My name is Jorlyn Gwell Hanover. I just use my middle name now. When my tale begins, I was eleven years old, a bit small for my age, though only a couple of inches. I have mostly straight blond hair which tends to curl up at the ends no matter how I comb or brush it. My eyes are green most of the time, but when I get angry they look more gray, than anything else. I've seen my image looking back at me from a mirror enough times to know.
It was time of the Great War between Cardison and Farmine. It had been a time of peace for almost a year, but we knew the war wasn't over. The final showdown hadn't occurred yet and in fact was to come on the morrow.
I had been locked in my chambers, the previous night. That's because I was the traitor in Cardison's camp. Not a willing traitor, I had no choice in the matter. The man who 'recruited' me, was a Mindmaster. Many people are unaware of how dangerous a Mindmaster can be.
been spying for several months, since I had been sent to the Royal Palace,
by my parents. My parents really hadn't understood me. I was a musician
and unfortunately for me both my parents and my two older brothers were
tone deaf. Even the most beautiful of music, which sent me into raptures
of joy, was simply noise to them.
Now if my grandfather had still been alive, there wouldn't have been any problem. He had died just before I was born. Like me, he had been a musician and his study on the second floor of the castle, had contained his collection of instruments and his music library. He was a collector of music and his library was very extensive.
Why my father had never cleared out the study and used it for his own I don't know. For some reason he had kept it intact, maybe he just forgot about it. It had a much thicker door than any other room in the castle and it muffled the sounds of instruments being playing inside it. But at any rate, when I wandered into it on my seventh birthday, I found heaven on earth.
From then, until I was ten and a half, I spent as much of my waking hours in the study as I could. As you would expect with a kid, the first instrument I began to use was the drum. The study contained two of them, one was enormous and wasn't really a musical instrument, simply a curiously that my grandfather had collected somewhere.
The other was more kid sized and I spent the first day just banging on it. The second day, I realized that depending on where you hit the drum, the sound was somewhat different.
While most of my family were tone deaf it didn't mean I had never heard any music. They thought it was unfortunate but they had to have a Bard for their frequent guests. They figured no one interesting, would have come if they didn't have good entertainment.
Unexpectedly, Dar Huntin did me a good turn. He was the Guild Bard that worked for my father. He didn't like children and I seemed to exasperate him more than most.
He was passing by the study and heard the muffled sound of me making noise on the drum, since I was clearly not making music. I was getting a bit frustrated at that point and I looked up as I heard the door open.
Apparently he had never been in this room either, since he was looking around in surprise. You would think that a Guild Bard would be interested in a music room, but aside from that first glance around he never showed any interest in it.
He looked at me and I looked challengingly back. He strode over to the shelf, scooping up a distinctive looking book and then coming my way he dropped the book on top of the drum.
He said, "Here. Read this." and he turned and walked out.
I stared after him for a few moments and then looked down at the book. As I said I was seven and had been taking lessons since I was four. Already I could read better than my two older brothers, one of whom was four years and the other eight years older than me.
I hadn't even thought of looking on the shelves. I smacked myself on the forehead, for being so dumb, because the book was just what I needed. It wasn't really that complicated a book. It was by Didrich Scrose, the title being, 'Musical Notation, and How to Use It'.
I sat down on the stool just behind the drum and began to read it. I read it once from cover to cover. I was so intent on the book, that I didn't even hear the gong, announcing supper.
That earned me a whipping, because I was supposed to be one of the pages serving the High Table that night. When I was finished, I put the book back on the shelf. I would never need to open it again. I have a trick memory. Once I read something I always have it instantly available to me.
I heard the clock strike nine and realizing that I had missed supper, I knew that I was in trouble.
I shrugged my shoulders, philosophical about it. I figured it was worth it. I also figured it wouldn't be the last time that I got whipped because of my music.
"Be careful of that, Medon!" I said anxiously, as he got my precious gitar down from the pack mule. I told him firmly, "If you break it, I'll break what's left of it over your thick skull."
It was the first time I had ever traveled with my instruments, well actually the first time I had traveled more than a few miles from home. I didn't know how fragile or sturdy they were yet.
Medon, was a good friend and he just grinned at me, telling me, "Calm yerself, Master Jorlyn. Instruments ain't as fragile as all that. I use to accompany your grandfather, when he come to the capital and they always made the trip fine."
A little soothed, I said, spiritedly, "Well, we're only halfway there, so take care anyway." I took the gitar and the flute cases from him, going into the inn followed by Medon, with the heavier bags. I admit I was pretty excited, I had never spent even one night away from home before. Now I was going all the way to the capital Elmitha, where I would serve as a page. I hoped I would have enough time for my music.
that my father and mother were getting rid of me, as well, I kept locked
in my heart. If I allowed the sorrow at that, to claim me, I didn't
know where it would end.
I didn't really want to take a bath but Medon was bigger than I was and my Mother had told him to make sure that I bathed every day, if at all possible. Not that she ever cared how clean I was, she was just thinking how it would reflect on her.
I stood up in the metal tub and Medon poured the rest of the water over my head, to sluice me down. I climbed out of the tub and he handed me a large towel and I dried myself.
I must admit when I got dressed, the fresh loincloth, pair of breeches and shirt felt good. As hot as it had been today, getting out of my sweat soaked garments was nice.
As I was sitting on the bed, putting on my socks and boots, Medon gave an attention getting, "Ah-hem."
I grinned at him, "Yes Madon. What do you want to do that we shouldn't?"
He grinned back at me, saying, "Nothing serious. There's a fair here, Master Jorlyn. You wouldn't like to go to it, now would you."
I shook my finger at him, saying sternly. Well, as sternly, as I could through my laughter. "One beer, that's all you get." and he nodded. I knew that he was not really much of a drinker. But he had been when he'd been younger and had never lived that reputation down. He was one of my few friends and I didn't want him to get into trouble, with my mother.
And somehow, mother would know, she always knew.
That's what the sign read. I was somewhat doubtful, standing in front of the tent. I knew real fortunetellers did exist, but I hardly expected to find a real one here in Morgal. Besides I really didn't know if I wanted to know what my future contained for me.
I wasn't the first page boy to make his way to Elmitha. But most of those boys had parents who loved them. They had sent them to Elmitha to further their education and to bring them into contact with those who ruled us. Most of them, hadn't been sent just to get rid of them.
Medon said, "What you afraid of young Master. Go on. It'll be a hoot." And he gave me a push on the shoulder, to get me moving.
With some reluctance I pushed aside the flap of the tent and entered into a surprisingly well lit interior. I could see a woman sitting behind a small table, she beckoned me with her hand. And. . . That's all I remember until I was out in the sunlight again. Or almost all, I heard a woman's voice, murmuring, "He'll come?" and, with another murmur, in a voice filled with arrogance, "Oh yes! He'll come. I've got him well and truly hooked."
I was going to tell Medon what had happened, but for some reason I couldn't. All I was able to say when he asked, was, "If I told you my fortune, it'll never come true. You know that."
I bowed to King Walcott and Queen Manea. My sister Manea. She was my oldest sibling and she was twenty-five, six years younger than Walcott. This was the first time I had ever seen her, at least that I can remember. She had been married to Walcott for the last nine years and had been betrothed to him for another year before that.
My mother and father, usually spent a month each year in the capital, so she saw them at least once a year. Manea didn't like either of her little brothers and certainly didn't miss them. Well actually three little brothers with me, but I'd only been a year old when she'd been betrothed to Walcott and moved to the capital.
She looked a bit like my mother, but in some ways she wasn't as pretty. She had shoulder length blond hair, which was the fashion in those days but it suited her. She had large blue eyes and high graceful eyebrows. Her nose small and her chin, well it was determined that's for sure.
As I said, while she wasn't as pretty as my mother, her prettiness would stand the test of time. My mother had been eightteen when Manea had been born and at forty-three her beauty was already starting to fade.
would look as good at seventy as she did at the moment. She opened her
arms to me and I threw myself into them. I began to cry, because of
the warmth of the greeting and the sorrow at being sent away from home,
an unwanted stray.
Unexpectedly, at least to me, I was given quarters in the Royal apartments. It was off the nursery, which wasn't occupied at the moment because Manea and Walcott didn't have any children yet, though that would change soon when Manea got pregnant.
As you would expect the nursery and the rooms which I was occupying were soundproof. I was able to do my little tinklings, as my mother called them, in private. My father had ordered me not show off to my sister. While my head was always a bit in the music clouds, I did try to obey my parents when I could and they had been very emphatic about it. My sister never even knew I was a musician.
Where was I going? I didn't want to go into the city. With the free time I had, I wanted to stay in my room playing music.
Yet here I was walking away from the Palace. And I couldn't stop myself. I had no control over what I was doing.
This area was where the nobles lived and then came important and wealthy merchants. Then I came to a middle class area and whatever was controlling me allowed me to slow my pace. I came to a selection of shops intended to cater to the area.
I stopped at one of them and looked through the window. This type of shop would never appear, in higher or lower neighborhoods. The higher classes didn't have to go to a sweetshop and lower class children couldn't afford it. Oh there were vendors of sweets in the lower class neighborhoods, but they just had carts. Their wares were much less expensive.
It was intended to cater to middle class people and of course the passing trade. I opened the door and looked up when a small bell tinkled. After about fifteen seconds or so a woman came out of the back room.
She was dressed much differently from when I had last seen her. She was dressed as a shopkeeper, but clearly she was Madame Luberra, the fortune teller, at the fair in Morgal.
at me, smirked actually, and said, "Oh good. Our little noble came,
just as Warfel said you would. Come on into the back, deary. I'll just
send my boy to fetch him. He really wants to see you, you know."
I was sitting on a stool in front of Warfel. I actually couldn't do anything else. I had tried but I couldn't get up.
When he had come in Warfel had plunked me down onto the stool and taken a chair in front of me. He had held a finger up and told me to stare at the tip of it. I had done so, for several minutes and then everything seemed to turn black yet I could hear everything that went on around me.
I heard the woman ask, "And he'll do everything that you tell him to do, Luan?"
I heard the cruel, arrogant voice of the man I knew as Warfel. He said, "Not only what I tell him to do, Berra. His mind is mine. A person I know, I can reach over miles. The better I know his mind, the farther away I can be. I'll spend the next few days getting to know his mind and each day I can move further and further away from him."
He chuckled, "He's the perfect spy. A budding Mindmaster, like Jorlyn here is the ideal tool for an experienced Mindmaster like me. It's easier to enter a mind like his, that's just on the cusp of blooming and take hold of and control it, than it is to control a normal human. Through him I can even spy on the minds of those around him."
"Can he hear us?" she asked, with curiosity.
He laughed, cruelly, "Oh yes. He'll remember everything that's happened to him. I want him to remember, to feel helpless, unable to do anything to betray me. Only a few people are aware of how powerful Mindmaster's are. Even if they discover him, he can do nothing to harm me. They will look for magic spells being used to control him and will never think that someone is controlling his mind using a natural inborn talent."
sick, as I knew he was right. I was trapped in the deadly maze of my
mind and I could do nothing to end it. I couldn't even kill myself,
to stop myself from betraying those I came to love. I could do nothing
but lose everything.
I did in fact lose everything, but at the same time I won.
Despite the situation I was in, I was curious. Over the last few months, I had learned how to read minds for my Master's benefit. Now some of those minds were closed to me. They were being guarded by a magic shield that I couldn't penetrate, yet at the same time I was getting much more verbal information, from a lot of people that I really shouldn't have been getting.
about that and came to some conclusions. They suspected me. That made
my heart heavy, but at the same time it buoyed up my spirits. They were
giving me information I shouldn't have been getting. Seemingly by accident,
I was getting information about the disposition of large bodies of troops.
I needed to tell my Master about what I suspected. Not that I wanted to, but I had no choice. I was able to delay it for a couple of days. Warfel tended to get irritable with me periodically and then he'd punish me subjecting my mind to an onslaught of pain.
He usually contacted me when I was in my rooms and nobody would hear me scream in anguish. That is if he had allowed me to scream.
Warfel contacted me after supper, that critical day. I could tell he was even more angry than he usually was. First, he asked me what I knew.
Since I only suspected that my people knew about me, I was able to keep silent about that. I didn't have anything new to tell him and that pissed him off and I could feel him getting angrier and angrier.
Not that he was particularly stable at the best of times. I said, *Master, I think. . .*
He had told me in the past not to think, just to gather information. I could tell I had pushed him over the edge. He screamed, in my mind, *I told you not to think!! You're not there to think, just to get me information. Never, never try to tell what you think again!!*
me with his mind then, harder than he had ever done before. As the anguish
struck me, I began to lose consciousness and as I began to drown in
blackness, I hoped he had miscalculated. I hoped he had hit me hard
enough to kill me this time.
Unfortunately he hadn't. I felt like a used dishrag when I woke up, but I did wake up.
Over the next few weeks I obediently gave my Master only the information I had gathered. Well, misinformation, essentially I was telling him the disposition of troops that I was pretty sure were false.
he had abandoned me to my fate, telling me he no longer needed me. During
the day, we had all heard about the large army approaching us. Supposedly
our army was too far away to come to our rescue at this point. I was
not one hundred percent certain that I'd been giving Warfel false information
and I was extremely apprehensive.
I had been unable to sleep last night until I heard someone locking my door from the outside. Surprisingly, that reassured me despite the fear of what would happen to me, I was finally able to drop off to sleep.
I looked calmly as the door began to open. I wondered if whoever was opening the door was going to kill me. I think I would prefer that, than have to face my sister and her husband.
It was Orgal Sanper who appeared in the open doorway and I knew that he hadn't come to kill me. Sanper was Walcott's chief Mage, not an assassin.
I was somewhat puzzled, even if he hadn't come to kill me, but arrest me, I still would have expected a soldier, not a Mage.
He was an intimating presence, not in height because he was only a little about average height. He had grayish hair and a completely white beard. Under a beak of a nose, his thin lips were pressed tightly together, in disgust. He had such an air of command about him, his forward jutting jaw just reinforced that impression.
