“Why do girls have to take so long in the bath?” Heimdal demanded, tossing his towel onto his shoulder. “I mean really? They’ve been in there for an hour! What about the rest of us?”
Heimdal was the Master of Ice at thirteen years old. His hair was white as snow, his skin tanned. His shirt matched his white hair, his trousers were a fading brown.
“I don’t know.” Phallu clutched his own towel close and shivered, “but I’d like to not have a cold bath tonight.”
Phallu was the Master of Invisibility, but he let Heimdal see him. He was eleven. His skin was a shade darker than Heimdal’s and his hair was brunette. He wore a white shirt, black trousers, thin wire-rimmed glasses, and a black coat despite the fact that he was inside and about to take a bath.
“Why don’t we ever get the first bath?” Heimdal asked the wooden bathroom door, “why do we have to let the girls go first for everything? Why can’t we ever be first?”
“We’ve changed everything we do since the girls showed up. We’ve cleaned the dishes after every use,” Heimdal named off on his fingers, eyeing the door steadily. “We’ve picked up our clothes off of the floor. We’ve swept the floors. We’ve taken out the trash. We’ve cooked our own food. We’ve let the girls have the first bath. We’ve let the girls add an entire room to the house just to give them their own space! What more do they expect from us?”
Phallu nodded in agreement. “We’ve done so much for them and we don’t even get a thank you, much less first bath.”
Heimdal clenched his jaw, then his fist. “I’m gonna change that,” he decided.
Frost began to appear, lightly coating Heimdal’s fingertips. Phallu met Heimdal’s eye for a moment and nodded. Heimdal put his frosty hands on the wooden door to the bathroom and let the cold spread, coating the door completely until it was frozen solid. But he didn’t stop there. Heimdal let his power spread past the door and into the bathroom, resulting in screams of outrage moments later. Heimdal and Phallu grinned at each other.
At that moment Hidalgo rounded the corner, looking shocked. He would soon be the Master of Energy, apprenticed under Master Fecit, but his current power was foresight-though he could not easily control it. His hair was auburn and his skin was fair. He was dressed in brown trousers, a green shirt, boots, and a brown vest. He had a crumpled towel in hand.
“Do you two have any idea what you’ve just done?” he demanded, running down the stone hallway towards the two boys.
“Heimdal!” Aldene screamed. “You’ll be sorry!”
Hidalgo stopped where he stood, halfway down the hall, and looked at the two boys with fear in his eyes. “Run!” he told them.
Phallu bolted towards Hidalgo without hesitation. Heimdal quickly followed suit. Hidalgo backed up against the wall to give the two boys passage just as the frozen wooden door broke free of its hinges and flew across the hallway, crashing up against the stone wall. Steam should have emitted from the bathroom but there was none. In the doorway stood three angry looking girls dressed solely in towels, puddles of water forming where they stood as they one by one moved into the hallway.
The boys stopped running, looking back at the girls who now faced them.
Shilom was the oldest of the three girls and the tallest. She was fourteen, the same age as Hidalgo. She had a fair complexion and brown hair that had been lightened by sunlight. She was the Master of Creation and used this ability to form a long serrated throwing knife in her hands, before the boy’s eyes. The boys grew very afraid at the sight; they all knew Shilom never missed her target.
Aldene was the middle aged of the three girls at twelve years old. She had always been a bit of a punk, though no one ever mentioned it. She was the Warrior of Genius, her power granting her the ability to see the bigger picture; her power gave her knowledge beyond her years and allowed her to piece together clues to information others couldn’t fathom. Her skin was fair but tanned. Her hair was azure blue, pulled back to show her face and silver eyes. Her face was always calm and calculating, never giving away surprise. Now, her expression clearly stated that she was furious.
“Angeni,” Aldene spoke with an even tone seeped with venom. “Let ‘em have it.”
Angeni was the youngest of the three girls, though she was the same age as Aldene. She was a literal ghost girl as the Warrior of Spirits. Her features were thin, pale, slightly transparent, and frail, though she was stronger than she looked. Because of her powers, she was more comfortable with death than anyone else. She spoke and summoned spirits regularly, becoming comfortable with her powers. She faced the boys now, beginning to glow a ghostly light.
Hidalgo stepped in front of the boys, facing the girls with his hands in the air.
“Mercy!” he cried, “they didn’t know what they were doing.”
Angeni paused, her glow fading slightly, looking to Aldene. Aldene’s expression was unwavering but she laughed dryly, replying “oh they knew what they were doing.”
