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Subject: C24 Cinderfella 2, Chapter 24 Dyami Story: Cinderfella 2: A New Life Chapter: 24 Dyami Author: Eric McQueen ail) Mature Readers only due to sexual situations and graphic sexual content Freedom of expression is precious. To do that Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! Race? Ethnics? Religions? We are all one family. The Human Family. Dyami Neither Christian’s or Seth’s and my our sons liked hearing this and began to protest after hearing they weren’t coming. “No!” Christian said sharper and firmer than I had ever heard him. The volume didn’t affect Toby, but he reacted to the jump Thomas had. “There is no discussion. You don’t go.” Max waited a few seconds for things to settle and then said. “Okay.” He looked at all of us. “We’ll go to Royal Valley and head out to Creid.” Chitto shook his head. “That will take weeks.” I put my hand on Chitto’s arm. “No, it won’t.” Seth nodded. “The longest trip will be from Royal Valley to Creid. I don’t know how long into the northwest territory.” “On horseback, three days. With the wagon of breakables, four,” I grinned. “You’ll see.” We were told there had been another attack on two smaller farming villages in A’Dore, but the attackers found them both deserted. The people in those villages had either fled or were hidden. The attackers got nothing. Those that attacked were so angry, they did burned a few farms. The harvest was over, so they would be repaired. Two farms that had livestock lost some animals. One had a lot of chickens and lost every single one. At least, no one was raped or killed. We would gather the needed provisions from Royal Valley. It was also decided we would bring as much food and goods to Creid as we could manage. Rice and grains would stretch things out. Potatoes! Easy to cook and good. Any imports to Creid now were escorted by Creid’s guards but didn’t make up what was needed by the whole population so any help would be appreciated. Game was available for those that could hunt, but it was nearing hibernation time and game might not be as available. It certainly wouldn’t in a few more weeks and the snows came. There were flurries I was sure now. I was glad Seth and I lived in Royal Valley. It almost never snowed in Blethos or A’Dore. We got ready to leave A’Dore. We packed what we needed. Seth and I said good bye to family and to Dennis and Toby. Chitto said his good bye to Nila and his sons. We did this in the corridor before we descended into the dungeon area. Christian followed us to cover the mirror after we left. I uncovered the mirror and touched the four crystals. It was dark in this storage room we were in and dark in the attic in Royal Valley, so you didn’t see much until you looked a while. Hugging Christian, I then herded Chitto in and I led him through the mirror. I led him away so the others could come through. Chitto looked startled as he knew nothing was beyond the mirror since that was against the wall in A’Dore. Had we stepped through to a hidden room? I opened the door in to the manor. “Where are we?” Chitto asked. “We’re in Seth’s and my home in Royal Valley.” I answered simply. “In Blethos!?” Chitto asked incredulously. Seth had come in and chuckled. “That’s right.” “And save your breath,” I said holding my hand up to stop the usual questions. “We don’t know how it works and the only two known are here and in A’Dore.” “It was given to us by one of the shaman like Demetrius.” Seth said putting an arm around Chitto’s shoulder. “We just know it works.” Chitto turned to me and slugged me lightly on the arm. “Then why didn’t you come to my wedding?” “That was over ten years ago! We didn’t have it then,” I defended myself. “We never knew when you were home! I work, too, you know?” Chitto let it go. “So, we’re in Blethos…in your home in Royal Valley.” “That’s right,” Seth laughed lightly. “Come on, we’ll introduce you to Mom.” Natives weren’t unknown in A’Dore or Blethos, but they kept mostly to themselves. They weren’t unwelcome to live anywhere they wished. They just didn’t. Only if there was a marriage, like Chitto’s great-great whatever Aunt did marrying my grandfather. We were welcome in their villages and towns, again marriage was usually the reason. Our customs were simply different. The reaction from many of the house staff was merely noticing the oddity. Chitto was walking with Seth and me in a loose friendship, so the question never came up. Chitto could offer no other explanation for how we got here. We’d gone below the palace, stepped through to a room that was on the top floor and went down further into a brightly lit world warmed by sunshine. And it was nice, but not the palace of A’Dore. It must have been his beliefs and heritage. He accepted the unbelievable a lot easier than someone any of our people normally did. Grace came from the kitchen. “My sons have returned.” She hugged Seth and me. “Temporarily,” Seth said sadly. “We’re leaving soon to find the one behind the attacks.” “It’s almost winter out there!” Grace moaned. “It will be cold out there.” “It will a lot colder where we’re heading to the northwest.” I said. “And damp.” “Toby and Dennis?” Mom asked. “They’re safe in A’Dore.” Seth said. I brought Chitto forward. “This is my cousin Chitto. He is helping us.” Grace nodded shaking Chitto’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Chitto.” She still wasn’t letting her concern go. “It will be cold.” Max and Val came down. “She’s right.” Max said. “It will be cold.” He grinned. “Unfortunately, keeping things secure is not a fair-weather thing.” Val nodded, “We’re been in freezing weather before. We have a way to take care for that.” “It may be uncomfortable at times, but you’ll be fine.” Max said. “We’ll get somethings from Creid.” He glanced around the house. “The weather here is too mild.” Grace was not convinced this was what we should do. “Can’t you wait at least until spring?” I shook my head. “We need to go soon.” Seth nodded, “We