It was the last day of school before the Christmas holidays and I went and broke my leg. Well, actually it was the car that broke my leg, I was just stupid enough to get my leg in front of it. All to save this creep's life. And of all people, it had to be Nolan Armstead's life. I even knew who it was before I did it, so I guess I have no one to blame but myself.
Mrs. Ross was in charge of the Christmas pageant this year. They usually stuck the new teachers with the job and she was in despair over the kindergarten up to second graders part. She had called a last minute rehearsal of the kids in those grades, hoping that something would come together at the last moment. I'd seen them and personally, I thought it was a forlorn hope.
I was waiting to escort my little brothers, Barry and Teddy home after the rehearsal when I saw the car run the red light. The driver was slumped over the steering wheel and the car headed right for Nolan Armstead. He was in no danger, or he wouldn't have been if he hadn't frozen in fear. By the time I realized that he wasn't going to move, it was almost too late.
Personally, I thought it one of the best football tackles I'd made in a long time, it knocked Nolan out of the way. I was pleased because for a second there I thought I got away with it. But then I felt a tremendous jolt on my right leg and a red river of pain and sudden darkness.
I woke to a dull ache in my leg and our family doctor talking to my Mom. “He was lucky, George Wheeler's foot slipped off the accelerator and the car was slowing down, so it didn't hit him nearly as hard as it could have. He's got a simple fracture between ankle and knee and we should be able to get him into a walking cast tomorrow morning, then he'll be ready to leave the next day so he'll be home for Christmas.”
“At least I don't have to go to the Christmas Pageant now.” I said, opening my eyes to look at Mom and Doc Richmond, our family doctor. He'd been in partnership with my grandfather for ten years before my grandparents had retired to Florida a couple of years ago. Mom was six months pregnant and she loved it, usually she had a delighted look on her face. Right now it was somewhat clouded with worry, which eased a little with my comment.
“You've been trying to get out of going to that thing for the last week.” she scolded, semi-seriously.
I told Mom, “I've been at some of their rehearsals, believe me Mom, the kindergarten through second graders are going to have a ball, but that part of it's not going to look much like a pageant. More like a free-for-all. But the rest of it should be okay, especially Cary's solo.” and she smiled a little, her worry easing a bit, since she could see I was my usual smart alec self.
I sobered up a little, as I said, “I heard the Doc talk about George Wheeler. From the way he was slumped over the steering wheel, I assume he had a stroke or a heart attack. How is he?” I could see the answer in her eyes, obviously he had not survived. He had been a friend of her father's and she had known him since she was a little girl. She left a little while later, reassured about me and saddened by George Wheeler's death.
I was still dozy and I fell asleep soon after she left, to be awakened a couple of hours later, for jabs in the butt with a couple of shots and then supper. My curtains were pulled for the first time and I met my neighbor, who was the only other occupant of the six-bed ward at the moment. He was about eight or nine years old and he looked somewhat fragile. As I was to learn his apparent fragility was deceptive. He had blond almost white hair and large blue eyes and he was very shy.
He looked at me and then hurriedly looked away blushing. When Grace Peters, another of Rose's siblings, showed up after the supper dishes had been cleared away, I asked, *Who's the kid, Grace?*
I was aware that his head jerked up when I asked that question, but he didn't react to Grace's answer. She told me, *He was involved in a car/truck accident in which the driver of the truck he was in was killed. Either he can't or he won't talk, so he's been tagged with the name of Jonny Doe. He wasn't hurt very seriously and he's ready to leave, once Children's Services can arrange somewhere for him to stay.*
*Could you please arrange for me to get a phone?* I said.
*The children's wards don't usually have phones, Robby.* she told me.
*There are phone jacks, so you can get me a phone, Grace.* I said, logically.
*You're talking as an Elder now, Robby. Why?* she asked, looked at me with curious eyes.
I said seriously, *I don't know, but it's important. The boy is were, Grace. What kind I don't know. None I'm familiar with. His aura is so light and delicate, that it wasn't until I looked at him with my peripheral vision that I noticed it, at all. Also he can feel my mind-speech, he looks at me every time I speak, though he can't grasp what I'm saying because it isn't directed at him. But he can't feel yours at all.*
Once Grace left, the boy sat up and turned toward me crossing his legs under him. He was no longer shy, he was very curious, looking at me intently.
*What are you?* he asked.
