UNIVERSE: D & D Little Britches
DISCLAIMER: Still not mine, but I keep hoping. The D&D universe belongs to who ever started the game I guess. No money made, hey this is all for fun.
NOTES: I tried to stick to the D&D rules so to speak. I about drove #2 son crazy asking if this or that was possible or names for gods. Only once did I just say well, in my universe they can.
This uses ideas started in Small Treasures by Nancy. You really need to read it.
The Everborn is a person that is born every hundred years or so with all the knowledge of the past. They can be good or turned to evil.
THANKS: This is for Winnie who really needed a Chris hurt, there was an abundance of Vinjurys at the time but no owies for Chris. Thanks also to LaraMee who read this before anyone else and finds my plot holes. As strange as it sounds Winnie also did a quick beta job for me when I was in a jam. Shes the best.
Lord Algedi stood looking out the window. His eyes swept over his holdings. Beside him stood his dark wizard Balsema.
"Have you found him?" Lord Algedi asked.
"No my Lord. But we are close. There is rumor that the Everborn child is in Four Winds in the company of some Rangers. His cousin is there also." The dark wizard said.
"You will send my soldiers after them?"
"We can My Lord, but with your soldiers there is always the problem of," he paused, "Shall we say over enthusiasm."
"See that they dont kill the child. Or if they must bring a captive to me and we shall find where the Everborn is."
The dark wizard bowed, "Yes, my Lord."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah walked quickly up the hill. It was dark yet he could see clearly the path to the large boulder he liked. There was a disturbance in the Flow, hed felt it for days now and it had started effecting Ezra. The young wizard had been listless and had suffered headaches for two days before he said anything. Nathan had been puzzled by it but Josiah could feel it also. His defenses were just better then the twelve year olds.
Sitting down Josiah spread his robes and laid down his staff. He looked up at the night sky and searching, found the northern lights. "Father of all living things, Mother of all living things, there is a great disturbance in the Flow. Show me I beg of you the cause that I and my companions might prepare for it."
Josiah sat and waited his eyes drawn to the swirling colors in the night sky. Normally they were pinks and purples but this night he saw yellows and reds swirling angrily amongst the softer colors. He waited, until he felt the magic gathering around him and the wind began to whisper. At first it was just whistling in his ear, then words. "Evil rides. Evil comes. Comes for the Everborn. Protect the Everborn."
And he saw, a band of twenty men riding out from a castle. He knew that place, owned by a greedy ambitious minor lord. Then he saw the end of a battle, the village Four Winds laid waste, himself and his companions laying dead, the boys captive, a dark elf holding Jaydee.
"No!" He whispered, his throat hurting from the strain. "No." Shaking his head, Josiah said, "I thank you Father of all living and Mother of all living. I thank you for the warning."
Josiah looked around as he stood. It was dawn. Good he thought, This will give me time to prepare and to convince the others we must leave.
+ + + + + + +
"Josiah it was a, fitful dream. You cant mean that the whole village was killed." Chris shook his head in disbelief. He didnt want to believe that this was true.
"It was not a dream, Chris. The Gods sent me a vision and a command. We must move out, get to a safe place. We must take the boys to somewhere dark magic cant reach them. Somehow this Lord Algedi has found out about the Everborn and is searching for him. He knows basically where we are and that he is living with rangers. He will send out his mercenaries soon. We must be gone."
Chris looked at Josiah for several breaths. "Alright, well leave tomorrow morning before daylight. Is that soon enough?"
"Yes, it will give me time to prepare." Josiah said nodding with satisfaction.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah stood by the large table. He leaned heavily on his staff, for hed been up most of the night preparing for this morning. On the table lay five twined silver and gold amulets. Each with a silver cord tied to it. They glowed slightly in the lamp light.
"Whats this all about Josiah?" Chris asked hurriedly.
"Ezra and I have devised these charms, one for each of you. They are designed to protect each of you from falling under the spell of dark magic. If a dark wizard tries to use magic to make you do or say something you would not do with free will, the amulet will enable you to withstand it."
"When you put the talisman around your neck there will be some pain, a slight burning for the charm is set to each of your auras and your bodies will absorb the charm. This will prevent it from being taken from you."
Chris nodded and reached for one of the amulets.
Josiahs hand stopped his and he said, "No, not that one, that one is for Buck."
Buck smiled nervously and reached out and picking up the medallion slipped it over his head. The twined silver and gold wires rested for several seconds then glowed and disappeared just below the hollow of his neck.
"Damn, that smarts." Buck said as he reached up and touched where the metal had rested.
"That one," Josiah said pointing "is for Jaydee."
Buck held the tiny boy up and encouraged him. "Pick it up Jaydee, and put it around your neck."
Trusting brown eyes blinked, "alright Buck." The small boy reached out and placed the amulet around his neck. "That didnt hurt." Jaydee said grinning.
"Vin," Josiah looked at the half elf boy and said, "Youre next."
Vin carefully placed the medallion around his neck. The metal glowed and disappeared leaving a dark spot like a smudge on Vins thin chest.
"Chris youre next."
