Challenging the Guilds

 
Mind Weavers
I find it easy to locate Jiku over twenty years old with Bizra eyes, even half a world away.
They have a unique energy.
The energy is more chaotic in children and harder to find.
Besides, it’s extremely rare to find young ones with Bizra eyes that have the mental strength to be Mind Weavers.

There are thirty-nine adults.
Dilasa flies with me, as we visit them all, in secret.
Many are tied up, restrained by their friends or family to keep them from harming themselves or others.
These women suffer from the web’s sickness more than anyone else that I’ve seen.

One woman is more disturbed than the rest.
I begin with her, but can I help her?
She is young, barely thirty years, but her face is drowning in loneliness, and she stops screaming, only long enough to breathe.
I put a Kralestone ring on her finger.

“My name is Linak,” she says, when her mind returns.
“Thank you for the gift, master.”
“I thought I was struck with the madness that the eyes can bring.”

“No, Linak.”
“This is something else.”
“The energy web is sick, and the damaged web disturbs our minds, adults with Bizra eyes most of all.”

“The ring will protect me?”

“For now, but I can give you a greater protection, a wintzal.”

“A mind shield?”
“My father was a master and he once told me of the Mind Weavers and their skills.”
“He said that all of them had Bizra eyes, and the skill was lost long ago.”
“How can you be a Mind Weaver?”

“The skill has returned.”
“I’m not sure why I have the talent.”
“Maybe it’s because my mother had Bizra eyes.”

“I have twin three-year-old girls, master, with the eyes.”
“Can you help them, too?”

I dissolve her ropes and we go to her girls.
I take bits of Kralestone from a pouch I carry, and flow two necklaces for her girls.

“They must always wear these,” I tell her.
“Do you understand?”

“Yes.”
“Give me the wintzal, master.”
“I must be strong to take care of my twins.”

When I’m finished, I sit down.

“It makes you weak,” she says.
“Why do you do it?”
“How can I repay your kindness?”

I show her the image of the creature, and tell her of the coming war.
“We need more Mind Weavers to build wintzals, for those who will fight this monster.”
“Will you help us?”

“How can anyone stand before that beast?”
“I can’t imagine such courage!”
“I’ll do whatever I can to protect those who will fight, if you think I have the talent.”

I scan her mind web, using a technique that Tzina learned in her training and taught me.

“You can be a Mind Weaver if you wish.”

“Will I be a master one day?”

“I don’t know, Linak.”
“Someday, the council may recognize this talent, and allow the Mind Weavers to form a new guild.”
“There will never be many of us.”
“It’s more likely that the council will choose to ignore you all.”

“Who is this girl with you?” asks Linak.
“Is she your daughter?”

“Yes,” interrupts Dilasa, “and I’m a Mind Weaver like my father.”

“So young, and so brave,” says Linak, facing Dilasa.

“Who will take care of my children, master, while I build wintzals for soldiers?”

“Do you have any family, Linak, who could come with you and watch over your children while you work?”

“My bondmate is dead, master, along with my parents.”
“I have no one except my girls.”

“Come with me.”
“I’ll find a place for you to stay, and someone to care for your girls when you are busy.”

I bring her back to the tower with the girls, and train her.

Dilasa is with me when I visit the rest of the women.
Some are deathly quiet as I slip the ring on their fingers.
The rest are screaming, like Linak.
I have to hold them still, long enough to put the ring on them, so their minds can find peace again.

When the mind clears, I offer to build each one a shield to free her from this fog of fear that covers her.
The women desperately want this protection, all too aware that the minds of those with Bizra eyes are easily shattered.

They accept the mind shield, but despite my gift, many refuse to be trained.
A week passes, and I visit all the women, except the ones in Tshuan.

I request an audience with the king, before I speak with his people.
I’m surprised to see that he and his guards are unaffected.

I tell him about the alien probe, and the damage to the web, and how we are protecting ourselves with mind spheres and Kralestone.

“This is not good, Yagrin,” he says.
“I hoped that the visions of war would mean a small and short war between Jiku, followed by the rise of the new kingdom.”
“The war you speak of is much darker.”

“Why is Tshuan untouched by the sickness, commander?”

“My army is unaffected, but there are stories of many of my people who have grown strange.”
He raises his arm, to show me one of the inhibitor bands.
“The inhibitor weakens the connection with the web, and all the guards wear it!”
“It seems that it also protects us against the strange energy that flows through the web.”

“We will mass produce the inhibitors, and give them to all of Tshuan, so they will have their strength and a clear mind, when it is time to fight!”
“Take the plans with you.”
“You can protect all of your people with the inhibitors.”

“I have the plans already, commander, copied from an ancient library.”
“Unfortunately, the council will not allow it.”

“They are cowards, ina,” says Dilasa, her eyes angry.

“Who is this that has been so quiet until now?” asks the king, with a smile.
“Such a spirit, that she would challenge the whole council at her age.”

“I’ve taken her as a daughter, commander.”

