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[12] The three travellers spent many passages of Se-Lim seeking the mountains. As Dun-fi and Lu Mīn had done long ago, they kept off of the main paths, finding what they could eat and where they could sleep only in the wild places.

This manner of travelling was a slow one, and many absences of Se-Lim the three went to their rest without sustenance. 

At first they spoke little. Dun fi led the way, followed by Ginse. Lim-ki came last, often beyond hearing or sight. 

They passed through the Soft Earth, their coverings and limbs growing heavy with the dark muck that clings to everything. 

Ginse’s scowl grew with his hunger and his pain. Though never uttering a complaint, his eyes spoke for him.

—We must find a way to part with this one.—Lim ki said to Dun fi one absence when Ginse was sleeping.—He does not mean the Gonakhanse well.—

—Our Way is a hard one.—replied Dun fi, as he twisted a branch and looked into the darkness filled with wild noises.—He only knows the soft ways of Ku-Na-Zem. I measure that he will choose within himself to turn back.—

However Ginse continued without protest, and on the third octave of wandering in the wilderness, the three arrived at the edge of a powerful waterflow.  It reflected a deep shade of red as it boiled and rolled, crashing into a pile of stones in the middle, a large red Cloth-sign dancing in the breeze upon its top.

—I have heard of this Waterflow.—Lim ki said when she caught up to the two Na-shime.—beyond here pass only traders looking for the Nei-di .—

—Do you think it possible the Loosu went so far?—Ginse’s muck-filled scowl cracked as he lifted an eyebrow.—Even among the Nei-di?—

Dun fi’s movements were swift, surprising Lim ki, who drew out her wakat. Ginse screamed as he hung by a lower limb over the powerful flow.

—Call the Gonakhan Lu Mīn a Loosu again, and you shall drink this entire flow.—

Ginse cursed and writhed as Dun fi lowered his face into the flow. His head went into the flow with gurgling and spluttering, but Dun fi’s grip grew hard and unforgiving. 

Just as Ginse had stopped fighting, growing calm like the waachi do after a time out of the water, Dun fi raised him out and tossed him to the side, like a rotten piece of wood. 

—This Waterflow must begin in the mountains.—Dun fi washed his face in the flow, and began walking again.

X

Dun fi and Lim-ki travelled along the Waterflow. Ginse following distantly, for his anger was great. 

They passed up through a firmer land, where openings in the trees were the Nei-di settlements, some containing dwellings full of Shinse traders. 

The muddy travellers were greeted with great suspicion, especially by their fellow Na-Shime and Na-Shizu. However, being poor, dirty, and more or less without objects of value, they were left alone. It helped that Dun fi and Lim-ki were uninterested in the settlements, or the comforts that they could afford. 

Not so, Ginse. Every settlement they passed, Ginse sought out the local person knowledgeable of Ku-Na-Zem. But few would speak with him, let alone show him kindness or generosity. 

The lands of the Nei-di in that time were not so full as they are now. There existed plenty of wild land for anyone to inhabit. Even as the three entered the steeper valleys more heavily cultivated and fortified by the Nei-di, they could find a place for rest and some wild sustenance. 

But this ceased to be the case the closer they came to the Nei-di capital, Jo-Tīme.  

One absence of Se-Lim, a Nei-di cultivator came upon the three travellers curled up with his sleeping Fan-di, peaceful under the twinkling lights of the Authorities. This cultivator, seeing that they were three, and armed, proceeded to the local fortification to alert the Nei-di leader. 

This leader was of the Gia Kon-di-lon  and before Se-Lim had begun His passage, he came with his fellow Gia and other Nei-di to surround the sleeping travellers. 

Dun fi was the first to wake and espy the situation. He kept very still and watched to see what the armed Nei-di would do. 

Nei-di patience is not long, so the Gia leader came forward to shake the travellers awake. 

When he spoke, he spoke the language of Ku-Na-Zem.

—There is a place for Na-Shime and Na-Shizu who come here to take their rest in their accustomed manner. All are welcome there. Why is it you choose to sleep here instead, like wild animals?—

Dun fi took up the responsibility of speaking.

—We did not look to rest in the accustomed manner, for we offer nothing of value to trade or sell. Having nothing to offer, we seek to take nothing, except the right to pass by in peace. Does this carry its own cost?—

The Kon-di-lon considered a moment. 

