Tragic Genius

by Cynus

Chapter 11

Prism looked at Veil curiously. "I had no idea it was Master Vinh who convinced you to lead the people in the South. Grandmaster Jovun never told me that part."

Veil shrugged. "Was it really so important?" She asked. "The monks believed in me, for whatever reason. And at least I had Tellen, for what it was worth."

"Believe me, I was as surprised as you when I learned he was alive," Prism said. "I was certain the military had executed him for refusing to be part of the rebellion. I never intended to mislead you."

"I know, Prism," Veil said softly. She patted his arm and smiled.

A low growl interrupted the moment. Prism was surprised to see that it had come from Neredos. "The rebellion in Ultaka," he spat, his eyes smoldering. "If only that had never happened. If only . . ."

Prism and Veil shared a knowing look and both reached out to embrace their old friend. Dogo and Telzath, however, simply sat in confusion while Ghayle looked on. Her eyes held a touch of pity, but her expression revealed nothing else.

"I know that the chief and I are at a bit of a disadvantage here, but how did the rebellion in Ultaka affect you, Neredos?" Dogo asked. "Weren't you in Gor territory at the time?"

"Judging by the look of him, Dogo, I doubt he wishes to speak of it," Telzath urged.

"No, Ghayle made it clear that this is important," Neredos said, looking at Telzath. "Prism and Veil already know, and I suppose if I'm going to embrace this process at all, then I might as well go all the way. Gather close, let me teach you of my darkness. It will help you understand my path, as surely as anything can. I do not seek forgiveness for the crimes I committed against the world, but perhaps . . . perhaps, if you experience it, you'll know how I became the man I am."

Prism smiled in approval, and nearly stopped himself when he saw Ghayle mimic the expression. He had begun to see things her way, to come to terms with this Chosen business. He reminded himself that agreeing with the need to understand each other did not mean he agreed with Ghayle's methods, or her choice to summon the demons in the first place.

There was room for disagreement, even while seeking understanding. Knowing this, the process was beginning to make sense to him as it clearly had to Neredos. As he looked around the small group, he saw all the others, even Dogo, approaching Neredos with anticipation. They wanted to know. They wanted to understand.

And perhaps, Prism decided, they could all work together after all.

Neredos paced the halls of the command complex in the Everbright City. Some people were starting to call it the palace, since it was no longer being used as a building for war. All war functions were now being handled out of the communications center, ever since Dreok had taken over command of the troops. He was far more comfortable leading from the place where he communicated with the Oligan government.

Such communications had stopped several months earlier, even before it seemed the entire nation of Oligan went silent. Once the government had finally realized they were no longer in control of the Everbright City, and that they had no chance of reclaiming it without going to war with the Gor tribes in the north, they had turned their efforts to pretending that the city did not exist at all.

Neredos still expected that some form of assassination attempt would be made on his life, but as the weeks had dragged on, this had become less and less likely. Tensions had escalated with Ultaka, and mining disputes in Southern Oligan had drawn President Caliphar's attention elsewhere.

They were not the only ones with scattered attention. Shortly after arriving in Gor territory, delegates had come from several of the tribes. They had ridden the great eagles—spoken of largely in legend—to reach the city, though those eagles were starting to seem a lot less legendary. It seemed more and more Gor were coming to the city every day, and some of them had taken up temporary residence there. They had all wanted to speak to either Alazyn, or failing that, Neredos.

Neredos had no desire to lead these people, and indeed, with Dreok and Alazyn present, he had little reason to involve himself in such matters. However, whenever Alazyn was busy, the Gor preferred to work with him over any other human. They respected him almost as if he was one of them, given his extensive knowledge of Gor magic.

What annoyed him was how often Alazyn decided she was busy and passed the meetings off to him. The meetings were largely the same, but every time he had to sit through another one it put him more on edge. There were omens, the visiting mages said. Omens of great calamity, of the world lying on a precipice, waiting to crash into oblivion. The Gor had taken the appearance of the Everbright City in their sky to be amongst the greatest omens of all. Neredos, they believed, would preserve them from the dangers ahead.

It would have been great to have been able to ignore all these claims of omens as mere superstition, but not a day after the populace of an entire coastal village asked to be relocated from their homes to the city because a destruction omen had come to their shaman, the natural disasters had begun. A tidal wave struck the coast, leveling the village. Thankfully, no one had been killed as they had all evacuated prior to the wave's arrival.