Chris reached out placing the charm around his neck. It began to glow and Chris grimaced from the pain. "Josiah?" But before he could say more Vin reached up and placed his hand over the glowing amulet. At his touch the pain disappeared.
Startled Josiah reached over the table shouting, "Vin! No!"
It was too late. The glow seemed to engulf both Chris and the boy for a blink of an eye. Then it was gone. Chris rubbed his chest and looked down at Vin asking. "Are you alright? Did it burn you?"
Vin frowned at his hand and then looked up answering, "Im fine, no it didnt burn." Then looking up he reached out to touch the mark left just below the collar bone on Chris chest.
Instead of a burn smudge there was a small hand print with the outline of the medallion inside it. Chris grabbed Vins hand looking at the palm. There on the two middle fingers and the palm was the imprint of the medallion. "Josiah, what happened here?" the concern making Chris voice harsh when he spoke.
"I dont know Chris. Each charm was made for a specific person. That it marked both of you is well I never heard of that before. I dont know what will happen, what the consequences are."
Chris looked from Josiah to Vin and asked. "Are you sure youre alright?"
Vin looked down at his hand again and then up at Chris. "Yes, Im fine." He answered hesitantly. "Just.. It just feels funny. All tingly." He began rubbing his hand with the other one.
Chris reached up and touched his chest where the amulet disappeared. "It does feel strange."
Buck impatiently injected. "Well now ya done it, messing with things you dont know about. What got into ya Vin?"
Vin looked up at the tall Ranger, "I I dont know. I just had to touch it. It sort of called to me."
"Called to you? How?" Demanded Josiah.
His tone frightened Vin, "I dont know." He cringed away from the mage.
Bucks anger dropped as he looked down at the scared little boy. "Its okay, Vin Doesnt seem to have caused any harm."
Shaking his head, Josiah looked at the healer and said, "Its okay Vin. Well talk about it later. Your turn Nathan."
Nathan put his charm on and of all the adults his glowed the shortest time.
Josiah nodded with satisfaction. "Now we can go." He pronounced.
"What about you and Ezra?" Chris asked.
"We already have our charms," Josiah answered.
The men and the three boys walked out into the dark of pre-dawn. They walked swiftly in single file. Buck carried Jay Dee. Vin and Ezra rode on the small pony that they had bought. Josiah knew of an enchanted place where they would be reasonably safe. They need only find the Elidan River Path and they would be protected for all the dark magic. Hopefully there, they could wait out the danger that was sure to come.
The companions walked quickly until Jaydee woke and began to wiggle. "I need down Buck. I gotta go."
Buck looked over his shoulder at the boy he had strapped to him. "Okay litl Bit. Let me get Nathan to help you get down."
Jaydee nodded and laid his head again on Bucks shoulder.
"Nathan," Buck called.
The group stopped. Buck tilted his head. "Jaydee needs down."
Nathan frowned and than smiled, "Oh," he said. "Sure, we could all use a rest." He helped Buck untie the sling Jaydee had been riding in and sat the boy on the ground.
"There ya go Jaydee. Now dont go too far."
Jay Dee smiled up at the two men. "I wont."
"Perhaps I should accompany the two young gentlemen." Ezra offered as Chris helped Vin down off the pony. Chris knew that the long ride sitting still would have stiffened Vins back, making moving painful at first.
"What an excellent idea Ezra." Josiah said.
Ezra followed the skipping Jaydee and the limping Vin into the woods. The men sat each where he could watch the others as well as a portion of the woods.
"How far Josiah?" Chris asked between bites of bread and cheese.
"Weve come several leagues Chris. But it will take another three days to reach the enchanted forest. Its a dangerous route. We must go past the outer border of Lord Algetis lands."
"Do we have to go that close to Lord Algetis lands?" Nathan asked.
"Yes, there is only one know pass into the Mountains of Frall. Once through the pass we will be on the Elidan River Path. I have been there once, a long time ago but I will find it."
"Find it? What do you mean find it? Dont you know here it is?" Buck asked.
"Well, yes. Like I said its been a long time but I remember it quite well." Josiah continued.
"Enough, we need to feed the boys and let them walk as much as they can without slowing us down." Chris said getting the conversation back on track.
"I need to go ahead, I wont look suspicious going alone into the river crossing village. Ill need to get more apothecary supplies I wont be able to gather in the wild. Perhaps I also will be able to hear of unusual movements of soldiers."
"That sounds good." Chris nodded.
The boys came back and Buck doled out bread and cheese to them. Vin sat close to Chris and whispered, "Are we safe now, Chris?"
Chris looked at the little elf. Even though he wasnt much bigger than Jaydee he was older by more then two years. He had been forced to take care of his small cousin and himself without adult help. Being safe was his constant worry. "We are right now Vin. But we must travel quickly. We must stay clear of others until we reach the haven Josiah knows about. Hows your back? Can you walk for a bit?"
"Im fine. Ill keep up." Vin said sitting a little straighter.
"I know you will, but promise me, youll say something when keeping up becomes too difficult. Its not a show of weakness to ask to ride when you tire."
