Marbles

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1  Unexplained Secrets~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~2

Chapter 2  Fali Salong~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  15

Chapter 3  The City of Sirad~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  27

Chapter 4  The Forbidden Marblers~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  42

Chapter 5  Return to the City~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  55

Chapter 6  The Marble Sword~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  64

Chapter 7  The Unsuccessful Chase~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  73

Chapter 8  Marble Training~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  90

Chapter 9  Help from a Stranger~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  104

Chapter 10  The Story of the Other Marble~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  119

Chapter 11  Healing of Secrets  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~130

Chapter 12  Shattered Tears~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~142

Chapter 13  Cave of Marbles~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~157

Chapter 14  (in process)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~167

 

Note: The month of November is known as the National Writers' Month.  The goal is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month.  I have succeeded at this (yah!  :) ) however, please note that no editing has been done.

 

Thanks everyone!!!


Chapter 1

Unexplained Secrets

 

            The imagination is a precious gift that many take advantage of.  It is a gift from the heart, an ability to see the world in a way that seems unbelievable, yet quite possible.  Great books have been written, television shows and movies watched, and peoples’ eyes become entranced with the stories they see in their minds; sometimes glad they are not the characters that are being portrayed, and other times desperately yearning to enter others’ worlds.  There is yet another story of one such girl, a girl who was admired, hated, envied, and loved.  A girl who had a gift, a gift that at times was a wonderful gift, and at other times, a curse.  A girl who’s imagination drew straight from the heart, if she wanted to survive the strange and peculiar worlds she found herself falling into.  Sairaka Tream most certainly lived an eventful life, full of mysteries and adventures, friends, enemies, and rivals.  Though her life was cut short, her stories can never be forgotten by anyone; not her friends, her enemies, or her rivals.  This is because she impacted so many lives with her love, and her faith.

            Her story begins on a day she could not remember.  The heat energizing from the Sunstar was at a perfect temperature.  Fluffy white clouds floated along the bright blue sky.  Below was a tiny little town; a chapel on the left, cottages next, and then on the far most right of the town a few scattered shops.  A dusty dirt road ran though the town; at one end of the road, in the left direction, was a dark woods, and in the right direction, a farm and telephone poles.  On the other side of the neat, perfect road was a field.  The field was full of vivid green grass, corn yellow reeds and cattails, and wildflowers of every color of the rainbow.  Standing amidst the field, with the reeds tickling her feet, was a woman.  Her blue dress flapped around with the slightest of breezes.  She stood there, calm, yet filled with a happiness so great that silver tears were falling down her pink cheeks.  The woman’s hands were stretched out to the Sunstar.  In her hands was a baby who was giggling with joy.

            “My Sairaka!”  the woman cried.  “My sweet miracle!  May you always be protected by the happiness and love of your heart!”  The woman swung around as the baby continued to giggle with glee.  Two men stood from the distance, watching her.

 

            But unfortunately, the happiness of the woman did not last forever.  On a cold, dark night, with the only source of light coming from a couple of silver moons and millions of twinkling stars, the woman was running through the woods.  Running for her life.  Her baby was wrapped in a soft, pink blanket.  She was not crying.  The woman was breathing hard, trying not to trip over any roots or her own feet.  A man was darting next to her.  He, too, was running out of breath.  The two continued sprinting until the woman could not move any longer.  She put her hand up by a tree and tried to control her breathing long enough to talk to the man.

            “Take Sairaka!”  she exclaimed, holding her baby to the man.  “It’s the only way!”  The man looked at her as if she was crazy as he took the baby.

            “But…but…I can’t!  You know I can’t…”  He stared at her bewildered.  The woman pulled out from her torn pink sweater a strange jewelry box.  It had gold swirls covering the burgundy case and a gold key hole.  She opened it up and pulled out a white marble.  She placed the marble into the baby’s clenched fists.  Then she handed the odd jewelry box over to the man.

            “Hold on to her” she said, panic filling her voice as her left hand lay over the baby’s fists so that the baby would not accidentally swallow the marble.

            “Hold her…you are coming to, aren’t you???  Merene!”  The woman did not say a word.  She started to step away as a strange glowing emerged from the baby’s tiny hands.  The man held the baby tightly as a strong wind blew across them and the light from the baby grew brighter.  “MERENE!”  The man reached out his hand that was clenching the jewelry box toward the woman, but the woman was too far away. 

            “Don’t tell her.  For her own safety, she must not know, until it is the right time.”  Those were the last words that left the woman’s lips.  The light grew brighter and brighter until finally the baby and the man disappeared from sight.

 

           About fourteen years later, out on a farm, was a cow chewing on some grass.  Petting the cow was a girl.  Worn-out, brown sandals were on the girl’s feet and she was wearing blue jean overalls over a white shirt that was splattered with mud and stains.  Over the shirt was a light pink sweater, the only piece of clothing the girl wore that looked clean and undamaged.  Her emerald green hair hung past her shoulders a couple of inches and was glittering in the sun.  On top of her head was a straw hat that had wrapped around it a crimson bow.  Her purple eyes reflected the Sunstar above as she placed one arm around the cow.  Though she loved animals, and she was wearing a pink sweater, the girl was a tomboy.  She liked working out on the farm for her Uncle and did not mind at all getting herself dirty in the process.  And she would rather be caught dead then be seen wearing a skirt.

            The girl had been living on the farm all of her life…at least as long as she could remember.  The girl’s job was to take care of the animals, which consisted of 14 cows, 20 cluckers, and 12 grimplugs.  The cows and the cluckers were the most important animals on the farm; the cows providing milk and the cluckers providing eggs.  The grimplugs, small grey pigs with pushed in snouts and large eyes that always made them look shocked and horrified at everything they saw, were more of a nuisance.  They typically bounced around the farm, as their legs were too short for walking, trying to stay away from the cluckers who would constantly follow them (having their legs close together as well, they too bounced).  The girl typically had to put the grimplugs and cluckers back on to their feet since they would continuously collide into each other, fall over, and then be unable to get themselves upright again.  No sooner were they back on their feet, they would collide and fall over again.  The girl had tried separating them many times, using fences, but the grimplugs and cluckers always found ways to jump over them.  It was as if they had a magnetic connection, and thus it was impossible to raise cluckers without grimplugs around.

            Her Uncle took care of the crops, the corn fields and the apple trees.  He also would go into town once a month to sell some of their milk, eggs, corn, apples, and, if he was lucky, a grimplug or two (since they were not good for eating either, most people bought them only to keep cluckers on their farms).  He would then bring home special treats back to their skinny, two-storied, brick red farmhouse,  like chocolate squares, rice cakes, or a green slender vegetable called a clumber that tasted like a combination of cucumber and corn.  It was quite delicious.  He never let his niece join him on his trips.  She was told that it was much safer to stay away from other humans.  The girl had never seen any other living human besides her Uncle, and her Uncle seemed to like it this way.

            “Sairaka, remember, if you see any person besides myself remotely near this farm, no matter what, you tell me IMMEDIATELY!!”  Sairaka had always asked why, but her Uncle refused to say.  “It’s for your own good and your safety.”  He did not like to discuss with her about her family either.  “It’s for your own good and your safety.”  All she could manage to get out of him was that he was her mother’s brother.  And that both of her parents were dead.  Though this frustrated Sairaka to no end, she learned to except the fact.  Arguing never got her anywhere.

            That morning, her Uncle was inside the farmhouse cleaning up from breakfast.  Sairaka knew very well what would happen in moments time…lessons.  She remained as far away from the farmhouse as possible, with her favorite cow, Chewbeans.  Avoiding lessons to the best of her ability was her daily goal in the mornings, though she was never successful.  It was a beautiful sunny day as Sairaka, who was taking a break from picking up the fallen cluckers and grimplugs, was feeding some sugar cubes to Chewbeans who ate them through the wads of grass she was chewing on, not really caring one way or the other that Sairaka was even there.

            “There you go!  You won’t get any until next week…Uncle doesn’t like when I sneak them out to you,” she said coolly, while still petting Chewbeans.  Sairaka put her face up to Chewbean’s fuzzy, soft cheek that continuously puffed in and out as she continued eating.  Closing her eyes, Sairaka let the warmth of the Sunstar hit her face.  Suddenly, she received a strange prickling feeling on the back of her neck, and on the ground emerged a peculiar shadow, not far from where she was standing, and though it blocked out little of the light from her eyes, it startled her enough to quickly stand up and gaze around the farm.  To her amazement, she saw something standing at the other end of the wooden fence.  Or was it just her imagination?  She blinked a couple of times.  The image was surprisingly clearer.  There was a strange man staring at her from his dark sunglasses.  He was wearing a black suit with a white collared shirt and a plain red tie.  It looked as if he was some sort of secret agent.  Sairaka had never seen someone look like this before, even in her school books.  The man stood there so perfectly still that she was even doubting if he was real.  She didn’t move, but continued to stare at him, as if waiting for something to happen.  The man turned his check slightly, enough to make Sairaka realize that her Uncle’s warnings were now quite true.

            “Sairaka!”  her Uncle’s voice boomed from the other end of the farm, causing Sairaka to turn her back quickly against the stranger.  “Time for your lessons!”

            “Coming!”  Sairaka called back.  She turned around, and to her horror, the man was gone.  Sairaka did not hesitate, she ran back as fast as she could to the farmhouse.  The farmhouse consisted of two main floors.  The first floor had a wooden staircase to the right and a wooden floored room to the left with a blue couch positioned in front of a fireplace and a red woolen rug in front of the couch.  Straight ahead was the kitchen, the stove and sink on the left and a small, round wooden table to the right with two chairs around it.  The second floor had only two rooms, Sairaka’s on the left and her Uncle’s on the right; the bathroom was in-between and in the hall hung a rope that when pulled would let down a staircase to the attic.  There was also a crawl space under the house that had just enough room for the two of them, incase of any severe storms.  Sairaka swung open the back door and set herself at the table which had on top of it a pile of books.  Her Uncle was putting the last dish away in a cabinet.  Sairaka looked out of the dusty window by the table.  She could not see the man anywhere.

            “Well, Sairaka, get to work.  It’s history today.  You know what to do.”  He stopped and stared at Sairaka, who made no attempt at touching her books.  Though this wasn’t unusual for her, her Uncle could sense that something was up.  “Sairaka?”

            “Uncle, remember when you told me that if I saw a person on the farm, no matter what, I should tell you straight away?”  Her Uncle’s mouth dropped.  He continued to gape at her, as if trying to make sure that she was really saying what he thought he heard.

            “Did you see someone, Sairaka?”  The panic in his voice made Sairaka’s heart skip several beats.

            “Yes.”  As soon as the words left her mouth, her Uncle seemed to have gone completely haywire.

            “Lock the front doors and windows, Sairaka.  I’ll get the back.  Go up in the attic when you’re done.  Now GO!”  Sairaka did as she was told.  She locked the doors and the windows, closing the blinds as well.  She then raced upstairs and pulled down the attic stairs.  As she started climbing up, her Uncle came behind her and tried pushing her upwards to make her go faster.

            “Hurry up!”  As Sairaka pulled herself into the attic, she could hear banging on the front and back doors, as if a whole mass of people were trying to get in.  She also heard shouting, but could only make out a few sentences.

            “She’s in there!”

            “We found them!”

            “Break the windows!  They locked the doors!”  Sairaka’s Uncle pulled himself into the attic and lifted up the staircase.  He then took the rope and pulled it through.  As he was tying it to a wooden board nearby, he quickly gave Sairaka more instructions.

            “Look in that box, Sairaka  You should find a golden key in there.”  Sairaka looked at the box her Uncle was nodding at, and opened it.  On top was a bunch of old newspapers and what appeared to be trash.  She tossed this aside and went on digging in the box.  She pulled aside another newspaper to reveal a photograph of a man next to a woman who was holding a baby.  Her parents.  Not expecting this at all, she forgot about the key and continued to stare at the picture.

            “Did you get it, Sairaka?”  Remembering, Sairaka tucked the picture under her sweater and continued pulling things out.  She pulled out the golden key.  She could hear the smashing of glass coming from downstairs.  It sounded like the people have made their way inside.  “Give me the key.”  Sairaka handed it to her Uncle who busied himself at the other end of the attic.  She took out the picture and continued to stare at it.

            “Uncle, what’s going on?” she asked, eagerly.

            “There is not much time to explain, unfortunately” her Uncle replied.  “You must get out of here as fast as you can.”  He paused and lifted something out of a locked metal box.  Sairaka could not make out what it was as her Uncle turned around and headed back toward her.  “Your mother saved you from those people.  Barbaric.  We had to flee.”  He held in his hands an odd jewelry box.  It was a wooden box, burgundy, with gold squiggles all around it and a golden key hole.  “Open it and take out the white marble.”  Sairaka did as she was instructed.  While opening the box, she could hear banging from just below the door her Uncle was sitting on.  It sounded like the people downstairs were trying to find a way to get in, since the rope had been pulled up inside.  The box contained several different colored marbles all resting in a piece of soft foam.  There were four indents in the foam where it looked like some of the marbles had been missing.  Sairaka lifted up the white marble.  It felt warm in her hands.  She stared at it curiously.  The whole floor was shaking now from consistent thumpings and bangings as the people were trying to break up the door her Uncle was sitting on.  “Whatever you do, don’t let anyone have that box, or any of those marbles.  You must protect them at all costs.  Even with your life.  That is what your mother did.”  A strange glowing emerged from Sairaka’s hand.  She stared at it as a tingling sensation went through her entire body and a breeze from the light coming from the marble flew her hair backwards.  As the breeze and the light grew stronger, her vision of the attic was becoming more blurred and her Uncle’s advice more difficult to hear.  “Keep your head up high, Sairaka!”  That was the last thing she could make out of him, and the last thing she saw before she disappeared from the attic was the breaking of the attic door, her Uncle falling backwards, and several people in black suits climbing their way into the attic…

            A small tornado seemed to have had her whole body trapped from moving.  Her hair was flying in all directions as she continued twisting through a black oblivion.  She had no idea when it all stopped.  All she could remember next was lying on grass, that was previously covered in fresh dew, with a sharp pain in her face, for she was holding the jewelry box so tightly that she had the top left corner of it jammed into her right cheek.  She slowly opened her eyes.  A small woods shaded Sairaka’s eyes from the bright Sunstar, which was already at the highest point of the sky and was scattered with white cotton clouds.  Birds were singing up in the trees merrily, innocently, and completely unaware of the stranger in their midst.

            “Oh, you’re awake!”  A young man of about 20 came running towards her, in his arms were a bunch of red berries that he had picked.  His green eyes seemed to be quite pleased to see that Sairaka was all right and now conscious, yet something about them made Sairaka feel a bit leery.  The man had short red hair and several strands were dancing in the wind in front of his eyes.  He had on long velvet green pants, a white colored shirt with a red tie that had thin, silver diagonal stripes, and a fancy tan vest with lots of pockets.  He bent down towards Sairaka, holding out some of the berries.

            “Here, have some.”  Sairaka took a few hesitantly into her hand, but she did not eat them.  They felt warm in their hands and they looked very tasty…

            “It’s not poison.  It will help heal you.”  Sairaka definitely felt pain throughout her entire body.  She sniffed the berries and then stuffed them into her mouth.  They tasted so sweet, so wonderful.  It was nothing like anything her Uncle brought home from his periodic trips into town.  The boy laughed.

