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Sardi & Toron 2

By Geraldle

Copyright © 2002

THIRTEEN

It had been a sad leave taking for the boys. Aside from Letten, Sardi and Tor had never had friends before. Tomos was their master, and while they loved him, he was closer to a parent than a friend.

Now a day and a half later, they were back at the Wizard's cottage. They were a bit confused, because the cottage was almost exactly as they remembered it. From what they had heard, raiders of any kind generally ransacked a building.

Dee said, with wry humor, "I guess the Dwarns aren't even bright enough to make decent raiders. Well, we'll straighten up a bit and then invoke the general protection spell, and the cottage will be in good condition when or if we ever return."

Tor nodded, and they removed the leather backpacks that the brownie women had made as a parting gift. It didn't take very long and within a half an hour, it was in good enough shape, at least in the boys' eyes. if Tomos had been there, he might have thought a little differently.

They stood just outside the front door while Dee triggered the protection spell. Putting his hand over an area in the wall, under which was buried a small gemstone. He said:

'We leave this cot,

Protected against insects, animals, weather, raiders and rot.'

He brought his hands together and clasped them, and that completed the spell. Since he was invoking an Adept spell it was very likely that the cottage would be exactly as they left it, whenever they returned, whether it was a month or twenty years.

*****

Tor said the next spell, making a general gesture.

'Put Dee and I on the trail,

Of Master Tomos without fail.'

And the two boys could see a new darkness on the trail indicating the trail of an Adept. Tor exclaimed, "They went to the west. Why would they do that? They came from the east!"

Dee said, speculatively, "Remember that there's a path only five miles to the west, which goes both north and south. If they head south, it curves around and heads towards the southeast. That may be more in the direction that they want to go. If they just headed east on this trail, it's goes almost straight, heading a little to the north by the time it leaves the forest.

FOURTEEN

They had been following the trail for almost two days and it was almost mid-day, when they came to the fringes of the forest. With astonishment, they realized that it was an area they recognized. They were barely three miles away from their home village.

"We'll go to the village before we continue on the trail." Dee said, "After all we're in no rush, a few hours or even a few days aren't going to make much difference."

They didn't try to hide. They were no longer afraid of what the villagers could do to them. As high Apprentices, they could do a great deal of damage to the village and the villagers, without being in any danger themselves.

They were somewhat surprised at how well kept their mother's grave was, but they knew who had been caring for it. "Letten!" said Tor.

"Yes," agreed Dee, "It couldn't be anyone else." he said:

'Letten, as the grasses wave,

We are at our mother's grave.'

And he pointed his finger, down at the grave to complete the spell.

Letten showed up fifteen minutes later, and her eyes were bright with happiness. She gave them both a fond embrace. "I'm glad to see you looking so well, and dressed like noble children. My, you've come a long way. I knew you had be to a mage's Apprentices. That's the only way that you could've sent me that message last fall."

She said more soberly, "I think your father was ashamed of what he did. The first two times he came back, he was really in a bad mood both times. The third and last time he brought a horse and wagon, with him and packed up everything of value and said he wouldn't be back. I told him then that you were still alive and he actually smiled, but he wouldn't say where he was going."

Both Dee and Tor giggled when Letten jumped as Dikon put his cold nose on the back of her leg. She recovered quickly and as one who had always loved animals of all kinds she squatted down and began to pet him. He began to purr. *Pretty girl. Nice.*

Seeing the startled look on her face, Dee realized that he had allowed her to hear him. "He's Tomos's familiar. Tomos was kidnapped several weeks ago and we're following him. We won't know if we'll be able to do anything to help him until we find him. We won't lie to you. We'll be in a great deal of danger, and one or both of us could very easily die. We only came out of the forest this close to the village by accident, but we're glad we did, so that we can say goodbye just in case."

Death was always very close to the people of this world, and they had learned not to fret about what might happen, so Dee's statement didn't disturb Letten that much. They didn't concern themselves about what might be, concentrating on the moment. Her sorrow if they actually died would be very real, but until then, she was just happy that they were alive and well.

"If you're trailing your master you won't want to stay very long." Her lips went thin with anger. "Your cottage is still in pretty good condition. My oldest brother is going to get married and he vows that he and his new wife are going to move into it. After the way the people always treated you and your mother, nobody from here deserves to live there, so I want you to do something about it before you leave."

