Gifts Part 13-Epilogue

by Geraldle

Copyright © 2008

Note: I use the symbol * for Mind-speech, for Mind-speech between those who are part of the Link, I will start it and end it with **.

PART 10-Aftermath-644 AF-18th of Sume

CHAPTER ONE-Dale and Sear

Two small naked Elven boys were playing in the shallow water of a small stream. One of them had picked up a stone and was examining it and behind him, the other was crouched ready to pounce on him.

Symin watching gave a silent giggle, and then decided to intervene. Using a mini Mind-Blast he swatted the crouching boy on the bottom. He yelped and straightened abruptly, more from astonishment than pain.

His brother turned around in surprise and looked at him, and was startled to find him with his hands on his bare bottom and looking around, his gray eyes wide with apprehension. He asked with a question in his voice, “What happened, Dale?”

Dale said, “Somethin’ swatted me on the bum.” he said with nervousness, looking around. Symin used a couple more mini Mind-Blasts and swatted both boys. Dale said, his voice trembling, a little after he jumped at the second swat, “Like that.”

Symin made a mental note, of which boy was which as he watched the two boys, now standing with their hands on their bottoms and looking around. However before their anxiety could become fear, since he just wanted tease them a little, he let another giggle escape him. This time it was a Mind-Giggle and both boys’ heard it and recognized it.

They said together, *Symin!!* And Sear asked with curiosity, *Where are you?*

Symin told them, “Right here.” as he stepped out of the trees and into the creek and splashed towards them. He watched them as they took in the fact that he was actually here in person, not simply a voice in their mind who they knew but had never met.

Watching them standing in the shade of the trees he wasn’t surprised that the first time that Sinya had seen him she had thought he was one of these boys. They were only a little smaller than he was and almost three months after the rainy season had started, their hair was darker than it would be normally; not quite a cotton white but close.

Symin's hair during the sunny seasons would have been almost as light as theirs was, but right now, it was a light gold in color. At a casual glance, the three boys looked very much alike. Symin amended that, thinking with amusement; even with a more thorough look, they still would look very much alike. Certainly, they looked enough for someone to guess they were related, and that they might possibly be brothers or even triplets.

Elven children as young as the twins didn’t have the noticeable slenderness that teenaged and adult Elves had. It was there but you had to look more closely to see it.

The two boys looked at each other and with the unspoken communication twins sometimes had that transcended Mind-Speech they nodded at each other and then with mock growls they attacked Symin, ending up rolling about in the water with him. He wasn’t surprised. Knowing that they were little mischief-makers even when they weren’t trying, and they got into more trouble and were whipped more often then he had ever been.

When Symin decided to introduce himself to them first, since in a way it was through them that he had found his new relatives, he had known it could get messy. That was why he was wearing a pair of navy blue short trousers and sandals instead of his formal wear.

However, once they were down, Symin exerted some of his strength, to show them that while he was only a little bigger than they were he was much stronger and they needed to respect him. He got them down in the water on their backs and began to tickle them and they were soon shrieking with laughter and trying to escape.

Finally satisfied they had been punished enough he sat back on their legs and allowed them to relax. After they had calmed down, Symin said, mock sternly, “You got me all wet!!”

They looked at each other and Dale choked out, “Yes. We know.” Before they burst into gales of laughter.

After they had calmed down for a second time, he said, “You two are even worse than I expected.”

Sear said logically, “Well you did attack us first.”

Symin asked shrewdly, “Would it have mattered?”

The twins grinned and Dale said, “No.” he said. “We claim this part of the creek as ours. All other kids trespass at their peril,” he said with mock pomposity.

Sear said, “Unless they’ve come to get us for a meal of course.” And the twins were off again.


Symin wondered why he felt so close to these two little boys. He had talked to them many times but he was just meeting them for the first time. While he liked his Ascalon cousins, none of them had ever been very close. They had been playmates when he had been younger and he had played the occasional game with them when he was older. However when he had started roaming the estate when he was six, he had left them behind without regret. Perhaps that was because they all had parents, who loved them, perhaps he had been jealous and simply hadn’t realized it.

Symin smiled at that, undisturbed by the idea. Many people thought he was a paragon of virtue, but he had just as many faults as most boys his age. Maxim had a list a mile long of things wrong with Symin's personality and was always willing to give the list to any of his friends.

Many people also thought he was more mature for his age than most kids were, but that wasn’t true either. Symin looked at things differently than other children did. If he found some of the things that adults did incomprehensible, and he did, just like other children his age did, he was unworried by it.

It didn’t really matter that much, that time of roaming alone had made him what he was, though Symin had been glad to welcome Maxim into his world. He had quickly become a friend and then he had become the brother Symin had never had.


Symin walked into the clearing, the younger boys holding him by the hand. He stopped with wonder as he did so, and they stopped with him, not surprised at his reaction. Even the Dark Forest Elves, who lived in northern Madron, didn’t build houses in trees.

However, it was not that the three houses in this clearing were very far above the ground. The three trees were enormous but they weren’t particularly old. Condee, Sinya's father had planted them himself almost seventy-five years before, and in slightly less than twenty-five years, they were large enough to build the houses.

That was the Brown Forest Elves main magical talent, working with plant life though it was a talent that many others shared. With Brown Forest Elves, it went much deeper and was much more potent. The olun tree normally grew very slowly and at the beginning had a small crown, which only began to really grow when the tree was about 150 years old. Then it developed massive branches, which were very high off of the ground. They had an enormous spread and could easily support the amount of additional weight a tree house would comprise.

'Which would be nice,' thought Symin except for the fact that the first branches were about a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet off the ground. 'Watch that first step,' he thought ironically.

However the Brown Forest Elves like Healers could give energy; in this case to plants and was much more effective than normal farming magic. They forced the olun tree to grow far faster than normal. The first fifteen years were devoted to developing the enormous trunk and the massive root structure to support the enormous weight of the branches. When the crown started to grow the trunk would be twenty-five to thirty-five feet thick and the branches would start at ten to fifteen feet off of the ground.

They planted the trees with a plan for the houses in mind, and the branches trained to grow where the Elves wanted.

Symin had seen them through the eyes of his relatives, yet the very sight took his breath away. The houses in and of themselves were of a size and grandeur that they would look at home in any city on Lythea, and many cities on Earth. To realize they were tree houses was astounding.

There were two boys and a girl, playing beneath one of the trees and Symin recognized the two boys as Ravall, and Sain at the equivalent of six and ten respectively and Sera the equivalent of nine. All three of the children, like the twins were nude. Children of the Brown Forest Elves like many children of isolated people as Maxim had mentioned to Jenny and Daniel didn’t start wearing clothing until they were the equivalent of twelve or thirteen.

Recognizing Symin instantly the three children headed for the staircase yelling at the top of their lungs. “Symin’s here!! Symin’s here!!” and soon he was surrounded by his relatives greeting him with a warmth that he had never been given while growing up.


Symin was looking around Drew’s workshop his attention drawn to a small block of wood that was sitting on the shelf. He had never seen oak with such an unusual color. It had a sheen of copper as if the was part copper and part wood.

With the feeling of a carver seeing the perfect material, his small hand reached out and picked it up. Symin asked with interest, “I’ve never seen oak colored like this before.”

“And you’ll probably will never see it’s like again.” Drew said ruefully. “Brown Forest Elves produce Magic Users but we don’t seem to bring forth either Lesser or Great Mages very often. About two thousand years ago two Great Mage boys by the name of Sashar and Kaskin Felarson were born. Like Dale and Sear, they were twins but unlike them, they couldn’t get along. They almost seemed to come out of the womb fighting with each other.”

“Kaskin was a wanderer and he disappears from our history, but Sashar stayed here in our forests. He made improvements to the trees making them more resistant to disease.”

Waving his arm, Drew said, “He’s the one who learned how to force grow olun trees, so that we could use them for tree houses.”

He grinned, “People wonder why we bother living in trees, when we’re so close to the ground anyway. All Brown Forest Elves can actually sense the essence of a living tree and we feel better surrounded by their living branches.”

Drew told the boy, “While Sashar wasn’t a wood worker, two of his children were and among other things he decided to see if he could develop a wood that would have some of the color content of metal. Copper was the metal most readily available in this area.”

“He was successful as that piece of wood shows, the tree ingested more of the minerals than it would normally and the color was what he wanted.”

Drew shook his head with regret, “Unfortunately when he died the tree was only a sapling and when it was grown enough to produce its seeds, the acorns were not fertile. The secret of how to produce the trees died with Sashar and the tree did not survive its maturity for very long. It seemed very prone to lightning strikes and in one particularly bad storm it was struck multiple times and was destroyed and we salvaged what wood was remaining.”

Drew took the piece from Symin, telling him, “Over the years what little remained has been used; seldom for furniture however. We reserve it for outstanding carvers. This is the last piece and after seeing some of the pieces of yours that Sinya sent us we asked the Council for this piece of wood, the last piece that is still unused.”

