Songs of Change

 
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I hear the voices of my family around me, but the world spins wildly, even with my eyes closed.
“He’s waking up,” says Tzina.

Finally, the dizziness clears, and I open my eyes.
Dilasa jumps on my lap and hugs me.
“Did the cubes help you escape from the dream, ina?” she asks.

I laugh when I see her happy face, and then look past her to see the worried faces of my family relax.
“Things are still fuzzy, little one, but I think the cubes helped.”

“What are we doing in the starship, Shazira?”
“Where are we flying?”

“We’re sitting in a meadow in Tshuan, near a school that Niyta and other sisters run for orphans.”
“The ship brought us here so the sisters could heal you.”

“How was I injured?”

“I damaged your mind web,” says Tzina, hesitantly.
“Don’t you remember?”

“I remember practicing with you, and getting distracted.”
“I was worried about Dilasa.”
“Then you broke through my mind shield, and the world faded.”

“Tzina tore your mind web,” says Shazira.
“It was damaged so badly that it couldn’t hold your consciousness.”
“We looked for your mind, but your body was empty.”

“I went away.”

“Where?”

“Another reality, connected with all minds, but dependent on none.”
“We call it the unconscious.”

“How did you move your whole awareness there?”

“I don’t know.”
“When I woke up, I was alone, with no memory.”
“I was curious, not afraid, and the world took shape around me.”
“I found my name, and then the rest of my memories returned.”

“There were beings in that world who wore my face.”
“They told me there was no way to return, but I refused to believe them.”

“We brought you back,” says Dilasa.
“Berek sent lightning into your energy wells, and I channeled star energy into your ekrisa.”

“It wasn’t so simple,” says Berek.
“Tzina suggested that I fill your wells with bits of lightning.”
“Your eyes opened, and your body responded in a strange way.”
“It grew too bright to look at, and you were filled with color, especially your eyes.”
“A dark fog covered your feet.”
“It moved upward and pushed all the light toward your head.”
“Soon only your eyes were visible, a hundred times brighter than before.”
“I didn’t know what I’d done to you!”
“I wondered if you were turning back into an old one.”

“The room started to heat up around you.”
“We took you outside the ship, and raised shields around you, to protect ourselves and the ship.”
“The heat grew more intense, and the shields were about to fail.”
“I was ready to drop your body in the lake, to protect everyone from you.”
“That’s when Dilasa called down the star energy into your ekrisa and your eyes.”
“The ekrisa absorbed the light and the darkness, and your eyes closed.”

“I seemed to have a body where I was,” I tell them, “and it lit up when you did that.”
“I was told that it was a message from Tzina.”

“It was a message from all of us!” says Dilasa.

Message?!” asks Shazira, angrily.
“We almost killed him, ourselves, and all the children in the school.”

“I tried to send you a message, Tzina,” I tell her.
“Did you get it?”

“Yes, ina,” she says.
“The message created a link between our world and the place where you’d gone.”
“I touched your hands to a game sphere, and it captured your mind, bringing you back to us.”

“I didn’t know that it was a game at first,” I tell her.
“All I saw was a desolate world.”
“Why didn’t you free me when you saw that I was there?”

“I couldn’t,” she answers.
“I knew when I touched you to the sphere, that there was no way that I could help you escape it.”
“I hoped that you would find your own way out.”

“The cubes were there, and they took over the game, and showed me a way out.”

“What else did you learn from the cubes?” asks Dilasa.

“There were messages there from Yagrin, the Bizra, and Sindar.”

“The old Yagrin?” asks Shazira softly.

“Yes.”
“The Bizra told him that a traveler was coming to take over his life.”
“They told him that we are one spirit, and that we will save the world together.”
“Yagrin asked me to take care of all of you.”

“That’s it?”

“No.”
“The Bizra had a vision of the aliens, and a traveler with Yagrin’s face.”
“They showed it to Yagrin, and he left it in the cube.”

“Why not tell you directly?”

