City of Life

 
Life and Light
“It’s time to show you the city,” says Mayla.

I hear the sound of crashing waves as an image fills the room: a small barren island, surrounded by sharp reefs.

“What do you see?” asks Mayla.

“The island that the city rests on,” answers Berek, “empty, as we saw it from the air.”

“Correct.”
“The wall’s energy distorts the size of the island, and hides the city, until you come within a hundred feet of it.”

“Not long after the war, a few Jiku tried to find the city.”
“When they approached the island, there was no sign of the city, not even ruins.”
“The visitors were not masters, but even energy eyes would see the same illusion of a barren island.”

“When they came within a thousand feet of the city, they entered a field of energy that radiates from the walls.”
“The Jiku became nauseous and cold, and returned home.”

“We also felt it,” says Shazira, “but we kept going.”

“Yes,” says Mayla, “because you knew the city was still here, and that it was safe to approach it.”
“The visitors assumed the city had been destroyed, and that the land was contaminated with energy from the sword.”
“Since then, some Jiku have come to see the strange waves that begin at the island’s edge and move out to sea.”
“Most visitors are afraid to travel inland, and even the braver ones go back when they feel the effects of the energy field.”
“Everyone, but Balshown.”

“He was the first to find the city?” asks Makish.

“Legends speak of deadly energy and malevolent spirits that cover the site of the old city,” says Balshown.
“I was the only one foolish enough to keep going.”

“How did you know that the city was still here?” asks Mayla.

He laughs.
“I didn’t think it was here at all,” he answers.
“I expected to find the Heart Fountain, not the city.”
“Legends spoke of friends who would find the Heart Fountain.”
“Where else could it be, I thought, but somewhere within the great city?”
“I imagined it would be buried below the ground where the city once stood.”

“I shaped a powerful energy shield for protection, when I flew toward the island.”
“When I came within a thousand feet of the city I felt slightly nauseous, but I went on.”

“Then I found the walls and dome of the city, untouched by age, and I was thrilled.”
“My joy vanished when I realized that I couldn’t get inside.”

The image moves as though we were flying toward the center of the island.
Soon, we see the city from above, covered with stone, identical to the walls.

“The city, and the dome that covers it,” says Mayla, “are seven miles wide, and perfectly round.”

The image changes, and we’re hovering inside the city, looking up at the dome.
The walls and the dome are an opaque crystal, that allows light to pass into the city.
Now, the image turns away from the dome, toward the ground, and shows us an immense lake, that rests at the center of the city.
Four rivers rise from the ground, from the North, South, East, and West, just inside the walls of the city.
The water rages as it races to meet the lake.


“The city is built in rings,” says Mayla.
“There are seven rings of buildings, each ring two hundred forty feet thick.”
“We’re in a meeting room, in the outermost ring, just inside the city walls.

“Between each building ring is a growth ring, filled with a combination of forests, gardens, and open space.”
“There are six growth rings, each six hundred feet thick.

“In the center of the city is a small sea, five miles across, completely isolated from the ocean that surrounds the island.”
“The shore of the sea is fifty feet below the rest of the city, and the ring of beaches is surrounded with tall sand dunes.”

“There are four rivers, as you’ve seen.”
“They burst out of the ground, and cross the city, moving strongly and quickly toward the sea.”

“The rings of buildings are broken by the four rivers, but there are colorful stone bridges, that cross the rivers within each ring.”

City of Life

The image fades.

“Who designed the city?” asks Berek.

“The Bizra designed and built most of it,” answers Mayla, “and brought the living things here.”

“Come,” says Mayla, “let’s go outside the buildings.”
“You need to see the city with your own eyes.”

Mayla walks us to a transport platform, and brings us to the edge of the sea.
T
The air is warm, and birds fly within the crystal roof of the city, a thousand feet above us.

I look at the sea with energy eyes, and see that it’s full of life.

“The city is a storehouse of knowledge and life,” says Mayla.
“After the destruction, many species of plants, trees, and birds were restored to the world from here.”

“It’s incredible,” says Berek.
“You have your own little world, and no one has been here for a thousand years!”

“No one but my shadow,” answers Mayla, “and the machines that help me maintain the city.”

“Such a beautiful place,” says Shazira, “waiting so long for people to return to it.”

There’s a lonely energy in this place.
The sea and the forests are calling to me.

I drop my clothes to the strip of sand at the edge of the sea, and transform into a Kishla.
Then, I rise to the top of the city, and circle the city in a growing spiral, until I reach the outer walls.

Finally, I return to the sea, rest on the sand near the others, and sing.

