Vibrations: Harmonic Magic Book 1, page 15
He had already started deeply breathing. “The feeling of lightness, the feeling that your self is separating from your physical form? Is that what you're talking about?”
“Yes and no.” she answered. “For now, we will say that you are correct. Can you do this thing, bring yourself to that feeling, but not fully go into a trance?”
“Good. That is the khulim, ‘dream’ in Old Kasmali. It is the state of perfect consciousness and relaxation. Bring yourself to khulim.”
For the next hour, Nalia coached Sam, trying to get him to just the right point to be receptive to the energies surrounding them. To Sam, it seemed that she tried everything she could think of. She was obviously getting frustrated.
“Stop,” she finally said. “Do you feel nothing of the currents of energy that swirl around you?”
He felt his face growing warm. “I do, sometimes. I can't seem to pick anything up right now, though. Maybe I'm nervous. Maybe I just can't do it.” He looked toward the ground, plucked a blade of grass and fiddled with it. Anything to not have to look her in the mask.
“You have it in you, Sam. You have a natural affinity for the universal energy. I can feel it in you. Rindu can feel it in you. It is my failure that I have not been able to get you to recognize it.”
“No, it's not your—” he started.
“Please be silent. Let me think for a moment.” She sat quietly, not moving.
After several minutes, she turned her head toward him. “Stay where you are. I will try something. While I do so, please bring yourself back to the point you were at earlier, just short of being in a trance. Khulim. I must stand to do this.”
She stood and watched him as he began breathing rhythmically and deeply again. Soon, he was in the familiar almost-trance, the khulim.
Seeing he was ready, or sensing it, she began to sing.
Sam was so shocked, he almost lost his near-trance, his eyes snapping open to see her standing 20 feet away from him, her body moving to an internal rhythm.
Forcing his eyes closed and regulating his breathing, he relaxed and allowed the song to pass over him. The tones caressed him, massaged his skin, comforted him. With his eyes closed, he felt as if he could see the sound traveling past him as swirls of light.
He had once thought of the way she moved as a symphony. That movement, that symphony, was to this as a simple tune blown on a tin whistle was to a song played by a master pianist. Though his eyes were closed, he felt tears pushing through his eyelids and sliding down his cheeks.
The sound was inhuman in its beauty. He had heard talented singers before, but this was much more. It wasn't wholly the sound. The vibrations of the song tore at him, causing him to move and sway. Before he knew it, his body was moving and he could do nothing, wanted to do nothing, to stop it.
Opening his eyes, he saw that for every movement Nalia made, his body responded with its own movement. They were not the same, not like he was a puppet and she the puppet master, but the movements were somehow sympathetic, complementary. It was the most amazing feeling he had ever had.
After a period of time, which could have been mere minutes or several hours, Nalia slowed her song and then finally trailed off, stopping completely. Sam's body, feeling as it had been suddenly released, sagged. And he thought he was exhausted before!
“What was that?” he asked her, breathless.
“It was the Song of Battle. Did you feel it? Did your body try to respond?”
“Yes, it did. It moved, as yours did. Sometimes in the same way and sometimes in a way that just seemed to fit perfectly with the way you moved, though different. What kind of spell was that? What magic?”
She tilted her head slightly to the side. “Perhaps it could be called magic. I do not know of such things. You would have to ask Rindu. However, it was just a small example of what we have been trying to teach you. Each battle, each combat, has its own vibrations, its own internal sound. A true master of combat can recognize the unique battle song and then move in accordance with it. It is in this way that you become invincible.”
Eyes growing wide, he asked: “It makes it so that you can't be killed? It makes you impervious to weapons?”
Staring at him through that mask for a long moment, she clicked her tongue. “Sometimes, I have high hopes for you, Sam. But sometimes you really disappoint me.”
“Like now,” he whispered.
“Like now. A master of the song of battle becomes invincible because as she moves in harmony with the sound and vibrations of the particular battle, she can seem to be in several places at once, and no place. Weapons cannot hit her because she harnesses the particular vibrations and acts in harmony with them. It is the same for striking.”
“I see. That's how you fought all those attackers at once and slipped through their weapons without getting hit. You know, that night at the compound.”
“Yes. So, do you know now what Rindu and I have been trying to force into that hard skull of yours? Do you see that the way does not lie in learning exercises but in sensing the song of battle, ‘singing’ along and moving with it?”
“I understand. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to tap into it without you singing to me every time I fight. Though I could think of many worse things. Your voice is amazing.”
She scoffed. “I am well trained. That is all. Now it is Rindu's turn to try to mold you into something other than a silly child. Do not forget what I taught you today. There is much more to learn.”
“I know. Thank you Nalia. I am privileged to have you as an instructor.”
She nodded. “Begone.”
As he headed toward Rindu's tent, Sam wondered, not for the first time, just how ugly Nalia was. With everything he'd seen, he could not believe she was truly hideous underneath that mask. In fact, mask or not, he was thinking she was more and more beautiful all the time.
Oh, you're just infatuated with her abilities, Skitter sent. Don't get your hopes up, Sam. You’re just a silly child to her.
