Gifts Part 8–Pictou

by Geraldle

Copyright © 2001

CHAPTER ONE-643 AF–20th of Tine

Symin had taken a nap after the morning picnic that he had enjoyed with Minna, Maxim and Sivvin, and the strenuous lesson in staff fighting he had received from Sivvin. Now he was checking the area to make sure there was no litter lying around.

Symin was bubbling with happiness. He had gotten through Sivvin's guard three times today with what would have been killing or crippling blows, and he had won a match for the first time ever.

Elves pound for pound were stronger than humans, but they were so slender that their weight was only about two-thirds that of a similar sized human, so that human and Elven strength tended to even out. However, Symin was only part Elf. A normal human child of his size would have had no chance, since he was no bigger than a seven-year-old human boy. For some reason Half-Elves or part Elves, pound for pound, were stronger than any of the pure races and occasionally, like Symin, they were also blessed with blinding unmatched speed and perfect hand eye co-ordination.

Symin wasn't anywhere near as strong as an adult human being. His strength was about equivalent to that of a sixteen or seventeen year old human boy. With his uncanny speed added, he could make a formidable foe, even for an expert like Sivvin. After the last hit Sivvin had dropped his staff and grabbed a laughing Symin, throwing him high into the air. Symin seldom cried and seldom laughed out loud, usually a giggle was the most you would hear from him, but his joy had bubbled over into a rare bout of laughter.

Minna and Sivvin had headed back to the Castle an hour ago, and since he knew Minna and Sivvin were bringing supplies from the Castle, Maxim had brought his mule Atine and their cart. He had come the long way around while Symin had walked and climbed down to the pool and small copse of trees at the base of The Plateau. Maxim had joined Symin for a brief nap and then had left with Atine and the cart.


After checking the area and determining that they had left no litter, Symin was squatting examining an anthill, marveling at the sheer energy they displayed. Suddenly he sensed something unusual. It didn't seem dangerous, and standing up slowly, he turned, his staff coming into a defensive position just in case.

Symin watched in awe as a winged piebald unicorn dropped Concealment and came into view. He was very small, even smaller than Anya, Symin's pony. The unicorn was obviously in a state of exhaustion; his wings instead of folded neatly at his side were dragging on the ground. His proud head with its long black horn was drooping with his legs spread wide to keep him on his feet.

Suddenly a second alert hit Symin and this time he sensed danger from behind him. He whirled and when he saw an Astral Spirit appear about five feet away, he threw the staff to the side, well out of the way, knowing it would be of no use in this situation.

The man ignored the boy, saying to the unicorn in a chiding tone of voice, as if he were speaking to a very small child, “Pictou, Pictou, you disappoint me, you were warned what would happen if you escaped.”

The unicorn with great effort lifted his head up proudly and stared at the Mage, teeth bared in a gesture of defiance. With his Empathy Symin could sense the goodness radiating from the unicorn, and evil radiating from this man. The boy instantly chose sides and spoke, in a cold voice, “He is under my protection!! You will leave now!!!”

The Mage looked at the young boy and then turned his attention back on Pictou, ignoring Symin. The unicorn saw the boy shake his head slowly and then he moved, so fast that Pictou saw only a blur. Then everything stopped, the boy with his dagger piercing the heart of the Astral form. The Mage just had time to look down, and say, “Impos...” before he disappeared.

Symin squatted down and jabbed the dagger into the ground several times to clean the blood off of the blade, then standing up and sheathing the dagger, he walked over to the unicorn. Symin said in a bristly voice, “He wasn't very bright was he, he just ignored me, didn't even bother to check my aura.”

Pictou warned, his Mind-Voice very serious, *They work in teams; one Great Mage and three Lesser Mages. It'll take the others about fifteen or twenty minutes to find out where he was, and then they'll come for me, and you, now that you've killed one of them.*

There was apprehension in his voice as Symin said nervously, “I guess we'll need a little help then!!” giving an urgent call in Mind-Speech, *Karliv, I need you, in fighting form, immediately!!*

Karliv was jolted by the call nine hundred miles away in Temple City. In his rooms, he lay down on the bed, then invoked his Astral Spirit, following the contact back to Symin. A few seconds after receiving the call, he was there. When he became visible, his Astral form was much less substantial than normal. He looked with awe at the unicorn, a mythical creature he hadn't really believed actually existed.

Symin looked in his direction as he appeared, startled at how insubstantial he was. Karliv catching the surprised look on his face, said reassuringly, “Don't worry, I'm close to my range limit, but I can still throw some pretty powerful Mind-Blasts around.”

Symin nodded, his throat tight with fear, turned his attention back to the unicorn, saying, “Are you able to fight?”

Pictou shook his equine head, telling them sadly in Mind-Speech, *No, I don't have any magical offensive weapons. The band around my horn, prevents me from using much of my magic, including my ability to Transform, or to Transport.*

Symin grasped the horn, and looked at the band of silver about four inches from the rounded end of the blunt horn. It was in fact under the surface, the horn having grown over it.

Symin asked tensely, “If I cut the end off that holds the band, will your horn grow back again?”

*Yes, it will regenerate but to cut it is impos...* and like the Mage a few minutes earlier Pictou's word was cut off, not by disappearance but in astonishment, as Symin calmly drew his dagger and sliced through the horn just below the band.

A short verse popped into Pictou's mind and both Symin and Karliv heard it.

*One not yet born,

He will cut your horn,

And set you free,

Your companion he will be.*

Pictou stated with wonder in his Mind-Voice, *That verse was a prophecy that was made on my home world when I was born. Most of my people stay at home, but I was restless even when I was a colt, When I reached young adulthood, I started traveling between worlds to find my companion. It seems after visiting dozens of worlds I have finally found him.*

Symin was not finished, as when he had killed Yersine, the dagger had absorbed much magic from the dead Mage. Putting his hand on the horn, he pushed energy into the exhausted unicorn, until Pictou almost became his normal self.

Pictou burst out with excitement, *Now we no longer have to fight, you've given me back enough power to Transport to another world!! I have never personally Transported anyone with me, but I know it can be done. Before I left my world, I talked to others of my people who told me of their time of wandering, and that I would be able to take someone who weighed up to about a hundred and forty to one hundred and fifty pounds. One small adult, or two children or Halflings. The space between universes is an empty void, seemingly made up of magic and it is airless. When I am traveling to another world, my magic prevents me from needing to breath so distance doesn't matter to me personally.”

Pictou stated with a bit of amusement in his mind, *Obviously you humans and other similar races could not come with me on many occasions because the closest world is much too far away, most of the time. It's the world I was on directly before I came to your world and it has been coming closer for the last few weeks. For the last few days it has been close enough that it will take me between one and two minutes to get to it, and I know most of you humans can hold your breath for that length of time. For the next five weeks or so, it will remain in its present position and then after that gradually pull away, so that ten weeks from now, it will take close to ten minutes to Transport to it. Most worlds have several alternate worlds that come close to them, but Lythea only has the one that comes close enough so that I can Transport someone with me.*

Karliv commented with wonder evident in his mind, “If you've visited that many worlds, it sounds like you've been looking for a long time? Now I'm glad that you've finally found the companion that your prophecy mentioned, but I would think a winged unicorn would be very conspicuous?”

*True, but,..* and they could feel the bubbling humor in his mind as Pictou began to change, his wings disappearing into his body first, then he began to shrink, as did his horn.

In less than fifteen seconds, where a unicorn had stood, now stood a very large dog, somewhat resembling a squashed Great Dane. Three feet at the shoulder, he was twice as wide as a Great Dane and very thick-bodied overall. Of course, he had to be, as a flying unicorn, he had very strong but lightweight hollow bones, but still he weighed over three hundred pounds and that weight needed to be distributed on the body of a dog.

He also had a bump about three-quarters of an inch high on the top of his head where his horn had been. Pictou told them, *I still look a little strange, but there's such a variation in the way dogs look that aside from a little comment, nobody pays much attention to me.*

Pictou quickly changed back to unicorn form telling them, *These people have the ability to detect the signature of a Magic User physically present who has used his magic at a site, for up to two or three days.*

Nodding respectfully at Karliv, Pictou told them, *However, they cannot detect one who was in Astral form. If your friend can throw a lot of magic around and then disappear before the Mages show up, it will hide your Magic User's signature, and they will not be able to find you in the future.*

Before they left Symin contacted Maxim with Mind-Speech giving him a quick recap and told him that he'd be gone for a few days.

