Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter X: Lighting the Way

Lyta found Jonas sitting in an easy chair, watching the street-life of Lyonesse as it passed below his window. A blanket was tucked around his lap, an empty mug beside him on a night table. The medical equipment was gone -- taken away by Doc Chambers when he had returned to points further south -- and there was no sign that the hotel room had been used for anything other than sleeping and resting.

Lyta knocked softly as she entered. “Thralan?”

Jonas looked up and smiled. He seemed tired. Lyta wondered whether he had gotten any sleep inside the Doc’s portable MRI machine. “Hippartha.” He gestured towards a chair opposite him.

Lyta shut the door behind her and sat, passing over the glass of water she had brought with her. Her fingers traced the pattern on the upholstery. “How are you feeling?”

Jonas looked out the window contemplatively. “I feel sorry for them. They rush from one place to another without knowing their purpose. Without rest, without stillness, they cannot hear the soft voices within themselves to guide them to peace.”

Lyta glanced down at the street scene. People bustled in the midsummer heat, late for meetings or hustling towards business deals. She looked back to Jonas with a wry smile. “Are you talking about them or about me?”

Jonas turned towards her, his eyes twinkling. “The greatest truths are those that can be understood on multiple levels, my dear. Like light through a prism, it refracts into the myriad forms which we perceive as we most need at any moment. When we are at peace, we perceive in one way, and when we are troubled, another.”

Lyta let out a sign in mock-exasperation, but she grinned while she did it. “Do you think I’m troubled, Thralan?”

Jonas gave her an even look, as though to say, ‘Go on.’

Lyta looked out the window again. “Not troubled. Maybe… frustrated.” She shook her head. “I don’t know. Things have been weird lately.”

Jonas raised the water glass and took a small sip before placing it on the side table. “Do you wish to discuss it?”

Lyta thought for a moment. She’d intended to check in on Jonas, to let him rest after his ordeal with Bearden and the Doc’s tests. But she did want to talk to him. She had forgotten how much she missed Jonas’ advice, his ability to guide her to truths she would never have arrived at on her own. She drew up her legs beneath her and nodded.

In a tumble of words, she laid out her conversations with the Doc and with Lukas in broad brush strokes. How both she had the Doc had felt betrayed by their encounter at Jan Mayen and how it might all come to a head again because of Lukas. How the Doc had yet again tried to take agency from her, and how he felt as though he were a protective parent. And then later, how Lukas had tried to foist a decision on to her that might put all of them in danger, how it had highlighted their fractured relationship, how even now she wasn’t certain what his actual motivations were. Her monologue went on longer than she would have expected, and through it all Jonas watched her with a sympathetic, encouraging expression.

Lyta drew a deep breath as the words ebbed away. “How can it be that this morning I snapped at Tom for not letting me make my own choices, and then only hours later when Lukas gave me exactly what I asked for, I threw it in his face and said I didn’t want it?”

“But the two situations feel different, yes? What do you think the difference is?”

Lyta thought about it. It had been bothering her all day, how she couldn’t simply tell Lukas what she wanted when he’d asked her. How his question had felt more like a barb than an invitation. She licked her lips. “I guess… with the stuff the Doc was talking about, it only affects me. Like when Ti wouldn’t let anyone tell me he was alive, or when Alain made me angry so I wouldn’t worry about him. But with Lukas, it affects the whole team. If I choose wrong, people could die. People I love. I didn’t want a choice like that.”

Jonas nodded slowly. “Like the choices Lukas has been making for you and Torgath these last cycles.”

It stung when he put it that way, but it was the truth. Those were the sorts of choices Lukas had been making since they left the desert. He had said as much in their heated conversation, and she had brushed him off. But now she forced herself to acknowledge the truth of it. “I know. But it shouldn’t be that way – one person choosing for all of us. He shouldn’t be forcing it on me, and I shouldn’t be forcing it on him. We’re a team. We should decide together.”

“And if he had asked you to help make these decisions, would you have been ready to do so? Were you mature enough? Could you anticipate the effects of your choices?”

