It was the last day of school and since I had decided on home schooling in the fall, I stopped to say goodbye to Max Venner. He was sixty, but had retired early and he had been a crossing guard volunteer for as long as I could remember.
Max saw the truck first and his eyes went wide with fear. My head snapped around to see what the problem was. I saw the truck headed in our general direction and feeling for the mind behind the wheel, I realized the man was dead drunk.
I didn’t dare take control of the driver and slam on the brakes; he might have lost control in that case. There were kids all around us, but Max and I were on our own. After they had widened the road there was only one large tree in front of the school and that tree was right behind us. I only had one choice. Taking control of the driver, I aimed the truck right at us and the tree in back of us. That would stop the truck and he couldn’t plow into a bunch of kids.
There was no time to act yet there was all the time in the world. I let Max see what was happening, that I had to sacrifice our lives, in order to save others. I told him, *I’m sorry Max.*
He told me calmly, *That’s all right, Robby, two or a dozen or more. I would have made the same choice. But perhaps we can make it only one.* and he gave me a hard shove. He came close to knocking me completely out of the way, but not quite and I felt incredible pain and welcomed the darkness that rose to claim me.
I was in darkness, then I saw something move in the blackness and suddenly the dark form of Wolf was visible, the star speckled blue of his eyes looking at me with compassion.
I said, *I gather I’m still alive. I didn’t expect to make it. Max?*
Wolf told me, *I’m sorry Robby he didn’t survive. But he died courageously and that’s something he was always uncertain about. When the moment of truth came, whether he could do what he knew was right. He knew just before he died that he could and he accepted his end with contentment.*
I felt sadness go through me and tears in my eyes I couldn’t feel, yet I knew Wolf was telling the truth. Max had died happily doing what he had to do. Like Len when he had put himself in front of me to save my life, Max had been proud of the way his life had ended.
I asked, *Why are you here? Have I been paralyzed or something.* I let a bit of humor creep into my mind, before continuing. *That would really cramp my lifestyle.*
Wolf shook his head slowly, *You continue to astonish me, Robby Hansen. You fear the worst yet you have already accepted it, if that turned out to be your fate. No, you haven’t been paralyzed or in fact seriously injured. You’ll have a headache to end all headaches when you wake up and a broken leg, but that’s all.*
I was glad that I wasn’t paralyzed. While I had been prepared to accept it, I was just as pleased that I didn’t need to.
Wolf allowed me a minute of reflection before he said, *I have a task for you and for Angelo and Uni. Three thousand five hundred years ago, one of my worshippers created a magic artefact, a bronze axe. Like those artefacts you encountered on the Elven World, it has become unstable.*
He told me, *A female descendant of the creator married into an important Roman family and took it from England in the second century. They lived on the island of Sicily in a town that is now called Seccagrande.*
Wolf paused again, but this time I knew it was for him to reflect on the past, before he continued, *The woman and her descendants continued to worship me for a couple of centuries, but the family as a whole was converted early in the Christian era. I wasn’t completely abandoned. I had the occasional worshippers up until the sixth century but it was more dangerous to be a pagan in a Christian world so they hid the bronze axe in a cavern which was readily accessible at the time.*
He explained, *In the seventh century, there was an earthquake which destroyed the entrance to the cavern. The only way in now is a seaward entrance. Curious divers have explored the outer sea caves, but the way into the inner caverns is too narrow for an adult. They are unaware that the cavern stretches under the present town of Seccagrande.*
I said thoughtfully, *So that’s why Angelo is needed; a small boy who can spend as long as he needs under the water to find his way in. Will it be dangerous?*
Wolf admitted in a wry mind-voice, *Possibly. Over the centuries when I was worshipped as a God, there were many objects created to do me honor. I’m aware of all of them, to a certain extent. But they are simply part of my mental background and my attention is only drawn to them fully when the artefact is used in a ceremony.*
I said dryly, *Which hasn’t happened in hundreds of years.*
I could feel the humor in his mind as he continued, *You’re being kind, Robby. It’s been well over two thousand years except for a few individuals.* he said ironically. *But to get back to the tale of the artefact. It isn’t the oldest, but it is certainly the most powerful. It seemed to need the power that was raised when it was used in a ceremonial fashion.*
He told me, *While it is not sentient, as we would understand sentience, it needed something to replace that power. When it was no longer being used in ceremonies it reached out and began to gather the natural magic of the physical world. Since the area is a tourist attraction, the magic in the area has become substantial.*
Wolf explained, *A very short time ago, less than ten years in fact, I began to notice wrongness in it; a wrongness that pushed it into the forefront of my mind. I tried to examine it and found that it is now barriered against me. I could not Transport it into an uninhabited world as I had intended since I could not touch it. I assumed that in my depleted state I no longer had sufficient power to affect it. However several of the Immortals who still have their full power, in Hawk, Dingo and Coyote, could not touch it either.*
I was full of foreboding, as I asked, *How dangerous can it be?*
Wolf told me in a serious mind-voice, *Magic is power and it is over filled with magic. My fellow Immortals and I have tried to estimate just how powerful an explosion that could ensue. Coyote has the most firsthand knowledge among us, having observed the first atomic bomb explosion and the series of test blasts during the nineteen fifty's that succeeded it. He feels that the explosion will be at least of the magnitude of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts and might be several times that. Certainly if it explodes it’s going to kill the thousand people in the town at the minimum.*
I shivered, but I said, *If it’s warded against you, why come to me? I’m nowhere near as powerful as you are.*
Wolf said dryly, *True. But you have one advantage that none of us have. You have a physical body and should be able to touch the artefact.*
I said, unhappily, *Even if I can, that may just set off the explosion.*
He said calmly, *Yes, you could very well be right. But then again if nothing is done about it, eventually it will explode and the longer it takes the more powerful the explosion. The other Immortals and I have been watching and waiting for it to happen. Only in the last few months as I have observed you, have I become hopeful that something can be done. Unfortunately Seccagrande is on a fault line and the fault line includes the Mt. Etna volcano. If the artefact explodes, it could trigger an eruption, an earthquake or tsunami.*
I winced at that and shuddered at the vision that evoked, but as he had said, the longer the artefact remained, the greater the danger. I said, speculatively, *We can lessen the danger to the people in the immediate area at any rate. If we cause the evacuation of the people or if they’re not there for some reason, the number of people who would be killed can be reduced dramatically.*
Putting that aside for the moment I said to Wolf, *If I can touch it without causing it to explode, what do I do?*
He replied, *As you have channeled mind-speech through your mind in the past, you can channel power as well. No mortal could possibly absorb all of that power and in my reduced state, I might not be able to absorb all of it either. In that case, one or more of the other Immortals will absorb the rest of it. That will render it harmless and it can be Transported to an uninhabited world where it can not harm sentient beings or even any animals.*
He said with regret, *It was created by my worshipers, but it's no longer mine, yet I don't feel that I have the right to destroy it. Goodbye little one, until that day comes.* and I began to spiral toward the light and I knew I was waking up.
I saw that Robby was starting to wake up and my hand tightened on Paul’s and he squeezed gently back. Robby hadn’t been in any serious danger, but I ached at what I would need to tell him. His big green eyes opened and he looked at us.
His voice was a whisper when he spoke and his eyes were sober, “I’m sorry about Max,” he said. “He’ll be missed, but Wolf told me that he died with satisfaction in his mind, because he was dying, hmm, if you want to be corny about it, because he was dying a hero’s death.”
His eyes went cold then, his soft voice stronger and it was hard, “What about the drunk driver?”
Paul said, “It was Tanner Ravan and he died instantly when the truck hit the tree.”
Robby’s anger was gone now, as he nodded and said, “I’m sorry for Peggy, but what he did was no better than murder. Completely drunk at eleven o’clock on a Friday morning. If he had lived I would have asked Eagle to act as prosecutor and we would have seen how much jail time we could have put on his back.”
