Seven children sat on a granite slab, cross-legged, hands relaxed on knees...and entirely unmoving and expressionless. As if formed from waxen rock. All wore red, silken tunics that shivered and folded in the breeze, the only movement.
It was eerie.
Torrullin crouched before them, scrutinising each in turn. All were blond and blue-eyed, all boys. Flawless skins. Angelic perfection.
‘You must activate them.’
Torrullin glanced up as the birdman stepped in beside him. They, like the living statues, threw no shadows. A sun glared from on high...but he couldn’t now deal with that strangeness as well. He faced the children again.
‘Activate them. Are you saying they are manufactured?’
Torrullin rose and stretched. ‘I hesitate to ask.’
Quilla smiled. ‘And yet we shall not leave without solving this mystery.’
‘Fine, my feathered friend. Manifestations of what or who...and how is this perfection even possible?’ Torrullin waved in the general direction of the statues. ‘I have never seen a real child this unflawed.’
‘It is unnatural, isn’t it?’
A shrug from the birdman. ‘I do not understand the how, but as to what? For it is what.’ Quilla sighed and looked up at Torrullin, squinting in the bright light. ‘These are voices trapped in form, unheard voices...more correctly, unheard messages.’
‘That implies thought, people...’
‘People long passed on. Leaving behind messages so important they have manifested in the guise of youthful angels. And before you ask, because even a man dead to every feeling would pause before this perfection.’
Torrullin nodded and stepped closer to the children. Reaching out tentatively, he touched the hand of the central boy, and then rested his fingers there, closing his eyes.
‘Faint resonance,’ he murmured moments later, and removed his hand and opened his eyes.
‘Not alive, but not dead either. How do I activate them?’
‘I assume Elixir needs to listen.’
A baleful stare. ‘I hate it when you do that.’
‘I know,’ Quilla laughed.
‘Listen,’ Torrullin muttered, ‘and hear.’ He abruptly glared at the birdman. ‘Important messages? Damn it, Quilla, you know how paths change when something untold is made tangible.’
‘Yes. And yet here we are.’
‘And we shall not leave without solving the mystery. Curiosity gets us into trouble every time, and still we grab the cat by the tail.’ Torrullin swore under his breath and folded down to sit in a cross-legged manner that mirrored the boys’. He didn’t say more and Quilla didn’t interrupt the process either.
Absolute silence descended, broken only by breath and sweat tracking lazily over cheeks.
Both spooked when the seven angelic manifestations abruptly slapped palms against chests. Their hands froze in that lifted position.
‘Oh, my,’ Quilla breathed out. He cleared his throat. ‘They are activated.’
Torrullin stared at the central figure. ‘I haven’t done anything yet.’
Quilla closed in. ‘Perhaps it’s proximity.’