Opening

  The Call Balshown and Makish are quiet as we prepare for our journey to the city. Like me, they are full of their own thoughts. We are outsiders, powerful energy masters full of a hunger to shape the future. Our hunger and strength set us apart from other Jiku, even the guilds, and bind us together. Sometimes they treat me as a friend, and sometimes they treat me as a child. Each of them is possessive and protective of me, and wary of the other. My thoughts are broken by the urgency of the moment. Now is a good time to fly. Energy weavers harness the forces that stream through the web. They conquer gravity and glide through the sky. The web grows brighter at midday, when the strength of the great web is amplified by the sunlight. At dawn, the sun shouts its arrival to the web, like…

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Messengers of War

  Mayla Shilann spoke of a machine that guards the city, but he called it, she. It appears where Shilann sat, but is it woman, or machine? What does a machine need with a beautiful smile, clothes that sparkle, and long, shiny, red hair? She rises and walks toward us with a grace that reminds me of the Bizra. Is she an image, like Shilann? She stands near me, and raises her hands in the greeting of palms. I rise, and find her touch is soft, warm, and solid. She stares into my eyes, holds the greeting with me for much longer than normal, and I hear a sigh escape her. The others rise, and she gives each a quick greeting. “I’m Mayla,” she says, facing us with bright green eyes. “Yagrin met my shadow in a training simulation.” “What are you?” asks Shazira. “The Bizra call us Benku, thoughts…

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City of Life

  Life and Light “It’s time to show you the city,” says Mayla. I hear the sound of crashing waves as an image fills the room: a small barren island, surrounded by sharp reefs. “What do you see?” asks Mayla. “The island that the city rests on,” answers Berek, “empty, as we saw it from the air.” “Correct.” “The wall’s energy distorts the size of the island, and hides the city, until you come within a hundred feet of it.” “Not long after the war, a few Jiku tried to find the city.” “When they approached the island, there was no sign of the city, not even ruins.” “The visitors were not masters, but even energy eyes would see the same illusion of a barren island.” “When they came within a thousand feet of the city, they entered a field of energy that radiates from the walls.” “The Jiku became…

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Wrapped in Storms

  Shields We walk together on the mountain, enjoying the cool breeze. Berek stops and looks confused when I remove his energy shield. “Why did you dissolve the shield, ina?” he asks. “I can’t fly without it.” “Your next practice will be without a shield, but you won’t be doing much flying.” I take him up five hundred feet. “When I release you, let yourself fall for five seconds.” “Then what?” “Connect to the web to stop your fall.” “Hover in place for a few seconds, but don’t move.” “Then rise to where you started.” “Disconnect, count to five as you fall, and repeat.” “For how long?” “Hundreds or thousands of times!” “Do it until I tell you to stop.” “That will take hours.” “That’s right.” “Get started.”

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Birth of the Balancer

  Fountain of Light A round crystal table, red and gold, is spread with food – fish, fruits, and vegetables. We sit for a meal, and Mayla tells us more about the city. When we finish, she hands us communication disks. “The disks display maps of the city,” she says, “and an index of different sites.” “Use your disk to get directions to any location, and to configure the transport platforms.” “Take twenty minutes to see a little more of the city,” says Mayla. “Then I’ll call you and give you a destination where we’ll all assemble.” Shazira and I walk through some of the gardens, while the others scatter to different places. “How did the training go?” asks Shazira. “Good.” “We learned the Fiklow language, and I taught Berek to fly.” “Now, he just needs practice.” “Maybe we need you as our teacher,” says Shazira. “Our training in weaving…

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Artifacts of Destruction

  The Threat The roof of the city, a thousand feet above us, is invisible at night, hidden behind an endless sea of bright stars. By day, the crystal roof lets daylight pour through, to provide the city with a strong, even, light. At night, the crystal strengthens the natural starlight, until the roof is covered with stars, and our eyes and the streets are filled with a gentle light. The starlight takes hold of every path, and follows us as we walk through the city. Even on this night of a dark moon. The enhanced starlight has a strange feel to it. As though the stars call me to join them on some distant journey. Their voices almost heard.

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Friends and Enemies

  Among the Enemy The night is quiet, except for the sound of gentle waves. I wake once to find that the Feldin treat me as one of their own, sleeping tightly against me, even on this warm night. Makish lies next to me, where she fell asleep, and Shazira and the children sleep nearby. I wake again at dawn when the Feldin get up to return to the sea. The Heelu fly in a circle above me, as the Feldin enter the water. When the last of the Feldin are gone, the Heelu quickly follow. The city is quiet, except for the occasional bird song. Mayla joins us a few seconds later. “Did the Fiklow find us during the night?” “No, and they’ve recalled all their probes, back to their ship.” I let go of a long breath. Siksa is still safe this morning. The Fiklow honor their promise,…

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Partners of War

  Chasing Botzar My mind is still linked with Makish. Her thoughts are a mess. Her emotions rise and fall and spin. She’s nearly in shock. “I can’t find him, Yagrin,” she sobs. “The stasis fields are gone, but there’s no trace of Botzar or B’tzel.” “Maybe they died long ago,” she says quietly, her hope gone. “No, Makish,” I answer. “They were alive in the fields, when the ship was still in orbit.” Have you scanned the ship yet, to find them?” I ask. “Help me, Yagrin,” she says. “I can’t touch the web right now.” “I can’t even think straight.”

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Circles of Sorrow

  Approach The ship travels outside of normal space. Rings of energy spin around us, with tiny blue sparks striking the ship, again, and again. It takes hours to reach the rendezvous point with Fwitay’s commander. Makish and I stay in the cargo hold of the old Jiku ship, as we travel. I flow some chairs, cushions, even a couch to rest on, and I add color to these cold, gray walls. Then I surround us with food and drink, so we can renew our strength and find comfort.

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Desert Fountains

  Shared Vision “What did you find, Yagrin?” asks Keesha. “The Fiklow spirits and the queen are here, trapped by artifact energy.” “When the artifact is anywhere on Gunal, it causes them intense mental anguish.” “Are you saying, Yagrin,” asks Keesha, “that the spirits don’t want the artifact here?” “Where else should we put it?!” “Commander, I know the artifact belongs here, and the queen will allow it, if that brings comfort to her children.” “If the queen were here, Yagrin,” says Keesha, “it’s true that she would sacrifice herself for her children, but this must be an illusion.” “Perhaps you are already feeling the negative affects of the place.” “This world is dead.” “Don’t you think that the energy binders that have come would sense their own queen?” “The energy web is weak, commander, and the artifact energy is a fog that covers the presence of the spirits.” “We…

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