3: Temple

Silence. Darkness. Nothing. Where? Why? How? What? Nothing.

Silence. Darkness. Nothing…

Jiit woke with a scream, but this time Banil was ready for him. After he'd gone to sleep, he'd tied his jacket around Jiit's mouth, and his scream was lost in the garment. He blinked, pulling the jacket away from his mouth and rubbing his eyes. Dawn had yet to come, and the Plasma strips were still on, showing that daybreak was not for a while yet, and Banil was sleeping, just along the beam from him. He turned his mind back to the dream he'd just woken from.

Why did the voices have to intrude on his life? Why was it him who got picked on by the Spirit's wanderings? He didn't know what they wanted, but he knew he'd have to find out. And where better to start than the Temple of the Dream Spirit, as the Spirit was the voice's master. He'd have to leave Banil to it today. He wasn't going to go another night with the ravings of the sinister Voices.

Almost abruptly, the Plasma strips flickered off and the sky began to grow a tint of red. Jiit lazily flicked his foot out, kicking the sleeping Banil. The urchin sat bang up.

"What'd I miss?" he said drowsily, before realising that the sun was rising. "Oh. We should get out of here," he finished. Jiit pulled his jacket back on and stretched, before climbing to his feet. Banil was one step ahead of him, and the younger boy was already swinging down towards ground level.

As Jiit followed, he cursed the reason for their haste. The Baron. His soldiers would start marching at dawn, and you didn't want them to find you anywhere near the Knot. You could be imprisoned for up to three years if you were caught within the chain boundaries, and longer if you were seen climbing it. Therefore, the moment Banil's feet hit the floor, he was running helter-skelter for the boundary. Jiit was seconds behind him.

Once both of them had vaulted the chain line, they stopped panicking. Banil looked up and gave a slow smile.

"Sorry for sleeping on my watch, Jiit," he apologized and Jiit flicked his head non-comitantly. There was no point in hitting him before the sun had fully risen. He realised that, when he said he was planning on going to the temple, Banil might be tempted to hit him. Better not giving him to many motives.

They strolled down the paths towards Market Street as the dawn deepened, and soon the whole sky above them was blood red. As the sky began to change colour yet again, other people began to enter the streets, and Banil and Jiit began to run to beat the morning rush and get to Market Street as soon as possible. When they arrived, they noticed that the bread Peddler was no longer there.

"I bet the guards told him where to shove his fine bread, then," Banil commented, remorselessly.

"A shame though," said Jiit. "He was easy to rob."

The breakfast robbery that day yielded a loaf of bread, but it wasn't nearly as good as the stuff they'd got yesterday, and the boys ended up feeding most of it to the ducks. As they did this, Jiit explained his plan. As Jiit had expected, Banil wasn't best pleased about this idea.

"You don't need to go to the Temple! You need a bloody psychiatrist," the thief exploded, scaring the ducks away. "It's voices in your head! Not some spirit that wants to tell you how worthless you are," he gave a smirk. "You should already know that."

Jiit gave Banil a cold stare. "I don't want to be nothing all my life." Before Banil could rebuke him again, Jiit turned and strode towards the edge of the park. "I'll meet you here at midday." He said, flinging the remark over his shoulder. Banil was left speechless. For almost the first time in his life, the smart mouthed thief didn't have anything to say.

Jiit strode down Bear Avenue, trying his best to look like he was confident about where he was going. In truth, he wasn't. The last time he'd been in the Temple, it had been an open day for street children who had yet to meet the Dream Spirit, and the eldest father had invited them back if they wanted to talk more about the Spirit. But Jiit didn't want to talk about the Spirit. He wanted to talk about the Spirit's unruly messengers; the Voices.

He arrived onto Market Street, and wound through the pedestrian traffic until he reached the opening off Temple Street. The huge, domed Temple dominated the end of the street, dwarfing all the other shrines with its immensity; the main, domed building flanked by a pair of spires. Emblazoned across the top of the large, arched, entrances were the words 'Come, the Spirit welcomes you.'

It hardly took any time for Jiit to arrive at the bottom of the Temple steps, climb them and walk through the arches. He'd thought the doors would be shut, but they weren't. A robed holy man noticed Jiit's confusion.

"These doors are always open, my child. The spirit welcomes people everyday of the week." Said the priest. Jiit said a terse 'Thankyou' and walked through the door and into the temple.

Immediately the Temple buffeted his senses. The smell of incense rolled into his nostrils, bright coloured ribbons hung from the balcony and the sound of melodious music and singing drifted into his ear lobes. Jiit stood on the threshold for a moment while his senses recoverd, before he stepped in.

A priest almost immediately drifted over to him, noticing the way that he'd entered alone. The man was tall, and the robes gave him a wide appearance, though in reality he was only slightly fatter than Jiit. It was slightly threatening, having to look up to lock gazes with the holy man, but this is what Jiit did. And when he looked into the man's blazing green eyes, he found it hard to look away.

"Can I help you, child," he said in a soft, almost singsong voice. Jiit was taken aback, he had not expected to be asked what he needed so directly.

"Errmm," he stuttered, and the man raised an eyebrow.

"Speak out. I will not spill your secrets to anyone else," he said in a reassuring tone. Jiit plucked up his courage and explained the voice's two visits since his last time in the temple. The priest listened quietly to Jiit's tale, only asking for explanations quietly, and when he finished, the priest puffed out his cheeks.

"Well, young one, that is quite a tale." He said, motioning to a cushioned chair that they were standing by. "Have a seat," said the priest. "My explanation may take a while."

"As far as I can see, the Dream Spirit has no part in this message. It is the Voices on one of their free-lance missions." He paused. "Do you have any dreams, boy? Any aspirations… what do you want to do when you are older?" Jiit looked up at the priest.

"I want to go somewhere… ride on an airship… see the world." He looked down, sheepishly. "That's all, really." He finished, lamely.

"Well, then I imagine that the Voices, for some unbeknown reason, don't want you to do that. I would go and talk to them. Pray at one of their shrines… maybe there you can find your answer. If you need any help, Father Raifi will willingly offer it."

Jiit left the temple, and Raifi, minutes later. He would head to the shrine at another time, but while in the temple, the hours had flown by, and it was now midday. Jiit made for the park, where he sat and waited on their bench. He waited five minutes. Ten. Then he began to get restless. Where was he? A quarter of an hour later, and he knew something was wrong. Banil was gone.