Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Adept of The Palms

Adept of the Palms Trees

Chapter 1

Torre stood looking out across the bluff towards the row of palm trees diminishing into the distance.  The grove of trees stood in a shallow valley that ran for some distance and was about half as wide as it was long.  The bluffs were the gateway to some rocky mountains some distance away.  The mountains were devoid of any trees and topped with snow.  He looked down at his hands and sinewy arms and studied for the millionth time the implanted nanotechnology there. Miniature power amplifiers, processers and wiring were embedded in his skin and body. He looked up again at the bluffs and the green grass that rolled down the hills toward the precise row of trees.  It always made him feel at home. Like he had his own little place in the universe, vast as it was. The palm trees presented him with opportunities.  He had touched them, been transported by them and seen many wonders that he could not yet explain.  The trees didn’t offer much shade or solace but they did offer him the world; many worlds actually.  He often felt uncertain but knew that being an adept of the palms was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to him.
Having been chosen from among a very large number of unwanted children, Torre had been given the opportunity to touch the palm trees to see if he possessed the gift.  He had felt an instant connection with the trees and had been sent to study with the Palm Masters.  He had studied diligently and had earned the gift of technological implants to go with his natural ability.   He was grateful but still unsure of his talent.  He knew that he was more than just talented; he had an innate sense of how to influence the trees for the desired effect.  He had to just place his hands on the palms and he would begin to see visions.  He could see into the future and past equally.  Most of the things that he saw he didn’t understand but was dreadfully curious to experience and comprehend.  In the past, there were superstitions and rituals regarding the palms that held no meaning to him or any of the other adepts or Masters anymore.  The future was full of incomprehensible visions of radically changed beings and bizarre places that filled him with the most overpowering dread.  

The palm trees allowed those that were adept in sensing the energies imbued into the tree’s very DNA, to channel their elemental forces and travel to many places; the distant past, anywhere in the present and into the future.  Torre’s forays had been limited to just visiting places in the present that he had read about and memorized from texts given him by the Palm Masters.  The Masters encouraged him and gave him instruction, but essentially left him alone after he had shown immense talent and allowed him to find his way with the trees.  The Masters taught that anyone with natural talent would instinctively feel the “way” and communicate to the palms where or when in the universe they wished to go.  Past, present and future existed within the palms wherever there grew a grove of the trees to connect with.  The groves existed in most places in the universe due to the fact that most civilizations found them very attractive.  This was, of course, encouraged by the Palm Masters of any given time or place so that they too could have access to the incredible power of the palms.

Today, Torre was going to travel to a place that he had only glimpsed in visions while communing with the palms.  He was going to visit the past, some eons ago, to observe some early Palm Masters experimenting with the trees.  He was anxious to see what the Masters had seen in their various travels into the past.  It was all recorded in the Masters library; however, one had to experience it fully to understand how the Masters had come to be.  Apparently, ancient Masters had stumbled on the palms ability to allow an adept to view the past, present and future.  The very first adept had spent a few weeks chained to a post in his village until he regained his mental faculties.  No one believed his visions, and accused him of consorting with dark spirits.  After a much respected member of the clan, under close observation, had experienced the power of the palms they began to worship the trees and eventually came to realize that the trees were sentient beings.  There was much apologizing and restitution paid to the first adept and things moved forward.  Later adepts had learned how to transport themselves with the help of technology and the intrinsic power of the palms.

Torre walked down the gently sloping bluff and greeted his Master, Davlish.  He was the oldest Master and sat as head of the Master’s Council. Even though he was patient with Torre, he often berated less talented adepts and even sent some of them back to the Commons to a boring and mundane life.  He was encouraging but expected nothing less than results.  He didn’t accept excuses and anticipated that each experience the adepts had with the palms would produce revelations to be recorded in the library for himself and future Masters to puzzle over.  Because the future is not set, each venture into the future yielded different mysteries to consider.  If an adept traveled ten minutes into the future and stepped on an insect crossing his path, what effect would it have?  Would it be a non-event or would it be of world-shattering consequence?

