The First Chapter of The Lord of Winter
Here's the first chapter of my new novel The Lord of Winter: Elementals, Part Two. It continues the story started in The Lightning Weaver.
Chapter One: Field Work
Christopher Farraday stood at the opposite end of a large grassy field. He had an eager look on his face. Katie Albright, standing across from him at that moment, was starting to hate that expectant look. It meant that Christopher was sure that Katie was about to develop some new aspect of her abilities. He loved that kind of stuff, but it sometimes drove Katie nuts. Wasn't she powerful enough? Hadn't she already proved that? Hadn't her abilities helped bring about the death of her mother and caused the deaths of dozens of people?
It had been months since that day in the mountain, when Katie had escaped from the clutches of the Organization and the maniac known as Mr. Apples. The resulting battle between Katie and the young man named Xander had caused that mountain to collapse, but Katie's mother had been gunned down by people working for the Organization. Katie still burned with hatred of those people, and yet, she was also filled with fear for her abilities.
Had it been less than a year since she learned she was an Elemental? That she was part of a race of human beings that grew up parallel to the "normal" forms of humanity. Stronger, long-lived, and able to control the elements of earth, fire, water and air, she was part of something much bigger than she was. She had been raised as a normal, average girl. To find out she was not only an Elemental, but one of the most powerful in a generation, was a little much to try and accept when you were just 17.
They had been traveling in Arvie, their vehicle that resembled a standard recreational vehicle. In fact, it was a vast, high-tech piece of hardware. It was much larger than it looked, capable of producing a seemingly limitless amount of equipment and rooms from "pocket dimensions."
It was all a bit overwhelming at times for Katie.
The man responsible for all of that was Christopher Farraday. He was an Elemental as well, but his ability was being able to find and track other Elementals. He was also some kind of amazing scientific genius, who had made many advancements in various fields, such as creating Arvie. Christopher and the man known as Mr. Apples had once been friends, but over the years had grown far, far apart. Mr. Apples felt that Elementals should take their place as the dominant force on the planet, but Christopher felt that humans and Elementals should live together in peace and that they could help humanity in many ways. Their disagreement had led to an internal civil war in the Elementals community.
It turned out Katie was an Earth Elemental. She could draw upon, manipulate and control the electrical field of the planet itself. She could manipulate seemingly limitless amounts of electricity and Christopher thought that meant she could do even more than that.
"They call it the Unified Field Theory," Christopher had explained the other day. "It's pretty complicated to explain, but the gist of it, as far as you're concerned, is that all forms of energy are really part of the same field. That means electricity is just one small step away from, say, magnetism. The earth has a magnetic field, as well as an electrical field. I'm thinking that, with practice, you could manipulate that as well."
Why would she want to do that? It was hard for Katie to really understand, but Christopher seemed determined to prove that she could. So, in the middle of the field, right now, were three very large cubes made out of iron. Christopher wanted her to concentrate, let her power flow, focus on the cubes, and use magnetism to levitate them.
They were in Arizona at the moment. They had criss-crossed the country several times. Arvie had the ability to travel much faster than a vehicle of his size and he also had the ability to become virtually invisible. During this time Katie had been dealing with the death of her mother, while Christopher tried to figure out what they were going to do next. What was Johann Apasilic, aka Mr. Apples, doing? Whatever it was, it was not good. At the same time, Christopher was trying to track the other powerful Elementals out there so that they could attempt to recruit these people to their side.
She had spent far too many days and nights in her room inside Arvie crying her eyes out. When she wasn't crying, she was watching TV or playing video games. There was no coverage of the mountain collapsing. According to Christopher that was because the Organization was so big that the government bent to its will and it was in the best interest of all involved to cover it up. So, there was one story about there being a strange earthquake causing a landslide, but nothing about the fact that an entire mountain had ceased to exist.
Katie was wearing a light top that exposed her stomach. She was in black shorts and barefoot, her toes curling in the grass. She liked walking around barefoot a lot these days. Since her powers had developed she found that she could feel the energy of the planet beneath her through her feet. She could absorb that energy and feel it transmit itself through her legs and up her body. Sometimes, if she concentrated, she saw the world in terms of energy. Katie could see the lines of electricity that flowed beneath her, round her in the air, and that made up the very lifeblood of cities of all sizes.
