For the last few days, Symin had been taking it easy, not doing any magic, just catching up on his carving. Prince Tamen had left him the Diamond Obsidian stone that Symin had purchased from Bran Dumar, the boy was now using it for some larger carvings. Pictou, in both forms, one of which he intended to send to Sinya and the other to Karliv as well as carvings of the Kings of both Camron and Madron. Symin intended to send them to Prince Tamen, letting him decide what to do with them.
This afternoon he intended to do some serious testing on his powers that had become more powerful when he'd become a Lesser Mage. It was like a series of levels that Magic Users went through. The first level was ordinary Magic Users and though some people had talents that were even more powerful than a Great Mage, still they weren't Great Mages. Rising to the level of Lesser Mage as Symin had done meant that he had more power. He wanted to know exactly what he could do now.
Maxim was at the castle
picking up supplies. Since it was somewhat harder to keep them fresh
with the extra humidity that the rainy season produced, they renewed
them more often. Timoh and Dimon were out with the sheep as usual taking
their sheepdog Clar with them.
Only Pictou was still with him, being as lazy as Danni had mentioned when they were on Earth. His philosophy was, never go any place if you didn't have to. If you had to go somewhere, never run when you could fly or walk, never fly or walk when you could get a ride. Further, when in one place, it was never stand when you could sit; never sit when you could lie done.
Therefore, as mentioned, Pictou who had stayed at the cottage with Symin was lying down, beside the comfortable armchair that Symin was sitting in. Symin looked down at Pictou and asked, “Ready?”
Pictou just rolled his eyes at the boy, telling him sarcastically, *Symin, why would it matter if I was ready or not, I'm not going anywhere.*
Symin sighed, then smiled, saving to Pictou, “I don't know. It just seemed to be the polite thing to do.” He sat back in the chair, wriggling a little to get comfortable and invoked his Astral Spirit. Not bothering to appear he used Mind-Speech, *I'll be right back.* and he headed for the border, from which he had traveled a few months before, a Lesser Mage in his stage of development might perhaps be able to just reach the border which was almost exactly one hundred miles from Bremen and an additional seven miles from The Plateau.
Symin traveled slowly since he wanted to know where he was when he could no longer more forward. As he began to reach his maximum range his journey slowed even more, affected by magical resistance. Then Symin was able to go no further. He saw that he was close to the border as he remembered, coming back from Yersine's Fortress in Madron.
Drawing back a few hundred yards, Symin found he was at mile stone 408, showing that he was four hundred and eight miles from the capital of Camron, so his maximum range was just over one hundred and one miles. He let go and just snapped back into his body. He looked down at Pictou, telling him, “A little over one hundred miles, now let's see how far I can get using the dagger.”
He invoked his Astral form again; being just a trifle overconfident this time Symin headed for the capital far faster, not expecting to get anywhere near it, figuring maybe twice the range would be reasonable. He could feel himself getting close to his maximum range, but he had not yet begun to slow down when he stopped abruptly. A little shaken, the sudden stop giving him a headache. He drew back a little and saw the almost transparent curtain of a Warded area.
Symin was shocked when he realized that it had to be the Palace Ward. That was three hundred and five miles. He figured that he had at least another fifty miles in him, before he reached his maximum range. Symin was so used to talking to Sinya at the Palace that he had subconsciously, headed directly for it, not expecting to get that far. Karliv had indicated that there was some risk in hitting a Ward as he had just done, but the dagger must have been lessened the danger.
Moving slowly forward, Symin easily passed through the Ward. He thought to himself, 'Well that's a good thing to know. Even though using the God-blade, I can pass through a Ward, I can't do it while moving at full speed.'
Heading for Sinya's quarters, he found her luxuriating in a leisurely bath. He noticed with a little bit of envy that the tub that she was using was considerably more elegant than the small metal one that they used at the cottage or even at Ascalon Castle.
Not normally a practical joker, Symin absolutely couldn't resist. Sitting on a table within Sinya's reach was a bucket of warm water, obviously for her to use in rinsing. Washing her hair, Sinya carefully kept her eyes closed. Getting soap in your eyes was painful considering the type of soap they used on Lythea. Sinya didn't see the bucket lift off the table, then hover over her head for a second before turning over and cascading down over her head.
Totally unexpected, Sinya lost her balance and went under the surface of the water coming up spluttering. Looking up she could see the upended bucket still above her head. Slowly it righted itself and floated back to the table. Symin let a little of the humor that he felt escape from his mind into hers.
Recognizing the flavor of that thought pattern, Sinya's eyes widened with surprise, “Symin?” she gasped out.
He appeared in front of her, and gave her a slow elegant bow. “I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist.” since he was grinning from ear to ear, his apology was obviously bogus.
Sinya shook her fist at him, mock anger on her face as she said, “Just wait, someday when you least expect it, I'll get even. Just ask Karliv?”
Symin shivered with mock contrition, his gray eyes dancing with humor. Then she thought of something asking, “Where are you? Are you close to the capital?”
Symin shook his head, “No, I'm still on The Plateau. As I told you, I'm now a Lesser Mage. I wanted to test my new limits. Without the God-blade, I was able to reach the border. With it, and as you can see I'm holding it, I headed in this direction. I certainly never expected to be able to come this far. I could feel that I wasn't quite at my limit, but I banged into the Palace Ward and since I did manage to make it this far, I felt I should visit, though I won't stay long. I've still got a lot I've got to figure out today.”
