E.P.I.C. Book Two: Trail of Embers
By: Stephen "Khaotyk" Coy
The team headed back into the forest, the Northern Forest. They spent the first part of the day training with their weapons before heading out. They met up in the Yin-Yang clearing from before. Josh kept trying to swing the sword with precision. He looked at Chet, itching to use it in battle with him. Chet shook his head, seeing as he had the easiest weapon to use: a stick. Diana took practice aiming with her bow and kept her staff filled with water. Jamie danced, around the stump, tossing the blades and trying to catch them. At one point, it flew toward Chet, who caught it with a rocky fist and brought it to him.
“You mind being a little more careful, beautiful?” Chet said as he lay back, relaxing. Jamie blushed and took it back.
“Perdon,” she nervously stepped back and Josh bumped into her.
“Crap nuggets!” he exclaimed.
“You alright?” Diana asked.
Both replied with a nod and looked at each other, and then heard a distant scream. Jamie climbed a branch and looked over the trees towards the source, but could see nothing beyond the thick forest. She slid down and pointed where she believed she heard it; Josh led the team that direction and began to hear music.
“Stop guys. You hear that?” Josh kept the team back.
“It sounds like…” Chet put his ear to the ground. “Rock music.”
“Music?” The scream came again and Josh had to check it out. He stepped outside the forest by the river and saw a band playing. “Odd…” He approached them, his team not far behind. The band shortly finished their song and saw them approach. One of the members, playing a guitar, stepped away off the stage. Diana walked forward.
“What’s a stage doing out in the middle of nowhere?”
The guitarist chuckled, his messy, shoulder-length, blonde hair covering his eyes with a single point above his head. He wore a black tee shirt with red flames, plus shorts to match.
“Dude, we’ve got an audience.”
The bass player, a girl who also had blonde hair cropped up in a ponytail, stepped down next. Her clothing of choice was that of a sleeveless, short-cut, bright blue top and a matching knee-length skirt cut up the thigh, along with heels. Behind her was the drummer, a boy with apparel similar to that of the guitarist, but with an inverted color scheme. His hair was cropped nicely, but also covered his eyes and hid carefully under a bandanna. Lastly, the singer stayed on stage, too shy to step down. Her hair was pink and short cut with a black hair band bearing a white flower. She wore greyish-blue tee and a black skirt with an iceberg. The guitarist waved a hand towards the band.
“Alright, I guess I should, like, totally start the righteous introductions. I’m like, Ken. That’s my twin, Ben, on the drums. This chick with the bass is Carla. And the chick on stage is Kiana.”
Carla giggled. “My little sister.”
Diana tilted her head slightly. “I still don’t understand. Why is there a stage in the middle of nowhere?”
“We had Kenji like build this stage two years ago. People come out here to watch us play.”
Diana shrugged. Jamie came up. “Dios mio…I’ve always wanted to play in a band.”
Diana shook her head and Chet chuckled. Josh stroked his chin. “Alright, alright. What was the screaming we heard?”
Carla looked at Kiana. “I was teaching my sister that it’s alright to let loose. Sorry if it caused a disturbance.”
“Are you guys Warriors?”
“Yup. We’re Squad A.”
Chet crossed his arms. “The first squad?”
Ken shook his head. “Nah, bro, nobody had it. Don’t be surprised. A lot of squads will take random letters or letter combinations man.”
Diana shook her head. “Doesn’t matter, does it?”
Ken shook his head.
Josh pounded a fist into his palm. “Alright. So how long have you been Warriors?”
“The three of us have been here for three years. Kiana came last year.”
“Then you’re experienced battlers?”
Diana palmed her forehead and shook it. “No, we aren’t battling them.”
“I don’t intend to. I want to learn how to use this sword.”
Jamie brightened up. “Of course! Que bien! We can learn how weapons are utilized with advice.”
Ben chuckled. “Then sit down, we don’t have to play in our concert until later on tonight anyway.”
“And we’re like, totally amped up and ready to go.” Ken strummed a chord on his guitar. Kiana slowly came up and bowed.
“H…hello…” she muttered.
As the team continued to acquaint themselves with this band, they discussed methods of properly utilizing their weapons of choice. It was quite simple, seeing as Ken himself is a swordsman, Ben works with explosives, Carla with two sickles of ice, and Kiana with a sniper’s bow. This unusual set of weapons gave them both a branch into the known and the lesser known. They’ve seen it all.
