A large dark figure stood absolutely still as he stared out into the night. He was standing on the edge of a forest that ran down to a beach. The Dark Winter had just passed but it was still a very cold crisp night. He was watching the full moon shining on the small waves as they rolled into the shore. He had been waiting for a friend for more than two days.

Suddenly a figure stood up in the surf and walked towards him. The figure was tall and slender. Her wet skin was glistening in the moonlight. She walked casually towards the dark figure on the edge of the sand and stopped a metre short.

"By the Elements. Do you have any news yet?" The dark figure asked in a low husky voice. The person that came from the water responded at first with some clicking sounds and a high squeak.

"Good to see you too." She eventually spoke. "He is travelling to the mainland now and wants to meet the team in a couple of days, south of Port Talba." She added a few more clicks. "Plus, he has three people with him. A couple and their son."

She waited for a reply. The dark figure uttered a low growl more like a rumble. She had to wait a little longer before he eventually answered.

"He is not alone." He growled again before adding. "I will inform the others and select a meeting place. Meet us by one of the rivers two days travel south of the town."

He turned and walked back into the forest, leaving his friend on the beach.

"By the Elements. I love you too." She added a cheeky squeak at the end, then turned and headed for the surf.

First Awakening

Over 1,000 years ago Mikaia had no animoids. Animoids are people that have animal features and they come in all shapes, sizes and animal types. There was a balance between nature and all living things, humans and animals lived in harmony. Back then Mikaia was ruled by the "Council of the Elements". The Council consisted of four creatures, one each representing the four natural elements; Earth, Water, Air and Fire and the Councillors were able to communicate with all living things. They ruled by consensus and through a partial democratic system. That all changed when the Council was broken. Dark forces had begun to develop and the first animoids started to appear.

Jaymar is a 12 year old boy who lives on the island of Auroras Minor, with his mum and dad, in a little fishing village called Little Haven. He is of average height and build for a 12 year old. He has a good boyish look about him with long blond hair down to his shoulders. Jaymar is an only child. He would love to have had a little brother to play with and boss around. His father, Raum, is a merchant who trades in spices and material goods between the mainland Auroras Major, the largest island Auroras Minor and many of the other smaller islands dotted around the equator.

Jaymar is looking forward to being an apprentice to his father and can't wait for the day that he would go with his father on a trip to the mainland and see an animoid. There weren't any animoids on Auroras Minor, but he had heard that animoids looked weird and were a little bit creepy. Some of his schoolmates had been to the mainland and had seen them. The number of animoids on the mainland was increasing and now more than half the mainland's population were animoids.

Life was good on the island of Auroras Minor and Jaymar's family was well to do with his father's business prospering. The island only had one Princedom with Prince Irwin and his family ruling the whole island with humility. The Prince kept a large militia on the island and enforced the policy that no animoids could live on the island.

Mikaia is a primitive world where horses and horse drawn carts are the main means of transport and sailing ships plough the vast oceans. There are no major governments. City states control small domains that are ruled by Princes, lesser nobles, merchant families or Centurions. Mikaia is made up of two large land masses, one large island and thousands of small islands. One land mass is located at the North Pole and it is covered in ice all year. It is the domain of penguins, walrus and polar bears. Many sea creatures migrate to its shores during a very brief summer. The other land mass Auroras Major stretches up from the South Pole to nearly the tropics. Just less than half of the southern land mass is also covered in ice and snow for most of the year. The bulk of the islands are scattered around the equator. The main population lives around the coastline of Auroras Major. Auroras Minor lies just under two days sailing north of the horn of Auroras Major.

Many human families fled from the mainland nearly 300 years ago when a noble, Prince Hakeem and a rogue Centurion called Sullikana, led an army of animoids which swept across the horn of Auroras Major plundering many Princedoms and killing thousands of people. This is referred to as the Animoid Uprising and it saw the end of the High Prince of the West. Eventually, Melfor the then Head Master of the High School for Elementals, was compelled by the High Prince of the East and many other nobles to intervene and end the war. So, the Head Master and the High Centurion and many Centurions fought alongside the High Prince of the East and destroyed the animoid army, killing both Prince Hakeem and Sullikana.

Melfor was also mortally injured in the fighting and died shortly afterwards. Some say he was over 200 years old at the time of his death. There have been three Head Masters since then. The current Head Master was only appointed to the position in the last 2 years and he is said to be a very mysterious person. Only a few trusted Elementals attend him and apparently no one has ever seen his face.

Jaymar had finished his schooling last autumn and this year he had several options open to him. He could enrol in a College of Commerce, enter the local militia as a cadet or become an apprentice to a local business. He really wanted to work for his dad as an apprentice and continue the family business.

Jaymar didn't have many relatives; his grandparents had all passed away. He had an aunt that was his mother's sister and he had a godfather, Ambrose. Ambrose is a bit older than middle aged, but seemed very old to Jaymar, but so did most adults to him. Ambrose is taller than most men and his hair, which he keeps on the shorter side, was greying at his temples. He wore a well-trimmed goatee beard, which was also starting to go grey.

Ambrose lived in a small cottage towards the middle of Auroras Minor, but only stayed there for short periods each year. He often was away on the mainland only returning for the period of the Dark Terror during winter or sometimes at the height of summer.

A moon cycle on Mikaia lasted 28 days and ten moon cycles made up a full year. The first day of spring marked the beginning of each year. It was a joyous time. Trading with the mainland would start soon and Jaymar was eager to ask his father if he could join him on his first trip.

It is now early spring and the Dark Terror of winter, which lasts for three moon cycles, had just passed. The Dark Terror didn't reach the island of Auroras Minor even though it did get dark during winter. Only on the mainland did people live in constant fear of raids from the Dark Terror during the dark period of winter.

