowned. “I thought there were only five cities in Terra.”

“When Terra was created there were only five cities. Ifreann was created later… much later.”

Priyam sat down on top of a large rock. “Why were they so afraid of it?”

“Because it wasn’t created by Nature. It was created by Him,” said Pratt.

“Azazel.” Gaia whispered as if calling him out loud would help Him find her.

“After parliament exiled Him beyond Mount Bass, Azazel built a refuge. With time, his followers joined him and, little by little, it grew into a city known and feared by everyone on Terra, the city of Ifreann.”

“Oh, funny thing,” Priyam faked a loud chuckle. “For a moment there, it sounded like you admire him,” she pointed out.

Pratt stood toe-to-toe with her, so close Priyam could smell pine tree from his dirty blond hair and notice the intensity in his hazel eyes. “No matter the path he chose to follow, his talent and power are undeniable. You would be stupid not to remember that.”

“What happened?” Gaia jumped for the second time between them to prevent a fight. “After that memory?”

“War.” Pratt stepped back. “The one in your dreams.”

So that’s how it started? She thought. One less puzzle piece. Besides all the complaining and doubts, Gaia loved having Pratt as a friend and an ally. Ever since she made that deal, she’d been able to reconstruct some of her memories creating a bigger picture out of the blurry puzzle of clues she had.

“Any other question?” he asked, scratching the two freckles on his small nose.

“Yes.” Gaia remembered yesterday’s memory on her way to train with Willow. “Shui, Mor, Veter and Willow have a mark on their wrists, what do they mean?”

“The marks of the Temples.” He circled over his left wrist where the mark should be. “It means they excel in their element. It’s a very important mark to have.”

Priyam beamed with happiness. She loved the idea of marks of honor and majestic temples.

“You’re smiling.” Pratt taunted Priyam’s mood.

“Don’t confuse my ability to enjoy the awesomeness behind the marks, with an inexistent liking of you from my part.” Priyam pushed her glasses up and Gaia recognized her expression. The same one she had every time she wanted to tease Synthia. “Speaking of marks, why don’t you have one?”

“I don’t have an element,” he hissed, clearly bothered by it.

“Why is that mark so important?” Gaia asked cutting into their argument.

“It’s dangerous,” he said relaxing a little bit. “Considering sixty percent die while trying to get it. Wearing it shows you survived.”

“They were kids when they had it.” Gaia shivered. They could’ve died. “How could somebody let a child pass through something like that?”

“The Six were a special case. Age limit is thirteen,” he explained. “Also, Terrian kids are not raised like human kids. They’re born into this. Same way as a cook’s son would probably know how to handle a stove at the age of four.”

Priyam heard a rustling, she noticed Icarus playing around near them. He hadn’t seen them but he was getting really close. “We need to go,” Priyam whispered, pointing in the direction of Icarus.

Gaia saw him. “Let’s. See you next time Pratt.” Gaia followed Priyam but then stopped walking. “Wait, Pratt…”

“G, we need to go.”

“One second.” She turned to Pratt. “The memory, I had it while I was still awake.”

“Like a daydream?”

“Yes.” She checks to see if Icarus was still oblivious to his surroundings. Luckily, he was. “Is that normal? The daydreaming?”

“Perfectly normal,” he said. “You were weaker before, less connected to your being. That’s why you used to have them only when you were asleep, but now you are more connected to yourself, so the memories are coming back. The more connected you become, the stronger and faster the memories will emerge.”

“Thank you.” Gaia mouthed the words then followed her best friend, who was already near the fluffy sugar glider.


Icarus saw Priyam next to his tree. Excited, he jumped and landed on her hands. “Hello, fur ball,” she chirped.

“See?” Gaia said when she reached her friend. “He isn’t that bad.”

“I know.” Priyam petted Icarus’ head. “I’ve always loved this little fellow.”

“I was talking about the other one…” Gaia tried to sound casual in front of Icarus. She didn’t want him to understand who she was referring to. “You know, the one before.”

“Mmm… I’m not sure, yet. I was there for like five minutes.”

“So?” Gaia laughed. “You make your opinions based on less.”

“He was… useful,” she admitted as she kept petting Icarus.

Gaia smiled, victorious at her achievement.

