Authors: Mackenzie Morgan
Shortly after Duane and Xantha left, a falcon arrived from Laryn. Yvonne had passed away. Kalen nodded to himself. The team had done a good job. The child was safely off of Terah before anyone had any reason to start looking for him.
March 15, Three Years Ago
On Myron’s twentieth birthday, Badec paced back and forth in his office as he waited for Pallor to pop in to make his yearly report. Laryn watched her brother pace and smiled to herself. It was only in the past couple of years that he had shown any interest at all in the future, and his eyes, which had looked so empty after Yvonne had died, had begun to sparkle with life again, especially whenever his son was concerned.
“Where is he?” Badec grumbled as he paced.
“Why don’t you sit down,” Laryn said. “He’ll be here in a few minutes. You know Pallor. He’s always late.”
“You’d think he could be on time for this.” Just as Badec jerked his chair out from under his desk and plopped down, the air shimmered and Pallor appeared.
“Well, it’s about time,” Badec growled.
“And hello to you, too. And yes, I’m doing fine. Hope you are, too,” Pallor said as he tossed an envelope on Badec’s desk. “Sorry I’m late, but I’ve had a busy day.”
“Just something I thought you might enjoy seeing.”
As Badec opened the envelope, some pictures slid out. He picked up the one on top and stared at it. “My son?”
Pallor nodded as he sat down. “That’s Kevin. I know you said you didn’t want to know what he looked like when he was younger, but I thought it was about time for you to see him.”
Laryn stood up and walked around the desk to look over Badec’s shoulder. “Every time you call him Kevin, I have to stop and think who you’re talking about. I wish they’d kept his name the same.” She gazed at the picture for couple of moments and then said, “He looks a lot like Yvonne, doesn’t he?”
Badec nodded. “Especially his eyes. And that hair.”
“But he has your mouth and chin,” Pallor said from his chair.
“How did you do this? Did you paint it?” Laryn asked as she reached out to touch the picture.
Pallor shook his head. “No, it’s something called a photograph. You aim a camera at someone, push a button, load it up on your computer, and print it out. I just took these today when I went by to see him. That’s why I was late. I had to go by my house to print them out.”
Badec shook his head and said, “I don’t understand a word you just said.” He kept thumbing through the pictures. They showed Myron in his dorm room at college, outside on the steps, standing under a tree, and sitting at a wooden table with a drink in his hand.
“I’ve taken pictures of him on his birthday every year,” Pallor said while Badec studied the photos. “I’ve got the rest at home. Anytime you’re ready, I’ll bring them over.”
“So how’s he doing?” Laryn asked.
“All right, I guess,” Pallor said. “He’s doing great in his classes, but he still doesn’t make friends that easily. About the only people he sees outside of class are the ones he’s working on projects with.”
“How about physically?” Badec asked, looking up from the pictures. “He doesn’t look very strong to me.”
Pallor shook his head. “I’ve tried, Badec, but he just isn’t interested, and he’s not very good at anything physical either. Remember when I enrolled him in self-defense classes while he was in high school? He hated them, and after a few sessions even the instructor was in favor of letting him give them up. He was afraid Kevin would end up hurting himself.”
Laryn nodded. “I’m not surprised. Sounds like our father. Mother was the athletic and outgoing one. Most of us took after her.”
“Except where magic was concerned,” Badec interjected. “You’re the only one who took after her there.”
“Speaking of which, what about Myron? Has he shown any signs of having magic in his blood? Has he moved anything yet? Sent up any sparks?” Laryn asked.
“Not that I know of,” Pallor said, “but like I told you last year, it’s there.”
Laryn frowned. “Are you sure you aren’t just sensing the elven magic that flows through his blood?”
“I’m sure, Laryn. I know what strong human magic feels like. It’s different from ours. I can feel it now, from Badec.”
Laryn shook her head. “Yeah, well, Badec has elven magic in his blood too. I’m still not convinced you can tell the difference.”
“Trust me, Laryn. It’s there.”
“I hope you’re right. A lot is going to be riding on his shoulders one day.”
“How do you think he’s going to like Terah?” Badec asked.
