“The dream begins,” announces a woman’s voice.
The stadium lights dim, and we find ourselves in a large cave filled with fog.
“What is this, Keela?” I whisper.
“Illusion, Master Yagrin.”
“The stadium is still here, but you can’t see it.”
“The performers have built a stream of three-dimensional images and experiences which fill every corner of the stadium.”
“They call it the dream.”
The fog clears, and we’re in one of the vat rooms in the cave of the old ones.
Three old ones rise from the vats, and walk toward the door.
As we leave the room, we see other old ones walking out of the other vat rooms that surround the temple.
Thirty-six old ones move toward the temple, and take up their positions.
The song begins, and our point of view follows the old ones as they fly.
The images of the temple and the song are almost perfect.
How did the artists recreate this?
The stadium is perfectly still as the song continues for about twenty minutes.
Then we follow the old ones as they glide down to the floor of the temple.
Our point of view moves outside of the temple, and up to the grassy area of the seventh hill.
The dream then shows what I did when I freed the old ones, and ends with the old ones transformed into sisters, standing on the new clearing.
“How did they get the images of the cave?” I ask Keela.
“Some of the sisters helped.”
“There’s a device which allows a person to record select memories.”
“Then the artists use those memories as raw material to build the dream.”
“The guards recorded your actions when you freed the sisters,” adds Keela.
My family, and the king stare at me, with an expression of awe.
The king breaks the silence, and speaks for all of them.
“Master Yagrin, who taught you to do that?”
“No one,” I answer.
“I reached into myself to find what had to be done.”
The king sits in a chair, and motions to us to be silent.
The chair is covered in bright light, and the king’s image appears on the stage of the stadium.
“The dream that we’ve just seen shows us a few moments of life for the old ones, and the way that they were brought to us.”
“The celebration tonight honors them, and newfound members of the royal family, from the guild lands.”
The room is filled with light, and our images fill the stage for a few seconds.
“Tonight we welcome them all to Tshuan, and express our hope that we will see them here, again and again.”
Our images fade, and the performance continues, with the finest performers from all over the world.
How did the king organize this in just a few hours?!
There are short breaks between the performers, and they visit us in the kings’ room.
One of the singers is particularly interested to speak with me.
“Master Yagrin,” says Keela, “this is Tsuvay, one of the greatest singers in Tshuan.”
“I’ve heard that you sang with the old ones,” he says.
“I was an old one for a year.”
“Is it true that the old ones had two voices, and could hold two notes at once?”
I remember having two voices, and my body produces a chord, without thinking.
“You can still do it, Master Yagrin!” says Tsuvay.
“You’re right,” I agre, “but I didn’t realize it until now.”
Seeing the dream of the old ones singing, and hearing my own double voice again makes me feel homesick for the temple.
Which gives me an idea.
“Commander,” I say, “will you excuse me for a few minutes?”
“The show is almost over, Master Yagrin.”
“Then I must go immediately.”
“I want to visit with the sisters, and see how they’re enjoying the performance.”
“Keela,” says the king, “take Master Yagrin to the sisters, and make sure they have everything they need.”
“Yes, father,” she answers.
The sisters of the long path sit together on the left side of the stadium, in front of the stage.
Keela and I walk to a transport platform, accompanied by some of the king’s private guards.
Keela sets the controls on the wall, and we step onto the platform.
A swirling mix of sparkling color forms around the platform, and begins to spin quickly around us.
On one side of the platform, a white, door-shaped hole opens in the wall of color and sparks.
We step through it.
We arrive at another platform, in a small room, on the other side of the stadium.
A moment later, the wall of color that surrounds us there, stops spinning, and then disappears.
There are guards to greet us when we arrive.
Today, even the guards are dressed up.
The sisters wave happily, as each notices us, but otherwise they’re engrossed in the performance.
Even Makish is able to forget herself and enjoy the moment.
When the current performance ends, I move quickly to Niyta, and explain my plan to her.
“How will this work, outside the temple?” she asks.
“I’ll begin,” I tell her.
“Follow me, and you’ll all find the song.”
Word spreads quickly from one sister to another.
I’d prefer to tell each sister with a mind touch, but everyone has their mind walls up.
Makish gets the message, and comes over to me.
She takes my hands, and holds them together against her right cheek.
It’s a greeting used for family, and she considers me part of her family now.
Keela notices the gesture, and I explain to her that Shazira is descended from Makish’s sister.
“Imagine,” I suggest to Keela, “meeting your family after a thousand years!”
Keela looks back at me in wonder.
