Sleepers

 
Truth and Lies
The message wall is covered with hundreds of clustered video links, categorized by the search AI with different colors, textures, brightness, size, shapes, and icons, to characterize the words and emotions within. New messages appear on the wall as I watch, and move toward the clusters where they belong.

The memories that we floated on the infonet have spread, along with a program that translates the Kizak language.
Jiku from all over Siksa have responded with anger and disbelief.

Berek doesn’t notice when I enter the room.
He’s too busy moving along the wall, scanning text summaries of a few dozen of the videos, and watching
My words wake him from the world that he’s caught in.
“Have the comments changed in the last few days, Berek?”

“No.”
“They’re mixed, as always, ina.”

I feel there’s something troubling him, and I wait a few seconds for him to continue, but when he doesn’t speak, I prompt him.
“Half the planet has seen the memories we floated on the infonet.”
“Isn’t that great?”

“I need to do something, ina, not sit here.”
“I don’t add much to the AI’s reports, and I don’t understand how this will help us.”
“Everyone has something to say, and I guess that’s good, but will it turn the vote against the Kizak?”
“Too many of the Jiku think the memories are made up.”

“Don’t worry.”
“We have months to go, and we’re floating more memories every week, with the most damaging memories still to come.”
“Soon we’ll release the words of the emperor and his son.”

“How did you get all these?”
“I can’t believe Teyus would let you see the diaries of the emperors, especially when they boast of their cruelty.”

“He didn’t plan to.”
“The library is secured by DNA and biosign scanners, only accessible to emperors and their children.”

“Then how did you get access?”

“His son.”
“The emperor ordered Disu to stay away from the library, but he never blocked him in the security protocols.”
“Disu defied his father, copied the diaries of all the emperors, gave them to me, and I fed them into my memory.”

“A memory device?”

“No, my energy memory.”

“You can do that?”

“Your memories are dependent on your physical brain.”
“And only a small portion of your experience moves into your fire body and survives death.”
“All my memories stay with me, safe within my fire body.”

“The Gen are like that.”

“Yes, and I’m a lot like them now.”
“I still don’t understand how my memories survived the first time this body died.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m Embu, and the memories of my other life came here as pure energy.”

“Are any of your memories stored in your physical body?”

“My everyday experiences pass through my brain, like yours, before they’re recorded in my fire body.”
“But when I live too fast for my brain to keep up, or need to absorb high-speed streams of information, the data goes directly into my fire body.”

He looks sad.
“I forget, ina, that you’re not like me.”

“You’re my son, Berek.”
“That’s all that matters.”

“Will I be like you someday?”

“Is that what you want, to be untouched by death, and return again and again to a physical body?”

“I’m not sure, but you do it.”

“For now, but I haven’t even lived a single lifetime on Siksa.”
“Is it wrong to taste this world’s sweet air, and want to see my children grow up?”
“And the Jiku still need me.”
“Someday, after Shazira is gone, it will be time to leave.”

“Where will you go?”

“I’m not sure.”
“I might go exploring in this galaxy or another to find a place where I’m needed.”
“There’s also the Fiklow universe and the Jiku there.”
“Or I might abandon physical space completely, and move on to the life that waits for our fire bodies on distant energy worlds.”

“What’s it like there?”

“I know about energy worlds for star spirits, messengers, and the world beyond the fountain where we both went.”
“But I have no idea where we will end up.”
“Do you remember the world beyond the fountain?”

“Not much of it, only that it was amazing and frightening.”
“It was so different there, and I couldn’t remember my Jiku life.”

“It’s possible you can become Gen.”
“The birthing process might work on you, but I can’t be sure.”
“It might kill you, or damage your fire body.”

“Yagrin,” says the voice of the house’s AI, “the emperor’s ship is asking for you.”

I kiss Berek on the head, move to another room, and accept the link.
There’s a short delay once I connect, and then the emperor appears.
He tries to hide his feelings, but the anger in his eyes shows through.

“How did you get access to the private diaries of my ancestors?” he asks.
“You had no right to see them or put them on the infonet.”

