I use the symbol * for Mind-Speech, for Mind-Speech between those who are part of the Link, I will start it and end it with **.
They were back in the
garden under the canopy, and a table had been set up for the humans.
Tess had her head stuck inside after she had eaten her fill of hay from
the stables and a flowerbed, which had upset the gardener but hadn't
bothered Rendar. They were discussing what they should do. Connected
continuously to each other they had a constant buzz in their minds.
It was an entirely pleasant sensation, and if they concentrated on the
buzz, it separated into individual minds.
Symin said with a frown
on his small face, "We know of two worlds on which Varagon has
minions, our own and Tess's world. First, we're going to have to start
with our world. Pictou, I killed the leader of one of the teams that
have on our world. Do you know how many teams there are all told?"
**Three, two full teams
and as you said part of a team.** said Pictou, with assurance that he
would come to regret.
"Tess, tell us
a little about your people?" Symin asked.
She nodded, **Well
our social structure is very simple despite what many dragons like to
think. We're a might makes right society. The most powerful being becomes
the ruler, and all dragons are supposed to obey the leader, whether
they are right or wrong. In point of fact about forty percent of dragons
will do so haphazardly; the other sixty percent will ignore the ruler
entirely.** Tess said with humor in her Mind-Voice.
She was more serious
at she said, **The usual sixty percent are ignoring him, not because
they object to what he's doing, but just because they are dragons, and
we are a contrary race. As a race, we are the most powerful Magic Users,
in any of the universes we have been in. Since we generally live between
four and five thousand years we have a long time to develop our power.
We do most of our growing in the first few hundred years of our life.
I am thirty feet long, a fully adult dragon would be about double my
length and not much more.**
Tess began thinking
seriously, the others did not interrupt him her. Then she said, **Perhaps
it is a good thing that our social structure is not more advanced, and
that dragons are so individualistic. That means that the only code of
ethics, that we develop are individual ones. We would find it impossible
to gather an army together to conquer any of the other intelligent races.**
There was humor again
in her mind, **Even Varagon hasn't been able to change that. He has
become ruler of some of most powerful Magic Users in the universes and
he can't use them as an army.**
**That is the basic
structure of our society.** Tess said, dryly, **and you don't have to
know any more to understand it. Now for something very different, the
Ancients.**, and they could feel the awe in her mind, as she said,
**Every once in a while a dragon will live far beyond the norm. They
grow far larger, two and three times as large as an adult dragon. At
that size they can no longer fly, but simply walk though even walking
is an effort. They have very little to do with the rest of our world,
they simply watch. The Most Ancient One is more than fifteen thousand
years old. How powerful they are we do not know, none has ever used
their full magic power. Even Varagon has not dared make any move against
Symin turned to Pictou
and asked, "The leader that I killed, indicated that you were being
held captive, and had been warned not to escape. Do you know of any
reason they would want you?"
Pictou looked thoughtful;
on his very large dog face, it appeared somewhat odd. He shook his head,
telling them, **At the beginning, they wanted me to Transport them between
worlds, but when they realized my limitations in that regard, I really
assumed that they would kill me, since I was of no use to them. For
some reason they did not, but as you know held me captive instead. I
think at that point I was simply a possession to them. They had caught
me, though I proved to be of no use to them, I was unusual on this world,
so I was a prize who they could show off to others, as a sign of their
power. Their most powerful Great Mage produced the Artefact of Power,
the band that was on my horn. It was one of Compulsion, preventing me
from either Transforming or Transporting into the Void to go to another
Pictou said, and his
Mind-Voice was matter of fact, **The one you killed mentioned threats.
Well they did threaten to kill me if I tried to escape, but in point
of fact, I was sure that once they become bored with me they would kill
me anyway that was the type of people they were. I always intended to
try to escape whatever their threats, but it took two years before the
opportunity presented itself. If I had not found Symin I would have
died." he told them emphatically, "That was what I expected
and in fact what I wanted. I did not want to live as either a captive
Symin said solemnly,
"I've read all of your minds, and none of you would be willing
to accept slavery. Terrion was apparently a slave for almost a year,
but he knew it wasn't real and he was living with someone he loved.
He would not have accepted real slavery, and I know that I would rather
die than be a slave. That seems to be one of the common threads that
we share. Obviously, our first task is to remove Varagon's representatives
on our world. We simply don't know how great a threat that they symbolize.
Terrion said thoughtfully,
"You killed the leader of one group when he was after Pictou. Obviously,
we use Pictou as bait. Our Astral forms are more solid than any others
we know about. If he suddenly appears at the pool where you killed one,
it's likely that if he lets some mind-thought escape to indicate that
he had just Transported from another world they will attack. They probably
will bring all the people they have so we can get all of them at once."
Their agreement was total, that it was also flawed would be revealed but they would not even regret that, for it taught them a much-needed lesson.
Pictou, in Astral form
but visible, apparently actually there. The three boys were there in
Astral form and invisible, and Tess was there only in the others' minds.
Pictou let a trickle of his mental thoughts escape, as if by accident,
and it only took minutes before the enemy also appeared in Astral form
and attacked. The shields which the Link knew how to use but should
have taken time to learn how to use properly, jolted with the Mind-Blasts
of their adversaries.
Symin realized they
had assumed too much. Tess was too far away to help them. Not having
learned how to integrate their shields they were completely on the defensive.
Symin was about to call for them to return to their physical bodies,
when he felt something behind them. Whirling around he realized that
there were three teams left, not two. He began to shift part of the
shield so it would protect them from that direction. He knew he couldn't
do it too fast or that would leave them with inadequate defenses in
the front. He didn't panic but he felt somewhat frantic.
Then Symin knew he
wouldn't have time to cover all of them, his mind becoming completely
calm. He blocked the Link. He could still link to them so they didn't
lose his power, but they could no longer link to him, his death could
no longer harm them. He blocked all access of a Healer to his body,
now none of the Link would be able to enter it, it would take either
Dearna or Seldon to do so. Symin kept moving the barrier, and he was
able to cover the other three, but as he was bringing the shield up
to cover himself, he let loose a Mind-Blast at the third team. Their
blasts crossed each other, and the full shield was only covering part
It struck him in the
chest and affected his physical body back in Madron, crushing several
ribs, driving them into his lung, collapsing it. As he began to lose
consciousness, Symin was aware that the third team had disappeared.
He signaled to the other members of the Link to let go of their Astral
forms and return home. He let go of consciousness and he too flashed
back into his body.
Back in their physical
bodies the other members of the Link, jumped to their feet frantically,
the Healer that Rendar had waiting, just in case of trouble, looking
at Symin. Blood was bubbling from his mouth as he breathed, and he was
deeply unconscious. The Healer looked at the boy helplessly. He had
never seen anything like it the boy was blocked completely. The man
was unable to touch the little boy with his magic.
The other four members
of the Link knew what had happened. Terrion looked at Maxim, asking
frantically, "Which, Maxim, Dearna or Seldon?"
Maxim an expression of worry on his face, "Dearna!!!" he said
positively. "Symin trusts her more than Seldon because he's known
her all his life!! While his injuries are going to take an enormous
amount of power, we can provide that! He blocked me out because I don't
have the knowledge that a Healer needs to Heal a human. It's not like
Tess, just throwing magic at it won't do any good, it has to be placed
precisely. He had to make a choice and do it in a hurry!"
Maxim thought carefully
but quickly, "Dearna is too important to Bremen and the surrounding
area, to just bring her here; we're going to have to do a double switch.
Move Seldon to Bremen, and move Dearna here, and we'll have to put in
Seldon's mind exactly why we moved him."
Terrion said, seriously, "I've been to Camara, but to find Seldon. Only Symin knows his mind well enough to locate him that way." He thought for a moment, then turned to Karliv, "Sir, can you connect to Sinya. She can get Seldon outside of the Palace Ward." Karliv nodded as Terrion continued, "Once there I'll go in Astral form and get Seldon and Transport him to Dearna's. Maxim you and Pictou go get Dearna."
*Sinya!!!* she heard
Karliv say more urgently than he had ever done before. *Symin is badly
hurt. Go to Seldon at once, and get him outside of the Palace Ward at
the front gate. Terrion will be there to take him to Dearna's in Bremen.*
Sinya jerked open the
door and began to run the two hundred yards to Seldon's quarters. Karliv
continued a little bit less urgently, *This isn't as urgent as the mission
the others are performing. They went to get Dearna. Symin's known her
much longer, he will trust her more, but they can't just take Dearna
away from Bremen without replacing her, she's too important. So, Terry
has to get Seldon to Bremen and return to Divandia, to add his power
to the others as they help Dearna.*
Dearna was walking
across the room when suddenly Maxim and Pictou were in front of her.
She was unable to stop before she walked right into them. Maxim said
quickly, "We need your help right now!! Symin's badly hurt; he
took a Mind-Blast to the chest! It crushed several ribs and damaged
his lungs! Terrion has gone to Camara to get Seldon! He'll Transport
him here, so he can take over for you for the time being! When we were
in Camara, he was complaining that since he became Royal Physician he
doesn't have enough to do! We'll see if he enjoys a full practice again!"
Dearna protested, almost
convinced "If you were going to take someone, why me, and not my
father, he has much more power than I do?"
Maxim said matter-of-factly,
"Raw power isn't our problem we've got that and to spare, what
we need is the expertise to guide us! Symin blocked us out because we
don't have the needed experience! There is a Healer there, but Symin
has blocked out everyone but you and Seldon, and he can't help him!
Only you or Seldon can reach him, and he's known you all of his life,
and trusts you more!"
Dearna nodded in understanding,
"Very well. Let's go." Maxim took her arm, while Pictou touched
her on the knee and they disappeared; only a couple of moments before
Terrion appeared with Seldon then disappeared again.
When Terrion jumped
off the sleeping pad he was lying on, as his Astral form reentered his
body, Dearna was already making a careful examination of Symin. She
asked generally so she would know what she was dealing with. "What
Maxim explained a serious
look on his face, "Five of us are now Linked. To compare it to
something you're familiar with, like the God-blade is linked to Symin,
we are Linked to him, and he is Linked to us. That has given us tremendous
power, but we got careless and underestimated our first opponents."
Maxim said with his
deep sorrow evident in his voice, "They caught us from behind while
most of our shield was at the front. Symin felt them and began to move
some of the shield to cover our backs, but he realized that he wasn't
going to make it in time. Of course, Symin being Symin, he made sure
to cover us before covering himself. He was able to cover some of his
body, that's why though the damage as bad as it is isn't as bad as it
could have been. Still the right side of his body was almost unprotected.
It hit him in the chest, crushing ribs, and damaging his lungs."
Terrion, took up the
story at that point, "He blocked us out for two reasons. With a
Link such as ours, the violent death of one threatens the others, so
he made sure we couldn't be hurt. The second reason is that though Maxim
has developed Healing ability and through the Link, we can give him
tremendous power, he isn't a trained Healer. He could have killed Symin
in trying to help him. Symin knew how that would have affected Maxim,
so he blocked any access to his body to any Healer except you and Seldon.
If he'd had more time he would have allowed access to any Healer of
sufficient power, but he simply didn't have the time."
Dearna said in amazement,
"How do you know so much of what he was thinking? "
Pictou told her matter-of-factly,
*He was able to block most of the Link, but we were still in his mind.