I nodded in agreement, dead drunk on a Friday morning and near the school just as it was getting out for the summer. It was just as well that he had died; I really didn’t know if he could have gotten a fair trial in Benson after that.
Paul asked, “What happened exactly?”
Robby explained, “Max saw him first. When I saw the truck, I didn’t dare have him slam on the brakes. There were kids all around us; if he had lost control at that point he could have killed a dozen or more. Luckily, Max and I were alone and right behind us was the only thing around us that would stop a truck. I took over the driver’s mind and forced him to head right for the tree, unfortunately that meant Max and I were going to get hit, but there was no other choice. I had just enough time to tell Max with mind-speech what I was doing and he told me that he would have done the same.”
He said somberly, “I thought there were going to be two deaths, but Max was determined to make it one and he pushed me out of the way at the last minute. Max lost his life and while it wasn’t a cheap price, it was a good price.”
Both Paul and I nodded wordlessly. Robby was pensive, then he said, “Max was the last of his family, unusual for a werewolf in Benson, but he should be remembered, especially by those who knew him so well. There are hundreds of names on the Wall of Honor since the school was built in 1904. Those who died in the First and Second World Wars, in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, those who died in the line of duty, policemen and firemen from the area. I think Max would be proud to join them. Only a few have individual plaques, but while they were known by those they went to school with, none of those on the wall were known by all of the children, so I think he deserves a plaque.”
Paul promised, “He’ll have it, Robby. As the present President of the PTA, I’ve already talked with members of the school board. They’re in agreement with both of us and we intend to hold the ceremony on the first day of school.”
Robby was stroking his familiar when I entered the room. He’d been seeing family and friends all afternoon and now he was resting, though obviously he wasn’t asleep. I asked him, “Do you need any pain medications, Robby?”
He opened his big green eyes and looked at me and shook his head. He said, “No, Dr. Menzies, that isn’t necessary. Blue can stimulate my endorphins to provide me with any pain medication that I might need. I’m surprised that you let him stay.”
I asked dryly, “Do I have a choice?’
He giggled, telling me, “I’m not angry about anything this time, Doctor. I think you’ll find that I’ll be much easier to get along with. Of course if any of your people get me angry, then all bets are off.”
I just nodded and he became serious, as he said, “How long am I going to be in here? I can tell you’re not very worried.”
I told him seriously, pointing at his head, “Your noggin hit the sidewalk hard and you have a concussion, so we want to keep you in for two or three days for observation. We’ve already put a cast on your broken leg, so you can go home then.”
He nodded, with a grin, saying, “No matter how hard my head is it’s probably wise to make sure it isn’t cracked. Now I want out of here if you don’t mind.”
I asked in surprise since I had just explained that we were keeping him for a time for observation, “Out of The Clinic?”
He shook his head and said, “No, simply into a children’s Ward. I see no reason to stay all by myself in a private room when I can enjoy the company of other kids.”
Robby became serious then and there was softness in his eyes that I had never expected to see. He explained, “There’s a woman on the floor below us. She’s dying, yet her family can’t afford a private room. They have no chance for privacy, no chance to say goodbye as they wish. Move her into this room and I’ll pay the bill. If they want to know who, just tell them that an Elder arranged it for them."
I said reflectively, “I’ll have you moved later this afternoon.”
He moved in the bed and he winced in pain and his cat lifted his head and looked at him and I could almost see the pain lessen. His hand began to move again on the familiar’s head. He yawned deeply and he blinked his eyes sleepily, saying, “G’night Doc. Blue decided I need some sleep as well as pain medication.” And then he was asleep. The cat winked at me and I smiled back before I left.
They wheeled this kid into our ward and he was talking about the designated hitter’s rule with the orderly. He was saying, “Now, personally I don’t consider myself old enough to be a traditionalist. Since a designated hitter almost never does anything but hit, he’s at the pinnacle of a hitter’s art. They are the best hitter’s as a group in the game today. Oh I’m aware that there are better hitters, but I’m talking about the average player.”
He grinned, saying, “Of course since the home run record was toppled in the National League, obviously I know absolutely nothing about baseball and my viewpoint is completely wrong.”
The orderly asked, “I noticed you were watching a baseball game. Who was playing?”
This kid looked baffled for a moment and then he said, “I have no idea.”
I couldn’t help it, I giggled and he looked at me and winked. The orderly asked with a little exasperation. “Do you at least know who the players were?”
I sat there with awe as this kid began to go through the lineups, player by player, giving their stats. Obviously he knew who they were, he just didn’t care what team they played for. (By the way, it was the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners.)
His bed ended up being parked right next to mine and he looked over in my direction and nodded, “Hello Thaddeus Joshua Aiken. Not that it would bother me you understand, but I can understand why you prefer TJ. I’m Robby Hansen and that,” pointing to his side, “is Blue. Say hello to the nice boy, Blue.”
I thought he was talking about an imaginary friend at first but my mouth dropped when a large gray and black tabby cat sat up and looked at me. He said, *Hello, nice boy.* He gave a withering glare at Robby, saying, *If you intend to make me act like a performing animal, I’ll go home when Hary sees you later this afternoon!!*
I asked in wonder, “How did you ever get permission to keep a cat in a hospital?”
Robby smiled, “I have pull, TJ.”
“Besides,” said the orderly who was just ready to leave, “most of them are still terrified of you from your last visit.”
Robby winked at me. It was only then that I realized that he must be an Elder.
Tal said, “I know this hospital is primarily staffed by werewolves, but not all of them are and certainly not all of the patients are. How do they hide our secret, especially with the younger kids who change involuntarily?”
I thought about it for a few minutes, more a reflection on the fact that ordinary werewolves really didn’t know enough about our history. I said, “Remember when I told you about jaguar weres and the fact that their Elder’s have a way to bypass the period of involuntary change.”
He nodded and I continued, “I also mentioned that Aaron and Uni and I could do the same, but there was no call for it. That’s because we have something that does the same. A combination of illness and/or stress changes the way that the magic affects us and prevents an involuntary change. It isn’t strong enough to stop a voluntary change, but it works very well with the young.”
I told him, “It usually doesn’t occur with just childhood ailments such as chicken pox, or measles, or the mumps. However, when it’s a more serious illness that requires a hospital stay then even if the illness isn’t strong enough to produce enough to affect the magic, the visit to the hospital will cause enough stress on its own to trigger the block.”
I gave a grin as I continued, “Did you ever wonder how we were able to travel to the new world from other lands? And how in heaven’s name werewolves could be transported to places such as Australia, without revealing our secret.”
He shook his head but his gray eyes were suddenly very thoughtful. He asked, “No I never did, not until you brought it up. How did they manage it?”
I looked over at TJ and I could see he was listening intently as I gave him a wink. I explained, “You’ve read that note that Robert Hansen put in Benson’s diary. It said that he and his parents traveled from England after he could change. But it wouldn’t have mattered if he was too young to control his changes voluntarily. Werewolves are creatures of the land, no matter how comfortable our conscious mind is when we travel on the ocean; our subconscious mind is always very uncomfortable. That produces the same type of stress that children feel when they get ill or enter a hospital and they simply don’t change.”
I told him, “That was one of the things that was transferred to my mind when I was initiated as an Elder. However not all information that we get during initiation is instantly available. When I became a Healer, my primary job was to help children who should have been changing with the full moon but weren’t. Half a dozen children who lived up and down the coasts showed up with their parents, however when the full moon approached they changed normally, yet when they went home they didn’t change on the next full moon. It wasn’t until I realized that they all had one thing in common that I was able to solve the problem.”
He lifted his eyebrow in a question.
I giggled and said, “You see they all lived on the water, either in houseboats or on large sailing boats or cabin cruisers. As I said, the knowledge was already in my mind, but it wasn’t very accessible. Once I had a common thread then the knowledge came to the fore almost on its own. So now all Elder’s are informed of that fact that werewolf children who are too young to change voluntarily and live in a boat on salt water, won’t change. Those who live on fresh water aren’t affected.”