Vin looked down and fingered the piece of bread.
"Vin?" Chris asked sharpening his voice.
Vin looked up quickly, "I promise." He reluctantly said.
"Good enough." Chris said as he reached over and squeezed Vins knee. He couldnt even admit to himself how much hed grown to care for the boy. But over the months they had been together hed come closer to thinking of Vin as a son and not just a boy under his protection.
+ + + + + + +
They traveled for two more days. Nathan rejoined them on the second day, his pack full but no news of any troops. Pushing as hard as they could, yet allowing the boys to rest when they needed to. They avoided any towns or villages choosing to go around them. They were just hours from the Frall Forest and rushing through a meadow, not liking being in an open space too long. They had almost made it when Josiah turned and looked back.
All around the meadow the trees were filling up with crows, big, black, cawing crows. "NO!" He whispered to himself.
When he stopped so did the others looking to Josiah for instructions.
"Theyre here!" He whispered.
Chris stared at Josiah and then his eyes swept back over the forest on the other side of the meadow. Hand on sword he said in a low voice, "Vin, Jaydee, Ezra, you three stay with Josiah. Do exactly what he says no matter what. Nathan, you and Buck are with me. We will guard their backs as they get away. Josiah do what you must to get the boys to safety." Leave us if you must.
"I will Chris." Josiah answered. He gathered the reins of the pony, and standing close to it, he put arm around the two youngest boys. They watched as Chris led Buck and Nathan back into the center of the meadow.
"No," Vin called, "I am a warrior elf I can fight. I can help them."
Josiah spoke softly, "This time you must help me take care of Jaydee, it is his safety that is most important. Is that not what is important Vin?"
Vins face clouded with frustration, he desperately wanted to go to Chris, but his whole life hed be admonished to take care of his special cousin. "Yes," his voice showing the strain he was under. Big blue eyes betrayed where he wanted to be, next to the blond ranger dressed all in black. That was where he wanted to be, where he needed to be, where he was meant to be, but not this time.
They watched as the three men cautiously walked further into the meadow. With each step they spread out, swords drawn, looking for the enemy. From three sides mercenaries emerged from the trees. They were well armored and ready to fight.
Chris nodded at each of his companions. They stood relaxed but ready, waiting for the soldiers to make the first move.
The leader of the soldiers called out. "Give us the boys, we will let you live."
"No." Chris answered.
"They are nothing to you, foundlings, halflings. They are not worth you lives."
The leader taunted.
One side of Chris mouth tweaked up, as he said, "then you dont need them if theyre nothing."
"Give us the boys, and live or we will take them and you die." The leader said tired of arguing. There were only three men and he had twenty.
Chris raised his sword, and said, "Come ahead if you think you can take them."
Buck and Nathan watching Chris raised their swords seconds after he did. They stood on the balls of their feet waiting.
Josiah watched and waited until he was sure that the attention of men in the meadow was away from him and the boys. He started walking, almost running as he lead the pony up the path.
Ezra ran beside him. "We can not just leave them."
"Yes we can. We must to protect the boys. Its what they want," Josiah stopped and looked over Ezras head. With his whole being he wanted to be in the meadow fighting with his comrades, but hed been charged with saving the boys, and thats what he must do. "We must do our part, and our part is to take the boys to safety. Now turn and walk." He ordered.
Josiah led the pony until he saw the golden pass then he stopped. Handing the lead rope to Ezra he said, "take the boys through the pass and make camp. Theres a small meadow just on the other side with a stream running though it. Wait for us there."
"Where are you going Josiah?" Ezra asked.
"Back, to help if I can. Vin, Jaydee dont fight with Ezra, do as he says, Im leaving him in charge."
Vin nodded, his eyes wide with concern. "Find them." He whispered.
Jaydee always more vocal said. "Josiah you bring Buck back an Chris too. We need them. Well be good and mind Ezra."
Josiah quickly hugged each child and put a hand on Ezras shoulder, knowing the older boy wouldnt appreciate the hug. "Take care of all three of you." Before Ezra could answer he turned and walked swiftly away.
The worried mage heard the clanging of swords long before he was close enough to see anything. He approached the battle carefully, maneuvering himself where he could watch for an advantage, before joining the others in battle. There were bodies littering the ground and the two rangers and the healer were fighting valiantly against greater odds. Josiah watched as a mercenary crept behind Buck and started an overhead swing of his battle ax. "Buck!!" Josiah screamed.
Buck hearing the yell, turned slightly and instead of a killing blow receive a gash from shoulder to waist. Falling to his knees, he tried to stand again. He knew the man would deliver a killing blow next time.
Nathan hearing Josiah and seeing Buck fall, he sliced the man he was fighting, and drawing his dagger threw it at the man standing over Buck. When the soldier fell Nathan ran to Buck.
Chris saw out of the corner of his eye saw Buck fall, called out. "Nathan! Take Buck and go. Ill hold them off."
With out thinking to argue Nathan grabbed Buck and headed the way Josiahs call had come from. Josiah met him halfway and they both carried the now unconscious Buck out of the meadow and down the trail.