Jaymar was up early that morning, well before his mum and dad. He threw on a pair of long pants, a jumper over his nightshirt, his favourite pair of ankle boots and grabbed an overcoat and beanie as he rushed out the back door. Outside he picked up his cudgel, a wooden pole a bit over one and a half metres in length. The air was still very cold and some dark clouds were gathering out to sea. His house backed onto a lane that led down a steep incline to the foreshore. Jaymar often went down to the harbour to look at the boats and dream of sailing to the mainland and the other islands. Today he headed along the beach and then climbed the bluff at the end of the bay. The bluff commanded a great view of the bay with its protected harbour and long beach. The day was a rest day and the village was very quiet. No school, no work or trading was done on the rest day and everyone would have a relaxing morning with their families. Other children from the village were out playing or doing small chores around their houses as the village slowly started to stir.

Jaymar often spent time alone on the bluff practicing with his cudgel or he would walk in the nearby hills. He had a gift with animals and often animals would come up to him and walk with him in the forest. He didn't know why, he enjoyed their company and often spoke to them as if they could understand him. After an hour practicing some new moves, his father had recently taught him, Jaymar started feeling hungry. It was time to head home for breakfast. As he picked up his things, he noticed the dark clouds had raced in from the sea and now hung low over the bay.

Suddenly there was a flash of lightning and thunder cracked just a short way off the bluff. It gave Jaymar a bit of a scare. He raced down the slope towards the back of the village. Once he was down off the shoulder of the bluff, he came to the ring road that runs all the way around the back of the village and decided to follow it around rather than cut back to the foreshore and home the way he had come. Still jogging along, wanting to get home before any rain came, he passed a large old tree on the edge of the road. Lightning flashed again, this time it seemed to be right over his head. He naturally ducked in response. The lightning struck the old tree and split it in two with one half falling towards the road. Jaymar saw that he was about to be crushed and threw his arms up to protect himself and yelled out "STOP". There was a sudden large wind gust. He didn't know why he yelled stop, it just came out. Slowly, with eyes half closed, expecting the worst he looked up and was amazed. The massive tree trunk and branches were hovering in the air just above his head and arms. The branches and leafs were thrashing about in the swirling wind. He quickly moved away from under the tree trunk and stood there stunned. What had just happened? He took a big breath of relief and just stared at the tree. Suddenly it crashed to the ground. He jumped away. He was a bit shaken because of the huge crash. Branches large and small were broken and scattered all over the road. Big holes had been dug into the road where the tree had crashed. Jaymar knew he had just escaped being crushed and most likely killed. He turned and ran home to tell his dad and maybe later they might come back to have a closer look at the tree.

Many kilometres away in another part of the island, Ambrose was sitting at his kitchen table having his morning brew when suddenly he felt a shiver on the back of his neck and the very distant sound of thunder a long way off. He immediately turned and looked around the room thinking that perhaps something unseen had entered his cottage. Or was it something else? The feeling he had just experienced could often be felt when an Elemental had performed a powerful invocation. The strength of the feeling was often to do with the closeness or the strength of the powers used. Ambrose is an Elemental and the shiver was minor, so he thought the invocation was not strong enough for the person performing it to be close by. He quickly got up and went out the front door.

The area around his cottage is clear for a good hundred or so metres. If a powerful Elemental was nearby, he would certainly feel them. A quick check both front and back assured him that no one was there and that the power he felt must have occurred a long way off, but had been fairly strong. This puzzled Ambrose as the only group of Elementals on the island were located in the capital Princeton, working as priests, ambassadors and advisors to Prince Irwin. There was no Centurion currently on the island. Princeton was many kilometres away and he knew that none of the Elementals were that powerful to cause the feeling he just experienced. Somewhere a powerful Elemental, perhaps a Centurion, had arrived on the island and Ambrose needed to find who and where they were.

Jaymar made it home just as the rain started to fall. Flashes of lightning were now occurring more frequently and thunder rolled around the bay. His parents were both in the kitchen having started their breakfast.

"Did you get wet?" Asked his mum.

"No. It's just started." Jaymar replied, placing his cudgel by the door and he removed his coat.

"Come and sit. I've made porridge today." She commented.

Grimhilda is a lovely looking woman with blond flowing hair. She was of medium build and had a warm smile with which she now greeted her son.

Throwing his coat and beanie in the corner Jaymar sat down next to his dad and waited for his bowl of porridge. Jaymar's father's name was Raum. He is a big strong frame of a man with light brown flowing hair. His ancestors had been warriors, bred strong for battle. Raum's father had retired from the Princeton militia years ago and settled in this little coastal village to set up a merchant business and become a trader. When he passed away a few years ago, Raum had been a warrior in the militia, but had turned down the position of Captain of the Guard in Princeton to take over his father's business. Jaymar was thinking, 'should I say anything about the tree to my parents or not!'

He was deep in thought when his dad said "Jaymar did you hear me?"

"No, sorry dad. What did you say?" Jaymar turned and looked up at his father.

"I said I am going to Princeton for supplies, take orders and make other travel arrangements. Do you want to come with me?"

Jaymar jumped up and threw his arms around his dad's neck yelling "Yes, Yes".

"Okay, settle down. You will need to help your mother pack your clothes and provisions for about a 20 day trip."

Raum was smiling down at his son and then turned to Grimhilda. "I hope you don't mind. I get the feeling Jaymar wants to be my apprentice. Plus, later this year he could come to the mainland on one of my trips."

Jaymar couldn't control his excitement and jumped up from his seat and did a little jig. "Thanks Dad, I won't let you down."