Symin heart was in his throat, as he took the wood in his hand and looked at in wonder his body filled with pleasant warmth. There was no hesitation in his mind. He knew exactly what the piece of would become, Alcalaar, God of the Forest. While not an Elf, his ears were more pointed than would normally be the case for humans, and was considered by many Elves as their patron God.

Symin's hand tightened on the wood for a moment and then reluctantly put it back on the shelf. He would want to be fresh and wide-awake when he started this carving. He sighed a little, smiling a little ironically. He was the center of welcoming relatives but he was a little uncomfortable at the attention given to him. Attention, he had never gotten from the Ascalons.

Drew looked down at him and putting his hand on Symin’s hair, he ruffled the silky softness saying, “Father could see you were feeling a little uncertain and he had me bring you here so that you would have time to recover.”

Symin sighed again, looking up at his tall cousin, blinking tears back. “I thank you for that. It’s not that the attention is unwelcome, far from it, it’s just that it’s so unusual.” he considered. “I’ve seen such greetings for other members of my family, but it never happened for me. Most of the time they ignored me. I was allowed to wander anywhere on the Ascalon estate that I wanted, only Minna cared where I was and that hurt a lot.”

Symin shook his head with regret, “I know now that my uncle Tyril was responsible for the separation from my family, and despite the fact that they now welcome me when I go to the castle, I always feel unsettled there. While I don’t consider the memories to be bad ones, not compared to the ones my friend Terrion has; at the same time they aren’t good memories either. Nowadays I’m more comfortable being away from the castle; on the Plateau, in Bremen and in Rendar’s town house in Divandia.” and especially in the Vincent-Molloy house he thought with an ache of longing.

CHAPTER FOUR-Dearna and Darren

Dearna said dryly, “Here I was expecting your return to be a joyful thing, yet you don’t seem particularly happy?”

Symin sighed and then grinned at Darren and her. “It’s not that I’m sad about we did. Once the power in the Diamond Obsidian stones is gone, Varagon will eventually be free but that will take thousands of years. However, to a God even to an ex-God that can be an eon or a second in time. The Ancient Ones gave their lives to provide that power, but it released them from what they considered a living hell, and we felt their joy as they were freed at long last.”

Symin shook his head with regret, “They were trapped in bodies that they wished to leave, yet few dragons will simply commit suicide. It’s against their ethos. To go the way they did is the way that a dragon wishes to go. Fighting for something that they passionately care about.”

“No I’m not unhappy about what we did, though we were very uncomfortable about it at the time.” Symin's large gray eyes were somber. “Terry has returned home to his father and grandmother. Maxim is having a long visit with his family, and Tess stayed on her world, as a hero. She doesn’t think she’ll be there long. It was more for her mother and father than for her. To be the parents of one of those who freed them from Varagon increases their status enormously.”

Symin gave a grin, “Even Pictou is visiting his parents. They’re all in my mind, and I just have to think of them to be in theirs. Despite our closeness, I’m lonely. They all have close relatives, outside of the Link that they can go to. I have an ache in my heart, a longing for something I’ve never had. For parents and brothers and sisters.”

Tears began to flow down Symin’s small cheeks as he continued, “I was startled when I said goodbye to Jenny and Daniel and the kids, I knew I had found them. The ache I felt at leaving them was far greater than I ever expected. I wanted desperately to stay. Yet I knew it would be impossible.”

“I couldn’t live on their world.” Symin smiled and wiped away the tears with his hand. “Can you see me on your world, Darren? The first time I was only on your world for a few days and I killed once and arranged punishment for the crimes the jeweler committed. I don’t regret what I did, neither the death of Foss or interfering in the life of the jeweler.”

Symin said forcefully, “There are too many injustices on your world and they’re too easy to find out about, through radio, and television and newspapers. I wouldn’t be able to contain my rage, and I would interfere, even though I would have no right to interfere. That would make me as bad as Varagon.”

Darren said wryly, “My world isn’t the only one that has injustices, Symin. Yours is no bed of roses.” He paused then to think about what he had said, and then shook his head and smiled, “Actually that’s a dumb quotation, it’s exactly what it is, and what my world is. A bed of roses with hidden and sometimes not so hidden thorns.”

Symin and Dearna smiled in amusement. Symin said, “Agreed, but here news in most cases travels slowly. Many times especially since we’re so far from the capital, a lot of news never even reaches me, and even when it does by the time I hear about it, it may have happened weeks and months before.”

Symin said reflectively, “It’s just as well, because I would have no objection to interfering in my world. However, that’s the problem that Varagon had. He interfered in the world on which he was a God and caused a war that cost millions of lives. Like the Gods the Link has become too powerful.”

Symin told them, “We won’t ignore something that comes to our attention, but we don’t intend to go looking for things to fix. We can’t casually meddle in the lives of our people. The short term gain might cause a long term disaster.”

Symin tensed as he felt power rising and then gave an involuntary cry of surprise echoed by their gasps of astonishment as he and the two adults could suddenly see a scene from Earth. A naked Travis was riding a horse and Jenny and Daniel were looking on.

CHAPTER FIVE-Jenny and Daniel

Jenny and Daniel watched Travis expertly guide Bright Star though her paces. He wasn’t the best rider, both Jason and Danni were better riders than he was, however he had taken after Daniel and was the best horse handler of their three children. Travis could get the horses he rode to do things that the other two could only dream about.

Daniel grinned and asked, “Do you think we’ll ever get him back into clothes again.”

Jenny grinned back, “He does seem to enjoy it doesn’t he, and Danni doesn’t even blush anymore when she sees either him or Jason naked. With the Indian Summer we're having its still warm enough. Once it ends, it will get a little nippy. He'll be glad to get into clothes, at that point. From the sounds of it he’s going to wear clothes outside and strip when he comes inside.”

Jenny was pensive as she thought back over the last couple of months. She finally said, “You know we’re much more isolated than when Dad was here, despite the fact that we haven’t gone anywhere and we have plenty of other relatives around.”

Daniel looked at her with a wry look on his face. He told her, “Yes. I’ve noticed that it seems that way. However, I think you’re wrong. We’re not more isolated now, we’re just more aware of how isolated we’ve always been.”

Jenny nodded thoughtfully as she realized that he was right. She said, ““We have a television but we almost never watch it except for the news.” She grinned, “We watched it more often while the boys and Tess and Pictou and Dearna were here than we have in the last several years. Unlike most kids, ours are more likely to settle down with a book than to turn the television on. None of them are interested in video games, when they play games they’re more interested in the old fashioned board games.”

Daniel nodded, “We have a computer but we use it to keep the books and for the kid’s homework, but they almost never use it other than that. They aren’t interested in the Internet and they don’t even listen to music on the radio very often. They prefer to make their own music and they can spend hours doing so, Travis on his flute and Jason on his guitar and Danni on her violin. They know that they’re good for kids yet at the same time they know that that’s all they’ll ever be is good, and it doesn’t worry them.”

Jenny giggled, “Well part of the reason they’ll never be more than good is because they’re not very interested in learning the techniques that they’d need. They’re not particularly dedicated to improving their musical ability. They think the way they play now is fine, and they’re not interested in plumbing the ‘depths of emotion’, getting through it with only a few mistakes satisfies all of them.”

She asked, “Are you jealous of Darren, Dan?”

Daniel looked pensive for a moment before he shook his head, “No not jealous, I don’t want to be Darren. Envious yes. I’m a horseman in a world that no longer really needs horsemen. We still use horses in many ways, but though they still exist, working horses are no longer necessary. This world could do without them very easily if it needed to. Even fifty or sixty years ago that wasn’t the case.”

“Today most horses are used for play rather than work. I make a good living, and the farm is worth quite a bit of money. So much that Foss tried to force us out to get a hold of it. However, I regret the fact that my profession is no longer a vital one. Our Lythean visitors and Darren’s leaving brought it home to me that’s all.”

Jenny leaned against him and he put his arms around her. She said seriously, “So what you’re saying is you think you’re on the wrong world?”

Daniel sighed with regret, “Yes I think I am at least. However unlike Darren I’m not alone, and can’t just leave, no matter how much I'd like to at times.”

Jenny said teasingly, “What makes you think you’re all alone, Danny. I’m essentially a homemaker and people have become aware in the past twenty-five years that we work much harder than they ever realized. Yet what I do today, is only a fraction of what pioneer women had to do and in a way, I envy them. They were stretched to their limit, and they were proud of what they did.”

Jenny gave a sigh of regret, “Today if you’re only a housewife instead of a quote ‘working mother’ many women think you’re somehow letting the side down. It’s an occupation that many women are no longer proud to claim their own. When we have Pioneer Days at the beginning of the summer, those of us committed to the project actually do things the way our ancestors did, I find that it’s one of the most satisfying times of the year. I always look forward to it and back upon it with pride.”