Dee looked at Tor, and they both had much the same thought. It was just a cottage. Since they had never been welcome in the village it had never been a home, therefore they just didn't care if someone else lived in it. Since it meant so much to Letter, however they had no reluctance in destroying it.

FIFTEEN

Ironically, since they had always been outcasts, the cottage was right in the middle of the village, and they hadn't intended to blatantly show off their presence, but they headed for it. Letten didn't dare go with them, though she showed up in front of her cottage before they reached it. Many children and woman appeared in front of their cottages or in the doorways.

If the men hadn't been out working in the fields, perhaps it might have been different, perhaps the villagers might have tried to mob them, but perhaps not. They were much different from the boys who had left this village ten months before, and they had a self-confidence about them, that frightened those left in the village.

They didn't even bother going into the cottage. It was a place they had lived. Home was the Wizard's cottage in the Dark Forest. Dee stood in front of the old cottage, and rising his hand, he said the spell:

'As this thatch is bound,

Quickly and safely burn this cottage to the ground.'

And as he brought his hand down, the cottage burst into flames, not just in one place but the whole building at the same time. While not an exceptionally windy day, there was still some wind, yet not one spark traveled to any other place, and within five minutes all that was left of the cottage, was a black area on the ground.

They turned and ignoring everyone, except for Letten, who caught their eyes, a smile on her face. Dee was unaware that the sigil on his breast was now blue instead of green. He was a Journeyman mage, and Tor would not be far behind.

*****

They had rejoined the trail of Tomos, and the path had become a road. They followed it passing through a couple of small villages, but then despite the fact that they weren't tired, they stopped early. They had a little magical preparation to do.

They intended to have a cold supper tonight, so they had chosen a small clearing which had no indications of ever having had a fire laid, therefore it was unlikely ever to have been used for camping. They set up the ward and safe behind it they had a quick supper, and then sat crosslegged facing each other. It was then that Tor noticed Dee's sigil had changed color. "Dee, you're a Journeyman now!" he exclaimed pointing at the sigil.

Dee looked down and seeing it was now blue, he took it more calmly than Tor had down, "Well, we knew that we were close." Looking at Tor's he giggled, "Yours can't make up its mind, it's changing from green to blue and then back again."

"Well we've got to do two spells, one I think we need Dikon's help with. That's the one we have to hang to ensure our deaths, if we get caught. I don't know if they can use our dead bodies, but just in case I want to ensure that our bodies are completely destroyed, and at the same time hurt our enemies as much as possible. This is what I've thought of. Gods destroy my body as you hear my cry, Release all my energies at my enemy's as I die. Even Journeymen can produce a considerable amount of destructive energy if it's all released at the same time. We could kill even an Adept if he's not warded properly."

Tor didn't have to think it over very long, it fitted their needs like a glove. With Dikon's help, they hung the spell in their mind. This was the only time that you did not say a spell. It was etched into their minds, ready to be triggered by saying the last word and thinking with the proper intent. Since they had Dikon to add power to the spells, they would be even more effective, if they were ever needed.

Tor announced after they were finished with the first spell, "I've thought of a spell to disguise us. Like tree bark, Let my hair and eyes be dark. If we vary the intent we'll look different, then while we'll still look like brothers and twins, it'll be like fraternal twins. Just because the Dwarns ignored us doesn't mean their master doesn't know about us, but if he does he'll have heard we look like identical twins, and looking like fraternal twins might throw him off."

Dee watched Tor with interest as he used the spell, and his hair turned a light brown, as did his eyes. Dee decided to vary the spell a bit, and he said:

'Like tree bark,

Let my hair and eyes be very dark.

And with the gesture completing the spell, his hair and eyes went black. Saying the spell again, he said:

'Like tree bark,

Let my skin be dark.'

And with the gesture, his skin darkened several shades, over and above the deep tan that he already had. Both boys were very pleased with the results, they still looked like brothers, and because of their size, like twins, but no one now would ever think they looked like identical twins.

A quick spell against biting insects and they curled up and a bit overtired from the spells they had used that day, they quickly fell into a dreamless sleep.

SIXTEEN

It was several days later, and Tor's sigil had made up its mind about his status and was the blue of a Journeyman. It was getting late in the afternoon and they were approaching a village when they heard a commotion ahead of them.