Davlish was standing close to the path leading to the palms.  He was deep in thought, staring up at the sky when Torre walked up to him.  He had been musing about his own future and the future of the adepts and Masters.  There had been dissension among the Masters and he had been swept along in the ongoing arguments regarding the expectations of the order and what the future of the order holds.  He turned from his thoughts and greeted Torre with a genuine embrace.  Davlish truly cared for Torre and thought the world of him though he’d never tell him.  Not to mention that Torre was the most talented adept and that gave him a certain amount of pride.  “So, have you prepared yourself for your venture into the past?” Davlish asked Torre.  Torre with his hands held loosely to his side lifted his chin slightly and said “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be”.  Davlish snorted at his understatement, shaking his head and thinking that this experience would be a major step towards the completion of his adept training and acceptance as a Master.  “Visions of and traveling in the present is one thing; travelling into the past and the future is on a whole different plane” Davlish stated.  “To see and visit recorded history is a great honor and requires that you must be most diligent.  One misstep and we will spend decades rewriting our histories” he warned.  Torre felt a moment of hesitation but brushed it aside.  He had been training and studying for this moment for well over a year.  His mission was just to observe and nothing more.  

The ancient adepts had often seen travelers from the future and it was a recorded phenomenon in the Masters histories.  Each instance recorded in the histories usually contained a reference to a mysterious presence that observed what was happening.  The interesting thing was that it was usually a different adept or Master, unbeknownst to them.  Many adepts and Masters had visited the past and filled the “role” of the mysterious presence.  It was very important to understand the distinction of presence and being present.  One could travel in body to a certain point in the past or future, however, it was a strong possibility that a time paradox could occur and you would wink out of existence just as sure as you’d never been born.  Matter cannot occupy the same space as the same matter, or so the Masters had learned and learned the hard way.  By traveling in spirit, in the essence of your being, you existed outside the laws of paradox and were safe to observe these instances again and again.

They walked side by side towards the grove with Davlish’s hand resting lightly on Torre’s shoulder.  Davlish wanted to assure Torre as much as possible because this was a new test for him.  He had excelled in his study and practice of communing with the palms and he was confident that he would succeed here as well.  There was always the possibility of things going awry but Davlish was positive that Torre’s journey would end well.  Torre flashed a tentative smile at Davlish and said, “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and now that it’s here I find that I feel a little nervous”.  Davlish smiled back because he understood all too well.  

Davlish’s first excursion into the past almost ended in disaster.  He had appeared in the remote past, his shimmering presence observing an event when calamity had struck.  One member of the primeval clan had approached and attempted to interact with him.  He had backed away and tried to appear menacing but the stranger was unfazed.  Speaking to him in a language that had long since ceased to exist, the clansman was trying to be encouraging and welcoming, however there was a lack of fear that should have been palpable.  Davlish had to end his visit prematurely and was very distressed upon returning to his own time.  It was later determined that the technology that was coursing through his body, specifically the safety redundancy programming circuits, had failed to activate when he arrived and had not succeeded in protecting him from being  approached.  He had undergone the excruciating removal and reinsertion of the technological devices that allowed an adept to boost his ability to interact with the palms.  The implants sometimes failed.  It was a fact of life that technology was imperfect and subject to malfunction.  Torre had also undergone the introduction of the technology and had been bedridden for weeks afterwards.  It was a difficult process to endure and even though no adept had died from the procedure, they often wished that they had.  

Torre and Davlish approached the grove of palms with the perfectly manicured walkways, paved with tiles of black agate and white marble in a checkered pattern. They stopped near the first tree and Torre then walked forward alone.  Davlish watched as Torre’s implanted tech awakened and he began to glow.  Green-blue fire coursed through the veins under his skin and his hair stood on end.  His eyes vanished in a blue blaze that made him appear as though he had a tiny sun orbiting inside his head.  Torre slowly approached the closest tree with palms facing forward, his arms raised slightly.  Davlish’s skin responded to the energy too.  He felt as though he was standing too near an exposed power cable; tingling with the raw power that was coursing through the trees.  Torre was glowing so brightly that Davlish had to shade his eyes.  He was amazed at the power Torre wielded as an adept.  Most Masters couldn’t generate the amount of power that Torre commanded.  Torre placed his hands on the tree and a translucent bubble appeared, distorting the view of the trees behind it.  Air was sucked into the bubble creating a strong vortex.  With a loud rush of wind and an eardrum-popping drop of pressure, Torre disappeared.

Chapter 2

Enot sat in his room in the adept’s wing of the Compound.  His sparse quarters were not much different than the other adepts or the Masters for that matter.  Having come from a wealthy and powerful family this always remained a source of irritation for him.  He had been raised in a sprawling manor mostly by servants.  His parents were usually immersed in some riotous pursuit when they weren’t directing their immense imports empire.  They were wealthy beyond measuring and took every opportunity to flaunt that fact.  He had loved his opulent rooms at the manor and resented being sent here by his parents when it was discovered that he could commune with the palm trees.  They had said that it was an honor to be accepted as an adept. He knew, however, that they were just looking for an excuse to be rid of him as they had little time for him anyway.  His room contained a bed, a small table and chair, and a small closet for his adept’s training uniforms and personal belongings.  There was a single window that opened out to the courtyard in the middle of the Compound.  