I switched to Mind-Speech at that point; this was not something I wanted TJ to hear or in fact anyone aside from Tal and I. *Now getting on to more serious matters. What did the Council say?* I asked.
Tal said seriously, *They aren’t happy about it but they agree with you that something must be done. How do you intend to get the town evacuated?*
I told him, *I was reading about Cardinal Paolo Alberti, a couple of weeks ago. When he appeared in Naples a couple of months ago many thousands of people came to see him. If he shows up in Sicily, where he was born, for a visit and to give a Mass, we can probably get the whole town to show up.* and he gave a nod of agreement.
I arranged to get a phone put in and I spent a good part of the morning calling various people, making arrangements. When I had everything arranged to my satisfaction. I looked at TJ; he was reading a book by R L Stine. I said his name to get his attention and when he looked at me and I asked, "How would you like to make a hundred bucks, TJ?"
I knew what from what he told me that his mother was Hispanic and he had her dark eyes and hair and complexion. His large dark eyes opened wide with astonishment, as he asked, "I'm only ten, how would I make that much money?" He got a suspicious look on his small face, "It wouldn't hurt would it?"
I gave a grin, shook my head and said, "No, I simply want to run a little experiment while I'm in here. I'm having some of my relatives come in and take an EEG test. That test gives you some idea on how the brain is reacting and I simply want to have a control sample, so I will be making this same offer to half a dozen other people as well. At least the good doctor who'll be in charge of the project will make that offer."
"I'm a Healer, which is an ability that we thought was lost. It
was a gift from someone who wanted to thank our people. It's a latent
talent and aside from myself and two of my relatives, who are also Healers,
normal Elders can't find it. I want to know whether our talent is something
that will show up on an EEG on not, whether it will be different from
our relatives and the general werewolf population."
Well, TJ had agreed, his greedy little capitalist soul couldn't resist the money and his father who was a teacher had no objections. Since Uni and Aaron and I could now heal broken bones. I decided that was the first thing on the agenda. I had Dr. Xander Menzies there so that he could see what Healing was like.
Mom and Paul had come to see me and they brought the whole family with them. Also Aaron and Uni had brought their familiars, so there were a total of three cats in the room which was probably a first for The Clinic.
About twenty minutes after their arrival Dr, Menzies showed up and all of my family except for Aaron and Uni headed for the lab to take EEG tests. The three of us would take the test later.
Dr. Menzies watched us with interest as we arranged ourselves on my bed Aaron sitting on one side and Uni on the other our familiars curled up beside us. He asked, curiosity in his voice, "How long will it take?"
I wasn't sure and that's what I told him, shaking my head, "I don't really know. Last time we did this, it was a broken arm and it took about twenty minutes. But at the time, only one of the familiars was helping us. With all three of them helping, plus the three of us, even with the larger bones in the leg, I figure it will probably take about the same length of time."
One of my ancestors had been a Healer and he had left some old diaries. The diaries were very cryptic and just seemed to be folktales for those who didn't know what we were. For me and for others of my family, we knew the tales were actually true and now I was to see for the first time a group practicing Healing.
The three boys and the three cats arranged themselves to their satisfaction, then went completely still. Moving around the bed I could see that their eyes were blank and looking into their minds I could see that they were focused completely on healing Robby's leg, not even aware of anything else.
I didn't time them, but after about twenty minutes they came back to life and began moving again. All three boys had huge smiles on their face, so obviously they had succeeded in what they were doing.
It was with a sense of wonder that I examined Robby's leg after they were finished. The break was completely healed and not only was it healed, but it was as if several weeks had passed.
I had met Robby Hansen at The Clinic when my wife and I had gone to visit my son TJ who had gotten his appendix out. However, I was somewhat surprised when he showed up at Benjamin Franklin High School where I teach history.
Suddenly anxious I asked, "They didn't find something wrong with TJ when they did that EEG on Monday, did they?"
And I let out a sigh of relief when he shook his head and he said, "Not at all. Though he might be affected, it doesn't really have anything to do with him."
He continued, "I know that TJ told you that I'm an Elder. Despite my age I'm also a very busy Elder. As I told my uncle, I don't think I would have any trouble with the high school curriculum, but I often need to take time off of school and that might cause problems in high school."
He paused for a moment, before saying, "I know that you would like to take some time off to do some writing." He gave a grin, as he said, "However, with six kids you can't afford to do so right at the moment. I think I can help you out; I would like to hire you as a tutor. I won't offer you a fantastic salary; however, I'll pay you $30,000 a year plus health insurance, for you and your family and a place to live."
He continued, saying, "I won't always be in Benson, but you won't have to do any traveling. On occasion if I'm going somewhere you can do research, you can come along with me, if you want. However I most likely won't be doing any school work at that time, because I will need to concentrate on the task at hand."
His small face went solemn, as he said, "I simply need a guide to do keep me on the right track in my schoolwork. Now one and a half to two hours a day should do it, leaving you the rest of the time to write."
Looking at the man who had come in with him, my eyes probably asked him if the child was serious. He gave a grin and a nod to reassure me.
Looking back at the boy he had a reflective look on his face. He said, "Asa Jenkins died five years ago and his house, was going to wrack and ruin. He had no relatives left so the township seized it for back taxes and put it up for auction three months ago and I bought it. I had it renovated and they completed the job a couple weeks ago."
Robby looked back at me, saying, "I didn't do it for the money. It was just a shame that such a beautiful house was going to waste. I paid $50,000 for the house and another $75,000 for the renovation. If after four years your family wants to stay in Benson I'll give you the house free and clear. If not I will give you a bonus of $50,000."
I looked at him with absolute astonishment, wondering how a child would be able to afford that much money. He gave another grin and said, "The Werewolf Council pays me $500,000 a year, so I can afford it without any trouble."
$30,000 wasn't a large amount. In fact it was about $30,000 less than I was making now. However we wouldn't have to pay rent, wouldn't have to pay for utilities and wouldn't have to pay for health insurance. It would all even out in the long run.
In a voice
quivering with excitement, I said, "It sounds like
a dream come true but I need to talk to my wife before we make a final
decision." And he gave a nod of understanding.
My wife agreed immediately, she knew I had been longing to do some writing and in fact, she had been encouraging me. Unfortunately, as an active teacher, I had found I had too little time to spare for writing and still do proper justice to my students' needs. I knew well any serious writing could only have been done on a sabbatical and there was no way I could afford that with six kids. Robby was quite right about that.
I had resigned myself to waiting for the kids to grow up. All of my children were outgoing and made friends easily, even my eldest Heather, who at sixteen would probably be the only one who would object. I knew they wouldn't have any trouble with the move.
Now, it was possible and with my wife's complete support, I jumped at the chance.
I was feeling a bit of unease as we got out of the mini-van and walked towards the Coliseum, though I wasn't sure why, at least at the moment. I wasn't much for sightseeing, but I had decided that since we were in Rome, I should at least see the Coliseum. Tal had been in Rome, quite often and was very familiar with the city.
The Ross's were walking ahead of us and Uni was walking with them. We were about a hundred yards away from the Coliseum when suddenly something seemed to come crashing down on me. I went to my knees with a gasp of anguish.
I had known that basically, the Coliseum was a place of evil, but I certainly didn't expect that the evil it represented would last for thousands of years. The echoes of emotions were drowning me in fear, pain, hatred and the lust for violence.
I felt myself being lifted in strong arms and I knew Tal had picked me up. As we moved away from the Coliseum, the emotions began to fade. By the time we got back to the mini-van. I was feeling more my normal self, but those strong arms holding me felt good and made me feel safe.
He opened the door of the mini-van and sat me on the seat. He brushed my sweat soaked hair off of my forehead and I could see him looking down at me with concern. He asked in an anxious tone of voice, "What happened Robby? Are you all right?"
I could see the others crowd around behind him and they all had anxious looks on the face. I felt a warmth in my heart at their concern and I rushed to reassure them saying, "I'm fine now!!"
