Fading Light

  Contact The world rejects us, as we hover in the sky above the city. Lightning, thunder and rain are everywhere. The storm tries to crush us, and take us down. Dilasa grabs hold of me, frightened by the raw energy. “We’re safe little one,” I tell her, “as long as we stay within my shield.” She still holds me tightly, pretending to be an ordinary little girl. I see past the fear, and remember the one who calls down the strength of the stars. A few days ago, she was covered in courage, and saved me from the Spiral. Now, Dilasa wants me to protect her. She forgets that she’s powerful enough to challenge the storm. Sometimes her heart is only six years old. We hover just below the dome, where we came out of the gateway. The city of life has no natural weather, except for a little…

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Waking the Council

  Forgotten Memories Shazira and I take back the tower at first light from Berek’s parents. In the heart of the summer, even the night brings no relief from the heat. Dark clouds cover us, and the air is thick with humidity. The lightning storms will reach us soon. We dance the greeting to the sun, and then the four of us sit together in the Dreaming Room for a private breakfast. There are always visitors in the tower, and my words are not for them. The three children join us, but sit at another table, ten feet away. I tell Zias and Bintar that the web was altered by an alien probe. I speak of the madness that the damaged web brings us. “We’ve seen the fear in others, Yagrin,” says Bintar, “spreading across the city like a plague.” “Even children older than ten suffer from it, all but…

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Challenging the Guilds

  Mind Weavers I find it easy to locate Jiku over twenty years old with Bizra eyes, even half a world away. They have a unique energy. The energy is more chaotic in children and harder to find. Besides, it’s extremely rare to find young ones with Bizra eyes that have the mental strength to be Mind Weavers. There are thirty-nine adults. Dilasa flies with me, as we visit them all, in secret. Many are tied up, restrained by their friends or family to keep them from harming themselves or others. These women suffer from the web’s sickness more than anyone else that I’ve seen. One woman is more disturbed than the rest. I begin with her, but can I help her? She is young, barely thirty years, but her face is drowning in loneliness, and she stops screaming, only long enough to breathe. I put a Kralestone ring on…

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Caves of Dreams

  Wild Child Dilasa has a scowl on her face as we walk out of the council hall. “They’re not wise or brave, ina,” says Dilasa, spreading her arms wide. “Why do you follow them?” “They’re the council, Dilasa, the leaders of the guilds, not some random group of Jiku.” “Can’t you listen quietly for a few minutes, even when you disagree?” “You acted like a child in there.” “I am a child,” she answers softly. “I’m only six years old.”

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Crystal Paths

  The Last Vision I wake in the tower to the sound of Dilasa’s screams. Shazira is up and holding her. For a moment, half-asleep, I wonder why Dilasa is with us in the Dreaming Room. Only the guardians sleep here. Their children stay with relatives, or sleep in the common rooms of the tower, like any visitors. The tower is quiet at night, with few visitors, and plenty of space. Then I remember. The world has changed, and those quiet nights are gone. The madness is everywhere, brought on by the damaged web. Guild members are protected with mind shields, but their families are not. Not long ago, word spread among the guild that the tower protects from the madness. The first night after that, two thousand Jiku came here. There is barely space for a few hundred, including the outside decks that are too bright to sleep without…

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Worlds Within Worlds

  Death The bed is hard, and my head aches as sleep leaves me. A groan escapes my lips. I can’t remember who I am, or how I got here. My heart beats quickly as fear takes hold of me. Then I take a deep breath and clear my thoughts to push aside the fear. I sit up slowly, and find a large room with five beds, all empty except for mine. There’s a young girl at the far end of the room. She offers me a drink of water, but avoids looking me in the eyes. “Are you all right, master?” “I can’t remember who I am.” “What is this place?” “The Healing Center.” “You were hurt in an earthquake.” “Let me get the healers.” “They will complete your treatment, and answer your questions.”

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Black Fountain

  Dreams of Power The inner cave is warm and soft when my awareness returns. I think that I’m lying in a bed until I open my eyes. I’m resting on a spongy material that looks like crystal, but sinks down under my weight. A thick colored mist floats over my body like a blanket. I feel surprisingly safe, protected, like I’m in a nest, with someone watching over me. I sit up when I think of my family, and the crystal begins to stiffen. Where are they? Were we attacked? I feel their presence, but I can’t touch their thoughts. They’ve raised their mind shields. I close my own wintzal, and reach for Shazira and the children with energy senses. My inner eyes see what the body can’t. We’re hundreds of feet apart, on five crystal platforms. Three of them are small like mine, only twelve feet from edge…

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Secrets of the Game

  Games of Fire and Ice While we eat, and during the blessing that follows, Tzina’s face is troubled. She takes me aside and whispers, “Ina, I need to speak with you alone.” “Open your mind shield,” I tell her, “and I’ll touch your thoughts.” “No.” “Let’s go to your circle, away from the others.” “I need to get out of my head.” I tell everyone that we’ll be back soon, and we glide to my circle. “What’s wrong?” I ask, as we land. “There’s a lot about MindTwisting that you don’t know.” “Show me.” “MindTwisters call the dreams that we create, the game, and the minds in the dream are called players.” “Now watch with energy eyes.” She raises her hands until they’re at heart level, about two feet apart, with palms facing, and the fingers of one hand pointing toward the fingers of the other. The mind web…

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Fast and Slow

  Night Night is the same as day, here in the cave. Only our inner clocks tell us that the day is gone. Every Jiku knows whether it’s morning, evening, or night, even in a dark place, with no clues from the sun. We always know the exact hour and minute. Time is twisted when we enter or leave a simulation, when we transport from one part of the world to another, or when we move between worlds. Still, a few seconds later, the inner clock finds its way. I welcome the peace that night brings, but Dilasa doesn’t want it to come. What is she afraid of? Right now, this cave is the safest place on the planet! “Do we train, even when we sleep?” asks Berek, interrupting my thoughts. “No,” says Tzina. “We’ll spend two thirds of the day in the games, but our nights are for rest,…

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Slavery and Death

  Little Clouds “Continue the training, Tzina,” I tell her. “It’s time for us to enter the network.” “Not yet,” she answers, “but my fire twin will join you briefly for the next step.” Tzina and Shazira go back to their nests, and I send Berek away. I don’t want him to watch while I dissolve my body. I flow it into water and air. The pattern body disappears a few minutes later. The change happens so quickly that there’s no pain, but I’m disoriented for a moment. Then, I’m filled with sadness, a sense of loss, and the smell of decay that comes with dead flesh. The smell of death fills me whenever I release my body. It makes no sense, since my body just vanishes, but fortunately it passes quickly.

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