Some short stories I've been working on while building up Tenzin's origins on Ganden
The Cycle Continues
It was in that mountain cave that another human first laid eyes on him, rather than huddled up in some corner barely clinging to life, the pilgrimage found him chanting. Sitting next to a small glowing orb set into the floor he was surrounded by a set of five floating metal blocks seemingly amorphous in shape, but made up from the same iridescent metal that covered the walls of the cavern. Seemingly changing their shape in response to his chanting they all turned to face Braytak and his fellow monks. Some chose to kneel and pray in the sight of such a scene, others simply stared dumbfound, but as Braytak stepped nervously forward he couldn't help but stare in wonder. This enigma of a child in a place that no child should not be, speaking to the air and seemingly the mountain itself which thrummed along with his chanting, but which suddenly was still.
Having stopped the boy stood, reaching out to grab something as he did so, facing these new creatures which he knew to be his fellow man, perhaps not in genetics, but in spirit. He smiled, feeling the heft and geometry of the rock in his hand as he hid it behind his back. As Braytak reached out a shaky hand to greet him he whispered with reverence.
“The Mother-God's child...Boddhisattva...”
Looking momentarily confused, he took a moment to grab at some deepened knowledge within his memory before responding in the same language, reaching out his empty hand to grasp Braytak's in a grip far too firm for his stature. The sound of the rock clattering to a halt on the floor was lost in the moment.
“I know not my true nature, it is a fractious thing, I wish to find peace, for myself and the world, will you help me?”
Braytak sat beside him in the middle of a meeting hall as they argued back and forth, the boy is a omen, he is the reincarnation of their deity, he is a spy sent among them to test their faith, every accusation flew back and forth until a clear divide began to emerge. What everyone could agree on was that this was likely a good thing, he was a boy born on their goddess' mountain after the worst storm any of them had ever experienced abated, that much seemed to confirm it, but the sticking point was what specifically to do with him. Most pointed to his origin and assigned it reverence, which he failed to understand, saying that he was the next Boddhisattva and should be treated as such. At this Braytak noticed the boy becoming uncomfortable, his green eyes darting around the room as if he was expecting danger from any of the adults well aware that the heated discussion might end violently. As Braytak was about to stand up and interject a sudden banging from one side of the room quickly hushed any debate as they looked over to see the monastery's master standing up with sandal in hand on the desk. As he looked about the room to the stunned faces his gaze finally settled on the boy seeming to bore into him before he pointed his sandal at the man beside him.
“Does the boy have a name, Braytak?”
Suddenly aware that the pressure of the room had switched to him in that instant Braytak replied.
“He does not, Lama Tsarong.” He said, bowing his head “Though we managed to speak with him a little on the descent he has not interacted much, he seemed happy to listen”
Tsarong continued staring at the boy, who stared directly back. For over a minute nothing was said before he brought his sandal down once more.
“It is decided! The boy will enter the monastery as a monk, if he is a reincarnation or not he is sharp, and it would do well to not besmirch this blessing. Once I have taught him sufficiently we will reconvene to decide on the matter his holiness, but until then he is my pupil.”
This seemed final as the rest of the officials and monks nodded their assent, muttering as Tsarong cast his gaze about the room. Most seemed agreeable for now, some clearly weren't happy with the decision but lacked the ability to ignore the master monk's proclamation. Turning back to the boy he addressed Braytak again without making eye contact.
“Braytak, you will also study under me while acting as the boy's mentor, as the one who found him I want you to help integrate him properly, this will be a good test of your own abilities”
Nodding in agreement Braytak bowed his head in thanks as Tsarong continued.
“And you, boy.” He paused for a moment in thought. “Tenzin” He said simply. “That shall be your name, and I will see you live up to it, boddhisattva or not.”
The boy thought himself for a moment before smiling, bowing his head in the same manner Braytak had a moment before but not saying a word. With that Tsarong seemed pleased and the meeting concluded as the monks and towns-people shook hands and slowly filed out, Braytak took a hold of Tenzin's shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile.
“It is an honour to meet you Tenzin, I look forward to our time together”
With another easy smile spreading across his face the boy, now Tenzin responded for the first time since his descent from the mountain, seeming to glow as he did so.
