* The Lost Cave *
The transport through the rift was different from anything Fantasma had ever experienced. Unlike normal quickening, which was instantaneous with only the slightest sensation of movement, this transport took a few minutes in which it felt like they were gliding through empty space, yellow rift energy swirling around them, until they landed in another quartz cave much smaller than the one they left.
Though slightly disoriented, he could tell they were in a completely different place. The first thing that stood out were the torches lit with blue fire, a sign that they’d been created with mentus. This was a common practice, and it meant that someone must have visited this place recently.
As he looked around for any more signs of where they might be, he suddenly saw a group of people standing just behind them near the entrance to a tunnel. Almost all of them looked to be around Sharanel’s age except for a short, dark-skinned woman standing near the front.
He gave a start. “Sorry if we scared you. I’m the Fantasma. Can you tell us where we are?”
Sharanel and Thomas turned when he spoke. Both looked just as surprised as he was to see the group standing in the cave.
Jandor couldn’t understand the man, but the tone didn’t sound threatening. He could tell the strangers were just as surprised to see them as they were to see three people materialize out of thin air.
Terri clutched at Jandor’s arm, and he could feel the general air of tension in the cave as the stranger spoke in an unfamiliar language, causing several gasps.
“Nobody panic; just stay where you are.” Jandor said to his friends, while still looking at the purple-robed man. “Mrs. Guardman, do they look familiar to you at all,” he asked in a hushed tone as the three seemed to talk among themselves. “Are they part of this whole thing?”
“No,” she said shaking her head. “I don’t know where they came from. As far as I know you can only get down here with the translift transporter.”
Jandor stepped forward to address the newcomers. “We can’t understand you. Do you speak English?”
Jandor thought that maybe they were just from another country. After all, if they transported to the cave maybe other people could too, perhaps people from other parts of the world.
A confused look crossed Ashley’s face and she turned to Wayne and whispered. “What’s he talking about?”
“Can you understand them?” Sharanel asked Fantasma in a hushed whisper.
“No,” Fantasma said slowly. “Which, while not impossible, is very odd.”
“Chief-Fantasma-man, I don’t think we’re on Mendala anymore,” Thomas said.
“What makes you say that?” Fantasma asked, distracted by this sudden pronouncement.
“Don’t you see it; or I guess, don’t you not see it; or maybe, don’t you see what’s not there; or not see what should be there?”
“Thomas!” Sharanel said a bit sternly, highly aware that there was a group of confused people staring at them.
“No, I understand what he means,” Fantasma said. “Look at them closely in the mentant realm, do you see what’s missing? Typically, you can see the aura of someone’s adimus signature, but they have none. That indicates a completely dormant adimus which should be impossible…at least in our world.” He thought for a moment. “I might be able to fix it so we can communicate but I need them to be able to understand what I’m doing for it to work.”
“So, you need them to understand you in order to make them understand you?” Thomas summarized.
“I recognize the irony,” Fantasma said with a huff.
“I can understand you,” called a female voice from across the cavern.
Jandor turned to Ashley in shock. “You can understand what they’re saying?”
“Yeah, they’re speaking English,” Ashley said. The purple-robed man responded in his foreign tongue. “Okay, well you call it ‘Common’ we call it English,” she responded.
“Ash they’re not speaking English,” Wayne confirmed, “but if you can understand them, can you tell what they want?”
She gave him a confused look but didn’t argue. “The old guy says he can make all of you understand him.”
“How? What is he going to do?” Jandor asked.
Ashley was trying to listen to the man who was talking rapidly. “Whatever he’s describing, he’s using words I don’t really understand but he says as long as you trust him and don’t resist, it won’t fry your brain.”
“Well, that’s comforting,” Jandor chuckled. “Okay, well I’ll do it then.”
“Jandor, you don’t know what this guy’s going to do. Are you sure about this?” Becky asked.
“Nope, but it beats standing here staring at each other like idiots.” Jandor shrugged. “If it works on me, then we’ll know it’s safe.”
“Old? I don’t look that old, do I?” Fantasma asked.
Sharanel repressed a snigger before saying, “What are you going to do exactly?”
