With the dragon gone and her stomach growling at her, Seren entered the shell so full of energy she felt fuzzy.

“Food,” she said as she closed the door. “And I need to make a schedule.”

Now that she’d realized she was never heading back, there were actions aplenty to take care of. She grabbed her backpack from where it’d been lying against the bed and dumped everything from it onto the table. Her charcoal sticks were there, of course, but what she’d forgotten about was the food she’d taken from home.

“The fruit’s going to go bad soon, so I should eat that first.” She set aside the apples, oranges, and dried fruit portions she’d snagged. “And the bread will go stale before the dried things, so the order goes fruit, then bread, then dried.” She surveyed her food and nodded, happy with the decision. Then she looked at the kitchen and frowned. “Where do I put them?”

The area was tiny enough that it was almost a riddle, but since she didn’t have any drying dishes, she put the fruit up there and latched it. Bread was placed in the right upper cabinet and the dried stuff in the left upper cabinet. Done, she stood back and looked at the new kitchen.

“Mine for now,” Seren reminded herself. Then she saw the mug in the sink. There was a finality to moving it. Acknowledged that whoever had put the mug down was not coming back. And moving it would require washing it. “I’ll do that later.”

She turned her back to it and studied the table.

“My pencils and colors can go... here!” She tied the cord that closed the bag around the yellow ribbon near the bookshelf. Not the best place, but it wasn’t as if she could hang them on the back of a non-existent chair. Then she realized she needed them to make her schedule, so she untied the bag again and snagged the journal as well. Settling onto the bed and using the table as a desk, she unrolled out her wax colors and charcoal sticks. A small melody began with a hum. Seren carefully separated a piece of paper from the spine by tearing along the edges. Then she folded it in half lengthwise, following up with four vertical folds as equal as possible.

“There. One section of each of the eight days. The front will be the physical elements and the backside will be the mental elements.” She had enough colors for each side too; red would be perfect for fire and luck, green for earth and dowsing, blue for water and fate, orange for metal and charm, and finally purple for air and threads. With one more horizontal fold at the top, she created an area to draw an elemental icon. That would take a longer time to think about than what colors to use.

“Yesterday was Lekles.” She took the charcoal and drew a tally mark in the section allotted for luck, but drew nothing else. She didn’t have a luck symbol yet. Her dad’s was a bubble and her father used a winking eye, but she still hadn’t decided what luck meant to her. “Maybe I should make it a dragon.” A grin spread across her face as she remembered the creature outside the shell. “On the other hand... I don’t want a drawing that’s super hard to do, or one that has too many details.” It was better to have something simple, and a dragon was the opposite of that. Unless... quickly opening the journal to a page where her sketches lived, she took a circle and made one end pointed, almost like an upside-down teardrop. “Perfect!” There was a double bonus in that while the experience had an important turning point for her, having enough luck to find a wild dragon willing to be touched by her, the scale icon was also something few people would claim.

The other days of the week were easy and quicker to sketch out. Cloud, wave, nail, flame, tree, a looped piece of thread, a circle, an eye, and a music note. The colors were looking nice when she was done, vibrant against the plainness of the sheet. She left the paper to go get one of the fruits. The orange she chose was washed in the sink and peeled, filling the shellship with the soft scent of citrus. Seren closed her eyes and breathed it in. The scent of freedom. Then she looked down at the peel in her hand and wondered where to throw it.

“Not like there’s a compost heap up here,” she said with a giggle, looking around for a bucket or a pail. Nothing. “I guess my choices are outside, or the under.” Neither was what she wanted, but there was one place she wasn’t afraid of. Clutching the trash in her left hand, she returned to the door and opened it. The sky was a deep and beautiful blue. It might have been her imagination, but it also looked as if the cloud layer had increased since she’d been out there earlier.

