Jake learns the startling truth on his eighteenth birthday when he is given a scroll, which was discovered with him when he was found abandoned as an infant. The scroll warns of an ancient cult, known as the Order. Eighteen years previous, the Order had successfully murdered all of the Elementals... or so they thought. Jake, is the only one that remains.
Now Jake is all that stands in the way of the Order's evil scheme to resurrect their dark mistress from her ancient prison.
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Chronicles of FireRise of the Elementals
By J.P. McNeill
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 J.P. McNeill
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Musketeers
Grandpa stood at my door. His mouth was moving, but I couldn't hear any words coming out. I could only hear the monotonous voice in my headphones. I pulled them off. "What's up?" I asked.
"Whatcha listening to?"
"Just a book for school."
Grandpa rolled his eyes. "You know, back in my day, we actually read the books instead of having someone read them to us."
"Didn't you also walk five miles to school, up-hill both ways?"
Grandpa chuckled at my remark. "That's right. Just like you're going to be. In five more minutes."
I looked at the small clock sitting on my dresser and realized that he was right. "Crap it's 7:30 already?"
"You got it. I came to tell you that Ben called and said he would be here in a few minutes." With that, he turned and left my room. I could hear his heavy work boots announcing his presence with every step down the hall towards the kitchen. I tossed my iPod in my pack and darted down the hall. Grandpa and Grandma were sitting at the small metal folding table in the center of the kitchen, each with a steaming hot cup of coffee, focusing intently on the seven, small wooden tiles sitting in a rack in front of them; each tile had a letter on it. The game of Scrabble had been a favorite past time for them since before I was born. Grandma always won.
I had asked my grandfather about this when I had been younger. With a hearty laugh and a twinkle in his eye, he told me "It's better to lose to her in a game and let her think she won, than to beat her and have her sore at me for the rest of the day." That was my grandfather, Mr. Chivalry.
"Well, good morning, Jake!" my grandmother sang in her raspy voice, her eyes never breaking the concentration from her game pieces.
"Good morning," I replied.
"MAP" Grandpa announced, in triumph. "That's double word score, which is fourteen points." He continued, obviously very pleased with himself.
"Nice play," my grandmother said, not even phased. "You better get going, kiddo, or you and Ben will be late, tell Ben we said hello."
"I will," I promised as I headed out the door, grabbing my old letterman jacket from the pegs holding it suspended by the door. As I was slipping on my sneakers, I heard my grandmother shout, "ZIPPER!" I wheeled around in enough time to see my grandfather's face of victory disappear into a face of despair.
"Ha-ha, that's a triple letter score and a double word score on a Z that's a total of 78 points." Grandpa just gave me a reassuring look and then winked at me."
"See you later," I called as I headed out the door.
"Bye. Love you," they called in unison.
"Ditto, I'll see you tonight."
"Hey man, hurry up or we are going to be late," Ben called from his yellow Mustang. It had been a sweet-sixteen birthday present from his parents, and what a birthday gift it had been! Within the first week of receiving the car, Ben had been pulled over and ticketed for speeding. He had been clocked going thirty over in a sixty-five zone. Of course his parents got him out of trouble and footed the bill.
"I don't think that is possible, not the way you drive."
Ben throttled the engine in agreement. It was only a five-minute drive to the school when Ben was behind the wheel. I threw my backpack and duffle bag into the back seat of the car and got in. No more than a second from the moment the door was closed we had taken off down the street. "So, are you ready for practice today?"
"You don't have a chance, if that's what you're asking."
"I don't think you're going to beat me," Ben was unable to hide the anticipation in his voice. "My instructor taught me a new series of moves which should keep you on the defensive, allowing me to obliterate you."
I wasn't going to worry about it; Ben was without a doubt one of the best fencers on the team. His parents had hired a former Olympic trainer to assist him in his technique, but he still couldn't touch me.
