Choices

 
Illusions
“I became the king that Benzu always wanted to be,” says Botzar, as the memories end.

“Why did you leave Makish behind when you became king?” I ask him.

Botzar glares at me.
“The memory is finished, but the story isn’t complete.”

“When I left the silver falls, I didn’t know what to tell my father.”
“If Sindar’s memory and story were true, I had no right to the throne.”

“I decided to tell my father part of the truth.”

“Take one more memory, Yagrin,” he says with a strained face.

I find the memory, and connect our four minds again.

Botzar enters an office, where the king sits working at a large wooden desk.
The room is full of wood and stone.

The king is alone, except for a pet.
In the old days, the kings always kept a Zayo for a pet.

The Zayo are distant, animal cousins of the Bizra.
They have the same shape and eyes, but are much smaller.
Zayo are friendly, quiet pets, with the intelligence of a dog or monkey.

The Bizra wonder how the Jiku can keep Zayo, or any living creatures as pets.

“Come here, Laku,” calls Botzar to the animal.
The Zayo looks up.
It rests on a cushion in a sunken, oval area in a wide stone table.
The rest area is black stone, while the remainder of the table is blue.

Laku has light grey fur, except for a black ring that surrounds her face.
She leaps five feet from her table toward Botzar, and then runs and leaps into his arms.
Botzar is her favorite among the king’s children.

Botzar holds the Zayo, and strokes the long, sleek body, as Laku voices her pleasure with something like a purr.
Laku falls asleep in Botzar’s arms with her eyes wide open, as the Zayo commonly do.

“Where have you been, Botzar?” asks the king.

“There was a message for me in the box, father.”

The king holds the message cube in the palm of his hand.

“I keep track of everything that affects my family, and the kingdom.”
“The box opened only for you, and carried this cube.”
“This is sophisticated technology, with a genetic lock tied to your DNA.”
“The Jiku once had technology like this, but it was lost when we came to Siksa.”

“Then you believe me!”

“Botzar, there’s no trace of a message in the cube.”

“The message is only for me, father.”
“It played in my mind.”

“Someone is deceiving you, Botzar,” says the king, frustrated at his son’s blindness.
“Can’t you see that?”

“You’re wrong, father.”
“The message was from Sindar, and he asked me to meet him by the silver falls.”

“Sindar is a dream, a legend, not a real person.”
“If he ever walked the forests of Sinesu, he died tens of thousands of years ago.”

“Father, the Jiku on Sinesu had a yearly holiday where they celebrated his promised return.”
“Are you saying that they were all fools?”

The king laughs.
“It’s a legend, Botzar, and it made for a joyous celebration.
“Now, you think that the same Sindar left you a message?”

“I went to the silver falls to meet him, father.”

“What did you find there, Botzar?”

“He appeared to me, and told me stories of old times.”

“I had you followed, Botzar,” he said.
“No one appeared to you.”
“You were talking to yourself.”

“Perhaps, he didn’t want to be seen,” says Botzar, unsure of himself.
“That’s why he spoke only in my mind.”

“What did he ask you to do, Botzar?”

“Nothing.”

“Really?”
“Did he say anything about Makish, the girl who you like?”

“No,” answers Botzar.
“Why would he speak of her?”
“He just said that I should bond with someone with Bizra eyes.”

“I knew it!” said his father.
“She knows that I don’t want you to bond with her, and she arranged for the box.”
“She planted the images in your mind.”
“Don’t you see, Botzar?”
“She’s twisting your heart, so you’ll disobey me and bond with her.”
“She’s been manipulating your mind, since you first met her.”

“Father…”

“I’m tired of speaking of this girl, Botzar.”
“I’ve been telling you for months to let go of her, and find an acceptable bondmate.”

“What will become of the monarchy, if you bond with her?”
“Has a boy with Bizra eyes ever survived past five years old?”

“We’ve had queens before father.”
“What would be so terrible if one of my daughters ruled after me?”

“You will not bond with that girl, if you want to be the next king.”
“I will not have a Mind Weaver treating you like a puppet, and running the kingdom!”

“You can’t make me choose between her and the crown.”

The king looks at the Zayo’s golden eyes, and is reminded of Makish.
He grabs the animal from Botzar’s arms and throws it roughly to the side of the room.

“I can, and I will,” says Botzar’s father.
“As a king you will be forced to make impossible choices.”
“Consider this the first one.”

“What does it matter if you lose one girl?”
“As heir, you have your pick of women.”

