Black Fountain

 
Dreams of Power
The inner cave is warm and soft when my awareness returns.
I think that I’m lying in a bed until I open my eyes.
I’m resting on a spongy material that looks like crystal, but sinks down under my weight.
A thick colored mist floats over my body like a blanket.
I feel surprisingly safe, protected, like I’m in a nest, with someone watching over me.

I sit up when I think of my family, and the crystal begins to stiffen.
Where are they?
Were we attacked?

I feel their presence, but I can’t touch their thoughts.
They’ve raised their mind shields.
I close my own wintzal, and reach for Shazira and the children with energy senses.
My inner eyes see what the body can’t.
We’re hundreds of feet apart, on five crystal platforms.
Three of them are small like mine, only twelve feet from edge to edge.
Tzina’s platform, at the center of the cave, is twice as wide.

I stand up and walk a few feet.
I expect to feel unsteady, like I’m walking on a soft mattress, but I’m wrong.
The crystal has turned hard.

Each nest seems suspended in space, sitting on a tall pillar of stone, and covered with the colors that I saw in my dream.
The pillars are separated by a thick black fog, hundreds of feet deep.

The walls of the cave above us fill the upper space with light.
Clusters of glowing crystals, shaped like flowers, decorate the walls.
The stone dome above us is covered in green, Gen birthing crystal.

The web is powerful in here, my connection with it strong.
I’d almost forgotten what that feels like.
The cave walls filter the web within from the energy poison that streams through the web outside.

“Has anyone seen Filarin?” I ask, rising on the web.
I move toward Tzina’s circle in the center, and the others follow.

“Were you all dreaming, like me?” asks Shazira.

We compare our experiences and find that we were sharing the same dream.

“Where did the dream come from?” asks Berek.
“Was it from Filarin, or the cave?”

I look at Tzina, suddenly wondering if this came from her Mind Twisting.

“It was me,” answers Tzina.
“I shaped a world and bound of all our minds to it.”

“Why would you do it to us?” asks Shazira.

“I didn’t choose to do it.”

“What do you mean?”

“When the cave opened, it pulled us in.”
“The sudden rush of energy from the healthy web must have triggered the dream.”
“Dream Twisters rarely enter the dreams they build.”
“I was trapped there with you, my memory hidden, until I heard my own name.”

You opened the dream, but I pushed you to do it,” says a distant voice.

“Did you hear that?” I ask the others.

They look at each other.
No one heard it but me.
Did I imagine it?

Maybe, but my energy senses are far stronger than the senses of Shazira and the children.
I open my inner eyes and scan the cave.
An energy being in the shape of a young boy hovers near us.
“Drop your mind shields,” I tell everyone, “so you can see what I see.”
“Tzina will bind our thoughts together.”

I focus on Filarin.
He looks weak, his bright energy body spotted with small patches of grey.
My healing body flies around him, and then copies his shape.
Filarin turns toward us and his eyes burn like little suns.

“Good, everyone is listening,” he says.
“You have many talents, but each of you has has a root strength that burns bright within you.”
“That power calls to the gifts that you carry, and will help you in the coming days.”

“The dream revealed your greatest strengths.”
“I pushed the girl’s mind to start a dream when she was only half-conscious.”
“Such dreams are easily bent by the inner strength of the ones who walk in the dreams.”

“Why not just tell us?” I ask him.
“Why put us in danger?”

“I couldn’t see your core strength, until the dream found it.”
“Besides, you needed to feel them burning within you.”
“The girl’s dream found them, and showed you a world built on those strengths.”

“It was a bizarre world, Filarin.”
“Even when I was there, I couldn’t believe in it.”

“The rest of your family accepted their roles, Yagrin.”
“They felt the truth within it.”

“I’m not death, Filarin.”
“The whole experience made me uneasy.”

“You think it bothered you, Yagrin, because it was a lie.”
“You’re wrong.”
“There was a difficult truth there”
“You carry a rare talent, a great power that you are afraid to see.”
“You were death in that dream, and only you had the strength to bring that world to an end.”
“Change shines within you.”
“When it’s time, you will find a way to end the old world, and build a path to a new one.”

