After Smith Jones said goodbye, he ruffled my hair and gave Miri a goodbye kiss. Then we watched him make his way through the baggage check. Once on the other side he turned and gave one last wave before he disappeared.
Miri and I turned to walk toward the entrance, telling me, "I like your Mr. Jones. He has a nice sense of humor."
I grinned, saying, with bubbling humor, "You like younger men, do you? He likes you too, by the way."
She looked down at me and demanded, "Robby Hansen, are you matchmaking?"
"Of course." I told her, nodding, "I don't know about your Elders, but matchmaking is actually part of my job. Since we both know how well a jaguar/werewolf cross works, it might be interesting to see what would happen between you and Smith. Would the children have four separate forms aside from human or is there a limitation on the number of forms one person can assume?"
"Of course there's never any guarantees, but then again, when did life ever guarantee anything? By the way if you do decide to retire from the NIA, Ricard's has a branch office in Los Angeles." I said wickedly.
She laughed and said, "You're incorrigible, Robby."
I told her, "Well I try and besides Ricard's is a family business and I always try to steer good agents towards them when I can."
She raised her eyebrows, "Are you kidding?" she asked.
I shook my head, saying, "No. My great-grandfather started it in the early part of the twentieth century. By accident really. He was an Elder and he met a young werewolf woman who was in trouble. It was just after prohibition started in the US and while the things you see on television and movies vastly overstate the problem, there were real problems associated with prohibition. My great-grandmother was a secretary to a man in New Orleans and though she didn't know it, he controlled much of what the moonshiner's produced in most of Louisiana and parts of Texas and Mississippi."
I explained, "A group of men began to put together an organization to take over the booze trade in those three states. They killed the man my great-grandmother was working for and she saw it and was on the run, when she came to Prescott. She got a job with my great-grandfather, who was a lawyer. The organization found her and tried to kill her."
I shook my head, saying, "Now werewolf Elders at that time wouldn't dream of doing anything that was outside their jurisdiction, or most of them wouldn't anyway." I grinned, telling her, "My great-grandfather was somewhat of a rebel and he was incensed with what happened and he was smitten with his new secretary. Anyway, the Werewolf Council wouldn't interfere, but they told him that they wouldn't forbid him to do so. He put together a group of werewolves who felt the same way that he did and they destroyed the organization."
I told her, "When they were through the question was would they disband or keep the group together. Werewolves have always needed the occasional danger to spice up their lives and having tasted the excitement, they didn't want to break up. They decided to incorporate and they named it after the only member of their group who was killed during their war with the organization, Paul Ricard."
I paused for a second before saying, "Over the years before World War II most of them got married and settled down, selling their part of Ricard's to the one member who seemed to be in it for the rest of his life, my great-grandfather. By nineteen-forty, he owned it all. My great-grandmother died in the early forties and he joined the OSS but he kept Ricard's together and used it as a cover. They were a small bunch of counter-intelligence agents during the war, fighting spies and such on US soil, working under the auspices of the FBI. Hoover grabbed all the credit but that was fine with my great-grandfather."
I said seriously, "Not all of the agents during the war were werewolves. His second wife who wasn't a werewolf, was one of those agents and he married her in nineteen-forty seven. He was one of the agents who helped set up the NIA and he was actually Deputy Chief of the NIA until nineteen fifty. Ricard's had continued growing even when part of it was operating as part of the OSS. During his time in the NIA simply became too big by nineteen fifty and he retired from the NIA to resume running it himself."
I explained, "At that time the Werewolf Council was reconsidering the role of werewolves in society and they began loosening the strings a bit, though it's taken more than fifty years to get to where we are now. But they began interfering in things which previous Councils considered entirely human affairs and the main arm was Ricard's. He and his second wife died in a small plane crash in nineteen eighty. He left Ricard's in equal shares to my grandfather, the son of his first wife and my great-aunt Louisa and my great-uncle Jeffrey, though most people call him Eagle, who were the children of his second wife."
"When Aunt Louisa went into politics, her portion was put into a trust fund and she has nothing to do with running the company at all. My grandfather and my great-uncle just set overall policy and leave the day to day running to the CEO." I said dryly, "Uncle Eagle is one of the best criminal lawyers in the country and his son Daniel is if anything even better at corporate law and he represents my aunt. My grandfather is no slouch at business either."
I told her, "They don't want Ricard's to end up in a mess and they think three owner's and members of the board of directors is enough. So Daniel is my uncle's heir, Jennifer is my aunt's heir and I'm my grandfather's. As I mentioned all of the staff and agents are were."
I was sitting waiting for Tal while he filed a flight plan for Prescott and my attention was attracted by a mind-voice. It wasn't were, it wasn't human. It was different, but the feeling was familiar. The feeling that Uni always had when he wore clothing, an uncomfortable constricted feeling, though he was starting to get over it.
I looked around but I couldn't see anyone and I knew that the mind was young. Under ten? Possibly, though it was hard to judge accurately. Okay, where was he? I couldn't see him, when I swept my eyes over the airport terminal and he was moving away from me. Towards the outdoors.
I got up and headed for the door. As I got to the waiting taxi's I could see one just leaving and there was a young boy staring back at me through the back window.
I said, *Tal.*
*Yes, Robby.* Tal said.
*Forget about the flight plan, we're going to be in Washington a little longer. Meet me at the taxi stand.* I told him.
I looked at the cabs searching for one from the same company as the other cab had been from and I found it.
So this little kid comes to my window. He looked like he was about eleven or twelve, though when I looked into his large green eyes, I knew he was older than that. How much older I don't know, but his eyes were ageless and filled with wisdom. He said, "One of your cabs just left. They had a boy and I think a man as a passenger. I'd like to know where they're going?"
I started to say, "I can't do tha…" when he pulled out a wallet and began to count out twenty dollar bills.
"One hundred dollars." he said, "but I don't want the other cab to know about the inquiry." I looked at those bills and with the rent coming up I could sure use it.
I said, "Another hundrett. I ain't gonna be able to get it without the dispatcher and he'll want the same as me."
He nodded and counted out five more bills and handed them to me. I radioed the dispatcher, "Hey Jim, where's Jake headed."
Jim said a little belligerently, "Why do you want to know?"
"I'll buy you a beer for the info." I told him. Now Jim was a member of AA and he'd been on the wagon for almost twenty years. He knew I wouldn't offer him a beer, so he knew I was offering money. I winked at the kid and he grinned.
There was a pause and then Jim said, "Two Twenty Pleasant Street." I winced. That was a rough neighborhood despite the fancy name. I really hoped the kid wouldn't want me to drive him there.
He grinned again and there was a wicked gleam in his eyes, when he said, "Don't worry. I'm not alone and all you'd have to do is drop us and take off. No need to linger."
By the time his companion came out carrying two bags and what was obviously a laptop computer I was at the head of the line. I was almost sorry about that. The boy and man got in the back seat after I put their bags in the trunk of the cab.
I got on my cell phone and called home, well actually the Benson Police Station. Maxine answered, "Benson Police. How may I help you?"
"Hi, Maxine, is Mom in?" I asked.
She said, "No she's out right now, Robby. Someone broke into Waters Diner after closing last night, I don't know how long she'll be. Do you want me to have her call you?"
I told her, "No, I don't know exactly where I'll be for the next few hours. Tell her I've been delayed and I'll get in touch with her later today."
"Okay, Robby. Bye." she said.
"Bye Maxine, talk to you later." as I hung up.
I dialed Miri's cell phone number. "Miriam Kasele." she answered.
"Hello, Miri, are you home yet?" I asked.
"Yes Robby I just walked in the door. Why?" she asked.
I told her, "Something has come up and Tal and I stayed in Washington. I'll send our bags to you by the taxi that we're using, if that's all right with you and if we stay in Washington over night, I'll arrange for a room at the Marriott."
"You didn't even have to ask, Robby. You know that I wouldn't mind." she said.
"Yes, I know, Miri. But I try never to take friends for granted." I told her. "Tell you what's going on later, it might be interesting."
Taking out the little notebook I usually carried, I wrote Miri's address down on it. When Vern dropped us off, I gave it to him and arranged for him to deliver our bags to Miri.
We stood looking at what appeared to be a tenement building. I whistled as I made contact with the boy, though he couldn’t feel me, I could see through his eyes. Some tenement. If the room the boy was in was any indication, it must have cost millions to furnish the place. Not quite what I expected.
I snorted with amusement. The kid was taking advantage of the fact that the man in the room with him didn't know what his adopted people's customs were and was acting like a spoiled brat. I giggled and Tal looked down at me. I said, with sparks of humor in my voice, "I thought it was a case of 'boy needing rescue', but it appears that the man is the one who needs rescuing. Let's go and do it."
We crossed the street and Tal rang the bell. The woman who answered the bell was the tallest woman I had ever seen on our world. She must have been six feet eight inches tall, in her late-thirties, she was certainly curved in all the right places. I said, "My name is Robby Hansen. Please tell Professor Hunter that I can help him talk to the boy he brought here from Brazil."
She raised her eyebrow and looked thoughtful and then in a deep but pleasant woman's voice said, "Please come in."
She showed us into a living room and while she went to get the professor, Tal whistled. "I wouldn't think you could keep stuff like this in a area as rough as this one." as we sat down.
I told him, with amusement, The local thugs are afraid of Mrs. Bellows and her husband Jerry, who’s seven feet tall and they're terrified of the Professor."
The somewhat harassed looking Professor entered the room followed by his worst nightmare. He was a cute kid I must admit, dark hair and eyes and dusky skin. I stood up and going over to the boy, I took hold of his arm and turning him around, I swatted him half a dozen times on the bottom, telling him at the same time, in both voice and mind-speech, "Mya, you should be ashamed of yourself, acting that way. You're a guest and you're old enough to know better. Apologize to the Professor."
Mya turned around and looked suitably ashamed of himself. Putting his hands together he gave the Professor a deep bow and we could sense his feelings of contrition. Straightening he walked over to the sofa and sat down.
I looked at Professor Hunter trying to keep my face straight, telling him, "Of course he doesn't feel a bit ashamed or sorry. Among his adopted people the responsibility of disciplining a youngster who is misbehaving is that of the host. From now on when he misbehaves swat him on the bottom a couple of times."