Until now, Botzar never imagined hitting his father, but if he stays here a moment longer, full of anger, he will strike him.

Instead, he turns, silent, and starts to walk out.
His eyes are pulled to the corner of the room.
Laku lies still, where she was thrown, her head bloody and cracked against the stone floor.

Like cats, the Zayo always land on their feet.
When they’re awake.

The king’s heart beats faster when he sees what he’s done to his pet.
The Zayo are long-lived, and Laku has been with him since before he became king.

The king and Botzar open their energy eyes, and look at the animal, but it’s too late for healing.

“I didn’t notice that she was sleeping,” says the king.
“I never wanted to hurt her.”
“I just wanted her out of the way.”

The Bizra say farewell to their dead with water and fire.
They flow the body into water, and then evaporate the water with a powerful burst of fire.

The kings say goodbye to their Zayo in the same way.

Botzar flows the body and the blood into water.
He covers the water with a burst of fire, until there is nothing left of Laku.
Then he flows the Zayo’s table into air.

“You want us all out of your way,” shouts Botzar at his father.
“Will you make us vanish, as easily as Laku?”

Botzar runs out of the palace, and leaps into the air.

 
Isolation and Indecision
Botzar glides along the web as fast as he can, with no destination, just somewhere far away.

Eventually he calms, and returns to a favorite place near the palace.
It’s a carefully landscaped garden, full of flowers.

He sits on one of the old stone benches, and cries.
For Laku, for his father, for Makish, and for no reason at all.

“I’m an idiot,” he thinks to himself.
“She has no reason to create such an illusion.”
“I’ve never told Makish that father won’t let me bond with her.”

“Still, it’s no coincidence that Sindar wants me to bond with a Bizra eyes woman.”
Why does he want me to bond with Makish?”
“How will her strange eyes protect me against my own arrogance?”

“Maybe I imagined all of it,” he says aloud.

“I’m no illusion,” says Sindar, appearing ten feet in front of him, “but I can hide when I wish to.”
Sindar’s shape begins as a sparkling shadow, and then becomes solid.

“I watched you when you spoke with your father,” says Sindar.
“Did you really expect him to believe such a wild story?”

“Show yourself to him, then,” says Botzar, “and convince him.”

“No,” says Sindar.
“Your father will think that I’m another illusion created by Makish.”
“He may even send her to prison.”
“Besides, I don’t interfere in the lives of the Jiku any more.”
“I just observe.”

“You don’t interfere?” yells Botzar
“Then why do you speak to me?”
“Won’t that affect what happens here?”
“Why don’t you just leave us alone?”

“You have to know who and what you are,” answers Sindar.
“I’m responsible for that.”
“You’re dangerous until you’re bonded with the right woman.”

“My father will never let me bond with Makish, now,” says Botzar.

“Then let go of the throne,” answers Sindar, “and complete the bonding.”

“I hate my father, sometimes, but I can’t reject his throne.”
“It would destroy him.”
“It’s more important to him than anything else.”

“He’s not really your father,” says Sindar.

“He raised me,” says Botzar.
“That’s what matters to me.”

“What about you and Makish?” asks Sindar.
“If you choose the throne, you abandon Makish, and you put the whole world at risk.”
“Remember what happened to Benzu.”

“Benzu is just a story to me,” says Botzar.
“I need help with my father, not stories.”
“If you’re too much of a coward to help me, then just go.”

“Botzar, you need the girl.”
“Don’t listen to your father.”

“I won’t abandon Makish,” says Botzar.
“I’ll just stall.”
“My father will give in, when he sees that I won’t let her go.”

 
Wild Energy
Sindar takes a disk out of a pouch on his belt.

“The creator help us,” says Sindar, as he holds the disk tightly in his hand.
“The Bizra want me to give you this.”

“What is it?” says Botzar, roughly.

“It’s the disk that Benzu removed from the artifact.”
“A strange combination of crystal and metal.”
“For ages it has been nothing but a memory of Benzu’s violence.”

“Benzu replaced it with another object,” says Botzar.
“It’s just a disk now.”

“Not to me,” yells Sindar.
“The disk would still be bound to the energy world, if I hadn’t helped Benzu reach the seven towers.”
“After the energy destroyed our homeworld, I buried the disk at the bottom of the sea.”
“I tried to forget my part in the destruction.”

“I can’t forget.”
“The artifact has returned to haunt me.”
“I discovered that the Jiku came here, to Siksa, and took the artifact with them.”
“Then, a few days ago, the Bizra asked me to make a second artifact.”