“I don’t know, but there must be some reason why they wanted me to hear the message directly from Yagrin.”

“What’s the message?” asks Berek.

“I was standing in a pit, with one of the aliens by my side.”
“I could hear the noise of a crowd around us, but I couldn’t see them.”
“Then, the words of the vision filled me.”

Wake, traveler.
A race burns with buried power, cursed to be what they fear.
They tear at the web, and wait to bring an end to the stars.
Lose your strength, and find another.
Your enemy conquers you and calls you friend.
He teaches you betrayal and murder.
Siksa feels his anger.
Cool waters protect your children, while you thirst.
The sword changes all.

“What does it mean?” asks Tzina.

“I don’t understand it more than you do.”
“Still, I’m certain that I must find the aliens before they come to Siksa.”

 
Waiting for the Dance
“How can the web be normal here, in the ship?” I ask Shazira.

“Berek asked the ship’s AI, but it doesn’t know.”

“Too bad.”
“If we knew what the ship is doing, we could shield ourselves from the weakness in the web.”

I scan the ship.
There’s an unusual energy inside the hull, but it’s vaguely familiar.
Where do I know it from?
I scan the inner hull on a microscopic level, and find a thin coating with a crystalline structure.
It’s Gen birthing crystal.

“There’s an almost invisible coating of crystalline dust in the hull.”
“It’s the same crystal that covers the inside of Filarin’s cavern.”
“It restores the health of the web, within the ship and the cave.”

Berek tries to flow the air into crystal, but he can’t.
“Why can’t I make it using flow, ina?”

“This crystal is one of a few materials, like Kralestone, that can’t be made or transformed using flow.”

“Where can we find more of it?” asks Berek.

“It’s extremely rare on this world.”
“I don’t know of another source other than Filarin’s cave, and he needs it to survive.”
“We’ll have to find another way to deal with the damaged web.”

“Let’s get back to the guild lands,” I suggest.
“I need to prepare for my journey.”

“It’s only an hour until first light, ina,” says Dilasa.
“The sisters worked hard to repair your mind web.”
“You should thank them before you go.”
“At least dance the greeting to the sun with them!”

“She’s right, Yagrin,” says Shazira.

“Of course,” I agree.
“We’ll spend the day in Tshuan, but no more than that.”

Dilasa takes my hand and leads me out of the ship, and toward the school.
My new sense is still with me.
As I walk, I hear music rising from each of us.
Our songs mix with the songs of the plants and stones, and even the air.
My own song reminds me of what I sang when I was an old one, but this time, only I can hear it.

Three sisters guard the entrance to the main building.
“Yagrin?” asks one of them.
“I’m Diza.”
“We danced together in the temple of the old ones.”

“I remember,” I tell her.

“Are you well?” she asks.
“You were all but dead a few hours ago.”
“We began to prepare songs for your deathwalk.”

“Save them for another day,” I tell her.

She smiles.

“Niyta will be so happy to see you when she wakes.”
“Will you dance with us?”

“Of course.”
“I must go on a long journey in a few days, but how can I leave Siksa before we dance and eat together?”

Diza takes us inside, while the other guards stay at their posts.
We enter a large common room in the main building.
“Rest until it’s time for the dance,” suggests Diza.
“You all need sleep.”

“Is something wrong, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
“You look troubled.”

“Not really.”
“I was just lost in thought, half afraid to sleep, worried that I might get lost in my dreams.”

“I won’t let you go,” says Shazira as she takes my hand.
She leads us to the cushions.
The five of us lie down together, and let sleep take us.

“Yagrin?” asks a familiar voice.

Niyta hugs me when I rise from the cushion.
Then she hugs Dilasa.
“You did it!” says Niyta to Dilasa.

“We all brought him back,” says Dilasa, embarrassed.

“Wonderful!”
“Yagrin, Diza says that you’ll dance and eat with us?”

“Yes.”

