Stardust Rising

 
The Cave
We glide quickly through the spinning, sparkling tunnel that leads from the Seven Towers to Siksa.
An energy shield surrounds us and protects us from the wild energies of the tunnel, and whatever dangers we may find at tunnel’s end.

“Are you mad at me, Yagrin?” asks Dilasa, as she touches my mind.
She’s afraid of the anger that I showed before, and her mind touch is weak.

“No, Dilasa.”
“I’m not angry any more, but I wish that you had listened to me.”

“Who were the ones flying toward us, from the tower?”

“I don’t know, Dilasa,” I answer, frustrated, “but we were seen, and Sindar told us that we should not let ourselves be seen.”

“Will they follow us?”

“I’ve told you what Sindar said,” I say, too abruptly.
“I don’t know more than that.”

She starts crying.

I sigh.
“They won’t follow us, Dilasa.”
“Our shield was up when I opened the tunnel, so they couldn’t see where we went.”

“They saw us, Yagrin!”

“Yes, but they’ll never guess that we’re Jiku!”
“My fire body looks alien, and we’re not dressed like the Jiku from Siksa.”

Even if they don’t follow us, we’re in danger.
When you come out of a tunnel, you may be surrounded by a thunderstorm a thousand feet in the air, or buried in lava, somewhere near the planet’s core.
No two trips to a world are ever the same, unless there’s an anchor at the other end, a single, permanent doorway.
Sometimes, an anchor is built to provide a safe destination, but this anchor was built by the Bizra and the guardians, to stop travel between Siksa and the Seven Towers.
What hellish place do you put a doorway that you don’t want anyone to use?

Before long, the tunnel fades, and Siksa’s universe expands before us.
We find ourselves in a small cave with a soft, sandy floor.
The rock walls are cool and moist, with a glowing crystal that provides enough light to see our surroundings.
There is air here, but not much, and no way out.

I flow stone and sand to oxygen, so we can breathe easier for a few minutes.
Then, I drop our energy shield, and look at the walls with energy eyes.
This cave could be anywhere on Siksa.
A barrier of energy surrounds the cave, and hides the world outside.

Sindar thought the barrier would open for me, as it does for him, but the barrier holds.
My genetics are the same as Sindar, but my energy is different, and Dilasa is with me.
I need to find another way out.

She watches as I touch my listener to the energy field.
Will I be able to see the true patterns of the barrier, so I can flow it away?
No, it hides itself with a mask of chaos.

“How do we get out of here, Yagrin?” asks Dilasa, frightened.
“I don’t like this small place.”

“If nothing else works, we can always open a tunnel back to the Seven Towers, and then back to Sinesu.”

She lets go of a long breath.
“Yes,” she admits, comforted by the thought.

“If something happens to me, could you raise the shield, and open the tunnel to the towers?”

“No, not without you.”
“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to dissolve my physical body, and try going through the barrier with my fire body.”

“That won’t work for me!”

“I know, but maybe I can find a way to open the barrier from the other side.”

“I’m scared, Yagrin.”
“When will you come back?”

“I won’t be long,” I tell her, as I kiss her head.
“I need to teach you something before I go, so you’ll be safe while you wait.”
“Do you know that your body takes in good air, and breathes out air that can make you sick?”

“Yes.”

“Look into my mind, so I can show you how to flow the bad air into good air.”
I show her how to flow the carbon dioxide that we exhale, back into oxygen.
“Try it.”

When I’m satisfied that she can do it without me, I prepare to go.
“Remember to flow the air every few minutes.”
“If you don’t, you’ll fall asleep, and the bad air will hurt you.”

“Come back soon,” she says, trying to be strong, but her lip quivers.

She’s powerful, but she’s still a child, and I shouldn’t leave her alone.
I hesitate for a few seconds, and then give her a long, hard hug.
She sighs, and a moment later I let go of her and flow my physical body into oxygen.

 
Living Fire
The world is brighter with my body gone, the barrier full of rich, swirling colors.
It seems so familiar, and the energy tastes like the walls that protect the city of life.

