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Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18

Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Pockwatch was careful in selecting Ali’i, the leader of the Menehune clan, to build the funeral pyre for the memorial service. The Menehune, natives of the Pacific islands, were especially well-known for their feats of engineering. Over thousands of seasons, they had created and maintained what most humans considered to be natural bridges and other impressive rock formations through the islands. Their skill at creating structures that appeared to defy gravity was well known. This time, Ali’i was being asked not only to build a fantastic structure to hold all the remnants of nearly 8,000 souls but also one that would also respect the many different traditions within the clans of Nawa’ Diyo. While they all shared the belief that the magic of dead souls was released into some aspect of the universe, the methods and manners of facilitating that release varied dramatically among the clans and it was important that all those traditions be honored.

Ali’i designed and constructed a massive framework near the base of the new mountain. Shaped in the fashion of overlying triangles, in each of the corners were incinerators, colossal conductors of heat that were powerful and magical enough to turn the densest cores into nearly microscopic pieces of magic. Tall smokestacks, some round, some square, others shaped like birds or animals, rose above the ovens, the towers of those on lower levels becoming the supporting structure for those higher facilities.

Between each corner were long decorative and intricately carved beds that recalled the lives and adventures of the deceased. The beds spiraled around the massive incinerators, rising high into the sky. Ali’i skillfully designed the pyre so that the smoke and magic would follow the convolution of beds upward into a final, singular point high above everything where the magic would be released into the sky.

The center of the pyre was filled with ceremonial woods from each soul’s home region. Some brought special stones that looked like coal but burned brighter, giving off a rainbow of colors from various minerals. Clans representing the smallest souls brought tremendous baskets of dried flowers to be woven into the arrangement of wood and fire stones.

Carefully, with intricate precision, Ali’i guided the placement of each element and the laying of each core. Large pieces of core were heavily adorned with jewels. Remains of smaller cores were tenderly wrapped in ribbons and flower petals. Cores of fallen sylphs were placed toward the top where it was believed that their magic would seed the clouds. Each tradition of every clan was given space so that all fallen souls were honored in a fitting manner with no one feeling neither diminished nor more celebrated than the other. When completed, the towering structure was a wonder to behold, a fitting memorial to and celebration of the many lives extinguished in the battle with the troubled ones.

Over the next two days, magic souls from around the earth assembled together. Millions of magicians filled the communities and the forests around the home tree. Solemn sounds of music filled the lanes and alleyways. Mourning lights glittered and illuminated the region so heavily that night felt like day and shadows were eliminated. Clans gathered to perform their sacred rites. Stories were told and memories were embellished. Faults were forgotten for no ill would be spoken of a fallen hero.

Finally, at sunset of the second day, they all gathered around the pyre, filling the area with an aura of magic unlike any seen in recent memory. No one could recall as great a congregation as what was brought to the home tree for this convocation. Gathered in clans, they watched as the procession of fire bearers began their march from the home tree toward the pyre. As the cortege drew near the tower, a song rose from the gathered magicians.

Hallow’d days of ages past
Ling’ring memories
Honor souls whose lives are gone
Their long shadows cast.

Legends honored long ago
Souls of noble lives
Soar around us from our birth
Sacred spirits all.

Fill our souls with bravest love
Sing out loud our song
Always soaring, always free
Magic here lives on.

Here our love and life proclaim
Hear our ancient voice
To the source from which life came
This our homage sing.

Fly across the years of love
Fly to peace and rest
Sun has set and shadows fall
Flood our souls with light.

Kneeling here before the fire
Respect gladly paid,
Sing this solemn hymn of peace
Final acts of love.

Final strains of the hymn echoed off the walls of the new mountain and as they did the mountain lit with the mourning lights of two million desert souls who had arrived at that moment with Bogmenak and Freyr. They had traveled without pausing under the cloak of invisibility, twice narrowly subverting traps set by the Hantu Air and once carefully navigating around an angry hoard of troubled ones. Bogmenak was careful to not engage anything that appeared as though it could be trouble. While he knew there was a war to fight and he was anxious to get to it, he knew that his first priority was securing the safety of all those in his clan.
They moved quickly across the great rivers and took their places on the new mountain just as the fire bearers were approaching the pyre, the sounds of the hymn filling them with hope as they spread out across their new home. Above them, the sky filled with millions of Sylphids twinkling like stars against the night sky. 

