Symin had taken a nap
after the morning picnic that he had enjoyed with Minna, Maxim and Sivvin,
and the strenuous lesson in staff fighting he had received from Sivvin.
Now he was checking the area to make sure there was no litter lying
Symin was bubbling
with happiness. He had gotten through Sivvin's guard three times today
with what would have been killing or crippling blows, and he had won
a match for the first time ever.
Elves pound for pound
were stronger than humans, but they were so slender that their weight
was only about two-thirds that of a similar sized human, so that human
and Elven strength tended to even out. However, Symin was only part
Elf. A normal human child of his size would have had no chance, since
he was no bigger than a seven-year-old human boy. For some reason Half-Elves
or part Elves, pound for pound, were stronger than any of the pure races
and occasionally, like Symin, they were also blessed with blinding unmatched
speed and perfect hand eye co-ordination.
Symin wasn't anywhere
near as strong as an adult human being. His strength was about equivalent
to that of a sixteen or seventeen year old human boy. With his uncanny
speed added, he could make a formidable foe, even for an expert like
Sivvin. After the last hit Sivvin had dropped his staff and grabbed
a laughing Symin, throwing him high into the air. Symin seldom cried
and seldom laughed out loud, usually a giggle was the most you would
hear from him, but his joy had bubbled over into a rare bout of laughter.
Minna and Sivvin had headed back to the Castle an hour ago, and since he knew Minna and Sivvin were bringing supplies from the Castle, Maxim had brought his mule Atine and their cart. He had come the long way around while Symin had walked and climbed down to the pool and small copse of trees at the base of The Plateau. Maxim had joined Symin for a brief nap and then had left with Atine and the cart.
After checking the
area and determining that they had left no litter, Symin was squatting
examining an anthill, marveling at the sheer energy they displayed.
Suddenly he sensed something unusual. It didn't seem dangerous, and
standing up slowly, he turned, his staff coming into a defensive position
just in case.
Symin watched in awe
as a winged piebald unicorn dropped Concealment and came into view.
He was very small, even smaller than Anya, Symin's pony. The unicorn
was obviously in a state of exhaustion; his wings instead of folded
neatly at his side were dragging on the ground. His proud head with
its long black horn was drooping with his legs spread wide to keep him
on his feet.
Suddenly a second alert
hit Symin and this time he sensed danger from behind him. He whirled
and when he saw an Astral Spirit appear about five feet away, he threw
the staff to the side, well out of the way, knowing it would be of no
use in this situation.
The man ignored the
boy, saying to the unicorn in a chiding tone of voice, as if he were
speaking to a very small child, “Pictou, Pictou, you disappoint me,
you were warned what would happen if you escaped.”
The unicorn with great
effort lifted his head up proudly and stared at the Mage, teeth bared
in a gesture of defiance. With his Empathy Symin could sense the goodness
radiating from the unicorn, and evil radiating from this man. The boy
instantly chose sides and spoke, in a cold voice, “He is under my
protection!! You will leave now!!!”
The Mage looked at
the young boy and then turned his attention back on Pictou, ignoring
Symin. The unicorn saw the boy shake his head slowly and then he moved,
so fast that Pictou saw only a blur. Then everything stopped, the boy
with his dagger piercing the heart of the Astral form. The Mage just
had time to look down, and say, “Impos...” before he disappeared.
Symin squatted down
and jabbed the dagger into the ground several times to clean the blood
off of the blade, then standing up and sheathing the dagger, he walked
over to the unicorn. Symin said in a bristly voice, “He wasn't very
bright was he, he just ignored me, didn't even bother to check my aura.”
Pictou warned, his
Mind-Voice very serious, *They work in teams; one Great Mage and three
Lesser Mages. It'll take the others about fifteen or twenty minutes
to find out where he was, and then they'll come for me, and you, now
that you've killed one of them.*
There was apprehension
in his voice as Symin said nervously, “I guess we'll need a little
help then!!” giving an urgent call in Mind-Speech, *Karliv, I need
you, in fighting form, immediately!!*
Karliv was jolted by
the call nine hundred miles away in Temple City. In his rooms, he lay
down on the bed, then invoked his Astral Spirit, following the contact
back to Symin. A few seconds after receiving the call, he was there.
When he became visible, his Astral form was much less substantial than
normal. He looked with awe at the unicorn, a mythical creature he hadn't
really believed actually existed.
Symin looked in his
direction as he appeared, startled at how insubstantial he was. Karliv
catching the surprised look on his face, said reassuringly, “Don't
worry, I'm close to my range limit, but I can still throw some pretty
powerful Mind-Blasts around.”
Symin nodded, his throat
tight with fear, turned his attention back to the unicorn, saying, “Are
you able to fight?”
Pictou shook his equine
head, telling them sadly in Mind-Speech, *No, I don't have any magical
offensive weapons. The band around my horn, prevents me from using much
of my magic, including my ability to Transform, or to Transport.*
Symin grasped the horn,
and looked at the band of silver about four inches from the rounded
end of the blunt horn. It was in fact under the surface, the horn having
grown over it.
Symin asked tensely,
“If I cut the end off that holds the band, will your horn grow back
*Yes, it will regenerate
but to cut it is impos...* and like the Mage a few minutes earlier Pictou's
word was cut off, not by disappearance but in astonishment, as Symin
calmly drew his dagger and sliced through the horn just below the band.
A short verse popped
into Pictou's mind and both Symin and Karliv heard it.
*One not yet born,
He will cut your horn,
And set you free,
Your companion he will
Pictou stated with
wonder in his Mind-Voice, *That verse was a prophecy that was made on
my home world when I was born. Most of my people stay at home, but I
was restless even when I was a colt, When I reached young adulthood,
I started traveling between worlds to find my companion. It seems after
visiting dozens of worlds I have finally found him.*
Symin was not finished,
as when he had killed Yersine, the dagger had absorbed much magic from
the dead Mage. Putting his hand on the horn, he pushed energy into the
exhausted unicorn, until Pictou almost became his normal self.
Pictou burst out with
excitement, *Now we no longer have to fight, you've given me back enough
power to Transport to another world!! I have never personally Transported
anyone with me, but I know it can be done. Before I left my world, I
talked to others of my people who told me of their time of wandering,
and that I would be able to take someone who weighed up to about a hundred
and forty to one hundred and fifty pounds. One small adult, or two children
or Halflings. The space between universes is an empty void, seemingly
made up of magic and it is airless. When I am traveling to another world,
my magic prevents me from needing to breath so distance doesn't matter
to me personally.”
Pictou stated with
a bit of amusement in his mind, *Obviously you humans and other similar
races could not come with me on many occasions because the closest world
is much too far away, most of the time. It's the world I was on directly
before I came to your world and it has been coming closer for the last
few weeks. For the last few days it has been close enough that it will
take me between one and two minutes to get to it, and I know most of
you humans can hold your breath for that length of time. For the next
five weeks or so, it will remain in its present position and then after
that gradually pull away, so that ten weeks from now, it will take close
to ten minutes to Transport to it. Most worlds have several alternate
worlds that come close to them, but Lythea only has the one that comes
close enough so that I can Transport someone with me.*
Karliv commented with
wonder evident in his mind, “If you've visited that many worlds, it
sounds like you've been looking for a long time? Now I'm glad that you've
finally found the companion that your prophecy mentioned, but I would
think a winged unicorn would be very conspicuous?”
*True, but,..* and
they could feel the bubbling humor in his mind as Pictou began to change,
his wings disappearing into his body first, then he began to shrink,
as did his horn.
In less than fifteen
seconds, where a unicorn had stood, now stood a very large dog, somewhat
resembling a squashed Great Dane. Three feet at the shoulder, he was
twice as wide as a Great Dane and very thick-bodied overall. Of course,
he had to be, as a flying unicorn, he had very strong but lightweight
hollow bones, but still he weighed over three hundred pounds and that
weight needed to be distributed on the body of a dog.
He also had a bump
about three-quarters of an inch high on the top of his head where his
horn had been. Pictou told them, *I still look a little strange, but
there's such a variation in the way dogs look that aside from a little
comment, nobody pays much attention to me.*
Pictou quickly changed
back to unicorn form telling them, *These people have the ability to
detect the signature of a Magic User physically present who has used
his magic at a site, for up to two or three days.*
at Karliv, Pictou told them, *However, they cannot detect one who was
in Astral form. If your friend can throw a lot of magic around and then
disappear before the Mages show up, it will hide your Magic User's signature,
and they will not be able to find you in the future.*
Before they left Symin contacted Maxim with Mind-Speech giving him a quick recap and told him that he'd be gone for a few days.
Pictou said to them,
a bit pompously, *Much of my magic, when I am in flight, is used to
help me fly and to use Concealment, although I can't Transport to another
world while flying. Lythea is about ten percent larger than Earth, so
if you went by logic you would think we would end up four hundred miles
above Earth's surface. While I don't know how it works, when I actually
Transport to a world that's larger or smaller than the one I'm on, I
end up on the surface of the new world. I can't end up in a solid object
such as a tree or a cliff, and I can't Transport to somewhere that has
no solid surface, such as a body of water. I will instead end up on
a solid surface close by. It's magic, and magic at times defies logic.*
Pictou was describing
what would occur while building the energy that he needed to Transport.
