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The Rising Star - Chapter 8: The Door of Awakening

by Alexshaw 

Posted: 11 May 2006
Word Count: 2748

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Sire awoke the next morning to the sound of knocking. Semi-clothed, he stumbled across his new quarters and opened the door a crack. Bridget was already fully dressed, and a boy Sire had seen but not spoken to last night was out in the corridor with her.

"Our tour starts in one minute," Bridget said. Sire's heart sank a little. If she was one of those infuriating early risers who were chirpy when everybody else was feeling groggy and tired, then the two of them might not be able to be friends after all.

"Give me twenty seconds," Sire mumbled, shutting the door and running for his clothes.

When he emerged, Bridget and the boy were chatting and laughing quietly with each other. Sire cracked the knuckles of his forefingers unconsciously and smiled warmly at their guide.

He was about Sire's age with a round face, dark, twinkling eyes and an expression that suggested seriousness. He was a little bit shorter than Sire and his presence was a subtle one.

The boy looked at him. "It's nearly ten o' clock," he said. "You've wasted half the day lounging in bed like some kind of hog." His expression did not change, but Sire was fairly certain he meant this in jest.

"I'm Sire," he said, extending a hand.

The boy shook it and nodded. "Contemplative Tiger," he replied. "Bridget was telling me you could do with some combat training later on."

Sire raised his eyebrow at her. She looked back, the picture of innocence. Sire decided to let it go, and shrugged. "I could certainly use some practise."

"We'll sort you out, son," said Tiger, and waved the pair of them on. "Now this tour will take us an hour, and you should leave all questions until the end as we have a lot of ground to cover." Sire followed him, with Bridget in tow, and attempted to rub and stretch some feeling back into his limbs and face, which ached from the beating he had received the day before. He hoped they might have time for breakfast.


They walked through halls and courtyards, past classrooms and atriums. Sire longed to stop in each one, because there was so much to look at. There were paintings on the walls and sometimes even on the ceilings, murals, framed posters, prints and engravings, and this was just the hallways. Inside the rooms there were libraries of books, films and music. Arcane paraphernalia, unusual looking machinery and a wide range of sculptures and statues were in abundance, sharing space with fountains and lush plant life in the open-air courtyards. Every culture in the System was represented somewhere in some way, either through art, architecture, technology or botanical features. Occasionally Tiger would stop and tell them something interesting about it, but he barely paused for breath before moving on each time.

Every so often they would pass a student walking through the building. They were always warm and genuine in their greetings and made the newcomers feel welcome. Sire glanced in through the windows of several classrooms and saw small groups of people engaged in lively discussion. They appeared to be throwing ideas back and forth, and their laughter and raised voices rang out into the corridors. Bridget nudged Sire as they passed the door of a large, high-ceilinged hall where a selection of students in one corner engaged in fighting with long staffs, whilst others performed an impressive gymnastic display, and two more were halfway up a climbing wall.

They stopped for a time in a great open garden and as Tiger went off to find something to drink, Sire sat next to Bridget on a fountain that sent great jets of coloured water arcing through the air behind them. She did not seem altogether comfortable.

"Are you liking all of this?" Sire asked her.

"Actually, no," she muttered. "It's kind of creepy."

Sire immediately became defensive. "What would you prefer?" he demanded.

"Hey, relax," she said. "I'm just very aware that we're wanted criminals and I'd prefer to hide out somewhere a bit more...normal."

"Do you honestly mean that?" asked Sire, frowning at her.

"I'd feel safer."

"That's fine. Just ask for a lift to the nearest settlement. I'm sure that'll be normal enough," said Sire.

"Do you want me to go?" she demanded.


"Are you going to come with me?" she asked, this time, her voice a little softer. Sire looked into her green eyes and felt his resolve waver. He gritted his teeth and set the feelings aside.

"You're probably better off without me," he said quietly, turning away from her. Without a word, she stalked off to the nearest exit and rounded the corner and out of Sire's life. "Nice going, idiot," he muttered to himself.

Tiger appeared from the hallway leading to the dining room, carrying three bottles of water. He sat next to Sire and handed him one.

"Where's your friend?" he asked. Sire was about to snap a reply when he realised he wasn't tense around Tiger any more. With Bridget gone, there was nothing to get possessive about. Instead he cracked open his bottle and took a swig of the most delicious, fresh water he'd ever tasted.

"I think she's leaving the house already," Sire said, when he'd caught his breath. "Differences of opinion and all that."

