Crescent Cliff sect was carved into a mountain side over dozens of generations. Near the bottom a multitude of openings went deep into endless earth. Higher up the entryways became scarcer. The curve of the cliff side formed a half moon shape around the flat basin. This gave the school its name.
Miles in the distance a cityscape started. In times of danger the townspeople would withdraw to Crescent Cliff for protection. This was why they supplied food and herbs every month. Most sects relied upon common villages to help support their lower ranked students.
From atop the cliff Masters of the school would stare downward. They watched crowds of students train daily. There were ranks to the housing and students but today everyone would be treated equally.
Today, all students lined up and sat in the basin below. Legs were folded while hands cupped together in their laps. Behind the sea of blue and brown loose fitting clothes were former attendees. Many had graduated or moved out of the sect but chose to keep ties. Most lived in the city nearby to assist the school with matters aside from Piercing the Veil, or training upon The Way.
At the crowds head stood a man old beyond counting. This impression wasn’t from his physical body. His muscles were tightly bunched and skin barely sagged. A slight curve to his back was the only visible clue to his age. Even crickets didn’t dare to chirp in his presence.
“Today we will remember the man who wished to found our school.” The elderly man took a deep breath then let it out. His pace was neither fast nor slow. “However, to do so we must also acknowledge the Twin Goddesses who nearly brought this world to ruin, Leona and Dalila.”
Older students who had successfully breached the first finger of reality could peek behind the visible shell. By pulling back the curtains with all their strength they would receive a sense of age and power which shook them to their core.
“Of course you have heard the tavern version of this story, but with the Festival of Dawn tomorrow it is perhaps best to brush off the tale and ensure our newer arrivals understand its importance.” The Grandmaster walked while nodding slowly. His eyes scanned the crowd for signs of lax discipline. “A man who founded this very sect, and a man whose death broke the world.”
Students were advised not to peer too closely behind the curtains at other’s development. Trying to see someone too deep or strong would frequently cause fear, which in turn became block that prevented future growth. This is why all were taught by a person only one or two levels above them. The Grandmaster rarely took on direct disciples. He could walk both hands of the veil and stood at the final bottleneck before godhood.
“In my childhood-” the Grandmaster paused in his pacing and gave a thin smile “-the world had been divided between two great powers.” He spread hands out towards the north and south. His right hand lifted. “In one direction lay Agoron. They held fast to the worship of Leona and praised the sun’s seven spokes. Some still do.”
The newer students didn’t move. A few tenured residents nodded. Other Masters of the school roamed through the crowd slowly. Their white robes stood out among the sea of people. No one dared fidget despite an overbearing sun.
“To in the south was La’ore, they held fast to the path of guiding stars and believed that when Dalila ascended she gave birth to the twelfth, and brightest star, which still stands for wisdom.” His voice had a hypnotic quality to it.
Student tried to empty their minds and let the words flow through them. Most had been sitting outside waiting for the Grandmaster to start speaking hours before the man stepped down from his clifftop home. It wasn’t every day that he chose to address the lower ranks. Many newer learners upon The Way hadn’t even known what he looked like until today.
“To know these two goddesses warred for hundreds of years is to understand what forces shaped our history. To know that both countries lie broken is to understand that there was an end to the struggle.” From the top to the bottom, all members of the sect valued knowing. Understanding and experience helped them learn to pierce the layers of reality and solidify their foundations. “Today I will make sure everyone here knows the war of two goddesses met its end because of High General Lee’s sacrifice. What you understand from that is up to you.”
Privately the Grandmaster believed the cessation of war and destruction of their empires had been the purpose of High General Lee’s refusal to ascend. The Grandmaster would have been right, but only partially.
“Many of you look at me, and see an old man with deeply rooted power. Compared to many of the experts running around, you would be right.” The Grandmaster spoke firmly as if the fact didn’t matter. To him such power meant little. “However even now I fall steps short of the High General’s shadow. Even on his deathbed he understood more of the truth than I ever will.”
