The Boy with Fire in his Heart walked along in the jungle surrounding the volcano, listening to the waves on the east side of the peninsula lap against the sandy shores.
He was at peace here, in his home among the trees and vines. But most of his days he spent walking on the ground.
He looked up at the volcano. It hadn’t erupted in several hundred years, and he dearly hoped that it wouldn’t for another several hundred. Last time, as their histories dictated, it had taken five years to get back to normal, and, still even then, not fully. Many lives had been lost, irreplacable.
Bored, he decided to use his power, the gift he was given to become a Chosen. He arched his neck and head back, then felt a burning in his chest. A flame appeared above his solar plexus, a burst of fire. Then it settled down and became a flickering flame, hovering just a few inches from his chest.
He felt warmth fill his entire body, then, with a flick of the fingers, opened his hand. A small flame was there too. He focused on it, and it became large, hotter. But the heat didn’t bother him. It was part of him, and he was part of it.
He brought his hand up across his body, then swung it down. A line of flame followed it, staying in the air for a second before fading away into nothing, no fuel to keep it going.
He took a deep breath, and the flame above his chest faded away.
They looked around at the area around them, hoping to find someone, anyone, that would help them know what to do.
They turned around and looked at a large volcano behind them, the shiny black stone they were standing on going partway up it.
“Obsidian,” said Memory.
“What should we do now? When we have gone to the other Soudulir in the past, it has taken us to a Chosen. But there isn’t one here,” Wind said.
Steam was still looking at the volcano, specifically at a thin line of smoke rising from it. He frowned, then turned back to the other three boys.
“I guess we should just walk around until we find someone,” Steam said.
“We could start there,” said Sound, pointing to a jungle not too far off from where they were. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone on this stone or on the sand, so we may as well start there as anywhere.”
The other three boys agreed and all four of them started walking to the jungle. It was thicker than it had seemed from where they had been, a distance away from it, and they had to pull down a few vines to get past.
As they looked up into the trees, they let out a gasp of awe.
High up in the trees, nearly fifty feet, were full sized houses built onto and around the trees. There were, on some of them, as many as four houses on one tree, separated by five or ten feet and accessable to each other by ladders. People walked across narrow rope bridges strung between the houses to get from place to place. As soon as they heard and saw the four boys, whispers spread through the people like a match hitting gunpowder. They scurried from person to person, house to house, keeping their eyes on the boys. After a few moments, an old man came out of the largest house and got into a small wooden box hanging from a rope beside the platform outside the house. The rope went up and around a curved branch, where two men held it. They slowly lowered him down to the ground level, where he walked towards the four boys slowly, his back hunched.
“What are you four doing here?” he asked. “How did you get…” he started, but stopped abruptly when he saw Wind’s hair.
“You must be here for Fire,” he said, his face hard. “He lives over there,” he said, pointing to a house somewhat apart from the others, high up in one of the trees.
“Thank you,” Steam said to him. “Is there…something wrong we have done, though? You look troubled to see us.”
“Well, somewhat. But it is not your fault. The volcano that casts its shadow upon us has started to smoke. It has not done so in all the time any of us has been here, and we fear that it may be a sign that it will erupt. It has not done so in many hundreds of years, and last time it did, the effects were cataclysmic.”
“Oh no!” Memory cried out. “I truly hope it doesn’t.”
“Thank you, all the same,” Sound said. “We are here for…what did you call him? Your Chosen.”
“The Boy with Fire in his Heart.”
The four boys bowed awkwardly, because they felt they should, and went to the tree that he had indicated to. It was the only house on that tree and a ladder hung from the top to the ground. The four boys, Sound in the lead, followed by Wind, then Memory, then with Steam in back, climbed up the rope ladder.
They got to the platform on top and knocked on the door of the house, three planks nailed together lengthwise. It was opened by a boy with red hair. He wore rough clothes that seemed to be made from some type of homespun thread. His skin was not brown, but it was of a darker hue than that of the other four boys.
He gave a sly smile. “Hello, The Chosen of Aries, Taurus, and Gemini, and The Forsaken of Falx. I am The Boy with Fire in his Heart, and I have been waiting for you. Welcome to Cancer. And I think in a few minutes I will need your help.” He motioned for them to step into his house, then closed the door behind them.
