It is coming back to me. Slowly. the knowledge of who I am. How long I have been trapped here. So much of it is blurry. Whole blocks of time still floating in the fog that eats my mind. But if I concentrate, I get pieces of it back.
It was the dream that first helped me remember. I was lying in the reeds near the tusk. I don't know for how long or how I get here. I am staring at the sky. Seeing a man grow out of the cliff. First his head. Then his shoulders. Then his torso. Sunlight rims his body like a halo. I cannot move. I think that Death has finally come for me.
The man stands on the cliff with a book in his hand, staring down at the lagoon as if something made him sad. I wanted to call out to him. To tell him it was me he's come to find. But my mouth is dry. I can't remember any words. And before I think to stand, he opens his book. Puts his hand on the page. And fades to dust.
I thought he was a dream.
It was only later—hours? or weeks later?—that I find his swirling book atop the cliff. And when I reach down to grab it, it is real.
The fog tried to swallow me then and there but I held on to the firm reality of the book and did not let it. I did not let the numbness steal my mind.
The book sits on the floor of the tusk, it's swirling panel reaching tentacle-like arms to grab me. I want to close my eyes, to shut out these false illusions before they suck me into the fog. I do not want those swirling arms to touch me.
Why? Why am I so afraid of this book?
I want to remember. I must. I think—
I think this man may have come to our village. But he was younger then. Dark haired. Tall. Wearing those same strange flowing brown robes. He carried a book in his hands then too and he's always using it. Always writing down notes. His eyes are covered by thick glasses, but his face is warm and friendly. He tells me his name. He says it's Atrus.
I remember now. His name is Atrus.
Atrus says he's come to our village from a faraway place because he wanted to learn about the Tree. He says he'll only stay awhile. Doesn't want to stop our endless labors. He says he wants to help, if we will let him.
Oh Tamra. Why did we let him?
Keep writing, Saavedro. Write everything down.
This Atrus stayed with us for months. I taught him how to trim the delicate lattice roots. How to splice old and new growths together so the walls of our houses will grow strong. I tell him the traditions of the Weave. How by using the spores to support the growing branches, we keep the Lattice Tree alive. He wants to learn everything I know. He wants Narayan to survive.
I take him to the rift, to where the sea flows through gaps in the world. Steam flows up from the waterfall. The puffer spores are ready to take flight. We stand in the shadows of dusk and watch spores begin to rise. He says they look like pearls against the sky. Then he points to one of the spores. It's smaller than the rest. Small enough to fit the niche we'd woven into the branches that morning. Its skin is milky white. With just the faintest touch of pink.
That one, Atrus said. That should support your new daughter's room perfectly, I think.
I remember I nodded. Then I raised my pipe and played. Atrus stood beside me, holding his breath as my song drew the hollow spore in close. As soon as it was near he threw the net and dragged it in.
This is what I remember.
This is why I said he could send me his sons.
Focus, Saavedro. You must not let the fog come and swallow you. There are long spells, I think. Days. Maybe months at a time when I can't remember what I've done. The fog rolls so thick around me, even if I hold my hand in front of my eyes I barely see it. I strain and strain and strain but nothing sticks. I think
I think his sons came to visit us twice—
The first time, Atrus asked me to meet them. He told me they would come through the book. He says, they will not understand how your words fit together, but they will use them to open the shield. Narayan, he says, is where their lessons come together. Narayan is the sum of what they must learn.
I remember. Tamra was carving a Spirit Mask into the Tree the day the boys arrive. She tugs my sleeve to get attention. Points at a glide ship in the sky. I am shocked by how young the boys appear. They looks so much like their father. Yet they are different somehow, too. They're more impatient. And they are angry not to be treated like men.
I take them to our home. I tell them I will teach them now to care for it. I say, together we will encourage the Lattice Tree to grow tall. They ask me why they have to work so hard. They tell me—
No, Saavedro!!! That was later. That was after Atrus took them away. You know this, because when you see them saying these things they are older. Their faces have become angled and hard. They have grown up, into men. And something dark is in their eyes. They tell you they've come back to fix Narayan.
Sirrus. And. Achenar.
The walls run red with steam and strangling branches. I see their bloated faces laughing at everything. I remember how they lied. I remember what they did.
They brought me here to die
I followed them
The Lattice Roots were black from too much overgrowth. Puffer spores floated up in the hot steam and burst. No one was there to guide the spores to the branches. No one was waiting to perform the ritual Weaves. The fighting had torn my people apart.