The Professor looked at the boy who was smiling and had a gleam in his eyes. He admitted, "I haven't been able to do anything with him and I thought I was good with kids. I've been tempted, but he isn't my kid and I didn't feel I had the right to discipline him physically."
"You already know from the DNA tests that he's not human, Professor Hunter. Would it surprise you much to find that he isn't even from our world?" I asked.
The Professor shook his head, saying, "Not really. I found him by tracking back some feathers that a Professor in Belem showed me. While the boy, Mya, is it?" and I nodded, "While his DNA is different from any human on our world, there is a relation. Taking DNA from the feathers there is nothing resembling anything we have on earth."
I said musingly, "Let's see if I can tell you their name." Putting two fingers in my mouth I whistled a trill of birdsong. Watching Mya I saw him shake his head and he gave a trill as well, but there was a couple of notes different. I repeated it and this time he nodded his head. Turning to the Professor, I told him, "That's what they call themselves in their language and it means People of Joy, or simply People."
The Professor was looking with surprise at Mya. He said, "I thought he was mute. I've never heard him make a sound in the couple weeks I've known him, not even a giggle."
I explained, "His people don't use sound, they use emotions and pictorial concepts transferred directly from mind to mind. He only understands the concept of spoken language because his adopted people use it. Of course it's trills and bird songs, though they can also understand the way he speaks. Mya's adopted people may call themselves People of Joy, but their enemies probably call them nightmares. They're intelligent birds, raptors and they have all the ferocity that it means. They stand close to eight feet tall and weigh probably four or five hundred pounds."
I told him, "However they're six-limbed with wings and legs and unlike our birds, they have arms as well. Between the claws on their feet and hands and their beak they're absolutely deadly and apparently they even use bows and spears on occasion. They're an anomaly on his world as well because all of the other birds that he has seen are like ours."
I reached into Mya's mind and took a scene from it and transferred it to the Professor's mind. The sight of enormous purple birds soaring above their village in the huge trees. Astonishingly for their size their wingspan was only about twelve feet overall. That simply weren't big enough to support those massive bodies. They must use magic or telekinesis to help them fly, nothing else would allow them to fly with such small wing spans.
He looked at me, "Obviously you can read minds. Are YOU human?"
"Hm." I said out loud. "Well my people have lived on this world as long as yours and we're partly human, though our DNA, unlike Mya's, would read as entirely human. But that's only half of what I am. You believe in magic, Professor."
He grinned, saying, "Enough of that crap, call me Gord."
I nodded grinning as well, saying, "Fine with me. All right Gord, you know magic exists because you've seen the real thing being done by Shamen, medicine men and if you want to call them that, Witch Doctors, all over the world. Magic was once far stronger on our world, but what once was external magic, changed over time to become internal magic. It means that certain beings, such as werewolves, Sasquatch and other supposedly mythical creatures can and do exist. It means that Shamen using magic which is part of them can actually heal people."
I told him, "All human beings on this world require a little magic to live. Weres have much more magic and they can actually change shape, within limits. Their body mass stays the same but simply shifts." I changed to a wolf and I saw Gord's eyes widen and Mya was suddenly at my side and petting me. I licked him on the face and he giggled in my mind, not making a sound.
I turned back to a boy and ruffled Mya's hair and he looked up at me with hero worship in his eyes. I told Gord, "As you can see I'm a werewolf and Tal," nodding at him and he gave me a grin, "is only half, so he can't change, but he shares certain advantages that weres have. In human form, we're faster and stronger than normal humans. I'm an Elder and an Elder can speak to any were in either were form or in human form, as long as they have about a quarter or more of were blood and on occasion even less." Gord's eyes had changed very quickly from disbelief to intense interest.
I told him, "I'm also a Healer, which is something we thought had disappeared a century ago, but there are two other boys, both of them nine, who are also Healers. However I'm also an anomaly, as far as we know I'm the only were alive who can also read human minds. I found out recently that they have existed in the past."
"For instance the reason that Big Foot Hunters can't find them is because Sasquatch simply change to their human form and disappear among other humans." I smothered a giggle.
There was humor in Robby's eyes as he continued. "It must be very frustrating to be a Sasquatch Hunter." he said in his soft voice.
I asked, "What would happen if someone knew what you were and caught you and tried to persuade you to change?"
His soft voice got even softer, "You'll need to be a little more specific Gord. If you mean me personally, it could end up being fatal." His eyes were icy and I got the impression that despite his small body this was one of the most dangerous people I had ever met. He said, "If you mean a were in general, well, our human emotions are always in front of our were instincts unless we're insane. We'll react very much like any human being would. Some are weak and will break in the wind, some are strong and will simply bend."
He commented thoughtfully, "But to prove it to anybody, even if you could get a were to change, you would have a hard time establishing that it's not simply an illusion or special effects of some kind. We've been conditioned by magicians and special effects people to the point that we no longer believe what our eyes tell us."
I nodded at that. When I had started traveling as an anthropologist, it had taken me time to make my eyes believe what they were seeing. After a couple of months in civilization, getting back in the field still took me two or three days to readjust my thinking.
Robby looked down at Mya, took him by the hand and went over to the sofa to sit down and I sat opposite to him. He explained, "Normally I couldn't get quite as much information as I got from Mya, but their method of speech allows them to transmit a lot of data in a short period of time. He has an ability to breach the walls of the universes. And I say universes, because while there are many parallel worlds, his world has to be very far away. I know a little about them and they come in a series of worlds which are similar and there's usually between ten and twenty worlds in a series."
He waved his arm around saying, "We in particular are in a series of twenty-four, each somewhat different. For instance in twelve of them the west won World War II and in the other half the west lost it or it ended in a stalemate. In our twelve worlds the important people exist in all of them. However the common people don't necessarily exist in each world. Winston Churchill for instance existed in all of the worlds. On the other hand I don't exist in any of the other worlds, yet my mother, brother Teddy and my blood father do."
Robby told me, "I know the series next to us is similar except that in those worlds no World War II was fought. But that puts Mya in a world at least ten to twelve universes away and probably much, much further, since in his world the white man apparently never appeared in the Americas." then he looked at Mya and nodded a couple of times, before turning back to me, saying, "He tells me that he knows that he could bring one of his adopted people with him, but he knows somehow that he couldn't take them back. That probably means that his world has much more external magic available to him, because he said, he feels he could take me and Tal back with him, so that gives a weight limit of around four hundred pounds."
Robby explained, "He's somewhat older than he looks as well. He looks eight, but he says he has seventeen of his years, that means his people grow more slowly than we do. He began coming to our world five years ago. He was doing something, though he wouldn't say what." Robby grinned, humor in his voice, as he said, "That probably means something that he shouldn't have, when he saw a vision of a wide river and a little hut with a small pier and a canoe tied up to it."
Robby told us that, "Mya wished to be in the vision and suddenly he was and that's how he first made his way to our world, which has the same climate as his. He's never met any other children on his world, but his adopted people say that children don't start wearing clothing until they're much bigger. I get the impression that he means their equivalent of thirteen or fourteen, so he was naked. In fact that was what first attracted my attention in the airport. One of the boys in my family finds clothing uncomfortable and constraining. He's finally started to get over it but he hasn't done so completely yet."
Robby said, "The man who lived in the hut, Nico, was surprised to see him. He was a black man and he was very old, at least he appeared so to Mya. But remember despite his chronological age his actual age is eight and especially to a little boy who had never seen another human before that he can remember, any man with gray hair would have seemed old."
Robby explained, "The man traded some beads to Mya for the feathers he was carrying, which he had picked up. Some were from other birds, but three were from his adopted people. It seems the man wove them into bracelets and headbands. Nico is the one who gave the boy his human name. There's no way of knowing exactly what Nico originally called him, but the boy heard the verbal sounds as Mya. When he came out of Nico's hut he found that he could now see a vision of his world and he wished to be back in it and he was. Both man and boy were sure they had gotten the best of the deal. The beads were a sensation in Mya's village, they had never seen anything like them."
Robby told us, "Mya returned about once a month and traded feathers for more beads, he also brought with him a woven bag in which he put various things that he thought might interest the man. The man was excited by one thing Mya brought with him about three years after he began coming to our world. A gold nugget. Mya brought one good sized nugget every two or three months and that seemed to satisfy the man, obviously he wasn't particularly greedy."
Robby said soberly, "But that's how Mya ended up here. The last time he came to this world about two months ago, he found the old man dead and two men waiting for him. While he has no need to hunt, he has seen blood from fresh kills and the blood in the old man's hut was fresh. Since he can't speak and certainly can't speak the language the two men spoke, he doesn't know what they wanted. But obviously they wanted to know where he got the gold."
"Since the world's themselves are duplicates, just the type of life and society being different, if he had known what they were asking he might actually have been able to find gold on our world as well."
Robby shook his head and said, "For some reason he couldn't Transport. At the beginning he was too confused and frightened. Later he tried but couldn't manage it. Perhaps the location where he originally Transported, has a weakness in the barriers between worlds which allowed him to Transport. Away from that place he couldn't do it and was trapped on our world."
Mya was frowning fiercely now and I saw Robby look at him and squeeze his hand gently and Mya relaxed a bit, though he was still frowning. Robby turned back to me, saying, "I've been translating what we've been saying to him and he's very angry." His voice got even softer and I could see the chill in his eyes, "I told him I'd make sure that if they killed his friend they will be punished."
I had no doubt that Robby would and could do what he promised and just nodded. He continued, "Ironically they went to the estate of Joaquim Costa da Silva, who is a werewolf Elder and what we call a Contact, in this case the chief Contact in Brazil. Though I've never been there, he's been here and I've met him. I can see him in Mya's mind and there's no mistaking that face. He has a scar from just under his right eye across his right cheek and he is very fierce looking. Mya was suitably impressed, though he never got closer than thirty feet from him. There's also a small village there and an airstrip which Joaquim lets people use."