It seems that we can't block that part of the Link. Even though the
thought only took a fraction of a second, we felt him thinking about
what to do and felt him do it.*
Dearna accepted that,
right now she had a more important task. She told them, "You're
right; though he is badly injured it could have been much worse. If
he hadn't had, part of his shield up both lungs would have collapsed
and he would have died. No matter how much power we have we seem to
have a limit, when it comes to injuries this serious. I can heal him
to that point and then I'll have to let time do the rest of the Healing.
I can provide a little every day. His Self-Healing ability will join
in automatically, but it will probably take him two or three weeks to
Maxim turned to Karliv,
Kraftin and Rendar who were standing around looking anxious. He told
them, solemnly, "We were dumb, we should have asked for advice.
We are certainly should have learned what we could do and how to do
it properly. Symin certainly won't make the same mistake again, but
he's more mature than the rest of us, except for Pictou who simply doesn't
have the type of imagination to question what we were doing. We ask
for your advice, while we're getting Symin to the point that Dearna
is talking about could you think about what we should do until he's
The three adults while
still showing anxiety smiled. Karliv spoke for all of them, "If
this incident ends up with all of you surviving in good shape, it could
be a lesson well learned. Symin is more levelheaded than he acted today,
I think the Link affected him and with all of you in his mind you influenced,
him much more than you should have. As you say now that Symin's aware
of what the Link can do to him, nobody will catch him that way a second
time. However, you still can use advice, between us we have over two
hundred years of experience."
Tess stuck her head
under the canopy to see what was going on. Dearna looked at her calmly,
saying, "I assume you're the last member of the Link?" and
Tess nodded her head.
Dearna shook her head,
though she was smiling as she said, "What Symin can get involved
in. Well we should do something about Healing him. I am not Seldon;
I'm only a Lesser Mage and need physical contact to borrow your power."
They were now in the
category of Great Mages, at least in the Link and they didn't need physical
contact between each other to share power. Terrion and Maxim knelt down
beside her their hands on top of hers. While they didn't try to send
any power into her, she could feel the tremendous well of energy that
they had available, and knew she could call on it at any time.
Dearna put her hand
on Symin's chest, and began the process of Healing him, after borrowing
a little of that raw power. First, the ribs, as she pulled them back
into their normal position fused and knitting together the broken and
splintered portions. That she did on her own only taking a little energy
from the Link, but she freely drew on their energy as she continued
on with the more delicate task, of repairing Symin's lung. Her Healing
energy supplemented Dearna repaired the punctures that the splintered
ribs had made, and then the less visible damage that was at the cellular
level. Then she reinflated his lung.
When Dearna was finished,
she pushed Healing energy into Symin's body, to flush out any harmful
chemicals that such damage could sometimes cause. They would end up
in the bladder and excreted when Symin urinated. Finally, she put Symin
into a Healing Trance before he could begin to wake. Dearna would need
to bring him to consciousness periodically, so that she could feed him
and give him liquids. Finally, she wiped the blood that had bubbled
out of Symin's mouth off of his face.
Without the members
of the Link, she would have been exhausted after repairing Symin's ribs
and there would have been no way of repairing the rest of the damage.
With the Link she was tired but even the exhaustion that she expected
from the first part of the Healing wasn't there.
The two boys jumped
to their feet, and with the natural nobility, that was part of their
personality, they helped her to her feet. They looked at the three men
who had been conferring while the Healing had taken place.
With a serious expression
on his face, Karliv told them, "The three of us think you need
to find a place where Symin can heal, and where you can learn a little
more about the Link's abilities. The place that Pictou and Symin visited,
Earth would make an ideal spot if you can get there."
Pictou said to them,
*Earth is still very close, but it wouldn't matter if it wasn't, distance
or weight limits, within reason no longer apply to us.*
They looked at Dearna,
"Will you come with us to supervise the remainder of his Healing?"
Maxim asked anxiously.
Dearna hesitated for
a moment, giving a thought to her patients. Terrion grinned, "Don't
worry, Seldon has already had his first patient and he's busy going
though your books to refresh his memory on the more basic medical problems.
He's enjoying himself immensely."
Dearna grinned back
at him. Now that she knew her patients were in good hands, there was
no way she was going to miss out on this adventure. "Yes, I'll
go!! It should be fun!!" she said with excitement in her voice.
"How do we get there?" she asked.
Pictou told her, *We Transport into the Void and then move to Earth's location and Transport to Earth. It's not the same type of Transporting as a Magic User on your world does, which is to move things from place to place and it makes it confusing. But that's the term I learned for it long before I even knew the other type of Transporting existed.* There was a bit of humor in his Mind-Voice, *Though in fact we'll be doing the other type of Transporting as well, to move the members of the Link and you to the pool where we fought our first opponents. Symin hit them hard with a Mind-Blast just as they hit him, so I imagine they'll need time to Heal as well.*
Maxim said, "Symin
told me that you taught him a way to add cooling layers to Travis's
body when he was here, and also heating layers. The four of us will
need that type of layer, because the world we're going to is much cooler
than ours. Both Pictou or Tess can live in a much greater temperature
range than we can. Once we get to the Vincentís, we will no longer
need them; we can put on clothing, which will be simpler. As far as
we know there are no Magic Users on Earth, though most of them have
the type of mind which can easily be accessed by those with Mind-Speech,
though they can't project to each other."
Pictou said cautiously,
**That's not quite true about there being no Magic Users, Symin and
I encountered one during our first visit there before we brought Travis
back. Symin killed him, since he was malevolent and he didn't think
Earth needed a Magic User of that type. We want to limit our magic use
until Symin is fully Healed and we can do a more thorough check.**
Dearna nodded at Karliv,
saying, "As a Great Mage he can probably teach you much faster
than I can."
Karliv gave a nod but
told them, "In fact I shouldn't even have to teach you. With the
Link, all you need is the knowledge and you can easily take that from
my mind. With a little practice, it should be easy. I would suggest
that even though Pictou and Tess don't need the knowledge at this time
that they learn how to do it anyway, because it might be valuable to
them in the future."
Karliv opened his mind
and the four gathered the knowledge that he pushed to the forefront
of his mind, and they began to practice. As had been said, Symin was
much more level headed than the rest of them, and Karliv wasn't surprised,
when Terrion gave a sudden yelp, beginning to rub his bottom and glaring
at Maxim, who had just given him a hot seat, literally. He grinned as
he retaliated, and while Maxim didn't yelp, he did rub his bottom, and
then both of them were yelping as Rendar took hold of Terrion's neck
and Karliv Maxim's. They bent the two boy's over and gave them each
a dozen hard swats on their small bottoms.
Karliv as he let go
of Maxim said, "It's nice to know that you're still children, but
you're powerful children. You don't know enough about your powers yet
to play practical jokes using magic, it could be dangerous, next time
it'll be a dozen with belts on bare bottoms."
The two boys were rubbing
their sore backsides and they nodded ruefully, realizing that they had
been irresponsible. Terrion spoke for both of them, "You're right,
but that's why we need Symin, he could have ended it with a word, and
that word would have hurt more than the spankings did."
A few more minutes
of practice, and they said goodbye to the adults. Rendar of course was
linked to them so would be able to follow their progress and tell the
others. They put Symin on Pictou and Maxim held him there while Terrion
took Dearna's hand and they Transported to the little pool at the base
of The Plateau.
They didn't spend much
time there, while they were confident that their opponents had been
injured they didn't know how badly and no longer overconfident, they
didn't intend to take any chances. They put three layers of heat around
themselves; Maxim providing Symin's and he also provided a bubble of
air so that the unconscious boy could breath. Then they Transported
into the Void, the humans and Tess holding their breaths. It only took
about ten seconds before they reached their destination and were able
to Transport to Earth.
They stood on the outskirts
of the apple orchard, where Pictou and Symin had last appeared, only
this time it was dark. It was much warmer as well even at this time
of night, being in the high eighties and they all dropped the heat layers
they had invoked.
Terrion asked, "Who
do we contact?"
Dearna said decisively,
"Travis, he knows four of us and will be the most exited to see
us, even though it hasn't been that long."
Maxim gently prodded
the young boy's mind, telling him, *Travis, wake up! Wake up Travis!*
Unlike Jason who was a sound sleeper and didn't wake up cheerfully,
Travis slept more lightly and almost always woke up happy, and the gentle
nudge at his mind woke him up. *Good. Hello Travis.*
Travis's eyes opened
wide as he recognized that mind voice. "Maxim?" he squealed.
"Where are you?"
Maxim told him that,
*We're here on your world. Pictou says we're at the same place where
you arrived last time. Symin was seriously injured, Dearna Healed him,
but he needs two or three weeks to recuperate. Would you tell your parents?
We need transportation, since we don't want to use a lot of magic. There
are six of us, and four of us you already know. Myself, Pictou, Symin
and Dearna. There are two others, Terrion who's a bit older than your
brother and Tess. Tess is a dragon, but she's a vegetarian, and she
gets along with horses very well.*
Travis, except excitedly,
"Sure!! But they say I have a very active imagination, and despite
what happened for real, they may just think I was dreaming!!"
Maxim reassured him,
*Tell them and then when you figure you need somebody to back up your
story, ask me to come and I'll be there, to prove it wasn't a dream.*
Travis looked at his
digital clock and saw that it was only nine-thirty. He had played a
lot with other children on Lythea. Since they were all naked, considered
too young to wear clothing in their social class, he had decided to
discard his and he had spent the rest of the time naked. Since he had
liked how it felt while he had been on Lythea, Travis had spent a lot
of the time naked, since he had come back to Earth and he didn't even
think about putting on a robe. He decided that Jason would want to be
in on this, and Danni would already be downstairs with his parents.
Travis grabbed Jason pulling him off of the bed, covers and all, knowing
that was about the only way he would wake Jason before morning.
It was an effective
if somewhat violent wake up treatment and Jason was suddenly wide-awake
and vowing to kill his younger brother. He popped to his feet and saw
the door was wide open, and he could hear Travis's bare feet thumping
down the stairs. While Travis was a year younger, they were close enough
in size that a wrestling match between them was fairly even. He realized
that this was something more than a practical joke. If it had been,
Travis would have stayed for the aftermath since he loved wrestling.
A little concerned
Jason headed after his little brother and thumped down the stairs after
him. Downstairs the sudden appearance of a naked Travis had embarrassed
Danni as usual and she was blushing. Travis was tremendously excited
and incoherent, and though they could tell he was talking about Lythea,
they couldn't tell what he was saying. Maxim realized that he would
have to intervene, and just as Jason was coming into the living room,
he appeared to support Travis. Travis felt Maxim appear behind him.
Turning around he threw himself into Maxim's arms, crying and saying,
"I'm sorry!! I'm sorry!!"
Maxim lifted the little
boy in his arms and rested his head on his shoulder and began stroking
his bare back gently, saying in Mind-Speech which he let them all hear,
*Don't worry Travis, all you had to do was tell your family that we're
here. They know you're talking about Lythea, so that's all we need.
You'll just have to learn how to be calmer and that comes with age.*
Jenny and Dan were
calm. Danni and Jason on the other hand, were almost as excited as Travis
quivering with exhilaration. Jenny asked him calmly, "Obviously
you're Maxim? Are you really here?"
*I'm on your world,
but I'm not really in your house.* Maxim said, still holding a naked
Travis in his arms he gave the half bow of courtesy that would be given
to his superiors, whether in rank or in age. He told, *There are six
of us here, and this is my Astral form.* seeing the looks the adults
gave each other.
