Staring down at the village below
her, Diana could hardly believe her eyes. Things had certainly changed in ways
none of the nine had ever intended on. She could still clearly remember the day
all of their troubles had started.
2 Years Previous
“Ah Diana, so pleased you could be here.” Natalia greeted, her long dark hair swung freely over her shoulder. Diana bowed in respect to her fellow city leader, a member of the nine.
“Kind of you to greet me in my mother tongue,” Diana gave the woman a warm smile, the angle her eyes always unnerved Diana who strove for chiseled perfection. Though, all the leaders looked different in some way based on what city they had chosen to found. As such, Diana had named her city Moscow and moved to the harsh winter environment, but loved the raw feeling of power the city gave her and not just in terms of leading the people who had settled there with her.
“We here in Hong Kong will always respect our guests first,” Natalia turned her head away, but left her body engaged with the conversation, knowing she had done something wrong, Diana was quick to apologize and speak in Cantonese for her fellow to understand her better than the thick Russian. “I suppose you came here with a purpose in mind?”
“I did, dear Natalia. Please understand, the cities at this time need to be united as much as they can.”
“Uniting our cities when we live so far from one another?” Natalia scoffed, her brown eyes glittering in mirth. “I can hardly think someone like you would ever come to make this request, yet here you are begging on your knees for me to become a part of your silly idea of a Soviet.”
Diana knew she had used the term on purpose, it was not Cantonese but Russian in nature, the word she had kept so close to her heart but under firm lock and key. Diana knew they might not take kindly to her gesture of bringing them all together in a common cause, but as leaders they would surely be willing to make the correct decision as the world started to turn in turmoil.
“You know Diana, I have seen a glimpse of the future you speak of and it concerns your flawed ideas of forming a union between all the nine cities.” Diana’s eyes widened in surprise and her fists clenched in her dress, crinkling the much to warm fabric. “It brings people like us to a confined space between Matthew and James, the two I cannot stand the most. Our silly cities become swallowed up in a country as a whole and the world ends up fearing us the most, not only because of our size, but because of our common union. It displeases me to see something like this, where our children will come to a better agreement than we.”
“That would be very upsetting,” Diana agreed, she wanted to know where Natalia was going with her ramblings. She did not care what the future made, just as long as she could get the union now and have the nine cities work together to calm the world and show them who will be there to help them in all times of trial.
“So, I will make this union with you now in hopes of influencing the future to make a different decision when a critical time comes, I cannot find much optimism in this decision, but I will let you soak in power for a while longer as I’m sure greed will consume and destroy you.” Diana said nothing in response, she was seething with anger but would not act on it, scared it might ruin the acceptance and small union she had barely managed to form. “You may go now and hopefully we will not see each other again for a while, your aura brings out the worst in me.”
Diana nodded and stood, she turned quickly towards the door, she lifted a hand pulling a large portion of her brunette hair over her shoulder to fiddle with in agitation. She would have to store her anger somewhere and it could not be in another person.
“Oh and one last thing,” Diana froze with her hand on the handle of the door. She could here Natalia’s clothes rustling as she stood. “My dear Diana, I wish you all the luck in the world.”
Diana threw the door open and ran, not caring what it looked like now. It felt like a curse had been placed on her shoulders and she knew it was from her visit with Natalia. Perhaps she should not have gone to Hong Kong first, but she was sure the Fortune woman would be the easiest to convince of their needs at this time. Shivering, she didn’t look back as she raced down the steps and out into the cool night. Lanterns lit up the street and children raced around the stands buying food and goods, laughing as their parents had to stop them from spending too much of the trading coin. Diana smiled, she missed her city, but she had seven more to visit. Diana wrapped her northern coat tighter around her and disappeared into the stars.
“Niragawa, my dear friend, how are you?” Niragawa turned, recognizing the deep voice of John, leader of Pompeii. John had his hair trimmed short, which surprised Niragawa, it had to be a recent development based on changing ideals. He wanted to criticize his friend’s hair, or ask him about the change, but in an open situation like this it was not proper.
“I am good, it is nice to be in the city of fire once more.”
“Oh, ho, ho. Generous with your words as always, come, come—you must meet my wife, she is a true gem Niragawa.”
“You have been married?” He was in shock, none of the leaders were known to have married within the last five years, it was almost like a forbidden role for them to take.
