They were in the library,
as they had been twice before the adults in armchairs, the boys and
Pictou on the floor, Tess present through their eyes.
Symin said gravely,
“According to Tess, Varagon tends to be very noisy when he Transports.
She didn’t know if that was deliberate or if he had trouble controlling
his power, or if he simply didn’t care if everybody knew he was coming
Symin said to them,
“Well we’re only going to get one chance at Varagon. If we fail
we’ll probably be dead, so we can’t afford to fail.” He grinned
shrugged and then frowned, “Not that our lives are particularly important
compared to the vastness of the universes, but it would be important
to us and those who care for us. It would also leave the dragon’s
world and our world and of course the many other worlds in the many
other universes, at the mercy of Varagon and we don’t know what his
“We need to be very
very quiet. Like a thief braving the Palace we don’t want to wake
up the King, but just as important we don’t want to wake the guards
either.” Symin said, gesturing with his fingers as if walking very
softly, “I’ve never been present when someone Transported into or
out of the Void. I’ve always been part of the Transport.”
Karliv shook his head,
saying, “You’re not very noisy, certainly detectable by any Great
Mage, but unless they have Mage senses actually looking right at the
spot into which you Transport it’s unlikely that they would see you.
But then again we don’t know what abilities Varagon has. It’s wise
to expect the worst and then you can be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t
Kraftin nodding, “Assume that Varagon can hear you no matter where
you appear on a world, and try to avoid making any magical noise at
all. First, we’ve got to determine how noisy Pictou and Tess are now
and whether you can make their Transporting even quieter in any fashion.
For instance can they Transport into and out of the Void while already
in Concealment. Would that make it quieter or are the two incompatible
as sometimes happens when you mix two high level magical abilities together.”
Pictou told them, *I
did some experimenting when I first began traveling between worlds.
I couldn’t Transport when I was in Concealment and I couldn’t invoke
Concealment either while Transporting or in the Void itself. As you
say they’re both high level magic, and can't be used together. With
my power enhanced by the Link, my feeling is that I would still be unable
to use both at the same time.*
Tess explained to them,
**While I haven’t been doing any experimenting on a personal basis,
I know from my lessons that dragons have done so and the results in
this case mirror Pictou’s results. However, we are no longer separate
beings but five Linked as one. I would think it would be quite possible
for one of the others to Conceal us while Pictou or I Transported.**
They spent the next
two days learning how to do so. During the first day, Tess and Pictou
learned to Transport quietly. So quietly in fact that even when Karliv
and Kraftin were standing a few feet from the Transport spot they couldn’t
detect it. However, the three boys Linked together and separated completely
from the other two members of the Link could.
They began experimenting
with Concealment at that point, one of the boys going with Pictou or
Tess. They found it was possible to use Concealment in this manner but
no matter how hard they tried when the other members of the Link were
on high alert they were still detectable in that brief instance when
they passed through the barrier between the magical Void and the real
But then again only
when they were looking at a particular area and the more area they tried
to spread their magical senses over the less sensitive they were. Trying
to cover an area more than fifty feet in diameter they simply weren’t
sensitive enough to detect Tess or Pictou Transporting and in Concealment.
On the third day, they
were back in the library. The five members of the Link were thoughtful.
Maxim said philosophically, “That’s the best we can do. Figuring
that Varagon is a hundred times more powerful than we are, then he can
still only cover an area less than a mile in diameter. He’d have to
know that we’re coming and even then that’s an awfully small area
on a awfully big planet.”
“We found out that
the shield that we use acts the same as a normal Ward and Symin or Pictou
can easily penetrate it with their Astral Form. That’s something we
may need to know in the next few days.”
Symin had a gloomy
look on his small face. “Of course Varagon is going to be watching
the very area that we intend to go to,” he said pessimistically.
Terrion said in Mind-Speech,
**Don’t be so 'dang gloomy' as Travis would say. The big event is
here and 'We’re off to see the Wizard.' Adventure is ours and we will
be triumphant, for 'our hearts are pure and we have the strength of
“Yeah, sure,” said
Symin who had watched the same movie and the same cartoons when they
had been on Earth. “Unfortunately Varagon has the strength of one
Despite his dark comment, he felt better. He was always a realist; however, he was seldom pessimistic. Symin had faced his death on several occasions and he had faced it with courage and the knowledge that what he was doing was right and honorable had generally brought serenity to his mind. The uncharacteristically pessimistic feeling was gone leaving him at peace despite knowing what was to come.
They were ready to
Transport into the Void, each of the boys carrying large backpacks with
special travel rations that would last for several weeks. Pictou and
Tess because they were both plant eaters and had much larger bodies
hopefully would be able to share the Most Ancient One's food.
Their good-byes had
been done much more quickly than when they had left Earth. For Symin,
Maxim, and Pictou, it had simply been a hug between the three men and
Ren’s mother Arla and them. For Tess it was a stroke of the hand over
For Terrion it had
been a much more intense experience. He didn’t have to say goodbye
to Rendar since the man was always with him as part of the Link. However,
he needed to say goodbye to Arla, who had become more like a mother
than a grandmother.
