Chapter Thirty: A New Role
“I do not understand.”
Adesina and Ravi were walking through the palace gardens. The stars twinkled brightly above them, and the night breeze was warm and silent. Ravi had gently extracted Adesina from the dinner party so they could talk privately.
“What do you not understand, Ma’eve?”
“How could I possibly be this Threshold Child?”
Adesina understood that there were some talents she possessed that were unusual, but she could not believe that she was the only one with those abilities. Yes, she could Dream and she had unique insight into how the greatest enemy of the L’avan thought and planned. She acknowledged that her Shimat code name was Falcon, which was a bird of prey. Even with all of these things, she could not accept that it was her destiny to be the Threshold Child.
She knew her own faults too well to believe that she was the fulfillment of some prophecy, let alone the fact that she didn’t even believe that prophecies came true.
“Perhaps there is something I should explain,” Ravi said quietly. “I am sure that you have noticed the unusual color of L’avan eyes. Also, that most L’avan have two different colors in their eyes.”
She nodded. “Yes, L’iam explained that it was because the eyes were touched by vyala.”
Her guardian inclined his head. “Exactly. The color of a L’avan’s eyes indicate what gifts their particular vyala has. You can always tell a L’avan’s abilities just by observing the colors of their eyes.”
Adesina frowned. “Only two?”
Ravi saw that she was beginning to understand and smiled. “Yes, Ma’eve. On rare occasions a L’avan will only have one, but they never have more than two.”
“What do my eyes mean?”
He stopped next to a small ornamental waterfall, sitting back on his haunches. “Purple indicates focus—the ability to hone and control both your physical self and your spiritual gifts above average. Usually it is a supporting gift for the other vyala indicated.” He gazed up Adesina intently. “Gold is raw energy, without tangible form. It is a gift rarely seen. Two or three L’avan in a generation may have it, but no more.”
She was confused. “But, L’iam said that things like my knife throwing…”
Ravi nodded soothingly, still explaining. “More unusual than having gold eyes is seeing it coupled with purple. In fact, I have not heard of it happening since the days of the Serraf. They all had purple and gold eyes. Under normal circumstances, all it would mean is that you can focus energy either coming into your body or going out of it. Had you been raised by the L’avan, your gifts probably would not have amounted to much.”
“Why?” the young woman inquired.
“Because the L’avan have been raised with the belief that one’s gifts are limited to only what is immediately apparent. Instead of being told what was possible, the Shimat taught you to seek and achieve the impossible.”
Adesina still didn’t quite understand, and Ravi could see that.
“You were taught to believe that anything was possible if you focused hard enough, and therefore, your vyala believes it as well. When you focus correctly, the raw energy you wield becomes any kind of vyala you wish it to be. You have at your command all L’avan gifts—something that hasn’t been seen in the history of the race. Something the Serraf were able to do, but never their children.”
Her eyes were fixed on the water flowing in the small stream in front of them. “So, you are saying that I should not be able to do the things I do?”
Ravi shook his head. “No, I am saying that you are able to do things that other L’avan cannot. That does not make you wrong or abnormal, it simply means you are gifted.”
Adesina sat down heavily, hugging her knees tightly. “So what does it mean for me?”
He leaned gently against her, warming her chilled skin. “Nothing.”
She was startled by this answer. “Nothing?”
“We have discussed this before, Ma’eve,” he reminded her, “there is always a choice. The prophecy only means something to you if you choose to make it so.”
Adesina’s voice was low in hopelessness. “Then how can it be called a prophecy?”
“If you are not the Threshold Child, then someone else will fulfill the role. The prophecy will happen no matter what, but it is still your choice whether or not to take part in it.”
She processed this for a while before speaking again. “There is something that does not make sense to me.”
She gestured vaguely. “This ‘threshold’ thing.”
Ravi took a deep breath, thinking his words over carefully. Adesina had the feeling that he knew more about the subject than most.
“I like to think of the passage of time as a maze.”
Adesina laughed softly. “You think of everything as a maze.”
He chuckled, but did not change his analogy. “There are sometimes unexpected twists and turns, but it is fairly predictable which direction one is headed. In this particular maze, however, each section is partitioned by a gate or doorway. These partitions separate the passage of time into ages. When something largely significant happens, it often leads to a new age. This can be an action, a discovery, or the arrival of important people. The Threshold Child is the one standing on the edge of that new age, ready to lead the way into a world different than the one in which we currently live.”