have to.” I nodded. “If we don’t they will gather again.” I sighed. “Perhaps in greater numbers.” The only good thing about this trip was seeing Yannick again. Delta, Beth, and Allister, too, of course. I went back to A’Dore and got the plans for those new absorbers to make a faster carriage. We put them on a carriage to take supplies to Creid. That took an extra day or two to put the absorbers on the wagon we took. We told the boys again good bye and headed out one Monday morning. The four Creid wore their amour with the helmets. I assumed that was also for warmth not just for defense. Max said it not cold in Royal Valley, and it wasn’t that cold. As we headed north, we when up with land elevation. Then it started to get colder. We crossed Creid’s border at the foot of a mountain range. The somewhat cloudy sky began to snow a little. Flurries mostly, but it wasn’t accumulating yet. We camped at night and used the tents at night. The new improved wagon did well at the pace we tried to keep. The stones we warmed up by the fire did wonders at keeping the tent, bedrolls, and the inhabitants warm. Clay based rocks were the best. Seth and I had our own source of heat. Do I need to say it? We had each other. Who the others cuddled with was their business. Body heat was great heat source. Of course, Grace fretted not only over Seth and me, but all that were going. Did we pack enough warm clothes? Did we have enough clean socks? That included Chitto. She made sure we took enough to eat and Seth had his coffee. It would have been Hell without that. I thought it important that we kept our supplies separate. We didn’t want to take what we were trying to get to Creid to relieve their hunger. “This isn’t bad.” Seth said as we began to ascend the mountain’s pass. It had a single road that went up slowly. Much better than the steep inclines if we didn’t go this way. It had been a long time since I’d taken it last, but I have to admit it. It didn’t change much even after a near decade. We talked loosely to each other as we rode. We eased the pace to allow the horses some rest. It was on a shaded portion of the path; I saw something in the corner of my eye. A something seemed to swoop from the canopy of trees. I was hit just below my head in my left side and shoulder. It was a rock. Not a boulder, but also not one you could just toss. Suspended on a rope were several of these rocks that swung down. I was the only one to be hit by one. I was knocked off my horse from the blow. The wagon bringing the food was also hit by a couple of those rocks. The men from Creid were instantly in motion. Swords drawn and arrows ready. What I knew, but not seen that well, was Seth! His horse reared in surprise, but Seth wasn’t thrown. He got an arrow ready in seconds and fired arrows into the trees around us as we heard somethings hurry away in leaves and branches. Seth moved quickly and let go of the reins but stayed where he was a somehow took careful aim. Unlike my first only official trip to Creid…this time I wore my sword. Using my arms to push up, I had a sore ache almost put me on the ground again. Fortunately, I was right-handed, so I could get my sword out. The problem was the attack was from above. There was nobody to fight on the ground. I had a bow and arrows, but I couldn’t really use my left arm. Suddenly Seth was beside me and firing at the adversaries in the trees. I saw Reese and Val take off on foot into the bushes and trees. No horse could have traversed the terrain easily. Chitto and Seth were firing still rapidly. These men were scattering and finally were gone. Seth turned quickly. “Are you hurt badly?” He reached for me, but I jerked away in pain. I gritted my teeth and said. “It will heal.” It hurt to move the arm, but nothing felt broken. “I believe it’s a bad bruise.” I smiled at Seth. “You were amazing! Where did you learn to shoot an arrow like that?” “You saw me before,” Seth shook his head. “I hunted with you and there was the battle a few weeks ago…” “Shooting an arrow on horseback isn’t easy.” I waved at his horse that was adjusting to things as they settled down. “You never lost focus.” Seth shrugged. “I learned.” Max ran over to us. “Everyone okay?” Seth put his arm around me. “Erik was hit by that rock/trap thingy.” I nodded. “It will heal. It doesn’t feel broken.” Chitto came to me. “Take your shirt off.” He ordered. As I was unbuttoning my shirt, I asked. “You know what to look for?” Chitto smirked. “I’ve seen a broken bone or two.” He moved the arm and there was pain. No, swelling yet or discoloration as he tested my elbow and fingers to see if there was damage to the nerves. “It doesn’t look like it is broken. I think it more impact trauma.” “Historian and medicine man?” I asked him. Chitto chuckled back. “I am many things.” He looked at Max. “How much farther?” “Half a day.” Max answered. Chitto nodded. “Good.” He smiled at me. “I’m binding your arm for now. There’s a doctor in Creid?” “Better,” Max stated smiling. “We have Maggie.” I chuckled at Chitto. “It seems I sort of took their one doctor. Ryan was that doctor.” Max shrugged. “Did Ryan look as if he is a soldier or warrior?” He shook his head. “No, we in the field, deal with broken bones, severed limbs…stabbings and other cuts. We do fine.” “Maggie is a woman that was a mid-wife.” Val said having heard our conversation. “She stepped in when Ryan left to get his education. She’s seen everything.” He said dismissively. Seth nodded. “Well, pregnancy is not necessarily an injury, but she’s good?” I chuckled patting Seth on the arm. “It doesn’t matter. She’s what we’ve got.” I shrugged. “There’s no reason a woman can’t do as good a job as a man.” Chitto bound my arm quickly. Seth helped me back on my horse and we continued to the castle. I will say, having Delta beside Yannick on the throne made a difference in Creid. The castle still lacked the attractiveness on the outside. It still looked like a pile of rocks. Inside was as different as day is bursa escort