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Gifts-The Mute, Part 2

by Geraldle

Copyright © 2001

ONE-643 AF-5th of Seld

In a private audience chamber of King Hamar of Camron were standing several people. Count Wymark, his private Healer, Karliv Kraftinson, Duke Rendar Farlei, Terrion Wymark and Jaran Volsen and his father Baron Volsen, All of the other crested children still alive and most of the other children who wanted to go had been returned to their homes.

The King entered, followed by his second son Prince Tamen. He sat on the throne and waved the bowing people to a standing position. "Well Wymark, why are you here?" he demanded.

"Why Your Majesty, you summoned me here." said Count Wymark in apparent astonishment.

"But not before you sent me a petition to grant you an audience. Tamen read it."

"If you don't mind father, it's almost two pages long, I'll just paraphrase it."

"That's fine. I never liked that legal crap."

Tamen leans over and whispers to his father, making sure that it was loud enough for everyone to hear. "But father, you're the one that insisted on all that legal crap."

"I know, I just wanted to keep the lawyers busy and out of my hair. You don't really think I wanted to hear it, did you? Now read."

Prince Tamen straightened, "No father. Yes father. In essence the petition says, I want my son back."

"Why, from what I've heard the boy is perfectly happy where he is."

"But Your Majesty, he's nothing but a catamite." yelled out the Count.

Terrion gave his silent giggle, not at all embarrassed by the comment, and Rendar put his arm around his shoulder and gave him a squeeze. (The King could be a ruthless man at need and had ordered the execution of children of Terrion's age and younger in the past, but he was also a fair man who is much respected by his people.)

"Yes, and seems to be enjoying it as well. Well there's a second petition here that bears on the subject. Tamen."

"In essence it says that Duke Rendar Farlei wishes to adopt the male child known as Terrion Wymark, and to make him his full heir to all estates and titles, except for the life title, Duke Royal which is his as a member of the Royal Family. This has been approved by the King of Madron. Terrion Wymark enthusiastically agrees to this proposal and hereby gives up all right to the County of Wymark and hereafter wishes to be known as Terrion Farlei.

"Terrion Wymark, as King of Camron I address you by that name for the last time, I approve the petition terminating all parental privileges of Count Wymark, and transfer the now Terrion Farlei to his new liege, the King of Madron." The new father and son are only restraining their joy by sheer determination.

The King looks at the Count evilly, "Count Wymark, my sons and I went over with Karliv and Terrion and several of the highest nobles of the country the brutality that he suffered at your hands. They were as sickened as I was by the incredible cruelty that you showed your son. Children have few rights in our society and even less in others, but the nobles agreed with me that you went far beyond any rights you had over your son. They agreed with me that a man who showed such incredible cruelty to his own family was not worthy of the title of Count. They will show no disapproval if I take back your title and lands that my ancestor gave your ancestor."

"I hereby reclaim the title of Count Wymark and all estates that you possess. I give them to your now eldest son, who I believe is your bastard, but in spite of that is reported as being a nice boy. I also make him and his younger brother wards of the Crown."

He turned his eyes on the Healer. "Unfortunately you did not in fact do anything illegal, though the Healers agreed that you dishonored your profession. They say that the normal process of branding you on the forehead to proclaim that fact, would not work with you, since your ability is at a level that you could Heal any brand. But by the Gods, former Count and you Healer," he yells in a rage, "get your sorry asses out of my country. You have one week. After that you're going to be dangling from the nearest tree."

"And now everybody the audience is over, don't bother waiting for me to leave, just go." And they went, Rendar carrying his new son in his arms. In the doorway they stopped and kissed a full blown mouth to mouth kiss, and Terrion looked at the King and winked.

TWO

"Prince Tamen, Symin reminded me that I might have been remiss in the matter of Terrion's father. He hates too much. While Terrion and I wouldn't be in much danger once we return to Divandia, he might well take revenge on Terrion's little brothers, knowing that would hurt us almost as much as a direct attack."

Tamen sighed, "We considered that possibility, but simply stripping Count Wymark of his lands and titles and kicking him out of the country, was as far as we could go, though we would have liked to have gone much further. What would you have us do, Rendar?"