I shape the grandmother energy pattern, and play with it, letting it dance around me.
Then I bring it to a gentle stop in front of the barrier, and clothe it in a dark blue sphere of energy.

I form the wheel, twelve mother patterns arranged in a ring around the sphere, with twelve spokes of energy that connect the mothers to the sphere.

I shine with the Feldin glow and spin the wheel, binding my fire body to it.
I look again, and the chaos is gone, the barrier’s patterns revealed.
What now?
Do I destroy the barrier?

“Fool,” I tell myself, after a moment.
I don’t know how to rebuild it, and without it, anyone can reach Siksa from the Seven Towers.

Frustrated, I let the wheel vanish.
Is there another way to get through the barrier?
Can I use the spinning gateways?

The Hikweh tried to kill me, but I survived its energy venom, and my energy sight is stronger than before.
My eyes reach for the web, and see it filled with tiny spinning wheels of energy and color, gateways to places on this planet, and beyond.
A brief touch of my healing body to a wheel, and I see the other side of the gateway.

The Spiral travels effortlessly through these gateways, but how?

It has no form, not even a fire body.
Is that the way?
Can I pass through as streaming fire energy?
How do I shatter my fire body, and how do I rebuild it?

I scan the body, and find a subtle energy pattern, almost hidden within the fire.
It’s a balance pattern that holds the body together, a simple variation on the grandmother pattern that I know so well.
Before my vision was strengthened, I would never have seen it.

A few hours ago, the throne touched my fire energy with the same pattern, and helped me reshape a fire body.
Then, I had Dilasa’s strength to help me.
If I let go of the fire body, will I be able to restore it, alone?

Dilasa sits quietly in the cave, propped against a wall.
I feel her fear, and it stops me, for a few seconds.

I turn away from her, focus on the balance pattern, and let it dissolve.
My fire energy finds safe haven in the stone of the walls, as the fire body disappears.

I try to stream my fire energy through the great web, as the Spiral does, but my strength begin to fade, and I retreat back into the stone.

The spinning gateways surround me, even brighter than before.
I scan them, and find one that opens to the city of life, where Heelu glide through the air, high above the sea, moving toward the western shore.

Heelu!
The Spiral rests its energy in the Heelu.
In this form, can I can do the same?

I move my energy to the gateway, and pass through, leaving the cave behind.
I’m thrilled when I find myself in the sky above the city, but my excitement doesn’t last.
My energy spreads out like a cloud, and drifts slowly downward.

I’m weak without stone or fire to support me, and my thoughts are heavy.
I’ll reach the ground in several minutes, and find stone to support me, but there’s a faster way.
I shine with the Feldin glow, to attract the Heelu flock.
One of them touches my energy cloud, and my fire energy rushes into the creature, and then radiates to the rest of its companions.
My strength returns, as I feel the warm sun shining on the Heelu bodies, and I move the flock toward the ground.
We land on the western shore of the sea, and one of the Heelu comes to rest on top of a large rock, its ribbon-like shape fluttering like a sail in the breeze.

I slip out of the flock and into the stone.
Safe again, I use the power of the listener to mold my energy in the shape of a fire body.
I can’t hold this shape for more than a few seconds, but that’s long enough.
I flow the balance pattern in the center of the body, and cover it with the glow.
The body sparkles for a moment and stabilizes.
Excited, I reshape my physical body on the rock, and bind it to the fire body.
I sigh loudly, as I rise in the air, free of the stone.

 
Intruder
The Heelu crowd around me, attracted to the glow.
I’m grateful to the creatures, but I quickly extinguish the light, and they drift away.
My thoughts are with Dilasa, trapped in the cave, and my family, waiting for me in the city.

I move toward the city, and see dozens of service machines blocking my way.
They form a tight circle around me, and project a powerful energy shield to imprison me.
Mayla approaches the outside edge of the shield.
“Who are you?” asks Mayla roughly, “and how did you enter the city?”

“Don’t you recognize me, Mayla?” I ask astonished.

“You’re not Jiku,” she says, “and I’ve never seen you before.”

