“Hey, you!” the fireman yelled. “You can’t park your taco truck in front of the monkey cage!”
He had a point. The monkeys had already begun flinging poo at the vehicle, resulting in a terrible mess. I didn’t care. It wasn’t my truck. I had borrowed it from a nice man wearing an apron, hairnet, and some flimsy plastic gloves. He wasn’t happy about it, but he had reluctantly agreed after I belched a small fire. People were usually accommodating when they found out I was a flame channeler.
“Are you deaf? Move your truck!”
That fireman, on the other hand, would be less accommodating if he knew what I was. I needed to be careful or I’d find myself extinguished. Luckily, firemen are dumb.
“Sorry,” I said in a shaky voice. “I was being chased by a flamer. He said he’d torch me if I didn’t park here.”
That got the fireman’s attention. I pointed him to a small shack just outside the zoo where a flame channeler had recently been practicing his powers. That would keep the man busy for a while. With him out of the way, I could turn my attention to the business at hand. Supposedly, a True Salamander was being kept at this zoo. It was just like the Zookeepers to ignore the Proclamations and keep a Sacred Beast of Flame prisoner and it was just like me to do something about it.
A quick sweep of the zoo brought me to the place I was looking for, the Exotic Exhibits building. That’s where I had been told the Salamander was being kept. I entered but didn’t see any sign of flame. What was going on here?
Unfortunately, what I did find was a familiar face. Torvald, an aqua channeler stared back at me.
“What are you doing here, waterboy?” I asked.
“Where is the Hippocampus?” he asked in return.
“It’s in your head, of course,” I told him. The look on his face told me he didn’t get the anatomy pun. “There’s no Hippocampus here,” I finally said. “I came looking for a Salamander, but I have a feeling it isn’t here either. If I had to guess, I’d say this was a trap.”
“A trap for both of us?” he asked.
“You two and one other,” said the seismic channeler stepping through the door, “but she doesn’t appear to be coming so I guess I’ll settle for two out of three.”
The room began to shake. Torvald flowed this way and that to avoid the floor as it tried to rise up to meet him. It was impressive. Sadly, I fared more poorly. When my fire gets raging, I’m almost unstoppable, but I tend be slow starting. I was smacked by the writhing rock more often than I avoided it.
I was going to die and I knew it. Worse, I was going to die at a stinking zoo. And when the Zookeepers found the bodies of a flame channeler and an aqua channeler, they’d assume the worst and go to war with our tribes, wiping us out. It was, of course, while I was thinking these depressing thoughts that something even worse happened; I felt a familiar breeze. My mother had arrived just in time to save my life… again.
My mom was a wind channeler. As a kid, I would make juvenile jokes about wind channeling and she would smack me for it, much like she was smacking this seismic channeler now, except she had never used such force against me. She was swirling with a rage that would make trailer parks run and hide.
The seismic channeler held against Mom at first. He had the natural advantage, after all. He planted his feet firmly in the ground and resisted everything that blew his way. Soon, however, Torvald joined in and eroded the man’s footing away. Without his roots, Mom was able to send him flying. Seeing that it had become a group thing, I threw some fire into the mix. It was actually kind of nice fighting alongside an aqua channeler. I usually had to be careful that my fire didn’t get away from me but Torvald kept all the rogue flames in check. We quickly subdued our attacker.
“Why did you set up this ambush,” Mom asked. “Who benefits from the war you would start?”
Mom always asked probing questions like that. Give her time and she’d worm a confession out of you. A part of me wanted to shout a warning to the man. Going quiet was the best strategy. She couldn’t trick you into saying something incriminating that way. It was a moot point anyway. The man suddenly froze solid. Mom glared at Torvald, but I knew for a fact he didn’t have that ability. A moment later, hot magma erupted from the ground and stuck to the seismic channeler like napalm. Moments after that, two Zookeepers burst into the room followed by an angry fireman who recognized me.
Someone had done a good job starting a war, but that was a question for after we escaped… if we escaped at all.