“Still think he’s a jerk,” Priyam added.

“I can live with that.”


* * *

Gaia, Priyam and Icarus reached the kitchen where Veter, Shui, Pink, Floyd and Willow were already eating. Edan took out a few big red apples and placed them on a bowl made of rock.

“What’s happening, Fireball? We’re back. Did you miss us?” Priyam sat next to Pink. “Of course you did,” Priyam said, not waiting for an answer. She took the black cassette tape from the table and gave it to Pink. “This is the fourth time I find your cassette laying around. You’re going to lose it one day.”

“Never, lassie.” Pink hid the cassette in one of her many jacket pockets.

“I keep telling her the same thing.” Floyd chewed a big piece of bacon. “Don’t make me regret giving it back to you, sis,” he warned his twin as she replied with a wide grin.

“How was the jogging?” Edan asked while placing the bowl of bright red apples in the center of the table.

“Slightly annoying,” said Priyam. She pushed the bowl of fruit away and went straight for the eggs and bacon.

“You gotta admit it, Priyam, it’s hilarious how you love stories where they travel, yet you hate walking,” Pink pointed out as she ate some of her eggs.

“I used to love walking.” Priyam took a bite of her breakfast. “But then again, that was before I had to walk all over the country.”

Veter laughed loudly from across the table. “You should wait for Terra, little Prisum,” he said as he filled Shui’s plate with an apple and a few berries. “Now, that’s walking.”

“Not helping,” Priyam glared at the cheerful Viking man.

Chapter 3

Trick or Trick

DONOVAN WOKE UP EARLY in the morning. He put on some gray jogging pants then walked outside his bungalow. Yawning, he stretched his arms and the eagle tattoo on his arms and bare back looked like it was about to fly. He did a small warm up and continued his morning routine with a ten-mile run.

On his way through the forest, Donovan stepped on a bunch of leaves, followed by a loud SNAP!

A net made of thick rope wrapped around Donovan, lifting him until it reached the top of the tree. Donovan yelped at the sudden attack.

Once the net stopped swinging, he tried to roll but his left leg was stuck on one of the net’s holes. “Icarus!” he called. He then closed his eyes and concentrated on detecting any sound. Nothing… He couldn’t hear any dark beasts approaching.

Pulling on the ropes to lift his upper body, he tried to see over the top of the tree but the sky was bright blue. There were no grey clouds in sight. “What’s happening?”

Seconds later, Icarus glided towards the net, landing on the rope. “Icarus, what’s going on?”

Icarus squeaked while assessing the situation.

“Yeah, I don’t know either.” Donovan scratched where the ropes had rubbed his bare chest. “How are the others? Are they OK?”

Icarus gave a small bark. “WHAT? It’s five in the morning! How are they still asleep?”

Icarus squeaked. His posture made it clear that if it was up to him, he would still be sleeping too.

“Any ideas on how to get me down?”

Icarus nodded. He ran to the top of the net and began to chew the rope that was holding Donovan up in the tree.

Donovan looked at the floor, he was pretty high up. “This is going to hurt.”


* * *

Edan walked out of his bungalow. He was reading the supplies chart on his way to the kitchen.

“Morning, Edan.”

Edan lifted his eyes from the page and saw Gaia stretching against the First Tree. She was wearing black sporty shorts and a long purple tank top. He felt his heart stopping. “Morning,” he managed to say with a normal tone. “Going for your jog?” he stated the obvious.

“Yes. I promise I won’t run away.”

“I’ll join you.” He left the graphics and the cup against one of the First Tree’s roots. Edan noticed a certain shock in Gaia’s stare. After all, it was unusual for him to volunteer to something like that. “Someone needs to make sure you stay alive and unharmed. You know, to keep you from falling into ditches.” He jogged towards her.

“Of course.”


A few feet inside the forest and they hadn’t spoken a word. Gaia began to feel anxious. This is the first time in a while they had jogged together, and without fighting. Yet…

“How,” Edan began as he jogged flawlessly, “is your training with Willow going?”

“It’s going good, better than when I started my fire lessons.”

“I don’t think that’s a hard thing to accomplish,” he teased, and couldn’t help but grin. But his grin disappeared as soon as he sensed something odd. “Stop.”

