Updated: May 31, 2020
Chapter One - Treneer I
Icy winds blew through the crystal buildings, their sharp and intricate structure transformed the howls into chimed sighs. Bits of snow carried by the wind tapped against the stained chromatic surface of the crystal spire. Her barely open eye watched the snowflakes melt against the glass before sliding down. The chimed wind had interrupted her meditation, but she had been meditating for two days. She wanted to remain on the soft and round rosy cushion beneath her crossed legs, but her mind already started spinning. A hot sharp pain shot through the centre of her forehead, she winced as her fingers tapped against the hard-crystalized skull bump on her head. Her Third Eye was hypersensitive, exactly what she needed for the trail.
Her shoulders ached as she moved them for the first time in days, her legs partially numb from being in the same position. Returning to her physical body was always uncomfortable, every time she came back from astral traveling, it felt like a tight coat too limited for her. Energy pulsed through her body, she levitated to her feet, her toes barely touching the ground as she waited for the blood to fall into them.
Treneer, a psychic voice called from the meditation chamber. She turned to see her tutor drifting across the room, carefully avoiding the others in their meditations. Her tall and thin form hid underneath a violet and lavender robe with pointed shoulder pads surrounding a high collar scraping against her jaw. A silver circlet sat on her pearly smooth head housed two blue starry eyes and her Third Eye shone the same hue.
I am ready, Master Zu’leen. Treneer transmitted.
I think not, it’s too cold outside to be dressed in that. Zu’leen said with a smirk on her lip.
Treneer’s cheeks flushed as she looked to her nearly folded snow garb beside the rosy seat. Her thin peach body suit clung to her body, it was enough to keep her warm most of the time in combination the heat from her aura, but it wasn’t enough to brave Farayah’s brutal environment. Her light-grey slender arm hovered over the clothes and commanded the energy around her to bring them to her hand. They lifted, one sleeve opened and wrapped itself around her arm and then onto the other. The feathery turquoise and white coat reflected the heat from her body as she tightened the clasp on her waist bringing her whirling mind some comfort.
Is it wise to waste one’s psychic focus on physical dress before the Mind Trial? Zu’leen said as her head tipped to the side.
It wouldn’t be wise for someone other than myself, master. Treneer said. She could feel the other neonates in meditations being roused from their conversation. She focused on compressing the surrounding astral energies into silver holographic lines over her shoulders and head. Treneer supressed a smirk from her tutor, but Zu’leen didn’t share the same enthusiasm.
The Mind Trial are a test to see if one is better, not worse, neonate. Zu’leen said as she turned to drift out of the chamber.
The trials are tests to meet expectations set by Arinu elders. They want and deserve the best and so do you. Isn’t that why we’re here, master? Treneer said as she followed Zu’leen at the hem of her cloak.
I watched you for two days, neonate. You only spent hours meditating on your inner-self and the rest astral travelling. Zu’leen said never breaking her glide.
When I’m in my astral form I access the universe free from this small body. If our minds are linked to this higher consciousness, then that’s where I can find my true self. Treneer said as her eyes scanned the colourful crystal halls. She passed the spiral staircase that would lead them outside, slightly relieved that she wouldn’t have to bear the cold. Master Zu’leen, doesn’t the Mind Trial take place outside?
Zu’leen stopped before a closed black granite door. She lowered to her feet as she turned to Treneer. You don’t need to go outside; you need to go deeper inside. She said.
Treneer’s feet touched the heated tiles. Her eyes drifted over the ancient holographic text floating across the solid black slab. She saw her name flashing across the surface, followed by a list of other names that made her confidence freeze.
My parents will be watching? She looked to Zu’leen.
Of course. They’re eager to see what I taught you. She said as her hand lifted from her cloak up to the door.
Treneer’s throat dried as her mouth cracked open the first time in days. She hadn’t used her voice since her arrival at the Guardian Academy fifty years ago. She was little more than an infant before her family recognized the immense psionic potential coursing through her. Yet, she knew her family being former Arinu warriors, wanted her body to match equal power of her mind, but it was never enough.
“Will you be there, Zu’leen?” Treneer said. Her ears tried to catch the sound of her womanly voice, it wasn’t smooth like Zu’leen’s or her mother’s, but she was surprised to hear how childish her tone still was.