Dressed in a rainbow of ethereal light, Belinda stood at the top of the new mountain and began to speak. “My dear friends, my fellow magicians, and all the protected souls who join us here, this is the time now to celebrate the lives of peace, cut down by war, remembered in eternity. Ring the bell of life and may we together cheer for every soul that fought so bravely and fell unselfishly to ensure our continued perseverance.”

On que, the gong of a massive bell reverberated down the mountain, the wave of its mighty sound moving across the mourners as a strong wind, eliciting cheers in response. The sound echoed off the mountains and powered its way through the trees so that no living soul was left untouched by its sound.

Belinda continued, “The fates impose upon us finite lives, blessed with magic so that we may live long and bring peace and joy to this world. Our presence here is ordained by the stars to be the guardians and overseers of all that live. Yet, even for us, at our heights as well as our depths we are tested and we are all destined to one day return to the stars from which we first came. We are here reminded that while our cores are of this world, the magic that gives us life is from the far reaches of the universe. We are one with the heavens, one with the cosmos in its brightness and beauty, full of awesome power and set here on this planet that we might do great things.

“Yet, as this world is not perfect, neither are our lives perfect. All our powers cannot prevent hate, hold jealousy behind a wall, nor stop fear from stirring worry in our souls. We, at times, times like this one, must deal with catastrophic loss sourced by the hate, jealousy, and fear brought on us by others. We are not allowed to escape, to hide in some cave, and remain untouched. Death comes to us and reminds us that it is not enough to be good on the battlefield; the good fell as surely as did the bad. We all must face an end with an eye toward justice, our spirits committed to peace, and our hearts set toward the truth. 

“We ask nothing of the universe as we draw our final breaths. We commend our magic back to the stars. We commit to ourselves and to the righteous memory of these who go before us that our lives will honor the sacrifice they made, that we will continue to fight against evil, and we will, forever, defend the purity and the peace of magic souls in every realm. Together, let us sing.”

A low hum spread outward from the mountain, harmonies filling in as it touched the souls who had come to mourn, until, again in full chorus, they began to sing.

Sunrise beyond the Eastern sky
Moonset beyond the Western shore,
Stars shine upon expansive sky
Giving us life forevermore.

Living to be a source of peace,
Learning to be a source of hope,
Growing in wisdom and in strength,
Being examples through our lives.

This is our song eternally,
This is our voice throughout all time,
Our chorus raised forevermore,
Our hymn of hope for all who live.

Love lead us to a greater love,
Where there is sadness drying tears,
Where there is war let us bring peace
Driving away the pain of fear.

Give up your jealousy and hate,
Release your dominant control,
Join us as one harmonious voice,
We are one love, one peace, one hope.

This is our song eternally,
This is our voice throughout all time,
Our chorus raised forevermore,
Our hymn of hope for all who live.

As the words of the hymn died away, the assembly returned to a low hum, continuing the tune through another round of unsung verse. Belinda took a seat on a neighboring mountain and a host of Sylphids gathered around her, giving the summit the appearance of having on a collar of clouds.

From the top of the home tree, in the middle of the crowd, Apa’ii appeared, spreading her radiant countenance across the gathering, providing to all magic souls a sense of comfort. Smiles crossed their faces as she rose high above the mountains, filling all the valleys and forests with her light. As she began to speak, her voice was warmly maternal as one caring for an injured child. Even the toughest and most hardened among them felt relief as she began to speak.

“My dear ones of both earth and sky, we assemble here this evening not to mourn, for what we lose is to the gain of the cosmos. Magic released tonight will return to us a thousandfold. We can rejoice in their sacrifice because their deaths ensure our lives. What they willingly gave we graciously receive and in doing so we become wiser, we become stronger, and we become triumphant!”

A cheer rose from the crowd at these words, sounding like the roar of flooding waters as they rush through cavernous canyons. The tone of solemnity shifted to one of excitement. Apa’ii waited for the cheer to subside before continuing.

“Tonight, we also celebrate the safe arrival of souls fleeing the danger of the high desert. Tonight, they make this new mountain their home. To mark this sacred occasion, I hereby proclaim the name of this mountain to be Hayehse, for it is their home, raised from conflict to furnish a place of peace and providence for all time.”

