The Graces

7

Anava followed the drysmus line to the small, cobbled dormitory where she lived while studying at the temple. She was distracted and disjointed from her encounters with Ren and Rana. Her skin prickled with confusion.

Why not give guidance to your own son?

Why me?

The question was plaguing. She felt betrayed. Ren was the entire reason she knew Rana. How gleefully they played as youngsters, imagining this and that and chasing each other about the main courtyard; how Rana would come out in her colored robes and talk to them, enchanting them with stories as they played amongst the fragrant blooms and shrubbery.

How she envied those robes as a girl; robes she never thought she would ever have. They made a strong, gallant impression. They signified respect. They signified knowledge. They signified the Graces.

And now she had them within grasp – no thanks to Rana – but without Ren as an equal, it was a hollow victory. A chasm had appeared, and although she continually tried to brush her errant thoughts aside, they would not leave.

Anava felt herself stray from the narrow path within the tall grass now and again, and focused on letting the magnetic currents push her back. They were especially strong at the drysmus line, and this soft, light push was comforting. Consoling. When she walked the lines she felt a closeness to the world that nothing could compare to.

As she saw the onyx precipice of the dormitory tower come into view through the top of the grass, Anava decided to go to the pavilion and explore her misaligned thoughts further rather than study for ceremonies.

She deviated left and up the hill to a small grove of trees, within which was a small outcropping of rock with stone pillars to surround it. Bells and other chimes were hung around it in the tree branches, marking this as a holy place. Sanctuary.

She entered the circle of pillars and seated herself. The rock was mossy in spots, but firm. There was an older gentleman bowed in prayer at the other side, so she made pains to hush any noises of her arrival.

She focused on breath: in and out, in and out, in and out. She let her emotions come through with no judgement. She observed each one, looked for attachments, and let them fall.

Finally, smooth and unfiltered thoughts started to flow:

Flowers; Small pushes from the drysmus; Rana’s wide and warm smile; Cool breezes and the exhilaration of her dreamtime forest.

Anava’s temple was calling her. The forest was waiting.

This time she did not have to find dreamtime and create her temple – it had found her. All she had to do was slide into the space, and it opened for her as if by request. She was keenly aware of the silence and opening drift of reality that was crystal clear, yet murky at the same time. She was amazed, but quite shaken, at the relative ease and effortlessness of the action.

With a small thrill, and her heart racing, she smiled, and felt the moment blossom.

*

She walked along the same moss and glittering tree canopy as she had before. She stroked the ferns and felt the warm sunlight welcoming her, and she them. She greeted the wind and listened to the chirping chorus of the birds flittering faraway.

As she walked, a stone path appeared through the undergrowth and rotting logs. The ease of this place – responding to her, calling to her – expunged any hesitancy she might have hidden within. She knew she would seek her questions here. A devout, resolute warmth filled her chest, and suddenly every question she had at the forefront of her mind rushed forward in a flurry, simultaneous and all-encompassing:

Why would Rana do this to her son?

She is not that kind of person. Is she?

Am I more talented then Ren?

I didn’t think I was.

Rana loves her son, she would never do anything to hurt him.

Why train me alone, and not others?

Were there others?

Why am I so distraught?

What should I do?

I do not wish to do initiations without Ren by my side.

Should I discuss with Rana?

Should I drop it?

I don’t want to cause a rift – their familial relationship is theirs, and not mine.

But they are family to me.

Why doesn’t this feel right?

 

Her stream of thoughts started to slow, and Anava felt her questions come to a nexus:

 

Please.

Show me what I need to do for healing.

For me. For them.

For Us.

I request Your love and Graces.

 

She continued walking in relative silence. The rocks and trees more familiar now, but still the same forest. There was no destination in her sight, other than the questions. She stayed open and confidant and kept walking.

Nothing different appeared. No new shapes or sounds.

Anava listened and closed her eyes, imagining the drysmus line guiding her and comforting her. She repeated her desire:

 

Show me what I need to do for healing.

For me. For them.

For Us.

I request Your love and Graces.

 

Please.

 

 

Please.

 

 

Please.

 

 

Please.

 

 

And suddenly in her reverie, a scream reverberated through the trees, and the birds and trees grew silent.

