Paths of the Towers

 
Homesick
I’m quiet as we enter the scout pod and rise toward Keesha’s ship.
I smell the Fiklow pilot’s fear, and I can’t help but touch his thoughts.
He wonders what I am.
A Jiku wearing a Fiklow body?
The shadow to the queen?
Or a spirit from the world of the dead, come to consume the living?

I shake off his thoughts, and get caught in thoughts of my own.
Makish stays close to me, and Dilasa holds me with two tentacles, as we travel.
They sense that I need the comfort of their presence.

I’m happy to be alive, but my thoughts are far away, filled with Shazira and Tzina and Berek.
I feel an ache to return to Siksa, and see my family.
In the midst of these strong emotions, I want no words, no sounds.
Makish and Dilasa smell my need for quiet, and we ride together in silence.

Keesha and the queen are waiting when we leave the transition chamber.

The queen greets me with the wrapping of tentacles.
She waits for me to tell her what I saw on the other side of death, but I don’t speak, and she smells that I am troubled.
“Thank the throne, you have returned to us, Lord Yagrin!” says the queen.
“We thought that your spirit was carried away by the waves.”

“I am here, queen Gunal,” I tell her, “but not quite whole.”
“Death caught me, but it seems she did not like my taste.”

“Will you still help us plan our battle against the Spiral, Lord Yagrin?” asks Keesha.

“I must break free from the darkness that holds me, commander.”
“I will be little use in battle as I am now.”

“Where will you go?” asks the queen.

“I will swim in my own waters, and see my mate and brood.”
“I was taken from them without words, and many days have passed.”
“They must think me dead by now, and I can’t bear such a thought.”

Dilasa has held back her mind touch to give me silence, until now.
“Will you return, Yagrin?” she asks with fear.

Makish speaks before I can answer Dilasa.
“Yagrin,” says Makish softly, “if you travel through the possibility sea, you can’t return.”

“True,” I answer, “but Sindar showed me another way home, through the world of seven towers.”

“That way is blocked by the guardians,” says Makish.

After the destruction on Siksa, and the exodus of most of the remaining masters, the Bizra sealed the way between our world and the seven towers.
Then the Bizra appointed three masters to guard the seal.
These masters live in the form of the Kishla, the great singing birds.

“I’ve met the guardians briefly, Makish.”
“They may let us pass.”
“If not, I’ll force my way through.”

Us?” asks Dilasa, aloud.

“You’re coming with me.”

I smell Dilasa’s joy, and I wrap a tentacle with her.
My feelings for her, and my desire to protect her, clear my head slightly, and weaken the oppressive homesickness that rests on me.

“When will you return?” asks the queen.

“Botzar will pick us up on Sinesu in two weeks, and we will join you soon afterwards.”

“Lord Yagrin,” says the queen.
“I must ask.”
“Your energy was scattered, and you were gone for a day.”
“How did you find life again?”

“My fire body was shattered, but my energy lived, moving through the stone and lava of the planet.”
“I still held much of my power, but I was trapped there, and I would have remained there forever.”
“My daughter returned to the crystal forest, to hunt for me.”
“She is stubborn, like me, and would not accept that death had taken me.”

“We could not speak, but I made my presence known.”
She gave me her healing strength, and the throne gave me its blessing, and here I am, swimming before you.”

“Come eat with us, lord Yagrin,” says Keesha.
“We can’t have you telling your mate that the hunting is poor on Fiklow worlds.”

“Forgive me,” I answer, “but all of my hunger for food is gone.”
“My body will not accept food until after I return home.”
“We go now, for my daughter swims too long in your shape.”
“She must change back.”

The queen and Keesha swim ahead of us to the entrance to the transition chamber.
They stand at the sides of the doorway, and wrap tentacles with us, as we pass through.

“Watch over your brood father,” says the queen to Dilasa, giving her an affectionate rub, “and bring him back to us.”

“I will,” she answers.

After I swim into the chamber, I turn to face the queen who still waits by the open doorway.
“Good hunting, my queen,” I tell her with a mind touch, and press the panel to close the doors.

“Swim well, and good hunting,” comes the voice of the queen in my mind, just after the doors close.

 
Sindar’s Guild
Botzar’s ship takes us to Sinesu.
I could take us to the Seven Towers from anywhere, but something pulls me toward Sinesu.

Botzar lands us near the ocean, far from the towns, and the other Jiku.
“Should I come with you Yagrin?” asks Makish, as we stand on the shore and listen to the great waves greeting the sand.

“No,” I answer.
“What if we’re delayed?”
“Your strength is needed here if the Spiral attacks.”

“You were powerless against it, Yagrin,” she answers.
“Why do you think that I will do better?”

“You’re meaner than me,” I say with a straight face.
She laughs.

“Find the Jiku with the greatest energy skills and teach them whatever you can.”
“You or another may discover a way to fight the Spiral.”

I flow my robe from white to black, and wear a golden belt.

“Why the change?” asks B’tzel.

“An energy being called Nival told me of an ancient PathFinder’s guild who wore black with no master’s bands.”
“They hunt for the light in places where others see only darkness.”
“Nival called it Sindar’s Guild.”

Botzar looks at me strangely.

“You know it?” I ask him.

“Sindar told me about the guild.”
“It existed only on his homeworld, and he belonged to it.”

