Caves of Dreams

 
Wild Child
Dilasa has a scowl on her face as we walk out of the council hall.
“They’re not wise or brave, ina,” says Dilasa, spreading her arms wide.
“Why do you follow them?”

“They’re the council, Dilasa, the leaders of the guilds, not some random group of Jiku.”
“Can’t you listen quietly for a few minutes, even when you disagree?”
“You acted like a child in there.”

“I am a child,” she answers softly.
“I’m only six years old.”

“You’re not like other children, Dilasa.”
“Your birth was planned a hundred thousand years ago.”
“You’re part of Sindar’s family, and the family of the sword.”
“Do children call to the stars, and borrow their light?”
“Do children stand up and fight?”
“What child or adult on Siksa can do what you can?”
“War circles around us, and calls both of us to do what no one else will do.”

She looks troubled.
I sit down and take her on my lap.
Every child wants a chance to grow up slowly, and be like other children, free of responsibility.”
“You deserve it as much as anyone, Dilasa, but that can’t be your path.”

“Your emotions and body belong to a child, but your mind is not a child’s mind.”
“With the strange connection between us, you touch my mind, and absorb my skills and words.”
“And, it’s not only what you’ve learned from me.”
“Your own mind is growing at an incredible pace.”
“I can’t imagine what you’ll be like in a few years!”

She starts to cry, and gets up, facing me.

“What’s wrong?”

“Can’t I be a child some of the time, at least when I’m with you and our family?”
“I’m still afraid of being alone, and I feel so small.”
“Is it foolish to want you to watch over me, and make me feel safe?”

I pick her up and squeeze her tightly.
Soon, we both release long sighs.
I hold her in the quiet for a few minutes before I put her down.
“You will always be my sweet child,” I tell her, “even when you grow up.”

She smiles.

“Still,” I add gently, “I don’t think that you want the council to treat you like a child.”

“No,” she agrees.
“I don’t.”

“You can’t expect the council to see you as an adult, if you show them the tantrums of a child, saying whatever you want, and ignoring the consequences.”

“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you,” she says, “but you’re not being fair.”
“It wasn’t a tantrum.”
“I only said the truth, and I still think the council are fools.”

“I wouldn’t put it that way, but I agree that they’re slow to act, and afraid of change.”
“Still, we need their support to mobilize the guilds for war.”
“You can’t always say what you feel, even if you believe it’s true.”

“You want me to lie to them, and pretend that I think they are wise and wonderful?!”

“No, but you don’t have to say everything that you’re thinking!”

She lets the idea circle through her head.
“I’ll try, ina,” she says at last.

“Good.”

“Do you forgive me?”

“Of course, little one.”

“Can I go with you, ina, when you search for the Spiral and the aliens.”

“Not at first.”
“I have to do a favor for an old friend on a distant world.”
“After that I’ll need to dissolve my physical body and use Gen speed to hunt for our enemies.”

“Doesn’t it scare you?”
“How can you let your body go so easily?”
“What if you can’t come back?”
“I wouldn’t know who I am without a body.”

“Were you scared when your Jiku body was transformed into Fiklow, and we lived in water?”

“It was still a body, ina, just strange.”

Dissolving the physical body is not so different.”
“The body is just another home, a place to live, like water or air or this planet.”
“Imagine leaving behind air and water and solid ground, and living in a world of pure energy.”

“But you die, ina!”

“Yes.”

She shudders.
“Is it hard to reshape your body?”

“It was at first, but not anymore.”
“I still have to resist a voice within me that tells me to keep my freedom, fly away, and never return.”

“I don’t want to know how to die and come back, ina!”
“I won’t touch your thoughts anymore.”

I take her hand.
“Your fire body is different than mine, Dilasa.”
“Without a Gen-like fire body, you can’t follow me into death and return to life.”

“You weren’t Gen the first time you died in the tower!”

“No, and it should have been the end of me.”
“Maybe it was the tower that helped me hold onto my awareness, long enough for the Bizra to help me rebuild a physical body.”
“Maybe it was because I’m Embu, with two spirits fused together.”
“I don’t know.”

“Later, when I traveled in the vats, my energy was bound to the Mehkeel man, Neebol.”
“When he completed the Gen birthing, and his energy was transformed, my fire body changed with him.”
“I’m only partly Gen, but even a pure Gen couldn’t change your fire, without a birthing cavern.”
“Besides, I don’t know if the birthing would even work on a Jiku fire body!”

She still looks frightened.

“No more of this talk, Dilasa.”
“It only scares you.”
“Let’s find our family.”
“I’m going away in a week, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to return.”
“I want us to share times of joy before I go, and before war comes.”

She’s too upset to fly, so I hold her tightly, and glide toward the tower.

