The Boy with Sound on his Fingers walked on a bridge over a chasm. He looked down into the pit. He was unable to see the bottom. The rock walls faded away into black.
He pulled out his felle, a five stringed instrument that he carried with him wherever he went, strapped to his back. He played a chord, then turned one of the tuning pegs ever so slightly, bringing the string from flat to just right.
He played the chord again and smiled, then started playing a quick-paced song, standing in the middle of the cavern, on the wooden planks of the long bridge stretching across it.
The sound echoed long through the cavern, multiplying the noise and bringing it back to him. He carried on with the song for several minutes, then stopped the strings’ vibrations and put it back to where he kept it on his back, the strap attached to it supporting it.
He continued across the bride. On the other side, a rocky plateau, there was an archaic wooden elevator, the rope attached to the top of it leading up, far up, to another world, the higher world.
Before Wind or Steam had a chance to respond, Memory spoke quickly.
“Now that I’ve been unlocked,” he said, “I’ll be right back.”
He closed his eyes, the light coming back in around his temples, and he vanished, a flash of light coming then going.
“No! Memory!” Wind yelled, but it was too late. He had gone back to Taurus.
The transition this time was quicker for Memory. He appeared in the kitchen of David’s house. He ran over to the door.
It had been completely caved in, though the very frame of the door was still intact and attached to the wall, the centre was broken, large enough for something to climb through.
David was nowhere to be seen.
There was a stain of blood on the floor, a deep dark red smear.
Memory ran frantically through the house, but wasn’t able to find any evidence of David or the intruder, or whatever it was.
He closed his eyes, focused, and went back to Gemini.
The Forsaken and The Chosen, along with the elderly man, waited, not sure what to do or expect to happen.
A few moments later, there was a similar flash of light, and Memory reappeared, tears brimming in his eyes.
“He’s gone. I couldn’t find him in the house anywhere,” Memory said. He decided to not tell them about the smear of blood, for even he didn’t want to think about that or what it could mean right now.
The other’s didn’t know what to say or do to console him, but their crestfallen faces showed that they, too, were distraught about his disappearance.
The old man turned to the three of them. “I will take you into my town. There is an elevator there that can take us up to the higher planet, where our Chosen, The Boy with Sound in his Fingers, lives.”
“Higher planet?” asked Steam.
“Yes. We here in Gemini have two planets, with which we were graced at the creation. The lower planet lies within the higher planet, rotating at the same speed as the Higher. We can easily go between the two by elevators that we have made and placed in each town or city. Perhaps this was because of what the constellation we lie in represents, The Twins. I do not know for sure,” he said, walking through the tunnel they were in. It opened up into a shadowy area, that, at first, looked like merely a town at night. But they looked up, up to what would have been the sky. In the beginning, they only saw blackness, their eyes hadn’t adjusted yet. But their eyes adjusted to the darkness, and they saw, thousands of feet above them, stone. Dark grey stone encircling the entire place above them where the sky would have been.
The three boys gasped in amazement.
The old man looked up as well. “It is amazing, yes. Let me introduce myself. I am Aaron Mizrael, one of the twelve Knowers here. I take you to be The Boy with Wind in his Hair,” he said to Wind, then turned to Memory “And from what your friend called you, you must be The Boy with Memory in his Mind. And that would leave you as The Boy with Steam on His Breath. You are all welcome here.”
They went to what had originally seemed like a large wooden tower, stretching from the ground on the Lower planet to and through the bedrock of the Higher planet. But now as they got closer they realized that it was one of the elevators that Aaron had spoken of.
Before they went to it, Aaron pulled them aside into one of the houses. All of the houses in the town were made of large stone blocks. Light glowed out of the openings used as doors, creaing puddles of light. The other light in the underground world came from weak electric lights and torches placed randomly around the town. He guided them into the house.
“This is my house. I will pick a few leaves of Pleu before we go up. It only grows down here on the Lower planet.” He guided them in, then went into another room, and returned a few moments later, carrying a few leaves of a shockingly blue colour. He put them in his pocket, then led the way out of his house and towards the elevator.
They got in the elevator, the cab swaying as they stepped on.
There was a lever on the very inside of the box, and, after closing the small door of the cab, Aaron pulled it. There was a sound of something high above them shifting loudly, then the cab jumped into action, moving upwards at an uneven rate. It continued upwards for many minutes. When they were halfway up, though, there was what felt like an earthquake. The cab swung menacingly, then halted in its upward movement. Another crash was both heard and felt. Looking out the slats of wood, the four of them saw chunks of the rock detach from the Higher world and fall towards the Lower, smashing into whatever was on the ground below it.
