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Curiosity -Book One

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Summary: A poor girl named Aeris is sent to capture and retrieve magical creatures with other recruited youth. But what are the plans of the country, and how will she explain this to her sister when she gets home?

Chapter 1 -The Presentation: Edit

Once upon a dreary day, there was a girl named Aeris. She was an all-out normal girl, wavy brown hair, hazel eyes. She had a home, for a start. Aeris was taken care of by her older sister, Amelia. Their parents had died when she was just a toddler. And for some reason, Amelia seemed to blame Aeris for their death. Aeris, who didn't do anything.

In Aeris' country, Thoenia, magic did exist. In the capital of Thoenia, Lizith, not much magic was relevant unless it was taken from the places outside of where Aeris lived. The more humans, the less magic. And some of that magic had use for the humans, who did have 'conservation efforts' for the magic that had long before made an exodus of the place. Whenever a child could manage themselves they were sent out by the government to help capture and 'conserve' the magical creatures. Families with children conserving the magic were sent extra rations of food from the government.

And now, Aeris was voulenteering for the mission of helping the government. She was dressed in a torn gray hoodie and some slightly faded brown pants. In her mind, she knew her sister and everyone would give her respect for her services. She also knew of all the possibilities of her death on this mission. But, hey, it was a better funeral than if she starved to death.

And now, Aeris sat in a cold chamber with about 20 other adolescents, most 11 or 12, like her. She was in a scarlet theatre chair towards the back of the room, listening to a government official giving a speech on the magical things. She wanted to help her family with this service. Magical creatures, for one, had left a long time ago to rid themselves of human life. The dragons, the beasts, the monsters, all gone off to somewhere hidden. And the most numerous of them all, the Elementals.

Elementals were fox-like creatures, varying in size and features by the element they controlled. There were many types of them, but the smaller types like Stone or Prairie were rare and almost extinct because they were of little to no use to humans. There were only four types that the humans valued. And that is what the presentation was about today. Many poster-sized cards were stacked in the official's hands to show pictures throughout the presentation. You couldn't really see much from Aeris' position in the room, so this would be of no use.

The government official, a lady in a black suit with matching hair, started her speech with the Creation myth. Aeris tried to remember the lady's name. The myth was shirt and choppy, the woman had more to talk about. So once there were the Earth Elementals and the Snow Elementals. The Earth Elementals mated with the Snow Elementals, and produced Air Elementals. When the Air Elementals were playing around, they accidently created a spark on one of Earth's rocks and created fire, as well as a Fire Elemental. The Fire Elemental was welcomed among the ranks, but quickly began to get in fights. Eventually, it melted the Snow Elementals. Earth was so angry at this that it began attacking fire, and fire fought back, burning Earth very hard. The Snow Elementals, however, had become something new when melted, the Water Elementals. And they all scattered, breeding and packing together. When they left the humans they had become acquainted to, the civilizations died out as well.

So, wrapping up the myths in her calm, slightly cracking voice, the official began to list the anatomy and powers of each. Aeris was wondering how much longer this would go on. Couldn't be long. She knew a lot from rumors and stories already. She also was acquainted with a boy who badly scratched and burnt his thigh.

Earth Elementals were very fluffy, with branch-like antlers sprouting out of their heads. They were colored brown and green, and very hostile if you did so much as look them in their yellow eyes. They liked to make poisonous flowers and thorns come out of the Earth to kill off travellers, and choke enemies with long, agile tree roots. They could impale a man in one charge, if they only had the antlers that grew from the males heads. Designs of a lighter brown adorned them, and they used fluffy green heart-shaped manes to attract mates and show dominance. They were in charge of all living plants, and could blend into tree trunks or grass if they wished. Very good at climbing, defense, and healing.

And then their were the Water types. The tips of their tails were sea foam, and their manes too. They were very long and thin, looked like someone had stretched it like taffy when it was born. They were all blue, never horns. Dog legs, just like the rest. Four fingers, including the back claw. The official said that they were aggressive as soon as someone came near, and females laid eggs in a net-like substance halfway in the water. They were amazing swimmers and had webs between toes. They make good pets, can transport loads over water, dissolve into poisonous water when killed, and can be used to fish or as fish bait if they are young enough.

