“What did you find, Yagrin?” asks Keesha.
“The Fiklow spirits and the queen are here, trapped by artifact energy.”
“When the artifact is anywhere on Gunal, it causes them intense mental anguish.”
“Are you saying, Yagrin,” asks Keesha, “that the spirits don’t want the artifact here?”
“Where else should we put it?!”
“Commander, I know the artifact belongs here, and the queen will allow it, if that brings comfort to her children.”
“If the queen were here, Yagrin,” says Keesha, “it’s true that she would sacrifice herself for her children, but this must be an illusion.”
“Perhaps you are already feeling the negative affects of the place.”
“This world is dead.”
“Don’t you think that the energy binders that have come would sense their own queen?”
“The energy web is weak, commander, and the artifact energy is a fog that covers the presence of the spirits.”
“We cannot continue this discussion,” says Keesha, with a smell of anger.
“It’s time to complete our mission.”
“Yagrin,” says Makish, “if the Fiklow want you to leave the artifact, do it!”
“Billions of spirits will suffer, Makish, including the queen!”
“It’s only a dream, Yagrin,” says Keesha, frustrated.
“The throne is gone, and there will be no more queens.”
“She took me to the throne,” I shout, glowing brightly.
“The egg is well below the planet’s crust, surrounded by molten rock, far from where the queen first hid it.”
Keesha doesn’t believe me.
“Can your ship see the surface from a thousand feet up, commander, and detect earthquakes?”
“Yes, but why do you ask?”
“Take the ship up a thousand feet, and listen,” I tell her.
“I’m going to free the egg.”
She grumbles, but she orders her captain to follow my instructions.
“Now what?” she asks.
I touch the balance of the planet, and create a narrow, but powerful force that pushes aside the rock above the egg.
Then I manipulate gravity to raise the egg, until it rests just below the surface, one hundred feet outside the crystal forest.
I also make a narrow seismic wave that shakes the ground near the new site of egg.
“Commander,” says one of her officers, “there was strange gravitational and seismic activity for a moment, outside the crystal circle.”
“Both of them were too focused to be natural.”
“What did you do, Yagrin?” asks Keesha.
“I’ve brought you proof to my words, commander.”
“Position the ship directly above the place of activity, thirty feet above the ground.”
“Do you have energy binders aboard that can detect the egg?”
“Yes,” she says, and motions toward an officer.
“I’ve shut off the inhibitor, Yagrin, so the binders have their full strength.”
I leave my body behind, as the Fiklow move their ship.
My fire body flies to the designated place, and the queen is already there.
“You moved it,” she says excitedly.
“The egg is just out of sight.”
“I asked the planet to move the egg to the surface.”
“Your children can’t feel your presence.”
“I need to show them the egg, so they believe me.”
I open the last ten feet of rock, and raise the egg above the surface.
Will this be enough?
Can their instruments detect the energy egg?
I fill myself with the glow, and direct it toward the egg.
The egg opens and the necklace floats out of the egg briefly.
“Don’t touch it, Yagrin,” says the queen.
“It will kill you.”
I let the necklace hover there for a minute.
Then I dim my glow, and the necklace returns to the egg.
I glide the egg ten feet down into the open hole, and close the rock above it.
I return to the ship and my body.
“Did you see it, commander?” I ask.
“I saw it, and felt it.”
“Even ordinary Fiklow can feel the presence of the egg when it’s open.”
“We still can’t see the queen, but we have no choice but to believe you.”
Every Fiklow eye looks to me for a moment.
Then they turn toward the clear wall of the ship, and lower their heads to the ground.
The captain motions me to join them.
“We bow, knowing that the queen’s spirit is here on Gunal,” says Keesha quietly as she rises.
“Only the queen can sense the place of the throne, wherever it has gone.”
“Through you, Yagrin, she reveals the throne to us, her children.”
Makish turns to me.
“Can you free the queen and the other spirits, so they can leave this world?”
“Then you can return the artifact to its resting place.”
“How can he free the spirits, Makish?” asks Keesha.
“Is he stronger than the artifact that bound them?”
“His heart is strong, commander,” answers Makish.
“It will show him thepath to do what must be done.”
I don’t know what to do, or where to go, but I feel that I can find the way.
“Bring me the artifact,” I say.
At Keesha’s command, two guards go and return with the bag containing the artifact.
They put it down next to me, and back away.
I spread my healing body upon the artifact to feel its balance.
Then, my attention focuses on the patched hole in the energy shield.
This hole is the key to freeing the spirits.
“Commander,” I say, “let me go outside with the artifact, and discover what I must do.”
“Yagrin,” says Keesha, “I believe that you’re trying to help, but we can’t let you bring pain to our queen.”
“She will be trapped forever,” I tell Keesha, “unless you let me help her.”
