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       Eldnium, p.3

           Enoch Pyle, Jr
Just a mile or two within Grenwood Forest, on a planet filled with strange and interesting creatures, two heroes crouched behind a fallen log, their hands braced against its mossy surface, their bodies shrouded by large ferns all around. They studied a creature grazing in the near distance, a moose-like thing with massive antlers and large, scaly wings folded over its back.

  “It’s called a creodor,” the girl said.

  “Can it fly?” asked the boy.

  “No. It uses the wings like umbrellas, protecting its young when they’re too young to go about on their own.”

  The boy admired the beast. Its chestnut-colored coat of fur glimmered in the rays of light drifting through the trees. Its eyes were large, the irises bright blue like the sky. Its dark chocolate antlers were tipped in white, like the fur just above each of its hooves.

  “It’s beautiful,” the boy said.

  “Of course it is,” the girl answered with a tone the boy found slightly pretentious. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

  He explained, “My home…well…the place where I was born was full of horrible creatures. Ugly. Cruel. Nothing like this, that’s for sure.”

  “Landon, you disappoint me,” she said, giving him a squint. “Beauty lies in everything.”

  “That’s easy for you to say,” Landon replied. “You’ve lived here your entire life.”

  “What makes you think that’s easy? Living here my entire life?” she snarled.

  “I didn’t mean it that way.”

  But his apology didn’t hold, and the girl stood, startling the creodor, sending it stamping off through the woods.

  “At least you knew your parents, Landon!” she shouted, exasperated. “Everything I know about myself comes from stories…like fairytales…about castles and kings and queens and sorcerers. I don’t know anything about who I am or where I’m from. You and all of the others here…you have abilities…a future here. I have nothing! How dare you say that anything in my life is easy?”

  She turned and began running through the forest, back toward the village.

  “Li’an!” Landon shouted. “I didn’t mean it that way! Li’an, come back!” But she was gone, and Landon was left alone in the forest, the light of dusk beginning to cast shadows throughout the trees and plants.

  Knew my parents? he thought to himself. I would rather have not known them than have watched them die. Landon’s mind took him back to a scene in a desert, where raiders attacked his people’s camp, killing them all. He remembered watching his mother’s blood seep into the sand. He remembered his father’s cries as the raiders beat him to death. And he remembered surviving only because of Isaac…a favor he was beginning to resent.

  To see such things at the age of 14…to live with such memories…that is no gift.

  Li’an was wrong about that.

  “And what ability of mine does she think is so special?” he asked aloud of no one in particular. He held out his hand and gently touched a finger to the fronds of a fern. A green light worked its way through the roots of the plant and up through its stems and leaves, right through to Landon’s fingers, where it spread across his hand and faded away.

  It was, without a doubt, an ability. But what it was for, and what good it would do him, was a mystery, even to Iclovar, the village trainer, a man who had been training heroes to use their abilities for longer than Landon could imagine.

  He took another look into the forest, admiring the mix of golden sunlight and burnt shadow, and then sprinted after Li’an.

  The Jumping Stones

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