Jenny had a sparkle in her eye as she told him, “As for the kids. Well though you’re haven’t been let in on the news, Danni fully intends to marry Maxim when she gets older. She knows without a doubt that it’ll happen, despite the obstacles. The biggest of them of course was that he might not survive. Despite the fact that Danni knew he could die, and though like many American children she’s not used to death she knew it could happen. She thought about it very seriously. I could see her relief when Pictou came to tell us that they had completed their mission successfully.”

Daniel nodded, “Well most fathers would say she’s a little young to make up her mind. But then again most fathers wouldn’t have his in-laws, his parents, and his own life to compare it to. You told me when you were ten and I was twelve that you were going to marry me.”

Jenny nodded saying, “Yes, I did and despite the fact that when your father inherited the farm and you moved out here, and I didn’t see you for several years until we both entered community college I never doubted that it would happen. I didn’t even date in high school because I knew that you were going to be my husband and I didn’t intend to take second best. Both your parents and mine from the tales we got before your parent’s death, and the death of my mother, we know that they were childhood sweethearts as well. I fully expect Danni to marry Maxim though he may not be aware of it yet, he will be, he will be,” she said, grinning.

“And the boys?” Daniel asked knowing how perceptive Jenny was.

Jenny told him with a serious look on her face, “The children were much too young to remember the first time Travis was sick with cancer. The shock of Travis almost coming out of remission brought all three children much closer. That’s especially true of the two boys. They sleep in the same room, they do their homework together, and this year they seem to have subconsciously excluded others from close friendship. In fact, it’s almost as if they know that they’re not going to be around the other little boys of their age here for very long. I don’t think they would have any problem adjusting.”

Suddenly it seemed to grow much warmer, and they appeared to be in a large glade in a forest. The three children were standing in front of them; off to the right they could see Symin, Darren and Dearna. They could see a large full-bodied woman sitting on a bench about fifty yards away.

As they began to walk towards her, the eight closed together and Symin simply and naturally became one of their children, a place where he seemed to belong. From Symin’s description, they knew it was the home of the Gods of Lythea and the woman they were approaching the Mother-Goddess.

Tamra smiled gently at all of them when they reached her. She looked at Symin, saying to him, “All of the Gods are glad that the five of you survived, Symin Durrill Ascalon. We’re very aware that as you have been thinking that it could have been a test by the Elders of our race, to make sure we were mature enough to take care of our people properly.”

Tamra shook her head, saying with regret, “Whether it was or not, doesn’t really matter. You could have died just as easily in a test as you could have done otherwise. Gods must occasionally allow some to die for the good of all, and our Elders wouldn’t have hesitated to take your lives if they had deemed it necessary.”

Symin nodded his head, “Yes. I know that. I also know that potentially a test could have been much more damaging to Lythea in the long run than Varagon was, whether we lived or died. However, looking back on it, it just seemed too easy and contrived in some ways. Everything fell into place when we needed it; everything we needed was there when we needed it.”

Symin said with indignation in his voice, “We were aware from Tess that only forty percent of dragons were following Varagon, and sixty percent were ignoring him. Yet, no ordinary dragon had any possibility of disobeying him if he turned his full attention onto him, perhaps not even the Most Ancient One. Yet he didn’t bother to use his power to send a scout on ahead to check on the world where we set the trap.”

Tamra chuckled, “You’re not really worried about whether it a test of not, you’re just disgusted that anyone would make such an elementary mistake.”

Symin gave a rueful smile and nodded. She smiled back at him with approval saying, “You have to remember Symin that whether or not it was a test, Varagon wasn’t a Dark God accustomed to moving around in the shadows of deceit and lies, with someone always willing to stick a knife in your back. He was a God of Light who had apparently fallen, and like anyone, an ex-God or not he needed to learn some lessons. I assure you that if you had to do it all over again you wouldn’t trap him that way a second time.”

Symin nodded, “We knew that if he had escaped our trap we would probably never have been able to render him harmless. However, we did succeed whether it was entirely through our actions or we were allowed to succeed doesn’t really matter. It’s over for the moment and Varagon will be there for a very long time by human standards.”

Symin waved his small hand in dismissal of the problem, “Since Darren and Dearna and I were talking about family, and my wish to be part of one, and you allowed us to hear Jenny and Daniel’s conversation I assume that we're here because of that?”

Tamra nodded, “Perceptive as usual, Symin. Your friends are here as well, though only through your Link. When all five of you are on Lythea, we will summon you again and talk to all of you directly. We know you didn’t battle Varagon for a reward. You did so unselfishly because the five of you have a nobility of spirit.”

Tamra said seriously, “The others all have parents. Even Terrion has Rendar and Rendar's mother Arla. He considers Rendar as his father and though Arla is his grandmother by adoption, she is almost as close as a mother to him. That’s something you’ve never known, and as the heart of the Link, we feel and your friends also feel that you’re the most important part of it. We told them what we planned to do and there is only gladness in their hearts that you’re finally going to know what being part of a family is like.”

Tamra gave a gentle smile, “We prompted the conversation between Daniel and Jenny, but while it occurred today because of that, it would eventually have happened anyway, so we don’t feel we were interfering by doing so. We were simply allowing them both to put into words what they felt, but had never mentioned to the other. While they and the children, like Darren at times will miss Earth, it will become less and less important as time goes by.”

Tamra smiled with amusement, looking at Symin, “Condee told you that part-Elves sometimes have the traits of their ancestors. While that is true, he didn’t bother to get into the complicated aspects of being a part-Elf, since at the time, time itself was precious.”

“Eighty percent of the time, part-Elves age like humans do and their lifespan is that of a human being. Almost twenty percent of the time, part-Elves age like Elves do, for every two years and a couple of months a part-Elf ages one year, though generally their life span is only about two hundred years. Obviously, you aren’t growing in that manner Symin. Your body has been about seven years old for the last four years.” Her smile became wider as he shook his head ruefully.

With amusement on her face, Tamra told Symin, “One time out of a hundred a part-Elf ages like you do. You grow to a certain age and you seem to be that age for so long that it’s almost as if you stopped growing. The apparent age varies, usually it’s between seven and eleven but older is not unusual though being younger would be. The younger the age you are when you apparently stop growing the longer it will take to become an adult.”

“When a child seems to stop at about eleven it will take about thirty years before he’s fully grown. For each year less than eleven add about ten additional years.”

Symin groaned audibly as he realized that it would be seventy years before he’d be fully-grown.

Tamra grinned again having little sympathy for his plight. His childhood as long as it would seem to him would be a very short period to the children of the Gods.

Tamra explained to him, "It won’t be that bad Symin especially if there are those around you who are growing at the same rate. Your full lifespan will be around the same as your Elven cousins, though you will spend more of it in childhood. Perhaps we are interfering more than we should by doing so but Daniel and Jenny and the children will begin to age like you do”

Tamra's face took on a solemn look, “We are also including Terrion, Rendar and Arla, Maxim and his mother and father, brothers and sisters and their children, as well as Darren and Dearna and her father. We are in effect beginning a new race; though your numbers will always be small, you will breed true. This will allow you all a long time in which to produce heirs who will eventually be as powerful as you are.”

Tamra's face became deadly serious, “We aren’t doing it simply to reward you and your friends Symin. The longer the Link is around the stronger the Ward will be since you're directing about a quarter of your power on a continuing basis to it. The more powerful the Ward is the longer it will last. If it wasn’t a test, the longer Varagon stays imprisoned the better. If it was a test it doesn’t matter because though he seems to be behind the Ward as a God he is too powerful to be held if he doesn’t want to be held.”

Symin nodded a serious look on his small face as well. Tamra looked at Jenny and Daniel and their children and she smiled as she saw that the man and woman had their hands on Symin’s shoulder claiming him for their own. The three children had moved much closer to him, in their way claiming him as much as their parent’s were. Tamra knew without having to ask that they accepted the gift the Gods were offering to them. The gift of Symin was more important to them than the gift of years, though it would give them much longer to enjoy it.

Tamra looked at Dearna and Darren. “While humans on Lythea came from your world it was necessary to alter their genetic code in order to give all of the races of humanity the ability to interbreed and at the same time so their bodies could accept the heat much more readily. When Symin and his friends brought you to this world, they could not give you the ability to have children. You now have that ability and knowing your love of children I imagine Jenny is soon going to have some very young brothers and sisters.”

Their faces lit up with joy at that knowledge and the grip of their hands that had been holding each other tightened spontaneously.

Tamra smiled with approval at their joy. “It’s ironic Dearna, when your father commented that if he was younger your mother would have expected him to remarry. Now he’s suddenly going to be younger. His hair when he was a young man was naturally a white blond, and his face has had many years of weathering, so he’s not going to look younger to those that know him. However you and other Healers will be able to detect the changes in his body.”