He said, in a cold voice, "My magic tells me that you aren't being controlled by magic spells, so you're betraying your country because you want to. If I had my way, we'd reopen the torture chamber just for you and you'd take a long time to die." My hands were shaking at that.
Orgal shook his head, saying regretfully, "But your sister will not allow that. Nor will the King. Your sister because she once loved you and the King because he feels your trial and execution, would put a constraint on the upcoming victory which will end the war, once and for all."
He stated coldly, "So you will live, as long as you are gone by the time the battle is over. And as long as you give me your promise that you'll never return to Cardison as long as the King and Queen live."
He was pretty confident that they would win tomorrow. I hoped he was right. If they did, then I would win, while at same time I would lose everything. I was unable to speak but I nodded in agreement.
He scowled at me, pointing his hand at me, "I curse you to live, as you are, for the rest of time, always a wanderer, never to settle." He threw a pouch of gold onto the bed and he turned and was gone.
I was trembling and feeling forlorn and I didn't pay any attention to the curse. After all a curse had no power to hurt me.
When Medon had left to return to my father's barony, he had left the horse that I had journeyed on to the capital, also the pack mule. He said they were a present from my father. Just a little something from my father, to salve his conscience with, I guess.
away from the Palace, every step harder than the one before. I had found
someone to love me in Manea and I lost her, through no fault of my own.
I wondered how people lived with an ache of the heart, so big it covered
Something came up and distracted me, at least for the moment. I was passing through one of the market squares, when the bellow of a hunting cat sounded. I had always been fascinated by the large felines and this one sounded much deeper than any I had ever heard before.
I was a good rider and I easily controlled my horse, who was called Tessil, when he took fright. The pack mule was called Harbin and he gave a couple of kicks before I got him under control. I was a bit worried that my packs would come off and damage my gitar and flute, but it appeared I had packed them properly.
I pulled up to a hitching rail and tied the two animals to it, leaving them enough slack that they could reach the watering trough right under the rail if they wanted.
One man was selling several hunting cats and they were in cages on the ground. One of them was male, about the usual size for hunting cats, about sixty or sixty-five pounds. He was quite docile and seemed to enjoy it when the man opened the cage and fondled him roughly.
There was a second man standing with him and he said, "Bet you wouldn't dare do that with the other one, Mace. She don't appear very tame. Biggest hunting cat I ever seed." The other one he referred was different from the first hunting cat. For one thing she was much bigger, probably outweighing him by two to one.
For another her coat, was a brown that had more than a tinge of green, to it while the male's was the more usual tawny brown. In my lifetime I had seen about thirty or forty hunting cats and this was the first time I'd ever seen a cat with that color coat.
I asked the man, Mace I guess, "How much for the hunting cat?"
If I had been the normal boy he probably would have ignored me. But when he looked at me, the obviously expensive clothes told him that I was of the nobility. I could probably afford the cost of a hunting cat.
He pointed down at the male, saying, "Ten golds. He's been well trained and he'll make a good hunting partner."
I shook my head impatiently, telling him, "No not the male, the girl, I mean female."
He chewed on his fingernail, while thinking, then said, "Are you sure. I can't seem to do anything with her most of the time. She's a good hunter, but she's not very cooperative. She seems to like the company of people because she always comes back. At least she has so far."
I told him, "I understand that. I'll take a chance."
He shook his head, "I still think it's a mistake. Tell you what, if you can get her to come out of the cage I'll sell her to you for eight golds."
I nodded, saying, "That sounds fair." and I approached the cage. I took hold of the door of the cage and the hunting cat had her ears laid back and her long tail was switching back and forth in agitation.
I said, in exasperation, "Stop that." and I inadvertently, let it out in mind-speech as well.
Her ears flicked forward and her tail stopped moving. After about ten seconds she said to me, in mind-speech, *'Kay. Name Sheetan. Come with.*
I recovered quickly from the astonishment I felt as she moved out of the cage and stood in front of me. Mace was looking at her equal astonishment, but I was better at hiding it. I was used to keeping my emotions hidden from my parents and brothers.
Mace scratched his head, saying to me, "Well it looks like you charmed her somehow. She isn't much use to me. If you've got the eight golds she's yours. Her name is Sheetan by the way.
I just grinned, not telling him I already knew her name, as I counted out the eight golds and took the bill of sale. Introducing her to my horse and mule wasn't as hard as I had feared. They were both used to hunting cats and they both had placid dispositions.
I looked around at the market stalls, then down at my clothes. I knew it was going to be dangerous being on my own. It might be better if I got some clothes that were a little less like that of the nobility. Also, I needed to get some camping gear, if I was going to be traveling much.
I looked at Sheetan who was getting a drink from the horse trough. After she was finished, I told her, "I want you to guard the horse and mule." Making sure it also went out in mind-speech. "Do you know what guard means."
She told me, *Know. Don' let peple take.*
I told her, "I need to do some shopping."
She said, *'Kay. Sheetan watch.* she gave a cat smile, showing some pretty fierce teeth, as she told me, *Nobody take.* and I grinned myself knowing nobody with any sense would even try.
I knew that I had been vastly overcharged for the clothes and other stuff, I had purchased. I just had no heart to bargain today.
I stopped for the night at about five. The place I chose was under a a large tree and the fire I made was fairly small. The smoke going up would be scattered by the branches and less likely to be seen. Not that I really cared, that much. I wouldn't have minded a bandit or ten coming up to kill me.
Not right now, not when I was so miserable. I reached for my gitar, I always felt better when I was playing music. I made sure it was in tune and then played Olav's Ride. It was a pure instrumental piece, usually for two people, done with a gitar and a drum. There had been a variation in my grandfather's library that was just for gitar.
It was the most complex piece of music I knew and the saddest and it fit my mood. I had to concentrate deeply to minimize the errors. I had never played the piece all the way through without making some errors and this time was no exception. But I only made one and it was in the beginning of the piece before I was well warmed up.
When I finished, I almost had a heart attack when someone began clapping. I looked up and saw a man approaching the fire. A man? Well maybe, except that he was glowing in the evening dark.
I looked at Sheetan and said a bit accusingly, "I thought you were on guard."
She glanced at me and told me, *Listening. Sad. 'Sides, no danger.*
The man shook his head and said, in a pleasant baritone, "Sheetan, is right Jorlyn. I'm no danger to you."
I said vehemently, "Oh no. As far as I know only a Messenger of the Gods glow and I've never heard of a Messenger bringing good news."
He sighed, "I've been a Messenger for a long time, Gwell and I have delivered good news at time. But yes, you're right, it is rare. I call you Gwell this time, because I know you intend to use it, rather than you first name. May I sit? "
I nodded, saying, "Of course. As unwelcome as the news you're bringing me probably is, you're still a guest." I gestured at the fire and asked, "Do you eat or drink. I have some bread and some tea I brewed for my supper. You're welcome to both."
He said simply, "The tea would be welcome."
I got up and went to where I had my new cooking utensils and got out a second metal mug and filled it with tea from the pot, which was already sweetened with some honey. I offered it to him and he accepted it from my hands and then sat cross-legged on the ground opposite me, while I sat down again.
I let him drink in peace but after a while I realized that he was stalling. I told him, "You might as well give me the bad news. How much worse could it be?" I asked.
He shook his head and said, "Much worse, I'm afraid Gwell. Orgal Sanper, was just the latest incarnation of the Hidden God. One of the lives he's sworn to live, to atone for Sheldan."
I looked at him appalled, Farlan, the Hidden God was the father of all the Gods. Three thousand years, the village of Sheldan had been betrayed by one of his priests causing the death of two hundred and three people. Farlan had considered himself responsible. To atone for the wrong his priest had done, he vowed to live one hundred years as a mortal for every man, woman and child in Sheldan. All two hundred and three of them.
I said numbly, "He cursed me. How much of the curse is valid."
He shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, Gwell. All of the curse is valid. Normally the Hidden God can only call on the power of the mortal he's chosen to live as. The curse in that case would only have been a wish, not affecting you at all."
He shook his head again, telling me, "Unfortunately, the crime which you apparently committed, was the crime of treason. The very crime which Farlan was atoning for. On occasions which transcends his mortal body, he can call on all his power as a God as happened with you."
I said frantically, "Can't you tell him that I didn't really commit treason!! I don't want to live forever!!"
He shook his head and said heavily, "Farlan, is the most powerful of all the Gods. When he's actually inhabiting a mortal body, he can disguise that fact from all of the others. Only when the mortal body dies do the other Gods know which body he inhabited.
I realized the Sanper must have died, probably in the battle between Cardison and Farmine. For a moment my thoughts went to the battle and not my personal affairs.
I asked anxiously then, "Did we win. Did we beat them."
He nodded, saying, "Yes, your country did win, thanks to you."
I sighed, a whoosh of relief. I had lost, but also I had won. That would sustain me in the future. I turned back to my own plight, saying, "From the way you've been talking I won't be able to contact Farlan until he finishes his lives of atonement. That's. . . That's seventeen thousand years. Can't some of the other Gods do something about it."
The Messenger hesitated and then said, "I don't know, Gwell. I asked that same question and none of them would answer me. If they can, they're obviously not going to do so, at least at the moment."
I burst out with, "It's not fair!! I didn't do anything wrong!!"
He said somberly, "No it's not fair, Gwell. But I've been a Messenger for a long time and I've come to learn that Gods are not always fair to individuals. Their concern is for broader aspects of life. What happens to one individual, for good or ill is usually unimportant to them."
I thought of the curse which I realized was etched in mind, "I curse you to live, as you are, for the rest of time, always a wanderer, never to settle."
I said sadly, "I'm never going to grow up either, am I?" and he shook his head.
I put my head in hands, and began crying. I complained, "What am I going to do. I'm a little kid. How am I going to live, to survive."
The Messenger told me, "Despite the fact that they wouldn't remove the curse, if they could do so, the Gods gave me a couple of gifts for you. That will give you a better chance to live a good life. One ability that you already have is your music. A Bard or Minstrel can go anywhere and is safe from almost anyone." And I nodded in agreement.
The Messenger told me, "The first gift that the Gods give you is the strength of an adult and you will be as fast as any intelligent being in this world. The second is a companion to join you in your eternal journey. Sheetan, has already been asked and has agreed to become your fellow eternal and to accompany you wherever you go."
I started to protest, but he held up his hand and assured me, "If she ever wants to stop wandering unlike you, she can do so at any time. At that point, she simply will resume aging." He looked over at Sheetan and remarked, with a bit of obvious humor in his voice., "She tends to intimidate the males of her own species.”
He paused for a moment, then said, “Also, she’s a mutation. The others of her species are on the cusp of sentience. Sheetan is well over that verge. While she isn’t as intelligent as a human, or others at the high end of the scale, she is a thinking being and is in fact more intelligent than a Goblin. It will take many more generations for her kind to reach her level, though another sport such as she, is increasingly possible.”
“Sheetan will never willing give herself to a male she doesn’t consider at least her equal but presently cats have no control over their sexuality so the Gods give her the ability control hers.”
He chuckled, before saying, “Separately and together, you will be formidable foes, for any being on this world.” He sobered, then said, “Right now the knowledge of what happened to you, will stay locked in your mind, as Warfel intended. But you are potentially a much more powerful Mindmaster than he was. Eventually, you’ll be able to talk about it.”
He raised his hand, telling me, "I salute you, young Gwell. As you have been thinking, you lost, but also you won. Farewell.” and he just disappeared.
I still had a dozen golds in my pouch, but that wouldn’t last me forever. I would keep them for a cushion. It was time I started to earn my living.
This was the town of Mestar in Getira. It was on the Scuse River and the river itself was part of the border. The town was on both sides of the river but the bulk of it was on this side, in Getira. I had crossed on the barge, connecting the two. There was a ford which could briefly be used in high summer which was well past though the rainy season had not begun yet.
it was the border crossing point, it was quite a substantial little
As befitted a village of this size, the inn was a nice one and it was called the Golden Stallion. I looked down at Sheetan and taking a deep breath, I said, “Well, here goes nothing.”
I entered, with Sheetan trailing. Once inside the common room, she abandoned me to go lay by the fireplace.
I went up to the owner, who was doing an inventory of the bar contents. From the way he was scowling, it wasn’t a chore he enjoyed.
I almost lost my nerve at that point. Luckily he looked up and growled, “Yes!” before I bolted and ran.
I held up my gitar case, and said somewhat timorously, “Meals and a room for a performance, sir, for me and my hunting cat?” waving over at Sheetan
He raised his eyebrows, saying, “You look a little young to be a skilled Minstrel.”
I was completely confident of my ability. That was the only thing I was confident about. So I said, “Give me a try. If I’m no good you’ll know it right away.”
“I got nothing to lose by it. All right. I’ll take a chance on ye.”
There was a nice little corner where I could perform. It was probably where other Minstrels and Bards had played because there was a stool where I could sit. I put my flute case under the stool, uncased my gitar, placing the opened case at my feet as I had seen other musicians do. If the crowd liked what I did, they could throw coins in it. If they didn’t, well I was small enough that they could throw me out, pretty easily, as long as I didn't resist.
The inn was filled with the supper crowd and the place was noisy with talk and the sounds of eating. Nervously, I made sure that my gitar was in tune, taking longer at than I really needed.
The first song I had decided to play was Olav's Ride, that would get me nicely warmed up. I began playing softly and as the talking slowed, I began playing louder. Soon I had the attention of everyone.
The sounds of talking faded out, only the sound of eating remained and I knew I had them. Perhaps it was an omen, because for first time ever, I didn't make any errors in the song.
After that I swung right into Tom's Ghost, another instrumental. I had their complete attention now and my confidence was rising though I was worried about the next song.
I was going to sing on that one, which was Dierdre's Ride, an old love ballad. I paused at the end of Tom's Ghost and was a bit startled when they began to clap and whistle loudly.
I smiled, with appreciation and gave a half bow, when the clapping stopped, I started Dierdre's Ride. The first dozen bars of that were just for gitar as well, then I began to sing, a bit timidly at first, then more strongly.