In a few minutes, a dozen Feldin rise from the sea and surround me.
Their pure eyes focus on my face, and cover me with light.
I find the glow within me, and let it shine.

As I join in the glow, the Feldin join my song.
They can’t follow the many paths of my Kishla voice, but their simple song is a cousin to mine, and their voices fill the air, clear, emotional and strong.

As we sing, our glow shines, strong and bright.

My Jiku companions turn away from the blinding light.
Only Mayla watches.

The glow is more than it seems.
The Feldin are energy weaving.

Bits of energy radiate from them, and gather outside me.
My fire body opens to accept the gift, and releases its own energy to them, in return.

Soon, the song ends.
The Feldin make a sound like a laugh, and return to the water, still covered in blinding light.
As I watch them, I feel restless.

My glow seems to pull at me, as though it’s trying to tell me something.

I turn my energy sight toward the city walls, wondering if their patterns are visible from within the city, but all I see is the same chaos.
I clear my mind and ask for guidance.
I’m answered with an urge to reshape myself into an energy wheel, like the ones that I used to enter the city.

So I shape the grandmother pattern, and clothe it in a dark blue sphere of energy.
Then I form the twelve mother patterns of energy, and join them to the sphere.
This time, when the wheel forms, it starts spinning on its own.

I let go of my physical, Kishla body, and bind my fire body to the energy wheel.
As I become the wheel, I fill it with the Feldin glow, and I fly to the walls.

I have no ears, but I hear a simple tone that emanates from the wheel and enters the walls.
The chaos melts away, like fog in sunlight, and the walls reveal their patterns.

The energy shield still rests on the walls, and I feel it pushing against me, trying to stop me.

I’ve seen what I need to see, so I dissolve the wheel, reshape my physical body, and rebuild the wintzal.
Then I fly back to the beach.

Mayla confronts me as I put on my clothes.
“Yagrin,” she says, in an excited voice.
“Something penetrated the wall’s energy shield.”
“We’re in great danger!”

“No, Mayla.”

“It was you?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“What were you doing?”

“Exploring the hidden patterns of the walls.”

“The walls keep out visitors, but the shield hides us from the Fiklow.”
“Without it, they’ll find us!”

“Did I damage it permanently?”

“No, but don’t weaken it again.”

My friends are scattered along the water.
Mayla follows me as I walk toward Shazira.

When she hears me, she turns around, but immediately covers her eyes.
Turn down your glow, Yagrin,” says Shazira, irritated.
“I can’t see.”

“Sorry,” I tell her.
“I didn’t notice my glow, when I turned back into a Jiku.”

It feels natural to express the glow, and wrong to hide it.
I feel an inner resistance as I pull at the glow, but finally, the light disappears within me.

 
Circles
Mayla leads us into one of the buildings, and we enter a large room, fifty feet square, with a high ceiling.

The floor is made of a dense, black hardwood, with twelve stone circles, five feet across, laid out in two rows of six.
Each circle shines brightly with a different color.
A comfortable, reclining chair waits at the center of each circle.

“These are training circles,” says Mayla.

“They’re much smaller,” I tell her, “than the other circles that I’ve seen.”

“The large ones are designed for group training,” says Mayla.
“Still, if any of you want to train together, I can link your circles, so both of you enter the same simulation.”

“Tzina and I will train together,” says Shazira.
“We want to learn enough weaving, so that we can fly as quickly as Yagrin and Balshown.”
“We’re tired of being carried.”

Balshown chooses a training in military strategy.

“Berek and I will link our circles,” I tell Mayla.
“I want to assist with his training.”

“It’s more important for you to learn the Fiklow language,” says Mayla.

“We’ll do that first, and then I want to teach him to fly.”

“You’re taking Berek with you, to speak with the aliens?!” asks Shazira.

No,” I answer, “but I still want him to learn their language.”
“Learning the language of an alien race that lives in water, will teach him to think in new ways.”

“What about you Makish?” asks Mayla.

“I’ll train alone,” says Makish, “but I also need to learn the language.”
“I’m going with Yagrin when he meets the aliens.”

“It’s dangerous,” I tell her.
“They’ll probably try to kill us.”

“That’s exactly why you need help,” she says.
“How can you focus on negotiating, while you’re busy protecting yourself?”
“If two of us go, you can concentrate on the negotiation, while I stand guard.”
“Who can protect you better than me?”

“I agree with Makish, Yagrin,” says Balshown, “that two will be safer than one, but maybe I should go instead of her.”

Balshown turns to Makish.
“You’re powerful, but you’re also one of the sisters and dedicated to peace.”
“How will you be able to protect him?”