CHAPTER THREE –20th of Tine, Lythea–July 25, Earth

Pictou said to them, a bit pompously, *Much of my magic, when I am in flight, is used to help me fly and to use Concealment, although I can't Transport to another world while flying. Lythea is about ten percent larger than Earth, so if you went by logic you would think we would end up four hundred miles above Earth's surface. While I don't know how it works, when I actually Transport to a world that's larger or smaller than the one I'm on, I end up on the surface of the new world. I can't end up in a solid object such as a tree or a cliff, and I can't Transport to somewhere that has no solid surface, such as a body of water. I will instead end up on a solid surface close by. It's magic, and magic at times defies logic.*

Pictou was describing what would occur while building the energy that he needed to Transport. He was nervous, and he tended to talk a lot when he was nervous. He continued, *Earth, the world we are going to, has as much magic as Lythea, but it has no Magic Users, the inhabitants depend on something called science and technology, some of which exists on Lythea as well. For instance, a wagon is a primitive form of technology.*

As Pictou, approached readiness he put his nerves behind him. He told Symin, *Grab hold of my mane tightly and take a deep breath. I can reassure you that once the Transport starts, you could not let go even if you tried. Are you ready?*

“Ready. I'll see you later cousin.” Symin replied with a little bit of anxiety in his mind. Holding on to the mane tightly with his right hand his fighting staff with the other, filling his lungs with air. He felt a brief period of disorientation as they entered the void. Not even his Sense of Perception could see anything but blackness. He began counting, at ninety-six there was a second period of disorientation, and then they were on Earth and into what to Symin was a freezing hell of cold air and rain. It was about sixty degrees Fahrenheit and the rain wasn't cold, but it had been almost one hundred and ten degrees on Lythea. The sudden drop of fifty degrees in temperature, to someone who had never felt anything cooler than eighty degrees, instantly threatened Symin with hypothermia.

CHAPTER FOUR–20th of Tine–Lythea

The instant they disappeared, Karliv began throwing Mind-Blasts indiscriminately. As a Great Mage, he was able to keep it up for almost a minute. Continuing until his energy was too low to sustain his presence he simply snapped back to his body in Temple City.

When the compatriots of the Great Mage who Symin had killed arrived, there was so much Mage energy around that they were able to learn nothing, With wild curses of anger, they also returned to their bodies.

CHAPTER FIVE–July 25th, Earth

Pictou cursed to himself. He hadn't even thought about the temperature difference. He himself could tolerate a much greater variation in heat and cold. Urgently he told the boy, *Get on my back quickly!!!* Clumsy with cold, Symin scrambled onto Pictou's back. Crouching a bit, the winged unicorn sprang into the air, and flapping his wings with great effort gained a little altitude. It was only a few minutes to his destination, and several hundred feet from where Pictou intended to land he began to shout in Mind-Speech *Daniel, Daniel Vincent, I need aid!!!*

When Pictou landed outside the back porch of a farmhouse Symin was unconscious from hypothermia and finally let go of his staff, which clattered to the ground. Almost as if it were a signal, the door opened and a young girl about twelve, with long blond hair appeared in the doorway.

She stared squealing out in disbelief, “Pictou!!! We always thought Mum and Dad made you up!!!”

Pictou ordered sharply, his concern, evident in his Mind-Voice, *We can discuss whether I really exist later!! Take Symin and get him into a tub of hot water!! I forgot about the difference in temperature, and he needs to be warmed up right away!!*

To her credit, she collected herself instantly and jumped forward to take the light weight of the boy into her arms as Symin began sliding off of the unicorn's back. As soon as the boy was in the girl's arms, Pictou transformed into a dog and followed her as she carried Symin into the house, through the kitchen into a bathroom. She sat the unconscious Symin on the toilet seat, and holding him there with one hand, she started the water running in the tub. She unbuckled Symin's belt then paused, her cheeks going red.

*What's wrong?* asked Pictou sitting on his haunches.

“I've never seen a naked boy before except for my eight and nine year old brothers,” she admitted, somewhat embarrassed. “And I've never given either of them a bath.”

Pictou stretched out full length, head on his paws. *Well, I'm afraid I can't help you! I don't have any hands, besides he won't mind, there's no nudity taboo on his world! He needs to get warm!!* he told her firmly.

Still blushing furiously she undid the buttons of Symin waistband and fly pulling off Symin's short trousers and taking off his sandals. She inadvertently touched the dagger but since Kranholt had imposed strictures on it a few weeks before, she only felt a little tingle. Making sure that the water wasn't too warm, she lifted the small boy into the tub.

His keen ears picked up at the opening of the back door, Pictou lifted his head, but when he heard, a familiar voice call out he put his head back on his paws. “Danni, where are you?”

Danni yelled “I'm in the bathroom, mum. I think you had better come in here,” she yelled, and then in a normal voice, “Mum and Dad always said you were a lazy mutt. You're just as lazy as they said you were.”

*Guilty as charged, besides why should I get up, she's going to be coming in here anyway.* Pictou asked.

Despite his seeming cavalier indifference, he jumped to his feet when Danni's mother appeared in the doorway, and began barking with excitement, frightening the two little boys with her into skittering behind her for protection.

She put her hands on her hips, broad smile lighting up her face, “Now you stop that, Pictou, you're no more a dog than I am, and besides you're scaring my kids.”

*I couldn't resist, Jenny,* he said to her, sheepishly.

Taking hold of the necks of the two little boys hiding behind her she pulled them out in front of her. She gently told them, “Don't let his barking fool you. He's as gentle as a kitten and he loves being petted.”

They looked up at her uncertainly, and she gave them a push, “Go ahead, you'll find he has a surprise for you.” Pictou approached them and gently gave each of them a nudge on the hand, lying down out of the way. They knelt beside him and began running small hands through his fur. Almost immediately to their delight and astonishment, he began to purr, a deep rumble of pleasure. Why not, after all he wasn't really a dog.

In the meantime, Jenny had gone over to the bathtub. She was surprised when she saw a naked little boy lying in the tub. Symin's eyelids were just flickering. She asked, “Who's your little friend, Pictou? I assume he's your friend and not Danni's.” She smiled wickedly at her daughter, who went red again.

*Symin, we've known each other for less than an hour, so no last names were mentioned, but he has the Ascalon crest on his right arm, so I assume his full name, would be Symin Ascalon.* Pictou answered, twisting his head and neck to get the full benefit of the petting.

“Is there anything seriously wrong with him?” Jenny asked.

Pictou replied, licking her youngest son's face, getting a giggle in reply. He told her, *I shouldn't think so; he was only outside a few minutes and needed to get warm. To you and I, it doesn't feel very cold, but on his world Lythea, this is the hottest part of the year. The minimum temperature would be ninety-five to a hundred degrees and that's during the night, and it was probably somewhere around one hundred and ten degrees or more when I met him. The sudden drop in temperature affected him and knocked him out.*

Symin's eyes flickered open, and looked at Jenny and Danni calmly, and lifting his head, he could see he was in a tub of water. He looked back at Jenny, and Mind-Spoke, just general Mind-Speech so that everyone in the room could hear it. *You have a cold world * shuddering a little.

Jenny grinned, then replied, “Not all of it is this cold, we have parts that are even hotter than where Pictou says you come from.” Symin was intrigued as she spoke, unlike speaking to someone from his own world; mind-pictures came with much of what she said. The last few words evoked in quick succession, a jungle, sand dunes, and parched earth, an image of Pictou. Symin sat up in the tub, and then with Jenny's help stood up.

“How old are you?” she asked. With that, he saw an hourglass, also used on his world to tell time.

*Eleven,* he replied. *I'm afraid that we were in a rush, and Pictou didn't tell me your name.*

“I'm Jennifer Vincent-Molloy.” He saw a picture of a young man and then of a much older man.

*You took the name of your husband and kept the name of your father?* Symin asked with interest.

Jenny paused astonished, “How did you know that?”

Symin shrugged, *When you talk, your mind also at times shows pictures. When you mentioned your last name, I saw a young man, and then a much older one. I just figured it was your husband and your father.*

Jenny looked at him speculatively as she pulled the plug in the tub. That he could see things in her mind didn't surprise her, she was used to Pictou. That Symin could so easily figure out that she used both her own name and her husband's name showed her how intelligent he was.

She told him, “This is Danni,” she indicated the girl, “she's almost thirteen.” Symin looked at Danni and he could feel she was embarrassed, but all he caught from her mind was a picture of himself. Naked. Being from a world with no nudity taboo, and where nudity was common, he was completely baffled by her embarrassment. He shrugged as she continued, “And the boys over there being licked to death by Pictou, are Travis, who's eight and Jason, who's nine. All three have the combined last name.”

Jenny put a towel around him lifting him out of the tub and began to dry him. Symin stifled a huge yawn, surprised to realize that he was sleepy. *Do you mind if I lie down?* he asked.

“Certainly not, do you want pajamas?” she asked, an image of her younger eight-year-old son, wearing colorful garments getting into a bed.

Symin shook his head, *No. We sleep naked.* he told her.

“Can you talk? I know Pictou can't, so I just wondered.” she inquired.

Symin giggled, “Cerrtainnnly,” he considered it, it wasn't quite right so he said it again, “Certainly.” and satisfied with his second try he continued in Mind-Speech, *Right now my mind is translating what you're saying into my language and my language into yours. If I talked out loud, that would just make things more confusing. As you say your words, you think them as well. While right now my mind is translating your language, I'm also learning it. If I had two or three weeks I would be completely fluent in it.”

