Makish and I land on the deck of the Watchtower outside the healing room.
As I walk through the door, Tzina hugs me tightly.
“I missed you so much, ina,” she says.
I smile at her.
“I was only gone for a day!”
“I know,” she says, “but I was lost in my head so long, before you saved me.”
“I want to be near you and oodah.”
“How is Berek?” I ask her.
“Calmer,” she says.
“He’s getting used to the idea that you’re his father.”
“How does he like having a sister?”
“Ina, he and I were so close before.”
“In a strange way, we weren’t surprised to find out that we’re brother and sister,but we’re still thrilled by it.”
Tzina looks up as Makish enters the door behind her.
The two of them see each other’s eyes at the same time, and their hearts speed up.
“Tzina,” I tell her, “meet my friend, Makish.”
“She was an old one until a few hours ago.”
Tzina gives Makish the greeting of palms, then takes Makish’s hand, and squeezes it.
“It’s wonderful to meet you!” says Tzina.
“I’m happy to meet you, too,” says Makish, as a few tears fall.
“I haven’t seen anyone with eyes like mine in a thousand years.”
Tzina is quiet for a moment.
What can she say to someone a thousand years old, without sounding foolish?
Makish smiles at her, and puts her at ease.
“Do you like living here, Tzina?”
“I’ve never seen anything like it!”
“Do you know about the Watchtower, master Makish?”
“Your father told me a little about it, but I’d love to get a tour of it.”
We haven’t spoken of it, but Makish has seen my memories of it.
“Perhaps later,” I tell them, “but we don’t have much time.”
“Will she stay and eat with us, ina?” asks Tzina.
“Will who stay and eat with us?” asks Shazira, as she enters the healing room looking for Tzina.
She ignores Makish, and gives me a hug.
“Now,” says Shazira, “who’s our guest?”
“Shazira,” I say, “meet Makish.”
“She used to be an old one.”
“Now that they are Jiku again, we call them the sisters.”
They raise their palms in greeting, until they see each other’s eyes.
Then Shazira gives her a hug.
“There are so few of us,” says Shazira.
“How exciting to find that one of us was an old one!”
“Are there other sisters with fire eyes?”
“No, only me.”
“Will you eat with us, and sleep in the tower tonight, Makish?”
“Shazira,” I interrupt, “The king of Tshuan is hosting a party, tonight, for the sisters, and he wants me to bring my whole family.”
“Even me, ina?” asks Tzina.
“Especially you,” I answer with a smile.
“Tshuan?” asks Shazira.
“That’s too far to travel at night.”
“If we leave soon,” I tell her, “we can get there in time, and we can stay overnight, so we don’t have to return in the dark.”
“Please come, Shazira,” says Makish.
“I have to go, and I’m no good at parties.”
“I’d love to spend my time with you, and your daughter.”
“All right,” says Shazira, exhaling a long breath, “but we’ll need to get someone to take our place in the Watchtower.”
“I’ll message Bintar and Zias,” I tell her.
Shazira barely hears me.
She’s lost in thought, staring at Makish.
“Mommy, why are you staring at her?” asks Tzina.
“You see my fire eyes every day.”
“It’s not the eyes, Tzina,” she answers.
“I’ve seen her before.”
“That’s not possible, Shazira,” I tell her.
“Makish has been in that cave for a thousand years.”
“I know, Yagrin,” says Shazira.
“I’ve seen an image of her.”
Then Shazira smiles.
“I know where I’ve seen it,” she says to Makish.
“Come with me.”
Shazira leads us into the bedroom, and takes a six inch crystal disk, and a small cube from a storage place.
“There are images on this cube from ancient times.”
She touches her hand to the disk to activate it, and then places the cube on top.
She moves through an index of images until she finds what she’s looking for.
“Here,” she says at last.
A bright, three-dimensional image fills the air near the disk.
There are two women with fire eyes, laughing together.
One looks like an older version of Makish.
The second woman resembles her, and is holding a baby with fire eyes.
Makish’s face loses its color.
“Where did you get that?” she asks, raising her voice.
“Is it you in the image?” asks Shazira.
“It’s me,” she says, as the tears fall, “and that’s my sister, and niece,” she says, pointing.
“The images were captured before the war.”
“My sister, niece, and everyone with fire eyes were slaughtered during the war,” she adds, “because of their fire eyes.”
“No,” says Shazira.