Sinya shrugged, “Well,
you interrupted my bath, but I was almost through anyway.” dryly she
said, “I more or less had to rinse my hair, so you actually saved
me a bit of trouble.” She stood up in the tub, and he was as unconcerned
by her nudity as she was.
She asked casually,
“Hand me my towel before you leave, will you?”
Symin looked at the towel that was lying on her bed; it lifted into the air and wafted over to her. As Sinya began to dry herself, he said, “Tell Cartan, hello. Don't tell Prince Tamen that I was here. He finds my ability to pass through Wards useful, but it seems to make him a little uneasy.”
Sinya stopped drying herself for a moment, saying to him seriously, “He does tend to be a little paranoid, but that's his job really. If you were responsible for the security of a whole country and of the Royal Family, I can assure you, you'd be paranoid as well.”
Symin grinned in agreement,
then giving her another slow elegant bow he disappeared. Once he had
passed through the Ward, he let go and snapped back into his body. He
reported what had taken place to Pictou and when Symin had finished,
he saw that Pictou looked a little wistful. Symin raised his eyebrows
Pictou told him with a sigh of regret, *Oh, I'm just a little envious. We unicorns, aside from the ability to Transport and to fly and the defensive ability of Concealment don't have many other magical abilities. Of course, we have Mind-Speech, without that it would be very hard for my people to communicate, with each other and other beings. The sounds that we can make have little meaning, though they do show emotions. Perhaps we would have developed a spoken language if we had needed to.”
Symin considered, “Maybe you could come into my mind and go on a journey with me. I want to discover what I can do, but I'm not in any particular rush.”
When Pictou looked at him eagerly, but not saying anything, the boy said, “Done deal!”
Invoking his Astral Spirit once more, Symin reached out for Pictou's mind and prepared to bring it into his, identical to the process of allowing one of his Elven relatives to see through his eyes. He felt Pictou's mind start to enter, but then it sort of hesitated and he watched with wide eyes as an Astral Spirit was drawn out of Pictou's body. It took a few moments to appear completely but after a few minutes, it was fully visible.
Symin had not made himself visible, so they should not have been able to see each other. Yet they could. Then as they looked closely, they saw a thin line connecting them, watching with astonishment, as it began to thicken, until it was a bar of solid white light. Entwined with orange and blue, the colors of Symin's aura, spiraling along it. Completely separate and quite a distance from Symin's but the same thickness as the orange and blue, was a green spiral which was the color of Pictou's aura.
Symin was astonished and the state that Pictou was in could only be described as speechless. Symin said faintly, “I think we had better ask Kraft” and abruptly they were in Divandia in Kraftin's classroom at the university, “in,” completed Symin, even more faintly. They were in a small classroom with about a dozen students and Kraftin, and at the top of the blackboard, it read History of Magic, with a dozen lines underneath it.
Symin realized that
he and Pictou weren't visible to other eyes even though they were visible
to each other. He made himself appear startling the magic students though
Kraftin looked at him calmly. Symin realized that they were looking
at him, but not at Pictou. Looking down at himself, he saw that he was
completely solid this time as if he were actually there in person rather
than in Astral form. Looking at the unicorn, Symin saw that Pictou seemed
to be as solid as a visible Astral Spirit normally was. There was a
desk within easy reach of Symin's right hand and he reached out and
touched it. Actually touched it, though it didn't feel as if it would
normally. He had to concentrate for a few seconds before his hand actually
passed through it.
“Ah, Kraftin, I think we need some help!” Symin said, with concern in his voice, large gray eyes wide.
Kraftin narrowed his eyes, he had never seen Symin quite like this. He wasn't frightened or even worried, just uncertain. Kraftin said, “Well ladies and, gentlemen, this is my nephew, Symin Ascalon. I know you've all heard his name. It seems that he needs some aid, so I will postpone this class until tomorrow at least. I will see you then.”
The students, like most students everywhere were quite glad to get unexpected free time so they filed out of the class quickly. Kraftin, raised his eyebrow at Symin, “We, you said Symin?”
Symin showed Pictou how to appear. As the unicorn did so, Kraftin sat down on his desk, surprise evident on his face. He said a bit of disbelief in his voice, “Karliv said that you had met a unicorn. I wasn't totally sure that he wasn't making fun of me, since he's done it in the past. He knows that I have more belief that some of the mythical creatures that we know of, actually existed than he does.”
Then something occurred to him, and like Sinya earlier Kraftin asked, “Where are you?”
He was astonished when he heard Symin's answer, “We're at my cottage back on The Plateau.”
With a somewhat strangled voice, Kraftin said, “That's close to eleven hundred miles. Karliv's expertise is in the Astral form, and at that distance, you can barely see him. You two are so solid that you look real.”
Symin looked at Pictou, then he knocked on the desk with his hand, and Pictou stamped on the floor with his front hoof a couple of times. The noise, he and Pictou made weren't quite what it would have been if they were actually there, but it took a keen ear, to tell the difference.
Symin told Kraftin,
“When I did that before, and then passed my hand through the desk,
I had to concentrate for a few seconds before it would go through it.”
“If you came here first, you don't know your full range? Do you have any guesses?” Kraftin asked intently.
