The corridor outside the transition chamber is small, and dark.
In regular light, the queen’s glow is barely visible, but here, in the dim light, strong rays of colored light shine from the queen’s head and tentacles.
Keesha, Makish, the captain, and two senior officers meet us in the corridor.
They are here to bring the queen to an area large enough for all the crew.”
The moment that Keesha sees the queen, she bows her head to the ground, and the others follow her lead.
They will not move until the queen asks them to rise.
“Do you know the ways of queens and their shadows, my children?”
“Yes, my queen,” says Keesha, still bowed to the ground.”
“This is my death shadow,” says the queen, and squeezes the tentacle that is wrapped around mine.”
“You will obey him as me, and call him Lord, until he births the next queen.”
“Yes, my queen,” says Keesha.
I can smell that Keesha is shocked that I’ve been chosen for this.
“Do you question my decision?” asks the queen in a stern voice.
“I declare him today, before you as witnesses, as my legal brood-brother.”
“If I had more than a day to live, I would instead ask him to be my mate.”
“Gunal,” I say, “your children are only surprised that an alien is given such an honor.”
“It is unusual,” she admits, adressing the Fiklow, “but he restores the oceans to our mother, and has brought me to you from the dead.”
“Can any of you do that?”
“My time with you is almost gone before it begins, just long enough to give you blessing, and say goodbye.”
The Fiklow stare at me expectantly, waiting to hear about the oceans.
“I found a way to return sea water to the oceans,” I tell them.
“Your queen will move to the next life, when the oceans return to their heights in a little less than a day.”
“My queen,” asks Keesha, “may we take you to one of the larger Fiklow worlds to greet more of your children?”
“A beautiful suggestion,” answers the queen, “but it cannot be.”
“I must let life go, by the crystal forests of Gunal, when the oceans are full.”
“Lord Yagrin,” asks Keesha, “how is it possible to restore what the artifact destroyed?”
“I awakened the strength of mother Gunal and the sun to help us.”
“Together, they restore the ocean water to its place.”
“The Fiklow will still have much work to do, to bring life back to the ocean.”
I feel a mind touch on my wintzal, but it’s not Makish.
I take a chance, and let her in.
“It’s you, Gunal?”
“Queens often share thoughts with their shadows, but it’s hard to hold the connection for long.”
“With you, it’s easier.”
“Probably because I also have that skill.”
“Ask my children to rise, and greet me.”
“Rise, and greet your queen,” I say aloud.
The queen’s initial formality is largely gone, and she greets each one of them warmly, as a grandmother would face her grandchildren.
Makish greets the queen last.
Makish does not usually enjoy ceremony, but the queen puts her at ease.
“I am pleased to meet a sister of the long path, Makish.”
“True, you are not as old as me, but you have the patience of long cycles of waiting.”
As the queen meets each of them, the glow on her head brightens, and shines into the eyes of the one she greets.
“What is that light my queen?” asks Makish.
“It makes me feel so strange, and far away.”
“That is the queen’s blessing,” answers the queen.
“The blessing is a unique energy that the queen commands.”
“It fills your eyes, and spreads through you, and finds a way to give you a gift.”
“What kind of gift?”
“I can’t see the fullness of it, but I can see that it will bring you a great joy.”
We move to the meeting room, and the queen greets her children, one at a time.
I feel a mind touch.
This time, it’s Makish.
“Yagrin, Fwitay is despondent.”
“He expects to be killed now that the queen has made you death shadow.”
“For drugging you, and forcing you to come here.”
I call to Fwitay, and move him ahead of the others in line to greet the queen.
“Gunal, I say, “this is Fwitay who made the long, dangerous journey to my world, and convinced me to come here to Gunal, and return the artifact.”
“Without him, you would still be trapped on Gunal, and it would still be a desert.”
“He pushed me to come, and told me, that someday I would see that there was no other choice.”
“Now, after everything I have seen, I must agree with him completely.”
The queen speaks with Fwitay far longer than she speaks with her other children, and wraps two tentacles with him.
“Do you have any mates yet, Fwitay?” she asks.
“No,” he answers.
“The queen has spoken,” she says loudly.
“Fwitay will bring great honor to a mate, and her family.”