Symin yawned again; he really was sleepy, so sleepy he forgot all about his fighting staff.

CHAPTER SIX–July 25th Earth-3 PM

Symin woke up after four hours of sleep, feeling rested and well, his Self-Healing having taken care of the aftermath of the brief period of hypothermia, and he felt hungry. He was in what his hosts called the sleepover bedroom, the children using it when they had overnight guests. Throwing back the covers of the twin bed, Symin swung his feet to the floor. His short trousers were missing, but his belt with his dagger and belt pouch was lying on the back of the chair by the bed along with some clothing.

It simply hadn't occurred to Jennifer that Symin wouldn't be familiar with this type of clothing. The socks were easy, and he pulled them onto his feet. He realized at once that the underpants were an undergarment, but it took him a couple of minutes to realize what the fly was for and would have to be in the front. The T-shirt with a weird (to him) Kansas City Chiefs logo again was easy. Most of the shirts on his world were pullovers and the decoration was always at the front. The sweater also was easy, while button less vests were the most common of outer garments; the opening was obviously in the front.

What stumped Symin for a few minutes were the jeans with the zipper fly and snap. The short trousers he normally wore had a button waistband, and a buttoned fly. Many people on Lythea wore short trousers, which had neither. The snap on the waistband of the jeans was easy. After a few minutes of pulling the zipper back and forth, he realized what it did and slipped into the jeans eagerly.

Symin pulled up the zipper, but the first time it caught a fold of the underpants he was wearing. Having a vivid imagination, he thought of what could have happened if he hadn't been wearing an undergarment and winced. Finally the zipper was done up properly and the snap snapped into place.

Symin examined the pockets. He had seen paintings of people who had pockets, and he wondered why on his world they had abandoned pockets for the inconvenient belt pouches. Taking his belt, he threaded it through the loops and put the dagger on the belt, fastening it, putting his belt pouch into the front pocket of the jeans. His sandals were on the floor, so he donned them and then went in search for the people he could feel.

Walking down the stairs, Symin could see everybody who had been there earlier when he had woken up in the bathroom plus a man he had never seen before. At the bottom of the stairs, he saw what Travis was playing with and he stopped in fear. *DON'T MOVE!!!!!* he shouted with Mind-Speech. It was of such violence that everybody froze in shock. He walked over to the younger boy and took the fighting staff gently out of his hands, a sour taste in his mouth.

Symin began to shiver. Everybody was looking at him with surprise and Pictou lying by the fireplace had his head up, asked a question which everyone could hear. *What's the matter Symin, it's just a simple fighting staff?*

Symin who was shivering harder now, had difficulty answering, *No... Not just a simple fighting staff.* he pressed the hidden catch close to where Travis's fingers had just been exploring, and the two and half foot hidden razor sharp blade flicked into view. *It's not… ordinary at all.* as he pressed the catch again and the blade disappeared.

Shaking violently now, Symin groped his way toward a door, any door, and he stumbled onto the front door, managing to open it and push out into the outdoors. He made it to a flowerbed before he began throwing up. In a few moments, the man from the house was kneeling beside him, holding him gently.

When he had nothing more in his stomach to lose the man pulled the shivering boy into his arms as Symin began to cry. In Mind-Speech, Symin spoke ritual words so old that nobody knew where they originated. *My life is yours, Daniel Vincent, do with it, as you will.*

Pictou was sitting on his haunches, on the front porch, said intently, * Symin means it, Daniel! The ritual words are incredibly old. He has just given his life into your hands for any purpose you choose, including slavery or death, if that is your desire.*

Daniel asked remorsefully. “How do I get out of this, I'm just as responsible? You told me it was a weapon, and one from a strange world at that, I didn't know what it could do, and I let my son play with it.”

Pictou, spoke to Daniel only, *I'm afraid my makeup is somewhat simpler than you humans. I cannot share the guilt you both feel. It was like weapons that I have seen before, and my imagination could not envisage something different. Now that I have seen one such weapon, I will be suspicious of all other similar ones. In this case, you must use more ritual. Tell Symin that you are as guilty as he; you accept his life but you give it back to him.*

Holding Symin firmly by the arms Daniel pushed him out gently until he could look him in the face. He told the boy, “I am as guilty as you, Symin Ascalon. I accept your offer, but I give your life back to you.”

Symin nodded, his tears flowing more slowly now, but he was still shivering badly.

CHAPTER SEVEN–July 25th Earth - Suppertime.

Symin was feeling gloomy, not only had he endangered one of his hosts’ children, he had bad news for them as well, though you wouldn't be able to tell by his appetite. He had gotten rid of the undigested portion of his breakfast in the flowerbed, and not having eaten since then, he was hungry. By watching his hosts, he was able to get by without making any major gaffes.

After supper, once the dishes were done, Danni tried to astonish Symin by turning on the television, but she hadn't counted on his intelligence. He was astonished at first, but he realized that the view that he was seeing must be of normal people. Symin immediately thought of some of the actors he had seen and of paintings and said *Actors in moving pictures.* he stated confidently, and he saw Danni pout and Jennifer hide a grin.

Symin waited for the children to go to bed. He almost expected Jennifer to try to send him to bed as well, though he would have had to refuse. *Travis has been ill, hasn't he?* he asked Daniel and Jennifer.

“Yes he had cancer, but he's been in remission for the last three years.” Jennifer replied uneasily, “How did you know?”

*From his aura.* Symin told them, *It's like Maxim's after he had the same type of illness, or at least a related type. While many illnesses leave no permanent mark on the aura, serious ones like what you call cancer do. Remission, does that mean a period of time that the illness goes away after treatment?* he asked.

“Yes,” said Jennifer quietly, worried by the direction the questioning had taken.

Symin sighed, saying regretfully, *I'm afraid the remission is close to ending.*

Her hand clenched around Daniel's gripping it hard, “How do you know?” not doubting his word.

Symin told them, sadly, *His aura. It's dark, much darker than your other children. See through my eyes.* He brought them into his mind and cast his Sense of Perception into the rooms above. He showed her Travis first, then in contrast, the other children and they could clearly see the difference.

Jenny closed her eyes in pain and looked at Daniel wordlessly then back at Symin. She told him, “I can see that you're worried that you're giving us bad news, and you are. At the same time it's good news because the sooner we know, the sooner the treatments can start and the better the chances of another remission or even a cure.”

CHAPTER EIGHT–July 27-Morning

It was about seventy-five degrees but still cool to Symin, who was wearing a jean jacket while the other three children were all in shirtsleeves and what he would have called short trousers, but they called shorts. They were watching Daniel, working with a young mare. Symin, who had seen many more horses and horsemen than the other children, couldn't help but admire Daniel's skill.

Danni sitting on the top of the corral shaded her eyes and looked in the distance. “Daddy, there's some trucks coming up the drive.”

Daniel tied up the mare and also shaded his eyes, then not taking his gaze off of the approaching vehicles. He snapped out, “Everybody, get in the house! Move it!!”

Symin as he headed for the house with the other children, heard him think, *Damn, I wish I had the shotgun!!!” Symin stored that thought for further examination. He could see that Daniel wouldn't go into the house in case the men, who were coming might follow him. As the trucks got closer Symin, with his Empathy, could feel danger, so he took out Daniel's last thought about the shotgun, examining it more closely, slowing it down.

He grunted with satisfaction. It showed him every aspect of loading and firing a pump-action shotgun. It also told Symin where he could find the ammunition. The other children were with Jennifer in the kitchen where they could see out into the barnyard.

Symin took a chair over to the fireplace, climbed up taking the shotgun off of its rack. Then, going over to a picture, he swung it out from the wall, revealing a good-sized wall safe. Using his dagger, he cut around the lock opening the safe and took out the ammunition stored there. Making sure the safety was on, he began loading the shotgun. Once fully loaded he chambered the first round.

Symin looked at Pictou who was sitting on his haunches looking at him, *We'll use Concealment to get behind them, and if I have to I'll try to scare them away with the shotgun, but if I have to do any real fighting I'll use Mind-Blasts. I can control them much better than this thing.* He tapped the shotgun. *This is made for killing, and I don't want to cause any problems for Daniel and his family.*

*I cannot use magic against them, but this body is quite formidable.* said Pictou.

Both invoked Concealment and they went out of the front door and circled around the house to get behind the trucks parked in the barnyard where Daniel was confronting the men. Symin reached out for their minds and was startled. He said to Pictou, *I thought you said there were no Magic Users on this world?*

Pictou, who could feel the same things that Symin could, was also confused. He told the boy, *As far as I knew there wasn't, but they're all under Compulsion. What do we do now? In that condition, we certainly can't scare them.*

Symin said decisively, *I'll have to send a surge of power through their minds to get their controller. Individually it won't be powerful enough to harm any of them very badly. When it hits the one using the Compulsion it'll remove him, and they should go home peacefully.*

*How strong do you intend it to be?* asked Pictou.

