Written by Marie Daley
Concept art by Adam Mathison-Sward
Two Hearts Under the Stars
The stars wheeled overhead as Ardis and Sabin sat near the Phoenix fountain. The lights reflecting through the water of the underground pool up thought the glass-like panels that surrounded the fountain on two of the eight sides, making it seem a more magical tonight for Ardis, as they sat on a bench near the fountain. She smiled as her eyes met Sabin’s.
“I can’t believe it! Two Talents?” she breathed out, still stunned. “You’re an amazing man, my dear husband!” Sabin grinned in pride as he shifted closer to her side and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him.
“It surprised me, to be truthful,” he admitted, embarrassed. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it.” She nestled into the warmth of his embrace, then reached up and began a long, passionate kiss. It wasn’t often when they could get a few moments of escape like they had tonight! Katas and the cubs were staying at Ryes and Garth’s overnight.
“And both our sons having Talent, too! They’re going to be a true handful when they’re grown,” Sabin admitted with a sigh, once their lips parted.
“I’m hoping all our cubs will be Talented,” Ardis said, her eyes dancing by the moons’ light. She realized she was clutching at his tunic top, almost as if she was afraid to let go of him.
“Ardis, Love, you may not have Talent, but are extremely talented in your own way. Don’t ever forget that! What is truly bothering you tonight?” he teased, knowing the answer and understanding why she’d insisted they come out here late tonight.
“You know,” she breathed, trying to find her smile once more as she looked into his warm, wonderful eyes. “You left for a couple of weeks to return an evil man to his chief and then ended up gone for months! And when you did make it back home, you were barely able to do anything with that broken leg. I shudder to think what this trip out into what our Sleepers call, `The Dark,’ will do to you, or if you’ll truly make it back home!” The women they’d rescued out of the frozen tombs of Doran’s valley were still leaning and adjusting back to what living actually meant. Their lives had started hundreds of years ago, and the changes left many uncertain.
Sabin sighed as he held her tightly in his arms, trying to figure out a good way to reassure her. Then inspiration hit and he opened up to her from within with his new Mind Voice Talent, as he still struggled to learn how, trying to recall what Raya showed him earlier today.
“Let me show you, truly show you, a few things,” he gently teased, suddenly feeling she was unwilling to be this intimate with him. She saw he was puzzled by it, as she didn’t understand it either. Finally, she relaxed and opened up to him, from within her heart, ready. He then showed her what both he and Dastin saw during the battle of the Talents with the southerners; the great city that Winterhaven is now destined to be, and he was now fully confident it would happen! They both marveled at the huge buildings, crowds of people, the shuttles riding on rails overhead and the bright light that came off the Windrose Stone, which wasn’t mounted above them as yet. But it was their Phoenix fountain.
“There’s a dome overhead?” Ardis noted, wondering why it was there. “Do our descendants become that unused to wonderful things like rain or snow?”
“I’ve no idea, but I’ve come to believe that we will both be very active in making sure Winterhaven evolves into a great city that might actually rival Hailys, in its own time. So, while I might be out in `The Dark,’ my heart will be here with you at home,” he assured her. He let the memory go of this wondrous Vision. “I never knew I could have a shared Vision that way,” he admitted a bit chagrinned, understanding Ryes and Maren’s shared Visions better now. He felt her warm-hearted humor.
“With Ryes powering things up, I can imagine a great many things can happen. She’s gotten stronger and has more Talents to call upon, but somehow, I don’t think she knows yet how to cover her own back. I don’t fully trust our Sleepers, either. They used to plot to take over Winterhaven, but I believe that’s died away. Is there anything I can do to help her, since you and Garth aren’t going to be here for a few days?”
“Why not learn how to tap into her Talents and figure out how to use them, too? I know Bethy will grab onto her and pull up her Mind Voice and other Talents, and Ryes lets her. She’d let you, too, you know,” he asserted. He felt her humor again.
“So, I can see how you’re doing up there? That’s an idea!” she returned, merrily. “She loves and trusts me and will let me do it, too! And I’ll help watch after her.”
“You two aren’t going to let us get too far anymore,” he replied, teasing again, and giving her an upwelling of his deep love for her.
“After all the trouble we had figuring out you guys were the ones for us, no way,” she assured him. She returned her own deep love for him. Sabin then laughed as he opened his eyes, keeping his Talent up, and scooped her up in his arms.
“You are going to see exactly how much I love and care about you, my dear lady,” he sent, as he stood up and headed back to their home. He’d be up in The Dark in a few days and could watch the stars all he wanted to, then.
Early last spring, seven Matlowe villagers set out for the great ruins of Hailys, because Sabin was banished for six months for killing a cub-killer; it gave the Matlowe Village elders time to collect evidence of the dead man’s guilt – one way or the other. It also allowed them to escape Maren’s father, Korman, who’d been known to kill others in challenges. Garth wasn’t going to ever let Korman get his claws on Ryes, and she didn’t want him to get his claws on Garth! During their journey they found the Temple of Doran and her evil plans, but Ryes bested her in a Talent battle, which was partly a within contest of wills, as well as a physical assault. Afterwards, they discovered Hailys and a few treasures that could be gleaned from their past, even if most of the things found puzzled them. Garth beat Korman in a challenge in Hailys when he followed them there. After leaving Hailys, they found a deserted, human, research facility, which they named Winterhaven. Later, while Garth and Sabin were away to settle a peace treaty, Ryes called down a derelict, human, colony transport ship, the Star Quest, which came from Earth, and she and Maren saved what few humans remained onboard in suspension tubes. Since then, the two peoples, both starmen and humans, discovered they could meld; being of one heart in truth and later that they could actually interbreed. Now they wanted to build a secure future for them all! And it’d been foreseen they were destined to conquer the Snagospin, the dark enemy who destroyed Tayna over three-hundred years ago. Being planet-bound, they only need a way to reach them!
"Ah, come on Ryes, we just got back!" Sabin vehemently protested, as he sat in his office the next day. They'd arrived the evening before, having travelled several days to get back from the Caravaner Spring Gather, and the last thing he wanted was a trip out to Hailys tomorrow. They still had to get their things sorted out and clean again, after spending almost four weeks away. What he realized, more than anything in this moment, was he only wanted to enjoy being home with only "normal" concerns for a few days. She smiled impishly at this, then gave him a nod of her head in understanding, her green eyes meeting his orange-gold ones.
"All right, I'll ask Mitt if she minds, then. I know what you mean, though; a long trip does take it out of you!"
"It wasn't my imagination about Torr and Dodi being together? I thought Ardis was going to have a fit when they picked up Tobin last night. She was starting to get attached to him." Ryes nodded her head in regret. She'd seen the way she was bonding with the infant when they were out at the gather site.
"It was a shock for us, too. But Maren helped her to bring in her milk, so she could feed him naturally. He says he thinks it might be a little short of a year before Dodi’s next season is upon her, so hopefully they'll have things worked out, one way or the other, by then. Dodi looked so happy and proud, but I feel sorry for Tobin, having this mother, then that mother, and now another one. I hope he'll be all right!"
