[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


FastCounter by bCentral

Page by HFS: 2002 Designed by: FW Viper

Gifts

by

Geraldle

Copyright © 2001

Part 5 – Pictou

Chapter One–20th of Tine

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

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

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

Symin was nowhere near as strong as an adult human being, his strength about equivalent to that of a fourteen or fifteen year old human boy, but with his uncanny speed added he could make a formidable foe, even for an expert like Sivvin. After the last hit Sivvin had dropped his staff and grabbed the laughing Symin, and thrown him high into the air. Symin seldom cried and seldom laughed out loud, usually a giggle was the most you would hear from him but his joy had bubbled over into a rare bout of laughter.

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

Chapter Two

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

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

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

The man ignored the boy, saying to the unicorn. "Pictou, Pictou, you disappoint me, you were warned what would happen if you escaped."

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

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

Symin squatted down and jabbed the dagger into the ground several times to clean the blood off of the blade, then he stood up and after sheathing the dagger, he walked over to the unicorn. "He wasn't very bright was he, he just ignored me, didn't even bother to check my aura."

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

"I guess we'll need a little help then." Symin said, *Karliv, I need you, in fighting form, immediately.*

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

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

Symin nods wordlessly and then turns his attention back to the unicorn. "Are you able to fight?"

*No, I do not have any magical offensive weapons and the band around my horn, prevents me from using much of my magic, including my ability to Transform, or to Transport.* Pictou said.

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

"If I cut the end off that holds the band, will your horn grow back again." Symin asked.

*Yes, it will regenerate but to cut it is impos...* and like the Mage a few minutes early his word is cut off, not by disappearance but in astonishment, as Symin calmly draws his dagger and slices through the horn just below the band.

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

*One not yet born

He will cut your horn

And set you free

Your companion he will be*

*The verse was a prophesy that was made on my home world when I was born. Most of my people stay at home, but I was restless even when I was a colt, and when I reached young adulthood, I started travelling between worlds to find my companion. It seems after visiting dozens of worlds I have finally found him.*

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

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

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

"If you've visited that many worlds it sounds like you've been looking for a long time. Now I'm glad that you've finally found the companion that your prophecy mentioned, but I would think a winged unicorn would be very conspicuous." Karliv commented.

*True, but,..* and Pictou began to change, his wings disappearing into his body first, then he began to shrink, as did his horn.

In under fifteen seconds, where a unicorn had stood, now stood a very large dog, somewhat resembling a Great Dane who had been squashed. Three feet at the shoulder he was twice as wide as a Great Dane and very thick bodied overall. Of course he had to be, as a unicorn, he had very strong but lightweight hollow bones, but still he weighed over three hundred pounds and that weight now had to be distributed on the body of a dog. He also had a bump about three-quarters of a inch high on the top of his head where his horn had been. *I still look a little strange, but there's such a variation in the way dogs look that aside from a little comment, nobody will pay much attention to me.*

He quickly changed back to unicorn form. *I have learned that one of the talents these people have is the ability to detect the signature of a Magic User who has been physically present and has used his magic at a site, for up to two or three days but,* and nodding respectfully to Karliv, *they cannot detect one who was in Astral form. If your friend could throw a lot of magic around and then disappear before the Mages show up, it will hide your Magic User's signature, and they will not be able to find you in the future.*

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

Chapter Four–20th of Tine, Lythea – July 25, Earth

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

*Earth, the world we are going to, has as much magic as Lythea but it has no Magic Users, the inhabitants depend on something called science and technology, some of which exists on Lythea as well. For instance a wagon is primitive form of technology.*

The reason that Pictou was describing what would occur as he Transported was simply that he was wasting time while the energy that he needed to Transport built up. He told Symin, *Grab hold of my mane tightly and take a deep breath. I can reassure you that once the Transport starts, you could not let go even if you tried to. Are you ready?*

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

Chapter Five–20th of Tine – Lythea

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

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

Chapter Six–July 25th, Earth

Pictou cursed to himself. He hadn't even thought about the temperature difference, he himself could tolerate a much greater variation in heat and cold. *Get on my back quickly!!!* Clumsy with cold, Symin scrambled onto Pictou's back. Crouching a bit, the winged unicorn sprang into the air, and flapping his wings with great effort gained a little altitude. It was only a few minutes to his destination, and several hundred feet from where Pictou intended to land he begins to shout in Mind-speech *Daniel, Daniel Vincent, I need aid!!!* When he landed outside the back porch of a farmhouse Symin was unconscious, from hypothermia and he finally let go of his staff which clattered to the ground. Almost as if it were a signal the door opens and young girl of about twelve or thirteen, with long blond hair appeared in the doorway.