“I’m going to use mandamus to implant the common language directly into the adimus of their brains. Even though they won’t consciously know it, if they speak normally, their language will still translate to ours through the mentant realm like always, so we’ll understand what they’re saying and vice versa.”
Sharanel nodded. “But, if they’re adimus is dormant like you said, then they won’t be able to hear through the mentant realm like we do. It still wouldn’t translate. How are you going to get them to be able to access the realm if they’ve never done it before?”
“I’ve thought of that,” Fantasma said. “I can already use my power to boost a person’s adimus, like how I promote guardians and unlock their full potential. So, in theory, I should be able to use the same process to activate a person’s adimus. At the very least it will give them low level access to the mentant realm, enough for subconscious acts like translation.”
“Or it could fry their noggin’,” Thomas interjected.
“Well, there is some risk,” Fantasma nodded, “especially since I’ve never done this to someone with a completely dormant adimus, but I am rather skilled at this. They just have to trust me, and not resist and it should work.”
“Jandor says he’s willing to try it,” the blonde mediator said suddenly. They hadn’t even realized that she’d been listening and repeating what they said.
The tallest boy among them stepped forward, a tentative but determined look on his face.
“Okay, here goes,” Fantasma said holding out his hands. “Just close your eyes and relax.”
“Give him your hands, close your eyes, and relax,” Ashley told Jandor.
Jandor did as instructed. He heard the dark-skinned stranger say several words in a tone that sounded powerful and authoritative. He could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end and something inside his mind seemed to click open, as if somehow, he had a new sense and could feel his surroundings in a whole new way. There was a sudden jolt of energy that coursed through his body, and he was knocked off his feet. The man looked concerned and immediately extended a hand to the teen.
“Jandor is it?” he heard the deep, kind voice saying. “How do you feel? Can you understand me?”
Jandor’s head was swimming a bit as he was raised to his feet. “Yes, I can,” he said excitedly. “Can you understand me too?”
He beamed, “It worked.”
Jandor turned to the others, “You guys have got to try this!”
Emboldened by Jandor’s successful attempt, everyone eagerly lined up to have their turn with Fantasma. First Wayne and Becky went, and they too experienced the side effect of being knocked off their feet.
After that, it seemed Fantasma was able to control his power more precisely, and the others did not have the same adverse effect. It took about fifteen minutes to go through them all. With each person he said the same series of strange commanding words which none of them could comprehend even with their newfound ability to recognize his language.
“This is so cool!” Henry said when it was his turn. “What’s all the yellow, glowy stuff though?” he was staring up at the ceiling.
Though his friends gave him confused looks, the comment sparked something in Sharanel. She turned to Thomas. “Did you hear that?” she asked excitedly. “Could it be another quickener with dimensional sense?”
Thomas nodded and smiled in Henry’s direction. “Shara, I’ve gotta feelin’ that boy’s the greatest quickener you’ll ever see. Just you wait.”
“What, really?” Sharanel stared at Henry in awe, wondering what made Thomas say that.
Henry seemed to be aware that he was being watched and turned, causing their eyes to lock for a few seconds before Sharanel blushed and looked away hastily,
By then, Fantasma had finished using his mandamus on Veda Guardman who was the last in line. After he confirmed success, he took a step back to address the group. “Thank you for trusting me. I know it wasn’t easy, but I’m glad that we’ve overcome this language barrier. As I said before, though I’m sure you didn’t understand me, I am the Fantasma, and these are my associates, Sharanel Quicksilver and Thomas Goodfield.”
“I’m Jandor Mason,” Jandor said, and the others in his group all introduced themselves in turn.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” Fantasma said cordially. “Can you tell us where we are?”
“Well actually, we’re not sure ourselves,” Jandor said, a little disappointed that Fantasma asked this. “We came here by a strange transport from our town in Greengale. We actually don’t know where ‘here’ is, though.”
“Greengale,” Fantasma repeated, “I’ve never heard of it. Forgive me if this seems like an odd question, but what planet are we on?”
Jandor gave a sideways glance to the others before saying, “This is Earth.”
“We really are on another planet!” Sharanel squealed.
Fantasma was less shocked but still looked as if he’d been punched. He’d believed Thomas when he said they were on another world, but the gravity of this was only just starting to sink in.