I didn’t have a great voice, but I had a good voice, a nice pleasant treble. The clapping was much longer that time when I reached the end and I took the opportunity to stretch a little, hearing from Sheetan, in mind-speech, *Nice musick.*
Grinning mischievously I started Hensom's Turd which had everybody laughing and joining in by the second verse.
I kept the music going for over an hour. While I got wrapped up in my music as I usually did, at the same time I was aware that nobody was leaving. All the movement of people was in, not out and they were standing along the walls, most of them with drinks in their hand.
I could have kept it up nonstop for hours and I usually did, but I was getting hungry and it was time for an eating and latrine break.
I put my gitar down in it's case, seeing that I had already made a good haul and I was pleased, knowing now that I could make a good living as a Minstrel, at the same time I was doing something I loved.
I held up my hands at the vigorous applause and when it died down I remarked, "I need to visit the latrine and I'm hungry as well. I’ll be back in about forty or forty-five minutes.
I gave a whistle for Sheetan. It was the one most owners of hunting cats used. The people would know I was summoning a cat and those who hadn’t noticed her would be aware that she was there. I also told her in mind-speech that, “Time to eat.”
She said vigorously, *Good!! Hungry!! Felt I shouldn’t hunt here!!” Telling me with humor in her mind-voice and I giggled.
She threaded herself between the legs of the people. It was probably good that it had gotten so dark in here, since the sun had gone down. That way they wouldn’t notice how much bigger she was compared to the rest of her breed.
The innkeeper was busy dispensing drinks, as was a second bartender. He just gave me an approving grin and waved towards where the kitchen was located.
I was getting pats of approval from customers I was passing and I was a bit glad to reach it with Sheetan. I appreciated it, but some of them didn’t know their own strength, Some of the intended pats had been wallops.
The innkeeper was a big man probably in his late forties, a little bit gone to seed, but still a powerful man. The woman who greeted me with a raised wooden spoon in her hand would almost make two of him.
Yet, despite her bulk, she moved easily and gracefully and the spoon was simply a greeting, not an intended attack. As much as she looked like the innkeeper, I figured they were related. As I found out later, he was her older brother and they had inherited the inn from their parents.
She said to me, “Greetings, young Bard! Greetings!”
I shook my head. I gave her a bow, saying a little ruefully, “Just a Minstrel, I’m afraid. I know a lot of songs but I couldn’t compose a tune, if my life depended on it. That’s something you need to be able to do, before you can become a Bard.”
She beamed at me, “I’m Liava Mordrak, and Fergan, who’s my brother says we're pulling in more than we did when that Guild Bard was here two months ago.” She frowned, giving a sniff, “Such high airs, he give himself, when he were no better than a common Minstrel, would be.”
She beamed approvingly at me, “Not that yer’re a common Minstrel. Fergan says yer the best musician he’s ever heard. ‘E don’t give out compliments, lightly." She grinned, judiciously, "Not the greatest singer, mind, though he says you're not bad." And I had to nod with agreement.
She bent down to look at Sheetan, saying, "Who is this great girl, now. My, I've never seed a hunting cat sa big before."
Sheetan began to purr, rubbing against Liava's ankles. I said with a chuckle, "This is Sheetan and I think she likes you?"
Liava said, "Bosh, she can jus smell the cookin' on me, tha's all."
I didn't tell her that Sheetan, told me, *Smell food, yes, but smell underneath too. Smells nice.*
Liava waved me to the table, where a stool that was set in front of a full plate and some milk. I perched on the stool and began eating, Sheetan got busy eating the meat, from the bowl, placed under the table.
It was a delicious meal. Liava was at least as good as the cook at the Palace and certainly better than the one my father had.
She told me, with a huge grin, "I like to see a growing boy eat."
There was a tinge of sadness in my mind. I was a boy, but I had no more growing to do.
Shaking off the thought, I told her, "You'll just have to get yourself a husband and raise yourself a mess of boys, then."
A shadow of sadness, crossed her broad face, then it broke into a grin, saying, "Bosh. Who'd take a woman like me who weighs as much as two decent men."
I didn't try to tell her that there was someone out there for her. Unfortunately, I knew that she was probably right, but at least she was taking it with good grace.
I said solemnly, "Well. There are always orphans. If I find some kids on my journeys that are worthy of you, I'll bring them back here for you to raise."
She put a broad hand on my blond hair and gave it a quick caress, saying, "Thank you, little one. Somehow I know that any children you choose will indeed be worthy."
When I was finished, I gave Liava a sincere thank you and used the latrine that she pointed out to me. Then I headed back into the common room to start a new set. I took my flute from its case. It wasn't an elaborate affair like some I had seen in illustrations in the music books my grandfather had collected, just a simple one, but it had a sweet tone and was ideal for the first song I intended to play.
When I had silence, looking over my attentive, if not well seen audience, I told them, "I think this next song is the most beautiful melody I've ever heard. My grandfather collected music and he had many song sheets. Most had at least several duplicates. He made a notation on one of them that he had found more than a hundred and fifty duplicates of one particular song in his collection."
I raised my flute saying, "This song is untitled and aside from the copies my grandfather made to preserve it, his collection contained none other. I think it's very, very old. Why such a beautiful melody disappeared I have no idea. I just think it's a pity that it did."
I grinned, saying, "You won't think so when I start it, the first twenty seconds are unusual, but I assure you it gets better."
I brought my flute to my lips and began to play. As I had said, the beginning was very unusual, almost jarring, then it began to settle and the beautiful, haunting melody began to gain ascendance.
It wasn't a lengthy melody, only lasting about three minutes in total. It was neither a sad nor at the same time was it a happy song, yet it was both and neither.
I always had tears in my eyes when I played it. The end point was a high note, simply held for ten seconds and then allowed to fade away. Then there was absolute silence for twenty or thirty seconds, then a thunderous ovation began, as my audience began clapping, whistling and stamping their feet in approval.
It seemed to last forever and I had to bow a couple of dozen times before I had silence again. Or almost silence at least. I went into the sprightly tune called Father's Folly, followed by another sad song, Mother's Remorse.
After that I put my flute away and got my gitar back out. I played a half a dozen more songs, most of them happy ones.
After I was through those, I told them, "Now I'll take requests from the audience. I can't guarantee that I'll know all of them but I'll do my best."
Someone shouted out, "Dikon's Curl."
I chuckled, telling him, "Which version? I know at least a dozen different variations, some of them very rude, which I refuse to sing in mixed company."
The same person hollered back, "Just choose one, Minstrel."
I nodded and began to play and sing. I chose one of the cleaner versions and it seemed to satisfy the shouter.
After I was finished, I said, "Next."
This time it was a more hesitant voice and he told me, "Me mum, used to sing a song to get us boys to go to sleep. I ain't heard it in thirty year."
I told him a little reprovingly, "I probably know a hundred and fifty lullaby's. Give a little of what it sounds like, just the words if you don't want to try to sing it."
He said, with a bit of embarrassment, "I can just barely remember a tiny piece of it, 'Those golden skies."
I knew several songs which had those lyrics but only one was a lullaby, so I began to sing it, hoping it was the one he wanted.
It was a beautiful song and I put my heart into it and it got another ovation when I was finished. When it stopped, the hesitant one said, with a catch in his voice, "Aye, that were it. I thankee. I can see me ma, in front of the fireplace singing that to us."
I kept taking requests for about an hour, then I stood and put my gitar in its case. I told my audience, "I need to take a little break. I'll start my last set in about half an hour."
Most them accepted it, but one of them who was sitting close to the corner, lurched up and caught hold of my arm as I was going past. He said in a slurred voice, "I want ta hear the Dairymaid's Churn and I want it now not later."
I knew about a dozen variations of the song and all of them were rude, most of them obscene. I certainly wasn't going to sing any of the versions here. I told him frostily, "Take your hand off of my arm!! Now!!"
I didn't really expect him to obey me. He was too drunk for that and he appeared to be an aggressive drunk as well.
He tightened his grip on my arm, repeating his demand, in a bellow of rage, "Now!!!
Time to demonstrate that I could take care of myself. I drove the heel of my boot hard onto his foot. He howled with pain and let go of me, grabbing his foot. I swept the leg he was hopping on out from under him and he went to the floor. I had no objection to kicking a man when he was down, not when he was a big as this man was.
I strode forward, kicking out with my foot and the rounded toe of my boot, caught him squarely on the chin. He slumped completely to the floor, out cold.
I ignored him now, turning toward the kitchen and leaving them to ponder what I had done.
I wasn't really hungry, but I had a powerful thirst and I used the kitchen pump to draw a couple of mugs full of ice cold water.
Liava was shaking her head, saying, "I was glancing through the door and I saw you deal with Jobe Barratt. He's not a bad man, but he's not a good drunk. Luckily he don't drink that often. He'll probably come and apologize in the morning." Then she chuckled, "No, the morning will be too soon, late tomorrow, if you're still here."
I told her, "I'll stay, at least a couple of more days. I plan to make a circuit of this area, hitting the villages along the way. I'll try to get back every month or two." I didn't tell her the real reason I wanted to stay in this area. Since I couldn't stay in my country I wanted to stay as close to it as I could.
As I had said, the money in my gitar case made a nice haul. I counted it in my room, after I finished for the night. There were four beds in the room, luckily for me I had it to myself, except for Sheetan.
There was almost nine golds, all in copper or silver. I knew I wouldn't make as much on a regular basis, probably not even as much tomorrow and the day after. I had been something new and many people wouldn't return over the next two nights, though others might come in their place. But I knew now that I could live and live well on my music.
If it hadn't been for the fact that my family thought I was a traitor, I would have settled into the life I was now leading, quite happily. But I would never be completely happy again, until I could prove my innocence.
I was tired but I had something to do first. The Messenger, said that someday, I would be able to tell my family about what I had gone through, but I knew it wouldn't happen, if I didn't work for it.
Lying on the bed with my hands behind my head. I was still fully dressed, with the lantern turned down low. I had decided on a simple phrase to concentrate on first. The phrase, was, 'I didn't betray my country.'
I tried to say it, time after time. Finally after about an hour I was able to say, 'I' out loud, though not very firmly. It was said pretty raggedly, but encouraged, I left it at that, for the night. Slipping out of my clothes, I slid naked into the bed, drawing the sheet up to my chin.
There was a thump which shook the bed as Sheetan joined me. I gave a chuckle, glad that the bed was sturdy and that was my last thought before morning.
As Liava told me last night, Jobe Barratt did show up late the next afternoon to apologize. He was probably in his early thirties and he was a big man, well over the average at three or four inches over six feet tall, he was bulky with it as well, but like Liava he moved easily and gracefully. He had dark hair and was clean shaven, though he had obviously had a beard until recently, since his chin was much paler than the rest of his face. His eyes were a dark gray and he had laugh lines at the corners.
He stood hat in hand, in front of me, mashing the cloth and he was red with embarrassment, but he finally got his apology out.
He told me, "I'm sorry, for what I did young sor, me brother told me what I did." He flushed even redder as he said, "I dunt even like the Dairymaid's Churn. I dunt know why I ever asked ya for it."
I grinned at him, telling him, "That's all right. I wasn't offended and in a way I used you. I was hoping just that type of event would take place. I needed to show that I can take care of myself, despite my age and size."
He stared at me, then began bellowing out infectious laughter and I couldn't help but join him.
I motioned him to have a chair at the table where I was eating my supper and he joined me. Milie, the serving maid, seeing him sit down at my table, raised her eyebrows in question and I nodded. She brought him a bowl of stew, like I was eating and a stein of ale and he tucked in. We ate companionably.
We were both finished eating about the same time, though I did have a head start on him. He sat back and took a long swallow of his ale. He said simply, "I dunt drink that often. It was the anniversary of Danon's Hyde. I were there as a soldier."
I had heard of the battle of Danon's Hyde, though really it had been a massacre. It had occurred on the northern border of Getira. A hundred Getira soldiers had gone into the battle and only eleven had come back out again.
I raised my mug of cider, saying sincerely, "To lost comrades, may they rest in peace."
Jobe could tell I wasn't making fun of him and he raised his stein of ale, saying, "To fallen comrades." and taking a long swallow, in honor of his friends.
He fingered his chin, telling me, "I came home after I come out, but being a civilian again is harder than I thought. I were going to reenlist so I shaved me beard." He grinned, "I sure found out that you can take care of yerself, but you always kin use someone to watch yer back."
I didn't know what to say. He was offering to become my companion. I had Sheetan, but though we were good friends she wasn't human. She was a thinking being but she was much closer to the beast than any human could ever be. I would be glad of Jobe's company but I had to warn him.
I told him, "I must tell you, that I'm under a geas, laid on me by a God. Never, for the rest of my life, will I be able to stay anywhere for more than two or three days. If you come with me, you must realize that we'll be constantly on the move. I do intend to stay in this general area, but most of the villages we'll go through won't have enough people to keep me busy for more than a day."
Jobe nodded and told me, "I always had restless feet. That's what bothered me most as a civilian. Always staying in one place."
It appeared that he shared my plight, though in him it was a natural thing, not something imposed on him by a God.
I told him, with a grin, "I'll hire you, then. I'll be glad of the company."
We had been traveling for about a week when Sheetan mind-yelled at me, *Come quick!! Need you!!*
I booted my horse into a gallop and Jobe was right behind me. We were going pell mell into a small village. Sheetan was crouched down in front of a young woman, yowling continually, keeping a mob back. The woman was tied to a post and brands were piled around her feet. Obviously, she was for burning.
I wanted to help Sheetan, but didn't know if I should. However, I could at least ask questions.
I raised my voice, asking, "What's going on here?" telling Sheetan at the same time in mind-speech to be silent. With her yowls silenced they were able to hear me.
One of them growled at me, aggressively, "She's a witch. Gonna burn her."
I inquired, "Why? As far as I know, it's not illegal in Getira to practice witchcraft."
