I walked into my vault, my home and was greeted by a rush of cold air and dust. I put up a curtain just outside the main door before stripping out of my clothes. I grabbed a basin, a couple logs and a silver lighter, with Zippo engraved on the bottom, that I had found during one of my travels. I set them to the side of the curtain, but out of the vault itself.
I lit the wood on fire and picked up the basin while the fire tried to grow. I iced the inside of the basin until it was completely full and set it on the fire. The ice took its time to melt, but it was the only way I could create water, especially clean water. I set my gauntlet to the side, grabbing some powdered soap and began to wash the clothes I wore on this last journey.
I left my clothes to soak while I opened up my bag. I took the envelope of blood papers out and set them on my table to dry. I sat in my chair, opened the book and put in the entries for the slavers, so I had a documentation of their deaths. I rarely took pride in the killing of others, except for those who are slave traders, rapists and those who murder out of cold blood. That last one seemed ironic to me, because most people agreed that I was the ice heart killer that stalked people at night.
I heard a sound outside the curtain and reached for my gauntlet, forgetting that I had taken it off to wash the clothes. I stood up and faced whoever intruded into my area.
“Hello? Are you there?” A sweet female voice called out.
“No, no body is home. The clothes that are being washed are for nobody.” I answered as I watched the Bearer of Wind enter into my area.
“You really should have clothes on when you have company over.” She smiled, though I wanted to rip the smile off her face.
“You shouldn’t barge into someone’s home if you didn’t want to see them naked. What do you want, Era?” My voice was barely more than a growl.
Era strode across the floor, her pale blonde hair flowing behind her. She wore an all grey dress, matching her eyes. She was tall and slender, though I knew she was stronger than she looked. She was the leader of the Rebellion and has seen her share of fights.
She looked down at me from her slightly taller height, though I outweighed her by about one hundred pounds. “You see, Eirlys, I need to talk to you.” She daintily sat down in the chair across from mine. I sat down and met her purple eyes with my crystal blue ones. She fiddle with her hair, waiting for me to acknowledge her wish to talk, but I refused to take her bait. It took her a minute to realize that I would not say anything, “Oh, Eirlys, the Earth is dying.”
“From the books I’ve read, it’s been dying for centuries. How does this affect me?” I asked her curtly.
“But you’re Water!” She started to tear up.
“Enough of your prissy crap, Era. You and I both know that I am Ice and that I won’t fall for your girlish disposition.” I stood up and walked over to the basin and grabbed the soaking clothes. I wrung them dry and hung them up, before sitting back down in front of her. “So, I ask again, why are you trespassing in my vault?”
I watched her turn from a crying girl into her formidable self, “You have a responsibility as one of the Elements to bring balance back to this world.”
“Actually, I don’t.” I answered without a second thought. “You see, Wind-Bearer,” I called her by her title, “I am the Bearer of Ice and since Ice is a destructive force, I am doing my part. Since there was a screw up, you need to find the true person who carries the power of Water and talk to them.”
“You can create water!”
I stopped her from continuing her thought, “Not without Fire and guess where he is? Oh, that’s right, the Fire-Bearer is the right hand man of the Dictator. So, if you want Water, you need Fire. I don’t quite think that he would willingly talk to you… Hell, the Earth-Bearer won’t even talk to you.”
“That’s why I need your help!” She leaned back in the chair and continued, “Water is the element of Life and without more people will die.”
“What people? The ones who are so irradiated that clean water could kill them or the ones who would use it to justify another war? I’ve seen the normal people, a lot more than you have and not one of them sees me as an element of Life. I am the carrier of Death and I’ve worked hard to be that.”
She stood up angrily, “You will do as I say.”
I just grinned, “I’m not one of your bitches that you can boss around, Era. I am my own person and you are in my domain. Not, unless you are ready to pass along your gift to the next Bearer, get the hell out of my house.” I watched as she cringed and shivered from the ice that now separated the two of us.
“I hope you die, so we could have a true Water-Bearer, you Ice Wench. You’re the reason that the Dictator is still in power and the world is dying.” She growled before I heard her footsteps leave the vault.
I screamed in rage as I punched the ice and it cracked from the force. I walked over to the door of the vault and put the fire out. I grabbed the basin of hot water and threw the steaming water onto the ice, melting it.
I grabbed some more clothes and my bag of stuff, leaving the blood papers that I have collected thus far. I put my clothes on, strapped on my gauntlet and hung my whip at my hip. I put the bag on and exited the vault. I needed someone to talk to and there was only one person who would listen. I needed to see Enki.
