Tag Archives: fantasy

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I, The Calling: Chapter 19

 

Finally, I think I’m caught up on the blogging scene. I’ve read how to write better; how to improve my health; what to do in case of Armageddon; how to win a cricket match; that Russia isn’t to blame for anything; that we’re in deeper s**t than I even thought possible; how to make free electricity; how to awaken; that Sandy Hook mass shooting never happened (again) and that I’ve got to give peace a chance. That said, let’s get on with this story before it becomes “The Perils of Pauline” and Phil manifests himself on the blog waving a massive eraser and I lose all my subordinate clauses and loose conjunctions…


Chapter 19: Meeting the priest; all is set for the wedding

To Lo and Nal, it wasn’t much of a ‘town’ but to the others it was impressive as towns go. Not only the large church that sat imposingly in the centre of the main town but the shops, so many shops, and people everywhere. There were people on horseback and horse-drawn carts clattered on cobble-stone sections of the main street hauling various merchandise. At an open air butcher shop women were haggling with a portly butcher over the cut meat and the hanging geese and chicken. After each left with a purchase, she was replaced by another just as eager to haggle over the prices.

Children ran wildly through the filthy streets, yelled at by the adults whom they splattered when their bare feet slapped into puddles of stagnant, stinking water.

As Ian and his group walked deeper into the town, most people stopped doing whatever they were doing and stared. The men were particularly attracted to the three young women, the two tall imposing light-haired ones and the short, small dark one. But the main question on their faces was, who are these armed people and what do they want here?

Then some recognized MacGruder and greetings were exchanged. Women came forth to greet lady Jen MacGruder and their daughter whom they had not recognized so grown up she was. They were introduced to Lo whom they openly admired, and the two other young women, Genti and Deanna. Ian ventured the news that they intended to have a wedding here in Glowmere between the two travellers who were trading friends of the MacGruders, from the south. He announced that Nal and Lo, whom he singled out, were to be united in holy matrimony at the kirk if the priest was in agreement.

The news was greeted with a loud cheer that spread up and down the main street and brought the curious street urchins forth. Soon items went missing here and there from the shops and stalls as the cries of “Thief, stop him!” or “That miserable scoundrel, stop her!” followed by some useless chase that only left a shop or stall open to more pilfering.

“An where does one find the priest?” Ian asked politely and diplomatically for he realized such a location would be in proximity to the church. An urchin offered to lead them to the priest, for a price. Contrary to his usual parsimonious nature, Ian good-naturally accepted and paid the rascal. They intercepted the priest as he was stepping out of the kirk and getting ready to bar, bolt and lock the door.

“Wouldn’t want yer God er his saints t’ run off come night eh Father? Keep ‘em locked up, that’s the sure way.” said Ian with a large smile.

The priest, a tall, stringy sort of creature in a fading black cassock failed to acknowledge the joke. He eyed MacGruder with a frown and asked, “An what do ye be wantin’ fro’ me, mon?”

“Well Father, ‘tis not what I want, ‘tis what these young un’s here be needin’ – an’ that’d be a proper weddin’ t’would be, if ye be amenable to it?”

The priest cast a haughty look over the group trying to figure out which of them were to be the victims. Unable to decide, he turned to MacGruder and said, “They be proper Church people then? Baptized and knowing their catechism?”

“Aye of that I’m sure Father. Might not hurt ‘em just the same to have a confession afore the ceremony?”

“That is mandatory mon, and may I know whom I be addressin’ and whom the intended’s be?”

“I be Ian MacGruder, perhaps ye’ve heard of us from up t’ cottage? An’ here are the two ‘intendeds’ as ye put it: Lo ‘n Nal. Don’t know if there be any family names attached to ‘em, I reckon not.”

“Well, I’ll need such particulars for the book ye understand. We keep decent records here, not like the old pagan days thankfully gone from here, praise God.”

“We’ll get ye the names Father.” MacGruder’s voice had grown somewhat harsher and definitely colder as he prepared to haggle prices with the priest.

Having heard their names mentioned, Nal and Lo came forward and introduced themselves to the priest. Again he gave his haughty look, equally met and brought down forcefully by both Nal and Lo who would not tolerate such from a pawn of the Church. For a moment the priest sensed something that scared him and was of a mind to refuse the ceremony, then thought of the money and held his tongue. On top of the incentive of good gold, there were those deadly looking swords, bows and staffs to reckon with. It might not do to upset these and seemed more prudent to let the moment have its way.

‘I can deal with any sorcery and paganism afterwards and I certainly will.’

All three, Nal, Deanna and Lo, had been mind-focusing on the priest and heard his thoughts. Here was another dangerous enemy, certainly for Genti and the MacGruders. This priest would have to be dealt with after they settled with the Betrayers and before they carried on to further adventures, such certain to come about as a result of Nal’s vows and Deanna’s need to return to Torglynn.

As there was overt thoughts of violence and murder in the priest’s heart, Lo felt no qualm about disposing of the creature come the right time. This work might well fall to wolf and his mate he reckoned. Both Nal and Deanna agreed though Nal who had some personal scores to settle with the Church insisted she’d be involved in the priest’s demise. They left it at the stage where the priest would be killed but not who would have the honours.

Meanwhile, they agreed to let the hypocrisy of the moment reign supreme.

“Any o’ these others gettin’ married also, Ian?” Asked the priest, trying hard to sound innocent, caring, and friendly but inwardly licking his greedy lips thinking of the gold a double or triple wedding would bring, winter being financially remarkable only from the increase in burials.

“Hasn’t been mentioned Father. Must be waitin’ for spring, t’other ones eh? So then to business, time and cost? Ye’d be needin’ gold yea?”

“Gold, yea. Six ounces, weighed on the scale at the kirk. As to time, does next Saturday suit ye, Ian?”

Ian called his group together and after consulting with Jen asked them, “Does next Saturday suit ye all for the weddin’ t’ take place or ye havin’ second thoughts now? Last chance ‘fore I put down the money.”

Nal and Lo smiled broadly at one another then burst out laughing while a spark of hope flashed through young Giles’ heart only to be extinguished in the same moment when Nal said, “Saturday is perfect for us ‘n the sooner t’ better to get it done. Can’t wait! An’ Father if ye be wantin’ our clan names, I be a McBanish, n’ m’intended here, he be a MacDunit.”

“Interestin’ names. Can’t say I ever heard o’ those clans, interestin’ indeed. Saturday then, ten o’ the mornin’?”

“Aye that’ll suit us fine, that will, Father,” quickly answered Ian.

They left the skeletal priest standing there like a patiently expectant vulture on his favourite dead tree perch and Ian declared they all deserved a drink at the Wild Horse Inn, a good, friendly place, he added.

Once out of the priest’s hearing they all burst out laughing until the tears were running down their faces. Ian had to lean on a hitching post to keep himself upright.

Only Deanna failed to join, finally asking what the sudden hilarity was all about.

“Dinae hear girl? McBanish, MacDunit? Who ever heard o’ such nonsense? That was good that, truly magnificent, gal, and he slapped Nal on the back, making her jump.

Ian didn’t give his charges too much time to develop introspective moroseness that would demand another round and declared it was getting late and they had a fair walk ahead of ‘em yet.

As they were crossing the small drawbridge, Lo stayed behind to speak to the guard detail. He gave them each enough coin for a couple of rounds at the inn and was rewarded with some slaps on the back and cheers. Then in a vibrant voice he wished them a wonderful end of the day and a safe, healthy, prosperous and long life. They received his words as if they had been gifts, realizing that there was more than words in the blessing. They waved sheepishly then, thinking this was no ordinary man. They all sensed that their entire lives ahead of them had been magically blessed and the words would prove true.

Entering his speed lope he soon caught up to the group and immediately noticed that Deanna was gone and Nal was carrying her clothes.

“So she’s gone back to her wolf then? How did she manage to take off her clothes without upsetting the group?”

“We slipped into the ‘by woods to do that. She’ll inner nudge me when she needs ‘em again.”

“Let me strap those to my pack then, Nal, so you keep your hands free. It may seem silly here but remember that ultimately we are always alone, working singly, and must always think thus. Never rely on anyone else to take the point, or protect. Let them if they want to but don’t ask it nor expect it and I repeat, never rely on it.

“Keep your hands, arms and legs free at all times and your weapons handy.”

“Truly sorry, I temporarily forgot. Too much on m’mind an’ don’t push me, MacDunit.”

“Indeed I’ll endeavour not to, Miss McBanish.”

They laughed, hugged fiercely and kissed again.

Don’t look at me like that and I heard that snort. Look, I’m just writing it the way I see it. And remember, they’ve been apart for thousands of years, how do you think you would act if you suddenly found yourself back in the arms and love of a lover you knew was dead and you hadn’t seen for, say, twenty thousand years? Would you say,

“What? You again?” or

“I really wasn’t expecting you back this soon.” or

“I hadn’t planned on this; I have a life now.” or

“Things getting too boring for you, decided to come back?”

Right, I didn’t think so. More likely there would be sparks, maybe a flame, and hugging and kissing would just be the breeze that sets everything on fire. So put up with the hugging and kissing and let me go on with the story, which by the way is turning out pretty good, in my opinion, if I’m allowed to have one.

 

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The Sword, the Bow and the Staff

[Time for another chapter of the novel. Enjoy!]