“Can any pain be worse than that?”
“I’ll join the spirits, and help them carry the pain, until I find a way to end it.”
The ship returns to its original site, at the center of the crystal forest, and the artifact is be taken outside by machines, and left on the rocks.
We move to the transition room which leads outside.
“I will send warning, through Makish,” I tell Keesha, “if it becomes too dangerous for your ship to remain here.”
“I don’t know what forces will be unleashed, when the spirits are freed.”
“Or if I will return.”
“Good hunting, Yagrin,” she says, as she wraps two of my tentacles with hers.
I find the tank in the transition room, and settle into it.
The door to the planet opens, and I close my Fiklow eyes against the bright sun of the desolate world.
Machines move me to the desert, and then return to the ship.
As planned, the water begins to drain away.
When it’s half gone, I transform back into my Jiku shape, and climb out of the tank.
The desert is not quiet.
A light wind blows through the crystal forest, and fills my ears with beautiful, bright tones, like wind chimes.
I connect with the planet’s balance, and direct the wind to blow hard.
The separate tones turn into a simple song.
I let my body dissolve into water.
“Are you all right, Yagrin?” asks Makish, with a mind touch.
“Yes, but I need to be pure energy to join the spirits.”
“Ask the commander to take her ship into orbit, and be prepared to leave quickly.”
“I feel something coming that will fill the whole planet.”
The ship rises, and moves into orbit.
“Keesha tells me, Yagrin, that all the Fiklow are still listening.”
“Though I think that there will be little to hear.”
My energy vision opens, and I see the spirits crowding around me, led by the queen.
I speak to the planet’s balance, and let the wind turn to near hurricane force, but just within the crystal forest.
I am surprised that the delicate stone can bear this wind, but it is unmoved.
Energy streams through the forest and around the clearing, in great, swift circles.
It spins upward in a great spiral until it reaches the top of the atmosphere.
“The artifact is here,” says the queen, surprised, “but it brings us no sorrow.”
“The energy wind protects us for now,” I answer, but we must feel the pain, to end it.”
I make hundreds of connection to other Fiklow near me, so I can share in their pain.
I need a storm, but where will I find water on this world?
I suspend the artifact fifty feet in the air, at the center of the clearing.
Then I reach toward the artifact, find the patched hole in the energy shield, and flow it away.
The world glows with energy, and fills the spirits and me with unbearable pain.
We see two waves of the burning.
With the first wave, we see and feel the death of a billion Fiklow.
Then comes the second wave that destroys the oceans.
There is far more to this wave of destruction.
I feel the ancient burning and death of the Fiklow as it happened in a million other universes at the same time.
Even a fire body can’t bear this suffering for long.
I touch the planet’s balance, and reach for a storm of stone.
Smoke rises, as a great wound opens in the land, and molten rock streams up and around the artifact.
Lava rises into the spiral of energy wind, and becomes spinning lightning.
When the lightning finds the top of the spiral, it straightens, and reaches for the artifact.
The lava continues to pound the artifact from below, as the lightning strikes it from above.
The box of the artifact is made of an extraordinarily hard material, but with this attack, the box dissolves.
The core of the artifact is an energy path, a bridge to the barrier.
There are endless paths, which reach across many worlds, one visible nearby to my energy eyes.
The energy beings who made the artifact told me that the artifact’s energy core must be bound to a physical object.
I need to re-anchor the nearby path to the physical world.
I feel a restlessness.
The energy path calls me, and fills me with a need to follow it off this world.
I follow the call.
It leads me far from the planet, toward Gunal’s sun.
I fly into the sun, and find its center.
My fire body glows brighter and brighter, healing itself.
This is the place where the artifact must rest.
I reach out in my certainty, and bind the artifact’s energy stream to the core of the sun.
The sun accepts its companion, and the shield seals its hole without a trace.
All artifact energy is safely hidden behind the shield, and the pathway is bound to the center of the sun.
The artifact is finally safe here, even from the one who damaged it long ago.
I return to Gunal.
The lightning, and storm of stone have stopped.
I find the queen’s spirit hovering alone, at the center of the clearing.
The egg of the throne rests near her, brought to the surface by the storm of stone.
“Thank you,” says the queen, when I reach her.
“The vision of suffering is gone, and all the spirits are free, except me.”
The queen has no physical form, and the Fiklow body has no tears, but if she knew tears, she would weep.
The Living Sun
“Why are you still bound?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says.
Makish touches my mind.
“Are you alright, Yagrin?” she asks.
“Keesha says that there is no trace of artifact energy anywhere on Gunal or in this star system.”
“Tell the commander that the artifact was damaged long ago, before the destruction, by an unknown enemy.”
“I’ve repaired the damage, and put the artifact where it must rest, hidden for all time.
