The Believers are a group of kids summoned by a magical yak to defend the earth against the monsters that want to control it. In this first story, nine Believers, living in Tibet, search for the rumored tenth Believer, Jinzie, as they battle monsters to stay alive. Luckily, Believers have supernatural abilities, specific to each of them, such as melting into the shadows, understanding and speaking with animals, and being able to see the future through dreams. The Believers know, through Neptune’s dreams, that they will have to climb Mt. Everest, find Jinzie, and engage in an epic battle with the monsters and their evil leader.
Do Neptune’s dreams actually foretell the future? Will they find a tenth Believer? Can they really defeat the monsters to save the world? Well, there’s only one way to find out…
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Enjoy Our Free Excerpt:
Jinzie, a girl whose light complexion and green eyes made her brown hair look like liquid chocolate flowing over her shoulders, was playing her favorite game, Fire Jump. Jinzie was immune to fire so if she fell in the fire she would come out just fine. Today she forgot the water, but she didn’t notice until too late.
All of the sudden the wind blew and the fire got out of control.ThenJinzie noticed that there was no water. Too late now, the fire was already in progress.
And that’s how it all started.
Too Bad, I Was Looking Forward to a Good Fight
After a long wait, Neptune was ready to get out of his fire-proof hut. He was wearing a lime-green Camp Norr t-shirt (you’ll find out later) and khaki shorts. He kept a calendar and a watch. It was June sixteenth. He had a dark complexion, dark gray eyes, and curly black hair. Neptune was sixteen. He only had enough food left to last one day, at most. The fire-proof hut? Believer magic.
Neptune was definitely a Believer. Believers had special powers. There were only eight other Believers, and Neptune knew them all. All of the Believers were named after planets or dwarf planets—except maybe one. According to rumor, there was one other Believer, Jinzie. All nine Believers thought this rumor was true, and they had been searching for her for months. These journeys had been filled with battling monsters. All had ended badly. Nobody died, but the Believers had gotten pretty beaten up, and none of them had found Jinzie.
Someone knocked on the hut door. “Come in!” called Neptune. Venus came in. She was a fifteen year old girl who had the power to sing so sweetly that humans would do whatever she told them to do. She had baby blue eyes, light skin, and hair so blonde Neptune almost could’ve sworn it was white, but he had keen eyesight so he could distinguish that it was blonde rather than white. Exceptional eyesight was part of Neptune’s power.
“The fire stopped,” Venus said, “Earth helped me find all the other Believers, but no munt has been found alive.”
Munt was the term they used for all the non-Believers (humans without powers). He was shocked that a fire could kill all munts for miles in every direction!
“Did Earth check to make sure?” Neptune asked. Earth had the power to sense all people and animals within a ten-mile radius.
“Yes, sadly she didn’t find anyone.” Neptune could see that Venus had been crying. Her grandmother was a munt. Venus loved her grandmother very dearly. Neptune knew that Venus would be okay because even if her grandmother were dead, she would see her again. All Believers knew that when Believers or munts die, they go to a place called Moonshine, where they experience whatever reality they believed they would have after death.
“At least she believed she would go someplace good after she died,” said Venus only half sobbing now.
Neptune couldn’t wait to see the sun again, so he hugged her quickly and pulled her gently outside with him. There he found the other Believers waiting for them. Standing to the right of the hut door was Mercury. He had red hair with a super light complexion and charcoal-black eyes. He looked like his power might be summoning fire, but actually he was a hypnotist and a healer. He was fifteen.
“Are you okay, Neptune?” asked Mercury.
“I think I’m fine. How are the others?”
“I examined the others. Some had small burns and scrapes. I’ve taken care of them,” responded Mercury still examining Neptune carefully.
“Well, I’m fine!” thundered Mars walking toward Neptune. “Who did this? I want to get them!” he said with his hand creeping toward the sheath of his sword. He had sunken brown eyes, light skin, and surprisingly blonde hair. Despite being big and bulky, Venus (his girlfriend) told everyone that he was gentle and adorable. His power was his skill in sword-play. He was seventeen but big enough to look three years older.
Mars unsheathed his sword.
Venus thought it was in everyone’s best interest to start singing in order to control Mars’s temper.
She sang her next words gazing at him:
Mars, put your sword away,
For now we are okay.