"She's a black witch. She made my cow go dry!!" shouted the aggressive one.
I asked dryly, "And just how old is this cow of yours. Cows do tend to go dry as they get older."
One of the other men laughed, saying, "She's almost nine, well past her best years." I was glad of his laughter, which also rippled through the crowd. That would make dealing with them much easier.
I said logically, "Well it sounds like you need a new cow, rather than blaming somebody. Unless she's a family pet, she'll keep you in beef for a while. Maybe you can even sell some of it and make enough to pay for another cow."
Another man took up the gauntlet, yelling, "She made my crops fail!!"
Taking a look at him, he was dirty and ill-kempt. I asked him dryly, "And how good a farmer are you? Do you have good crops, year after year, or do they tend to fail on you?"
The man who had spoken up before about the cow, said as dryly as me, "He's lucky if he can harvest a quarter of what he plants. His crops fail more than they bloom."
One more attempt, this time by a woman, but I could tell it was a half-hearted try, "She's got one blue eye and one green." Almost begging me to accept her accusation.
My friend in the crowd said, "You all remember my granther. Had one green eye and one blue, like the young lady. Does anyone think he was a witch." and he got heartfelt laughter.
I knew it was over and I slipped down from my horse, ground reining him, while I went and kicked away the brands. Drawing my dagger, I severed her bonds.
My friend in the crowd, was shooing them away and they went willingly enough, I was glad to see.
The rescued woman, said, "I thank you, little one, for saving my life. This time I think they really intended to burn me."
Her language was much better, than any peasant's would ever be. I didn't know what she was, but a peasant wasn't part of it.
The last of the crowd was gone and our crowd friend approached us. He said, "Whew. That were a close one. They were bounden not to listen to me this time."
The woman put her hand on his arm and said softly, "I thank you for trying, Fordan."
He nodded, saying, "I likes you, Miss Argale and when they stop to think about it most of the villagers likes you as well. I know you been thinking of leaving. I'm sorry to say that I think it's time that you do, next time there might not be anyone to save you." nodding at me, Jobe and Sheetan.
Argale mused, "I'll be sorry to go. This has been my home, since my father brought me here eighteen years ago. But I am ready to go. I've been packed for the last two weeks, ever since the mutterings started. I just wasn't quite watchful enough."
Jobe asked the question over supper that night that I wanted to ask. He asked, "Air you relly a witch, Miss Argale."
She laughed and shook her head, "Not really a witch, Jobe. But I am a Mage." Then she said with a bit of sadness, "But I'm not very strong. My father consulted a fortune teller before he came here, when I was four. She told him I was a Mage, but that my power was bound and would never bloom until I met, 'The ageless boy, and the human beast'."
I spewed out the mouthful of water, I had drunk, just missing Sheetan. Grumbling, she moved a few feet just in case I did it again. Not that she disliked water, she loved to swim, she just didn't want to get wet in that manner.
Jobe pounded me on the back, saying, "Are you all right, young sor."
I winced away from his hand, saying, a little weakly, "Not if you keep beating me, that way. You don't know your own strength." and somewhat sheepishly, he stopped.
I grinned at him and then addressed Argale seriously, "Unfortunately for me, I'm your ageless boy and Sheetan is your human beast."
I said heavily, "The Hidden God, cursed me. It goes, 'I curse you to live, as you are, for the rest of time, always a wanderer, never to settle.'"
She looked at me with astonishment, asking, "What in heaven's name could a boy like you do that a God would punish you."
I told her sadly, "I can't tell you."
She nodded, saying understandingly, "You haven't known me long enough, I guess."
I shook my head, telling her, "That's not it. I literally can't tell you. Even two weeks ago I couldn't even have told you that much. That I actually had a secret. I've been working on it every night before I go to sleep, and I still can only get two words out. They're, 'I didn't'" The words were said pretty raggedly. I still couldn't say them very firmly.
When I could say the entire phrase without any faltering, I knew I would be free of Warfel's control.
I told them, "Sheetan is a human beast because she can think, unlike most beasts. She's a sport and much more complex than any other of her breed. I'm a budding Mindmaster and a Mindmaster can read minds and Sheetan has mind-speech and she and I can talk to each other. "
I speculated, "The only reason I can see that you would need the 'ageless boy' is because there must be something in your mind that is blocking most of your magic."
I said hesitantly, "I can look if you want. I don't like to read minds without permission. There's a reason for that, which is part of what I can't tell you at the present time."
Argale said eagerly, "Please do. Magic has always fascinated me, the little things that I can do just seem to spur me on. I'm frustrated that I can't do the spells that are in my father's books."
I told her, hesitantly, "All right, I'll try. You must realize that even if I find something I might not be able to do anything about it." And she nodded her understanding.
She asked, "Do you need me to lie down."
I shook my head, "Not at the moment at least and probably not at all. I'm going to be doing is looking into your mind. Unless you have some Mindmaster ability of your own, you won't even feel me."
I said dryly, "I'll try not to look at private things. But you have to realize that potentially I can know your deepest, darkest secrets."
Argale went red at that, but said resolutely, "I care about that, young Gwell, but at the same time I want all of my magic available to me. If that's the price that I need to pay, I'll willingly pay it."
I nodded and then closing my eyes I reached out for her mind. I had gotten practiced at that in the last six months and her mind was as easy to enter as any of the people in the past.
I wasn't really looking at memories, I was actually looking for something that shouldn't be there. I didn't know how long it took, though later Jobe told me it took several hours.
Finally, I found something. There seemed to be a barrier covering part of her mind. I looked at it long and hard for a while, then I pushed forward at the block and I seemed to bounce. I pulled back a little to observe the block again. With excitement I realized that my attempt had done something to the block. It didn't seem to be quite as solid this time when I looked at it.
I looked at myself for a moment to see how what I was doing was affecting me. I could feel I was tired but it wasn't too bad. I didn't think I needed to back out of her mind and try again at a later time.
I pushed forward at the block again and again I bounced, but the block was a little more ragged this time. I charged forward three more times. Each time the block was a little less solid and on the third try, it just disappeared. Satisfied I looked at where the block had been and it was entirely gone. Content, I withdrew from her mind, opening my eyes.
Jobe was sitting on the opposite side of the fire from me and he had his knife out and was whittling on a piece of wood. He wasn't a great whittler, the little animals that he made were a little crude, yet at the same they had an endearing, lifelike quality about them. The kids in the villages we had gone through, loved them.
Argale was sitting up, reading one of the books that she had brought from her father's house. I looked down and the mug that I had been drinking from was still there, still half full, so I picked it up and finished the water that was left in it.
That caught Argale's attention and she looked up, asking anxiously, "Did you find anything?"
I nodded, telling her, "I did. There was a block in your mind. I sort of hit it a few times and it fell to pieces."
She said simply, "Thank you, Gwell." And she got to her feet.
I said, with amusement, "Not a kiss, please, not a kiss." then giggled. She grinned and came around the fire and kissed me on the top of the head, in thanks.
There were two men approaching us on horseback. Argale waved at them so obviously she knew them. She told us, "That's Bellin. He's a sergeant in Baron Jettar's service."
When they reached us we stopped and the sergeant gave a flip of his hand in greeting, saying, "Fordan sent word about what almost happened in the village, Miss Argale. I'm sorry it came to that."
gently, "Thank you, Bellin. It was a close thing, but thanks to
Gwell here," nodding her head at me,
"it came to a happy ending."
He nodded and then said, "As I mentioned, Fordan told us what happened. He was very impressed with the way Gwell acted. We've heard about his travels. We know he's a Minstrel not a Bard but the Baron was wondering if he might be able help us, anyway."
I said cautiously, "I'll be glad to help, if I can. But as you said, I'm not a Bard. People might not accept me, if I tried to mediate disputes like a Bard does."
He nodded, saying, "The Baron just wants to use your intelligence, young sir. That's all he wants for now. A different perspective."
We stood in the Great Hall and the Baron was sitting behind the high table. He gave a nod of the head to us, saying, "We've been hearing of your travels, young Gwell. I have a case which I would like your advice on."
He frowned, saying, "I can't sit in judgement on this one because it involves my own nephew."
I told him respectfully, "I'm not a Bard. I'm just a Minstrel. Unlike most I am of the nobility." I didn't intend to try and hide what I was. I was not ashamed of my past, only unhappy at what had occurred.
I told him seriously, "I use my middle name, which is Gwell. I won't tell you my last name. My family would be ashamed of what I'm doing." and I knew that my parents certainly would be, I didn't know about Manea.
"I'm also a budding Mindmaster." The Baron sat up straight
in his chair at that, as I continued emphatically, "While I might
not be able to settle your dispute, I can at least tell you what happened."
The dispute was between two boys, one of them, the younger Franton, at eleven was the Baron’s nephew. He was a loner and he was a somewhat timid boy. People didn’t actually dislike him, he simply didn’t know how to make friends. The other boy Gaylar was fifteen. Both boys were orphans and wards of the Baron. Gaylar’s father had been a former priest at the temple here, so he wasn’t a peasant. He was popular and outgoing, liked by everyone.
The two boys stood in front of the high table. I was sitting to one side with Argale and Jobe sitting behind me and Sheetan lying at my feet.
Jettar pointed at Franton, who was his nephew and ordered a bit curtly, “Tell your tale.” He, like many of the people here, wasn’t very impressed with his young nephew.
Franton really didn’t expect to be believed. He burst out, a bit frantically., “Gaylar’s been bullying me for the last six months and I’m tired of it.”
Gaylar just rolled his eyes at that, clearly saying, without saying it out loud, ‘Me a bully. You’ve got to be kidding.’
Undoubtedly, everyone in the Great Hall sided with Gaylar, since I could feel disbelief coming my way from everyone present, including the Baron.
Gaylar smiled winningly at us. But he didn’t know what I was and I could tell his apparently pleasant personality was just a mask. It covered a natural viciousness that bordered on insanity.
I stood up and warned Sheetan tensely, with mind-speech, “Be ready!!” She climbed to her feet as well, and then sat. But she was much more alert.
I asked casually, “Who is Hankin?” and Gaylar’s mask slipped for a fraction of a second, then it was back to its pleasant mask. If you hadn’t been looking for it, as I had, you wouldn’t even have noticed it. I knew Gaylar was worried now.
The Baron said, with surprise in his voice, “Hankin was Gaylar’s little brother.” He shook his head, “He was ten and was a loner, always going off on his own, even to the swimming hole. One time when he was there alone, he died in an accident.”
I was more tense now, as alert as Sheetan, as I said, “No! He didn’t die in a drowning accident! He was murdered!! Gaylar was there and he held him under until he died!”
Perhaps they wouldn’t have believed me, even knowing that I was a budding Mindmaster. However, Gaylar gave a shriek of rage that was barely human and catapulted at me, intending to do me grievous bodily harm.
My heart was racing but my mind- speech was calm as I told Sheetan to, “Kill!” Gaylar had essentially admitted his guilt, by charging at me. If you were a noble you might only have to pay a fine but the only punishment for murder in his class was death.
The Baron would have no choice but to sentence him to death. I thought it better to end it, here and now. Sheetan screamed a challenge then she was just a streak of brown as she jumped toward Gaylar, meeting him halfway to me.
If I was a normal boy of eleven, Gaylar could have hurt me, even killed me, before they could have dragged him off. Even though he was unarmed, except for a belt knife, he was big for his age, probably weighing a hundred and forty pounds. He was getting the same type of training the Baron’s sons were getting and he was deadly.
He had no chance against Sheetan, as she met him midway, tearing his throat out and he crumpled to the floor. Sheetan sat and began grooming herself, ignoring the dead body.
to me, *Nex’ one you kill.
Don’ like taste of humin blood.*
The Baron said heavily, “Well you took it out of my hands. I think I’m glad. Gaylar’s father was a good friend and it would have been hard condemning his son to death.” I nodded in understanding, basically that’s why had done it.
I remarked, “You’ll find that the tortured animal bodies that your people have been finding for the last several years will stop as well.”
I looked over at Argale and Jobe seeing how they were handling it. Jobe was unfazed by it. Soldiers saw much worse sights. Argale was pale and her lips were tight, but she reacteed no more than that. She had told me that before the villagers had become worried about her being a black witch, she had been the closest thing to a Healer they had had. There was a Healer, here at the castle, but that was a half day’s journey from her village. Most villages had a Wiseman or Wisewoman, mostly they could deal with minor ailments. Major things were beyond their power to deal with.
I was pale as well but I had seen Sheetan kill quite often by now and the fact that it was a human body didn’t affect me much than that. I didn’t like what I had her do, but I was able to hold onto my lunch, which obviously Franton was unable to do. He had his hand over his mouth and bolted from the hall.
at the disappearing boy and told Baron Jettar, “I know Franton isn’t
well liked, nor even disliked by most people. He’s simply shy and
not very good at making friends. I know he’s not really old enough
to have a personal servant but if you hire one who can become his friend,
he’ll be much better off.” and I could tell the Baron was thinking
about it, stroking his chin.
I didn’t perform at the castle this time around. I felt the occasion was too dark for that. I spent the night though and I was assigned one of the better rooms, one intended for the nobility. Jobe was quartered among the guards.
I was really surprised, when early the next morning when we clattered over the drawbridge that Argale accompanied us. For some reason she had decided to come with Jobe and me.
She had said with a grin, that as long as she had the right books, she could learn to become a Mage anywhere, The outdoors was actually preferred by learning Mages. She told me that once the rainy season started in a month she’d think about it.
About, two hours later, she was practising a small spell, while riding. Her face showed her concentration and she was nibbling on her lower lip. Her face lightened and she held out her hand, palm up. I was startled to see a flicker of flame only an inch high on her open hand.
She giggled in triumph, like a little girl, instead of the twenty-two year old she actually was. She closed her hand and when she reopened it the flame was gone and then a few seconds later it was back again.
She remarked, “I saw how hard it was to get a fire going the other night, with the wet wood. Now that I can do the spell, I can start a fire. I can keep it up as long as I need to, to get the wood to catch. That will much easier than flint and steel."