I know, Skitter. I know. He felt as if all his energy had fled.
Sam made it to Rindu’s tent, mind abuzz with what had just happened. It was as if he had been walking around with heavily tinted glasses on all his life and now they had been removed. Things were so much clearer now. Was this what the father and daughter had been trying to teach him all this time? How could he not have seen it?
He decided he must learn more about the vibrations that seemed to be all around him, and about the song of battle specifically. He called to Rindu from his tent opening. When the Zouy emerged from his tent, he gave Sam a long look. For the briefest of moments, he saw Rindu’s eyes change as if they were going out of focus and then snap back to clarity. “Ah,” he said, “Nalia has demonstrated the Song of Battle to you.” It was not a question.
“Yes, she did.” Sam averted his eyes so Rindu could not see his embarrassment. “Now I think I begin to see what you have been trying to teach me. I want to learn more.”
A rare smile lit up Rindu’s face. “Good, good. It will be my honor to teach you.”
The two went to a nearby meadow. It was flattish, free of large trees, and covered with fine grasses that swayed gently in the late morning breeze. Having Sam sit in the middle of the meadow, the monk took his normal position directly in front of Sam, knees almost touching.
For the next hour, Rindu had Sam control his breathing and attempt to enter the khulim. Each time, just when he was finally sure he would grasp the feeling, it skittered off like a water drop thrown onto a hot griddle. He could not, for the life of him, get the feeling back that he had earlier.
Rindu, ever patient, sat motionless, barely breathing. Sam tried repeatedly, but could not relax enough to find his center.
“Do you feel nothing?” Rindu asked without moving and without opening his eyes.
“No, I can’t seem to focus. I was able to do it earlier, but I can’t now.”
“I see. Your mind is full of the new ex
Rising, he bade Sam to rise with him. He reached into the small pouch he wore on the sash around his trousers and pulled out a length of soft cloth. “Tie this around your head. Make sure your eyes are blocked off so that you cannot see.”
Sam did as he was told.
“Are you ready?” Rindu asked.
Nodding slightly, Sam started to speak: “Ye—” Rindu struck him on the side of the head before he could finish the word. It wasn’t a hard strike, but it was fast and it was unexpected, so it startled Sam. He couldn’t help himself: “Ouch. What was that?”
“If your eyes distract you, then you will do without them. You must learn to sense the rohw. It is not a thing of the five normal senses, but of the third eye. When you sense it, you will easily be able to detect disturbances in it, such as this.” He smacked Sam on the other side of his head.
“The man who is drowning should not be counting pebbles at the bottom of the river” he said as he poked Sam’s left shoulder with his finger.
Sam tried everything he could think of. He listened, but Rindu made no sound, even though he was circling around Sam to strike him from different angles. He tried to sense the disturbance in the air, the wind of Rindu’s limbs, but could only feel it after he had been struck. As Rindu smacked, plucked, poked, and shoved Sam over and over, he began to get frustrated.
“The duck who tries to fly would do well to flap his wings in unison rather than to flail about haphazardly,” the monk chided.
Finally, exhausted, Sam stopped moving altogether. Slowing his breathing, he tolerated another jab to his midsection by Rindu’s rock hard finger and pictured himself in his mind. Seeing every detail of his own body, he imagined an aura of light surrounding himself. Then he felt the aura. He could sense it vibrating slightly, aware, on guard.
Suddenly, Sam threw his right arm out and to the side. He was surprised to feel it connect with the strike that Rindu was about to land. How had he known? Thinking back, he realized that there was a slight ripple in his aura in the exact spot where he put his arm. He had sensed Rindu’s strike and he had parried it, without consciously thinking about it.
“Good.” Rindu said. “Very good. Now take your blindfold off.”
Sam did as he was directed. “How did I do that?” he asked the Zouy.
“You came into unity with your inner mind. People sometimes do that when they are tired and have given up. The body requires complete relaxation to properly use the rohw. If you think too much, your conscious mind interferes. It is like a bitter old wife who argues with everything. ‘You cannot do that. It is impossible’ the old woman says to her husband. Unless he can convince himself she is wrong, he will never achieve anything. So too it is with your mind, your bitter old woman.” He chuckled softly at his own joke.
“So, you poked and prodded and frustrated me for the last hour just to get me to the point where I would give up?” Sam asked.
“Let’s try again. I think I can do it again.”
“No. You have felt it, but you will not be able to achieve it again today, now that your body is arguing with itself. Give it time. You will develop the skill to find that place more easily as we train further.”
“But can’t we try one more time?” Sam begged.
“No. Or would you be like the man who boasted that he could eat more than anyone else and often engaged in contests to do just that? One day he challenged a stranger to an eating contest and he lost. As he slunk away, ashamed, he was heard to mutter: ‘I do not understand. I was able to eat much more than that in practice an hour ago.’”
Sam looked to Rindu, started to turn, and then jerked his head back to look at Rindu once again. He knew he must be wearing a quizzical look on his face. “Um. Ok, maybe another time.” Shaking his head, he headed toward the fire that Dr. Walt had made to prepare lunch.
