Awake again, still surrounded by darkness.
My physical eyes are sealed and useless.
Was the last awakening real, or only a dream?
I turn my inner eyes to the energy world.
I see myself, a body of fire, on a platform, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by a crystal sphere, with no land in sight.
My energy body is strange.
Too small, and the patterns are all wrong.
The eyes of an energy body always burn bright, but these eyes are like suns.
My room looks exactly like my dream, with walls, floor, and ceiling of blue crystal.
Am I alone here?
There’s no one with me in the room, but I feel someone’s presence, and look beyond this space.
I find a small room with its own crystal walls.
There’s a table, chairs, water and food.
Nearby are cushions and a sleeping mat.
A transport platform fills the center of the floor.
Someone rests on a cushion.
I get up slowly, waiting for the nausea that I felt in my vision, but I feel strong.
“I’m awake,” I call out.
“Can you hear me?”
The voice is not mine.
It’s high, and hesitant, like it has never been used before.
Still, my body feels Jiku, except for the eyes that are filled with heat, and too heavy to open.
“Master Yagrin,” says a familiar voice at a distance.
“Berek,” I call.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, master.”
“When your body shattered, the Krale moved away, and something pushed me out of the column.”
“A little healing, a little rest, and my strength returned.”
“Thank the creator, my voice stayed with me.”
“Come closer, Berek, and tell me what’s wrong with my eyes.”
“I’m not allowed in your room,” he says.
“I can’t even give you food or water.”
“You must be so thirsty!”
“I feel fine,” I tell him, “and not thirsty at all.”
“How’s that possible?”
“You’ve been unconscious for days.”
“We take turns staying with you, waiting for you to wake up.”
“My parents don’t want me here, and the others wish that I would go, except for Tzina, but I had to come.”
“Do you want me to go?”
“No, Berek, but where are the others?”
“I almost forgot,” he says.
“I have a message from Master Balshown.”
“Don’t move or open your eyes.”
“He said it’s really important.”
“I can’t open my eyes, Berek, so I’m not going anywhere.”
“Go get Balshown and my family now.”
“Will you be all right?”
I hear the tones of the transport platform as it activates, and takes Berek away.
It seems forever, before I hear the tones sound again.
An inner voice tells me that only thirty minutes has passed.
The nearby room fills with familiar voices, heavy with sadness and fear.
Shazira, Tzina, and Balshown are here, along with Berek, but something is wrong.
“Can I kiss him, master Balshown?” asks Tzina.
“No child, not yet.”
“We have to keep him within the shield.”
“Balshown,” I ask, “what’s going on?”
“Is this a prison?”
“Did the council send me here?”
“No, Yagrin,” he answers.
“I brought you here.”
“This is an isolation chamber.”
“We don’t understand what happened to you.”
“You’ll be safe here.”
“In the middle of the ocean?” I ask loudly.
“Why not in the healing room of the Watchtower?”
There’s a long silence.
“Tell him,” says Shazira.
“Let him rest,” says Balshown.
“Tell him!” shouts Shazira.
“Yagrin, you’re not Jiku anymore.”
“What am I?”
“We don’t know.”
“You look like something described in the cubes, ancient creatures called old ones.”
“We don’t know much about them, but some legends say that they were powerful masters who became dangerous, violent beings.”
“From the sound of it, they were more powerful, and more deadly than Krale.”
“Balshown, you know me.”
“I would never hurt anyone!”
“Not as you were, Yagrin,” says Balshown, “but your body has changed.”
“What else has changed within you?”
“What will you become?”
“This building was built a thousand years ago, a place to temporarily hold an old one.”
“We don’t know if it was ever used, but if there were old ones, they died long ago.”
“How long will you keep me here, Balshown?”
“I don’t know.”
“We have to find out if the legends are true.”
“We have to see if you keep changing, and if you can control your power.”
“If you’re an old one, then your eyes have incredible destructive power.”
“A simple glance will destroy the Watchtower and the city.”
“While you stay here, the blue crystal will protect the world from your eyes.”
“It’s just temporary,” says Shazira, without conviction.
“You’ll be safe here.”
“Safe from what?”
“You said that I’m the danger!”
“We’re hiding you here, Yagrin,” says Shazira.
“The council wants to kill you.”
“How will this room protect me?”
“They’ll follow you here and kill me.”
“No one but the four of us know the transport coordinates.”
“Only I,” says Balshown, “know the additional security codes needed to reach the dome.”
“I can’t stay here forever, Balshown”
“Sooner or later the council will find me.”
“I’m sorry, Master Yagrin,” says Berek.
“If I hadn’t gotten angry and hurt Tzina, none of this would have happened.”
