Chapter One – The Winds of Change
Gwen had hoped today would never come. She’d been living in a state of wilful denial since the plan had first been suggested but now, as she looked around the empty room she’d grown up in, she could no longer deny the truth. After weeks and months of talks and deliberations an agreement had been formed between the air elementals and the lycans. The selfish desires of the human kings put both races at risk and so they had decided to come together to reduce the risk to their survival.
Humans viewed lycans as nothing more than mindless beasts of burden and air elementals weren’t viewed with much more regard. While the humans on their own weren’t enough to worry about, they often hired unscrupulous fire elementals to capture them and put them to work at land and sea. Lycans were bound in weakening silver chains and forced to work the land while air elementals were sent out to sea and made to take ships to far parts of the world and spy on enemies of the king. Neither species did well when forcibly removed from the collective. Lycans deteriorated slowly when they were forced away from their packs and died even faster if they were separated from their mates for prolonged periods of time. Air elementals weren’t born to be alone, their minds fading into nothing the longer they were away from another of their kind.
With so much in common an alliance had been created that merged their two peoples in order to better protect them from a shared threat. By their very nature lycan packs were much bigger than the small villages air elementals called home. With plenty of sturdy homes built on the ground the lycans were also more equipped to cope with an influx of people than their new allies who lived in relatively small houses high in the trees. As a result their leaders had decided that all air elemental villages would merge with the nearest lycan pack. Gwen’s village was the last one to move because they had misfortune of housing her, the daughter of air.
“Gwen!” At the sound of her name being called, she spun round, her eyes wide. Her mother stood in the doorway, her hands on her hips as she tapped her foot in agitation. “Have you finished packing?”
“Packing?” she mused, searching her fragmented thoughts. Gwen’s blue eyes slowly turned a glowing red as she wracked her mind.
Madeline sighed but waited for her daughter to focus. Gwen’s ability to forget even the most important things was a fact she had come to terms with over the years.
“Packed!” Gwen exclaimed, her eyes becoming blue again. “Yes I’ve packed. I had to leave the flowers behind though.” Her soft lips turned down in a frown.
“They were dead anyway,” Madeline said softly. “It’s the middle of winter now Gwen, by the time we’ve settled in our new home it’ll be spring and you can grow new flowers.”
Though the words left Madeline’s lips she felt guilty saying them. Despite the fact that Gwen would in all likelihood have forgotten the truth, Madeline knew that it was a physical impossibility for her daughter to grow the flowers she was so fond of. Her grey eyes wandered to the withered and wilted flowers that were on Gwen’s windowsill. The nature of her daughter’s curse meant that no matter how hard she tried the flowers would die. As soon as she took an interest in something it was destined to go wrong.
“Come on Gwen, we have to hurry most people have already left.”
Gwen’s earlier melancholy faded as quickly as it had come, the sad emotions fading as her mind moved to focus on something else.
Madeline watched as her daughter rushed around the room in a whirlwind of activity, her long, almost white blond, hair flying around her while her currently blue eyes shone with excitement. It was at moments like these that she was glad that Gwen’s curse also meant she didn’t hold onto negative emotions for too long.
“Ready,” Gwen declared, a heavy bag slung over her fragile shoulder.
“Then let’s go, your father and sisters are waiting for us.”
Smiling, Gwen took a step forward. She wasn’t surprised when a floorboard collapsed beneath her feet though her mother sighed heavily in annoyance. With a flamboyant shake, she dislodged her foot from the wood and took to the air, hovering just above the wood rather than walking on the ground. As she walked through the empty halls of her home, Gwen felt saddened once again. She had lived here for all of her twenty two years, she didn’t want to leave. As resentment for her future brewed she could feel the winds outside begin to respond, howling and shaking the windows to express the emotions she couldn’t.
The world outside was barely visible through the thickly swirling snow. The wind had whipped the snow that had fallen earlier into a frenzy and created a tempestuous blizzard. Gwen could barely make out the branches of the barren trees in the distance or the covered fields that provided them with food. She looked down, surprised to see her family huddled around the carriage that was meant to take them to the alpha lycan pack. Their faces were beginning to turn blue from the cold, the shields they had erected to keep the wind at bay beginning to fail. Unable to bear their suffering, she forced herself to calm and the winds died down, the snow floating to settle on the ground again.
“Gwen!” her younger sister Leah shouted. “Are you coming?”
