Sorry, I forgot to set my auto-poster thing. (What’s new?) I’ll make it up to you all by posting the next part tomorrow, instead of Monday.
The Boy with Wind in his Hair walked alone down a dirt path, his hair fluttering back and forth in a wind that wasn’t there. The wind always seemed to be in his hair, throwing it back and forth, when the air was calm or turbulent, it was the same.
He was calm, looking from the woods on either side to the bright blue sky, clouds drifting across it as if swimming through the air.
As he walked, a large black wolf leaped in front of him from the woods, barring the path and baring its teeth. The hair between its shoulders bristled, and its eyes glared. The boy’s hair suddenly spun around quicker, as if in a miniature hurricane of its own. The wolf lunged at the boy, and he sidestepped the attack, then, facing the wolf, flicked his fingers sideways. As he did so, his hair whirled even more chaotically, being thown back and forth through the air.
A burst of wind came in against the wolf and pushed it to the side. The wolf resisted, but was slowly being edged back off the path nonetheless. It let out a confused bark.
The boy’s hair slowed in its flurry, then eventually went back to the speed it had been before the intrusion of the wolf.
The boy shrugged, then walked off again the way he had been going, leaving the wolf where it was. The wolf glared at the boy, then stalked off in the opposite direction.
Steam looked at the man, not sure what to do or say.
“I’m sure you’re confused. I know that the one who sent you on your way was not permitted to tell you much more than was utterly necessary. But I can tell you much more, yet not all. That you will learn from others. And there is someone here that I want you to meet. But first, sit down and I will tell you the answers to many of the questions that are no doubt brimming up in your mind,” the man sitting said, gesturing to the seat across from him, in front of the fire.
Steam sat down, still looking intently at the man.
“To start things off, I will introduce myself to you. I am Alexander Sereac, one of the twelve knowers on Aries. And this world you are on now is called Aries. No doubt you have heard of the constellation in the sky called Aries. We are currently in orbit around one of the stars in that constellation. Aries is one of the thirteen Soudulir, the planets residing in the thirteen signs of the zodiac.
Steam looked confused. “I thought there were only twelve.” Then his eyes widened. “Falx…” he whispered.
Alexander gave him a disapproving smile. “I see Ezekiel told you more than he should have.”
“Oh no, I read it in a book. Of course, he was the one who gave me the book in the first place.”
“No matter. It is easy knowledge if you know where to look anyway. Yes. Your home world resided in a thirteenth sign, and constellation, Falx. The reason you didn’t know of this constellation was, of course, because you were in it. Only the Knowers had knowledge of the true nature of Falx, and not even full knowledge at that. Falx, which you call Earth, is different from the other Soudulir. But I must not go into too much more about that, at least not just yet. Before you yet leave, I may tell you more about such things. But first, there is someone I want you to meet. He is our Chosen, The Boy with Wind in his Hair. He is similar to you in that he is the only of his like in this our world. But he is different from you, different from all of us, in another way. He has power, a power over wind and air. By this his curse and his blessing, we knew him to be our Chosen.”
He stood from his chair and walked around it, so that he was facing away from the fire with his back to the chair.
The room they were in was a large, well furnished room. There were two large doors on the other end which were closed. Above the doors were two swords, unsheathed and their blades crossed. Tapestries hung on the walls, ornately woven with rich colours. At the far left end of the room, there was a large window, behind which was dark, and on the right end of the room was a single small door.
“Send in The Chosen,” Alexander spoke loudly.
The doors opened, either one opened by a guard. A boy, by looks around the age of sixteen, walked through the parted doors.
The first thing that struck Steam as odd about him was his hair.
It was billowing about as if in a strong gale, but there wasn’t even a draft in the room. The boy was slight in build, and had grey eyes that looked around calmly. He walked forward and came to Steam, putting out a hand to shake.
“I am The Boy with Wind in his Hair. I have been told that you are The Boy with Steam on His Breath, the Forsaken from Falx. I am pleased to meet you,” he said uncomfortably. He looked up at Alexander.
“That sounded fine,” he said.
The boy took a deep breath and smiled meekly to Steam. “They told me to say that. You can call me Wind. I suppose we are to work together now?” He looked again at Alexander.