After a few practice sessions, the teams decided to take a break. The eight headed off to Central City, which was essentially where Squad Z was headed from the get go. Diana questioned the importance, but it was simply to pick up a few things they would need for the concert that evening.
The evening swung around quicker than expected. In just a few hours they would prepare to play, but they ran into a small problem that neither of the eight could readily solve.
“Dude, our instruments are out of power!” Ken exploded when he realized that the amplifiers used to power their instruments were out of juice. Something was amiss though, as it appeared to be too much of a coincidence that all of the equipment just ran dry all at once. Josh decided they needed to take action, and commanded his team to do so readily, having Squad A stay at the stage. Seeing the countdown before them, they readied themselves for a mystery that would hopefully put them on the map, thus closer to solving their own.
Diana inspected the instruments. No damage was done to them, but what they said was true, they were out of juice.
“It almost looks like they were…drained.”
“Drained? Like, what do you mean?”
“I mean literally drained. The instruments are clean. For them to have that much energy used naturally in that short of a time…they would be…”
“On fire.” Josh stroked his chin. Suddenly, something struck him as odd. He felt a presence in the natural flow of the air around him. “Something is here…” He began to travel towards the disturbance, behind the stage. The three watched carefully as he vanished from view.
Jamie gripped her blades. “What do you think he-” A yelp was heard before she finished her question. She was the first to run over and see the cause of the startled yelp. A creature of sorts stood before her, it was hunched with claws and had spines on its back. Having an appearance similar to that of an armadillo, its maw was decorated poorly in savage fangs and between the spikes sparked small sparks of electricity. “Que…Que es eso?” Jamie stepped back as she saw it atop Josh and frying him with electricity. Diana and Chet came by shortly after, with Chet launching his staff, edged with a large rock, to shove the creature off.
Diana gasped. “It’s a circuitdillo! I never thought I’d see one around here!”
“It ain’t supposed to be around here.” Chet pulled his staff back to him and stuck it into the ground, pulling out a large hammer end. “These creatures were extinct years ago.”
The creature bent down and shot spikes at the group. Chet put up a wall of earth to cover him and Diana; Jamie danced around and knocked most away. Josh blasted a gust of air, and then fell to his knees.
“Why am I…so weak?” Josh struggled to get up.
“It feeds off of energy. It’s the one responsible for the instrument drain.” Diana gathered water around her and focused to freeze it into arrows, and then shot them from her bow. The Dillo countered each one with spikes. Jamie took that time to dash in and deal a flurry of blows. She tumbled under the impacts of the clashing projectiles and burst flames under her feet, launching herself to a flaming uppercut. The Dillo roared and stumbled back, then rolled into a ball and bashed its spines into Jamie, pinning her to the back of the stage before shocking her unconscious.
“Jamie!” Chet roared and ran with his hammer. The Dillo stamped the ground and sent waves of electricity at him. Diana lifted herself and Josh with a platform of ice to avoid the attack, Chet pounded the ground as he ran, sending random boulders up to block it. He then knocked them at the Dillo with the hammer. The noise brought Squad A over in curiosity.
“Bro, what is that?” Ken stood in shock. Carla looked at Diana.
“Are you guys alright?”
Diana looked at Jamie, whose caramel tan was paled as the spikes drained her energy and fed it to her in electric shocks. “Help her!”
Carla threw a sickle of ice and cut the spikes off; Ben then grabbed her as she fell. Chet swung dynamically at the beast, a blow that connected and sent it toppling back again. It roared as it tried to bash Chet the same way it did Jamie, but Chet placed a wall of earth before him and leapt back as he tilted it into a ramp. The Dillo rolled into the air; suddenly Josh stood on the platform and boosted himself with wind, whirling in an axe covered in…
“Electricity?” Diana gasped as she watched him land the blow on the Dillo’s head. The flash was grand, and all around had to cover their eyes, as it was very similar to that of staring in the sun. Josh stepped back and looked at his hands, which cackled with electricity. He smiled and focused, gathering energy from the air and rushing into the Dillo. Chet was the first to regain his sight, being behind stony walls to begin with. He widened his eyes in shock of what he was witnessing. Josh whirled a dome of air, protecting him from the Dillo’s spikes, and then absorbed the electricity from them before firing it out in pale yellow blasts from his fists.
“Bro, what happened?” Chet stepped back, letting him handle the beast. Diana floated down and sat on the edge of her platform.
“I…I don’t believe this. The initial shock he took from the creature…it must have permanently given him the ability to manipulate electricity himself.”
“That doesn’t make any…so can Jamie do it too?”