He looks back and forth from my face to Dilasa’s face.
It’s obvious that we’re related, but I say nothing, and he lets it go.

“You still need the inhibitors, Yagrin,” says the commander, returning the conversation to where it was.
“At least use them for your people who have no energy mastery.”
“They will lose nothing by shielding themselves from the web!”

“You’re right commander, but I don’t think the guild council will do it.”
“They have too much distrust of anything Tshuan.”

“Fools,” he says, and smiles at Dilasa.
She smiles back.

The king listens to the sounds of his guards moving through the camp, under a clear, bright sky.
“Promise me something, Yagrin.”

“What?”

“If war comes, find a way to protect my daughter.”

“I’ll do what I can to help Tshuan and protect the princess, but I can’t abandon the guild lands.”
“I will fight the enemy, as long as I have the strength.”

“You don’t sound confident, Yagrin.”

“This enemy will overcome us in battle, at least at first.”
“The only certain way to protect Keela is to take her far away from Siksa to another world where Jiku live.”

“Sinesu?” asks the king.
“You’ve found it, and there are Jiku there?”

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“There’s a vision, Yagrin:”

Sindar’s day will sound again on Sinesu in a circle of lost Jiku.
Strong feet will touch the hills of Tshuan and the hills of Sinesu, in the shadow of war.”

Dilasa’s fills with sadness, as she hears of Sinesu, and remembers her old life.

“Why are you so upset about Sinesu?” asks the king, as he looks at her.
He pauses, and tries to imagine why this little girl would care about an ancient dead world.

“Sinesu was your home!” he says at last, surprised by his discovery.

I sigh.
“Yes, commander, but she’s an orphan, and her world is gone.”

His face turns dark.
“Such amazing news mixed with such sadness!”

“The planet is gone, commander, but I helped the Jiku escape.”
“There are other worlds near Sinesu where the Jiku still live.”
“Keela would be safe on any of them.”

“No,” he answers.
“She is a princess.”
“She can’t run away from danger.”

“Can I meet your daughter, commander?” asks Dilasa.

“Soon, I hope,” he answers, “but she is away right now.”
“Your spirit reminds me of hers, little one.”

“Send Keela my greetings,” I tell him.
“I hope that we will gather again in brighter times.”

He rises and takes my hands.
“Who knows what will be left of the world we know when war is done.”

His face brightens.
“There is a way to win this war, Yagrin.”
“Free the sleepers, and they will save us all.”

“Neither of us knows how to do that, commander.”
“Besides, how can they help us if they’re cut off from the web by the aliens?”

“Some believe that there is an ancient city, filled with weapons, preserved from ancient times.”
“These weapons might save us, even if your energy ways are gone.”
“One of the sleepers may know how to find and enter the city.”

“The city is gone!” I tell him.

“How do you know?”

“I’ve been there.”
“The alien probe penetrated the city, and we destroyed the city to keep the probe from taking the weapons.”

He lets go of me, and sits down, looking at me with an intense gaze.
For a moment, his face falls, then he shakes it off.

“We will fight them, Yagrin, with or without weapons, with or without energy mastery.”
“Will you do the same?”

“I will.”

He smiles a sad smile.
“If my family dies, and yours lives, Yagrin, promise me that you will rule in my place.”

“I don’t want to be king!”

He laughs.
“That is why you should be king.”

I turn the conversation away from these dark thoughts.
“I must complete my mission here in Tshuan.”
“Give me your permission to recruit the women with Bizra eyes.”

“Go ahead, but I’ll be surprised if any of them agree to leave with you.”
“My people are fiercely loyal to their land.”

He gives me the greeting of palms, and holds the contact for several seconds.
Then he smiles and sits down at his desk.

“I like him,” says Dilasa, as we fly away.
“He’s not afraid of anything.”

We find the Tshuan women, explain the danger, and why we need them to become Mind Weavers.
They let me build them shields, but that’s all.
None will join us in the guild lands.
I can’t blame them.
The Tshuans know that the guilds distrust them and look down on them.
Why would they want to help us?

Out of the thirty-nine women with Bizra eyes that I found across the planet, only eighteen have agreed to become Mind Weavers.
My family adds another five.
We are twenty-three in all.

I’m disappointed and quiet on the flight home with Dilasa.
The work will be hard for all of us.

It takes a week to give the initial training to the new Mind Weavers.
During the next week, the five of us watch them carefully as they build the shields, in case anything goes wrong.

When the training is done, we work alone, but the scheduling is complex.
Many of the guild masters refuse to be trained by children, or by Mind Weavers who are not members of the guilds.
Still others refuse to be trained by me.
They are frightened of me because I’m a traveler, or because of the way that I cheat death.

Some of the Mind Weavers are too weak to build more than 3 or 4 shields a day.
Most of them can build six or seven.
I quickly renew my strength, and build about thirty a day, sometimes more.
All together, we shape one hundred fifty shields a day.

In a week, we finish with the guilds and the sisters.
The shields are familiar to the sisters.
They had them before they become old ones, but the transformation erased the shields.