"Me, too," he grunted. He still had his own sister's pregnancy to deal with, yet. Wait until their mother found out! He thought it'd be best to tell her the day before the formal announcement. He could imagine the screaming and yelling! Even so, he knew he was still glad to be home. Suddenly, he realized he was having a familiar feeling and reached out to grab Ryes' hand. He wanted it as strong and clear as possible, tapping her Booster.
There was a crowd gathered near the silent bulk of the Star Quest, all eyes cast upwards to the sky above. Coming down slowly, as if a leaf surrendering to a precarious breeze as it fell from a tree, was a starship. This one looked different, but like the Star Quest, it carried scaring upon its outer hull. Garth turned to him and smiled.
"Looks better than we thought," he commented.
"I thought it'd be larger," Ethan added, frowning at the sight. Luckily, it managed to set down near the Star Quest, well away from their new construction projects.
"Thanks, Ryes," Sabin said, as the Vision released him. She quirked an odd smile at him.
"Why…?" she stammered, not sure what she was even asking. It was as if the both of them stood there in fact, but not like the ones she and Maren shared.
"You do boost my Visions and I'll warn you right now, if I ever feel one coming on and you're close by, I'll be tapping into your abilities again. They're strong and clear when I'm in contact with you, which I’ve discovered through the last year being around you," he explained, grinning wolfishly.
"So good as to be of some service," she returned with a small bow and smile as she blushed, still a little unsettled. He chuckled at the expression on her face, bowing in return, amused he’d unsettled her again.
"Do you think Mitt could handle it?" he suddenly asked, wondering if he should go along with them, after all? “She is young and still learning her Talents,” he added.
"I think she can, but the final decision is Garth's and I'm not breathing a word to Mitt, until he approves it. We'll see what he says. He may just wait until you're feeling centered once more," she ventured with a smile.
"Let me know what he says," he requested. She gave him a nod, then got up.
"Take a few minutes to walk about the apartment complex with Ardis, later. I think you'll like some of the innovations the crew's come up with," she suggested, teasing him.
"I think I will," he agreed, as she stepped over to the door. She turned to smile, then waved as she left. He turned back to his console and typed in a quick message to his wife.
"Sabin's tired and doesn't feel up to it, yet," Ryes explained to her husband, sitting in his office afterwards. She was still a little unsettled about being used by him, and the way he bragged about it.
"They just got back last night, after all. Have some mercy for him," he teased. "So, we'll delay your journey for a few days. What will it matter? The past just is… and will remain so written." She sighed, seeing he was right to a point.
"I was thinking of using either you, or Mitt to fill in. After all, you both have strong Talents," she countered, smiling sweetly.
"I still have to get used to the idea of actually having Talents," he returned, huffing at her reminder. "I forgot that now I could possibly try to go with you." He recalled that horrible, odd feeling he got whenever she Time Walked far back into the past, then realized that he felt better in the role of being her guide back; just in case she needed his help to reconnect. And he could count upon Sabin to make her mind him while journeying into the past.
"You haven't told anyone yet, have you?" she pressed, realizing it only now.
"Only Sabin, Torr, Maren and the elders," he replied, chuckling, realizing she knew him too well! "With what we found in the library in Matlowe, we may not need any further trips back into the far past," he ventured, hoping to dissuade her.
"I still have to save my great aunt. I've no idea from what, but how can I find out, if I don't go back to see?" she pressed, sure on this account. Her instincts were screaming at her that she had to accomplish this deed, if nothing else. “I’m starting to have nightmares of Hailys' destruction again. Somehow, I know this is tied in with my Great Aunt Adina.” Garth didn't look happy with her, but realized she was right.
"One more explorative trip is all I'm allowing," he finally granted with a heavy sigh, hoping he wouldn't regret it. "I'd rather you wait until Sabin feels more up to the task, than risk Mitt. Her Talents may be strong, but has no true experience, yet," he said, then paused as he recalled hearing what she and Axel were discussing the other day in the shuttle hangar. "Actually, I think Axel has a better idea of how to use her Talents than she does. It's a good thing she's used to listening to him." Ryes huffed out a laugh, thinking it sounded true.
"So, did the new treaty work out all right?" she suddenly asked. It was one of the things he and Sabin were working on at the gather. Now that they had the wisdom and counselling of Dr. Cruthers and Rowan to add weight to their side, they were trying to renegotiate the treaty with the plain’s tribes.
"Dara was impressed and is looking at our new draft. He'll have his counter proposal ready by the next gather. Kyma's also working on drafting a treaty with us, so we gave him an altered copy. He sees advantages to having close ties with Winterhaven. I'm only surprised he didn't try talking Mitt into accepting him for her mating later this summer," he admitted, chuckling.
"He sure spent enough time with her, up in the choppers," Ryes agreed with his observation. "But she's too hooked into Minn, to take anyone else's interest seriously. Did you catch that play Mason made for her, as if he were trying to win her back?" she asked. He shook his head no at this, wondering about it. "I'm only surprised she didn't leave boot prints across his back, as he practically threw himself before her feet. Poor Shadd. She was so embarrassed. I hope she's rethinking her choice of playmates, now."
"Torr and Dodi seem solid, so I don't think she'll have a chance of winning him back. It's nice to see Torr happy, again."
"That's true," Ryes admitted, smiling. She was glad they were doing well and hoped they'd stay together for a while, at least, still feeling uncomfortable about Tobin.
"I almost forgot," she hinted, smiling. "Sabin shared one of his Visions with me." Garth's eyes took on new interest, nodding for her to continue. "Actually, he started having the Vision and quickly grabbed my hand. Afterwards, he told me he tapped me because my Booster make his Visions stronger and clearer, and anytime he has another one when I'm near, he'll do it again. Talk about being used and abused!" she mockingly groaned in protest, smiling. Garth chuckled, then leaned forward and took his wife's hand into his own.
"Show it to me," he urged. She knew he'd want to see it and was ready for the request. She closed her eyes and opened up to him from within, showing him what they saw. After several long moments, they both dropped out of the link. "So at least one will make it for sure," he stated. "Though it does look pretty beat up."
"At least they get through," she insisted. "It looks like it sustained some kind of guidance damage, to be drifting down so crazily, and it's almost three-quarters of a size smaller than the Star Quest. I wonder how large the crew is?" she wondered aloud.
"Hopefully, all of them will make it," he breathed, then smiled for her. The message they received previously from Earth’s military stated twelve ships were being sent out, seeking Tayna for help in breaking the Darken’s blockade. "Anything else of importance?"
"No. Pretty slow day around here. Guess we all still need to recover from that gather. It's a good thing we've only committed to the Caravaner's Gather and the Great Spring Gather. I think that's more than enough fun, for now. But I can bet we'll be pressed to participate in the Great Fall Gather, too," she stated. "We're doing our preparations for the Great Spring Gather with the lessons we've learned from this last one, kept more in mind. We're also installing the call station over in Matlowe, and putting up a new column of the laws, which were supposed to be posted in the Village Square, later this week."
"Did they finish their analysis of the metal of the original column?"
"Yes. It's the same one used for the beams in the buildings in Hailys. It takes one truly hot fire to get that stuff to melt for molding. Phil thinks if we can duplicate their process, we'd have some great, lightweight metal for our shipbuilding ventures. I guess it's pretty tough stuff," she told him.
"I wonder if they used it for building their own ships, in the past?" he speculated, looking puzzled. “We’ve never tried to excavate the great crater, where the space port once stood, but if they did use such metal in their ships, they might still lie buried beneath the dirt and rubble!”
