The light quickly faded along with his hope as the door shut in silence before him. The slight thud from the closing of the door did not echo off the walls of earth. That, in addition to the oppression that the darkness brought, added to the somber atmosphere of disappointment. The lone figure just stood there in complete disbelief in front of the unmoving door.
In the darkness of the tunnel, a faint glow of light bloomed in front of the figure where the door had been just a moment before. The soft pastel blue light grew stronger, and small pill-shaped figures were writhing within. The mysterious figures were in fact the source of the light, and were actually bioluminescent cave worms. They had flocked to the door because of the radiating heat from the opposite side.
He couldn’t believe it. He just simply could not believe it. Here he and his sister had trained years to enter this tower. They had gained initial entrance, which was no easy task, and they had fought their way through the many twisting levels that hid within. Now that he had made it this far, what had happened? The old man had turned him away. What had that stupid stuck up so-called “master” told him? Some nonsense about not having proven himself worthy of a proper audience, about the lack of all five elements joining together, and that because of these things, it was not time yet. What did that even mean? He had fought through fierce and feral animals, and solved mental and physical puzzles to get before this master Earth Sage, but that was apparently not enough. What else was required to prove himself worthy?
“I wonder if Val is having a better time with her sage than I did” he wondered aloud to no one other than himself and the cold unwelcoming walls that surrounded him.
He was able to pull himself together enough to start the arduous journey back to the circular common area on the fifth floor of the tower. He did not want to leave where he was because it was the only source of light until the main hall. Plus, the air here did not smell so much of dirt here as it had in the passages leading to the sage’s door. However, he knew that nothing would change the sage’s mind, so he had no reason to stay where he was any longer.
Fortunately for him, the puzzles and traps had already been solved. The journey back to the antechamber was going much more smoothly and quickly than it had the other way. As he got further away from the light by the door, the temperature began to steadily drop, and the poor youth shivered.
“When I was running around for my life, I wasn’t this cold,” he said as he felt his way along the wall crumbling dirt off as he went.
After a few minutes working his way through the dark tunnels, he began to feel a little bit warmer, and up ahead he began to make out the glow of light once again. It was then that he heard her way off in the distance in front of him, but then again it isn’t that unusual to hear her before seeing her when she’s in a mood. From the sound of the colorful language and destruction, she was most certainly in one of her moods, and with Val, there are only two moods: angry and even angrier.
“I guess her sage had some similar hospitality traditions. I should go see what happened and try to calm her down,” he said to himself. “This whole talking to myself can’t be good. I guess I’m going crazy. Either way, I should probably not make a habit of talking to myself or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
He started the winding descent through the labyrinth of hallways that he had just traversed for the small cryptic message and the cold shoulder. As he got closer and closer to the main hallway, the sounds of fury and demolition grew increasingly louder. It sounded like she was back to where they had split up, meaning that she was following the plans.
“Hm, guess she’s finally thinking during her rages. That’s a major improvement. Hope this doesn’t take as long as it did the last time she went into a fit.”
“-and I’m not good enough? I at least had the decency to show up before her oh so greatness. She could have at least left a message or shown me some kind of sign. There was nothing at all. Hah! I’m better than that. I don’t need some stupid old hag waving her fat and lazy arms and giving me her unnecessary silly blessing. Probably too ugly to-“
When she saw him, she stopped short knowing she was caught and in trouble. She knew that he hated it when she talked like that, but it was so hard not to when she was mad. How could she keep blowing up like this in front of him? Since she had taken him under her wing after that day, life had not been as easy as she thought it would have been.
Don’t get her wrong, she absolutely loved her brother, but she would have loved to have lived the life other girls live. She didn’t know why, but she was always angry. Most of the time she didn’t even know why she was angry. She just couldn’t help herself. She was hoping that this journey would have ended here so that they could just relax and be normal again, but that was not the case this time.
“Hey, Val! She might still be able to hear you, and then where would you be? It sounds to me like you had the same if not even worse luck than I had. What happened?”
“That stupid, I mean, that stuffy regular old, well… ‘She’ didn’t show up at all” she seethed through clenched teeth. She took a deep breath to calm herself, released it, and then punched the tiled wall of the main hall. Almost immediately, a calm washed over her, and she was able to think a little bit more clearly.
“I made it all the way to her private chambers and she just wasn’t home. I got nowhere and no advice on anything at all. It’s so frustrating to work like we have for nothing. Did yours show up? I bet he did, you always had a way with people.”
“Well, he showed up, but I am still really confused.” With a defeated sigh, he allowed himself to crumple to the ground, his body sprawled out on the floor.
In typical sister fashion, she kneeled down beside him and flicked him on the forehead. “Hey there dirt-for-brains, what on earth does that mean? You can’t just say something like that and then not explain it.”
“Well first of all, he knew about you too. He knew about what we can do, and he said that neither of us had yet proven ourselves. He then talked about us only being two of the elements, and that we haven’t represented all five yet. I guess we need to do something more than we already have, and we need more people to do it.”
“Okay, so,” she said closing her eyes to better arrange her thoughts. “It sounds like we need to find three more people that can control the three elements that we can’t. After that, we need to do whatever it is that they will accept as worthy. That all sounds great, just another challenge for us to conquer. Did he say what we need to do to prove ourselves worthy?
Sitting up to see her face to face he said almost too quietly to hear, “He gave no inclination as to what it is they are looking for.”
Some clanging off deeper in the dungeon-like tower caught both of their attention. Whatever it was sounded large, and from the sound of it, it was getting closer.
“All I know is that we should probably leave. Between your sage and mine and those noises, I think the message is pretty clear. We aren’t welcome here yet, and I have a feeling that if we stick around it will get pretty ugly,” he said quickly getting to his feet.
After traveling back through the tower a while in silence, Terrance weakly asked, “What are we going to do, and where are we going to go? I know that you aren’t any older than I am, but you have always been the decisive person. I am so lost right now that I have no idea which way is up. I feel like this heavy darkness is swallowing my brain and I can’t think.”
She very abruptly grabbed him and pinned him against the wall. “Don’t you dare give up on me know,” she said blinking back tears. “I am going to get us through this, but we need to do this as a team Terrance. You know that I am serious because I actually used your real name, so listen up. We need to make a plan and we need to stick to it. We’ve got this only as long as we are together. If this wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t need other people. Now, let’s get out of this moldy dripping death trap and find out the answers we need.
After a few hours backtracking, the two finally arrived at the entrance on the first floor. This was not the trip that either of them had expected, but they had gleaned some new and valuable information about themselves and about their journey. This chapter of their journey was closing, but as they stepped out and the sunlight engulfed them, they began the next chapter in the only way they knew how… together.