Tiger nodded solemnly. "Got to let them walk away," he said, resolutely. Sire decided to change the subject.

"How did you get your name?" he asked. "I've noticed a few students here with similar handles."

"We choose our own names, when we're ready to look at ourselves objectively," Tiger replied. "It's not our true name, but one we wear for the journey." He caught Sire's quizzical glance. "People tell me I think too much."

"No bad thing," muttered Sire. "Why Tiger, though?"

"Raven asked me to think of a strong characteristic of mine, and what animal I felt most kinship with," said Tiger. "I like tigers." Sire nodded. "But that doesn't mean I'm really all that similar to a tiger," the boy continued. "Just that in an ideal world, that's the kind of soul I'd want to possess."

Sire looked at him out of the corner of his eye. He'd never met someone so utterly deadpan. It was hard to work out if he was joking or not. Sire decided the best way forward would be to play along and take this seriously. He couldn't cause offence that way.

"I'm not sure what I'll choose, then," Sire said, holding his hand up to the fountain and letting the bright green water splash over his skin, then drinking some more from the bottle. He felt utterly refreshed and at peace in this garden.

"You strike me as a sort of bird," Tiger said. "That's a good thing, you'll have a lot of company. Crane, Kestrel and you've got Master Raven of course."

"Ah - see, I think I'm more of a cat person myself," said Sire.

"How about a lion?"

"I don't like lions. The males just sit around all day and let the women hunt. I prefer tigers. They hunt alone."

"Leopard?" Tiger ventured, after a swig from his bottle.

"Too vicious," said Sire. "Did you know, if you raise a leopard from a cub, the moment it becomes an adult it's likely to kill you? Tigers don't do that."

"Well, Tiger's taken," said Tiger.

"What if I was 'Brave Tiger' or something? We can have different first names."

"No way! Who's going to pay any attention to the thoughtful one if there's a brave one in town?" argued Tiger. "Forget it, you're a bird." He paused and thought for a moment. "Brave Sparrow!" he announced. Sire could barely contain his grin now and he noticed Tiger smiling just as broadly. In that instant, he realised they were friends.

They saw Raven enter. He was wearing beautiful, flowing cream linen robes and moved with speed to reach them at the fountain. Tiger got up and bowed his head respectfully. Sire did likewise, hoping to blend in.

"I was just telling him about how we choose our names," said Tiger.

The old man nodded gravely. "My one word of advice for you on that matter," said Raven, leaning in closely. "Don't choose for a few weeks. It takes some people a lifetime to work out who they are. Some never figure it out. Give it some time and thought." Sire nodded agreement. "Tiger, will you excuse us?" Raven continued. "Now that Sire has had the tour, I think it's time he saw the Chamber of Awakening." Tiger bowed again. He slapped Sire on the shoulder in a friendly manner and made his exit.


Raven strode through the maze of corridors, with Sire hurrying to keep up. They rounded a corner, and Raven came to a halt and gestured to a shining, ornately engraved door. It was made of a strange, glowing metal, with vines etched up either side, meeting in an archway in the middle. Beneath this, a wondrously complex image of a churning sea in the midst of a storm splayed out, and above the sea was a sun with many worlds circling it. The door was aged and showed signs of genuine antiquity. Sire gazed at the door, yearning to see what was on the other side.

"This is where we all begin," said Raven. "Remember, Sire, if you do not like what you hear you are entirely welcome to leave, and we will escort you to the nearest port along with your friend Bridget, but I ask that if you do have second thoughts, please tell me."

"I won't," said Sire. "I've been waiting for this all my life."

Raven nodded. "Then it is up to you to open this door."

Sire laid his trembling hands against the smooth, warm metal. The shining gateway began to slowly ease open and Sire stepped forward into the darkness beyond.

The doors closed and he was enveloped in shadow. With a rush of adrenaline Sire looked around him, straining for even a pinprick of light. There was no sound, save for the low whispering of an ethereal wind. Then, in the distance, Sire heard singing; an unseen choir in the midst of an aria that caught hold of his heart and stilled the breath in his lungs.

It was as though he had always been here, listening to this music, which made him ache with sorrow and yet filled him with an indescribable joy. As a single tear trickled down his cheek, stars began to appear in the sky, not only above, but also below and on all sides, brighter than he had ever seen before. The air around him was cool and he was borne upwards, soaring into the heavens to find he was looking out on the entire galaxy. Raven had followed him and as they gazed out at the endlessness that lay before them he spoke quietly, though in this place, his voice echoed and reverberated all around them.

