My awareness spins as I leave the seven towers and my life as a Gen.
Soon after, I awake in the small, cramped vat.
My body has grown again, leaving my sisters, the old ones, behind.
The world is different after my time with the Gen.
The future calls my name, and promises joy and possibility.
Still, my heart is unsettled.
I’m filled with sadness, and a strange feeling of urgency.
Something is wrong.
Not here, but somewhere far away.
I start down the ladder, and stop.
The liquid in the vat is a beautiful, sparkling green.
My life floats on energy wells.
They follow me like shadows.
They fill my dreams and visions, and wait for me in every world I visit, or imagine.
The wells within me burn quietly, far away.
When I reach out to them, then I feel a distant ocean of energy move and call me.
The wells only pretend to live in us.
Even the fire body is only a small wave, dancing around the wells.
Can I enter the wells as Neebol did?
I remember the Gen way of the Hands of power.
I spin energy around my wrists, to strengthen and free my energy hands.
They are both hands and eyes, and I send them deep within, to touch the heart well.
An energy image, a tattoo, floats before me, on the waves of the green well.
The base of the tattoo is black fire, like black marble.
Rising up from the base is green fire in the shape of a fountain.
I open the green well, by spinning energy around it, and the room fills with green light.
Then I open the other six wells, red through violet.
The openings appear as crystal vessels, filled with energy.
I bathe my energy hands within them, until my hands shine with a blinding light.
When I finish, without thinking, I call back my hands, and float down to the floor.
The door to the room opens, long before I reach it, and I move quickly toward the temple.
The dance in the temple is beautiful, but only a shadow of the Gen tournament.
Still, I would love to dance with my sisters one last time.
Niyta catches my eyes, and I feel her thoughts, covered in sadness.
I have a twenty year old Jiku body, not the body of an old one.
The temple will not let me dance.
I never wanted to be an old one, but now, I don’t want to leave.
If only I were Gen.
I’d let go of everything but the pure energy of the fire body.
Then I’d shape an old one’s body and join the dance.
I have Neebol’s memories, but a dream doesn’t make me Gen.
If I let my body go, death will take me.
I sigh as I watch the dance, and one of my Gen memories returns, and with it the image of the whisheeku.
I hear a simple, low tone pouring out of my skin, and I feel the whisheeku pattern floating through my fire.
A strong vibration starts near my navel, and spreads through me.
My body dissolves into air, leaving a black crystal knife on the ground.
I look for my Jiku pattern body, and find it, safely hidden within my heart well.
This is a Gen melting, a transformation, but it won’t help me.
I can’t dance like this!
I was there, in the Watchtower, when the Bizra shaped me the body of an old one, but I don’t have the knowledge or strength to use that memory.
I reach within, and ask for help to dance one last dance.
The whisheeku floats before my energy eyes.
I embrace the pattern, fill it with light, and wait for it to lead me.
It hovers over each of the wells until they erupt with fountains of energy.
The knife vanishes, and the Jiku pattern body struggles to escape the heart well.
The whisheeku covers the heart well, and pulls at it.
The Jiku pattern body bursts out of the heart well, shimmers for a moment, and disappears.
The energy fountains disappear within the wells, and my fire body looks different, Gen-like.
Am I Gen enough to reshape a body without the help of the Bizra?
I try to form the pattern body of an old one, but it won’t hold together.
My mind and memories are still intact.
Maybe, the old ones can help me reshape a body.
I move to enter the temple, but it pushes me away.
My fire body floats to the floor just outside the temple.
The whisheeku moves away from me, and flies through the temple, touching the bodies of every old one.
Then the pattern returns, and dances across my fire body.
A strange pattern body forms.
I feel like minutes pass, but the old ones are frozen in place.
My awareness moves at Gen speed.
I feel almost Gen, but something is incomplete.
I plunge the whisheeku into the heart well, where it vanishes in a burst of green fire.
I’m only energy, but the pattern body is visible!
I’m shaped like an old one again, and I look like I’m made of living crystal.
I touch the edge of the temple and it lets me pass.
“What are you, Yagrin?” asks Niyta, as I rise up to face her, and she tries to touch me.
“I don’t know, Niyta.”
“I brought back this knowledge from my last journey.”
I open myself to the energy web, and share in its strength.