Diana shrugged. “Maybe it was the different current types. When Jamie took it, it was current that knocked her unconscious. Maybe Josh’s body took it as a positive flow, awakening his nervous system instead of shutting it down.”
“Well he seems to have perfect grasp of it. Too perfect if you ask me.”
“I agree. I suppose it’s not that hard to manipulate.”
Ken, Ben, Carla, and Kiana, could only watch in awe as they witnessed a Warrior battling with two elements in his disposal. Diana went down and held Jamie. She muttered “I hope I can grab a hold of nature’s blessing so my soothing touch c-” The instant the words “nature’s blessing” escaped her lips her hands began to glow a faint aquamarine aura, and Jamie’s burn marks from the spines faded away. Diana gasped softly as Jamie opened her eyes.
“Wh…what? Que paso?” Jamie muttered and twitched a little. “My body hurts.”
Chet turned around. “Jamie! You’re alright?”
“I…I guess so…” Jamie stood up, the pain in her joints carefully going away as she stretched. Behind her, Josh was knocked back by the beast.
“Alright you…I’m tired of your games. Maybe another shock from…” Josh let his hands forward, but no shock came out. “Wh…what?” As the Dillo raced toward him in a spiked ball, Chet put up another earth wall, curving it away from Josh and toward himself. He prepared his hammer to clash with it in a dynamic blow, then Jamie leapt on Chet’s shoulders and grabbed the base of the hammer, surging the end with flames. The hammer, boosted by the heat, knocked the Dillo into the air and onto its back, where it groaned, unable to take anymore.
“Sweet stuff Jamie.” Chet high fived her as she hopped down.
“Gracias.” Jamie giggled. Josh kept trying to fire electricity from his hands, but to no avail.
“What? I had it perfect a moment ago.”
Diana sighed. “Well, it looks like it was temporary. You may have to be shocked again for it to work.”
“Aw, man.” Josh sat down in a sulk. Kiana approached and thanked them for defeating the creature. “You guys could’ve helped, you know.”
Ken opened his mouth in a pause, and then closed it. “Yeah, bro. I guess we could have. You guys solved the problem, though.”
Diana shrugged. “He’s right. And if they helped us, we wouldn’t have gained any experience in this combat.”
Carla looked sadly at the stage. “We’re performing in twenty minutes and our instruments are still out of juice.”
Josh looked at the Dillo and smiled. “Not for long…”
That evening the group watched the band play at the concert. Each amp and instrument had a Dillo spike pinned to it, and each spike was the size is a full grown zucchini. They fed the instruments what seemed like endless electricity. Josh grabbed a hunk of them and put them in a bag given to him by Ken for the help.
“These babies oughta help me get my powers back in no time.” Josh pumped a fist. Jamie rocked out to the concert, screaming cheers and bobbing her hair with Chet joining in. Diana sat in the back reading, when Josh joined her. “Hey, why aren’t you enjoying the concert?”
“I…it’s not my scene.” Diana looked down and turned the page.
“Come on now, Princess. Don’t give me that. What’s wrong?” He sat down, much to Diana’s surprise, since she blushed a deep red.
“Don’t call me ‘Princess’.” She muttered, although she truly didn’t care at this moment.
“I’ll call you what I wish if you don’t talk.”
She sighed, realizing Josh indeed saw through. She didn’t realize that it actually mattered. She closed the book. “It’s just not fair, you know? I mean Jamie is strong, Chet is strong, you’re getting stronger, and I…I couldn’t even help fight that thing.”
Josh smiled. “Jamie told me you helped her wake up when she was knocked out. That finishing blow could not have been done without you.”
“Great, so I helped her get glory?”
“You…aren’t catching on. Look, Princess. You have that…what did you call it?”
“Nature’s Blessing.” As she said it, her hands glowed faintly.
“Right, that. And when you touch somebody, their wounds and pain go away. So that makes you a…what’s it called…”
“Healer?” She asked with a sarcastic glance.
“Yeah. Do you have any idea how key a healer is to a team? We can’t just go rushing into battle time and time again. We will die if we aren’t careful.”
“That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?”
Josh chuckled. He began to explain all the qualities a healer carries to the team that are keys for its survival. Diana sighed and decided to accept it, as it seemed to be her place at the moment. Healer…a nurse…but she couldn’t help but think there was more to what she could do…
“Up and at ‘em! We need to find the first orb!” Josh was perked up and from a good night’s rest on a pillow, also in the bag Ken gave him. The whole team had their equipment stocked with essentials, since none of them prepared properly themselves. “I knew that helping them would bring us one step closer.”