“Are we done?” ask the Mind Weavers at the end of the seventh day.

“No.”
“We need to protect enough Jiku to form an army.”
“After that, those who can will continue as long as they have strength, and can find Jiku who will accept our help.”

“Some of us will serve the guilds in other ways.”

“What will happen to the rest of our people that have no shields?”

I have no answer, but there is more to think of than mind shields.
The guilds and I will meet, and speak of Sinesu and war.

 
Hiding in circles
The guilds gather in the great round hall on a hot day, in mid-afternoon.
The walls are covered with the same ancient script that covers the harbor walls.
No one understands these words except the Bizra that put them here.
The words glow in the bright light that fills the room.

The hall can seat five thousand, but there only three thousand here today.
They are restless, arguing loudly as they wait for the meeting to begin.

The rows are laid out in circles rising from the floor to the high ceiling.
The circles are broken by a large open path at floor level that reaches from the seven wide doors to the center.
Dilasa and I enter the room with the council, according to tradition.
The council sits in the center of the bottom row.
Dilasa and I walk in a circle around the dark stone that fills the open space, and then stand before the council.

“Quiet,” says the council head.
The room is built so his words echo loudly throughout the room.

“Speak, guardian.”

“The masters and apprentices have their mind shields, council.”

“How many Mind Weavers are there, building the wintzals?”

“Twenty-three, including my three children.”

“You’ve told us that this one is only six years old!”
“She has the strength to build the shields?”

“Yes.”

“Tell us, Yagrin, of our old home, that gives birth to such bold children.”

I take memories of Sinesu from my mind, and project images and sounds, so the guilds can see the homeworld.
No one moves or speaks as I show them the forests and oceans and skies, and the great storms.
They see the colors of Sindar’s day celebrations, and the attacks of the Hikweh.
I describe the war with the Spiral, and its death, and the danger to us from the Spiral in our own universe.
Finally, I show them the Jiku leaving Sinesu for Gunal, and the transformation of Sinesu into a sun.

Then I speak of the alien probe, without speaking of the city.
I tell of the alien technology that damages the web.
I end by projecting the image of the alien creature.
“My brothers and sisters, we need to prepare for this war.”

The arguing begins again.

“Stop,” yells the council.
“The Spiral is the immediate threat.”
“Go and defeat it.”
“When you return, we will speak of war again.”

“It will take time to arm the guilds, council, and train them, and we grow weaker every day.”
“We can’t wait until the war is upon us.”

“We don’t know if there will be war with these aliens, and now, we have the mind shields to protect us.”

“The probe attacked the web the moment it arrived.”
“We must assume that the aliens want war.”
“The wintzals will not protect us from that.”
“Besides, most of our people are weak, unprotected by the shields.”

“Can we get more weapons from Tshuan?” asks Lina.

“The Tshuans will not give us weapons,” calls one of the masters from halfway up the room.

“You’re wrong,” I tell him.
“The king will give us whatever we ask for.”
“He has already given me plans for an armband that will protect the rest of our people from the madness, though it blocks our energy ways.”
“The Tshuans are ready to fight with us in this war.”

“We will not accept Tshuan gifts or help,” says the council head.
“They are full of evil.”

“Council, we don’t know how dangerous the aliens are.”
“We don’t understand the little of their technology that we have seen.”
“What will happen when they send warships?”

“You worry about things that may never happen, Yagrin.”
“There will be time to discuss war when you return.”
“Besides, preparing for war will make us hunger for it, and lead us to war with the aliens when we could have found a way to peace.”

“The Tshuan king was right,” shouts Dilasa.
“You are fools!”

“Keep the girl quiet, Yagrin, or we will throw her in the sea.”

Dilasa glares at them, unafraid.
“It seems, Dilasa,” says the council head, “that Sinesu has forgotten the old ways of respect.”

“Hiding from war will not save us,” shouts Dilasa.

“Quiet,” I tell her.

“Please reconsider, council,” I add.
“This is the greatest threat that we have faced.”
“When I built the shields for you, you seemed ready to plan for war.”

“The fear no longer twists us, Yagrin,” says Lina.
“Our minds are quiet now, and we will not run to war.”

“We are a greater threat to ourselves, Yagrin, then anything outside of us,” adds the head of the healing guild.
“We must not encourage the spirit of violence within us.”
“Remember the energy wars!”

“You’ve heard our decision Yagrin,” says the council head.
“Now go, and vanquish the Spiral.”
“May your path be quick, and your return strong.”

“At least, council, let the other Mind Weavers continue to build the shields for our people, including those outside the guilds who would fight for us if we come to war.”

The council confers briefly.
“The madness is real, and our people must be freed from it.”
“Let the Mind Weavers continue their work, even while you are gone, as you have said.”

“Thank you,” I tell them.
The head of the council reaches out his right hand.
I rise into the air and kiss the outstretched hand, as tradition demands.
Then, Dilasa and I make another circle around the open area, and leave the chamber.


Empire of Stone -- 1: Cages of FearPrevious StoryNext 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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