There were unashamed
tears by both the boy and the sixty-three old woman. However, even that
while intense was quick. As only a Princess could, she was well aware
that duty came before what you might wish as a person. If it led to
Terry’s death then so be it. She would mourn but she would also feel
a great deal of pride.
Once in the Void, the
dragon's planet Stefaraa for dragons was normally about one hundred
hours travel time from Lythea, for Pictou about ten hours going towards
and then past the uninhabited planet where they had found Tess. Dragons
used it as a way station, and there were many such planets. Since they
needed to take their air with them places to rest and renew it were
indispensable on long journeys.
With the Link pushing Tess onwards they reached their destination in about four hours. When Symin and Pictou had first gone to Earth Pictou’s ability to Transport had automatically set them down a few miles from where he wanted to go. With careful visualization, they would end up much closer to their planned destination.
Four of them concentrated
as intently as they had ever done before on Concealment as Tess transported
them as quietly as she could to their destination. To visit her many
times great-grandmother, the Most Ancient One, oldest of all dragons.
Oldest of all dragons
and the largest, at more than two hundred and fifty feet long. They
were pleased to see that she didn’t know that they were there in her
enormous lair. Not because they wanted to hide from her, but because
if she couldn’t sense them that meant that Varagon probably couldn’t
Terrion looked with
awe at the immense dragon, said in a squeaky Mind-Voice, **She’s really
your ancestor, Tess. Gods,** he said with reverence, **She’s fantastic!!**
**Yes,** said Tess,
her mind-voice showing equal wonder, **I’ve seen her a dozen times
since I left the nest, yet every time I see her, I’m overawed by her.
Not only because of her size but by her personality. She is what a dragon
Tess and thought about
what she had said, and then continued dryly, **No that doesn’t do
her justice. She is what any thinking being should be. Immensely learned
yet at the same time wise, and compassionate. She accepts the prison
that her body has become gracefully and with humor and not all of the
Ancient Ones do so.**
Symin had as much awe
as the others but with the practicality that was as much a part of him
as his artist's soul, said, **Well. Perhaps you should announce our
presence, Tess. She is your Great-Grandmother, after all.** Then with
a bit of amusement, **We’ll wait here behind our shield in case she
decides she doesn’t really want visitors.**
**Gee, thanks. Leaving
me to greet her all alone. I’ve never done that before. Those other
times when I visited here I was with my father or my mother.** Tess
said in mock harshness, quite aware as the rest of the Link was that
while the Most Ancient One was not Varagon, nobody in all of their history
had ever seen her use her full power. It was likely that the shield
the Link was using would be as effective as holding up a piece of paper
in front of them if she really decided their visit was unwelcome.
The Link's shield flowed
to release her, as she moved forward. The spell of Concealment had a
strictly limited range and she passed beyond it’s protection to become
fully visible. The Most Ancient One’s massive head didn’t move and
her eyes didn’t open yet Tess knew that her ancestor was aware of
*Yes, my little descendant;
Tessilonika isn’t it? What may I do for you?* the ancient dragon asked
Tess wasn’t surprised
that her ancestor knew she was there. However, the fact that her ancestor
even remembered her surprised Tess. The Most Ancient One opened her
eyes for the first time saying dryly, *It’s not as if I had anything
to distract me from my thoughts, is there, daughter?*
Much more sensitive
than she had been the last time she had visited her ancestor, Tess caught
the sense of helplessness that the Most Ancient One felt, trapped in
a body that was simply far too big to move more than a few feet and
with surprise, Tess realized that she pitied her.
*Yes, little one.*
The Most Ancient One said, *Our bodies have becomes prisons. Most dragons
look upon us with awe and want to be like us. To live what seems like
forever even to those who have the lifespan of a normal dragon. For
us it is the curse of immortality.*
*As large as I am I’m
still growing, and will do so until the day I die. For thousands of
years I’ve been unable even to move more than a tiny bit. I can only
lie here remembering what the unrestricted use of my body was like.
Though I think, being denied the wonder of flight is the worst part
of my life. Never again to soar into the cold clear sky. . . . . .*
and her mind-voice trailed off, showing such longing that Tess and the
other members of the Link were deeply affected.
The Most Ancient One
shook herself visibly, the ripples of her muscles showing under the
skin of her massive body. The longing that had taken over her mind for
a brief period was now entirely under control and pushed to the back
of her mind where she felt it belonged.
*But that is beyond
anyone’s power to change.* The Most Ancient One moved her massive
head, slowly lifting it proudly into the air until she was staring down
at Tess. She said with amusement, *I would know what you want of me,
little one? No dragon of your tender years has ever before visited me.
