Shortly before sunrise, light seeps across the horizon, and I awake to a soft scurrying sound.
Shazira is on watch, somewhere along the beach, out of sight.
The rest of the circle is sleeping, everyone but Ehraval, who doesn’t sleep.
I stand up in alarm, and Shazira comes near.
The sand around us is covered with dozens of small creatures that crawled out of the sea.
They look something like seals, but they’re ten inches long.
My concern vanishes when I read the gentle emotions that fill them.
“Don’t harm them, Shazira,” I tell her.
Shazira moves toward me, and the creatures clear a path for her.
Their expressive faces glow in the dim light, like fireflies.
What would a swarm of these glowing faces look like underwater at night?
Their faces fill with curiosity when they see that I’m awake, and they’re bold.
They focus on me, and ignore Shazira.
Several of them come right up to me and gently poke my feathers.
They jump back in surprise when I spread my wings for a moment in a birdlike stretch.
Their upper bodies rise, and they look at me with joy, and make a pleasant humming sound.
The sound calms me, and I feel energy flowing freely through me.
I don’t know if they’re intelligent, but I sing: “Thank you for your present, little ones.”
They stop humming, and look at me intently.
“Here’s a gift for you,” I tell them, as I sing a soft song.
They form a circle around me, start humming again, and the humming comes in powerful low waves of sound.
When I finish, each one comes up to me and gently touches my beak with its face.
I watch them glow as they roll and play together in the sand, digging for food.
Before the sun rises, they’re back in the water and out of sight.
Shazira moves away to check on Tzina.
“I heard you thank them and sing, Yagrin,” says Balshown quietly, as he moves slowly toward me.
“I saw how they touched you afterwards.”
“Do you know what those creatures are?”
I shake my head.
“They’re called Feldin,” he says.
“Most people think that they’re only a legend.”
“They’re friendly and beautiful,” I tell him, “but hardly worthy of legends.”
“Sometimes,” he says, “I don’t know if you’re a genius, or just lucky beyond belief.”
“Maybe both,” he adds and smiles.
“Don’t you remember that the walls of the closed city are covered with murals of the Feldin, swimming, playing, and digging for food.”
“The murals are unexceptional, except for one.”
“That mural shows a few dozen Feldin forming a circle around a Kishla.”
“The bird raises it’s head in song.”
“It has the usual colors of the Kishla except for two black, knife-shaped marks on its feathers, and the marks in the mural are glowing.”
I twist my head around, and look at the knife-shaped marks on my feathers, and a shiver passes through me.
The black marks glow like the faces of the Feldin I saw.
“Prophecy, Balshown?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he answers, “but that’s not all, Yagrin.”
“The legends of the heart fountain say that the mural is much more than it seems.”
“It’s called the path to the fountain.”
Shazira wakes Berek, and I tell him about the Feldin, without mentioning the fountain or the mural.
Then Balshown and I glide some dried fish out of our packs and we all eat.
Tzina looks terrible, but she eats.
She has a day, maybe two before death claims her.
Prisoners of Compassion
The sun rises over the horizon, and the darkness covering the Bizra burns away like a fog.
Shazira gasps when she sees thousands of Bizra awake and stretching.
Before long, they notice us.
It’s hard to describe the Bizra to someone who hasn’t seen one.
Imagine a cat with a body as flexible as a snake, and a face as expressive as a person.
It’s wonderful to watch the Bizra when they move.
Even the way they stretch leaves you breathless.
We move toward the Bizra, with me leading the way.
“Yagrin,” cries Shazira, “Tzina won’t move.”
I go back for her.
She seems to be slipping away.
I change myself and her, back to Jiku form, and I carry her, as we all approach the Bizra.
The Bizra look at us intently, looking past our physical bodies to our energy bodies.
They push Shazira and Balshown to one side, leaving Berek, Tzina and I together.
“Should we resist?” asks Shazira.
“No,” says Balshown, “unless they show any sign that they mean to harm us.”
Balshown and Shazira are surrounded by many Bizra in a tight circle.
Balshown flows himself back into Jiku form, and Shazira follows his lead.
They stand back to back, facing the Bizra, prepared to fight.
Berek and I are surrounded on three sides.
The fourth side is open and leads into the center of the meadow, where thousands of Bizra are watching.
“Let’s go, Berek,” I tell him, and we move to the center of the meadow.
The Bizra surround us, and look at us, waiting.
I put Tzina down on the soft ground, and she whimpers.
It’s the first sound she’s made in days.
I transform myself back into the Kishla form.
“Greetings Bizra,” I sing aloud, not knowing how to begin.
“We’ve come to solve an old mystery, and to find help for the young one who is dying.”
A thought comes to me.
The Bizra speak in dreams.
Sing them a dream.
When I sing a message in the Kishla way, I don’t have to think about encoding the message in the song.
I just think and feel the message.
If I concentrate, can I sing an image?
I sing a sad song, and imagine the attack of the Krale on Berek’s city.
I visualize what I saw last night when a Krale materialized from the Bizra nightmare.
The Bizra move back a few feet, and make a low wail.
The meadow fades a little, as the Bizra send me a dream.
I see a group of Bizra, awake, with an image floating above their heads.
They’re dreaming of the Watchtower, and the great sea wall that surrounds the city.
The image changes.
The same group flies to the Jiku, and shows them Bizra dreams of how to build the wall and tower.