With Dikon bounding ahead of them, they ran toward the disturbance in front of them. They heard Dikon say, *Bard. Needs help.*

When they reached Dikon, they could see that the Bard was faced with five men still on their feet, and the three on the ground indicated that he had made a valiant struggle but he was about to go down under sheer weight of numbers. The boys knelt beside Dikon and putting their hands on him, they intoned a spell, one they had discussed over the last few days, and Dikon boosted their power:

'Let these louts,

Feel knockout clouts."

And the gesture as you would expect, was a punch in the air. Suddenly the five men who had been assaulting the Bard, were laid out senseless on the ground and the Bard stepped back breathing heavily. He bent down and picking up his destroyed lute, he looked at it mournfully.

He was somewhat surprised when Dee lifted the instrument from his hands. Dee knelt down again, the spell he intended to cast would also need Dikon's help to be permanent. There was simply too much craftsmanship involved in any instrument for a Journeyman's spell to repair so much damage on a permanent basis, without the boost that the familiar could give.

'With wood and glue,

Make the craftsmanship in this lute as good as new.'

Taking the hand that had been on Dikon's head, he ran his fingers over the lute, and as it passed over the damaged portions, they came together under his fingers. It took almost a minute before he was finished. When he stood up and handed the instrument back to the Bard, the only things still damaged were the strings. He said cheerfully, "You'll need to provide your own strings. I don't know why the spell wouldn't work on them as well, but obviously it didn't."

The Bard was looking at his beloved instrument with wonder. "Since I never expected to see the old girl in one piece again, I think that's a small price to pay. I carry a couple of extra sets of strings in my pack, which is at the inn." He was older than the boys had first thought, in his mid-forties at least, possibly older. The harp sigil on his breast that indicated that he was a Bard, was the red of a Master Bard, which was their highest rank, mages being the only profession that used the term adept.

Tor looked at the unconscious men lying around, "Did your singing disturb their nap, or is your voice that bad." he said twitting the Bard, with a grin on his face.

The man snorted in amusement, "They're Baron Wyngot's men. They didn't like the song I was singing about their Baron. He acquired a Master mage and he's been squeezing the people around here ever since. My profession usually protects me from men such as the Baron, but obviously not on this occasion."

He bowed elegantly to the two boys causing them to giggle, "I thank you for my rescue, young Journeymen and for the repair of my lute. I am Tennen, and I am a Master Bard, and you, I think, are going to cause the Baron a lot of problems aren't you?"

Taking the advice of their olders selves, they trusted their instincts and Tennen felt absolutely trustworthy. "I'm Sardi and this is Toron, usually Dee and Tor," said Dee candidly. "We're just Journeymen obviously, but we have Adept wards from our master, and our knives can't be stopped by any wards except an Adept's of equal rank, and that means a high Adept, and our in-born abilities are Master level." He bent down and picked up a stone, throwing it into the air, it suddenly stopped at his head level. He stepped back and released it and it fell to the ground.

His now black eyes were very cold, "If the mage comes within one hundred yards, and why shouldn't he, he's dead because using the momentum of a thrown knife, I can easily stretch it out to that distance with my ability. The way he's acting, he's no better than a slaver and in our master's mind and he passed his dislike on to us, a good slaver is a dead slaver. Once a Master class mage or higher, is killed in the service of a noble, it's almost impossible for that noble to hire a second one. A mage considers it bad luck." Tor just nodded his brown eyes equally cold.

Tennen laughed softly. Obviously these little mages had definite opinions, and were quite willing to back them up with action. It should be an interesting night.

SEVENTEEN

Tennen was up in his room replacing the strings on his lute when all the light from the window disappeared. The was no other way of say it, one second it showed the late afternoon light and the next it showed only darkness. Sure his little mages were somehow responsible, he put his lute down on the bed carefully and made his way to the door. When he opened it there was little light, coming from the fireplace on the ground floor, and it made it light enough so he could make out the stair without any trouble.

Making his way to the ground floor, Tennen headed toward the front of the tavern where he had left the boys and the innkeeper a few minutes before. He came upon Mall, the village blacksmith and one of the most vehement opponents of the Baron. "What happened?" Tennen asked.