“Shazira is the protector, Berek is the master of storms – wild energy that feeds life, Dilasa holds the power of the stars, and Tzina builds worlds.”

“What will we do with these powers, Filarin?”

“War is coming.”
“When everything else seems to fail you, that strength will not.”
“Remember your power, and use it.”

“Is this why you showed yourself to Berek in his dream and brought us here, so we could learn about our strengths?”

“That was no ordinary dream.”
“I needed help then, and I still do.”
“Berek was the one who helped me enter this place.”
“Now, I need all of you to keep me safe.”

“You want us to protect you?!”
“Should we stay here and abandon the world?”
“The connection with the web is strong here.”
“What difference will it make if we stay with you?”

“I don’t need you to stay, but I need the sword and the other objects that you carry.”
“When war comes, the connection with the web will be weakened even more, and the weakness will penetrate into this cave.”
“The sword and the other gifts, placed on the central stone will add strength to the cave’s walls, and protect me.”

“What if the world needs us to release the sword?”

“If that time comes, return here through the sixth path, and reclaim the gifts.”

 
Fog and Chaos
Each of us takes our gifts and puts them down on the red crystal stone at the center of the cave.
The gifts sink into the crystal platform, still visible, but out of reach.
Berek is last, hesitant to give up the black necklace that he has grown to love.
When he puts down the necklace, it seems to melt away, leaving a black ring of crystal that colors the surface of the stone.

“How will we get the gifts out of the stone, Filarin?”
“When it’s time, and you return here, each of you will be able to reach into the stone, and take back the gifts.

“What about the necklace?”
“It’s gone.”
“How will Berek get it back?”

“I don’t know Yagrin.”
“I didn’t expect that to happen.”

With the gifts in place, the crystals on the cave walls glow brighter.
The cavern is filled with a high-pitched rhythmic sound, a crystal song.
The grey patches on Filarin’s energy body melt into an energy fog, as they absorb light and sound from the crystals.
The fog drifts away, and his body is healed.

“My strength has returned,” says Filarin.
He flies rapidly around the cavern, leaving trails of light behind him in an endless variety of shapes.
He dives into the blackness between the pillars and rises again, a fountain of sparks announcing his return.
“Thank you,” says Filarin, as he comes to a stop above Tzina’s platform.

“Ina,” says Berek’s voice in my head, “I can see and hear him now.”
“We all see him,” adds Shazira and the girls.

Tzina dissolves the bond that holds our thoughts together.
“Can you hear us all?” she asks him.

“Yes,” answers Filarin, “but I hear your thoughts, not your voices.”

“What is the black fog between the pillars?” asks Dilasa.

“I almost forgot that you see a fog,” says Filarin.
“What about you, Yagrin,” he adds.
“What do you see?”

I turn my attention to the blackness, and feel something there, a great whirlpool of energy.
So, I quiet my mind, and open my energy senses to their greatest sensitivity.
Then I look deep into the fog, and find flashes of light, like lightning in a dark sky.
What’s really there?

My energy eyes turn to the seven colored wells of energy within me.
They seem to live in the fire body, but the energy centers within us are only shadows, gateways to the wells.
The fire body draws energy from the healthy web around us, but struggles to draw energy from the damaged web, outside the cavern.

Without that energy, the centers within us, and our connection to the wells, started to grow dim in us.
They’re restored to full strength while we stay in the cavern.

There’s an eighth well, the black well.
Its gateway hovers outside each of us, hidden from the most powerful energy eyes.
This well shows itself sometimes to the few that it chooses.
I have seen it before, and I suspect that the black fog is a shadow of the well.

My thoughts turn to a Gen technique, called the Hands of power.
I spin energy around my wrists, to strengthen and free my energy hands.