Symin told him coldly and analytically, *Reading them, he's Compelling them to kill! This world doesn't need Magic Users of that type. I don't intend to leave him around to cause future havoc! It's a good thing they have such open minds. This wouldn't work on Lythea!!* Symin poured his power into the group of strangers before them, and miles away an evil middle-aged man who had somehow developed a form of magic was sitting on a sofa, smiling. The smile locked onto his face as his now dead body toppled to the side.

As Symin had figured, none of the men present in the barnyard were seriously hurt; the most they received was a severe headache. Totally confused their aggression left them, and they began to get back in their trucks and drive away.

Daniel was bewildered. He'd been gearing himself up for what would be a life or death struggle and then, with no violence at all, suddenly it was over. The two from Lythea waited until the trucks were all gone before dropping their Concealment. Making sure the safety was on Symin handed the shotgun to a startled Daniel, telling him, *You'll have to unload it, your mind picture didn't show me that part.* He started for the house, then turned around, *I'm afraid you're going to need to get your safe repaired or replaced. I had to break into it to get the ammunition.*


Jenny and Daniel were sitting on the sofa after the children were in bed, and they were holding hands. Jenny said in a relieved voice, "That was a close one!!" She gave a shudder of fear, "I hate to think of what might have happened if Symin and Pictou hadn't been here!!"

Daniel told her giving a nod, "I agree! Garth Foss said we would regret turning down his offer to buy the farm! But I never thought he would send someone to do us harm!"

CHAPTER NINE–July 29–1 AM, Earth

Symin suddenly woke up with an idea in his mind. He said, with excitement in his mind-voice, *Pictou!*

*Yes Symin,* a somewhat grumpy reply from Pictou.

*You said you could Transport a small adult or two children?* asked Symin.

*Yes.* he replied, and Symin could see with his Perception that Pictou was nodding his head.

Symin continued, asking, *How much weight could you carry while flying?*

The curiosity was building in Pictou's mind, *Not much, I'm afraid. I can fly about twelve hours continuously on my own at about fifty miles an hour, and then I have to rest for about the same length of time. Carrying the same small adult or two children I could only travel for about six hours, and then I would have to rest for two full days, why?*

*Your flying may not be important, but I've got an idea,* said Symin, not meaning to be cryptic, but he had to talk to Jennifer and Daniel before he went any further. Symin took a quick peek with his Sense of Perception and found them both still awake. Since he didn't consider it urgent, if he'd found them asleep he would have waited for morning.

Symin got up and put on the bathrobe Jenny had given him. Pictou had explained to him about Earth's nudity taboo. It baffled him, but if it would make the people around him more comfortable, he would wear the robe.

He knocked on the door and entered when he heard a, “Come in,” from inside. He put his hands in the pockets of the robe, he'd found pockets really handy to hide nervousness.

They looked at Symin inquiringly. He took a deep breath though he wouldn't be using his voice. He told them, *I have an idea. Your world does many things better than mine, but my world does some things better than yours. One of them is in medicine. A Healer friend of mine told me that except for a few very rare exceptions, there is no such thing as an incurable disease, not if caught in time, and there hasn't been for hundreds of years. I asked Danni about cancer and she told me that you still have some forms that are incurable. She said probably the treatments that Travis would get would put him back into remission, but they might not work, and he could die. I would like to take Travis back to my world and have my Healer friend Dearna have a look at him. Will you trust me with Travis?*

The man and woman looked at each other. Finally, Daniel gave a slow nod, Jennifer looked at Symin, and he could feel the relief in her voice and mind as she told him, “Yes, Symin we will trust you with Travis. We were more worried than we wanted to admit!”

Symin turned to go back to bed. Daniel said, “Symin, the man who we think sent those men yesterday, Garth Foss, they found him dead. They think he died of a stroke.”

*Yes, I know,* Symin said without turning around. *He was a Magic User. Your world doesn't need one like him.* his Mind-Voice hard and cold. The two adults looked at each other significantly, as Symin left the room.


Symin and Travis were ready to go. Symin was dressed in denim shorts (with pockets) and sandals, Travis in a pair of light green gym shorts wearing a cowboy hat. Many Lytherans' wore straw hats, and since normally each person made his own, the variety was simply astounding, so the cowboy hat would not look out of place. Neither however were wearing underpants.

Symin was carrying a backpack, packed with the clothes he had been wearing on Earth, for when they returned. It also contained a couple of towels, a thermos of cold water, and he was holding the staff. Pictou was in his unicorn form, Travis on his back, small hands tangled in Pictou's mane. *It might take four or five days, if Dearna can heal him. If we have to go to the capital, it might take a couple of weeks.*

Symin directed his thought at Travis, telling him reassuringly, *Remember it's going to be much hotter than you're familiar with. There's a pool we'll be able to swim in until Maxim comes with Anya and his mule, so you'll able to keep cool until then, but when we go into Bremen you'll find it really uncomfortable.*

Symin put his hand in Pictou's mane. The unicorn began to concentrate and Symin could feel the power building, until Pictou gave a general Mind-Speech warning. *I'm ready when you say.*

Symin told Travis, *Remember it's going to be completely dark in the Void. Don't be afraid, concentrate on the fact that you can still feel Pictou with your legs and hands. Now take several deep breaths then, when I tell you, hold it.* Doing the same as Travis, when he was ready, he directed at Travis *Now!* though Travis had been watching him and when he took the final deep breath the younger boy had done so as well, then to Pictou, *Go!*

CHAPTER ELEVEN–643 AF-24th of Tine, Lythea

Symin experienced the brief feeling of Transport disorientation as they entered the void, he was monitoring Travis's mind. While there was fear it was well controlled, and Symin didn't even notice the time passing. Then he felt the second bout of disorientation as they exited the void into the copse of trees at the base of The Plateau. Travis slid off of Pictou's back to the ground, and Pictou's began to change into his dog form. Symin shrugged out of the backpack and unzipped it. Taking out the thermos of water, he took a pill bottle out of the pocket of the denim shorts; appreciating pockets again, Symin opened the bottle. He shook out a salt pill handing it to Travis who was already sweating copiously. Pouring a cup of cold water into the lid of the thermos, he handed that to Travis as well who eagerly washed down the pill with the cold water.

*All right, out of your clothes, and into the water,* he ordered the younger boy. Travis was finding it very hot, and quickly and willingly he stripped and, followed by Symin, was in the water within seconds. Symin kept his eye on him. Even though Jenny told him that Travis could swim quite well, he didn't intend to be as careless as he had with his staff.

Reaching out with his mind, he felt Maxim, at the cottage on The Plateau. He said to him, *Maxim!*

*Symin, you're back!!* Maxim said with excitement.

*I am. I'm at the pool, and I have a guest with me who I want to take into Bremen. Saddle Anya and hook Atine up to the cart, and come get us.* he giggled, mentally sticking out his tongue at Maxim. *We'll be in the pool, enjoying ourselves. Also take ten silvers from our hiding place and bring it with you, we may have to stay in Bremen for a few days.*

After that, he ventured a contact with Karliv. When he made contact he told his cousin, *I'm back. Tell everybody that I'm busy right now, but I'll get in touch with them when I have the time.*

*It's nice to have you back, Symin!* said Karliv with warmth.

CHAPTER TWELVE–643 AF-24th of Tine

About forty-five minutes later Travis put his hand on Symin's arm and said, “There's somebody coming.”

Beyond the range of his Sense of Perception, but well within Empathic range, he recognized the presence at once. He told Travis, *That's Maxim. I sent for him. It's time to get out of the pool and get dressed.* He waded out of the pool followed closely by Travis, circling the pool they went to where their clothes were lying. Symin handed Travis a towel and took one himself. Pictou, who had been lying by the side of the pool watching them, got up and came over to where they were drying off.

After Symin quickly dried himself, he took Travis's towel and gave him a vigorous rubdown, then rubbed his hair dry, before they got dressed. He realized that they had forgotten to bring a comb or a brush. He hadn't thought until now to have Maxim bring them, the hair of both boys was tangled and straggly. Using his hands Symin managed to get their hair in a bit of order, but they both definitely still needed a good brushing and combing.

Shrugging, Symin decided that Dearna would have both. By the time Maxim reached them, they were ready to go. Throwing the backpack into the wagon, he clapped the younger boy's cowboy hat on his head and then gave Travis a boost into the cart. Symin could have had Maxim bring the mule and have Travis ride behind him on Anya, but he didn't want the younger boy to overexert himself before he became a little accustomed to the heat, which is why he had specified the cart.

Symin, put his staff into the sheath made for it on Anya's saddle, he swung into the saddle. He looked at Pictou, asking, “Do you want to walk or will you keep Travis company?”

Pictou said with humor in his Mind-Voice, *Daniel and Jennifer used to call me a lazy, useless mutt. That's a pretty accurate description. Never walk when you can ride. I'll keep Travis company. He's not as used to strange things as you are.*

Pictou easily jumped into the cart to join the younger boy, where he expected to get lots of petting. Symin rode beside the cart as Maxim started it moving. He introduced the two boys. “Maxim, this is Travis. He doesn't speak our language, so you'll have to use Mind-Speech. The dog's name is Pictou, you're going to get a surprise later. He's intelligent and he also uses Mind-Speech.”