"I don't know. I could ask my Aunt Adina," she hinted, smiling mischievously.
"I already told you, you can go when Sabin's ready," he reminded her, huffing in exasperation. "I'll talk with him after lunch and see when he thinks the two of you should go."
"Sounds good to me. I'd better move and check on things in my office before lunch, myself. Gareth bit me this morning, looking like he meant it. I may be weaning them soon, since they're used to using the bottles and sippy cups now, anyway."
"He might be teething," Garth suggested, laughing at the look on her face.
"I'm not a teething ring, and that's my final decision," she replied, knowing it amused him.
"Whatever you think best, Sweet One," he told her. "See you for lunch," he promised, standing up as she stood. She smiled as he kissed her, then was quickly out the door. He sighed as he sat back down, turning back to his terminal.
"They were headed to the spaceport, so it only makes sense," Ryes asserted as Garth piloted the chopper toward Hailys. "They were going to leave for Kahmarr, never to return. Whatever happens has to be out there."
"Since you're the one leading this expedition, we'll head for the spaceport," he replied, giving in. He altered his course to take them to where the spaceport once stood. It was early in the morning, with the sun having just risen. The view from the chopper was breathtaking, as the reddish-yellow sunlight began to bring color to the swiftly passing world below them. The land west of Hailys was starting to border the plains, so there were fewer trees, but the grasses were tall and green with their new spring growth, waving in the light southerly breeze. Garth circled the area where he intended to land, making sure there'd be no untold surprises awaiting them, then lightly landed the aircraft.
"Wait," Garth cautioned Ryes as she reached for the door's release, having already unbuckled from the seat's harness. "Quincy, Monty, give it a quick look around," he ordered.
"I could do that with my Talent, or you can with yours," Ryes scolded, but he quietly met her eyes, making sure she was paying him attention, as the two men left the chopper out one of the rear doors.
"You're going to need every bit of energy you've got for this venture. Don't waste it in checking the area for predators. And I need practice to learn to understand what my Talent is telling me. This isn’t the time. Let the gentlemen perform their duties, and learn a little patience," he advised, finally smiling for her. She gave him a nod of her head, understanding.
"Maybe I'd better go give them a hand?" Torr volunteered. "They've only hunted on a team before and may not know a predator's trace from a herd beast's."
"You have a point," Sabin agreed, smiling. "Why don't you and Gann double check them?" Garth gave them a nod of agreement, so both men exited, following in the humans' footsteps. After almost ten minutes, they heard the all-clear whistle. By then Garth had finished his shutdown procedure and was more ready for this, himself. Ryes had sat fidgeting nervously, worried over what she thought the emergency was, from which she had to save her great aunt.
"Let's go," Garth ordered, grabbing his backpack. Ryes grabbed hers as she jumped out the door into grasses, which came up to her knees. She was glad she wore her tall boots today! There was an unexpected pistol shot and she found herself flattened, burrowed into the grasses, glad of the cover and her reflexes.
"It's only a snake," Gann called out loudly, with a laugh. She stood back up to see him holding up a brown, three-foot long viper, whose head had been shot off. For some reason she couldn't name, she was glad it wasn't her viper. Garth looked disgusted, as his brother walked over and threw down the carcass near his feet.
"Warn us, next time," Sabin growled out. They gathered as a group and started walking toward the crater's edge, which lay only fifty feet away. Ryes noted the wildflowers and wild grains growing here, stopping to pick some as she went.
"Just can't leave the poor plants alone, can you?" Maren teased, as he saw her putting some of the wild grains into a collection bag she’d pulled out of her backpack. She smiled up at him, shaking her head as she shoved the bag back into her backpack.
"You never know what we'll find!" she told him. She started idly weaving the wildflowers into a wreath, as they walked.
"Let me guess, you're going to wear those?" Dr. Cruthers merrily questioned her, pointing to her wreath.
"I used to wear flowers in my hair all the time, when I was younger," she related with a wistful sigh. She looked to him, smiling. "I grew out of it, but still like to do silly things like make wreaths, every now and then. I love the way these pink ones smell," she added, smiling as she picked more, inhaling their fragrance before adding them into her creation. Garth chuckled.
"On that particular rainy day, I recall finding one of your blue flowers, after you ran off," he told her, "I think I kept it for years." She blushed as she looked to him, meeting his eyes. Yes, she could well believe he'd do something like that.
"I guess I should get back into the habit," she teased, "At least you won't have to hold me down to get a flower anymore." Maren, Sabin and Torr laughed as Gann looked embarrassed. He recalled that day and taking his chance to help beat up the little outcast girl, who always had the best toys from off the caravans. He recalled that Garth held her down, but never struck her.
“Ryes, I’m so sorry for what I did to you when I was young and stupid,” he apologized for his actions, as a thoughtless child. She saw this, and gave him a kindly look and nod of her head. She understood, appreciated it, and let it all go, once more.
"The past is only that," Maren told him, seeing Gann's distress. "She forgave us," he assured him, smiling. He sighed relief, seeing it in her clear, emerald-green eyes. Ethan looked interested, as if wondering what secret they shared?
Ryes and Garth reached the edge of the crater and stopped. It wasn't as deep, nor as wide as the one in the center of Hailys but was still impressive. A wide variety of grasses, brush and trees covered the ground, far below their feet. It was like an isolated garden, with the occasional metal beams sticking up as if some strange, leafless plants growing among the normal vegetation. Ryes itched to climb down to explore it, even if it looked like it’d be a difficult climb.
"Dr. Cruthers, did any of your earlier explorations determine if that death dust was used here, too?" she suddenly asked, turning to see him studying the scene below them. His eyes met hers, wondering why she needed such information now?
"We barely found this crater when we had to evacuate, so I don't believe any scans were done to determine if the danger exists here, or not. You're not planning on a trip down into the crater now, my dear?"
"Not now, but maybe at some time in the future," she replied, memories of some hazy dreams about it danced behind her eyes.
"Yeah, her pink flowers grow down there in abundance," Maren commented with mischief in his eyes as he looked at her. "Got to have plenty of those ones."
"Oh Maren, come on. I know that if I told you I was going to explore there, you'd be clamoring to come along," she stated, the look in her eyes daring him to refute her. He sighed as he finally nodded his head. She knew him, too well. Suddenly, Garth started looking around, tension in his stance. Then he relaxed as he realized none of the trees in this area looked anything like the ones in their Vision. Even the ones below weren't tall enough. It wasn't here, at least.
"Let's get you set up over there," Garth suggested, pointing to some nearby trees. "The sooner you get started, the sooner we can be on our way home." Ryes sighed, knowing he was right. She was enjoying the time out but was sure he was thinking of the work he still had to finish before the next gather.
The trees here gave off a wonderfully spicy scent, as their branches hung low with their many blooms. Ryes and Torr spread out a large groundsheet, after checking the area beneath first for any lurking dangers. Next Ryes brought out her blanket, with Maren helping her to unfold it. They placed it down over the groundsheet, looking for all the world as if they were out for an early morning picnic. As Ryes, Sabin and Maren sat down, yellow and white flower petals began to drift downward on the breeze, falling lightly to the ground. Ryes plucked a flower up from her lap, laughing happily. Garth gave her a warning look; she sighed and tried to relax, so they could get down to doing what they came all this way to finish. She placed her wreath upon her head in a small show of defiance and the other flower in her pocket. Ethan sat near her, pulling out his pipe and filling it; a pair of drones buzzed overhead, recording everything.
