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Old 03-20-2010, 09:45 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

Chapter 15 – Strangers

“Just as they have moved on beyond our world, so must we move on in it. Now go, and may the gods give you strength.”

At the Soul Guild leader’s dismissal, the crowd gathered in the burial chamber stirred and began to disperse. Some among them were hesitant to leave, however, reluctant to make that final parting from the ones who had left them behind in life.

Solonn was one of those who lingered, remaining seated on the stone floor and holding the now featureless space in the center of the room in a sorrowful gaze. Mere minutes ago, they had been there, lifeless and encased in ice like the nine others who had perished in the temple with them. Now, with them sealed away deep beneath the floor with the rest of the fallen, the weight of their loss was impressing itself upon him all the more: he would never see them again. In leaving this chamber, he would be leaving them behind for the rest of his life.

He wasn’t left alone to dwell upon such things for long, however; a prod at his side interrupted his thoughts. He rose and turned to identify its source. There, he found a rather familiar female; he recognized her as the one of the Security Guild members. She was looking up at him with an unspoken question—no, a command—in her eyes.

“I’ve been sent by my guild to escort you,” she said, telling Solonn nothing that he hadn’t already guessed. Hagen had said that he could expect such, after all, and the lahain had clearly meant it. Solonn hadn’t had anyone specifically assigned to him prior to that point, and as far as he could tell, none of the other witnesses had, either; he and they seemed to have just been herded into the burial chamber together following the meeting with the council. Now the time had apparently come for the Security Guild members who had gone into the burial chamber with them to split up and follow the witnesses as they dispersed.

Solonn frowned at her, wishing that she weren’t there—and not only for his own sake. “You have better things to do right now,” he told her quietly, “and you know it.”

“I’m afraid that’s not for you to decide,” the guild member responded. She then circled around and took up a position right behind him—or what was behind him before he turned to face her once more. “Get moving, please,” she said. “I don’t know where you live. You’ll have to lead.”

Solonn gave her an odd look. “Who said I was going home?”

“Well, it’s not as though you have anything else to do, now is it?”

He did have something else to do, but he most certainly couldn’t tell her as much. Letting even the slightest hint slip that he still desired to try and warn people of the threat they still faced, the danger that they weren’t allowed to know still existed, would just get him knocked out and thrown in a cell, he knew. If that happened, he would be rendered completely useless to the cause—no one would hear his warnings if he got himself shut away.

He furthermore didn’t much like the thought of leading someone who didn’t trust him (or who at the very least answered to someone who didn’t) back to his home. Very briefly, he considered trying to pick Zilag out of the crowd and go with him instead. He hadn’t even been able to spot Zilag among the mourners, but Solonn was certain that he was present. However, doing anything to associate Zilag with him in front of the authorities quickly struck him as something to avoid if he could help it; it just seemed to him like the sort of thing that could wrap Zilag—and possibly also Zilag’s family—up in any trouble that the Security Guild might lay upon him.

Then it occurred to him that even if he avoided Zilag, Zilag was unlikely to avoid him—sooner or later, especially in the wake of what had happened, he would probably pay Solonn a visit to try and lend him some support—and either that guild member or another would likely still be hanging around, Solonn suspected. Their being associated with one another in the Security Guild’s eyes was inevitable, it seemed.

Resigned to that notion, he determined that all he could really do was at least try to avoid revealing the whereabouts of Zilag’s home to them. With that in mind, he sighed and nodded to the guild member in acceptance of her suggestion, then turned his back on her and began drifting toward the exit. After moving a short distance forward, he looked back to see if she was indeed following him—she was. She really was going to tail him literally anywhere and everywhere that he went, he suspected thoroughly. Solonn gave one last glance toward the place where Azvida and Jeneth now lay, sending them a silent farewell and apology for having to leave them so soon, then departed the chamber.

The presence that followed him out did nothing to help put his mind at ease. What it represented—the mistrust and incorrect conclusions of a leader who, as far as Solonn could tell, cared more about being right than about the welfare of his own people, as well as the diversion of such an important resource as the lahain’s officers to keeping people quiet instead of keeping people safe—was bad enough, but on top of that there was the discomfiting notion that he was being shadowed by someone who possibly viewed him as an enemy and might well be inclined to act accordingly. The lahain had said that he would give Solonn and the other witnesses of the attack on the temple a chance to live free (or as free as one could be while under constant watch) provided that they could stay quiet, but nonetheless Solonn couldn’t and wouldn’t put it past him to decide—or, the chilling thought occurred to him, to have already decided—to forcibly silence the witnesses after all.

Would she do it? he wondered of his escort. He couldn’t be sure of what she’d do once he was alone with her, but he did feel fairly certain that she wouldn’t just knock him out and drag him to prison while they shared that tunnel with so many others, at least. He reckoned that neither she nor any other guild members in the crowd who were escorting their own witnesses would strike with all these people present; some of them hadn’t been there at the temple or at the subsequent meeting in the council chamber and therefore might not understand why people whose duty it was to protect them had seemingly suddenly turned on them. Such a scenario might require the guild members to take out those innocents as well in order to nip any loaded questions in the bud, an action that they would surely prefer to avoid taking.

At least, Solonn dearly hoped that they would prefer to avoid taking that action…

Fairly soon, the crowd arrived at a point at which the path branched off in multiple directions. There, the crowd began to thin out as individuals and small groups broke away from it to continue down one path or another. Now Solonn’s sense of safety in numbers began to fade quickly. Already, he had seen a couple of pairs split off and disappear down their chosen tunnels—did those pairs contain guild members? Were those guild members indeed going to strike their charges as soon as they got someplace quiet enough with them—and was the same indeed true of the one who followed him?

It seemed that there was truly nothing to be done about it except to just continue on his way; another gentle but insistent prod of his escort’s horn emphasized that point. Knowing no other way home from here, Solonn could only retrace his figurative steps and go back the way he’d come, choosing the path that led past the council chamber.

Very few others went that way along with him, and in the distance between the council chamber and what had once been and would never again be the temple, the number of people taking his route dwindled until there was only his escort. Alone with her, he was more worried than ever that a strike was imminent. Passing by the temple’s sealed entrance and being reminded of what he’d seen in there added to the unpleasantness of the trip even further.

There were no potential witnesses now, the last of the other people who had been going their way having disappeared minutes ago. No one was around now to see, hear, or ask questions should the glalie behind him make a move, and he wouldn’t know if she did so until it was too late—or quite possibly not at all.

That was the thing about the highest of the mother element’s powers: it was summoned with a mere thought, and it struck in a near instant. It gave its victims virtually no warning, no sign that it was coming…

Virtually no warning.

There was a way to see it coming, Solonn remembered, no small part of him left in disbelief that he’d forgotten about that particular quirk of the technique. Then again, it had been quite a few years since he’d last beheld this particular property of the attack; the last time he had seen it had been the last time that Azvida had hunted alongside him, back before he’d worked up the nerve to do it on his own.

Hoping that his next actions wouldn’t trigger the very thing that they were being done in the hopes of protecting him from, he brought himself to a stop, turning to face his escort as he did so and earning an odd look from her as a result.

“Sir, what do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“I’m just going home as you suggested I do,” Solonn said as evenly as he could, and with that he resumed his drift toward home, only now in reverse.

The guild member maintained that baffled look upon him but otherwise gave no objection to what her charge had chosen to do and simply kept following him. Whether she knew why he was now moving backward or had merely decided that he was simply a strange person and that she shouldn’t try too hard to make sense of him, Solonn didn’t know, but he wasn’t really concerned about what was going on behind her eyes at this point—it was what happened in them that mattered to him at the moment. If she opted to try and use sheer cold on him, he would see it coming—the telltale flash of white in its user’s eyes just prior to its release would give it away, and he would—or at least so he dearly hoped—be ready for it and able to react in what terribly little time it would give him to do so. He maintained a light mental hold on the source of his protect ability, keeping the shield on standby to try and swiftly call it up if she attempted anything against him.

Solonn had traveled between his own home and the temple so many times that he knew the way by heart; he was confident in his ability to navigate it backward. He knew the positions and number of all of the offshoots of the main path and counted them as they moved into sight past the glalie who followed him; those landmarks would tell him when and which way to turn. All the while, he watched his escort’s eyes; thus far, they remained still and blue.

Their owner kept obligingly quiet as the two traveled, allowing Solonn to keep his concentration and avoid losing track of how many landmarks they’d passed—until she saw it necessary to ask, “Are we almost there?”

Solonn winced slightly, trying not to lose the number in his head and slowing his pace to delay any change in that number. “Yes,” he responded quickly, thankful that that was the answer, “it’s just a li—”

His voice was abruptly cut silent, his unfinished sentence lost in a loud crack whose cause he had, despite his efforts, not seen coming. Its source emerged from an offshoot not far behind where Solonn now lay unconscious.

The newly arrived guild member ascended a bit higher off the ground in order to see past Solonn. His partner returned his gaze with an approving nod, silently commending his work. He responded likewise, then let himself sink back down to his normal hovering height and moved closer to their subdued target. The two officers secured the insensible glalie to themselves with ice, then lifted him with an effort and carried him away.

* * *

The next thing that Solonn was aware of was pain: a somewhat dull throbbing sensation in the back of his head. Groaning, he stirred and lifted himself from the floor, slowly opening his eyes as he rose. What they showed him made him all too certain of what must have happened to him before he’d been knocked out.

She’d got him, he was sure. Somehow, he reckoned, in spite of his watchfulness, his escort had managed to take him out. Now here he was, imprisoned in one of their cells—and he wasn’t alone. There was Grosh, lying half-coiled on the opposite side of the room, still out cold. Solonn made to rush to his father’s side at once but was caught short by a voice that spoke up in nearly the same instant—and a familiar voice, at that.

“Good, you’re awake. You can help out with the psychic, then.”

Turning toward its source, Solonn was greeted by the sight of an unexpected face. Seated not far away was none other than Zdir, the sole member of the council who’d seemed at all willing to hear the witnesses out, the only one who’d seemed willing to believe in the innocence of the steelix behind her and the claydol before her.

