“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”
A thousand years ago, it was discovered that certain, special people around the world had been gifted, possessing powers that allowed them to control the elements: sun, moon, fire, water, earth, air, metal, and wood. They soon came to be known as Elementalists.
When some of them realized how much power they had, and what they could do with that power, they formed Soluna, a school for those who had yet to master their elements. A place for those to not only control their powers, but to develop them, to improve upon them, so that they had full mastery of it.
One by one, others followed in Soluna’s footsteps. Schools opened up all over the world: in Spain, in Australia, in Senegal, in Nepal, and many, many more. Each became famous for their own reason, some by specializing in certain elements, others in their sports, but none quite came close to Soluna’s impressive history and academics.
Soluna has seen both triumph and defeat. Six-hundred years ago, it witnessed the downfall of a tyrant. Three-hundred years ago, it saw a disease take many Elementalists. And only sixteen years ago, it saw victory against madness, but with the cost of many lives.
This school is part of history, and you are now a part of that.
I listened to Principal Radella give her usual beginning of the year speech. It was my third time hearing it. I was going to have to hear it another five times before I graduated. Don’t get me wrong; I love this school in all its magic and ethereal beauty, but staring at my pale principal with her pointed nose and pointed, tiny ears to match, and her shiny black hair pulled into a bun so tight that it only gave her facial muscles the ability to produce one expression, I was wanting to be anywhere else but here.
Instead, I turned attention to the audience, and by audience, I mean the family and friends surrounding me.
These families, one of them being mine, were legendary in Soluna’s history, mostly because our ancestors founded the place, but also because our parents had helped save it sixteen years ago. Unfortunately, that war had also cost them their lives…
We were now all either being raised by grandparents, aunts and/or uncles, or an older sibling. My family, the Wards, was being raised by our Aunt May. She had her hands full raising four boys. Mostly my twin brothers.
There was my oldest brother: Dominic Spencer Ward. Brilliant, passionate, observant, faithful, and a main affinity for fire, he was probably the smartest guy in the entire school, if not our generation. There wasn’t much that he didn’t know about. If he didn’t know something, he would find out. Dominic had helped Aunt May take care of us, and had grown up faster than the rest of us. For that reason, he tended to be more distant. I worried about him… but he graduated in two years, and I hoped that getting out of the school would be good for him.
Then there was my next brother: eighteen-year old Tyler Christian Ward. Charismatic, adventurous, stubborn, impulsive, and a main affinity for air, he had a habit of getting into trouble and a gift for getting out of it. He was ridiculously good at winging things, and he tended to live his life on the edge. You’d really never know that he and Dominic came from the same family with how different they were. What’s worse is that Tyler wasn’t alone in his antics.
That’s where Liam Dylan Ward came in, Tyler’s younger twin brother. Charming, mischievous, perceptive, and bold with a main affinity for earth, he could practically smile his way out of anything and everything. He was slightly saner and more grounded than Tyler, and I use the term ‘slightly’ very loosely. But whereas Tyler had a way of getting into trouble, Liam had a way of finding it. At least he was always good at getting out of those too.
Then there was me: Peter Thomas Ward. Genuine, shy, focused, intelligent, and a main affinity for wood, I was the youngest at seventeen, but more mature than both Tyler and Liam (combined). Unlike the twins, I tended to follow the rules and behave, which is probably why I was closest with Dominic out of all my brothers. I tried to avoid the twins during my down time because they always tried to rope me into their antics, but I wanted a clean record when I graduated from school. If I continuously hung out with them, that was going to be an impossible feat.
Next to me, Dominic was closest to the oldest of the Ryder family: Nathan Michael Ryder. Guarded, diligent, strong, paternal, and a main affinity for earth, he had raised his siblings for the last three years after he won custody of them from their abusive, alcoholic uncle. He worked as a teacher for those with Earth affinities at Soluna. At twenty-four, he was the oldest of our entire group, and maybe it was his age that made him one of the calmest of all of us, but regardless of whether or not that was true, his calmness made him a rock for us.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum was twenty-one-year –old Marina Jane Ryder. Honest, vivacious, opinionated, helpful, and a main affinity for Fire, she was practically a female version of Tyler and Liam. Her Fire affinity was a perfect match for her fiery personality. She took crap from no one and could dish out insults like no one else’s business. Thankfully, those insults were never directed at anyone in the family… well, at least not the devastating ones. But Marina was honest, and if she had something to say, she was going to say it whether you liked it or not.
Percy Griffin Ryder is Marina’s younger twin brother. Tough, efficient, intense, friendly, and a main affinity for Metal, he was less outgoing than his sister, but that by no means is meant to insinuate that he doesn’t help her in her antics. Percy just prevents her from getting into trouble. I swear half the time, the situations they got themselves into was because they followed one of Percy’s ideas, but they’d become pros at avoiding getting caught. More than once, Nathan had called them devils. I know this is hard to believe, but they got along fantastically well with my twin brothers.