She snorted. “You think that I am that person?”
Ravi gave a half smile. “Only if you choose to begin on that path. None of us are now what we will eventually be—but if we begin on the correct path, we change into the person we are meant to become.”
They sat in thoughtful silence for several minutes, and Adesina considered how much her life had changed in the past couple of years. If she had seen then where she was now, she never would have believed it. Was it so difficult to accept that the following years would change her just as much?
With a quiet sigh and a heavy heart, she asked, “When do I need to decide?”
He leaned a little closer, lending her his strength. “When you are ready, Ma’eve. Not a moment before, not a moment after.”
She smiled wryly at her companion. “At least I can always count on your irritatingly cryptic answers.”
He nodded calmly. “Yes.”
They both sensed that it was time to go, and got to their feet. Adesina spoke quietly as they walked back. “Ravi, would you ask them not to say anything to anyone else? I do not want people staring at me with some sort of misguided hero worship.”
Ravi gazed at his young friend with kindness. “Of course, Ma’eve.”
E’nes was waiting for them by the entrance that led from the palace to the gardens. He watched their approach with uncertainty, half expecting his sister to declare her intention to have nothing to do with any of them. Adesina didn’t speak, but allowed him to put his arm around her and lead her home.
The next day, E’nes informed her that he had some mandatory training to attend.
Curious about L’avan training methods, Adesina asked, “May I come along?”
He gave her a teasing scowl. “Why? So you can criticize us?”
She shrugged. “Perhaps.”
Her brother laughed and beckoned for her to follow him out the door. And, as always, they were followed by Ravi.
The L’avan Protector training facility was next to the palace. The grey stone of the building shimmered slightly in the clear morning sun. The dark wood of the door was polished and had the detailed carving of an ornate sword along its length. E’nes pulled the door open easily, and Adesina followed him inside.
The interior was well lit and filled with L’avan of all ages. There were doors leading to classrooms, an entire section belonging to the smithies, and a large opening at the far end of the main room leading to the training yard. E’nes made for that archway.
The training yard was large, with stables on the far end. There were obstacle courses, target ranges, sections where one could practice horsemanship, and so forth. Everywhere Adesina looked there were L’avan training. The atmosphere was much less rigid than what she was accustomed, but there was still a clear sense of order.
E’nes smiled as he watched his sister taking everything in. She was more visibly at ease here than he had ever seen her anywhere else. He touched her elbow briefly. “I must go report to my leader. Can I leave you here for now?”
She nodded absently, analyzing the movements of two L’avan who were sparring. E’nes chuckled as he walked away. She wasn’t bothered by his apparent amusement, and continued her study. She was surprised when she felt a gentle touch on her forearm, and turned to see K’eb at her side.
“I apologize if I startled you.”
She forced a smile and shook her head. “You did not startle me.”
K’eb seemed unsure. He paused for a moment while searching for the right words. “I was wondering if I could trouble you for some assistance.”
Her brow furrowed. “What kind of assistance?”
He took a breath and rushed forward with his request. “On our journey here you told me that a flaw in my fighting was that I assumed everyone was as honorable as myself.”
Adesina knew where he was going with this. “Yes.”
“I am not certain how to apply that to my training, and I was hoping you could show me.”
She shook her head. “It would be no trouble at all.”
He smiled gratefully and led her to the far corner in the training yard, where they would have a measure of privacy. Ravi took a seat to the side of the ring, a small smile playing at his lips.
K’eb pulled out two practice swords and handed one to Adesina. She twirled it experimentally, noting that it felt quite a bit different from a real sword. She made a mental note to mention it to E’nes later. A warrior’s tools for training should be as close to reality as safety would permit.
Adesina and K’eb stood facing each other, practice swords in hand. She began her slow circling, gazing at him in disdain. K’eb began shifting his weight nervously, and Adesina stopped.
“Do not do that.”
He was baffled. “What?”
She pointed to his feet. “Do not move unnecessarily. Every move you make should serve a purpose. Otherwise, you are wasting energy and letting your enemy know of your uncertainty.”