“Stop it, Berek.”
“I’m the one who brought us to the Black Room.”
“What were you thinking, Yagrin?” shouts Shazira.
“You’ve ruined our lives.”
“There’s no explanation,” I tell her.
“I was furious, and I felt the Black Room calling me.”
“I gave in.”
“The column in the Black Room calls me,” I add, “day and night.”
“Sooner or later,” I tell her, “I was destined to go there.”
“I won’t accept that,” she says.
“You’ve destroyed our family, and you blame it on destiny!?”
“I’m sorry, Shazira,” I say weakly.
“Don’t be sorry!” she says.
“Shazira,” says Balshown, “he just awoke.”
“At least, let him rest a little, and learn about his situation.”
Shazira storms away to the far end of their room, and turns her back to me.
“I don’t need rest, Balshown.”
“I need to understand what’s happened.”
“What day is it?”
“Tonight is moonwatch,” he answers.
At moonwatch, the full moon weakens the tower and its light.
When the Krale approach, the guardians of the Watchtower take action.
The guardians must be a married couple, and a rare ancient crystal, and charge it with power through the bondsense.
Then the energy weaver absorbs the crystal, and sends a powerful blast of energy into the sky.
This light fills the sky for the whole night, and drives away the Krale.
“Who will protect the city, Balshown?”
“You and Shazira are no longer the guardians.”
“Berek’s parents have taken over.”
I feel Shazira’s deep sadness.
She loved being a guardian, and living in the Watchtower.
“What will happen with the weaving tests that I was scheduled to take?”
“Forget about the tests, Yagrin!” says Shazira.
“We don’t know if you will ever be Jiku again, or even survive as you are.”
“Balshown, answer me.”
“What about the tests?”
“The time for tests is past Yagrin.”
“Have they broken the marriage bonds?!”
“There’s no need to break the bonds, Yagrin,” says Shazira, frustrated.
“They’ve declared you dead.”
“You were lost in the Black Room.”
“The law consider you newborn.”
“Berek told us, and your strange energy body confirms it.”
“You died in there.”
“Your energy patterns are different than any that I’ve ever seen,” says Balshown.
“Whatever you are, you’re not Jiku.”
“Yagrin,” Shazira says, “what happened in the column?”
“I told you,” says Berek.
“A Krale came, and Master Yagrin died.”
“You told us what you saw,” says Shazira, but Yagrin may have seen more.”
I tell them about the energy within me, the Krale and the Bizra.
“You destroyed your own body, Yagrin?” asks Balshown.
“I found the energy within me to drive away the Krale, but I didn’t know how to use it.”
“Why couldn’t Berek see the Bizra?” asks Shazira.
“Why would the Bizra help you shape a body like this?”
“Maybe you imagined it all.”
“I don’t know what’s real,” I admit, “but I couldn’t make a body on my own.”
“Maybe the Bizra planned to give me a Jiku body, but I stopped them before they were finished.”
“Or maybe,” says Balshown, “the Bizra wanted you to be like this.”
“Do you know, Yagrin,” asks Balshown, “what you look like?”
“No,” I answer.
“You look like an eight year old boy, with eyes covered in darkness.”
“Sparks burst from the darkness every few seconds, and my energy sight sees hidden eyes that glow like stars.”
“When anything approaches your face, the object bursts into flame.”
“How will you be able to eat?”
“I’m not hungry or thirsty,Balshown, and I feel strong, even though I’ve been sleeping for days.”
“Can you feel your eyes?” he asks.
“Can you open your eyes at all?”
I feel eyes on my face, but they won’t open.
“I can’t open them,” I answer.
With my energy eyes I scan my crystal prison.
Will I ever leave here?
Will I ever return to my family?
Tears fall on my face, and my eyes open.
The world is filled with swirling colors and bursts of energy.
Then, the bed is gone, and I land on the floor.
“Close your eyes, Yagrin!” shouts Balshown.
I close them.
“What happened, Balshown?”
“Your room filled with a blinding light when you opened your eyes.”
“The sphere, and the walls of our visiting room are made from a rare, hard crystal called ensai.”
“Nothing can scratch or melt it, and only the most powerful masters can flow it.”
“The Bizra made this place.”
“The dark blue crystal glowed when you opened your eyes, but it’s undamaged.”
“Everything unprotected in your room, including your bed, turned to dust.”
“The walls of the visiting room protected us, or we would have burned away.”
“I’m dangerous, Balshown.”
“What can I do?” I ask desperately.
“Where can I go?”
“Yagrin,” he says, “we don’t know yet how to help you.”
“You can stay here as you are, but what kind of a life is that?”