He had a grin on his
face as he said, *Yes, this is much different from what Symin would
have described to you. Five us are now Linked, if you include Rendar
there are six, but he stayed back on Lythea. We have far more power
than our world has ever seen before, and our Astral forms are actually
solid, and as you see, I can hold Travis quite easily.*
Maxim's small face
became serious, as he told them, *But just because we have more power,
doesn't mean we can't get careless and overconfident. Unfortunately,
that's what we did, and Symin was hurt very badly. Dearna Healed him,
but with injuries as bad as he suffered, they can be Healed to a certain
point and then it takes time to complete the Healing process. We thought
it best to get away from our world for a while to a place where Symin
can complete his Healing and then we can learn more thoroughly about
our new abilities. We could actually Transport ourselves physically
but that is a major use of magic and we don't wish to use a great deal
of magic until we've checked your world for Magic Users. We know you
had one, and we are no longer overconfident. Our Astral form takes very
little magic, especially since we are only a few miles away. Pictou
said to tell you that we are near the orchard.*
Maxim paused for a
moment, "You want us to come and get you?" asked Daniel. The
boy nodded, and explained, *Yes, as I said our overconfidence was knocked
out of us. Until we know more about any possible Magic Users, we intend
to be cautious. As I said there are six of us here, four humans, Symin,
myself, Terrion and Dearna, plus Pictou and Tess.*
Travis had regained
his composure now, and was no longer crying. He twisted around in Maxim's
arms. "Dearna's the Healer that Maxim and Symin brought me to."
*Symin said you had
a nudity taboo. He wasn't really sure what that was, but obviously Travis
no longer has one, if he ever did.* said Maxim grinning with amusement.
Jenny grinned back
with equal amusement, telling him, "Not all of us do, and not all
countries do. Our country does, and it's something that is engrained
in us, as we get older. Travis is young enough that it hasn't affected
him yet, though Jason, even though he's only a year older," and
she nodded at her older son, "is blushing just from our talking
about it, as is Danni."
Maxim twitted the girl,
*Really, I thought that bright red was her natural coloring.* and Danni
went even redder.
"Since we're somewhat
isolated here and it's a warm time of year, we've let him spend most
of the time naked. Travis also likes making Danni go red, and she's
been an easy target since he got back from your world." Jenny said,
smothering a laugh, "But should we go and get the others?"
Maxim made a quick
inquiry and then said, *Dearna says there's no hurry, Symin's in a Healing
Trance, and he'll stay there for the next two or three weeks, only waking
to eat and drink and,* he took the words he needed from Travis's mind
*and go to the bathroom. It's just as well, you understand a little
about our world. Symin has an enormous amount of knowledge for someone
so young, but he sometimes forgets that things like this while not of
great importance help give you a grasp of our world that you wouldn't
get in any other way.*
As Jenny and Daniel
nodded Maxim continued, *As you know, we have no nudity taboo, probably
because our world is so much hotter than most of your world. Babies
of course wear diapers, but older children up to a certain age go naked.
For a noble like Symin the age when they start wearing clothing is generally
around seven, though eight or even older is not unusual for families
that are more isolated. For other classes it's usually much older. I
didn't get my first pair of short trousers until I was ten, and didn't
wear them for anything but formal occasions until I was about eleven
and a half. Nine is usually about the age children start wearing clothing
in cities or towns, however with poorer children or children in more
isolated regions, nudity up to age twelve or thirteen is not unusual.*
*Children and adolescents
playing games even if they do wear clothing may discard them during
the games, and that might be anywhere up to about sixteen or seventeen.
That's the time when we become adults. Then we will wear them all the
time, not because we're ashamed but because it's considered undignified.*
Maxim grinned at the idea.
Maxim paused for a
second before continuing, *We all have Mind-Speech, so we'll all be
able to talk to you, including Pictou, who you know, and Tess who you
don't know. Tess is a dragon, but unlike our vision of dragons, Tess
is a vegetarian. She eats hay, and if you have any flowers, you might
want to keep her away from them. She annoyed Rendar's gardener by eating
a whole bed. Ren just shrugged. She also eats trees, either whole, which
she tears apart or pieces cut up for cooking fires, and she gets along
with horses very well. She doesn't have the smell of a predator and
she can use her mind to sooth any residual fear they might have.*
Jenny giggled, then
said, "I have an idea that our visions of dragons are closer to
yours. The idea of a dragon who likes to eat flowers sounds funny. Reassuring
but funny." and Maxim had to nod in agreement. Jenny continued,
"How big is she?"
Maxim told them, *Thirty
feet from nose to the end of her tail, though about ten feet of her
is tail and it's very flexible, like a cat she can curl it around her
feet. You don't need transport for her. She can fly here.*
Maxim set Travis on his feet, *I will say my good-byes for a little while then.* He gave a little bow and disappeared.
Jenny said to Daniel
as she shooed Travis and Jason upstairs to put on shorts, it still being
too hot to put anything else on aside from sandals, "Dad's coming
out to leave his motor home in the morning. You'll have to be up to
"Why there are
just three boys and a woman and Pictou, and..." Daniel started
to say and then looked sheepish, finishing with, "and a dragon.
We donít know what time heís going to get home and we donít want
to leave a message on his answering machine in case his housekeeper
finds it first. Itís fine that your dadís a believer but of course,
thereís a problem because Louisa is as well. If we even mentioned
a dragon, we couldn't keep Louisa and her family away with machine guns."
Jenny giggled, as he
kissed her on the forehead, and the boys came slapping down the stairs
in their sandals. Travis had slipped into a pair of shorts, and Jason
had switched his pajama bottoms for shorts, neither boy bothering with
underpants. Jason was modest, but as long as he was covered, he didn't
care what was underneath.
As the mini-van came
to a halt, they could see those waiting by the headlights. They could
see two of the boys standing, and Symin lying down, and Pictou and the
woman mentioned, but no dragon. While the children were disappointed,
their parents were not. They preferred to meet her where there was more
They got out of the
mini-van and went over to where they were. The whole family had come
to like Symin a great deal, and Jenny asked for all of them, "How
is he?" her voice, showing her concern.
Dearna answered reassuringly, * Symin's fine now. He just needs time to recover fully, which will take about two or three weeks. Then they intend to spend some time learning how to use their abilities somewhat better than they did the last time they invited an attack. Symin's a little scamp, but he's usually more prudent then he was this time. Five of them have Linked, and aside from Pictou, they are all less mature mentally than Symin. They think he allowed it to cloud his judgment this time. It's not something that will happen again.* Her Mind-Voice seemed matter of fact, but they could feel the real love behind her words.
Tess was watching from
above as they put Symin into the mini-van and the others got in and
the van backed up and turned around. Her night vision was very good
and she had no trouble following the van to its destination. She let
everyone go inside before she began gliding down to a landing, soothing
the horses' minds as she did so.
Inside Jenny led Dearna
who was carrying Symin up to one of the spare bedrooms that he would
be sharing with Maxim and Terrion. This one had bunk beds and a twin
bed in it, which Jason and Travis or Danni used when they had sleepover
guests. It was the room Symin had stayed in on his first visit. She
undressed Symin and put him into the twin bed, pulling the covers up
to his chin. If the temperature even dipped by ten degrees, he would
Dearna wasn't trying
to be quiet, in the Sleeping Trance, Symin normally wouldnít wake
up until she woke him. While a loud, sudden noise might do so, almost
nothing else would. She said to Jenny, *Your family is being introduced
to Tess, right now. We can join them. Until he has completely recovered,
part of my awareness will always be with Symin.*
Jenny felt timid as
she followed the self-confident Dearna downstairs, through the kitchen
door onto the porch. Once there she almost laughed out loud at her fears.
Tess was the exact image of a dragon as she had imagined her, but at
the same time, you couldn't fear her. Not after seeing the way she was
so ecstatic at being the center of attention, and the way she seemed
to love the kids. Jenny could see her in the role of a fierce protector
of those she cared for.
Tess could feel her
thoughts and she gently inserted a thought into Jenny's mind, *Don't
let my personality fool you. I am a great deal different from the majority
of my people. The fierce reputation we have on many worlds is well deserved.*
Jenny looked at her
calmly now, telling her, "I don't doubt it Tess, but I always try
to see people or animals as individuals. That's something my father
taught me. It seems to be a good way to live life. It's also the way
my husband lives it, and the way we've tried to teach our children to
*Yes, it seems to be
a good way to live.* Tess agreed.
Daniel and Jenny were
sitting at the kitchen table when Maxim came into the room. He told
them, *Dearna, is making a last check on Symin and then she's going
to bed.* Pulling a chair away from the table and Maxim sat down, a thoughtful
look on his small face. *I've told Terrion not to talk about the life
he has lived, and does live. You should tell your children not to ask.
I learned much from Travis when he was on Lythea, his mind is wide open,
while I didn't try to look at private things, I found general things
about your world fascinating.*
Jenny and Daniel nodded
to keep him going and Maxim continued with the story. *Terry went through
a terrible time when he was younger, from the time he was six until
he was kidnapped when he was eight and a half, he was beaten unconscious
two or three times a month by his father. I imagine he came very close
to death many times. His father, the Count of Wymark, had a pet Healer,
who would Heal Terrion. The marks of a whip or even broken bones are
nowhere near as hard to Heal as Symin's present injuries. Within two
or three days, the Healer could remove all the marks from Terrion's
body but not from his mind. During that time, he lived in constant terror,
twenty-four hours a day.*
Jenny gripped Daniel's
hand hard as the evident sorrow in Maxim's mind voice, and the horror
it brought to them. *When Terrion was eight and a half, he was kidnapped;
he probably couldn't have avoided it even if he had wanted to. He thought
they intended to rob him, and would kill him when they didn't find any
money. He welcomed the death he thought was coming. Instead a man put
a cloth with a Healer's potion on it over Terrion's mouth and nose to
put him to sleep. When he woke up he found that he would be sold as
Maxim asked, *You probably
noticed the tattoos on Terrion and Symin's right shoulders?* The two
nodded, and he told them, *That is the crest of their family, and because
of that crest they are referred to as crested, meaning children of the
nobility. It isn't as common in Madron, where Terrion was to be sold
as it is in Camron, where all three of us were originally born. However
to sell a crested child in Madron is illegal. Even so Terrion found
himself in a slave market in Madron, with four other boys in a cell
with him, and all of them were crested.*
Maxim leaned forward,
putting his hand on his chin, continuing his tale, *The Slavemaster
practically begged Duke Rendar, who is now Terrion's adopted father,
to attend the selling of special merchandise. The man was too persistent,
Ren was wary but he realized he had to find out exactly what was going
on. When he found the five crested boys in the slave market, he realized
with horror exactly what their presence could have meant. You see someone
was trying to start a war between our two countries. Even the fact that
they were on Madron soil might have started a war. Rendar felt he had
no choice; he had to buy one of the boys. He didn't think he would leave
the slave market alive if he hadn't and he felt that they would also
kill the boys. Terrion discovered that he had Mind-Speech after he was
kidnapped and Ren revealed his horror with Mind-Speech, and Terrion
answered him, so Ren bought Terrion.*
*Ren, once they delivered
Terrion to his home, took him through a secret passage to see his cousin,
the Crown Prince of Madron. After a lot of speaking between the Kings
and Princes of both countries, they decided that they couldn't make
a move at that time. They simply didn't know enough. That meant leaving
the children they knew about where they were in the slave market and
trying to keep track of them. Those children were sold as slaves as
were others that came later. Even though Terrion knew about the conspiracy,
in order to gain time, he actually had to be a slave, and everything
that meant, until they were ready to move, and that took almost a year.*
Maxim had a little
frown on his face as he continued, *That meant that Terrion had to share
Ren's bed, serving as his catamite, and it had to be very evident, because
there were spies in Ren's household who were watching. I don't ask you
condone it, I know it's completely illegal on this world, I just ask
you to realize that Terrion has been sexually active with a man for
over a year, because it didn't just stop, when Terrion was freed. They
still share the same bed. If your children ask, Terrion will answer
truthfully, because he's not ashamed of it. It was first a duty to his
country, the fact that he enjoyed it was a good thing because he had
no choice in the matter. If they had discovered that Terrion and Rendar
were faking it, he and many other children could have died.*
Daniel and Jenny looked
at each other and then Jenny said, "Your world is not ours. We
have no right to condemn your customs out of hand, though we don't know
if we can condone them either. We will simply tell the children that
Terrion has gone through horrible experiences and doesn't like to talk
Maxim nodded as he
replied, *Fair enough." and a grin of amusement popped onto his
face, *Now to something a little different and a little less serious
though Danni might not think so. She has what you call,* and he searched
their minds, *a crush on me." Maxim said with a sympathetic grin
on his face. *She asked Dearna how old I was and Dearna told Danni that
Iím almost fourteen. Dearna told me that from her aura Danni's about
to enter puberty. Her body is getting ready for that, and she's starting
to get interested in boys. I talked about that to Dearna before I came
down. Unfortunately, Danni is thinking of me as contemporaries of the
children she knows. Thirteen and fourteen year olds and most of them
will be well into puberty.*
Daniel and Jenny were
grinning, and Maxim giggled before saving, *I'm sorry for Danni, because
physically and to some extent emotionally, right now I'm closer to a
ten or eleven year old boy of your world rather than a fourteen year
old. Dearna tells me that it will be about a year before I'll be at
the stage that Danni is in and another three or four months after that
before I actually enter puberty. On my world, both girls and boys enter
puberty at about the same time unlike your own world where girls are
more advanced sexually than boys. It's usually about fourteen or fifteen,
so my situation is quite normal for our world. That means that like
your ten and eleven year olds I'm not interested in girls yet, and won't
be for a while yet.*
Jenny said with laughter
in her voice, as she told him, "I'll try to break it to her gently,
but girls of Danni's age, even before they enter puberty have a tendency
to develop crushes on boys, or rock stars, or their teachers. They get
over it, sometimes it's painful emotionally and other times they'll
go to bed one night having a crush on someone and wake up the next morning
and the crush is over. I'll talk to her in the morning."
