A/N: Hi everyone! I know I haven't updated in a while, and I'm sorry about that, but I've had a lot of homework the last couple of weeks. Okay, the characters actually start reading the book in this chapter. One quick thing: a big thank you to Kal El Kent821 for being my first reviewer on this story! .Now, read, review, and ENJOY! :D
Disclaimer: I own nothing! All rights belong to Obert Skye!
Reading Leven Thumps
"Where did you get this?" Leven demanded.
"I was following you earlier and it was in someone's backpack," Clover answered patiently.
"What are we supposed to do with it?" Winter asked pointedly, as if to show she was still there.
"We read it! Duh!" Clover said, but it didn't sound mean.
"Great! I know just the place!" Leven said eagerly, turning and heading back the way they had come.
"Wait up Lev!" Winter yelled, already far behind.
"Hurry up!" Was all Leven responded.
As Leven jogged quickly ahead, Winter ran, breathless, to try and catch up. When they finally reached their destination, Winter gaped in astonishment.
Right in front of her was an old building, probably a house, with half of it burned to the ground. Leven walked inside quickly and found a room with several blankets on the ground.
"I come here to sleep sometimes," he explained, seeing Winter's shocked reaction.
Nodding, Clover pulled the book out of the pouch in his cloak and handed it to Winter. "Why don't you start?" He asked.
"Um, okay," Winter replied, opening the book to the first page.
"The Beginning," she read.
"Beginning of what?" Leven questioned.
"You will never know if you don't shut up," Winter growled in response.
It was at least forty degrees above warm.
"Whoa! That must be really hot, then," Leven murmured in awe, earning him a glare from Winter.
The day felt like a windowless kitchen where the oven had been left on high for an entire afternoon.
"Who would do that?" Leven asked, shocked.
"It's a figure of speech, Leven," Winter grumbled. "It isn't saying someone actually did it."
Heat beat down from above and sizzled up from the dirt as the earth let off some much-needed steam. The sky had decided it had had quite enough, thank you, and had vacated the scene, leaving the air empty except for heat.
"What must that be like?" Winter wondered aloud.
"Hot," Clover answered, and gestured for Winter to continue.
No matter how wide a person opened his mouth that afternoon or how deep a breath was taken, there just wasn't enough oxygen in the are to breathe. The few remaining plants in people's gardens didn't droop, they passed out.
"Huh. Even the plants were suffering," Leven whispered, surprised at how bad the situation sounded.
"I know, it's awful!" Winter agreed.
And the flags that only days before had hung majestically on the top of local flagpoles no longer looked majestic, they looked like multicolored pieces of cloth that had climbed up and tragically hung themselves.
"That's terrible!" Winter and Leven exclaimed together.
"Yes, I know," Clover said sadly.
All this in and of itself was not too terribly unusual, but as the heavy sun started to melt away an odd, wild, uncoordinated wind began to pick up. Not a northerly wind or an easterly breeze, it was a wind with no direction or balance.
"I would hate to be there when that happened," Winter shuddered, imagining herself as one of the people or plants that had suffered.
It was as if the four corners of earth and heaven all decided to simultaneously blow, creating what the local weather personalities in Tin Culvert, Oklahoma, called "beyond frightening." Sure, people could breathe, but now they were getting blown away.
"Tin Culvert," Leven murmured. "That's what this town was called before a devastating fire hit." Winter looked as pale as a sheet as Leven said this.
Trees bent and writhed, whirling like pinwheels as the atmosphere pinched and pulled at them. Rooftops buckled and nature picked up huge handfuls of dirt and spastically flung them everywhere.
"What could cause something so terrible?" Winter asked, a look of pure horror on her face.
"I don't know, but whatever it is sure is mad," Leven replied, his expression mirroring Winter's.
Cats learned how to fly that evening, and any loose article weighing less than a car was taken up in the rapture of the moment. People locked themselves in their homes, radios on, waiting for someone to tell them everything was going to be okay, or for nature to do them in.
"Wow! That would be horrible!" Winter looked as though she wanted to cry for all the people.
"Do you want me to read?" Leven asked kindly.
Winter just shook her head and continued.