There was barely suppressed humor in Mall's voice. "Mern refused the boys a room for the night. They just looked at each other and then the lighter one said, 'If you don't want legitimate customers, I guess you don't want any customers.' I didn't hear the first line, but the second one was 'block all windows and doors' and pointing he made a complete circle and all the light stopped coming in from outside."

Tennen who knew a little about magic, laughed, "He set a ward. Normally you wouldn't be able to see it. But his intent was to stop anything from entering and that included light."

He moved forward but before he got very far he heard a treble voice, he thought it was Dee, say:

'For sight,

Create a globular magic light.'

And close to the ceiling a small round light about three inches in diameter appeared, giving almost as much light as normal daylight would give.

"It's quite simple, when Tor said the spell he blocked all light, magic and things including people from entering. There's nothing to prevent anyone from leaving. If they're guests here, they'd better take everything they own with them, because once outside they can't come back in. Our master is a high Adept, so there may be half a dozen mages in the world who might be able to breach the ward. Not that you'd want them to. They'd destroy everything inside in the process."

"Now if you don't change your mind about giving us a room, Tor and I plan to leave, and the ward will remain in place. It will be permanent, because not even Tor who cast the spell can leave the warded area and then return to it, and a ward can only lowered from the inside. It will remain in place because it is calling on magic deep in the ground, for power."

Mern wrung his hands, "But the mage and the Baron!" he cried with anguish.

"Screw them. We'll deal with the mage, you be prepared to deal with the Baron." said Dee, with confidence.

"Give them the room, Da." said the bright eyed young woman behind the bar. "The Baron don't waste time. He'll send his pet mage tonight before dark, so we won't have long to wait. We can be up on the hill, watching. If they succeed, fine, if not we go on our way. The way things is, there be no sense keeping an inn in this village nohow, in a few weeks, no-one will be able to buy nothing anyway. Meals nor drink. We caint survive just lettin' rooms."

"Yer right Nandy." the innkeeper said, finally throwing caution to the winds. "We got to charge dear, for the rumms. We dun make na profit on nuttin' else. 1 silver the night. Meals extry."

Knowing how the village was being squeezed, neither of the boys objected. Dee dug a silver piece out of his belt pouch and tossed it to the innkeeper, who looked at it carefully to make sure it hadn't been clipped. Satisfied that it was as it had originally come from the mint he threw it to Nandy, and she made it disappear, with slight of hand, obviously long practiced. Tor reversed the spell and as the ward went down light once more came in through the doors and the windows.

Dee, who in this case had figured things would be settled very quickly, had used intent with the light spell that it would only last as long as he spared a little magic to keep it lit, let it flicker out.

Dee and Tor sat down on the floor legs crossed under them to wait, which surprised everyone except Tennen. Dee grinned. "You're not thinking people, a mage feels magic around him. This close to the castle, the mage would have felt the ward go up and then come down."

"That means if he's stupid," said Tor, "and if he's working for a Baron, when he holds the same rank and could be holding lands of his own, he can't be very bright."

"Since he's not very bright," continued Dee, "he's going to show up in a few minutes, and just boldly walk down the road, so it's no sense going to our room until we've dealt with him." And he grinned cheerfully, obviously confident, which wasn't quite the case but only Tennen had the experience necessary to read their body language, showing they weren't quite as confident as they were trying to sound.

EIGHTEEN

Obviously they were confident enough to play a game, since they got out the five dice for a game of Numbers. Depending on what rules you adhered to it could become a very complex game indeed, but they just played the simplest form of the game, adding up the dots on the dice.

Tor looked up at me and answered my unspoken question. "We never cheat against each other, but we'd have no objection in cheating a cheater."

After about fifteen minutes, they were on their third game and Dee was ahead ninety-nine to eighty-four and only needed a two to win, but it was Tor's turn, and he only needed seventeen. Well we were never to find out who the winner would have been, as Mall said from the door. "Here he comes, the arrogant bastard."

Dee scooped up his dice and then the kids pushed themselves to their feet and followed by Dikon and me, headed for the front door, the rest of the customers heading for the back door.

We walked out into the center of the street, Dee looked at me with curiosity. "Are you sure that you want to stay? We can't set the ward because it'll affect the knife as it's thrown. It would slow it way down, and give him a chance to dodge it. If it was an arrow or a crossbow bolt it wouldn't affect them that much, so we could use the ward. Once he uses a magic negation spell, our Journeyman magic won't be able to activate the ward."