Jenny continued, changing
the subject to more practical matters, "Now for clothing, Terry
is the same size as Travis, so he's easy to fit and some old stuff of
Travis's will fit Symin when he's up, like it did last time. Dearna's
my size so there's no problem with her, and you got lucky, one of Daniel's
younger cousins stayed here for a couple of weeks after school let out
and he left some clothes behind. We keep meaning to send them back to
him, but we keep forgetting, so there are a couple of changes for you
as well. If you need anything more we can get it tomorrow."
Jenny grinned, "You
just admitted you're still a child, so as a child I'm telling you that
it's time for bed."
Maxim giggled, and
told her, *I bet you wouldn't dare say that to Symin, he can be very
intimidating even when he's not trying.* as he stood up.
She rolled her eyes,
"Oh, we certainly know that. Though," she said thoughtfully,
"it's not really that he's intimidating. Despite the fact that
he's even smaller than Travis, he just doesn't give the impression of
being a child."
Maxim said thoughtfully,
*Of course I know him much better than you and he's definitely a child.
He has a power about him that comes to the surface at times, and an
ageless quality. I saw him with Prince Tamen on a journey we took. Despite
the fact that there's an even greater gulf between a Prince and an unimportant
grandson of a Baron, than between Symin and I, the Prince treated him
as an equal, and it never seemed strange. Even more extraordinary, I
never heard any comments about it among the other servants about it
being unusual, and yet I know it was.* He yawned and said with a grin,
*You're certainly right about me needing to go to bed. Goodnight.* and
as they also said goodnight, he turned and walked into the living room
to the staircase and went up to the bedroom he would be sharing with
Terrion and Symin.
Like Dearna he checked on Symin before he went to bed himself, and gently ran his hand over Symin's soft silky hair, showing the love that had drawn them as close as brothers. Slipping off his short trousers, he made a quick check on Terrion as well in the top bunk and then he slid into the bottom bunk.
I had left the day
after Symin and Pictou had returned to Lythea, to attend a skydiving
meet. I had called yesterday telling Daniel and Jenny that I was heading
home and I'd be out today to bring my RV out and to pick up my Jeep.
It was much later than I had intended, almost ten o'clock. Not that
it mattered much since I was retired but I prided myself on my physical
condition. Even my doctor thinks I'm in extraordinary shape for a fifty-two
year old man. Aside from the gray in my hair, I could easily pass for
a man in my mid-thirties. However, even men in their thirties have their
limits; I had simply made too many jumps and I had been tired and had
Everybody was out on
the back porch, and I realized as soon as I saw Pictou that the two
boys and the woman must be from Lythea. I grinned when I saw that Travis
and one of the boys were nude and somehow they had gotten Jason out
of his clothes as well, so he was also naked. Daniel and Jenny had talked
about dares to their kids and they wouldn't do anything foolish, but
this was the type of challenge that Jason couldn't pass up.
As soon as I stopped
the motor home, Travis and the other boy were at the door with Jason
hanging back. I could see him blushing and he was covering his genitals
as much as he could with one hand. However, neither Travis nor the boy
who Travis introduced as Terry showed the slightest trace of embarrassment.
Terry, though I soon
found out his full name was Terrion Farlei, and on his world, he was
the son of a Duke. He gave me a slow graceful bow, the fact that he
was nude took nothing away from the dignity with which he delivered
it. I noticed he had a tattoo on his right arm just below the shoulder
like Symin had.
Travis said, "You're
spending the day, Granddad?"
I nodded, and told
him, "I've been invited for supper."
said, "Terry and Jason and I were waiting to say hello before we
went swimming. Come on Terry, let's go!"
Terry looked torn between
the pleasures of the pool and politeness. Treating him like one of my
grandsons, I turned him around and I gave him a light swat on his bare
bottom and said, "Go, I'll be here all day." He gave a wide
grin over his shoulder and taking the hand that Travis offered they
headed for the pool at a run, sandals slapping on the ground.
I looked at Jason,
though the tips of his ears were red, he wasn't covering himself anymore.
"How did they get you out of your clothes?" I asked, and Jason
went a deep red again, but he didn't cover himself.
Jason admitted, "I
was dumb. We was all in the bathroom and I was making fun of the way
Travis liked to be naked, and Terry said with a grin, that he didn't
mind going naked either. He said when he's home he spends a lot of the
time naked. You can see from the way that he's brown all over that it's
true. Travis challenged me to go with no clothes for the rest of the
summer, 'cept when we have guests. I was reluctant, but Travis brought
it to Family Court at breakfast. Mom and Dad said that I've had a week,
if I was going to make fun of him it should have been in the beginning.
I either had to keep my mouth shut about it, or accept the dare."
"Knowing my big
mouth, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep quiet so I had to accept it."
Jason sighed, and then he cocked his head, and said, "It's odd,
but even though it's embarrassing, and I keep blushing, I really don't
mind it too much." He giggled then, "Danni's findin' it even
worse, every time she looks at one of us she goes a deep red."
"I'm going swimming
Granddad. We brought a backpack down earlier, with towels and shorts
in case we get visitors." Jason got ready to take off, when I realized
"I thought your
parents didn't let you use the pool unless one of them or Danni was
with you?" I asked.
"Tess is watching
us," he told me.
Jason giggled again,
taking off, he yelled back over his shoulder, "You'll find out!"
leaving me somewhat baffled.
I headed for the porch,
just taking a quick look at the other two from Lythea. I said to Daniel
and Jenny, "I'd never have thought you could have gotten Jason
out of his clothes, out where there were other people." and like
Jason had said, I saw Danni go red.
Jenny said with a smile
on her lips, "Actually we're glad it happened this way. Jason's
been getting too modest lately. Since he skipped a grade, this will
be his last school year before he goes into middle school next year.
We expect the children to use the new gym and changing rooms. If Jason
gets a little more comfortable with nudity around the house again, it
won't bother him to take off his clothes with a room full of other boys."
Daniel picked it up
from there, "Being too modest can be a detriment. You've met my
cousin that Jason is named after. He was modest like Jason is, and when
he went into middle school it led to his being teased, and he became
a loner with only a few friends. Luckily, my cousin broke out of his
shell when he went to high school, but we don't want Jason to go through
that. He's going to be a year or more younger than the rest of the boys,
and some of them are going to be eleven and a half or twelve and entering
early puberty. If Jason can get rid of some of that physical modesty
of his, it'll be better all around for him."
I saw Danni was still
blushing, "What about Danni? She's pretty red?"
Jenny said with amusement,
"She's not modest; she just finds that naked boys, even ones much
younger than she is embarrass her. She'll get over that if she ever
Danni threw up her
head. Jumping down from the rail, she stalked toward the back door,
trying to be very dignified. She spoiled it because she forgot Pictou
was there. She started to fall over him, and the boy stopped her from
landing flat on her face. Once she was back on her feet, she shrugged
off his hand and slunk toward the back door, obviously embarrassed.
Pictou just stretched out a little more and went back to snoring.
The boy grinned at
me and shrugged his shoulders and he gave a half-bow that was as practiced
and graceful as Terry's, *I'm Maxim Ascalon.* he said in Mind-Speech,
*Danni's somewhat annoyed with me right at the moment. I'm almost fourteen
and she thought I was somewhat older than she is, physically as well
as in age. She was chagrined when Jenny told her that in fact physically
and as I told Jenny and Daniel last night to some extent emotionally
I'm really closer to an ten or eleven year boy from your world and not
yet old enough to be interested in girls.*
I chuckled as I realized
that Danni must have had a crush on this handsome five-foot tall boy,
with his straight brown hair and sparkling brown eyes and pleasant features.
Finding out that he was actually in a way much younger than she was
must have been devastating, and Maxim grinned again. He said, *This
has been a somewhat haphazard introduction. Normally Terrion, Terry,
as the highest-ranking member of our group should have been introduced
first. His adopted father is Duke Farlei, Rendar Farlei. He's a nephew
of the King of Madron. He and Travis intercepted you and introduced
Terry to you.*
Maxim said, *Of the
humans, as a High Peasant I should actually have been the last to be
introduced. Symin would be laughing his fool head off.*
I found it hard to
picture that solemn, serious little boy, doing that, *As Maxim said
this has been an unusual introduction, and count on it this is just
the type of thing that would tickle Symin's sense of humor. I'm Dearna.*
said the woman. I turned and looking at her, I was astonished that I
had ignored her; though I was to find out that was one of her abilities.
To fade into the background when she wished to observe what was going
Those dark brown eyes,
with laugh lines at the corners seemed about to swallow me. I had to
shake my head to recover and to take in the rest of her. She was about
the same height as Jenny, five-feet-eight, and she looked even younger
though as I was to find out later she was forty-two. As I mentioned
she had dark brown eyes, and her hair was a dark brown as well with
not a touch of gray, though there were red highlights in places. She
was slender, and the bare arms and legs in the short-sleeved shirt and
shorts were much more muscular than most women but it suited her. Certainly,
she was well rounded in all the right places. She bowed as well, and
it was halfway between Terry's bow and Maxim's, and then offered her
hand. Taking it in mine, I found her hands were as calloused as mine,
indicating that she worked for a living, and worked hard.