Grimhilda was also smiling, she knew that this time would come and she was so proud of her son and commented to her husband. "You should drop by and see Ambrose either on the way there or on the way back. You know he doesn't stay long at home once the winter has passed. Also, remember that Jaymar should have been 'tested' by now, as he turns thirteen in the next moon cycle."

Raum had forgotten about Jaymar's actual age, he just knew that he had finished school and was ready for the next phase of his childhood. This meant Jaymar was going to experience things with him like going to Princeton and the mainland. Twelve is the age that children could be 'tested' for Elemental abilities. Depending on their ability and strength of Elemental powers they could at age thirteen be then invited to study at the High School for Elementals. Raum and Grimhilda had no history of any Elemental abilities on either side of their families and Raum hadn't considered that Jaymar might have any Elemental powers. In the last hundred and fifty years, only one child in their village had been found to have Elemental powers, so it was not something that the local people thought of or often talked about.

Raum then remembered Jaymar telling him that some of his friends had been tested just before winter, but none of them had shown any Elemental signs.

"Ok, I will arrange for Jaymar to be 'tested' by an Elemental while we are in Princeton." Said Raum as he finished his porridge and stood up to leave for the harbour.

"I am going down to check on the ship and will be back this afternoon. Jaymar get yourself ready and we will leave for Princeton early tomorrow." Raum walked over and gave Grimhilda a quick kiss on the cheek and left out the front door.

"Mum! Does being 'tested' hurt?" Jaymar sat back in his seat and looked searchingly at his mother's eyes and she replied.

"No, not at all. When I was 'tested', many years ago, they just got you to perform a few simple tasks with earth, water, air and fire." She moved to the table and sat down with her own bowl of porridge. "It's nothing to be scared about."

Jaymar replied. "I'm not scared." He paused then asked. "What do Elemental powers feel like?"

Grimhilda was a bit puzzled by the question, she had not thought about Elemental powers having a "feel". In fact, she had not witnessed anything associated with Elementals in her lifetime.

"I have no idea Jaymar. I think it depends on the Elemental powers and gifts. I haven't witnessed any invocations and we don't see many Elementals here in the village, unless they come to 'test' one of the children. The only other time we see Elementals is when we go to the Wind House of worship." There was a silence for a while and then Grimhilda, feeling that her son was troubled about something, inquired. "Why do you ask?"

Jaymar turned, stood up and said. "No reason, I suppose I am just curious." He left the kitchen and went to his room. He lay on his bed and wondered if the incident with the tree had been because of an invocation.

Ambrose had returned to his cottage, packed a travel pack, put on his normal travelling clothes and left that very morning for Princeton looking for answers.

Going to Princeton

The rest of the day went by as usual with Jaymar performing his normal chores. They were all up before dawn the next day. Raum and Jaymar both had a quick breakfast and said their farewells to Grimhilda. Raum often went away for long periods and Grimhilda was used to him being gone, but this was the first time Jaymar was going to be away. Tears ran down her cheeks as she hugged and held him close while they said goodbye. He also had tears, but tried to hide them, so as to make his parents think that he was all grown up and not a child anymore.

Raum and Jaymar made their way to the back of the village on to the ring road. They made their way towards the bluff and came to the fallen tree. Jaymar had completely forgotten about the tree. It still blocked the entire road; no one had come to clear away the branches from the day before. Raum had heard some men from the village talking about a tree being down on the road and that they would be clearing the road the next day, but this was just at dawn and no one was out and about yet.

Raum and Jaymar had to climb off the road and work their way around the tree. Raum commented. "Lucky no one was under the tree when the lightning struck. They would have been killed for sure."

Jaymar made no comment, but just put his head down and kept walking silently beside his father. Soon they came to a fork in the ring road. They took the road that led over the surrounding hills, where it eventually joined the main road, which went all the way along the middle of the island from one end to the other. Princeton was at the far north end of the main road.

Princeton would take about seven or eight days of good walking, but Raum had allowed for nine days, because he was not sure how Jaymar would cope with the nine or ten hours of walking each day. The trip was very uneventful, even though there were many travellers on the road. Now the Dark Terror of winter was over, many people travelled from their homes to the capital and other parts of the island for work and trade. Raum decided not to visit Ambrose on the way to Princeton as it would add another day. He had decided it would be better to see him on the way back. Jaymar had travelled well, only complaining on day two late in the day, as it had rained hard and they both got very wet. He was tired and hungry and wanted to stop under some trees, but Raum said that they needed to get to the next village, that way they could dry out their clothes and have a warm night's sleep.

On the morning of the eighth day they rose early again, had a quick breakfast and started out for Princeton. If all went well they would be there by midday. The road was now full of travellers as they neared the capital. There was a buzz in the crowd as they walked towards the city. Raum and Jaymar listened to people chatting about the news and the latest gossip. The latest bit of news making everyone excited, was that a Centurion had arrived from the mainland, about eight days ago. A Centurion is an elite Elemental and they don't come to the island very often. That was interesting news in its self, but the other news caught Jaymar's attention. The local Elementals from Princeton, had been out travelling the roads asking the people, if they had witnessed any one performing Elemental invocations. Something had happened about eight days ago, that had the local Elementals out searching for someone.

Jaymar kept his head down and listened carefully to all that was said. 'Had anyone seen him on the ring road that morning? Was he going to be in trouble if he was discovered?' He didn't know whether to tell his dad or not. For now, he decided to keep the incident with the tree to himself.

Around lunchtime, as they got close to Princeton, Jaymar started feeling very tired and a bit unwell. They had just walked up a short incline to a crest in the road, he had to stop and catch his breath.

"Look Jaymar." Said his father just a few steps ahead. "We have nearly made it. See there is Princeton."

Jaymar looked up past his father, he could see a large horseshoe bay and at one end of the bay, was a major city with many buildings. In the centre of the city was a series of large towers and walls, which he thought must be where the Prince and his family lived.

