Fear and Exile
The air is filled with sound today, a strange hum.
I mention it to Shazira when she wakes, but she hears nothing.
The sound waits in the background during the greeting.
Then it follows me around the Watchtower as I get ready for the day.
It’s a pleasant companion, not dark or grim, but so far, only for my ears.
I tell Balshown about it when I reach his house.
He closes his eyes and listens intently.
“I hear nothing,Yagrin, but I see a strange pattern of energy pulsing around you.”
“Drifting through your energy body, waiting, but for what?”
The master is quiet for a long time, his thoughts moving somewhere far away.
The silence is heavy, until I break it.
“What will we study today, master?”
“The tests are in three days.”
Balshown stands, and opens the door to the house.
He looks at his garden before answering.
“We’re done with study, Yagrin.”
“You’re ready for the tests, but it won’t matter whether you pass or fail.”
“What do you mean, master?”
“The council of guilds is afraid of you.”
“They are determined to force you out of the guilds, and out of the Watchtower.”
“I know they want me to fail, but I’ll pass!”
“Even if you pass the test, Yagrin, you are still a traveler.
“The law forbids travelers in the guilds, and the law demands that the bond between you and Shazira be broken.”
I feel sick and frightened and angry.
I’m breathing hard, and feel a little dizzy.
Balshown takes my hand and leads me to a chair.
He puts a hot glass of a red, sweet smelling tea in front of me.
Then he sits down with a glass of his own.
I stare at the glass of beautiful blue crystal and start to speak.
“Drink, Yagrin, and then we’ll talk.”
I drink the tea.
It calms me for a moment, until I think of what the council will do.
“I belong here, master!”
“Will the council deny the vision of the traveler?”
“The council knows of the vision, Yagrin, but travelers are rare, and your type of traveler is one of a kind.”
“There is no way to prove that you are this traveler.”
“Even if they admitted it, the council can still use the law against you.”
I look at him, confused.
Does he doubt me too?
He takes my arm.
“Yagrin,” he says, “I believe that you are the traveler, but my word in this will not help you.”
“Then all of the training is for nothing.”
“You have extraordinary talent, and not only as a weaver.”
“You must learn all we can teach you, and then find your own way.
“Who knows why you have come to this world, or what strength you will need?!”
I look him in the eyes, and speak with a cry in my voice.
“Master, what will I do without my family and the Watchtower.”
“Take your family and go to Tshuan.”
“They’ll welcome you.”
“The king wants your necklace, and respects your power.”
“I don’t trust him at all, master, and I don’t like the feel of the place.”
“What other choice do you have?” asks Balshown.
“Come,” says Balshown, getting up.
He pushes open the door to his house.
The humming gets louder for a moment, and then disappears.
“Whether the guild declares you a master or not,” he says,”you’re a master in my eyes.”
“Soon, you will teach me.”
He catches my eyes with his intense gaze.
“You will never call me master again.”
I nod, uncomfortable.
“It’s my right as your teacher, to treat you as my equal, but it’s uncommon.”
“The guilds will not like it.”
“Master, no one calls you by your name.”
He waves his palm before his face to tell me to stop.
“Balshown,” he corrects.
“Keep up,” he says, ending the discussion.
“I want to show you something that I’ve shown no one else.”
Without waiting for a response, he closes the door behind us, and leaps into the air.
We fly faster than I have ever flown before, away from the island and the city.
Toward the open ocean.
Flying is easy now, even at this speed.
Natural, like I was born in these skies.
I leave everything behind and bathe in a feeling of movement and freedom.
Huge waves of energy pulse through me as we glide along the web.
I let my own energy ebb and flow to match the rhythm of the waves.
This is one of the first lessons that Balshown taught me.
The secret to handling limitless energy is to resonate with it.
When you ride an animal, you don’t deny its rhythm.
You move in the saddle, in harmony with the rhythm.
Riding the web is no different.
His voice pulls me back to the present.
“Yes, Balshown,” I answer, forcing the name out, and leaving the word master behind.
“Tell me what you think of the great city and the Heart Fountain.”
“I viewed the cube of stories that you gave me.”
“The city is a myth, Balshown”
“Each story contradicts the next.”
“The legend of the Heart Fountain seems the most unlikely of all.”
“A gateway to a perfect world without death or hunger?”
“If the city ever existed, the old wars would have erased it, or the Krale would have destroyed it.”
“Not everything vanished in the wars, and the city is the one place that the Krale can’t touch.”
“That’s our destination.”
“You’ve seen it?”
“Only the outer walls.”
“Is there any truth to the story of the Heart Fountain?”
“It’s hard to separate legend from fact,” he answers, “but there’s a vision in Window of Dreams that speaks of it.”
“I’ve studied that cube, Balshown, and there’s no trace of the city or Heart Fountain.”
“There’s a vision of the fountain in an old edition of the cube.”
“It was erased in the newer editions to hide the existence of the fountain.”
Transforms and kills.
Window to balance.
Gateway to worlds of energy.
War and destruction.
Two old friends.
Enter together and leave in peace.
The city welcomes them after a thousand years, but blocks their way.
“The fountain is in the great city, Yagrin, but the city was sealed a thousand years ago.”
“It hides from our eyes, but I found it.”
My ears are drawn to a beautiful sound.
Strange birds approach.
They try to follow us, but we’re too fast.
The birds are as large as eagles or vultures, but covered in color.
They fill the air with beautiful songs.
On Earth, large birds like these don’t sing.
