It is the year 4006. A young boy of about twelve years of age is swimming in the sea with the dolphins, naked, a strange green mollusc around his mouth that helps him to breath under water. Today started out as just an ordinary day, he tells Iryn, the Goddess, with his grandmother nagging him. "Jonathan Earthsalt Woo!" she yells. "Come out this very moment!" One of the dolphins prods him with it's nose, just in case he didn't hear. But as she was projecting the shout into his mind he had no choice but to hear it. He swims to the surface of the water and takes off his breathing mask.
His grandma, who wears the mark of the Askani over her right eye, wants to know why he's always swimming with the dolphins; she asks whether he is a boy or a dolphin. He jokes that he knows what he'd prefer to be. "Hush boy," she accosts him, rubbing his hair dry with a towel. "To spend a life playing, this might fit a dolphin, but not an Askani." She rubs his head too hard, hurting him. He complains, and she leaves him to dry his own hair. She then proclaims it is time for his meditation. He finds complaint with this too, thinking meditation sucks.
Later, Jonathan is meditating upside down, levitating himself off the ground, as well as a group of rocks. His Granma berates him again about the rocks, asking him whether they are bored of being rocks and would prefer to be birds now. Jonathan tells her he can easily make them fly. "Just because you can do it, it doesn't mean you must do it!" she tells him. "Power is about restraint as much as anything. What would have happened if Nathan Summers carelessly flaunted his power after he had become almost all-powerful at Krasnaya Polyana all those years ago?" "He's have been more fun," Jonathan answers.
His Granma is outraged, and hits him across his backside with a towel, causing him to loose his concentration and fall to the floor, the rocks falling with him. She thinks all he thinks about his fun. Without Nathan Summers they would not be here today. Nathan averted a conflict that could have destroyed the world. "Yeah...by dying," says Jonathan angrily. "By dying, of course," says his Granma calmly. "How else?"
The whole word was watching, and his death changed that. By dying of his own free will he reminded us, once again, what being a man is all about.
His Granma explains that Nathan Summers could have lived forever he was so powerful, but he died so they could live! Jonathan understands that, but thinks that it would've been better if he'd died more heroically, slaying legions of villains. She thinks he's heard too many stories and talked too little with Iryn. Jonathan thinks Iryn is boring. She remember thinking that herself when she was his age, but the stories of Iryn flying to the rescue on a dragon named Jordan and all the other aren't true. Granma goes on to say: "In truth, Nathan and Iryn were never lovers, there was no dragons and Blaquesmith never traveled back in time to give birth to himself! Singapore was just a pet rat Nathan once had."
Then comes a man, exhausted from running, shouting the name "Askani!" The Venerable Mother, the name he gives Jonathan's Granma, inquires what he wants. The man begs help, using the name of Nathan Dayspring Summers to sway here. She assures him he does not need to bind her with the holy names. Her duty is to help those in need. He proclaims there is a war down in Red Field between the fishermen. "Again?" mutters Granma. He tells her they agreed to wait two days, but it took him two to get here as the Serpentine Marauders stole his horse. They have no time. "For despair, there's never time," she tells him. "For hope, there is nothing but time." She orders Jonathan to get dressed; they have a job to do.
Later, as Jonathan and his grandmother journey to their destination, he asks her why the families in Red Field are fighting again. She thinks it's some stupid feud over the best place to fish. He wonders why they bother. "Because we are Askani," she answers. They see a rider approaching them on a horse. Granma names them Askani, on a mission of peace, and kindly asks him whether they can borrow his horse. He kicks her away from him, calling her a filthy beggar, and continues on his way. This makes Jonathan furious, but she begs him not to harm the man. She manages to stand, feeling the pain in her back. She tells her angry grandson that theirs is to be grateful for both the help and for the kick. That is the Askani way. Jonathan thinks the Askani way sucks, because it allows everyone to push them around. He wonder whether this is what his whole life will be.