As dusk matured into night and just when those cowering in fear could stand no more, a darkness, the likes of which had never before been seen, began to ooze up from the ground and ink in the gray of the evening. The hot windy sky quickly became a thick sticky trap.
Glaring accusingly at Clover, Leven said, "You knew this was in here, didn't you?"
Clover nodded and again gestured for Winter to read on.
Animals that had foolishly taken shelter in trees or ditches began to suffocate as the heavy, plastic-like blackness folded over them. The wind swooped in from all directions to steal their last breaths and leave them dead where they once whined.
"Those poor animals!" Winter sobbed, throwing the book across the room.
"Winter! We have to read it!" Clover complained, hopping off of Leven's head and picking up the book. He handed it back to Winter and told her to keep reading.
"Can't we stop? Please?" Winter begged.
"Yeah, I think that's enough." Leven agreed.
"No. We have to keep reading," Clover told them, only a little impatiently.
The blackness weighed down on everything. Porch lights burst under the weight of it. If the wind had been absent, a person could have clearly heard the explosion of almost every light and window in Tin Culvert as the fat, dark atmosphere let its full bulk rest upon anything glowing.
All was silent in the small space as Winter got her breathing under control. Finally, she spoke. "I really think we should stop."
"We can't! Antsel told me you have to read it!" Clover shouted, earning a shocked look from both Leven and Winter.
"Who's Antsel?" Winter asked, momentarily forgetting the catastrophe happening in the book.
"Never mind. Just read," Clover replied.
Homes came alive with screams as front windows buckled and blew inward. Cars and mobile homes creaked under the force of darkness upon their backs. People cowered under tables and beds trying to escape the advancing crush.
"That's absolutely horrific!" Winter murmured, getting an amused look from Leven.
"Horrific? Really?" He laughed.
"Shut up," Winter mumbled.
Just when it looked like the end of the world had officially begun, the lightning started. Jagged stripes of blinding light flashed continually against the black sky.
"Um… Lev," Winter started hesitatingly. "I think this was how the fire started."
"Pfft. No way." Leven just shrugged it off.
Anyone foolish enough to be standing outside would have been able to watch as the lightning moved with calculating accuracy, deliberately touching anything above ground level and quickly setting it ablaze.
Seeing the smug look from Winter, Leven said, "That doesn't prove anything."
"Yeah, right, Lev," Winter laughed at Leven's defensive expression and continued reading.
It moved sideways and upward. The sky became a giant blackboard with heaven scratching out its apocalyptic messages with lightning bolts.
Tin Culvert was dying, and this was the first night of the end of its life. Fate had set its course and was making certain to carry it out.
"I guess that's true, in a sense," Clover mused. "Tin Culvert did die because it's now Burnt Culvert."
Leven shot Clover a surprised look. "That's interesting reasoning."
"I know. Now keep reading." Clover replied.
Even amongst the complete destruction and panic, a person would have had to be dead not to hear and feel the thunder that struck at exactly 10:15 that fateful night. The boom was felt as far as fifty miles away, and the entire sky fractured from light, scribbling one final message- "It is over!"
"That's terrible! Those poor people!" Winter exclaimed.
"I know," Leven agreed, face grim.
Lightning bled down on everything, touching and igniting any structure Tin Culvert had ever dared to raise. People finally figured out that hiding was no longer a sensible option. Folks set out into the open, desperate to get away from it all.
"I hate this stupid book," Winter mumbled.
"So do I, but you've got to keep reading," Clover replied, patting Winters shoulder.
In the chaos nobody noticed Antsel, an thin, aged man running across the ground at traffic speed. Electrical static buzzed around him as he flew across the earth. The odd little man had traveled half the world to get to this spot and now, as the moment grew closer, his heart and soul surged.
"Hurry Antsel, hurry!" Clover encouraged the character.
"Ah. So that's Antsel." Leven mumbled.
Fire raged up around him as he moved. His long beard curled and began to singe at the edges.
Lightning flashed in the tumultuous sky.
"That man was really brave to do that," Winter observed.
"Yes, yes he was," Clover said affectionately.
Antsel's stride became uneven, his face red with sweat and heat. He ran in a pattern, away from the fire and as if he were trying to throw somebody off his trail. The thick gray robe he wore flapped in all directions as the wind became aware of him and started to work him over.