Never, never alone. I seem to intimidate them, so the reason that you
are here must be in your mind of overwhelmingly importance.*
For the first time Tess’s awe abated somewhat as she managed to turn her attention on the reason that the Link was there. She said, *Honored one, my friends and I.* and she nodded to the other members of the Link who appeared as she mentioned them, and the Most Ancient One swung her head a little to look at them, her mind showing no surprise. *The Gods of the Lythean universe have given my friends and I an assignment. That task is to render Varagon harmless before he hurts this world or Lythea or in fact any world. We don’t have the ability to kill him so we must capture him.* and she proceeded to recap the entire story.
The Most Ancient One
thought about it for a long time, and the five members of the Link were
fidgeting edgily before she turned her attention back on them, *It is
a grave task, I agree. You say you don’t intend to fight him. What
do you want of me, little ones?*
Symin stepped forward,
and bowed respectfully, *The stones that you take into your stomach,
and change into what we call Diamond Obsidian.* and he waved around
at the many stones in the lair which had been placed to form a gigantic
mosaic. *To contain even an ex-God requires the most powerful stones.
The larger the stone the more powerful a Ward it can produce. As the
largest dragon, the stones that you have produced are the largest in
*That’s very true.*
conceded the most ancient one, *We have done experiments on the stones
and the larger the stone the harder they are to power. How do you intend
to power them?* she asked the question causing consternation among four
of the members of the Link.
Symin who was much
more familiar with the stones had expected it and come up with a solution.
He said calmly, *We will have no trouble charging the smaller stones.
We use them as an inner barrier and it’ll take Varagon some time to
get through it. We don't have to fully charge the large stones. Even
a fairly small charge will power the outer Ward hundreds of times longer
than the inner Ward.*
The other members of
the Link were looking at Symin with surprise and at the same time with
uneasiness suspecting they wouldn’t like his solution.
*How do you intend
to provide continuous power? Even when the stones are Artefacts of Power
their power can’t be sent through the Void so you’ll need to be
there for the rest of your lives.* The Most Ancient One asked.
Symin shook his head,
telling her, *I won’t even try to tell you that you’re wrong. You
know much more about the stones than I do. Nevertheless, in a way at
the same time you are wrong. The members of the Link are in continuous
contact. Among us we can send power to any member and the Void won’t
Symin said gravely,
unhappiness and fear evident in his mind, *I’m a Tuner. I can create
Artefacts of Power.* He was silent for a long period and they could
all feel the apprehension in his mind. He sighed before continuing.
*It’s rare but it’s possible for a Tuner of sufficient power to
create a living Artefact of Power and it can become part of the Ward.
Those members of the Link no longer need to be close to power the barrier.*
They all winced as
Symin's apprehension become very evident fear and then a veil of serenity
was covering it. A dark feeling of sadness went through the members
of the Link as they knew what he intended to do yet there was no protest.
Like him, they saw no other choice.
There was a strange
excitement in the Most Ancient Ones Mind-Voice as she said, *You’ll
have your magic, little one! That at least makes it bearable!*
Symin shook his and
sighed again, *Once I am part of the Ward, they’ll have to bind my
magic so I can no longer touch any of it and wall off my mind from theirs.
Magic will be able to come in but we can’t allow it to go out nor
can my thoughts. I doubt my mind is as stable as a dragon. Sooner or
later, madness will begin to affect me and we can't allow it to affect
them. In my madness if I can control my magic I might destroy the Ward
and many lives could be lost as a consequence.*
*Why you and not one
of the others?* The Most Ancient One asked, respect evident in her Mind-Voice.
Symin explained, somberness
in his Mind-Voice, *I am the most powerful member of the Link. I was
on my way to becoming a Great Mage even without it. Because of her long
life Tess will eventually be more powerful than I am, but at the same
time because of their long lives Pictou and Tess can provide power for
a much longer period than the rest of us.*
Symin continued the
explanation, *After a time the mind must awaken, though the body will
remain asleep. Maxim is a Healer and can put me into a Sleeping Trance,
which on its own will be much longer than any of the rest of us can
manage. Backed by the Link it will be even more effective and the period
of full sleep will be much longer.*
Symin waved his hand
at the other members of the Link, *We cannot hide what we are from each
other and we know that of the five of us, Terrion’s mind is the youngest
and at the moment the most fragile, so his period of madness would affect
him much sooner.*
*The rest of you accept
that?* The Most Ancient One asked.
Maxim, with the sorrow
in his mind resonating throughout the Link, said, *We must. If this
is the only way to keep Varagon imprisoned then we are obliged to use
it. We can see his mind and the reasons he chose himself are all valid.*
The members of the Link were in a somber yet at the same time a determined mood. They would do this, whatever the cost to them personally, despite the heartbreak they would go through.
There was a soaring
feeling of joy in the Most Ancient One’s mind, as she said, *No little
ones. It is not necessary for you to sacrifice one of your numbers to
a life that would be even worse than the life of an Ancient One.*
*Many years ago, one
of our Gods, Averon promised us that one day, the burden of our long
lives would end in a manner that befits our beliefs. We have been waiting
patiently as only dragons can for that moment. Only we have the ability
to charge a Diamond Obsidian of the size that you need, but even we
can only partially do so and could not survive the experience. At long
last our time of release is at hand!!!*
Then they could feel
the sympathy in her mind that she directed at them. *I’m sorry for
what that will do to you. Other Artefacts of Magic retain their power
but Diamond Obsidian stones are unique and there is no way that we know
of that it can remain powered once it enters the Void. All the magic
it contains drains out of it the moment Transport is completed.*
The Most Ancient One
said to them, *You will need to choose another planet in order to trap
Varagon, and we no longer have the ability to Transport into the Void,
therefore all of the power must be channeled through the five of you.
