In Which the Four-In-One is Presented

The Facets have lost something near and dear to them. Each Facet represents an astrological element, yet is only a quarter of a Whole. Should an ill-minded human find what they've lost, their precious Planet could fall apart.

Four women sat at a wrought-iron table.

The table itself seemed nothing in particular from far away. Like every other piece of wrought-ironwork, it was all filigree and curlicues, solid yet delicate all at once. The top was circular, about a foot and a half in diameter, supported by legs that were artwork in themselves, connecting in a solid spherical mass under the middle of the surface top, curving up to support the circular surface, then sloping gently downwards to end in another small upward-curling foot. From far away, they seemed like thick ribbons, delicate and yet somehow maintaining the weight of the top.

Up close, however, the setting was anything but ordinary.

Each of the legs was themed to represent a different element, the top of the table they supported filigreed in similar designs, a quarter to each. Earth was the most densely decorated, full of leaves and trees and even the faces of animals peeked from within the crevices, as if someone had simply frozen a layer of forest in iron and assembled it into this larger piece. Opposite Earth lay Air. The tips of densely-packed forest leaves that reached the center of the table gave way to small curls and curves of iron wire.

Air was the lightest of the four, the iron curlicues and fringes that created this section seeming as light as the subject it represented. There were no trite cloud shapes or any sign of weather – just a sense of weightlessness. The only solid pieces in the whole quarter were the small outlines of birds where the various wisps of iron thread would convene.  The leg on this side seemed like it would be unable to even support the weight of the table without the other three to help maintain balance, built as it was of loosely braided filaments.

On the two remaining segments of the table lay Water and Fire. Water was the simpler of the two, built of thick, horizontal wavy strips, their hypnotic repetitiveness marred only by the sometimes-faint, sometimes-distinct outlines of all manner of sea creature. Near where the four converged, waterfowl floated serenely on the surface, or were frozen mid-takeoff, as if about to launch themselves into the neighboring sections.

Across from this scene of tranquility, Fire roared to life. From the bottom tip of the leg all the way to the middle point of the tabletop, flames danced and blazed in an unseen breeze. There was no sign of the life portrayed in the other three sections, but looking closely one might make out the faintest of skeletal figures dancing in the conflagration. Several danced with nets, with sickles, even with the skulls of their kinsmen. There was a violent, destructive energy in this design, one that must be felt to be understood.

The four sections merged together at a completely blank circle in the center of the tabletop. Or at least, blank save for the small burns that dotted a quarter of it, looking for all the world like it was actively trying to become a sieve. Another black dot joined the rest as the redheaded woman seated between Air and Water smashed a burning white cigarette onto the surface. She slowly looked up into the bright emerald eyes of the brooding black-haired woman seated across from her, between Earth and Fire. She flicked her ruby curls out of her sapphire eyes to look at the cold, chocolate-eyed blonde woman to her right, between Air and Water, then to the dangerously-smoldering brunette with the stormy grey eyes to her left between Fire and Air.

Khalama twirled her fingers, and another long, white cigarette appeared between them. Without looking, Seika reached over, the fingers of her right hand fisted around her thumb. Quick as a blink, she flipped her thumb up, rubbing the tip against her pointer finger as if lighting a match. Balanced on the tip of her offered thumb stood a small flame. Khalama gratefully dipped the tip of her cigarette in the tiny fire and inhaled. She tried to thank her Sister-Self, but Seika had already retracted her arm and refocused her energy into the venomous glare gracing the blonde across from her.

To her credit, Mesi was returning the look with the same intensity and seemed in no hurry to back down. Avani, seated between them, watched the goings-on with an air of only slight curiosity. Khalama breathed in the calming smoke, glancing between the three seated around her before deciding she’d had enough. Leaving the white stick hanging loosely from her mouth, she banged her fist on the table, forcing the other three to look at her in surprise.

