Julie stretched and let out a large yawn. Opening her eyes she looked around sleepily. The day was bright and cheerful, and though it was cool now the sun promised a warm day ahead. Julie stood up and stretched again, wondering where Jovas had gone; it was already midmorning. Normally Jovas woke her up at dawn so they could get an early start for the day.
Looking around camp Julie saw that the fire pit had been cleaned up and Jovas' things had already been packed. She also noticed a small plate of berries and nuts sitting on her pack. "Well, he was here," Julie muttered to herself. Shrugging, Julie set about the task of rolling up and packing her blankets and cleaning up her area. Once she was finished she sat down and ate the breakfast Jovas had set out for her, wondering again where he had gone.
She couldn't believe how well her suggestion had worked the night before. The two had talked until the moon had set, probably why they were off to such a late start this morning. Julie had been reminded of the first days she and Jovas had spent together just after his arrival at Travnatan; he had readily answered all her questions, but rarely offered any information on his own. Last night had been similar, but very different. Jovas seemed to put more thought into his answers, instead of giving straight forward ones. It was almost as if before now his answers had been scripted and rehearsed. Perhaps to some degree, they were.
Julie hadn't really learned anything new about Jovas that night, but she at least felt confident that what she did know about him was the truth. No more lies, just like they had promised. As she finished up her breakfast, Julie realized that she still really knew nothing about Jovas. That thought didn't really concern her as much as it had. For some reason, now he felt more like a real person. She couldn't explain it, but she felt like they were closer now than they had ever been.
After about a half hour with no sign of Jovas, Julie started thinking about what needed to be done. Looking around their little camp, it became clear that Jovas had already taken care of everything. Julie wondered again where he could have disappeared to. She wasn't really worried about what had happened to him. She knew he could take care of himself. He was a Fire elemental after all.
She ran her fingers over her hair and wrinkled her nose in disgust. It had been well over a week since she had washed it last. Well, now seemed as good a time as any to wash it. Searching through her bag, she found her comb and the bar of lavender soap her grandmother had sent her a while back. Julie loved the smell of lavender. It always reminded her of her mother.
Stripping down to her grey tunic, Julie neatly folded the rest of her clothing and placed them on her bag. She then made her way barefoot to the Undying River. It was babbling loudly, clamoring to tell her about every fish swimming in its depths and about any animal that happened to drink its water.
"Yes, yes. Hush now," Julie said, attempting without success to quiet the water. She waded into the river, stopping when it was just at thigh level. Bending down she started unbraiding her hair, letting it loose in the water. Her element swirled and bubbled around her. She smiled at its insistent babbling, hardly paying it any attention as she picked some tangles from her hair. That is, until it offered some interesting information.
"Wait, wait! Did you mention a pool somewhere close by?" she asked the water around her. The river bubbled happily, splashing playfully at her legs. Julie listened as the water gave her directions to the pool. Going back to the shore, she quickly grabbed her soap and comb before diving into the river.
"Take me there!" she said joyfully under the water. The water was more then happy to oblige, surging around her and propelling her forward.
Julie loved interacting with her element. Even before she was chosen she had loved the way water sounded in her ears and how it felt on her skin. It made her feel fresh and alive. Her mother had told her it was the most important of the elements, which was why it was such an honour to be chosen by the Water Element. Water was the keeper of life. Without water, there would be nothing. No plants, no animals, no humans, no elementals.
The day Julie had been chosen, she had been playing in the river by her house. She was thirteen years old at the time and lived a relatively carefree life with her grandparents. Julie remembered how she was floating on her back, staring up at the blue sky as she thought of her mother when it happened. The water had surged up over her, pulling her under, carrying her impossibly deep. At first she had been scared. She had panicked and fought to get back to the surface. Her lungs had burned from a lack of air, causing her to panic more. But then she had felt the Elemental Spirit with her, calming her.
She remembered relaxing as the Spirit breathed a new life into her. Her lungs no longer burned and she took a breath letting the water in, letting it fill her body and soul. The water seemed to ease her worries and fears. It had been the best experience of her life. To this day she still remembered the first touch of her Element on her skin. Being carried down the river now reminded her of that touch.
All too soon, with the water's help, Julie arrived at a little offshoot of the river. The water here was deeper, making a nice little pool. The pool was very secluded. She was happy she had the river bring her, for she doubted she would have found it on her own.