from night! The bare floors were now covered partially with bright colored patterned rugs on the gray floor. There was still the abundance of swords and shields on the walls, but now had paintings, too. There were now tables in the wide corridors with sculptures or glass and ceramic on display. Even the Throne Room was different. There were the swords crossed on the walls. Someone had put tapestries up. We could see various campaigns on them. One of them held an imagine that looked so much like King Mordor, Yannick’s father, I felt King Mordor was here. Yannick rose from his throne. “Welcome to Creid.” His smile faded a little seeing my bound arm to my chest. “You were assaulted?” Max stepped forward nodding and bowed to Yannick. “We were, Your Majesty.” He glanced at me. “Erik was the sole injured party.” Yannick frowned as he came down from the platform toward me. “Thank God he lives.” He looked at Max again. “Where was it this time?” Max told him the name and Yannick nodded looking at me. “I am so sorry, Erik. They change the location of these attacks, it’s hard to keep track of them.” He was about to hug me. “Is there somewhere I can touch that won’t hurt you?” I gave him a right-sided hug. “It will heal.” I waved at Seth. “His broken foot healed in a month!” I shook my head. “This is nothing.” Yannick turned. “Send someone for Maggie and bring her here.” Okay, when we’re told about someone we automatically form an image of them. I pictured this Maggie as an older woman. Elderly even. She was mature, yes. In her late thirties or early forties. She was a pretty woman. I hate the same description of people, but she had a few pounds she didn’t need, but not fat. Dark black hair with the streak of gray from the left side of her temple, about an inch wide that continued down past her shoulders. What she had for what she did was so valuable. She smiled. It was compassion and you knew it was sincere. She cared. She was a mother, sort of, caring for a child. In no time, she had me unbound, assuring me, and Seth, my arm wasn’t broken. With my Little Warriors, I should heal quickly, she said. Then she gave me something to drink. It was medicine to help me sleep. Unlike Ryan’s pain killer, hers tasted good. It worked! If I thought I hurt before? I really hurt the day after. Trying to move made me moan. I was instantly touched by someone I knew well. “Are you in pain?” Seth asked and then frowned, shaking his head. “That was a stupid question. I can see you are hurting.” I nodded. “I am sore.” I said kissing him. “And that wasn’t a stupid question. It was natural. You care about me.” I chuckled. I looked where we were. Again, the rooms weren’t big. They kept what heat there was in the room. I will say it again, having Delta as Queen helped. The room was not just functional for sleeping. Black and brown furs on the floor to keep feet warm. There was another fur over me on the bed. I was sure it was bear. It was blackish-brown, shaggy, and thick. “Fortunately, I know where to go.” “Where?” I pulled clothes on quickly and took his hand as I led him through the corridor. “Come on.” Once we had traversed the steps down Seth stared in awe of the many tubs of steaming water. Yannick and I shared one after my victory of the Challenge I had made. This time, there were a few men in them. No one we knew. I waved at an empty tub. “After you.” Seth smiled. “No, after you.” It was like before, almost too hot as we lowered into the water. “I had thought they didn’t bathe, but you can smell the sulfur in the water.” Seth was losing that overly concerned look he had. “You have been here before.” He shrugged. I nodded. “That has been a while ago.” Soon, that comfortable feeling entered our muscles. My muscles in particular. “We have only been gone a few days.” I muttered. “Being injured so early does not bode well.” Seth moved toward me. “Being dead is worse.” He pressed his lips to my head. “You were injured, but not killed.” He chuckled. “You said it. It will heal. I love you, Erik.” “I know,” I nodded. “I love you.” “I know.” The heated water did the trick to a point. By the end of the day, I would be bruised from my shoulder to elbow and from my armpit down to my naval on the left side. We left the subterranean baths. I was almost pain free until I used my left arm…or was touched…or someone touched me there. I told myself what I told everyone else, it would heal. At breakfast, I saw Delta and her three at the table. I also saw a room I hadn’t before last time. It was smaller than that banquet room I knew. It was cozier. “Hello,” Tommy said proudly with his fingers to his throat to feel the vibrations. “Hello!” I smiled at him. “Very good!” He began to sign. It takes practice. I don’t have it like Toby does. “I don’t doubt you will.” I said. “Toby practiced, according to him, for almost a year.” Beth was not as shy with Seth or me, but she was with Chitto. Allister didn’t appear to have bad days. The child was always happy. I did notice the children’s breakfast portions were normal. Yannick’s and Delta’s were less than normal. “I appreciate supplies you brought,” Yannick said. “That helps.” “The problem is the path here,” Delta explained. “There is the only one wide enough for caravans.” Yannick sighed. “We are working on another, but it won’t help now.” “Is it the new one steep?” Seth asked and waved toward the exterior. “That one we used was very winding.” Yannick shook his head. “It’s a gradual incline.” He smiled. “One of the things we do well besides fight is mining and weapon making. We are going to use the same rail system we use for the ore carts.” He chuckled. “Horse drawn, not human, of course.” I nodded. “That will be easier than digging a canal uphill.” “Couldn’t we dig one in stages?” Reese asked. “I mean, can we stop the flow of water? We do with dams, but…” “Actually, we could stop it,” Val nodded. “They have these things called locks in China that has been functioning well there a few hundred years. We could use boat lifts