He was nervous, and he tended to talk a lot when he was nervous. He
continued, *Earth, the world we are going to, has as much magic as Lythea,
but it has no Magic Users, the inhabitants depend on something called
science and technology, some of which exists on Lythea as well. For
instance, a wagon is a primitive form of technology.*
As Pictou, approached
readiness he put his nerves behind him. He told Symin, *Grab hold of
my mane tightly and take a deep breath. I can reassure
you that once the Transport starts, you could not let go even if you
tried. Are you ready?*
“Ready. I'll see you later cousin.” Symin replied with a little bit of anxiety in his mind. Holding on to the mane tightly with his right hand his fighting staff with the other, filling his lungs with air. He felt a brief period of disorientation as they entered the void. Not even his Sense of Perception could see anything but blackness. He began counting, at ninety-six there was a second period of disorientation, and then they were on Earth and into what to Symin was a freezing hell of cold air and rain. It was about sixty degrees Fahrenheit and the rain wasn't cold, but it had been almost one hundred and ten degrees on Lythea. The sudden drop of fifty degrees in temperature, to someone who had never felt anything cooler than eighty degrees, instantly threatened Symin with hypothermia.
The instant they disappeared,
Karliv began throwing Mind-Blasts indiscriminately. As a Great Mage,
he was able to keep it up for almost a minute. Continuing until his
energy was too low to sustain his presence he simply snapped back to
his body in Temple City.
When the compatriots of the Great Mage who Symin had killed arrived, there was so much Mage energy around that they were able to learn nothing, With wild curses of anger, they also returned to their bodies.
Pictou cursed to himself.
He hadn't even thought about the temperature difference. He himself
could tolerate a much greater variation in heat and cold. Urgently he
told the boy, *Get on my back quickly!!!* Clumsy with cold, Symin scrambled
onto Pictou's back. Crouching a bit, the winged unicorn sprang into
the air, and flapping his wings with great effort gained a little altitude.
It was only a few minutes to his destination, and several hundred feet
from where Pictou intended to land he began to shout in Mind-Speech
*Daniel, Daniel Vincent, I need aid!!!*
When Pictou landed
outside the back porch of a farmhouse Symin was unconscious from hypothermia
and finally let go of his staff, which clattered to the ground. Almost
as if it were a signal, the door opened and a young girl about twelve,
with long blond hair appeared in the doorway.
She stared squealing
out in disbelief, “Pictou!!! We always thought Mum and Dad made you
Pictou ordered sharply,
his concern, evident in his Mind-Voice, *We can discuss whether I really
exist later!! Take Symin and get him into a tub of hot water!! I forgot
about the difference in temperature, and he needs to be warmed up right
To her credit, she
collected herself instantly and jumped forward to take the light weight
of the boy into her arms as Symin began sliding off of the unicorn's
back. As soon as the boy was in the girl's arms, Pictou transformed
into a dog and followed her as she carried Symin into the house, through
the kitchen into a bathroom. She sat the unconscious Symin on the toilet
seat, and holding him there with one hand, she started the water running
in the tub. She unbuckled Symin's belt then paused, her cheeks going
*What's wrong?* asked
Pictou sitting on his haunches.
“I've never seen
a naked boy before except for my eight and nine year old brothers,”
she admitted, somewhat embarrassed. “And I've never given either of
them a bath.”
Pictou stretched out
full length, head on his paws. *Well, I'm afraid I can't help you! I
don't have any hands, besides he won't mind, there's no nudity taboo
on his world! He needs to get warm!!* he told her firmly.
Still blushing furiously
she undid the buttons of Symin waistband and fly pulling off Symin's
short trousers and taking off his sandals. She inadvertently touched
the dagger but since Kranholt had imposed strictures on it a few weeks
before, she only felt a little tingle. Making sure that the water wasn't
too warm, she lifted the small boy into the tub.
His keen ears picked
up at the opening of the back door, Pictou lifted his head, but when
he heard, a familiar voice call out he put his head back on his paws.
“Danni, where are you?”
Danni yelled “I'm
in the bathroom, mum. I think you had better come in here,” she yelled,
and then in a normal voice, “Mum and Dad always said you were a lazy
mutt. You're just as lazy as they said you were.”
*Guilty as charged,
besides why should I get up, she's going to be coming in here anyway.*
Despite his seeming
cavalier indifference, he jumped to his feet when Danni's mother appeared
in the doorway, and began barking with excitement, frightening the two
little boys with her into skittering behind her for protection.
She put her hands on
her hips, broad smile lighting up her face, “Now you stop that, Pictou,
you're no more a dog than I am, and besides you're scaring my kids.”
*I couldn't resist,
Jenny,* he said to her, sheepishly.
Taking hold of the
necks of the two little boys hiding behind her she pulled them out in
front of her. She gently told them, “Don't let his barking fool you.
He's as gentle as a kitten and he loves being petted.”
They looked up at her
uncertainly, and she gave them a push, “Go ahead, you'll find he has
a surprise for you.” Pictou approached them and gently gave each of
them a nudge on the hand, lying down out of the way. They knelt beside
him and began running small hands through his fur. Almost immediately
to their delight and astonishment, he began to purr, a deep rumble of
pleasure. Why not, after all he wasn't really a dog.
In the meantime, Jenny
had gone over to the bathtub. She was surprised when she saw a naked
little boy lying in the tub. Symin's eyelids were just flickering. She
asked, “Who's your little friend, Pictou? I assume he's your friend
and not Danni's.” She smiled wickedly at her daughter, who went red
*Symin, we've known
each other for less than an hour, so no last names were mentioned, but
he has the Ascalon crest on his right arm, so I assume his full name,
would be Symin Ascalon.* Pictou answered, twisting his head and neck
to get the full benefit of the petting.
“Is there anything
seriously wrong with him?” Jenny asked.
Pictou replied, licking
her youngest son's face, getting a giggle in reply. He told her, *I
shouldn't think so; he was only outside a few minutes and needed to
get warm. To you and I, it doesn't feel very cold, but on his world
Lythea, this is the hottest part of the year. The minimum temperature
would be ninety-five to a hundred degrees and that's during the night,
and it was probably somewhere around one hundred and ten degrees or
more when I met him. The sudden drop in temperature affected him and
knocked him out.*
Symin's eyes flickered
open, and looked at Jenny and Danni calmly, and lifting his head, he
could see he was in a tub of water. He looked back at Jenny, and Mind-Spoke,
just general Mind-Speech so that everyone in the room could hear it.
*You have a cold world * shuddering a little.
Jenny grinned, then
replied, “Not all of it is this cold, we have parts that are even
hotter than where Pictou says you come from.” Symin was intrigued
as she spoke, unlike speaking to someone from his own world; mind-pictures
came with much of what she said. The last few words evoked in quick
succession, a jungle, sand dunes, and parched earth, an image of Pictou.
Symin sat up in the tub, and then with Jenny's help stood up.
“How old are you?”
she asked. With that, he saw an hourglass, also used on his world to
*Eleven,* he replied.
*I'm afraid that we were in a rush, and Pictou didn't tell me your name.*
“I'm Jennifer Vincent-Molloy.”
He saw a picture of a young man and then of a much older man.
*You took the name
of your husband and kept the name of your father?* Symin asked with
Jenny paused astonished,
“How did you know that?”
Symin shrugged, *When
you talk, your mind also at times shows pictures. When you mentioned
your last name, I saw a young man, and then a much older one. I just
figured it was your husband and your father.*
Jenny looked at him
speculatively as she pulled the plug in the tub. That he could see things
in her mind didn't surprise her, she was used to Pictou. That Symin
could so easily figure out that she used both her own name and her husband's
name showed her how intelligent he was.
She told him, “This
is Danni,” she indicated the girl, “she's almost thirteen.” Symin
looked at Danni and he could feel she was embarrassed, but all he caught
from her mind was a picture of himself. Naked. Being from a world with
no nudity taboo, and where nudity was common, he was completely baffled
by her embarrassment. He shrugged as she continued, “And the boys
over there being licked to death by Pictou, are Travis, who's eight
and Jason, who's nine. All three have the combined last name.”
Jenny put a towel around
him lifting him out of the tub and began to dry him. Symin stifled a
huge yawn, surprised to realize that he was sleepy. *Do you mind if
I lie down?* he asked.
“Certainly not, do
you want pajamas?” she asked, an image of her younger eight-year-old
son, wearing colorful garments getting into a bed.
Symin shook his head,
*No. We sleep naked.* he told her.
“Can you talk? I
know Pictou can't, so I just wondered.” she inquired.
Symin giggled, “Cerrtainnnly,”
he considered it, it wasn't quite right so he said it again, “Certainly.”
and satisfied with his second try he continued in Mind-Speech, *Right
now my mind is translating what you're saying into my language and my
language into yours. If I talked out loud, that would just make things
more confusing. As you say your words, you think them as well. While
right now my mind is translating your language, I'm also learning it.
