Aether by Justice Beers

The Kingdom of Graycott is hidden within the waters of the sea, the society being one of the only remaining in the world. Ever since the nuclear bombing 63 years ago, Earth has not been the same. Majority of the survivors took to the radiation-soaked oceans, attempting to find a safe haven. Through this voyage, they found a perfectly sized island that had somehow dodged the effects of the radiation. The island was covered by a massive mountain that reached to the clouds, and due to its safe environment, the survivors made it their home. Predictably, issues had arisen due to the citizens fighting for power, so founders Kasper Collins and Persephone Blake came up with a system to divide the people and give them equal power.

People were placed into four groups based on their month of birth. Those born in Winter became those of the water. Those born in Spring became those of earth. Those born in Summer became those of fire, and those born in Autumn became those of the air. This is what divided them; they do not have blood-based families, only elementally-based ones. That is how the Kingdom of Graycott thrived. 63 years of peace lasted, until one element became displeased with another.

The air was cold, brushing past her porcelain skin as she stepped outside of the security of her home. Leaving is dangerous nowadays, especially for those belonging to air. Aria Claire was born to earth-dwellers, her parents living on the mountain; though she was torn apart from them and sent to the sky minutes after her birth. She was born in Autumn, so knew of nothing else other than the element of air and their domination of government. The working element, Earth, has grown agitated with the amount of power that air has gotten. The elements were supposed to be equal, yet Earth saw no equality– this is what sparked The Graycott War.

“Aria, it’s time again.” Her adopted brother, Aldar, yelled out. Of course the two were not related by blood, though they were insanely close and the elder boy practically raised her. Aria huffed as she looked down, seeing the field of earth soldiers dashing closer and closer, not saying a word as she slipped back inside her house. This was her routine, hiding anytime Earth attempted to invade. She was trapped in the home while her brother stood outside the door, defending them and their element. Aria sometimes dreamed of being the one holding the weapon, yet she was prohibited. Adlar didn’t want her to get hurt, so she didn’t put herself in dangerous situations. She sat on her bed, sometimes for hours at a time, as she heard shouts come from soldiers and gunshots leave their barrels. This was a common occurrence, there was no end in sight. 

Aria was told she was too young to comprehend. The element of air had attempted to separate teenager’s lives from the war as much as possible; they didn’t view the war as a big issue. The system has worked for so long, why are there dilemmas around it now? She was shaded from the world and the other elements, and she was sick of this.

Adlar always came back and acted as if nothing was wrong, even if he had been guarding their home for hours. “The campaign for me running as our district’s representative is booming, Aria. We are about to have power in this family.” He joked with a chuckle, he’s been working on joining politics for a while– it was his destiny according to his birth month. 

“Well, maybe if you become a politician, you can finally tell me what the hell has been going on for the past five months.” Aria retorted

“You’re still on that?” Adlar groaned, rolling his eyes back, “It’s a war, Earth has an issue with the system. You know this. Us and fire are defending our rights and legacy.” He has told the girl this a million times, though it all just went straight through her ears. 

“I’m sick of being treated like a child. I’m seventeen, I can know the truth about our society.” She had attempted to defend herself repeatedly with no prevail, she was a little girl to him.

On that chilly night, Aria had decided to escape from the comfort of her covers. Her hands pried at the neighboring window, struggling to open it. She knew she had succeeded when a gust of cool air slapped her across the face. She slipped through, conforming her body to fit through the gap she had created. She was ready to discover the truth of the world, despite the danger she was going to face. 

The Kingdom of Graycott was not large, all it was was an island that you could walk across in a few days. She was not facing an odyssey, Aria did not have a destination. All she wanted was to escape the feeling she had; it was like she had a rope secured around her neck and a blindfold over her eyes at the same time. 

The governmental element of air was located at the top of the island, so it was a downhill trek. Aria had to be careful, so she traded in her polished look for one of a working man; she sprinkled dirt on herself and ripped her own clothes. She was no celebrity, though lots of members of her own element could decipher her with ease.

 Ever since youth, Aria had heard the legendary stories of the library on the border between Earth and Air. It was made before the war, and it was a way for them to conjoin their knowledge. It was probably filled with dust and cobwebs by now, there’s no way the two could continue their library together under these circumstances. This is where Aria decided to go, she needed to find the knowledge that she has been shielded from.