The elevator started up again, and in a few minutes they were at the top. Two more times the shuddering of the planets had happened since it had started.
The elevator went into a vertical tunnel of stone. No light was let in. They were like this for another several minutes, before coming out onto the blindingly bright surface. Their eyes adjusted, and they were able to see the area they were in better. It was another small village, but this one was very different from the one they had just left. Its houses were built from wood and mud, and there was much more variation in the styles of the houses than there had been in the Lower planet.
But the thing that struck them the most was a stream of black pouring from the sky down onto the planet. It seemed to be comprised of many black beings, things, flying down out from the atmosphere onto the planet. A shudder took hold of the planet again, and they heard faraway screams of people in the village.
Aaron opened the door, and the three boys stepped out, staring at the spectacle before them in shock and horror. They turned to Aaron after noticing that he hadn’t gotten out with them.
“Aren’t you coming, Aaron?” Memory asked.
“No, my place is in the Lower planet, to help those who have been affected by this…attack. But here, take these,” he said, handing the Pleu leaves to Memory. “If you go into that house, there, you will find our Chosen, The Boy with Sound in his Fingers. I must go now.” He closed the door and pulled the lever, the elevator dropping out of sight.
The three boys rushed to the house he had pointed out and pounded on the door. A boy, looking to be around the age of sixteen, opened the door. His eyes were dark, his face looked concerned.
He looked them over quickly. “Come in,” he said.
“We don’t need to spend much time giving each other introductions. I am this Soudulir’s Chosen, The Boy with Sound in his Fingers. You can just call me Sound,” he winked, “seeing how that can be a rather time-consuming name to say otherwise. I’m guessing you are The Boy with Steam on His Breath, you, The Boy with Wind in his Hair, and you, The Boy with Memory in his Mind.”
The three boys each nodded in turn.
“I would like to get to know you all better, and I’m sure I will, in time. But as you know, we have been attacked. By what, I’m not sure yet. But that,” he said with a smile, “is what we were Chosen for.”
As he had talked, he had picked up his felle and, quietly and without seeming to know it himself, had faintly plucked a few strings and strummed a few chords.
He attached a strap to the instrument and swung it behind him. “We should go. I’m assuming you all have a good grasp on your powers.”
“All except me,” said Steam. “As The Forsaken, I don’t have a power. At least, I don’t think I do. I mean, I can still help. My body has been toughened by my time living alone and in the wilderness.”
Sound’s eyes were sly as he spoke. “I have no doubt that that will change soon,” he said. “But we must go now.”
He led the three others out of the house and towards the impact site.
Streaming out of where the black hit the surface of the planet, there were thousands, millions, of black-clothed beings. They were the height of humans, but, unable to see their faces, the four boys could not tell whether they were or not. But wherever they went, they destroyed. In a moment, the source of the black column faded, and the rest of it plunged onto the planet. The Chosen and The Forsaken in a moment realized what it had been. It was a literal stream of the attackers, flung down from somewhere outside the atmosphere.
One of the beings slowly came closer to the boys, and they saw that all around it there was a black mist, spreading out slowly. The clothes it bore, that they had originally though black, were actually a very dark purple. In a moment, some others noticed the four boys and came closer to them, the first one in the front. Simultaneously, they all pulled out their swords, roughly made, and picked up speed in going closer to the four boys.
Sound stepped in front of them. “One moment,” he said. He put his hands to the ground. In a moment, a low vibration could be heard by all present. They looked at the ground. It was vibrating, and seemed in another way to be moving, shifting. The ground before the creatures started to crumble away, give way, and they slowly started sinking. But before they could be fully emerged, Sound stopped what he was doing, and they froze in place. The dark cloak obscured their features. Wind went over to one of them that was almost completely submerged, and had stopped moving, presumably dead.
He pulled the cloak back from over its head and let out a gasp.
Beneath the dark purple cloak was a gleaming white skull, the eye sockets staring vacantly up. Suddenly the neck twitched. Wind flinched back, his hair whirling about more violently than usual. He kicked the head off of the skeleton and rushed forward, towards the roaming mass of them.
Memory, Sound, and Steam, broken out of their stupor, started running after him. Once Wind had neared the edge of the main mass of intruders, he let out a scream, his hair whirling about as if in a hurricane. Soon his magenta clothes began to flap against each other, a wind starting to spin around him. Soon it became a full-fledged whirlwind, spinning about him at greater and greater speeds. The warriors, nonetheless, still tried to get to him, and were sucked into the tempest. Their bones and cloaks flew away in pieces, torn apart by the whirling wind.