Her heart jolted, and she looked to the origin of the sound. The forest moved around her in a blur of color and sound and feeling.

She was transported to a small clearing, and before her was a man, slumped in the dewy plants. He appeared to be distraught, but his arms obscured his face. He radiated agitation, infuriation… and Anava felt the deepest wave of sadness. A wall of grief overcame her.

She gaped for a moment, not sure how to proceed. Maybe he would reveal something to her. Clues, information. The graces were answering her!  She reigned in the triumph, and readjusted her calm, stoic front. She approached him slowly. He seemed to be asleep.

He was wearing nothing of note from which she could discern his identity – no robes from the temple, no marks of the graces, no clarions. But he had a pearly auric shimmer about him that gave her pause. It was beautiful, but jagged.

Anava kneeled beside him. Sweat beaded along his shoulders, and he was breathing rapidly. She thought of a breeze to help cool him down, and the wind obeyed, ruffling his light linen overcoat. He was not enjoying his slumber, and she wished to see his face… do I know him? Is he a clue to my questions?

Abruptly, he lifted his head in a gasp and made eye contact. They stared for an endless moment.

He could see her.

She froze.

 

….

If you wish to read this ongoing story project in order, use the following links to go back to previous posts:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava
Part 5 – The Promise
Part 6 – The Readers

The Readers

6

“Who is this young cadfly? Shoo! You are shutting out the light!!”

As soon as he entered the threshold of the small and cramped gallery space, an old woman seated near the entry started yelling at him.

“Out, I say! Out!” She was the oldest woman Zerian had ever seen, and he gave pause – her eyes were almost non-existent, swallowed with leathery tanned skin.

“Oh stop, Jahsha, stop!” Another not-quite-as-old woman came out to meet Zerian as he stood on the rug, gaping at the elderly heckler. “Sorry, Sir, don’t mind Jahsha. She is waiting for her escort.”

This other not-as-old woman was tall and on eye-level with Zerian. She had black hair striped with silver, braided carefully down her back, and wore a deep blue robe with black stitching – one of the many colors and styles of robes that were representative of the disciplines studied at the Temple of the Graces.

Zerian knew that the Body Readers were well educated on the nuances of health and how this translated to your field and other bodily systems. Beyond that, nothing else – except that his mother distrusted their practice and did not want him to engage with it. He knew she was somewhat of a traditionalist, and that she had once forayed into discipleship at the temple, but he had never pressed her for more stories. She never seemed to enjoy discussing it.

But suddenly, standing here now in a small dusty gallery with a Body Reader before him, Zerian felt the curiosity of his mother’s past start to rise.

“What is the occasion today, young Sir?”

“I – I came for some consult on my sleep. If you might be able to help and advise?” Zerian kept his voice low as he did not wish to have the unruly elder woman seated nearby hear his personal business.

“Ah yes, sleep diagnostics – you have come to the right place!” She lit up in a warm smile and shook his hand with both of hers. “I can see you right away, if you’d like? Jahsha was my last appointment. What is your name, young Sir?”

“Zerian Ref-Vera. And you, Sira?”

“Please, you can call me Tulla.” Her omittance of her last names immediately made him regret revealing his own.

“Ref-Vera, did you say? You are certainly not from around here! I am not sure I have met anyone from Vera. Do you like Atuva?”

“Yeah, I do. It’s a change of pace, but lots to see for someone like me, I guess.” Zerian managed an awkward smile as Tulla gestured for him to follow her through a back hallway. He hated to give his full name, disclosing his origins and taking him off the table of regular citizen talk. From here on out, everything discussed would be compared in reference to his country roots and Atuva-centric topics avoided.

“Please stand here, on the round rug.” Tulla pointed to the small black and white round rug at the center of the side room she had just led him to. The room was dark, with only two small, narrow windows, shrouded in gauzy midnight-blue curtains that filtered the sunlight. She pulled out a small metal object from a tall stand of drawers once they entered.

“Sorry – I’ve never been to any Reader before. Don’t mind me if I make a mess of it.” Zerian stood on the small rug and made excuses.

“Oh, no issue at all. I’ll talk you through it. We see many levels here – those who have been coming for years, and many more who come only when they need to, when met with dire circumstances,” she glanced up at him with a wink, as she fiddled with the small cylinder in the palm of her hands. She held it up for him to see.

