Vibrations: Harmonic Magic Book 1, page 8
“Good, good. That makes me happy.” Dr. Walt beamed.
Sam spooned up some food and began to eat, noticing that Skitter waited politely until he did so before the hapaki reverently took one of the onekai in his paws and began to nibble it. A look of ecstasy came over his face and his eyes glazed over. Soon everyone else was absorbed in eating as well.
As he stole glances at the others, Sam noticed that Nalia somehow was able to eat, not by lifting her mask up, not by taking it off, but by eating through the mask itself. She lifted the spoonful of food to her mouth and it simply melted through the mask. When she pulled the spoon out again, it was clean. Well, that’s a nice way to keep from ever having to worry about chewing with your mouth open.
“Ok, Sam,” Dr. Walt started. “We have a problem here. I have collected quite a few types of written records in the years I’ve been here, trying to piece together anything that might help me to get home, all of it to no avail. Without the technology I left on Telani, I simply have not been able to find a way to return there.
“Your situation, though, poses a new problem, along with new possibilities. You were able to transport not only yourself, but your entire house to this world, and you did so without any technology at all. You only used what seems to me to be skills with vibrational energy.
“I have spoken to Rindu at length. The Zouyim are vibratory mages, harnessing the energy we have been talking so much about, but he doesn’t know how to do what you have done either.”
He shook his grizzled head and sighed. “The simple fact is, I don’t know what to do. I plan on spending quite a bit of time, starting tonight, researching through my materials to see if anything helps. I am hoping we might be able to puzzle it out.”
Sam waited patiently for the doctor to take a breath, then he interjected, “But Dr. Walt, I must get home. I’ve already been gone several days and people will be worried. It will be even worse if my home disappeared with me. I’m the only one my mother has. She cut ties with all her friends and relatives when my father died and we moved to the other side of the country. I have to get back. I have to!”
Putting a hand on Sam’s shoulder, Dr. Walt directed a sincere look at the younger man. “I know, Sam, I know. We’ll figure something out. I may find something in all my research materials. I’ll do my best.
“There is one other thing I think I should tell you, a slim chance that I have been pondering since I met you. Besides you and I, there is another person in this world that came from ours, another person somehow transported from Telani. From Earth.”
“That’s great!” Sam exclaimed, standing up suddenly. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you scare me like that? Let’s talk with him and the three of us can figure something out.”
“That may not be so easy,” the doctor answered him. “You see, the other person who is rumored to have come from our world is the Gray Man, the man who killed Nalia’s mother, Rindu’s wife. The one who single-handedly all but destroyed the Zouyim temple and the Sapsyra Shin Elah.”
Nalia watched this “Sam” carefully, without making it look like she was watching him. She had watched him for the two days of their journey to the compound, but had seen nothing suspicious. Yet. That mattered little, though. He would eventually make a mistake, and when he did, she would be ready. She would not be fooled again. Not like last time.
As the furry creature, the hapaki, daintily ate his vegetables, Nalia began eating as well. She saw Sam’s eyes widen when she phased the mask in front of her mouth so that she could push food through it. It was a simple thing, something a child disciple could do in the Zouyim temple, but it seemed to amaze him. It was just a matter of adjusting the vibration of the small piece of mask in front of her mouth. There were advantages to having a mother who was a Sapsyr and a father who was a Zouy mage.
She did not know what Dr. Walt was telling Sam, but she could probably figure it out. Did they never think of schooling their faces so they did not announce to all what they thought? Their facial gestures and body language made it clear what they were discussing. For her, one who was accustomed to reading the slightest body position change during combat to discern the next strike and target, it was child’s play to read the two men as they spoke.
It was obvious that Sam was whining about going home. Did he have no shame, no self-respect? Small children did not mewl as loudly as he was now. He was upset about being stuck here, a place he did not know and one that he knew would kill him. He was too weak to survive here. He would be dead already if it was not for finding her father, Dr. Walt, and her.
Wait. Dr. Walt was presenting a new idea to him. He looked at Sam with sincerity; he felt bad for the newcomer. He was like that, always picking up strays and trying to help. He was a good man, but he was definitely not a warrior. But that was acceptable, she reasoned. He had his own code of honor and Nalia respected him. Besides, she and her father had decided to follow him, so they were honor bound to do as he asked.
Narrowing her eyes, she studied Dr. Walt as he explained his idea to Sam. It was inconvenient that they were speaking that crude language from the other place. The only word she recognized was “Telani.” No, it could not be! She fervently hoped that Dr. Walt was not suggesting what she thought he might be suggesting.
Turning to Nalia and her father, who was still shoveling food into his mouth—how did he still eat like that at his age?—Dr. Walt spoke: “Rindu, Nalia, I have a favor to ask.” No, please. By my mother’s grave, please do not ask.
“I would like you two to help Sam here in two things.” He is actually going to ask. Why? Why does he hate me so?
“First, I would like for you to help him learn Kasmali. It would be better if he could speak to us in this world’s tongue.” He did. He asked. How can I endure it?