We arrived at school five minutes before the morning bell rang and headed off to our separate classes. Probability and Statistics was my first class of the day, and it felt like a trip to the dentist. Mrs. Craven, the teacher, was a woman of small stature; she had a voice that could shatter glass. Her high-pitched shrill reminded me of nails on a chalkboard.
"Everyone, take your seats," The Craven, as the student body had nicknamed her, screeched. I grudgingly moved to my desk. Mathematics was my Achilles heel and as a senior I was required to take an elective math course. When Ben had selected calculus, I thought he had finally gone over the edge. I had picked probability and statistics, even though it was math, I had to admit that it kept me interested. For the past week we had been learning about the probability of receiving a high card or a low card in the game of blackjack.
"How are you?" Ellen asked.
"I'm good," I replied in a whisper so I wouldn't draw The Craven's attention.
"So you ready for the match?" I could barely hear Ellen over the shrieking of Mrs. Craven describing the odds of cards dealt in poker.
"I think so." In truth I hadn't given much thought to tomorrow's fencing match against the Littleton Knights.
"What do you mean, you think so?" The question was loud enough that it caught The Craven's attention.
"Do I need to separate you two?" Mrs. Craven asked.
"No, Mrs. Craven," I quickly replied. "Ellen had asked me to explain the rules of poker to her." I lied.
Mrs. Craven stared at each of us for a moment, she wasn't buying it. "Ms. Marks, there is a diagram on the back of the handout that lists the hands in poker,"
"That was close." Ellen whispered.
For the rest of the class period, Ellen and I sat, listening to the odds of receiving specific hands in poker. When bell finally sounded, Ellen and I quickly rushed out of the room to meet up with Ben by our lockers.
"We've been practicing for the past two months for this match and you are with out a doubt the best with the épée and you say you "think" you're ready!"
"I'm not the best ... and besides you mop me up with the saber every time." Her eyes lit up at the compliment. It was true. When it came to the curved, dull, slashing weapon. I was mincemeat before her. Ellen was the only girl on the team, but she held up her end. The team hated it when the coach paired them up to spar with her because it meant that when they lost, they would be the targets of ragging until a new person fell before her blade.
"Hey guys," Ben shouted over the roar of lockers slamming and conversations of hundreds of students at Cavern High. Ellen and I snaked our way through the crowd to where Ben stood. "You two look cute enough to be a couple."
Ellen thrust a sharp jab into Ben's right shoulder. "Ouch, okay, I was just kidding," Ellen just shot him a wicked look. The three of us had been friends since freshman year. We spent so much time together, both fencing and hanging around at Ben's "Estate," as we called it, that the town had dubbed us the three musketeers.
"So, Ben thinks that he's going to beat me in practice today."
"You have a better chance of sprouting wings and flying," Ellen choked out in between laughs. "You haven't even scored more than four points on Jake in the last twelve bouts,"
"I guess it'll be a pretty good show when I beat him, then," Ben snapped. Ellen's comment had obviously struck a nerve.
"I'm just kidding, Ben. I'm sure it'll be a good show."
The four-minute warning bell suddenly sounded over the hysteria. "Well, I'll see you two in lunch." I snatched my government book and homework and tossed it into my backpack.
"Lunch, my favorite class!" Ben said.
"Yeah, we'll see you later." Ellen began pushing Ben towards their Spanish class. "Don't think I haven't forgotten about your comment, Ben. Tonight it's going to be just you and me at practice." I couldn't help imagining the look on Ben's face after she had mopped the floor with him in front of the rest of the team.
When the lunch bell finally rang, I was relieved. Government class was normally interesting; but today Mr. Thompson forced the entire class to watch "School House Rock" and sing the "I'm just a Bill" song.
When I got to the cafeteria, I began looking around for Ben and Ellen. There wasn't a trace of them anywhere. That wasn't unusual. Ms. Kensington, the Spanish teacher, often wouldn't let certain students leave the classroom until they had described a picture or some object in the room entirely in Spanish; knowing Ben, that could take a while.
I decided to just get my food and meet Ben and Ellen at our usual table.