"Ah, Symin suggested that on occasion you have not been reluctant to send someone who is dangerous to the crown, into the next world, if you consider it necessary, and you might be able to provide me with the name of a suitable... removal agent, so to speak. Actually he was far more blunt than that."

"Yes, Symin seems to have excellent instincts." Tamen replied.

"And we do indeed, as you say, use a removal agent on occasion." Tamen smiled, but the smile was cold and without humor. "I will get in touch with my contact, and explain that you are interested in using his services, and that you have my complete approval. He will get in touch with you very soon I imagine."

"Also I know that Terrion wishes to visit his little brothers before you go home. I'll give you the authority to choose the regent for the new Count, whether that be his mother or someone else. And if I were you, I'd ask Symin to accompany you. With his Empathy and all around good sense he'll be able to tell you who to trust and who'll be suitable as regent. I'll send a company of soldiers with you as an escort, and one troop will escort Symin home from there, and the others will escort you as far as Madron's border."

THREE

Indeed before the afternoon is out, Rendar received a card simply saying, The Capital Inn, 8:00. Take a table. I will join you. Inquiry of one of the palace servants indicated that the Inn was a good quality inn quite close to the Palace. He and Terrion, escorted by four Palace Guards, arrived at the inn at ten minutes to eight.

Before entering he explained to the Guards, "Unfortunately the business I must conduct is private, I don't know how long it'll take, so you can go to the bar and have an ale or two, until we're finished. All right with you?"

The head of the escort, a burly sergeant, replied "That's fine with us, M'Lord, as long as we're close enough to keep an eye on you."

The six entered the Inn, and the Guards headed for the bar, where they were greeted familiarly, obviously this was a favorite drinking place. Rendar and Terrion were escorted by the owner to a table in the back. It was well separated from the other tables, obviously for privacy's sake.

They were joined at precisely eight o'clock by an older man, perhaps in his late fifties, and though running a bit to fat, still showed plenty of muscle, in bare arms and legs. He looked a bit askance a Terrion. "Is the boy aware of what this meeting is about, Duke Rendar."

"No, I'm going to tell him before we get down to business." Terrion looked questioningly at the two men.

"Terry. Do you trust me?" The boy nods his head. "Do you trust Symin?" This time Terrion nodded vigorously. Rendar looks at the older man, "Ironic, he trusts an eleven year old boy more than he does me. But understandable." He took Terrion's hand and gave it a loving squeeze. "Symin made it possible for Terry to learn how to read for the first time, and he worships him for that."

He looked back at Terrion, "Symin also said that when your father left the audience chamber there was too much hate in your father, that he'll do anything to hurt us."

There was alarm on Terrion's face. Rendar squeezed his hand again. "He doesn't think we are in much danger, especially since we're going directly home after we visit your little brothers. He told me I should worry about your little brothers. While we won't be easy to reach, they will."

Terrion's face hardens, *I hate my father, Ren, but I didn't want revenge, but if he's a danger to my little brothers we must do whatever we must to protect them.*

"Agreed. That's why this man is here." He looked at the older man, who had a confused look on his face. "Terry is mute, but he is a Mind-speaker, as am I. He told me we protect his brothers whatever it takes."

The man nodded in understanding. "It will be expensive, My Lord. To assassinate even an ex-Count is a dangerous proposition."

The Duke took a bag out of his belt pouch. "Two thousand golds. If you require more, it can be arranged."

"No, My Lord that is sufficient. Do you want it done before he leaves the country or after?" the man asked.

"Now that it has been brought to my attention, that he is a danger, I want it done as soon as possible. I don't know if he has funds available to him, but I wouldn't be surprised, and I don't want to learn the hard way." He took a second bag out of his pouch, "Another five hundred for his Healer, if they are still together."

"Put your money away, My Lord, while we don't operate a charity, we'll be happy to take care of the Healer for free." He smiled coldly, "One who so perverts the trade of a Healer deserves death." He slid away from the table and disappeared.

FOUR–Three days later, on the way south

Cartan dropped back as a King's Messenger Courier caught up with the company of soldiers. After talking to the Courier for a few minutes, the Courier pulled to the side and passed the soldiers and headed for his next post.