I feel myself connecting with all of my sisters who dance, and my crystal energy body glows brightly, the shining light touching all the old ones.
I am a fountain of emotional energy, of love and joy.
A thought fills me.
“Let the green fire glow brightly, and connect us all.”
I reach out with a thousand energy hands, and a thousand whispers to the other old ones.
“Let us spin your heart energies so they are open to all.”
Like flowers awakened in Spring, their green energy wells shine brightly.
Most of the old ones do not have the gift of sharing thoughts, but I bring that home with me from my last journey.
I ask each quietly with a gentle thought, “will you let your thoughts dance with the others?”
They agree, and I move quickly among them, touching each one’s energy body.
Then I take a place next to Niyta at the center of the temple.
I gather their thoughts into me like rivers, and return the joined thoughts to all, like a fountain.
Then we dance.
Full of Life
When the dance ends, we descend to the floor of the temple, each to different levels.
This time, I descend to the bottom of the temple with Niyta.
“You’re not an old one any more, Yagrin,” she says.
“You’re not Jiku either, but your heart still belongs to us.”
“You’re old like us.”
“We all feel it.”
The others agree.
“Is it because you’ve joined thoughts with us, Yagrin?”
“Where did you go on your last journey?”
“I am full of echoes of other long lives,” I tell them.
“If we are only old,” I continue, “then we fail.”
“The travels, the years must teach us.”
“Are we certain what tomorrow brings, or are we confident that we have the courage to face what comes?”
“We must see more possibility each day.”
“We must be children and see wonder and more mystery.”
I speak of the Gen, and of Vala, ten thousand cycles old.
I haven’t become Vala, Neebol, or any of the old ones whose thoughts I’ve shared, but they give me strength and wisdom to draw upon.
Something of each of them lives in me.
When I tell the old ones of the seven towers, Niyta’s face darkens.
“None of us have traveled to the world of the Gen,” she says, “but the Dream Hunters speak of it.”
An old one dreams of the seven towers, in a time of need.
Darkness will fall, one year later.
Journey to the towers for help and disaster.
“We knew the time of war was near, Yagrin, when you came among us, but we thought it was still years away.”
We move out of the temple, and I let go of the crystal energy.
I fill myself with a single thought.
“Help me to walk again as a Jiku.”
I’m filled with a memory of my Jiku pattern body, as it was when I left the vat.
I concentrate, and draw energy from the web, and soon, the pattern body appears before me.
Then I stream energy through the pattern body, to help the physical body take shape.
Finally, I reach out from my fire body and take hold of the two bodies.
“These are mine, again,” I tell myself, and I awake on the floor.
“You’re not an old one anymore, Yagrin,” Niyta says, as I stand.
“How much time has passed in the outside world?” I ask.
“About a year,” she says.
We walk to one of the doors.
There’s a a raised area in the center of the door with a blue crystal and a gold crystal.
“This door,” she says, “leads to other caverns.”
“Those caverns lead to the outside world.”
She presses the blue crystal on the door.
“This calls the royal family who serve us,” she says.
“When someone enters the cavern, the blue crystal will glow.”
“Press the gold crystal once, and you will join the visitor.”
“Remember us, Yagrin, and return, when it’s time for us to leave the cave.”
“You carry an old one’s heart.”
“Only your face will comfort us in the outside world where we are strangers.”
“Until then, we return to the dance and our journeys.”
The old ones walk away, and I stand alone by the door.
It’s an hour before the blue crystal glows.
I pause for a few seconds, absorbing the song one last time.
Then I touch the gold crystal, and find myself in the round cave.
Keela stands there in the dim light with an armband, expecting to greet an old one.
She’s frightened when she notices that my eyes are open.
“I’m not an old one any more, Keela.”
She sees my adult body and normal eyes, and takes a deep breath.
The outside world waits for us, hundreds of feet above this cavern.
Keela takes my hand, and touches another golden crystal on the wall of the small cave.
My skin tastes the warmer air of the outside world, while my eyes meet the sudden daylight.
The Jiku eyes adapt quickly to the bright light, and show me the clearing, the sky, and the hills around us.
Keela has changed in the year that I’ve been gone.
At seventeen, she looks like a woman, not a girl.
In the sunlight, she sees that I’ve also changed.