If I had two or three weeks I would be completely fluent in it.”
Symin yawned again; he really was sleepy, so sleepy he forgot all about his fighting staff.
Symin woke up after
four hours of sleep, feeling rested and well, his Self-Healing having
taken care of the aftermath of the brief period of hypothermia, and
he felt hungry. He was in what his hosts called the sleepover bedroom,
the children using it when they had overnight guests. Throwing back
the covers of the twin bed, Symin swung his feet to the floor. His short
trousers were missing, but his belt with his dagger and belt pouch was
lying on the back of the chair by the bed along with some clothing.
It simply hadn't occurred
to Jennifer that Symin wouldn't be familiar with this type of clothing.
The socks were easy, and he pulled them onto his feet. He realized at
once that the underpants were an undergarment, but it took him a couple
of minutes to realize what the fly was for and would have to be in the
front. The T-shirt with a weird (to him) Kansas City Chiefs logo again
was easy. Most of the shirts on his world were pullovers and the decoration
was always at the front. The sweater also was easy, while button less
vests were the most common of outer garments; the opening was obviously
in the front.
What stumped Symin
for a few minutes were the jeans with the zipper fly and snap. The short
trousers he normally wore had a button waistband, and a buttoned fly.
Many people on Lythea wore short trousers, which had neither. The snap
on the waistband of the jeans was easy. After a few minutes of pulling
the zipper back and forth, he realized what it did and slipped into
the jeans eagerly.
Symin pulled up the
zipper, but the first time it caught a fold of the underpants he was
wearing. Having a vivid imagination, he thought of what could have happened
if he hadn't been wearing an undergarment and winced. Finally the zipper
was done up properly and the snap snapped into place.
Symin examined the
pockets. He had seen paintings of people who had pockets, and he wondered
why on his world they had abandoned pockets for the inconvenient belt
pouches. Taking his belt, he threaded it through the loops and put the
dagger on the belt, fastening it, putting his belt pouch into the front
pocket of the jeans. His sandals were on the floor, so he donned them
and then went in search for the people he could feel.
Walking down the stairs,
Symin could see everybody who had been there earlier when he had woken
up in the bathroom plus a man he had never seen before. At the bottom
of the stairs, he saw what Travis was playing with and he stopped in
fear. *DON'T MOVE!!!!!* he shouted with Mind-Speech. It was of such
violence that everybody froze in shock. He walked over to the younger
boy and took the fighting staff gently out of his hands, a sour taste
in his mouth.
Symin began to shiver.
Everybody was looking at him with surprise and Pictou lying by the fireplace
had his head up, asked a question which everyone could hear. *What's
the matter Symin, it's just a simple fighting staff?*
Symin who was shivering
harder now, had difficulty answering, *No... Not just a simple fighting
staff.* he pressed the hidden catch close to where Travis's fingers
had just been exploring, and the two and half foot hidden razor sharp
blade flicked into view. *It's not… ordinary at all.* as he pressed
the catch again and the blade disappeared.
Shaking violently now,
Symin groped his way toward a door, any door, and he stumbled onto the
front door, managing to open it and push out into the outdoors. He made
it to a flowerbed before he began throwing up. In a few moments, the
man from the house was kneeling beside him, holding him gently.
When he had nothing
more in his stomach to lose the man pulled the shivering boy into his
arms as Symin began to cry. In Mind-Speech, Symin spoke ritual words
so old that nobody knew where they originated. *My life is yours, Daniel
Vincent, do with it, as you will.*
Pictou was sitting
on his haunches, on the front porch, said intently, * Symin means it,
Daniel! The ritual words are incredibly old. He has just given his life
into your hands for any purpose you choose, including slavery or death,
if that is your desire.*
Daniel asked remorsefully.
“How do I get out of this, I'm just as responsible? You told me it
was a weapon, and one from a strange world at that, I didn't know what
it could do, and I let my son play with it.”
Pictou, spoke to Daniel
only, *I'm afraid my makeup is somewhat simpler than you humans. I cannot
share the guilt you both feel. It was like weapons that I have seen
before, and my imagination could not envisage something different. Now
that I have seen one such weapon, I will be suspicious of all other
similar ones. In this case, you must use more ritual. Tell Symin that
you are as guilty as he; you accept his life but you give it back to
Holding Symin firmly
by the arms Daniel pushed him out gently until he could look him in
the face. He told the boy, “I am as guilty as you, Symin Ascalon.
I accept your offer, but I give your life back to you.”
Symin nodded, his tears flowing more slowly now, but he was still shivering badly.
Symin was feeling gloomy,
not only had he endangered one of his hosts’ children, he had bad
news for them as well, though you wouldn't be able to tell by his appetite.
He had gotten rid of the undigested portion of his breakfast in the
flowerbed, and not having eaten since then, he was hungry. By watching
his hosts, he was able to get by without making any major gaffes.
After supper, once
the dishes were done, Danni tried to astonish Symin by turning on the
television, but she hadn't counted on his intelligence. He was astonished
at first, but he realized that the view that he was seeing must be of
normal people. Symin immediately thought of some of the actors he had
seen and of paintings and said *Actors in moving pictures.* he stated
confidently, and he saw Danni pout and Jennifer hide a grin.
Symin waited for the
children to go to bed. He almost expected Jennifer to try to send him
to bed as well, though he would have had to refuse. *Travis has been
ill, hasn't he?* he asked Daniel and Jennifer.
“Yes he had cancer,
but he's been in remission for the last three years.” Jennifer replied
uneasily, “How did you know?”
*From his aura.* Symin
told them, *It's like Maxim's after he had the same type of illness,
or at least a related type. While many illnesses leave no permanent
mark on the aura, serious ones like what you call cancer do. Remission,
does that mean a period of time that the illness goes away after treatment?*
“Yes,” said Jennifer
quietly, worried by the direction the questioning had taken.
Symin sighed, saying
regretfully, *I'm afraid the remission is close to ending.*
Her hand clenched around
Daniel's gripping it hard, “How do you know?” not doubting his word.
Symin told them, sadly,
*His aura. It's dark, much darker than your other children. See through
my eyes.* He brought them into his mind and cast his Sense of Perception
into the rooms above. He showed her Travis first, then in contrast,
the other children and they could clearly see the difference.
Jenny closed her eyes in pain and looked at Daniel wordlessly then back at Symin. She told him, “I can see that you're worried that you're giving us bad news, and you are. At the same time it's good news because the sooner we know, the sooner the treatments can start and the better the chances of another remission or even a cure.”
It was about seventy-five
degrees but still cool to Symin, who was wearing a jean jacket while
the other three children were all in shirtsleeves and what he would
have called short trousers, but they called shorts. They were watching
Daniel, working with a young mare. Symin, who had seen many more horses
and horsemen than the other children, couldn't help but admire Daniel's
Danni sitting on the
top of the corral shaded her eyes and looked in the distance. “Daddy,
there's some trucks coming up the drive.”
Daniel tied up the
mare and also shaded his eyes, then not taking his gaze off of the approaching
vehicles. He snapped out, “Everybody, get in the house! Move it!!”
Symin as he headed
for the house with the other children, heard him think, *Damn, I wish
I had the shotgun!!!” Symin stored that thought for further examination.
He could see that Daniel wouldn't go into the house in case the men,
who were coming might follow him. As the trucks got closer Symin, with
his Empathy, could feel danger, so he took out Daniel's last thought
about the shotgun, examining it more closely, slowing it down.
He grunted with satisfaction.
It showed him every aspect of loading and firing a pump-action shotgun.
It also told Symin where he could find the ammunition. The other children
were with Jennifer in the kitchen where they could see out into the
Symin took a chair
over to the fireplace, climbed up taking the shotgun off of its rack.
Then, going over to a picture, he swung it out from the wall, revealing
a good-sized wall safe. Using his dagger, he cut around the lock opening
the safe and took out the ammunition stored there. Making sure the safety
was on, he began loading the shotgun. Once fully loaded he chambered
the first round.
Symin looked at Pictou
who was sitting on his haunches looking at him, *We'll use Concealment
to get behind them, and if I have to I'll try to scare them away with
the shotgun, but if I have to do any real fighting I'll use Mind-Blasts.
I can control them much better than this thing.* He tapped the shotgun.
*This is made for killing, and I don't want to cause any problems for
Daniel and his family.*
*I cannot use magic
against them, but this body is quite formidable.* said Pictou.
Both invoked Concealment
and they went out of the front door and circled around the house to
get behind the trucks parked in the barnyard where Daniel was confronting
the men. Symin reached out for their minds and was startled. He said
to Pictou, *I thought you said there were no Magic Users on this world?*
Pictou, who could feel
the same things that Symin could, was also confused. He told the boy,
*As far as I knew there wasn't, but they're all under Compulsion. What
do we do now? In that condition, we certainly can't scare them.*
Symin said decisively,
*I'll have to send a surge of power through their minds to get their
controller. Individually it won't be powerful enough to harm any of
them very badly. When it hits the one using the Compulsion it'll remove
him, and they should go home peacefully.*
*How strong do you
intend it to be?* asked Pictou.