“Are the spirits free?” asks Makish.
“All the spirits are free,” I answer, “except the queen.”
“I’m still working to free her.”
“Tell the commander that it will be dangerous to keep her ship anywhere between the sun and Gunal.
“She should move her ship, a half-million miles away, perpendicular to the path of the sun’s light as it falls to Gunal.”
The queen brings her energy body near mine, interrupting my thoughts.
“What is your sound?” asks the queen.
“Yagrin,” I answer.
“It means living sun.”
“I know what it means,” she says.
“I’ve heard it before.”
“The pain is gone, Yagrin, but how will I bear the long cycles alone?”
“I won’t leave you here alone,” I answer.
“I’ll find a way to free you.”
“Watch over the egg.”
“I’ll return soon.”
I fly to a point midway between Gunal and its sun.
I shape the grandmother pattern twice, and send one to the sun, and the other to Gunal.
Then I reach my listener toward both, and touch the balance of the world and the star.
I spread healing energy across Gunal and its sun, and make a bridge between the two of them.
A great ray of blue fire pours from the sun toward Gunal.
This energy comes, not only from the sun, but from the world of energy, now bound to the sun’s core.
When the fire touches the ancient seabed, the land groans, and a series of earthquakes spreads across the world.
The blue fire turns into sea water.
At first, the water is no more than a few drops in a desert, but soon, the desert is challenged by a flood.
Then the sky turns dark, as all the sun’s light joins the blue fire as seawater.
I raise a thousand spinning storms that cover the planet, and each one sends lightning raining upon the sea.
The lightning is blue fire that turns to rivers of seawater as it reaches the surface.
Wherever the storms spin, a fountain of blue fire erupts from the old seabed, and turns to seawater.
The ray of blue fire continues from the sun, as I return to the queen.
“What is this Yagrin?” she asks.
“It is Gunal and the sun, with the help of the artifact, healing the sea.”
“At first, it will be only water, and minerals.”
“Your children will have to work to transport plants and animals here, so the sea can return to life, but it is a beginning.”
“The sea will take about a day to fill,” I tell her.
“You are queen of the Fiklow, but also queen of the ocean.”
“Your spirit was bound to the birthplace of the Fiklow, while Gunal was as dry as dust.”
“Now, the sea is returning, and you are free.”
She rises high in the air, testing her freedom.
Then she returns to the clearing, near the egg.
“Let me tell you a story, Yagrin,” she says, “before we leave this place.”
“This is a story that a queen hears when the energy of the throne fills her.”
“Never before has it been told to one who is not a queen.”
Once, when this world was young, there were suns that did not stay in a circle above worlds, but roamed the galaxies at will.
Planets were dark and lonely as they sat in space.
One sun saw Gunal on his travels, and asked her to be his mate.
“I am a cold world of stone, and you are fire,” she said.
“How can we be happy together?”
“You will travel far away, and I will be left alone in the darkness.”
“Accept me,” he said, “and I will stay close enough that my light will always shine upon you.”
“I will give you a heart of fire, so you will feel me within you, even as I travel in circles through the darkness.”
“Will you give me children?” she asked.
“Will they be stone or fire?”
The sun gave her the egg, and she put it down on a stone.
From the egg, water poured forth and filled the ocean.
Air poured forth and filled the skies.
A great blue light radiated from the egg, and creatures began to take shape in the water, and on land.
“All of these will be your children,” said the sun, “made of water, stone, and air.”
“What will become of fire?” asked Gunal.
“Will our children have no fire?”
The sun gave a special fire to one of the children, who was called Fiklow.
“Fiklow will be most prized among your children, and her fire will live, even when her water and air and stone are gone.”
“Now accept me,” he said, “and tell me your true sound.”
“I am Gunal,” she said.
“Tell me your sound, and I will accept you.”
The sun laughed.
“What else would I be called?” he asked.
“I am Yagrin, the fire that lives.”
“A beautiful story,” I tell her.
“Thank you for giving the sun my name.”
“You don’t understand, Yagrin,” she tells me.
“This is the way that the throne tells us the story.”
“The name of the sun is Yagrin.”
“Gunal, I told your children my sound.”
“They don’t recognize it as a Fiklow word, and see it as something alien.”
“They have never heard it,” she answers.
“The word is known only to queens.”
The Living Queen
“The egg cannot be removed from the planet, Yagrin.”
“Any Fiklow who would test herself to be queen, must come here and know the throne.”
“Once a queen is chosen, the egg will hide itself, until it is time for another queen.”
“Tell this to my children.”
“They may still remember, but they have gone too long without a queen.”
“Why don’t you tell them yourself?”
“They cannot speak with spirits as you do.”
