We walk together on the mountain, enjoying the cool breeze.
Berek stops and looks confused when I remove his energy shield.
“Why did you dissolve the shield, ina?” he asks.
“I can’t fly without it.”
“Your next practice will be without a shield, but you won’t be doing much flying.”
I take him up five hundred feet.
“When I release you, let yourself fall for five seconds.”
“Connect to the web to stop your fall.”
“Hover in place for a few seconds, but don’t move.”
“Then rise to where you started.”
“Disconnect, count to five as you fall, and repeat.”
“For how long?”
“Hundreds or thousands of times!”
“Do it until I tell you to stop.”
“That will take hours.”
“To master flying, you need to instantly connect or disconnect without fear.”
He knows how to connect, but not without erratic movements.
A few times, I catch him before he plunges into the ocean.
Soon, the sudden movements get smaller and smaller, until he barely moves when he connects or disconnects.
“That’s good enough, Berek.”
“I’m still moving a little.”
“You can practice more on your own.”
“You have enough control to try taking off and landing.
Taking off is easier than landing, but after a while he gets it.
“Follow me,” I tell him, as I rise fairly slowly into the sky.
He follows me for another few hours, as I make small adjustments to my speed or direction.
I stop, and turn to face him.
We hover together, as I let him rest.
“Follow me again,” I shout, as I pull away, and execute sudden, complex maneuvers, like right-angle turns.
He has a good connection with the web, but not deep enough to protect him against nausea.
“The turns are making me sick,” he shouts.
“Keep going,” I tell him.
“You need these skills to escape danger, and for maneuvering in tight places, especially at high speeds.”
“Ignore the nausea as long as you can.”
“You’ll have to live with it until you learn to make a deeper connection with the web.”
“I’m sick, just from sudden turns at slow speeds.”
“I’ll never be able to do this when I’m flying fast.”
I expect him to give up, but he keeps going until he gets so dizzy and nauseous that he can’t fly straight.
I heal his motion sickness and we start again.
We practice sharp turns for the next three hours, stopping every few minutes so I can heal his motion sickness.
“When will I be able to do this without getting sick?” he asks.
“It depends on you, Berek.”
“You have to surrender yourself completely to the web.”
“I’ll never get it.”
“You’re learning quickly, and your connection is getting deeper, as you trust the web more and more.”
“I still feel clumsy.”
“Spend a few hours each day in the training circle, practicing the turns.”
“Are we stopping now, ina?”
“No, but there are other things that I need to teach you.”
I find a beach, and we rest on the sand.
I show him how to bind together several patterns to make a standard energy shield for flying, and attach it to his physical and energy bodies.
“There are many types of energy shields, Berek.”
“Some are like a wall, that stands before you, in one place.”
“Other shields are like a garment which always surrounds you.”
“It’s more difficult to shape a shield that moves with you, but that’s what the standard flying shield does.”
“It clings to you, just outside your skin or clothing, and it responds to your will.”
“When you first raise the shield, only air, and your breath can pass through it.”
“Nothing solid can strike you, or even touch you.”
“I can’t eat or drink without dropping the shield?”
“You can bring things through your own shield from outside, and you can reach through it, selectively, to touch what you wish.”
“However, since the shield responds to your will, it’s hard to maintain it, at first.”
I fashion special clothing, face mask and boots for him, out of a light, strong material.
“Even stone, won’t tear this clothing,” I tell him.
“What’s this for?” he asks.
“Put it on, Berek.”
“You’ll need it for the next step in the training.”
To become a master, I had to learn how to train apprentices.
The training works, but it’s harsh.
I never thought I would have to use it on my own son.
I throw a cloud of small stones at Berek, first as he stands still, and then as he walks or runs, and finally, as he flies.
When his shield weakens, some of the objects strike his protective suit.
The stones hurt and bruise him, but don’t cut him.
“How do I keep the shield in place, ina?”
“Feel it wrapped around you, like a thick garment.”
We try again.
“I can’t hold the feeling every second, ina,” he says, as he touches his bruises.
“My attention wanders, and the shield drops.”
“Soon you’ll have to fly without a mask, Berek.”