 
Dreams of the Spirit
Berek is sitting on the tower’s deck when we land, wearing my black necklace.
I asked him to wear it for a few days.
Someday he must use it, or its twin in Tshuan when we raise the sword.
He can’t use the shield if he’s afraid of it!

I give him a hug.

“I was waiting for you, ina,” he says.
“I had such a strange dream last night!”

At first I saw only the necklace.
Then, light was everywhere.
I was flying through a world shaped like a great sphere.
I knew it was infinite, and I couldn’t see the edges of the sphere, but I could feel it.
I could sense the edge of the sphere, impossibly far away, calling to me.
It was covered with star-shaped clusters, like gems of light, that made me feel bright and full of joy.

Everything was made of light, including me, but the world seemed to be sick and decaying.
There were grey patches where the light was broken.
Only I was untouched by the sickness.

Finally I came to a small, glowing sphere of light.
Its edges were marked with waves of energy in beautiful patterns.
I flew inside, and found a being of light, in the shape of a small boy.
His light was also damaged, with scattered patches of grey.

“It’s too late, Berek,” he said sadly.
“Even Yagrin can’t help us now.”

“You know my father?”
“Who are you?”

“Filarin, one of the guardians of the web.”

“You’re sick.”
“Can I help you?”

He looked at me for minutes without speaking and then turned away.
“I don’t have the strength to play,” he said.

“How can we play now?” I asked him.
“We’re going to war.”

“Just like your father.”
“Tell him that the web is a butterfly that wants to play.”
“It tries to show its beauty, but is being crushed with an iron fist.”

I looked at him, totally confused, and he just laughed.
“You’ve forgotten your art, Berek.”
“Learn to play, again.”
“Hold the world with a gentle touch, so it can give birth.”
“Maybe it can still be saved, by you and your father, together.”

I don’t know why, but I gently picked him up.
Then I flew as fast as I could, in a straight line, not knowing where I was going, or why I was compelled to go there.

“Only joy will save us, Berek, not dead obedience to necessity, nor speed or straight lines.”

He made me fly in figure eights, and told me to shape objects of light to decorate the way that we traveled.
I shaped crystals of every color, built of light, but he wasn’t satisfied.

“They’re beautiful, but dead, Berek.”
We stopped at the top of a mountain of light, where he showed me an image of Siksa, displayed in a mirror of light.

It was a cave of colored crystals, growing in beautiful shapes that reminded me of flowers.

“Take me to the cave,” he said.

Around the edge of the mirror were images of four objects: the shield, the sword, and the two other necklaces.
I tried to fly through the mirror, but couldn’t, so I put Filarin down, and took a deep breath of light.
Then I filled the world around us with music built on light, instead of sound, and I poured fire from my heart center, and set it spinning around us.

I reached out with my will, sculpting beautiful shapes out of the fire, and let a cloud of them settle onto Filarin.
As each one touched him they changed shape, becoming small spheres of colored fire, with tiny white filaments rising from its surface like hairs.
Each sphere was surrounded by a mostly transparent shell of light, in the shape of a cube.
The cube expanded and contracted as it drew in the light around it in a long breath.

“That’s it, Berek,” yelled Filarin, as he started to slip through the mirror.
“Tell Yagrin to find me.”
“There’s hope, now.”

“What did I do?” I asked him.

“They’re alive, Berek,” he answered.
Then he disappeared through the mirror.

“What does it mean, ina?” he asks me.

“I don’t know, but it’s more than a dream.”
“I’ve met Filarin before.”
“He’s connected with the health of the web.”
“I knew it was damaged, but it must be worse than I thought.”

Dilasa stands close to the doorway, holding hands with Tzina and Shazira.
She starts to tell them about our meeting with the council, but I stop her.

“Later, little one.”
“First we need to explore the dream.”

Shazira reaches out her arms for a hug, and I hold her much longer than normal.

“What’s wrong, Yagrin?”

“Berek had a dream.”

“Yes, he told me.”
“It was strange, but does it mean anything?”

“The web is fading, Shazira, and a spirit of the web is hiding somewhere safe.”

Shazira’s eyes look far away, as her thoughts hunt for a memory.
“There’s an old Dream Hunter vision, Yagrin, from The Window of Dreams.”

The world breathes war, and the web waits to be unwoven.
Emptiness shatters light, and the sun weeps.
A spirit runs from the world of light, and hides from the cage, spinning a cocoon of living stone.
There is hope, until the stars die.

“The Dream Hunter left us a few words of explanation,” adds Shazira.”
“The vision speaks of a war of sadness, a war where the web itself is conquered.”

“How does it end?”

“An imbalance will spread from star to star.”
“They will explode, and all life in this galaxy will vanish.”

