Author’s Note: Time for some of Flint’s thoughts.
Go with them? They were all suicidal as hell, and Flint wasn’t that stupid, not most of the time. True, he’d never seen anyone do what their water elemental could do, and that one had stood toe-to-toe against that bastard who killed Maggie and survived—more than once—but that didn’t mean that they would live through this.
Then again… They were the best shot he had at avenging his sister or making any kind of dent in the man’s organization. Hell, just the one would have been enough. Flint’s eyes went back to Washburne, asleep in his sister’s arms. When he first ran into them, the woman was the unquestioned leader, but then when Washburne got back to them, they seemed to share that role, and Flint understood that. They all said that the water was the most powerful one of their lot.
Hell, probably out of hundreds of lots. No one else Flint had run into over the years could pull off the kind of stuff he did, but then there was the woman.
Enya. Little fire. She could be just as talented, if she was willing to try for control. She had to be. Flint had faced off against plenty of fire elementals, and even though Maggie had always been more talented than him, he could counter everything she did to where it was a stalemate. The fact that Enya had killed what, three other fire elementals? All at once? No, she had a power the likes of which had to rival the water elemental’s. She just feared it more than he did.
If, though, he was able to work on moods and Flint could get her to work with him on control, they’d have more than a match for anything the head of Aether threw at them.
“I might be interested, but I’ve been tracking this bastard for a long time now. It’s not going to be simple, and you’re going to need a lot more than him,” Flint said, pointing to Washburne. “He’s good, but he’s not enough, not even with most of you to back him up.”
“What, you want to start recruiting all the rogues in the world against him?”
Weatherly snorted. “Yeah, ’cause that’s a good idea. We spent the better part of the last twelve years pissing them off when we made it so they stopped messing with the normals.”
“You never do anything to normals?”
“We have a few tricks we play, but we’re not killers. We don’t screw with normals just because we can. Sometimes Sherwin and I do a ‘magic’ show and some ‘levitation,’ but most of the time we leave that alone. Terra and Stone could make impressive carvings. Stone was better at it.”
“Don’t say was. He’s not dead.”
Flint frowned, wondering why that had come from the other water elemental and not the earth one. Of course, the earth one was still kind of… out of it. Flint knew how that went. His first month or so after Maggie’s death was a complete blur, a fog he didn’t want to remember.
“No bottling pure artisan water or anything?”
“We could have made a fortune doing that, I suppose, and a few times during a natural disaster, Cress and I helped purify the drinking water for people, but it can be taxing, and since he runs on a low battery in the first place—the empathic thing never shuts off—I refused to let him do it.”
“And he takes orders from you?”
“Cress might be more powerful than most of us, but he also took his responsibility for our safety seriously. He had a few decisions we disagreed with over the years, but on the whole, he did right by us. As much as he could, at least.”
“Except, of course, that we could probably have settled down years ago and might not have gotten noticed by Aether. Oh, and Enya wouldn’t have been exiled for twelve years.”
“Actually, if he kept you together, he probably saved all of your lives,” Flint told them, getting plenty of frowns. “Aether seems to be finding more and more ‘rogues.’ That bastard is out to control all of us. Some of us he wants dead, some he apparently takes, and some he keeps hunting. Maggie and I were good enough to evade the troops for a while before he started coming after us. If we’d had a team, we might have held out longer. The fact that this water elemental crossed paths with yours when yours was still a kid means he’s known about him for a long time, and if he knew about him, there’s a good chance he knew about the rest of you. If you’d gone your separate ways, Aether could have picked you off one by one—or two by two. Same principle.”
“Or we were just the shield that kept him from getting to Cress all this time,” the earth elemental said, her eyes closed. “Not that Cress would have known that. His parents told him the bastard was dead.”
“They lie to spare his feelings?”
Oceana laughed, a sick sort of bitter half-strangled noise. “You’ve got to be kidding. How Cress felt never meant a thing to them. They didn’t do anything about the kids bullying him at school because they were waiting for him to break a mirror and free his abilities. Even before he did that, he knew when it would rain or snow, could always tell. Greedy bastards. They let him get hurt so that he’d feel like he needed what he could do with the water. They set us all up from the beginning, but he got the worst of it.”
“Damn,” Flint said. “You actually think your parents were working with Aether, don’t you?”