She laughs, as she flows a sword out of the air, and raises it high.
“I learned to fight twenty generations before you were born.”
“We will negotiate peacefully, if possible, but I will do whatever is necessary to protect Yagrin.”

Her face lets go of the smile, and shows her will and strength.
“A third of my journeys in the vats were full of war, far more than any other old one.”
She swings the sword viciously toward the floor, and flows the sword back into air, just before the blade reaches the wood.

Balshown is silent, looking at her with a new respect.

“Which circle should I take?” asks Berek.
“It doesn’t matter,” answers Mayla.
“They’re all the same.”

We each find a circle, and Mayla activates the simulations.
A moment later, Berek and I stand together on a mountain top, with a steep cliff that falls away to the ocean below.
Mayla joins us.

“You have to wear the Fiklow form,” she shouts to be heard above the strong winds, “before you can learn their language.”
She flies down from the mountain, and hovers a few feet above the ocean.
I take hold of the web, and follow with Berek.

Mayla transforms, takes in air, and dives below the waves.
Berek and I complete the change, and follow her.
The water feels good on my tentacles and gills, as I try to adapt to my new senses.

If we have gills, why did we take air from the surface?

Mayla gestures with her tentacles to get my attention.
I feel vibrations deep within me, and I know that these are coming from outside me, from Mayla.

Without thinking, I push air out of a stiff opening on my head, and feel the surface vibrations.
I’m surrounded by sound.
Understanding begins, as I feel a stream of information move from the training circle into me.
The sound becomes three-dimensional images, tied to thoughts and feelings.

We use air and sound to communicate like dolphins.
The sound waves reflect off objects, and bounce back to us.
Our brains analyze the reflected sounds to see objects, and measure the distance to them.

We mimic the reflected sound of an object, and use it to tell other Fiklow what we’ve seen.
There are also a set of standardized sound images, like Chinese pictographs, to express more abstract concepts, including the relationships between different images.

I heard one Jiku describe the Fiklow as worms, but this body looks more like a squid with an enormous head.
The head holds the brain, protected by thick cartilage, and various organs for sight, sound, and smell.
The back has a stiff, chitinous rod, and I have strong tentacles for precise handling of objects.

The language has finished settling into us, along with knowledge of Fiklow culture, but even with the teaching, we still need practice.
It takes hours within the simulation, until the Fiklow way of movement and communicating seems natural to us.

“Good enough for now,” says Mayla.
“Change back into Jiku.”
We swim as Fiklow to the surface of the water, and return to our Jiku forms.

Mayla flies to the top of the mountain, and I follow, carrying Berek.

 
Learning to Fly
“Do you want my help to teach Berek to fly?” asks Mayla.

“No.”
“I can handle it.”

“Just call my name, Yagrin, when you want me to return.”
“I have more to teach you.”
She disappears.

“Have you ever tried to learn weaving, Berek?” I ask him.

“Not really,” he says, but I’ve experimented with energy nets that weavers use to carry other Jiku.”
“A master weaver once came to speak with me, because I’m a flow natural.”

“I told the weaver how easy it is for me to see the web, and he wondered if I would be able to make a net.”
“He told me what to do, and after a few tries, I shaped a small net.”

“Do you know how the net works, Berek?”

“Yes, ina.”
“The energy net seems like a part of my physical body, and I can even feel its position in space.”
“Really, the net is an extension of the pattern body.”
“The net surrounds an object, and holds it strongly, by manipulating gravity.”
“There are multiple trails of energy that begin at the net, and make light contact with the web.”

“To move an object and its net, I send energy through the object, and along the web in the direction I want the object to travel.”
“The energy travels through the object, its net, and the trails of energy.”
“Then it pours out across the web like a river.”
“The object is carried along for a few seconds, before the net collapses.”

“Why does my net collapse so quickly, ina?”

“The net is part of you, Berek”
“It’s hard to keep the net stable, as it moves away from your physical body.”
“The easiest way to stabilize the net is to fly with it.”

“If I learn to fly, I’ll be able to maintain the net?”

“Yes.”
“Now tell me where you get the energy that streams through the object, and creates the energy current?”

“I pull it from the great web, and send it out of my energy hands, and through the net,” he answers.

“You’re trying to push the net along the web, Berek.”
“Instead, you have to let the web take hold of the net.”

“I don’t understand.”

“We’ll get to it later.”
“Now, let’s focus on flying.”

“I’ve tried to use the net to carry my own body, ina, but it collapses immediately.”

“The net is just an extension of the pattern body,” I tell him.
“The pattern body itself is a type of energy net, that surrounds the physical body.”
“You can’t push the net to carry yourself,” I tell him.
“It’s like trying to pick yourself up with your own hands.”

