The Girl with Light in her Hands paced about her room, unsure what to do. She had read plenty of books already, and that bored her. She had taunted some of the servants with her literally endless supply of candy, and that, too, bored her. She wanted something new, something exciting.
“I suppose I could play with light,” she said to herself.
She held her hands in front of her, then used her power. Light filled her hands, filled the room.
She gave a laugh of delight. She moved her hands up and flicked out her fingers. Trails of light spread out from her hands, reaching, moving where she wished.
It was dark out, for it was night. She went to a window and sent one of the trails of light out into the night sky, illuminating the area around out there.
She pulled the light back into her hands. She didn’t care if she woke anyone up with the stunning brightness, but the fact was that using her power had reminded her that she was tired.
She climbed into bed and went to sleep, not even bothering to extinguish the light beside her.
Life frowned. “This the girl I am supposed to marry?” he thought to himself.
Memory stepped forward. “May I take it that you are The Girl with Light in her Hands?”
An indignant look came into the girl, and the woman sitting next to her stood up. “She is The Girl with Light in her Hands, yes, but she is to be referred to as is proper for one of her rank, the Queen. She is the Queen of Virgo, and Virgo is the Queen of the White. Now which one of you is The Boy with Life in his Hands, the King of Leo, and the King of the White?”
Life stepped forward. “It is I, madame.”
“Good, I had hoped you had joined the group by now. I can get the tea of the Iasl leaf ready, would you like to be on your way?”
The girl stood up and turned sharply to the woman. “Not yet. I am sure that these six boys would like to rest for a little while.”
She looked at Wind, a smile playing at her lips. “Perhaps we could get to know them a little better.”
Wind frowned, but better sense took over him and he nodded. “Yes, that would be good. We would be very thankful for your hospitality.”
The girl walked down from the raised area, and, after a moment, the man and woman did as well.
The girl looked at the six boys. “You all may call me Light, if you really must call me something other than Queen.”
“And remember,” broke in Memory, “we will be having another Queen join us eventually.”
The smile, no matter how haughty, disappeared at the reference of the Queen of the Black.
“Yes. That is true. But we need not think about her, while we are here,” Light said.
Light turned to the woman. “Pull the cord for the servants, please,” she said.
The woman pulled a hanging cord coming down from the ceiling, and in a few moments a maidservant came into the chamber they were standing in. She came in through two massive doors at one end. The throne room was mostly empty other than that, only having two ornate tapestries hanging on either wall, woven from rich colours, purple and vermillion and indigo, with threads of pure gold woven in among the others. All of the boys were in awe at the splendour of the place.
The maidservant walked up to the six boys, and was joined by Light.
“We can go to a more comfortable place to lounge, and talk, and get used to each other. Get us a platter of pastries and bring it to us,” she said to the maidservant.
The maidservant nodded, curtseyed, and hurried out of the throne room.
Light stalked in front of them, and they followed. Out the doors, they walked through a corridor, both walls on either side of them made of stone, then she opened another door and they followed her through.
Inside were several couches and chairs, all generously cushioned. She sat in the middle of one of them, and looked at Wind and patted the area to her right on the couch, then looked at Life and patted the left side. Before Wind apprehensively went over, Steam caught his arm and spoke quietly into his ear.
“Ever since the battle on Gemini, I’ve been thinking about learning how to use a sword. With the help of Memory and my new-found powers, I should be able to learn, but I still will not have a sword. I think Light might be able to get one for me, but I’m not sure how to ask her,” Steam said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Wind replied with a wink.
He went and sat down next to Light. Life had already sat next to her, but had scooted against the side of the couch and was eyeing her nervously.
She lay a hand on both Life and Wind’s legs, her palms on their knees.
She turned to Wind and started asking him about what they had been through so far in their journey.
In one corner of the room, there were two chairs with a small table in between them. Steam tapped Memory on the shoulder and motioned to them.
They sat down, and Steam started talking.
“I’ve been thinking of learning how to use the sword. It sounds like Wind might be able to get one for me, as Light seems to have taken a liking to him. But I also need knowledge. Knowledge that you might be able to help me with.”
Before Memory could yet reply, the maidservant opened the door, bearing a platter piled high with gourmet pastries and treats. She went to Light and the two boys on either side of her, and gave them some. Sound and Fire were sitting on another couch, across from the one Light and the boys were sitting on, and were getting better acquainted. They each took a pastry, then the maidservant and platter came over to Steam and Memory, offering them some of the delicacies that the tray held.