I look down at my furry hands and Mehkeel body.
Strange that I took this physical shape!
I quickly transform back to my Jiku form.

“Now, you look like Yagrin, but your fire body is still wrong.”

“Wrong?”
“Because it’s different than before?”
“My body was full of strange energy when you first met me!”
“You’re surprised to find new energies that you don’t recognize?”
“The Fiklow took us back to their universe, and the possibility sea leaves no one untouched.”
“I’ve also been transformed by two unique energy sources,” I add, thinking of the Hikweh’s venom, and the queen’s blessing.

Mayla’s expression softens,and turns sad.
“If it was only your energy, I might believe you, but you can’t be Yagrin.”
“He’s dead.”

Dead, Mayla?”
“Why would you think I’m dead, and why would death keep me away from the world that I love?”
“You know that I can reshape my physical body.”

She holds up a shining red stone.
“I’m talking about more than physical death.”
“This is a Deathstone, and it was linked to Yagrin.”
“It only glows red when the fire body is destroyed.”
“There’s nothing left of him to return.”

“My fire body was shattered, Mayla, but my energy survived, and I found a way to build a new body.”
“I am Yagrin.”
“Makish and I were taken against our will by the Fiklow, but it worked out well.”
“I’ve made peace with them, and hidden the artifact where no one will ever touch it again.”
“I’ve seen the hills on Sinesu where Shilann and his wife walked.”
“Would you like me to take you there, someday, Mayla?”

“I might like to see it with Yagrin, but not you!”
“It must be a sad place, desolate after the wars.”

“No,” I answer.
“Some Jiku survived the war, and a few thousand have returned to Sinesu.”

“What about the Fiklow?”

“They dominate the Jiku, but they’re at peace.”
“Both races face a powerful, common enemy called the Spiral.”
“They need my help to fight it, and I must return to them in two weeks.”

She’s unconvinced.

“Who else but me could get past the city walls?” I ask, frustrated.
“Is it so hard to believe that I’ve found my way home?”

“We monitor space for ships,” she says.
“There was no Fiklow ship to bring you home.”

“I came here without a ship, through the world of the Towers.”
“Sindar told me the way.”

“Sindar?!”
“Telling me that Yagrin survived the destruction of his fire body was barely believable.”
“Sindar is only a legend, dead for tens of thousands of years.”
“All that remains of his legend is a monument not far from here.”

I shatter the energy field, and put my own shield around the service machines.
She moves back.

“I won’t harm you,” I tell her, “but Sindar is real, and he’s still alive.”
“He has slept in a stasis chamber in one of the seven towers for almost all of his long years, waking occasionally to visit Siksa.”

“The guardians have sealed the path from the Seven Towers,” she says.
“No one reaches Siksa through that path.”

“The Bizra know Sindar, and designed the barrier to allow Sindar to pass.”
“I found my own way out of the cave at the end of the sealed path.”

“You’re clever,” she says.
“You have an answer for every question.”
She stops speaking, and looks me in the eyes.
“How do you know about the cave?”
“No one but me, the guardians and the Bizra know where the path leads, and they never speak of it.”

“I told you.”
“I’ve been to the cave.”

I stop, as someone approaches, gliding through the air.
My heart beats faster when I see that it’s my son.

Mayla puts an energy shield around Berek, to protect him.
“The shield will travel with you,” she says to Berek.
“Get out of here, now!”

“Let me go,” says Berek.

“Berek,” says Mayla, “he only looks like your father.”
“I’ve told you about the Deathstone, and its power to track those who touch it.”

“Yagrin touched the Deathstone before he left to meet the Fiklow.”
She raises the stone so he can see the red glow.
“The Deathstone proves that Yagrin is gone.”

I remember her handing the grey stone to me, and watching it turn a deep cobalt blue.

“Deathstones are extremely rare.”
“They were found in the ruins of an ancient civilization, on a distant world.”
“When someone touches the Deathstone,” she says, “it marks their fire body with a special energy, and turns blue.”
“The stone detects the energy, and indicates the direction of the marked individual.”
“It tracks a person across any distance, even light-years.”
“I thought that the Fiklow might try to capture Yagrin, so I let the stone mark him, to help us find him.”

