Derry woke gasping for breath and in a
cold sweat. That had been the worst nightmare of all, and he did not
need to talk to anyone to know what its images signified. Those he
owed loyalty dead from his own treachery, his hands stained red with
their blood. He shuddered with horror. Betrayal and death, that's what
it meant. His betrayal and their death.
It was barely light outside, and he was
glad, for Geoff would hardly be up so early. Dressing quickly, he
hurried down the stairs and out of the castle through the kitchens,
where he grabbed some bread and cheese before hurrying to the postern
gate. The guard nodded good morning to him but naturally did not
question Lord Derry's departure. Nor, minutes later, did he question
Geoffrey as he hastened after Derry. Derry himself was too preoccupied
to notice the boy hurrying after him.
The postern trail led down a
precipitous path to the lake shore just outside the town walls on the
side away from the plain where they held the cavalry drills. Perhaps a
quarter mile further on, there was a large stand of pine and other
conifers right against the lake shore, and this was Derry's objective.
He could be alone there, and there was a clearing that would allow him
room for activity.
Stripping down to just his shirt and
breeches, Derry tried to settle into the form, but his breath still
came raggedly and his mind was in turmoil. This would never do! He
needed to strike out, not to relax and let go. Even with the thought,
he heard San Te's instructions on a day when he had been angry at
"Energy is just that, energy.
What it is used for is up to the person wielding that energy. It gives
the wielder power, but with that power comes responsibility. Just as
fire can be used for warmth and for cooking, it can also be used to
harm and destroy."
"There will be times when the
need arises to release energy that is pent up in the body, energy
caused by stress, hardship, and other forms of harm. It is in human
nature that people usually turn such excess energy inward to the point
where they make themselves sick. You must be one with your
surroundings, one within yourself. Passing energy through your body
will help to settle your mind from what is troubling you and allow
your body to regulate that energy to a comfortable level. The first
lotus form is designed for balance, not only physical balance, but
mental and spiritual balance as well. You will notice that you are
more sure of yourself, more able to act and react correctly, no?"
"The first form of the lotus
you learned is called Shi Na Ro, or opening flower. It opens up the
flows in your body and allows them to run clear. The second form that
I will teach you, you are now ready for. It will take the physical
balance and push it further. We will go one step further and allow you
to manipulate the energy inside your body, to feel it run through the
pathways. It is important to be centered and calm, for this form is
more challenging, as well as a bit dangerous if you enter into it
"It is called Ge Ki Sai, or the
movement of thunder."
Frustration, anger, and a sense of
impotence welled up in Derry as he bowed to the east. The residue of
his horrific dreams still coloring his emotions, he sprang into the
first attack routine, Tiger's Paw Strikes Dragon. Twisting suddenly in
midair to end in a crouching palm strike, he twisted his left foot out
in order to spring into the Dragon Fading combination. Delivering a
flurry of kicks and punches while retreating, Derry folded his legs to
the ground, then sprang up to execute a spinning back kick to Strike
the Crane. He suddenly realized that the Crane had become a young boy
and that the boy was real. Striking downwards with his foot at the
boy's chest rather than completing the sidekick extension towards the
head that he had planned, he knocked Geoffrey sprawling and landed in
the dirt beside him. Derry angrily extended a hand and pulled the boy
roughly to his feet, his grip like iron on the lad's arm.
"M'lord, don't! Please, sir,
stop! You're hurting me!" Geoffrey pleaded, real fear in his
face and voice.
Derry shook him off, fury distorting
his face. "What the hell are you doing here anyway? Leave me
"No!" Derry shouted. "I'm
not your lord. I'm no one's lord! Get away from me, Geoffrey, or so
help me God, I'll kill you!"
Geoffrey went white. "M'lord,
you don't mean that."
"Do you want me to prove it?
Get out of here! Go! Or I swear I'll kill you."
The boy turned and fled. He did not see
Derry fall to his knees and bury his face in his hands, hearing the
echo of Morgan's voice in his own words to Geoff. Geoffrey couldn't
know that history was repeating itself with different players. All he
knew was that his own tears blinded him so that he ran right into the
small man in brown homespun before he even saw him.
Startled, he began to apologize, but
the man merely smiled. "You are distressed, young sir. Your
Lord Derry also. It is so?"
Geoffrey nodded, sniffing back a sob. "He's
"He is distressed, but not from
your actions. Go, return to the castle, young sir. I have come seeking
Lord Derry. I will see that he is safe."
Geoffrey looked at the man more
closely. He was hardly taller than the boy, but his leathery brown
skin spoke of age. Then he caught Geoff's eyes, and like others before
him, the boy became lost in their depths. Oddly almond-shaped, pulled
out at the sides, they were ice blue, almost white, and full of the
wisdom of ages. The boy gasped, realizing who the man had to be. "You're
him! Lord Derry's teacher!"
The man bowed, his lips turning up in a
slight smile. "I am called San Te, young sir. And I will see
that your lord does not harm himself. Go now. Tell Lord Michael I have
come and will bring the Lord Derry safely back to the castle in a
Geoffrey nodded and hurried off toward
the town gate, open now. San Te watched him for a moment before he
turned to enter the trees, moving quietly.
Derry still knelt in the clearing, his
head bowed in defeat, shoulders slumped as if they bore the weight of
the world. He did not hear San Te enter the clearing, for the small
man could move like a cat when he wished. He stood silently to one
side without speaking for a long time. Derry was trying to control
himself, to concentrate on his breathing, but the echo of his own
words rang like a gong in his ears, and his breathing was still
"Ever is it so with anger, my
son," San Te spoke quietly. "It harms you more than
the one you are angry with."
Derry's head jerked up as it registered
that the words had been spoken aloud, not in his mind only. "Master!"
He scrambled to his feet, then bowed deeply to his teacher. "How
did you know?"
"I told you once that I would
return when most needed. It seems that I have come in time then?"
the man smiled, crossing his hands behind him.
Derry dropped once more to his knees,
ashamed. "I entered into the second form unbalanced, Master, I
almost harmed the boy." His shoulders dropped in defeat.
"Do you think I would let harm
come to you or to him?" the man asked. "Do you think
I would teach you the second form if you were not ready, or capable?
No, Sean," he whispered slowly, with much affection, "you
did not hurt the boy, and I think you may have learned a lesson about
balance, both physical and mental." San Te stepped back and
sat against the trunk of the nearest tree.
The small man closed his eyes, swinging
his legs into the sitting lotus position, Derry scrambling to do the
same. "There is the flower, Sean, nothing else. You see the
delicate flower, the petals closed, gently guarding the secrets held
within." The voice droned on as Derry's breathing quieted and
his mind started to still. He concentrated on feeling the muscles in
his body relax and listening to the voice of the wise old man seated
in front of him.
"As the petals slowly open,
feel the doors of your chi open the pathways to the vastness of the
universe. Hear the rhythm of the spheres gently tugging at your soul,
ordering your thoughts, bringing peace." The Master's words
continued to soothe; Derry felt both lighter and more at peace. He
opened his eyes to see his teacher standing in front of him.
"You still haven't told me why
you came just now, nor how you found me," Derry said at last.
"Have I not?" San Te
smiled. "Perhaps because you did not ask before. But I would
speak also with Lord Michael, who was once my pupil as well. We should
go back to the castle. You need food and to be clean."
"Yes, I do," Derry
laughed ruefully. "All I managed to do here this morning was
make myself dirty and yell at an innocent boy."
"This is so? I think not, Lord
Derry. Your anger is released. Now you are ready to learn again."
"And will you teach me,
"If you desire it, I
"More than anything."
San Te nodded. "Then let us go,