By: Misty Spotts

Chapter 4: New Discoveries

Reuben and his comrade, Woodrow, slipped silently into their shrine one evening. The dark circular tower was where the four men meditated and practiced their magical skills. Their powers of sorcery were kept as secrets from the world, though. Magic was thought to be very evil in the world, but every kingdom usually relied on it in one way or another, no matter how much it was hushed and frowned upon. Sumi was the one that made it most obvious, as the Prince had his four sorcerers parade around like true men of unusual power. They never talked about who they were, but everyone already knew.

Inside the shrine, there was a pool in the very center. It was not water, but a chemical that burned fire: the source of light, power, and strength in each of the men. It was where the Prince soaked, their beloved master.

And surrounding the pool of fire (burning only when the Prince was in it) were the four niches. There was one for each sorcerer, decorated by timeless, ancient sculptures illustrating the evolution of their magical powers. It told of the time from when the gods handled such magic, to the point when it was given to mortals to wield. The illustrations also attempted to describe what the purpose of such magic was: their fate and destiny ...their future. But such things were hard for all of them to decipher, and they relied on meditation and sessions with the Prince present in the shrine to see what the immediate future told.

Woodrow was the youngest of the group. He was twenty-five years old. He was a born Sumian and first to find and feel his connection to the Prince. Woodrow never took the exam, so his presence in the government was cause for great arguments. The Prince kept him close, though. No one could argue with him. Woodrow had rich green, chin length hair, wavy and beautiful, and the jewel on his head band was a diamond.

When the two men entered the shrine, their bodies jolted to a halt, and their eyes stretched wide, unsure of whether to be terrified or excited. The shrine had changed again, like it did every once in a while. Usually, the change was nothing more than the molding of new sculptures and pictures on the walls, or new jewels, or new instructions of spells for the sorcerers to learn, but tonight came the biggest surprise of all.

The entire room had shifted. No longer was there a square formation, a corner and niche for each sorcerer surrounding the pool of fire. Instead, the tower was a pentagon now. Everyone's place had somehow moved closer to one another to fit a place for a newcomer. Just like the others', this new niche had illustrations and writing inscribed within the stone to describe the magic that person was blessed with. But where Reuben and Woodrow thought they'd find spells of elemental control, atmospheric blending, telekinesis, telepathy, and all their other skills, the two men only saw monsters. There were hideous things spitting fire, jaws open menacingly, claws spread, ready to rip apart their prey. Wings were spread, and the monsters' bodies were intertwined in one another.

With their hearts pounding dangerously against their chests, the two men backed away. This new comer did not seem to be the friendly type. Monsters were demons, and demons were the things the sorcerers were fighting against! Demons were the things that were trying to kill their beloved Prince! How could a person who was connected to such beasts be invited into their company in the shrine?

As the two men were trying to make sense of it all, one final thing caught their eye. Unlike the smooth wall behind each of the other sorcerer's niche, this new place had the carving of a door out of the solid stone. A door, complete with a handle too. The meaning of this was lost to them, but they knew they had to get the others.

"But Zorba and Malachi are away hunting with the Prince," Woodrow said, concern and fear written all in his face. "They are too far away to contact, and won't be back until tomorrow." Neither man wanted to wait for their return to share such serious and incredible news, but they knew they had no choice.

At one moment, those deep violet, soul searching eyes of the young boy named Soren came to the surface of Reuben's pool of memories. And then the sight of that little cat-like creature on the ledge of the white gazebo that disappeared as quickly as it came reminded Reuben of the unearthly monsters illustrated in the stone of the new niche in the shrine. By now, Reuben had no doubt that Soren was the one who was supposed to take the new place in the shrine, but that did not pacify the Sorcerers' concerns for the dangers involved in having demons so close to their Prince. Was it possible for an enemy's place to be in their shrine?

Soren stretched his legs straight out and crossed them. He was sitting on top of a stone wall that was in ruins, and moss, ivy, and vines had grown over the whole thing. The area used to be a church, it seemed like, but years ago, it was abandoned, rotted, and collapsed. Now, there was only this outer stone wall that was missing much of the stones after people came to take and use them on new constructions in the nearby village where Soren was currently working in Tashi.

This village was in the middle of the grandest forrest within the trio-country lands, on the farthest edge of Tashi, very near the border of Sumi. Soren had been sent around the country of Tashi the moment he arrived after the exam in order to learn the area, the people, and the problems that he would soon be hired to fix.

