The door clanked unlocked and then swung open. This time when the large bald man stepped inside, he paused, did a double take of the room and dropped the large paper bags at his feet. His face went sallow and he looked clearly distraught.
“Shit,” he muttered. Then he approached the cell to take a closer look and assess his next move.
As soon as he came close enough, Phoenyx grabbed his arm. He jumped in shock and confusion, but then quickly relaxed, soothed by her touch.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said in a sultry voice. “You want to help us. All you have to do is unlock these cells and let us out.”
“I would but I don’t have the key,” he said, his eyes locked on hers, looking like a love-sick puppy.
There was a collective sigh of disappointment behind her.
“Who does?” she asked.
“Dexter has it,” he confessed eagerly.
“Is there any way that you can get the key for us?”
“Uhhh, I don’t know,” he said. “He keeps it hidden in his office and no one is allowed in there. I will gladly try.”
She frowned. Why did we just assume this automaton would have the key? This really put a damper on their plans.
“Ask him what we’re doing in here,” Sebastian whispered.
“Right, why are we locked up in here?” she asked the oaf.
“Because, you four are the Bound Ones, from the legend,” he said as if it was simple and obvious.
“The Bound Ones?” she asked, feeling like she just stepped into The Twilight Zone. “What legend?”
“Yes, the legend we learn when we join the brotherhood. The legend of the Bound Ones says that, thousands of years ago, man was a slave to the elements. Man could not master crops because Earth was fickle. Volcanic eruptions would swallow whole villages and earthquakes would topple any and all of man’s accomplishments. Man could not master the sea because Water was too proud to be tamed. Air constantly tore apart cities with tornados and hurricanes, and Fire ravaged everything in its path. So our forefathers, the wisest of the Celtic sorcerers, forged a powerful spell binding each of the four elements to a volunteer from the rite, so that man would have control over the elements, rather than be controlled by them.”
“So…you’re saying that the four of us each have one of the four elements inside of us?” she asked, unable to keep the tone of doubt from spewing out.
“Yes, you are Earth, Air, Fire, and Water in bound human form,” he said, as if none of this sounded ridiculous.
Phoenyx turned around and looked at the others. Their faces were a mixture of skepticism and pensiveness.
“If this is true, what makes you think we are these Bound Ones? Wouldn’t they be long dead seeing as this legend happened so long ago?” Skylar asked.
“According to the legend,” the bald man began, “the spell was made to keep the elements bound in human form through reincarnation. The elements are eternal and cannot be destroyed, so if the bound human died, the element would once again be free. The spell was made to assure that once the human died, the element would be immediately reborn into another human vessel. Unfortunately for our forefathers, they didn’t take into account how that would make it impossible to keep track of them. After the first volunteers died, we lost hold of them permanently.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you think these Bound Ones are us particular four people,” Skylar argued.
“There was another partition in the spell,” the man continued. “When one of the Bound Ones dies, all die, and when one is born, all are born.”
That struck a chord in all of them.
“That’s why we all have the same birthday,” Lily said.
“That’s why they want to keep us alive,” Sebastian said. “They think if one of us dies, we’ll all die.”
“Yes,” the man said.
“That doesn’t prove anything,” Sebastian said. “So we were all born on the same day. Big deal. There must be thousands of other people all over the world born that same day.”
“You were all born, not just on the same day, but at the exact same time,” the man said. “Your births coincided with the deaths of four people who showed signs of being the previous Bound Ones.”
“We were all born at the same time?” Lily thought out loud. “That would definitely bring the odds down quite a bit. Approximately two-hundred and fifty people are born every minute—at least, that’s what I remember from my nursery rotation.”
This was ridiculous. It had to be. These people clearly had some screws loose…then again, the four of them did have powers. That couldn’t just be coincidence. That same nagging, writhing feeling reared its ugly head once more. She ignored it and went on with the interrogation.
“Okay, so let’s say we are the ‘Bound Ones’,” Phoenyx said, air-quoting with her free hand. “What do you want with us?”
“The Celtic sorcerers who bound the original humans founded a brotherhood to keep an eye on the elements, to keep everything in balance, and called it the Four Corners.” He moved the fingers of his free hand over the pin on his shirt. “Dexter Mauldive, our Grand Master, convinced the High Council that it was time to put the elements back under our control, and that it would be best to put all four elements into only one vessel, making it easier to relocate them after each rebirth. He has volunteered to be the first.”
“Just how do you plan to do this?” Skylar asked.
“We have realized that we can’t just kill you, because then the elements would immediately be reborn somewhere else and we would lose them once more. Our best researchers have said that the elements must be in a sort of limbo state in order to be manipulated and placed inside a new host.”
Phoenyx swallowed hard. “Limbo state? How will you accomplish that?”
“There is currently a massive solar storm happening. In three days a very rare, very large solar flare is forecasted to explode. Our researchers say the radiation and electro-magnetism this will release will both heighten the powers of all four elements and weaken their hold to your bodies. On that day, the four of you will undergo a series of electrocution which will further weaken that hold enough for the spell to work. In order to break down your bodies even more in preparation for the ritual, we were going to starve you. This is the last time you will be fed.”
Phoenyx’s heart pounded wildly and the hand she grasped him with was trembling and dripping cold sweat. Holy shit, this was so much worse than anything she could have imagined in her head. The prospect of being killed was already bad enough but to find out that they were going to be starved an electrocuted? This was a goddamn nightmare!
She sensed Lily was crying. Like hell she was going to let this happen to them!
“What’s your name?” she asked, her steady voice disguising the panic and anger she felt.
“Lucas,” he answered. She noted to herself how creepy it was that, even as he told them about all the horrible things that his cult planned for them, he still gawked at her like a horny gorilla.
“Lucas, you have to bring us that key and get us out of here,” she commanded, pushing her will into him with everything she had. “At all costs but be discreet about it. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” he said, almost like a moan of pleasure.
She released his arm. “Now go, and hurry!”
He nodded eagerly, moved the last brown paper bags closer to the cells, and left the room.
Now that he was gone, the room was dead silent, except for the loud banging of Phoenyx’s heart. No one spoke for a very long moment. Finally a sniffle escaped from Lily. Phoenyx instinctively turned and put her arms around Lily, inviting Lily to stop holding it in and her tears soaked into Phoenyx’s already quite dirty shirt. Phoenyx had no words to comfort her with this time. If Lucas didn’t come back to free them, they would die.