That may kill you but even if it doesn’t it will change you permanently,
in ways you can’t even imagine at the moment.*
The members of the
Link who had begun to relax knowing that one of them would not need
to sacrifice his existence to complete their task, became apprehensive
Symin said, **I know
she’s happy,* then he grinned, **well deliriously happy would be a
more appropriate statement. I’m inclined to do it but still this is
our task. Should we allow them to give their lives in this way?**
Tess said seriously,
**I always knew that the Most Ancient One was not completely happy,
but I didn’t realize until now how unhappy she and the other Ancient
Ones really are. Few dragons will suicide, even those who are severely
ill. It goes against what we believe. To give up your life serving your
people in some way is the way most dragons would prefer to go. I say
Pictou said with equal
solemnity, **We would have no right to force them to help. At the same
time, I don’t feel we have any right to refuse their offer. I also
Terrion, his brown
eyes huge in his face, said, **I saw the men that kidnapped me. I thought
they would kill me when they found out I had no money. Yet I welcomed
it with happiness knowing that I would escape my father’s brutality.
If I had lived and nothing had changed, I would still have welcomed
death. Nothing can ever change things for them as they are, and they
long for the next world. I say yes as well!!**
Maxim shrugged his
shoulders,, and said, **I agree as well. They wish to be free. Yet like
Symin who out of honor, has risked his life several times in the past
honor will not let them take their own lives. Let them die in a manner
that protects their honor.**
Symin turned to the Most Ancient One, and told her, *We accept your offer. As happy as you are right now, we will remember it in the future and be happy for you. However I don’t think that it will stop us from grieving and regretting your passing.*
They chose the planet
where they had found Tess, though the location they chose was very far
from where they had first found her. They Transported thirty-two of
the large Diamond Obsidian stones, since that was the number of Ancient
Ones, and they all wished for glorious release. Each of the stones was
bigger than Maxim was.
With thirty-two stones,
they could create four rings of eight stones each, the inner three would
be facing inward and the outer one would be facing outward. They intended
to cross-link all of the stones so that the only way that anyone could
neutralize the Ward was to destroy all thirty-two stones simultaneously.
They were in no hurry, so they took no chances, only Transporting a few of the stones each day, taking almost a week to move the thirty-two large stones and twelve smaller stones. They would use eight of the smaller stones to create an inner Ward. It didn’t have to last for very long, it was simply the first step in the trap. Two of them they used to create an illusion and two more would be used to put the members of the Link into a Sleeping Trance, to hide them and to trigger the trap.
The members of the
Link turned their attention to the base of the hill looking at themselves.
Terrion said it for all of them, “It’s eerie. We’re up here looking
down at our dead bodies and none of our senses not even our Sense of
Perception can tell that it’s an illusion.”
Symin said, seriously,
“In order to fool Varagon it must be perfect, right down to our very
DNA.” which he had learned about while on Earth. “Perhaps it isn’t
necessary. Maybe Varagon isn’t powerful enough to tell the difference.
However, I don’t intend to take a chance on a ‘Maybe’. We stretched
ourselves to our limit to create the illusions and even knowing that
they’re false we can’t tell the difference.”
They didn't have to
say it, all members of the Link were in total agreement with Symin.
He looked up at the sky as if he could see the Void and with a sigh,
said in a much more somber tone, “This is something I don’t want
to do. Even knowing that the Ancient Ones desire this above anything
that has ever happened in their lives, I don’t want to do it. It seems
wrong to deprive the universes of such knowledge and wisdom.”
Tess said, obviously
not sharing Symin’s regret, **It’s their right, Symin and their
desire. I’m more worried about their deaths in a practical way. Even
the Ancient Ones die and I can remember it happening once during my
lifetime. What will happen when all thirty-two of the Ancients die at
the same time? Will their deaths warm Varagon?**
Pictou asked, **He
condemned you to death for trying to raise active resistance to him.
If you hadn’t been trying to do that would he even have noticed you?**
Symin said to them
with a serious look on his small face, “Varagon caused millions of
death by interfering in his universe. He was a God, he had to know it
was possible, yet it didn’t stop him. I have to think that he doesn’t
see mortals as individuals. If you don’t oppose him in a manner that
brings yourself to his attention, I don’t think he cares what happens
to us. The death of thirty-two individuals will be unimportant to him.”
Symin had other somewhat unsettling ideas, which he kept to himself.
