Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter X: Seeds of Change

30 Summer 1928

The Saracen Memorial Hospital had a beautiful garden, full of trees and flowers both native and imported. It was remarkable what money could buy in the UMF, Lyta reflected as she trailed her fingertips over the ivy-covered railing beside the path. She had no idea what their hospital stay was costing, and frankly didn’t care. They had the money, and what was the point in having wealth if you couldn’t use it to make yourself comfortable while nursing a head wound? Or worse, she thought as she reviewed the conditions of some of Tatsugoro’s team.

She walked carefully. The pain had mostly stopped, but she still occasionally found herself dizzy or lightheaded, and the last thing she wanted was for a fall to summon the nurses. Out here, in the calm afternoon amongst the rustling trees, she could almost pretend she was alone. That she was somewhere else.

She found Jonas sitting on a bench, watching a bee as it flitted from flower to flower. She stood a little distance away, waiting, making sure she wasn’t interrupting, before she took a few steps closer. “May I join you, Thralan?”

Jonas looked up, his expression serene. “Of course, Hippartha. You are always welcome to share my shade.”

Lyta closed the rest of the distance. The bee, for its part, flew off, opting to find a quieter bush with fewer disturbances. “Your shade should be somewhere warmer,” Lyta said as she sat down. “You’d never know it was a week past midsummer.”

Indeed, even in the bright afternoon sun, the air was chill. Lyta had been forced to find a sweater before heading outside, and Jonas had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

“I’m simply glad to see Helios. We have been parted too long,” he said, closing his eyes and turning his face up towards the sun the way prairie flowers do.

Lyta sighed. “I wish we’d found you sooner. We could have taken you back to Junira Loresh in time for the Imti’qhaan, but it must be almost over now. I wish I knew who was competing. Jireni completed the nineteenth course of the B’ti the cycle you weren’t there – did they tell you?”

Jonas smiled and shook his head.

Lyta stared at the far-off mountains, snow-capped and shining, but in her mind she replayed the seven minutes of Jireni’s victory. “It was amazing,” she said wistfully. “I’ve never seen anyone move like that.”

“To be honest, my dear, I never watched the games unless you were participating.”

A smile touched Lyta’s lips. “Careful, Thralan,” she said playfully. “All that attention will go to my head.” She paused, her eyes still on the far-off mountains. “I do miss it,” she said after another moment had passed. “And I missed you when you weren’t there.”

“We all return in our own time to where we are meant to be. It’s natural to miss the things we love when they are no longer there, as long as those feelings honour their purpose without detracting from our own. I could have lamented the darkness in my cell, but that would not make the sun shine through the stone. Tell me, Hippartha, have you been keeping up your practice?”

“I did for a while. I kept wanting to while we were on the road to find you, but we couldn’t draw attention to ourselves. For the last couple of seasons it’s just been whatever I could do while we were operational.” She paused and licked her lips, a dark cast coming over her expression as she turned back to her Thral. “I… may have done something wrong, Thralan. When we were in the Humanist Alliance, I was running, like for the B’Ti. Along the buildings in Oxford. It’s like they built the city for running; it’s perfect. But the surveillance there is really heavy. I promised myself I’d only do it the once. I was… It was a bad day. I was stressed. I thought running would help.”

Jonas placed his hand on her shoulder, encouraging her to continue.

She looked down, her hand tracing the tiny lines of the bench. “They caught me. I should have known they would. It was stupid to do it. They told me they wouldn’t put me in reeducation if I would teach what I was doing at their gym. So I… said yes. I didn’t tell them what it was or anything! I think they thought it was some sort of training technique taught at a backwater Badlands gym.” She looked up, a tiny gleam in her eye, the only trace of mirth in her otherwise somber expression. “I guess it is at that. Anyway, they called it kuritra. That’s Intralingua for ‘running.’ I did it with them for about a season before we had to leave.”

Lyta looked up, searching Jonas’ face for signs of sympathy or support. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring it to other people. I know I shouldn’t have. I just... “ She shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

“Whatever for, my child?” he said, his eyes full of compassion. “You haven’t done anything wrong. This is your way of being, the rhythm of your soul. You run as others sing and yet others dance. There is no shame there.”

Lyta’s expression relaxed. “I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to show anyone. To be honest, I’ve never been totally sure what knowledge is supposed to be secret and what I’m allowed to share, so I just sort of err on the side of not saying anything.” She bit her lower lip, contemplatively. “It was really interesting, though. To run courses like the B’Ti but with other people. We tried doing in pairs, sometimes in threes. You can do all sorts of techniques you couldn’t do alone, pass all sorts of obstacles.” She considered this a moment. “Did the Koreshi ever think about running the B’Ti in teams? I mean, why are all the challenges meant to be done alone?”

Jonas concentrated for a moment before replying. “The Koreshi have done things the same way for a long time. This has helped us preserve and protect certain aspects of our culture, but it has also calcified others. I don’t know if working in groups was ever intended, but I think it is a timely innovation, Hippartha. The Koreshi can no longer rely on the old ways alone, we must change and adapt. You do well to continue following your instincts in this matter.”