The Fire Elementals were of no disappointment. The most brutal and short-tempered of them all, it looked like someone had dipped it in red-orange paint. Its ears, tail, and paws were all engulfed in fire. "Glowing orange eyes were said to stare right through a humans very soul," commented the official. They often liked to set things on fire, and to dig tunnels to protect their homes from themselves, especially in forests. The Fire Elementals had orange slits on their neck, very shallow, and curved in a shape often used to represent a flame. They were very dangerous. But, good news for hunters, they could be paralyzed by water. There often went for big prey and traveled in small groups. They are terrible at hiding in the dark. They can spit fire as well. Many children coughed and made nervous gestures at this.

Air Elementals looked the most unique of them all. Even from Aeris' distance, the posters were worth seeing, even though she couldnt read the words. Little tufts on its ears, soft white fur, glowing purple spirals on its neck instead of a mane. And most attention-getting of all, two feathery wings grew out of its back. The official said these were the only type of Elemental that lived in large Packs instead of small solitary groups. They were the most common types because they were rarely ever caught. They laid eggs and were still counted as mammals. They could gust strong winds and hide behind clouds, as well as build them from water droplets they steal from the Water Elementals. The are very good at delivering messages and flying, and hard to sneak up on. Most people weren't paying attention and just listened to the main information at this point.

After listing their anatomy, powers, and more, Aeris could tell that some other adolescents had regrets. That wasn't unnatural, mythical creatures were very dangerous. Most could kill the unarmed human in seconds. And all for adventure, for rations, it wasn't worth it. But Aeris thought it over. She could earn her community's respect, not starve, and get her share of freedom, or not be injured on anormal impossible mission.

The official's voice interrupted her thoughts. The lady in black mad the only touching statement in the entire presentation. "This is the last chance. If you're really going to do this, just know that you have my condolences. You can easily die or get injured, and that's all I can warn you of. Just get up and leave now, you can go home and not die. But it takes a really courageous soul to stay here." Everything told Aeris to leave, but what were the odds of her eath, and there would be so many other people who could be attacked. And her sister would not only give her what she deserved but neither of them would starve to death.

Reluctantly, she stayed seated while the shifting of the other children moving to leave filled the room. She moved her legs out of the way and looked around. Just her, two boys, and the woman. The official collected the three remaining children. Aeris never said anything to her. The official just offered theme all the same clipboard, labeled 'Mystic Conservationist Sign Up' and a chart. The chart was divided into different groups, 'Team A, B, and C' all with different slot numbers. "Now just write your first and last name children," said the official. The boys filled the former in first. Hey took the first empty slots they could to write their names. Both were put in Team A, but Aeris put her name in the Team C area. 'Areis Cupitas.'

The children then walked up the sloped isle and into a red hallway, walls and floors both the same shade. Aeris pushed open the door and headed home through the gray, industrial, gloomy city. She hadn't told her sister about where she went. This wasn't going to be good when she gets home.

Chapter 2 -Home Run: Edit

Aeris knocked on the door of the abandoned warehouse. Soon enough, a bearded old man dressed in rags opened the door and said in a raspy voice, "Ya aren't from the government, are ya?" Aeris shook her head and went inside, pulling her hood up as she crossed into the cold place. Hobos and poor families lined the walls of this place, called 'The Sanctum.'

Moans could be heard over the loud creaking of the floor. Aeris opened a metal door, standing at a foot of stairs. She left the first floor, the lobby. She passed the second floor, food storage, which was low for the moment. The government refused to give food to the homeless. Everything was stolen, or given by charity. Going slowly as she could, she reached the third of many floors. She never climbed all the way up, too much danger with the homeless walking around, and it was a lot of stairs to climb, the elevator broke a long time ago.

She stood in front of a normal metal door with the plaque blurred. This time, a girl who looked like an older version of Aeris opened up. Amelia glared down at her younger sister from the doorway, grabbing her arm and violently jerking her sister inside. "I told you not to go out today! You know what could happen today! Where were you?"

Aeris knew Amelia was referring to the government officers who would wait for a child of proper age and wearing rags and force them into the presentation, not letting them leave unless they voulenteered for the resources of magic that were needed for the cities to prosper. The people of the country all specialized in industry or other things. Farming and fishing and forging and messaging were all lost when the Elementals and other creatures stopped living with the cities willingly. "But they weren't there," replied Aeris. "Either way, you're grounded for life!" Aeris lost her temper, "You can't ground me when I already voulenteered!" There was a hush of silence from the other people in the room. They all knew that they could be discovered if the government tracked Aeris down to retrieve her.