            “I knew you would like them.  You took quite a fall.  Where did you come from?”  This was a peculiar question.  Peculiar in respects that Sairaka didn’t know.  Her Uncle never told her where they lived.  She shook her head, not speaking a word.

            “You don’t know?”  He looked at her curiously.  “Well, can you talk?”  Sairaka was not sure if the reason why she did not trust him was because he was the first person, besides her Uncle, that she had ever talked to.  And it felt kind of odd.

            “I can talk,”  she said, slowly getting up.  The man looked at her; it seemed as if he was surprised to hear words finally come from her mouth.

            “See, told you the berries would heal you.  The name’s Kiru.”  He held out his hand.  Sairaka looked at him, confused.  “You’re suppose to shake…”  Sairaka took his hand and shook it really hard.

            “Sairaka Tream,”  she said, happily.  Kiru pulled his hand back when she let go and gave her a baffled look.

            “Sairaka Tream???”  His green eyes went down toward the jewelry box she was holding.  “The Marble Box.  Now, where did you get that?”

            “The Marble Box?”  She looked at the box in her hands.

            “Yes.  It is called the Marble Box.  It’s been missing for years.  Is it your mother’s?”  Was it her mother’s?  Sairaka tried to remember what happened before she came to his place…what her Uncle told her about it.  She did remember Uncle mentioning her…  Sairaka nodded her head, in response to Kiru’s question.

            “Thought so.  You should keep that hidden in your sweater.  There are lots of people looking for it…it is not something you want to display to everyone.”  Sairaka proceeded to do this, tucking it under her right arm, being careful not to damage the picture of her parents, though it had already been crushed from the fall.

            “You must be a skillful Marbler to have possession of that.”

            “Marbler?”

           “Yes.  Oh, don’t tell me you have no idea what a Marbler is??”  Sairaka shook her head disappointedly.  “Very well.  Marblers are people who can use the powers of the marbles.  Each marble possess different powers, but only certain people have the gifts of using them.”

            “Are you a Marbler?” Sairaka asked, curiously

            “Well…here.”  He held out his hand.  “You might want to eat a few more Healing Berries.  It’ll help you maintain your strength.”  Sairaka ate a few more, though a bit annoyed that her question was not answered, but avoided.

            “Why is everyone looking for this?” she asked Kiru nervously, pointing to the Marble Box.  Kiru stared at her blankly.

            “I don’t know,” he said quickly, too quickly for comfort.  Sairaka shifted away from him, but Kiru did not seem to take much notice in this.  “Why don’t we go to town and get something to eat.  You must be hungry.”  Sairaka nodded her head and followed him.  Whether she trusted him or not, she didn’t have really have much of a choice.  Alone with no money and people looking for her, to steal the one thing she promised her Uncle she would protect with her life, she was better being with Kiru than by herself.  She followed behind him, making sure to keep a few feet’s distance.  They walked down the path in silence and crossed through an intersection in the woods to another path that seemed to run parallel to the first.  Once out of the trees, though, the first path had turned far to the left and their current path was heading straight for a small village up ahead.  Sairaka and Kiru entered the happy little town.  People were making their way about here and there, doing their daily business, pushing carts of corn and hay, driving in cars that were floating off the ground, shopping and chatting with friends…Sairaka had never seen so many people in her life.  She felt overwhelmed, excited, nervous, happy, curious, and scared, all at the same time.  All of the shops they walked past were wall to wall next to each other.  Kiru led Sairaka inside one of the little shops, which turned out to be a comfortable looking tavern.  The two sat down at a table and a waitress handed them menus.

            “Hello!  My name is Marin and I will be your waitress today.  Our soup special today is clumber and seagreen peas, our main course special is Carnedivin with potatoes and carrots, and our dessert is homemade quinch pie.  May I start you off with something to drink?”

            “Do you have any Klosh?” Kiru asked her.

            “Yes, sir, of course.”

            “Then I’ll have a tank of Klosh, and a water for the lady,” he said, nodding towards Sairaka.

            “Right away.”  Marin dashed off.

            “I do not think alcohol would be good for you.  It might reverse the Healing Berries.  Water will most certainly help.”  The waitress returned with the tank of Klosh and a water for Sairaka.  She left again.

            “What is Carnedivin?” Sairaka asked Kiru curiously.

            “It’s meat from the Arcdeer.  Very good.  I’m probably going to get that myself.”  Sairaka gave a disgusted look and stuck her nose in the menu.  She finally decided on a clumber and dillcheese sandwich with a spicy mustard spread.  After making their orders, Kiru stared up at Sairaka.

            “So you don’t remember how you got here…”  Sairaka turned in her seat uncomfortably.  “Well, you asked me a question earlier…of why people are looking for that Marble Box.”  He lowered his voice so no one else would hear.  “The Marble Box has been missing for years.  No one knows where it went.  It was said thieves might have it and bribe others into buying it from them, on the black market of course.  Others thought it had been destroyed when your mother had it last…”  He looked up at Sairaka who’s mouth dropped open.  Kiru knew very darn well the entire time that the Marble Box was her mother’s.  Why had he asked her before?  “Well, I know that was not the case either, and here is living proof.  But, Sairaka, people are going to think you are a thief.  No one is going to think you are really Sairaka Tream.  If you would like,” his voice lowered even quieter “I can take it from you, since it will cause you a great deal of trouble…”  Before Kiru could finish or Sairaka respond, a very ugly, skinny looking man with purple hair and a huge nose came running in.

            “Kiru!”  He ran toward their table, behind him, two shadows quickly dodged outside.

            “Yes, Healer, what is it?”  Helear looked at Sairaka, and then at Kiru as if unsure whether he should say his news in front of her.  Kiru stood up, and the two walked into a corner and started talking softly so Sairaka couldn’t hear.  She was only able to catch a few phrases:

            “It’s Operation Kalong.”

            “What???  What happened?”

            “You have to go.  It’s an emergency.”

            “I’m in the middle of something.”  Sairaka was extremely confused.  Operation Kalong?  What in the world did that mean?

            “Fine.  I’ll go.”  Kiru seemed rather reluctant, but he really did not have much of a choice, according to the man named Healer.  “But you must do me a favor, Healer.”  Kiru whispered so low that Sairaka couldn’t hear.  She tried perking up her head, but when a couple of waitresses stared at her suspiciously, she resided and lowered her head.  Finally, the two men went over to the table.

            “Sorry, Sairaka, but I have to go.  Got some important work to do in Kliner, which is a ways from here.  This is Healer.  He’ll help show you around.  Until we meet again.”  Kiru left the restaurant leaving Sairaka with this new strange man.

            “Well…” Healer started.  He did not know what to say and looked towards the floor at his feet.  “Well, hurry up eating and I’ll take you to the Inn to rest.”

            Inn?”  What was that?

            “Yes, an inn.”  Sairaka stared at him, then shook her head.  She remembered reading about inns briefly in a history book.  They were places travelers could rest up for the night.  Feeling quite tired from the strange day she just experienced, she nodded her head agreeing, and, without finishing up her meal, got up and the two left the diner.

            The inn was also smashed between buildings, though it was much wider than the other shops.  They entered and Healer went up to the desk and started talking to the lady.  Not trying to be rude or nosy again, Sairaka started looking at some interesting paintings hanging on the wall.  Some were of strange animals she had never seen before.  One was just a mixture of grays, purples, reds, greens, and blues.  Though it didn’t look like anything to her, it was pretty.  Another painting hung over a fireplace.  Sairaka stepped up to it.  It was a painting of a man, a very old man.  He had long gray hair and a gray mustache.  As she peered to read the golden label under the picture to obtain the man’s name, Healer called her over.

            “They have a spare room for you.  Come on.”  Sairaka followed him reluctantly.  She did not know what was going to happen next, but had a feeling it wasn’t good.  When they reached the door, she turned to face him.  “Well, this is it.”  Sairaka didn’t say anything.  She hesitantly held out her hand for the key, but Healer put the key in the lock and opened the door.  Sairaka peered inside and could see a nice comfy bed, a set of drawers, and a window that was opened letting in a cool breeze that was playing around with the silky white curtains.  As Sairaka stared at it admiringly, Healer pushed her into the room from behind and slammed the door shut.  She fell onto the soft sky blue carpet with a thud.  Panicking, she pushed herself and ran to the door, grabbing the handle and pulling with all her might.

            “Let me out!”

            “Not until Kiru gets back.  You’ll be staying here for the night.”  Healer chuckled.  Sairaka continued pulling at the door with a little success, she was quite stronger than Healer who was more on the straggly side.

            “Why you…”  He pushed back with all of his force on the door.  Sairaka stuck her foot between the door and the siding.  Footsteps were heard running down the hall.  To her surprise, more people showed up, people wearing black suits and ties and sunglasses.  She felt her foot get kicked and the door was pushed with such a large amount of force that she fell backwards.  There was a lot of scrambling coming from the other end as the men and women tried to make sure the door was locked from the outside so she couldn’t get out.  Sairaka took the next chance of escaping, the window.  She ran toward it, but to her horror, there were more people in black suits holding what appeared to be guns and marbles.  They looked up at her, though she had no idea of their feelings because their sunglasses hid their eyes.  She could only guess they hated her and have caught the one thing they were after.  Feeling hopeless, she fell onto the bed and opened up her marble box in desperation.

            “Got to find a marble…there’s got to be a marble to help me…”  She put her hand on a clearish dark blue marble.  The power immersed into her mind, and though no words were spoken, she seemed to know exactly what power the marble held.  “Water.”  She moved onto another marble, this one was clear and light yellow.  “Light.”  She tried one more marble, a dark purple one, but this marble gave her a strange tingling sensation that made her insides feel all twisted up.  She dropped it immediately.  These did not seem to have much use for her.  People were talking excitedly out the window.

            “We caught the girl!  Can you believe it?”

            “I thought Sairaka Tream was gone and that we would never fine the Marble Box again.  How ironic that she just suddenly shows up in our midst.”

            “Yeah.  So lucky she didn’t get chewed up by those Sharks.”  There was laughter.  Sairaka wanted to scream.  What was going on??  She fell onto her pillow, and despite all of the confusing and terrifying questions that were popping up in her head, she went to sleep in an instance, being more tired than she had thought.

 

            When she awoke again, it was night.  The only sounds she could hear were crickets outside her window and marching footsteps of the people outside.  Not wanting to attract attention, she opened up the Marble Box again and using the moon as her only light, she started searching through the marbles again.

            “Wind…No, that won’t work...Light…I would use that, but it is probably safer if I don’t…Fly…”  She grabbed the marble and closed the box tight.  Flying.  It was extremely risky, as her knowledge of using marbles was basically zero, but it was worth a shot.  She tucked the Marble Box under her sweater and stepped up to the window.  At least she found a marble that might work while it was dark before Kiru returned.  Kiru…how that name flared up anger inside her.  But she had to forget this.  She did not want her hatred toward him disturb her escape.  She leaned over the window and held the marble between her hands.

            “Fly…”  The words came out of her mouth in a soft, quiet voice, that sounded nothing like her own usual cheerful voice.  In an instance, she could feel her feet leave the ground and she found herself flying out of the window.  To her surprise, no one was looking up.  This was a relief, but it did not last long.

            “Look!  The girl is FLYING!”

            “But I thought Sir Healer told us she didn’t know how to use the marbles?”

            “I guess he was wrong.  Everyone, take aim!  Don’t let her get away!”  In an instance, she could hear guns being fired, but they seemed to be purposely missing her.  She did not quite understand why there aim was so poor.

            “The guns aren’t scaring her!  Marblers, go!”  Fireballs and electric balls were now being shot at her.  They hit her arms and legs and caused a strange pain to emerge through her body.  Though she dipped dangerously into the air for a bit, she was able to keep her balance.  She aimed for a dark woods, which would be a perfect place to hide.

            “She’s heading into the Kantaboo forest!”  She heard more running, but by the time she was inside the thickness of trees, the attacks ceased hitting her and instead were knocking down branches below.  She continued flying, though tired, worn out, and injured, until she could not hear the people anymore.  This did not stop her, however.  She continued flying…she wanted to be as far away from them as possible.  Finally, she found a thick branch on top of a tree, way up high from the ground below.  She went up to the branch and held out her hands.  The marble fell into her palm as she sat down, her legs between the branch.  She pulled out the marble box and slipped the Fly Marble back in.  Using the marbles wasn’t nearly as bad or difficult as she had thought.  It seemed to come naturally to her.  She leaned her head against the trunk of the thick tree and looked up into pure darkness.  The moonlight was no long visible through the thickness of the tops of the trees.  Though very uncomfortable, Sairaka somehow managed to fall asleep again.


Chapter 2

Fali Salong

 

            Sairaka awoke to the very first light produced by the Sunstar.  She could not hear any human voices below, which comforted her, but she did not know how long it would be before she would be found.  Using the Fly marble, the only marble she seemed to know how to use besides the one her Uncle gave her, she stretched and then started flying again, the box tucked underneath her arm.  It was a nice and peaceful morning, which made her journey much more pleasant than during the previous night.  Though not completely awake, and her fear of being caught, she was unable to fully enjoy her environment.

            When the woods started to clear ahead, she noticed an entrance to a town.  Two guards, luckily not wearing black suits, were walking back and forth, guarding the entrance.  Sairaka flew down to the ground.  She felt much safer running up and talking to these men despite their fierce looks.

            “Um, excuse me…”  Both men stopped marching and stared up at her.  They were wearing metal vests and helmets, but their faces were clearly visible.  She was also surprised to see such professional looking people wearing blue jeans, which did not look quite right with the rest of their uniforms.

            “Who are you?”  one of the guards demanded.

            “Sairaka Tream,”  Sairaka answered happily, though in a second, she immediately regretted this.

            “Sairaka Tream, eh?”  the second guard snickered.  “We were tipped that a girl was coming this way to tell us such nonsense.”

            “But we don’t think it is at all funny,”  the first guard snapped.  “Since everyone knows she’s been dead for fourteen years.”

            DEAD??  She could feel her mouth drop.  Her Uncle told her that both of her parents were killed, but she had no idea that people here supposingly thought she was dead as well.  Questions filled her head.  What happened to her and her parents to make everyone think that they were dead?  Why would people think that in the first place?  In her confusion, she was not paying attention to the guards until she felt a spear press up against her breast.

            “Knock it off you,” growled the guard  “and hand over that Marble box.”  Sairaka stepped back.

            “No!  I can’t!  It’s from my mother’s…it’s mine!”  She heard some familiar laughing from behind her.  Her heart sank.  If the laughter was familiar, with her little knowledge of knowing any people, it had to be Kiru.  Sure enough, Kiru walked up to her followed by two men in black suits and Healer.

            “Well, well well, look what we found,” Kiru crackled.  The two guards weapons lowered from Sairaka’s breast as the newcomers approached.

            “Bats?  Watcha pile of dung doing here?”

            “Watch your manors,” Kiru snapped.  “I warned you of our arrival…who do you think told you that the girl would be arriving?”  He pointed to Sairaka as an evil smile spread across his face.  “Also, I would be pleased if you do not refer to me as a Bat, I am a Strator with the Mar, and would prefer that you do not lower my position.  Bats wear black, as you can obviously see from behind me.  This just proves your unintelligence.”

            “We don’t know much about the Mar because we have no interest in learning of their evil ways!”  snapped the other guard.

            “Evil?  Our objects are not evil.  You simply cannot see our perspective.”

            “Perspective my butt!”