“They didn’t realize what they were doing,” Hidalgo amended, his eyes pleading. “They didn’t understand how wrong it was.”
Aldene crossed her arms over her chest and met Shilom’s gaze. Shilom turned back to Hidalgo and took a few steps towards him, her face placid. Hidalgo met her eyes with his, pleading mercy for Heimdal and Phallu.
“You’ll take care of them?” Shilom asked Hidalgo with a calm voice, stopping a few feet away.
Hidalgo nodded. “I’ll take full responsibility,” he promised. “This won’t happen again, I assure you. Never again.”
Shilom looked back at Aldene and Angeni. Aldene raised an eyebrow and Shilom turned back to the boys, giving them a single small nod. Hidalgo let out a relived breath and bowed at the waist to the three girls.
“But be warned,” Aldene said, eyeing Heimdal with a look sharp enough to cut glass. “This will not be forgotten.”
All three boys nodded as the girls turned and walked back into the bathroom.
“The girls are gonna kick our butts in practice tomorrow,” Phallu muttered.
Heimdal nodded solemnly.
Shilom was the last of the girls to walk back into the bathroom, waving her hand in the doorway as a new wooden door formed there. Once the girls were no longer in view, Hidalgo turned back to the two boys, pulled them close by their shirts, and demanded “why weren’t either of you thinking?”
“What are you talking about?” Heimdal replied.
“We just wanted the girls to quit hogging the bathroom,” Phallu said.
Hidalgo released the two boys, shaking his head. “It’s Red Week, guys! What you just did was outrageous!”
Heimdal’s eyebrows furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“What’s Red Week?” Phallu added.
Hidalgo looked between the two boys. “You’re kidding right? Neither of you ever experienced Red Week before? You were never even told about it?”
Both boys shook their heads.
Hidalgo sighed, massaging his forehead. “That explains it,” he said. “That explains everything.”
“What’s Red Week?” Phallu asked again.
“What explains everything?” Heimdal asked.
“Come with me,” Hidalgo told the two, already moving down the hall away from the bathroom.
The boys followed him into the kitchen, where Hidalgo dug through the cabinets.
“So none of your parents ever told you about Red Week,” Hidalgo said, standing up with a basket in hand, turning to face the boys. “Not even your mothers?”
“Mom wasn’t really in the picture,” Heimdal said, crossing his arms. “She passed when I was two.”
Hidalgo turned to Phallu who shrugged and nodded. “I never met my mother,” he said.
Hidalgo looked between the two boys, asking, “but neither of you ever saw a single woman in your villages wear red? Anything red? A sash, a dress, anything? Ever?”
Phallu shrugged again.
“Come to think of it,” Heimdal thought aloud. “I have seen a few, here and there. But I never thought anything of it.”
“Isn’t red a sign of injury?” Phallu asked. “Usually soldiers only wear it if they were wounded in battle. Why would girls wear it for a week?”
Hidalgo set down the basket on the counter and ran a hand through his hair, looking tempted to rip his own hair out.
“Red is a symbol of blood,” he explained. “When a girl becomes a woman she bleeds. She has no control over it. This happens for a week every month for the rest of her life. That is why they wear the red.”
“How are they not dead?” Phallu asked, his eyes wide. “How can they bleed for so long? Are they okay?”
“They’re fine,” Hidalgo said, dropping his hands to his sides. “They just tend to be in a lot of pain during this process.”
“I didn’t see any blood,” Heimdal pointed out. “I didn’t see any injuries either.”
“That’s because it’s not an injury thing,” Hidalgo replied. “And women have learned how to clean up the blood so you won’t notice. You’re not gonna see the blood otherwise. This is just part of their normal body function, simple as you need to eat in order to survive. But this is a little more elaborate; this bleeding allows women to have children.”
Heimdal and Phallu stared at Hidalgo as he looked between the two of them.
“How in Warinja does bleeding allow them to have children?” Phallu demanded.
“It’s part of a cycle that’s not easy to explain,” Hidalgo replied.
“But the girls aren’t adults yet,” Heimdal said. “They’re not women yet. Why would they need to start Red Week? They don’t need kids yet.”
Hidalgo shook his head. “They are women,” he told them. “They may not look it but they are. The first Red Week they experience is when they cross over from being just girls to women. Why do they start so young? No one knows. They just do. They experience Red Week for the rest of their lives until they reach old age. Sometimes it doesn’t end. But it allows them the potential to bear children when the time is right, if they allow it.”