—No one from the Coast comes this way without a purpose. Share with me this purpose and I will consider the rightful payment.—

Lim ki had awoken. She rose up in her muddy rags, making the customary greeting to Se-Lim. Then she looked at Dun fi before speaking. 

—We seek someone. A person of great importance in Ku-Na-Zem. He is said to have come this way and beyond, to the mountains.—

—Surely, if you came from Ku-Na-Zem, there is some proof of this intention? I cannot endanger the people in this area without some thing, for I see that you are armed.—The Gia held out his hand.

It was Ginse’s turn to rise and consider the Gia. He did so, producing from within his torn and ragged cloak a small golden scroll. 

—It is an order from the Gokhan of the Wakat School, to bind up a failed student and bring him back to Ku-Na-Zem for judgement.—Ginse untied the shining scroll and handed it to the Gia for consideration.

The Gia did consider this scroll and took it into the fold of his cloak before raising his look once again upon the three travellers.

—No friends of the Wakat Gokhan shall pass through my lands as beggars. Come immediately! Be fed, washed, and clothed.—

X

After partaking of Nei-di comforts, the three travellers were given a chance to rest, in separate rooms. When Se-Lim departed, the Kon-di-lon summoned his entire Gia to an impromptu festival. Food was prepared, a fire lit, and entertainment from the surrounding dwellings called forth. 

The entire valley was alive with light in the darkness of Se-Lim’s absence. Such was the generosity of the Gia Kon-di-lon, anyone who presented themselves in good state and attire could join, eating the fat Fan-di and drinking the sweet Lai-se, singing and dancing in the manner of the Nei-di. 

As visitors of honour, Dun fi, Lim-ki and Ginse were all required to greet and be greeted, staying close by the Kon-di-lon. This they did, though Dun fi had to work hard to appear to enjoy the proceedings. Ginse’s joy more than made up for this—especially when the chance came to speak with the travelling Na-Shime traders that attended. 

Once the festival had grown to its loudest pitch, the Kon-di-lon approached Dun fi and Lim ki, speaking fluently in their own tongue. 

—You have yet to describe to me this person you seek. If he went to the mountains, it is certain that he passed through here. Perhaps I can provide some information to you.—

Dun fi returned the Kon-di-lon’s look with a dark one of his own. 

—The one we seek is capable of passing anywhere without being seen or known. It is possible he came here and was marked by none.—

—I see, he is one with knowledge of the Signs.—the Kon-di-lon looked from Dun fi to Lim-ki.—That explains many things.—

—What things?—Lim ki asked.  

The Kon-di-lon spoke quietly, pointing at them, one by one.—It explains why you travel far from the main paths, for one. Seekers of the Signs must look in quiet places.—

—I did not mention Signs.—Dun fi’s voice was low. 

—Come, come. Did you think the Signs were only known in the Coastal lands? That we Nei-di have no knowledge of them? You would be mistaken in this thought. But it is true that our knowledge is different…—The Kon-di-lon paused a moment to drink his Lai-se.—It also explains why your companion sought a private audience with me.—

—Is that so?—Lim ki’s eyes became like blades, her teeth bared with anger.

—It is. He sought to have a message sent to the Gokhanse of Ku-Na-Zem, telling of your destination. He also sought my help, saying you were not truly loyal to the Gokhanse of the Schools.—

Dun fi’s arms were tense when he spoke next.

—Why is it you speak to us of these things?—

—Because it is clear your friend does not have knowledge of the Signs. He underestimates them.—The Kon-di-lon’s opened his hands, palms upward.—I, however, do not.—

—Will you let us go, then?—Lim ki asked, stepping forward. 

—I should not encourage you to leave.—The Kon-di-lon swept a hand at the festival taking place.—All of this depends on a good relationship between us Nei-di and your kind on the coasts, including the Gokhanse of the Schools. Festivals like this are important for ensuring familiarity, if not love and friendship. There are forces among us who wish for it to be otherwise… So you must stay and see the festival’s end. What is more, if you are not on good terms with the Gokhanse, I am obliged to accomplish their will for you. I gather they know something about your journey?—

—They know nothing about our whereabouts,—Dun fi proceeded to tell the tale of their journey in plain words. When he finished, the Kon-di-lon looked around for the presence of Ginse before speaking, his voice low and difficult to discern. 