She stares squeaking out in disbelief, "Pictou!!! We always thought Mum and Dad made you up!!!"

*We can discuss whether I really exist later. Take Symin and get him into a tub of hot water. I forgot about the difference in temperature and he needs to be warmed up right away.* he ordered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*I couldn't resist, Jenny,* he thought at her, sheepishly.

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

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

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

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

"Is there anything seriously wrong with him?" she asked.

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

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

She replied, "Not all of it is this cold, we have parts that are even hotter than where Pictou says, you come from." He was intrigued as she spoke, unlike speaking to someone from his own world, mind-pictures came with much of what she said. The last few words evoked in quick succession, a jungle, sand dunes, and parched earth, an image of Pictou. He sat up in the tub, and then with Jenny's help stood up. "How old are you?" she asked. With that, he saw a hour glass which was also used on his world to tell time.

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

"I'm Jennifer Vincent-Molloy." He saw a picture of a young man and then of a much older man. *You took the name of your husband and kept the name of your father?* he asked.

She paused astonished, "How did you know that?"

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

She looked at him speculatively as she pulled the plug in the tub. That he could see things in her mind didn't surprise her, she was used to Pictou. That he could so easily figure out that she used both her own name and her husbands name showed her how intelligent he was. "This is Danni," she indicated the girl, "she's almost thirteen." He looked at Danni and he could tell she was embarrassed, but all he caught from her mind was a picture of himself. Naked. Being from a world with no nudity taboo, he was completely baffled by her embarrassment. He shrugged. "And the boys over there being licked to death by Pictou, are Travis, who's eight and Jason, who's nine. All three have the combined last name."

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

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

*No. We sleep naked.* he replied.

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

He giggled, "Cerrtainnnly," he considered it, it wasn't quite right so he said it again, "Certainly." then continued in Mind-speech, *but right now my mind is translating what you are saying into my language and my language into yours. If I talked out loud, that would just make things more confusing. As you say your words, you are also thinking them so while right now my mind is translating your language, I am also learning it. If I had two or three weeks I would be completely fluent in it."

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

Chapter Five–July 25th Earth-3 PM

Symin woke up after four hours of sleep, feeling rested and well, his Self-healing having taken care of the aftermath of the brief period of hypothermia, and he felt hungry. Throwing back the covers of the twin bed in Jason's bedroom, he swung his feet to the floor. His short trousers were missing, but his belt with his dagger and belt pouch, was lying on the back of the chair by the bed along with some clothing.

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

What stumped him for a few minutes were the jeans with the zipper fly and snap, but after a few minutes of pulling the zipper back and forth he realized what it did and slipped into the jeans eagerly. He pulled up the zipper, but the first time it caught a fold of the underpants he was wearing. Having an vivid imagination, he thought of what could have happened if he hadn't been wearing an undergarment and winced. Finally the zipper was done up properly and the snap, snapped into place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six–July 25th Earth - Suppertime.

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

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

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

"Yes he had cancer, but he's been in remission for the last year." Jennifer replied, "How did you know."

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

"Yes," said Jennifer quietly, worried by the direction the questioning has taken.

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

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

*His aura. It's dark, much darker than your other children. See through my eyes.* and he brought her into his mind and casts his Sense of Perception into the rooms above. He shows her Travis first, and then in contrast the other children and she could clearly see the difference.

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

Chapter Seven–July 27-Morning

It's about seventy-five degrees but still cool to Symin who was wearing a jean jacket, while the other three children are all in shirt sleeves. They are watching Daniel, working with a young mare. Symin who has seen many more horses and horsemen than the other children couldn't help but admire Daniel's skill.

Danni sitting on the top of the corral shades her eyes and looks in the distance. "Daddy, there's some trucks coming up the drive."