I walked along the road, using my cloak and face mask to keep the dust from flying into my face. My vault was in the middle of what used to be a large forest, but the trees were black, dead and ashing. They reached up to the dark sky with their lifeless limbs. I looked over to the western horizon to see the last of the sun’s rays falling beyond the horizon.
The wind whipped around me, the trees not being able to stop its path. I used my anger and rage to push through it as I exited the forest to see the base of the mountain. The sun was completed gone and the moonlight was unable to penetrate the dust and ash. I kicked a few rocks before I gave up trying to climb the mountain in the dark. I sat on the ground and waited for the sunrise.
I yawned as the sun rose and wiped the sleep from my eyes. I do not realize when I fell asleep, but felt lucky that I was not attacked by bandits during the night. I looked up to the shadowy mountain and grinned. The rocks were weathered from the constant winds that were everywhere I have ever been. “Enki needs to do maintenance.” I spoke to myself.
I started the climb, bouldering from large rock to large rock. There was a small trail that led up the mountain, but no one but myself and Enki knows about it. I accidentally created it with my ice the first time I walked up the mountain to see the sage who is also the Earth-Bearer. I picked my way up the mountain until I found the small trail, then I followed it up the mountain until I reached the top.
I looked at the monastery that Enki used for his home. I looked up at the clear blue sky and sighed. Seeing the sky was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. It was more magnificent during the night when the worlds and stars far away gazed down upon our lowly planet.
“You keep looking up and I’ll worry that you didn’t come here to see me.” An elderly gentleman’s voice floated over to me.
I looked at him before running over to him, “Enki!” I wrapped my arms around him in a hug.
He looked down and smiled at me, before pulling away. “Follow me, Eirlys.” He turned and I followed him into his monastery home. He had a more pronounced limp than he used to, but he stood tall over me. His face was wrinkled from age, stress and heartache, as was the rest of his body. He wore the green and brown ropes of the monks from old times. His head was bald from the way he kept it closely cropped, helping his brown eyes stand out. He looked like a mix between an Apache warrior and a Shaolin monk, from the pictures in the books I have seen.
We passed by the meditation room, kitchen, bedrooms and library. We stopped when we arrived at the Zen garden in the middle of the monastery. I removed my shoes and waited for Enki, though I knew what we were going to do. He took the first step onto the carefully racked sand and walked over to the boulder in the center of the garden.
I took my first step and had to reign in my magic to prevent it from freezing the sands. Each step became a battle of will versus the power within me wanting to be free. It took me longer to reach the base of the boulder, where Enki had climbed on top of.
I sat in front of the boulder facing away from it, using its strength to lean against, and symbolically leaning against Enki’s strength and wisdom. “Enki… Era came to visit me yesterday…” I tried to contain the anger I felt, but a couple snowflakes still fell around me.
“What did she want?” He asked, ignoring the fat flakes.
I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. “She blames me for her Rebellion not defeating the Dictator and for…”
“What else did she say, Child?” He asked softly.
I yelled it, unable to contain the rage and grief, “She said that I’m the reason the world is dying! She blames me for everything!” The fat flakes became icicles that rained down around us, though not one came close enough to hurt either of us. “She hopes that I die so there will be a true Water-Bearer!” The ice stopped falling and shattered around us as I tried to get a hold of my emotions.
Enki used the sand around us to stop the ice from hitting either of us as I lost control. After the ice storm calmed down around us, he hopped off the boulder and held his hand out to me, “Want to know what I think?”
I grabbed his hand and he helped me stand. “What do you think?”
“Walk with me.” He led us around the Zen garden, despite the turmoil the sand was in from my outburst. “You see, I’ve read stories about the different Elementals.” I dared not to speak, letting him take his time to talk. “Fire and Wind are the fickle elements. They are constantly in chaos and can’t seem to settle down. They are quick to anger and jump at every opportunity.” I felt his words wrap around me like a warm fire, just enough heat to provide a feeling of safety but not enough to burn. “Earth and Water are the two grounding elements. We are usually slow to anger, but when we reach our breaking point, there’s nothing that can stop us. Earthquakes, Landslides, Floods and Tsunamis were the deadliest natural disasters. But, during the times where the world was at peace and there was balance, then we kept it that way.”
We stopped walking and he turned towards me, “We are at a turning point in our history, Eirlys. I know that you don’t have control over Water like the world thinks you should have, but I wonder if it’s because you’ve closed yourself off from the world.”
My brows furrowed in confusion, “What do you mean?”
“Well, for example, besides me, who do you talk to?”
I tried to answer, but I could not lie to him, “No one. At least not willingly. I talk for jobs and travels, but I try to avoid people as best I could.”
“Do you remember what first caused you to break my mountain and create your trail?”