Amelia was in a state of shock, muttering, "Then you can't live here anymore Aeris." Aeris realized what she had done. She had not only signed her own death wish, but she signed the death wishes of countless other people if she didn't leave home. Her sister began to cry. Once the emotions stopped, the other homeless people who had heard what happened left to gossip and Amelia to help Aeris pack. It would be quick.

In Aeris' backpack was an empty canteen and a loaf of stale bread. She also had a pamphlet for the Mystical Conservation Act. On the front was a little design. There were four circles each with an Element sign. Aeris knew that this was meant to show the dominance of Elements over each other. Earth beats Air, Air beats Water, Water beats Fire, Fire beats Earth. There were pictures of dragons in chains being taken to help the civilizations, Elementals working in the fields and in homes, magical pests like Goblins being exterminated. Such cheery pictures, especially the last one. And then there was all the information that Aeris had already seen.

At nightfall, she left the room on the third floor. She went down to the lobby, where can fires had been lit with hobos circled around them. People stared as she creaked open the door and left the place. Left all her 'family', who were all considered nobodies by the government. She tried to think about something else, tried to remember the name of the boy who got injured in the kind of service she was about to go into. Cacistus, wasn't it?

Aeris finally arrived outside of the Service Building. She was the only one there. All lights were off from what she could see, and still, she went and knocked on the door. Nothing. She knocked again. A lamp came on. Children her age were sleeping on cots on the floor. A woman in horn-rimmed glasses came over and opened the door. "What do you want?" she asked grumpily, "I was busy doing my work." "Sorry," muttered Aeris, "I'm here because I voulenteered for the Mystical Conservation Service." "Well, bless your little soul then darling. There's no going back, if you're going to ask. But, I can take you to your Team." "Oh, yes please," muttered Aeris. The children on the floor, introduced as new members of Team A, went back to sleep.

They passed a door reading 'Team B,' the lights were on inside. Team C room was empty. "Your Team must be over horseplaying with Team B," coughed the secretary. She opened the door of Team B and Aeris looked in. Men, women, and children were all in the middle of a party. The secretary pushed Aeris in and yelled, "Don't stay up too late!" People started to come over and introduce themselves as the door slammed shut.

"Uh, hi, I'm Stephen, what Team are you, kid?" asked a man with curly black hair. "Team C," muttered Aeris. "Oh, I'm the Captain of Team B, let me introduce you to your Captain." A man with blonde hair was laying with his face on the counter in the back of the room. "Sergius, get up pal! I know it's late!" Stephen yelled. The blonde man sat up, "What is it Stephen," he growled. "This kid is your new Teammate. Enjoy." And with that Stephen left Aeris with the man. "Hey kid, what's your name? I'm Sergius." Aeris was slightly scared, "Aeris." "Aeris. Nice name. Tomorrow is the first day of the Conservation. You're gonna stay with your team, us. I'll be giving orders, just try not to get killed. If you're not gonna party, you can go back to our room," yawned the Captain. Aeris dodged other people and left the room quickly, walking through the corridor and into the Team C room.

The place did not have a party going on inside. There were many, many cots on the floor, a poster with a dragon on it that said, "Team C is bringing the heat!", a window, a few sleeping kids, some backpacks besides cots, peeling wallpaper, carpeted floor, a curtain to dress behind, and a bathroom. There was a clothing rack with a sign on the wall pointing to it, 'Newbies take TWO and some boots.' Aeris thought that this concerned her and took two outfits off the clothing rack, and a pair of boots hiding under the rack. They were both black jumpsuits with a few holes and not washed, but they would probably fit her. Probably. Yellow tiger stripes were on the hips and below. With her new outfits, Aeris went and set down her backpack beside and empty cot. She didn't usually get this 'luxury' of a bed, even a cot. She took a sip from her canteen and fell asleep, even though she was worried about tomorrow.