“What do you think you will need our help with?” Sound asked.
Before The Boy with Fire in his Heart could answer, Memory, who was looking out a window at the volcano, spoke. “The volcano. The smoke isn’t just a fluke. It is going to erupt, and soon.”
“Yes. Or so I believe. Perhaps we can seal it before it does so. Perhaps,” he added, a strange look on his face, “we will have to seal it while it erupts.”
Memory snapped out of his faraway look at the smoking volcano. “You seem happy about it.”
“Happy? No, I wouldn’t say happy. But more…curious I suppose. Curious to how far my power will take me. But I think I will still need your help,” he said.
“How?” Wind asked.
“Well, as your name would imply, you have some control over air. You may be able to, using that power, direct some of the lava away from the village.”
“Or cool it, possibly,” said Wind.
“Yes, that would be an option as well. You three,” he said to Sound, Memory, and Steam, “can use your respective powers likewise. I don’t entirely know what they amount to, but I am sure they could help in some way.”
“I will try,” said Steam. “Just one thing. What should we call you? I suppose we could call you The Boy with Fire in his Heart, but…”
The Chosen of Cancer laughed. “You may call me Fire. And what should I call you?”
“Steam,” answered The Chosen of Falx.
“Wind,” answered The Chosen of Aries.
“Memory,” answered The Chosen of Taurus.
“And you may call me Sound,” answered The Chosen of Gemini.
“Good. Now that we have made ourselves known to each other, we might want to go seal the volcano.”
He opened the door and jumped off the platform, but, an instant before he would have hit the ground, the used his power, a flame bursting in front of his chest, and he caught one of the rungs of the ladder, stopping himself, then let go and lightly dropped to the ground. Steam climbed down, followed by Memory, and, after him came Sound. Wind still stood at the top of the ladder, on the platform.
“I bet I could do that,” he said quietly. He decided to try, leaping off the ledge. Part way down, he tried to grab one of the rungs, but failed and slipped. His foot hit one of the rungs and he spun so his back was towards the ground.
Without even meaning to do so, his hair spun about and his eyes widened. Wind blew all around him, and spun him so he was again right side up. He tried to land on the ground, but the spinning winds tripped up his feet and he started to fall again. The wind pushed him back up to standing.
His hair calmed.
The four other boys were staring at him in disbelief. “What were you trying to do?” asked Fire, the flame still dancing in front of his chest.
“Well, I thought…that maybe I could do what you did. I guess it didn’t work. But I wonder…”
His hair flipped around again crazily, and his feet lifted off the ground a few inches. His hair calmed again, and his feet tapped lightly against the ground.
“Interesting,” said Fire.
The five of them continued walking quickly towards the volcano, led by Fire. Steam worked his way up to him.
“I’m just wondering, but, is the man who directed us to you a Knower? The elderly man. He seemed like a village leader or something.”
“Yes. But he has blocked out his memory of such things, saying that he doesn’t like to think about them. I am a constant reminder of the sad truth to him. It truly is a shame. There aren’t any more Knowers in our village. There is one, though, in a village a few days walk from here. I have gone to him a few times, learning of The Great War and our role in it. And I think I may have come to a few of my own conclusions about some aspects of it. But those can wait.”
He stopped talking, continuing towards the volcano. He hadn’t turned towards Steam when he had spoken.
They neared the volcano, as the dirt beneath their feet turned to obsidian and other types of volcanic rock. They could see where they had been when they had come to Cancer, this Soudulir.
Fire, still leading the way, continued without slowing, going up the volcano. It seemed so much larger now that they were beneath it, climbing up its slope.
Before they were yet halfway up the volcano, a tremor ran through the rock of the side of the volcano. Still Fire climbed up the volcano, not slowing at all.
It rumbled again, more violently this time. The five of them continued up, Fire still charging ahead. But something had changed this time. He started laughing, a delerious laughter of hate and love, joy and sorrow, order and chaos. The laugher got louder, and it seemed to power him, drive him forward even faster.
When they had almost gotten to the top, it erupted.
