Authors: Cassandra Gannon
Six of the Elemental Phases
copyright © 2014 Cassandra Gannon
Image copyright © 2014 Cassandra Gannon
by Star Turtle Publishing
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Also by Cassandra Gannon
The Elemental Phases Series
Warrior from the Shadowland
Guardian of the Earth House
Exile in the Water Kingdom
Treasure of the Fire Kingdom
Queen of the Magnetland
Magic of the Wood House
: Destiny of the
A Kinda Fairytale Series
Wicked Ugly Bad
Beast in Shining Armor
Not Another Vampire Book
Love in the Time of Zombies
Cowboy from the Future
Once Upon a Caveman
If you enjoy Cassandra’s books, you may
also enjoy books by her sister, Elizabeth Gannon:
The Consortium of Chaos series
The Son of Sun and Sand
The Guy Your Friends Warned You About
The Only Fish in the Sea
The Snow Queen
Travels with a Fairy Tale Monster
the eternally appreciated fans who wrote and asked me for this book.
means so much to me that you like this series and I’m sorry it took so long to
write this installment.
those darned Fire Phases…
I have, I
know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence,
whispers to me.
Ballou- in a letter to his wife, one week before his death at The First Battle
of Bull Run
the death toll reached a thousand, the Fire House stopped counting the bodies.
exact number was both too insignificant and too horrible to matter. Just
saying a thousand dead seemed so easy; so clean, and neat, and meaningless.
Until you had to pile the corpses in pyres and watch them burn. Until you saw
the empty, ruined lives that each person left behind. Then, the number became
so vast that no one wanted to contemplate its stark reality.
the end of the world, there just didn’t seem much point in keeping a running
tally of the casualties.
well enough to function blocked out the morbid desire to add up the total
number of victims that they dragged to the courtyard of the Fire Palace. Like
they struggled to ignore the shrunken faces of their friends and relatives, as
they stacked the bodies together. Like they turned and tried not to see the
flames eating away at the corpses, once the fires were lit. Like they
attempted to block out the smell of burning flesh, and hair, and clothes, as
they went to gather more decaying fuel for the terrible conflagrations.
pyres became tangible representations of how the Phases’ old lives were being
destroyed right in front of their eyes. It was something that no one wanted to
process. In shock and consumed with grief, most people pulled themselves into
whatever sort of psychological cocoon they could fashion. They looked around
with vacant gazes and uncomprehending expressions, even as they went about
their grisly tasks.
the fifth day of the Fall, no one was ready to face the new reality that stared
them in the face.
almost no one.
of the Fire and Cold Houses watched the bright light of fires burning against
the summer sky, but she didn’t feel their heat. All around here, there was
nothing but cold and darkness. A future without a future. To her mind, anyone
paying attention already knew that the Fall meant the death of everything. Not
just of the Fire House or the Elementals. But,
was a pragmatist. Some said cynic. Some said bitch. No matter the word,
she’d always seen through the bullshit and directly into the heart of the world
around her. And right now, with that futureless future barreling down on her,
she saw that her best path led straight down into the pavement.
was such a stark word.
Teja was paying attention and all she saw a total absence of hope.
the Elemental Phases went extinct, they took the rest of the universe down with
them. It was a mathematical fact. The various Houses supported all the
interconnected processes of nature. Everything depended on them, because they
everything, from Water to Time to Wood. Each member of the House held a bit of
the whole, and each House relied on the others. The Heat House needed the Fire
House’s element to produce warmer temperatures. The Fire House needed the Air
House to feed their flames. The Air House needed the Weather House to generate
the conditions for wind. And so on, in an endless circle of life and death.
Elementals kept nature in balance and the gears of the universe running
smoothly. But, if too many Phases died, their House would fall. And if too
many Houses fell, then they pulled the rest of the Phases down with them. Like
an avalanche, the resulting disaster would speed up and grow bigger as it raced
downhill. The world would topple.
didn’t see a way out of it, now. She sat at the edge of the Fire Palace’s wide
Gothic roof and stared at the blazes far below with emotionless hazel eyes.
They’d passed the point of no return. The world was closer to the end than it
was to the beginning. Much, much closer.
one invisible microbe was the catalyst of oblivion.
Fall: A disease poised to end the universe.
had been released by Parald, of the Air House as revenge against the Council of
All Houses. And, more specifically, against Tritone, of the Water House for
refusing to be his queen. But, Parald’s vengeance had spun out of his
control. The plague had a mind of its own and it wouldn’t be satisfied until
feet dangled off into infinity as she scrolled through her grandfather’s iPod.
She stopped when she reached the “recently played” section and pushed the
button to make AC/DC’s
This House is on Fire
blare over the headphones.
“Recently played” was such a subjective term. What did it really mean? To the
iPod, “recent” mean the songs that Oberon had listened to over the last week or
so. But, to anyone who’d survived the Fall, anything that had happened just a
few days before already seemed like someone else’s life.
people continued to cling to hope. Teja had heard their whispers and coughs as
they prayed for salvation, night and day. If they could just survive this,
then maybe… Maybe… Maybe they could pull the rest of the world through. Maybe
the universe wouldn’t end. Maybe Gaia or God or whoever was watching over them
would have mercy.
order to have children, Elementals needed Phase-Matches. The one person that
they could combine their energy with, and love, and connect to on --well-- an
level. Two parts of a symbolic whole. The Fall had already wiped out so many
Phases that Teja doubted one in ten survived. There was no way they could find
enough Matches, now. No way they could have children or recreate a viable
the Fall hadn’t stopped, yet. More and more died every hour. Every minute.