“You saw something?” Gaia looked towards the forest.

He shook his head. “Do you hear that?”

Gaia gave it a try but she couldn’t hear a thing. “No.”

“Exactly.” He opened Gaia’s lotus locket to check the time. Past six-thirty in the morning. “Something’s wrong. Where is everybody?”

“Asleep?” she said, wishing she was sleeping too.

“Priyam and the twins, yes. The Terrians should be awake already.”

Gaia gasped. “Edan!” She pointed to the sky.

Donovan was still hanging from the tree, with Icarus biting off the rope trying to get him down. It was too damn thick and Icarus was panting.

“Donovan?” asked Gaia. “What’re you doing there?”

Icarus and Donovan noticed they were being watched, and they both stared awkwardly at Edan and Gaia. “Oh, hello guys.”

“What happened?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I came for my morning run and got trapped so I cal—”

“Wait!” Edan ordered.

“What?” Gaia whispered, unsure why she was doing so.

Edan placed his finger on his lips. “Shhh!” He looked around. He could barely see a rope curled on a tree that was a few feet from them. “Bloody hell.” He panicked. “Donovan… what… day is today?”

Donovan thought about it for a second. “Oh, no!” Donovan screamed. “No! Edan, how could we forget!? We had a plan.”

“What?! What plan?” Gaia asked confused.

Ignoring her, Edan scanned their surroundings. “I know we did, but with all the running away and changing camps, we must have forgotten.”

“What’re we going to do?” Donovan freaked.

“I don’t know. I just know… we are too late.”

“Icarus! Stop biting, we’re staying here.” Donovan stretched his arms and cradled Icarus. “It’s safer in here.”

Gaia started to get scared. She’d seen Edan and Donovan fighting beasts without second thoughts, yet now they were both freaking out. “What’s happening!? Is it Him?”

“Worse.” Edan pulled Gaia closer to him. “The twins.”

“As in Pink and Floyd? I don’t get it.” Affected by the proximity, Gaia took some steps back. “Why would the twins—”

“Stop!” Edan curled his hand around Gaia’s arm, pulling her away from a trap that had snapped. The ropes tensed, lifting another hanging cage just like the one Donovan was trapped in. “It’s April’s bloody first.” He hissed. “I hate this day.”

“Wait, is it Fool’s Day?”

“Unfortunately.” Edan clenched his jaw. “We need to get out of here.”

Gaia laughed like crazy. “Yes, laugh now.” Edan threw her over his shoulder so she wouldn’t step on any traps. “I want to see you hanging from a tree or a metal box soaked in oil and then laugh.”

“That happened to you?” She asked him, resting her elbows on his shoulder to gain more support.

“It did,” he admitted with a deep frown. “I’m serious, we are all scared of this day. Today, there’s no safe place.”

SWISH! There was a near rustling. “You hear that?” Edan asked.

The rustling grew louder and louder. “Run!” Donovan yelled.


Edan ran with Gaia in his arms until they reached a place full of rocks. “Stay on the rocks, they can’t put traps in there.”

“Aaahhh! Floyd! Get me the hell down from here,” they heard Willow screaming.

“They got Willow.” Gaia jumped from Edan’s arms and lowered herself against one of the biggest rocks. “We’re trapped,” she said, wanting to laugh at how seriously she was taking the pranks now.

“We are not. Just give me a second.” Edan stepped hard against the ground. A tall wave of fire crawled across the ground burning and disarming seven traps. Gaia turned to Edan. “You think it’s safe?”

“With them? Never.” He sat down on the rock next to her. “Last time they carved ten-foot slides, covered them in plastic, and drenched them in oil. The devils placed a rope in the middle of the slide but if you pulled it or tried to climb using it, you got drenched in glitter from a box the rope was tied to. Donovan twinkled for two weeks.” Edan’s serious glare made it clear to Gaia that laughing was not a good idea, no matter how funny that story was. “That night they also filled our toothpaste tubes with cookie fillers… Actually, Veter loved that one.”

A rock was about to hit Edan on the back of his head, when he turned and caught it. He looked up and saw Hunter hanging from a tree. His legs curled and arms straightened. He swung his core with one movement and, using his wrist gauntlet to slide, he managed to sit down on the lower branch. “There are four more traps that way. One involves industrial glue and feathers; you should avoid all that section,” he signaled.