Symin told the younger boy in Mind-Speech, *Travis, this is my friend, Maxim Ascalon. His official job is that of my personal servant, but to me, he's far more than that.* and the warmth and love Symin felt was evident to Travis.

*Since you don't speak our language you'll have to think at him.* taking the pill bottle, out of his pocket, Symin opened it and took one out and he leaned over, handing it to Travis. *Here, wash this salt pill down with some cold water, and keep drinking it. It'll take about an hour to get to our destination, and I don't want you to dry out.*

Maxim grinned at the little boy and gave a tug on a lock of his hair, peeking out from under the cowboy hat. *Hello, Travis, I'm glad to meet you.* and the eight year old smiled shyly back.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN–643 AF-24th of Tine

Maxim pulled up outside of Dearna's quarters. Symin dismounted, and put his staff in the cart for a moment while he tied Anya to the back. Then, picking up the staff again, he helped Travis down. The younger boy had emptied the thermos a quarter of an hour before and had put it back in the backpack. Travis was sweating so badly that his skin was slick with moisture, his gym shorts soaked with sweat.

“Take the cart and Anya to the Boar's Head Inn, and get a room. We'll probably be here for three or four days at least. Pictou, you go with him, they should be aware of what they're getting into,” said a laughing Symin.

“Why are you taking him to Dearna?” Maxim asked.

Symin told him, “He has an illness that's related to the one you had.” When Maxim gave a sharp inhalation of breath, Symin looked at him directly, reassuring him, “Don't worry!! Travis's world has effective medical treatment, and his illness is in what they call remission! His aura shows that it's about to return. With your illness it was in the latter stages, with Travis Dearna should only have to build defenses to prevent the illness from returning. I think she can do it without any trouble, but if necessary we'll take Travis to Seldon in the capital.”

Symin and Travis watched for a minute while Maxim turned the cart in the narrow street and headed back towards the inn. Symin turned and opened the outside door and ushered Travis in and up the stairs. A quick look with his Perception showed that there was nobody with Dearna. Opening the door, he put his hand on Travis's bare back and pushed him through the door.

Dearna looked up as they entered and a smile of pleasure appeared on her face as she saw Symin, then she looked at his companion. Seeing how badly Travis was sweating, she immediately became all Healer and she said with concern, “Your friend is much too hot; he needs to be cooled down!”

Coming over, Dearna put her hand on Travis's forehead and Symin felt a surge of energy both normally and through the hand he still had on the boy's back, but he was puzzled, it wasn't Healing energy. He invoked his Mage-Sight, and he caught his breath. When he looked at Travis's aura there was an extra layer coating it. It was almost the same color, but he could definitely tell that it was the color of Dearna's aura. With excitement buzzing in his voice he asked, “What did you do? That wasn't healing magic!!”

Dearna was about to add another layer. Normally a simple question wouldn't have distracted her from what she was doing, but there was such intense excitement in Symin's voice that she absently began to answer him, “No, that's an ability that some high Magic Users have. They can cool or heat things up, but only L…”

Dearna realized that she had lost his attention, and looking at him, she saw Symin concentrating. With her Mage-Sight already invoked, she saw a second layer begin to form, it took about thirty seconds but finally a second perfect layer was on top of hers. It was not a solid color as hers was, parts of it were orange and parts were blue. Then a third layer began to form. This time it took only about twenty seconds. Then a fourth layer only taking about fifteen seconds.

Dearna gave a protest, “That's too much; you've dropped the temperature by forty degrees!”

Symin said calmly, “No, that's just about right. Travis is not from our world. While they do get temperatures as hot as we have today, the people where he lives are more comfortable with temperatures in the seventies. If he gets cool I'll drop a layer.”

Symin had a passing thought that was there and then quickly gone as he wondered why the Fahrenheit scale that they used on Earth was almost identical to the Harnou Scale that they used on Lythea. Perhaps he wasn't the first person from Lythea to contact Earth.

Dearna looked at him and saw Symin was completely serious. He didn't lie, not in ordinary circumstances. He might not tell everything he knew, but what he did say would be the truth, and he didn't tell tall tales either. However if he was involved in something dangerous and it was necessary, he could and would lie.

“Well first I'll complete what I was going to say and then I'll look at your friend. I was about to say that to lower the temperature to the whole body by adding a layer to the aura takes a Lesser Mage or higher. So I want to welcome Camron's newest Lesser Mage.” Dearna bent down and kissed the stunned boy on the top of the head, whispering as she did so, “You need to brush your hair.”

Symin looked up at her with disgust, “Now isn't that just like a grownup. To compliment you one second, and comment on your appearance the next. I forgot to bring a comb or brush when I came from Earth, and I didn't think to have Maxim bring them when he came to get us.”

“There's a brush on the washstand,” Dearna told him pointedly as she led Travis over to the bed, and sat him on the edge. Symin gave her a glare and stomped over toward the washbasin, he turned his head when he reached it and stuck his tongue out at her, then giggled.

Symin told her, “Travis can't speak our language so you'll have to use Mind-Speech, to talk to him. Can you see his aura through the layers surrounding it?” he asked.

Dearna told him, “Yes, they won't be any problem, but first tell me what you know.”

Taking the brush, Symin began brushing his hair and quickly he went over the details of Travis's aura he had noticed. He told her about the treatments that the boy had gone through, and what Symin figured she would have to do.

Taking the brush from Symin, Dearna brushed the younger boy’s hair. To keep Symin busy while examining Travis, she told him, “One of the things you should be able to do as a Lesser Mage is to lift things.” She wasn't specific, knowing Symin she should have been. She began examining Travis closely with both Mage-Sight and her Healing ability.

Travis was somewhat startled by her mode of examination. He'd never had a doctor who just sat beside him holding his hands and just looking at him.

Dearna quickly determined that Symin was right, that the remission (a term that wasn't used on Lythea) Travis was in, was about to end. She was relieved that Symin was right in another way. While related to the illness Maxim had suffered, it was nowhere near as virulent. Setting up defenses should be fairly simple, and should only require about three treatments. Travis began to giggle, and he pulled one of his small hands out of hers and pointed behind her.

“Symin, what did you do now?” Dearna asked as she turned around slowly. The only reason she wasn't shocked was because she expected something out of the ordinary. Symin was floating in mid-air, his head touching the ceiling. She shook her head slowly, telling him, “That was dumb of me. I should have been more specific. You were only supposed to try to lift something light. You're like a Dwarf, if you have a choice of trying to do something the easy way, or the hard way, you'll invariably go for the hard way.”

Dearna stood up and walked over to him, his knees were at a level with her eyes. She looked up at him, and Symin looked down at her sheepishly. She said with amazement, “You know what you're doing is impossible!! Some Great Mages can do it. But a Lesser Mage!!! How in the Gods name did you manage to get up there?!!”

Still somewhat sheepish, Symin told her that, “Well actually it was an accident. I was thinking about lifting things like you told me, and I asked myself what would be the most useful thing that I could lift. I was thinking it would be really handy to be able to lift me. I was thinking hard about the idea when I put my hand on my dagger, and I suddenly found myself up here. Now I can't seem to get down.” She realized that he was waving both hands around.

Dearna thought for a moment, she'd been a Lesser Mage as well as a Healer for many years, but this was the first time she'd ever encountered anything remotely like this. Then she thought of what he had done to block his Empathy when he needed to.

“Remember when Seldon was here, you described how you learned to block your Empathy when emotions got too intense?” Dearna asked. She thought that as intelligent as Symin was he would figure out the rest himself. Symin proved her quite right as he grinned then climbed down an imaginary flight of stairs to the floor.

When he was down, Symin looked up at her, a solemn look on his small face, telling her “Now that could have been dangerous, under other circumstances.” He shuddered, “Suppose that had happened outside, with no ceiling to stop me from rising. Could I have gotten it under control before I went too high? It's lucky that when Kranholt put boundaries on the dagger, he gave me a way to add my own restrictions to the ones he put on. I'll make sure nothing like that can happen ever again,” Symin said with determination in his treble voice.

Bringing the conversation back to something mundane, Dearna told him, “I'll give Travis his first treatment. That'll take about an hour. The defenses are easy to put up, but I'll need two or three additional sessions to train his body to automatically maintain those defenses.”

CHAPTER FOURTEEN–643 AF-24th of Tine, After Bedtime

The innkeeper added a sleep pad to the room furniture, and Maxim had insisted on using that, leaving the bed for Symin and Travis. Pictou was lying on the floor beside the sleep pad. Symin had replaced the original layer that Dearna had applied, since he learned that her range was only a couple of miles. More distance than that would cause a major drain on her energy resources. Since he would always be close to Travis, until he got the younger boy home, it was more logical for Symin to provide the cooling layers.