"OK, so," Christopher said, shouting from across the field, "you just need to concentrate. You know about that, of course. But you need to will yourself to the see the lines of magnetic energy. Then you should be able to reach out and touch it, just like you do with the electricity. However, this time you should be able to manipulate that energy to move the iron cubes. You don't need to move them far for the first time. OK?"
Katie nodded, tried to smile, and gave him the OK sign with her right hand. She shifted back and forth from one foot to the other, feeling that energy tingling. She focused on the iron cubes out there in front of her. They looked huge, heavy, and impossible to move. Katie put her head down, eyes looking up, staring at the cubes. Sparks flew from her fingertips a moment later.
Katie focused her attention, using the breathing techniques that Christopher had taught her. She felt the power flow through her legs, and then from the air around her. She felt it flow through her body and she felt strong now, like she could lift Arvie with one hand over her head. Then the shift happened.
Reality itself was suddenly just rivers of energy. Energy rippled through the atoms of the air itself. Electricity and energy rippled through the grass, the trees, and flowed from the Earth itself beneath Katie. She knew, from the weeks and weeks of training and experience, that she was seeing the electrical impulses, not magnetic lines.
Katie focused harder, regulating her breathing, trying to force her powers to shift. Her heart hammered in her chest and the tingling sensation throughout her body increased. She was like a battery now, her hair standing on end, bolts of lightning shooting from her fingertips into the grass around her. Katie, distantly, could smell burning grass.
Then it happened.
There was a shift in the lines of energy she could see. It was subtle, but she could tell that the shift had happened. Suddenly she was seeing lines that appeared blue, rather than white, running through the ground. These lines were not as intense as the electricity.
Katie reached out her right hand.
The lines in the Earth shifted to her gesture. The energy leaped from the ground to her fingertips. Katie gasped. The sensation was different than the electricity. She felt her heart skip a beat for just a moment, and her breath caught in her throat. She forced herself to breath.
Katie turned her attention to the huge cubes of iron. The blue lines flowed from her hand, over them. She cast the lines of energy around them and then willed those lines to lift.
At first, nothing happened. One of the cubes rocked just a bit, but it did not lift off the ground.
Katie concentrated, the blood vessels in her head standing out against her skin. She bared her teeth and willed those blue lines to grow stronger, grip the cubes harder. Then she willed them to lift again.
Both of the cubes shifted. First, they collided with each other. Katie distinctly heard the soft metallic sound. As sweat streamed down her face and her feet sank into the soft earth beneath her, Katie strained, her muscles standing out against her body.
The cubes lifted.
A few inches. Then a foot. Then two feet. Then six. Then they were ten feet off the ground.
Katie willed them to move, shifting them to her right.
Six inches. Then ten. Then two feet.
Then they fell.
The energy lines vanished from her sight and Katie fell to the ground. The cubes of iron made the ground shake. Katie breathed hard, her heart felt as if it were going to pound its way right out of her chest.
Christopher was at her side in an instant. He knelt down and held her.
"You did it, Katie!" He said. "Relax. Relax. Breathe. It's always harder at first."
Katie dug her fingers into the ground and willed the energy from the planet to flow back into her. No messing around with magnetism now, just pure electrical energy. Katie felt the energy flow through her, around her, rejuvenating her body and her mind. She breathed, forcing her heart to slow. Then she raised her head and looked at Christopher.
"Wow," she whispered. "That was intense."
Christopher talked in a whisper, soothing, in that way he had. "Relax. Breathe. It's like a muscle, you know? You have to work it out regularly and as you do, it gets stronger. But the fact is, you did it. You moved them. Moved them more than I thought you would be able to. I think your powers are just going to keep growing, Katie. There may be no limit to what you can do."
"Great," Katie said, her head now pounding, her heart slowing to its normal rhythm. "I think I need to lay down for a bit."
"OK," Christopher said. "I've been working on something, too, that will help you control your abilities to an even greater degree. I'm still working on it, but maybe when you get up from your nap I can show it to you."
"That's fine," Katie said, slowly getting to her feet. The world swam in front of her eyes for a bit, but she held out both hands and steadied herself. She was already, in her mind, laying down on her bed.