They didn't care.
They didn't care.
They wanted Narayan to die
I have done it. I have used his swirling linking book to follow him. I touched my palm to its glowing panel and felt the tingling begin. There was a sudden, sickening lurch inside my stomach. Then I fell into the page.
This has happened before. I know it. I happened the first time I came to this place. When I followed his murdering sons from Narayan. It happened when I used his hidden books. And it happened when I finally opened the machine. Right before the fog first ate my mind.
The fog didn't find me this time. When I opened my eyes I was alone in a room. I was standing in the home of my betrayers.
I couldn't move. I was afraid. I thought they'd know that I had come and would be waiting for me. Just like they had waited inside this very tusk. I was afraid they would tie me up again. That the poison snakes would strike
But the silence was unbroken. The whole house was still. And without really knowing what I did, I started to search. Every room. Every floor. Every cabinet. I found his journals. Atrus' never-ending journals. I found the book that brought me back to this world. The lesson world he calls J'nanin.
Oh Tamra my love. How long have I been trapped here? How much of my life has been eaten by the fog? The face I see in the lagoon isn't one I remember ever wearing. It's so much older. So much more savage. But it is me. It is Saavedro. And I remember what they did. How they led my people to death.
The memories flood over me too fast. They race around inside my head, filling my soul with despair. And the more I think about how nothing can be done, how no one can be alive outside his shield, the faster the fog rushes in.
I can lose myself in the fog.
When it's thick enough, I can let go and be safe.
I can start to forget
But I must not forget. I just remember every lie they told my people. How they manipulated us all to get what they wanted! They told they had come to fix my world. They asked to arrange a meeting with the Elders. The books they carried in with them showed other worlds—beautiful places where people didn't have to work so hard to survive. They told my people that Atrus had written these books. That he had written Narayan, but that he'd made our world unstable. They said he wanted to make us slaves to the Tree. They asked me, don't you remember, Saavedro? Our father wrote this world to teach us. To show his sons what an Age shouldn't be.
I don't know what to say. I don't know how it could be true. But why would they lie? Why would Atrus have lied? The worlds they showed us in those Books
The Elders refuse to believe them. They say we cannot abandon the Tree. For thousands of years we have tended the Lattice roots. Without our traditions, we will die.
I don't want us to die. I don't! But Sirrus and Achenar said
They said they would come back, Saavedro. Just like Atrus once said to you, as well. He said he would come back, but then he didn't. He didn't.
And for that, you will have to make him pay.
I have returned several times now to Tomahna. I am searching for some sign of his sons. I was certain they would run back to their father, but so much time has passed. So many years in which to forget about my people.
Is that what happened, Atrus? Safe in your beautiful new home, enjoying life with your dear wife and family. Did you become so busy envisioning new worlds that you forgot the ones you'd already created?
I must be very careful. I must not let them know that I am free. I will read what journals I can find to figure out where his two sons are hiding. And when I've found the sons again—when I've got the whole family together—I'll bring them down. Atrus and his family will suffer.
The way I have suffered for years.
I see it all so clearly now. So clear, without the fog to sweep it away. How the young men in the village don't want to listen to the Elders. How they stand together at the back of the room, a growing knot of anger twisting inside them. Why should we abide by your rules, old men? they scream. You have no life inside you left to live! You gave it up decades ago to the Tree!
Tamra wants to take the children home. She doesn't like the way the tempers are rising. Do something, Saavedro, she whispers. Tell them to stop shouting and make them listen. Tell them.
What, my love? Tell them what? That their young lives do no belong to them alone? That our people are meant to be slaves to our world?
Sirrus and Achenar can see the confusion they're creating. I catch them looking at faces, measuring which men are most dissatisfied. Later they will approach these men in secret. They will urge the malcontents to boycott our rituals. They will prey on their youth and dissatisfaction. And the young men will begin forming gangs. They will throw off our traditions, rise against the Elders, and follow the brothers. Riots will start. And the Tree will be neglected.
Oh, Tamra. It's all so obvious now. But why couldn't I see it at the time? Every lie the brothers told. Every whisper made to put themselves in power. And when our world started collapsing around us, why didn't I see how Sirrus and Achenar didn't care? They never believed the truth behind our tradition. They never understood the work we had to do. They only knew the time had come to leave.
And when they left their linking book behind, knowing I would use it to chase after them. They lured me to this world, tied me up, and left me here to die.