The road led down from the crest to the shore of the bay and then around the bay into one of the city's main gates. It was full of people either going to or coming from the city. The bay was also full of all types of ships. Many anchored in the bay, but also tied up at many wharfs jutting out from the city. A sense of excitement and anxiety filled Jaymar as he and his dad started down the road towards the bay, but the sick feeling he had was getting worse.

Ambrose had been in Princeton for the last six days and had been gathering as much information as he could about the movements of the Elementals and what they were trying to find out. He was also concerned about the Centurion being on the island at this time. He needed to be very careful not to be discovered. In fact, his being in Princeton while the Centurion was there, was very dangerous. A powerful Elemental could often sense another powerful Elemental if they were close enough and not cloaking their powers.

He was unsure how powerful this Centurion was, but Ambrose could feel his presence within the city. Ambrose was an expert in disguising his looks and his own Elemental powers. He had been doing it for a very long time.

On the afternoon of his sixth day in the city, Ambrose was planning to leave later that day and return to his cottage. Still uncertain as to what the group of Elementals was searching for, but he had an idea, that it must be associated with the invocation he had felt eight days earlier.

He had made arrangements to travel to the mainland after the next rest day and needed to return home, pick up some important items, pack and be back to catch the ship before it sailed. He was staying in a small boarding house, right on the waterfront and was sitting downstairs, having just finished lunch in the spacious lounge room facing out onto the bay, when suddenly he felt something.

Another Elemental was coming closer. 'Had he been discovered?' He quickly raced upstairs to his small room and gathered his things. He always had them ready for a quick exit. Back down stairs, he said goodbye to the landlord having already paid in advance for his stay. He rushed through the dining area and out the back door into a lane way. The lane led away from the water front and joined up with one of the main roads passing through the city. He turned in the direction of the nearest gate to get out of the city as fast as possible. As he walked the feeling of the other Elemental was growing stronger. He now knew that it wasn't the Centurion, because Ambrose could sense him as well. The Centurion was also on the move, coming from the city centre and heading in the same direction as he was. The Centurion must have sensed the other Elemental and was on his way to confront him or her. But Ambrose had a good head start and knew that he would cross the path of the other Elemental, well before the Centurion got there.

Ambrose hurried along, head and shoulders bent as he weaved his way through the crowds. Would he recognise the Elemental first or would he be discovered first. He needed to be very careful. He decided to cloak his appearance. This required the use of a small amount of power and magic, which could perhaps alert the Centurion to his location, but being so close to the other Elemental he hoped his presence would go undetected. They were getting close so Ambrose pulled off the road and hid in a small lane and waited.

Raum and Jaymar had entered the city and were heading towards the main waterfront area. Raum always stayed in a tavern near one of the main merchants during his stays in Princeton. Jaymar had had this strange unwell feeling come over him ever since they had got close to the city. The feeling was like a presence in his mind, it made him feel dizzy and now he was feeling really nauseous.

"Dad, I don't feel well." Jaymar moaned. He was dragging his feet even more. Suddenly he tripped and stumbled forward. Raum looked around and caught him just before he fell.

"Come on son. It's only a bit further. We'll have lunch when we get there. Maybe you're just feeling strange because of all the city smells."

"Maybe!" Jaymar replied. He lifted his head and continued to walk on with his father's help. Raum let Jaymar go, after a few more steps, to see if he could cope on his own. After just a few steps, Jaymar became even more dizzy and started to fall again. Suddenly, an old man grabbed him and pulled him into a side lane. Raum was completely caught off guard and quickly ran in after them. Raum was ready for a fight, but when he reached Jaymar and the old man, he noticed to his surprise, that the man was not so old and in fact it was Ambrose. Raum hadn't recognised Ambrose at first, but now he did. Somehow he had changed.

"Ambrose. What are you doing here?" Ambrose was looking very serious, even a bit concerned.

"Raum we must get out of the city, now." Raum was confused as he looked at Jaymar who was being supported by Ambrose.

"What's wrong? We have only just arrived." Raum was surprised by Ambroses' seriousness and intensity.

"I cannot explain now. You will just have to trust me. I know a small farm house not far from the city that you can make for."

Raum, still confused, asked. "But you said we needed to get out of the city. Aren't you coming?"

Ambrose replied. "Yes I am, but I have to create a diversion first and there is one more thing. I must put Jaymar to sleep. He can't walk like this. Can you carry him?"

Raum was a large man and Jaymar, at age twelve, would be no issue for him.

Raum, still confused, said. "Yes, I can carry him."

"Good. Now Jaymar look at me and breathe deeply." Jaymar was very dizzy and feeling like he wanted to spew. Ambrose held Jaymar by his shoulders and shook him and then peered into his eyes. Jaymar's head cleared slightly, he was frightened, but he started to slow his breathing as best he could. Raum watched on as Jaymar then slumped into Ambroses' arms apparently asleep.

"How did you do that?" Raum was surprised.

"Please go now. No time to explain." Ambrose said as Raum lifted Jaymar onto his back.

"Take Jaymar back the way you came then after you exit the gate, take the road leading to the main hills behind the city. Don't go back on the main road. About five kilometres up the road you will enter a forest and there is another small road leading off to your right that takes you to a small farm house. It is not occupied at the moment. Go inside and wait for me there. Now go and go quickly."

Raum had his doubts and a lot of questions, but for some reason he knew that Ambrose was right and he had to get out fast. He adjusted Jaymar on his back and then ran back into the main road and back the way they had come. The going was slow at first as the road was full of people and Raum found it hard to negotiate between the throng with Jaymar on his back. But before long Raum saw the gate and started to feel more confident that they would get away quickly.