Pallor shrugged. “I have no idea. Every time I tried to introduce the idea of magic, dragons, elves, anything like that, his parents got in the way. Whenever I gave him books of fairy tales, they took them away from him, saying that they didn’t want him wasting his time on foolishness. They even told him that stories about Merlin were silly, and they’re almost classics on Earth. I don’t know what’s going to happen when he comes face to face with Kalen or Xantha, much less Glendymere.”
“Is there anything we can do to help him adjust?” Laryn asked. “I’m afraid he’s going to feel really out of place here.”
Pallor nodded enthusiastically. “You have no idea how true that is. He won’t have any of the stuff that he’s used to, no television, no computer, no cars, no microwaves…”
Before Pallor could say anything else, Badec held up his hand, palm out. “We get the idea. So what do we do about it? How do we make this world more, I don’t know, maybe more acceptable? Less bizarre?”
“Well, there’s not much we can do to keep it from feeling alien to him,” Pallor said slowly. “For one thing, he’s going to feel like he’s gone through a time warp, like he’s gone back at least a couple of hundred years. I tried taking him on a few camping trips when he was younger, just to see how he handled it. I told you about that, remember?”
Badec chuckled, “Quite a disaster as I recall.”
“It was funny then,” Pallor continued, “but now that it’s getting closer to time for him to come home, I’ve been getting a little concerned.”
“Do you have any suggestions?” Badec leaned forward and folded his arms on his desk.
“I think he’s going to need some kind of anchor, something to hold on to, or he’s not going to make it,” Pallor began. “Look, I know your first reaction to what I’m going to suggest will be to veto the idea, but before you do, think about it. What if we were to bring a few people over with him, people he knows and likes? People who would have the same memories he does, who have shared the same experiences, who would know just how strange this world is to him because it’s strange to them too, people he could really talk to.”
Neither Badec nor Laryn spoke for few minutes. Then Laryn said, “Actually, I’ve wondered about doing that too, but we’d have to be really careful. The people we bring over would have to be able to fit in here, to adapt to our way of life, and they would have to be willing to leave Earth for good.”
“We have a duty to protect Terah, too,” Badec said slowly. “We can’t bring over anyone who would use anything he knows to take advantage of anyone here. The people we choose would have to have a strong sense of right and wrong, and they’d have to be incredibly tolerant. But above all, they must be completely and totally loyal to my son.”
“How are you going to find people like that?” Laryn asked Pallor. “It’s not like you can interview candidates or take applications.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking about it a little. Kevin doesn’t have many friends right now, but he still has another couple of years of college. And hopefully he’ll make some friends when he gets out on his own. I’ll check them out and see which ones would be suitable companions. He’s got another five years on Earth. That should be plenty of time.”
Badec shook his head slowly from side to side. “I don’t know. This may be harder than you think. For one thing, the people we bring over can’t have any close family or ties, and they’d have to be pretty dissatisfied with the way their lives are going on Earth to be willing to try something so totally different.”
Pallor nodded. “I still think I can find a few. Five or six maybe. So, do I start looking or not?”
Laryn and Badec looked at each other for a moment, and then Badec nodded.
“Good, but I do have one question,” Pallor said. “They’ll be coming through the Gate, and I’ll have to be on Earth to cover their supposed deaths, so who’ll meet them and explain what’s going on? And who’s going to tell Kevin who he really is?”
Laryn started laughing and said, “Not Kalen.”
“No, not Kalen,” Badec agreed with a smile. “Can you picture him trying to deal with a houseful of humans, much less humans from Earth? No, either Laryn or I will have to be there, maybe both of us if things are reasonably quiet around here.”
“Someone needs to tell Kalen about this though,” Laryn said. “It’s not the type of thing we can spring on him at the last minute.”
“He won’t mind, as long as someone else is handling everything,” Pallor said. “But I can stop by the Gate House before I head back to Earth and tell him if you want me to.”
Badec nodded. “I’d appreciate it. Tell him that I’ll be up to talk to him before we bring them over. We’ll sort out all the details then.”
Pallor nodded and stood up. “Anything else before I leave?”