Enot was short but quite muscular and exercised rigorously when time permitted.  He was in his mid-teens and had grown as much as he was going to.  His black hair was short-cropped, his skin was dark as were his eyes and his mood often matched them.  His adept talent was little more than average but he was astonishingly intelligent and had a cruel sense of humor mixed with large amounts of pride.  He was waiting for Gideon, his Master, to take him for training.  While he waited his thoughts turned to Torre, his nemesis; with his pale, milky skin, shoulder length whitish blond hair and blue eyes. It made his stomach turn to think on his rival.   He had excelled in every way and his Master, Davlish, was head of the Master’s Council.  He had hoped that Davlish would pick him for an adept but had passed him over in favor of Torre.  Because he had come from a wealthy family, he had a sense of entitlement that was unrivaled.  He reasoned that he should have been picked by Davlish because he had always received the best to be offered and it galled him that he had not.  This made Enot hate Torre all the more.

There was a knock at his door and he rose from the table in response.  When He opened the door he was greeted by his Master.  Gideon was a mostly common looking man with short white hair and beard and piercing green eyes.  Enot was often reminded of a snake when he looked in those eyes.  Enot asked Gideon, “Would you like to come in for a drink before you continue my training?”  Gideon waived his hand in front of his face and said, “Are you not eager for your education today, young Enot?”  Enot scowled and replied, “I was just being polite, you know.  It wouldn’t kill you to be more lighthearted Master”.  Gideon smiled owlishly at him and gave a small laugh.  “I haven’t been here five minutes and you’re already in a bad mood.  What’s burdening your soul today, adept?”  Enot stepped out of his room past Gideon and held the door for him.  “I’m sick of this room.  Let’s get some fresh air before I suffocate”.  Gideon followed him out and they walked through the courtyard toward the archway that led out to Hephzibah City.  The city was located close to the ocean with a seaport nestled in the bay to the west.   The bluffs and the grove of palm trees lay to the north, beyond the hills that ringed the city to the east.

Enot never understood why the Compound was on the opposite end of the city from the grove of palm trees.  He voiced his question to Gideon who then stopped and looked at Enot.  “Where does most of your training take place?  Where do you learn to apply most of the theory you learn in the library?”  Enot looked down at his feet as he realized that his impatience had clouded his usually impeccable logic.  “I see your point, Master. I’m tired of languishing in that stupid room and owning next to nothing.”  Gideon smiled that maddeningly knowing smile and said “Now we’re getting to the root of the problem. No one is keeping you from buying extravagant décor for your room or expensive baubles for that matter.  It’s not against any code we have to do so.  However, I believe that your troubles are not really bound up in that as much as it is your burning desire to succeed and excel – and to be noticed”.  He waited for Enot to answer but he remained silent.  “Am I right?” asked Gideon.  Enot exhaled loudly and crossed his arms.  “When are we going to put our plan into motion?” he asked.  Gideon gave him a warning look and said, “Do not speak of that here. It’s not safe.”  They began to walk toward the city again in silence.  Enot had asked the question a dozen times but had not received anything that resembled an answer from Gideon.  

They passed through the city on the main road and witnessed every form of debauchery that man could conceive of.  Women leered at them as they passed by, taverns full of drunks, men selling mind-altering substances in alleyways, teen pickpockets lurking about and much more.  Gideon grimaced at all of this and did his best to ignore it.  Enot, however, was very acquainted with these events as most of them had occurred in the home of his parents.  Gideon attempted to lighten his mood by talking about his childhood in the Commons.  The government ran children’s home was where he had been raised as were most of the children in Hephzibah City.  He told Enot stories about how much things had changed since he was a child.  The Commons was truly an orphanage when he was young, taking care of children who had lost their parents.  But now most of the city’s adults were so consumed with the pursuit of pleasure that almost all children were sent there to be raised and taught a trade.  Upon reaching adulthood they were sent on their way to make a place for themselves.  Only the children that possessed the gift of communing with the palms had the opportunity to escape that ordinary existence.  Enot smiled as he listened.  He had no frame of reference for most of what Gideon was saying but he found that being in the city and around civilization made him feel somewhat better.  Gideon never said anything about Enot’s family or their wealth but he often felt cheated by fate for having been orphaned and not raised by a prominent family like Enot.  