Solonn wondered what she was doing there in that cell, though he certainly had his suspicions. For now, though, he was much more concerned about Grosh and Oth—particularly the latter, knowing as he did how the powers of his element could affect someone of Oth’s type. He looked upon the claydol with concern tightening his brow; it was still as utterly motionless as only those who didn’t breathe could be, its arms still lying detached beside it, with nothing but the faint light of its body heat to suggest that it was even alive. These properties were perfectly normal for a claydol that was anything but awake, he knew… but he also knew that the light of Oth’s heat was presently notably dimmer than it ought to have been. The glalie who’d been guarding the cell had clearly done a sub-par job of keeping it warm—quite possibly on purpose, Solonn suspected with disgust.

“Is it going to be all right?” he asked.

“Can’t say,” Zdir responded. “I don’t even know what this creature is, let alone how it works. But I suspect that it might come to a lot faster if we can get it warmed up—and we need it to come to as soon as possible.” She inclined a horn toward the other side of the room, where another glalie lay in the corner opposite Grosh. “I doubt he’ll stay out much longer, and sooner or later his relief will show up.”

Zdir turned back to Oth, lowering her head slightly and staring intently at him. “Try to focus on drawing the cold from this creature as fast as you can, but don’t shut everything else out completely. We could have company at any moment now.”

That thought certainly wasn’t comforting. Nonetheless, Solonn made the effort to keep most of his mind on the task before him. It helped that it was his friend who was lying there in front of him, someone for whose sake he was very keen on succeeding in that task.

Simply keeping the coldness of the warren at bay from another creature was generally effortless for those of his kind, but what Oth needed at this point was to purge the coldness that had settled into it. In his mind, he conjured up thoughts of times when he’d caused ice to melt away or vaporize—opposite actions to freezing. This was what he needed to bring to bear upon Oth, he knew, or rather a much slower and gentler version of that technique. At his side, Zdir was doing likewise, and as the two worked together to reverse the effects of the frigid surroundings and the lingering chill of the sheer cold attack on the claydol, the glow of its heat began to return to normal.

Moments passed, and Solonn began to wonder if maybe he and Zdir should stop, concerned that Oth might become overheated if they kept this up for too long. Just as he was about to voice this concern, however, the claydol awoke, a few of its presently half-closed eyes simultaneously meeting the gaze of both of the glalie sitting beside it.

<What…> it began, its mindvoice and its true voice both sounding rather weak. <Solonn… what is happening?>

“We’ll have to explain later,” Zdir spoke up before Solonn could even begin to answer. “First, we need to get out of here, all of us. We need you to transport us.”

Oth wobbled in place for a moment, apparently struggling to rise, its hands ascending to rejoin its body at differing speeds. It tried again almost immediately and managed to succeed this time, but Solonn remained concerned for it. With not only no elemental protection against ice but a particular vulnerability to it, recovering from an ice-type strike must surely be all the more difficult for it, he reckoned.

<Where?> Oth asked, still clearly working to keep its levitation stable even as it spoke.

“As far away from here as possible,” Zdir said.

Oth nodded slightly in acknowledgment and began floating somewhat less than gracefully and slower than usual toward Grosh. Once at his side, it proceeded to scan him, checking to make sure that the steelix was in any fit state for teleportation.

“We need to go,” Zdir reminded it urgently.

Thankfully, Oth found out what it needed to know quickly. Satisfied that Grosh was more than well enough to survive the journey, <Come here,> it said to the two glalie, who went to join Oth and Grosh at once, Zdir lagging slightly behind.

“Oth… are you up to teleporting right now?” Solonn asked, worried not only for the claydol’s sake but also for that of those who would be traveling with it. If Oth wasn’t quite strong enough to teleport them, and something went wrong… Solonn didn’t know what the results of that sort of situation might be, but he strongly suspected that they weren’t at all pretty.

<Yes,> Oth said. <Do not worry… What about him?> it then asked, gesturing toward the unconscious guard in the corner with one of its hands.

“Leave him. He’s not with us,” Zdir told it. “Now go!”

Without another moment’s delay, the claydol summoned golden light to deliver the prisoners from their cell.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-14-2011 at 07:37 PM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 03-20-2010, 09:47 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

The glow faded out, and its passengers found themselves in a place that contrasted greatly with their previous surroundings. The sky, though overcast, was backlit by late afternoon sunlight, and nearly everything below it was blanketed in green. Steady white noise filled the air, the rushing of a waterfall that lay on the opposite side of a deep, wide chasm gouged into the ground before them and poured endlessly into a river below.

Zdir eyed the water with a look of uncertainty. “Where are we now?”

<Mordial,> Oth answered. <Do not worry—we are not anywhere near your territory.> It then turned to face the forest behind them, moving a very short distance into it. <There is an herb that grows here that will help Grosh greatly,> it said, gesturing toward the trees. <I will try to find some of it for him as quickly as possible.>

“It would probably be found faster if more than one of us searches for it,” Solonn said. “What does it look like?”

There was a brief delay in Oth’s response, and then an image appeared in the minds of both of the glalie simultaneously. The herb in question was a bright yellow-green in color, with long leaves that curled slightly at their tips. It seemed vaguely familiar to Solonn, but he couldn’t really recall anything about it for certain.

“All right,” Solonn said, moving over to Oth’s side. He turned back to look upon Grosh, still lying there helplessly. Though going to search for this herb would be for the steelix’s benefit, Solonn nonetheless found himself reluctant to leave him there in that condition.

“I’ll stay with him,” Zdir spoke up, seeming to have read Solonn’s hesitance correctly. “And don’t try too hard to rush back; this herb you speak of sounds like it might be something we’d do well to have readily available. Gathering more of it than he needs would be a good idea.”

“Agreed,” Solonn said. “And… thank you for agreeing to stay with him,” he added sincerely. The significance of Zdir’s decision wasn’t lost on him—here was a Virc and a near-total stranger to boot, willing to be left alone with a creature that had evoked mistrust and primal fear from so many of her people. “It’s good to see someone else who doesn’t fear him.”

“If what you claimed he was doing in the temple is true, then I have nothing at all to fear from him,” Zdir said. “And I’m inclined to believe that it is.”

The light in Solonn’s eyes brightened and trembled. He made to say something in response but found himself moved beyond words. The fact that Zdir was going out of her way to aid his father and his friend contrasted so greatly with the way that the lahain had treated them that it all but overwhelmed him.

“…Thank you,” he finally managed, his voice quieted by solemnity. He then turned away and allowed Oth to lead him deeper into the forest.

Making his way among that many trees was no easier for Solonn than it had ever been, but the relatively slow pace at which the two moved helped him avoid losing track of Oth. The need to scan the ground carefully for the plant that they sought demanded that they not rush, but Solonn couldn’t help but think that it was more than that that kept Oth’s speed in check. Its levitation still seemed slightly unstable; it was clear that it still had some recovering to do in the wake of the sheer cold strike that it had suffered. Its condition had actually factored into his decision to join it in its search along with the hopes of locating the herb more quickly and easily than it could be found alone; he presently wasn’t any more comfortable with the thought of Oth being left alone than he was with the thought of leaving Grosh likewise.

“How common is it?” he asked. “How long do you think we’ll need to look?”

<Not terribly common,> Oth answered, <but fortunately not terribly rare in this area, either. I think we will be able to gather a sufficient amount in a reasonable frame of time.>

Solonn nodded slightly, absorbing that, unable to help making a faint sound of disappointment. Whatever Oth considered to be a “reasonable frame of time” would not, he suspected, be as small as he would prefer for it to be. Aid for his father just couldn’t come soon enough as far as he was concerned.

At least something will be done for him, he told himself silently. That was more than could be said for most of the others who were affected by recent events…

“Oth,” he spoke up to get the claydol’s attention; he saw it pause and turn to face him from a couple of yards away. “Thank you for doing this, for bringing us here,” he told it. “I’m glad that you’re able to provide this for him.”

Oth lowered its head in acknowledgment of Solonn’s gratitude. <You are welcome,> it said softly.

Relative silence fell over Solonn and Oth as the search wore on, neither of them saying anything, the only sounds around them being the very faint skittering and buzzing of insects and the calls of birds in the background. Then finally, <There! I have found some!> Oth said, beckoning with one of its hands, and then it sped up slightly as it made its way forward and to the left. Solonn followed, and soon the two reached a small cluster of plants that matched the picture that Oth had given of the herb. Using its telekinesis, Oth harvested the leaves and caused them to rise a couple of feet into the air, at which point it gathered them up against its chest with its hands and held them there.

<This will serve Grosh with plenty to spare,> Oth said. <We should be able to return now.>

Solonn eyed the gathered herb samples; there looked to be about half a dozen of them. He hoped that Oth was right about there being enough, all the while trying to no real avail not to think about the reasons why keeping the medicine in stock had become prudent.

Well… if it’s not enough, we could always come back for more later, he figured, and he couldn’t help but suspect darkly that they would end up having to do that sooner or later anyway when their current stock ran out. “All right, let’s go,” he said to Oth, and the two of them began making their way back through the forest.

Upon returning to the place where Grosh had been left with Zdir, they found the steelix still unconscious. Zdir was waiting next to Grosh’s head. She looked up from where she sat to acknowledge Solonn and Oth as they took their places at her sides.

Oth allowed the leaves to drift away from it, telekinetically holding them in a tight bundle in midair right in front of Grosh’s face. It kept them hovering there for a few moments, letting Grosh breathe in their scent for a while. Eventually, the steelix stirred, albeit not much; his head lifted a couple of inches up off of the ground and he made a very faint groaning sound, but his eyes remained closed.

<Open your mouth,> Oth instructed him gently.

Though there was a slight delay in Grosh’s response, it came nonetheless. His mouth fell open, the jaws slack in his barely-awake state. Oth let one of the leaves drift free from the bundle as it brought the rest up against its chest to hold there once more, directing the separated leaf to land on the steelix’s tongue. The flavor of it seemed to awaken Grosh’s senses further; his eyes opened partway, seemingly unfocused for the moment, and he grimaced, his mouth working as though he were trying to get the offending herb out.