Similar occurrences had happened all throughout the Gor territories. Volcanic mountains that had lain dormant for years exploded with fire and fury hours after the last people had fled. Again, the shamans had read omens in the sky and in their dreams, warning them of the coming destruction. The homes of the great eagles, their ancestral breeding grounds, had been destroyed during those same eruptions, and now the eagles roosted in the hangers that had been built for Oligan's aircraft on the Everbright City's outskirts.

So when the shamans spoke, Neredos listened, and he grew more fearful for the state of the world every single day. Dark days were coming, darker than any he had seen before, and the Gor viewed him as some sort of savior come to deliver them from it.

He wished Alazyn would return, so that she could take charge of these people who wished to put him on a pedestal. But she had been gone for some time now, hammering out negotiations with Ultaka. With the new weapons Oligan had developed, Ultaka had stood on the brink of destruction if they were not given some form of countering advantage. Neredos had felt guilty, given his role in developing the technology that had been used to create those weapons, and had been willing to negotiate with Ultaka to help them survive any conflicts with Oligan.

Neredos had no experience with diplomacy, and so had sent his wife instead. Alazyn had been raised to be a priestess, after all, and knew how to drive negotiations. Though she had not been pleased with the prospect of visiting another foreign nation after narrowly escaping the last one, at least Ultaka was ruled by the pacifistic Fedain. Or so the reputation made them out to be, though how one could claim pacifism when they simply instructed humans to do their dirty work for them Neredos did not fully understand.

Shortly before the natural disasters began, Neredos had lost contact with Alazyn. The brief bit of news he'd had from Ultaka thus far implied there'd been some form of rebellion. The whole world seemed wrapped up in civil war now, and as the omens continued to mount, Neredos feared for his wife's safety.

It had been a week since he'd heard from her. A week since the world had gone to utter madness, during which he'd hardly heard from anyone at all. The natural disasters had likely disrupted communications if they'd occurred on the scale they seemed to be occurring here in the North, but that did little to put Neredos' fears to rest.

He paced whenever he couldn't keep himself otherwise busy. The assistants that Dreok had assigned to him avoided his gaze whenever he entered this mood, already feeling the weight of his neurosis whenever he spoke to them. He knew he was difficult to deal with at these times, so he kept to himself. Which is why he was surprised when the door to his room opened, though as soon as he saw it was Dreok, Neredos nodded in understanding and greeting.

Dreok walked forward, his face showing grave concern. "Neredos . . ." He said gently.

"Dreok," Neredos replied. "Don't tell me, I have another visitor?"

Dreok appeared as if he wanted to be anywhere else. He was a tall man, but under Neredos' eye, he shrank back a little. "Yes . . ." Dreok said softly, "a Gor Priestess."

Though it seemed as if Dreok had more he wanted to say, he wasn't saying it. Neredos decided he might as well find out the truth his own way, and replied, "I'm not surprised. You should send her in right away then. Until Alazyn returns, I guess I'll have to keep doing these meetings . . ." He trailed off as Dreok winced.

"Neredos, this is different," Dreok said. "You should stop pacing and sit down."

"Why?" Neredos asked.

Before Dreok could respond, the door banged open again. A young Gor woman strode into the room, her eyes shooting daggers at Dreok and then Neredos, the latter whom she remained focused on as she walked forward. "You are Neredos?" She asked.

One of Neredos' assistants poked his head through the open doorway and said, "I'm sorry, Dreok . . . she insisted on coming in. I couldn't keep her back."

"You are familiar to me. I'm certain I've seen your face before," Neredos said, waving the assistant away with one hand. "It was many years ago, when I was studying at Thalom. Part of a Gor delegation, I believe."

The woman said nothing, and Dreok cleared his throat before presenting the woman. "Neredos, please allow me to introduce Faraz Tendrakanil, granddaughter of Alazyn Tendrakanil and Priestess of the Gor."

"You are related to Alazyn?" Neredos asked with surprise.

"Did he not just say . . ." Faraz started, then nodded slowly. "You mean my cousin, not my grandmother."

"I mean my wife," Neredos clarified, his eyes narrowing.

Faraz nodded again, her face tightening. "Yes . . . It should stand to reason that if Alazyn and I share a grandmother, we are related."

Neredos sighed, already hating the way this conversation was developing. "Please forgive my rudeness. You are the first representative of her tribe to come here."

