Elemental PowerRachel Morgan
Copyright © 2018 Rachel Morgan
Ridley and Archer grow closer as they search Lumina City for other elementals, trying not to draw the attention of the Shadow Society or the law. But everything goes wrong when Ridley’s secret is discovered.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information please contact the author.
Mobi Ebook ISBN: 978-0-6399436-4-0
Epub Ebook ISBN: 978-0-6399436-5-7
ELEVEN AND A HALF YEARS AGO
Lumina City glittered with the bright morning light of spring, but the interior of Kayne’s Antiques was as creaky, dark and mysterious as always. Filled with towering piles of fascinating objects and the smell of very old things, it always felt to Ridley like stepping into another world.
Ridley’s grandfather was at the counter near the back of the store, finishing up with a customer, while Ridley and her best friend Lilah peered at a rusty typewriter sitting on the store’s front table. They both knew the rule: no touching. But for curious six-year-olds, this was an immense challenge. Lilah’s hand reached toward the typewriter, and Ridley stifled a gasp as her finger aimed for one of the faded typewriter keys.
“Delilah Davenport,” her mother scolded. Lilah jumped, snatched her hand back, and looked over her shoulder at her mother. “Hands behind your back please,” Mrs. Davenport said.
“Sorry, Mom.” Lilah tucked the offending hand out of sight, her eyes wide as she grinned at Ridley.
“You too, Riddles,” Ridley’s father added, and she realized her hands had somehow moved to her sides. She couldn’t remember how that had happened, but she quickly clasped them together at the small of her back as she giggled at Lilah.
“All I’m saying,” Mrs. Davenport continued, speaking to Ridley’s father in a low voice, “is that maybe you could convince him to move in with you and Claudia and Ridley. You have plenty of space, don’t you? And this place …” Ridley followed Mrs. Davenport’s gaze as it rose toward the ceiling and the cobwebs gathered in the corners. “I can’t believe anyone would live up there. It must be so cramped, and the stairs are only going to become more difficult for him as he gets older. You mentioned he hasn’t been well recently. I’m sure you’d all be happier if he was living with you in Aura Tower.”
Dad laughed as he finally finished unlocking the cabinet he and Mrs. Davenport were standing in front of. “My father wouldn’t be happy in Aura Tower, I can assure you that. He likes it here. It’s been his home for … well, at least half my life.”
“Don’t you worry about Ridley’s safety though?” Mrs. Davenport pressed. “When you bring her here to visit, I mean. It isn’t exactly the safest neighborhood.”
It isn’t? Ridley thought. She’d noticed, of course, that this area wasn’t pretty like the part of the city she lived in, but she didn’t know it was dangerous here.
“It isn’t the worst either,” Dad said, and Ridley relaxed. She was certain her father knew more about these sorts of things than Mrs. Davenport. “Anyway,” Dad continued, “since you didn’t see anything in my workshop that appealed to you, here’s the piece I thought you might like.” He removed a cushion from the cabinet and lifted a tiara. Ridley stared in wonder as he held it up for Mrs. Davenport to see. “The central stone is an emerald, and these other smaller stones—” he pointed along the sides “—are where I can add the magic effects you asked about.”
“I see. So they’ll appear to twinkle?”
“They won’t just appear so; they will twinkle,” Dad told her. “And the other option …” He returned the tiara to the cabinet and reached for something else as Ridley realized that Lilah had wandered toward the back of the store where Grandpa was tidying his oversized desk.
“Mr. Kayne, can I write with the feather pen again?” she asked. Ridley, not wanting to miss out, hurried after her.
“Yes, come on over here,” Grandpa answered with a smile. “It’s called a quill, remember?”
“Lilah, please don’t get ink on your dress,” Mrs. Davenport called across the store.
“I won’t, Mom,” Lilah said as Grandpa helped her up onto his desk chair. He nudged magic toward a bottle of ink that stood on the corner of the desk beside several mugs of pens. After curling his fingers in the air, the bottle slid forward.
