Author’s Notes and Assorted
BS for Part Two: Thanks to everyone
who told me how much they enjoyed part one of Origins and told me if I
didn’t get out part two soon they’d hire a hitman to take me out. You’d
be surprised how much something like that spurs me on. Actually, part one
was very well-received, and that in itself is usually enough for me to
at least consider putting together part two. I will offer a warning, however…
Part Two is quite a bit longer and even less ASFR-like than Part
One, if such a thing is possible. Right now, I feel like I’m huffing and
puffing along, trying to keep pace with the characters, and if something
ASFR-ish happens, I’m more than happy to scribe it down. Otherwise, I’m
just happy to be churning out 3 pages a night, and I’ll gladly let the
length and chapter endings sort themselves out later. So consider yourself
duly warned. The only other warning I offer here is one you should be accustomed
to by now if you read anything: Take nothing for granted.
Special Thanks go again
to everyone who appears in this story, for either giving me the okay to
play around with your own character a bit and welcoming him or her into
my imagination or for at least pretending I did. Again, I’ve tried to keep
those characters’ motives, reactions, dialogue and such at least fairly
close to what I’ve seen in their role-playing sessions in #asfr or in stories
about them. And once again, if I’ve goofed somewhere or made your character
do or say something that he or she would never say or do, you have complete
permission to take Paris and bastardize him in your own stories. I’ll probably
welcome it, in fact, with Paris being the right bastard he is, anyway.
Also, special thanks go
out to my select group of pre-readers and editors, for telling me what
I’ve done right, wrong, or very wrong in this part and in part one. You
people know who you are. Getting the seal of approval from you is always
what makes stories like this worthwhile.
And one more little bit:
Thanks to Ruckus for extra editing help, and not forcing me to work on
another deadline while I was working on this story. And thanks as well
go to ShortDog, for getting me a copy of Word97 with a "Save to HTML" function
so I didn’t have to cut and paste, then go through and highlight every
bit of italics, underlining, font changes and list function and change
them manually. If not for you, I would still be sitting in front of Netscape
Composer in a puddle of my own drool and wondering why I have to write
epic thirty page chapters with massive internal dialogue. Thanks a bunch,
And for all of you who
read this and wonder what it’s really like in #asfr on Sandnet, get yourself
an IRC program and join the fun! Sit around, chat, get hit by a stray blast
from a sonic pulse rifle… it’s all worth it. Actually, it is great fun,
and I highly recommend it. You can meet some pretty decent folk there and
watch these sorts of stories develop firsthand.
But I’ve prattled enough.
Go ahead… this is what you were looking for when you loaded this, anyway.
I. Prologue: The Fabric Torn
The barrier had been breached.
Picture an infinity of Earths and Earth-like dimensions—
parallel universes, to use a term that has already been overused but serves
its purpose here. Each dimension is marginally different from the
one before, following a slightly different set of rules than those we hold
as true. Each revolves around a marginally different sun, third in
a host of ten planets marginally different from those we know as real.
Each of those Earths exist in the same spot occupied by the Earth we know
as ours, but each along a slightly different vibrational frequency than
ours, so that they can actually exist at the same time, in the same place,
but without our knowledge. Now imagine each of those countless alternate
Earths are separated by an impenetrable barrier, separating each and every
dimension from one another, bottling up that Earth’s reality and separating
it from the others.
For eons upon eons, since the very conception of
time and space, the barriers had stood between the different realities,
separating the various realms from their dimensional cousins. No
one asked what the barriers were composed of, how they were created, or
who brought them into being. The very reason why they were there
seemed justification enough not to question them at all: the barriers held
in each realm’s reality, kept it from infecting the others.
Many had found ways to circumvent the barriers or
transport themselves from dimension to dimension without physically going
through them. The Worldtree was a conduit, for instance, between
what we know as Earth and the near-Earth realm of Faerie. The Astral
plane is merely another Earth-Realm situated so closely to ours that people
have been known to travel to it through simple meditation. Some even
claim that Heaven and Hell are merely alternate Earths which depict, respectively,
the paragon of peace and goodness and the lowest brink of war and chaos.
From time immemorial, people have found their way
from dimension to dimension, skirting the barrier and finding themselves
in an alternate representation of the world they know as true. And
though those travelers might have had a different concept of what was ‘real’,
that alternate Earth’s reality remained constant. Therefore, the
barriers holding in each Earth’s reality remained intact. This led
every magus or quantum physicist worth his salt to agree that it in all
cases, reality would always remain stable.
But now one barrier had been breached, sending minute
fractures along all the barriers it touched, which passed along those minute
chinks to those barriers they touched… like a chain with one link
split, soon the every barrier began to feel the strain of that one crack.
And ever slowly, around the leak, realities were trickling through, and
around those realities, possibilities were beginning to assert themselves.
The trickle continued, unabated, and like a stone that wears down as water
passes over it, the barrier through which it came slowly began to wear
away. Spidery cracks began to form around the leak, and pressure
began to build…
Randall McAffee was already in a black mood, and the news his secretary
passed on to him didn’t help matters much.
"Love of God," he spat. "Davis called in again?
That’s what, five times in the last month?"
"Six, sir." His secretary nodded. Rhonda was
a middle-aged woman, who had spent ten years learning that Mr. McAffee
would curse, bitch and moan about whatever he could at that particular
moment. Hardly a day passed without her hearing a profanity from
Mr. McAffee’s office. Why she even stayed here in the ad agency was
"Six? Why is he even working for us
when he takes six fucking days off in a month? Why haven’t I gotten
rid of him yet?"
"Probably because you don’t do any work short of
complaining," Rhonda said beneath her breath. She needed a vacation,
she decided. Not just away from the job, but away from Davenport.
Maybe just out of Iowa altogether.
"What’s that?" McAffee glared at her.
"I said, ‘Probably because of his work at campaigning,’"
she said smoothly, looking up at him. "I mean, he’s pulled ads for
four companies we never thought we’d have. Including those latest
Proctor and Gamble spots."
He glared harder, then turned away and stalked back
into his office. Seconds later, she heard him spit something out,
and begin another profanity-laced tirade.
She walked to the door of his office. "Something
wrong, Mr. Mc—"
McAffee was red in the face. "Damned right
something’s wrong! This coffee tastes like shit! Who put salt
in the sugar bowl?"
"Who did what?" She asked, her voice bordering
"Put salt in the sugar bowl in the break room,"
McAffee growled. "Get me a new cup, will you?"
Rhonda mimicked him the entire way to the break
room. She reached a finger inside the sugar bowl there, tasted it.
Sweet, certainly not salty.
"He’s cracked." That or he just absent-mindedly
used the salt shaker when he was making his morning coffee. Either
was a sound guess.
Sighing, she emptied the coffeepot in the sink and
filled it at the tap, muttering.
"The bastard’s finally lost his head," she whispered,
shaking her head. "I don’t know why I bother putting up with…"
Her voice trailed off as she watched the water.
It just didn’t look quite as clear as tap water she was used to seeing.
And it smelled strange, too. Almost as if… she couldn’t quite place
"What the hell?" She said, wondering.
Was there a bum pipe in the building? Hesitantly, she dipped a finger
into the coffeepot, and lifted it to her lips.
She spat. The taste helped her recognize the
smell: brine. McAffee, a near-chain smoker, probably couldn’t smell
it, but she could… it was as if the water came from the ocean!
"Salt water!" She declared, stunned.
But the water for the entire building came straight through the water treatment
plant from the reservoir outside town. And a small freshwater stream
fed the reservoir, so it was impossible that the water running out of the
tap was seawater.
She stared at it, felt the brine assail her nose.
* * *
ATHENS, Greece – (Associated Press) Three thousand years of erosion
finally brought down what invasions by Romans and Turks could not.
One of the support columns for the Temple of Athena Nike, one of the longest-standing
architectural marvels of the ancient world, collapsed today, injuring two
archaeologists and an anthropologist who were working on the site.
Luckily, no one was killed, and all three were released after examination.
The temple itself has been closed off to tours and
digs, pending work to stabilize its structure. Sources in the archaeological
world are confident that the temple can be saved, but the loss of even
that single column is a horrible blow to scientists and history lovers
"It’s sad, very tragic," said Dr. Julien Andropolous,
the lead archaeologist at the site. "The column had just been bracketed,
re-mortared and shored up just a week or so ago to prevent this sort of
thing. The odds are very much against a column or a structure falling once
we use modern-day science to attempt to save it..."
* * *
CHICAGO – (Scripps Howard Wire Service) Call it the luck of the draw,
twenty-four times. After eight weeks with no winning ticket matching the
six numbers drawn, the Illinois Lottery’s number combination for Friday
matched an astonishing twenty-four separate tickets. Twenty-four
lucky lottery players will split the thirty-five million dollar jackpot.
State officials claimed that most of the winning tickets were sold inside
the state of Illinois, but eight tickets were sold in towns close to the
border, including two each in Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. Stranger,
more than half the lottery tickets we’re Quick Picks, chosen at random
by lottery computers.
Lottery officials were as baffled by this coincidence
as anyone. "I’ve never even heard of anything like it," said Brian Lansing,
an Illinois Lottery executive. "The odds of twenty-four people even getting
the same numbers is remote at best... but for those numbers all to hit...
Well, the odds jump into the astronomical. The possibility of such a thing
happening is hard to even fathom..."
* * *
WAYERTON, New Brunswick – (Associated Press) Experts say the possibility
of sextuplets alone is staggering, but that didn’t stop Hettie.
Hettie, a dairy cow belonging to Mr. and Mrs. James
Bolliver, successfully had the octuplets Monday, after she was originally
believed to be infertile. All eight calves and mother are in fine
* * *
MILAN, Italy – (United Press International) Three passenger flights
narrowly avoided colliding into one another when all three planes incredibly
ran out of fuel and were forced to abort their usual flight paths to make
forced landings near Linate International Airport.
A computer error in the tower had somehow lined
all three jumbo jets on flight paths that would have caused them to collide,
and air-traffic controllers did not realize the mistake until too late.
However, all three jets —two of which were Trans-Atlantic flights— ran
low on fuel, forcing them to abandon their flight approaches and averting
Passengers of all three flights have called their
narrow escape a miracle. "What do you think the odds are of all three planes
running empty like that?" Asked one...
II. Reprise: Five Days
Nova-Phoenix brushed his cheek lovingly with one hand, so soft a caress
he couldn’t rightly say he felt it. Her long hair fell forward, dangled
tantalizingly before his face. Her body was poised above him, lithe
and sensuous, clad only in barely-concealing linen. Paris looked up at
her, trembling in the sight of such perfection. Around them, the
lazy grasses in the Elerian Fields waved in the morning breeze, as if bowing
"I’ve known this day would come," she whispered
to him. "Ever since I met you, I could feel the Bond calling to me."
Paris started to ask what she meant by that, but
before words came out, she pulled his face to hers and kissed him passionately.
She broke away for a moment, smiled, and looked
at him through half-lidded eyes as one hand reached down to tear open his
tunic. He gaped at her, longing.
"Paris, let us have this night together. Let
me be your every desire." Her hand found the clasp of her linen garment,
drew it aside and suddenly she was astride him, naked and beautiful.
He wanted to see her bared, the perfect form stripped of all its covering,
but she gave him no chance. She leaned close to him, kissing him,
running her hands on his bared chest. He wanted to do the same for
her. He wanted to feel the warmth of her skin beneath his hands,
but he couldn’t move or speak. He was paralyzed, in a state of total
Her lips sought out his ear, nibbled on the lobe.
She whispered to him.
"I want to fuck you like an animal."
He blinked, felt his face redden. He only
knew a scant few people who even used that expletive— including his father—
and certainly hadn’t imagined that Nova would be among them. "You
want to what? "
"I want to feel you from the inside."
He started to sit up and respond, but she bore him
back to the ground, delicate hands tugging at his breeches even as she
kissed his neck. Paris couldn’t think straight. There was a
pounding in his head, reverberating in his skull. She was touching
him in ways he couldn’t imagine, let alone visualize, and it seemed like
her hands were everywhere and he couldn’t figure exactly what she
was going to do next because he had never, really, well… Did she just
say something about bringing him closer to his god?
"Ahuh!" Paris gasped and sat bolt upright,
finding himself covered from the shoulders down by a length of white linen.
He quickly blinked fatigue from his eyes, assessing his new surroundings.
He was in the room now, lying on the couch. He heard a loud, strange
sort of noise throughout the room, like a mixture of a reed pipe and a
piece of metal being filed; a man’s voice talked rhythmically along with
it. The man’s voice sounded insanely familiar. Memories slowly
began to make their way through a sleepy haze. A dream,
realized, dropping his face to his hands.
"You’re awake," a voice said, from behind him, close
to his ear.