Suddenly Christopher grimaced. Katie was surprised and his reaction was so intense that she reached out a hand to steady him. He looked like he was going to pass out. Christopher let out a soft moan and clutched a hand to his head.
"Hey," Katie said. "Hey, Chris, are you OK?"
Christopher held up a hand, but said nothing for several seconds. He stood there as if frozen, his hands up at his head. Then he gasped and bent over, putting both hands on his knees, taking in deep breaths. After another few moments he shook his head.
"Sorry," he said, his voice breaking. "Just got a bad flash. It's been happening for about a week now. I think one of the Elementals I've been tracking is having some major power spikes. Like I haven't seen since you, Katie. Plus, I just get this feeling that he's in trouble."
"Is this the air Elemental you've been talking about?" Katie asked.
Christopher nodded, slowly, as if shaking his head in any direction was painful. "Yeah."
"How do you know he's in trouble? Is that a thing with you? Are you telepathic or something?"
Christopher shook his head. "Not really. I get flashes, though, from time to time. If the Elemental is particularly powerful and I am particularly in tune with them. I can't really read their minds, but I get impressions. Feelings."
"I suppose that means we had better head to wherever he is," Katie said.
Christopher opened one eye and looked at her. A pained smile crossed his face.
"Yes," he said. "I think he needs us."
Katie had been so caught up in training, dealing with her mother and the repairs on Arvie that neither of them had had a chance to deal with their stated goal. They were supposed to be finding these powerful Elementals and recruiting them to their side. They were supposed to be helping these people.
"Are you going to be OK to drive?" Katie asked.
"I need to lay down for a bit, I think," Christopher said. His voice was so low that Katie had to strain to hear him. The pain he was experiencing was palpable. It was not something she had seen before with Christopher and it distressed her. "I also can get Arvie moving with the autopilot device that I just installed."
Katie had no idea what he was talking about, but it didn't surprise her. He was always tinkering with things, especially Arvie.
Katie helped Christopher to his feet and they both entered Arvie. It was very cold inside because the AC was generally cranked since there were so many electronics in the thing. Katie could feel the electricity in all of the equipment and running through the floor. Christopher walked over to the driver's seat and started punching coordinates, or something, into a computer panel.
Katie watched him for a moment and then made her way to her room. She closed the door behind her, still feeling worried about Christopher and what was happening. They had been in tight spots before, though, and Christopher had always gotten them out.
Katie turned on the TV, something she had always done when she entered her room. It was tuned to a 24-hour news station. The lead story was about a sudden and freak snowstorm...in Florida! Instantly Katie knew where they were heading and that the Elemental Christopher was looking for was there.
Katie watched the news for a while, as puzzled meteorologists talked about how the atmosphere had changed and the jet stream had done this or that. All of them were confused and wondering how arctic air had ended up in Florida, in the middle of summer. There were several cell phone videos showing the intense and violent storm, most of them taken from inside a grocery market. The news anchors stated that the intense storm seemed to center around that one parking lot, something else no one could explain.
Katie sighed and stretched out on her bed, while in her mind she was going over all she had learned in the past year about Elementals and their abilities.
Elementals were as old as humanity, perhaps older. Although they all appeared human, they were not. Elementals were generally stronger than the average human, quite capable of ripping a car door off its hinges. They were also heartier, not as prone to illness or injury, and very long-lived. Christopher and Mr. Apples had been alive for a hundred years.
Elementals had control over the four elements of earth, fire, water and air. However, the nature of how they controlled those elements could vary. Katie's mother, for example, had been an air elemental and could control air currents for a variety of effects from creating tornadoes to hardening the air and creating objects out of the air itself. Katie had fought against another earth elemental named Xander who had been able to control rocks, bricks and other things made from earth. Katie's earth abilities involved the planet's electromagnetic field.
Most Elementals had relatively weak powers. They could do a few things, but were not particularly dangerous. However, according to Christopher, there were a few in every generation that were hugely powerful. Christopher said that Katie was one of those, and that others were beginning to manifest.
Johann Apasilic, Mr. Apples, was also an Elemental, but he was the only one capable of manipulating the element of Dark Matter. No one really understood what it was or how it worked. At first, the manipulation was invisible, and it allowed him to cause molecules to burst apart. However, after an altercation between Mr. Apples and Katie, he now manipulated an actual dark material that manifested at his whim. Katie, evidently, could also boost the powers of other Elementals by giving them a blast of her electrical energy. Christopher said he wasn't sure how that worked, but that he would study it at some point.