Becky stepped up beside Jandor. “Fantasma, we came to this cave looking for answers and it seems like too big a coincidence that you appeared here too. Now I have even more questions. For starters, how did you make it so that we understand each other? Why was Ashley able to understand you from the very beginning and we weren’t? Where are you from and how did you get here? Most importantly, why did you come here? Are you looking for something too? Maybe we’re all looking for the same thing and just don’t know it.”
Fantasma held up his hands as if overwhelmed. “Well, I do suppose we owe you some explanation; you have been very patient.” He began to pace. “I’ll start with the easy part first. I used mandamus to activate the adimus of your brains so I could pass my knowledge of our language to you, allowing us to speak using the mentant realm.”
“That was the easy part?” Becky said with a scoff. “What’s an adimus and a mandamus and a mint realm? That makes no sense.”
“I told you,” Ashley said with a shrug.
“I think I might actually know some of this,” Mrs. Guardman interjected. “The adimus is a part of the brain, a part that we don’t know about here on Earth, but it exists. If you can access it, you can use certain abilities.”
“You mean telekinesis and things like that?” Daniel asked in shock.
“Yes,” Mrs. Guardman nodded. “It’s also how the blue fires were created. It’s all done using an adimus ability called mentus.”
“That’s correct,” Fantasma said, “The adimus allows us to use many abilities. I activated yours specifically so that we could communicate. There are many other skills that can be performed using mentus, depending on your aptitude. There’s also mandamus, but that’s far less common. On our world, everyone uses their adimus in one way or another, but I guess that’s not the case here.”
“How did you know that, Mom?” Wayne asked.
“Your father explained it to me a few years back,” she revealed.
“What, but how did he—” Wayne started but Jandor cut him off.
“That’s something we can deal with later, it’s less important than trying to figure out what this place is. How did you get here exactly?” he asked Fantasma.
“We’re from a planet called Mendala,” Fantasma explained. “We came here through a rift in time and space. We didn’t know where it would take us. We believe that people from our world may have accidentally been sent through the rift long ago and came here to this place. We think they also may have had an important artifact with them.”
Mrs. Guardman gave an audible gasp at this.
“What?” Jandor asked immediately.
She turned to face the group of teens. “You’re getting your wish, Jandor. You wanted to know what your parents have been keeping from you. This is it. Over four hundred years ago, fourteen people came from Fantasma’s world to Earth. Those people were your ancestors and when they came here, they had something very powerful that they were protecting. It looked like a book but apparently it was much more. They kept it here in the cave, and all their descendants, all the way down to your parents, have been protecting it.”
“The Book of War,” Fantasma said breathlessly. “So, it’s true. The Twelve Warriors and the Book of War were sent here through the rift. I can’t believe it.”
“You’re kidding, this is a joke, right?” Tabatha said brashly.
Ashley gasped. “So, we are aliens!”
“Mrs. Guardman this isn’t funny,” Becky said.
“Mom how could you keep something like this from us?” Wayne added.
Soon everyone was talking, arguing, and shouting until Jandor held up his hands. “Quiet!”
Everyone fell silent.
“Now, I know this is a lot to take in, but we need to hear the whole story,” Jandor said before turning to face Mrs. Guardman and Fantasma. “This book, or whatever it was, what was so special about it? Why were they protecting it?”
“The Book of War is a powerful and deadly artifact that was once sealed so that nobody could use it,” Fantasma explained. “Over twelve hundred years ago, a man by the name of Multus found and used the book to attack our world by creating indestructible monsters.”
“A book that creates monsters?” Becky said with clear skepticism. “Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?”
“Becky,” Jandor said in an admonishing tone, and it caused her to fall silent.
Fantasma continued. “Those who went to stop Multus disappeared along with the book, and we’ve never known what happened to them. Somehow, they must have ended up here, but unfortunately, I have no idea what happened after that.” He looked to Mrs. Guardman hopefully.
She seemed flustered. “I’m sorry, but just as I’ve been telling them, I don’t really have all the answers.”
“I think it’s time I speak,” came a gruff voice from the back of the group of teens.