“The Rebels were being arseholes. They kept picking on me and calling me weak. But it was more than that. No one was willing to know me as a person. They talked at me or down to me, never to me as another human being. After my family was killed by bandits, I ran away from there and heard about the Mountain Sage, which was you.”
“These early experiences caused you to shy away from every, including me when we first met. But let me tell you a secret…” He bent down to whisper in my ear, “Before all of that, what was your greatest possession?”
I had to think about it, the item being so far away in memory. “I had a bottle. It was still in one piece and blue. The other kids took it and shattered it in front of me.”
“You had that bottle because you were making it rain and wanted to catch it before it hit the ground. After they shattered it and then your family died, you became cold to the rest of the world. I wonder that if you stopped trying to shelter your heart if you would be able to be the Water-Bearer that you used to be.”
I backed away from him, not quite sure about what he was telling me. “I don’t remember making rain…”
He stood back up and smiled at me, “Before I locked myself up here, I would travel around and one day I saw you create a fountain with the water in the bottle. It was beautiful the way it danced to the song you were singing. I think if you found that happiness you had as a child and a reason to sing, then you can create more than just ice.” He walked away, leaving me to my thoughts.
I kept walking in the Zen garden, trying to regain the ground I had lost under my feet. I understood what Enki was talking about, but I strongly dislike people because they are known for their lies, betrayal, bullying and violence. I did not want to associate with these kinds of people. I needed to find those who shared my same morals and ideas.
I sniffed the air as my stomach rumbled, reminding me that I had not eaten well since leaving the Shifter’s Guild. The enticing smell drew me towards the kitchen of the monastery. I stepped through the door to see the table set up for two, as Enki pulled something out from the fire.
I noticed his hands were rocks to protect his skin from the burning metal. I looked into the pan and saw that there were green things in it, along with other things I did not know about. “Enki, what is this?”
“I found it in one of the books from the monks of long ago. It’s called a quiche and it is good for you.”
“What are these green things?” I pointed to the pieces of dark greenery.
“I haven’t shown you my garden?”
“Garden? What’s a garden?”
His eyes widened, “I thought I’ve shown you. Follow me…” He grabbed my hand and we ran through the corridors until we found ourselves outside under the glaring sunlight.
I shielded my eyes from the light as he let go of my hand. There were green things popped out of the dark soil. I walked over to them and touched them, “Enki, what are these?”
“These are called plants. I know you’ve seen the dead trees, but this is what plants look like when they are alive. The part you are touching is called a leaf.”
“I’ve never seen them so green before.” I touched the leaf and rubbed it with my fingers. “How do they grow?” I looked up at him with amazement.
“The sunlight comes down and hits the leaves. The leaves soak up the sun’s energy, why the plant roots soak up the water from the soil from rain.”
“But the rain is toxic.” I was baffled.
“Not up here. This high on the mountain, the rain is clean and fresh. The heavy rain, the toxic rain you speak of, can’t reach this height.”
“Water created this…” I stopped touching the plant and looked at my hands. “Are they good?” I looked back up at Enki.
He picked a green thing off the plant next to him and handed it to me. “That is called a pepper. Some peppers are hot, but this one is sweet.”
I bit into it and laughed. The moment the pepper touched my tongue, I was over the moon. “It’s delicious.” I stood up and could not stop grinning, “Teach me. Teach me how to make this!”
He shook his head, “I wish I could but you need sunlight and clean water to make it work.” Then I saw the gleam in his eyes, “But if you remembered how to create water, then maybe we can figure something out.”
“You’re a sly dog, Enki, but I accept your proposal.” I took another bite of the pepper and melted.
“Keep the seeds with you. We can practice on some of the ones I have and you can use the ones in that pepper to grow your own. Now, let’s eat dinner and I’ll see if I can help you create life.”
I followed him back through the monastery, nibbling on the pepper as we walked. I found a few seeds and held them in my hand, like they were gold pieces. I sat at the table and set them right next to me as I finished the pepper. “Now,” Enki commanded my attention, “In this quiche, there’s spinach, bone and corn meal, along with something that I know will surprise you.”
He took a slice from the pan and set it on a plate for me. I waited until he sat down before saying the prayers, “Magic as it flows through us, help guide us from the path of destruction and into the reign of Light.” We both spoke at the same time, before we started to eat.
I bit into the quiche and chewed slowly before swallowing, “It’s bitter, but sweet… And I can’t taste the bone and corn meal.”
“The spinach is bitter and the surprise is sweet. I know that all people outside of the Dictator’s inner circle have been fed meal for your entire lives. But that sweet taste came from a pig.”