Robby explained, "I've talked to Costa and he's aware that it's sometimes used for illegal purposes, but he can't really do much about it without having his men search every plane that lands there. Well to get back to Mya and his captors, they turned him over to another man at da Silva's estate and he took the boy with him when he flew to Belem. Aside from looking into his bag and seeing if there were any nuggets in it, they let him keep everything. Probably because what he collected would mostly be of interest to a small boy. They even left the feathers."
Robby grinned his large grin eyes, sparkling with humor, "That's when he got civilized, in other words they put a pair of shorts on him and he's almost as angry about that as about his friends death.".
I gave a yell, "Marge!"
She showed up in the door to the living room in about fifteen seconds, She asked, "Yeah, Gord?"
I asked, "Do you mind if we have a little nudist around the house?" and I nodded at Mya.
She shook her head and grinned, saying, "Doesn't bother me, Gord. That time me and Jerry went to Hawaii, we accidentally ended up on a nude beach. They seemed to be so free and easy that we just stripped down and joined them. Of course we attracted a lot of attention, but that was because of our size. Made a lot of friends that two week period and still write to some of them." and then went back to the kitchen. Well I assume she had been in the kitchen since she had a measuring cup in her hand.
In the meantime Robby was helping Mya get undressed and when he was naked, he turned to me and made the deep bow with his hands clasped that he had made before. I could feel his thanks and the glow of joy on his face told me that this time he was serious.
Robby folded his clothes and put them on the coffee table in front of the sofa, saying, with a gentle grin, "I've told him that it's just in the house and he knows from what he's seen in the village on da Silva's estate and the poorer sections of Belem that while some kids his age go naked most don't, so he accepts that fact."
Robby had a thoughful look on his face as he said, "Where were we. Oh yes, Mya was lucky when he got to Belem. When the people who had him realized they couldn't get anything out of him, they simply let him go. They could very easily have decided to kill him. He was also lucky in the fact that he ended up in the care of a priest who was taking care of street kids, almost immediately. He simply doesn’t have skills needed to survive on the streets. His adopted people give gifts when they visit other villages and Mya gave the priest his bag and he found the feathers, realized how unique they were and sold them to a university professor, which I assume is where you found them." and I nodded.
Robby's face was serious now, as he explained, "I said that Nico was the first human he remembers seeing. Well that's consciously. I know from his subconscious mind that he remembers other humans and he saw them die very violently. To help him, I'm going to have to bring those memories into his conscious mind and that's going to hurt emotionally."
Robby sighed as he said, "It's time for him to return to his people and not just his adopted people. Not my idea. They feel it's time he went home and I have to know exactly what he was. If he was simply the son of peasants who were killed by soldiers or bandits, then there's probably not much of a issue. I simply return him to people of his appropriate status, however I have the impression that he's far more important than that. To return him in that case might require a great deal of effort." Robby said.
I felt amused. Here Robby was an Elder and was supposed to keep our secret and yet this was the second human in a week he had told about us. But then he instinctively trusted people, or at least certain people and as far as I knew, he had never been wrong. He told Mya what he was going to do and though the boy looked apprehensive, at the same time he looked eager.
We set up chairs around the sofa so that we could watch what was happening, though in fact Robby told us he intended to take us all into Mya's memories. I said to Gord Hunter, "Watch how fast Robby can go into a trance. I gather that shamen and medicine men are your specialty and they have to go into a trance state to work their magic. You'll never meet anyone who can do it more easily."
He stood at the back of the sofa observing Robby. From where I was sitting I saw Robby's eyes go blank and said, "That's it."
Gord looked amazed, "Incredible, an almost instantaneous trance state. How does he do it so quickly?" as he sat on the chair we had moved beside the sofa.
I shrugged, saying, "I really don't know. I've never met anyone familiar with the ability to go into a trance who wasn't surprised how easily he can do it. Part of my job is to act as his bodyguard. One of the things I have to watch out for is that he can be thinking so deeply that he can inadvertently go into a trance without intending to, even when he's moving. When that occurs, he could walk right out into the middle of traffic unaware of what he's doing, because he doesn't control his body when it happens, though he remembers everything that has taken place."
Then suddenly we were in Mya's mind. Obviously the wheel had been developed in the western hemisphere in his world since he was riding in a fancy wagon with several other children, pulled by four horses. So it was also obvious that the horse hadn't died out in this world in the Americas. He was only six or the equivalent of three years old, but he was very intelligent and actually closer to the six years he really had. He was watching his mother and father who were riding in an equally fancy carriage pulled by a pair of horses. Ahead of the carriage and behind the wagon, were foot soldiers carrying spears and swords.
They wore rich garments, what there were of them. They were very skimpy, since the climate, like our Brazil, was very hot and they wore headbands made of gold. There was a man riding beside them and though he was Mya's uncle, his headband was of silver.
His mother and father, like many small children Mya didn't know their names, he simply called them the Sun and the Moon like the rest of the small nation he lived in, or even more simply mother and father. They were the equivalent of king and queen of Tovere though they were also the religious leaders. His name was Sunset and he was officially the Son of the Sun and Moon, though he was normally just referred to as Set.
The four other children in the wagon with him were slaves, two boys and two girls. Like Set the boys were naked, but the girls wore short skirts and breastbands. Before his parents had come to power fifteen years earlier they would have been destined as sacrifices on the altar of the God, Totliam, because of their beauty. Despite the forebodings of some of the members of the priesthood, the ending of sacrifices hadn't brought doom to Tovere as predicted. Instead they had enjoyed fifteen years of unprecedented prosperity, showing the God's approval.
Robby commented, *Slavery on this world, at least in this culture, is much more benign than it has been anywhere on our world. Once purchased, they may not be resold and they are treated as one of the family. They're even entitled to inherit. They can be removed from their buyers if there is any brutality. The problem, especially for children with the type of physical perfection Mya's companions have. Before the present Sun ascended to the throne, every lunar month one or sometimes two of these children would have been sacrificed to Totliam.*
He explained, *The four children with Mya were captured in a war preceding his parents rise to the throne, the two boys are about twenty years old, the equivalent of ten and the girls are in the equivalent of their mid-teens. If sacrifices were still being made, the boys would be in danger, but the girls because they are of childbearing age, would not.*
Watching through Mya's eyes suddenly his uncle drew a sword and slashed at the Sun and I could tell from the wound in his neck that it was fatal. Arrows began to fall then and the soldiers began to die. The four little slaves hustled Mya out of the wagon and moved him into the bush in the opposite direction from where the arrows had come.
Mya was confused and frightened. They didn't try to get very far into the jungle, before they stopped and one of the girls tried to reassure the boy, while the other three talked. Mya couldn't hear what they were saying, they were directing their speech only at each other, but they all nodded, including the girl who was soothing Mya. The eldest girl made several gestures and suddenly there were four additional Mya's.
The girl with him who now looked exactly like him said, *Goodbye little one, remember us.* Touching him on the forehead Mya quickly got very sleepy, so sleepy that he couldn't keep his eyes open and a welcoming darkness took him.
When he awoke, it was beginning to get dark. He got to his feet and wandered back to the road. The first thing he discovered were the four children who had become him. Both boys and the girls were laid in a row and they were all unmoving and still. Mya wasn't really sure what death was, but he knew that they were dead. He wasn't aware of it, but we knew the children had sacrificed themselves to save his life. He touched each of his friends gently on the head before wandering off to look for his father and mother.
When he found them at last he threw himself down on his mother and began to cry. They too were so very very still, that he knew they were also dead. Suddenly he heard a rush of wind through enormous wings and he was plucked from the ground, like a rabbit by a hawk and he fainted.
When Mya woke up he was lying on a sleeping mat, much like his own in the Palace and leaning over him was the dreadful vision of one of the People. He was terrified at first, but he felt the feeling of love and calm that she was projecting to him and he began to relax. She put her hand, which aside from the talons on the ends of her fingers, was very much like a human hand, on his forehead and the terrifying images he had seen drifted away. Further and further away and then they were gone.
Then Robby released me and I could see Gord was shaking his head in wonder. He was probably also feeling the rage that I was feeling. Robby blinked his eyes and I knew he was coming out of his trance. He bent over and smoothed back Mya's hair. Then in a whisper so low that I could barely hear it, which to me and to anyone who knew him, would have shouted out rage. It was so deep that I knew he had only been angrier once in his lifetime, when we had fought the Master Vampire.
Robby said with a hiss of anger, "The one who killed his father and probably his mother was his uncle as you know, but he was also a priest. Mya heard them arguing about sacrifices. Despite the fact that they had never been more prosperous, it just seemed to drive his uncle crazier and crazier. During the last argument that Mya heard he almost demanded that the sacrifices be reinstated. He was a very unhappy man but the Sun and his youngest brother First Star simply asked him, 'Why? Had their chief God showed disapproval in any way?' Unable to answer that question, he strode out of the meeting and his steps were those of a man on a mission. In his fanatic's mind, that sealed the Sun and the Moon's fate."
I saw his eyes close again and I counted to thirty before they opened and when he spoke he spoke normally, "Mya will sleep for a while longer and when he wakes he will remember everything that happened. His foster mother, Swift Flyer, is one of the People's shamen and she set a time limit on the block she put on his memories and it was ready to expire soon anyway. He will be sad about it, but it's something that he'll know happened years ago, so it won't be unbearable, but still I imagine there'll be a lot of tears for an hour or so."
Robby looked at me and saw the question on my face. He told me, "The rage is still there Tal, I've only stored it for a while until I need it." a reflective look appeared on his face. "I didn't know that I could do that. But it seemed like such a waste. I was angry now and it was a tangible force, something that I could use when the time was right. I moved it to a corner of my mind, where I can access it at any time and can even add to it. It is no longer anger, it is simply power."
Robby walked over to the fireplace and looked up at the swords displayed in a glass case over the mantel piece like a painting. He asked, "Can you use any of these swords Gord?"
I walked over and looked up at the swords with my hands in my pockets. I told him, "Yes, I can Robby, all of them to a certain extent, but I specialize in the cavalry saber. Why?"
Robby said soberly, "I've never overthrown a dictatorship before. But Sunfire, Mya's uncle, was second in line after the boy, so he is now the Sun. How many children has he sacrificed in the last eleven years? Did he start a war to get them, or is he using the children of his own people? Well the next full moon is in early May and I have no intention of letting him sacrifice another child." His tone was soft, but there was frozen fire in his voice and I shivered, as he asked, "Do you want to come along?"