Climbing up the shore, Julie sat chest deep in the water as she went back to work carefully picking at her hair, letting its wet mass fall over her shoulders and down her chest. Taking the bar of soap, she started to lather her hair, the gentle smell of lavender filling the air making her smile. She made sure the full length of her hair received attention before she started scrubbing her scalp good and hard.
Once she was satisfied that her hair was thoroughly washed, she lied back in the water, closing her eyes as her head went under to keep the soap out. As she rinsed her hair she heard a splash further into the pool. Startled, she sat up quickly and looked around. Soapy water from her hair dripped down into her eyes, stinging them painfully and causing her to squint them shut again. Blindly, Julie reached for a weapon, and cursed herself as she realized that she had left her knife back at the camp. "No matter," she thought as she wiped the soap from her eyes. "I'm sitting in a pool of water." She prepared to defend herself from whoever might be lurking in the water ahead.
"You're finally awake."
"Jovas?" Julie splashed some water into her face to try and get rid of the pesky soap in her eyes. "Jovas, is that you?"
"Yes it's me. Did you get soap in your eyes?"
"You startled me," Julie said as she rinsed the rest of the soap away. Her vision cleared, though her eyes still stung.
"Sorry. When did you wake up?"
Julie looked around for where Jovas was, looking to the shore. She noticed a pile of clothing off to her right, but no Jovas. Her brow wrinkled as she looked out into the water to where he was treading water. He had let his hair out as well and it floated all around him. His arm was also bare in the water.
Julie just stared at him.
"What?" Jovas finally asked, swimming closer to her.
"You're swimming," Julie answered lamely.
"Yes, that is normally what one does in water."
"But...you are a Fire elemental." Julie's voice was full of confusion.
"So?" Jovas walked up the shallow bank and sat beside her. His long brown hair fell in clumps around his back and bare chest.
Julie shook her head. "I thought Fire elementals hated water. None of the Fire weavers I knew when I was growing up knew how to swim. I thought it was that way for all of you."
Jovas shrugged. "My sister taught me when I was little. She wanted to go swimming one day and since she would have gotten in trouble for leaving me alone, she decided to teach me."
"That was nice of her," Julie said, still in shock. "Doesn't it affect your element at all?"
Jovas shrugged. "Does sitting next to a fire affect your element?"
"There is a big difference between sitting next to a fire and sitting in it, Jovas," Julie replied.
He smiled at her, a real smile, causing her to blush. "I guess you're right. Still, it doesn't affect me. It's not magical water after all."
With that, he got up and splashed back into the water. "Come in! The water is great!"
"Aren't we on a tight schedule?" Julie asked jokingly. She still stood up and waded deeper into the pool.
"We were, but then I couldn't wake you up this morning," he said as he treaded water, waiting for her to catch up.
"Oh," Julie said as she came to swim next to him. "You tried to wake me up?"
"Yes. Just after dawn. You kept asking for five more minutes, so I finally just let you sleep."
"Oh," Julie said again, a bit ashamed. She had no memory of this at all.
"It's ok. If you had of woken up on time, we wouldn't have found this pool," Jovas said with another smile.
"You like swimming that much?" Julie asked, still rather surprised at his ability in the water. He was able to move through the water with ease. He was a strong swimmer, that was for sure.
"No, not swimming," he said. As he moved off from her, Jovas lied back and just floated on the water. Julie watched him closely as he closed his eyes and slowly moved his arms so that he floated further out into the pool. She was surprised to see him so relaxed and calm.
Julie followed suit, floating on her back looking up at the sky. Just like that day, she thought to herself. Slowly she let herself sink under the water, letting herself bond with her element. She relaxed fully as she let the water fill her mind and body, breathing it in with each breath. As she entered a meditative state, she could feel what the water felt. The fish swimming in it's depths, the animals drinking from it's banks, the various things it carried on it's current, the odd elemental floating above her.
Opening her eyes, she saw Jovas' form casually floating above her. For the first time, she saw him as the Water did. She could see an element attached to him, but it was obscured and hidden. She could see faint scars on his body, scars she couldn't say she had ever noticed before. Looking now she could see that many of them had a faint glow of Water healing attached to them. She could tell they had been healed long ago and what she saw was only a memory of the magic that had been used.
