A Gen Day
I love dawn in the Watchtower.
I stand outside, on the deck, just before dawn, Shazira by my side.
She is too quiet, caught inside herself, thinking of Tzina.
When dawn arrives, the sky darkens.
The sun’s light at dawn is dim, compared to the Watchtower’s brilliant light which stops with first sun.
Berek’s parents arrive.
After we greet the sun, we go inside together, and complete the formal turnover of the Watchtower.
His parents are confused, afraid to speak of this trip.
“Berek will be safe,” I tell them.
“How can you be sure, Yagrin?” asks Shazira, breaking her silence.
“Tzina will die, but why must Berek join her?”
“He will be safe,” I shout in frustration, and my eyes fill with the streaming darkness from the black well.
Berek’s parents and Shazira jump back, afraid that I’m turning back into an old one.
The blackness fades.
“What are you?” asks Zias, Berek’s mother.
“I am Yagrin,” I tell them, “and Berek and I are joined by blood.”
“I’ll watch over him, as the sun watches over the world, and keeps it alive, and I will bring him home.”
Shazira can bear no more of this, and she flies away.
Berek’s parents are surprised that they believe me, thinking their trust is some kind of trick.
They fear how Berek will feel when we return from the trip, when we tell him that I am his father, and Tzina, his sister.
Their thoughts still scream at them to keep Berek home.
I raise my palms, and spread them wide before the two of them.
The king of Tshuan greeted Shazira and I like this once, a rare greeting of honor to a couple.
Zias and Bintar raise their palms to meet mine.
They have heard of the greeting, but in our land it hasn’t been seen in hundreds of years.
“You will always be his mother and father,” I say.
“Perhaps someday, I can also be his father.”
I leave quickly.
The only items I take with me from the Watchtower are a few clothes and the message cube.
I have a haunting feeling about the cube, like I’ve missed something important in the message.
I land at my parents’ house, alone.
The house is empty, my parents dead for many years.
Strange that I still call it their house.
I sit outside, and connect to the cube.
I watch myself flying in the message, over and over, again.
Finally, I see it.
My robe in the message has four bands, not three.
I must complete the master’s test for the artist’s guild before I go.
The guild leader is still eating breakfast as I arrive.
“Have you eaten yet, Yagrin?” he asks me, with a smile.
“Please join me.”
“There is no time, master,” I answer.
I tell him about the message, and my need for the fourth band.
“You want to test on your three arts, perform FlowSong, and finish two hours before last light, today?” he asks.
“Yes,” I answer.
“I won’t promise, Yagrin,” he says.
“The tests must be full.”
“I don’t know if it’s possible to do it so quickly.”
“Contact these three masters,” he says finally, and gives me a cube authorizing the tests.
These are the three who will test my competency in the arts.
The guild leader will join these three to view my performance.
The tests go slower than I hope for, but I pass, and I perform a Gen type of FlowSong for the masters.
The performance cannot be hurried.
The song, the transformations, and the movements continue until I feel that it has reached its proper end.
The masters are quiet as I finish, still digesting the performance.
They’ve never seen anything like this before.
When I finish, I’m already late, but I wait quietly for their response.
The masters sing their approval, traditional in this guild.
I thank them for their help, their teaching, and their welcome, all according to tradition.
Then I kiss the hands of each of the four masters.
I color the blue master’s band on my robe, and fly away at Gen speed.
Facing the Night
The plan was to assemble two hours before last light, outside Shazira’s parents house.
I arrive thirty minutes late, the last, except for Ehraval, to arrive.
In front of us are the packs, already filled with supplies for the trip to the Bizra.
Shazira is nervous and frightened for Tzina.
Tzina has the same blank stare, but her body looks weaker.
“She eats, Yagrin,” says Shazira with an angry stare, “but her life still drains away.”
“Why are you late?”
“Who know how long before her life vanishes?”
Berek sees the master artist’s band on my robe.
“Inta, you tested for this today?”
“Why do it before the journey?”
“How could you even concentrate on the tests?”
I explain the message.
“I did what had to be done, Berek, so our trip will succeed.”
“I don’t know how the master’s band will help us, only that it’s necessary.”
Berek is frightened, and feeling lost, as we finish our final preparations for the trip.
“Inta,” he says to me, “I wish I could help Tzina.”
“What can I do, that three masters can’t do?”
“I don’t understand why I must come.”
“The only thing that I can give you on this trip is my fear, and a desire to get revenge on the Krale for my parent’s death.”
“Neither of those is of any use!”
“We all must go, Berek.”
“Just accept it.”
Darkness hovers over his face, and makes him seem frightening, at least to Shazira and Berek.
Balshown is full of unasked questions, but not fear.
He trusts me, but he will decide for himself if Ehraval is our friend or not.
Balshown turns away from us, and puts a rock sphere in his pack.
It’s a perfect sphere, except for a rough surface, with pockmarks like a huge golf ball.
Only I can see Ehraval’s face, and it suddenly takes on a serious expression.
“What is that thing, Balshown?” I ask.
“An old machine, from the ancients” he answers.
“It was buried in the cave with that strange creature that almost killed me.”
“What’s it for?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he says, “but I feel that we’ll need it.”
He’s hiding something.
I walk with Ehraval away from the others.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“The sphere that Balshown carries is a weapon called The Sphere of Itarus,” he answers.
“It has many uses, mostly destructive.”
“If misused, it will destroy the planet.”
“Do you think Balshown knows how to use it?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he answers, “but I suspect that he does.”
We rejoin the group.
“The Krale never attack the cities in the light of day, and they are driven away by the light of the Watchtower.”
“The safest time to approach the land of the Bizra and Krale is during the light.”
“We should leave at first light tomorrow.”
Berek and Shazira nod.
“Instead,” I tell them, “I’ve called you all here now, to leave at last light, and travel at night.”
Berek and Shazira are quiet, listening.
“Why?” asks Balshown.
“The Bizra sleep from last light until midnight,” I answer.
“We must arrive while they are sleeping.”
“The Krale fly at night,” says Berek, frightened.
“I’ll protect us from the Krale,” I answer.
“Ehraval has taught me how.”
“The Krale have never attacked the Kishla,” says Balshown, still unsure of Ehraval’s help.
“For extra protection, we should travel in the shape of the great singing birds.”
I look at Berek who took the shape of a Kishla when the Krale attacked his city.
He does not remember his time as a great bird, but his face is white, and he’s trembling.
“What’s wrong, Berek?” I ask.
“Inta, he answers, “I’ve never taken the shape of a great bird since that day.”
“I’m afraid of how it will make me feel.”
Shazira takes his hand.
“I’ll be with you,” she says, “when you first flow into the shape.”
“If you have feelings that you cannot bear, I will help you move the feelings, like we’ve done before.”
I didn’t know that Shazira was helping Berek move his feelings.
“Then we’re agreed,” I say.
“We leave at last light, and we’ll take the shape of Kishla.”
Shazira points to my knife tattoos, one with the image of a tower, the second with the image of a well.
“What are those?” she asks.
“Those are driga,” I answer.
“They are long knives that I will use to protect you from the Krale.”
“Images of knives against Krale?” she asks.
“Yes” I answer without explanation.
She touches her fist to her forehead in wonder, and turns away from me.