"Be careful, my dear," he cautioned, feeling she needed the warning. She smiled for him, giving him a nod of her head.
"Mind your time," Garth warned her. Sabin nodded his head in agreement.
"I'll try," she replied. She took in a deep breath, releasing it slowly. Flutter-wings were loose in her stomach, even if this was her third trip. She closed her eyes, reaching down for her center, then over for Sabin's hand. He clasped hers securely, their minds now linked using her Mind Voice. Then she unleashed her Time Walking Talent, casting them back through time.
There was that old, now familiar, wrenching sensation, which caused her stomach to feel out of place. This shifting was far harder to endure, than the shorter trips she was used to make to learn the human base, before the Star Quest landed. The gold and green light and torrent of rushing power threatened to engulf them. She held on and searched for her Aunt Adina and Hadu-ramashan, her aunt’s guardian. If she could find them, she felt she'd be fine. This focus gave her strength to resist the effects of the shift and save Sabin from the worst of it, too. Finally, the shifting settled, and she opened her eyes upon the bustling spaceport.
"This place is astounding," Sabin commented, as they stood up and marveled at the view down upon the busy port around them. They arrived sitting next to a great glass panel. Below them the port was laid out. It was amazing!
There were many levels here with offices, shops, restaurants, bars and places to rent rooms, declared by their bold, garish-like signs, spread out through them and curving around the main, oval-shaped pit, going both left and right from where they viewed it. There were men and women clothed in brown, green and black uniforms, who looked to keep the peace, like the human police officers they’d seen in old human vids.
There were areas where the ships at the far end of the pit, stood ready for boarding, some with lines of people in the process. The ships looked to be of all sizes and shapes. There were ships to the one side where crates, barrels and boxes of various types were being unloaded onto carts and pulled off elsewhere, out of sight by small machines, which the humans would've called robots. Others were bringing cargo and baggage out to waiting ships, helping their crews to load them.
"Look," Sabin pointed out. There was a ship shaped as a great, gold ball, being clamped down and pulled out to the far end of the deeper pit area, where another was just landing and the clamps moving into place to take possession of the craft. Once the arriving ship was out of the way, the clamps were released, and the gold ship rose upwards at an astounding rate of speed. They both practically held their breaths, until it was out of sight, off into the bright, morning sky. It was soon followed by four other ships, in rapid succession.
"Amazing!" Ryes breathed, "and very different from the way the humans run their starports, from Dr. Cruthers’ memories."
"Who said the humans always have the right way to do things? From what I understand, we were star explorers for several thousands of years before the humans journeyed out from their home world," he pressed, in an irritated response. She gave him a nod and a rueful smile in surrender at his rebuke, then turned back from the tremendous pit, to look to the bustling crowds behind them. She saw her Aunt Adina just getting off the shuttle, with Hadu making sure she was never crowded, even here. People gave way before him, with a hint of fear rimming their eyes. He was a predator walking among the herd, and they knew it.
"Aunt Adina!" Ryes called out, waving. She and Sabin quickly trotted toward them, smiling. They saw them and stopped to wait.
"My goodness dear, you are cutting it close. We only have an hour before we have to start boarding our ship out," she mildly scolded, still smiling. Ryes smiled in return, giving her a nod.
"I wanted to catch you at the port, before you left," she replied. "Is there time for a quick chat?"
"Hadu, please ask if the ship could be held for an extra fifteen minutes?" she requested, then turned to Ryes. "We will make a little time. Come over here," she gestured, as Hadu used his headset to make the request. He stayed with them and still alert to everything around them. "So, what news do you bring? I see you have given birth to your children, and now you both sport the same symbol on your clothing," she inquired politely, as they sat in a booth, like the one they used at the other end of the shuttle's line. She smiled at the flowers in her hair. Ryes sighed, nodding her head.
"We've been very busy, and I was studying the human legends and found this bird of fire, who rose from the ashes of destruction. I thought it suited our recreating our lives,” she explained with a smile. “I've called down a human starship, with only a handful of the humans, who originally built the place we call Winterhaven, aboard. Their ship had been attacked by the Snagospin, the same people who attacked Hailys, and these few survived by being placed in a cold suspension. Shortly after that, I had my four cubs, with the youngest, Rhin, being a Booster. With the spring, we uncovered a hidden repository under Matlowe Village and a recording left by a Prince of Kahmarr telling us a little of what happened, shortly after the attack. We're just starting to fully understand the last of the message he left, now," she told her.
"A Prince? Which one?" Adina questioned, curious.
"Prince Callas of House Ladearis. He looks like an older version of my cousin, Maren. He said his Talent's Healing," she answered. "He did name Garth as his heir, as his wife was a strong Visionary and she saw us finding and opening what they left. The family name and legacy were passed down through his full-blooded sister, Isyiah of House Ladearis, who was here visiting with him. He said their library was filled with all that they could glean from Hailys, Pygoth and Montas, which were destroyed." Adina smiled, knowing she had no idea what her cousin looked like, but dismissed it as unimportant. The sister’s name was familiar, but this was not the time to worry about it.
"Your son, Rhin, may be the one who is supposed to aid you, dear. Have you yet figured out how or what may be happening that you need to rescue us from?" she questioned.
"I fear that it's the attack upon Hailys, itself. I've been having horrible dreams about it, far different from the vision my mother showed me. And it's the only thing I can think of which Hadu wouldn't be able to handle," she asserted. Sabin nodded his head in agreement. Adina paused for a moment, within, feeling her truth, even if she wasn’t here physically. It was that strong!
"What is a Talent of One? The Prince was talking about looking for her but was unable to find her. It must be a very strong Talent, for him to believe it'd be the only way to take out the Snagospin Talents," Sabin added, still wondering.
"A Talent of One?" she laughed lightly at this, breaking her inner stillness, shaking her head. "It is not one Talent, but all fourteen Talents born into one person. Your mother is a Talent of One, Ryes," she informed her, meeting her emerald-green eyes. "I only have Mind Voice and Earth Shaper, myself. It was the reason why it was so important I discover exactly what happened to your mother. Your grandfather, Tair of House Clenons, helped her escape an arranged marriage."
"It was the man she was supposed to marry, his family and their plans for her that terrified her, not the idea of marriage," Ryes assured her, smiling. "I spoke with her spirit." Adina sighed in relief.
"Yes, they are an ambitious bunch and I tried to warn Mada of this before she made the final arrangements," she stated, hiding her surprise about her casually speaking with Tyra’s spirit; still, it gave her an odd twinge of pride. "Now will you accompany us, as we must try to reach our ship. We can talk along the way. I did message Mada about what you told me the last time, just before we boarded the last shuttle here. I got her reply a few minutes ago and she sounded amused. I am not sure if she believed my story," she related with a wry smile. "She must think I am experiencing some kind of hallucinations, brought about by all my stressful travels." She laughed lightly at this, as Ryes laughed in agreement. They stood and headed for a tube, which delivered people to various levels, within the concourse. The crowd was still heavy, and Ryes' aunt was unwilling to push things, with Ryes and Sabin being in spirit form, and vulnerable.