“Hey, dragon!” She cupped her free hand to make sure her voice could be heard. “Want some orange peel?” With the teeth she’d seen earlier, it was simple to assume the massive creature lived life as a predator, but she knew that eating meat didn’t mean avoiding fruit and vegetables. Dogs were a good example of that. And humans. She squinted to see if there was anything in the nearest clouds, but they were basic whites and greys, not a hint of color anywhere. “Okay! I’m tossing it now if you’re interested.”

The waxy peels arched up into the air, then dropped below the clouds, creating a small hole which flashed a vibrant red. Red?

“...what was that?”

She watched as the clouds rolled over the color.

“I’m in the clouds, there’s nothing red up here except the sun.”

And yet, there had been that glimpse. Seren shook her head and took a step to go back into the shell. Had she imagined it?

“Noooo…” She looked back again, but all the clouds were the same and she couldn’t find where it had disappeared from. One final roving look, and then she was back inside, shutting the door firmly behind her. “I saw that. I know I did.”

Silence was her reply.

“If I was a threader, I might be able to find out what it was,” she said wistfully. “Or even a dowser. And having access to air as an element would be a good thing.”

She didn’t even know how to steer this ship. Right now, she was going straight… maybe? Straight was a direction, right?

“...can I even land?”

That was a frightening thought, not being able to land, floating the sky forever.

“No.” Her voice was sharp, almost whipish, and even though it was her talking to herself, she could still feel the effect her voice had on her. Which was funny. And weird, because not even charmers could charm themselves. “Seren, you were making your schedule. Finish that, and then we’ll make a list of what else needs to be done.”

Chores were what got her through the days at home, and so chores it would be for here, too. She returned to the desk and tried to clear her mind. Sighting the red from amongst the wax colors brought the thoughts right back.

“I don’t think it was another dragon, but maybe they have different colors? I doubt it was a bird. This is probably too far up for them. And it’s not like birds sit on clouds to rest.”

She paced from the kitchen to the table, then returned to the sink.

“Maybe…” Seren rushed over to the bookshelf and drew out Elemental Mastery. Running her finger down the table of contents, she flipped it open to Air.

An Introduction to Air

It had been a while since she’d read this. Half-jumbled lessons came back to her, but what she most remembered was the feeling of betrayal when her dad said she didn’t have an affinity with air. She’d been about seven then, and it had just been another bitter reminder that she wasn’t related to either of her parents by blood. Seren settled on the bed and pulled the blanket up from the floor, cozying up to continue reading.

Air, as famously said by Rae Coro, can be one of the most fickle physical elements. Many masters spend years learning how to talk to the different eddies and gusts in the world, and it’s not unheard of for there to be as many elemental users as there are winds. In major cities around the world, there are classes of beings who have slight control and even more who have less than that. In fact, in recorded history, there have been less than fifteen masters of air. While that list remains low due to a number of reasons, it’s not for lack of talent; air elementals are a wide-ranging group.

“Is there a list of these so-called masters?” Seren wasn’t too impressed by the reporting. Her father was from a different part of the world, one where his people weren’t mentioned for their contributions to math and science and life. Her dad’s background was a bit more checkered; his parents had come from a different country, their parents had fled their original home, and the generation before them wasn’t actually from the same place they claimed to be from. The reasons they had given her were war, famine, and catastrophe, but privately, she labeled it opportunistic wanderlust.

Signs You Are an Air Elemental

“I have none of them.”

- can make wind

- can disperse wind

- can create an item of wind

- have an increased hearing range

Seren slammed the book shut. It didn’t help, reading about what she wanted so badly.

“Everyone has their element by the time they’re an adult. Or doesn’t.”

Those same people kept telling her that magic wasn’t the only thing in the universe. Healers, tinkerers, and creators existed, and she could be like them if she studied. She tossed the book in a gentle arc and flinched as it thudded onto the table.

“I need to do something.”

If she was still on the island, she’d run over to the stone cliffs and dive into the ocean, but that would not work here. Staying in bed wasn’t helpful either. She stood up again. Glanced at the rug hiding the trapdoor. Shook her head.

