Gifts Part 7–Ordeal

By Geraldle

Copyright © 2001


Symin had been astonished to find out that his Great-Grandmother was Chief Priestess of the Mother Goddess. As such even Kings bowed their heads to her. Last night he had stayed up late telling her his story, though leaving out certain details about their mutual relatives. Part of it she knew already, and certainly had known his name, but had of course been unaware that he was her descendant.

Tonight Symin was going to tell her about those relatives and try to persuade her to get in touch with them. That might be difficult. A woman who could hold a grudge for a hundred years would be no pushover. Of course, her grudge had really been with the society she belonged to, not her family, except for her father.

Symin had finished talking to them, as he tried to do every day, and he hoped it would be necessary to talk to them later tonight. He turned his attention to the southeast and let his mind wander until... contact established with his Great-Grandmother, Avoe. He felt unsettled tonight, and she could feel it. After some conversation she asked, *I sense that you are uneasy tonight, Symin what is it?*

Symin asked, *If I tell you, will you promise not to break off contact until I finish?* Now she felt a little uneasy. She was aware, from the story he had told her last night that he considered a promise, no matter how casually thrown out, as a matter of honor, worth more than life itself. Reluctantly, Avoe said, *All right, Symin I promise.*

*I have met one of your brothers in person and the other in Mind-Speech, and their descendants,* Symin told her. Feeling her anger begin to rise Symin continued swiftly, *Now before you get too angry, I want to tell you that what you wanted to happen, for the Brown Forest Elves to change, started because of your leaving!!*

Symin could feel her curiosity begin to rise and her anger subsiding, as he continued calmly, *It didn't happen right away, and it took a second person to leave to start the actual changes!! Your brother Kraftin contacted you when he became an adult!! You were unwilling to talk to him, but nevertheless, he also defied your father and left to wander!!*

Symin continued on still rushing his words, *The Council of the Forest Elves voted to eliminate what was an unspoken law that once you left them you could not return!! That you and then Kraftin were what could turn into a flow of rebellious young Elves willing to accept that stricture in order to explore the world!! That if they continued to enforce it, it could destroy the clan over time!!*

Simon began to feel out of breath despite the fact that he was not saying anything out loud. *The fact that they were no longer forbidden to leave worked in the clan's favor, the restlessness that had started to develop among the younger generation of Elves began to subside. Instead of a flood of eager travelers, only about ten percent left, and many of them returned gladly to their peaceful forests after an unpleasant taste of the so called civilized world.*

Symin thought about his more adventurous Elven relatives and told her, *But others stayed in the outside world. Your brother Kraftin in fact married a Black Mountain Elf maiden. Aside from a long visit to the Brown Forest Elves clan, he has spent his lifetime as an advisor to Madron's present King. After his retirement, he began teaching at the university in Madron, his son Karliv is the best friend and chief advisor of Madron's Crown Prince Carlinn. They live in the Madron capital, less than two hundred miles from Temple City.*

*And your niece, Sinya, who is one of my friends, is a highly placed King's Messenger.* If he'd had to breathe while reeling off his long speech he would have been entirely out of breath, though in a way he felt out of breath.

Avoe was amused, but at the same time touched by his concern. She told him, *I think it is time that I made up with my family. I would have contacted them sooner if I had realized that they had changed so much, but things hadn't changed in over a thousand years. I had no reason to expect it would change in a mere one hundred.*

She could feel delight bubbling in Symin's mind as he said, *I'll get in touch with Kraftin and Karliv first, since they live close enough to visit, and introduce you.*

Holding on to the contact with his Great-Grandmother, he contacted Kraftin again, as he had done earlier in the evening. When he made contact, Kraftin asked him if anything was wrong. Symin said no everything was right, but he'd like Kraftin to bring Karliv into the link. From the bubbling joy in Symin's mind Kraftin could feel that he had a secret, but a happy one.

When Karliv had joined in the link, Symin took those links and joined them to his Great-Grandmother's mind, “Kraftin, Karliv I'd like to meet my Great-Grandmother, your sister and aunt, Avoe, Chief Priestess of the Mother Goddess in Temple City.”