Diana groaned. “We aren’t any closer now than we were before, blockhead.”
“We have stuff, and learned stuff, and…stuff. Be positive!”
“Be tired…” Jamie muttered as she rolled in her pillow and turned away. “I’m catching shut eye. My head is killing me.”
Josh shrugged and let them sleep. They slept at the edge of the forest, where the Northern Plains was just in view, the town beyond the valley. Josh heard shuffling behind him and grabbed one of his Dillo spines in caution. The noise-maker came out of a bush behind a tree. It was Jonah, who seemed to have been wandering in the forest before meeting up with him.
“What are you doing here?” they asked in unison. Jonah chuckled.
“Well, it seems fate has brought us together again. There must be something I’m supposed to help you with. What is in your hand?”
“It’s…well it’s a Circuitdillo spike... It carries a battery’s worth in electricity.”
Jonah perplexedly looked around. “There’s nothing needing to be charged.”
Josh pointed it towards himself. He pulled electricity from it and fired a beam from the other hand at a tree, like sucking in water before blowing it back out. Jonah almost laughed.
“I don’t believe this. And you’re telling me you need those to do that?”
Josh was insulted. “Yes. Yes I do.”
“Let me tell you something, young Nikolay. Electricity is a secondary element. Anyone can learn it. Not everyone does, mind you, but anyone can.”
“So throw those away. If you can absorb energy from those than you can control the element without it.”
“But I keep running out of juice.”
“Have you forgotten the energy principle? Electricity, like your wind, or fire, or psychic power, can be used any time, any place, so long as the energy is gathered first. You can gather the energy for these elements just about anywhere. Didn’t you know everyone and everything gives off an electrical charge, albeit faint?”
“N…no. No I didn’t.” Josh was now intrigued. If everyone gave off a charge…could he take that away? What would happen if he did?
“I want you to focus. I want you to stand there and focus.”
Josh didn’t quite understand. He closed his eyes and focused on…something.
“Good, now imagine you’re covered in the Circuitdillo’s spines, and that they’re feeding you electricity.”
“He did so and twinged a little as he felt the energy coursing through him from all around. He began absorbing it like a sponge, letting panting from the excess.”
“From now on, I want you to yell Charge Up every time you gather energy from the air. It’ll help you remember to focus.”
Josh smiled. “Wow, thanks. It looks like fate did bring you here to help out. Where were you headed?”
“Central City, incidentally. I needed to pick up a package from an old friend of mine.”
Josh looked at the town and shrugged. He began to speak, but when he turned back Jonah was gone. Josh looked at his hands and pounded one fist into the other hand.
“I guess I should take more time to learn this element then.” He cried “Charge up!” and gathered more energy, forcing a battle cry to relieve the stress of the large intake. He grabbed his sword and tried first hand to surge it into the blade, then started hacking furiously with it, sending scattered sparks everywhere. “This is so easy!” He gasped when a sudden burst of heat blasted him in his ribs.
“You can stop that now.” Jamie rubbed her eyes. Diana and Chet stretched behind her. “You could’ve had the decency to leave us to sleep.” She rubbed her head and yawned. Josh chuckled nervously, not intending on awaking them, but forgetting entirely that they were there. Diana pulled out a map.
“Alright, now does anyone have a guess as to where to actually start looking for these orbs?”
Josh and Chet looked around. Chet rubbed his chin. “Well let’s start one at a time. Which one should we seek first?”
Diana checked her legend book. Jamie looked at her skeptically.
Diana rolled her eyes. “I always carry around legend guides. That’s how I knew we were being attacked by a Circuitdillo before.” She turned to one of the first legends. “Alright, the book says that ‘during the month that the Phoenix eclipse begins, darkness shall fall upon the land. Creatures far and wide will begin terrorizing all walks of life in an attempt to regain the world to its former glory when they ruled. That explains the Circuitdillo.’” She paused and looked up, seeing the team listening close.
“‘During this time, the orbs shall awake themselves in their places of dormancy around the world. Anyone who can collect the orbs and gather them will awaken the essence of shadow or justice, depending on the intent for them. The orbs are buried deep where the element thrives most. Four warriors are destined to collect the elements and balance the power of all eight to trigger the awakening of shadow and justice.’ Then it just shows them in the order we’ve always had them introduced: fire, water, earth, air, thunder, grass, psychic, and steel. A yin-yang of the last two is in the middle with four silhouettes of faces.”