Actually, a month later, with the rainy season beginning, it seems she intends to stay with Jobe and me for a while. Of course, that might be because she discovered a spell to keep the rain off of her head. She was strong enough to keep it up all day. As long as she only had to cover herself, which meant Jobe and I got wet.
know about Jobe, but I didn't mind, I just stripped down to my loincloth,
only putting on my shirt and breeches when giving a performance. Jobe
didn't seem to much bothered by it either, though he didn't strip down
like me. I guess he felt he was too adult to do that.
It was a month and a half after we left Mestar. We were on the back end of the circuit and we were on our way back there, when we were ambushed by Goblins. Now hold your horses, I know what you're thinking. You've probably never heard anything good about Goblins.
But they're intelligent beings just like we are. Human's aren't usually on their menu. Usually!! Now in a famine, or if you bother them, all bets are off.
And it wasn't a literal ambush, anyway. A half dozen of them just appeared in front of us on the forest track that we were using. I admit they are scary looking. They're only three and a half to four feet tall. Like apes I had seen in illustrations in books in my father's library, their arms are almost as long as their legs and while they weren't bulky like Jobe was, one of them was probably a match for him strength wise.
Their faces were a bit more ape like than humanlike, though they were hairless like most humans. That means they had hair on the top of their heads and most of them sport beards as well. They tend to be filthy as well and you don't want to get downwind of them.
They had no sense of smell, or very little and the fact that they were filthy was a natural result of that. They were all clothed in sleeveless vests and knee length breeches. A little surprisingly, their clothing was kept in much better shape than their bodies.
One of them pointed at me and said, in a guttural tone, "You. Minstrel. Come with us."
Not actually a question, but I reached over and stopped Jobe's hand with his sword halfway out of its sheath. I said hastily, "Take it easy, Jobe. They just like music, like everybody else. We'll be fine."
I grinned, saying with amusement, "As long as they aren't tone deaf."
Jobe resheathed his sword, though he looked at little dubious, as he said, "Very well, Gwell. I hope you ain't making a mistake."
We followed the Goblins, when they just turned and walked away. I warned, Argale, cheerfully, "From what I've heard the songs that Goblins like, are the rude and obscene ones. Just giving a little advance warning. I know a lot of them, and I should be able to please our hosts. Oh, by the way, don't eat anything that they offer. Humans aren't usually on the menu, but don't count on it. The Goblins won't mind. They eat everything except for their own dead and are aware that humans have a different view of what food is than they do."
I looked out over the audience that I could see, which was mainly the ones close to the fire. I picked up my gitar and began to strum and the talking gradually died down. With a grin of amusement, I went into my first song. The one that Jobe had requested at the Golden Stallion Inn, the Dairymaid's Churn. I chose the most obscene of the dozen variations that I knew.
It appeared that it was one the Goblin's knew as well, since they were singing along by the third line. They had surprisingly musical voices, considering their speaking voices.
When I was finished I quickly swung into Hensom's Turd, again the most obscene of the versions I knew.
I kept it up for close to two hours straight, before I began to wind it down. For my last song I took my flute out of my case and played the lovely melody I had played in Mestar. When I finished it, I said firmly, "That's it. I'll be coming around every month or two. I'll make sure you're on my list of places to visit."
I held my breath a little, but they took it with good grace and began to break up. Somebody, doused the fire with water and they headed to their beds.
Prudently, us three humans didn't set up our bedrolls downwind of the Goblins. It had been a long day and we all got to sleep quite easily.
Us three humans all woke when the sun came up. Both Jobe and Argale slept in their clothes, but I preferred to strip completely and sleep naked.
I pushed myself to my feet and put on my loincloth. I was feeling bubbly this morning. I had spent the usual time last night trying to break Warfel's hold on me. I had actually managed to murmur, 'I didn't betray.' before I couldn't go on. I had been stuck on 'be' for a couple of weeks. Only two more words and I would be able to say the whole phrase, 'I didn't betray my country'.
I waved cheerfully at the Goblin's headman, he was sitting down watching us, stirring when we began to do so. There were a couple of Goblin children sitting behind him, naked and filthy.
I paused, when I realized that they weren't Goblin children at all, but human. The Goblin leader got to his feet and came over to me. He said, "Hold ou' hand." and when I did so he opened a bag and poured half a dozen gemstones into it.
He said, "For you," and pointing his thumb at the children, "and dem. Find two moons ago. Adults dead, don' know what kill 'em. Found children. Took in. Still, belong with humans. Take 'em wit you. Don' belong round 'ere, don' recognize adults. Not from villages round 'ere."
I looked at the gemstones, they must be worth hundreds of golds. I said hesitantly, "Should I tell where I got these. If I do, you're liable to get treasure hunters. If I don't we'll be in trouble with people who want to find more."
care! Treasor hunters delicious." He said with a grin, licking
his chops and ambled away. I had to giggle. As I mentioned, unless in
times of famine or if somebody bothered them, humans weren't on the
Goblin's menu. I guess they considered treasure hunters a bother.
The two kids, both boys, one about five the other maybe a couple of years older. They jumped to their feet and started in our direction. I got a whiff and I held up my hand, telling them bluntly, "That's close enough. You two stink. Until you've had a bath I don't intend to let you get any closer." Which didn't seem to bother either of them a bit.
breakfast and as usual it was hunks of hard crust bread. Once you got
through the crust the inside kept nice and moist and was delicious.
I threw a couple of hunks to each of them and they squatted on the ground,
tearing the bread apart.
We were walking our horses and mules, the two boys trailing along. Yesterday, we had noticed a nice little pool about five hundred yards from the Goblin camp, It didn't take long before we reached it.
It didn't take any invitations for the boys to get in the pool. They plunged in, with shrill cries of joy. As close as it was to the Goblin's camp, if they had used it for swimming, they wouldn't have been as dirty as they were. But children everywhere tend to take after the children they were living with. And no Goblin would take to swimming.
An impossibility anyway, Goblins didn't swim, they sank, so they tended to stay away from water, deeper than their knees.
After we staked out the horses and the mules, I quickly stripped and naked, joined them in the pool. Argale was a little more modest than I was and kept on her breastband and loincloth. Jobe could swim. He learned how in the army, but he flatly refused to do so, unless he absolutely had no choice in the matter.
Argale and I both had bars of soap in our hands and one of us taking each boy we managed to get them clean, with a little hard scrubbing.
After that we just enjoyed the water for a while. Sheetan joined us then, as I mentioned she loved to swim. The two boys were enchanted with her. She tolerated them, which I guess is all that you could expect from her.
Reluctantly after about an hour, I decided it was time to move on. By the way I guess I should tell you the boys' names. The older, just a little over seven, was Jayson and the younger boy was Derryn, and he was five and a half.
Now that we could get close to them, we got as much of the boys' stories as they knew. They told me their parent's names. Their mother was named Salan and their father was Galway. They didn't have any other relatives that they knew of and really, that's about all they knew. They just knew that they'd been traveling for days and days and days. They didn't know why, nor did they know where they were going.
They still felt a lot of sorrow at the death of their parent's, but the Goblins had treated them well, in their rough and ready fashion and they were starting to get over their grief. They were bright and cheerful kids most of the time.
Neither of the boys was considered old enough to wear clothing, so that was a worry we didn't have. Jobe's horse was much bigger than either Argale and I had. That would have made it uncomfortable for the two boys trying to straddle it, so we put them up in front of us, on the smaller horses.
I would have to make sure that I got a potion from the village Wiseman or woman in the next one we stopped at. That should help with the aches and pains that the boys were going to have by the time we got there.
I gave out a sigh of relief when we pulled up to the Golden Stallion Inn. I was only eleven and certainly wasn't cut out to be the guardian of two active little boys. Argale wasn't much better, saying she was too young to be a mother, though among most peasants she would be considered an old maid, since they tended to marry when they were fourteen or fifteen.
good with them, but he wasn't really interested in being a father either.
I shepherded the two naked little boys into the inn. I hadn't told them I thought I had a home for them, if Liava would accept them. I was pretty sure that she would, they were endearing little boys. . .most of the time.
It was fairly early in the afternoon, only a little after two, so the lunch traffic was pretty well over and the supper one, wouldn't start for another couple of hours.
There were only a few people in the common room, mostly the older regulars. They did a little drinking, a little tall tale telling, but most of the time they just loafed. Some inn owners wouldn't have tolerated their presence but Fergan and Liava put up with them.
I gave a piercing yell, "Liava, come greet the wandering Minstrel." and a few seconds later I saw her rushing out of the kitchen with a huge grin on her face. She gathered me into huge arms and gave me a loving hug.
For a moment, I ached with sorrow, only Manea had ever embraced me before. I quickly put it into the back of my mind. This was a happy occasion, not a sad one.
When she released me, I backed up and then pushed the two younger boys towards her. I said, with a grin, "I told you if I ever found orphans worthy of you I'd bring them right here."
I put my hand on the older boy's head and said, "This is Jayson." And putting my hand on the younger boy's head, I said, "And this is Derryn."
The two boys were gazing up at her, and they weren't sure about her. To them she probably seemed even larger than she really was. Liava's face went blank for a moment and then a huge grin was on her face. She could tell they were a little uncertain and she didn't try to hug them as she had done with me.
She said warmly, "Lordy lord boys. You're welcome. Come on into the kitchen, I just took the first pie that I was cooking for supper, out of the oven and you can each have a slice."
I grinned. I didn't think she'd have any problem. She obviously knew the way to a boy's heart was through his stomach. Eagerly, they followed after her.
Liava paused in the doorway and I could see her mouth, "Thank you." And I mouthed back, "You're welcome."
I was on the dock, where the barge landed and I was staring at the opposite shore of the river. I was filled with longing, I wanted to in my own country. Getira was nice but it would never be mine.
I heard Argale's light step behind me on the wooden planks. She asked, "Homesick, Gwell."
I nodded my head, saying with a choke in my voice, "Yes. Deeply, deeply homesick. But it doesn't matter, I can never go back. I made a promise that will bind me until death." Feeling the hot tears trickle down my cheeks.
her hand reassuringly on my shoulder and squeezed a couple of times
in sympathy, then left me to grieve in private and I was grateful to
I stared at the jewel merchant and then I began to tell him what I thought of him and his offer. I had hundreds of obscene song lyrics in my mind to chose from and I began to use them.
About two minutes into my tirade, he slapped his hands down on the top of the counter and bellowed, "Enough!!!"
I snapped, "I'm just getting warmed up!!!" and I was startled when he just grinned, saying quietly, "I know."
He told me, "All right. You know that my offer was obscenely low, so you responded with obscenity. Now I'll make you a more. . .ah, reasonable offer and we can go from there."
I grinned when I left his shop, being careful to make sure he didn't see it. I hadn't really been as offended as I had made out. The jeweller was known as a shrewd bargainer. I figured I had actually come out ahead on the deal for a change. Oh he had a pretty good profit margin, but not quite as much as he had wanted.
I got five hundred golds for the gemstones. If I had taken them to a large city I knew I would have gotten twice that, but I wasn't greedy.
I handed the bag of four hundred golds over to Fergan. I told him, "This is to help with raising the boys."
He raised his eyebrows and said, "Liava loves them already, we don't need money to raise what we consider treasures."
I told him firmly, "I told you that they lived with the Goblins for two months. The Goblins gave me a bag of gemstones. They told me that it was for me and the boys. I think it was mostly for the boys, so I kept one hundred and gave you four hundred. It isn't charity, but something that was intended to help the boys in the first place." and he nodded, though I think it was still reluctantly.
the three days of performance at the Inn, the three of us were on our
way. Fergan, Liava and Jayson and Derryn were there to see us off. Already,
the Inn seemed like home, actually more of a home than I had ever had
before. I could have had a home with Manea I think, if Warfel hadn't
intervened, but I was a traitor in their camp from the very beginning
and I had never been comfortable in the Palace. If the Inn had only
been in my country everything would be perfect.
We were a week into our circuit and one of the villages we had stopped at on our first trip, was just ahead. Jobe was a bit ahead of us and he had just topped a rise when he spotted smoke.
He rose in his stirrups, taking a look around. Smoke might mean bandits. He headed back for us, stopping when he reached us. He told us, "It seems to be in the village. What do you want to do?"
I chewed on my lower lip, then said decisively, "We go in. If it's just fire there might be someone hurt. Argale might be able to help. If it's bandits, well both of us have swords and with Argale and Sheetan's help we're a pretty formidable force."
I paused for a moment, then said, "We'll go cautiously, though and Sheetan can scout ahead."
I addressed Sheetan in mind-speech, *Maybe ambush, check ahead of us."
*Kay. Find, if there." and she slipped away, silent and deadly.
We followed at a good pace, still being careful but Sheetan was much
better than any human at detecting danger, so we weren't very worried
about an ambush.
We rode slowly into the village, which was called Tennine. It had a population of around two hundred people. On the edge of the village, one cottage had obviously just burned to the ground, a second one was burning. With the thatched roof and wooden frame there was no way of saving it. It was being watched by a tense crowd, many of them holding buckets, just in case a spark spread to any of the other cottages.
There was a man lying on the ground, obviously dead and a woman as well. She was still alive, but in a bad way. Neither had been burned, they had been struck by bladed weapons of some kind. Bandits must have attacked the village.
Argale slipped down from her horse, ground reining it and her mule was attached to the saddle, so neither of them would stray. She rushed over to the woman. She was being attended to by an older woman and I recognized her as the village Wisewoman. She was glad to see Argale. The wounds were beyond anything she had ever seen before.
Judging by the two cottages the bandits hadn't been gone for very long. I was outraged and I reached out with my mind, to see if I could find them. First east, then west, south and lastly north.
I narrowed my eyes as I found them, they were only about a mile away. There were half a dozen of them and they were boasting about the fantastic loot they had gotten. A live pig, half a dozen chickens and a battered candlestick.
I was disgusted that they were willing to kill for such a paltry amount of loot, but with what they had taken they were probably as rich as most bandits ever were.