I had no hesitation. I nodded my head, telling him, "Yes. I admire much about the cultures of Central and South America, but one thing I hate was their willingness to sacrifice human beings. I know the reasons why, but I still hate the practice."
There was a smile briefly on Robby's lips and then it was gone, as he said, "I'm afraid weres are a little more pragmatic. While we don't approve of human sacrifice, through prehistory and history we lived with people who did. wE would never interfere as long as the sacrifice went to his death knowing what was coming and did so willingly. Never children however. We don't feel that they have the knowledge or the emotional maturity to know what the sacrifice means. During that time we destroyed more than one tribe for practicing child sacrifice."
He looked at his watch and said musingly, "It's a little late today, we need to do a little talking and planning before we leave." He looked up at the ceiling and grinned, "I'm inviting us to stay the night. Though we probably won't get much sleep."
I said, "You're welcome to stay. There's plenty of room, but what about luggage? Surely you have more than just a laptop?"
Robby said, "We sent it to Miriam Kasele's apartment. I want the luggage, but I also want Miri if she'll come. I'll have to ask her."
The phone rang and I picked it up and I wasn't surprised that it was Robby. He said, "Miri. We've got another little problem. I want your help. This time however," and his voice went very soft, "this time I'll want you to kill."
I thought about it seriously for a minute, then replied, "I have no objection to killing Robby. As a leopardwoman, I can be just as ruthless as you can and I know you wouldn't want to kill anyone who didn't deserve it. Where will we be going?"
Robby said and I could hear the grin in his voice, "Brazil first and then, well that part even you might not believe over the telephone, so pack lightly and bring your bags to 220 Pleasant Street. Take a cab. In this neighborhood, your car would probably get stripped. It'll probably be a late session."
I picked up my cell phone when it rang, not taking my eyes off of the computer screen. Uni and I were playing chess and I'd be damned if I'd lose to a nine year old. Not for the fifth straight time.
When I heard Robby's soft voice, that captured my attention immediately. "Jeannie, I want Len and Uni to go to Tom Rice and get fitted with black contact lenses. We're going to stage a little revolution. We'll be flying out of Washington at six AM so we should be in Prescott at about eight, then we'll be heading for Brazil. We'll be going into another world, but not the Elven World. The civilization is at about the level of pre-Columbian Central America, but they have a lot more magic than our world has and Uni's ability to Transport will be vital. Oh. One last thing, tell Uni, that kids of our age don't wear clothing, so he should be ecstatic." Robby said with humor.
"All right, Robby. Charge the contacts to you or the Council?" I asked.
He said, "To me. It concerns humans and not even humans from our world, so I doubt that the Council will be willing to fund it. See you in the morning."
"Bye, Robby." I said and I turned to look at my adopted son and he was looking at me with his green eyes wide, knowing that something was up. Uni was like Robby in that he respected people's privacy and he didn't peek into their minds, but there was no way I could hide my excitement from him. I said dryly, "First the news that you'll really love. Robby said to tell you that where we're going, the kids of your age and I gather even of his age, don't wear any clothing."
He grinned and said, "Yes!!" and I caressed his cheek lightly. Uni loved being touched. His father had had very ambiguous feelings about Uni's existence. On the one hand his father loved him, on the other hand part of him hated Uni. From what Len and I had learned from Ben and Uni, he wasn't a demonstrative man. Ben had told us that even with Uni's mother, who he loved with all his soul, he very seldom touched her.
"We'll be going into another world. Not the Elven World. Robby says it's equivalent of pre-Columbian Central America. Has he gone over that era yet with you?" I asked and Uni nodded.
He explained, "First we went over world history, very broadly. Then we did Egypt. Even though I was an educated Egyptian, I still didn't know a great deal of our history. We went over some of the archaeological evidence and some history. I was amazed at some of the things that I didn't know. Then we concentrated on the western hemisphere and especially the histories of the US, Canada and Mexico and by extension, Central America and South America."
Uni said, "Robby told me that even though human sacrifice is what many Americans are most familiar with in those cultures, you shouldn't concentrate just on that. They had great civilizations and to remember just one part is an injustice." Uni looked at me thoughtfully, saying, "Human sacrifice wasn't unknown in Egypt, though it's seldom mentioned. It wasn't an organized thing, but it did exist. We weren't a nicey nice society despite what some people like to think."
I said, "We'll get Len and then go to Tom Rice to get the two of you fitted with dark contacts and then we might as well go into Prescott and stay the night. I was talking to Maisie yesterday and unless things have changed she should have room for us."
After putting the computer in suspend mode we stood up and headed for the door and the stairs. I was halfway up when I stopped. "Oh, Lord." I said with humor.
Uni asked, "Something wrong?"
I told him, "Robby said it was the equivalent of pre-Columbian Central America. Well it's now the twenty-first century. That means the white man never found the New World for some reason. I imagine with the climate they don't wear much clothing." I ruffled his hair, "and the children of course none. That means a full body and hair dye for all of us. That should be fun."
Edward Franco met the plane in Prescott, where we stopped briefly to pick up Len, Jeannie and Uni. He handed me two boxes. He told me, "Cloth and sandals in all the sizes you requested. Contacts for you, Tal and Gord Hunter. I've wired Joaquim Costa da Silva, that you're coming and set up a line of credit from your personal account for twenty-five thousand dollars as you asked me. Do you think you'll need that much?"
I shook my head, saying, "I doubt if we'll need a fraction of that. However on our way home, I intend to stop in Belem and arrange for a donation to help the priest who took in Mya. I can't help everybody, but when they brush my life even in such a minor fashion, I'll do what I can for them."
I watched the Lear set down lightly. I was curious. Edward Franco had told me that Robby Hansen was involved in something and asked for my help. He had told me that it didn't concern werewolves, but I would have to get the rest from Robby.
The Lear taxied to where we were waiting in the jeeps and pulled off of the runway. When they got off of the plane I could tell that two of them were human, one of the men and one of the children, but the rest were all were or part were, though I could tell the black woman wasn't werewolf. I had seen were jaguar and she wasn't that either though their auras were similar.
Hansen shook my hand, "It's good to see you again Costa. I told
Edward I'd brief you myself, because what we'll be doing is something
that's hard to believe. When we get to the house I'll go over it."
The tale was almost unbelievable, but the longer I looked at the small naked boy called Mya, the easier it was to believe that he was from another world. He had an almost unearthly quality about him. Robby watching me watching the boy said, "He's not quite human as we recognize humanity. His DNA is much closer to a chimpanzee I once saw when I took my brothers and Uni to a zoo. I think on his world humanity came down through the chimpanzee, though their line must have separated millions of years ago. The differences are miniscule, but they do exist and they whisper 'I am distinct, different from other children, special.'"
The boy he called Uni, came into the room. He was nude like Mya and changed. The makeup artist I had hired had dyed his skin and hair and he was wearing black contact lenses. He held his hands at shoulder level and turned all the way around. When he was facing us again, he said with a smile, "All my life until the last few months, everybody I knew was dark except for me, Ben and father. It was strange seeing myself in the mirror and seeing myself the color I would have been if I had been an Egyptian by race. The makeup artist said that you should go next, Robby."
He nodded and went into the other room. I was curious and asked, "I know of your story Uni and obviously you're used to nudity. Will it bother Robby? He's much older after all. He only looks like an eleven or twelve year old.
Uni shook his head, saying thoughtfully, "It won't bother Robby a bit. He has no physical modesty at all. Actually it seems to be a characteristic of those who are descendants of Jarvis White. While I'm more familiar with the kids, all of those I have met, from Robby's brother Teddy and foster and adopted brothers in Aaron and Barry, the Davis twins the Jarvis kids and some of the Peters kids. Although some of them are shy, none of them have any physical modesty."
Uni said with emphasis, "Robby is special though!! He's comfortable in his skin! By that I mean he's comfortable no matter what he's wearing, no matter where he is or what type of situation he's in!! Wherever he is that's where he feels he's supposed to be and that gives him complete self-confidence which I don't think can be shaken by anything."
Mya had gone over and looked at Uni and now he shook his head and he obviously said something to Uni and the older boy answered him. I asked, "You can speak to him?"
Uni looked back at me, explaining, "Not directly. Robby can set up channels in his mind which automatically interprets Mya's language at a primal level into ours. I can talk to those that have mind-speech directly, because that's one of my abilities as a Healer. I can feel Mya's emotions when he projects them, but so can any normal human. He's astonished at how my skin has been changed and that my eyes are black. I showed him how it was done."
I asked, "You seem to be much more intelligent than most boys your age. Is that part of being a Healer?"
Uni nodded, saying, "At least in part anyway, of course I trained for three years as a Healer in Egypt and there was no such thing as spare the rod. If you didn't pay attention, the rod was wielded with enthusiasm." He giggled, then said, "I was mostly with adults. Also when Robby gave me English, he gave me what he had. While he doesn't always use it, he is much more knowledgeable and articulate than kids even of his own age, which is thirteen and a half. For that reason, I have the big words that most nine year olds don't. That makes me seem older than I am."
When Robby came out of the room a few minutes later, also naked, I saw what Uni meant. Robby was completely comfortable, as unconcerned by the fact that he wasn't wearing clothing as Uni or Mya were.
"Tal will be next and then we're going hunting. Do you know a black man who made headbands and bracelets?" Robby asked.
I nodded, saying, "Yes, that would be Nico. He just seemed to disappear two months ago. The police officer stationed in the village looked but could find nothing. He was quite frustrated. Of course being this far from the major cities the stereotypical cop would be a bumbling, incompetent. Justino is not. He is a very skilful police officer and he badly wants to know what happened."
Robby explained seriously, "When Mya came to this world about two months ago, he found Nico dead and there was fresh blood. The two men who were there, one a very big man and a much smaller one. Though he couldn't understand the language he could tell the small man was the boss. They turned Mya over to a man in the village who took him to Belem. Obviously the two went back and disposed of the body and cleaned up the shack."