I waved towards the Coliseum, telling them solemnly, "You know that I can feel echoes of emotion and it tends to be very active in places like churches and mosques. It appears that such things can linger in a place like the Coliseum for thousands of years. It was a place of fear and anguish for several hundred years and the emotions seemed almost to attack me."
I told them after some reflection, "Tal will drive me back to the hotel. You guys go on and have a look at the Coliseum. It represents a great people, but unfortunately, it represents their dark side."
I said to them, "Tal and I may not be at the hotel when you get back. I can't afford to allow such a vulnerability to continue. If anyone ever finds out, they could use that against me. I need some advice from the Elven Council, so we will probably be on the Elven World."
As we walked into the elevator, I asked him, "Are you sure you're all right now?"
He looked up at me and despite the seriousness of the situation, there was a glint of mischief in his large green eyes and I felt a little better. He said to me, "I'm fine now Tal. As soon as we got a little ways away from the Coliseum, the emotions stopped affecting me. I'm less worried about what happened, than I am about the possibility that I might not be able to do anything about it."
I had a feeling, which is usually Robby's territory, but I knew without knowing how I knew, that he would be able to do something about it. I told him exactly that, "You won't have any trouble adjusting your shields to protect yourself." And there was absolute confidence in my voice.
Up in our suite Tal sat in one of the armchairs while I took the other. Reaching out with my mind after a few seconds, I felt the familiar mind patterns of Morthren and the other members of the Elven Council.
Morthren asked me, *How may we help you today, little Elder?"
I explained what had happened and the sensitivity that I had to past emotions. After I made the explanations I asked, "You're much more familiar with the powers of the mind than I am. I need someone who has a great deal of empathy and has learned how to barrier his mind against emotions. Do you know anyone like that?*
I heard a buzz in my mind that told me the Council members were talking among themselves. The buzz only continued about ten or fifteen seconds and then they turned their attention back to me. Morthren said to me, *Sometimes too much empathy can be crippling, as you found out. About a thousand years ago, a man called Hather Wenwey, was in much the same situation as you are, though with him it was going among more than a few people that affected him. He developed shields that allowed him to travel anywhere he wanted, no matter how many people there were.*
Morthren paused for a moment, before continuing, *While he was human and of course is no longer alive, his descendents often have the same problem. The present family head, Mathjan Wenwey, also has the same talents and the same ability to shield his mind.*
I asked them, *Would he see me and more important, would he cooperate with me?"
Morthren said dryly, *While he tends to be a little mercenary at times, he would enjoy having the Council owing him a favor and we would have no objection either.*
I nodded accepting their offer which they hadn't actually made out loud, asking, *How long will it take?*
told me, *It shouldn't take very long little one. He's a very wealthy
man and somewhat of a dilettante. He dabbles in this and that and seldom
takes anything seriously. It should only take a few minutes to arrange
a meeting. We will get back to you when we have done so.* and I felt
them break contact.
True to their word, I could feel their return only twenty minutes later and they reestablished contact with me. Morthren told me, *He's ready to receive the two of you. Are you ready to go?*
I nodded my head, saw Tal do the same and the two of us stood up. Then I felt the familiar feeling of being Transported. When I could see again, I found that we were in the presence of Mathjan Wenwey. I felt amusement as I knew that he felt that he was doing us an enormous favor in giving us an audience; he was feeling almost like a king greeting commoners.
Aside from those condescending emotions on the surface of his mind, his shields were better than any other person I had ever encountered. At least I thought they were at first sight. But when I looked more closely, I could see that the shield wasn't stopping mind communication, it was simply stopping emotions.
He appeared to be in his mid-forties, but since this was the Elven World he could have been much older than that. He had black hair, liberally sprinkled with gray and his eyes were also black. He had once obviously had a very good body that he had let it go to seed and there was a softness about him. Tal and I bowed to him in our traditional greeting and he gave a haughty nod in our direction. I had to restrain from giggling; that wouldn't make a very good first impression. He addressed us in his own language and I directed it down to the Primal level so that Tal and I could understand him.
He raised his eyebrows, saying, "The Elven Council asked me to teach you how to shield your mind. You think it will be that easy?"
I shook my head and told him, "I don't need you to teach me how to shield my mind. My shield is very good; what I need to do is to shield my mind against emotions. It's a vulnerability that I need to eradicate. I simply need to see how your shield is constructed. I can do the rest myself."
He looked at me with some disbelief on his face. I told him, "I'm a werewolf Elder and it's my duty to read were minds. However, I don't like to read human minds without asking them first. I would like permission to enter your mind?"
I could see reluctance in his eyes and he hesitated for a bit before finally nodding. Because of the shield his mind was a bit harder to enter than many human minds, but once I was past it, I was easily able to find the source of the shield. It didn't originate at the same place that a mind shield would. It wasn't an area I would normally associate with protecting the mind.
His ancestor had come up with an elegant little solution to his problem and I had to admire the mind they had devised it. It took me several minutes to figure out how it was done and I quickly copied the information to my memory. It would take time, however, for me to integrate it into my mind. I wished I had Blue with me, but unfortunately, I had had to leave him behind in Benson.
I gave a bow to Mathjan and I told him, "Your ancestor was a brilliant man. I would never have thought that that part of the mind could give protection as it does."
His dark eyes opened wide with suspicion and he said, disbelief in his voice, "There's no way that you could have found the information that easily!! It took me weeks to learn!!"
I told him seriously, "Well, I'm satisfied anyway, so whether you believe or not, I wish to thank you."
I took out the gift that I had brought with me and offered it to him. I had bought it for Grace, but I could always get something else for her. It was a small snow globe and it had a scene of a small Italian villa. I gave it a shake and then handed it to him and he looked at the snow coming down with astonishment and delight. Tal and I gave him a bow of farewell as I reached for the Council, who I could feel watching in the background.
As they transported us back to our hotel room in Rome I said, "I wish to thank you once again for your help."
I could feel in my mind, *No problem little Elder. We help you, you help us. We feel that in the long run it will all balance out.*
Taking out my cell phone I called Steve Ross and when he answered I asked him, "Are you and the others enjoying the Coliseum, Steve?"
He told me, "We've been worried about you and it's been hard to concentrate on what's here. Are you sure that you're alright?"
I told him seriously, "I'm completely fine now and while I may have worried all of you, I'm glad that it happened now when I can do something about it. It could have happened at a much worse time, at a much more dangerous time."
the relief in his voice as he said, "I'm glad Robby. Now that we
really know that you're fine, we can enjoy the tour. It's an awesome
place, grand, intimidating and thought provoking all-in-one."
After I hung up. I turned to Tal and said, "Let's go downstairs and get something to eat. After we come back, I'll work on the new shield. It'll probably take several hours to forge it properly."
As we walked out of the suite towards the elevator. I told Tal, "After I've built the new shield I'll have to test it."
He asked with concern is in his voice, "You don't intend to go back to the Coliseum do you?"
my head and told him soberly, "No, I don't need to do that. There's
another place in Rome, where I can test myself and we have to go there
anyway. While the Vatican isn't as old as the Coliseum, still, it has
been around for a respectable amount of time and while the people there
haven't always been good, it should mainly radiate goodness. That will
certainly make an adequate test ground."
As I had expected, it took me several hours to fabricate the new shield. I was just glad that I was the only one that I needed to protect at this time. While it wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done with my mind, it wasn't the easiest either. To provide similar shields to my friends and family might have been almost impossible. At least at this time.
The effort had been very tiring and consequently I got sleepy much earlier than normal. I was in bed by 10 o'clock, right after I called my mother in Benson. I slept right through the night and didn't wake up until almost 8 o'clock in the morning. I stretched luxuriously with a feeling of well-being and throwing off the covers, I swung my legs or the side of bed and pushed myself to a sitting position.
I realized that I had forgotten to take my evening shower last night as I normally did. I decided now would be a good time. Taking a clean pair of underpants out of my bag, I stripped off the ones I was wearing and put them in the dirty clothes bag inside my suitcase. Naked I headed for the bathroom.