Tamra smiled in amusement, “Your family friend and fellow Healer, Tesa Fandar has long regretted the fact that he was human and coming to the end of a long life for humans. Now that he has the lifespan of an Elf and has many years before him I foresee the possibility that you also may have some extremely young brothers and sisters.”

Dearna nodded thoughtfully but her eyes were shining with glee at the shock her father was going to get.

Tamra turned her attention back to Symin, telling him, “Others will also become like you. Kalli Senson and Terrion’s younger brothers will also have their life extended. As will Cartan for he and Sinya have decided to wed despite the fact that they know he would only live another fifty to seventy years or so while she has as much as two hundred and fifty years left in her lifespan.”

Tamra nodded with approval, “I know that Sinya has become very close to you Symin since you found out she was a relative. She is old enough to be your mother but you have always seen her as more of an older sister and Cartan was much like an older brother.”

Symin’s eyes were brimming with unshed tears as he found that those he had come to love the most would be with him for many years longer than he had expected.

She continued her face becoming solemn again, “Those whose life has been extended will be aware of that fact.” Tamra paused for a moment and smiled gently, “Those people that aren’t directly concerned will know that those individuals will have a much longer life span than they originally expected. Most of them will accept it with good grace, but others will be jealous of your sudden fortune so you must be aware that there will be a potential problem.”


Tamra said to them, “I will give you a chance to talk things over and to make some decisions. When you wish to come to Lythea the Gods will provide transportation, and like the people on this world, we will also provide reassurance to your families and friends and to your society in general. They will know without knowing how they know that you are safe and happy.”

Tamra continued speaking, “Many of the plants and animals that now exist on Lythea came from the worlds where the races of humanity came from. Probably only Esshor knows exactly what came from where anymore. However, the horse is a fairly recent introduction. That event was barely ten thousand years in the past though if ever Lytheans begin to dig up the past a complete fossil record for all of the animals and plant life and the races of humanity are there to be discovered.”

Tamra smiled, “You may simply wish to discover the horses that are already here, but you may want to develop your own breed. You have been reluctant to spend the money that Symin left with you. Perhaps now would be a good time to spend it by purchasing some horses and bringing them with you when you come. They’re only found on Earth, and it wasn’t necessary to alter their genetic code so the horses on both worlds are still one species.”

Daniel looked thoughtful thinking of the stallion and mares that his neighbor, Remington Hughes had offered to sell to him just the week before.


As the Mother Goddess had seen, they had already made the decision. They simply needed to say it out loud.

The decision made there were hugs of temporary goodbyes and joy that they would soon be together permanently. Before they approached, the Mother-Goddess Symin commented without bitterness. “Of course we are being used. While the reward is real, at the same time the Gods of Lythea are telling the Elders of their race that while it might have been a test, they can’t be always be looking over their shoulders to see what they’re doing is acceptable. They must decide on their own what is right for Lythea.”

Then, Symin told them with a huge smile on his face, a singing heart and joy bubbling in his voice, "Not that I care. I have my heart's desire, and that's enough for me."

CHAPTER SIX-Making Plans To Leave Earth

The Vincent-Molloy's returned from the place of the Gods and the three children were quietly discussing what was to come. Quietly but with evident excitement in their voices.

Daniel and Jenny watched them for a few minutes before also beginning to discuss what was to happen, though their discussion was on were more practical matters.

Daniel said to her, “We’ve got to do something about the farm. We can’t simply let fate determine it’s future.”

Jenny said decisively, “Jason should get it, he and Caitrin and their children. Neither of them likes their jobs, yet they have no way to get out, not with six children. We give them the farm and they can start a new lifestyle. They’ll sink or swim, and even if they sink they can always sell the farm.”

Daniel grinned saying, “You’re a hard woman, Jenny. But I agree, of our relatives, I can’t think of anyone else who would be willing to leave their present careers in order to run it.”


Jason absently picked up the phone when it rang. “Jason Vincent speaking.”

He heard Daniel’s voice on the line, suppressed excitement in it. He was somewhat surprised; this was the first time that either Daniel or Jenny had ever called him at work. Daniel asked, “Jason, Jenny and I need to see you as soon as possible! Can you and Caitrin take a day off work and come out tomorrow?”

Jason looked ruefully at the top of his desk buried with paperwork. He said, “Not really. But if it’s important, we can make time. Family always comes first.”

Daniel said his voice earnest, “I can assure you it’s important! Very important!”


Jason and Caitrin opened their doors and stepped out of the mini-van, their children beating them to it, joining their cousins. They all loved the farm and the open spaces it provided.

In the house, the four adults sat down in the living room and Daniel said, “I know the family was surprised by the fact that Jenny and I and especially the children didn’t react much more emotionally when Darren disappeared. But that’s because we know he’s still alive and exactly where he is.”

Unlike the majority of the family, Jason and Caitrin hadn’t been worried about their reaction. The fact that Darren had cancelled his insurance policies had indicated that he had disappeared willingly. They didn’t know why but they trusted him and knew that he had a good reason.

Jenny and Daniel set out the story as it had occurred up to the time of Darren’s disappearance. Jenny said with a solemn look on her face, “I hadn’t really seen Dad happy since Mother died. On the surface, he appeared content enough, but Daniel and I and the children could read what was under the surface. All of us could see that he and Dearna were meant for each other. To retain the happiness that he had found he had to go back to Lythea with her.”

Perhaps the Mother-Goddess had already eased their family’s minds, but perhaps Jason and Caitrin’s minds were flexible enough to accept their story calmly and know they were speaking the truth.

Jason said, shrewdly, “We can accept that, but at the same time I don’t think it’s the main reason that you asked us out here?”

Jenny and Daniel both grinned, before Daniel said, “No it’s not the main reason. That’s not the entire story and in a sense, it’s not the most important part of it. At least not to Jenny and I, and the kids. We were telling you what happened and we didn’t focus on Symin, he was the reason they were here the second time because of his injury. And Symin is the reason that we asked you out here.”

Daniel took a deep breath a look of joy on his and Jenny's face, “We weren't aware the first time he and Pictou were here that we connected much closer than you would expect. By the time he had been here for a few days the second time, we didn’t realize that all of us were subconsciously longing to make him a part of our family.”

“We didn’t think it could ever happen, so none of us ever said it out loud. The Lythean Gods prompted a conversation between Jenny and I and at that time we realized that we were willing to give up Earth so that Symin can be a member of our family.”

Daniel stopped for a moment, Jenny continuing after a few minutes of contemplation, “The Mother-Goddess summoned us to the Place of the Gods to join Symin and Dearna and Darren. She offered us a chance to leave this world and become Symin’s family on Lythea and Daniel and I and the children gladly accepted.”

Daniel told them seriously, “We will be leaving Earth and despite the fact there will be home sickness and there are things that we’ll miss, it’s something that all of us want and we’ll never return. The rest of our family will know that we are safe and happy. However, we couldn’t simply go and leave the farm. It’s been an important part of our life and we wish to see it in good hands.”

He looked at them calmly, “Your hands if you accept it.”

Being an intelligent couple they had seen where Daniel was going and looking at each other they silently made a decision that would affect the rest of their lives and like Daniel, Jenny, Danni, Jason and Travis who would never seriously regret going to Lythea, they would never seriously regret accepting the farm.


A week later, they were there, and they watched Daniel, Jenny and the children mounted on horses purchased from a neighbor, Remington Hughes, carrying a few precious possessions that they could use on Lythea like their musical instruments. They rode forward and simply disappeared from Earth forever, even computers would be unaware of their disappearance.

CHAPTER SEVEN-Symin Talks To Grandfather

Armand Ascalon looked at Symin and it wasn’t hard to tell that the boy was uncomfortable. His body language as he sat with his bottom on the edge of the chair and his feet on the floor told him that.

Yet, at the same time the boy’s face simply glowed with happiness showing that Symin was happier than he had ever been before. Being a very perceptive man Armand said, “You have something that you want to tell me. It’s something that makes you very happy and at the same time uneasy because you don’t know how I might react.”

Symin nodded, impressed and looking at it honestly he realized that he was thinking of his grandfather as he had been before Tyril had needed to run. He hadn’t really seen much of his family since then and he suddenly knew that he didn’t know this man at all. All of the tension he had been feeling left him, and there was no longer any unhappiness in his mind.

Symin said with easy heart, “Yes, grandfather. I’m doing something that I thought would make you unhappy, and somehow I no longer think it will do so. The family that we stayed with when we were on Earth. In the short time I spent with them they became my family somehow, much more so than the Ascalons.”

Armand nodded in understanding and sighed with regret, “Things could have been much different Symin if we weren’t being controlled by Tyril. I think he was worried about you, and I don’t know why but perhaps he had a premonition that you could be a danger to him. The things he’s done concerning you were aimed to separate you from the rest of the family. When you began to show signs of being a Magic User he became even more uneasy about you.”