He yelped, jumping off the couch and whirling around
at the same time. Nova sat on the couch— thankfully, she was fully
clothed— and looked at him with her head cocked cutely to one side, her
orange-red bangs artfully falling over one eye. She blinked at him,
curious, and pursed her lips.
"What is it?" She asked. She had to
speak up to be heard over the clamor.
Paris wasn’t at all sure whether to sag with relief
or become even more tense when he saw who it was. He settled for
rubbing at the bridge of his nose.
"Nova," he murmured finally. A dream, idiot,
reminded himself, although he felt the color rising to his cheeks at the
very thought of the vision. He raised his voice. "Sorry.
You… you startled me, that’s all. I’m fine."
She listened, nodded. "If you say so, Paris.
I’m sorry if the music woke you up, but I was cleaning up around here,
and music seems to help the work more tolerable. Call it human influence."
He squinted, could not make any music out through
the rhythmic pounding and scratchy voice of the man. "Music?"
"Nine Inch Nails," she said, laughing. He
saw now that her head was bobbing fractionally to the beat of the noise.
"I... see." He listened to it, experimentally,
trying to find a beat or a tune to the music that would move him the way
some of the Sestrey’llania music did. All that accomplished
was to give him a headache. He had heard a little bit of this noise-music
before; it seemed Pantherr enjoyed it, too. Paris couldn’t rightly
say he liked it any more than anything else he’d heard since coming to
"Pretty Hate Machine wasbetter, of course,"
Nova offered conversationally as she picked up a small black box from the
table and touched a stud on it. The noise’s volume lessened dramatically,
to Paris’ grateful surprise. "But your father loved this song."
"I’m very impressed," Paris grated. He rubbed
at the sleep-gum in his eyes and scowled inwardly. Bet he never
looked like hell warmed over right after waking up, too. Face it,
the son of a kelmarin can’t do any wrong in your eyes.
"Anyway, I was just about to wake you. You’ve
been out for quite a while. People will no doubt be stopping in here
in an hour or so, so I thought I’d give you the opportunity to clean up
a bit and have something to eat."
Paris nodded. Nova had been very good at waking
him over the past few days before each evening’s usual get-together in
the ASFR room. He wasn’t truthfully sure what made him so tired night
after night, but since coming to the Earth-Realm, he had slept a lot later
than he ever had in Faerie.
He blinked a couple times to clear his eyes, and
tried to gauge the sun before he realized he was still inside. How
long had it been since he’d seen the sun? He cursed inwardly; there
were no windows on any wall that he saw— artificial sunlight lit the room
from the ceiling. How can Humanae live without seeing the sun?
"What— " he croaked. He cleared his throat,
tried again. "What time is it?"
"Four in the afternoon, this time. I just
awakened twenty-five minutes ago myself. I don’t bite, by the way."
"You don’t… oh. Sorry." Paris sat back
down on the couch, next to her. He rubbed at his disheveled hair.
"Four in the afternoon? Eresilimon. I don’t think I’ve
ever slept that late in my life. In Faerie I was often up with the
"You had a late night again," she smiled, touching
his hand and patting it. The back of her hair —usually free-flowing—
was bound in a ponytail, which did not at all diminish her beauty.
Paris again found himself getting lost in her violet eyes, and tore his
gaze away from her face with effort. Five days had passed and still
nothing had changed. She could still enrapture him with a look. There
is something cosmically unjust about the fact she can look like that this
soon after waking up.
"I’d better, uhm… bathe," Paris said after a lengthy
pause, getting up from the couch. "Magick works for some cleansing,
but I’m starting to feel grimy. You have a place for bathing around
"Of course," Nova smiled. She pointed to an
undistinguished door on the closest wall. "Shower and tub are in
there. Towels are in the closet inside. Would you like company?"
"No! " Paris burst out, flushing, then
forced himself to lower his voice. He exhaled. "I mean, no…
thank you, but I’ll manage."
"All right." Nova said, apparently nonplussed.
Paris slowly realized there had been no coyness to her tone of voice; the
question came to her as smoothly and innocently as if she’d asked him if
he wanted assistance drawing water from a well.
She continued as she stood and brushed the hair
from her eyes. "Call me if you need anything."
"Okay," he murmured as he entered the bathroom.
Paris found the towels with no problem, and it only took him a few minutes
to figure out how to turn on the shower. He stripped down to nothing
and stood under the cascade of warm water, letting it wash the travel dust
from his body. If only it could have been that easy to wipe clean
his mind, he mused.
The more he tried to put her out of his mind, however,
the less luck he had. She kept tugging at his conscience, her violet
eyes and flame-red hair finding their way back into his mind’s eye, the
soft touch of her skin on his burning at his hand like a contact poison,
the smell of cherries even when she wasn’t breathing near him. He
couldn’t get his mind off the curves of her small body, and he blushed
as he thought of it. The music was only partially the reason he had
awakened from that dream... put simply, the dream could go no further because
he had absolutely no idea what happened next. He had once held a
reclined with her in the shade of a tree and kissed her, but neither of
them had even loosened the clasps on their clothing, and it had never progressed
much past kissing. Compared to Paris, his father was probably utterly
It would never work out, the rational portion
of his mind screamed. I mean, you have the blood of the fey-folk
running through your veins... you could never introduce the Bond to a machine!
It hurt him terribly to even think of her like that, as a machine.
She was real to him, real flesh concealing real blood, concealing real
feelings and emotions, despite the fact she had removed some of her hatches
before, let him see the wiring and ‘servomotors’ beneath her artificial
skin. Still, to think of her using the same term he would for...
say, a wheat-thresher, seemed absurd. But his rational mind rallied.
And besides, she obviously would throw you down in a heartbeat the moment
Father walked into the picture! He shook his head morosely. If
that was the case, his rational self reasoned, he should just put her out
of his mind— at least in the manner he was thinking of her. It would only
lead to bad feelings… if it hadn’t already.
The rational portion of his mind kept throwing out
those arguments, hammering his conscience with cold, blunt reason.
And finally, he began to wear under the assault:
I need to face it... Faerie-kin and Androids
don’t mix. Just like Faerie-kin and Humanae. Of course, going
by that line of reasoning, he shouldn’t even exist then, being the son
of a Humanae magus and a Sestrey’llania woman. And the idea
of Feyfolk and Humans falling in love was a staple in Faerie myth.
Okay then... just like Faerie-kin and Wyrms.
Well, maybe not that either. There were also
a lot of myths about elves and dragons getting along, even becoming fast
friends... one or two even hinted at transformed dragons falling in love
with elflords, and…
Paris blinked, and then slowly his lips curled into
a smirk. Shades of the Nine Hells, he thought, shaking his
head, she has me so riddled that I can’t even come up with a decent
Paris sighed, and numbly let the water glide down
his body as he stared at the floor. He was a magus who was starting
to come to terms with the amount of power he could control. He was
the son of a Humanae magus and a Sestrey’llania elfwoman
who practiced magick herself, both of whom had been on adventures many
never even dream of. He was a half-elf, a fey-child who had seen
sights in Faerie that would boggle the most clear-minded of men— and had
not only survived, but thrived. He could call upon the power
of magick while in Faerie; he could make the improbable possible and the
impossible merely the unlikely.
And here he was, standing under a stream of warm
water, driven to confusion and inactivity by a boyish infatuation?
To someone he had only known a few days? The very thought was absurd.
Was it really an infatuation, then? Or was it something deeper?
He shook his head and turned off the water flow. What is happening
She stared at the door of the bathroom a long time after he closed it.
She finally brushed a lock of hair out of her eye and picked up the jewel
case for Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. How appropriate,
she mused. That pretty well described how she felt right now.
She had been through enough emotional turmoil in the last five days to
give a normal human whiplash.
She hadn’t reacted to his rebuffs, at least openly,
had forced her face to remain placid and calm when he flinched from her
touch and all but shouted that he didn’t want her to join him as he bathed.
But she could feel, deep with her neural pathways and emotional subroutines,
a sense of pain at his rejection. She couldn’t understand why for
five days straight now he had exhibited all human symptoms of a love-struck
boy and had still shied from her. And that in itself caused her to
feel all the more forlorn.
The damnable thing was, she knew she
such a thing. She was not prone to giving herself to the pleasure
of the moment and latching onto someone that easily, at least not lately.
She’d known too many people she cared about that had left her in an untimely
fashion to open up emotional ties like that again. She could understand
that he was a fairly handsome sort, in an exotic, otherworldly sort of
way, but that did little to explain her feelings. In fact, her ability
to be completely unswayed by a person’s physical appearance had been programmed
into her, unlike human women, who could not help but be affected by what
their eyes told them.
His eyes. She couldn’t shake the memory of
his ice-blue eyes, staring at her. There was passion behind those
eyes, she could tell, a sense of drive there that she had seen lacking
in many humans. She had seen that once in Argo, before the accident
that had grafted the Medusa Shades to his eyes… she had seen it when he
held her. Now she found herself pondering what it would be like to
be the object of the passion she thought Paris capable of. And to
some small effect, that bothered her. It made no sense for her to
feel such a connection to a person after such a short time. She had
barely met him, when it boiled right down to it. Truthfully, she
didn’t know him at all, beyond the fact that he was Argo’s son.
She wondered if that had something to do with it.
Certainly, she could see more than just a token physical resemblance between
Paris and his father. Both were men driven by a love for magick.
She could somehow sense that Paris was a man that was tortured by inner
demons, like his father was. She remembered what Paris had said that
first evening, when she had murmured that everyone she cared about left
her. I won’t. If he could have only realized how much he had
sounded like his father when he said that!
Just because her brain was artificial— a high-tech
primary central processing unit, in all actuality— didn’t mean she had
no subconscious. Could it be that subconsciously, she was trying
to fill the hole Argo had opened when he left… with his son? Or did
she find something genuinely attractive in Paris? And did it matter?
Assuming he even gave a damn for her, would he leave her like so many others—
She heard a sharp snap, looked down at her hands.
The jewel case was broken in her hands, a jagged crack tracing the clear
plastic from one side to the other. She looked at the broken plastic,
blinked. The tactile sensors on her fingertips should have warned
her that she was exerting that much pressure, shouldn’t they have?
Did she have some sort of malfunction?
She closed her eyes and ran a quick diagnostic.
Streams of information began to compile, checking data from her primary
processes and sub-processes and feeding that data into her CPU. She
scanned through the information quickly for error messages and warning
tags, and within moments had found her answer.
There was no malfunction. A warning had been
fed from the tactile sensors in her hands, and now resided in her system
memory: it stated that the object she was holding would break shortly given
the stress her hands were applying. And she had completely ignored
it because she was preoccupied thinking about something… someone
else, which should have been impossible.
She set the broken pieces of the CD case on the
table and sat down, dropping her head to her hands. What is happening
Paris stepped out of the bathroom, having cleaned and changed into a
set of clothes he’d brought along. He saw Nova finishing up some
repair work, and swallowed once, hard. Then he made his way over
to the couch, set down his knapsack and pulled forth the Tempora
Arcanum. He cast one last look at Nova, felt the swell of longing in
his chest, and forced himself to study.
Nova was replacing one of the air-purifier’s filters
when she heard Paris open the door to the bathroom and make his way across
toward the couch. She closed her eyes, then resolutely forced herself
to finish the repair job and not look back up until she’d finished.
As she twisted in the last screw to the metal plate, she gazed over at
Paris, and sighed to herself.
She passed him on the couch as she made her way
back toward the lab and tool room. Sitting cross-legged on the couch,
he looked up as she approached. Her eyes met his; his met hers.
"Hello," he said with a fractional smile.
"Hey," she responded, with one of her own.
The greetings were perfunctory, uneasy and over
far too quickly… but neither would admit to it. They were also the
only words they said to one another until people began to arrive in the
ASFR room that evening.
III. Realizing the Impossible
No place he’d ever called home had felt so hollow as when Argo opened the
door to his old one-bedroom apartment on the west side of Indianapolis.
The key still worked; he had forgotten about the time differential between
Faerie and the Earth-realm. Good thing he had paid for his apartment
so far in advance… it would have done him no good to come back to find
In the Earth-Realm, it had been a little more than
six months since he’d last set foot in his apartment. In that time, in
Faerie, he had spent over a hundred years— longer than most humans lived—
just studying, training and having adventures humans were probably never
meant to have. Hell, in that time, he had found a wife, had a child.
He felt his chest constrict at the thought. Would he ever see them
again? Would they understand why he left? For every hour he
spent in the Earth-Realm, days and weeks were passing in Faerie, probably
erasing memories of him from their minds.