Dearna had shown him a few other tricks when he and Maxim had gone to pick up Travis. How to alter the layers so they would provide heating instead of cooling. How to use a neutral layer that would block both heat and cold. How to light a fire using some of the same principles. You would put a neutral layer around your fingers, and then a heating layer that was highly concentrated. Only covering an area less than an eighth of an inch in diameter, it would cause the heat in that small area to build to such an extent that many materials, including both paper and wood, had no choice but to burst into flame. You could also create ice by the same principle, only using cold instead of heat.

Another thing Dearna had showed him was how to do a DNA test, though that wasn't what it they called it on Lythea. She had in fact been working when he showed up with Travis, though it wasn't urgent. She had to determine the father of a baby that had been born to a High Peasant woman; raped by a noble, the man had been fined 200 golds that went to the woman.

Then the woman realized that she was pregnant. As a follower of the Mother-Goddess, they would abort a fetus only if it would not survive the gestation period, or there were serious genetic problems with the fetus that a Healer couldn't repair in the womb.

There had been no genetic problems and nothing that would prevent it from coming to term, so the mother had insisted that the child be born. They didn't know whether the pregnancy was a result of the rape or normal sexual contact between husband and wife. The woman's husband refused to pay to raise the boy, if it wasn't his son. If it turned out to be the rapist's son, the man would have to provide child support. Aborting a fetus took only a few minutes and even the lowest class of Healer, a village Wisewoman or Wiseman could perform the action, and even the poorest of woman could afford the price.

For an unmarried woman in cases not related to rape to allow a pregnancy to come to term, meant that she and her family would be responsible for the child. In the cases of mistresses, the father would be responsible for the child or children, though he wouldn’t have to acknowledge the child, he would have to provide child support. On the rare occasion when a woman didn't know she was pregnant until the baby was born, they regarded the child as a Gift of the Gods. Many of the religious orders would willingly provide funds to have the child raised.

Therefore, the authorities had provided Dearna with numbered bags containing samples of blood from the baby and from the husband and the rapist. She had in fact already made her determination, but since Symin was now a Lesser Mage she wanted to see whether he was one of those who had the ability, which ninety percent of Healers had, but only about three percent of Lesser Mages also had.

It wasn't something that you thought about. If you had the ability, you knew. Symin immediately picked out bags one and three, and then looked at her inquiringly. Dearna smiled, “That's the way I had it figured out, and since the noble is an important son I had two other Healers do the test as well. With you, all four of us agree, the woman's husband is the boy's father.”


It had been an interesting day, and it wasn't quite over. Later that evening, after the three boys had gone to bed, Symin reached out with his mind to contact Sinya in the capital, the contact came much more quickly than normal. *Are you busy?*

Sinya said, cheered by his contact, *I'm just attending a dinner party that Prince Tamen is holding, unfortunately that's all it is, there no intrigue, spying or danger involved, and it's utterly boring. Glad you stopped by. Karliv said you were away, obviously, you're back.*

*Yes, I got back today. I'm glad you're with the Prince...* a long pause.

*I was glad to hear from you, Symin, why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to be quite as glad in a couple of minutes?* Sinya asked with foreboding.

*Sorry,* he giggled, *You're right; I need to get a hold of a large sum of money. I've been to another world.” He played his memories back to her starting from the moment he had met Pictou and the mind pictures enthralled her. After the images ended Symin told her, *As you can see, in many fields they are far in advance of us. I need something that I can sell to convert into the money of that world. Gold bars would be best. I already know of one thing that might be useful and there are probably others, but I can make the trip only for the next five weeks and then it'll be a year before I can travel there again, but distance is no barrier to Pictou.*

Symin explained, *When I think of something that could be used, as long as it doesn't weigh too much, Pictou could go get it at any time, but money would be needed. The family that I showed you could make any necessary purchases. They're well off but they aren't rich and wouldn't be able to use their own money to help me.*

Symin felt Sinya shrug, resignation in her mind, as she told him, *I'll talk to the Prince. It probably won't be difficult. He owes you too many favors.*

Symin, was about to say goodbye, when he thought of a question, *Do you know why pockets aren't used on our world, they're much more versatile than belt pouches?* he asked.

*Actually I do,* Sinya informed him smugly, *Father told me about it, when I asked him about some of the pictures I'd seen with people who had pockets on their garments. About four hundred years ago, everyone used pockets. It was a period when Magic Users were not particularly prominent. That happens occasionally, though it doesn't usually last for more than a generation or so. It's hard to hide weapons in the clothing that civilians wear. We can't hide knives up our sleeves, as a soldier could, because we only have short sleeves. Sandals are normal court wear, so you can't have a hidden boot knife. Since we wear short trousers, there's no material between the upper thigh and the ankle to hide a knife. About the only place you can hide, a knife is the nape of the neck. Since that's so obvious a place, not many people try to hide knives there.*

Sinya continued her explanation, *But when you had pockets, you had places to hide all sorts of things, including weapons. After two attempts in less than three months occurred with the assassins drawing knives from their pockets, they banned them at court. Since the clothing the court wears sets the fashion for the rest of society, pockets began disappearing. Eventually no one wore clothing with pockets; even after a resurgence of Magic Users made them more dangerous than any assassin wearing a garment with pockets in them, people have never gone back to using pockets.*

*Thanks Sinya,* Symin told her, sounding bored.

*I bored you. Poor boy.* she snickered.

*Actually, I was quite interested, I'll think about it in the morning, right now I'm really sleepy.” Again he was going to break off contact, but, *By the way, Sinya, I'm now officially, according to Dearna, a Lesser Mage.* And with a wide yawn he broke contact leaving her with a mouth wide open with astonishment.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN–643 AF-25th of Tine, Lythea–August 2 Earth

The three boys were back in the room after having their breakfast. Now Travis was leaning way out the window of their room at the inn, looking around, with fascination. Yesterday he had been somewhat fearful, and he hadn’t paid much attention to his surroundings.

Travis felt someone grab the waistband of his shorts and pull him back into the room. Turning he saw that it was Maxim, and the older boy gave a grin, saying, *From what Symin said, our world is completely different from yours, so I understand your curiosity. However, you don’t have to fall out the window to look around.*

Travis gave a reluctant nod, feeling a bit of resentment rising, since he felt he had been completely safe.

Maxim grinned again and lifting the younger boy’s chin he stared into his large blue eyes, he told the younger boy, *I have over a dozen nephews and nieces around your age, and I know that they’d be annoyed at me. Until he returns you to your world, Symin and I are in charge of you. It would be very hard to explain to your parents that we let you fall out of a window onto a paved street and killed yourself.* and Travis nodded again, and his resentment was gone as he saw the concern on the older boy’s face.

Maxim let go of his chin and Travis asked, “What are we going to do today?”

Symin looked up from where he was sitting on the side of the bed and grinned, *We’re kids so we go find some other kids to play with. That of course would be outside the South Gate. There’s a large open area and a stream flows right through it. Most of the kids will be in the field or in the pools that the stream has created.*

Maxim pulled his shirt over his head and slipped out of his short trousers and Travis looked at him in astonishment, “What are you doing?” he asked in a squeaky voice.

Maxim explained, “Children of the nobility start wearing clothing when they’re about seven. In all other classes children of your age don’t wear clothing at all. However even children who normally wear clothing won’t, since much of the time will be spent in the water swimming. Some may take their clothing with them but many won’t bother, so most of the children going to and from the play area will be naked.*

Maxim looked over at Symin and grinned, *Even Symin would normally leave his clothing, here, but unfortunately he can’t. His dagger is magic and when he gets far enough away from it, it Transports itself to his location. However he will discard his clothing once we get there.*

Symin nodded ruefully, thinking of a time only weeks in the past where that trait of the dagger, had almost gotten him killed. He told Travis, *We know your world is different, so you can wear clothing if you want. We just want to warn you that most of the other kids will be naked.*

Travis had a pensive look on his face, and then he grinned mischievously, slipping his shorts down his legs and off and folding them up, he placed them into the backpack, saying firmly, “I don’t mind, and I ain’t gonna wear them again ‘til we go home.”

Still he was a little nervous when they went downstairs, but nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to the two naked boys, Travis and Maxim.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN–643 AF-28th of Tine, Lythea–August 2 Earth

They were back at the pool. Travis had received the remaining treatments, and his aura was back to normal. He was wearing his gym shorts for the first time in four days, and after being naked for the past few days it felt strange. He also was wearing his sandals and the cowboy hat as he had when he first arrived, though the hat was hanging down his back from its strap. Symin had on jeans, underpants, being very mindful of the first time he'd first worn jeans he didn't intend to take any chances, a T shirt and jean jacket, sandals and socks. He could have used the method Dearna had shown him to heat things up, but it was easier to put on extra clothing.