"I'm a bard, and though some of us just sit back and get the story later, I prefer to find out what has happened first hand." I told him. "It's more dangerous but I don't want to write a ballad or a story song just from what somebody else has seen."

Tor said a spell, obviously one they had agreed upon in advance.

'Like fire in a log,

Let smoke cover us like fog.'

And with outstretched hand, he turned in a circle. Suddenly we were surrounded at about five yards distance by what looked like fog. I say looked like, because when I moved a little closer, I could smell smoke.

I was curious. I knew a little about magic, from the ballads, but I didn't know much about mages. Despite the many stories about them, they really weren't all that common in these times. "Won't he just use a magic negation spell."

Tor answered, "Invoking the spell, that is called active magic. A negation spell prevents active magic from being used, unless you are more powerful than the mage casting it. My spell has already been activated. It's now what is called passive magic, and that's what our talents are, even when we're actually using them."

"Believe me," Dee said, you don't want to start fooling with passive magic. I'll tell you a story later that our master Tomos told us. We don't know if it's true, but if it isn't, what happened in the story could very easily happen."

Tor looked out from the smoke surrounding them with his ability. "He's about a hundred yards away and he's still approaching," he said with, "He's really dumb." Actually, he was fairly typical mage of the time period, maybe not quite as bright as some. The magic was always there but those who could use it weren't. This was a period, in which mages were much rarer than usual, and since they were scarce, not many of them went to war. Tomos, the boys' master had started as a warrior who had become a mage and he had instructed the boys, much more thoroughly in tactics than was normal.

Therefore, even when mages went into combat against each other, they tended to be much less experienced than in previous generations. They tended to make the mistakes that the boys, better instructed in war craft wouldn't. That would change in the next few years, because mage births were on the upswing, the boys being only two of many in their early teen and late pre-teens with the ability to use magic.

Tor took Dee's left hand so he could see the mage as well, and Dee taking his belt knife, threw it high into the air with all his strength. As it reached the apex of its arc and began to fall, he used its downward momentum to send it at the mage, and his favorite target on a mage, the throat, and the mage died choking on his own blood.

The boys approached the mage's body warily followed by Tennen. Even dead, he could have magical items, which could harm or even kill.

They stopped about ten yards from the mage and Dee pointed at him.

'Show me magical objects that will cause peril

To hurt or even kill.'

Dee passed his hand over his eyes, and then said, "That is a general spell that works on a dead mage of almost any level, even an Adept, unless a magical item has been deliberately spelled to hide itself. When that happens, often it's to hide a booby trap, though there are other reasons."

"What do you do if everything seems clear." asked Tennen.

"Be very careful, in both cases. Even if he has a booby trap which you can see, doesn't mean he doesn't have one that you can't see. For a mage to not have magical items on him, which this one supposedly does not, is much more suspicious, because almost all mages do. We killed a mage about three weeks ago, but he thought he was completely safe, so when we used magic to get rid of the body, no booby traps went off, but we still should have checked, and we didn't." said Dee. "Tor and I will each use ours wards, being far enough apart that the dead mage is between them and then we'll activate a burning spell and destroy the corpse. Being a spell, it should set off any booby trap, and the wards will help confine the blast. Since the ward spells were created by the same mage, we can actually connect them, and it'll only have two ways to go, straight up, or out the single path we give it. Unless he was a very unusual mage, it'll be a blast, whether it's to blow people up or to start fires.

Dee nodded at the people who had started to stream back into the village. "You'd better go warn the villagers that it isn't safe yet, take Dikon with you." he grinned at Tor, as the man scooped up the cat, "If we position the wards just right, if there is any blast, it should be directed at the castle." Tor giggled.

Tennen met the villagers and shooing them in front of them they moved a couple of couple of hundred yards away. They were too far away to see or hear the spells, they just saw the two boys spin in a circle with their fingers pointing.

"Now let's see if we're going to do any damage to the castle." said Dee.

'Bring an intense fire that must,

Quickly burn this mage's corpse to dust.'