Daniel ties up the mare and also shades his eyes, then not taking his gaze off of the approaching vehicles. "Everybody, get in the house. Move it."

Symin as he headed for the house with the other children, heard him think, *Damn, I wish I had the shotgun!" Symin stored that thought for further examination. As the trucks got closer Symin with his Empathy could feel danger, so he took out Daniel's last thought about the shotgun, and examined it more closely, slowing it down. He grunted with satisfaction. It showed him every aspect of loading and firing a pump-action shotgun, and where he could find the ammunition. The other children were with Jennifer in the kitchen where they could see out into the barnyard. Symin took a chair over to the fireplace and took the shotgun off of its rack. Then, going over to a picture, he swung it out from the wall, revealing a good sized wall safe. Using his dagger he cut around the lock and opened the safe and took out the ammunition stored there. Making sure the safety was on, he began loading the shotgun. Once fully loaded he chambered the first round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Eight–July 29 – 1 AM, Earth

Symin suddenly woke up with an idea in his mind. *Pictou!*

*Yes Symin,* he got a grumpy reply from Pictou.

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

*Yes.* Pictou replied.

*And how much weight could you carry while flying?*

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

*Your flying may not be important, but I've got an idea,* said Symin, not meaning to be cryptic, but he had to talk to Jennifer and Daniel before he went any further. He got up and put on the robe he'd been provided with. Pictou had explained to him about earth's nudity taboo. He didn't understand it, but if it would make the people around him more comfortable, he would wear the robe.

The light was still on in their bedroom and Symin took a quick peek with his sense of Perception and found them both still awake. Since he didn't consider it urgent, if he'd found them asleep he would have waited for morning. He knocked on the door and entered when he heard a, "Come in," from inside. He put his hands in the pockets of the robe, he'd found pockets really handy to hide nervousness.

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

The man and woman looked at each other. Finally Daniel gave a slow nod, and Jennifer looked at Symin, "Yes, Symin we will trust you with Travis. We were more worried than we wanted to admit."

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

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

Chapter Nine–July 29 1 PM

Symin and Travis were ready to go. Symin was dressed in denim shorts (with pockets) and sandals and Travis in a pair of light gym shorts and was wearing a cowboy hat. Many Lytheans wore straw hats, and since each person made his own, the variety was simply astounding, so the cowboy hat would not look out of place. Neither were wearing underpants. Symin was carrying a backpack, packed with the clothes he had been wearing on earth, for when he had to return Travis, a couple of towels, a thermos of cold water, and was holding his staff. Pictou was in his unicorn form, Travis on his back, small hands tangled in Pictou's mane. *It might take four or five days, if Dearna can heal him. If we have to go to the capital, it might take a couple of weeks.*

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

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

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

Chapter Ten–24th of Tine, Lythea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Eleven–24th of Tine

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

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

After Symin quickly dried himself, he took Travis's towel and gave him a vigorous rubdown, then rubbed his hair dry, before they got dressed. He realized that they had forgotten to bring a comb or a brush, and he hadn't thought until now to have Maxim bring them, and the hair of both boys was tangled and straggly. Shrugging he decided that Dearna would have both. By the time Maxim reached them, they were ready to go. Throwing the backpack into the wagon, he clapped the younger boy's cowboy hat on his head and then gave Travis a boost into the cart. He could have had Maxim bring the mule and have Travis ride behind him, but he didn't want the younger boy to overexert himself before he became a little accustomed to the heat, which is why he had specified the cart.

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

*Daniel and Jennifer used to call me a lazy, useless mutt. That's a pretty accurate description. Never walk when you can ride. I'll keep Travis company. He's not as used to strange things as you are.* Pictou easily jumped into the cart to join the younger boy. He rode beside the cart as Maxim started it moving. He introduced the two boys. "Maxim, this is Travis. He doesn't speak our language so you'll have to use mind-speech, and the dog's name is Pictou, you're going to get a surprise later. He's intelligent and he also uses mind speech."