A large chunk of the attackers had been destroyed before the swirling wind slowed and finally stopped, Wind still standing in the centre, his hair no longer fluttering about a wildly. He took a deep breath, then sat down, among the bones and bits of cloth.
“Wow. Are you alright, Wind?” Sound asked.
“Yes. I think so, anyway. I’ve never had to use my power like that, or in that degree of power.” He stood up. “But I actually feel quite good.”
Memory had gone over towards one of the approaching warriors and started staring at it. He then closed his eyes, the light coming to his temples, and focused, focused on making known to the warrior what he truly was, and what he had been, dead, before he was re-created for this purpose. The skeleton fell to pieces before him.
Memory opened his eyes and smiled. “I wasn’t sure that would work,” he said to himself. “But apparently…”
He stepped closer to a larger group of them. They, seeing him, started to charge at him, swords drawn. He closed his eyes, his temples glowed, and the entire area around him fell apart. He continued working his way through the seemingly endless number of them in this way. Sound continued doing what he had done, Wind blew them apart. Memory kicked and struck at the attackers, dodging any attacks the creatures directed to him. It seemed as though he must have had training for his skills. But Steam was at a loss of what to do. One of the creatures which had escaped Wind’s miniature hurricane started at him, sword ready to slash.
He swung at Steam. With speed that surprised even him, Steam stepped to the side. The skeleton turned and faced him, then swung again. Steam sidestepped again, then kicked the leg out from under him, grabbing the sword as the creature fell to the stony ground. Steam flipped the sword around in his hands, then knocked the head off the creature.
He heard something approaching from behind him, and turned, the sword at the ready.
Another of the black cloaked skeletons had come behind him, and was bringing down a hefty downwards stroke. Steam held the sword up in defense, and the grating sound of steel hitting steel broke the air. He pushed the sword off, then came at the creature with a swipe with the sword. It blocked it.
Then something hit against Steam from the back, cutting into his shoulder slightly. He stumbled back. There was another of the warriors, Steam’s blood on the blade of his sword. The two of them silently came towards Steam. He scrambled to his feet, trying to block out the pain in his shoulder. He parried and attacked in turn with the two warriors, but they were gaining ground on him. He turned around, and saw another of them coming at him. As he was turning back to the two closer at hand, he saw yet another coming at him from the side. He turned to the other side and there was one there as well.
He continued backing up, then found he was getting to close to the one in back of him.
They were closing in and there was no escape. He stopped, turning with his sword, trying to face them all but failing.
“Help!” he called out. The five warriors came upon him. He swung the sword blindly, but to no avail. They were slowly getting closer to him. He got a cut on his cheek, on the left arm near the wrist, on the upper part of his right leg. He brought one arm up to block his face, but it was sliced brutally by one of the warriors.
He uncovered his eyes, and saw the death blow coming down on him.
He wasn’t sure what then happened. To him, everything was a blur.
But to the three boys, who looked over, despite the battles they were each having, surprised at the noise, they saw a bright light surrounded by five of the warriors. The a space was formed around the guardians and the light. It grew out in a sphere, then collapsed suddenly. An instant later, there was an explosion of air, the light in the centre. The five guardians and many more near there were obliterated. The light seemed to be in the form of a human. The light faded and they saw that it was Steam. He swayed and collapsed on the ground.
Wind rushed over to him. Steam lay on the ground, his face peacefully placid, his eyes closed. Wind saw the rise and fall of his chest, though, and knew that somehow he was alright.
Wind went back to the others. “He seems to be fine.”
Almost all of the warriors were in shambles, scattered across the rocky ground.
Wind, Memory, and Sound quickly took care of the rest, then went over to the prostrate form of Steam.
They tried to revive him, but failed. They sat around his body, deciding to merely wait until he awoke by himself.
Wind turned to Memory questioningly. “Have you had training to fight before? You seemed quite good out there,” he asked.
“Thank you,” Memory replied. “Yes, David taught me, ever since I was young, how to defend myself. I have just gotten used to it, I guess.”
Then Memory was silent for a moment. He was thinking, for a moment, then spoke. “There is something I don’t quite understand. These warriors were silent. But when there was an attack at my house, my host Knower, David, stabbed the attacker several times, and it bellowed as if in pain. So it couldn’t have been these.”
Shortly after he had spoken the words, a large black something dropped out of the sky, shaking the ground when it landed.
Sound had been strumming the felle while they sat, but stopped and swung the instrument around to where it stayed on his back. “What…is that thing?”
It seemed to be some large creature, coloured darker than black, surrounded by a dense dark haze. It started running towards them, its six legs moving back and forth, a creature of nightmare.
The three of them stood up and each took a defensive position around Steam.