“The master told me it wouldn’t work,” says Berek.
“He said that he wouldn’t teach me more about flying until I was old enough, and became his apprentice.”
“I tried to send energy through the physical and pattern bodies to create the energy current, but nothing happened.”
“Why doesn’t it work?”

“There are already complex movements of energy between the physical body, the pattern body, and web.”
“The currents of energy that you can push through the pattern body aren’t strong enough to counter gravity.”

“Ina, the web looks like it has an infinite number of energy streams, moving, and branching in all directions.”
“There are billions or trillions of of connections between the pattern body and the web.”
“This is much more complex than the energy that moves between physical body, pattern body, and web.”
“How are we ever able to affect the web?”

“Good question.”
“Only the web itself is strong enough to alter the web.”

“How do we get the web to change itself?”

“You’ll see.”
“Have you ever watched my energy body while I’m flying?”

“I’ve tried,” he answers, “but the energy is blurred between the web and your pattern body.”
“I can’t see clearly what you’re doing!”

“I surrender myself to the web,” I tell him.
“I immerse my pattern body in an energy stream that’s moving in the right direction, and let go.”

Berek looks frightened.
“How can I do that?”
“My pattern body seems thicker than the stream.”
“Even if I could enter the stream, I’m afraid that my energies would dissolve within the more powerful stream.”

“Your size doesn’t matter.”
“The energy in a thin stream is powerful enough to carry a mountain, but don’t be afraid of it.”
“You won’t disappear, Berek.”
“The web isn’t a threat.”
“It’s a friend that supports you, in all that you do.”

“Let the shape of your pattern body be fluid.”
“Some people like to make an extension along the back of the body, in the shape of wings.”
“That’s how I flew, when I first arrived on this world.”

“It’s easier, though, to form an extension at the top of your pattern body, and let your awareness rest on that extension.”
“Then, let the extension dive into the energy stream, like you were diving, head first, into a lake.”

“Won’t I get lost in the streams,” asks Berek, “and be pulled at random in a thousand directions?”
“Won’t I get nauseous from the wild movements?”

“Keep your physical eyes open,” I answer, “and keep your attention and will focused on where you want to go.”
“Your attention will direct your energy through the right streams, and keep you moving in the right direction.”
“When your pattern body is immersed in the stream, it will keep your energy balanced, and you won’t get nauseous.”

“Don’t focus on the individual streams as something outside of you, or you’ll be overwhelmed, and the connection will break.”
“You’ll become so nauseous, that you won’t be able to stand!”

“Instead, imagine that you are a river of energy, raging across the web.”

“Remember Berek, that we’re in a simulation here.”
“You can’t hurt yourself, even if you fly into a mountain, and I’ll follow you, wherever you go.”

 
Letting Go
I carry him high in the air and hold him lightly in place.

“Why can’t we start on the ground, ina?”

“It takes control to take off or land, Berek.”

“Oh.”

I watch his pattern body, as he forms an extension at the tip.
The extension hesitates outside of an energy stream.

“What’s wrong Berek?” I ask.

“The energy streams are too powerful, ina.”
“I can’t let go.”
“I’m afraid of getting lost.”

“Lower your wintzal, Berek.”
“I’m going to touch minds, and let you experience what it feels like to let go, and become the river.”

I bring him back to the ground.
“Lie down, and we’ll leave your body here.”

I drop my wintzal and make the connection between us.
Then, I extend my pattern body, and let that extension dive into an energy stream.

“Do you feel the energy moving?”
“Do you feel what it’s like to be the river?”

“It’s a great feeling,” says Berek within my head.

I fly around at high speed, for about ten minutes.

I want to try it, ina,” says Berek, “but I’m still afraid.”
“Can you help me move into the energy stream, and stay with me?”

I fly back to him.
He gets up, and I bring him into the air again.

“I’ve never tried to move someone into the stream, Berek, but I think I can do it.”
“The worst that will happen is that we’ll collide, or get sick.”

“How do I control my speed and direction, ina?”

“Just will yourself to go slower or faster.”

“Direction seems easy, but you have to pay attention.”
“Keep your physical eyes open, Berek, and look toward whatever direction you want to travel, and keep your intention consistent with where you’re looking.”
“You’ll need to use your energy sight to look in other directions, to see what’s around you.”

I try to gently push his pattern body into a stream, but he resists.

“You’re resisting, Berek,” I tell him with a mind touch.

“It’s not conscious, ina.”

“Do you like to swim, Berek?”

“Yes.”

“Try this.”
“When I tell you to go, imagine that your energy body is jumping into a river to go swimming.”
“Maybe that will release your resistance.”