Though people often said that Gwen and Leah looked so alike that they could pass for twins, Gwen couldn’t see the similarities. While Gwen’s hair was so pale it appeared white in some lights, Leah’s was a golden blonde that shone as bright as the sun. The strands of Leah’s hair were bound tightly in intricate braids that matched her neat and tidy personality whereas Gwen could never remember to do more than brush her hair in the morning and let the waist length strands fly about her head. There was a tanned hue to Gwen’s pale skin from the time she’d spent outside, flying the skies close to the sun to avoid the inevitable problems that happened when she was on the ground while Leah was almost as pale as Gwen imagined vampires might be.
Long ago Gwen had decided it was their faces that were the most different. When she looked in a mirror she couldn’t see anything special, a heart shaped face, soft pink lips, gently curved cheeks, a small nose and eyes that constantly changed colour. When she looked at Leah however she could see the inner beauty that her little sister possessed shining brightly for the world to see. Though there was only a year difference in their ages, when Gwen managed to hold onto a coherent train of thought she knew that in that single year that separated them there was a world of difference.
Smiling, Gwen stepped off the wooden platform that had kept her home secure in the trees for years and floated to the ground. When she landed she could finally make out the other carriages that were beginning to make their way out of the village, theirs being the last in the train.
“Hurry and get in Gwen,” her father, John, ordered from his position at the front of the carriage. His deep blue eyes mirrored those of her older sister Beth who was sat beside him, her dirty blonde hair hanging down to her shoulders.
Gwen floated into the carriage, an excited Leah grabbing her bag and throwing it into a corner with their other possessions. The carriage lurched forward and Gwen turned to take a final look at the home she was being forced to leave, her eyes clouded over becoming grey and dark as her house in the trees became smaller and smaller as they moved ever closer to the nearby lycan pack.
“Are you excited?” Leah gushed, her eyes aglow with anticipation. “I can’t wait to get there.”
“It’s not going to be the same as home.”
“We’ll have a new home with the lycans and we’ll be living with the lycans!”
“What’s so great about lycans?” Beth sneered, poking her head through the sheet that separated the main carriage from the driver’s seat. “They’re wild animals.”
“They’re intense,” Leah sighed dreamily. “They want forever and won’t let anything stop them from getting what they want. Can you imagine being mated to one of them? There wouldn’t be anything they wouldn’t do for you.”
“They sound obsessive. I wouldn’t want one of those hulking beasts slobbering all over me,” Beth continued. “I don’t even like the idea of moving in with them. What do you think Gwen?”
She barely heard them speaking, her mind having wandered on the breeze to the world outside.
“Gwen!” Beth shrieked, her sharp, shrill voice calling her back from her mental musings.
“I said what do you think about moving in with the lycans?”
“There’s nothing we can do about it now. I’m not angry about going and I’m not sad anymore about leaving home. We should just let things unfold naturally.”
Rolling her eyes, Beth cursed. “You’re impossible. You can’t feel anything properly. How stupid can you be?”
“Beth,” Leah scolded. “You know it’s not her fault.”
The carriage lurched before it came to a halt and Beth cursed again. “Is this not her fault either?”
“You know it’s not,” Madeline inserted. She knew her daughters too well and could tell that the older Beth was looking for a fight. The more aggressive of her three children, Beth often said things that unwittingly caused strife. While each of her children loved each other sometimes she thought Beth was resentful of the close relationship Gwen and Leah shared. The three year difference in their ages truly showed at moments like this. Madeline sighed, her tired eyes wandering over her family before her sigh deepened.
The wind told Gwen of her family’s exhaustion and as she looked at the angry scowl on her older sister’s lips and the bags beneath her mother’s eyes she quickly made a decision. “If I stay with you it’ll take us days instead of hours to get to the lycans,” Gwen said softly, standing up. “I can fly there. It’ll be easier for you.” A pang of pain shot through her heart as the words left her lips. While they were true it didn’t make the fact that she was a burden to her family any easier to stomach.
“We’ve lost a wheel,” John commented as he drew the curtain at the back open. “It won’t take long to fix it.” There were lines around his eyes and his voice was resigned, he’d done this many times before.
“I’m going to go by myself,” Gwen repeated, her eyes wandering to the sky above their heads. As soon as she was airborne she had no doubt that her troubles would fade away.
John’s frown deepened, his eyes darting from his wife back to his daughter. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. What if you get lost?”
“I won’t get lost. I can hear the people who are already there and I can hear the lycans. I can get there by myself I promise.” She placed her hand over his, trying to reassure him without words that all was going to be well.
“Dad, just let her go,” Beth snapped. “If she comes with us then we’ll never get there before dark.”
Moving forward, Gwen floated out of the carriage and placed a chaste kiss to her father’s cheek. “It’s okay. I’ll be fine.”
“Be safe,” John said gruffly.