Jamie looks at the book. “Que rico…that’s amazing…”
Chet rubbed his chin. “So there are four warriors who will balance all eight? Like, we will use all eight elements?”
Josh looked at his hands. “Guys, we could be those four. I mean, I already control air and thunder.”
Diana shook her head. “Don’t be ridiculous. You hit a major fluke and got shocked into controlling an element that should’ve killed you. That doesn’t mean we go seeking ways to do something Kenji preferred for us not to do.”
Jamie and Chet looked at each other. Chet walked up. “Do you like having the group vote against you?”
Diana scoffed. “And what do you mean by that? You can’t honestly be considering this.”
Jamie stepped behind her. “When I came to the Elemental Warriors I wanted to become something bigger. I wanted to make something of myself. To be known. This may be our only chance to do something big. Why would you even consider standing in our way?”
Diana looked down. “I…I’m not standing in your way…I just…I don’t want to make a mistake I’ll regret.”
Josh put a hand on her shoulder. “Then let us convince you to join us in this cause. What have we to lose? If we aren’t the ones spoken of in the book, we just move on with our elemental control. I mean, we aren’t going to die from trying to control more than one element. Not if they came along this easily.”
“I know it was a pretty bad shock, but if we were supposed to go, we would have. Don’t be so negative, Princess.”
Diana sighed. Chet shrugged. “You don’t have to. One way or another we have to collect those orbs, and if we pick up another element along the way, I ain’t complainin’.”
Diana looked at her team. “I…I guess.” She didn’t know if this was a good choice, but they had a point. She will never know if they don’t try. This gave them two goals now. They had to collect the orbs, and see if they were the Warriors of Legend. And it would take everything they had to do it.
The step now was to find out where to start. The book listed fire first, so they decided to seek fire out. The question was, where was fire most prevalent?
“It would have to be a place that generates a lot of its own heat.” Diana said as they entered Central City. “I mean, the orbs are supposed to be essences of the elements themselves, right? So what’s a place that’s always hot?”
Jamie looked at herself and giggled. “Not me, apparently.”
Diana rolled her eyes. Josh snapped his fingers. “Volcanoes are hot.” To this, Diana jumped with excitement.
“Josh, that was brilliant! Volcanoes are places that are always heated.”
“Until they’re dormant.” Chet crossed his arms. “Then they’re just another mountain.”
“Well,” Jamie looked at the team. “Where the heck are we gonna find an active volcano?”
Diana sighed. Most of the volcanoes had been made dormant by surrounding Warriors to prevent damage to a nearby city or to allow safe travel between. Odds are there wasn’t a volcano anywhere near that would still be active. Rupert, the senile old man the team had met before, called them over.
“Volcano?” he asked with his lazy eye wandering to the right. “We gots a volcano up north if’n you was plannin’ on headin’ up there ta see it.”
Jamie skipped over first, Josh not far behind her. “Don’t lie to us, Rupe.” Josh placed his hands on the stand.
“I’ve been livin’ ‘ere fer 75 years I’ll tell ya. I know everythin’ goin’ on ‘round these here parts.”
Why is your stand on the east side of town?” Jamie asked. Rupert’s store, for whatever reason, was located of the other side of the town, the east. Jamie was the only one to take notice to this.
“Other side’s been wrecked up by that big man.”
Josh and Jamie exchanged glances of anger as they remembered the man they fought before. They didn’t know who he was, but they knew that for whatever reason he wanted the shards of the element gems Rupert gave them. Rupert held out a fox tail.
“Got plenty if ya want ‘em.” Josh shuddered and Jamie shook her head.
“Gracias, pero no. No need for them.” She pulled Josh back and pointed to the mountain outside of town. “That has to be where he was talking about.”
“We have to tell Chet and Dia…” he looked around, having realized they weren’t with them.
Meanwhile, Diana and Chet were at a shop for resources. Diana knew that if they were going to a place where they would be heat, she’d need an excessive water supply if she would be of any use. Remembering that her weapon was made to hold such a thing, she asked where there would be a fountain nearby, and if there were potions for health and remedies that they carried as well. Chet was waiting behind her, making stuff from the bricks that made the streets. The lady that ran the shop smiled graciously and pointed in the direction Jamie rushed towards, saying they were headed the right way.
Josh ran after Jamie. “Wait up! Jeez, you think I’d get a warning before you left like that.”