for the caisson.” Yannick paused while eating. “The what?” “It’s a chamber in which the boat rises or comes down in as they add or take the water away.” Val explained. Even I had to say “Oh,” to that one. I had no idea what it was. Another day of success! I learned something new! It was only breakfast! Val thought shaking his head. “We don’t really have a river up here. The mechanics of doing that will take time. We have streams…” Yannick nodded. “We’ll have a good meal tonight. We had a successful hunt yesterday.” He grinned at me and Seth. “Have either you had boar?” “I have,” I admitted. “It is very good.” “Too bad you can’t hunt for fruits and vegetables.” Seth muttered. “A balance diet is needed.” Chitto cleared his throat. “Actually, Seth,” he began, “you can hunt for fruits and vegetables.” Seth looked at Chitto. “You can? Like what?” Chitto nodded. “Most fruits and vegetables were originally in the wild.” He said logically. “You need to know what you’re looking for. There are apples, various berries, bell peppers, beans and onions, just to name a few.” He shrugged. “I think the one’s I mentioned should be available here. Your people are just used to farms.” I grinned at my cousin. “Can you tell some people here what to look for and where to find them?” Chitto nodded. “I’ll even draw a picture. It might take longer to find, but not hopeless.” Yannick nodded. “I’ll assign some men to do that.” Yannick took us to the armory. “Remember me telling you we have a new armor?” I nodded. “I do.” Yannick smiled and picked up a breastplate. “Feel this.” He handed me the hard covering that had no give. The smell of burnt metals and molding was in the air. It was not the usual gray metal, it was black! I held it out for Seth to feel. I was surprised how light it was. I knocked on it. It was hard. It even had a slight ring as I hit the metal. “This will stop a sword?” Yannick nodded. “It will.” He held another breastplate up and the loose chainmail next to it. “We came up with a way of keeping the metals strength but kept it lighter by mixing ores.” He picked up a glove where the back of the hand was protected from being cut by a sword. It was all black. The shield, chainmail and metal, glove. Then he looked closer at me. “You will need to be used to wearing it.” He picked up a sword. “Care to fight me again?” “I barely survived that one.” I said. “No kissing at end, win or lose,” Seth growled with a smile. I chuckled remembering the tactic I used with Yannick. “Whatever it takes.” I shrugged using their motto. Yannick chuckled. “That’s right.” He frowned. “It will add weight, but not like the armor in Europa.” He looked and pointed at my left side. “Are you up for it?” I thumbed toward outside. “It won’t matter out there.” I shrugged. “Let’s do it.” One more time I faced Yannick in the same room as the last time. The overall feeling now was not as heavy than it was before. No one was trying to win this time. A lot was riding on this, but not now. It did add weight, but I didn’t feel the strain at first. It did stop the sword thrusts and impacts Yannick gave me. His thrusts and hits weren’t held back. It was sturdy! At the end of our first round, I was sweating. “It will get easier…” he gasped, ” if you wear it more often.” Yannick smiled and panted as he wiped his own sweat from his neck. “Me included.” “Right,” I nodded and then smiled as I caught my breath. “Whatever it takes.” Yannick burst out laughing throwing his arm over my shoulder. “That’s right. You ARE Creid!!” I got two of those great baths that day and the next day. Fresh water baths were done here, especially if there was an event here. The smell of sulfur in water was like rotten eggs to me. The taste was much worse. I found out Delta didn’t take those kind of baths. She also didn’t bathe her children in it. We waited until my skin was wrinkled and all the soreness in me had faded. Yannick went over a map with us. “There are two passes you can take.” He pointed at the map. “Both are clear now.” He pointed to one. “This one can be blocked with snow and ice.” He pointed at the upper portion of the map. “However, if northwest is your goal, this is the quickest route.” He sighed sadly. “I will miss going with you.” Seth nodded. “Yes, but you are king.” Yannick nodded. “That’s right.” The other things were the coats. Like the rugs and bedspreads, it was shaggy like a bear. They were super warm indoors. The wagon we brought the supplies up in was again being used. This time, to haul all our gear. Especially the armor. If we were attacked again, would we have time to change? We did wear it some if just to keep warm. The body heat was kept inside. It made a difference. I got used to the weight of the armor. I was sorry for my horse, because with the helmet on, the chainmail, sword and all that I gained a good fifty pounds more! We headed off again. The way was unknown to most of us. Even Max needed a map. I can’t explain it, but something wasn’t right. I didn’t know what it was, but… Seth rode by my side most of the way. There was no formation of our group. We camped at night and went farther. Houses and any community was done, but we were still in the mountains of Creid. Just as Christian and I had done on the way to Blethos, we didn’t pay our hygiene and grooming much thought. I shaved when I got itchy. Royal Valley was three weeks behind us. I was in an unknown part of the world. Creid was also behind us now. I couldn’t shake it. Something was wrong. I couldn’t determine what it was. Chitto held back a little until he was beside me. “Are you feeling it?” Chitto asked me. He was feeling the same thing? I wasn’t sure what he meant. “I don’t know. I feel something.” Chitto now looked behind us. “We’re being followed.” We stopped our horses. Seth shook his head. “I felt something the past few days.” I nodded. “Me, too.” “Suggestions?” Seth asked escort bayan Chitto. “I’ll go up and tell the others,” Chitto said. “Then you hang back and I’ll double back. We’ll find