“Master Yagrin,” she says, “is that you?”
She has seen me at fifty, and eight, but not twenty.
“You’re young again, only a little older than me.”
“Will you start a new life and family?”
I glare at her.
“Why would I want a new family?”
“I’ll return to my own family.”
“You can’t go back to them like this.”
“You look like Shazira’s son!”
With a small thought, I reshape my body into an older form.
“You’ve mastered the skills of flow!”
“How long can you hold that shape?”
“This isn’t a flow mask, Keela.”
“It’s a new body.”
“I can keep this shape for as long as I choose, or take a younger form.”
I reshape my younger body.
“Time cannot touch you!” she says, in awe.
“You can take back your youth at any moment!”
“I can, but I’ll wear my old shape when I return to my family.”
She looks puzzled, wondering why I would choose to be old when I could be young, but she asks a different question.
“What’s it like in the cave?” she asks, “and what’s it like to dance with the old ones?”
“We’ll speak of it another time, Keela.”
“I need to go home to the guild lands and my family.”
“There is no need to rush home,” she says.
“I have reports of the last year’s events.”
She looks uncomfortable.
“We have agents in the guild lands reporting on current events.”
“I asked some of them to keep track of the Watchtower and your family.”
“They do no harm, Master Yagrin.”
“We simply want to know of events that will effect Tshuan.”
“Tell me about the Watchtower and the guardians, Keela.”
“Is the tower still broken?”
“The council assembled the masters to discuss the failure of the Watchtower at moonwatch.”
“They decided to use three crystals at the next moon, instead of one.”
“The weaver channelled enough energy through the tower to light the night.”
“She drove away the Krale, but there’s a cost.”
“The weaver goes into a coma, and her body is covered with burns.”
“There are new guardians every month.”
“Do the weavers recover?” I ask.
“Some are completely healed, but others never recover their strength.”
“They can’t feel the web, or bind energy.”
“Some have died.”
Zias, Berek’s mother was the weaver when I left.
“Did you hear of a guardian named Zias?”
She looks at a screen to review the detailed reports.
“Your nephew’s mother was the first to try the three crystals.”
“What happened to her?”
“She never awoke.”
I swallow hard.
I can’t believe that he has lost another mother.
“Do you have reports of my nephew, Berek?”
“How is he?”
“Quiet,” she says, almost silent.”
“He speaks only to his father, and your bondmate, Shazira.”
“Your daughter Tzina tries to lift his spirits, but he refuses to speak with her.”
“He still blames himself that you became an old one.”
“How is Shazira?”
Keela looks away.
“I was afraid you would ask me about her,” she says.
“In a few days, Shazira will bond with Berek’s father, Bintar.”
My legs are weak, all my strength gone.
This is the gnawing sadness I felt when I awoke in the vat.
“Why?” I ask Keela.
“Master Yagrin, your family knows that the old ones are adrift on the long path of years.”
“No one expects to see you for many years.”
“Shazira will not live all her days alone.”
“Bintar admires her, and Berek needs a mother.”
“You have been gone more than a year, and its almost a year since Bintar’s wife died.”
“They will bond then.”
“What does Tzina think of the bonding?”
“She argues every day with her mother, and tells her to wait.”
“Forgive me master,” she adds.
“When I saw you in the sunlight, young again, I planned to keep you in Tshuan until after the bonding.”
“With Shazira bonded to another, I hoped that you would consider me for a bondmate.”
“Still, when you asked me about Shazira, I couldn’t lie to you.”
“I forgive you, Keela, but I have to go now.”
“Tell your father that we will speak soon about the old ones and what is coming.”
I rise into the air, and race along the energy web toward the Watchtower.
After a year among the old ones and other worlds, the Watchtower seems almost ordinary.
I don’t expect to find Shazira in the tower, but I can contact her guild from here, and find out where she is.
I land on the deck outside of the music and art room.
When I enter the room, Berek is working, his multi-color clay hovering in the air above the table.
He turns to look, but finds a young stranger who looks like him.
I expect him to ask questions, but his face shows little feeling.
He ignores me, and turns back to his work, so I make the clay vanish.
He gets up in anger.
“Who are you? he yells, “and why did you take away my clay?”
“To get your attention!”
“Leave me alone!” he says.
I reshape my physical form to my older self.
