Little is known of the hideout where Arkyna and Riik were taken after the Psidar rescued them. It is clear that it was a series of caves and tunnels, many of them artificial, located beneath the peaks of the Barrier Mountains, a gargantuan range which stands as testament to an incomprehensibly large meteor strike during Alledora's early history. The origins of these mountains is important, for beneath them can be found many rare and unusual metals and minerals which were either formed or deposited by the impact.
About five years before the departure of the Dira Tulag colonists, the Psidar discovered that some of these minerals could interact with Psi in a variety of useful ways. Collectively known as 'Shar', these minerals allowed Psidar to focus their power with greater precision, to amplify the amount of Psi which they could safely handle, and to store Psi for later use by themselves or others. Archaeologists searching for ancient Psidar hideouts beneath the mountains in—
Ishin broke off his writing and rose from his seat. The computer screen blanked before showing an icon to indicate it had saved his work-in-progress, then turned itself off to save power. Ishin smiled to himself; sometimes he wondered why they placed so much emphasis on saving energy when cheap, clean energy was available in almost unlimited quantities. Evidently people still had some concern about that 'almost'.
His study, high in the Academy tower, had two windows facing south. Just over the horizon he could see the towers of Alledora's capital city, Spir, rising above the clouds; at night, the lights and engines of spacecraft taking off and landing at Spir's spaceport made a procession through the sky.
Today there was a clear purple sky with only a few clouds to the east hinting of rain to come later. Ishin paid the weather little mind; his windows were watertight and kept out the cold or the warmth as necessary, and his attention had been absorbed entirely in recent weeks by his work on his book. The walls of his study were lined with shelves and those shelves were laden with every variety of book and data storage medium upon which relevant information could be found. A lot of information he could access through the computer networks which spanned Republic space, but in researching events which happened so long ago it was inevitable that some information was less readily accessible; if it wasn't, there would be very little point in doing the research.
He located the data card containing the report of the archaeologists who'd found an old Psidar base about two thousand years ago. They'd had some considerable trouble getting out of the base alive once they discovered the defences which the residents had woven into the Shar seams around their tunnels and a team of Psidar had been sent to help them. Ishin suspected that their report would be fascinating but, as far as he could tell, it was still sealed in the secret files of the Academy and not available to the likes of him.
The card fitted into an interface box which communicated wirelessly with Ishin's computer. He sat down again and started searching through the card, looking for the date and the location of the base, along with some of the pictures. If he was to describe it accurately...
A knock on the door interrupted his train of thought. He sighed.
'Who is it?'
'It's Zarata. I can go away, if you're busy.'
'No, come in.'
The door opened and Zarata Kross entered. Ishin was always struck by the contrast between the towering reputation of this five-thousand-year-old woman and her actual appearance and manner. Of entirely average height (although she assured people that she had been tall among her contemporaries after the Psidar War), with entirely normal long black hair, unremarkable green eyes and a voice which you'd be hard-pressed to pick out in a room full of conversation, she really didn't look the part.
To a Psidar, however, she certainly felt the part. Power radiated from her as heat does from a roaring fire and, to Ishin's eyes, she sometimes appeared to glow.
'Good afternoon, Ishin,' she said. 'I hear that you'd like to talk to me about your book.'
'Yes. Please, have a seat.' Ishin levitated a second chair to a position by the desk and sat in his own chair. Zarata raised an eyebrow before sitting down. For some reason she had always found Ishin's style of Psi use to be amusing and Ishin had never been able to figure out why - or to get a decent explanation from her.
'Since you are researching the origins of the Psidar War, I am sure that you would like my memories of the time immediately after it.'
Zarata also had a disconcerting habit of answering questions before you'd managed to ask them.
'Well, anything that is relevant. I was just writing a piece about what happened to Arkyna Dekarantos after they hauled her out of prison.'
'Ah, Arkyna. Now there is a woman I'm not likely to forget in a hurry.'
'Oh yes. She was the kind of person who made an impact on everyone she encountered. A very powerful Psidar, although she lacked something in finesse. I always thought she seemed to be troubled inside. She carried around a lot of guilt after the war.'
'Did she feel responsible for starting it?'
'Partially, yes. I think sometimes she thought she should have stayed on Dira Tulag. I remember we talked about why she decided to stay on Alledora after the war, but I'm afraid I cannot remember her reasons for it. It has been a very long time and significantly more important things have happened since then.'
'Of course.' Ishin winced, remembering the Cholprya War, in which he'd played his own part. 'Do you know what happened to her after she came back from Dira Tulag?'
Zarata frowned. 'Not in any great detail. She was arrested, along with everyone else who'd come back. They found out that she was a Psidar pretty quickly. That was just after the government had officially acknowledged the existance of Psi and they'd made the use of it a capital offence.'
'Many historians have suggested that was one of the major contributory factors to the war.'
'Perhaps. I was born after the war, but I would be surprised if anybody was pleased about it. The thing all the adults I knew when I was a child seemed to be most pleased about is that after the war they could go where they wished, live where they wished and use their power where they wished without fear of retribution or reprisal. In theory, at least.'
'What do you mean?'
'There was a lot of bitterness after the war. The fighting stopped, but it took several generations for the animosity to truly subside and for Alledari society to start on the course which led us to where we are today. By that point, of course, I was somewhat out of touch.' She rose. 'Was there anything else?'
'No, thankyou.' Zarata opened the door. 'Wait,' Ishin said. She stopped and looked back at him.
'Has anybody ever asked you where you were for those five thousand years between when you vanished and when you reappeared during the war?' Ishin asked.
'A great many times.'
'Did you ever tell any of them?'
'It wouldn't do them any good to know. It might, in fact, do them a great deal of harm if they were to become overly curious about the matter.' She continued out of the door.
'Did you go to Dira Tulag?'
Zarata came back inside the room and closed the door.
'You will tell nobody. You will not write this in your book, nor will you ever reveal it to any person. Even on your deathbed. Do you understand? This knowledge could be extremely dangerous.'
'But if you went—'
'I had a special arrangement with those who reside there. They are there still, the same beings who were there when the colony was founded, plus a few more who have come over the millennia. I had things to learn, and things to teach and they could show me what I needed to know. Only there could I survive long enough to come back and pass that knowledge to the people who would need it when the time came.' She laughed. 'I never expected it to be five thousand years.'
'Did Arkyna stay on Alledora so that you could go there? Did they think you were her?'
Zarata went to the door and opened it again.
'Never let a historian ask you questions,' she said and left. Ishin smiled. It was rare to get any information out of Zarata at all, and that explained quite a bit.
He turned back to the computer and continued to write.