Treward had told me where I could find him. The idea of learning more about who I was grew so strong I could no longer resist it. I was now allowed out regularly twice a week. The next time, I went to him. He began to teach me. For the next few years, unbeknownst to Fauchet, I met weekly in secret with Treward and studied the secrets of alchemy. I spent every free moment practicing what I was learning.

I told Treward of my dreams, and through his powers, he traced my lineage back hundreds of years to the first alchemists. It is said they came from distant planets, traveling with the help of something called fireflies. The ships of Oran can only lift us through kinetic power to the two moons and not beyond. But the fireflies can take us to other worlds in other dimensions. There are portals where Oran fireflies connect with fireflies on other planets. He told me of an alchemist, Extorlia, who was working on this.

With Treward’s help, I unlocked my powers of casting spells of invisibility, unlocking doors, and even transporting myself through dense matter.

These were things I should never speak of. Together, Treward and I cast spells around our knowledge. This was so the Meditators of the Gods could not discover what we were doing. There are twelve Meditators in the city of Aarabaythia. They spend their entire lives suspended in a deep state of meditation in the inner sanctuary of the Vishku Temple. The temple is perched on the highest hill above the city. Far away, on the Island of Whei, is the Temple of the Moons, surrounded by the Favorian Tombs. There, also, are twelve Meditators, who commune with the Red and Blue Moons. Between these 24 Meditators, the balance between physical and spiritual is maintained. The balance of good and evil. They can see into the hearts and minds of all Oranians. If their concentration were to be broken, the sun and the moons would spin out of control and into space. All would die and Oran would become a cold, dead planet. Is this true? Or is it a tale told to control us? This is the Vishku Way. It is our religion and we all believe it. The alternative of chaos and destruction is too frightening.

Slowly, word of a rebel uprising began to spread in whispers through the city, although I never saw evidence of it. I supposed it was merely wishful thinking. But who would dare to even think such thoughts when the punishment was so horrific? I felt the growing tensions in the streets. The fear. It was building toward something that threatened the security of all our lives.

We spent the spring months at Sumar Palace in Salayshia. I loved it there. It was perched atop high cliffs, overlooking the Panthor Sea. The palace was opulent in the extreme. An entourage accompanied us of many lords and ladies and government officials. I had more freedom here and often, during the long lazy days, I would climb down to the black sandy beach and swim and lie in the sun.

But this time, all was not relaxed and reveling. A glum unease hung over the guests and my lord. One evening, the discussion turned especially lively. Drink was flowing because, of course, these leaders paid scant attention to the rules of the common folk. They did what they pleased. They argued about the uprising, its cause, and how to quell it. The official word was no such uprising existed. But these were the leaders who had created that falsehood and so they had no fear contradicting their own lying words.

They spoke of the leader, Stryker Gunn. He was fast becoming a legend amongst the common folk. For the first time, the possibility of a different way of life was whispered in small gatherings. Gatherings that were prohibited but that were beginning to happen nonetheless. Those whispers spread. People began to question that perhaps they were being lied to by their leaders. Perhaps the rules were too extreme. An underground blasphemous movement was growing, claiming that anyone could speak to the gods. An audacious heresy claiming the priests were just another means to control the masses.

Why could not the common person love who they wished, perhaps even keep a child that was born to a father and a mother? Even words such as “father” and “mother” were banned.

Why could a person not change their vocation? Just because it was decided at age ten they should be a miner or a baker or a scientist, how did those in charge really know what was best for each individual? Why couldn’t a person decide for themselves and maybe even change their minds along the way?

Gunn and his growing army sowed these seeds of dissent. Those who followed Gunn lived free outside the city walls. The gods hadn’t struck them down, as the people had always been told would happen to those who disobeyed. The sun and moons were still in alignment.

“The danger is growing,” said Fauchet. “Today, word came of uprisings in Fandish and Zandor.”

“Last week, a priest was found hanging from a tree on the Cheya Cliffs,” said Lady Pleasa, a high ranking general.

I had to suppress a gasp. I had done this so long ago as a child. I had killed Sister Betchu with the power of my mind. If anyone ever found out.

“We found those responsible and they were burned alive in the town square,” Lady Pleasa was saying.

My lord shook his head. “But we need more than this. Where is the wrath of the gods? The universe responding to this evil. Bringing Oran back into balance?”

There were murmurs around the table. Some scoffed at this, albeit uncomfortably. The subject was unpleasant. It interrupted their blind belief that they were indestructible. Yet they still felt the need to address it.

“Do you doubt the truth of our Vishku Way?” asked another one of the lords.

“Of course not!” said Fauchet. “But why does the universe not respond? Something bigger than the responses of us mere mortals must happen soon or these outlaws will become ever more emboldened, despite how cruelly we punish them.”