Dearna grinned, *Jenny
tells me this is the most common method of greeting on your world. It's
much rarer on mine. Normally it's only done between relatives who are
either too closely related to bow to and yet not close enough to hug
and kiss. Or on formal occasions between relatives. In those families
which tend not to be very emotional, it is quite often the standard
greeting.* She grimaced, *Until recently it was the way in which the
Ascalon's, Symin's family greeted each other. Thankfully that has changed.*
I said to her, "The
handshake supposedly developed because we are generally right-handed
therefore it's considered be our weapon hand. If you're shaking hands
with your right hand presumably, your weapon hand is busy. If that's
true, I've long thought it was a ridiculous presumption. I was a police
officer for thirty years, and a lot of people could use weapons with
their left hand almost as well as they could their right."
Dearna nodded, saying,
*Yes, our bowing was and still does serve the same purpose. Between
people who don't know each other, or are unfriendly, the correct distance
is about ten feet. That means that we're beyond sword distance.* She
chuckled. *Like you, if it's for defense I find the concept ridiculous.
If you're bowing, you are very vulnerable to a thrown weapon. A nod
would be much more prudent. Perhaps that's why we simply nod to those
who are of lower rank.*
Dearna cocked her head
as she released my hand and I reluctantly let go, and she smiled gently.
She asked, *I was curious about one thing Darren. Terry introduced himself
with a full nobles bow, acknowledging you as an equal. In his adopted
country, he now ranks in the top thirty in terms of nobility. You said
you were a police officer, why did he consider your status that high?*
I opened my mouth to
answer, but Maxim beat me to it. *On this world, what he did would not
confer the type of rank that our world would. He was the Chief of Police
for the five years before he retired, of the nearest city and it has
a population of two million people.*
Dearna's eyes twinkled
at me, as I looked first at Maxim and then at her. I knew that they
had Mind-Speech, but I didn't know they could read minds. Dearna told
me, *I see you have some concern about what we can do. While we can
access your minds more easily than on our world, I'm a Lesser Mage.
I can only see what's on the surface of your mind or what is addressed
to me. We see much more from you, because your mind often gives pictures
of what you're talking about. It would normally take a Great Mage, or
someone especially gifted in Mind-Speech to do more. Maxim and the others
are much different. Five of them are Linked together, and their power
is much greater than any others in our history.*
Dearna gestured towards
the pool where the boys had gone, with her left hand, *But Terry saw
the same thing in your mind. He equated it to the Provost Marshall of
Camara who is responsible for law-enforcement in our capital and the
province around it. The Provost Marshall has the courtesy rank of Duke,
which he will keep when he retires, getting a large pension, though
unless he performs some outstanding service, it will simply be a life
title which will die with him conferring no lands.*
Dearna suddenly frowned,
and said, *Maxim, Symin is awake. Why would he be awake so soon? Normally
he shouldn't wake for a couple more days.*
Maxim cocked his head, then replied, *He's hungry and he has to pee. He's being sensible and knowing how badly he was hurt he isn't trying to get up on his own. I can tell he feels much better than you told me he would be at this point in time. I wonder why?* He closed his eyes, and concentrated. Then he smiled and opened them, "I looked inside of myself and Terry, Pictou and Tess, and I can see that we now have his Self-healing ability. We've all Linked with his ability and since the rest of us aren't hurt, the Healing is working much better than it would normally. I told him we'd be right up.* He giggled, *Symin says 'Hurry!!!'*
Mentally I slapped
myself on the forehead. I had never asked why these people from Lythea
would be here. But then taking a quick look back over the last few minutes
that I'd been here, I realized that they had showed no anxiety or worry.
they didn't even now, so obviously, however badly Symin had been hurt
he wasn't badly off now. I followed them into the kitchen. Jenny got
a can of Tomato Soup out of the cupboard, and Daniel got the can opener.
Jenny had an impish
grin on her face as she said, "Why don't you go with Dearna and
Maxim dad. Daniel and I will bring up the soup when it's done."
I swatted her on the
backside, and she giggled just like she had when she was ten as I followed
Dearna and Maxim. Symin was in what the kids called the sleepover bedroom,
since they used it when they had guests over.
Symin was in the twin
bed and he had a frown on his small face, which lightened when he saw
us but didn't disappear. Dearna flipped down the covers and a naked
Symin had his hand between his legs holding his penis trying to stop
himself from peeing the bed. He said, *Hurry!! I've got to go really
Dearna giggled, *Take
him Darren; I didn't expect him to wake up for a couple of days, so
I didn't locate the bathroom on this floor. I used the bathroom downstairs,
both last night and this morning. You don't have to be careful with
him. He's simply weak, and he'll need support to stand.*
I scooped him up off
of the bed and carried him to the bathroom holding him up while he went,
and he gave a blissful "Aahh!!" when he started peeing. When
he was finished, I picked him up again.
Dearna said from the
open door, saying, *I'm sorry about that, Symin, but I didn't expect
you to wake up for the next couple of days. Under normal circumstances,
you wouldn't have. Maxim says that they've picked up your ability of
Self-Healing and they're feeding yours so it's not going to take as
long for you to Heal, as I expected.*
I saw Symin close his
eyes and his small face showed he was concentrating when suddenly I
heard a thump, and a low yip of pain, "Oohh!!" Suddenly Symin
had his eyes open again and he was rubbing his head smiling sheepishly
at Dearna, who had just given him a good thump on the top of his head
with her knuckles. Symin told her, *Sorry, Dearna that was stupid of
me, trying to use my magic like that.*
*You're better off
than would normally be the case, but remember this Symin, if you had
been on this world, or our world without your friends you'd be dead.
If you try to use any of your magic except for Mind-Speech before I
tell you, you can, I'll take off my belt and use it on that little backside
of yours.* and Symin nodded obediently, yawning.
As I carried Symin
back to the bedroom, Dearna said, *I felt your anxiety when you realized
why we were here. Maxim could have managed him quite easily but I thought
this would reassure you, realizing that he's weak but no longer in danger.
I wouldn't have threatened him with a whipping if he were still badly
hurt. Not that it will matter.* she said ruefully. *If he feels like
he has to use his magic, he'll do so, whether he knows a whipping is
coming or not.*
Maxim grinned as we
came into the room, telling us, that, *Symin doesn't have to use his
magic at all. He found out in that brief instant that he was using it,
that he can use ours. We all felt the thump you gave him on top of the
head, though we didn't feel the pain, just an awareness that it happened
and why you did it.*
I had been aware of
something odd, but it wasn't until I put Symin back on the bed that
I realized what it was. It was about ninety-five degrees yet Symin's
skin was dry. I looked down and I realized that he wasn't sweating,
and looking at Maxim and Dearna I realized they weren't either, though
since getting out of the air-conditioned RV I was drenched with sweat.
Maxim said, perceptively,
*We have thermometers as well and our Harnou scale seems much like your
Fahrenheit scale. Our world is much hotter than yours, at least it is
where we are now. It's just entering the rainy season on our world,
but still during the day, it would be about one hundred to one hundred
and five degrees, cooling off only about five degrees at night. During
the coolest time of our year during the middle of the rainy season in
about two months, it will be in the mid to high eighties day and night.
At the hottest time of our year, it can go as high as one hundred and
thirty or more for days at a time. I assure you that at that temperature
we would be sweating as badly as you are right now. Normally however
it will be between one hundred and ten and one hundred and twenty degrees,
which we would find quite comfortable, though we would be sweating a
Jenny showed up in
the doorway with a tray on which was a large mug filled with soup and
some milk, and a couple of paper towels for napkins. She said, "I
gather this is somewhat unusual?"
Dearna nodded, and
spoke the first verbal word I had heard from her. "Yes." *It's
very unusual. He shouldn't have awakened for at least another couple
of days without me waking him. His Healing is much more advanced than
I expected. His Self-Healing ability is taking from the others to do
it. He will be out of the trance completely within two or three days
at this rate. He'll be able to get up with support as soon as that happens,
and he should be close to normal in about a week. That's two or three
times as fast as I expected.*
Dearna took the mug
that Jenny offered her, and putting her arm behind Symin's shoulders,
she lifted him into a sitting position, holding him there. *Symin, I
have some food for you.* He opened his eyes but I could see he was half-asleep.
She said, *Be careful, Symin this is hot.* and putting the mug to his
mouth, he carefully swallowed some.
He said, *Good.* and
his Mind-Voice was pretty dozy as well. Carefully over the next two
or three minutes Symin drank the soup and then some of the milk which
Jenny had also warmed.
Dearna smiled at Jenny
as she put the glass of milk back on the tray, nodding her thanks. Wiping
Symin's mouth she lowered him to a lying position again and by the time,
she had pulled the covers up to his chin he was in a deep sleep again.
She smoothed his blond hair with obvious affection, then stood up, saying
briskly, *He'll sleep again for several hours now. I'll give him double
the amount of soup tonight. He should sleep through the night unless
he has to pee. In that case, Maxim will take him, only waking me if
there is a problem. Normally it would be a week or more before he was
on solid food, but I think he'll start to need it tomorrow night.*
Maxim was looking a
little anxiously at Symin. Dearna said, *Maxim you were planning to
go swimming with the others. Symin's fine and you know it! So go!!*
Maxim said, *But...*
Dearna turned him around and gave him a swat on the seat of his shorts,
and she wasn't holding back, and I saw him wince, but he went, rubbing
his bottom as he did so.
Dearna said cheerfully,
*I hope you don't mind. I know neither Jenny or Daniel use corporal
punishment very much, but it's the most prevalent kind of punishment
on our world. The boys are used to it, they accept it and wouldn't really
understand your system of punishments.*
I told her, "I
never used corporal punishment on Jenny, though Debbie would occasionally
give her a spanking, but my nephew stayed with us for a year just after
his father died, and his mother was getting her life back together.
I used the punishments that I had used on Jenny but they didn't work.
Finally, I asked him what type of punishment I should use. He thought
it over seriously then said I should spank him, which surprised me.
I ended up spanking him and he responded much better to it than I expected.
His parents spanked him and he equated it with punishment. At the same
time he knew they didn't like spanking him, they only did it because
they loved him. When I spanked him he was satisfied that I loved him
like his parents did."
I said seriously to her, "He has six kids today, and two of them respond best to corporal punishment and the other four to being grounded or losing privileges. Some shrinks, would probably consider it very odd that he only uses it on some of his kids not all, maybe thinking he was being unfair. He understands the fact that all kids need to be corrected firmly, in a consistent manner, but not all kids respond to the same type of punishment."
I was finally going
to meet Tess. Dearna was accompanying me to the pool that the kids used
for swimming, to fetch them for lunch. Danni had joined them at about
eleven o'clock. Despite the fact that she knew, that all four boys would
be naked, it hadn't deterred her from seeking and enjoying the water
on this very hot day, for our part of the country.
I stopped short when
I saw Tess, and my heart was in my throat. Automatically I reached for
a sword that I had never worn, as for a brief moment I felt myself in
medieval times. That's what you fought a dragon with!! Then I relaxed
the tension going out of me. Obviously, she was tame. Harmless?