“That’s right. I have told him the same things I told you, Wind. You two may go through that door now, if you wish,” he said, pointing to the small door to the right of them. “That leads to a corridor, from which you can get to the library. Or you could just walk around and get to know each other. That might be good. A servant will come find you and bring you to dinner in a little while.”
They walked to the door and through it, walking together and not saying anything. Once they had emerged from the chamber into a well-lit corridor, though, they began to start a conversation.
“What is a Chosen?” Steam asked of Wind.
“A Chosen is a special person from each of the Soudulir. Except for Falx, though. You are their Forsaken. I don’t know why that is, but apparently we are equals, if that makes sense.”
“But you have powers. I don’t have any.”
“True. But my powers aren’t anything very special. I grew up with them, and, because of that, I suppose I underestimate their power or uniqueness. But maybe that’s what makes you a Forsaken?”
They walked down the stone corridor in no particular direction. There was a carpet running down the length of the hall, white with thin black designs sewn into it.
“How long have you been here?” Steam asked.
“I was brought here two days ago. I used to live on a farm, out in the country side. What is Falx like?” he questioned suddenly.
“Well, we call it Earth. It…well, I can’t imagine that it is too much different from Aries. Will we be able to go outside at some point?”
“Yes, but not tonight. In the morning we will be allowed to explore out there. I think the library might be through here,” he said, stopping in front of a door. He turned the knob and opened the door. They walked into the room in awe. It was a gigantic room, bookshelves lining the walls. There were two small tables with chairs in the centre of the room.
Wind looked at the room, speechless. “I’ve been in here once before, but it still amazes me. I’ve never seen so many books before.” He looked at Steam. “At the farm, we only had a handful of books. I read over them time and time again, until I had them primarily memorized. But this…this is amazing.”
Steam stood in awe as well. “I have been travelling for many years. And, because of that, I haven’t read much. I used to read a lot, before I became The Forsaken, but I don’t know if I can read very well anymore. Even the last book I was given was in Latin, so I wasn’t able to test my ability.” He smiled at Wind, the first smile he had given him in the few short minutes he had known him. Together they walked briskly into the room, looking forward to getting the chance to read again.
“Last time I was in here, I found a book on Arien history.”
“Where was it?” asked Steam, intruiged. “I would like to learn more about this place.”
“Over there somewhere,” Wind said, waving towards the left wall. “I’m going to try to find something else. Maybe about science. I’ve always been intruiged by science, but never had much of a chance to read about it.” He walked off towards the far end of the library, where a librarian sat at a large desk piled high with stacks of books and papers.
“Where are books on science?” asked Wind.
“Over there, on the right side when you just walk in the door.”
Wind thanked him and went over there, to the shelves on the right wall. He ran his hand along the titles, his head cocked to the side, searching for a book on science that seemed interesting. He found one, titled The Composition of the World, by a man named Edrin Wanelp. He picked it out of the shelf and went one of the tables, sat down, and started reading.
Steam went over in the direction that Wind had indicated, and found an entire section of Arien history. He pulled out a large tome that seemed to be an overview of the entire recorded history and lugged it over to the table, where he sat across from Wind, reading his book, his brow furrowed. He opened the book and began reading.
He found that he had no problem for the most part in getting back to reading. A few times, though, he had to ask Wind for a reminder of what a specific word was.
He found the text intruiging, revealing some of the major events in their history. A few times he asked Wind about the significance of a certain event.
Usually Wind was able to answer, but a few times he shrugged. “The royalty doesn’t always make sense, and less do their intruiges and plots,” then went back to his reading. It was a book about what matter itself was made from. It was filled with theories, but the parts about factual evidence for atoms, molecules, and, beneath that level, quarks and other subatomic particles that interested him the most.
They had been reading for close to an hour when a man in vestment inferring a higher-up servant came to them.
“Dinner will be served shortly,” he said. “Follow me and I will guide you to where it will be served.” He walked off through the door leading back into the hallway. He then wound through the hallways and doors quickly, knowing the path well. Wind and Steam had to walk at a brisk, almost running pace to keep up with him.
He finally stopped in front of wooden door, larger than the others had been, and inlaid with gold in intricate designs. He opened the door for them and bowed slightly.