Wayne recognized the voice as the unfamiliar one he’d heard at Henry’s house earlier that evening. When the teens turned to look for the source of the voice, they saw nothing but the small black border terrier trotting quickly to the front.
“Did that dog…just talk?” Tabatha was pointing shakily at Melvin’s dog.
“Illusion?” Melvin said in shock.
Sharanel jumped as the dog came toward them. “This world has talking dogs. That’s amazing!”
“Shara, you know better than that. Look at the thing; it’s mentus through and through.” Thomas said clearly in awe. “Amazing, totally a thing.”
Many of the teens were dumbfounded by this latest revelation. Jandor, however, was looking at Mrs. Guardman, who didn’t look as taken aback as everyone else. “I guess with all the other things our parents have been keeping from us, the talking dog ranked pretty low on the list. This is really serious, isn’t it?”
Mrs. Guardman was staring down at Illusion who sat between the two groups. She looked numb but nodded. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” She looked up at Jandor with tears in her brown eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
“I know, but we’re here now,” Jandor said, “so, let’s get this over with.”
Fantasma was also scrutinizing the dog as if he were looking through it. “You’re not real.”
“I’m real enough,” Illusion said in his gruff voice. “I was created by Melvin’s ancestor, Hannah Seawall.”
“She was a mentant monk if I recall,” Fantasma said.
“Yes, and so you should know how I came to be.” When Illusion talked, he seemed to have very human facial expressions.
“So, you were there during the Great War? You know what happened?” Fantasma asked expectantly.
Illusion shook his head. “I was created after they came here to Earth, so that I could retain certain information from generation to generation.”
“Do you know how they ended up here?” Fantasma asked.
The dog pawed the ground. “From what I was told, it was a translift accident. Zechariah, Henry’s ancestor, was trying to use a makeshift one to get them home quickly. Somehow, they ended up here and could never get back.”
“The quartz in translifts has a lot of the same properties as traveler quartz, which is only made when rifts are formed. So maybe the translift they were trying to use had some negative reaction with the rift,” Sharanel mused. “They wouldn’t have even known about rifts back then. No wonder. One thing doesn’t make sense though. They said that they came four hundred years ago, but the Great War was over twelve hundred years ago at the beginning of the current era. How can that be?”
“It makes perfect sense, Shara,” Thomas said. “I told ya, the time dilation was a factor of three on this here rift. It only flattened once I put the locus in place. That means until now, time was three times faster on our side of the rift. Great War was exactly twelve-hundred and ninety years ago, right? So, I bet ya it’s been four hundred and thirty years, give or take, on this side, assuming years work the same over here.”
Illusion nodded. “You are correct, and they do for the most part. It has been a little more than four hundred and thirty years since their ancestors arrived in this world.”
“This is totally a thing,” Thomas said excitedly. “The moment I saw that there time dilation, I figured it had to be something like another world. No tellin’ how far away we are. That rift could even be dimensionally shifted, which means—"
“As fascinating as I’m sure that is, we still need to know what happened during the Great War,” Fantasma pressed. “You must know something.”
“I only know what Hannah told me.” Illusion sat on his hind legs. “The seal that bound the book was broken and it seemed an evil that was once trapped in the book was possessing Multus. Without the seal, there was no way to bind that evil back inside the book which meant that it would be free to possess another after they defeated Multus.
“However, on their way to stop Multus, they met epouranal High Mage Gilenhall and she told them a way to reseal the book, but at a cost. Though the original seal was broken, it still had some power. To make it strong enough to bind the book, twelve souls, twelve life forces, needed to be bound to the seal. It must have been providence that they were twelve who went with the Daughter of the Sun.”
“Why twelve though?” Sharanel asked.
“Because Shara, it’s the bloomin’ number ain’t it; the number that wraps ‘round the whole blasted thing,” Thomas said, still staring in awe.
“Twelve is considered by the epouranals to be a holy number,” Fantasma clarified. “It represents completion, among other things. After all, there are twelve epouranals. It would make sense that the high mage would pick it, especially if the seal was of supernal origins.”
“Supernal?” Ashley repeated the unfamiliar word.