“Will you help us lead the children in the dance?” asks Niyta.
“There are ten sisters here to lead one hundred children, and many of the little ones have difficulty with the steps.”

“Each of us will lead one of the groups,” says Shazira.

“Even the young one?” asks Diza.

“She is as talented as any of us,” answers Shazira.

 
The Twins
We leave the building and spread out along the paths taking our places among the children.
There are fifteen groups.
I ask Niyta to let me lead the youngest group, of three and four year olds.
Among them are two children laying on cushions, eyes closed, moaning.
A five-year-old boy stands next to them, holding their hands.

“What’s your name?” I ask him.

“Hukal,” he answers softly.
“I’m older, but the sisters let me dance in this group.”

“What’s wrong with the little ones?”

“They’re my brother and sister.”
“Their eyes make them sick.”

“Bizra eyes?”

“Yes.”

“You take care of them.”

“A little, but I can’t do anything.”
“No one can make the sickness go away.”

“Why do the sisters bring them outside for the dance?”

“The sun helps a little.”
“They get quiet.”
“Sometimes they opened their eyes, but not anymore.”

“Where are your parents?”

“Dead.”
“My father fell off a house while he was working.”
“My mother fell when she was sick.”
“All the ladies with Bizra eyes were sick, but my mother was one of the worst.”
“They tied her up, but she got loose, and she fell.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”
“Why couldn’t she wait a little.”

“Wait?”

“A few weeks later, a master came and healed all the crazy women with Bizra eyes.”
“He could have healed her, too.”

Hukal sees the sadness in my eyes when he speaks of his mother’s death.
“It was you who healed them!”

“It wasn’t healing.”
“There’s a rare stone that protects against that madness.”
“I gave each of the women a necklace with a bit of the stone.

“Why didn’t you come sooner and help my mother?!”

“I was far away.”

“You’re here now.”
“Why can’t you help my brother and sister?”

“Their sickness is different.”

“The sisters said that, but I don’t understand.”
“Are you a healer, like sister Niyta?”

“Yes.”

“Can you help them?”

“No.”

Hukal turns away to watch the twins.
Maybe their eyes will open today, and they will get better.

 
Songs of Light
First light comes before the sun is visible.
I catch the eyes of the other children in my group and smile at them.
“My name is Yagrin,” I tell them, “and I’m going to lead you today.”

“Why are you here?” asks a seven year old girl from a nearby group, looking at my master’s robe.
“You’re from the guilds, and they hate us.”

“Yagrin is from the guilds, but he is also our brother,” says Niyta, sternly.
“He and his family are friends of Tshuan, and they are related to the king.”
“He was with us when we left the cave.”

“He was an old one, too?” asks the girl.

“Yes,” says Niyta, “but only for a year.”
“You can ask Yagrin more questions later, but now we must start the greeting.”

I turn my attention back to my group.
“I’ll go slowly, so you can learn.”
“Try to copy the way I move, even one or two steps.”
“If you can’t follow, then just move in a way that makes you happy.”
“Enjoy being here.”
“That’s what the dance is about.”

The daylight grows brighter, and the sun’s song drowns out all the other songs.
The Bizra see songs like this, full of the patterns that make each thing unique.
I remember from when I walked as a Bizra.

Is my new sense the same?
I feel that there’s something more, but what is it?

“What do these songs mean for me?” I ask myself with an intense desire.

The world seems to spin around me, and I shut by eyes to try to stop it.

I see a thin image of the world of the unconscious, and the rivers of knowledge that fill it.
The rivers are still guarded by an army of children, all carrying my face.
I am a ghost there, a shadow drifting in the central river, while the energy spins around me.
The leader shouts my question, but it’s directed at me.
“What are the songs that you hear, Yagrin?”
Then he pushes my shadow away, and my thoughts return to Siksa.

I come home with an answer.

When the Bizra hear the world’s songs, they hear about being, knowing what makes everything unique.
I hear that, too, but for me, the songs are more about connection.
I need to focus on the way a thing connects to and influences the world around it.
The songs are about change.