out who it is.” He looked at us. “Count a hundred at a slow pace and then start back the way we came.” He urged his horse forward and trotted up to the others. We did as Chitto instructed. There were curves and dips and rises on the path and we lost sight of Chitto. When we got to the correct number we stopped the horses and started back the way we came. It didn’t take long when we heard a struggle and then my heart froze as I heard a voice I knew. I am not kidding. My heart nearly stopped!!! “Let go!” I heard as we got closer to whoever it was. “Stop, Chitto!” We got close enough and I cannot tell you how I felt. I was beyond angry, beyond mad. I was enraged! The day was passing, but I could see Toby and Thomas in the fading light. Both on horseback and held by the arms in place by Chitto. “What the Hell are you two doing here???” Seth shouted in fury. “Tell me!! What are you two doing here??” They knew they were in BIG trouble. I rode closer to them. I opened my mouth to say something, but I was shaking so hard as I restrained myself from actually strangling them both. Really, I did consider it! I didn’t know who to speak to first. I didn’t know what I was going to say. Max rode up along with the others. “I think we’ll make camp here.” Max said finally seeing what was happening. I pointed away from the two. How I came out with words so calm, I don’t know. “I’m going to pitch my tent. Then we’ll build a fire and cook dinner. We’ll eat.” I shook my head. “I am VERY surprised at the both of you and disappointed.” I shook my head as my mind wasn’t accept what was happening. “Did you think you could join us!?” Thomas opened his mouth to say something, but I held my hand out to stop him. “Don’t!! Not now!!” Seth was turning red from rage. “I can’t imagine your father authorizing this! I know how he felt.” He waved at Thomas. “Can you imagine what they’re going through? The pain? The tears of your mother!? Your father!?” “Us?” I held a hand to myself and Toby was going to speak. “You, too. Not a single word until we talk in the morning.” I tugged on my horses reins to turn him around. “If I start now, I will say something I’ll regret. I am so MAD AT YOU!!!” Seth snorted. “Even the night as a buffer may not save you from being told something we’ll regret.” I nodded. “I can’t see me NOT saying something I’ll regret even then!” We did what I said we would. We set up camp and started a fire. In spite of what I wanted they were on my mind all night. Never has Toby just completely disobeyed either Seth or me. And Thomas! As much as I understood his feelings, he was the Crown Prince. He was to be king. Recently, I had been impressed at how mature Thomas was, but now? I vowed to be calm when we spoke in the morning. For now, I couldn’t even look at them! Their age difference was surprising. Toby was ten! Thomas was in the last year as a teenager. Nine years! It would be similar as Christian and I did something to disobey our father. Seth and I didn’t speak to each other about it. We knew it would set us both off. Hell, I was setting me off! My mind would think about how reckless it was and suddenly I didn’t want what was in my hand and tossed it away in frustration! If I didn’t have something there, I’d pick something up and then fling it! I found myself wishing Demetrius were here. I wanted him to just pop them both back to A’Dore. But he couldn’t. Seth went the other way and just stewed in it. He was a silent, boiling mass. I felt he could explode at any moment. We didn’t sleep that well. I knew I wouldn’t. Then I felt Seth turn over to face me and without saying a word, put his arm around me. As messed up as the situation was, we would face it together. Both Seth and I needed the coffee in the morning. Not really hungry, I made myself eat something. The two boys were watching us and just waiting for something. Even Max. Val, Reese and Beau were quiet that morning. It was Max that spoke first. “What do you want us to do?” He asked Seth and me. Seth looked at our son and nephew. “I don’t know.” Speaking calmly, I asked them. “What did you think we would do?” Thomas shrugged. “See it was too late and accept it.” “You’re forcing us to do that.” Seth pointed out. “We’ve invested too much time to turn back now.” I said. “We would lose even more time if we took you back to Royal Valley and threw you back through the mirror.” Then I could picture both their parents’ agony. “Have you thought about what this means to Ella and Christian?” Seth nodded. “We trusted them with your care, Toby.” He said. Toby nodded. “I know.” He said. “I know their upset…” “Do you?” I interrupted sharply. “There are so many emotions they are going through now. What did you tell them?” “We left a note,” Thomas said weakly. “A note.” Seth repeated. “You did precisely what we said you couldn’t.” Thomas rose. “But Uncle Seth, I want to help! It’s my kingdom they’re threatening.” I nodded. “Both your father and I explained why you couldn’t.” I felt my anger surface again and forced it down again. “That’s not fair!” Thomas shouted. “If Dad wanted to, he would have come!” That really bothered me. “No,” I stated flatly and loud. “He wouldn’t.” I began moving closer to Thomas. “He denies himself so much because of who he is.” “Fair!?” Seth shouted back. “Who told you life was fair? It most definitely is not fair!” He took a breath and stopped, forcing a calmness I couldn’t see on his face. “Was it fair when my mother was killed to create a vacancy on the throne? Was it fair that I couldn’t even remember her? Was it fair I was so scarred by that fire I shunned by everyone? I will tell you now. Life is not fair!” “Was it fair that the only reason Seth and I were married, was due to a law two centuries in the past?” I asked. “Was it fair to tell us and the many others that love someone are told they can’t? We are two grown adults! We knew what we wanted and were willing to do it. How was that fair?” “Dad,” Toby began. Whether it was because of his hearing loss, his tone