And he brushed his hands, and as the corpse burst into flame, the world seemed to explode. Much of it went straight up, but it was designed to kill everyone in about a hundred yard radius. Much of the blast was confined between the two wards, and like an enormous cannonball, a solid mass of air struck the castle wall and simply leveled a portion of it.

Amazingly, no one was killed, and there were only minor injuries. That was because Baron Wyngot, had few servants, and after paying the mage he wasn't willing to pay many guards. So there was only a couple of dozen guards all told and the eight that had been knocked out by Tennen and the boys were undoubtedly still under, and the blast didn't hit the side on which the gate was located, nor did it contain any living quarters.

It was going to be a long time if ever before the Baron recovered. He'd lost a mage who had cost him a pretty penny, because the mage had used his version of the shrink spell to reduce the size of his purse so he carried all of the money, on his person. Said purse had just vanished along with its owner. He needed to repair his castle, if the villagers allowed it, and he had to hire more guards. He could do one thing or the other but not both, and without an intact castle he couldn't hire guards.

NINETEEN

The two boys and Tennen were in the bard's room at the moment. Tennen was finishing the restringing his lute, which had been interrupted, and he wanted to know why using a general spell on passive magic was considered so dangerous.

Dee told the story, "Once upon a time," and when Tennen grinned, he said sternly, before giggling, "Okay this may be a fairy story, but on the other hand if it never happened, it very easily could have." He continued with the story, "Once upon a time, there was Mage-King by the name of Odo. Now Odo had a very large kingdom, but he had gained a taste for conquest. The country he decided to attack next was up the coast from his own, so he brought his men to the coast of this country by ship and landed them."

"The land was incredibly rich farming land and starting at the coast was very flat, and stayed flat for miles inland. Now the defenders had set up fortifications about five miles inland, and Odo knew they appeared much more extensive than they really were. What they did have was a lot of mages, who had put up many wards. Odo was very confident because there were none to equal his power, so with one general spell he could destroy all of the wards, which are passive magic. He lined up his men just out of bow shot, and just behind his own lines he prepared his spell."

"We don't know what it was but it was probably a four or six line spell rather than one with only two. He said the spell, and with gesture and intent, he invoked it. When Odo canceled the passive magic to destroy the wards, he canceled the magic that was holding thousands of acres of land above the surface of a swamp. No longer being held up by those passive spells, he and all of his men began to sink. None survived, not even Odo. The land had been prepared by companies of Builders, who were Journeymen who went around to lands that contained swamps, and raised the bottom of the swamp land to the surface and when it was properly dried out it made incredibly rich farm land. But the land was held up by passive spells, which were kept energized by the natural magic all around."

"The defenders, who had known what would happen, had rafts made of logs and many boats, so they all survived. If it is true, one of the largest conquering armies in our history, died by a ruse, without a blow being struck, because a careless mage destroyed all passive magic in the area."

"The last five hundred years has been a period when those who could use magic have been scarce, that is starting to change. So, in the next generation Builders will again exist. What is more important is that those Builders existed for many thousands of years, and they worked all over our world, not only to raise farm land but to build bridges which would survive the ages, and many other projects. Since passive magic is all around us, what is natural and what was constructed can not be told apart. This land is a very good example. From the village to the river, it's very flat land, an ideal place to find a swamp. There is no way of telling without digging whether that land is a swamp on not. That's why you don't use general cancel spells against passive magic. Like Odo you have no way of knowing whether the ground will sink under you."

"You have no way of being sure, that the road for instance didn't develop a huge sinkhole, and is only being held up by passive magic. Ten yards one way or the other and you'd be fine but stand in the wrong place and cancel passive magic and you'd wind up in the sinkhole. Since the ground used to repair the sinkhole would be falling with you, it's unlikely you'd survive the fall. That's why mages are very wary about using spells to cancel general passive magic."

"Tor and I are also very rare. Mages seldom have in-born talents. They usually appear in the general population, and are the only magical talent a person would have, and they're usually quite limited, seldom above low Journeyman status. Tomos knew that one of us least had more than an in-born ability, because when I opened his front door, I canceled a ward spell, it wasn't very powerful, intended more to keep bandits and animals out, but only a mage could cancel it."

TWENTY

Tennen had joined them on their journey, and the boys had felt much less lonely over the last couple of weeks, as they followed Tomos trail. He hadn't told him that he intended to stay with them all the way. He intended to compose a ballad about the little mages if they were successful, and as he got to know them, he came to hope very passionately that they would succeed.