“The family history agrees that your sister was killed in the war, but your niece, and five others with fire eyes, survived, hiding out in the Bizra lands.”
“The Bizra rescued them, and protected them until a few years after the war.”
“How do you know my family history, Shazira?” asks Makish.
“Because it’s also my family history,” answers Shazira.
“I’m descended from your sister.”
Makish sits on the bed, suddenly weak.
Tzina sits next to her, and holds her.
“I don’t know what to say,” she says, at last.
“You don’t have to say anything,” I tell her.
“You’re part of this family, now.”
Father and Son
Tzina takes me to another room to ask me a question.
“They told you to bring your family, ina, and Berek is part of this family.”
“Berek doesn’t want to be with me,”I tell her.
“You’re wrong, ina,” she says.
“He wants to spend time with you and us, but not as a random visitor, or even a nephew.”
“Berek wants to be part of our family.”
“He’s sure that you don’t want him as your son, and that you’re happy to go weeks without seeing him.”
“He wants you to show that you care about him, and insist that he spend time with you.”
“He told you this?”
“Never, but I’m sure of it.”
“If you’re wrong, Tzina, this will drive him away.”
“He’ll blame you as much as me, and he won’t want to see you for weeks or months.”
She pauses for a few moments, worried, as she imagines losing him.
Then she shakes off the feeling.
“I’m sure, ina.”
“I’ll message him.”
“Then you walk in front of the message wall.”
Am I ready to treat him as one of my children?
I’m not sure.
“Tzina,” says Berek, when he sees her.
“Hi, Berek,” she says.
“I’m going to a party soon, and I want you to come with me.”
“I hate parties,” he says.
“You know that.”
I step in front of the wall.
“I’m not ready to see you yet.”
“You promised that you would wait until I was ready.”
“I know,” I tell him, “but I have to break my promise.”
“I freed the old ones, and they’ve become Jiku again.”
“The king of Tshuan invited me to bring my family there, tonight, to a party for the old ones.”
Few people from the guild lands have ever seen Tshuan.
It’s a place of mysteries, irresistible to a curious, intelligent child, such as Berek.
How can he resist meeting hundreds of ancient masters?
“There will never be another gathering like this,” I tell Berek.
“You’re my son, and I won’t let you miss it.”
“I want you there, with me.”
Berek looks stunned.
“I don’t know, inta,” he says quietly.
“You have to come, Berek,” says Tzina.
“One of the old ones is my mother’s aunt.”
“She has fire eyes, and she lived through the destruction.”
“She’s a master from a powerful guild that no longer exists.”
“Imagine the stories she’ll tell us!”
Berek looks back and forth from Tzina to me.
I wrap my arms around Tzina, and kiss her head.
Then I look Berek in the eyes.
“I won’t go to this party without you,” I tell him.
“You’re lying,” he says.
“No,” I tell him, surprised at my own certainty.
“We go as a family, or not at all.”
His eyes fill with tears.
“I’ll come,” he says slowly, “if my parents give me permission.”
He goes off to ask them.
“What did you say to him, Yagrin,” asks Bintar, surprised, “to convince him to go with you?”
“His eyes are full of tears, but he’s the happiest I’ve seen him, since you healed his mother.”
I tell him what I said to Berek.
“How can he believe that!” says Bintar.
“Of course you would go without him.”
“I mean it.”
“My whole family goes, or none of us.”
“You’ll tell them all that he’s your son?”
“I’m proud of him.”
“He’s a wonderful boy, and I want everyone to meet him, tonight.”
Eventually, Bintar agrees.
The Three Gifts
Makish and I can glide faster along the web than Shazira can fly in her winged form.
Besides, she doesn’t want to get sweated up before the party.
I carry Tzina and Berek in an energy net, and Makish carries Shazira, as we glide quickly to Tshuan.
I message Keela, so she’s expecting us.
We go straight to the building where we’ll be fitted for clothes.
There are attendants there who have been told to expect distant members of the royal family.
They are shocked to find people from the guild lands.
Each of us is brought to a separate room to be measured.
I remove my clothes, and stand within a narrow closet.
Many thin beams of light pass across my body, from head to foot, and take measurements.
Then I get dressed and return to a central room where Keela waits for us.
I introduce Keela to Tzina.
Though Tzina is several years younger than Keela, they’re about the same height.
The guild lands are full of legends and rumors about Tshuan and its people.