"Where's everyone going?" Sabin asked, not liking the press of travelers around them.
"Everywhere there is to go in the known worlds," Adina supplied with a warm smile. "I keep forgetting you do not have access to starships in your own time. Life must be very simple and dull."
"Simple sometimes, but never dull," Sabin returned with a smile. "Garth and I left for a few days to set up a peace treaty with the plainsmen and ended up gone for several months. Now that's a trip I wouldn't want to repeat. From now on, we travel by rovers and choppers," he assured her. She looked puzzled by his reference.
"He means by a ground convenience, which resembles a small shuttle on wheels, or land rover, as the humans call it. And a chopper is a propeller driven, vertical take-off and landing aircraft," Ryes explained. Hadu gave her a nod of his head, understanding her references. Aunt Adina had turned back to see if they could work their way in through the dense crowd.
Suddenly, there was a tremor which ran through the platform beneath their feet. People started screaming, not knowing what was happening. The wild motion stopped, and the crowd seemed to be holding its collective breath, waiting to see if it would be repeated. Ryes was hit by a sudden chill. This was just how her nightmares began!
"RUN FOR COVER! RUN AWAY FROM HAILYS!" Ryes yelled out, surprising those standing around her. She knew what was coming; there was no doubt in her mind. People behind them started running in every direction, in panic, as Hadu grabbed Adina and picked her up. He ran back for the area near the booths they just quit, with Ryes and Sabin right upon their heels. There was a tremendous sound of thunder, coming from behind them and the shaking was so bad that most everyone was thrown off their feet. The walls, themselves, suddenly cracked, shattering under the assault from above. Hadu kept running, heading for some doors, which were labeled to indicate an exit up to the surface. They gained the outer doors amid a panicked press of people, just as a terrifying ball of fire came rushing up behind them. They reached the doors, rushing through them, as Hadu pushed them closed on them, knowing they were in spirit form, trying to use the doors as a meager shield against the fire. They passed through, still right behind them. As the fire engulfed the doors, blowing them open again, Ryes turned.
"NO!" she cried out and the fireball stopped, exactly as the one did when the portal was rigged to kill those who tripped it in the wrong manner, in Matlowe. Not knowing where to direct the energy of this massive ball of flame, she directed it back upon itself, which extinguished this one, as well as a great swath of flames near it, but still fires burned freely outside, beyond the doors.
"Ryes! How did you do that? You are only Time Walking! You should not be able to do such a thing!" Aunt Adina cried from the safety of Hadu's arms. There were flames in the passage and stairs above them, so she quelled those too, but the gallery they just quit was quickly engulfed again, as Ryes turned to face her aunt, her eyes full of her own questions. Massive beams and other pieces of the building crashed down to crush many who weren't killed by the fire's embrace. Others were still running, blindly seeking safety, some toward them, passing them as they rushed toward the stairs upward, some away, appearing lost and desperate.
"I have no idea. Only that I can't let either of you die. Why shouldn't I be able to use my other Talents, if the essence that is me is here? But I think we'd best return. I spent too much energy doing that. I'll be back soon, I promise," she vowed. With this, she pulled Sabin and herself back to their own time, the wrenching feeling was so strong, it almost made her pass out. It had never been like this before! But she realized Garth’s presence was ahead and went to him with joy in her heart at feeling his nearness. She felt her body around her as Maren was yelling something at her. She couldn't respond. It was all she could do to breathe! She was too cold and tired. She heard Sabin's voice and felt better that he sounded all right. Then there was the warm softness of the blanket wrapped around her, as her body shivered in reaction. Something was pressed to her lips, and she was being encouraged to swallow. It was hot and sweet, and she recalled it was something she liked to drink. But she sought the warm darkness of nothingness for a while, just feeling so tired and only wanting to rest in its velvety embrace and forget, for a moment, that horrifying destruction.
Adina stepped over and picked up a wreath of pink flowers, which had been upon Ryes' head. She was in utter shock. Never in all recorded time, had a Time Walker been able to extend his, or her, other Talents while in spirit form into the past! With the fires raging around them and the floor still shaking below her feet, Adina turned back to Hadu, showing him the wreath. The shock in his eyes showed her it wasn't her imagination, alone. Time Walking was a rare Talent, and she truly didn’t know how often a Time Walker carried an additional Talent. Still Ryes’ abilities were strong and very unique!
Finally, letting go her own, personal sorrow, and finding her center, she reached out with her Talent, sealing the way behind them with a wall of reinforced earth, to keep the fires and smoke back. There were none left alive on this level, stirring on the other side of the doors. Those trapped with her and Hadu looked to her for salvation. She didn't know if she had the energy but thought if she could create a clear way upwards, it might help them all escape this madness, which was threatening to engulf them. She realized Ryes and her son might truly be their only lifeline, after all. She put the flowered wreath upon her head, to show she believed.
"Finally," Maren breathed, looking down as Ryes opened her eyes, seeing she was back where she belonged, once more. She realized they were flying in the chopper. "How do you feel?" he pressed, needing to hear her voice.
"Exhausted," she assured him in a croaking voice, trying to find her smile. She was sure she quirked a small one at least. He suddenly hugged her to himself, almost crushing her with the strength in his arms.
"Don't you ever do that to us, again!" he scolded, his fear naked in his voice.
"I'll try not to, but I need to go back to save her, Maren, or she'll die!" Ryes told him, tears starting to flow. "I can't leave her to die like that! The whole city is being demolished around them!" She saw the look on his face and knew he was deeply torn inside.
"She's awake?" Ethan asked, joyful to see her responding at last. Ryes caught his warm smile and tried to smile for him too.
"We didn't get many answers; we were rudely interrupted," Ryes told him, trying to let go of her sudden, deep heartache. She saw Garth glance back; the look in his eyes almost started her crying again. She closed her eyes with a sigh and just rested in Maren's arms. She had new problems to unravel and somehow, she had to come up with a way to save her great aunt, Hadu, and as many of those poor, trapped people as she could. She drifted off to a regular sleep, long before they reached Winterhaven.
“I know it seems silly to you, but I’m checking everyone in Winterhaven,” Ryes told Gann as he reluctantly stood before her, now at the head of the line, of a long line of people. Most of the others had been cleared to continue with their day, but a handful were talking with Mitt and Raya quietly off to one side. Surprisingly two humans were among them, Scott, and Max. Talents were what the humans call psi abilities, which allowed one, who had the gifts, the tools to reach out into the physical world with their will and effect changes around them. The starmen have fourteen distinct Talents. They are Mind Voice, Empath, Healer, Visionary, Dreamer, Manipulator, Catalyst, Booster, Inner Sight, Time Walker, Fire Shaper, Water Shaper, Storm Caller and Earth Shaper. And while the humans have several in common with the starmen, like Mind Voice, Visionary and Empath they have five other, distinct Talents of their own. They are Electrokenisis, Psi-shield and Blade, Sixth Sense, Telekinesis and Chameleon. The starmen have been breeding Talents for uncounted generations, while the humans for only a few hundred to a thousand years – depending upon whom you asked.