The lava burst out of the stone encasing it and flew high into the air. Fire looked up, still laughing, the flame quivering at his chest..
Wind turned to Memory, Sound, and Steam. “Get behind me. I should be able to hold off the lava while Fire does…whatever he’s going to do.”
The first bit of lava started to come down when the flame at Fire’s chest leapt up suddenly and Fire jumped into the mouth of the volcano.
Memory gasped. The lava had started to run down to where they now stood, burning any vegetation in its path. Wind held his hands above his head, his hair spinning about madly. The lava was redirected away from them, further down the slope.
“I’ll take care of that,” said Sound.
He placed his hands on the ground and focused, the vibration filling the air and ground again. The rock ahead of the rapidly moving lava fell, creating a chasm that the lava fell into.
Fire was enjoying his time, swimming through the lava. The heat pressed against him, almost even too much for he to bear.
“If I have absolute control over fire and heat, able to create it just of my will” he thought, “I may be able to take it away as well. I certainly hope so, or my village and The Chosen and Forsaken, and, more importantly, the entire universe, may be at stake. If I don’t do this and the Chosen and Forsaken perish, The Great War will be lost to both sides, never resolved. I must do this.”
He focused all his energy, not outward, but into himself. Heat rushed into him, more than he had ever felt before. The flame at his chest was a full fledged blaze now, burning with all its might, and his hands were coated in fire.
He focused on where, specifically, to pull the heat and energy from, creating a seal in the volcano, hopefully to last until the world itself died, and no sooner. Any eruption of the volcano would be devestating.
Slowly, gradually, the area he was pulling heat from cooled and hardened into a black seal, many feet thick.
“Almost…” he though, taking the last of the heat into himself. The pain was excrutiating. Every part of his body felt on fire, and there was no way to stop it.
The seal was finished. He swam up to the surface and jumped out of the lava, now cooling.
Sound, Memory, Wind, and Steam saw Fire climb out of the mouth of the volcano, dripping lava. The volcano had stopped erupting and now only a small amount was running down the side of the mountain, running away from the cool air, but, slowly, gradually, hardening and stopping in place, yet another cooled stream of lava.
Fire’s clothes had burned off, leaving a black tight to the skin shirt and pants that he must have worn beneath his other clothing.
But what they noticed the most was the colour of him. His hair, which had been an orangish colour, looked pale against the bright red colour of his skin.
A large fire burned over his chest and hands. Lava ran down his arms and legs.
He arched his neck and head backwards, throwing back his arms.
In that second, it looked to the four boys that there was no longer a boy on the top of the volcano, but a large bonfire. In the next second, though, the fire was gone, and it was only Fire standing at the top of the volcano. A light stream of smoke rose from him as he walked down the mountain, towards the four others.
“It’s done. And I see,” he said, noticing the trenches Sound had created, “that you’ve taken care of the lava that got away. Good. Our village need fear no more.” He took a deep breath and sat down on the rough surface of the volcano.
The four other boys sat down next to him. Steam spoke up.
“What were your “own conclusions” you mentioned earlier?” He said.
Fire sighed, a sound of relief. “I have been noticing some patterns in our battles against the other alliance. For one, there seems to be an overall theme of light, white, purity on our side. And on theirs, dark, black, and shadow. Not necessarily good and bad, in the typical senses of the words. More an inclination, than anything. But it is a pattern nonetheless. Second, there seem to be some correllations to our wars throughout the centuries and millenia that apply to a game we have here, on this Soudulir, that we call Ckeles. A strategic game, pieces making their moves in a pattern. I also see, at a more detailed level, parallels drawn between certain Soudulir and their Chosen and separate pieces of this game.”
“Interesting. Actually, in my research, I have noticed similar things,” said Memory.
The five boys stood up and walked back down the mountain and towards the village in the trees. As soon as they had broken through the thick layer of vines that Fire told them was actually a wall to protect them from certain animals that roam outside the village, they were greeted by the elder that had told the four boys where Fire was, along with close to a hundred other villagers.
