The caves of the Crystal City ran deeper than any of the other Soul Seers knew. The shaman had only been down here once, when the Mothers had lain down in the waters and his people had traded their weapons for the Soul Sight. He became shaman that day, the keeper of his people’s story and the keeper of their pain.
The others who had been with him that day were all dead, their souls returned to the crystal so that Iyashino Haha, the Healing Mother, would gift them with new life.
And so the crystal had kept a perfect balance.
But Kichi’s death disrupted that balance. His soul had been fractured and his Sight, the gift of the crystal, stolen by Kyran’s darkness. And the Mothers did not forgive those who killed themselves; the Soul Tree had not accepted Kichi’s hollow, broken body.
The shaman did not need to look behind him to know that Kyran followed. She tread silently through the caves, the darkness and the crystal drifting together in her emotional numbness. She had stood on the cliffs by the waterfall and watched the Soul Tree refuse Kichi’s body while the Soul Seers wailed and wept in the gardens. She had watched from a distance, knowing that she was not welcome among his people.
But to the shaman, she was still his daughter, his gift from the sea. Although he had always known that the darkness lived within her, waiting, she had brought him endless joy and comfort. She had washed up on the shore as a mystery, but the shaman knew who she was.
At least the mortal part of who she is. And now it is time for Kyran to know, too.
The cave tunnels opened up into a giant cavern. The crystal veins webbed thickly here, deep inside the stone of the Island, deep enough that water trickled down the walls and disappeared in the cracks of the floor.
He found the center of the cavern and sat, beckoning to his daughter to face him on the cold stone. She curled her legs beneath her, weary and distant, and looked at him with her eyes.
“We are in the heart of Iyashino Haha,” the shaman’s voice ignited the crystal in the cave walls. “The Healing Mother lay down and opened her heart to her children, that we may live in peace and heal others who seek her gift,” he placed his palms flat on the stone. “Feel her heart beat, Kyran. Feel the flow of her veins.”
Warm in his own robes, he felt Kyran shiver as she stretched her arms down and placed her palms flat like his. Her soul was subdued, darkness clouding hues of blue.
Such a good daughter. She has always trusted me. It is something I will miss. The crystal pulsed beneath them, subtle and deep. “Do you feel it, Kyran?”
The shaman felt Kyran close her eyes and see with the crystal of her soul. “Yes, Father.”
“She is your mother, Kyran, as she is the mother of all our people. I found you on the shores of our Island, brought to me by the Mists, but you are not a stranger.” Although it had been many years, the memory choked in the old man’s throat. “I had a daughter.”
Kyran’s shivering stopped and her darkness stirred, the blue of her soul deepening to purple.
Such a passionate child. Kyran truly belongs to both Mothers. But he also knew that part of Kyran didn’t belong in the Crystal City at all.
The shaman swallowed. “I had a daughter, of my own. Her mother returned to the Soul Tree, but my daughter was a strong healer. She had the gift of runes and shaped the crystal into the symbols that surround the gardens. She was happy with her life in the Crystal City until a man came.”
Kyran’s eyes flitted open and she shifted a little on the cold stone floor. “Men always come to the Crystal City.”
“Ah, but this was not just a man. Somehow, he deceived the Mists and entered the Island with an impure heart,” anger deepened his voice. “He did not come for the gifts of the Healing Mother. He came to take my daughter away.”
Kyran closed her eyes again and the shaman sensed her fighting to balance the darkness with the crystal that it had stolen from Kichi. The crystal wanted to mourn, and the darkness wanted to destroy.
“You are the daughter of my daughter. One Soul Seer left the Islands of Insight and another returned. And so the crystal kept its perfect balance,” his hands pressed hard on the stone and he reached out for the crystal in the cave. A whisper of pain singed his nerves and a part of him that had slept for a thousand years stirred.
“How can someone deceive the Mists?” Kyran held her voice steady, her hands still even though the shaman knew she felt the pain, too.
The crystal in the cave answered before the shaman could speak, red glowing at the edges of the blue veins.
“Your return, the darkness that is part of your soul, is the key. Our Fighting Mother, Senso no Haha, is ready to awaken.”