“I don’t have a Talent. I would’ve known by now,” Gann protested. She looked straight into his eyes.
“Sit,” she ordered in a low voice, having reached her limit with such protests. She wanted to get this all done! He sighed, gave in and did as she bid, realizing he wasn’t being given a choice today. “Thank you,” she added, as she calmed herself, “now close your eyes and relax. I promise this won’t take long.” He gave her a nod and tried to comply, but he truly wasn’t in a mood to relax right now. She took his hand and once she saw his eyes were closed, so closed her own and opened up from within.
Gann was as tall as his littermate, Garth, and well-muscled as him, but as Garth had honey-colored eyes, his were a dark brown. She trusted Gann in many ways; having gotten to know him well with the close association between the brothers. She found that she usually gave his counsel more weight because he was so like his brother. Because of this, she reached out to him to explain, first.
“Did Garth tell you?” she asked directly, before they began. She felt his puzzlement very clearly. It ignited her own humor, having guessed as much, knowing her husband. “I found he has two Talents and since Mitt has two Talents and there’s latent abilities sleeping in all our cubs, I thought you of all people here in Winterhaven would surely have Talent, too,” she explained.
“So, because so many other members of my family have Talent, you believe I do too? Why haven’t I seen signs of this before?” he asserted, his heart full of doubts. Her mirth filled their contact again.
“Garth didn’t know he had Talent until I found it at the caravaner’s gather. Let me take a look,” she pressed. He gave in and tried to relax. She delved within him seeking out the small orb of extra energy deep within his being, and found she wasn’t disappointed. The glowing energy of his sleeping Talent was right where she expected to find it.
“Oh my…” he stated, startled by its existence.
“I’m going to release it and I need you to take control of the Talent. You have to tell it YOU control it; it doesn’t control you. I’m here for you, but this is your life, don’t let it take it from you,” she warned. She felt his reluctance now, which didn’t surprise her at all.
“Can’t we let it sleep?” he pressed, excited, and panicked at the same time.
“In time it will open on its own, at least I’m here with you to help. I know you can do it! Garth conquered his very quickly and you’ve got the willpower to do this and to spare.” She felt his reluctant agreement after a moment’s consideration. So, she released it and backed out of the way, but remained in contact, and urged him to take down his Talent and make it his own, but she was with him too. He struggled as he was awash with power within, not sure what to do with it. It confused him and he was panicking. Ryes was trying to encourage him, then Mitt joined them.
“Come on, Gann, you used to put me in my place all the time and if you can handle me and Karr, this is nothing,” she urged with humor coloring her inner voice. Her spirit and energy gave him the courage to fight the torrent and make it bend to his will, at last. Both women enfolded him within with love and joy at his triumph.
“I did it,” he sent in return, pride in his mental tones.
“You sure did,” Mitt encouraged, “and it looks like you have Mind Voice like I do now, with another one. Ryes, have you looked at our parents, or Myron, yet?”
“They’re due to be checked today,” she promised, “and Gann you have Empath, as your second Talent. Thanks, Mitt,” she added, relieved she joined them, having been the right goad for him.
“I realized you two were taking too long,” she happily admitted, “so thought I’d better check it out… just in case. I’m glad I could help.” There was pride in her heart, which they both felt clearly.
“Thanks, Mitt,” Gann sent, now able to “speak” more clearly within their commune. “Garth has two Talents? I remember you saying he could use his when we were at Hailys, but didn’t understand what you meant then. What does he have?” he pressed, wondering and amazed.
“Garth has two?” Mitt threw in, surprised, “I knew the Empath, from when we fought those southern Talents, but what else?”
“He never told either of you?” she asked, mentally sighing. “He has Flame Shaper and Empath. I thought he would’ve told you both by now. I awakened his Talents when we were at the caravaner’s gather.”
“I haven’t seen him practicing,” Mitt commented. Ryes humor filled their inner commune.
“I keep reminding him he needs practice, too,” she replied.
“We’ll make sure he takes the time, since I know we’re going to have to practice our Talents, too,” Gann promised, responding with his mental laugh. Mitt put in her agreement.
“Your sister and Raya can help you learn how to best use your new Talents,” Ryes advised, then gently let both siblings go. They opened their eyes and Gann blinked for a moment, as if trying to get a new feel for himself. Mitt jumped to her feet and put her arms around his neck while laughing, giving him a kiss on the cheek. He laughed as he hugged her, then stood up.
“Come with me and you can talk with Raya about your Talents,” she urged. She took his hand and pulled him across to the tables she and Raya set up, so they could get started. Ryes sighed. So far Scott and Max were the only humans with Talents, but she hoped for more. They needed all the Talents they could find! She turned to see Sadie was next and smiled at her with welcoming warmth.
“So, how did the Talent hunt go today?” Garth asked at dinner, as he sat down next to his dear wife. She was spooning food into Rhin’s mouth, but as soon as she got his food in, she turned her head for a moment and cast him a merry smile.
“I have two Talents,” Gann told him flat out, then set his tray down hard on the table, across from Garth, interrupting what Ryes was going to say. It was so hard it rattled the plate and silverware, and wildly sloshed his tea; being harder than he’d meant, but he kept his gaze steady. Garth did a surprised chuckled as he turned toward him and gave him a nod.
“So, what do you have?” he asked, as his brother sat down, appearing agitated.
“So, what do you have?” Gann countered with a pointed laugh. Garth blushed and gave him another nod.
“Fair enough. She told you?” he asked, not glancing over to his wife, as he heard her laughing lightly. He wasn’t sure if it was something one of the cubs was doing, or his being put on the spot. Perhaps both?
“She told both of us,” Mitt stated, as she set her own tray down, with a harsh laugh. “When were you planning upon telling us? Or don’t your siblings count anymore?” she pressed. He shook his head, blushing a deeper gold.
“You’re both very important to me,” he protested, “we’ve been so busy the last few days.”
“Ha!” Ryes put in with a teasing laugh. “You need to take more time for our family and our greater family,” she added, meeting his eyes with the truth in her own. He nodded in surrender.
“Alright, I now have Fire Shaper and Empath and before you ask, yes, I need to start taking some time to learn how to use them,” he admitted to his siblings. “So, what do you have now, Gann?” he asked, smiling once more.
“I have Mind Voice but also Empath, so we can help each other practice our Talents as a team,” he suggested with a sigh. “It’s been a while since we’ve practiced anything together.” Old regrets were clearly heard in his voice.
“After dinner, how about the three of us go to my office and just talk,” Garth suggested, realizing Ryes was right.
“Let’s use the time to practice our Mind Voice Talents too,” Mitt threw in as an idea. He gave her a nod, as Sabin, who heard the last of their conversation, smiled in understanding. Ryes had found his Mind Voice, which he’d been using for some time now, and never knew. He’d need to practice it with others, too. But not when Garth was getting some time with his brother and sister.
"How come you're not coming out for the hunt?" Ardis asked, puzzled, as she caught up to Ryes in her office. "You love the forest!"
"Someone's got to stay behind and keep things going here," Ryes quickly replied, knowing it sounded thin, even to her own ears. She met her eyes, wishing she could explain it all, but the words refused to come to her lips. She couldn't bear to deal with death right now. Not after Hailys of the past… It was as if the stink of the fires and death were still around her, and she, too, had no escape!