“Second, I would like for you to train him to defend himself. I don’t know how long it will take me to find the answer we seek, but if we have to go looking elsewhere, he will need to have some self-defense skills.” No! Does he want it to happen again? Does he want us to train our own killer?
“I know it’s a difficult task I have asked you to take on,” Dr. Walt said, “but I think he may have some natural skill in vibrational energy. As for physical combat, well, that will be good for him to learn, too.” He obviously does NOT have natural talent in that. He is a clumsy oaf.
Her father looked at her with those all-knowing eyes. Even through the mask, he could always read her, always knew what she was thinking. He stared at her for a moment and then moved his head slightly in an imperceptible nod. Imperceptible, that is, to anyone but her.
She shook her head in the same imperceptible manner, one he was well-accustomed to. His gaze intensified, looking right into her eyes, though her eyes were not visible to him through the mask. How did he do that? After all these years, he still surprised her in what he could do.
“We must Iba, my heart. We are honor bound to do as Dr. Walt says. Also, there is something about this one. Perhaps he will help us as we help him. I feel in him some ability with the rohw. I would like to see if this is so. You will train him in physical combat and I will try to train him in the use of energy. We will both do our best to teach him our language.”
Nalia raised her chin defiantly, but when she spoke, it was soft and respectful. “Yes, father. I will act honorably. I think it is a mistake, though. Do neither of you remember the last time we trained a stranger?”
“I remember,” her father said. “However, just because we bite into one rotten kimatar fruit does not mean that we should never again enjoy eating the fruit for fear of repeating the experience. We must do what honor requires and then we shall see. Without our honor, we are little better than mindless beasts.”
“I will do so, but I remain suspicious. If there is any deception, I will detect it and my reaction will be swift and decisive. I have lost too much to allow some outlander to take more from me.”
While the exchange was happening, Nalia wa
He spoke again briefly to Dr. Walt and the doctor answered. Then, turning to Nalia and her father, he said in broken Kasmali: “Thank you.” With that, he turned and walked outside.
Nalia looked at her father and his intense eyes. Why did she feel bad? This oaf could not possibly have figured out what they were saying, that she did not trust him. He could not know that she suspected him, could he? How elaborate would a ruse have to be for him to learn Dr. Walt’s language fluently to pass himself off as a stranger?
All she knew was that she would have to deal with him. She would not make it easy for him to betray her and her father, though. She would not! He would find her a difficult teacher. By her mother, he would.
Sam’s face itched. In the two weeks since he had been stranded in Gythe, he had not shaved and his rapidly thickening beard was irritating him. He had gone a few days without shaving in the past, but in general, he was not a fan of facial hair. As he he started to try to shave using his knife, Dr. Walt chanced to be walking by and stopped to chat.
“Is that a steel knife, Sam?”
Focused on his face in the little signal mirror he carried in his backpack emergency kit, he jumped a little when Dr. Walt spoke, almost cutting himself. “Yes, it’s a survival knife I always bring when I go hiking. It’s sharp, but shaving with a blade rather than with a razor cartridge or electric razor is something new to me. I’m hoping I don’t cut my own throat.”
Dr. Walt laughed. “You know, steel is very rare on Gythe. That blade you hold in your hand could be sold for enough money to buy a large house and still have enough left over to live comfortably in a city for many years.”
“Really? Why? I mean, why is steel rare?”
Sitting on a rickety stool and carefully settling himself so as not to fall over, Dr. Walt answered, “I’m not sure exactly, but I believe that iron is…uh…different here. I think it’s because of the vibrational signature of this world. Whereas in Telani iron is rigid and, more importantly, easily alloyed with such things as carbon, the same is not true here. The unique energy of different types of atoms at times seems to react differently than expected here. By that, I mean different than expected on Telani. Of course, they act exactly as would be expected here because of the particular physical and chemical laws here. It would be very strange if they acted differently than normal here because that would indicate that the natural laws were somehow not working. On the other hand…” Dr. Walt trailed off when he saw Sam staring blankly at him.
“It can all get very technical, but what I am trying to say is that here, iron is softer. Not quite so soft as gold or lead, but softer than copper. Additionally, it does not alloy easily. Whereas on Telani heating iron with a fire of coal and coke suffuses it with carbon and makes it steel, the process is much more complex here. There is only one group, the Zyngim, who know the secret to making steel, thus it is very rare and very expensive.”
Sam could not hide his surprise. “Then, what are weapons here made from, if not steel?”
“Ah, that is another interesting subject. For the most part, weapons are made of bronze, since that is a strong metal and can be sharpened. Of course, there are wooden weapons as well, such as cudgels. Wood acts the same here as in Telani. There is another technology here, though, that is fascinating. It’s a type of ceramic glass and it is used widely. I would say that one of every three weapons is made of this material.”
“Ceramic glass? That sounds brittle. How can it be used as a weapon without shattering when someone blocks a strike?”
“Ah, that’s the interesting part,” Dr. Walt said, face intense. “Through a special process, known only to the crafter’s guild, called Gawzay, they create items that are sharper and more durable than any other material. Well, any material other than good steel. Through whatever process they use, the item retains its sharpness almost indefinitely and is durable enough to withstand all but the hardest hits with steel or other ceramics, at the perfect angle. It’s really quite remarkable.”