"This is our galaxy when viewed in terms of pure energy. Those are not stars, but pools of spiritual light." They approached the nearest, which appeared as a gigantic, glowing blue sun. It projected no heat but filled Sire's vision with a light so intense that he could barely look towards it. He now understood how Terez must feel.

"This is a representation of the source of all the spiritual energy in our solar system. I call it The Mix. It is essentially composed of billions of souls, all resting and existing as pure potential. There is no memory, no pain and no sadness. It is where each of us begins." They swept closer and mercifully the brightness abated as the world before them morphed into a gigantic blue lake, amidst a range of snow-capped mountains. Raven and Sire flew down and alighted on the shore.

This was incredible. Sire could smell the mountain air around them. Was this illusion or some kind of dream? From within his robes, Raven pulled a cup and stooped to the side of the lake. He filled the cup and raised it to the light for Sire to see.

"The soul of every creature originates in the Mix. As we leave and inhabit our first body, we become something different. Beginning with the act of assuming individuality, everything we do contributes to our soul's evolution and growth."

Raven waved his hand over the cup and the water inside rose up and floated in the air, holding itself in a bubble. Raven discarded the cup and continued as Sire stared at the sphere of water.

"When we die and leave our bodies, many of us return to The Mix, but the option is always there to retain your individuality and the experience you have accrued. Then it is simply a matter of waiting for the right new body to come along so that you may begin your next life."

Raven pulled out a second cup and held it beneath the water, which obligingly poured itself inside. As Sire watched in awe, the lake before him burst into life and hundreds and thousands of bubbles of water leapt into the sky, and over the land around them, surrounding the whole area in a floating airborne sea of giant raindrops. Raven laughed and tossed the contents of his cup once more into the air, where it drifted off among the countless others. He began to walk along the shore as the soul-bubbles parted before him.

"This is the place I call The Otherworld. Unlike in the Mix, you retain your individual thoughts but you also have access to everything you have learned in previous lifetimes. Here you are free to rest and craft your own heaven. You may even share in the experiences of the living as an observer. We are but a shadow's breadth away."

"Dead?" Sire asked.

Raven shook his head. "If you take anything from what I'm saying it should be the basic fact that a person is never really dead. We are all composed of energy, and energy cannot be destroyed, simply transferred to another form. One can exist for hundreds, maybe thousands of lifetimes, passing from one body to the next, and rejuvenating peacefully in the Otherworld in between."

"If this Otherworld is so wonderful then why live life at all?" asked Sire, suddenly articulate again. "Life is painful and harsh, and a lot of people are miserable for the entirety of it."

"You mean 'why are we here'?" said Raven. "Simply put, you cannot learn there; you cannot grow or gain experience. To do this you must undergo joy and pain in the physical world. This is what defines our lifetimes. This is why we make the journey."

Sire's eyes widened as the answer came to him. "The meaning of life is life itself," he said.

Raven nodded agreement. "We could simply exist as resting spirits, but we choose to come back, and that tells me that there is nothing more valuable than a life well spent."

They began to rise, through the water and up into the stratosphere. Once again they beheld the Mix as Raven had first displayed it, only now it was surrounded by billions of tiny points of light, all arranged into a glowing mantle enveloping the incredible blue sun.

"You must understand, this is only one interpretation of how things are," said Raven. "I certainly don't claim to have more than a fraction of the bigger picture. You must tread your own path in order to understand the vastness of the world." He circled around in front of Sire.

"It is not an accident that you have been brought to me. I believe that you have an important part to play in the events of our future. Exactly what is hard to say, but you are not an ordinary man, Sire, and I do not believe it is your fate to lead an ordinary life. The choice, as ever, is down to you."

Sire breathed deeply stretching out his mind to encompass the vastness of the whole situation. He had passed beyond his former life of searching in vain for this understanding, and before him lay a boundless galaxy of possibility. Fear was in him, but he was brave enough to meet it. The road before him beckoned and his decision was already made.

"Thank you," he said softly.

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Comments by other Members

Nelly at 10:17 on 12 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex,

Found some time this morning after all.

Enjoyed reading through, with some nice description when Sire enters the Mix, you have an easy going writing style, which draws me into your uploads. The story has a kind of ‘fun’ feel to it. Sire’s character has certainly been fleshed out more and now even while we are saying goodbye to Bridget (although I’m sure she will be back); we are introduced to two more.

Some points along the way,

Bridget was already fully dressed, and a boy Sire had seen but not spoken to last night was out in the corridor with her.

This needs a little work, reads awkwardly as it stands.

