Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter IV: Letting Go

TN 1925, 35 Summer

The waterfall filled her entire field of vision, huge and imposing. Somewhere far below, it foamed the mouth of the river, and the dull roar of it echoed up the chasm. Lyta sat, cross-legged and closed-eyed, and listened.

The grass was soft enough that it masked the footsteps, and Lyta only realized someone had joined her when she felt the air stir to her right. She opened her eyes to find Jonas standing, watching the waterfall, and waiting. He turned towards her when he realized she had noticed him. "May I join you, Hippartha?"

Lyta licked her lips, then nodded. She considered the overlook to the waterfall her private sanctum, a place she could avoid the milling crowds of Junira Loresh, and think. "How did you find me?"

Jonas sat down on the grass beside her. "I have often found you here when you were troubled," he said gently. "When your heart sought to join with the heart of the desert and its people."

Lyta stared forward at the descending water. "It's so beautiful," she said. Back in Baja, before the war, she would never have thought that water could be beautiful. So much water you could drown in it, but it caught the sun and glittered like diamonds.

Jonas nodded. "It is."

Lyta sighed. "Sometimes I wish I could just stay here. I don't want to leave."

Jonas looked at her with compassion. "If that is truly your desire, you could. But Torgath would not be able to stay with you. And Lukas... Lukas has not yet found where he belongs."

Lyta bit back an angry reply and closed her eyes. "I know, I know. It's just..." She blinked fiercely, trying to keep back tears. "I miss you when I'm not here, Thralan. You could come with us. Be with us."

Jonas placed a hand on her shoulder. "My place is here, Hippartha. I am depended upon to serve my purpose."

"We depend on you!" Lyta exclaimed. "What about us?"

"You can depend on my being here, in Junira Loresh, just as you can depend on your brothers beyond the walls of this valley," said Jonas.

Lyta fidgeted, and pulled her knees up to her chest. "It's not fair," she said softly, barely above the noise of the waterfall.

"Not even the Thral know what is fair, Hippartha. We try only to understand what our purpose is in the Great Cycle." said Jonas.

"I don't care!" Lyta lashed out, pulling away from Jonas' hand. She wanted to get up and pace, but instead she grasped her knees tighter. "Why should I have to choose between you and Lukas?"

Jonas moved closer and held her shoulders. "We must understand our world and ourselves. Only through understanding can we hope to make the choices which fulfil our roles."

"Sometimes we don't get to choose at all," Lyta said bitterly. She twisted and looked up at Jonas with red eyes. "Bestha, Amaraa, the rest of the Bathani... I didn't get to chose with them. They're just gone. What about you? What if I come back next time and you're gone too? Or if we get back to Khayr ad-Din and Lukas is gone?" The tears fell freely now, and Jonas hugged her, waiting for the outburst to subside.

"That is the mystery of our existence, or as Lukas might say, its irony. We must know who we are to make our choices, but the choices that make us who we are are not our own," he said. "You honour the Bathani with your water. Shedding tears helps wash away the past like a flood, but constant tears water pain and allow it to take root."

Lyta squeezed her eyes shut. "I'm tired of missing them, Thralan. I'm tired of being afraid all the time that I'll lose you, or Lukas, or Torgath. When does it stop?"

Jonas placed his hand lightly under Lyta's chin, and she opened her eyes to find him looking deep into hers. "When you choose it to stop. The past is already gone, child, and tomorrow is but a dream. But knowing your path today makes yesterday's pain the foundation of tomorrow's happiness. You can choose to know your pain but not become it."

Lyta shook her head. "I don't understand."

Jonas let his hand drop. "When you ran the B'Ti, there was a swift river you needed to cross. You cannot swim. How did you do it?"

Lyta closed her eyes a moment, remembering. "I swung across the vines," she said.

"Were you afraid?"

Lyta shrugged. "Maybe a little. Not really."

"Why not?"

"Because I didn't have time to be afraid."

The hint of a smile touched Jonas' lips. "There is more than that, I think."

Lyta breathed deeply, trying to think back to the moment she'd arrived on the cliff to see the water rushing beneath her. She had been scared, at least for a moment, but she'd shrugged it off and kept moving. "I guess..." she said at length, "I guess I just knew I could do it. The vines are far enough away that if you don't take it at a running jump, you'll never reach, and you'll fall for sure. So you can't hold back. If you're afraid, you'll tense up and you won't reach."

Jonas smiled more broadly now. "There is deep wisdom in that answer, Hippartha. Do you see it?"

Lyta blinked several times, then shook her head. "No."

"You have excelled as a B'timasta and brought great honour to the Bathani, but the B'Ti is more than a test of speed and agility, it is a metaphor."

Lyta pursed her lips. "A what?"

"It is a tool," Jonas said, settling himself deeper on the grass, "a way of thinking that you can use beyond the course, beyond Junira Loresh."

Lyta took a moment to consider this. She never felt so alive as when she was running the B'Ti, never felt so completely in control of herself. "So you're saying," she said slowly, thinking as she spoke, "that the same way you have to run at the vines, when you push the fear aside and do it anyway because otherwise you'll sabotage yourself... that's how I stop being afraid for you and Lukas?"

"You did not push you fear aside, child. You accepted it and moved past it. Fear and pain are petals of the same flower."

Lyta turned back to the waterfall and watched as it plummeted downwards, ever changing but ever the same. "I don't know if I can do that, Thralan, just move past my pain," she said softly.

Jonas placed a hand on her shoulder, then stood. "One can seldom turn a lesson learnt into experience without practice, Hippartha. Wisdom arrives through contemplation but also through action and through the turning of the Great Cycle."

Lyta stood and hugged the older man. "I will miss you when we leave tomorrow," she said. "And until the next time I see you."

"And I will miss you, dear child," he replied. He kissed her forehead, paused a moment, and then made his way back down the way he had come.

Lyta took a deep breath and sat down again, staring at the waterfall, considering the words of her Thral.

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