“Josh, por favor. Hurry! I want to waste no time. If that volcano houses the orb of flame, it may give me a boost in my natural abilities!” She ran to the city fountain and was quickly stopped by a group of traveling dancers. “Que es eso?” She asked, wondering what it was. The dancers were women of gracious beauty. The three girls danced with such elegance that the crowd couldn’t help but watch as they moved around the fountain. Diana, Chet, and Josh walked to Jamie, finally having caught her. In front of the dancing girls were four other girls playing a tambourine, accordion, flute, and acoustic guitar. The crowd danced and clapped along, tossing their change and loose bills towards them. Jamie stepped back, shaking her head.
“Whoa, what’s wrong?” Chet grabbed her gently by the shoulders as she bumped into him. She cried “No more!” and turned around, running the other direction. The music continued on, but one of the girls, the flute player, looked at Jamie as she ran. She muttered something and smiled, then stopped playing. She was soon followed by the guitarist, accordion player, and finally the tambourine player. The dancers stopped and the crowd muttered in confusion. Diana huffed.
“Naturally Jamie would be the one to stop a town-wide performance.”
Chet sighed. “Hey, man. I’m worried about her. We oughta-”
“Go check it out, I know.” Diana looked at the fountain and made a quiet noise in curiosity, then waved the boys off. “Go see what’s going on. I’m gonna collect information here.”
Josh and Chet shrugged and ran off. Diana walked to the fountain as the crowd began to part. She placed her staff in the water and began to focus, pulling the water into the sapphire planted firmly into the indent at the top. One of the dancers giggled and froze the water. Diana gasped and looked up. The girl’s hair was blue and she smiled as she stood on top of the frozen fountain. She, like the rest of the girls, had tan skin.
“Hola,” she giggled as she sat on the fountain. “You know Jamie?”
The girl’s accent wasn’t thick, but she could tell that she, like Jamie, was of Hispanic descent. Diana chuckled shyly as she tried to remember her Spanish. “No puedo encontrar mis llaves?”
“You can’t find your keys?” The dancer to her right shocked her with a finger. Her hair was blonde, and it strongly contrasted her skin tone. “That’s unfortunate.”
“You know, we speak English too.” A brown-haired girl raised a platform of stone and sat on it.
“Um…then yes. I know Jamie…how do you know her name?”
“She danced with us a few years back.”
Jamie was seen smashing stones behind a house. Chet put them back to place and Josh grabbed Jamie’s hand. “Hey, what the heck was that?”
She sighed. “Don’t worry about it. I just had a moment I had to let go of.”
“Care to explain?” Chet sat on the stones.
Thus she began. She explained that years ago she was a dancer, like the other girls. She was the youngest. Each of them had a different element to control. Hers was fire. They would go to their town, perform wonderful displays of their technique and prowess, get paid, and then leave. This happened every few months or so. One of the girls, Julianne, saw that the way things were going wouldn’t end too well. She had psychic power, and would read the minds of customers to tell them their past and future, like an oracle. She began to realize that people were getting bored, and that if they stayed, they wouldn’t get anywhere.
She told the group to leave town, to move on. So they did. They left their homes, families, and friends to earn profit, with Jamie following behind. Town to town they travelled, performing for more and more townsfolk that were bored of the same thing over and over. The girls resorted to thievery, using their wits, beauty, and power to steal money unsuspectingly from patrons. Julianne was the one to orchestrate the whole thing, and tried to get Jamie to join in. Jamie began to see what they were doing was wrong. She left soon after.
“Why didn’t you just go when it began?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, why did you even leave town so young?”
“Because I couldn’t leave Julianne. She…she’s my sister…”
“Sister?” Diana exclaimed. “What the…what?” Julianne was a tall girl with violet hair and black highlights, done very much like Jamie’s. Her physique was flawless and she looked in all intents of the word, gorgeous. She told her the story under a different light, making the group look like victims chased out of town for not being interesting enough to stay, and being forced to bounce town after town, not once admitting they were thieves that were kicked out for their antics. Diana felt their pain and admitted that they didn’t have much money on them, or she would help out. Julianne sighed, admitting that everyone said the same thing. The rest of the girls gathered together and spoke about it.
“Well,” Julianne admitted, “we need Jamie to come back. Our group isn’t complete without her.”
“I don’t understand,” Diana looked at the girls. “Why would she leave your group?”
“She…we didn’t share opinions. We looked at things in different ways.”
Diana heard Kenji’s voice in her head when he referred to Jamie and her sister’s relationship as “inadequate”. She looked back, wondering if the guys would come back with Jamie. She began to feel uncomfortable, as she didn’t know what to expect from Julianne. Julianne, being psychic, was able to see this discomfort in her heart, and grabbed her arm.