Part I    –   The Calling

Chapter 19   –   Meeting the priest; all is set for the wedding

To Lo and Nal, it wasn’t much of a ‘town’ but to Deanna it was unbelievable. Not only the large kirk that sat imposingly in the centre of the main town but the shops, so many shops, and people walking everywhere. There were even people on horseback, and horse-drawn carts hauling various merchandise. At an open air butcher shop several women were haggling with a portly butcher over the cut meat and the hanging geese and chicken. After each left with a purchase, she was replaced by another just as eager to haggle over the prices.

Children ran wildly through the filthy streets, yelled at by the adults they splattered when their bare feet slapped into puddles of stagnant and stinking water.

As Ian and his group walked on deeper into the town, most people stopped doing whatever they were doing and stared. The men were particularly attracted to the three young women, the two tall imposing light-haired ones and the short, small dark one. On the faces you could read the question: who are these well-armed people and what do they want here?

Then some recognized MacGruder and greetings were exchanged. Women came forth to greet lady Jen MacGruder and their daughter they did not recognized so grown up she was. They were introduced to Lo whom they openly admired, and the two other young women, Genti and Deanna. Ian ventured the news that they intended to have a wedding here in Glowmere between the two travellers who were friends of the MacGruders from the south. He announced that Nal and Lo, whom he singled out, were to be united in holy matrimony at the kirk if the priest was in agreement.

The news was greeted with a loud cheer that spread up and down the main street and brought the curious street urchins forth. Soon items went missing here and there from the shops and stalls as the cries of “Thief, stop him!” or “That miserable scoundrel, stop her!” followed by some useless chase that only left a shop or stall open to more pilfering.

“An where does one find the priest?” ask Ian. An urchin offered to lead them to the priest, for a price. Contrary to his usual parsimonious nature, Ian good-naturally accepted and paid the rascal. They intercepted the priest as he was stepping out of the kirk and getting ready to bar, bolt and lock the door.

“Wouldn’t want yer God er his saints t’ run off come night eh Father? Keep ‘em locked up, that’s the sure way.” said Ian with a large smile.

The priest, a tall, stringy sort of creature in a fading black cassock eyed MacGruder with a frown and asked, “An what do ye be wantin’ fro’ me, mon?”

“Well Father, ‘tis not what I want, ‘tis what these young un’s here be needin’ – an’ that’d be a proper weddin’ t’would be, if ye be amenable to it?”

The priest cast a haughty look over the group trying to figure out which of them were to be the victims. Unable to decide, he turned to MacGruder and said, “They be proper Church people then? Baptized and knowing their catechism?”

“Aye of that I’m sure Father. Might not hurt ‘em just the same to have a confession afore the ceremony?”

“That is mandatory mon, and may I know whom I be addressin’ and whom the intended’s be?”

“I be Ian MacGruder, perhaps ye’ve heard of us from up t’ cottage? An’ here are the two ‘intendeds’ as ye put it: Lo ‘n Nal. Don’t know if there be any family names attached to ‘em, I reckon not.”

“Well, I’ll need such particulars for the book ye understand. We keep decent records here, not like the old pagan days thankfully gone from here, praise God.”

“We’ll get ye the names Father.” MacGruder’s voice had grown somewhat harsher and definitely colder as he prepared to haggle prices with the priest.

Having heard their names mentioned, Nal and Lo came forward and introduced themselves to the priest. Again he gave his haughty look, equally met and brought down forcefully by both Nal and Lo who would not tolerate such from a pawn of the Church. For a moment the priest sensed something that scared him and was of a mind to refuse the ceremony, then thought of the money and held his tongue. On top of the incentive of good gold, there were those deadly looking swords, bows and staffs to reckon with. It might not do to upset these and seemed more prudent to let the moment have its way.

‘I can deal with any sorcery and paganism afterwards and I certainly will.’

All three, Nal, Deanna and Lo, had been mind-focusing on the priest and heard his thoughts. Here was another dangerous enemy, certainly for Genti and the MacGruders. This priest would have to be dealt with after they settled with the Betrayers and before they carried on to further adventures, such certain to come about as a result of Nal’s vows and Deanna’s need to return to Torglynn.

As there was overt thoughts of violence and murder in the priest’s heart, Lo felt no qualm about disposing of the creature come the right time. This work might well fall to wolf and his mate he reckoned. Both Nal and Deanna agreed though Nal who had some personal scores to settle with the Church insisted she’d be involved in the priest’s demise. They left it at the stage where the priest would be killed but not who would do the honours.

Meanwhile, let the hypocrisy reign supreme.

“Any o’ these others gettin’ married also, Ian?” Asked the priest, trying hard to sound innocent, caring, and friendly but inwardly licking his greedy lips thinking of the gold a double or triple wedding would bring, winter being financially remarkable only from the increase in burials.

“Hasn’t been mentioned Father. Must be waitin’ for spring, t’other ones eh? So then to business, time and cost? Ye’d be needin’ gold yea?”

“Gold, yea. Five ounces, weighed on the scale at the kirk. As to time, does next Saturday suit ye, Ian?”

Ian called his group together and after consulting with Jen asked them, “Does next Saturday suit ye all for the weddin’ t’ take place or ye havin’ second thoughts now? Last chance ‘fore I put down the money.”

Nal and Lo smiled broadly at one another then burst out laughing while a spark of hope flashed through young Giles’ heart only to be extinguished in the same moment when Nal said, “Saturday is perfect for us ‘n the sooner t’ better to get it done. Can’t wait! An’ Father if ye be wantin’ our clan names, I be a McBanish, n’ Lo here, he be a MacDunit.”

“Interestin’ names. Can’t say I ever heard o’ those clans, interestin’ indeed. Saturday then, ten o’ the mornin’?”

“Aye that’ll suit us fine, that will, Father,” quickly answered Ian.

They left the skeletal priest standing there like a patiently expectant vulture on his favourite dead tree perch and Ian declared they all deserved a drink at the Wild Horse Inn, a good place, he added.

Once out of the priest’s hearing they all burst out laughing until the tears were running down their faces. Ian had to lean on a hitching post to keep himself upright.

Only Deanna failed to join, finally asking what the sudden hilarity was all about.

“Dinae hear girl? McBanish, MacDunit? Who ever heard o’ such nonsense? That was good that, truly magnificent, gal, and he slapped Nal on the back, making her jump.

Ian didn’t give his charges too much time to develop introspective moroseness that would demand another round and declared it was getting late and they had a fair walk ahead of ‘em yet.

As they were crossing the small drawbridge, Lo stayed behind to speak to the guard detail. He gave them each enough coin for a couple of rounds at the inn and was rewarded with some slaps on the back and cheers. Then in a vibrant voice he wished them a wonderful end of the day and a safe, healthy, prosperous and long life. They received his words as if they had been gifts, realizing that there was more than words in the blessing. They waved sheepishly then, thinking this was no ordinary man. They all sensed that their entire lives ahead of them had been magically blessed and the words would prove true.

Entering his speed lope he soon caught up to the group and immediately noticed that Deanna was gone and Nal was carrying her clothes.

“So she’s gone back to her wolf then? How did she manage to take off her clothes without upsetting the group?”

“We slipped into the ‘by woods to do that. She’ll inner nudge me when she needs ‘em again.”

“Let me strap those to my pack then, Nal, so you keep your hands free. It may seem silly here but remember that ultimately we are always alone, working singly, and must always think thus. Never rely on anyone else to take the point, or protect. Let them if they want to but don’t ask it nor expect it and I repeat, never rely on it.

“Keep your hands, arms and legs free at all times and your weapons handy.”

“Truly sorry, I temporarily forgot. Too much on m’mind an’ don’t push me, MacDunit.”

“Indeed I’ll endeavour not to, Miss McBanish.”

They laughed, hugged fiercely and kissed again.

Don’t look at me like that and I heard that snort. Look, I’m just writing it the way I see it. And remember, they’ve been apart for thousands of years, how do you think you would act if you suddenly found yourself back in the arms and love of a lover you knew was dead and you hadn’t seen for, say, twenty thousand years? Would you say,

“What? You again?” or

“I really wasn’t expecting you back this soon.” or

“I hadn’t planned on this; I have a life now.” or

“Things getting too boring for you, decided to come back?”

Right, I didn’t think so. More likely there would be sparks, maybe a flame, and hugging and kissing would just be the breeze that sets everything on fire. So put up with the hugging and kissing and let me go on with the story, which by the way is turning out pretty good, in my opinion, if I’m allowed to have one.

 

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff -Part I – Chapter 18

 I was going to reblog a couple of worthy posts I have read the last couple of days but, like rush hour traffic, it seems that blogs can only accommodate so much. So I’m being selfish and posting my own stuff today. I know there are some people reading this developing tale with interest and I don’t want to make them wait any longer than necessary. Enjoy this chapter. More to come!


The gold rings; Deanna spies on the Betrayers some more

A dark cloud soon rose again over Giles’ innocent hopes. Ian MacGruder called a general meeting after their noonday meal to discuss Nal and Lo’s upcoming wedding in Glowmere kirk. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he brought out two small blue linen pouches and gave them to Lo.

“Well open ‘em mon, open ‘em!”

The assembly cheered when they saw two smooth, plain, gleaming gold rings, a man’s and another so small it would fit a small girl’s finger. The rings fit perfectly and Nal wondered how they’d managed to get her size without her knowledge. She looked at Lo and he winked.

“Old trick Nal. I twisted a grass stem around your finger to size it while you were sleeping and gave the grass ring to Ian. We did the same for my finger, then in the following adventures I forgot all about the rings. Now Ian, what do we owe ye for such beautiful rings?”

“I fear the cost is quite high Lo. I demand the right to walk this lass down the aisle in exchange for the rings.”

