I touch the beautiful polished stone of the training circle.
Unchanged in a thousand years.
The circle is quiet.
Chiwan and I stand here alone, far below ground, in the immense cavern.
The stone circle is warm, and the air sweet.
Chiwan knows of twenty training patterns out of hundreds, or thousands.
The topics include strategy, martial arts, weapons, energy shields.
“How long is each training session, master?” I ask.
“At least two hours,” he answers, “but it continues until you end it, or your strength fails.”
“Why can’t we use use healing skills to renew the body every few minutes, and keep our strength?”
“The simulation blocks it, so you can practice your skills, even when tired.”
“No more delays, Yagrin.”
“Activate one of the patterns.”
“There’s no time today, master.”
“We have to go to Tshuan.”
“You must find time for one session, Yagrin.”
“If you don’t use the circle once when you first enter the cavern, you will never find your way back here.”
I review the patterns, and imagine the circle coming alive with a training simulation.
Which pattern should I choose to fill the circle?
I prepare to activate the strategy pattern, but my choice is pushed aside.
A pattern bursts into my mind, and races through my fire body, in circles.
This is the pattern used to transform into Bizra.
The pattern sings to me.
What use is this pattern in the training circle?
I reach out above the circle, and look with my energy eyes.
I touch the energy web, and the pattern forms, without effort.
It spins,and grows, larger and larger.
And hums, louder and louder.
I drop the pattern into the circle.
As the pattern lands in the circle, the room shakes.
Then explodes into dust.
I see a circle of a thousand Bizra, hovering over an island, their golden eyes shining like stars.
I walk out of the ocean onto the beach.
A woman stands on the sand, blocking my way.
“Welcome to the circle, Yagrin.”
“I’m Mayla, your trainer.
The training simulations feel as real as life, and Mayla seems as real as any person.
She looks like the woman who spoke to me in the message I received in the Dream School.
In the Dream Schools, I met people who weren’t real.
They were programs, artificial intelligences, part of the simulation.
They spoke of a master intelligence, that controls all the simulations.
“Are you the one who spoke to me in the message?”
“You’re part of the master intelligence that runs the Dream Schools?”
“I’m not part of the intelligence,” she answers.
“I am the master intelligence.”
“This is the only training that I manage directly.”
“Tell me what enemy threatens us,” I plead.
“Or tell me how to get into the city.”
She shakes her head.
“The secrets of the city must be protected from the outside world.”
“I can’t speak freely within the simulation.”
“Only someone who enters the city, and learns to guard her thoughts, can hear its secrets.”
“What is this training that I’ve dreamed my way into?”
“Is this a fighting pattern, popular in the old times?”
She laughs, a strange reaction for a computer.
“This is the first simulation set up for the circle, but it has never been used.”
“This training can only be activated by a Bizra, but they never chose to use it.”
“How did you activate it?”
“I transformed into Bizra, and some Bizra energy still moves within my fire body.”
“You transformed back to Jiku after being Bizra?”
“They transformed me.”
“It should have killed you.”
“I’m not pure Jiku.”
“I have energy from a species called Gen, and I’m also an Embu traveler.”
She stares at me for a few seconds.
“Your fire body is strange,” she agrees.
“I always assumed that the Bizra were afraid to use the training, but now I think that they made it for you!”
“What does the training teach?” I ask her.
“It builds a skill that can be used for any purpose,” she says.
“It’s about focus.”
“You learn to turn your whole mind and heart in one direction.”
“Whether you fight, or simply live, the many voices within you can be your greatest enemy.”
“You defeat yourself, day after day.”
“Here, we teach you to let go of this enemy within you.”
“Then your focus becomes the greatest weapon of all.”
“Even if you never fight again.”
She raises her arms, and then flies quickly inland.
The land below grows dim, as we move at high speed.
Soon we enter a great, empty desert.
We continue flying for several minutes.
Then she turns toward the ground, and lands.
There, in the middle of the desert is a great stone circle that looks like the learning circle in the cavern.
This circle is a half-mile wide, and ten feet thick, and in the center of the circle is a dark blue crystal sphere, 15 feet wide, half buried in the stone.
Mayla stands on the sphere, and it glows.
I stand next to her.
“The goal of this training,” she says and points, “is to get to another circle five miles away.”
“When the goal is complete, the simulation will end.”
“If you need me, just call out, but it’s best for you, if you face the challenge without me.”
“Remember, Yagrin,” says Mayla, “there are many voices in you.”
“The waking self you identify with is just one voice among many.”
“The Bizra call this weaving the voices.”
She reaches down, and pulls a crystal staff from the sphere below.
She strikes the staff three times on the sphere.
The staff sinks into the sphere.
Mayla disappears and hundreds of beings appear on the stone circle around me.
They’re all versions of me.
All ages, men and women, many with personalities and facial expressions nothing like mine.
Some are a mix of animal and Jiku, and some completely alien.