            “In any case,”  Kiru continued, “I’m really not here to fight with you.  That is a waste of my time.  I am here for Sairaka, and if she does not hand over the Marble Box, I will have no choice but to take it by force.”  He started walking towards her, when one of the guards shot out his blade, now pressed against Kiru’s heart.

            “And what makes you think we are just going to stand here and let you do that?” the guard growled.  Kiru just smiled.

            “You seem to be forgetting something.  Not only do neither of you have the gifts of being a Marbler…” as Kiru spoke, the two Bats and Healer surrounded the guards, “but you are also outnumbered.  And I do not think that dinky little town will help you in any way.”  Kiru pointed to the town that resided beyond the entrance.  A mother, who was watching the scene, horrified, started pushing her children to head back to their home quickly.  Other people seemed to be frozen with curiosity and fear.  The guard who did not have his blade up turned to the people and his hand shot up into the air pointing to the crystal blue sky.

            “Everyone, go back to your homes!  Quickly!”  The people immediately began running around, trying to get into a safe place incase something terrible would happen with the Marblers.  The town remained deserted, except for a girl who looked around the age of ten.  She was drawing a bucket from a well and her back was turned.  She had long, brown pigtails tied with red ribbon with dangly spirals at the ends.  Her clothes were of dirty jean shorts and a white t-shirt.  She placed the bucket of water on the ground, and turned around.  The girl’s face was full of rage, her eyes were flaring.  She started marching to the scene showing no signs of fear whatsoever.

            “Fali!  I said evacuate!  What do you think you are doing?”  The girl by the name of Fali did not answer.  She walked up to Kiru, her head only a couple of inches above his waist.

            “You should leave, if you do not want to mess with me.”  Sairaka could not believe her ears, and she guessed neither could either of the guards as their jaws dropped.

            “Fali!  Are you crazy??”  Fali did not move, her face remained cross.  Kiru found this quite amusing.

            “You must be kidding.  Do you think you can really out beat me?”  Fali did not move.  Her right foot slid back in the dust as if she was about to charge at him.  Then, suddenly, her foot swung over and she gave a mighty kick, knocking Kiru down into the dirt.  The guard’s blade remained pointing at where Kiru’s heart was just a moment ago.  Kiru laid there for a moment, shaking.  At first, Sairaka thought Fali had really hurt him, but then she realized he was shaking with laughter.

            “Is that the best you can do, little girl?  Funny for someone with no powers to be brave enough to attack a Marbler.  Actually, it’s more stupid than brave.”  In an instant, Kiru was back on his feet, his eyes flaring like Fali’s had been earlier.  Fali did not have any time to panic.  Before Sairaka knew what happened, a red marble was tossed up into the air and Kiru caught it quickly in his hands.

            “Fire!”  Without any warning, the attack hit Fali who’s body slammed into a tree several meters away.  It was amazing to Sairaka at how quickly Kiru was able to use his Marble’s powers, but this was no time to admire such a cruel person.  Sairaka ran over to Fali while the two Bats threatened the guards and straggly Healer watched her closely.

            “Fali!  Are you ok?”  As Sairaka bent down to give her a hand, Fali quickly slapped it away.

            “What do you think you are doing??  Go fight them!  You’re a Marbler, aren’t you?”  Sairaka did not need to be told things twice.  She nodded her head in agreement, and turned to face Kiru who was grinning as if he had just won a tough battle.  Her fists were clenched in anger, but she loosened her grip on her right hand, pulled the Marble Box which she previously had tucked back underneath her sweater, and opened it.

            “Ah, now this is what I wanted.  A real fight from a real Marbler.  Going to show me what you got?”  Sairaka didn’t say anything.  She placed her hands over a marble that seemed like it would be perfect for this particular situation.  “So watcha going to do?”

            Sairaka raised her hand and gave the marble a little toss, catching it, as Kiru had done earlier, she cried out “Water!”  As the attack advanced onto Kiru, he held out his hands carelessly.

            “Wind.”  The white sphere of energy that emerged from his hands blew away the blue water energy sphere, which Sairaka had just used, with ease.  Sairaka did not want to seem scared or nervous at this unsuccessful attack, but she could feel her heart pounding against her chest.  She continued to keep a straight face.

            “Is that all you’ve got?  Look, like I said before, things will go much smoother if you give the marbles to me.”

            “Oh?  And why should I!?”  Sairaka snapped angrily.

            “It’s simple.  The Mar does not feel it right that someone like you, especially someone who has no idea how to use the marbles, to have in possession such ultimate power.  We think it is wise that it is given to a more effective person who will know how and when to use it so situations like this one can be avoided.”

            “You idiot!” one of the guards growled.  He was struggling at pushing one of the Bats back with his spear who was threatening him by holding up a solid blue marble with purple stripes.  “If Mar gets that power, they will only use it to manipulate people and destroy our worlds!  She will not give it to you!”  Though Sairaka had always disliked being told what she was going to do despite her own intentions, something her Uncle would do to her often, she really had no desire to give the Marble Box to Kiru.  Her little trust in him on their first meeting had long vanished.

            Fali stood up from her spot.  She had a little trouble gathering her balance, but her mind and soul were working just fine.  While the attention from Kiru, Healer, and the Bats were drawn away to the guard’s remark, she grabbed Sairaka’s hand.

            “Why don’t you use the Fly and Light Marble?”  Sairaka stared at her blankly.  For one thing, she was confused at how it was possible to use two marbles at once.  Could that work?  Also, the fact that Fali was not a Marbler, at least on Kiru’s standards, also puzzled her.  How did she know anything about marbles, nevertheless more than her?  Did all people know how to use them, whether they were one or not?  Or perhaps she was one and Kiru was just mistaken…

            “Well??”  Fali looked at her impatiently.  Sairaka opened the Marble Box and placed the water marble back.  She found the Fly Marble with no problem, but it took her a couple of seconds to remember which one was Light.  She held both marbles in her hands.  Healer, who had not been paying attention to the fight of the guards, quickly jumped up.

            “Kiru!  She’s going to escape!”  Now Sairaka was completely confused.  Escape with two little marbles?

            “Put them together now!” Fali snapped.  “Don’t you know anything about marbles?”  Sairaka started to do this while Kiru let out another fire attack.  Fali tried to block it, but they both got a taste of a horrible burning sensation; Fali seemed to have been more affected by it than Sairaka, even though they both got a nice brunt of it.  She squatted down, holding as tightly as she could to Sairaka’s knees.  In an instance, the Fly and Light marbles merged and Sairaka soared up into the air, so fast she had no idea what happened.  She could feel Fali’s grip tighten on her legs which was a bit annoying for Sairaka had a hard time controlling her movement.  She tried to aim downwards a bit since she was flying too high, but as she did so, she began plunging instead.  Flying uncontrollably, she and Fali hit a tree.  Sairaka managed to not fall completely by landing on a branch, quite painfully, but Fali lost her grip on Sairaka’s legs and fell to the bottom of the leaf covered ground.  The Marble Box, along with the Fly and Light marbles, fell from Sairaka’s hands and landed on Fali’s head.  Fali let out a grown.

            Sairaka closed her eyes tight.  She could not believe what had just happened.  Because of her little knowledge with using the powers of the marbles, it resulted in the death of someone she had barely got to know.  Or if Fali wasn’t dead, she was probably seriously injured.  And now, on top of everything, she did not have the one marble that could get her down from this tree.  She was completely stuck and wished with all of her heart that she was back in the safety of her Uncle’s farm with her favorite cow, Chewbeans.

            “Hey, idiot!”  Sairaka opened her eyes and looked down to see Fali was on her feet.  “You’re lucky I know how to fall properly and didn’t kill myself!”  Though this comment was odd to Sairaka, she was relieved to know that Fali was ok.  However, the problem of getting down from the tree without killing herself was still a worry on her mind.

            “What kind of Marbler are you anyway?”  Fali hollered from down below.  “You seem to have little knowledge of your own power…heck, I know how to use them better than you do!”  Sairaka felt ashamed, but it really wasn’t her fault.  Her Uncle never told her about the marbles.  A feeling of isolation swept over her.  “Well, aren’t you going to want to get down?”  Sairaka wanted to, of course.

            “How am I suppose to get down?”

            “I’ll toss you up the Fly marble,” Fali answered, as if this should have been extremely obvious.

            “How are you going to throw it up this high?”  Sairaka could hear Fali let out a moan in frustration.

            “If you are a real Marbler, you should be able to catch it with no problem.  Well, here it comes.”  Fali gave the marble a toss and the marble went up about five feet…Sairaka could barely see it.  Suddenly, the marble came soaring through the leaves, heading straight towards her.  Sairaka held out her hand and caught the marble with ease.  Assuming this was one of the powers of being a Marbler, a sense of relief filled her up as she held the marble tightly.  Letting the powers within the marble emerge into her hands, she was able to carefully land back down on solid ground.  She felt the happiest she had ever felt since she had left her Uncle’s farm.

            “You really are clueless about the marbles, aren’t you?”  Fali’s clothes were torn and burnt, but her spirit seemed to be as strong as ever.  “How did you get the Marble Box anyways?”  The question annoyed Sairaka.

            “Why does everyone keep asking me that?” she snapped.  “It was my mother’s.  My Uncle gave it to me just the other day.  It’s not like I asked to have it.  He didn’t tell me anything  about the marbles, and now everyone here, wherever I am, seems to expect me to know just about everything.”  Fali stared at her, a bit surprised.  For once, her feistiness seemed to turn into sympathy.

            “I guess that makes sense,” she said, shaking her head.  Sairaka smiled.  It felt good that someone finally believed her.  “But where are you going then?”

            “Well, I…um…”  She wasn’t going anywhere.  The only thing she was trying to do was to stay away from the Mar people…whoever they were.

            “You should come with me, then,” Fali said, conclusively.  “We can go back to my place.  Perhaps Master Zorno can help us.

            “Master Zorno?”  Sairaka asked, as she took the Marble Box and Light marble from Fali.

            “Yes, he teaches me Kia.”  Seeing Sairaka’s confusion, Fali decided to explain.  “Kia is a form of martial arts which is mainly used by people who are not Marblers.  It is a way for us to protect ourselves.  There are different levels.  Right now, I am a bronze star.  That’s almost the highest level you can be from training in your own village.  I have to travel to other villages and learn from other masters if I want to achieve the highest honors of Kia.” 

            “Oh,” said Sairaka.  The two girls then started walking through the woods, Sairaka hoping Fali knew where she was going.

            “Why don’t you travel?”  Sairaka asked her.  Fali shook her head.

            “Not enough money, too young, and so I have to stay here in Altra.  It’s a nice town and all, I just wish I was a little older…I could do it.  I could live easily on my own…since I have been for years, but Master Zorno does not think it wise for me to travel just yet.  Says I need to learn some more things…”  Fali trails off her last sentence with a sigh.  The two walk in silence a little longer.  Sairaka looks up at some of the trees and notices strange fruit.  They were shaped like green pears and had a purple stripe encircling them through their middles.  It was so interesting to be in this completely different environment compared to what Sairaka had grown up on for her entire life.

            The two girls finally approached a little brook with several waterfalls flowing sparkling clear water into it.  Several large rocks rested to the right of the waterfalls, and this is where Fali headed towards.  She climbed up the rocks with no problem, despite her height, and Sairaka followed.  They entered a narrow tunnel that had a little stream flowing in the bottom.  It was much cooler in here than it was outside.  Fali started to make her way deeper into this tunnel, the splashing of her feet echoed against the cold stone walls.

            “Where are we going?”

            “Back to my place.  This tunnel leads up to my home.”

            “You come down here often?”

            “Yes, it is part of my work.”

            “Work?”

            “Yes.  I do make some money, you know, just not enough to travel with.”

            What kind of work?”  Fali did not answer this question.  She stopped and looked up at a pink patch that was on the ceiling.  Fali used a rock to push herself upwards, and, pushing the pink patch away with her hand, pulled herself into the newly visible hole.  Sairaka pulled herself through the hole once Fali had disappeared from view.  To her surprise, she was in a small, narrow room, which appeared to be a kitchen.  There were sinks and cabinets that lined up the walls on the right, a door in front of her and another behind and a third door leading to the rest of the cabin.  On the dusty wooden floor was a pink, brown, and yellow woven rug which Fali put over the hole once Sairaka was completely inside.  She also noticed a couple of bags leaning against the wall by the back door.  Some of the weird fruit in which she had seen previously were spilling out of the tops of the bags.  Fali picked up the bags and turned them over, letting the fruit roll all over the floor.  Sairaka picked up one that hit her foot and stared at it.  It smelt sweet.

            “What is this?”  Sairaka asked as Fali started roaming through the cupboards, pulling things out.

            “It’s a quinch.  Please tell me you’ve heard of them.”  Sairaka shook her head and Fali sighed.  “It’s a fruit that grows on the quinch tree.  The green part is juice and the purple part is tart.  They are very good.  That’s actually my job.  I pick quinches and then sell them.  And I know all sorts of recipes, quinch pie, quinch sauce, quinch salad…Go ahead, try one.”  As Sairaka took a bite, Fali started gathering up some of the quinches that she previously spilt onto the floor and stuffed them in the bags.  It tasted really juicy, as Fali had said…it reminded Sairaka of the pears her Uncle would bring sometimes when he returned from town.  The purple part was surprisingly sweet and tart.

            She took another bite, and with a mouthful of food, asked “So wumfa doin’?”  Fali continued to pack the bags, jumping from cabinet to cabinet.

            “Since I’ll be traveling with you, I’m packing up some travel bags.”

            “Going with me?  Why?  I thought you were going to talk to Master…Master…Master whatshisface.”  This comment really made Fali flip.

            “It’s Master Zorno!  He is one of the best Kia masters in the world!  And besides that, how in the world do you think you are going to survive without me?  The whole Mar is reviving and you know squat about the marbles…you’re going to get yourself killed if I don’t come with you!”  Before could ask Fali what she had meant about the Mar reviving, there was a loud knock on the back door.  Fali jumped a mile and dropped a ceramic bowl onto the floor which shattered.  She backed away, looking at it nervously.

            “The Mar are probably still in the town looking for you.  They wouldn’t give up that easily.  I knew we should have been more quiet…”  But before Fali could finished, the door knob turned and with a creak, the door slowly opened.  Sairaka held her breath, her hand under her sweater, opening the Marble Box, when to her surprise, a strange old man with a straggly long gray beard entered the room.

            “Did you call?”

            “Master Zorno!”  Fali got up happily, but Master Zorno held out a finger which he placed in front of her lips.

            “Sssh…you must be quite young Fagi.”

            “Fagi?”  Fali stepped on Sairaka’s foot.

            “He forgets my name, so that’s what he calls me,” she muttered under her breath.

            “Fagi, I hear you are going on a journey.  Yes, yes, I think you are finally ready.”  Fali beamed.  Sairaka was still wondering how this old, wrinkly man knew so much about what they had been talking about.  Had he been spying?  “I have some things for you that I believe will help.  First, the map of Finding.  He handed a rolled up piece of paper from within his old, brown cloak to Fali.  Fali unrolled it.  “The red dot represents you.  It picks up your body heat, so with this, you will never get lost.”

            “Oh, thank-you, Master Zorno!” Fali cried gleefully.  “I have another thing for you.”  He pulled out a golden chain with a large, round locket from his pocket.  “This use to be your fathers.  It is a clock, but that is all I can tell you.”  Fali tried to open it, but she was unsuccessful.  “You cannot open it like that.  There is a story behind it, that only myself and another person knows.  You will have to ask this other person.”  He leaned over to her ear and whispered softly “You know who he is.”  Fali’s face squinted as if she had just eaten something very sour.