“Oh Ian, you wonderful, wonderful man,” exclaimed Nal throwing her arms as far as they could reach around the large man’s midriff, “ye do me such an honour… such an honour…” and once again she found herself crying freely, unashamed, tears flowing from her eyes and running down her face. “Such friends, such good friends I have met here; I will be so loathe to leave.”

“Come lass, we won’t speak o’ leavin’ yet, one day havin’ enough trouble of its own. Now lydies o’ the house, this girl is in need of some sort of weddin’ accoutrements as I heard such called by an English gentleman when I was tradin’ in the south. No girl is so pretty that she can’t be made even prettier an’ a weddin’s the time for that. Jen ‘n I are agreed to  take care o’ the costs, so have at it lydies, have at it.”

Poor Giles was devastated on hearing about the wedding. Though he knew it had been mentioned before there was always the hope that Nal would choose him over Lo, him a property man and all. What did Lo have to offer her? But then, thinking of himself as of the truly noble sort, he squared his boyish shoulders and entered a realm of lofty thoughts befitting a true knight.

‘I shall become a knight and I shall go with her as her champion, though never mine yet always in my sight. I shall give myself to the worship of her and save her from her enemies, that I shall and my eternally broken heart shall be the token of my love for her.’

He went about his chores imagining scenes of mortal combat where he charged into the fray on a big white war horse, slashed through the enemy as blow after blow fell upon his helmet, his armour, his shield. He saw himself fighting and holding off the evil knight who had unhorsed her and would have taken her, and giving him the mortal blow. Bending down, he grabbed her and swung her across the war horse in front of his saddle, once more slashing his way through the press of men at arms and screaming wounded horses, his sword awash with the blood of the enemy…

The chores were completed in record time but his daydream, that was just beginning.

The next day, Nal having been measured for her wedding ‘accoutrements’ and having had quite enough of the fussing and comments on her diminutive size, her unusual tone and satiny smoothness of skin, her straight black hair and almond eyes, it was decided by MacGruder that he, his woman Jen, their grown daughter Genti, Nal, and Lo would walk down to Glowmere, visit with the priest and arrange for the time of the wedding ceremony and settle the costs.

“I thought o’ invitin’ the priest to the cottage to perform the ceremony but then I thought better of it. We’ll have the proper ceremony the Church demands, aye, but we’ll return here to our own an’ then we’ll have our ceremony as performed by our ancestors. We are goin’ t’ have a full pagan weddin’ ceremony right here with our own daughter priestess o’ the clans presidin’ an we don’t want any meddlin’ crow from the Church in it. The walk back from the Glowmere ceremony ‘ll do us all good, put some appetite in us by t’gods! What do ye all say to that?”

Lo spoke first,

“I like the idea immensely.”

Nal added,

“Yes that is a famous idea. Let us be pagan; let us experience the wild abandon of the old traditions!”

They set out from the cottage with a proper retinue of
“arms-men.” These consisted of the shepherds, Giles whom wild horses could not have kept out of this, Lil’ Cos and the the head man Cedric – all of whom were readily available as the sheep were safely in their pens and the two pit bulls on duty.

Guy was chosen to remain at the cottage to finish some needed chores, help the women in whatever they needed done in preparations for the coming ceremony and to pacify the nervous pit bulls who had been smelling the presence of both wolf and werewolf.

As they were crossing the lower field taking the usual shortcut to the village road, Deanna emerged from the woods, properly dressed though flushed with excitement and her hair in a toss of wild disarray.

She and Nal threw themselves in each others’ arms, kissed shamelessly under the intrigued but approving gaze of MacGruder and his male armed retinue and Deanna said,

“If I may join in? Wolf and I got your message Lo. Wolf will escort us as well, just in case, but we’re quite certain there is no danger. We tracked a couple of poachers yesterday but took care of putting the fear of Satan in them. We left them alive, they were not the murderous or raping kind, just beggar thieves, but they won’t be seen in these parts ever again, and the stories they tell will ensure none should venture this way at least for the duration of winter. In case anyone wonders, we did hunt down some hares to give them so they wouldn’t starve in the woods.”

“Well done Deanna,” replied MacGruder with a raised fist for emphasis. “On we go then.” With Giles close by and nurturing a pain-filled jealousy, Ian took Nal’s hand and led her over the ladder built into the fence and down the path to the village. Holding back, Lo and Deanna engaged a long and serious talk using strictly the inner language.

‘I taught wolf to speak the human tongue Lo. At first he could only do it in his werewolf form but now he can manage it any time. Very difficult for him but a very effective tool for deception. He can also project severe abdominal pain to an enemy without being seen so when the enemy is doubled over, he can pounce on him. We tried it on the poachers and yes, it works. My own power of projection has grown too. With one hand in Wolf’s mane I can project a force that can topple over a cliff if I so desired. We tested that effect far from here in a wilderness where the collapse would not cause hardship to those we stand guard for. I can collapse defences, walls, buildings and also set fires from at least a quarter mile distance. I could demonstrate when we reach the village if you want to see.’

‘Oh, no thank you Deanna, that won’t be necessary, I believe you.’

He wondered how far she’d gone from human now that she saw nothing amiss about setting some house on fire or destroying fortifications “as a demonstration” just when their group was entering the village.

‘Cause and effect, Deanna: can you see how such activities would turn the whole village against us? That we would be immediately blamed for the events and labelled sorcerers?’

‘It would? Ah, yes, of course I suppose it would. What about Nal? Has she demonstrated new powers to use against our enemies?’

‘Nal has been busy in many ways. She has taught some swordsmanship to our armed guard here and I’ve done some sparring with the staffs with her myself. She is greatly improving but remembering her full Alaya self is taking its toll. She still gets tired easily, requiring almost five or six hours of sleep every night. She is still much too human but growing and remembering. How long can you remain shape-shifted into the she-wolf before you can no longer change back, or is there a limit?’

‘I think there might be a limit unless I develop some other method of shape-shifting. It was very difficult to leave this time and putting clothes on, why I could hardly remember how to do it. All I remembered was Nal insisting I do it, so I did. At first I was almost blind and when I tried to stand, I fell against wolf to gain my balance. Walking on two legs is so irritatingly clumsy and energy consuming! Good thing I did not know about any of what I do now when I was growing up in Torglynn or I would have gone insane with longing and frustration.’

‘Critical point, can you use your combined Human, Elven, Alaya powers when you are shape-shifted into the she-wolf? Can you be the powerful wizard in any shape, or state of mind, Deanna?’

‘I know I can project the tear-up and fire energy, using my nose and ears to focus and I can sense unusual forces from great distances. I have been guardedly following the movements of our enemies to the south in, what did you call that land?’

‘I figured you meant the land of France.’

‘Yes, that land beyond a narrow sea? They’ve been involved in wars and there has been problems between the sorcerers, they ended up on opposite sides and there’s a stalemate in a main battle involving a large castle. There were canons brought to bear but your Tel’Madan wizard knows how to muzzle them and cause them to explode when fired. If we could be there now, we would take them individually and destroy them!’

‘Beware, Deanna. It’s a trick. They know someone’s been tracking them and this is a very complex but obvious trap. They want whomever to fall for their apparent disunity. That would never happen, particularly knowing of the rise of one or more Alaya in the world. They’re baiting while recouping their energies and planning.

‘Good that you tracked them in your she-wolf form rather than your human one. If they can sense that, they will be confused and wary. Any confusion will weaken them, not knowing what to expect. They must be aware now that their long years of unopposed evil are ending and they are going to have to fight to hold on to their power. They don’t have any problem sending hundreds of thousands to their death in their endlessly manufactured power wars but it’s been a long time since they had to personally fight against an enemy.

‘Long ago they killed nine of us, including their own wives because these refused to join in their evil deeds and plans for this world. After that, except for my rather pathetic ventures and overtures to them they’ve had no one of consequence to worry about. That is all about to change.’

Deanna continued with the inner language conversation,

‘But since you and Nal are mates from before, why go through this human wedding ceremony? I don’t see a point to it.’

‘There are good reasons. One is to defuse some of the suspicions that may arise from the local representatives of the Church. They are sure to sense that not everything is as it seems with us. We do this also for the people, to let them know that we are with them, though we be different. The other is to demonstrate to Nal’s previous close male friends and hopefuls that she is indeed in a marriage relationship, thus preventing at least some heartbreaks and possible hotheaded challenges.

‘But the greatest reason is, I sense an alignment taking place, an ordained shuffling of forces, a great alliance never before seen to bring men, women, Elves, Alaya, Alay and the wolf clans together to destroy a great evil. We have more, much more to organize and bring about before we engage the final part of our mutual quest, but the pieces are coming together. Soon the board will be set and the game will begin in earnest.’

‘Will we have to cross that sea to challenge the sorcerers, or will they come to us on this land?’

‘We must find a way to bring them here and ensnare them. They have built too much of a force on the mainland; too many blinded and willing to die for them. We neither can take so many on, nor do we want this to turn into a long drawn-out bloodbath. We don’t want a war so we must endeavour to keep the numbers small on both sides and settle it quickly, ideally in a day or two. We will guardedly thought-touch them and dare them to meet us in the wilds to the south of here.’

Thus they exchanged information and finally reached the outskirts of Glowmere. They were challenged by a rag-tag but suspicious retinue of a dozen guards. Ian and his lady greeted them loudly and being recognized as neighbours and allies, they and their following were allowed to enter the fortified town.

