Beast

 
Orphans
Wisten and I walk together, while Makish and the others move among the crowd.
On Siksa, we no longer celebrate Sindar’s day, but here, on Sinesu, it’s the happiest day of the year.

The town square is filled with every type of food and entertainment.
We wander from place to place, enjoying the dance, song, and storytelling.

The clothing and the buildings surround us with a rich sea of color, too bright for everyday life.
On Sindar’s day, no one would dare dress their buildings in white, black, or grey.
The Jiku wear new jewelry and clothing, and abandon last year’s colors and decorations.
Everything must be clean, clear, and fresh for the celebration.

“Each year,” says Wisten, “the celebration has a different theme, and the whole year carries its name.”
“This is the year of peace, and today, every building and every Jiku must wear its mark.”

She brings me to a booth, where a teenage girl paints the symbol of peace on my forehead, and both of my palms.

The paint is pleasantly cool on this hot day, but when it dries, I feel like an electric current is running through the symbol.
I look at it with energy eyes, and see that the paint draws energy from the web, and makes my energy bodies glow with the symbol of peace.

“That’s better,” says Wisten approvingly, “but your robe is much too simple.”

I sigh, and flow the colors on my robe into a variation of some of the patterns I see.
Some Jiku notice the sudden change, and hurry away from me.

The Jiku are afraid of me.
The smiles leave their faces when I approach with Wisten, and they avoid me.

The one who touches Sindar’s monument is master of the celebration, and carries the power of blessing for the day.
Every other year, the Jiku rush to greet the master, and receive his blessing, but not today, when I am here.

Sindar was a happy legend.
What does it mean, they wonder, that Sindar’s brother walks among them?

The stories of Sindar are widely exaggerated, like most legends.
Many say that Sindar had no parents, and was found among the Jiku, fully grown, when three lightning bolts struck a mountain top.
He does not eat, cannot be harmed, and never dies.

Dozens of wild stories fill the heads of the Jiku as they finally come to greet me.

Few believe the stories, but still, Sindar is a myth, not a Jiku who they can see.
I breathe the air that they breathe, and walk among them.
My touch is warm, and I smile like any other Jiku.

“They’re afraid of me, Wisten,” I tell her.
“I don’t like it.”

“Some would enjoy that fear and reverence.”

“Not me,” I say, a little too loudly, as I glare at her.
“I can’t stay on Sinesu for long.”
“I want to remember their joy and smiles.”

“You’re a stranger, Yagrin, and Sindar’s brother.”
“Everyone has heard stories of your shape changing, and your shield that turns away every weapon.”
“Soon they will hear that you healed me, and there will be rumors of other powers, true or not.”
“Is it any wonder that they are cautious around you?”

“How do I push away their fear, Wisten?”

She thinks for a moment.
“Join in the celebration.”
“Let them see you as just another Jiku.”

I join the crowd, to dance and laugh and eat with them, but for most of the Jiku, it just dampens their joy.
Wisten frowns, wondering if my presence will destroy the celebration.

There are many small stages, simple platforms scattered throughout the square.
On one stage, amateur singers take a turn and entertain those who gather around them.
Some are good, and some are only brave.

“Do you sing, Yagrin?” asks Wisten.

“Yes, but differently than you have ever heard.”
“I love to sing, but who will enjoy listening to me?”

“Let them hear us, Yagrin,” says Makish, as she joins us.
“Remember how the Tshuans loved our performance?”
“Can any spirit keep out your song?”

“Sing, Yagrin,” says Wisten.
“Nothing else has worked.”
“Perhaps the Jiku will see your heart in the song, and discover if they wish to know you, or not.”

Makish and I rise up, above the empty stage, and fill the air with the powerful old one’s voices that we still carry, that can make two tones at once.
I shape a crystal half-dome above us, and cover it with symbols of peace.
Then I flow beautiful, colored objects that appear and disappear, and change shape and color, all moving to the rhythm of our song, and our flight.

The Jiku crowd together, to get as close as possible.
They have never seen FlowSong, and never heard voices like ours.

When the song is done, we settle back to the stage.
I let the crystal dome fade away into light, and spread a thin blue mist among the crowd.
Wherever the mist touches the ground, beautiful polished crystals appear in the shape of the peace symbol, strung on silver chains, enough for everyone.