“How long will you survive without food?”
I hear the sound of the transport platform activating.
The council has found us.
“How did you get here?” asks Balshown.
“This platform is locked.”
“A signal was sent to my land,” says a woman’s voice, “when the old one’s light touched the sphere.”
“We have an ancient duty to serve the old ones, and our codes will always open this place.”
“Who are you?” asks Shazira.
“My name is Keela.”
“Keela?” I shout.
“Send her away!”
“I want nothing to do with her.”
“Master Yagrin,” she says.
“Please forgive us for the test we gave you.”
“You planned to kill me, and take the necklace.”
“My father would never hurt you.”
“He thinks you are descended from the ancient Tshuan kings.”
“He wants us to marry.”
Shazira glares at Keela.
“You are the one spoken about in a prophecy,” says Keela, “the one destined to awake the sleepers and restore the kingdom.”
She explains about the prophecy, and how my actions in the cave were foretold.
“We have enough problems without Tshuan madness!” says Shazira.
“There is another vision,” says Keela, “about the one who wakes the sleepers.”
He challenges death, and cheats it.
He walks among the singing young that time cannot touch.
“The singing young,” she adds, “are the old ones.”
“The vision predicts that Master Yagrin will become an old one!”
“Princess,” interrupts Balshown, “can you help him?”
“Master,” she says, “I can bring him to live among the old ones, as the vision says.”
“He will be safe there, and perhaps they can help him.”
“The old ones live?” asks Balshown, “and you serve them in their evil ways?”
“Master,” she says, “many false tales were told about the old ones, so no one would try to find them.”
“They were some of the greatest masters of their time, dedicated to peace.”
“The Bizra turned them into old ones so they can return to us when we need their help.”
“The Bizra?” I ask.
“They also turned me into an old one.”
“The old ones are from the generation of the destruction,” says Keela.
“A thousand years?” asks Balshown.
“Did their eyes cause the destruction?” asks Balshown.
“The Bizra changed them after the war.”
“They are hidden in Tshuan, and the royal family are guardians of their secret place.”
“Why,” I ask, “would they tell anyone where they are hidden?”
“Because,” she says, “visions promise that a time will come when the old ones will be needed again.”
“Then we will call them forth from the cave.”
“A good story,” says Shazira, “but why should we believe you?”
“I carry an armband made for old ones,” says Keela.
“If Master Yagrin wears it, he can walk safely among Jiku.”
I examine the armband with my energy sight.
It doesn’t weaken the energy web, like the one I saw before in Tshuan.
The energy web flows freely across it.
Still I have no patience for Keela’s tricks.
There must be something deadly about it.
I reach for the patterns of the armband to turn it to water.
The patterns are clear.
I feel how I need to change them, but I can’t reach them, to bind them.
“Put some water in a glass quickly,” I tell them, “and put it near me.”
Balshown does as I ask.
I try to reach the patterns of the crystal glass and turn it to water.
I can see the world of energy clearly, but I can’t alter the energy patterns.
When I try to touch the energy web to rise in the air, I find that the energy web is like glass.
I can’t grab hold of it.
“Balshown,” I tell him, “I see the web as before, but I can’t reach it.”
“I can’t even fly.”
“All my ability is gone.”
“Master Yagrin,” says Keela, “this is part of being an old one.”
“The form blocks most of the powers of the masters.”
“While you’re an old one, you can’t weave energy or flow.”
“Can you change me back?” I ask her.
“No,” she answers.
“Only the Bizra, or energy masters have the power to do that.”
“Can you help, Balshown?” I ask.
“Maybe the ancient masters had such power, Yagrin, but not the masters in our times.”
“Give me the armband, Keela,” I tell her.
“I have nothing to lose.”
Balshown takes it from Keela, and leaves it in the room near me.
“Is everyone safely behind the shield?” I ask.
“Yes,” answers Tzina.
I put it the armband, and open my eyes.
I see the swirling colors for a moment, but no bursts of energy.
Then my vision clears, and I see my family and friends in the next room.
It’s already dark outside.
The moon will rise soon.
“It works,” Tzina says, “now you can stay with us.”
“No,” I say, after a long breath.
“Now, I must go.”
I walk to the doorway that separates me from the visiting room.
Tzina faces me from the opposite side of the clear wall.
“Ina,” she asks, “why do you have to go?”
“How could I put you in danger?”
“What if the armband fails?”
“The old ones have greater knowledge than any living master,” I add.
“If they can’t help me, no one can.”
Balshown opens a doorway in the visiting room.
Tzina and Shazira join me.
I give Tzina a hug.
“You’re so little, ina,” she says.