“Disu.”

He gave them to you?”
“You must be proud of turning him against me?”
“How would you feel if I did that to you?!”

“Disu turned against you long before he met me, not long after his older brother died.”

“Still, you took advantage of him and used him for your own purposes.”

“Is there anything else, emperor?”

“Do you expect me to do nothing after the lies you’ve told against the empire?”

“Lies?”
“What have I said?”
“So far, I’ve only publicized the words that your ancestors have said, and revealed the contempt they had for every race that isn’t Kizak.”

“You’ll never win against us, Yagrin!” he says, raising his voice.
“We’re experts at twisting public opinion to our side.”

“We’ll see.”

 
Actions and Words
Berek was right.
We can’t win this vote through words alone.
One hundred of the sisters are traveling through small communities in Tshuan and the Guild Lands, and Berek has gone with them.
They’re searching for places and people who need help, using flow and healing to build homes and heal the sick.
The masters live simply while they travel, getting to know the Jiku they meet, and speaking of the web’s blessings.
Few Jiku in these places have seen the Kizak in person.
The emperor thinks he has no reason to visit these towns.
What he forgets is that the many small places add up to a large portion of the population.
These Jiku are slow to change, still believe in the old ways, and are troubled by the way the central governments have embraced the aliens.
Berek and the sisters are also tasked with upgrading the link to the infonet in these towns where necessary.
We want to be sure that their voices join the conversation about the Kizak.

A week later, the AI calls me to the message wall.
“The emperor floated a response, Yagrin.”

“Good people of Siksa.”
“You’ve watched my ancestors speak of other beings, and you wonder if the words are true.”
“Do Kizak really hate everyone who is different than them?”
“The words on the infonet were spoken as you hear them.”
“That much is true.”
“And yes, many Kizak are afraid of anyone who’s different.”
“That’s a common first reaction when we meet another race.”
“But we grow through our meetings.”
“You won’t find my father or I insulting other races.”
“And the empire has grown dramatically during our lifetimes.”
“More important, most of the races described were races caught in the madness of the curses.”
“They pursued those powers until it took them into horrible wars.”

The emperor’s image is replaced by images of destruction, captured after the ancient Jiku energy wars.
“Look what the curses did to your own world.”

The scene changes to images of the Madar, and their battles that shattered planets.
“These creatures once taught the curses to the Kizak.”
“They were peaceful and gentle at first, but one day everything changed.”
“Planet after planet was caught in their madness, until we found a way to block the curses.”
“By then it was too late for the Madar.”
“The ones who were left among us were completely insane.”
“We keep them imprisoned among us, but let them live out their lives without punishment, as a reminder of what
the curses do.”
The scene changes again to an image of the Kizak transport exploding.
“One of your own did this.”
“She may have been driven mad by one of the Madar who escaped.”
“But it doesn’t matter.”
“Should one young girl be given the strength to twist the minds of thousands?”
“It makes no sense.”
“This power is addictive, unstable, and destructive.”
“It’s time for the universe to give it up, and begin an error of permanent peace.”
“In a few months you will vote again, and confirm your place as citizens of the empire.”
“I look forward to welcoming you all.”

“What will you do?” asks the AI.

“It’s time to speak.”
I record a message for the infonet.

“Brothers and sisters, we need to speak about the Kizak.”
“The memories you’ve seen about the Kizak emperors were floated by me.”
“Among all of you, I’m the only one who has been on their worlds, lived, laughed and cried with them.”
“They aren’t an evil people.”
“In time, I think we could be great friends with them.”
“But their empire, as it is now, is dangerous to all of us.”

“I spent months in the emperor’s palace, teaching his son Disu, and I know the emperor well.”
“He’s not a bad man, but he’s obsessed with destroying the energy ways, and that’s pushing him to take desperate actions.”
I float memories from the Kizak scientist, and from the first emperor’s diary that explain the cause of the Madar wars.
“The Kizak knew the cage was causing the madness and let it continue.”
“The first emperor was responsible for all the lives that were lost.”
“The Madar look like monsters, but inside they’re no different than us, except that they hate violence.”
“I asked for their help to send the Kizak away.”
“The Madar hate the Kizak for causing the war and the destruction that came with it.”
“Still, they will not fight with us.”