Zu’leen widened her eyes in delight as the lips parted. “Of course, neonate,” her hand waved over the door and the stone trembled as it phased out of this existence.
Treneer looked to the dark room with a shining silver plate hovering just beyond the floor’s edge. It barely fit the two of them as they stepped onto the board before it carefully glided deeper into the void chamber. Warm air drifted against her bare scalp, her skin tingled from a hum of electricity the lower they went, Treneer’s confidence was returning.
Zu’leen turned to the neonate. I believe you believe you’re ready.
What makes you say that, master? Treneer said looking at her tutor from the corner of her eye.
The Mind Trial is only half, there’s still the Body Trail. She said.
The warm air had slipped as coldness licked against her skin during the decent. Treneer tried to keep her focus on this first trial. One step at a time; one problem at a time. I’m best suited as a Sleeping Watcher after finishing my schooling. I wouldn’t ever need to be in my physical body while I watch over Arinu people from criminality. She said.
You still need your physical health as a Watcher. True, other Guardians may go out and enforce the laws, but you will waste away if you neglect your body, Treneer. Zu’leen said.
Before Treneer could reply, the disk slowed and halted. Zu’leen beckoned her to step off the board and she complied. She almost got a freight when her feet touched cold water on the hard surface, her body shivered as smoky breath escaped her lips and nose. Her eyes darted around the black room, the only thing that held light was Zu’leen’s glowing blue eyes and Third Eye, but they faded into the shadow. Magenta light sparked from Treneer’s elegant fingers to find the walls, but this chamber was so large and unnaturally dark, that no matter how bright she made her light, it was absorbed by the room. She focused her senses through her Third Eye to find any forms, auras, skeletons, anything, but even that failed.
No need to waste psychic focus, neonate. Booming voices echoed through her head. Some voices were female, some male, but their combined power made her uneasy. She was being watched from behind the shadows.
I’m ready to begin. Treneer called to the minds.
No response. The water swished as she turned, droplets of water splashed on her knees giving her a new cold wave. She shivered as she pumped energy into her aura to keep her warm.
Insufficient. The voices said in unison.
Her voice squeaked as she spun around to see where they were coming from. The deafening silence made her head and ears ache. What did they want her to do? She trained for the trails for years, but her tutors never revealed what to expect.
Poor thing. They said again, but the female voices were stronger when they spoke.
The icy cold water clung to the skin of her shins, she pressed telekinetic energy from her feet to keep it at bay. This was just a test, Treneer repeated to herself.
An unwise decision. Said the more male voices.
What do you want me to do? She said. Her heart raced as a loud splashing came from several feet from her. Treneer released another ball of magenta energy from her other hand and pointed her palms to the direction of the splashing. Her Third Eye flickered through the many lenses to see if a creature was there waiting to attack her.
Too easily overpowered. They chimed again, but a hint of malevolence in their tone.
A guttural groan echoed through the chamber, her back arched as stood ready. Nothing came. She looked to the water’s surface to her front, but she noticed there were no ripples waving towards her. Treneer released more light from her hands to find the source of the noises but was met with more wet grounds. No one was there. Was it an illusion? Was it happening in her head?
What am I meant to do? She called again. The air became colder, the damp hem of her coat froze the material, she tried push more energy out to keep the warmth. The harder she fought the elements; the colder it became.
Pockets of deep shadow appeared in the corners of her light. They darted about, almost as if they were trying to find a way to push their way in. But shadow isn’t matter; it’s the absence of light. It wouldn’t – it couldn’t hurt her, she hoped.
Outside doesn’t exist; inside is the only reality. Said a voice, but it was on its own, not part of the chorus of others. Was Zu’leen giving her a hint? It didn’t sound like her thought waves, it sounded like Treneer’s voice.
She frowned and took a deep breath as she pulled in her magenta light balls. The dancing shadows skipped their way towards her, but she locked the fear away.
Maybe. Said the voices, they sounded unconvinced. At least they weren’t mocking her anymore.