Tess said in an amused
tone of mind, *Tame? Harmless? Neither is really appropriate. Amiable
would perhaps be the best term for my personality. Very few of us are
like the cartoon dragon in 'Pete's Dragon' that I observed earlier in
Travis and Jason's minds, which is the way they think of me. Most of
us are much closer to the dragons that appear in the fables that you
are thinking about. Most of us are fiercely aggressive. However, usually
only towards those that can threaten us. Meaning no offense the humans
of your world are very little threat as individuals, though many of
the weapons that you possess could be deadly.*
I said dryly, "I
certainly don't see you as the dragon from Pete's Dragon. The only similarity
is the fact that you're both green."
*We can also make ourselves
invisible, though that is not really, what actually happens when using
Concealment. We just seem to be invisible to the senses. Most animals
can see us, but it seems that cameras can not. When Symin was first
here, he learned about the camera, and he wondered if he would show
up when he used the ability to Conceal himself. Danni used both a regular
camera and a digital camera and it appears for some reason neither can
see us since Symin didn't appear on either. It isn't logical, but then
again magic isn't always logical.*
Tess said a bit primly,
like an old schoolteacher, *Logic in the simplest sense for instance
would dictate, that if you were getting from 1 to 2 in your number system
as say Travis would understand it, you would simply go directly from
1 to 2. If you were trying to do the same thing with magic, sometimes
you would go from 1 to 2, but at other times, you might go from 1 to
4001 and back to 1 before going to 2.*
I nodded thoughtfully.
It made sense in a weird kind of way. Looking at Tess more closely,
I realized that she had her eyes closed, and I wondered how she was
watching the children. Tess told me, *The Link is very new to us. We
are starting to find that some of the magical abilities that we have
are actually traveling through the Link and becoming part of all of
us, while others are not. The ability to Transport into the Void seems
to be species specific. Empathy, which Symin has in strong measure,
is not traveling between us, but his Sense of Perception, which he uses
for sight since he is blind, has moved much more quickly between us
than any other ability. I am Perceiving the children not seeing them,
and it allows me to see them under the water in a manner which is much
better than sight.*
That surprised me.
I hadn't realized that Symin was blind. I turned to Dearna and she looked
unhappy. Tess said to her gently, *I can feel you still find it a distasteful
subject Dearna, but please tell him how Symin lost his sight and some
of the things he has done. Symin is our center. Understanding a bit
about him, tells much about the Link.*
Dearna sighed, *I still
feel guilty and I always will, Tess, but you're right the story tells
much about Symin. I'll tell Jenny, we'll take longer than expected.
We're having sandwiches so it doesn't matter if we're a little late.*
She took my hand and
we sat on the bench placed by the pond, which was used for swimming
in the summer and skating in the winter. Suddenly the five children
were gathering in front of the bench sitting cross-legged. I noticed
that Danni wasn't blushing she was too interested.
Dearna began to tell
the tale, *Maxim earlier said that Terry was the highest ranked person
from our world. Last night I followed some of what he told Jenny and
Dan. He said that Symin was simply the unimportant grandson of a Baron.
Well that's not completely accurate. Armand Ascalon, Symin's grandfather,
is simply a Baron but at the same time, he's the head of the Ascalon
Clan, which was the first and is now the last of the Great Clans though
some Lesser Clans remain. His supposed authority is simply that of a
Baron, but his moral authority would fully equal one of the Duke's of
our country. There are five of them with hereditary titles not simply
the life titles that some people receive for the service they give.*
Dearna paused for a
second before continuing, *There is no Duke in the northeast, and that's
because of the Great Clans. There were once four of them, and they ruled
the northeast of Camron. The Ascalon Clan is twelve hundred years old.
After the founding of Camron, the four Great Clans swore an oath to
the King, three of the Clans continually broke that oath causing trouble
for much of the time since the Founding.*
*Over the centuries,
the King was required to fight them time after time, usually in minor
skirmishes though several major battles occurred. Two hundred years
ago, the Monarchy was finally at the point where they could afford to
systematically destroy the power of the Great Clans. One hundred and
fifty years ago, the crown fought the last of the major battles against
the last of the three Great Clans who had continually caused trouble.
They were defeated and dispersed.*
Dearna paused again
to allow us to digest that information before continuing, *That's important,
because you must realize that though the Ascalon Clan never fought against
the King, the Royal Family has always been uneasy that the Ascalon Great
Clan still existed. In 633 After Founding, one of Armand's sons, though
not the heir conspired with people in Madron to kill our King. The King
came down very hard on the Ascalon family. Much, much harder than he
would normally do so. Normally, the Ascalon's would just have had to
pay a huge fine, since as I said the son wasn't the heir.*
Dearna said, with a
serious look on her face, *Instead, the King invoked an Edict of Exile.
A huge fine was part of that Edict, and all direct descendants of Armand
Ascalon above the age of reason, which on our world is seven, were exiled
to their estate, on the pain of death.*
There was admiration
in Dearna's Mind-Voice as she said, *This background is important, for
you to know what Symin did. He and Maxim came across an injured King's
Messenger a man by the name of Cartan; one of their functions is that
of spies. The man had a vital message that had to get to the capital.
It was in a Message Stone, and he had no way to access the message,
he only knew it was urgent and concerned Madron. King's Messengers are
Magic Users and to keep its message intact, the Message Stone had to
be attuned to another Magic User and it had to be delivered to his contact
in Bremen before she left, because she would actively avoid anyone that
she didn't know trying to intercept her on the main road.*
We could feel Dearna's
evident sorrow as she continued, *There was no way Symin or Maxim could
get the man to the main road or to Bremen in time, and there were no
Magic Users at the Ascalon Estate. Maxim has the ability now but he
didn't at that time. The only way to get the Message Stone to Bremen
was if Symin took it. As soon as he left the Ascalon Estate he was under
a possible sentence of death, and he assumed that's what would happen.*
Her hand tightened
on mine, I was moved by the tale, and I could see that both Maxim and
Terrion had tears trickling down their faces. She gave a sigh and then
continued the story, *It was necessary that the message be delivered
secretly, and he used his ability to Conceal himself to get through
the gate and to the inn where the contact, Sinya was waiting. Because
of a variety of factors if Symin had missed her it could have delayed
the message by days, and as it turned out it was perhaps one of the
most important messages that was ever sent. Symin delivered the message
but the act of using his ability of Concealment left him very weak,
and he was able to attune the Message Stone to her then passed out.*
She moved a little
uneasily as she told them that, *Fortunately, Sinya didn't know about
the Edict, because even if she had done so, she would have had to leave
him to his fate. As a Self-Healer, once Symin used up his normal magic
energy, he automatically started taking power from his life force energy.
Sinya left him in the room and when he was discovered; though he didn't
know it he was arrested and moved to the mayor's house, where a couple
of rooms were kept for children being detained. I was called in and
I gave him energy which replaced what he had lost but it still took
several days for Symin to wake up.*
*Symin knew the message
was urgent and the Messenger told him that there might be spies in Bremen.
When he woke up, he couldn't tell the mayor anything. He couldn't explain
why he was off the Ascalon estate without permission. Tomma, who is
still the mayor of Bremen, is my cousin, also a Judge who has the responsibility
for High Justice They judge cases where the death sentence is a possible
penalty. Tomma really had no choice, he either had to impose the death
penalty or a punishment which was considered severe enough to satisfy
Dearna shook her head
with regret evident on her face. *Tomma could have turned the affair
over to the King for judgment, but he had never done so, and he assumed
that if he had that the punishment would automatically be the death
penalty, so he intended to decide the matter himself. It was common
knowledge that Tomma had never gone to the King to judge a case of High
Justice before. Symin would have known that so he couldn't ask Tomma
to have the King judge the crime, even though he knew he would have
been safe in that case. Tomma would have been suspicious, and everyone
in Bremen would have known about it before the day was out. If there
were spies in Bremen they would have been suspicious, so by doing that
Symin might in effect be revealing the secret.*
Dearna continued, *Symin
is a noble child and that describes his character even more than his
station in our society. He did not speak even when told that instead
of the death penalty he would have his sight destroyed. We are aware
that there is a pathway from the eyes to the brain...*
"We call it the
optic nerve." I told her,
Dearna nodded, telling
me, *Thank you, that is much easier than the way we refer to it. We
know that the optic nerve goes into the brain, which translates what
we see. I was required to destroy Symin's optic nerve, and it was the
most distasteful thing I have ever done.* Her hand tightened on mine
very hard, her eyes blank, as she was seeing what she had done again.
*However, as we believed at the time, if Tomma had transferred the responsibility
to the King, we assumed that Symin would be executed. As a Lesser Mage
Healer, it really required my ability to do the job. It is a very delicate
procedure. When you do something that affects the brain it is very easy
to kill if you make a wrong move.*
Dearna continued matter-of-factly.
*In fact, the message was so important that if Symin had died it still
would have been worth it. The spy in Madron discovered a plot to kill
the Madron King's younger son and his companions. Certainly, the deaths
of the companions, who were all members of important families, would
have been much worse than the death of the King's son. Madron is much
younger than Camron, the King's authority is much weaker. A war would
undoubtedly have resulted.*
Terrion took up the
story then, *Prince Tamen gave an Artefact of Power to Symin. It provided
him with the Sense of Perception, though at the beginning it was only
a few yards and only in black and white. When it was stolen months later,
it was discovered that he had a natural Sense of Perception and at the
time of discovery he could see about forty yards in diameter in color.
Perception can act simply as sight, though it is not, it simply seems
like it. As Tess said, it's magic and magic isn't always logical. However,
Perception also allows you to Perceive things. To describe it, lets
see. All right let's say you have a box, and there is something inside
the box. You can see all sides of the box and also at the same time,
you see what's in the box. Say it is another box, and inside that is
another one and so on. You would be able to see all of the boxes, and
all sides of those boxes both inside and out even though the bottoms
would be resting on the bottoms of the larger boxes.*
Maxim took up the tale
at that point, *The attempt to kill the King which resulted in the Edict
of Exile, was the first attempt to cause a war between Camron and Madron,
the attempt to kill the Madron King's son and his companions was the
second try. A third try was the kidnapping of Terrion, other noble children
and many common children. In order to save their lives Symin was going
to do something which he knew would kill him.*
There was sadness on
Maxim's small face and he said, *When they attacked the Fortress that
contained the man Yersine who planned the three attempts it was Warded
by very powerful Artefacts of Power. Symin had the ability to destroy
them using his dagger, which is magic. Using his Astral form, he would
have plunged his dagger into the Diamond Obsidian Ward stone, which
would have destroyed it and the backlash would have killed him. He's
only alive because of an accident. A Mage was guarding the Ward stone.
Symin had to turn to protect himself. When he started to turn back,
he slipped; his hand went into the Ward stone instead of the dagger.
Symin found himself still alive, and he gained the instinctive knowledge
of how to turn the Ward stone off. That allowed the Great and Lesser
Mages of Madron to enter the Fortress and defend the children there
making sure they weren't harmed.*
The look on Maxim's
face was happier now as he continued, *Symin turned the Ward off but
he found himself trapped by the power of the stone. To get himself free
he had to channel the power of the stone through his body increasing
all of his powers including his Sense of Perception. It increased his
ability to Perceive from forty yards to about two hundred yards and
beyond that is blackness and at the end it physically Transported him
over six hundred miles from Ascalon castle to the Fortress.*
Terrion took back the
tale again, saying a glow of happiness on his small face, *He also gave
me the gift of speech. Three months ago his dagger, which as we said
is magic, is called a God-blade. It affected him, interfering with his
Self-Healing ability and absorbing any Healing energy that Dearna used
to get him well. A Great Mage did a foolish thing and it endangered
Temple City, which is in Madron, though it actually is neutral territory.