Because I didn't stop them when I should have.
Sirrus and Achenar are not in Tomahna. Every day, I become more and more convinced. Atrus sons are not there.
What happened, Atrus? Did you grow tired of them, the way you tired of Narayan? Did you abandon them, the way you abandoned my people behind your shield?
It does not matter. I can still take revenge against their father. Now that I am no longer stuck on J'nanin, I can avenge all the dead in my world. I can already reopened his other books. I have begun making changes in those worlds, using his own lessons against him. There is still much more work to be done, but eventually I will lure him into this tusk. I will find some way to make him follow me here from Tomahna.
For now, I will concentrate on the Orbiter. It is not a natural part of its world. The material that creates it is like nothing I've seen. It reminds me, just a little, of the shield. And if it is the same material, it can't be damaged.
But perhaps I can damage the other devices.
I have desecrated the poem he placed in the columns. I could no longer stand to see Narayan's artistry in his worlds. I think I can do something with sap to cover the second one, but I'm not sure what to do about the island. I don't know how to alter the current.
Perhaps, if I bring some of the unusual floating stone from Amateria? Something about the molecular composition of the rock in that Age causes it to attract and repel other stone quite forcefully. Maybe, if I introduce some of it to the soil on the island, it will interfere just enough to damage the last poem. I will have to conduct some experiments.
It is taking me too long! Every minute I spend searching his house runs the risk of someone walking in and finding me. I would bring his journals to the tusk, but I'm afraid he will notice them gone. Already, I'm afraid of what he knows.
Of what his wife might know.
She almost caught me last time. I had linked directly into the sun room. I was walking toward his study when I heard footsteps coming down the hall. She was talking with someone. She was laughing. And for one heart-wrenching moment, I thought she was Tamra.
Then I remembered my Tamra is dead. I left her to die when I went after the brothers. I told her to go to the reef, to take our two girls there and hide. I took the necklace she gave me to remember her and I told her
Oh god, Tamra! I told you it would all be okay! For years, I prayed my words were not a lie. That you had made it to reef. That you were tending the ailing Lattice roots. By the weaving, Tamra, how I prayed!
Until I opened his machine.
I saw Narayan through his shield.
And even though the barrier kept me locked inside, I knew. I knew that Lattice Tree had died.
Narayan can't survive without the Tree.
No one can be alive outside his shield.
Standing in Atrus' house, knowing that my wife and children were dead, I felt the fog roll toward me again. And as much as I wanted to give in to its numbness, I couldn't. I couldn't let Atrus' wife find me standing there. Somehow, I waded through the haze. I made my way to the study, found the book that would take me back to J'nanin. It was right where I had left it. Where they might not see it fall. I placed my hand on the panel. Heard the door behind me opening. And then the study disappeared.
She almost saw me. I know it. It was much too close this time. If the book hadn't been where I had left it—
Next time, I'll bring a book from one of his other Ages with me. Just in case it happens again.
My attempts to produce a carnivorous hybrid have had limited success. I thought I was making greater progress, but the life that grows in the forest isn't like the plants on Narayan. It's much more tenacious. Less susceptible to grafts. Perhaps, if I try mixing in species from the swamp?
No!! It cannot be true! Surely his journals deceive me!
He says he's brought them back. He says he's given his D'ni brethren new life. But how? How can one man have so much power? How can one man's writings reawaken a dead world?
I don't know what this means. By all that is sacred, Tamra—what can it mean?
It doesn't change a thing. I can still continue as I planned. I can still seek revenge for my people. I will make my enemies suffer.
By the weaving, Tamra.
This changes everything.
The cavern wall is almost ready. For weeks I have been polishing it, rubbing away at the cracks (left) to obtain a smooth surface. I haven't been able to sleep much these last weeks. I was afraid I might never wake up. But if I can make him see all that happened—if I can show him the pain his family caused—it will be worth it.
Tomorrow, I begin mixing the paints.
I have found a way to reprogram his scanning device. It requires scavenging parts from another mechanism in the tusk, but I think the gears I leave can still be operated by hand.
The final painting is almost done. It's been hard to work in the heat, but he must see everything that happened. As he follows the instructions I have left him, he will feel the pain I've suffered.
If he doesn't, perhaps both of us will die.
It is finished. all is ready for Atrus' arrival. Tonight I will sleep among the ghosts. Then tomorrow, I will link into Tomahna. When I link out, I'll be carrying his Book.
May the spirits of my people serve to guide me in this.