This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
com/dp/B0075F8S70 All Rights Reserved Copyright© 2012 by Yezall Strongheart Zylena wiped the hair from her forehead, painting slightly lighter streaks on her forehead. The dust in the air mixed with the sweat of her brow to become the art she created. As she sat leaning against the tree, the warm winds blew in gusts around her. She could see them now, just a dot on the horizon. She stood quickly. Squinting into the sun, with a hand shading her eyes, she tried to make out more, but could not “Time to face destiny. Clapping her hands together, to remove the dust, she turned towards her village. Taking the quicker way, she jumped between rocks and slid in the dust and gravel, stopping once to look behind her, and then pausing to look over her village. The low one story buildings scattered over the landscape before her; all circling a large well in the center. Zylena watched as the people scurried about like ants. Jumping down one last time, she landed close to the back of her house. “I see them coming, Mama.” Like a drifting breeze, she entered her home. She draped the light blanket she used to shade her face across a chair. A desert dweller with fair skin! A cruel joke to be sure. “Then you better clean up, my love.” Her mother, Theola, looked up from her sewing, They lived near the desert, it was arid; yet life could be seen everywhere. Mature trees, like the Joshua tree, many succulents like Datil yucca plants were plentiful as well as edible. Underground streams fed the well in the center of town and the underground systems supplied each home with water. The remote village of Seriton was small yet mostly self-sustaining. The houses were rudimentary but comfortable. Zylena took her mother‟s advice and headed for her room. Knowing she had at least an hour before they arrived she didn‟t rush. She looked in her mirror as she removed her clothes, is this what I really want? The visitors came from very far away. They lived in the large city, Tivolty, on the other side of the desert. The group from Tivolty made the trip to the outlying villages approximately every ten years in search of girls who had a gift. A certain type of gift, that some would call magical. They searched for girls who had shown signs of being able to control an element; be it fire, earth, water, or wind. The men who had this gift were born only to women residing in the town of Tivolty, it was unknown why. They had to seek an element mate in the outlying villages who complemented the element they had full control of. If the two people were compatible, then the man would share a part of his power, making her control stronger. There was a secret ceremony which was never spoken of by the recipients. After which the girls could choose to stay in their own village or travel back to Tivolty. “I just need a little more power!” A girl just outside the window called out, interrupting Zylena‟s
thoughts. Her friends all giggled and laughed as she made water bubble in a cup she held. “We have the water element here anyway, you won‟t be chosen…” an older boy taunted. “I, on the other hand, have something we can use.” Another smaller girl snapped her fingers and sparks appeared. They all poked fun at each other, as they strolled by, their voices drifting away. You would become a great asset to your village; or if you chose to go to Tivolty, your village could still enjoy the benefits remotely. The village Counselor would be given several glass containers. The process that filled these containers was known only to the Counselor and the controllers. Upon opening them, the glass containers would control an element for months at a time, if used only when necessary. The village Counselor was a disciple of the Divine Counselor who lived in Tivolty. His job had many facets. He resolved differences, maintained the element jars and provided divine guidance to the village. The people of Seriton worshiped the earth and its element forces, as did all other villages and cities of the region. They gathered to give homage twice a week. The Counselor, Suzerain-Thomas guided the girls who were believed to have potential to control of an element. The gatherings consisted of meditation followed by time for the girls to practice their gift. Zylena‟s village already had a water element controlled. The one who controlled it still lived in the village, as was her choice. There was no need for water containers. The village‟s goal was to have all the elements controlled, but for many years no one had the gift. There was great anticipation this time as several of the girls showed signs of being potential controllers. Zylena was told she could be a controller of wind. She thought this was a terrible element to control. What good would it do her village? It was already windy, dusty, and dry where she lived. What was there to control? As she soaked in her bath she remembered that during the gatherings the villagers had spoken about her potential to be a wind controller. Since the day she was born they hadn‟t been plagued by dust storms; how they skirted the village and moved on. She believed it must be merely a coincidence‟ as she did nothing to prevent it. And, she further reasoned, if that were the case she was already controlling it so why would she have to become the element mate of one of these men? She groaned and climbed out of the bath tub. She covered herself with a towel and went to the window. She looked out to see several of the girls talking excitedly and waving their arms about. They must know that the men from Tivolty were close. Why were they so happy about it? They knew just as much as she did. Didn‟t all the secrecy worry them? Many times before, Zylena asked her mother for answers, since she was the water controller, but she hushed Zylena saying, “You know I‟m not allowed to say.”