Tess thought about
it for a few minutes before commenting, **I think Symin is right. Varagon
doesn’t even address us by name. He simply says ‘Dragon, do this
or this or do that’ and he doesn’t care which of his underlings
obeys him just as long as he’s obeyed.**
Symin looked at the
Most Ancient One, and checked with the members of the Link one last
time, and finding they were all ready but dreading what was to come
knowing it would be agony come to life and would seem to last forever.
He said with false calmness in his voice, as he addressed the Most Ancient
One, **We’re as ready as we can be. I’m ready to channel the power.**
He braced himself as
the Most Ancient One said, *I doubt that Symin.* she said with humor
yet at the same time with a wondrous sense of compassion as she directed
the power of the first Ancient One towards him.
They had chosen Symin
to receive the power directly from the Most Ancient One because he was
the most powerful but also because he had experience with Diamond Obsidian
stones. However, no experience could prepare him for the roasting power
that shrouded him. Heat and pain exploded within him as his body seemingly
tried to burst into flame.
Symin fell to the ground
agony past belief enveloping him. Yet strangely part of him was still
aware, still in control, outside the pain, and able to direct the power
and send it on its way as one by one the members of the Link became
stations of suffering but like Symin there was an awareness that transcended
They would never know
how long they spent in a dimension of pain, as they continued to channel
the power into the first of the Diamond Obsidian stones. But finally
it ended as a singing feeling of joy replaced the searing agony, as
the Ancient One’s grip on life ended and he passed on to his reward
in the afterlife.
Pictou, barely had
the power to Transport to join Symin on Stefaraa, and Terry’s Concealment
was very ragged, as the three beings collapsed. On the planet that they
had called Trap, Maxim had also collapsed. Only Tess of the five members
of the Link had any semblance of life as she joined Maxim, but she had
an irresistible desire to sleep.
The willing darkness cradled them as they slept, and as the Most Ancient One had said they were changed irrevocably. When they had finished channeling the power of all of the Ancient Ones, they were perhaps the most powerful mortal Magic Users in all of the universes.
Symin had an ache in
his heart as he prepared to channel the Most Ancient One’s power through
the Link and shepherd her to a welcome death. He said, “We know that
what we are doing is something that you desire, but still we ache because
of what we need to do.”
The Most Ancient One
said, her compassion reaching out and enfolding the Link bathing them
in its warmth, *I’ve seen your minds, and it is a regret that will
pass. At the moment, none of you can really acknowledge that our deaths
are not an ending for us but a glorious beginning. As time passes, you
will remember the joy we felt as we departed and that will comfort you
and full acceptance will come.**
With that, she reached
out for Symin and began to channel her power into him. There was still
pain as it entered him but not the overwhelming pain of a couple of
weeks ago. If they had chosen to send the power only as fast as they
had done at the beginning, there would have been no pain, but they could
now transfer it at a much higher rate, and in less than an hour, they
were almost finished.
They chose this time, the last time, to share the Most Ancient One’s death with her, and the singing feel of joy, swept through the Link as she departed from the mortal realms. The beginning of acceptance was theirs but only the beginning and they regretted her death and the loss of her incredible mind which they had learned to know so well.
It had taken them a
long time to key the outer Ward so it would react, as they wanted it
to. Since they also intended to direct a continuing stream of power
at the Ward, they needed to use a modified version of the spell that
Symin had intended to use. It was different from the way he had planned
to become part of the Ward. He would have become completely a part of
the Ward, and they were also part of it yet at the same time, they were
separate from it.
The Most Ancient One
had said that it wasn’t possible to send power through the Void, but
the Link was unique and as they had been able to send power through
themselves, they were able to send power to the Ward once joined to
Linking all of the
stones together was a very time consuming process. If they hadn’t
had their own Link as an example, they might not have been able to do
it. At the conclusion, they ended up with all thirty-two of the stones
linked and cross-linked together and with satisfaction, they viewed
the completed criss-cross pattern. The way they were connected, it was
possible to destroy several of the stones without destroying the entire
After turning, the
Ward off they had also hidden the almost inactive Ward in the way that
Symin had learned from Karliv when the Great Mage was teaching him how
to use his Astral Spirit.
The trap was now ready
but first Varagon needed to know that the bait existed. Over the last
week they had spent time waiting in the Void for a dragon to appear.
It was getting to the point that it seemed that none of the inhabitants
of Stefaraa ever intended to travel. As least, it seemed that way to
the children. Only Pictou was an adult among his own kind, and like
children everywhere their patience had long since run out.
Finally, their impatient
wait was rewarded as a dragon appeared in the Void. While they couldn’t
see her, they could feel her, and as they began to follow her it appeared
that they were in luck, since she seemed to be heading in the direction
that they wanted.
After several hours
Pictou said, **Well she does seem to be heading right for Trap. It’s
almost too much of a coincidence to believe.**
While Symin also had
some reservations, he said, **True. But at the same time, Trap is a
waystation. While she’s the first dragon we’ve seen in the Void
for a week, we know from Tess’s mind that it’s very unusual for
there to be so few.**
**Well it’s time
to go.** Symin said, he invoked his Astral form, and taking hold of
the dagger he passed through Tess’s shield and launched himself at
the other dragon who he could feel in the distance.