Two of the Masters in white robes shuffled uneasily. Their location sat behind the Grandmaster and faced towards hundreds of students. Their eyes looked around but avoided the Grandmaster. Regardless of intent the old man understood they disagreed with his words. The simple fact was that for all his current power, the Grandmaster had reached a bottleneck and would probably never break through to ascension.
“I will die soon, never truly knowing the depths of his expertise. I will die never delving deep enough to ascend.” The old man said. “Many people, Masters in their own right, have heard me tell this story and come away with the same question. If High General Lee was so powerful, why did he not take that final step into godhood? Some go so far as to doubt me.”
The students were well trained in most cases. Roving Masters sent some of those weaker trainees away to stretch or move around. Students sent away due to passing out, or inability to sit still were noted on a small piece of jade. Their unique essences were imprinted upon its core as failures. This was not a good mark to have upon their records within the sect.
“To them I say the High General saw something then, that even now I only grasp the edges of.” Their Grant Master kept up his slow pacing. His body moved back and forth along the slightly raised dais in an almost hypnotic pattern. “Perhaps he saw another horizon beyond the first. Or a danger that might exist on the other side of ascension. Regardless, he chose to stay mortal to train myself and two others, and I founded the Crescent Sect in their honor.”
The man stopped abruptly and a few older students jumped. They had been lacking focus in their stances. Like the younger crowd, those without the ability to sit still were sent away to do physical labor. Needs of the sect didn’t stop because their Grandmaster decided to tell a story.
“Keep in mind that he chose to protect the people from war rather than grasp at more power.” The Grandmaster took another deliberate breath. His eyes managed to make many people feel they were being gazed through. “This knowing is about the last moments of High General Lee, and the island of Lonely Harbor. Moments I myself witnessed almost seven hundred years ago, when I was barely a boy. You will see it as I did.”
The Grandmaster lifted his eyes to the crowd. Arms reached out at angles that seemed impossible. Circles lit up on the rocks and all around the cliff face that had formerly looked like simple housing. Students who were looking down found their heads turning without warning towards the sect’s leader. People who were already staring had their senses snatched away.
In a moments time minds were pushed down into the unconscious and a dream crawled over every person’s senses. This memory made real caused each sect member to feel young again, even though some were still barely children. There was a sense of distance and age to the view as well. This moment they were rapidly becoming trapped in came from well before even the Elite Master’s had been born.
Around them the Crescent Cliff sect had faded away. In its place sat a large island peeked by a grand mansion. Their eyes were presented a night sky with distant stars shining through an open air room.
“They look up and only see stars,” a strong voice said as if the statement were obvious.
Those enthralled by the vision felt disorientation. Most of them were shorter now, more in line with the child whose perceptions they shared. Female followers of The Way felt conflicted by being thrust into another body.
“I don’t understand Master,” the sect whispered in unison.
The young body they perceived themselves stared at another man nearby. This was the dying High General Lee. He sat propped up in a bed and stared out towards the west. His eyes ignored the night sky and lantern lit village upon his island’s shore. Instead he seemed content to stare at twinkling stars overhead.
“The stars.” He tried to lift an arm but failed.
Knowledge slowly slid across crowd members. The High General was sick, damaged with a poison caused by a powerful enemy. This foe lay defeated, broken into pieces and scattered along the wind, but combat left a mark which would surely end in death. High General Lee ignored what was likely excruciating pain and kept speaking.
“People theorize about where the power to pierce the veil comes from. Some believe it to be from the heavens. Some expect a divine realm, others assume gods, some scream defiance towards those powers, and still more only see the stars.” The High General had long ago given up the practice of smiling. He rarely did anything without purpose.
“If you say so, then it must be true, Master,” said the young Grandmaster. In the memory all Crescent Cliff sect members shared he was but a boy. His voice was still high pitched but the words were nearly whispered.
“What if I told you our powers come not from the stars, but something else?” the High General asked. He still hadn’t looked over.
“Then I would believe you,” the young man said. His words were whispered by a crowd of Crescent Cliff sect members that had been trapped within the vision. Even Elite Masters of the school were having a hard time shaking off the illusion which pulled at the senses.