"Wow. That's impressive," Leven whistled.
Lightning flashed again.
Antsel stumbled and fell as he looked toward the sky. His knees plowed into the earth as he ground to a halting stop.
Lightning flashed yet again.
"How awful! He shouldn't have been running like that!" Winter cried.
"He's just doing his job," Clover told her, looking saddened.
Kneeling, he reached with aged hands into his robe and pulled out Clover, a small, cat-like creature-the tiny being wriggled and spat angrily.
"Ah. Here's where I come in," Clover sighed.
"Be calm," Antsel ordered, wiping sweat from his own forehead.
Instantly the small furry being relaxed. Clover's tiny body was covered with gray hair. He had leaf-like ears that were thick and wide, and his knees and elbows were as bare as any palm. He had on a tiny cloak that was the color of his fur but shimmered slightly under the light of the fires.
"That's a perfect description!" Winter said in awe.
"Yup. Now continue." Clover replied.
"This is it," Antsel whispered with severity. "The shadows will soon be here. You know what you must do. It'll be some time from now, but he will be here, and the girl as well. Be patient."
"What is he talking about?" Leven asked, giving Clover a confused look.
"Um… I'm not supposed to tell you," Clover replied quickly.
"You're hiding something," Winter told him, but continued reading anyway.
"Only if you tell me to be."
"Be patient," Antsel insisted.
"I won't leave you," Clover whimpered.
"You will leave me," Antsel commanded.
Winter shook her head. "So stubborn."
Leven nodded in agreement. "Very."
"I will leave you," he answered.
"Now run!" Antsel shouted, setting the furry creature down. "Run!"
Clover looked at Antsel. "You will be proud of me?"
"Of course. Now run."
"Not so stubborn now, huh?" Clover smirked.
"Don't get ahead of yourself," Winter grumbled.
Clover spat and smiled. He jumped, shivered violently, and ran off on two feet, bucking oddly as he leapt, and was lost almost instantly in the dark. Antsel gazed after him. He knew the risk he took in putting so much trust in such a mischievous creature, but he had no choice. He turned and ran the opposite direction.
"Ha," Leven laughed. "He said you're mischievous."
"Even I knew that," Clover rolled his big blue eyes.
Antsel slowed his pace, feeling his age and marveling over the fact that his heart had not yet given out. He reached into his robe and withdrew an object more important than any soul within a million miles could comprehend. Sweat poured from his neck and wrists, and he could feel his heart beginning to crumble. Antsel held the tiny seed up to the light of the surrounding fires and glanced at it one last time.
"How old was Antsel?" Leven asked.
"No one knows," Clover answered, a small, sad smile on his face. "He was old, though.
Lightning flashed again.
He placed the seed back into his robe and kneeled. He pressed his face to the ground and used his ability to see everything beneath the soil. Every insect, every particle. This was the perfect spot.
"How does he know that?" Winter asked, startled.
"He's a nit. It's what they do," Clover replied impatiently, as if Winter should already know this.
He lifted his head and brushed the sweat from his eyes. He then began to dig. His old hands bled and trembled as he plunged them deeper into the dark, rich earth. Lightning struck continuously as fire after fire ignited. The atmosphere began to relax, drawing in more oxygen to feed the flames.
"Wow! It's incredible how Antsel can ignore all of that!" Leven said, excitement all over his face.
"Antsel was an incredible man," Clover agreed happily, though there was something sad in his expression.
Antsel paid no attention.
He had something to finish. He pulled the seed out again and pressed it down into the earth, then worked madly to fill the hole with the soil he had scraped out.
Lightning flashed, thunder crashed, and the howling of the wind increased.
"I don't know how Antsel managed that," Clover murmured in awe.
"Yeah," Leven agreed.
Winter had nothing to add and gave them each the evil eye as she continued.
He looked over his shoulder and shuddered. They were here, he could feel it in the wind. Antsel glanced at the ground, knowing that the fate of a thousand generations rested beneath only a foot of soil.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Winter asked, thoroughly confused.
Clover just shrugged and Winter huffed in annoyance.
"Grow, Geth," he whispered. "Grow." Antsel patted the ground and dusted his palms. His job was done, and he stood with purpose.