            “And as for you, Sairaka Tream, I have some advice.”  Sairaka’s mouth dropped.  How did he know her name?  Then she realized, no kidding, the whole Mar group was after her, of course he knew.  “Fali, this advice does not pertain to you, so please cover your ears.”  Fali did so, but regretfully.  “Sairaka, you must always remember, that though love is thicker than blood, sometimes blood is thinner than love.”  This was the most nonsense thing Sairaka had ever heard, but she nodded her head to show that she had heard him and Fali, realizing that the advice was out and over, unplugged her ears.  “Fali, you and Sairaka will be traveling to the town of Tarum.”

            “Tarum?  But Sairaka…”  Master Zorno held out his hand in front of Fali and she quickly grew silent.  “You will need to speak to King Harolde.  Ask him of what he knows about the wise Marbler, Hiru.  Master Hiru will be able to help you further.  If you come across any problems, tell him that Master Zorno sent you.  You will have to travel through the Alpine forest, and I would suggest resting up at the city of Sirad before traveling to Tarum.  I strongly advise that you leave by dark, when the second moon first appears in the sky.  The Mar have slowly been leaving and should hopefully be gone by then for you two to safely leave.  But before I go, Fali, you have proven yourself very will with Kia, and it is time that I honor you with the Silver Ring.”  He opened up his hand displaying a bring, silvery, flat ring.  He placed the ring over the bronze star that Fali was wearing on her shirt.  The look on Fali’s face made Sairaka think that she had just received the best gift ever.  “This will show that you are ready to learn from other Masters in other towns, and your Kia can then strengthen.  Until the next time I see you, you will have earned your silver star.  Take care, young travelers.”  Master Zorno left through the back door and disappeared.  Fali stood there, completely speechless.  Finally, she was able to let words escape your throat.

            “I’m a Kian.  I’m an official Kian!”

            “Kian?”

            “Kian is the term for a traveler who is practicing Kia.  Oh, I’ve been wanting this day to come for ages!  Let’s get packing, Sairaka.  The second moon will come up in an hour, and we want to be as prepared as possible.  Oh, I finally made it!”  Fali’s whole serious, kick-butt impression she first made on Sairaka slowly vanished.  She was now skipping through the door on the side of the cabin, and returning with some pillows and sheets.  Sairaka curiously opened up one of the cabinet revealing several brown bags that were filled with golden coins.

            “Fali, do you think we should bring this money?”  Fali quickly skittered into the room, almost tripping on the rug, her locket bouncing on her neck.

            “That money is not mine.  Leave it alone,” she said, abrubtly.  “Here.”  She threw Sairaka a pillow and a rope.  “This bag will be yours.”  She shoved the bag towards her.  “Roll up the pillow with the rope…it should fit in the right side pocket.”  Sairaka started rolling up bulky pillow which flattened out much more nicely than she would have expected.  The left side pocket already had a rolled-up, very thin sleeping bag.  Out of curiosity, Sairaka opened the bag to see what Fali had put in there.  All she could see was a few quinches, but after a little digging, she found a flat brown water jug, a pack of crackers, a mini first-aid kit, a pack of matches, a bar of soap, a plastic plate, and a fake-silver fork and knife.

            “I could only find this one, it’s small, but it’ll work.”  Fali handed her a flashlight that was about 4 inches long.  In her other hand was an electric lantern which she began tying to her backpack so it was dangling when she put it on.  “We’d better turn out the lights and lay low until the second moon appears.”  The two girls did so.  It was uncomfortable squatting on the hard, dusty, wooden floor, so Sairaka was quite relieved when Fali announced that the coast was probably clear.  The two of them quietly went out the back door and started heading towards Alpine Forest.  Fali had her map out and the little red dot was moving into the woods.

            “There’s a camp site about half way between here and Sirad.  We can stay there for the night.”  Sairaka shook her head, and then another question rolled out of her mouth.

            “What are we going to do about money?”  Though Sairaka had never owned any, she knew that most people had to get money in order to buy food, clothes, and other things.

            “Don’t worry about that.  We don’t have enough money to rent a tent, but I have an idea how we can get around that…if we hurry.”  Sairaka had a bad feeling that whatever Fali’s plan was, it did not sound promising.

            After about an hour of walking in silence, with Fali periodically stopping so she could read the map under the moonlight, they finally reached the campsite.

            “It’s just over here…”  Fali lead the way through some brush and into a clearing.  They had reached the campsite.  It was a wide field with lots of tents and campsites scatters quite a ways from where they were standing, which was next to a few cabins.  One of the cabins had a sing that read “Welcome Visitors: Lodgers Cabin.”  Fali quickly skipped up the steps with Sairaka behind her.  “I hope it’s not closed,” Fali said nervously, as she put her hand on the knob.  It turned with ease, and she entered, letting out a sigh of relief.  Following her inside, Sairaka saw that the cabin was very small and it was difficult for the both of them to fit inside without bumping against each other.  Fali started speaking to a lady who was wearing a bright green shirt and a bring green hat.  On her shirt was a gold star badge that read “Anna, Lodger in Charge”

            “I was wondering if we could use your restrooms.  We’ve been traveling on a long journey and were relieved to find this campsite.”  The lady didn’t say anything, but nodded her head.  “Thank you!”  Fali and Sairaka stepped into the bathroom, and once inside, Fali turned to her.

            “Ok, we are staying here for the night.”

            “WHAT??”  The place smelled of sewage.  Brown water was dripping from one of the two rusty sinks.  The mirrors above the sinks were scratched up and covered with dust.  The floor looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for ages.  Fali had to be kidding.

            “It doesn’t cost anything.  All we have to do is keep our heads down until the Lodger locks up for the night.  Then we’re as free as the birds.”

            “But don’t you think she’ll get suspicious if we don’t come out soon?”

            “Nah,”  Fali said, shaking her heads.  “Lodgers are dumb.  There was a campsite not far from Altra that I use to sneak to when Master Zorno was not paying attention to me.  I would do this all the time.”  She stuffed her backpack behind one of the toilets.  “You just squat on the toilet, make sure the door is as closed as it can get without being locked, and then you wait until she makes an inspection and locks up.  We’d better get going, though.  I don’t know what time it is, (Fali looked at her locket in disgust) but I have a feeling they’ll be locking up soon.

            About twenty minutes later, Sairaka feeling more pain in her legs from squatting on the toilet seat than in Fali’s cabin, the Lodger finally came in, completely noticeable from her bring green outfit.  She made a soft grunt and left.  After hearing the door open and close, keys turning the lock, and the sound of footsteps fade away into the distance, Fali jumped down from her toilet seat.

            “Ok!  Let’s get washed up and go to sleep.”  With the soap, the two girls washed their faces and then let out their sleeping bags and pillows onto the floor.  Though it looked uncomfortable after being wrapped up and stuffed on the sides of her backpack, Sairaka easily snuggled herself in for her first peaceful sleep in a couple of days.


Chapter 3

The City of Sirad

 

            When the Sunstar first shined it’s rays through the cloudy window of the unkempt, smelly bathroom, Fali rose right away.  She wasn’t sure when the Lodgers were going to open up for the day, but she knew they usually came early.  Sairaka was fast sleep, and because Fali knew she had been through a lot, she did not want to disturb her rest quite yet.  She opened up the bathroom door, back into the narrow hall of the Lodge, and opened the Lodge’s door.  Sun rays immediately hit Fali’s morning face.  She left the door opened a crack, so that it would not lock behind her, and stretched her arms.  It was a beautiful morning, and it felt nice that they would no longer have to travel in the dark to Sirad.  However, this did make them more vulnerable to an attack with Mar…

            While Fali was checking to make sure the coast was clear from the Lodgers, she heard a voice call her name.

            “Fali?”  Fali jumped, her heart sank.  She knew that voice.  But, it couldn’t be…Fali turned around to see a man in the distance.  Behind him were two men, and as they stepped closer, she could see their blue suits.  Her worst fears were now confirmed.

            “FALI!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!?”  The man who had first spoke was furious and now marching over to her.  “You should be back in Altra!  Things are very dangerous now, you should not be out traveling!”

            “I can if I want to!”  Fali snapped.  “I have my Silver Ring and that makes me an official Kian, and I can travel wherever I want to now if I so chose!”

            “I don’t care if you are a Kian!  You will go right back home this instance!”

            “You can’t tell me what to do, Tiron!”  Fali cried furiously, her hands clenched in fists.

            “Fali Salong…”  But before Tiron could finish, the door to the cabin swung open.  Sairaka gave a long groan as she stretched in the sunlight.

            “Good morning, Fali…hmmm?”  She looked up and noticed the newcomers.  Tiron’s mouth dropped.  His short, almond hair blew in the breeze, as he stood there dumbfounded in his brown pants and buttoned up black vest.  The two men wearing the blue suites and sunglasses stood there, their unemotional facial expressions unchanged since Sairaka’s arrival.  Sairaka looked from Tiron, and then back at Fali wondering what was going on.

            “And who is this, Fali?  Running off with complete strangers, I see?”  Fali clenched her teeth.

            “I’m helping her.  We are traveling, Tiron, under the advice of Master Zorno.”

            “Well, I see he has taught you little if he thinks you can just go wondering around with strange people.  What is your name?”  Sairaka felt quite taken back from Tiron’s attitude.  Fali started shaking her head madly, but it was too late.

            “It’s Sairaka.”  Fali slapped herself across her face.

            “Sairaka?  Sairaka Tream?”  Sairaka realized her mistake, but it was way too late.  “So you’re the girl claiming to be dead Sairaka Tream.  The one with the stolen Marble Box.  How ironic to run into you, since we have just received word of your ‘claims’ and have been wanting a little chat…”  Tiron turned angrily to Fali.  “Fali, I have lost all respect in you.  Helping our enemy…I’ll take you home myself after I’m done with this girl.”  Sairaka’s mouth was now the one to drop.  Her hand slipped beneath her sweater.

            “It is not funny what you are doing.  That Marble Box is very dangerous.  It was the reason Sairaka Tream and her family were killed almost fifteen years ago.  And I must ask that you give it to us.  This is the one chance you’ll have.  If you refuse, you are putting yourself more in danger than you can ever imagine…”

            “I am tired of people threatening me!”  Sairaka said, angrily.  “I will not give it to you.  I promised that I would not give it to anyone, and I have no reason why I should!  I wish you Mar people would leave me alone!”

            “MAR?!?”  Tiron was not only taken aback, but even more furious than Fali and Sairaka put together.  “How dare you mix us up with our biggest enemies!  We are most certainly not Mar, but Crarm, formed to fight and defeat Mar!  You will most certainly pay for that!  Stand aside, Fali!”  There was a rush of marbles being taken out and ready for an attack.  Fali leaped over to Sairaka as she let out the light and fly marbles together.  The two girls zoomed through the air, but this time, Sairaka did not crash into a tree, but made an unpleasant landing on the ground in the Alpine forest all the same.  She skinned her knees badly and almost dropped her Marble Box, but was able to hold onto it.  Fali tumbled over her, and only managed to scrape her hands.  The two of them slowly sat up from their fall, Fali rubbing her head.

            “What was that all about?”  Sairaka asked as Fali as she inspected her palms.

            “His name is Tiron Motosho.  He use to live in Altra, but moved out a few years ago.  And he isn’t missed in the least bit,” she added, annoyingly.  They stood up, brushing themselves off, though both had plenty of scrapes and cuts.  “I tried warning you not to give out your name…because now, we will have the Crarm after us, too.”

            “Crarm?  But Mar has already been after me…why Crarm?”

            “Well, basically, Mar wants your Marble Box for power.  You have it, they want it.  Crarm, on the other hand, thinks you might use it to do evil things…or something to that affect.  They think you might be associated with Mar, so now they’ll be following us around, as well.”

            “But I’m not with Mar!”

            “They don’t care.  You’ve kind of entered the beginning of a war zone…”  Fali pulled out a map from underneath her shirt.  “Luckily I grabbed this before we dashed off…better landing, but you still need work, Sairaka.”  Fali started turning the map around, looking at it attentively.  “Ok,” she said at last.  “We didn’t get too far off course.  We’ll just head this way.”  As they started walking, Sairaka decided to ask yet another question.

            “What did you mean by a war zone, Fali?”  Fali shook her head.

            “You’ve never heard of the War of Yarma?”  History was never Sairaka’s favorite subject, though she did remember…

            “Actually, I was starting to read it in one of my history books, a few months ago, when my Uncle told me we would not be discussing that and asked that I do not read it.  I tried sneaking downstairs once, because I was curious to know about this war and why Uncle did not think I should read it.  However, Uncle caught me, and he was furious.  He tore out the pages from the book and burned them in the fireplace, so I never knew anything more about it.”  Fali stopped so suddenly that Sairaka almost ran into her.

            “He didn’t want you to know about the war?  That’s so strange…you would think he’d want to tell you, or at least warn you…”

            “Warn me?”

            “Well, as you heard from Tiron, that’s how your parents were killed.  And…that was how mine were killed, too.”  Sairaka fell silent with shock.

            “Your parents…”

            “Died when I was five.  They recently joined the Crarm to fight Mar.  You see, a long time ago, there was a man by the name of Yarma.  He was a very pleasant person, so I was told.  He was one of the founders of the marbles, years ago.  While doing some research, he came across a very strange marble.  While studying it, he discovered that this marble was much different from other marbles, like water, fire, or light.  It had an immense power…supposedly, enough to destroy a planet.  He tried to find another marble like it, but he had no luck.  The only choice he had was to keep the marble to himself.”

            “However, other people he worked with became curious in learning more about this marble.  They kept asking him questions, wanting to see it and study it.  Yarma started to feel uncomfortable, because it was hard to tell which people simply wanted to study it, and which people wanted to try and use it.  One man in particular, no one knows his name exactly, became quite addicted in knowing more about Yarma’s marble.  When Yarma refused to show it to him, he became very angry and formed a secret group, called Mar.  The main purpose of Mar was to find a way to get the marble away from Yarma.  They felt that letting one man have such power was risky.  Yarma could blow everyone up, whether on accident, or on purpose.  The man began having followers, and Mar continued to grow.”

            “Some people did not agree with what Mar was doing, and they began to get more violent.  Yarma fled for his life and was never seen again.  Then another group of people, some who split away from Mar, others brand new to the situation, formed a society called Crarm.  Their purpose was to get the marble, but destroy it, so no man would ever have a chance to know its full powers.  There wasn’t much fighting between the two, since Yarma and the marble were gone.  However, somehow or another, Stana Chream, your mother, was found with the marble in a very special box, referred to as the Marble Box.”

Sairaka looked at her box, amazed that she was literally holding a piece of history.

            “When the groups discovered this, I don’t know how they did, rioting began.  Unlike Yarma, Stana Chream could not flee.  One night, the Mar was planning a massive raid in which they would burn and kill anyone who was against them, whether they were Yarmans, who were people that took no side in the war but remained loyal to Yarma since the marble was his in the first place, or if they were just neutral to the fighting all together.  My parents had recently become Sharks, the people you saw earlier in the blue uniforms, and went off to stop the Mar’s raids.  Stana Chream, and her brother, tried fleeing into the woods, where as history tells it, they were never saw again.  There was a massive explosion, so anyone there would have been completely blown up…”  Fali stopped as Sairaka shook at these words.  Her parents were blown up?  Now she knew why her Uncle was so keen at not letting her know things.  Though she was glad that she finally knew more of the truth, the feeling of this new knowledge felt like someone was stabbing into her heart.  She felt sick.