No words were spoken for at least half a candle. The dying man stared outward as if waiting for a sign. Eventually fate showed two lights flashing. One came from the north and the other from the south. Their reaction caused High General Lee to nod slowly.
Grandmaster had heard High General Lee screaming nights before as the poison ate away. Smells most foul flashed across the crowds mind but were quickly blocked out again. To see the older male nod freely now brought a moment of hope to the young Grand Master’s mind. Perhaps the High General would recover from a curse which ate at his body from the inside.
“Ah,” said the older man. “It will be time soon. Do you remember the formation I showed you and your brothers?”
“Of course Master,” three voices echoed in unison.
Students felt a moment of confusion at there being three people in the room. So far only the Grandmaster’s younger self and High General Lee had spoken. In the illusion they felt eyes shift to the side, two nearly identical boys sat kneeling. All three of them wore the same simple clothes. Cut cloth was wrapped at the waist by a tightly cinched belt.
“Then go. Activate the protection, stand in it and don’t move, no matter what happens you must stay still. Those who come to visit are fickle beings.” The High General didn’t move. He watched as the bright beings changed and grew closer.
A much younger Grandmaster looked towards the lights. There were human forms inside of them sailing through dark night. One blazed a bright yellow, like the sun on a windswept day. The other colored dark blue which somehow illuminated the surrounding darkness.
“Go, you three brothers must remain alive. The seeds inside you are still young, and have barely taken root. Even if they allow you to stand here it will likely drown your minds.”
“You must go brother,” one of the others whispered.
“We will protect our brother for you Master,” the third boy said. Both hooked arms under the youngest then started pulled him backwards.
The formation grounds were only forty feet away, along a stretch of land that seemed both right next to the High General and a reality away. Once it had been enacted they would be locked in an unkind status. Untouchable by the world, but in turn unable to interact with that around them until it wore off.
As young boy he did not want to leave. He knew tonight would be the last time they ever spoke, and so too did the Crescent Cliff sect. Heartbeats among the sect students thumped in unison. A multitude of mouths opened to form the same cry.
“Master!” The Grandmaster yelled for his own teacher and in that moment the illusion let loose a flood of emotions. His supreme formation faltered around the edges showing students a mismatched view of their Crescent Cliff school and memories long past. The elderly man huffed then rapidly wove strands of energy together once more.
Those few students aware enough to see reality blinked in confusion. Circles were spun then laid over the crowd as their minds returned fully to the past. Some fought to shake lose and regain a sense of self. Senior students hummed to increase their focus upon the moment. Those who never escaped the Grandmaster’s memory continued to scream out loud with the child version.
“Brother. You must remain safe.” Both of the people worked together to drag him, then pushed him into the formation circle. Out of habit the High General’s smallest student uttered those chants he had practiced. Familiarity gave way to calmness as senses spiraled outward.
Students among the Crescent Cliff sect gasped. There was knowledge to be had in these memories, but not everyone had remained self-aware enough to observe the movements. Hands clasped together, words were said then the young version of Grandmaster started pressing fingers into solid air. With each stab his left hand chilled until a trail of frost followed behind. The right arm heated up, stabbing a counter point of markings and eventually fingertips glowed like a half forged sword in fire.
Holes in reality appeared about the boy rapidly as his contradictions grew. Lines formed between them linking the weaving together. Interlacing each crack a thin opaque substance spread, forming a shield of sorts. It snapped into place and the Grandmaster’s body went still.
His two brothers in training were performing their own movements. Their gestures were different from what the young Grandmaster had done. Both stood between the Grandmaster and High General Lee. Their fingers too were alight with opposing elements. A second and third layer of shielding appeared around the youngest boy.
Knowing once again flooded the minds of all Crescent Cliff sect members. In that knowledge was the awareness that his brothers in training chose to sacrifice their own lives to provide extra layers of protection around their youngest sibling.
In the distant horizon those two glowing figures could be seen growing closer. Both were female and ethereal. The very sight of these bodies shocked all onlookers. Even across the centuries their existences were enthralling. Crescent Cliff sect members were protected by the full brunt. Their faces burned to look at and caused students minds to shake. Even in the memory and locked within a status their presences inspired awe and fear.