At first the audience is quiet, as they let the song die away within them.
They are unsure what to do with the jewelry that cover the ground.

They are afraid to walk on it, or move it away.
A few of the Jiku find the courage to touch the crystals, but almost no one picks them up.
They turn back to me, waiting.

“The necklaces are my present, my thanks for you letting me walk among you today.”
“Take them for yourself, your friends, and your families.”

They gather up the necklaces and pass them around.
Still they hesitate as they hold them, until Wisten speaks over the disk.
“Have you ever seen a performance so beautiful?” she asks them.
“Put on the jewelry and show our cousins that we know how to give thanks!”

Wisten puts on a necklace, and begins a brief spinning dance, waving her palms high in the air, and the others follow.
This is the way that they applaud on Sinesu.

After this, many Jiku approach me to praise the FlowSong, and receive the day’s blessing.
Wisten announces that I am great healer, and will give healing with the blessing.

The healers on Sinesu erase pain, and quickly heal broken bones, wounds, and simple infections.
Still, there are many Jiku that they can’t help.
There are diseases and conditions that the healers here cannot cure.
They are powerless to relieve the weakness that comes with old age, or a day’s hard work.

I stream healing energy to all who come to me.
It heals them and makes them feel young!
I give my promise to visit others, farther away, who cannot be moved.

The people feel my gift of strength, and share smiles with me.
Some of the children smile, but from a distance.
Most of them are afraid to come near, even when they hide behind their parents, but one is brazen enough to approach me alone – a girl, about six years old.
It’s strange.
She looks just like me.

“What’s your name, little one?” I ask her.

“Di-la-sa,” she says.
“Do you have a name, Sindar’s brother?”

“Yagrin.”

She tastes the name.
“What does it mean?” she asks.

“Living sun.”

“Do you glow in the dark?” she asks me, and giggles.
I laugh with her.

“Where are your parents, Dilasa?”

Her smile is gone.
“Dead two years, from the Hikweh (wild storm).”

“My parents were great binders,” she adds with pride.
“Now, I live with mother’s sister,” she says, more quietly.

I sit down on the ground, and motion to her to sit near me.
She hesitates for a moment, but then sits down.
Two adults walk quickly toward us.

“Dilasa, don’t bother him,” they call from a distance.
Do they really think that she’s annoying me, or are they worried that I’m dangerous?

“I love children,” I tell them.
“She reminds me of my own daughter.”

I flow the air into a few beautiful stones, and hand them to Dilasa.
“These are for you,” I tell her, as she takes them.

“Where were they hiding?” she asks.

“Hiding?”

“Like the necklaces,” she says.
“They were hidden somewhere, until they were scattered on the ground.”

“No, Dilasa,” I tell her.
“I made them all from the air.”

“I don’t believe you,” she says.
“Only great binders can do that, and no one can shape so many objects at once.”

I laugh, but she looks at me with a serious expression.

“Do the binders fly on your world?” I ask her.

“A few, like my parents,” she answers.
“I want to fly like them, but maybe the storm will get angry when I fly, and hurt me.”

I make holes in the stones, and put the stones on a chain which glows.
“Wear this at the celebration, Dilasa, and come back later.”
“I’ll take you flying, and keep you safe.”
“Then we’ll see if I’m a powerful binder, or not!”

The celebration continues for hours.

B’tzel enjoys the noise and excitement, and stands near me, as I continue to greet the people.
While Makish and Botzar stay at the edge of the crowd.

B’tzel and I flow more gifts for those who come to greet me, adults and children.
Slowly, the day disappears.
About three hours before sunset, Dilasa returns with her aunt and uncle.
They come much closer to me than the last time.
The aunt stares at me.

“We’re sorry to disturb you,” they say, “but she says that you promised to take her flying.”
“She’s so stubborn,” they add.
“Just tell her you can’t, and we’ll go.”

“Why would I say that?” I answer.
“I promised her, and I’d love to take her flying.”

Her guardians leave her a few feet away and come near, whispering to me.
“You can’t do this!”
“Her parents were killed when they were flying.”
“She cries at the sight of ordinary storms.”

“If she doesn’t want to go, let her tell me.”
“I won’t be upset.”