Cartan rode up to the front again where Duke Rendar, Terrion and Symin and Sinya were riding together. He cleared his throat, "I have bad news, Duke Rendar, I'm afraid that news has come that the former Count of Wymark and his private Healer died in a carriage accident." His solemn tone was belied by the wide grin on his face.

Of those riding in front only Terrion and Symin did not break out into wide grins. Symin put his hand on the younger boy's bare knee and smiled sadly at him. "It was necessary, Terry. Cry for him tonight, not for what he was but for what he should have been."

He started to drop back jerking his head at Cartan and Sinya to do the same, and they left Rendar and Terrion to ride side by side in the lead.

FOUR-Five days later, Count of Wymark's castle, Middle of the Afternoon

They rode into the courtyard of the castle and on the steps of the great hall were a blond haired woman in her late twenties and two naked boys. Terrion's little brothers, the youngest five and the elder still four months from his seventh birthday. In fact by not dressing the eldest, the woman was telling Terrion and the others that she didn't consider this a formal occasion, that she simply considered it a family meeting. The resemblance between the three boys and their now dead father is unmistakable.

Not a beautiful woman, Kalli Senson bordered on the plain side, but she had a wide welcoming smile for Terrion and held out her arms to gather in the boy, "Welcome, Terrion FARLEI," she said, empathizing the name that was now his.

*Thank you.* he says in gratitude, not expecting her to hear him and intending to ask Rendar or Symin to relay his gratitude later.

*You're welcome.* she replied and he looked up in surprise as she Mind-spoke in reply. "Boys, say hello to your brother."

She puts her hand on the elder's head, "This is Forsen."

Shyly the boy stuck out his hand, and he also used Mind-speech, *Hello.* Then out loud, "We're very glad to see you." Then he blushed, and ducked his head.

Kalli put her hand on the younger boy's head, "I was surprised that Forsen developed Mind-speech so early, but this is Kanen, and he's definitely still too young yet to know whether he will have Mind-speech or not."

Kanen, unlike his brother, was not at all shy, and exuberantly he flung his arms around Terrion's neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek and then grabbed him by the hand and started pulling him into the great hall, saying, "I'm glad to meetcha. Come on. You've got to see the Castle"

Terrion with a little bit of desperation, grabbed Forsen by the hand, who actually grinned as he's pulled along, leaving the adults and Symin to get acquainted.

FIVE

The Castle that Kanen referred to was not the Count of Wymark's castle but a perfect miniature, well not quite so miniature, model of the castle down to it's smallest details. The four boys were all inside the keep of the model castle and there was plenty of room for two or three more boys of their size. Many of the occupants of the castle were duplicated in exquisite little carvings. Of the boys, only Symin could appreciate what went into those carvings, down to the smallest loving details, and into the model itself.

Rendar, Kalli, Cartan and Sinya looked on in amused interest as the three brothers fell into easy camaraderie, as if they had been together all of their lives, instead of only thirty minutes.

"Well, gentlemen and lady," Kalli said, she bowed to them, "perhaps we could go to the great hall to have a talk."

*Symin,* He looked up at Sinya who had gotten his attention with Mind-speech. *Time for a talk.* He nodded and crawled through the gate of the model castle, which was large enough to take a small adult.

He looked back over his shoulder to see three heads with similar curly blond hair close together, not even noticing his absence. He grinned with satisfaction as he followed the adults down to the Great Hall.

A light repast had been set up at the head table. Once served they dispensed with the single servant and once she had left, Rendar asked Symin, "Is there anyone close enough to hear us talking?"

The boy cocked his head using both his Sense of Perception and his Empathy, then shook his head. "No one within hearing distance, Ren."

Rendar smiled and looked at Kalli, "You've been informed of the Count of Wymark's death?"

"Yes, a Courier brought the message telling of his death. I... was relieved." she admitted with no attempt to hide her feelings.

Rendar pointed his finger at Sinya then Cartan. "You're not going to hear the next part of the conversation."

Blandly Sinya stuck a finger in her ear and wriggled it around. "You know Cartan, that strange problem we've been having with hearing is back. How about you?"

Cartan didn't bother to playact, he just grinned, "Now that you mention it, I think you're right. Oh well, it'll clear up in a few minutes, it always does."