Fwitay is embaressed at the attention, but thanks the queen for her kindness.
The World is Calm
Ship’s day and night are changed to match the planet’s cycles.
We must all be awake and strong for tomorrow’s events.
The queen’s day is spent eating and speaking with the crew, and speaking with far-away leaders of the various Fiklow worlds.
Many of the leaders are in route, and will arrive to be with the queen at her death.
My place is at her side.
She enjoys the hidden speech of the mind touch.
She fills my head with her thoughts and wit, as she meets with her many children.
The day passes quickly, and pleasantly, with her as company.
Then, as the day fades, she and I meet alone in the queen’s room.
I tell her of wonders I have seen.
As I give her images of the Gen Tournament, and the Bizran and their dreams.
She tells me what I need to know as her death shadow.
As night comes, the water temperature rises slightly.
Even with the warmer water, the queen will not sleep alone.
Sleeping Fiklow often wrap themselves around a companion for warmth.
It’s an ancient practice, and the queen tells me that she and I will sleep like this.
“You are like a favorite brood-brother Yagrin,” she says, as we drift toward sleep.
“This has been a bright day.”
“Thank you for letting me taste water again, and being my shadow.”
When morning comes, we eat together with the ship’s crew.
Then we all prepare to return to the planet.
The queen waits alone in her chamber, with her own thoughts, and the prayers that she says to prepare her for death.
I flow my physical body to water, and my fire body leaps through the walls of the ship, racing at full speed across the energy web to the planet.
I come to rest at the bottom of the ocean, near the throne’s egg.
The oceans are nearly full.
Soon, it will be time for me to stop the storms and the energy streams from the sun.
When the planet is calm, then, I will return to the ship to shadow the queen for her final hours.
As I wait, I wonder what lies inside the egg.
Is it another gateway to worlds of energy?
I watch the energy stream from one end of the egg to the other.
Now, surrounded by sea water, familiar patterns emerge.
A ring of mother patterns surround the egg, and a dark blue sphere of energy holds the egg, and guards the grandmother pattern.
It’s almost a pattern wheel, which was the key to open the walls of the city of life!
I connect the egg’s sphere to the ring with spokes of energy, and I start it spinning like the city’s wheel.
As it spins, I pour the Feldin glow into the wheel.
The wheel accelerates to spin a thousand times faster, with a brilliant glow that fills the whole clearing, and makes the crystal trees shine.
Soon, there are two energy wheels, then four, all glowing in brilliant colors.
They multiply faster and faster, until they fill the ocean from one end of the world to the other.
Time to end the fountains, the storms, and the fire.
With my healing body, I touch the balance of Gunal, and the balance of the sun, and the two of them stop reaching for each other.
The oceans are full, and the world is calm again.
Gates of Life
Calm, but not still.
The world has come to some balance with the water restored, but true balance will not come without life.
The billions of energy wheels spin, faster, and faster.
A vibration begins in the egg.
A great circular wave expands throughout the ocean, and then contracts, as it returns to the egg.
The vibration stops for a few seconds with the wave’s return, and then the vibration, and expanding wave, begin again.
The world waits for something, but what?
I shape a Fiklow body, and bind my energy to it.
Then I stand before the egg.
It seems to call me.
I reach out to touch it, and it opens.
The necklace of blue pearls rests within, strung on a gold chain.
A pulse of blue energy bursts out of the egg, and spreads through all the energy wheels, and the space between them.
Each wheel becomes a window to the past.
Through them, I see with physical eyes, the ancient ocean, before the destruction.
Rich with life.
The artifact comes into view, through a wheel that lies in front of me.
I watch in horror, as energy radiates outward, killing every Fiklow, but leaving other life untouched.
The water still remains in that ancient ocean after the first wave of energy.
I wait sadly for the next energy wave that will consume the ancient water, and all remaining life within it.
The final destruction hides from me, and the egg closes.
The windows, and the energy wheels vanish from the ocean.
I find myself suddenly alert as though someone appears near me.
The water smells different.
I open my energy eyes, and see that the ocean is empty no more.
There is life everywhere.
Only the Fiklow are missing.
Did the wheels rescue the ocean’s life, and bring it here, or did I witness an act of creation?
A Favorite Tree
I let go of the Fiklow body, and rise into space with my fire body.