He cursed and made his way toward his bedroom, stopping in the compact
bathroom to lave his face. He looked in the mirror and watched his
lips curl into a thin smile. One thing he would have to admit, spending
time in Faerie certainly added a timeless quality to one’s looks; he had
been there over a century and looked no older than when he left the Earth-Realm.
Neither had it impaired his memory, as far as he could tell. He found
his comb in the medicine cabinet, right where left it a hundred seventeen
years— or six months, depending on your point of view— ago. He brushed
through his hair once, and scratched at his goatee, expecting to see the
first onset of grey hairs somewhere. Nothing. Just flowing,
healthy dark hair. It was just as well most people in the Earth-Realm
didn’t know about the Feylands… the elves would just as quickly become
overrun by rich Hollywood types who didn’t want to shell out money on plastic
surgery to protect their youth.
Memories flooded back to him as he looked inside
the cramped bedroom. His Notre Dame posters still hung on the walls,
untouched. One drawer of his dresser still remained open, a pair
of white socks peeking out over the edge of the front. Two large
bookshelves, lined with everything from dictionaries and thesauri to manuals
on primitive Earth-Realm magick, stood against one wall, collecting dust.
His computer still flashed with the same screen-saver he’d set there more
than six months ago. He remembered spending interminable hours in
this room, reading, writing, surfing the net. It had been this room
where he’d first found the directions leading him to the ASFR room, where
in turn he had then spent much of his time before disembarking for Faerie.
Christ, don’t start thinking of that. Just what he needed:
to clutter his head with thoughts and old memories when he needed to be
clearing it to prepare magick in the Earth-Realm. As if it wasn’t
hard enough to call up magick in a world accustomed to science and technology,
He dug under his bed, finally finding the small
box he had placed there before travelling into Faerie. It was a simple,
unassuming cardboard box, which had once been used for some of his clothes
when he first moved to the west side. Now it held a large stack of
handwritten and printed notes, along with a couple slender books he had
found while delving in metaphysical bookstores— books by authors he felt
had a better handle on Faerie and on possibility magick than anyone on
the Earth-Realm probably gave them credit for.
He sat cross-legged on the floor and opened one
of those books, searching. Grummet’s Lives of the Fey
him nothing, nor did Medici’s The Call of the Faerie or Branham’s
Possibilities. He threw out a few choice curses. He was
hoping these books would have helped him. Argo himself had no notes which
would help him here in the Earth-Realm; everything he had written on the
subject had remained in Faerie with—
Don’t think on that now. Clear your mind, dammit.
He scanned through the next book, Through the Worldtree, by Cedric
"Fithnaheyin: (lit., ‘That which cannot be’)
The Fithnaheyin is an abstract subject in Faerie, an abstraction of impossibility.
From what we are led to believe, the Fithnaheyin is the embodiment of all
things which cannot be, and is therefore what we draw from when we attempt
to use magick which alters reality as we know it. For example, if
a magick is cast in which we cause water to flow uphill, we draw from the
Fithnaheyin, as it is impossible in our world for water to flow upwards…"
"No, no," Argo murmured. "You have it all
wrong." The Fithnaheyin is not an abstract concept, and we certainly
don’t draw from him. And that’s the whole problem, damn it all.
"What the—" Argo looked up, expecting to see
the lamps in his room dim somewhat, or the light through blinds on his
windows darken momentarily, but nothing of the sort happened. He
looked around his room, shrugged, and then looked back at his book.
And then he looked back up at his wall, a double take.
Argo looked at one of his Notre Dame posters, the
one he had put up less than a year ago in Earth-Realm time. It was
a montage of images, with Notre Dame Stadium most dominant, and overlaid
on the bottom was the famous stylized ‘N’ and ‘D’, the Fighting Irish leprechaun
and the years of each national football championship. Argo knew that
poster almost like he knew his own name, even after so many years, and
he could tell something was amiss. He looked closely at the years
of the national championships: 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949,
1966, 1973, 1977, 1988 and… 1994?
"What the hell?" He whispered.
Argo remembered the ’94 team. He had a lot of their games on videotape;
it was very nearly an undefeated season. After beating Florida State
to take over the number one ranking in the nation, they had lost their
last game by two points after a last-second field goal by Boston College.
If not for that field goal, they probably would have won the National Championship.
But they hadn’t won it. He remembered that
much. And he knew that poster had never before listed 1994 as a year
they had won a National Championship. So why was it showing it now?
Such a thing was im—
His eyes widened.
He closed his eyes, cleared his mind, and let his
aura reach out, searching. Almost at once he felt it: magick, in
the air, far more than he had felt before in the Earth-Realm. That
too was impossible, unless what he feared was true. He steeled his
mental defenses, sought out the origin of the magick. An astral form
of himself coalesced into being, and followed the trail of magick through
Right to the one place he most expected and most
feared it could have come from. His astral form stopped before the
barrier. He saw the crack in the barrier, the magick flowing from
it like sap from the Worldtree. Not just magick, either… possibility
magick. He saw that almost immediately. Possibilities were
enacting themselves all around the trail, subverting reality. All
at once he understood: it wasn’t the lights he had seen flicker.
It was reality itself.
The possibility magick seemed to notice his presence,
leapt from the trail to his astral form before he could react, latched
onto his subconscious. Alternate realities began to explode before
his vision, things that could never be suddenly coming to pass in an eyeblink…
"Lieutenant Forgeuzev!" The commander shouted.
Argo blinked, studied his console. "Four
raiders, sir, point oh-oh-two. Standard gamma formation. Getting
a read now, should have a lock shortly."
Commander Chezrith smiled, wolflike. "Let’s
make those green-skinned sons of bitches think twice before attacking the
Commonwealth again. Lieutenant, as soon as you have a lock, fire
The console beeped insistently as the firing
switch flickered red. Argo stabbed at the button. The great
guns of the UCS Ajax responded instantly, particle beams lancing
out and immediately inflicting two direct hits on the Kei’thall raiders.
One raider ship disintegrated instantly, the other lurched slowly and began
to drift. The other two sailed cleanly around the beams, returned
The Ajax shuddered under the blow.
"Screens six and eight taking heavy damage, sir,"
reported Vengeance from the ops chair. "Another like that and—"
Her console exploded, throwing her to the ground,
deadweight. Argo looked at her. Vengeance’s pale skin was scalded—
burned almost a bright red— by the blast, and shrapnel from metallic sheeting
from the console had embedded itself in her, almost covering her whole
body in a silvery-blackened sheath. It was likely the sharp
piece that had impacted with her forehead that had killed her, though;
her eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling.
"No…" Argo whispered. He felt a blood-red
haze seep into his vision.
"Lieutenant Forgeuzev! Argo! Keep
firing, damn you!"
"Firing." Argo’s voice was edged as he
obeyed. He pressed the firing switch repeatedly, long after the last
raider had been blown into particles by the Ajax’s deadly beams.
He swore and cursed, and finally, the bridge crew had to sedate him and
seal him in his quarters. And still the bloodlust continued.
The Kei’thall would pay dearly for the death
of his friend, he swore. To hell with his own life; he would lead
a suicide mission into Kei’thall territory if such a thing was possible...
No… this isn’t right…. He struggled
at the assault, felt the possibilities grab at him, more insistent.
"Father!" Paris yelled at him, awash in
the glow of youth. "Look at this! I can see forever up here!"
Argo looked up, smiled. The boy was in
the fifth branch of the tree, higher than he had ever climbed in his life,
looking out over creation with a sense of wonder that so often becomes
jaded with age. They grew up too fast these days, he reflected.
If he’d had his druthers, Argo probably would have kept him eight years
"Be careful, up there, Paris. You know
how your mother worries." Worries was an understatement. If
they had to replace the servos in Paris’ legs again from a fall like he
had last time, she’d probably blow a circuit yelling them both.
Argo opened the hatch on his arm, tapped out
a key sequence on his actuators, enabling his visual circuitry for record
capability. Other fathers still videotaped their children, why not
him? He looked back up.
Paris was hanging from that fifth branch, struggling.
What had knocked him over? No time to figure.
Argo launched himself toward the foot of the
tree, moving with the footspeed that only an android could muster.
Servomotors clicked and hummed as they burst into motion in his legs, data
streams fed themselves into his primary CPU, gauging distance from his
visual feeds and tensile strength from the tactile sensors in his arms
and hands. Paris was fairly light for an android; even from this
height, Argo could probably catch him without doing serious damage to his
artificial ligaments and the pain-inhibitors in his arms. Not that
that would have mattered, anyway.
The boy fell, giving a shortened shriek as he
let go of the branch, but Argo was there in a heartbeat, catching him and
cradling his fall. The servomotors in his arms whined insistently
but held firm. He made a mental note to run a diagnostic later, but
that could wait.
Paris was breathing in a manner that bordered
hyperventilation. His cheeks puffed with each breath, his eyes shimmered
as if he was holding back tears by the slimmest of margins. Argo
held the boy close, smiled. Data streams flashed in his optic sensors.
The boy was fine.
"Hey now, little man, you’ll have to quit scaring
me like that," Argo said comfortingly. "You’re all right now.
Be careful of those high branches next time, huh?"
The boy drew away slightly, and his eyes seemed
to look inward, scanning. He blinked and Argo could almost hear the
visual receptor iris beneath Paris’ synthetic skin. After a moment,
the boy nodded his affirmation. "I will, father."
Argo smiled wider and rubbed the boys head lovingly,
pushing a hank of red hair from his eyes.
"I swear to you," a familiar voice said behind
him, "someday he’s gonna blow out his primary matrix in a fall like that."
"See? I told you she’d kill us," Argo said
to the boy, smiling. It was a joke they often shared among one another.
"Better run before she gets you."
Paris howled in mock fright, barely keeping from
laughing as he ran off, the pain and anxiety forgotten— pushed off into
a subroutine to remember later. Servos whirred and hummed almost
imperceptibly as his legs flailed in long, exaggerated strides.
"And you all but tell him it’s all right," she
said, curling an arm around him. "It’ll be a wonder if we don’t have
to replace his chassis before he’s nine."
"Shh," Argo whispered, holding Nova close.
He kissed her, felt his oral receptors register: cherries. He never
tired of that. "Don’t say such things, dearest. I’ll always
watch out for him. After all, he is our child."
He felt, calm, at ease now, as he usually did
whenever he found himself with his wife, his family. He had never
thought such peace and happiness was possible.
"Stop it!" Argo yelled, clutching at his head.
The possibility magick was burrowing there, calling forth his most ardent
desires, his worst fears, and enacting them. He felt himself drawn
into reality upon reality, felt his resolve weakening before them...
He felt blood trickle into his mouth as he skidded
along the ground, and grimaced at the sickly salty-metallic taste.
His leather jacket cushioned him, for the most part, but pain burst in
his head as he felt the ground explode around him.
Move, man, move! He pulled himself
to his feet, lurched out of the way as Creysari’s eldritch bolts cascaded
around him, scorching the grass. Argo’s own magical shield was long
shattered, and he somehow doubted the elflord would give him time to construct
The young elflord advanced upon him, sneering.
His eyes glowed with magical power as he pointed at Argo. "Human
trash, I will end your pitiful life for what you did to my sister."
"What I did to your sister?" Argo exclaimed,
half aghast, half biding time. "I loved her, Creysari, and she loved
me! I offered her—"
The next arcane blast from Creysari’s hand blew
through Argo’s midsection. Leather, skin and muscle shredded under
the magical assault, ribs and vertebrae splintered and cracked. Again
Argo spilled to the ground; he watched numbly as his lifeblood wet the
packed dirt, and thought through the haze: my legs. I’m done.
Can’t feel my legs.
A shadow crept over him. Creysari.
The elflord’s face was drawn with hate.
"You offered her nothing, you worthless
son of a kelmarin. No good standing, no cultural ties, nothing that
an elven woman should want. And yet, may the gods have pity on her,
she still cared for you... What did you offer her? Banishment,
exile from her realm, her place in the great forest of the afterlife...
you offered her naught but pain and misery. How did you repay her
love, human filth? By letting her die!"
Argo winced— partially due to the pain, but even
moreso from the ring of truth in Creysari’s words. An inky blackness
began to descend over his vision. The blood puddled beneath him;
he tasted it, smelled it, felt it. His life was ebbing.
A tear tracked down his cheek, mixed with the
blood from his nose and settled on his lips. He realized he couldn’t
fight the darkness any longer. He felt himself drawn into it, and
then all feeling was gone.
"I’m sorry, Auerenelle," he whispered, his last
words, and then—
—I’m not dead, he thought numbly as he lifted
himself from the ground. Stray laser blasts were riddling the ground
still, one left an imprint in the ground not two feet from him. The
beams illuminated the moonless night, cast a macabre glow that was amplified
by the light of fires from nearby buildings. Some had burned themselves
out, and merely smoldered, a grim reminder that life would never be the
same for the EarthGov citizens who watched as their world fell.