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I The Calling

(Continuing then with the story…)

Chapter 17
More history; how Lo came by the sphere

Lo came over to Nal when she entered the large room now filled with people, tables and benches stacked against the far wall, rush lights stuck in sconces burning in their holders all around, casting a warm glow on happy, sweating bodies.

“Come with me to the butchering room, I need to talk where no one will intrude on us.” They entered the cold, rancid room and bolted the door.

“I heard you Nal but I chose not to intrude on your sorrow, it is how it is with us. We are not like the humans who feel a need to run to a lover or a friend for support in times of personal inner turmoil. For us as you will remember, it is necessary to withdraw, find a place alone, and work out the problem until it is eliminated, as it must be. Unlike humans who can carry such as grief, sorrow, sense of loss, anger, hate or their sensuous loves for years, even for an entire life, we clear our minds of such things, constantly refreshing ourselves. Only our goal, purpose and quest remains a constant reminder that we are forever moving, forever changing, forever self empowered. If we lived as humans we would soon drain each other of all energy and fade away.

“I love you from purpose, not from feeling or need though of course there is deep feeling in it, but as a result, not a cause. My vow to destroy the Betrayers is also purpose driven and goal oriented. I follow a vision of perhaps removing a great evil from this world so it may have a chance of, how do I put that, evolving itself, of changing also for the betterment of all. You would suppose that after all the millennia of wandering this world, observing its ways and doing whatever in my power to make significant changes with so little if any results, would have put me off my purpose but it hasn’t. It is not how we are made.

“You will remember eventually of those times when we were young in spirit and we volunteered for this assignment. How we applied ourselves to the study of alien worlds, to understand the mindset behind a world’s mental, emotional and physical change, or evolution. How carefully we chose the forms we would inhabit on this world. We planned so carefully! We were so naive, Nal. When we arrived here all our plans were useless. That is because we were the first and there was only intellectual knowledge of earth in our databases we relied on. We knew the biology, the physics. We knew size, land to water ratios, weather patterns, seasons, temperatures. We knew about the basic races of its human life and the violence we came here to tame and in time bring to an end. We knew the number of people already on this world.

“What we did not know; what our own teachers could not give us, is an intuitive awareness of evil. It came at us with such force it overwhelmed us. It seemed the indigenous life was more or less adapted to it and accepted the horrible trade-offs of their situation. Well, it appeared at first it had no other choice.

 

“But we could not accept it; our natures rejected the concept of evil and we were stymied over and over in our efforts. We would teach and demonstrate and give lessons and for a short time some of the people would grasp the concept of peace and compassionate interaction but within a few years these people were overwhelmed in turn and often martyred for their beliefs.

“We learned two things: that the humans could accept new, non-traditional ways of doing things and begin acting in such new ways but that there was a programming running here that kept a violent, predatory status quo operating. This programming came from a source similar to our own, a powerful energy or group of beings not of earth, controlling its sentient life through its feelings, its hopes and desires; its thoughts and emotions.

“We had no defence against evil, no mental armour against it, no mental or spiritual immune system to draw upon. We were naked to its attacks and it infiltrated us. The rest you know, and here we are, again, thinking that logically we should be able to defeat this force. First though, we must destroy the Betrayers so we can then apply what we have learned up to this time to discover the source of this evil that is eating this world. You were thinking about why we are here, why try to intervene, and when will it end, some time back?

“I believe it will end soon after the Betrayers are defeated. We will be recalled to give an account of what befell here. Do not fear this great evil we are about to confront, nor the losses of friends through death or necessary separation. Remember the lesson of detachment we had to learn when we had to spend so many long years apart from each other on opposite sides of this planet. Much of your power is tied to the effect of detachment. If you care personally for someone, that caring will weaken your powers. It will cause fear and doubt.

“When we encounter the Betrayers, we must work together but only as if we were alone. Each will bring in his or her skills to bear independently. They will not expect that because they have been corrupted and have fallen victims to the false earth belief that in the many resides the more power. That seems to be the case but it is a massive lie. The many produce less usable personal energy because on one hand the collective takes from the individual to maintain itself and on the other hand the individual is less likely to rely on himself, seeking empowerment from the collective, from the hope that the power that was taken from him is increased when turned into group power.

“You see how subtly debilitating that is? A percentage of energy is stolen from the individual to maintain the collective but of course the collective cannot give back as much energy to the individual when it needs it to fight for it, or to support it because it needs a large percentage of that stolen energy just to maintain itself and its supporting apparatus. It’s a net loss all around and the greater the collective, the more entropy or energy loss is created.

“Conclusion: the collective, any collective is less stable than the individual; more prone to corruption and unlike the individual who can change through self-sacrifice and personal empowerment, the collective that becomes corrupt cannot, ever, be cured. Its purpose is not to serve but to maintain itself and increase its own power. The result is simple: though it eats more and more of its supportive energies, it becomes incrementally weaker, unsteady, reprobate then collapses into a myriad of separate parts. What the people of this world fail to see is that none of the personal energies poured into the collective, the organization or group, can ever be recovered. All of it is lost forever, to man, to nature, to the world and to the concept we Alas call Life. That is what our teachers called entropy.’

“Ah, Lo, yes of course I understand it now. I sincerely thank you for this lesson; for reminding me of things we used to discuss. But what about Deanna and her werewolf? There is attachment there, surely?”

“I am no expert on those races Nal. An Elven maiden shapeshifter and a Werewolf, also shapeshifter, that is something new for me to have encountered. Thanks to my ignorance in this matter I am obliged to not interfere in that relationship. Those people have their own ways; their own powers which are quite effective. I think their “attachment” has a different interpretation than what I put on the analogous human interaction since they lack human feelings and emotions. Let me tell it to you this way, Nal: I sense a kind of innocence at play in them, but for all that, focused and deadly. Contrary to human collectives, their community, be it of two or more, is empowering to them, not dis-empowering or disruptive and draining of personal power.

“Like us they possess a power that does not belong to this world, but theirs is quite different from ours. I sense they were sent to us, that we are not alone to face the coming trial. I also sense we are about to learn much, not only from Wolf and Deanna but from our human friends, particularly a couple of young shepherds, one of whom seems to have disappeared, and from the girl-woman Genti who was introduced to us as a priestess of the old ways.”

The celebration or festivities were drawing to a close when they returned to the main room. They were greeted enthusiastically, Nal hugged by the men, particularly the younger ones, Lo clapped on the back or given the powerful handshake. There was happiness here, and acceptance of something the people had long needed, something that had been taken from them so cruelly in the endless wars of conquest and debilitating retaliations. Any conquered indigenous people know what this is saying.

It was close on to midnight when Nal and Lo were finally able to retire to their upstairs bedroom and enjoy some privacy. Neither had had much time to enjoy the food and Nal particularly felt the emptiness in her stomach but chose to focus on the happiness of being alone and together with Lo. ‘My husband of forever’ she thought and smiled as she undressed and slipped in the hard bed. “Lo? Are you joining me?”

Lo, being of the full Alay did not have the same needs as those of earth. He could go days without eating or sleeping, able to override the demands of a physical body. He motioned to Nal that he would be with her presently, opened their window shutters and listened to the world. Predictably from the distant woods came the call of the Werewolf followed by that of his mate. He sent a quick thought of the inner language that could not be read by the Betrayers for it did not carry beyond a few miles:

‘So, all is well out there?’ He caught a touch of a mind message from the Werewolf: ‘We greet. All well.’

Lo decided it was time to introduce Nal to his sphere. He called Nal to join him at the window which she did though yawning and hugging her naked body with her arms. He opened his great coat and she slipped into it, leaning against him, waiting for whatever he wanted to show her.

He opened his hand to show her the small white sphere he held, barely visible in the darkness. She reached for it but he caught her wrist and held back her hand.

“If you touched it, it would hurt you. You have not been introduced yet so it would take you to be someone intent on controlling or harming it. This is one of those instruments we used in our training before we came here – soon you will remember. We were not allowed to bring them here but one of the Betrayers did. You remember Tel’Madan don’t you? Remember how over time he changed towards us, becoming secretive? Remember his inappropriate, even lurid advances towards you in front of his own partner Miriel who was your closest friend among the Alaya? He possessed this sphere and used it to access information we could not know about, or have. He learned about power over rather than power for, from this very thing.

“Long after everyone had been killed and I was the only one left to counter the Betrayers’ evil, I met with Tel’Madan in a neutral space, on a trireme in the Mediterranean sea. We had both agreed to hire on as sailors and to discuss our impasse. We were sitting in the prow, wary of each other, talking low. Then he said something disgusting about you, how they had enjoyed taking turns raping and torturing you before they killed you. The malice in his voice was so intense I knew then I’d never be able to speak to him of the times before. This was pure evil. Then he made one mistake: he showed me the sphere he had stolen and brought with him to earth.

“In one swift move, I was always the fastest of us, I grabbed for it and jumped overboard, diving deep, inducing a trance that put my body to sleep, not even a heartbeat to locate. I remained under water until dark came, then I surfaced slowly. There was no sign of the trireme or any other ship so I floated, waiting, pondering. I had put the sphere in a pocket and now I carefully reached for it, remembering the burning pain I received when I grabbed it.

“We were familiar with these devices, though you may not remember. Each was programmed to one person only. This one however had been mucked with, probably shared between the two Betrayers so it was a bit flexible, its security having been compromised. I engaged it with my fingers closing in on it slowly. I confused it and finally took it in my hand and closed my hand on it as we used to do. At first there was no response and I didn’t mind, glad that I had removed one important weapon from our enemies. With nothing else to do but floating with the waves and feeling the great sea all around, I kept focusing on the sphere, asking my questions. Finally it responded. It threw out a weak light in answer to some of my questions, turned dark and refused to answer others.