Another roar rose from the crowd and those on the mountain responded with loud clanging of the tools and weapons they had carried with them. All the souls together began to glow with the unity of their shared magic. Together, they could become the strongest source of power on earth. Seeing this happen for the first time in many eons of seasons cause Apa’ii to smile. She looked over and smiled at Belinda who nodded in acknowledgment of what was happening.

With every soul around her glowing, she began the charge of her eulogy. “Dear ones, we are here tonight because of a paradox. Our great council was looking for peace and war came to our door. We were embracing the kinship of magic souls across realms and betrayal ripped us apart. These situations haunt every living soul and have since the beginning of our time proven true, even to the point that in searching for truth we must first wrestle with a lie. Where we look to do good we must be aware that trouble lies in wait. There is deception in everything we consider honorable. Our continued existence relies not on our conquering these challenges but realize that they are necessary and part of our reason for existing.

Dear friends, when we recognize the fallacies and unfairness of life, we are better able and more thoroughly equipped to find the depth of truth, the breath of peace, and the surety of hope. However, what we cannot afford to do is let ourselves be caught by surprise. We know that in our embrace of love we will encounter hate. Therefore, we must take action against hate before it has the opportunity to take action against us. We know that in the name of freedom there are those who would make us slaves and we cannot allow that to happen. We know that there are those who would disassemble us in the name of science and understanding and we must actively and sometimes harshly teach them a better lesson. The opportunity for doing harm shows its face many ways every day and we just stand ready to combat such evil with good, and we must understand that sometimes it is necessary for good to carry a sword.

“We have long lived with the philosophy that doing good would bring good and for many thousands of seasons that concept has served us well and made our lives better. We face now a crisis of evil and those whose lives we honor paid the ultimate price for defending what is good. We cannot and will not bow to evil but neither shall we abandon the good that has allowed us to flourish for so long. We did not go out in search of war as humans do. War came to our door disguised as friendship. In trust we found betrayal. Betrayal opened the door for death and we are here tonight having paid a horrible price for being good.

“What we do now, how we respond to those injustices forced upon us is important. We cannot back down. We cannot retreat. We must answer this call with strength. We must answer not with swords and arrows but with the very magic we do so well. We will bring the magic to the ground on which the troubled ones trod. We will bring our magic to the waters that would rise up against us. We will bring our magic back to the human realm, let them know we are real, and to all, we will say with loud voice that we will not back down. We will not be made slaves. We will not be torn asunder. We will triumph in glory and love to drive hate from the face of the earth. 

“Yes, I know there will be times when we must fight with swords and arrows and other weapons of defense. We will not leave any of you unguarded, whether in the communities around the home tree or those scattered to the farthest reaches of the poles. Those who would attack us will not find us unprepared. Those who would set traps for us will find that they are now the prey. We will protect magic souls with every ounce of magic and cunning available to us.

“But do not think that we will attack the humans with the weapons of old. Instead, we will bring to them the full force of nature through magic. Together, with the plants and animals in our care, we will take back control of the planet. Our air will no longer be polluted. Our ground will no longer be trashed. Our forests will not be cut. Our plants shall not be poisoned. Animals no longer will hide and cower in fear. We bring to them all the full force of our magic and with an aggressive good we will put down evil where it stands.”

A thunderous cheer, louder and stronger than before, ascended from both those assembled as well as the Nawa’Diyo around the world who received the queen’s message telepathically. Bogmenack and Gui were among those on their feet and applauding. This was the decisive action they had been wanting. Finally, they would be able to address the man injustices they had endured for so many seasons. Freyr and others of elven descent fired magic arrows sparkling into the air, filling the sky with colorful lights in the shape of flowers and trees.

As the cheers continued for several minutes, Apa’ii smiled and encouraged the somewhat raucous behavior. She saw in the gathered a sense of relief that they would not be afraid. In their dancing, she saw joy at the release she had given them to no longer hide their magic or hold it back. Their songs assured her that their minds were ready for the battles yet to come. Only after the din finally began to subside did she motion for quiet so she could continue.