“Master Yagrin, you’re alive!”
“I was an old one, Berek, not dead,” I tell him, and give him a quick hug.
“Some said,” he tells me, “that the guild or the Tshuan people killed you.”
“I didn’t believe it.”
“Still, I never thought that we would see you again.”
“You’ve come back, and mastered flow!”
“How long can you hold the Jiku mask?”
“This is my shape for as long as I wish, Berek.”
“I’m not an old one anymore.”
We’re silent for a few seconds.
“I heard about your mother’s death, defending the city.”
“She’s in a coma,” he says loudly.
“The council has declared her dead, so my father can bond again.”
“She’s not dead yet.”
He looks at me sadly, unsure if I know about Shazira’s plans to bond with his father.
“I know about Shazira,” I tell him.
“Then stop her.”
“You have to stop them.”
“My mother’s still alive!”
“I’ll show you,” he says, and he takes me to the healing room.
In the healing room, Zias lies on the bed.
Her skin is gray.
There’s so little life left in her.
I look at her with energy eyes.
The physical body still lives, but there’s no conscious brain activity, and there’s something terribly wrong with her energy.
The fire and pattern bodies seem to flash in and out of existence, connected to the physical body by a thin thread of energy.
“The healers have kept the physical body alive,” he says, “but they think her memories and self are gone.”
“They can’t stabilize the pattern body.”
“They’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“That’s true,” says someone, walking into the room.
It’s the Tshuan healer that I’ve met before.
“You’ve returned, Master Yagrin,” he says.
“Do the old ones exist?”
“I was an old one, and danced among them.”
“Are they truly a thousand years old?”
“I once thought that only fools would believe the old Tshuan stories,” he says.
“It seems that I’m the fool.”
“Can you heal her, Master?” asks the healer.
“I remember your healing ways from the marketplace.”
“I’m not a master at healing.”
“Please,” says Berek.
“No one else can help her.”
She needs more than any healing that I’ve seen or done before.
“No Jiku can help her,” I tell them.
Berek cries, and crumples to the floor, sobbing.
No point in explaining what I’m going to do.
I have no idea if I can help.
I must find all that’s Gen within me to help Zias.
I open my energy wells, and let energy rivers rage over the rest of my body.
I feel a change begin, and I see the world with Gen speed.
An inner voice tells me to let my physical body disappear into smoke.
Soon, I’m left with only a fire body.
The healer is shocked, wondering where I’ve gone, and Berek is too caught up in his pain to notice.
I gather energy from the web, and focus on Zias.
She is so weak!
How has she survived this long, even with the help of healers?
I look at Berek, and I see energy streaming between him and his mother.
Unknowingly, he’s feeding her energy.
Her energy bodies go out of phase with this reality, hundreds of times a second, and enter another place.
Neebol was able to phase his physical body, before he became Gen, but his energy body was unaffected.
I’m fast enough to follow her energy bodies in their travels, and see a thread of her energy caught in a distant place.
I reach out with energy hands, and free the thread.
Then I follow her back to her physical body.
The energy bodies are here, but they have only a thin connection to her physical body.”
It won’t hold for long.
“Think of your love for you mother, Berek,” I tell him, with a voice that sounds in his thoughts.
“I need that energy to bring her back.”
He looks up to find me, but sees nothing.
I repeat the thought, and he listens.
I see the energy fill him, surround him, and connect him with his mother, stronger than before.
I take that energy and use it to heal the bond between his mother’s physical and pattern bodies.
Berek holds her hand, but she continues to get weaker.
She’s slipping away, and the healer tries to give her strength, but her heart stops, and her breath is gone.
Still, I don’t give up, bathing her in energy that I pull from the web, and shocking her heart.
She coughs and opens her eyes.
I think of my pattern body, and fill the energy web around me with my will to return.
The web fills with a swarm of small energy spirals.
The spirals glow bright, and join together in one great energy spiral, which becomes a new pattern body.
Then my physical body follows, and I bind my fire body to the other two bodies.
Berek continues to cry as he hugs his adopted mother.
The healer works to strengthen Zias, and rebuild her muscles.
When he’s satisfied with her condition, he leaves the room.
“You look so big, Berek,” she says in a weak voice.
“How long have I been healing?”
“Almost a year,” I answer.