Tal was already there in the bathroom and from the lingering steam; it was obvious that he had also taken a shower. Right now he was shaving and he gave a nod of greeting.
I took my time in the shower and when I got out, Tal was an already finished. I dried myself and then went back into the bedroom and got dressed. I tended to think that it was somewhat pretentious for a kid of my apparent age to try and impress someone by getting all dressed up. While I dressed well, I was not a fancy dresser.
I was wearing a pair of gray flannel shorts and a light blue shirt but no tie and I was carrying a gray blazer. Tal on the other hand, had on a light gray suit and an absolutely spiffy tie.
I had my new shield at its maximum as we approached the Vatican. As I had expected, there was a goodness that it threw off. I could still feel it and without the shield I knew it would have been overpowering. The little bit that I was getting was an entirely pleasant feeling. It gave me confidence that I had removed my vulnerability and could go anywhere I needed to go, even to a place like Auschwitz, where the echoes of emotion were much nearer in time and would be horrific.
When we asked at the entrance for the Monsignor's Department, we were told that the guide would show us the way. While we were waiting for the guide to arrive, Tal looked down at me and asked, "How are you feeling?" And I could see the concern on his face.
I told him, "I feel fine. As I suspected, the Vatican is the antithesis of the Coliseum. While it isn't stopping 100% of the emotions it's stopping most of them. I can easily function with what's left over." And he nodded, the concern leaving his face.
It's probably just as well that we had a guide, if we had just been given directions, we'd probably still be there, lost like Hansel and Gretel. We entered the Monsignor's department and there was a tiny waiting room with a priest, sitting behind a desk marked Receptionist. He looked up at us as we entered.
He looked at Tal and asked in almost perfect English with only a slight accent, "May I help you sir?"
Tal nodded his head saying, "Yes. Would you please tell the Monsignor that Robby Henson and Tal Peters are here to see him."
His face lit up and he almost jumped to his feet saying excitedly, "The Monsignor told me that he has been looking forward to this appointment. I'll just check that he isn't busy on the phone."
He went to the door of the inner office and entered to return a few seconds later. He said with a huge smile on his face, "Please come right in!"
The Monsignor met us right inside the door. He shook Tal's hand firmly, but when he turned to me, he took much longer shaking my hand and looking carefully into my eyes. After studying me for a few seconds he released my hand and waved us to the two comfortable chairs in front of his desk.
He said to us, "My name is Giovanni Ferraro." He gave a grin, "Most of my English speaking friends call me Johnny. If you would, please do so." He was a handsome man, probably in his mid-fifties and though he was a bit rotund there was an easy bounce in his step that showed despite carrying a few extra pounds, he was in good condition. He had a thick shock of pure white hair, piercing brown eyes above a hawk nose and full lips and they seemed as if they could look right into your soul. He said, to us, "When Miles called me to say that you would like to see me, he didn't tell me what you wanted?"
I give a grin, telling him, "He thought that I had better tell you that in person. It will be hard to believe firsthand, let alone secondhand." I gave a quick recap of what Wolf had told me and he listened intently and I could tell from his mind that he was flexible enough that he had no trouble believing what I was telling him.
He gave a nod of acceptance when I was finished and asked, "Perhaps many of my compatriots would have trouble believing you, but I do not. But I don't really see why you came to me?"
I said to him in a serious tone of voice, "Someone who had just found out about us, once asked me if I used everyone. I told him that an Elder would use anyone, but seldom without their permission. In this case, I want to use the Church. That magic artefact will eventually explode, if it isn't neutralized. The longer we leave it the more damage it will cause when it eventually blows up. As it is on a fault line, there's even a danger that it could cause an earthquake. Now is the best time to counteract the danger that it represents."
I gave a sigh as I continued, "While it's probable that we can drain it safely, there are no guarantees. In order to make sure that the town is safe, or at least the people are safe, we have to evacuate them. When Cardinal Paolo Alberti preached a Mass in Naples, a few months ago, it was attended by more than 100,000 people. That's why I came to you. If you can get the Cardinal to preach a Mass in his hometown on Sicily, we can probably get most of the people in the town to go to it."
I shook my head with regret, saying, "If the artefact it does explode, at least we can bring the death toll down from the whole town to only a few. We can do nothing about the possibility of an earthquake or a tsunami but pray." I gave a little grin despite the situation, "That's in your province, Monsignor, so I'll leave that to you."
The Monsignor leaned back his chair steepling his fingers and thought through what I just said, a pensive look on his face. After a few minutes, he said to us, "The problem that I see is not in getting Paolo to do it, the problem is logistics. When Paolo gave the Mass in Naples, we had several weeks to prepare."
I nodded, telling him, "I understand that. Unfortunately, now that I know about the magic artefact, I don't feel that I should wait. I have an uneasy feeling about this and I respect my feelings. While they are not always right, they're right more often than they're wrong."
In fact, it was more than just an uneasy feeling, it was a certainty and I knew that we only had days rather than weeks to resolve this problem. The Cardinal said, "It's funny in a way that that you should come right now. I know several of my compatriots were actually discussing, a Mass to be held in the fall for a patron saint of that area. This year is the 500th anniversary of his birth. I think if we move it up to now rather than in the fall, that will be a good excuse." He gave a smile, "And a legitimate reason as well."
I think the Monsignor sensed my urgency, for he leaned forward and picked up the phone and made an immediate appointment to see Cardinal Alberti.
It only took a few minutes to arrange an appointment. In fact the appointment was in ten minutes, so obviously he had to go immediately. As he was escorting us for the door and getting a last handshake, he asked, "How do I get in touch with you once I have made arrangements?"
I brought a piece of paper out of my pocket and told him, "We've rented a villa just on the outskirts of Seccagrande. Here's the phone number for the villa and I also include both my cell phone number and Tal's." I handed him the paper. I said to him, "We will be flying to Palermo right after lunch and driving on to Seccagrande. We should be there by three at the latest, unless we get delayed for some reason." And he nodded.
The villa was in a nice private location and it had an awesome beach. It was in a small bay and was enclosed on both sides by a jutting of rocks right into the Mediterranean and the sandy beach was in between those two points.
After we got settled in and unpacked, Carrie and Jenna explored the kitchen to decide what we were having for supper. And it wasn't just because they were the only females. It was just the luck of the draw. They had picked the short straws, while Steve and Tal had picked the long straws and would be preparing supper tomorrow.
I had offered to sit in on the draw as well. They had just grinned and turning me around had pushed me out of the room. They had no intention of testing my problematic cooking skills. So Uni, Angelo, the two men and I headed for the beach.
Angelo was looking with longing at the water. I told him, "Go ahead! You're certainly not going to drown now are you?" I teased him a little, "If you're worried about undressing with anybody around, Uni certainly doesn't care." I nodded at Uni, who had already stripped off his clothing and dashed naked into the water.
He knew I was teasing him and he gave a giggle and stuck his tongue out at me, though a blush was beginning to appear on his delicate features. He was very shy and at the same time, he was very modest. I knew that unlike Uni and I, he was dreading having to get undressed.
I turned a little away from him and began to pull off my clothing as well. I could feel his longing for the water and that longing won out over his modesty. Taking a quick look at me and the two men, he quickly stripped off his clothing, like I was doing and then naked he made a dash for the Mediterranean Sea.
As soon as it was deep enough he dove into the shallow water and when he came up he had changed into were form. He gave a flick of his powerful tail and headed into the deeper waters.
Of course, as a Merboy I loved the water, but I seldom had a real chance to stretch myself. I had swum in the ocean with my parents before they had died, making several long trips out beyond the Florida Keys. Most of the time when I swam in a lake or in the ocean, I was on a crowded beach and was unable to change.
I could change in the swimming pool in our backyard. I spent a lot of time there in were form and I did several hundred laps a day. As Robby has mentioned in the past, I have a shield which will stop shark bites, in fact any physical impact. However it's both oxygen and water permeable and the feel as water slid across my bare body was a delicious one.