“Supernatural,” Illusion translated, “for the seal was said to be made by a servant of God. The twelve of them readily agreed. There was no question in their minds that they would bear the responsibility of keeping the Book of War sealed, but it was not supposed to be forever. Gilenhall told them that there was a way to completely reseal the book but before they could do that, they were transported to Earth. They had no choice but to keep the book hidden and sealed by their own power, but they committed not only themselves but their descendants as well. Because it was broken, the seal’s power was weak. So, though they bound themselves to it, the seal needed to be renewed every few months or the book could gain power again and lure in an unsuspecting soul.”
“So, when they died, their children had to take over,” Jandor surmised.
“Not necessarily when they died,” Illusion said, turning to him now. “It doesn’t work like that. The bond of the seal runs through the bloodline of the original seal bearers. All their children share the bond from the moment they come to the age of spiritual maturity, which is twelve years old. At any point after that, the seal will recognize them, and the responsibility of seal bearer can pass to them, but it can only be one in the bloodline.”
“Wait, but there’s more than twelve of us.” Henry pointed out. “So does that mean all of us aren’t a part of this.”
“Well clearly not me,” Terri said. “My mom’s not part of this, right? I’m just Jandor’s stepsister.” She sounded almost disappointed.
Mrs. Guardman nodded. “Yes, your mother is like me, just married into it and sharing the secret as a result.”
“But that still leaves fifteen of us,” Henry insisted.
“Fourteen people were sent here from Mendala,” Illusion said. “The Daughter of the Sun, the twelve who went with her, and their quickener.”
Sharanel gasped. “Wait, so she’s here. The Daughter of the Sun is actually here?”
“Yes, she is.” Illusion gave a very human-like nod. “Tamara Summerson was the last Daughter of the Sun. She had two sons from two different husbands but no daughters. So, when she passed, her eldest granddaughter became the Daughter of the Sun.”
“Wait, you’re talking about our grandma,” Tabatha said pointing to Ashley. “Our grandma was this child of the sun thing? I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog,” she added, still a little shaky.
“Yes, and you and Ashley carry her legacy. That’s why you have the same sun-shaped birthmark,” Illusion revealed.
“How do you know that?” Ashley clutched at her neck reflexively. “We’ve never told anyone.”
“You two have identical birthmarks?” Wayne looked at her confused. “I never knew that.”
“You wouldn’t unless you spend a lot of time staring at the back of my neck,” Ashley quipped. She grabbed her long main of blonde hair and shifted it fully out of the way, so the back of her neck was visible. Just under her hairline was the small, sun-shaped birthmark. “I don’t know how the dog knows,” she said before letting her hair fall back into place.
“I know because your parents discuss these things,” Illusion revealed. “You see, for a while they were not sure which of you would become the next Daughter of the Sun because Victoria and Maggie were pregnant at the same time. Ken was the oldest of Tamara’s children, and Victoria was due first, but because Ashley was premature, she was born first. It soon became clear that Ashley would be the one to inherit her grandmother’s legacy.”
“What? Why?” Ashley asked confused.
“Which is why you could understand our language when no one else could,” Fantasma said in revelation. “One of the gifts of the Daughter of the Sun is the ability to understand all languages. So, it truly is you. We’ve found the Daughter of the Sun.”
“Good heavens, Frank was right all along,” Sharanel said in awe.
“So, this here’s the long lost bloomin’, great and gracious, livin’, breathin’, legendarious Daughter of the Sun?” Thomas stammered. “Like the one and only, can’t be another, not been around, all hail to her great-biggie-big deal?”
“What is this Daughter of the Sun thing?” Ashley grabbed Wayne’s arm out of nervous habit.
“The Daughter of the Sun is one of the pillars of our world,” Fantasma explained. “She is considered the caretaker of the people, a beacon of hope, charity, love, and purity. She is practically revered.” Even Fantasma’s tone suggested that he was in awe of her.
“Okay well wait a minute now, I’ve got the birthmark thingy too.” Tabatha said, clearly not wanting to be left out. “So, what does that mean then? What am I? Do I get a cool title?”
“Seriously?” Ace gave her an incredulous look. “This is what you’re worried about?”
“I’m just sayin’,” she said sheepishly.