            “I am so sorry, Sairaka.  I forgot you didn’t know…”  Sairaka tried shaking her head to clear her mind.

            “It’s ok…I’m fine.  So, what happened…after the raid?”

            “Well, the explosion really wasn’t part of Mar’s plan, because now they had no idea where the Marble Box went.  They kind of disappeared, remaining hidden for quite some time to search for the Marble Box secretively.  They did not want Crarm, or anyone else for that fact, to know what they were up to, even though most of us knew that the war was never officially over and that Mar was still out there.  Crarm continued to expand and strengthen themselves for the day in which Mar would finally show their faces again, which happened only a couple of days ago.”  Sairaka tried absorbing all of this information.  There were some facts Fali had left out, which she admitted was because she didn’t know.  But there was still one missing thing that Fali never acknowledged…

            “What about my father?”

            “Your father?”

            “You said my mother and her brother, my Uncle, were running from Mar.  Where was my father?”  Fali gave Sairaka an odd look.

            “To be honest, I don’t remember.  I don’t think your father was ever mentioned in the history books.  Tream…that means his last name must start with “tre,” and I don’t recall anyone with a last name like that.  I’m guessing he was out with Crarm protecting your mother, and yourself, and got killed in the battles like my parents.”  Sairaka nodded her head.  It was the best explanation Fali could give her, and she felt a bit better.  However, the thought of her mother being blown up still haunted her mind.  And how did Uncle and herself escape?  Why couldn’t her mother escape, too?  Maybe, there was a chance she did not get blown up in the explosion…and what caused the explosion anyway?  The strange marble?  She thought better than to ask Fali these questions.  Fali seemed to know the basic facts, but not extensive details. 

            “We’re almost there.  Not too much farther to go.”  Sairaka stopped suddenly.  Fali looked up at her.  “What’s wrong?”

            “The marble…that’s why everyone is after the Marble Box, right?”

            “Yes, I just said that…”

            “Then that must mean I have the marble.”  Sairaka opened up the Marble Box and peered inside.  Fali leaned up against her to take a look, too.  “Which one is it?”  Fali shook her head.

            “I don’t know.  Why don’t you check them?”  Sairaka put her hands over a couple like she had done before.  Thunder was a solid tan marble with gray spots…Wind, a marble Kiru had used the other day, was a solid lavender color…then she remembered that weird purple marble.  When she put her hand on it, she felt a complete sense of dread, but no meaning came from it like the others.  She starred at it.

            “It’s the purple one.  I remember the first day I got here, when Healer locked me in my room at the inn, and I was checking the marbles to see if I could use any to escape, I came across that one.  I couldn’t tell what power it was, but it made me feel uneasy…a complete sense of dread…I dropped it right away.”

            “Don’t EVER touch it again!  And NEVER use it in battles.  It could blow everyone up, even yourself.  Yarma never figured out what it could do…the whole destroying planet thing may just be a rumor, hopefully, but we really don’t know.  You might want to separate it from the rest.”

            “Yes, good idea.”  Sairaka found that the top part inside the marble box could be lifted.  She placed the marble in there, wondering why it was not separated from the rest before she took possession of it.

            “Hey, look Sairaka!”  Sairaka looked up.  It was no wonder why Fali was getting so excited.  She could see the tops of tall skyscrapers…they had finally reached the City of Sirad.

            Sirad was filled with the floating cars Sairaka had seen at the first town.  However, this was much different than the other villages she had visited.  People were running around, much more business like.  They were talking, laughing, shopping, eating, driving, yelling, fighting, running, one man almost ran into Sairaka as she was looking around at everything.

            “I have to go to the bank first to get an ID card,” Fali said, interrupting Sairaka’s thoughts.

            “ID card?”

            “Yes.  See, I’ve been putting the money I make from selling quinches into the bank at Altra, but they don’t have ID cards.  ID cards keep track of how much money you have, and you can buy things with it.  It’s also and ID card, hence it’s name.  It’s very useful to have.  Even though you don’t have any money, you should get one.  But…”  Fali paused.  “I suggest changing your name.  People won’t believe you’re really Sairaka Tream, but they’ll gladly take a fake name.”

            Two streets divided around the bank as they entered the main entrance.  It was enermourous.  Fali went one way to get her ID, instructing Sairaka to some paperwork.  It was difficult making up information, but she tried to do so anyways.  After about an hour, both girls had their ID cards, though Fali was the only one with any money.

            “So what’s your name?”

            “Emora Horse.”  Fali gave her a blank look.

            “Where did that come from?”

            “I saw a magazine with some fuzzy green thing that said ‘Emora.’”

            “Yes.  Emora is a popular cartoon character for little kids.”

            “And the horse was on another magazine.”

            “Well, did they buy it?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Then I guess it worked.  Come on, Emora.  Let’s get something to eat.  I’m starving!”  Sairaka had been so busy trying to figure what had been going on earlier, she somehow forgot how hungry she was…she hadn’t eaten anything since the quinch at Fali’s home.

            The diner they went to was quite similar to the one she first ate at with Kiru.  However, she now learned of a couple of new dishes, these containing quinches.  A waitress, bubbly with bright pink pigtails came up to them to take their orders.

            “Heeello!  My name is Canti, and I will be your waitress!!  May I take your order?!?  Fali gave Sairaka a weird look, and Sairaka thought she was trying to surpress a giggle.

            “Triple decker burger with a side of thie noodles,” Fali said hungrily.

            “Just a quinch salad for me,” Sairaka said, handing her menu to Canti.

            “Right away!”  Canti skipped off merrily.  Well, not really ‘skipped’ since she was wearing roller blades.  Another waitress came out of the kitchen in a huff as Canti started heading towards it.

            “Heello, Lide!”  The waitress by the name of Lide walked past her without saying anything.  She leaned against a wall in the smoking section of the restaurant and lit up a cigarette, keeping her face down under the dim light.

            “She seems kind of odd,”  Sairaka said as the only thing she could see clearly from the waitress was the red ashes from the end of her cigarette.

            “Hmmm…” Fali shrugged, without much interest.  “So, what are your hobbies, Sairaka?”

            “Hobbies?  Well, I lived on a farm with my Uncle all my life.  I would raise cluckers, take care of the grimplugs and cows…had a couple of horses, too.  And Uncle grew corn and turnips.  He would sell them into town…but he never would take me there.  This is the first time I’ve actually seen people…real people, outside of my school books.”  Fali looked at her fascinated and perplexed.

            “So you’ve never seen any other humans but your uncle?”

            “Yeah.  He kept me inside.  Said we had to keep a low profile…”  Sairaka leaned back in her chair.  “Guess I understand why now.”

            “Well, after we eat and get some new clothes, we should probably head to the library.”

            “Library?  What for?”

            “You need to read some books on marbles.  I can only explain so much, since I am not a Marbler myself.  And maybe, after we go to Tarum, we can come back here.  I heard Siran has a really good Kia master, but I don’t think we should stay here for too long.  Mar and Crarm will find us soon.  But we still should get some new clothes and you need to learn what you can before we get ourselves attacked again.  You can’t keep flying as hyper speed.”

            “Here’s your food!”  The overly happy waitress set their dishes in front of them.  Fali’s burger was about a foot long and the juicy burger patties were too big for the bun it was in.  Sairaka’s quinch salad consisted of lettuce, carrots, and freshly sliced quinches with some sort of tannish dressing.  She took a bite and was pleased to be eating something other than corn, eggs, and milk (which was what she ate most of the time, except on those special occasions when her Uncle would bring back treats from the town).

            As they ate, Canti came back.  It looked like she was on a break.  She headed over to the other waitress who was just putting out her cigeratte.  While Fali was trying to find a way to eat her burger, Sairaka was eavesdropping on their conversation.

            “You’re break is up, Lide!  You’d better go get yourself cleaned up.”  Lide mumbled something under her breath, shoved Lide aside, and walked back into the kitchen.  “Later, Lide!”  Canti waved, completely overlooking Lide’s rudeness.  Then she walked over to their table, Sairaka feeling slightly embarrassed for tuning in to their conversation.  She was hoping Canti wouldn’t say something, announcing to the whole restaurant that Sairaka was an eavesdropper.

            “Is the food ok?  Would you like anything more to drink?”

            “Mph tanks,”  Fali said through a mouthful of burger.

            “I’m fine, thank-you.”  Sairaka felt relived that Canti did not say anything about her staring at them.  But, feeling gutsy and nosey, she questioned her anyways.

            “Who was that other waitress?”

            “Other waitress?  You mean Lide?”

            “Yeah, her.”

            “Oh.  Well, we are both TW’s, Traveling Waitresses.  We travel to different towns serving food at diners.  It’s perfect for people like me who want to see as much of this world as I can, and I get to meet so many interesting people too!”  Sairaka wondered how many other people could be more interesting than Canti, with her bring pink hair and clueless sort of attitude.

            “What about Lide?  She seems down.”  Canti’s smile faded from her face.

            “Lide…I think, though she doesn’t say anything, that she is only traveling because she has to.  Like she is trying to avoid someone.”  Canti was not the type of person to stay serious for long.  “She’s always a grumpy guss when she’s around customers!  You should see her when she isn’t working!  Well, I have other tables to attend, tah tah!” Canti started to leave, but stopped and rolked around.  “And what are your names?  I forgot to ask.”

            “I’m…Emora Horse.”

            “And I’m Fali,”  Fali spoke up.

            “Well, it was nice to meet you Emora, Fali.  Perhaps we’ll be seeing each other again!”  She left toward the kitchen.

            “I kind of hope not,” Fali muttered under her breath.

            After paying for their meal, they left to go buy some new clothes, as the ones they were wearing were tattered and burnt looking from their previous battles.  Plus, they were beginning to smell.

            “They make nice clothes that can protect you against marble attacks.  Well, not really protect you, but you won’t have to go out and get a new shirt every time someone hits you with a Fire attack.”

            “But do you have enough money?”

            “I said I was saving it up.  And we really need new clothes.  Don’t worry, we’ll find some jobs later.  Ah, this looks nice.”  They entered a shop that was filled with outfits Sairaka had never seen before, even in books.

            “Can I help you ladies?”  A man who was wearing a nice, black suit, unlike the clothes being sold in his shop, and also unlike the suits the Bats wore, began showing them around to different shirts, pants, shoes, socks, etc.  Most of the materials were, like Fali said, good for travelers who would possibly be encountering marble attacks.  After trying on several different outfits, Sairaka finally found a nice pair of short overalls, a silky feeling pink shirt, and a couple of pairs of socks, not too different from her original outfit, but the clothes felt so much better and stronger.  She also found some white sneakers.  Though she knew very well they would look filthy and worn out after a day, she did not care.  She rather liked it in fact.

            Fali went all out.  She bought a brown and purple swirled shirt, a short sleeve black leather jacket, and a pair of dark blue shorts.  Besides a couple pairs of boring-looking white socks, she, too, bought new shoes.  They were black with silver buckles and a silver spur on each of the ends.  Besides the pink ribbons that tried up her pigtails, she looked like she was a gang girl.

            Once they paid for their clothes, Fali having spent quite a bit, they then started heading for the library.

            “We can find some introductory book to marbles…or something,” Fali said, as they entered.  Every step that she took, her jacket and shoes would make squeaky, jingly noises.  They went through the shelves, searching for a book that would explain to Sairaka what powers she had in her jewelry box, which was now shoved between her new shirt and overalls.

            Fali found a few interesting books, including one about Kia, and the two made their way to the library’s basement.  Fali said it would be wise to stay away from people as word spread around that a Sairaka Tream imposter was lurking around.  They sat down at a wooden table on a couple of cold, metal chairs.  While Fali became enticed in her book, Sairaka began reading hers.  She learned of the different marbles that have been discovered so far…she had most of these.  There was also something else that interested her…marbles could be combined.  According to the book, most combinations consisted of no more than two marbles, since the more marbles that were combined, the longer it would take for the attack to be summoned.  This would give the opponent the advantage.  There was a list of different attacks.  Some marbles could not be combined with others.  Fly, for example, was a power of it’s own.  Though she could use light at the same time, that was not a combination.  Fascinated, Sairaka flipped the page to learn more, when she suddenly heard an explosion and yelling coming from above.  Fali slammed her book shut.

            “That doesn’t sound good.”

            “Shouldn’t we stay down here?”

            “Well, I guess for now…”  A man came running down the stairs from the first floor, breathing heavily.

            “There’s been a huge fight!  Everyone must evacuate the library!  They’re closing all the buildings down!”  The few people that were in the basement went scrambling outside.  The man stood there, looking panicked.  He must have been an employee, because he was not rushing around with the others.

            “Guess we have no choice,” Fali grumbled as the two of them reluctantly got up from their seats and slowly made their way to the stairs.  “I hope you’ve learned a little something that would be useful, anyways.”

            “Come on, hurry up you two!  Don’t go dilly dallying!”  They went up the stairs, the man shooing from behind.  As they stepped out onto the streets, panicked people were rushing into cars and homes for safety, but no one was driving, since two Marblers were standing in the road, their eyes glowing firey red at one another.  Sairaka’s mouth dropped.  On the left hand side stood Kiru.  Healer and several Bats were behind him, as if ready to charge at their opponent.  To the right was Tiron, his Sharks were on his side, not as eager looking as the Bats for a fight, but still ready all the same.

            “So, I see you still haven’t ranked up, eh, Tiron?”

            “My rank is fine and I do not mind,” Tiron growled with clenched teeth.

            “Oh, I’m sure it’s fun telling your little blue men to go running around like lose cluckers to chase something you know little about.  Not only has Mar been training twice as hard as you people, but we are wiser all the same.”

            “Strength does not make you wise.  It’s choosing your battles.”

            “I see.  Is that what they tell you at cram camp?”

            “It’s Crarm, and you know very darn well…”  Fali looked back and forth, from one side, to the other.

            “If we walk quietly away, they perhaps won’t see us,” Fali whispered.

            “Yeah.”  The two girls started walking slowly to an ally not far away from where the Sharks stood.  However, being unnoticed was pretty much impossible.

            “Hey, Kiru!  That girl is just over there!”  One of the Bats pointed at her, a smile smirked across his face.  Both Kiru and Tiron turned around.

            “Sairaka Tream!  FALI!”  Tiron’s face turned bright beet red.  While he stood there, Kiru ran past him.

            “I’m not letting you get away from me…Fire!”  A fire attack aimed toward Sairaka, but she was ready.

            “Wind!”  The attack blew away and hit one of the Sharks who started cursing angrily.  “Nice little trick I learned from you,” she laughed.

           “Out of my way!” Tiron snapped, giving Kiru a big push aside.  “Electric!”  Electric attacks were unaffected by wind.

            “Fire!”  The two attacks clashed, causing a small explosion.  Fali was able to jump back aside.  The same Shark who got hit by the previous attack took a brunt from the explosion, along with another Shark.  A couple of the Bats snickered.  Kiru furiously grabbed the back of Tiron’s shirt.  The intensity between the two sides immediately heightened.  The Sharks and Bats looked like they were ready to charge at each other any second.

            “Let go of him!” yelled one of the Sharks.  Tiron did not loosen her grip.

            “Stay out of my way, Tiron.  If it wasn’t for me, and for Mar, you would have never known that this girl was even here.”