—Since you are both friends and knowledgeable of the Signs, such being very few in number, I will arrange to confound the Gokhanse. However, be aware, this Ginse has spoken with several people, both here and along the way. The Gokhanse will find out about our meeting sooner or later, so we must work to confound your friend if you are to succeed.—

Dun fi’s eyes remained hard, his face dark. 

—What can you offer us as an assurance of your trustworthiness?—

The Kon-di-lon smiled a long and thin smile for which his Gia are famous. It was not unlike the smile of the limbless ones that live on the ground and in the trees. 

—What choice do you have, but to trust me?—

 [13] Se-lim rose above the land of the Gia Kon-de-lon before the celebration had reached its end. Lai-se ruled over many of the attendants as they made their way to their dwellings. Few were as badly off as Ginse, who sang with a group of traders from the coasts south of Ku-Na-Zem. 

—We should cut his throat in his cups.—Lim ki spat as she spoke to Dun fi.—None would be the wiser.—

—The Gonakhan did not do it when he had the chance.—Dun fi returned.—Neither shall we.—

The rest of the passage was dedicated to rest. The Kon-de-lon, who, like Dun fi and Lim ki, did not require much sleep from the festival, spent it instead journeying up into the wild lands above his dwelling. 

—Speak to me of Signs.—Dun fi said as they climbed to a point higher than the surrounding trees, to see the Waterflow descend into the flatter lands. 

—Signs?—the Kon-de-lon laughed.—we do not call them Signs in my language. We call them Elements. It is the workings of Alchemistics to decipher them and distill them into power… They are the ones among us who know about “Signs” or “the Things Behind.”—

—How is it that you know our manner of speaking about them, then?—

—I spent the majority of my youth with your kind. There are few places along the coasts I have not been. It was then, when the wind blew fresh through me, that I first met one who knew Signs. He was a wise Na-Shime, a friend of my Gia. He took me into his dwelling and made me sit…to learn, he told my Gia. But I did not learn what they expected. I spent many passages of Se-Lim in his dwelling, saying nothing and hearing nothing while I learned to see…—

The Kon-de-lon continued. 

—It was many passages before I first began to see what the Na-Shime saw. His silence was a great communication. I still think it was an element of Se-Lim’s will that I should leave his tutelage the very passage I learned to see. It was what I saw that encouraged me to continue studying the Signs, which I have maintained to this passage. I consult all the Alchemistics I can meet, for there are many who say they know, when they do not.—

—One thing troubles me.—Dun fi replied.—I know the Gokhanse are aware of the Signs. I know two elder Na-Shime who seem almost as knowledgeable as the Gonakhan himself. Why should they be troubled by the Gonakhan’s abilities?—

The Kon-de-lon considered the question for a long while. He sat upon a rock and studied the Waterflow, the wind blowing through the valley, the colours of the trees and the crops, the dwellings and the Fan-di who travelled about. After a time, he looked at Dun fi and Lim ki. He then closed his eyes and recited in another voice, deep and ancient.

The Signs 

Belong to no one 

Except, perhaps 

The Authorities.

But Every One 

Belongs 

To the Signs

—Not all those who know Signs can accept that.—The Kon-de-lon heaved a sigh.—Even among my own kind, our Knowledgeable Ones are often polluted by those who know little about the workings of the Elements, but desire much from them. Such ones may only walk so far. However, so far as they can walk, they are in a position of advantage.—

—The way you speak separates you from those ones, then?—Lim ki said slowly, twisting her Wakat, following the little practices.

—Your style of attack is well guarded!.—replied the Kon-de-lon.—You allow me too much Authority. I can see farther than some, but I certainly cannot see far. It is why I should like to meet this one you seek.—

—Perhaps that shall occur.—Dun fi replied.—but I must have you know that I am sworn to his protection, and any that desire his suffering shall receive their own.—

—A noble cause to have in life.—the Kon-de-lon’s eyes sparkled.—I hope you are never forced to deliver upon such threats.—

X

The next passage of Se-lim, the travellers continued their journey to the mountains. The Kon-de-lon had arranged for some of his own trained Gia to accompany the three on their way through the lands of the Nei-di. They carried the official statements from the Kon-de-lon’s own hand, and they also carried sufficient pay to journey in comfort. 

