Chapter 1: An Exercise in Control

-12 Years Ago-

The Olgog stood facing away from her, about 15 yards away from the tree line. He was looking for her. Had been for the past hour. Now, he shifted his weight, and scratched his head.

He wasn’t stupid. She knew that. He’d been standing there for about 5 minutes, though. She actually might have stumped him. Or, this could be a trap, she thought. After all, he’s not stupid.

Now was the time. If not now, when? She didn’t think she’d get a better chance. As it was, he was currently moving away from the trees. Away from her. Now HAD to be the time.

She slowly crouched until she was on her hands and knees. Then she kept shifting her body, getting lower until she was laying on the ground. Using her elbows and knees, she pulled herself forward slowly, quietly, making it to the edge of the forest without alerting her prey.

From here, though, it was all open. No trees, no cover. She’d have to be fast.15 yards. She knew he wasn’t stupid. She also knew he wasn’t slow, either. She’d have to be faster than she’d ever been.

As fast as she possibly could, she pushed herself up off the ground and charged at the Olgog. Not fast enough, though, as he had started turning towards her halfway to him.

She leapt towards her target, trying to close the gap quickly. To no avail, however, as he was around fast enough to catch her by the throat. She grabbed at his wrist and swung her other fist towards his face, but he was too tall, his arms too long. He squeezed on her throat, and breathing became difficult. “You’re slow, girl,” he growled.

He raised his other hand and began to channel Air Leyas. She stopped swiping at his face and wrapped both arms around his wrist. She pulled her body up and kicked at his face. He hadn’t seen that coming, and she connected right to the bridge of his nose.

He stumbled backwards, and his grip slacked on her throat. She squirmed and wrestled herself free. She landed hard on her side and scrambled to her feet. Once she had her bearings, she faced the Olgog, who was holding his hands over his face, blood gushing from a clearly broken nose.

She pulled Fire Leyas into her hands and loosed a small blast of flame at the Olgog, striking him square in the chest. Rather than burning him, the blast simply dissipated. She collapsed to her knees, wheezing to catch her breath. “Victory,” she eventually managed.

She looked up when she heard clapping. A small group of Olgogs was standing nearby, but only one of them was applauding. The Elder of the tribe.

“Very good, Nuria,” he said. “But I’m afraid you have failed.”

“WHAT!?” she exclaimed, climbing to her feet. “What do you mean ‘failed’? Clearly I won!” She gestured towards the Olgog, now being tended to by a pair of the tribes healers. “Arrark is the bloody one, not me!”

The Elder shook his head. “You won the battle, my child, but that wasn’t the point of this exercise.”

Nuria grumbled. Here comes the lecture she though.

The Elder waved his hand, and the rest of the Olgogs left, the healers assisting Arrark as he walked. They’d fixed his nose, but he was still going to be woozy for a while.

Once they were alone, the Elder walked to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Patience, child. That’s step one. Patience.”

“Patience?” she asked incredulously. “It took me the better part of an hour to find that opening.” She hung her head. “I just wasn’t fast enough.”

“Speed wasn’t the problem.” He turned, put his arm around her shoulders, and began leading her back to the village. “We were masking your sound, child. You would have been able to get closer to him, but you lack patience. You jumped early, and gave yourself away.”

Nuria was growing agitated by these ‘lessons’. “Why do I have to do this?” she asked. “What’s really the point to this? Is it because I’m Earther? Right of passage or something?”

The Elder mussed her dark red hair. “No, not because you’re Earther. And no, not a right of passage. You’re skills with flame are second nature to you, almost like breathing. You’re natural affinity makes you powerful, but it also makes your powers difficult to control. The first part of learning to control your abilities is to learn patience.”

Nuria sighed.

“In time, my child,” the Elder said. "In time, it will come to you.