I show scenes of Kizak children bursting into flame, and provide evidence of what the enhancements truly do.
“You see that caging the web results in horrible, uncontrolled bursts of energy power.”
“The enhancements were supposed to block the energy talents.”
“Sometimes they succeed, but at a terrible cost.”
“They make the children weaker, less fertile, and less intelligent.”
“The birthrate and longevity are dropping rapidly on Kizak worlds where the enhancements are widely used.”
“Energy abilities can be dangerous, but we can’t hide from them.”

I float images of the emperor’s first son bursting into flame.
“This is the emperor’s older son.”
“His death is a terrible tragedy.”
“Should we destroy ourselves and our children, as the Kizak are doing?!”

I float a memory of Hanli smiling and teaching one of her classes.
It’s a memory I pulled from one of her students.
“This was a Jiku woman called Hanli, a sister who taught dance.”
“The Kizak tortured her to break into her mind, and they found nothing!”
“They thought the sisters might be hiding weapons or a secret plan to take over Siksa.”
“I saw these memories in the mind of the emperor’s trusted advisor when I was helping the emperor look for traitors, a few months ago, here on Siksa.”
I float scenes of Hanli screaming in agony.

“She’s not telling us anything,” says one of the guards present, “and we can’t get her to lower her mind block.”
“All we’re doing is killing her.”

“Continue, says the emperor, in a calm, emotionless voice.
“We need more information about these sisters at all costs.”

“She seems harmless,” says the guard.

“None of the cursed ones are harmless!” shouts the emperor.
“Besides, what’s the sacrifice of one Jiku life compared with the peace of a planet or a galaxy?”

“Tzina found out what they did, and destroyed the emperor’s ship where they tortured Hanli.”
“She killed ten thousand Kizak, but the emperor escaped.”
“Is this justice or wild vengeance?”
“I don’t know, but she did it to defend us.”
“The Kizak tortured an innocent Jiku woman who harmed no one!”
“Who gave them the right to come here, kill us, and tell us how to live?”
“That’s an act of war, and my daughter gave them war.”

“Still, we want peace, not war.”
“We’ll send them away with our vote, when we refuse to join the empire.”
“You wonder what will happen if the Kizak go.”
“You’re proud of the new governments in Tshuan and the Guild lands that give every Jiku a real voice.”
“And you’re worried you’ll lose that voice with the Kizak gone.”
“I promise I will help you protect it, and I won’t be alone.”
“There’s a group of ancient masters sworn to prevent another energy war.”
“They’ve been asleep for a thousand years, but you’ll meet them soon.”
“These masters will help us build a new Siksa when the Kizak are gone.”

“Maybe that doesn’t matter to you, because you’re counting on the empire to protect you.”
“If that’s true, I want you to stop whatever you’re doing now and ask yourself a question.”
“Can you trust an empire that speaks of choice, but will kill whenever you disobey their rules?”

 
Clear Skies
I’m surprised by the number of people I find in the street this early.
And they’re all so angry, arguing and fighting over nothing.
It doesn’t make sense.
Today’s a beautiful day with the sky completely free of clouds.
That’s rare on Siksa this time of year.
My shell hides me from the true state of the web.
I drop the shell so I can touch the energy around me.

My heart starts racing and I feel anxious, like something terrible is about to happen.
The web is strange, with chaotic pulses of energy coming down from the sky.
I raise my shell and the feelings vanish.

It’s too early for most Tshuans to be at work, but I go back to the house and contact the astronomical lab, to leave a message.
Someone answers.
The room is full of people, and they’re agitated.

“What’s wrong?”

“Sunstorms, like nothing we’ve ever seen.”
“They’re immense, and the energy emitted is unprecedented.”

“Dangerous?”

“Yes.”
“We just informed the Tshuan council, and put out a warning on the infonet.”
“Stay indoors as much as possible.”
“And stop contacting us!”
“We have work to do!”
The image fades.