Wind and Steam walked into the room. There was a surprisingly long table, laid out with a white cloth and several dishes. A man and woman sat side by side at the head of the table. The man stood up, followed shortly by his wife.
“Welcome, Forsaken of Falx and Chosen of Aries. Please, take a seat at the table.” He motioned towards a seat on either side. They sat down, Wind on the right and Steam on the left. The man and woman sat down as well.
“Sir, I am guessing that you two are royalty here. Is that correct of me to assume?” Steam asked.
“That it is, Boy with Steam on His Breath. I am King Mark Plenes, ruler of Aries, and this is my wife, the queen of Aries, Ruth Plenes. I wish to talk to you about why you are here, and what you are to do. And,” he added with a smile, guesturing to the meal spread before them, “to give you food! The chef is magnificent here.” He clapped twice, and four servants came out and served the food to the four people, each going to one of them specifically and placing fork, knife, and plate in front of them, pouring drink for them, and then putting the food onto their plates and filing back into the door they had originally come through, a small door behind the King.
The King spoke once more. “Let us eat first, then we may talk.”
The meal consisted of rice, bathed in a white wine sauce, with various roasted vegetables on the side, containing carrots, potatoes, turnips, and one other vegetable that Steam didn’t recognize. It was starchy, like a potato, but had more flavour. The servants had also given them each two slices of warm bread slathered with creamy butter.
They ate in silence. Once Wind thought of commenting on how delicious the food was, but felt that talk during the meal would be considered improper, and decided to remain quiet.
When the meal was done, the servants came back into the room and cleared their dishes away.
The King dabbed at the sides of his mouth, then laid down his napkin and spoke. “There is a great war going on, at this moment. Wind, you may have known of it, or you may have been told by Alexander. But it does not happen in this world. For the most part, this world is peaceful. We do have minor wars sometimes, both civil and with small outlying islands around our main continent, but these are not of what I speak. There is a war we fight with the other Soudulir. Now, since they are not Knowers, the majority of the people do not know of this. They think that all the things we do here, all our troops, and all that are soldiers train and arm themselves for are for exploration, discovery, and wars within our planet. But in truth, they are not. They are for the Great War that is going on every second of every day, fought between us and our fellow Soudulir. And you two are part of the plan to end these wars, this great war that they all add up to. And there will be more of you, before the final battle is fought. You have only just begun the journey leading to that inevitable end.”
Wind had nodded when the King had mentioned him. “Yes, Alexander told me of the war. But what do we fight over?”
The King’s face was pained as he spoke. “We do not know. Yet thousands of lives are lost in the war. Thousands, millions. And this is one reason why it must stop. It must stop, but yet it goes on, and lives are evermore lost. We have joined in an alliegance with five other Soudulir. The leaders of our side are the King and Queen of Leo. They were the ones who first contacted us, the six Soudulir on our side of the war, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, and Virgo. And Aquarius created a similar yet opposite legion, consisting of Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. These alliegiances were created thousands of years ago, while the war was still chaotic and no one was sure who was their ally and who was their enemy.”
“I read about that,” interjected Steam. The King and Queen looked at him, confused.
Embarrassed, he explained. “In the library. Wind and I were reading there before the servant fetched us. There was a book on the history of Aries that I was reading.”
“And a sad history it is,” the King said. “But it is now late.”
He clapped twice again. One servant hurried into the room, bowed before the King and Queen, and stood, waiting for a command. “Bring The Chosen and The Forsaken to their room.”
The servant nodded and started to the door. The four of them stood up, then Wind and Steam bowed to the King and Queen, and followed after the servant. The King and Queen sat back down and began talking quietly between themselves.
The servant guided them through the corridors, then up a spiraling stone staircase, through another corridor, and to a door. He stopped there and opened the door for them. They walked through the doorway and into a room with two large beds with hanging curtains that could be drawn around the bed for privacy. The servant shut the door.
The room, in addition to the beds, had a bathroom and a closet, as well as a large window at the far end of the room. Steam went over to the closet and opened it.