I snapped at Jobe, "C'mon, they're only about a mile away. They won't be expecting pursuit. We should be able to run them down easily."
I reached over my shoulder to where my sword was hanging and loosened it in its sheath. Then I tugged on Tessil's reins to turn him around and galloped out of the village, closely followed by Jobe and Sheetan and the two mules.
were too concerned with the fire to mount any kind of pursuit. Most
of them weren't fighters anyway. As bad as the bandits probably were,
the villagers were much worse.
They weren't very good bandits, they weren't even watching their back trail for possible pursuit. Jobe and I came upon them after about ten minutes. We drew our swords and charged down at them.
They only took alarm at the last moment, looking back over their shoulder at us. They dropped their 'valuable loot' and scrambled to get out of our way. I had absolutely no feeling of mercy, as I slashed down at one terrified bandit, cutting his neck to the bone. His scream of agony was a soothing balm, to my anger.
Jobe's man went down as easily and I heard Sheetan's scream of anger, as she took out a third man. The last three didn't fare any better against us I'm afraid. Their deaths were swift and brutal and very very satisfying.
We left them there, without their loot. I had read that if you put a cloth on a stick and pushed it in the ground next to a dead body, it would keep the scavengers away. I didn't really know if it was true and I didn't really care very much.
We had to move much slower on the way back, since we were leading the pig. They hadn't bothered to keep the chickens alive so we took the bag and hung it from one of the mules packsaddles. I carried the candlestick in my hand.
Despite what Argale and the Wisewoman had tried, the woman had been too badly injured to survive, so there were two funerals to attend to. When the last spade full of earth was placed on the grave I raised my flute to my lips and began to play the untitled beautiful haunting melody. Well no longer untitled, I had decided to simply call it Peace.
Several months later, after several circuits, we were sitting around the campfire one night after a performance. The village we were in was too small to have an inn. The cottages were pretty small as well and the villagers really had no place for guests. With the rainy season well over it was no hardship to camp out.
There were only about fifty men, women and children in the village. I felt that they were just as entitled to entertainment as everyone else. I had taken in a little under half a gold for my performance. Considering the poorness of the village that was pretty damn good.
I had a feeling of content and happiness in my heart. I started to say something and Argale did as well, at the same time. Courteously, I nodded at her to go first.
Her voice was bubbling with good humor, as she said, "I finally got that truth spell down. At least I think so." A little less certainly.
As you probably know, most Mages go through an apprentice system. That's because most of them are from the peasant class and can't read or write. The apprentice system is designed to educate them, not only in matters of magic but matters of society, at the same time. Mages tended to travel in the upper crust of society and they usually needed that time of apprenticeship.
If you were of the noble class or like Argale, the daughter of a scholar, you already had the education you needed, except for the magic part. That could be gotten from books and that's what Argale was doing.
I said, "I finally have a tale to tell. It's a little hard to believe. You can cast your truth spell on me and we'll see if it works."
I don't know exactly how truth spells work. It's magic, I guess that's all I can say about them. What I do know is that a truth spell will reveal lies. Unfortunately, a truth spell won’t work on someone who believes a false story. That was the one drawbacks of truth spells.
Argale was ready to try her truth spell and she quickly but carefully cast it on me. When the spell was complete a blue light hung above my head. If I told an lie the light would turn red.
I told them, "I've been trying to say a phrase for the last eight months. The phrase is, 'I didn't betray my country.' The phrase simply represented something. Like Argale," I nodded at her, "I had a block in my mind, but unlike hers, it wasn't natural but was placed there."
"My full name is Jorlyn Gwell Hanover and I was a strange boy, at least to my family I was." I sighed, saying, "I was a musician in a family of tone deaf people. If I hadn't had my music I don't know what I would have done."
I explained, "They certainly never understood me and my family tended to dislike what they couldn't understand. When I was ten and a half, my parents sent me to become a page in the Royal Palace. None of them, not even my mother, came to say goodbye and I clattered over the drawbridge, sadly and forlornly."
I sighed again and taking a piece of wood, I stirred up the fire, before saying, "The fact that I was going to the Palace was known both in Elmitha, the capital and in my father's Barony. I think I was deliberately targeted, because I was not simply an unimportant pageboy. I was special, not because of who I was but because my older sister was the Queen of Cardison. I was also a budding Mindmaster, though I didn’t know that at the time."
Argale exclaimed, "I thought I recognized the name, Gwell."
And I nodded before continuing, "Halfway to the capital from the Barony there's a village where my family always stay, when they make that trip. There was the yearly fair in the village and the man-at-arms who was escorting me wanted to attend, so we attended together."
I brooded for a moment, before saying, "Looking back in my mind, I realize that there was already a command in it. I couldn't have refused to attend the fair, even if I had wanted to. One of the fairs attractions was a fortune teller and the command wanted me there."
I shook my head, explaining, "The command was placed in my mind by a man called Luan Warfel. He unlike me was a fully trained Mindmaster. He was already in my mind at that point, but he needed, face to face contact to place the hooks in deeper. Once he did that, I was his to play with, as much as he wanted."
I had to stop for a moment at that point to calm myself. Finally, after three or four minutes, I was able to talk again, "Of course the Great War was still ongoing at that point. Warfel was working for Farmine, trying to give them enough of an advantage that they could win the war."
I grimaced before saying, "With me in the Palace to read minds, he figured that he couldn't lose. I don't know how, but my people began to suspect I was a traitor. Suddenly people whose minds had been easy to access, were barriered with a magic spell. At the same time I was getting much more information verbally, than a page should ever get."
I grinned then, saying, "I'm pretty intelligent, I like to think. I suspected that they knew I was a traitor. I assumed that I was getting false information. Warfel didn't want me to think, just to collect information. I had no choice but to tell him about it. He was pretty unstable, so I picked my time very carefully. I picked a time when he was really mad about something. I told him, 'I think' and that just drove him over the edge."
I grimaced again, "He ordered me never to tell him what I thought again. He ordered me to do what I wanted to do. Then he battered my mind, like he had done before."
"Despite his apparent control of my mind, I had won, I had beaten him and he never knew it. When Farmine's army attacked, Cardison's carefully hidden troops decimated it and won the war."
Jobe blurted out, "But why are you here, Gwell."
I said simply, "I won, but I at the same time I lost. Most people aren't aware how powerful Mindmaster's are. People know they can read minds, but they aren't aware that some of them, can control minds as well. They had tested me for any magic spells that were controlling me. Since there were none, they didn't even realize that I could be controlled in another way, by someone who had an inborn talent."
I took a deep breath, before saying sadly, "Since that's the case, they figured, I must have been betraying my country voluntarily." I said simply, "I expected to die as a traitor, in view of the fact that I was unable to tell anyone that I was being controlled. I didn't want to die, but I had already accepted it. But neither my sister or the king would allow it, though for different reasons. Instead they sent a Mage to tell me that I was to go into exile. I don't imagine either of them thought I could survive, let alone prosper, but at least they wouldn't be responsible for my death and I couldn't bring scandal to the Royal Family."
Argale said a heartfelt, "Oh, Gwell I'm so sorry!!!"
I said slowly, thinking it through, "In a way I'm not. If I'd been the usual noble boy, I would never have been able to become a Minstrel. Becoming a Guild Bard is respectable, even for a noble. But as I said, I couldn't create a song if my life depended on it. You need to be able to do that to become a Bard. It's just that I get so homesick sometimes for my country. I like Getira, but it's not mine."
Jobe said, "Surely your King and Queen, once they know your story, will give you permission to return."
I shook my head, saying gloomily, "It's not as simple as that, I'm afraid. I gave my promise to the Hidden God when he cursed me. Only another God can release me from that promise."
Baron Jettar's castle was just down the hill from us. I didn't know what the reception would be like, this time around. The Baron had told me the last time that Guild was finally replacing his Bard. His own had died in a hunting accident, a couple of months before I started making my rounds.
had assured me that I'd always be welcome, but if the Bard chose, I
could get a pretty chilly reception.
I was relieved by the fact that the Bard Dinar Avell was waiting for us in the courtyard. The castle would have told about our presence in the last village and they were expecting us. Once we handed over our horses and mules to the stableboys, he greeted me, with a bow.
He had a carefully serious face, but there was a twinkle in his eye. He said, "I've been anxious to meet the phenomenon the Baron found. Gallion said you're as good as any Bard he's ever heard."
I asked, a little hesitantly, "You don't mind?"
his head, "I never mind competing against other musicians, Gwell.
If they're mediocre, well I'm reassured that I'm better than they are
and it's a true joy to play with a musician on my level." That
relieved me even more. But I was astonished when I heard later that
he was the brother-in-law of the King of Getira.
We were in the music room in the castle, we had never played together so we needed to practise and decide what we would play. In point of fact, I had never played with another person, just on my own. Both of us were tuning our gitar's. When we were sure that they were in tune Dinar Avell challenged me. He said, "Show me what you can do, Gwell."
I was a little nervous, but I had a great deal of confidence in my music. I immediately went into Olav's Ride. I had a lot of practice by now and I didn't usually make any errors in the song, anymore.
He joined in halfway into the song, playing softly, backing me up. He was better than I was, but not by much. I was only eleven and he was about thirty years older than I was, in his early forties I think. I knew eventually, unless I had already reached my peak, I would be better than he was.
When we were finished, he asked me, "Do you know Fredrik's Air." and I nodded and went into the song and he joined in.
After we were finished, he said, "I think we should start with that and then Olav's Ride. What next do you think?" and I knew he had accepted me as an equal.
I told him, "I've got a song that I'e been playing. I found it in my grandfather's music library. It can be played on gitar but the flute fits it better." He nodded and I got my flute out.
Before I put the flute to my lips I told him, "It actually was untitled. I thought it needed one and simply call it Peace." I began playing the haunting melody and I could see by his widened eyes that he had never heard it before.
After I was finished, he said intently, "Play that again. I agree that the flute is better for that song." He smiled a little ruefully, "The flute isn't one of the instruments that I play, so I'll have to learn it on gitar. That song needs to be to our repertoire. I'll send it to the Guildhall for dissemination, if you don't object." and I shook my head, pleased that he liked it that much.
It only took him twice, with me playing it, to get it note perfect. He played it once on his own and then he asked me, "How many unknown songs, do you know Gwell?"
I told him truthfully, "I don't really know. My grandfather was a musician and he collected music and musical instruments. He died before I was born but I found his music room on my seventh birthday. I've been learning ever since. He had books on music and books of music, sheets and simply what he was told orally. I have a trick memory, I only have to read something once and it's forever available to me. If I get stuck on a song I only have to close my eyes and I can see the sheet of music for that song."
He just shook his head, then asked, "How many instruments do you play?"
"Lets see," I said, then told him, "Flute, lute," with a bit of a grin at the inadvertent rhyme, "gitar, great harp, lap harp, violin and drums."
He said with amazement, "And you learned all of that on your own."
I nodded, saying, "From books mostly. Maybe if I had gone to our Bard, he would have helped me. But I never even thought of it. Both my parents are tone deaf. Despite them having a Bard, music wasn't a very respected thing in their viewpoint."
He shook his head in amazement again and told me, "Well you're almost as good as I am, right now. Since you're so young, eventually you'll probably be better than I am. I look forward to watching your growth as a musician, young Gwell."
I could tell that he meant it and I had a warmth in my heart from his praise.
Before we got back to the practice, Dinar asked me, "Would you stay a little longer at the castle and we can find out what songs that you know that are unknown by me."
saying, "I'll stay for a week, this time and a week each time we
do a circuit." I told him, "I'm under a geas, that demands
that I must be constantly on the move. I can delay it for a week, but
no longer than that."
The performance that night was just as satisfying as the practice had been. Sometimes I was leading and sometimes Dinar was. I enjoyed leading but I also enjoyed following, he was such an exciting partner to play with.
I was up on the walls of the castle, simply looking around and getting some fresh air. The week was almost over and I was restraining my need to move on by sheer force of will, but I had said a week. I noticed a couple of Baron Jettar's women guest’s walking around the top of the wall. They were talking to each other and I heard one of them say, "I got a reading from Madame Luberra. She's all the rage now, in Geldon right now."
all I heard, but I stiffened in shock. That was an unusual name, I had
never heard it before or since and it alarmed me.
I immediately went to see Dinar Avell. I could hear a gitar playing softly as I knocked on his door. The playing stopped and a few seconds later the door opened.
He looked down at me and asked, "Yes, Gwell, can I help you!"
I was still stunned by what I had heard and I was a bit incoherent. Seeing my uncertainty, he grasped my arm and drew me into the room. He sat me on the side of the bed and poured a mug of water from the pitcher on his wash table and handed it to me.
Once I finally could talk again, I told him the tale that I had told Jobe and Argale only last night. He was sitting on the stool and when I was finished his face looked thoughtful as he went over his mind the tale that I had narrated to him.
His gray eyes were narrowed and he rubbed his hand through his dark hair, as he asked,. He said, "You're not the type just to tell a story like that to someone you barely know. Why exactly did you come to me?"
I told him about what I had heard on the castle walls, "Now, I hear about a Madame Luberra in your capital. Also a fortune teller. I've never ever heard that name before. It's very likely that it's the same woman. I always assumed that Warfel and Luberra were working for Farmine, that it was their country."
I told him, "Now, at least one of them and perhaps both of them are in your country. What if they're mercenaries, working for the highest bidder. If that's true the fact that they're in your country, is very alarming."
He scowled, though not at me, he was just thinking deeply. Finally he gave a sigh, saying, "You're right, Gwell, we have to find out if they're really the same pair, or not. We need to bring the Baron in on this. Come with me."
He jumped to his feet and with me following he headed out the door..We went right to the Baron's office, where he worked for several hours a day. He was still there, not having finished yet.
I told my story, for a third time and also what I had overheard on the castle walls. The Baron sat, brooding, as he thought over what I had told him. Then he said, "I remember hearing the name when I was in the capital four months ago. And you're right, Gwell, it is an uncommon name. I'd certainly never heard it before. And it seems like a vanishingly small coincidence that two fortune tellers would have the same name."