“How certain is the destruction?”

“Who knows?”
“No vision is certain.”
“The visions collected in The Window of Dreams come from the greatest Dream Hunters.”
“Still, only some will come true, and then, not exactly as seen.”

We all seem on edge, so I lead them into the healing room where we sit on the cushions and hold hands in a circle.
I spread my healing body over all of us, and extend the healing body across a mile of the web.
There’s still enough balance in the web to maintain life, but it’s strained, and doesn’t bring us the calm that I’ve found in the past.

I pull my listener back from the web and focus on the five of us, letting the listener spin over us.
I reach inside for memories of the web as it was, and the feeling of calm.
Then I spread that feeling across our circle.

When we’re calm again, filled with the silence, I open my eyes and break the circle.

“I know the being that Berek saw in his dream,” I tell them.
“I need to find him, so he can help us understand the forces that damaged the web.”
“Maybe he can tell us how to fix it.”

“Where will you look for him?” asks Berek.

“I met him once.”
“He told me how to find him again.”
“I’ll be back soon.”

“Take me with you,” says Berek.

“I can’t.”
“Only my healing body will travel, and none of you can follow me where I’m going.”
“Still, maybe your thoughts can come with me.”
“Lay down and open your mind shields.”
“I’ll link our thoughts and try to hold the connection while I look for Filarin.”

“You need to focus on finding this spirit,” says Tzina.
“Let me be the center of the link.”
“I can hold all our thoughts together.”

We lay down, open our shields, and Tzina connects us.
I send the healer to a distant mountaintop where I practiced energy weaving.
The last time I was here, I met a Bizra in the form of a centipede.
He opened a gateway for me to a crystal forest, which led to Filarin’s energy world.
I discovered later that there are no creatures like centipedes on Siksa.
He took that shape from my mind, but never explained why he chose to hide behind it.

I scan the web between the mountaintop and the sea, hoping to find the gateway.
There’s nothing here.
Filarin gave me another way to find him, but I don’t believe it will work.

Call out to the web, and invite it to play.
Fill your thoughts with me and my playroom!

I fill myself with thoughts of Filarin and the energy world that he called a playroom.
I invite the web to play, and focus on its beautiful complexity and balance.
Intuition guides me and leads my attention to a nearby corner of the web, where I dive into one stream of energy after another.
Minutes pass and there is only play, and the light of the great web that fills my energy eyes.

A spinning green tunnel of energy opens before me, and calls me to enter.
There seem to be objects within it, but I know that they are only energy.
They’re scattered through the tunnel on all sides, and appear to my healing eyes like crystals that change shape and size and color.
They seem to float in a river of energy that rushes through the tunnel.

I come to the crystal forest, and from there I find my way to Filarin’s playroom.
It’s empty.

I call his name, but his world is empty and quiet.
He’s gone.

I return to the forest, and back to Siksa, where I find myself hovering over a large mountain.
Is Filarin here?
I start to scan the mountain.
It’s full of caves, but what use would a spirit have for a cave?
He lives in a sea of energy.
Air, water, or sold rock are all nothing to him.

Still, I search every cave, but find them empty, except for bits of a strange green crystal.
I follow one cave toward the center of the mountain, and find a place where my listener can’t penetrate.
The dark area is a perfect sphere, with a radius of three hundred feet.

Is it solid or empty?

Four small caves mark the four directions, and lead from the outside of the mountain to the core, meeting the sphere at the center of its height.
A fifth cave rises from below ground to the sphere, and a sixth descends from the top of the mountain.

The first five caves stop just outside of the sphere.
There’s an energy mark on the sphere at the end of each of the five.
The symbol feels so familiar, but I can’t see more than a blur.
A voice within tells me that the sixth cave enters the sphere, but with my sight blocked, I don’t know if the cave continues for mere inches, or reaches the center.

There’s nothing more I can learn here as a listener.
I could try and shatter the entire mountain, but what would that accomplish?
Either the sphere would be untouched, or it would be destroyed.
Either way I wouldn’t discover what’s inside.

I return my healer to the tower and break Tzina’s mind link.
We open our eyes, and shake off the powerful perceptions of the healer, so different from our ordinary sight.

“Do you think Filarin is hiding in there?” asks Tzina.

“I can’t tell, but I’m going to find out.”

Shazira is upset with me.
I feel it strongly through the emotional link that we share as bondmates.

“We go together or not at all,” she says to me.
“You leave us in a few weeks.”
“Isn’t that soon enough?”
“I won’t let you disappear every day until then.”

“This time, Shazira, you have nothing to be angry about.”
“I was going to suggest that you all come with me.”

Her heart settles down.

“Good,” she agrees.
“We’re a family this week.”
“Where one goes, we all go.”


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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