Prologue pt 3

In the blink of an eye her world was full of blazing light. It throbbed with power, forming a shimmering wall all around her. Immediately the crushing fear was gone, replaced with a transcendent peace that pervaded her entire being and filled it with new energy. No longer could she hear the terrible screaming. As she watched the wall of light she noticed golden streaks that surged and spun, flashing and sparking brilliantly. To her surprise one of the streaks detached from the rushing wall, instantly transforming into the figure of a young man. The girl looked at the newcomer in astonishment. Clad in a glowing white tunic that hung loosely on his slim but powerful frame, he had sandy-coloured hair and the kindest grey eyes she had ever seen. Tentatively she tried to speak, finding to her relief that she was able. "Who are you, sir?" His only response was to give her a leather-bound book. As she accepted it from his hand he smiled, disappearing into the wall that still pulsated around her.

Questions flooded her mind in the wake of his departure. Who was that? And what in blazes just happened? What was that awful scream? Where are the Masters? Why did they leave me like that? Frustrated, the girl mentally stilled herself, taking a moment to calm her thoughts. So what now? She tried to move forward, to where the man in white had vanished, but the wall moved with her. Okay, that's not going to work. What next? She glanced down, seeing the forgotten book. I'm an idiot, she thought wryly. How could I have forgotten this when it's right in my hand? Well, here goes. She opened the book.

The visual display screen showed a young girl no older than six, cradling a mouse in her hand. Unlike the moving images in the nebula the picture in the book was still. The page turned, and the onlookers saw the same girl a few years later. She was cutting up vegatables and bore a striking resemblance to the woman standing beside her, who was clearly her mother. The page turned again, revealing an image of the girl with her arm around what appeared to be a classmate. Both were haggard, their faces smeared with sweat-soaked dust and their clothes rumpled.

The picture brought back memories of that long and arduous morning as the girl gazed intently at the pages of the book in her hands. Her classmate Brianna had sprained her ankle during the march. Not willing to leave her friend to struggle by herself and surely fail to make the time required by their instructors, she had offered herself as a crutch. Together they had reached base camp with barely a minute to spare. She had been berated by her instructors for it but she hadn't cared; she was simply glad that they had both done enough to continue their training together.

The next page showed the now-familiar lynx in mid-pounce. The girl stared at it, a frown puckering her forehead. Clearly the book is now showing me my future after showing me my past, just as the nebula did. She flipped over the page, this time seeing a cage made up of heavy steel bars, its door open. The following picture made her gasp. Before her eyes was a lynx lying in a pool of blood obviously its own, a terrible wound in its side. I can't tell whether it's dead or dying. Is that me? She studied it with anxious eyes. No, it can't be; the fur's more brown and not as grey as mine. So who or what is it? Perhaps another picture will tell me... ahh, this must be me now. The grey lynx, herself, was shown running, although it was unclear whether it was chasing something or being chased. Or perhaps it's just running to get somewhere quickly, she thought. Even more questions and still no answers!

The next image was of a bird of prey swooping on its unseen victim, large wings outspread and talons bared. Supreme ability combined with a fluid grace; a master of its environment. Truly a magnificent hunter, she mused. Okay, last one. She had come to the end of the book. The final picture showed a lion, its big, intelligent eyes framed by a long, darkly golden mane. The lion stood erect and proud, its lean, muscular body fronted by massively powerful forepaws that could break a zebra's back with one mighty blow. The huge animal had a commanding presence, a majesty which captivated the girl. No wonder they call it the King of the Beasts. She gazed at the picture in awe, trying to burn every detail into her mind.

Abruptly the book vanished from her hands and everything went white.

The girl's eyes snapped open. She heard a gasp, and looked round to see the head technician staring at her in complete astonishment, mouth agape. He shook his head as he struggled to regain his composure. "That shouldn't be possible... " he whispered, more to himself than to anyone in the room. "No one has ever come out of a trance that quickly." He was jolted out of his reverie by the girl's call for assistance. "Da, I am coming," he said as he hurried over to her. Quickly he straightened the recliner and removed the headband. A button press released her wrists and feet, the restraining cuffs retracting with a whir.

"Thank you," said the girl, as she stood up from the chair. The Counsellor spoke before the technician could reply. "How are you feeling, young one? The technicians tell me that your waking was unprecedented; you have them baffled by its speed!"

"I feel fine, my lord."

"That is good. Nevertheless, you will report to the infirmary for a checkup." He pointed to the head technician. "Tomas here will take you. No doubt he and his team will be studying the data from your Rite of Meeting for a long time!"

"Yes, my lord," replied the girl.

The Counsellor was unable to sleep that night. He had been outwardly cheerful with the Lynx after she had woken from her trance so suddenly, but inside his gut had been churning. Something very unusual had taken place, something even the Masters had not expected. He had sensed their sudden fear and loathing of whatever had invaded their domain. He spent the rest of the day in his private chambers, alternately racking his brains for some kind of answer and meditating in the hope that the Masters would give him some wisdom. They hadn't. Now, laying in his bed, the Counsellor tossed and turned, his body sheathed in sweat. My Masters, why are you so angry? Whatever happened? What is so important, so different about this girl, the Lynx? Please tell me! I need an answer!

No answer came.

Laying in her bunk, the Lynx ran through the events that had occurred that day in her mind. What a day! She recalled receiving her Mark and unconsciously rubbed the place where the chip had been injected into her hand. I met the Masters in their own home! The thought filled her with pride. I have been greatly honoured. And that young man – who was he? One of the Masters? What about my future, and the other lynx? Who, or what, was the bird? The pictures whirled through her head, then fixed on the majestic lion as her mind began to still. A final thought resonated in her over and over, bringing a gentle smile to her lips as she drifted into peaceful slumber.

I am a warrior.