“Can I go next?” Ridley asked, wrapping one arm around Grandpa’s waist.
“You most certainly can.” Grandpa paused to give Ridley a quick sideways hug and a kiss on top of her head, then placed a blank piece of paper in front of Lilah. Next, he handed her the quill and opened the ink bottle. As she dipped the quill nib into the ink, Ridley’s eyes traveled over the contents of the desk, coming to rest on a closed cardboard folder. Several pages stuck out the bottom, just far enough for Ridley to see a few lines of foreign, handwritten words.
“What’s this?” she asked, carefully touching one corner.
“Oh, just copies of something very, very old.” Grandpa picked up the folder and slipped it into a drawer. “Myths and legends from different parts of the world that I’m attempting to translate.”
“Like fairy tales?”
“Yes, a little bit like that.” His eyes—a light, bright gray behind his glasses—smiled at her. “Stories so old that most people don’t even know they ever existed.”
“Wow.” Ridley ran her finger along the edge of the desk. “That sounds really old.”
“Why isn’t this working?” Lilah complained. “It’s not writing nicely.”
“Here, just change the angle a bit,” Grandpa said, gently adjusting Lilah’s grip on the quill.
Ridley bobbed up and down, eager for her turn with the special pen. Her attention landed on a yellow notepad that had been hiding beneath the folder Grandpa removed. She reached out and pulled it closer, trying to read his handwriting and understanding only a few of the words. “El … em …” She stood on tiptoe and leaned over the notepad as she tried to spell out one of the longer words. “What’s that last part?” she asked, pointing to the second half of the word ‘elementals.’
“Oh, nothing exciting,” Grandpa said, swiftly lifting the notepad from the desk and dropping it into another drawer, which he closed firmly before leaning against it and tousling Ridley’s hair.
“Grand-pa,” she moaned. “Let me try again.”
“Okay, let’s try a different word,” Grandpa said, reaching for a blank notepad and quickly pulling a wisp of magic from the air. He flicked it toward one of the mugs, where it wrapped around a pen.
“Actually, Dad, we need to get going,” Ridley’s father said as the pen reached Grandpa’s hand.
“Yeah, I can’t get this quill thing to work anyway,” Lilah said, placing the quill flat on the page and climbing out of Grandpa’s chair. “We don’t have to fetch Archer now, do we?” she asked her mother.
“We do. He should be ready now.”
“Ugh, it’s so much better when he’s not around,” Lilah moaned.
“I know,” Ridley agreed. Then she hugged her grandfather quickly and said, “Bye, Grandpa. See you soon.”
“Lilah, please don’t say things like that about your brother,” Mrs. Davenport told Lilah as she and Ridley reached the front of the store. “One day you’ll miss him when the two of you are apart.”
“Whatever,” Lilah muttered with a dramatic roll of her dark eyes.
“Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Kayne,” Mrs. Davenport said to Grandpa. “Maverick will let you know which of the pieces I’ve decided on.” She gave Grandpa a brief wave before ushering Lilah out of the door.
“Thanks again, Dad,” Ridley’s father said. “See you on the weekend for dinner?”
“See you then,” Grandpa said with a smile.
Outside, Ridley ran up to Lilah and linked arms with her. She couldn’t wait to get back to Aura Tower for Erin Lopez’s birthday party that afternoon. There would be games and cake and presents, and she would finally get to wear the new shoes Dad had conjured for her. Every time she tapped her heels together, the rainbow painted over the front of each shoe would detach itself, spin around her ankle, and then reattach itself to the shoe. Even Lilah didn’t have shoes like that, and Lilah had pretty much everything.
“Who’s that?” Lilah asked as the driver of the Davenports’ car opened the rear door for them. Ridley looked to where Lilah was pointing. Across the street, a boy with straight black hair and a wide smile, similar in age to Ridley and Lilah, waved madly.
“Hi, Shen,” Ridley called, waving back.
Lilah crossed her arms and pouted. “Is he your friend?”
