“There’s that hair-trigger switch I heard could be flipped.” Kaizar Khoriba chuckled and returned to his seat, seemingly content with his own antics. “The Shahm and Sevajj rave about you, ya know. I’m jealous, really. I don’t think I’ve heard Akmoya say a wholly positive thing about anyone before. Ever. Hell, if it were up to him, he’d still be barking at me in combat drills. Nothing like that with you though; only good things. Hates your choice of friends though.”
Ceccamun chuckled and let out a long, “yeeeah.”
He smiled and sat forward, elbows on the smooth stone table. He titled his head gently and looked on Ceccamun with curious intent. “So, tell me about the dreams you’ve been having.”
Of course they had mentioned it, she twisted her mouth to one side. Had he brought her up here and lathered her with past accomplishment just to then shut her down and bring to light her recent failings?
Ceccamun slouched further in her seat and fidgeted with her hands. “They’re hectic. Violent. Figures – monsters – stand at the door step of The Spire and they’re tearin’ through us like practice dummies.” Her voice had begun to tremble and she bore down at the stone table, her fingers digging into her crossed hands. “It’s a massacre of blood and screams and the mangled corpses of our kin and there ain’t nothing I, nor anyone, can do to stop it. I’ve never felt my hopeless. Just weak.”
“I remember that feeling.” The Kaizar sympathized. “I had ’em too, around your age. And others before me. Every generation, a number of kinsfolk start having that dream. Some view it as an omen; others, a conspiracy; still more, a wild tale turned legend, or propaganda to kindle a revolt against the Qaneqaanii.”
Ceccamun sat up in her chair, “the warlords on the other end of the Dune Sea?”
He nodded and began to gradually tell Ceccamun of Qyorei, the cosmic life-force, and, in lifetimes long past, their ancestors soared the skies along side the etenpyr. He explained that, despite their apparent freedoms, they were indentured to the Qaneqaanii and lived under their rule. The Warlords of the Shimmering Sands had stripped away the power of Qyorei from their ancestors and now ensured that it could never be taught nor learned by taking potentials across the Dune Sea to personally serve far from Eten Viyo. Rumours and tales she had heard before but never had she considered them to have basis in truth.
“Generations of Kaizars have carefully guarded this history. Kaizar Corian, in particular, covered up the most spectacular event of recent history: the day a handful of potentials escaped Eten Viyo. That was the same day I first felt the creeping warmth of Qyorei.”
“The Qaneqaanii had come to conscript potentials from my generation. To stand face to face with the creatures we had only imagined in our dreams…we were all frozen with fear while they sorted through us. Everything stopped, however, when the dual suns began to expand growing brighter and brighter until the sky turned white. The entire courtyard shielded their eyes against the dazzling light only for a brilliant and thunderous flash to follow. I remember writhing, blinded, ears ringing, and my senses burning.”
“When the light faded, and the paralysis began to lessen, the courtyard was in dissaray, people were scattered everywhere and fumbling, and nearly all the potentials were gone.”
Ceccamun was familiar with the tale and she filled in, “Yeema Keri tells it they fled to the deep wild, disappeared into the Infinite Oasis, never seen again.”
Khoriba nodded, “yeah, that’s the rumour. But no on really knows how. Anyway,” he picked up the story, “the Qaneqaanii went manic, throwing accusations, interrogating everyone. We didn’t know a damn thing, though.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Kaizar Corian put the entire city on lockdown and ordered Kaizragoons to assist in the following searches and investigations. Nothing came of it though. They were just gone.”
“Wait,” Cec interjected again.
The Kaizar has only been taking a breath to continue but he stopped and rose an eyebrow, “what?”
“But why weren’t you taken with ’em?”
Khoriba shrugged but smiled, “the Qaneqaanii don’t waste time with those with Qyorei that feels weak to them.”
“But — ”
“Let me finish the damned story. You’re ruining my pacing here.”
The Shahm had been right concerning his theatrics.
“Anyway: As it turns out, Corian knew the what and the why of the disappearance. To quell and appease the Qaneqaanii he tells them of a kinsman, a hermit by all respects, who had left Eten Viyo almost a half century prior. The Hermit claimed to have rediscovered the secrets of Qyorei and wanted to smuggle potentials away from the clan to train them. Of course, Kaizar Corian strictly forbade this out of fear when the Qaneqaanii discovered the scheme. To protect the clan after this outrage, Corian publicly exiled the missing potentials and made an outlaw of the Hermit. He told the Qaneqaanii all that he knew and pointed them at the Infinite Oasis. That’s the last anyone’s heard of it.”
A deep scowl of outrage took Ceccamun. The Kaizar went on, “to be fair, we’d’ve lived The Dream that day if he’d done anything less. But maybe it could have been different if he hadn’t’ve let fear guide the future of our clan. We’re only weaker now because of it.”
“But you’re the Kaizar now! You can change this. Un-exile them. Invite the Hermit back.”
Khoriba smiled but shook his head, “not openly but I like where you enthusiasm is going. We don’t know if the Hermit is still alive or if he was captured but we do know that the secrets to Qyorei lie within the Infinite Oasis.”
“For a few years now I’ve been seeking out potentials, searching and feeling out the same energy I felt that day. I needed to have you brought of here to tell for myself.”
“I’ll do it.” Ceccamun stated, confident and standing.
The Kaizar frowned, “hey, you don’t even know what I’m offering.”
“The secret lies in the Infinite Oasis. So, you want me to go there.”
He twisted his mouth, “well, yes, but,” he sighed. “Eh, whatever, you’ve ruined it already. Just know this, the Infinite Oasis is a treacherous place and I can say with no certainty that you will be able to survive, let alone find your way back, once your venture there.”
The thrill of adventure oozed off of her and the Kaizar’s words might as well have been devoured by her elation. She was ready to make a difference.