<No, Grosh. You need to consume it.>

That earned another faint groan from the mostly-absent steelix, but Grosh complied nonetheless, closing his jaws and forcing the herb down. He shuddered and then stretched, flexing and twisting his coils, then slowly lifted his head further and shook it a bit as if trying to clear something out of it.

Blinking a few times in succession, he stared out at the unfamiliar scene before him for a moment, finally coming back to his senses in earnest, then turned his gaze upon his son.

“Where…?” he asked hoarsely, unable to finish the question.

Where is she? Solonn couldn’t help but suspect him to have meant, judging by the anguished look on the steelix’s face, but he couldn’t quite find it in himself to speak of Azvida, especially not with his father’s resumed grief staring him in the face and stoking his own all the higher.

Sinking wearily to the ground, “We’re in Mordial,” Solonn finally responded, answering a different but, he imagined, still present question. “We had to flee Virc-Dho… we were being imprisoned there.”

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 07:06 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

Grosh’s reaction was delayed, but when it came through, there was something dark in the change his expression had taken, something that spoke of burgeoning, sickened outrage. “No…”

“I’m afraid so,” Zdir said. “You and… Oth, was it?” She looked to the claydol, who nodded in confirmation. “You were deemed responsible for the murders in the temple, as well as for the kidnapping of the children who were at the snowgrounds at the time.”

Oth’s reaction was left untranslated, but the gist of it was clear enough: it sounded distinctly astonished—hurt, even. Seemingly unconsciously, it reeled back a bit from the others, then lowered its head and closed all of its eyes. Grosh, meanwhile, reared back as if something had lashed out at him, the motion surprisingly forceful given the fact that he still had a bit of recovering to do from the sheer cold attack that he’d recently suffered, and his expression was both the most furious and the most pained that Solonn had ever seen.

“How dare they…” the steelix said in a near-bottomless tone, one that somehow sounded as vulnerable as it did threatening. Fresh streams of tears welled up and surged from his eyes. “How dare anyone even suggest that I’d—” He winced at the thought, shaking with fury. “—that I’d do anything to hurt her!”

“They also accused you of stealing her son,” Solonn said quietly past a lump in his throat. “Jen… he was in the snowgrounds. He was taken.”

Grosh just stared at him for a moment, still shaking, his jaws parting silently and his eyes widening further in the wake of that news. Then his head sank, his gaze dropping to the ground, tears still falling. “Dear God…” he all but whispered, the words cracking. “And… God, I would never…” he managed to hiss out before his ability to speak failed him altogether.

“I tried to tell them that,” Solonn said miserably. Hearing the hurt in his father’s voice deepened his guilt and shame over failing to get through to the lahain all the more. “I tried to tell them that you wouldn’t hurt anyone, either of you…”

“We both did,” Zdir added. “I refused to take ‘it’s not possible’ as an answer from the rest of the council, even knowing what it would cost me.”

What she seemed to be suggesting came as no real surprise to Solonn. “He dismissed you from the council, didn’t he?”

Zdir nodded. “Tried to take me out and throw me in the cell right alongside you three, furthermore, but I saw that coming and was able to undermine those efforts. The lahain—our leader,” she added for the benefit of Grosh and Oth, “just couldn’t stand to take any chances with those of us who weren’t so willing to let people believe his conclusions about what happened.”

<Those who were at the temple when we arrived there… the survivors… they saw with their own eyes that we were not the ones responsible, did they not? What about them?> Oth asked.

“Oh, I don’t think the lahain is concerned about what they saw anymore,” Solonn said bitterly. “He seems to have them all convinced that they were only being tricked into seeing glalie attacking them…” He was almost too ashamed to elaborate any further, to tell Oth of the way that his fellow countryman had portrayed it, but finally managed to do so. “He said that you had deceived them psychically somehow.”

There was a very small delay in the claydol’s reaction. Then its eyes all widened dramatically, and a noise escaped it that suggested that it was struggling even to speak in its true voice, let alone using its mindvoice.

“I don’t think I can apologize enough for how you’ve been wronged, all of you,” Zdir said sincerely. “Just… just know that not everyone believes these horrible things about you two,” she said with a glance toward Grosh and Oth, “and that you,” she said to Solonn as she turned to face him, “were not wrong to stand up for them.”

Grosh’s only response was something between a growl and a sigh, the look on his face telling that he was far from consoled. Solonn looked at him regretfully, knowing that even just one person believing that Grosh could have done something so horrible to someone whom he loved so much was one too many for the steelix to bear, wishing that he could have done more to prevent his father from having been accused of such things. Oth lowered its head slightly, some of its eyes shutting halfway and the rest closing completely. It tried and failed to speak again, but finally managed it on the third attempt.

<…I appreciate your trust,> it said, both its voices subdued, <and I thank you for it. I just wish that there were something more that I could do for you and for your people. You are still in danger since whoever was actually responsible has not been identified, let alone apprehended… and in return for rescuing us, you deserve anything I could give.>

“Well… perhaps it’s a good thing that you feel that way,” Zdir said. “Perhaps it’s a very good thing…” She rose, moving back a bit so that she could more easily hold eye contact with all three of the others before her at the same time. “Against our enemies, there’s little we can do. We don’t know exactly how many they are in number, though if they are indeed who I think they are, they number in the dozens. At least.”

“Oh gods…” Solonn had not imagined that they were quite that numerous—the thought of how high the death toll might be if the enemy were to attack in full force made him feel as though the blood had frozen in his veins. “This is exactly why the people back home need to be made aware that the real threat’s still out there. Almost no one—maybe no one at all at this point—has any idea of just how much danger they’re all still in!”

“Actually, I suspect they’re about to find out that it’s not over yet,” Zdir told him. “By now, the Security Guild has probably discovered the empty cell we left behind. I imagine the people will be told of the escape and warned of the possibility of future attacks by more of those ‘illusory’ glalie.”

Solonn looked at her in silence, conflicted with regards to how he should feel about what he’d just been told. Though it wouldn’t be the exact truth of the situation that the Virc would be informed of, they would at least hopefully be on the lookout for trouble from others of their own kind now. It was, Solonn supposed, a step in the right direction… but still, there remained the fact that by and large, the Virc would likely continue to believe that two people who meant very much to him were there behind the “façade” of those glalie who threatened them…

“Anyway,” Zdir went on, “the exiles are furthermore clearly well-trained to have been able to take as many lives as they did. My point is, if any of you are thinking of vengeance, I’m afraid you’ll need to think otherwise.”

The noise Grosh made at that and the way that he shifted uneasily suggested that he might indeed have been harboring such thoughts to at least some degree. An image of what the steelix might do if he could to the ones responsible for taking away someone whom he had once torn through the warren in desperate search of appeared in Solonn’s mind, an image of powerful steel coils crushing bodies, of a massive tail falling like a hammer and splitting them wide open… Solonn shuddered hard, grimacing, fighting at once to get the gruesome thoughts off his mind.

“There is, however, one thing that I think we may be able to do,” Zdir said. “I believe that we might very well have a good chance of being able to rescue the captured children—a better chance than the Security Guild might have, anyway.”

Four of the eyes upon her widened instantly, and all of Oth’s blinked in surprise. <You truly believe that we are capable of such a thing, given the advantages that you believe these exiles to have?> it said.

“We have advantages of our own—and you in particular do,” Zdir responded. “Your ability to instantly transport people could prove invaluable in getting us out of a dangerous situation, getting the children away from their captors, getting anyone who has suffered any harm to a place where they could get the help they need…”

She turned a meaningful gaze on Solonn while speaking those last several words, and he recognized just what it was to which she was referring by them. He had mentioned the Haven back in the council chamber, albeit not by name, and had thereby made Zdir aware of that resource—a resource that, as far as he could figure, the Security Guild could not provide for the kidnapped children or for any of their would-be rescuers if need be.

<I… must confess that I do possess a particular concern about this,> Oth said. <While it is true that I am capable of what you say that I am, the nature of our enemies presents a problem that could undermine my ability to help in that capacity: conceivably, any one of them could subdue me—and for that matter any of us—in an instant, with no warning given in the event that we are ambushed and possibly still not enough given otherwise.>

“Oh, there’s a warning that comes with it, if you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about,” Zdir said as she turned to face the claydol. “If it’s sheer cold or its mother technique that you mean, there’s an elemental telltale preceding them that you can feel and react to if you know how. How else do you suppose I managed to avoid being knocked out and shut away with the rest of you? Get away with continuing to exist for as long as I have and do the kind of work that I’ve done and you learn a few things.”

Solonn stared at her, unsure of what to think of her claim. It was true that those techniques did indeed come with a perceptible elemental surge. But in his experience, the beginning of it, the part that could be perceived before the execution of either of those two techniques, could only be felt by the user of either of those attacks; any observers capable of feeling it would only be able to feel the part that accompanied the execution, with no time to react to that surge due to the techniques’ instantaneous delivery.

But then again, that was only what he knew from his experience. Zdir’s experience extended back decades before his—quite conceivably time enough, he supposed, to have successfully trained herself to catch that telltale in time to thwart such an attack.

<Well,> Oth said, sounding slightly relieved, <if you can indeed perceive these attacks before they connect, I could share in your perception and be able to teleport us away in response… if you will consent to the mental link, of course.>

“Of course,” Zdir said. “So I take it that means you’re willing to take this on?”

<I will,> Oth confirmed.

Zdir gave a faint smile of gratitude. “Thank you,” she said earnestly. “Lives may well be saved by your decision.”

She then turned to Solonn again, and the question in that look was as obvious to him as if it had been spoken aloud. He hesitated to answer at first, still uncertain about their chances and all too aware of what could befall them should they fail, and he couldn’t keep the fear out of his eyes. But ultimately, he couldn’t deny that he felt even worse about the chances that someone especially vulnerable to the powers of their enemies and someone whose age surely brought with it not only the experience of which she’d spoken but disadvantages as well would have alone—they, not to mention the children who might very well depend on them, needed all the help that they could get. Solonn didn’t know what the exiles had in store for the snorunt whom they’d taken, but every possibility that came to his mind was something that he absolutely could not stand the thought of being allowed to happen if it could at all be avoided—especially with regards to it happening to a member of his own family.