“Why would it be named after him?”

“No, Yagrin, it got its name long before Sindar was born.”
“Our father belonged to it, and he named Sindar after the guild.”

“All the guild members died in fighting Benzu, except Sindar.”
“He felt that he had failed them, and stopped wearing the black robe.”
“He even thought about changing his name, but in the end, it seemed to be the wrong thing to do.”
“Yagrin, how did this creature, Nival, know of the guild?”

“I don’t know, but he told me that I would know the right time to wear the black robe.”
“Now is the time.”

I take Dilasa’s hand, and we fly several hundred feet out over the open sea.
Then I open my energy eyes wide.

I let my energy sight grow more and more sensitive, as though I am all eyes, and the world flows through me.
The web glows brighter and brighter around us.
Soon, all I see is great spinning rivers of energy, with our two glowing fire bodies shining within the river,
I let the energy moving within the body fade away from sight, until all I see of our fire bodies, are two sets of seven sparkling spheres.

Each fire body has seven colored energy wells which appear as spheres.
I take energy hands, and bathe them in the topmost wells – Dilasa’s and mine.
When I withdraw the energy hands, they are dripping with a whitish-purple energy

Then I use those shining hands to strike the top wells.
Each well sounds a perfect tone that spreads through all seven wells, and through our physical bodies.

The vibration is wonderful to see with energy eyes, and the tone is beautiful to the ears, but the physical sensation is unpleasant, like fingernails on a blackboard.

I repeat the process with each of the seven wells, first bathing my energy hands in the wells, and then using those newly colored hands to sound the next tone.

Each tone remains as I sound the next one.
I can hardly bear the sensation in my physical body when the first six tones are sounding.
When I strike the seventh sphere, all seven tones come together, and the unpleasant sensation disappears.

I grab Dilasa, and surround us with an energy shield just in time, as we disappear from the air above Sinesu.

 
Unseen
The trip lasts less than a minute.
The universe shrinks all around us, with countless suns rushing together, and vanishing.
Then, our universe shimmers and fades, and we stand on the world of seven towers.

We’re covered in a shield that makes us invisible to energy eyes.
Sindar taught me how to raise this shield.

“Pass through the world of the seven towers as quickly as you can,” he said.
“There is great danger there, to you, and to all of Siksa.”

“What kind of danger?” I asked him.

“There are others besides me who sleep there.”
“Ancient masters who left your world after the destruction.”
“It’s best if they never return.”

The sky is clear, dark, and empty of stars.
There is a dim glow that fills the world around us.
There is no sun here, and we arrived near the end of darktime, when the light is dim.
It will be a few hours before the sky fills with light.

In the distance are two sets of three towers, with a middle tower at the end of the two lines, forming a point.
Dilasa and I glide on the web toward the towers.

A path of blue crystal, six feet wide, and three feet high connects the doors of the second tower of each row together.
At the center of the blue path, another path of red crystal begins, and continues to the door of the middle tower
There are other paths of silver and gold.
We stand on a round platform, made of white crystal.
It rises six feet above the ground where all the paths meet.

The middle tower is straight ahead of us, with one row of towers to our left, and the other to our right.

“Do you see the second tower on the left, Dilasa?”

“Yes,” she answers.

“That’s where Sindar sleeps.”

“Let’s wake him, Yagrin.”
“He’ll want to see us, and he can help us fight the Spiral.”

“Sindar doesn’t want to wake up yet, and his machines won’t let us enter his tower.”

“What is this place, Yagrin?”
“What’s in the other towers?”

“Sindar said that ancient masters sleep here.”

“Did they build the towers?”

“No.”
“The masters came from Siksa after the destruction.”
“The towers were here long before that.”

“One legend says that this place was built by the Creator.”
“Another legend says that this world was built by the Balancer.”

“What does Sindar know about it?”

“He said that each tower is sealed, and impenetrable, except for a chamber at ground level, and another chamber at the top of each tower.”

“Can we look inside?”

“No, Dilasa.”
“Sindar told us that we must not stay here.”

“Aren’t you curious?”

I laugh.
“Yes, I’m very curious, but even without the danger, now isn’t the time to explore this place.”
“We’re going to Siksa.”

“Can’t we just look at the tower with energy eyes?”

“The shield around us blocks our energy sight, just as it hides us from the energy sight of anyone outside of the shield.”

“No one is awake, ina,” she says.
“Let’s just drop the shield for a minute, and look around.”

The shield falls, after she reaches into my mind, and sees how to raise it and release it.

“Leave the shield alone,” I scream at her in an angry voice.
She has never seen me angry before, and it frightens her.

I restore the shield, only a few seconds after she releases it, but light pours out of the towers, and brightens the area around us.
Someone knows that we’re here.

A few seconds later, the top of one of the towers opens, and two men and a woman fly toward us.
They look like Jiku, and wear master’s robes, but I don’t wait to see if they’re friendly, or what they want.

I slip us through the pathway that leads to Siksa.

 
 «Read Part 3: Family and Fire


Echoes of War -- 4: Dances of WarNext Story
  1. Paths of the Towers
  2. Stardust Rising
  3. Visions of Play
  4. Star Voice
  5. Star Shadow
  6. First Sting
  7. Oceans of Fire and Light
  8. Death Cry
  9. Awakening

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