Soren was feeling extremely tired, but he didn't want to fall asleep. For some reason, he knew he was having horrible nightmares, but he could never remember what they were once he woke up. It bothered him to no end, for he hadn't been given a good night's rest ever since the exam. All he wanted was some peace and relaxation, but something inside him, his subconscious, was preventing this.

This afternoon was gray and cold. Fat clouds loomed over them in the sky, and a harsh wind was blowing from the ocean to the north. He was thus thankful that his new uniform required him to wear such a thick coat and scarf.

Soren laid his notebook on his lap and flipped through the pages until he found a blank piece. He smiled, skimmed the surface with his fingertips, admiring the beauty of the white paper before he reached for his graphite pencil in his pocket.

Soren's stomach made a fussy sound, angry at him for skipping lunch to come out to this secluded area where there was no food whatsoever. Soren regretted having done so. He was so hungry, but the walk back to the village was long, and by the time he got there, the lunch hour would be over, and he'd have to wait until dinner anyway. So, Soren may as well just wait here and enjoy the scenery while he could. He already saw a handsome stag with massive antlers bound past. What other animals would show their face in from of him now?

He turned his attention back to the paper while he waited, and started swishing his hand over the page. Soren chuckled to himself. This picture would be a self portrait, he decided.

He began with the wide, round shape of his fat belly. Blurb Blurb Blurb ...went the fat that rolled on itself. His jaw was huge, cheeks packed with no extra space. The long snout had big, round nostrils stretched and working hard to breath. Upon his head would be cute little ears like a cow. And how about a horn or two? Yes, they are always fitting for such a hungry monster like himself. His long arms kept shoveling up more and more food. Yes, food. Yummy food. Steak dinner, fish and lobster, carrots and apples, and... and... Cookies! Yum... Soren could picture it now. All that food. How wonderful would that be right now to chow down on mountains of cookies and ice cream?

...grumble grumble grumble... went his stomach.

Sebastian had headed off in a new direction after he noticed the tracks of an impressive sized stag in the mud. He headed quietly through the forrest as the trees and branches thickened, making him slow his pace. The wind was harsh so far north. Sebastian was glad he didn't usually come up here. It was just that this part of the forrest was the primmest hunting spot in all of Sumi. It was so secluded from most towns and villages that the animals were more skiddish around humans, making the hunt more exciting and challenging. There was a hunt like this to celebrate the changing of every season, and it was just now becoming winter.

Sebastian flopped his hood over his bright red hair. His thick, soft yellow robes protected him from the cold air as he wandered farther and farther away from his hunting party. Zorba and Malachi would notice he was gone soon, and they would worry. But Sebastian was confident they would come for him within seconds. They were so overprotective, sometimes, Sebastian thought. Surely, he may have been only eleven years old, but Sebastian was capable of defending himself from danger... Even if he had to resort to magic... He could take care of himself... And Sebastian certainly didn't need his bodyguards around ALL the time...

Sebastian and the beautiful white horse he was riding came upon a strange boulder amidst the trees. It seemed out of place in this otherwise grassy landscape. When Sebastian was about to head around it to investigate, the round surface suddenly jiggled like it was made of a balloon of water, not a hard rock. It rolled upward, exposing an exotic, chubby face upon a distorted, round head. The strange monster had a tiara of horns over the top of its head, massive hands with sharp claws, and jagged teeth crushing down on the mounds of food that were being shoveled into its mouth. The creature's golden eyes caught sight of Sebastian and suddenly stopped eating.

Sebastian's horse screamed in terror, rearing and kicking out his two front legs before backing up. Sebastian lost control of the white animal, losing his balance after he and his horse knocked into the body of a tree behind them. His leg was shoved loose from its stirrup, and Sebastian's body was flung to the ground the next time his horse lunged backward too quickly. Before he knew it, his horse had bolted away, and Sebastian was left to fend for himself against the monster that was now rolling over to come toward him. Its golden eyes stayed fixed on Sebastian, and its mouth opened and closed, not like it was biting, but rather speaking. No noise was heard from this demon, however. As much as it seemed to be making whatever sound a fat monster like this would be making, no noise whatsoever was coming from it. And soon, Sebastian noticed that it didn't even make a sound when it was rolling and moving around.

