Vibrations: Harmonic Magic Book 1, page 16
Sam shook his head to clear it and wiped away his tears. “That is the most amazing tree I have ever seen. Thank you for showing it to me.”
“I did not bring you here just to show you the tree. Nor did I bring you here to experience its energy.” He looked sadly toward the tree. “No, I have brought you here because we need the tree’s help, and it needs ours.
“This tree is a porzul tree. The name means ‘iron’ in Old Kasmali, and for good reason. They are very rare, but live a long time. You see, the porzul tree cannot be cut down. Well, perhaps that is not accurate. It cannot be cut down without great effort. The wood is almost metallic, dulling the sharpest axes and saws, even those made of steel.
“Some of the trees have been known to have been cut down, at the command of one ruler or another, but cutting it down is only part of the process. Working the wood is even more difficult because as the tree dies and the wood ages, it becomes even harder. Despite its hardness, though, the weight is similar to a regular hard wood, a contradiction that drew the ancient Zouy to commune with the trees.”
“Wait,” Sam interjected. “Commune? Do you mean that you can talk to the tree?”
The eyebrow rose again. “It is said: ‘the fool spends his life trying to snatch words from the air.’ No, I cannot talk to the tree, but I can resonate with its vibration. Please sit here next to the trunk.”
Sam sat down next to the trunk, legs crossed. He looked over at Skitter, who was eyeing him and the tree curiously. Neither spoke, mentally or verbally.
Rindu sat in front of Sam, knees almost touching. The posture was familiar. This was how Rindu led him in much of his mental training. This time, however, Rindu had Sam put his right hand, the hand furthest from the tree, up with the palm facing Rindu. Rindu placed his left hand, palm to palm, on Sam’s hand. Then, he directed Sam to put his left hand on the trunk of the tree as he put his right hand on the trunk. Sam did so.
He felt the tree’s vibration again, but it was muted. He thought that Rindu must have been buffering it somehow. He heard the monk whisper: “Breathe, and open your mind. Attain khulim. Link with me as we have practiced and let me lead you.”
Again, Sam did what was asked. With his eyes closed, a picture appeared in the blackness of his mind. It was a picture of himself and Rindu in position next to the tree. As he watched, it was as if he was moving in closer to the two figures and then to the bark of the tree, and then into the tree itself.
Inside, the tree contained glowing pathways that swirled and vibrated and traveled in a grand cycle from the roots to the tips of the leaves and then back down to the roots again. It was in constant motion and it almost made Sam dizzy to watch it. Then, his viewpoint shifted again.
Now he was traveling up through one of the main trunk offshoots, to a lateral branch, and then to one of the smaller branches. As he got close to it, he noticed something odd about the branch just in front of him. Its energy was not moving as dynamically as the others around it. It appeared to have a blockage, just at the hip, where it attached to the larger branch.
Feeling Rindu stirring, he saw another whorl of energy travel up the tree to the precise spot of the blockage. It sheared through the blockage, dissolving it and allowing the energy to flood back into the branch, restoring it. The vision was not done, though.
As he watched, the energy that he understood to have come from Rindu circled the joint to the larger branch, swirling faster and faster, seeming to carve a notch in the wood itself. As Sam watched in horror, the energy cut through the perfectly straight branch until it severed the branch from the tree.
With a jolt, Sam’s eyes opened just in time to see Rindu snatch the falling branch out of the air before it had a chance to hit their heads. Because it had been dying, there were no smaller branches growing off it. It was perfect and smooth and exactly the right size for a staff.
As Rindu stood up, he reverently handed the staff to Sam.
“What?” Sam asked. “What are you handing this to me for?” Nevertheless, he put his hand on the wood.
The staff was cool to the touch, just barely below the temperature of the surrounding air, and vibrated slightly. It was less than an inch in diameter, just about six feet in length, and it was perfect in every way. Even where it had been severed from the tree it was smooth and without defect. Its red/green color glinted dully in the subdued light. The weight, as Rindu had said, was the same as a normal wooden staff would be, but Sam knew it was much stronger. He could feel it.
“To do the things you must do, you must have the tools to do them. This will serve as your weapon, and more. We will begin your training with it immediately.”
“But Rindu, these trees are very rare. It’s not right to forcibly take a piece from it. It’s not honorable.”
Rindu chuckled softly. “Honorable? Does the weasel now tell the pantor how to hunt?”
Sam’s face reddened. “I mean. Well, I just feel bad hurting such a magnificent tree.”
Rindu clapped his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I understand your concern, but have no worry. The branch was dying. Its part in the tree’s energy cycle was blocked. It would have died completely and would have affected other branches as well. I restored its energy and then removed it so it could not cause more harm. We actually did the tree a service. Did you not see and feel the tree’s energy?”
“I did. I’m sorry, I overreacted, but this is too great a gift for me. You should use it.” Sam handed the staff to Rindu.
Rindu looked at the staff but made no move to take it. “No, it is attuned to you. I led the way, but I used your energy for the work. It will work for no one but you.”
“Work? What do you mean ‘work’?”
