Xan closed his eyes. Sue and Xan were starting to bicker—arguing about how exactly they were going to do the impossible—but Xan blocked out the commotion. He pressed his eyes shut tight and focused on his breathing, centering himself and pushing away all fear and doubt. He drew in Qi and pulled elemental water into himself to power his Jin. Suddenly, Xan could feel the water at the fountain. He knew exactly how much water there was. He opened his eyes and looked at the saplings.

“I can water the tree,” Xan said, interrupting the argument that had started raging between Sue and Cho.

“What?” they both said simultaneously.

“I can water the tree,” Xan replied calmly.

He pulled water Qi and, through sheer force of will, channeled the element to what he felt was the largest sapling. A thin tendril of water grew from the fountain, snaking out and arcing towards the saplings.

Sue and Cho stood with their mouths agape. “How?” Sue asked, sounding genuinely bewildered.

“I leveled up with Water, remember?” Xan said, voice strained with effort, sweat already beading on his forehead. “Can you grow the tree?” he asked.

A chime sounded, causing them to look around. Just then the first of the elementals came trundling down a path they hadn’t noticed before. The creature appeared to be made of vines and leaves. It moved directly at the trio at a steady ground eating pace.

Cho straightened and shrugged to loosen his shoulders. “Wood. I got this. Xan keep watering. Sue try to encourage the tree to grow.”

Xan readjusted his position so he could watch Cho while he manipulated the water flowing to the sapling. Cho quickly dropped into a deep metal stance. Xan heard the whisper of metal in his mind and Cho chopped his arm like he was throwing an axe. The wood simulacrum split down the middle like a giant white blade had chopped it in half.

Xan glanced over at Sue. Her hands glowed green as she infused wood Qi into the sapling. She was whispering as she worked. The tree might have grown a bit, but Xan couldn’t be sure.

“Can you bring more water?” Sue asked. “The tree is going to need a lot to grow that quickly.”

Xan shook his head. “This is as fast as I can pull it. Any more and the flow unravels.”

“We have another one coming. It’s a mudman,” Cho yelled. Xan glanced over at Cho as he made the wood whipping gesture. A verdant spike manifested and flew into the creation, impaling it.

“Good job.” Xan said, straining himself as he pulled more water for the tree. The flow was agonizingly slow. Desperately, he tried to wrangle more Qi. He tried to channel more elemental water. Nothing seemed to increase the flow of water from the feature to the tree.

“Xan!” Cho’s cry broke him out of his reverie. “We have a problem!”

A Spark of living flame was trundling up the path, red gold flames flickering around it in a halo. Cho was in water stance and threw a blue sphere at the incoming elemental construct. It impacted in a shower of blue and red sparks, but the Spark kept coming. Though Cho could channel water, it wasn’t his strongest element. For this test, Cho should have been more than a match, but somehow he wasn’t. “Xan? A little help here?” He called, worry etched into his voice.

With a grunt, Xan took the water-powered Qi and redirected it for a moment, hurling a glob of blue at the Spark. The creature vanished in a cloud of sparks. But there was something else, too. As the Spark vanished, Xan saw a plume of churning purple energy rise into the air before dissipating like morning fog on a hot day. He stared at where the Spark was. “Did you see that?”


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About the author


Bio: I’ve been in Colorado since I was a young teenager. I live in the foothills of Pikes Peak with my wife, two children and various dogs and cats. I have a crazy technology background having founded several tech companies centering around human machine interfaces before I discovered a passion for writing.

When I’m not slinging the ink and trying to get paid to fabricate tales that entertain, I like to shoot competitively, drink craft beer, ride motorcycles and play games with friends.

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