Symin looked thoughtful as he pondered it seriously for a couple of minutes, before answering, confidently, “I get the feeling that we're much less than halfway.”
Pictou answered as well, *I get that same feeling. A feeling that we have plenty of power in reserve.*
Symin said, “Maybe
the link is what is doing it?”
“Link. What link?” Kraftin asked, sharply.
Symin looked at him with surprise, then he hit himself on the forehead, realizing that he was taking too much for granted. First, he'd assumed because he and Pictou were visible, he had assumed because they could see the link that Kraftin could do so as well. Symin looked at the link and began to concentrate on making it appear, with no luck. Looking at Pictou, Symin asked, “Help me make the Link visible.”
With both of them concentrating, the Link took on the solidity that their bodies had. Kraftin gave a whistle as it came into view, moving closer to look at it more closely.
He spoke absently as
he examined the close to two-inch thick round bar of light, “I've
seen links like this on occasion between close members of a family,
especially twins. Normally they're visible to any Lesser or Great Mage.
There is a pair of Great Mage twins, and their link is barely half of
an inch in thickness. I'm afraid you will find that the link is permanent,
you'll be connected for the rest of your lives.”
Kraftin was in a classroom
after all, and he said with a little bit of lecturing tone in his voice.
“I've also done some reading on the subject, there are both good and
bad aspects to it. On the one hand, it will make you much more powerful
than you are separately, as your very presence here shows; on the other
hand, if one of you is killed by magical means then the other could
die as well. We do know that the natural death of one doesn't always
affect the other. However, we aren't aware of what a violent physical
death of one will do to the other or others in this case.”
a startled Symin while the same question came from Pictou at the same
time in Mind-Speech, *Others?!!*
Kraftin nodded firmly,
saying, “Yes, others. I once examined triplets who were high Magic
Users. I first came across them when they were in their early twenties.
Their link was very thin, their aura's were green in color, the link
a solid green. It wasn't until almost forty years later when one of
them died of a heart attack, that we realized that the link actually
consisted of three segments; because where the dead triplet's aura had
been was a white spiral of light.”
“Based on the width
of your two auras, there will be an additional three links of equal
strength,” Kraftin told them but as he was to find out while that
was true in one sense, it wasn't completely accurate.
“What should we do?!!”
asked Symin intently.
Kraftin told them,
judiciously, “Well the first thing you should do, is look for your
other links, so that you have your full power available. I don't know
what the Gods have planned for you, but with just the two of you, you're
more powerful than any two Mages who have ever lived on Lythea.”
“All right, that's what we'll do. Good-bye.” and absently Symin let go, snapping back into his body. Opening his eyes, he realized that Pictou wasn't with him that the link stretched off into the distance. Invoking his Astral Spirit, he returned to Kraftin's classroom where both Pictou and Kraftin, had astonishment on their faces.
Symin said sheepishly and his face was red with embarrassment, “I forgot that Pictou doesn't know the quick way to get back to his body,” he told Pictou how to just let go and that he would snap beck into his body. This time Symin said, “I'll count to three and we'll both let go. One, two, three.” and this time as he let go he could feel Pictou do so as well.
The line was still
completely visible after they returned to their bodies. With common
consent, they faded it out of sight. Out of sight but not out of their
minds. They could actually feel the Link, and they were in a continuous
light mind-to-mind contact, not needing to make a conscious effort to
talk to each other.
“Now how do we find
the other members of the link?” asked Symin.
**I'm not familiar
with magic, other than what I already possess. How do you usually go
about learning new magical skills?** asked Pictou.
Symin told him seriously,
“I just imagine what I want to happen, sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn't. That's pretty well the way Karliv taught me to invoke my
**Then imagine away, young Symin! Imagine away!** said Pictou obvious humor in his mind.
The young boy then tried to imagine finding the link, but he was trying too hard, when he giggled and relaxed, both Symin and Pictou could feel an immediate connection to something. In fact, it was very, very close and when they followed the connection to its end, they both said at the same time, one out loud and one in Mind-Speech, “Maxim!!!”
Maxim was just jumping down from the seat of the cart, outside of the cottage. At a couple of months under fourteen, he was as Dearna told him about fourteen to sixteen months away from puberty. Not unusual for their world, however, he had filled out, and he was no longer the string bean he had been when he first became Symin personal servant. He shook the water out of his wet dark brown hair. Going around to the back of the cart. He pulled out two large bags and brought them into the cottage.
Symin told him intently, “Maxim, you can put that stuff away later. Undo the cart and give Atine a quick grooming. Pictou and I would like to have a word with you.”
Maxim was astonished; it was the first time since he'd known him that Symin had addressed him so seriously, though he had heard him use that tone to others. Curious, he hurried, and was back inside the cottage within half an hour.
Symin threw him a large towel and Maxim stripped off his short trousers, knowing he would be traveling in the rain he hadn't bothered with a shirt and began drying himself. Symin told him what had occurred that afternoon and that he was the third member of the Link, if he wanted to become part of it.
Maxim was drying his hair at the time, and he slowly lowered the towel looking at the younger boy with pure joy in his eyes. He had come to love the little boy soon after he had become his servant, wishing many times that he could go with him and join in his adventures. He burst out, “Yes, yes, yes!!” and continuing to chant the single word, he began to dance around the small room. He grabbed Symin, continuing to hop around.