"Hey, Jake, you ready for the match Friday?" I turned around to see Cory Walker, a freshman of small stature, both physically and socially. His appearance didn't help any. Cory was a military brat and it showed. He wore thick, military issue glasses that gave him the appearance of a geek, his flat top haircut made his head look like a square.
I was annoyed with the topic. "Sure." I hoped the conversation about the competition would just end there, but it didn't.
"There's going to be, like a dozen teams there, including the Knights. The Knights are the number one ranked team in the state." Cory rattled on.
"It's no big deal," It wasn't that I was overconfident in myself, I just didn't care. I had other things on my mind. Homecoming was quickly approaching and I still hadn't worked up the courage to ask Ellen. I bought my burger and fries and headed over to the lunch table. Cory trailed behind.
By the time I reached the table, Ben and Ellen had arrived. Ben's face burned with frustration; and by the look of Ellen's terrible attempt to contain her laughter, I could tell that Ben had a difficult time with Ms. Kensington in Spanish.
"How can you expect me to know the capital of Mexico?" Ben asked. "Do I look like I live in Mexico?"
At this point Ellen lost control and started rolling with laughter. "I even told you the answer," she said. At this point she was on the verge of tears.
"No, you just said a city in Mexico," his face was now a bright shade of red. I was having a hard time keeping myself from laughing. Cory was completely lost. A blank look of frustration showed on his face.
"What's so funny?" Cory finally asked.
"I had told Ben the answer was Mexico City, but in Spanish when directly translated, it comes out to be the city of Mexico, and it took Ben a whole five minutes to figure it out," Ellen managed to stammer in between laughs.
"Yeah, and as I sat there trying to figure it out, Ms Kensington and Ellen just sat there laughing uncontrollably at me," At that point both Cory and I lost it and started laughing as well. "We'll see who's laughing at practice tonight," Ben announced. Cory's face suddenly turned sheet-white and grim, thinking about the last time he had gone toe to toe with the big senior. It was now Ben who enjoyed a good laugh.
Lunch carried on in this fashion until the sound of the bell. Ben, Ellen, and I said our goodbyes to Cory and headed to our next class.
"See you at practice, Squirt," Ben had given Cory the nickname after his first match. Each time Cory had tried to lunge to strike Ben in practice, he had to raise his arm over his head to come even close to hitting Ben on the chest.
"Hey, Ben, could you let Cory at least get one hit on you today in practice? I think it would really make him feel better about this coming match if he thought that he could get a point on you." Ben's smile vanished.
"Come on, Jake, don't ask me to do that, Why don't you do it?"
"Because if Cory scored on Jake, everyone would know that Jake did it on purpose," Ellen said. Ben, seeing the reasoning in the argument, dropped the subject. I didn't have to ask for confirmation if he would do it. I could see in his eyes that he thought it was a good idea as well.
"If you do it, Jake might let you score on him once." I could see the seriousness return to Ben's face.
"You better not do that to me, Jake! If I get a point off you, I want to earn it."
"I won't," So much for that idea; Ben really knew me too well.
"Come on, take your seats," Mr. Harrison said as he ushered stragglers to their seats. "Ben, stop making faces or it's going to stick that way,"
Somehow Mr. Harrison had seen Ben reenacting my tragic downfall at the tip of his sword for Ellen's and my own amusement. Ben froze at the comment, and the entire class burst into laughter. I don't know how he did it, but I swear if anyone had eyes in the back of his head, it was Mr. Harrison.
Mr. Harrison was without a doubt my favorite teacher. He had been my English teacher since I was a freshman; and ever since that year, I requested every class I could with him. Mr. Harrison was possibly the best-dressed teacher in all of Cavern High school and I don't think I could remember a time that he wasn't wearing his tweed jacket.
"All right class, now if we can avoid any more distractions," he paused and looked at Ben for a few moments before continuing. "... we can get started." For the rest of the class period Mr. Harrison described Homer's The Iliad. He personified me as Achilles, Ben as Hector, and Ellen as a servant girl with whom Achilles falls in love with and who later causes his downfall. When Mr. Harrison mentioned us as a couple, Ellen gave me an uneasy glance and then rolled her eyes.