“When the Fiklow ship disappeared across the possibility sea, I wondered if the stone would fade to grey, or show the red of death.”
“Instead, it stayed blue, but with no indication of direction.”
“A day ago, the blue turned to red.”

“When were you planing on telling us this?” asks Berek angrily.

“I was waiting a few more days, hoping that Yagrin might prove it wrong.”

“Now he’s here,” says Berek, “just as you hoped!”

“My fire body shattered,” I tell her, “and released the Deathstone energy.”
“That’s why the stone glows red.”

“I want to believe you,” she says, “but if you’re lying, you’re a great danger to the city.”
“I’ve sent an urgent message to Shazira.”
“She’ll come and help me figure out the truth here.”

“I can’t wait any longer,” I tell Mayla, frustrated.
“A young girl came with me from Sinesu and is trapped in the cave.”
“I escaped in a way that no one else can follow.”
“Dilasa will die soon, if I don’t free her.”
“Is it possible to use energy to connect two distant places together, and move living objects between them?”
“Does the library speak of anything like that?”

Mayla is quiet.

“Answer him,” says Berek.

“I’ll tell him,” she says to Berek, “but only because there’s not much to tell.”
“The Bizra told us that there is a collection of PathFinder secrets, called the Memories of the PathFinders, or Sindar’s gift.”

“Where is it?”

“The Bizra say that it’s hidden somewhere on Siksa.”
“I scanned the whole planet for it, but I could never find it, and anyway it’s useless.”

“Why?”

“The memories can only be accessed by someone who is already a PathFinder.”

“Did you look in Sindar’s monument?” I ask her.

“It was the first place I looked.”
“The monument is just stone, with a genetic lock that opens a small, hollow chamber within the stone.”

 
PathFinders
Storm clouds form around Mayla, and lightning flashes around her.
“My father commanded you to follow my orders before he left,” says Berek.

“That’s true,” she says.

“Good,” says Berek, free me now.”

She hesitates for a minute.
“Fine,” she says.
“Your father was a fool to give command privileges to a child!”

I glide toward Berek and hug him fiercely.

“I missed you, Ina,” he says quietly.
“It was too quiet here without you.”

I laugh, and then I turn my head.

Mayla is about ten feet behind me, with her arm raised, ready to attack me, but she’s confused.

“You raise no shield to protect yourself,” she says.

“Why would I raise a shield to protect myself from you and my son?”

I reach out my thoughts and find Shazira and Tzina approaching.

“I’m home,” I tell them with a mind touch, “but we must hurry, or a young girl will die.”

Shazira and Tzina arrive and join me in a hug.
I could hold them forever.

“Ina,” says Tzina, “we were so worried about you.”

“I missed you so much,” I tell them, holding Tzina’s gaze for a few seconds before falling into Shazira’s eyes.
“I’ll explain later, but a young girl has come back with me, and she’s trapped.”
“I have to find a way to help her.”

“Come with me,” I say, as I glide to Sindar’s monument.

“Who built this?” I ask Mayla.

“The Bizra,” she answers quietly.

I touch the top of the monument.
It glows brightly, and the top slides away, uncovering a small empty space.

“It opens for you!” says Mayla.

I ignore her, and scan the monument with energy eyes.
An energy image of the Feldin hovers at the center of the empty space.

I reach inside myself, and release the glow, and let it shine toward the energy image.
Memories come streaming into my mind.
They begin with a message from Sindar.

“Welcome brother, only the touch of one of Geyfal’s sons will open the monument, and only the Feldin glow will open the gift.”
“The Bizra dreamed that you would come one day, carrying the glow, and so, I left this message, and the Memories of the PathFinders, for you to find.”

The PathFinders train for years to increase the sensitivity of their energy eyes, so they can see the gateways.
The Memories teach me how to train.