“Only as custom in my city demanded, the people ruled it themselves you know. A leader cannot be without a wife, so I had to marry.”
“Does your wife speak the Aramaic tongue, most people here have been so very generous and well versed in all the languages close to them.”
“Ah, dear Philipia is not as well versed as my staff, I have been working with her but she shows an aptitude for not learning any other languages but the Italian language she loves so much.”
“I see, then I must use my Italian knowledge to make her feel at ease,”
“Only if you desire. She is just a woman, while there are woman leaders of the nine, none of them in my eyes could truly hope to lead like a man.”
“They would take much offense at your words there, my friend.”
“As would my wife, so please don’t mention this to her.” Niragawa chuckled at this and John seemed eased by it.
“I see she had already taken run of the household, I wouldn’t want her taking control of the city as well.” There was a pause as they walked further down the hall, they were almost to the main room where Philipia was waiting for them in a very quiet manner. “Is she of our nature or is she a forbidden fruit?”
“I’m afraid to say, I do not want to be shunned from the nine you see. My city chose the match for me and saw no problem with putting me with a human, while humans are nice, they lead to rogues and Uns. I would hate to have child with such a person and we have only done the necessary consummation of the marriage as I avoid the idea of children completely. I’m sure Philipia has not taken kindly to this as she has treated me rather coldly as of late.”
“No woman in her right mind would turn down the idea of children, but I can see and understand your hesitation. You are in the right to do this John, but perhaps you should explain to your wife?”
“This would only make matters worse. I would rather her think that I’m not truly attracted to her than tell her I won’t let her have my children because she is human.” Niragawa hummed in response and in the next couple of steps they had entered the open room, light filtered through the open ceiling and Philipia, a true beauty, was lounging across blankets and pillows, a bowl of grapes at her side.
“Ah Mistress of the Pompeii household, what a pleasure it is to meet you. Your beauty is exquisite,” Niragawa bent down and took hold of Philipia’s hand, pressing a warm kiss to it. She was looking at him in surprise for his knowledge of the Italian Language.
“Trying to steal away my wife now are we?” John joked lightly as he gave the woman a warm smile. She simply stared at him, giving no expression back, both men felt extremely uncomfortable, so they took their own seats.
“Now tell me why you’ve come to visit at such an odd time? Surely it was not because you missed me?”
“I’m afraid I cannot say it is that I missed you John, I have received word that Diana is coming to make a request. She has already made this request with Natalia and she informed me of it. I find it prudent we make a decision before she arrives on our doors and has us make the decision each as a separate unit.”
“What is the matter concerning?” John sat up, propping himself against one of the pillars, a small gazebo stone top rested on the five main pillars, which allowed minimal shade from the warm sun.
“Diana has sensed the increasing unrest, not only among our cities, but the others around this continent. Pangea may not last much longer if things are not cared for properly. Diana is searching for a way to bring the nine together, she calls it the Union. In her letter to me, Natalia used the word Soviet out of disgust. It seems she does not want to work with us or any of the other nine for that matter, but her attitude leaves her with the distinct problem of settling the unrest herself. She finds it necessary and unnecessary all at once, which leaves a lot of unrest in my heart as well.” Niragawa paused. “I cannot condone such a union as the likes have never been seen, but at the same time, it would be a horror to let the world fail so early because we decided to avoid the situation.”
“I can feel your distress, this problem is increasingly worrying, not only for you, but me as well. I’m sure the other members of the nine feel the same way and I know Diana would not take such an extremist course of action if she did not feel this was the only way to control the riots. It is horrifying to think, however, that anyone would put us out of disposition or that we might have to mutilate our own names for the cause of saving a few hundred thousand.” John placed a hand on his chin, thinking critically. Niragawa waited a few moments before voicing his opinion on John’s thoughts.
“The world is not yet populace, a few hundred thousand would considerably weaken the continent. Whether it be a few hundred thousand of either side or half and half, one would come out victor and fear would strike each down. Perhaps what we need is not only a union with the nine, but a union with the ten who lead the human cities as of this moment.”
“It would be near impossible to get the ten to fall in line and support this, let alone even agree with each other. The ten will be of no use to us and if we do create a union of the nine, we may just be spelling our own destruction.” John argued, he let out a small sigh to release his pent up aggression. The world was falling fast and there wasn’t a lot anyone could do to stop it, that was how it seemed.