Symin just seemed to
stop abruptly as he closed on her and he realized that her shield had
stopped him. Taking hold of the God-blade, he moved forward slowly passing
through her shield as well. Aside from the members of the Link, no other
being was visible to him in the Void so he couldn’t see her, but he
felt her solidness when he moved slowly forward and made contact.
Symin directed a mild
Mind-Blast at her as he made her aware of his presence. She gave a little
lurch of pain as he introduced himself, *I am Symin Ascalon. And you
are?* allowing her to feel the question in his mind.
She was shocked. She
had been confident, sure that nobody, not even Varagon could pierce
her shield. She placed her sureness into the past and simply accepted
the impossible, much less sure, now that Varagon couldn’t penetrate
She answered with a
little stiffness, and fear in her voice, *I am Reselan and what are
Symin pushed his image
into her mind, saying, *I am human.* but pushing more information into
her mind images of his companions appeared beside his in her mind, and
there were bars of light joining all of them. *But I am also the Link.*
and there was unhappiness in his mind at what they had become, *and
we are now much more than simply mortal.*
*We were tasked by
our Gods to remove the threat that Varagon represents. As powerful,
as we have become it is still unlikely that we could defeat Varagon
in a fight. Therefore, we must trap him, though we are aware that even
trapping him may be impossible. But we are honor bound to try.* Symin
said with a sigh, in his Mind-Voice.
Reselan asked, and
Symin could feel the hunger in her mind at the thought of her world
being free of Varagon, *Obviously you need something from me?*
Symin said simply,
*Yes. We have fashioned the trap and we have provided the bait, but
in order for Varagon to take it he must know it exists. That is what
we need from you.**
*I assume that the
planet that we’re heading for is also the place that you plan to trap
Varagon.* said Reselan. *Varagon sent Beallar to find the youngling
Tess and bring her to him, when Beallar returned and told Varagon that
he had left her for dead on the waystation he was incensed.*
Reselan said with amusement,
*Unfortunately for Beallar, Tatagar and Zemara were enraged. When they
attacked him without bothering to call for formal combat, Varagon just
smiled and let them tear him apart.*
Tess interjected into
the conversation through Symin, her Mind-Voice filled with harsh approval,
**As Travis would say, ‘Hurray for Mommy and Daddy.’** and the other
four radiated equal approval.
Reselan continued dryly,
*As you would imagine your father and mother as soon as they dealt with
Beallar, headed for the waystation planet with several of your siblings
to rescue you. Varagon also sent a messenger. They were astonished when
you weren’t there. The very fact that you weren’t there was a good
sign in the minds of your parents and siblings and they were much relieved.*
*When the messenger
returned and reported you gone, Varagon looked, um, unsettled is the
best term for it I suppose, because I don’t think he’s afraid of
you, more a case of being wary, since you had done the inexplicable.
Since it was the last place that you were seen we’ve been watching
the waystation since that time in case you showed up.*
**What about the last
week?** asked Maxim, **We’ve been watching for the last week for a
dragon to appear in the Void so we could contact him or her.**
A veil of sadness covered
Reselan's mind, as she said, *A period of mourning was necessary for
funeral rites for the Ancient Ones. We honored them and then entombed
them in their lairs by dropping the rock of the walls to cover them.*
*Varagon was indifferent
to their deaths, and he assumed it was a suicide pact. While we were
skeptical, at the same time we felt there was nobody mortal who could
kill all of the Ancient Ones with absolutely no damage to their bodies.
However I suspect you already know the reason why the Ancient Ones died;
your appearance is too close to the time of their deaths to be a coincidence?*
she told them with certainty in her voice.
Symin told her with
unhappiness in his mind, *Yes we know what happened and while the event
was a sad one, at the same time for the Ancient Ones it was a glorious
time. A time of death and rebirth into the next world and they welcomed
it with gratitude.*
*In order to power the stones that we call Diamond Obsidian, a necessary part of the trap we have prepared for Varagon, they sacrificed their lives. If we succeed in trapping Varagon, it will be because of the Ancient Ones.*
As Reselan examined
what appeared to be bodies shattered by a brutal fight, she said, *The
illusion is impressive. If I could not see you with my own eyes, I would
undoubtedly believe what my senses are telling me. Still how do you
think you can fool Varagon? I am now aware that it’s illusion, and
I have enough experience with Varagon to know that I couldn’t hide
my mind from him.*
Symin said with a serious
look on his face, *Agreed. You could not hide the fact that you know
it’s an illusion if you remembered it. However, Varagon cannot find
something that isn’t there. With your permission, we can remove the
knowledge that it’s an illusion and place in your mind the remembrance
that you fought us and destroyed us.*
He sighed with regret,
*Of course, nothing comes for free; not for you, nor for us. We spent
days of agony becoming what we now are. In order to make your story
credible we will also need to cause you some real damage. You can’t
appear untouched if you are to fool Varagon.*
Reselan was an extremely
intelligent being, and she agreed with Symin, she would need to be battered
quite badly or the story simply would not stand up to close examination.