Dressing in her most unbecoming dress, she hoped not to be noticed. She looked at herself once more then she headed back down stairs. Theola motioned her closer and patted a seat in front of her. Her mother brushed her long red hair, braiding parts of it and entwining white blossoms. Zylena sat quietly for a while, then asked, “Has father ever returned here?” Theola's hands stilled and there was a pause of silence, then she said softly, “No.” This was a subject that plagued Zylena. She liked her life in Seriton, wanting to remain here. However, she felt a need to find her father, the man from Tivolty who shared his power with her mother. He returned to Tivolty and her mother chose to stay in the village. She wanted to know him. Zylena sought to take advantage of the opportunity to travel and start a search for her father. It left her very torn as to what path to follow. After another uncomfortable pause, her mother patted her shoulders, “I see you chose to wear that ugly dress, no matter, your hair will make you stand out regardless.” she laughed lightly. She knows me so well. Zylena smiled back at her. With heavy steps she started for the door. Her Mother called to her, “Zylena, the village needs you. Do what‟s right.” Making eye contact with her mother, she said nothing, but turned and left. Yesterday this all seemed so far away. Most mornings Zylena still slept while Theola rose early to see that the water was functioning properly. Going to the well in the center of town she would stare into its depths, using her gift. It aligned things and allowed them to work. She was responsible for the flow that carried the water to the various buildings. It was due to this ability that others in the village were able to grow vegetables for the local markets. Theola would then return home to get Zylena off to school. Everyone from the adults to children had a purpose to fulfill. The children went to school to learn how to write, read, and understand math, but also learned how to farm. It was mainly the job of men and young adult men to hunt, yet some women chose this as well. The adults who were not teachers sustained the village with food, while others were builders. Zylena preferred to accompany the hunters as a tracker. Today the village was abuzz with activity. Zylena appeared to move in slow motion compared to everyone else. Looking ahead she could see people starting to gather by the town well. The girls were acting so silly, hoping to be noticed; she was disgusted by them. She couldn‟t bring herself to be like them. She wasn‟t sure if she was afraid of what she would find, or fail to find, should she be chosen. Either way, she was unsettled. As Zylena reached the outer edges of the crowd that had gathered, a cheer was heard, heralding the arrival of the entourage. The sun was at their backs so it was hard to see them clearly. She squinted in their direction. They rode horses, walking slowly in the heat of the day. They traveled lightly with just a few small bags tied to each saddle. As they drew closer she counted five of them. The closer they got the farther back into the crowd she traveled until she was
behind everyone. The town had erected a small elevated stand for them to speak from. She watched as the men gracefully descended from their mounts and approached the stand. The girls had swarmed to the front of the gathering and were making the most annoying noises. Boys their age were behind them making fun. Zylena rolled her eyes, embarrassed. The men started to speak and Zylena quickly lost interest. She stared at the ground in front of her and wished for this to be over. She was unaware that people had turned to look at her. She heard short, quiet gasps, which is what finally made her look up. Her eyes shot from side to side trying to determine the reason for their attention. Realizing they looked behind her she slowly turned. Her eyes grew wide as she viewed a ten foot dust devil looming just behind her. As soon as she saw it, it dissipated into the ground. Shocked, she turned back to the crowd. From the stand, a man quickly jumped down and ran to her. Taking her hands in his he said, “I choose you! You command the wind naturally!” He smiled broadly. Zylena tried to pull her hands away, to no avail. He was waiting for a remark from her. She stammered a reply, “I-you-I don‟t know that I did that!” “Of course you did! Please, come with me so we can talk.” He tugged at her hands and she walked with him. Zylena followed the man looking at the back of his head. He had very wispy blond hair, long, reaching his shoulder blades. He wore a white muslin tunic with matching pants that billowed in the breeze. For the life of her she couldn‟t remember what his face looked like. Although he traveled with four other men, not all of them controlled an element. Some were there to facilitate the erecting of tents as temporary shelters for the duration of their stay. Only two other men controlled an element and they were having trouble, after assessing the gathering of people, finding someone eligible for selection. Eyes bore into her and the crowd grew quiet as the man led her toward the tents that had been quickly set up while the others spoke. Zylena glanced sideways at the girls in front, who had such hopes of being chosen. They glared at her momentarily before directing their attention back to the men still looking over the crowd. Upon reaching the tent he dropped her hands and pulled aside the flap of the tent beckoning her inside. She eyed him suspiciously and passed through the opening. Once inside he motioned for her to have a seat on the dusty ground. . Reaching for her hands again he introduced himself, “My name is Kaneck.” He smiled widely. She allowed her hands to be captured in his, “I am Zylena.” Kaneck was a pleasant-looking man, but she didn‟t feel any attraction to him. Zylena was aware of her obligation to proceed with this; and she didn‟t feel she had a choice.