            “I said let go!”  the same shark yelled again.  Kiru did not.  Tiron oddly enough did not struggle, but Sairaka stuck her hands in her Marble Box.

            “What are you doing??” Fali exclaimed.  Sairaka raised her hands, revealing the clear light yellow marble, Light, and a solid marble with swirls of orange yellow, the electric marble.  Her eyes closed, as the energy from both marbles filled her body with a comforting, warm sensation.  Her hair started flapping in the breeze created by the energies from these marbles.  Sairaka opened her eyes, which were bright yellow and pupil-less.  Fali stared at her, terrified.

            “Lightening!”  The attack hit Kiru who clenched upwards in pain, letting go of Tiron, who felt some of the shock himself even though the attack mainly hit his enemy.  Outraged, the Bats started sending fire attacks and water attacks to the Sharks who retaliated back.  The explosions could have possible killed both of their leaders, if Sairaka had not continued sending out her lightening attacks.  She hit Bats.  She hit Sharks.  She missed Healer, but was successful only a few seconds later.  She was attacking and hitting everyone.  Cars took some of the hits, people who were inside ducked and screamed.  The battle continued until there was no one left standing, from the Mar or the Crarm.  Sairaka stopped attacking, her eyes closed, and she passed out in front of Fali, who could do nothing but stare at all of the bodies that were lying on the road.

            When Sairaka opened her eyes, Fali was standing over her.

            “Sairaka!  Sairaka!”  She looked really worried.  Sairaka sat up, a bit dazed.

            “What happened?”  she groaned, rubbing her head.

            “You mean…you don’t remember?”  Fali’s fearful face made Sairaka’s heart sink.  She sat up, too quickly for her head was still spinning, but the scene that sat in front of her eyes was still clear.  People were lying everywhere.  A few nervous citizens who were near by and had taken shelter in buildings or cars that did not get hit though the waves of marble attacks began nervously walking around.

            “Did I do that?” Sairaka could barely choke the words out of her mouth.  Fali shook her head.  “Well, then.  There is only one thing we can do.”  Fali stared at her, wondering what in the world Sairaka was thinking.

 

            They were now on their way to Tarum.  Both felt it would be safer traveling at night than staying at Sirad after what had happened.

            “I still can’t believe you did that,” Fali mumbled.  “There was no reason…they were going to kill you if they had the chance.”

            “That’s not the point,” Sairaka shook her head.  “I…I don’t know why I can’t remember attacking them all.  I mean, I remember I was going to do the Lightening attack, since I read that in this book…Fali!  We forgot to return the books!”  Fali sighed.

            “Ah, who cares.”  Sairaka looked at her book.  She still had no idea why she went on that outrage, why her powers were uncontrollable.  Fali seemed a bit more tense around her than she usually did.

            “Are you nervous traveling with me now?”

            “Nervous?  Why would I be nervous?”

            “Because I…because I lost control of the marbles…”

            “It’s just something you got to work with.  Remember, you’re newer at this than most people, so you might have some more problems at controlling your marbles…don’t worry about it.  You’ll get the hang of it.”  This made Sairaka feel quite a bit better.  “But…I still don’t know why you did that…”  The two girls walked along the dark path toward Tarum, using the moonlight as their only light source.  Back at Sirad, several bucks sat, filled with Healing Berries, which Sairaka had begged Fali to buy for all of the injured people, the citizens, the Crarm, even Mar.


Chapter 4

The Forbidden Marblers

 

            In a bar, not too far away from Tarum, but isolated from other towns, several men were sitting around, drinking, gambling, or a little of both.  One man slammed his hand across the table, displaying four aces.

            “I win!” The man sniggered as he tried blocking one of the ace’s suites with his thick, muscled finger.

            “You cheater!  That’s two aces of diamonds!”  The second man flipped over the table in his quick attempt of giving the first man a nice slug in the face.  Beer bottles came crashing to the floor along with the playing cards and a bowl of peanuts.

            “Knock it off you two!”  the bartender roared.  He clenched the rag that was in his hand as he started at the two gamblers.  “How many times do I have to tell you, Grife, that I don’t allow cheating in here?  Get out!”

            “But I was only trying to make some money…you know my wife is counting on it…”

            “I don’t want to hear any more of your bullshit stories.  I said get out!”  Grife left in a rather ticked off mood.  The other man started picking up the cards that were soaked in beer.  The only man who was sitting at the bar, with a half full drink in his hand, was wearing a cloak which kept his whole body, even some of his face, covered.  A green strand of hair fell in front of his right eye.  He watched as the man cleaned up his mess, and then turned back to the bar tender.

            “I tell ya, business hasn’t been what it use to be.  Grife always comes back here ripping people off…can’t seem to get the bum to go away.  He pays well, yes, but all the trouble he causes sometimes doesn’t make it worth it.  Want another drink?”  The man didn’t say anything, but nodded as he shoved his now empty glass aside.  The bartender picked it up.

            “This here will be your last one.  I have to set limits.  The more drinks I sell, the more money I make, but then those drunkards go messing up my bar and I end up spending more cleaning the place up than I did selling them drinks.  I tell ya, people just are not smart.”  He put the drink down in front of the cloaked man, who picked it up and took a sip.  “I’m going to turn on the TV.  It gets way too quiet in here…might as well listen to the news and hear of peoples’ lives who are worse than mine.”  The bartender flipped on the TV, then went back to cleaning off the counter.  The man in the cloak took another sip from his drink as the news reporter continued with the story she had been talking about.

            “One of the Crarm heads, Criton Matcker, says that they are ready for whatever Mar has in stores.”

            “We’ve been training for years since the last war.  We will be the ones to find the marbles first, and Mar will regret all that they have done and their greediness,” the man called Criton Matcker told the reporter.  “Crarm is not at all afraid of what Mar has planned.  We are ready, and we will find the Sairaka Tream imposter first.”  The man in the cloak’s attention was now struck by those last words of Matcker’s, and he turned to the TV, listening intensively.

            “As you may have already heard,” the reporter continued “a girl who has claimed to be Sairaka Tream, (her face appears on the screen) the owner of a Marble Box containing a marble with a  power so great, it has been unidentifiable by researches, has been last seen at Sirad.  She and her companion, a girl whose name has not been revealed (Fali’s face joins Sairka’s), have been on the lose and are both being followed by Mar and Crarm in hopes she will not use the marble to harm anymore people.”

            “The girl’s been dead for years, it is impossible that she just suddenly returns like this,” a man said, annoyingly.  “And this girl is real crazy.  She blew up a whole street here in Sirad.  My wife and I were in our car with our two kids when she threw a lightening attack at us.  My son had to get five stitches in his head and my daughter is afraid of going outside.  It’s terrible.  I want that monster to be caught, and I don’t care by who.”

            “Rewards will be given out to anyone who captures both of these girls, for Sairaka’s companion has been helping her and so is considered just as guilty of the crimes.  Both Mar and Crarm have different awards which will be posted in towns and tomorrow’s newspaper…”  After finish reading this last bit of the newspaper article Fali had in her hands, she wrinkled it up and through it in a wastebasket.  “Those stupid idiots.  Now we are both in trouble, and I can tell you one thing.  Mar’s been around a lot longer.  They’re better at making out deals, and they have more money.  Really don’t think Crarm has a chance with that whole award situation.  As much as I hate Tiron…that JERK!...I’d rather be chased by them than Mar.”

            “So that’s why we have to wear these?”  Sairaka’s hair was tied up in a lacy bonnet, which she greatly detested.  Fali had taken her pigtails out and tied her hair back in a ponytail.

            “Yes, and also Marblers aren’t allowed in Tarum.”

            “They aren’t?  Why not?”

            Fali dropped her voice.  “Tarum is the only kingdom left on this planet.  Most towns are now run by governments, they have better technology, drive hover-cars…Tarum likes things simple.  They don’t have electricity or fancy things and they are run by a king and queen, and because they like things simple, they don’t allow Marblers to threaten their life style.  Marblers who enter here are caught and immediately thrown into prison, where many still remain today.”

            “But what are we doing here then?  And how do they know?”

            “Oh, they know.  Don’t know how, but they know.  And I’m hoping we’ll be able to talk to someone and explain our situation before they throw us in prison…”  Fali trailed off her sentence as a girl popped out in front of them.

“Hi, my name is Almond, what’s yours?”  Almond had her face almost up to Sairaka’s nose.  She stared at her blankly.

“Um…Emora Horse.”

“Well, nice meeting you Emora.”  The girl skipped off leaving Fali and Sairaka feeling quite perplexed.

“That was odd,” Fali mumbled.  As they turned around, they noticed a bunch of the villagers were staring and pointing at them.

            “Those are the girls!  The ones in the paper!”

            “Drat!  I guess changing our hair styles didn’t help much,” Fali grumbled as several guards started running toward them.  With spears against their backs, Fali and Sairaka marched up the dirt path, passing several horses and buggies with people pointing and gaping at them.

            “Get moving.  You know you’re not allowed here,” one of the guards grunted.  Fali let out an exacerbated sigh.  Sairaka frowned.  She had no idea what they were going to do to her.  Hopefully, they would at least turn them in to Crarm.  It would be so much better than having to face Kiru again…

            Both girls were tossed into a dusty jail cell.  They fell on the cold, bare cement floor as the bars closed behind then.  Fali got to her feet and ran over to the bars.

            “Hey, let us out!  We came to talk to King Koron!”  The guards just snickered.

            “Don’t worry.  You’ll get your talk.”  They left chuckling.  Fali sank to the floor.

            “I wish something could just go right for once.”

            “Well, they have, haven’t they?”  Fali gave her a nasty look.

            “Like what!?”

            “Well, we escaped from Mar and Crarm twice.  Well, I’ve escaped Mar three times so far.  I don’t know where I’d be if Healer and Kiru caught me.”  She shuddered.  “Kind of try not to think about it.”

            “You’re right, Sairaka,” Fali said, giving a little smile.  “But we’re still stuck in a jail cell.  Once the word gets out, the fighting and bidding will start of who will get to keep us.”  Fali sighed again.  “I just hope King Koron will hear us out.  Master Zorno said to tell him that he had sent us…I hope he will understand.”

            “Ah, he don’t listen to nobody,” said a man in the cell next to theirs.  He was missing one of his bottom teeth.  “I was caught five years ago, still won’t let me out.”

            “Why did you come here?”  Fali asked him.

            “They got a good candy shop here,” the man said, smiling and showing off his missing tooth.  “Went in there and used my marbles to steal me some.  All it gave me was this here cell and I lost my tooth.  Don’t say I wouldn’t do it again once I get out.”  Fali looked at Sairaka, annoyed.  Not only was this man stupid, using his marbles to steal from a candy shop, but he even had no problems at wanting to commit the same crime that caused him to be thrown into jail to begin with.  Sairaka turned her back to the man and opened her bag, pulling out a quinch.  She began eating it, quietly, so as to not draw attention to the toothless man.  Fali, who’s stomach was starting to rumble with the lack of food they had eaten since yesterday’s lunch, lurched in her bag for a quinch, too.

            They waited for almost an hour before they could hear footsteps down the hall.  The man with the missing tooth watched them like a hungry cat in the shadows of his dark cell.  He gave Sairaka and Fali the creeps.  Three men, two guards and a tall man wearing red satin robes and a golden crown came up to their cell.

            “So you are the girl everyone’s been after the last day or so,” King Haroled Koron stared at her suspiciously.

            “Um…yes…”  King Koron gave a wicked smile.

            “Well then, don’t have much reason to let you out then, do I?”

            “Master Zorno sent us, sir!” Fali quickly shouted before the men would leave them there again.

            “Master Zorno?  Why would he send you to me when he knows I don’t let Marblers enter my kingdom?”

            “We came to ask you for information on Master Hiru.”

            “Hiru?  Why Hiru?”

            “Master Hiru is suppose to help Sairaka,” Fali nodded over to her.  “We need to talk to him.  Please, sir.”  King Koron did not look convinced, and neither did the two guards.

            “If Master Zorno really did send you here, then what proof do you have?”  Fali did not have to think about this at all.  She unbuttoned her jacket and showed her star pin which she had pinned inside.  King Koron nodded.

            “I see.  The Silver Ring.  Though many Masters give these out to Kians, they have special marks on their own individual rings, and I recognize that to be Zorno’s.  Let them out.”  The guards unlocked the doors as Sairaka stood up, letting out a sigh of relief.

            “What about me?  Why don’t you ever let me out?  I ain’t going to do any more harm, I swear!”

            “Shush you!” snapped one of the guards.  “You killed two people while you were trying to rob our town’s shops blind!  You’ll stay in there for your own good.”

            “You mean YOUR own good,” grumbled the man as he sank down into his cell.

 

            They entered the main chamber.  The room was huge and very spacious.  The only thing in there that took up any space were two golden thrones.  Queen Chrisine Siddar was sitting on the throne to their right.  She had short, black hair and was wearing a gold chain with a heart shaped locket hanging from the end.  Her face looked young, but worn out and sickly all the same.

            King Koron went over to the empty throne and sat down. The two guards walked back up the marble floor to the double wooden doors in which they had entered from.  They posted themselves on either side of these doors.

            “So…what do you wish to know about Hiru?”

            “We need to see him, do you know where he lives?”  Fali was kneeling, and Sairaka, who had been standing, quickly dropped to her knees as well.  King Koron ignored the questions.

            “Does she speak?” he asked, pointing at Sairaka.

            “Yes,” Sairaka said, quietly.  “I have lived on a farm with my Uncle all my life…I am not use to the ways of this planet…sir.”  The king smiled

            “I can see that, yes.”  He turned back to Fali.  “So you want to know where Hiru lives.  This information is very secretive.  He remains in an isolated town where he won’t be bothered.  I cannot give you the information you desire until you give your word that you will not speak of this to anyone, not even to each other, ever.  I will say it once, and it shall not be repeated by either of you again.  Is that clear?”

            “Yes sir,” Fali and Sairaka both chimed, nervously.

            “Very well.  He lives just north of here…it is quite a ways.  The town is called Sarls.”  Fali unrolled the map which she had under her arm.

            “And what is that?” he asked as she started observing the map.

            “It’s a map Master Zorno gave me…”

            “Do not mark that map!”

            “I’m not!  I can’t anyways, it’s a magic map.  I just want to know where we are going!”

            “Sit down, Haroled” Queen Siddar spoke softly.  Koron sat back down in his throne.

            “Wow.  It is far,”  Fali said, staring at the map.  Sairaka leaned over to see.  We are here, and Sar…”

            “HUSH!”

            “It’s over here,” Fali nervously pointed to the location on the map.

            “Do not EVER do that in the presence of other people!”

            “You worry too much, Haroled,” Queen Siddar said, in a calm voice.  “There is no one here but us and the guards.  And even if they do point to it in public, it will mean nothing to other people unless they know that is where Hiru is.  Even then, the name ‘Hiru’ does not mean much to people, so pointing will bring little harm.”

            “Yes, yes.  I suppose…”  The wooden doors swung open as three guards came running in, five more were out in the hallway.  The two guards at the doors quickly scattered to talk to the other guards to see what was the trouble.

            “King Koron, a couple of Marblers were found lurking near Tarum’s entrance.  I believe they may be from Mar.”  King Koron stood up in an instance.

            “Yes, I am on my way.”  He dashed toward the open doors and passed Sairaka and Fali.  “Good luck, you too.”  The doors closed, leaving them alone with the Queen.  She sat there, the same expression on her face.  Fali and Sairaka got up from their kneeling position, not quite sure what they should be doing.