Following the main path, with the Gia before and behind, the travellers made rapid progress, to the comment of every passerby. Ginse enjoyed the glory of it, walking pompously next to the best Gia, happily wearing his borrowed Nei-di garments, speaking with any that would engage him in conversation. 

But he had few words for Dun-fi and few more for Lim ki. 

—Why do you smile in such a manner, filth?—Lim ki asked him one passage, as the sight of the towers of Jo-Time came into view.

—Because I am thinking of home.—Ginse responded.—And I am eager to return.—

—That is a lie.—Lim ki responded.

—It is clear my words are a waste to you.—Ginse smiled and laughed his cold laugh.—Why ought I to give effort to utter them for you?—

—Tis an arrogant thing to say.—Lim ki came close to him, her hand upon her wakat.—do not forget who took this from you.—

—I have not forgotten.—replied Ginse. But he said nothing more. 

The Kon-de-lon had arranged for the travellers to visit an alchemistic living in Jo-Time. They arrived at the curling, decrepit dwelling in the early part of Se-Lim’s passage. 

Inside, an elderly Nei-di sat upon a cushion, examining a parchment in the shadow-filled light of the room. 

—Ah the visitors from the Gokhanse! Such a pleasure to see you.—The Nei-di offered his greeting in the traditional manner, speaking fluently the language of Ku-Na-Zem.

—It is a pleasure.—replied Dun fi.—But I am afraid the Kon-de-lon did not mention to us the purpose of our visit.—

—The Kon-de-lon keeps many things to himself.—the Nei-di put down his sheet and looked at the three.—I am afraid that is because many have tried to twist his intentions against him.—

The Nei-di continued. 

—You are here to get some information to be able to find your Waygoer in the Upper Wilds. I have that information, for indeed I have seen him there.—

—Do tell us!—Dun fi could barely control his voice.

The Elder Nei-di smiled a long and thin smile, a familiar look to Dun fi, though he did not know why. 

—It will not be easy for you. Those who are Knowledgeable of the Elements can travel in ways unknown to those who are not knowledgeable. Until you know the properties of the Elements well you will only be able to see him if he desires to be discovered.—

—Then what can be done?—Lim ki spoke before Ginse had a chance.

—You must practice using the Elements.—The Elder Nei-di pointed at the dark space behind him.—Here you will have peace to do your first training. I can also provide you with some material to try and become Knowledgeable.—

—What kind of practice, what kind of material?—Dun fi also spoke before Ginse could begin.

—We Nei-di go about the learning of Elements differently than you. We pursue their Properties by examining, and sometimes changing, objects. The Elements can be found in all things, but you must be skilled to recognize them, let alone harness their power.—

—They are very dangerous.—Ginse spoke at last.—We wish to locate the one called Lu Mīn, not learn his tricks!—

—You shan’t locate him without becoming at least a little Knowledgeable.—The Elder Nei-di rose from his sitting place and wandered into the dark space behind him. 

—Now, drink this and sit in the places laid out for guests.—

The Elder Nei-di gave them each a small pot of sweet smelling liquid and pointed at three cushions. 

Lim ki and Ginse did as they were told immediately, but Dun fi looked at his drink for a while, considering. The Elder Nei-di addressed him quietly, in such a manner that the other two could not understand. 

—You have nothing to fear from me. I am here to help especially you, Dun fi.—

—How do you know my name?—Dun fi looked defiantly at the Elder Nei-di. 

—When you are Knowledgeable, I will tell you.—

The Elder Nei-di went to the edge of the room, in the darkness, and with a groan pulled a wooden box with a large metallic sphere sitting on top. This he moved into the middle of the room.  

—This is a Separator.—the Elder Nei-di spoke, pointing at the handle of the big object.—By spinning this sphere in its place, I am able to Separate the Elements to show them at work. I am old and feeble now, so my turning is not what it used to be. Therefore, I have given you an infusion to help you see.—

The Elder Nei-di put on a glove and began pushing on the metallic sphere. The sphere began turning, rasping as it spun on its bearings. 

—Focus on the area around the sphere.—

As the Separator spun, the air around it began to spark and flash. Light green and purple images that did not last longer than the blink of an eye turned on the edges, as if a thin sheet were being snapped in the air. 

—I see them!—Lim ki shouted in delight, pointing and laughing.