Argo stayed low to the ground, crawling along
the ruined, desolate landscape, sometimes over the bodies of unfortunate
comrades. The laser fire was lessening. Shock troops would
be here in moments, transported down by the motherships above. He
saw his blaster rifle, scooped it up and found cover behind the remains
of a brick wall.
He felt something flaccid and fleshlike against
his arm and looked down to the ground. He nearly vomited. There,
right next to him was a leg, barely connected to its dead owner by a length
of stringy tendon. He gulped down air as he realized the owner.
It was Lieutenant—
—Sil! Watch the flank!"
The succubus nodded, grinning like a fool, and
called forth an enchantment from the depths of the abyss. Undead
hands burst forth from the ground of the ASFR room, grabbing hold of the
legs of six of the oncoming cyborgs, refusing to let them go. Slowly,
they began to draw the ’borgs down through the floor.
So this was the Master’s game, was it?
Unleash some soulless constructs to try to steal the minds and free will
of the flesh-creatures in the room? Already Pantherr, Android-69
and Nova-Phoenix had fallen victim to the cyborg’s probes; they stood,
mute and glassy-eyed, awaiting instruction. He saw, out of the corner
of his eye: Vengeance morphed her arm into a pulse cannon, and blew away
two ’borgs before she fell under their assault. The cyborg pressed
the nodes of two probes into her forehead and her thrashing stopped, her
eyes immediately grew blank.
So that was the Master’s game. He smirked,
removed his sunglasses. His ebony eyes glowed white hot as he focused
on the oncoming attackers. They had optic sensors; they could see.
They were his.
"Come on, you good-for-nothing piles of scrap—
—you deserve this, you worthless excuse
for a magus," Paris screamed, unleashing a bolt of the pure white light
at his father. Argo gazed at his son just before the magickal energy
struck him full in the face, incinerating his head and killing him instantly.
He saw his son cradling a broken form; a person, he believed. His
mother, possibly. But Argo never saw who and he never truly cared
all that much—
—Argo sighed happily and flipped the TV on with
the remote. The game was on, finally. He lifted the bottle
of beer and popped off the top—
—and the Earth heaved a last plaintive last groan
—beat them once at Gettysburg, surely we could—
—with this ring, I thee wed," he—
—Don’t do it, it isn—
Argo screamed, a scream torn from the very depths
of his soul, and his astral form returned to him with a blow like a sledgehammer.
He gasped, heaved a few deep breaths before he could even force himself
His first line of thought was: The barrier.
Possibilities leaking in, reality becoming warped.
His second line of thought was: Ohhhhhhhhhh,
this is bad. Not just forgot-to-add-oil-to-the-car-bad, but end-of-absolutely-fucking-
everything-bad. And I might be responsible for it? I am in
some serious trouble here.
He stumbled back to his feet, brushing the hair
out of his eyes and massaging his temples. He could still feel the
possibility magick, brushing at the back of his mind, begging him to release
it… begging him to make those possibilities real. You can have anything...
Just wish for it, exert your will...
No, dammit. He couldn’t afford to think
like that, especially not now. It had taken almost every vestige of will
he had to break free from the flickering realities. Even now, he
could see some of those realities in his mind, and he could sense a part
of him that was hard-pressed not to surrender to some of the more pleasant
ones. But he couldn’t; they weren’t his realities. Well,
not his him’s realities, at any rate. Christ, even the
idea of reality-hopping gives me a headache.
The crux of the matter was, without a doubt, he
was in way over his head. He needed some serious help.
Unfortunately, he could only think of one place
to go in order to get that kind of help. And he would almost rather die
than go there. Or more correctly, he amended, go back there.
* * *
The man had once been named Lawrence Michael Evans. He was an up and
coming hotshot lawyer in the So Cal area, recently adding his name to the
prestigious firm of Watley, Marshall and Evans after a series of seven
straight wins in the districts and two in the Alameda County courts.
He was a boss to a twenty-something secretary and staff of six legal aides.
He was twenty-eight years old, unmarried but an eminently eligible bachelor.
Many women, in fact, were taken by his rakish good looks: wavy brown hair
framed a square-jawed face and drew attention to his piercing grey eyes,
and racquetball and weight training every other day had honed his sturdy
physique. He was a man who had aspirations, goals and plans for his
life, and the prime one was to end up on top of the world.
And now, he was the human host to Fithnaheyin, who
would be happy to put Lawrence Michael Evans there, even if it turned out
being a world of ash and ruin.
Fithnaheyin recognized the need to take a Humanae
early in its travels to this Earth-realm, and not just for the protection
that a Humanae’s frail body offered its shapeless form. Although
it would need no help following the Possibility Magus, whose magickal stench
clung to Fithnaheyin’s nostrils like that of a spoiled fruit, it realized
that this was the Possibility Magus’ home and that this was a stranger
world than the one it had known before. By just following him blindly,
Fithnaheyin would have no doubt stumbled into whatever traps the one called
Argo surely would lay for it. Not that it would have mattered, granted,
but Fithnaheyin was in no mood to give the Possibility Magus any sort of
upper hand— a long time ago, when the Children of the Fey had imprisoned
it, such overconfidence had been its downfall. Furthermore, whether
they realized it or not,
Humanae had bodies that were naturally
adept at wielding magicks, much like their fey cousins.
It had taken little effort to consign the soul of
the one called Lawrence Michael Evans to oblivion, and take its place.
It had taken a slight bit of time to adjust to the rigors of the Humanae
but Fithnaheyin had all the time it needed. It had taken a bit more
time to ensure that it was not interrupted in its work, but Fithnaheyin
had all but relished that part of the chore.
In the one called Lawrence Michael Evans, Fithnaheyin
found a host whose mind would prove beneficial in acclimating it to this
strange Earth-realm, and a body that would allow it passage among the Humanae
unnoticed. Already, with help of the Evans-mind, it was forming plans
on how best to proceed in finding the Possibility Magus. Not where
he was now, but rather where he would be. That was
the key, he decided.
The door to the office was nudged open slightly,
and it looked up from the desk at the intrusion to see a young deer look
up at him from the doorway. The Evans-mind recognized the doe as
formerly being Katherine, one of his legal aides. Evans had always
seen Katherine as a naïve sort, not really conscious of the fact that
many times, the best money came from defending those who really didn’t
deserve to be defended in the first place. Fithnaheyin thought her
new form suited her innocence well.
In fact, the Evans-mind would have found all of
his co-workers’ fates to be somewhat ironic. Sheila Pournelle, his
attractive brunette secretary, had lusted after Lawrence’s wallet as much
or more than she lusted after him personally. She stood just outside
the doorway, forever locked in a smiling, seductive pose, the light glittering
off her solid gold body. Directly under her feet was the two-dimensional,
flattened form of Lyle Mackinally, a legal aide who felt that everyone
in the office walked all over him. As a floor mat, that would be
the case from now on. Aaron Lindsley, another legal aide, had constantly
bored Evans with details of his hunting trips. Now, it was his head
which hung on the wall, sightlessly staring into the room from its place
on a nameless wooden plaque.
But there was no time for gloating over magickal
creativity now. Fithnaheyin had work ahead of it. It growled
at the doe and cast a simple flare magick in her direction to send her
scampering off, then it tapped on the ‘computer’ on Evans’ desk.
The Evans-mind told it that the place called Internet would be as good
a place to start as any. Information could be found there— both legally
an illegally— on a good many people, if you had the right access.
And the host mind of the Humanae had all the access it would need.
Fithnaheyin delved into the Evans-mind and pulled
out the information he needed to learn how to get to this Internet.
And then he smiled, the lips of the Evans-thing curling back. It
had the time, it had the means, and soon, very soon, it would have the
knowledge. It would find the Possibility Magus soon enough, and it
would destroy him. There would be nothing the one called Argo Veseyez
Forgeuzev could do to stop it.
Paris watched her out of the corner of his eye, and kept a pro forma
smile plastered on his face as he mingled in the ASFR room. He had
a gnawing feeling everyone he talked to was seeing right through the mask
of happy complacency he was putting on. He was sure that everybody
looked at him and saw a young man who was trying far too hard to mask what
was obviously on his mind. If they saw the surreptitious glances
he sent Nova’s direction, they probably wouldn’t even wonder twice about
what was on his mind.
And that scared him more than he cared to admit.
He blinked. "I’m sorry, what was that?"
Pete smiled and opened a hatch on his abdomen, extracting
a bottle of beer, which he held in mock salute to Paris. His formal
designation was Android69, but in Paris’ current state of mind he wasn’t
sure if he wanted to think about the word ‘android’ for a while.
"I said, ‘you look preoccupied, my friend.’ Is something wrong?"
Paris shrugged, lifted his wineglass to his lips
and drained some of the red liquid. His fourth tonight. The
wine wasn’t helping; it never did. Damned stuff was too watered down
compared to what he drank in Faerie, he decided.
"Maybe. Just a lot of stuff on my mind."
"We never would have guessed," chuckled a voice
from the ceiling.
Paris looked up. Crouched on a rafter was
Pantherr, who dropped down to the floor beside the two and stretched himself
to his full height, a full head taller than Paris. Pantherr had once
described himself as a winged anthropomorphic nanitical feline. Out
of all that, Paris still only understood the words "winged" and "feline".
The feline part was rather self-explanatory: Pantherr looked almost like
a bipedal version of his namesake, with the exception of pair of large,
cherubic wings that extended from the small of his back. From what
Paris had been told, his entire body was composed of robots and chipsets
smaller than the eye could see, like Vengeance. Nanites, something
Pantherr folded back his dove-like wings, grinning
ferally. Actually his grins almost all looked feral; it was just
his animal-like nature. "You have the look of someone deep in thought
and not at all happy about it."
"You can talk to us," Pete added, smiling.
"Especially if it will help."
"I—" Paris swallowed as Nova walked across
his field of vision to hug Vengeance, who had just entered the room.
Her eyes caught his as she led the chrome woman over toward another couch,
and he felt his face burn. "I can’t. Really. I appreciate
the sentiment, but…"
Pantherr’s eyes flitted between Nova and Paris,
and his toothy smile became, if possible, wider. "Ahh, I see.
The young half-fey has a taste for cherries, eh? Or have you already
tasted the fair fruit, Paris?"
"No! I mean, no, that’s not it at all…"
Pete looked up at that. His eyes widened.
"Get out, Paris! You mean, you and Nova have actually…?"
"No, Pantherr’s just saying that," Paris said, his
face in his hands to cover his blush.
Pantherr chuckled again. "Say what you want,
Paris. This body can smell pheromones, detect slight emotional changes…
and right now, your androgens and adrenal glands are lighting up like a
Christmas tree just thinking about her."
"My what and what are doing what?"
Paris blinked in confusion, and drank another swallow of wine.
Pete followed suit with his beer, said nonchalantly:
"He means you’re having sexual thoughts about her."
Paris nearly choked on his wine. "I—"
He sputtered, could only croak out that word. The rest was lost in
a fit of coughing.
"I didn’t say that," Pantherr remarked as
Android69 clapped Paris on the back to relieve the spasms. For once,
Pantherr had the decency to look scandalized. "I said his androgens
and adrenal glands were noticeable. For the unenlightened, that merely
means that the thought of her provokes an emotional response. It’s
obvious he cares about her, based on that."
"That and the fact you’ve been here for the past
five days watching him splitting time between fall over himself getting
her to notice him and shying away from actual contact with her. And
the fact that you just saw him turn beet-red when she looked at him."
Pete smiled as Paris began to breathe normally again.
"Details," Pantherr said smoothly. "But I
wouldn’t have drawn that sort of a conclusion on him until I smelled the
scent of his pheromones. That made it pretty unmistakable."
"You don’t have to talk about me in third person,"
Paris snapped. "Are you saying that it’s obvious… to everyone
I’m in… that I’m preoccupied with Nova?"
Android69 looked at Pantherr. Pantherr returned
"Pretty much." Android69 said.
"Anyone with eyes, at least." Pantherr
"Does he often spend that much time hiding his face like that?"
"I’m surprised he’s not permanently red for as much
time as he spends blushing." Silvera remarked as she saw the half-fey
drop his head to his hands again and mumble. She, Vengeance and Nova
sat on the other couch, treading a fine line between watching the three
menfolk with rapt attention and making a show of appearing uninterested
in what they were doing.
Nova smiled halfheartedly. "He certainly is
shy about a lot of things."
"Not like us, eh?" Vengeance winked and sipped
at her sangria, then continued: "I mean, sure, we all have our own little
secrets, but we’re all very open with one another, am I correct?"
"Meaning?" Nova’s eyebrows rose a fraction.