Symin told him coldly
and analytically, *Reading them, he's Compelling them to kill! This
world doesn't need Magic Users of that type. I don't intend to leave
him around to cause future havoc! It's a good thing they have such open
minds. This wouldn't work on Lythea!!* Symin poured his power into the
group of strangers before them, and miles away an evil middle-aged man
who had somehow developed a form of magic was sitting on a sofa, smiling.
The smile locked onto his face as his now dead body toppled to the side.
As Symin had figured,
none of the men present in the barnyard were seriously hurt; the most
they received was a severe headache. Totally confused their aggression
left them, and they began to get back in their trucks and drive away.
Daniel was bewildered.
He'd been gearing himself up for what would be a life or death struggle
and then, with no violence at all, suddenly it was over. The two from
Lythea waited until the trucks were all gone before dropping their Concealment.
Making sure the safety was on Symin handed the shotgun to a startled
Daniel, telling him, *You'll have to unload it, your mind picture didn't
show me that part.* He started for the house, then turned around, *I'm
afraid you're going to need to get your safe repaired or replaced. I
had to break into it to get the ammunition.*
Jenny and Daniel were
sitting on the sofa after the children were in bed, and they were holding
hands. Jenny said in a relieved voice, "That was a close one!!"
She gave a shudder of fear, "I hate to think of what might have
happened if Symin and Pictou hadn't been here!!"
Daniel told her giving a nod, "I agree! Garth Foss said we would regret turning down his offer to buy the farm! But I never thought he would send someone to do us harm!"
Symin suddenly woke
up with an idea in his mind. He said, with excitement in his mind-voice,
*Yes Symin,* a somewhat
grumpy reply from Pictou.
*You said you could
Transport a small adult or two children?* asked Symin.
*Yes.* he replied,
and Symin could see with his Perception that Pictou was nodding his
Symin continued, asking,
*How much weight could you carry while flying?*
The curiosity was building
in Pictou's mind, *Not much, I'm afraid. I can fly about twelve hours
continuously on my own at about fifty miles an hour, and then I have
to rest for about the same length of time. Carrying the same small adult
or two children I could only travel for about six hours, and then I
would have to rest for two full days, why?*
*Your flying may not
be important, but I've got an idea,* said Symin, not meaning to be cryptic,
but he had to talk to Jennifer and Daniel before he went any further.
Symin took a quick peek with his Sense of Perception and found them
both still awake. Since he didn't consider it urgent, if he'd found
them asleep he would have waited for morning.
Symin got up and put
on the bathrobe Jenny had given him. Pictou had explained to him about
Earth's nudity taboo. It baffled him, but if it would make the people
around him more comfortable, he would wear the robe.
He knocked on the door
and entered when he heard a, “Come in,” from inside. He put his
hands in the pockets of the robe, he'd found pockets really handy to
They looked at Symin
inquiringly. He took a deep breath though he wouldn't be using his voice.
He told them, *I have an idea. Your world does many things better than
mine, but my world does some things better than yours. One of them is
in medicine. A Healer friend of mine told me that except for a few very
rare exceptions, there is no such thing as an incurable disease, not
if caught in time, and there hasn't been for hundreds of years. I asked
Danni about cancer and she told me that you still have some forms that
are incurable. She said probably the treatments that Travis would get
would put him back into remission, but they might not work, and he could
die. I would like to take Travis back to my world and have my Healer
friend Dearna have a look at him. Will you trust me with Travis?*
The man and woman looked
at each other. Finally, Daniel gave a slow nod, Jennifer looked at Symin,
and he could feel the relief in her voice and mind as she told him,
“Yes, Symin we will trust you with Travis. We were more worried than
we wanted to admit!”
Symin turned to go
back to bed. Daniel said, “Symin, the man who we think sent those
men yesterday, Garth Foss, they found him dead. They think he died of
*Yes, I know,* Symin said without turning around. *He was a Magic User. Your world doesn't need one like him.* his Mind-Voice hard and cold. The two adults looked at each other significantly, as Symin left the room.
Symin and Travis were
ready to go. Symin was dressed in denim shorts (with pockets) and sandals,
Travis in a pair of light green gym shorts wearing a cowboy hat. Many
Lytherans' wore straw hats, and since normally each person made his
own, the variety was simply astounding, so the cowboy hat would not
look out of place. Neither however were wearing underpants.
Symin was carrying
a backpack, packed with the clothes he had been wearing on Earth, for
when they returned. It also contained a couple of towels, a thermos
of cold water, and he was holding the staff. Pictou was in his unicorn
form, Travis on his back, small hands tangled in Pictou's mane. *It
might take four or five days, if Dearna can heal him. If we have to
go to the capital, it might take a couple of weeks.*
Symin directed his
thought at Travis, telling him reassuringly, *Remember it's going to
be much hotter than you're familiar with. There's a pool we'll be able
to swim in until Maxim comes with Anya and his mule, so you'll able
to keep cool until then, but when we go into Bremen you'll find it really
Symin put his hand
in Pictou's mane. The unicorn began to concentrate and Symin could feel
the power building, until Pictou gave a general Mind-Speech warning.
*I'm ready when you say.*
Symin told Travis, *Remember it's going to be completely dark in the Void. Don't be afraid, concentrate on the fact that you can still feel Pictou with your legs and hands. Now take several deep breaths then, when I tell you, hold it.* Doing the same as Travis, when he was ready, he directed at Travis *Now!* though Travis had been watching him and when he took the final deep breath the younger boy had done so as well, then to Pictou, *Go!*
Symin experienced the
brief feeling of Transport disorientation as they entered the void,
he was monitoring Travis's mind. While there was fear it was well controlled,
and Symin didn't even notice the time passing. Then he felt the second
bout of disorientation as they exited the void into the copse of trees
at the base of The Plateau. Travis slid off of Pictou's back to the
ground, and Pictou's began to change into his dog form. Symin shrugged
out of the backpack and unzipped it. Taking out the thermos of water,
he took a pill bottle out of the pocket of the denim shorts; appreciating
pockets again, Symin opened the bottle. He shook out a salt pill handing
it to Travis who was already sweating copiously. Pouring a cup of cold
water into the lid of the thermos, he handed that to Travis as well
who eagerly washed down the pill with the cold water.
*All right, out of
your clothes, and into the water,* he ordered the younger boy. Travis
was finding it very hot, and quickly and willingly he stripped and,
followed by Symin, was in the water within seconds. Symin kept his eye
on him. Even though Jenny told him that Travis could swim quite well,
he didn't intend to be as careless as he had with his staff.
Reaching out with his
mind, he felt Maxim, at the cottage on The Plateau. He said to him,
*Symin, you're back!!*
Maxim said with excitement.
*I am. I'm at the pool,
and I have a guest with me who I want to take into Bremen. Saddle Anya
and hook Atine up to the cart, and come get us.* he giggled, mentally
sticking out his tongue at Maxim. *We'll be in the pool, enjoying ourselves.
Also take ten silvers from our hiding place and bring it with you, we
may have to stay in Bremen for a few days.*
After that, he ventured
a contact with Karliv. When he made contact he told his cousin, *I'm
back. Tell everybody that I'm busy right now, but I'll get in touch
with them when I have the time.*
*It's nice to have you back, Symin!* said Karliv with warmth.
About forty-five minutes
later Travis put his hand on Symin's arm and said, “There's somebody
Beyond the range of
his Sense of Perception, but well within Empathic range, he recognized
the presence at once. He told Travis, *That's Maxim. I sent for him.
It's time to get out of the pool and get dressed.* He waded out of the
pool followed closely by Travis, circling the pool they went to where
their clothes were lying. Symin handed Travis a towel and took one himself.
Pictou, who had been lying by the side of the pool watching them, got
up and came over to where they were drying off.
After Symin quickly
dried himself, he took Travis's towel and gave him a vigorous rubdown,
then rubbed his hair dry, before they got dressed. He realized that
they had forgotten to bring a comb or a brush. He hadn't thought until
now to have Maxim bring them, the hair of both boys was tangled and
straggly. Using his hands Symin managed to get their hair in a bit of
order, but they both definitely still needed a good brushing and combing.
Shrugging, Symin decided
that Dearna would have both. By the time Maxim reached them, they were
ready to go. Throwing the backpack into the wagon, he clapped the younger
boy's cowboy hat on his head and then gave Travis a boost into the cart.
Symin could have had Maxim bring the mule and have Travis ride behind
him on Anya, but he didn't want the younger boy to overexert himself
before he became a little accustomed to the heat, which is why he had
specified the cart.
Symin, put his staff
into the sheath made for it on Anya's saddle, he swung into the saddle.
He looked at Pictou, asking, “Do you want to walk or will you keep
Pictou said with humor
in his Mind-Voice, *Daniel and Jennifer used to call me a lazy, useless
mutt. That's a pretty accurate description. Never walk when you can
ride. I'll keep Travis company. He's not as used to strange things as
Pictou easily jumped
into the cart to join the younger boy, where he expected to get lots
of petting. Symin rode beside the cart as Maxim started it moving. He
introduced the two boys. “Maxim, this is Travis. He doesn't speak
our language, so you'll have to use Mind-Speech. The dog's name is Pictou,
you're going to get a surprise later. He's intelligent and he also uses
Symin told the younger
boy in Mind-Speech, *Travis, this is my friend, Maxim Ascalon. His official
job is that of my personal servant, but to me, he's far more than that.*
and the warmth and love Symin felt was evident to Travis.
