The Curse of Visions
Botzar sits, emotionally exhausted by reliving the memory.
“I faithfully followed my vision,” says Botzar, “and it destroyed my life.”
“Why was I given that vision?”
“Why did my life move that way?”
“Fate has cursed me,” he says.
“It led me to abandon Makish, and destroy the world.”
“Fate?” asks B’tzel.
“No one, and nothing forced you to do it.”
“Sindar told you of the Dream Hunter’s vision of the four brothers.”
“You knew that each brother must be bonded to a woman with Bizra eyes.”
“Sindar and his stories were like a dream to me,” answers Botzar.
“I was raised to be king, and I couldn’t let it go.”
“So Makish sent you away, and you just gave up?” I ask him.
“No,” he answers.
“I sent a message to Makish, every day for the next two months, but she never answered.”
“Finally, I let her go, and found an ordinary woman to bond with.”
“In time, I loved my bondmate, and one day, I became king.”
“Then I grew older, and I became restless.”
“The kingdom was peaceful, and I found the ceremonies boring.”
“I began to neglect my bondmate and children, and spend time alone, full of dreams of who I could have been.”
He stares at Makish.
“I wondered what life I would have had with you, Makish.”
“One day I returned to the cave of silence, looking for guidance, and I had another vision.”
“I was young again, and I saw a bonding ceremony on a strange world.”
“In that vision, Makish and I were bonding.”
“The vision made no sense to me, so I put it out of my mind, and returned to my sad life.”
“When the rebellion started, I was terrified at the thought of losing the kingdom.”
“Who would I be if I was no longer called king?”
“The sword seemed the only way to stop the energy masters who came against me.”
“It can’t be dangerous,” I rationalized, “if I just release a little energy, and use it to bind them.”
“Just until they calm down.”
“I was as foolish as Benzu.”
“Fate turned me into my brother.”
“Botzar,” I tell him gently, “the future isn’t certain.”
“The Bizra say that visions show us a likely path, but not the only one.”
“I think that visions often show us the path we want to choose, the one that is easy for us to walk on.”
“The easy path is not always the best path.”
“You made the vision come true, no one else.”
“You may be right, Yagrin,” he says, “but it doesn’t matter now.”
“It’s too late to change the mess I’ve made of the past.”
“If I have a future, it’s here, on Sinesu, far away from the sword and kings.”
“Let me tell you the end of my story,” says Botzar.
“For a few days after the destruction, I wandered among the destroyed cities, barely remembering to eat.”
“In most places, the sword erased the Jiku without a trace.”
“Still, there were other ruins, full of bodies.”
“Survivors came to bury the dead.”
“People wore masks to block the smell, and protect themselves from disease.”
“I helped bury hundreds, until I could bear it no longer.”
“That whole time is like a nightmare to me.”
“My mind was cloudy, and I couldn’t think or plan.”
“I had nowhere else to go, so I went to the seven towers.”
“I wanted to speak to Sindar.”
“I don’t know what I expected him to do or say.”
“Maybe, I hoped that he would forgive me.”
“He slept, hidden in the second tower, and his machines guarded the entrance, and refused to wake him.”
“I left him a message, telling him what happened, and cursing him, for bringing me to this fate.”
“I thought of searching for an empty world where I could live out my days alone.”
“Instead I came back to Siksa, to revisit the destruction I caused.”
“I found the Dream Hunter, and followed her advice, hiding the sword in the breath of life.”
“Then I gave myself to the same prison that held B’tzel.”
“Is Sindar still alive?” I ask him.
“I don’t know,” answers Botzar.
“After he heard about the destruction I caused, he must be sure that we’re cursed.”
“I’m surprised that he let you be born, but who else but Sindar could plan your birth?”
“Anyway, his purpose in life is done, and he can sleep forever, forgetting his guilt.”
Botzar gives me a strange look.
“I just realized,” he says.
“Sindar must have visited you to share the vision of the brothers, and tell you to bond with a woman with Bizra eyes.”
“How is it possible that you know nothing about it?!”
I hesitate before answering.
“I don’t know if he visited me, Botzar.”
“You don’t know?” he shouts.
“How could you forget a visit from Sindar?”
“I’m a traveler,” I tell him, “with only some of Yagrin’s memories.”
“I don’t know how Yagrin met Shazira, but he loved her, as I do.”
“Thousands of years of visions and plans, and a traveler erases the last brother.”
“No, Botzar,” I answer, “I am Yagrin, and I am Embu.”
