Corrupted Grounds Coming Soon
With one small fall, seventeen-year-old Sally Abeneb’s life changes dramatically. After a series of tests, she is sent to a special doctor who tells her she has just awoken her elemental powers. Confused and separated from her parents she tries to navigate a new school filled with other young elementals, some whose parents are involved with a secret organization trying to rule the world and enslave regular people.
Sally finds out she may be destined to either stop the darkness from taking over or be consumed by it. With help from her friends and a secret note, she finds her way to the water elemental palace where she must help stop a curse from taking over in order to get them to trust her.
With the secret organization following her every move, she learns how to make her powers appear unremarkable while still learning how to control them to keep from falling into their hands or worse becoming like them. It’s a balancing act that she has to perfect or her life and her parents are at risk.
Still learning how to use her elemental powers, Sally must now find the air elementals and help them escape from the clutches of darkness. The Pulhu are after her, and even some of the kids in school have decided to help the secret organization. With nowhere safe for her, Sally needs to learn about her powers and how to use them as fast as possible, without getting caught.
Sally and her friends must work together to figure out what to do. The darkness is getting closer, and they still don’t know how to stop it. The prophecy says she must find the air elementals or she won’t win, and the darkness will take over, tearing everything she loves apart. Will she be able to save them in time, or will the Pulhu stop her?
Sally’s school is changing as the council tries to get more involved, and Mrs. Sullivan isn’t sure how long she will be able to protect Sally. New teachers are being sent to the school by the council, and no one is sure what side they are on. They could be Pulhu, or they could be dedicated council members. Either way, Sally can’t trust anyone else.
Sally starts searching for the fire elementals, knowing that is the key to stopping everything terrible that is happening, but the Pulhu are already on the trail. They are searching all over for the fire elementals, and they may have a way of forcing them to do what the Pulhu want. How will Sally get past them to save the fire elementals and earn their trust?
As if that wasn’t enough, a baby dragon is following Sally around. She doesn’t know why he is staying close to her, but with the search for the fire elementals becoming a race against the Pulhu, she plans to use every advantage she has, even if the dragon doesn’t want to tell her what’s going on.
I put a silence bubble around us as soon as we were seated.
“We need to sneak into that room,” I said.
“Why?” Abby asked.
“They are hiding something in there. I bet it is about that girl. Chet didn’t mind me walking around the room until I got close to one specific desk. Then he stopped talking to you, Richard, and came over to talk to me and get me to move to the other side of the room.”
“I thought that’s what you were doing when you asked me to distract him.”
“Yeah, I needed to know if there was something in there worth searching for if we are going to sneak in.”
“It won’t be hard to break in,” Tider said. “I haven’t seen anyone guarding anything.”
“I bet they have hidden traps in place and other ways of guarding the information. They wouldn’t let it all sit down here unguarded in case the Pulhu found them. They are smarter than that,” Richard said.
We let that sink in for a minute. Richard was right. These were some of the best elementals, and they had been fighting the Pulhu for a long time. They wouldn’t think one of their hiding places would never be found. That was too risky. We were missing something.
“Tider, I need you to find out how they are keeping everything safe.”
“Wait, why me? Most of these people aren’t going to tell me anything. My parents are some of the Pulhu leaders.”
“I didn’t think of that. How about Abby? You can pretend to be worried about security and the Pulhu getting in.”
“That’s not a stretch. I am worried about them getting in. They’ve been able to get to us everywhere else we’ve gone.”
I saw my parents coming over and dropped our silence bubble before they realized we were being secretive. They didn’t need to be any more involved than they already were. I spent the evening with my parents, catching up on everything that was going on.
When I got to my room, Abby was waiting. We started going through the pile of books Chet gave us. We each grabbed one and sat on our beds reading.
I skimmed through the first book, trying to find anything that might help us out. Mostly it was stuff I read in every other book on earth elementals. There was nothing new, and by the end, my eyes were drooping. I was getting ready to lay down when I felt Richard enter my mind.
“Open your door,” he said.