“I know,” I say with a smile.
My smile fades as I imagine her growing older and leaving me frozen in this shape.
“How can I stay with you, Tzina?”
“I’ll still look like this after you grow up.”
“I don’t care what you look like!”
Shazira comes near.
She kisses me on the top of the head like a child.
“It’s hard,” she says, “to look at you, and think of you as anything but a child.”
“A deadly child, maybe, but still a child.”
She leans close and whispers in my ear.
“I won’t say goodbye.”
“If you’re really in there, you’ll figure out a way to come back to us.”
“Then I can really yell at you for all of this,” she adds with a teary smile.
Balshown hugs me and says his goodbyes.
Berek stands at a distance.
“Will we use the transport platform, Keela?”
“No,” she says.
“It’s too dangerous.”
“A standard transport platform will burn out, if an old one uses it.”
“Our armbands will fly us to Tshuan.”
“I’ll show you the way, Master Yagrin.”
“Keela, I’m no master anymore.”
“I’m no longer part of the guilds.”
“Master Yagrin,” she says, “the greatest of the masters became old ones, and the Bizra chose to turn you into an old one!”
“What do I care what the guilds think of you!”
“Balshown,” I tell him, “we’ll fly near the Watchtower on our way to Tshuan.”
“I want to see the tower again before I go.”
“Go Yagrin, but fly high above it, and don’t let yourself be seen.”
“The Krale may come at any time.”
I stand as my family transports away.
I use the control on the wall to open the dome, as Balshown taught me, and Keela and I fly out.
It feels strange to fly like this, but the armbands are fast enough.
Before long, Keela and I approach the Watchtower.
I use my energy sight to scan the area one last time.
Krale are slowly approaching the tower.
I look down at the Watchtower deck.
Berek’s parents are busy charging the crystal.
His father is the flow master, so he begins.
Then his mother, the weaver, continues.
Finally, the father puts the crystal on her chest and it disappears into her body.
A great blast of light pours out of her, through the Watchtower’s crystal roof, and into the sky.
The Krale are unaffected.
“How could this be?” asks Keela.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe I damaged the Watchtower, or the Bizra did something to it, when I entered the black column.”
Balshown and Shazira and the two guardians rise through the air toward the Krale.
These fools! can’t do anything to stop the Krale, but maybe I can.
“Keela, how powerful is the blast that comes from my eyes?”
“How far does the light reach?”
“I need to get close enough to the Krale to destroy them, and stay far enough away from the Watchtower, so it’s unharmed.”
“Then, I can destroy the Krale, by opening my eyes.”
“Master,” she says, “the memcubes say that your eyes destroy everything for one hundred feet, in all directions from your body.”
“I have to reach the Krale while they are still a few hundred feet away from the tower.”
“Master, if the memcubes are wrong, and the blast travels farther, you’ll destroy the Watchtower and the city.”
“They’ll be destroyed anyway.”
“Fly as fast and as far away as you can.”
“Come back a few minutes after you see the distant flash of light.”
“You’ll fall,” she protests.
“This body is powerful,” I answer.
“I’ll survive the fall into the water.”
“There’s no one else, Keela.”
“I must protect the city and my family.”
I turn away from her, and fly toward the Krale, meeting Balshown and the others.
“Take everyone, and get away,” I shout to Balshown.
“I’m going to stop the Krale with my eyes.”
“The blast only travels about a hundred feet.”
“The tower and the city should be safe.”
“Yagrin,” says Shazira, “let us take care of it.”
“How?” I ask.
“Your strength is useless before the Krale.”
“Go, while I still have time to stop them safely.”
He knows that if I take off the armband, I’ll fall.
“Go,” I shout, or I’ll take off the armband with you here!”
Balshown grabs the other three, and returns to the tower.
“Goodbye, Shazira,” I say quietly, to myself.
I fly to a place just above the Krale’s path, and close my eyes.
The Krale will fly below me in a few seconds.
I remove the armband, knowing that I will fall.
I grip the armband tightly within my hands, hoping to shield it from the blast.
Then I open my eyes.
The light from my eyes strikes the Krale.
It disappears within them, and they grow larger and darker.
Was this a mistake?
Their rock flesh twists and turns.
They shrink to half their normal size, and expand to five times their size.
Their screams fill the air around me, and small holes appear within them that bright light pours through.
Then they explode into a thousand splinters of black rock.
The light vaporizes most of the fragments flying toward me, but a few reach me.
They scratch my arms and legs, but cause no serious wounds.
My clothes and the armband are gone.
Vaporized by the light from my eyes.
I close my eyes, so I will not damage anything or anyone, as I fall to the sea.