“Shazira believes it, and I can’t explain it, but I know that I belong here.”
“Yagrin and I have one spirit, although we were born on different worlds.”
“I don’t believe you,” he says.
“Before I traveled to Siksa,” I tell him, “I was already your twin.”
“I looked like you and Yagrin.”
He stares at me, and his thoughts are suddenly far away.
“Four sons, colored by a fifth,” says Botzar.
“The Dream Hunter’s words.”
“The old Yagrin is the fourth, and you are the fifth.”
We wait for the elder after sharing the memories.
“It’s been long enough, Yagrin,” says Makish, after another hour of waiting.
I touch the beautifully carved wooden door.
“You’re right, Makish.”
I try to push the heavy door open, and find it locked.
Then I pound on the door.
“Just wait for the elder,” comes the official’s voice through the door.
“A few hours at most.”
“We’re not waiting any more,” I say.
“Open the door, or I’ll destroy it.”
“Please stay there,” he says.
“We won’t harm you, but we have orders to keep you there, until tonight.”
“It’s Sindar’s day, and the celebration starts in a few minutes.”
“The elder has no time now to speak with you, and she wants the celebration to go smoothly.”
“Without us, you mean.”
“Yes,” he responds, grudgingly.
“We’re leaving,” I tell my friends.
“Get behind me, and I’ll protect you.”
I let my physical body drift away like smoke, and I take a visible energy form, which looks like burning, living crystal.
The others cover themselves with shields, but I still surround all of us with my own shield.
I could flow away the door, or just the lock, but I decide to make an impression on them, and I shatter the door with a loud boom.
The guards start to fire with stun weapons, but they stop, and then pull back when they see my burning form.
They stare in wonder at the sparkling shield around us that absorbs their energy bursts.”
I flow away their weapons.
“Please don’t harm us,” says the youngest of the guards, his face turning white.
“We have families who depend on us.”
“The weapons were only set to stun you.”
“Take us to the celebration,” I tell them, calmly.
“We won’t harm you, or anyone else.”
They lead us into the forest.
After a few minutes, I notice that the sounds of the towns are getting softer, not louder.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“To the center of the towns, and Sindar’s monument.”
“You’re taking us farther away from the towns.”
“You’re wrong,” says one of the guards, “we’re getting closer.”
“Let’s go,” I tell the others, and rise into the air.
They follow my lead, and we rise high enough to see the towns, and a large gathering of people.
Then we glide quickly toward the center of the ring of towns, and the crowds.
There is an open area around the monument which is blocked off by ropes.
I lead the others to land there.
The people point at us, afraid and angry, as we land.
They back away from the roped area, when they see my fiery shape.
I stay in that form, waiting to see what will happen.
A tall woman enters the roped-off area, and boldly faces me.
She’s about one hundred years old, middle-aged for a Jiku.
“Welcome to Sinesu,” she says, nervous, and frowning.
“You’re the binder that can change his shape?”
“Yes, I’m Yagrin.”
“Didn’t the guards ask you to wait until the celebration is over?”
“We were tired of waiting,” I respond.
“Are you children?” she asks, “that you can’t wait for a few hours?”
“We can wait,” says Makish, moving closer to Wisten, “but we won’t let ourselves be locked up like criminals.”
“We belong at Sindar’s celebration as much as you do!”
She scans me with energy eyes.
“I don’t know what you are, Yagrin, but you’re not Jiku.”
“The form you wear is all energy.”
I transform back into my own Jiku shape.
“This is my true form,” I tell her.
“Your fire body is still strange, different from us and your friends.”
“I was born Jiku,” I tell her, “but now, my fire body is more than Jiku.”
“That’s how I’m able to live without a physical body.”
She looks at me and Botzar.
“He’s my twin brother,” I tell her.
It’s the first time that I’ve called Botzar my brother, and it feels strange.
“Well,” she says with a sigh, “you’re here now, at the center of the celebration.”
“I can’t do anything about that.”
“Just don’t ruin the whole day for us.”
“We won’t,” I answer, “if you just treat us with some respect.”
“Oh, we’ll respect you,” she says, sarcastically.
“The Fiklow told us to obey you, and we always follow orders.”
She walks closer to me until her face is only inches away.
“What did you do for them that they wait in orbit for you, and tell us to treat you as a commander?”
“Do you spy on other Jiku?” she asks, raising her voice.
“Do you ruin your brothers’ lives so the Fiklow will pretend to like you?”