“This is a spinner. It will read your field and take some measurements – then I’ll run the program and get some answers for you – no need to be nervous. With sleep diagnostics, readings usually manifest inside the field itself – no need for direct body readings.” She looked up at Zerian again, who was listening intently. She surveyed his face and space around it. “Your aura appears to be fairly consistent – no visible marks of weakness that I see. What is the sleep issue you are having trouble with specifically? Trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep? Sleep walking?”

“Dreams.” Zerian almost didn’t say it. He almost made up a story about exhaustion and anxiety and working too much, but he blurted it out too quickly.

“Ah – and these are bad dreams I take it?” Tulla didn’t seem fazed.

“Yes, but not really the subject of them.”

“So it’s not about bad dreams?” Tulla paused with adjusting the spinner contraption and searched Zerian with confusion.

“It is. It’s just that – there are none. It’s like…. Nothing. Nothing is there.”

Tulla looked concerned, and furrowed her brow the same as Bess had done earlier that day. “Nothing?” she repeated back.

“Nothing. But it feels like I’m getting pulled around. Or shuffled around. I don’t know how to describe it… I can’t seem to get any rest. I always wake feeling tired. Never rested. But grateful that I’m not sleeping anymore. Does that make sense?”

“Hrmmmmm…” Tulla made a long and low murmur, with no official recognition that she knew what was happening. “How long has this ‘restless’ sleep been occurring?”

“For maybe half of a year. Since coming to the city, actually. At first it was just annoying – every few days. But now it’s every night for the last month. I’m at my wits end.” Zerian gave a half-hearted laugh, as if it was a joke. But it wasn’t.

“And you dreamed plenty back home, in Vera? Did you ever have the same bad dreams there?”

“Yes. Well, no. I mean, I’ve never really dreamed vividly. If I did, I never remembered them fully. They’ve always been vague. But it was never an issue before now. Never like this, where I wake up exhausted.” Zerian recalled Bess telling him about a dream that she had recently during the full moon. He couldn’t believe the monsters she could conjure in her sleep – he had never had such an experience. That he could remember, anyway.

“Well this should set us right,” Tulla said assuredly. “Now, stand straight and hold still.” She adjusted his shoulders a bit, pushing down on one and then the other, and Zerian straightened his neck and looked forward at the masonry wall in front of him, strewn with manuscript shelves and hung with odd instruments. Tulla stood a small distance away, just inside his outer periphery.

“Yes. Just like that. You might sense some uncomfortable buzzing while the spinner takes measurements. It will only take a few seconds.” Tulla clicked the small cylinder in her palm, and threw it up in the air towards Zerian. He winced, but the small device spun to life in a blue glow, and started darting around his auric field like it was connected to it – this way and that, almost too fast for him to track with his eyes.

There was a buzzing he could sense – but very faint. Or maybe it was just the sound vibrations of the machine he was sensing?

Just as the small spinner dashed past his head, it zipped up the crown and flew towards Tulla again. She held out a small metal plate, and the spinner returned to it like a cocoon. She then inserted it upright into the reader on her desk, and a screen of data was projected out from it.

“All done – simple and painless, right?” She smiled and ushered him away from the black and white rug. “Take a seat, I’ll look this over for you.” She motioned to a wooden chair near her small desk and immediately started tilting dials and information on the holographic screen that was waiting for her there. Zerian uneasily sat down.

“Well… the readings look very normal. Robust, actually. And from what I’ve observed, your field isn’t showing the weaknesses that a field would regularly display with the lack of sleep that you’re describing. Usually sleep problems like yours can be seen visually – it is very obvious to the eye, but yours is not… Is this making your everyday routine difficult? Are you falling asleep in the middle of the day?”

“Yes. Well, I am grateful to not be sleeping, really. But I am not feeling myself. I am happy to be awake, though. I feel intoxicated sometimes, or not myself lately – clumsier, not as sharp. But mostly I am just happy to not be asleep.”

Tulla looked quizzical. The data screen in front of her whirred and moved around, apparently betraying the real issue at hand. Zerian didn’t know what else to say. Just make it go away. Please?

