Shazira leads me to the green room.
When I come here, I feel like I’m standing in a forest.
There are plants in all of the rooms, but this room feels alive.
The air is sweeter than the rest of the Watchtower.
People meet here to share words and food and laughter.
It’s a kitchen, cafe, and public meeting place.
From outside, the room is the same size as the other five rooms.
Within, the green room has three floors, and each floor is double the size of any of the other rooms.
To the Jiku who come here often, this wonder is familiar and forgotten.
The cafe is on top.
It’s the most popular room in the house, and the only one of the levels that opens to the deck and the rest of the Watchtower.
The other two floors are below the cafe, hidden in the stone of the mountain, yet still full of light.
The kitchen is one level below the cafe, and the large meeting rooms are two levels down.
There are no elevators here.
In the middle of each level are three stairs that lead to a raised transport platform, surrounded by a gazebo and covered in a cloud of light.
There’s a simple control to choose one of the other two floors.
I’ve avoided the green room, except late at night when no one is around.
The Jiku fear me.
They look at me as a strange, alien animal who hides in the skin of one of their friends.
Today I have no choice.
I need to meet with Lina.
She leads the Energy Weavers Guild, my guild.
We’ll eat together at one of the many small tables in the cafe, but not yet.
Shazira has gone to get Lina.
I don’t want to taste the stares of the other Jiku while I wait, so I wander to the other floors.
The meeting level has a stone floor of forest green.
The floor is decorated with a large triangle, with lines of black stone that surround the green center.
Three low tables stand at the end points of the triangle.
Each table is large enough for a group of twenty, and rests on its own round rug.
The kitchen level has four preparation areas, beautiful round tables.
I run my hands over one, and a high, clear tone fills the air, and spins endlessly in my throat.
This table and two of the others look and feel like cool, dark granite.
Each of the three has its own distinct color and pattern.
The fourth feels and looks like glass, but is unbreakable.
It glows and sparkles day and night.
A deep round sink rests at the center of each table.
Each sink has a metal platform filled with small holes like a colander.
The sink has no tubes, no pipes, and a virtual screen hovers over the sink.
Place a clean container on the platform, and choose from the menu of drinks.
A stream of light shines into the vessel, and it fills with liquid.
Traveler, Apprentice or Master?
I wander back to the cafe, in time to see Shazira enter with another woman.
“Yagrin,” says Shazira, “Lina is here.”
Lina has shoulder length red hair and a light complexion that matches her hair.
Her eyes are a beautiful brown.
She looks about forty Earth years old, but the Jiku live much longer than humans.
She’s probably about eighty.
We sit together in the cafe at one of the tables, and someone brings us breakfast.
Each of the tables in the cafe has a ring of stones at its center.
Lina moves her hand along the stones, and the cafe around us grows quiet.
We can’t hear the other guests, and they can’t hear us.
I stare at Lina’s face.
She seems familiar, and an image bursts into my mind.
Lina and I fly together over the ocean, around mountains, and through caves deep into the earth.
Her face is proud as she stretches out both arms to me at a Guild ceremony, and hands me the white robe of a master weaver.
“Do you remember me, Yagrin?” she asks, as the memory fades.
“I see us flying over the ocean, Lina, around mountains, in caves.”
“We’re near a place with hundreds of identical dark hills with rounded tops.”
“I remember when you gave me my master’s robe.”
Another memory surfaces.
“Thirteen children were stranded on one of the outer islands.”
“You and I flew together through a lightstorm, to reach them, and save them.”
“I was your apprentice.”
Her slightly pained expression relaxes into a slight smile.
“Good, Yagrin. Good.”
She pauses, searching for the right words.
“There’s never been a guild master taken by a traveler.”
“We don’t know what to do with you.”
She looks at me with concern.
“Shazira believes you are no ordinary traveler, that you you’ve crossed the possibility sea, and joined with your twin.”
“There are laws about travelers, Yagrin.”
“They are not condemned to death, but they cannot belong to the guilds.”
“There is only one exception.”
“The sea traveler can stay in the guilds, and he carries all the rights of his twin.”
“You have made the claim, so we cannot just take your name from you, and drive you out of the guild.”
“Still, you must prove yourself, and the law does not say how you prove you are the traveler.”
“We will test your mastery of weaving, with tests of our choice.”
“The Guild members are asking for it among themselves, and soon there will be a formal request.”
“I will give you four weeks to prepare, but no more.”
“I’m sorry, Yagrin.”
“You must pass the apprentice and master tests a week before moonwatch, or you will be replaced.”
“Who will help me prepare, Lina?” I ask.
“I don’t have the time,” she says, “to help you.”
“Besides, there will be whispers in the Guilds if I train you and test you.”
“It will not be easy.”
“The tests must be harder than usual, so no one can doubt you.”
“I’ve asked Balshown to help you,” she says.
When I hear the name, I see an image of an old man, cranky and hard to please, who can out-fly a bolt of lightning.
“Balshown?” asks Shazira.
“He’s retired from the Guild, and you know he doesn’t like Yagrin.”
“He thought Yagrin was too young to be given the master’s robe.”
“Yes,” agrees Lina.
“Balshown was angry with me when I gave Yagrin the master’s test.”
“That was a long time ago, and Yagrin is not a young master any more.”
“When Balshown pronounces him ready to test, and Yagrin passes the test, no one will doubt him.”
We finish eating, and join hands for the binding of the blessing.
Then, Lina goes elsewhere in the house to meet with other Guild members.
“She is a coward, and no friend to you!” says Shazira.
“What do you mean?”
“She is afraid to speak the truth, and she only pretends to be your friend, Yagrin.”
“No one in your guild believes that you are the sea traveler of the vision.”
“Only Tzina and I believe in you.”
“Lina knows you don’t have a master’s skill now.”
“You can’t train to be a master in four weeks, and Balshown will never really help you.”
“He hated Yagrin.”
“Lina has guaranteed you will fail, and if you do, we’ll have to leave the Watchtower.”
I take hold of Shazira’s hand and kiss it.
“There is a bright world beyond the Watchtower, and anyway, I have a feeling that the tests will be no challenge.”
I turn to leave the room.
She puts her hand against my chest to stop me.
“Yagrin,” she says, “you don’t understand.”
“What?” I ask.
“If they take your name from you, the bond between us is broken.”
“There’s a simple solution,” I tell her.
“We’ll pass through the bonding ceremony again.”
Her face turns dark.
“Not simple,” she shouts.
“The guild elders will dissolve our bond at the next moon, and once the council dissolves this bond, you are forbidden to me forever.”
The tests don’t frighten me, but I stand up, weak on my feet.
I’m scared of the doubt I’ll see when I look in her eyes.
She reaches out and touches my face.
“Tzina and I believe in you,” she says, “but everyone else wants you to fail, so they can be rid of you.”
She turns away so I don’t see her crying, but then she changes her mind, and turns back, her face covered in tears.
“I have an old friend on the council.”
“She told me that they are planning on making the tests so hard that even the old Yagrin couldn’t pass them.”
“What will you do without his memories, and his skills?”