Armand gave a gentle grin as he continued, “When he needed to run we were no longer being controlled and our joy knew no bounds for a time. You saw the beginnings of our joy but then your duty took you away from us, as we were becoming a family again after years of separation. That meant that you remained an outsider and I wasn’t surprised that you decided to return to The Plateau when you returned from Camara.”

Armand shook his head with regret, but a smile on his face, “You were in the unique position of being a child who had the power to decide his own destiny and it wouldn’t have been right to try to take that away from you.”

“Cecily and I watched with regret as you pulled away from us but we felt that you couldn’t be forced to become a part of the family again. We could see you were happy with Maxim on The Plateau so we didn’t insist that you return to the castle.”

Armand reached out and caressed Symin’s cheek with a touch of his hand, the boy raised his hand, touching his grandfather’s thanking him for his understanding.


Symin said thoughtfully, “After we returned to Lythea, I decided to find Tyril. As a high Magic User, he might have posed a danger to the Ascalons and even if he was captured that would have caused you a great deal of grief. I found him in Vela and as a high Magic User; he can read auras which would have told him I was a potential Mage and a danger to him.”

Symin sighed and his face became thoughtful. “I did something that I would normally consider unethical. Yet I feel no regrets for what I did, and Kraftin and Karliv who are the only other ones to know what I did outside the Link; feel I did the right thing.”

Symin large gray eyes looked at Armand his eyes cold. He told his grandfather, “Tyril was using a false name of course and he was the only one who knew that he was an Ascalon. Even his mistress is unaware of what he was since he had his tattoo removed. He is no longer crested and he was saying that he had lost his memory. I thought that was appropriate, and an omen.”

Symin spoke in a much harder tone of voice as he said, “I felt he had forfeited the right to be an Ascalon. He no longer remembers what he once was so he is now telling the truth. The only thing he remembers of this life is the fact that it would be extremely dangerous for him to ever come to Camron or Madron.”

“Maxim said that he was unable to have children so you don’t have to be worried about never being able to see them. You will never see him again but at the same time you know that he’s safe and unable to harm the Ascalon’s again.”

Armand nodded thoughtfully, saying, “Thank you, Symin. Despite what he was he was still my son, and I didn’t want him to die."


Symin said to Prince Tamen his voice brimming with curiosity, “You wished to see me, Sir?

Tamen smiled at the boy, pleased to notice that he seemed much more relaxed than the last time he had seen him, after he and the others had returned from the other world.

Prince Tamen told the boy, “Yes, Symin. Now that the ceremony to create your grandfather the new Duke in the Northwest and your uncle the Governor is over we wish to do something for you. Normally when a nobleman is enlarged his title goes with him changing to reflect his new status.”

Prince Tamen said solemnly, “In this case I felt that the Ascalon Barony which is as old as Camron, should be kept and not changed when your grandfather became Duke, and my father and brother agreed with me. With your grandfather’s permission, the title of Duke Ascalon was created as a new title, and the Barony of Ascalon was simply vacated.”

“For your outstanding service to the Kingdom we wish to make you the new Baron Ascalon, and move the Barony to the border area between us and Fenla. That not only will reward you as we feel you deserve but will also increase the visibility of the Kingdom on the border.”

Tamen grinned as Symin went red with embarrassment and for one of the few times since he had known him the boy actually looked disconcerted.

After a couple of minutes of struggling, Symin squeaked out in a very high pitched voice, “I…” and then he stopped and began to giggle at the way his voice had sounded Prince Tamen joining him and he relaxed somewhat.

When Symin spoke again after he had composed himself, his voice was more natural, “I thank you, Your Highness, but I’m going to have to think about it.”

Tamen with a touch of humor still on his face told him, “Don’t think it simply as a reward, though that was basically our motive. At the same time you should realize that by giving you the Barony and putting it on the border, we are also being very practical. You’re a Great Mage and the Kingdom’s presence on the border gathers immense strength from that fact. Yet at the same time by not putting a lot of soldiers on the border, which is the only other way to establish high visibility, we make it less likely that an armed conflict will develop between Fenla and Camron.”

Symin nodded thoughtfully. “Yes Sir, I can see that using me in that way is a very sensible alternative. There’s always been a strained relationship between Camron and Fenla. If it wasn’t for the fact that most of the border between our two countries is so mountainous with only a few passes, we’d probably have had several major wars with them.”

Symin said reflectively, “As it is when they moved some of their people across the established border on the coast two hundred years ago, it triggered a war, with several minor skirmishes. They lost but it could have gone either way, and we didn’t get anything out of them in way of reparations.”

Symin pursed his lips thinking for second before continuing, “Since their capital is right on the coast, and they are much younger than we are, it’s only been in the last fifty years or so that they have begun to move into the area immediately north of the mountains, and suddenly they threaten The Valley.”

“While part of The Valley is very rich farmland, most of it is forested, and both because of its isolation and the fact that it’s the home of the Brown Forest Elves, we’ve never tried to settle it.”

Tamen shook his head, saying, “There’s a third reason. We would have established at least a presence there before now if people weren’t so reluctant to move into The Valley. The Brown Forest Elves occupy part of it and we didn’t want to force people to take lands there, it could have caused conflict.”

Symin nodded, then after thinking about it for a couple of minutes, he said resignedly, “That makes it a duty rather than simply a reward. I don’t see how I can turn it down under those conditions. Still I’ve never seen the land, and I want to at least do that before I make my final decision. If you don’t mind I’ll have a look at it tonight and talk to you in the morning.”

Tamen nodded, “That’s fine Symin. We’ll be here another few days before we head back to the capital, so we’re not in any rush.”

Symin stood up and then grinned, “By the way Your Highness, you were simply looking for people in the wrong places. If you think a little unconventionally you’ll realize that the places you want to look is in Debtor’s Prison and in the slum areas. There are many good people in both places. They’ve fallen on hard times and run into misfortune not because they’re dishonorable or because they’re bad people, but because the fates have treated them unfairly.”

CHAPTER TEN-Problem-The Next Day

Hamar asked with curiosity, “Why did you want to see all of us Symin? We turned it over to Tamen because we thought you’d be more comfortable being asked by him.”

Symin told them, “There’s a problem Sir, a very big problem. The land you want to give me is already occupied.”

The three men straightened in their chairs and stiffened. Hamar said in an raspy angry voice, “By who?!! We’ve given no one permission to occupy that land!!”

“Actually I don’t think King Nellen intended to ask you for permission, Sir.” Symin said with an ironic smile on his face.

Hamar stiffened even more and then his body relaxed as he began thinking. After a few minutes, he looked at Symin who was standing with his hands clasped behind his back. The smile on the boy's face was one of humor however.

Hamar commented, “You don’t seem particularly unhappy about someone else taking the land we intended to give you.” He signed, “We’ll have to get it back of course. We’ve claimed all land south of the Pentil and Sangree Rivers for several hundred years.

Symin commented, still with a smile on his face, “I’ve been to Tantar, Sire. In fact, that’s Nellen’s intention. You move your army there and it will require a good portion of the army. Once you do that, he intends to attack three of the coastal cities. Personally I don’t think even with the army in The Valley that he can take them, but he does.”

Symin shook his head will disgust, “In fact he thinks he’s a genius, sir, a military genius at least the equal of Mandel Bloodyhand. He’s insane of course and I doubt that he’ll last very long as King, but he could have caused a lot of trouble if I hadn’t found out about it now.”

Symin went over to the sand table used by the Ascalon children in addition to paper and slates in their lessons. He stood looking at it and the three men got up to join him watching as one section of the sand began to move. Within a few minutes an exact model of the upper Valley was visible.

Symin pointed to the area, divided into six parts and there were very evident fortifications all over the place. In addition, there was a small fortified town right on the south bank of the river that delineated the border. Symin said in his treble voice, “There are about six thousand men and women and children here on the Baronys, Your Majesty and they will fight to the last. With our preoccupation with Madron and Yersine and the aftermath, Nellen began to move them into The Valley. Don’t be too upset about it Prince Tamen, your spies haven’t told you about this because they didn’t know about it.”

Symin told them solemnly, “Nellen has eight Great Mages in this area and four of them are related and have the same type of specialty. A brother and sister and two cousins. It’s the ability to hide things. It’s a type of Concealment, but somewhat different than anything I’ve seen before. If any Great Mage had looked at this area, even they wouldn’t have been able to see anything out of the ordinary.”

“Once I got back home, I took a look and even knowing what is now there, it took me time to work through the Concealment to see it. A normal Great Mage wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

Symin was silent for a minute considering and his small face was serious, before saying, “My friends and I are very different now. The amount of power we had to channel through our bodies changed us drastically and permanently. We are far stronger than any other Great Mages. Perhaps you should think of us as Greater Mages. Comparing us to Great Mages, they are now to us what Lesser Mages are to Great Mages.”