Another artifact?” asks Botzar.

“Yes.”
“Benzu taught me how to bind other objects to the energy world.”
“The Bizra told me to use the disk.”
“They said that it will save your world from destruction.”

“The Fiklow artifact is covered by the Heart Fountain,” says Botzar.
“The fountain enables the energy to be safely channeled.”
“Is your disk safe to use?”

“It’s not safe,” says Sindar, “but we need more than safety.”
“Someday, you’ll need the full stream of wild energy to save your people.”

Sindar opens his hand.
“I’ve added circuity to the disk to transform it into a multi-function device.”
“The Bizra engraved these symbols on it.”
“They call it the sword.

“Are you insane?” asks Botzar.
“Benzu destroyed your world, and now you want me to repeat his mistake?”

Sindar closes his hand on the disk.
“I don’t want this any more than you do!” says Sindar.
“I’ve even tried to destroy it.”

Sindar throws the disk to the ground.
“Take the disk or ignore it.”
“I don’t care, anymore.”

“If the Bizra want you to have the disk, let them come, and force you to take it.”
“I won’t be part of another destruction.”

Sindar starts to walk away.

“What will happen if I don’t take the disk?” says Botzar.

Sindar stops and turns, and takes a deep breath.
“The Jiku will die, and all the Bizra with them.”

Everyone?” asks Botzar.

“That’s what the Bizra say, but they’re unclear when the danger will come.”
“It may be you, or your unborn brother, who will face the danger, and need the sword.”

Botzar stands looking at the disk, unable to reach out his hand and take it, and unable to walk away from it.

Three Bizra appear in the air above Botzar.
They guide the disk into the air, and let it fall into his hand.

“It feels warm, and pleasant,” says Botzar, as his hand touches the disk.

“The disk is keyed to our genetics,” says Sindar.
“The warm feeling tells you that the disk recognizes you, and is ready for use.”

Sindar takes out a black necklace from under his robe, and puts it on Botzar’s neck.

“What’s this?” asks Botzar.

“The Bizra dream of three objects that will balance and control the energy released by the disk.”
“They call the three, the circle.
“This is the first, and the Bizra call it the shield.

“The Bizra showed me a dream of the objects, and how they work with the sword.”
“Let me share that dream with you.”

Botzar lowers his mind shield, and Sindar gives him a memory.

Three shadowy figures surround an energy master holding the disk.
Energy rises from the three and forms a transparent shell.
Then the energy from the disk shines through the shell, like a lens, and spreads throughout the world.

“The circle is three,” says Sindar, “and the one who holds the sword makes four.”
“The Bizra found the black necklace, deep in the earth, a few years before the Jiku came to this world.”
“The necklace came to this world from across the possibility sea, and was buried there for thousands of years.”

“How did they find it?” asks Botzar.

“They saw the location in an ancient dream.”

“Where did it come from?” asks Botzar.

“Unknown, even to the Bizra.”

“What’s the symbol on it?”

“It was known as the symbol of the PathFinders on my birth world, but legend says that it’s far older than that.”
“The Bizra say that you must take it as your royal symbol.”

“What about the other two parts of the circle?

“The Bizra and I made the other two objects, according to their dream.”
“The objects of the circle are complete.”
“One for a bondmate with Bizra eyes of gold and green.”
“Another for a daughter with eyes of her mother.”
“The last for a son, with eyes of brown and green.”
You will wear the necklace until your son is old enough to take it from you.”

“The other parts of the circle are waiting in the breath of life.”
“They can only be lifted from there by those who will wear them.”

“Remember, Botzar.”
“Alone, you must never use the sword, or it will destroy you and everyone you love.”

 
Quiet Thoughts
Botzar puts food in a backpack, and flies, as he thinks of Sindar.

“He’s like a shadow,” thinks Botzar.
“Awake for a few days of life, and now alone again in his long sleep.”
“Sindar taught me how to reach the world of the towers, but I hope that I never see that cursed place, or the tower where Sindar sleeps.”

“If you must, leave a message with my guardians,” said Sindar.
I will not wake again for another generation.”

“Will you watch us, forever?” asked Botzar.

“No,” he answered.
“I will continue to awake for a few days in every generation, until I find the time to let our last brother be born.”
“Then, I will sleep forever.”