Symin said in exasperation, “Stop that, let me down, you big ape!!” For one of the few times since he had begun to use the Sense of Perception Symin lost track of exactly where he was. He gave a screech when Maxim did let go of him, expecting to hit the floor, he was startled when his feet hit the bed and he fell backward onto the soft mattress.
Symin began muttering to himself. Pictou said, with amusement, **You can't do that, we need him for the Link.**
Symin pushed himself to a sitting position, and saw that Maxim was about to pull on a dry pair of short trousers. Symin told him, “Before you get dressed let me put some magic on them so they'll come with you.”
Having done that Maxim got dressed, and after lying down again, Symin invoked Astral form, going back over how he had linked to Pictou. He realized that while it was close to the way he let his Elven relatives see through his eyes, it wasn't quite the same. Making himself appear he looked at Maxim, “Now I could get you back for dropping me like that, but you could hurt yourself when you fell, so sit down somewhere.”
Since Symin hadn't reclaimed the armchair, Maxim promptly sat down in it, hands tight on the arms. With care now that he was aware of what would happen, Symin made the Link and Maxim stood up. The Link was now three way, being orange and blue, then two widths of white then the blue of Maxim and then the green of Pictou. Maxim looked at it wide eyed, until his attention jerked back to Symin as he said, “We should test it out before we try to find the other links. Why don't you think of something you would like to see?"
Maxim thought it over and then his eyes lit up, and suddenly they were ankle deep in water. Salt water and they could feel something from the water though it not as deeply felt, as it would be normally. Pictou and Symin realized at the same moment that this wasn't the ocean along the Camron coast. They were clear across the continent more than three thousand miles from The Plateau and almost thirty-five hundred from the East coast of Camron. All three knew somehow that they could still go at least another thousand miles before they reached their limit.
This time Symin carefully explained to Maxim how to return to his body, and the three let go to snap back.
They invoked their Astral form once more. Again, Symin took the lead, as he always would. He felt an attraction to something, and it was in the direction of Divandia. Following the connection, three Linked beings landed in an unfamiliar place but to Symin and Maxim, very familiar people. Unbeknownst to him it was the library of Duke Rendar's home in the capital, and as when Symin had first seen them they were almost in the same position. At that time Terrion had been wearing a slave collar and had been naked, and was now clothed in a pair of dark green short trousers. Terrion was kneeling with one knee on a chair, looking down at a chessboard where Rendar was about to make a move, and doing a little bit of verbal teasing. A high Magic User, being a Far-Speaker, Terrion was much more sensitive than most stiffening as he felt that something wasn't quite right.
As Terrion turned to look in their direction, the two boys and the unicorn took on solid form. He knew Symin quite well, and he worshiped him. Symin made it possible for him to learn how to read. Through a Gift of Healing given Symin by the Gods, he had given Terrion vocal cords allowing Terrion to talk for the first time. Terrion had met Maxim, on the journey from Yersine's Fortress to Camara, Camron's capital, but his eyes were caught and held by Pictou.
Realizing that they must be there in Astral form, Terrion said wistfully, “I don't suppose I can touch him?”
Symin, fully aware of the attraction Pictou had, especially to children, smiled, telling him, “Actually Terry, you can.” Symin was close to a wall and he gave several knocks. “We're in Astral form, but we seem to be a much more solid Astral form than I've ever heard of before.”
Eagerly Terrion approached Pictou, and just as eagerly, the unicorn waited for his approach. He loved someone petting him in either of his forms, and as Terrion began to stroke him, Pictou said in astonishment. **It feels almost normal!!**
Symin, a thoughtful look on his small face, said, “Terry, give him a pinch.” When the younger boy gave him a reproachful look, Symin chuckled, telling him, “Don't worry, I don't want to hurt him, I just want to find out something so pinch hard!”
Reluctantly, but trusting
Symin, Terrion took a fold of skin, and gave it a good hard pinch. Pictou
who had looked somewhat apprehensive, said with relief, **I didn't feel
that at all!**
Symin told them thoughtfully, “I think what is happening is that our minds are remembering what the pleasant feeling was like and is giving us false sensations, but when it's something unpleasant our minds block that feeling. But don't get overconfident, I have a feeling if someone was with us on the Astral plane a Mind-Blast would be quite painful, if not fatal.”
Symin looked at Rendar
noticing what appeared to be a piece of string, stretching between the
man and Terrion. Sky blue and violet in color. He realized that it was
actually a link, the man and boy having magically bonded.
For the second time
that afternoon, Symin went through the explanation about the links.
Finishing with, “I don't know if the two of you are aware of it, but
you are already bonded. I can see the link between you, so you'll also
become part of the Link, Ren, though I don't think you'll be a major
part.” He looked at Rendar thoughtfully, feeling it out, then continued,
“No you won't be a major part of the Link, but you will be part of
it, through Terry.”
“Will you become part of the Link, Rendar and Terrion?” Symin asked a bit anxiously.
Rendar asked him gravely, “You've had feelings before that had turned out to be accurate. How important do you think this is?”
Symin said, grimly and with complete seriousness, “I think it's the most important thing that has ever happened to our world!!!”