I lock myself in a quiet room and enter the Dream Hunter’s gateway.
I know I’m not here physically, but I seem to have a body with all its normal senses.
The floor is soft and warm, continuing without end in all directions, but broken into fragments full of images.
I fly to the blue platform in the middle of the space, and take a few deep breaths.
Then I fill myself with a hunger for possibility, ready to accept and adapt to whatever comes.
A curious and playful spirit is the key to getting a vision.

It’s hard to cast off the negativity that covers me.
Since I returned to Siksa, I’ve found no answers in the gateway.
The fragments of possibility are there, but they won’t speak to me.
Within my shell or the house accelerator or under the sea, it’s easy enough to reach the gateway, but the visions rarely come and when they do, they speak about worlds I’ve never seen.
I’ve started to think that Siksa has no future.

This time, when I spread my energy senses across the floor, the vision that comes is different.
Points of light float in two immense lakes, slowly moving around the water.
No. Not lakes.
What I see are stars in Siksa’s galaxy and the galaxy of the Kizak.
The peaceful scene is shattered as star after star glows strangely, a moment before a wave of explosions.
Soon, there is only darkness, with Dilasa’s voice crying out in the middle of it.

I wake up sweating, in the house.
Both galaxies are doomed, but how soon?
Will the end be in weeks, or millions of years?
It’s no accident that the vision comes to me right after the sunstorm began.

I contact the emperor’s ship, and tell one of the guards about the storms.
He takes note of the information and breaks the connection.
I’m surprised when the emperor contacts me a few minutes later.

“Emperor.”

“Why did you warn us, Yagrin?”

“There’s intense radiation.”
“Your main ships should be all right, but the smaller ships may not have enough shielding.”

The emperor pauses.
“Yes, it’s dangerous, but that’s not the point.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“You’re trying to get rid of us, and yet you’re concerned for our safety.”
“Or are you just pretending to care about us?”
“You must know that we monitor radiation levels, so we knew about the storms.”

“I wanted to be certain that you knew about it.”
“We want you to leave us, not die.”

“I’m not so sure.”
“We suspect you or other cursed ones of causing these storms.”

“Why would I want to harm my own people?”

“I think you’d do anything to get rid of us.”
“Besides, there’s an epidemic of these storms on many stars in the Kizak galaxy, and a growing number here.”
“The timing is too coincidental.”

“When did they start?” I ask, my stomach churning.

“A few weeks ago.”
“Automated message ships keep us informed about key events on the home world.”
“The radiation is so bad there that we’re considering evacuating some of the population.”

“It’s like a virus spreading from star to star, traveling much faster than light speed.”
“Do your scientists know why so many stars are effected, or how to stop it?”

“They have no idea.”
“That why I assume it comes from you!”

“I wish it was from me, emperor, so I could stop it before it consumes us.”

“What are you saying?”

“You know that there are many gifts that come to those who explore energy ways.”

Curses, not gifts.”

I ignore him.
“One of the rarer gifts is the ability to see the future.”
“It’s imprecise, and reveals possibilities, not certainties.”
“Sometimes, the future can be changed.”

“I’ve seen a terrible vision, one that others have seen before me.”
“The stars of our two galaxies will go nova, one after another, until both galaxies are dark.”
“I’ve been told that the cage is the cause of all this.”

“That’s ridiculous.”
“We’ve been using it for hundreds of years.”

“There are subtle energy connections between the stars that your science can’t detect.”
“You thought that modifying the stars to cage the web would have no side effects.”
“You were wrong.”
“We’ve reached a critical mass of damaged stars, and the storms are the first sign.”

“Enough of your lies, Yagrin.”
“Stop the storms.”
“Your threats won’t drive me away, but are you prepared to kill billions of innocent beings?”

“You’re a fool!”
“I told you.”
“I’m not the cause.
“The only way to stop this is to undo the cage and neither of us knows how to do that!”

“If you’re telling the truth, both of our worlds are doomed.”
“Either way, we have nothing more to talk about.”

