The artist’s guild has one leader, one name, and pretends to be one guild, but it’s not.
The guild binds together many familiar visual and performance arts: painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, digital imagery, story, theater, song, music, and dance.
One art remains that only energy masters can perform.
FlowSong, an art form built on flow and weaving, mixed with song and sculpture.
One simple idea that brings all the arts together, reaching toward unseen worlds of possibility.
There are two types of FlowSong in the guild.
The first combines flying dance and song, performed by one or two flying artists.
It reminds me of the old ones and their temple.
The second combines flow, sculpture, and movement.
The artist flows air into raw materials, or objects of many forms.
The raw materials give birth to a sculptured object as the spectators watch.
One object becomes another, changing its material, color, brightness, shape and size.
The performance area for FlowSong is an open stage, fifteen feet tall.
Objects appear, disappear, transform, and move around the stage, at different heights.
To receive the master’s band in the guild, an artist must become proficient in the techniques of at least three of the arts.
The artist must become expert in one of the three, which she will use to create or perform a great work.
It’s like the old European guild system on earth.
There, an apprentice produced a great work, a masterpiece,as proof of his merit to be considered a master.
Which three do I pick?
My heart is full of the ways of FlowSong, from my years in the Gen stadium, and the temple of the old ones.
My master work will come in this art, but I need to choose two more arts.
Story and song have always called to my spirit, and danced through my life.
Here, finally, I’ll give them the love and care they deserve.
How do I complete my training of such complex, rich arts in a short time?
Apprentices use memcubes, hands on instruction, and practice, to gain skill.
Most wait years to become masters, but those who dare, use the Dream Schools.
A Dream Net brings you into shared dreams, where you travel to artist’s schools in another world or time.
The schools and your body feel solid and real.
There is no sleeping, no eating, and no fatigue within the Dream Schools, and the sun always shines.
In one night of dreams, three years pass at the school.
The dreams are clear and sharp, our minds and bodies bright and strong.
The memories and skills of the schools stay with us forever.
What is a school, really?
A distant physical or energy world, or just a simulation?
In the memories of the old ones that I carry, I find the answer.
The Dream Schools are learning simulations created over a thousand years ago, connected to technology in the hidden city.
The guild council believes that twenty-three Dream Nets remain in the world.
Once there were thousands.
The Watchtower and its Dreaming Room holds one of the nets, for the use of the tower guardians.
Shazira and I sleep there.
The bed there is surrounded by a ring of stone cylinders.
When activated, these combine to create an energy canopy over the bed, a Dream Net.
The Dream Net is dangerous.
It takes your strength, and you wake exhausted from these dreams.
A healthy adult can use the Dream Net only once a month, while children below thirteen can use it twice a week.
Those who work with weaving and flow almost never use the Dream Net.
It drains our strength faster, and leaves us dead, or near death.
The Dream Net has other dangers.
Those like Shazira, with fire eyes, are by nature, closer to madness, and the Dream Net brings out any hidden madness.
Shazira has never used the Dream Net.
Tzina, with fire eyes like her mother, has asked to use it.
When Tzina reaches seventeen, she can use a Dream Net without our permission.
Until then, Shazira and I forbid it.
Dream School Begins
I absorb the method memcubes for my chosen arts, at Gen speed.
Then I review memories from the old ones on these arts, and I practice.
I fill a day with FlowSong, and two days each with story and song.
At Gen speed, two days is six months of intense practice.
Even this is only a beginning.
After this preparation, I am ready for real training.
I transform myself into a twelve-year-old version of myself, more fit for the Dream School.
Shazira sleeps elsewhere.
It’s possible to activate the Dream Net myself, and then lay down under the net, but traditionally, the Dream Net is activated by someone else.
It’s considered bad luck to active your own Dream Net.
Tzina sets the cylinders to send me to the story Dream School, and activates the Dream Net.
I go to sleep with a twelve-year-old body, but when I awake in the dream, my body looks twenty.
I walk on a white stone path suspended in empty space.
Blue and gold crystals within the white stone shine a gentle light, which guides my way.
To my left and right, above and below me, is fog.
Only the image of my body, and the path are clear and sharp.
In a few minutes I reach a solid wall which spreads as far as I can see to the left and right, above and below me.
I try to fly above it, but the wall seems to go on forever.
I return to the path, and find two black, apprentice’s robes.
“Why two?” I wonder.
I put one on, and a door appears in the wall.