“Feathers and what?” Gaia pushed a red locket of hair behind her ear. She still had some trouble learning Hunter’s sign language.

“Industrial glue,” said Edan.

“Wow,” Gaia chuckled. “They really take this to another level.”

Yes, they do.”

“We had a plan,” Edan rubbed his temples. “I was going to send them on a scavenger hunt this week, keeping them busy and away from us.”

It took us half a year to plan that.” Hunter signaled.

“You should go with Hunter. That kid never falls for their idiotic pranks.” Edan carried Gaia until she reached the branch where Hunter was sitting. “I’ll distract them.”

It’s too late.” Hunter pointed at a bunch of trees that shook one by one heading in their direction. It was like being in a scary movie. “They’re coming.

“Run, Gaia, run!” Edan and Hunter jumped on to the shaking trees. They fought the traps while Gaia escaped.

Is Priyam OK? Gaia wondered. She probably is. She would do more damage than the twins together ever could. Then, she noticed a marigold flower. Pratt... she thought, not knowing what was happening. It was usually Gaia who placed the flower first. Is he in trouble? Did the twins get him? Gaia laughed at the thought of Pratt covered in oil and feathers. Fat chance. What if it’s something about my memories? Maybe I can use the twins’ craziness to escape for a bit, she turned and saw Hunter too distracted, dodging balloons full of paint, to sense her sneaking out. So she took the opportunity and followed the flower.


* * *

Gaia opened the lotus locket. Priyam had managed to install a small timer that would let Gaia know when her time with Pratt was up. She clicked on the button and the countdown started. “What’s going on?” she asked as soon as she found him.

“I’ll be gone for a few days and I wanted to make sure everything was on point.” He stretched his arms, leaning against a tree. “Any other visions?” Pratt asked. Gaia shook her head. “How about training, how are you doing so far?”

Gaia sat on a rock a few steps from Pratt. “Not as fast I would like. I’m still stuck on fire and earth.”

“That’s good. Remember, you were trapped for twelve years. It’s only been a few months since your release. It is impressive that you’re already on two elements.”

“It is?”

“Very.” Pratt lowered his arms and pushed himself away from the trunk and closer to Gaia. “What about the rest? Who’s teaching you how to fight? Without elements, of course.”

“Pink and Floyd.”

Pratt took a moment. He thought about it but those names were new to him. “Never met them.”

“They’re humans.”

“Humans…” He said it in a way that let Gaia know he wasn’t very happy with that answer. Not one bit.

“They are tougher than any Terrian I know,” said Gaia trying not to sound annoyed. She understood the reasons why Terrians had some sort of mistrust in humans but they didn’t know them like she did. After living among them for twelve years, Gaia knew humans had a beautiful, strong and positive side too. “Trust me, you should see how they’re terrorizing the rest of the group now.”

“Who’s teaching you about the Terrian customs?”

“Veter,” her lips curled in a wide smile. “Or at least he tries.”

“What about tracking?”

“Hunter.”

“I’ve always liked that little wild fellow.” Pratt kicked a small rock with the tip of his blue tennis shoes. “Is he still not talking?”

“Nope, not a word.”

“How’s Edan doing?”

“He’s doing fine.” She felt strange having Pratt asking her nice things about Edan. “He’s grumpy and irritating as ever.”

“Really?” Pratt leaned closer to Gaia. “That’s why you like him that much?” he asked and her mouth twitched. “What?” Pratt asked, curious about Gaia’s expression.

“I don’t wanna talk about him.” Gaia leaned closer to Pratt trying to read his intentions. “Besides, this is the first time you’ve asked so much about them. Why?”

“Paranoid much?” Pratt chuckled, making Gaia feel a little silly. “It’s not like I hate them. I’m just not a part of their team anymore.”

Yes… Chill down G. I mean, if you ever got separated from Priyam, no matter what happened, you would still want to know if she was OK… “It would be cool if you were back on the team.”

“You want me there?” Pratt softly caressed Gaia’s arm. “All you need to do is ask.”