“Please, we have strong armies, the very best spies,” said Lady Phiton in her most imperious tone. “And we are in the right. We are the just ones. We have the Universal Truth on our side. Surely it is but a matter of days and this traitor Stryker Gunn will be captured.”

Like my lord, this lady was overweight and soft from a life of ease. Not all the powerful were soft, mind you. But enough of them had become so complacent with their power that they could not conceive of ever losing it.

Another lady, quite beautiful with masses of silver hair, a tiny waist, and the palest of arms, licked her red lips and said, “I wouldn’t mind meeting this Gunn fellow on a dark night. In my bedroom.” And the other ladies tittered and shuddered with delight while the men frowned and muttered. All except Lord Jeron, who tittered along and agreed with the women.

The air of the banquet room was stifling and I excused myself. Fauchet barely acknowledged my departure. Perhaps he was growing tired of me. I was tired of all of them. But I didn’t want to be replaced and this was always a worrying possibility. If discarded, unless another lord decided to use me for his own, I would be sent back to the Blue Moon in a lesser position than I had been before.

I had power within me, perhaps the power to cast spells on them or even kill them. But I wasn’t experienced enough to try. It was frustrating and there seemed no way to escape, no matter how much potential power I held inside. After all, where could I escape to?

I could now easily lift objects and move them through the air. I could cause them to explode. Once, I walked through a wall. I never told anyone about that, not even Treward. Although he was my teacher, I didn’t trust even him.

A few days before the banquet, I’d taken advantage of a stormy night and crept out of the palace and onto the great grassy plateau above the sea. There, I shattered a gigantic tree with a thick trunk of heavy wood. I was well pleased with my power, although it left me quite tired for a short time thereafter. The next day, my lord’s gardeners remarked on the tree, thinking it had been struck by lightning.

I left my lords and ladies inside the banquet hall, the discussion growing ever more animated over what should be done about the rebels. Wanting to go where I was sure none of them would follow, I went down to the kitchen and out the back door, into the garden. Taking deep breaths, I walked among the rows of herbs to where s small orchard of fruit trees stood near the rear wall.

It was then I saw dark figures climbing over the walls. I turned to run, but swift as a deer, I was caught. Easily, I escaped by a twist and swift movement so that my attacker was left empty-handed in less than one second. I turned to look.

And that was how I met Stryker Gunn. All I could see of him were his black eyes. The rest of his face was covered with a dark cloth. He wore black armor, as did all the rebels, of which there were five. Each was armed with a sword.

My eyes locked with those of Gunn. There was silence as we stood still and uncertain. His warriors said nothing, they watched and waited.

“You are a sorcerer,” said Gunn at last.

This took me aback and I became ever more confused. No one had ever called me that. Even with Treward, I sensed he didn’t want me to succeed beyond a certain point. He was the master, after all, and I was his student. I was an alchemist. But a sorcerer? There were none of those left on Oran. The last one had been captured years ago and was imprisoned on the Red Moon.

In that moment, I made a decision.

“Yes,” I said, lifting my chin. ‘I am the Sorcerer Erolin. Do not try to harm me; I will kill you all.”

Instead of taking this as a challenge and ordering his warriors to draw their swords, their leader bowed onto one knee before me and laid his sword on the ground. Without question, his warriors did the same. Then, he lowered the cloth so that I saw his finely chiseled face.

He looked up at me expectantly, waiting…for what?

At last, I said, “Stand.”

And they all stood.

“I would never harm you,” he said. “Join us and be free.”

And all at once, in that moment, I knew that what I’d been looking for my entire life had found me. In that garden. On that banquet night. Freedom.

I led Gunn and his soldiers into the villa and watched as they slaughtered the guests. I didn’t spare one kind thought for Ladies Pleasa and Phiton, nor for the silver-haired lady, as they lay gasping their last breaths, blood staining their breasts. Looking down on Fauchet’s body where it had fallen onto the table, I felt satisfied that justice had been done.

I escaped with the rebels. I lived with them for three years after that. We conducted raids and hid on the wild steppes where others dared not go for fear of the werewolves that haunt the desolate lands. I met the alchemist Extorlia. She led me further on the journey to unlock my powers. With her, I learned more of the fireflies. But she would not let me into her lab. The distrust everyone on Oran felt for one another extended to alchemists, too. This didn’t offend me.

Gunn and I fell in love. To have this feeling and allow it to grow was unprecedented on Oran. What if everyone could feel like this? What would happen to that perfect balance? What would happen to Vishku, Eipia, and Peira? But I couldn’t deny the wonder of it. And then we would argue. We would fight. The pain was terrible and distracting. This was the chaos that came when order was breached.

More pain than pleasure comes from love, this is what I say. These intense feelings distracted me from my learning. And this brought frustration and resentment. At last, I had to face the agony of saying goodbye to my lover. I could no longer neglect my path of knowledge. It was a terrible parting for both of us. And now it haunts me. What if I had stayed; would things have gone differently for him? But if I had stayed, it would have surely brought disaster. In this, the pundits of Oran are right: allowing emotions to infiltrate intellect destroys order.