“I look forward to our future together my friend. I'm sure we will reach immeasurable heights together”
Every River Reaches The Sea
It had taken 3 days to reach the summit, and seven long days of mourning before that, and yet Tenzin still couldn't come to terms with the melancholy in his heart. The world curved out to the horizon under him as the group around panted in the thin air. The deep sucking breaths evened out as he waited, and they began unloading instruments and boxes necessary for the next brutal step.
“You're too damned idle boy, what have I told you!”
The memory came bursting back with vivid clarity as he stared at the distant mountain ranges, their snow-covered peaks piercing into the heavens above the cloudy layer that settled between them. The monastery main hall, busied murmurs and bustling robes surrounded him like giants at the time, light of thousands of candles converging on the decorated ceiling creating a dance so complex it had stunned him, until Tsarong had noticed, that is.
“the ceremony begins soon, you have duties to attend to, if you don't feel like completing them you know damned well that you'll be running laps of the city again, now move it!”
A smile broke over Tenzin's face as he looked over the snowy mountain top, but it never reached his eyes.
Turning to the others he helped them unpack everything and see to it their gear would get them back down the mountain. He had insisted that he could carry everything up here himself, that it would be an extremely dangerous journey there and back but the monks would hear no objections. The group, Braytak included, had simply donned their gear and met him outside the city gates ready to go.
Now they were descending again, some worse for wear considering the journey, but nothing too serious. The main problem was the air, the thinness of it would barely be able to feed them enough oxygen to remain alive, but not him. This Tenzin somehow knew instinctively, in no way could he explain it but it simply was. That made him chuckle for a moment, it was these 'immutable laws' seemingly ingrained into him that Tsarong had so often bounced off of in an attempt to teach him the many paths and virtues of their order. They would argue for hours back and forth in Tsarong's study with no end in sight, Braytak often in the middle trying to work out a compromise or often, taking Tsarong's side on the matter. The man would eventually dismiss them, having grown 'weary of the argument' but Tenzin knew the old man was just tired. Even then he still had a faint smile on his face as he and Braytak left the room.
A bird screeching high in the air brought him back from his reminiscing, watching the backs of the others finally disappear over the crest of the hill he turned to the mountaintop, the black shadows already starting to gather above him. Unravelling the body of his old master from the cloth the stink reached his superior senses first, sticking in the back of his throat despite the thinned air carrying it. Laying him on a mat he opened the ornate boxes that had been brought with them, the shelves folding out ornately to expose an array of blades that would make a murderer balk. Selecting a broad knife from it's place he drew out a grindstone and began sharpening, unable to entirely banish the sight or memory of his dear master the entire time. When the blade's edge was keen and glimmering in the fading sunlight, he would begin the Sky Burial.
He would spend the next 16 days with the remnants of his master on that mountaintop. 16 days contemplating the life he had lead up until that point, happy to learn and to be lead along. His entire life spent with whispered prayers and reverence lavished upon him no matter his protestations, his dedication to living the proper life of a monk. Even when he had grown twice as tall as any other man, and as barrel-chested as a Harla Moose he had done his best to use his gifts for others. But even the mightiest men are tempted by the most base of things. He had wanted to show off, perhaps even fight, every wondering if his stature would be better suited to the city guard. He had enjoyed the hushed reverence, the look of awe in people's eyes as they beheld the giant born of the mountain, all-but a demi-god to them. The thirst for knowledge that had been fed by the giant libraries of the city and the monastery, unlocking pathways to concepts and ideas that he had no right to know about, but on some deep level he knew with the conviction of a judge. Through it all Tsarong, Braytak and the other monks had been there to help him, to show him strength, though powerful, was nothing without discipline. When he had been scolded by them for coming back to the monastery covered in offerings the people had given him. Too easy was it to take advantage of other's kindness and not give in return, being marched back through the streets to offer willing help to the downtrodden in repentance. Being told no when he asked for access to the monasteries more sensitive relics and scripture, or having his deep-rooted conviction challenged and foiled by Tsarong after hours of discussion. All those memories playing out as Tenzin sat there. Time blurred as he remembered every aspect of his life up until this now, days flickering as the sun rose and fell, the blanket of stars at night shining down, the slow pecking and whirling of carrion as they landed to feast on his former master before taking flight again after having their fill.