I don’t think it was done on purpose,
Monsters don’t use fire to hurt us.
It was likely a munt who set the flame,
We aren’t sure who is to blame.
She laid her hand on Mars’s arm as he put his sword back in its sheath.
“I don’t know what to think.” said Pluto melting out of the shadows. Pluto had been completely invisible to the others until that moment. Melting in and out of shadows was his power. He was now visible sitting in the shadow on the left side of the hut. “Sometimes the Burnden uses fire, but it attacks Believers directly, rather than setting everything on fire. Did anyone see the Burnden?” Pluto looked around at the other Believers. Pluto’s curly black hair stood out against his indigo-purple eyes and ghostly white complexion. He was sixteen and limped slightly when he walked, but none of the Believers had ever asked why.
“I didn’t see any monsters, but even if I had, I wouldn’t know what a burnden looks like,” answered Neptune.
“It’s not a burnden, it’s the Burnden,” corrected Pluto. “It’s about four and half feet tall and looks like a cow with tomato-red, basketball-sized eyes; long red hair; and a naked tail with a barbed ball on the end of it.”
“Oh,” said Neptune in a small voice. “No, I haven’t seen the Burnden.”
The rest of them also shook their heads, no, in answer to Pluto’s question.
“I don’t think it was a monster. I agree with Venus,” said Jupiter, a skinny boy with light skin and golden-blonde hair. “I can’t think of any munt who would purposely do this, Mars.” Jupiter was fifteen and had cocoa-brown eyes. His power was being able to wander anywhere and always find the place he wanted to go.
Mars relented, “I can’t either. Too bad, I was looking forward to a good fight!”
Jupiter sighed and shook his head. He knew that Mars always wanted a good fight.
The girls huddled around Venus who was still upset.
“I’m really sorry that I couldn’t find your grandmother, Venus, but I don’t understand how none of the munts survived.” said Earth trying to comfort her friend.
“I know,” said Mercury, joining the conversation, “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Earth had distinctive eyes. Around each pupil was a brown ring encircled by the rest of the iris, which was green and blue swirled together. Earth’s light skin contrasted with her brown, soil-colored hair. She was fifteen.
Earth turned to Eris, “Have you heard anything from the animals that might be helpful?”
Eris was a sixteen-year-old girl with caramel-colored hair that complimented her light skin and purple-brown eyes. She shook her head, “I haven’t seen any animals yet.” Eris could talk to animals, and they could talk to her. “I’ll talk to the animals, but if we run across any munts, you will need to be there.” Eris said glancing over at Saturn.
Saturn nodded earnestly. Her round eyes changed colors the longer she looked at someone. They were changing from blue to lilac as she looked at Eris. Her coffee-brown hair rolled over her shoulders and down to her waist. Saturn had light brown skin that was especially beautiful when she wore deep purple. She was fourteen and could speak any language ever spoken by humans.
The Believers fell silent. Jupiter peered at Neptune. “Has anyone told you about Camp Norr?”
“No, what?” asked Neptune.
“It burned down in the fire.”
Jingle? Jangle? No, Jinzie
All of the Believers wore lime-green Camp Norr shirts like the one Neptune was wearing. All Believers lived at Camp Norr from the time they were accepted as Believers. The camp was located on edge of the Shigatse region near the base of Mount Everest. There was a Buddhist monastery nearly 25 miles to the southeast that stood between the camp and the mountain.
Camp Norr was a semicircle of mobile fire-proof huts in front of a stable housing a yak and other magical livestock. The stable was connected to an arena where the Believers practiced their fighting skills. The camp was surrounded by a stone wall that was ten feet high. Around the inside edge of the stone wall was a row of visitors’ quarters. Venus’s grandmother had been staying in one of the units.
The Tibetans who lived all around the camp were unable to see the stone walls or anything within them. The Believers’ camp was hidden from everyone except those who knew about it.
All of Camp Norr, except the fire-proof huts, got burned down in the fire. The Believers feared that the inhabitants of the Shigatse region had perished during the fire because Earth was not able to sense them. When the Believers found Neptune, he was less than a mile from the camp. Neptune had been on his way back to Camp Norr when he realized the fire was catching up to him. He had set up his fire-proof hut in the plaza of a small Tibetan village.
