The city fades, and the weight of the world falls away – wars, schedules, and questions.
Shazira, Tzina, and I escape it all for three days, hiding from an uncertain future.
Talking, traveling, and laughing together.
We open our hearts to each other, trying to forget a long year apart.
Our time together is just a breath, a moment, a beautiful sunrise that will soon disappear.
We pretend that nothing will separate us, but yesterday and tomorrow hover over us, just out of sight.
The fourth day comes, and finds us camping on a distant island.
I wake long before dawn and walk alone on the beach, my eyes full of stars, and my feet full of the warm, gentle waves.
I wish that all our days would be like the last three, simple and full of joy, but the world returns.
After breakfast, I walk on the beach again.
Shazira knows that I want to be alone with the ocean, but Tzina follows me.
“Do we have to go home today, ina?” she asks, taking my hand.
I find her eyes and smile.
“Not yet, little one, but today is not for pleasure.”
“The Jiku need answers, but we have forgotten how to ask for help.”
The morning is still cool when I lead my family toward a distant wilderness, a hidden place where no Jiku ever come.
Shazira flies in her winged shape, half reptile, half Jiku.
I hold Tzina close, as I glide along the energy web.
Hours later, a tight ring of mountains, surrounding an area covered in clouds, comes into view.
“The Ring, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.
Some say that the Bizra shaped the ring as a place to hide secrets and treasure.
Jiku have good reason to fear the ring.
The air currents above are too wild for anything to fly, the energy web above is pure chaos, and the clouds are filled with radiation that destroys anything that comes near.
The mountains are surrounded with cliffs that no one will ever climb, and the stone twists your mind, and leads you to your death.
I scan the base of the cliffs, again and again, listening.
“Stop it, Yagrin,” says Shazira.
“Let’s go, now!”
I stare at the cliffs with energy eyes, and all I see is chaos, but I feel something is here.
Is it the beginning of the madness, or something else?
I spin the grandmother pattern around each of us, so it covers our energy bodies like a shell.
I look through it, as I scab the cliffs again.
The chaos that covers the mountains looks dark through the grandmother, except for one bright spot.
I follow the light, and land at the base of one of the cliffs.
“Why have you brought us here, Yagrin?” asks Shazira, as she shakes off the dragon shape.
“A memory from one of the old ones, words she heard from the last king.”
The ring’s madness is a king’s light that fills the darkness.
A great forest is hidden within the ring, and the cliffs hide the only way to reach it.
If the need is great, almost beyond hope, the night and stone will welcome you and show you the forest.
Tzina’s eyes follow the smooth rock face as it races toward the sky.
“We can’t climb this, ina, and it’s almost dark!”
“We’re not here to climb, Tzina.”
Shazira puts her hand against my chest.
“This place is not for us, Yagrin.”
“Only the old kings were welcome here, and they are dead forever.”
“The light is still here,” I shout, and reach toward it with energy hands.
When I touch the light, my hands are filled with a strange energy.
“The light is here for us,” I tell Shazira, as my hands rip open the rock.
The gash in the rock is filled with a blinding light that soon fades.
A large cave shows itself, behind the jagged opening.
“Come,” I tell them.
“We’ll spend the night in this cave.”
“No!” shouts Shazira, as she seizes Tzina’s hand.
“We will not go in there.”
“The madness will take us, and we will never come out.”
I enter the cave, and turn to face them.
“This is more than a random hole in the rock,” I tell them in a gentle voice.
“This is the doorway of dreams.”
“The ancient kings came here in times of trouble, to clear their minds, and seek a vision of the future.”
“Sometimes, they left with no vision, or a vision that they couldn’t understand.”
“Other times they found a vision of hope, and they saw the path to reach it.”
“We need more than a vision, and more than hope.”
“We have to find the forest.”
“I don’t know why, but everything depends on it.”
“Go on without us, Yagrin.”
“We’ll find a place to rest, away from the ring.”
“We have to do this together.”
Shazira’s resistance fades when I take their hands and lead them slowly into the cave.
“There’s no madness within the cave,” I tell them.
“We’ll be safe here.”
Shazira’s hands move aimlessly across the stone walls, and then she bends down to touch the floor.
“The stone is warm,” says Shazira, wondering what it means.
She takes Tzina’s hand, and they sit on the warm stone, quiet and afraid.
I sit between them, and hold them both.
When night comes, my hands are restless, revealing a foreign energy that moves within me.
I release my energy hands, and they circle us, faster and faster.
The hands move on their own, growing brighter and brighter, following some deep intelligence.
Then they strike the opening to the outside, and the stone walls reach across the opening to seal us in.
Tzina cries out in the dark, feeling trapped.
“It’s all right, Tzina,” I tell her, as I shape a glowstone, and fill the cave with light.
“Feel the breeze of sweet air.”
She takes my hand, and we eat some food that I’ve brought with us.
I unroll the sleeping mats.