Every culture in the System was represented somewhere in some way, either through art, architecture, technology or botanical features.

Do you need ‘somewhere in some way’?

Occasionally Tiger would stop and tell them something interesting about it, but he barely paused for breath before moving on each time.

The two halves of the sentence seem at odds to me. I know what you mean, but maybe it needs to be reworded.

He gritted his teeth and set the feelings aside.

Gritting his teeth is a cliché.

Without a word, she stalked off to the nearest exit and rounded the corner and out of Sire's life.

Perhaps remove the first ‘and’?

Raven had followed him and as they gazed out at the endlessness that lay before them he spoke quietly, though in this place, his voice echoed and reverberated all around them.

Needs tightening, how about,

Raven followed him and as they gazed out at the endlessness he spoke quietly, his voice echoing and reverberated all around them.

It projected no heat but filled Sire's vision with a light so intense that he could barely look towards it.

Comma before, ‘but’.

"Life is painful and harsh, and a lot of people are miserable for the entirety of it."

Or ‘it’s entirety.’

Hope it helps


toshi at 09:53 on 15 May 2006  Report this post
HI Alex

I enjoyed this upload. I liked the idea of the Mix - it all seemed pretty far reaching in terms of the ultimate meaning to everything, so giving the reader plenty to think about there. I did have some difficulty working out whether Sire and Raven were actually transported to the Mix or just viewing a representation of it, and if it was a representation whether it was accurate to what it was really like, or just an abstract representation by Raven. I think a little clarification would help there.

Here are a couple of pointers I noticed:

which ached from the beating he had received the day before.
I can't recall any beating unless you mean back at Zeus - it may only be the day before but I think you should make it clearer which beating you are referring to?

Without a word, she stalked off to the nearest exit and rounded the corner and out of Sire's life. "Nice going, idiot," he muttered to himself.

This seemed far too abrupt a departure and Sire could not know she was "out of his life" at this stage.

I noted all the talk about animals which I enjoyed but I did wonder if Sire etc. would have a good idea about earth mammals, since Sire grew up on Zeus and Tiger I don't know where. How would they know about these animals to talk about them?

Well I hope that is some help. I'm probably being too picky so just ignore me.

best wishes

Alexshaw at 12:27 on 17 May 2006  Report this post

Some fine points as I have come to expect from you.

Hmmm. I always wanted it a littel ambiguous as to how Raven was showing Sire the Mix. Is it an advanced computer simulation similar to the holodeck in Star Trek, is it an illusion or a psychadellic experience or is Raven genuinely pulling Sire out of his body to show him the spirit world. Would this ambiguety enhance or diminish the power of the chapter?

I'll clarify when the beating occurred. I'll definitely change the "out of Sire's life" bit, she obviously does come back.

Regarding the animals. I wanted this to raise questions and curiosity in the reader to find out if I will clarify where and when they are.

(I do)

You're not being picky at all, these are all just natural queries that will occur in my readership at this stage.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a literary agent expressing interest in the rest of my book based on their reading of the first three chapters.

I gutted the second and third parts of the book and completely re-wrote them. The same events occur, but this time I've written them in a more mature style, taking into account everything you guys have said.

I'll continue submitting the finished chapters and will continue to look to you guys for pointers and final-final edit suggestions.

Cheers again


Patsy at 20:01 on 19 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex,

Loved this chapter, especially loved the entire meaning of life concept that you’ve introduced. It gives the book an entirely new dimension, and Sire something more to fight for.

I only found one thing for you to consider:

I thought Bridget gave up a bit too quick for a woman. I don’t think she would have stalked off without giving him more of an argument. Women love to talk! Remember we use twice as many words in a day as a man!!

Patsy :)

Alexshaw at 23:07 on 20 May 2006  Report this post
Looks like the general concensus is that I've short-changed Bridget.

I'll create a nice little argument for the two of them to have. She has to get her point across in a way that makes us understand her perspective.

Thanks Patsy.

toshi at 10:16 on 21 May 2006  Report this post
Alex, if you wanted to leave it ambiguous whether they viewed the Mix, a representation etc. then I think the least you should is have Syre raise the question as to what he was viewing. Otherwise the reader is left feeling the writer hasn't considered the point.

Congratulations on the interest you've received from an agent. I hope it all works out well for you!

Best wishes

Alexshaw at 19:37 on 21 May 2006  Report this post
Thanks Tosh. I think in the original draft he did. Just goes to show if you prune too hard, some of the shape disappears.

It'll be back in soon.

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