Ambrose stepped out of the lane and into the main street. He started walking in the opposite direction from Raum and was thinking hard about what he could do to create a diversion. He knew that the Centurion was getting closer. Ambrose had now uncloaked his own power so as to make the Centurion think that the presence he felt was still coming towards him.

Then he spied an Elemental, it was Philpot, one of the locals. He wore the red robe of a Fire Elemental with the Fire symbol on both his sleeves. Ambrose noticed that he was also a priest as he wore the golden coloured waistband. The young man was browsing through one of the many stalls on the side of the road. The stall was trading in jewellery such as bracelets and necklaces, Ambrose moved up next to him and with a slight of hand picked up a small bracelet and placed it in the Elementals hand and said. "This will do nicely for my girlfriend".

The trader standing behind the stall thought the comment came from Philpot, who seemed to be dazed. The trader named the price for the bracelet and the Elemental handed over the money. He then placed the bracelet in his pocket and walked away still a bit dazed. The trader commented to Ambrose. "I thought Elemental priests weren't meant to have any relationships with the opposite sex." Ambrose just shrugged his shoulders, gave a little wry smile and turned back towards the city gate masking his Elemental powers once more.

Philpot, the Elemental, had only walked one hundred metres or so from the stall when he came face to face with the Centurion. The Centurions name was Pryborg. Pryborg was a dark looking character with long straight black hair and hawk like facial features. He was of medium build, but held himself erect as he walked. He wore the standard purple robe of a Centurion. One sleeve of his robe was coloured yellow, signifying he was an Air Elemental, with the Air symbol on the cuff of the sleeve. The other sleeve was coloured green, for the Earth Element, with the Earth symbol on its cuff.

Pryborg appeared to be angry as he approached Philpot and snapped at him. "What are you doing and what invocations have you been performing." The Elemental came out of his daze and spluttered. "Nothing Your Eminence. I was just browsing the stalls."

"Turn out your pockets." The Centurion barked at him. Philpot did as he was told and in his right hand he produced the bracelet.

"What is this?" Commanded Pryborg.

"It's, it's for my girlfriend." The Elemental stated before he knew what he had said. "No… I… Don't know where this came from." He stuttered.

"You have been using invocations and for what, to win over a girl's favour. You stupid fool. Get back to your dorm and I will deal with you later."

Pryborg was still angry and a little puzzled. Elemental Philpot started towards the city centre when the Centurion barked another order. "Give me that bracelet."

"Yes, Your Eminence." Philpot turned and placed it into Pryborg's hand and then hurried away. Pryborg felt a tingle in his hand as the bracelet touched it, but then it was gone. Pryborg also noticed that the presence he had felt strongly only seconds ago was now gone. He thought to himself, 'that boy has never shown the potential for this sort of power, I wonder!' He searched along the street for anything suspicious. He was going to question the Elemental again and test him. He turned and headed back to the palace in the city centre.

Ambrose had not waited to see what would happen. He quickly made his way to the city gate and out into the country side. He needed to get to Jaymar quickly and move him further away from the city as soon as possible. He was happy to notice that the Centurion was not following him and in fact was going back to the city centre.

Raum and Jaymar had made it to the abandoned farm house without incident. Jaymar was asleep on a couch and Raum stood watching at one of the windows looking for any movement. Many questions were going through his head, but most of all he was worried about his son.

It was not long before Ambrose appeared. He was coming up the path to the house, as quickly as he could move without running. Raum opened the door for him and shut it again quickly. Ambrose said nothing at first, catching his breath for a moment and looking at Jaymar.

"What's this all about?" Asked Raum.

Ambrose seemed to ignore him at first, and then said. "Good he is still asleep. Any trouble on the road?" He now turned to Raum.

"No, nothing I came straight here and no one seemed to be following us. Tell me Ambrose, what is going on and what did you mean when you said, you needed to create a diversion and why put Jaymar to sleep?"

An Elemental Discovered

Ambrose took Raum by the arm and led him over to the table and they both sat down. Ambrose then said. "I think Jaymar is an Elemental."

Raum burst out. "What?" There was a long silent pause, each man deep in their own thoughts. Then Raum continued. "Well, that's great, I was about to have him tested, in Princeton any way. But Ambrose, why run and hide?"

Ambrose looked at Raum and then Jaymar and waited a moment before he replied.

"Not only, may he be an Elemental. Please don't interrupt, but from what I have felt, he is going to be a very powerful one someday. I sensed him as you approached the city, but didn't know it was you. I have been in the city for the last six days trying to work out were the use of some powerful Elemental force had come from. Eight days ago I was at my cottage when I felt a burst of Elemental power. But I am not the only one searching. There's a Centurion in Princeton, he and some of the Elementals may also have felt it. The local Elementals have been searching high and low, but luckily they have kept their search close the Princeton because, like me, they thought it came from nearby. With a Centurion being on the island, things have become a lot more serious."

Raum could not hold back any longer. "What's the problem? Being an Elemental is not a crime. Plus, are you telling me you are an Elemental?"

"No, it isn't a crime." Ambrose ignored the question. "But with Jaymar still only twelve years old and with what I felt, he is going to create a lot of interest and concern. Elementals don't develop their full powers until about 17 or 18 years of age and only after specialised training for at least four or five years. The Head Master at the High School for Elementals doesn't take kindly to having powerful novices at large. Plus, the High Centurion hand picks the most powerful Elementals to join his elite. The High Centurion will force Jaymar to strictly obey the Centurion creed or face the consequences. And there is more. I have to tell you something that I have not told anyone before." Ambrose hesitated and looked over at Jaymar, he was starting to stir.