“Perhaps it would be wise to separate from the humans’ altogether?” Niragawa suggested, there was a small distressed noise for Philipia who was watching them intently.
“No, that would never work. A good portion of our people come from the humans and separating would only lead to havoc, retribution, fear, and more confusion as to what’s going on. We would have to leave on good terms and by the sound of it, none of the terms which we are considering are good nor will they help us with such extenuating circumstances.” John held up a hand, silencing his wife who seemed to be at ease with his words. “I can see no end to this which will leave our people, who can control the elements, in a positive light. If we band together we may create a force which strikes fear in the hearts and we become the rulers, separating ourselves from the human and striving to protect our race. If we do not form the union Diana is striving for then we quickly become the enemy because we did not lift a finger to help leaving us stranded and abandoned, struggling to keep our people together. What we have here is such a unique problem I’m not sure if anyone could truly prescribe the perfect answer.”
“What speaks to me here is not what we have been discussing, it is what Natalia wrote to me.” Niragawa commented. “We have known Natalia for many years and she is not easy to convince of joining together with others. She is a sole leader who strives to have exactness and proper protocol with every movement. I have not known her to work beside another, she is a head strong woman worthy of founding the city of Hong Kong, but they may not remember her in the future because women are easily forgotten throughout history. The birth of their race was an accident and Natalia has not forgotten this, she regards us as the best of the best because we can withstand more than the average human.
“What I see here, is a woman so desperate to cling to the life she knows, to keep her power instated and protect her people she is willing to go to any lengths. The nine cannot sit idly by when Natalia has already announced her decision, which I’m sure was well thought out. Her glimpses of future events is strange, but can lead to her knowing small snippets of information which will either impede or help our efforts. If the world is falling then let us catch it, we have the power needed when the nine of us come together.” Niragawa paused, unsure of how to approach the last part of his findings.
“You are saying that Natalia has given the matter much thought and believes this to be the best course of action, it is true that with Natalia on our side we will have a better chance of completing the goal of forming a Union which lifts the world. So,” John took a deep breath, “my friend, if you see fit to trust Natalia judgment then I will agree with your decision and follow you to whatever end we meet.”
“Then we will join this Union, but perhaps we can barter on a better leader. I do not find Diana suited to the position as she is head strong and changes her mind often, it is not good for a leader to be so like water.” Niragawa smiled and reached up to release his hair from the bun he’d placed it in. The dark hair shimmered as it fell around his dark skinned face.
“Then we will have the rock as our foundation, let us visit Ashlyn, her city is nearby.” John smiled and stood, offering his hand to Niragawa who took it, the Union was forming on two sides of the coin and they would have to flip it to see which Union won.
“Thank you for inviting me into your home on such short notice Elven,” Diana said taking off her warm coat and setting it next to her at the small table he had seated them at.
“Not at all, it is always good to have a visitor, especially so far from the North and one of the nine.” Elven smiled, his black skin shone with sweat.
Diana had found him outside upon her arrival working in his garden next to the neighbor boys who had offered their help after finishing their work with their own family. It was a close community and Diana had a feeling it would one day be a large city very popular in the south part of Pangea.
“I’d like to apologize for not formally knowing more Russian,” Elven continued.
“I feel as vough I must apologize for knowing very little Zulu as well, hopefully we can get by in English words.”
“I’m sure we will manage.” Elven gave her a warm smile, then he pulled a letter out of the band of his pants and pushed it across the table to her. It was made of heavy paper and surprisingly cool despite being pressed against his body for so long. “Open it and then we can start our discussion.”
Diana followed his command and stared down at the letter, it was written to Chinese characters and she almost couldn’t make out portions of it, but she understood the meaning and the name at the end.
“So she has contacted the rest of ve nine with my plans then,” it wasn’t a question and Elven knew it. He nodded in agreement. “Vell, I’m glad I came to Ekurhuleni first then, I believe I will have ve hardest time convincing you of my motives for creating a Union.”