She stands up, turns toward my voice, and sees me.
“What are you doing here?” she says coldly.
“First a traveler.”
“Then an old one.”
“What are you now?” she asks bitterly, “and what new curse will you bring?”
“Mother!” shouts Berek, moving between us.
“He healed you when no one else could.”
“The council even declared you dead, so father could bond again.”
She looks like she’s about to faint.
In a few moments she calms down.
“Has he bonded yet?” she asks in a weak voice.
“No,” says Berek.
The bonding to Shazira will be in a few days.”
“Why haven’t you stopped it?” she asks me, beats on my chest with her fists.
She cries, and I hold her to keep her from falling.
“I returned to my Jiku body only an hour ago,” I tell her, slowly pulling away.
“Then I heard about the bonding, and came here.”
Her face softens, and she calms down.
“Thank you for healing me,” she says, finding a place to sit.
“I’ll get your husband and stop the bonding,” I tell her.
“No need,” says Bintar.
“I’m already here.”
Bintar and Shazira are in the room.
“I sent for them, Master Yagrin, when Zias awoke,” says the healer.
Bintar sits on the edge of the healing platform and hugs Zias.
“Thank you,” says Bintar to the healer.
“I did little,” he says.
“Master Yagrin is the one who healed her.”
Bintar looks at me, but can’t find the right words.
“Thank you,” he says at last, “but you’re no healer.”
“How did you do this?”
“I learned many skills while I lived among the old ones.”
“Thank the creator, I returned in time.”
“The bonding ceremony can be cancelled.”
My heart pounds when Shazira takes my hands, and smiles at me.
The world is sweet, until I hear her words.
“There will be a bonding ceremony.”
“What?” I shout.
What strange cruelty is this?
“Let me finish, Yagrin,” she says softly.
“You and Zias were declared dead, and now, both of you are newborn, unbonded.”
“The arrangements for the ceremony are already complete, so Zias will take my place.”
“In three days, she and Bintar will renew their bond.”
I’m afraid to ask about us.
Bintar breaks the uncomfortable silence.
“They say that time passes differently among the old ones, Yagrin.”
“True,” I answer.
“I’ve lived on distant worlds.”
“I carry a thousand years of memories, of aliens and old ones, and I’ve gained strange skills not found on Siksa.”
“A thousand years!” says Shazira.
“I’ve known you for only twenty-five years, and you remember little of that.”
“Did I vanish in your new sea of memories?”
“I don’t measure our life together in years, Shazira!”
“We have no life together anymore, Yagrin.”
“It ended when you became an old one.”
“Why did you come back, just to say goodbye?”
“I came back to be with you and Tzina,” I tell her.
“You’re still a traveler, Yagrin,” she says.
“The council will never let us be together.”
She turns away, crying.
“You’re wrong, Shazira,” says Bintar.
“He’s not a traveler anymore.”
She looks at Bintar like he’s crazy.
“Yagrin will always be a traveler, Bintar.”
“Nothing can change that!”
“The council already did.”
“They didn’t mean to help him, but when they declared Yagrin dead, they erased everything he was, including his legal status as a traveler.”
I have to know what Shazira is feeling now!
The bonding ceremony creates a link between the fire bodies of the bondmates.
Only passing on to the next world can break the link.
Our legal bond is broken, but our fire bodies are still connected, and Shazira’s emotions circle around me, sharp and strong.
She feels that I’m already lost to her, and is afraid to bring me back and lose me again, to another quest or war.
“Do you hear my feelings within you, Shazira?” I ask her.
She stops and finds my emotions moving within her.
“You’re still here,” she says happily, touching her chest.
“We’re bonded, Shazira, no matter what the law says.”
She looks at me quietly.
“Do you want this bond?” she asks.
“The old Yagrin chose it, not you.”
“I choose you, again and again, Shazira, every time I see you smile.”
“The bonding ceremony is beautiful Yagrin, one of my sweetest memories.”
“How sad that you can’t remember it.”
“I wish that I could remember it,” I tell her.
“Bond with me, again,” she suggests, “and make a new memory that will be yours.”
I can’t find the words to answer her, but there’s no need to speak.
Shazira sees what’s in my heart.
“Just say yes,” she tells me.
“Yes,” I answer, and hug her tightly.
Read Part 4: Healing »