Rendar looked at Terrion and Symin knew they were using Mind-Speech. They talked for several moments then Terrion nodded his head, and with a little more reluctance so did Rendar.
For the third time
that day, Symin established a Link. It was to Terrion and through Terrion
to Rendar. As Symin had suspected Rendar didn't become a major part
of the Link. Instead, a thin strand of his violet aura entwined with
the much thicker strand of Terrion's sky blue aura and when the link
was fully established, Terrion bonded to each of the other three. Rendar
only linked to Terrion but that link had become much thicker, around
half an inch or slightly more.
Symin was looking solemn,
thinking deeply. Then he looked at Rendar asking, “Can you put up
three guests for a couple of days, Ren?”
And how?” Rendar asked nodding.
Symin said with deep
gravity, “To find the last link I have the feeling that we're going
to have to be together. How? We'll have to Transport here. I did it
once at Yersine's Fortress by accident, and I think we can do it now,
despite the distance, but after we get there we may need to rest for
a couple of days before trying to make the last contact.”
“Once we leave we have a few things to do around the cottage before we can return, but it shouldn't take more than an hour.” Symin grinned. “Have a big meal waiting for us when we return.”
Turning to the others, he said to them, “Time to go home. When you get back Pictou, Terrion will love to keep petting you, and in dog form there's so many more places that he can reach.”
Pictou gave an audible sigh, and with humor he addressed them, **Very well, if I must I must.**
One by one, the three let go and snapped back to their bodies, their Astral forms disappearing like soap bubbles popping one after the other.
Once home it didn't
take long to get ready. Maxim after putting the supplies away made sure
that Atine and Anya had feed and water, Symin poured water on the fire
and made sure it was completely out and Pictou did what he did best,
lying on the floor, head on paws and watched. Maxim coming in the door
turned the small crosspiece on the door to a vertical position to tell
Timoh and Dimon that they would be gone for a while.
An hour after they left Rendar's home they were back. The physical Transport didn't take as much out of them as Symin had expected. They could have tried to make the last contact right away. However, he decided that they would wait for the next day, to get a little rest and to have both Kraftin and Karliv there, for advice.
They were in the library, Kraftin, Karliv and Rendar were sitting in armchairs, the boys and Pictou were all on the floor. Terrion was leaning against Rendar's armchair, arm around Pictou's neck, who was in dog form. Symin and Maxim were leaning against Karliv and Kraftin's chairs respectively.
Those in the Link joined their minds and started searching for the last member of the bond, with Terrion being a Far-Speaker distance was now no barrier. They could feel something, but they couldn't find that something.
They dissolved the mind link and began discussing the problem. Kraftin silently took everything in. Finally, the others were talked out, completely baffled. They looked at the elder Elf and they could see he was still thinking. Hopefully they watched him. Finally, Kraftin gave a nod, and looking at the others telling them, “Perhaps you might not be able to find the last link on this world, because it isn't on this world? After all, Pictou is not from this world. If he hadn't been here you would have had to find some way to look on other worlds.”
Symin, with that idea
in his mind now, looked at Terrion, “Terry take off your short trousers,
and I'll add a little magic to them, otherwise you're going to appear
naked.” Terrion grinned at that, he tended to go naked quite a bit.
Obediently he slipped out of his clothing, watching with interest as
Symin added a little magic to them, then took them back and redressed.
Turning to Pictou, Symin asked, “Do you think you can Transport into the Void in Astral form?”
In answer, Pictou invoked his Astral form and waited while the rest joined him. It took a couple of minutes while Terrion learned how to invoke his own Astral form. They found that Rendar couldn't assume Astral form, but he was in full mind contact with Terrion seeing and feeling everything the boy could. However, they would find that Terrion could block Rendar out if necessary.
Symin, wanted to see if Pictou could get into the Void in Astral form but also wanting to see if the bond would draw them in with him or if they had be physically in contact. They stayed where they were, though they Linked their minds. Pictou Transported into the Void, and it happened more easily than it ever done in his physical body, and the other three were with him. For a change, the darkness of the Void didn't affect them quite as badly as it normally would, since they were able to see each other.
They could all feel something but couldn't feel anything definite, except for Terrion. Confidently, he pointed in a direction, and said, “That way!”
Pictou said, “There's a world in that direction, it'll take five hours to get there.” They all concentrated on heading in that direction, and in minutes, they reached their destination. Pictou said dryly, “Well, I guess Astral travel in the Void is just a trifle faster than regular travel.”
Concentrating, he Transported
them into the new world. They came out, just outside of a cage, inside
of which was trapped a horribly injured dragon. She was an emerald green
in color, but her blood that was as red as their own, was dripping down
from three long wounds in her side.
She was unconscious, breathing heavily in pain, and encased in a double Ward of Diamond Obsidian stones. The inner four were facing inward and formed an inverted Ward and the other four outward. Symin experienced with Diamond Obsidian stones examined the Wards.
He swore vehemently,
the four inner stones linked and the four outer stones also linked and
somehow a link had been created between the two rings. The two rings
linked to each other, yet at the same time, they were separate. Whoever
had put these rings together knew what he was doing, if you drained
one the other would explode. Only by having the key or by draining both
rings at the same time could they disarm the rings. Since there were
eight stones, it would simply be a guess, which was the key stone. Without
knowing that they couldn't proceed.