“If the shield fails when you’re moving at high speed, you won’t be able to breathe or see, and if you collide with a bird or anything hard, you’ll be killed.”
“The shield must be a habit, that stays with you, and protects you at all times.”
I rise and hover in the air, and show him a cloud of hard crystal fragments.
“More stones, ina?”
“This will teach you to keep the shield in place.”
“The cloud will surround you as you fly, for the rest of our practice today.”
“I’ll fly faster than before, and I expect you to keep up with me.”
“The fragments won’t penetrate your clothing and cut you, but you’ll be struck hard, again and again, leaving you with large bruises.”
“Why do I have to suffer to learn how to fly?”
“First nausea, and now getting beaten!”
“I thought flying would be wonderful!”
“You’re ruining it for me.”
“It will be wonderful, Berek, when you finish your training.” “For now, nausea is an unavoidable part of flying.”
“You’ll desperately want to avoid it, and that will motivate you to make a deeper connection with the web.”
“The threat and pain of the crystal cloud will push you to make your shield a habit.”
“Isn’t there another way?”
“Flying is deadly without a shield.”
“Once you learn to fly, you have to build the habit as quickly as possible.”
“The temptation to fly is too irresistible.”
Berek is quiet, but he still looks troubled.
“It’s your choice,” I tell him.
“We can stop.”
“We can end the training right now, and forget about flying.”
He flies through the stones that I put between us.
Whenever the shield falls, he’s battered by the crystal cloud, and quickly restores his shield to stop the pain.
Periodically we stop to rest, and I heal his bruises.
He grows tired as the hours pass, but despite his fatigue, the habit builds.
During the last thirty minutes of our practice, we fly without the cloud, and still, his shield stays up the whole time.
When we land, I use my healing skills to restore his strength, and heal his bruises one last time.
“Feel better now, Berek?”
He nods, but he doesn’t smile, as he remembers the pain.
I give him a hug, and kiss him on the head.
“Is that the hardest part of the training, ina?”
“That’s the worst of it, Berek.”
“We’re done with flying for today.”
I teach him the energy patterns for the clothing and the crystal cloud.
Then I watch him shape and dissolve the forms until he has them clear.
“Practice flying with the cloud for twenty minutes a day, every day for the next three weeks.”
“The habit is already strong, but three weeks of practice will make the shield unforgettable.”
“Mayla!” I call loudly.
She appears instantly.
“How long have we been in the simulation in real-world time?”
“The language training was about an hour and a half, and the flight practice was another hour.”
“We’re ready to leave the circle.”
“Soon, Yagrin,” she says.
“There are more skills that I need to teach you.”
“No,” I tell her.
“Berek must go, and I need to explore the fountain.”
“I won’t let you leave yet,” she says.
“I have a duty to protect you and this world.”
“The city will be at the center of any fight to protect Siksa.”
“Every commander must know the city’s capabilities and control systems.”
“How else can you make decisions when the city is threatened?”
“Find another commander then.”
“You opened the city, Yagrin, just as the Dream Hunter predicted.”
“Shilann trusted those dreams, and ordered me to make you the new commander.”
“There is no one else!”
“How long will it take me to learn to command the city?”
“Not long,” she says.
“I’ve slipped the knowledge into you while we argued.”
“See if you can find it.”
I close my eyes and think about the city, and find myself in a lucid, waking dream, hovering above the city as a sparkling cloud of light.
The city appears semi-solid, with the outside and inside of all buildings and rooms visible at once.
I understand, generally, what each room is used for.
When I focus on a building or room, I glide into it, and understand its purpose, in detail.
I pass through several rooms this way, gaining a detailed knowledge of their use,
Then I pull back, above the city, to find the command center, five connected rooms.
I focus on the central room, and then glide through the others.
When the knowledge comes, I remember how to operate the city’s weaponry, as though I’ve always known it.
I think of the library that Mayla spoke of.
A wall near me opens, to reveal an entrance to a spinning tunnel of light.
I enter the tunnel, and find myself in another three-dimensional vision.
The library appears as an endless matrix of tall rooms with no doors, each room a cube of different colors and materials.
I float through this world as I floated through the city.