There was unmistakable innuendo in Vengeance’s words, and Nova didn’t miss
"Meaning," Sil said, smoothly interposing herself
between Nova and Vengeance and dropping a hand over Nova’s shoulder like
a best friend, "that for five days straight, we have been witness to the
Paris and you exchanging pleasantries. Now we also know that for
five nights straight, for want of a better place in the ‘Earth-Realm’
to stay, he’s stayed here, in this room."
"With you. Alone."
Nova nodded again.
"So we want the dirt. And quit nodding."
"Dirt?" Nova felt her lips curl upward.
"You want dirt? What would you like me to make up?"
"Make up?" Vengeance asked, craning around
Silvera to see Nova.
"Yes, make up. Because otherwise, there hasn’t
been anything happening here short of him falling asleep next to me the
first day he came here."
Silvera’s jaw dropped. "Nothing?"
Vengeance looked more bemused. "At all?"
Nova shook her head. "Not a thing. In
fact, sometimes I think he believes I have the plague. Sometimes
he shrinks from my touch as if he’s afraid of catching something.
Truthfully, since that first night, I don’t know if we’ve really ever connected.
I don’t think he’s all that fond of me."
Silvera began to laugh. Vengeance hid a smile.
"What?" Nova asked, confused.
"Come on, Nova. Are you seriously telling
me you can’t see it?" Vengeance took another drink of her sangria.
"See what? Talk plainly!"
"Wake up, Nova. Venge and I have seen him
doing everything but waiting on you hand and foot. He stares at you
like a ten year-old with his first crush, fumbles his words whenever you
talk to him, and turns the color of a fire engine if you even casually
touch him." Sil smiled at her. "It’s almost painfully obvious.
He’s so smitten he probably can’t think straight when you’re in a five-mile
radius of him."
Nova shrugged slightly, looked away. "It’s
not all that obvious. I don’t see it."
"Because you’re at the center of it," Vengeance
reasoned. "Evidently, you care about him, too. You’d have to
be blind not to see that. Otherwise it wouldn’t bother you that he’s
sending these mixed signals. See, you’re blushing just thinking about
"I am not," Nova retorted, ashamed to find
out in a quick diagnostic that Vengeance was right. "It… doesn’t
matter, anyway. I mean, he’s a half-fey, and I’m an android."
"Like that’s ever stopped anyone in this
room," Silvera said with a smirk. "It sounds to me like you’re grasping
at straws to find reasons for something between the two of you to fail.
Of course, then again, how do you know he’s not doing the same thing?
But I saw the two of you that first night, Nova. He cares for you,
and unless I miss my guess, you feel the same way. Why you’re both
fighting it is beyond me. "
The words struck home to Nova. She remembered
a thought she’d had earlier: Would he leave her, like everyone else
did? Was she really searching for a reason not to get involved?
Was she secretly hoping he wouldn’t care for her, to spare herself that
pain again? She looked over to Paris, saw the young man caught in
a diatribe between Pantherr and Android69, and she made an instant decision.
She stood up.
"Where are you going?" Silvera asked, lifting
her wine goblet and looking at Nova curiously.
"Over there," said Nova simply. "I have something
"Like what?" Vengeance inquired. From
the smile on her face, Nova could tell she had a few ideas; it would have
been funny to see the look on her face if she realized they were all wrong.
"What I did the first day he was here," Nova replied
as she walked away. "I’m going to learn about his past."
Vengeance blinked, then shrugged. "Not what
I would have suggested, but then again, some bots have too much subtlety."
Silvera tasted some of the blood-wine from her goblet.
"I’m surprised the word the word subtlety is even in your vocabulary.
It’s not something you regularly employ."
"Too much work," Vengeance smiled. "So what
do you think, Cyrano… should we find a seat closer to the action?"
"Of course," Silvera grinned, raising her wineglass
to clink Vengeance’s. "After all, Christian and Roxanne make quite
the cute little couple."
Laughing, the two made their way to the other couch.
"I don’t care how many drinks you’ve had," Pantherr snapped, then licked
one paw irritably. "If you start sing-songing ‘Paris has a girlfriend’
again, I’ll unplug your Maytag-refrigerator ass."
Pete crossed his arms defensively, scowled.
"Can you say ‘Holy hypocrites, cat-man?’ Your concern for his well-being
sure didn’t stop you from asking him when the big date for the wedding
"Concern, hell. Your singing just gets on
my nerves. You can’t carry a tune."
"Big talk from a walking robotic ant colony."
Paris sat with his head down, peeking every so often
in between his fingers at Pantherr and Android69. So far, their insults
were remaining light-hearted, but both had been drinking somewhat, and
Paris had no idea how— or if— each was affected by alcohol. Therefore,
Paris had been more than content just to shut up and let them throw slurs
back and forth while he concentrated on preparing to cast a defensive spell.
But suddenly, the talk from both ends abruptly stopped. Paris peeped
between his fingers again, saw nothing to one side.
"Hello there, Nova, my friend," Android69 said warmly
from the other.
Paris nearly bit his tongue.
"Hello, Pete," Nova returned as Paris lifted his
head. She motioned to him. "I was wondering if I could borrow
Paris for a while, if the two of you are finished with him."
"Of course," Pantherr grinned and made a courtly
bow and gesture to offer his seat, then jumped up into the air and extended
his wings to let him glide back to the rafters. Nova smiled her thanks
and sat next to Paris.
Paris could not help but smile reflexively as Nova
seated herself. He forced a coy tone as he remarked: "Borrow me?
That certainly sounds interesting."
"Nothing that interesting," she said in an undertone,
then raised her voice to a little more normal tone. She gazed at
him steadily. "Just wondering something..."
Paris floated momentarily in Nova’s eyes, immersed
in a sea of violet, inhaling cherries. He surfaced quickly, mentally
chastising himself: why in the name of the gods do I lose all coherent
thought just being near her? Aloud, he asked her, "Wondering
She seemed about to say something, then hesitated.
"You know the story you told me the first night you were here? The
one about Argo going back to Faerie?"
A voice inside him laughed at his naivete. Tell
me more about Argo, he saw Nova tell him in his mind’s eye. He
carefully controlled his voice, did not let his disappointment show.
"Yes," he said, in a voice a couple steps above
"Tell me... " She said, and again she paused,
for just a moment. Then she leaned close to Paris and curled her
hand around his. "Tell me... when do you enter the story?"
He looked at her hand, felt the warmth it gave him
as she offered a gentle squeeze, and smiled as he returned it. He
could think of no words to describe the feeling the simple touch gave him;
perhaps there were none. Again he marveled at her; it was something
he found himself doing a lot— he had known her only five days and already
it seemed she never ceased to amaze him.
He cleared his throat, looked down to the floor
and tried to collect his thoughts. "I... I wasn’t around for
quite a while yet, actually. When my father came back into Faerie,
he met the three Sestrey’llania women, turned one to stone and had
the magickal duel with the other. It was actually quite some time,
albeit time in Faerie, before he... well..."
He looked back up and was somewhat startled to find
that a small crowd had gathered around the couch. Android69 and Nova
were watching him with undisguised interest, and Silvera and Vengeance
watched from behind them. Even Pantherr, up on his customary rafter,
appeared to be drawn into the tale Paris was telling.
"Go on," Nova urged gently, her fingers intertwining
For the first time all day, Paris found himself
relaxing into an easy smile. And why not? This was his favorite
part of the story, the part he begged his father or mother to tell him
almost nightly when he was young... before Argo had disappeared.
Of course, there were portions of the story that he hadn’t learned about
until he was older, but then again, that was to be expected— even among
the fey, whom many humans consider rather free-minded morally.
"Well, Argo and Auerenelle began to live together
in her home, teaching one another their particular magicks… and slowly,
something began to happen…"
V. A Power Stronger than Magick
"In my world it is sometimes referred to as the Golem
Theory; it’s one of the building blocks of possibility magick." Argo
Veseyez Forgeuzev said in a didactic tone. He sat cross-legged on
the wooden floor of Auerenelle’s home, where he had been living for the
past four weeks. He wore a pale green tunic and tanned buckskin breeches
today as he taught the elfwoman; he felt more comfortable in this casual
homespun attire than his robes or the doublets he’d worn while in Avalon.
Auerenelle nodded. She sat across from him
on the floor, watching him intently. Over the three weeks, Argo had
tested her, assessing her ability to comprehend and prepare herself for
casting possibility magick. Thus far, Argo could not help but be
impressed with her poise in the art of magick. She had been open-minded
yet steel-willed, the two most basic requirements for accessing possibilities.
She also had a remarkable ability to clear her mind of everything except
the magick, a skill taught to her by her first magickal tutor.
Of course, her magickal adeptness was hardly the
only reason he was impressed with her. Argo had been around the fey
in Avalon before, had seen the ethereal beauty of some of the most elegant
elven women— beauty that was unattainable by mere mortals or Humanae.
Auerenelle was not quite in that class, but her exotic looks were complemented
by a youthful, innocent charm that Argo found refreshing and attractive.
In some respects, it almost embarrassed him that he found himself attracted
to her, especially on the nights he woke from dreams in which she had dropped
all pretense of being chaste or demure. As much as those thoughts
aroused him, they also somehow struck him as terribly crass and impure.
He shook the thoughts out of his head, forced himself
to think of magick and nothing but.
"The Golem Theory in simple terms means that every
decision you make splits reality into different tangents... different paths.
Say, for instance, you’re lying in bed in the morning, deciding whether
to sleep in or get up and start your day." He held his hands together
in front of her.
"You decide to wake up and get out of bed.
As soon as you make that decision, reality is split into two separate courses,
like a road that forks." He separated his hands demonstratively.
"There is the reality where you woke up... we’ll call it reality A, and
the one where you slept in, or reality B."
"Okay," she said. "Golem Theory. That’s
not too hard to comprehend."
"Yeah, it’s cake so far." Argo smirked.
"Okay, now try to follow me here: In both realities, there is an Auerenelle...
a ‘you’. Since what we know as ‘you’ decided to wake up instead of
stay asleep, then the awake one, or the you in reality A, is the ‘real’
you. The other you— the one in reality B— is called a golem."
Her voice didn’t sound quite as certain. "All
right... I can understand that, I guess."
"Now the idea is that for every decision
you’ve ever made, ever since conception, you have created these splinter
realities that are slightly different than what we know as real... each
populated by these various golems. The entire basis of the Golem
Theory is the assumption that you can change reality by accessing these
different golems; in effect transporting the ‘real’ you into the reality
that golem exists in."
Auerenelle’s eyes glazed. "Come again?"
"Okay, maybe if we think of it another way."
Argo rubbed his goatee between his forefinger and thumb. "Imagine
this: your place in reality is like… like a tree, that’s it."
"I’m not understanding," she said as he got up from
the floor and motioned her to follow him outside. She did, to find
him standing in front of a great elm.
"You see, as you start life, you are like the trunk:
straight, going only upwards. But at the moment you make your first
conscious decision…" He gestured to where the first limb split from
the trunk. "An alternate reality is created in which you made a different
"Now, that branch is still made of wood, right?
So that is still you, but not the ‘real’ you, like the trunk is… it’s a
golem— an offshoot of you, just like the branch is an offshoot of the main
trunk. So we go up to your next decision, and again, another reality
is created, and so on and so forth, as you go through life. Are you
following me so far?"
"I think so. So each time I make a decision,
I create another alternate reality. But I don’t remember those realities
because I’m not me in those realities, I’m a golem?"
"Exactly. Each of those golems goes through
their lives as you do, making decisions that create new realities and spawn
new golems. So by this time in your life," he said, waving an arm
to encompass the whole tree, "these various realities are like this.
The very tip of each branch is another you, at this exact moment in time,
in another reality."
Auerenelle nodded, looking at the tree with interest.
Argo was surprised, but pleased; it had taken him several days just to
comprehend the enormity of the Golem Theory, let alone put it to use.
She turned those exotic, blue-green eyes to him,
her lips pursed. "So how do I… access… these golems?"
"Carefully," he grinned. "Actually, for anyone
who already uses magick, it’s not all that difficult. You merely
have to clear your mind of all thoughts— my mentor called it ‘finding the
center of calm’. Once you’ve done that, you focus on one singular
golem... you envision the decision you’d like to change, and bend your
will toward fusing yourself with that golem, changing that decision.
If we go along with the tree analogy, you’re attempting to turn the branch
into the trunk."
"That sounds pretty abstract," she said doubtfully.
"Isn’t there more to it than that? I mean, plenty of people have
made decisions they would have given anything to change... why don’t they
just spontaneously change from force of will alone?"