I walk through and find a woman sitting at a desk.
“Master’s bands?” she asks.
“Flow, Healing, and Weaving.”
She looks through me, to see if I’m telling the truth.
“True,” she says.
“We haven’t had anyone here with three bands in a thousand years.”
“Looking to get your fourth master’s band?”
“Remember,” she says, “only the teachers are called masters here.”
“Every student in the Dream School wears an apprentice robe, and carries no titles.”
I hear another dreamer enter the door behind me.
I turn, to see a twenty-year-old woman in an apprentice robe.
For a moment I think it’s Shazira in a young body.
“Hello, ina,” she says, smiling.
“I followed you here.
Everyone looks the same age while training in the school.
The woman behind the desk looks at Tzina.
“Fire eyes in the school?”
“Go back,” I tell Tzina.
“It’s too dangerous for you to be here.”
The woman behind the desk shakes her head.
“Once someone enters the school, we can’t send her away.”
“Then let her go back herself!” I shout frantically.
“Calm down,” says the woman.
“School ends for her an hour before dawn, or earlier, if she wakes up.”
“There’s nothing you can do to change that.”
“You two will not disrupt the school, or you’ll sit in this room the whole time!”
“Is that clear?”
“Yes,” I answer, quietly.
She checks in Tzina.
Then she gives each of us a locker to use while we’re here.
Tzina and I walk to the lockers.
“How could you do this, Tzina?” I ask, trying to keep my voice calm.
“There’s so much I want to do, ina,” she says.
“This will get me my master’s robe much quicker.”
“Don’t worry so much.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Once people with fire eyes reach the age of five, they never go mad after that!”
She gives me a hug.
“Now stop worrying,” she says.
“It’ll distract both of us, and time here is precious!”
Dream School Lessons
We open the lockers.
Inside is a square display device.
With it, I can access a huge library of memcubes on story.
There’s a recommended viewing list, along with a schedule of memcubes, classes, practice sessions, and critiques that fill up the years here.
The first class begins.
Each lesson starts the same way.
One of us is chosen to lead, and speak the opening.
The leader reads each sentence, and the others repeat:
“Free your power, and let it fill each word.”
“Let each word be a bridge to a glowing, beautiful world.”
“Imagine each letter, each sound in the word is made of an otherworldly fire.”
“The fire pretends to be captured on paper.”
“Within, the letters and sounds still burn.”
There are many writing and storytelling assignments.
Sometimes we work alone, and sometimes in teams.
“Write and speak every word and letter, so it glows with energy,” says the instructor.
“I don’t care if it’s a hello, a note, an assignment, or a great story.”
“Let this energy live in your words.”
“Your words may look and sound to you no different than the words of others.”
“Readers, listeners and friends will circle around you, searching for your secrets.”
After two years in the school, three quarters of the students have vanished.
“What happened to them?” I ask one of the instructors.
“Awake, insane, dead,” he says.
“It’s hard to know.”
As the years pass, Tzina speaks to me less and less.
As the end approaches, she only nods when we meet.
Her work with story is incredible, and she is full of emotion as she writes or reads her stories, in or out of class.
When she puts down her stories, she has as much emotion as a machine, and doesn’t speak.
The years end, and we awaken.
The Dream Net has shut itself off, and the two of us lie together on the bed.
I’m exhausted, but otherwise all right.
I transform this young body into my older body, but rested and refreshed.
Tzina awakens, and looks at me.
I wonder if she will apologize for the way she ignored me in the Dream School.
Her eyes are empty, no sense of recognition, or feeling, and not much intelligence.
“Tzina,” I say, “are you all right?”
Her face holds the same blank look, and I call for Shazira.
I tell her what happened, and ask her to bring other healers.
While she calls for them, I release my listening body upon Tzina.
There is a great hole in her, as though her essence is gone.
My listening cannot tell me how to restore her balance.
I try to heal her with energy and voice.
Her body glows with new strength, but her mind remains empty.
The other healers who come, are as baffled as I am.
Shazira is crying.
“This is how the ones with fire eyes look when they go mad,” she tells me.
“She will die in a few weeks!”
“If you hadn’t gone to the school,” she screams, “she couldn’t have joined you!”
“This is your fault!”
I search the memories I have from the old ones, but I find no way to heal her.
“There’s only one thing to do,” I tell Shazira, quietly.
“I’ll take her to the Bizra.”
“Maybe they can heal her.”