The chamber felt like it was in the centre of Farayah’s poles, her jaw began to violently shake, and her teeth clapped against each other. Her senses opened to the vastness of the chamber, she still couldn’t feel anything or anyone there. Treneer paused when she noticed the room was evoking her energy outside her body. She sighed, hot breath left her mouth, as she pulled in the last of her psionic generated heat. The cold cut through her coat and into her flesh, she stopped shivering and feared that she would pass out from the unnatural freeze.
Close. They said. Treneer wrapped her arms to her torso, she squeezed her eyes shut as the silver holograms around her shoulder and head fizzle out. She stopped resisting as her mind expanded to the outer space. At last! There were tangible objects in the chamber with her, but she couldn’t gain anything more from them.
Where are you? They sang. She slowly dropped to her knees, the water felt as if it had warmed as it soaked through her coat and under suit. Treneer pushed her mind farther and farther, she could feel walls around her, and they were a lot closer than she believed.
I am in the Guardian Academy testing room. She said as she saw the crystal spire and all its inhabitants above her.
Where are you? The aggression in their voice returned, but she paid no mind to it.
On Farayah…homeworld. Treneer said as she continued pushing her mind out to the icy blue and white world, she could feel all beings flying, swimming, running and climbing on her surface. Her thighs collapsed to the ground, the water soaked her legs and lower back.
Where? They screamed through her skull. The psychic sound was so sharp that her fingers pressed to the sides of her temples.
I don’t…Treneer felt her mind grow, touching the surfaces of all planets, asteroids, comets and their red dwarf star, but she couldn’t push it any further. I can’t-I don’t know what-
To the distant corner of the red star, she saw a flash of white light. She thought a star went nova, but it’s light pulsated and crashed into her mind. Treneer screamed, even her mouth released a pained wail, as she felt her consciousness contorted and blew to the arms of the galaxy – perhaps farther. In a moment, she could see it all, hear it all and feel it all. Treneer lost all sense of herself as her mind united with something beyond all comprehension. The all.
In a blink, she dropped back into her numb body, her eyes peeled open to see several Arinu figures standing around her in a brightly lit room. The water heated instantly as she felt thin hands reach underneath her arms and pulled her up. Treneer saw the joyful and relieved faces of Zu’leen and other testers. Her mind felt like it had been shredded, she tried remembering everything she had seen and learnt, but her brain was too scrambled.
Did I pass, master? She said as she slipped her tutor’s hands from her.
Beyond our expectations and you took us with you. Zu’leen said as her eyes looked to her Third Eye. There is slight damage to your brain, but nothing that cannot be revived inside a healing pod.
What happened to me? Did you see that star going nova? Treneer said as she looked to the others.
No stars died in this area. That somehow boosted you to touch the infinite. Said a male tester.
Do you remember anything? What did you see? Zu’leen pressed, Treneer could feel her mind looking into hers trying to find something that wasn’t there anymore.
Did I pass the Mind Trial? Treneer said she pushed her tutor from her sore head.
You did, child, you did! Her father’s thoughts came in. Her head twisted to see him and her mother levitating over. This was the first time she had seen them in person since she arrived to the school. Her arms locked around their torso’s and collapsed into their embrace.
The murmur of voices was the first thing Treneer could hear. She couldn’t understand what they were saying or if they were even in hear head. Her eyes opened, but there was nothing but blackness, however her Third Eye could see an orange and teal fractal diamonds wrapped around her body like a shield. The voices became words and sighs, but they were coming from mouths. Her keen ears twitched to hear what they were saying, however, they were muffled by the lid of the healing pod.
Treneer’s body was floating inside water, she could feel small vitamin spheres glued to her arms and legs. She must have been in there for several days, her body felt revitalised, but she couldn’t remember if she had astrally travelled. A black hole sat in her mind, the absence of what had happened during the trial weighed a world.
Her hands tapped against the case; the voices stopped for a moment before light cracked into the pod as the lid disappeared. Zu’leen and Treneer’s parents looked to her with shades of pride and concern on their faces. Her body was lifted by Zu’leen’s telekinetic push, water ran down her back and legs before it dripped to the hot tiles.
I can do it. Treneer said as she caught the weight of her form with her psionics, yet she didn’t want to separate from the floor’s lovely heat.
Ah, the pride. Has she always had that, Remir? Zu’leen said as she flashed an amused smile to her mother.