He felt the astonishment and joy at his announcement from both Kraftin and Karliv and a more subdued reaction from his Great-Grandmother. After making sure the link was solid, he withdrew his own connection to allow them some privacy.

Symin slept peacefully that night.


Symin was feeling miserable; lying on his bed in the cottage with the first cold he had ever had, being dosed with potions by Maxim after a visit by Dearna the day before.

Symin had talked to most of his Elven relatives, but over the last several days, he hadn't tried to get in touch with either Kraftin, Karliv or his Great-Grandmother. Kraftin was visiting his sister in Temple City. Symin was unwilling to intrude on their first meeting. Karliv was on a diplomatic mission for the Royal Family of Madron and was so far away that he was out of Symin's range. Symin could still feel his presence but could not talk to him.

He felt a familiar contact and he gladly linked with Kraftin, but Symin felt concern when he recognized the seriousness in Kraftin's mind. *What's wrong?* Then he was overcome with a series of sneezes, “Atchoo, atchoo, atchoo, atchoo, atchoo.” They echoed in his mind and Kraftin was distracted by them, and the unusual dullness of Symin's mind.

*First, what's wrong with you?* asked Kraftin with concern.

*I've got a bad cold.* Symin said.

Symin felt his great-uncle's astonishment as he exclaimed, *But Self-Healer's never get colds!!*

The boy used a soft cloth to wipe his watering eyes, then said grimly, *That's what Dearna said. But she figured it out. A Self-healer has a low level of magic that is always present and it increases when it has to fight off illnesses and speed up Healing of injuries. The God-blade is absorbing that extra energy and preventing it from working. It is also absorbing any regular Healing energy as well.*

Symin told him, *Looking back, I remember the dagger feeling somewhat different after I drained the two Diamond Obsidian stones in Yersine's Fortress. It was as if the bond between me and the dagger had gotten much deeper than before. After a couple of hours, I got so used to the change that I forgot about it.*

Symin told him, *The first time I noticed it affecting my Self-Healing ability was only a few days ago, though I didn't realize what was happening at the time. I cut myself on the sharp edge of a stone I was carving. It wasn't particularly serious and cuts like that usually disappear in a couple hours, but this one took a couple days to heal completely.*

Symin gave a sigh, before continuing with annoyance in his Mind-Voice, *I tried to see if I could get away from the dagger. When I get more than a hundred feet from it, the dagger Transports itself to me, so I can’t leave it behind.*

Symin could feel the disquiet in Kraftin's mind. He asked with foreboding, *There's something wrong, isn't there?*

Kraftin said ruefully, *Yes. I'm on the escarpment at the base of which Temple City is located, though they carved many buildings right into the cliff itself. A couple of thousand years ago, as near as we can figure, Dwarves carved a road halfway up the cliff face, the full length of the escarpment, which is almost fifty miles long. Why they built the road there instead of putting it at the top of the escarpment we have no idea. It's something Dwarves do. When they have two choices, a hard way and an easy way, they'll almost always choose the hard way.*

Symin could feel the sorrow gathering in Kraftin's mind as the man continued, *But anyway, twenty miles along the road there's a notch in the cliff face that allows plenty of room for a small village, which includes an inn. The village is about two hundred years old, the population mainly made up of potters and weavers. Most of what they make goes to Temple City. They have a cable system on which they can lower a container, which will take a couple of people or several hundred pounds. That's how they get the raw materials up and the finished products down.*

Kraftin paused before continuing, *The Dwarven road isn't used all that often for heavy traffic anymore, not since the bridge over the river was built and Camron's Southern Road was extended right to the capital of Madron seventy-five years ago. For people who want to avoid the heavy traffic it's ideal, and they often stay one night at the inn. One such traveler was an addlepated Great Mage. In his mid-sixties, he still had an eye for the ladies, taking a serving wench to his bed for the night. However when the wench woke in the morning, our Great Mage didn't. The Healer said his heart simply stopped sometime after their last bout of lovemaking.*

Symin felt a shiver go up his spine as he asked with apprehension, *Why do I get the idea that you're trying to avoid telling me something?*

Kraftin told him reluctantly, *Yes, yes I'm afraid I am. Come look through my eyes.*.