Inside were twelve complete outfits, made of silk and refined cotton and dyed various rich colours. A deep purple one struck Wind’s eye. Inside were also two leeather coats, long enough to reach to their feet. The insides of the coat were lined with thick fur.
The two of them stood agape, staring at the rich clothing. Wind picked up one of the coats and felt the inlying fur.
“This will be perfect for when we go outside tomorrow. The climate here is very cold.”
Steam went into the bathroom and was amazed again. Inside was a deep stone tub for bathing, and a basin of steaming water to use to wash their hands. On the wall hung two bathrobes. Wind and Steam slipped them on. A small door was in the bathroom, and, opening it, Steam found a smooth stone slab with a hole in it.
“That’s a garderobe. For use as the lavatory.”
They went back out into the main room and got into the beds.
The beds were the cushiest thing either of them had ever lain on.
“They must be feather-filled!” exclaimed an astonished Wind. He pulled the blankets over himself and turned over in his bed.
Steam looked around the room once more before blowing out the candle on a table between their beds and pulling the covers up over himself as had Wind.
Everything here was so different than he was used to. And being treated as a royal guest was simply foreign to him.
He tried to put his mind to rest and get to sleep.
Soon enough, the two of them drifted off to sleep, cradled by the comfortable beds and warm blankets.
In the morning when they awoke, sunlight was streaming in through the window. When Wind got up, Steam had already been awake for an hour, looking out the window at the landscape.
The castle lay in a crevace of red rock. All around it, as far as Steam and Wind could see, were steep cliffs of the red stone, appearing to be nearly two hundred feet tall. There was, however, one visible flight of stairs chiseled into the stone, a way to get to the surface. Neither Wind nor Steam could see what lay on the surface, for the window they were looking out of was below that level by around a hundred feet.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” said Steam.
“Yes. Where I used to live, though, it was quite different from this.”
A knock came on their door.
“Hot water!” said the voice outside.
Wind left the window, went to the door, and opened it. In came six servants, all carrying large buckets full of steaming water. They rushed into the bathroom and filled the tub and sink with the water, then rushed back out the door, closing it behind them.
“I’ve had baths both days I’ve been here. You are free to take one; I don’t really feel like taking one again.”
Steam smiled. “It has been a very long time since I’ve had a hot bath. I’ve only been able to bathe in streams for the past year and a half. I’d be glad to take one.”
He opened the closet, and chose an outfit to wear, and went into the bathroom, closing the door. He undressed and slipped into the hot water, yet it was not so hot as to be uncomfortable. He let out a sigh of pleasure at the warmth flooding his body. He closed his eyes and slid deeper into the water, so the lower half of his face was covered by the water as well. He leaned his head against the side of the stone tub and felt all anxiety he had had about everything going on slide away.
After twenty minutes, the warmth of the water started to decrease, so, after plunging his head under the surface and quickly washing his hair, he opened the drain and got out, drying himself with a towel. The outfit he had chosen consisted of crimson pants and a matching shirt, along with a white vest with silver stitching for over top. He dressed and opened the door. Wind was sitting on his bed, wearing the deep purple suit he had been looking at the previous night. They went to the closet, retrieved their leather coats, and started to the door before Steam stopped suddenly.
“How will we know where to go?” Steam asked.
“I think I might remember the way to the dining hall. I’m guessing that is where we are supposed to go.” Wind shrugged.
They opened the door and stepped out, and were surprised and relieved to find another servant standing outside.
“Follow me, please,” he said to the boys. He then rushed back through the hallways, down the stairs, and into the dining hall, where the King and Queen again sat. The table had again been laid out with a white cloth and food.
“Sit down, boys,” the Queen said.
They did so, in the same places they had the previous night.
“Did you sleep well?” questioned the King.
“Very well,” said Steam.
“The same for me as well,” said Wind. “The beds are very comfortable.”
The King smiled. “That they are. I imagine you both, especially you, Steam, would like to explore outside the castle some today. That will be fine, you can do it after breakfast. But after that, we will have to send you on your way to the next Soudulir,” he ended, a sad look on his face.
He clapped twice, and, in a way similar to last night, the servants came out and served their food and drink.
They ate, enjoying the potatoes, eggs, and bread. A small glass of a red liquid was also given to them.