Khalama had never been the one prone to overly emotional outbursts of any kind. Seika had a notoriously quick temper and destructive tendencies, but what else is to be expected from Fire? And Mesi’s moods were usually steady and constant as the tide but could sometimes be pushed into rages as unpredictable as a tropical storm, as is to be anticipated from Water. Avani was solid and peaceful, quiet and sparing with her words, hard to anger and slow to retaliate, but how else would Earth be described? Khalama – Air – was the black sheep of the Faces, being generally optimistic, energetic, happiest when on the move. However, she quickly grew bored of her Sister-Selves’ constant quarreling and, because Avani was too calm to handle with the fiery Seika or the turbulent Mesi, the moderation duties always fell to her.

Seika regained her composure first, her face falling into its natural intimidating smolder with a narrowing of her eyes and a just-enough frown that would terrify battle-hardened soldiers. It helped that her smoke-grey eyes, peering out of a caramel face, carried the glinting threat of sparks deep within. She wasn’t the tallest of the four, standing at 5’7” on a good day, but her well-muscled athletic-yet-curvy frame, deep voice and dark-chocolate hair all added to her striking aura of power.

She sat poised on the very edge of her chair, chin resting on her left knuckles, spine rigidly straight. With her right hand, she traced the edge between the flames and sky wrought into the table, her fingers leaving small spark trails as they went.

“I don’t remember this being your issue, Khalama.” Her voice was lowered just enough to register as threatening, but it was simply out of habit. She knew it was impossible to scare her other Facet, just as it was impossible to hurt one. Seika was tough, but not so much that Khalama couldn’t make her see reason.

“And I don’t remember when glaring bloody murder at Yourself was a proper way to solve anything!”

The Sister to her right chuckled at that. Mesi was the second-tallest of the four, standing an easy 5’9”, with waist-length braided blonde hair and large milk-chocolate eyes. She was willowy, almost frail, flat-chested with little to no muscle tone. Her shoulders were always slightly hunched from having to bend down to communicate with anyone, but her up-to-there legs made up for the slight imperfection. Her voice was higher-pitched, almost as if spoken through her nose, and when she spoke, every word was razor-sharp. Even her laugh drove a spike through Khalama’s ribcage.

“She’s right, you know.”

Seika’s dark glower returned to her opposite Self.

“You’re only saying that to cover how badly you screwed up!”

Avani, surprisingly, came between them this time. The mid-height Sister at 5 feet 8 inches, she still managed to throw an impressive shadow over her younger Selves. The dark-skinned, raven-haired Facet was the oldest of the Four, being the First Aspect to witness the Formation. Her bright green eyes had seen the beginning of the Planet, watched through time and space immaterial as space rocks coalesced into something greater, something viable. She had witnessed Seika’s birth from the volcanic fires that rocked and shaped the Planet, overseen Khalama’s creation in the swirl of rapidly-collecting atmospheric gases, and finally had helped Mesi rise from the newly-created oceans.

Avani was broad-shouldered yet graceful, slender with slight curves, and charcoal hair that hung to her waist, yet was easily the most regal of the Four. She stood, her chair sliding soundlessly backwards, gripping the edge of the table and leaning forward. She spoke slowly, but with authority, and her Sisters knew better than to not listen.

“There is naught We can do now. Our only choice is to wait, and hope It falls into the right hands.”

Her answer seemed to placate Mesi and douse Seika’s temper a bit, but this time Khalama was left unconvinced.

“But what do we do if something bad happens with It?”

Avani raised her chin and peered into the other Facet’s concerned sapphire eyes. Khalama was the shortest at 5’5”, with ivory skin and bright red curly hair that fell just past her shoulders. She was still built like a teenager, all elbows and gawky angles, but she had an honest freckle-dusted face that carried no deception. Avani paused for a minute, then dropped her chin back to her chest with a sigh.

“We cannot intervene unless summoned, you know that. Until that time, We must simply…wait.”

With that, Avani returned to her seat. She sat as she always did, her back straight against the chair back and hands folded serenely in her lap. Seika now leaned back against her chair, her arms and legs crossed, glowering at her knees. Mesi leaned forward, arms crossed on the table in front of her and her chin resting on her forearms. Khalama rested her clasped hands on the surface before her, contemplating her thumbs.

“I hope it never comes to that.”

The End

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