"And with good reason, considering her status as an exile. But my grandmother believes that you are important to our success, and thus she deemed it proper to finally send a representative to your city," Faraz replied, each word coated with a thick layer of disdain.

"Another one reading omens?" Neredos asked, fighting to keep the disdain from his own voice. "I've heard this story many times recently."

Faraz's eyes tightened, and she reached into her pocket and pulled out a simple blue crystal and held it out to Neredos. "I've also come because of this."

Neredos took the crystal and examined it. He knew its composition, but not its purpose. It had been cut, but not by a jeweler's expert hand. It bore the rough shaping of magic from one unused to shaping magic. "A cyndar crystal? What of it?" Neredos asked.

"These are bonded with the lifeforce of priestesses in training during their first month of studies. It is the first ritual they perform. They are warm if the owner still lives but lose that warmth if the owner is dead," Faraz replied as if speaking to a child who should know better.

"It's cold," Neredos observed. Beside him, Dreok winced.

"Yes," Faraz said.

Neredos raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to make me guess what this is about?"

"You have given shelter to an exile, but we kept her crystal all the same," Faraz said. "We wished to know when she was no longer present on the world; no longer spreading our secrets without permission of her masters."

Realization slowly began to sink in, but Neredos fought the truth from taking hold of his mind. "Wait . . . what are you saying?"

"I have delivered the coldness of death to you, as my grandmother requested, that you may know the price of stepping beyond the natural order of things," Faraz said sternly, "just as Alazyn Selbrakhin had to learn when we exiled her from the warmth of our fires."

"My . . . Alazyn is dead?" Neredos asked, his mouth going dry.

"May the cold keep you awake at night, Neredos of Oligan," Faraz replied, bowing and turning in the same motion as she strode from the room.

Neredos started after her. "What!? Alazyn is dead?" He cried. Dreok caught him and held him back. Neredos fought for a moment, but quickly lost strength in Dreok's arms.

"Neredos . . . please, let me help you," Dreok said, gently guiding Neredos toward a nearby chair.

"Alazyn!?" Neredos wailed, desperately clawing for the quickly vanishing shards of his illusion. "Dreok, tell me this is some kind of trick! How could this be possible? What happened?"

"I just received the report shortly before Faraz arrived, Neredos. The council chambers where Alazyn was meeting with the Ultakans . . ." Dreok hesitated, waiting until he had Neredos' attention. "Everyone inside was executed by the rebels. All of them. Three-hundred-and-thirty-one Fedain, nearly a thousand human loyalists, and three Gor delegates."

"The Ultakans murdered Alazyn?" Neredos asked in almost a whisper. And his whole countenance changed. Anger bubbled up inside him, becoming a boiling rage in seconds. He pushed Dreok away from him with enough force to send the man falling backward onto the floor.

Neredos moved to the corner of the room, reaching for his cloak, gauntlet, and helmet, which he kept there. As he started to dress, Dreok climbed to his feet and said, "Neredos, whatever you're planning, she would've never wanted you to avenge her in that way."

"We should kill them all, Dreok. We should fly down there and murder those rebels in their holes we should—" Neredos stopped as Dreok wrapped him from behind and once again wound up on the floor.

"Neredos!" Dreok shouted, jumping to his feet this time. He spun Neredos around and shouted in his face. "Listen to yourself! Listen to your words of violence in the name of Alazyn's memory! You know why we followed you both. You spoke of peace in a shattered world, and we believe in that still. Do not let Alazyn's death in violence distract you from the purpose of her life's work!"

Neredos stood motionless, the words slowly sinking in. As reality took hold, Dreok continued, his eyes urgently pleading. "I do not have the words to offer you true comfort, my friend. I cannot lead you out of this darkness, you will have to walk the path, though I will walk it with you. We will support you, as we have supported you all this time."

"Leave me, Dreok," Neredos heard himself say. He hadn't thought the words, they'd simply come.

"But—" Dreok protested.

"Leave me!" Neredos screamed in his friend's face.

"As you wish, Neredos. Aye . . ." Dreok took a step back, nodding solemnly to himself. "It will be as you wish. I will make sure no one disturbs you."

Then he was gone, and Neredos was left alone with his misery. He didn't bother to replace his cloak in the corner, and instead carried it as he paced until he eventually dropped it in the middle of the room. His mind reeled from pain and denial of that pain, and all his thinking traveled in circles.