“That’s crazy,” Phallu decided.
“Okay, so they’re going through Red Week,” Heimdal said. “Then why are they taking so long in the bath? Why are they so cranky?”
“It’s part of Red Week,” Hidalgo explained. “They need a little more time than normal to get cleaned up because of the bleeding. Also they tend to be more emotional, particularly angry at little things, during this time. Especially when they’re just starting out. It takes time for them to learn control over how they act out when they’re like this. They’re brains are normally different from ours but Red Week is the one time a month where they’re brains are the most like ours’. You can control your anger, right? The girls have to learn to do that for a week every month then go back to their normal ways and regain control of that. It’s a bit harder than it sounds.”
“That still doesn’t mean they can take so long in the bath,” Heimdal decided, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Cut them some slack,” Hidalgo told him. “It’s Angeni’s first time. Shilom and Aldene are teaching her how to deal with what she’s going through.”
“How do you know it’s Angeni’s first time?” Phallu asked, putting his hands on his hips.
“Shilom is the most experienced of the three. She’s been with us for three months now, Red Week having passed twice already-” Heimdal and Phallu both opened their mouths to speak but Hidalgo held up his hand and continued- “She never wears the full red, just a thin belt over her clothes. She’s also shown that she has gained a good amount of control over her reactions but still shows signs of wanting to fight during Red Week. Her third Red Week here with us should be soon, which is why I have no doubt that Red Week is upon us. We just got Aldene and Angeni two weeks ago. Aldene is always in a fighting mood but restrains herself easily. She’s shown that quite often during training.”
Heimdal made to say something again but Hidalgo raised his hand to stop him once more.
“She’s always been more mature than she should be. This could be because of her power or it could be because of another reason. Red Week typically starts for a woman at the age of twelve, sometimes younger, sometimes older. Both Aldene and Angeni are twelve. Based on what I just saw of Aldene’s self restraint, I firmly believe that she’s gone through this before. Perhaps once or twice, not much more than that. But Angeni is definitely new to this. She follows Aldene’s word for everything she does. That’s why she wasn’t showing any signs of hostility. She’s been acting nervous recently for no logical reason. Most women who are in close proximity to each other for long periods of time tend to sync up, usually they sync up to the phases of the moon but not always. Since Shilom is supposed to be on Red Week soon, and Angeni hadn’t started yet, and the three of them are close, it’s easy to put the pieces together.”
Phallu and Heimdal just stared at Hidalgo for a few minutes, the three of them silent.
“How do you know so much about all of this?” Phallu asked.
“It was just me and mom for a while,” Hidalgo spoke quietly, lowering his head a little. “I’ve known about Red Week since I was very young. Dad made sure that I knew what to do. He passed when I was four. It was just me and mom after that for eight years. Then Jafar’s minions got her. I couldn’t save her.”
Phallu looked down.
“And Fecit took you in after that?” Heimdal asked.
“Master Fecit,” Hidalgo corrected, “took me in. He gave me a new home just like he gave you one. He may not know how to raise kids, or anything about women, but he does know how to train us to survive. He knows how to help us when we need it.”
The boys nodded in agreement.
“So what’s in the basket?” Phallu asked.
Hidalgo opened the basket and showed it to the boys. Inside the basket were sweet and savory treats, sanitary and cleaning products, blankets, towles, perfumes, and herbs. The boys looked up at Hidalgo.
“You’re kidding right?” Heimdal asked. “The girls are wrecking everything and you’re bringing them gifts?”
Hidalgo’s eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean by that?”
“The girls have been changing everything, making us do things they’re supposed to do, and then they don’t even thank us when we do it!”
“Explain.” Hidalgo’s voice lowered, his tone reserved.
“We’ve cleaned the dishes after every use,” Heimdal named off on his fingers. “We’ve picked up our clothes off of the floor. We’ve swept the floors. We’ve taken out the trash. We’ve cooked our own food. And we’ve never received so much as a thank you for our hard work.”
“How is any of that the girls’ jobs?” Hidalgo asked.
“All girls do it,” Heimdal said. “They always do, but not these three. Sure they do it sometimes, but we have to do it too!”
Hidalgo nodded. “We do have to clean up after ourselves and cook for ourselves. The girls do that too but that doesn’t make it their job.”
“How is it not their job?” Heimdal demanded.
“It’s not,” Hidalgo replied. “Do you know who was cooking and cleaning around this house before the girls got here?”
Phallu shook his head.