“How were you rescued from the sea?”

“A trader sailed close enough I was able to grab a rope dangling from the side and in the cover of night, climb aboard and hide until they reached port. Disguised as a sailor I grabbed some bundles and followed the others onto the quay, dropped my bundles and disappeared in the crowds.

“But about the sphere, I’ve had over a thousand earth years to reprogram it to my own touch and mind; to make it my own. It has served me well.

“Now I wish to make it accept you as the only other who may hold it.”

“Could we not just make a duplicate for myself?”

“I doubt it. If it could have been done the Betrayers certainly would have done so.”

“Thanks for showing it to me Lo but I’m too tired to deal with that now. Come to bed?”

He mentally locked the device, put it back in its hiding place and followed his wife to bed. She was tired but still she turned to him for the sex. She had always possessed a powerful need for it and he certainly did not mind accommodating that need.

Morning came, bright and sunny, a typical harbinger of spring when hope for an end of winter rises.

There was no sign of Deanna or her Werewolf. Lo and Nal found many things to do around the cottage and barns, repairing, reinforcing, feeding the animals, enjoying a few moments of normal earth life on a farm. The shepherd boy Giles found endless numbers of excuses for leading or following Nal about the yards, explaining things that she did not need explaining and proudly introducing her to his own pig, “Rumpf.”

“I saved his life when he was just a piglet and a fox had grabbed him. With his burden the fox couldn’t run as fast as usual and I was able to catch him and beat him with a stick to make him abandon his prize. Master MacGruder was so taken with the story and laughed so hard that he gave it to me. “That’s my pig, Nal” he said proudly. “I own my own animal! I am a man of property.” She acknowledged his pride with a hug that made him feel as if his feet had left the ground. “I’m proud of you, Giles,” she said, then, “and perhaps later you and I can do some sparring, what say you man?”

With his heart thumping so hard and loud he thought she’d hear it he said,

“T’would be my honour to spar with ye, lass!” and thought himself quite the complete man for saying so. Nal smiled and chuckled. She certainly didn’t mind the boy’s attentions and she knew neither would Lo. ‘He’ll learn my boundaries soon enough and his broken heart, if it must be broken, will lead him on to a suitable partner.’

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I – The Calling

(Continuing with the saga in which many thoughts are expressed and many things are learned. This is chapter 16. There are 25 chapters in Part I and 25 more following in Part II. I’m writing this because some of you may want to know how much longer you have to suffer through this, others how much more to expect of a journey and adventure through the unlikely possible, or should I say, the possible unlikely.)

Chapter 16
Return to the Cottage – Introducing Genti

Nothing much had changed at the cottage when the travellers returned after their days on the trail. The barn was partially re-thatched but the rest of the long roof would have to wait another season for grass to be harvested for the thatching. Sheep wandered about or slept in the lower field. Pigs squealed and grunted in their pens. Chicken and geese wandering everywhere presented more of a cacophony. Apart from the noise of the animals reinforcing the fact that things had more or less returned to some normalcy, more logs and branches had been dragged in and stacked in ingenious ways to shed rain and provide dry firewood.

They saw men, women and children about, intent on their various duties or their games.

“Why aren’t they acknowledging our approach?” Asked Deanna.

“I’ve cloaked us in a semi invisible veil. I want to test how close the three of us can get to them before they notice us. Advance silently and quietly.”

They were almost among the people and still no one noticed, not even the dogs. A young boy lobbed a rough-sewn pig skin ball and Lo reached for it and held it in the air. The children stopped running and stared at their ball stationary in the air. One girl screamed and the adults turned to see what was the matter. Lo dropped the ball and gradually made the three of them visible.

Children, women, men, all stared at the three travellers mouth agape. Lo addressed them and explained.

“As you probably already suspected, and talked about among yourselves, we are more than we at first appeared. I used this little trick to prove the point, beyond our fighting abilities and speed which you have observed and wondered about. All three of us are in fact wizards or sorcerers as you will. We are of those who fight for what is right, good and just whereas there be some of us who work on the opposite side of it. Now let me reintroduce ourselves to all of you if you would call out anyone near enough to join.”

They waited while the people of the cottage were assembled to hear what Lo had to say. He could tell they were eager for this revelation, very eager, but perhaps not as much as the priest in Glowmere would be if ever appraised of this. Would there still be a wedding or would that change to a public execution by burning?

The people being assembled and Ian MacGruder having nodded his assent, Lo explained.

“Some of you remember the old tales about certain wizards called the Alas, do you not?”

There were nods and “Aye, there be stories still told of such!” from some of the older people.

“Two of us here are of these. I am the ancient Alay Lotharic, hence my nickname, Lo. This woman is the ancient Alaya called Nah’La and is my bound and eternal wife, as I am her bound and eternal husband. Together now after a very long time apart, we seek out two evil wizards we have dubbed  the Betrayers that we may destroy them before they do more damage here, or cause more wars and plagues.

“This third member of our group, this young woman, calls herself Deanna. She is of the Elven race and possesses powers similar to ours and some that are quite, how shall I say it, unique. She met with us and joined us when we went down to that fortified village that is called Torglynn. She has voluntarily chosen to join our quest and to fight for the defeat of the Betrayers.

“That is basically the long and short of it. We intend, if it pleases you, to stay with you for a few more days during which we will discuss our strategy and learn more about each other and our combined powers. There is another powerful member of this group but he prefers to remain anonymous and unseen. You will however hear him howling in the night when he turns himself into a werewolf. I say this because should any of you encounter him you need have no fear and he will be able to speak to you. As long as he is nearby, allowed to roam freely and no attempt made to molest him, you and your animals are fully protected from either man or beast.

“If for reasons of your own you wish to meet with this person, Deanna will lead you to him. Be aware that if your intent is treacherous, all of us including the werewolf can read your thoughts. If the wolf senses betrayal he will kill instantly, without qualms or remorse. The same is true of the woman, Deanna, for she and the Wolf have a bond that only the Elven people and the Wolf Clans can understand.

“I leave you to think upon these revelations. Realize that I have just taken you back into your old memories, traditions and ways. Remember what you once were before you were enslaved by these new ways, by the new Roman God and his violent religion of conquest and enslavement. Remember and perhaps you may regain some of the pride in what you once were.

“If you wish, you may appraise your village priest of our presence. If he is wise, he’ll do nothing about it. If he is as ignorant as most are, and I suspect he is, he will seek to do us great harm in which case the harm will go to him and those who side with him and try to harm us. If our lives are threatened, know that we will fight and kill those who attack us, however many there be. Would you mind giving a little demonstration, Deanna?”

The young woman looked over the rag-tag group with her flashing green eyes, tossed her hair back, raised her arm and pointed at a large stone near a line of trees that defined the edge of the common yard. The stone measures in the neighbourhood of eight feet in diameter, and partially rose from the ground to the  height of a man. She opened her hand palm out. Two heartbeats and the stone violently shattered, it’s debris scattered over an area of several hundred feet, leaving a hole waist deep to a man in the ground.

A collective gasp escaped from many open mouths accompanied by silence. Looks of confusion, of fear and of certain admiration if not actual worship were turned to the three wizards. It was Nal who broke the spell.

“All right, all right! Look folks, I’m still Beanna here. I’m your friend, not a stranger. These things that have come to pass, I knew nothing of them when I lived with you some months past. I thought myself an ordinary lass then and except for my skin tone, my dark almond eyes, black hair and small size compared to you, I would have been the same as you. That hasn’t changed. My powers are not meant for any of you, though I do have a new ability to heal, as does Deanna. This we will do while we are with you. Bring us your sick, your lame, those who have chronic pain and I will heal them, I mean we will heal them. Now, we be starving after so long on the trail, is there food available?”

There was cheering at that. MacGruder came over to Nal and grabbing her, hugged her in his powerful embrace. After releasing her he said,

“Aye lassie, ye and yo’re companions air welcome among us. No one will tell the priest anything I swear, we hold our secrets well in these parts, o’ necessity. Ye were not braggin’ about the healin’ then? ‘Tis true you can do this?”

“Aye sir, we can, and we will.”

“Please call me Ian. An’ I forgive ye fer the meddlin’ in my affairs afore ye left. What ye said needed sayin’. There be new weapons being forged from those we took from our attackers an’ I understand the need for ‘em. I thank ye, lass.”

Nal could not reply. She was choking and tears gushed from her eyes. Apart from her mother, Lo and Deanna, she had known so little kindness or respect through her short years that any amount overwhelmed her. MacGruder noticed and added,

“Ye be a fine girl, Beanna. If ye be half as much a wizard as ye are a good woman, this world owes ye a great debt o’ gratitude already and will owe ye much more. Come, let’s find ye some food.”

He took her small hand in his huge one and led her into the dining area where many had already gathered and were standing and sitting, or busy serving. Lo was on a long bench with several men discussing who knows what and Deanna was engaged in what certainly seemed to be a very serious talk with two tall strangers. A tall young blonde woman was sitting quietly and primly next to the lady of the house. The food came her way and she decided her hunger took priority. She waited for a perfunctory grace to be said then fell to.

The meal was boisterous as such things go but most of the conversation was of the common sort. People’s health, the animals, the weather and in that respect much about the powerful storm that had passed so violently and quickly to the south, bringing lighting and thunder, a thing seldom seen in winter. Several looks were cast at the travellers at the mention of the storm but these said nothing more than acquiesce to the general consensus, that it was unusual.