“Ah, let me show you. I think that you will like this staff, Sam.”
Standing next to Sam, Rindu directed him to hold the staff in both hands, as if in a ready position, and to close his eyes and control his breathing. Then, Sam felt the tug of Rindu’s rohw pulling Sam’s focus toward the staff.
Again, a picture came unbidden to Sam’s mind. This time it was the staff itself. Sam heard Rindu whisper: “Separate yourself, separate your weapon.”
Not knowing what he was talking about, Sam concentrated on making himself separate from the weapon. Nothing happened.
“Break the staff into two pieces, Sam. Focus on the middle and separate it as we separated the staff from the tree.” Rindu whispered again.
This time, understanding, Sam struggled to do as Rindu said. For several minutes, Sam stared at the staff in his mind, trying to separate it. As he was just about to give up, he felt the vibrations of the staff jerk and suddenly it was in two perfect pieces in his mind. He felt the physical staff in his hands come apart as well.
When he opened his eyes, he saw there in his hands two pieces of the staff, each perfectly formed and identical. Mouth open, he looked to Rindu, who was wearing his crooked half-smile. “Congratulations, Sam, you have learned to separate your staff. True, you did it with my help, but it will become easier with practice. Now, do you think you can reattach it?
With a few minutes more effort and Rindu’s help, the staff was once again whole and perfect. “Does it get weaker when it is detached and reattached like that?” Sam asked.
“No. You are actually vibrating the wood itself and melting it together, so to speak, so that it is as if it had never been separated. The wood itself is as strong as any sword that will come against it, but if it should get notched or scratched, you can smooth it by manipulating its internal vibrations, making it perfect again.”
“Rindu, this is too great a gift for me,” he said again. “I don’t deserve it.”
“True, you do not.” the Zouy said with a smirk. “But you must try hard to be worthy of it. There is one more thing…”
Sam looked up from inspecting the surface of the staff. “One more thing?”
“Yes. The tree did you great honor by allowing you a piece of itself. While it cannot think, it is a vital part of
“Of course, I understand. I will use it honorably. I have been studying Old Kasmali with Dr. Walt and I think I have the perfect name. I will call it Ahimiro.”
“Ah,” Rindu said. “Fire pole. Why that name?”
“It just seems right. Though it feels cool to the touch, I sense energy in it, energy strong enough to burn away those who would try to kill us. I can name it something else if you want.”
“It is your weapon, yours to name as you please.” Rindu answered. “Besides, perhaps it is more apt a name that you know right now. We will see.”
The three walked back to the camp, Sam using his new staff as a walking stick. When they arrived, Nalia took one look at the staff and looked to her father. “Porzul?” She asked.
“Yes. There was a tree in need of some pruning. A dying branch.”
Nalia nodded gravely. “A great weapon. Do you want to learn to use it?” she asked Sam.
“Then let us go to the clearing over there” she said pointing off toward the setting sun and choosing a sturdy staff that was leaning against a nearby tree, “and we will see how many bruises you can earn before it gets dark.”
Sam smiled as he followed her to the clearing. He would be sore and banged up by the time he was done, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The four humans and Skitter were gathered to discuss the plans to get to the Gray Fortress.
“Sam, you’re familiar with the geography of Telani. Rindu, Nalia, you know where the Gray Fortress lies and the terrain between here and there. I have here a rather crude map of the 1200 or so miles we have to travel to get there.”
Unrolling the map, Dr. Walt laid it on the ground and placed small stones at the corners to keep it open. The material from which the map was made appeared to be thin, scraped leather of some kind rather than paper.
“As you can see, Sam,” the doctor continued, “the geography is the same, though you will find that some of the rivers will be changed. The hills and valleys remain, but the presence or absence of trees may be different, as you may have noticed with the area surrounding your house. The major forests are marked on the map. It is clear to me how we should proceed, but I want everyone’s comments. We all have a stake in this journey.”
He continued, pointing to a location on the map, “I propose that we stay away from as many of the cities as possible, only stopping at towns or villages to resupply when necessary. With the rakkeben, we can travel perhaps 30 miles per day, depending upon the difficulty of the terrain. At that rate, we should be able to get to Raihar in another ten days.”
Looking around, he acknowledged the nods from the others. He continued: “Because of the mountains, the only logical path is straight north within the bowl created by those mountains. At times, the forest will be thick, but that will be easier to traverse than trying to find mountain passes. Besides, there are some roads going up through the center of the valley bowl.”
“When we get up past Kokitura mountain, we should stay nearer the coast, or at least West of the large mountain ranges. Unfortunately, we will have to traverse mountains to the far north, but that is unavoidable. There are possibly four or five stops along the way at which we can reprovision, finally arriving at the Gray Fortress in perhaps 40 to 50 days. I have drawn a line here indicating my proposed path. Are there any objections?”
Sam looked at each of the others as Dr. Walt was looking for their approval. Nalia and Rindu both shook their heads and Sam said a soft “No.” Skitter sent to Sam: That is a long trip. I will have traveled further than any hapaki in history, I’m sure. I'm going to be famous!