“Unlike other battles we faced long seasons ago, this one has already taken a great toll in the loss of my dearest Pai. I would be remiss if I did not tell you that it was an act of compassion that led to his death. He saw a wounded sylphid as she fell from the sky and rushed to catch her. While holding her in his arms, applying his strong magic to her wounds, he dropped the sword that protected him. He did not see and was not aware of the massive foot of the troubled one that crushed them both into the dust. The remnants of both their cores now lie among those of the heroes on the pyre.

“In losing one so dear to me, I see now how perhaps I have been wrong in not taking these actions sooner. I bear the guilt of not being prepared and thinking the troubled ones would not attack us directly. If we are not all safe, there is none of us truly safe. I will not allow us to be surprised like that again. We would dishonor those who have fallen if we did not answer this call to action.”

The queen paused as she choked back her tears. “We now mark the beginning of this new age by commending to the cosmos the magic of these souls who have fallen in brave battle. May their memories never leave us and may we find in their magic the strength and wisdom to conquer evil. Fire bearers, you may light the pyre.”

The fire bearers moved forward, surrounding the massive pyre, and placed their torches at its base. Within seconds, the tower was ablaze, sending a column of fire into the night sky. Then, floating high above the pyre, Apa’ii began waving her hands in circles, invoking an ancient incantation that no one else could hear. Suddenly, a great and blinding light burst upward from the pyre, reaching up beyond the earth’s atmosphere into space, releasing back to the universe the combined magic of the departed souls.

A bright lenticular cloud spread out from the top of Heyehse across the expanse of those assembled to partake in the ritual. As the magic returned to earth, it passed through the cloud and fell in glowing sparks on those present before becoming a massive wave of energy spreading out to land and air magicians across the globe. Anyone who was not born of magic felt nothing and was not aware of the change. For magicians, however, the difference was pronounceable. Those sleeping were awakened. Those weak from old age felt young and new. Young magicians felt a physical increase in their power many times multiplied.

Belinda joined Apa’ii in the sky and together the two of them lit the full expanse of the heavens with magic as they shared knowledge and understanding necessary to train their realms in how to proceed with their plan. By the time the sun began to hint at its presence on the Eastern horizon, all was ready. Nothing was left of the pyre but a few ashes. The memorial was over. The time for grieving was passed. The Nawa’ Diyo was ready to go to war.

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Chapter 17

Chapter 17

In a river that flowed as much West to East as it did North to South, the mer leader Merric stood next to Dasheng Sen watching the lights as Apa’ii sent the magic into the sky. “This will make them stronger and more determined,” he said. “They will come looking for us.”

“No, they won’t,” the queen replied. “They will defend against an attack should we decide to make one, but they will not purposefully hunt us down or initiate any kind of battle. Their aggression will be one of containment. Apa’ii does not have it in her to exterminate what she sees as innocent souls. She fails to understand that among the humans there are none who are innocent. All are complicit in the destruction they have brought to our waters.”

“Apa’ii’s weakness becomes our strength. She will have her magicians increase the powers of nature, taking back the land from the humans. As she does so, as natural elements increase, they inevitably bring more power and, as a result, more magic to the waters. Our greatest weapons then are not the seas but the small streams and retaining ponds, the canals, and runoffs. There, where humans foolishly think they have control, we will rise up and take them not one by one as we did long ago, but by the dozens and the hundreds until they are so afraid of water that they run from the first drop of rain.”

Merric looked at the queen and smiled. “You have led them well, my queen.”

“They only needed a small push,” she replied. “A mere 8,000 souls is nothing to the billions of Nawa’ Diyo, yet one small battle at the right time in the right place has brought the pacifists into the war against the humans. Their original plan was too weak, sparing human lives. Now, we will get the attention we need. They will respect us or lose their lives.”

Merric nodded again. He was not yet convinced that Dasheng’s approach was the best one. The Nawa’ Diyo had always proven to be fierce when provoked. He wasn’t sure the queen’s risk would pay off in the manner she expected. Yet, he knew it was better for the moment to go along with her than voice any opposition. The queen had a temper.

“What would you have us do?” the merman asked. “Shallow waters are not our home. The sprites are better equipped for those shenanigans.”

“We need to send the humans a wakeup call,” Dasheng said. “One that hits where they’re not expecting. There are what, some 50,000 ships active on our waters?”