“She does want to go,” says the aunt.
“She has decided that you must be related to her, and believes that you’ll keep her safe.”

“She looks just like you,” says the uncle.
“In fact, she looks more like you than her dead parents!”

“A strange coincidence,” says the woman, glaring at her husband.
“She’s suffered a lot, and she was just starting to be happy again.”
“You’re confusing her.”
“Stay out of her life!”

“She wants to fly like her parents,” I tell them.
“It will help her feel close to them, and comfort her.”

“Maybe,” answers the aunt, “but the idea of flying both thrills her, and terrifies her.”

“We’ll ask her,” I reply, speaking loudly.
“Do you want to fly with me, Dilasa?”

“Yes,” she says shyly, and comes near, and takes my hand.

The aunt is furious with me, but she stays silent.
I wonder, myself, why I’m doing this.
I feel that there’s something special about this girl, but the aunt is right.
I should stay away.
The girl will get attached to me, and I’m leaving soon.

I look at her face, and my indecision vanishes.

“My own daughter loves to fly with me,” I tell them, “in storms, in darkness, and in bright sun.”
“When we fly, I surround us with a protective shield that nothing can penetrate.”

“Today, Dilasa will fly with me, and I’ll protect her, as I protect my own daughter.”

 
The Storm
I shape an energy net to hold her, and spread my gliding shield around us.
Then we rise together, two thousand feet up.
I hold her and hover.

She is almost breathless from excitement, as she points to her town, far below.
We fly quickly across the forest, and out over the ocean.

“I’ve never seen the ocean before,” she says.

The ocean is beautiful to the ordinary eye, but far more beautiful with energy sight.

I want to share another gift with Dilasa, and let her see the ocean as I do.
Should I give her a memory, or join minds with her?

She’s very young, but something in me wonders if I can open her energy sight, so she can see for herself.
Naturals see the web very young, but she shows no signs of being a natural.

I focus my intention.
“Let me find the right way to connect with her energy body, fill it with energy, and awaken her sight.”
I spread my healing body on the web to center and quiet myself.
Then I let myself go, diving deep into myself to touch the hidden intelligence within me that always knows more than I know.

I feel that there’s something strange about the web in this place!

I push the thought aside for now, and let my energy sight move across her fire and pattern bodies.

Finally my energy eyes come to rest on a small area on each of the energy bodies.
I reach with energy hands into the fountain of energy in my heart center.

My hands come out glowing with green energy.
I touch one hand to a spot on her fire body, and the other hand to a place on her pattern body.

My energy hands grow larger for a moment.
Then a burst of energy rises out of her fire body, and settles on the pattern body.

She gasps for a moment, and there’s a brief glow by her physical eyes.

“What happened, Yagrin?” she asks.
“Everything looks strange.”

“Close your eyes, Dilasa, and tell me what you see.”

“I see lines, and bursts of light and color, everywhere.”

“It worked,” I tell her.
“This is the energy world that binders can see.”

“Look down at the ocean, Dilasa, with your energy eyes.”
“Tell me what you see.”

“It sparkles, and looks alive, Yagrin!” she says.
“It’s wonderful.”

We continue to fly over the ocean for another ten minutes.

“What is that mixed up mess of light over there?” she asks.
Three or four miles away, a chaotic mass of energy is approaching us.
I’ve never seen anything like it.

I look at it with physical eyes, and it’s little different than a thunderstorm.
Energy eyes tell a different story.
Its energy is nothing like a storm, and it feels terribly wrong.

Dilasa looks at it, and screams.
“It’s a Hikweh,” she says frantically.
“We have to hide.”

I hold her tightly to my chest, and feel the sound of her sobs, as I manuever to avoid the storm.
It can’t match my speed, but it follows behind us.

How could a storm be chasing us?
I change direction several times to see.

The storm responds slowly, but it clearly changes its path to follow me.
What is this thing?
I fly us back to the celebration, and take Dilasa down, and give her to her aunt.

“What’s wrong?” asks the aunt.
“Did you hurt Dilasa?”

“No,” I tell her.
“A storm is coming.”
The first lightning is visible, miles away, but there is no rain yet.
There are strong winds, and a strange hum in the air.