I nodded saying, "That would be the Ferreira brothers. Filipe and Gaspar. Gaspar despite his size and strength, is a little child. His mind stopped aging when his skull was fractured when he was seven. At thirty he is still seven. Filipe is a vicious man." I smiled coldly, "or at least he would be vicious if he lived somewhere else. Justino is deadly and Filipe is terrified of him."
Robby said reflectively, "If Filipe is gone, who will look after Gaspar."
I told him, "I would be quite willing to put him on my staff. Despite his size and strength, he is very gentle and his personality is sunny. He lifts the spirits of all around him. Except of course, for his brother. Nothing seems to help Filipe."
Robby turned to Mya and they were obviously talking. Finally Mya nodded. Robby turned back to me, saying, "Mya is actually seventeen years old. His people grow more slowly than ours and he is the equivalent of an eight year old. However he is very intelligent. He said that one of the older boys that the priest was taking care of in Belem, was like a very young child and he agrees that Gaspar should not be punished. What would happen if I provoke Filipe?"
I told him, "He carries a machete all the time. If you get him angry enough, he will forget where he is, forget that Justino is there. Justino seeing him attacking an unarmed child will shoot him."
Robby asked, "How would Justino feel about having to do that? Would it affect him severely?"
I told him, definitely, "Justino is a pragmatic individual and he has killed several times before. He is as ruthless as a werewolf when he has to be and he feels as little remorse, when he kills those who deserve death."
I know I'm not very bright, not compared to most people. I feel best when I'm around seven and eight year olds. They think like me and they don't make fun of me because I'm slow. I knew what Filipe had done in killing Nico was wrong. I didn't know what to do. Sometimes I feel I should go to Justino and tell him about it, but I'm afraid of Filipe, but he won't kill again if I have anything to say about it.
I think slow and one minute Filipe was talking to Nico and the next second Nico was dead. One evening we were in the tavern as usual and Filipe was on his third drink while I preferred Coca Cola. He began talking to himself. He does that a lot.
He was talking about Nico and the boy we had found there. He was saying, "What if for some reason that kid comes back? He knows what happened at Nico's."
He talked crazy like that for a long time and then he got up and went over to the door. He looked out and came back and then went to the door again and he was fingering his machete. I saw Justino over in the corner and he was also drinking Coca Cola and he was watching Filipe closely, his eyes narrowed.
Filipe pushed through the door. Uneasy I got up and followed him and I saw Justino doing the same. Suddenly a lantern lit up and two boys were in the light. Both were dark and the older one was wearing a pair of shorts, but the other was the boy from Nico's and he was naked. Filipe gave a roar of rage and drawing his machete, began to run towards the boys. As I said I'm a bit slow, by the time I realized what he was going to do, it was too late for me to do anything. Filipe could move much faster than I could.
I turned to Justino, almost pleading and he was moving sideways away from me. It wasn't until he drew his gun and fired twice that I realized that he had moved so the kids weren't in the line of fire. Turning back I saw Filipe go down with a feeling that it was right, yet at the same time I felt sad. I walked slowly toward my brother and I knelt beside him saying a prayer for his soul. It really needed it.
I felt a small hand on my shoulder and looking at the older boy, I saw wisdom in those dark eyes, so like my grandfather's eyes. He said, *Come Gaspar. Your nightmare is over. You don't have to worry about him killing ever again. Senhor da Silva has a job for you.*
I stood up and took the hand offered me and for the first time in years I felt at peace with the world.
We were doing a little talking before bed, since I had no intention of meeting the People of Joy in the dark. Gord asked, "I was wondering about a couple of things. When the white man came to the New World, we gave the Native Americans many deadly diseases. Can we do that in Mya's world?"
I shook my head, saying, "No. Look at Mya. He's been in our world for a couple of months and I doubt that he's had as much as a cold in that time. Raw magic is similar in every universe and can be used by anyone who can use magic. In specific things the magic in different universes aren't compatible with each other. The bacteria in my body can't live in his body and vice versa. If we were to stay for a long period of time, say ten or fifteen years, gradually over time our magic would become compatible with his magic and then we could give and get illnesses from each other."
I told him, "If we went to a world with no magic, even humans from our world would die, because the bacteria in us, has our type of magic in it, it would die very swiftly and we couldn't survive. That's why I had Edward provide the clothes that we'll be wearing. For you Gord and Mya and Tal and Uni and I it doesn't matter, but with the rest, those wearing clothes." I grinned, as I said, "Well if we got clothes from Mya's world it wouldn't change when we did. I got enough from Mya's memories that I know what the peasants wear and for women it's a brief skirt and a breast band and for men loincloths and all of them seem to wear sandals."
I explained thoughtfully, "Even on feast days, they wear the same type of clothing. However they're very big on body painting and almost every inch of skin not covered with clothing will be covered with body paint. The older kids of about eight and up especially since they don't wear anything else, can be a veritable work of art. The younger kids are usually one solid color, but never red and especially not black. Red is the color of blood and black on Mya's world means death just as it does in our culture."
I felt sad and angry then, as I said, "At least the feast days are never held at the same time as the sacrifices. The most recent should have been held a few days ago. Mya can remember six in a year, but there may be more, because in those six the Sun and the Moon and the Son of the Sun and Moon had ceremonial duties. He thinks there were others where they were simply people who went among their subjects. He can remember his father and mother painting each other and him and laughing."
"One last thing before we turn in. How did Justino feel about killing Filipe?" I asked.
Costa told me intently, "Satisfied, Robby. I gave him a hint that Filipe had killed Nico. He knows as well as I do that the only way to prove it would be for Gaspar to tell him what happened. That's not in the cards. He would have to arrest him as an accomplice. There's no way of telling what would happen if Gaspar ended up in court. Despite the fact that Gaspar is a child in all but body, if things went wrong he could end up in prison. That wouldn't be justice and that's what Justino wanted. He knows now that's what he got."
I nodded, satisfied. Later lying on my bed, I constructed magical shields for those that didn't have them already, like Gord and Miri. I hesitated with Mya. I could tell he was a budding Mage as many of their priests were and he already had shields, probably supplied by Swift Flyer. They weren't as all inclusive as mine were, but they seemed to suit him better, so I simply strengthened them.
Eager to Learn, my oldest Apprentice, came to a skidding halt on the landing place, telling me excitedly, *Swift Flyer!! Loved One is back and he's accompanied by two other boys and a man. I looked at their auras and the oldest boy is a Great Shaman!!! NO, even that doesn't tell what he is!!! I have seen your father who is our greatest Shaman and even his aura would look sick beside this boy! The others are different as well, the other boy is also a Shaman, yet he and the man are something else as well!*
If it had been one of my other Apprentices, I would have been very skeptical. Eager to Learn was not impressed by anything and I had never seen him as excited as he was now, not even the day I picked him as my Apprentice. I launched myself from the landing place. Opening my wings and catching a updraft I spiraled into the sky, closely followed by my Apprentice.
Once I could see the place where Loved One usually went into the other world I could see the four humans that my Apprentice had told me about and I could see that Loved One was one of them. I went into a dive and so eager was I to see my adopted son that I waited till the last minute to cup my wings using that and much more magic than I should have, to stop me and I dropped lightly to the ground.
Loved One threw himself at me and I gathered him into my arms. He was bubbling with happiness. I gently took his nose in my beak, the closest we could come to what the human's called a kiss. I put him down and stroked his hair gently while I examined the other humans. They gave a bow, it was not like Loved One's bow that he had already known when I had taken him from the massacred humans, yet it was very practiced and obviously their formal greeting.
Invoking my ability to see auras I silently apologized to Eager to Learn who had landed behind me. He was right, even my father's aura paled in comparison to the oldest boy. Again he was right about the other two. Normally my people had one aura, an almost pure red. A Shaman like myself would have two, the second one would be green. The boy had three and the man had the shadow of a second aura. I thought that whatever these beings were, he must not be a pureblood.
The oldest boy turned to the younger one and said something. The little one nodded and he answered and then disappeared and a little time later he returned with a man and a woman. He disappeared once more and yet again appeared with a man and a woman.
The first pair had the same aura as the first man, but the second aura was fully visible. They must be purebloods. When he returned with the second pair, the man was clearly human, but the woman, aside from the fact that she was black all over, had two auras as well. In her case the second aura was a pure red. While she obviously had something in common with the others who were more than human, she was also different.
The older boy bowed to me again and said, *You must be Swift Flyer. I felt that we should all be here before we started the discussion. I removed the block you had on,* he paused and then grinned, *Loved One and brought his memories to the surface. We're here to help him return to his people. My name is Robby Hansen. While our names often have a meaning, that is not why we have been given them and we often don’t know what they mean, unlike your names.*
He pointed to one of the human males, *Our lone human is called Gord Hunter and ironically he is a hunter. Not a hunter of animals, but a hunter of knowledge. The rest of us are weres. That means we are shapeshifters, werewolves and our other form is that of a wolf.*
He indicated the one who only had a light second aura, saying, *This is Tal Peters. He is only part were and can not change. The man and the woman are Len Peters and Jeannie Reynolds and they are mates and the boy is their adopted son Uni. The five of us are related. The black woman is Miriam Kasele, a leopardwoman and her other form is that of a cat somewhat similar to the jaguar.*
I nodded, saying, *As you assumed, I am Swift Flyer and this is my senior Apprentice, Eager to Learn. I am puzzled by one thing, aside from the black woman you all look very much like Loved One. He said the man that he saw on the other world was also black. Is that the only colors that you have? I had always assumed on a different world you would have different colors.*
Robby Hansen said with a grin, *Actually we are disguised. If we are to go among Loved One's people we must look like them, or we would be spotted instantly. We have used dye to darken our skin and hair and those of us with different color eyes are wearing a transparent covering so they appear to be black. This is what I normally look like.* and suddenly I saw him as he would really be. His hair was red, while his eyes were green and his skin was much lighter. Then he showed us each of the others, the boy looked much like he did, but the others varied from an almost white colored hair with gray eyes, to dark colored eyes and darker hair though not the black that they were now, but all of them had the light skin.
Robby pointed at the black woman, saying, *Only Miriam, who we usually call Miri, hasn't been disguised, but that's because as she is, she is part of your world. Think of her as someone from your world and you will realize who she looks like.* and I felt my eyes widen as I knew what he meant.
