None of us have any idea of how long it will take to get out of the forest. So we empty our hastily packed bags, and re-pack them. In each pack we neatly place our belongings, energy bars and one water bottle each; water in not scarce here.
“It could take days to get out,” Martha moans as she shoulders her pack.
“It took less than a half day to get to camp by caravan,” I quietly state.
Zack’s friend looks at me, “How do you know that? We were asleep the whole time.”
I frown but it’s David that answers for me, “because she’s a Master Elementalist.”
The boy shakes his head. “No half-blood’s ever been a Master Elementalist. I want proof.”
I sigh. I do not know what a Master Elementalist is, but we do not have time to argue. Even if the threat isn’t real, the woods pose their own hazards. I know. I have often walked in those around Devil’s Flat. I don’t know what predators are out here, but I have no doubt we look like food.
“Look,” David again replies for me, “Charles said there is some sort of danger out here, that’s why we were being taken home. Do you really want Morgan to take time to prove her elemental skills? Mickity Flickity”
“I think Morgan should prove herself,” he retorts back, staring at me.
“I think,” I start softly, my gaze staring into the woods behind us. “That we should get moving and fast.”
“Why?” he asks.
I point. It takes long distance vision to see but my fire affinity has heightened my senses. Nature is telling me to run. I can hear the crackling of trees burning; feel the vibrations of animals stampeding. I grab the stunned boy and start running. David and Martha are right behind me.
“How do you know you’re running the right way?” he gasps out at me.
“Does it really mater, as long as it’s AWAY from the fire?” Martha shouts back.
Despite our Faerie speed, the fire is still gaining on us. The first of the animals are upon us. I bolster the Air around us, feeling Martha do the same, creating a pocket of protection. There are screams form the animals that aren’t fast enough. It spurs us to new speed. I am half connected to nature, taking her directions, half connected to us, keeping us together.
“Gorge ahead,” I shout though it can’t be seen yet. “Make for the bridge, just to our left.”
The group swerves as one. I stop at the front of the bridge, making sure everyone is upon it before beginning to cross myself. The fire is screaming towards us. The bridge is so rickety there is no way to get across fast enough. I stop in the middle, ignoring the shouts to keep moving.
“Try and stop the fire!” I yell back.
I begin to gather my own elemental affinity to myself. The fire will not stop for me; it has been given a purpose that it must fulfill. I can only slow the progress of the flames and use water to soak the ropes and logs that hold bridge taught. Slowly I back up along the bridge. If I can make it across before the fire burns the ropes, we’ll be safe. The flames lick the ropes waiting for their opportunity to consume them.
“Come on David,” I hear Martha cajoling, “just close your eyes and follow me.”
I turn and see David is frozen stiff in the middle of the bridge. His head is looking down. I glance over the ropes and see we are suspended at a dizzying height. Mickity, as they have called him, is on the other side impatiently waiting for us. I feel the bridge shudder and turn my attention back to the fire. It’s too late.
“HOLD ON NOW!” I yell, immediately wrapping my arms in the rope.
The ropes snap. The bridge falls from under me. For a moment I am weightless then my stomach rushes into my throat. We are speeding towards the wall at a terrifying rate. With the same instinct Martha and I send an air cushion between the bridge and the wall, lessening our impact. It was not enough.
“DAVID!” Martha screams.
He rushes past me. I reach out with air, trying to break his fall. I feel someone else doing the same from below. I sense four people are down there, where David comes to rest. Two of whom I recognize.
“Keep climbing,” I tell Martha. “I’ll make sure David gets up.”
She nods and starts the slow process of climbing up. I begin an even slower dissent. Now I know why we had to pass a fitness test.
“Morgan?” Katha’s voice floats up to me.
I know Theo is down there with her. Using Air, I manage to speed my decent to join the group at the bottom. A boy I don’t know is helping David to recover. At least David seems to have been more shocked than physically hurt.
Theo whistles, “and I thought your element was Water.”
“It is,” I state quietly, flushing at his admiring stare. I look at Katha instead.