“I would agree with you on this point, you are the Earth, leader of Moscow and I am the Death, leader of Ekurhuleni. We are two people on opposite sides of Pangea, we have no quarrel with one another, but you must not have understood my means for creating Ekurhuleni.” His words were warm, but Diana could sense a coldness behind them and didn’t dare reach her hand forward for she was scared of the frost they carried. “We are the city of Peace for a reason, I would not desire to go to war no matter how much the world is falling. If I can keep my city intact then I will have had victory and shown my people true Utopia.”
“But even vough I know your beliefs and your values, I cannot see why you would refuse dis. You may ask me why, but let me tell you, if your city does not get involved with the Union or the world which is falling, eventually even your city will fall too. I fear, zey with be coming for us—which means vey will not spare you or your city because you decided not to fight. They will destroy what we know and take away your hopes of Utopia for the city of Peace. Even Peace must sometimes fight for its rights.” There was silence as elven seemed to mull this over, Diana put her hands together as though she were praying and put them up to her lips for a moment. Then she spoke, slowly lowering them: “Let me tell you zis, my people in Moscow, zey have found inner peace with one another. We still disagree and often find our own ways of life, but when I see their smiles I know we are people who will do anything to protect what we love and to save our peace. So please, Elven, vink this over carefully. I will leave you for now, I will be north of here talking with the three who live closest to each other. All I ask for now is your thoughts, not your decision. I will try return, but if you find you need me before I come back, then come and join me.”
“I will consider your offer as you have been so polite to at least acquiesce my hopes and feelings.” Elven put out his hand and Diana took it with a firm shake.
“So you got the letter too then,” Ashlyn stated not even turning around. Upon their arrival in Venice they had been led straight to Ashlyn’s bedroom where she hadn’t turned from the vanity once. They had sat in silence on the floor while she did various things to her appearance in the mirror.
“We did, though mine came considerably later than Niragawa’s here.” John tried to joke, but it was obvious that Ashlyn was having none of it as she huffed and tossed chunks of blonde hair out of her face. She made a small humming sound.
“It’s curious to me, that both of you came to see me before anyone else. Surely if you had made your decision then you would have rushed to Diana side.” Ashlyn was surprisingly speaking Aramaic quite comfortably which shocked Niragawa considering she had mindlessly hated his city, Jerusalem, for quite the number of years since its founding. They watched as Ashlyn dipped a finger into a small jar on the table before prodding at her lower lip.
“We made our decision, but it may very well go against what Diana wants.” John said carefully, Ashlyn spun around and stared at them, half her lower lip and the tip of her finger stained red. With a tinkling laugh she leaned forward excitedly.
“Oh this is going to be interesting.” She said.
“We have a request to make of you Ashlyn,” Niragawa said carefully.
“Oh?” Ashlyn smiled and started to dab at her lip with her finger, no longer looking in the mirror.
“We have decided that we like Diana’s idea of the Union, but we don’t think she is the most suited of the nine to lead it.” John was choosing his words very carefully as he spoke.
“I see, and I’m sure you’re here to convince me to join you and help you choose a suitable leader?”
“No,” John stated. “We’ve already decided we need the rock of the nine to lead as she will give a good foundation. You are that rock Ashlyn, we don’t need the liquid Diana who changes her mind every few minutes.”
Ashlyn was laughing again, the tinkling sound bouncing around the room like they were trapped inside a waterfall. “So you ask the person who can control water.”
They stayed silent while Ashlyn continued to laugh. It was interesting to them to see her laughing so much, sure she can control water but her personality was more firm like the Earth than that of Diana who could control the Earth.
“Well, I will agree with you that Diana is much more like the magma of a volcano when it comes to her personality.” Ashlyn bit her lower lip which she had just finished staining and looked both of them in the eyes. “But, if you are certain with your actions and decision then I suppose I will say yes. You are aware that we are on a tight time schedule to win people over to me leading the nine over Diana. It’s no doubt they already know she is coming to them. Natalia sent out those bothersome letters after all.”
Ashlyn went quiet, turning back to the mirror for a while longer. John and Niragawa exchanged looks with one another, but neither knew what to say concerning the matter.
“It’s like we’re building the same coin and the side to have more weight will be the side that wins. If we expect to beat Diana at her own game then we must either convince Natalia to join our side of the Union agreement or get to the rest of the nine before Diana. I trust she is in Ekurhuleni attempting to convince Elven. He’s not easily swayed and a second visit from us would not be appreciated. If Diana finds us here together then we will have to hash out the leadership argument much too early.” Ashlyn seemed to be thinking out loud. “If she doesn’t find us here, however, there’s no telling what may happen. I quite like the sound of not being here when she comes to call, so let’s play a little game of ‘catch me if you can.’ We’re going to see Matthew, founder of San Francisco.”
