The guild council meets in a tall white building, with a flat, radiant black roof, that shines like a dark star in the center of Kirol city.
Once, before the energy war, there were buildings like this in many lands, but this is the last of the council halls.
They were shaped by the Bizra, fifty stories high – six hundred feet long, wide, and tall.
Few of the lands had any use for such an immense building, but no one argues with the Bizra.
The council hall is mostly empty, a quiet monument to ancient times.
At the corners, four round pillars of red crystal rise the full height of the building.
In the center of the building, a clear crystal tower rises eighteen hundred feet high, twelve hundred feet above the building.
On each floor, light pipes connect the central tower with the pillars at the corners, and fill the floor with light.
Once there were gardens on each floor, surrounding the central pillar.
Now, only the gardens of the lower ten floors remain.
The sun warms my face as I run my hand along the smooth white surface.
Later today, the sisters and Chiwan will join me here, to meet with the council.
At the time of the energy war, Kirol was a small city.
Each land had its own council, which sent representatives to the great council.
The great council sat far away, in Taluk, the king’s city, the tallest and most beautiful city in the world.
It sat at the edge of Tshuan, and was the capital of the kingdom.
The council hall is the oldest building in Kirol, the largest building in the world that survived the energy of the spinning sword.
The material looks like stone, but it’s not.
It’s warm to the touch, instead of cool like stone.
It can’t be cut or shaped with any of the tools found in Kirol.
Lightning does nothing to it, except give it a brief, warm glow.
I don’t know why I’ve come here early, but something calls me.
Maybe it’s the strange, sad energy that clings to this place.
I let my mind rest, and let my feelings take me where I must go.
High in the air I fly, above the council hall, and shape myself into a twin of the building.
Then I spread my healing body upon my twin to resonate with it, and see the long years that it has seen.
Other times, when I become the twin of a person or object, I see and hear all that surrounds my twin, but this is different.
The council hall has a unique energy, and gives me a different sight.
Each of the ancient halls was identical.
When I become a twin to one of them, I am twin to all.
My sight extends all across the world, to any city that held a council hall, including the ancient cities of Tshuan.
How did the council hall in Kirol survive?
A mystery for another day.
The years spin before me, until I touch a time before the war, and see a council meeting.
Each council is filled with twelve Jiku, men and women, young, and old.
The king appoints two members of each council, and the local people elect the other ten.
The guilds in these times are informal collections of self-declared masters.
Each craft, and minor energy practice, calls itself a guild.
The population grows quickly, many grown in artificial wombs, and the new world is calm.
The war that brought them here, almost forgotten.
The sleek bodies of the Bizra glide through the skies of every city.
When three Bizra come to the palace to visit the king, people take little notice.
Bizra visions are silent, and difficult to understand, but some Jiku have a talent that helps them with the visions.
They’re called image speakers.
Those Jiku hear words when they see the Bizra images, their minds translating the pictures into words.
Each speaker finds his own words, his own meaning in the image.
The king himself is a speaker, but he brings three more speakers to translate the Bizra message.
This time, the message is clearer than usual, and the speakers find the same meaning.
Energy masters will fill the skies to battle with each other.
It seems hard to believe this vision, in the midst of peace.
“What do we do?” asks the king, and his advisors.
The Bizra show them another vision.
Schools where children and adults watch images of the war that drove the Jiku to this world.
The schools fade away, replaced by a great circle of children, sitting in a forest, with the Jiku symbol for peace, shining in the middle.
The Bizra fly away, and the king and the great council discuss what to do.
“The people know the stories of the war all too well,” says one council member.
“How will stories of war, talk of peace, and children in the forest, keep another war away from us?”
“There must be more to their message,” says the king.
“If there is,” says the council, “then we don’t understand it.”
“We must do more than start a school!”
“What else do you suggest?” asks the king.
“The next war will rise from the energy masters,” says the council.
“We must limit the power and influence of the masters, and encourage people to rely more on technology.”
“Cut ourselves off from the energy web?” asks the king.
“Forget flow and weaving?
“No, your majesty,” answers the council leader.