*Travis, this is my friend, Maxim Ascalon. His official job is that of my personal servant, but I regard him as the brother I never had. Since you don't speak our language you'll have to think at him.* taking the pill bottle, out of his pocket, he opened it and took one out and bending down, he handed it to Travis. *Here, wash this salt pill down with some cold water, and keep drinking it. It'll take about an hour to get to our destination and I don't want you to dry out.*

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

Chapter Twelve–24th of Tine

Maxim pulled up outside of Dearna's quarters. Symin dismounted, and put his staff in the cart for a moment while he tied Anya to the back. Then picking up the staff again he helped Travis down. The younger boy had emptied the thermos a quarter of an hour before and had put it back in the backpack.

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

"Why are you taking him to Dearna?" Maxim asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She gave a protest, "That's too much, you've dropped the temperature by forty degrees."

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

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

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

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

"There's a brush on the washstand." she said calmly as she led Travis over to the bed, and sat him on the edge.

"Travis can't speak our language so you'll have to use mind speech, to talk to him. Can you see his aura through the layers surrounding it?" he asked.

"Yes, they won't be any problem, but first tell me what you know." she told him.

Quickly he went over the details of the aura he had noticed and the treatments that Travis had gone through, and what he figured she would have to do. To keep him busy while looking at Travis, she told him, "One of the things you should be able to do as a Lesser Mage is to lift things." She wasn't specific, knowing Symin she should have been. She began examining Travis closely with both Mage-sight and her Healing ability.

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

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

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

She stood up and walked over to him, his knees were at a level with her eyes. She looked up at him, and he looked down at her sheepishly. "You know what you're doing is impossible. Some great mages can do it. But a Lesser Mage??? How in the Gods name did you manage to get up there?"

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

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

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

He looked at her solemnly, "Now that could have been dangerous, under other circumstances." He shuddered, "Suppose that had happened outside, with no ceiling to stop me from rising. Could I have gotten it under control before I went too high? It's lucky that when Kranholt put boundaries on the dagger, he gave me a way to add my own restrictions, to the ones he put on. I'll make sure nothing like that can happen ever again."

Bringing the conversation back to something mundane, she told him, "You still have to brush your hair."

He gave her a glare and stomped over toward the washbasin, he turned his head when he had reached it and stuck his tongue out at her, then giggled. She said, "I'll give Travis his first treatment. That'll take a couple of hours. The defences are easy to put up, but I'll need two or three additional sessions to train his body to automatically maintain those defences."

Chapter Thirteen–24th of Tine, After Bedtime

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

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

Another thing she had showed him was how to do a DNA test, though that wasn't what it was called on Lythea. She had in fact been working when he showed up with Travis, though it wasn't urgent. She had to determine the father of a baby that had been born to a High Peasant woman. She had been raped by a noble, and the man had been fined 200 golds which went to the woman. Then the woman realized that she was pregnant. A follower of the Mother-goddess, the only times a fetus would be aborted would be if it would not survive the gestation period, or there were serious genetic problems with the fetus that a Healer could not repair in the womb.

So since there had been no genetic problems and nothing that would prevent it from coming to term, the mother had insisted that the child be born. Since it wasn't known whether the pregnancy was a result of the rape or normal sexual contact between husband and wife, the woman's husband refused to pay to raise the boy, if it wasn't his son. If it turned out to be the rapist's son the man would have to provide child support. (Aborting a fetus took only a few minutes and even the lowest class of Healer, a village Wisewoman or Wiseman could perform the action, and even the poorest of woman could afford the price. For a woman to allow a pregnancy to come to term, under these circumstances, meant that she and her family would be responsible for the child. In the cases of mistresses, the father would be responsible for the child or children. On the rare occasion when a woman didn't know she was pregnant until the baby was born, the child was regarded as a Gift of the Gods, and many of the religious orders would willingly provide funds to have the child raised.)

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

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

It had been an interesting day, and it wasn't quite over, reaching out with his mind to contact Sinya in the capital, the contact came much more quickly than normal. *Are you busy?*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Thank's Sinya," he said, sounding bored.

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

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

Chapter Fourteen–28th of Tine, Lythea – August 2 Earth

They were at the pool. Travis had received the remaining treatments and his aura was back to normal. He was wearing the gym shorts and sandals as he had when he first arrived, while Symin had on jeans, underpants, he was very mindful of the first time he'd first worn jeans, he didn't intend to take any chances, a T shirt and jean jacket, sandals and socks. He could have used the method Dearna had shown him to heat things up, but it was easier to just put on extra clothing.