Once they reached the other end of the city and the hills, they could see the bluffs and the grove of palm trees.  The sky was cloudless and there was a light wind blowing in from the ocean.  After a short walk through the hills they entered the shallow valley where the grove rested.  As they closed in on the grove they felt the familiar rush of wind and their ears popped as the air pressure around them lowered momentarily.  Gideon hesitated and held out his hand to hold Enot back.  “Someone is traveling.  It would be wise to wait.”  After a few moments Davlish, clothed in the Palm Master’s dark gray hooded robe, cinched at the waist with a belt made of red gold, walked out of the grove.  He took a seat on a stone bench at the end of the black and white path.  His sun darkened skin peaked through his hood.  His long gray hair was tied back in a braid that drooped over his shoulder.  After he had sat there a moment, he noticed the pair watching him.  He stood up and strode over to great them.  “Ah, greetings Gideon, Enot.  I didn’t hear you two approaching.”  Davlish perfunctorily shook hands with them both and invited them to join him back on the bench.   Gideon queried, “Is Torre traveling today?”  Davlish nodded and said, “He’s been preparing for a long time.  The Master’s Council granted their approval just yesterday.”   Gideon gave a weak smile and said, “I wasn’t able to attend; I was detained by a matter that needed my attention.  I’m pleased to hear the Torre is progressing so.”  Davlish nodded his agreement, wondering what could be so important that Gideon would miss a council.  “So, how is your training coming Enot?” Davlish asked.  “Uh, its, its going as good as can be expected”, he managed to stammer out.  Davlish had rarely spoken to him and when he did it was usually to express disappointment or to offer criticism.  He was caught totally off guard.

They had sat there in silence for a short while when they felt the electricity in the air that was signaling Torre’s return.  They stood as one and turned toward the grove of trees in expectation.  Enot secretly hoped that Torre’s first travel experience would be flawed in some way and held his breath waiting.  Electrical lightning danced back and forth between the trees as the translucent bubble began to materialize.  Davlish grinned from ear to ear in anticipation.  The vortex picked up momentum and pulled at their robes and loose leaves scattered around them.  Torre slowly reappeared, lit up like a supernova.  He was suspended in midair and then began slowly descending to the ground.  His arms were held wide and lightning danced from his fingertips as the voyage haltingly came to an end.  Davlish, Gideon and Enot shielded their eyes from the blinding light that was still emanating from Torre.  The bubble disappeared with a deafening crack and all returned to normal.  When the assembled group could see again, Davlish rushed forward to greet Torre.  He grabbed him in a fierce embrace and then held him at arms length to look at him, smiling all the while.  Torre was beaming as he smiled back at Davlish.  Enot let a smirk slowly grow on his face as he watched the two men.  Gideon noticed this and elbowed him in the ribs.  Enot’s smirk vanished to be replaced by a dark look.

Torre, his hair still disheveled, walked with Davlish to the waiting pair.  Gideon and Enot shook hands with Torre and Gideon congratulated him on his first successful travel.  Enot mumbled something about doing a good job and then stalked into the grove of trees by himself.  No longer able to contain his excitement, Torre began to launch into a full description of his experience.  Davlish stopped him mid-sentence and said, “We must get to the library immediately!  You have to record your experience to be added to the histories.”  Torre looked a little crestfallen, but his exuberance was undaunted.  Davlish looked momentarily toward the grove and wondered why Enot had hurried off.  He thought to himself that there would be time enough later to find out what was bothering him.  He would speak to Gideon in private and see if he could offer any help.  Yes, later would be fine.  “Please forgive our hasty departure but we must get to the library”, Davlish said to Gideon.  “Of course, of course; I understand.  I’ll see you at dinner this evening”, said Gideon.  Torre and Davlish hurried away toward Hephzibah City and the waiting Library at the Compound.  Gideon walked into the grove to find Enot leaning against a tree sulking, his arms folded across his chest.  “Have you lost your senses Enot?” Gideon bellowed at him.  “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting to put my plan in motion?  No, you don’t, do you?  Your foolish pride and arrogance will expose us both if you continue to insist on acting this way!”  Gideon’s eyes flashed and his face was turning an ugly shade of red.  He was clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides as if wanting to strangle something.  “Do not ever show disrespect to either of them ever again!  If Davlish begins to suspect that we are plotting against him; he’ll turn the whole council against us and there will be the ultimate price to pay!  Do you understand me?” he shouted.  Enot, though abashed at his own behavior, let his pride get the better of him.  He thrust his chin forward, pointed at Gideon and threatened, “You can do nothing without me or my family’s contacts.  You remember that!”  They stared at each other for a few tense moments before Gideon turned and walked out of the grove.  Over his shoulder he said, “The lesson is over for the day”.

