Camon and Achara spent the next hour walking around the camp, observing the community. Everyone had their chores. Some men and women tended to the camp itself, cleaning, cooking, and watching the young children. The children that were old enough did chores as well. Many spent the better part of the day in the pastures gathering dried droppings for fuel to use for cooking and heating or bringing water up from the well near the encampment. The younger men and women spent time in the pastures herding and tending to the cattle and other animals they herded. There was plenty of work for everyone to do. When the sun was getting low on the horizon, many of the herders came in from the pastures. They cleaned themselves and came in for their dinner. That night was one of the nights each family ate by themselves, but at least once a week, the community would have a communal dinner where they would barbecue over the fire and enjoy the company of one another with song and dance.
Camon and Achara cleaned themselves along with the others even though they were not very dirty. It was customary to do so before the evening meal. As the sun was on the horizon, Camon and Achara went to Jasnovi’s wagon. It was a long wagon painted purple with a small porch off the back with two rockers. They entered the wagon and were greeted by a young woman, and Camon and Achara removed their shoes as they entered. Jasnovi’s wagon was much more ornate than Zenna’s, with sculpted wood and plush furnishings to sit on. There was only a single bed at the back of the wagon. It was also slightly wider than Zenna’s, making more room for a sitting and dining area. There were six chairs at the table that were ornate wooden chairs with upholstered cushions on them. A lantern lit the wagon hung in the center of the wagon over the table. The young woman seated Achara and Camon at the table and served them tea.
A few minutes later, the young woman left, and Jasnovi came in with an older man and Zboru. Camon stood as she entered, and Achara followed suit. The older man and Zburu helped her into one of the chairs at the table. The old man sat down next to her. Zboru served Jasnovi, and the old man tea then set a cup in front of an empty seat, which he took.
“This is our Mother, Jasnovi,” Zboru said, introducing her. He then gestured to the old man, “And this is her husband, Covek.” He then spoke in his native tongue to Jasnovi and Covek, introducing Camon and Achara. Covek said something, which Zboru translated, “He gives you his blessings and is honored to have a child of destiny among us.”
Achara ventured a question, “I don’t mean to be impolite, but what is a child of destiny?”
“A child of destiny is one like you,” Zboru answered. “You are not a seer. But you will be a seer one day. You will guide your people in the Way.”
“What is the Way?” she asked again.
“You call it the Light,” Zboru explained. “But we call it the Way.”
“I see,” she said. “Thank you.”
Camon and Achara both sipped their tea as Zboru conversed with Jasnovi and Covek. A few minutes later, the young woman returned, carrying two steaming pots. Zboru jumped up to help her taking the pots from her as she removed her shoes. He placed them in the middle of the table. The young woman opened a cupboard and removed some wooden bowls and metal spoons and set them in front of those seated at the table and then one at the empty chair. In one pot was a starchy grain that had been boiled and had formed clumps. The other pot was a stew made from beef and tubers and other leafy plants. Zboru served the food in the pots to each of the people at the table, first placing the grain in the bowl then filling the bowl with the stew.
After serving the food, Covek stood and recited something poetic before sitting back down. Zboru then introduced the young woman, “This is my daughter, Devica.”
Devica chanced a question to Camon and Achara, “Where are you from?”
Achara spoke first, “I’m from the North near Rahtneua. Do you know this place?”
“Yes, I have heard of it,” Devica said.
“I’m from Rahtneua as well,” Camon said.
Zboru beamed with pride, “I taught her this. To speak your language.”
“You speak well. I hope you get to visit the east one day,” Achara said.
“I do as well,” Devica said.
They ate their meal in this way with Devica asking questions and Camon and Achara answering them. Devica, while seemingly shy at first, eventually was speaking with a smile and confidence. Covek and Jasnovi talked with Zboru in their native language. After they had finished several bowls of the stew, they were all quite full, and the tea’s effect had set in as well. They were all relaxed and enjoying the evening talking. Zboru interrupted the merrymaking when he announced, “Jasnovi wishes to walk with Achara.”
Devica and Zboru cleared the table and brought out a small woolen table runner that they covered the table. They helped Jasnovi out of her chair and helped her into the seat across from Achara.
“Walking is intense,” Camon warned Achara. “Try to relax.”
“What is she going to do?” Achara asked.
“She is going to go into your mind. She will show you your past, present, and even perhaps your future. The visions will be vivid, but you will not see yourself in them, only those you know, and in your stead, you will see Jasnovi’s face.”
“How will I know what is the past, present, and future?”
“The past and present will feel familiar. The future will not. Try not to dwell on the unfamiliar. It can be scary. The walk tends to react to your emotions and amplify them, so fear can become terror. But happiness can become elation at the same time. Focus on these moments, because what you will see are those times that helped define you.”
“It may be too late, but why does she want to do this with me?” Achara asked again.
“Walking is a way to help shape you on your path. She senses yours.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Achara said.
“I think you will after you experience the walk,” Camon said. “Just try and relax.” Achara sat up straight in the chair, and Jasnovi said something.
“Place your hands on the table,” Zboru instructed.
Achara placed both her hands out on the table and tried to relax them.
“Take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly a few times,” Camon coaxed.
Achara closed her eyes and inhaled and exhaled deeply, trying to tune out the things around her. She then felt Jasnovi’s hands on her. Jasnovi’s grip was firm. Her skin was coarse from years of work on the prairie. She could then hear Jasnovi humming, which reverberated through the table and Jasnovi’s hands. Her hands grew warm, and then Achara could feel a tingling sensation begin to pulse from Jasnovi up her arms and all over her body. The pulsing grew to almost a steady stream and increased in cadence.
