Authors: Mackenzie Morgan
“Our last couple makes quite a bit of money, but they live up to their incomes, so if anything were to happen to either of their jobs, or if they ran into an unexpected expense, they’d be in trouble,” Pallor began as he described the Livingstons, his desire for a son, and her complete disregard for the whole process and refusal to take part in any of it, including caring for the child. “He’s sure that she’ll change her mind, but I don’t think so. I think she’ll end up leaving him if he adopts a child.”
Kalen shook his head and said, “Can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. He married the wrong woman. Happens like that sometimes.”
“Sounds like it pretty much comes down to couple C or E,” Duane said quietly. “What do you think Laryn?”
“Couple C sounds good, but I’m almost afraid he’d like them too much to be willing to give them up. I bet he’d have a good time growing up in their home though,” she answered with a sigh. “Couple E sounds better than any of the others, but I don’t like the fact that they want him for a job promotion. What happens if the man still doesn’t get the promotion? Are they going to want to give him back? Or worse, give him to someone else?”
Pallor shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“Another thing about them bothers me,” Duane said.” They’re going to be determined to keep anyone from finding out he’s adopted. How are we going to convince him he’s not their son when the time comes for him to return to Terah?”
Pallor grinned. “Well, both of them have light red hair. Badec and Yvonne both have brown hair, as did their parents, so I imagine their son will too. By the time he’s grown, he’s going to wonder where his brown hair came from. It’s not much, but it’s a start.”
“What about the other couple? C?” Laryn asked.
“Both of them have blond hair and blue eyes,” Pallor said. “He wouldn’t look like them either.”
Laryn nodded. “I think we can rule out couple D and the last one, the one where the wife doesn’t want a child, but before we make a final decision, I’d like to think about each of the other couples and look through their folders. This is Badec’s son we’re talking about and our decision will have an enormous impact on his life.”
“I would too,” Kalen agreed. “Let’s take the rest of the folders into the living room and get comfortable. We can make a decision tomorrow morning. Agreed?” As everyone nodded, stood up, and stretched, Kalen added, “I’ll bring in some coffee and cake. Duane, light the fire in there, would you?”
Kalen walked into the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee and cut the cake. When he carried the tray into the living room, the others were sitting in silence, each concentrating on one of the folders. Kalen picked up the last one, opened it and began to read.
~ ~ ~ ~
The next morning, while everyone was sitting around the table after breakfast, Kalen placed four sheets of paper, four pens, and a clean mug on the table. “Before we get into any discussion, let’s see where we stand. Write down the letter of the couple you think we should allow to raise Badec’s son, fold the paper, and drop it in the mug.”
After all four slips of paper had been dropped in the mug, Kalen poured them out on the table. All four of them had “E” written on them.
“I guess that it’s then,” Pallor said.
“I hope we’ve made the right decision,” Laryn said quietly.
“What’s next?” Kalen asked.
“I understand why you said you didn’t want to know any of the details, but someone on Terah needs to know the identity of the foster parents and where they live,” Pallor said. “However, I still have a lot of work to do and some things I need to sort through with the lawyers, and we may hit a snag with this couple and have to find someone else, so why don’t I prepare a folder about the foster parents along with the adoption agreement and give it to someone on Terah for safekeeping when I pick up the child?”
“That’s fine, but who are you going to give it to?” Duane asked.
“Well, I don’t want to be responsible for the details, and I’m sure Badec doesn’t either,” Laryn said.
“I have a suggestion,” Kalen said. “I haven’t asked him, but I bet Glendymere would be willing to keep the folder.”
Laryn tilted her head to the side. “That’s not a bad idea.”
“Glendymere? Who’s going to take it to him?” Duane shook his head and continued, “I’ve had to wake him up before, and he wakes up with a big nasty yawn, spewing smoke and fire. You could end up toast before he recognizes you.”
Laryn grinned. “He has a gong at the entrance to his cave now, Duane. You don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
“The dragons don’t like to get involved in human affairs. Don’t you think he might consider this as becoming too involved?” Pallor asked.
Laryn shook her head. “I doubt it, but let me see what Badec thinks. The request should come from him anyway. I’ll let you know.”