Her eyes were drawn to the burn on his right arm. It too glowed of Water healing magic, but the healing didn't seem to hold. Closing her eyes, she focused on the Water on the burn and tried to move the Water magic back into place, but it was very difficult. It almost seemed as though the burn had a thin coating of oil, causing the Water magic to slip and move away from the burn. After failing to hold the magic to the burn, Julie instinctively started trying to heal it.
The change in Jovas was almost immediate. He instantly shot bolt upright in the water and threw his arm into the air. His sudden reaction caused Julie to come out of sync with her element.
"Where are you?" he called.
"Here," she said as she came up beside him. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to startle you…"
"Well you did," he said bluntly.
Julie pouted and sunk a bit below the surface. "I just…I saw the Water magic was unable to fully bind with the burn. I thought maybe I could help…"
Jovas watched her for a moment before he relaxed some. Slowly he lowered his arm and let it touch the water again. "I told you before, you can't heal it. I've had Water elementals try in the past, it always does more harm than good."
"I don't understand," Julie said. "You use Water magic on it all the time. How can a Water elemental cause harm?"
Jovas shook his head. "I don't understand either, really. No one does. But human Water magic seems to help it. Water elemental magic, on the other hand, doesn't."
Julie felt like she had somehow betrayed Jovas' trust. She didn't know what to do or say. She hadn't meant any harm to him; she just wanted the burn to be healed. Jovas had moved off from her, back to the edge of the pool where the water was shallower. He sat with the water just at chest height, and stared into the water with his weird blue eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said suddenly.
Julie was taken aback at his abrupt apology. "Sorry for what?"
"For snapping at you like that," he said quietly. "You were just trying to help."
Julie smiled and easily glided through the water to sit next to him. Jovas always seemed to know what to do and say, but seeing him like this, she could tell that he was trying just as hard as she was. It made her feel better knowing that it was just as awkward for him as it was for her.
"It's ok," she said. "Now I know, and I won't try to heal it again."
Jovas looked at her, and she could see that hidden smile under his features. "Thanks."
The two sat quietly for a while in the water, each lost in their own thoughts. Julie was just starting to think about lunch when Jovas stood up and slowly made his way back to his clothes on the shore. Julie followed, veering off to retrieve her things. "Well that was fun," she said as she walked over to where Jovas stood combing his long hair. Julie followed suit, wincing as she picked at the tangles in her hair. She watched Jovas as he easily got all the tangles from his hair and started to tie it back into its usual braid.
"I've always wondered," Julie said. "Why do you keep your hair so long?"
Jovas looked at her, his one eye brow raised. "I'm just curious," Julie offered.
Jovas shrugged. "I don't know. Why do you keep your hair long?"
"Because I'm a girl?"
Jovas rolled his eyes. "Is that the only reason?"
She stopped for a moment and thought about it. "I guess, because my mother kept her hair really long."
"My father kept his hair long, too," Jovas said quietly. "I always thought it made him look strong."
A silence fell over the two. Julie didn't really know what to say, and she knew Jovas wouldn't say anything more until she did. She watched as he carefully tied the end of his hair with a piece of leather. He then went about the task of putting the glove back on his right arm.
"Uh…what elements were your parents?" Julie asked. She wasn't sure if he wanted to talk about his parents or not, but she was curious.
"Water," Jovas said shortly. Glancing up at her for a moment he added, "Everybody in my family was a Water elemental."
Julie took in this information. She thought of his parents and what a shock it must have been to find out their son had been claimed by Fire. It didn't happen often that a child was claimed under a different element then their parents. Looking at him now, Julie wondered how hard his childhood must have been being an outcast even in his own family.
"I guess that explains your eyes then," she offered, wanting to change the subject.
Jovas frowned and shook his head. "Not really. My eyes should be a reddish colour. No one can explain why they are blue."
"Maybe you just inherited them from your parents?"
"Maybe." He didn't sound convinced. Jovas threw on his thick shirt and jacket then looked at Julie. "Ready to go?"
"Yes, I think so," Julie said as she tied her hair back into a pony tail. As she came out of the pool, she forced the water from her skin and shirt to remain behind. She came to stand next to Jovas totally dry.
"Good," Jovas said as he hooked his knife to his belt. "Then let's get going." With that, he started back towards camp, Julie right on his heels. She was glad Jovas knew where he was going, because she had no idea how to get back to camp.