Chapter 3

Gideon was creeping through the outskirts of Hephzibah City, being sure that no one noticed him.  He was headed north of the bay to his underground cavern.  Because Enot had been such a willing and generous pupil, he had been able to fleece him for a small fortune to carry out his plans.  He reached the high bluffs beyond the bay and the city and made his way down to the shore.  There were numerous rocky outcroppings in the water and on the shore.  He approached the water and touched his left wrist just below the palm and waited.  Silently rising out of the water before him was a large metallic sphere.  As it rose above the water a large corridor opened in the center and Gideon scrambled forward, doing his best not to get wet. In the corridor was a stairway leading downward.  He touched the spot on his wrist again and the corridor began to close as he made his way down.  He continued down the stairway and emerged in an underground cavern that he had discovered when he was still a boy before he was recruited by the Palm Masters.   Due to Enot’s family’s vast wealth, he was finally able to construct a permanent and dry entrance to the secret cavern.  Here in the warren he had planted and nurtured a dozen palm trees.  He had created the perfect environment for the trees:  soil, appropriate lighting, temperature and wind.  However, the trees were stunted and evil.  They oozed a foul-smelling black sap that would make a man light-headed.  He had implanted in them nanotech that was very similar to that used by the adepts and Masters.  He had developed a plan to exploit the trees for their power and they were perverted beyond reason.  These palms were self-aware, driven, greedy and patently malevolent.  His embedded tech began to glow a palsied green as the trees reached out to him.  Green lightning arced between the trees as they attempted to access Gideon.  Gideon arched his eyebrow and purred to them, “Not today my friends.  Not today”.  The lightning subsided but the air still smelled of ozone.  

Gideon had to finalize some of the loose ends of his plan and needed to be alone to think.  He sat in a plush chair in front of a large, flat monitor and computer.  The computer and monitor were switched off because he didn’t need to access any of the cities networks today.  This part of the cavern was dry and he had gone to great pains to make it comfortable.  He had employed two men to build this part of the cavern.  It was walled in on three sides and raised from the floor of the cavern.  Gleaming chrome accents adorned most of the equipment and there were extravagant rugs and paintings decorating the floor and walls. The entry to the cavern had been one of the worker’s ideas and once that had been completed, the renovation of the cavern proceeded at a brisk pace.  On the very day that the work was complete, he had promptly killed them both by using the trees and his nanotech to burn them alive.

His plan was to lure Davlish here and let his nasty little grove of palms kill him.  They knew of his plan of course and were ready and willing to carry it out by using his own nanotech against him.  They would overload the tech and essentially fry him in his skin.  If Davlish were out of the way, Gideon could take control of the council and begin a whole new era for the adepts and Masters.  He was tired of this priest-like existence and wanted to propel the Order into far greater prominence and wealth.  No longer would they choose from the children of the Commons or the few couples that still raised their own children; families would pay for the privilege of having their children tested and would also pay for their schooling.  He might even allow children that didn’t possess the gift to study there and become servants to the Adepts and Masters.  They would no longer subsist on the meager offerings of the government but live like the wealthy.  Murder was a small price to pay.  It was a means to an end.  The entire Order would benefit and benefit greatly indeed.

He had two problems that needed to be worked out.  First, he had to find a way to lure Davlish to his secret cavern.  Second, he had to keep Enot from ruining his plan by angering Davlish and to a lesser degree, Torre.  He was actually more worried about Enot and his potential for ruining his carefully laid plans than he was Davlish.  He believed he could get Davlish to cooperate by using Torre as bait.  However, young, naive and inexperienced as he was, Torre was still dangerous and had become a consummate martial artist due to Davlish’s careful tutelage.  Gideon was far too smart to fight Torre or Davlish in an outright fight.  It would end poorly for him, of that he was certain.  Torre’s innocence and trusting manner could be used against him.  If he could only think of the lure to be used, the final cog on the wheel.  He would find it, but it had to be soon.  Enot wasn’t going to sit idly by much longer.  He resigned himself to watching Torre much more closely to learn of any weakness he might have.  That would have to do for the moment.