was soft. “I didn’t want to go against your instructions.” This time, I saw moisture in the corners of his eyes that were turning red. “I know I can help you!” He did a shrugging nod. “Can you do it without me? I’m sure you can.” He shook his head. “You wanted to protect me by making me stay behind. You are afraid you will lose me. I’m afraid of losing both of you!” Now, the tears were coming. “I would be nothing without the two of you. Dead, probably. Dennis, too, but you saw me as more than a deaf and dumb mute. You believed in me and taught to believe in myself.” He shook his head. “I owe you my very life. I couldn’t let you go without me.” We had been honest with Toby all his life. We taught he had challenges we would face as a family. Yes, this was my son! He was our son. His tears were breaking my heart. “Please,” Toby said. “Don’t be angry. Please?” Many times, I saw the man he trying to become. Now, I saw the little boy we saw on the floor of that hotel room where we met him. I wasn’t stupid. He was playing on my weaknesses. I sighed walking toward him. “I am angry.” I hugged him tightly and then held him away so he could see my face. “I’m angry at you.” Seth came behind us and hugged us both. Toby was sandwiched between us. “I’m angry, too.” He said it so Toby could see. He nodded, “I’m angry with you.” When Toby was about to speak, Seth stopped him. “I understand, but I’m still angry with you.” I turned quickly to my nephew. “And you…” I said pointing my finger at him and shaking it. Scolding him like a child was what he needed. “I never thought you would or could be this irresponsible!” I held my hand up. “I don’t care whether you think it is or isn’t fair.” I waved back at Toby. “You brought your cousin…your ten-year-old cousin!?” Thomas’ eyes widened. “I what!?” He shook his head. “No, I didn’t bring him with me. He came.” He waved at Toby. “I did bring him to get me a horse in Royal Valley.” He gave angry glance at his cousin. “It was day three when he caught up with me.” “Yet,” Seth said. “Here you are!” He waved at the two of them. “You didn’t take him back.” Thomas nodded. “I knew Mom and Dad found note by then. He threatened to tell Dad everything.” I nodded. “Which should have been an indicator to you, not to do this.” “I messed up!” Thomas shouted as he nodded smacking himself in the head. “I didn’t think.” He looked at me. “How do I show the people I can do the job without this?” “You do the job well!” I shouted back. “That’s how.” “You did it!!” Thomas said firmly. He was angry now. “By the time you were my age you had two victories. Two of the worst villains in Blethos were dead.” He pointed at me. “Because of you!” He was now pacing as he ranted. “All my life has been guided. Every single step laid out.” He turned to me. “Don’t you see? I had to!” Seth shook his head, “I wish you hadn’t.” He looked at Thomas. “We include you…” he saw Thomas’ face brighten. “Not so fast.” Now he was pointing at Thomas. “I want you to swear to us…I mean you say it out loud. If we tell you to jump or hide or anything, you do it!” “I swear I will do exactly what you say.” Thomas swore. I nodded. “It’s not, but okay.” I shook my head. “Now, prepare yourselves.” I said to all including Max, Reese, Val, and Beau. “I’m introducing someone special.” I looked at Toby. “Call Demetrius.” “That won’t be necessary,” Demetrius’ voice came and he did appear in front us. No shadows he crept from or wall to come out of. “I thought a more direct appearance was called for.” He shrugged. I didn’t have to look as I heard swords being drawn. Max knew of him. So, did Thomas but never saw him. Chitto had met him but was startled by Demetrius’ sudden arrival. I answered the questions as always assuring them he was on our side and not a demon. I would be explaining what he could do and what he couldn’t later. He will help, but this was our fight and our victory or loss. Demetrius put his hand on Toby’s shoulder. “I was hoping he’d turn back, but…” Seth was angry again, but not at Toby or Thomas. “You knew they were on the way?” He did the familiar flip of his hands up as he tried to understand. “You didn’t think we should know?” Demetrius shook his head. “Freewill, fate or whatever. They chose this path…” Seth nodded. “I’ve heard it before.” Seth sat on a fallen log with a sigh. Demetrius smiled at Seth. “And you’ve reaped the rewards.” “That explosion was no reward.” Seth said. “And not our doing,” Demetrius said again. “You know that.” I walked closer to Demetrius. “I’m going to ask you,” I took a breath. “I know I lost that privilege. As a Human Being…” I pointed at Toby and Thomas. “You’ve done it before. Don’t let them be harmed.” Demetrius chuckled. “I already promised that.” He smiled at me. “Ella asked the same. I agreed.” I now felt a lot better. “When did you tell them?” Demetrius gave a waving shrug, “Well, technically Ella pleaded with Dara. It’s going to be done by the three of us.” I smiled. “You, Dara and Lukus?” Demetrius looked at Thomas. “That doesn’t mean you can’t be hurt. I’m not making you invulnerable. If you thoughtlessly put yourself in harm’s way…I will let you get a scar or something as a reminder for next time.” He lifted his head and looked down at Thomas. “Do you understand?” Thomas nodded quickly. “I understand.” Demetrius clapped his hands together. “Now, for a treat.” He waved his fingers under his nose fanning something offensive away. “You all stink.” He waved his hand and a white tiled bathroom appeared. A lion-claw foot tub, a sink and toilet sat on the white tile floor. There were no walls. He chuckled. “I don’t care, but if you want privacy, say that.” As he did, walls appeared blocking our view of the fixtures. He looked at me and Seth waggling his eyebrows. “There’s room for two bursa escort even.” He waved to Toby. “You are first. There’s hot water and clean towels ready for everyone.” The bathroom in the middle of nowhere was nice. It was getting chilly, but still an acceptable temperature. No