“I was,” Hidalgo said. “I was the one who cooked and cleaned. I was the one cleaning up after you two and I never got a thank you. Master Fecit takes care of himself but you two don’t seem to know what that means. Then, when the girls showed up they started setting you two to work, cleaning up after yourselves rather than making me have to do it. Why should the girls thank you for doing something you should be doing anyway? I see nothing wrong here.”
“Sorry,” Phallu told Hidalgo. “I didn’t know. Thanks.”
Hidalgo nodded to Phallu with a small smile.
“What about the girls adding on to the house, huh?” Heimdal demanded.
“What’s wrong with adding onto the house, again?” Phallu asked, looking lost.
Heimdal ignored Phallu and continued,“Shilom added an entire room for herself and made a room for the other two. Why not add in another bathroom, huh? Then they could have their own and we could have ours.”
“That’s a great idea!” Hidalgo decided. “Another bathroom is a great compromise. I’ll bring it up with Shilom when the girls have settled down a little.”
Heimdal shook his head. “Why are you so quick to help them?” he demanded.
“What’s your problem with them?” Hidalgo retorted.
“They’re changing things and I don’t like it.”
“Deal with it,” Hidalgo snapped. “Cuz unless you follow in Master Fecit’s footsteps and find a kid you can trust to inherit your powers, like Master Fecit is doing with me, you’re gonna need to learn to get along with a woman to pass it on. Otherwise your power will die with you.”
Heimdal grunted and turned away.
Phallu patted Heimdal's shoulder and then turned back to Hidalgo. “Can you teach me how to not get in trouble with girls during Red Week?” he asked quietly.
Hidalgo smiled at him and nodded.
“It’s fairly simple,” he told him. “There are three things you need to know. Number one is that as long as you stay out of their way they won’t get upset with you. Number two is that they appreciate gifts, gifts are not necessary but they are welcome and can help keep you on a woman’s good side. And number three is that women are powerful, which is why they are to be feared as much as loved. This is very important, if not the most important thing to know.”
“What do you mean by feared?” Heimdal asked, turned to look back at Hidalgo a little.
Hidalgo met Heimdal’s eye as he replied, “Women are dangerous. They should be loved, yes, but they also should be feared. Without women, we all cease to exist. None of us would exist without a woman. Women tend to do the work that needs to get done. It’s not their job to do that work all the time, it’s all of our jobs. But some people forget that and try to pin it on the women.”
Heimdal looked down at his shoes as Hidalgo continued, “Women are powerful, more powerful than you could ever imagine, whether they have powers like us or not. The day women are stripped of their power is the day all life as we know it will end. Some women don’t know their power, but that does not mean that they are powerless. Women are far more than we give them credit for and we often take them for granted, but that does not change who they are. We are to respect them, love them, cherish them, and do no harm to them lest we cause them to turn on us. Heaven forbid we ever see the day women take vengeance upon those who have wronged them. We will see an army made up of half the population in the world enacting justice upon those who did not respect them as equals.”
Hidalgo shook his head. “Never, under any circumstances, underestimate a woman. Especially when she hides her true feelings from you. A woman who hides how she feels has been hurt and will inflict justice upon those who hurt her, because it is her nature to do so. All women are powder kegs waiting to explode, but as long as they are revered and respected they will remain gentle and unlikely to harm anyone.”
Hidalgo paused before saying, “Though Red Week tends to be the most trying time, when a woman is tested by how patient she can be with every little thing in existence. If you don’t want to try your luck, don’t get in her way of self control. You may not mean to but you could easily cause her to explode. As long as you give a woman space during Red Week you should be in the clear. Simple as that. It’s also possible to get on her good side during Red Week but that’s typically harder, unless you know what she likes and what you’re doing.”
“I’d have to agree on that,” a familiar voice chimed in, stealing the three boys’ attention.
It was Shilom, standing in the doorway of the kitchen dressed in a dark green night dress. She had a thin red sash tied around her waist. The knife she had created earlier was attached to it. Her dark hair was still damp from the bath, beginning to curl. Her eyes were on Hidalgo, a small smile playing on her features.
Phallu cowered behind Hidalgo, proceeding to turn invisible, Heimdal moving closer to Hidalgo with the same idea in mind. Hidalgo held the basket out towards Shilom.
“An offering,” he said with a light bow and a small smile.
Shilom tilted her head slightly and took a few steps into the room. Hidalgo met her in the middle and handed over the basket. Shilom took it and looked inside. After admiring the basket Shilom looked back up at Hidalgo and thanked him.