“Hikweh,” the people scream.

Some of the people run toward a stone stairway, not far from Sindar’s monument, and descend into the ground.

Others run into the forest.
There are screams from children and parents, as they try to find each other.

“It followed me here,” I tell Wisten.

“Quickly, Yagrin,” says Wisten.
“This is the Hikweh.”
“You and your friends must hide in the bright room.”

“Bright room?”

“A special stone room below ground, full of a crystal that protects from the Hikweh, and shines like daylight.”
“It’s too small to save us all, so each year, we choose families by lottery for the right to take shelter there during the Hikweh.”

“Why can’t you make your regular buildings safe from lightning?” I ask.

She shakes her head, as we walk toward the stairs.
“The Hikweh is not a simple lightning storm.”
“It attacks like a beast, and ignores lightning rods.”

“It releases bolts of lightning that strike a building together, in a tight ring, like a claw or a weapon.”
“The lightning searches through the building until it finds Jiku to kill.”

“The storm only strikes where there are Jiku, and it has a special taste for binders.”

“Several Jiku die in each Hikweh.”
“Thank the creator, there are only one or two Hikwehs each year.”

“Do you have these storms on all the Jiku worlds?”

“Not all,” she answers, “but they’re spreading.”
“The storms began about ten years ago, around the same time that the strange attacks began on the Fiklow ships.”

“Once, we sent one of our strongest binders to face the storm.”
“His energy shield vanished before the storm’s attack.”
“Another binder, watching from a distance, saw the lightning strike.”

“The attack scattered the energy patterns.
“For a moment his energy bodies showed only chaos, and then nothing.”
“Ordinary lightning kills, but it doesn’t damage the fire body.”

“The Fiklow have sent their scientists to observe the Hikweh, understand its secrets, and use it as a weapon, but so far, they are baffled.”

We stand at the entrance to the underground shelter.
“Go inside,” she says.
“As the elder, I will enter last.”

I stand with her by the stairs as others enter.
“Does the storm only attack binders?” I ask.

“It focuses on binders,” she answers.
“Still, many others have been killed.”

“I’m responsible for this,” I tell her.
“I brought this storm to your town.”

“Sooner or later, the Hikweh comes, Yagrin.”
“Now, there’s nothing to do, but hide.”

“I was with a girl named Dilasa.”
“She lives with her aunt and uncle.”
“Will she come below ground with us?”

“I don’t think she’s in this year’s lottery,” answers Wisten.

“Where will she and the others go during the storm?”

“Some hide in caves or buildings.”
“While others stand quietly in the forest.”

I opened Dilasa’s energy sight, and made her a target.

“The winds are getting stronger,” says Wisten.
“I have to close the stone, now.

“Close it,” I tell her.
“I’ll stay outside and protect the people from the storm.”

“The energy web glows like a star around you,” says Wisten.
“You’re in more danger than anyone out there.”

“Even if I can’t stop it, I can still draw it away, and then escape into space.”
“I have to find the girl.”
“She has energy sight, and if she uses it, the storm will find her.”

“Come inside, Yagrin.”
“Few children die in the Hikweh, and the girl isn’t even your child.”

“Every child is mine,” I tell her defiantly, as I fly off in search of Dilasa.
Then, Wisten closes the stone.

 
Hikweh
I touch my healing body to the planet’s balance, to try and turn away the storm, but it’s unaffected.
That’s impossible.

There’s only one answer.
The Hikweh looks like a storm, or some strange weather effect, but it’s not.
Perhaps it’s alien to this world!

I reach my healing body again toward the planet’s balance, and raise my own storms, to fight the Hikweh, but my storms disappear quickly, and the Hikweh is untouched.
I attack it with heat, cold, wind, stone, and various energy weapons, but it only accelerates toward me.
I fly in circles to avoid it, and scan quickly for Dilasa’s energy patterns.
She and her guardians are standing quietly, not far away in the forest.

I find a clearing near them, and open a large hole in the ground.
Then, I fill that space with a shelter — a second stone room, covered with the same crystal as the bright room near the town square.
I add a crystal door to cover the entrance.

I pick up the three of them, and leave them by the entrance.
“Get inside quickly, and close the door.”
“Don’t come out until you think the storm has passed.”