one was around now. I mean, no houses or farms. We were in unclaimed territory. We crossed several peaks on the pass. There were snowy peaks in the distance much higher, but the pass we needed would not take us there. Now, it was snowing gently and it was sticking. “Gentlemen,” Chitto said softly to us. “We are not alone.” We all looked around, in trees and on ledges. None of saw anyone. Chitto knew before, so we didn’t doubt him. “Do you know who?” Max asked. Chitto glanced around. “By where we are, it could be Ute, or Arapaho.” Shrugging again he added. “It could even be a northern tribe of Kiowa. Even Apache.” “Are those tribes nice?” Seth asked. Chitto shrugged. “That depends on who’s pissed who off.” He chuckled. Perhaps it was because Chitto was also Aborigine someone appeared from the surroundings. He had the long hair and dark skin. What he was wearing was made of deerskin. There were marks on his face. He spoke to Chitto. All tribes share a language. Chitto said something back. This new man nodded and waved at his surroundings and spoke again. Chitto smiled, “I was right. This is Ute territory.” This new Native said his name to Chitto. The unusual names were common. His name was He-lush-ka. Chitto smiled at us. “That means fighter.” He spoke some more to Chitto. From what I heard, it was clear they spoke different languages, but similar enough to get some of what each was saying. As when we were given those diapers which in Blethos were called nappies. You understood what it meant by the context of the sentence. “He-lush-ka is taking us to his village.” Chitto explained. “We’re to talk with Dyami.” He chuckled knowing we would ask. “That means eagle.” Reese grunted. “It sure isn’t Bob or Paul.” He groused. Seth chuckled. “I’m sure our names sound funny to them.” The Ute of this village were nomadic. They were hunters. Elk, buffalo, and deer which they followed. This village was not like the Creek Tribe that Chitto belonged to. The Creek settled in with A’Dore. They raised permanent structures that would last. The Ute did not. Here were the teepees. It was the present day, but I knew things hadn’t changed much in thousands of years. Our presence in the Ute village was not unwelcome, but as with them when they came in ours it was observed because it wasn’t usual. Now, I was very glad Chitto came with us. I would have a hard time getting them to understand and be understood by them. Two women came closer. One was in her twenties and the other in her forties. They resembled each other so I figured they were mother and daughter. Dismounting Chitto spoke with the elder woman. He looked at us. “This is Sani,” he indicated the eldest, “and her daughter Enapay. They both welcome all of you.” Seth nor I were leading this group but stepped forward with hands extended. “Thank you.” Seth said for us and bowed slightly to each of them. Chitto listened again and nodded at times and then turned back to us. “They are offering food and drink if we want it.” We did spend time here with them. Pleasantries were done. They were a generous people. It wasn’t too long before we were led to one teepee. There, sitting on the ground was a man that…he wasn’t old, but his face showed the passage of time. He was sitting in front of a slowly burning fire. It was warm in his teepee. He had the traditional long hair and wrapped in blankets. He had a face that was a little worn, but his eyes were white. Not cloudy but totally white. He was blind? Chitto spoke to him and he didn’t respond by looking at us. He couldn’t see us if he did. Chitto explained to him about why we were here. Or at least where we were heading and why. Dyami nodded and waved us to sit on opposite side of the fire. “We welcome you,” Dyami said clearly. He chuckled, “Yes, I speak your language.” I am sure it was on my face, but he couldn’t see that. Could he? “I have lived quite a while and learned much.” He smiled. “I’ve seen many things and learned much in this world.” He shrugged. “We are in the same world. I knew I’d have the occasional visitor from your part of this world.” Chitto smiled at me and Seth. “We seek your help. Do you know what is happening in A’Dore, Blethos and Creid?” Dyami nodded. “I do.” He pulled up a clay jar of something. He never doubted where things were. He didn’t have to look; he knew where they were. He lightly sang and chanted words not meant for us. He tilted the jar over the fire as a dark liquid was poured over the coals. The expected hiss as moisture hit the heat. A fragrant aroma could be smelled as delicate tendrils of smoke rose gently. Dyami moved his hand bringing the smoke toward his face. “I see the world this way.” He explained. Chitto frowned, “You see by the smell?” Dyami chuckled again. “You would be amazed what an odor will tell you.” He waved the smoke again toward his face and mostly his nose. “And more than just finding out the milk has gone bad.” He inhaled deeply and concentrated on what his sense of smell told him. “The fragrance is never the same twice. I learned to understand it.” It wasn’t a bad smell. It wasn’t floral. It was composite of many smells. I had no idea what that said. “You came to find out about someone claiming to be god.” Dyami said simply. Max’s eyes widened. “You got all that from a smell!?” Dyami again chuckled and nodded. “I got that and more.” He inhaled again. “The longer I smell it, the more I sense.” I smiled. “I thought you shaman kept things to yourself.” Dyami gave a grunting dismissal of that. “I have no problems telling people. You wouldn’t understand. It would take years to learn what I sense.” He did the sweeping motion again bringing the smell again. “Such as, do you get the smell of almonds with a little molasses?” I did what he had did, inhaling slightly. “I guess.” I looked as he smiled more. “What does that mean?” “The best way to explain it…it’s a conversation you overhear in languages you don’t know. You hear it, but don’t know what’s being said.” Dyami poured the liquid again. “You