I open the green well, by spinning energy around it, until my fire body fills with green light.
Then I open the other six wells, red through violet.
The openings appear as crystal vessels, filled with energy that pours out endlessly from the wells, and fills my fire body with light.
The colors merge within me to form a black light.
I take my energy hands and sweep them through the dark light, and into my energy eyes.
The blackness within me, and outside of me turns bright, and the well shows itself.
I see and hear the wild energy that rises like a fountain and swirls around the pillars, always in motion.
This is a side of the black well that I never experience before.
When I saw it the last time, it was nothing but emptiness.

Dilasa touches my mind and intrudes on my thoughts.
“What’s happening, ina?”
“Your eyes are full of darkness.”
“We’re all frightened for you.”

“Not darkness, little one, but a hidden light.”
“Look through my energy eyes so you can see it.”

She goes away for a moment.
When her thoughts return, I feel my whole family with her, watching.

“It’s beautiful ina, like a storm,” says Berek.

“Behind the orderly web that we know, is a sea of energy, wild, chaotic.”
“That sea was the first creation, and all existence depends on it.”
“The sea of chaos fuels the web, but it’s too powerful, too dangerous for even a fire body to touch for long.”
“Once, Tzina and I faced a strange creature that blocked our connection with the web.”
“Somehow, I pulled energy from the sea, and destroyed the creature.”

“The fog is a window into the sea?” asks Shazira.

“No.”
“In the cavern, the fog is what your eyes can see of the black well.”
“In other places, the black well is invisible to almost everyone.”
“The well feeds directly on the sea of chaos, but in other places, the well appears empty.”

“What’s the well’s purpose, ina?” asks Berek.
“The well exists in all places at all times.”
“It leads to the crossroads, a place that connects all worlds.”

“Like the possibility sea or the Seven Towers?” asks Dilasa.

“I never thought to compare them, little one, but they probably all feed directly on the sea of chaos.”
“Still, the crossroads is different.”
“It connects all places, all universes, and all times, but you can’t choose where to go.”
“The path that opens within it, is the place where you are most needed.”

“How do you know this, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
“I’ve never heard of it.”

“The crossroads is used by a kind of energy being called messengers.”
“I knew a messenger once, here on Siksa, and he told me of the crossroads.”
“The messengers use it to move throughout existence to fulfill their missions.”

“Who sends them?” asks Shazira.
“The creator?”

“I don’t know.”
“Nival never told me.”

“Nival was a messenger?!” asks Shazira.

“Yes.”

“When did he tell you that?”

“After he discovered that I could see the Black Well.”
“When he left our world, I went with him to the crossroads.”

“Where did the crossroads take you, ina?” asks Dilasa.

“Right back to Siksa.”

“You could have ended up anywhere!” says Shazira, annoyed.

“Yes,” I tell her, calmly.

“You knew that you might not be able to return?!”

“Yes.”
“I was also warned that I might be trapped within the well and never reach the crossroads.”

Shazira rises to the top of the cave, full of anger.
Then she drops down slowly, trying to let the feeling go.

“Why do you take all these risks?” she asks, frustrated, her eyes starting to tear up.

“I don’t do it to annoy you.”
“I do what has to be done.”

“Like the messengers,” says Berek.

“Yes.”

 
No Answers
“Are you a messenger, Filarin?” asks Dilasa.

“Not exactly,” he answers, “but I know of them.”
“It’s rare for them to reveal their presence to physical beings, even when they walk among you.”
“It’s rarer still for them to admit that they are messengers.”

“Stop this talk about messengers,” says Shazira.
“The web is damaged, and getting worse.”
“Without the strength of the web, how will we protect Siksa from the aliens?”
“How will life itself continue?”
“Tell us, Filarin, how to fix the web.”

“I don’t know how,” he answers.
“Your only hope is to find the ones who damaged it, and see if they know how to reverse what they’ve done.”

“Will the aliens just tell us how to defeat them?” asks Shazira, disgusted.
“They’ll never reveal that willingly!”
“And when they get here, we’ll be too weak to steal the knowledge from their minds, or force them to answer us.”
“Let’s go, Yagrin,”
“This is a waste of time.”

“Wait,” says Filarin.
“You have all your strength in here.”
“Isn’t there anything you want to do before you leave?”

“How long have we been here?” I ask him.