Doing so Symin noticed absently that it was a typical inn room; his attention caught by the Diamond Obsidian stone that Kraftin was looking at with Mage-Sight. The transparent curtain of a Ward covered the stone. Easily three times the size of the Ward stones at Yersine's Fortress, it's aura was more than twenty inches thick and absolutely saturated with angry red threads of light, throbbing with fierce energy.

Symin felt a chill simply looking at the stone. Kraftin told him, uneasily, *We have his diary. He wasn't an evil man, but he wasn't very bright, and he was persistent. He acquired the stone some thirty years ago, wanting to see if he could make it explode. So every day for the last thirty years he's been adding more Mage energy to the stone.*

Kraftin said with disgust in his mind, *The last entry in the diary said that he thought the stone was almost ready to explode, and he wanted to take it to the King to show him. It apparently never entered his idiot mind that what he had done was very dangerous; that he could kill his King without intending to. If the stone wasn't Warded we could transport it somewhere safe, but we can't penetrate the Ward.*

Kraftin paused again, before continuing, *There's a fault immediately under the village, which extends along the cliff face. Accounts say the Dwarves who built the road knew it was there but ignored it, since it would have taken a major earthquake to affect it. They knew of nothing else that could affect the fault. I've spoken to several Dwarven engineers who have some familiarity with Diamond Obsidian stones. They say that located where it is, right above the fault, an explosion of the magnitude that they figure it could deliver, could very well shear off the face of the cliff and drop it down onto Temple City.*

Kraftin said wryly, *The Council of the city has been informed, but unanimously they decided they could not evacuate the City. They have informed everybody from the Priestesses and Priests of the various Gods and those who come to this site on Pilgrimages, but very few have been willing to leave.*

Kraftin said with annoyance, *There is no Far-speaker here, right now. There were three of them but one died unexpectedly a couple of months ago and the other two killed in an accident just three days ago. They haven't had time to replace them yet. fortunately Rendar's estate as the Duke of Farlei is less than twenty miles from here and he and Terrion have been there since they came back from Camron, and the boy used his Far-speech to tell the King's Far-speaker who notified your King. I've been informed that anything that we need will be available.*

Symin told him with fear, and resignation, *You're talking too much Uncle. You just don't want to ask me. I'm on my way.*

Kraftin said with obvious regret, *I am. I wish it were not the case, but you are unique. With the God-blade, you are the only one who can deal with these stones.*

Symin requested, *Have Terrion relay to the Madron capital that I will be going directly to the Messenger Post east of Bremen on the Northern Road. Have Prince Tamen inform all of the Messenger posts on the Northern and Eastern and Southern Roads that I'll need relays of the best horses they've got for two, myself and a Courier. There's no way I could make that trip alone. Madron doesn't have a Courier system, but I'll need companions and regular changes of horses on the Southern Road from the border to Temple City.*


As they approached Bremen, Symin and Maxim could see others streaming into the city. Symin said, tensely, “I forgot it was market day.” He locked his Empathy away and fretted about the delay that the extra people would cause. They passed through the gate Symin so preoccupied that he ignored the guards on the gate. Normally, he got along well with the Town Guard and would have stopped to chat, but his mission was too urgent.

In the town square where the market was going on, Symin dismounted and handed Anya's reins to Maxim, telling him to, “Go to the Town Guard,” nodding at the building across the square. “Have Captain Sparan arrange for two fast horses and bring them to Dearna's. Also ask him to have one of his men stable Anya and the mule. I don't know if minutes will count in the long run, but I don't intend to take any chances.

Symin crossed the square to the street on which Dearna was located and stopped outside the building. He scanned the Healer's with his Sense of Perception, relieved that Dearna was alone. Entering the downstairs door, he had to lean against the wall to get his breath back.