When the meal was over, Ian MacGruder asked the travellers to join him in a separate and private part of the house.

“First then, I wish to acquaint ye with me own daughter just returned to us from the north where she attended a special kind o’ training place for some chosen young women o’ the clans.”

The tall, slim and quite blonde young woman entered the room accompanied by her mother, Jen and solemnly bowed to Lo and Nal but said nothing, just straightening up and standing as still as if she’d been a guardsman on parade duty.

“This here is Genti, our daughter of whom we are beyond proud. She has been training in secret to become a priestess against the edicts of the Church. Despite the dangers, she chose to enter into this vocation, stating that she did not want to see our old ways die while she could do something about it. Genti is a strong and very disciplined woman who has twice refused a very good match in order to pursue her vocation. I’ll not say more but leave the rest of her story for her and her mother to tell.

“Now I wish to discuss the matter of the healin’ ye said ye could perform on our people and that ye would. We be in serious need of this gift. Is there some particular procedure ye need done for this?”

Nal answered, “No Ian, just take us where we are needed and we will do what we do. I will go with someone you choose. Deanna, will you go along with someone else that we may double up on our efforts for our time may be short?”

“Certainly I will do that. Someone lead me on.”

It was Genti who spoke, in a low but penetrating voice,

“If I may an’ it please ye, I would accompany ye to t’ sick, m’lady.” She said to Deanna.

Though the words spoke of a deep humility they could not hide the power and authority in them.

That is the “healing time” that would be talked about for long years thereafter when a greater, more eventful thing took place at the MacGruders and surroundings of the cottage than had been the cowardly attack that had killed three of their people. The story would also speak of how a daughter of the clans became a great healer in that time.

Sick, lame, those hurt or maimed in accidents, all were cured, including one young man of eighteen summers who had never been quite right in his head and a blind child of three summers who received her sight.

We often speak of how joyful people are when they are delivered from an enemy, when a war is won and the fighters return home in victory. But nothing can surpass the joy of those who receive their people cured from terrible diseases for which they thought there would never be a cure.

Imagine the joy of that mother of the three year old blind child, to realize her child could see after the Glowmere village priest had accused her and her child of having sin in their lives and pronounced the child’s blindness as a just punishment from God.

Imagine if you can the relief also from the many who were dirt poor, when they discovered that the wizards would take no payment, either in gold or in kind, for their healing services. Yes, it was a time of great rejoicing at the cottage that led to three days of feasting, music and dancing.

When the celebrations began and it looked as if they would go on for some time, Deanna confessed to Nal that she longed to join up with Wolf whose lonely calls she had been faithfully following.

“I need to go to him and run with him. I want to find out what he has learned and done about his own powers and how he can help us since he insists on coming along with us. Of course, he would never leave me.”

“Go then Deanna. You’ve done a great service to all now and it’s time for you to enjoy your own life. Talk to me when you are ready to rejoin us. Now listen, you can’t just shuck your clothes here for me to look after and walk away. You’ll need to find a dry place to hide them and you’ll need to wear them when you return. You will remember the human taboos on nakedness, will you not?”

“I will try. It’s silly but it is their law. Warn me when the festivities are coming to an end and I will return.”

Hidden from any prying eye, Nal and Deanna hugged each other and kissed passionately, chests heaving with desire for each other.

“Go, go before we do more. I know you cannot regret but I might and I don’t want to. I love you and you know that. All of us are caught in our own love triangles with you as the fulcrum and it is a terrible burden but I feel it has its purpose and that will be revealed to us soon. Go, find your mate and play. I return to Lo and the things of men and women and wizards while you deal with those of wolves and elves and wizards. Ah, what a motley bunch we are.”

Reluctantly she turned and walked away, back towards the cottage. When she turned, Deanna had disappeared. She scanned the sloping land and saw the large black werewolf and his huge light grey mate running across an open area then plunging into the woods. Then came the distinct calls as both went about performing their territory claiming rituals. Nal felt her heart grow heavy and began to doubt that Deanna would ever return to her as a human being, if at all.

‘I am being a foolish girl, letting love confuse my thoughts. I must be to the things that now concern us most, to the great confrontation that awaits us.

‘O, Lo, I fear for us. Perhaps it’s because of what happened to me before that I harbour this fear, but it is in me. The fear of unavoidable pain and of death. I feel it coming, Lo.’

Did he hear her thoughts? Did he sense her loneliness and emptiness? There was no response from him as she walked slowly and deliberately back to the feast. She heard the music, then the laughter. Night once again began to claim his rightful share of time and Nal stopped to watch as the huge fire lit as a welcome beacon threw its baleful glare up the walls of the great stone building, drawing portentous shapes upon them.

‘Fire’ she thought. ‘Fire, I have seen so many fires already, too many and their colour drains me of life.’

 

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I The Calling

[I know, it’s been days since I posted a section from the fantasy novel. They’ll come a bit faster now as the novel at approximately 300pp, is essentially finished. I’ve got enough material swirling around in my mind for at least an entire sequel but for now, it’s going to be “the big edit” for a day or so.  I still need to design a cover, then learn how to publish on “Smash Words” I think it’s called. Meanwhile, enjoy. If you’ve lost the thread,  previous sections are here on the blog. Enjoy! Feel free to comment, ask questions, point out discrepancies, whatever!]


Start section 15 (fifteen)

They played with each other for a while then remembering their quest, went galloping down the trail in search of Lo’s scent. The trail was wet and very slippery and in places cut through with rivulets created by the mega storm that would now be but a memory if not for the many broken branches and dislodged stones that lay across the trail. They hardly paid that any mind, intent on their quarry and the pleasant sense of their togetherness and the thrill of the night hunt.

After a two hour run which to them was nothing but a short romp they smelled Lo. Crouching, moving forward silently, they inched up on his hiding place and shelter. They listened and sniffed. He breathed normally and the accompanying packs indicated that his journey had been a success. The wolves backed away and silently retraced some of their steps up the trail until they saw a shooting star across the skies. Normally the wolf wanted a moon to howl at but it was the she-wolf who stopped and began to howl, then yap, then howl again. This was her first night and she was laying claim to her hunting territory and pity any other hunter who disregarded her warning. Wolf gave his own guttural howl as an additional warning. At those sounds all night noises fell silent except the cascading tumbles of storm-fed streams.

They touched noses and leaving the trail plunged eagerly into the broken countryside, simply to enjoy their freedom and the wilderness that was theirs this night. At critical points in their apparent rambling, both Wolf and his mate left scented signals of their passage. ‘You may pass through here but you may not hunt without our permission’ is what it meant. Their signalling would be strictly obeyed and they knew it. It was the law.

Some time later a hare shrieked, then another. Sated then, the wolves continued to explore their territory, once in a while bumping playfully into one another then chasing each other over rocks, streams and fallen trees. They breathed deeply of the night air full of animal joy until the time came to return to the cave and each transform back to their previous state.

Nal was already up and standing outside the cave when she saw the two wolves emerge from the shrubbery. She saw the monster black werewolf with a mane that made him look twice the size he normally was and the sleek light-grey she-wolf trotting lightly beside him, playfully nibbling at his ear. Some moments later Deanna rose from behind a boulder, stunning in her human nakedness and fullness of life while the grey wolf, turning his head but once trotted away to disappear behind a talus.

“Good morning, Nal! How are you today?”

Nal noticed a strange animal scent on Deanna, and her hair spread wild and disarrayed but nevertheless extremely attractive, giving her an animal sensuousness. She reached for the tall girl and encircled her waist, then stood on tiptoe, raised her face to hers and kissed her to share in her wildness. She knew this was a rare moment and such would end much too soon. Plus she missed Lo and was now confused by her feelings, something she had not been a couple of days before. Deanna took her in her own arms and lifting her off the ground, held her up to kiss her also. There was no fear, no shame, nothing to indicate that any of this was in the very least unusual.

‘Go with it, flow with it’ thought Nal. That made it all right and she knew that Deanna or whomever this creature now was, would never again experience any of the deep human sensations of love, shame, sorrow or regret. For the woman she-wolf Elven sorceress was now but imitating human likeness and human feelings; they did not belong to her any longer.

“Would you care to get dressed, Deanna?”

“Dressed? Oh no, thank you. Much too constricting. I’ll wait until Lo arrives, he’s on his way but has quite a load to carry and mostly uphill. Or we could head down and meet him halfway or so and help?”

“Yes, I’d like that. I can’t think straight now anyway and I wouldn’t know what to do. I know I should go hunting but we’ll probably sight something along the trail. I’ll pin something then.”

She stuffed and tightened her pack and weapons and carefully placing them down through the entrance, she slipped through, loaded up, and joined Deanna.

“You’re going to go down naked?”

Deanna had appeared pensive and far away in her mind. “Am I? Oh, yes I will. It’s so much more comfortable this way. Does it matter?”

“Yes, no, I mean fine. I don’t mind. What were you thinking of?”

“It’s selfish. I was following Wolf and thinking about tonight. I’m rather between worlds, Nal and today will be a difficult day for me to focus on anything. I’ll get better at it, I promise. Just give me a few days to adapt. From this vantage, it’s a big revelation I’ve just received and a big step I have taken.”