Lyta was silent, considering this. “Do you think anyone would? I mean, run the B’Ti with me. Together. Not everyone is as open as you.” Her brow creased. “I don’t know if anyone would want to. Like you said, it’s been done the same way for pretty much ever.”

“Change comes to all, even the Koreshi. I think the value of cooperation will become evident to all before too long,” Jonas responded pensively. Then, more optimistically he added, “I believe you will find much changed on your next visit, in Junira Loresh and in yourself.”

Lyta smiled. “People keep telling me that. One day, maybe I’ll figure out what they mean.” She paused as a thought struck her. “Okay, maybe I know a bit about what they mean. You know how you asked if I was still training and I said I wasn’t? I guess that’s true. I mean, I haven’t been running; there’s no place for it. But I’ve been… This is gonna sound stupid. I’ve been doing this thing called Perfect Form. The GRELs invented it. It’s supposed to be like a meditation. It’s supposed to change their programming.” She shook her head, bemused. “If you’d told me two cycles ago that I’d be doing GREL forms for training, I’d probably have laughed in your face. And then punched you.” She smiled. “So I guess there’s that.”

“Does this mean you have made peace with the purple off-worlders?”

Lyta thought about this. “Well… some of them. I promised Ti I’d judge them as people, as individuals. I mean, I can’t say I’ll go up and hug one of ‘em in the streets, but I’ve worked with them. We spent about a half-season with a whole bunch of them, rescuing slaves in the ESE. They didn’t need to do that, but they came anyway. That was… good of them.”

Jonas noded sagaciously. “This is good, Hippartha. Like your kuritra, it is important for you forge bonds and learn to work with others. I am so proud of you, Hippartha, as proud as any father could be. The Koreshi will need you to show them the way forward.”

The was something ominous in his tone and Lyta could see him shudder. “Are you all right, Thralan?”

“Just a little chill, child. The season is about to change,” he said, his equanimeous smile once again returned.

Lyta spent a moment adjusting his blanket, ensuring that it was properly covering his torso. He was thinner than he had been the last time she saw him, the wound on the back of his head still red. She pursed her lips, thinking on what he must have been through at the hands of the Bear’s pet scientist. “Maybe we should go in?” she suggested.

“In a moment, Hippartha. First tell me about you and Titan.”

Lyta sat down on the bench beside her Thral, a hint of a smile on her lips. “We’re dating. We started right before Creighton, the first one. I haven’t seen him much lately, though. He came with us when we started following the webble that led us to you, but he left… I guess it would have been a season ago. I haven’t really talked with him since then. Fennec’s been sending him updates, but he’s been doing his own stuff. I think he wanted for Lukas and me to work out our differences. He thought we couldn’t do it if he was around.” She sighed. “I’m not sure how well that worked out, honestly.”

“I’m glad you’ve found some comfort in each other. Without love, there is no reason for our struggles. You and Titan dating. I should have known, but the Great Cycle is hard to predict.” He paused a moment, as if he were realizing something. “This is good, you and the Harbinger must be allied to help each other.”

Lyta blinked. “The… what?”

“It is my duty as Thral to learn and recite the Great Cycle for the edification and enlightenment of all Koreshi. But we Thral also strive to understand the Cycle and know our place in it.

“You know from my tales that it is the sacred duty of the Koreshi to save the world as the world has saved us. The Ratir, the Ferah, and the Thral must each do his part, each in service of the Seed of the world’s rebirth. The Ratir protect the Seed, the Ferah nourish it, the Janus Kerasi such as yourself and Torgath seek the season of the Cycle so that we Thral may know when the Seed must be planted and harvested. So says the Great Cycle.

“In other terms, my dear Hippartha, we must read the signs of the changing world to know not only what must be done, but when. To this end we look for signs, like a farmer looks for the arrival of the red-tailed finch at the end of summer or the traveler seeks the stars which point him home. These are the signs we Thral seek in the world to know the turn of the Great Cycle. These things are harbingers, things which announce change.

“When I first met Titan I knew he was part of my path, but I did not recognise his role in the Great Cycle. With all that you and Torgath have recently uncovered, I believe the time of planting is upon us, and Titan is the harbinger of this season. And you and he must bring about change for the Koreshi and for all Terra Nova.”

Lyta shook her head slowly. “I don’t know what that means, Thralan. What is it we’re supposed to do? Half the time I don’t even know what I’m doing next week. How am I supposed to know what to do for the next phase of the Great Cycle? And how did you know about Ti? That he was a harbinger?” The questions flowed out of her, just the tip of a spear of dozens more.

“How did you know you loved him? One just knows these things. That is how the Great Cycle reveals itself to us. Now, my child, I’m a little cold and more than a little tired. May we go in?”

Lyta shook herself, putting aside her questions. There would be time to ask Jonas later. Or, perhaps, there wouldn’t. She trusted that he would tell her what she needed to know when she needed to know it. “Of course, Thralan.” She stood, bracing herself against the side of the bench, and allowed Jonas to use her arm for support. He rose steadily, if not as smoothly as he once might have done, and Lyta held back yet another wince at his state.

Arm in arm, they walked under the wintery mid-summer sun back to their rooms.

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