Since in the womb! Psychic prowess of an elder and only fifty-two years. Her mother said caressing Trener’s cheek with the back of her hand. Remir had the same magenta light poking through her eyes and Third Eye, her skin was so white, it was almost transparent. Treneer could even see the blue and purple veins coiled inside her thin flesh. She was tall for a female Arinu, the tip of her head mere inches above her father’s. Deep wrinkles on her face showed her age of a thousand-or-so years, but there was a youthful vitality that remained.
I’m so happy to see you, both of you. She said looking between them. Her under suit already began to absorb the water and dry her skin. It was a living organism, complete with cells and fibres that consumed dead skin cells, oils and other bacteria that formed on her membrane. But if it were ever damaged, an unsightly colour would appear on the surface as if it were bruised – it would even sag before it repaired itself.
It’s been too long. You’ve done our family proud; our ancestors will celebrate once you’ve completed the trials. Her father spoke. He was also over a thousand years of age, but it was harder to tell from his thick pale grey skin, several white scars lined his square jaw and across his nose. He wore them as badges from his struggles to survive the harsh wilds of Farayah and skirmishes with neighbouring Arinu tribes. They weren’t ever in any danger, of course. Physical combat has been outdated for several thousand years, but her father’s line and said fellow tribes held to the old ways every century.
The Body Trial was due some days ago, but our neonate needed that time to heal. Zu’leen said.
She’s been in the pod for day, she’s been completely revitalised by now. Treneer is in prime condition to face the next trial. Her father said.
Vanar, her spirit needs time to re-adjust to her body again. Remir said.
Zu’leen’s teachings would’ve helped her snap back into it. Body and mind, that’s all there is: mind mastering body. He said when he glanced to Treneer.
I don’t know how long I’ll need. She could see her father’s eyes dropping their smile as she spoke. I want to revise some movements before the Body Trial.
The smile had returned to his face, but the confidence had been replaced with hopefulness as he looked to his only child. I have faith in you.
We need to give your body something to eat, it’s been too long since you last digested. Maybe that will help you resettle. Zu’leen said as she telekinetically willed Treneer’s coat over her shoulders.
She gripped on the cloud-like material; her chin rested against the collar. How long is your stay here?
For however long is needed or when you tell us to go. Remir said.
You can do it, Treneer, command your fate. Vanar said before the bodies of her parents phased out of physical existence.
That makes a lot more sense now. Zu’leen said as she glided out of the healer’s chamber.
What does? Treneer rushed beside her tutor.
We spend our entire lives trying to figure out who we are, we go to school, we speak with our peers and consult our teachers. But do you know who holds the biggest part of that knowledge? Zu’leen said passing into the open eatery. Sounds of plates and cutlery clinked, hovering chairs and tables tapped by the other tutors, students and visitors, though not a single voice was exchanged in the hall.
Our parents. Treneer said as she glided to the nearest table, her legs crossed over the cushioned chair.
Our ancestors. Zu’leen sat across from Treneer as her fingers scrolled through the screen inside the table, searching for a meal. How can we know what we are if we don’t know the people that brought us here? And where we can go not understanding our potential?
But you said that relating something to me and my parents. Treneer said as her eyes skimmed down the screen. Cuisines from across every Arinu tribe and clan flashed across, some dishes that came from other worlds. She scrunched her nose in slight disgust at some of the ingredients, she wasn’t used to eating since her astral body absorbed energies from surrounding space to sustain her form and realising where digested food ended up made her nauseous.
Pick something that makes you forget about that biological function. Like this: Zu’leen pressed the image of a thick creamy pink dish with an assortment of berries mixed into it. A holographic model of the dish appeared on the table’s surface and a strobe of light bore down into it, leaving a fully formed bowl with the food neatly resting inside.
It’s good for jumpstarting your stomach biota and we can share it. Zu’leen said as her mind picked up a violet berry and guided it to her mouth. Tastes sweet, very sweet. I think I need to help you by eating more of this. She said before taking another creamy scoop into her mouth.
Master, please tell me what made sense to you and I’ll promise to start eating. Treneer said as she placed her palms on the table and levitating a couple of pink drops from the bowl.