“That has to be the understatement of the age, girl. From being a normal daughter of a servant woman in a fortified village about to be given in marriage to some lout and no say in it, then captured, raped, tortured and left for dead, to becoming a human Alaya, then discovering she’s after all an alien from a different world, an Elven woman, then deciding to become a shape-shifter to become a she-wolf to roam the wilderness at night with a werewolf of her own creation basically? Hm. ‘Nothing to see here?’ I think there might be. While we’re walking and talking, I need to know, how did you manage to ‘see’ our Betrayers in that far south country?”

“Actually that was very easy. Once I decided that the storm was artificially driven, I focused my projection energies unto its far edge to locate those energies that drove it. I followed those to their source and there were your two very bad people. By the way, did you know they are very ugly? In my opinion anyhow. I watched them so to speak and I could see the sparks of energy that fed the stream that grew and pushed the storm. They were working intensely at that.

“I don’t know anything really about the Alay but I’d say their powers have dwindled, not expanded. What they’ve lost of their natural energy heritage they’ve replace with various aspects of hate, using fear and torture to get information, adherents or sycophants and to drive armies to their death. I didn’t observe them long, I didn’t know at what point they’d notice my energy floating near so I withdrew once I had the information you needed. Plus I’m sorry but I had other things on my mind by then.

Mockingly “Trying to cheer me up again, Deanna?”

Seriously, not catching the drift, “No, I was stating facts. You wanted facts, I gave you facts.”

“I guess my friend and lover Donna is truly lost to me, and also to Lo now, hey?”

“I’m sure I don’t follow. I’m here aren’t I and we are going to meet with Lo and help him with his load? Is it because I’m naked as a human, without my fur that you…”

“Oh, forget it. I’ll find some non-emotional method to communicate with you, she-wolf.”

“I like being called that. Thank you.”

Nal snorted, partly in frustration, partly in disgust and partly in sorrow at the emotional loss of an intimate companion who now chose a wolf to wander with. ‘I guess that’s what comes of mixing worlds. None of us non-Earth aliens should be here; none should have ever been able, or allowed, to come here. We just don’t belong and no matter what choices we make, either nothing will come of it or if something does, it will always go wrong!’

It was in a very down mood that Nal and Deanna encountered Lo. The sight of the naked Deanna, whom he still knew only as Donna, quite surprised Lo.

He looked at the young woman standing in front of him and asked, “Is there something I should know, or someone might wish to tell me?”

Before Nal could make a reply, Deanna said, “What would you like to know, Lo?”

“What’s going on? Why are you naked? Aren’t you cold?”

“Three questions. Many things are going on, as always. I am undressed because I am in my human form and I did not like the tight clothes I had to wear and I can’t be in fur when in human form. I am not cold.”

“Nal, explanation?”

“Oh, Lo. So much has happened in the three days you were gone, I don’t know where to begin. Donna is not Donna. Her name is Deana at the moment, but she is now a shape-shifter and she spends time as a she-wolf roaming the wilderness with another wolf whom she transforms into a werewolf. She accidentally discovered that she is not human either, but a cross over from the Elven worlds and at least her father is an Elf. When we shared Alaya energies, her own Elven nature awakened very abruptly and she developed powers I have never seen.

“Her mind is quite different today, caught up in the wolf world but she thinks she will find a way to re-balance herself. As to clothing, she may, or may not wear any unless forced by circumstances as she is more wolf than human now. I’ll tell you more as we return to the cave, we should keep moving to get there before nightfall.”

Lo gave Deana the clothes and boots he had purchased for her along with her share of the load. He had thoughtfully bought her a trail pack similar to their own, a mid-sized but light sword with a wonderfully flexible blade and a good dagger that was already stuck in its sheath in the left boot – he’d noticed that she favoured her left hand. Deanna tried the boots first and liked them. She tried a shirt and jacket and found she could stretch in them. She was truly thrilled to discover that he’d gotten her a leather kilt rather than pants. How had he known she hated pants? The kilt had a large wide belt that held loops for staff or stick. The sword of course had its own sheath and a body harness to hold it on back or side, so as not to clash with a pack. She put the kilt on and did a lively dance, feeling the freedom it gave her legs.

“Oh, thank you Lo, I can wear these, I can.” She approached him and kissed him lightly. “I do love you, I do. I love all of us. I love this land, this world, everything! I’m in love! Crazy in love, Ah-oooh!” she yelled into the hills to hear them echo her call back to her. “It’s all so wonderful!”

She gave her wolf imitation again and there was a reply from above them. They saw the grey wolf looking down at them and both Nal and Deanna waved at him.

With Lo shaking his head in wonder they stepped lively back up the trail to the cave. The wolf was sitting down in his usual place waiting for them, far enough to be safe if the humans threatened him. With Deanna there however he didn’t feel threatened, just a bit jealous. But night was on the way. He nodded his big head and trotted off.

“So that is your friend, Deanna?”

“He’s my mate, Lo, not my friend. He’s Nal’s friend, she introduced us two days ago and we hit it off. He’s wonderful, so young and alive. Wait ‘til you see his werewolf shape, so big and powerful with eyes that literally glow in the dark. In his werewolf shape he will speak the inner language to you, but not the thought forms. There is no danger of being overheard and he doesn’t say much. We use a very simple and specific language.”

They eagerly set to sharing the new rations, and the story of the storm was told. Lo was filled with gratitude to Deanna for discovering the current whereabouts of the Betrayers as he and Nal called them. That name would stick. Bits and pieces of Deanna’s story came out during the meal and he thanked her also for making the water baskets when he drank from her new one. Then he said to her,

“Before you go off with your wolf mate, could you demonstrate for me your powers of projection? If possible, would you share them with us?”

“I will show you and of course I will share them with you if you are able to absorb them and use them. See?” She stretched her arm, opened her left hand as if she were pushing something and some distance away a pile of rubble exploded in all directions. The large old stump that had held the rubble was gone, vaporized.

“That Deanna is truly impressive. I exhausted and it’s getting dark. You will want to go off with your mate, and I certainly want to spend the night with mine. Tomorrow morning, when you return, can we try the transfer?”

“Yes certainly. Now let me shed my clothes here and I’m gone.”

Nal picked up the pile of clothes, the boots and the pack and while holding them began to cry again. Lo came over to her and held her.

“I think I understand. I feel heavy too, as if we’ve lost her, but it’s a part-time thing. She’ll be with us for a while yet, she will not back down from her promise to help us. But I love her and so do you and this is a heavy loss which of course she cannot feel nor even notice. I gather she no longer shares our feelings and emotions. But girl, we have each other do we not? More for us then!

He picked her up, carried her to the entrance, lifted her through the opening and followed. She placed Deanna’s belongings on one of the many rocks that lay around the cave, stirred the fire and joined Lo in their bed.

The earth turned for the two of them as it had done over millennia and for hundreds of millions of times. Satisfied finally they went into a deep sleep.

They were awakened in the early morning by the naked Deanna whistling as she threw an armful of dry wood into the cave, slipped in and stoked the fire. Nal and Lo got up reluctantly and after standing by the roaring fire for a time while holding each other with their eyes closed so as to feel each other more, finally got dressed along with Deanna.

“I’m sorry but in all the things happening to me, I forgot to give you my little bundle of laurel roots to take to the village. I can’t find them now. The storm must have washed them away.”

“It did not. I remembered and took it with me. Your old friend was very grateful and he says thank you and to make sure you do take good care of yourself. It’s fine, he promised not to tell anyone that you were alive and leaving. ‘Right good move that.’ he said. ‘She’s much too smart a girl to let her heart die in this place. I wish I could be with her, but I wish her well.’ he also said.

After the attempted transfer of energy, and time would tell how well that worked, as they stood and hugged by the fire they decided the cave had served its purpose and to leave that morning, heading the way they’d come back to the cottage. The packing was swift and efficient. Deanna did hers also in record time; they said goodbye, thanking the stones, the land, the waters and the air for according to Deanna it’s how the wolves did it, and they moved on quietly and swiftly with their augmented speed. Once in a while the grey wolf showed himself as if to assure the travellers that they were being watched over and protected. Deanna would raise her hand and wave a certain way and the wolf would nod his head and disappear.

One night and two days on the trail passed without any incidents and they arrived at the cottage late one afternoon as the sky was darkening with clouds again. Deanna had decided to remain human for the entire coming stay at the Cottage, or as she said, at least hoped she could contain herself that long, explaining to Wolf that she would not be shape-shifting and doing any hunting with him for some time. She also warned him to remain carefully hidden for there were wolf hunters and hounds here and she could not protect him.

‘Stay far enough away to be safe but give me the inner talk in my head at night, and let me hear you howl. Try not to be too lonely. Find some friends, play, hunt, enjoy. We will be together forever very soon. Our time here is coming to an end and I will be taking you home where you will be recognized, accepted and loved. Remember also about the ordeal I mentioned and that I will need your help and protection soon. Practice to be your werewolf self. Learn what powers you have and use them. I love you, always.’

The grey wolf did not understand ‘time’ or ‘always’ but it didn’t matter, he understood ‘love’ and that was enough. They touched noses and she held his big paw in her hand then let him go. He vanished, blending in with the low shrubbery.

End of section 15 (fifteen)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff

Part I  – The Calling
Start section 13 (thirteen)

After a short time searching among copses of green wood Donna found what she needed and borrowing Nal’s dagger, she peeled some bark and sat down, nimbly bringing the pieces together into a very neat basket that included a handle made from a flexible branch.

“There, and yes, it will hold the water.”