The corners of Lyta’s lips tugged downward. “I don’t think so.”

“And now?” Jonas reached for his water-glass and took it with both hands, resting it against the blanket on his lap.

How far are you willing to go to save Jonas? Lukas had asked her for her input, and it had felt the same as when he asked if they should break with Renault. It was easy to say she wanted to choose when the choices were easy, but what about when they were hard? She had struggled, then. Was she willing to break trust with Ti in order to rescue her Thral? It was an impossible choice, as impossible as choosing between putting her brothers in danger and letting Ti’s mission leak to an information broker. Between following Lukas into the slave trade and cutting ties with her family.

She sighed. “I don’t know. What if I get it wrong? What if people die because of what I choose? Lukas is so smart. He sees all these connections I don’t. I always feel like I’m two steps behind him; I always have. What if I miss something?”

Jonas nodded. “Yes, that doubt is natural. The Thral must makes choices that affect all Koreshi and we must always question if we are wise enough. We draw strength in knowledge and understanding, but also compassion. We must choose what is best for us, but how we define ‘us’ makes all the difference in the outcome of our choices.”

Lyta shook her head slowly, the conversation with Lukas still gnawing at her. “I don’t think Lukas wants this to be about the group. I think he wanted me to make the choice so that if it goes wrong, he can blame me. Or tell me ‘I told you so.’”

Jonas placed a hand on her knee. “Hippartha, disregard failure or blame. Ignore who makes the decision for a moment and consider only what is the best decision, the best outcome.”

Lyta stood, able to process the thoughts only if she were moving. She walked towards the door and back, pacing across the modest room. “I don’t know. It’s like I’m deciding between the fate of the world and the safety of my family.” She exhaled sharply. “I guess it sounds really melodramatic when I put it that way, but I think that’s what the stakes are. Ever since the war, all I wanted was to keep Lukas and Todd safe, no matter what. And now I’m choosing to put them in danger because if I don’t, the whole planet might suffer. How can I make a choice like that?”

Jonas watched her as she walked. “Would you be happier if someone else made the choice for you? So that you could blame them if it went wrong?”

The question cut deep into her thoughts, and she stopped, her finger tapping lightly against her leg. She bit her lower lip. “No, I don’t think so,” she said at last. “I guess that’s what Lukas has been doing all this time. Making the decisions and letting us blame him if they didn’t work out.”

She started pacing again, the thoughts spinning faster than she could keep up with. “I guess that’s what I did to him at White Rock. I made a choice I knew he wouldn’t like and I didn’t tell him, and he hated it as much as I do when he does it to me. I guess I’m just used to dealing with it and he’s not.” She sighed and turned to face her Thral, her expression pained. “I should have talked to him. I was scared he wouldn’t agree with me, so I made the decision for him. I hate it when people do that to me, and I did it to him. And it tore our whole family apart.”

She moved back towards her vacated chair and let herself fall into it. “I just wish people would trust me. Not to decide the fate of the whole world, but to… to make my own choices. Or to help them make the ones that affect me.” She rolled her eyes as she heard the words coming from her lips. “I sound like Ti.”

Jonas watched her with compassion. “My dear, time is a continuum. You past choices intermingle with your future ones and our fates are already decided. The choices you make for yourself may change the fate of the world. Choosing a decision you are at peace with in the present is all you can do. And as far as sounding like Titan, there are worse role models to emulate. You have begun to learn that trusting in others is the beginning of trusting that the Great Cycle will unfold as it should. I know this lesson is particularly hard for you.”

Lyta shook her head slowly. “I don’t think Lukas trusts me anymore. ...I don’t think I trust him.” She looked up, meeting Jonas’ eyes. “How did that happen, Thralan? How can I not trust my own brother?”

Jonas leaned forward and placed a hand on hers. “What we are talking about, what we have always been talking about, is faith, Hippartha. It has many guises; trust is only one of them. Faith goes beyond knowledge and reason, which is where Lukas stumbles. It is a struggle and it can be heartbreaking but it is also the greatest force in the universe. Faith is its own reward. It does not promise results in others or in specific outcomes, only yourself.