Aria had heard the rumors about the library; that it was haunted or decimated in battle, though she did not care. She cascaded herself down from the mountain’s peak, twiddling a blade of grass in her hands. Aria came unarmed, vulnerable to destruction by those who spited her. She just had to cross her fingers and hope she would stay safe, the girl was too young to die.

Her legs were wobbly, as she had been walking for hours, yet she could see the border of the two elements. All of the elements were bordered off by wooden fences, giving them some privacy and a sense of order. The fences were not technological, though Aria would be a fool to assume it’s safe to go near the borders. Earth and Water members had broken this border many times, creating stampedes to try and overthrow Air. They were likely laced with land mines, so she began walking around the fence; maintaining distance from it as she kept an eye out for a building. Circling the whole mountain would take awhile, though luckily she found something rather quickly.

A wooden door was imprinted into the mountain, falling rocks around it and vines covering it. It was like the doorway was perfectly cleared, though not to the point to dismiss from the destruction around it. She had never seen somewhere inside of the mountain, as this is where the members of Fire resided, though this was not an entrance they created. This may be the one area inside this mountain that someone else owns. Even if this wasn’t the library, it was a find.

Hesitantly her hand looped itself around the door knob as she gave herself a pep talk before opening the door. It was dark, nearly black actually. There was a faint glimpse of light, fire. She was afraid she had come into someone’s home before all the lights flickered on as she took another step inside. Motion Detection. The lights revealed shelves of books, hundreds upon hundreds surrounding the room. Vines covered the wall and cobwebs dwelled in every cranny, this place was certainly abandoned. Her fingers danced along the spines of the books as her feet carried her through all the narrow hallways. Each section was defined by a flimsy label, though the only one that interested her was ‘Graycott History’. There were topics related to before the war that were awfully intriguing, though it was not the time for this. Aria was already planning a trip back here. 

The slimmest book attracted her, so she picked it up and examined the crimson red cover. In gold letters, the front read The Elements, potentially this could explain the truth behind all of them. This nation can’t be as perfect as she was taught it was, right? She slid her body against the stone brick wall, sitting down on the floor as her eyes skimmed the pages of the book.

Four Chapters: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. She did not have the time to examine them all, so she darted straight to air. The text explained the fundamentals of each faction, their desires, and their obligations. She skimmed over lots, before finding a subsection titled The Truth. Captivated by this, she continued reading. This chapter primarily consisted of the corruption of air and how they shifted the system in their favor. Signatures of approval, likely coming from Earth, laced the pages. She had no idea what to believe, she always had been taught Air kept the peace, and now there was a war and documented text saying they corrupted it? She slammed the book down, the pages flying over to reveal a particularly interesting page; a fifth chapter titled Aether. She went to flip the back before hearing a creak come from the doorway. 

Heavy pants echoed through the halls, as if the person who entered had been running for days. A sudden loud noise corrupted the library, causing Aria to yelp at the volume of it. “Is someone in here?” The voice bellowed, it was raspy, though you could hear fear in his voice. Aria decided to stay quiet, squinting her eyes shut as she heard booms around her. The figure took more and more steps, attempting to find the one who suddenly became mute.

“What made you such a coward?”

Aria opened her eyes, lifting her head up to see a male figure above her. He looked more angelic than he sounded, though looks can be deceiving.

“What made you such a dick?” She snarked back, propelling herself up from her curled up position on the ground. Aria would not let him look down at her.

The man lifted his hand to wipe the sweat off his forehead, unable to hide how exhausted he was. “I’m not a dick, I’m Draven.” He introduced in a condescending tone. Her personality mirrored his, which was astonishing. A challenge was not expected.

“Everleigh.” She introduced, fibbing about her name. Aria was oblivious to who this man was, and if he did not belong to Air she was not intending on risking her life. “Now Draven, why do you look so flustered?” She questioned, stepping away from him as she walked towards the entrance. An escape plan was never a foolish plan.

Draven just laughed at that, “Why do I look so flustered? They’re coming, Everleigh. They are finally coming to obliterate us, like they have been planning to for the past 63 years. People like you and I, we are ghosts walking.”

“They’re coming?” She muttered under her breath, trying to place where he was derived from. Air has yet to make any offensive moves, they have been defending their land against Earth all of this time. He could be just like her, another person with a desire for peace and the truth.

“Are you a fool? Air. We fought back and they’re done. I barely made it out with my life. With the two of us trapped in this cellar, I doubt either of us will.”

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