Memory took a light, puffy pastry with a raspberry filling inside, and Steam took a chewy cluster of nuts stuck together with what the maidservant said was caramel.
After she left, setting the tray on a stand in the room, Memory turned back to Steam.
“I’ve been curious if you will be able to use my power. Psychic powers are different than those you have used, and I’m not sure if you will be able to do it without some help of some kind from me,” Memory said.
“What should I do?” asked Steam.
“When I use my power, I just close my eyes and…” he gestured vaguely, “focus on…everything, I guess. It sounds weird to say it that way, but it’s the best way I can describe it. Try that, anyway.”
Steam took a breath, and closed his eyes tight, trying what Memory said.
After a minute of trying, he opened his eyes.
“I don’t think it worked,” he said.
“I guess not. I suppose I might have to try to…awaken it within you,” said Memory.
“How will you do that?” asked Steam.
“Like this,” Memory said, placing his hands on Steam’s temples. “Now, close your eyes and try again. I will do the same, and try to…unlock it within you, or something.”
They did so, Memory’s temples pounding and glowing. At first, Steam’s temples stayed the same, but, in a moment, a faint light came into them, growing brighter and brighter until it was brighter than Memory’s.
Memory opened his eyes, and, seeing Steam, pulled his hands away.
“It’s working,” Memory said. “Try knowing something, something you don’t already know. Just something small to start with.”
Steam did so, though it was something less than small, the entire history of Virgo. He winced at the sudden onslaught of information pouring into him.
He opened his eyes slowly, the light still glowing at his temples, and looked at Memory. Memory had continued using his power, and for an instant they stared at each other, pulling out knowledge that each other had. Then Memory shook his head and closed his eyes again.
“Now, try learning about how to use a sword.”
Still with his eyes open, Steam learned everything he could find about the art of using a sword. For a moment it seemed to him that his mind would burst at the influx of knowledge. But then it stopped, and his mind relaxed.
The light at his temples faded, and, seeing that it did, Memory relaxed as well.
“Well?” Memory asked.
“I’ve got it,” Steam said with a smile.
“Good! Very good!” said Memory. “You are getting the powers quickly. I do wonder what limit, if any, there is for you.”
They stood up from the chairs.
“Thank you,” said Steam.
“Not a problem,” replied Memory.
At that moment, Wind broke free from Light and came over to the two of them.
“She said she will be able to get one for you in a few minutes. She called another servant, a man this time, to get one for you. And not just a regular sword, either. Apparently you will be getting one of the swords reserved for the master swordsmen in their military.”
“Thank you,” said Steam.
“You are welcome,” said Wind in reply. “She seems willing to do anything I ask. Odd. Very odd. I can’t imagine that she has taken a liking to me, especially because she is supposed to wed Life, eventually. But whatever the reason, you will get your sword soon. Was Memory able to help you learn about the sword?”
“Yes, and, in doing so, he unlocked another of my abilities, for psychic powers.”
Wind began to ask Memory more about to what extent his powers went to, and Steam went over to where the platter still sat on the stand. He took another pastry, this one a scone covered with sugar and currants.
He ate it slowly, not having such rich food before in his life.
He almost choked on it, though, when he saw Light coming towards him.
“How is the scone?” she asked. Her mood seemed to have gotten less haughty. “Wind probably told you already, but a servant will be bringing a sword for you in a few minutes.”
Steam finished chewing, swallowed, and spoke. “Thank you very much, your highness.”
“You’re welcome. And as I said, you can call me Light. Of course, you can still call me ‘your highness’. I don’t mind that.”
“Are those two people that were in the throne room your parents?” Steam asked.
“No, they are not, though they would like to think of themselves as such. I have never known my true parents. Apparently the royalty had been looking for me for a long time, thousands of years. And when they did find me, they snatched me up when I wasn’t even yet a week old. And I have grown up here, pampered and given anything I like. But I like it that way. I will be sad to see it go, and I am not looking forward to having to end this war, or whatever it is. I would like to say here.”
“I see,” was Steam’s short reply.
The door opened, and Light, taking Steam by the elbow, brought him over to the door. A male servant was carrying a sword in a sheath, the hilt and handle of the sword made of silver and studded with emeralds, and the sheath similarly fashioned.
The servant kneeled and belted it around Steam’s waist.
He faltered for a second, and Light spoke sharply to him. “Hurry up! You aren’t permitted to be here for any other reason than bringing us the sword,” she said.
“Yes, majesty,” he said, ducking his head in a sort of bow. He finished strapping it to Steam, then backed out of the room and shut the door.
Light took Steam by the shoulders and looked him over.
