Free for a Moment
I love flying, being light and strong and free.
It brings me joy, even with all the thoughts of loss and doubt that drag me down.
Keela is annoyed with me.
She tries to hide it, but I feel it.
She wants us to fly fast and straight to the cave of the old ones, so she can be done with this errand.
I ignore her, and let my joy and love of flying guide us, following twisted curves that ride the energy of my emotions.
Is it impatience that drives her, or is it fear?
If the armband fails, my eyes will consume everything near me, including her.
If the journey is successful, what will happen to her?
She takes me to the cave of old ones, where no one has gone for a thousand years!
What secrets and danger are buried there?
She also fears the troubled future promised by ancient visions.
Old legends and wars will come alive again, and the world she knows will be lost.
Still, it’s something else that disturbs her.
She comes from a military family, and is taught to bury her fear.
My playful, childlike attitude in the face of danger bothers her more than all the rest.
“Master Yagrin!” she says at last.
“We must hurry to the cave.”
“I fear that we are being followed.”
The great web is a stranger to me while I carry this form.
I can’t turn the web to my will, but I can still see the energy world as clearly as ever.
I spread my energy sight in all directions.
Far behind us there are a dozen energy masters flying together, following us.
“You’re right, Keela.”
“We’re being followed.”
“They’re far away, but I see them, and I’m sure that they see us.”
“They’re keeping their distance, to see where you’ll take me.”
“They’ll be disappointed,” she says.
“When we approach the hills, we’ll vanish from their energy sight.”
“The cave guards itself.”
“It was built so that energy masters can’t find it, only old ones.”
We approach the seven hills of Tshuan, and touch down in a small clearing, surrounded with tall, golden grasses that move in the wind.
The wind makes a pleasant whistling sound as it finds its way through the grass.
There’s a peaceful feeling in this place, like coming home.
There’s also a strange humming.
I follow the sound, and it grows louder.
It leads me to a small red bush with purple berries.
I feel driven to brush aside some dirt near its base, and reveal a small blue stone with an engraved picture of a child with dark eyes.
“Excellent Master Yagrin,” she says.
“You’ve found the entrance stone.”
“This proves that you’re worthy to enter.”
“Stand back,” she says, “so I can open the cave.”
She takes my hand.
We touch the stone together, and the world grows dark.
Sunlight is replaced with a soft, bluish-green glow, and we we stand in a smooth, round cave of blue crystal, sixteen feet wide.
“What now, Keela?”
“Now, master, you meet the old ones, while I return to my father.”
“Close your eyes so I can take the armband.”
“You won’t need it here.”
I close my eyes, and she opens the armband and removes it.
“In a moment,” she says, “a tone will sound as I return to the surface.”
“Wait a few seconds.”
“Then, open your eyes.”
“You won’t damage the cave, but the light from your eyes will bring you to the old ones.”
“Will I see you again, Keela?”
“Who knows how long you’ll stay in the cave!”
“It may be a few months, or a hundred years.”
I start to speak again, but she cuts me off.
“I’m not allowed to stay here for more than a few minutes.”
She gives me a brief hug, and then, she’s gone.
A wave of sadness comes over me.
It’s not that I miss Keela, but with her gone, the outside world fades away.
I open my eyes.
There’s a brief flash of light, and I find myself in a round room, thirty feet wide, filled with twelve metal vats, steam rising above them.
Each vat is about five feet long, and two feet taller than the top of my head.
The vats are arranged in a circle, and each vat has a ladder.
I climb one of the ladders to look inside.
There is an old one, wearing a colorful robe, floating on some thick warm liquid.
Colored light and waves of energy pass over her body.
The robe looks completely dry, and sparkles in the waves of energy.
The old one’s eyes are open, but dull.
She’s somewhere far away.
“Dreaming,” says an inner voice.
I check the other vats.
A few are empty, and the others are filled with dreaming old ones.
All the old ones in this room are women.
The room’s circle is cut off on one side with a wall that has only a slight curve.
In the center of that wall is a large wooden door.
I touch the door, and it opens.
Another old one, also female, is standing there, waiting for me.
“I’m Niyta, leader of the old ones.”
She takes my hand and leads me toward the center of an enormous room.