How long before the radiation kills everyone on the planet, or the stars go nova?
I can’t wait anymore.
We have to use the sword.

 
Chaos
Hours later Shazira slaps me when I tell her my plans.
“You’ll kill us all.”
“You have no idea what to do with it!”

“What choice do we have?”

“Find another way!”

“Sindar’s necklace,” says Dilasa.
“Maybe I can use it to stop the sunstorms, at least on Siksa’s star.”

I remember Dilasa’s voice crying out in the vision.
She’ll be killed if she tries this on her own.

“No.”
“The Balancer told me that only the sword will save us.”
“I just have to decipher what her words mean.”

“But you need time to figure it out,” says Dilasa.
“The necklace might keep our sun alive until then, and calm the people.”
“Siksa is a mess!”
She shows me scenes of the fighting and general chaos that engulfs the planet.
“The Jiku will kill each other before the sun’s radiation poisons them.”

“Inhibitors will stop the unrest, and provide some protection from the radiation.”
“Forget about the necklace.”

“What will you do about the sword, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.

“I promise not to use it until we agree that we’re ready.”
“That time is coming, and we need to reclaim the sword and our other items from Filarin’s cave, so we’re prepared.”

“I don’t trust you,”butt says Shazira.
“If you get the sword, you’ll use it without us.”

“How?”
“We know that only the family of the sword can harness its strength in a safe way.”

“Go then.”
“Retrieve the gifts.”

“I can’t do it alone.”
“Filarin said that each of us must take our own gift from the stone.”

“You’ll bring Tzina here?”

“Of course.”

“How can I face her?”
“I accused her of being unbalanced and imagining that Hanli was tortured.”
“I believed it until you showed me the memory that you took from a Kizak guard.”

“She loves you, so she’ll forgive you.”

“When will we go?”

“Soon.”
“First we have to distribute inhibitors to the people.”
“That should block the mental effects of the sunstorms, and give us a little time.”

“You’ll need millions of inhibitors.”
“Where will you get them?”

“The Tshuan government has been producing them in large quantities, at the suggestion of the Kizak.”
“And I’ve had machines shaping them for months.”
“There’s enough for all of Siksa.”
“I gave my supply to the governments of Tshuan and the Guild Lands.”
“They don’t trust me, but they’re willing to try anything, so they’re passing out the inhibitors.”
“But it’s a huge task.”
“I suggested that the councils ask the Kizak for help, and thousands of the guards are coming to assist.”
“I’ve visited the undersea city and the old guild council, and given them accelerators.”
“All the sisters are coming to help, and many of the masters.”

“The guards were out of our lives, even though they were circling above us,” says Dilasa.
“How could you encourage them to come back?”

“We need everyone’s help to do this quickly.”
“Jiku are killing each other.”
“All of us must take part, especially you, Keela.”

“Me?”

“Your people need a powerful leader in this crisis.”

“I’m just one person.”

“The council doesn’t have the experience or courage to deal with this, and they don’t get along with the current head of the Tshuan guard.”
“I told them you offered to work with the Tshuan and Kizak guards to coordinate the distribution, and they were happy to accept.”
I hand her an armband.

“I already have one.”

“Not like this.”
“I’ve improved on the design using alien technology.”
“You can fly faster, cover yourself with a powerful shield, and stun attackers at a hundred feet.”
“You’ll need this to keep up with the sleepers.”

“You freed them?”

“Not yet, but it’s time.”
“Come outside.”
“Berek is waiting.”

 
Awake
I open a gate into the cavern, deep under the Tshuan hills, and carry Keela and Berek through.
The small room is dark, except for a glowing circle in the center of the room, and a box of clear crystal that hovers above it.

“Where are the sleepers?” asks Keela.

“Soon, Keela.”
“Stand in the circle, Berek, and take off your shirt.”
Sindar’s mark glows on his chest with a black light that only I can see.

I scan the room, looking for the eighth well.
Each fire body has gates within it that open to the seven wells.
The way to the black well is outside us, but never far away.
And when several fire bodies stand close together, only one path forms to the eighth well and binds us together.