"Believe it or not, because most people don’t realize
that everyone has that power. So many people have been brought up
to believe that reality is always constant and stable, not able to be shaped
like a lump of potter’s clay. Truthfully, if I hadn’t happened upon
you, you probably wouldn’t realize it, either. That’s not a knock
against you, just a statement of fact... knowledge in itself is half
of the actual power." Argo sat in the grass, patted the ground beside
him. As she hesitantly knelt on the ground, he continued. "Part of
the beauty of possibility magick is its simplicity. Sure, there are
theories and laws and conjecture on possibility magick, like the stuff
I’m teaching you, but on the whole it’s remarkably easy... you decide
on the result you’d like to have and access a possibility that will achieve
"Like when you turned Failina to stone?" Auerenelle’s
lips curled upward; there was levity in her tone. The passage of
weeks had turned what had seemed a desperate plight into a laughable memory
to her. From what she had told Argo, the whole experience had been
rather humbling to Failina— who now did whatever Auerenelle asked without
question, for fear that her sister would bring Argo with her when she visited.
"Well, that’s a different magick altogether."
Argo shrugged, felt himself redden.
"Your eyes," she nodded, looking at him intently.
"You haven’t said much about them. Were you born like that?"
"No, they became this way after an accident in the
I can still see fine, things just look a bit darker."
"And you can turn people to stone by meeting their
gaze. Like a basilisk, or a gorgon." She shook her head and
said, with a hint of sadness, "I feel for you, living with such a curse."
"A curse?" Argo nearly laughed aloud.
"I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes these eyes make reading by candlelight
a pain, but I’ve never thought of them as a curse. I mean, a few
years ago, I would have given anything to have—"
He stopped abruptly, self-conscious of where the
conversation was steering him. He stood, walked a step away from
her. The branches of the elm stretched out above him, made him think:
many of my golems don’t have these onyx eyes? How many of them would
be repulsed by the thought of having them? "Forget it," he finished
lamely. "It’s not important."
He felt a slender hand on his shoulder, turned.
Auerenelle herself seemed a little shocked at the forwardness of the touch,
but she released his shoulder slowly. "You would have given anything
to have what? You can tell me, whatever it is."
"Can I?" He grinned without humor. "If
you only knew. Auerenelle, there are things about me that would shock
and surprise you, if not outright disgust you. There are things I
could tell you that would doubtlessly make you wonder what kind of an outlandish
freak I am."
"Besides the fact you’re human?" She mused,
with a half-smile.
"I’m not kidding." He looked away toward the
ground suddenly, embarrassed; spied a small stone on the ground, picked
it up and threw it. "I wish it was easier for me to tell you..."
"So instead you’ll just let me die of suspense?
Fah, I see how you are," she said playfully. But at the look of pain
on his face, her tone softened, became more serious. "I understand
if you don’t want to tell me, Argo. But truthfully, in this time
studying together, I’ve gotten used to your little human nuances and habits...
and none of them have bothered me at all. In fact, I’ve actually
grown fond of some of them."
Argo cast a doubtful look at her. The elfwoman
smiled at him, seemed to fight herself and then reached out to grasp his
hand in both of hers. Satin had never felt as smooth to him as her
skin did; down was coarse by comparison. "I can’t imagine anything
that you could say would appall me or make me think of you as a freak."
He dropped his gaze, slowly found her eyes again,
exhaled heavily. "I’m aroused by the thought of women turning to
Auerenelle blinked, the smile faded into a faint
moue. Her voice lowered in tone. "I’ll admit this much, I certainly
wasn’t expecting that."
"You see what I mean?" Argo let his hand fall
from hers, offered her a wry grin. "I can almost see the words ‘what
kind of freak are you?’ ready to roll off your lips."
"I was not going to say that," she declared
petulantly, shaking away the stunned look. "But I’d like to hear
more. For instance, what exactly do you mean? Define ‘aroused’."
"Christ," Argo swore, flushing. "Do I have
to spell it out, Auerenelle? Aroused. Excited. Turned
"By a woman turning to stone," she said dubiously.
"Aroused in a sexual manner?"
"Yes!" Argo said, wishing desperately that
he could just sink into the ground. "Can we just get back to the
"It bothers you to talk about this?" She asked.
"Yes. No." Argo kicked at another small
rock, and sent it flying. "I don’t know. I sometimes wonder
if it’s normal, that’s all."
Auerenelle covered her mouth quickly, smiling beneath
"What is it?" He asked.
"It’s ironic. Think about it, Argo.
You have the eyes of a gorgon. You’re a human, spending time in Faerie
and being trained in the use of magick by a Sestrey’llania.
You already make use of a form of magick that you say can make the impossible
possible. And you worry about being normal? Each of those things
are hardly ordinary, but they’re each uniquely part of you." She
sat back down in the grass, wrapped her arms around her gowned knees and
rested her head there, watching him through the veil of honey-blond hair.
She was quiet for a long moment, then added, "I think I’d prefer different
and interesting to normal any day."
Argo thought about what she said, nodded.
Then he considered the tone of voice she had used in her last remark.
He looked at her from the corner of his eyes. "Was that a backhanded
way of asking me out?"
She lifted her head and regarded him with a confused
expression. "What do you mean? We’re already outside."
"Nothing," Argo grinned. "Forget it."
She shrugged her shoulders and watched him intently.
"I guess if you’re thrilled by the thought of women becoming statues, those
eyes would be an asset after all. Do you know why it excites you
A faraway look came to his face; he paused thoughtfully
before responding. "You know, I’ve given that question a lot of thought
before, and I still don’t know that I could narrow it down to any one answer.
You would think I would have some idea... I mean, I’ve known about
this little quirk since I was about ten or eleven... But I’ve never
been able to pin it down to one thing.
"I mean, part of it probably boils down to a sort
of domination fantasy, because transforming someone to a statue is like
the ultimate form of bondage. But a lot of it also has to do with
the idea of just worshipping the feminine form, and the idea of capturing
perfection in a single frozen moment and placing it on a pedestal.
And there’s something darkly fascinating about an innocent woman held captive
in a pose of surprise or even dread fear."
Auerenelle raised an eyebrow. "An innocent
woman, in a pose of dread fear?"
"That bothers you." He could tell from her
tone of voice.
"I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. I could
almost understand where you were coming from until you said that.
It makes it sound almost evil."
"Evil?" He laughed weakly. "I’ve never
thought of it as that. But I guess if I were to look at it from your
point of view, I could see where you might get that idea. But you
have to think it through, too. Fear would be a pretty natural expression."
"What do you mean?"
"All right, assume for a moment that you’re my ‘victim’."
He mimed quotes around the last word.
"How charming," she remarked, and stuck her tongue
out at him.
"All you know is suddenly you’re finding it harder
and harder to move. Your legs feel like lead weights and your whole
body is starting to feel stiff and immobile. You feel a tingly sensation
start in your feet, which begins to move up to your lower legs. Looking
down, you see the color fading from your legs, and the skin is becoming
white and marble-like, and worse still, the effect is moving upwards, and
you realize you have only a few scant seconds before you will be completely
turned to stone."
"Now, you have no idea whether this is temporary
or permanent, but you’re inclined to believe something like your body turning
to stone is permanent. For that matter, you’re not sure if something
like this can be reversed. You might be cursed to be a stone
statue forever, unmoving, never to see or speak or even move again.
This goes through your mind in one moment. Now, given that, can you
imagine what your expression might be like? Shock, disbelief, fear,
something in that range, probably... they’re all pretty well interconnected,
anyway." He shrugged. "That’s why I say it’s natural to have
a fearstruck expression."
"I guess I can see that. You obviously think
about this more than just a little bit."
Argo made his way over toward her and sat down next
to her in the grass, black eyes taking hers in. There was no hint
of rebuke in the aquamarine orbs; she had merely stated fact, nothing more.
Slowly he nodded. "Probably more than I ought to, really. But
in some respects, I can’t help it. This fantasy is as much a part
of me as possibility magick is. I can’t deny my quirks just because
they’re... well, quirky."
"True," Auerenelle agreed, resting her chin on her
arms and looking out over the field of green.
"You’ve gotten awful quiet. Should I be worried?"
"Hmm? Oh, no, you’re fine... I’m just
thinking about what you said."
"Oh. Well, thanks, by the way."
She stared at him, bewildered. "Thanks?"
"For listening. For being non-judgmental.
I can’t count the number of people in the
Humanae realm I’ve told
this to who either laughed or asked if I was on crack."
ask if I was not right in the head," he amended.
She waved him off and smiled. "It’s nothing.
I enjoy listening to you. You’re a very interesting man... even for
a Humanae. And besides, I already know you’re not right in the head."
He laughed, as did she. Auerenelle’s hand
dropped, quite possibly by accident, onto his, where it lay in the grass.
And almost as if by instinct, Argo grasped it. The two looked at
one another as their laughter faded and a light breeze blew across the
There are events in everyone’s life which they know
they will never forget. That much is evident. But there are
stories, memories and images within those few moments which actually create
and define them, as well. And although those images may not seem
on the surface as important as the moments or the events themselves, they
become indelibly etched in the minds of the people involved.
Argo knew he would remember her eyes, a more crystalline
bluish-green than anything he had ever seen; like they were the sea on
a calm, sunny day, and he was drowning in them. He would remember
the fresh, natural smell of her, jasmine and lilac and dew on the morning
grass. He would remember raising a hand and feeling the softness
of her cheek, like rose petals on a bed of feathers. He would remember
the delicate points of her ears, peeking through the wavy strands of golden
Auerenelle knew she would remember his breath, the
slight smell of clove, which he had taken to chewing on occasion.
She would remember his hair, dark and lustrous and tousled as the gentle
wind blew strands of it before his eyes. She would remember his long,
slender fingers, curling around hers, the smoothness of his uncalloused
hands. She would remember his mustache and goatee, tickling against
her skin as he drew close.
And then their lips touched, and there was no thoughts
of what would be remembered and what wouldn’t; there was only the moment
and the two of them, and anything beyond that seemed rather secondary and
Argo couldn’t begin to think of anything but her
in the first place. He was acutely aware of her body, right next
to his, but he was only vaguely aware of his hands roving over it, as if
of their own volition. He felt the world tilt, and grass prickled
at his neck, but he didn’t know if he had pulled her to the ground or if
she had pulled him; all he knew was they were suddenly lying side by side.
Her lips were warm and sweet and eager, and her tongue touched his tentatively,
as though asking to be granted passage. He held her close, let one
hand glide along her side, past the curve of her small breasts, down to
her hip, feeling the warmth of her body through the material of her summer
chemise. Her fingers slowly followed back and forth along his jawline
as he covered her mouth with his.
He couldn’t say when the kiss broke, exactly; the
whole thing happened in sort of a transcendental haze. He knew only
that he could have remained there forever, just lying next to her, gazing
into the depths of her aquamarine eyes. He felt her hand on his,
and saw a shy— perhaps even melancholy— smile make its way to her lips.
"Where do we go from here?" She finally asked.
Argo touched her cheek, was startled at the way
she seemed to have to fight the urge to pull away from his touch.
"What do you mean? I think we’re progressing fairly well."
She sighed, ever so slightly, and sat up, smoothing
the folds in her linen summer dress. Her face was composed, but she
did not look at him. "It’s not that I’m worried about the way we’re
progressing, it’s the fact that we are in the first place."
A vaguely unsettling feeling drew over him.
His brows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
Auerenelle looked at him, her eyes liquid with emotion
for a moment before she covered them with one hand, feigning tiredness.
"This… these feelings I have. They seem to go against everything
I’ve been taught, everything I was raised to believe. You’re my magickal
tutor. On top of that, you’re a Humanae. It defies all
of that for me to have any feelings for you at all. And yet I know
I do. So why is it I look at you—"
Her voice dropped; her next words were so quiet
that Argo had to strain to hear them: "—and I can’t help but surrender
He sat there for a long moment, thoughtful.
"And this is a bad thing?"
That actually elicited a genuine smile from her.
She stood up and smoothed her dress again, then extended a hand to him.
"Come. Will you walk with me?"
Argo quirked an eyebrow, and took her hand as he
stood. He dusted the seat of his breeches. "Of course. Where
are we walking?"
She inclined her head in the general direction of
the cottage. "The pond."
VI. The Bond Forged
The pond was a small freshwater pool that was located about a half-mile
behind her cottage. It was surrounded on three sides by trees and
thick brush, offering a secluded bathing spot within fairly close proximity
to Auerenelle’s home. A path led from the cottage to the one unobstructed
side, worn from her daily treks to bathe, swim or just think. They’d
followed that path, side by side where they could, he behind her where
Argo had been there on several occasions to bathe
and thought it a wonderfully pristine place, and apparently, Auerenelle
thought the same— she had told him that she spent time there often, just
taking in the atmosphere and clearing her mind. In his mind’s eye,
Argo could see her sitting there in the early morning in the same pose
she was in now— sitting along the grassy shore and staring out over the
crystalline water— and just taking in the atmosphere. The image was
an appealing one, but Argo was not entirely sure whether it was the beauty
of the landscape or the beauty of the elfmaiden that caused his heart to
"What do you know of the Sestrey’llania?"