*Versa, Totliam's mate!! The Huntress!! The Giver of Death Earned!!* I thought with wonder.
The black woman addressed the boy, *Is that why you had me come along Robby?*
He looked at her and nodded, saying, *Yes. It seemed very convenient, that Mya, or Loved One, happened to come along just as I was at the Washington airport and I knew someone who could be Totliam's mate. He is the judge. She is the executioner and it's very strange that the form she kills in is a leopard, not a jaguar but a leopard. Though her spots are blood red not black. Somewhat beyond the bounds of possibility, don't you think? Unless Totliam with the help of the Immortals on our world arranged it.* He told her.
*That's why you asked me if I could kill? The Huntress kills those that her mate judges should die.* she asked.
Robby nodded, saying seriously, *Yes. In fact neither Totliam nor Versa actually kill. They can't interfere directly in that fashion. They act through intermediaries. Usually priests or priestesses. In this case the Sun is the chief priest, so they had to look somewhere else. A priest from another part of this world would probably not have the power needed, so Totliam looked to another world for a priest or in my case a Shaman, who did. While we are now called Healers, we still have the attributes of a Shaman. In cases like this we can act as one.*
He turned his eyes back to me, saying, *However, I cannot act without contacting Totliam first. To do that, I must have one of his priests. In this case First Star, Loved One's uncle. Loved One's memories say that he agreed completely with the previous Sun. Do you have access to Taknan, Swift Flyer?*
I answered, *Yes. While Totliam is not our chief God as he is for the humans of Tovere, he is one of our minor Gods. They have never stopped us from visiting his temple. They know better than to harm one of us.*
*Have you ever been there personally?* he asked me.
*No, but my mate Deadly Striker has.* I told him.
Robby put his hand on the younger boy's head, telling me, *Uni as you saw, has the ability to Transport between worlds, but unlike Loved One, at least at this time, he also can Transport between places on a world. But he can only go to a place he has been, or a place he can see through another's eyes. I can take the image from your mate's mind and he can Transport, hmm, I think a mother and three sons would be safest at the moment.*
I drew Loved One closer by instinct and Robby looking at me with those so wise eyes said gently, *He has been out of the nest for several years, you can't put him back into it, he must live his life. If there is danger in it, so be it. As a Shaman you know how fragile life can sometimes be. One second a being can be fine and the next death takes him, because his heart can not stand the strain and suddenly stops.*
I nodded in acceptance and with a last caress on Loved One's head, I pushed him towards Robby, acknowledging the wisdom in his statement.
As we appeared, I looked up into the sky at Deadly Striker, who was our reserve just in case. But it appeared that we hadn't been seen. At least if we had, nobody had shouted. It was a little amusing to think of a silent burst of emotion as shouting, but that's what it would have been and we would have felt that.
Robby closed his eyes and then after about ten seconds he pointed and spoke very softly, "That way."
We must have walked through half of the little city before we came to our destination. Unlike most Central and South American cultures from our world, there was little statuary. However, almost every house was decorated with paintings and they were very realistic looking.
Robby said softly, "That's how I was able to tell that the Huntress was a leopard and not a jaguar. They prefer realism in their art, though they're also big on geometric art. The People have shown Mya some of this artwork and the Gods of course were shown to him, so he knew what Versa looked like, in both forms."
We came to a house which was somewhat bigger than the ones around it, but there wasn't a great deal of difference. I had thought we were heading for the Palace, which was clearly visible, about a quarter of a mile further on. Robby grinned, saying, "I can read First Star inside. He moved out of the Palace. While he had no proof, he figured that Sunfire killed the Sun. Moving out showed his clear disapproval of the new Sun. Sunfire didn't dare do anything to his brother. The death of a figure as popular as First Star, could have caused the people to revolt, despite their normal reverence of the priesthood."
Robby put his hand on the latch and lifting it, he pushed the door open and we just walked right in. There was a man bent over a cook fire and he appeared to be in his mid-twenties though he was probably twice that. He looked up at us and smiled a welcome.
Robby translated what occurred next. Mya said, *Uncle!!*
The man looked at the boy and he suddenly stopped moving. His eyes narrowed and then he pushed himself to his feet. In a manner almost reminiscent of Swift Flyer, swooped down on Mya and scooped him into his arms and said, with incredible joy, *Set!!!! Little one!! I thought you were dead!!*
He began spinning around and Mya/Set shrieked in silent glee. Finally the man stopped and hugged the boy to him and there were tears of joy trickling down his cheeks. He turned to us and said, *How!!!*
Robby told him everything that had happened, I caught the occasional bit, but it was simply being sent so fast that I didn't get more than a slight glimpse. As Robby had told us, the way they talked allowed them to send and receive incredible amounts of information in a short period of time.
After he was finished Robby allowed him to absorb the information. Finally First Star asked, *How can I ever thank you? And Swift Flyer?*
Robby said matter-of-factly, *I need to talk to Totliam. To do that, I need the help of one of his priests. As I said Uni Transported us here and I want you to come with us. You can thank Swift Flyer in person and we can contact Totliam.*
First Star's eyes narrowed, as he said, *You think it will be that easy?*
Robby said, with complete conviction, *Oh, yes, it will be that easy. He arranged for us to come here. To represent him I must talk to him directly, so it will be very easy to contact him. He won't be the first God that I've talked to.*
First Star nodded, his eyes wide, evidently impressed by that statement, as he asked, *How will you arrange it?*
Robby said thoughtfully, *We will leave and get to a place where we can't be seen. Uni will Transport us back to the People's village. Now that he's seen this place, he can Transport directly here. You put the picture on your door that tells everyone that you are meditating and aren't to be bothered. You can disappear for a few hours with no one being the wiser.*
First Star nodded, saying eagerly, *I will come!!* He gave Set a kiss and setting him on the floor he gave him an affectionate swat on the bottom and we left to find a hidden place to Transport from.
It seemed ages, though from the sand clock it wasn't very long, before the boy called Uni appeared. There was an evident question on his face and I knew he was asking me if I was ready. I nodded, he reached for my hand and then there was a brief feeling of disorientation and we were inside a hut with an unusually high ceiling. Not surprising as I saw the three People as well as five adult humans and three children. The People were so tall that they needed plenty of extra height in their huts.
Set came forward and taking me by the hand he led me over to one of the People, *This is my adopted mother. She calls me Loved One.* he told me.
I closed my fist as did she and we touched them together in greeting. I said with a grin, *It doesn't matter what name you have. We change our names quite often in a lifetime. When I was small, my name was Little Nuisance. It was generally used with love, so it didn't matter what it meant.*
Robby Hansen said, *I bet that Sunfire meant it.*
I turned to him and looking into those eyes, I was astonished by the wisdom I saw there. Before I had been so stunned with Set's return from the dead, that I hadn't paid much attention to the others. I nodded in response to his statement.
His eyes went cold then and I shivered at the ruthlessness that now showed there. His mind-voice was very different when he next spoke, *I told you most of what happened, but I didn't show you the beginning. I think I will call the boy Set, it was his first name after all. But this is what Set remembers.*
Abruptly we were in Set's mind. He was watching his mother and father riding in the carriage ahead of him. He was almost bouncing off the sides of the wagon since he knew home was only a couple of hours away. He was being restrained good naturedly by the four slaves riding with him.
Watching through Set's eyes, suddenly I saw Sunfire draw his sword and slash at the Sun and with dread I knew it was fatal. I clenched my hands. In a way I wished I had been there, but I knew if I had, I would have been as dead as they. I was glad I hadn't been, now I could avenge their deaths. Arrows began to fall then and the soldiers began to die.
Set was confused and frightened. The four slaves hustled him out of the wagon and while one girl tried to calm the boy, the others talked. The eldest girl made several gestures and suddenly there were four additional Sets. I was deeply moved as I realized that they intended to sacrifice themselves to keep Set alive.
The girl with him who now looked exactly like him said, *Goodbye little one, remember us.* and touching Set on the forehead he quickly got very sleepy, so sleepy that he couldn't keep his eyes open and a welcoming darkness took him.
When he awoke and got up and wandering into the caravan he discovered the children who had imitated him. They were laid in a row and they were all unmoving. Set didn't really know what death was, but he knew that they were dead. Mourning them he wandered off to look for his father and mother.
When he found them at last, he began to cry. They too were so still, that he knew they were also dead. Suddenly he heard a rush of wind and he was plucked from the ground and he fainted.
The vision was suddenly gone and I was back in the hut and I'm sure that my eyes were as cold as Robby's. He said, *Set woke up here and to protect him Swift Flyer hid his memories, putting a time limit on it. She knew that one day he would have to return to his people and try to avenge their deaths. Since you use mind pictures and emotions as language, it doesn't matter how old you are. The basic mind set is individual and stays the same all of your life, so he could have proved he was the Son of the Sun and Moon. Whether he would have been able to punish Sunfire, I don't know, but your God decided that he needed help and that's why my friends and I are here.*
Suddenly his eyes went blank and I was baffled for a moment until he reached out for me and brought me into the trance he had gone into. I could feel the others being gathered into the trance as well. After that time seemed to stop, as he sent out his summons and then we began waiting. I knew somehow that Robby's patience was like that of the moon, solid and eternal.
Then in our minds I saw a wolf, solid black but his eyes were like the starry night sky. Robby said, *Greetings, Wolf. I can't say I'm really surprised, but then again I don't think I've ever been happier to give my help.*
The being called Wolf, told him, *Knowing how much werewolves love children, we were sure that you wouldn't mind, when we sent the boy to you at the request of Totliam. It is rare that Immortals from different universes cooperate with each other. Then again the boy Set, with his ability to Transport from one world to another, is as much part of our world as he is part of this world. I am sure I will talk to you again, Robby, goodbye for now.*
The wolf faded out of sight then and two figures took their place. They were human shaped, the man's skin was like mine, while the woman's was like that of the black woman, but their eyes were wiser and I realized with a jolt, that their eyes looked much like Robby's.