“Um, not really. I just know him. Sometimes he’s in the store when we go to visit Grandpa. He lives across the road.”
“Oh.” Lilah’s expression relaxed into a smile. “Good.”
They all climbed into the spacious vehicle, and Mrs. Davenport told the driver to take them back to the Opal Quarter. As they sped away, the details of that morning’s visit—including the mysterious word written on Grandpa’s notepad—vanished from Ridley’s memory.
Ridley Kayne stood in the living room of the cramped apartment that should have felt like home, but now seemed a bizarre mix of familiar and foreign. It wasn’t the piece of plastic concealing the jagged hole in the window, or the wooden crate that had replaced the broken coffee table, or even the dark, wet patch on the floor where Ridley and her father had wiped away blood less than an hour ago. It was the secrets Ridley now knew lurked in every shadowed corner of this apartment.
It was also the person sitting on the couch across the room.
“Grandpa?” she whispered, her eyes trained on the elderly man. Goosebumps crawled across her arms and up the back of her neck. The letter with the tree drawing on it—the letter that had finally told Ridley exactly what she was—slipped from her fingers. The man on the couch seemed thinner than she remembered, and his hair was completely gray. But it was, without a doubt, Jonas Kayne.
With some difficulty, he pushed himself to his feet. “Ridley. Little Riddles. You’re so grown-up.”
She shook her head and reached back to grip the doorframe. Her knees decided she might handle this situation better on the floor, so they slowly gave in. “This isn’t real,” she said, her own voice reaching her ears as if from a great distance as she knelt in the doorway.
“Ridley,” her father said, rising hastily from the armchair. “I know this must be a huge shock for you, but—”
“What the hell is going on?” she demanded in a hoarse whisper. “First that—” she gestured shakily to the letter on the floor “and then … this?” She looked up and met Grandpa’s eyes. “I went to your funeral. I know I was little, but I definitely remember a funeral. You died!”
“Ridley.” Dad moved closer and reached for her arm.
“No, don’t touch me.” She shrank away from his touch. “You’ve been lying to me about everything. It was bad enough when I thought it was just all the stuff in that letter, but you lied about Grandpa as well?” She managed to climb to her feet, tucking her blond hair—still damp from her recent shower—behind her ear. “What is going on? Did I accidentally step into an alternate reality tonight? One of my best friends is a murderer, I’m some weird version of human called an elemental, and my grandfather isn’t dead?”
Dad and Grandpa exchanged a glance, and for several moments, the only sound in the apartment was the music playing quietly in the background. Ridley grabbed the remote from the makeshift crate-coffee table, pointed it at the vintage sound system, and turned it off. Then she tossed the remote back onto the crate. “Explain.”
“Why don’t you sit?” Dad suggested.
“I don’t want to sit. I want answers.”
“No hug for your grandfather?” Grandpa asked, giving her a sheepish smile. His gray eyes twinkled behind his glasses. “I know you’re upset and confused, but it’s so good to see you, Ridley. I’ve missed you all these years.”
Ridley folded her arms over her pajama top and didn’t move an inch toward Grandpa. “Are you like me?” she asked. “Are you also an elemental? And don’t you dare lie.”
Grandpa shook his head. “I’m not an elemental. No one else in our family is.” He lowered himself to the couch. “You may not want to sit, but I’m an old man. I can’t stand for long these days.”
“It wasn’t all a lie,” Dad said, his piercing blue eyes staring into Ridley’s. Like her, he remained standing. “Grandpa did get sick. He was in the hospital for a legitimate reason. But …” Dad looked at Grandpa. “He didn’t actually die.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Ridley muttered. “Why the hell would you pretend to be dead?”
“Because there are things I know,” Grandpa said. “Certain conjurations. Old, dangerous ones that most historians believe were forgotten centuries ago.”
Ridley blinked and shook her head. “Conjurations? This is about conjurations? What conjurations?”