Sam stood next to his rakkeban, whom he named Shonyb. The name was a loose translation of “fang” in Old Kasmali and it seemed fitting. Sam absently ran his fingers through Shonyb’s fur, thinking of his quest and the training he’d been receiving.
Rindu had been correct, of course, about him not being able to sense the currents of the rohw for the rest of the day the Zouy tested him. Not only was he unable to do so when he tried immediately after his experience with Rindu’s testing, but he was unable to duplicate his feat for two days after. Alone or aided by Rindu or Nalia, he had been unable to sense it again.
For several days after the blindfold training, he had small bruises all over his body from where Rindu poked at him with the chunks of steel he called fingers. How could anyone have skin that hard? He was pretty sure that even if someone could strike the Zouy with a sword, it wouldn’t pierce his skin. The sword may well break.
Thinking of the last two weeks, a small shadow of a smile played across his face. It was hard work, but he was enjoying it. At times he didn’t feel as if he was progressing at all, but then he would think about where he started months ago, alone and ignorant of this world, and he suddenly realized how far he had come. He still couldn’t get back home, though he continued to try each night, but still, he did have some progress to show for his efforts.
After Sam’s bonding with Shonyb and the other rakkeben were summoned, the small group made good time. They would travel for most of the day and then stop at a likely place to set up camp. No sooner was camp set up than Sam began his daily ritual of training and learning.
He was learning to speak Kasmali more correctly, thanks to Dr. Walt’s help. He could read and write it and some Old Kasmali, too, which helped as he tried to read some of the ancient records the doctor brought along with them. He no longer hesitated in trying to speak with the others. He had shifted, quite suddenly one day from thinking in English and translating into Kasmali to actually thinking in Kasmali. It was as if everything suddenly clicked into place.
A feeling of being watched sprung into Sam’s mind, interrupting his thoughts. He looked to his right and Rindu was standing there next to him, causing Sam to start. How did the man do that? He didn’t think he’d ever get used to it.
“Sam,” the Zouy said, “I need you to come with me. There is something we must do.” Patting Shonyb on the head once more, he followed Rindu toward a thick stand of trees. Skitter ambled alongside Sam, curious.
What are we doing?, the hapaki sent.
I don’t know. Rindu just wanted me to follow him. He’ll let us know when he feels like it. I have learned to follow and let him reveal things in his own time.
The trio stomped through the thick underbrush for over an hour. Well, Sam stomped. Rindu lightly danced over and through the foliage without disturbing it and Skitter…skittered.
Just as Sam could stand it no longer and was going to ask Rindu what they were doing, the monk stopped. Focused on Rindu’s back as he was, he almost ran into the man.
He looked at Rindu and then followed the line of the Zouy’s sight up to the strangest tree he had ever seen. While all the other trees and bushes surrounding them were clogged together in a jumbled mass, this one tree stood out, taller, wider, and probably most extraordinarily, free of any other vegetation. Sam had heard that some trees sterilized the ground around them, making it difficult for other things to crowd the tree. He thought maybe that was the case with this tree.
Looking at it from roots to boughs, he let out a soft whistle. The bark was very thin and odd-colored, approximately the color of copper as it just started to rust. Its red, tinged with green, shone as if it was metallic. The trunk, very wide and gnarled, was how Sam always pictured ancient trees in the deep forest, though truth be told he really didn’t have any experience with that because he lived in the desert.
The gnarled trunk twisted and turned and then split into many off-shoots, all bigger around than Sam was. As they reached up toward the clouds, lateral bran
As he stepped close, he felt it resonate. Looking at Rindu, and getting no reaction at all, he stepped right up to the trunk. He closed his eyes and felt a movement, some small vibration. It was coming from the trunk itself. He looked back at the monk once again and was met with a single raised eyebrow, nothing more.
Sam took a deep breath, put his hand on the trunk, and then jerked it away quickly. “It moved,” he said, his breathing coming out in gasps.
“It is safe. Put your hand on it. Focus on feeling the life within it.”
Sam took another deep breath. He could feel a trickle of sweat dripping down the back of his neck, tickling him as it descended. He felt the droplet travel down between his shoulder blades to his lower back before being absorbed by his shirt. Closing his eyes again, he put his hand gently on the tree.
Again, he felt the motion of the tree, and he almost took his hand away again. As he stood there breathing deeply and trying to focus on what he was feeling, he realized that the tree was not moving. It was vibrating.
He tried to make sense of the vibration, but couldn’t. It fluctuated, changed. There was no pattern he could decipher. It seemed to him to be like a song. A very complex song. He imagined that if he was an infant and heard a grand symphony, this is what it would be like, knowing it was something magnificent but not comprehending it. He often felt like that since coming to Gythe.
With a start, he realized that Rindu had come and taken his hand from the tree. Sam was surprised to find tears in his eyes and dripping down his cheeks.
“That is enough,” the Zouy said with compassion. “The energy of the tree is too complex for you right now. With the length of time you touched it, there will be…effects. Later.”
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