"Geth? Who's Geth?" Leven asked.
"I don't know. But that name sounds familiar," Winter answered, looking as though she had a headache.
Lightning flashed again, while simultaneously a sickened soul in another realm breathed a small dark army of shadows out over Tin Culvert. Sabine sat impatiently in Foo, breathing heavily and yet with control, letting his shadows twist down through the dark dreams of men and into reality.
After that was read, Winter had to stop and catch her breath. They had been reading for an hour.
His castoffs were darker than the night, black. Like a perverted wind they swirled and billowed as they rushed across the fiery earth, laughing and screeching. Their white eyes and shrill voices gave their two-dimensional forms and eerie depth. Invisible to mankind, they swept the fiery landscape. They were not here to sightsee, however; they were here for a purpose.
"That's awful! What kind of creatures are these?" Winter exclaimed.
"Sabine's shadows," Clover replied grimly.
Antsel knew the shadows had arrived. He couldn't let them find the spot. Running deeper into the night and far away from what he had planted, he wiped at his forehead with his heavy cloak and clutched his chest in agony. He would not last the night.
"Poor Antsel. And I didn't even get to say good-bye," Clover whimpered, a small tear rolling down his cheek. Seeing this, Leven pulled the small creature into his arms and held him while he sobbed. Winter continued.
He accepted this; after all, his mission was accomplished. The only thing he could do now was to run as far as possible away from the ground he had just touched. He pushed himself, darting to the right and turning a sharp left. His legs screamed in pain, and he could feel his heart pulsing up inside him like some sort of red-hot inflammation.
"Um… Under that there's a line," Winter mumbled. "Can we take a break?" And with that, Winter collapsed from exhaustion. "Yeah. Let's take a break. Stay here. I'll go get dinner," Leven told Clover.
"Ok," Clover said, happily jumping on Winter.
Leven returned with hamburgers a while later to find Winter awake and waiting for him. After distributing the food, Leven took his place on the floor and let Winter start.
The moans of the shadows roared as they circled the burning town. Like a cyclone they twisted in tighter and mightier, their hollow eyes searching the firelight for the withered form of the old man they had been sent to find. The wind shifted and all together they lifted their heads and looked to the east. Nothing but flames and beyond that, darkness.
"Without doubt, there they are," Clover grumbled bitterly.
Winter gave him a slightly confused look, but continued to read.
The winds shifted again.
Light from the fires reflected off a small hint of silver in the distance. The reflection vanished for a second only to spark up again even farther away. The shadows took notice. Something was running away from them. Their restless forms turned toward the dark and flew.
"Uh-oh. They're after you Clover," Leven told Clover, terrified at the thought.
"They don't catch me though. They can try, but they won't succeed," Clover replied, shoving fries into his mouth.
Antsel ran. He could feel them coming toward him now and in a brief moment they were hovering over him, hissing and screeching. His old heart was making his stride short and almost pointless. Sabine's shadows swooped down and wrapped themselves around him, smothering his progress and slowing his gait even further. He pushed with his arms, waving the night away and struggling to go on.
"I don't like this book. I don't want to read it," Winter said, setting the book down.
Clover just handed it back to her. "We have to. For Antsel."
It was no use: they had him surrounded and were pressing their hideous forms against him, moaning and gnashing their teeth. They circled him like a ring of plague. Antsel's purple eyes could faintly make out their inky outlines as they whispered wickedly.
"Those shadows are horrible! How could they do that?" Leven complained.
"It's simple. They attacked him," Clover answered simply, though it pained him to say this.
He moved to the east but was stopped by the billowing of a shadow. He moved to the north and received a blow to the side.
Antsel was trapped.
Clover was crying as Winter read, but he motioned for her to continue.
"Where is it?" the shadows hissed. "Give us the seed."
His heart struggling to keep beating, Antsel wiped his eyes, put his palms to his knees, and tried to draw in a breath. He straightened and lit an amber stick and lifted the firebrand to just below his eyes. The light from the stick glowed in a sphere around the gathering.
"Wow," Winter and Leven said.
"I know…" Clover sighed.