are hearing a conversation with your nose. You need to know the language first before you can understand.” He shook his head. “Senawahv speaks to every shaman differently.” He chuckled. “Senawahv?” Seth repeated. “Our name for the Creator.” Dyami said. “You don’t worship Tawa?” I asked him. “That isn’t the name we use,” he stated simply. “There is a man called Wahkoowah who claims Tawa works and speaks through him.” Seth said. “He is the one having our three kingdoms attacked.” “Cleansed.” I corrected. “His exact words were to submit or be purged.” Dyami frowned, “Worship him or die?” Max sat forward. “He’s not giving us much to worship if we chose to worship him.” “It’s clear he wants us gone.” Val said. “The choice was made by him.” “Really, ” I began, “I doubt it is Tawa at all.” Dyami shook his head. “I sense no deity or spirit. Evil or good.” He smiled a little. “Many of the spirits are tricksters. Unlike your version of the deity, ours can and do make mistakes.” “Are there more villages or settlements northwest of here?” Max asked. “A few,” Dyami nodded. “There are only a couple of passes to get through the mountains.” I said. “You would know if a few thousand men came this way.” Dyami nodded again. “Our scouts would have seen them.” “The men attacking us have access to supplies,” Seth said. “Someone with a lot of resources.” Dyami cocked his head slightly. “There was a recent movement that swept through many tribes.” He frowned. “Ours as well. It targeted our young warriors.” “A movement to cleanse?” Seth asked for clarification. “Of superiority.” Dyami corrected. “The message was they were better than the rest of humanity.” I was trying to understand. “It’s not just the tribes. There are many of different races.” Dyami nodded. “It has little to do with how you were born but who you are. The chosen by a god is based on how you think.” “It’s religious?” Max asked. “There are religious parts to it.” Dyami nodded. “Religion, the promise of rewards is enticing.” “This more about power,” Chitto said. “Yes.” Dyami said. “Changing things to how someone thinks the world should be.” “That isn’t possible.” I said. “Many have tried to conquer the whole world. There was even one that cried when he thought there were no more to conquer.” “This world will get even smaller as time goes on.” Dyami said sadly. He almost looked as if he was looking at Seth and me. “You’re getting that now between A’Dore and Blethos, aren’t you?” Seth and I looked each other. There was no way he could have known about the mirror/doorway without someone or something telling him. We hadn’t told him. “Distances will become shorter.” Dyami said. “I get,” he sniffed the smoke again, “you are doing it now.” “Yes.” I answered. “Uniting under a single idea or philosophy is going to happen.” Dyami said. “This being thinks his is the right one.” “Whether or not we agree with it?” Seth asked. “If you consent to the demands, you will agree.” Dyami stated simply. “That is what needs to be cleansed. Those that disagree.” “Well,” Max said. “We don’t.” “You do it, too.” Dyami chuckled. “I’ve heard the story about Cinderella and Prince Charming. I know Erik married Seth to put Seth on the throne of Blethos. Even where you got your three kingdoms to allow the joining of hearts, such as you two.” He turned his head to Seth and me. “It will take another thousand years before we can even think about a single way.” “That single way is accepting the fact we don’t know.” I said. “In our kingdoms, there are many understandings about God. I admit, I don’t know.” Dyami laughed lightly. “That’s right. That’s the first step to gaining real wisdom.” He poured the liquid on the coals again and sniffed lightly. He wasn’t rushing what he could understand but took it in slowly. Then he turned toward Toby. “It will start with him.” He sniffed again. “And his brother.” “Damn,” Seth said softly. “That smell is telling you a lot.” Now, Dyami laughed harder. “It sure is.” He shook his head. “No, this man who claims Tawa or god is speaking and working through him just wants control. It’s just greed.” Demetrius had been correct. These people did access the magic differently, but they could use it. They were Children of Eve, but still could use the magic. “I get…” he again inhaled, “the one that gave you choices is working with you. You’re doing the work, but he has been there for you. Guiding you.” Max’s eyes widened. “And no one told you this?” “Someone is telling me now.” He waved at the smoke. “I also am getting that this Wahkoowah believes what he’s saying.” He shook his head. “In many tribes, it is believed that someone who’s thoughts are erratic are erratic because they have been touched by a god or gods. It gives credence to Wakhooha’s claim with his followers.” He smiled. “I also know you’re on the right path. You just have a day or so before you get there.” Meeting with Dyami had been satisfactory, if not unnerving to us. When we left the teepee, it seemed a lot later than it should be. What I thought may have been a couple of hours was really six or seven. The stars were out, the sun had set a while ago. Sani and her daughter came to us as we exited the teepee. We were escorted to another teepee. They waved us in. Inside they uncovered some wooden plates to show fruits and steaming meats that smelled very savory. The women spoke with Chitto. He nodded saying something back. “We were invited to stay here for the night.” Chitto smiled. During the meal Thomas finally spoke about the situation he caused. “Uncle Erik, Uncle Seth…I’m sorry for what Toby and I did.” Seth smiled more tolerably. “I understand you want to prove yourself to the people but I’m still angry with you.” I chuckled. “Which is why you need to think about what you’ll tell your Dad when we get back.” “And your mother,” Seth said with a knowing tone that said it won’t be pleasant. We ate and went to bed. God or the spirits took pity on us. No one snored!

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