"We need your guidance," she prompted, trying to think of a way to get her out of the office. Ryes hadn't stepped outside of Winterhaven in days. She found that she’d even left Honey’s care to others, which was unheard of! "Just that little bit you did from the last time on that recording, let me know it'll take me years to get that good."
"And I thought I was pretty clumsy and out of practice," she replied, with a tight smile, "but I truly can't go. Garth piled all this work on me, and I've got to get it done before our Founder's Day celebration and the next gather. Maybe next hunt?" she offered guiltily. Ardis looked disappointed, but gave her a nod and a smile, not willing to push it just yet, then paused by the doorway, turning back.
"Next time, and I'm holding you to it!" she vowed. Ryes smiled a more genuine smile and nodded her head to this.
"I will," she assured her. Ardis felt better, as she turned to leave, still trying to figure out what was truly wrong now, then paused, looking back inside again.
"I'll tell you everything that happens," she promised. Ryes gave a nod, then she left, leaving her door open, just as she found it. Ryes turned back to her terminal, her mind still searching for a way to rescue her aunt, without endangering Rhin.
"Hey, aren't you going to lunch?" a voice hailed her from the open doorway, what seemed a few minutes later. She looked up to see Bethy's smiling face. She realized Larissa was already gone to get her own. Some vague memory surfaced of her giving her a wave of her hand, bidding her go on without her.
"I thought I'd wait until the crowd had settled a bit," she replied, smiling as she returned to the moment.
"That should've been about twenty minutes ago. Come on, get out of that chair! You're going to end up as flabby as I am," she chided her friend with a teasing laugh. Ryes shook her head in surprise, as she smiled.
"Oh, heaven forbid!" she responded with a laugh, storing her program, and getting up. She had been sitting for far too long today! She stretched, before going one step further, with Bethany now laughing merrily at her display. Then they left together, walking close to each other.
"Not going out on that hunt, are you?" she questioned, as they were heading down the corridor, her eyes serious as she sought the truth.
"I can't," Ryes replied with a heavy sigh. "I can't face things dying right now," she admitted, “not after Hailys.”
"Not after we almost lost you," Maren scolded as he and Dotti joined them, coming up from behind as they paused to talk.
"It's not my own death I fear," she told him, then saw the shocked look in his eyes and knew it was the wrong thing to say to him. "We haven't saved good ol' Dirt, yet," she teased, trying to get him to let it go for now.
"First, you'd better look out for your own life," she heard Garth's voice firmly admonish, as he and Sabin joined them, as they all stood in the corridor. Ryes and Garth had quietly argued her viewpoint early this morning, but he finally made up his mind and decided this was the time to lay it to rest. She'd never openly oppose him, before the others. “If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t help anyone else when they’re lives are endangered too.”
"Secondly, you're going on the hunt to help coordinate things from the base camp. That way, in case there's an emergency, you'll be close enough to lend a hand. We're going to have enough inexperienced starmen and humans along to make it a necessity. I learned a few things on our trip to Matlowe and the fact that you were there to stop a fatal, catastrophic event, opened my eyes. And finally, until you can come up with a solid plan for saving this aunt of yours, you're not allowed to go Time Walking in Hailys again. I can't see you risking Rhin on such a venture, either. You must have a plan to keep the both of you safe," he ordered. She saw the hard look in his eyes and knew this was the way it’d be, no matter what she felt. Maren saw the pain in her eyes and knew she hated to have things spelled out exactly, but also knew she very rarely crossed Garth when he did it this way, where they could all bear witness to his decree.
"Alright, I’ll go," she gave in with an unhappy sigh. Bethany looked uncomfortable, as did Dotti, but they both knew this would be best for her all around. She only hoped Ryes meant it.
"We'll figure out something," Sabin assured her, smiling encouragement. "Just remember, you have plenty of time on this end of things to plan," he reminded her. She seemed to relax at this, giving him a wane smile and nod of her head.
"That's true," she agreed, feeling as if she lost her appetite now. "I guess I'd better figure out what I'm going to need for the hunt, after all," she surrendered. "Who's all going?"
"Almost everyone," Bethany told her with a laugh. "Not only do the former villagers feel it's long overdue, but most of the humans are interested in coming along. Since we live here, we feel we should be familiar with being able to provide something for the dinner table, other than just vegetables and the machinery to cook them with."
"You're not going, are you?" Ryes demanded, shocked. She knew Bethy's son was due the end of the spring!
"Bethy and I are going to help you with the base camp," Dotti stated with a laugh. They turned to the dining hall as Ryes thought on this. There seemed some tension between the two old friends, wondering what it was? She smiled for them, turning to face the others as they stepped over to get their trays, resisting tapping in lightly with Mind Voice to delve further, feeling that would be too intrusive and abusive of her friends.
"Then I'll make sure the both of you are very safe," she assured them. Maren gave her a nod of his head, feeling better if she were there to watch over Dotti, while he hunted.
“Let’s get something to eat! I’m starving!” Bethy suggested, heading straight for the serving room. Ryes laughed as she and the others trailed after her.
“They got her out of that office, at least,” Ardis commented to Neil and Brenda as they were finishing their lunch. Neil chuckled and gave her a nod.
“It’s a good first step, to pull her out of her hidey hole,” he agreed with a smile. Brenda smiled merrily.
“It’s a start. Hopefully, she’ll find herself soon and come back to us,” she added, then her brows furrowed thoughtfully. “What did she see in Hailys? Really?”
“Sabin won’t talk much about it, but I think it had to be something horrific. Until she lets that go, we might not actually get her back any time soon,” Ardis pointed out with an unhappy look in her eyes.
“Then, let’s get her to show us what she saw back then,” Neil suggested, seeing a simple answer. “Among all of us, we should be able to come up with an answer to help her let go.” Ardis nodded her head in agreement.
“That’s what we need to do,” she replied, finally smiling. “I’ll talk with Raya to see if we can get her to help out.”
“Exactly what we need,” Brenda agreed with Neil nodding his head.
Ryes finished showing Raby how cute her hair looked with a couple of braids to pull it back on the sides while leaving the back long and free. Raby was laughing as Sayer finished tying on a sparkly bow to dress it up. This small space of time for them to share was helping her reconnect with her family again, while Garth was spending some time with his siblings and Sabin, so they could all practice their Talents together.
“Oh Mom, these are great!” she declared as she turned her head this way and that, as she looked in the mirror. She put it down and threw her arms around Ryes, giving her a kiss. “Thank you!” Ryes laughed as she let her go, then grabbed Sayer to give her a kiss, too. “Thanks for insisting, Sis,” she added. Sayer laughed too, her eyes merry.
“I tried to tell you,” she teased, after Raby let her go. Then there was scratching at their door. Ryes gave the girls a nod of her head and turned for the door.
“Come in,” she invited, then smiled as she saw Ardis pushing her stroller with her sons inside, Katas following in her wake. The boys were sound asleep, as were Ryes’ younger cubs. Right behind them were Neil and Brenda with little Samantha, which surprised Ryes. And behind them were Maren, Dotti, and Tars with Karis and Rowis trailing them. Kovin and Raya entered with their two cubs, also sleeping in their stroller. She laughed lightly, as Kovin let their door drape drop behind him.