Symin said ruefully, “We are too powerful for our world, yet for three of us it is our home, and has become the base for all of us. We will no longer interfere casually in our world’s affairs because like the Gods it’s better if we don’t. I hesitated to accept the Barony because of that reason though I felt honored. Yet, we can’t isolate ourselves either, not if we wish to keep our humanity. So I will help in this matter.”

“Four of the Great Mages are battle mages yet all eight of them together don’t have enough power to challenge me. That perhaps tells you how much power we wield even more than a new title, and why we’re reluctant to use it.”

The three men looked at the little boy soberly. They knew him well enough to know that he wouldn’t exaggerate, and their respect for him went even higher if that was possible.

Symin grinned up at them, “However now that you know that, you should also know that I have no reluctance to help in this matter. Some wars are necessary but most are simply the result of stupidity and should never occur. This one is totally unneeded, it is simply the whim of a madman, and I have no objection in preventing it.”

“King Nellen used this occasion to silence six of his greatest critics and ones who would surely have been in the forefront of those prepared to depose him. He used his army to surround six Baronys and he gave the Barons and their people a choice. Move or die. While the Barons and their people had to have ached at what they were forced to do, they did it.”

Symin sighed and shook his head at the callousness of King Nellen towards his people before continuing, “They moved every man woman and child, and all of their livestock, six to nine hundred miles depending on where their Baronys were located, into the head of The Valley. Nellen gave the people occupying the town the same choice, move or die. Not that they were really enemies they were simply neutral when he became King. That was enough for Nellen so he moved them to teach the rest of the towns and cities in the country what could happen to them.”

Symin gestured with his hand towards the model telling them, “All told there are perhaps eight or nine thousand people. To take back The Valley by arms you would need an army and every man woman and child would fight and die to stop you. They’ve had most of a year to fortify it and they have no choice, they no longer have anywhere to go, and their backs are to the wall. They will fight and die to keep it. Not only would you have to face crossbows in the hands of men and women, they’ve also armed every child old enough with crossbows as well.”

Tamen asked with interest, “What do you have in mind, Symin? Obviously you don’t want us to send in the army, and if Nellen is prepared to attack the coastal cities we can’t anyway.”

Symin smiled, and said, “Well I’ve already dealt with the Great Mages. I put them all a magical sleep. It’ll last a month before the spell will dissipate. That’s just in case something unforeseen happens to me, and I’m not around to wake them up. The other part? Well this gives us a way out without using force.”

Symin handed Prince Tamen a sheet of parchment, telling them, “I also went to Camara last night after I had been to Tantar, and I woke up the Royal Archivist. As you can see from Efil’s name on it, it’s a Certified Magical Copy. It’s a copy of the peace treaty signed after the war two hundred years ago. If you’ll read the last paragraph you will see Fenla’s King at that time established a precedent that nicely deals with this situation.”

Tamen read it and then he began to laugh. Hamar and Vaughn waited patiently for him to calm down. When he had done so, Tamen took a pose like that of a Herald and said, “I proclaim…”

He gave another quick laugh and then said, “This is what it says, ‘Obviously since my people claimed land that is in your country they are your subjects and your responsibility.’”

Both Hamar and Vaughn began laughing as well. Symin giggled again, then said, “Stupid of course. He didn’t want the cost of the people he sent over our border so he gave the responsibility to us.”

Symin's large gray eyes went cold then and his face no longer simply looked like that of a little boy. He told them, with disgust obvious in his voice, “Nellen has betrayed his people in The Valley. They are loyal subjects of Fenla but you can only push people so far, and he pushed these people beyond their limit. To get loyalty a ruler must also show loyalty and what Nellen did was almost on a whim; why should you have any loyalty to a man like that. How do you think the Barons and their people and the townspeople will react when we show them this copy?”

Hamar nodded in agreement, as he said, “Okay we take them from Nellen. It’s not even going to be a minor theft. There are enough Barons that we need to create a Count as well. We don’t really have a lot of people we can choose from Symin. We have to choose someone that the Brown Forest Elves can trust as well. Despite your age I think that means you.”

Symin said intelligently, “Ulp!!” his eyes almost popping out of his head in disbelief and the three men broke down and howled with laughter.

Symin recovered quickly and said pithily, “Obviously the Camron Royal Family doesn’t need jesters to entertain them, you laugh at the silliest things.”

That simply brought additional chuckles from the King and his two sons. Hamar said, intently, an expression of respect on his face, “You’re an honorable person Symin, and you can be trusted absolutely. Everyone who knows you knows that, and I don’t think it’ll take your new Barons long to find out that fact. Also you have an engrained sense of duty so I don’t think you intend to turn me down do you?”

Symin shook his head reluctantly. “No Your Majesty I won’t turn you down."


Hamar looked around at what appeared to be a small army and shook his head in wonder, “I’ve seen illusions before, but this is astonishing.”

Symin told him, a serious look on his small face, “If you think this is realistic, Sir, you should see it from the outside. It’s looks even more real and even more threatening. Baron Laslan, the senior Baron is a Lesser Mage, and two of the other Barons are high Magic Users.

Simon waved towards the land the barons occupied, “They’re aware that it would normally take a dozen Great Mages to create an illusion this real. Maxim and I set up the illusion and using gemstones as Artefacts of Power have kept it up for ten days, and at the moment they think that we are simply an advance force, and are waiting for reinforcements.”

Symin continued, “When I banish the illusion that will give them some indication of our power and also tells them that we’re patient and in no hurry to start a war. The fact that the Great Mages they were counting on to combat magic, are in a magical sleep and in fact are Warded so they can’t even be touched, will make them aware that we could destroy them if we wish.”

“The fact that the King of the country which they have in effect invaded is willing to talk to them so that we don’t have to destroy them will I hope impress them.


Kailie scowled at the encampment, then said to her father, “It’s unnerving Da, they’re just been sitting there for the last seven days, yet they’ve made no effort to try and contact us.”

Baron Laslan nodded his head, saying ruefully, “They have no need to contact us. We’re on land they’ve claimed for hundreds of years. Nellen knows it, they know it and we knew it when we came here. It was die a year ago or to live a little longer. We hoped that when the moment of truth came something would happen to keep our people alive. Do you regret what the other Baron’s and I decided to do?” he asked.

Kailie's face softened as she turned to face him, “No father. As long as you’re alive there’s always hope. We’re still alive so even though the enemies are at the gate there’s still hope.”

As part of it disappeared, their attention was suddenly attracted to the enemy’s camp. Over the next five minutes, they watched in disbelief as the camp vanished one piece at a time.

When only a dozen tents and perhaps forty or fifty men remained, Kailie said jubilantly, “It was all an illusion!”

Her father, Baron Laslan was a Lesser Mage. He knew what type of power needed to create and maintain an illusion of that dimension for ten days. From the time, their scouts had first detected them until they had apparently set up camp seven days ago in front of Laslan’s fortifications, to now.

He considered the power needed. A chill went up his back at the very thought. Unlike Kailie, he knew that they might be in much more danger now than they had been.

A young boy walked up and stood beside them and commented, “I think it was a very nice illusion don’t you? I didn't really intend to frighten you, though I’m aware that it did so. However that was just a side-effect of my real purpose.”

Symin turned and looked at them and they found themselves staring in shock at the young boy. It was obvious from his accent that he was Camron, and from the formal clothing he was wearing and the crest tattooed on his shoulder that he was of the nobility.

Symin bowed the slow formal nobles bow to them, and they automatically returned it. He smiled as he told them, “My name is Symin Ascalon and I’m afraid you really shouldn’t be happy Kailie. In point of fact if we chose, you would be in much more danger now than you were before which is something that your father knows. We used the illusion simply to show you the type of power that we wield. The long wait, to show you that we have no particular wish to harm you, and at the same time that we’re patient.”

Symin told them with a serious look on his face, “One thing that you need to know. I’m the one that put your Great Mages to sleep and Warded them. I put a time limit of one month on it; from the time, I put the spell on them, which was eleven days ago. I did so not because I consider them a danger, but because I might have needed to harm them if they were awake and alert. ”

Symin lifted up a folded sheet of parchment, “This is a Certified Magical Copy of the peace treaty that was signed between your country and Camron at the end of the war two hundred years ago. In some ways, it’s very similar to what has occurred here. The King of Fenla at that time moved several hundred settlers across the mainly untenanted border, between our two countries.”

“Of course he never admitted it, but it caused a short war between us, which is what he wanted, since he wanted to test our army. Your people at that time were simply pawns.”

Symin shook his head with obvious disgust, “He wanted to become a conqueror like Mandel. After a couple of months, he knew that he simply didn’t have an army that could stand up to us in a manner in which he wanted. He was sane enough to realize that and he sued for peace before it became more than a minor border dispute, with several small land battles.”