Chris faced the remaining soldiers alone, his sword bloody, and his breath coming in ragged gasps. He watched as the five remaining men began to circle him.
"Give it up Pilgrim." The leader sneered.
Chris grinned. "Why? Afraid youll lose." He hurdled back.
"Just trying to save you some grief. To make your passing easier." The leader answered as he watched his men get into position. At his nod they rushed Chris. The Ranger turning to quickly, missteped and his foot slipped on the blood slicked grass. Falling he was rushed before he had time to recover and the soldiers were on top of him, kicking and beating.
"Dont kill him. We must take him back to Lord Algedi." The men jerked Chris to his feet tying his hand behind his back and putting a tether around his neck. Each man adding blows and insults as they started to move.
Josiah turned and looked back as the trees hid the meadow. He saw Chris standing, surrounded by the soldiers. Just for a second Chris turned his head and their eyes met.
Take care of Vin, take care of my boy, Josiah, and my friends.
Josiah heard the thought echo in his head and he nodded. I will Chris. He then whispered, "Ill take care of them all, Christopher of Larabee."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah turned from the sight of Chris being lead away. It was burned into his brain as he made his way back to Nathan and Buck. He took the other side of Buck and said. "We must hurry. You can heal Buck when we reach the boys."
Nathan looked at Josiah over Bucks head. "Chris?" He asked.
Josiah shook his head, no, grateful that Buck was unaware of what was being said.
Stumbling to where the boys waited they laid Buck down near the water. Jaydee looked up and ran over to where Buck lay. "Is he died?" The five year old asked.
"No Jaydee his just hurt, but Nathan will make him all well." Josiah answered. He glanced over at the too still Vin.
Vin sat watching down the path and when he felt Josiahs eyes on him he looked back. Ageless sad eyes met his and Josiah knew that Vin understood that Chris wasnt coming.
Nathan concentrated on Buck. The wound was deep, and Buck had bled a great deal, but the spell Nathan began to use was a powerful one. When he finished, the wound was sealed but Nathan was ready to collapse.
"Ezra," Josiah said softly, "Help Nathan lie down and rest."
"Of course Josiah." The pre-teen said as he reached out to help Nathan up.
"Jaydee, Vin, we need fire wood and to make a camp. We cant move until Buck and Nathan are ready."
"Yes, Josiah." Both boys answered.
Josiah watched Vin, as throughout the evening he would suddenly stop and stare at nothing for a time and then go back to what he was doing. Frowning Josiah wondered if it was the effect of the bonding through the amulet. He hoped Vins link with Chris wasnt powerful enough that the boy could know what was happening to Chris.
+ + + + + + +
Chris stumbled along behind the soldiers. Hed fully expected them to kill him instead of taking him prisoner. He was puzzled as they pushed him along being none to gentle yet not life threatening. They force marched all night and into the next day until they came to a small castle along the edge of the Black Forest.
The Ranger swayed as he stood in the small courtyard. Exhaustion threatening to over take him, but he resolved to keep standing in defiance. Chris stiffened his resolve as he watched the wizard Balsema came toward him.
The wizard looked Chris over as if he were a piece of spoiled meat. "We want one thing from you Ranger. Where is the Everborn child?"
"Never heard of it." Chris answered defiantly.
"The Everborn child was with you and your band of outcasts. Tell me where they went and we might let you live."
Chris shook his head. "Never heard of it. Dont know what youre talking about."
Anger boiled inside Balsema, "You will tell me what I want to know." He said as he nodded at the men around them.
They took Chris and stripping him, tied him between two poles his arms out stretched. Once secured, the beatings began.
Lord Algedi stood on the balcony watching the action in the court yard below. His men were softening up the prisoner theyd brought in the night before. He relished each grunt and groan as the blows fell again and again. His hand unconsciously fingered the gold trim of his robe. He licked his lips as Chris groaned again, louder this time. Lord Algedi smiled to himself. He knew Chris by reputation and it had been said the Ranger was a cold killer and unbreakable. Lord Algedi had confidence that once physical resistance had been dealt with, then his wizard would use magic to extract the information he needed. If the process killed the Ranger, well, that was just was too bad.
Again a glowing rod was jabbed between ribs burning flesh and bringing forth a scream. Lord Algedi licked his lips again, smiling, at the sound. The wizard Balsema joined him on the balcony. "My Lord?"
"There has been nothing Balsema. He says nothing."
"Yes My Lord. It is almost time for me to go down. Never fear. I have a spell that will bring out the information. He will not be able to resist. The pain from the beatings simply allows the spell to slip past his defenses."
Lord Algedi watched as Chris body arched in agony and collapsed, hanging by the chains that held him up. "Id say youd better hurry, before my men do too good a job and they kill him."
The wizard looked down and smiled. Shouting loudly at the men "Douse him with cold water to wake him."
Chriss whole world had narrowed itself to pain. Then there was the comforting nothing. Suddenly, gasping from the shock his world of pain expanded to include cold. Wet, mind numbing cold. Icicles dripped from his hair, and from his outstretched arms. His head hung down as he gasped for breath. His teeth began to chatter. He gritted them together.