“We got this Mom,” Raby assured her, as she Katas and Sayer took over the strollers, figuring things out on the instant, and went off to their room to chat with Tars, as her siblings joined them, at Maren’s urging.
“So?” Ryes started with her hands open in invitation as her friends filled her chairs and couch, letting them answer her question.
“We brought some sweets and cheese cubes,” Maren offered, grinning mischievously. He sat the large basket he’d brought down on the coffee table to tempt her. She shook her head as she smiled.
“So, where is Air Empath going tonight?” she asked as she pulled her remaining chair over close to the couch and the other chairs, internally preparing herself for this friendly visit. The time she’d spent with the girls had finally relaxed her inner fears somewhat, letting her simply connect with her friends again. She knew she had to, or Garth and her grandparents would be upset. She’d have to face Darman and Rinna very soon; it was almost time for the Great Spring Gather.
“We’re not looking for a sight-seeing trip like that, tonight,” Ardis came straight out, as she met her eyes. Her face reflected her inner search for the right words.
“We need to understand what’s going on with you, now. You’ve never worried about something so much, as you’ve been since you went to see your aunt in Hailys,” Neil pressed, concern coloring his blue eyes. She gave him a nod, a little embarrassed they noticed.
“You all deserve to see it, but,” she stalled, now uncertain as her smile melted, “it’s heartbreaking,” she warned with a concerned frown and pain in her green eyes.
“Help us break our hearts, to help mend yours and ours,” Brenda pressed, with an understanding look in her eyes. Ryes closed her eyes, suddenly finding it hard to face her friends. Then she felt her hands being taken. She gave them a nod as tears started at the corners of her eyes.
Raya formed up the meld, and once she had everyone settled down in the commune, she turned her attention fully to Ryes.
“Come, show us all what’ve you’ve seen in Hailys past,” she urged, as she felt her reluctance to open up. She’d never been so resisting, before. She felt her inner conflicts; she wanted to protect them.
“Ryes,” Maren pressed, “please?” His heart was in his sending, and she knew she couldn’t refuse them, after all.
She finally began, but instead of first opening with what she discovered on this last trip back to Hailys, she first showed them her whole experience of her first trip into the far past. They marveled at the huge city and its futuristic look, pausing often so they could fully see all the details, many of them she hadn’t noted at the time, being overwhelmed and excited by the experience, itself. At the time, she truly knew nothing about technology, nor how the machines operated. It was all magic to her. Even the humans found it an amazing city and Kovin was deeply inspired, seeing Hailys in her time and glory, a real super city. Hadu genuinely startled everyone, as he had Ryes, herself, the first time she met him. Aunt Adina also caught everyone’s interest and she felt they wanted to know her more. When that memory finally ran its course, Raya pulled from Ryes’ Booster and had everyone ready for what she wanted to share next.
She gave them her second visit, so that they could understand more of her dedication to saving her Great Aunt; as she was more than just a connection to her mother’s family, but was connected to her personally, now. And this one, with Sabin accompanying her, gave Ardis an appreciation of what he experienced as he travelled with her into the past. She enjoyed seeing his reactions. And now they all had questions they each wanted to ask Adina, to understand the world and time in which she lived, but this was only a memory. There was so much to still understand!
Then finally, she opened this last visit and the actual attack upon Hailys. The starport was amazing and the group marveled at the operations and look of the busy starport. The humans compared it to their own starport operations on other worlds and seemed to appreciate it and understand. But then the attack began. It horrified everyone in the inner commune. The destruction, the buildings being destroyed before their eyes, the fires, the way people were crushed, or died in the wild flames; it tore at them, and in this moment, Ryes opened her heart, full of love, to them all. She showed them what she’d done to stop the wall of fire from engulfing her aunt and Hadu, as they tried to flee with a small crowd of other people. She felt the amazement and pride from her dear friends and family at her courage to act – even if it was far in the past. Then, slowly she gently brought them all out and back to the present.
“We have to save her and the others!” Maren insisted, now understanding it fully from her memories.
“But how?” Dotti pressed; her mind awhirl with all she’d experienced through Ryes’ recollections. It was far more a city than she could ever imagine Hailys to be, before now. And the attack had been a horrid nightmare. Now she understood her reluctance to be around anything dying.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to work through,” Ryes admitted. She suddenly realized this deep sharing finally allowed her to let go of her deep, inner pain. “I have to save all those I can save.”
“With our help, too,” Raya assured her, along with Kovin’s hearty agreement.
“We’ll help you find a way,” he added. “But why does your son need to be a part of this?” he asked, puzzled.
“He’s a Booster,” she assured him, humor in her mental tones.
“He’s more than just a Booster. He helps us focus our Talents and even if his Talents haven’t opened up yet, I believe he has another new one,” Maren insisted. “He’ll be key in this venture, in helping your Talents focus to save them.”
“I know you’re right about him, but it still makes it hard to have to use him is such a way,” she admitted, tears threatening to form again.
“So, your mother was a Talent of One,” Ardis commented to distract her before her sorrowful emotions blocked their open sharing. “Have you ever tallied up how many Talents you actually have, Ryes? I bet you have at least fourteen, yourself.” She felt her surprise at this as she considered it for a moment.
“I’ve never really thought to count them, before. And I know my Molecular Manipulator is something never seen in the memories from the past, from those in Doran’s valley.”
“Also, your Empath seems very different from what stories have told the way that Talent usually works,” Raya asserted. “I bet you may have far more than just fourteen Talents. Didn’t you say, you felt the way Nalin’s Water Shaper pulled at something within you?”
“It did, but I’ve no idea how to use it,” she admitted. Then her humor sparked, and joy filled the link. “I don’t know when I’ll get the time. I must go out on the hunt tomorrow. No time for evil?” she asked, not quite sure of the quote. She felt humor from the humans in the link.
“No time for the wicked,” Brenda teased, her own happiness was clearly felt. “It’s to keep someone who’s prone to getting into trouble so busy he, or she, has no time to think up more mischief,” she explained.
“Ah, now I understand,” Ryes returned, seeing the truth. “That’s why Garth insisted I go out on this hunt!”
“Frankly, I feel safer knowing you’re going to be there,” Dotti supplied, “especially after Matlowe and that exploding door!” The others caught the wisps of her memories of the event, itself. The way the fire froze upon Ryes’ command, then she released and directed the huge door. which hurtled upwards high into the air, then came crashing down, only to be stopped in mid-air for a few moments, to allow people to run and avoid being crushed, astounded them.
“Wait! Exactly what happened? I never saw the whole vid,” Brenda demanded, needing to know. “Ellen’s over there doing important studies. I thought it was only a hidden library. Is she going to be in danger?”
“No danger for her, now. I made sure of the site, myself,” Ryes assured her. “I even reshaped the power core to be safer.”
“And Sonta swore to keep her and Setta protected,” Maren supplied, sure on that score. He realized he fully trusted his oldest cousin, now. Before their last couple of visits, he would never have believed him!
“And the limiter collar on Korman will help with that, too,” Dotti added in.
So, Ryes and the others then shared their Matlowe Village experience for those who hadn’t gone, for a few minutes. They finally decided it was time to dissolve the commune and just chat for a while and enjoy each other’s company. And savor the tasty treats. The knotty problem of saving people in the far past was set aside for the present.