Botzar’s attention returns to the present, as he approaches a distant mountain.
He finds the marker stone with the royal crest on it.
The stone has been tagged with a unique energy signature, so it’s easy to spot with energy eyes.

Botzar moves thirteen paces to the left of the marker, along the rock wall.
Then, he rises twenty-three feet straight up.
There, he flows a seven-foot tall opening in the stone wall.

This exposes a hidden cave where the walls are covered with a golden crystal.
When the cave is exposed to light, it fills with thousands of soft golden rays that cross the cave, in all directions.

This is an old place, that the Bizra revealed to the first king.
Among Jiku, only the royal family knows of the cave, and come here, when they need silence.

The golden beams quiet the background chatter in the mind, and make it easy to think clearly.
Sometimes, the light brings dreams and visions of the future.

“My father has never entered the cave,” thinks Botzar, as he glides through the entrance.

Botzar shuts off any messaging disks that he carries.
He speaks with no one while he is here.

He sits and imagines standing together with a bondmate and children to save the world.
“How wonderful that would be,” he thinks.

He listens to his breath for a time, and lets his body relax into the cool, stone floor.
Then he opens his eyes, and fingers the strange disk, as he sits quietly.

Botzar looks at the sword with energy eyes.
There are thin, threads of energy that stream from the disk in all directions.
Bits of colored energy seem to float on the surface of each thread.
Far away, Botzar feels a sphere of energy that holds a bright power within it.

“I know that the sword is dangerous, beyond imagining,” says Botzar to himself, “but I enjoy holding that strength, and carrying it with me.”

“I remember what Benzu did with the energy of the artifact,” he thinks.
“Will I follow that same, dark path?”

He closes his eyes, and thinks of the bonding ceremony, letting all other thoughts be absorbed by the cave.

The vision comes, and he sees a royal bonding ceremony.
Most of the image is unclear, except for a focused circle, three feet across, that drift through the vision.

“I must see the face of my bondmate,” he thinks, hoping desperately for that part of the vision to come into focus.
He waits.

Finally, his patience is rewarded, and the face of his bondmate comes into focus, an unfamiliar woman with normal eyes.
Not his Makish.

 
Choices
Botzar seals the cave, and returns to the palace.
“Is this my answer?” he asks himself.
“Must I choose the throne, and abandon Makish?”

Botzar messages Makish, and asks her to meet him at a favorite spot on one of the seven hills.

His stomach is churning when she approaches, but her smile quickly calms him.
“Tell me,” she says, “why you ignored my messages for a whole day.”

“I went to the cave of silence,” says Botzar.
“I needed to clear my head from my father’s words.”
“He’s trying to run my life again, and I can’t bear it.”

“Every parent tries to control their children,” says Makish.
“With him, it’s even worse, because he’s the king.”
“Kings always get what they want.”

Her smile fades.
“Your father called for me while you were gone, Botzar.”

“He said that he’ll never let you be king if you bond with me.”

“I told him that you’ll choose me over the throne.”
“He just smiled.”
“We’ll see who wins,” he said.

“It’s silly, I know, Botzar, but I need to hear you say it.”
“I need you to say that you’ll choose me over the throne.”

Botzar is quiet.

“Why won’t you answer, Botzar?”
“Is this the end for us?”

“No, Makish.”

“I just want to stall my father.”
“When he sees that I won’t give you up, he’ll give in, and let me bond with you.”

“How long do we wait, Botzar?”
“Five years, ten years?”
“Do we wait, forever?”

“I don’t know, Makish,” he answers.

“If he doesn’t give in, Botzar, what then?”
“Will you let me go, and find some normal woman to bond with!?”

He feels the disk in his pocket, and thinks of the destruction that Benzu caused, but he can’t imagine leaving the throne behind.

“The danger may not come in my lifetime,” he thinks to himself.
“Why else would the vision show me bonding with someone else?”

“I’ll never use the sword,” he thinks.
“When I’m old, I’ll leave it in the breath of life, for the last brother to find.”

Botzar is sad when he realizes that he wants the throne more than Makish, but he pushes the thought aside.

“I don’t have to choose between you and the throne, Makish,” he says.
“We just have to wait a year, or two.”

She shakes her head.
“I can’t, Botzar.”
“I can’t bond with you, knowing that you’d give me up, just to sit in that stupid palace, and order people around.”

“I won’t wait.”
She flies away to a park that her mother often brought her as a child, and cries.

A year later, there is a great royal celebration, as Botzar completes the bonding ceremony with the woman from his vision.


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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