“You have no idea who you’re speaking with,” says Botzar.
“We could turn your monument into air with barely a thought.”
“Botzar,” says Makish, touching his shoulder, “don’t threaten them.”
“They’re Jiku, like us, and tired of being ordered around by the Fiklow.”
“You sound like you care for us,” says Wisten, “but it’s all an act.”
“Watch the celebration, and then go back to whatever Jiku world that was cursed by your birth.”
Botzar moves to strike her, but I stop him.
“We were not born on any of your worlds, or anywhere in this universe.”
“I don’t know what you are,” she says to me, “but the others are clearly Jiku.”
“We’re all Jiku,” I answer, “but the Fiklow brought us to Gunal from far away.”
“We came to return the artifact.”
“I don’t understand,” says Wisten, starting to sweat.
“The artifact is a thousand years gone.”
“Legend says that a Jiku ship escaped with it to a distant galaxy.”
“No,” says Makish.
“Not another galaxy — another universe.”
“You four are from the lost Jiku?” asks Wisten.
Her skin looks gray, as I nod yes.
“Too many surprises for one day,” she says, trying unsuccessfully to smile.
She looks unsteady on her feet, so I take her arm.
The crowd moves closer, concerned for her safety.
“I’m a little dizzy,” she says loudly, so they can hear.
“He’s just holding me up.”
I release my healing body, and focus on Wisten.
Her energy is wildly out of balance, and her pattern body is damaged!
She’s terminally ill, her physical body filled with cancerous growths.
I stream healing energy into her, as I flow the cancerous tissue away.
Then I repair the damage to her pattern body.
“I feel better then I’ve felt in months,” she says.
Then she realizes that the change was too sudden to be natural.
She scans herself with energy eyes, and sees that the cancer is gone, and her pattern body repaired.
“You’re a healer?” she asks.
“None of our healers can do what you’ve done.”
“Thank you,” she says.
She hesitates for a moment, and gives me the greeting of palms.
Then she gives the greeting to the others.
“Why did you give the artifact back to the Fiklow,” says Wisten.
“Surely, they will find a way to use it against us.”
“I hid the artifact,” I tell her, “in a place where no Jiku or Fiklow will ever find it.”
“The Fiklow are satisfied with that?” she asks.
“I helped them at Gunal,” I answer, “and they owe me a debt of gratitude.”
“Gunal?” she asks.
“I’ve heard strange stories about that world.”
“One trustworthy Jiku traveler said that Gunal is no longer a desert.”
“How could that happen?”
“Even Fiklow technology can’t restore the ocean, and quickly fill it with life!”
“It’s true,” answers Makish.
“The oceans have returned, rich with life.”
“Incredible,” says Wisten.
“Were you at Gunal, Yagrin, when the ocean returned?”
“What did you do for the Fiklow that they owe you?”
“You restored the oceans.” she says finally, giving me a strange look.
“You healed the planet.”
Wisten raises her arm to quiet the crowd.
She speaks into a message disk, and her voice sounds out throughout the crowd.
“We have Jiku guests from beyond the fourteen worlds,” she tells the people.
“One of them will start the celebration.”
She shuts off the disk, and hands me a heavy basket, filled with dirt.
Two flowering purple vines rise from the center, wrapped around each other.
I recognize the flower from the Watchtower.
Around the vines are small arrangements of cut flowers, with a thin circle of roasted grain around the flowers.
Wisten points to an area at the far right of the monument.
“What do I do?” I ask her.
“Place the basket on the ground.”
“Then put your hands on the top right edge of the monument.”
“Offer thanks to Sindar for leading us from a place of death to Sinesu.”
“The one who begins the celebration, and touches the monument is considered blessed for the day.”
“Everyone will offer you the greeting of palms, to share your blessing.”
“It’s tiring, but it’s part of the ceremony.”
I place the basket down on the ground, and put my hands on the monument.
The monument glows a bright white light, then shines with growing waves of color.
The light fades and the right side of the monument opens.
The crowd grows deathly still, and Wisten approaches.
She activates the disk again.
“You opened the monument,” says Wisten slowly.
I remember Sindar’s story about the monument, and its genetic lock.
Someone in the crowd yells: “Sindar has returned!”
Others shout the name “Sindar,” again and again.
“Silence,” says Wisten into her disk, and her voice echoes through the town square.
“I believe that you are Jiku, but who are you?”
She holds up the disk for me to speak into, so the people can hear.
The crowd waits, and I motion to Botzar to stand next to me.
