Felix, Part 1: Cooking and Conversation

Felix is a new series that serves to set up the world of Elements I started when I wrote the first draft of the book. It’ll be published here (mostly) weekly.  

Felix has always been fascinated by the world around him and unafraid to try new things. Ever since he read about the rise and fall of the Elementals, however, he hasn’t been able to think about anything else. 

I set A History of the Elemental Plague on the bookshelf where I had found it earlier. “Filion, where do books come from?”

My older brother pokes his head out of the kitchen area. “From the bookmakers.” His deep voice carries so much better than my reedy, girlish voice. He’s only twelve, yet he already stands a full foot taller than me. Hopefully, in two years time, I’ll be just like him.

“So how do the bookmakers make the books? Are they all made in Baress?” I ask. I walk into the kitchen, the wood floor rough on my bare feet.. Filion crouches over the wood-burning stove, placing a handful of twigs and leaves in the firebox. “You can’t put leaves in there. Mom said it makes too much smoke.”

“Mom’s peddling with Dad, she won’t be back for another hour. The smoke will be gone by then.” Filion reaches for the flint and steel, striking sparks into the firebox. “And to answer your question, bookmakers take all the pages from the printer and bind them in a nice, heavy cover. They’re made all over. There’s one here in Haven.”

“How do they bind them?” I ask. Filion continues to strike, but to no avail.

“I don’t know, Felix. Hah!” Filion pulls back from the range, where a small flame has started to grow. “Finally! This would be so much easier if I could shoot fire from my hands.”

“Don’t say that!” I punch his arm and say, “You’d be killed!”

“Relax, little brother, I’m kidding. I know I’d be stoned to death or sent to the Withering Forest or something terrible. Go grab some vegetables from outside.”

I roll my eyes. “Are you gonna make stew again?.”

Filion pulled his orange-red hair back, glaring down at me. “Yeah.”

“You always make stew! Let’s surprise them.” I dash to the pantry with a smile on my face.

“With what? I don’t know how to make anything else,” Filion says.

“I do!” I pull out a bag of red powder. “Let’s catch us a chicken.”

“No, I’ll catch us a chicken. You grab whatever else you need.” Filion rolls his sleeves up and pats my shoulder.

“But I-”

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he says. I set the powder on the table and dive back into the pantry. I grumble the few obscenities I know under my breath, just like Dad when he’s angry. I never get to catch the chicken. Filion doesn’t think I can stomach cleaning it out.

Setting bottles and bags on the table, I hear the thunk of a cleaver from outside. “Wow, that was fast,” I say to myself. He’ll have it plucked and cleaned before long. I race to grab a bowl and begin mixing everything together. “A dash of this, a couple pours of this weird smelling oil.” I say it just like Mom says it when she cooks. She’ll be so surprised to find something new on the table.

Filion comes back in as I’m stirring my concoction on the stovetop, standing on the stepstool to reach it. “One chicken, ready to go!” He smiles, holding up a defeathered chicken, a few drops of blood trickling from the neck. “Bet you couldn’t make it look this good.”

“Yes, I could.”

“Nah, you definitely couldn’t. So what now, chef?”

“Cut it up and throw it in. We’ll get some potatoes and carrots and put it all in a pan with some oil.”

“Already got ‘em.” Filion holds up a burlap sack.

“Great. I’ll cut these up.” I take the bag from him and dump it on the counter. “Hey, Fil?”

“Yeah?” my brother asks from the table.

“Why did you laugh when you wished you could shoot fire from your hands?”

“I didn’t laugh. Besides, no one’s been able to use Elemental magic since Sauca, where those warriors with the mysterious powers overthrew them.”

“You don’t think they could come back?” I scrape the chopped potatoes into the pan. “What if they did?”

Filion sighs, pushing the sliced chicken into the concoction of spices on the stove. “I knew I shouldn’t have let you read that book. You’re getting scared over nothing.”

“I’m not scared, Fil. I just want to know what we would do if they came back.”

“Hopefully some of those warriors will save the day.” He tussles my hair, stirring the chicken. “Don’t worry about them, Felix. They’re long gone.” He sniffs. “What did you put in here?”

I dump some carrots in with the potatoes and stir them up. “A bunch of stuff. Why?”

Filion puts more wood in the firebox. “It smells weird.” He lifts the wooden spoon to his lips and licks it. “Tastes alright, though. Maybe Mom and Dad will like it.”

“They will. What mysterious powers do you think those warriors had?” I add a bit more oil to the vegetables, stirring.

“I have no idea. Can we drop it?”

“I bet they could fly or lift an ox over their heads or-”

“Felix!” I turn to my brother. His eyes are wide, his lips tight. “I said drop it. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” He sets his spoon down. “I’m going to get milk from down the street. Do you want anything?”

I shake my head, eyes on the pan. Filion walks out the front door. I take the chicken off the stove, shaking my head.

“Son? Is everything alright?” Dad comes in, red hair tied back. “Felix, what’s going on?” He crouches down next to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Filion didn’t even say hello as he left, just that he’d be back.”

“I don’t know. I was asking him about the mysterious warriors and the Elementals because we’ve been reading that book, and he said he didn’t want to talk about it.”

Dad brushes my orange hair out of my face. “Your great-grandfather used to tell Filion stories from when he lived in Voxace. Your mom and I had no idea he was telling these stories.”

“What were the stories about?”

Dad takes the pan off the stove. “These should be done by now. Let’s set them over here.” He places the pan next to the chicken. “Your great-grandfather told Filion what happened to his family when the Elementals attacked Voxace, of the terrible things he saw.”

“That was the last city to fall. I read that in the book.”

Dad smiles. “You’re a smart kid, Felix. Well, Filion never quite got over those stories. We bought that book to help him understand more of what happened, but some things take time to forget.”

“Hon, what’s that smell?” Mom came into the kitchen, pulling her auburn hair out of her braid. “Felix, were you and your brother cooking?”

I nod. “We wanted to surprise you.”

I look to Dad, who has eyes only for Mom. Mom walks over to the food, tastes it, and nods, brow furrowed. “Well, Felix, I am definitely surprised. When do you think your brother will come home?”

Dad stands up and kisses her. “He’ll be home soon.”

Mom smiles and feeds him a piece of chicken. “Okay, then. After a day like today, it’ll be nice to have a quiet dinner with everyone. We’ll wait for him to get back.”

Dad nods. “Good job, Felix. This is great.”

I smile. “Thanks, but Fil and I did it together. Can we talk more about Voxace? I have so many questions.”


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