We fly together from the barren lands toward Tshuan.
You can see a person’s heart by watching how high they fly.
Some fly close to the ground, just high enough to clear obstacles.
They fly, but they’re afraid that if they get too far from the ground, they’ll never be able to return to their life on the ground.
Other Jiku fly higher — one, two, three thousand feet high.
They enjoy the height and the view, but flying is just a way to get to a destination.
Then there are the Jiku who fly as high as they can.
They would leave the world, if not stopped by the cold, and the need to breathe.
Flying is everything.
These masters are searching for another world, and only their bodies hold them back.
Chiwan flies faster and higher than every weaver I’ve met, even here within the twisted energy of the barren lands.
He has great skills with energy, that go far beyond his mastery of healing.
He could be a master in other guilds.
Why does he only wear the band of the healers on his robe?
“Master Chiwan,” I ask him, “why don’t you test for the other guilds?”
“One of my earliest memories, Yagrin, is being taken to a healer.”
“I was two and a half years old.”
“My throat hurt so much I couldn’t eat or drink.”
“The healer put her hands on my throat, the pain disappeared, and I felt an extraordinary feeling of peace.”
“I started asking my mother about healing as soon as I learned the word.”
“I’ve always loved healing, but I needed teachers to learn to do it.”
“Besides, the healers guild won’t let you heal others without the master’s band.”
“The weaver’s guild doesn’t stop anyone from flying, and the energy web doesn’t care which bands you wear on your robe!”
“How did you learn to fly?”
“I’m a natural weaver, Yagrin.”
“The web speaks to me like an old friend.”
“My energy eyes opened and showed me the web before I learned to read.”
“I first flew before I turned five.”
There are naturals for every guild skill.
They do what the guild masters do, but in their own way.
With an inborn resistance to being trained by the guilds that touch their natural gifts.
The guilds have tried to train some of the naturals, but they have never succeeded.
The natural’s instincts overrule her training.
When energy masters fly, they project an energy shield around their bodies that protects them from the air friction, yet still lets them breathe.
I do it without thinking.
Some naturals, like Chiwan, use a mask to change shape when they fly.
Their flying bodies are a strange mix of energy and matter, and look like living crystal.
I’ve taken this form before, but never to fly.
Now, I feel the urge to know this form, and I let that desire take me.
The wind dances across my new form, and fills me with joy.
No need for a shield against the wind.
This form embraces the wind, and feeds upon it.
A voice within me says, “move faster, and be free.”
I let the world dim, as I become movement and speed.
Chiwan matches my speed, and we reach Tshuan quickly.
I feel when it is time to stop, and I lead us to the clearing by the seventh hill.
We land, and change back to Jiku form.
Keela’s guards join us a minute later.
“Master Yagrin,” says one of them, “the Princess asked us to watch over you until she arrives.”
“We called the Princess as soon as we saw you land.”
Many of the Tshuans, and all of the military, wear multi-function devices on their forearms, called armbands.
The Tshuans have preserved much of the technological knowledge of the ancients, while the land of the guilds has abandoned it.
We use technology, but our land produces little of it, with most of it bought from Tshuan.
Every Tshuan armband contains a communications disk, and some armbands give the wearer the power to fly.
The Tshuans do not sell their most powerful technology to other lands.
This includes their advanced weapons, and even the armbands.
They sell us commdisks, but few people carry them.
They’re available in key public places, buildings, and of course, the Watchtower.
I have my own.
It looks like a medallion.
I found it in an old place in the forest.
It was Balshown who guessed what it was, and showed me how to activate it.
I used the disk today, just before I reached Chiwan’s house, to message Keela and tell her that I was coming.
She was excited when I called her, and told me she wants to see my disk.
She joins us shortly after we land, a hundred men with her.
“What is this, Yagrin?” asks Chiwan, as Keela approaches us.
“I asked her to bring soldiers to protect the old ones,” I answer.
“There are people who are afraid of the old masters, and will do anything to stop them.”
“Yagrin,” he whispers, “the soldiers are the greatest danger to the old ones!”
“Look at the inhibitors the soldiers carry to put on the old ones!”
Inhibitors look like regular Tshuan armbands.
They disrupt the connection between a person’s energy bodies and the energy web.
They don’t seem to affect the health of the wearer, but one who wears the inhibitor cannot fly, flow, or practice the healing arts.
Chiwan is about to speak again, but I interrupt him, as Keela approaches with another man.
“Master Chiwan, this is Princess Keela.”
“Princess,” he says, “I’m honored to meet you.”
“An honor for me too, Master Chiwan.”
“I’ve brought master Chiwan here,” I tell her, “to help the old ones return to life among the guilds.”
“The old ones will need help Master Yagrin,” she agrees, “but I hope that some of them will look for that help in Tshuan.”
“In ancient times, Tshuan was the most powerful land, and one-fifth of the old ones were born here.”