“What’s next?” Duane asked.
“Has anyone given any thought as to how we’re going to get the child to Earth?” Kalen asked. “If Pallor shows up at Badec’s castle at about the same time that the child vanishes, anyone who’s paying any attention at all will know he’s on Earth.”
“Not that it would do them much good,” Pallor mumbled.
“It would be best if no one even knew you were connected to any of this, Pallor,” Kalen answered.
“I’ve got an idea,” Laryn said. “Duane, why don’t you and Xantha pick him up at the castle, bring him up here, and Pallor can meet you here?”
“That might work,” Kalen said with a slow nod. “But it would be even better if no one knew about it. If everyone at the castle was used to seeing Duane come and go they probably wouldn’t even notice. But what reason could he possibly have for hanging around the castle?”
“Shelandra,” Laryn said with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
A slow blush crept up Duane’s face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, yes, you do,” Laryn insisted. “You’ve had a crush on her ever since the first time you saw her. You’re just too shy to do anything about it.”
“Cousin!” Pallor said as he slapped Duane on the back. “Congratulations! I wondered when you were going to find a nice woman and settle down.” Then he turned to Laryn and asked, “Are you talking about that gorgeous elf I saw there last Christmas? Long slender legs, hair down past her waist?”
“That’s the one,” Laryn said with a grin. “Duane, if you play your cards right, you could end up with a wife out of this. I know for a fact that she likes you.”
Duane’s blush deepened. “How do you know?”
“She told me.”
Duane’s eyes took on a dreamy look.
Kalen rolled his eyes, shook his head, and sighed. “We have about six months before the birth of the child. What else do we need to do?”
No one spoke immediately, so Pallor said, “Well, I have plenty to arrange, but I have to go back to Earth to do it. So, if there’s nothing else, I’m off.”
“I think that’s all for now, but I feel sure we’re going to think of other things as time goes on. Check in with me once in a while,” Kalen said.
Pallor nodded, took out his key, and vanished.
~ ~ ~ ~
Six months later, on the sixteenth of March, a falcon landed on Kalen’s windowsill with a letter from Laryn. She said that Badec’s son, Myron, had been born the day before, and that although Yvonne was weak, she was in relatively good shape.
Kalen sent a message to Pallor, and then settled down in his living room to wait. As he sat there staring into the fire, he let his mind wander ahead twenty-five years, to the time when Myron would return to Terah. How would the boy feel, coming home to a culture so completely different from Earth’s? Myron would be safe from Badec’s enemies while he was on Earth, but how safe would he be when he returned to Terah? How could they prepare him for life here, much less for his role as Master Sorcerer?
After a while, Kalen stood up, walked around the room, and decided that the present was going to be difficult enough to deal with. He told himself to wait until the child was safely on Earth before he started worrying about bringing him back.
As if on cue, Pallor popped in. “Where is he?”
“He’s not here yet. He’s only a couple of days old,” Kalen said as he sat back down. “Yvonne’s weak, but she’s doing all right at this point. You might as well sit down and relax. I think we may have a bit of a wait ahead of us.”
Pallor slumped down in a chair near the fireplace. After a few minutes, he said, “When I got your message I called the adoptive parents and told them that they could go ahead with the birth announcement, but that it would be a few days before he arrived. I told them that my friend wanted to spend a little time with her son before she signed him over.”
“Are you sure that was a good idea? What if they start worrying that she might change her mind?”
“Let them worry. I don’t care. I don’t completely trust Yvonne’s vision. She may live, and if she does, there’s no way that Badec’s going to send his son to Earth.”
“You really don’t like these people, do you?” Kalen asked quietly.
Pallor slowly shook his head. “The only thing they’re interested in is his job. They act like the child is some kind of possession, something they can take off a shelf when they want to show it off and then put it away again when the company’s gone. They had a decorator fix up a little room for him, but there isn’t an adult-sized chair anywhere in it. They’ve hired a nurse, and she’s all right, but once he starts school, she’ll move on to another job, and from what I’m seeing, he’s pretty much going to be on his own after that.”