Travis was saying a tearful farewell to Maxim, who he'd come to adore in the last four days. After Maxim gave him a long hug and then a kiss on the top of his head, Travis finally tore himself away, he came over to where Symin and Pictou were waiting. Symin removed the layers that were keeping Travis cool, and then he gave Travis a boost onto Pictou's back, shouldered the backpack, which was much heavier than it had been, and waved at Maxim.

Repeating the process they had used to get to Lythea, they transported back to earth. They were just outside of an apple orchard in an open field. Travis said, “We're about five miles from home, at the Jenkin’s place. Should we walk?” Travis asked.

Pictou, back in dog form asked, *Symin, what do you think?*

*Let's see if I can contact them, from here, it'll be faster than walking.* Symin said. He cast his mind out searching for the familiar feeling of Jennifer and Daniel or the children. He found Jennifer first; he could see the farmhouse kitchen through her eyes. She was calm but at the same time, she was concerned about Travis.

*Jenny,* Symin said gently, trying not to startle her. In that he was unsuccessful, as Jenny dropped the pot she was holding, and brought her hand to her breast with the shock. Fortunately, the pot was an empty one. “Symin?” she gasped out.

*Sorry, I startled you," Symin told her, "Travis says we're at the Jenkins place and we're near an apple orchard.*

He felt the relief in her mind as Jenny said, “I know where you're at. We'll be there in a few minutes. Daniel! Kids! Travis is back and we're going to pick him up!” Symin heard her yell before he withdrew from her mind.

As promised, the mini-van pulled up at their location a few minutes later, and the two children and the two adults piled out of the van. Daniel swept Travis into the air and swung him around half a dozen times, the eight-year-old shrieking with glee. Setting Travis down, he pushed him into Jenny's arms, and in a few seconds, he gathered Jenny, Travis and Danni into a hug of joy. Jason was just as happy, but he was somewhat more reserved than the rest of his family, and he was content to watch.

Well that's what he intended, Symin had other ideas. He snuck up behind Jason, and said in his ear, his first sentences in English. “Travis tells me you're even more ticklish than he is, I find that hard to believe, so I decided to find out for myself.” Suddenly Jason found himself headed for the ground, Symin making sure he landed softly, but also made sure he landed on top of the younger but larger boy, sitting on his thighs.

Symin paused for a second looking down at Jason, who had his hands over his chest, with an expression of dread and anticipation on his face. Then Symin attacked vigorously and soon Jason was shrieking with laughter, trying to protect all of his ticklish spots, completely unsuccessfully.

Jason yelled out, “Stop, please stop.” His shrieks of laughter and begs for mercy caught the attention of the rest of the family. Travis watching couldn't resist getting in on the fun. He planned to jump on Symin and catch him in a headlock. Symin ducked to the side just at the last moment and caught Travis around the waist, and Symin suddenly had a second victim on the ground. With his unusual strength he was easily able to hold both of them down sitting carefully on their legs, leaving one hand for each boy, and he was equally adept at tickling two boys as he was one.

Finally, he gave them some mercy, sitting back on his heels, the two younger boys watching him warily in case he launched another attack. However, Symin got to his feet pulling them up as he did so.

Daniel, Jenny and Danni had been watching the merriment with grins on their faces. They all piled back into the van and headed back to the farmhouse.


Symin was sitting at the kitchen table talking to Jenny and Daniel with his feet on Pictou's back, who was lying under the table fast asleep.

“Are you sure he's going to be all right?” asked Jenny anxiously. Symin made contact with her mind and then deciding that Daniel would be comforted as well, he linked with him too. He sent his Sense of Perception upstairs, first showing Travis and then the other children. Jenny let out a whoosh of relief when she saw the Travis's aura was now much lighter and the same as the other children.

Releasing the contact, Symin told them, *Dearna set up the barriers; the last three days she spent training his body to maintain those defenses. She told me that if Travis was any indication your people would be much easier to treat than ours. She's confident that the illness will never threaten Travis again, and she's been a Healer for over twenty years.*

Jenny put her hand on Symin's and gave it a squeeze. “Daniel and I want to thank you!” With his Empathy, he could feel the warmth, thankfulness and love coming from the two adults, and he spoke out loud, “I can assure you that it was my pleasure! My very very great pleasure!!” Symin told them sincerely.

He moved the backpack to the center of the table and it landed with a solid thump when he set it down. Symin told them, “Now I'd like to ask you to give me some help?” He unzipped the backpack and removed three small but heavy bags. Out of each, he took twelve unmarked one-pound bars of pure gold. *I need help in finding someone to buy these; well transportation really. I only have to get close enough to read their minds and that'll tell me what I need to know. I'm looking for either an honest, scrupulous jeweler, who won't ask too many questions, or an honest, crooked one.*

“An honest, crooked jeweler. That's an odd term.” Daniel remarked.

Symin said seriously yet with a bit of obvious humor in his Mind-Voice, a smile on his small face, *Well there are people who are crooked, yet still they have a certain code of ethics that they won't deviate from. When I was here last time and watched some television, through your minds I was able to understand what was said. In one of the shows, a crook gave his definition of an honest politician. He said it was a politician that stayed bought. They're the type of person that is willing to cross one line which society has set, but who has a self-drawn line that he will never cross.*

Jenny and Daniel looked at each other, and then they burst out laughing, Symin laughing right along with them, well aware of the absurdity of it.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN–643 AF-29th of Tine-August 3–Earth

Both Jenny and Daniel decided to go into the city with Symin. They had co-opted her father to act as babysitter, inviting him to come to supper and stay for the night. In his early fifties, Darren Molloy was a retired police officer. During and after supper they expertly got him started on the crooks he had been chasing and putting away for all of his adult life, easily getting him onto the subject of jewelers. They had picked up half a dozen names during that conversation that they intended to check out first.

Her children hadn't seen their grandfather for a couple of weeks, and they got out their instruments. They had learned half a dozen new songs just before Travis had gone to Lythea, and they wanted to play them for Darren.

Ironically, their playing evoked the reaction from Symin that Danni had tried to get by turning on the television. When they finished the set, he told them with earnest admiration, *That was great. You know, if you were on my world, you could make a good living playing music.*

Travis and Jason accepted the complement nonchalantly, but Danni, went a bright red, and she stuttered a little as she said, "W-we-we aren't that good. We made plenty of mistakes." she admitted honestly.

Symin nodded, and said matter-of-factly, *I didn't notice, and in my family only my grandfather and my cousin Dinni have any real musical ability. We expect a guild Bard to be perfect. However, only the nobility can afford a Bard on a regular basis.*

Symin said with emphasis, *Even with the nobility most of our entertainment is done by bands of traveling players and actors. They normally have anywhere from three to twelve performers. We don't expect them to be perfect, we simply want lively music to listen and dance to and plays to watch.*


Jenny turned to look at Symin who was sitting in the middle seat looking through a tabloid morning newspaper, looking at the pictures. He knew most of the stories that went with the pictures, he had followed Daniel's mind when he read it while they were at the donut shop having breakfast. “How did you like the donuts, Symin?” she asked.

He looked up, *Great!! Are there any more?!!*

Jenny laughed, “You know very well that there are plenty more, but you've had all you're getting for the moment. The kids would never forgive us if we arrived home empty handed, let alone how Pictou and dad would react.”

Daniel told them, “We're coming up on the first man on our list, Sandler's Jewelers and we're in luck, there's a parking space just down the block from his shop.” Once Daniel had pulled into the spot Jenny got out to put some change in the parking meter. Symin settled back in his seat closing his eyes to concentrate. By the time Jennifer got back into the mini-van, Symin's face was white. She asked with concern, “Are you all right, Symin?”

He opened his large gray eyes and she could see the anger in his eyes. She realized he was white with rage not illness. Symin leaned forward in his seat, stabbing his finger at the headline on the front page, and the picture that went with it.

'Santana jewel collection stolen, housekeeper murdered. Large reward offered for the return of the collection and the apprehension of the killers.'

The picture showed the beautiful necklace that had been the centerpiece of the Santana Collection.

Symin was obviously outraged as he told them, *He's thinking about that necklace and the rest of the collection, which is in a secret compartment of his safe, and the fact that he sent the robbers to steal the jewels! He doesn't care at all that someone was killed getting it!!*

“What do you intend to do about it, Symin?” Jenny asked anxiously. She was pretty sure that he had already killed one person on Earth, and was aware that he had killed others on his own world.

Symin's smile was ugly, but then it relaxed a little as he said, *Don't worry, I intend to make sure he pays, but I can do that without killing him. He's thinking about a meeting that he has to go to in ten minutes. He'll be gone for a couple of hours. Once he leaves, I intend to act.*


A Cadillac pulled out of the alleyway beside the store and turned onto the street, going in the opposite direction. Symin told them, *Okay. We should leave. It wouldn't be a good idea to be here when the alarms go off. In fact, why don't you head for our next destination.* Once they had gone about a mile, Symin leaned back in his seat, and closing his eyes he invoked his Astral Spirit, and headed back to Sandler's shop. When he drifted through the door, he took notice of the salespeople, and examined their minds.