K’eb nodded and took a defensive stance again. Adesina smiled faintly. “K’eb, do you know why I circle you with a sneer on my face?”
He shook his head, once again looking confused.
“Because it intimidates you,” she answered simply. “If I can shake your confidence, I have already won the battle. The physical fight is easy once I have conquered the mind.”
He nodded, taking in every word she said.
“If I start a fight like this,” Adesina continued, taking a defensive position, “it tells my enemy that I am cautious and afraid. An enemy can easily use that fear against you. On the other hand, if I present myself in a way that shows I am not concerned by my enemy’s attacks, it will give my enemy pause. That being said, you must also never underestimate your opponent. Appear confident, but do not become careless.”
She walked over to him to show him a new grip on his sword. “If you hold your sword like this, you can bring it up faster.”
K’eb whipped his sword up and grinned in amazement. Adesina smiled in return. “Let us try again.”
They began circling each other slowly. She suppressed a short laugh. “You are trying too hard to look casual. Relax, take deep breaths and make sure that your sword hand is always ready for action.”
He did as he was instructed and Adesina nodded in approval. She allowed her guard to drop slightly, and K’eb moved forward eagerly.
Adesina sidestepped him and brought her wooden sword down across his back. He winced, and lowered his own sword.
She raised an eyebrow. “What did you do wrong?”
“I let you get past me.”
Adesina laughed quietly. “Yes, that is a problem, but there was an even bigger mistake that led up to that.”
He thought about it for a moment. “I perceived an opportunity that did not exist.”
“Exactly. You did not even consider the possibility that I might be tricking you. Therefore, you did not prepare what to do if I was.”
Adesina moved toward him slowly. “If I attack like this, I have to account for every possible action you might take. Based on how you are positioned right now and what I know of my attack, I can think of five different reactions you might have. Not only that, but I know what my reactions will be according to how you choose to move.”
K’eb frowned, but nodded to indicate that he understood.
Adesina went on, “You always have to be thinking several steps ahead. If you are prepared, then you can act much more quickly and efficiently.”
They began again, and Adesina was glad to see marked improvement. She still defeated him easily, but commented that he did much better.
“I still lost,” replied K’eb, but he was pleased with her praise.
Adesina moved to re-create one of the positions they had been in while fighting. “What did you do in response to this counterattack?”
He repeated his defensive move and paused. She nodded. “What would have been better?”
K’eb studied the situation and named two other options, both defensive. Adesina inclined her head and urged, “There is one more thing you could have done.”
He studied the situation again, but he could not find what she meant.
Adesina pointed to her side. “I left my flank wide open, K’eb.”
She lowered her practice weapon, shaking her head. “You are stronger than me, but you do not use that power. I leave open a weakness, but you do not take advantage of it. This is what I was talking about in the forest, K’eb. Battle is not a tidy sport. Sometimes you have to do things that you would rather not.”
He suddenly looked apprehensive. “If you are suggesting that I must do whatever it takes to win…”
She shook her head. “I know that you are a moral individual, and I am not asking you to go against your conscience. I am merely saying that situations are rarely ideal, and sometimes compromises must be made.”
K’eb didn’t look convinced, but did not argue. Adesina smiled to herself, imagining what his reaction would have been if she had told him the Shimat views of the road to victory. That included not only doing whatever it takes, but doing things that would not even cross the mind of your opponent.
They went on with the lessons until E’nes came to find them. He and Ravi exchanged a few words, but then fell silent. E’nes watched for a little while before reluctantly interrupting.
“Adesina, Wren’na will probably be waiting for us.”
K’eb nodded in understanding and immediately ceased practice. “Thank you for your help, Adesina. Would you be willing to come again tomorrow? I mean, if it is not too much of an imposition.”
She was pleasantly surprised by this request, but readily agreed. “Of course.”
As they walked home, E’nes gave his sister a sideways glance. “You are a gifted teacher.”
She snorted softly, but her brother shook his head adamantly. “No, I am serious. In the short time we were apart, you taught K’eb things that it would take others days to teach.”
She frowned incredulously. “Days?”
E’nes nodded seriously. “I think the L’avan are accomplished warriors, but our training is not nearly as accelerated as that of the Shimat.”
Her gaze was captured by a group of children playing in a park. They were laughing and shouting, their glowing faces free from care.