“Well, young Zerian Ref-Vera, I think I recommend heading home for a bit. To Vera, in the countryside. See if this episodic dream variance resolves itself. Here,” she collapsed the screen onto a piece of paper and handed it to Zerian. “Take this with you when you go. If there is another Reader in Vera, you can re-test your results and compare. I would be very interested in seeing a comparison.”

Zerian’s heart sank with all his hopes. Running back home was not what he had in mind. He wouldn’t be able to tell his mother about any of this, and especially not this meticulous sheet of magnetic resonance statistics.

“Nothing else?” He managed to request as he stood. “You can’t think of anything else?”

She sighed heavily. “Sorry, no. All the readings looked absolutely normal. Not a strand out of place. Amazing, really. I see a healthy young man before me.” She patted his shoulder and guided him back out to the gallery.

Zerian was in a daze. He was sure this was the solution, he knew it. But nothing. A dead end.

“Is this paid for with your shares then?” Tulla tapped into a holographic screen again when they were in the main gallery.

“Yes, sorry. 0945T,” he recited almost absent-mindedly, and pushed his fingerprint into the screen she presented, which made a blip of recognition.

Tulla seemed to sense his brewing frustration. “You could always try the famous ‘Atuva-tera Tonic.’ Take with honey – you’ll need it! Right before bed. It’s known for it’s soothing properties. Might knock down whatever’s bothering you. You could also try the Luli Chants. I have a dear friend who swears by them, but I’ve never needed to try, you know.”

Zerian sensed her attempt at sympathy. “Thanks. That helps. I’ll try to see about the tonic. Thank you for the recommendation.” He bowed deeply, and she in return.

As he made his way back to the shop, he picked up some of the famous tonic from the apothecary by the canal where it was known to be the best. He walked slowly. He thought of his mother’s promise and wondered what the fuss was all about. A bunch of sophisticated little machines and data lists that were of no help whatsoever.

Maybe this was what she wished to spare him.

Continue to Part 7…

Go back to previous:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava
Part 5 – The Promise

The Promise

5

Zerian slipped out the back alley and into the throngs of mercantile shoppers and shopkeeps, many of whom were milling about during midday meals. He was nervous, but it didn’t deter him. It needed to be done, no matter what his mother had warned him.

Stay away from the Body Readers. They will not help you, only confuse you. They discarded the old ways in favor of the new. They will misdirect and mislead, and plant ideas that will not bear fruit. This is my only wish.  Promise me, Zerian? Please?

Zerian kept walking, playing their conversation over and over again in his mind. With a determined frown he justified himself to her.

“Mom, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. They can’t pull the lights out of my eyes. I will be vigilant – please trust me. I need help, I need second opinions…. and you’re not here.”

He shook off the last phrase. It wasn’t her fault she wasn’t here. He was here in Atuva-tera of his own accord.

She was the one who didn’t want him to leave.

*

“I need to do this, Mom, I know this is right.” They were on the side terrace of the small farm house where they lived. Zerian had been apprenticing with Sol for almost five years and had mastered everything he needed to know about the terrain, soil conditions, horticultural varieties and breeding the fruit varietals that enjoyed the sloping hills of Verasco. He needed another challenge – and Sol had presented him with a job opportunity.

It was sunset, and late summer. The air was thick and jeweled, and the sunlight held a deeper resonance than it did in springtime. A weightier glow.

A presence of possibility.

“Sol wants me to open a shop in Atuva-tera.” His smile and enthusiasm were not returned, and her eyes had widened.

He would continue on: “He knows someone who excels at sales, who has worked with him before. We can run it ourselves and stock with Sol’s goods. Isn’t this amazing?! This is just what I was talking to you about the other night! A new challenge – taking things up a notch. This isn’t what I was thinking it would be – but I’m going to do it.”

His mother had worn no expression. She had looked shocked and belied, for whatever reason. He remembers feeling disbelief. What mother would not want her son to be an enterprising business owner? To make a name for himself in a great city-state like Atuva-tera? Was it fear of his wellbeing? Fear of loneliness if he went away?

Sure, they lived alone on the small farm, but she wouldn’t be lonely – she had Peri and Dorvi nearby, and not to mention Lufan from the neighboring farm. Oh, how he would miss Lufan.