“What about Derek in London?” John suggested as Ashlyn stood.
“Much too close to us, we have to hit those farthest away first and that’s Matthew. Then we will go to Chicago and find James, where I’m sure we’ll meet Diana for the final round.” Ashlyn chuckled then swooped out of the room, blonde curls bouncing after her.
“So the three left together then?” Diana asked sitting at the table in Ashlyn’s home, the maid smiled a little sadly.
“I’m sorry miss, it was only a couple minutes ago. They said they were going to visit a friend and wouldn’t be back for a while.”
“That’s alright, I’ll just have to come back later.” Diana stood and shook her choppy brunette hair out of her face. She gave the maid a soft smile, “thank you for your time.”
Slightly bothered by their abrupt departure Diana strode outside to look for the nearest fault line, after walking for a few moments she had located the one which ran the closest to her destination in the city of London where Derek resided over the storms. She let herself become one with the fault, jumping between cracks and occasionally walking to the next fault line travel spot. She paused just before the final jump. She lifted her hands and ran her fingers through her hair. She was exhausted from travelling such long distances, but the nine were in a dire situation. With a sigh she slid into the last piece and let her thoughts take her at an even pace.
When she arrived in London, it was raining, which surprised her. Derek had to be upset about something and as soon as she emerged onto his street, it was obvious he was upset with her. He had been standing on his porch and as soon as he saw her she was nearly struck with a lightning bolt from his storm. He glowered at her and the boom of thunder was enough to nearly knock her over. She had willingly placed herself in his domain and at his mercy.
“Hi,” Diana greeted, Derek didn’t reply. “Was Natalia’s letter truly vis upsetting?”
“I’m more upset that you didn’t come to consult me on any of this first.” Derek told her. She took a few careful steps forward until she was sure he would let her walk. They were silent during the entire process, one staring at the other. She stopped once she was in front of him on the porch and they could see almost eye to eye.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come you first,” Diana told him with as much sincerity as she could muster. The rain was making her cold, but she didn’t want to show it. “I just felt like Natalia would be the easiest to discuss it with, I didn’t expect her sending out letters to ze nine and tell zem I was coming.”
“You can never expect anything with Natalia,” Derek whispered staring down into her blue eyes. She licked her lips in the cool atmosphere as she took in his appearance. It hadn’t changed much, he still had his long red hair pulled back into a pony tail, and his blue eyes were just as cold as the rain.
“I missed you ze most,” she whispered. He was silent for a moment, but in the next second Derek was kissing her and Diana felt as though she were flying. The warmth building in the bottom of her stomach was enough to warm her from the chill rain.
“What’s your plan for the Union?” Derek asked her as the rain stopped and Diana smiled.
Just as Ashlyn predicted it had come to this, Diana and Derek were standing at the opposite end of the street where James resided in his city of Chicago. Ashlyn smirked down at Diana who had a look of confusion as to what was going on.
“Is this all your Union saw fit to send you with?” Ashlyn called.
“My union? Vis was all simply an idea, I never told anyone I was ve leader. It may have been assumed but I planned on having the first matter of business being choosing a leader. I want ze nine to form a council, united in one purpose where we all can speak freely and follow the word of ve ninth who leads the eight.” Diana shook her hair out of her face, staring at the blond.
“Natalia was under the impression in her letter that you would lead us.” Ashlyn told her in impeccable English.
“Then I must have confused Natalia,” Diana conceded. “Please, if you would like to be leader of the nine then I will follow you to the end of the Earth.”
“Will the Earth change her mind?” Ashlyn teased walking forward with John, Niragawa, and Matthew flanking her back. Diana shook her head vigorously, staring at her fellow member of the nine with a sad expression.
“Then I will lead,” Ashlyn laughed her laugh and it seemed to wrap around the entire street.
“I will follow you as well,” the group turned in surprise to see Elven staring at them. He bent down on one knee and gave Ashlyn a bow. “Hail the Soviet Nine Council leader, Ashlyn.”