Symin paused for a second, before saying, “It was pretty much of a stalemate at the time that he chose, but he knew that we were preparing to move a large portion of the army into the North West. Since that was the case and at the same time because the Camron Royal Family didn’t really want to fight a major war, neither side demanded or got very much from the other side.”

“The part of the treaty that affects what is happening here is in the last paragraph.” Symin handed the parchment to the Baron who scanned down the page until he found it. He read the paragraph that Symin had pointed out to Hamar and his sons and he gave a bark of laughter though there certainly wasn’t any humor in it.

Symin told them, “We want you to convey this to the Barons and the Town Council, and we ask all of you to meet us tomorrow afternoon. That paragraph tells you what we want you to do. You have time to talk it over; however, there are a few more things that you need to know. First please invoke your Mage-Sight.”

The Baron did so and he went numb as he saw the boy’s aura. It was at least double; perhaps triple the thickness of any Great Mage he had ever seen. It was so crowded with threads of light that it was impossible to tell what color the aura had originally been.

Finally, after a couple of minutes of awe Salan Laslan shook himself back to life and turned his Mage-Sight off. Symin gave an impish grin, “Just a little surprising Baron, don’t you think.”

The Baron, in a husky voice, his voice trembling slightly said, “You can say that again.”

Symin’s grin widened into a broad smile, “Just a little surprising Baron, don’t you think.” He giggled, at the surprised look on the man’s face. Symin pointed out, “Well you did tell me to say it again.” Giggling again, and Kailie couldn’t help herself as she joined him.

Symin once he had regained his composure handed the Baron a second message, only this one was a poster and was of paper. It announced the appointment of Bron as the new Provost Marshall of Tantar.

“This is funny as well, Baron, but funny odd, not funny humorous.” Symin told him.

The Baron hadn’t detected anything out of the ordinary and looking at the poster again, he still didn’t. Kailie who was standing beside her father had read it as well. She looked at Symin, asking, “Why, is it odd, Symin?” not even realizing that she had used his name.

Symin said calmly, “While you don’t know who Bron is you know two of his grandparents very well. In fact, they’re the pride of your kennels. Bron is a Ven hound and you gave his mother to the former King some years ago.”

The Baron crushed the poster in his hand as his face went dark with anger. Symin just shrugged his small shoulders, feeling the Baron’s disbelief. He told the man, “I have no reason, and no need to lie to you Baron Laslan. Your look at my aura tells you how much power I can wield. You also know what we want from you. To lie to you at this point, about something that eventually you’ll find out about in another manner, would be very unwise. A short term gain and a long term loss, and its the long term that’s important here.”

Symin looked up at Baron Laslan and saw him reluctantly nodding his head as he said, “You’re right. Unfortunately I hate the thought of my country being in the hand of a madman.”

Symin said, nodding at the poster, “It won’t be for much longer. When he put that out he signed his death warrant and I doubt if he’ll live out the week. However even when Nellen dies you and your people will gain nothing; because as far as I can tell the only likely candidate to replace him is Prince Telren.”

There was dismay on both Baron Laslan and his daughter’s faces. The Prince was a hidebound conservative, who considered that the nobility had more power than they should have. Baron Laslan and his fellow Barons now in Camron were just the type of noblemen who were at the top of the Prince’s list of those he would want to come down hard on. He would be quite happy to wash his hands of them.

“One last point Baron.” Symin’s voice had gone chilly and looking at him the two nobles could see that his large gray eyes were looking at them coldly and it made both of them uncomfortable. “I don’t like it much either, but you now know what we need. Not want, need. Any of your people who can’t accept that will leave, either voluntarily or under Compulsion.”

Symin continued in an implacable voice, “The reason is very simple. We have a very aggressive southern neighbor. We’ve had dozens of border disputes with Tatrin over the past fifty years. The last one came very close to becoming a major war. Kurcon is the main problem; many of their leading citizens want war. We made a start in defusing the tension when we returned the treasure of the Sedgewick to Polemn.”

Symin told them, “The original loss of the Sedgewick resulted in the loss of wealth and then prestige for Polemn, and catapulted Kurcon into the position of the major city of Tatrin. At the moment the situation is very evenly balanced, and could go either way. If we show any hesitation in expelling those who can’t accept our authority, then it’s very likely that Kurcon will be able to maintain its position. If that happens, there will undoubtedly be a major war between Camron and Tatrin within a few years. That means our hands are tied.”

Symin's lips flickered into a smile and the coldness was gone from his small face. He told them, “While no longer capable of rational thought as that poster shows, a year ago Nellen was still at least partly sane. He chose you and the other Barons that are here, because you care about your people, and wanted the best for them. I think you will accept that the best for them is to remain in Camron, because when Telrin becomes King, Fenla will take a giant step backwards in time, as it becomes an absolute monarchy once more.”

“Hamar said that he met you in your youth Baron, and he will be at the table, as will representatives of the Brown Forest Elves. This meeting is intended to decide the future of The Valley, and we are confident that your people will be part of that future.”

An impish grin appeared on his small face as Symin said, “While they aren’t part of the treaty process, your people might want to see a couple of my friends. Not many people have ever seen a unicorn or a dragon before.” At that he simply disappeared with a pop, as the place he had been was abruptly filled in with air.

Kailie asked with curiosity, “I know that Camron wants us to become their subjects, but why is Symin so confident we will do so?”

Laslan shook his head a little wearily but at the same time hopeful, “King Keston abandoned the people he sent over the border in the last war. In the treaty it says that since the settlers were on Camron’s land they were Camron’s subjects and their responsibility.”

“Nellen will be replaced, this poster guarantees it. In the past those of Fenla have accepted brutal kings and even on one occasion an insane one, but they won’t accept one with Nellen’s type of irrationality.”

Baron Laslan sighed with regret for what could no longer be. He told her, “Telren knows his history, and when he becomes King, like Keston he will gladly take this as a precedent that allows him to abandon us. While individuals can return, he wouldn’t accept our return as a group. He would outlaw us and we would spend the rest of our lives fighting simply to stay alive.”

Kailie nodded with a thoughtful look on her face, and then she looked to the north, toward a country she knew was no longer hers, yet she felt no regret. Nellen’s betrayal had severed her ties to Fenla. She had simply been waiting to establish ties to someone new, and now she knew it would be to the King of Camron.

Laslan looking at his daughter saw what she was thinking, a little smile was on his face, though it was a sad smile, it was also an accepting smile. He asked, “No regrets?”

Kailie looked at him with her clear brown eyes, and replied, “No regrets father, for the first time in a year I feel free again. I can move forward now, and since we’ve been here I’ve been standing still.”


Symin didn’t bother to look up as Hamar said with a little alarm, “Are you sure that you read them correctly, Symin? There seem to be an awful lot of them heading our way.”

“Yes, Sire. They are already committed to you. What you see is a people coming to a celebration rather than to peace talks. They are wearing arms, but no armor, and they are bringing their women and children with them.”


The man, who met the Barons and their families as they approached the camp in advance of their people, was a very impressive personage. He was six-feet-six inches tall but very slender, only weighing about one hundred and eighty pounds. He was wearing the gold vest and jeweled staff of a Royal Herald.

He bowed to them, and they returned his full noble’s bow. He spoke in an unusually deep voice that went with his size but not his slenderness. “Barons, I am Baron Trent, King Hamar’s Herald and his Far-Speaker. King Hamar wishes to talk to you informally before you sit down with his representative.”

“While the King will be at the table with you, his representative and your new Count will be his spokesman. However he is a very unusual Count and you must know something about him, before you begin your discussions.”

Kailie guessed, “You’ve chosen Symin Ascalon haven’t you?” thinking of the impressive child, she had met yesterday.

Trent smiled, “Yes, Kailie Laslan, and you must know something about Symin so you don’t think King Hamar is being as irrational as King Nellen. Condee Flaranson, who is one of the representatives of the Brown Forest Elves, is Symin’s great-uncle and the Historian for his family and one of the Historians of his Elven Clan. The fact that Symin is part-Elf is one of the reasons that he was chosen for the position.”

Trent's face became serious then, “You will be interested in knowing that King Nellen is dead. Telren killed him last night. He walked into the Palace virtually unopposed; the only ones who fought for Nellen were his personal guards, who were oathed directly to him and not to Fenla as a whole. While he hasn’t been crowned yet, the coronation is scheduled for the day after tomorrow.”

Baron Laslan said with determination yet also with a tinge of sadness, “We are no longer concerned about Fenla except as spectators. We made a decision and Camron is now our country. We need no talks since we know that Hamar and Camron have always treated their nobles honorably. Our Bards were able to tell us much about Camron and since Symin Ascalon was such an important part of what has transpired in the last year we are already aware of many of the things that he has already done, though we were not aware that he was part Elf.”