"Yes, I am an Elemental and have been hiding from the Centurion Order for many years. I believe that the Centurion Order is corrupt and the High Centurion cannot be trusted. I have also been searching for many years for powerful Elementals to join me in the 'Keepers' organisation and in Jaymar, I think I have finally found one."

Raum jumped up and raised his voice. "Wow! Hold on a minute. I am not having my son dragged in to some plot or other to overthrow the establishment of Centurions. Are you mad or something?"

Ambrose just sat back in his seat and looked at Raum.

Raum was still trying to comprehend what he was being told when Jaymar woke up and asked. "Dad where are we?"

Raum quickly moved over to his son's side and replied. "It's okay, we are here with Ambrose. You got sick and fainted, so we brought you to this house."

Ambrose reached into his bag, that hung over his shoulder and brought out a small flask.

"Here Jaymar." He said as he got up from his chair and walked over to the boy. "Have a little drink of this; it will make you feel better."

Raum raised his hand to stop Jaymar from taking the flask. "What are you giving him?"

Ambrose replied. "A draught to help him shield his Elemental powers and ease the nausea."

Raum lowered his arm. Jaymar took the flask and had a quick drink, it tasted sweet at first, but then it had a sour after taste. He didn't like it much.

Ambrose continued. "Raum, you and I have been friends for a very long time. Since you were a child. I am sorry that I have not told you anything about my past, but now it's important that you believe me. I put Jaymar to sleep in the city to mask his powers because a Centurion was coming after you and was getting close. Now we are further away Jaymar can be awake, but he will need to take a drink from this flask every hour or so."

Jaymar anxiously piped up. "Powers, what powers? I don't know anything about Elemental powers."

Raum tried to calm the boy by saying. "It's okay. Ambrose conducted a small test on you and he thinks you are going to have Elemental abilities. You are about to turn thirteen. Normally you would have been tested by now and that's when Elemental abilities first show."

Ambrose interrupted. "Jaymar think back to eight days ago. Did something happen that you cannot explain."

Jaymar immediately blurted out. "I didn't mean for anything to happen, I wasn't trying anything it just… it just…"

"Calm down. Jaymar I am not cross with you, just tell us what happened." Ambrose looked down at the boy with kind eyes.

Jaymar looked back at his father who was trying to smile and look encouraging.

He then said. "It was during the thunderstorm. As I was running home on the ring road at the back of our village. Lightning hit the big tree and split it in half, one half started to fall on me. I just threw my hands up to protect myself and yelled out STOP. The branch stopped in mid-air and stayed there, until I move down the road a bit and out of its way, then it crashed to the ground."

Ambrose studied the boy's face and was satisfied that he was telling the truth. He then moved back to the chair and sat down, deep in thought.

Raum looked at his son and commented. "You were extremely lucky son, that tree was huge. Have you done anything like that before?" The boy shook his head in the negative and looked at the floor.

Ambrose turned to them both. "Right, we have to leave and get Jaymar as far away from Princeton as possible. The potion in my flask will only last for about three days, may be more and I won't have time to make another batch. So I am going to have to teach Jaymar how to mask his powers himself."

Raum got up and moved to the table and asked Ambrose. "Why have you never mentioned anything of your Elemental abilities before and why are you hiding from the Centurions?"

Ambrose got up from his chair and said. "Let's go I will explain on the way. I want to be further away from the city by nightfall, which is fast approaching."

Jaymar was confused, frightened and curious all at the same time. 'Ambrose is an Elemental and now I am one.' He thought to himself, as they hurried back towards the main road, so that they could go to Ambrose's cottage. They didn't speak much as they hurried along the road. Ambrose was sure that they could make it to his cottage by the afternoon of the day after the next if they moved as quickly as possible without drawing attention to themselves on the open road. He wasn't sure if his little trick with the bracelet had been discovered or if the Centurion had ordered the search to continue much wider than before and include the whole island. He didn't have time to worry about that now, his main concern was hiding Jaymar and that meant teaching Jaymar some Elemental tricks and he wasn't sure if the boy would be up to it at his age.

After only stopping for a few hours, just before dawn, they continued at a reasonably fast pace all the next day. Ambrose made sure that Jaymar took a mouthful from the flask every hour or so. Raum kept asking Ambrose to explain his actions, but Ambrose kept putting him off and he also said it was too dangerous to discuss things on the open road.

Later on, the following day, they finally stumbled through Ambrose's front door exhausted from their haste. Jaymar, who could hardly stand, flopped down on one of Ambrose's large comfy arm chairs. Raum was feeling reasonable, but a little leg weary. Ambrose was bent over gasping for air. "I'm getting too old for this." He said standing up straight and heading over to the stove. He snapped his fingers and a fire ignited both on the stove and in the fireplace. He then placed a half full kettle on the stove to heat some water. They had had little to eat and not much to drink during their rush to get to his cottage.

Ambrose turned to Jaymar. "When did I give you your last sip of potion?"

"I'm not sure, it seemed like ages ago." Ambrose quickly crossed the room and brought out the flask.

"Here, there are only about three or four more sips left. You will be okay once you are sleeping, but in the morning first thing I must teach you how to mask your powers." Jaymar took another short sip; he was getting used to the taste by now. However, he suddenly realised how hungry he was. "I'm hungry. Can we have something to eat before bed?"

"Sure." Replied Ambrose, heading back to the stove. He turned to Raum. "Could you please fetch some more wood from the stack outside the back door, while I whip up a stew for supper."

"Sure, be back soon." Raum looked at Jaymar and gave him a wink and went through the cottage and out the back door.

Ambrose said over his shoulder to Jaymar. "Please close your eyes and rest or look away for a couple of minutes." The boy obeyed, it was so easy to shut his eyes and sink into the soft arm chair. He heard a few strange noises coming from across the room but kept his eyes close. He also felt a tingling sensation on the back of his neck.