Mr. Apples worked for something called the Organization. It was a massive thing with the stated intent of finding Elementals and teaching them how to use their powers. It was backed by most of the world's governments, and Christopher and Mr. Apples had been friends, working together to recruit these Elementals as children and helping them with their abilities.
Things had changed, though, over the years. Apasilic had become more and more sure that Elementals were really gods and should make humans their slaves. Christopher and Mr. Apples had faced off. It turned out, however, that the governments involved in the Organization were wondering if it might not be better to weaponize the Elementals. They also thought that the abilities should be in control, or accessible, to regular humans. Thus, the Organization wanted to take the most powerful and turn them into armies, while also making suits of armor that would manipulate the elements that regular humans could use.
Christopher, needless to say, disagreed with this. Christopher had taken Katie's mom and several other Elementals and gone on the run, with Mr. Apples in hot pursuit. Many battles had ensued and, at some point, Katie's mom had fled, setting up a life and having a child and trying to raise that child as normal as possible. Katie had the ability to draw lightning to her from passing thunderstorms, but that just became a normal part of her life. It was weird, but she had not seen herself as special.
So much had changed. Christopher, Katie and her mother had been attacked by Mr. Apples and soldiers from the Organization in their element armor. When Christopher had learned about the armor and its abilities, he had devised a plan to raid the mountain-based research center and destroy the armor, and all of the plans. That had led to Katie and her mother and Christopher being captured by Mr. Apples. The insane man had done experiments on them before they had escaped and engaged in a battle beneath the mountain. Katie's abilities had fully manifested and she had fought toe-to-toe with Xander. Her mother had died, and the mountain had been destroyed.
All in a day’s work when you were an Elemental, evidently.
Nothing like growing up believing you are a normal girl only to find yourself in the middle of a centuries-old battle. Oh, and with the balance of the world and all of humanity hanging by a thread.
When her mother died, Katie had debated if she was going to go off with Christopher. It seemed insane. All of it was insane. But where was she going to go with her abilities? What else was she going to do? She was in pain, but she knew that it was better to have a destiny than not, so she said yes. Over the months they had been traveling, many times she had wondered if she made the right decision.
Now, there was finally someone who really needed them. Christopher had told her; shown her on the many computer screens he watched constantly, where he was tracking the powerful Elementals. He assured her that the time would come when they would need to show up and talk to these people, show them the right way. But he wanted to be sure she was ready, that she could control her abilities, and that the danger was mitigated.
Of course, Christopher was also trying to watch Mr. Apples. Apasilic had made a play, not long after the mountain incident, and gained total control of the Organization. Christopher had placed a lot of what he called "back doors" in the various security and computer systems throughout the Organization when he was working with them. He would routinely sneak in and get a quick peek at what was happening. What he saw he did not like.
Apasilic was involved in some new kind of research and Christopher was having trouble figuring out what it was. He knew that it had to do with some kind of tissue or blood sample he had gotten from Katie, but the nature of it was elusive. That bothered Christopher and it bothered Katie, but in a strange and distant way. So much of this was still so distant for her. She guessed that this was some kind of mental shield her mind had put up to deal with the loss of her mother, her home, and the life she had known before Christopher Farraday entered her life.
Arvie suddenly lurched into life. As Christopher had continued to add to Arvie, the vehicle was becoming more and more like a living thing in her mind. Already it had voice-recognition software and would respond to most vocal commands. Christopher was even working on installing a voice synthesizer for the vehicle and an advanced A.I. interface. All that ran through her head as she heard Christopher walking from the driver's seat to his bedroom.
"My life is definitely weird," she said aloud to the empty room.
Katie watched the news for a while. After a time, the news service was forced to cover other things in other parts of the world. Some small island country was in the midst of some kind of civil war and, apparently, there were concerns within this country that affected the United States. If this place fell into the wrong hands, this would be bad.
Katie shrugged and snuggled into her pillows. Her eyelids grew heavy and, eventually, she fell asleep.
Get your copy of The Lord of Winter here: http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Winter-Elementals-Book-ebook/dp/B01BH6C6XO