She can’t imagine what it’s like to live a thousand years.
Makish takes me aside.
“I need to warn you, Yagrin.”
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“Every wintzal is built upon something called the mind web, which is tied to your physical and energy bodies.”
“When flow masters use a mask to change their form, the mind web is unchanged, and the mind wall holds together.”
“If you flow your body in a true transformation, then the mind web changes, and the wall disintegrates.”
“Only the transformation from old one to Jiku preserves the mind wall.”
“You’re planning several transformations, and you’ll be unprotected after the first one.”
“I won’t allow that, here, among so many potential enemies.”
“You’re so protective of me, Makish!”
“You’re my family now, Yagrin.”
“I never had my own children, but I will protect my sister’s children with my life.”
“Even when a thousand years separate Shazira from my sister.”
“The performance will move so fast, Makish, that I won’t be exposed for long.”
“Rebuild the wall for me after the performance.”
“Then, you can try and teach me, so I can rebuild the wall myself.”
She frowns as though she is about to chastise a foolish child, but she finally agrees.
I speak to Keela.
I need her help, so I tell her some of what the sisters and I are planning.
“Master Yagrin,” she says, frustrated, and unsure of what do with me, “my father won’t like this.”
“He doesn’t like surprises.”
“I take full responsibility, Keela,” I respond.
“I’m not asking for your permission, so he can’t hold you responsible.”
“Besides, he said to give the sisters whatever they need!”
Keela grumbles, but she does what I ask, and speaks to the staff managing the show.
The manager comes to speak to me.
“Master Yagrin,” he says, trying to be diplomatic, “I’m sure your performance would be extraordinary, but how can we arrange it at the last minute?”
“We have no way to plan the lighting or music you’ll need.”
“We don’t need any lighting or music,” I answer, deflecting his excuse.
“We’ll provide our own, without any equipment.”
“Well,” he says, not giving up, “that’s not the biggest problem!”
“The king planned the finale, using masters of FlowSong,” he says.
“Their performance will be overshadowed by your spectacle.”
“You’ll ruin the ending to the show!”
I think for a moment.
“I’m also a master of FlowSong,” I tell him.
“Let me speak with them, and we’ll find a way to transition between the two performances.”
We meet to discuss the transition.
The art of FlowSong is a dynamic art, full of improvisation.
The masters are excited by the challenge of the transition, and confident in their ability to face the challenge.
The stage is at one end of the stadium, and there’s a large, grassy open area, just outside of the stadium wall, just behind the stage.
The show manager is troubled.
He dabs at his sweating forehead with a scarf.
“Master Yagrin,” he says, “I mean no disrespect, but are you sure you can reshape the stage when you are done?”
“It will be returned to you, exactly as I find it,” I answer.
He clearly doesn’t believe me, but will not challenge me any more.
I’m not sure if he’s afraid of me, or just afraid of the king’s displeasure,
I speak to the captain of the guard, and tell him the area he must evacuate.
“All people, and living things must be evacuated, captain, including the soldiers!”
“Anyone that remains within the defined area will disappear forever.”
“Princess,” he says, “are you sure about this?”
“It’s an order from me, Captain.”
“Evacuate everyone from the area that Master Yagrin has designated.”
“You have five minutes.”
There are exactly three hundred of the sisters.
Two hundred of them cannot fly outside of the temple of the old ones.
Keela brings me a flying armband.
Like other armbands, it has an inhibitor built-in, to block the power of energy masters.
I disable the inhibitor, and shape two hundred exact copies, and deliver them to the sisters.
The sisters pass around the armbands.
Those who need them, put them on, and activate them.
Then Niyta and I go onto the stage.
The crowd quiets.
“My name is Niyta,” she says, “and I’m one the sisters of the long path.”
“Yagrin is here with me.”
“He was an old one, once, as I was.”
“Though he was only with us for a year, he is our brother in all ways.”
“We want to thank the king, the princess, the guests, the performers, and all the workers here, for the extraordinary welcome you’ve given us tonight.”
“Many of us, including me, were born in Tshuan over a thousand years ago.”
“Tshuan has changed, of course, but you’ve made us all feel like we’ve come home.”
“You’ll forgive us, I hope, for disrupting the scheduled entertainment to provide some of our own.”
“What you’ll see will be real.”
“It’s not the dream, or any sort of illusion, but don’t worry.”
“You’ll be safe at all times.”
“Enjoy the show.”
We bow together, and she flies off the stage, and back to her seat, with a spinning motion.
She is covered in light the entire time, until she sits down.