“We have served them all these years.”
“Princess,” says Chiwan, “why did you bring inhibitors?”
“Outside of their cavern, an old one’s open eyes destroy everything around them.”
“We have a type of inhibitor that Master Yagrin once wore, that blocks the destructive power of old ones.”
“When the old ones come out of the cave, they can wear these armbands, and live safely among us, even with their eyes open.”
“But the inhibitors are only a last resort.”
“We hope that Master Yagrin will find a way to transform the old ones back into Jiku form.”
“Then, there will be no need for the armbands.”
The Last King
“Master Yagrin,” says Keela, gesturing toward the man with her, “this is Yitseh, one of our greatest scientists.”
“I’ve brought him to look at your disk.”
“May I see it?” he asks.
After I brought the medallion home, I had a dream where I wore the medallion in a belt.
So I made a belt to match my dream.
The medallion is encased in a crystal material which sound penetrates, but even the old ones’ eyes cannot damage.
I flow the crystal case into air, and catch the medallion before it falls.
“Here,” I say, opening my hand before him.
“May I pick it up?” he asks.
He tries, but is unable to lift it.
Then he points a small device at the medallion, and a grey light moves across the disk.
“Princess,” he says, “it’s the right age, and it seems genuine.”
“May I pick it up, Master Yagrin?” she asks.
She reaches for the disk, and picks it up, with some effort.
It looks heavy when she handles it, but to me it weighs almost nothing.
“What is it, Keela?” I ask.
“An ancient multi-purpose device, something like our armbands, but they were customized to serve the needs of the owner.”
“Each one is also bound with an energy lock, so only someone with the unique energy of the owner can use it.”
“They all contain commdisks, and we know how to activate that function, but the rest of its powers are hidden from us.”
“We no longer have the technology to make them.”
She turns it over, gasps, and quickly drops it back into my palm.
She’s breathing hard, and she won’t meet my eyes.
She’s steps back a few steps, afraid of me.
I reshape the air into crystal, binding the disk to my belt.
“Why can you and I pick it up, but others cannot?” I ask her.
“The crown above the hidden city on the face of the disk identifies it as belonging to one of the royal family.”
“The symbol on the back proves that it’s the disk of the last king himself.”
“The last king?” I ask.
“The last Tshuan king,” she answers, “before the great war.”
“He didn’t start the war, but he was responsible for most of the destruction.”
The Sword of Fire
“Remember the black necklace that my father has?”
“It also belonged to the last king.”
“The box that guards it has a more general energy lock, and will open for any descendant of the king.”
“We all carry some unique factor in our energy.”
“My father was pleased When the box opened for you.”
“It proved that your blood rises from the king.”
“This disk and its lock are different.”
“You and I can both pick up the disk, but I can’t use it, only carry it.”
“You pick it up easily, because your energy is a close match.”
“The disk would give you all its power, if only you knew how to use it.”
“My daughter Tzina couldn’t pick it up,” I tell her.
“Her energy is different enough that the disk doesn’t recognize her.”
“Maybe, it’s the fire eyes.”
“Keela,” I say gently, “why are you afraid of the disk?”
“It’s not the face of the disk that frightens me,” she says.
“It’s the back of the disk.”
“Master Yagrin, did you see the symbol on the back?”
“It’s a flame in the shape of a sword,” I answer, “hovering over a dark blue well.”
“Do you know what that means?” she asks, breathless.
I shake my head.
“It’s a cursed symbol,” she answers.
“There’s an energy weapon called the Spinning Sword.”
“It’s a great flood of energy from another world.”
“Some say it’s connected to the heart fountain.”
“It was unleashed in the ancient wars, by the last king.”
“His name was Botzar.”
“Few speak his name anymore, because of what he did.”
“He thought he could control the weapon, but it destroyed his family, his kingdom, and killed millions.”
“You have the disk that frees the sword.”
“That disk is cursed, and should be hidden for all time!”
“Where did you find it?”
“In a distant forest clearing, called the Breath of Life.”
“A legendary, beautiful place of peace,” says Keela, looking far away.
“The location of the Breath was hidden long ago.”
“I saw a memory of the Breath in the mind of one of the old ones.”
“I found the doorway to the forest, and it opened for me.”
“My family and I found the Breath, and the disk revealed itself to me.”
“It has chosen you,” she says, shocked.
“Your energy is so close to the last king, that it thinks you’re him.”
“Thank the creator that you don’t know how to use it.”
“The disk,” she says, “is indestructible.”
“The last king wrote that he hid it away for all time, and told no one the location.”
“How strange that he hid it in a place of peace.”
“Not strange at all,” says Chiwan.
“Anyone looking for a weapon would never look in a place of peace.”
“We know something else, Keela.”
“The Breath is much more than a hidden place.”
“If the Breath revealed the sword to Yagrin, it means that he can use the sword to bring peace.”