Travis was saying a tearful farewell to Maxim, who he'd come to adore in the last four days. Finally tearing himself away, he came over to where Symin and Pictou were waiting. Symin removed the layers that were keeping Travis cool and then he gave Travis a boost onto Pictou's back, shouldered the backpack, which was somewhat heavier than it had been, and waved at Maxim.

Repeating the process, they had used to get to Lythea, they transported back to earth. They were just outside of an apple orchard in an open field. Travis said, "This is part of the old Jenkins place, We're about five miles from home. Should we walk?" Travis asked. Pictou, back in dog form asked, *Symin, what do you think?*

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

*Jenny,* Symin said gently, trying not to startle her. In this he was unsuccessful, as Jenny dropped the pot she holding, and brought her hand to her breast with the shock. Luckily, the pot was an empty one. "Symin?"

*Sorry, I startled you. Travis says we're at the Jenkins place, and we're just outside of an apple orchard, and there's a dirt road outside the fence.* Symin said.

"I know where you're at. We'll be there in a few minutes. Daniel! Kids! Travis is back and we're going to pick him up." he heard her yell before he withdrew from her mind.

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

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

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

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

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

They all piled back into the van and headed back to the farmhouse.

Chapter Fifteen–August 2 – Earth

Symin was sitting at the kitchen table with his feet on Pictou's back, who was lying under it talking to Jenny and Daniel. "Are you sure he's going to be all right?" asked Jenny anxiously. Symin made contact with her mind and then deciding that Daniel might be comforted as well, he linked with him too. He sent his Sense of Perception upstairs, first showing Travis and then the other children. And Jenny let out a woosh of relief when she saw the Travis's aura was now the same as the other children.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny and Daniel looked at each, and then they burst out laughing.

Chapter Sixteen–August 3 – Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was glad when he found three basically nice people, who were entirely unaware of Sandler's sideline. He drifted into Sandler's office. Sandler's mind had told him that while the safe had an alarm it wasn't turned on during the day. He thought that it was very careless of Sandler but he had no complaints. Using the new ability he had discovered to lift things he used the combination he had gotten from Sandler's mind to open the safe door. The hidden compartment was in the floor of the safe. Lifting the items on the floor out he grasped the lid of the secret compartment with his mind and bent it upward, pulling the necklace partly out so it was draped over the edge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel snorted, "You, bother him, kid, he thinks the X-Files is a non-fiction program." and Symin saw a image of a television show flicker through the man's mind.

Jenny quickly jumped to her father's defence. "He does not." she said reprovingly, then she couldn't help but giggle. "He doesn't believe in ghosts and stuff. Only about alien abduction and things like that? And besides before you make fun of him, remember what Pictou really is and who's sitting in the back seat."

Chapter Seventeen–August 4 Earth 1:00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

He grinned again, "And best of all. He's a believer."

Chapter Eighteen–August 4 Earth 11:00 PM

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

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

It had been called an unexplained phenomena on the newscasts earlier in the day. It had also been announced during that broadcast that even though it wasn't known exactly what had happened the three salespeople were going to receive the reward that Santana had offered.

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

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

Epilogue–August 5 Mid-afternoon

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

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

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

Symin touched the little statue on the unicorn's horn. "I took a bit of liberty here. It's as Pictou's horn will be in a couple of months, when it's fully regenerated. That's the way he should be remembered. At his most handsome."

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

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

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

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

The familiar disorientation came over him, as they entered and then excited the void a minute and a half later, to arrive beside the little pool. Symin had been sad to leave but he was just as ecstatic to get back, and he gave a Mind-shout, *I'M HOME!!!* and it was heard with glee by Maxim on The Plateau, and in Bremen, Dearna paused in watering her herbs to give a little nod and a smile, and much farther away, in Camara, Sinya threw the cards she was holding in her hands in the air and then began cursing. She'd just thrown four of a kind away, and it had been such a nice pot. His other Elven relatives also heard him, broad smiles coming to many of their faces, especially Karliv, Kraftin and his Great-Grandmother in Temple city.

END

01.05.02

NOTE:

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