Chapter 3 -Newbie: Edit

Aeris was gently pushed out of bed by someone's foot. The person ordered, "Put one of your suits and put the other in your bag. Time for breakfast." Aeris groggily stood and stuffed a suit in her bag. She took the other and headed towards the curtain where other people were changing. It was a thick curtain, only her feet would be seen. And the line was huge! But there was a shorter line at the bathroom. Aeris grabbed her boots and went over. First, though, she hung up the clothes hangers that held her suits and grabbed her backpack.

Once she had gotten past the line, Aeris shut and locked the bathroom door behind her. She looked over the restroom. It was actually relatively clean. There was a toilet and one shower and an almost empty roll of toilet paper. At least it was more sanitary than the warehouse bathroom. Aeris took off her ragged clothing and pulled on a jumpsuit, almost falling into a wall. She tried to remember if the other team members had worn coats and pins over their jumpsuits. Yes, but they all had made sure that stripes were visible. Aeris was not attached to her old shirt and pants. She pulled her hoodie back on. The stripes were down on the legs, so it wouldn't matter. Someone knocked on the door impatiently. Aeris quickly stuffed her shirt and pants in the bag with her loaf of bread and canteen and other jumpsuit and the pamphlet from home. She swung the bag over her shoulder and left the bathroom. She went over to the door to leave, where Sergius was standing.

"Hold it kid," he said and grabbed her wrist. He took a yellow wristband out of his pocket that said 'Team C Newbie' and strapped it on her. "Now go to the lobby and take a left," he instructed. Aeris did what she was told, and found herself in a short passage leading to a large circular room. Many different round tables were spread out, and the Secretary was wearing a hair net as she helped dish out servings on trays. Pancakes; the only pancakes Aeris had seen since she was 2. She dashed to go get some from the serving counter. She almost forgot a fork.

All the other children her age were going to sit at tables with other children, no invitation necessary. But Aeris was shy. She knew that all the other tables were taken. There was a good sized space at a table filled with girls. Aeris got a good look at their jumpsuits. Most people had red stripes circling them from the hips down. Others had blue flowery designs on their hips down. Many wore jackets or other things over their jumpsuits. Nobody at the table was yellow. One of the girls spoke as Aeris sat down, "Wait, are you a Team C?" "Yeah," replied Aeris. "I feel so bad for you, actually. Team C is the worst," said he girl. "Excuse me?" Aeris didn't know what to say. "She just means to say that Team C doesn't have the best reputation. Maybe you'll get a different team next year," explained the girl beside her. "I'm only here to earn rations for my family," said Aeris, "I'm leaving as soon as possible." "What's Team C like?" asked a girl in red, "I'm Team A, so I wouldn't know." "Who's your family?" questioned another girl. "Me and my sister live alone in abandoned places of the city. Team C is very... sweet."

Aeris ate her pancakes and talked. She was feeling very tired by the end of her meal. In mid-conversation, anot intercom came on. "Team A to the door please, Team A to the door please." All the people in red got up and left, throwing their dishes into a bag with some large crashing. The Secretary looked disappointed. They could have just stacked on the counter. "Team B to the door. Team B to the door," the intercom said later. The same happened, but were dishes on the counter than in bag with the trays. "Team C," said the intercom. All remaining people got up and delivered their dishes, putting trays in the bag.

Aeris followed the other members to the door. A few horses, some with sleds behind them, stood in front of them. Team B was riding off into the distance. There were no cars in this time. Intercoms, microphones, and such contraptions, yes. But nobody wanted a car. Sergius was loading the lightest of people onto the backs of individual horses. And, of course, Aeris was one of the lightest of Team C members. Aeris was lifted onto the back of a normal brown horse. After some more loading, Team C was off.

At first, riding the horse was exciting. Two horses pulled each sled. But, eventually, Aeris was lost in the steady gallop of the horse and fell asleep, not to anyone's notice. The horse suddenly reared up and Aeris was almost thrown off. "Here we are," said Sergius. A large camp filled with tents and swarming peoplet sweating in the afternoon sun before them.