How could Alazyn have died? She was so young, she was so promising. How could they kill her? Why would they do such a thing? How could he ever do this without her? He wanted to kill. Not like he had killed those men who'd kept him prisoner in Oligan. No, he wanted to find the rebels in Ultaka and choke the life from them.

What would Alazyn think if she heard him thinking this way? He would have to ask her when . . . when he had the chance. But she was dead. She wouldn't be around to ask. Oh, how could she have died!

He paced and paced until his feet tangled up in the cloak and he fell to the floor, weeping. There was no use at all in his tears, but he could not stop them. Alazyn had taught him that emotion was at the heart of magic, but it must be purified and fine-tuned to accomplish anything at all. He certainly felt he lived in pure misery then and wished there was a spell he could channel that emotion into and bring his wife back from the dead.

Was there? No . . . he knew better than that. Even in the heart of his agony he knew that magic could not create without access to resource. When a person died, their soul went somewhere, if it even existed anymore at all. Without access to that soul, the best Neredos could ever accomplish would be to animate a corpse. It would never be Alazyn, no matter how much it might look like her.

And so, what then? What could he do to find the light and life he had cherished all these years? How could he be expected to live on in this broken world without her? He needed a way to bring her back in part, some way to keep her alive. But the world was falling apart and taking all that Alazyn had loved with it.

He lifted the crystal before him, unaware that he'd been holding it all this time. It was cold to the touch, but it could be warm again. He could hold it over a fire and fool himself into thinking it still held her spirit. He could possibly integrate it into his technology, to keep it warm forever, to always keep her spirit alive in some fashion.

That was it. He had to create. That had been where he'd loved Alazyn the most, when they were exploring the arts of magic and science together. It wasn't a matter of integrating this simple crystal into his work, but rather bringing her spirit into everything he did. That would keep her alive, at least in his thoughts.

His body protesting, still feeling the pain of heaving sobs and the drain of anger, Neredos staggered to his feet. Staggering to the door, he opened it and found his concerned assistant on the other side.

"Summon Dreok for me," Neredos said hoarsely.

The assistant bowed and took off at a run. As soon as he was gone, Neredos reentered his room and took a seat in the chair Dreok had guided him to before. He fidgeted with the crystal, his mind working out the details of the grandiose plan before him.

Dreok entered cautiously, and he stopped several feet away from Neredos to leave him plenty of room. "What can I do for you?"

"You were right," Neredos said. "I cannot commit violence in her name. It would mean destroying her memory even as I sought to preserve it."

"My condolences, Neredos," Dreok replied with a bow of his head.

"So instead I will write her name with beauty and preserve her legacy in this city," Neredos replied. "We will strip this place of the military starkness and build monuments to peace and learning. This city will become the beacon of hope in a bleak world."

Dreok's eyes lit up at this, and an enthusiastic smile spread across his face. "A fitting tribute to a life well-lived, Neredos. I think Alazyn would have approved of such a gesture in these difficult days."

"Summon every engineer and builder we have and bring the Gor into the project as well," Neredos said, nodding as if convincing himself. "We must make this city shine like its namesake, Everbright. It is time that we showed the world how life can be, so that we can prevent such tragedies at all costs."

Dreok nodded enthusiastically. "I will gather them at once."

"See that you do," Neredos replied, running his fingers across the crystal again. It was warm now, having spent so much time in his hands. Yes, he could keep her spirit alive with his own energy. That would be how it was done. "We are at war with war, Dreok. Never forget that. We will slay whatever demons lie between us and peace. We will bring warmth and life back into this world and save it from whatever fate faces it now, should it require all my health and lifetime. That is my oath to you, and my oath to Alazyn. Many I never deviate from it."

For those watching memories unfold, the vision shifted in an unexpected way. Prism had felt this before, but he could sense the uncertainty of the others as they assumed Ghayle's point of view. For a moment, Ghayle's understanding of the world overwhelmed them. There was so much she could sense, even now in her weakened state, that was beyond their previously mortal understanding.

But they did not sit for long in that expansive sea of thought and experience, for the images soon formed a memory of Ghayle's own. She stood at the base of the mountain, the same mountain where she had sacrificed herself to open the demon gate and begin the Trial that the world now faced.

Before her stood a being with large, dark wings, and slender horns protruding from the back of his skull. Naxthul, the avatar who had come before her, and leader of the Vhor now. He had brought her to the foot of the mountain to bear witness to a strange sight.

