Hello, friends. I thought it might be nice to share with you the next thousand-word submission for the online group. I won’t bury the blog under weekly submissions for the writing project, but I have a feeling it will crop up occasionally. Enjoy!
(Chapter I, continued)
Khalid lay in bed, the left side of his face exposed to the sunlight. A thought drifted across his sleeping awareness. Warm, it said. As the white sphere in his dream expanded, infinite whiteness was all he could see, his consciousness floating in a world of light. Warm. Really warm. Maybe a little too warm. Khalid stirred, opening his eyes slowly. Still dazed from waking, a ray of sunlight caught his left eye–a deep brown–blinding him briefly, the heat touching his eye and causing him to fully awaken abruptly. He sat up, rubbing his eyes with his palms, thinking about the dream he’d had. It’s always the same dream, but I usually wake up much sooner. He lifted his arms into a stretch, and swung down from his bed onto the earthen floor of his room. The rich scent of the hard-packed dirt that made up his room–and all the others in the hall–comforted him. Who was the man in the dream? What was that seed? What in the Mother’s eyes was that endless pool of water?
Continuing his morning exercises by rote, he tried to clear his mind of the dream–he had more pressing matters to concern him today. These last ten years spent at the madat igul monastery had been in preparation for the bachan, the test that would determine if he had sufficiently completed his training. The bachan would be starting in an just over an hour.
Leaving his room, he walked through the labyrinthine torch-lit hallway that lead to the central courtyard of the monastery. He wore nothing save the standard loose-fitting blue trousers that marked him as a student, tied with a white sash, signifying his ten years of training. He was particularly proud of the sash.
Stepping into the central courtyard for what he hoped would be his last time as a student, Khalid still marveled at the monastery’s construction. A near perfect circle of earth surrounded the courtyard, which sat in a hollowed-out mountain, with evenly spaced arches leading to the intricate system of passageways and rooms carved of earth, penetrating deep into the mountain’s core.
His fellows from the asarah classwere milling about in the center of the courtyard, some talking nervously, others stretching or working through forms in silence. All members of the asarah–tenth year–would be as nervous as he was. It was a perfect day for the bachan, the morning air far more brisk than he’d have expected after the heat of the sun against his face earlier, hardly a breeze stirring. Winter was ending, and though snow still thickly covered the outside of the mountain, this inner sanctuary was clean and cleared of all students save the asarah.
The Amman stepped out from the instructors’ gate, in his billowing black clothes–masters wore a loose shirt along with the sash and trousers–hands behind his back, looking over the Asarah with his usual steely expression, made sterner still by the hard lines of his weathered face. The students immediately formed two columns of ten, hands behind their backs, eyes forward, breathing quietly.
“And so we come to this, Asarah. A day to remember. Let us hope it is an auspicious one.”
The boy in front of Khalid inhaled sharply, then cringed. The Amman had heard.
“Ah, Dyn. You are ready, then, for the testing? Good.” He clapped his hands together.
“Khalid! You will join Dyn in the center. You shall be the first pair tested.” He offered a rare smile as he saw Dyn cringe further. “Come now, Dyn. You are as prepared as you can possibly be.”
Dyn bowed his head, muttering under his breath. Khalid thought he caught some of it. “Might be prepared…Khal is gonna destroy me though.”
Khalid smiled, thinking of the day he met his friend. He and Dyn arrived on the same day, of course. All students arrived the same day: the first day of spring. Eight years old, they were both somewhat smaller than the rest of the students, their instructors pushing them hard in order to catch them up to the stronger boys in their class. By the time of their fourth year–Arba’a–they were neck-and-neck for most advanced in the class. By the time they had reached Shiv’a, their seventh year, It had become clear that Khalid was the superior fighter.
Khalid and Dyn faced one another, each standing as far as they could from one along the central circle carved into the courtyard’s stone floor, Khalid in Prayer Begins, Dyn in Containing the Diamond. The rest of the Asarah had backed away, and the Amman stood in the center of the circle.
“You will only unfold the first three Ellim, you understand?”
“Yes, Amman.” Khalid and Dyn said together.
“Good. Begin! First Ellah!”
Khalid and Dyn simultaneously closed their eyes, breathing deeply into their abdomens through their flared nostrils. Khalid focused his attention on the base of his spine, feeling the first Ellah begin to open, drawing energy from his surroundings, and focused on moving the energy up his spine, like he was drinking through a tube from a river. The energy flowed over the top of his head, and into his eyes.
His eyes snapped open, and he stared into the deep red pupils of Dyn. He knew his would be identical.
Then the dance began.
Dyn exploded into motion, as forms of the first Ellah were somewhat stiffer and more powerful than the forms of the higher Ellim, stomping twice with his front foot before leaping high into the air. Khalid maintained Prayer Begins, an unorthodox form for the first Ellah, since it relied so much on flexibility. Dyn’s lips curled into a smile as he sped toward Khalid, Palm retracting in preparation for the first strike. Before Dyn landed, however, Khalid stepped forward and to the right, bending backward deeply to avoid Dyn’s blow. Snapping back into position on the inside of Dyn’s outstretched arm, Khalid slammed his forearm into Dyn’s middle, sending Dyn flying backward. Dyn righted himself in midair–an effect of the unfolding of the first Ellah was a heightened sense of balance–and landed lightly on his feet, lips fully parted, revealing a grin.
Khalid slipped into Swaying Fern, a faster stance, and pressed forward. He became a blur as he ran toward Dyn, noticing his shifted stance. Now! Khalid thought as he closed in on Dyn, extending his right foot forward in a powerful kick while his torso and arms went back, flattening in a straight line with his leg. Dyn was fast, and jumped above the kick, spinning and raising his leg with a kick perfectly aimed to land on Khalid’s exposed face. Khalid’s eyes sparkled as he grabbed Dyn’s ankle with both hands and, using his extended leg to gain further leverage, swung his body around, bringing Dyn with him, slamming his friend firmly into the ground.
Dyn pushed himself to his feet quickly, wiping dust from his chest, smiling at Khalid. He mouthed Nice one! and walked back to the edge of the circle. Khalid stood and walked to the opposite side.
“Good,” The Amman said. “Very good. Now, Second unfolding!”