“We will not forget the ways of energy, but the masters are too unpredictable and powerful to be unregulated.”
“They think their skills make them better than ordinary, hard-working Jiku.”
“The masters must be reminded that they are responsible to live among us, and serve others with their skills, like any other citizen.”
The debate continues for hours.
In the end, even the masters on the council agree.
The king and the great council pass laws that set a yearly limit to the number of Jiku who can apprentice in the ways of energy, and the council restricts the activities of the energy masters.
There will be permits for healing, flying, and flowing, and rules that limit all public use of energy skills.
Twenty-five years pass.
In Tshuan, close to the great council, these laws are strictly enforced, and the Tshuans come to rely more on their technology, and less on the masters.
In distant lands, the local councils are weak, and the energy laws are not enforced.
King Botzar takes over from his father, dead of a strange illness.
A year later, a delegation of masters meets with the king and the great council.
Masters of every land except Tshuan join the delegation.
The masters have great hope that their request will be granted.
The new king is known to be a powerful energy master.
“Your highness,” they say, “please give us a greater voice in the local councils.”
“The masters are the strength of your kingdom.”
“Set aside two seats in the councils that will be filled by guild members, to match the two seats appointed by the king.”
“Repeal the restrictions, and let us practice our arts as we choose.”
“We’ll ensure that no harm will come to any Jiku or property.”
The king and the great council barely consider the request, before they refuse it.
“We have great respect for your abilities, and your service,” says Botzar, “but a master is a citizen like any other, with no guaranteed right to sit on the councils.”
“Before the laws were passed, the people depended too much on the masters.”
“Progress in technology was stalled.”
“What does it matter if our machines grow more powerful?”
“Our old enemies may still find us, and their ships can destroy us from far away.”
“Every year their ships and weapons grow more powerful.”
“Can your master’s skills defeat them, a million miles away?”
The delegation meets briefly before returning to their own lands.
“The guilds must become stronger,” says one master, “to resist the power of the councils and the king.”
The others agree.
Kirol is the first, but in every land except Tshuan, the masters organize themselves into formal guilds.
Tests are established for the title of master.
Guilds set their own fees, and write the rules of practice for their guild, often in violation of existing law.
The smaller guilds combine together to gain the strength of numbers.
Within Tshuan, all the masters publicly support the king, except one.
His name is B’tzel.
Some say that he’s the most powerful master who ever lived, more powerful than the king himself.
B’tzel believes that the laws are unjust, and he has never hidden from the truth.
So he follows his heart, and not the law.
He provides his services in public without the required permits, in plain sight of the palace and the great council.
B’tzel is well-known and loved.
Soon, the whole city is speaking of his actions.
“How long can we ignore this insult to the law, your majesty?” asks the council.
“We must act against him,” or we will lose all authority among the citizens, and the world will be ruled by the masters!”
The next day, B’tzel comes to the palace.
The king meets with him alone.
“You asked to see me, your majesty?” asks B’tzel.
“We’re alone here,” says the king.
“Do you remember long ago, B’tzel, when we were apprenticed to the same master, and we flew together?”
“Our master is old, B’tzel, but he supports the way of law.”
“I ask you in his name to stop what you’re doing!”
“You’ll destroy the kingdom if you continue to break the law.”
“I don’t mean any disrespect, but if the harmless actions of one man can destroy a kingdom, what kind of a kingdom is it?”
“Should the masters rule the world, then?” asks the king.
“I agree that the masters are wrong to ask for their own seats on the council,” says B’tzel.
“They are too fond of their own power.”
“Still, you are just as wrong, my king, for trying to replace the masters with technology.”
“Why can’t we have both?”
“B’tzel,” says the king, “you’ve heard of the prophecy of war.”
“This is what we must do to prevent it!”
“Your laws will only drive us apart, and bring the world to war, King Botzar.”
“I didn’t make the laws,” says the king.
“I only continue the path of the councils and kings before me.”
Botzar smiles at the king, as he prepares to leave.
“I wish you success in stopping the war, your majesty, but I trust my heart more than your laws.”