“Yes,” he told her quietly. “My brother’s out there—if there’s anything I can do to help bring him back, I will.”

“Well then,” Grosh then spoke up, lifting the upper portion of himself from the ground once more. “You could have counted me in to begin with, but now it’s even less of a question—I have to go with you.”

Zdir held his gaze for a moment, then turned away with a faint, worried sound. “Grosh…” she began uneasily, “as much as I would appreciate your help, I’m… well…”

“You’re what?” Grosh urged her to finish as gently and calmly as he could manage, which wasn’t much of either under the circumstances.

“I’m concerned that your accompanying us would be at the expense of something we need to have on our side—specifically the need to not have our enemies made aware of our presence well before we’re aware of theirs. Grosh… was it you who came to Virc-Dho all those years ago, the silver being whom people described as… well, as making a lot of noise whenever he moved?”

The steelix blinked, then groaned, recognizing what Zdir was getting at there. “Yes… yes, that was me,” he said, wilting with a sigh. “You’re right… there’s no way they wouldn’t hear us coming if I went with you.”

<Perhaps… that is not necessarily true,> Oth said a bit hesitantly. All eyes turned toward it. <I think I might be able to keep him off of the ground. That should eliminate the problem of the sound caused by his slithering.>

Solonn frowned at it. It wasn’t that he didn’t want it to try what it was suggesting—he knew how much his father surely wanted to pitch in on this mission, knew what it meant to him—he was just concerned about it exerting itself in such a way. Even having been trained specifically for shows of strength as it was, it would surely be no easy feat even to lift, let alone carry, something as heavy as Grosh had to be. Not to mention the fact that given its recent ordeal, Oth was surely not in peak condition…

Holding his tongue lest he potentially undermine the claydol’s confidence and make the task even harder for it, he watched as bright, fuchsia light filled its eyes. Slowly, Grosh rose up from the grass, coming to a stop at just a few inches up off the ground. Oth held him there for a few seconds… but then the light in its eyes began to falter. It shook slightly as it struggled to maintain its telekinetic hold, but not for long—it lost its grip abruptly, leaving Grosh to drop back down with a loud thunk that sent birds from the forest behind them scattering into the air.

Oth hovered unsteadily for a moment, its hands hanging lower than usual as it worked to regather its telekinetic strength. <I am fine…> it told the others, noticing the worried looks they were giving it, <and I am sorry,> it said to Grosh.

“That’s all right,” Grosh told it, his voice a low, resigned rumble. “You don’t need to be busting your brain carrying me around, and I don’t need to be slowing you all down by making you have to stop every few seconds to give Oth a break. I can stay here,” he said, though the words were followed by a sigh that told that he still wished dearly that he didn’t have to do so.

Zdir nodded at him, though she wore something of an earnestly sad expression. “I’m sorry you can’t join us,” she told him. “Don’t worry—we’ll do our best to return safely.” She turned to Oth then. “Before we begin our search, there are a few relatives of mine with whom I think it would be prudent to talk about the situation—at the very least, I think they deserve to know what I intend to get myself into. Is there anyone to whom you feel you need to pay a brief visit before we head out?” she asked of the claydol.

<No,> Oth said, gathering the unused herb samples, which had fallen during its attempt to hold Grosh aloft, back up to its chest as it spoke. <I am ready whenever the rest of you are.>

“And you?” Zdir asked Solonn.

Solonn nodded. “Just one stop,” he said, though part of him wouldn’t have minded getting a chance to touch base with his old friends from Lilycove again now that Oth’s presence made such possible, especially since he couldn’t help but think that much of the reasoning behind those stops preceding the actual mission was to give the participants a chance to say goodbye… just in case. He was concerned, however, about taking very much of the time that could be spent on the search for the snorunt; he didn’t know how much time they had to spare.

He would have answered Zdir’s question just as Oth had were it not for the fact that Zilag and his family were back there in Virc-Dho—and therefore potentially in harm’s way. He wanted to make absolutely certain that they knew that the threat hadn’t passed. He hoped that Zdir had similar motives for taking time out of the search to make her own stops; he was inclined to figure that she did, though.

“All right,” Zdir said. “Come on, then. We should be on our way.”

“Just please come back safely,” Grosh said. “Bring her sons back—both of them.”

“We will try,” Zdir tried to assure him.

Solonn looked to his father, swallowing against a lump in his throat at the pain and worry still plain on the steelix’s face. “Goodbye,” he said with difficulty.

“Goodbye,” Grosh returned hoarsely. “Please be careful. Please.”

Solonn could only nod in acceptance of Grosh’s plea. He then turned and moved closer to Oth, and Zdir did likewise. As the golden light surrounded them, he hoped to all gods that they and those whom they sought to rescue would indeed be able to get safely through what lay ahead.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 07:06 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 03-20-2010, 09:48 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

Solonn, Zdir, and Oth appeared in a chamber a short distance from the Zir-Arda residence. Arriving there rather than at their ultimate destination was rendered necessary by the number of others who now accompanied them—they couldn’t all simultaneously materialize into a space that wasn’t large enough to contain them. The passages leading to and from the residence itself in either direction were furthermore too narrow to teleport that many people into with ease, and it had been decided that Oth should limit the number of trips that it made as much as possible for the sake of its endurance despite its assurances that it could perform quite a few teleportations without tiring.

The newcomers to the search party numbered three. Ronal, Zereth, and Narzen were their names, though none of those names had quite settled into Solonn’s memory given everything else that was presently on his mind. He also hadn’t quite absorbed the nature of each one’s relation to Zdir; he seemed to remember having heard one of them refer to her as an aunt, but he’d already forgotten which of them that had been. Each of the three of them had apparently volunteered to join the search after Zdir had spoken with them. Zdir had also paid a visit to one other residence, but she had not left that one with another person in tow.

Solonn broke from the small crowd and began leading them single-file into the tunnel toward his goal. Once he spotted the ice wall that blocked off the Zir-Arda residence, he stopped, a signal to the others that they were close enough. He would be going in alone, just as Zdir had gone alone into each of the homes at which they’d stopped; Zdir had figured that it would be easier and less potentially startling to deliver the news to each of them without strangers watching the entire time, and he had agreed.

He moved over to the barrier, casting a glance back at the others waiting just out of sight from the threshold… out in the open, conspicuous enough in those numbers, to say nothing of the alien creature hovering among them. Zdir had assured him that they had little or nothing to fear in the event that they were seen out there due to the psychic link that she now shared with Oth, forged just before she had gone in to talk with the first of her relatives. Should anyone show up, she had told him, the party would vanish from the vicinity immediately after Oth made a very brief stop indoors to pick him up. He could only hope that she was right about how easy it would be to get out of trouble if it arose.

Somewhat cautiously, wanting to make only as much noise as was necessary, he tilted a horn toward the ice wall and tapped on it a few times. He heard hushed voices from the other side of it and was thankful for the fact that they were very clearly glalie voices; he had not wanted to wake Kavir and Ryneika, Zilag and Hledas’s children. A blurred pair of blue lights drifted into view, approaching the wall, their source coming into clarity as the clouded ice obscuring them was vaporized.

“Oh hey,” Zilag greeted Solonn, his tone falling notably short of its usual level of energy. “Come on in…” He turned and moved back into the main chamber, and Solonn followed. Solonn saw Hledas lingering over by the entrance to the couple’s sleeping area and watching him enter.

“What’s going on?” she asked him, still keeping her voice low so as not to disturb her daughters, though her tone suggested that she believed that she already knew the answer to that question.

“I think it’s fairly obvious,” Zilag said quietly, then turned a somber gaze on Solonn. “Go ahead and have a seat,” he said, then generated some ice for Solonn once the latter took him up on the suggestion. Solonn muttered a wordless thanks for it and took a couple of small bites from it; he didn’t want to snub the hospitality, and he told himself silently that he’d likely do well to have something more on his stomach than was presently there. Nonetheless, he found it difficult to pay the offering any mind beyond that.

Zilag set himself down, facing Solonn from a few feet away, with Hledas seating herself next to her mate. “I tried to get a hold of you after the service,” he said, “but the crowd was…” He shook his head. “I just couldn’t get to you. And when I went to your place, no one was there.”

Zilag sighed again, and for a moment he looked like he was struggling to speak. Finally, in a rather brittle voice, “There was no one at… at Azvida and Jeneth’s home, either. Jen… he was one of the ones who was taken, wasn’t he?” he asked. Solonn nodded regretfully in response. Zilag swore under his breath—that he’d wanted to be wrong was all too clear. “Gods… they’d better find him,” he said.

“I… don’t have much faith in them,” Solonn admitted without exactly having meant to do so. He’d intended to deliver his warning about the threat that Virc-Dho still faced prior to informing his friend about what he was about to go and try to do, but the way that the faces before him saddened further at his words compelled him to go ahead and let them know that there was something else being done about the situation. “So I and a few others are going to go search for the stolen children, as well.”

Zilag’s brows drew together in distinct worry, while Hledas’s rose in what looked almost like disbelief. “Solonn…” Zilag said tentatively, “that’s certainly brave of you, but… I don’t know. I’m not sure that this is something you ought to be doing—I mean, you know what kinds of things the ones responsible for this are capable of. I can’t exactly say I like the sound of you basically going right into their lair like that.”

“Oth is with us,” Solonn told him, “as are a few other glalie. Oth can teleport; it can get us out of trouble very fast if need be. And it can take any one of us—or, gods forbid, any of the children—who are harmed to a place where we can get help—really good help.”

Hledas cast a meaningful, rather troubled glance at Zilag, who somewhat mirrored it. She turned her gaze toward Solonn. “I’ve heard of this… ‘teleporting’,” she began slowly. “And I’ve also heard that it’s a psychic ability…”

Solonn’s expression hardened, his eyes narrowing; he didn’t like the direction that the conversation was taking. “That’s irrelevant,” he said sternly. “That ability could be the very thing that saves those children. And I’ll have you know that Oth is one of the last people you should be mistrusting right now.” He turned to face Zilag. “You should understand, at least. You remember what I’ve told you about it, don’t you?”

“I do…” Zilag said, but with a hesitance in his reply that suggested something left unsaid.