The Rangers head was jerked back. A large hand gripped his hair holding his head up so that he was face to face the Balsema. Chris glared at him.
Balsema asked, "Where is the Everborn?"
Chris shook his head ad much as he could and said through split lips. "Dont know what youre talking about."
The wizard nodded and a fist knocked the air out of Chris lungs. Chris gasped trying to bring air back to his deprived lungs.
"The Everborn, Where is he? Who is he?" The wizards dark eyes shone in the morning sun.
Chris gasped, "I dont dont know what youre talking about."
Balsema stood studying the man before him. He reached out touching Chris forehead. He began to chant.
Chris closed his eyes against the pain of the wizards touch. He could somehow feel the dark power curling around his mind, forcing its way into the secret parts.Chris was lost in a maze of dark stone paths. He was running, slipping, falling then running again. Something was after him. He didnt know what it was but he had to stay away from it. Hide! He had to hide, run get away. He ran on, it hurt so much but he had to stay away from whatever it was chasing him.
Then suddenly there was a light, a door outlined by light. He ran toward it knowing somehow the other side of the door was safety.
Running gasping for air Chris slipped through the door and turning he pushed it closed. Leaning against it he felt the warmth. He was safe; nothing could reach him here or hurt him. The closed door would keep all danger out.
Josiah held the elf child close. Trying to sooth the on going nightmare. Theyd tried waking him but he remained in the clutches of his dream. He mumbled and cried out but the only word they understood was "Chris."
Nathan racked his brain trying to think of a spell that would help Vin. He looked at Josiah. "I dont even know whats wrong." He said.
Josiah shook his head. "I dont think theres anything you can do. This has got to be the work of the protection charm. It was for Chris but when Vin touched it he was joined with Chris by magic. Im afraid Vins nightmare is Chris living hell."
"How do we wake him?"
Josiah shook his head. "We dont. When its over he should wake."
Nathan gasped. "Over?"
"I dont know, Nathan. I just dont know. If there were two ever joined by a charm like the one I made, it wasnt recorded. I have no idea how to stop it, Im not even sure what it is."
Josiah rocked back and forth his powerful arms encircling the tiny body. The trembling increased until Vin teeth chattered. Than suddenly he felt it stiffen and then relax.
"NO!" Vin cried out. One arm reaching out toward something only Vin could see.
"Vin? Son? Wake up." Frightened blue eyes opened.
Vin looked around. "Josiah?"
Ancient sad eyes looked up at him. "Chris is gone Josiah."
Josiahs heart skipped a beat. "Gone?" He asked.
"Not dead just .gone .He went someplace safe. We have to go back. We have to save him. We have to bring him back."
Josiah brushed damp hair back exposing gently pointed ears.
"We will Vin. But we have to get Jaydee to safety first."
+ + + + + + +
Buck groaned and tried to roll over. There was something in the way. Without moving or opening his eyes he tried to decide: 1. Where he was 2. Who or what was beside him and 3. Why he felt so weak? Finally after much consideration and a lot of effort Buck opened his eyes.
Trees, there were trees overhead. Okay Im outside. Where outside? Whos beside me? Buck tried to move. But it did hurt to move. With the movement came the groan.
All at once there was pressure on his chest. That hurts! Buck managed to looked down to see the smiling face of Jaydee.
"Are you awake, Buck? Ive been waiting and waiting. Can you talk now?"
Buck opened his mouth, "awwwwk?"
"Jaydee, I told you to leave Buck alone." Nathan said as he moved closer to his patient.
He reached down and lifted the small five year old off Buck, than he smiled down at Buck. "Youre fine Buck. You were hurt and I healed you. We are in a safe place and you need to rest."
Buck watched as Nathan talked. What wasnt he saying? We were fighting? Buck opened his mouth. "K Chris? .Wheres Chris?"
"We we dont know. They took him, while I was getting you away. Josiah said he was alive "
Buck tried to sit up, "We we gotta find him."
"Not now, you gotta rest some more. We must take care of the boys. Its what Chris wanted."
"Dont care." Buck stopped closing his eyes and taking a breath. "Well take care of the boys and than Im going after Chris."
Nathan patted Buck on the shoulder. "Fine, do you think you could eat now?"
With Nathans help Buck managed to sit up and once sitting Nathan handed him a plate of food.
"When can we go, Nathan?" Buck asked between bites.
"Not until tomorrow anyway. You need time to gain your strength. You need to sleep as much as you can, rest when youre awake."
Buck glared at Nathan but deep down he knew he would never make any distance without further healing. Buck yawned, Damn you Nathan, you slipped something into the food. Still grumbling Buck dozed off.
Nathan grinned as Bucks eyes closed. He took the empty plate and laid Buck down and covered him up. Glancing at Jaydee he smiled and said. "See, Buck needs to sleep. If you let him rest, as much as he can, hell get better faster. Tomorrow morning hell be much better and we can go look for Chris."
Jaydee looked at the man he adored and then back at Nathan. "Okay, if you say so. I can wait, but Im not sure about Vin."