I showed him me, changing into a wolf and his eyes lit up, as he said, *Werewolf. Mama said they could be trusted.*
I asked, *What are you?* He hesitated. I told him seriously, *Only an Elder can use mind speech in human form. I have a feeling that you're very far from your nearest Elder. What does your law say about that type of situation?*
He told me, *If no Elder of my own kind is available, I must obey other were Elders unless they show they are untrustworthy.* He considered what he had just said and then nodded and obediently he showed me what he was. Unlike me he started out naked and I could see him blushing from my bed.
Obviously, he was embarrassed, so I teased him a little and added a Speedo swimsuit to his image of himself. He giggled, telling me, *Stop that. Unlike other weres we have to start naked, because our clothes don't change.* and he put his image back into my mind without the swimsuit and then showed me his change.
I saw why his aura was so light and delicate now. Merfolk weres only did a partial change, legs fusing together to form a tail and like all the bad movies you've seen about Merfolk, he changed to a green color from the hips down, gills appearing under his arms. Also webbing showed up between his fingers, but as he showed me like the claws of a cat, the webbing was retractable.
*I thought all Merfolk went with the Elves when they left?* I asked.
He nodded, saying, *Mama said we did, but that there was bad blood between my father and my uncle as to who was to be picked as Chief Elder. My Uncle was finally chosen and he asked the Elves to open a portal to this world, so that my father and mother could be banished here and I was born a couple of years later. They died last year when I was eight, in a car accident, then their friend Angelo Esposito took me in and then he was killed in a car accident. I think I must be a jinx.*
He started to cry then and getting on his knees he yanked the curtain between us closed and I could hear him crying softly until finally he fell asleep. Soon despite my aching right leg, I fell asleep as well.
I woke up partially in the morning, just as they turned me onto my side to give me another couple of shots in the butt. I thought fuzzily before I went back to sleep. 'I've got arms, couldn't they use them.'
The next time I woke my breakfast was just arriving and the phone had been installed. My little friend had opened the curtain again and he was a little brighter this morning, though there was still sadness in those blue eyes.
I said to him, *I never asked your name, child of the sea, which was quite remiss of me.*
He told me, *I was named after Angelo and my parents used ocean as their surname dropping the e to make it Ocan. So my name is Angelo Ocan.*
I spoke out loud, “It is time you started using that name then, Angelo Ocan. It is time to start talking again.”
He looked a little stubborn and then nodded, “I will obey you, Elder.”
I told him, “Okay, the first thing that you can do is start calling me Robby, it's easier to explain than Elder.” and he nodded solemnly. After eating the usual appalling hospital food, I reached for the phone and getting the operator, I called Edward Franco, collect. He said, “I heard about your accident, Robby, I'm glad you're not seriously hurt.” The sincerity in his voice brought a lump to my throat. I coughed a couple times to cover my emotion.
“That makes two of us, Edward. How did you find out?” I asked.
He chuckled, saying, “I have spies who watch you all the time, how else can I keep track of my chief troublemak... most regular werewolf contact.”
“Ishmael phoned you, didn't he?” I asked.
He said, “Yes he did. We've become good friends since the vampire incident. Now that we've exchanged pleasantries, I know you well enough to know you wouldn't have called collect just to tell me how you are. You would have got word through someone or waited until you got home.”
I nodded though of course he couldn't see it, telling him, “Yes, Edward, I want you to do two things. First I want you to pull some strings to get a boy by the name of Angelo Ocan, presently known as Jonny Doe, who's in the children's ward at the Cormier Hospital, released to foster parents Steve and Carrie Ross when he gets out of the hospital. You should be able to do that without going to the Council. Next I want you to inform the Council that I have come across another type of were. The boy I mentioned is of the Merfolk. They all left when the elves left, but Angelo's parents were exiled to this world and he was born here. I want to know whether I have their full backing or if I have to do this on my own.”
“You find adventure in the darnedest places, don't you Robby?” Edward said chuckling.
I raised my voice, deliberately so that Angelo would be sure to hear what I said, “It certainly appears like it, fate seems to be guiding me so that I can help people, Edward. I accept that fate.”
By the time, I was ready to get out on Friday, Edward had pulled sufficient strings to have Angelo released to Steve and Carrie as temporary foster parents. They didn't know I was thinking to make it permanent, if things worked out as I suspected they would. I was even thinking of where to put the pool Angelo would need. Angelo thought he was a jinx, but being with Jenna should show him that he wasn't the only one who had troubles as a were child. The Council had said they would back me to the limit and they put him in my charge.