The Elder Nei-di, sweating, stopped his laborious spinning. 

—I could speak to you for a long time about why you see what you see.—The Elder Nei-di sat down in the empty part of the room.—But it is better to read what our scholars have written about them.—

The Elder Nei-di rose and picked up a heavy stack of sheets , passing back into the front of his room where there was light. 

—This is my translation of the work, Principles of Elements.—The Elder Nei-di pointed.—I hope it is clear. I have not had the pleasure of having it read by native speakers yet.—

Lim ki bowed deeply and took the work. 

—We shall make much use of it.—

XX

The Gia of the Kon-de-lon, who had waited outside the Elder Nei-di’s dwelling, brought the three to their place of rest in Jo-Time: The Kon-de-lon city palace. Perched like a windgoer high above the rest of the Jo-Time, the dwelling had clean and quiet air, complete with a softly bubbling waterfountain sounding in the dwellings inner space, open to the elements.

Dun fi, Lim-ki and Ginse spent the rest of Se-Lim’s passage reading parts of the translation, marvelling at the size of Jo-Time from the upper views of the dwelling. 

—I don’t see how Elements and Signs can be the same thing.—Dun fi spoke with Lim ki over the light on the table where they read, Ginse having gone to his rest.—

—They are perhaps two roads to the same place.—Lim ki responded.—But I wonder why we are sitting here reading instead of following the Gonakhan’s word.—

—I too feel like a pool Waachi.—Dun fi replied.—But I do not think we would make it far without the Kon-de-lon. You have seen how many look at us? It is as if we have a powerful stench!—

Lim ki nodded.—Deception seems as natural to the Nei-di as breathing. Here, I am never sure of what to think.—

The three returned to the dwelling of the Elder Nei-di many times. He spoke to them on their readings, what they thought about parts and how the translation might be improved. He also made them watch the Separator, to catch glimpses of the Signs. 

Though the three gained knowledge of Nei-di thinking on many subjects, they advanced little in the seeing or understanding of Signs. 

When not studying, they were permitted to wander the ways of Jo-Time, if accompanied by the Gia of the Kon-de-lon. They saw all the great sights—Talenes’ tower, the Great gate with the golden doors. They even made it up to the Dwelling of the Eagles, a grand dwelling, like the Towers in Ku-na-zem, and heard the shrill sounds of the Ai-gu-la, kept hidden in the precincts. They also wandered the Upper Market, where the wealthy Gia spent their time, buying and selling.  Here they got their first lessons in the structures that kept the Durno in order. 

They were on the edge of the space which becomes the Upper Market when the hue and cry began for the buying and selling of the little ones, hairy to look upon, with clever faces and strong limbs. The Nei-di women, who were wearing the flowery garments of their station, frantically looked from one to the next, inspecting what was available, hoping to gain in a trade with the market sellers. 

Lim ki and Dun fi looked at one another with new understanding. 

They also went down into the lower markets, where the humble people of Jo-Time lived and worked. Here the air was heavy with the dirt and stench of strong efforts of making the fine wares the Nei-di are so famous for. Dark buildings filled this space, as did dark faces, more accustomed to the shadows than the sun that hit further up. Lim ki and Dun fi were not permitted to stay long by the Gia, who pressed them to leave almost as soon as they arrived. 

After almost two octaves of passages, Dun fi rose from his rest angry. 

Dun fi held onto his anger, but remained calm until the time came to visit the Elder Nei-di. He sat silent behind Lim ki and Ginse, who argued about the correct manner of saying a part of the Nei-di’s sheets. The Nei-di was bent over a sheet, drawing signs to reflect what the two were saying.

Dun fi then brought his fist down with a splintering crash upon the wood. 

—I will not serve your Nei-di curiosity any longer.—Dun fi spoke low and calm.—I have a duty to the Gonakhanse, and this is not his Way.—

The Nei-di had not moved, though both Ginse and Lim-ki had jumped, automatically in the stance of Preparation, But he did straighten, his hand outstretched to rest upon the table. His gaze at Dun fi was sharp.

—You are a guest among us, Shinse. It is not common for a guest to behave as you have just now.—

—A guest is free to come and go as he pleases, not set tasks like your little-ones, who are bought and sold to wash garments and dishes, Nei-di. I am no little-one.—Dun fi crossed his limbs defiantly.