The minutes had marched by. She wasn’t responding. She had sat down at the garden knee wall, staring at the distant tree line. He remembered the sunlight haloing her shoulders, her green and gold aura swirling and catching its glimmer.

He remembers coming up behind her and giving her a warm embrace, and how she sobbed into his arms as soon as he did.

“I’m not dying Mom – please don’t act like I am.”  She sighed and laughed lightly, and set her hand on the side of his face.

“Right you are, dear Zerian. I’m just surprised. The day has come. I always knew you would never be happy staying here. I think I had convinced myself that this decision was not expedient.” She sniffled and laughed, hugged him tightly, and sobbed quietly into his arm again.

“Just promise me one thing. Please?”

“Anything Mom, anything.”

*

The canal and adjacent thoroughfares leading to the city center were bright and bustling with activity. He smelled the sting of salt water and sweat in the air as he walked. His shop was in the main shopping veranda – the market place proper, with the most competitive prices and best products from around the known world. A very desirable site, indeed – Sol had an excellent relationship with the city proprietor.

Out of the main business district, here by the sunny canal and green grasses full of horses grazing, there were smaller carts and merchants; restaurant stands were numerous, and offered soups and terrines and skewers of meat and greens galore. All of them competing for the mid-day shopper’s attention, kicking up a lot of noise and selling as hard as they could.

Zerian slipped by them without making eye contact. He walked along the canal for a bit before turning into an older and tighter part of the city, closer to the city center and closer to the temple and citadel. Here were the richer residents of the city, many of them a part of the governing body overseeing day to day operations of the city-state, and many of them also disciples, initiates, and students of the temple on high, the Temple of the Graces.

Zerian wasn’t in the mood to ruminate or sightsee in this part of the city that he had rarely ventured. He turned down a smaller alley, only wide enough for pedestrian traffic, and looked for the small gallery with red marble pillars and the distinctive banner on the outside. He had seen it once before, when delivering goods to one of Sol’s smaller subsidiaries.

The noonday sun was hot and heavy, and tugged his eyelids down. He was growing weary when he caught a glimpse of it: a white cloth with a sun, superimposed on the four cardinal directions and surrounded with an aura. The sign and banner symbol of the Readers.

His heart quickened as he started up the steps, drew a sharp breath, and silenced the promise to his mother.

Continue to Part 6 

Go back to:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava

Anava

“I’ve been here before,” she whispered under her breath. She stepped through the rocks and moss and cushiony undergrowth carefully. The trees were gallant and tall. Birds chirped from far away and sunlight glittered through canopy cracks, trickling down to reach the dead leaves and rotting trees below. Familiar and foreign, the landscape seemed to welcome her with outstretched boughs and tiny twig-like fingers; reaching to embrace her and lead her home. It was a happy, unsettling feeling. Butterflies in her stomach.

“Wonderful,” a warm women’s voice said over her. “Now touch, interact, this place is only as real as you make it!”

Anava reached out her hand to touch a small fern growing beside her. The deep green leaves were soft and variegated into thousands of tiny jagged lines. Up and down the spine of the fern she moved her fingertips, savoring the feathery lightness. The leaves then began to sway in a light breeze – she looked to where it was coming from, the Northeasterly direction, and closed her eyes to feel the tiny swirls on her cheeks. “The wind started to blow just now. It’s heavenly,” she whispered again softly, as if to herself.

“I feel it too. And your prickly skin – it’s quite cold here!” The voice laughed, and Anava did too – yes, it was cold. She was feeling hot, so the cooler air was refreshing and felt so great on her skin. She smiled and held her hand out to the sky and wind.

“Exhilarating,” the voice stated. Anava smiled wider and nodded her approval. She had been waiting to come here, she finally decided. Or perhaps, this place was waiting for her. Either way, the feeling was mutual. It was as if a dream had materialized before her, a dream that had no discernment or shape prior – only a feeling. A puff of air on a warm autumn day.

This was the embodiment of a homecoming. She let it sink in, and tried to memorize it all. She might not ever return. In the space of a moment, she suddenly fell full of doubt.

“No – Anava! Stay with it!”

It was too late. Anava felt the trees start to crumble like cake washed away with the rain. The sun light faded, and the birds silenced. She opened her eyes in a jolt.