As he became aware of his surroundings again the fresh white of bone stood out on the bloodied patch of snow and the monolith of a man moved for the first time in over a week. From here Tenzin stood, gathering the bones and wrapping them up along with the other supplies before descending the mountain, he would not however, descend the entire way.
Walking into the cave that had saved him all those years ago a familiar tone rung through the air as the primarch began chanting. Almost immediately the floating metallic shapes whizzed to his side, surrounding him in a lazy circle as he made his way to the centre of the chamber. With another tone, they sunk into the floor, amorphous shapes solidifying as they plugged into hidden sockets and with a small hiss the piece of floor beneath Tenzin gave way.
Rather than plummeting into the mountain however, the section of floor glided gently down, a low frequency hum resonating through it much the same as the one sung moments before. This may take a while, but it would be worth it.
Miles and miles of metallic rock would scream past as he sunk deeper and deeper into the mountain. Never changing in design as it did so. He could feel electrical energies shift and warp as fields overlapped one another as they did so, infrequent at first but then slowly increasing, they built and built until the hair on his body stood and occasional arcs of lightning would fire over the metal, threatening to reach out with it's grasping white claws until suddenly, everything stopped.
The whirlwind of rock suddenly disappeared as the roof began to speed away, giant stalactites stretched down in a forest, their points menacingly aimed into the depths below. Underneath him however, was his true destination. Metal skyscrapers, blocks, necropolii stretched out in every direction as far as his superhuman eyes could see, energy infusing every element of its structure. If he focused hard enough, he could even see that it, and the cavern itself stretched over the horizon, monolithic energy-towers, glowing pools of molten metal, plasma and a million different devices and factories of unknown name or origin built in a seeming patchwork over its entire length. Pillars of stone three times as tall as his Mother Mountain and over ten times as thick dotted the metal-scape seemingly holding up the entire world above them with their titanic bulk. While Tenzin had never understood why he knew how he could put words to the strange buildings and processes he knew with conviction that they were true.
“Heh... Conviction” Tenzin muttered to himself. He turned inward again, ignoring the view as he felt the weight of the bones on his back before reciting a short mantra and waiting for the platform to descend.
From here it would be a long trek, through miles of thoroughfares, service tunnels and pipework he would walk, finally arriving at the bridge. The bridge, while unassuming in name, would be a master-stroke of civil engineering even in advanced societies, over 20km long it's support struts glowed as the maglev couplings kept the platforms millimetre-accurate. Each platform in its own right was half a kilometre across, their shimmering surfaces unfolding from the pillars below as they assembled themselves before Tenzin. At the side of each platform were two heavy plinths, each sporting sculptures of long-dead warriors and kings caught in their moment of triumph. The metal facades sculpted to such precision that they might come alive at any moment, they embodied joy, happiness, the fruits of one's labour, but today Tenzin was not looking at them.
He would walk past the sculptures of men, perhaps real or not at one point, all the way to the end, coming to a stop at a titanic metal structure, stopping to rest and unpacking his things. The rhomboid before him stretched high into the cavernous space above, and so deep below it was lost in the encroaching darkness, the front Tenzin had arrived at was bare save for a single console with a plinth at it's centre. While he may want to interact with it again soon, he needed to focus.
Taking out the final remnants of Tsarong, the ornate box was opened again as he searched for the correct tools. Laying out a hammer, mortar and pestle in a row he steeled himself for this final process, some part of him not willing to start for fear of completing it. With a long sigh he began.
As the bones were broken, sharp quick snapping when the hammer came down each time, Tenzin's mind grew more and more distracted, memories were flooding him now and he could not seem to dam them with all his mental fortitude. Flashings of the storm that had given birth to him, memories of the monastery, it all swirled in a roiling mess until each hammer strike brought sparks as they struck the metal of the floor. He felt tears start to well up as he was caught up in the waves of emotion, so much so that it took him a moment to recognize the distant humming that reached his ears. Soothing and warming all at once demi-god knelt for a moment, feeling a warmth in him spread as he let the feelings wash over and through him. Staring down at the hammer in his hands he took a deep breath before releasing it and raising the hammer once more, before the hammering continued muttering one short acknowledgement
“Thank you Mother”
And with that, he began again.