The recruits were told where they'd sleep in the tents and to go out in the forest with special equipment and return with as many magical creatures as possible. Aeris was not excited about going out and catching the creatures. They were shown how to use the equipment and sent out into the woods with sleeping gas and chains in their groups. Aeris was too nervous to leave camp. What were the odds she'd catch a magical creature? Yes, they were all hiding in the forest scattered in this area and other places away from civilization. Yes, she could be in a group. Yes, she could stay back with other newbies and sneak around camp. She decided that instead she would go straight to the nursing tent and ask to help. As soon as she arrived a nurse asked her what she wanted. When Aeris said she wanted to help the nurse immediately got her to work delivering food to patients. The day passed quickly. Soon Aeris was sent to eat. She went and sat near the forest with her bread from home and some stew she picked up. Groups of people came out of the forest, few pulling Elementals behind them. A Water Elemental caught Aeris' eye. It was pulling at its chains desperately. The holder of the chain tightened it so the Elemental couldn't escape. Suddenly, the Water Elemental let out a last, squeak of a breath. Its fox snout stayed open. It exploded into a puddle of water. That only happens when its dead. Suddenly unappetized, Aeris sat with her bowl of stew on the ground, her canteen in one hand and her bread in the other. But then she heard sniffing behind her. Carefully, Aeris turned around.

Chapter 4 -Curious: Edit

What Aeris saw was shocking. A fox was sniffing her. And not just any fox. This one was brown, with a green underbelly and light brown feet and stripes on its snout. Two antlers, white and peeling with black patterns in them, sprouted out of its head. Birch wood? A furry green mane sat underneath it's head. A bushy tail flowed behind the creature as it looked up at Aeris.

Aeris knew that she would get credit for capturing this Elemental. Birch antlers were nothing she'd seen before, and catching one of the most powerful when threatened Elementals single-handedly. She knew from lessons that these were common, but really hard to catch. That's why Water Elementals were preferred.

The Earth Elemental saw her wristband and got scared, stepping back. Aeris realized that she had forgotten all the chains and sleeping gas back at her tent. She tried to keep it where it was by offering her stew. It gracefully, and cautiously, came towards her. It snatched a piece of meat from the bowl and stepped back. A root emerged from the ground beside it, threatening Aeris if she made any bad moves. The Elemental's green eyes watched her as it came closer, closer to the food. It came within petting distance again and ate from the bowl. The tips of its antlers pressed into Aeris slightly. Aeris stayed still, trying not to harm the Elemental. It lifted its head after licking the bowl clean. It's ears twitched as it continued staring at Aeris. Aeris resisted the urge to pin it up to a tree by the antlers and call the other people over. It was already done eating the stew and went to work eating her bread. She turned her head for a moment to look back at camp.

Suddenly, the Elementals antler snagged on her hoodie. The Elemental began to run back into the forest. Desperately, Aeris grabbed the Elemental's tail and pulled herself up back into a stand. The Elemental barked and turned back towards her, charging straight at her with its antlers. As it hit, Aeris fell and was knocked out cold.

Aeris moved slightly, brushing against the rough bark of a tree. She blinked open her eyes, the world was a blur. When her vision cleared, she saw that she was in the forest, leaned against a tree, leg in searing pain and very stiff all over. The Elemental from before was growing plants nearby. The leaves were green in the fresh spring atmosphere. The Elemental heard that Aeris was awake and came over. It looked her in the eyes again, glowing green orbs. It came closer until its soft fur touched her skin. Her injuries felt a bit better at the touch.

Trying to haul herself up, Aeris realized that her leg was broken and bleeding through her jumpsuit. Well, she was being nuzzled by a creature that could grow anything out of the Earth, so maybe she could at least make some sort of splint. Her stomach growled. How long was she asleep? The Elemental bounded away into the bushes. Was it just about to abandon her after all that? Nope. After a struggling while, the Elemental came back holding a limp rabbit in its mouth. The places where the creature's teeth had sunk into the rabbit left little dots of blood on its green mane. As Aeris stared down at the rabbit the Elemental dropped in her hands, she saw that the only injuries it had beside the bite marks was a thick slit in its neck. A piece of wood was lodged inside. It became clear how the rabbit was killed; choked to death.

With help from the Elemental, she collected branches and eventually created a fire with a flint that the Elemental brought to her. She tried her best to construct a prop to roast the rabbit, and it came out a bit undercooked. Later she used fallen branches to support her broken leg, the Elemental helping to bend smaller branches to support everything in the splint. The creature spent the night sharpening its antlers. Aeris thought about naming it, and eventually broke the silence. "How about Birch, you like it?" No reply.

The next morning Aeris woke to find Birch on her lap, snoring.