“Cover your eyes,” I tell them, as I stand facing Berek.
I dip energy hands in each of the seven wells and trace the mark of Sindar on my chest.
Then I fill my eyes and the mark with black energy until they shine.
Finally, I radiate the Feldin glow out of my eyes toward the opening of the eighth well.
Black energy pours out, mixed with the glow, and splits into two streams that strike both marks at the same time.
Two spirals form, reaching out from our chests until they touch, one dark but sparkling, the other outlined in color.

“It’s safe now to open your eyes,” I tell Berek and Keela.

“What is this?” asks Keela.

“Put your hands in the stream where the two spirals touch.”

“She can’t, ina,” says Berek.
“It’s too dangerous.”

“She’s a part of this Berek, and we can’t succeed without her.”
“The energy of the necklace was split between the two of you, and it’s time to reunite it.”

Keela takes a deep breath and puts her hands in the stream.”
The room is filled with blinding light, and a strange series of tones.
When we can see again, the necklace hangs on Berek’s neck.
I pull back on the glow, and let the streams of energy fade.

“It worked!” says Keela.

“All you all right?” asks Berek.

“Nothing’s wrong, but I feel a little strange, and my chest itches.”
She turns her back to Berek and me and lifts her shirt, then drops it again.
“I have Sindar’s mark on my chest.”

“How did this happen, ina?” asks Berek.

“The necklace resonates with Berek and me in a special way.”

“A genetic key,” says Keela.

“It’s much more than that.”
“The necklace is keyed into our energy.”
“When Berek wore the necklace, and was hit with a blast, the necklace dissolved into him.”
“But it didn’t stop there.”
“There’s an energetic link between the two of you.”

“As if we were already bonded?” asks Berek.

“Not exactly, but energy moves between you two in a way that I don’t understand.”
“That’s why part of the necklace spread into Keela.”
I turn to her.
“I still don’t know why the mark appeared on you.”

Keela reaches toward the necklace and it glows.
“That never happened before,” she says.

She picks it up easily.
“I could barely move it the last time I touched it.”

“Your energy is different now,” I tell her.
“More like Berek’s energy and mine.”

“The sleepers, ina,” says Berek.
“We have to hurry.”

“Right.”
“I talk too much.”

“Master Yagrin,” says Keela, “you needed both necklaces to see the sleepers the last time we were here.”
“How will you find them with only one?”

“Touch the crystal case, Berek.”

He reaches up to touch it.
A dim image of a distant cave, the sleeper’s cave fills the room.

“Now, let go of the case and touch the necklace.”
The same image appears.

“I don’t understand,” says Keela.

“The necklace acts as an amplifier, but it’s the case that shows us the way.”
Berek touches the necklace and the case, and a strong image of the sleeper’s cave fills the room.

“The image is clear, but where are they?” asks Berek.

I add my touch to the necklace and case, but the image remains the same.
“I expected a doorway to open,” I tell them.

“Let’s go, ina,” says Berek.
“We don’t need the sleepers.”

“We do,” I tell him.
“Keela, put your hand on your chest, and touch the crystal case.”

Her hand meets the case, and the room goes dark for a few seconds, except for a dim glow from the crystal circle that we’re standing on.
When the light returns, the room is gone, and we’re standing on a transport platform within an immense cavern, surrounded by stasis chambers.

“Do you feel it, ina?” asks Berek.

“Yes, the web is normal in here.”
“Far above us is a huge disk of ensai.”
“We must be under the sea.”

“How do we wake them?” asks Keela.
“I’m not familiar with the controls on the chambers.”

“Let’s see if there’s an AI that watches over the masters.”

“There’s an access station here,” calls Keela from a distance.
When we reach her, we see a crystal handpad that’s blinking.
I feel myself being scanned.

“Verified,” says the voice of the AI.
“Do you wish to wake the sleepers?”

“Yes.”

“Security code required.”

“Do you know it, Keela?”

“There’s no trace of a security code in the royal library.”