They wore robes that revealed opposing shoulders, as if their bodies were mirrors to each other. They landed at the same time from the sky and walked in slowly. Both were barefoot. Each wore a bracelet which trailed fine chains downward then tied into a ring. One’s jewelry was orange, and the other’s purple. Elder members of the sect tried to study the items but found resistance. The faint memory with senses muddled from a protection barrier proved difficult to overcome.
The one made of sunlight stared at three children and waved a hand. A tinkle of bells could be heard and the High General’s room shuddered as brightness flared. Fire swept over the room which cracked the outer most layer of shielding. Memories of stilled sorrow welled over the crowd as two siblings were charred without consideration or remorse.
Shielding still held through the fire’s wake. The woman of yellow energy sniffed while wrinkling her nose. Her openly displayed shoulder slowly turned away, as if the sight of such fair skin didn’t belong to a worthless child. Those sect members who had managed to retain their sense of self felt aggravated at the slight to their Grandmaster.
“You’ve come,” High General Lee’s strong voice pierced the shield. Their distance of forty feet meant nothing
“Of course we did,” the blonde woman said. Her hair waved around, blown by a breeze that didn’t touch the Grandmaster.
“You’re dying. If we could not set aside our differences tonight of all nights, we would be undeserving of you.”
“Speak for yourself.” Knowing surfaced in the student’s minds. The blonde’s name was Leona, and she led all the people who lay to the north, across the waters.
“We give thanks for waiting for us,” they echoed together. The one in blue and purple hues smiled softly. The blonde female wore a look of anger.
“Yet again we must beg you. Cross over to us. Be more than this shell,” Delila spoke first.
“For thousands of years I have walked this world. From one life to the next. Both free of the wheel and part of it.” The High General tried to sigh but his chest barely moved. “My purpose here is not yet done. I have not yet redeemed my sins.”
“We were going to ascend together, but you changed.” Leona stomped a foot and the entire island rumbled. “For no reason at all you changed.”
“There was a reason,” the dying man insisted. “I only had to remember it, and ask the question.”
The Grandmaster’s psyche tried to split into portions. Low level techniques for self-defense against more knowledgeable practitioners were going through the young man’s mind. He focused on viewing himself as a turtle with its head pulled in. Atop that layer was an imaginary sheet of reeds to act as a drain upon the energies rippling from both Goddesses. He couldn’t shut his eyes quickly enough due to the distorted space which protected and entrapped him.
Neither divine woman paid him any attention as they spoke. They stood in all their radiant glory and that would be enough to drive any person not upon The Way into blithering insanity.
“For what reason could you have turned away from me?” Leona’s body was drawn rigid. The air about her was tense enough to be apparent in a memory. Faint images coiled in the air nearby. “Was it the same which drove you from her side afterwards?”
“No, and yes.”
“Explain then!” She stomped and the island shuddered again. A rumble deep in the earth grew and Delila waved one hand as if stroking an invisible beast. The turmoil quieted.
“How I explain the order of this world? The moment you ascended, what you were became immutable, unchanging, crystallized and no longer belonging here.”
“You could have joined us.” Delila tilted her head towards the man’s bed.
“I could not then, and cannot now. You don’t understand the task I must complete.” High General Lee sighed and twitched just once to suppress a tremor. His words sounded defeated. “I cannot explain myself, but you don’t belong here anymore, and I cannot leave until my debt is paid.”
“We are still us, and we still love you.” They said in unison again.
“But I cannot be with you until my tasks are finished and the world releases me,” He responded to them. “And it is loath to do so.” The man’s eyes stared across his bedroom’s length towards where the Grandmaster knelt, trapped.
The High General smiled sadly. In the memory each sect member felt a sense of shock from young Grandmaster. Surprise was rapidly replaced by heart freezing grief as the High General’s body lost all strength and fell.