Karliv, his cousin whose special ability is to use his Astral Spirit
and take someone with him was on a mission for his King. He had taken
Symin in his Astral form from Ascalon to the Fortress in northern Madron.
The Ward stones were Diamond Obsidian. It's common obsidian but dragons
like Tess, swallow obsidian and topaz and hold them in their first stomach
to help grind up the vegetable matter that they eat. Their magic and
the digestive juices that help break down the vegetation turn obsidian
into Diamond Obsidian.*
Terrion shook his head,
saying, *Diamond Obsidian is the hardest substance on our world, harder
than diamonds, so hard that it can't be worked by any means that we
have. The only thing that could affect Diamond Obsidian was Symin's
God-blade. Diamond Obsidian is especially useful for creating magic
Artefacts, but once damaged it's harmless. As I said Karliv was not
available, the only way that Symin could get to Temple City was physically,
by horseback, and there wasn't much time. He traveled nine hundred miles
in ten days knowing that it would probably kill him, because only Healers
could have kept him alive. With the dagger misbehaving, they couldn't
help him. Symin knew the Gods would keep him alive long enough to try
to save the city, but he also knew that his body would be so badly damaged
that he probably wouldn't have survived.*
I winced at that, I'd
once ridden sixty miles on a bet in one day, and could imagine some
of the pain that Symin must have gone through. Terrion's small face
was solemn and he gave a nod before saying, *Yes, anyone who's been
on horseback for a long journey can know a little of what Symin suffered.
But only a very little. Even we who are Linked to Symin, will never
know what that journey was actually like, because he has sealed it from
I saw sadness in Terrion's
brown eyes as he said, *I have some knowledge of what such pain can
be like, because I was brutalized when I was younger, and I can only
bear it because Karliv aged the memory, so it seems much farther away
than it really is. As he said, it's something that made me, for good
or ill, so I must remember it. Symin faces knowledge of the pain that
he had and his closeness to death much more calmly. It does not diminish
him as the memories I bear sometimes diminish me.*
Then Terrion smiled
his sadness gone as he continued small face glowing, *The rest of the
memory is a glorious one. Symin was in the place of the Gods and Kranholt
the God to whom the blade was dedicated put limits on it. As soon as
he did so, the Healers were able to begin helping Symin. Probably the
Gods helped, since the Healers were all Priests and Priestesses of the
Gods, because he recovered much faster than would be expected. In addition,
for some reason even though the Artefact that Symin pierced was even
more powerful than the ones in the Fortress, it did not increase his
power as they did. I was asleep on a sleeping pad beside his bed when
he awakened and he dropped on me and began tickling me. I know he's
smaller than Travis is, but he's part Elf and he's far stronger than
Maxim is. I was helpless to get him off, and had to yield.*
Terrion grinned at
the memory before saying, *The Gods sometimes give individuals gifts
and as a reward they gave Symin one. It was a Gift of Healing. Instead
of using it to repair his eyes, he gave it to me.* His small face was
thoughtful, *I didn't really realize what the Gift was. It wasn't until
later that Rendar told me that he could have kept the Gift for himself,
and gotten his sight back. Perhaps I should regret that I didn't think
of that at the time, but I do not. There was too much joy in his eyes
when he gave it to me, for me ever to regret it.*
Tears began to trickle
down his cheeks then, tears of joy as Terrion remembered, small face
filled with happiness. *That was the second major gift he gave me, first
was the ability to learn how to read. This one was the ability to speak,
for I was mute though I had Mind-Speech. Pictou says that almost all
humans on Earth have the ability to project but not the ability to receive.
On Lythea, they donít seem to be separate abilities. If you can project
you can receive, and it's a limited talent. But I did not have the mechanism,...*
telling him, *Vocal cords.*
Terrion gave her a
quick smile, though the tears were continuing to fall gently, before
saying, *Thank you. I did not have any vocal cords to make any sounds.*
He lifted his chin and traced the brown line on his throat that looked
like a figure eight on its side or the infinity symbol.
Dearna said, *It may
be hard to believe, but I examined him when he went through Bremen,
when they were returning the children rescued at the Fortress. He definitely
didn't have any vocal cords at that time. Only the Gods have that type
of Healing power.*
*Yes,* Terrion nodded
in agreement, saying, *Only the Gods have such power. Yet I talked to
Symin after Rendar told me he could have kept the Gift for himself.
He had no thought of ever doing so. If I had not accepted it, he would
have kept it, giving it to someone else who needed it. That's why Tess
felt you should know something about him. As she said, he is our center.
Our values are essentially his values not because he imposes them on
us, but because of the basic nobility of his nature.*
Terrion wiped the last
of his tears away, unashamed of them, then said cheerfully, *If you
think I use big words for a not quite ten year old you have to realize
that I've been in the company of Rendar, and often Karliv for almost
a year and a half. Even when Rendar was receiving guests, I didn't leave.
I was a slaveboy and they wouldn't have expected me to do so. What Ren
heard basically I heard.*
The children got up
and plunged back into the pool to clean the dirt off of their bottoms
from where they had been sitting, the boys getting out and began to
dry off. For the first time I saw Danni blush and she grabbed her towel
and headed for home while she dried off. Looking at Maxim, it was quite
evident from his physical development that he was well away from puberty,
and I chuckled, sympathizing with Danni.
Dearna said to me and
somehow I knew it was directed only at me, *Something that you must
know about our world. We do not have the taboo that your world has about
sex between adults and children. Eighty per cent of slavery and indentured
servitude is sexual. While we do not particularly approve of it, at
the same time neither do we strongly disapprove of it. When Terry said
he was a slaveboy that's the type of relationship he had with Rendar
and still has.*
"Why are you telling
me about that?" I asked.
She looked me in the
eyes with her brown eyes, and said simply, *You know.*
And I did, but I would have to think about it seriously. Then she laughed and looking at her, I realized that she was looking at Maxim. He hadn't bothered to put his shorts back on and he was grinning. I laughed with Dearna when I realized that he intended to embarrass Danni by showing up at the house, nude.
Symin was glad to be
up, even though it was strenuous. He was leaning on Travis who was closest
to his size. Since he would just be walking around the room right know
it was all the support he needed. Later in the day, he would be going
into the hallway and first thing tomorrow, he would be tackling the
stairs. He giggled at what Travis was telling him. "So Maxim showed
up completely naked in the kitchen and Danni who was relaxing, went
bright red, jumped up and ran out of the room, and we could hear her
going up the stairs. Everybody started laughing. She got him back the
next morning though. She's bigger'n he is and she's strong. She caught
him coming through the kitchen door and she swatted him half a dozen
times on the seat of his shorts with a ping-pong paddle. We could tell
she wasn't holding back neither. He was rubbing his butt hard when she
finished." Symin was giggling and he had to sit down on the side
of the bed picturing it.
Travis, good humor
bubbling was having a hard time holding back his giggles as well, "She
told him since he was physically younger than she was she was going
to treat him that way. She was getting him back for coming into the
kitchen naked just to make her go red. She said from now on, he either
had to be naked or wear shorts. If he decided to wear shorts, and he
has, then the only place he can be naked, is down at the pool, in this
room, in the bathroom or during the night when he's going to the bathroom.
If she sees him naked anywhere else, she'll go hunting for him with
the paddle and give him a dozen hard swats on his bare bottom."
Jenny said coming in
the room with Maxim said in agreement, "She meant it too!"
Maxim nodded ruefully, rolling his eyes, *She did, and she can hit hard!* he said, rubbing his bottom in remembrance, and started Symin giggling again just when he'd begun to control himself.
It was after supper
and Darren and Dearna were down at the pool supervising Maxim and Terrion
who were swimming. Daniel and Jenny were sitting at the dining room
table with their children and a naked Symin, who had decided to join
the other younger boys, since he was only a little older and smaller
than all of them.
Jenny said soberly
with was both sadness and joy in her mind. "Dad has given Daniel
and I his Power-of-Attorney. That's means that we can do things as if
we were him."
Travis said softly,
"He's going back to Lythea with Dearna? Isn't he?"
"Yes. Are you
sorry?" asked Daniel.
Jason shook his head
and said, "Not sorry, but sad, since we may never see him again.
Travis and I have talked about it at night. We don't really remember
Grandma Debbie that much, but we can remember Granddad and he was always
laughing, and always happy. Since she died, he's been different, only
being happy a few times. Since Dearna came he's gone back to the old
Granddad, and we know he was only partly here for a while."
Danni said solemnly,
"We can see how happy he is and we know that if he let Dearna go
he'd return to the Granddad we've seen in the last two years. Though
we'll miss him, we'll be missing the real Granddad, not the one who
was never quite here."
Symin had been practicing
with Jenny the various things he would say this afternoon. He told them,
"We can't promise that you'll see him again. I told Jenny and Daniel
what we would be doing and they said I should tell you the truth. What
we are doing is very dangerous and we could very easily fail. If we
fail, we will probably die. Without us there is no way
your Granddad can ever contact you again. At least no way that we know
Travis asked with curiosity,
"What will Granddad do?"
Symin answered seriously,
"Your Granddad has the potential to be a Healer, and we think with
a few years of learning he will have about the same amount of power
as Dearna has, and she's a Lesser Mage Healer." He grinned, "Jenny
says he's always bragged that he has the body of a thirty year old,
and to her astonishment, Dearna agrees with him. If Dearna didn't know
he was fifty-two she would have put his age at perhaps thirty-two or
Danni asked with intense
curiosity, "You say that Granddad has the potential to be a Lesser
Mage, what type of potential do the rest of us have?"
Symin told her, "Jenny
and your brothers have the same potential while Daniel and you have
a somewhat higher potential, your auras are showing that you could probably
become Great Mages."
Danni said, in a statement
not a question, though a bit wistfully, "You won't teach us will
Symin shook his head, saying with regret, "No. We have affected one family, and I've killed once on this world. If I were to do things, again I would do it the same way. However, we must not act like Varagon, the being we will be opposing. Though from a different universe, he took over Tess's world, and has caused a lot of problems on mine. We don't have the right to affect your world in more than a very minor way, either for good or ill. If we were to teach you to use your magic that might change your world enormously and would be against the principles that we are developing."
Earlier in the day,
the members of the Link had checked Earth for Magic Users and had found
none. They didn't think they were simply hiding. Since that time, they
had been practicing with the shield but right at the moment they were
all taking a breather, and having some Gatorade. The three boys were
still wearing the jockstraps and hard cups under their short trousers
but had taken off the hockey helmets. They had bruises to show where
they hadn't stopped the tennis balls thrown at them by the others. The
bruises on Tess and Pictou's bodies were only in their minds, but they
knew they were there.
They had started with Travis and Jason at ten feet Danni at twenty-five and the four adults at thirty feet, but they had ended up moving Jason back to twenty feet. They started with shields down only bringing them up when someone started to throw a ball. They weren't using the full shield, only a portion of it. They wanted to get to the point where they could stop a tennis ball thrown by any of the others, then they would go to two, and then three. When they were successful with three they intended to switch to baseballs. That was why they were wearing hockey helmets with facemasks and the jockstraps.
They had used baseballs
on the previous two days. Late in a the day before they had changed
to marbles, so they were wearing goggles as well as the hockey helmets.
Only Dearna and Darren, and Daniel had the skill to hit them with the
thrown marbles, but for the last half hour Jason and Travis had been
using slingshots. When they started with the marbles the others hit
them a few times, but after three hours of practice today, including
the half hour with the slingshots, the others hadn't hit them once.