The sun’s song is so familiar, like I’ve always known it, calling the world to live and grow.
It calls me to grow beyond where I am.

The song will reach its maximum power when the sun first comes over the horizon, but the dance starts before then.
I move in the traditional way, and the song grows stronger and stronger in me.
I see it circling in every step I take.
Outside me, I see it echo in everyone and everything.
Their energy bodies feel it, even though their minds don’t register its presence.

The twins have stopped moaning.
The song moves through them, brighter than in the others.
They are more sensitive, more influenced by this song!
Trapped within themselves, they still ache to live and grow again.

I look at the strange mind shield that covers the twins, one shield that combines and twists both minds.
Is there one mind web hidden behind it, or two?
The song spreads across the shield, and passes through it.

What if I strengthen the song?
I am a mirror.
I continue the dance, but let the song echo louder in me, and shine it on the twins.
I move slowly at first, so the group can follow my movements, but something pushes me to move faster.
The children start moving, even Hukal, and I feel the joy that pulses through them.
I close my eyes, and let go of the outside world, dancing, faster and faster, reflecting the sun’s song, brighter and brighter.
With energy eyes I see the children in all the groups, moving together in perfect time with the song.
When the dance is about to end, and the sun appears, I open my physical eyes.
The twins have their eyes open, and they’re watching us.
I move toward them.

Their mind shield is thin, and I follow its rhythms, looking for points of weakness.
When one comes, I let my body slip to the ground, as I send my awareness through the gap in the shield, into their minds.
From here, I can dissolve the shield, but that’s not good enough.
The children might unconsciously reshape it, as soon as I’m gone.

There are two mind webs, but they are wrapped around each other at one end.
There is little separation within.
At this age, the minds are more full of feelings and images than words.
I see two bright trails of energy that combine, and lead far away toward the world of the unconscious.
At first, I wonder if I should break this trail.
Then I realize that we all have these paths.
Still, each of the twins should have their own.

I broadcast the sun’s song here, within them, focusing on the place where the mind webs are tangled together.
The mind shield disappears, and slowly, the threads of energy start to separate, and finally, the mind webs move apart.
Even the path to the unconscious separates, so each child has its own.
Some energy still moves between them, but I suspect that this comes from the special bond that twins share, and I leave it alone.

I find myself in a meadow.
It’s something like the real one where I was dancing, but it’s distorted and incomplete, with white and black spaces that form gaps in the landscape.
It looks like someone didn’t finish drawing a picture.

I’m standing there with the two children, and they look up at me and cry.
A bright area surrounds us, twenty feet across, but the rest of the meadow is covered by strange shadows.
They’re the twisted mind shield that waits to return, and separate them from the outside world.

I hold their hands and smile, pointing to the darkness that surrounds us.
“Let go of it.”
“You don’t need it to be safe.”
“Hukal and the sisters will take care of you.”

“We’re scared,” they say.

“It’s all right to be scared, as long as you have someone to protect you.”

“I want to do it myself,” he says.

“Me too,” says the girl.

“I’ll teach you how to cover yourself so you’ll be safe.”

“I have a cover,” says the girl.

“Yes, but you’ll be able to open and close the new one anytime you want.”

“I’m hungry,” says the boy.

“Good,” I tell him.
“It’s time for the morning meal.”
“Hukal wants you to join him.”

“I like the song,” says the girl.
“Sing it again.”

I shine the sun’s song even brighter, filling the children with it.
It reflects off them, and starts to eat away at the darkness.
Then it races toward the edge of the world, consuming the shadows like a raging fire.
The children sigh, and we all lie down on the grass, as the world fills with light.

 
Strange Eyes
We wake on the soft ground of the mountain meadow, near the school.

The twins are sitting up, eyes open, and crying.
Hukal cries too when they speak to him.
Then he wipes away his tears, holds their hands and tries to calm them.
He has to be their big brother.
They have no other family.