With the odds stacked so high against them, it was impossible for the Phases to
the iPod, The Bloodhound Gang started screaming
The Roof is on Fire
was all over for the Elementals. They were extinct in every way that
mattered. Some Phases, like Teja, and her cousin Djinn and his family, seemed
to be immune from the plague. No one knew why. Few cared to know. Caring
about anything was beyond most people, now. In the end, it wouldn’t matter.
lucky ones had gone first. The so-called survivors were postponing the
inevitable by hanging on. They just got to watch the universe struggle through
its death throes. Teja read the plain truth in the twisting flames of the
funeral pyres. But, what did it matter, at this point? What really mattered,
grandfather was dead.
Fall took him and all Teja could do was watch it happen. Without Oberon, every
single reason for
was gone. It had been carried away in the
ashes of his funeral pyre and left nothing behind for Teja but a cold, dark
future without a future.
she felt was empty.
emotions had been frozen out of her.
was… good, though. She didn’t
to experience more pain and loss.
Teja didn’t want to feel anything, ever again. The ice inside of her was a
relief and she was afraid of what might happen if it melted away.
came through her headphones. It was a nice song, slow
and sad; completely unlike her larger than life, type-A personality
grandfather. It wasn’t that Oberon loved James Taylor, but every song on his
iPod had the word “fire” in it somewhere. Oberon, the murdered King of the
Fire House, had weird ideas, sometimes.
world could never be right, again. Not with him gone from it.
had been her hero. Most Elementals saw the Fire House as a bunch of loud,
aggressive lunatics. Usually, they were unfavorably compared to the human
mafia. The Fire Phases liked to have their own way and were completely fine
with cheating if that’s what it took to win. They could be impulsive,
oblivious, and somehow incredibly stubborn, all at the same time. They had
zero regard for the feelings of others and senses of humor that edged towards
Oberon had been the worst of the lot. An egotistical, irreverent, “might makes
right,” video game playing, eye rolling rebel. He was the champion of every
underdog and the gadfly at every Council meeting. Every day, he did something
crazy that made Teja want to pull her hair out by the roots. Oberon drove her
nuts with his insane ideas and disregard for the rules. He had a booming laugh
and a zest for life that no one else could even come close to matching.
made Teja proud to be his granddaughter.
she’d let him down. She done everything she could think of and it still hadn’t
been enough to save him from the Fall. What could possibly matter to her after
Taylor gave way to the Ink Spots declaring
I Don’t Want to Set the World on
of the Earth House, High Seat of the Council and the oldest Elemental left
alive, wanted to rebuild. He had some half-assed plan to re-form Council and
rally the remaining Phases. Teja had promised to help him do it. He’d
pressured her and she’d relented, because she just didn’t have the energy to
argue with him. Even though she could no longer feel it, Teja knew she had a
great deal of respect and love for the Earth King. Job was a good leader and
an even better man.
he’d always been an idealist. Job couldn’t face the truth, yet.
like Teja could.
icy void situated inside of her chest grew bigger all the time. She’d promised
not to kill herself. She’d looked right at Job and
promised her grandfather, too. When he lay in his bed, dying of a disease that
no one had even heard of three days before. She’d
she’d help Djinn rule the Fire House. That she’d clean up her cousin’s messes
and ensure their family’s legacy wasn’t broken with Djinn’s nutty schemes.
at the end of the world, what did it really matter if she went back on her
song switched again. Billy Joel proclaimed
We Didn’t Start the Fire
rest of her family would get over Teja leaving them behind. They could just
toss her in one of the pyres and move on. Teja didn’t have a Match or
children, but Djinn did. He had Pele and the kids. He’d recover. So would
their adopted cousin Hope. Djinn would take care of her. He was the Fire
King, now. He could run the Fire House and their family would be okay.
ignored that skeptical thought because she just didn’t have the energy to
follow her doubts to their logical conclusion.
was so tired.
was difficult for a Phase to commit suicide. Or
whatever politically correct phrase the humans had for blowing their own brains
out. All day, Teja had been trying to figure out how she could do it
effectively. She was a perfectionist and she didn’t want to screw-up her last
were hardy folk, though. Susceptibility to mysterious plagues aside, they
didn’t die easily. The gun-to-the-head thing wouldn’t work on Teja, because
bullets were harmless to Phases. Slitting her wrists and putting her head in
an oven were out, too. Hanging
do the trick, but it would take a
just weren’t a lot of foolproof options.
killed a Phase faster than decapitation. That would be the ideal way to go.
If only she had a guillotine, she’d be all set. Years before, the Shadow House
had built one, but then Job outlawed them after an unauthorized execution. So,
unless she jumped into the human realm and visited a French Revolution museum,
“off with her head” didn’t seem real feasible.
frowned. Actually, that wasn’t a bad idea.
she find a working
guillotine at a museum? It was possible. But, the idiotic humans probably
removed the blades from the exhibits. They wouldn’t want some frigging tourist
to climb in and Marie Antoinette himself while posing for a goofy vacation
Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)
came on the iPod, but
Teja didn’t even hear it.
Teja figured her easiest choices were leaping off of a tall building, and
hoping for the worse to happen, or finding a poison that worked on Elementals.
Poison had a nice Classical ring to it. Cleopatra, Socrates, and Teja, of the
Fire and Cold Houses… All dead by self-inflicted poison.
poisons strong enough to kill a Phase weren’t exactly sitting on grocery
shelves. At least, Teja didn’t
that they were. Her knowledge of
toxic substances was limited. Fire Phases racked up a high body count, but
they knocked-off their victims in much more direct ways. Hacking an enemy to
quivering bits? Sure. But, they’d never resort to something as impersonal as
And she was just too exhausted to do a lot of research on the stuff, now. So,
poison seemed like a longshot, which was a shame.