Wind Wielder: Elementals of Nordica, Book I

Chapter Two: Col Eriksson

The figure wore a maroon jacket with gold accents and two chest patches. One featured a gold, eight-pointed star. The Star of Columbia. The symbol of Nordica, a land one thousand miles north of their location.

The second symbol featured a yellow tornado. The wind mutant’s mark.

In a sheath, he carried a golden-hilted Sword of Wind. This signified Wind Mastery, where such a sword manifested at level sixty-five. However, the three black and red stripes on a gold sash over his chest stated his experience level eclipsed one-hundred-fifty.

“Be real, Liri,” Sion said. “You know Nordicans who sneak over the border don’t last a hundred miles and we’re over a thousand south.”

If he were Tamurian, he’d have at least three soldiers backing him up.”

The man took two steps forward, observing the duo as elation encroached his expression.

“They watch for people their facial tech can’t recognize,” Sion said. “It takes them two seconds to spot hostiles.” 

Tamuria branded anyone lacking their government-issued identification or special permission to be in the colony as hostile. One of many ways they upheld their national security state, even in colonies like South Nordica. 

They assumed an unauthorized individual to be either a Nordican or a spy from an enemy nation like Iberia. Without trial, they sent these people to political prisons with no opportunity for parole. 

For one to make it as far south as the Ulos River? Not a chance. This man either worked for Tamuria or was a South Nordican loyal to the empire working undercover.

Nice disguise, but it wasn’t enough. Sion advanced, keeping his hands at the ready. 

The man stood his ground as the gold hilt gleamed in his sheath.

Sion crept within ten yards. “Drop the sword.”

Eyes on Sion, the man knelt and set his weapon in front of him.

Back up.”

Liri tugged at Sion’s muscular arm and tried to force it to his side. “He wouldn’t be playing your game if—” 

Sion shook himself free and crept ahead until he stood over the sword. “Who are you?”

The man stepped a few yards back, wearing his knowing smile. As if meeting someone he engaged in long-distance contact with in-person for the first time. “Your ticket out of South Nordica.”

As Sion inched within five yards, the man’s olive skin and black hair became apparent. His physique didn’t match his aged face, with streamlined biceps bulging from his cloak sleeves.

Sion shook his fists. “Liri, get us out of here before he calls for backup.”

“Sion, no—”

He stepped forward and threw two jabs with his left hand, evoking back-to-back gusts. 

The man thrust his fist forward and dissipated the attack. “You’re just like your father, Sion Zona. In more than just looks. He had the same edge. Perhaps he was a little more aggressive.” 

“How would you know my dad? He’s been dead for twenty years.”

“He was a student of mine.” 

Sion turned and sneered as Liri emitted a gasp of recognition. “If you knew Loki Zona so well, tell me about him.”

Sion—”

“Let’s see what he’s got to say.”  

The man’s calm demeanor radiated throughout the path so much the rustling trees ceased and the clouds cleared, allowing the sun to reveal its rays through the openings. 

“Thrashball player at U of N for Phoenix Complex. Wind Master. Running away from a disastrous situation at home in the Northern Regions. I’m sure Issa and Antto told you the same?”

“You know my aunt and uncle?”

The man’s eyes traveled to Liri. “And that you are protecting Tyr Viorunen’s daughter. Though she takes after her mother.” He looked at Liri in disbelief and muttered what sounded like, “unbelievable.”

Air escaped Sion’s lungs. But either way, this was South Nordica. “Tamurian intel never asks questions or makes statements they don’t already know the answer to.”

“Sion, you’re looking for things,” Liri said. “Honestly, I’ve never had the misfortune to meet such a negative hotheaded know-it-all in my life.” 

“Tell us who you are or I’m shooting a vortex.”

“Now, Sion. Do you think a Wind Master at my level couldn’t stop someone who had no formal training a day in his life? I would end any vortex of yours within two seconds. Well, three these days. My reflexes aren’t as fast in my sixties.” 