Adesina’s voice was tinged with the regret she felt. “That is not a bad thing. I have been training constantly ever since I was five years old. Even before that, there were aptitude tests and preparatory exercises. I never really had a childhood.”
He reached down and took her hand. Adesina’s other hand rested on Ravi’s back, her fingers nestled into his smooth black fur. Her brother looked at her sympathetically. “I am sorry, Adesina. It must have been hard for you.”
She shrugged. “I suppose. It has always been like that, so I never really knew what I was missing.”
Until now, she added silently.
In spite of the regret she felt, Adesina had a hard time staying solemn for very long. It was as if the very air of Pevothem lifted her spirits. She was constantly surrounded by people, things, and situations that could not help but give her the same happiness that they themselves possessed.
Over time, she settled into a sort of daily routine. Every day she would go with E’nes and Ravi to the training facility, where she became a sort of impromptu teacher. At first she was just giving recommendations to K’eb and E’nes, but they were soon joined by several spectators. They watched silently until one brave soul summoned the courage to ask a question of his own. After that, Adesina was flooded with requests for advice, opinions and training tips.
Her evenings were spent at home with E’nes and Wren’na. Sometimes they would talk together or teach each other different things about each other’s experience. Sometimes the hours would pass quietly as each found an amusement on their own—reading, painting, embroidering, carving, and so forth. Every once in a while, E’nes and Wren’na would tune their instruments and give a modest concert for Adesina, singing old folk songs that had been passed down through the generations.
She had never felt so happy with her life. She had never known so much love or fulfilling purpose. She awoke each day and couldn’t help but smile at the sunlight creeping through her window.
Adesina didn’t realize how far-reaching her combat lessons had become until she looked up one afternoon and saw King L’unn and his sons watching. She was in the middle of showing E’nes a more effective defensive stance, but stopped what she was doing and straightened slowly to face them.
A hush fell over their corner of the training grounds.
The king walked forward deliberately until he was standing in front of Adesina. His two sons followed close behind. Adesina gave a small bow, attempting to show respect.
King L’unn surveyed the scene before resting his eyes on the young woman in front of him. “It seems there are many Protectors eager for Shimat training.”
She didn’t detect any anger in his voice, but she was still cautious in her answer. “They only wish to improve, your Majesty.”
He studied her with interest. “Do you enjoy teaching them?”
Adesina was surprised to find that she did. She nodded slowly. “Yes, your Majesty.”
King L’unn considered this for several moments before coming to a decision. “If you wish to continue, you may teach your brother, L’iam, Sa’jan, and Than’os,” he said, indicating to a thin, sharp looking man standing in the crowd, who was apparently the last man named. Then he gestured to the rest of the crowd. “All other Protectors must return to their regular training.”
With some quiet murmuring, the group dispersed, leaving Adesina, Ravi, and the people named by the king.
L’iam moved forward to stand next to Adesina, speaking quietly in her ear. “I apologize if my father seemed abrupt. He is rather wary of change.”
She smiled wryly. “An unusual trait in a king. Is not progress the goal of every civilization?”
L’iam returned her smile. “Yes, well, you must keep in mind that the L’avan have been very much the same for many, many years.”
A frown touched her brow. “Do you not find the lack of forward movement detrimental to the race?”
His gaze wandered off into the distance as he nodded slowly. His voice was troubled and distracted. “Yes. An objective observer could see that our people are already feeling the effects of our slow decay. Something must be done to revive our people.”
Adesina felt uncomfortable, even though L’iam’s comment was not directed at her. She cleared her throat and moved away to address the other soldiers left under her instruction.
“I never meant for this to become a formal class. I have never taught before, and I do not know where to begin.”
Her brother gave her shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “Do not think of it as a class. We will begin practicing, and you can give suggestions where you feel it is needed. Just like before.”
So, they picked up right where they left off.
This was how Adesina began to spend most of her days. She found it strangely fulfilling to pass on the knowledge that she had gained. She also felt as if she were making amends for all the sorrow she had caused among the L’avan people.
All of her pupils were talented fighters and fast learners. Adesina started with the basics of Shimat tactics, but quickly advanced. As the days wore on, she found that she was learning just as much as they were.