And there it was, the same damn feeling Gaia had with every guy she miraculously got close to… indifference. She felt intrigued by someone as mysterious as Pratt. She felt many things around him. She was excited with the thrill of finding her own answers, to the idea of having a friend treating her like an adult and trusting her information, still… nothing else.

Gaia couldn’t understand what was wrong with her. Every time she met cute guys, she never cared to pursue them, even the principal’s son, her first kiss. She felt as if by kissing the guy she could finally feel all those nerves and butterflies that Priyam described, or feel that passionate love she saw in the movies, yet nothing happened. Luckily that dog attacked him, she thought of the memory of the principal’s son trying to grope her right before a stray dog bit his leg.

Even then: at that moment, a guy as handsome as Pratt was holding her hand and she felt absolutely nothing. Not even kissing… she remembered feeling the adrenaline of the forbidden, the excitement for her deal but it was all about the situation and never about Pratt.

Only him, only Edan, the mere thought of his name gave Gaia the butterflies she craved, the fluttering no one else could give her. She hated how, out of all the men in the world, Edan was the only one who ever made her feel that way. Each time he was near her everything felt right, tasted better. Even in her nightmares, all around her was chaos, but she felt secure whenever she saw that boy with the shaggy brown hair and gorgeous green eyes.

She hated how her mind and body kept looking for him. Sensing him even across fields, like a strong magnet that no matter where she went she was pulled toward him. She hated it; she loved it.

“Hands off, mister.” Gaia slid her arm away.

“Aww, come on!” he teased.

“Don’t be gross.” She laughed at his ridiculousness. “You don’t even like me that way.”

“True.” Pratt moved his hand to the back of his blond hair, unable to hide his smile. “I just find your annoyed faces really entertaining.”

“Well, stop.” She glared at him. “Or next time I will remove it by force.”

“Look who got all sassy after achieving Nature’s Communion?”

“Nature’s what?”

“You’re kidding, right? Nature’s Communion?” Pratt questioned, trying to find any sign of recognition from Gaia; nothing. “You’re not kidding, you really don’t know what that is.”

Gaia tried to recall anyone, from Klog Mor to Hans, anyone who had talked about Nature’s Communion yet she couldn’t recall any single memory of it. She shook her head.

“Communing is the strongest form of connection Mother Nature can have with every living being. It’s creating a bond where you can understand them and help them in ways that no one else can. It’s like a direct line with Nature.”

“Wow,” Gaia sighed with the idea of getting to understand the rest of the plants and living creatures in a better way. “How do I do it?”

“Well…” Pratt rubbed the back of his neck.

“What?”

“I guess I might have spoken too soon,” he said.

“What does that even mean?”

“It means that I probably shouldn’t have told you.” Pratt stretched his arms and fold them behind his head. “I think it would be interesting to meet these two crazy twins.”

“Hey! Don’t change the subject.”

“I’m sorry, Princess.” Pratt took out a juicy pear from a pouch that hung from his belt. “If they haven’t told you, they probably have their reasons.”

“And? They haven’t told me many things yet you talk about them with me,” she said, trying not to get annoyed. “What’s different about this?”

“This is stronger.”

“Are you siding with them?”

“You know I don’t take sides,” he cleaned the pear with his sleeve. “But this is a very complex thing. If they found out I showed you how to Commune before you learned the other elements, they will definitely hunt me down.”

“I won’t tell.”

“I don’t know, Edan is very strict with these things.”

“What’s going on with you?” Gaia asked, hoping this wasn’t an April’s Fool’s Day thing. “Since when do you care what Edan is strict about?”

“Point taken.” Pratt calculated the consequences of going against The Six’s wishes. Gaia gave him her best puppy eyes. “Fine. I’ll teach you.”

“Yes!”

“Not a word, to anyone.”

“None.”

“That includes Priyam.”

“Promise.”

Chapter 4

Nature’s Communion

GAIA FOLLOWED PRATT deeper into the woods. They stopped as soon as he noticed a young deer eating grass around the nearby trees. “Watch.” Pratt kneeled down next to a fallen trunk. “See that deer?”

“Yes.”

“Close your eyes and concentrate on it.” Gaia knelt next to Pratt. “Can you feel him?”

Gaia closed her eyes. She took a deep breath then guided all her attention towards the deer. “I do.”