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“Well,” said Neptune, “It’s up to us to rebuild our world.” All of the Believers nodded in agreement. So that was that.
“Wait!” cried Earth, her eyes squeezed shut. “I see something moving! Yes, there are three things moving!”
Venus couldn’t believe her ears. “Is one of them Grandmother?” asked Venus.
“No,” replied Earth sadly, “It’s a young person and two small animals. I’m sorry, Venus, it isn’t her.” Venus looked disappointed, but stayed in control.
“It’s…no, it can’t be.” Earth looked up. She looked startled.
“What?” inquired Mercury.
“It looks just like the rumored description of…” Earth blinked, “of Jinzie.”
Unexpectedly, three men with fair skin, blonde hair, and sunglasses dressed in all-white business suits, jumped into a nearby natural stone fountain. At their touch, the water from the spring turned to poison. White Men—monsters! All of the Believers drew their weapons. The boys had golden swords, and the girls had knives—not kitchen knives, fighting knives. Unfortunately, Earth’s ability to sense beings only worked with munts, Believers, and animals. Her power did not work on monsters or even friendly magical creatures. The White Men looked their way.
The Believers must’ve looked pretty intimidating, because the White Men fled screaming with fear and anger, “Cisco, Cisco, Cisco!”
The Believers had never faced monsters together, so they were surprised that they scared the White Men so easily. Oh, Cisco? The name of Black Man, their boss. Cisco was the only word that White Men could speak.
Suddenly, Venus called out “Chancho!”
For a minute, Neptune thought she was seeing things. Chancho was the name of Venus’s puppy. There was no way a single puppy could survive in a fire like that! But there she was, a black French bulldog puppy in a yellow munt rain hat with oval-shaped holes cut for her ears. She had a bulging leather pouch around her neck. Chancho barked incessantly and wagged her soot-covered tail.
“She says,” interpreted Eris, “that she would like to tell us her story. So sit down and I will tell it.”
She turned her attention back to the yapping dog, “Yes, yes, I heard you.”
Looking back at the Believers, she further explained, “She would also like for me to tell you she brought extra moist banana bread in her pouch.” As they sat down, Earth handed out the banana bread (extra moist) and Eris started Chancho’s story.
“It goes like this. ‘I was sitting outside the wall of Camp Norr when the White Men came up and grabbed me. I barked and howled, but it did no good. I nipped at their hands until they loosened their grip. I wriggled free and ran. They ran after me, but they aren’t very fast. I kept running and running to make sure they didn’t catch up to me. When I finally stopped running, I was lost. I sniffed out the nearest Believer, hoping it was Venus. Instead, it was a girl I had never seen—someone named…Jingle? Jangle? No, Jinzie. She has a dog too. We chatted, and her dog told me that the girl’s name was Jinzie. When I left them, I ran until I sniffed out new scents of Believers. That’s how I came here and found you.’”
Eris took a deep breath, “Looks like we need to find this girl, Jinzie.”
I Didn’t Think a Bird Could Be Scary
Neptune went to his hut (by the way, Neptune hated people getting his hut mixed up with a house). He packed all the stuff he had with him before the fire: a backpack, a can of beans, a large bag of florescent-orange earplugs (don’t ask why, because he doesn’t know), three sets of extra clothes, and a hair brush. He came back outside.
“We should start by seeing if we can get food.” Pluto’s voice made Neptune jump. Pluto melted out of shadows. Sometimes Neptune forgot he was there.
“Don’t do that!” said Neptune.
“Sorry,” said Pluto “But we’ll likely have to fight some monsters, and we’re in no shape to do that.”
The Believers all looked at each other, then at themselves. On cue, Neptune’s stomach growled. “So,” he said, “who’s ready to go to the market?”
As they walked toward the market, Saturn warned the others stay alert. “The Hurse and the Olisk roost near here.”
“I first encountered these two monsters on the very day that Makilensifer summoned Neptune to Camp Norr,” she explained looking over at Neptune.
“The Hurse is a red, bird-like monster that looks like a cardinal,” Saturn continued. “It was only a foot tall, so I thought it would be easy to defeat.”
“Makilensifer had told me to find and chain the Olisk, the female version of the Hurse. The Hurse and Olisk look very similar, but the Olisk is a ruby-red color. The male is more of a crimson color. The two monsters roost together.”
