I wake Shazira and the children, hours before first sun, to begin the trip home.
The building is quiet, except for a few guards who greet us as we move through the halls.
Makish and Chiwan will stay here, for now, to watch over the sisters.
The outer doorway is sealed when we reach it.
“Open it,” I tell the guard.
“Tshuan is covered with a powerful storm,” he says.
“You’ll need to delay your journey.”
“Thanks for your concern,” I tell him, “but the storm won’t stop us.”
When the doorway opens, I surround us with a shield against the strong winds and heavy rain.
Our private world is dry and safe and quiet as I carry us into the sky.
The shield protects us from the lightning that strikes all around us, and lights up the night.
Shazira hates traveling like this, but Tzina and Berek enjoy the wild energy, and their laughter fills me with joy.
Tshuan and the party fade quickly, as my thoughts turn toward home, and the children fall back asleep.
Fifty miles from the Watchtower, I shiver and stop.
As we hover, I feel a strange energy below us, and move down, until we’re only two hundred feet above it.
“Why did you stop, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
“I can see the Watchtower’s light in the distance.”
I feel something below us, not Jiku, but aggressive and threatening.
“We’re still miles from home,” I tell her.
“I stopped because I sense danger, even though I can’t see it.”
Shazira views the area with energy eyes, as I do.
“This is a tiny island, with little more than rocks and birds.”
“What could threaten us?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her, “but there’s something here.”
“Now, is no time to explore, Yagrin!”
“The children are with us, and we have to get back to the tower!”
“You’re right,” I admit, as I take us away from the island.
“I’ll return another time to investigate.”
We arrive at the Watchtower just before dawn, in time for the morning greeting.
Zias and Bintar release the Watchtower to Shazira and me, and we become guardians again.
Shazira pulls out a glowing commdisk.
“Who’s the message from?” I ask her.
“My father is sick,” she answers, “and my mother wants us to visit him this morning.”
“You and Tzina should go,” I tell her.
“I need to stay here.”
“We’ll be back after lunch,” says Shazira, as she hugs me goodbye.
Tzina smiles at Berek, and leaves with her mother.
“Did you enjoy yourself, Berek?” asks Zias, pushing his hair out of his eyes.
“It was incredible, oodah!” he says, with a huge smile.
“The sisters showed us the way they used to sing when they were old ones.”
“Did you perform with the sisters, Yagrin?” asks Bintar.
“He did, father,” says Berek, excitedly.
“He transformed himself hundreds of times.”
“He took the shape of a mountain, a storm, and the shapes of all the sisters!”
“He even built me a wintzal.”
“A wintzal?!” asks Bintar.
“Mind Weaving was a rare gift, found only among those with fire eyes, and all the Mind Weavers died in the war.”
“One Mind Weaver named Makish survived,” I tell him, “and she became an old one.”
“Shazira is descended from her sister.”
Bintar looks at me intently.
“Berek said that you built the wintzal, and you don’t have fire eyes.”
“Makish taught me how.”
“She taught you well enough in a day that you would risk touching his mind?!”
“Makish insisted that we all be protected with a wintzal,” I tell them.
“She saw I had the talent, and she helped me build the wintzal for Tzina.”
“After that, it was easy to build a wintzal for Shazira and Berek.”
“Why does he need this, Yagrin?” asks Bintar.
“Who will attack an eleven-year old boy?”
“In Tshuan, they know that Berek is my son.”
“That makes him a target.”
“Do you fear the sisters?” asks Zias.
“The sisters of the long path are peaceful, but mental battles were common in the old days.”
“The royal libraries of Tshuan are full of cubes from those times.”
“An energy master will find a cube that teaches mind warfare, and the knowledge will spread.”
“There are few energy masters in Tshuan,” says Bintar.
“Yes,” I agree, “but the presence of the sisters will change that.”
“Besides, I don’t trust the Tshuan army.”
“They use strange ancient technology.”
“What if they have weapons that twist or enslave the mind?”
“The world grows more dangerous every day, Yagrin,” says Bintar.
“With every step you take,” he says sharply, “you bring more danger among us!”
“Then you tell us how you will protect us from it.”
“This is a time of danger and change, Bintar.”
“I didn’t create it, but I’m in the middle of it.”
“Do you want me to leave Berek unprotected?!”
“Bintar is right,” says Zias.
“Danger follows you.”
“You should never have freed the old ones!”
“You’ve shattered our peaceful times, and opened a hole to the past.”
“The ancient ways pour through.”
“What will be the end of this, Yagrin?”
“Will you bring us back to the ancient wars?”
“The return of war was promised before I was born,” I tell them, anger seeping into my voice.
“Should I hide from it, or stand up to protect the guild lands?”
Zias stops speaking, and points to my hands.
My body glows brightly, and a cloud of sparks spins around my hands.
I touch the balance of the web, and restore my own balance.
The glow fades.