The doctor’s eyes glazed over as he muttered to himself, “sintering, yes…that must be it…and sharpening with diamond. Hmmm, if I could just get one to tell me…I could…” He noticed Sam and shook with surprise. “Oh, sorry. Sometimes I get caught up in my thoughts. In any case, it’s a fascinating, fascinating subject.”
Sam thought so, too. “I would like to talk more about it sometime. For now, though, I should probably try to get these whiskers off. They’re itching fiercely.”
“Yes, yes, quite.” The doctor seemed to zone out again momentarily. “Ah, oh. I just had an idea. Please wait here, Sam. I will be back momentarily.” With that, he hopped up and hurried toward the main building.
Sam shrugged and looked back into his little mirror, preparing to scrape the stubble from his face. No sooner had he put the blade to his cheek—better to start with that than the throat—than Dr. Walt returned, carrying something.
“Here you go, my boy,” he said with a smile. “This will serve you much better for shaving.” He handed Sam a knife.
It was made of a tan-colored, smooth material, its hilt wrapped tightly in leather. Turning it in his hand, he watched as it caught the sun’s light and bounced it back, reflecting brilliantly. He tested its edge with a finger, barely touching it, and he felt a sting as he watched the skin peel away smoothly in a perfect, straight cut. “Ow!”
“Be careful with that, Sam. It is very sharp. What’s more, if you only use it to shave, you will probably never have to get it sharpened. Ceramic knives hold an edge for decades with careful use.”
“Wow. Dr. Walt, thank you for letting me use this. I’ll bring it back to you as soon as I’ve finished shaving.”
“No need, no need. It’s yours. I have one already. I got it in a good trade with one of the Gawzay crafters for a few trinkets I made just for him.”
“That is very generous. Thank you, Dr. Walt. I think this will make shaving easier. I’ll just need to get used to shaving this way without injuring myself.”
“It is my pleasure, Sam. Well, I will let you get your shaving done now. Enjoy.”
After the doctor left, Sam tentatively used the ceramic knife on his cheek. The hair fell away easily. Carefully continuing, he soon was clean shaven and feeling better about his appearance. The knife, being so sharp, shaved close without causing too much irritation to the skin. It was just another wonder in this new world he found himself in.
Shaving complete, Sam turned his attention to his training. He was absorbed in learning as much Kasmali as he could. For some reason, he seemed to pick it up quickly, almost as if he knew the language on an intuitive level. Once he knew enough to put together simple sentences and to understand the gist of what someone was saying, he shifted his focus from the language to his other training. He still worked hard at all he was learning, but he tried especially hard at his physical combat training.
Are you ok with staying here? Don’t you have family at home?, he sent to Skitter during a break from training. Besides learning Kasmali, it seems that communication with the hapaki was vastly improved. They communicated fluidly now, easily. Though his mind interpreted most of the sendings as words, occasionally he would receive them as pictures, feelings, and thoughts, without translation. He felt more and more connected to the little hapaki.
I will stay. I will learn much to tell my community. There is no history of any Citizen ever venturing this far from home. Oh, maybe I should say “hapaki.” He chuckled at that again. It was one of his favorite inside jokes.
Besides, there is much earth fruit, onekai, here. I will stay for a little while longer. And it is good to watch you being thrown to the ground and struck repeatedly. He bared his sharp teet
He was right, though. Sam spent quite a bit of time getting beaten up, without learning anything. If he didn’t know better, he would say that he was just being put off.
When Nalia trained him, she did not explain anything. She just came at him more slowly than normal combat speed and he tried to defend. Slow or not, he was never able to get anywhere. She would slip around him and strike him or throw him or do something else to control his body like a puppeteer.
It was amazing. He had never experienced anything like it. He had dabbled in fighting at different times of his life, learning a bit of boxing, some martial arts techniques, practicing street fighting, even getting into fights when he was younger and bullies tried to pick on him. He was no slouch in defending himself, but even slowed down, his teacher was completely untouchable.
Once, when he was having a particularly hard day, being thrown around and pummeled left and right, he complained that she was not teaching him. “Show me some techniques. Train me! How should I punch, how should I kick? What kind of throws or holds should I use?”
Rindu stopped Nalia and stepped up to Sam, looking into his eyes. The Zouy sometimes watched his training with Nalia. He said: “When the belly is full, you must empty the bowels to make room for new food.” And then he walked away.
Sam stood there, confusion and anger warring over his features. “Rindu!” he called. When the Zouy turned to look at him, Sam said: “That’s…well, that’s just disgusting.”
Rindu shook his head sadly and walked away again.
“I know what you are saying,” Sam called to him as he left. “I should not think on what I know or I will not be able to learn anything new. But you make it sound so…gross!”
As time passed, Sam settled into his new training schedule. Dr. Walt still had no definite answer to what they should do, but he was working on it constantly. He was teaching Sam how to read Old Kasmali, but Sam was no help in the research yet. He wished he could do something to help, but there was nothing he could do for now. Instead, he tried to focus on training with his other two teachers.
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