Rana was seated before her, eyes full of sadness and forehead furrowed. Her warm voice had been guiding her throughout the journey, but now she looked cold as ice.

“I’m sorry Rana, I  – I suddenly felt like I would never see this place again. I began to mourn it in my heart as soon as I thought it. I’m sorry for letting that overtake me so quickly.” Anava wrung her hands and clasped them in her lap, nodding her head down in apology. Ah – she had never made it so far before! And she ruined it with a moment of self-doubt.

“Anava, no – that was wonderful! I have no doubt you will be there again. You will see – have faith in your agency. You are quite gifted. Know it in your heart,” Rana reached over and took her hands in hers and kissed her on her crown. Ana lifted a little, knowing Rana had such faith in her. But it was still unnerving. They had been working through this for a year – and how suddenly it had dematerialized in front of her eyes. How one rogue feeling could swing in and unseat so much hard work.

Rana seemed to feel this same thought coursing through her. She pulled back and put her hands on Anava’s shoulders. “Feelings are powerful, Ana – and you mustn’t let them run the show. YOU run the show, and YOU choose the feelings with which to run it. That doubt is powerful – and although it is fine to feel it, and be with it, and comfort it and let it run its course, while you are in dreamtime you have to guard the gates. Be vigilant. You cannot let that doubt in, or it will take over. In dreamtime, you must imbibe pure confidence. Do you understand?”

Anava looked deep into her eyes. They were hazel, and blue at the center. She suspected they had seen so much in her lifetime, and had traveled far and wide and back again. She felt empowered and comforted by Rana’s guidance and eyes and reassurance. It was as if she was her own mother.

“Yes,” Anava squeaked softly. She cleared her throat – “Yes!” she said again emphatically. No better time to start practicing this confidence and swagger she would need.

Rana smiled. “Alright my girl – that’s it for today.” She rose from the rug where they were seated and stretched her hands high. Her gold bangles tinkling as she moved her limbs – bracelets, ear charms and ankle charms. Rana always sounded like a music composition as she reached this way and that, and walked across the room. Like bells calling from another world.

“Thank you Rana,” Anava rose also, and held her hands at her heart and bowed in thanks. Rana bowed in return and left the room, her gown flowing behind her in a glowy daze. It was a misty blue color today, with some intricate knotting and lattice-work. Anava suspected she handmade all her gowns, as she never saw anything like it in the market or in any nearby city.

Anava turned and grabbed her study book and side satchel from the chair at the other side of the room. They met weekly at Rana’s home – a large manor house that was painted in white and constructed from marble, stone, and mason’s mud. It was always cool, but today the meditation room was hot for some reason. Ana suspected it was due to the depth of their session. She had overhead others discussing how difficult it is to keep people cool while they are in dreamtime – this was why they desired to conduct sessions at dusk.

She started out of the porch and into the gallery, where she ran into Rana’s son Ren.

“Hi Ren, good day?”

“Yeah. Great.” They clasped hands lightly in greeting. Ren looked distracted.

“Are you coming to ceremonies tonight? I heard the others discussing leader Soan’s desire to start initiations – isn’t that exciting?!” Ana tried to override Ren’s distraction. He didn’t seem fazed.

“Yeah. I heard. Not sure if everyone’s ready – but should make it interesting. Maybe I’ll just watch, I don’t know if I’m there yet.” He smiled and shrugged and started to turn away.

“What! No, that’s not true Ren – you are being ridiculous. You are ready.” Ana reached out and gave him a reassuring smile.

“Maybe. But not ready enough for private lessons.” He cocked an eyebrow and kept walking.

Anava stopped in her tracks and watched him walk away. So that was it. Her coming here for lessons. She knew something was bothering him lately. But that would mean… Rana wasn’t giving Ren lessons? Her own son?

Ana suddenly felt incredulous. She had assumed this whole time that Rana would have been coaching them both. Ren was a great student, why in the world would she invite Ana for lessons at her own home and not to her own flesh and blood who lived under her roof?

She frowned as she stalked out and onto the winding path back home. This was not a good feeling. This was not how a wonderful session with her beloved mentor was supposed to end. This wasn’t right.

Did she even know Rana?

You don’t, she answered herself.

You don’t.

Keep going to Part 5