Seconds after I first submerged I gave a trill of ultra sound as I invoked my sonar and the reflected echoes indicated that there were no boats in the area. Once invoked the trill automatically occurred every five seconds until I turned it back off.
I enjoyed myself for ten or fifteen minutes and then I decided to start back. By then I was probably two or three miles from the villa, but I had no trouble retracing my route. While I could get lost on land, it was actually physically impossible for me to get lost at sea.
Everything I had done, every move I had made, was diagrammed in my mind and all I had to do was follow the diagram in reverse. Even sensing and adjusting for the changing tides and currents was automatic. Before very long, I was entering the little bay that contained the villa. My sonar told me that everyone was in the water and I had no trouble telling who was who.
Both Jenna and Carrie had seen me naked, but I had no particular wish for them to see me naked right at the moment. Neither Uni or Robby had brought their swimsuits to the beach since it was so private. However I had done so and I had left my trunks with my clothes. I surfaced beside Robby as I changed back to my human form.
He gave me a grin, as I did so and asked, "Now why exactly did you come to me little Angelo? Your mom, sister and dad are right here." I knew he was teasing me, but I blushed anyway.
I know he didn't really understand my shyness and modesty since he had neither himself. However, while he might tease a little, he was a genuinely nice person and he headed to the beach to retrieve my swimsuit. When he returned I pulled it on gratefully and I was comfortable again.
Like Robby and his brothers and Uni, at least when they wore them, my swimsuit was a Speedo. Covering my midsection is enough to make me feel comfortable. While I loved the water, at the same time I loved companionship as well, which is why I'd come back after only a few minutes in the water.
We spent the next hour playing in the water, then we abandoned the water for the time being and played werewolf football. Jenna and I were on one side and Robby and Uni were on the other. As I mentioned Robby doesn't have any physical modestly, nor does Uni and neither of them bothered to get dressed. They were quite comfortable playing naked and while my nudity bothered me, theirs didn't.
After we had been playing for about an hour, Jenna and I were winning. That's when my mom decided that it was time for her and Jenna to go inside and start preparing something for supper. Both my mother and father were good cooks and they shared the cooking duties at home. During the week, they cooked on alternate days and on Sunday, they prepared a meal together. Jenna and I usually did our homework on Robby's back porch, right after school with the others in the back porch gang. We were expected to help on Saturday and Sunday though.
We all dashed into the water to clean off and then we toweled ourselves dry. Uni and Robby pulled on their clothes and I just picked mine up and carried them. I would change inside.
The Monsignor called at eight o'clock to tell me that the Mass had been arranged for the coming Sunday. He told me that their media people had already started to get the news out.
Now it was up to us and right now that meant Angelo.
It was almost eleven o'clock and I had had trouble sleeping, so I decided to go for a swim. I was looking at the dark Mediterranean Sea and I was startled when someone put his hand on my shoulder. I twisted around to see who it was and gave a little sigh of relief as I saw it was Robby.
He asked in his soft voice, "Troubled Angelo?" And I nodded. He gave my shoulder a little squeeze of reassurance. "It's all right to be afraid, there's no shame in fear, it's nature's way of telling us there is danger ahead."
He gave a little sigh, saying, "For some of us fear is an overriding thing and there is no way that we can get beyond it. True bravery is fearing something yet having the ability to overcome that fear and do what you set out to do in spite of that fear."
My heart was in my throat at that point and he squeezed my shoulder again, before saying, "I wish I could say that there's no danger, that there's absolutely no chance that you might be hurt, but I never lie under these circumstances. I'm glad you're afraid. That tells me you're aware of the risks and dangers you'll be going into."
I was still afraid yet at the same time, I had a feeling of peace. As he had said I knew there was danger, yet I knew that I would do it anyway, in spite of my fear. He gave my shoulder, a little push towards the water and said, "Go have your swim and enjoy yourself."
When I came out, I had just changed out of my pajama bottoms and slipped on a pair of shorts, so I pushed them down my legs, stepped out of them and made a dash for the water.
For the first time in a very very long time I used my full speed. An hour later, I was more than thirty miles from the villa and I felt good. I had been aware through my sonar of boats on the surface, but I was well under the water and they were mostly harmless. I did have to go well out of my way with one of then. It was a fishing boat and it had its nets in the water.
I knew that they couldn't see me from what my parents had told me. My shield was permeable to sonar waves but not like it was to water and air. The sonar would strike one side of the shield and then go right out the other side without revealing my presence.
Though as I was about to discover, it wouldn't do the same thing with dolphins, as two of them showed up on the periphery of my range. I thought at first that they were sharks which didn't particularly worry me, since they would have no chance of penetrating my shield.
As they came closer, I could actually feel their sonar waves touching my shield and going right through it to touch my skin. As they approached and actually began circling me. I was astonished to be addressed in mind-speech, as he and I knew it was male, asked in some confusion, *What are you? The top of you looks human, yet the back of you looks like us and you don't seem to be breathing as humans must do.*
I said firmly in mind-speech, *My name is Angelo Ross and in my other form I am human, this is my were form. In this form, I am Merfolk.* I raised my arms to show them my gills, as I continued my explanation, *and my gills provide me with oxygen.*
They moved nearer to examine me more closely, then I could feel them addressing each other. I could feel it, but I could not understand it. After a few minutes of talking the male addressed me again, *I am called Patifar, Angelo Ross and my mate is Merlyon. She is our clan Historian. She tells me that we once knew others like you, but it is many lifetimes since they disappeared. Have you returned to our world?*
I shook my head and told them, *No, my parents and I were the only ones on this world. When they died, that left me and I'm the only one of my kind on this world.*
I felt the sympathy, in his mind-voice, as he told me, *It must be very lonely to be the only one of your kind?*
I felt a bit forlorn, as I thought about his statement. But then I brightened, as I told him, *While I am the only one of my kind I am also human and I have very good parents and friends. I don't think about the loneliness very often.*
He told me, *Good!!* Then I could feel the bubbly thoughts in his mind and it reminded me so much of Robby. I wasn't surprised when he darted forward and gave me a nudge and said with glee in his voice, *Enough sad thoughts. Let's play. You're it.*
of us played tag for a while. After a time, I thought I had better get
back home and they accompanied me, saying goodbye as I changed and waded
onto the beach. After I pulled on my shorts, I gave a general wave at
the water to say goodbye to my new friends. I went in and back to bed,
able to sleep now.
I told everyone about my new friends over breakfast in the morning and I could see the astonishment on their faces, at least most of their faces. There was no surprise on Robby's face, simply interest as I told my tale.
A couple of hours later I was following the cabin cruiser. It was only moving about ten miles an hour, and, since I could move more than three times that speed, I had no problem keeping up. After a few minutes the boat stopped and I did as well. I hovered there with only my tail moving, just to keep me in position. It didn't take long before I saw the splash as Tal joined me in the water.
Tal headed for the floor of the Mediterranean and I followed him down. When he stopped I could see the mouth of the underwater cave and I joined him just above it. I used a directed trill of ultrasound and I saw that the cave went down another fifteen feet before curling inward towards the shore.
I heard Robby in my mind ask, *How are you feeling Angelo? Are you ready to go?*
Well not really, as I contemplated the coming journey I was sweating furiously and I was feeling shivers of fear go up and down my spine. In were form in the water my nose is very, very good and I could smell my sweat in the water.
Tal led me into the outer cave and as far as the second cave, which was as far as anybody had ever managed to go. The only exits from this cave were of a size that only a small boy like me could use.
I was biting my lower lip as Tal looked at me searchingly and then like Robby last night, he put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze of reassurance. He told me, *I'll wait here for a few minutes until you get a good start.* and I nodded with thanks.
I opened the small belly pack I was wearing and took out one of the flashlights. I had four of them, three of them were battery-operated and the third was a windup one since I certainly didn't want to be caught in the dark. I turned on the mini cam on the head piece so the others would be able to see what I saw. There was no need of course, for a microphone.