Symin was glad when he found three basically nice people, who were entirely unaware of Sandler's sideline. He drifted into Sandler's office. Sandler's mind had told him that while the safe had an alarm it was off during the day. He thought that it was very careless of Sandler, but he had no complaints. Using the new ability he had discovered to lift things he used the combination he had gotten from Sandler's mind to open the safe door. The hidden compartment was in the floor of the safe. Lifting the items on the floor out, Symin grasped the lid of the secret compartment with his mind and bent it upward, pulling the necklace partly out so it was draped over the edge.

Slipping back into the store, he began planning the pattern of Mind-Blasts he would need. One for each bank of lights, three, two to take out a couple of jewelry cases, five and one, the most powerful one, to knock in Sandler's door. A total of six Mind-Blasts.

Symin began, one, two, three for the overhead lights and the store was in partial darkness, four and five for two of the jewelry cases which were far enough from the salespeople that they would be in no danger from flying glass, and six, the one that struck the lock on Sandler's office door and blew it open. The two saleswomen were screaming, and he was sorry that he had to scare them.

Symin implanted a mild instruction to check out Sandler's office to the salespeople. It didn't take much urging, since it had the only working light left on in the entire store.

Police cars with sirens running and lights blazing pulled up in the front of the store, and police officers came running into the store with guns drawn. Luckily, there were no trigger-happy cops along. Symin felt very satisfied when the salespeople pointed out the Santana jewels to the police officers. With a sigh of deep satisfaction, he let himself snap back into his body. He sat up, opening his eyes, a huge smile on his face.

Jenny looking back at him couldn't help but smile, as well he was so obviously delighted. “I gather things went well, Symin?”

He nodded and gave a quick recap of what had happened. They continued on their quest. They skipped over the others on the brief list they had gathered from Jenny's father the night before; a brief look was enough to tell Symin that none was suitable for his purposes.

Symin asked inquiringly, *Jenny, do you think your father might know the type of person I might need? You got him talking about crooks but might he know someone he wouldn't have mentioned, because he wasn't a crook, and do you think it would bother your father if he found out about Pictou and me?”

Daniel snorted with amusement, saying, “You, bother him, kid? He thinks the X-Files is a non-fiction program.” and Symin saw an image of a television show flicker through the man's mind.

Jenny quickly jumped to her father's defense. “He does not!” she said reprovingly, then she couldn't help but giggle, as she continued, “He doesn't believe in ghosts and stuff. Only about alien abduction and things like that. Besides, before you make fun of him, remember what Pictou really is and just who is sitting in the back seat.”

CHAPTER NINETEEN–30th of Tine-August 4 Earth 1:00 PM

They had talked to Darren Molloy early in the afternoon. Daniel and Jenny had given a recap of everything that had happened, Jenny doing most of the talking and a quick demonstration of Pictou Transforming had certainly convinced her father of the validity of the account.

Darren thought for a few moments, rubbing his chin, then began to smile. He told them, “I have just the man for you. His name is Oskar Nordstrom, and he was a bitter enemy of Sandler's. His grandfather was a Swede who married a German woman. He was a jeweler in Berlin, and, after Hitler came to power, he realized the way things were going very early.”

Darren smiled with admiration, “Nordstrom established a branch in Switzerland, and started making frequent trips between the two countries and then he began helping people wanting to get out of the country. He converted their jewelry and other valuables into cash that would make it easier for them to get out of Germany. He also began acting as their banker, since many of them didn't want to be caught with a lot of money on their person. On Nordstrom's frequent trips to Switzerland he would bring their money with him and establish accounts in Swiss banks, which they would be able to get to either if they escaped to Switzerland or after the war.”

Darren continued with the story, “Nordstrom was able to continue until the summer of 1943, when the Gestapo began to get suspicious. He took his wife and slipped over the border into Swiss territory where he continued to run his business until the end of the war. Not all of those he helped made it, but many did, and their money was waiting in Swiss banks when the war ended.”

Darren paused for an moment before resuming, “Many of them came to the States, and in 1947 he decided to follow them, and he built up a profitable jewelry business, a part of which was a hock shop. A hockshop for the rich. People who needed quick money but didn't want to part with their expensive jewelry would hock it with his company. Since in essence it was a loan, he charged interest. Still it was safer than going to a bank, when rumor alone could ruin a company that in reality was only a little short of cash for the short term. He provided absolute secrecy. His only child who was born in 1949, and Oskar, the present owner was born in 1970, provided, and still provide, the same service.”

Darren grinned again, a look of delight on his face, “And best of all. He's a believer.”

CHAPTER TWENTY–643 AF-30th of Tine-August 4 Earth 11:00 PM

It was after the children's bedtime; aside from the presence of Oskar Nordstrom, it was a repeat of the afternoon meeting. They were going through the story again quickly, Pictou already having demonstrated his changing ability.

Nordstrom had a poker face, and it didn't show what he didn't want it to show. Symin with his Empathy, could tell he was skeptical, then astonished, then surprise beginning to fade, as the tale continued. There was a brief period of savage delight when he heard what Symin had done to Sandler earlier in the day. Nordstrom realized that he would be one of the few ever to know what had really happened at Sandler's shop that had led to the man's arrest.

The news program called it an unexplained phenomenon on the newscasts earlier in the day. They also announced during the broadcast that even though they didn't know exactly what had happened the three salespeople were going to receive the reward that Santana had offered.

It was a very satisfied Symin who went up to bed a couple of hours later, an agreement worked out on how he would get money when he needed it. They decided that Symin would send information to Daniel and Jenny via Pictou, and that Darren, who led a much more active lifestyle than his daughter and son-in-law, would get the items wanted. He had retired with thirty-years on the force, but he was still only fifty-two, and he did a variety of things that they would never do as well as some they would.

Something Darren would do was skydiving, which they wouldn't touch. He liked to race cars, and a variety of other extreme activities. He also liked to ski, which was something they also did. He would more easily be able to explain any odd items he might purchase.

EPILOGUE–643 AF-1st of Verin-August 5th- Mid-afternoon

They were back at the Jenkin's orchard, from which they would return directly to the little pool at the foot of The Plateau. Symin was a bit sad now that it was time to leave, but he was ready. Both Travis and Jason, close to tears, had decided to stay at home with Jenny, who didn't like saying goodbyes. She had sent Danni in her place, and she had just finished giving Symin a hug.

Symin grinned up at her, and then he unzipped the backpack, taking out an object loosely wrapped in cloth, offering it to Danni, Daniel and Darren standing a couple of feet behind her. Symin spoke out loud. “I intended to give this to Jenny, but since you're her representative, I want to present this to your family, as an expression of gratitude.”

She eagerly unfolded the cloth to see what contained, and uncovered one of his exquisite carvings. She gave a soft, “Ooohhh!!!” of absolute delight echoed by both Daniel and Darren. Of green jade, it was a perfect five-inch tall statue of Pictou, wings folded to his body and Symin holding his staff in his right hand and his left arm around Pictou's neck. Later, when they looked at it under a magnifying glass, they would be astonished by the detail and the incredible likeness.

Symin touched the little statue on the unicorn's horn. “I took a bit of liberty here. It's as Pictou's horn will be in a couple of months, when fully regenerated. He should be remembered at his most handsome.”

Zipping up the backpack, he slung one strap over his shoulder, and then started to shake hands with the two men. He was a little surprised when Daniel swept him up in his arms and gave him an affectionate hug. The man's mind filled with a love that surprised Symin. He hadn't realized a man could feel such emotion for someone who wasn't related to him by blood, or other close ties. He returned the hug fiercely, tears ready to fall.

Symin's goodbye to Darren was a little more conventional, simply a handshake. He saw much of Jenny and, surprisingly, of Daniel in the man, but still their period of acquaintance was too short to build up much feeling between them.

They stood back though there really was no need; they were simply giving him his space. Danni was the most excited. She could hardly wait to get home and show the statue to Jenny and her brothers. He put his arm around Pictou's neck and the unicorn began to build up energy to Transport. Then the unicorn said *Ready, whenever you are!*

Pictou gave a nod of his horned head to the two men and young girl, Symin giving one last wave, after taking several deep breaths said, *Go!!*

The familiar disorientation came over him, as they entered and then excited the void a minute and a half later, to arrive beside the little pool. Symin had been sad to leave but he was just as ecstatic to get back, and he gave a Mind-Shout, *I'M HOME!!!* and it was heard with glee by Maxim on The Plateau, and in Bremen, Dearna paused in watering her herbs to give a little nod and a smile.

Much farther away, in Camara, Sinya threw the cards she was holding in her hands in the air and then began cursing. She'd just thrown four of a kind away, and it had been such a nice pot. His other Elven relatives also heard him, broad smiles coming to many of their faces, especially Karliv, Kraftin and his Great-Grandmother in Temple city.




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Symin has only one thing right now that he wants to have the money to buy at some future date. He saw it on television during the period he was first on Earth and it was on a National Geographic program. He has no intention of ever bringing advanced weapons to his world.