Pictou put his head on Symin's shoulder, *Have a look at the tip of my horn.*
Symin did as was told and then for a second he was puzzled, before he realized that the end of the horn looked exactly like the blade of his dagger. He reached out, and with wonder, he realized that it was exactly like his dagger. He felt jubilation as he realized that they COULD drain both of the rings at once.
They hurried, because they didn't know how long the dragon could last, Symin giving instructions to Pictou then penetrating, into the inner Ward. Pictou penetrated the outer Ward and stood with hoof just above one of the Diamond Obsidian stones. Symin knelt on bare knees ready to plunge his fist into his stone. He held the hand holding the dagger outside the inner layer of the Wards, carefully pointed away from Pictou. Symin shouted, “On three. One, two, three.” Simultaneously one small hand and one hoof carefully adjusted so they would penetrate at the same time, plunged down to enter the stones.
Symin's dagger began
discharging outside the inner layer of the Wards while Pictou was able
to point his horn straight at the sky, as he let off Mind-Blasts. Not
imbued with a lot of power, even through they were in two rings of four,
the stones drained quickly. When the Wards went down, they quickly moved
around the ring, each rendering four stones harmless.
They had taken from the Wards the knowledge of how to stop physical intrusion as well as magical attacks on the Ward itself or on the stones. After sheathing his dagger, Symin looked with pity at the dragon, “Now what do we do?” he asked, perplexed, standing with his hands on his hips.
Maxim was looking down at his glowing hands and said with awe, “Not what you do. You help me do what I have to do.” Symin looked at him and he could feel the Healing energy radiating from Maxim. He realized that Maxim must have had Healing magic, but it was so minor, it had only shown up as the farming magic the rest of his family had, now as part of the Link, Maxim was a powerful Healer.
Maxim placed his hands on the dragon's side just above the wounds, and began to concentrate an intent look on his small face. She was very close to death. If it hadn't been for the Link continually feeding him energy, Maxim would have had no chance with what he had started off with. Even with their aid, it would be a close thing. However, Maxim knew instinctively that unlike Healing most beings all he had to do was provide the Healing energy, which would mix with her magic and automatically do the Healing
Slowly, the Healing
power began to make its way to the surface, and after a time, Maxim,
realized that she was out of danger, though still unconscious. Finally,
the gaping wounds closed completely, just scars left.
Maxim knew somehow that if it had been a human, an Elf or one of the other humanoid inhabitants of Lythea, the Healing would have been much more difficult. With his inexperience and the damage, she had suffered perhaps impossible; certainly, it would have exhausted all of them. Maxim looked at Symin, and asked uncertainly, “I could fix the scars too, what do you think? ”
Looking over her length, Symin could see several other scars, much worse than the ones now on her side. He nibbled on his lower lip for a moment before saying decisively, “Leave them!! They'll be a reminder of what someone did to her! How long before she wakes up.”
Maxim said, positively, “An hour or so is my best guess.” he rubbed the back of his neck, then shrugged, saying, “I have absolutely no idea why that time period seems right! But it is!”
Terrion said, “Ren,
has been watching, he told me that they put a canopy up in the garden
and they've gotten sleep pads for us and moved us out there. If she's
the last link and agrees to come with us, we'll need the extra space.”
In fact, it was almost
exactly an hour later, when the dragon woke up. First, her head twitched
and then it rose up off the ground. Craning her long neck, she had a
look at her side, where the wounds had been. She gave them a quick lick,
then rolled over until she was lying on all fours. She looked closely
at the stones, that had been Warding her in, realized that they no longer
contained any magic. One by one, she swallowed them and when done she
looked around until she saw the three boys and the unicorn, on the hillside
*Your work?* she asked nodding at the scars.
Symin said, waving
at Maxim, *Maxim did the actual work; the rest of us just supplied the
energy. He could have removed the scars as well, but I had a feeling
that you would want to keep those.”
She nodded, and they
could all feel the grimness in her mind, as she said, *Yes, you were
quite right, that'll be a reminder of those who did this to me. How
did you find me?” She asked them.
*We were looking for
you,* said Symin and he did a quick recap for what seemed like the umpteenth
*And you think I am
the last of the links?* she asked, skeptically.
*Oh, we know you are. When the Wards were up we couldn't tell for sure, but as soon as they went down, we knew.* Terrion interjected. All of them concentrated and the rope of the Link appeared. He told her, *There is just the one space left. Will you join us?*
She didn't have to think for long before she nodded her long neck, *Yes, I believe that we will find that my enemy is your enemy. I am glad to accept your offer. My name is Tessilonika by the way.*
The others considered
that seriously, and finally, Symin asked, “Do you mind if we call
you Tess, your full name is a bit long, if we run into an emergency,
even using Mind-Speech.”
*No, I would like that.* and they could all feel her glow of pleasure. *That is what my nest mates call me.*
Carefully Tess stretched her wings, which when folded were invisible, blending in perfectly with the rest of her body, but when stretched out they revealed the brilliant ruby red of her back. They were small for her size, but her flying was mainly accomplished by magic the wings were simply for propulsion.
Symin established the link easily, after doing it three times, he could have done it in his sleep, the orange color of her aura joining the others on the Link. Suddenly, they felt complete. Up to that moment, they hadn't really noticed it, but it was like an itch that had finally been scratched.