Tzina is fascinated to meet a Tshuan girl, and curious what it’s like to be a princess.
While they speak, Keela shows us how to use the simulator.
It shows us how we would look in any of the available styles and colors of clothing, suitable for the king’s celebration.
Each of us picks our clothes, with suggestions from Keela and the rest of the group.
The clothes will be made, and delivered to us within a few minutes.
Berek is the last to arrive in the central room, after the rest of us have already chosen our clothes.
“Is everything all right, Berek?” asks Tzina.
“Yes,” he answers, “but I don’t like small spaces.”
“It took me a while to find the courage to enter the measuring booth.”
Niyta joins us, and I introduce her to Shazira and Tzina.
Berek stands behind me, nervous at meeting strangers.
“Who is this, Master Yagrin?” asks Keela, in a happy, friendly way.
“He looks so much like you!”
Berek looks uncomfortable, and we exchange glances.
Then I take one of his hands, and hold it tightly, while Tzina takes the other.
“He’s my son, Keela.”
“Master Yagrin,” says Keela, turning to me, “we did research on your family, and found no mention of a son, only a nephew.”
“The secret was hidden,” I answer.
“Everyone alive, including me, thought that Berek was my nephew, but I recently discovered that he’s my son.”
“Outside of us, only his adopted parents know.”
“His birth mother is dead.”
“Welcome to Tshuan,” she says brightly to Berek.
“The king will be happy to meet you.”
“Your father is already a legend here.”
“A legend, Keela?” I protest.
“I’m only a master.”
“Master Yagrin,” she says, challenging me, “you’re descended from the last Tshuan king before the destruction, as we are!”
“You’re a closer genetic match to him than my father!”
“You carry your own black necklace.”
“You wear the spinning sword without fear.”
“Our most hidden artifacts recognize you as their master.”
“You will wake the sleepers.”
“You have dreamed with the Bizra.”
“You were an old one, and you freed them by turning into a mountain!”
“Stop, Keela,” I tell her.
“I’m done,” she says, “but I’m sure the list is much longer than the few things that I know about!”
“Yagrin,” asks Makish with fear in her voice, “you hold the spinning sword?”
“It caused the worst destruction of the war, and killed millions!”
“Do you know how to use it?” she asks me.
“No, Makish,” I answer, “and I don’t want to know.”
“Good,” she says.
“I hope that the knowledge is lost forever.”
“None of the sisters knows how to use it, and Botzar never revealed that knowledge to anyone.”
“Where did you find the sword?”
“It was hidden in The Breath of Life,” I tell her.
“I went there with Shazira and Tzina to find balance, not the sword!”
“The Bizra told us of the Breath of Life,” says Niyta, “a place of peace, that will only open for those who seek peace.”
“How did the king hide it there?” I ask.
“Why would the breath open for the king who caused the destruction?”
“The king loved peace,” answers Makish, sadly.
“He wanted to use the sword to stop the war, but he couldn’t control the energy he released.”
“He killed millions, Makish!”
“Why would the breath let him in?”
“Maybe,” she says at last, “because hiding it away, would help bring peace to the world.”
“I still don’t understand how you found it.”
“It wouldn’t be lying around in the open.”
“I poured my energy into the Breath of Life, and it revealed three gifts to us,” I say.
Makish shudders when I call the sword a gift.
“Each one of the items seemed like it was prepared and waiting especially for us.”
“The disk for me, and bracelets for Tzina and Shazira.”
The King’s Daughter
“They can’t pick up the disk, or move each other’s bracelets.”
“Do you have the bracelets with you?” she asks Tzina and Shazira.
They take out the bracelets.
They brought them with us to wear at the party.
Makish looks at them in awe.
“Yagrin, perhaps they are the sheath!” she says.
“What is the sheath?” asks Keela.
“The king disappeared for months after the destruction.”
“We thought he had killed himself, or was in hiding.”
“His entire family was dead, and many survivors wanted to execute him for what he had done.”
“Then he appeared, talking to himself, half-mad.”
“He was like a shadow, waiting to die.”
“He disappeared a few days later, and was never seen again.”
“He must have survived and had more children,” says Berek.
“Otherwise, today’s royal family would not be descended from him.”
“No,” says Keela.”
“The council searched for his energy across the whole planet.”
“He was gone.”
“Today we know that one of his children survived, and our royal family descends from her.”
“Botzar sent away a baby daughter in the care of a trusted nurse.”