“And try to focus!” Madeline shouted as Gwen took to the air.
Gwen closed her eyes and let her body become as light and intangible as air, floating higher and higher. Without the constant chatter of her family her mind was free to wander and it did so with gusto. Thoughts flew through her mind, none staying long until she found one that captured her interest. The lycans.
I wonder if they’re really as bad as Beth makes them out to be? She quickly dismissed the idea, Beth was prone to exaggeration. I wonder what they look like when they change…
Air elementals lived very sheltered lives and before the treaty was signed she had never seen a lycan. Even now when she was preparing to move in with them and make their home her own she had still only come into contact with a handful of lycans. From what she remembered about them they were very different to her people. Air elementals were often small, even their males were slender, but lycans seemed to be built of nothing but muscle. They towered over her and their dark hair and tanned skin was a world apart from the light haired, pale skinned nature of her people.
Her mind still fixed firmly on thoughts of lycans, Gwen let herself be taken by the wind. She could often float for hours at a time aware of nothing but the minute shifts in the winds. It was only when she was high in the sky that she felt truly normal, the effects of her curse diminished in a domain that she had total domination over. She was dimly aware that as she continued moving leisurely through the skies the sun was setting and the world around her growing dim.
I’d better head towards the lycan village now. Mother will worry if I’m not there when they arrive.
On a resigned sigh she turned herself and began to listen to the winds for the tell-tell signs of air elementals and lycans. Hearing the light tinkle in the air that spoke of air elementals nearby, she sped off in that direction. As her flight neared the end her ears picked up the sound of screams and her heart began to race. Darting off towards the sound of children crying she was stunned when she came upon a vampire preying upon three small children, their light blonde hair telling her that they were air elementals and as she came closer she realised she recognised their faces.
The vampire held a small boy close to his body, his fangs sunk deep into his neck while the other two children watched on in frozen horror. Her eyes narrowing in anger, she waved a hand to lift the frozen children out of the way before she landed directly in front of the vampire. Her eyes were locked on the body of the small boy and she noticed with horror that he was growing increasingly pale, his breathing too shallow to be healthy. There was no way to use her powers to separate them without endangering the little boy and from the cruel smirk on the vampire’s lips he knew it.
“Let him go,” she pleaded. “He’s too young to give blood to anyone. You’re killing him.” The vampire continued drawing blood as though he hadn’t heard Gwen speak. “If you let him go you can have my blood instead.” His dark eyes lifted to meet hers, his interest clearly piqued. “My blood will taste far better than his.” She let the winds fill her ears bringing sounds from all over and quickly filtered through them to find information that was useful to her. “The blood of the daughter of air will taste much better than a child’s. I won’t even put up a fight,” she promised. I won’t have to. My curse will finally be useful.
She pulled her hair away from her neck, inwardly smiling when the vampire pulled away from the shocked boy and tossed him to the ground. The boy stared up at her with wide eyes before pushing himself to his feet on weak limbs and running away. Before Gwen could even register what was happening the vampire was on her, his fangs tearing into the soft skin at her neck to reach the blood underneath. Gwen forced herself to focus on the sounds of the three small children reuniting. She heard their sighs of relief and their desperate cries as they stated to run home. Her mind reminded her that the three were the trouble makers of her village and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that they wouldn’t be coming back to help her. She doubted that they would even tell another soul what had happened. Their parents were deathly afraid of Gwen and had transferred that fear and hate to their offspring.
Sighing, Gwen forced her mind to focus on the problem at hand. The vampire was drawing deep; sucking so deeply that she knew his intent was to kill her. Gathering her strength she let the winds blow and gave herself over to them. Her body began to fade, the vampire’s strong grip unable to keep her when she wanted to be free. As soon as her body became immaterial, she knew that it had been a mistake. The vampire had drained her until she felt nothing but weakness in her bones. If she didn’t immobilise him quickly, she’d be forced to take form and he would kill her without a hint of remorse. Opening her mouth wide, she sung to her blood in the vampire’s veins. Her song called the oxygen in her blood cells; her blood mingling with the vampire’s to deprive him of sustenance. He wrapped his arms around himself, falling to his knees as his grip on consciousness faded.
Her enemy incapacitated, Gwen let her body take shape again. At least I know what it feels to be bitten by a vampire.Her mind was always searching for more knowledge, filing it away for later use. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that I don’t like it. She fell to the ground exhausted. Mother isn’t going to be happy when she finds out I never made it to the lycans and here I thought my curse would kill him. Maybe I’m cured. Snow fell from one of the trees above her, landing atop her head and melting down her back. Maybe not. It was the last thought she had before she fell unconscious into the snow.