*Yes, First Star.* My God Totliam said to me. *Robby is still a child, but his wisdom is eternal. He has been chosen as our instrument on this occasion. He has abilities that no one on this world or in fact on his world, can equal. He has another quality as well. His people hate human sacrifice, especially that of children. His race is very old. On his world they have lived with those who have practiced human sacrifice. However, the only type of human sacrifice that they will accept is where the sacrifice goes to his death willingly. There have always been people in those societies who wish to join their God and will accept death to do so, at the same time their death serves their people. They do not feel that children can ever have the maturity to know what they are doing, so they would not accept child sacrifice even if the child seems to be willing.*
Totliam sighed, then said, *At the beginning that's the type of human sacrifice that your great-grandfather's people practiced. It continued that way with your grandfather, but towards the end of his reign he began to sacrifice children. That was as abhorrent to us, as to Robby's people. In a rare occurrence we actually initiated contact with your grandfather and told him that. He ended the practice, but your father was close to becoming the Sun and he thought it was a good practice. When your grandfather died he began sacrificing children again.*
He shook his head, saying, *We tried talking to him as well, but he wasn't willing to listen. He was blind to us. If we didn't agree with him, then we couldn't be his Gods. We could have punished your people, but we felt we could not do so simply because one man was blind to us. When your brother became Sun, we talked to him and he ended the practice. We showed our approval by giving you fifteen years of prosperity. But your brother Sunfire was like your father, blind to us, also he enjoyed killing those helpless children. It gave him satisfaction and a feeling of power.*
Totliam said with anger evident in his voice, *He tried to persuade the Sun to begin sacrificing children again, but when he could not do so, finally he snapped. In his anger, he killed the Sun and the Moon and those with them and he believed that Sunset died as well. It will take more than simply replacing Sunfire as the Sun. The faction of which he is the leader is very powerful and his death would not end the sacrificing of the children. Not even a new Sun would be able to end it. They killed once to remove a barrier to their beliefs and they will have no objection to killing again.*
He told us, *Only what Robby has planned with my help can end the sacrifices, because only he can do so in a way which will leave the priests helpless. Only he and the people he brought with him. Will you help him, First Star?* asked Totliam.
*I will. You are my God.* I hesitated.
Totliam said shrewdly, *But I might not remain so if I approved of the sacrifices?*
I bowed my head to his wisdom, saying, *I could not accept that. I would have had to choose another God to serve in that case.*
Totliam said sourly, *I am glad. There are Gods on our world who still demand human sacrifice. The Gods of the Aztecs, the Gods of the Incas and there are others around the world. Unlike Robby's world, a series of plagues decimated the population of the peoples in the eastern hemisphere time after time. At the present time they are at a place in their history which is very similar to the people who worship me. They too have peoples who sacrifice humans. We are not exactly enemies, since Gods do not fight Gods, but we certainly are not comrades.*
The woman, Versa, said, *Don't think that because I let him do all the talking that I don't agree with him. Sometimes we have to let males believe they are in charge.* He chuckled and taking her hand he raised it to his lips and kissed it as they began to fade from sight.
Then we were back in the hut and Robby smiled at me, saying with amusement, *It's always nice to be able to serve those who have a sense of humor.* and I nodded with agreement, though I was a little shaken. It was the first time I knew Gods could have a sense of humor.
I asked after I had recovered a bit, *What do you want me to do?*
Robby told me, *You and your faction avoid attending the sacrifices. On this occasion I want you to be there. I won't tell you any more. It'll be just as well if you're as surprised as everyone else. Uni will take you home now.*
The Death drums were pounding, on the roofs of houses around the square in front of the altar. A signal of death. I was somewhat worried. The little boy on the altar was only twelve years old (equivalent of six) and he was terrified, his eyes wide in his fright as Sunfire raised the sacrificial knife above his head. After a couple of minutes I realized that there was something wrong and I relaxed a little. My brother liked to hold the knife above his terrified victim for about thirty seconds, but not for two minutes. I could see his eyes from where I was standing and they were frantic. He couldn't move for some reason.
Then what appeared to be mist began to gather behind the altar, but then it began to solidify. I realized that it was Totliam and I heard in my mind, *I told you Robby could do things that no one else could do.*
He continued to become more and more solid, until he was as solid as anyone standing in the crowd watching him with hushed awe. Well at about twenty-five feet tall he was somewhat overpowering I thought ironically, beginning to recover a little.
He began to speak, *From this day forward, I shall never again accept a human sacrifice and especially not a child. The present Sun is an evil man and gained his power this way.* and suddenly we were back in the vision I had seen when Sunfire had killed the Sun and Moon, though I was only partially there. Looking around, I could see that everyone else was and I saw rage beginning to rise on the faces of those who were old enough to remember my oldest brother.
The vision ended and I knew the crowd was ready to surge forward and crush my brother in their rage. Totliam put his hand up, saying, *No, I am the Judge and the Huntress is my executioner and I shall punish Sunfire, the false Sun.*
He waved his hand at the crowd. Suddenly in their midst, appeared a black woman, at least fifteen feet tall. As the crowd parted she shrunk to the size of a normal woman. The black woman, changed into a cat, with blood red spots. We knew she was the Huntress as she began to move toward the altar, her purpose obvious. I looked back at my brother. He was sweating and I could see his eyes were even more frantic than before. Suddenly the knife in his hand disappeared. Walking around the altar, he began to walk down the stairs advancing to meet his doom. Everyone who could see him and as I found out later that was everyone of our people in our five cities, many villages. even those in the crowd who couldn't possibly have seen him did, knew it wasn't willingly.
The cadence of the drums was hesitant now. Sunfire stopped and the cat stalked up to him, looking up at him. Suddenly he could move, his mind screaming in terror as he whirled to run, but with a leap the cat had him by the neck, knocking him to the ground. Everyone heard the crunch as she bit through it.
The drummers began to catch the excitement of the crowd and the beats began speeding up, taking on a joyous sound. The flutes began to join in. The flutes which were never a herald of death, but of life.
Giving a roar of triumph the Huntress leaving the discarded body on the ground, she began to stalk towards the altar. As she did so she changed back into a woman. She climbed the steps and drawing a knife from her belt, she cut the ropes holding the boy down and sheathing her knife, she lifted him in her arms. Then she turned and walked towards the crowd.
They gave her room, that is they did until she walked up to one couple who stayed where they were. She handed the boy to the woman, telling them, *He is no longer a slave bought as a sacrifice. He is now your son. Take care of him.* and brushing the hair off of his forehead, she disappeared, leaving a look of wonder on every face, but especially the faces of the couple who had suddenly gained a child.
Totliam said with obvious approval in his voice, *That is done. The Huntress has punished. The vision you saw came from Sunset the Son of the Sun and Moon. He did not die as Sunfire thought, but was saved by the People of Joy, who we have been trading with for centuries. I give him back to you.* Raising his hand he pointed at the dais.
And suddenly Sunset was standing beside the altar. The flutes shrilled their joy as he touched it and it just disappeared. He looked at the crowd and it was completely silent, no one was projecting their thoughts, letting the flutes and drums speak for them. Set told us sternly, *There are other priests and priestesses involved in the killing of my parents. They will come forward. Now!!*
They began to come forward and we could see they were doing so as unwillingly as Sunfire had gone to his death. We gave them room and eventually they were crowded in front of the denuded dais. Sunset said gravely, *Totliam has advised me that some of them may be salvageable. You see them, you know them. From this time forward they are no longer priests, they are less than acolytes. To become acolytes again, they must earn the right. Strip them of their robes and finery.* and the people rushed forward to do it, those who tried to struggle were treated roughly.
Finally the people drew back, leaving the former priests and priestesses as naked as children. Unlike children who were proud of their nudity, these former priests were ashamed of it.
Sunset spoke again seriously, *Their families will not suffer for their actions. I ask the other priests to take them into their own families. If these men and women regain their status someday, then they can reclaim their families, if not… * and he just left it there, letting the former priests think about it. *Take them away to begin their duties in the temples.* and within five minutes all of the former priests were gone.
I realized in amazement that Robby had done it, he had so publicly broken their power and broken them so that they would never regain it.
Totliam said, *I have two more things to do before I leave. A Sun must have a Moon to rule with him. This is my representative who will choose the Moon.* and suddenly the man called Gord Hunter, was on the dais. He walked down the stairs and into the crowd, he ruffled children’s hair and they would always remember this moment. But they were all boys, except for the last and he simply touched her on the head and went to one knee in front of her. Standing up, he led her and her family towards the dais. He stopped at the foot of the stairs to let her climb them alone. At the top Sunset was there to meet her and taking her right hand he put it on his left shoulder and he put his left hand on her shoulder and we had a new Sun and Moon.
He turned her until she was by his side. Taking her hand they bowed to the crowd. Totliam smiled his approval at the dignity of the two children, who would be our rulers. He lifted his head, saying with joy in his voice, *We all know that they are too young to rule alone. They must be taught how to rule wisely. Come into it as they age. Also they are still children and must be allowed to keep their childhood for a little longer. Because they are still children I will choose a child to represent me in choosing a Regent.*
Suddenly Uni was standing on the dais behind the two younger children. He put his hand on their heads and then walking around them he came down the stairs and came directly to me. Taking my hand in both of his, he transferred the power of the Sun and Moon to me, for a time until they were old enough to rule on their own. Taking my hand he led me up onto the dais to stand behind the two children.
I looked at the crowd and there was no disapproval anywhere that I could feel, only overwhelming joy, almost strong enough to knock me down. I said with deep contentment, *Get out your paintbrushes, tomorrow is a special feast day to celebrate the rise of a new Sun and Moon and the end of human sacrifice.* And the joy coming from the crowd became even more intense. Looking around I saw Totliam smile once more and then disappear.
The drums beat the cadence of life and we could hear their echoes in the villages around the city, as they joined those in Taknan in celebration.
I felt it was an honor to paint Robby, with Tal helping. Uni was being painted by his mother and father and Sunset and Seren were being painted by her parents and her older brothers and sisters. I was glad that Sunset had gained such a large family when the Moon was chosen.