When I think of a subject, related cubes light up, and I have a rough idea of what’s in each place.
When I focus on the cube, it surrounds me, greeting me with a spinning cloud of words and pictures, and filling me with detailed knowledge.
An orange mist covers some of the chambers, but if I concentrate, I pass through the mist, and hover outside of the cube.
These rooms have openings covered with a silvery, sticky surface.
I know I could enter, but I feel that I should wait for another time.
My attention falls on other chambers covered in a thick, blood-red fog.
I push hard with my mind, but I can’t pass through the fog.
“Mayla, why are parts of the library difficult or impossible to enter, and covered in orange and red?”
“Those are the secure areas of the library, Yagrin”
“I thought the Bizra erased any knowledge that was dangerous.”
“There are many dangerous secrets that they left here, Yagrin.”
“This knowledge must always be guarded, but not from you.”
“What about the red areas?”
“I can’t see what’s in there.”
“Your mind generates those colors, Yagrin.”
“Red has different meaning among different races.”
“The only knowledge that’s closed to you, is the knowledge that the Bizra destroyed.”
“Why is there still a trace of it in the library?”
“I kept copies of everything they destroyed, but that knowledge will remain sealed forever, unless the Bizra ask for it.”
“Where is the Heart Fountain, Mayla?”
“I can’t find it in the city.”
“It’s not in the rings.”
“I’ll tell you what can be told when you’re ready to enter.”
“Not yet,” she says.
“I have one last order from Shilann to carry out.”
We find ourselves in a meeting room, like the one where we met Mayla.
“Where are we?” asks Berek.
“Still in the simulation,” says Mayla, “ready to fulfill the Dream Hunter’s vision.”
We see an image of a woman with intense eyes, and hear her words:
The mountain that flies.
The sun that swims.
The bird that glows, opens an ancient door.
He brings worlds together.
Days pass in hours on the first day.
He commands, and the city shows him its secrets, its thoughts covered in red and gold.
He swims in images, and flies in circles with another.
Their hands full of weapons, disks, and glass.
Storms circle them, and welcome their strength.
Thunder and earthquakes, swords and shields, shake and tear the world, but bind their hands together.
The king has come.
“What does it mean, Mayla?” asks Berek.
“Some visions are words, and some are images.”
“This one had both, but the Dream Hunter said that the images must be hidden.”
“The words make little sense on their own,” I tell her.
“Yes,” agrees Mayla, “but the Dream Hunter added her own words to explain some of the vision.”
“She planned your training and said that the additional words are only for the two of you.”
The one who opens the city will take many shapes, and carry the strength of a bird, a mountain, and the sun.
He will be the next commander.
He will enter the training circle on his first day in the city, and he will come with another.
They will train together in Fiklow language, weaving, and war.
They will find strength in forces that have the power to tear the world apart.
“Who is the king, Mayla?”
“She didn’t explain that, Yagrin, but she must have seen your face in the vision, and you look just like Botzar.”
“How long will the training last?”
“Not long in real-world time.”
She pauses and stares at Berek.
“Let’s get started,” I tell her.
“I never expected it to be someone so young!” she says.
“I know, Yagrin, that I told you not to treat him like a child, but how can I give him this training?”
“Why not?” asks Berek.
“You heard the Dream Hunter’s explanation.”
“The training she prepared is for war.”
“The first part teaches how to build and use various small weapons, control disks, and inhibitors.”
“The second part teaches how to command storms, weather, and earthquakes, and use them as weapons.”
Berek and I look at each other, without speaking, thinking of our love for storms.
“Give Berek the storm training,” I tell Mayla, “but not the rest.”
“The Dream Hunter was clear,” she says, “that whoever shares the simulation with you, must get the training.”
“I can do it, ina,” says Berek.
“War is coming.”
“You’ll need my help.”
“We have to keep this training a secret from your parents, Berek.”
“They wouldn’t approve.”
“I don’t like keeping secrets from them, ina,” he says, “but I’ll do whatever you ask.”
Mayla slips the knowledge into us: plans and energy patterns for twenty different weapons, inhibitors, and multi-function disks.