However, at the same time she had no reluctance to participating in
any scheme that would rid her world of Varagon.
She would bear the pain willingly to serve her world and depose Varagon. On a personal level, she had been very close to challenging the dragon leader when Varagon had appeared. While she was not happy at risking her life, she would do so to further her ambitions.
Finally, they were
waiting in a Sleeping Trance and after a couple of days the awareness
they had set up in one of the smaller Diamond Obsidian stones felt Varagon
noisily come out of the Void. They had always been aware that what they
planned was very chancy. However, they needed a place that they could
work openly without worrying about hiding what they did. From the beginning
that meant somewhere off the dragons planet of Stefaraa. Only a trickle
of power carefully hidden, existed between the Link and the inner Ward
Varagon appeared right
beside the illusion of their bodies and the awareness that the Link
had created struck as the inner Ward was invoked. The former God was
trapped as they had planned, and for a brief time he was shocked at
what had been done to him. Then a confident Varagon struck at the inner
Ward and it shivered with the impact.
The awareness had also
woken the members of the Link and after a few minutes, they were looking
at the inner Ward astonished at the amount of power that Varagon was
using. Terrion spoke for all of them, “Can the stones contain him?”
His question was answered
in a very unpleasant manner as the Ward began to go down. Shivers went
through all of them as they realized that Varagon was about to escape
However, the Link had
been well tested and though they were fearful, they did not panic as
they joined their power to that of the inner stones. They held, just
barely, but they held. A couple of months earlier, they could not have
The attack battering
the stones flashed into fiery pain throughout the Link. They could trigger
the outer Ward, composed of the larger Diamond Obsidian stones but that
would have trapped them inside.
The Link, if necessary
would do exactly that. But they were holding though just barely. The
battering pain lessened abruptly, as Varagon pulled back to gathered
his power for a fresh onslaught.
Symin said to the other
members of the Link in that brief moment, **We have to move back. The
rest of us have to hold Varagon so we can free up Tess. If necessary
she can invoke the Ward, with us inside.** Symin didn't have the time
to say why he had chosen Tess, but the others knew.
They knew that Terrion
or Maxim might not have the ruthlessness to invoke the Ward with the
rest of the Link inside. They all knew that Symin had the ruthlessness
to do it if necessary.
However, if it were
one of the boys he would be trapped on an uninhabited planet for the
rest of his life. That meant it had to be Tess or Pictou. Tess was the
furthest from the active Ward, and she could get out of the danger zone
much more quickly.
four members of the Link planned to sacrifice themselves if necessary.
But at the same time, they were determined that it wouldn't be necessary.
As the fresh onslaught began, the five beings began to move away from
the active Ward.
Inch by precious inch
they began to back away from the Ward and from Varagon. As the battering
began to lessen a bit, the three boys and Pictou gathered their determination
taking the brunt of the fiery pain on themselves. Tess took advantage
of her sudden freedom from pain and took half a dozen bounds, to get
her out of the danger zone.
The others were ready
to collapse when she rejoined them in the Link, stiffening the barrier
again. Then one by one the other members of the Link were able to lessen
their own mental contribution, allowing them to move much faster.
First Terrion, then
Maxim, then Pictou and of course Symin was last. Once all of them were
out of the danger zone, Symin stabbed a thought at the outer Ward, invoking
Suddenly, a blissful
release crashed down upon them. With wonder, they realized they had
won. Terrion asked a similar question to the one he had asked just before
their ordeal began, “Can even the larger stones contain him?”
Symin after thinking
for a few minutes said thoughtfully, “He has an enormous amount of
power but it’s not infinite and he used it wastefully with no way
to regenerate it. Without us, he would have broken out of the inner
Ward. He won’t be able to do the same with the larger stones.”
“Eventually he will
be freed when the stones lose their charge, but that will take thousands
perhaps tens of thousands of years. Our distant descendants may have
to worry about him but I don’t think we will.”
Maxim said seriously
but with overtones of humor, “And if you’re wrong?”
“Then we’re in
deep trouble.” Symin replied, then waved his hand dismissively, “But
we’ll worry about that when and if it happens. For now, we’ll celebrate
that we’re going to live. Realistically we took the only chance that
we had. The way it turned out is the best thing for us, but also the
best thing for the universes.”
As Varagon sensed the
raising of the outer Ward he ceased his apparently futile display of
rage, and looking at the Ward with Mage-Sight his anger disappeared
from his face and a smile of approval materialized for a moment and
then was gone.
He settled down to
wait, a God of Light who despite all appearances had not fallen. Oh
the millions of deaths had occurred, but not because of something he
had done. Yet he regretted what had happened in a manner only a God
could do. He had put limits on his own power and for the moment, he
was just as much of a prisoner as if the other gods had really stripped
him of the majority of his power.
The web of magic was
so intense that they couldn’t see Varagon while using their Mage-Sight.