I looked at the quiche piece again and furrowed my brows, “I’ve had hog and it didn’t taste like this.”
“I found a way to change the flavor of it. Last I remember, you burn things when you cook.”
I did not deny the truth when I heard it. “Enki…” I set my fork down, “What if I can’t remember how to make Water?”
He looked at me, his mouth full of food. He stopped chewing and sat back, thinking. He swallowed before answering, “What is precious to you?”
“Money, my vault…” I started to list material possessions.
“No, no, no.” He tried to rephrase the question, “I saw how you carried the seeds like they are important to you. Why?”
“The pepper is delicious and I want to make it.”
“You only need one seed to make a plant, why keep all of them?”
“Because if it works, maybe I could give them…” I finally realized where he was leading to, “I could give them to the people. We are barely surviving and if the Dictator has his way, we won’t have meal much longer. We only get it in the outskirts because the Rebels steal it from him. And look how green the plants are that you have.” I smiled softly to myself, “I want to see the forest that is around my vault to be full of life again. I heard there are places in the world where these things called birds sing and fill the air.”
“I’ve seen them before. Some came and ate my garden, but from what I’ve read in books, when they eliminate, they spread the seeds around. I don’t know how long seeds last.” He grinned, “And don’t you think it’s time for this Nuclear Winter to end? It’s been cold for too long and I think it’s time for the sun to penetrate the dust and ash and give warmth to the world.”
I continued to eat while I thought about his words. After finishing my meal, I finally answered him, “I agree, Enki. I think it’s time that this Winter ended…” But I knew what I said and what he meant were two completely different things, but could yield wondrous results.
He led me to an empty room to sleep until the next morning before I would descend his mountain. I tossed and turned on the mat, trying to get comfortable, but moreover, to get rid of the thoughts that refused to leave me alone. After about an hour, I gave up and put my cloak back on. I walked outside to the garden and looked at the different plants.
I looked at my hand and tried to find a happy feeling to warm myself up. I touched one of the pepper plants and frost lightly covered the leaves. I backed away from it, not wanting to hurt it more. I realized that I became what I have always wanted, a deadly plague. I walked away from the garden and walked into the sand of the Zen. I walked over to the boulder where Enki had sat earlier. I climbed up it and looked up at the sky.
I remembered the names of the constellations from an astronomy book I found in my vault. I saw the moon in her full glory, the cold moonlight drifting down to the earth. I reached up, feeling like I could touch her and hold her tight. I saw myself in the moon, lonely, cold and separated from the rest of the world by a space I cannot figure out how to cross. “Lady Artemis… How do you cope with the loneliness?” I knew I would not get an answer, but I could not pull my eyes away from her. “I know your cold silvery light is the reflection of the Sun’s warmth, so should I try to find my warmth in the same way?” It hit me then, “Except my opposite works for the Dictator. How am I going to convince him to help me plant the seeds to end this Winter?”
A cloud passed in front of the moon and stars above me. “Darkness…?” I looked up to see the darker clouds blocking out the moon completely. “I understand, Lady Artemis.” I hopped off the rock and walked back into my room. I sat on the mattress and started to plan. “Someone needs to destroy the Darkness…” I grabbed my book from the interior of my bag. I flipped to the last page to the last line, the final name. “Guess my next journey is going to take me into the enemy’s territory and I’ll have to finish this kill sooner rather than later.”
I looked around the room, memorizing the details before I grabbed my bag. I walked towards the front door but a voice from behind me stopped me, “So, you’re leaving early?”
I turned and nodded to Enki, “Yes, I have something to do.”
He walked forward and handed me a small bag. “These are the seeds I’ve been collecting for you ever since I started my garden. Plant them where you think they will grow and give them the life they deserve.”
I felt like I was going to cry, “Thank you, Enki…” I gave him a hug. “I’ll see you as soon as I’m done.”
“Don’t get yourself killed.” He gave the same advice as he did every time we parted ways.
I backed away from him, “I don’t know when I’ll be back, but next time, teach me how to make that quiche thing. It was delicious.”
“What are you planning to do? And when are you planning on going after the source?”
I coughed. “I don’t know. But I’m tired of being called the Ice Queen… At bare minimum, I’m going to earn that title in respect, or everyone is going to call me the name that my family gave me twenty-five years ago. I can’t obliterate a tree without taking out some of the roots first.” I smiled, but it did not quite reach my eyes.
“Good luck and Magic bless.” He grabbed my forearm tightly, giving me the confidence of his strength. I grabbed his back to chase away the feelings of worry. We both let go and I pulled my hood up and placed my facemask over my mouth and nose. I gave him one last wave, and descended the mountain.