Sorry, I forgot to post on Saturday and wasn’t able to on Sunday. But I will be posting today, tomorrow, and the special page I told you all about the next day. So that might make it up to you. Anyway, here it is.
The Boy with Life in his Hands walked in an ancient, dead forest, dead trees littering the ground. Certainly, some trees still grew. But they were crowded out of sight by unseemly branches and logs.
He went over to one of the fallen trees and broke off a small twig, no longer than his finger.
He went to an area where the ground was undisturbed, and dug a small hole. He stuck the twig into the hole and patted down the dirt around it.
He leaned back onto his heels and outstretched his hand. A bright light came into it, creating a haze. He touched the twig gently.
It moved as if alive, then a green sprout came out of it, roots burrowing into the ground. It only grew a small bit, but it was now alive, separate from the dead tree.
He stood up, smiling at the now once again living tree.
Memory sat down onto his ankles and looked closely at one of the newly-growing trees.
“This sapling…” he said quietly. “It looks odd.” He looked closer at what would eventually become the main trunk of the tree. It was of an old wood, scarred and brittle, not what it should be, a flexible green stalk.
He stood up. Steam was looking at him questioningly. “What did you say?”
“Oh, nothing. The saplings just looked weird to me. That’s all.”
“Ah,” said Steam.
The two of them noticed that the other three boys were looking at something in the other direction. They turned and looked as well.
There was a small cottage a little distance away. It was rounded on top, looking like a dome placed onto the ground. It was made of brick, but it must have been made many years ago for vines and creepers were growing over it.
All of a sudden, all of the five boys started running towards the house, knowing that it must be the house of the next Knower.
They knocked on the door when they reached it. A man came to the door, moderate in age. He saw the five boys and recognized them for what they were, and let them in.
“Welcome to Leo, one of the Soudulir. I am Hezekaiah Iolp, one of the twelve Knowers on this Soudulir, and, luckily for you, the only Knower who knows where you may find the next of your party, our Chosen. He is The Boy with Life in his Hands. But I just call him Life, as may you.”
The five boys introduced themselves, looking about the room the whole time. They had expected a rural house, wooden shelves and chairs, as the outside would have suggested. But it was not, in any way. There were light-bulbs hanging from the ceiling, in what appeared to be upside-down lamps. There was also a record player in one corner of the room. But the most intriguing thing in the house was a strange completely black door or panel at one end of the room.
“Please, make yourselves at home. It will not be for quite a time until The Chosen gets back. He has gone out into the dead forest a distance from here,” Hezekaiah said.
“Does he live here with you?” asked Fire.
Hezekaiah laughed. “Yes, of course. He is my son, who I had by my late wife. She was not a Knower, and did not understand him and the things he did, the powers he had. But I have had an understanding of these things for a long time and have enjoyed teaching him and watching him learn and mature. I suppose I should tell you a bit about him. Rightfully, he is the King of Leo, but not by royal blood. It is because he was born so, as The Chosen. The Chosen of Leo is to be the King, just as The Chosen of Virgo is to be the Queen. He is not, however, an actual ‘acting’ King here. The political realm is quite different from what I speak of. I speak of roles in The Great War. Anyway, they are to be married and be joint rulers of our two Soudulir, when all of this is over. If it is ever over. It feels as though it will never be over. But that is how it is supposed to be. Of course, none of us have actually seen or met The Chosen from Virgo. Now, where are my manners? Would you like anything to eat?” he asked the five boys.
They suddenly realized that they hadn’t eaten in a while. They felt hungry, yet not weak. It was as if the teas had given them strength in the unlockings, as very well they might have.
“Yes, please,” said Wind, the others chiming in similarly.
Hezekaiah laughed again. “Fine, fine. I will make something while we wait. In the meantime, do any of you play chess?”
Memory spoke. “I do! I used to play it with a Chosen who took care of me.”
Steam, Wind, and Sound also nodded. Fire, however, said that he hadn’t.
“I’m sure the others can teach you, then,” Hezekaiah said, reaching into a cupboard and pulling out a chess board.
He set it on the table, along with two cloth bags, holding the pieces.
When Steam and Memory started setting it up, Fire exclaimed, “Ckeles! The game I mentioned earlier! This game seems to be pretty much the same! I suppose I do know how to play, in that case.”