“But what?” Solonn pressed, filling in the blank with what he suspected Zilag was withholding, sounding more than a little hurt. There he was, apparently having to convince one of the last people in the world whom he had expected to doubt the innocence of his friend and father that they were not to blame, that they could be trusted. “Please… don’t tell me that you actually believe that I only trust it because it’s making me trust it.”

“Maybe you should at least consider that possibility,” Hledas suggested, earning a smoldering glare from Solonn.

“Look…” Zilag said carefully, “I want to believe this Oth person’s all right. I really do. At the same time, though… there are some very, very strange things going on around here lately—very strange and very dangerous. And it’s not the first time something strange has happened to one of us—I’m not assuming Oth had anything to do with anything that’s happened to you in the past,” he added hurriedly when he saw the anguished frustration that his previous statement brought to Solonn’s face. “I’m trying not to assume much of anything at all about this situation at this point.” He drew a deep breath, seemingly bracing himself for something. “And that’s why I’m going with you.”

This earned a rather distressed look from Hledas, while Solonn found himself temporarily unable to do anything but stare at Zilag, at a loss for quite how to feel about his friend’s choice—particularly given the apparent reasons for it.

“Are you insane?” Hledas hissed at Zilag. “You can’t go out there facing gods only know what with people we don’t even know if we can trust like that!”

“If we can trust them, if they really are the best chance those kids have at being rescued, then they should be given all the help they can get. I don’t want to sit here and possibly have to wonder someday if things could have gone better if I’d helped out. Hledas… that could have been Kavir out there.”

A considerable amount of the severity left Hledas’s features, her mouth falling partway open. “…I still don’t like this,” she said quietly, lowering her gaze.

“I know,” Zilag said. “But I have to do this. I have to do my part, and I have to look out for my friend.”

“I don’t need you to protect me from Oth,” Solonn insisted, but his tone told that his anger had begun to dissolve somewhat. The knowledge that one of his closest friends fell short of understanding, and with regards to another of his closest friends, still left a cold, sick feeling in his heart and frustration gnawing at his nerves… but the caring and desire to see things made right that Zilag was also displaying made it difficult for Solonn to be entirely angry with him.

“Hopefully you don’t,” Zilag said. “And hopefully you won’t need protecting from anything else, either. At any rate, though, I’m still going.”

Solonn held his gaze in silence for a moment more, then sighed, nodding in acceptance of Zilag’s wishes.

“Fine,” Hledas conceded as well, still sounding none too happy about Zilag’s decision. “I’ll stay with the kids—you had better come home,” she told Zilag in a warning tone, but there was earnest concern there alongside the threat. “Don’t you dare make me have to explain to our daughters that they’ll never see their father again.”

“I’ll try,” he told her, though he couldn’t help sounding somewhat less than fully confident. “I’ll try as hard as I possibly can. Just… well, just in case… tell them I love them, okay?”

Hledas’s frown deepened, the light in her eyes wavering. She nodded in assent, apparently unable to find her voice in the moment.

Zilag moved closer to Hledas, closing his eyes and lowering his head, allowing his forehead to touch hers. “Goodbye,” he said, adding, “for now.” He lifted his gaze once more and turned it toward Solonn. “Guess we’d better head out, then,” he said, moving toward the exit.

“Wait,” Solonn said, halting him. He turned to once more hold both of the other glalie in his gaze. “There’s something you both need to know—that’s the main reason I came here in the first place.” Zilag and Hledas both looked at him attentively. He opened his mouth to speak… but then paused. He had caught himself about to flat-out state that the Virc leadership was mistaken and to recommend that the truth of the matter that he was about to present be passed on to everyone whom they knew. That plan was shot down by images in his mind of them drawing action against themselves from the authorities in doing so, of them being thrown into prison chambers, rendered unconscious and vulnerable, with their children possibly never seeing them again.

He inhaled and tried again. “Look after yourselves, all right?” he said finally, opting for a more general warning. “Look after yourselves and everyone you know. Zilag has a point about keeping an open mind,” he acknowledged aloud, though he aimed the notion in a different direction. “Don’t assume that you or anyone else here is safe just because the authorities tell you that you are, and tell everyone you can to stay vigilant, too,” he advised.

Zilag nodded at this, as did Hledas, though the light in the eyes of the latter still fluttered with uncertainty. Hoping that they would indeed heed his warning, “Goodbye,” Solonn said to Hledas. “You and your daughters stay safe, please.” He then turned back toward the exit. Zilag removed the ice barrier, replacing it once he and Solonn were in the corridor outside, and the two went to join with those who were waiting for them in the hall.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 07:08 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

The search had begun in the border cavern. Upon arrival there, Zdir had spoken to the rest of the search party, choosing to do so via Oth. The psychic connection that it had formed with her in order to share her elemental perception allowed her to speak with it telepathically, but enabling her to communicate likewise with the others was beyond its capabilities; as such, it had instead passed her words on to the rest of the group, using its mindvoice alone in doing so.

The claydol had relayed her explanation that the Security Guild most likely had the warren covered and that she was fully convinced that the children were in the possession of exiles and therefore were likely being held somewhere outside of Virc territory, away from Virc authorities.

Oth had also shared the plans that Zdir had conceived, the actual courses of action that they would take in that mission. The seven were to exercise caution around any glalie whom they encountered, to generally avoid conflict—be it from the attackers, from guild members on a search of their own, or from anyone else—unless it was absolutely necessary. As for those of other species, Zdir proposed that wherever circumstances allowed it, they would seek information from those people, see if they had noticed something that could give any sense of where the snorunt might have been taken.

There had been nods of acceptance from the others, though there had also been poorly concealed uncertainty on some of their faces, uncertainty that Solonn shared. In particular, he was skeptical of the notion of seeking any clues from Shoal Cave’s natives; he had a hard time imagining any of them wanting to cooperate with a bunch of predators and a being the likes of which they’d surely never even seen. Then again, the alternative—a more-or-less completely blind search through caverns that extended gods knew how far and in gods knew how many directions—wasn’t a course of action that he particularly liked the sound of, either.

He’d caught Zilag’s eye, the latter having returned as much of a reassuring look as he could manage. Solonn had suspected that the sentiment was directed inward as much as it was directed outward.

While in the border cavern, the seven had moved in a ring with Oth at the center, staying close together rather than splitting up as per Zdir’s relayed instructions so as to ensure that no one was left behind should they need to make a sudden escape. But now, having reached the narrow passageway leading out into Shoal Cave proper, they were forced into single file.

Oth was fourth in line, hovering high enough to allow it to see over the heads of the glalie in front of it and behind it. Solonn held a worried gaze upon it as they all moved through the passageway, unsure if those who were at the ends of the line were close enough to Oth for it to include in its teleportation field should such become necessary. He strongly hoped that such wouldn’t become necessary while they were stuck in that formation—or at all, of course.

As of yet, no danger had arisen, the border cavern having turned out to be completely devoid of anyone else and the tunnel that led out of it proving likewise, and as the seven emerged into more open space once again and proceeded to explore that area, that trend continued. Minute after minute passed, and one stone chamber after another was found to be completely unoccupied.

This did nothing to ease the tension that hung over the air, however, for the fact remained that they were only alone for now. Sooner or later, they all knew, they would run into someone—they could only hope that it wasn’t the wrong someone.

Sure enough, they soon discovered a sign of life. In near-unison, the glalie in the party picked up on the presence of someone warm-bodied who was out of sight for the time being, accompanied by the sound of flapping wings. The source of that sound seemed fairly close. The party halted, several pairs of blue eyes turning toward a tunnel that curved rather sharply away; the being whom they had just detected was apparently around that bend.

They waited in place for a short time to see if there was anyone else down that passageway—or, more specifically, if there was anyone who was not warm-bodied off that way. It soon came to appear as though there wasn’t; no crack sounded to indicate a hunter picking the unseen creature off, its heat signature remaining steady rather than suddenly vanishing, and it seemed to be staying put rather than fleeing as it would have most likely done in the presence of beings that posed a potential threat to its life.

Zdir turned to face the others and gave a nod that said to proceed, and the seven then made their way into the tunnel in the same way that they had entered every other narrow passageway prior to that one: three glalie ahead of Oth, three behind it, and Zdir in the lead. Just as Zdir was about to disappear around the bend, a shrill chittering noise arose.

In almost the same instant, a thick ice barrier formed behind the party, sealing off that end of the tunnel. Another such wall had been raised further up ahead, Solonn knew—the flying creature’s escape routes were being cut off.

<It is only a lone male zubat,> Oth informed the others. To the zubat, <Do not be afraid. We mean you no harm,> it said, using as calm and soothing a mindvoice as it could manage. The zubat had stopped chittering but could still be heard fluttering about out of sight, apparently at a loss for how to deal with the situation in which he had found himself. <We are merely seeking information. Please try to respond as quietly as possible. We need to know if you have smelled or heard anything out of the ordinary recently and if so, where.>

“Other than you just now, no!” the zubat said. To his credit, he did manage to keep his voice down to a minimal hiss; perhaps he had decided that the creatures who had discovered him would only keep their word and leave him unharmed if he did as he was told. “Now please, go away! Leave me alone!”

<Very well. Thank you for your time.> The ice barrier behind the party vanished, as did the unseen one beyond where they all waited, and the wingbeats dwindled away as their maker fled. <We shall proceed, then,> the claydol then said to the rest of the group, and the line before it began moving forward once more.

The search wore on. There was a detached sense of fatigue and hunger starting to set in, but there was far too much on Solonn’s mind for him to care much about these feelings—a mind that was beginning to play tricks on him. Every even remotely pointed stone warranted extra glances back to confirm that it wasn’t a snorunt standing or sitting there—or worse, lying there—and phantom movements in the corner of his eye kept seizing his attention only to have nothing to show him, with no indication from any of the others that they had seen anything, either.

The seven encountered more zubat along the way, each of which was accosted and questioned just as the first had been. Just like the first one, though, the second knew nothing that was of any value to the party, and the same was true of the third. The fourth one’s initial response to their arrival in the chamber where they’d found him was to fire a confuse ray at them, only to have his attack waste itself on Ronal’s protect aura and his mind changed by an ice beam warning shot fired by Zdir. Once convinced that trying to fight them would do him no good, however, he too had proven to have no useful information for them.