Climbing the stairs, Symin didn't rush as he normally would, and he was relieved to reach the top, He opened the door and entered calling out, “Dearna, I need your help!”

She appeared from the second treatment room, which was between her living quarters and the outer treatment room.

“Symin! What are you doing here, I told you to stay in bed for at least three days!” Dearna scolded.

“Sorry, but I can't afford to rest right now. I need your help.” Symin said again and then explained the situation. She was appalled.

“How are you supposed to cover nine hundred miles?” Dearna asked her concern showing in her voice.

“Ride,” Symin said simply.

Dearna snorted with derision, snapping out, “That's impossible. Even Couriers with the special training they get only cover ninety to a hundred and twenty miles a day and then they rest for a couple days after such a ride.”

Symin shook his head and said simply, “Ten days, no longer. I don't know if I have even that long.”

Dearna looked at him, “How do you expect to do that, you won't even be able to stay in the saddle after the first thirty or forty miles?”

Symin explained forlornly, “They'll have to tie me on. That's why I came to you. I need something that will make me sleep. Something that will wake me up when I get there and the most powerful stimulant that you have in order to help me take care of the stone.”

Dearna said with a deep sadness evident in her voice, “You're stronger than other children your age, but still you're a small boy and you don't have the physique for such a journey. Even a trained Courier wouldn't have the stamina for a journey such as that without suffering some damage. With the dagger absorbing any Healing energy, such a long horseback journey will damage your body. It will cripple you, or more likely kill you!”

Symin shook his head slowly, “It may cripple me, and it may kill me, but I'll get there alive, and I'll have long enough to deal with the stone,” he said with absolute certainty. “It's like when the Gods decided to destroy Yersine's Fortress. I know they won't let their city be destroyed if they can prevent it. While they will not interfere with the stone directly, they will give me enough energy to live just long enough to render it harmless.”

Dearna gave a sigh of deep regret, as she told him, “I have nothing that will allow you to sleep straight through for that long a period, not without using Healing Magic as well, which obviously I can't do. Unfortunately many sleeping draughts are dangerous and aren't effective if taken for that length of time. I can only think of one which will do what you want and even it only partly fills your needs, but it's the closest I can come. Taking the drug will make you sleep for eight hours but then for the next four hours you will begin to rouse and be in a stupor which will gradually disappears until the next dose can be taken. You will sleep for eight hours, and be in partial pain for the following three and in agony for about an hour. I have pain medications but, without magic, none that will work with the sleeping draught.”

Dearna continued, giving her reluctant instructions with sorrow knowing she might never see him again or if she saw him he would be physically crippled, “To wake up is easy, a mild stimulant will do the job. The special stimulant to keep your energy up while you deal with the stone would normally be difficult to obtain and is very, very expensive. They make it to up from half a dozen different, normally deadly poisons, combined in just the right proportions with several catalysts to produce a special stimulant. It is used in several religious ceremonies and it is produced right in Temple City.”


=(And here is where you start losing me in this story. There is no certainty that Symin will be killed – he has after all drained such stones before. Yes, there is a tangible risk that the travel and the draining will be too much for him, but I sincerely believe you overplay the 'certainty' of death. On the other hand this expedition is guaranteed to cause a lot – a LOT – of pain and suffering, both the travel and the draining itself. The pain and anguish – and determination – can be played up, as can the possibility of crippling.

As is, the story is too OTT, too artificial for me to like.

This story is about an ordeal, not a suicidal sacrifice.


Symin watched them saddling the two horses with apprehension. This journey might not kill him, but it would cause major damage to his immature body. With the dagger blocking all Healing magic it was very probable that the damage would be severe enough to cripple him permanently.

Like when he had gifted his sight for his country he was not sure whether being crippled would not be worse than death.

For the first twenty or so miles Symin would ride normally, after that as he had told Dearna they would have to tie him on the horse. That's when he would take the first dose of the potion Dearna had provided.

The Courier looked down at the young boy and asked, "Are you ready Master Symin?" and Symin could feel his concern, and he managed a quick smile, telling him, "As soon as I say goodbye to Maxim."