Masters of Tears
The king waits another month, but B’tzel continues to challenge the laws in public.
Finally, the king sends a dozen masters to capture B’tzel.
“Perhaps,” thinks the king, “this will drive him out of Tshuan into one of the distant lands, where we will no longer hear of him.”
B’tzel resists them easily, and sends them away.
The next morning, he rises early on the web to glide to Kirol City, and meet with one of the guilds.
He wants their advice on establishing the first formal guild in Tshuan.
While he is away, masters come again to his house, this time with soldiers.
“He’s gone,” say the soldiers.
“We’ll have to come back when he returns.”
“No,” says one of the masters.
“Let’s take his family.”
“Maybe then we can convince him to leave Tshuan for one of the distant lands.”
The masters sent to capture B’tzel are powerful, and the soldiers carry the latest weapons, but his young family resists.
His twelve-year-old son son fashions a powerful crystal barrier between the soldiers and the family.
A fearful and over-zealous soldier fires his weapon at the barrier.
The crystal explodes, and B’tzel’s children are killed.
B’tzel’s bondmate is only wounded, and knocked out.
She awakes a few minutes later as they are carrying her away.
“Where are my children?” she asks.
“It was an accident,” says one soldier, sadly.
“I only meant to shatter the barrier.”
“Where are they?” she screams.
“I’m sorry,” says the soldier, “but they were killed.”
“Your parents were messaged, and the children’s bodies are being prepared for the death ceremony.”
The mother cries out in grief.
Then she turns to the soldier and stares at him.
In a moment, she flows him into crystal, and then shatters that crystal into dust.
The other soldiers fear they are next, and fire their weapons, killing the mother.
The story of this death soon reaches B’tzel and the guilds in every land.
The sky is full, as thousands of masters attend the death rites for B’tzel’s family.
One hundred masters fly with B’tzel as he goes to his house.
B’tzel removes a few objects, and then flows his house into water, which soaks into the ground, and leaves a garden of flowers in its place.
The other masters carry B’tzel back to Kirol.
In his grief, he cannot glide on the energy web.
Councils of Death
The sky is full of Bizra, as they abandon the Jiku to return to their own land.
To anyone who asks why, they respond with an image of war.
B’tzel turns from a gentle, joyful man into a bitter and obsessed one.
He travels from land to land, seeking a peace that won’t come.
The guilds meet in every land outside of Tshuan, and B’tzel speaks at each gathering.
“Do you see what the king and the councils do to us,” he asks, “and only because we love the energy web?”
“Will you do nothing?”
“Or will you wait until you come home one day to find your family dead at the hands of the king?”
The guilds take over the local councils by force.
It begins in Kirol, and spreads to most of the cities outside of Tshuan.
The new local councils send masters to Tshuan, as their new representatives to the grand council.
The new council members are turned away.
“You have not been elected to the councils!” says the grand council.
“You will never sit with us!”
The local councils form a new grand council, which sits in the council hall at Kirol.
The guild council, as they now call it, sends a message to the king, and his great council.
“Give us the guilty for trial.”
The king and the great council refuse.
“The one who killed the children by accident is already dead, killed by B’tzel’s bondmate’s hand.”
“The other soldiers were only defending themselves!”
Late at night, led by B’tzel, the guilds find and kidnap the soldiers and masters who came to B’tzel’s house.
The masters are locked into inhibitors that take away their strength.
The next day the guild council prepares to sit in judgement.
“Take your seat on the council, B’tzel,” say the others.
“It is your right to judge those who killed your family!”
B’tzel refuses, and the trial begins.
He is inconsolable, and can barely speak.
The soldiers are sentenced to a painful death, and the masters who helped them are transformed into stone.
“What comfort is this?” cries B’tzel after the executions.
He grows even stranger, and the once calm master becomes erratic and irrational.
In a few days, masters from both sides fill the skies, and turns all their skills toward war.
Some masters, including the healers, refuse to take sides, and try to negotiate a way of peace, but the war escalates, until every place is touched with blood, from the city of Kirol, to Taluk, the capital city of Tshuan.