+ + + + + + +
Buck lay sipping the warm drink in the early morning chill. He watched Jaydee sleep. The boy had worn himself out the night before telling Buck all about the enchanted place they found themselves in. Buck had dozed through half of the chatter and was grateful for the reprieve. Jay Dees enthusiasm could ware a healthy man out.
Buck smiled thinking of the little boys enthusiasm as he picked plants and then would launch into long descriptions of each plant and its uses. The trouble was most of his explanations were in "five year old" and no one but Jaydee understood what he was saying. Buck supposed that that would change, as he grew older.
Bucks eyes went to the other small pallet. He frowned thinking of Vin. The little elf hadnt said a word, unless asked directly. The others had to call his name, and than ask a question. Vin would answer then, with as few words as possible than, he would go back to staring at something only he could see.
Josiah tried to explain that Vin was linked with Chris. That where ever Chris was Vin was also. Except Vin was still here. Buck lived in a world where magic was an every day occurrence. He accepted that, but he wasnt a magic user. He preferred a world that he could touch and handle.
Somehow they had to find Chris and get him back. Josiah had gone off last night to prey leaving Nathan and Ezra in charge. Josiah was still gone.
Vin sighed and rolled over. He lay still as long as he could, but he couldnt sleep and he had started aching. He tried, but no matter how hard he tried he couldnt stop thinking about Chris. Couldnt stop feeling Chris.
He looked up and his eyes locked with Bucks. Buck smiled and held open his arms. Vin eased out of his blankets and crawled over. Settling himself with the rogues big arms wrapped around him. It felt so safe.
"Its gonna be okay Vin. Well figure something out and get Chris back." Buck squeezed tighter.
Vin didnt say anything. He couldnt think of anything to say. So he simply snuggled tighter into the protective hold. Buck ran his fingers through the light curls. "Itll be fine. You an Jaydee wont ever be alone again."
Buck smiled, Vind talked.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah walked into camp. He was a bit startled by the sight of the little elf enveloped in the big mans arms. Ezra and Jaydee still slept and Nathan was by the fire cooking.
Buck glanced up at Josiah raising an eyebrow. Josiah shook his head and said, "I have no answers Buck. Only that we must continue on deeper into this place."
"And further away from Chris." Buck added angrily.
"The boys come first Buck, Chris wanted them safe. Im only trying to do what he wants." Josiah said in a sad voice.
"I know, I its just we been together a long time. It dont sit right to leave him."
"No. Nor with me, but the safety of the Everborn is most important. You know that and Chris knows that."
Buck closed his eyes and nodded. Suddenly Vin sat up and looked around.
"Someones coming, someones here."
Josiahs eyes swept around the forest as his hand lay on his sword hilt.
Buck reached for his sword also. But before he could touch it, the camp was surrounded by elves. There was at least a dozen that they could see. They stood long bows with arrows ready to lift and shoot if needed. Tall and beautiful dressed in forest green they watched.
The leader stepped forward. "Youre in our forest humans. Why?"
Josiah spread his arms, "We seek refuge here."
"Refuge from what?" His eyes darted around the camp. "You hold an elf child? What do humans want with an elf child." He said as he raised his bow.
Vin jumped up and stood in front of the leader. "No they dont hold us, they protect me and my cousin."
The leader looked Vin over, "You are not all elf."
Vin raised his chin. "My mother was human, my cousin is also."
"Why are you with these men little one?" The leader asked gently.
Vin looked down, and then back at the leader. "No one else wanted us."
The leader nodded, " That still doesnt explain why you are here, in our forest."
Josiah dared to take a step forward. " I am Josiah de Sanchez, I knew of the forest and that no dark magic could follow us here. We brought the boys here for protection. There are those who would take them. Mold them for the dark side."
The tall elf looked at each man and then around the glen at his followers. He put up the arrow and crouching down he looked at Vin. "You are one of us, for we are all half elf. You are welcome to join us and be with your own kind. Leave these humans behind and come be with us. We can teach you the way of the forest."
"I cant, we have to find Chris."
The leader reached out and laid a hand on Vins head and snatched it away. Scowling at Josiah he asked. "What strange magic is this that fills this child?"
Josiah shrugged. "I made protection amulets for all of our group. But when Chris put his on Vin touched it. It marked them both. I dont know how or why."
"This is true? You bound youre self to a human."
"Yes, he is as a father. You must help us, we must get him back from Lord Algedi, they.." the little boy came out. "Theyre hurting him. Hurting him very bad. We need to go to him to rescue him. I" Vin stopped and rubbed his chest above his heart. "I feel his pain. All the time I feel his pain."
A look of hatred overcame the leaders face. "It is Lord Algedi that seeks you?"
"You know him?" Buck asked.
"He seeks to kill all elves that do not follow him. He has killed many of our families and seeks to kill us. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You may stay here. I am called Naos this is my shield mate Tishiya."
Josiah said pointing at each, "That is Buck Wilmington, Nathan Jackson, the older boy is Ezra Standish an apprentice wizard, the youngest Jaydee and this," Josiah placed his hand on Vins shoulder. "This is Vin Tannerae."