Symin looked at the boy he had come to regard as closer than a brother. He said sadly, "I don't know exactly what this trip will do to me. It may kill me or it may cripple me." He sighed and shrugged his small shoulders before he continued, "I think I would prefer it if the trip kills me. If the fates decide that I will be crippled than I must accept that as well."

He felt Maxim's sharp sorrow and the sadness was evident on his face, but also acceptance. Symin straightened his shoulders and told him, "To be a noble is an honor and a privilege. That means duty always comes first." Symin gave a quick smile, as he said, "At least it does to me." And he pulled Maxim close and gave him a hard loving hug.

Reluctantly he broke the hug and turning to the Courier he told him, "I'm ready."

The man nodded and lifted Symin into the saddle. He gathered the reins and when the Courier also mounted he gave a quick wave to Maxim and then the journey was begun and Symin's concern was on the future and he didn't look back.


After twenty miles Symin was aching all over and his bottom was very sore from the pace that they had maintained. They stopped briefly at that point to have a quick meal and Symin forced himself to eat.

While it didn't happen often this wasn't the first time that someone accompanying a Courier had to be fastened to the saddle. Instead of tying Symin to the saddle the Courier used leather straps which had cloth on the inside to protect the arms and legs as much as possible.

Then taking the potion he gave Symin the first dose and they returned to th trail. Symin was quickly asleep.

The next ten days were an incredible ordeal for Symin. Hours of restless, drug induced sleep interspersed with hours of agony and each day the pain was worse. While in the stupor, each movement of his arms and legs caused a burning stab of pain to go through Symin.

Only duty forced him to eat and drink even though the agony of lifting his arms was too much, his back ached, head pounded, he was disorientated and he want nothing more than a good, deep sleep, but he showed determination to go on and on and on.


Symin opened his eyes. The pain was still there, but it was muted and almost invisible, only an ache in the back of his mind told him it still existed. When he tried to move, he found himself unable to do so. Terrion was sitting by the side of his bed, anxious large brown eyes looking at Symin. He noticed when the older boy opened his eyes. *Ren, he's awake!!* The man, who was now Terrion's father, informed the others in the room, Kraftin and a full-bodied Elven woman, who Symin assumed was his Great-Grandmother.

Despite his situation, a flicker of amusement went through Symin's mind. She, like most Priestesses of the Mother-Goddess, had taken on some of the seeming of the Mother-Goddess. She was much stouter than an Elven woman would normally get. Not fat, but the ample proportions that made a mother or grandmother’s lap so inviting to young children.

Kraftin took Terrion's place by Symin's bedside, his Great-Grandmother standing behind him. *How long do I have?* Symin asked, almost absently, figuring it wouldn't be long.

Kraftin, who had gotten to know Symin very well in the trip from Yersine's Fortress to Camron's capital, knew that he would want the truth. “The Healers say a day or two, at most. The journey took too much out of you. If it wasn't for that dagger absorbing their energy, they say there'd be no problem, not with the number of Healer-Mages Temple City has available.”

*The Gods made sure that I'd have plenty of time to deal with the stone.* Symin observed without any bitterness.

He turned his eyes to the Elven woman, *Hello Great-Grandmother. It wasn't exactly how I wanted our first meeting to be like. I have a request of you. I'd like to make sure my friend; Maxim Ascalon will be all right. I didn't have time to arrange for anything before I left, though he knew it might be a one-way trip. I think Sinya would arrange for him to enter the King's Messengers, but I didn't have time to discuss it with her. While Kraftin could talk to Sinya, I think Prince Tamen would be suitably impressed if the request came from the Chief Priestess of the Mother-Goddess.* His large gray eyes twinkled with humor.

“I'll make sure to arrange it, little one.” Avoe, his Great-Grandmother, told him sadly. She had experienced much heartbreak in her long lifetime, yet somehow she knew this would be one of the worst, even though she had only talked to him mind to mind a few times and was only just meeting him. With effort, she hid the depth of her anguish from Symin knowing how much it would hurt him.