“I’m going to go get a mug of scog. Do you want some? Or would you rather have something else?” Kalen asked as he stood up to go to the kitchen.
“Scog’s fine. Then I think I’ll go get some sleep. I’m tired.” Pallor sat quietly while Kalen was in the kitchen. When Kalen returned with the two mugs of scog, Pallor asked, “Do you think we’re doing the right thing, Kalen?”
Kalen handed Pallor one of the mugs, sat down, and took a sip of his before he answered. “I don’t know, but this is what Badec and Yvonne want. We’ll just have to trust that they know what they’re doing.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Pallor drank his scog in silence and then said, “Well, I’m off to bed. See you tomorrow.”
Kalen sat in the living room watching the fire for a couple more hours. He couldn’t make up his mind whether it made him feel better or worse that Pallor had some of the same doubts that he did.
~ ~ ~ ~
The next three days were nerve-wracking for Kalen and Pallor as they had no way of knowing what was happening in Milhaven. Around dawn on the twentieth, Xantha landed in the backyard of the Gate House. Kalen and Pallor were sitting in the kitchen when Duane entered with the baby in his arms.
“Is it over?” Kalen asked quietly.
“No, not yet, but Yvonne’s getting weaker every day. She can’t care for the child any longer, so Badec thought that it was time to send him to his foster home.” Duane looked at the child in his arms. “No one at the castle has figured out that Yvonne’s dying. They’re still celebrating Myron’s birth. There was a feast going on in the dining room while Badec was telling his son good-bye. There were tears in his eyes when he handed Myron to me. How he’s handling all of this is beyond me.” Duane took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “I really hate this.” He tickled Myron under his chin. “We live so much longer than humans that we end up burying a lot of our friends. Yvonne’s such a good woman, and she’s been so good for Badec.”
Pallor got up and poured a mug of scog for Duane. As he set the mug on the table, he said, “Here, let me have him. You must be tired after holding him during the flight.”
“I hate to give him up, but I’ve got to head back tonight and I need some sleep. Do you mind if I go lie down for a couple of hours?” Duane asked Kalen as he handed the child to Pallor.
“Go ahead. Your room’s ready.” Kalen nodded towards the hall. “But I want to talk to you for a few minutes before you leave. It’s important.”
Duane nodded as he picked up his mug of scog and headed towards the hall.
“By the way Duane, how’s Shelandra?” Pallor asked with a grin.
“Oh, she’s fine – in every sense of the word,” Duane answered with a smile. “In fact, I think she might agree to marry me before the month’s out. I haven’t asked her yet, but I’ve been sort of hinting around about it, and she hasn’t put me off.”
“Let me know when the wedding is,” Pallor said. “I want to be there.”
“Will do,” Duane answered as he headed off to bed.
“At least one good thing will come out of all of this then,” Pallor said softly while he looked at the baby in his arms. Myron was blowing little bubbles up at him. “I guess I should head back to Earth now. Do you need me for anything before I go, Kalen?”
“No. Just be careful. And Pallor, I expect to hear from you on a regular basis. Do you have the folder with the specifics about the parents?”
“I put it in the top drawer of your desk. It’s sealed in a big yellow envelope.”
“That’s fine. I’ll handle it. Take care of yourself, and of him,” Kalen said as Pallor turned his key and vanished.
“Well, Myron, I guess I’ll see you in twenty-five years, give or take a few days. Have a good life,” Kalen whispered to the empty room.
~ ~ ~ ~
Later that day, while Duane and Xantha were getting ready to leave, Kalen said, “We’re going to have to figure out some way to prepare Myron for Terah.”
“I don’t know how much anyone can do until he gets here,” Duane answered.
“I know, but when he returns to Terah, it’ll probably be through the Gate. Who’s going to meet him? Who’s going to tell him who he is? Who’s going to explain things to him? We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to present this world to him.”
Duane nodded as he mounted Xantha. “I guess we do need to talk about it, but we’ll need Laryn. I’ll mention it to her later, after it’s all over.”
“Good,” Kalen said. “We have a little time, but twenty-five years will go by very quickly, and I don’t want him coming here until we know what we’re going to do. We need a plan.”