The elder came forward to them. “Thank you so very much for saving us all, The Boy with Fire in his Heart. And to you as well, The Boy with Steam on His Breath, The Boy with Wind in his Hair, The Boy with Memory in his Mind, and The Boy with Sound in his Fingers. We owe our lives, and more, to you.” After he said this, the villagers, who had been whispering to themselves, looking curiously at the boys while he spoke, burst out, rejoicing.
“And you have shown me, especially, what good you and your kind can do. I wish to tell you some things, warn you of some dark things that lie in your way. Come with me to my house. Also, my name is Malachai Kelio. You may call me that, if you wish,” the elder said.
He got into the small box, and was hoisted up by two men to his house. The five boys, led by Fire, climbed up a ladder that went to his house, and went inside. It was much larger than Fire’s house had been. The man went to a chair and sat down.
“By the time I am done talking to you, you will understand why I have been to hesitant to think about The Great War, The Chosen, and Soudulir. In our most ancient books, we have been told that we were created by God. I believe that this is true, and I see it evident in day to day things. But there is something else I learned in my former years, living in Ouculan, a large city inland, for you four who don’t know. The God who created us is not good, as it may have seemed. After all, why would an evil God create us? Because he was bored. Listless. He didn’t know what to do. Whatever the reason, he created us for amusement, or so I believe, playthings, killing off billions as sport. He has pitted the Soudulir against each other to see how they kill each other. And how they do. And the grand quest you are on is not only to stop The Great War, but to stop him as well. I know not how it may be possible, to stop the work of God. But it is what you must do.”
The five stood there, stunned at the seemingly blasphemous words of the elder.
“Why do you think this?” Memory asked.
“I know not entirely why myself. But you will have to learn whether it is true or not, for yourself on your journey. I could be completely wrong. I do not know. But it is my feeling.”
He stood up and bowed slightly to them. They bowed to him, more deeply, as respecting an elder.
They left the room, the five of them climbing down the ladder.
“Well,” said Sound, “what should we do now?”
“I guess we can go to the next Soudulir now. Are you able to do that with things you have readily, Fire?” asked Memory.
“Yes. I have the Keleph plant growing around the base of the tree supporting my house. I can get some, then we can go,” he responded.
He led the way back to the tree on which his house was attached. Around the base of it grew a small leafed ground covering plant. He took several of the leaves off and clenched them in his hand, then climbed up the ladder, keeping the hand he had put the Keleph leaves in closed and only using the bend of his wrist to hold onto the rungs.
The four of them followed. When they got to the platfom, he opened the door for them to go in.
They noticed for the first time that he had a small stove in one corner of the room. He took out a tea kettle and poured some water from a large wooden barrel resting on a box into it, then put it on the stove and left it to boil.
While he was waiting for the water to boil, he went into a small side room attached to the main room for a minute, then came back out wearing clothes very similar to the ones he had been wearing before he dove into the lava.
He took out from a box five small wooden cups, roughly carved, and put a few of the Keleph leaves into each one.
In a few minutes, the water was steaming on the stove, and he took out another wooden cup. He poured the boiling water into each cup, then let it sit a few minutes.
He took out a strainer, carved of wood, and placed it over the empty cup. From one of the cups with tea in it, he poured the tea into the empty cup, the strainer removing the Keleph leaves that were in the water. He then put the strainer over that cup, now empty, and poured the tea from the second cup into it.
He did so for all the cups, straining out the leaves, then handed a cup to each of the other Chosen and The Forsaken.
“Shall we drink?” asked Fire.
The others nodded and brought the glasses to their mouths.
They drank. The tea was fiery going down their throats, burning and clawing at them. Their vision was covered with spots, blotches of black from the pain.
Then it was gone, leaving a burning feel in their throats, and an uncomfortably warm feeling in their stomachs. All except Fire, who seemed undisturbed by the flavour, seeming possibly to even enjoy it.
But this time was different. Instead of blurring away into a blackness, it blurred away in a way that everything seemed dim in comparison with a growing light, blotting out everything else from sight. Then the light began to gradually fade, leaving them in a new forest, the grass soft beneath their feet, intermingling with moss in some places. It created a soft bed on the ground. But that was not the only thing that was new and fresh. Small trees were starting to grow up around them, sprouts just sending up their first arm to reach towards the light.