Zylena looked away from his smiling face when he said nothing further his smile faded. “Zylena, do you have fear?” Without turning her head she looked into his eyes again, “Yes. And…I have questions.” He pulled her hands closer to his chest, “That‟s what this time is for, talking, making a decision…Come, we must be closer.” He stood and helped her to rise. This disturbed her, she resisted. “Please Zylena, I won‟t harm you or make you do anything you don‟t want to, this is merely part of the process.” He cajoled her. One of the few things in the sparse furnishings of the tent was a mat. Kaneck drew her to it and pulled her down with him. He lay on his side and positioned her back to his chest. He pulled her close with an arm around her waist. This was extremely uncomfortable for her. She had never been so close to another human being. The hugs she received from her mother were not this intimate. She was tense, feeling somewhat trapped. Kaneck could feel her apprehension and stroked her arm, “Tell me your fears….and ask your questions Zylena.” Again resting his arm around her waist he waited for her to speak. It seemed to Zylena they spoke for a long time. She asked many questions. Some Kaneck was not allowed to answer yet. As they conversed, Kaneck would draw the back of his hand across Zylena‟s cheek, stroke her arm, and rest a hand on her hip, very intimately. Zylena found it hard to concentrate on what he was saying at times. He told her of Tivolty, a large city, efficiently run by the controllers of the elements. It was governed however, by Lord Tristan, a fair ruler with an immense cabinet of advisers who kept the peace. There was still a need for an armed force. The city of Tivolty housed the most controllers of any city on the continent. The threat of kidnapping the residents was great. Most of the controllers chose to live there rather than in their own villages for that reason. Many villages had no one with element controlling abilities and they would kidnap and enslave controllers. The cathedral in the center of town was hard for Kaneck to describe to Zylena. It was an architectural wonder. The craftsman of Tivolty had outdone themselves in the building of this homage to their faith. The many steeples and turrets could be seen above the walls of the city. Beautiful statues and carvings adorned the outside of the building. This is where the Divine Counselor lived. The smaller villages had meager buildings designed for people to receive guidance from the Counselor‟s disciples; however the Divine Counselor had the final say in
religious matters. There was a never-ending debate about how the controllers received their gift. Most believed it could only be gifted from Gaia because it was helpful in their daily lives. Others believed the source was less than benign and could be used against them. They went so far as to say it could be used as a weapon. The residential area and business area was consistent with most of the smaller villages. Some of the more well to do businesses, tailors, jewelers, blacksmith, and the like had stone buildings. A majority of the wares such as fresh vegetables, breads, crafts, all were found in the outdoor market. The Market was a very colorful part of town because of the many colors of fabrics covering the stands to shade the product being sold by the vendors. It was always bustling with people from early morning until after dark. Street musicians strolled through the crowds hoping for a coin or two. Scruffy children ran everywhere laughing, and stealing a fruit when the opportunity arose. Zylena listened quietly while Kaneck spoke of the city, only squirming slightly when he touched her more intimately. Now her questions were more about the controllers themselves and about the process needed for the transfer of power. Kaneck rose up on one elbow. He pulled her shoulder backwards and down to view her face. “Zylena, you must commit to be my mate before I can say more. What I will tell you is that because you commit to be my mate does not mean we are bound to each other.” “I don‟t understand….” Zylena looked up at him innocently. He smiled down on her. The thought of having this lovely woman by his side was an enjoyable one. “Our duty is to pass power to the one who can benefit from it the most. It has nothing to do with being together forever, unless it is mutually agreed. It has happened.” He paused, “You have free will Zylena. You may stay here or travel to Tivolty with me. Either way we will be Element Mates, which you can never change. You will be the only one to receive power from me. When needed, we will draw power from each other, no matter where we are. Together we are a formidable force.” Zylena stared at him for a moment taking it all in. “I commit to you.” She said just above a whisper. “Are you sure?” Kaneck looked deeply into her eyes. Zylena took a deep breath. Having her own agenda; she had made up her mind. It didn‟t matter what the process was. Her mother had survived it. She was born to become an Element Mate; she couldn‟t run away from that. “Yes.” Kaneck held her tightly. “Now I can tell you the rest. Zylena, I must enter your body in the most intimate way.”