Finally, Ambrose said. "There, I think that will be ample." Jaymar opened his eyes just as his father came back inside, his arms loaded with wood and saw the table arranged with a large pot full of stew, steaming away and a large hot loaf of multi-grain bread, ready to be carved. The smells were delicious; his stomach started to rumble, so he quickly jumped up and sat at the table. Raum and Ambrose both pulled up chairs and they all got stuck into a hearty meal. After a few mouthfuls Raum commented. "I suppose you normally whip up a meal that quickly."

"Only in the case of an emergency, I actually like cooking for myself."

Ambrose gave Jaymar a quick smile and then asked Raum. "When are you planning to go to the mainland?"

Raum finished his mouthful. "Well, I was going to Princeton to make final arrangements and order some supplies for a trip shortly after the next moon cycle."

Ambrose asked. "Can you speed up your arrangements and leave in the next eight days?"

"I suppose so, but I will need to go back to Princeton." Jaymar sat back in his chair feeling a lot better.

Ambrose continued. "Well, I would like you to do that. I will take Jaymar home to Little Haven and inform Grimhilda of our plans while you get things organised and then when you return to the village, we will all travel to the mainland together."

"What all of us, including Grimhilda? What about our home in Little Haven? What about my business?" So many questions filled Raum's head.

Ambrose replied. "For the moment I would prefer that we all go to the mainland. Once I have Jaymar well hidden, you and Grimhilda can return to Little Haven and your normal lives. But with the Centurion on the lookout for someone and likely to search the whole island it will not be safe to leave her here on her own."

Raum looked doubtful. "The mainland has many more Centurions and Elementals than here. How do you hope to hide or protect Jaymar there?"

"I know a number of places that are well hidden and there are people that I can rely on to aid us. Here we are isolated and the island is too small. Please trust me, I have been doing this sort of thing for a very long time." Ambrose now turned his attention to Jaymar.

"Jaymar have you ever experience Elemental powers before? Have you ever felt strange about things happening around you?"

The boy looked at his father first for reassurance and then slowly turned to Ambrose.

"I have noticed a few things in the last couple of moon cycles. During the Dark Winter I started to sense things moving outside the village. For a long time I have had this thing with animals. They like me and come to me." Jaymar paused and then said. "Today I felt sick when we got close to the city and I felt you were doing something just a moment ago. But up until I stopped the tree from falling on me, I had no idea it was to do with Elemental powers."

Raum and Ambrose looked at each other and then Ambrose said.

"The reason you felt sick near and in the city is because you sensed a powerful Elemental. That was the Centurion. Can you feel anything now?" He looked even closer at the boy.

"No, I can't feel anything." He replied.

"That's good. It means my masking is working well, plus Jaymar cannot feel any other Elementals nearby at the moment. So now it's time for bed. The first thing I will teach you tomorrow, is how to mask your powers." He gave Jaymar a slight smile, grabbed the empty plates and put them in the sink and then showed both Raum and Jaymar to a room for them to sleep in. Raum's head was full of doubts and questions and Jaymar's head was full of curiosity and excitement.

Pryborg questioned Philpot extensively and finally he had satisfied himself that the Elemental was telling him the truth and he didn't know how he came by the bracelet and he didn't remember seeing anyone suspicious. Now it was well after midnight and he was examining the bracelet again more closely and had decided that someone had pulled off a clever trick and had got away from him. Tomorrow he would extend the search to cover the whole island and if necessary call for another Centurion to come over from the mainland. Something was not right and he was determined to find out what was going on.

The next day at dawn Ambrose woke Jaymar and Raum. "Jaymar, take another sip from my flask so that we have about an hour or so to teach you some tricks."

Ambrose and Jaymar went out to the front of the cottage while Raum went to cook up some breakfast for all of them.

Ambrose sat down with Jaymar and said. "You need to slow your breathing and concentrate on being calm. Then, once you are nice and calm you need to look inside yourself."

The boy looked at Ambrose with some apprehension and asked. "How do you look inside yourself?"

"You will know when you are calm. So let's do that first. Breathe slowly and calm yourself."

Jaymar started to breathe deeply and count to himself, 'in one, two, three and out four, five and six'. He repeated this over and over again concentrating on the rhythm. Ambrose was doing the same thing to help and he also kept a close eye on the boy. After what seemed to Jaymar to be an eternity Ambrose broke the silence. "Now close your eyes and concentrate on your inner self. Look inside and see if you can find a small glow."

Jaymar tried, but he couldn't see anything. "I don't see anything."

"Quiet and be patient. This is a new experience for you and it will take time. Clear your mind and look deep inside."

Jaymar was finding it hard to clear his mind. He was thinking of his father, mother, the other day in Princeton, the prospect of travelling to the mainland and seeing animoids.

Ambrose spoke again, his voice was very low and close which made Jaymar jump. "Stop thinking about all that stuff. Clear your mind."

"I'm trying." Jaymar complained.

"Don't speak – just concentrate. Slow your breathing and look deep inside."

Jaymar was getting tired of this and his head was starting to feel dizzy again, when all of a sudden a small flicker appeared in his mind.

Ambrose spoke again. "Now you see it! It will grow, but you must control it, enclose it in your hand."

"It is growing. The glow is brighter." Whispered Jaymar.

Ambrose urged him again. "Control it. Close your hand around it and keep it safe."

Jaymar felt Ambrose take his hand and close it around his, as this happened to his real hand he pictured an imaginary hand enclose the glow and contain it.

They sat silently for several more minutes. The glow was safe and Jaymar could feel a tingle in his mind and hand.