“Concentrate on his soul, concentrate on the vitamins in its body, the minerals running through his blood,” Pratt whispered. “Once you do, imagine the deer standing on two feet.”

“Do they even do that?” Gaia asked with her eyes still closed.

“Just imagine it.”

Gaia did as she was told. She concentrated on the minerals in his blood, the calcium, its soul. She then imagined the deer standing in its back feet and stretching its front legs towards the sky. Gaia opened her eyes and saw how the deer had obeyed her thoughts.

The animal looked so unnatural that Gaia got scared. She looked away, breaking the connection. The deer took back his real form then bounded away fast. “What was that?! Why would he do that?”

“He didn’t, you did. You just told him to.”

“How?” she asked, still haunted by the image of the abnormal stance the deer had taken.

“Every living thing is made of water and minerals,” Pratt explained. “Just like you can wield the minerals inside the earth, you can wield the ones inside a living body.”

“What?!” Gaia felt sick.

“It’s like—”

“No, I understood that!” Gaia paced around in panic. “You mean I just wielded that deer?”

“Pretty much.”

“No, no. That felt wrong.”

“Why would it be wrong?” Pratt crawled closer to Gaia, trying to calm her down. “You’ve wielded plants and elements. Why is that OK but wielding other living things is wrong?”

“Because that’s taking away their free will," Gaia snapped at Pratt. “Every living thing deserves their free will.”

“And they have it. You don’t take it away, you just guide them through a better path.”

Gaia thought about it but she couldn’t shake the idea of how terrible that was. There was no specific scenario where taking someone or something’s free will was alright. “I don’t know… it feels off.”

“I should’ve known.” Pratt seemed worried. “I’m sorry, you might not be used to it.”

“Used to what?”

“Being a mother figure,” he said.

After Pratt spoke those words, Gaia felt like the air had been sucked out of her lungs. No, she wasn’t used to any mother-related stuff. She didn’t know what it was to have her mother brush her hair, to get sad and have her bringing her ice cream, to show her how to put on make-up, to ground her, to get angry at because she wasn’t allowed to go to the party she wanted to go to, all because she cared for her. Not the bad, nor the good. “I’m sorry.” She bit her lower lip to prevent from crying. “I don’t know what it is like.”

“A mother always knows what’s best for her children, sometimes they might not agree but she has to give them rules and discipline them if needed.” Pratt hugged Gaia in an effort to calm her down. “Otherwise they won’t grow to their full potential, and Gaia, in a way you are their mother, their queen.”

“Mother or no mother, it still sounds wrong.” She wanted to move away, but a hug from a friend, in a time like this, wasn’t so bad after all.

“By wielding water you can drown an entire city, with earth you can create earthquakes and kill millions; everything is dependent on how you use it. I’m not saying you should bend everyone to your will, I’m saying you could save a girl from being run over, or a person from being murdered, or even, stop Him.”

Gaia’s body was instantly filled with chills at the sound of his name. The man who killed her entire family, the man who haunted her dreams. The man that would stop at nothing until she was dead.

“I’m sorry Pratt. I’m not going to use that wield ever again.” Gaia’s timer beeped. She let go of Pratt in order to head back, only he wasn’t letting her go. Instead, he pulled her closer.

“Don’t move,” Pratt whispered.

“Pratt!”

Pratt covered her mouth. “SHH! Don’t make a sound and turn around,” he nodded towards their right.

Slowly, Gaia turned her head around. She knew something would be wrong, she could feel it creeping up the nape of her neck. She just wasn’t prepared for what was standing behind her. A huge Draak.

Her gray eyes opened wide. “Crap,” she gasped.

The bone dragon lifted his tail. Petrified, Gaia saw how the bones twirled up and jabbed in her direction. Pratt jumped, grabbing Gaia to get her out of the way.

“A Draak?” Gaia scanned the forest sure she would see The Six running to kill it, but no one was there. “Why hasn’t anyone sensed it?”

“Maybe the pranks are keeping their minds distracted,” he said as they both ran into the forest. “They might be confusing the signs of the beast with more tricks.”

“You’re right. I need to go get Edan.”

“No! Stay down, princess.” Pratt pushed Gaia against a tree. “The Draak will kill you before you reach the protective barrier.”


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