They disappear inside as the Hikweh approaches.
I flow away my physical body, and fly away at Gen speed.

The Hikweh follows for a few minutes, but it can’t keep up.
I’ve done too good a job of outrunning it.
It loses track of me, and turns back toward the town.

How can I protect the town?
I rush ahead of it, and shape a large energy shield, to block its path.
Is the storm intelligent enough to go around the edges of the shield?

No.
The storm slows as it approaches the shield, but doesn’t change its path.

My shield is powerful.
It would stop any binder on this world, and almost any energy master from Siksa.

At first, the shield holds, and the storm stops.
Then, as the energy patterns of the shield twist and turn into a chaos that matches the storm.
The shield is gone, and only the storm remains.

The storm’s energy seems to have no pattern, but I don’t believe what I see.
Everything has a pattern.
Maybe it’s shielded from me, like the walls of the city of life that hide their patterns in a cloak of chaos.

I need to see the true patterns to transform the storm.

The grandmother is a universal key which unlocks hidden energy patterns.
I shape the pattern, hundreds of times, around the storm, and then move those energy patterns into contact with the storm.

Still only chaos.

Then I fill the grandmother patterns with energy from the Feldin glow.
The chaos clears, and the storm reveals strange patterns, like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Its connection to the web is even stranger.

All living things are bound to the web, and draw nourishment from it.
They have a breath of energy, taking energy and returning it.

The storm is different.
It dims and brightens in a pulse that lasts five minutes.
At its peak, it consumes huge amounts of energy, and tears a hole in the great web.
Still, the hole is small, and the web heals itself quickly.

I understand.
The Hikweh is not alive.
It takes energy from the web, but gives none back.
This meal can’t satisfy its hunger, so it hunts for other sources of energy.
Living things, particularly intelligent creatures, are good sources of energy.
Energy binders and masters, are bright with energy, so it seeks us out, most of all.

Is the Hikweh intelligent, or is it instinctively drawn to strong energy, as some creatures fly toward the light?
No matter.
It’s a threat.
I try to flow the thing’s patterns into water or air, but the storm is shielded against flow.
Then, I start to fall!
How can the ground pull at me, when I have no physical body, and why can’t I connect with the web, and fly?

My fire body is poisoned by a foreign energy that moves through me.
When I tried to flow the Hikweh, our energies touched.
It used that moment to deliver an energy venom into me.
I can’t control my energy.
All I can do is see with my energy eyes.

I wait helpless, near the ground, feeling small, weak, and alone, far from the energy world.
I can’t heal myself.
I can only watch, and wait for death.

I look with my energy eyes at the sun’s wondrous energy patterns.
How I wish that I had my face, so I could feel the sun’s warmth!
Is this the last time I will see the beautiful energy that radiates from the stars?

The venom moves away from the side of my energy body that faces the sun.
I feel the sun’s energy awakening something in me, and I start shining with the Feldin glow.

For a few seconds, I think that this will save me, but it only makes the storm approach faster, to feed on me.

 
Master and Servant
The Hikweh slows, and then, suddenly stops, a hundred feet away.
Why is it waiting?

As I continue to shine with the glow, I start to feel stronger.
I can see that the glow is neutralizing the venom.

My eyes catch something flying overhead.
A flock of Heelu descends, attracted by my glow.

They fly once around the Hikweh, and then move in circles, just above me.
Will the Hikweh try to feed on them?
They’re rare and beautiful, and I wish them no harm, but I hope that the Hikweh attacks them, to give me enough time to recover, and escape.

The storm folds in on itself to form a sphere, and a huge stream of energy emanates from the Hikweh, and bathes the flock.
The Heelu is feeding them!
Are the Hikweh the masters of this beast?

When the stream stops, the storm takes its old shape, darker than before.
It flies toward me, intending to feed, but the Heelu move to block its path.

The storm hesistates for a few seconds before it rises up, and heads back toward the ocean.


Echoes of War -- 3: Family and FirePrevious StoryNext Story
  1. Survivors
  2. Birth
  3. Choices
  4. The Lost Jiku
  5. Beast
  6. Spiral
  7. Gifts of War
  8. Visions of the Future
  9. Miracles of Childhood
  10. Childish Wisdom

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