Chapter 5 -Journey: Edit

Aeris tried to get up, pushing Birch off. She leaned heavily on her splint as the Earth Elemental woke up and trotted around her. He barked and pulled her along gently. "You must have really liked the stew I gave you to still be following me around," Aeris joked. She came as quickly as possible to go where the creature directed her. Eventually she saw it; over the spring treetops was a mountain of granite. Aeris had nothing to carry, so she limped along, trusting the Elemental. "You want to go up there?" asked Aeris. Birch nodded in a way and helped her along. Aeris didnt want him to attack again, so she played along. The forest was dense, but at this speed they could reach the end in a couple of days because they were so close to the edge of the forest.

For hours they trudged on. Eventually, Birch led Aeris to a river to rest. It ran away and returned with two squirrels. It ate part of one and gave the rest to Aeris, helping her skin the meat. The fire could roast the meat, but it would still have to be cleaned. Cleaning meat without a blade was disgusting. Aeris would have to put her fingernail down into the meat itself and peel off the fur. And even worse, sometimes the skin would drop from her grasp and she'd have to get her fingers covered in the raw meat again.

The next day was no different. On and on for hours until they stopped. This time, Birch brought back deer meat. That was strange, Birch was so small. But later Aeris saw some other, bigger Elementals of the same species. They looked no different, except that they were bulkier and had normal branch antlers our none at all.

Days carried on, travelling until they reached the forest end. An army of Earth Elementals were going towards the mountain. If only the teams had camped here instead. But then, Aeris noticed something. Most of the migrating Earth Elementals were using one of their powers not to be seen. Yes, they could grow anything out of the Earth and control it, and give a nasty blow with its antlers, but they were also good climbers and could blend into natural surroundings. Most were dashing to the mountain, fur blending them to the valley grass. Aeris followed, slowly, keeping by Birch's side.

After crossing the valley and reaching the base of the mountain, Aeris couldn't carry on. Her muscles and leg were sore. She was weak and tired. But Birch refused to leave her. He barked madly, and other Elementals turned towards him. They came down and barked to each other, looking down at her. Suddenly, a cracking was heard under the Earth. Something wooden was wrapping around her waist. She looked down, an enormous root was pulling her off the ground. She lost the ability to scream. Gently, the root placed her down on a less steep side of the mountain. She panted and tried to grab hold of the solid rock. The helpful Elementals climbed towards her, barely any difficulty with their claws and horns to grab with. When Aeris was calming down and the Elementals were able to reach her, scurrying up the mountain, Birch continued to pull her along until they reached a staircase-like path up the mountain. Aeris looked down, not only was she very high up, but the path down was very jagged.

Aeris began to climb, her loyal 'pet' Birch pushing her foot into proper footholds and helping her with her splint. It wasn't easy, but they were almost halfway up the mountain. The mountainstop was actually very densely vegetated. All the ledges were soft and perfect for a makeshift bed. As they got higher up the mountain, the more Elementals were seen. It was the government's dream. They couldn't capture this many magical creatures in a year! The top of the mountain was rounded, and covered with the fox-like creatures.

Chapter 6 -Mating Season: Edit

The Elementals were all very active at the mountaintop. Aeris used the boughs of trees to make a tepee. Pretty easy task, many branches were breaking and being healed by the Earth Elementals. She observed the creatures. The presentation had most definitely not caught the animals' majesty. Their horns were usually covered in leaves that would flow in the wind, just like their green arched manes over their necks. Their fur was fluffy, very fluffy, and the colors were beautiful. Male or female, they looked wonderful as a group. Most people would call a group of Earth Elementals a 'Meadow' from what Aeris remembered.

And because it was spring, and a proposed mating season, Aeris also got to observe the mating ritual. Two Earth Elementals, male and female, would bond and stay together. Over the course of the days; wake, hunt, eat, sleep; they would become closer. Eventually, they would settle on soft grass and both nudge the ground. Because of their perfect harmony, the grass would peel back and a fox cub would pop it's head out, blind, antlers already growing, and the nursing would be the same as a normal fox. The couples were adorable.