The door closes behind us.
The Temple of Song
We’re in a perfectly round room, hundreds of feet across, with a ceiling that rises hundred of feet high.
The closed wooden door is one of twelve doors, evenly spaced around the edge of the room.
A path leads from each door, toward the center of the room.
There’s soft music that reminds me vaguely of the Kishla’s song, but no one is singing.
The walls, floors, and ceiling are made of a beautiful, polished crystal.
As I walk on one of the crystal paths, I feel its energy pouring into me.
Niyta stops at the edge of a great sunken area.
No, a temple.
There are twelve circular rows within the temple, each row closer to the center, and several feet below the prior one.
A column of colored light dominates the center of the room, rising from the bottom of the temple to the ceiling.
Patches of color, and fleeting images drift upward through the column.
Hundreds of old ones wait quietly, filling the rows of the temple.
“Our bodies have no use for food or sleep here,” explains Niyta.
“We use our time to explore.”
“Don’t you have to stay in the cavern?”
“Our bodies stay here and rest, while our spirits travel to other worlds.”
“You’ve seen one of our journey rooms.”
“There are twelve identical rooms, full of vats.”
“The vat chooses us.”
“We each find what our spirit needs.”
“Every day, some of us travel, and some of us are awake.”
“We come together each day in song, to renew the mind and heart, and find the inner strength to continue the long years.”
“Am I the only male old one?” I ask.
“You are the first,” she says.
“After the destruction, most of the masters wanted to leave this world.”
“They needed to escape Siksa, and live out their lives untouched by kings or guilds.”
“Let the future shape itself,” they said.
“We want our own lives!”
“Some masters became sleepers.”
“The people of Tshuan imagine that the sleepers are soldiers who will blindly serve the king.”
“The sleepers were selected well, to protect the world in the coming chaos.”
“Other masters were chosen to be old ones.”
“We weave balance within the chaos of existence.”
“We spend our years, hunting understanding and balance, so we can give that balance to the world.”
“To find this balance, we travel, and live out many lives.”
“The Bizra chose women masters to hold the balance.”
“They built the cavern and the vats, transformed us, and brought us here.”
“They said that when the time for old ones is nearly over, they will choose a Jiku man to join us, a traveler from across the possibility sea.”
“How long will I be here?”
“I don’t know,” she answers.
“Not more than a few years, but even a few months will bring you many lifetimes in the vats.
“Now come,” she says.
“Though you travel alone, you cannot travel the vats without our strength.”
“You will be bound to us, and carry that connection with you.”
“The song weaves our hearts together.”
“Sing with us, and share our strength.”
She interrupts me as I start to ask a question.
“Don’t worry,” she says.
“You’ll know what to do.”
She gives me a robe to put on.
Then she leads me to an empty spot in the top circle.
“This place,” she says, “has been waiting for you for a long time.”
She takes her place at the bottom of the temple.
Circle by circle, the singers begin.
I look at the temple with energy eyes.
Each old one sings her own song.
Each energy body resonates with the song that is only hers.
The songs join together to form one sweet song.
The song rushes up through the circles, like a great wave, until it reaches the top circle where I stand.
Our voices know what to do.
I am the last to find my own song, and join with the others.
The group song is complete, and our bodies rise and dance in the air.
I realize with excitement, that I can ride the energy web again, at least here, in the temple.
The song continues for days until our voices know it is time to find the end.
Those of us in the top circle stop singing and settle back to our places.
Circle by circle, slowly, the others finish, and the song is done.
“Now Yagrin!” says Niyta.
“Without thought, let your heart choose one of the twelve directions.”
I leave the temple, and take the path that glows within my energy sight.
“Follow the path to its journey room, and find an open vat.”
“Lie down, and let yourself go.”
“You’ll find your way to a place of learning.”
“These travels are different from the ones you’ve known.”
“Here you will be a witness.”
“You’ll see, hear, and feel all that takes place to your host.”
“You’ll know her thoughts and emotions like they were your own, but she will live out her life, unaware of your presence.
I walk the glowing path, and enter one of the rooms.
Three of the vats pull at me.
I choose one, find it empty, and lie down in the thick warm liquid.
In a few moments, I feel the world fading away.
How long will it be before I awake?