The training teaches us how to build them, flow them, how to use them, and how to defend against them.
“These are the most powerful small weapons we have, Yagrin,” she says.
I recognize one of the weapons, and I shiver.
“How could you show Berek the plans for the Sphere of Itarus?” I yell at her.
“Will he need to burn or shatter the planet?”
“Earthquakes and volcanoes can also shatter and burn a world.”
“This is war, Yagrin!”
Berek touches my shoulder, and I calm down.
“Where did you hear that name, Yagrin?” asks Mayla.
“The sphere of Itarus was the old name for the weapon, but I never used it with you in the training.”
“I’ve seen one of the spheres.”
“Find it and destroy it!” she says.
“They’re part of the training, but those weapons are only for the most desperate situations.”
Mayla leads us to a shaping machine, and shows us how to use a built-in index of plans.
Berek and I each find and load one of the plans, and watch as the machine forms two hand weapons.
“The shaper is not limited by the objects in its index.”
She puts a flexible cap on my head.
“This is a neural interface to the shaper.”
“Focus on one of the plans that I taught you.”
A green crystal platform appears in my mind, surrounded by twelves shapers.
The inhibitor rests on the platform.
I see at once the finished object, a three-dimensional plan, and a stream of data that circles around the inhibitor. The data contains the coded instructions to the shaper that it uses to build the object.
I move my mental image of the object, off the platform and into the image of the shaper.
“Open your eyes, Yagrin,” says Mayla.
The machine delivers the inhibitor.
We practice with each of the plans, except the sphere.
Then Mayla shows us how to create our own plans, specifying material, size, structure, etc.
“The training has placed hundreds of plan elements in your mind, to use to create your own plans.
I’m not good at this.
I’m slow, and the designs I create produce relatively simple items.
Berek quickly assembles designs for several complex items, and feeds them to the shaper.
“Now,” says Mayla, “use flow to create the weapons.”
We practice for hours until we can shape any of the weapons in an instant.
Mayla puts us in a battle square, and sends machines to attack us.
Berek and I use the flying shield to protect ourselves, and the weapons to destroy the attacking machines.
Berek, I notice, is faster than I am, at least when I don’t use my Gen speed.
Our battle practice lasts for several hours, as we get familiar with each of the weapons.
“Why bother with weapons?” asks Berek.
“We could just flow them into water.”
“Try it,” says Mayla.
We return to the battle square.
We flow weapons and destroy the machines, when we find that we can’t flow them away.
“They’re protected with a flow shield,” she tells us.
“Once the shield is in place, nothing can remove it.”
Mayla tells us to attach several weapons to our belts for the next battle.
Then we fight against machines that carry inhibitors.
In their presence, we can’t flow at all, and have to use the weapons that we already carry.
“Do they have this kind of inhibitor in Tshuan, Mayla?”
“This one works at a distance of twenty feet.”
“The Tshuan armband inhibitors only work when they touch your skin.”
“How do we defend ourselves against the inhibitors?” asks Berek.
“You can watch for them with energy sight, while they are still out of range, and destroy them with conventional weapons.”
She shows us how to tune a flying weapon to target the inhibitor, and destroy it.
“The inhibitor works against flow and weaving, but not healing.”
“Powerful healers, like Yagrin, can use their healing ability to shatter the inhibitors, even at close range.”
Mayla shows us how to to put a flow shield on weapons or ordinary items, first using the shaping machines, and then with flow itself.
This is the same shield technology that they use in Tshuan.
I can penetrate it, using the grandmother pattern, but I don’t reveal this to Berek or Mayla.
We practice the shields, and then Mayla leaves us alone as we rest.
I touch Berek’s shoulder.
“Promise me, that you won’t use these weapons unless you need to protect yourself or other Jiku.”
“I promise ina,” he says.
“Promise again, Berek,” I tell him.
He’s surprised at my request for a second promise.
“I promise, ina,” he says.
“I won’t use the weapons unless my life, or the lives of others are in danger.”
“Good,” I tell him.
Mayla returns and sits with us.
“I saw your performance in Tshuan,” she says, “where you shaped a storm.”
“Thanks, but do you watch everyone at all times?”