Saturn became more animated as she continued her story. “Anyway, I had just left Camp Norr to search for their nest, when I heard a screech. The Hurse flew above me, but I mistook it for the Olisk. Makilensifer had told me not to get them mixed up. Part of my task was to correctly discern between the two, but I didn’t know it would be that difficult to tell them apart.”
“I tracked the monster to its roost on the ground hidden between two bushes. I hid in one of the bushes behind the roost and waited. I was trying to quietly dig through my bag for chains when I heard the screech again. I turned around as fast as I could, being on my knees, and found myself face-to-face with the Hurse.”
“I didn’t think a bird could be scary, but this one was! Its rock-hard eyes drilled into mine like it was challenging me. The monster stepped back, ruffled its feathers, and raised its crest which made the bird’s total height at least five feet tall. I shifted backward too. We stared at each other for a few seconds until the Hurse decided to attack. I barely had time to unsheathe my knife with one hand while I continued to grope for a chain in my bag with other hand. The monster tried to claw my arm with his poisonous talons while I jabbed at it with my knife. I finally found the chains with my left hand and quickly pulled them out of the bag. I dropped my knife and wrapped the chains around his chest, avoiding the deadly talons.”
“Unfortunately, by this time, the Olisk heard the commotion and had returned to the nest. I sheathed my knife and dug through my pack with both hands for more chains. The Olisk slashed at me with its claws. I finally found more chains and pulled them out of my pack. The Olisk flapped its wings and looked around as if trying to find an escape path. I lunged forward and wrapped a chain firmly around the Olisk’s chest as it squawked and clawed at me again.”
Neptune’s eyes lit up as he remembered this story now.
Saturn continued, “I looked down at my arm. I had blood oozing out of a slash that the Olisk had made. I don’t like the sight of my own blood, so I must have passed out. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hut back at Camp Norr. I sat up and saw Mercury, Pluto, and a dark skinned boy I didn’t recognize.” She turned to Neptune, “that was you, of course.”
“I remember,” said Neptune.
“Mercury told me that I was still healing, and I should stay in his hut for observation,” Saturn continued, “but I had to see Makilensifer. I wanted to know why she had given me this quest but had omitted the fact that these little, tiny ‘birds’ were vicious enough to kill me. Makilensifer ignored my question and told me to go back to the hut and follow Mercury’s advice.”
“I did as she said. When I woke up, Neptune was there. He told me that he had been drawn to the place where he had found me. I had stumbled out of a bush and passed out on the path in front of him. I thanked him for getting help for me. I had already guessed that he was a Believer candidate, but this confirmed it,” Saturn said smiling at Neptune.
Saturn concluded her story just as they arrived at the market, only a few blocks from where Neptune had taken shelter. Much of the market, like everything else, had been burned and nearly destroyed, but several booths were still mostly intact.
The Believers spread out looking for anything they could scavenge. Neptune found backpacks (similar to his) for everyone. The other Believers also collected various items. When they all came together again, they took an inventory and packed what they had found into the backpacks.
Neptune found a can opener and canned goods. Venus picked out uncrushed fruits and veggies. Mercury gathered extra clothes, bandages, and other medical supplies. Mars collected paper bags and miraculously unmelted crayons. Pluto found dried goods. Earth picked up baked goods. Saturn snatched sweets and protein bars. Jupiter collected ten sets of eating utensils and dishes (one set for Jinzie too). Eris gathered tissues, napkins, and a calendar. With packs on, the Believers set out to find Camp Norr.
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In roughly half an hour, they had found the remains. Eris, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars immediately started digging through the rubble collecting chains and putting them in the packs.
Being very emotional, Venus started crying as she dug through the ruins. She wasn’t the only one crying. Kneeling next to the remains of what used to be the arena, was a girl.
With his special power, Neptune heard her whispering under her breath. “It’s all my fault!” she wailed almost silently, “I’ve destroyed everything! They will hate me!” Just then the girl looked up and saw them. She turned and ran into what was left of the woods behind Camp Norr. Looming behind the forest was the peak of Mount Everest.
“We need to follow her!” said Neptune.
“Why?” demanded Mars.
“Because that must be Jinzie!” said Neptune. “Follow her!”