The monster was not fast. Even stranded, without his horse, Sebastian knew he could outrun the monster. And thus, the young boy decided to stop wasting time wondering what kind of nature this monster had, and Sebastian turned on his heels to run away. He covered a lot of ground quickly, not minding it when the hood of his yellow coat flew up and back down to his shoulders, exposing his crazy red hair to the cold air again. Sebastian did not stop running for quite a while. Only when he was sure the fat monster could not cover that much ground it its whole lifetime did the young boy stop to catch his breath.

He found himself standing on the bank of a healthy stream deep within the forrest now. The water was about knee deep, and Sebastian could see the shapes of many fish swimming around up and down the flow. A frog by his feet got scared by his presence and jumped into the water. Sebastian plopped down into the grass to catch his breath, knowing he had run in the opposite direction of the hunting camp, and he was now -officially- lost.

Damn... this was where Zorba and Malachi could come in handy. When were they going to figure out that their master was gone and lost? Sebastian could very well contact them with his mind, but the two of them were probably out finding the best deer in the forrest together, having the time of their life, and here was Sebastian, getting chased by fat monster to the middle of no where.

Odd, Sebastian thought, to find a stone wall on the opposite bank of this small stream. Who would have thought to build something here? A woodsman, most likely, but that structure was ancient and ruined, with vines growing over the wall.

Sebastian carried his eyes farther up the wall to suddenly find that there was a person sitting way up there. The boy was just resting there, not moving, but his eyes were fixed upon Sebastian. Sebastian recognized the violet coat the boy was wearing as an official uniform worn my Tashi employees of the government or army.

More astonishing than that was the boy's long white hair and violet eyes. He looked almost exactly like Tobias, Sebastian's newest member of his royal advisory. Sebastian had heard that Tobias had a younger brother who had moved away to Tashi after the exam, but Sebastian never realized he'd come face to face with the young prodigy. Reuben and Malachi had spoke of this young boy in private as well, referring to the potential magic that was possibly stored within him. They were fearing he was an enemy, seeing as destiny had chosen him to take second place in the exam and move off to Tashi, where Lucius and the others were that wished Sebastian and his sorcerers harm.

Sebastian stood and backed away from the water. Almost immediately, the boy on the wall gathered up his belongings in his lap and jumped down to the opposite side of the water. "Oh, don't be scared," he said. "Please, you don't have to back away."

Sebastian stopped. There didn't seem to be any aura of evil around this boy, and Sebastian was beginning to feel the same pull in his heart that Reuben and Malachi had felt when they encountered him so many weeks ago. Evil would not be attracted to good, right?

"Are you from Sumi?" the boy asked, looking over Sebastian's wardrobe.

Sebastian nodded. "Who are you?"

"I'm Soren," he said. "I work in Tashi."

Soren's kind smile took Sebastian by surprise. It seemed so ...innocent. Even Sebastian who was two years younger than this kid was more aware of all the magic surrounding them at this moment. This boy was very ignorant of such things. That was possibly a good thing, Sebastian thought.

"My name is Sebastian," the red haired boy said.

"Nice to meet you," Soren smiled. He stepped into the water, not caring that it was freezing cold, to cross and stand on the same ground as Sebastian. "Are you lost?"

"No," Sebastian lied. Surely, he had no idea where he was, but he was not frightened, knowing Zorba and Malachi would soon arrive to collect their young master. "You wouldn't be Tobias' little brother, would you?"

"You know my brother?" Soren's eyes lit up with excitement at the mention of Tobias' name.

Sebastian nodded. "Y... yeah, he works in the palace now."

"Yes," Soren nodded. He seemed to shine a little brighter with pride at this point. "He works for the Prince of Sumi, himself. How do you know Tobias, Sebastian?"

"Oh... uh... I'm just very familiar with all of the officials that work in the palace." Soren seemed to accept such a vague answer, which calmed Sebastian down greatly. Maybe he could get out of this without letting Soren know who he was, exactly.

It was hard to do at this point, when they were both feeling the magical pull within their hearts. Soren was ignorant of the magic, Sebastian knew. Soren had no clue why he was compelled to walk through ice cold water to be closer to Sebastian, nor why he was feeling so bright.

Soren was closing in on Sebastian, though. The pull did not observe the comfort zones of mortal souls, and Soren was starting to loom dangerously close to Sebastian. Surely, he had no idea what he was doing. "Have I met you before somewhere?" Soren then asked.