They ignore me, or smile at me.
Some are afraid of me, and some glare at me with undisguised hate in their eyes.
I ignore them all, and start to fly to the other circle.
As I move, I feel the weight of all the others, pulling me down.
Some fly past me, and block my path.
“All of you must get there,” says Mayla’s disembodied voice.
I return to the circle, and pick up most of my selves, some easily, and some by force.
Then I glide across the energy web toward the other circle, but I only travel a few feet.
Several of my twins still block my way, and these have my strength and skills.
They grab my cargo, and carry it back to the circle.
I take a Gen form, and carry many of the selves toward the second circle at Gen speed.
Some of my twins take the same form, and undo what I’ve done.
“Why should we stay here?” I ask the opposing selves at last.
“Why should we listen to you?” they ask.
“Why should we go?”
“It’s important,” I answer.
“Not to us.”
“I’m in charge,” I tell them.
“If you’re in charge, why aren’t we listening to you?”
I have no answer for them.
“What do you want?” I ask.
They all have different answers.
Some seem to exist only to oppose me.
Do I try to fight them?
What would happen to me, if I harm one of my twins?
Can I satisfy all of them, and make peace?
I go back to the sphere, and stand upon it.
I use the Gen hands of power technique to clear the energy wells, and speed the movement of energy through me.
Then I draw energy from all of us into a great river.
I direct that river into the sphere, from which it rises as a fountain.
As the fountain falls, there are hundreds of streams of energy that connect to all of our heart wells.
“We all have different dreams,” I tell them.
“Some well hidden, almost forgotten.”
“We are each other’s dreams, and our dreams are deep and powerful.”
“This world of Siksa can bring our dreams to life, if we let it.”
Now, I pull images from all of us.
A great dream cloud, full of thousands of shifting images hovers over the path from this circle to the second one.
As I pull the images into the cloud, we see and feel the pull of each other’s dreams.
“We are together in our dreams.”
“This moment’s goal is to get to the second circle.”
As I announce the goal, a bright dark blue light shines from the sphere, and colors the dream cloud as a bright path to the other circle.
Many of us rise, and fly through the cloud toward the other circle.
I feel the power of all the dreams.
Those who can’t or won’t fly on their own, are pulled along with us.
We come to the second circle.
“We’re here,” some of them say, “but nothing has changed.”
“Not everyone,” I tell them.
“Someone must have been left behind.”
My twins stay there, while I return to the first circle.
No one is there, but this view comes from ordinary eyes.
When I look with my healing eyes, I see misshapen selves, caught in their own nightmares, the opening to their heart wells sealed.
I use my healing skills on them.
They remain hidden, but I heal their shapes.
I find the black well within me, and shine that energy on the wells of my twins.
Soon, the energy within the wells shines brightly and clearly again.
Then, I connect with their hearts, and give them the first, greatest dream.
“Dream a new world with me, and find your place in it.”
Their dreams join the dream cloud, and they fly with me to the other circle.
We are all there now, but still the simulation continues.
A young version of me with golden, fire eyes, walks toward the sphere of this circle.
He steps onto the sphere, and says: “we are together in our dreams, forward.”
The rest of us answer.
“We are together in our dreams, forward, and forever.”
Shining silver streams of light radiate from me and each of my twins, toward the sphere and the one with golden eyes.
All of us, including me, melt into the young one with golden eyes, who stands on the sphere.
Mayla returns, and we walk toward her, and face her with fire eyes.
“Excellent, Yagrin,” she says.
“This is the key to focus.”
“Accept that your different selves have many dreams.”
“Weave your voices together with the energy of their dreams.”
“Then, turn a single goal into a path that you can walk together.”
A new pattern takes shape in my mind.
One of the twelve mothers is spinning, bound to the patterns for shield and sword.
“What is this, Mayla?”
“My parting gift, Yagrin.”
“This pattern will bring you to the warrior Dream School.”
“Use it wisely, and it will bring you powerful dreams.”
Mayla fades, and the simulation ends.
“How long was I gone?” I ask Chiwan.
“About two hours,” he answers, “but it was a strange session, Yagrin.”
“The only part of a training visible to observers is the energy pattern that starts the session, but I saw nothing at all, except the image of a strange woman.”
“The woman you saw, master, is just an image used by the machine that runs the simulation.”
“Which of the twenty patterns did you use?”
“A hidden pattern appeared in my mind, never used before, only for me.”
“What did you learn?” he asks.
“I learned to focus on my dreams, and weave the voices within me into a single force.”
“I learned to see the world with focused eyes.”
As we prepare to leave the cavern, my listener leaps from me, and touches the future stone.
I’m flying in a storm, full of joy.
Young, with fire eyes, carrying a golden shield, covered in the symbol of Sindar.
With a sword made from lightning, raised to meet the lightning all around me.
The storm clears and Siksa appears below me, green and lush, the world at peace.”