My body is as light as the wind, as we race through the sky.
The Krale are gone, and the Bizra will soon return to these skies and the streets of our cities.
The world feels endless, rich with freedom and possibility.
Until thoughts of the future return, and weigh me down.
The prophecies of war.
The conflicting messages of good and evil, associated with the seven towers.
Freeing the old ones.
The sleepers, and the armies and ambitions of Tshuan.
Most troubling of all is the voice that calls me from within the closed city, warning of danger from an ancient enemy.
Only a small number of Jiku escaped the great war that wiped out the Jiku civilization.
When the survivors came to Siksa, they believed that no one could follow them here.
After all this time, has the enemy found us?
I know nothing about war or fighting.
My nature is to choose peace instead of confrontation, and too often, I choose acceptance instead of action.
Who do I need to become, here, now, and how do I find that person?
There are walls within me that stand in the way of action, but there’s also a fire in me, waiting to melt away those walls.
How do I free that fire, and where do I search for the help that we need?
The voice that calls from the city promises help.
It takes the shape of a beautiful woman, but she is not alive, and has no Jiku heart.
She says she will help us, after we find a way to enter the city.
Who built her, and when we enter the city, do we gain a great ally, or free a dangerous enemy?
How do we enter a place built to keep everyone out?
There are always more questions than answers.
The open sea becomes broken by islands, and I signal Balshown to slow down.
A few minutes later, we arrive at Shazira’s parents house, where the journey began.
Tzina’s grandparents are thrilled to see their only grandchild, and taste her smile again.
Shazira and Berek go inside with Tzina, while Balshown waits outside.
I say a quick hello, and then slip away to find a message wall.
Bintar’s face is filled with worry when he first sees me, but he relaxes when he sees my smile.
“We’ll be there soon with Berek,” I tell him.
“Did you find help for Tzina?” he asks.
“She’s tired but her mind is clear, thank the creator, and we will never see Krale again.”
“Not a story for few words, Bintar.”
“We’ll speak later.”
I hold up my palm in greeting, and break the link.
I wonder what will happen to the Watchtower.
Without the Krale, is there any need for the tower, and its guardians?
I love the energy of the Watchtower, as it rests confidently on the mountain, facing the lightning and the sea.
I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
The tower will stand unchanged for the next few months, at least.
Everything in the council goes according to tradition, and changes slowly.
The council will keep guardians at the Watchtower, for now.
Shazira and I will return to reclaim our place, at first sun.
Before that, I must fulfill a promise, and tell my family that I’m Berek’s father.
I walk outside to join Balshown.
“You look pained, Yagrin,” says Balshown.
“Too much thinking,” I answer.
“I hope you were thinking about the closed city.”
“The message you received was urgent.”
“We must go there immediately!”
“It is urgent, Balshown, but we have no idea how to enter the city.”
“Need is a great teacher, Yagrin.”
“This is the right time.”
“We’ll find the way.”
“In a day or two,” I tell him, “after I return to the Watchtower.”
Balshown leaves to report to the council about the end of the Krale.
I ask Shazira and Tzina to come with me to the Watchtower, to bring Berek to his parents.
Shazira is tired, but she’s fond of Berek.
She and Tzina happily agree.
We find Berek’s adopted parents on the Watchtower deck, near the healing room.
His mother, Zias, is so excited to see him return safely, that she kisses him, again and again.
Berek is eleven years old, and finds it a little embarrassing.
We move to the healing room, and they sit.
I stand and tell the story of healing Tzina and the Bizra.
A few times during the story, I share memories with them.
“How did you know what to do?” asks Zias.
“I don’t know,” I tell her.
“I trusted that the way was there, and reached for it.”
“Are you hungry?” asks Bintar.
“will you join us for a meal?”
“It’s time for me to keep my promise.”
“You just returned!” says Zias.
“Eat and rest today.”
“Tomorrow, you can honor your promise.”
“I have to do it now, before I lose the courage.”
I pause, and catch everyone’s eyes.
What words are enough to carry the message that Berek is really my son?
I spread my healing body on the energy web, and I feel everything in it’s place, surrounded by a great sense of peace.
I touch the minds of everyone around me, enough to share the feeling of peace with them.
We drift in that endless calm for a few minutes.
Finally, I let the feeling go, and face them again.
“There are no words for what I must tell you.”