In memory the young Grandmaster dared peek behind the first veil to see to the core of reality. Sharpened vision peeled away layers and looked beyond what normally seen. The spark to High General Lee’s life started to unravel.
In this entire span of time the Grandmaster’s heart had beat once. The nature of his imprisonment slowed everything. Dawn poked over the horizon while a slowed child watched his mentor die.
“If he wishes to be released back to the cycle, we must let him.” Delila’s head leaned over as if entreating the shorter blonde.
“I will not wait another thousand years to reach this point! I did not conquer half the world to return with nothing!”
“You were not the only one.” Delila would not relent. Her voice sparked sadness even in the dim thoughts of a young Grandmaster. “I too scoured the planes for his soul.”
“We must not let him escape again,” the woman of fire said.
“We must honor his wishes.”
“Foolish girl! If he is not worth breaking the rules for, then you do not deserve him! My leniency for your kindnesses has limits.” The blonde woman shot out a hand towards the black haired female. Light flared.
“My tolerance for your forceful demands also approaches a threshold. Do not think the weight of years marks a difference between us.” The taller female caught Leona’s hand then pushed back. Dull purple, or perhaps faint blue flared behind as Delila shook her head in denial.
In the memory everything shuddered. The blonde’s foot stepped down once more and the room started to simmer from heat. The Grandmaster knelt trapped inside the shielding. All three layers barely muted a rise of intense heat.
“You would fight me on this!?” Leona questioned.
“To honor him-” The black haired woman’s head tilted to look down on Leona. “-where you will not, I would fight you across every plane of creation.”
Those words started a conflict which made reality shudder. Neither Goddess moved but air all around rippled then warped. Lights flared even more powerfully than they had while flying. Walls of the High General’s home billowed backwards as if they were flag cloth, not wood and mortar.
The world howled with their unleashed energies. Ringing filled each student’s ears that dared to still witness the memory. Four sect members collapsed, no longer able to relive the past with their Grandmaster. In time they would curse and bless their inadequacies.
Sky split. Stars and darkness tore apart and a gateway to insanity rippled above. Madness hung directly over every living being within a thousand miles, as surely as it hung over the entirety of Lonely Harbor’s island.
It distorted reality so fiercely that even those who huddled under shelters could see a rend forming. This night would become a legend known as The Long Night. Many would die in a brief span of time, at their own hands, or the hands of others.
People screamed. Their noises were a dull undertone to the roar of energy being unleashed. Shadows stalked along behind Delila betraying a true form that was more than human and less than sane. Two students of Crescent Cliff sect screamed out loud as the vision made their eyes bleed. An Elite Master who managed to stay rooted in the present rushed over. His body glowed with a milky white energy which helped him pull unprepared students out of the memory and send them away.
After the first three students were released he stopped and swallowed four small rounded pills. His body rippled unevenly then settled. The Elite Master resumed movement about the crowd. Other Elite Masters moved to do the same. Their white clothes stood out among a sea of brown and blue students. Many sweated while the memory of war between two women of great power marched on.
In the vision both Goddesses stood still while air about them warped even more. Above, the tear grew in size and scope. So much so that even those sitting years in the future looked up and felt something might be wrong with the sky. Rocks ignored gravities laws then floated upwards. Huge waves formed with no need for a tide then crashed upon the island’s shore.
In between the two lay the body of a single man. The High General’s form started to give way. A young Grandmaster, barely stable upon The Way’s first platform, watched as skin and bone were ground into pockets of another reality that didn’t exist. His eyes were forced to watch each moment of the man who had rescued him perishing in a method most inhumane.
As the flesh broke apart all that remained was a bit of grey that looked vaguely human. Both Goddesses were huffing in their ill-advised test of strength. Both were unaware of the body they had once fought over eroding away.
The naked spirit started to grind upon the mill of power made manifest. Another noise echoed through while the island edges crumbled under their pressure. Sound climbed in pitch as a third light flared upwards between both Goddesses. It grew solid like an immutable wall with immeasurable density. Back went the gentle light of blue, put aside as if a doting parent herded squabbling children towards another room. It stabbed and overpowered spiked yellow lights from Leona. Curling auras caused shielding around the Grandmaster’s self to shudder.