Terrion with a sad look on his face was heartbroken, on the verge of tears, the liquid threatening to fall from his large brown eyes. Symin had no words that would help, the truth would simply hurt and Symin did not intend to lie. He radiated a powerful feeling of calm and love toward Terrion and Rendar. Terrion's grief masked somewhat by the love he felt coming from Symin would not return full force until Symin died.

Symin continued, *Telling you to take care of Terrion is superfluous, Ren I'll just say thank you for being such a good friend to a little boy like me.*

*Little, ha, you're the oldest one here, despite rumors to the contrary.* Rendar answered, though the look on his face also of deep sadness.

Symin turned his eyes to Kraftin and told him, *Time to go to work, Kraftin.*

Kraftin took a small vial out of his belt pouch. He shook it several times, and Symin looked at it with doubt in his eyes. Kraftin caught the look in his eyes. Despite the sorrowful situation and the sad look on his face, the corners of Kraftin's mouth turned up in a tiny smile, telling him, “Believe me, Symin, it tastes much worse than it looks.”

*That's supposed to give me confidence?* Symin asked with apprehension.

“No, that's supposed to give you warning.” Kraftin lifted the boy up and putting the vial to his lips. He made sure all of it made its way into Symin's mouth. The only muscles that Symin had reasonable control of were his facial muscles, and after he swallowed the potion, he grimaced in disgust wondering how anything could taste so revolting. After a couple of minutes of internal shuddering, he began to feel warmth spreading through his body. Closing his eyes, he invoked his Astral Spirit.

As soon as his Astral form was free of his body, Symin realized how much the pain medication had been affecting him, because he immediately felt the jangle he associated with a Diamond Obsidian stone. He arrowed upward and appeared in the room at the inn in which the stone was located. There were three Mages sitting in chairs and watching the stone, taking turns to view its aura for any changes.

Symin made himself visible, and Kraftin appeared seconds after he did. The three nodded at Kraftin and looked with curiosity at Symin.

Kraftin told Symin, “These are Mages that specialize in Transporting. If it wasn't for the Ward they could send it about fifteen miles away, into an unpopulated area where it would do no harm if it blew up.”

Symin told him in a tone of crackling power he sometimes evinced, “Well they can stay until I penetrate the Ward and the stone. Once I've done that I should be able to turn the Ward off. When I start draining the stone it'll be directly through the roof, so they should go downstairs until debris stops falling. Once that happens it should be safe to come back up if they wish. If I die in the middle of draining the stone they should Transport it where they intended. I imagine my Astral form will just dissipate, and that'll leave you with the decision about what to do with the stone.”

Symin steeled himself for the excruciating pain he knew he was soon going to suffer, before moving toward the stone and the curtain of the Ward, pushing on it lightly with his hand. Then placing his right hand on the handle of his dagger, he pushed his left hand through the Ward. It was a slow process, for the first time a Ward actually put up some significant resistance to his penetration of it.

Finally, Symin's hand was inside the Ward and carefully he buried it wrist deep in the stone. As had happened when he penetrated the Ward at Yersine's Fortress, the knowledge of how to turn the Ward off percolated into his mind. As he did so, the curtain disappeared, and he said, “Time to get them out of here, Kraftin.”

Kraftin nodded his head at them, and obediently the three Mages got up to go downstairs. They went out the door and Symin heard them clomping down the stairs. He licked his lips feeling deep anxiety, a pressure in his bladder that normally indicated an urgent need to urinate. With determination, he drew his dagger, pointed it at the roof, and let loose with the first Mind-Blast.

Symin was wrong about the debris. As the first Mind-Blast knifed into the roof, the roof simply disappeared. Symin screamed with pain, it was the worst he had ever felt while draining a stone. In order to get it over with as soon as possible, his breath coming in panting gasps, Symin began a continuous Mind-Blast of orange light that rose tens of miles into the sky, and was visible in Madron's capital, Divandia, two hundred miles away.