The Nei-di paused a moment before responding. 

—A fool spits out the Lai-se given to him. I did not, until now, take you for a fool.—The Nei-di stretched out his arm at the entryway.—There is the door. You are indeed a guest, and may go through it if that is your wish. Your charmed existence among my people depends on the protection of the Kon-de-lon. You will have great difficulty if you leave his dwelling.—

 Dun fi’s eyes flashed the cold steel and fire that they formerly had in Ku-Na-Zem. He looked straight at the Nei-di elder.

—I did not come here to live in comfort, to eat good things , to take my rest and wait upon the good pleasure of the Kon-de-lon or his Gia, or an elder like yourself. I came here to find the Gonakhan. Now, I will.—

Dun-fi transferred his fiery look from the Nei-di elder to Lim-ki. 

Lim ki paused a moment, her eyes filled with fear. Then she slowly rose, not daring to look or speak at the Nei-di as she followed Dun fi out the door. 

XXX

Shadowy shapes like those often seen in dreams surrounded Dun fi and Lim ki as they toiled upwards through the wind and fog of the Upper Wilds. 

They had long since stopped speaking to one another. Clinging to silence as they did their damp rags. The elder Alchemistic, the friend of the Kon-de-lon, had been correct about how unwelcome were unaccompanied foreigners in the land of the Nei-di, especially those dressed in the finery of the Gia. None wished them well, much less offered them food or a place to rest. Dun fi’s great size and fierce outlook seemed to keep the groups that followed them to a distance, where they whispering and grumbled in violent tones. Overcome with weariness, they managed to struggle on, always further into the Mountains that grew steeper and steeper. 

Though both Dun fi and Lim ki knew their suffering was great, they never spoke of it. For they were agreed upon their task, and delighted in finally being free to achieve it, without the disruptions of Ginse or the studies of the Nei-di Alchemistic to hinder them. 

All the while strong gusts of wind blew through the mountains, stirring the fog into a lash that whipped the two like a strong rain.

—If we keep going too much farther, I am afraid we shall die.—Lim ki finally spoke to Dun fi.—I would not speak, yet this place little resembles the one we seek. Here the sky does not open and I have never felt further from the Authorities.—

—You are correct.—Dun fi responded.—But if we do not succeed now, we shall die upon the return, or fall foul of the Nei-di, which may be worse. The Gonakhan is here. We must keep going.—

Se-Lim was finishing his passage, for the grey of the fog had turned a dark hue. So Lim ki followed Dun fi off of the path, towards a rocky ledge. Just beneath this ledge they found a boulder covering a dark, protected space. The two wandered into its narrow confines. 

—Here at least we can dry ourselves.—Dun fi smiled for the first time in many passages.

Lim ki managed to return this look, despite her weakness, which had advanced a measure beyond Dun fi’s, giving her a pale and drawn appearance. 

They removed their outer garments, spreading them among the inner side of the boulder and removed a bundle of wet wood, hoping it too would be able to dry over the period of Se-Lim’s absence and serve up a fire. Finally they collapsed together into a deep rest. 

Dun fi was the first to waken in the brightening grey of a new passage. The cave filled with the howling of the wind. But this was not what woke him. For in the entrance to their little cave burned the bundle of sticks. The fire emitting a lively purple light, and an even more delightful heat. Beside the fire, upon two flat rocks, steamed flat mealloaves. 

—This wasn’t your doing, Dun fi.—excitement filled Lim ki’s voice once she had woken to the scene.—Do you think it was the Gonakhan?—

—It is possible.—Dun fi looked around as he reached out for the warm mealloaf with trembling hands. 

They ate with an intense joy, wrapped in their now dry outer garments while the purple flame continued to burn. 

—LU MīN!—Dun fi called out the cave entrance once he had eaten his fill.

There was no response, but when Dun fi turned around, the purple flames abruptly went out. 

—The wood has not been consumed.—Lim ki pointed where moments before had been fire. Indeed the branches were cold and wet to the touch, as they were the darkness before.

Dun fi nodded his head, considering, but said nothing.

The two packed their belongings together again and continued further into the Mountains. The fog continued, growing colder to the touch and thicker, such that Dun fi and Lim ki could not see one another, though they were a mere two paces apart. 