Both Goddesses gasped in unison and looked down. Their eyes lost focus, or perhaps they looked elsewhere. Students of the Crescent Cliff sect couldn’t say for sure unless they managed to pierce the final veil and ascend as these two great powers had. Many students were shuddering at the thought of their great teacher having stood in the presence of two Goddesses.
“What have we done?” Leona’s eyes were wide.
“Are we really so far gone?” the other Goddess asked while looking into the broken island below. Land, which had once been whole, sat swallowed by a roused and wild ocean. Very few portions of nearby earth remained unscathed. “Are we so detached that we truly don’t care about their lives?”
“He’s broken. I can see the twisting of his soul. How did this happen?” The shorter woman of sunlight seemed to shrink even more. Her shoulders drew together and breathes came quick. Knowing flooded the students once more, Leona cared not about the people that had died that night.
“We must fix this.” Delila’s head started to sway from disbelief. “We will, we have to or there has been no point to our ascensions.”
“It seems you win this time,” Leona said while staring in the Grandmaster’s direction.
“This was never how I wanted it to happen.” Delila sank to her knees then started trying to gather broken pieces together. “With his knowledge he should never have succumb to such pressure. I think he expected us to fight again, and chose this way out.”
“No. He fought with Grigori. I see the scars of his poison marking what remains. That robbed his life, not inaction.” Leona starred briefly then frowned.
“He must have been very tired indeed. To overcome a God with his ways takes much. We should have been here,” said the dark haired figure. Her body blurred for a moment before reformed into something more mundane and less filled with energies from beyond.
“I do care how tired he is! I do not care how long he his road has left! I vowed never to leave his side and yet again he will escape!” Leona’s voice rose and each sound accompanied a crack of thunder above.
Delila cleared her throat and the blonde woman set her half raised leg down without stomping. She looked over at the kneeling woman then wrinkled her nose. An inconsequential eternity later allow both Goddesses to become composed once more.
“That technique, it’s his. I can see his markings all over the framework,” Leona said instead. She pointed a hand indifferently towards the barrier around Grandmaster’s young form. “We should break it and remove the only witness.”
Delila stayed kneeling next to the space where High General Lee had once been. Her arms reached out into the air to grab out items that only existed if one knew where to look. Bits of body and spirit were slowly brought together like clay. With each piece her body flickered and light blue light flooded the room.
“We’ve caused enough harm, I think,” Delila said while working. “In that our Lee was right. How many did we send to the millstone of war to flush out his soul? How many did we break ourselves in the testing? And still we found him too late.”
Leona looked back towards the body and put both hands into the air. Sunlight brightened the entire region above. The chasm in the sky started to shrink. While working the blonde said, “Another mortal’s death means nothing to me.”
“No, another death because of us should mean everything. In our test of wills thousands were snuffed out. What do you think Lee might do when he learns of this on his next cycle? Could he forgive us once more?” The pale woman’s vision was unfocused.
“He never looked at humans as a human. Not in any of his lives. You know what he did to learn his skills. In your time with him, in mine, in every life his path upon The Way remained the same.” Her hands rose towards the sky and grasped at the edges of an unseen object. Muscles on her athletic arms bulged from effort before they overcame whatever force dared set against her. Higher above the rift slammed shut. Reality stopped its whimpered cries.
Delila walked closer to the Grandmaster. Her face became clearer. Both her eyes were a dark blue and they stared at the Grandmaster who had been nearly in a bubble of broken reality. Barriers did nothing to mute the gaze. Endless specks sat in each orb like a sea of stars. Leona too walked over. Her coronas held a sun’s edge during eclipse, vast in size and energy. The blondes tanned skin proved a striking contrast next to Delila’s pale body.
Both Goddesses looked each other before nodding. Hands reached through the barrier, one burning like hot irons, the other cold enough to line an unbroken wall with froze. Bare shoulders touched each other for a moment and the air hissed. Their fingertips reached lithely through the remaining layer of protection to touch the Grandmaster’s young body.
