I open my eyes two hours before first light, surrounded by the sweet quiet, as the whole world sleeps.
Today I’ll dance the greeting early, before Shazira even wakes, and leave before it’s light.
Shazira seems so sad the last few days, and so distant.
She tries to hide her feelings from me, even though the bond makes that impossible.
She is sure I will fail the tests, and the council will force us to separate.
I tell her that Balshown gives me his full help, and enjoys our time together.
She is surprised, but the sadness remains.
She thinks that nothing can help us now, and prepares her heart to let go.
She is so beautiful as she sleeps.
I believe the vision now.
I belong here.
How else could I live in Yagrin’s world and feel so at home?
How else could I come to love Shazira in a few days with all my heart?
I turn away from her.
I’m up early today so I can dance, eat and be at the market when it opens at first light.
I need to buy some rare items.
Master Balshown gave me a list of twelve items with unusual energy patterns.
“This time of year,” he tells me, “you might find them all in the market, but only one or two of each item.”
I need to study the patterns.
Balshown calls them the mother patterns.
They are the master patterns for all of creation.
All inanimate objects and plants have energy patterns that are simple variations on the twelve patterns.
The complex energy bodies of animals, Jiku, and even Bizra are built of combinations of the twelve patterns.
The guild, he says, knows nothing of these patterns.
It’s old, forgotten knowledge.
Balshown says that the knowledge was suppressed a thousand years ago, and is officially forbidden.
Master Balshown does everything possible to prepare me to pass the tests, giving me secrets that he has never told another.
Where did he get this knowledge, and why does he give it so freely to me?
I must get to the market early before the items are sold out.
I still wear my master weaver’s robe as I fly, one more thing that they will take from me if I fail the tests.
The Market Awakens
The sellers set up as I arrive.
The large marketplace overlooks the harbor and ocean.
I love the endless variety, the colors and textures, the shapes and smells.
I carry a pouch with coins, tied to my belt.
Balshown gave me the money.
“You have your own money,” he told me, “but Shazira must not know that you’re buying these things.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Half of the items,” he told me, “are used by the hill people, the Tshuan, for strange rituals.”
“The Jiku think that the Tshuan ways are evil, but some of their ways are from the old times.”
“A master would never buy such things,” he says in a whisper.
“Except me of course,” he adds with a smile.
People stare as I walk through the market.
Do they know that I’m a traveler?
It’s just that masters don’t often come to the market at this hour.
Balshown has told me who to buy from.
The scandalous half of the items will come from one seller, but she is late to market today.
I find the other six items, and sit to examine them in the place where the seller will set up her booth.
The nearby merchants warn me not to buy from her.
“She sells cursed items,” they say in a whisper, looking around to see if she’s coming.
“Don’t worry,” I tell them.
“I’m here to study the items so I may learn how to protect good people such as you from such things.
They nod gravely, and wish me safety.
I examine the six items that I’ve already bought.
There are three types of mushrooms, a dead insect preserved in green liquid, and two crystals.
Balshown taught me how to use the whole patterns of the crystals.
With the mushrooms and the insect, there is a specific part of the pattern to study.
I feel strange when I study the patterns>
They’re so different from other energy patterns I’ve seen.
The six seem strangely familiar, as though I’ve always known them.
They sparkle, spin and call to me, alive.
They touch some deep part of me.
The recent words of the Bizra sound in my head, telling me to speak to the world, play with the world and ask it to teach me its secrets.
I play with the energy patterns, and imagine them flying with me along the energy web, dancing and spinning.
In my mind, I speak to them as I fly, and they respond with trails of light and music.
The six patterns dance along my energy body, binding themselves to me, and then flying free again.
I let go of this vision, and turn my attention back to the market.
The patterns burst back into my mind without effort, without focusing on the items that hold the patterns.
They are with me forever now, and I see thousands of variations shining forth from each pattern like children.
The Tshuan Hill People
“Master,” comes the voice that interrupts my visions.
“Forgive me, Master, but you’re sitting in the place where I set up my booth.”
I stand aside, and look down for the source of the voice.
A short young woman in her early twentys, with piercing green eyes, looks up at me for a moment and then looks away.
The five year old girl with her is more bold, easily holds my gaze, and smiles.
“You are Tshuan,” I say with surprising certainty.
The woman looks frightened.
“Please master, no trouble.”
“My husband and I are both born Tshuan, but we live in the Guild lands now.”
“I sell rare items from the Tshuan hills and save for a house.”
“Anyone can see from your skin that you’re Tshuan.”
“And hear your accent if they speak with you.”
“Those who buy from me don’t mind.”
“I rarely speak with anyone else.”
“I’m no witch.”
“We would never harm anyone.”
“My husband is an apprentice healer.”
“A great healer!” she says with conviction.
“I believe you,” I tell her.
“He provides great service to your guild!” she continues.
“By the last moon he worked with his master and others to heal the guardian of the Watchtower.”
“Can you imagine!”
She motions to me to come closer.
Then she whispers, “do you think it’s true what they say that the guardian has been dirtied by a tchisang?”
“What do you know of travelers, woman?” I ask in a harsh voice.
“Only what city people say, master.”
“In Tshuan we don’t look down on travelers.”
“But here, everyone says that travelers are evil demons who take possession of good people and leave them twisted and strange.”
“The same fools speak badly of the Tshuan people.”
“Are they correct?”
Her face turns red.
She looks down and fingers her merchandise.
“Forgive me master,” she mumbles, “but I must get to work selling.”
I pick up one of her items, pretend to examine it, and then put it down.
“I’m here to buy.”
I list the six items that I want.
She seems frightened, struggling to stay calm.
“Those are hard to find, and not worth the price.”
“Let me show you similar things that are better and cheaper.”
I shake my head.
She looks around.
Then she reaches under her skirt, and seem to untie something.
“I keep this pouch tied to my leg where no one can see it,” she says.
The pouch contains exactly the items that I’ve asked for.
Six rare nuts that grow only in the Tshuan hills.
I touch each pattern with my mind, and focus on part of the pattern as Balshown taught me.
I speak to each pattern and play with it in my mind, as before.
Again we fly together, and the patterns plant themselves in my mind.
The twelve form a circle, spinning slowly.
They wait patiently for me to speak to them, and call upon them.
I hear a gasp from the woman.
The six nuts on the table are glowing brightly, and smell like they are cooking.
Another minute, they turn black, and then become dust.
“How could this happen?” she asks, tears falling, her arms motioning wildly.
She’s breathing so fast, I expect her to pass out.
I grab her wrist.
“I paid so much for them!” she adds.
“What did you do?”
I put the money on her left palm and gently close her fingers around it.
“Stop your tears.”
“I’ve found what I came for.”
She looks at me gratefully, but with fear and wonder, as she realizes that I turned the nuts into dust.