I asked a little timidly, “You don’t need further proof? I could be lying, just trying to stir up trouble.”
Jettar shook his head, saying, “I don’t know you well, Gwell, but I think I know you well enough to tell if you were lying. My instincts have always been good with people. They failed me with Gaylar, but he managed to fool everyone, even people I consider much wiser than I am.”
He stroked his chin, thinking for a minute, before saying, “I need to send you to the capital Gwell. I really have no choice.” I nodded in understanding and agreement.
He looked me up and down thoughtfully, then despite the seriousness of the situation his face had a touch of humor on it, as he grinned and said, “He’d make a lovely girl, don’t you think, Din?” and I blushed at that.
Dinar grinned as well, saying, “You intend to send him to the capital in disguise?”
The Baron nodded, telling us, “This Warfel knows him, if he sees Gwell, heading for the Palace, he may go underground and we’d never find him. I think a little girl. Yes, and one whose family worships Davar, I think. With the mourning veil, they wear when kinfolk die, he’ll be completely hidden.” He looked directly at me, asking, “He knows your mind as well, Gwell, is there any way that you can hide it.”
I nodded, telling him that, “I’ve been working on a shield, ever since I left my country. I don’t know if it would hold against him, if he targeted me directly, but it’ll hide me from casual contact. I’ll want to take Jobe and Argale if they’ll come. Argale can put a shield on their minds.” I admitted with a grin, “It’s probably better than mine.”
Dinar said seriously, “My brother-in-law, is only twenty-three, Gwell. He’s not as confident about his judgment of people, as the Baron is. He’ll require you to undergo a truth spell.”
I nodded with understanding. Even with a truth spell, the King still probably wouldn’t trust me completely, until my tale was verified in some way.
The Baron looked at Avell, saying, “I think you’d better go as well, Dinar. If he looks like a little girl, even sending him with a message, might not get him in to see the King. We’ll bypass underlings and get to the King through your sister.” and he nodded.
“I feel ridiculous,” I said plaintively, as I looked down at the dress I was wearing. Argale, Jobe and Dinar grinned at my plight.
Dinar said consolingly, ‘The Baron was right. You do make a lovely little girl.” As if that was supposed to make me feel better. I sighed. At least the dress fit me and it wasn’t uncomfortable to wear.
Luckily this was just a fitting and I wouldn’t have to wear it full time, until we were a couple of days from the capital. But we were bringing a sidesaddle along for when that unwanted event occurred.
Carefully with Argale’s help I got out of the dress and she packed it away for me. I had two dresses to wear, borrowed from the Baron’s youngest daughter who was just my age.
had said dryly, that she hadn’t minded at all. She was just anxious
to go shopping to replace them.
The four of us were on the road later that day. The capital, was usually a week’s ride from the Barony and we made good time.
As I said, we made good time. We cut the normal seven day trip to six. We could have done it in five, but once I donned the dress and started riding sidesaddle, we had needed to slow down somewhat. I hadn't really wanted to but I felt it best to leave Sheetan at the Baron's. She wasn't really built for a fast trip like we had needed to make.
I looked around the outer of our rooms at the inn. It was much the fanciest inn, I had ever stayed in. It was called the Gollden Boar Inn and no I don’t know why it was spelled with two l’s, instead of one, Curious, I had asked the innkeeper, but he didn’t know either.
I groaned and flopped into an armchair. Not very gracefully I must admit. My respect had gone up enormously for girls and other females. How they endured the torture of sidesaddles I didn’t know.
Argale grinned at me, not very sympathetically, saying dryly, “Now you know why I wear a shirt and breeches for traveling.” and I nodded.
Shirts and breeches were considered a little scandalous for women. At the same time about fifty percent of them wore them anyway. Many other noble women were much too proper to dream of it. But the purpose of a disguise was to conceal. If I didn’t wear it, it wouldn’t work.
Jobe went downstairs to get us a meal. If you were in mourning, you used a veil, all the time except when you were eating. Eating in our rooms solved that little problem.
Dinar was anxious to get to the Palace but he reined in his impatience until after he ate, but he bolted his food and was through much sooner than the rest of us. As soon as he was through, he pushed his chair back and was on his way.
He returned a couple of hours later, around seven and the glow of satisfaction on his face, told us he had succeeded.
He told us, elatedly, “I’m to escort, Gwell to the Palace immediately My sister is pregnant and for the last week she’s been living in separate quarters, attended by a Mid-Wife and taking her meal in her rooms. There’s a secret passageway between the King’s quarters and hers. He can see Gwell, with nobody being the wiser.”
I was glad about that, so putting on my veil, we headed for the Palace.
Dannan, looked me up and down, closely and said dryly, “You’re right, Din. He does make a lovely girl.” I frowned at her, but didn’t say anything, but she found that funny and broke out into a peal of laughter, joined by Avell.
Dannan was older than the King was. She was twenty-eight and they had been married for three years. Like Dinar, she had black hair and gray eyes. A patrician nose and full lips. Like my sister she was pretty but not beautiful.
The reason that she had separate quarters and the Mid-Wife was in constant attendance was because people were a bit worried about her age. The last time, a woman of her age, had been Queen and expecting her first baby, had been over a hundred years ago. She had died in childbirth, though the baby had survived.
With a grin on her face, she offered me her hand, chiding me, “Come, Gwell. It’s not the end of the world. Unlike most males, you’ve seen a little of what women go through. That’s not all bad for a performer.” and a bit grudgingly I nodded and bent over to give it a kiss of respect. If I’d really been a girl, it would have been a low curtsy. I had done some practicing, in case I had to do it in public and I was passable.
I straightened and she gestured at the tray sitting on the table, saying, “Unlike me, at the moment, Galan will be busy for some time at supper and the entertainment after it. It will look suspicious if he leaves before the ending. Dinar says you are very good. Will you play for me Gwell?” she asked, holding out the gitar that been sitting on the sofa, beside her.
I had brought my flute but I had left my gitar at Baron Jettars. This was the longest, I had ever gone without playing it. The need to play was a driving force in me and I eagerly took the offered gitar.
It was elaborately decorated, but when I strummed the strings, the tone wasn’t as good as mine or Dinar’s but it was pretty good.
I went right into my old standby, Olav’s Ride and she was listening to it intently. She didn’t clap between songs but I could tell from the pleasure on her face that she was enjoying it.
I gave a final strum of the gitar and I was done. I hadn’t seen the King and the Mage, who was accompanying him, slip into the room, from the bedroom where the secret passage was. I just heard him and the Mage clapping, the Queen and Bannie the Mid-Wife and Dinar joining in. I was a bit startled and I glanced over in their direction. Seeing one man wearing a coronet, I bowed in his direction.
Galan said, with a grin, “That would look very strange, if I didn’t know that you were really a boy.” Like his wife the King had gray eyes and black hair. His facial features were delicate looking, giving HIM a bit of a girlish look as well, making him look younger than he really was. It was a deceptive look. He was much stronger than he appeared.
Galan put his hands on his knees, he raised his eyebrow and looked at Bannie, and Dannan dismissed her. He looked at his Mage and told him, "Put a Ward around us please, Lister." And obediently the Mage made several gestures with his hands and murmured under his breath.
Lister grinned and told us, "Nobody can see us or hear us, Galan so it's safe to talk." Galan looked at Dinar and over at me, soberly. He remarked, "Dinar told me your tale. It's a little hard to believe, I must admit. I want you to tell your tale, now, under a truth spell. Lister came up with something brand new several years ago. It works differently from other truth spells in that it detects falsehoods rather than lies. Even if you believe it, if it's an untruth the spell will be able to detect it."
He shook his head, saying with a frown, "Unfortunately, it takes some very unusual and expensive ingredients. He has enough to cast the spell half a dozen times. Once the ingredients are gone, he doesn't know if he can find any more or not. We've used it twice so far. I can't think of a better time to use it again."
good, it meant that once I told my tale, King Galan would believe me
immediately. I wouldn't have to convince him that I was telling the
Unlike most truth spells, the one Lister used on me, actually affected me. It made me a bit sleepy, though not enough to make me fall sleep.
When I was finished with my story, I could see everybody else was thinking about it, trying to decide what to do.
After a while the King asked musingly, "How do you find a man who doesn't need to get close to you, in order to betray you?"
I was terrified, but I had a solution. I said in a very high pitched voice, "You. . ." then despite my terror I had to giggle and when I spoke next I was calmer. "You need to use me as bait, Sire. If Warfel gets the news that I'm in Geldon, he'll at least want to know what I'm doing here. I've been developing a shield since I've been in Getira. Warfel will need to get into speaking distance of me before he can do anything to me."
Galan said, "You're not one of my subjects, Gwell. Are you sure that you want to risk your life for me?"
I shook my head, telling him, soberly, "My life isn't in any danger, Your Majesty. I told you most of what happened but not everything. I told you about the Mage and the fact that he cursed me. Of course a curse has no effect unless it's in the form of a spell and this wasn't. A Messenger of the Gods, came to me the first night that I was on my own. He told me that the Mage wasn't just a Mage, but the Hidden God. Normally, he could only have used the power of the mortal body that he was inhabiting. But he thought I was a traitor, the very crime for which he was atoning. He was able in this instance to call on his power as a God. All the curse is valid. That means he made me an immortal. I can be hurt but I can't die until the Hidden God is finished with his penance."
That were looking at me in shock, and I heard Dannan say, "Oh, Gwell." softly and sadly, sympathising with my plight.
The King asked me, with evident sympathy in his voice as well, "Can't you go to the Mage and show him that you're innocent."
I shook my head, telling him sadly, "No. I can't I'm afraid. He died in the final battle between Cardison and Farmine. His essence would have gone to find another stillborn baby to inhabit, bringing it to life, as it always does."
I said with frustration, "I know a lot of people, really would like to live forever, but not as a little boy. Never changing, never growing up. I was looking forward to growing up, having a wife and a family. Watching them over time as they grew up. Now that will never never happen." I finished with poignant sorrow. They didn't say anything more and I was grateful. There really wasn't anymore to say.
I had thought of this from the very beginning. That's why I had brought Jobe and Argale along. Probably, Warfel didn't even know I was in the country. But just in case he did and knew that I was traveling with them, I felt they should be here with me.
Dinar and I had returned to the inn and had spent the night, then in the morning we had gone to the Palace, me as the little girl, I appeared to be. We had left the impression at the inn that I was a young relative of the Queen's and had been invited to stay at the Palace.
I indeed went to the Palace, though Jobe and Argale had stayed behind. Apparently, they had simply been hired to accompany me on the journey. They intended to wait until their friend arrived, though not in the Gollden Boar Inn. It was much too expensive for their purses.
Of course I was that friend. I went to the Palace as a girl and it appeared that I was a little under the weather. I was closeted in my room, with a Healer, being dosed with potions. I'd apparently be spending a few days in bed, only the Healer being allowed in and out. That would conceal my absence for a few days. The King figured if we didn't turn up Warfel, within a few days, we probably wouldn't and I had to agree.
rich clothing when I left the Palace, posing as a noble boy, well posing
as a noble boy of Getira. I carried a bag with my normal clothing. After
a few minutes, when I was sure I wasn't being followed, except for the
King's spy, I ducked into an alley and changed my clothes. I left by
the opposite entrance, carrying the bag with the rich clothing, the
spy was right behind me, though he let me get ahead of him, once we
left the alley.
I met Jobe and Argale in the main market square. The first thing I needed to do was buy a gitar, since as I have mentioned I left mine at Baron Jettar's. The Queen's gitar would have been much too fancy for a simple Minstrel. Not that I really considered myself a simple Minstrel, anymore.
In many places, both here and in my country of Cardison, a cabinet maker was also the instrument maker. But not in the major cities like this. They would be made by an actual instrument maker.
That didn't always mean that the quality of instrument would be better in the city. The gitar I had at Jettar's had been made by a cabinet maker, for instance and it was a superior instrument.
You could probably buy a good instrument at a cabinet maker's for half a gold to a couple of them. A good instrument in the city would be at least five golds and a superior instrument would cost at least double that.
The King had provided me with twenty golds in case I found a really superior instrument.
Jobe and Argale looked around the market while I went shopping for a gitar. The first place I tried was a total loss. Oh, the instruments looked good enough, but the true test is in the playing and none of them were more than good, most were mediocre and a few were just plain bad.
The second place was just newly opened, you could tell from the freshness of the place. Not simply the neatness, but the fresh paint and everything else about it, told the tale.
As I expected, the owner was all on his own and he was young, only in his early twenties. He was working in a open area in the back and I could see he was intent on what he was doing.
I idly took down one of the gitars hanging on the wall. I gave a strum of the strings and my eyes opened wide in amazement. The tone was better than mine was, perhaps much better. If it held up under playing a few songs it was truly a superior instrument.
Well I intended to give it a fair try out. I began playing Olav's Ride, what else. I didn't know any other song that could test the range of a gitar like Olav's Ride could.
Oh, it was a sweet instrument, all right. Finished with Olav's Ride, I went into Fredrik's Air. It wasn't quite as complicated as Olav's Ride, but it was just as demanding a song to play.
I completely lost myself in the music and I have no idea of how long I continued. The instrument was a pure joy to play.
Finally I came up for air and stopped. I was startled to hear clapping. Looking up I saw people standing in the doorway and there were a lot of them standing behind them as well. With a grin, I realized that I had collected a crowd.
I gave an elegant little bow, telling them with a smile, "I'm a Minstrel and I'll be looking for an inn or tavern to play in, after I've finished buying a gitar. Come listen to me, when I find a place. My name is Jorlyn Gwell Hanover."
I heard a cough from behind me, as they began to break up, talking about what they'd heard. I turned to see the owner of the shop, beaming down at me. I knew the gitar was his, but I didn't intend to let it out of my hands until it was mine.
Before I could say anything, he snapped, "Five golds."