Steam and Memory played a game. The others watched in interest.
After Memory beat Steam, Fire asked if he could play him.
“Sure. Would you mind if we ate while we played, Hezekaiah?” Fire asked.
“Not at all,” he answered.
Before they started, Fire set up his side and waited until Memory had set up his, then started talking.
“I can show you the parallels I have drawn between the game, chess, you called it? and The Great War. The pawns,” he said, moving out of the way for Hezekaiah to put a plate in front of him, as he was doing for all of the boys, “are represented by Aries. They go out at first in the war, the frontmen. Next comes Taurus. The rook is represented by them, lurking in back of the entire thing, looking for a place to rush forward and take out a key figure, then going back to where they had been. Gemini is next, representing the knight, hopping back and forth, trying to keep the enemy guessing, able to sway the game easily. Then is Cancer, the bishop, one of the most important pieces in the game because of its ability to cut in sideways into the enemy, hard to catch. Next is the most important piece, the entire game depending upon them. the King, represented by Leo. While he and they do not make many moves in the game, possibly only interacting with the rook, which sometimes protects it by castling, they are the most important piece. They have power over the life and death of the game, and if one of them is affected, the entire game is affected. And lastly we have the Queen, who could, in another way, be considered the most important piece in the gameplay. Able to move any direction, she is a powerful player, and if one or both of the Queens is captured, the tables can quickly turn based on that, so to speak. Only the knight can move differently than her. Each piece, each Soudulir, is equally important in the game, or in this larger scale case, The Great War. And this can be taken for either side, White or Black, for both are similar, yet utterly opposite.” He had taken up the pieces as he talked about them, then set them back in their respective places when finished.
“So The Great War, as I have imagined it, is merely a great game of chess. Yet with massive consequences for both sides. Yet it is a seemingly infinite game, lasting throughout hundreds and thousands of years.”
He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it looking tangled and insane.
“But I’ve been talking for much too long now,” he said, smiling. “Let’s play.”
He took a bite of the food that Hezekaiah had prepared for them all, peas and rice, covered in creamy butter and salted. On the side were a few slices of tomato, also salted, and a roughly torn hunk of whole wheat bread.
He ate hungrily, after telling Memory that he could move first.
As he ate, his eyes flitted across the board. When Memory made his move, he set down his food, thought a moment, then moved a piece.
The other three boys watched intently.
“Who do you think will win?” Steam asked Wind.
“I think it will be Memory again,” Wind replied.
Steam asked Sound the same question and got the reply, “Memory. He seems to be good at…mind things. Psychic things. I’m guessing that’s what his power is, in reality.”
At one part of the game, Fire was taking longer than usual to make his move. Memory waited patiently.
Fire took a deep breath, then flung back his head and arms, still sitting in the chair. A flame leapt out of his chest and hovered there, a few inches away from his shirt.
His eyes widened, a gleam in them that Wind wasn’t sure if he liked.
He thought for a moment more, then made his move.
“Ah, so you want to play it that way,” said Memory with a wink.
He closed his eyes tight, creasing his brow, then the glowing came to his temples.
But for the first time they had ever seen him do it, and, in truth, the first time he had ever done it, he forced his eyes open.
His temples still glowed, pounding, and there was a light in his eyes.
He scanned the chess board quickly, then made his move.
The rest of the game progressed quicker than it had done before.
But it was near the end. Memory, playing White, and, for the most part, defensive in his moves, only striking when he saw fit, had three pawns, his two rooks, his Queen, and a knight, in addition to the King, of course. Fire, playing Black, and had played for the most part aggressively, attacking instead of bothering to make much of a defense for his King. Instead, he killed most pieces that got onto his side of the board with his bishops. He still had two pawns, both bishops, both knights, one rook, and his King. He had lost the Queen partway through the game, though it didn’t seem to bother him.
Both of them had each other’s Kings cornered, and were trying to, with their other pieces, capture those that were cornering the King so they could focus on getting their opponent’s King into checkmate.
It was tense. They made their moves quickly, hoping to get the battle over. Their food was long gone, their dishes laying empty and scraped clean on the table.