“The two of them survived the destruction, and the nurse raised her as her own child.”
“The girl might have been killed if anyone knew she was a child of the king.”
“A hundred years later, when the nurse was close to death, she told the girl the truth.”
“The king’s daughter passed the secret on to her own children, who gave the secret to their children.”
“The secret was carefully hidden.”
“Still, many of the king’s descendants were so ashamed of their ancestor that they left Tshuan never to return.”
“Another hundred years passed.”
“The Bizra told the people of Tshuan to renew their kingdom, and find someone genetically related to the old king.”
“The Bizra gave the Tshuan people a box, containing the black necklace.”
“If someone can open the box,” they said, “it shows that he or she is descended from the king.”
“The Tshuan council of elders tested everyone within Tshuan.”
“Finally, they found the descendants of the king’s daughter.”
“One of them opened the box, and lifted the necklace.”
“He was the first in the line of new kings that extends to this day.”
The Family of the Sword
“Where did the last king go when he disappeared for months, Makish?” I ask.
“Some say that the king went far away to ask for help, to a place called the seven towers.”
“According to the story, the king was given three gifts, two of which formed a sheath to cover the sword, and a third which was called the shield.”
“The story says that when the family of the sword assemble, carrying the sword, the sheath, and the shield, then the sword can be used for peace.”
“It’s a story of hope,” she says, “but none of us believed it was true.”
“Not after the destruction that came with the sword,” she adds.
“If the king talked to no one,” asks Berek, “who would know to tell the story?”
“In those times, there were Dream Hunters, who could see hidden things,” she answers.
“Or perhaps the story was spread by the Bizra, who have their own dreams of the hidden.”
“Wherever it came from, no one believed the story, and it was soon forgotten.”
“Why do you think our bracelets are the sheath?” asks Shazira.
“I’m not sure of it,” answers Makish, “but you found the bracelets together with the sword.”
“The story says that the the two parts of the sheath rest upon golden eyes.”
“It must be referring to two people with fire eyes.”
I take off my belt, and dissolve the crystal case that holds the disk.
I hold the medallion in my hand, and turn it over, revealing the symbol of the sword.
“Try to pick it up Makish,” I suggest.
She tries to lift it, but it won’t move.
Only those with a close genetic match to the last Tshuan king, can handle the disk.
“I can’t bear to look at it,” she says at last.
“I lived through the destruction!”
Makish pushes my hand, trying to get me to put it away.
The disk falls from my hand, and Berek reaches out automatically, to catch it before it falls.
It glows in his hand, as it glows in mine when I handle it.
“Does it feel light in your hands, Berek, or heavy?” I ask.
“Strangely light,” he answers.
I take it from him, and reshape the crystal case around it that holds it to my belt.
“If the story is true,” says Makish, “and I have guessed right, you have everything but the shield.”
“What is the shield, Makish?” asks Tzina.
“No one knows,” she answers.
“The story says only that the shield was separated from the other three items.”
“I know what the shield is,” says Keela, quietly.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Remember the black necklace that my father showed you?” she asks.
“When the Bizra gave it to the Tshuan people, they called it The Shield of Tshuan.”
“They told us that the one who can raise the shield will become king, and restore Tshuan to its greatness.”
“We never understood what raising the shield meant.”
“Most of the royal family can open the box that guards it.
“A few of us can pick up the necklace, although it feels heavy.”
“My father believes that the story speaks of someone who will raise the shield in battle to defend us.”
“He thinks it is you, Master Yagrin, because you carry a near double of the shield,”
“I wonder though if one person is meant to carry both the shield and the sword?”
She stops speaking suddenly.
“Your necklace,” says Keela, “has anyone ever handled it besides you?”
“I’ve always been afraid of the black stone,” says Shazira.
“I know it’s foolish, but I even told Tzina not to touch it.”
I take it out from beneath my shirt, and rest it in my hand.
“Pick it up, Shazira,” I say.
She tries, but it won’t move for her.
Tzina also tries, but can’t budge it.
“I’m still afraid of it, Inta,” he says, “but I’ll try.”
His hand moves painfully slowly toward the necklace.
Then he picks it up without effort.
The necklace, the bracelets, and the disk are surrounded with a light purple glow, and the air is filled with a beautiful sound, like a single chord.
I can feel the energy that moves in a circle through the four objects.
Then, after a few seconds, the glow fades, and the gifts return to their silence.