They luxuriated in the feeling for a time and then they reluctantly got ready to return to Lythea. Now dragons had the same ability as unicorns to Transport into the Void and move between worlds, but unlike unicorns who didn't breathe there, dragons needed to do so. They had developed a different method of traveling. They created a large shield, which kept the air in, and then contracted the shield until it was only slightly larger than the dragon itself. That compressed the air, and in effect, they had a bubble of air that would last for days.
It needed to last for days, because dragons also moved very slowly in the Void. For a unicorn, the trip between the world that they were on and Lythea would take five hours, for a dragon it would take fifty hours.
For Symin, who was
most familiar with Wards, this was very exciting. He realized that in
effect, the dragon was creating a type of Ward, which was like the Wards
that physically and magically caged her without needing to use a Ward
stone. From observing through the Link, all of the others could now
do the same thing.
**Tess, does what you
call your shield, work in both directions, or does it only keep things
in?** Symin asked.
Tess told him informatively, **It depends on how we invoke it. Doing so one way will keep things in. Doing so the second way and it works in both directions. We use it in combat. Of course I am only a little over three hundred of your years old, and while effective against dragons of my own age, it would be like holding a leaf up in front of me, if I tried to use it to defend against an adult dragon.**
Symin gravely said to her, **All of the abilities that we have, have become much stronger, and I think you'll find that your shield will be much stronger as well.**
Tess's shield had drawn
them in closer as well. Pictou spoke **Since we are in Astral form,
we will not be breathing any of your air, so you can Transport into
the Void now and we can head for Lythea.**
**Are you sure that
you want to come with me, it will take a long time.** Tess said.
**I don't think that
it will take as long as you think, with us to help you I think it will
be a much faster trip than you anticipate.** Pictou explained.
**Terry are you still
in communication with Ren?** Symin asked.
**Yes, even being on
another world didn't affect our communication, and the shield didn't
either,** Terrion replied.
Symin thinking about
it, shivered, saying, **It’s just as well; I just realized that what
we just did could have been very dangerous. Obviously our connection
to our bodies hasn’t been severed, but it might have been and we probably
would have died.**
Symin was really annoyed
with himself for not having thought things through before. He had learned
a lesson when he had first found his God-dagger, but he had ignored
the lesson in this case.
The rest of the Link
could feel Symin's fright as he transmitted if to them and they were
just as fearful thinking what could have happened. Finally, Maxim shrugged,
and said philosophically, **We’ve got abilities that no one has ever
had before. We’re going to learn things as we go. It’s like the
first being who tamed a wild horse. He had things to learn as he began
the task, and some things were dangerous, could even have gotten him
killed. He had to accept that fact, and so do we.**
After thinking about
it for a few moments, Symin sighed with acceptance. He said to them,
**Maxim is right. But in the future we’ll need to be more careful.**
the rest of the Link agreeing to the. Agreed yet at the same time in
the near future they were going to make a huge mistake that would drive
the point home in a manner that they would never forget.
Each of them examined
the ability that was now theirs and finally Symin said, **It appears
that no matter what type of shield Tess creates it won’t affect us,
not now that we’re a part of her. But we’ll need to be careful when
new abilities show up in the future. Okay, Tess it’s time to go.**
**All right.** said Tess, doubtfully, as she concentrated on building up the energy to Transport. It took much longer than it did Pictou, and it was close to four minutes before she had enough energy to Transport into the Void, and once she began it took almost twenty seconds.
Once in the Void, she had a bit of trouble picking out Lythea. Both dragons and unicorns had a perfect sense of time. They had to, so that they would know exactly how long it would take to reach a world. There were several worlds within minutes of the time it would take to reach Lythea.
Tess began to move through the Void, slowly and majestically. **All right everybody, lets see if we can give her a boost in speed.** Symin told them.
Joining their minds
to Tess's they began to concentrate on speeding her passage, and while
they couldn't tell if it was doing any good, after about an hour, both
Tess and Pictou said at the same time. **We're there!** Tess with astonishment
and Pictou with satisfaction.
**Pictou, you'd better transport us back. Terry tell Rendar to move Pictou out into the open, so there's plenty of space for Tess.** Symin said.
After a couple of minutes wait, **Symin, Ren says that Pictou is outside. We can come anytime.** said Terrion.
Pictou moved over in the bubble of air, so that there was plenty of space for Tess to land beside his body in the other world, and after building up power, he initiated Transport.
As soon as they were back on Lythea, and Tess had released her shield, they all released their hold on their Astral forms and returned to their bodies. The three boys got up from the sleeping pads in the pavilion and moved outside into the light rain. Pictou beside Tess got to his feet looking at their newest companion. The three adults looked in amazement at a mythical creature.
Tess said solemnly,
**I said that your enemy may be mine, and while I can't be sure of that,
I will explain why I think so. We knew that unicorns could travel the
Void, but we knew that they did not have any offensive magic. We knew
of no others, but about a hundred of your years ago, not very long in
our terms, a man, or at least one who looked like a man came out of
the Void and challenged our ruler. We had never expected that so our
challenge was not limited only to dragons.**
Tess said with scorn,
**When he Transported into our world he was very loud. All dragons could
hear him so that we always know when he’s leaving or arriving. Whether
it’s simply arrogance and he doesn’t care that everyone can hear
him or whether he’s so inexperienced that he can’t hide Transporting
into or out of the Void, I don’t know.**
Tess's voice became
a little more subdued as she continued telling the story, **His name
is Varagon, and he easily defeated our leader. We all became subservient
to him. For a time he seemed content to rule us, and do nothing else.