Still they only stopped when the vague light from Se-lim disappeared. When possible, they found a wind torn covering to rest under, leaving their rotten wood out in hopes of seeing the purple flame once again. 

—Perhaps we should turn back to the cave.—Lim ki pointed on the third passage that their wood had failed to light with purple flames. 

Dun fi nodded.—First let us go a little further.—

Another passage they climbed. The gusts of wind whistled stronger than ever, such that the two could hear the very rocks splitting into pieces around them. 

Their path had grown very difficult, wet and steep when Lim ki slipped. 

When he heard her gasp with fear, Dun fi spun around, but he was too late. She disappeared into the fog with a scream and the sliding of rocks, which grew into a terrible din further down the mountain. 

Dun fi stared into the fog, waiting for the sounds to stop. Then trying to maintain an even voice that would not upset the rocks further, he called out her name. 

No answer could overcome the shrieking of the wind. For a time Dun fi stayed where he was, hoping there might be a clearance in the fog, but the wind only grew more powerful, making it more difficult to see. 

Dun fi closed his eyes with pain and sorrow. For a moment he let himself feel the loss. He considered death, and how it could cover the intolerable cold and wetness which presently surrounded him. 

Then guilt over this fatalism awoke his senses like the chastening of a parent. Keeping his eyes closed, Dun fi attempted to concentrate on the place where Lim ki must be. 

A detailed vision lit his closed eyes. He could see Lim ki in a crumpled heap on a pile of snow and rocks, limbs splayed out at angles in their soaked rags. Then Dun fi heard a popping sound. Opening his eyes, he disappeared from the ledge into a true darkness. But the darkness only lasted a moment, for the next thing he knew, Dun fi was sitting in the snow next to Lim ki, exactly as he had seen her previously. 

She did not move, though the air surrounding her shimmered in the same purple colour Dun fi had seen in the fire several passages previously. Dun fi grasped Lim ki’s exposed shoulders, hoping to feel the warmth of life. He gently turned her around, taking off his own outer garment to add to hers. She remained limp and still.  

—Lu Mīn would know what to do.—Dun fi said to himself with despair, as he looked around in search of shelter.— Lu Mīn would be able to save you.—

Dun fi closed his eyes, holding the limp form of Lim ki in his arms. Once again his eyes filled with a vision, this time of the Gonakhan, sitting upon the peak of a mountain, Se-Lim’s glory reflecting off a sea of clouds that expanded in every direction. The Gonakhan also had his eyes closed, and he sat motionless. 

Dun fi felt the urge to call out, but just as he was about to, the Gonakhan’s hand swept forward, a single finger crossing his lips. 

—You must not lose your concentration.—Lu Mīn spoke, his voice echoing in the wind.—To avoid losing Lim ki.—

Dun fi nodded, gripping Lim ki tighter to himself.

—Imagine you are both here, sitting upon this rock.—Lu Mīn pointed at a broad flat platform before him.—Do not strain yourself with this task, simply desire it in your Inner self.—

Dun fi saw the place in his vision, as if it were immediately before him. The wind continued to howl, ringing with the sound of cracking rocks.

—Now!—Lu Mīn called out. At that moment, the mountain rumbled with what sounded like a stampede of Fad-il in the fog. Dark shapes gathered above, causing small stones to jump. The first boulders appeared out of the fog. Dun fi closed his eyes.

When he opened his eyes, Dun fi was seated upon the flat rock, seated before Lu Mīn. 

The Gonakhan’s frame was wreathed in the light of Se-Lim. 

—Well done, faithful one. The wind has blown you here.—he smiled, spreading his arms wide.

However, Dun fi looked down with sorrow at the motionless form in his arms. 

Lu Mīn stood up from his place and strode effortlessly down towards the flat rock. Bending over Lim ki, his hand covering her forehead, Dun fi became aware of a green tinted aura passing between them. 

With a start, Lim ki’s chest began heaving inner wind. Then she sat up, alert though blinded by the light of Se Lim. 

—Easy, Lim ki.—Dun fi placed a hand upon her shoulder.—You mustn’t move too quickly.—

—Where, am I?—Lim ki attempted to look around with her sightless eyes. 

Dun fi spoke with a voice full of cheer. 

Where the sky opens 

Near to the Authorities. 

Continue reading The Life of Lu-Min - Part 11 

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