Chiwan is not home when I arrive, but I find a message waiting for me.
“Find me, Yagrin, before you release the old ones.”
How does he know?
Did Shazira contact him?
I check the timestamp on the message, and discover that the message was recorded an hour before I left the Watchtower.
The message continues.
Cross two green hills, traveling southeast.
Fly ninety miles straight east, until you reach the barren lands.
Continue northeast for five miles across the barren lands, until you come to a waterfall that feeds a small lake.
At the bottom of the lake are three boulders, arranged in a triangle.
Look at the center of the boulders, and you’ll find me.
I locate the hills, and later, the barren lands.
I’ve read about this area, eight miles wide, and fifty miles long.
I’ve seen desert and arid areas on several worlds, but this land is not a desert.
It’s filled with an abundance of water, in streams, and ponds.
And yet, nothing grows.
I scan the dirt with energy eyes, and see ordinary soil, not radioactive or contaminated.
Still, the web over the land is twisted, and the energy moves in strange ways.
This area was damaged in the ancient energy wars, and still bears its scars.
It’s difficult to fly straight over the barren land.
The damaged web pulls me in all directions.
I sink to the ground, planning to walk the five miles, but I’m buried in strong fears.
I take a few steps, and the fears grow to a storm in me, and give birth to hallucinations.
The world crumbles, and my family dies a horrible death.
A dozen energy masters surround me, and overload my fire body with energy, until I explode.
This is not real!
It’s only an energy, and it has no power over me unless I hold on to it.
The energy moves through me and disappears into a mist.
The fears come, again and again like hungry wolves, devouring their prey, and my fire body begins to weaken.
I can’t survive long in this place, with its strange energy.
I extend my listening body to the energy web, just outside of the barren lands, and I feel the rivers of energy that rush across the healthy web.
I try to call that river to move across the barren lands to me, but it won’t come.
Then I reach out with a thin stream of lightning toward both sides of the barren lands, one near, and one far.
When my lightning reaches the rivers of energy, they surround my lightning and move toward me, until the two rivers connect in me.
The energy web is temporarily restored along the paths of the rivers, and a sphere of energy forms around me.
The fears weaken.
My thoughts and feelings are just a ripple upon these rivers, and the fears weaken.
Then I let myself be the endless river that flows through me.
Now, the fears are too small to be heard.
They slip away, and finally stop.
Protected my the rivers, I rise again into the sky, and continue the journey.
I sense distance with my energy eyes.
Five miles into the barren lands I find the waterfall, stop, and hover in the air.
I look into the lake below me with energy eyes, and find the three boulders.
Protected by an energy shield, I dive into the lake, and move toward the boulders.
There is no one visible near the boulders, and nothing out of the ordinary.
I spread my listening body upon the boulders, and use healer’s eyes.
These eyes will sometimes see what ordinary energy eyes are blind to.
A strange glow covers the area.
I see an energy fire, burning at the center of the triangle.
A small stream of fire moves along the lakebed, extending out of the triangle.
A single white stone stands in the center of three boulders.
I land there, and turn to my physical sight.
There is no stone at my feet, but something is different here.
I open my energy eyes again, and see a column of healthy energy, rising through the lake and the waterfall, and high into the sky.
I move my listening body to center it on the energy stone, and a whirlpool of energy surrounds me.
A mountain of energy rises, thousands of feet high.
The base of the mountain covers the boulders and the stone.
A storm surrounds the mountain, and lightning strikes it from all sides, every few seconds.
This a storm of pure energy.
In the physical world, the sky is clear and sunny.
Shazira once told me of a place that reminds me of what I see.
There’s a legend of the place where our ancestors first landed on the world.
Lightning covers it, day and night, even when the sky is clear everywhere else.
Broken ships are buried deep in the ground, beneath the mountain.
No one has ever found that place, Yagrin, as far as I know.
It’s called the circle of war.
Strange that this place of war can only be seen with the healer’s sense, the listening body!
In the old times, healers took an oath to never kill another intelligent being.
The healers would not fight in wars, and would not kill, even in self-defense.
Chiwan has never spoken of the oath, but I suspect that he has taken it.
With my healer’s sense, I reach toward the top of the mountain.
The mountain seems to go on forever, and rises high enough to leave the atmosphere, and touch the edge of space.
I feel something out there in space.
At first, it feels like an old, broken ship, but I sense that it’s maintaining a stable orbit.
To my energy eyes, there are no signs of life in it, but I feel that something is there, sleeping, waiting.
I bring my attention back to the energy mountain.
A cave entrance glows brightly, thirty feet above me, marked with the symbols for peace and storm.
The same symbols that decorate my robe within the healing band.
I fly straight up through the center of the energy mountain, and enter the cave.
In the physical world, I should still be in the water, but instead, I find myself in a large, underground cavern.
A great circle of polished stone fills the center of the cavern, and Chiwan sits at the center of the circle.
I sit down next to him, and spread my listening body on the healthy energy web here.