“You think because I’m from South Nordica and not in Lord Tuukka’s deep pockets, I don’t know how to control my mutation?” 

“Loki did. It’s how he escaped the Northern Regions.”

Sion narrowed his eyes.

The man crept forward. Speaking as if rehashing the story to an old friend at a bar. “I also knew your mother, Casa Saud.”

Sion reared again, but Liri grasped his wrist. “I didn’t ask for a history lesson. I asked if you have a name and I don’t feel like asking you again. Liri, get off.”

He tried to brush her away again, but she dug her fingernails into his forearm. Impressive grip, short as her nails were.

“I am Col Eriksson.”

Liri’s face fell, eyes wide. “I knew it.” Her eyes traveled from the sword laying on the ground to the black and red pattern on his sash. “No wonder you knew Loki and Tyr. Mom said my dad thought highly of you. You were his commander during the Ten-Year War. Oh, dear Trinity, this is—” 

Sion smirked. “Col Eriksson wouldn’t last two minutes in any Tamurian-controlled region. He’s been their most wanted man since the war ended.”

“No, Sion. I would make it this far, or else I wouldn’t be watching Liri hold you back from making the foolish attempt to duel me. Though I will concede you are right in the fact most Nordicans such as I wouldn’t last long in these parts. Especially in my current attire. But being me has its advantages.” 

Liri dug her nails deeper into Sion’s forearm to the point they drew blood as she pulled him closer. “Look, we have three real scenarios. Either we trust him and he is an undercover Tamurian, which he isn’t. We trust him and he helps us escape. Or we don’t trust him, leave, and eventually get caught.”

The only photos Sion saw of Eriksson were the ones Issa and Antto kept from Loki and Casa’s college days. Eriksson was in his thirties then, and this man’s face resembled someone who suffered severe facial burns in an inferno, despite his body’s youthfulness.

There was no telling this guy from the Eriksson in those old pictures. Yet if the man was who he claimed?

“Alright. We’ll come with you. But I swear if you try anything stupid…” 

Liri released her penetrating grip on his forearm and wore a dreamy expression, looking at Eriksson with awe. “Sion, he—he’s the one who—he’s how—”

“Our romantic relationship began decades before our parents thought of us? Look, there’s still zero evidence telling us it’s Eriksson. We’re out of options here.”

Yeah, there is.” Liri strode over. “He’s shorter like our dads were. Shorter than you now that I think of it. And that’s rare. If you were bright, you’d have made the connection.” 

“Okay, I don’t need a slight—” 

“Oh, shut up. He’s got the same skin color as Eriksson. The same eye color.”

“My face may look a little different from what your parents would remember,” Eriksson said.  

She tilted her head, observing the scars on the side of his face that became more pronounced as Sion followed her over. “Well, they never were in the photos.”

Eriksson smiled. “I was thirty-nine when I got them, Liri Viorunen. That should give you an idea when and where it happened.”

“I’m sure you came off on the wrong side in a duel,” Sion said. 

Liri threw him an incredulous glare. 

Eriksson waved her off, his demeanor cheerful. “Oh, no matter. I did lose a duel twenty years ago.”

Liri clicked her tongue. 

“Well, how did I know?” Sion said. “It took him twenty minutes to tell us his name.”

“It shouldn’t have taken you ten seconds to realize it had you listened to me. He’s the only one who can help us get out of here and you took your good old time, genius.” She turned to Eriksson. “I’m sure that’s why you’re down here? Because Sion revealed something he shouldn’t have and forced me to do the same?”

We had no choice—” 

Eriksson chortled. “I’ve seen more wanted elementals, as we call them in Nordica, on the news than just you two. Or my informants have. But I’m afraid Sion’s right, Liri. You’d be executed if the Tamurians called your birth date and discovered your advanced smoke elemental ability. Sion was one of many elementals who knew that.”

