Ul Heng’s stomach rumbled once again.
It was common for this to happen, for though Ul was a guargol, a kind of plated bird-person.
While he could breathe even amid noxious fumes, he still hungered. More than once in his starved life, he had wished he had been born a tree-like trong. The trong just fed off the harsh rays of the dragon sun, Zhulougr.
Both the trong and the guargol were known as gazed. As the Zhulougran faith tells it, their forms were a blessing, that they might endure the Sundering.
-Oh Zhulougr, why on Sunder did you not grant my kind respite from hunger and why did you let me be kidnapped by old man who refuses to let me find food?-
Ul lamented his current situation. He had been minding his own business, living his life in a small no-name town that had cropped up around a dig site, alternately dumpster diving and begging.
Ul usually didn’t worry if anyone was watching. The town was fairly safe and for the most part people didn’t want to look at him, not with his mangled legs, or bony form, or stinky matted clothes.
Unfortunately he bumped right into some weirdo in grey robes. The guy had a metal walking stick and a silky beard as long as that stick. Ul had muttered his apologies, and tried to move on, but who could have known the weird old man would have been strong enough to pick him up and carry him all the way from town to the top of a dusty hill that overlooked the town?
Ul Heng’s stomach rumbled once again.
Who could have known that the old man would not let him hobble away back to the city?
Ul Heng looked longingly at the town below, around this time of the day some of the workers from the dig site would have appeared, and while they might make a few cruel jokes about Ul’s dancing for them, they would usually toss a something of minor value or some half-eaten thing at him.
“Abandon those worldly desires” The old man croaked, as if he could read Ul’s mind.
Ul groaned as the beastly old man rapped him on the back with his cane.
“Dirty old frog” Ul muttered.
“Clear your mind, close your eyes, think of something like a river, a stream of power” the old man repeated for the tenth time.
Ul was pushed and prodded back into a meditation stance.
-Why couldn’t he have grabbed someone else to play master with, the old coot!-
Another rap on the back with the cane.
“The stream becomes a crystal, the crystal beats and hums. It nourishes you” The man repeated.
-I need nourishing sure, but all crystals are good for is fuel, and I’m no gemchild- Ul bitterly thought.
He decided that on the whole, he had lived a miserable unhappy life. He took a little comfort in the fact that his death might bother the old man.
Another rap on the back, this time coming at the same time as a stomach rumble.
This cycle continued for a time, until, spirit broken, Ul Heng decided for want of anything else to do, to do as the man said.
He closed his eyes.
He cleared his mind.
The thought of a stream, a bubbling stream of fresh water, not that Ul Heng had ever seen such a thing, but he had seen running taps and one of the more learned workers told him about water rivers once.
“Not a river of water, a river of power, of motion!” The old man’s voice cut through his mind and the image was shattered.
A little annoyed, Ul Heng tried to imagine a flow of power. He didn’t have a clue, but he guessed that power glowed, right? So he saw the flow of many glowing motes.
Ul Heng felt something was odd.
He opened his eyes and looked around. The hill was the same. The town was the same, the old man was mostly the same.
Did the old man always radiate such a feeling of power?
A rap of the cane once more.
Ul Heng was annoyed, but now there was a kind of curiosity in his heart too.
He quickly tried to visualize the stream of power again. Naturally, he failed.
He failed about three more times before he got it right again.
When he did, he almost forgot what the next step was.
The stream turns into a crystal.
Compression? Maybe. Ul Heng wasn’t sure how it worked.
Regardless, in his mind’s eye. There was a crystal, a crystal he could not tell the shape, size or colour of, but a crystal all the same.
Ul Heng didn’t really know what he was doing, but he tried feeding from the crystal.
A trickle of warmth spread out along his veins and Ul Heng opened his eyes in shock.
It was night. Deep into the night when Sunder was obscured from the sleeping face of Zhulougr by the Shroud. The sheet of land that orbited Sunder, The glittering lights of the settlements of those who lived on the Shroud greeted Ul’s face.
“You sensed it didn’t you?” The old man said smugly.
What Ul Heng was particularly amazed by however, was that he was not hungry. He felt satisfied, indeed he felt better than he ever had before in his life.
“Old man, what, just what was that?”
“You just gained some awareness of the core of your own life” the old man gave as a non-explanation.
“How can anyone go hungry?” Ul Heng explained.
Just then, Ul’s stomach rumbled, and he felt both cold and weakness seep into his bones.
The old man shook his head.
“How easily you are ensnared, if you eat, you must eat. If you fill your belly with food, you must continue to fill it with food. How many can concentrate as you did, and yet you have not fully escaped, come, close your eyes again, until you have escaped, either by death or by feeding on something else. This is my gift to you child”
Another rap of the cane.