Her students became the teachers as they began showing her how to use her vyala in battle. They all had a variety of gifts, and each taught her different things. At first they seemed amazed that she could repeat things that they showed her, studying the color of her eyes to make sure that they had seen them correctly. Eventually, they acted as if it were normal, and introduced her to warriors with other talents to teach her what they knew.
All the while, L’iam continued to instruct her on the finer points of the energy they both could wield.
“Raw energy and vyala are practically the same thing, Adesina. The better understanding and control you have over one, the more you will have with the other.”
She nodded in understanding, waiting for him to continue.
“Today, let us focus on turning your energy into a different kind of vyala.”
She sensed him connecting with his vyala as he extended his hand. She connected with her own vyala, the blaze of awakening much more controlled now than the first time it happened, and reached over to take his hand.
The glow of her surroundings brightened her eyes, but today her focus was on L’iam. She watched closely as he slowly made the shift from pure energy to something tinged a light green. Even though the change was deliberate—to show her how it was done—she didn’t quite catch how to do it herself.
Now that L’iam was wielding his other gift, he could sense the emotions and intentions of those around him. He was immediately aware of her confusion.
“Let me show you again.”
He started to switch back to the pure energy. He deepened their connection so that she could more fully sense the mental and emotional process that went with working with one’s vyala.
It was almost like changing the state of mind. Raw energy was a broad, all-encompassing way to look at the world. It was simply stepping into a deeper point of view. When changing to a gift of vyala, one had to focus on a new way of perceiving the world.
L’iam’s green tinged world involved emotional connection with the people in the surrounding area. Adesina found it difficult, being that she had been rigorously trained to shut down her emotions. She looked at the people around her: E’nes, L’iam, Sa’jan, Ravi. These were people whom she cared for and trusted. She opened up her heart to them and felt her vyala beginning to change.
“Good,” L’iam exclaimed. “Now let your vyala know what you want it to become. Focus on the hearts of those around you.”
Adesina did as she was instructed and immediately her vision took on a light green tint. She saw, or rather, felt the love and concern that her brother had for her. He was worried that she wouldn’t be able to adapt to the world of the L’avan. Or worse, that she wouldn’t want to try. He worried that she would leave Pevothem to venture out on her own or perhaps even rejoin the Shimat.
Ravi’s thoughts and emotions were like a brightly colored kaleidoscope. Adesina was astounded and perplexed by what she saw. She couldn’t understand what she was seeing or feeling when she focused her attention on her guardian.
L’iam sensed her confusion and pressed his fingers more closely around her hand. “Do not trouble yourself with the soul of a Rashad. No mortal can truly understand.”
An amused smile appeared on Ravi’s face when he heard L’iam’s words. Adesina shot the Rashad a spiteful glare, only partially serious, before moving on.
L’iam felt her focus turn to him and gently disconnected himself from her.
“Now let us see if you can do the same with another gift of vyala.”
He gestured to E’nes, who stepped forward and connected to his vyala. Adesina frowned slightly at the abrupt change, but did not argue.
“How many different kinds of vyala are there?”
L’iam smiled mysteriously. “No L’avan knows the answer to that particular question, but there were ten gifts given to our people.”
E’nes took his sister’s hand and showed her how to change her perception to one tinged a dark green. It was a joining with the environment, being aware of the most minute details, even when they were out of physical sight. This was how Adesina was able to aim at things behind her, but now she was able to perceive everything around her without the aid of sound or movement. Everything was clearer, more precise.
He also showed her a way to turn her energy into physical force. The golden glow turned dark orange, and Adesina was able to use that solidified energy to move objects around her. She even used it to knock E’nes down while they were sparring a couple of days later.
He laughed when he had recovered from the shock of finding himself flat on his back. “Perhaps I should mention that L’avan warriors do not use their gifts against each other. At least, not in certain situations. Duels, either real or practiced, are one of those situations.”
Adesina smiled sheepishly and helped her brother back onto his feet. “You could have told me that before I threw you across the ring.”
Her brother dusted himself off ruefully. “Perhaps I should have. It would have saved me some pain and humiliation.”
They were about to begin again when a messenger came running up to them. He gave a short, respectful bow to each of them before speaking.
“Captain Protector E’nes and Lady Adesina: His Majesty, King L’unn requests your presence immediately.”