“I can observe and record events, anywhere in the world.”
“I don’t like being watched,” says Berek.
“I can observe everything, but I don’t.”
“Mostly I focus on the Bizra, the guild council, and the armies of Tshuan.”
She looks at me with an intense gaze.
“I also follow the actions of a few masters that have caught my attention.”
“I hope I don’t bore you.”
She gets up.
“Are you ready to learn how to use the planet’s strength?”
“Can we learn first about storms?” asks Berek.
“I want to learn how to shape a storm like my ina did.’
“I’m going to teach the two of you a completely different way to shape storms.”
“Not with flow?” asks Berek.
“No,” she says.
“We’ll use the healing skill instead.”
“Healing!?” I ask.
“Yes,” she answers.
“The entire planet is like an immense physical body, with an energy body tied to the physical one.”
“Is it intelligent?” asks Berek.
“A good question,” she says, “but we don’t know the answer.”
“When you connect with Siksa, and learn to use her power, you can decide for yourself.”
“I don’t know anything about healing,” says Berek.
“Healers use many remedies and special movements to heal,” says Mayla.
“These are part of the guild training, but you won’t need them to touch the planet’s power.”
“They’re not the true key to healing.”
“Do you agree, Yagrin?”
“The healing skill has two essential parts, a healing sense, and healing energy.”
“The healing sense feels like a special intelligence that lives in us.”
“It’s also called the healing body, the listening body, the listener, or healing eyes.”
“It shows us the balance of energy, movement, and other forces at work in a physical body, a building, or a mountain.”
“A healer can radiate a special energy that alters the balance of a system.”
“If the healer is powerful enough, she can bring any system to change, grow, find balance, or decay.”
“In a living creature, for example, she can heal sickness, regrow damaged tissue, alter the body’s temperature, even make the bones crumble.”
“Healers use the listener as a weapon to kill and destroy?!”
“It’s possible, Berek,” I admit, “but the guild doesn’t teach us to use our talent that way.”
“Will Mayla teach us that?” he asks.
“I’ll show you,” she tells us, “how to use the listener to touch the planet’s balance, and take control of the forces that drive weather.”
“How can anyone connect with the entire planet or its energy body?” asks Berek.
“Even Yagrin isn’t powerful enough to do it alone,” says Mayla.
“You’ll teach us to combine our strength with other healers?” I suggest.
“The key to it,” says Mayla, “is a unique pattern, unknown among the guilds today.”
“Look with your energy eyes, Berek,” she says, and shapes a bright, complex energy pattern.
“The grandmother,” I tell her.
She’s surprised, but she recovers quickly.
“Another time, Yagrin, you’ll tell me how you learned of it.”
“Did you know,” she asks me, “that you can use the grandmother to connect your listener with anything, no matter how large or complex?”
“I’ll show you how.”
“I have no listener,” says Berek.
“Your training can’t help me.”
“Today, Berek, we’ll teach you about the listener.”
“Another day, I’ll teach you how to use the listener to create storms, and other planetary events.”
Mayla turns to me.
“I need you, Yagrin, to awaken Berek’s listener.”
“Then I’ll work with him to strengthen it, while you practice other skills.”
“It’s against guild law,” I tell them, “to awaken the listener in anyone other than an apprentice.”
“The guild must accept him first.”
“You won’t do it, ina?” asks Berek.
“I’ll do it, but you can’t tell anyone.”
I release the listener within me, and touch the balance of Berek.
I listen to the waves of energy that move through him.
Then I look inside myself, and find the spring of healing energy, and let it become a fountain that covers Berek’s fire body.
At that moment, the glow ignites within me, and the glow mixes with the healing energy.
The glow is many things, including an amplifier and a catalyst.
Berek gasps as his healing sense opens too wide, like a waterfall, and the healing energy starts spinning through him.
He passes out.
I pull my healing energy and glow away from him.
His listener shrinks and slows, and he wakes.
“All you all right?” asks Mayla.
“It was too much, but I feel better now.”
“Yagrin,” she says, “I’ll take Berek to a separate circle, and work with him and the listener.”
“I don’t want the two of you to be distracted by each other.”