“We make ripples in the energy web as we fly,” says Balshown, “and many creatures feel us pass.”
“These birds are Kishla, highly intelligent, and ruled by curiosity.”
“They often greet us when we fly.”
“Can we communicate with them, Balshown?”
“They speak to each other through their songs.”
“It seems like a language, but we’ve never been able to translate it.”
Balshown turns quickly and accelerates in another direction.
The City Walls
Soon, we come to a large island, rocky and empty, surrounded by ocean, for a thousand miles.
The waves are unnatural!
They begin at the shore, and push away anything that comes near.
“The city hides on this island,” says Balshown, “abandoned long before the attacks of the Krale began.”
“No Jiku have lived here for a thousand years.”
“A long forgotten place.”
“No one but me knows that the city was once here, and if they did know, they would stay far away.”
“Legend says that ancient spirits haunt this place, and protect it from visitors.”
A shudder passes through me.
I attack my fear with a wild hunger for the waves of energy that pulse through me.
“Follow me down,” says Balshown.
We fly down and across an arid area.
We continue for several minutes, but the end of the island seems just beyond reach.
“We should have reached the end of the island, Balshown.”
“The island is not what it seems.”
“It protects itself with illusion.”
I feel sick, and have to fight the urge to turn and fly away.
We push on.
More flying, and a great city suddenly appears, surrounded by high walls.
“It looks new, Balshown, like the Jiku left it a moment ago.”
“Is it really a thousand years old?”
“Older,” he says.
“Abandoned a thousand years ago.
“It’s an amazing place, Balshown, but why did you bring me here?”
“The ancient masters knew many ways to manipulate and weave energy.”
“We are children in the face of their power.”
“There were great wars, fought by energy masters, and then, the city was abandoned.”
“The surviving masters suppressed their most powerful knowledge, and bound the city with barriers which would not open for a thousand years.”
“There must be a library here!”
“Imagine what we can learn about weaving!”
“The thousand years have passed?”
“Yes,” says Balshown.
“The walls of the city could be opened now if we only knew how.”
“Why didn’t the ancients just destroy the city?”
“The heart fountain is indestructible, hidden within the city, protected until it’s needed again.”
“Legends say that the city itself is full of power and knowledge, and protected by spirits that never die.”
We spend the rest of the day searching for a way into the sealed city.
The physical walls are warm, full of energy, and beautiful to look at.
They’re powerful, but there must be weapons that can shatter these walls.
My energy eyes see a a great energy barrier that surrounds the city.
There are walls of energy, with an energy dome above.
I walk beside the physical walls, looking for any clue that will show me the way into the city.
“Save your effort, Yagrin.”
“The walls and the land are the same everywhere,” says Balshown, “except for the murals.”
Balshown shows me two large murals, twenty feet apart.
I take mental snapshots of the murals using a method that Balshown taught me.
I’ll study the murals later.
I turn energy eyes to the underlying patterns of the walls, to see if I can flow them to water, or bind a destructive pattern within the walls.
The patterns keep changing, leaving me staring at chaos.
I use the wheel of mothers, with the grandmother pattern at the center, as I did in Tshuan.
I hope the grandmother will reveal the true energy patterns beneath the chaos.
But the walls resist her strength, and the changing chaos remains.
An hour before last light, we stand together before the murals.
“I first came here one hundred and fifty years ago,” says Balshown.
“I’ve spent endless days walking around these walls, hunting for a way to enter.”
“The secret lies within the murals.”
“They’ve been waiting a thousand years to teach us us how to enter.”
“If only we could hear their words!”
Balshown rises high to return home, and I fly at his side.
“Until now, I’ve always searched alone,” says Balshown.
“The vision says that two old friends will enter, and it speaks of travelers.”
“You’re not a traveler, Balshown!”
“You are, Yagrin, and you have the will, ability, and temperament to keep up with me.”
“Perhaps, we will be the two friends of legend.”
Old Fears, New Paths
A few minutes flying and we are far from the city.
I’m happy to be free of it.
“I don’t like the city, Balshown.”
“Don’t think with your body, Yagrin,” he says.
“The city gives headaches, nausea, and fear to anyone who reaches the island.”
“It’s part of the city’s protection.”
“Can’t the guilds help you study the city, Balshown?
“Your friendship with me will only cause you trouble, especially after the guild takes away my robe.”
“You will soon be a match for any of them, Yagrin.”
“I can’t fight them all, Balshown”
“Even you suggested that I run away to Tshuan.”
“No,” he says.
“I suggested that you bring your family there.”
“It’s no different.”
“I can’t help you enter the city, when the whole council is against me.”
“Quiet!” he says.
“Stop looking at who you have been, and start seeing who you will be!”
“Your heart will survive your past.”
“Your light is not dimmed by the obstacles that surround you.”
“The sound that follows you all day is a call, Yagrin, and the energy pattern that drifts through you has become clear.”
“It’s a symbol that I’ve seen in ancient cubes, called Sindar.”
“There are tales, Yagrin, of a land filled with darkness that blinds both eyes and spirit.”
“In that darkness, there is one Jiku whose eyes can see clearly, and lead others on a safe path.”
“He is called Sindar.”
“It’s an old word, unspoken for hundred of years, except in stories.”
“Some translate this word as guide, but a better translation is path builder.”
“Sindar does not find a path.”
“He shapes one where there was none before.”
“The pattern appears on the mural, and it has long been the symbol of the Tshuan kings.”