The Curse of Moonwatch
The full moon comes every six weeks, too soon for the guardians of the Watchtower.
The tower shines every night and drives away the Krale.
The full moon saps the strength of the tower, leaves the sky unprotected, and gives birth to the night we call moonwatch.
Two guardians, a bonded couple, live in the tower, flow master and weaver.
It’s a great honor to be chosen to be guardians.
The flow master prepares an ancient crystal, and the weaver absorbs it.
Then the weaver releases a wave of energy that fuels the tower for the whole night.
A year ago, something changed in the tower.
It began the first moonwatch after I became an old one, when Shazira and I were replaced as guardians.
One crystal is no longer enough.
The many crystals now used are too much for the weaver to bear, and bring death or injury.
Since we left the tower, no one has served for more than a moonwatch.
The guilds must light up the night, but now, every weaver fears this duty, except me.
My heart waits to return to the tower, the only place in this world that feels like home.
Until then, I live in a house that once belonged to my parents.
It’s a strong, large house, with a beautiful view of the sea, but it’s not where I belong.
An urgent message waits when I come to the house.
Lina, head of the weavers guild demands my presence, to face a guild emergency.
I fly as fast as I can.
Every guild master must answer an emergency call without question.
I expect to find the guilds assembled for the emergency when I arrive at the guild hall, but only Lina and I are there.
She stares at the three master’s bands on my robe.
“I knew you were skilled, Yagrin, but three master’s bands in three weeks?”
“It seems like a dream, or a legend.”
I let the silence fill the space between us, but she doesn’t wait for my words.
“Are you still an old one, hiding in an ordinary body?”
“I’m not an old one, but I’m not like any other Jiku, either.”
“I carry the memories of the ancient ones, and I have skills learned from other races of energy masters.”
“Why are you here among us, Yagrin?”
“What do you want from us?”
“My family is here, and I belong here, Lina.”
“Everything I’ve learned will serve the Jiku.”
I quote an old proverb:
“Gifts are given when they’re needed, and grow brighter than our eyes can see.”
She’s quiet for a few seconds.
“What’s the emergency, Lina?” I ask.
“The Watchtower,” she answers.
“Every moonwatch we wonder if the tower will still protect us.”
“It’s been dangerous or deadly for every weaver acting as guardian.”
“The problem began when you entered the black column.”
I hear a hint of blame in her voice.
“How will we push away this death?”
“Why ask me?”
“You’ve healed injuries that no one else could heal, and brought back Zias from the edge of a strange death.”
“The council declared you dead, and reborn, when you became an old one, according to law.”
“Some say that you actually died.”
“Is it true, that death can’t hold you?”
I hear the uncertainty in her voice.
She believes in death as an absolute, the strongest force in the world.
She won’t let herself believe that I cheated it in the past.
“What do you think, Lina?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” she says.
“If you can escape death, then perhaps you can show the tower guardians how to do the same.”
“My physical and pattern bodies were destroyed by the Krale.”
“I was dead.”
“Only my fire body remained.”
“Why weren’t you called to the next world, like everyone else?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe, it was because I was a traveler.”
“Or maybe, my fire body is strange, not like other Jiku.”
“Or maybe the center of the tower sustained me, until the Bizra transformed me into an old one.”
“In any case, I have no trick to teach the guardians, no way to avoid death.”
“Someone must guard the tower, Yagrin, and it’s killing your brothers and sisters in the guild.”
“Tomorrow night, it will kill my daughter who now serves as guardian.”
“That’s why I’ve called you.”
“Help me, please!”
Lina’s face is red, and she’s out of breath.
She’s normally so controlled, but now, she’s at the edge of tears.
“Tell me,” she begs, “how do we fix the tower?”
“Do you want Shazira and I to take over as guardians, Lina, to protect your daughter?”
“I don’t want her to die, Yagrin,” says Lina, “but I can’t let anything happen to you, either.”
“If you die there, the council will hold me responsible, and another weaver will be appointed as head of the guild.”
I take her hands.
“When I died in the tower, Lina, was only the first time.”
“When I flow my own shape,” I tell her, “I dissolve my physical and pattern bodies, and die.”
“Still, death is only temporary for me.”
“I’ve died not once, Lina, but hundreds of times.”
She pulls her hands away, and looks at me with terror.
For a long moment, she can’t find any words.
“You’re trapped in this world,” she finally says, “like a ghost, doomed never to see the next life.”
“I’m not a monster, Lina.”
“It’s unnatural, Yagrin.”
“There’s no life without death.”
“I can’t help feeling that way.”
“Feel whatever you need to feel,” I tell her, “but no one else will die at the Watchtower because of me.”
“I’m responsible for all the deaths during the year that I was gone.”
“It’s easy for us to blame you, Yagrin, but is it really your fault?”
“I’m not sure, but I think the Watchtower was damaged when the Krale attacked me.”
“Shazira and I will be at the tower when moonwatch comes.”
“I’ll use my healing skills to find and repair the damage.”
“You can’t heal a building!”
“If the healer is strong enough, and sees clearly enough, anything can be healed, even the stone, crystal, metal, and energy of the tower.”
“I have no choice but to trust you, Yagrin.”
“I’ll arrange for you and Shazira to return as guardians.”
“The tower must protect life again, not crush it.”
The next morning, Shazira and I land on the western deck of the Watchtower, following guild tradition.
It’s cool and windy this morning, still a few minutes before dawn.
Tzina slept here last night in one of the public areas.
She wants to be the first to greet us, after we become guardians again.
Shazira takes my hand, and holds it tightly as we walk toward the doorway of the healing room.
The guardians come out of the healing room to meet us, and we exchange the greeting of palms.
Then we move to the edge of the deck and wait for the first trace of the sun.