Great, I thought to myself. So much for asking her to homecoming. At the sound of the bell, the school day officially ended for the three of us. Our fourth block of instruction was a study hall.
"Let's get ready to rumble," Ellen said. She was grinning from ear to ear. Our coach had convinced the school to allow the three of us the extra time during our study hall to warm up before practice. "I'll see you two ladies on the strip," challenged Ellen as she walked of to the girl's locker room.
Ben looked directly at me. "I am so dead,"
"Yes, yes you are," I agreed.
"En Garde," Ellen said.
Even with all the protective clothing that he worn, I was sure that Ben was shaking. When it came to fencing with sabers, Ellen was a force to be reckoned with.
"Come on Ellen! It wasn't that big of a deal, was it?"
Ellen didn't answer Ben. In a lightning fast series of movements, she had lunged and struck Ben. The score was fourteen strikes to three, favoring Ellen, of course.
"Touché," I announced.
Ben stumbled a couple paces back and ripped off his mask. Ben's face was a brilliant shade of red. "Dude, she's killing me."
"No, you still have a chance."
Ben didn't seem to find my words comforting. Ellen had complete control, and she knew it. Ellen removed her mask and shook out her brown hair and brushed it over her shoulder. There were no signs of exertion or even rapid breathing. If she was tired, she was hiding it like a pro.
"You're better than I remember."
"Quit changing the subject. Do you surrender or do we continue?"
This was killing Ben. He was already dead; she was just poking him with a stick now. I couldn't help but laugh.
Ben glared back at me. Several moments passed, Ben's stare was never broken. Abruptly, his expression changed, he was smiling.
Why is he smiling? The answer to my question was something I could have lived without.
"All right, I'll surrender to you, but on one condition."
"You are hardly in any position to be setting terms, but I'm feeling somewhat merciful today. What are your conditions?"
"Just let me speak with Jake first before I tell you." Ben put his arm around my shoulder and we walked a couple paces out of hearing distance. "All right, Jake. The terms are these: you have to duel Ellen with any weapon of her choice. First to three hits wins. You have to also make the wager that if you win, Ellen will attend homecoming with you."
"Why would I agree? It's your butt in the sling, remember?"
"Cause, I'm tired of watching your petty attempts to ask her to the dance. I don't get it. You'll face fencing champions without a moment's hesitation; but when it comes to asking a girl to a simple dance, you're more afraid than a cat is of water. Either ask her or I am going to tell her."
He had me. Ben had the perfect blackmail. My first thought was how long my sentence in prison would be after I killed him.
"Jake, are you okay?"
I took a deep breath and tried to calm down.
"We'll talk about this later, both on the strip and off it!" I stormed off towards Ellen. I saw no other alternative to what I was being forced to do. Ben had won.
Excerpted from Chronicles of Fire by J.P. McNeill Copyright © 2011 by J.P. McNeill. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One The Musketeers....................1
Chapter Two Practice....................9
Chapter Three The Match....................17
Chapter Four Darkness....................29
Chapter Five Dr. Roan Orbit....................39
Chapter Six The Order of Darkness....................47
Chapter Seven Homecoming....................55
Chapter Eight Birthday....................65
Chapter Nine Truth....................75
Chapter Ten Fire and Snow....................85
Chapter Eleven Elemental....................99
Chapter Twelve Final Farewell....................109
Chapter Thirteen In Plain Sight....................115
Chapter Fourteen The Librarian....................127
Chapter Fifteen An End....................137
Chapter Sixteen Lost Love....................143
Chapter Seventeen Taken....................149
Chapter Eighteen Desperate Attempt....................159
Chapter Nineteen Elemental Stones....................167
Chapter Twenty Reunion....................173
Chapter Twenty-One Avenging the Fallen....................181
Chapter Twenty-Two Rise of the Elementals....................187
Chapter Twenty-Three Epilogue....................197