“You’re darn right I knew it. So you’ve been following us throughout this entire run-in?” 

“Since the story reached my informants. But you’re still in a lose-lose situation. Yesterday, Lord Tuukka and his right arm advanced their armies into Wild Valley, and you know who they’re waiting for.” 

Sion closed his eyes and exhaled, hands behind his head. He and Liri knew the Tamurians would go after and interrogate their families. But to advance armies into the area? The thought turned his stomach.

“Erno, Timo, and Hannah are due back to Wild Valley today and if the Tamurians are already there, waiting for them…”

Liri gasped and bolted over. She pulled Sion into a one-armed embrace before whipping around to Eriksson. “What’s happened in Iron Town since we escaped?”

Eriksson’s expression turned grave. “A new law passed the morning of the riots granted soldiers and authorities new powers to penalize family members of dissenters. News stations confirm Tamurian soldiers raided your neighborhood of Iron Town Heights. I’m sorry, Liri.”

Tears swam in Liri’s eyes and she wiped them on Sion’s black tank top. Not that it mattered. He’d take a bullet for this girl, even if they spent half their existence fighting. 

And now the Tamurians raided Wild Valley and Iron Town. Sure, more than a few mutants, or elementals, from his hometown took part in those riots an hour south. It wouldn’t surprise if the same units who raided Iron Town advanced north to Wild Valley. Each sat on the Great Nordican River’s banks. 

Liri broke away from Sion and wiped her nose. “We need to go with him,” she whispered. 

Eriksson advanced toward Sion and Liri. “Tamuria has sunk lower than even I ever thought. Lord Tuukka would have them killed, Issa and Antto. And great people, too.”

“There’s a chance to save Erno, Timo, and Hannah.” Liri again grabbed Sion’s arm. “I know it.”  

“And take them where, Liri?” Sion said. 

“Sion,” Eriksson said, “do you think I came all this way to rescue you all and send you back on the run in a region where you’re as marked as I am? I told you, I’m your ticket out of South Nordica.”

“Then where?”

“To where your parents met.” Eriksson looked from Sion to Liri. “And where your dads became best friends. Part of their little gang that included your mothers Casa and Mira, Nils and Ylva Siskonen, Teemu Eaglesky, and some of the most prominent fighters in the old Ten-Year War.”

Another rock dropped in Sion’s stomach. “We’re outside Ulos. Almost two hundred miles from Wild Valley. She’s already vaped us from location to location five times. And a windsurf down here in the open is a death sentence. So unless you have a bright idea, Coolio—” 

“When you’re a level one-hundred-fifty Wind Master, Sion,” Eriksson said, “it has perks. As I will teach both of you. Five of you if we can rescue your cousins. But you need to let me have my sword back.”

Sion backtracked as Eriksson approached, reached to the ground, and grasped the hilt. Part of him wished to apologize, as he’d heard so many stories about the man from Aunt Issa and Uncle Antto.

Of how Eriksson trained Loki to Master Status within an unheard of six months. Of the man’s endless heroics in the Ten-Year War and his subsequent exile into Nordica following most of the region’s loss. Or so he thought exile.

That much Sion knew. Perhaps Eriksson could tell them more. 

“Touch the flat of this blade.” Eriksson stuck his sword in front of Sion and Liri. “And the rest is nothing more than a side-along vape from Liri. I assume she knows where she’s going.”

“Mmm-hmm.” She held a lanky finger to Eriksson’s flat.

Sion reached out. “Can’t be any different from Liri’s normal vape, right, Col?”

“I think he wants us to call him Lord Eriksson.” Liri sniffed as her voice still cracked. “If anyone’s earned it, it’s him.”

“Ah, Col’s okay,” Eriksson said. “Or Coolio. Whatever works for you. Ready?”

Sion tightened his lips. “Ready.”

Liri sniffed again and burst into a smoke vapor.

See Chapter Three: Wild Valley