When you came here, you were only a couple of years into life. I could sense you had spectacular psionic potential and I was so eager to teach you how to hone it, but there was a great struggle inside your spirit. So eager to achieve and please. When you mastered something, you would hold it up to your peers, but fearful if I thought it was enough. I knew of your ancestor’s line, but it wasn’t until I met your parents was when I understood you. Zu’leen said as she watched Treneer took more scoops of the thick liquid.
What do you mean, master? Treneer said as her throat tried forcing the cool food down.
You come from a very long line of fighters who prided themselves on mental and physical prowess, more the latter. Modern-day Arinu are too obsessed with the powers of the mind and neglect their bodies. You were born with a smaller and weaker body but compensated with psionics. I could see that it might’ve seemed disheartening with warriors. Zu’leen said taking a larger scoop.
Treneer pursed her lips. She almost died before in the womb, her mother’s body started rejecting her and was removed a couple of months early. She remembered several days after her birth, when her father looked to her crib and frowned at her tiny form. The arguments between her parents echoed inside her head. Too fragile, too little, weak to the cold, not enough – not enough.
You were enough, everything you are is already enough. Zu’leen said as she slid her hand over Treneer’s.
Clearly not to some. She took another scoop that nearly emptied the bowl as she forced it down her throat. Treneer didn’t want to talk anymore, but another cruel thought had entered her mind. During the Mind Trial, those voices I heard that were insulting me, were they part of the test?
Zu’leen’s eyes widened as her mouth parted, her mind closed for a moment, but embarrassment crept up inside that Treneer could work her psychic probe in.
They came from my parents? Treneer said.
They were used as guide by the testers, but- Treneer could feel the rise of nervousness inside her tutor, but she pushed it aside.
Oh, I’m not offended. I was just curious. Treneer hopped down and stretched her back, her legs slightly trembled underneath her full weight. She hid mind from Zu’leen, trying to lock away the disappointment. I am ready for the Body Trial.
Zu’leen slid her arm back. The Body Trial isn’t a time to get emotional. Just give your body some time to get used to-
I can pass it. Treneer pressed. All she needed was to pass the silly test and then she can move up to a Sleeping Watcher. After that, she would never have to come back to her body, she would never have to come back home.
As your friend and other parent, I would advise- Zu’leen started.
Master- Treneer couldn’t hold back the frustration, she didn’t care if Zu’leen could feel it radiating to her.
I forbid it! Zu’leen jumped to her feet as her back shot up. As a tutor, I say when a neonate is ready. You are not for the Body Trial, yet.
“Zu’leen, please!” Treneer almost didn’t believe she spoke. All eyes in the hall locked to her and her tutor, but Zu’leen didn’t break her glare.
She shook her head and slumped back into the chair. This is a very bad idea, but if you need help realising that…
Don’t you trust me? Treneer said. She didn’t trust herself but hoped someone might.
I’ll meet you in the exercise hall, but you can’t levitate or port yourself there. Walk. Zu’leen said before phasing out of the eatery.
Treneer puffed up her chest, she felt as if she had been slapped. Her eyes shot back to others watching the scene, forcing them to look away. The sweet food still lulled on her tongue; its goodness was absent as she quickly scrambled for water. The strobe above the table flashed a clear bag of water, her hands trembled as she lifted the pouch and sucked the small straw fixed to the container.
She spun around and made her way out of the hall, every step made her wobble, she could feel the eyes of other patrons on her back as she slipped out into the crystalline corridor. Physical activity wouldn’t have been such a struggle if she was removed from the healing pod after only a day in containment, but the Mind Trial had almost annihilated most of her neurons. Her mind hadn’t expanded out that far before, perhaps potential of reading all minds in this solar system was finally realised, but what made her snap was that strange light beating off the edge of Farayah’s sun. It came to her in that instant that her memory of what happened after wasn’t recovered.
A new problem arose when Treneer could see the steps circling up the spire to the training halls. Counting several hundred before the staircase’s peak was too high to see. Her hand gripped around the hovering golden rail; she lifted her leg to touch the first tile. She cursed her muscles for trembling under the weight of her growing nerves.