He disappears, but she remains.
“You said that you would teach him.”
“I can be in many circles at once.”
“I’m not Jiku, remember?”
“How do I use the listener with the grandmother?” I ask her.
“Send the listener through the grandmother,” says Mayla, “as thought it was a door that leads to the ocean, or large mountain.”
I connect with the ocean, using the grandmother.
I have an image of the whole ocean, at once, but without much detail.
I watch as great energy streams move through the ocean.
Strange forces and structures surround me.
I focus my attention on a single force or part of the structure, and I’m assaulted with detail.
“I see the ocean, Mayla,” I tell her, “and the forces at work in it, but it’s too complex for me to understand, or command.”
“You’re looking at the challenge in the wrong way, Yagrin,” she says.
“When you influence a living body, for example, blood pressure or heart rate, you don’t look at individual cells, or the chemical processes within a cell or the blood.”
“You focus on individual organs or systems, and your healing force finds the way to control the processes.”
“Just connect with an area of the planet that you want to affect, and think of the weather or other system behavior that you want to see.”
“Your healing energy, together with the grandmother, and the world’s energy body, will direct the energy to make it happen.”
“You don’t have to consciously understand it!”
I try to bring a cloud into existence on the mountain top.
Using my healing sense, and the grandmother, I feel my way to the location of the mountain top, within the world’s physical body.
I pass healing energy through the grandmother, with the intention to make a cloud.
I get a little fog, but that’s it.
“I tried to do what you said,” I tell her, “but it’s not working.”
“Instead of a cloud, all I got was a little fog.”
“You’re connected,” says Mayla, “but it’s too abstract.”
“You told me to work through the grandmother, and not worry about the details.”
“You don’t have to know the details,” she explains, “but you have to feel them.”
“Do it again, but this time, feel a strong desire for that cloud, and see yourself at the location where you want something to happen.”
I try again.
The cloud pours onto the mountaintop a few inches away from me, and then spreads out to cover the mountain.
I raise a wind to blow the cloud away.
Mayla watches me as I practice for several hours with clouds, rain, winds, and waves.
Then she guides me to create small earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and thunderstorms.
“Are you ready for something bigger, Yagrin?” she asks.
I answer by bringing an immense lightning storm, much bigger than the one that I flowed in Tshuan, larger than any storm I could create with flow.
By staying focused on the storm, where I am, and my intention, I’m able to direct the storm, and see the lightning strike only in the places that I choose.
I command the storm for an hour and then let it dissolve.
After this I work with other strong events, like a huge earthquake, and focus the effects on areas of my choice.
For example, I split a mountain, while a nearby hill is untouched.
“We have to stop now,” says Mayla.
“How is Berek doing?”
“His listener is very powerful, but difficult to control.”
“At first, it moved at random, and he couldn’t call it back.”
“Now he can direct what the listener touches, and force it to return to him, and, he can find the stream of healing energy within him, and send it outward.”
“He still doesn’t understand what the listener is telling him about balance.”
“He’ll need one or two full days in the simulator to get better control of the listener and his energy, and hear what the listener is telling him.”
“Then, I can show him how to use the grandmother pattern to touch Siksa’s energy, and listen to her balance.
“Finally, I’ll teach him to shape a storm or control the winds.”
“All together, about four days circle-time, one day real-time.”
“Bring him back,” I tell her.
“I want to show him the storm.”
“Berek,” I tell him, “I have something wonderful to show you.”
“Ok, ina,” he answers.
“Fly with me, Berek, I tell him, and we rise up into the sky above the mountain.
“Use your energy eyes to watch the mountain below,” I suggest.
“Physical eyes won’t be able to see through the clouds.”
Then I call to the earth to bring the storm.
It wraps around us, leaving the world dark.
At my direction, the storm treats us like its children, cradling us in a small area of calm.
Below us, the storm is unrelentingly powerful and violent, with lightning strikes that punish the mountain.
I look over at Berek.
He enjoys this, as I do.
After a few minutes, Mayla interrupts.
“Time to go, Yagrin.”
Berek and I are a reluctant to leave, but I raise my hands in a goodbye gesture to the storm, and the simulation ends.