*Since you don't speak
our language you'll have to think at him.* taking the pill bottle, out
of his pocket, Symin opened it and took one out and he leaned over,
handing it to Travis. *Here, wash this salt pill down with some cold
water, and keep drinking it. It'll take about an hour to get to our
destination, and I don't want you to dry out.*
Maxim grinned at the little boy and gave a tug on a lock of his hair, peeking out from under the cowboy hat. *Hello, Travis, I'm glad to meet you.* and the eight year old smiled shyly back.
Maxim pulled up outside
of Dearna's quarters. Symin dismounted, and put his staff in the cart
for a moment while he tied Anya to the back. Then, picking up the staff
again, he helped Travis down. The younger boy had emptied the thermos
a quarter of an hour before and had put it back in the backpack. Travis
was sweating so badly that his skin was slick with moisture, his gym
shorts soaked with sweat.
“Take the cart and
Anya to the Boar's Head Inn, and get a room. We'll probably be here
for three or four days at least. Pictou, you go with him, they should
be aware of what they're getting into,” said a laughing Symin.
“Why are you taking
him to Dearna?” Maxim asked.
Symin told him, “He
has an illness that's related to the one you had.” When Maxim gave
a sharp inhalation of breath, Symin looked at him directly, reassuring
him, “Don't worry!! Travis's world has effective medical treatment,
and his illness is in what they call remission! His aura shows that
it's about to return. With your illness it was in the latter stages,
with Travis Dearna should only have to build defenses to prevent the
illness from returning. I think she can do it without any trouble, but
if necessary we'll take Travis to Seldon in the capital.”
Symin and Travis watched
for a minute while Maxim turned the cart in the narrow street and headed
back towards the inn. Symin turned and opened the outside door and ushered
Travis in and up the stairs. A quick look with his Perception showed
that there was nobody with Dearna. Opening the door, he put his hand
on Travis's bare back and pushed him through the door.
Dearna looked up as
they entered and a smile of pleasure appeared on her face as she saw
Symin, then she looked at his companion. Seeing how badly Travis was
sweating, she immediately became all Healer and she said with concern,
“Your friend is much too hot; he needs to be cooled down!”
Coming over, Dearna
put her hand on Travis's forehead and Symin felt a surge of energy both
normally and through the hand he still had on the boy's back, but he
was puzzled, it wasn't Healing energy. He invoked his Mage-Sight, and
he caught his breath. When he looked at Travis's aura there was an extra
layer coating it. It was almost the same color, but he could definitely
tell that it was the color of Dearna's aura. With excitement buzzing
in his voice he asked, “What did you do? That wasn't healing magic!!”
Dearna was about to
add another layer. Normally a simple question wouldn't have distracted
her from what she was doing, but there was such intense excitement in
Symin's voice that she absently began to answer him, “No, that's an
ability that some high Magic Users have. They can cool or heat things
up, but only L…”
Dearna realized that
she had lost his attention, and looking at him, she saw Symin concentrating.
With her Mage-Sight already invoked, she saw a second layer begin to
form, it took about thirty seconds but finally a second perfect layer
was on top of hers. It was not a solid color as hers was, parts of it
were orange and parts were blue. Then a third layer began to form. This
time it took only about twenty seconds. Then a fourth layer only taking
about fifteen seconds.
Dearna gave a protest,
“That's too much; you've dropped the temperature by forty degrees!”
Symin said calmly,
“No, that's just about right. Travis is not from our world. While
they do get temperatures as hot as we have today, the people where he
lives are more comfortable with temperatures in the seventies. If he
gets cool I'll drop a layer.”
Symin had a passing
thought that was there and then quickly gone as he wondered why the
Fahrenheit scale that they used on Earth was almost identical to the
Harnou Scale that they used on Lythea. Perhaps he wasn't the first person
from Lythea to contact Earth.
Dearna looked at him
and saw Symin was completely serious. He didn't lie, not in ordinary
circumstances. He might not tell everything he knew, but what he did
say would be the truth, and he didn't tell tall tales either. However
if he was involved in something dangerous and it was necessary, he could
and would lie.
“Well first I'll
complete what I was going to say and then I'll look at your friend.
I was about to say that to lower the temperature to the whole body by
adding a layer to the aura takes a Lesser Mage or higher. So I want
to welcome Camron's newest Lesser Mage.” Dearna bent down and kissed
the stunned boy on the top of the head, whispering as she did so, “You
need to brush your hair.”
Symin looked up at
her with disgust, “Now isn't that just like a grownup. To compliment
you one second, and comment on your appearance the next. I forgot to
bring a comb or brush when I came from Earth, and I didn't think to
have Maxim bring them when he came to get us.”
“There's a brush
on the washstand,” Dearna told him pointedly as she led Travis over
to the bed, and sat him on the edge. Symin gave her a glare and stomped
over toward the washbasin, he turned his head when he reached it and
stuck his tongue out at her, then giggled.
Symin told her, “Travis
can't speak our language so you'll have to use Mind-Speech, to talk
to him. Can you see his aura through the layers surrounding it?” he
Dearna told him, “Yes,
they won't be any problem, but first tell me what you know.”
Taking the brush, Symin
began brushing his hair and quickly he went over the details of Travis's
aura he had noticed. He told her about the treatments that the boy had
gone through, and what Symin figured she would have to do.
Taking the brush from
Symin, Dearna brushed the younger boy’s hair. To keep Symin busy while
examining Travis, she told him, “One of the things you should be able
to do as a Lesser Mage is to lift things.” She wasn't specific, knowing
Symin she should have been. She began examining Travis closely with
both Mage-Sight and her Healing ability.
Travis was somewhat
startled by her mode of examination. He'd never had a doctor who just
sat beside him holding his hands and just looking at him.
Dearna quickly determined
that Symin was right, that the remission (a term that wasn't used on
Lythea) Travis was in, was about to end. She was relieved that Symin
was right in another way. While related to the illness Maxim had suffered,
it was nowhere near as virulent. Setting up defenses should be fairly
simple, and should only require about three treatments. Travis began
to giggle, and he pulled one of his small hands out of hers and pointed
“Symin, what did
you do now?” Dearna asked as she turned around slowly. The only reason
she wasn't shocked was because she expected something out of the ordinary.
Symin was floating in mid-air, his head touching the ceiling. She shook
her head slowly, telling him, “That was dumb of me. I should have
been more specific. You were only supposed to try to lift something
light. You're like a Dwarf, if you have a choice of trying to do something
the easy way, or the hard way, you'll invariably go for the hard way.”
Dearna stood up and
walked over to him, his knees were at a level with her eyes. She looked
up at him, and Symin looked down at her sheepishly. She said with amazement,
“You know what you're doing is impossible!! Some Great Mages can do
it. But a Lesser Mage!!! How in the Gods name did you manage to get
Still somewhat sheepish,
Symin told her that, “Well actually it was an accident. I was thinking
about lifting things like you told me, and I asked myself what would
be the most useful thing that I could lift. I was thinking it would
be really handy to be able to lift me. I was thinking hard about the
idea when I put my hand on my dagger, and I suddenly found myself up
here. Now I can't seem to get down.” She realized that he was waving
both hands around.
Dearna thought for
a moment, she'd been a Lesser Mage as well as a Healer for many years,
but this was the first time she'd ever encountered anything remotely
like this. Then she thought of what he had done to block his Empathy
when he needed to.
“Remember when Seldon
was here, you described how you learned to block your Empathy when emotions
got too intense?” Dearna asked. She thought that as intelligent as
Symin was he would figure out the rest himself. Symin proved her quite
right as he grinned then climbed down an imaginary flight of stairs
to the floor.
When he was down, Symin
looked up at her, a solemn look on his small face, telling her “Now
that could have been dangerous, under other circumstances.” He shuddered,
“Suppose that had happened outside, with no ceiling to stop me from
rising. Could I have gotten it under control before I went too high?
It's lucky that when Kranholt put boundaries on the dagger, he gave
me a way to add my own restrictions to the ones he put on. I'll make
sure nothing like that can happen ever again,” Symin said with determination
in his treble voice.
Bringing the conversation back to something mundane, Dearna told him, “I'll give Travis his first treatment. That'll take about an hour. The defenses are easy to put up, but I'll need two or three additional sessions to train his body to automatically maintain those defenses.”
The innkeeper added
a sleep pad to the room furniture, and Maxim had insisted on using that,
leaving the bed for Symin and Travis. Pictou was lying on the floor
beside the sleep pad. Symin had replaced the original layer that Dearna
had applied, since he learned that her range was only a couple of miles.
More distance than that would cause a major drain on her energy resources.
Since he would always be close to Travis, until he got the younger boy
home, it was more logical for Symin to provide the cooling layers.