When an apprentice is judged to be ready, a master PathFinder touches the apprentice with PathFinder energy.
The energy renews itself within the PathFinder, providing an endless supply.
The PathFinder uses this energy to enlarge any gateway so she can travel through it.

Sindar’s voice returns.
“I can teach you how to strengthen your sight with the Memories, but the sight is useless without the energy, and I can only give you this in person.”

He laughs.
“The Bizra will not explain themselves, but they say that you don’t need my gift of energy.”
“Who can understand their thoughts?” asks Sindar, perplexed, as the message fades.

“You look strange, Yagrin,” says Shazira.
“What did you find?”

“A message from Sindar, and the Memories of the PathFinders.”
I already have the sensitive eyes of the PathFinders, but why would the Bizra say that I don’t need the PathFinder energy from Sindar?
How else will I open the gateways?

I drift slowly to the ground, and the world fades into a Dream Hunter’s vision, where I watch myself open a transport gateway.

“Are you all right, Ina?” asks Berek, as I awake from the vision.
She tries to hide it, but even Mayla looks concerned.

“I’m fine,” I tell them, “and now, I know what to do.”

I rise quickly along the web, seeking the gateway that brought me from the cave to the city.
I notice that the others all fly well enough to follow me.

When I arrive, I hover a thousand feet in the air, and shape a tiny version of the grandmother pattern, and touch it to the gateway.
Then I fill the gateway with the Feldin glow.
The glow is an intense form of PathFinder energy, too powerful to open a stable gateway, without the help of the grandmother.

The gateway opens wide, and we see Dilasa lying on the floor of the cave, barely breathing.
I glide her body through the gateway and into my arms.
I close the gateway, and heal her.

Dilasa wakes, and screams, until she realizes that I’m holding her.
Then she calms, and cries tears of joy into my robe.
She looks down at the small sea below us, and the city in the distance.
The buildings are larger, and more beautiful than anything she has ever seen, or heard of.
She knows that we have come to another world.

“What a place!” she says.
Then Dilasa takes a deep breath of the sweet air, and turns her face back to me.
“I was so scared, ina, I forgot to flow the air.”
She hugs me tightly, and closes her eyes.

“That’s the first time you’ve called me ina.”

“Do you mind?” she asks.
“I really want to, now.”

I kiss her on the head.

“What’s your name little one?” asks Shazira.

I turn us so Dilasa can see the strange faces around her, two of them with Bizra eyes, and she gasps.
“Your family, Yagrin,” she says happily.
“You’ve brought us to them!”

“Bizra eyes?!” asks Shazira.
“Where is she from, and why does she call you ina?”
“Except for the eyes, she looks just like you.”

“Dilasa’s an orphan, born on Sinesu.”
“She’s a Dream Hunter, with the potential to be a great master someday.”

“Why is she with you?”

“We’ve captured each other’s hearts, and I promised to raise her as my own daughter, if you agree.”

“You should have asked me first, Yagrin, before bringing her here!”
“She looks like a sweet girl, but you can’t just invite her into our family.”

Dilasa starts to cry.
“Please don’t send me back,” she says, staring at Shazira with Bizra eyes.
“I know that I belong here, with you and Tzina.”

Shazira takes her from me, holds her tightly, and sighs.
“Shhh,” she says to Dilasa, as she glares at me.
“I don’t understand why Yagrin has brought you to us,” she adds, “but I won’t send you away, little one.”

“Explain yourself, Yagrin,” says Shazira, troubled, looking at me and Berek.
Why does she look so much like you?”

“Tell them, ina,” says Dilasa.

I sigh, and say: “Dilasa is my sister and my twin.”

“Born on Sinesu, only a few years ago?” asks Shazira.
“How?”

“It’s a long, strange story, that begins with Sindar’s birth, one hundred thousand years ago.
“Let’s return to the city, and I’ll tell you.”


Echoes of War -- 4: Dances of WarPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. Paths of the Towers
  2. Stardust Rising
  3. Visions of Play
  4. Star Voice
  5. Star Shadow
  6. First Sting
  7. Oceans of Fire and Light
  8. Death Cry
  9. Awakening

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