I stared at the black openings. For a moment my heart was in my throat. I used another directed trill of ultrasound to find out which of the openings I should use. Three of the five appeared to dead-end after a few yards, two of them seemed to extend much further.
I decided to try the one on my right first; it was a bit wider than the other one. I almost forgot that Tal was there, as I concentrated on what I was doing. I was about twenty feet into the hole, when my sonar told me that this hole also dead-ended.
I said to Robby, *The first one that I took deadends in another ten feet or so, Robby. I'm going to turn around.* There was just enough space that I was able to do so. When I got to the opening, Tal was gone. I stuck my head in the last hole and gave a directed trill of sonar. This hole seemed quite promising.
I moved slowly into it, glad of the light from the flashlight. It narrowed quite quickly, unfortunately for me. Fortunately for me, I never really had to squeeze through anything that was too narrow. After a few minutes, I entered a second cavern. There was only one opening exiting from this cavern.
This hole was going to be a tight squeeze. I looked at it doubtfully for a few minutes, fear rising in my mind, before I attempted to enter it. For the first thirty or forty feet it was narrow, but I had no trouble scraping through. Then I got stuck and I couldn't go forward and I couldn't go back.
My fear began to rise and I was on the verge of panic when I heard Robby say soothingly in my mind, *Don't worry, Angelo! You're not stuck, your shield is stuck!* and I realized with relief that he was right.
It took a little bit of concentrating, because normally I never turn my shield off when I'm in the water. I have to do so when I eat, but I have never had to eat while in the water, or rather on the surface of the water, since I couldn't eat under water. My sonar was telling me that this was the narrowest point as far as I could see.
After I slipped through that narrow spot it was time consuming and fear bringing, but basically the rest of the journey was routine, though I had to backtrack several times. After five or six hours, I reached my destination and popped up to the surface. I shone the flashlight around and I was astonished at the size of the cavern that I was in. It must have been fifty or sixty feet high and about the same wide.
I pulled myself out of the water and sat on the floor the cave as I changed. It was a bit cool, but it wasn't unpleasantly so. I took the shorts I had brought with me, out of the belly pack and put them on.
Looking around I saw a roughhewn altar in one part of the cave and I was astonished when I saw the magical artefact. When Robby told me about it, he had assumed that it would be hidden in some way.
But the artefact, which was a bronze axe head, was just sitting on the top of the altar. While I didn't go anywhere near it, I could see that the axe blade was as shiny as if it had been made yesterday, rather than thirty five hundred years ago.
I contacted Robby and told him, *I'm here in the cavern, but I don't think you'll have any trouble finding the artefact.* and I giggled, *It's right out in plain sight and don't worry. I'm not going to go anywhere near it.*
Robby asked me to, *Have a look around so I can put the destination into Uni's mind.*
I knew that Robby was looking through my eyes and standing in one place I made a 360° turn so that he could see the whole cavern. A few seconds later, he and Uni appeared as Uni Transported them.
I was relieved when Uni and I Transported into the cavern. I really hadn't wanted to endanger Angelo, but there was no other choice. If I had asked the Elves, I knew that they would have said no. They're forbidden to interfere in our world, either for good or ill. Their aid had to be limited to individuals and even there they had to be careful.
For instance if I was chasing someone, they couldn't help me by Transporting me right in front of that person. If however, I suspected, that the person was going in a certain direction, they could Transport me to the destination I chose because I could do that on my own. It would simply take me more time. Blurring the rules a little, yes, but from contact with them, I knew that that was the way Elves thought.
I invoked my ability to see magic and I recoiled as I got a look at the magic the artefact had gathered over the millennia. I knew I had never seen a more dangerous object in my life. It was as bright as the sun and as hard to look at. It was much easier to look at it from the corner of your eyes. Not only was it bright, but it was throbbing violently, changing from white to red and back again several times a second.
Personally, if I had my choice I would never go near it, but unfortunately, I knew I would have to do so, in the near future. It was neither good nor evil, it simply was, but it was very dangerous and a shiver of dread went through my body as I said to Uni, "Transport us back to the villa."
Everything was ready to go; now all I could do was wait. Not that waiting was easy. Whenever I thought of what I would need to do, a feeling of dread went through me.
It was obvious to all of us that Robby was feeling uneasy; no more than simply uneasy, afraid. We tried to keep him distracted and for the most part it seemed to work. Yet I knew that it was just on the surface, Robby was hiding his real feelings from us.
On Sunday morning, however Robby was no longer anxious. There was now a serenity about him and a calmness and we knew that he was no longer afraid of what he needed to do.
All of us headed for a town that was a few miles from Seccagrande, but well within Uni's range. They're always been plenty of people around, especially kids. Right now Seccagrande was like a ghost town, no children or other people were visible, no cars were moving. Tal was doing the driving and we spent about half an hour in the town, so that Robby could check that the town was really deserted.
Robby said in his soft voice, "There are a few people left in town, but only a very few. I could only detect nineteen minds, those who are bedridden and their caretakers. If there is a disaster, only a few people are going to get hurt. I won't even think about the possibility of an earthquake."
I asked, "Couldn't you have found a way to do this, where nobody in the town was in danger?"
Robby shook his head, saying, "Nothing that would allow me to remain in charge. With the help of Wolf, I should be able to touch it without causing it to explode. If anyone else touches the artefact it could very well detonate, or at the very least, kill anyone near it."
There was sadness in his large green eyes, as he said, "Every other scenario that I could think of, unfortunately, involves the authorities. There would be no way to get an all werewolf team together. It's very doubtful that such a force would listen to a kid."
After knowing him for a couple of years, I knew he was a kid, but at times, I also knew he was much much more. At times, especially when he was acting as an Elder, he had an ageless quality about him that transcended his real age. But he was right, even if the leaders were able to see the power in him, they would probably ignore it, because he was a kid. They wouldn't have that inborn respect that a werewolf would.
I could feel the sympathy from my friends and relatives. I appreciated the support, but while I was still a little uneasy, I was no longer afraid.
When we arrived at our destination, it was a large private residence, owned by a wealthy werewolf and had been placed at our disposal for the day. It was a bit smaller than the villa we had rented, but it was luxuriously and tastefully decorated.
Not that Uni or I had much time to look around. Now that the time had come, I felt an urgency to get my task over with. I was standing with Uni in the living room of the villa and I felt him gather me in and then we Transported into the cave.
We turned on the flashlights that we had brought with us and I moved towards the altar. I invoked my ability to see magic and then said to Uni, "It's time for you to go."
He shook his head with a determined look on his small face, saying, "No!! I'm staying with you!! I won't let you face this danger alone!!" I just looked at him for a moment before he continued, "I know you could make me leave, but I don't think you will!"
There was absolutely no reason for him to stay, but he was right, I wouldn't make him leave. I told him. "I won't force you to go. You're only nine, but you're aware of the danger. You know what the consequences could be and you based your decision on that knowledge."
I gave a sigh, as I told him, "I once told Cindy Davis that by the age of twelve or thirteen we consider a werewolf child old enough to decide whether they will live or die. Because of who and what you are, I consider you mature enough to do the same."
He nodded his head and for a moment, a smile came to the features of his small face. Just for a brief moment and then he was serious again. I opened the backpack, we had brought with us and took out the ground sheet and laid it on the floor.
I said to him, "I don't know how long it will take to contact Wolf, but we may as well get comfortable. Have a seat." waving to the drop cloth. We both sat on it and I went into a trance and I gathered Uni in and reached out for Wolf.
I have no idea exactly how long it took, I was reaching, reaching and then finding as Wolf appeared in my mind. Yet I knew as I contacted him, that I had contacted more than just Wolf. There was somebody with him. Another Immortal? If it was, it was no-one I had ever encountered before.
Wolf looked at with me with night starred dark eyes, *I welcome you little Elder. It is time and I am there.*
As we spiraled back to full consciousness, I opened my eyes and indeed he was there and Uni and I stood up. Wolf was an overpowering presence. He was a pure black and his star scattered night blue eyes were on a level with mine.