“Angeni take today okay?” he asked. “Does she need anything? Do any of you need anything?”
“Oh she did fine,” Shilom replied, then looked over at Heimdal as she added, “at least, while not being pranked. Then she was moving too much and needed to clean up again.”
Hidalgo nodded. “That’s understandable. It won’t happen again.”
Shilom nodded as well, turning her attention back to Hidalgo. “The bath is open now. Would have been ready sooner but, you know.”
Hidalgo nodded again. “Speaking of baths, Heimdal had an interesting idea that might help keep everyone happy.”
Shilom tilted her head, looking interested.
“What if you created a second one?” Hidalgo asked. “One for the girls and one for the boys? That way baths get done faster and there isn’t any arguing.”
Shilom nodded, twirling a strand of hair between her fingers as she thought to herself. Phallu peaked his head out from behind Hidalgo, his top half turning visible while his bottom half remained invisible. Heimdal held his breath. Hidalgo remained as he was.
“That makes sense,” she decided after a moment of silence.
Heimdal let out the breath he had been holding.
“I think so too,” Hidalgo replied. “Do you think you could do it before tomorrow night?”
Shilom grinned at him. “Definitely. I’ll work on it tomorrow after practice. Shouldn’t take much longer than the girls’ room did. I should have it done in half an hour.”
“Sounds great,” Hidalgo smiled. “And sorry again about the boys’ prank. I’ve already explained things to them. If they didn’t get the message there’s not much else I can do.”
Shilom nodded and added, “then we’ll mop the floor with them.”
Hidalgo shrugged and nodded in agreement.
“It was Heimdal’s idea,” Phallu pointed at the older boy, turning completely invisible once more.
“Selling me out?” Heimdal hissed.
“Well you were the one to do the deed,” Shilom pointed out. “You’re the only one here with ice powers.”
Heimdal grumbled. “You can make frost too.”
“Don’t put the blame on me,” Shilom stated. “I wasn’t the one to do it.”
Heimdal nodded, his head low. “I didn’t think it through,” he said.
Shilom and Hidalgo both shook their heads. “You didn’t,” they agreed.
“Aldene still gonna whup my butt?”
Shilom nodded. “She’s gonna let Angeni have the first honor, but yes, she’s gonna whup your butt.”
Heimdal lowered his head and nodded. Then looked up at Shilom, his expression confused.
“But you’re not going to?”
Shilom grinned at him. “I’ve been appeased,” she said, despite not looking appeased, while holding up the basket in her hands.
Heimdal was not convinced. Hidalgo narrowed his eyes at Shilom for a moment, then grinned and turned to look over at Heimdal. Snowflakes began to fall from the ceiling, falling on Heimdal only. Heimdal cried out in protest, saying he wasn’t the one making it snow, and moved away only to find that the snow followed him. He was the only one the snow was falling on no matter where he moved to. Heimdal ran out of the room, Shilom and Hidalgo laughing as he went.
“I thought you said you were appeased,” Phallu told Shilom, becoming fully visible again and moving out from behind Hidalgo.
“I am,” Shilom replied. “But the rules of pranking state that if you’ve been pranked you get to prank back. And he deserved it.”
Hidalgo nodded with a smile.
“Night, guys,” Shilom addressed the two and turned to leave, the basket in hand.
Hidalgo and Phallu watched her go in silence. When she was out of sight Phallu asked Hidalgo, “how long is Shilom’s snow fest gonna last?”
“About five more minutes,” Hidalgo replied. “She just wanted him to be agitated a little. Nothing too harmful. Heimdal did worse to the girls; he froze the bathwater while they were still in it.”
“How do you know?”
“Because Shilom is going to tell me tomorrow morning,” Hidalgo replied with a grin. “Right before Aldene takes Heimdal down. Angeni provides the first take down, though.”
“Do they get me?”
Hidalgo shook his head. “Shilom told the girls you didn’t do anything, which is technically true. They do warn you not to anger them, though.”
Phallu nodded. “That won’t happen again,” he decided.
Hidalgo nodded and bumped Phallu’s shoulder with his own. “Come on, let’s hit the showers. We stink and if we don’t hurry Heimdal is gonna beat us there and lock us out for another hour.”
Phallu’s eyes widened and he bolted towards the bathroom. Hidalgo laughed, watching him go, and followed at a walking pace. He knew they had plenty of time, but it was good to keep the younger boys on their toes. That’s how Master Fecit taught.