I had been mournful in the hospital, that I no longer had access to the words that had opened a communication link between our world and that of the Elves, when I realized I did. Wil and Cary couldn't help, none of us had understood a word that I said and they wouldn't remember the combination of sounds that I had used. But both Barry and Teddy had also been there and I could reach deep into their mind, to call up the sounds.
First, I had to get beyond their hilarious memories of the Christmas Pageant which almost had me rolling on the floor with laughter. Barry was a little miffed at my laughter, he was too young to realize how comical it had been. Teddy was quite old enough to be aware of the hilarity it had caused. But once past that stage it was easy enough to pull up their memories and I was gratified that both of them had exactly the same memory of the sounds. I had been a little worried that they might not have heard everything I said clearly and I didn't intend to try anything if their memories hadn't agreed.
I decided to use the tent that Teddy had gotten for his birthday. It had been up since we got back from Disneyworld in July and we had used it quite often since that time. It was only a five-person tent, but it could take six boys, two girls and one cat quite nicely thank you. Especially if four and sometimes five of the boys were in wolf form. And you also have to remember that none of the boys topped the five foot mark, though Wil was getting close. Only Jenna had any real length to worry about, because Cary at eleven was smaller than the boys were.
I had Teddy move a lawn chair into the tent and then shooed him into the house. I sat in the chair with Blue in my lap and summoned up the memories of the scene in the woods when I had open a communication link with the other world. Calling on Blue to augment my power, I began to repeat the sounds that I had used that day. As I mentioned I didn't know what I was saying, or really if I was saying anything. It might simply be what I called it, a series of sounds designed to make contact.
But as I continued I could feel the power building and when I ended, I knew that I had caught someone's attention. He demanded, *Who dares to disturb the Portal Keeper!!*
*I am a werewolf Elder and I would like to speak to an Elven Elder.* I said simply, beginning to gather a different type of energy now.
He told me fiercely, *Bah, why should I bother to summon an Elder, for such an inconsequential being such as yourself?* I remembered what granddad had said earlier about Elves. 'The ordinary Elf only respects power. First you've got to get their attention, so you will have to use force.'
Having gauged the mind behind the voice, I struck. Not particularly hard, it wasn't much different than many an Elder's mind. But I felt him reel and he looked at me fully for the first time and I could feel a grudging respect, rise in him, as he looked at the amount of power I had used and what I had in reserve.
Obviously, he considered that I deserved some respect, for he said grudgingly, *I will summon them. Wait.*
It probably took fifteen minutes and then I felt myself being regarded by three very different minds. Minds that had none of the arrogance of the first Elf, minds that truly deserved respect.
I told them respectfully, *I didn't intend to disturb the Council.*
*Do not worry, young Elder, most of the time all we do is watch, it is good to be disturbed for a change.* said one of the minds, who I took to be the Chief Elder of the Council. *How may we help you?*
I explained about what had happened to Angelo. He asked, *What would you have us do, young one, we allowed the banishment of his parents because their lives were in danger. If we brought the boy home to this world, his life also will be in danger.*
I told them, *I realize that. I know that because of the amount of magic in your world, even mortals of magical origin will live much longer than on our world, so his Uncle will live to be two or three hundred years old. I simply wish for Angelo's relatives to be aware of the fact that he is alive and that the Werewolf Council will take care of him and his children until the day they are summoned home.*
I felt the minds looking at me more closely. It didn't bother me, I had as much mental modesty as I had physical modesty. That is to say absolutely none. Those who had the ability to read my mind could take what I had to offer and if they didn't like it, tough.
*You seem incapable of staying out of trouble, young Elder.* one of the minds said dryly.
I grinned saying, *It does seem that way. I get in an accident and I end up finding a were new to us. As I told my friend Edward 'fate seems to be guiding me so that I can help people. I accept that fate.' it was partly to reassure the young merboy, but also because it seems to be true.*
The Elven minds withdrew a bit and began talking among themselves. When they returned their attention to me. *Our Faerie cousins gave you a gift when they took the last of their people into our world. We wish to give you a similar gift.*
The gift of Healing had changed my life in a way that was not completely defined yet, so I was a little wary, *Exactly what do you intend?* I asked cautiously.
