The next day, the first one of the new year, saw me and Anroma trekking into the cave we spied the smoke figure appear near. The dampness of the cave soaked through my shoes despite Anroma and I having only just entered through the mouth. We passed the first bend in the tunnel and suddenly the natural light from the entrance was gone. Two minutes into the cave and I was already extremely uncomfortable. I could feel the dirty water climb my leg each time I took a step forward and sunk into the mud. The darkness didn’t help, especially with the chirping made by who knows what. Whatever we found in this cave, I sincerely hoped it would be worth the discomfort.
Nonetheless, we persisted. I attempted to keep a constant chatter going to prevent us from falling into a silence. One, so we didn’t hear anything unnerving and two, so I didn’t take a turn away from her and end up at the other side of the cavern.
“I’m glad I could convince Ace, Hyde, and Sledg to join our ‘prayer’ session today,” I said, stepping over a log.
“Yeah, you seemed a bit out of it yesterday,” she said. Despite the darkness I could imagine the snark written on her face.
We continued chatting idly as we made our way down the winding tunnel. My mind continued to come back to seeing Patterson yesterday. He seemed happy. At least, the best since the accident. I hoped this would work out and we could walk together once more. It would work. An was new to her powers but she was coming into them quickly.
I began to curse our lack of light for the sixteenth time when we reached a sharp descent. Luckily, the bottom contained some sort of light that illuminated the steep drop or else the two of us might have found ourselves tumbling down. It gave off just enough light that I could see An had turned to give me a questioning look. I felt just as unsure. What would be giving off light this deep in the tunnel?
An grabbed my wrist and cautiously took the first step down the decline. It probably would be best if she went first. I was no Whisperer. The miniature hills soil was slightly more solid than the aforementioned mud, which made the climb down pleasant by comparison. As we reached the bottom, a room came into view. It was empty except for a few pieces of paper and a lantern.
I followed An into the room while I looked around. The walls were mostly smooth. They looked as if they had been eroded by wind over the many years. The floor met the wall and slowly declined until it reached the middle of the room which was the lowest point. An reached the lantern and we noticed that was not providing the light. Looking around once more, there was a small lining of flame where the ceiling met the top of the wall. They wrapped completely around the cavern room, like a rope. The flames flickered lightly and under control.
“Have you seen anything like this before?” I asked as she finally let my wrist from her grasp.
“No,” she said as I walked toward the wall.
The ceiling was too tall for me to reach, it was maybe a couple of feet out of my grasp. I glanced at An quizzically but only received a shrug. She bent down and picked up the papers. As she read them her eyes went wide.
“Ace said my father was Rayon?” she asked. Ace had, but we didn’t talk about it often. There was no need. An had a right to know but she would be different from him. I slightly pursed my lips and nodded in response. Her attention returned to the pages and she continued reading. I turned back to the wall. What was going on here? What are these flames? And how…
“Come read this,” An said. I walked to the center of the room and took the pages from her. I skipped to the bottom, it was signed Ramodeus Rayon. They were pages from her father.
“How did these get here?” I asked no one in particular. I began to read the note.
“I am heading back to meet with The Empress after the death of Fin Ra. She will not be pleased and in all likelihood, this could be my last journey, so it’s a race to preserve my mind on these pages. With Fin’s death, I might be the last Whisperer.
My knowledge is the result of bits and pieces being put together over my lifetime. Many years before me, Whisperers were more common than the two Ge’elia had as of a week ago. We were far from the majority but we were not such an unknown group. Although, power was far more separated and divided among individuals. I have come to assume that there is a set pool of power that is divided between the amount of Whisperers currently alive. Fin and I had near mastery of the three aspects of the Whispering Arts. Before my time, I understand that each Whisperer only had the capacity for one of the three.
Restoration, manipulation, and destruction are the three arts. If you are reading this, and if you have the capacity for the arts then it is likely you have intuitively utilized one or more of these aspects. Restoration is the art of using gathered energy to heal or regenerate something. Pretty self explanatory. Manipulation is also fairly simple, as it takes the energy you have drawn and allows you to change your target’s properties. Destruction is actually slightly counter-intuitive in the way that it is the creation of energy that destroys. For example, while you can use the manipulative art to change the air around into a shield, one with the destructive affinity would create a shield that would be made of destructive energy. It would even be hard for the creator to hold. The best use of this power would be an energy that is projected out as an attack.
If you need to test your proficiency I’d recommend simple tasks. One hand on a friend’s cut and the other using the energy of another person. Unfortunately, a Whisperer cannot utilize their own life force. If you can heal that cut then you have a proficiency with restoration. For manipulation, grab a source (another friend or anything living) and a glass of water. Concentrate on changing the water. You can change its physical properties, even so far as turning it into a dagger. If you are able to change it into anything short of a glass of flesh eating liquid or lava, you are likely a manipulator. With testing destruction, I would recommend caution. Simply use a source and hold your palm out toward something you wouldn’t mind losing. If anything comes out that sizzles, explodes, or burns… congratulations, you’re destruction.
A small warning, though. What comes in, must go out. Never forget equality. The energy runs through you and it will take a toll on you. Likewise, don’t try to change the consistency of an ocean with only the energy from your friend. Their energy will be drawn until they shrivel. So, mysterious reader, consider the force you take in and don’t over do it. Your heart will not be able to handle too large a strain. Over do it and you will no longer be a Whisperer. Because you’ll be dead.”
I looked up from the note, mouth agape.
“Wow,” was all I managed to say. “This is incredible. This has to help you, right?”
“It makes sense,” she responded, seemingly lost in thought.
“This had to be so long ago. It was before he even founded Elodine. What turned this guy,” I held up the note, “into the Rayon that cursed Ikalga?” I felt a brief chill touch my spine. “Let’s get back.”
The return trip was much more pleasant, either because we had something to look forward to analyzing or because my mind was so full of thought I didn’t notice the mud up to my ankles.
We reached the castle and called forth our inner circle. Ace, Sledg, and Hyde were all able to make it.
“You have more potential than I even imagined, An,” Ace said after he finished reading.
“Wait,” Hyde sat up on the couch, “this makes sense. The wall of fire…”
“The Burning Sea, the everlasting lake,” Ace interjected, “Hyde, you’re a genius.”
Sledg and I looked at each other and shrugged.
“Mind sharing with the dummies?” I asked.
“Yes, of course,” Ace literally skipped to the middle of the room. “So, all the Acts we can think of so far, and forgive me if it’s rough, we probably need to delve a bit deeper into it, but each act that we’ve come to loathe fits into a category.”
It clicked for me. The conjured fire. Destruction. The changing curse. Manipulation.
He must have noticed the look on my face because he continued, “Yes, we finally have a clue into how he did it!”
“But what about the cost?” Hyde asked. “He said this could kill you, how did he manage to create any of that with those limitations?”
“He must have written this before he did any of that and found a way around it later,” Ace answered. He turned to me and An. “Was there anything else? This is an amazing clue.”
“No, it was a small cavern. It was barren besides those notes,” I answered.
An remained seated, staring at the ceiling.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked her.
She brought her gaze down from the ceiling and furrowed her brow. “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s like I’m in a busy room and I can hear everyone’s thoughts.”
“True. There are a lot of questions this opens. Hopefully, it’ll lead us to some answers,” I said.
An nodded. “Can we get some grapes in here?” She leaned back and put her hands behind her head.