The roof of the city, a thousand feet above us, is invisible at night, hidden behind an endless sea of bright stars.
By day, the crystal roof lets daylight pour through, to provide the city with a strong, even, light.
At night, the crystal strengthens the natural starlight, until the roof is covered with stars, and our eyes and the streets are filled with a gentle light.
The starlight takes hold of every path, and follows us as we walk through the city.
Even on this night of a dark moon.
The enhanced starlight has a strange feel to it.
As though the stars call me to join them on some distant journey.
Their voices almost heard.
Mayla’s voice draws me back from my wandering among the stars.
“Berek will be a powerful healer, Yagrin,” says Mayla quietly, as we all walk together.
“Soon,” she says, loud enough for him to hear, “he’ll learn greater control.”
“With a few more practice sessions, he’ll be ready to touch the planet’s energy, and spin a small storm.”
I smile at him.
“I thought healing would be nothing more than wounds and sickness,” says Berek.
“I love how it makes me feel!”
“When I touch the web’s balance, I’m part of an endless calm.”
“The web seems alive and intelligent, and it seems to be trying to speak with me.”
“I can’t wait to learn how to spin a storm, although it makes no sense to me that I could bring a storm through healing!”
Berek’s joy is contagious, and I let it fill me for a moment, but then my thoughts turn to the meeting with the Fiklow.
“As we agreed, Mayla, you’ll continue Berek’s training.”
“How long will you be gone, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
“A few hours,” I say weakly, not really believing it.
“A few hours, Yagrin?” asks Makish.
“The Fiklow slaughtered our people.”
“Does it make sense to think that they’ll just take the artifact, and fly away?”
“We don’t know what they’ll do, Makish, but we have to stop this war, before it begins.”
“We started the last war when we stole the artifact from its resting place.”
“At first, the Fiklow simply asked us to return it, but our leaders were fools, and refused to give it back.”
“That’s why the Jiku were slaughtered.”
“NO!” protests Mayla.
“Shilann didn’t steal it.”
“He found it.”
“Shilann didn’t know the truth, Mayla, until it was too late, but his commanders knew what they were doing.”
“They learned the location of the artifact from a secret Fiklow holy book, and they arranged for Shilann to find the artifact.”
“How can you trust the Fiklow?” asks Makish.
“Long ago, they might have taken back the artifact, and let us live, but we’ve held their artifact for a thousand years!”
“They suspect that we’ve discovered its secrets.”
“What choice do they have now, except to wipe us out?”
“The artifact was created by the energy beings that Berek and I visited.”
“Later on, it was damaged and became dangerous.”
“The Fiklow think that the object can shatter the forces that bind a universe.”
“What if they’re right?”
“Yagrin,” says Mayla, “long ago we learned to extract energy from the artifact.”
“It’s true that the energy can be used for destruction, but aside form the spinning sword, and a few weapons, it’s never been used that way.”
I turn toward her.
“The spinning sword draws energy from the artifact?”
“What else uses the energy?”
“Artifact energy moves in a unique way, faster than from any other source.”
“Some of our weapons depend on this energy, but mostly we use it as a backup power source for the city.”
“The spinning sword connects with the artifact in a different way that we don’t understand, and draws energy from the artifact, without limit.”
“Who made the sword? asks Shazira.
“We don’t know,” answers Mayla, “but we believe that it was built on the world of the seven towers.”
“How would anyone there know how to use the artifact?” I ask, “unless the towers are home to the one who damaged the original artifact.”
Mayla is silent.
The Disk and the Box
I rise into the air.
“Where are you going, Yagrin?” asks Makish.
“To the Heart Fountain, to see the history of the artifact.”
“You want to enter the fountain again?!” asks Makish.
“I won’t need to,” I tell her, as I fly away.
I arrive at the Heart Fountain quickly, and stay in the outer room.
I reach far below the room, to scan the patterns of the box that holds the artifact.
The artifact is too complex for me to copy, but the box that holds it is not.
I become a copy of the box and spread my listener on the original box.
I feel thin, barely here, like the scent of a flower, spread out on the wind.
I am energy, radiating in all directions, and below me I sense the sea of possibility.
My awareness is drawn, again and again, into the world of the artifact, and I struggle to pull my focus back to the simple, slow world, of the box.
I move into the past, and see a wild surge of energy from the artifact.
I feel the spinning sword awake.
The energy spreads unpredictably through air, and across the land, but is stopped by water.
In the sea of possibility there are an infinite number of universes.
Some are barely different, and seem to float near each other.
