The room was darkened and two little forms were beside a bed draped in black, on the bed, there was a woman lying. She was still and beside her was a man who was holding her hand and crying. "Come back my darling, Lynara. Don't leave me."
Lynara cried out, "My little Maeve, you are the fire guardian now. Beware of those that would..." Her gasp of pain cut her warning off. She grasped her husband's hand, "Take care of our wee ones, my Darby. I will always love you." She slid from life then, painlessly.
That was when a change happened within the young Maeve. A new awareness descended upon her. She heard and saw things she never had before. There was a strange fire in her blood, a strange power flowed within he veins now.
In the stillness Dermott's cries rang out loud, echoing in the room. They were ignored as their father withdrew into himself.
"Sir, your son?" The young wet nurse ventured after several moments. She was a young woman, about thirty and of average height. She had exotic green eyes that tilted up at the corners. Her blond hair was just above her shoulders. She had been taken in by Lynara after her village was destroyed by loyalists, her name was Magheen.
"I have no son." The lifeless reply came from Darby. Magheen gasped, his eyes were completely dead. His eyes focused on Maeve hatefully, she looked so like her mother. "Get her out of my sight."
"Yes, sir." She quickly picked the children up and left, all the while dying inside for the children and Lynara.
The funeral was a quiet affair, the whole village of Lochabar turned out for it for Lady Ross was beloved by many. Darby drew into himself even more, the Darby everyone knew was lost in a world of sorrow. He became irrational and angry. Maeve guarded her brother from her father's sudden rages, and she suffered much at his hands already. She was very protective of him, especially when Magheen would take them for walks in Lochabar. Many would hurl hurtful words, as though it was really their fault that Lynara was gone.
The day came when Maeve had had enough and she unconsciously called forth her powers, frightening them away. Then they began to fear her, things went from bad to worse. The fire seekers found out where she was and came for her. They rode into Lochabar, burning and destroying all they found. The carnage in the village was incredible, Maeve ran to her father. "Dermott, run! Daddy, do something!"
Her cries were cut off as the lead rider grabbed her. Darby saw his daughter yanked from before his eyes and something snapped inside; yelling a battle cry, went after the warrior. He struck him down, "I'm sorry."
"Daddy!" Maeve screamed and tried to escape the man's arms. He smacked her on the head and she passed out.
Magheen took Dermott ran as fast as she could. Finally, they fell into an exhausted heap, "Where's Maeve and daddy?"
"I don't know. I thought they were right behind us. They must have taken another path. I'm sure they'll be here soon." Magheen soothed the five year old.
Night fell on the shivering pair and they slept in that tiny grove, the spirit of Lynara protecting them. In the morning they went to the nearby stream and caught some fresh trout. Then they walked back to Lochabar. Their eyes filled with tears as they viewed the damage and destruction around them. They went to Ross Manor and saw Darby on the ground, and knew that he was dead. As they looked around, many of the villagers came to them, wailing and bemoaning their fate and cursing Maeve because it was her fault.
Magheen furiously yelled over the chaos and confusion. "She was just a child! It was you with your taunts that brought this down upon your own heads! She had no idea of her magic until you provoked her! Take whatever you want from here and rebuild, he'll not mind."
Magheen moved away from them, Dermott and she walked away without a backward glance.
"Magheen? Is Maeve alive?"
"I hope so, I truly hope so." Magheen took Dermott to Brigadoon. This was a city in the heart of Celt country and prayed that she'd find work. She'd promised Lynara that she'd take care of the wee ones, and though Maeve was missing, she'd keep that promise with Dermott.
The guard, Ramos, took her to the main camp. She awoke and saw the place through her eyelashes. It was a camp unlike any she'd ever seen or heard about. The men sat in meditation, staring into the hypnotic flames as they danced and swayed in the light breeze. Everything was draped in black, from the tents to the men, even the horses were completely black. She felt a shiver of fear run up her spine. "Come."