A sea of tents of varying sizes spread out before her. Each belonged to an individual, some Gor and some Elrok, but all of them shamans. There were just under a hundred in all, all come to bear witness to the beginning of the new Cataclysm. They had read the signs and omens and followed them here. Though the demon gate with its five fissures raged from its focal point of the mountain before them, the shamans did not seem alarmed.

They had come because the dreams had instructed them to, after the ancient traditions of their peoples. Ghayle had already moved between their tents, ethereal and unseen, though everywhere she walked the shamans seemed to sense her presence. They would stop what they were doing and look around as if they'd heard a sound, then calmly go about their tasks.

And now, Ghayle stood again with Naxthul, waiting for him to elucidate her understanding.

"These are those who watched the world fail, unable to stop it," Naxthul said, sweeping in the tents with a glance. "Notice that not a single Fedain or Human is among them. The reports from my Vhor indicate that no Human nor Fedain appear to have kept most of their ancient traditions. They have forgotten the way, and it is perhaps for this reason that you deem the Trial necessary."

"But where were these when I needed them?" Ghayle asked. "Why is it that they're here now, and they failed to raise the voice of warning to their people? The Gor went to war with Ultaka, but they were nothing more than border skirmishes. The Elroks stayed out of matters altogether, instead of intervening to inform the Humans that they had lost their way. What good are they to me now?"

"You know their hearts," Naxthul replied. "These were those who did raise their voices, who kept their tribes and clans in order, preparing them for the coming days of darkness. What human would've listened to a Gor shaman? Or an Elrok? No, these did what they could, and you should forgive them and use them."

"Use them how?" Ghayle asked. "What would you have me do?"

Naxthul gestured to the nearest tent. It stood farther up the mountain than the others and was occupied by a male Gor shaman, who spent the bulk of his days meditating naked on a stone facing the mountain. His skin was tan and leathery, though he exposed it without worry in the icy chill of the Dobraeg. Ancient tribal patterns covered every inch of his skin, some of the runes he wore were likely known to no one other than him. Ghayle knew him, as surely as she knew all her children. Kixhan Lohdraven, a hermit from the Southern tribes.

Warfare had destroyed Kixhan's clan decades earlier while he was on pilgrimage, leaving him as the sole survivor. His heart had not been entirely pure, and he had spent most of that time wishing revenge upon those who had killed his kin. He had nearly exacted that revenge several times as well, to unleash the full brunt of his magics against his enemies. But in the end he had not done so.

And now he was here, his mind burdened by the anger in his soul. He had seen the omens as well, had read them with the knowledge of nearly a century of life, and knew what they meant. Destruction was coming, a destruction long overdue, like a volcano lain dormant while the earth quaked around it. He had been the first to arrive, to bear witness to the clarity of disaster.

No hope nor despair filled Kixhan's eyes as he gazed up the mountain. Clarity alone awaited him; the pure moment of understanding between movement and stillness. That was all he sought now, all thoughts of revenge fleeing from him as shadows before the light.

"You told me of Marhys," Naxthul said confidently, his voice carrying the weight of ages, "and how she sought you out with pure intent. She may have been one of few who would do so before the Trial began, but now this man sits and waits, his mind purified by the omens of change. He is where you begin, though where that path will take you, I cannot know."

"So I should make myself known to him?" Ghayle asked. "And do what?"

"Let him bear witness to your story, for his mind is ready to understand, and by doing so, he will teach others," Naxthul replied.

Ghayle sighed but hesitated only a moment before approaching Kixhan. She approached from above him, walking down the slope as she allowed her form to come into view. She would remain unable to physically affect the world around her, but she could be seen and heard. That would be the limit of her power now.

To Kixhan's credit, Ghayle's sudden appearance before him did not shock him. Instead, he simply smiled a knowing smile, and prostrated himself in reverence over the rock he had sat upon. "My Lady of the Woods, The One Who Whispers in Moonlight, and She Who Climbed the Mountain, I am honored by your presence," he said formally.

"My son, why have you come here?" Ghayle asked. "Demons are being bred above you, and soon they will descend upon the world, wreaking havoc wherever they go. What wisdom do you hope to gain here?"

Kixhan remained prostrate, but answered immediately, "I watch the patterns of the moon elk during their midnight marches. While some creatures fled the quaking land and spitting fire, all returned when the day was done. The elk never left, and instead its eyes turned toward this mountain. They watch and wait but see no danger. I have seen the dark forms that gather at the summit, but I, too, wish to watch and wait before I have determined the extent of the threat we face."