            “If you are not in a hurry,” the Queen started, “I could use some company.  It is nice to talk to other people besides the guards and my husband once in awhile.”  The two girls turned to Queen Siddar who was smiling at them through her weak eyes.

            “Have you been doing better, maim?” Fali asked, politely.

            “Still ill, I’m afraid,” the queen spoke gently.  “The doctors say I still have a long life ahead of me, though.  Thank you for asking.”  She looked not only ill to Sairaka, but also very sad and depressed.  It must be difficult living in a kingdom that has isolated itself from technology, and in a way, the rest of the world.  But she soon discovered this was not the reason for the queen’s sullenness.

            “Ever since my son ran away, it seems that my life just drags on by.”  Fali did not look at all surprised, but as usual, Sairaka was not expecting this.  “He gave this to me a year after he left.”  She held up the huge heart charm that was hanging off her neck.  “Bought it in a town.  He couldn’t talk long, afraid his father would find that he had returned.  Never saw him again.  I told Haroled that a nice young woman gave it to me as a thanks for helping save her family’s farm.”  She let out a sigh.  “I wish Haroled wasn’t so strict with Marblers.  That was how he drove our own son away, found out he was a Marbler himself…and you young ladies seem quite pleasant.  Quiet, yes…”  Fali’s face flushed bring red and Sairaka looked down on the floor, embarrassed because she had no idea what to say to a queen, nevertheless, one with so many family issues.  “You are very lucky that he is letting you go.  Most people stay in the prison…I hope some day he will come to his senses and let them go.”  She sighed.  “Ah, but I have talked long enough.  So, you are Sairaka Tream.”  She looked down at Sairaka.  “I have always wanted to see a marble before.  Never even seen an attack.  Mind doing a little one for me?  I would be most grateful.”  Sairaka never thought she would be asked to do an attack by someone.

            “Do something small, that won’t do much damage,” Fali whispered.  “Wind or water or something.  Don’t do any combinations though!”  Sairaka lifted up the water marble and let it rest in the palms of her hands.

            “Water!”  The attack rushed from her hands like a waterfall ignoring gravity.  It hit the ceiling in front of the queen, who looked quite impressed.  The wooden doors swung open again and the two guards who had been on guard their earlier charged in, furiously.  They were lucky their shoes were made of metal or they would have slipped on the wet floor.  Even some parts of the walls were now dripping with water.  Sairaka slipped the marble back in the box and quickly put the box behind her back feeling ashamed of herself.

            “You are not suppose to use attacks inside Tarum, nevertheless the main chamber of the castle!  Out!  You two will be escorted out NOW!”

            “I asked her to show me one of her marbles,”  Queen Siddar explained.  “Please, don’t be angry with them.”

            “Sorry, your majesty, but rules are rules.  They must leave Tarum now before King Korn finds out what they have done.  Let’s go you two.”

 

            The guards had made sure that Fali and Sairaka were well outside of Tarum before leaving them.

            “And don’t come back!”  They stormed away.  Fali brushed herself off as Sairaka placed her Marble Box back underneath her overalls.

            “Well, I guess we can head back to Sirad,” Fali grumbled.

            “We can’t do that!  They have guards there…we’ll be caught!”

            “We don’t have much of a choice again,”  Fali sighed.  “The next closest town will take us four days…if we go to Sirad, we’ll be able to stop by other towns close by so we don’t have to keep eating quinches.  They’re good, but not very filling by themselves, and they’ll make you turn purple if you eat too many of them.”  Sairaka was forced to agree, and they started making their way to the woods.  As they did so, Fali pointed to the map, gleefully.

            “There’s a place to eat here along the way!  Look!  It’s some sort of bar!”

            “A bar in the middle of the woods?”

            “Towns don’t like bars very much…they can cause too many riots.  So they build bars in weird locations.”

            “Is it safe to go…”

            “Ah, sure.  Not like we’re buying an alcohol.  And they’ll have some real food.  I’m starving!  The sooner we get there, the sooner we can eat!”  Fali started dashing off, Sairaka running behind her to keep up.

            The bar was located just outside the woods.  Fali opened the door and entered the large, smokey room with Saiaraka trying to stay close by, as she did not feel comfortable entering this place.  They took a seat up at the bar.

            “What can I get you young ladies?”  the bartender asked as he wiped the counter.

            “A ham and yogan sandwich with the works!”  Fali said, hungrily.

            “I’ll have the same, but no meat please,” Sairaka shyly spoke.

            “All right, coming on up.”  The bartender turned off to make the sandwhiches.

            “And a side of fries!”

            “What do you think this is, a diner?”  snapped the bartender.  Fali settled down in her seat.  “I’m so hungry, I could eat a grimplug.  Hey, why don’t you ever eat meat?”

            “I’m a vegetarian.  I had a pet cow, Chewbeans, and I don’t think I could ever eat meat.”

            “You had a pet cow?  Weird.”  The bartender put out drinks of water for them, which Fali began sipping through her straw.

            “It’ll just be a couple of minutes.”

            “Good, because I’m starving!”

            “You people are funny,” the man who was wearing a cloak and sitting next to Fali gave a little laugh.  Fali stared at him suspiciously.  “I was hoping you two would stop by here.”

            “And what made you think we’d come here?” Fali snapped.

            “Because it is the only place for the next couple of miles to stop at,” the man answered.  “And you two being on the run...lots of people who like to keep themselves hidden come here.”  He elbowed toward a man who had fallen asleep on a table, a half full beer bottle clutched in his right hand.

            “And what about you?  What are you doing here?”

            “Not really much of your business.”

            “Hmph!”

            “Here are your sandwiches.”  The bartender put the two plates in front of them.  Sairaka picked hers up and was about to take a bite when she noticed how steamed Fali looked.  She smashed her sandwich hard with her hand and then took a big bite, too big for her to chew properly.  Her cheeks were bulging as her temper increased.  She finally was able to swallow.

            “You want us for the reward, don’t you??” Fali accused.

            “No, of course not!  I wanted to see you, Sairaka Tream.”  Hearing her name all the time, Sairaka looked up, a piece of bread hanging from her mouth, but she was unsurprised at all.

            “Well, you and everyone else,” she mumbled.

            “Except, unlike everyone else, I want to join you.”  Now this surprised her.  Fali shocked her even more when she stood up, knocking her water glass to the floor.  The sleeping man awoke with quite a start and dropped his beer bottle, which shattered.  The bartender, hearing all the broken glass, came running out with a mop.

            “People only care about themselves these days!” he gruffed as he started cleaning up the mess, the sleeping man looking around, dazed, excited, and quite confused.

            “You’re not joining us!”  Fali yelled.  “We’re in enough trouble as it is and we don’t need any more, thank you very much!”

            “I was only hoping to help…”

            “NO!”

            “Hold on, sir.  We’ll be right back.”  Sairaka pulled Fali to a corner of the bar so the cloaked man couldn’t hear them.

            “What is your problem?”  Sairaka whispered, harshly, keeping a strong grip over the struggling Fali.

            “Let me go!”

            “Not until you calm down and explain why you were being so rude to him!”

            “The guy’s wearing a cloak!”

            “So?”

            “So that means he’s hiding something!  Or he’s hiding from something!  We can’t really trust him…”

            “Yes, I am hiding from the police after I stole and murdered thousands of people.”  The man in the cloak was now standing next to them; he had obviously heard them talking.

            “That’s not funny!”

            “Well, then why won’t you let another Marbler travel with you?”  Fali was so angry, Sairaka put out her hand in front of her to prevent Fali from whacking him.

            “Why do you want to travel with us, sir?”

            “Well, to be honest, I have heard you on the news, and I believe that you really are Sairaka Tream.  I have been a Marbler for many years myself and thought you could use some help and advice.”

            “I’m helping her!”  Fali shouted.

            “Yes, but even you said it yourself.  You’re not a Marbler, so you can’t tell me everything.”  Fali let out an exasperated sigh, but she was in no mood of backing down that quickly.

            “I seriously mean no harm.  And I was just joking about being a murderer,” he added, staring slyly at Fali, who would have attacked him if Sairaka wasn’t blocking her.

            “Well, since everyone seems to know my name, it is only fair if we know yours.”

            “The name is Tsako.”  The cloaked man smiled as he held out his hand.  Sairaka remembered from last time, and shook it, her grip tight and shaking his arm widely.  He stared at her a bit surprised.  “Don’t shake hands often, do you?”  Tsako said, once his hand was free.  Fali slumped away from them and went back to work on her sandwich.

            “And what’s your friend’s name?”

            “Oh, it’s Fali.”  Fali mumbled something under her breath, but it was hard for either Tsako or Sairaka to hear.

            “How long have you been here?”  Sairaka asked him, as they both sat back down, Tsako on Fali’s left and Sairaka on Fali’s right.

            “I’ve only been here for a day.  Can’t stay too long in this area…”  Tsako lifted up his drink, and took another big sip.

            “What’s wrong with this area?”

            “Too close to Tarum, and being a Marbler, that is not a town I want to be caught in.  They’d lock me up and throw away the key, like they do with everybody else.  That stupid King Koron…”  He took another sip, finishing the glass, and slamming it on the counter.

            “Well, Fali and I just came from there.”

            “Really?  And he didn’t lock you up?”

            “No.  Well, we explained to him…”

            “Will you two PLEASE stop talking behind me!  I feel like I’m in a sandwich!” Fali complained.  Sairaka went back to her sandwich while Fali finished up hers.

            “And anyways, if you can’t tell us more about you, then I don’t think you have any right  to know about why we didn’t get locked up in Tarum, or where we are going.”

            “Fair enough.”  This was not the answer Fali was expecting.  She wanted him to argue, so she could have more reasons to dislike him.  Because she got her way so simply, she turned her back to him, pouting.  “I’m assuming you two are heading to Silammer?”  Fali didn’t answer.

            “Actually, we were going to head back to Sirad.”

            “Sirad?  You guys are really going back there after what happened?”

            “We have no choice,” Fali grumbled.  “Silammer is a three day journey.  We need supplies before we head there.”

            “Well, I guess that makes sense.”  Fali stood up when she saw Sairaka had finished her sandwich.

            “Let’s go, Sairaka.  I want to get there while its still dark.  Then we can sneak in better.”  Tsako stood up.

            “Good idea.”

            “And who said you could come?”  Fali gazed at him with her fiery eyes

            “I believe Sairaka did.”  Fali turned viscously to Sairka.

            “Well???”  Sairaka nodded her head.

            “I really don’t see the problem.”

            “Excellent!  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.  I am very good with my marbles.”  Again, Fali mumbled something, but Sairaka could not understand what she had said.

            “Fine, but if you are going to come with us, there are a few rules.”

            “Rules?”

            “One!”  Fali held out her finger.  “You will listen to us.  And we except respect.”

            “I believe you’ve already broken that rule already,” Tsako honestly pointed out, but Fali ignored him.  “Two, no getting us into any more trouble.  If you got people hunting you down for something, whatever it is, we will leave without you.”

            “Come on, Fali.  That’s not right,” Sairaka protested.  But yet again, Fali ignored this.

            “Three, most important of all, and if you break this one, and I will kill you myself personally…you sleep in your own bed, and keep your hands to yourself!”  Sairaka stared at her and Tsako laughed.

            “Fine.  I’ll follow all three, but you must do so the same.”  Fali glared at him.  “If you make rules, but don’t want to follow them yourself, than that only means the rules you made were to hurt others, and they are unfair.”  Fali didn’t move for a second, but then gave in.

            “Ok, I’ll follow.  Let’s go already.”  She headed outside.

            “Hey!  You guys didn’t pay!”  Sairaka, who was completely broke, dashed out, pushing Tsako.  “Freeloaders!  Get back here!”  The three of them were running in the woods.

            “I should have paid,” Fali sighed.  “I would of, if that guy didn’t distract me.”

            “I have a name you know.  And you are breaking the first rule again.  Respect.”  Fali lost it.  Her leg swung out and she gave Tsako a kick, and because he was running and not expecting her to do this, he lost his balance and fell.  However, in the process of doing so, he managed to grab one of her legs, tripping her, too.  Sairaka was luck that she didn’t run into them and skidded to a stop across the dead leaves that covered the ground.  Tsako pushed himself back to his feet, quickly pulling his hood over his head.

            “I don’t know what your problem is.  I haven’t done anything to you.”

            “Are you all right?”

            “Yeah.  Takes a lot to really harm a Marbler.”  He leaned over Fali.  “I can help you back to your feet, but then I’d be breaking rule three.”

            “I can get up myself, and you broke it already anyways.”  Fali stood up, brushing herself off.  “We’re away from that bar…he won’t chase us this far.  Let’s keep going.”  Fali started walking, the other two closely behind.  Sairaka was a bit fearful of what was to come ahead.  It was one thing to have Mar and Crarm after them, another that it seemed as if Fali and Tsako would be at each others throats through the whole journey.


Chapter 5

Return to the City

 

            It was dusk by the time they reached Sirad.  The city was quiet as the people who worked at night were finishing up their shifts.  Sairaka somehow or another had forgotten of the lack of sleep they had gotten the last couple of days.  The last time she can remember really dozing off was in the bathroom of the Lodger’s cabin.  Fali looked exhausted, too.  Her eyes were saggy and she was leaning a bit.

            “I think…” she let out a large yawn “…we should stay at the inn, and by the time we get up, most of the people will be back home from work, so we shouldn’t encounter as many problems.”

            “Sounds good.”  It was Sairaka’s turn to let out a yawn.

            “Well if you ladies don’t mind, I’m going to see if there is some work for me to do.”  Tsako beamed.

            “How can you possibly work?  You haven’t slept either!”

            “I’m a Wanderer.  If I want money, I got to work.  Sleep comes later.  Well then, I guess I’ll catch up with you two when you wake up.  Later!”  Tsako gave a little wave with his back turned to them.  He walked off, turned down a bend, and disappeared.

            “What’s a Wanderer?”  Sairaka asked, sleepily.

            “I’ll explain later,” Fali looked like she wouldn’t mind at all sleeping on the dirt that very moment.  “Let’s go to the inn already.”

            Getting a room at the inn wasn’t as hard as Sairaka would have thought.  Fali promised they would do work later as payment.  They got a room with two beds, and both of them collapsed on them without a word.

 

            The sun was setting when Sairaka opened her eyes.  She had slept through the day.  Usually, she went to sleep an hour or two after the sunstar had set, before the second moon rose in the sky.  Then she would wake as the sunstar presented its first warm rays for the day, right before the second moon disappeared over the horizon.  Waking up now made Sairaka want to go back to sleep, but now she was well rested.  Fali, who had just woken, set up and stretched her arms.

            “Ah, that feels so much better!”  She seemed a lot more cheerful than she had during the night.  “We have to work for the inn a bit.  Cleaning rooms and stuff, no biggie.  And we can stay here for another day.”

            “Why are we staying for another day?  Aren’t people going to know we’re here?”

            “Well, first of all, we can’t keep traveling at night and sleeping during the day.  It really puts us to a disadvantage with Mar and Crarm.  Second, we need to eat some good food before we go, and make money, too, because it might be awhile before we stop at the next town. Third, I want to have at least one lesson with the master who teaches kia.  He’s suppose to be very good.”  And the true reason why Fali wanted to stay here was revealed.  “I would want to eat first, but the inn lady probably won’t let us go until we pay.”