Gritting his teeth, Fire made one decisive move, taking out a rook that was trapping his king. Both of The Chosen had kept using their powers throughout the game.
In a matter of three moves, Fire had put Memory’s King into checkmate.
The both of them took a deep breath. The light at Memory’s temples faded, as did the flame at Fire’s chest.
They reached their hands across the table and shook. “Good game,” they said to each other.
The three boys had watched, transfixed, the entire time the game was being played.
While Steam and Memory’s game had been exciting, it paled in comparison with this one, at its monumental scale of both of them using their powers.
After they had put away the board, Steam went and sat in a chair, away from the others.
Ever since the war on Gemini, he had been trying to figure out exactly what had happened. From what the boys said, it sounded like he had used powers similar to those that Wind and Sound had, but he didn’t know how.
He frowned. He stood up. He crossed his arms in front of him, then threw them and his neck back.
He felt a surge of power run through him, and a warmth suddenly come in front of him. He looked down, and the flame that he had seen in front of Fire’s chest was in front of his own, yet, instead of a mix of orange and red, this flame was white.
He looked at his hands. In the centre of each, there also danced a small flame, flickering to and fro in the drafts of the room.
Memory turned to him, going to tell him something they had been talking about, when he noticed the fire on Steam’s chest and hands.
“What! What did you do, Steam?” he asked, excitment in his face.
The other three boys turned to look at what he had exclaimed about, and were similarly impressed and interested.
“I just…did what Fire does. And it worked. But I don’t really know…how. Like, does this mean I can have any power I want? I just…don’t know.”
Hezekaiah came back into the room and saw the fire in front of Steam’s chest and on his hands.
“I see the unlockings have started your awakening,” he said, smiling.
“Do you know more about this?” Steam asked.
“Yes. Though not very much. All I know is that you can gain powers. The unlockings have been helping you with this, though you technically could have done it, while still on Falx. But the unlockings make it much easier. And yes, you will gain more powers. I do not know whether it will be all the powers that the other Chosen have, or not as many. Or, possibly, even more. I really don’t quite know.”
“How do you stop it?” Steam asked Fire.
“Well, I just take a breath and relax. The fire fades away then. I actually keep it up quite often, just for the fun of it.”
Steam took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. A second later, the flames faded away.
“You had white flame though. I don’t know what that means,” Fire said.
“Nor do I,” responded Steam.
The second after he said that, the door that they had come through over an hour ago opened, and a young boy stepped through.
He had blonde hair, and was fairly short in stature. His clothes were completely white and pure.
As he stepped through the door, he looked at the five boys, then turned to Hezekaiah.
“Who are these people?” he asked. His voice was very light, almost girlish in tone.
“These,” Hezekaiah said, sweeping out his arm towards Wind, Memory, Sound, and Fire, “are The Chosen. And this is The Forsaken of Falx, who I have told you so much about,” he said, then gesturing to Steam.
“And this,” he said, turning to face the five boys, “is The Boy with Life in his Hands, The Chosen of Leo, the King of White.”
“You can just call me Life, if you want,” he said.
“I must ask,” said Memory, “what is your power? And what does it entail?”
“I can bring life again to things that were once living. My power is a docile one, yet powerful. I do hope I use it well.”
He looked nervously to Hezekaiah. “And that you do,” Hezekaiah said to him.
“Should we just go to the next Soudulir?” asked Sound. “I mean, since The Chosen from Leo has joined us now.”
“Not yet, actually,” said Hezekaiah. “The leaf we use to make to go to the next Soudulir, Virgo, is called Ubeln, and it takes much longer to steep than most of the others. I got it steeping while I was making lunch, but it will not be done for another two hours. Life, why don’t you show them around outside?”
“I guess I could do that, if all of you want to,” said Life.
“Sure,” said Memory.
The others nodded, and, with Life leading the way, went outside.
The ground was just as surprisingly comfortable as they had remembered it being.
Life led them around behind the house. There was a small path leading out between trees, which he led them down. After walking for a while, taking a few turns, the trees close beside them on either side, tall, skinny trees that had no branches until twenty or so feet up, they came into an opening in the trees, a cleared circle. A small brook went through the centre of it, and there was a living bridge created by a tree that had bent oddly in its growth that crossed it. The rest of the area had the same springy moss and grass underfoot, but had small bushes and flowers planted throughout, a beautiful masterpiece of landscaping.