Finally, Ambrose released his physical hand and said in a low voice. "Well done Jaymar. You can open your eyes now. Do you think you can maintain that hold?"

Jaymar opened his eyes and looked at his real hand. It was closed. 'Dare I open it?' He thought. Slowly he opened his hand and then looked up at Ambrose. "Yes, I think I can. I feel different, calm and secure."

"Jaymar you have performed your first bit of Elemental control. Not easy for a twelve year old. Now when I ask you, at any time we are near a city or I think an Elemental is close. I want you to mask your powers, the glow, by reaching in and closing your imaginary hand around it and then maintain it for as long as possible."

Jaymar nodded his understanding and gave Ambrose a little shy smile.

"Breakfast is ready". Came the call from Raum inside the cottage. Ambrose rose and said. "You need to practice at being able to do this at will, whenever you need to. So at night just before bed and in the morning after you wake up, you must practice and be able to hold the inner fire for long periods." He took Jaymar by the hand and pulled him up and they both entered the cottage.

"How did it go?" Enquired Raum.

"Fine. He is going to be a fast learner." Commented Ambrose. They all sat at the small table and tucked into an ample breakfast that Raum had managed to whip up without a lot of supplies.

Finally, Raum looked at Ambrose and asked. "What's going on Ambrose? You haven't really explained what is going on to my satisfaction yet. Why are you hiding from the Centurion Order and why is Jaymar so important to you?"

Ambrose stared into the distance and paused. He had to be careful how much he revealed to both Raum and Jaymar, but he needed to reassure them both that what he was doing was for their safety and he hoped for the rest of the natural world.

He then turned to Raum. "I will try to explain, but I don't want to waste too much time. You need to be back in Princeton as soon as possible."

He sat back in the chair and started in a low voice. "I am part of a group called the 'Keepers of the Elements'. An organisation which has been hiding the four ancient Elemental Gems for centuries. The group is made up of many people, Elementals, animoids and other creatures. Originally there was a 'Council of the Elements' consisting of four creatures that ruled the natural world and each possessed an Elemental Gem which enabled them to communicate with all living things."

Raum interrupted. "I thought all of that stuff about the 'Council' and 'Elemental Gems' was a myth, wild stories of an ancient time."

"They are not myths." Ambrose spoke very seriously. "Some of the stories you hear are completely untrue, but the 'Council of the Elements' is true. The 'Council of the Elements' was broken many centuries ago by an evil Elemental. Upon the breaking of the Council the 'Keepers of the Elements' promised to hide and guard the gems until the time was right to create a new 'Council of the Elements'. I believe that time is fast approaching".

Ambrose got up from the table and went to the window and looked out as if to check to see if anyone was there.

He then continued. "I once studied at the High School for Elementals, but I had a disagreement with the Head Master and the High Centurion at the time and decided that I couldn't remain at the school. You know how our winters are dark for three moon cycles and the Dark Terror reigns during that period every year. Well, I believe the origins of the Dark Terror came from an Elemental called Vulka. I am almost certain he was behind its creation, many centuries ago." He paused again and then came back and sat at the table.

"I believe that there is a group within the Centurion Order that fosters evil and that animoids started to appear the same time as the Dark Terror. Most Elementals are good and work to help communities and the Princedoms they serve, but the Centurions are handpicked and are totally obedient to their sect leaders and ultimately to the High Centurion. Those that don't bend to the High Centurion's will are often killed or imprisoned. I believe that at certain periods over the centuries, different Head Masters have not been evil and have tried to control the High Centurion at those times, with limited success. I am unsure of the new Head Master but the current High Centurion, Gintaras is one of the worst for a long time."

He paused again, looked at both Raum and Jaymar and then continued. "There are three types of Elementals. A class one Elemental has control over only one of the four elements. A class two Elemental has control over two of the elements and they are usually two non-related elements, for example Fire and Earth, or Water and Air. All Centurions have to be a class two Elemental to be chosen to join the order. Class three Elementals are the most powerful and they can control all four elements to different degrees. Most are strongest in two, but still can command the other two to a lesser degree. I believe that Jaymar is going to be at least a class two Elemental."

Raum stood up and moved around the room. "If what you say is true, then you think that Jaymar would be sought out and then made to join the Centurion ranks and obey the High Centurion."

"Yes." Ambrose came back with a blunt response.

Raum continued. "Are all Centurions still actively out to try and find you and how long have you been on the run?"

"Too long and yes, every now and then the Centurion Order will mount a new search to try and find me or anyone connected to the 'Keepers of the Elements'". Ambrose was now looking intently at Jaymar.

Then Jaymar blurted out. "I don't want to die and I am not an Elemental. Dad, please tell Ambrose." He ran into his father's arms.

"I am as confused as you are son and I am finding it hard to believe what Ambrose is saying. I have known Ambrose for as long as I can remember and he is your godfather and I trust him with my life."

"Now we must be leaving." Said Ambrose, again leaving the table and heading for one of the other rooms. "Raum you must get back to Princeton and make arrangements so that we can leave for the mainland as soon as possible." He continued talking as he wandered around the cottage gathering clothes, supplies, etc. He came back into the main room and said. "Jaymar and I will head for Little Haven and make arrangements with Grimhilda for our trip. Raum, you must be careful and only go to the port to make the necessary arrangements. Keep clear of any Elementals and the Centurion."

They all pack their bags and put on their travelling clothes. Out the front of the cottage, Raum held his son by his shoulders and looked down into his eyes. "Be brave as I know you can be. Do whatever Ambrose says and reassure your mother, that I will be back in Little Haven as soon as possible." He shook Ambrose by the hand and looked searchingly into the older man's eyes. Ambrose said. "By the Elements. Go with speed." Raum nodded and then turned towards Princeton and set off at a jog.