I told Abby what was going on and quietly opened the door. Richard, Tider, and Adam snuck in, and I closed the door quickly.
“What are you guys doing? If our parents catch you here, they are going to be very upset.”
“I know, but we had to show you something Tider found in his book.”
“What is it?” I asked, perking up. Maybe finding the earth elementals wouldn’t be as hard as the other elementals had been.
“Look at this,” Tider said, handing me a book opened to a specific page. A drawing of a man filled the page. A shiver crawled down my spine. The man looked very similar to Mr. Damon. It was the creepy eyes. The rest of the face was different, but those eyes were eerily familiar.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“It says this is one of the shadow kings and is the only drawing in existence.”
“How is that possible? It looks a lot like Mr. Damon.”
“I don’t know. That’s why we wanted you to see it right away.”
“If Chet and the others looked at these books, why didn’t they notice the similarities?
“We should ask them in the morning, especially Chet. He may know exactly why Mr. Damon has the same eyes as a shadow king.”
“Is it possible he is a shadow king in disguise?”
“I hope not. This is a drawing of the fifth shadow king. He named Jupiter after himself and supposedly lives on that planet. He was the worst of the shadow kings. He caused fights between the other kings and was constantly bullying the younger and less powerful. It says he thought he was above everyone else and wouldn’t lift a finger to help anyone.”
“How would someone know that?” I asked. “No one has seen the shadow kings. Even the true elementals haven’t seen their shadow king in ages.”
“True, but these books were written by true elementals a long time ago. These are copies that Chet loaned us, but he has the originals too. They are in a very safe place. He won’t even tell me where.” Adam said. “I never thought to look in these for information. He has at least a dozen more if he told me the truth. They are about each of the elemental types and the shadow kings.”
“I doubt Mr. Damon is a shadow king, but maybe that’s where he is getting some of his power. We need to learn about this shadow king,” Richard said.
“We have the first three location visits tomorrow, and then we need to sneak into that room to find information about the other girl,” I said. “We will try to find more information about the shadow kings after that. You guys can keep looking while Abby and I are looking for the portal.”
“What do we know about the portal?” Abby asked.
“Not much. Chet said it is near or on a tree, and my book says the portal is always covered in a light mist.”
“That sounds like a waterfall,” I said.
“Yeah, so we need trees, a waterfall, and what else?” No one answered. We hadn’t found much information on the portal.
“That leaves hundreds of places to check,” I said frustrated. We needed to find the portal quickly.
“We need to look through the rest of the books tomorrow.”
“What about the girl? How are we going to sneak into the room to get the information about where she is being held prisoner?”
“I didn’t see any traps, but I will check more thoroughly tomorrow morning before we leave,” I said.
We talked a little longer before going our separate ways.
In the morning, I enjoyed breakfast with my parents before Mrs. Sullivan came over and asked me to come with her. I followed her after saying goodbye to my parents. She took me back to the rectangular room that we first transported into. It was the only room in the downstairs area that could be transported into. The rest of the downstairs was shielded. Jordan was waiting for me with Abby.
Mrs. Sullivan reminded us that we would be checking all three places before coming back and to text her every time we left to go to the next location. She wanted to make sure we were safe. She warned us to be back by lunch so no one would miss us. Not everyone knew we were going to look for the portal. Even my parents were kept in the dark about me going out. They wouldn’t want me in any more danger.
Jordan grabbed our hands, and we shut our eyes. The ground fell away, and a spinning sensation surrounded me. When I felt the ground firmly under my feet again, I opened my eyes. We were standing in front of a cave in the middle of the forest.
“It’s through there,” Jordan said
“What is? The portal?” Abby asked.
“Maybe. That’s where I was told you would be going. Inside the cave to check it out.”
I took a deep breath. There were too many dark, enclosed spaces in my life lately.
“Let’s go check it out,” Abby said, moving forward.
We walked into the cave, and immediately my heart started beating loudly. I created a fireball and let it float gently in front of us, lighting the way. The cave was small, and there were no trees inside the cave. We headed back outside after a quick look, and I moved toward the trees across from the cave. We spent some time searching the trees looking for any sign of the symbol.