I try the names of the seven races, key people from the generation of the energy wars, and many words in the Jiku and Madar languages, but nothing works.

“Go to the Bizra in the city or the towers,” suggests Berek.
“One of them must know the code.”

“One more try.”
“AI, the code is Sindar.”

“Confirmed.”
“Reversing stasis fields.”
“Chambers open in ten minutes.”

The stasis chambers slide open, revealing a pink gas covers the masters like a fog.
It rises and slowly dissipates over the next few minutes.
When it’s gone, each master sits up and stretches.

“My physical vision is still fuzzy, but I can sense your presence,” says one of the women in a chamber near us.
“How long has it been?”

“About a thousand years.”
“Is that what you expected?”

“The Bizra told us it would be at least that long, and perhaps we would never wake.”
“They said the king’s family would wake us, but wouldn’t explain what that meant.”
“We thought Botzar and his whole family was dead.”

Her vision clears and she stares at me, as many of the others are doing.
The masters start to climb out of the chambers and approach us.
Some bow, others are angry.
One approaches me in a threatening way.
“My name is Uzel, and I’m the speaker for the sleepers.”

“The Bizra told us that the one who woke us would be fit to lead us.”
“You’re not fit to lead anyone, Botzar!”
“And how did you survive until now?”
“Only the Bizra had stasis tech.”

“I’m not Botzar.”

“You look just like him except for your Bizra eyes.”

“Scan my energy.”

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” says another master.
“You’re not Botzar.”
“I’m not sure if you’re even Jiku.”

“My name is Yagrin.”
“I was born in the guild lands over fifty years ago, and I’m a master in the four guilds that still remain.”
“I’m also a PathFinder, Dream Hunter, Mind Weaver, and strangest of all, Embu.”
“This is my son Berek, and with him is Queen Keela, a descendant of Botzar.”
“The three of us freed you.”

We find an open space in the cavern to assemble, and I tell them about the guilds, Tshuan, the Kizak, the cage, the inhibitors and the vote.
The masters are overwhelmed.
They knew they would awake in a different world, but the challenges here are much greater than they expected.

“Siksa’s sun will explode?” asks one of them.

“There’s still time to stop it, but right now I need your help to pass out the inhibitors.”
“The Jiku must learn to love and respect you, and understand that the web and its masters are not their enemies.”

“We have so many questions.”

“When we have more time, I’ll answer anything you ask.”

“We need to eat before we go anywhere,” says one of them.
“Our bodies are weak.”

“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
I cover myself with the shell.
In the presence of the healthy web, the shell gives me extra strength.
I draw on it to fill the masters with healing energy, and flow massive amounts of food and drink from the air around us.
Then I bring the sleepers the things they’ll need right away: accelerators, communication disks, inhibitors, extra batteries, and maps of Siksa.
When they finish eating, I open a PathFinder gate and take us all to the open hills of Tshuan.

The masters walk on the soft grass of the hills among the wildflowers, and take deep breaths of the sweet air.

“When we went to sleep,” says one of them, “I wondered if we would ever see these hills again.”

“The web is gone,” says another.
“How can we live in this world?!”

“Changed, but not gone.”
“Turn on the accelerators.”
“It’s time to fly.”

“Turn them on,” agrees Uzel, “but don’t fly yet.”

“Why not?” I ask him.

“First, we dance the greeting to the sun.”

“It’s midday,” says Berek.

“Our day, our lives just began again.”
“How can we go anywhere, do anything before we give thanks to the creator?”

“They’re right,” says Keela.

They dance in the middle of a warm wind, with the bright sun overhead, and we join them.
When it’s done, we fly.


Empire of Stone -- 4: ReturnPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. Allies and Enemies
  2. Strangers and their Gifts
  3. Diplomacy and Death
  4. Fall
  5. Sanctuary
  6. Treason
  7. Rescue
  8. Eclipse
  9. Standoff
  10. Into the Storm
  11. Sleepers
  12. Choosing Death
  13. Peace and Destruction
  14. Sacrifice and Rebellion

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