Rendar chuckled, then turned back to Kalli, "I was reminded of how much the former Count hated, and that your children could be in danger, so with a little help from Prince Tamen, I arranged for him to be removed. Permanently."

Symin could feel the savage satisfaction radiating from the woman. She gave a slow smile to Rendar. "My lord Duke, I think we're going to get along. He showed up here soon after Terrion disappeared and wanted to take Forsen back with him to Camara. I found it hard to believe the stories I had heard about the way he treated Terrion. He had never showed it here, but he did that time. He got annoyed with Kanen and gave him a slap on the face that gave my youngest a black eye. I told him to go back to the capital. Alone, and not to come back, or I'd cut his heart out with a dull knife." Her mouth formed a hard grin, but her eyes were cold.

Sinya said, "You banished him from his own castle. Oh, I love it! But how did you get away with it?"

Cartan's shoulders began to shake, as he tried to hold in his laughter but without success. He bellowed in laughter which was infectious and soon they all joined.

When they calmed down, Symin put his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands, looking bright eyed at Kalli. He had not been looking for it but now he was and he found it. The similarity that most soldiers and peacekeepers developed over time. A more organized mind due to the regimentation that was a necessary part of a military organization.

"The Company Senson," Symin said, "Kraftin mentioned it to me on our way back from Madron. Founded in 467 AF, it's the oldest and most powerful mercenary company in the known world. Kraftin also said as a unit of soldiers it's considered the best in either Madron or Camron. At various times in it's history it has specialized in light cavalry, heavy cavalry, and infantry. Right now it specializes in infantry. What rank did you hold?" he asked Kalli.

She was taken aback, as were many others by the way Symin could put together bits and pieces to form a whole. She answered absently, disgust evident, "Sergeant." taking a closer look at Symin.

He smiled, "I assume, from the way you answered, that you liked soldiering but didn't like marching. What rank did you hold in Count Wymark's guards. I don't imagine Captain, but to get one of Senson's sergeant's I would think that you would have been as least offered a Lieutenant's post."

"Yes." She looked wordlessly at the other three adults. They shrugged their shoulders, Rendar spoke for all of them, "He's only eleven years old, but don't make the mistake of underestimating him because of his age. He's one of the brightest people I've ever met. He's the one who suggested that there might be some danger to your children. That Wymark might hurt them to hurt Terrion and I. He also suggested that Wymark be removed."

A few months earlier Symin would have been embarrassed by the compliments Rendar was giving him, but he had come to appreciate them when they came from friends. *Ren, I think you couldn't do better than to make her regent for her son. She's intelligent, she's knowledgeable about military matters, and from the way she banished Wymark from his own castle she's got courage and she's probably been running the County for at least a year and possibly longer.*

Rendar answered, by talking to Kalli, "Prince Tamen asked, me since I was coming here anyway to chose a regent for your son, until he comes of age. I have no reservations against of choosing you for that position." Picking up his wine glass he gave a toast, "To the regent of the new Count of Wymark."

SIX

The new Count of Wymark was frightened, sitting in one of the pews in the chapel to Teron, the God of Warriors. It had been decided to treat the occasion lightly, rather than make it a formal occasion so the only adult present was a Priest of Teron, and he was preparing to remove the Wymark crest from Terrion's arm and apply the crest of Farlei. A crest could only be removed in a chapel of the same God in which it had first been applied.

Kanen was leaning forward, chin resting on the pew in fron, watching the proceedings with interest, but Symin who was sitting in between Kanen and Forsen could feel that the six year old boy was trembling.

He hugs Forsen against him telling him, "Don't worry. It won't hurt. They use a potion that numbs the arm so you don't feel the needle go into your arm with the dye. I've seen crests applied to babies and the only discomfort they have is they can't move their arm while the tattoo is being applied."

Two hours later the four boys leave the chapel, the two younger boys admiring the new crests on their arms and Terrion's emotions are very high as he admires the different crest on his arm, symbol of his new status.

Epilogue-Three days later

Sad as always to leave new friends, Symin and Terrion turned in their saddles to look back at Kalli, Forsen and Kanen and give a last wave. A few minutes later the same sad parting was taking place again as Rendar and Terrion with three quarters of the company prepared to escort them home, and the other quarter with Symin, Sinya and Cartan prepared to head north and then back to Ascalon.

End