When we couldn’t find anything, we headed back to Jordan. He was sitting against one of the trees with his eyes closed.
“Are you ready to go,” he asked when we got closer.
“Yeah. It isn’t here.”
“Alright, let’s go.” Jordan transported us to another location after we texted Mrs. Sullivan. This time when I opened my eyes, we were in a valley filled with trees. There was a river running through the trees that we headed toward.
“This doesn’t feel right,” I told Abby. “There isn’t a waterfall here, so the portal wouldn’t be covered in mist.”
“We still need to look. It could have been covered in mist when it was first created. Things have changed a lot since then.”
“Wait, that’s it. We need to find a group of old trees. As old as the portals. In the last place, the trees were too small. The carving will be up pretty high since the tree would have continued growing. We need to tell Chet so he can update his maps.”
“Why didn’t Chet and the others think of this?” Abby asked.
I paused my texting. “I don’t know,” I said slowly. “You’re right, they should have realized this. It only took us one day. They’ve been working on it a lot longer. Let’s talk to Richard, Tider, and Adam before we tell the adults. I don’t like this.”
I looked back to where Jordan was leaning against another tree. He didn’t seem to be watching us and was completely relaxed. I put a silence bubble around us. “Does this seem odd to you? Shouldn’t Jordan be more concerned? The Pulhu could find and attack us, and he looks like he is getting ready to sleep.”
“Maybe Chet and Mrs. Sullivan know that the Pulhu aren’t in this area, so they don’t have to worry.”
“I don’t like it. Let’s keep everything we find to ourselves until we figure out why they are acting strange.”
We looked near the river, checking all the trees to see if they had the symbol. None of the trees were old enough to have the symbol carved into them, so we walked over to the water. I was staring at the water as Abby walked along the edge. I noticed a slight ripple in the water and moved closer. The ripple came again. I was trying to see whatever was making the ripple, but I couldn’t see anything below the surface.
The ripples grew stronger, and I looked back toward Jordan, debating calling him over. He was still relaxing, and he wasn’t very good in a fight, so I left him. I turned my attention back toward the river and drew my magic into me. I was prepared to blast whatever came out of the water if it tried to harm Abby or me.
As the ripples increased, I saw a head of silky blonde hair emerge. I lowered my hands in shock. It was Hilail from the water elemental palace. He put his finger to his lips and motioned me closer.
I kneeled at the water’s edge, and he moved as close as he could, keeping his entire body submerged. Only his head stuck above the water.
“Sally, you must be careful. The Pulhu are up to something. They tried to break into our palace and we had to shut the portal you and your friends came through. We’ve heard word that they tried the same with the air elementals.”
“They tried with the fire elementals too, but we stopped them and closed that portal for good too.”
“If they find all of our portals, we will be trapped in our own realms and won’t be able to come help you when you fight the darkness.”
“We are trying to stop them. I’m searching for the earth elemental portal right now.”
“Then why are you here? You are nowhere near where you need to be.”
“You know where their portal is?”
“One of them, and I don’t know the exact location. All I know is it is in what you call California. You need to find the oldest trees in the forest of giants and talk to them. They will point you in the right direction.”
Hilail looked up. “I must go. Beware everyone except those you trust the most. Something dark is covering this world, and good people are easily swayed to the darkness, Sally.” He slipped silently into the water before I could say another word to him. A footstep startled me, causing me to turn around with my hands up, magic ready to fire.
“Whoa relax, Sally. I was checking on you. You’ve been sitting here a while now.”
I looked around. Abby was pretty far up the river and hadn’t noticed my visit from Hilail.
“What were you doing?” Jordan asked.
I hesitated. I thought I trusted Jordan, but he seemed a little bit off too, so I lied. “I’m trying to figure out how to find the earth elementals. It’s not here. I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”
“Don’t worry, Sally,” Jordan clapped me on the back, “I’m sure you will know when you have found it. We all believe in you.”