“Only a few hours.”

I turn to Tzina, with a sudden thought.
“How many dreams can you open?”

“There’s no limit, ina, as long as I don’t need to be present in them.”
“I spin the dream, and attach one or more minds to it.”
“If I build a learning dream, I give the participants a way to end it — an action, or a spoken phrase.”
“If I shape a dream as a weapon, it will continue until all the attached minds die, unless I release them.”
“Either way, the dreams continue without me.”

“Do they feel their own deaths?” asks Berek.

“That’s up to me, and the way that I shape the dream.”
“Their deaths can be peaceful or endlessly painful.”

“That’s horrible, Tzina,” says Berek.

“Killing is horrible,” says Shazira, “with or without pain.”
“Would you want her to give them a quiet death if they had just murdered Yagrin or your parents?!”

“I’m not sure,” he answers, then he pauses.
“No,” he adds quietly.
“I’d want them to suffer.”

“You will all be surrounded by death, before this war is done,” says Filarin.
“Do what you must do.”

“You called it spinning, Tzina,” I say, interrupting these dark thoughts.
“Why?”

“I first imagine the dream in a corner of my mind, ina.”
“It’s weak and thin, like a fog or a shadow, little more than a drawing that has no life.”
“Then, I surround it with a cloud of light, full of the energy that moves through the mind web.”
“I guide the energy, making it spin around the dream, faster and faster, until it forms a shell, and a small world is born.”
“The dream comes alive.”

“Mayla taught you to build learning dreams?”

“Yes, but what good is it?”
“I don’t know if the dreams will be stable and safe, with the web damaged.”

“Are your dreams like the training simulations of the circles and the schools?”

“My dreams can be used for training, but they’re not as stable and predictable as the schools.”
“Time passes differently in the dreams than in the real world, but not as fast as in the schools.”
“The Dream Schools pack a year of learning into eight hours of sleep.”
“My dreams offer twelve days of training, instead of a year.”

Tzina pauses.
“You want me to build learning dreams in here, ina?”

“Yes.”
“The Dream Nets, and the training circles stopped working when Mayla destroyed herself.”
“I’m not sure if we’ll ever be ready for the coming war, but here, we can prepare together, before I go looking for the Spiral.”

“I thought we would spend time together as a family, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
“You want us to work the whole time.”

“We’ll train part of the day, and be together the rest of the time.”

“In the cave?” asks Shazira.
“I don’t want to spend all our time here,” says Shazira.
“Let’s go outside each day and feel the sun, as we walk together in forests, on mountains, or by the sea.”

“No,” says Filarin.
“I can’t let you go in and out of the cave like that.”

“Why not?” asks Shazira.

“The five paths will only open from the outside, using all the gifts, but the shield is gone.”
“I can open the sixth path, but opening that path weakens the web inside.”
“The web will recover, but not for several days.”

“Two or three openings won’t affect your training, but more than that and Tzina’s dreams will be too unstable.”

“Tzina can build us a beautiful simulation to enjoy together,” I suggest.
“We don’t need to leave the cave at all until the end of the week.”

“Ina, I’ve practiced my skills with Mayla for a year in simulated time, but I’ve never built a dream with real minds.”
“The path of a dream is sometimes shaped by the minds bound to it.”
“What if something goes wrong?”

“We’ve all experienced one of your dreams, Tzina.”
“It was strange, but stable.”

“We were almost trapped in that dream.”

“Did Mayla trust your ability?”

“Yes.”
“She said my training was complete, and that I was more powerful than any Dream Twister described in the cubes.”

“Good.”
“We need to stop and eat something.”
“Then we sleep, and dream.”


Empire of Stone -- 1: Cages of FearPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. Fading Light
  2. Waking the Council
  3. Challenging the Guilds
  4. Crystal Paths
  5. Caves of Dreams
  6. Worlds Within Worlds
  7. Black Fountain
  8. Secrets of the Game
  9. Fast and Slow
  10. Slavery and Death
  11. Silver Falls
  12. Sounds of Healing
  13. Songs of Change

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