"Rise, my son," Ghayle said, "let me look upon you."

Kixhan rose to a kneeling position, then to a standing one as Ghayle lifted her hand. Ghayle walked forward and then circled him, studying the runes and designs that covered his body. It was an extensive array, for even the skin hidden by the hair on his head and at his groin had been covered in ink. Even to the very tip of his penis. She was certain if she inspected inside of his buttocks she would find more tattoos.

"You carry much ancient knowledge with you," Ghayle observed. "Your commitment to the stories and spiritual arts of our people is great. I know you to be accomplished in the magical traditions of the ancient shamans, and I assume you know all the ancient runes as well."

"I visited the Wells of Memory as a child, when I was a young apprentice. It was before they were fully submerged by the eruption at Kal'naga," Kixhan said. "I know legends no other Gor is aware of. My apprentice was the only one I could teach, and he perished fifty-three years ago, during the raid that slaughtered my clan. I believe I am the last Gor with this knowledge, Mother."

Ghayle fought the pain that surged through her at the mention of Kal'naga and the Wells of Memory. The southern Gor tribes had once kept a vast reservoir of knowledge on an island north of the Dobraeg. Access to it required diving through sea caves, and only a diver already experienced in navigating the tunnels could lead someone through. Shamans had led their apprentices through for thousands of years, leading back to the previous Cataclysm.

Despite Ghayle's bond with the world and its natural forces, she refused to prevent the destruction of the Wells of Memory when the nearby volcano, Kal'naga, erupted. Its lava flows had blocked the access points to the caves, keeping the Gor from their ancestral knowledge forever.

Kixhan had been the last apprentice to enter those caves and memorize their contents. While other masters had attempted to pass on their knowledge of the caves to their apprentices, many things had already been lost. That would only continue as the years wore on.

"Then you are uniquely qualified to record our history," Ghayle said solemnly. "And I believe this is exactly what use I have for you. You will be my Speaker, though you will reveal to no one the nature of your calling. To all who speak to us, you will act as if I have called you as my servant, but it is you who shall act in my name."

"What am I to do, Mother?" Kixhan asked.

Ghayle circled Kixhan again, and when she finally faced him again, she said, "You will begin a record, and it will be as if I had written it. I will pass on the knowledge of the Cataclysm and the demons by your hand. You will be scribe to the ancient magic and write not only the history contained within the Wells of Memory, but the history of this war as well. You will perform these magics in my name and teach them only to whom I command you to teach them."

"I will do as you command, Mother," Kixthan replied. He bowed his head and remained silent, unmoving as the wind whipped across his naked body.

Ghayle studied him for a long moment, then asked, "Do you not have any questions for me, my son?"

"Do the moon elk waste time with words when by observation the pattern is made known to them?" Kixhan asked. "Do the Karlu salmon ask questions of the seasons when they swim upstream to spawn? What could I gain from questioning when you have already given me my task? You will instruct me; this you have made clear, and I seek nothing but the opportunity to serve you as my masters have done before me. I seek guidance from the spirits of the past, and they propel me into the future as a result. Live to our fullest nature until death. That is what your teachings have taught us."

"No, my son," Ghayle said softly. "Not only that. Live in such a way that others may also live to their fullest nature. That is as important as the other. All things are connected, and all magic is one. We live as extensions of one spell, and only if we can purify all elements can we achieve the ultimate will. This will be at the center of all things that I teach you. All elements must be precise if we are to win in the end."

Kixhan bowed deeper. "Thank you for the clarity you bring, Mother. When shall we begin the work?"

"When the others have received their omens and left. Then you and I shall remain here, and I will teach you everything," Ghayle replied. "You have brought supplies for scribing?"

"I have the necessary equipment," Kixhan said.

"Then we will begin in one week," Ghayle said, letting her gaze be drawn to the rest of the tents stretching out before her. "That will give me enough time to see to it that the others have returned to their people, to help them see the end of this Trial."

"All shall be as you say, Mother," Kixhan said.

Ghayle approached him, and though her hand was insubstantial, still she rested it upon his cheek. "Meditate awhile longer, my son. Meditate on oneness, and the clarity between movement and stillness. Meditate on all the world and on the individual. You will need all the clarity you can find to record the knowledge properly."

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