"No!" Maeve kicked and struggled against his tight grip. He picked her up and threw over his shoulder like a sack a potatoes. No one looked as they went passed, even with her kicking and screaming the whole way.
They went into the center tent. It was large, black, and had a desk in the far right corner covered with papers and maps. Ramos dropped her onto one of the large pillows that decorated the left side of the room.
"Now, Ramos, that is no way to treat a guest." An oily, but well modulated voice drawled.
Maeve looked up and gasped, there in front of her was one of the largest men she'd ever seen in her eight years. He had large shoulders and a barrel chest, his soft blue eyes chilled her with their calculating look. He had long gray hair and wore black.
She refused to be intimidated by him, "Guest? I'm no guest. I was unceremoniously hauled from my home, my village was destroyed, and then I was dropped in here like a used sack of potatoes!"
"You have fire and spunk. I hate spunk." His voice was unpleasant.
"Oh, what a pity. You'll find that's about all I've got! So, if you don't mind, I'll just be leaving." She got up and moved towards the entrance.
He yanked her back. "You're going nowhere except with Nell. I'll cure you of the spunk, I've waited to long for the firebrand to quit now." She struggled against the larger woman.
"You'll not get away with this!" Maeve screamed as Nell dragged out of the room, she was flung into a darkened room with another girl. "Let me out of here!" Her fists pounded uselessly against the solid door.
"I tried that. It didn't do me any good." The defeated voice of her companion penetrated the fog in Maeve's mind. "This room is reinforced by magic."
Maeve sat down. "Well, we can't just sit here and do nothing. That monster has to be stopped."
"How? I've been here since I was five, that was three years ago." She thought a moment, "I think my name is Rumina."
"You mean you don't know?"
"No. The Dark Man doesn't believe we have the right to be called by names. You see, that gives us rights and makes us humans, he doesn't like that."
"I'm Maeve and what does he plan to do with us? Why do you call the dark man?"
"He only wears black, his men wear black. He plans to gather the elemental witches together. You may have that you have some powers, but in one area you excel at." Maeve nodded, "I am better at wind, or air, spells. Over there," she gestured to a small, shivering figure in the corner, "she's water. Which are you?"
"Mother said I was fire. What happened to her? And are we all girls?" Maeve looked at the little girl huddled in the corner.
"I believe so. She has been here since she was born, the dark man is her father. Her mother died in childbirth." Rumina concentrated hard, "I think she said her name was Coral, but I may be wrong. Anyway once he gets all five of us..."
"Five? But there are only four elements fire, wind, water, and earth." Maeve looked at the other girl.
"The fifth is heart. I don't know what that means, actually." Rumina shrugged, "He plans to take our powers from us. Come here, honey." She softly said to the other girl.
Maeve saw the tiny girl coming and smiled gently. She was rewarded by a shy, gentle smile. "This is Maeve. Maeve meet Coral."
"How do you do?" Maeve held out a hand, Coral looked frightened. "What? It's a hand, not a snake. I just want to shake yours, like this." She and Rumina showed her, hesitantly Coral put her hand in and Maeve gently shook it.
"Hi." They heard her soft voice say.
Suddenly, the room trembled and rocked. Outside a strange light show seemed to going on, the girls ducked under the bench in fear. "What's going on?"
"He must be moving us but he doesn't usually do this while we are awake!" Rumina said as they huddled together.
"What!?!" Maeve cried, "He's moving us? How? Where?"
"Magic. To wherever the next element is. And who knows where that is." Maeve just stared at the other girl. "I'm from the Saudi. Coral is from the North. You're from the Eire."
Maeve thought for a moment, "They split us up to keep us safe. Separating the powers to keep anyone from being able to control all of them."
"Yes." Rumina nodded. When the room stopped shaking, they cautiously rose to their feet and sat down. It was then that Maeve saw the bruises on the other two girls.
"Let me guess, this is his way of "curing us of our spunk"?" Maeve sarcastically drawled, her lips twisted. Both girls just looked at her. "You gals aren't going to let him do it, are you?"