“How did we come to this?” asks the king of his council.
“Your majesty,” says the council, “the guilds broke the law, and punished the innocent.”
“Will you turn over the world to them?”
The king locks himself in a private chamber for two days, away from his advisors, and his family.
The Spinning Sword
“The war is as much our fault, as theirs,” he tells the grand council when he reappears.
“I will stop it now.”
The king recalls all of his troops and loyal masters to Tshuan, and activates the spinning sword.
He hovers in the air over an empty field, and bathes the disk in a series of energy patterns, which I recognize as the mothers.
The disk turns from metal and crystal into a bundle of dark blue, sparkling energy, and the king draws the bundle into his heart center.
A large cobalt blue platform forms beneath him, round, twenty-five feet across, and five feet high.
There’s an outer, flat ring, but the center curves in like a satellite dish.
Within the center hole, a column of spinning flame rises.
It begins as a gentle flame, and then rages, and reaches all the way to the sky, in the shape of a sword.
When it begins to spread out, Botzar acts.
His scientists say that the sword is wild, and cannot be tamed, but Botzar trusts in his own strength.
He stops the sword from spreading out, and engulfing the whole world.
Then he shapes the energy of the sword into thousands of energy nets.
The nets spread instantly across the lands, and imprison the rebel masters.
B’tzel is the first target.
The net surrounds him, and binds him.
He can’t move, or use any of his energy abilities.
With the energy of the sword, Botzar transports B’tzel into the cargo area of an old starship, in geosynchronous orbit, above Taluk.
This is one of the old transport ships that brought the Jiku to this world.
The ship has been repaired, enough to maintain a stable orbit indefinitely.
The king’s plan is to bring all of the bound masters here, convince them to stop fighting, and then free them, but something goes wrong.
The other nets shatter, and the energy from the nets builds into a wave of energy that spreads throughout the world.
The king casts the energy cluster out of his heart, and it clatters to the ground, as a disk, but it is too late.
For many years afterwards people wonder how the sword could kill so many, destroy so much, and yet, let some Jiku live, and leave some buildings untouched.
Millions die that day, including the king’s family and the great council.
All the world’s cities are heavily damaged, but only the capital city in the land of Tshuan is completely destroyed.
Taluk was a huge city, built on a lush plateau, surrounded with a ring of tall mountains and cliffs.
The king stands at the edge of madness.
The web is twisted on itself here.
He picks up the disk, and walks alone among the ruins of the capital, in tears, but only for a few minutes.
A great earthquake tears open the ground, swallowing the ruins, as the king escapes to the skies.
The city is gone, and the ring of mountains becomes covered in fog.
This is the ring, with the Breath of Life deep within.
The Breath of Life was born from the sword!
How can the Bizra call the breath a place of peace?
The king disappears, and the Bizra return.
They choose old ones from those who did not fight, to be hidden away.
Some masters join together, and hide themselves away deep in the caverns of Tshuan, for a long sleep.
The Bizra teach the other masters how to find other worlds, and travel through space on rivers of light.
Most masters are eager to leave, and escape their role in the destruction.
A few masters journey to the world of seven towers, a crossroads where energy masters of many worlds come together.
The king returns to the ring where Taluk once stood, and disappears forever.
B’tzel is forgotten, and remains in his prison, above the world, not aging, and alone with his dark thoughts.
The Bizra appoint three guardians to block the way to the world of the seven towers, where, legend says, the sword was built.
The guardians take the shape of Kishla.
If ever, a doorway opens to the seven towers, the guardians will feel it, and come.
The ways of energy are hidden.
It takes a hundred years before the Bizra revive the guilds.
Weavers and flow masters appear, though never as strong as before.
The world continues to rebuild.
I see fragments of what took place in hundreds of cities, over hundreds of years, but it is more than enough.
The closed city has no council hall, so it remains dark to me, through all my visions, but I know that it was unharmed by the energy of the spinning sword.
I return to my own form, and break free of the images of the past.
I have seen the energy war, and the actions of Botzar, my twin, who brought ruin to the world.
Though I did not seek it, I know how to activate the sword.