“Good, good. I’m sure you will be a fine swordsman.”
There was a loud knocking at the door, everyone in the room turning to look at it.
“Enter,” said Light.
Another servant, this one in garb pertaining to a messenger, rushed into the room, bowed to Light and Life, then spoke hurriedly.
“Bad news, your majesty. Something wrong is going on in Falx. The low Queen says she has made another tea to take you all there. She is coming here with it.”
“Oh no!” Light said. “I suppose this means I will have to leave my beautiful home, Virgo, sooner than I thought.”
The messenger bowed and was gone.
Light turned to face Steam, but he was gone, gone utterly from the room.
She looked to Wind. “Where did he go?” she asked.
“To Falx, presumably. He just vanished. Low Queen?” Wind asked.
She sighed. “I guess we will follow him, then. Yes, the woman in the throne room. And the man is the low King.”
Before the door had even yet fully closed from the servant closing it, it was opened again by the low Queen walking through, carrying a platter with seven teacups and a tall silver teapot.
She quickly poured the tea into each cup, and handed each of them a cup.
“Goodbye, Queen,” she said to Light.
“Goodbye,” replied Light.
The six Chosen drank of the tea.
It was a terrible tasting tea, not bitter, but merely something that didn’t seem like it should be drank.
Light coughed it down, having the most trouble of the six to drink it.
Again the area around them faded away, but instead of it going to black or white, it turned a strange grey colour. Then the area around them sharpened, and they were in Falx.
They were standing partway up a hill, the sky behind it dark with clouds.
The went the rest of the way up the hill and looked down. It was a ridge overlooking a valley. And down in that valley were men fighting against the skeleton creatures that they had encountered on Gemini. But that was not all.
There were dark ghostlike creatures floating about, higher in the air. When a man would fall to the ground, dying, the creatures would plunge into the earth, carrying the man with them.
And fighting along with the men, a flame at his chest, was Steam. He was wielding the sword that he had been given and was making excellent use of it, showing true mastery over the weapon.
The six Chosen climbed down into the valley, ready to fight alongside Steam.
As soon as Steam had heard that there was trouble on Falx, he closed his eyes and focused the power of memory to take him there.
There was no blurring of vision. There was no change in colour.
Instantly he was there, standing on a hill.
A loud creaking and groaning of the earth came, and the hill he was standing on split apart, a large tear forming in the earth. Below was a flat section. But it was not empty, as he would think. It was full of the skeletons that they had fought on Gemini, and other, more terrifying creatures, made of spirit.
Instantly, he heard a screaming behind him. There was a small town, and some of the people had seen the floating creatures and heard the breaking of the earth.
Men came out of the village, bearing swords and any other weapons or tools they had. They began to climb down into the crack in the earth and started fighting the creatures.
Steam followed them. He flung his arms and head back, and the flame appeared at his chest and hands.
He put his hand to his sword after climbing down into the crevice, and, hoping that his knowledge of the sword was good, began to join in in the fight against the creatures.
A few minutes later, six others joined him, the six Chosen of the White.
They fought the creatures, helping the men, by using their respective powers.
Steam fought using his sword for the most part, but the flame at his chest continued to burn. Occasionally he would use some of the other powers that he had learned to use, but he was enjoying making use of his knowledge of the sword.
Wind fought in much the same way that he had on Gemini, as did Sound.
Memory used his training acquired from David in fighting, which worked against the skeleton creatures, but not the spirits that were still diving around, taking dying men with them down into the earth.
Fire had used his power as soon as they had started climbing down into the crevice, the flame starting at this chest and hands.
He sliced through them with his arm in a blaze, leaving behind smoldering bits of cloth.
Once, when one of the floating dark creatures had come down, he lunged for it, a flame growing in his hand. He thrust his hand through the creature, which burst into flame with a scream. Then it was gone, no trace of it left.
Life, hesitant to approach them at first, started using his power. His hands glowed. But he wasn’t sure what to do from there. One of the skeleton creatures lumbered towards him and, unsure of what to do, he reached out and touched it with his outstretched fingers.
A shudder went through the creatures. Then there was a cry from high above, one of the floating spirits, and the spirit rushed down into the skeleton.
It let out a hoarse scream before falling to the ground, writing. In a moment, the cloth and bones had turned to dust and a wind of Wind’s had carried the particles away.
Light was unsure what to do either. She wasn’t comfortable with the situation, having just been pulled out of her home and put into this other world, instantly affronted by creatures trying to attack it and her.
Whereas, with the slight exception of Life, the others had charged ahead, she lagged behind.