At length, the seven found themselves in the part of the caverns that had long been recognized as the territory of spheal and the evolved forms thereof… but the state in which they found it suggested that such was no longer the case. There were no heat signatures about save for the very faint one that was Oth’s, and no one in the party spotted any of the expected inhabitants of that place—alive or otherwise.

Their absence frayed Solonn’s nerves further, especially due to the fact that there were no signs of any struggle having taken place in what had been their territory. Maybe they had simply relocated, he considered, but the lack of clear evidence as to why they were no longer there also reminded him uncomfortably of what had happened to the snorunt who were now missing—they had also been described as simply being gone. If the same thing was behind both the abduction of those snorunt and the lack of the spheal, sealeo, and walrein that should have been about in considerable numbers there…

He didn’t want to believe it. Not only did the possibility remind him too much of what Hagen had accused Oth of doing, but the thought of such dangerous people having access to that kind of power sent a chill through his veins. Nonetheless, Solonn was finding it harder and harder to imagine a group of exiled glalie, however large that group might be, as being capable of making people vanish so thoroughly. Believing that the enemies might very well have a teleporter in their midst after all, meanwhile…

Solonn shuddered and tried to chase such notions away, tried to remind himself that it was still fully possible that the spheal, sealeo, and walrein who had been in that area had all left of their own accord, but the contrary possibilities wouldn’t relent in his mind. His certainty as to just what they were facing began dissolving rapidly, leaving him all the more afraid for the lost snorunt, for the party seeking them, and for the Virc.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 07:08 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

The caverns beyond the deserted territory mirrored those just past the border cavern; there was no one about, not even any zubat. The imagined presences and movements continued popping up, however, and now that Solonn was helplessly entertaining the notion of their enemies being even more dangerous than he had already known them to be, those tricks of his mind had him all the more on edge.

Then a faint blue light appeared in the chamber that they had just entered, followed by a glalie who was carrying a pair of dead zubat in his jaws, and neither Solonn nor any of the other six with him could deny that the newly-arrived presence was really there. Automatically, Solonn raised a protect shield around himself; out of the corner of his eye, he saw some of the other glalie in the party do likewise.

The stranger noticed them almost immediately. “Hey!” he shouted, the zubat falling from his mouth, and as the stranger surged forward, Solonn caught a glimpse of more unfamiliar glalie rushing into the room—only to have the scene before him washed away in the light of a teleportation, light that lasted slightly longer than usual this time.

They rematerialized somewhere else altogether: suddenly they were all out in a snow-filled clearing in a forest of conifers, under sunlight, albeit only the weak rays of dawn. There was one more glalie in their midst than there should have been, and as that unexpected person tore himself away from the others in a hurry, Solonn recognized him as the first of the unknown glalie whom they’d seen in their previous location. They were alone with him now.

Why, Solonn wondered at once, had that glalie been brought with them?

He saw the stranger swiftly light up with a dark blue aura as he backpedaled, and Solonn realized in almost the same instant that his own protect shield had also fallen, as had those of everyone else who had raised one. His heart hammering, he hurriedly tried to bring it back up, feeling the slightest relief when he succeeded.

The unknown glalie’s eyes, already wide and blazing with obvious bewilderment and fear, brightened further and turned white—but that image promptly exploded into another golden nothingness. The picture that replaced it barely more than an instant later was nearly identical, save for the fact that the white light in the stranger’s eyes was gone and Oth had moved a few yards forward from its prior position.

The stranger looked about frantically until he found the claydol. Solonn suspected at once that the unknown glalie had figured out that Oth was the one behind the warping about and had targeted it as a result; without really giving it any further thought, Solonn tapped into his own sheer cold power and kept a hold on it, ready to strike at him the moment the stranger’s shield fell—

—And then there was yet another burst of golden light, another lingering one. The first thing Solonn saw in its wake was the now shieldless stranger dropping to the floor as an echoing crack sounded.

Solonn looked the rest of the party over in order to try and figure out who had beaten him to the strike; he saw Zdir, breathing noticeably heavily and still holding her gaze upon the unconscious glalie, and got the immediate impression that the sheer cold had been her doing.

Though not ungrateful to her for that, Solonn couldn’t deny that there was an easier way to have gone about solving the trouble that she and Oth had just taken care of: she had said that they would avoid any situation that might erupt into conflict altogether wherever possible, and they could have gotten out of that situation altogether the moment that it had reared its head.

He found himself feeling rather inclined to ask for an explanation as to why they hadn’t done just that—as it stood, it seemed as though Zdir had just put them in needless danger. He saw looks on the faces of the glalie at his sides that suggested that they might be thinking likewise.

<For any among you who are wondering where we presently are, we are in Aderi. We are far from Shoal Cave—we are safe here from any who would pose a threat to us,> Oth spoke up then from right beside the fallen glalie, fielding the question of their current whereabouts before anyone could voice it. <We are also far from Mordial,> it added for Solonn’s sake.

<Zdir has identified this person as being one of the exiles,> it went on. There was a distinct unease in its mindvoice… a hesitance, Solonn thought. <As such, she believes that he is likely to have had some involvement with the abduction of the snorunt and may therefore know their current location.>

A shiver ran through Solonn then as he looked upon the fallen glalie, his throat going dry, the light in his eyes unsteady. It had just truly hit him: this might have been the one who took Jen. Alternatively, that exile might have been the one who took Azvida’s life or Jeneth’s, or even both… Solonn felt his stomach turn.

<If it turns out that this person is uninvolved with the ones who were responsible for the kidnappings and murders, we will return him to Shoal Cave and continue on our search.> It lowered its head very slightly. <I will now determine if that is the case, as well as if this person has any information that would be of use to us if that is not the case.>

Solonn’s eyes went wide; he had realized at once just how Oth was going to go about determining those things, and he couldn’t pretend that it didn’t disturb him in a deep and very personal way. He shot a shocked and disappointed look at Zdir—it had to have been her idea, he was sure. He couldn’t imagine Oth, who always asked for consent before looking into another’s mind, volunteering that course of action.

“Is… is this really necessary?” Solonn asked her.

Zdir looked at him with an expression that he couldn’t decipher. “You can’t mean what you’re asking. Surely you of all people would recognize this as something that needs to be done,” she said somberly. “You heard Oth: this person is very likely to know where the children are—probably moreso than anyone else we’d be likely to encounter anytime soon. If he does know something about it, we need to know that something, too.”

Offense moved swiftly into Solonn’s features; he didn’t like even the slightest suggestion that he wasn’t giving the kidnapped snorunt due concern, particularly given who was among them. “Well, yes, of course we do, but—”

“But what?” Zdir interrupted him. “Should we really take the time to wake him, to deal with any further attempts to fight us or perhaps try to flee from us, and then to try and get him to answer our questions once we’ve got him cooperating that far? That could be time that the children may not necessarily have. We don’t know what their captors ultimately intended to do with them when they took them.”

Solonn tried to respond to her, but instead he ended up breaking eye contact with her and shutting his mouth almost as soon as he’d opened it, not knowing what to say. He wasn’t even sure what to think. He agreed with Zdir in a way, unable to stand the thought of further harm befalling Jen and those who had been taken along with him—especially with regards to the thought of harm occurring because the party had failed to get to the snorunt in time to stop it—but he had a considerably harder time agreeing with what she was proposing to be done to that glalie’s mind.

Gods… why do you even care this much about him? part of him asked, reminding him silently of just who that person lying there might be and just what that person might have done. Images crossed his mind of the broken bodies in the temple and the mist that hung over them, images of ruined eyes on a painfully familiar face looking sightlessly up at him as their owner’s life ebbed away, and he couldn’t bite back the choked, near-voiceless sob they brought from him.

Then another mental image intruded, that of a dragon made of blazing light with pitch-black holes for eyes, and that sob sharpened into a hiss.

He turned to face Oth and ask it if it, at least, was truly fine with what it was about to do… only to find the claydol now hovering before and slightly above the unconscious glalie with its head lowered and all but the foremost of its eyes closed. It had already begun its scan of the exile’s mind, Solonn recognized.

Solonn looked away at once. It was hard enough for him to see someone hanging there and probing the mind of another person, enemy or not, like some kind of psychic parasite. It was even worse with that someone being a friend of his. He only hoped at this point that Oth’s search would bear fruit, that it would indeed lead to the children’s salvation.

Minutes passed, a wait that was made no easier for Solonn to endure by his awareness of the remaining chance that searching the exile’s mind wouldn’t yield any information that would aid their efforts, thus resulting in precious time having been wasted and a mind invaded with no good coming of it. Come on, he urged Oth voicelessly, at least get it over with…

Finally, <This person is indeed involved with the guilty parties, and he knows exactly where the children are presently being held.> Even now, with the deed having been done, Oth still sounded hesitant, and something of a somber tone had crept into its mindvoice to join it, which immediately struck Solonn as ominous—had Oth discovered bad news regarding the current state of the stolen children? <I will be transporting us there shortly, picking up the snorunt, and then transporting them along with the rest of us to the Haven. I am sorry to say that someone has… tampered with their minds, making them believe that they belong among the exiles—hopefully it is within the capabilities of the people at the Haven to undo this tampering.>

Solonn swore that he felt his heart stop for a moment at those words. The news that there was someone among the enemies who could control minds and that such a thing had been done to those children—to his own half-brother—hit him so hard and on such a personal level that he had to sit down before he could simply fall from the air. He saw the others moving toward Oth in preparation for their imminent teleportation and tried with no real success to calm himself, searching through his memories of the Haven as he managed to rise once more and joined the rest of the glalie in their tight cluster around the claydol. He remembered the various types of psychic therapists there, and he vanished from the scene with a pleading prayer that one of them might be able to restore the children’s minds to normalcy.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 07:09 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

The light that removed the party from Aderi lingered in much the same way that the flashes that had accompanied some of Oth’s most recent teleportations had, only for longer this time and not quite as steadily. On a couple of occasions, it attempted to fade out in the way that it always did when its passengers had arrived at their new destination, but each time it pulsed right back to full intensity before it could get more than a little dimmer. Every time it happened, it also brought a bizarre sensation to those whom it carried, a sense of only possibly having arrived somewhere.