“Not that I can think of,” Badec said as he handed Pallor the pictures back. “I appreciate you bringing these, but you’d better take them back. I don’t want them around here for someone else to find. It’s rather obvious who he is, and it’s also pretty obvious that’s not Terah in the background. Take care and we’ll see you next year.”
Saturday, March 3, Present Day
The winter before Myron’s twenty-third birthday had been a particularly dreary one, but the first Saturday of March dawned clear and bright in Trendon, and although the breeze couldn’t really be called warm, there was a touch of spring in the air. To make the day just that bit better to all the people who worked at the castle, it was also the day of the monthly meeting of the Council of Sorcerers, which meant that, for a few hour at least, Rolan, the Seated Sorcerer of Brendolanth, would be gone. Guards relaxed, the maids chatted as they worked, the young pages joked, and laughter could be heard in the halls.
Shortly before lunch, the guard at Rolan’s bedroom door heard him banging around in his room as he changed out of his formal tunic and robes back into his regular clothes. The sorcerer was back.
Hushed whispers quickly spread the word throughout the castle that Rolan had returned. Tension filled the air as conversations stopped mid-sentence and guards snapped to attention.
As Rolan walked down the hall towards his office, the page standing next to his door opened it for him and then stepped aside.
“I don’t want to be disturbed,” Rolan said gruffly as he passed through the open door. “See to it.”
The page nodded and quietly pulled the door to.
Rolan sat down behind his desk and allowed himself a few minutes to gloat. All of his work, all the planning and finagling, was finally going to pay off. Sometime this evening a package would be delivered to the kitchen at Badec’s castle in Milhaven, a gift for the Master Sorcerer, a special tea that no one would ever suspect contained a deadly poison. With any kind of luck, Badec would be dead before the week was out, and best of all, there was absolutely no way it could ever lead back to him.
As soon as Badec was gone, the Master’s Chair would be declared vacant. The Council wouldn’t have any choice. There was only one heir, Badec’s son, Myron, but he hadn’t been seen or heard from since he was born. No one on the council had any idea whether or not he was still alive, but even if he was, he wasn’t old enough to have started training yet, so there was no way he could hold the Master’s Chair. No, Myron wasn’t going to figure into this at all. Badec was all there was.
When Badec died, someone was going to have to act quickly or there was going to be another magic war, and Rolan planned to be that someone. On the day that the seat was declared vacant, which, if everything went according to plan, would be at the next council meeting, Rolan was going to address the Council of Sorcerers and suggest that Damien take the seat.
Damien had several things going for him. For one thing, he was one of the strongest sorcerers on the council, so not too many of the others would be willing to challenge him for the seat. For another, he minded his own business and he let the other sorcerers mind theirs. He’d bend over backwards to avoid any type of conflict, and they all knew it. Third, he got along with the dragons, at least the ones who lived in Calandra, including Glendymere. And that in itself was a major selling point.
Rolan frowned as he thought about his speech to the council that day. It would have to be good, really good. Several of the other sorcerers were going to have their eyes on that chair the second that they heard that Badec was sick, and if he couldn’t convince them to go along with Damien, things could get dicey. A magic war would probably end up killing them all, if not in the actual fighting, in the fallout that would follow, himself included. But it was too late to worry about that now. Things had already been set in motion. He’d just have to be good enough to get everyone to fall in line, including Damien.
At first, Rolan had considered trying to find a way to get himself named Master Sorcerer, but he’d quickly abandoned that plan. There were too many other sorcerers out there as strong or stronger than he was. He wouldn’t survive a week. But putting Damien on that chair would be the next best thing. Once he was seated as Master Sorcerer, the key to the Gate Between the Worlds would be turned over to him, and then it would be within Rolan’s grasp. Damien was a trusting soul. If Rolan approached him just right, he was sure Damien would hand it over without giving it a second thought. And that was the prize. Rolan could almost feel it in his hand.
He smiled as he fantasized about that other world, the one Badec had described to his father all those years ago, in what they had thought was a private conversation. From what he had overheard, it was similar to Terah, but without magic. There wouldn’t be any dragons to stop him or any sorcerers to challenge him. He could do whatever he wanted while he was there and no one would be able to do anything about it. It would be perfect.
He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. His plan was coming together. Another month, maybe two. He could hardly wait.