“Nothing is wrong; you don’t need to be afraid.” Her eyes glowed in a faint purple aura as she stared into Diana’s eyes. Diana’s eyes shared the aura and she found herself muttering the same words back to Julianne. Julianne smiled. “There. All better, right?” To this, Diana nodded. One of the girls stepped up.
“Why’d you go and do that?” She asked in Spanish.
“She didn’t trust us. If she did anything to blow our cover, we’d be…back there…” Julianne shivered. The other girls murmured amongst each other. “Look, you know I’m not going back there again. Everything was…too white…”
Jamie sighed as she finished her story. Chet held her hand. “I’m sorry your sister turned…bad.”
“I wouldn’t call it bad.” Josh shrugged. “Sounds to me more like a desperate attempt to survive.”
Jamie nodded. “I thought so too. That’s why I suggested the Elemental Warriors. It would be a great way for the girls to have their skills appreciated like they wanted. It would feed them, nurture them, or at least that’s what I heard. But the responsibility and work was not what they had in mind. The way they were doing things felt too easy for them. One day, everything fell apart. A couple warriors found them in a town in the east, and turned them in for fraudulent use of powers, and manipulation among people who couldn’t use them. Me, being so young, was let go, but everyone else, being adolescents, got arrested and taken to the Tower. My sister kept fighting so she wouldn’t have to be separated from me, and for her heightened resistance, they locked her up in the White Room.”
Josh and Chet’s eyes widened. The White Room was the most terrifying place anyone could be sent to. The purifying aura in the White Room neutralized all elemental powers and had nothing in it. Nothing. Criminals would be sent there for anywhere from months to years with nothing from the outside but food which would be slid in from a wall. The solitude alone drove people nuts, but the constant bright white glaring in every direction was enough to drive anyone insane, and usually did. Most, if not all criminals confessed their crimes, repented, and never committed another one since, for fear of having to return. Some even joined the Elemental Warriors during their repentance.
“Julianne was stuck there for just two months. But since she was psychic, her extended mental stability was thrown off at a more extreme rate.”
“You know, for one who speaks English as a second language, you sure seem to grasp it well,” Josh noted. “Like Diana.”
Jamie shrugged. “I’ve always been able to pick up languages quickly. I don’t know why. It’s like when I meet someone, their speech becomes linked into mine. Listen.”
She cleared her throat. “Dude, you guys need to like, totally chill out.” She spoke in a manner that sounded exactly like Ken. Chet and Josh looked at each other in awe.
“I didn’t know you could—”
“What happened next?” Chet cut off Josh, wishing finding out she could do that hadn’t come at such a bad time. Jamie continued to explain the story, saying that after Julianne was released, she was never the same. Everything she did was for herself. She didn’t care about anyone else. The girls are only with her because she…”
Diana muttered as she woke up from her mental slumber. She found herself sitting in the fountain with her staff missing. She looked at the sack of arrows and potions in front of her and gasped when she realized it. She got up and moved the water off of her, letting it back in the fountain. She picked up her supplies and panicked. “Help!” she cried. “I’ve been robbed!”
Josh let out a breath. He now knows Chet’s and Jamie’s pasts, and they were quite dynamic in his opinion. He couldn’t remember his, but he hoped it wasn’t like theirs. He suddenly heard Diana scream. “Diana’s in trouble. Let’s go!” He ran quickly towards the fountain where they left her, and fortunately for them, saw her there, stunned and scared. “What happened?”
“I…I don’t know. I was talking with Jamie’s sister and…and…my staff is gone!”
Josh looked sadly at his partner’s panic and clenched his fists in righteous anger. “Team, we split for a search. Chet and Jamie, take the east. Diana, we’re taking the right. We will find her.” Jamie and Chet nodded and left immediately. Josh nudged Diana to try not to attract too much attention, noting that Julianne was psychic. She gasped quietly and nodded, going west.
Jamie walked along town. “I doubt we’ll find her. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“Where would she go?” Chet stopped to sit down. “I’m not walking if we aren’t finding her.”
Jamie stopped too. She thought hard. “Claro que si. You’re right.” She looked up and cried loudly. “JULIANNE!!!” Chet grabbed her arm.
“What the heck are you doing?”
Jamie shook her head and cried her name again; she beckoned Chet to do the same.