Light seemed to her to be useful, but not entirely practical. But she had been taught well in her former home, all of the twelve Knowers of that world living in the castle with her and tutoring her in how to use her powers and teaching her of the history of the Soudulir.
And she decided, for once, to make herself useful.
She took a deep breath and started using her power, light starting at her hands.
But slowly, it began to crawl up her arms. In a few moments, her entire body was glowing, a blinding beacon.
She started to levitate off the ground, stopping when she was partly above the crack.
Men who noticed ceased their fighting and turned to look at the sight. In a moment, the five Chosen and The Forsaken stopped fighting and turned, too.
The enemies they faced seemed to be weakening, though still they pressed on.
Bolts of light struck out from Light in the sky, striking down the floating creatures. Then she moved forward slightly and lifted her face to the sky. She let out a scream and large arms of light were thrust out of her, into the advancing ranks of the dark warriors.
They crumbled beneath her might, their darkness retreating against the overwhelming light.
Then she stopped, drifted down to the ground, and the light faded from her hands.
She swayed slightly. Steam rushed up to her and helped her up to lean against a wall.
“I’m fine,” she said, haughtily once again. “You don’t need to help me, I can do it.” She stood up, wobbly, then regained her composure.
Memory looked around at the group of them. The men, bowing to the seven of them all the while, had run back to their town to tell of what had happened.
“Should we go back to Virgo now?” Memory asked. “From there we can go to the next Soudulir.”
The rest of the group agreed, and, as one, they focused their powers towards Virgo. Instantly they were there, back in the lounge room that they had been in before they went to Falx.
The low Queen was sitting on one of the couches, fidgeting nervously.
When she looked up and saw the seven of them back, she jumped up and embraced Light.
“I’m so glad you are back,” she said.
Light pushed away. “Please. As I have said, I don’t like you hugging me. Yes, we are back. What did you expect?”
The low Queen opened her mouth as if to speak, then shut it and turned around, picking up the tray with the now-empty teacups.
“I will go get the tea to take you to the next Soudulir,” she said, then walked out of the room.
The seven of them collapsed onto the couches again, Light pulling Life and Wind down with her onto one, and Steam, Memory, Sound, and Fire sitting onto the other.
“Wind told me about the battle you had on Gemini. So I was prepared. Not frightened at all by those creatures,” Light said, knowing full well the truth, that she had been.
The seven of them talked for a while, Light talking about her teachers of her power and the legends and stories of the other Soudulir.
“But there were never any very good stories placed in Falx,” she said, looking at Steam. “Do you know why that is?”
Steam looked up. “No, but it does seem that Falx is…different. Perhaps that is why.”
“Whatever the reason, they were dull,” she said.
Steam frowned slightly, then looked back down. He had sheathed his sword, and was studying the ornately decorated hilt and handle, as well as the sheath. While the emeralds embedded into it were large, they were so deep into the silver so that, running a hand down it, he didn’t feel any rise or fall where the emerald was, it was perfectly smooth.
He set the sheath down and listened to the conversation the others were having.
The only person other than he that wasn’t talking much in the conversation was Life, who, again, had moved to the far side of the couch, as far from Light as he could be without actually getting off of the couch itself.
In a minute, the door opened again and the low Queen walked through, bearing the same tray, carrying, again, a silver teapot and seven beautiful small teacups.
She poured the tea into the teacups, and handed one to each of them. The last Chosen she handed a teacup to was Light, and the low Queen looked down, a tear running silently down her cheek.
Light sighed. “Thank you, for all you have done for me my entire life. I will miss my time here, and,” she said, hestantly, “I will miss you and the low King as well.”
The low Queen smiled sadly, then picked up the tray and walked back out of the door.
Looking down into the teacups, they saw, instead of a translucent liquid, a milky looking substance, swirling around slowly. Wind looked at Steam and shrugged.
They all drank of the tea.
It was a creamy, warm, smooth liquid. But instead of numbing the senses and entrancing them to sleep, it made them more awake, more aware.
The area blurred around them, blacker than it had ever been before, but did not start to sharpen.
The seven of them looked around at each other, unsure of what to do. They were still surrounded by the black, but were able to see each other, as they had previously.
Memory walked around. His footsteps were silent.
He frowned, then his mouth moved as if he were speaking.
But they heard nothing.
He frowned again.
Then the area around them began to sharpen into view, and they were standing in a street. A young man leaning against a wall, chewing on a small stick, looked up at them in surprise, then smiled grimly.
“Welcome to Libra,” he said.