Merric spread his trident out for a moment and close his eyes before answering. “50,732 actively sailing. Would you like to know how many in each sea?”

Dasheng shook her head. “No need. I know the Atlantic is the busiest right now. Let’s make a mess. Sink everything you can. Be careful with the oil tankers, of course. We don’t need that mess in our waters. If you can take them down intact, though, you have my blessing. Anything more than ten leagues from shore is fair game, I think. We don’t want Apa’ii to think we’re being aggressive against the land just yet. She’s not our target. Oh, and if you can take out some of their technology at the same time, that would be helpful. We don’t need them knowing what we’re doing in advance.”

“Yes, your majesty,” Merric replied. He disappeared under the water leaving Dasheng Sen alone as she watched Apa’ii’s magic spread out across the Nawa’ Diyo. Everything was going exactly as planned.

Chapter 18

Chapter 18

One the fourth floor of a rather unimpressive and bland government building in Silver Spring, Maryland, Yolanda Washington sat watching numbers on the screen float up and down. There were days when her job was less than exciting as she monitored and reported the data from more than 200 GPS-equipped buoys in the Atlantic ocean. The entire ocean itself was divided into three regions. Yolanda was responsible for a section that started at the fortieth parallel and extended to the equator. Hers contained some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and captains depended on her information to let them know when to avoid an area that was experiencing heavy storms or high waves. 

The morning started calmly enough. Only a couple of relatively mild storms were mentioned in the overnight brief and those had already dissipated. There was nothing in the forecast that gave her any reason for not sitting back and enjoying the latte she had picked up on her way to work.

Two hours into her shift, the last bits of her drink having gone cold, Yolanda was about to go check to see if there were any donuts left in the break room when the numbers on her screen started jumping off normal scales. She starting scribbling down numbers as fast as she could, surprised at how many feeders seemed to be exploding at the same time. Within a matter of minutes, all two hundred-plus buoys were showing readings that should not have been possible without a major storm or seismic event.

Leaning back in her office chair, Yolanda called to the technician in the neighboring cubicle, “Hey Grace, are your feeders going a bit nuts over there?”

Grace Minkoff, who monitored the corresponding space South of the equator called back, “These numbers simply aren’t possible. Something has to be wrong with our satellite feed.”

Yolanda called in the other direction, “Hey, Tommy boy…”

Tom Mugler, who monitored the North region above Yolanda’s didn’t wait for her question. “Yeah, I’m getting the same thing. This has to be a sat issue. There’s no way these numbers can be accurate.”

Yolanda picked up the receiver to the phone on her desk and pushed the four buttons to connect her to the Atlantic region supervisor. When Bill McCartney answered, she asked, “What’s up with the satellites? Weren’t they recalibrated or something last week? We’re getting some crazy numbers with nothing to explain what’s going on.”

“I haven’t seen any outage reports,” Bill answered. “How out of whack are we talking?”

Yolanda took a deep breath. If these readings are correct, we’ve got 300-foot waves stretching from Iceland all the way to 60 South. There’s no storm in existence that can sustain what the feeders are showing. There has to be a technology error somewhere.”

Yolanda could hear the sound of Bill typing in coordinates on his computer. After a few seconds, he said, “Let me call NASA and see if they’re picking up a problem. You’re right, there is nothing natural that could cause numbers like this.”

Yolanda hadn’t hung up the receiver when an out-of-breath Anne Ciriano came running to the group of technicians. “What the hell is going on down here? Coast Guard says they’re getting swamped with SOS calls from damn near every ship in the Atlantic. Is there a storm or something you forgot to tell anyone about? These guys are reporting hundred-foot waves!”

Yolanda looked over at Grace then said, “You might want to tell them to strap in because the 100-foot waves are the babies. We’re showing 300-400-foot swells in a number of places. This is not a good day to be on the ocean.”

Bill burst out of his office and yelled across the room. “I want all eyes on the Atlantic. We have a Category Five event. I repeat, we have a Category Five event. Yolanda, take the lead and assume all those numbers you see are real. Start getting those alerts out. No one leaves port until further notice.”

Yolanda sighed heavily and pulled her chair back up to her desk. “I guess I didn’t need a donut after all,” she muttered to herself. Then, all the numbers on her screen disappeared.

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