Antsel could see nothing but dripping darkness and thousands of shadows wildly circling him. They moaned, their white eyes even dimmer in the light of the amber stick. Nowhere in the sea of muted eyes could Antsel detect even a hint of mercy. He knew that somewhere in Foo, Sabine looked on with pleasure-his former friend no longer having any thought or feeling for anyone but himself.
"That's terrible! Poor Antsel!" Winter cried, saddened by the turn the events had taken.
"I know. Sad, huh?" Clover was also saddened.
Winter nodded and wiped at tears that she hadn't noticed before then and continued reading.
Antsel's breathing was shallow and his heartbeat weak. The insistence of the surrounding shadows and the roaring of the fire in the distance seemed fitting to what he knew would be his end.
Although Clover still looked upset, he laughed. "You know, I'm surprised Antsel even lived that long."
Leven and Winter each cracked a smile. "True," Winter agreed, though she hadn't known Antsel.
"Give us the seed," they hissed. "The seed."
"It is in Foo," Antsel gasped at them.
"You lie," They whispered back. "You lie."
Winter changed her voice as she read this part and Leven smiled at her. "That's cool how you can change your voice like that."
"Thanks, Lev," Winter gave him a grateful smile in return.
The shadows had no patience. Screaming, they leapt onto the old man. They clawed at him, searching for the object. Their hands ripped at his robe and body. Their mouths screamed and moaned as they tossed Antsel around like a rag doll. Antsel tried to fight back, but there were too many, and his strength and will were gone. The shadows thrust his face into the soil. Antsel could see everything. He watched the seed, though far from where he now lay, already begin to grow.
"It's amazing how fast things from Foo grow…" Clover sighed. Winter and Leven rolled their eyes at him.
The shadows spun him once more and then withdrew nothing.
Antsel lay on the ground moving only his lips. He murmured weakly, committing his soul to rest and waiting for fate to tell him it was over. He stared up and could see the false face of Sabine in the thousands of shadows. His soul relaxed and his life slipped away.
Winter, Leven, and Clover were all crying at the end of this. They sat like that for a few moments, crying and sniffling, and pulled themselves together as Winter continued.
The shadows began to moan. The seed had not been found. They knew too well that Sabine, the being who had cast them, would not be happy Antsel was dead. The shadows berated themselves. A few of them began to hiss, " Burn everything. Burn it!"
"Ha ha. The shadows are in trouble," Leven laughed.
"I wouldn't be so sure," Clover warned. "Sabine will be mad, but not for long."
Antsel might have deposited the seed on earth. Sabine knew this, and even the remotest possibility of that couldn't be ignored. Most of the landscape was on fire, but a few pieces and parts were still void of flame.
"Whoa. It hasn't all caught fire yet." Winter was stunned. She had thought everything was on fire.
"Burn it all," the shadows were now whispering fiercely. They all began to rise and laugh and dance, happy in their fury to carry out such a horrific thing.
"Ha. I'm not the only one who says 'horrific,'" Winter said smugly.
Leven rolled his brown eyes. "Whatever!" he scoffed.
They swirled and scattered in a thousand different directions to do Sabine's bidding. Some twisting together in a massive funnel cloud, they sucked up fire and dripped it down upon everything.
In the distance, far away from the heat and light, Clover stopped running so as to better cry. He stood to his full twelve inches and shivered. The fur over his body bristled in waves. His wet eyes viewed the flames as they devoured the entire landscape.
Clover shuddered as memories came back to him. He remembered that day as if it had only been yesterday.
"How much do we have left in this chapter?" Leven complained loudly.
"One paragraph," Winter announced, clearing her throat and finishing off the chapter.
"Antsel," he whispered, his thin leathery mouth quivering. He wiped his blue eyes with the hem of his small robe, his leaf-like ears twitching to listen to the wind. He turned and continued running. Clover saw no reason to go back. Antsel was gone, and the journey had begun.
"That's the end of the chapter. Who's next?" Winter said.
"I am." Leven announced as he took the book from Winter.
"I think that's enough for tonight," Clover murmured sleepily.
"Okay," Leven and Winter replied, snuggling into the blankets and closing their eyes. They were all asleep within minutes.
A/N: Once again, sorry for the late update, but I share a computer with five other people. I'll try to update sooner, but I can't promise anything. Please review!
Little Miss Lovable