"Tannerae? You are a Tannerae?"
"My ma said that was my name."
Naos fell to one knee, "It is an honor Vin Tannerae to have you here."
"You know me?"
"All elves know of the Tannerae line. We had no idea Eridan Tannerae had a heir."
"Is that my father? Eridan Tannerae?"
"Dont you know boy?"
Vin shook his head. "I never met my father. My mother said I was a Tannerae, she said it was a name to be proud of."
Naos reached out and laid his hand on Vins shoulder, "I know not if he lives still. But every elf knows of the elf warrior Eridan Tannerae. He helps our kind, even though he is a full elf. He is legend. We will help you Vin Tannerae, for what we owe Eridan and for our hatred of Lord Algedi."
Naos stood and looked at Josiah and then at Buck. "Tell us all."
+ + + + + + +
Mindy hurried across the court yard. She skirted around the edges staying close to the wall, making herself as small and invisible as possible. She hated what was going on. She was deathly afraid of the wizard.
She heard the chained man scream and the sound turned her blood to ice. There, the kitchen door. Only a few more steps. Please, Mother of all Living Things, let me get to the door unnoticed. Casting a fearful eye toward the wizard she started to enter the doorway of the kitchen. Almost safe . Mindy thought as she stepped into the thick doorway.
"Stop girl," came the rough voiced order from behind her. Mindy stopped, hoping it wasnt her he called to.
"You there, in the doorway. Come here."
Mindy slowly turned, she was shaking so hard she thought shed fall.
"Come here girl. Dont take all day." Mindy hurried head down to stand in front of the wizard. She courtsied.
Balsema watched the frightened girl smiling at her fear. "I have a chore for you girl. This man thing must be kept alive. You are to feed and water it. Make sure it stays alive. It dies you die. Dou you understand girl?"
Mindy swallowed and whispered, "Yea, Master."
"Good. See to him." Mindy stood still as the wizard stomped away. When she was alone she looked at the poor creature before her.
Hed been chained to the post. His wrists and ankles wrapped in iron shackles. His bare body covered with growing bruises, cuts and burns. His face marred by bruises and sweat. Blood soaked hair hung in his face. Mindy saw hed been a handsome man.
Mindy crept closer and crouched down to get a better look. Hazel eyes stared straight ahead. Mindy reached out hesitantly and gently touched the man. "Are you thirsty? Do you want some water?" She whispered.
Chris didnt react to her touch or her voice. He continued to stare occasionally blinking but seeing nothing, feeling nothing. Hearing nothing.
Mindy sighed and fetching a cup and jug of water, she filled the cup and held it out. Chris didnt move. Moving closer Mindy held the cup to his lips and tipped it. Water poured into his mouth and he swallowed. When the cup was empty Mindy touched his cheek gently. But still the hazel eyes stared unseeing.
It began to rain. Chris body shivered in the automatic effort to warm itself. Mindy reluctantly left him and went to her duties in the kitchen. Later.. She told herself. Later Ill take him some warm broth after we serve the main house.
+ + + + + + +
Naos watched the small elf child pick at his food. Was it the magic of the amulet that made him so preoccupied? It must be, no elf attached himself to a human so strongly.
Naos went over and sat beside Vin. " You must eat little Tannerae. You must build your strength for the battle we must fight."
Vin glanced sideways at the elf leader. "Can I ask you something?"
Smiling Naos answered. "Of course."
"How come you live here by yourselves and not with humans or with elves?"
"Ah, well, we have chosen to go our own path. We fit not in either the human way or the elf. We are making our own way, Askens Way. Asken was one of us, half of each, belonging to neither. I knew him when he was very old, even old for an elf. He taught that we halflings must take the best of both and make a new race. Now can I ask you a question?"
Vin shrugged, " I guess."
"Why are you here with these men?"
Vin thought for a time before he answered. " My ma and me, we lived with her sister. When Ma died I was five and Jaydee was three. My aunt kept me even though the people at our village wanted her to get rid of me. Then she died and there was no one to take care of me and Jaydee. We lived alone in the forest. Then there was a battle. We helped but Jaydee got hurt and me too. Buck found Jaydee and Chris found me.
"At first he didnt want to keep us, he tried to find someone, human or elf whod take us. But no one wanted a crippled half elf."
"Crippled?" Naos interrupted.
Vin glanced up and then back at the fire. "Yeah, I hurt my back, its better now." He hurriedly added. "But for some reason Chris decided to keep me anyway."
"Out of pity?"
"No, no it was hard for Chris. He had a family once, a little boy. They were killed. He carries the hurt here." Vin touched his thin chest. "It used to engulf him, as battle rage engulfs Buck sometimes. But hes better now .." Vin paused and ducked his head. "He was better until ..until the soldiers took him." Then in a whisper, "They took him because of us."
"Perhaps little one, perhaps. But Lord Algedi is evil and he needs little excuse to hurt anyone. He has killed many of us for being halflings. We will rescue your friend. You and the child Jaydee will stay with my daughter "
"NO," Vin interrupted. "I must go with you. I must help Chris. Im the only one who can."