“You’ve made our Berek a target,” says Zias.
“How will you protect him, now?”
“I need to train him in energy weaving.”
She looks at me for a moment, and shakes her head.
“He’s too young, Yagrin.”
“He’s eleven, Zias, old enough to become an apprentice, and he’s full of talent.”
“He’s seen things that no child should have to see,” she says, “and now you want to throw him into war?”
“Leave him alone!”
“He’s young,” I admit, “but he’s no ordinary child.”
“He needs the weaving to protect himself.”
“Let him train, Zias,” says Bintar.
She stares hard at Bintar, ready to argue with him.
“We can’t protect him, Zias,” says Bintar.
“You know that.”
“Only Yagrin is powerful enough.”
Zias turns away from all of us, fighting the tears.
Then she turns and kisses Berek.
“I want to protect you, Berek, but I can’t.”
“You’re not little anymore.”
“No, oodah,” says Berek.
She pauses, and turns to me.
“Danger, or not,” she says, “he must keep up with his regular studies.”
“Ten hours a week training,” she says.
“First, you’ll teach him to fly, and raise an energy shield!”
It’s an awkward goodbye when Berek leaves.
He won’t call me ina, or father in front of Bintar, his adopted father, but he can’t call me inta either.
I’m no uncle, anymore.
He hugs me goodbye without words, and leaves with his parents, and the Watchtower is quiet.
I wake up, troubled, surrounded by darkness.
Shazira sleeps quietly beside me.
The future seems distant, and uncertain.
Nothing is clear.
I leave our bedroom, walk to the healing room, and stare in the mirror.
What does it mean that I look like Botzar, the last Tshuan king?
He tried to stop a war with an energy weapon called the spinning sword, and killed millions.
I carry a disk, encased in crystal, as an ornament on my belt.
The disk controls the spinning sword.
It has a genetic lock, and will only open in Botzar’s hands, or mine.
Thank the creator, I don’t know how to activate it, or use it.
I hold the disk and run to the deck.
Then I leap into the sky, bright with the tower’s light.
My hands and the disk glow wildly in this light, and an inner voice calls me to release the sword.
I have to destroy the disk, before I learn how to use it.
Flow, weaving, heat, pressure, explosives.
Nothing I do leaves any mark.
I return to the tower, defeated, and sit again in the healing room.
I could hide the disk, deep in the earth or the sea, or throw it into the sun, but the disk will survive, and I will find it again.
My hands glow brighter and brighter.
I look at the disk with energy eyes, and I see three symbols painted in energy, hovering over the disk.
Peace, storm, and the Whisheeku.
I put down the disk and transform myself into the Mehkeel, the humanoid form of the Gen.
I expect the disk to refuse me in this different shape, with different genetics, but the disk feels more weightless, and glows brighter in these hands.
I don’t understand, but I feel the power of peace in the disk, and the doubt disappears.
The world thinks that the sword is a curse.
Sometimes, so do I, but there is more.
I feel hope circling within it, waiting for a chance to touch the world.
I visited the Breath of Life with Shazira and Tzina.
No one knows how, but the breath only gives entry to those in search of peace.
The breath is the heart of the world, and keeps the world in balance.
The cubes say that no harm can ever come from that place.
There were three gifts hidden there, the disk and two necklaces.
One item was waiting for each of us, each item recognizing its own master, and giving its power to that master.
Legends say that someday the sword will be used to bring peace.
What if the disk and the power it holds are the only way to preserve the peace?
Is my family the family of the sword in the legend?
Can I risk so much on the words of a legend, and a feeling of what I must do?
For now I can only wait.
I take back my Jiku shape and return to our bed.
I look at Shazira, and think of her and my children.
I trust in my family to keep me whole and help me find the right way.
Sleep welcomes me again.
In the morning, I return to Tshuan to meet with Chiwan and the sisters.
When the ancient war of the energy masters ended, the world was in ruins.
The Jiku blamed the Tshuan king, the guilds, and the masters.
Most of the surviving masters left Siksa, and the guilds disbanded.
The Bizra looked past the chaos and saw a future war.
They selected three hundred masters to become old ones, live the balance, and bring their gifts to a distant future.
The old ones are now the sisters, and walk among us.
We must plan what they will do.
“How did you become an an old one,” asks Chiwan to Niyta.
“Our cities were ruined or gone.”
“Many masters fled.”
“Those who remained took off our robes.”
“None of us wanted to be recognized as masters.”
“Still, a few of us went to the Bizra and asked for help.”
“They saved the Jiku when our ancestors first came to this world.”
“We believed they would help us again.”
“Not now,” they answered.
“When the time is right,” they said, “we will help the people rebuild, and even revive the guilds.”
“Is there nothing that we can do now?” we asked.
“Masters of your power cannot remain on Siksa,” they answered, “but you are needed far away.”
“The Bizra told us of future wars that might completely destroy the Jiku, unless we helped.”