Lyta’s brow furrowed as she listened to Jonas’ words. “I’m sorry, Thralan, but what does that mean for me and Lukas?”

“You have told me that the saying of your family is to always move forward. That is faith as well, to trust that what lies ahead must be better than the past. Lukas may be stuck looking in the past, only seeing what he has lost. You too have lived this way, hating and distrusting because of the past. If you wish to regain what you have lost with Lukas, you must have faith in him. This does not mean he will reward your faith in him, but your openness to trust will be its own reward.” He let go of Lyta’s hand and held his water, carefully bringing it to his lips.

Lyta sighed. “And what about Tom? How can I move forward if he keeps seeing me as… as his daughter? Or his foster daughter? Or however he sees me?”

“You cannot control the hearts of others, only your own. You cannot determine how he sees you. Can you accept what he has to offer you regardless of why he does so?”

Lyta thought about it. Could she? Could she move forward with Tom, even knowing that he saw her as some sort of daughter? She let out a long, slow breath. “Well… I guess he means well. He cares about me and wants to help me. But I can’t let him see me as his daughter, Thralan. I don’t want that.”

“And this you told him, yes?”

Lyta nodded. “Yeah, I told him I want a friend, not a father. I guess the rest is up to him.”

Jonas smiled and placed his water glass on the side table. “Then you already have your answer. You do not need me to give it to you.”

Lyta matched his expression. “I’ll always need you. I don’t think I could ever figure this stuff out on my own.”

Jonas rose slowly and lowered his lips to Lyta’s forehead. For a moment, she felt only love and acceptance. When he rose, her forehead still tingled. “You are strong, Hippartha, but you are also wise. Wiser than you admit to yourself. You have within you all you need. I have that faith in you, find it in yourself.”

Lyta stood and hugged him. He was thinner than he had been before he had been captured. She could feel his bones through his skin. She held him gently, afraid that she might break him. “You’re a good guide. The best one I’ve ever had.”

Jonas held her back until he sensed she was ready to let go. He brushed a hair away from her face. “But not the best you ever shall. You, my child, you are your best guide. Now I must trust my body when it tells me that I am tired. Perhaps I shall lie down for a time.”

Lyta nodded and picked up the blanket that had fallen to the floor when he stood. Carefully, she guided him to his bed and tucked the covers around him. She kissed him lightly on the forehead, as he had done for her, as his eyes closed. She made her way on silent feet to the door, closed the light, and left Jonas to his dreams.


It was long since dark when Lyta slipped into Ti’s room. The door clicked softly behind her as the lock engaged. As silently as she could, she shrugged off her street clothes. She waited for her eyes to adjust before she slid into the bed next to Ti’s sleeping form.

Ti murmured and turned around, his strong arms wrapping around her. “Hi,” he murmured.

“Hi.” Lyta lay her head on his bicep.

“How’s Jonas?”

Lyta sighed. “Weak. Tired. I wish I understood half the stuff Tom said about what Bearden did to him. I wish I could help.”

Ti ran a hand through her hair, the rhythmic motion of it soothing after her long day. “We could bring him to Isabella Damosa.”

Lyta gave the slightest shake of her head. “I don’t think so. I think he should be with his own people. That’s what he wants.”

“I wish I could help him.”

“Yeah, me too.” She paused, focusing on the motion of Ti’s hand against her hair. “I wish a lot of things. I wish I could fix things with Lukas. I wish I could get the Doc to see me as a grown woman.” She kissed the side of his neck. “I wish I could do this every single night forever.”

Ti twisted so that the next time she went in for a kiss, her lips found his. “As many nights as we can,” he promised. He ran his hand along her back as Lyta cuddled into his chest. “As for the others… I trust you. You’ll figure it out. But If there’s anything I can do, you only need to ask and I’ll be there for you.”

The words felt as good as his hands, and basked in them a few moments. “I love you,” she said.

Ti held her tight. “I love you too.”

She closed her eyes and snuggled in closer, letting herself be lulled to sleep.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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