Dearna had shown him
a few other tricks when he and Maxim had gone to pick up Travis. How
to alter the layers so they would provide heating instead of cooling.
How to use a neutral layer that would block both heat and cold. How
to light a fire using some of the same principles. You would put a neutral
layer around your fingers, and then a heating layer that was highly
concentrated. Only covering an area less than an eighth of an inch in
diameter, it would cause the heat in that small area to build to such
an extent that many materials, including both paper and wood, had no
choice but to burst into flame. You could also create ice by the same
principle, only using cold instead of heat.
Another thing Dearna
had showed him was how to do a DNA test, though that wasn't what it
they called it on Lythea. She had in fact been working when he showed
up with Travis, though it wasn't urgent. She had to determine the father
of a baby that had been born to a High Peasant woman; raped by a noble,
the man had been fined 200 golds that went to the woman.
Then the woman realized
that she was pregnant. As a follower of the Mother-Goddess, they would
abort a fetus only if it would not survive the gestation period, or
there were serious genetic problems with the fetus that a Healer couldn't
repair in the womb.
There had been no genetic
problems and nothing that would prevent it from coming to term, so the
mother had insisted that the child be born. They didn't know whether
the pregnancy was a result of the rape or normal sexual contact between
husband and wife. The woman's husband refused to pay to raise the boy,
if it wasn't his son. If it turned out to be the rapist's son, the man
would have to provide child support. Aborting a fetus took only a few
minutes and even the lowest class of Healer, a village Wisewoman or
Wiseman could perform the action, and even the poorest of woman could
afford the price.
For an unmarried woman
in cases not related to rape to allow a pregnancy to come to term, meant
that she and her family would be responsible for the child. In the cases
of mistresses, the father would be responsible for the child or children,
though he wouldn’t have to acknowledge the child, he would have to
provide child support. On the rare occasion when a woman didn't know
she was pregnant until the baby was born, they regarded the child as
a Gift of the Gods. Many of the religious orders would willingly provide
funds to have the child raised.
Therefore, the authorities
had provided Dearna with numbered bags containing samples of blood from
the baby and from the husband and the rapist. She had in fact already
made her determination, but since Symin was now a Lesser Mage she wanted
to see whether he was one of those who had the ability, which ninety
percent of Healers had, but only about three percent of Lesser Mages
It wasn't something
that you thought about. If you had the ability, you knew. Symin immediately
picked out bags one and three, and then looked at her inquiringly. Dearna
smiled, “That's the way I had it figured out, and since the noble
is an important son I had two other Healers do the test as well. With
you, all four of us agree, the woman's husband is the boy's father.”
It had been an interesting
day, and it wasn't quite over. Later that evening, after the three boys
had gone to bed, Symin reached out with his mind to contact Sinya in
the capital, the contact came much more quickly than normal. *Are you
Sinya said, cheered
by his contact, *I'm just attending a dinner party that Prince Tamen
is holding, unfortunately that's all it is, there no intrigue, spying
or danger involved, and it's utterly boring. Glad you stopped by. Karliv
said you were away, obviously, you're back.*
*Yes, I got back today.
I'm glad you're with the Prince...* a long pause.
*I was glad to hear
from you, Symin, why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to be quite
as glad in a couple of minutes?* Sinya asked with foreboding.
*Sorry,* he giggled,
*You're right; I need to get a hold of a large sum of money. I've been
to another world.” He played his memories back to her starting from
the moment he had met Pictou and the mind pictures enthralled her. After
the images ended Symin told her, *As you can see, in many fields they
are far in advance of us. I need something that I can sell to convert
into the money of that world. Gold bars would be best. I already know
of one thing that might be useful and there are probably others, but
I can make the trip only for the next five weeks and then it'll be a
year before I can travel there again, but distance is no barrier to
Symin explained, *When
I think of something that could be used, as long as it doesn't weigh
too much, Pictou could go get it at any time, but money would be needed.
The family that I showed you could make any necessary purchases. They're
well off but they aren't rich and wouldn't be able to use their own
money to help me.*
Symin felt Sinya shrug,
resignation in her mind, as she told him, *I'll talk to the Prince.
It probably won't be difficult. He owes you too many favors.*
Symin, was about to
say goodbye, when he thought of a question, *Do you know why pockets
aren't used on our world, they're much more versatile than belt pouches?*
*Actually I do,* Sinya
informed him smugly, *Father told me about it, when I asked him about
some of the pictures I'd seen with people who had pockets on their garments.
About four hundred years ago, everyone used pockets. It was a period
when Magic Users were not particularly prominent. That happens occasionally,
though it doesn't usually last for more than a generation or so. It's
hard to hide weapons in the clothing that civilians wear. We can't hide
knives up our sleeves, as a soldier could, because we only have short
sleeves. Sandals are normal court wear, so you can't have a hidden boot
knife. Since we wear short trousers, there's no material between the
upper thigh and the ankle to hide a knife. About the only place you
can hide, a knife is the nape of the neck. Since that's so obvious a
place, not many people try to hide knives there.*
Sinya continued her
explanation, *But when you had pockets, you had places to hide all sorts
of things, including weapons. After two attempts in less than three
months occurred with the assassins drawing knives from their pockets,
they banned them at court. Since the clothing the court wears sets the
fashion for the rest of society, pockets began disappearing. Eventually
no one wore clothing with pockets; even after a resurgence of Magic
Users made them more dangerous than any assassin wearing a garment with
pockets in them, people have never gone back to using pockets.*
*Thanks Sinya,* Symin
told her, sounding bored.
*I bored you. Poor
boy.* she snickered.
*Actually, I was quite interested, I'll think about it in the morning, right now I'm really sleepy.” Again he was going to break off contact, but, *By the way, Sinya, I'm now officially, according to Dearna, a Lesser Mage.* And with a wide yawn he broke contact leaving her with a mouth wide open with astonishment.
The three boys were
back in the room after having their breakfast. Now Travis was leaning
way out the window of their room at the inn, looking around, with fascination.
Yesterday he had been somewhat fearful, and he hadn’t paid much attention
to his surroundings.
Travis felt someone
grab the waistband of his shorts and pull him back into the room. Turning
he saw that it was Maxim, and the older boy gave a grin, saying, *From
what Symin said, our world is completely different from yours, so I
understand your curiosity. However, you don’t have to fall out the
window to look around.*
Travis gave a reluctant
nod, feeling a bit of resentment rising, since he felt he had been completely
Maxim grinned again
and lifting the younger boy’s chin he stared into his large blue eyes,
he told the younger boy, *I have over a dozen nephews and nieces around
your age, and I know that they’d be annoyed at me. Until he returns
you to your world, Symin and I are in charge of you. It would be very
hard to explain to your parents that we let you fall out of a window
onto a paved street and killed yourself.* and Travis nodded again, and
his resentment was gone as he saw the concern on the older boy’s face.
Maxim let go of his
chin and Travis asked, “What are we going to do today?”
Symin looked up from
where he was sitting on the side of the bed and grinned, *We’re kids
so we go find some other kids to play with. That of course would be
outside the South Gate. There’s a large open area and a stream flows
right through it. Most of the kids will be in the field or in the pools
that the stream has created.*
Maxim pulled his shirt
over his head and slipped out of his short trousers and Travis looked
at him in astonishment, “What are you doing?” he asked in a squeaky
Maxim explained, “Children
of the nobility start wearing clothing when they’re about seven. In
all other classes children of your age don’t wear clothing at all.
However even children who normally wear clothing won’t, since much
of the time will be spent in the water swimming. Some may take their
clothing with them but many won’t bother, so most of the children
going to and from the play area will be naked.*
Maxim looked over at
Symin and grinned, *Even Symin would normally leave his clothing, here,
but unfortunately he can’t. His dagger is magic and when he gets far
enough away from it, it Transports itself to his location. However he
will discard his clothing once we get there.*
Symin nodded ruefully,
thinking of a time only weeks in the past where that trait of the dagger,
had almost gotten him killed. He told Travis, *We know your world is
different, so you can wear clothing if you want. We just want to warn
you that most of the other kids will be naked.*
Travis had a pensive
look on his face, and then he grinned mischievously, slipping his shorts
down his legs and off and folding them up, he placed them into the backpack,
saying firmly, “I don’t mind, and I ain’t gonna wear them again
‘til we go home.”
Still he was a little nervous when they went downstairs, but nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to the two naked boys, Travis and Maxim.
They were back at the
pool. Travis had received the remaining treatments, and his aura was
back to normal. He was wearing his gym shorts for the first time in
four days, and after being naked for the past few days it felt strange.
He also was wearing his sandals and the cowboy hat as he had when he
first arrived, though the hat was hanging down his back from its strap.
Symin had on jeans, underpants, being very mindful of the first time
he'd first worn jeans he didn't intend to take any chances, a T shirt
and jean jacket, sandals and socks. He could have used the method Dearna
had shown him to heat things up, but it was easier to put on extra clothing.
Travis was saying a
tearful farewell to Maxim, who he'd come to adore in the last four days.