While those that are far apart have completely different physical laws.
Sorrow rises like a fountain from a million universes.
The destruction of the sword damages all these worlds, not one.
Time spins backward, again.
The box is aboard Shilann’s ship that travels between two universes.
I push farther back in time, until I find the box, buried beneath the sea floor of a great Fiklow city, on the Fiklow homeworld.
I reach out with my healing sense and the grandmother, to touch the planet’s energy.
It reminds me of Siksa’s energy, but with it’s own unique structure, and rhythm.
The Fiklow find a way to connect to the artifact’s energy, but their triumph lasts only a moment.
The energy bursts from the artifact like a sun, exploding through the world’s oceans, and turns the rich world into a desert.
My attention is pulled back into the world of the artifact.
The damage does not rest with one world in one universe, but spreads like a wave.
There are millions of universes, each with its own world destroyed by the energy from the artifact.
I push farther back in time, until the box rests in pieces on a table of blue stone.
The table stands near a window, and through the window six towers rise from the ground in two rows.
This is the world of the seven towers.
The Seklu built the artifact to provide a gateway to their world, and put a shield around it.
They gave it to the Fiklow, who hid it away.
Here in the second tower, someone retrieves the artifact from its burial place, takes it apart, and modifies the barrier.
There is a tiny hole now in the energy shield, with a small sphere surrounding the hole.
This hole can be opened, releasing a great flood of energy from the artifact.
I move slowly forward in time, and watch as the box is re-assembled.
I see it come together, and feel a presence, but whoever is here is invisible to my energy sight.
There is only a voice, for a moment, saying my name.
I have no body, no heart to beat fast, no way to release my fear at the sound.
There is only a hardening of my awareness, as I ache to escape that place.
Still, I hold on, as the box leaves the world of the seven towers, and returns to its hiding place.
Time passes, and the Fiklow scientists find its energy.
They put it on display for others to see, a wonder made by some alien race.
Centuries pass before they learn to touch its energies.
Then, it takes only moments until the hole in the shield opens, the flood of energy begins, and the water burns.
I move back to the workbench in the seven towers, where the parts of the future box, are laid out.
There in the corner is a simple disk.
I shudder inside as I recall the Fiklow legend of a forbidden artifact in the shape of a disk.
The sword has symbols engraved upon it, while this disk is smooth, but it doesn’t matter.
I know the truth.
The sword’s disk was the original artifact, and still draws it strength from the damaged barrier!
The End of All
When I wake from the history, Shazira and Mayla are waiting for me, just outside the outer room of the heart fountain.
“Are you all right, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
I stare, unable to find my voice at first.
“Let’s find the children and Makish,” I say at last.
“Everyone must hear this.”
We assemble at one of the fountains, and all listen quietly as I tell what I saw.
“Who damaged the barrier, ina?” asks Berek.
“I don’t know, but the energy beings told me that it was a Jiku.”
“How is that possible?” asks Shazira.
“Someone knew that I was there,” I tell her, “and even knew my name!”
“He must have had a shield that blocked me from seeing him.”
“Mayla,” asks Makish, “what do we know of the world of seven towers?”
“Almost nothing,” she answers.
“A Dream Hunter said that disaster and salvation will both come from the towers.”
“No one, except Botzar, has ever spoken of going there, and he never told anyone how he found the way there.”
“The Bizra knew of the path, and they appointed three ancient masters in the form of Kishla, to guard the way.”
“I can travel there another way,” I admit.
I tell them of my travels in the vat, where I was a shadow in the mind of Neebol of the Gen.
I saw how he and Vala journeyed to the world of seven towers, and met a man with a black robe.
“It’s a physical world, but it has no sun, no stars, no galaxies.”
“The man in the black robe looked like us, ina?” asks Tzina.
“He had a Jiku shape, but his face was covered with shadows, so that I couldn’t see his features.”
“I never saw his energy, either, but it felt familiar.”
“Is he the one that changed the artifact, and made the sword?” asks Berek.
“I don’t think so.”
“He arrived at the towers at the same time as the Gen, and was consumed by fire in the seventh tower.”
“What now, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
“I don’t know.”
“We’ve seen how destructive the energy of the artifact can be, spreading across many universes.”
“What if the sword was activated above the sea of possibility in the presence of the artifact?”
“Would the power of destruction spread across the entire sea, and consume all of existence?”
Shazira holds me tightly, and tears wet my cheek.
“Is this our fate, Yagrin?” she asks.
“To destroy everything?”