We are thousands of feet below ground, and the web is stronger, brighter, faster.
Chiwan’s eyes are open, but he gives no sign that he sees me.
I wait for him to break the silence.
“The world’s balance is as strong, solid, and sure as the stone circle beneath us.”
“It will support you.”
“Invite it to watch over you.”
“Let it become a garment and a shadow that protects you.”
I imagine that the stone rises up and shapes itself to my body, forming a powerful, flexible stone garment, formed of thousands of spinning, glowing, stone circles.
The garment feels soft and warm.
I relax into it.
It rises a few feet in the air, carrying me, and all tension melts away.
Minutes pass as I float peacefully.
Then I glide to the ground.
“What is this place, master?” I ask.
“A training circle, Yagrin.”
“The ancient energy masters trained here.”
“I’m the last living master to know it exists, and I don’t how to use it fully.”
“My master invited me, as I’ve invited you, but it was up to you, to find the entrance.”
“Few today can pass through the barren lands, and fewer still can find the entrance to the cave.”
“Tell me about your journey, Yagrin, and everything you saw.”
I describe the energy mountain, the lightning ,and the symbols for peace and storm.
Chiwan is quiet.
“The entrance is different for each of us,” he says.
“I see no mountain, no storms, no symbols.”
“For me, there’s an energy sea, and a single white stone, glowing beneath the waves.”
“The one thing that all of us see, is the stone.”
“Master,” I ask him, “how did you know that I would come to visit you today, and, that I plan to release the old ones?”
He rises, and walks to a polished slab of stone, three feet across, that hangs on the wall.
“This stone shows the future to the healing masters that it chooses.”
“Only healing masters?”
“The stone is activated by contact with a strong healing body.”
“It shows the balance of the future.”
“Only a healing master can resonate with the balance, and see the future in it.”
“Three days ago, I was here and touched the stone.”
“It showed you visiting my empty house.”
“It showed us flying together to Tshuan.”
“And it showed you freeing the old ones.”
“I went home, and left a note for you.”
“Then I returned here yesterday.”
I look at the smooth stone, but I don’t touch it with my listening body.
For now, I know enough of the future.
I turn away from the stone.
“Should I release the old ones?” I ask him.
“I’ve touched their hearts and thoughts, and they seem pure, but perhaps they’re hiding their true intentions.”
“I’ve spent days listening to the future balance of the web,” he says, “and I’ve been listening to what the old ones will do to the balance.”
“Again and again, the web gives me the same answer.”
“The old ones will add to the healthy balance of the world, and help us in the coming war.”
I’m quiet for a moment.
“Come with me, master!” I ask him.
“Your spirit will resonate with the old ones.”
“Someone must guide the old ones back into the world, and stand between them and the council.”
“You will help the old ones discover their place, better than I can.”
“I have little patience for the council, Yagrin, and I usually prefer mountains to people, but the old ones are not like other Jiku.”
“They are a light from another age.”
“Their lives are dedicated to balance, and they know many things that the world has forgotten.”
“If they need my service, how can I say no?”
“Master,” I ask him, “why did you ask me to come here?”
“I need to pass on the knowledge of this place to someone,” he says, “and you need to train for war.”
“Master, you don’t believe in war!”
He laughs, and then his face turns serious.
“War is coming whether I believe in it, or not!”
“I will not kill,” he says, “but I will fight, to protect myself, and those too weak to fight.”
“Learn all that you can, Yagrin, to fight for us.”
“I hope that you will find a way to protect us without killing, but what you learn, and what you do, is up to you.”
He leads me to the center of the polished stone.
“We activate the training circle with energy patterns, Yagrin, similar to the way that we active Dream Nets to enter the Dream Schools.”
“Every training course has its own activation pattern.”
“The circle is different than the Dream Schools.”
“Here, you are fully awake, and time moves at regular speed.”
“The courses in the circle last a few hours, only a moment compared with a year in a Dream School.”
“And the circle has different patterns than the Dream Schools.”
I stay in the circle, but Chiwan moves outside of it.
He shapes a set of twenty energy patterns in the air, and explains which training is activated by each pattern.
“Shape a pattern, and throw it down into the center of the circle, and the training begins.”
“The training will adapt itself, to your speed and skill level.”
“When your body leaves the circle, the training shuts down.”
It’s ironic that healing masters have become the guardians of this place.
All of the twenty surviving patterns teach military skills.
This will help me prepare for war, but I need more than a few hours of training.
“Are there Dream Schools for military strategy?” I ask.
“Once, there was a warrior’s guild,” he answers,”so there must be training in the Dream Schools, but the school pattern has been lost.”
“I’ve never needed that pattern, Yagrin, but you do.”
“There’s a strange tradition about this circle, passed down from master to student.”
“Perhaps it will help you.”
Come together in the circle, and enter the warrior’s guild.
“All of us repeat it, Yagrin, but none understand it.”
“Maybe you will discover its meaning.”