“Instead, I’ll show you a memory that I recently discovered.”
“It shows an argument with my brother, not long before Berek was born.”
“I’m not proud of what you’ll see, but it’s time for us to share this, wherever it takes us.”
I showed the memory to Zias and Bintar before the trip, so they would let me take Berek to help save Tzina, his sister.
Tzina saw the memory when I joined with her mind, to heal her, but Shazira and Berek know nothing of this.
I bring all our minds together with a surface touch, just enough to share the memory, and let them see my shame.
Berek is the first to look up, his eyes full of tears.
“I have so few memories of my birth parents, and now they are clouded by this.”
“I’m so sorry, Berek.”
“Right now, all I can offer you is the truth.”
“What do you want from me?” he asks, loudly.
I pause for a few seconds.
“I’m not here to claim you, or to ask for anything.”
“I have no right, and you don’t need me.”
“You already have wonderful, loving parents.”
“Right now, only one thing matters.”
“You and Tzina deserve the gift of each other, as brother and sister.”
Tzina hugs him.
He holds on tightly, and doesn’t let go.
A few minutes pass.
“Let go Berek,” Tzina says gently.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
He lets go, and takes a deep breath.
Tzina moves back to Shazira, and comforts her crying mother.
“What do I call you?” Berek asks me, in a confused voice.
“I don’t know,” I tell him.
“Call me inta, like before.”
“I can’t do that,” he shouts.
“I can’t just pretend that nothing has happened.”
Zias takes his hand to calm him down.
She glares at me, angry that I’ve brought pain to her son.
“Go, Yagrin,” she says, “and stay away from Berek.”
“Wait,” he says, turning to me.
“I’ve felt a strange bond with you, ever since I met you, but I never imagined it was anything like this.”
Shazira’s sobbing grows louder and draws all eyes toward her.
She sits down, her face white, her eyes full of tears.
“I’m sorry Shazira.”
“I should have told you as soon as I discovered this.”
“That’s not it, Yagrin,” she says.
“I knew about this, Yagrin, but the memory was buried for a long time.”
“The old Yagrin told you about it?”
“And Berek’s birth parents kept it secret for years, even though his mother was an old friend of mine.”
“When the Krale attacked, she was struck by black lightning, like Balshown.”
“She suffered horribly for a day before she died, as her body turned to stone.”
“The healers were useless.”
“She called for me, told me the truth, and asked me to raise Berek.”
“I was furious at you when she first told me, but I couldn’t refuse her.”
“When I found you, I had already calmed down.”
“I told you what happened, but your foolish sense of honor wouldn’t let you break your promise to stay away from Berek.”
“He should have grown up with us,” she shouts, rising to her feet.
“When you refused to let him join our family, I was so angry I couldn’t bear to live with you.”
“Finally we decided to go to a Tshuan witch and erase the memory.”
“She told us that the memory would be hidden, not erased, and if you ever spoke of it, the memory would return.”
“Did the anger return with the memory?” I ask her.
“I’m not angry at you, Yagrin,”
“You’re not the same person, anymore.”
“Do you want to live with Yagrin and Shazira, Berek?” asks Zias quietly.
“It was your mother’s last wish.”
Berek is horrified, and hugs Zias and Bintar.
“You’re my parents,” he says, looking up at them.
“How could I live with anyone, but you?”
“Let’s go,” I say quietly to Shazira and Tzina.
Berek grabs my arm.
“I’m not rejecting you, inta.”
“How could I?”
“I look just like you, and I think of you, every time that I look in a mirror, but I’m so confused right now.”
“I need time away from you so I can think about what I want.”
“How long?” I ask him.
He lets go.
“I don’t know!” he says.
“How can I avoid you?” I ask him.
“Shazira and I are returning to the tower in the morning, and you’re here every day.”
“I’ll be gone before morning,” he says, “and I won’t be back until I’m ready to see you.”
“What about me?” asks Tzina.”
“Are you hiding from me, too?”
She turns away, crying.
“I’m not hiding, Tzina!” he answers.
“Not from you.”
“I was hoping to see you every day.”
“Somewhere, away from the tower.”
He turns to Shazira.
“Can Tzina stay with me for a few hours, today?
“You can’t ask her that, Berek,” says Zias.
“Tzina’s been away from her parents for weeks, trapped in her madness.”
“She should spend the day with them, and rest.”