Achara could hear or see nothing by this time. She felt like the room began to spin, and everything was a blur, even time and space. She lost her sense of up and down, forward and back, and left and right. She felt as she was floating in a black void without anything else around her. She then heard a whisper in her mind. It was Jasnovi’s voice again. This time it beckoned her. Achara then saw a bright white speck of light that seemed far off, but it grew larger. Achara could not tell if she was moving toward the light or if the light was moving towards her. But then in an instant, she touched it, and there was a blinding flash and a deafening noise like an explosion. Achara blinked her eyes as her ears rang.
When she was finally able to see and hear again, she saw a room with a single window and door that felt warm. There was a fireplace with a mature fire burning a log. The room had modest furnishings with a small bed, a rug on the floor, and a rocking chair occupied by a woman. Achara recognized the woman immediately. It was her mother. A man was standing off to the side, looking down at the carpet. She again recognized this man to be her father. He was tall with dark hair like her own and was smoking a pipe. She then noticed a child on the floor playing with a doll and a toy horse. The child looked up at her father, and Achara saw Jasnovi’s face on the child except it was young. Achara, in her mind, smiled. She recalled that this was the night that her father had come home from one of his assignments and surprised her. It was a holiday, and she was not expecting to see him, but she was beside herself with joy and excitement when he got there. The memory brought a tear to her eyes as she looked at the young girl, mother, and father.
A moment later, there was another flash of light and an explosion. She was back in the void again, unsure what was up or down, left or right. She could still feel the tears on her face from where she came. She waited some time before another light speck appeared, this time blue. It approached her slowly, then sped up as it came near. The light didn’t explode as before, but this time it pulled her. Achara felt like she was in free fall towards the light. She accelerated faster and faster until everything around her was a stream of blue lines. Her ears were deafened by what sounded like a rushing wind. This came to an abrupt stop, and it made Achara nauseous and want to heave. When the nausea subsided, the blue faded, and she was back in the same room she had been in before. This time, the bed was larger, and the rocking chair was not there, but the same fireplace, carpet, windows, and door were all there. The room was warm as it was before, but the fire was smoldering. In the room were her mother and another person she did not recognize. Based on the dress, she deduced it was an Imperial soldier. On the bed sat a girl with her knees drawn to her chest with her face down, and she was crying intensely. Her mother sat down next to the girl and wrapped her arms around her. The girl looked up at her mother, and Achara recognized the face again as Jasnovi’s, and she knew exactly where she was. Achara recalled this moment as the night that someone had come to tell her that her father had been killed and had betrayed the Empire. The emotions of intense grief then compounded Achara’s tears of joy at this moment. She tried not to dwell on them like Camon had told her not to do, but it was difficult for her. Then the scene faded, and she was pulled back out of the room through blue as she had entered the room, and she found herself back in the void.
A moment later, another speck of light appeared. This time it was green. It did not grow larger but seemed to move about her in a circle, moving faster and faster. She was engulfed in a circle of green light, and it became a sphere of light all around her. She then heard a high pitch squeal that grew in volume until again she was deafened by the noise. Then in an instant, the green light disappeared, and she found herself looking down at another room. This one was an office with a desk and chairs. She saw Camon and Chak and another person standing in the room. She then knew this to be when Chak told her about her father and what had actually happened to him. She had stopped crying and tried to listen to it again, but she could hear nothing. She saw the other person turn around, and indeed, it was Jasnovi as she would have appeared at Achara’s age. A numbness crept over her as she looked down at the scene. She couldn’t hear the conversation, but she knew exactly what was said then and recalled it as it had happened five minutes before. She tried to tune it out, but no matter what she did, the words echoed in her mind, and it made her feel cold and calloused and even somewhat bitter about the whole situation. “Go away,” she thought. And in an instant, it did. The green light returned, and she was engulfed in the light and the high-pitched scream, which faded into the void once again.
A fourth light appeared moments later. This one was purple, and it came towards her slowly and methodically, never growing in size or intensity. When it was closer to her, it floated around her, never touching. When it came in front of her face, Achara reached up and touched it with her finger. The light then stuck to her and began to engulf her body. She felt the light cover her arm and then her entire body as if she was being swallowed. She could neither see nothing or hear anything for several moments until she could see two other light glowing specks. When they came into focus, she realized they were candles flickering in a large dark room. She could see a woman bound whose head was facing the mirror. Achara saw Jasnovi’s face on the woman. The woman then looked up into the mirror and began to say something out loud, but Achara could not hear it.
A dark figure turned the mirror towards the woman, and Achara did not see Jasnovi’s face, rather her own face in the reflection. The reflection grew to a point where it seemed to be radiating light rather than merely reflecting it. She could then feel the encompass of the purple glow around her like a cocoon that bound her. It was restrictive, almost like it was holding her captive. She then became aware of the pulsing flowing from Jasnovi again that was present in the light surrounding her. Then something deep inside of herself began welling up, another pulsation. It fought against the light that was binding her in the void. The image in the mirror was pulsating with the new power she felt in her bosom. It built in her. The mirror began to shake violently as if it was resonating with the power that built in her. More and more, it shook, almost like a violent earthquake. Then, without warning, the mirror exploded. Achara felt the power inside her explode, too, pushing back with force the magic that was binding her. It consumed her in an intense flash of light, and then everything faded into darkness and silence. Achara saw nothing, heard nothing, and then felt nothing as she then slipped into unconsciousness.