Are you committed to going with us? Sam sent back to Skitter. It will be very dangerous.
Humor filtered through into Sam’s mind, and affection. There’s no talking me out of it. You're my friend and I will be beside you in this.
The next several days, Sam settled into a comfortable routine. Well, at least it was a familiar routine. The sore muscles, bruises, and fatigue were in no way comfortable.
The party would get up early each day, at sunrise or before. They would break camp, call the rakkeben from afield where they were allowed to hunt and do whatever it was that they desired, mount up, and head out. Normally they were on the move before the sun had finished its appearance above the horizon.
Each of the humans rode the rakkeben, but Skitter could never have kept up on his own. Sam and Rindu had fashioned a rack for him that mounted securely on Shonyb so that Skitter could ride behind Sam. Sam had jokingly called it his “Skitter litter” as he lifted the nervous hapaki to try out the fit. Skitter was still very on edge around the rakkeben, instinct and history warring with assurances from the humans that the rakkeben would not take him as a snack.
They would stop occasionally to allow the rakkeben to rest and eat. The party members did not stop long for their own eating; they simply would take the opportunity as the rakkeben rested or they would snack on dried fruit and meat while they rode. In this way, they were able to keep up with 30 mile per day average Dr. Walt had proposed.
Still, they pushed hard so they could stop early each day so that Sam could have his training and practice. The schedule was brutal for him. Travel all day, train for several hours, even into dark, and then get up early and repeat it all. They had to get to the Gray Fortress as quickly as they could, but Sam needed to learn so much more before he could confront the Gray Man.
When being honest with himself, Sam admitted that he didn't really believe that it would come to that. He was sure that with the training Rindu was giving him, and with the information he was extracting from Dr. Walt's references, he would be able to figure out how to get back home without going to the Gray Man. After all, he got here, didn't he? Yes. Twice. So, he should be able to get back without confronting the man who had the power to rule this entire world. He would keep trying.
He did enjoy the training with Nalia, though, even if he didn't think he would need it for facing the Gray Man. It was useful to be able to stand on his own in combat and he was truly enjoying all he was learning. He wouldn’t give it up even if he had a choice.
Nalia nudged Sam with her boot. They had stopped for their last break of the day before putting in a few more miles to get to the area in which they would camp for the night. They were still two days from the town of Raihar.
“The rakkeben ran off into the forest, probably to find food.” she said to him. “They will not be back for a time. Do you want to work on your weak points?”
“I have no weak points, Nalia,” he said with a straight face. He almost lost his composure and laughed when she tilted her masked head in evident surprise. “You just have too many strong points.” Then he did laugh. “In fact, I don't think you have any weak points at all.”
She stood motionless for a moment, head still tilted at the quizzical angle. Then she nudged him again with her boot. “Your flattery will not save you from bruises. I am not susceptible to such things.” Putting her hand out to him, she helped him to his feet.
With a crooked half-smile, Sam pulled himself up, and kept hold of her hand for maybe just a moment too long, causing her to swivel her head toward him. He immediately let go and felt his face grow hot. “Uh, let me get Ahimiro. I'll be right there.” As he ran to his packs to get the staff, he saw Rindu cover his slight smile with his hand, just a bit too late to keep Sam from seeing it.
In the days since Rindu made the weapon for him, Sam had been practicing with it every time he could. His practice not only include using it as a weapon, but also practicing his bonding with it, feeling its essence, and using it as a conduit for vibrational energy. He found that he could use it as a focus po
They sparred for almost half an hour, both with weapons and unarmed. Sam was breathing hard and sweating profusely by the time the rakkeben returned. Nalia was standing stone still, like a statue, neither breathing hard nor perspiring.
She beat you to a pulp. Again, Skitter sent. Without trying.
Mind your own business, snack, Sam sent back with strong feelings of humor. The hapaki sent back the sense of laughing.
Another two hours of riding and the party arrived at the area Rindu had suggested for a camp site. It was a large clearing in a particularly heavy section of forest, with a small stream burbling softly past. Camp was set up in short order and when Sam saw Rindu heading toward him, he knew it was the Zouy's turn to teach him.
“Master Rindu,” Sam said as he bowed to the monk in greeting.
Rindu bowed in return. “Good evening Sam. I have a question for you. Do you also call Nalia ‘master?’”
“I...ahhh...no. I don't.” It felt like a trap closing around him.
“Why not? Does she not also train you, as I train you? Why call me ‘Master Rindu’ and not call her ‘Master Nalia?’”
Sam felt the blood rushing to his face again. “I don't know. I just didn't...that is, I don't...I mean...oh! Have I disrespected her? Have I insulted her? I didn’t mean to. It just never occurred to me to call her ‘master.’ I'm so sorry.”
Rindu stared at Sam for a moment. His piercing hazel eyes gave Sam the impression once again of boring through his soul, of passing through him completely to see what was going on behind him. The seconds ticked away and Sam felt himself sickening up. How could he have been so rude? What would Rindu do? What would Nalia do?
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