Yet again, I knew he wasn't alone. There was something behind him, a power that dwarfed his. There was surprise in his mind as he said to me, *I continually underestimate you little Elder. You are far more sensitive than I realized. I assumed you wouldn't be able to feel her.*
That something spoke to me and it was a powerful yet gentle voice, *I prefer to remain anonymous Robby. Only a few people ever hear me and fewer still ever see me.* and she began to appear to us as well.
She seemed to be female, but unlike Wolf, she wasn't enormous. A woman and yet not one woman as she continually changed. She was all the races of man, in it's female aspect, going from white to black to red to brown to yellow to black etc. As she changed color, she also changed shape, one moment, a tiny Oriental woman the next moment blending into an enormous Polynesian women and on and on. Never did she retain a shape for more than a few seconds and never that I could tell did she ever repeat herself.
There was awe in my voice as I said, with absolute certainty, "You're Mother Nature. You're the one that the Werewolf Council answers to."
She said with humor in her mind, *Not exactly Robby, more like their conscience. They have no trouble ignoring my suggestions, when they strongly disagree with them.*
She was more serious as she said, *I am the oldest of the Immortals and I am ancient beyond telling. I came into being when your people crossed over the threshold of sentience and began to feel that there was something more to the world than just its physical presence.*
She continued, *Unlike some of my brethren I do not interfere in a major way. All of humanity is mine and I try never to choose one over the other. I try to point out the right path and hope they will follow it.*
Wolf interjected with some amusement in his voice, *It was decided among ourselves. Well, . . . actually Coyote and Dingo decided that Mother Nature should receive the power from the artefact. I think they were somewhat worried about any one of us taking that much power. Whoever had received the power would have become the second most powerful Immortal.*
He said, more seriously, *Mother Nature, of course, will be able to take that much power with ease and it will not give her a major increase in power, as it would with the rest of us. She is trusted because she has shown that she is trustworthy.*
Mother Nature, spoke again, *I would not have agreed even then, however I can do something that no other Immortal can do or can possibly do. I can calm and dampen the earth, possibly preventing a major earthquake or eruption if the artefact does explode. The earth will still shake and people become fearful, but I should be able to avoid major damage with many casualties.*
I thought of what we had to do and for a moment my fear rose up again, but then it was gone again, as serenity replaced it. I could feel the fear in Uni's mind as well, but he didn't have the serenity that I had and I respected his courage. It was time to neutralize the magic artefact.
Uni said, "Good luck!!" And I turned my head and gave him quick smile of thanks.
Mother Nature said, *I will join with you Robby.* and I felt some of that enormous power, entering me, infusing my whole body, like an antibody, protecting me from the enormous power of the artefact. Though I knew if the artefact exploded, nothing could protect Uni or I or the town above us.
Standing over the altar, I reached down to touch the axe and as my hand came closer and closer to the axe head, I could feel the power it held. When I finally touched the artefact, there was a bone chilling coldness to it. Though the coldness wasn't a physical reality still it was painful and my hand began to go numb.
It had become almost aware over the millennia and in a sense it knew I was there, yet it could do nothing to protect itself. I felt Mother Nature reach through me and as she did so, the coldness faded as I became nothing more than a passenger.
It was just as well. I could feel only the edge of the power as it traveled through me, yet I could feel the burning power it contained. While I would have taken the punishment of the magic if it was necessary, I was just as glad it wasn't necessary.
Afterwards, Uni told me that it took only about fifteen minutes, but to me it seemed almost unending. Eventually, however, even the almost unending had to end as I was released. Letting go of the artefact it simply disappeared and our world was a somewhat safer place.
I turned to face the two Immortals and Wolf said to me, *We have sent it into a world that is uninhabited and has no magic. It will never again threaten anyone.* and I nodded with relief.
Mother Nature said to us, *I helped because the artefact came from us, the Immortals. I will not say that I will never talk to you again, but until the day sometime in the future, when you serve on the Werewolf Council, it will be a rare event.* and then she was gone.
Wolf bowed his head to us, *My deep gratitude goes out to you two and to Angelo. In thanksgiving, I would give you a gift. Madon told you that someday, you might find a use for the minor magical talent that is in your mind. In Uni's mind of course, it's the ability to Transport and is a major talent. What I want to give you isn't a major ability, but it could be a useful ability. I will put in your minds how to use it for seeing in the dark. For Uni, of course, it will be a secondary talent.*
He continued, *While my gift is for the three of you Aaron will also benefit, because he has the same talent. Once you know how to use the ability you will of course be able to teach him how to do so as well.*
I felt him reaching into my mind and rummaging through it and then suddenly as he said, I knew how to invoke the ability to see in the dark. Doing so I turned off the flashlight. A second after my flashlight went out Uni's also went out and I knew that he was also testing his new ability. I knew that it might be valuable in either one of my two worlds, my dangerous world, or simply to be used to play a practical joke in my family world.
Wolf bowed his head to us again and reiterated, *Again, I thank the three of you for preventing a possible tragedy. As for seeing you again as I have learned that I should never say never with you Robby. Undoubtedly, I will see you again.* and then he was gone.
I looked around the cavern, one last time. I knew, unless another earthquake revealed this cave, no human would probably ever set foot in it again.
And I turned to Uni and said, "Take us back to the villa where we moved this morning." He gave a nod and then I felt him take hold of me and a few seconds later we showed up in the living room of the villa. We would return to the rented villa and spend the rest of the week in Sicily and return home next weekend.
My oldest sister Heather, who was sixteen, wasn't particularly enthused about our moving. But the rest of us were looking forward to it. My father had rented a U-Haul truck and that was mainly for clothes and toys and stuff like that, since we had rented the apartment fully furnished, though we had a lot of computers. Dad was a teacher and my mother had also been a teacher before she got married.
The apartment we rented had only had three bedrooms, with our parents in one room with Dary, me and my brother in another and my three sisters in the last one. Our new house, which of course was an old house, had four bedrooms, so all of us would have a little more room.
We had never had a porch before and we would actually spend more night's sleeping there rather than in our rooms. That is, all of us except for Dary or Darren who was only a year and a half old.
Robby and what seemed like a million adults and children, met us when we turned in the driveway. He told us cheerfully, "I brought one or two people to give you a hand." waving at the others and in a few minutes there was a virtual stream of us going in and out of the house.
With so many helping hands, it only took us a couple of hours to empty the truck. In fact, it took us almost as long to set up the computers as it had taken us to empty the truck. We had just finished doing that, when we heard a police siren out front and when we rushed to the front windows there was a police car blocking off the road. Though as we found out it wasn't one of the police cars on duty. It was the car used by the police chief Norman Peters.
However, the car was simply there to block off the road so that an impromptu barbecue could be held. There seemed to be dozens of portable barbecues heading our way and thousands upon thousands of people as well, though in reality, it was probably only two or three hundred people.
An hour later I was on the front porch chomping on a delicious steak sandwich and drinking lemon-lime pop, when I saw Robby again. He talked to my mother and father first and then to my brothers and sisters and then I saw him heading towards me.
He had been shaking hands with my family, so I put the bottle of pop down on the porch. I had shaken hands before but not very often and his green eyes twinkled at me as he took my hand.
He said to me in his soft voice, "I just want to welcome you and your family to Benson TJ." And I could tell he meant it.
I said to him, "All of us were looking forward to move." I gave a grin, "Except for Heather that is. She didn't want to leave her boyfriend."
He grinned back and he giggled and said, "I think she's forgotten about her boyfriend, she and my cousin Vernon seem to have eyes for no one but each other, right now." And I giggled as well.
I sat down on the porch steps and he did so as well. I remembered about the money I had earned in The Clinic and I asked, "How did your project turn out?"
He said to me, "It's too soon to tell right now, but it looks promising. The doctor who I put in charge of the project, says that he found something in mine, Uni's and Aaron's EEG tests that wasn't in my families or yours."