"Your life, Jonathan, will be whatever you choose it to be," she tells him. "You are born an Askani, but you can renounce the Summers' teachings and become either a performer or a prince, whatever you like." She spots a Dear Iryn shrine, and decides to head there and pray. She leaves him to ponder his choices. Later, when the moon is out and it is night time, he approaches his Granma, who is hard at praying in front of a small Dear Iryn shrine. He asks her whether the shrine is a machine. She answers that it is both alive and machine; it is an ear that the Goddess lent them. "We tell our thoughts, hopes and sorrow to Dear Iryn and she remembers them for every Askani who might need them. She is the soul of our tribe." She continues her prayers, telling him: "Let me talk to Iryn in peace, boy."
Jonathan walks away to sulk. Bored, he picks up a stone and a large stick. Using his telekinesis he levitates the stone and hits it with the stick. The stone hits the hooves of a horse. He looks up, seeing an armored horse with a bearded, sinister rider on it's back carrying a huge crossbow. "Granma!" he cries, terrified. "The Serpentine Marauders! The..." The cry is cut off as he watches the rider fire a bolt at him; not a normal arrow bolt, but a small snake. Before the snake has a chance to hit him his Granma leaps in front of him, and the snake hits her in the neck, biting her. She falls to the ground as the Marauder screams "Death to Askani scum!" and rides away.
Jonathan tells his Granma to break the venom up into its composite amino acids to cure her of the snake's poison. He doesn't know how to do it yet, but she does. She tells him no. "Why?" he begs, crying. "Why do our enemies call us madmen?" she asks. "Because we are not afraid to die," he answers. The Granma asks when they are not afraid to die, and remembering her teachings, Jonathan replies "When the benefit of our death is greater than the sadness of our passing." "I want to die now Jonathan," she tells him. He begs her not to, but she dies anyway, as the small snake that sucked the life out of her entwines itself around her lifeless fingers. Angry, and grief-stricken, Jonathan throws a huge rock into the air and smashes it into pieces using his powers.
Later, after Jonathan buries his beloved Granma under a pile of rocks, he kneels down in front of the Dear Iryn shrine and begs it to let him talk to his Granma.
That's how we first met, Dear Iryn. You were not boring at all. You were a great comfort.
In the morning Jonathan presses on towards his destination. He needs transport quickly, so hides in the bushes by the roadside and waits. Soon enough a man comes by on a gray horse. He uses his powers to snap the saddle's straps, and the man falls off his horse and bangs his head. Jonathan rushes to his aid, telling the man he is Askani and can help him. He orders the man to stay where he is so he can go fetch a doctor to help him. "But aren't you people healers too?" the man wonders. Jonathan is on his horse and galloping off before the man even has a chance to catch his breath.
At the Fishermen's Village of the Red Field, by the blood red waters stands a harbor, where two warring fishing families, the Mikulas and the Kastelas are on the verge of open conflict. Insults are flung back and forth, and weapons are brandished. Just as they are about to engage in a brawl that would almost definitely end in bloodshed Jonathan enters the fray on the back of his newly acquired horse, demanding them to stop. Barnabas, a fisherman, wants to know what he wants, as does a fisher girl. He tells them he is Askani. They don't think so, as he hasn't the Askani markings.
"I have no marking for I have yet to earn them. But I am willing to do the duty of an Askani--to shed my blood so no other blood would be shed." He explains to Iryn, as Barnabas points a gun at his forehead, that he was frightened during the whole ride to the village. But now there was no more fear. Just a certainty that whatever was coming next he was ready. The fisher girl tells Barnabas to let the kid go; that there will be no war today. He wants to prove that the Askani philosophy is wrong, and that no sacrifice can end a war. But he backs off, and instead whacks Jonathan over the head with his gun instead. He smirks, walking away, telling her that nobody can be punished for shedding Askani blood. The fisher girl takes a look at Jonathan's head wound. She takes some blood that seeps from the cut and smears it across Jonathan's eye, making the mark of the Askani. She smiles, telling him that he did good. He looks at his reflection in the water, at the marks on his face.
The immense feathery weight of the world landed on my shoulders then, Dear Iryn. I was an Askani, with all the anguish and all the joy a good deed brings. I cried then so I could laugh later.