They walked down to the stream and Nal remembered that she had no rope, it was in Lo’s pack. Oh well. She took off her shirt and with the sleeves stretched, it was just long enough to reach the water as long as she slid head first down the crack between the rocks and Donna held firmly onto her ankles. She brought up a full basket of the clear and sweet liquid and they both drank their fill. Another dip and they had a full container to take back to their cave.

Before she put her shirt back on, Donna remarked, “You have very cute little breasts… I like them.” Nal looked at her, then slowly slipped her shirt back on, while Donna reached and pulled the centre holding thong and tied it. She gave Nal a look that could not be misunderstood.

By the time they returned, Donna’s blisters were completely gone and Nal insisted they continue with her training. Never, thought Donna, had she worked so hard. How do they maintain this in a battle, she wondered, it’s crazy! The same lazy men she encountered daily in the village would go on a campaign and do this for a whole day just to get killed most of them? Men are crazy, she thought.

When Donna was completely exhausted, she asked, “Can’t we use that Alaya energy to ward off our exhaustion?”

“I don’t know if that can be done. It has to do with something called entropy, a kind of energy you expend that doesn’t come back to you no matter what you do. Lo could explain and I too, when I remember me completely. We should continue.”

Nal insisted she grab the staff and come at her while she defended herself with only the short stick representing a sword.

“Oh but that’s unfair. I could hurt you with this even if I’m dead tired!”

“Yes? Then go ahead, hurt me. Hurt me hard, I give you permission!”

Donna hefted the long staff, felt its wonderful balance even if it was a bit short for her stature, and charged at Nal, swinging the staff to her midriff. She was surprised when she hit only air and Nal was at her back, holding the sword stick at her throat.

“That’s more sorcery, that is!” she exclaimed. “No one can move this fast.”

“The point, the only point, is that with or without sorcery, it can be done. You must therefore learn to deal with it and I mean to teach you that. Can you appreciate the necessity of such a lesson?”

“Yes I can. Yes, I understand. It doesn’t matter how it’s done, whether it seems impossible, only that it can be done. Therefore I have to be aware of such things and learn to parry them; to protect myself from them and eventually, even to defeat them. Yes?”

“Yes, so it’s not just weaponry, it’s also trickery, and speed, speed and more speed. Now that we have a Watcher in the wolf, we don’t need to spend time on watch in the night. Instead we will sleep together, tight together, and I am going to do all I can to pass on whatever I have of my “sorcery” into your body and mind in the night. I will attempt to make us as one so you will become a human Alaya. Have I told you already what an Alaya is, or an Alay?”

“So much to remember that I can’t remember now. Sorcerers? Wizards? Tricksters? Faeries? You are Alaya? I’ve never heard of such people.”

“You have met two now. Lo is an Alay. According to him, I am the reincarnation of his long lost wife, Nah’La, a full Alaya. She was killed, oh, thousands of years ago, and eventually became me. Or, I became her. So, I am Lo’s wife of thousands upon thousands of years ago. I am Nah’La or Nal for short, and I am rediscovering my powers. It is those powers I wish to share with you; to bring you, a human, if indeed it is what you are for I sense something else in you, into the world of the Alay and Alaya, plural, the Alas.

“I would that as I grow, so would you, side by side, spiritual and mental twins, you the healer and perhaps a bit of a fighter, myself the fighter and perhaps also a healer of sorts. Twins of Alaya powers; with Alaya powers. If it frightens you or repels you, tell me in the morning and I will remove all the powers from you, allowing you to function once again as a normal human. I wish to only do this by your permission.

“I’ll bank the fire while you slip in our bedroll and start warming it up – you have more body heat than me after all!”

They laughed. Donna stripped naked and performed a little erotic dance in front of Nal which Nal took the time to admire. Donna laughed and slipped in the bed. Soon Nal joined her, naked also and they clung tightly and happily to one another in the darkness of their protective cave. Nal could feel energy flowing between them and she knew it was much more than sexual attraction. It was Alaya energy and Donna’s body and mind were soaking it all up without any hesitation. ‘How much of me is going to pass into her tonight, and what am I doing?’ she thought. ‘How do I know this is the right thing to do? But I know, I just know it is. It’s how it was always done on our past. I’m only following the ancient pattern, I know that. What I don’t understand is how this human girl can take in so much of my energy and still seems able to absorb so much more. She must be more than human.’

For a while their hands eagerly explored each other’s bodies in a purely lustful and sexual way, then gradually they fell into a deep sleep filled with dreaming. The wolf prowling near the cave opening, having smelled the sexual excretions of the two females in the cave gave a loud howl to vent his own frustration and aroused desires. He too had fallen “in love” with the Alaya’s.

Morning came late in the cave. The two girls spent some time making love then got up, dressed and took care of their fire. They ate slowly, drank the strange tasting water now mixed with some of the bark’s sap run off, then planned their day. Simple enough: more training of sword play and staff work. In between, Nal planned to awaken Donna’s new powers with the making of illusions and whatever else came to mind or got thrown their way.

At noon the wolf appeared and they went to him. This time, as he lay down on the ground, they both lay beside and against him, passing their arms and hands over his thick fur, pulling his ears gently, rubbing his face and kissing him on the nose. A beautiful intimate, quasi-erotic scene which few Earth people would have appreciated but which the Alaya’s perfectly understood the need of. Afterwards they went their own way but the lone wolf, from a short distance, stopped, turned and watched them for a time then disappeared once again.

It was Donna who observed, “He’s lost his mate, Nal. He’s so sad and so alone.”

“I didn’t realize but of course you’re right. We can love him but we can’t replace her and we have to be careful he doesn’t become too attached to one of us either. We are different species and unless one of us became a lone sorceress with powers to transform herself into a she-wolf, this cannot be. I do not have, nor wish, for such power. Do you?”

“I don’t know yet. I do love him in a strange, I suppose ‘unnatural’ way, but if I could choose such a life, would I? Too soon to say. I need to think about this. Me, a sorceress? A shape-shifter? Arch enemy of the Christian religion to be hunted down, captured and tortured as befits a demon? A companion of wolves, to lead a pack, bring down prey, tearing at and eating raw bloody meat? Killing those who hunt us? I can see these possibilities ahead of me in the future but as of this moment I am not ready for such a thing.”

After their meal of dry bread and cheese now flecked with blue-green mould, they continued with their sparring in earnest. Donna had greatly improved in skill and speed, particularly in speed. When she didn’t take a clean shot and would have been hit she moved out of reach in a blur. This pleased Nal enough that she thought it would be time for the illusion lessons.

“You know what an illusion is, Donna?”

“Seeing something that isn’t there.”

“Exactly. From those powers I shared with you, there is one that is used to create such illusions, except that you are in control of them and only those you intend to fool, or confuse, believe they are real. You can do much with such images. You can even make them look as if they were ghosts, or demonic entities. Would you like to see how well we can work with such things?”

“If it means a break from this gruelling sparring, most certainly.”

“Come, stand beside me and hold my hand. Lift your other arm, open your hand and visualize something not too big but obvious. A hawk in flight, maybe? Let’s try it.”

They both raised their arms and opened their hands, pointing at the sky. Suddenly, a large brown hawk, a type of buteo with talons outstretched and open yellow bill, came swooping down from the sky, passed by the two women and disappeared again.

“That was good! Now something on the ground.” They manifested a majestic stag standing on the same rock the wolf had stood on. The animal held his head high, holding his stack proudly and looked around, sniffing at the air. He gave a snort of alarm and bounded off into a tangle of shrubbery. They heard the wolf give chase and smiled as the chase ended in a discomfited wolf when his prey vanished in the air.

“We’re doing well, I think. Now just you,” said Nal. “Manifest a couple of woodsmen dressed in leathers coming towards us and actually seeing us.”

Donna found the exercise quite simple. She brought the men up and they came towards the women, smiling as they approached. She made them stop a couple of yards away and introduce themselves. ‘I am Lance’ said the one. ‘My name is John’ said the other, ‘we’re passing by and didn’t expect to meet two lovely lassies in these parts. We are after a stag that we saw nearby. Did you see him?’

Donna lowered and closed her hand and the illusion disappeared.

“That was amazing, Donna. For a first time? Unbelievable. Your mind truly absorbed the gifts easily. You will go far, very far, with such powers.”

Donna was pleased with the results and beginning to plan how to use her powers to greater advantage. ‘Push’ she thought. ‘Push and always expect more for we are made of greater expectations.’

“I ‘heard’ what you thought, Donna. I agree, we need to push ourselves more and more, for our time is short. Three of us now? Surely our enemies will become aware of such an event and will come searching for us. How I wish I could penetrate their disguises, locate them, learn all there is to learn of their plans in dealing with us. I hate a fight with an enemy I cannot know. Can’t fight with the unknown! It’s like slashing at the air in the dark, you don’t hit anything.”

“We need a subterfuge, Nal. A decoy, perhaps? One of us pretending to change sides, to join with them?”

“That would make sense with ordinary people, they may fall for such a stratagem but I don’t think these fallen Alay would be fooled. They’d pretend to accept, then kill either one of us once they had us in their power. You would be the only one who would even have a slim chance of fooling them, but you’re just awakened. They’d test you in ways you cannot begin to understand.

“Oh, I remember more and more how things work in that world. The abilities to read thoughts, and even thoughts within thoughts. Too late, Lo and I discovered these energies, much too late. Having never needed them, nor ever needed to hide our telepathic communication we were not even aware these things could be used against us. But the Betrayers did and activated them against us. They learned our most intimate thoughts; our plans; our moves, everything. We were open books to them and they eliminated us, one by one until only I and Lo were left, and finally, only Lo.”

End section 13 (thirteen)