Several ships approach the planet, and move into orbit.
I locate Keesha’s ship, and pass through the walls into the queen’s room.
Then, I reshape my Fiklow body, and bind my energy to it.
“Are you finished with your preparations, Gunal?” I ask, as she looks up.
“I’m finished, Yagrin.”
“Is our mother ready for me?” she asks.
“The oceans wait for the queen to return.”
She wraps tentacles with me, and we leave the chamber.
We find our own way to the meeting room.
Leaders from several Fiklow worlds have come to receive the queen’s blessing.
She blesses and speaks briefly with each one.
“My children,” she says, “I wish that I could personally greet and bless each of the crew on your ships, but my time is short.”
“There is room for thousands of us in the great clearing, and the crystal forest.”
“Bring all who can leave the ships, and I will bless them together, as I say goodbye, and swim toward death.”
Several transport platforms are brought to the ocean and set up around the egg.
The queen and I wait in Keesha’s ship, while the queen’s children transport down and prepare to greet her.
This is the old way.
Keesha sends me a message when all are waiting for us.
It’s time to go.
“Gunal,” I say, “I have a surprise waiting for you in the oceans.”
“What is it, Yagrin?” she asks, with the excitement of a young one.
The transport platform beneath us activates, along with one of the platforms near the egg.
A sparkling, spinning tunnel forms.
We can see the other platform, and we jet toward it.
The crowd of Fiklow greet us as we arrive.
I look around.
“Gunal,” I say with a mind touch, and point above us.
One hundred feet away, a swarm of fish-like creatures passes.
I smell the queen’s surprise, and watch as her glow increases ten-fold.
The swarm turns and swims toward the queen.
When it arrives, it circles a few times around her, and then continues on its journey.
“Yagrin,” she asks aloud, “how did you restore life to the oceans?!”
“The throne helped me.”
I stream the sounds and images of the birth into her mind.
“My children,” she says, addressing the Fiklow, “see how mother Gunal is restored to us by my shadow.”
“She breathes again, full of life.”
“Now, she waits for us to fill her seas again.”
“Yagrin,” she akss me, “when you restored the sea, did you touch the throne?”
“No, only the egg itself.”
“A queen touches the throne twice in her life,” she tells all of us.
“First, when she becomes queen, and again, when she prepares for death.”
“No queen before me died without touching the throne.”
“Today, I will touch the throne again, and say goodbye in the proper way.”
She keeps a tentacle wrapped around me, even as she approaches the egg.
A cloud form around us, and hides us from the Fiklow.
She touches the egg until it opens.
She hesitates for a second, and then she touches the throne.
It fills her with energy, as the egg closes.
She and I rise about 100 feet above the crowd, and Gunal glows brighter than ever before.
“My children,” she says, “I have touched the throne, and it has given me a blessing to pass on to all of you.”
The light shines brightly from her, and fills the eyes of all the Fiklow who watch.
I wonder what it feels like to receive her blessing, but today, I am bound to her, almost part of her.
Her blessings are only for those around us.
“Goodbye my children.”
“My shadow will swim with me to the end.”
We drift down to the bottom.
She has lost her glow, and looks weak.
“Carry me, my shadow,” she says.
She wraps herself around me, as though we will sleep.
I glide us along the energy web to a crystal tree that she shows me with a mind touch.
“I meant what I said Yagrin.”
“Another day, or another life, and I would be proud to call you mate.”
“Someday we will swim together again, in the worlds of energy.”
I bring her to the base of the tree, and she unwraps herself from me.
“Now, we are unwrapped,” she says.
“This was one of my favorite places as a young one.”
“I dreamed of many things here.”
Then she adds me with a mind touch:
“My life has been far greater than my dreams.”
She glows again, but only her eyes.
“Now, Yagrin, I give you two blessings with the last of my strength.”
“One is for you, that you carry out your duties as shadow until the new queen rises.”
“The second blessing is for you to pass on to the queen.”
“When you give her this blessing, your life will end.”
Her eyes shine brightly, and the light fills my eyes, and spreads through my body.
“Gunal and Yagrin are apart again,” she says with a mind touch.
Then her eyes fade to normal, and soon go dark.
I carry her body back to her people.