“Let’s get Abby and see if she found anything. I said. Jordan nodded, and we met up with Abby. She hadn’t seen anything, so we grabbed hands and headed to the next location Chet had marked for us. I knew as soon as I opened my eyes that we were in the wrong spot.
Great big palm trees grew around us, and I could smell the saltwater from a nearby beach. “Where are we?” I asked.
“We are in the Caribbean,” Jordan replied.
There were no people around like the other two locations, and Jordan relaxed again, letting us look around. I took my time studying the trees as I walked around with Abby
As soon as we were far enough away, I put our silence bubble up and told her what happened.
“I didn’t see anything,” she said, “and I looked over at you many times. It looked like you were just sitting there.”
“Something is playing tricks with our minds, Abby. Everything about this has been wrong from the start. The darkness must somehow be affecting us and the things in this world more than we thought. Look, we are in the Caribbean near a beautiful beach, but there are no people. This place should be packed, and Jordan should be worried about us being here. We seem to be the only ones not fully affected.”
“What do we do?”
“For now, play along. We need to figure out a way to get to California. That’s where the portal is. If we can get Chet to let us check one of the places there, we can give Jordan the slip and find the portal.”
“What about the guys?”
“We need them to come with us. I haven’t figured out how we are going to do it yet. The guys might be able to help us figure it out.” I looked up to see Jordan heading toward us. “Follow my lead,” I said to Abby and took the bubble down.
“Have you found anything?” Jordan asked.
“Not yet, but doesn’t it seem strange that there aren’t any people here. It looks like a beautiful place.”
“Now that you are saying something, yeah, it is kind of strange.” He straightened up and held out his hands but then a glazed look crossed his eyes. “Nah, it’s ok. Chet wouldn’t send us anywhere dangerous.”
I looked at Abby. Something was definitely wrong. I tried again. “I’m worried the Pulhu could find us. They’ve been able to track us before.” I watched as the glazed look started to clear but came back before he even said a word. “We’re fine here,” he finally said. “Everything is going great. Now, are you ready to leave? Chet will want to know what you’ve found.”
“Yes,” I said and let him transport us. Chet was waiting, and we told him that we didn’t find anything.
“That’s ok,” he said. “We can mark those off.”
I watched as he marked them off. I checked the map but didn’t see any pins in California. They weren’t even going to look in that area. After we answered Chet’s questions, we left him. When we were alone, I whispered to Abby that we would try to sneak into the room later that evening. Whatever was affecting them could start affecting us too, and then we would never find the earth elementals. I let Richard know, and he told Tider and Adam.
Once everyone was asleep, I snuck out of my room with Abby. Richard, Tider, and Adam were waiting for us, and we crept silently down the hallway. I didn’t use my invisibility shield yet. I wasn’t sure how much energy I would need if we ran into any traps around the room.
We didn’t come across anyone patrolling the halls, and I didn’t see any traps. We even looked for hidden cameras, but there weren’t any. We made it to the room and slipped inside the open door. Everything was exactly as it had been earlier. I walked around the room, looking for anything that might trigger an alarm.
“Sally, I don’t think they have any traps at all,” Abby said.
“I don’t think so either. It doesn’t make sense. They should have some type of alarm.”
“Maybe they think this lower level is that secure,” Abby said.
“Maybe,” I replied, but a nervous shiver went down my spine. “Let’s find the information we are looking for and get out of here. This makes me uncomfortable.”
We spread out, opening drawers and searching the documents. Finally, Tider called us over. “I’ve got it,” he said, holding up a folder. On the front the name Cecilia was written. “It says she has been missing for almost two months now. And they have the location of an area where they think she is being held.”
I grabbed my phone and took pictures of all the papers in the folder. “Let’s check the rest of the room for anything important. We may find something else useful.”
We spent another thirty minutes searching, and the only thing I found that might come in handy was a list of names of people who didn’t support the Pulhu and what their power was. I snapped a picture of that too. We walked back to our rooms without anyone bothering us.