“I wish,” says the queen, “that I could have a body again, long enough to swim with my children, and find a proper death.”
“I can make a body for myself,” says Yagrin, “but I don’t know if I can make one for you.”
“I need to hear the energy of your original body, and it is long dead.”
I try to copy the egg, to see its past, and see the queen’s body, but the energy of the egg is too strange for me to copy.
It has a feel somewhat like the artifact, as though it’s a gateway to an energy world.
“Take me,” I say, “to the last place where you swam as queen.”
“I may be able to touch the past, and see your body.”
The queen takes me to a place in the crystal forest.
“I was here by this crystal tree,” she says, “when the fire came.”
I shape a physical copy of the tree, and bind my energy body to it.
I reach out to touch its past.
It’s a long way back, fifty or a hundred thousand years, but finally I touch the moment of destruction.
A few minutes before the destruction, I find a large female Fiklow resting near the tree.
She’s accompanied by many others, but they stay thirty feet from her, in a circle.
It gives her the illusion of being alone.
Her energy is very different than the rest of the Fiklow.
When I finish my scan of her physical and pattern bodies, I prepare to return my attention to the present.
Then I notice that the queen of that time looks directly at me.
She has energy eyes that can see me, although I am little more than a shadow there.
I return to the present, just seconds before the artifact energy wipes away all life.
“You heard my energy, a moment before the destruction,” I tell her.
“That was you?” she asks.
“I saw a ring of strange energy, circling around the crystal tree, and I felt an intelligence behind it.”
“When I became a spirit, I often wondered about the ring, but that was so long ago.”
“I’ve scanned your old body,” I tell her.
“I can copy it, and bind your energy to it, but I can’t promise how long it will last.”
“Bind me to the new body,” she says.
“I’ll only need it for a short time, until the oceans are high on Gunal.”
Our fire bodies fly into space, and I look for Keesha’s ship.
We speak of my children, the Watchtower, and the old ones as we fly.
When we come near the ship, I reach out to Makish with a mind touch.
“Yagrin, are you all right?” asks Makish.
“We can’t stay here.”
“The commander says that the sun is behaving strangely, and the surface of Gunal is in chaos.”
“Her instruments detect storms, strange energy, and water collecting on the surface.”
“The sun is stable,” I tell her.
“There’s no need to leave the system.”
“I’ll explain more when I return to the ship.”
“Tell the commander that the queen is with me.”
“The queen’s spirit wants to come aboard the ship?”
“Not only her spirit,” I answer.
“Fill the transition chamber with water.”
“We’ll enter the chamber as pure energy, and then I’ll give us physical bodies.”
Makish is quiet for an extended period.
“She and her servants nearly fainted, when I told them that the queen will be coming aboard, reborn.”
“Keesha wants you to wait days so she can prepare an elaborate celebration.”
I tell the queen what I’ve heard.
“Tell the commander that there is no time,” says the queen.
“I want to meet my children who helped free me.”
“I will spread my queen’s blessings one last time, and return to the energy world.”
I pass the message to Makish, and she soon answers.
“The chamber is ready, Yagrin.”
“Tell the queen that her children await her blessings.”
We enter the transition chamber.
I shape her physical body, then bind her energy to it.
Then I do the same for myself.
“When the queen swims among her children, she always has an escort, called a shadow.”
“Usually the shadow is her mate, a brood-brother, or her most trusted advisor.”
“The queen keeps one tentacle wrapped with her shadow during the entire swim.”
“Will you honor me by being my shadow while I swim one last time?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
“Thank you, Yagrin.”
“Now, I must ask even more from you.”
“The queen appoints a death shadow, when she knows that she is close to death.”
“This shadow is with her at death, and guides the next queen as she absorbs the throne.”
“I need you to be my death shadow.”
“How long must I remain with your people to guide the next queen?”
“You can return home, and someone else can manage the testing of the queens.”
“Once a queen is chosen by the throne, you must come and guide her through the opening of the egg, and the way of the throne.”
“It will take a day of travel from your world, and perhaps another day for the ceremony.”
“Then you will be free of your obligation.”
“Being a shadow is a great responsibility, Yagrin.”
“When the shadow helps the next queen absorb the throne, the energy shatters his body.”
“It is a great honor among us, but it is certain death.”
“I would not ask, but your life is not tied to your physical body.”
“You can build a new body for yourself in a moment.”
“I think that you can pass through this death safely,” she says, “but I cannot be sure.”
“I accept the honor,” I tell her, “of swimming with you toward death.”
“As my death shadow,” she says, “you must call me by my sound.”
“All Fiklow who become queen take the same name: Gunal.”
“You will use no titles for my children, only their sounds.”
She wraps one tentacle around mine, and the door opens as we approach it.
“Once again,” she says, “Yagrin and Gunal are together.”