Symin continued the Mind-Blast that lasted non-stop for over twenty minutes, unaware of anything except the pain coursing through his body. Unknown to him the three Mages joined them in the upstairs room and looked on with awe. Almost unaware of the last of the energy being drained from the stone, just cognizant enough to bring the dagger down piercing the stone making it safe and useless to any Mage. Unaware of losing consciousness, Symin snapped back into his body.


Symin was standing in a large glade. He could see people sitting on benches, but he couldn't make them out, their outline was blurred. He tried to use his Sense of Perception and realized that he was actually seeing for the first time in many months.

About fifty yards away he could see three people sitting on a bench and they were the only ones not blurry, so he began to walk in that direction. As Symin got closer, he began to realize they looked familiar and by the time he reached them, he knew who they were.

Symin performed the slow formal nobles' bow, to them in the order or ranking, first to the Mother-Goddess, Tamra, then Kranholt, God of Fire and Forge, and finally to Esuss, Goddess of Healing. Then with great politeness he said, “Since I've never heard of the dead being greeted by the Gods and Goddesses of Life, I assume I am not yet dead?”

Tamra spoke with a bit of a smile on her broad face, “No, little one. Your time on Lythea has not yet ended. You and your God-blade are still important, in your world and in others. We summoned you here for two reasons, through its bond to you and because of the Diamond Obsidian stones, your God-blade is the most powerful magic blade ever produced on our world, and it was not really intended for that. It must be given boundaries, to protect you in the future, but still allow your own Self-Healing magic and other Healing magic to work on you as they should.”

Kranholt held out his hand, and Symin drew his dagger and placed it in the God's hand. As he clasped it in both hands for a couple of minutes and then offered it back to Symin with a solemn look on his stern face. When the boy took it back in his hand, Kranholt simply disappeared.

Tamra smiled, “He's a God of few words. Now since you have risked your life so often, with no thought for yourself, as a sign of our approval we offer you a Gift of Healing.”

Esuss felt sure that Symin would ask to have his sight returned. He would still have his Sense of Perception since that was part of his magic. Tamra thought differently. She had watched him much longer, and she was confident that he would not ask for something for himself, and she was right, “Does it have to be for me?” Symin asked.

“No, little one, it does not. Who do you wish to give this Gift to?” Tamra smiled approvingly at him.

Symin said decisively, “Terrion. I know he can Mind-Speak. However, it's a limited ability, because there are not really a lot of people he can speak to in that manner. I'm sure he would like to be able to talk as well.”

“And if he chooses not to accept this Gift?” Tamra asked her smile of approval, widening.

“Then I'll hold onto it until I find someone who needs a Gift of Healing.” Symin replied after thinking it over for a few seconds.

Tamra nodded, telling him, “That can be arranged. Esuss, please place the Gift into the dagger and tell Symin how to invoke it.” Esuss did so willingly, marveling at the boy's unselfishness, restoring some of the faith she had lost in humanity over the thousands of years of watching them.


The moment Kranholt handed the dagger back to Symin, the Self-Healing energy, which it had absorbed, flowed back into Symin's body. His limbs, which had curled up tightly, began to relax and straighten.

Terrion, who was watching, saw the relaxation. *REN!!! Come quickly, Symin is moving!!!* Rendar, who had been given an explanation of what was afflicting Symin, called in the Healers, and after a quick test they found that the dagger was no longer absorbing Healing energy, and they got to work, repairing the boy's very ravaged body.


Symin yawned and stretched, then his eyes opened and he sat up with a jerk, suddenly realizing he had no pain and a feeling of well being he hadn't had in a couple of months. He heard a snort from the side of the bed, and looking over he saw a naked Terrion lying on his stomach on a sleep pad beside the bed. The sheet, which had obviously covered him, bunched at his feet.

Symin dropped from the bed onto Terrion's back, waking him up abruptly. Terrion, who was very ticklish, responded immediately to the fingers jabbing into his ribs, trying to buck Symin off, and calling out for help in Mind-Speech. *Ren, help,* giggle, *I'm being attacked*, giggle, giggle, *I was ambushed.* giggle, giggle.