The result was that when they definitely, finally reached a destination and the light was allowed at last to vanish completely, all but the one of them who’d been in command of the process were left fairly disoriented. The sheer amount of difference between where they now were and where they had been didn’t help matters.

Once his brain was finally convinced that he physically existed somewhere again, Solonn recognized their artificial, pale-walled, brightly-lit surroundings as the interior of the Haven. He recognized something else, as well—or rather someone else; several someones, in fact—a sight that shot a bolt of relief and gratitude through him. The relief was quickly dampened, however, when he saw a fuchsia aura bloom around those someones. It was Oth’s telekinetic hold, there to keep the eight snorunt who now accompanied them from escaping, and it reminded him swiftly of just why they had been brought to this place.

Most of the snorunt began struggling almost immediately as if trying to break loose and make a run for it, but to no avail. “Help!” one of them called out, and a couple of the others followed suit. “Help!”

“They’re… they’re not gonna come…” another said, sounding as though he were on the brink of panic, a frantically-sweeping gaze taking in the unfamiliar place in which he’d just found himself. “They can’t…” Most of the shouting snorunt fell silent at his words, but one kept on, raising her voice almost to its breaking point in desperation.

The sound of footsteps mingled with her cries, a slapping of multiple bare feet against linoleum. Turning to identify the source, Solonn saw a pair of chansey rushing to join the group, and he heard what was likely another one coming from the opposite direction.

“What’s going on here?” one of them asked. She seemed a bit startled, undoubtedly due to the good-sized group and the screaming children among them that had just suddenly burst into being in her vicinity, and might have been even moreso than she let herself appear to be.

<These snorunt have been subjected to some sort of psychic tampering,> Oth answered her, raising its true voice to overcome the din of the still-shouting snorunt, though both the accompanying telepathic message and the fact that that snorunt was momentarily stricken silent by the very alien sound of its speech rendered that unnecessary.

The chansey frowned, exchanging not-quite-readable glances with the other two of her kind who were present before letting an equally inscrutable one linger briefly upon first the snorunt and then Oth. “Go fetch Adn, please,” she then said to one of the other chansey, who went to do so at once, while the third of the chansey returned to the desk across the room at which she’d been sitting before this issue had teleported into her midst. Looking up slightly toward Oth, the remaining chansey said, “Don’t worry; Adn will take them off of your hands soon. He’ll also be the one who’s going to see what can be done about this ‘tampering’ you spoke of.”

Adn… The name didn’t ring a bell for Solonn, but then again not many of the minor details of what he recalled of Convergence seemed reachable at the time given the much bigger things on his mind, one of which was almost literally right in front of him.

He looked back to the snorunt, identifying Jen as one of the still-struggling ones, and he gently nudged his way past Zereth, who hovered beside him, to move closer to his half-brother. “Jen,” he said once in front of him, trying to keep the worry out of his voice out of some scant hope that this might in turn calm Jen, a hope that he knew to be vain even as he exercised it. “It’s going to be all right,” he tried to assure Jen as well as himself. “They’re going to take care of you.”

Jen ceased his struggle against his confines, stopping to look up at the massive face whose owner had just spoken to him. Fear was written all over his own face, but his features tightened suddenly, an imperfect and very deliberate hardening. “You’re… you’re not gonna get away with this,” he said, trying to sound tough but failing completely. “You’d better let us go!”

Solonn backed away slightly, involuntarily, the light of his eyes wavering with concern and dimmed by sadness. He sighed, somehow feeling disappointed despite not really being surprised by Jen’s response. In his current condition, Jen really had no reason to trust him—for all Solonn knew, his half-brother might not even recognize him at the moment, a thought which saddened Solonn further still.

Nonetheless, “It’ll be all right,” Solonn said again, if only for his own sake.

Once again, footsteps came sounding from nearby: lighter, longer strides this time. Their source, a blue-haired gardevoir, almost seemed to glide rather than walk through the corridor leading in despite the contrary evidence his audible steps gave.

“I’ll take it from here,” the newly-arrived gardevoir said in a warm, resonant voice, thereby identifying himself as Adn. The snorunt who were still struggling suddenly found their efforts no longer in vain as Oth relinquished its hold over them, but they were swiftly yet gently gathered up in Adn’s telekinesis before they could do anything with their newfound freedom. “Do any of you know what sort of being is responsible for what’s been done to them?” Adn asked of the party. As he spoke, he made the eight snorunt rise slightly from the ground in unison, then brought them over to be held in midair all around him.

<I am afraid not,> Oth answered. <Will this interfere with your work?>

“Well, it may take me a bit more effort if, for example, their reprogramming turns out to be the work of a ghost’s methods rather than a psychic’s, but I’m certain that I’ll be able to undo it regardless of its cause. It just might have shaved a little time off of the process if I could have known how to approach it from the start. They still ought to be just fine when I’m finished with them,” Adn said.

“All right, then, let’s let him get to his work,” the chansey who’d stayed with the group then spoke up. “Come with me,” she said, beckoning with a stubby, fingerless paw as she began to turn away from them.

The party followed her out of the room. As they moved, Solonn took a look back at Adn and his patients until the gardevoir and snorunt disappeared back into the corridor from whence Adn had come, hoping that the confidence that Adn had shown in his own abilities would prove to be well-deserved, trying to remind himself that he’d had enough confidence in the Haven to have brought it up even when he hadn’t known for sure if it was still up and running. He’ll fix this, he tried to assure himself.

The chansey led them into a fairly spacious room with a pair of large windows to the outside showing an early-evening sky over a street with sparse traffic. There were chairs lining the walls, but no one took any of them, the glalie merely seating themselves on the floor while the chansey stood by the entrance and Oth hovered close to her.

“Adn will be here with the snorunt once he’s finished treating them,” the chansey said, holding the crowd of somewhat large creatures together in her sights as best she could. “There’ll also be someone else here later on who’ll have a few questions for you regarding what happened to them. In the meantime, if any of you would like some refreshments, the cafeteria is down the hall to the left,” she told them, gesturing in that direction. “There are restrooms right next to this room—don’t worry; there are instructions posted in there if you need them. And if you need anything else, just ask Catherine at the front desk, okay?” With that, the chansey left.

“Hmm…” Zdir said once the chansey was out of sight. She turned toward Solonn. “Do you know who this ‘someone’ who’s going to be asking us questions later is or why they’re wanting to ask them? Might they be inclined to think that we’re the culprits?” She cocked her head slightly as something occurred to her that apparently intrigued her. “Or might they perhaps be inclined to offer us aid in dealing with the exiles?”

After a bit of searching through his brain, “Someone from the police department,” he reckoned aloud. “Their Security Guild,” he clarified almost immediately. “And… I can’t say if anyone is personally suspicious of us or not, but they will want to be as certain as possible before they conclude that it wasn’t us.” Unlike some people… he thought bitterly. “As for offering us aid…” he said, pausing briefly once again for another moment’s perusing of his memories of Convergence’s policies, only realizing then just how much they might have changed since the days when he had lived and worked there, “I don’t know for sure. They might only be concerned with making sure that what we’re dealing with back home poses no threat here.”

“Depending on what this unknown, mind-altering being—or, gods help us, possibly beings—that the exiles have on their side is, it might very well pose a threat here,” Zdir said grimly. “Well, whatever the motives and intentions of our hosts might be, we would probably do well to have as many answers for them as possible under the circumstances…” She then cast a look at Oth and apparently told it something in private over the link that they still shared, for it nodded toward her as if in response, clicking softly, and drifted over to her side. “We’ll be right back,” Zdir told the rest of the glalie, rising, and then Oth teleported away, taking Zdir with it.

Solonn stared for a moment at the spot where they had just been, then let his gaze sweep over the room. It was only then that he finally realized that the exile was no longer with them; he had been left behind in Aderi, Solonn reckoned. Solonn was sure that he knew what Zdir had just asked of Oth, and he couldn’t keep the unease that that certainty brought from his face.

“Looking to him again, are they?” Narzen mused aloud.

“Probably, yes,” Solonn muttered, guessing that Narzen had drawn the same conclusion about Zdir and Oth’s errand that he had.

“Huh.” Narzen sounded more intrigued than anything else by the whole matter, earning him a look of distaste from Solonn.

Solonn turned away, letting out his next breath on a low hiss. “I do not like this…”

“I don’t like it, either,” Zereth said. “It’s creepy as hell…”

Solonn’s features softened, albeit only minimally. It seemed that there was someone else in his present company who agreed with him in some sense, at least. He looked toward the two who had not participated in the discussion thus far and found both of their expressions not immediately readable. Not yet truly knowing Ronal, he couldn’t really guess what was going on behind that pair of eyes… but it wasn’t long at all before he had an unpleasant thought about what was going on behind Zilag’s.

He couldn’t help but wonder if Zilag might have developed full-fledged mistrust of Oth in the wake of seeing it enter another person’s mind without that person’s consent… and if perhaps Zilag was thinking that Oth might not have been telling the truth when it said that it couldn’t open telepathic communication among the entire party, if perhaps Zilag was thinking that it might be using the link that it shared with Zdir alone to influence her choices.

If anything, Solonn couldn’t help but think, it’s the other way around.

Solonn looked away from the others, his eyes finding a clock upon the wall next to a dark and silent television set with an “OUT OF ORDER” sign taped to its screen, and he wondered just how long he and the others had been sitting there in that room. The clock was of no help in the matter; he didn’t know what time it had been when they’d arrived. He was sure that it hadn’t been very long, really, but nonetheless, it felt to him as though it had been. Solonn figured that however sure Adn was that he could help the snorunt, it would take time to do so, especially given that he had eight minds to restore. Still, he found himself fretting just a little bit more with every movement of that second hand.

“Gods, I wish he’d get back here…” he said aloud to no one in particular, referring to Adn. “Or that I could have gone with him.”