I was astonished and I said with amazement, "It's worth at least three times that, maybe four."
He conceded, "I could maybe get ten golds for it, not any more, not yet, I'm Cavon and I'm too new. If you're a Minstrel, the way you play, you can be a walking advertisement for me."
I said with a grin, "Sold and I certainly don't mind, bragging up the maker. He certainly makes superior instruments." I could see him blush and I giggled.
He asked with interest, "Can I help you with any other instruments. I have a violin I made for my Master's Test four months ago. I haven't found anybody so far in the two months that my shop has been opened that I would consider worthy of owning it. Yet it needs someone special to play it. Not me. I can play but I'm not a real musician."
I hesitated. I loved the violin almost as much as the gitar and it had been about a year since I'd had a chance to play one.
Taking my hesitation for answer, he went into the part of the back of the store which was closed off from the rest and returned with a violin case. The case was made of oak and it was as beautifully finished as the instruments were, obviously Cavon took pride in everything he crafted.
I undid the latch and opened the lid reverently. Oh, she was beautiful. With trembling hands I picked up the violin and plucked a couple of strings. I closed my eyes in bliss, at the sweet tone.
Putting the violin back in the case, I picked up the bow, using the rosin. Picking up the violin again, I tucked it under my chin. I stroked the bow across the strings a couple of times, marvelling at the wonderful sound.
I began to play now, no not Olav's Ride. You could play it on a violin, but I didn't really like the way it sounded. Fredrik's Air on the other hand had been written for the violin. I was a little fumble fingered at first, it had been so long since I had played a violin. By the time I was halfway through the song, it was as if I had never left the instrument.
Oh she was sweet. I didn't think she was any better than the gitar, but she was at least as good.
When I was finished Cavon said, "She special to me. I can't really let her go for less than ten golds."
saying, "Sold as well." and I opened my belt pouch getting
out fifteen of the twenty golds the King had given me and handed it
A man cleared his throat from behind me and I turned to see a small man standing behind me. He was only a little taller than I was but he probably weighed four times what I did. But then he would be bulky, since he was obviously a Dwarf. And like most Dwarves I had seen he had black hair and a thick black beard. I had heard of Dwarves with blond hair, but I'd never seen one.
He said, "I be Trucel. I be hearing you play. I be hearing you want a place to play. I own da Raging Bull Inn. Ain't the best in town, buts in the second tier." He nodded at Cavon, "'E knows me. Tell you I'm honest."
I look enquiringly at Cavon and he nodded encouragingly, saying, "He's got good eats and drink and he don't overcharge like some do. Gets a good class of customer."
how we ended up at the Raging Bull Inn. As usual, I had to pay for Jobe
and Argale. I was quite glad to do so just for the company on my rounds.
I made sure my shield was as strong as I could make it and then went
down to the common room to give my first performance. By the time I
was finished I could easily afford the room. In fact I made enough from
that first performance that I could have afforded to rent all of the
rooms in the inn.
That was the pattern over the next three days, meals, a performance, sleep. By that time I'd been asked a dozen times, who had made my instruments. I was glad to tell them it was Cavon and he told me on the third day that business had picked up very very well.
Things changed on the third night after I went to bed. I was naked of course since I preferred to sleep that way.
I was still awake and I stiffened as I felt Warfel trying to get into my mind. His feel was unmistakable. I had suffered under his domination for too long, not to know it, when I felt it.
I was overjoyed and relieved, to learn that he wasn't as successful as he had been in the past. I hadn't been totally sure. He was on the surface of my mind and I was able to prevent him from going deeper.
was giving me orders and I needed to obey them, as if I had to obey
them. I threw back the sheet and after a quick shake of Jobe and Argale
to wake them, I opened the door and slipped out into the hallway and
down the stairs. I heard my friends ghosting along behind me. As I opened
the door to the hallway that led to the latrine and then outdoors, I
really hoped the King's men were there, where they were supposed to
be. According to the plan, it would be elves at this time of night.
The dark night would only look like a overcast afternoon to them, with
their superior nightsight.
It appeared I didn't have far to go, as I opened the door of the stable and slipped inside. Warfel was sitting on a bale of hay, just waiting for me, with his usual arrogance, utterly confident that he was still in control of me.
He pointed to a spot in front of him telling me to, "Kneel there, Jorlyn. At my feet, as it should be." He knew me before I started using Gwell on a regular basis.
I obeyed and as I did so I could hear rustling in the hay above my head. I had learned from his mind, in the past that Warfel was so arrogant about the ability he had that he tended to ignore his other senses. He said, "I don't really know if I can use you or not, Jorlyn. But I had to see you for old times sake, if for no other reason." He grinned cruelly.
The light was faint, in the stable, only a dim lantern being available. I'd carefully not looked directly at it and my night vision was fairly good. I could see that there was someone standing in front of the back door of the stable. I figured if he was Warfel's bodyguard, he would have been a few feet from him, not hidden in the shadows. After all, Warfel had no reason to fear me.
Suddenly, Warfel struck at my mind as he had done in the past. Yet it wasn't as effective as it had once been. It hurt, but not as much as I expected. Yet if he had hit me that hard in the past I would have had trouble staying conscious. I let my naked body slump to the floor, as if I had been hurt.
Warfel swore and slapped at his neck. Glancing up, I saw him holding a little dart in his hand. Then he toppled backwards off the bale of hay, unconscious from the potion the little blowpipe dart had been dipped in.
to my feet, shrieking my joy. I began to do a little dance of triumph
and I regret to tell you that part of it was all over Warfel. Well,
actually I don't regret it. Unfortunately, my feet were bare but he
was still going to have some bruises, inflicted by me.
I sat in the Queen's rooms, the next afternoon and I felt content and at peace. Warfel was in the dungeons and he was in a cell that was spelled to prevent Mages and Mindmasters from getting out. Luberra was in the next cell. As soon as the elves had seen Warfel enter the stable they had passed the word to scoop her up as well. Since she was in a fixed location that hadn't been very hard.
From what I had heard they were singing like little birds, probably hoping they could get off easy. A forlorn hope I was confident. They were working for Telfor, the country on the northern border of Getira. The two countries had an ongoing border dispute. Like with me, Warfel and Luberra were trying to get the troop dispositions in that area. Telfor had gotten some of that information and if they'd gotten enough of it they might have escalated the border dispute to a full scale war. I had helped prevent a war.
Justice would be swift in this case, I knew. The two would be tried and wouldn't live out the week. Spies were never very well treated, unless they were really important.
I picked up my flute and played the song Peace and I felt it as never before. When I was finished I let it fall into my lap. Dannan looked up at me and asked, "What do you intend to do now, Gwell?"
I told her, "Me, Jobe and Argale will go with Dinar, to the Barony." I wanted to get back to Sheetan. I was missing her.
"What can we do to reward you, Gwell." She held up her hand, saying, "I know you didn't do it for a reward, but my husband and I think you deserve one anyway. The cost in lives and money to fight a war would have been enormous."
Dannan would be hurt I couldn't come up with something. I thought seriously for a few minutes and suddenly I came up with an idea. I looked at Queen Dannan, telling her, "Orphans are almost considered a burden to us, most of them aren't treated very well. I think that's wrong, they've simply been unlucky and life had treated them unfairly. I've always wished I could do something about it. Now I can. Create an orphanage in my name, where orphans can live and thrive."
We were back on our circuit, all of us together again. Me, Jobe, Argale and Sheetan. Argale had been reading as she usually did, when suddenly she shouted out in triumph, "Got it!!!"
I said with amusement, "What exactly have you got?"
Argale said excitedly, "I've found a way for you to contact your family, without actually going back into your country."
Suddenly just as excited as she was, I demanded, "What is it?"
She pointed at the book she was holding, "I've found a spell that a Mage and a Mindmaster can use together. It will allow the Mindmaster to release his Astral Spirit, which is normally only available to Mages."
I was silent, but my heart was pounding so hard that I wondered how my chest was holding it in. I knew it wouldn't be an instant thing, it would take lots of practice before I would be able to reach the capital of Cardison from here. But most things truly worthwhile took time, some of them a lot of time.
It was a beginning.
It took more than a month of constant practice, day in and day out, before I could finally reach Elmitha. I had just been wandering through the capital for the last couple of days, in my Astral form. I was a little wary for some reason and I was reluctant to go into the Palace, to contact my sister and her husband.
Finally, though I knew that I couldn't keep stalling. I needed to tell them my story. It didn't really matter whether they believed it or not, they would know about it. That's really all I needed.
and raised my Astral Spirit into the air and arrowed toward the Palace.
It was after supper and I knew that Manea and Walcott would be together
at this time of night. They might be talking or they might simply be
in the same room. They were comfortable together and comfortable with
silence between them.
I had forgotten that Manea was pregnant when I had to leave Cardison. She, Walcott and the sleeping baby were in the nursery. They were simply admiring their tiny son and talking quietly together.
My heart ached at the sight of the simple family scene. I concentrated and began to appear. When I was as fully visible as I could manage, I said quietly, "Hello Manea, Walcott."
They looked at me, somewhat startled at my appearance in their rooms. Manea said, "Oh, Jorlyn, I'm so sorry for what you needed to go through."
I was stunned. They knew my story, I hadn't expected that. Walcott said, "Queen Dannan of Getira, sent us a long letter detailing what they found out from Warfel and Luberra." He gave a bow in my direction, "We honor you for your courage and the fact that you managed to win through in such a trying situation."
My heart was pounding with joy. They knew and they honored me. Manea asked, "Can you accept our bidding to allow you to come home?"
Despite the bubbling joy I felt, I shook my head ruefully, telling them, "I promised Orgal Sanper that I wouldn't return as long as either of you were still alive. That promise is binding on me. Only a God can release me from that type of vow."
There was silence as they contemplated my situation. After several minutes we were all startled when in a darker corner of the room a light began to glow and a figure began to appear. With heart in throat, I recognized the person who was appearing. It was the Messenger of the Gods, who had told me about the fact that the curse Sanper used on me was valid.
at me and said to me in mind-speech, *I told you that occasionally I
bring good news, Gwell.* Then he spoke out loud to all of us, "Tartal,
the God of Justice releases you from your vow, Jorlyn. He feels that
you have suffered enough." Then in mind-speech, *They still won't
do anything about the curse, I'm afraid, Gwell.* and he faded from sight.
Now that I could return I would do so, but as I told Manea and Walcott, "I'll come for a while but not for a long time. I've made a place for myself up here on the border. Now that I can enter my own country, my life is perfect for me. I'm a musician and I need to play music and being a Minstrel suits me."
Walcott just nodded and said, "Maybe you could play for us when you come, Gwell." Acknowledging that I was no longer Jorlyn Gwell Hanover, but the Minstrel Gwell.
|Argale – Woman who Gwell and Jobe rescue.|
|Avell, Dinar – Guild Bard at Baron Jettar's castle.|
|Bannie – The Mid-Wife attending Getira’s Queen|
|Barrat, Jobe – Drunk in the Golden Stallion Inn.|
|Beldin – Sergeant in Baron Gallion's service.|
|Cardison – Country where Gwell was born.|
|Cavon – Instrument maker that Gwell buys a gitar from.|
|Dannan – Queen of Getira.|
|Danon's Hyde – Place where a massacre took place in Getira, eight years before this story began.|
|Davar - Goddess|
|Dayson – Seven years old. One of the orphan the Goblins turn over to Gwell and his companions.|
|Derryn – Five years old younger of the two orphans the Goblins turn over to Gwell and his companions.|
|Elmitha – Capital of Cardoson.|
|Farmine – The other country involved in the Great War with Cardison.|
|Farlan - The Hidden God|
|Fordan – Head man of the village where Gwell and the others rescue the witch.|
|Franton – Jettar’s nephew.|
|Galway – Derryn and Jayson's father.|
|Gatan – King of Getira.|
|Gaylar – Ward of Baron Jettar’s.|
|Geldon – Capital of Getira.|
|Getira – County on the northern|
|Gollden Boar Inn – Inn that the group stay in, in the capital Gelden.|
|Golden Stallion Inn – Owned by Fergan and Liava Mordrak.|
|Hankin – Murdered boy.|
|Hanover, Artin – Fourteen, Gwell's brother|
|Hanover, Baron Dal – Gwell's father.|
|Hanover, Jorlyn Gwell – Eleven years old, blond hair, green eyes. He just uses his middle name most of the time. It’s a fairly common name and using it gives him anonymity.|
|Hanover, Myrin – Gwell's older brother, eighteen.|
|Hanover, Talla – Gwell's mother.|
|Harbin – Gwell's pack mule.|
|Hidden God - Farlan|
|Huntin, Dar – Dal Hanover's bard.|
|Jettar, Baron Gallion – Baron in Getira.|
|King Walcott – King of Cardison.|
|Lister – Adept Mage working for the crown of Getira.|
|Mace – Seller hunting cats in Cardison|
|Medon – One of Gwell's fathers men-at-arms.|
|Mestar – Village on the Scuse river.|
|Milie – A serving maid at the Golden Stallion.|
|Mordrak, Fergan – Part owner of the Golden Stallion Inn.|
|Mordrak, Livia – Part owner of the Golden Stallion Inn.|
|Morgal – A village, halfway from Qwell's home to the capital, where he and his guard spend the night.|
|Queen Manea – Queen of Cardison.|
|Raging Bull Inn – An inn in Geldon, where Gwell plays.|
|Salan - Derryn and Jayson's mother.|
|Sanper, Orgal – Master Class Mage in the service of King Walcott.|
|Scath River – Part of which is the northern border between Getira and Cardison.|
|Scrose, Didrich – Author of the book that Gwell uses to learn music.|
|Sheetan – Hunting car.|
|Sheldan – Ancient village.|
|Tartal – God of Justice.|
|Teldor – Country on the northern border of Getira.|
|Tennine – Village in Getira.|
|Tessil – Gwell's horse.|
|Trucel – Owner of the Raging Bull Inn in Geldon.|
|Warfel, Luan - Mindmaster|