“Slumber young one,” Delila said.
“Rest, and await the return of your Master. If you see him before we do then let him know we will wait.”
“Tell him we are sorry. And for yourself, a gift of knowing. Know that your brothers have returned to the cycle and I will ensure their next lives are kinder,” the pale Delila said.
“Know that we shall cease commanding our kingdoms towards endless war.” Leona’s eyes closed briefly and the twin suns were cut off from Grandmaster’s sight. She opened them again and the stars had changed from bright red to a softer orange color. “Know that even the Gods are fallible in love and jealousy, for emotion drives all beings towards poor judgment.”
Their fingers both burned and cooled the Grandmaster’s head. In the middle his mind went numb and the vision faded. Past stopped replaying in the minds of Crescent Cliff students.
Many people shivered as the final words were spoken. Many newer students had lowered their heads to the ground in reverence. If one were to ask why, the students would be unlikely to fully explain. Only that something inside of them felt respect was due to a man dead more than seven hundred years ago.
Lights which had held steady all around the rocky faces faded as the enchantment fell to pieces. Students who were previously breathing and speaking in unison found their own paces slowly.
“For five years, powers from all over the world arrived to demand answers.” The Grandmaster once again paced slowly across his platform. “Both kingdoms of Agoran and La’ore started to fall apart, dismantled, likely by those who followed either Goddess. I told this event to all who listened. Some even believed the words of a young boy. Eventually the morning after that hellish night became celebrated yearly as the Festival of Dawn. It stood,” he paused briefly and looked towards the sky “it stands for an end to war, a terrible night, and an honorable man.”
The Grandmaster leaned back then looked upwards. Afternoon’s sun still obscured the stars but he clearly gazed out into space. Perhaps the old man still searched for meaning to his own Master’s words. After a handful of nearly unsteady breaths he looked back to the much smaller crowd of sect members. Too many proved unable to withstand a shadow of Leona and Dalila.
“Because of two Goddesses and their struggle over his soul, the High General neither ascended beyond the veil nor return directly to The Wheels cycle.” The tired old man took a breath that still managed to be neither fast nor slow. “It is believed by many that what remains of his spirit will find form one year, on the morning of the Festival of Dawn.”
He looked deeply winded, as if the telling of such a story had drained him. Many Masters knew of exhaustion which followed in the wake of hypnotic techniques. Abilities of the mind were harder and more draining to execute than those of the body. Power had to be spent to hold a crowd spellbound in an illusion, more than any normal person would dare dream of. Even the sect’s Masters could only control the senses of a few dozen. To do hundreds sat in the realm of experts of legend.
The Grandmaster paused and stood still. His chest raised in steady even breaths. Senior Masters behind him were tracking the crowd less. Their eyes went wider with each movement their leader made.
“The foolish believe he will reunite the great countries. The fearful believe his return shall draw back the two Goddesses, Leona and Delila, and they will once again war to find his new shell.”
His words slowed down. Some students dared to wiggle. More and more were being sent away to run laps around the sect’s territory. The Master’s believed physical exertion assisted in breaking through the veil’s first hand. Or that draining the body of all its energy could their shells accept new energies and traverse The Way. Both were partially true.
“The wise know enough to simply wait and see, for a shredded essence will never return to its original shape.” A lingering sense of sadness swept over the crowd. What few who dared look up once again touched their foreheads to the ground in reverence.
Far in the distance those who were too weak to withstand the enchantment tried to recover. Sweating Masters of all ranks formed a line between the lesser sect members and those still listening to the Grandmaster’s words. Still he spoke, and even crickets dared not voice a complaint.
“Perhaps sharing this story is due to an old man’s last wishes. My power and knowledge are deep enough to see an ending this shell’s journey, and if I cannot ascend, then I must return to the wheel. One of you may, and must in my stead, be able to deliver the message to High General Lee.” The Grandmaster took another breath and still managed to stay composed. “They still wait for him. And if you seek to deliver this message, look for turbulent times. For as his last student I know one truth for certain. When the High General Lee’s spirit does return, the world will see great change.”