Robby was saying as I ran the brush from his neck to his navel with blue paint. *I have the ability to show things in someone's mind. Since your minds see things like that in pictures already, I could go even further and make the illusion seem real. I also can lock people into position, which is what I did to Sunfire. Then I made him walk to meet his death and the priests to come out, even though they didn't want to. But don't think that Totliam and Versa weren't there. They were. While I have abilities, I don't have the power nor does Uni to do what we did alone. That altar must have weighed over two thousand pounds and on your world Uni's maximum is about six hundred pounds. Also he probably would have been limited to maybe two or three Transports, yet he did much more than that and wasn't even tired at the end.*
Tal asked with curiousity, *What about Sunset and the little girl, did they become betrothed?*
Robby shook his head, saying seriously, *Not exactly. As compatible as their minds are, I imagine that it will happen and marriage eventually. But it doesn't have to be the case. The Sun and Moon aren't always married to each other. It's normally what happens but not always. First Star would tell you that some of the best Suns and Moons in their history and it goes back more than two thousand years, weren't married to each other.*
I nodded my agreement, saying, *It's true. Probably the best Sun and Moon we ever had weren't mated to each other. The Sun was chosen when he was almost one hundred and twenty years old (60 years old). His Moon was only twenty (10 years old.) She went on to marry a boy she had grown up with, but together the old man and the girl ruled for almost eighty years. We come from her line since her Sun never had any children, yet he is considered one of our ancestors, though he isn't actually related to us.*
Robby caught my eyes then and I stopped brushing. He told me, *I don't think there's any way that the priests of Sunfire's faction can regain power, but stranger things have happened. If necessary send Set into our world. He knows where to go to get a hold of someone who can reach me. I carefully put the directions into his mind. I can't guarantee that I can come immediately, but there will usually be someone that can come. Len and Jeannie and Uni for instance. I only use them when I need extra help, so if I'm not available they should be.* He continued wryly, *Of course if you need help when I'm using everyone I have, you might have to wait, but I will come. If it's after the fact then at least I can avenge you.*
saying, *Even the Gods can't guarantee the future. If they end up arranging
things so that you can't help, I find it comforting that my death will
I put my hand on the top of Robby's head and he turned around slowly as I turned his head. I admired the work of art that Tal and I had created. He grinned at me. He said, *An interesting exhibition, I wish I had a camcorder. That's an instrument that makes a permanent visual record. It's a pity that some of those kids bodies can't be recorded.* He paused for a minute, then said seriously, *But then I suppose some of the excitement you feel is because every time it's different. Never the same twice.*
I nodded, telling him, *A lot of our art is ephemeral. While you don't see many statues, during certain seasons we create statues simply using the earth and when the rain comes, they're washed away. Much of the art we use to decorate houses are made of the same paint that we use for bodypaint and again they just wash away when it rains. It has to do with our view of the cycle of life. Death is like the rain that washes away the art and allows us to start anew. There is a great deal of debate about whether we start anew in this world or in the afterlife.*
Robby said seriously, *I know there is an afterlife, because as a Shaman I can reach into the Inner Realms to summon the ghosts of those who have reason to come back. However, where they go from there, I don’t know. There's just as much debate among us as there is among you. We could spend years debating that point. However I'm not a priest and I have no intention of spending years talking about it. I'll leave that up to you.*
He looked around and then said, *It's time to say goodbye. The others are gone, Uni has been taking them to the People of Joy's village. Without the help of Totliam he needs rest after each trip. He took Gord Hunter first, then his parents and now it's time for Tal and I. I told Set that it's time to say goodbye as well and he's coming.* and he nodded and I looked over my shoulder to see my nephew and Seren.
Set came up to me and I could see tears in his eyes. Robby touched his cheek gently and said, *Don't cry Set. This is your world. You are happy here. It is not my world, I could not be happy here, not for long. I only came because I was needed, now I'm needed back home, by my family and my people.* I felt him push the joy he felt at returning to his home into Set and the love he felt for him and I saw the tears drying up.
Set said hesitantly, *I will miss you, Robby Hansen, but I feel better knowing that you are needed. You will come if we ever need you?*
*Yes, I will come, as I told First Star. But as I told him I can't guarantee that it will be in time to help you. All I can do is promise that I will avenge you if it is necessary* Robby said, with complete honesty and as it had satisfied me, it seemed to satisfy Set.
Robby bent down and kissed him on the top of his head and backing up he took Tal's and Uni's hands and looking around to make sure they weren't being watched, they simply disappeared.
Set stared at the spot for a minute and then he said to me, *I'm glad Totliam chose a Moon that had such a large family. You know she has six brothers and five sisters. You haven't seen them all yet.* He turned his eyes on me and there was suddenly a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. His voice bubbling with humor he said, *I imagine I'll probably get into a lot of trouble uncle, so be prepared.*
I grinned down at him, telling him, *Oh I am little one, I'm sure my hand will strike that little bottom of yours many times before you outgrow your childhood. I know your father's struck mine countless times before I became old enough that it was no longer needed.*
Mya grinned cheerfully and taking Seren's hand, they disappeared into the crowd.
I said to Swift Flyer, *First Star, as the new regent for Loved One, told me last night to remind you to come to visit and to visit often. Now that the rightful Sun is the ruler, they want to re-establish trade relations, but more importantly Loved One will want to see you. He loves you very much, not as an adopted mother, but as his mother.* I told her with sincerity.
She nodded, saying, *Thank you Robby Hansen. That makes me feel easier, I would have missed him intensely. I was never able to have offspring and he filled the void with both me and Deadly Striker. We shall be happy to visit him.*.
She looked at me and Uni admiringly, telling us, *I must be sure to visit on the next feast day. You make a colorful spectacle.*
I held out my hands and turned around slowly. I had decided that Uni and I would keep our decorations until we got to Da Silva's. He should have a camcorder. While the paint they used wasn't waterproof, it was proof against almost everything else. It couldn't be smeared and you couldn't just rub it off. Even sleeping with it, neither Uni or I had even a small smudge on our bodies.
Unless we got unlucky when we went back into our world and it was raining, we should be able to get full images of both of us. The fact that we were naked and would be showing it to innumerable relatives, didn't bother either of us a bit.
I held out my closed fist and she touched hers to mine gently. I repeated it with Deadly Striker and Eager to Learn. The others were doing the same. Finally, good-byes complete, they backed up a little to give us some room. Uni took Gord and Miri home first and when he came back he said, "It's a nice sunny day. Shouldn't be anything to wash our paint off."
He took Len and Jeannie next and then he was back for Tal and I. I gave one last bow and then taking his hand, I felt a short period of disorientation and we were back home. I breathed the air. Identical, yet it was my world and I knew it and it felt sweeter than candy.
Gord, had called Da Silva on the cell phone we had brought with us, said, "He's on his way. He was a little surprised when I asked if he had a camcorder but he said he did and I asked him to bring it." and I nodded thanks.
When the jeep stopped Gaspar, who was driving, gaped in amazement and I must admit it was an astonishing sight. Robby grinned and said, "On Mya's world, this is how they decorate the children on feast days. All of them get painted. The younger ones up to about seven, with a single color and those older than that, they produce works of art. That's why I wanted you to bring the camcorder. I want a permanent record of the two of us."
I must admit both boys were an astonishing sight and I agreed, the painting on their bodies should be preserved. I took the camcorder and for the next fifteen minutes, I filmed the two boys getting every part of them. I said, "I know a graphic artist who can transfer everything to a photograph and then a painting if you don't mind. It's great body art but at the same time it's just great art in itself. I'll make a copy of the tape when I get home, if you don't mind?"
"That's fine with us. Neither of cares if you just want to put a photograph of us on the wall." Robby said and Uni nodded. He said to Gaspar, *What do you think, Gaspar. It's amazing what a little paint can do isn't it?*
"Beautiful. But don't you mind being naked in front of all these people?" Gaspar asked.
Robby asked, *Do you know what physical modesty means?* and Gaspar shook his head.
Robby continued, *It means that you don't like people seeing you partly naked or completely naked. Neither Uni nor I have any physical modesty, nor do most of the kids in our family. That means that we don't care if anybody sees us naked. It could be a thousand people and it wouldn't bother us, or we could walk down the street in the biggest city in Brazil naked and we wouldn't care. We wouldn't do it, because it's usually against the law, or people wouldn't like it. But in this case, as soon as we have a bath or it rains, the paint will just be washed off of us and we want to keep a record of it, because it's beautiful."
Gaspar nodded, saying, "Yes it is." He hesitated, "Could I see it again, I was too shy to look." Robby nodded and he put his arms at shoulder level and turned around slowly and then Uni did the same.
"Where did you get that done around here?" Gaspar asked looking around.
Robby hesitated, asking, *Do you believe in other worlds, Gaspar?*
Gaspar nodded vigorously, "Of course. There's Never Never Land and Alice's world and lots more."
Robby nodded, realizing that Gaspar thought the worlds in Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland really existed. He explained, *We were in a world where the children don't wear clothing. On feast days this is one of the ways they celebrate. Instead of getting their children all dressed up in costumes or fancy clothing they paint them like this.*
Gaspar nodded, "I don't suppose I could see them?" he said wistfully.
Robby grinned, saying with amusement, *Sorry, Gaspar, but the feast day was yesterday. It'll be a couple of months before the next one. I imagine, the only kids who are still painted aside from us, are those who can run faster than the bath their parents intended to put them in.*
Gaspar giggled and then looked around to see if he shouldn't have done so, relaxing when the adults all began laughing.
Tal and I looked up when we heard footsteps approaching. It was a priest and the one I wanted according to the photograph I had seen. He was English but had lived in Brazil for the last thirty years. Seeing us waiting for him, he hesitated. We stood up and I held out my hand and he took it.
"Hello, Father John." I said, "a couple of months ago, you took in a small boy. A Professor Gordon Hunter came and got him and promised to see if he could find where the boy might have come from. I just wanted to tell you that we found where he belonged and he's happily with his people." I nodded at Tal and he took the two checks he had been carrying out of his pocket. "Gord and I thought you could use a little extra money, so here's a couple of checks for fifteen thousand dollars each. Bread upon the waters, isn't it father?" and Tal handed him the checks and we headed for our car to head for the airport and we could go home, leaving an astonished priest behind us. He'd even be grateful once he found out the checks were real and not just a hoax.