I nodded, but refused to turn and watch her. Something slammed into me and by the feel of the imprint of it on my lower back I knew it was her foot. I hit the ground, rolling to my feet as fast as I could, despite the pain stabbing me through my back and kidney.
“Perhaps you might make it, your reflexes aren’t bad.” Maggie shrugged and turned her back on me. Dismissing me as a threat.
Goddess, I wanted to smash her, wiping that smug look right off her fat lips. Shock filtered through me. I was not a violent person, had never thought about hurting anyone. Not even Cassava. One day in the Ender’s barracks and I was contemplating wrecking another person’s face. And making a Sylph back down, with a rage I had never known I’d possessed.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the changes in me, but I knew whatever the cause, I had to keep moving forward with this course of action. I had no choice. I would become an Ender or I would become an outcast.
Letting a slow breath escape me, I dusted myself off and watched as Mal pulled himself from the now bubbling water. His eyes met mine and he gave me a nod. I returned the gesture. The distraction had given him enough time to get out of the water without any permanent damage, something another elemental could easily do to one of our own. Hence, the ban on using our abilities against other Enders. But when it came to criminals and traitors, we needed to know how to handle the possibility.
The Undine, Dolph, stepped forward and the water stilled. “There are many things that can kill an elemental. But using our abilities against one another is a surefire way to hurt and maim. An injury from another of our kind can easily be lethal. Consider that as you train. Always use restraint when you use your abilities toward another Ender. Your abilities are to be fine tuned, not used as a hammer.”
No problem there for me.
The rest of the day was spent working with the three elementals, learning to work around their abilities, finding ways to subdue without hurting. Which pretty much meant I was screwed.
Granite pulled me aside. “Watch what they do, and at the end of the day, I want you to tell me how you could have dealt with them.”
“You don’t actually want me to spar with them?”
“With what? You have no strength with the earth, Lark. You need to figure out how you could deal with them using only your hands, weapons, and mind. The other Seeders are learning how to combat another elemental that comes at them using their talents with whatever element they are born to. Though this may be their last line of defense, it is a line you won’t ever be able to cross.”
I walked around the combatants as they fought, able to see the telltale sign when Maggie, who we learned was short for Magma, was going to pull on her abilities. That flicker in her eyes showed up a few seconds before she unleashed her fire. A tell, a sign that she was going to open up her fire. Would it be the same for all Salamanders or just her?
I looked around for Granite to ask him, but he was on the far side of the room, instructing Blossom as she worked with Dolph in the pool. All the other Enders had left.
Except for Ash.
“Well, no time like the present to see if we can work together,” I muttered, then walked to him, taking a small amount of pleasure in watching his eyes narrow.
“I have a question.”
“He’s busy, and you’re just standing here doing nothing,” I pointed out.
“I’m making sure you don’t try to kill anyone.”
The laugh burst out of me, and I bent at the waist, it hit me so hard. “Really? You see me working with anyone here? Nope, that’s right, I’m useless, remember?” There was more than a dose of bitterness with that last word, but I didn’t care. “Do all Salamanders have the same tell?”
His frowned at me, his honeyed eyes thoughtful. “Tell? What are you talking about?”
“That flicker in the corner of Maggie’s left eye. It comes just before she taps into her ability. Are they all the same or will it change with each person?”
His eyes slowly widened. “What are you talking about?”
I swallowed, wondering if maybe I was a freak in more ways than one. “Here, I’ll show you.”
He followed me to where we could watch Maggie working with another of the recruits. “In the lower corner of her left eye, near the tear duct. There’s a flicker, there!” I pointed as the telltale burst of light in her eye flickered a full second before she unleashed a lash of flame in the form of a whip.
Ash had me point it out again and again, and each time I did, the flicker grew until it was both of her eyes that glowed. “How are you not seeing this? Are you blind?”
He grabbed my arm and dragged me over to where Dolph worked now with Mal. “Look at him; do it again.”
I watched Dolph, narrowing my eyes. There was nothing I could see, at least, not at first. But then, there, around his hands was a shimmer, like water flowing. “Left hand,” I whispered. Ash’s grip on me didn’t lessen, but I didn’t care. I was getting excited. If I could see when another elemental was about to blast me, I could become an Ender. I didn’t need to be able to touch the earth’s abilities.
I stared at Dolph’s hand until the shimmer moved up his arm, all the way to his shoulder. Like with Maggie, the more I focused on him, the easier it was to see when he was going to unleash. Ash dragged me over to the Sylph, whose name I hadn’t yet caught.
“What’s his name?” I asked as I stared at the Ender’s eyes and hands, looking for his tell.