She finally asked, looking at him from the corner of her eyes.
He shrugged slightly and toyed with a stick he found
on the ground. "Not much, sad to say. A lot of what you haven’t
told me firsthand… well, it’s mostly just rumor and hearsay. Your
people are sometimes called ‘the enlightened ones’. Your lineage
places you all as distant relatives to Auberon himself. You are more
adept in the so-called ‘cultured’ magicks than most other feyfolk.
Your people make up most of the ruling council of Avalon proper, and they
have minor nobles and rulers scattered over the lands from the Adashai
Sea to the River of Mourning."
She smiled. "I was speaking more of our customs
and legends than anything socio-political, but go on."
"I haven’t seen many of your customs," he admitted.
"You’ve told me a little about the feast of Hathneweir, and the celebration
of Springstide… But I couldn’t begin to recount your legends."
"The legends and myths of the feyfolk are numerous
enough to fill the great library at Avalon. Each fey culture has
its own legends on the creation of the world and the separation from humankind;
each culture has its own heroes, some cultures even have beliefs on how
the world ends," she replied, and interlaced her fingers before looking
at him evenly. "But each fey culture’s legends and stories are inherently
different from one another.
"The Âquer’kal recite the tale of the
slaughter of their kinsmen at Rel-Al’Tul and lionize Ehs’shtat, who reputedly
ate his first three female children to urge his wife to bear him a son.
The sylvan Moril’anthi sing the stories of the Great Tree Spirit
and the Wolfling Trickster, and of the great hero Silminicien, who could
make the flowers weep with his song. The warrioress Clythea is in
many Sidhe legends, not for her brawn, but her wits; it is said
she bested the four-headed Shuerax by confusing each head with a different
"But there is a common thread in almost every fey
culture’s legends: a fascination with the Humanae. Vyllinia, an
girl-child who is ridiculed by her brothers, leaves the land of Faerie
and meets a human man who befriends her. Eventually, after many adventures,
the two fall in love and raise a family. The
fondly remember their great prince, Vircheran, who shunned all noble women
of his lineage after seeing a human princess in the lands beyond the barrier.
Even the prideful Âquer’kal say that the great warlord Kefaernôl
was the offspring of a fey queen and her human slave. The love stories
of human and elf— whether they end tragically or blissfully— have counterparts
in every elven civilization."
She took a slow, thoughtful breath and turned to
look directly at him. "Except one. The Sestrey’llania have
no such myths or legends. Not that it’s never happened— I’m sure
it has and, for that matter, it still does— but it’s something that most
too unconventional for their delicate sensibilities."
"Delicate sensibilities. There’s a term I
used to think I’d never hear associated with elves," Argo smirked.
"Before I first came here, I always believed elves to be one big free-love
Auerenelle bristled. "I’m not sure exactly
what you mean by ‘free-love,' but I can assure you that all elves do not
have the same view on everything, anymore than all humans do. Statements
like that are ignorant and bigoted."
"Easy, easy," Argo held up a placating hand, surprised
at the disturbed tone of her voice. "I said, ‘before I first came
here’. I like to think I’ve learned a bit since then."
As quickly as the tone came, it left her completely.
"I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap… What you said just reminded me
She colored and trailed off, her face dropping to
hide behind a cascade of honey-colored curls. After a few tentative
starts, he reached out and grasped her hand, let her gaze draw upward to
"Of?" He asked.
She paused before speaking, either getting her thoughts
straight, or steeling herself to tell him. Her aquamarine eyes seemed
to search his for long moments before she turned her body so that she sat
face to face with him.
"Though Auberon’s reach itself may not be long,
his influence upon his bloodline and people is. The Sestrey’llania
one of the most prideful of fey races, and rightly so, if you listen to
some of us talk. After all, we are the blood-brothers and sisters
of the Lord of the Fey himself. In the histories, we sometimes even
refer to ourselves as the ‘True Ones.’ No doubt many of those you
saw in Avalon think of themselves as the gods’ most perfect creations."
The sarcasm was thick in her voice.
Argo nodded, remembering some elves he’d seen in
Avalon who refused to talk to him solely because he was human.
"That’s the very reason I live here. My father
and brother are the same way. My father very nearly sent me to Avalon
when he found out I was friends with an Úmanyarili girl.
I was always considered somewhat of a black sheep in my family because
I tended to look past such things. Living with my father and my brother
with the views I hold proved impossible. They don’t even acknowledge
me anymore, and we are probably all better off because of it." She
glanced away, and Argo could tell from the emotion in her voice she didn’t
"I’ve never had problems like that with my own family,
but I can understand what it feels like to be alone." Argo said quietly,
hoping to be comforting.
"I thought you might," she glanced at him, smiling
sadly. Her slender thumb glided over his knuckles. "We are
very similar, you and I. I feel a sense of… of kinship… with you.
That is why I must tell you that I lied to you."
"Yes. Well. Stretched the truth, rather.
When you asked me if would put me out having a Humanae staying in
my house, I said it would not bother me at all."
"And it does?" Argo asked quietly.
Hesitantly, she nodded. "Yes. It does bother
Then she averted her face again, letting her hair
fall and mask her eyes. "It bothers me that I can’t fall asleep without
seeing your face in my dreams. It disturbs me that I can find myself
longing for the touch of a human when I have never even felt the touch
of another fey. It frustrates me that I asked you to stay to teach
me your magick, and when I look at you, magickal knowledge somehow seems
small and insignificant. I turn to water inside when you look at
me. It’s as though you are in my every breath, my every heartbeat,
and though I want to be scared by it, though I want to recoil from it,
I cannot force myself to."
Argo, who had been about to comment when she’d first
said yes, suddenly found himself sitting there with his mouth half-open.
In a small voice, he said, "Are you saying what I think you’re saying?"
"I… I think I am," she admitted.
He lifted aside her hair. Her eyes clung to
his as soon as the veil of gold was spread. He searched them, and
found the feelings he had for her returned there. He lost himself
in the aquamarine depths, and gradually, he felt a warm glow emanating
from somewhere inside him. That same warmth was reflected in the
smile which came almost immediately to Auerenelle’s lips. Her voice
was soft— almost shy— as she spoke again.
"I love you, Argo Veseyez Forgeuzev."
The words were spoken quietly, so much so that Argo
wondered for a moment if he had really heard them. But a feeling
swelled in his heart, a feeling of conviction that he could feel touch
his soul. A feeling that told him that she had indeed said those
words, that she meant them implicitly.
Comprehension and wonder dawned as he realized that
he did, as well.
"And I love you, Auerenelle."
He meant it, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
And he could see from the light in her eyes that she knew he did.
She reached up to him and touched his cheek to draw him close, and he needed
Then they kissed and touched, soon they pulled each
other to the ground. There they made a bed of the grass and leaves,
and she tugged at his tunic as he found the clasps of her dress.
And this time, when the kiss broke, there was no talk of fathers or races
or magick; instead, the sounds which caused the birds to take flight from
the branches of the surrounding trees were more primal than any words but
no less impassioned.
And as they made love, Argo could feel excitement
coursing through him; excitement and a deep underlying sense of love and
awe. He could sense those in himself, and improbably, he could feel
it in her, as well. When her passion brimmed and she released, he
felt the exultation and the joy empathically, as if her feelings and awareness
had somehow become his. He closed his eyes, envisioned their minds
and emotions and beings becoming intertwined— like a rope made of two separate
strands, made stronger by their unity. He dimly realized that she
was somehow magickally touching him inside, in his heart and his soul,
just as she was allowing him to touch hers. That was the first
clue to Argo that he was really in love: he was laying bare a place more
intimate than the most taboo of physical areas to her, and his first impulse
was to smile.
Sunlight fell through the screen of branches and
warmed them as they rested upon the warm grass afterward. Their clothes
were nearby, discarded haphazardly in the fire of ardor.
Argo looked to her, lying next to him, her honey-gold
hair disarrayed and a drying sheen of perspiration casting a shine to her
apricot skin. Her arm rested on her hip, her hand trailed smoothly
along his bare side. Her eyes gazed intently into his, knowing even
as she did that it would take only the slightest bit of will from him to
turn her stone.
And yet, he didn’t. Not that he couldn’t,
just that he had no will to. And he couldn’t help but believe that
she knew that as well as he did. His heart soared just looking at
her. She was the most beautiful thing Argo had ever seen.
"Tell me what you’re thinking, beloved," she said,
her fingers drifting down to tousle the light brush of his chest hair.
It was a movement that was tremendously forward for her, but it merely
underscored the fact that she was a lot more comfortable now. Whether
it was their lovemaking that was responsible for that, or something else,
he wasn’t quite sure.
Beloved, she said. He had never been
called that, not that he could remember. And she meant it.
He could tell, in some unspeakable, instinctive way, that she meant it
with the entirety of her being. The feeling it gave him was wonderful.
"What just happened to us?"
At that, she smiled, and her cheeks reddened ever
so slightly. "I thought it was rather self-explanatory."
He grinned at that, but slowly let it fade.
"No, I have a fair idea about that. I meant during it.
I felt something, inside me."
She nodded, understanding. Her smile beamed
radiant. "I wasn’t sure if you would feel it, as well. There
is a Sestrey’llania word for it that will mean little to you.
Most in Faerie simply call it ‘The Bond.’"
"The Bond?" Argo echoed. "I’ve never
heard of such a thing."
"That’s surprising," she said as she traced his
pectoral muscles lightly and propped her head up. "To some extent,
all fey have the ability to bond with their chosen love. How the
bond is established differs slightly from clan to clan; for some, a first
kiss initiates the bond, in some clans, the lovers undergo a magickal ritual.
Sestrey’llania are fortunate enough to be able to chose with whom
He nodded. "But what is it?"
"The Bond? It’s hard to explain. Our
souls have touched."
He felt a surge of happiness and warmth inside him
and for the first time, he began to realize: it was not just his emotions
he was sensing.
"You mean—?" He began, struck with wonder.
"Part of my being has been transferred to you, part
of yours to me. It is the ultimate joining of two beings. I
feel your emotions, you will feel mine. In effect, we complete one
A sense of awe overcame him. He was fairly
sure it was his own.
"I should have said something earlier. I merely
thought, with all the time you’ve spent in Faerie, you would have known…"
Her eyes dropped; she felt mortified, and he could feel her embarrassment.
He smiled, touched her cheek, smiling like a fool.
"Don’t be sorry. We’re truly soulmates, then, right? I told
you I love you, Auerenelle. To be able to complete you is more of
a gift than anything I could have ever hoped for."
It was the truth. He meant it totally, and
he knew Auerenelle could tell that as she looked up at him and her lips
pulled up slightly at the edges. The thought that he could feel her
love for him at any time— and draw from it— was a prospect he probably
would never have turned down, if she had asked. It came as a shock
to him that he could admit it, but he was becoming more and more aware
that he had never loved anyone as he had the young elfwoman.
Just as he was becoming more and more aware that
his home was no longer on the Earth-Realm, but here in Faerie. And
for once in his life, lying there in the grass and feeling everything Auerenelle
felt, Argo Veseyez Forgeuzev could honestly say he had never been more
In the Earth-Realm, clocks ticked and bells chimed the passing of hours.
Sunlight begat shadow and the moon rose and fell, in keeping time with
the days. The days became weeks.
In Faerie, the months and seasons passed like flickers
in a strobe.
Auerenelle taught Argo about the creatures, customs
and myths of the fey. She explained the more difficult laws of ritual
magick, showed him the rudiments of sigilcraft and rune-casting.
She taught him how to speak the Tongue of the Ancients, a Sestrey’llania
that predated humanity by several thousand years and enabled the most powerful
Argo in turn taught Auerenelle about the theory
of multiversal unity, Eobard’s laws on time-space displacement and Minor’s
notes on creating possibilities. He told her stories of his homeland,
of the histories and beliefs of various places in the Earth-realm.
He demonstrated the techniques of meditation, and how they could be used
to clear the mind for the use of magicks.
And as they passed their time together, the love
that had bloomed between them grew steadily stronger. The Bond between
them taught them as much about one another as words and stories ever could.
He felt her pain, her joy, her bliss, she felt his. They spent the
days together learning from one another as they walked in the fields and
wilds, or dallied in the shoppes in Avalon. When the sun fell and
the stars glanced out over Faerie, they lay in one another’s arms and had
eyes for only one another.