“Hail!” The other five echoed, then a later voice chimed in and they knew it was Natalia. All of them were bowing to the leader, ready for a command when James opened the front door of his house.
“It is good to see such cooperation between the nine, the leaders of our people.” He smiled warmly before dropping into his own bow and repeating the gesture. Ashlyn could feel the warmth of their devotion touching her darkening heart. She bowed her head and they stood, with a deep breath she met their eyes.
“Let’s settle this world.”
Nine victors from each main land stepped forward, however, they were determined to put an end to the suffering of their people.
The humans feared this rallying point and their attacks become less coordinated and weaker as they feared the justice of the nine. The humans’ stern hearts began to fail them and they ran screaming for cover. Those who had once reveled in battle-been raised by their peers above the others-died. Luck was no longer with the humans as the nine led every march into battle with a carefully laid plan. Among the nine, there were few who could not be touched by human blade. Volcanoes erupted in distant lands, wiping out entire colonies of people. Tsunamis, earth quakes, tornadoes, famine, and hurricanes raged around the world.
It was in this moment the nine victors seized their chance to escape with their people from the human world once and for all. The nine victors rose above all other elementalists and soon both races came to fear them. The leader of the nine tore a part of the earth from itself, rising it high into the air, a safe haven for all people who could control the elements. This was not the end of their struggles, however, for one of them sought after revenge and power.
Diana stared down in dismay at Moscow, the city she had once had such hopes for. The buildings were in ruins and fires raged all across the wide expanse despite the heavy snow which was falling and mixing with the ash. Everything was unrecognizable, it wasn’t what she had wanted. While the nine had risen as victors to their people, they had a hard time controlling their emotions. Elements ran rampant and it left many dying or dead in the trodden streets. Diana took a step down from the house she had stayed in, it was at the highest point but she no longer needed it. The people of the elements were leaving and building a new home where the nine could cooperate and build upon one another. Tears started to spill down Diana’s cheeks and she covered her mouth with her hand to muffle the noises of her messy crying. With a quick turn, her hair swinging around to rest by her face, she walked away never to see Moscow again.
“And what exactly are we to call this new world in the clouds?” Diana asked as she stood at the base of earth which had just been raised miles above their heads. A great mountain removed within moments was a beautiful sight to behold for this small group of nine who would grow to be hundreds more.
“I do not know, but what I do know is what our people shall be called. No longer shall we live in fear or pain because we can do things others can’t. We will live in harmony, one with another with few ruling over to keep peace between us and those who have come to fear us.” Matthew replied, his arms still raised towards the heavens.
“And what shall we be called, what shall us, those who can control the life and death of those around us, who can pull the stars and planets into any pattern they desire, who can set fires and put them out, who can hide in earth and storm, who will keep us lifted in the sky and in fortune?” Natalia questioned with a twisted smile on her face.
“Elementalists, for we can control the earth itself, every movement, every ounce of life through our own will. It is best we are separate from these people. They are too normal, too plain, and too full of emotion. The humans who inhabited cities with us are now deadly, for they are not us.” John announced, a soft expression coming to rest on his Italian features.
“Elementalists.” Diana shuddered, it looked as though she were in ecstasy with the mere name. “I can feel it in my bones, the power surging through.”
“Diana, be calm.” John grasped her shoulders tightly, her eyes rolled back into her head. The whites of her eyes were more haunting than the demon humans who had plagued their minds for so long.
“But they have hurt me so, they have brought destruction to my life, and they have caused more damage than I ever could. They deserve to suffer.”
“DIANA!” Derek screamed, but in a moment her body had been whipped away in the wind.
The earth was rumbling and those standing fell, the planets began to change and separate, the sky was dragged and rent apart in harsh black lines bringing darkness to the world in one swift movement. There was no longer up or down, right or wrong, land and ocean, it was as one. When it ended the group could tell the world would never be the same. The man who had named their new world and civilization screamed as he saw what had happened. Diana had rent the world apart and destroyed its very foundation, in doing so she had destroyed herself. Her bloody and torn remains forever haunted the walkways of the earth. It was then, whether Elementalist or Human, they knew; they knew what could happen, what could become of them in an instant. It was war.
Then, in their ears they could hear just the faintest sound, it was like a whisper from very far away and they knew in the back of their minds it was Diana.
Thank you for being my family.