Gideon made his way through the cavern, past his yearning palm trees and out through the giant sphere back onto the beach.   It was nearing sundown and he headed hastily toward the Compound so as not to be late for dinner.  Slipping past the Göde that haunted this place after dark wasn’t a problem as long as you were gone before then.  The Göde were spirits of evil adepts and some Masters that had had their spirits separated from their bodies because they had tried to use the palm trees for selfish intent.  Because The Göde, the poor tortured souls were trapped here, they attracted other lost souls and a host of other, darker spirits.  Needless to say, it was very wise to be gone before nightfall.  After skirting the city carefully, to avoid being seen, he reached the Compound and joined the other adepts and Masters shuffling into the dining hall for dinner.

Near the center of the large hall stood Torre with a few of the Adepts.  They were all crowding in closely to hear of his travel from earlier that day.  He recounted how he had been transported in the blink of an eye, to the distant past to watch ancient adepts communicate with the trees.  One moment he was suspended in midair in the meticulously manicured grove of palm trees, the next moment he was floating above a dirt field with palm trees clustered together in no perceived pattern.  He related the basic tale for them and they all seemed very satisfied with his description of the event.   The adepts then hurried off to sit with their friends and Masters.  Davlish approached Torre and said, “Let us eat somewhere quiet this evening.  I perceive that you’ve not given the whole story.”  Torre smiled sheepishly, nodding his head in agreement.  They both collected their food and went to Torre’s quarters.  Gideon noticed them hurriedly leaving the hall.  He whispered to Enot and they both followed after a few minutes.  They crept silently to Torre’s door and listened.  Torre was just warming to his story.  

It was near evening and a group of men in leather breaches, long boots and fur trimmed cloaks were standing in a circle around a large palm tree.  One of them, an older man with long, graying hair tied loosely at his neck and a long drooping mustache, was resting a hand lightly on the trunk of the tree.  His eyes were closed and he appeared to be deep in concentration.  Torre held his breath and waited see if they would be aware of him.  He waited a few tense moments more and then slowly let out his breath.  He relaxed and began to intently watch what was happening.  

They just stood there silently, no one moving.  Torre could feel the palm trees power and felt a slight nudge in his mind.  He opened himself to the palm tree and to his complete surprise; it began to communicate with him.  “Welcome, traveler”, the palm said to him.  The sound of the voice in his head was like the roaring of an ocean on a stormy day.  Torre blinked rapidly as he struggled to put his thoughts together.  “Mind your thoughts, Traveler”, warned the tree.  “Keep your mind focused so that you do not become lost.  It has been given to me to provide you a grave warning”, the palm said in its vast voice.  Torre closed his eyes tight and concentrated on the moment.  “I am to tell you that there is a great danger in your future.  There are those that wish to harm you, your Master and the future of the Order.  Do not let this come to pass”.  Torre opened his eyes and was shocked to see all of the men ringing the tree, looking directly at him.  They did not, however, try to approach him or even acknowledge him.  He asked the tree “Has my technology failed?  How can they see me?  Am I in danger here?”  The tree then replied in its awesome voice, “You are in no danger here.  They are aware of you because we are letting them see you.  The story has been passed down through your history and the cycle must always be complete.”  Torre puzzled over this for just a moment and then realized that for this moment in time, he was the presence listed in this very story in the libraries back in the Compound.  He felt a little foolish once he realized this.  “Do not chide yourself, Traveler”, the tree said.  “It is always a concept that must be grasped by experience.  Do not be troubled”.  He thought for a moment and asked, “What should I do about the future?  Who should I warn?”  The tree took a moment to respond.  When it did, the answer was, “Do not be fooled; follow your heart and trust your Master.  He will guide you”.  The tree then fell silent.  The men turned away from him.  It was as if they had never been aware of him at all.  The silence in his mind was deafening after the roaring voice of the palm tree had retreated.  

Torre decided to observe for a few more minutes.  The gray-headed man opened his eyes and spoke to the others in a language that hadn’t been spoken in thousands of years.  They all seemed to be pleased by what he had said.  They then all trudged away toward their homes.  Torre decided it was time to return to his own time.  He focused on his own grove of palm trees and felt the electricity begin to course through his body. The tech awakened and he was then slowing descending to the ground in his own time and in his own grove of palm trees.  

Davlish was holding his head in his hands and looking down at the floor.  “I’ve never heard of anything like this Torre.  You were very smart to keep this to yourself”, Davlish said in a weary voice.  He appeared to have aged ten years in that short moment.  Torre’s mind was swirling with questions but he waited for Davlish to speak again.  He didn’t for some time and Torre was about to burst when Davlish stood up and said, “I’ve got a lot to think about and a rat to catch!”  Torre laughed at this until Davlish turned serious eyes on him.  “This is a very dangerous time for us Torre.  We must be very cautious.”  He paced the room for a moment and then said, “You’ve experienced a rare thing; something that hasn’t happened to any of us before.  At least if it has, it hasn’t been recorded in the Library”.  He paced a moment more and said, “I’m going to the Library to research this.  I want you to lock the door behind me and let no one, save me, in for the rest of the night”.  