However, we found that he was simply waiting and learning. About eighty
of your years ago, he began to show his boredom. At least he was not
particularly cruel, we have had many who have been, and we tolerated
them. He had chosen our world for two reasons, one the fact that dragons
were high Magic Users, with many Lesser and Great Mages, and because
of those stones which Warded me in.**
Symin told her what
they called them on Lythea, trying first in regular speech. He figured
she would understand what he said through the Link, “We call them
Diamond Obsidian, because they resemble obsidian and yet are harder
then diamonds.” He was satisfied when she showed that she understood.
It was a piece of information that might or might-not be handy someday.
Tess nodded her long
neck, **Yes, the Diamond Obsidian stones. We are vegetarians, and our
idea of a good lunch is a nice evergreen tree. We have two stomachs,
the first of which breaks down the vegetation, and the second, which
completes the digestion. In order to help break down the touch vegetation
we swallow two types of stone. Obsidian, and a second harder mineral,
topaz. As the obsidian remains in our stomach, the combination of our
digestive juices and our magic changes them into Diamond Obsidian, long
before the topaz grinds them away completely. The topaz simply grinds
away all sharp edges. Now the Diamond Obsidian stones are the harder
substance, the topaz is in turn ground up, then passed through the digestive
Tess continued with
her explanation, **We retain the Diamond Obsidian stones because they
have an affinity for magic. We were aware of the fact that magic could
be placed into them making a Magic User much more dangerous, than would
normally be the case. We had never felt the need to use them as Artefacts
of Power. Our new ruler however began to send them to other worlds,
and this world in particular, though we do not know why?**
Suddenly there was
a difference in their surroundings; they were all standing in a large
glade. They could see people sitting on benches, but they couldn't make
them out, their outline was blurred. Symin who had been here once before
said with deep respect, “We are in the presence of the Gods!”
About fifty yards away
he could see a woman sitting on a bench. She was the only one not blurry,
but instead of having to go to her, the bench came to the visitors.
Those of noble blood and the two Elves performed the slow formal nobles
bow. Pictou and Tess simply nodded, and Maxim went to his knees, bowing
his head to Tamra the Mother-Goddess.
Tamra nodded to Symin,
telling him, “Hello, little one, and to all of the rest of you young
ones.” she smiled, “Yes, Kraftin, even you are considered a young
one here. We brought you here to share with you some things that you
need to know.”
Tamra's broad face
was solemn as she said, “Many years ago, we were Gods on a world where
the majority of eternal beings, decided first not to meddle in the lives
of the people, of their world, and then not to interfere at all. Those
of us now here, did not agree with the policy, of absolutely no interference
in the lives of the people. We tried talking to the others of our race
to allow some interaction, but we could not change their mind, so we
left that world, that universe and came here.”
Tamra gave a bit of
a smile, as she continued, “At first we were satisfied with the life
that was already here, though none of it was intelligent, but after
awhile we longed for interaction with intelligent beings. We searched
the universes and found peoples that for one reason or other were close
to extinction, and brought them here. Not because we wished to be worshiped,
but because we wished to be of help to someone.”
Tamra's face became
serious again, “We agreed among ourselves that our race in the old
universe had been wise, at the beginning, not to meddle in the broader
life of their people. We decided not to actively interfere, simply to
show that we approved or disapproved of some action taken. We limit
our meddling to individuals, who petitioned us via our priestesses and
priests, or on occasion in gifts to outstanding people, such as Symin.”
Tamra smiled as Symin
went bright red from the complement. She said, “Some of you perhaps
have heard of Flarston. Well he is much younger than the rest of those
who came here, so we allow him to do a little active meddling, since
most of it occurs only in Varryn. On occasion we have had to rein him
in somewhat, but on the whole he has been satisfied with his role.”
Tamra told them, her
face deadly serious, “Recently one of the Gods of our old world rebelled
against the rest of his people. Instead of leaving, as we had done,
he defied them by actively interfering in the lives of that world's
people, ending up causing a devastating war that killed millions. As
punishment this God, called Varagon was stripped of most of his power
and exiled. However what remains is such that no mortal acting alone,
can match his power.”
Tamra said with anger
in her voice, “When Varagon began to target this world, we protested
to our people, but they ignored our complaints, or at least they did
to some extent. However they told us that Varagon is no longer a God
so we may not deal with him directly, and there was an implied 'or else.'
We can not even consider a war between us, for one thing they vastly
outnumber us, but mainly because wars between Gods are unthinkable,
because of the devastation it would cause.”
Tamra shook her head, “Why your Link has developed at just the right time, we do not know. We did not plan it, nor did we help it form, but if we can't deal with him ourselves, that means it leaves it to you. You are the only ones able to fight Varagon. You cannot kill him, but it is possible that using the Diamond Obsidian stones you can trap him. They could not affect a God but as our people so aptly said, he is no longer a God. We wish you luck, and wish we could help, but you are on your own.”
--I use the symbol * for Mind-Speech, for Mind-Speech between those who are part of the Link, I will start it with and end it with **.