Trent inclined his head, telling them, “I must admit that your decision is not really a surprise. King Hamar will tell you what has been decided about the future of The Valley, and you will swear allegiance to him, and the talks will simply revolve around the creation of the County. However, what Condee has to say will still be of interest to you. He has a very different perspective from your Bards, since what he knows came directly from Symin’s mind. Also while the Bards could tell you something about Symin they could not tell you all, because some of what occurred was a secret which was never revealed, and part of it did not even occur on our world.”


King Hamar waited for a few minutes after Condee Flaranson finished the story so they could simply absorb what they were told. As he suspected they were impressed.

After about ten minutes he said, “This is not intended to make you uncomfortable with Symin, but to make you aware that he lives up to the term noble, both in spirit and in action. He has on several occasions as his story tells you, been willing to give up his life for his country, and he did give up his sight with no expectation that he would ever regain it.”

“There will be no regent appointed for Symin because he needs none. He already understands instinctively what is required of a ruler and what his people need will always be more important than what he needs. However as a Great Mage he has instant communication with advisors anywhere in Camron and places beyond.”

“His County will be County Valley, an acknowledgment of the fact that this is an unusual arrangement, not only because of Symin’s appointment but because of the presence of the Brown Forest Elves.”

“Up to this time The Valley was part of the Royal Estates. The Selatar Forest has been ceded to the Brown Forest Elves in its entirety. They have always been self-governing and that will remain the case. Symin’s overlord will be his grandfather, the new Duke Ascalon, and his Uncle Random Ascalon who at the suggestion of Symin and the willing cooperation of Armand Ascalon has been appointed Governor of the two northeastern provinces.”

“The head of The Valley part of what you now occupy is mainly grasslands and especially around the rivers and their tributaries it is very rich farmland and will be part of the new County.


Maxim looked at Symin with exasperation. Ever since Tamra had told him the Vincent-Molloys were ready to leave Earth Symin, for the first time since Maxim had known him was acting like a brat.

Maxim said sternly, "Symin come here!!" and Symin knew immediately what Maxim intended to do. Symin couldn't help it, he giggled, and suddenly the anxiety that have been causing his brattiness was gone.

Symin walked over to where Maxim was sitting on a masonry stone. On the way, he unfastened his belt, and the buttons of his fly and when he reached the older boy, he let them slip down his legs and stepped out of them.

Symin knew that the spanking he was about to get was well deserved. It wouldn't be the first and he knew it wouldn't be the last. He could see the masons and the other builders looking at the two boys with astonishment.

Symin felt no embarrassment that they would see his punishment. He was a Count, and normally he was very mature for his age, almost adult in his outlook. But the key word was almost, he was also a little boy, and at times, he needed and yes, wanted to be corrected.

The half a dozen spanks that Symin received on his bare bottom were not particularly hard. Maxim frequently swatted him on the bottom in affection and the swats in that case were often much harder.

When Maxim pushed Symin back to a standing position Symin was actually grinning. Maxim reached out and stroked Symin's chin gently. He asked, "Feel better now?"

Symin nodded and looking around at the still astonished builders and masons, he said, "I guess they've never seen a Count spanked before." And he giggled.

Maxim grinned as well as Symin stooped to pick up his short trousers and got dressed.


Today was the day and the anxiety was on Symin again, but only calm was showing on his small face. But then a burst of joy swelled through him as he saw Travis ride out of thin air. Jason and Danni were next riding side by side, and then Jenny end Daniel.

Symin went towards them as they dismounted feeling like he was walking on air. Maxim, Pictou Tess, and Terrion remained where they were allowing Symin to greet them alone.

There was a bit of awkwardness at first as the the Vincent-Malloys dismounted which was broken by Travis as he slipped out of the shorts he was wearing and threw them high into the air, yelling, "No more teachers no more books," and with a grin, "and no more clothes either." And everbody burst out laughing.

Then Travis realized that there was something odd about what he had said, oh not the words but the language. The English that he had spoken all his life was still in his mind, but he wasn't using it. "What language am I speaking?" he asked in amazement.

Symin grinned at him, "It's the Common Tongue. Originally it was Mandel Bloodyhand's court language, and it developed into the language of scholarship and literature. Camron and most of the continent have adopted it as the main language."

Symin grinned again, as he giggled and said, "And that's all that I'll tell you about that or I'll start boring you."

CHAPTER FOURTEEN-Adoption Ceremony

Sain was almost bursting with self-importance. Symin had chosen him as his representative in this importance ceremony. For the first time in his life, he was actually wearing clothing and Symin because of the ceremony was not.

Symin was not much bigger than his cousins, Dale and Sear. Sain took the smaller boy's hand in his and it was trembling, showing how important the ceremony was to Symin.

Sain gave a little squeeze of reassurance and Symin smiled a little tremulous upturn of his lips. Sain faced towards the Vincent-Molloy family. He began to lead Symin towards them. They were standing as was traditional in Brown Forest Elven, ceremonies.

Jason as the oldest boy was on Daniel's right. Jenny was standing on his left with Danni beside her on her left.

Jason, Travis and Danni all big smiles on their faces. Daniel and Jenny were more solemn. All of them, except for Travis were dressed in Lythean formal wear while Travis was naked.

Condee Flaranson and his wife Saryi, Sinya's parents were standing with Symin's Great-Grandmother, Avoe, Kraftin and Karliv. Most of Symin's Elven family members were standing on the left side of the processional aisle while the barons of Symin's County and their families were standing on the right side. The newly married Cartan and Sinya were standing with her father as well. On the left side representing Symin's mother Deian, were Dearna, Darren Molloy and Dearna's father Seldon.

Also on the left Maxim, Armand Ascalon and three of his children and a dozen of his grandchildren were standing representing Symin's father Duran. Cartan and Sinya as high-ranking King's Messengers were also representing the Royal family.

All of them had spent days riding to get here except for Symin's Great-Grandmother Avoe and Dearna, Seldon and Darren. As Chief Priestess of the Mother Goddess, Avoe was too busy to get away for any length of time therefore Symin had Transported her here.

Symin had transported Dearna, Seldon and Darren as well. Dearna was too important to the area around Bremen to spare for any long period of time. Symin wanted them there because he loved Dearna and the fondness for Darren was deepening. More importantly, once the Adoption Ceremony was complete, through Darren Molloy they would become his grandparents.

Symin would've liked to seen Minna there as well but she was too large to travel, comfortably by horseback. As much as she loved Symin, her fear of being Transported was of such intensity that she simply couldn't attend.

Symin and the Royal family had contracted Dwarven engineers to build a road. They expected to take a year to a year and a half to complete it. Until then, there was no possibility of getting a carriage here.

Sain stopped in front of Jenny and Daniel. He said in a solemn voice, "I bring to you Symin Durrill Ascalon as the Gods brought him into this world, naked and unshod. Symin is not without family, because he is of the Brown Forest Elves." Sain waved his hand at his grandfather Condee and the other members of the clan.

Sain continued, repeating, "Symin is not without family because he is of the Great Ascalon Clan." Waving at Armand and the other Ascalons.

Sain gave a theatrical sigh of regret, and several of the adults had to cover their lips, to hide their smiles as he said, "But Symin is without parents and every child should have parents. I offer him to you as your son. If you accept Symin, then he is obligated to honor you."

Sain had a serious look on his small face as he said, "You must be aware that Symin is not obligated to obey you because of the position he holds. It is also because my clan the Brown Forest Elves do not expect blind obedience from children. While parents may be right most of the time, we know they won't be right every time."

He also told them, "Symin will not be obligated to love you either." Sain released Symin's hand and touched him on the forehead. He repeated, "He is not obligated to love you. But he does, feel Symin's love for you."

Sain reached into Symin's mind. With the ability he had that he shared with his grandfather Condee, and his father Drew he spread out for all to see Symin's love for Jenny, and Daniel and the three children.

Symin mind was full of love deep and eternal. His soaring joy was so intense that no one could take that raw emotion for more than a couple of seconds. Sain hastily released Symin's emotions, allowing them to sink beneath the surface again.

Sain reached out for Jenny, Daniel, Danni, Jason and Travis. He spread their emotions out for all to see. There love of Symin was of no lesser intensity. Again, a couple of seconds was all anyone could possibly take.

Sain allowed everyone to recover before asking solemnly, "Do you Daniel Vincent, Jenny, Danni, Jason and Travis Vincent-Molloy accept Symin Durrill Ascalon as your son and brother?"

Their emotions were too intense for shouting or yelling but the five members all answered yes with a deep quiet intensity.

Sain told everyone, "Symin would normally take your name, as his last name. Because of his position, he cannot do that. I give him to you as Symin Durrill Vincent-Molloy Ascalon."

Nothing more was said, as Symin threw himself at his new family and they rushed to greet him. Sain briefly let everyone feel the intensity of their emotions, and then the ceremony was over.



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