More steps she climbed. Treneer could feel her stomach tighten, she cursed herself for eating that runny alien food. A few more steps. Treneer’s hands gripped tighter on the rails, by the end of today, she will be celebrating with her family for completing the final trial. More steps. Bubbles from her stomach rose to the back of her throat, she tried ignoring the lingering acid on her tongue. Her climb continued. Sweat oozed from the pores of her skin as she pushed herself up, she glanced to other Arinu flying up the spire to higher levels. A little more to go. Treneer stopped, her eyes met the steep ground, it looked like it was shrinking the longer she stared at it. No, she had to keep going!
The staircase had stopped at a granite latch to the spire’s roof. The black surface shone with holographic names of the participants of the trial ground. Her hand pressed against the surface before it phased out, her face was met with the cold air of the open sky above. Treneer shivered as she stepped onto the icy surface, clouds drifted around the roof as several Arinu hovered off the circle’s edge. Zu’leen was the first of the faces she recognised before her parents and a few other tutors.
Her magenta aura encased her body to shield herself from the harsh winds, but Zu’leen’s eyes narrowed. No psionics. She said.
Treneer knew that psionics were forbidden from the Body Trial, but instincts made her aura. She sighed as she pushed it down as a gust of wind carrying snow slapped against the side of her shivering body. I am ready for the Body Trial.
You have two options. Climb down the building. Zu’leen said as her arms extended from her robe.
Treneer sucked in her breath. She nervously glanced to the edge of the angular crystal structure, it had enough slopes, narrow balconies and platforms for her to skip and slide down, but the building was too high and she didn’t trust her agility without the aid of psionics. What happens if I slip?
Then you fall and probably perish. Zu’leen said.
You said there was another choice. Treneer said.
You fight. Her tutor said.
Treneer’s stomach gave a loud growl. Who?
Her heart almost stopped as her father drifted to the centre of the ring. She could feel the vibrations through the surface as he dropped to his feet. That’s a conflict of interest! She called.
Vanar is a recognised teacher and master of Arinu society. He is trusted to treat every neonate equal, regardless of kindred. Zu’leen said.
His thoughts were unreadable, but his eyes begged her not to accept. Treneer’s pained stomach growled again, more sweat pored on her already cold skin, but the dead-drop edge of the spire filled her with more dread than facing her father. I take the second option.
Treneer tossed the cloak from her body and braced herself. Vanar closed the space between them so fast that she only had enough time to deflect his punches. His arms flung to the side as one of his feet struck Treneer in the jaw. Her brain rattled inside her skull, she spun around and drove her elbow into his Third Eye. He gave a pained grunt before sliding his foot underneath hers, knocking Treneer to her back. Her eyes shot open watching his foot coming to her face, she slipped away before feeling the powerful stomp breaking the ice above her. Fortunate for Arinu, their light and flexible forms allowed them to move with extreme efficiency; unfortunate for Treneer, she had lingered on the floor for too long.
Another ferocious stomp came nearly missing her hand. She needed to get to her feet again, but his relentless strikes made it nigh impossible. She rolled to the side and forced every bit of her energy into the side of his torso. He halted for a moment, long enough for to skip to her feet. Adrenaline surged through her body, amazing herself that there was yet another hidden talent in her arsenal. Treneer dove into Vanar, catching his body and nearly lifting it from the ground and charging him back into the floor. He caught her arms before falling, but she had kicked up her legs and darted over him. Her stomach gave another painful groan, her arms shook for a moment before Vanar struck her elbow in.
Treneer screeched as her came crashing into the ice. Back on the floor, she was vulnerable and weakened. Just as she tried to rise, Vanar had beaten her to it before he picked her up by her under suit and lifted her above his head. She couldn’t tell whether her mind was spinning or her eyes as she flew across the ring and landed with an agonising crunch. She couldn’t hold it in anymore, the pain was too great, she almost didn’t see her father charging in. She scrambled to the edge, catching the rest of Yinray city, before Vanar gripped her by the ankles and yanked her back. Treneer’s palms gripped the sides and tried pulling her head over the edge, but her father’s arm gripped her around the shoulders and neck. She croaked as acid bubbled from her gut and released all over her and Vanar.
He dropped her to her feet and stepped back from the clear pink pool on the ground. She looked to him and to Zu’leen who came gliding in. It’s over.
I’m sorry. Treneer said as tears blurred her eyes. Vanar took another step away, his focus was on everything but his daughter.