I watched them raise their arms to the sky, the flaming swords they held marking a circle against the night, their voices humming through the air. Above the sound, their words came to us in our sleep and in our waking.
Harbingers, they called themselves. Their warnings would come. At their word, at their proclamation, we raised the guardian shield to cover all of Maraad. Our world became invisible, beyond the reach of passing ships and entities seeking us. There were always those who wanted what we had, deep in our planet’s core. For us, what lay there was the deep energy of our being, the source, sustaining us all in its vibration.
In a forgetful moment I’d once asked why not keep the shield up forever. None of the rituals would be needed, that way. What I hadn’t considered was how the Harbingers valued those selfsame rituals, as did the others who watched them with me. I wondered sometimes if they needed them more than for their purpose, but it was a passing thought, of no matter. Only the words of my mother lingered in my mind, though she had left life so many years before, far too soon.
“Trust that their way is good. But so is yours. There is power in you, precious child.”
All this was my life, or so it would have been, if Jeikar had not arrived from the other side, wherever that was. His presence meant danger, for the new frequency he held had not been detected by the Harbingers. I should have warned everyone about him. But how little I cared, for with him I felt I could act and speak without caution. His touch that gave me such an awareness, and I embraced it so willingly. What escaped me, what I never imagined, was that he had intended the seduction, and learned from me the vulnerabilities of my world.
When I realized his feelings for me were not real, I struck out at him. In horror, I watched him fall. Yet I felt no pity for him. Or for me, not then. He had betrayed me.
I didn’t take his life for the reasons they broadcast around the planet, saying I had preserved us all on Maraad against the unthinkable intruder. I was made a hero, and praised wherever I walked from that point forward. I accepted the pretense. It was so much easier. It meant I belonged even more to those around me, and it was why they invited me into the circle. I was given the privileges of a novice, but still, I was able to enter some of the inner journey of the Harbingers.
I was able, somehow, to live with the lie I had let be told, and stay the hero.
Until the day I walked behind the main temple where no one ever seemed to go and was immersed in the feeling of peace around me. White blossoms from wildflowers flew in the wind and covered the ground. The air was warm and the city lay in a golden haze in the distance.
I was so startled by his voice I stumbled back, almost falling.
“Jeikar! You’re — ”
“Dead?” he interrupted. “I let them think I was. And you.”
“NO! I saw them burn you into ashes!” It was madness. I was possessed in some way, caught in a dream unawares. I had to be asleep, leaning against one of the walls of the temple. That is what I thought.
“Yet here I am.”
“How?” I managed to get out.
“What could be easier? They left me in that bier for hours until nightfall, when they would be able to see the flames. I simply moved through their stacks of wood and replaced them in order.”
I couldn’t stop staring at him. “It’s impossible. I saw you fall.”
“And yet, here I am,” he repeated.
“Why? What do you want?”
Jeikar walked closer to me, reached out his hand and touched my hair.
In that single second I was transported again by my feeling for him I felt it surging up in my heart.
“Will you come with me?”
I looked around. “Where? If anyone sees you, they’ll kill you without a thought.”
Jeikar laughed. It sounded hollow to me in the space we were in, but in that moment I paid it no mind. “Do you know what matters most, Gillian?”
“What? Tell me.” I couldn’t look away from him. His closeness made me hunger for him again.
“Completing a mission. My ship waited for me last time. They knew I would succeed. I always do. Such an interesting planet you are on. All that treasure you still have in the core — ninety-five percent of what your planet possesses. So rare an element in the universe. We still covet it where I am from. I wouldn’t have known it was here, though, had you not mentioned it. I had come simply to penetrate the shield and see what lay beneath it. Mere curiosity. And I found you. You told me everything. It was quite beneficial. We have come back for it all.”
I felt frozen where I stood. He had not returned out of love. He was not dead. I had opened the way for him to enter my world once, and now he knew it forever. A rage filled me, against myself as much as against him, but I this time I had no weapon.
“Now, isn’t that better? We both feel the same way about each other. That makes it all so much easier.” He looked to his left, nodded his head, and held up his hands. A starship entered high above, piercing the sky. Its size almost blotted out the light of the sun. I knew instantly it was here to destroy my world, once they had retrieved what they wanted. Our shield was useless. The Harbingers would die.
“Emotion is the most powerful of forces,” Jeikar said. “You should have been more careful when you allowed it to surface, Gillian. For me, for us, it was a very familiar gateway. A very convenient gateway.”
I gazed around me. My precious home. I couldn’t let it be erased. Yet what could I do? I had brought this upon my world. I had pretended to be its savior.
Beyond us the city still waited, peaceful in its gold light as if the shadow of the starship above it did not exist. More white blossom petals swept around me in a sudden wind, filling the air.
In that moment my mother’s words came to me, “There is power in change, precious child. Nothing stops you from knowing this. And there is great power in love for its own sake.” I felt as if the very earth had received me in its embrace.
“There is more than one kind of love, Jeikar,” I said softly, feeling a strange shift within me as my rage disappeared and a feeling of calm took its place. “One kind gives, and one takes. I’ve chosen mine, just now. I’m not sure why, but I have. Maybe knowing I didn’t kill you after all has given me a second chance. I’m not sure. So I send you love. I have just learned this. Thank you.”
“I don’t want it, foolish girl.”
I smiled at him. “No, of course you don’t. But you see, there is something else that comes with it. Call it a feeling tone.” I began the humming of the Harbingers, and felt my voice carry in the vibration that lay far beneath my feet, soaring up through me and into the sky.
More voices joined me from far and near, rising and rising in the vibration until it felt as if we were all made of nothing but sound, even the stones around me, and we were holding in our minds and hearts only awareness of this. They all knew what I had done and yet joined with me, allowed the harmony.
I stopped and took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Around me I heard all the others sighing into the air, a field of sound as embedded as the vibration of our humming together.
The sun returned full force, the ship was gone. And so was Jeikar.
I laughed in joy.
All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
Where had that come from? Then I remembered, vividly. My mother had carried a small book around with her all the time, an ancient book from an ancient place. She would recite those words from it on walks we took together.
Yes, there was another way. I had felt it, and in a mere instant it had transformed me. No one would come to us who did not share our vibration. They would never be able to find us unless they did.
“We do not need the ceremonies now,” I whispered into the air.