After Maxim gave him a long hug and then a kiss on the top of his head,
Travis finally tore himself away, he came over to where Symin and Pictou
were waiting. Symin removed the layers that were keeping Travis cool,
and then he gave Travis a boost onto Pictou's back, shouldered the backpack,
which was much heavier than it had been, and waved at Maxim.
Repeating the process
they had used to get to Lythea, they transported back to earth. They
were just outside of an apple orchard in an open field. Travis said,
“We're about five miles from home, at the Jenkin’s place. Should
we walk?” Travis asked.
Pictou, back in dog
form asked, *Symin, what do you think?*
*Let's see if I can
contact them, from here, it'll be faster than walking.* Symin said.
He cast his mind out searching for the familiar feeling of Jennifer
and Daniel or the children. He found Jennifer first; he could see the
farmhouse kitchen through her eyes. She was calm but at the same time,
she was concerned about Travis.
*Jenny,* Symin said
gently, trying not to startle her. In that he was unsuccessful, as Jenny
dropped the pot she was holding, and brought her hand to her breast
with the shock. Fortunately, the pot was an empty one. “Symin?”
she gasped out.
*Sorry, I startled
you," Symin told her, "Travis says we're at the Jenkins place
and we're near an apple orchard.*
He felt the relief
in her mind as Jenny said, “I know where you're at. We'll be there
in a few minutes. Daniel! Kids! Travis is back and we're going to pick
him up!” Symin heard her yell before he withdrew from her mind.
As promised, the mini-van
pulled up at their location a few minutes later, and the two children
and the two adults piled out of the van. Daniel swept Travis into the
air and swung him around half a dozen times, the eight-year-old shrieking
with glee. Setting Travis down, he pushed him into Jenny's arms, and
in a few seconds, he gathered Jenny, Travis and Danni into a hug of
joy. Jason was just as happy, but he was somewhat more reserved than
the rest of his family, and he was content to watch.
Well that's what he
intended, Symin had other ideas. He snuck up behind Jason, and said
in his ear, his first sentences in English. “Travis tells me you're
even more ticklish than he is, I find that hard to believe, so I decided
to find out for myself.” Suddenly Jason found himself headed for the
ground, Symin making sure he landed softly, but also made sure he landed
on top of the younger but larger boy, sitting on his thighs.
Symin paused for a
second looking down at Jason, who had his hands over his chest, with
an expression of dread and anticipation on his face. Then Symin attacked
vigorously and soon Jason was shrieking with laughter, trying to protect
all of his ticklish spots, completely unsuccessfully.
Jason yelled out, “Stop,
please stop.” His shrieks of laughter and begs for mercy caught the
attention of the rest of the family. Travis watching couldn't resist
getting in on the fun. He planned to jump on Symin and catch him in
a headlock. Symin ducked to the side just at the last moment and caught
Travis around the waist, and Symin suddenly had a second victim on the
ground. With his unusual strength he was easily able to hold both of
them down sitting carefully on their legs, leaving one hand for each
boy, and he was equally adept at tickling two boys as he was one.
Finally, he gave them
some mercy, sitting back on his heels, the two younger boys watching
him warily in case he launched another attack. However, Symin got to
his feet pulling them up as he did so.
Daniel, Jenny and Danni had been watching the merriment with grins on their faces. They all piled back into the van and headed back to the farmhouse.
Symin was sitting at
the kitchen table talking to Jenny and Daniel with his feet on Pictou's
back, who was lying under the table fast asleep.
“Are you sure he's
going to be all right?” asked Jenny anxiously. Symin made contact
with her mind and then deciding that Daniel would be comforted as well,
he linked with him too. He sent his Sense of Perception upstairs, first
showing Travis and then the other children. Jenny let out a whoosh of
relief when she saw the Travis's aura was now much lighter and the same
as the other children.
Releasing the contact,
Symin told them, *Dearna set up the barriers; the last three days she
spent training his body to maintain those defenses. She told me that
if Travis was any indication your people would be much easier to treat
than ours. She's confident that the illness will never threaten Travis
again, and she's been a Healer for over twenty years.*
Jenny put her hand
on Symin's and gave it a squeeze. “Daniel and I want to thank you!”
With his Empathy, he could feel the warmth, thankfulness and love coming
from the two adults, and he spoke out loud, “I can assure you that
it was my pleasure! My very very great pleasure!!” Symin told them
He moved the backpack
to the center of the table and it landed with a solid thump when he
set it down. Symin told them, “Now I'd like to ask you to give me
some help?” He unzipped the backpack and removed three small but heavy
bags. Out of each, he took twelve unmarked one-pound bars of pure gold.
*I need help in finding someone to buy these; well transportation really.
I only have to get close enough to read their minds and that'll tell
me what I need to know. I'm looking for either an honest, scrupulous
jeweler, who won't ask too many questions, or an honest, crooked one.*
“An honest, crooked
jeweler. That's an odd term.” Daniel remarked.
Symin said seriously
yet with a bit of obvious humor in his Mind-Voice, a smile on his small
face, *Well there are people who are crooked, yet still they have a
certain code of ethics that they won't deviate from. When I was here
last time and watched some television, through your minds I was able
to understand what was said. In one of the shows, a crook gave his definition
of an honest politician. He said it was a politician that stayed bought.
They're the type of person that is willing to cross one line which society
has set, but who has a self-drawn line that he will never cross.*
Jenny and Daniel looked at each other, and then they burst out laughing, Symin laughing right along with them, well aware of the absurdity of it.
Both Jenny and Daniel
decided to go into the city with Symin. They had co-opted her father
to act as babysitter, inviting him to come to supper and stay for the
night. In his early fifties, Darren Molloy was a retired police officer.
During and after supper they expertly got him started on the crooks
he had been chasing and putting away for all of his adult life, easily
getting him onto the subject of jewelers. They had picked up half a
dozen names during that conversation that they intended to check out
Her children hadn't
seen their grandfather for a couple of weeks, and they got out their
instruments. They had learned half a dozen new songs just before Travis
had gone to Lythea, and they wanted to play them for Darren.
Ironically, their playing
evoked the reaction from Symin that Danni had tried to get by turning
on the television. When they finished the set, he told them with earnest
admiration, *That was great. You know, if you were on my world, you
could make a good living playing music.*
Travis and Jason accepted
the complement nonchalantly, but Danni, went a bright red, and she stuttered
a little as she said, "W-we-we aren't that good. We made plenty
of mistakes." she admitted honestly.
Symin nodded, and said
matter-of-factly, *I didn't notice, and in my family only my grandfather
and my cousin Dinni have any real musical ability. We expect a guild
Bard to be perfect. However, only the nobility can afford a Bard on
a regular basis.*
Symin said with emphasis,
*Even with the nobility most of our entertainment is done by bands of
traveling players and actors. They normally have anywhere from three
to twelve performers. We don't expect them to be perfect, we simply
want lively music to listen and dance to and plays to watch.*
Jenny turned to look
at Symin who was sitting in the middle seat looking through a tabloid
morning newspaper, looking at the pictures. He knew most of the stories
that went with the pictures, he had followed Daniel's mind when he read
it while they were at the donut shop having breakfast. “How did you
like the donuts, Symin?” she asked.
He looked up, *Great!!
Are there any more?!!*
Jenny laughed, “You
know very well that there are plenty more, but you've had all you're
getting for the moment. The kids would never forgive us if we arrived
home empty handed, let alone how Pictou and dad would react.”
Daniel told them, “We're
coming up on the first man on our list, Sandler's Jewelers and we're
in luck, there's a parking space just down the block from his shop.”
Once Daniel had pulled into the spot Jenny got out to put some change
in the parking meter. Symin settled back in his seat closing his eyes
to concentrate. By the time Jennifer got back into the mini-van, Symin's
face was white. She asked with concern, “Are you all right, Symin?”
He opened his large
gray eyes and she could see the anger in his eyes. She realized he was
white with rage not illness. Symin leaned forward in his seat, stabbing
his finger at the headline on the front page, and the picture that went
'Santana jewel collection stolen, housekeeper murdered. Large reward offered for the return of the collection and the apprehension of the killers.'
The picture showed
the beautiful necklace that had been the centerpiece of the Santana
Symin was obviously
outraged as he told them, *He's thinking about that necklace and the
rest of the collection, which is in a secret compartment of his safe,
and the fact that he sent the robbers to steal the jewels! He doesn't
care at all that someone was killed getting it!!*
“What do you intend
to do about it, Symin?” Jenny asked anxiously. She was pretty sure
that he had already killed one person on Earth, and was aware that he
had killed others on his own world.