But before it got near them, the ground started vibrating, similar to the way it had done when Sound had first attacked the warriors. The ground before and around the creature crumbled and gave way. It dropped quickly through the ground.
Wind and Memory looked at Sound questioningly. “It wasn’t me,” he said.
They heard a loud thud come from the hole that the creature had fallen through. “It must have hit the Lower planet. I’m guessing it is dead now,” Sound said with a grin.
The vibrations stopped, and at the instant they did so, Steam’s eyes snapped open.
He sat up, the other three boys coming around him quickly.
“What happened?” Steam asked of them.
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” said Memory. “First there was an explosion of air, something that it would seem that Wind here would do, then Sound’s…erm…attack? How do you do that, anyway?” he asked Sound.
“Well, as The Boy with Sound in his Fingers, I am able to sense the frequency of things, and I am able to modify them. I merely modified the frequency of the ground beneath the warriors that made it less dense, causing them to sink.”
“I see. But how did you do that, Steam? I thought you didn’t have any powers.”
“I really don’t know. I don’t really remember doing anything, either. I think I must have been unconscious. But…maybe…maybe it has something to do with what David was talking about. The unlockings. Do you know about those, Sound?” he said, noticing that Sound was nodding.
“Yes. And I think you are correct. I do not, however, know how far this may go.”
Wind gave Steam a hand and pulled him up to standing.
“We can go back to my house if you wish,” Sound said.
“Yes, I have the Pleu leaves, to make the tea,” Memory said. “But I’m actually rather tired. It was evening when I left my Soudulir.”
Steam yawned, causing Wind to yawn also. “I’m tired also. We haven’t slept since Aries,” Steam said, referring to him and Wind.
Sound laughed. “That’s odd. Do you go to the other Soudulir at random times?”
“It seems so,” Wind answered.
“Well you three are welcome to rest for a while at my house if you wish. I have plenty of room.”
“Do you live alone?” asked Memory.
“Yes. I have since I was eleven, when my parents died. I take care of myself,” Sound answered.
They went back to his house. As far back as the elevator shaft there were bits of bone and cloth, remnants from the battle.
Steam suddenly looked at his arms as they stepped through the door. “I just realized. My arms! And my leg! And,” he said, feeling his face, “my cheek! I got hit by the swords several times, but the cuts are gone!”
“Another oddity,” Memory said. “I might have to start writing these down soon.”
Inside the house, now that there was peace, they were able to look around more. It was quite large, with many rooms. It was three stories high.
Sound brought the three of them up to the second floor, where there were three rooms, each with a bed.
They thanked him, went in to their rooms, and each fell off to sleep quickly.
While they slept, Sound sat in the downstairs, in a chair, strumming his felle and thinking.
After a few hours he was broken out of his reverie by the sound of someone upstairs moving. He went to the kitchen and started a pot of water boiling.
It was Memory.
“So how much do you know about the Soudulir, and the Great War, and all of that?” Memory asked him.
“Not much more than what you all know. I have been trying to study them for a while, but, as you probably know, there isn’t much information on them out there.”
“True. I usually had to write my own.”
“How does that work?”
“I don’t know. It is just part of my power. I can know things past and present.”
There was the sound of two more people coming down the stairs, and into the room came Wind and Steam.
“Thank you. I feel much better now,” Wind said.
The teakettle on the stove started whistling. “Could I have the Pleu leaves?” Sound asked of Memory.
“Of course,” he answered, handing the now somewhat crumpled leaves to Sound.
He took out of a cabinet four teacups, and put a leaf of Pleu into each of them. He poured the boiling water into the cups.
“Just give them a few minutes to steep,” he said to the three other boys.
“I was just wondering,” said Steam, “what should we do with all the remnants of the battle? Won’t the other people who live here not like them? And where were the people, anyways? I didn’t see anyone the entire time we were out there.”
“That is because I don’t merely live alone in this house. The town is deserted too. But it isn’t quite all as bad as that,” he added, “I visit the Lower planet quite often, almost every other day, and there are some people I visit there sometimes. Including Aaron, who I assume you met.”
“I see,” said Steam.
“Here,” Sound said, handing each of them a teacup, then taking one himself. “It should be ready now. Shall we?”
The four of them lifted their teacups and drank. This tea, made from the Pleu leaf, was surprisingly bitter to all of them. But it had much the same effect as the other teas had had, a blurring of the area around them, then everything going black, then unfading and going from blurry to clear.
They stood on black, shiny stone. Not too far away, though, there was dirt and plants, trees and flowers, all growing.
But they were alone, no one near them that they could see.
A warm breeze blew across the area they were standing in.