Then we end this day as we’ve ended the other three before it.
We form a circle, and bow our heads until they touch.
We join hands and say:
“For the gift of family and love, and all the gifts of our lives, we give thanks.”
I dim the glowstone, and we sleep, huddled together, for a long night, empty of dreams.
First light wakes us.
The other side of the cave is open, and the stone has turned cold.
A long tunnel stands before us, covered with red crystals that bring us a river of light.
“Hurry,” says Shazira, “it’s time to greet the sun.”
I fly us all through the tunnel, and away from the cold stone.
We stop and stand in a wide field of wildflowers, on the edge of a great, green forest, deep inside the ring of mountains.
The sky is blocked by clouds.
Beyond them, the mountains also hide the sun, low on the horizon.
We dance the greeting, longer than usual.
We can’t see the sun, but we feel its strength with us.
Then we walk through the forest.
The trees are old, several hundred feet tall, their trunks covered with flowering vines.
There is no path here, but I feel the way to where we must go.
An hour of walking brings us to a perfectly round clearing.
The trees above the clearing curve down and weave their life together, grow together, forming a perfect dome of life.
There are twenty three crystal tables standing on the ground.
Each round table glows, and the clearing is filled with light.
Tzina’s face is full of joy as she absorbs the wonder that surrounds us.
“Does the clearing have a name, ina?” asks Tzina.
The old one’s memories never named this place, but a deep voice within me knows it.
Not one of Yagrin’s memories, but something else.
“It’s called the Breath of Life, and together, we will awaken it.”
“Is it alive, ina?”
“Not in a way that we see, but the whole energy web breathes with a kind of life.”
“Breathing is not about air.”
“It’s about a rhythm, a dance.”
“It moves between giving and accepting.”
Twenty two tables stand in a circle at the edge of the clearing, and one larger table stands in the center.
Shazira and Tzina lie down on the table in the center, and I stand between them.
I start an ancient chant, and Tzina and Shazira join in.
A song to the creator, that follows our breaths.
“With your gifts, we give.”
“With your love, we breathe.”
I do the Gen exercise called hands of power.
I spin energy around the wrists of my energy hands until they glow brightly.
I feel a spinning column of energy within me that fills each arm and extends several inches through each palm.
I raise my energy hands high above me, and the flowers and crystal tables glow in response.
With these hands, I spin energy around each of my body’s energy wells.
The opening to each well appears as an intricate crystal vessel, filled with energy.
The energy within each well looks to energy eyes as a glowing, spinning liquid.
Each well is filled with a different color, from red to violet.
I dip my energy hands into the crystal vessels, and deep into the spinning energy wells behind the vessels.
I slowly pull my energy hands out of each vessel.
They’re covered with spinning, sparkling, colored energy.
I raise them high and the clearing glows with the same color in response.
When I complete the opening of my own wells, I do the same for Shazira and Tzina.
Then I focus on the energy of love that always moves between us, and I weave bridges of energy between the green wells within us, our energy hearts.
Three wells and three bridges.
We breathe each other.
As the breath begins, my heart sends a gift of spinning energy, across two bridges, to Shazira and Tzina.
Then, at the other end of the breath, their hearts send energy to me, and to each other.
With energy hands, I spin energy around each of the other twenty-two tables.
Energy bridges form in complex patterns between the tables.
The bridges spin and breathe, giving the gift of energy, and then accepting it.
All of the tables glow brightly, and I rise to the top of the dome.
Energy bridges form between the twenty two tables and the energy wells of my body.
Energy moves in great spinning breaths, between me and all of the tables.
We breathe like this for a few minutes.
I feel as though I’ve returned to the temple of song of the old ones, and I begin a song of sound and energy.
A great pulse of energy rises from the center table and fills me.
Each of the twenty two tables glows, brighter, and brighter.
Then each sends a great pulse of energy toward me.
I absorb their energy, and I release a gift of energy and light, that shines skyward, through the trees.
A vibration passes across the ground in a wave.
The ring of tables shift positions, and all the land within the clearing moves downward.
Finally, the movement stops.
The clearing has become a sunken, sloping amphitheatre, a hemisphere below the surface.
I slowly come to rest, standing again between my family.
The center table shakes violently, so we quickly move off of it.
The table separates into two halves, which move five feet apart, revealing a small metal cavity in the ground.
A wooden box rests there.
Each of us tries to open the box, without success, and energy eyes can’t see within it.
The three of us hold each other as if there is no world outside us.
Then we move with one thought, and open the box, easily, together.
Within the box are three objects.
The largest is a three inch metal medallion.
The face of the medallion has a left side of silver, and a right side of gold.
The face is engraved with images of the hidden city and a crown.
I turn it over, and it feels warm in my hands.
The back is not metal, but a dark blue crystal, engraved with an image of a Bizra, an old one, and a flaming sword hovering over a well.