Their love for one another continued to grow, and
still the seasons passed onward…
It was cloudy but had not yet rained that morning, and from the smell
of the air, Argo didn’t believe it was going to. He wouldn’t have
believed that after a few short years in Faerie, he would have learned
to predict the weather merely by the smell of the air and a casual glance
at the sky. But then again, a few years ago he probably wouldn’t
have believed himself if he knew half of what would happen to him when
he returned to Faerie.
He sat at the table of the cottage he and Auerenelle
had shared for so long, and studied the book before him. It was one
of the works Auerenelle had brought with her from her studies in Avalon,
a few years before he met her. This particular one dealt with sigil-weaving,
a form of casting Argo had been learning recently. He knew how to
cast the spells from sigils created by others already; sigil-weaving would
allow him to create his own sigils to create whatever effects he desired.
The prospect was a daunting, yet potentially very rewarding one.
He followed down one worn parchment page with his
finger, murmuring the names of the glyphs and syllabic formulae he found
there, committing it all to memory for future reference. Auerenelle
would be pleased when she returned, he knew, to find that he was progressing
farther in the book, especially considering how much trouble he’d had learning
the rudiments of sigil-craft.
She’d been gone since before he awakened that morning,
leaving a note for him in her stylish, tightly rounded handwriting explaining
that she would be gone for the better part of the morning. She’d
traveled off to Avalon, she’d written, choosing to follow the magickal
paths rather than make the two-day walk. She hadn’t revealed why
exactly she was going there, but Argo figured in truth it wasn’t any of
his business anyway, or she would have told him.
He trusted her unequivocally; and she had given
him no reason not to. After all, the same bond which connected their
souls let him feel whatever she did. If anything was truly amiss
during her trip, he would be the second person to realize it, shortly after
she herself did. So far, he’d felt nothing out of the ordinary from
her except for the surge of warmth that he’d felt during his breakfast
an hour or so previously. From the feeling, Argo wondered if she
might have found herself a new dress in one of the clothier’s shoppes;
she had groused good-naturedly about not being able to find anything in
her wardrobe for the Springtide Festival. If she found one, Argo
could reasonably expect to see her coming in with it shortly. On
the Earth-realm, something like that might have caused a disagreement directly
proportionate to the cost of the dress. Luckilly, that was not the
Magick was a wonderful thing, taking into account
that it basically was the economy of most larger cities in Faerie.
Shopkeepers in Avalon, for example, rarely charged for most goods, since
it was merely a matter of creating more magickally. Anything that
a shopkeeper could not create he might offer a trade for, but otherwise,
money was almost unheard of in the capital city. To a degree, Argo
could understand that. After all, a monetary or barter system could
hardly be instituted in a place where so many people could magickally create
gold or goods for trade.
Argo just hoped this year’s Springtide Festival
wasn’t a reproduction of last year. He was not at all overjoyed at
the prospect of meeting Auerenelle’s brother Creysari again. The
haughty Sestrey’llania had made clear his disgust with Argo, and
for that matter, his displeasure with his sister for being seen with a
Auerenelle had simmered, but still could not bring herself to tell Creysari
that she and Argo had bonded.
He smiled— not at the memory, of course, but at
a familiar feeling that coursed through him.
"You’re back early," he grinned, turning in his
chair just as the front door was opening. The Bond had never yet
been wrong; it made sneaking up on one another all but impossible.
Sure enough, Auerenelle entered her cottage. She was wearing a pale
green traveling dress and had no packages or pouches that he could tell.
She returned his greeting with a wide smile of her own.
"It took a lot less time than I thought," she said,
making her way to the table and pecking his cheek. "And you, my love,
Argo bit off a reflexive "No I’m not." Of
course she would know he was curious.
"A bit," he admitted. "I thought sure you’d
gone to Avalon to do a bit of shopping. Did you not find anything?"
Again, he felt the barest wave of warm joy fill
him from her link to him, which only increased his curiosity. But
she was covering it well.
"A bit, here and there," she said, covering a grin
that would have done the Cheshire Cat proud. "I saw Failina in the
"Oh? How was she?"
"Fine. She has a new beau now. Melantheras,
I think she said his name was. The son of one of the courtiers.
She went on for nearly on hour trying to tell me everything about him."
"Beaus. Lovers." Argo made a mock-dismissing
gesture, kept a light, joking tone. "Who can figure them, anyway?"
"She asked how you were, by the way. She’s
really warmed to you."
"Glad to see someone has," he smiled. It was
surprising, given what had happened the first time they’d met, that Auerenelle’s
sister had come full circle and now was giving him ringing endorsements.
Her melodious voice turned sly. "Are you saying
that I haven’t warmed to you yet, dear Argo?"
"Not at all," he said, reaching over to grasp her
hand. He never got tired of the velvety feel of her skin or the touch
of her fingers on his. He looked into her exotic eyes, sensed his
love for her returned through their bond, felt something else— another
feeling beneath that surface. It was warm and joyful. He frowned
politely. "You’re awfully happy. What is it, love?"
"Oh, fie, beloved. You would have found out
soon enough." Auerenelle's joy seeped into him, boundless.
"I went to Avalon to see Enafaela."
"Enefaela?" His frown deepened at the unfamiliar
"They call her the Herb Mistress. A ritualist
and midwife of no small repute."
"A mid—" Argo felt his jaw drop. He was speechless.
She beamed, her joy slowly overpowering his amazement.
"Yes. I… wasn’t at all sure, at first; we’ve been rather preoccupied
with our… lovemaking. But in her own words, ‘In the passing of a
year, you shall bring forth a son.’"
"A…" His mind was stuck in a fugue state.
A son. Our son. I’m going to be a father. A boy, from
the union of fey and human. A son. Our son. A slow
smile crept onto his face.
"Argo?" Auerenelle was talking. "Are
He pulled her to him and kissed her. His love,
delight, and awe washed over her, causing her to gasp even as her lips
pressed to his. Again she asked:
Tears sprang, unabashed, to his eyes. He could
no more control them than he could the torrent of emotions she was feeling
through the Bond. "I’m happy, beloved. Deliriously happy.
I want to go out and dance a jig on the roof, I want to transport myself
to the Seelie court and announce it from the spires of their palace.
But right now I’ll settle for telling you I love you."
She smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips, and
sat on his lap, curling around him. "Beloved?"
"You do realize that this means you won’t be able
to turn me to stone again for a year or more, right?"
Argo smirked, his mind spiraling. "I’ll get
A son. I’m going to have a son.
He was right. He always liked that part of
the story. Some things, he mused, just never changed; hardly a difficult
admission from one with the blood of the fey coursing through his veins.
"That was beautiful," Nova remarked, smiling broadly
as Paris bowed his head.
He looked up at the others. Most of them nodded
and smiled as the story ended, then went back to their own little conversations.
Nova continued to watch him intently. He could not help but feel
the blood pound in his head.
Damn it all, why does she have to be so beautiful?
"I…" He swallowed, suddenly finding his mouth
dry. "I always hoped I would be able to Bond like my father and mother
did. I hoped I would find someone like…"
Like you, he thought. But he couldn’t
say it. He was surprised to see a tinge of red touch her cheeks as
"Have you ever thought about something like that,
She bit her upper lip, looked from the floor to
his face, then back to the floor.
"Can I talk to you?" She asked suddenly.
"Talk? I thought we were—"
"Not here," she murmured. "There’s a back
room. It’s more quiet. Paris, I like you. More than I
should. But there are things you should know about me."
His face betrayed his awe. "Uhm… Okay.
Let me get something to drink. I’ll meet you back there, if it’s
She nodded and was gone.
Paris made his way to the mini-bar and poured himself
a glass of wine with trembling hands. He tried to keep his stomach
calm, and failed terribly. He didn’t care. He wasn’t quite
sure whether he should feel like he was on top of the world, or about to
die. Paris, I like you. More than I should. Eight words,
nine syllables. And he wasn’t sure how to take them. He wanted
her more than anything, and yet, he feared giving himself to her, more
than he feared anything.
Face it, Paris. You just don’t know the
first thing about love, and here’s where your inexperience shows.
He thought that and was about to turn for the back
room when he saw the silhouette in the doorway to the ASFR room.
VII. The Return
The room was exactly as he remembered it, which only
increased the sense of nostalgia he’d felt pinching at his gut ever since
landing in the department store a few days before. Display cases
and pedestals stood in various areas, waiting to be filled. He could
see control panels on the wall next to framed portraits and loose circuitry
boards. Even with industrial air purifiers filtering the air, he
could smell the remnants of herbs and potions, and the heavier odors of
burnt plastic and solder. A doorway in one wall led to the lab; he
remembered that much , having spent a lot of time there conducting experiments
in alchemy. He could almost mentally mark off the paces from where
he stood to the mini-bar, where the serv-droid probably still kept a tab
for him. Farther in front of him, he could see the arrangement of
chairs, sofas and tables that marked where most of the people in the ASFR
room tended to sit around and have conversations or liaisons. He’d
had a few of both there himself. It almost made his heart clench
with longing to find this place and see that it was so similar to the way
he had left it.
Almost. There was a sense of home in this
room, but at the same time Argo had to admit that it was a home that was
as alien to him now as the abandoned apartment in Indianapolis. Although
that didn’t stop the memories from flooding back to him, it lessened the
pain they caused as well as the desire to create new ones.
He didn’t want to be here, in all honesty.
It wasn’t that he disliked this room or any of the people he remembered
in here. That was far from the truth, as a point of fact— some of
them were his closest friends before he'd gone to Faerie. He knew
that part of his reluctance to return to the room stemmed from the fact
that he had left it so abruptly. There would be questions about where
he went, why he never returned, what had happened to him. For the
most part, he could deal with those. But he wondered how he would
react when he saw her for the first time. He couldn’t deny
that she still occupied his thoughts, flame-red hair flashing through his
mind the same way it had once flashed through his fingers. Years
had passed in Faerie, and still he found himself thinking about her more
often than he would ever care to admit— which not only confused him but
worried him. He longed to see her almost as much as he wished she
wouldn’t be here.
But Argo also longed to see his family again.
He had found sleep virtually impossible over the past few nights without
the touch of his wife, the feel of her slender arm curling around his back
as she drifted into sleep. The smile in her eyes seemed incredibly
distant from him now.
No time for that now, he chided himself.
sentimental when the job is done. He swallowed, forced the images,
the memories and the fears away, and he walked further into the room.
Toward the collection of seats. Toward the individuals he saw sitting
there, talking and carousing with one another.
It didn’t take long at all for them to take notice
of him. Argo heard a couple gasps of astonishment, and a fresh smile
came to his face as he came closer, saw a couple faces he recognized.
Silvera and Vengeance sat next to one another on a couch, looking up at
him as he approached. Argo could also see another android sitting
on the couch across from them, a male he didn’t recognize. Nova was
nowhere in sight, but Argo wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or chagrined
"Hello," he finally ventured.
"Argo," Vengeance said quietly, lips curling up
ever so slightly.
"Yes," Silvera echoed, her voice pitched low as
well. "It’s, uhm, good to see you again."
His heart sank. There was a definite coolness
to both greetings. The warmth he remembered in their usual hellos
was nowhere to be found. They wondered where he had gone, he knew;
they wondered why he had left them without any explanation. That
had to be it.
"I’m sorry it took me so long to come back," he
Sil shook her head, looking at him oddly.
Like she didn’t want him to talk? Surely his absence hadn’t affected
her that much, had it? Something about the way this whole scenario
was playing out struck him as wrong. He looked at Silvera and Vengeance’s
faces carefully, trying to figure out what they were thinking. Their
eyes didn’t have the look of scorn he would have expected from such an
icy reception. So both of them were restraining themselves for some
But why? Alarms sounded in his head.
"What is it?"
"Father." The voice sounded from behind him.
The single word was rimed with frost, disdainful as an epithet.
Father? Argo whirled. The man
he saw as he turned was half a head shorter and a tad more wiry than Argo.
Ice-blue eyes greeted his with the chill of their color, beneath dark brows
that were swept upward in hatred. The man’s dark hair fell past his
shoulders in waves. Argo started as he noticed the clothing the man
was wearing: a simple tunic and set of breeches, both of Sestrey’llania
He looked close, saw the telltale points of his ears poking through the
mass of black.
The man’s thin-lipped smile was cruel, his voice
dripped bitterness. "Welcome back, father. Come see what I
have learned while you were gone."
Father. The word again, coupled with
the image before him, broke through the haze in his head. He stepped
back a half step, stunned. His mouth moved once, twice, before any
sound came out.
"Son?" Argo whispered. "Paris?"
He would have said more, but there was no time.
A bolt of jagged white eldritch energy hit him hard in the chest before
he could call up a reflective spell, and threw him a full thirty feet into
the back wall.
To Be Continued...
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