As Symin triggered the last bit of magic, the Ward disappeared from
even their view. They knew it was there since they were now part of
it and could feel it through the Link, but they could no longer see
it with any of their senses.
Pictou asked, **What
Symin with satisfaction in his voice at a deed well done, said, “First to Stefaraa, to pay our respects to the Ancient Ones and to return Reselan's memories. Then back to Lythea so that we can relieve the minds of our relatives and friends there and on Earth. After that, I don’t know. Right at the moment I don’t intend to make any plans.”
The Link appeared at
the traditional dragon Meeting Place not expecting trouble but they
came out of the Void, ready for it if necessary. Their shield was up
the three boys providing Concealment while Tess Transported them. Pictou
was ready to Transport them back into the Void if it became necessary.
The Meeting Place was
a well-watered, flat area of green grass which lived up to it’s name.
While dragons except for Tess couldn't Transport from place to place
on a planet their ability to Transport into the Void allowed a close
analog. They would Transport into the Void and then with careful visualization
Transport back out of the Void and in the place where they wanted to
This area, though not the only one was the most important Meeting Place on Stefaraa. Here you would find what passed for government among dragons and also friends simply meeting friends. It was usually well occupied and today was no exception. There were about fifty or sixty dragons, most friendly encounters but there were also about ten dragons who acted as Varagon’s henchmen, Reselan among them.
They were simply lying
in various positions waiting for Varagon’s return. They were quite
happy to remain, sunning themselves while he was away. With their incredibly
long lives, dragons had time to spare, and to go with the time they
The members of the
Link were cautious this time. The Ancient Ones had outlived their aggressive
tendencies but most dragons never did. They let a trickle of thought
escape their minds, and when the dragons began, looking around they
thickened the stream, until they were almost tangible. Then they let
themselves fade into sight.
Symin said, respect
evident in his voice, *We greet you, rulers of Stefaraa, we are the
Link and we bring you information about Varagon, and the Ancient Ones.
To you Reselan we are here to return your memories.* and reaching out
they pushed them towards her allowing her to see that they were not
ill-thoughts but simply memories. Memories that belonged to her.
She accepted them and
with wonder and excitement as she integrated them into her mind, she
realized that the Link must have succeeded, or they wouldn’t be here.
Reselan looked at her
fellow minions and she spread out the thoughts that she had just been
given. Not all of them were happy that Varagon was gone, but for the
most part, they greeted the news with joy. Joy mixed with pride and
sadness as they appreciated the fact that the Ancient Ones had given
their lives in order to accomplish it.
Sadness that would
give way to glory as they realized that the Ancient Ones had gone to
their deaths with a yearning that was as great an emotion as any they
had ever felt.
Quietly with Reselan
spreading their news, the Link disappeared, Tess shouting ahead that
they were coming so they wouldn’t appear unnoticed in her parent’s
The emotions were as
high as the Link appeared at their last planned destination. They released
Tess and Symin with a question in his mind, asked, **How long do you
intend to stay?**
Tess replied, her mind
mostly on the joy of the reunion, **For a time. While my parents need
me I will stay. When they go back to regarding me as one of the brood,
I will come. Without the Link, I am no longer completely whole! We are
always in mental contact, but your physical presence is just as important.
**Till then!** the Link said together as they disappeared Terrion telling Rendar that they were coming home.
The four members of
the Link appeared in Rendar’s garden. The three men and one woman
were waiting with quiet gratitude that their loved ones were returning
Pictou also decided
to return to his planet for a time, to think and contemplate, and to
pass on the fact that unicorns had Astral Spirits. After an hour of
basking in the warmth of greeting, he said a quick goodbye to the greeters,
and Transported into the Void.
It was night when he
Transported out of the Void onto Earth. With careful visualization,
he ended up in the barn of the Vincent-Malloy farm. He changed into
his dog form and headed for the house and on the back porch, he gave
a bark to announce his presence.
In seconds a much relieved
Travis and Jason, and Danni and Jenny and Daniel mobbed him. He began
to purr, like the sound of distant thunder, as Travis flung his arms
around Pictou’s head and began releasing slow tears of joy. Neither
Jason nor Danni were any more restrained, crying happy tears as well
as they stroked his neck and back.
Jenny and Daniel were on the verge of tears as well but they with adult emotions didn’t fall though they were just as happy at his appearance and his news of the Links successful completion of their task. The fact that all members of the Link had survived, and especially Symin brought them contentment.
Maxim looked up at
the stars above the Plateau and let Symin see them through his eyes.
Symin sighed then reaching out with his mind, he contacted his Great-Grandmother.
She was busy with ceremonial rituals and as she perceived his mind she
faltered for a second, then her voice was back showing a joy, which
dispelled the somberness that had dwelt in her inner soul since Symin,
had talked to her in Tatrin.
Happily buoyed by her greeting, Symin sat back and prepared to wait for her to be finished, sharing the ceremony with her, until she would be available to talk to him. Then he would contact his Elven relatives and tomorrow he would go to the Castle to tell his immediate family that he was back while Maxim went to his family to do the same.