“No... I need some air.” With a steady stride, she went to the door again and pulled it open. Now her choices were to remain here with the engine, or... she looked at the tree. Up there. Her palms grew sweaty, and she wiped them against her pants. Breathing deeply, she touched the cool rim of the shell and let it leach heat. She closed her eyes—and instantly opened them again as her knees shook and her balance wavered. The latch on the door grounded her to the present as she gasped and shuddered at the thought of falling. There was a familiar pounding in her throat, the same one she got whenever she did something scary for the first time. Her father called it common sense; dad said it was courage.

“Breathe, Seren. Breathe.” She followed her own advice until the wobbling sensation vanished. “Okay. Listen up. This is your ship now. You are the captain of this ship. You are the brave sky sailor. Are you going to let fear defeat you? Or are you going to sit under the tree and see the world?”

She took a step back to the side. Looking at the shell, there were several places where the original material had been worn away, and as her eyes went from one to the next, she realized they might have been made deliberately.

“Doesn’t matter,” she told herself. “On purpose or not, they’re the right height to climb up. Now move!”

One step. Then another. Her foot slipped onto a small ridge and her left hand grasped a higher one. The wind became worse at the side. It tore at her shirt and ran its fingers through her hair, throwing enough strands into her face that they created an unstable, light brown mask.

“I can’t.”

Her father’s voice came to her, asking her what, precisely and in words, was it she couldn’t do? She could almost see his step-by-step response. First, an eyebrow arch. Second, a head cock to the side. Finally, he would wait for her to say the reason aloud.

“I can’t climb this.”

Cue the scoffing, and then the question: Truthfully, was that what was stopping her? When she’d replied then that she was scared of the bat cave, her dad had chimed in to say that everyone felt scared at points in their lives. The trick was gathering enough courage to fight the feeling.

The climb wasn’t what was frightening her, and she knew it. Seren turned around and ran in, going straight to her wax and charcoal wrap. Winding one cord around her fingers, she yanked. It turned the ends of her fingers red, but that was it. Not deterred, she did it again and again. Finally, the strap snapped, breaking at a weaker point up near the top. Hands shook as she tied her hair up behind her, the ponytail collecting everything. Then she went back outside to face her fear.

This time, when the wind flew at her hair, most of it stayed where she’d tied it. Gingerly, she lifted herself off the ground with the first few ridges for her feet. Her left hand kept her steady. She used her right to search for the next hold. It took longer than she’d thought it would, but that was okay. This was something better off not rushed. The first hit of wind as her head popped out over the shell was cold. Bracing. The next several steps took her higher, and then it came time to go from being vertically straight to sitting down. Seren froze.

The lip of the shell was going to be a problem. If she fell backward, there were no holds to grab, and she might actually hit the propeller. Forward, and there was a slight chance she could catch herself on the nose of the ship, the spiral that it all started from. She shifted her weight to her more dominant side. One swift push and she locked her elbows, swung her left leg over the lip, and switching to her stomach clutched it so tightly her knuckles turned white. Seren opened her eyes and saw the propeller below her. Breath whooshed out of her body, then quiet laughter that rang out as the last lingering traces of fear cleared up with it.

The tree was on her left now. Bit by bit she wriggled nearer to it, then hugged the bark and used it to sit up. Sunlight dappled onto her skin from breaks in branches, and somehow the wind was not as cool or as pushy... maybe she had gotten used to it?

The view before her was perfect. Crossing her legs beneath her, she straightened her back, leaned against the tree, and started thinking of her future.


About the author


  • Tokyo
  • Dust Warrior

Bio: CoffeeQuills is a transplanted Floridian, living in the Land Rising Sun. They write for 4thewords (an RPG for writers) and in the twists of space and time created by caffeine, they enjoy coming up with stories all along the spec-fic range. Anything goes for this Hufflepunk, so hold tight and pretend it's a plan!

“This is who I am, right here, right now, all right? All that counts is here and now, and this is me!”

(Currently back after a long hiatus - apologies to those I owe chapters and mail too. The plan is to update fictions and continue with a once a week schedule.)

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