After a few minutes of walking and screaming, a hand covered Jamie’s mouth. “Callate!” A hushed voice spoke in her ear. “What do you think you’re doing?” Chet, stricken with disbelief that that actually worked, almost laughed at how freaked out Julianne looked.
“What are you doing?” Jamie asked. “Why are you here, taking stuff from my friend?”
“What? I would never do such a thing.” To this, Jamie and Chet responded with a silent glare.
“Diana is missing her staff. It’s dark blue with a ball on top and a sapphire in the middle,” Jamie explained, “I know you have it. Hey, wait…where are the other girls?”
Julianne frowned. “That’s why I needed you to stop calling me. We were followed. Somebody heard we were here and is hunting us down. I’m the only one they haven’t caught.”
Jamie gasped. “Why?”
“We…we messed up, ok? There was a king. We performed for him, then…we…” Jamie glared at her. “Sort of…” Chet frowned. “Stole…from the royal treasure…”
“What did you steal?” Jamie stamped on the ground.
“The royal scepter…”
Jamie almost punched her, but sighed. “Where is the staff?”
“They took it with the girls. I made them think it was the scepter, and that I was with them.”
“Of all the selfish, misguided, absolutely cynical—”
“Ya se!” She fell to a crouching position. “I know…I was afraid. I didn’t want to get caught.”
“You brainwashed your best friends and got them caught for you!”
“Callate I know! I don’t know what to do. My psychic powers are thrown in a fritz from my stress.”
“Well I don’t have psychic powers, so we are gonna have to find some way to find the girls and get Diana’s staff back.”
“Can’t she make a new one?”
“Not with a new sapphire. That one was her personal stone. You wouldn’t understand sentimental value though, would you?” Jamie called for Chet to head back towards the fountain and called Josh, explaining the situation. Julianne grabbed her shoulder.
“Please, let me help.” She pleaded.
“I think you’ve helped enough.” Jamie turned away. Julianne bit her lip in nervousness and grabbed Jamie’s head with both hands. “Hey, what are you-” She stopped and gasped, her eyes turning a vivid purple. Jamie began to see everything. Her memories raced before her eyes, she could hear voices all around her and feel heart beats from every person in the city. She fell to her knees, grabbing her head and crying in pain. Chet shoved Julianne.
“What did you do?”
“I awakened her.”
Jamie cried loudly and rolled on the ground. Chet rushed to help her but Julianne told him to step back. “She has to go through this.”
“What’s happening?” Chet panted as he looked at Jamie, curled in a fetal position.
“Everyone in the Dolores family has psychic power. Jamie was born as a prodigy, her power scaling way above all of ours. She could touch something and make it shatter with psychokinetic powers. But…it was too much for her…she was so young, and she was horridly overwhelmed by the voices from everyone’s thoughts, so mama had me tune her connection to the psychic world off.”
“Why’d you turn it back on if you knew it brought her pain?”
“This was the only way we’d find the staff and bring back the girls. She has to go through this trial and learn to turn off the incoming voices. And she has to do it alone, or she will never control the power.”
Chet’s communicator buzzed. He picked it up. “Yeah?”
“Where are you guys?” Josh asked. “What’s that noise?”
“We’re in the alley behind the bread shop. You’ve got to see this.”
“On our way.” Chet put it away and bent down. Julianne grabbed his shoulder but he shrugged it away. He picked Jamie up and held her close to him, her head gently resting on his chest. Jamie grabbed his shirt, her nails digging through into his chest, tears poured down her face and her eyes were completely purple. Chet held her tighter, ignoring the writhing pain she was bringing him. Josh and Diana arrived a few minutes later. Diana gasped when she saw.
“Focus on my voice,” Chet said. “My voice alone. Focus on only my voice.”
Josh cut in. “What is thi—”
Chet put a rocky dome around them, blocking everyone else out. “Shh…focus…you can hear me…I know it…”
Jamie began to mutter. “Ch…Chet…” Her writhing calmed down some, she grunted softly. Chet kept repeating that she needed to focus on his voice only. Jamie closed her eyes and Chet leaned in close, whispering now to quiet her. Jamie opened her eyes, the purple glow fading away.
“Are you alright?” He asked, relieved to see the glow fade out. Jamie looked at Chet and pressed her lips to his. Chet was shocked, but fell into the embrace. Jamie closed her eyes as she pulled away, leaving Chet dumbfounded. “Wh…what was that?”
Jamie smiled. “Thank you. Thank you.” She hugged him tightly as he slowly let the shield down. “I will never forget this.”
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