"You are a child!"
Vin jumped up and said. "I am an Tannerae, a warrior elf, I will go."
Naos smiled. "So you are little Tannerae. Will you at least consent to have Ariel watch over Jaydee?"
Vin deflated, "Oh, I forgot about Jaydee. I have to take care of Jaydee." Big blue eyes looked at Naos.
"Well, some how Boyo well do both." The elf leader said laying a hand on Vins shoulder. He ignored the flinch and continued, "We will be fine."
+ + + + + + +
It had begun.
"Are you sure you can handle the spell Ezra?" Josiah asked. He was worried. The young wizard hadnt done anything this big since the disastrous time Josiah had found him.
"Please stop worrying Josiah. You have taught me well. I know exactly what must be done and I have practiced the words many times."
Josiah nodded. A lot rested on Ezras young shoulders.
+ + + + + + +
Lord Algedi was angry. Hed been very patient but still the location of the Everborn had not been revealed. Maybe he should get a new wizard.
The doors opened. "You sent for me my Lord?" Balsema came into the room.
"What have you learned?"
"It is difficult my Lord. The Ranger is protected by a very powerful charm. I have been researching ."
Algedi interrupted. I dont want to hear it. I want the Everborn. Find where he is, NOW." Algedi turned away dismissing the sputtering wizard.
Turning and stomping out Balsema thought, Who does he think he is? How dare he? Very well, you pompous twit Ill get the information. There was one spell hed found. He didnt want to use it. It was very dangerous to not only the Ranger but to himself. Balsema stomped across the small courtyard to stand glaring at the unaware man before him
Glancing at the frightened girl beside Chris he growled, "Get out." Then he called two men. "Get over here and get him up."
The men rushed to comply. They jerked Chris up by the arms and tightened the chains so that he was standing.
Balsema reached out lifting Chris head. The hazel eyes were still blank and staring. Chanting under his breath he spread his fingers over Chris face. With his other hand he reached for the bare chest.
As the chanting became more intense lightening flashed between the wizard and Chris. Chris body arched spread eagle every muscle tense until it appeared the very bones would break from the strain.
Chris mouth opened and he wailed.
+ + + + + + +
The band of elves crept up to the wooden walls and started fires. Waiting for the guards to see them and give chase. They shivered when they heard the screaming.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra stood in a clear space on the edge of the forest. Ariel and Jaydee sat away from him watching.
"Not now Jaydee."
"But Ezra, if you strike at certain places in the towers they will fall down."
Ezra turned and looked at the small boy. "Show me."
Jaydee smiled "Okay, here." And he began drawing in the dirt. "Make it hit here and here and the whole tower will fall. It is the weak point of the building."
"Alright, thank you Master Dunne I shall attempt to do just that."
He studied the boiling clouds and the brief lightening moving in them. Raising his arms he began chanting gathering the power until he hurled it at one of the stone towers. Just before lightening struck Ezra shivered at the sound of someone screaming.
The lightening struck spraying stone and mortar. Again the lightening struck another tower. Brick and rock fell in great cascades. People were running and screaming trying to find safety.
A soldier screamed, "FIRE!" and opening the gate they ran out. The elves waited until the soldiers were clear of the gate and then began firing arrow after arrow.
Buck, Nathan, Josiah, and Vin ran to the gate and into the court yard.
Chris floated, surrounded by blue fire and he screamed again and again.
"NO!" Josiah shouted and he flung his arm out. The power sent out reached Balsema, lifting him and hurling him across the courtyard slamming him into a wall. His head hit with a sickening crunch leaving a bloody trial as he slid down to a heap in the dirty straw.
Vin stood watching as Chris fell as far as the shackles allowed, as limp now as he was taut before. A breath and Vin ran. Unaware of the fighting going on around him, he approached the limp body.
Mindy watched from behind the barrel. She saw the large wizard send Balsema to his death. She saw the small boy run over to the Ranger, wrapping himself around the bare legs. She saw tears streaming down the boys face.
Gathering her courage she crept out toward the boy.
Vin was oblivious to all that was going on around him. His total focus was Chris. With his whole being he tried to radiate his strength to the injured man.
Then there was a girl beside him. She pressed something into his had. Looking into his large frightened eyes she said. "Here, this will help loose him." Then the girl turned and ran. She disappeared into the now pelting rain.
Vin looked down. There were keys in his hand. Looking up, Buck and Nathan stood beside him. He mutely handed the keys to Buck who started unlocking the shackles.
Chris fell into Nathans waiting arms. Nathan slung Chris over his shoulder. They turned and ran. Josiah guarding their backs as they went out the gate through the field and toward Ezra.
The bands of elves fought and were winning. The soldiers broke and ran into the forest. Naos yelled victory and lead the elves into the castle.
Buck turned and glanced at Nathan. "You okay with carrying him?"
"Yes, keep going." They ran to Ezra and with a brief "Come on." They gathered Ezra, Jaydee and Ariel and hurried into the forest.