They had reached a crossroads, earlier today and Tomos trail kept going east and the trail to Vence in Sendar went south, they were one day's journey on their way south. They got their map out. Tennen had seen maps before though they were rare for anyone except for a high noble or a king, but this was the most detailed he had ever seen, and was exquisitely done. "We have to go to Vence, then we have to come all the way back." said Tor, ruefully.

"Maybe not." said Dee thoughtfully, "If we use the road that goes east from Vence, the main road south is only fifty miles away. It was originally built during the time of the Empire, and if they intend to head south, then that's the road they'll probably use. They can't head north for over one hundred miles because of the mountains, so even if they continue on this road we'd only lose fifty miles, and if they are going south we gain one hundred and fifty, because we don't have to backtrack."

Tor's face brightened. "That's a good idea. As you say at the worst, we only lose fifty miles, and if you go too far east, you end up at the coast and that would probably mean one of the other continents. Hopefully that's not necessary, we'd have to buy or charter a ship, since we wouldn't know exactly where they were going."

Tennen looked startled at the idea that they would have the resources to buy or charter a ship, and Dee grinned, "We brought Tomos fortune with us, we have almost forty thousand golds with us. He's a high Adept, and even if we have to spend all of it, he can always earn more. You've seen us use the shrink and expand spells for food and changes of clothing, well one of the shrunken chests is a money chest. Only Tomos and Tor and I can use the spell. It's keyed to us. If someone steals it or if we somehow lost it, it has a location spell on it as well."

His eyes went hard, "We wouldn't take kindly to having it stolen however." Tennen grinned, knowing the boys were people of action. It would likely be an unpleasant experience for anyone who stole something from them.

"We've never discussed what we'll do when we get to Vence. Are we going to steal the Eyes?" Tor asked, his voice subdued.

"No!" said Dee, emphatically. "That's how our older selves got them. I could see that, just from the shame they felt when they mentioned them. I don't intend to go around all my life being ashamed of stealing from a God or Goddess. I would rather go on without them, and die in the process."

Tor's brown eyes cleared. "Agreed, I've never been particularly happy about the prospect. So how do we get them, if we don't steal them?"

"We ask for them." Dee said calmly. Both Tor and Tennen raised their eyebrows at that. "Tomos gave us some religious instruction, not that he was particularly religious, but he felt we should know what the Gods required and would punish. After the first month, he gave up on Tor. He simply couldn't get him to pay attention to things like that." Tor grinned at him and Dee punched him on the shoulder. "Anyway, the first Tenet of Dwen. 'Any supplicant may ask Dwen for anything they want.' Now that's a dangerous tenet because the second tenet says, 'If you ask for something the Goddess doesn't feel you deserve, she may punish you.'"

"The present day Priests of Dwen, don't teach the first two tenets, they start with the third. The reason that they don't happened about five hundred years ago. A Prince asked, well demanded I guess, that he be made king immediately. Dwen decided that he was way out of line. So, she turned him into a donkey. The King, I gather, was quite relieved and provided him with a nice stall and a field for the rest of his life. The Priests on the other hand were somewhat embarrassed, and frightened. After all it could have been a different request, which his father considered legitimate. Suddenly having a beloved son turned into a donkey could have ended up with burning Priests and Priestesses. So they no longer teach the first two tenets, and only their sacred texts tell about them. However, most mages have access to the original tenets."

"Also most people need the Priests to ask the question. Mages don't need interpretation, and can speak directly to Dwen, therefore we can ask her directly, and the Priests can't deny us that right. Dwen comes down just as hard on Priests who try to stop someone from making a request, as she did the Prince who asked to be King."

TWENTY-ONE

Outside the Temple of Dwen, the boys and Tennen had stopped. Dwen's temple was a very simple building. Some people found it hard to believe that such a simple building housed one of the most powerful of the Gods. "What are they doing, Tor?"

"They're in the living quarters, eating dinner, all except one Priest in the Temple." Tor said.

"Good," said Dee, "the one in the Temple is probably a minor Priest, we'll find the head Priest or Priestess eating dinner, so we'll interrupt them."

They made their way down the path beside the Temple that lead to the back and the living quarters. The knocked on the door to the dining room and were invited in. It was unusual, but certainly not unknown.