As I straighten from my bow, electrical power is cut off to the stage area, and the stage goes dark.
Dance of Joy
A large, glowing, dark-blue hemisphere appears at the center of the stage.
I transform myself into an energy form which is visible to the eye, and appears like liquid crystal.
I fly to the hemisphere, and disappear into the stone.
When I arise from it, I’m glowing a beautiful dark blue, and my eyes are like spotlights.
The hemisphere disappears, but the stage is lit from my glow.
I shape additional support structures in various places near the front edge of the stadium, on the sides.
Then the stage disappears, along with the large areas on each side of the stage, opening the stadium to the grassy area beyond it.
I shape a great platform, beginning where the stage was and covering much of the grassy area.
The platform glows, lighting the area above it.
In the center of the platform, a column of light rises, like the column of light in the old ones’ temple.
I shape a small hill that rises from the center of the platform, one hundred feet high.
Then I rise high above the hill and transform myself into a large storm cloud.
Lightning fills the space above the hill, striking it again and again.
Each time that lightning strikes the hill, a flower grows in that place.
Finally, the lights of the platform dim.
In the stadium, each of the sisters is bathed in light, and rises from her seat.
Our party clothes are set aside, and each of us wears robes like the ones that we wore in the cave.
In twelve groups of twenty-five, the sisters move together like flocks of birds.
Then the sisters spiral up, high into the sky, before coming to rest in a circle at the edge of the platform.
The hill is transformed into thousands of cut flowers, which rise on a wind and rain down on the guests of the stadium.
The hemisphere of dark blue stone sits at the center of the platform, and the column of light shines through it, lighting the sky.
Each group flies down, and slows as they pass the blue hemisphere, letting their fingertips graze the stone.
As they touch the stone, their eyes glow dark blue, as the energy in the stone passes through them.
When the last of the groups touches the stone, it disappears.
I transform into Kishla, and circle the stadium.
The stadium is filled with my song, one that the Kishla use to fill their children with feelings of comfort, protection, and love.
Then I take back my Jiku form and rise above the hemisphere.
I let blue light shine from me, as I begin to move and sing, and the sisters follow.
They find their own songs, and the movement to accompany the songs.
Our combined song is like the song that we wove in the temple as old ones.
Like all songs of the old ones, this one is continually changing.
The sisters have a Jiku form, but like me, their voices can still hold two different notes at once.
The audience remembers the dream of thirty-six old ones that began tonight’s performance.
It gave them an idea of what the song could be.
Now they see a song of three hundred, rise before their eyes.
We continue the dance and song together for ten minutes.
Then, one at a time, a sister leaves the dance, and flies down toward the front of the stage facing the audience.
As she is about to land, I fly down, having transformed myself into her exact double.
In that form, I can touch her mind, even through the mind wall.
I thank each sister, for performing tonight.
The two of us land together and walk to the front edge of the stage, holding hands.
We smile at the crowd, and bow.
Then the sister retrieves her party clothes, changes, and returns to her seat.
Meanwhile, I rejoin the dance, waiting for the next sister to land on the stage.
Each sister takes about ten seconds to fly down and walk with me to the edge of the stage.
Fifty minutes pass, until only Niyta and I are left in the dance.
This time, we land together, and I keep my normal form.
We walk to the edge of the stage and bow as before.
“Thank you,” we say together, and Niyta goes to retrieve her clothes, and return to her seat.
The twelve FlowSong performers join me and begin their performance, standing close to the audience.
They flow shapes out of air, and their shapes change color, size, and form, moving high in the air.
As they perform at the front of the stage, I begin to flow the far end of the platform.
I flow pieces of the platform into a wide variety of shapes, which rise into the air, dance, and change, before disappearing.
Slowly, the platform seems to melt away, moving toward the stadium, and the grass returns to fill the space.
Finally the platform reaches the place where the outer edge of the stadium used to be.
As the platform continues to move in, the outer edge of the stadium reshapes itself, and the opening to the outside is gone.
The FlowSong performers rise into the air and move the performance into the center of the stadium, above the crowd.
I dissolve the platform into another wave of flowers, which washes across the audience.
Then I reshape the stage, and its surrounding areas, and reconnect the main cable.
The stadium becomes what it was, and the power and light return to the stage.
Other performers take control of machines which direct complex symbols and shapes of colored energy high above the stadium.
Then musicians come out on stage to play music in honor of the king and his guests, and the performance ends.
The audience does not applaud with their hands.
Instead they activate small cubes that shine light in different colors and patterns.
The stadium is filled with their light and joy.