The four of us dance the greeting together.
Then the guardians face us, weaver to weaver, and flow master to flow master.
“Your service to ours,” we say, following tradition.
“Our service to yours,” they answer.
“Three bands,” says Lina’s daughter, as she looks at my robe.
“I hope it’s enough to save you,” she adds quietly.
They leave a few minutes later, happy to abandon a place that has become cursed.
Tzina waits for us in the healing room, and the three of us join in a tight hug, happy to be here, together.
Shazira and I bring a few things to the sleeping room, where Berek joins us.
This is the first time I’ve seen him since I learned that he’s my son.
He’s had so much chaos in his life.
This isn’t the time to tell him what I’ve discovered.
My heart is confused by the feelings that spin through me and leave me weak.
Berek tries to give me a quick hug, but I hold him longer and tighter than he expects.
He seems a little embarrassed at first.
Strange, but I sense that he feels more for me than a nephew feels for a distant uncle.
“Inta,” says Berek, interrupting my thoughts, “the Watchtower felt so empty when you were gone.”
“Now it feels whole again.”
“We’re happy to be back, Berek,” I tell him, “but something is terribly wrong with the tower.”
“I must find a way to heal it.”
“The answer is in the black column.”
“Yagrin,” says Shazira, “how can you enter the black column again?”
“Last time, you almost died, and became an old one.”
Berek squirms at the memory.
“The Watchtower is damaged because of me,” I answer, raising my voice.
“I will fix it.”
Shazira hugs me quietly, as her tears fall.
Then she turns away, and walks to the deck outside the room.
“Please children,” I tell them, “find a way to comfort her while I do this.”
“Who will comfort us?” asks Berek, as he and Tzina follow Shazira.
I’m surprised that he says this aloud, until I realize that it was only a voice in his head.
I walk slowly toward the center of the tower, and enter the black room.
I focus on the black column, and release my listening body, but I can’t feel the balance.
It’s dark to my listening, as the Kishla are.
I enter the column, still hoping to find its balance, but my listening body hears nothing.
I walk back to the bedroom, take off my clothes, and walk onto the deck.
“What are you doing, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
The children just look on in surprise.
The Jiku are not troubled by nudity when it serves a purpose, like bathing, swimming, or preparing to change shape.
Here, in the cold morning air, no one can imagine why I’ve abandoned my clothes.
“I need to change shape for what comes next,” I answer.
“Out here?” she asks.
“Do you need to become a bird, and fly around the tower?”
“I’m not joking,” I tell her.
“You’ll never see anything like this again!”
I glide on the energy web to a place almost two hundred feet away.
“What’s he doing, Tzina?” asks Berek.
She doesn’t answer.
None of them have any idea what’s coming.
I transform into a full-sized Watchtower, hovering in the air over the sea.
I let the transformation take a few seconds, so my family can follow what’s happening.
I’m almost an exact copy, close enough, I hope, to help my listener find the tower’s balance.
My listener spreads out in all directions, until it forms a silver cloud around the tower.
The cloud fills the tower, and takes its shape.
The balance of energy and matter in the Watchtower dances before my eyes, like a symphony.
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful, outside of the energy web and the stars.
Still, it feels to me like the tower is bleeding.
I find the wound.
A tiny fragment of black stone hovers within the column, and light bleeds from it.
To heal the tower, I must find out where the black stone came from.
I transform myself into an exact copy of the Watchtower.
Then I release the listener to find the sphere of moments, and touch the history of the tower.
I move through the sphere until I find the moment a year ago, when I died for the first time.
A burst of energy, like lightning, comes out from me, drives the Krale away, and saves Berek.
Looking from outside, I see something more.
The energy burst strikes the Krale, and a tiny fragment of stone is torn off the monster’s body, leaving a stone chip that hovers in the air.
I return my attention to the present, let go of the sphere, and transform back into my Jiku body.
As I land on the deck, Berek hands me my robe.
“Inta,” he says, “what were you doing?”
I’ve cared about Berek, and wanted to protect him, since I first met him.
I never faced the depth of my feelings.
Now that I know he’s my son, how long can I keep this distance between us?
“Healers have a way to listen to an object’s health and balance,” I answer.
“However, sometimes I must become the thing in order to hear its balance.”
“I became the Watchtower to find out how it was broken.”
“Now you’ll fix it?”
I leave my family on the deck, and return to the black room, and the column within it.
The chip of the Krale’s body spins in the wind that fills the column.
It won’t move.
It resists my hands and my weaving skills.
I try to flow it, but the connection with the tower protects it.
I surround the chip with my healing body, and I’m filled with agony, crushing emotions of guilt and regret.
I keep part of my listener in contact with the chip, but extend my listening body onto the web.
My spirit calms, and the guilt moves far away.
Energy pours through me, and into the chip.
It glows brighter and brighter, until the black color slips away, and only light remains.
Then the light is absorbed into the column.
The chip, and it’s wound are gone, except for a tiny fragment that floats free, and settles on my palm.
I find my family together in the healing room.
Shazira is sitting on the floor, with one child on each side of her, holding her.
“There was a chip of Krale tearing the energy of the Watchtower, disturbing its strength.”
“This fragment is all that’s left of it.”
“Would you like to hold it Berek?” I ask.
“It can’t hurt us anymore.”
He steps back several feet in disgust and fear.
“Please inta,” he says, “destroy it.”
I flow it into air and it’s gone.
“It’s black, Yagrin,” says Shazira, “and you were able to flow it!”
The power of flow doesn’t work on black objects.
I have no way to explain it.
Shazira rises and takes my hand, and we walk quietly into the Watchtower.
That evening, moonwatch comes, and Shazira and I drive away the Krale with only one crystal.