The head of the Temple was a Priestess, since she was the one sitting at the head of the table. She looked at Dee and Tor and nodded at Tennen. "I have the feeling that you're the ones I should speak to, little ones. How may we help?"

Dee said, "We wish to make a request of Dwen." he said simply.

"Why should we allow that?" asked one of the Priests.

"Don't be silly, Barnt. They're Journeyman mages, they know the tenets as well as you do, including the ones we no longer teach." said the Chief Priestess. "I assume this is simply a courtesy call, since you can ask the question by yourself."

"A courtesy call yes, and you really should be there, since we have to ask for the Eyes of Dwen. You should see it if Dwen gives us such major artifacts, not simply hear it from one of your Priests. Besides we might need stable stalls." his black eyes dancing with humor.

The Chief Priestess looked at them searchingly for a couple of minutes, then slowly shook her head, "No. I have the feeling that you'll get what you asked for, somehow. But I would like to see it. Such a major event doesn't happen very often in the life of the clergy."

TWENTY-TWO

When all the Priests and Priestesses came into the Temple the one on duty moved quickly to their side, "Is there something wrong, Chief Priestess?"

"No, Serif. We have a couple of young mages who intend to use the First Tenet of Dwen. I have a feeling that you will see something that someday you'll be telling to your grandchildren, and tonight when I go home that I will be telling mine.

Dee and Tor walked toward the blue marble globe standing on a pedestal about two and half feet off the ground. The globe itself was eighteen inches in diameter and was supposed to represent the world, though only a few of the population believed that, since most of them knew the world was flat. Normally a priest would be with them, since it took some magic power to awaken it, but mages had that power already, and in the case of the First Tenet they asked the question themselves.

Tor and Dee put their right hands on the globe and Dee asked the question, "Dwen, in order to help our Master, we need your Eyes. We ask if we may borrow them until he has been freed." Tor had once been the bolder of the two boys, but since this quest had begun, Dee had become the leader and the spokesman.

The statue of Dwen like those of all the Gods, was simply a representation, just barely in human form, the eyes in the form of rubies. Those behind the boys gasped as it became more and more human like and then the head moved and the eyes stared at the boys, and she smiled. "Of all the worlds in which these events have occurred this is the first time that you and the others who are part of you in those other worlds have ever just come and asked. In a few of those worlds this event has not yet taken place, so we don't know if you will be the only ones."

She held up her right hand and everyone could see the two gemstones hanging down on necklaces. They floated off of her arm and one settled around each of the boy's necks. "You will need them for a much longer time than you think. They will return here on your deaths. You know that your duplicates have succeeded on other worlds, but you also know that you may not succeed on this world. Whether it is soon or long by mortal terms, I will be here to welcome you. Gook luck, little mages."

She looked at the others, "My Priests and Priestesses, these little ones are going on a very dangerous quest. I know you consider this an amazing event and I do not ask you to be silent for long, but you must not reveal their identities until after their quest is over. I can do little to help them, but one thing I can do is to delay the knowledge, that the Eyes are gone. For the next week, they will appear to still be in place, and then in the following week, they will disappear. Caution those you tell that they are not to speak about it until the knowledge about the Eyes disappearance becomes general. Then you will be allowed to tell the world that they weren't stolen but that someone asked for them."

She began to fade then until the statue was just a representation again, but with the false eyes in place.

TWENTY-THREE

Dee looked up from the fire and he noticed that the edges of the clearing were getting foggy. He nudged Tor and Tennen and they looked up just as the boys' older selves appeared. There was amusement and admiration on their faces.

"So simple, little ones, we never even thought just to ask." the older Dee said. "It would have saved many guilty feelings over the years. Now that you have the Eyes we can appear much more often, but they will simply be visits. We couldn't advise you even if it was allowed, the page you are on started off blank, almost everything you have done so far has been different from the way we did it. You are far more mature and realistic about what is happening than we were. It took us many weeks to learn what you knew right from the beginning."

Tor continued, "With us, Tennen showed up in a different manner, and he was more of a mentor and like Tomos he was always more like a parent. You listen to his advise but you don't regard him as a parent. With you, he's a companion and friend. We will see you later, little mages. Goodbye for now."

TO BE CONTINUED

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