We try it, and I bring our pattern bodies into the energy stream, while we join hands.
We fly out to sea, within the simulation.

“Don’t I need to raise a shield, ina, to protect my physical body?”

“Normally you would, but I’ve covered you with a shield that will hold, even if you slip away from me.”
“I”ll teach you how to raise your own shield, later.”

Berek is tense at first, and his hands sweaty, but after a few minutes, he lets himself enjoy the flying, and relaxes.
“It’s wonderful, ina!”

Sooner or later, his attention will wander, so I hold his hand loosely.
His eyes and attention drift off in a different direction, and he pulls away from me, and flies on his own.

I follow him.
“Enjoy it, Berek,” I tell him, “but don’t change speed or direction too quickly, at first.”
“You’ll get nauseous.”

He experiments with speed and direction, practicing his control.

“How do I hover, ina?” he asks.

“Every energy stream in the web has two inner streams, moving in opposite directions.”
“Whenever you change your speed, you change the way that the two streams affect you.”

“If you disconnect from the web, you’ll fall, but if you imagine yourself not moving, the two streams will find a perfect balance in you, and hold you in place.”

He resumes his practice, moving, turning, and hovering.
Finally, he stops, low over the water.

“I feel sick,” he says.

“Let go of the web, and I’ll carry you back to solid ground.”

When we land, he sits down, with his knees up, and his head between his legs.

“You’re still resisting the web, Berek.”
“It takes hours of practice for some weavers before they can surrender themselves completely.”
“Some never get it.”
I fill him with healing energy, and he straightens up, the nausea gone.

“Ina,” he says, “you’ve already spent several hours with me.”
“Don’t you need to get ready for meeting with the aliens?”

“Time passes differently in the simulation.”
“Outside the circle, “only an hour or two has passed.”
“We must continue.”
“These are dangerous times.”
“You’ll be much safer if you learn to fly.”

“What if I never learn to let go completely?”

“You will.”
“You have an advantage over other weavers.”
“You’ve already experienced flying, and you can practice in a simulation where you can’t get hurt.”
“In the real world, where flying is dangerous, many apprentices never overcome their fear.”

“You pushed me into the stream,” he says.
“I never did it by myself.”

“Are you ready for that, Berek?”
“Do you want to try it.”

“I think so,” he says.

I carry him out to sea again, and up, a few hundred feet above the water.

“Show me the energy wings, ina.”
“If they worked for you, maybe they will work for me.”

He shapes energy wings, but he doesn’t enter the stream.

“What’s wrong, Berek?”

“I still can’t let go.”

Suddenly, I find myself on the shore, with Mayla.

“Where’s Berek?” I ask her.

“Falling,” she says.
“I pulled you away from him, so he can face the web on his own.”
“With you there, he acts like a scared, little boy.”

“He’s only eleven, Mayla.”

“He’s far more than a boy, Yagrin, if you don’t hold him back!”

With energy sight, I see Berek plummeting toward the water.
Without letting him know, I listen to his thoughts.

“He’s calling for me, Mayla!”

“Let him face this on his own,” she says, and disappears.

I watch terrified, as he gets closer to the water, even though I know that he can’t get hurt in the simulation.

A few feet above the water, he stops falling, and shoots up, into the sky, and above the clouds.
I fly after him.

“You’re too high, Berek.”
“The air will start getting thin.”

“Why did you abandon me, ina?” he asks, angrily.
“I was so scared.”

“Mayla did it.”
“She thought you’d do better without me.”

“I guess she was right,” he says.
“I was sure you’d come back and save me before I hit the water.”
“When I reached a point a few seconds above the water, I knew that you weren’t coming, and I got mad at you.”
“Then I felt that it was up to me to do something to save myself.”
“My only choice was to leap into the web’s energy stream.”

“Can you do it again?” I ask him.

In response he starts falling, and then reconnects with the web, and starts flying again.
He goes lower, and then stops, one hundred feet above the water, and looks toward the land.

“Let’s go back to the mountain, Berek, and prepare for the next part of the training.”

“Can we just fly for a few minutes, ina, and enjoy it?”

I answer, by flying out to sea.
He follows, and we fly together, until the land is out of sight.


Echoes of War -- 2: Shadows RebornPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. Opening
  2. Messengers of War
  3. City of Life
  4. Wrapped in Storms
  5. Birth of the Balancer
  6. Artifacts of Destruction
  7. Friends and Enemies
  8. Partners of War
  9. Circles of Sorrow
  10. Desert Fountains
  11. Shadow of Life and Death
  12. Journey of the Dead
  13. Twin Suns

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