But sometimes males would disagree about who gets to bond with who. Aeris was sitting and eating, Birch was playing with the other Elementals. A female walked over to him and began barking. Suddenly, another male, not the female's mate, barreled into Birch, knocking him over. Birch recovered and got up. The opponent was bigger than Birch, but Birch was determined. Birch charged, their the Earth clashing. The bigger Elemental pushed Birch onto a rock wall behind him. Aeris acted quickly, throwing a rock and hitting the attacker on the back of the head. It looked up, just enough time for Birch to bash his opponent on the side, sending him flying. Birch charged and reared up, stabbing his own antlers into his opponent. Blood leaked out of the body, and it let out a mournful howl as it died. Birch had won.

And that was only the first few days in her free time. The days included waking up, eating, hunting, dinner, and sleeping. The food was abundant. Aeris made and sharpened blades made of rock and used it for making a bow and arrows. Took a few days, but it was for the best. Birch helped her, killing off deer and rabbits along with the other Elementals. Eventually, the food dwindled and Birch began making his hunts below the mountain. He always returned. And when it rained on the fragile tent, Birch sprouted a root that would cover the tent. Aeris was worried, though. From her position, she could see something that made her heart skip a beat.

Chapter 7 -Exodus: Edit

Team A camping in the valley. It just had to be them. The tents were a different color, and the Team was bigger. Aeris looked down at herself. Torn jumpsuit, splint replaced with a deer-fur bandage, ribs slightly showing, worn gray hoodie, sharp stone knife, wooden bow and stone arrows, old boots, partly filled canteen, rabbit fur belt. Terrible compared to others, who were well-fed and had newer clothing.

The Earth Elementals who left were never seen again. They climbed down like the tents weren't even there, cubs hanging to their mothers mane, and just never came back. Prey came back as they left. One night, Aeris was inside her tepee, which had been upgraded to be made from fur and thicker branches and moved to a mountain stream. Birch came in, tired from a day of hunting. Aeris grabbed him by the antler. The bark was smooth under her skin. She looked the Elemental in the eye and said one thing, "Don't go down the mountain anymore. I don't want you to get caught." She remembered the Water Elemental she saw dying on her first day. The Elemental looked at her like it understood.

Aeris woke up. Her head was laying on top of a curled-up Birch. The birds were singing outside. The sun shown through the deer fur tent. She got up, stretching and walking out of the tent. She went behind the tent to the clear, flowing stream. She pulled the canteen from its place tucked in her belt and took off the top. She held it underwater and filled it.

She sat, drinking the fresh water and refilling. She tucked it back with the leather strap inside her soft belt. The bow and quiver took up too much room on her neck to hang the canteen on her. Aeris took out her knife from her belt and sharpened it on a familiar rock. She looked down at her broken leg. Fur covered the tear in the jumpsuit, and now she could bendMyers leg and walk on it. Not run, not yet.

Birch came out of the tent yawning. He drank from the river and Aeris stood, going back to their tent. Beside the river, in a tree, hung a deer. The deer was in bloody pieces and secured by one of Birch's roots that had been cut. Aeris took her knife and sawed at the deer, a piece falling to the ground with a splatter of blood. The Elemental camp was located on the cliffside. The rest of the mountain was forest. In front of the tent was a campfire, not a big campfire, and not burning. It was too dangerous to have a big fire, but too dangerous to eat raw meat as well. At least nobody had come up the mountain yet.

Aeris speared the meat on a stick over the fire. She took a flint and rubbed rocks together, creating a spark. The fire burned, roasting the meat slowly. Aeris then waited, sharpening her knife. Eventually, she took the meat off the fire and bit it right off the stick. She split it with her horned fox partner. They got up and stamped out the fire. They jumped over the stream and went into the forest. They walked around, Birch sniffing most of the ground. Birch spotted a deer and almost barked, but resisted. He walked closer, and almost instantly changed to a grass color. Aeris tried to watch him as he went up to the deer. In one swift motion, he sunk his teeth into the deer's ankle and it fell with a loud snort. Aeris took her bow and shot an arrow, trying to get a clear shot. It worked, and the deer was killed.

Deer dragging behind tnem, they went over to the nearby mountain edge. They sat, deer limp on the ground, and watched. Watched as the people bustled about. But then Aeris saw something that made her even more frightened. Horses coming up the side of the mountain far away to the right, where the camp was. She tried to get up, but being on the edge slipped and fell down the ledge. Quickly, a root wrapped around her torso and pulled her back up. She hugged the Elemental and ran off, leaving the deer.

Chapter 8 -Visitors: Edit

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