Dilasa reaches me first and kisses my head.
“He’s all right,” she calls loudly.
She waits until I sit up.
Then she sits on my lap, and hugs me tightly.

Niyta is the first of the sisters to reach us.
She stops, ten feet away, and opens her mouth wide when the twins call her name.
“You healed them, Yagrin, even the boy!”

“Yes.”

“We were so worried when you passed out.”
“The children were frightened, and thought that you died.”

“Tzina saw that your mind was joined with the twins, and told us not to interfere.”
“We moved the other children away, except for Hukal.”
“He wouldn’t leave the twins.”

“How long was I out for?”

“Only a few minutes,” answers Niyta.

I explain what I did.

“Too bad we can’t hear those songs, or use them as you did,” says Niyta.

“Not yet, but I hope to find a way to teach you to do it.”

“I hope so,” she agrees, “but it’s more than the song.”
“You find the right words to say to the child, to lead her out of her inner world.”
“How can you teach that?”

“I don’t know if I can, but maybe I don’t need to.”
“There’s a sun within all of us, Niyta, that whispers that we must live and grow.”
“Each person can find her own way, full of that strength to inspire others.”
“Each of us can others to let go of where they are, and listen again to the voice of growth.”

Quiet surrounds her as she thinks about my words.
“We’ll speak about this again, Yagrin, but I must leave you for a few minutes.”
“I want to tell the children and the other sisters that you’re all right.”

The twins stare at me after Niyta flies away.
“I saw him,” says the boy to Hukal, pointing at me.
The girl agrees with a hand gesture.

“Where?” asks Hukal.

“A dream.”

“It was like a dream,” I tell them.
“It was also real.”
“We were there, together.”
“You were sick, and I helped you get better.”

Dilasa gets up, and the twins sit on my lap, and cling to me.

“You said you didn’t know how,” says Hukal, standing next to me, and looking into my eyes.
He looks troubled.

“I wasn’t lying, Hukal.”
“I didn’t know, but the dance and the song taught me how to help them.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” he says, unconvinced.

“It’s a strange song,” I tell him.
“Only the twins and I could hear it.”

“You promised,” says the girl.

“Yes, and I’ll keep my promise.”

“What promise?” asks Dilasa.

“I promised to build them mind shields.”

“That’s a terrible idea, ina.”
“They trapped themselves behind a shield.”

“Yes, but it wasn’t built like a wintzal, stable, and easy to control.”
“I need you to keep the others away from us while I do it.”

“All right.”

I turn back to the twins.

“You’ll hear me in your heads, and it will feel funny while I build the ball and show you how to use it.”
Once it’s built, the wintzal appears as a sphere.
The wall is opened by pushing the sphere beneath an imaginary surface within the mind.

It only takes five minutes to train each of the twins.
Their young minds are much simpler to work with.
When I’m done, they laugh as they open and close the wintzals, happy to be in control of something.

“Promise me that you’ll close the ball whenever you’re scared.”

“We promise.”

Would this work for all the Bizra eye children?
If we built them shields at three years old, would that stabilize their minds and keep away the madness?

I kiss the twins on their heads, and they look up at me.
The rising sun reflects off my eyes.

“Your eyes,” says the boy twin, pointing.

“What’s wrong with them?”

“Not like the dream,” says the girl.
“Like us.”

Dilasa looks surprised for a moment as she looks at my eyes in the bright sunlight.
Then she flows a mirror into her hand and holds it to my face, to show me what she sees.

A pair of Bizra eyes like hers.

 
      Read Part 2: Lost Sons »


Empire of Stone -- 1: Cages of FearPrevious Story
  1. Fading Light
  2. Waking the Council
  3. Challenging the Guilds
  4. Crystal Paths
  5. Caves of Dreams
  6. Worlds Within Worlds
  7. Black Fountain
  8. Secrets of the Game
  9. Fast and Slow
  10. Slavery and Death
  11. Silver Falls
  12. Sounds of Healing
  13. Songs of Change

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