I respond with a joyous song, and I imagine hundreds of Bizra moving among our people in several cities, long destroyed.
I wait in the silence for them to respond.
Their dream rises to my eyes again.
I see hundreds, perhaps thousand of images, each lasting a few seconds.
Each image shows the Bizra caring for their young, their old, the sick and dying.
Their feelings of compassion fill their expressive faces.
Then I see hundreds of images of young Bizra playing together peacefully.
“Berek?” I ask quietly. “What are they trying to tell us?”
“They don’t fight, even as children,” says Berek.
“There’s no trace of violence in them.”
Berek has a talent for understanding Bizra dreams, but it’s not enough.
I have to find a way to understand their whole message.
I send my listening body, to cover a few of the Bizra.
Each one of them seems like a pure color, or a pure tone.
What does it mean?
A voice whispers from deep within me.
There is no room in them for lies or contradictions.
In contrast, Jiku and humans are collections of personalities, often at war with one another.
Our nature has its good side.
We excel at living with contradiction, and tolerating imperfection, and we are incredible simulators.
We can temporarily adopt a persona, a role, an attitude, see where it leads, and what it teaches.
I look again at the Bizra with my listening body.
There is a rich web of connections between them, and I see fuzzy images moving through the links.
I can’t see the images clearly, but I can tell that a single image changes slightly as it passes through each Bizra.
The Bizra see the world through another Bizra’s memories, associations, and point of view.
When I write a note, or draw a picture about something important to me, I may try to give it a universal, obvious meaning.
There will always be subtle associations that only I understand.
A Bizra message also has surface and personal meanings, but the personal meaning can be read by another Bizra.
The Bizra take it for granted that the receiver of the message will see it through the sender’s eyes, with all of the related memories and associations.
When Bizra communicate with us, we see only the surface image, but not the rich associations that the sender intends.
It’s like looking at a painting without being able to see the colors.
I learned from the Gen how to join minds.
I join with the Bizra, and hope this connection will let me see what a Bizra sees when he looks at a message.
The Bizra images continue, but clearer than before, with a hundred times the ideas and feelings.
A huge web of related events circles around me, filled with images and feelings.
Something is born, but not in words, that surrounds the messages like a shadow.
This understanding whispers to me, and explains what the messages mean.
I see the image of Bizra sleeping peacefully in the meadow.
Above their heads a great dream image takes shape.
The image is connected through vines of light to all sleeping Bizra.
It shows Jiku landing on the world in broken ships.
When the Bizra feel our pain, they dream of healing our spirits.
They teach us to see and feel the energy world.
They give us new eyes.
The Bizra have some sense of self, but they usually think together, and dream together.
In the group dream, many years pass, cities are built, and the energy masters bring war to the sky and the sea.
Finally, the war ends.
I see a Jiku flow master who walks with other masters among the hills of the Tshuan.
The Bizra fly above them, and one by one, the masters are turned into old ones.
The flow master refuses to follow Bizra advice, and leave the world.
He transforms himself completely into a Bizra, and flies with them to their land.
He goes to sleep in the meadow, and dreams of his life as a Jiku.
There are images of joyous times, and images of war and suffering.
He wakes for a moment, as the others sleep.
He looks around at the peaceful scene of the meadow, content with his new life.
The one who was Jiku returns to his sleep, and the Bizra dream together, again.
Images of Jiku war and suffering go in and out of their dreams, like static.
The dreams are infected by the one who became Bizra, but it’s hundreds of years before the effects are felt.
Then, the attack of the Krale begins.
The Bizra know that the Krale attacks are born from their dreams, so they withdraw from the cities, to stop the attacks.
It has little effect, but they continue to stay away.
The Bizra can handle the violence and cruelty when it is lies outside them.
It simply saddens them, disgusts them, or inspires pity.
However, those thoughts and feelings become dangerous, when they are a part of the Bizra.
Among us, it’s different.
Each person has seen their own foolishness, cruelty, and anger.
We may hate it, but most of us can deal with it.
Not all of us.
Tzina has fire eyes!
I understand what that truly means!
It’s much more than the superficial resemblance of the eyes.
Jiku with fire eyes are poor at living with the different sides of themselves.
Tzina has built a mental wall around her acceptable, known self.
Other parts of her run wild, destroy her sanity, and ultimately her life.
I have no idea how to help the Bizra or Tzina find peace within themselves.
I turn to face the Bizra.
I visualize what happened with Tzina, and sing about needing help.
The Bizra show me an image of Tzina, near death, as a Jiku, with waring selves.
Then, they show me her transformation into a Bizra, regaining her health.
When the Bizra transform someone with golden eyes, they take her dominant self, and leave the others behind.
This doesn’t work with ordinary Jiku.
Their message is clear.
I can save Tzina by transforming her into a Bizra.
If I do this, I lose her forever, and maybe cause further damage to the group dreams of the sensitive Bizra.
The Bizra clear a path so we can rejoin Balshown and Shazira.
I return to Jiku form, and carry Tzina back.
I tell Berek and the others what I’ve discovered.
“How do we stop the Krale?” asks Balshown.
“I don’t know, yet,” I answer, “but it might save Tzina as well.”
I turn to Shazira, filled with sadness.
“Do it Yagrin,” says Shazira.
“There’s no time to find another way to save her.”
“I’m not ready to lose her,” I tell Shazira.
“I’m going back into her mind to find another way.”