Though Terrion was the younger boy by a year and a half he was quite a bit larger than Symin, who was part Elf, and was growing more slowly, but Symin was much stronger and Terrion was unable to dislodge him and finally, he surrendered, *I yield! I yield! Please stop tickling me!!*

Symin said with amusement in his voice, “I accept your surrender, for the moment at any rate. Get up and get dressed, it's,” he quickly looked outside with his Perception to gauge the time, using the shadows from the buildings to tell the approximate time. “around nine o'clock.”

Symin and Terrion got dressed, something they did very quickly since they only wore short trousers and sandals. While adults would wear undergarments, children almost never did so, no matter what their class. Symin contacted his Great-Grandmother. *Could you do me a favor?* he asked.

*I'm just glad I didn't have to carry out the last favor, what can I do for you?* his Great-Grandmother replied, with a glad feeling of happiness in her mind.

Symin had warmth in his heart as he felt her happiness. A bubbling of joy went along with his question, as he asked, *Could you arrange a formal audience, with you, a Priest or Priestess of Esuss, Rendar, Kraftin, Terrion and I? And several witnesses. How long will it take?*

Along with the happiness he could feel amusement in his Great-Grandmother Avoe's mind as she asked, *Would ten minutes be too soon?”

*How can you arrange it so soon, I expected it would take at least an hour or two?* Symin exclaimed with amazement.

She told him, *I happen to be talking to all of the people you mentioned right at this moment except for witnesses, and they won't be hard to gather. I'll shoo them out into the waiting room and send an Acolyte to get you and Terrion.”


When the Acolyte arrived, Symin was standing on the bed, brushing Terrion’s hair. Being curly, it was a bit harder to get into order than his own straight blond hair. Finally satisfied he nodded to the Acolyte to lead the way.

In a couple of minutes, they were entering a waiting room to an audience chamber. When Terrion saw Rendar, he started to go over to him, but Symin grabbed him by the arm and stopped him. Rendar saw that and raised his eyebrow at Symin, who just shook his head, telling him in Mind-Speech, *You'll find out, with everyone else. I asked for this, and only I know what it's about.*

A gong sounded the door to the audience chamber opened and those waiting filed in. Symin held Terrion back so they were the last to enter. Once inside he let go of Terrion's arm and allowed him to go over to Rendar. Symin stood in the middle of the floor and said, “I asked for this audience, because as a token of favor for protecting Temple City, the Gods have given me one Gift, to dispense as I wish. This Gift is that of Healing. Rendar, would you bring your son Terrion Farlei forward.”

The man did so, bringing Terrion over to where Symin was standing.

There was a gentle smile and joy on Symin's face as he said, “The Gift I offer you, Terrion Farlei is the Gift of Speech. I must ask you whether you wish to accept this Gift or decline it. Nod or shake your head, not everybody in this room necessarily has Mind-Speech.”

With excitement, Terrion was nodding his head, almost nodding it off. Symin said, amusement evident on his delicate features, “Okay, you can stop nodding. I think everybody knows that you nodded yes. Lift your chin. It may hurt a bit, but you need to keep your head perfectly still.”

Drawing his dagger Symin lightly pierced the skin. Terrion bit his lip and clenched his fists at the pain. Symin scored a perfect horizontal figure eight sign on Terrion's throat, just enough to draw blood. Holding the dagger in his left hand with his right hand, he traced the figure eight again with his index finger. Touching Terrion mouth with the bloody finger, he traced the younger boy's lips and said a couple of words quite clearly, yet nobody afterwards could remember what he said, not even Symin. He said one more word that nobody could understand, all of the blood disappeared, the figure eight turning brown and, like the tattooed crests that both boys wore, became permanent.

Symin sheathed the dagger and then suddenly dug his fingers into Terrion's ribs. Terrion giggled, saying, “Hey!! Stop that!!” With shock Terrion realized that he had said it out loud, his heart singing with joy and Symin nodded with satisfaction as Rendar picked his son up and threw him into the air, the boy shrieking with joy.




6,931 words