Steam sipped it, then poorly supressed a cough.
Wind looked at him. “It’s Elep, a type of alcohol. Some of us on Aries drink it every morning as a type of supplement. I suppose it is rather stout, though, for someone who isn’t used to it.”
Steam managed to drink the rest of the glass after watching Wind gulp down the entire portion in one swallow.
After they finished the meal, the servants came in again and took their dishes away.
“You two may go outside now, if you wish.” He clapped two times a servant came in, bowed before the king, and waited for instruction.
“Show The Forsaken and The Chosen the way out of the castle,” he said to the servant. “Don’t spend too long out there. You have important business to attend to in the next Soudulir, and another will join your company.”
The boys left with the servant, the King and Queen again standing and sitting down as the boys got up from the table.
The boys followed the servant through more corridors, down several flights of the same spiraling stone stairs, and through a courtyard, with several people milling about or lounging against the wall, reading, until finally, they came to a small door, made from wrought iron. A guard standing outside the door, seeing their arrival, pulled out a ring of keys and unlocked a large padlock keeping the door shut. He opened the door for them, and they went through, leaving the castle. They were now in the crevice of pure red rock. They put on their coats, which they had been carrying with them the entire time. The bitterly cold winds whipped at them. They put up the collars around their faces, to shield them from the freezing gusts. They then started towards the steep stone stairs that had been hewn out of the raw stone. They climbed up them, pausing a few times to catch their breath.
By the time they got to the surface, they were hot and tired. They had both put down their collars to cool off from the heat of exertion.
The area where they were was still red rock, but that only spread out another thirty or so feet before fading into dirt, where tall grasses blew back and forth. There were trees dotting the landscape, creating small pools of shadow in the bright sun.
They walked through the grasses, and among the trees for quite some time before coming to a small stream running horizontal to the way they had been walking. They crossed over it, jumping to and from a few small stones that stuck out of the water.
Beyond there was more of the same, tall grasses and occasional trees.
They wandered around them for a while before heading back towards where the castle was. They crossed the stream again, then came to the red rock and the narrow stairway.
They walked back down the stairs and to the gate where there was a guard, but a different one then had been there when they left. When he saw them, he pulled out a similar ring of keys as the other had had and unlocked the door, letting them in.
“I think I remember the way,” said Wind.
They went through the winding hallways, up stairs, and to a door which Wind thought was the dining hall where they had eaten. Steam knocked on the door, and heard someone inside say, “Enter.” He turned the knob and opened the door.
It was the dining hall, and the King sat where he had been before, but the Queen was nowhere to be seen in the room.
“How was your time?” the King asked.
“Very good,” said Steam. “It is quite different here than Earth, or rather, Falx,” he recovered. “Or at least what I have seen of both.”
“We love our home,” said the King, “which is another reason why this war must stop. I feel that our planet is in danger, and it will only be a matter of time before it is destroyed.”
Seeing the boys’ puzzled expressions, he explained. “The Queen is making the tea, using the Pelephel leaf. It will bring you to the next Souludir. She should be here shortly.”
After a few minutes, the Queen stepped into the room, bearing two cups of tea. She handed one each to them with a sweet smile.
“I hope you two may serve your part in saving our world, and, in truth, our universe.”
“Thank you for everything,” the boys said.
“You are very welcome,” said the Queen in a quiet voice. “I agree with my husband the King that you two are very important. Do not forget that. And I hope with him that your journey and battles along the way go well.”
“Now drink,” the King said.
The two of them drank of their tea, Wind somewhat more apprehensive about it than Steam. Steam had somewhat anticipated what would happen, but not the flavour of the tea. It tasted cold, like mint, yet much stronger. His teeth hurt from the cold that he felt from it, and it stung his lungs and throat to breath.
Wind enjoyed the flavour and feel of the tea, but was confused when things started fading, blurring into one another. He looked over to where Steam stood, and was surprised to find that he was in no way blurry. Steam looked at him and smiled.
In a moment, everything in their vision except for themselves was black, then colour and light started coming back in.
They were in a small room, a candle lit and on a table, with a man sitting in one of the four wicker chairs, reading at the table.
He looked up at them, shocked. “Who are you? How did you get here?” he asked.