Ariel Katherine Ryder was the angel of their family and of our group. Compassionate, trusting, smart, selfless, and a main affinity for Wood, she was the most incredible person I knew. My opinion might be slightly biased considering she’s my girlfriend. Ariel took care of all of us, making sure we were okay, even Nathan, but he rarely burdened her with what was on his mind. She wasn’t blind to this, and would do little things to make his life slightly easier, like doing his laundry when he worked late nights, or placing a home-cooked meal on his desk before he got into the office because there were many days of the week he was so busy between take care of his family and working, he would forget to eat meals.
Last of the family was eighteen-year-old Logan William Ryder. Daring, imaginative, proud, and energetic with a main affinity for air, he was always the one trying new things, including making up new spells, or trying to at least. More than once he accidentally sent himself skyrocketing a hundred feet or more into the air. However, despite his daring nature, he was still pretty grounded and looked out for us.
That couldn’t be said about twenty-two-year-old Marissa Beverly Bartel though. Ambitious, confident, competitive, and clever, she would do whatever it took to get to the top and stay there. Marissa usually refrained from doing anything to us. I could never figure out where she got her cutthroat attitude from; according to my aunt, Marissa’s parents had been amazing people, so all I could do was assume her personality came from being raised by her grandparents.
Jason Walker Bartel was her younger twin brother. Agreeable, modest, firm, and empathetic with a main affinity for earth, he was pretty much everything Marissa wasn’t. He got along with everyone in the school even though he remained on the quieter side of things. Whenever we needed him but he wasn’t around, we could find him either tinkering with electronics (he had an affinity for metal too- all of us had more than one affinity) or hanging out in the forest, oftentimes with his guitar. Despite his relaxed demeanor, he was fiercely protective of his sisters, particularly his younger one.
Twenty-year-old Rose Jacqueline Bartel. Classy, gentle, scholarly, and reliable with an affinity for water, she had a heart of gold. It wasn’t surprising that her best friend was Ariel. But Rose was slightly more intimidating to others. It was a mixture of her confident strut and her older siblings. Rose was also academically gifted, only rivaled by Dominic and the oldest child of the Cadocs.
That would be Kara Elizabeth Cadoc. Calculating, considerate, peaceful, rational, and a main affinity for air, it sometimes made me wonder how she got a position as a teacher at Soluna having freshly graduated earlier this year, being only twenty-three, and having to handle kids like my twin brothers and the Ryder twins. Then I remembered how good she was at noticing everything going on around her, and using that knowledge to keep people in line. She also had all of us who would take care of anyone who didn’t listen to her.
Her younger twin brother, Caleb Samuel Cadoc, decided to become an accountant for Soluna. Adaptable, stable, enigmatic, realistic with a main affinity for water, he was one of my favorite people in the group. It was funny to watch his expressions because even though he wasn’t very vocal about what was running through his mind, you could almost always tell what his thoughts were about a situation based on his facial expression. Most of the time, he was making a face in response to his younger brother.
That was seventeen-year-old Justin Lawrence Cadoc. Rebellious, smooth, persuasive, unpredictable, and a main affinity for fire, he was the resident bad boy of not just our group, but of our school. Strangely enough, he shared the same affinities as Caleb- fire, water, and wood- but those two couldn’t be more different. It only made sense that Justin was dating Marissa, a person just as crazy as him. Still, he had a good heart when it came to his family.
It seemed all the families had the “bad” one, or the “misbehaved” one, but that wasn’t the case with the last of the founding families: the Reniers.
The first was nineteen-year-old Josette Penelope Renier, or more affectionately known as Josie. Resilient, elegant, captivating, protective, and a main affinity for fire, she was a light in the dark to us all. She had this insane ability to convince anyone to do anything just by smiling at them. Her outgoing and friendly nature made her well-loved by everyone, even the loners in the school. You wanted to follow her, to be with her. She warmed your soul just by looking at you. Her younger twin wasn’t much different.
Diana Lynn Renier. Loyal, enchanting, intuitive, cunning, and a main affinity for water, she was a beautiful soul who captured everyone’s attention when she walked into a room, whether she wanted to or not. Where her twin could get anyone to do anything, Diana could get anyone to say anything. Something about her made people spill their secrets; even those of us who had grown up with her weren’t immune to it. And when people did tell her something, she kept it a secret no matter what. Sometimes I wondered just how much she knew about us…
Lastly was River Olivia Renier. Sophisticated, balanced, deceptive, and sharp. Like Diana, she had a main affinity for water. She was often mistaken for being Josie and Diana’s triplet by people who didn’t know them. Most people thought she was older than her eighteen years of age because of her maturity. She always laughed at it, unable to see what people meant. She was an angel, just like her sisters.
These people, they were all my family. They helped me through the bad and celebrated with me the good. Despite the differences, we worked as one, cohesive group, and had each other’s back. I didn’t know what I would do if I didn’t have all of them in my life. To me, it didn’t matter if you were a Renier, a Bartel, a Cadoc, or a Ryder. They were all as much family to me as my own brothers.
I knew it was foolish to think we’d see a war in our lifetime. History had shown we had one every few hundred years. However, I was still paranoid about that happening.
But I did convince myself we were going to be okay. We had to be. As long as we had each other’s backs, I was positive there was nothing we couldn’t do or overcome. You had eighteen of the most powerful Elementalists under one roof. Who could stop us if they attacked us, right?