“I knew it!” She tensed in his arms. “Don‟t be afraid.” He waited, “Do you understand?” Zylena couldn‟t look at him now. A tidal wave of emotions washed over her. “Yes…Yes I do.” It made sense to her now why some Element Mates chose to live alone. What man would want her after this? Kaneck was seemingly all business and wasn‟t looking for a partner; she didn‟t think she would have a future with him either. Kaneck sat up but still held her. “Take as much time as you want Zylena, when you are ready we will prepare. You can‟t leave this tent until we are done. We are on another plane of existence.” “Then there is magic involved.” She looked up at him. “The Counselor frowns on that word. He believes Gaia has control of this. When we entered this tent we were sent to this place, magic or Gaia, we are here until the power is passed.” Kaneck replied. Zylena sagged against Kaneck chest. “Well then, I am not knowledgeable in this area; so I put myself in your hands.” Kaneck laughed softly, “It‟s imperative that you are pure, it‟s true. Although I have been with other women I can only pass power to one. I can only imagine it will be much the same.” Kaneck set Zylena back from him. He reclined and held out his arms to her. “Come to me, Zylena.” Zylena leaned down and was enveloped in his arms. Her lips met Kaneck‟s lips softly at first, as he drew her closer, the kiss deepened. It was intoxicating; and she found she enjoyed the sensations coursing through her body. It seemed natural for him to remove her clothing along with his own. She could hear her breath, as well as his, quicken. He made guttural noises deep in his throat that made her shudder with delight. To her surprise, she made similar noises. Zylena was short of breath, feeling like she was running uphill. She was in a rush to get there, for something wonderful awaited her, although she had no idea what that was. Kaneck touched and manipulated her body to make sure she was ready to receive him. He had anticipated it would be much the same as it had been with other women but he couldn‟t have been more wrong. He wanted her more than anything he had ever wanted before. He had to slow his pace so he wouldn‟t rush her but she seemed to be in tune with him perfectly. She opened her eyes and held his face in her hands, “Please…” was all she said. Kaneck needed no further sign she was ready. He moved over her, taking in her beauty, her innocence. Zylena lay beneath him waiting. Covering her mouth with his, he entered her gently at first then forced his way in until he was fully engulfed. Zylena hands were on his shoulders; they tightened into claws and ripped at his flesh. She
screamed into his mouth. She was shocked at the flash of pain, but found it soothed as Kaneck moved within her. She released her grip on his shoulder and her hands fluttered over the muscles working in his back. She again felt the urgency she felt before. She ceased to rationalize it and embraced it. The sudden release and explosion of sensations caused her to yell out again, no words, just sound. Kaneck was oblivious to the pain in his shoulder. What he was aware of, was that this transcended anything he had ever had with any other woman. When Zylena yelled her release he followed; passing the power. He collapsed slightly to the side of her, and then held her until their breathing returned to normal. Zylena was the first to speak, “And now?” Kaneck sighed and turned to face her. “And now…. We are done.” “Oh no we aren‟t, you are taking me to Tivolty.” Zylena rose and gathered her clothes. Kaneck smiled, obviously happy with her decision, “Really?” He quickly grabbed for his clothes. Zylena stood at the opening to the tent, “Are we…back? I don‟t want to step out into „er whatever.” “Yes, you are home.” Kaneck laughed. As they emerged from the tent, Kaneck voice rang out, “We are Elemental Mates!” His companions came over to congratulate him. Cheers could be heard from the townspeople, they would have protection from the wind. Zylena stood looking embarrassed and feeling slightly wanton. She was glad most of them had no idea what went on between her and Kaneck. Kaneck put his arm around her shoulder and motioned her away from the gathering. “Let‟s go get your things.” They walked toward her home and he gave her further news. The other men didn‟t find anyone acceptable and they would be moving on to the next village. Just the two of them would be heading back to Tivolty. They would rest this afternoon and travel at night when it was cooler. Zylena‟s mother waited at the doorway of their home as they approached. She was smiling. When they stood next to each other she took Zylena in her arms, “You are leaving, aren‟t you?” Zylena just nodded. Theola gave them food and left them to rest. She spent the rest of the afternoon gathering things for them to take with them.