“We don’t need to go into that. The point is, the wrong people found out. They wanted me to pass on my knowledge. I refused. They began to threaten my family. The stress of it all is what landed me in hospital. And while I was there …” He let out a long sigh. “I decided it would be better if I never left. Not officially, anyway. Your parents …” Grandpa’s eyes moved to Dad, but Dad refused to look at him now. “Well, after many arguments, they agreed to help me. We didn’t exactly part on good terms though. We haven’t been in contact much since I left the city and went into hiding. Especially after the Cataclysm. Staying in touch became even harder then.”
“So … then …” Ridley shook her head, still trying to accept the fact that this wasn’t a dream. “Why are you back now?”
“I became aware late last night of a threat to all the elementals living in Lumina City. Naturally, I was concerned for your safety. I contacted your father, and he told me not to worry. That he would try to find out what was going on. But I’d already decided to come. I left early this morning and traveled the entire day. Only got here about twenty minutes ago.” He looked at Dad. “First time I’ve seen my son in more than a decade, and the first thing he said was that I shouldn’t have come. That he’d already taken care of the problem.”
“Can we please not do this now?” Dad said to Grandpa in clipped tones. “Ridley doesn’t need to witness the dysfunctional side of our family.”
“I really don’t care how dysfunctional this family is,” Ridley said, “as long as no one’s lying to me anymore.”
“On that note,” Grandpa said. “Your father—”
“Don’t,” Dad interrupted.
“Don’t what?” Ridley asked.
“Don’t get involved,” Dad said to Grandpa. “I will explain things to Ridley.”
“Really? You haven’t exactly done much—” Ridley stopped at the sound of a creak on the stairs leading up to their apartment from the store below. Her head whipped toward the doorway at the top of the stairs. Grandpa pushed himself to his feet again. “Are you expecting someone?” he whispered.
“Calm down,” Dad told him. “It’s probably just—”
“Mrs. Lin?” Ridley said as the petite woman from across the street appeared at the top of the stairs. Ridley had known her for years, but all of a sudden it felt as if she were looking at a stranger. This wasn’t just Shen’s mother. She was the woman who knew as many s
ecrets as Shen did. She knew what Ridley was. And just like Dad and Shen, Mrs. Lin had never said a word to Ridley.
“I only saw the message a few minutes ago,” Mrs. Lin said, a smile deepening the wrinkles around her eyes as she looked at Grandpa. “It’s so good to see you again, Jonas,” she added as she crossed the room. She wrapped her arms around Grandpa, and he returned the embrace.
“You too, Mei. It’s been far too long.”
Ridley’s mouth fell open. Then she shook her head. “Why am I surprised that you know about this secret?” she said, throwing her hands up. “Of course you know my grandfather isn’t dead. Just like you know about every other secret Dad’s been keeping for years.”
“Ridley, I didn’t see you over …” Mrs. Lin trailed off as a frown wrinkled her brow. “Other secrets?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about,” Ridley said. “I only found out minutes ago, but Shen already knew. He wasn’t surprised at all when he saw me using my own magic earlier tonight. He told me his family knows too.” Shen had said his family understood what was at stake. That they’d looked out for Ridley just as he had. His words made no sense at the time, but he hadn’t stopped to explain any further before shooting the mayor’s son, jumping off the side of a building, and making a dramatic escape on a scanner drone. But Ridley now understood what he meant. “I’m an elemental,” she said slowly and clearly to Mrs. Lin. “You want to tell me you don’t know about that?”
“Ah,” Mrs. Lin said, her gaze falling on Dad. “Those secrets. I wasn’t aware those were out in the open now.”
“She received a letter,” Dad said, pointing to where the folded page lay on the floor.
“I see.” Mrs. Lin nodded. “Well, perhaps I should make us all some tea?” she suggested.
“No,” Ridley answered before Dad or Grandpa could say anything. “No tea.” She bent quickly and retrieved the letter. “Your whole family gets to know the truth about what I am, so don’t you think it’s time I get to know?”