The Five Elements (The Alchemancer: Book One)

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Balancing there was no small feat given his misshapen lump of a foot, but he managed. With one hand holding himself firm, he swept his other across the crowd. We've gathered here today to see if a Squeak can fly! Corrin soaked up the resounding outburst of laughter. Only when he'd had his fill did he stab a finger down at Aaron.

This one swore to all of us—. I never swore, Aaron said in a low voice, splashing at the water that had pooled at his stomach. Aaron wanted to point out that most of them hadn't actually been there, so how would they have known what he'd said, but he was not given the opportunity. Corrin took his time basking in the shouts of encouragement and laughter before he lowered himself from his perch. He fixed his beady stare on Aaron, speaking low so that only those closest heard him. I'd give you one more chance to show us all up, Squeak, but we both know you don't have it in you.

Then he turned and chuckled at his Jackals. I bet he goes right over the cliff! Oh, yes, the cliffs, Aaron thought. He raised himself a little on his elbows, enough to gauge his distance from the edge. Folk called the cliffs the Breakers, though Aaron had always thought the rocks scattered at their base deserved the name more than the cliffs themselves.

In any case, the cliffs represented a hundred feet of sheer descent with shallows and ship-breaking reefs waiting for him at the bottom. If they really meant to fire the catapult with him in it—and Aaron had no doubts they did—then an already bad day was about to get much worse. Briefly, Aaron thought about the soldier figurine, still stowed away in the satchel, and its so-called 'protection.

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Aaron didn't really care if they took it away from him, for he'd never really had any faith in its enchantment. It was up to him to think of some way out of this or find himself dashed across the rocks below.

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His options were few: escape by means undetermined, convince Corrin and his gang to not go through with it fat chance of that , or find a way to disable the machine without getting out of the basket. None seemed feasible.

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Yet as the wheels in his mind continued to turn, he suddenly remembered something that might prove important. It had rained that afternoon. Moving his head slowly so as not to arouse suspicion, he looked more closely at the firing mechanism.

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The throwing arm, trigger, and tightly wound rope that provided the arm's spring were all soaked through. Especially the rope. Aaron chewed his lip for a moment before settling back down. Suddenly, he was no longer worried.

Scott Marlowe | The Five Elements (The Alchemancer: Book One) Preview–Chapter 2

While the mob whooped and hollered, Corrin set his Jackals into action. Two manned the firing lever while a pair—Elof and Cliff, no less, whose faces were still red from scratching—moved to stand just close enough to Aaron to make sure he didn't go anywhere. They must have thought he'd given up when he didn't make one last attempt at escape. Elof shrugged, and then Corrin gave the order to loose. The firing lever was pulled. The catapult lurched as the coiled rope was released. The great throwing arm jolted forward, but it was only a short jolt. It lifted two feet, then slowed across two more before finally stopping altogether. In all, it had not even risen half the distance to the center cross. Though jarred, Aaron remained safely ensconced in the basket. He stayed there for just a moment before he slid out, avoiding the outstretched arms of his guards to run lightly down the throwing arm.

Landing at the base, he took in the confused, surprised, and outright annoyed expressions of his tormentors first. The mob, so eager to see him 'fly,' fell into murmurs and then silence.

Qigong Demonstration: The Five Elements

Knowing the moment was his, Aaron swept an arm across the ensemble. And now, for my next trick, he said, loud enough for all to hear, I will make myself disappear! He couldn't really, but it seemed like the right thing to say under the circumstances. With hands made into fists and the nostrils of his bull nose flared, the ogre lunged forward. He wasn't close enough to grab Aaron. Nor was he close enough to knock him from his perch. But the sight of those massive fists made Aaron fall from the engine all the same. He landed flat on his back in the muddy grass.

Anger turned to mirth as Corrin stopped, slapped a knee, and laughed. Now that's a good trick, Squeak! The others—first the Jackals and then the crowd—added their laughter to his. Some amongst them pointed. Others doubled over. They all enjoyed watching as Aaron struggled to rise. He slipped once on the slick grass—an action which set off the onlookers all the more—but managed to keep his feet and stand. Shaking mud from his hands, Aaron looked at the faces of those who mocked him. He should be angry.

He thought he almost felt a sensation—a burning—that struggled to flare deep within his chest. But the spark only glowed and then went out as clear thought prevailed. There was fantasy, where he leaped at each of the Jackals and laid them low, and then there was reality, with Aaron knowing he was too small to do anything to Corrin and too alone to take on any of the others.

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He had a hard time working up any ire against the crowd. They were only there because he'd opened his big mouth. He could get angry, but what would he do with it? Better to count his blessings and hope the Jackals just let him go. He might even—. The words, or rather the girl who had spoken them, brought an instant end to the heckling. From the opposite side of the crowd, a murmur, accompanied by an occasional cheer, swept like a wave through the gathering.

Then a lane began to form through the center of the mob's ranks.