“What do you want to do, Tzina?” I ask her.
She pauses, not wanting to answer too quickly.
“I want to stay with Berek, if it’s ok with you and oodah.”
Shazira wipes her eyes and stands up.
“You can spend the afternoon with him, but I want you home for dinner.”
Tzina hugs her mother and stands next to Berek.
“Thank you,” says Berek to Shazira, and he takes Tzina’s hand.
Bintar approaches me, and raises his palm in a farewell gesture.
“We’ll hand over the Watchtower to you and Shazira in the morning.”
“Although I don’t think the Watchtower needs guardians any more.”
These were my own thoughts, not long ago, but a voice within me turns me in another direction, and I speak.
“The tower is more than the metal, wood and stone of the building.” “The Watchtower is also the mountain, the light, and the guardians.”
“We are the heart of the tower.”
“The Bizra intended for the tower to have guardians, as long as it exists.”
“War is coming,” I tell them, “and the Watchtower is still full of secrets.”
“Soon, the tower will protect us again, but the tower is not enough.”
“My thoughts keep returning to the old ones.”
“When I think of them, I don’t see them singing or dreaming, far from our eyes.”
“I imagine them walking among us, in the cities and the tower, living and laughing with us, and teaching us.
“It’s time to end their dreams, and bring them home.”
“We need them to guide us, especially while we prepare for war.”
“Will the council approve of this?” asks Zias.
“Hundreds of ancient energy masters among us?”
“How can we trust them?”
“I’m not going to ask the council, Zias.”
“They want me to help the guilds prepare for war, and I need the help of the old ones.”
“The Bizra chose three hundred ancient masters of pure heart, and transformed them into old ones, so they could return to us at a difficult time.”
“I would trust any of them with my life.”
I turn to Shazira,
“I know we’ve just come home, but I must go now to Tshuan to free the old ones.”
“Sleep at my house, tonight.”
“I’ll meet you there, sometime before dawn.”
Shazira follows me outside to the deck.
The others stay inside.
“Yagrin, I know that you’ve shared thoughts and feelings with the old ones, but who can say what they’ve hidden from you!”
“Do you really know who they are, and what they’ll do?”
“Perhaps you’ll bring the war by freeing them!”
“I trust them,” I tell her.
“Think this through, Yagrin.”
“Don’t do this on your own.”
“The council could help you see all sides of the issue.”
“Not the council,” I answer.
“Then someone else,” she says.
Not long ago, I would have gone to Balshown, but that was before our trip together.
Balshown was prepared to kill millions of Bizra, in order to save us from the Krale.
He showed no sign of regret or hesitation in his heart.
Shazira is disturbed by Balshown’s behavior, as I am.
“Not him,” she answers.
“He has no heart.”
“There must be someone else you can speak with.”
She looks so worried.
“I’ll think about it,” I tell her, as I give her a long hug.
Then I take hold of the energy web, and rise to meet the open sky.
Why am I so sure about freeing the old ones?
A strong inner voice shows me what I must do, but what if Shazira is right, and I’ve been manipulated?
Am I fool to trust the old ones?
My certainty fades, and then leaves me, as my mind spins with endless thoughts, drowning out the inner voice.
I fly a mile out from land, over the open ocean.
Then I glide down until I’m hovering ten feet above the water.
I watch the endless movement of the waves, and spread the listener on the web.
This quiets my heart, so I can think clearly.
The inner voice returns, and I’m certain again that I must free the old ones.
In the coming wars, who knows what power our enemies will have?
The old ones have knowledge and skills long lost to us.
If I ask the council for permission, they’ll keep me waiting for months.
Then, they’ll tell me to do nothing.
The council gives orders, not advice.
They’re afraid of anyone with great power, like the Bizra or the old ones.
I know the council fears me also.
I’m still a traveler and an old one in their eyes, and now a brother to the Bizra.
Still, they have reasons to trust me.
I’ve trained with all the guilds, proved myself by destroying the Krale, and I have a family to protect.
Trusting me is an acceptable risk for the council, but they reject the old ones with one simple question.
What binds the ancient masters to serve the living, instead of conquering us?
Who will help me see the truth?
There is one living master who serves balance, not ambition.
He can help me find my balance again, and see a way through my spinning thoughts.
Chiwan will hear me, and see if my spirit is balanced and true, or twisted.