Gunn and I parted ways. For a time, I went to live with the Wind People of Kath, on an island far to the south. They provided me shelter in a lonely dwelling by the stormy Ipik Sea.

But still, I was distracted. And so I traveled to the marshes of Yakothuth, where I found a host of fireflies, although no one had known of them before. They became my companions. It’s common knowledge that enzymes and proteins can convert chemical energy into light. What goes beyond that is a property similar to superoxide anion, allowing a subject super-infused with the genetically-altered firefly to travel with the light. Fireflies between Earth and Oran were connected by luciferase and luciferin and so could find one another and follow a preordained path. But how or when this connection had occurred no one knew. Perhaps it had been set in motion by the gods themselves long ago.

In the meantime, as I grew ever more powerful, unrest on Oran was building exponentially. But to what end, I wondered. I began to doubt if civil uprising was the answer. How could the unrest bring anything better than the perfect balance that Oran had held onto for over a thousand years?

One late afternoon, as I cooked my marsh fish over a fire, word came to me of what I feared. Stryker had been captured and taken to the Red Moon. Betrayed by someone called Lance Rey, who had come from planet Earth with the help of fireflies.

Of course, I had to save Stryker. It took time, but I gathered a large sum and bought passage to the Red Moon. I poisoned the guards and set him free. I had brought with me weapons. I used my own powers as little as possible as I did not want word of who I was to spread. We used the weapons to fight our way to the launching deck, where we took over a waiting ship. As I was about to leap on board to join him, an arrow pierced my shoulder and I fainted. I woke up in a cell, a necklace of Eipia metal, found only on the Red Moon and used to nullify the powers of sorcerers and alchemists, around my neck.

I can only assume the arrow that struck me had this metal in it as well. I almost died from the arrow. But after my capture, it was removed and I was brought back to health. Not out of kindness, but to ensure I would feel the full force of the tortures inflicted on me. Before my capture, I knew nothing of this metal. That was a knowledge the universe only allowed me through experiencing it.

At least Stryker escaped. He could never have survived what I am now going through.

My body has suffered every possible form of pain. My mind has been twisted and confused with terrifying information. And still, I am here. In ways I cannot let my captors know, I grow stronger. But the necklace keeps me prisoner. I cannot touch it. I cannot remove it.

Five years have passed; this I only found out later, because on the Red Moon, there is no way to gauge time.

But while being here, something wonderful happened. A woman started to communicate with me through the wall. Well, not through the wall; through her mind connecting with my mind. I am not sure where exactly she is located in this maze. This woman is the only other living sorcerer on Oran. She has been imprisoned here for much longer than me.

This woman is my mother.

Is not the universe full or strange surprises? The suffering of my torture was balanced by my greatest wish come true. To find my mother. I do not know her full story. She would not even tell me her name. I do not know where she came from or who my father is. At first, I pleaded. I refused to listen to anything of her teachings. I became angry. I cried. But at last, I became silent. And I started to listen. Over and over, she sent me waves of love to sustain me in times of despair. And once I became amenable, she taught me everything else I needed to know. At least what I needed in order to escape this hell.

She taught me the way of the Four Books and how “when things are chaotic to the extreme, order must be restored.”

This is always the way. It must be so. The universe has ordained it. And I am to be a vessel through which that order will be maintained.

My mother harnessed all her powers to break the necklace and set me free. In so doing, she diminished her powers to the extent that I am not sure if she still lives.

I am now back with Stryker on the steppes. We are lovers once more. We hide with our ever growing army in the caves of the Hills of Tymme. Today, we travel to Extorlia’s castle. She sent word that a woman has arrived from Earth. The same place Rey came from and where he went back to after betraying Stryker. This woman, Natasha, has news of this evil man and we go to find out what it is.

I no longer dream of my mother at my birth. I no longer cry in my dreams as I look down on rows of women in beds, wondering which one is her.

I found my mother in the pit of hell. Together, we ascended to a higher place. With complete self-sacrifice, she passed on to me all her powers and knowledge. Is that a woman’s highest calling? The sacrifice of love for her child? I must say honestly, if that is the case, I do not ever want a child. I do not ever want to suffer as my mother has.

All my life, I yearned for my mother. Without her, I could not be who I am now. I love her and I miss her. And yet, she also lives inside of me. She has made me the most powerful force on Oran.

***

For all installments from Firefly Lane, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: Come to Me — Lana
  2. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 1
  3. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 2
  4. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 1
  5. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 2
  6. Chapter 4: Wrong Turn — Lilly, Part 1
  7. Chapter 4: Wrong Turn — Lilly, Part 2
  8. Chapter 5: How it Happened — Adonai
  9. Chapter 6: Vishku Way — Erolin, Part 1