“Neither of us is Sindar,” I tell them, “but the monument knows us and greets us, because we are his twin brothers.”
The School and the Spiral
“How is this possible?” asks Wisten, as the crowd listens.
“We are four brothers, conceived together,” I tell them.
“Sindar and another brother were born together, and walked on the Jiku’s ancient home, before Sinesu.
“Botzar was born a thousand years ago on Siksa, the new home of the lost Jiku.”
“I was born there, fifty years ago.”
“How long will you be among us?” asks Wisten.
I motion to Makish.
“Yagrin has not decided when he will return home, but the three of us plan to remain, to travel and teach among the Jiku worlds.”
“Let the celebration begin,” says Wisten, and she shuts off the disk.
“You are all binders?” she asks quietly.
“Yes,” answers Makish.
“As powerful as Yagrin?”
“No, answers Makish, “but much more powerful than the binders of this universe.”
“More powerful even than the Fiklow queens.”
“There hasn’t been a queen in thousands of years,” says Wisten, “since long before the Jiku and the Fiklow met.”
“Who knows how powerful she would be?”
“We’ve met the last queen,” says Makish.
“Her spirit was trapped on Gunal when she died.”
“She came back to life for a day, and prepared the way for a new queen.”
“We heard rumors,” says Wisten, “but we thought that the Fiklow invented this story to frighten us.”
“I befriended the old queen,” I tell Wisten.
“She wasn’t your enemy.”
“When there is a new queen, I hope that she will respect the Jiku and the school.”
“What do you mean, the school?” asks Wisten, giving me a concerned look.
“The schools that teach binding and healing,” I say aloud, covering my slip.
I reach out and touch her mind, and build a temporary wintzal around us to guard our thoughts.
“Forgive the intrusion, Wisten, but I think we need to speak of this in private.”
“I have covered us with a mental wall that nothing can penetrate.”
“We don’t mention the school aloud,” says Wisten.
“We try to keep it out of our thoughts.”
“Our mental skills are weak, but there are binders that can connect to another mind for a few seconds, and listen to another’s thoughts.”
“Some of these binders work for the Fiklow military, and we worry that one day they will discover the school.”
She looks at me.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this mental link, Yagrin.”
“None of us can make such a strong connection between minds, or hold it so long.”
“How long will it last?”
“As long as I want.”
“I wish,” she says, “that we could connect minds as you do, and shield our thoughts.”
“Makish or I can build you a wintzal, a permanent mind wall, that will be yours to open and close.”
“Perhaps, I can also teach you to touch minds, as I do.”
“How do you know of the school?” she asks.
“Did you steal the knowledge from our thoughts?”
“We go to great lengths to keep it secret.”
“I learned about it,” I tell her, “from a Fiklow binder.”
“She trusted me, because I am the shadow of the old queen.”
“A Jiku as shadow to the queen?” she asks.
“If the new queen joins the school,” she says, “it will grow much more powerful.”
“Your friends will also add to our knowledge and strength.”
“Yes, Wisten, but you will need all of that strength to face the danger that is coming.”
“Have you heard of the attacks on the Fiklow worlds?”
“The Fiklow interrogated many of our people,” she answers, “suspecting us of the attacks.”
“Finally, they gave up, convinced that we don’t have the technology to attack them without being seen.”
“The Fiklow binders believe,” I tell her, “that the attacks are part of Diwan’s approach.”
“I’ve heard of the Fiklow tradition of the burning Spiral,” she says, “but why should we connect the strange attacks to the Spiral?”
“Do you know the words of the Fiklow prophecy?” I ask.
The sea burns, and endless spirits are bound to dust.
An age of waiting will pass.
Twin suns approach.
One rises from a distant sea, and gives birth to an old sea.
Lost, a dead queen rises for a day.
When a new queen rises in the sea reborn, the Fiklow feel the Spiral’s sting.
Diwan has no end.
It rides the web and lives in crystal, but the twin suns will rule over it.
“In ancient times,” I explain, “the artifact burned the sea on Gunal, and the dead spirits were bound to the desert.”
“They were trapped there for thousands of years?”
“Yes, until I passed through the possibility sea a few days ago, and freed them.”
“Then, their sea was reborn, and the dead queen rose for a day.”
“Soon, Wisten, there will be a new queen.”
“It must be the Spiral that attacks us.”
“You gave birth to the sea, so you are one of the suns!”
“Yes, and Botzar, my twin, must be the other.”