            Fali and Sairaka went down the stairs to the main lobby to get their jobs from the inn lady.  Fali was right, it really wasn’t that bad.  They vacuumed rooms, cleaned sheets, and washed windows, and they were able to avoid any fights or being recognized.  By the time they had done enough where the inn lady let them go have something to eat, the two girls rushed to the closest place that served food.

            It was a diner similar, but not the same, as the one they ate at before.  The building was pretty empty except for a waitress, who seemed to dislike nightshifts and fussed around when giving them menus, the cooks and manager, of course, and a man who was having a drink at the bar in the smoking section.  The man turned around and gave a little wave.

            “Hey!”  Sairaka waved to Tsako back.

            “Hi, Tsako!”  Fali barely lifted up her hand.  Tsako got up and walked over to them.  Fali slouched in her seat and turned the other way.

            “Have a good sleep?”

            “Yes, thank you.  How was work?”

            “Busy, but I was able to afford a couple of drinks.”

            “Rule 4,”  Fali suddenly perked up.  “No more drinking.”

            “Now this time, I’m going to have to protest.  You can’t tell me whether I can drink or not.”

            “Yes, I can,”  Fali snapped.  “If you can’t stay sober, you are no help to us.”

            “A couple of drinks doesn’t make me drunk,” Tsako grumbled.  “Well, I’m going to get some sleep.  Good night, you two.”  He left.

            “The nerve of him!”  The waitress brought over their food, which looked sloppily made and she almost dropped them onto the table.  She grumped off.  “People who drink like that are usually trying to forget something,”  Fali continued.  “I just don’t trust him.”

            “He really doesn’t seem that bad to me.  You should give him so more faith.”

            “Faith?  Now don’t go talking about faith with me.  There is no faith.”  Fali stabbed a grape with her fork.  This last remark finally ticked Sairaka off.

            “What do you mean there is no faith?  Of course there’s faith!  Don’t you believe in God?”

            “God?  No, I don’t believe in God.  There is no God.  If there was, my parents would still be alive.  I wouldn’t have had to grow up on my own.  My life would have been easier.”  The grape she had been stabbing previously was now mashed to a pulp on her plate.

            “Just because your parents died doesn’t mean you can’t believe in God.”

            “Just lay of the religious stuff, will you?”  Fali played around with another grape with her fork.  Sairaka’s parents were both killed, but she knew it wasn’t God’s fault.  It was just part of His mysterious plan, difficult to understand, yes, but she had accepted it.  Neither of them talked for a long time.

            Fali finally spoke up, “I know you probably aren’t tired, but if we want to get back on track, we’d better go to bed now.”  They paid for their food and walked back to the inn.  A new inn lady was at the lobby desk.

            “You two clean?”

            “Tomorrow,” Fali said, as they walked upstairs.

 

            It was difficult to get any sleep.  Neither girls were tired.  But as the Sunstar started shining through the window, Fali leaped out of bed.

            “Let’s go!”  she said, excitedly.  “I want to get this over with so I can learn some kia!”  They spent the next couple of hours cleaning.  Tsako popped in at one point.

            “I’m going to be working at the new building their constructing,” he informed them.  “We should probably leave here by evening, if you don’t want to stir up any trouble.  Been hearing talk, and we probably shouldn’t stay here long.  Later!”

            As Tsako left, Sairaka heard Fali exclaim “And what did he mean by ‘we?’”

 

            By lunch time, their dept was paid, and for the first time, Sairaka a little money on her ID card.  Well, Emora Horse did anyways.  They had lunch at the same diner they went to last night, except this time, the atmosphere was much friendlier.  Fali asked directions to the kia training place, which she skipped off to, in one of the best of moods she had been since Tsako joined their group.  This left Sairaka alone.  She figured the nicest thing to do after the destruction she caused last time, was at least return the library book she had stolen.  However, she dropped this idea quickly, remembering that it was in front of the library where she had lost control of her marbles.  This was probably the last place she wanted to go to.

            Instead, she tucked the book in her bag and began walking down a sidewalk, when she saw a church, casually crammed between a couple of buildings.  Sairaka had always hoped to go to a church, since she never left her Uncle’s farm until now.  She stepped inside.  It was beautiful.  Stained glass images hung on the walls, though no light shined through since the walls occupants were other buildings.  Pews were lined up neatly on the left and right, leaving a wide isle between them that lead to the alter up front.  Above the alter hung a wooden cross.  Sairaka stepped up to the pew,  kneeled, and prayed.  She had prayed to God before, every night before she went to bed, like her Uncle had taught her, but it was nice to be praying to God in a real church.  As she left, a man, who was watching her, leaned up to her.

            “I know who you are young lady,” he whispered.  “I know you are the one that went mad a couple of days ago.  The one who claims to be Sairaka Tream.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little brown book.  “Here, take this.”  The man handed her the book.  “It’s the Quorack, the book of God’s words of wisdom.  Never thought I’d see someone like you here…”  The man smiled.

            “Thank you.”  Sairaka gave him a polite little bow and then left the church feeling a hundred times better than she did when she first entered.  Once she was outside, she placed her backpack down and put the book inside.  While doing so, she heard heavy footsteps heading her way.  She looked up to see Tiron marching towards her.  She grabbed her bag, swung it over her back, and started running down the street, without looking back.  Attacking would have been the simplest thing to do, but after what happened last time, she could not afford that.

            She had no idea where she was going and got lost in the city rather quickly.  She turned down one bend, then another.  To her surprise, Tiron was not attacking her, nor was he yelling or calling for reinforcements.  However, he was still on her tail.  Sairaka finally turned down a dead-end alley.  At first, she panicked, but then she saw a door that lead to the inside of one of the brick buildings.  She kicked through a door and ran inside a basement that looked like it use to be a chemical lab, but was long deserted.  Sairaka ducked under one of the tables and started crawling.  She was afraid that if she was running around in here, she would surely knock something over.  The room was pitch black, so it was quite difficult to move around and avoid Tiron at the same time.  She finally stopped crawling and stopped to catch her breath.  Was Tiron still after her?  Perhaps she had just let her imagination get to her.  Footsteps.  She held her breath.  No, it was not her imagination.  Someone was here, and it had to be Tiron.  Sairaka pushed herself away from the noise, since she had to rely on her other senses since she could not see at all.  Instead, she backed up into a pair of legs.  Turned out what she had heard was an echo of the footsteps, and they were actually right behind her.  A hand dragged her out from under the table and lifted her to her feet.  Sairaka could feel her heart pounding.

            “Tried to run, but weren’t successful, were you?”  Tiron was still holding her up by her shirt, making it difficult for her to get one of her marbles… “I won’t let you get away.  You have no idea how dangerous that marble is, and if you do, than you are not wise for carrying something around like that.  It’s previous owner went mad.  Now, if you promise to hand it to me, I’ll let you go.  And I assure you, it will be destroyed, so no one will ever find it again.  That is the main goal of Crarm.  You will be relieved and grateful, believe me…”

            “I don’t believe anyone who threatens me.”  She managed to give him a good enough kick where he was forced to loosen his grip.  He stumbled backward as Sairaka opened up her marble box.  She found the water marble, and without thinking or caring anymore, she held it in the palms of her hands.  A bright blue sphere lit up the room.

            “Water!”  The purpose of the attack was not to do as much harm as it was to give her some time to escape.  However, the attack knocked over some of the chemicals.  Fumes went into the air, a couple of the chemicals exploded in flames, and others began dripping down the tables.  She could here Tiron trying to scream at her, but at the same time, he had his hand over his mouth to prevent himself from breathing in any of the spilled chemicals.  Sairaka also cupped her mouth and started darting toward the door.  Since there was no light at all emerging from where she had entered, finding it was difficult.  Tiron was stumbling around, trying to escape as well.  The fires were beginning to spread as they hit and knocked down other chemicals.  Sairaka stood up, stumbling, and began moving against the wall in hopes of finding the door knob.  The conditions in the deserted lab was getting worse, and now she was fearing her life over whether Tiron stole her marble.

            At last, her hand hit something round and metal.  The door, she opened it up, and the light poured into the lab.

            “This way!”  She yelled to Tiron.  It was her fault for the fires and fumes, though why they were unattended like that, she did not know, and she could not leave Tiron there.  She kept shouting.  “Tiron!”  The marbles caused all of this trouble, and she was afraid using them would make the lab explode quicker.  But there was one marble that would be helpful.

            “Light!”  She wished she had thought about using it before, but in her hurry to get out of there, she totally forgot.  The room lit up, and she could see Tiron heading toward the opposite direction.  Seeing her light, he ran toward her.  Once they were both out, Sairaka closed the door tightly and the two ran.

            “Explosion!”  Tiron yelled.  “Everyone, out of the way!”  In seconds, the building exploded.  Chunks of brick and debris started pouring to the ground like rain.  The building started to collapse.  Sairaka could feel her heard drop even lower.  She managed to avoid being hurt by the falling building, though she did have some scratches from the falling debris.  But what about the other people?  She kept running, turning behind her to see the damage.

 

            “You’re really lucky,” Fali mumbled to her, a couple of hours later.  She had to leave her kia training early.  They had decided it was best to leave the city before any more destructions…that and the fact that Sairaka was banned from ever entering Sirad again.  Tsako was following close behind them and Sairaka had not seen Tiron since the building collapsed.

            “The area was abandoned for years, so no one was over there.  Which means, no one got hurt…this time.”  Sairaka sighed.

            “It was not like I was planning to blow up the building!”

            “Yes, I know.  But Sirad won’t let us show our faces ever there again.  We already have two strikes against us…well, more so you than me.”

            “I know, I know.”  Sairaka sighed.

            “I can help train you,” Tsako suggested as Fali fussed.

            “I’d probably do a better job at training her than you could,” Fali mumbled under her breath.

            “I don’t have a lot of marbles…I have fire and water of course.  Light, Water, Fire, Ice, Invisible, and Sleep.  Sleep is nice when I have so much on my mind…knocks me right out.”

            “Well, good for you!”  Fali’s temper was once again at a rise.  It was becoming rather annoying.

            “Lay off, Fali.”  Fali turned to Sairaka, looking quite hurt.

            “Lay off?  After all I’ve done for you, you’re going to shove me aside because of this new guy?  This guy, who is wearing a cloak and claims that he has marbles that neither of us has seen?”

            “If you want me to show you, than I most certainly will.”  And with that, his hand reached into his pockets, and like lightening, he swung out a marble attack, a combination in fact.

            “Steam!”  It was a mixture of the fire and water marbles.  It hit Fali in the face as she tried blocking the attack with her hands.  Tsako slipped the marbles back in his pockets as Sairaka ran over to her.

            “Are you ok?”  Fali seemed quite stunned, but was able to nod her head.  “You know, Fali, I just met you a couple of days ago.  I trusted you without knowing you that long.  We need to give Tsako a chance.  Besides wearing a cloak, he really has presented no danger to any of us.”

            “He just attacked me!”

            “I did to help you settle down…”

            “Marble attacks aren’t suppose to help people settle down!”  Fali roared.

            “That, in fact, is where you are wrong.”  Tsako shook his head.  “The whole purpose of marbles was to be used to help people.  Farmers who were Marblers could use the water marble to water their crops during dry seasons.  Travelers used the Fire marble to make little camp fires for themselves at night.  The whole purpose of them was to help people.  Then, somewhere along the lines, they were used for attacks.  Combinations of different marbles was just a fluke someone discovered.  There really isn’t any purpose of them except for attacks.  So I’ll admit, I should not have done steam, and I apologize.”  He held out his hand to Fali, who, though not wanting to at all, shook it.

            “Fine, fine.  You know a lot about the marbles.”

            “So, do you trust me then?”

            “Not quite yet!”

            “We’d better start heading to the next town.  It’s already dark,” Sairaka pointed out.  Fali shook her head.  They had walked quite a ways from Sirad and were heading towards another woods.

            “We’re going back.”

            “What???  Are you crazy?  We can’t possibly go back!”  Sairaka was hoping she had not heard Fali correctly.  How in the world could they possibly go back?

            “You said you have the invisible marble, didn’t you?”  Fali turned toward Tsako.  It was the first time she had spoken to him without having to raise her voice.

            “Yes…I do…”

            “Sairaka, check your Marble Box.  In all probabilities, you have one, too.  It would be clear, since it is invisible.”  Sairaka opened the box and with some difficulties, found the marble.

            “Yes, I have it, but you are not actually thinking about sneaking into the town invisible, are you?  How are we going to get in without causing too much commotion?  How are we going to get back out?  And what about you, how are you going to make yourself invisible?”

            “And why are we doing this to begin with?  We could just sleep in the woods you know,”  Tsako chimed in.

            “Yeah, and get caught by Tiron and the Crarm.  Sure…”  She rolled her eyes.  If I hold onto you while you are using your invisible marble, I’ll become invisible myself, though we’d have to move quickly because it wouldn’t last as long.  Also, if we’re quick about it…”  Fali never had a chance to finish.  Tsako banged her on the head and she fell down.

            “What did you go do that for!”  Sairaka shrieked as she ran to Fali.

            “Her plan is stupid.  We’d be safer camping out in the trees than we would be going back there.”  He scooped up Fail, holding her in his arms.  “Feisty one, isn’t she?”  Sairaka stared at him blankly.  Perhaps Fali was right about him…

            “Well, we’d better get going.  Standing around here won’t help us.”

            They reached the woods several minutes later.  Neither had spoken to each other as they walked, and Fali remained silent.  When they reached a couple of thick trees, similar to the one Sairaka had slept on the first night she arrived at this planet, Tsako stopped.

            “I hope you have the fly marble.  If you don’t, that’s ok, but we’d be safer sleeping up in the trees, even though it is less comfortable.”

            “I do.”  Sairaka reached into her Marble Box, and pulled out the Fly Marble.  She used it, feeling herself become weightless, and held out for Tsako’s hand.  He reached out as far as he could without dropping Fali.  They flew up to a tree branch, several feet above the ground, and Sairaka put Tsako easily down on the branch.  He swung his legs over; Fali’s head was up against his chest, his arms were around her to prevent her from falling.  Sairaka landed on a nearby branch.  She put the marble back in her Marble Box.

            “Is Fali going to be all right?”  Sairaka asked, worriedly.

            “Yeah, she’ll be fine.  Just needs some water.”  He carefully took out the water marble from one of his pockets and let a small among of energy out to hit Fali in the face.  Her eyes opened wide, her pigtails sopping on her sides.  She looked up to meet Tsako’s eyes and nearly fell off the tree.

            “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”  she shrieked.

            “You’re up in a tree!  Don’t do that!”  Tsako tried controlling the hyper Fali, though it only took a minute when she suddenly realized how high up they were.  She grabbed onto him, terrified, but she quickly came to her senses and pushed him away, crawling as far away from him as possible without falling off the branch.

            “Sairaka!  What did you do to Sairaka!”

            “I’m over here, Fali.”  Fali looked up at Sairaka, who was sitting on a branch, only about a foot higher than the one she was on.  Fali struggled to get herself up to join Sairaka’s branch.  Tsako let out a sigh, and gave her a boost.

            “That jerk.”  Fali grumbled.

            “He was trying to make sure you didn’t fall off from the tree…”

            “So?  He’s the reason I was knocked out to begin with…YES, I DO REMEMBER THAT!”

            “You’d better keep it down, if you don’t want that guy to find us here.”  Tsako spoke calmly, as if Fali had not offended him whatsoever.  After a little more bickering, Fali had curled herself up and fallen asleep on Sairaka’s chest, and the other two let their minds go unconscious as well. 

 

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