He said gravely, *Right now you can contact were minds and you have defenses against them, but you are vulnerable to humans who have that ability. Though rare, they do exist and from looking at your mind you seem particularly prone to trouble right at the moment, so if anyone's going to run into them, you will.*
I said, with amusement, We have something that says almost the same thing, it's called Murphy's Law.*
*If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.* I said dryly. *It does seem apt right at the moment. So I will gladly accept your gift.*
The light went off in my head, as it had when the Faerie had gifted me, but this time it was much more gentle and it only partially obstructed my vision and then it was gone. I reached out to the nearest house. I dipped into a couple of minds, not long enough to disturb their privacy but just enough to show me that the gift worked.
The Council head told me, *We have adjusted your ability slightly, a shield will cover your mind at all times. Since you don't seem concerned about having your mind read, it will not prevent that, but it will stop at least temporarily any attacks made on you.*
He stated, *We also feel that the Merfolk should bear the brunt of paying for the care of Angelo and his children. We will provide some valuables that you can turn into the money that your world uses.*
It began to rain gemstones in the tent. Blue was about to abandon me and duck under the chair or leave the tent entirely. He settled back down when he realized none of the stones were hitting anywhere near us.
The head Councilor said, *And last, we will instruct the Portal Keeper that he is to allow you access to us, if you should need help. Remember though, we can give advice but actively interfering in your world, aside from such things as the gift we gave you, is forbidden. Goodbye, little one. We will be watching you from now on, it should be interesting.*
Then they were gone and I was reminded of another old saying, a Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times.'
There were almost two full buckets and they weighed over twelve pounds. I called Edward and he came and got them, bringing Arthur Masters with him as a guard, just in case. I didn't tell him about my new ability, I intended to keep that a secret for as long as I could.
As I had hoped, being with Jenna had helped settle Angelo's mind a bit about being a jinx. Knowing someone else has gone through as bad a time as you had, helped show the experience in its true light. Just another life experience, that could happen to anyone.
I was sitting on the back porch with Steve, watching Jenna and Angelo play football and Carrie was sorta refereeing, though she was mostly laughing. As I mentioned Angelo's apparent fragility was deceptive and Steve assured me that he was as sturdy as any other were kid.
I asked innocently, “Where do you plan to put the pool?”
Steve lifted his hand, “Carrie and I thought...” then he looked at me, “You set us up.” making a statement.
I said, unashamedly, “Certainly, I don't approved of one child families, The poor kids miss out on so much.” I told him the whole story, ending with. “So he's under my charge specifically and the Werewolf Council in general. You and Carrie aren't really cut out to be foster parents. You grab hold too hard to ever let go again. I knew that once Angelo got into your hands you wouldn't want to let him go. I brought the papers over that will put him in your permanent foster care and start adoption procedures.”
“Carrie,” Steve yelled and she looked around and started toward us. When she got to us, he said, “The kid set us up.”
Carrie stood with her hands in the back pockets of her jeans and looked at him calmly, telling him, “I wondered if you'd figure it out before he told you. I guess not. Your mind is too straight forward to keep up with a kid like Robby, who thinks in angles and curves but almost never in a straight line.” Personally, I thought it was a nice compliment so I gave a bow and she grinned at me.
I spent a bit of Angelo's money to put in the pool. After all, our experts estimated the worth of the gems at somewhere between fifty and a hundred million dollars. There was no way to set an exact figure, since they wouldn't all be sold at once. It would be sold off over many years, but the Council based the amount on the fifty million dollar mark and set up a trust fund in that amount for Angelo and his future children. If the total amount surpassed that figure, the additional money would be added to the trust fund as it became available.
We inaugurated the pool at eleven o'clock two weeks after New Years Day. The kids had actually used it that afternoon, but of course, Angelo couldn't change then, so we planned the late night gathering for the weres and the Wilkins family. He was wrapped in a bathrobe sitting on the side of the pool. Since he was naked under it and he was so shy, he was a bit worried that it would slip, but it didn't as he changed. With the change complete he pushed off the bathrobe and slipped into the pool as we gave him a cheer.
I felt a little left out sitting in a lounge chair at poolside, as everyone else joined him in the pool, it would be another week or so before I got out of my cast, but I intended to enjoy the pool fully once it was off. After all swimming is good therapy.