“This is one of the areas that I have rescued from the dead forest. I brought these plants back to life, plants that had been dead for many years, and brought them here to grow and flourish.”
“Amazing,” breathed Steam.
“Indeed,” said Sound. He pulled out his felle and began playing a mellow piece, then sang quietly along with it. It was an ancient song, one that a few of them felt that they had known or had heard a long time ago, but couldn’t place it.
There were three exits from the garden, one which they had come from, then two in front of them. Life led them across the bridge and to the opening on the left side.
They walked along there, until Life stopped in front of a vine that was lying across the path, a vine of a type that they had seen growing up the trees on either side of them. He picked one end of it up, then held it to a nearby tree. His other hand began glowing, then focused onto his pointer finger. He touched the vine, and instantly it moved as if alive, and climbed several feet up the tree, small seeking limbs grasping a hold onto the tree. After a few minutes it stopped.
Leo again led the way through the path. Twice more they came to similar gardens as the first, each delicately made and taken care of. Then they came out the other exit from the first garden, the one that they hadn’t gone down. The five Chosen and The Forsaken walked over the living bridge and back down the first path and to the house.
They went back into the house, where Hezekaiah was sitting in a chair, reading a book.
“That was amazing, Life,” said Memory to The Chosen of Leo. “Is that what you spend your time doing?”
“It seemed the most natural, with my power. And I have always loved nature,” he replied.
While the two of them continued talking, Wind went over to Hezekaiah.
“What is that thing at the end of the house? The black door, or whatever it is.”
“Ah, that. It is a portal of sorts, a way to get to our ‘real’ house, in the city. Everyone thinks we live there, and occasionally someone will visit us by going through there. But the house we are now in is deep in the woods, as no doubt you have noticed. We can go through there to buy supplies and other things, if we need.”
“Is the tea done?” asked Fire.
“Almost. I will pour it out in a moment. But first, there is something I need to talk to you five about. The relation between the King and Queen, Leo and Virgo, is not entirely hypothetical. The Boy with Life in his Hands is actually supposed to marry The Girl with Light in her Hands, and they are to rule over the entire alliance of White, after all this is over. Now of course, neither Life nor I have ever met or even seen the Queen. But this is how it was to be, how it has been planned for all time,” Hezekaiah said.
Life looked somber, and nodded.
“That is assuming, of course,” Wind said, “that we do finish our journey, and battle. And it is also assuming that there even is an alliance of White or Black in the end, even if we do finish what we have set out to do.”
“True. Very true,” said Hezekaiah. Then his countenance changed and he got up and went to the kitchen. “I think the tea is done now,” he said.
The six of them followed him into the kitchen, where he had six small teacups set out. He was pouring a very lightly coloured tea into each of them from a ceramic teapot.
Five of them, Steam, Wind, Memory, Sound, and Fire, picked up their cups, ready to leave to the next Soudulir. But Life didn’t move. In a moment, though, he flung himself into Hezekaiah’s arms.
“Will I see you again, father?” he asked.
“It has been a long time since you called me that. I dearly hope so, son. I dearly hope so. But I do not know. We will only find out at the end, when this is all over.”
“Thank you for your hospitality,” said the other five boys. Then Life took up his teacup and stood beside them, looking at Hezekaiah.
“Goodbye,” he said, his face smiling, yet still sad.
They drank of their tea, and, even though it had been steeped for so many hours, it still barely had a flavour, and each of them thought that the flavour that it did have was different.
Steam thought it tasted like fresh plants and grass, Wind thought it tasted of ancient must, Memory thought it tasted faintly of cinnamon, Sound regarded it as a bitter flavour, Fire though it slightly sweet, and Life thought it had no taste at all.
But the affect was still the same. Their surroundings faded away around them, though they could still look at each other and see them perfectly. Then all around them was white, as it was the last time when they had moved to Leo.
The area around them that gradually came into sight was a throne room. There were three golden chairs on a raised area in front of them. A girl sat in the one in the middle, a man in the one on her right, and a woman in the one on her left. All three of them wore pure white, similar to Life, but of a much finer quality material.
“Welcome to Virgo,” the girl said.