Enot, with a worried look on his face, look questioningly at Gideon.  Gideon motioned for Enot to follow and both snuck quietly away.  They watched Davlish leave Torre’s room and stalk off toward the Library.  When he was a safe distance away, Gideon turned his snake eyes on Enot and said in a maddeningly calm voice, “Torre has been warned by the trees.  This changes everything”.

Chapter 4

Torre sat in his room after Davlish left and was amusing himself with remembering the past.  His mind drifted back to his very first day of training after he had been selected to become an Adept.  He and a number of new adepts stood together in the courtyard of the Compound.  The courtyard was not overly large; however it contained plenty enough room for their training that day.  They talked nervously about their first day of training with the Masters.  The Head of the Master’s Council, Davlish, emerged from a doorway across the yard from them and approached the group with a long stride.  He was wearing a dark gray robe with the hood thrown back.  His long gray hair hung in a braid down his back.  His tanned skin taught. The talking ceased as he drew near.  “Greetings adepts.  Please form up into three lines so that we can begin your training” he commanded.  They responded immediately by forming the lines with four adepts in each line.  Davlish stepped forward and pulled his robe off.  He was wearing a light gray tunic and white, loose-fitting short pants that fell just below his knees.  His feet were bare.  He posed himself in a fighting stance with his right leg forward, hips at a forty-five degree angle, left leg underneath and foot turned outward and hands balled into tight fists.  His right arm was cocked forward with his left hand pulled back and resting just above his waist, palm facing up.  “Arrange your own selves as I have, in this fighting stance” he said.  He observed as they did their best to match him.  He then walked among them and corrected their arms, legs and fists so that they had successfully completed their stances.  

He noticed one dark-haired adept had performed the stance perfectly and stopped to remark on it.  “You seem to have had some training.  Did you study with another Master before?” he asked.  The young adept looked Davlish squarely in the face.  “Before I came here, my parents employed a fighting arts tutor.  He trained me.”  Davlish noted that the young adept was far too smug in his answer and meant to lightly chide him regarding his attitude.  “That is all fine and good but you must learn my way now” Davlish said.  The adept’s face turned dark as he replied, “I have trained for three years.  Learning fighting stances is child’s play.”  Davlish, caught by the abrupt manner of his retort, put his hands on his hips and studied the adept closer.  “Ah, you must be young Enot.”  Davlish looked him up and down, appraising him.  He then asked, “Do you wish to match your skill against mine, adept?”  Enot’s brow furrowed as he actually considered it.  He then realized that he was in way over his head and decided that if he were going to be a successful adept, he should not challenge the Head Master.  Not yet.  “No, Master.  I guess I don’t understand how learning a fighting art will be of benefit to my education concerning the palms” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders.  Davlish smiled as he had heard this argument countless times before.  “In order to train the mind you must first train the body.  When you train your body, the mind must focus on the task of learning.  Only then will you be able to concentrate properly.  Only then your mind bends to your will and not to the whims of the body.”  Torre was embarrassed as Davlish had corrected almost everything about his stance.  Now he felt even more inept.

Davlish turned away from Enot and walked to where Torre was standing.  As he approached, Torre realized that he had let his stance slip.  He refocused and looked forward.  Davlish rested his hand on Torre’s shoulder and said to the group, “Here is an adept that is a clean slate.  He did not question when I corrected his stance.  He obeyed and now has successfully mastered the first fighting stance.  You all would do well to emulate him.”  Enot muttered something under his breath about teacher’s pets and immediately regretted it.  Davlish turned to look at him once more.  “Young Enot, you have just earned the first of what is probably going to be many learning experiences.”  “Please remove yourself from the group and stand in the corner of the yard.  You must learn to trust, to not question and to keep your own council on childish retorts.”  Davlish waited patiently as Enot walked woodenly to the corner of the courtyard by the archway.  Enot had never been spoken to like that before and was boiling with anger.  He stood facing the group of adepts and Davlish while they all stared back at him.  He turned his head so that he didn’t have to look at them.  Davlish patted Torre on the shoulder and moved to front of the group once more.  “Your first lesson is this:  while in this stance I want you to consider the palm trees.  Collect your thoughts and think on how you would communicate your desire to them.”  As he spoke he walked among them encouraging their concentration.  “If your thoughts are jumbled and lack focus, the trees will do their best to interpret what you want.  This can be very dangerous.”  He walked again to the front of the group and said, “Remain in this stance until I return.  Focus your thoughts and bend them to your will.”   He walked a short distance back to the door he had emerged from and stopped.  He turned to them and said, “Some of you will let your thoughts wander and your stance will falter.  Do not let this happen.”  He turned and exited through the door he had come from.  Enot watched him leave and purposed in his heart to make Davlish pay for embarrassing him.