Symin's smile was ugly,
but then it relaxed a little as he said, *Don't worry, I intend to make
sure he pays, but I can do that without killing him. He's thinking about
a meeting that he has to go to in ten minutes. He'll be gone for a couple
of hours. Once he leaves, I intend to act.*
A Cadillac pulled out
of the alleyway beside the store and turned onto the street, going in
the opposite direction. Symin told them, *Okay. We should leave. It
wouldn't be a good idea to be here when the alarms go off. In fact,
why don't you head for our next destination.* Once they had gone about
a mile, Symin leaned back in his seat, and closing his eyes he invoked
his Astral Spirit, and headed back to Sandler's shop. When he drifted
through the door, he took notice of the salespeople, and examined their
Symin was glad when
he found three basically nice people, who were entirely unaware of Sandler's
sideline. He drifted into Sandler's office. Sandler's mind had told
him that while the safe had an alarm it was off during the day. He thought
that it was very careless of Sandler, but he had no complaints. Using
the new ability he had discovered to lift things he used the combination
he had gotten from Sandler's mind to open the safe door. The hidden
compartment was in the floor of the safe. Lifting the items on the floor
out, Symin grasped the lid of the secret compartment with his mind and
bent it upward, pulling the necklace partly out so it was draped over
Slipping back into
the store, he began planning the pattern of Mind-Blasts he would need.
One for each bank of lights, three, two to take out a couple of jewelry
cases, five and one, the most powerful one, to knock in Sandler's door.
A total of six Mind-Blasts.
Symin began, one, two,
three for the overhead lights and the store was in partial darkness,
four and five for two of the jewelry cases which were far enough from
the salespeople that they would be in no danger from flying glass, and
six, the one that struck the lock on Sandler's office door and blew
it open. The two saleswomen were screaming, and he was sorry that he
had to scare them.
Symin implanted a mild
instruction to check out Sandler's office to the salespeople. It didn't
take much urging, since it had the only working light left on in the
Police cars with sirens
running and lights blazing pulled up in the front of the store, and
police officers came running into the store with guns drawn. Luckily,
there were no trigger-happy cops along. Symin felt very satisfied when
the salespeople pointed out the Santana jewels to the police officers.
With a sigh of deep satisfaction, he let himself snap back into his
body. He sat up, opening his eyes, a huge smile on his face.
Jenny looking back
at him couldn't help but smile, as well he was so obviously delighted.
“I gather things went well, Symin?”
He nodded and gave
a quick recap of what had happened. They continued on their quest. They
skipped over the others on the brief list they had gathered from Jenny's
father the night before; a brief look was enough to tell Symin that
none was suitable for his purposes.
Symin asked inquiringly,
*Jenny, do you think your father might know the type of person I might
need? You got him talking about crooks but might he know someone he
wouldn't have mentioned, because he wasn't a crook, and do you think
it would bother your father if he found out about Pictou and me?”
Daniel snorted with
amusement, saying, “You, bother him, kid? He thinks the X-Files is
a non-fiction program.” and Symin saw an image of a television show
flicker through the man's mind.
Jenny quickly jumped to her father's defense. “He does not!” she said reprovingly, then she couldn't help but giggle, as she continued, “He doesn't believe in ghosts and stuff. Only about alien abduction and things like that. Besides, before you make fun of him, remember what Pictou really is and just who is sitting in the back seat.”
They had talked to
Darren Molloy early in the afternoon. Daniel and Jenny had given a recap
of everything that had happened, Jenny doing most of the talking and
a quick demonstration of Pictou Transforming had certainly convinced
her father of the validity of the account.
Darren thought for
a few moments, rubbing his chin, then began to smile. He told them,
“I have just the man for you. His name is Oskar Nordstrom, and he
was a bitter enemy of Sandler's. His grandfather was a Swede who married
a German woman. He was a jeweler in Berlin, and, after Hitler came to
power, he realized the way things were going very early.”
Darren smiled with
admiration, “Nordstrom established a branch in Switzerland, and started
making frequent trips between the two countries and then he began helping
people wanting to get out of the country. He converted their jewelry
and other valuables into cash that would make it easier for them to
get out of Germany. He also began acting as their banker, since many
of them didn't want to be caught with a lot of money on their person.
On Nordstrom's frequent trips to Switzerland he would bring their money
with him and establish accounts in Swiss banks, which they would be
able to get to either if they escaped to Switzerland or after the war.”
Darren continued with
the story, “Nordstrom was able to continue until the summer of 1943,
when the Gestapo began to get suspicious. He took his wife and slipped
over the border into Swiss territory where he continued to run his business
until the end of the war. Not all of those he helped made it, but many
did, and their money was waiting in Swiss banks when the war ended.”
Darren paused for an
moment before resuming, “Many of them came to the States, and in 1947
he decided to follow them, and he built up a profitable jewelry business,
a part of which was a hock shop. A hockshop for the rich. People who
needed quick money but didn't want to part with their expensive jewelry
would hock it with his company. Since in essence it was a loan, he charged
interest. Still it was safer than going to a bank, when rumor alone
could ruin a company that in reality was only a little short of cash
for the short term. He provided absolute secrecy. His only child who
was born in 1949, and Oskar, the present owner was born in 1970, provided,
and still provide, the same service.”
Darren grinned again, a look of delight on his face, “And best of all. He's a believer.”
It was after the children's
bedtime; aside from the presence of Oskar Nordstrom, it was a repeat
of the afternoon meeting. They were going through the story again quickly,
Pictou already having demonstrated his changing ability.
Nordstrom had a poker
face, and it didn't show what he didn't want it to show. Symin with
his Empathy, could tell he was skeptical, then astonished, then surprise
beginning to fade, as the tale continued. There was a brief period of
savage delight when he heard what Symin had done to Sandler earlier
in the day. Nordstrom realized that he would be one of the few ever
to know what had really happened at Sandler's shop that had led to the
The news program called
it an unexplained phenomenon on the newscasts earlier in the day. They
also announced during the broadcast that even though they didn't know
exactly what had happened the three salespeople were going to receive
the reward that Santana had offered.
It was a very satisfied
Symin who went up to bed a couple of hours later, an agreement worked
out on how he would get money when he needed it. They decided that Symin
would send information to Daniel and Jenny via Pictou, and that Darren,
who led a much more active lifestyle than his daughter and son-in-law,
would get the items wanted. He had retired with thirty-years on the
force, but he was still only fifty-two, and he did a variety of things
that they would never do as well as some they would.
Something Darren would do was skydiving, which they wouldn't touch. He liked to race cars, and a variety of other extreme activities. He also liked to ski, which was something they also did. He would more easily be able to explain any odd items he might purchase.
They were back at the
Jenkin's orchard, from which they would return directly to the little
pool at the foot of The Plateau. Symin was a bit sad now that it was
time to leave, but he was ready. Both Travis and Jason, close to tears,
had decided to stay at home with Jenny, who didn't like saying goodbyes.
She had sent Danni in her place, and she had just finished giving Symin
Symin grinned up at
her, and then he unzipped the backpack, taking out an object loosely
wrapped in cloth, offering it to Danni, Daniel and Darren standing a
couple of feet behind her. Symin spoke out loud. “I intended to give
this to Jenny, but since you're her representative, I want to present
this to your family, as an expression of gratitude.”
She eagerly unfolded
the cloth to see what contained, and uncovered one of his exquisite
carvings. She gave a soft, “Ooohhh!!!” of absolute delight echoed
by both Daniel and Darren. Of green jade, it was a perfect five-inch
tall statue of Pictou, wings folded to his body and Symin holding his
staff in his right hand and his left arm around Pictou's neck. Later,
when they looked at it under a magnifying glass, they would be astonished
by the detail and the incredible likeness.
Symin touched the little
statue on the unicorn's horn. “I took a bit of liberty here. It's
as Pictou's horn will be in a couple of months, when fully regenerated.
He should be remembered at his most handsome.”
Zipping up the backpack,
he slung one strap over his shoulder, and then started to shake hands
with the two men. He was a little surprised when Daniel swept him up
in his arms and gave him an affectionate hug. The man's mind filled
with a love that surprised Symin. He hadn't realized a man could feel
such emotion for someone who wasn't related to him by blood, or other
close ties. He returned the hug fiercely, tears ready to fall.
Symin's goodbye to
Darren was a little more conventional, simply a handshake. He saw much
of Jenny and, surprisingly, of Daniel in the man, but still their period
of acquaintance was too short to build up much feeling between them.
They stood back though
there really was no need; they were simply giving him his space. Danni
was the most excited. She could hardly wait to get home and show the
statue to Jenny and her brothers. He put his arm around Pictou's neck
and the unicorn began to build up energy to Transport. Then the unicorn
said *Ready, whenever you are!*
Pictou gave a nod of
his horned head to the two men and young girl, Symin giving one last
wave, after taking several deep breaths said, *Go!!*
The familiar disorientation
came over him, as they entered and then excited the void a minute and
a half later, to arrive beside the little pool. Symin had been sad to
leave but he was just as ecstatic to get back, and he gave a Mind-Shout,
*I'M HOME!!!* and it was heard with glee by Maxim on The Plateau, and
in Bremen, Dearna paused in watering her herbs to give a little nod
and a smile.
Much farther away, in Camara, Sinya threw the cards she was holding in her hands in the air and then began cursing. She'd just thrown four of a kind away, and it had been such a nice pot. His other Elven relatives also heard him, broad smiles coming to many of their faces, especially Karliv, Kraftin and his Great-Grandmother in Temple city.
Symin has only one
thing right now that he wants to have the money to buy at some future
date. He saw it on television during the period he was first on Earth
and it was on a National Geographic program. He has no intention of
ever bringing advanced weapons to his world.