Shazira and Tzina cannot pick up the medallion.
I reach for it, to put in my pocket.
It rises toward me before my hands can touch it.
Then it slips into the pocket of my robe, and remains there.
Two bracelets still stare at us from within the box.
One looks like mother of pearl, with a Celtic-like pattern, inlaid in gold and outlined with a trace of blood-red crystal.
The other bracelet is silver, covered with a ring of twelve colored stones, and a larger blue-white crystal at its center.
Shazira is drawn to the gold bracelet, and picks it up as though it weighs nothing at all.
The silver bracelet surrenders itself to Tzina.
“They objects are beautiful, Yagrin, but did we come here for jewelry?”
“What are these things?”
“I don’t know,” I answer, “but they are gifts, waiting here a long time, for us to come and claim them.”
There is a noise like thunder as the dome of trees moves.
A small opening appears in the trees and the clouds above it.
I fly us out of the clearing, and high above the forest.
For now, the web above the forest is normal, but I fly quickly, wondering how long this peace will last.
The dome seals itself quietly behind us, as we leave the ring.
Lightning then fills the ring, and chaos returns to the web, like an exploding wave, reaching out to strike the mountains.
The gifts we carry feel both familiar and strange, as we fly home.
I wake while it’s still dark.
Shazira stands by the window, watching me.
“What next, Yagrin?” she asks, walking toward the bed.
“Do we wander across the world in search of more shadows?”
I take her hands, and hold her gaze.
“Sometimes, Shazira, we must wander, so the world can surprise us, and show us new paths.”
“Still, the words of our teachers are sweet.”
“We follow their wisdom when we can, and teach them, when we must.”
“The old ones believe that war will come in a year.”
“I have to bring the guilds together to prepare for war, and I need your help.”
She pulls away, walks back to the window and looks up at the stars.
“Do you really need me?” she asks, turning toward me.
Her hands gesture toward the window, and the sky.
“You’ve already left us, to go to a place where we can’t follow.”
“Soon, we’ll be just another memory, or something more distant, like the legends of the ancient kings.”
“Shazira, I don’t know how many days we’ll wake together over the next few years, but when the world calms, we will be a family again.”
“How will you bring the guilds together?”
“I must become a master in each guild.”
“Even if you find the talent, Yagrin, mastery will take you many years.”
“The war will not wait for you.”
“Not years,” I tell her.
“I will become a master in all four guilds in one month.”
She looks at me like I’m insane.
“A month?!” she says.
“The guilds must start preparing now, but they will do nothing until I convince them.”
“I must face them all together, so none of them feel slighted, and I must be a master of each guild at that first meeting.”
“How?” she asks.
“How will you do it in a month?”
“I am more than Jiku now.”
“My mind and body can move at impossible speeds, plus I have knowledge and memories from many of the old ones.”
She is quiet.
“What can I do to help you?” she asks.
“Trust me,” I answer.
“Love me, and forgive me if I make the days so busy that there’s little time for you.”
“I trust you Yagrin, even when you speak like a madman.”
“I’ll do whatever I can to help you, but I’m only Jiku.”
“How much can I do in one month?”
I meet with Lina, head of the weavers.
“Why do you wait, Yagrin?” she asks.
“You trained for the weaver’s test before you became an old one!”
“Honor your guild, and take back the master’s robe.”
“Let us test you tomorrow.”
“I’ll do it,” I say, “on condition that you test Zias on the same day.”
“Zias?” asks Lina.
“What is she to you?”
“My nephew has a troubled mind.”
“If his mother becomes master again, it will seem to him that his life is returning to normal.”
“It will bring some peace.”
It will make Berek happy, but that’s not the whole truth.
I visit Zias and tell her what I’ve done.
“Tell me the true reason that you want me to become master again.”
“Lina wants me to return now to the guild,” I tell Zias.
“She thinks she will get first access to what I learned from the old ones.”
“I don’t know if she just wants honor, or if she thinks this will give her some advantage over the other guilds.”
“She can’t ignore me, but it will be easy for her to ignore you.”
“Why wait days or weeks until Lina decides to notice you, and then finds someone to test you?”
“You’re my nephew’s mother, Zias.”
“You’re family now, and I will do anything for family.”
“Thank you Yagrin,” she says, resting her hand on my shoulder.
“Still, I think there’s another reason.”
“There are troubles coming, within the year,” I say quietly.
“Tell no one yet.”
“There will be a meeting of the council and the guilds in a few weeks to discuss it.”
“I want every action-minded master to be at the meeting.”
“We must push the guilds to take quick, massive action.”
“I appreciate your help in returning to the guild,” she says, “but I can’t promise that I’ll support you.”
“I’ll listen to what you tell the guilds, and then I’ll decide.”
The next day, we go to our tests.
Yagrin struggled with the tests when he was young, but today, the tests are no challenge.
Zias and I fly away, wearing the robes of master weavers.