“All Daughters of the Sun are from the bloodline of Ester Fantas,” Fantasma said. “Many of her female descendants share the birthmark, a sign of the lineage as Illusion said earlier, and these women have formed a sisterhood that work under the Daughter of the Sun to help her in her duties. They are known as the Sisterhood of Ester, and for years they’ve continued the work of the Daughter of the Sun even in her absence.” He said this as if Tabatha should be proud of her legacy.
She was clearly unimpressed. “So, you’re saying I’m a lackey? I’m Ashley’s lackey? That sucks.”
“Welcome to the Unimportant People Club,” Terri commiserated with a slight chuckle.
“Hey, I’ll trade you, no problem,” Ashley scoffed. “You can have it. I don’t care. I don’t want to go to some strange world and be their queen or whatever.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” Illusion said. “The Daughter of the Sun is not just a title, there are certain abilities and powers that go with it, such as your ability to understand languages. It is only passed on at the death of the previous Daughter of the Sun and even then, it would go to your younger sister, assuming you had no heirs.”
“Well, you’re just full of information,” Wayne said looking from Illusion to his mother. “So, why couldn’t you guys have told us all this years ago. You said this seal thing happened when we were twelve. If you’d had told us then, we wouldn’t have found this out from a talking dog and an alien.”
Mrs. Guardman sighed. “They wanted to wait until you were all over eighteen, just like what their parents did for them. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Certainly no one could predict all of this.” She waved her hand at the Mendalian strangers. “Unfortunately, the seal has been weaker for years, ever since Aiden’s death. With the accident last year and then the book disappearing, things just spiraled out of control.”
“Wait, did you say the Book of War is missing?” Fantasma asked in alarm.
“We’re not sure,” Illusion said. “It seems impossible that it could be gone, but there was an incident last year that caused us to lose access to this place and the book was left unsealed. Somehow in that time, it went missing.”
“We believe that someone from our world found their way here to this cave, using the same rift we just used. Evidence suggests that they found the Book of War and are now using it to create an army of monsters, just like before.”
“If that’s the case, the book could have possessed that person and there’s no telling what they’re capable of,” Illusion said. “It may not be too late though. The seal can still be used.” He turned and pointed his left front paw at Ace.
“Wait, this is the seal thing you guys have been talking about?” Ace held up the stone tablet he’d been carrying and examined it closer.
“Is that why we all felt something when we touched it?” Alyson asked.
“Not all of us,” Terri reminded her.
Alyson faltered. “Well, you know what I mean…”
“Yeah, I know,” Terri said, a little annoyed. “I’m not a part of all this.”
“Wait you all touched it?” Mrs. Guardman said.
“Which means the seal may have recognized them as the new bearers,” Illusion concluded.
“What does that mean?” Jandor asked.
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Guardman asked almost at the same time. “I don’t see the mark on them.”
“Well, it’s only visible near the Book of War,” Illusion reminded her.
“What mark?” Jandor asked, clearly frustrated that they seemed to know something he didn’t.
“They may be the only ones who can activate the seal now,” Illusion added.
“What does that mean?” Bernie asked.
“Wait, have I had this seal thing ever since my mother died?” Stephanie asked.
“What about the rest of us, do we have a choice?” Melvin said.
Everyone began to talk all at once again.
“Stop!” Tabatha shouted before swaying from dizziness again, prompting Ace to catch her. “We’ve been talking about evil books, and sun people, and crazy glowing seals, and all this garbage. I don’t care about any of this! All I want to know is what really happened to our parents last year. Why won’t anyone tell us the truth?”
Everyone paused for a moment before Jandor spoke again. “She’s right. You keep referring to the accident last year. It clearly has something to do with all of this. We deserve to know the truth.”
Illusion and Mrs. Guardman shared a look of hesitation. Neither seemed willing to speak.
“What? What is it?” Tabatha almost shouted again.
Mrs. Guardman shook her head, tears welling in her eyes. “You have to understand. He wasn’t himself.”
“What?” Tabatha said. “Just tell me!”
“Tabatha it was your father,” Illusion said finally. “He caused the explosion that killed your parents.”
Tabatha gave a shuddering gasp and fainted on the spot.