The Link had come to the point where they could have a partial shield up and smoothly shift it between them, or they could have the full shield up and strengthen it at certain points when they wanted, just as smoothly and quickly.
It was their last day
and beginning two days before they had started using the Skeet Thrower.
They had learned how to obliterate the clay targets, how to hit them
just lightly enough to crack them or to actually pick them out of the
air with their ability to lift things.
Everything was almost
still now, the frenetic outside activities over. Darren was gone, headed
for a lake twenty miles away where he intended to go skin-diving and
just disappear when Symin and the others Transported him from the lake.
Just disappearing allowed him to return if needed, with a tale of having
lost his memory or something similar. Darren had cancelled his insurance
policies not intending to defraud the companies. Symin had signed over
the gold that he had brought to this world and deposited with Oskar
Nordstrom, to Jenny and Daniel. Symin had originally planned to use
it to buy scuba gear or something similar that would allow him to accompany
Pictou in the Void. With the ability, they had picked up from Tess of
creating a shield and trapping a pocket of air, it was no longer necessary.
Since what they were doing was so dangerous he didn't want it to go
Terrion said with a
bit of sorrow on his face, *Ren has told the others we're ready to return.
I told him we'd be taking Dearna and Darren to Bremen first, unless
the other Mages ambush us at the pool. Of course, he's been with me,
but only off and on. For the first few days I was simply being a boy,
Our training was quite boring to someone who wasn't directly involved
in it, so he wasn't aware we were as close to leaving as we are.*
Terrion spoke out loud
then for the first time, Darren having helped him with the words. "Good-byes
are always hard. On our world where fifty miles can be a great distance
to many of our people, it is something we do very often. However, this
is one of the hardest good-byes I've ever said. I never knew my mother,
and until I met Ren didn't really have a father either. You know I had
to act as a slave for almost a year, so it's only been in the last few
months that I've learned what being a son who had a father was actually
Terrion's face was
beginning to crumple up in sorrow and he rushed the rest saying, "Arla,
Renís mother has become my family as well, but I had never seen a
family before. You have treated us as your sons, and brothers and I
thank you for giving me such precious memories. In the past few days,
I've seen what having both a father and mother is like and Iíve learned
now that what I have with them is very close to what you have. Perhaps
that is even more important than anything else. It will be something
I'll remember for the rest of my life, and I thank you all for that."
Tears were flowing
down his face as he embraced them each in turn. Daniel and Jenny were
close to tears as well but Danni, Travis and Jason were well over the
verge, and their tears were also flowing freely.
Dearna said a little
ruefully, *I won't try to equal my little friend's eloquence, either
out loud or in Mind-Speech. You have taken me into your family and welcomed
me though I am taking your father and grandfather far away from you,
in such a way that you may never see him again. I thank you for supporting
us and the new lives we will be living." She too embraced them,
and the tears were going now, acceptance taking their place.
Symin said with a bit
of a frown on his small face, "I'm speaking for both Maxim and
myself. He simply doesn't have the words he wants to thank you so he
elected me to do so for him and for me. First for me. Unlike Terrion,
I never had a father or a mother, the man I thought was my father was
in fact my uncle and my father abandoned me when I was a baby to join
my mother in death. Minna loves me and I know she does so as much as
she loves any other member of my family. However, I know she isn't my
mother and she wasn't intended to be. She was intended to be what she
has become; broad-shoulders to which all members of the family can go
to. Her responsibility has always been to the Ascalon Clan as a whole
and because I needed her more than the others for a while, she came
to me more often."
There was yearning
in Symin voice as he said, "In the past year Sinya and Dearna have
come close at times, but you two have come the closest to being the
father and mother I never had and probably will never have; your children
the brothers and sister I would have liked to have had. As Terrion said
these few days and the time I spent here last time are precious memories
and like him I'll never forget them."
"Now for Maxim,"
and Symin despite the solemn occasion giggled, "Sorry it's just
his feelings are so ambiguous it's hard to describe them. He already
has a father and mother, and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews,
he's thinking, 'Thank you very much but I don't need more parents, or
brothers or a sister'. Despite that, he feels much like Terrion and
I do, as if you were family, a favorite aunt and uncle perhaps, and
favorite cousins. He too will remember you, and for him the time here
has been precious."
"I know both Tess and Pictou have already said their good-byes and they wished them to be private as did Darren. We will join them at the orchard and hope we will see you again. Goodbye." Symin told them, he and Terrion simultaneously giving the slow graceful full bow of the nobility to their equals while Dearna gave her one-quarter bow and Maxim his half bow and then they disappeared, taking aching hearts with them and leaving aching hearts behind.
They reappeared at
the orchard where Pictou and Tess were already waiting. They reached
out with their minds to the lake where Darren was scuba diving, and
Transported him to the orchard as well. He slipped out of the scuba
tank and the wet suit, leaving him in a pair of shorts he used for a
bathing suit. They piled the stuff on an already weighted piece of plastic,
and after tying it up they Transported it to the ocean and allowed it
to sink to the bottom.
Symin told him, *We'll
try to Transport to Lythea and immediately to Bremen, however if we
get ambushed we may have to fight.* His small face was thoughtful. Suddenly
Tess's shield popped into being and it pulled in gathering air. Since
it would only take a few seconds to get to Lythea, she hadn't tried
to gather in a large amount. The others joined their power to hers behind
the shield. There was no attempt at Concealment this time. If their
enemy was waiting for them, so be it, they were in for a very nasty
In fact, they were
waiting, not in Astral form, which would have been prudent; they were
actually there in person. They had gauged the Link's power when they
first fought them, finding it wanting, not knowing it had been simple
overconfidence caused by inexperience.
It was raining, but
not heavily when they appeared beside the pool and the first Mind-Blast
hit their shield. It was a huge blast delivered by the three teams of
Great and Lesser Mages, the Link's shield completely integrated now
simply absorbed the Mind-Blast, their enemies, not living long enough
to realize their mistake. The return blast went through their shields
as if they didn't exist, and the thirteen Mages died as the return Mind-Blast
shattered their bodies.
Maxim and Dearna joined
their minds to examine the bodies of the thirteen men and women to see
if there were any life signs but there was none; all life extinguished.
Maxim and Terrion were horrified by the deaths. They had never killed
before, but the other three were not. Symin, who could be completely
ruthless when it was required, felt no sympathy for those they had killed.
He had felt their deaths with his Empathy. As usual when he killed evil
people his mind sang with joy, and he thought them better off dead.
Tess simply had no
compassion for enemies. She killed them when possible and whether they
were good or evil, she simply didn't care. She might be an amiable dragon
but she was still a dragon. Pictou was simply too unimaginative and
practical to be concerned by the deaths.
Searching Symin located
an isolated cave, which was large enough to take the bodies, so they
Transported them into it and collapsed the roof to bury them.
They stayed at the
poolside while Maxim and Terrion recovered, as they grieved for those
they had helped kill. Dearna who could be almost as ruthless as Symin
when necessary helped them immensely, soothing their minds. She told
them that it was sometimes necessary to kill but it wasn't something
they simply had to forget because those they had killed were evil. It
was all right to hate killing that would make sure they would only kill
when it was absolutely necessary.
Reaching out to Dearna's
home in Bremen they found that Seldon was busy with a patient, so they
Transported Tess to Rendar's home in Divandia while they were waiting
for the patient to leave. When that occurred, the six of them Transported
themselves to Dearna's home.
Seldon had a big smile
on his face. Obviously, he was still happy to have a full practice again.
Dearna marveled at the change in him. He looked years younger and much
better than he had done in years. Being a Great Mage, he had felt the
spike of magic that preceded their appearance. Unsurprised he grabbed
Dearna twirling her around in delight.
Seldon said with high
good humor, "I hadn't realized how much I missed it, daughter.
When I return to the capital, I intend to institute at least some private
"I think you should,
father, you look better than you have in years. However," Dearna
then said, with a little unaccustomed shyness, "before you return
to the capital don't you wish to attend my wedding first?"
Seldon looked dumbstruck,
and then joy appeared on his weathered face again. While she was still
young for their world, he wasn't and he had given up hoping to see her
wed before he died. Looking at the others who had appeared with her,
he knew who she meant, since Darren was the only adult there.
The two men locked
eyes and sizing each other up, both liked what they saw. Darren bowed
the one-quarter bow that Dearna had taught him and with the grace of
the born athlete, it looked like he had done it thousands of times before.
Seldon returned it and then moved forward and gave Darren a hug. He
started to speak, when Symin told him, "You'll have to use Mind-Speech
for the moment; he doesn't know our language yet."
Seldon nodded, saying
joyously, *Welcome, young man, I had given up hope of seeing her wed
before I died and I am delighted, simply delighted to welcome you to
Darren nodded, saying,
earnestly, *Thank you sir. Since my wife died four years ago, I had
given up hope of ever knowing the type of joy I had known with her again.
It was an unexpected but joyous experience when I knew that I was wrong.
I still love her as much as I did before, but to my astonishment, I
realized that it was possible to love another woman just as much. It
has changed my view of love completely.*
Seldon nodded with
understanding saying with a sigh of regret, *Yes, my wife died just
three years ago. We had been married for sixty years; I know if I had
been younger, she would have wanted me to marry again.*
Dearna said with a
smile on her face, *I'm glad he hasn't forgotten his wife, it shows
me that he has commitment, and I know from his mind that he loves me
as much as he did her.* She laughed softly, *I'm not an adolescent girl
expecting that one undying love is all that a man has to give.*
Symin said speculatively,
*The Temple of Essus is outside the south gate. It's just as well that
it has an enormous field next to it. This is going to be the biggest
wedding held in many years. Most of Bremen and for twenty to thirty
miles around it will want to attend.*
He looked at Terrion,
and the younger boy nodded, *Ren says he'll pay for the whole thing.
He says that since he'll never get married, and I probably wonít either,
he'd like to pay for one big wedding in his lifetime.*
Symin nodded his understanding.
*Minna and Tomma are probably the best ones to organize it. Between
them, they know everybody they need to deal with.*
Dearna looked at the
boy, "You wouldn't let us have a small wedding would you?"
Symin shook his head,
telling her seriously, "You're important Dearna. Why do you think
the others brought Seldon here when they took you to me? It's not because
you're irreplaceable. Obviously you aren't, but look who replaced you.
A Great Mage Healer. You know everyone within twenty miles, and have
treated many of them in the past twenty years"
Darren and Dearna looked at each other, grimacing a bit with amusement as Symin was off and planning.
The Priest of Essus
started speaking in a solemn voice, "We meet to tie this couple
together in a form of bondage, bondage between equals who know their
own minds and voluntarily forgo the freedoms they now enjoy."
"Itís a joyous
occasion for them because they chose to be bound together, and equally
joyous for those of you who are watching them wed." He continued
in that same vein for several minutes and then came to the conclusion,
"If you still wish to wed, after hearing the duties that you will
now owe to each other please say so now?"
Both Darren and Dearna
answered in strong definite voices. This was something they wanted and
more had come to need.
said Darren forcefully.
Dearna said, more quietly but with just as much determination in her
"Present the Band
of Gold." the Priest of Essus said, and they each held up a piece
of decorated metal, in delicately made filigreed gold and they touched
the ends together and the Priest ran his fingers over the edges and
used his magic to join them into one. The Band of Gold was always of
metal but only the more important members of society actually used bands
made of gold.
Then he said, "This band is now one, these lives are now one, may they take pleasure in a long life of joy."