The sun started its downward spiral and the day began to cool; signaling their time to leave. After packing the necessary things, they stood outside, ready to begin their journey. Zylena‟s mother watched them go, watching until the darkness and distance swallowed them. They both rode on Kaneck‟s horse and had to travel light. Most of Zylena‟s personal things were left behind. Her mother had packed food and water for them, besides that there was little else. Kaneck had a small pack and a bed roll. They traveled most of the night, passing the time by talking. She even told him of her plans to find her father. Zylena was surprised to find out that Kaneck could sing rather well. She kept the secret she knew how to play an instrument. As morning was about to dawn, they reached a ridge. “Your new home awaits, Madam.” Kaneck threw an arm out, motioning over the ridge to the other side. Zylena leaned to the side around him and stared in wonder. She could see the steeples of the cathedral above the fortress; just like he had told her about. “It‟s beautiful…..” She could see the pride and happiness in his features. She decided to have some fun. “I just thought it would be bigger…” He quickly turned around at the waist to see her face; he looked confused until he saw the smile on her face. “You will make life interesting.” He said, almost under his breath. “So, we could be there by night fall or arrive early morning if we rest.” They had skirted the dunes of the desert and remained in an area with vegetation. She looked around and saw a shaded area. The sun‟s heat would still be harsh so it would be best to rest. They fed, watered, and groomed Kaneck‟s horse before thinking of opening the food her mother had packed for them. They talked more while they ate. Zylena was growing fond of Kaneck, but not in the way she thought she would. Regardless of what had transpired she felt no love, but more of a deep friendship. Kaneck rolled out the bed roll in the shade of a large rock. “I‟m sorry we‟ll have to share.” Zylena fully expected Kaneck to want her again but he rolled to one side and went to sleep. She wasn‟t sure how she felt about that and it kept her awake thinking about it longer than it should have. Cool evening breezes woke them. They packed their belongings quickly and started on the last leg of their journey. She kept an eye on the distant fortress watching it grow bigger with every hour. Strangely they did very little talking this time. Kaneck was telling her she would be assigned a room in the Keep of Lord Tristan for now. They would take care of her until she completed tasks and earned enough money to be on her own.
She didn‟t like the sound of that. He was about to tell her she could always come and live with him. He was having trouble getting the words out, he wasn‟t sure why. Suddenly from behind a rock, three men jumped out in front of them. Two more stood up, brushing off the sand they had used to hide beneath. The first three had bows with arrows notched, ready to fly “We‟ll be takin‟ the girl.” One of the men who had hid beneath the sand spoke up. The other moved forward. Zylena was startled, as was the horse, which reared up. She almost slid off, but she clung to Kaneck. As the one man moved forward, her body began to shake and she felt a power well up inside her. The sand in front of them rose and swirled, the men were driven back. The three with bow and arrows released the arrows but without aim they were harmless. The swirling continued, becoming more violent, the men no longer visible. Screams could be heard beyond the veil of sand. Kaneck slowly turned in the saddle to look at Zylena, who had a determined look on her face. She shook slightly, her eyes fixed, as if she were in a trance. He yelled her name several times over the roar of the sand storm. Her eyes closed and she fell limp across his back. He reached around to hold her with one hand. The silence was almost deafening. Kaneck realized the wind had died down and the sand had fallen. The men now visible looked as if sand paper had scrubbed their clothing and skin; the clothing shredded and their skin bleeding profusely. Turning his attention back to Zylena he shook her gently calling her name. She regained consciousness with a jolt and looked scared, “What just happened?!” “Are you alright?” Kaneck asked with concern in his voice. “Yes” She looked before them at the moaning lumps of flesh the bandits were reduced to. “I did that…” “Yes you did.” Kaneck said in disbelief. He spurred the horse into motion. “We have to hurry now.”