“They said we must be transformed into beings that could survive the long years, and be trained for the future.”
“They took a year to find the three hundred.”
“It was an honor to be chosen to be an old one.”
“Can you imagine, Chiwan,” asks Niyta, “what it’s like to watch your world crumble, and see millions die?”
“There are no words to describe what we felt.”
“We were willing to do anything to keep that from happening again.”
“Did the Bizra tell you, Niyta,” I ask her, “what you would do to save the world, when you returned to us?”
“We asked them, again and again, before they would answer us.”
“There are many futures,” they finally said, “and it’s impossible to know which future will be born.”
“If the future is uncertain,” I ask, “then why hide you away as old ones?”
“Maybe the war will never happen.”
“They told us, Yagrin, that war fills most of the possible futures, and they told us what to do.”
Teach the children about the horrors of the energy war, and teach the masters the ways of healing and peace.
The old ones must not fight.
Embrace the water, deep beneath the sea, and protect the children from war.
“What about the spinning sword?” I ask.
“Did they mention it?”
Niyta pauses, and the other sisters are quiet.
Niyta looks around at the other sisters, and takes a deep breath.
“The Bizra gave me a message that they didn’t share with the other sisters,” she says.
“A message for the last king of the ancient world.”
“Botzar alive?” asks Makish.
“Not Botzar,” says Niyta.
“Let me finish.”
The king will live again, and see the heart of the sword.
His brother found peace for him in the world of the seven towers.
The family will balance the sword, but their eyes will see peace and destruction.
“Why tell me this, Niyta?” I ask.
“I’m not the king.”
“The Bizra spoke of you, Yagrin, when they said that the king will live again.”
“I’m sure of it.”
“You’re his heir.”
“It doesn’t matter whether or not you rule.”
“Like him, you will try to stop the war.”
She gives me a knowing glance.
I feel something pressing on my mental wall, and I know that it’s her.
She wants to speak with me privately, mind to mind.
I open my wall, and accept her mind touch.
“Makish told you,” she says, “that you look like the old king.”
“Only the Bizra could arrange this.”
“They picked the time and place for a child to be born as Botzar’s twin.”
“How did they do that?” I ask, “and why?”
“I don’t know, Yagrin,” she answers, “but how else could you be the exact double of someone who died a thousand years ago?”
“What are the Bizra after, Niyta?” I ask.
I feel her mental sigh.
“They’re trying to help us!” she says, “but the Bizra think differently than we do.”
“Do we want their help?”
“Can we bear it?”
“It’s up to you Yagrin to figure out what they want.”
“You’re the only one of us who has been Bizra, and dreamed with them.”
“Maybe they will explain themselves to you.”
“They are the ones who see the future!” I say angrily.
“If they’re trying to help us, let them do whatever needs to be done!”
“Why do they always manipulate us into doing what they want.”
“Maybe they can’t do it,” suggests Niyta.
I sigh, and think for a few minutes about my time with the Bizra.
“You’re right, Niyta,” I admit at last.
“The Bizra won’t fight.”
“But I don’t understand how they can ask us to do what they won’t do themselves.”
“It’s not like that, Yagrin,” says Niyta.
“They want us to solve our own problems that our ancestors caused.”
“The Bizra believe that all violence spins time around it.”
“If war breaks out, and goes uncorrected, history repeats itself.”
“How can we correct war, Niyta?”
“I’m not sure,” she answers.
“Perhaps by preventing another war, or ending the next war without violence, or, something else entirely!”
“Our people have already suffered destruction in two wars.”
“The Bizra believe the second war was born from the first.”
“If we changed our ways, we could have stopped the chain of wars, but we learned nothing, and the destruction came again.”
“Now the third war comes.”
“This is our last chance.”
“The third war will destroy us completely, unless we find a new way to deal with it.”
“Do the Bizra believe we’re doomed to repeat our past mistakes, Niyta?”
“Are they helping us to repeat the same horrors, again and again?!”
“They believe in choice above all else.”
“We have the power to break out of the cycle.”
“It’s called straightening time.”
“The last destruction came when Botzar released the spinning sword,” I tell her.
“We won’t repeat his mistake.”
“This time, we won’t use the sword.”
“It’s not that simple, Yagrin.”
“There are choices each time, but the choices are different.”
“Perhaps you will choose the sword, and use it for peace.”
“Why do I carry Botzar’s burden?”
“I have to walk in his shape, and tame a weapon that killed millions.”
“Yagrin,” she says quietly, “I don’t know why you look like him, but you’re not Botzar.”
“Learn all you can about him and his mistakes, and find your own way to help us.”
We end the mind touch.
After an hour of discussion, the sisters agree to a plan.
A third of the sisters will remain in Tshuan, where they were born.
With the guild council’s permission, the rest will go to the guild lands.
The sisters will teach in schools throughout the world, so we will feel the horrors of war, before they come, and learn the promise of healing and peace.