"We don't have much choice. You'll see what I mean soon enough. He has this nice little room he puts you in if your make trouble." Rumina grimaced, "I was there for a while."
"How do you know so much about all this?" Maeve asked as she placed part of her cloak around the shivering Coral.
"My father, Turok, was a mighty wizard. He taught me some things about the nature of magic before the dark man killed him and took me." She sighed sadly.
There was a sharp rap on the door. "Shut yer fat traps!" Nell's nasally voice cut through their conversation. "It's lights out for ye brats!"
"Nice woman, where did he find her?" Maeve muttered nastily under her breath.
"Nell's always been with father. She's my aunt." Coral quietly said.
Maeve looked at her, startled. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"It's all right, I don't like her that much myself." They slept on the same bunk, huddled together in the darkness. After a restless night they heard the loud clanging of bells and shouts.
"Doesn't this place have any windows?" Maeve grumbled as she opened bleary eyes into the gloom.
"Nope. HE doesn't much care for the light." Rumina's tired voice answered. "It doesn't make much of an impression on people when they see him in the light of day. Ramos really runs this camp, at least during the day."
"So, this is just another way of breaking our will." Maeve said, rolling her eyes. An unusual smell entered the room, "Breakfast?"
They shielded their eyes at the sudden light that entered the room and vaguely saw Nell standing there. She threw their food at them. "Eat up!"
Maeve picked at the food in disgust. Rumina looked at the redhead, "I'd eat it. It isn't so bad once you get over the taste."
"It is all you'll get to eat."
Maeve looked at the food again, then grimly dug in, grimacing at the taste. "What is it?"
"No one knows. But we think it's HIS way of keeping everyone in line." Coral grinned at Maeve, eager to include her in on their private discussions.
"Well, obviously it works." They all laughed at this wry observation. "I don't suppose you've thought of a way to get out here."
They looked at each other, then at Maeve. "We don't have that much control over our powers. But what we were thinking was that, once we are all together, maybe we could repel him. Send him away or something."
"But who knows when that'll be? I don't intend to stay here any longer than I have too." Maeve looked at the two girls, "It's a good idea though."
Meanwhile, the dark man was pacing his room. Ramos watched his leader in concern. Finally, he dared to speak. "What is it, sir?"
"That girl, the firebrand, I don't trust her. Something about her makes me edgy, she's not like the others. It will be hard to break her will and bend it to mine." The dark man, whose name was Donestk, continued, "Put her in the hole. Then find the earth shaker, she should be nearby."
"Yes, sir." Ramos grinned, he'd been itching to hurt the firebrand for denting his pride. He lightly fingered his bruised jaw, then tapped his heels lightly before exiting the room to give the orders.
Ramos entered the underground cell and took a quick look into the room. The three girls were sitting on the floor around the food, laughing. He quickly entered the room and yanked Maeve to her feet. She screamed and lashed out, her hand smacking him in the eye. Rumina and Coral leapt up to help their friend, tossing the rest of the food at him.
The girls quickly pulled Maeve away and ran out the door. Ramos behind them all the way, till Coral overturned a barrel of water. Ramos watched as they disappeared in vain, "How am I going to tell Donestk?" He groaned.
"You what? You bloody fool! How could you let a bunch of weak girls escape?" Donestk had worked himself into quite a sweat, "To the oubliette with you!"
Ramos found himself in the tiny, dark place called the oubliette. This was the place they sent people they wanted to forget about. He groaned in frustration, knowing that it was his overconfidence that got him into this mess.
Donestk boiled, "I knew I shouldn't have put her with the others. Unfortunately, I must concentrate on this one before I can retrieve the others. Curse those foolish brats!" He was not liking the mental readings he was getting, it wasn't the earth shaker that was here. It was an unnatural power, unlike any he'd ever come across. The other powers never brought fear to him like this one did.