"No." Sebastian shook his head. Soren was feeling the effects of the pull even more, Sebastian noticed. It often felt like one knew the other for centuries without ever meeting each other. Sebastian saw Soren place one hand over his heart strangely, identifying the feeling there, but still unable to control it.

What Sebastian wanted to know was why this was happening. This pull was only supposed to be present between him and his sorcerers. Soren was an outsider. He was... with Lucius. Tashi was where Destiny had placed him. Soren and Sebastian were not supposed to be pulled together like this!

A sudden roar echoed through the trees at this point. Over the hills, passing through the bodies of the trees was a massive dark shadow, and just as Soren was taking one step closer to Sebastian, the dark shadow materialized between them, encircling each of the young boys in its mystifying, deep abyss.

Sebastian collapsed into the solid arms of his companion within the shadow. Sebastian hadn't realized Soren had made him so weak. The amethyst behind Malachi's strands of black hair began to glow, immediately giving Sebastian back his strength.

Soren slammed to the ground before he knew what hit him. At one point, he felt he was going to nearly pass out from some strange weakness as he was talking to that red haired Sumian. Then, he was surrounded by an odd hollow vapor. A void in all reality, it seemed. Soren was somewhere flying through the stars. Then the shadow suddenly pummeled him, sending him crashing back down to earth, which was where he opened his eyes again to find he was back on the bank of the stream with Sebastian. But now, above him stood a terrifying large man, looming and sneering at him in anger.

This man's black robes were what had surrounded him just then. How strange, Soren thought, that they seemed to be made of no fabric. The robes actually looked like they could suck him into a new dimension of time and space.

From his place on the grass on his back, Soren looked up farther to see the face of this enormous man. He had very dark skin, red eyes, and thick dread locks of shades of light and dark purple, tied back in a crazy, spiky ponytail.

Soren didn't know what came over him, but he was feeling extremely weak at this point. Was he sick? Was it because he didn't eat lunch? It couldn't be that. Skipping one meal didn't ever make him feel this ill. It must have been the cold weather.

Malachi held Sebastian close to his body. The young boy happily accepted the attention and wrapped his small arms around Malachi's waist and eyed Soren from the side.

"Zorba," Sebastian said.

The purple haired, dark man hovering above Soren turned his head to face the red head. "Yes, Your Highness?" he answered.

"Highness?" Soren mumbled, confused. He looked over and locked eyes with Sebastian, but Soren's mind was leaving him. His exhaustion was increasing, and logical thinking was spent.

Sebastian looked back up to Zorba. "He is ignorant of who he is, Zorba. ...And am I."

Zorba leaned over and laid his heavy hand over the side of Soren's face. All Soren could do was look at him. Every other part of his body was too weak. More and more, Soren was loosing control. He had never felt like this before. His heart was racing. The contact felt strange on his skin.

"See, Zorba?" Sebastian said, watching Zorba inspect Soren. "It feels the same as the rest of us. If he was evil, like Lucius, our magic would be repelled from each other, but he has the pull, like the rest of us."

Zorba locked eyes with Soren. "Do you know what is inside you, boy?"

"What?" Soren whispered.

"You have magic."

"What is magic?" Soren asked. He had heard of magic before, knowing it was an evil thing in society, but he knew very little about it. Nevertheless, the word sparked a flame of fear within him almost immediately.

"Magic is a special power given to you by Gods, little one," Zorba told Soren. "It means you have a special destiny: a path laid down for you that you will follow."

Soren scrunched up his face, trying desperately to move away from them. "No," he whispered. "I don't want to be evil..."

The words seemed quite insulting to Master Zorba, who scowled angrily down at Soren, striking him with even more fear.

"It's okay, Zorba," the Prince said. "Leave him be for now. Let him wake from his dream, first, before we do anything further."

"You want to leave him in Lucius' hands?" Malachi asked the young boy.

"Let's go back home to the shrine to investigate everything before we make any sudden decisions."

Zorba then stood and backed away from Soren, giving him space and a chance to catch his breath. "Remember us, boy," Zorba told him. "You will see us again soon."

And with that, the three figures seemed to disappear entirely right in front of Soren's eyes. His racing heart felt a mixture of horror and disappointment at the same time. There was something inside of him that didn't want them to go, no matter how frightening those sorcerers were.