Torre closed his eyes and began to collect his thoughts.  He thought on the first time he had been taken to the palm trees and had been encouraged to touch them.  The Masters were encouraging and kindly.  His thoughts drifted to other things and he realized that his stance was slipping.  It was growing warmer and he had begun to sweat.  More time passed and his muscles were aching.  

This was going to be a very long day.  He had corrected his stance for what seemed like the hundredth time when someone hit him across the mouth so hard that he saw stars behind his eyes and he immediately crumpled to the ground.  He looked up to see Enot standing over him in a fighting stance.  The rest of adepts had quickly moved out of Enot’s reach to provide some protection in case he was going to lash out at them as well.  Torre blinked at Enot with blurry eyes and was about to ask him what he was thinking and then Davlish was there.  He spun Enot around and slapped him hard across the face and pushed him backwards.  

Davlish assumed a fighting stance and Enot immediately attacked.  Throwing a clumsy punch at Davlish’s face, he found himself pulled forward; Davlish had blocked the punch, grabbed his wrist and used his own momentum against him.  He stumbled forward and then was jerked violently backwards by his own wrist.  He was spun around and Davlish swept his feet out from underneath him.  He landed facedown with a thud on the hard ground; his breath whooshing out of him.   Davlish kept Enot pinned to the ground for a moment with his foot to make sure that he understood exactly who was in charge.  He let Enot up and glared at him.  “DON’T YOU EVER HIT ANOTHER ADEPT - EVER!”  He shouted.  Enot, still trying to catch his breath looked down at the ground and didn’t even bother trying to speak.  He just nodded his head in mute agreement.  Davlish helped Torre to his feet and dusted him off.  He was still very dizzy and was having a hard time focusing.  

Another Master watched from a nearby doorway and after the confrontation, approached Davlish.  They conferred for a moment in private.  While they were talking Torre risked a glance at Enot and found he was openly glaring at him.  Torre looked quickly away.  Davlish and the other Master came to stand in front of Enot and Torre.  Davlish then said with a faint smile on his face, “Gideon; meet your new Adept, Enot”.  Gideon then unceremoniously grabbed Enot by his shirt and hauled him through the doorway he had just been standing in.

Davlish took a small towel from his tunic and dabbed at Torre’s broken and bruised lip.  “Master Gideon will straighten him out.  He has a way with adepts such as him” Davlish said reassuringly.  “And, if he should step out of line in any way for the rest of his training, he’ll be sent back to his family in shame”.  Davlish actually smiled at that thought.  Torre tried to smile but it hurt too badly and he was still feeling very dizzy.  Davlish addressed the rest of the adepts that had been stunned into silence.  “Training is over for the day.  Let’s retire to the dining hall and have something to eat” he said.  The adepts wordlessly nodded with awed expressions on their faces.  Apparently they had witnessed something that they wouldn’t wish on their own worst enemy.  Torre drifted off to sleep with the memories of his first day still fresh in his mind and a faint smile on his lips where he still bore the small scar of his encounter with Enot.

Chapter 5

Rowan sat in front of her mirror, brushing her long, black hair.  She had been training as an adept with Davlish and was doing well.  She was a superior martial artist.  She had been trained as a dancer when she was a child and this was the next logical step.  After Davlish had picked Torre, she was next to be picked.  Even though Torre had become his star pupil, she was not far behind him in just about every way conceivable.  She had natural abilities, intelligence and was a stunning beauty.  She was the perfect storm of a woman.  She secretly adored Torre and was hopeful that he felt the same about her.  She was in awe of Torre and the power he commanded.  There was no one that compared to him even though many bragged about being as talented.  The Council had given their approval for her to undertake her first travel and she was ecstatic about the possibility.  Torre had traveled that same day and his story was intoxicating.  She couldn’t possibly wait for her turn.  Davlish had promised that as soon as he was finished working with Torre, she would be next.  She had studied the texts, studied all she could about previous travels of adepts and Masters.  


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