Rumina used a wind spell to carry them away from the camp, "Why didn't you do that before?!"
"Didn't you listen to me earlier? I already told you that the room was reinforced by magic. Until we were all together, we couldn't perform any magic spells in there." Rumina exclaimed, a bit exasperated with the young firebrand.
"Sorry." Then Maeve looked around at the barren land, "I hate to ask but where are we?"
"You are at Tinneletieeb, the oasis in the desert of the seven suns, and our home." A world weary voice said, "I'm Geneva. This is my niece, Peri. We've been expecting you girls."
They turned around and saw two females, one was a young lady about their age. The other was an older woman, the look in her eyes was kind. "Please, come in. Make yourselves at home." They followed her into a brightly colored tent, the sand at their feet was white. In the distance, they could hear the sound of laughter.
Geneva sat on a red pillow, her dusky skin glowed in the dim sunlight. Her long black hair was pulled into a bun. Peri sat to her right, she stared curiously at the three girls. Her deep green eyes were kind, like her aunt's. Peri's dark hair was cropped close to her face accenting her exotic cheekbones.
By a silent, mutual consent, Maeve spoke for the group. "Thank you, but we really couldn't impose upon your kindness. There's this man chasing us."
"Oh, yes. I know. Donestk is after the five of you." Geneva gestured for them to sit down, "He won't find you here. But I'm afraid he may still get the fifth."
"Unless we get to her first. I mean, we could do that, couldn't we?" The girls exchanged looks with each other, then looked to Geneva.
"I suppose, but you'd have to learn how to use your powers to their fullest capacity. It may work." Geneva thought, then nodded as she made her decision. "But for right now, I want you to eat some good food and rest up." Geneva and Peri left the room.
Maeve, Rumina, and Coral ate up the fruit and bread that had been brought in. Then they curled into the softest pillows and blankets they'd ever felt. After several hours of rest, they awoke and took a long look at each other. Coral had black eyes like her father and short blonde hair. Rumina was a petite brunette with deep blue eyes, like the Arabian sky at high noon. Maeve was the tallest of the three and had brown eyes and vibrant red hair.
"Ah, you are awake. Would you like to bathe? There is a spring over there beyond those trees and here are some towels." Peri led them over to the secluded spring and they dived in, splashing water and playing like old friends. The stars came out and performed a light show for them.
Geneva watched them from a glass in her room and smiled, *they will do. They are so young, I hope this test doesn't break them. She walked out with a change of clothes for each of them. They got out and ate a rather large meal with the rest of the camp, then went back to bed.
Many days passed in this manner, Coral and Rumina each healing from their inner scars. Geneva finally began to teach them about their magic, and more importantly the history of their powers. "In the past, all the powers were entrusted to one girl. But it was hard to choose the right guardian and sometimes the chosen one would use the gift for evil. So the powers were divided, that way the risk was lessened. Donestk is mistaken if he thinks he can draw the powers from you, they are a part of you."
She sighed deeply, as if in extreme pain. "But he can control you, all he needs is to break your will. And make no mistake about it, he can do it. What he did to Rumina and Coral is minor to what he would do. I suppose you are wondering what heart means?"
"Actually, yes. Rumina mentioned her."
"Heart refers to one whose intuition is deep, they can sense things that are beyond sight, thoughts and feelings are easy for them to pick up on. They also can communicate with animals, they have a deep connection with nature." She hesitated for a moment, "The one he, and you, seek is Bryn."
"She's got a Welsh name. So, why didn't he find her when he found me?"
"Because she's not Welsh. She's from a Celtic tribe found in Andorra la Verra."
For the next few months, they girls were placed through a most rigorous schooling, every waking moment was spent learning and mastering their skills. As they learned, special traits came out of each. Maeve was not only the firebrand but quite talented at leading. Rumina was gifted with book spells, while Coral intuitively brought out the best in all. Peri, the earth shaker, had a naturally sunny, down to earth nature.
What do you think? (Bryn will be in the next part, promise.)