“I don’t know,” I answer, “but I don’t think so.”
“Our family is supposed to use the sword to bring peace.”
“The prophecy makes me believe that the sword was created to save us, but I can’t be certain.”
“I need to find out whether the sword will protect us, or kill us all.”
“Destroy the sword, ina,” says Berek.
Tzina nods in agreement.
“I don’t know how, children.”
“The sword is indestructible.”
“Why not look at the history of the sword, Yagrin?” asks Makish.
“I’ve tried, Makish, but I can’t take its form.”
“For now, the best we can do is to separate the artifact from the sword.”
“We’ll send the artifact with the Fiklow, back to their universe, and keep the sword here.”
“What about the beings from the towers?” asks Shazira.
“What will happen if they take the sword from us, and reunite it with the artifact?”
The group is quiet.
“Even if we are a threat,” says Makish defiantly, as she looks toward me.
“We are still going to protect ourselves.”
She turns to Mayla.
“The Fiklow could destroy planets a thousand years ago.”
“How do we protect ourselves against them?”
“I’ll prepare the city for war,” answers Mayla.
“I’ve started the production of unmanned ships.”
“Some ships will hide in the ocean, far from here, and others will hide in space.”
“There are a hundred shield generators in remote locations.”
“Even a few of them are enough to weave an energy shield around the whole planet.”
“I’ve also started a diagnostic review of all the city’s weapons systems.”
“We may need them, as a last resort, though using them will reveal our location.”
“War,” I say firmly to Mayla and Shazira, “is our last option.”
“Are we clear?”
“Yes, Yagrin,” says Mayla, “but we still have to prepare for it!”
“Our weapons won’t protect us from the artifact,” I respond.
“We have to move it away from the city.”
“The Fiklow claim that they can release energy from the artifact, and do it from a distance.”
“It would destroy the city, and kill us all.”
“There’s a small facility far from here, Yagrin,” says Mayla, “which is shielded like this city.”
“I’ll store the artifact there until tomorrow, and have machines watch over it.”
“Won’t the Fiklow detect the artifact when we move it?”
“It will be shielded the whole time,” answers Mayla.
“Do it Yagrin,” says Makish.
Shazira waves her hand in agreement.
“Go ahead, Mayla,” I tell her.
“It will take about fifteen minutes to move the artifact, Yagrin,” says Mayla.
“I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
“Yagrin,” says Shazira, “I’ll want to stay here, with Tzina and Berek, within the city walls until you return.”
“I’ll contact Berek’s parents, and let them know that he’ll be with us for a few days.”
“Bintar and Zias can take over our duties at the Watchtower.”
“Let’s sleep now, Yagrin,” says Makish.
“Tomorrow will be a challenging day.”
“Yes,” says Mayla, “but let me to show you a special place by the sea, that I used to visit at night with Shilann.”
“In the face of all the dangers, this will help you relax, and find a peaceful sleep.”
Mayla takes us to the edge of the sea, to a beach covered with Feldin.
“The Feldin play and sleep on the sand at night,” says Mayla, “and then return to the sea by day.”
The beach glows With their light, and above us, the sky is full of color.
Hundreds of ribbon-shaped objects move through the sky.
They sparkle with a dozen colors that mix with the starlight.
“What are they, Mayla?” I ask, and point toward the sky.
“Another beautiful display, like the light fountains?”
“No, Yagrin,” she answers.
“They’re called Heelu.”
“By day, they swim in the ocean.”
“At night, they’re drawn out of the water by the Feldin’s glow, and dance in the sky.”
“Are they intelligent?” asks Tzina.
“No one knows,” answers Mayla.
“They ride the energy web, in a complex dance.”
“No master has ever been able to see their patterns, and take their shape, and no one has ever communicated with one of them.”
“They’re timid, and flee, when Jiku or probes approach them.”
“Twice we captured one of them, but each time, it died when separated from its flock for more than a few minutes.”
“They’re beautiful,” says Berek.
“In a way, they remind me of my rainbow clay.”
“Where else in the world, are the Heelu found, Mayla?”
“These are the only ones that remain.”
“The rest were destroyed by the sword.”
“The Bizra told us to leave the flock here.”
I walk among the Feldin, playing on the sand.
They crowd around me, visibly excited to see me.
Their presence around me, and the Heelu above, bring me to a deep calm.
Makish joins me, and the day’s worries drain away from her face.
We don’t intend to sleep here, but we lay down on the sand among the Feldin, to watch the Heelu dance among the stars, and sleep claims us.