“That Adn guy?” Zilag asked from beside him. Solonn made a faint, affirmative noise. “Don’t worry,” Zilag said as comfortingly as he could manage. “I’m sure he’ll be done with them soon. He seemed like he really knows what he’s doing.”

“He probably does,” Solonn said, the more rational parts of his mind sure enough of this despite how it seemed that other parts of it couldn’t help but worry to the contrary. “It’s just… the way Jen looked at me, the way he talked… I really don’t think he recognized me. It’s… it’s almost like we haven’t got him back yet,” he said with a pained, concerned sort of frustration in his tone and the gaze that he sent into Zilag’s eyes at those words. “Not until Adn takes care of him.”

“Which he will,” Zilag said, managing to impart an earnest conviction to those words in spite of the concern for both Solonn and Jen that also tinged his voice.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-10-2011 at 10:59 PM. Reason: Revisions.
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

It was then that Oth and Zdir returned. All eyes in the room were on them at once.

“Well?” Narzen said. “What did you find out?”

<The exile is named Anzen Vin-Siara,> Oth began. <He did not participate in the attack on the temple or in the abductions; he is primarily just a hunter for the Sinaji—that is what those of his group have come to call themselves.

<He is only a recent addition to their number and is still of low rank among them, and as such he has proven to know little that is of any use to us. The only things of any real significance that I found were the place where the Sinaji are currently based and the identity of their leader—the one who, according to Anzen, reprogrammed the minds of the children. Their location is in the far western areas of Shoal Cave, as far from Virc-Dho as one can go without leaving Shoal Cave entirely, and their leader is named Sanaika Val-Harka.>

That got an immediate reaction; every face other than Zdir’s looked back at the claydol incredulously. “Wait, that guy? Seriously?” Zereth asked.

“That can’t possibly be right…” Solonn said. He just couldn’t imagine the same Sanaika whom he had encountered all those years ago—or any other glalie, for that matter—as having the ability to alter minds in the way that the minds of those snorunt had been. There had to be something else in the equation…

“That’s what I said. I can believe that he’s their leader. That he could have done what else Anzen thinks he did, however…” Zdir shook her head. “No, that, I suspect, is just something Sanaika wants his followers to believe so that he can garner more respect from them. There is something else among them, I’m quite certain, something that people like Anzen don’t know about…”

She trailed off, sounds from somewhere outside the room drawing her attention: tapping sounds, seeming to come from more than one source, drawing closer. Everyone else in the waiting room noticed them, too, and Solonn’s heart skipped a beat as he realized at once what they signified: they were the footsteps of snorunt. It seemed that Adn had succeeded in reversing the children’s reprogramming, and he was now returning with them.

The gardevoir came into sight, leading the snorunt before him. The children moved with a not-quite-rhythmic, slightly uncertain-seeming gait that went with the rather confused and overwhelmed expressions worn by those snorunt whose faces could be seen at the moment. Adn gently shepherded them all in before him, encouraging them to sit down among the glalie.

As Adn did so, Solonn noticed that something was still amiss about the snorunt: there were only seven of them. He also noticed that none of them seemed particularly interested in approaching him, and when he looked the seven over, he did not see Jen. He shot a look at Adn, his eyes blazing in a swiftly-building panic, certain in an instant that the gardevoir had failed Jen for some reason—or worse, had done harm in attempting to help him.

“I have succeeded in undoing the modifications to their minds,” Adn told the six glalie and the claydol, “and yes, with one exception, I’m afraid,” he added quickly before any of the owners of the questioning or panicked looks that were aimed his way could say anything.

“Why?” Solonn asked him, sounding accusatory as well as fearful despite an earnest effort to not let that question come out as a demand. “Why can’t you fix him?”

“I can,” Adn said, unfazed by Solonn’s tone, sounding every bit as calm and confident as he had every other time he’d spoken to anyone of that group. “It’s just going to take a bit longer than it did for the rest of them. Minds are unique—they vary in their resistance to psychic procedures, and for some reason that I’ve yet to determine, his is being particularly stubborn in giving up its malady.”

Solonn wondered what could be causing that to be the case, and he couldn’t help but fear that it might be a sign of some further harm done to Jen by whatever had brainwashed him. Still… he cast a glance over the faces of the other seven children, all of them successfully deprogrammed—he wanted to believe that Jen would soon be among them. Those seven snorunt stood there as proof that Adn had indeed known what he was doing; he had solved their problems. Solonn wanted to have faith that the gardevoir would solve Jen’s, as well.

“You’re… you’re sure you can help him,” he said, reaching for confirmation, for anything that could help him feel sure that things would turn out all right.

“Absolutely,” Adn said, kindness and reassurance playing about his orange eyes. “Do not worry, any of you. However long it takes, I’ll make sure that he—”

Quite suddenly, thoroughly unexpectedly, the gardevoir’s voice dropped out, as did all sound. Sight was erased in virtually the same moment, consumed by an all too familiar golden emptiness that lingered like the one before it, though not for as long, and seemed to waver ever so briefly at one point in its duration.

The scenery of the Haven was gone. They were surrounded once again by stone surfaces instead of painted walls, by a wide tunnel winding out of sight rather than the waiting room. All of the glalie were still present, as were Oth and the seven snorunt who had been successfully treated. There was no sign of the gardevoir who had been speaking to them the moment before.

Inexplicably, they had teleported, leaving Convergence behind.

Multiple pairs of blue eyes looked about in confusion, their owners rising in near unison, with several of them turning to the only one present whom they knew to have been capable of pulling them out of the Haven in such a way, including Solonn’s. “What… Oth, why did you do that?” he couldn’t help but ask, his voice barely more than a whisper.

<I… I did not mean to teleport,> Oth said, and it actually sounded rather afraid. <The thought of doing so never even crossed my mind…>

“Well, you need to get us back there!” Solonn hissed. He had to get back to Jen—the thought of leaving him behind was unacceptable to him as it was, but doing so while the snorunt’s well-being still hung in the balance…

Oth made no obvious response at first. A few seconds passed, and then it emitted a noise that might have indicated worry, frustration, or both, briefly shutting all of its eyes as if trying to focus harder on something. <I cannot get it to happen… I cannot even find the energy to access for its use!>

“Keep trying!” Solonn urged it, becoming increasingly worried not only for Jen but now for Oth as well, wondering what in the world could possibly be rendering it unable to teleport and what had caused it to teleport involuntarily.

“Where are we?” one of the snorunt spoke up fearfully.

“Well… I don’t think we know yet,” Zilag answered him quietly, though there was a hint of unease in his voice that suggested that an answer might be occurring to him, and not one that he liked. “Do we?” he then asked of the others.

“Yes and no,” Zdir said. “I’m quite certain that we’re in Shoal Cave—this place looks familiar. Which part of Shoal Cave it is, however… that I can’t say.”

It seemed that no one else among them could say exactly where they now were, either. Solonn only knew that their current location put them all at considerable risk; if they were spotted by the wrong people now, especially with those children in tow… He felt sick just thinking about it, and he could tell by the looks on the other glalie’s faces that they were having similar thoughts and feelings about the situation.

“So… now what do we do?” Narzen asked.

“We go home!” the snorunt who had spoken last said. “Please, I just wanna go home!”

“Yeah!” another one said.

There was a brief silence. Then, “Yes. We’re going home,” Zdir said. “I’m going to try and remember the way there from here. Now, I won’t lie to you: it might get scary on the way there, but we will protect you. We promise.” There were several noises of assent and nods from the other glalie and Oth at those words. Zdir looked down the tunnel in one direction and then the other, appearing to be deep in thought. She looked to Oth for a moment, the claydol nodding at something that she had just told it privately.

“Come on,” she then said. “Now, don’t be afraid of what Oth’s about to do,” she told the children. “It’s only going to carry you so that you don’t have to walk and so that no one will hear you walking. Just try to relax as best as you can and try not to talk unless it’s really important.” With that, Oth telekinetically took hold of the seven snorunt and lifted them up just a few inches off of the ground, at which a couple of them couldn’t help but gasp or yelp despite Zdir’s assurances.

“As for the rest of you,” Zdir said, “if at any point you know for certain where we are and how to get back to Virc-Dho from there, let me know. You can take the lead from there.”

Zdir began moving forward then, and everyone else followed, with the children all carried through the air within a fuchsia aura and surrounded by the adult pokémon. The tunnel through which they all traveled led them on a path that was winding but remained as-yet unbroken. Sooner or later, though, it was sure to branch out. They would be forced to stop and choose a direction—Solonn hoped that Zdir would pick the right one.

Those concerns were thrown aside by something else altogether when they finally did find themselves halted, however—something that took immediate precedence in the minds of all who saw it.

Wherever the party and the children presently were, they were no longer there alone.


Credit for Ryneika’s name goes to Saffire Persian. Thanks again, Saffire Persian! ^^

Next time: The party finds out just what they’ve run into and where they are exactly, and the matter of finding a way to get the children home safely becomes even more difficult. See you then!

- Sike Saner

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Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 07:10 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 03-23-2010, 01:05 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

Things are never easy, that's for sure. Still, I'm sure Solonn will get what needs to be done...Done. Another excellent chapter!
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:37 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

Grassy_Aggron: Well, we'll certainly see what he does. Thanks for reading and for replying! ^^

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Old 04-05-2010, 01:42 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

Not a problem. I feel bad this doesn't get a lot of replies except for me...It's a great story that you obviously put your all into.

I think the reason people don't want to read it is the length of chapters. They see it and are, like, "ZOMG LAONG CHAPTERZ CANT REED!" and run away. Or they're lurking >.> *Pokes the shadows with a stick*

It's amazing with the cultures you come up with! Where do you get your names and ideas? You had to be inspired by something :)
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Old 04-07-2010, 12:25 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

Grassy_Aggron: Heh, yeah, I make muffin chapters. XB And I know that indeed that isn't everyone's cup of tea, but then again, the same thing goes for short chapters (I call those popcorn chapters--I still don't have a food-related name for medium-length chapters, though). And any kind of chapter one could think of, really. X3

So yeah, at this point I'm pretty much at peace with the fact that one can't please all of the people all of the time, and as such I generally don't worry too much about chapter length. ^^; They just come out as long as they seem to take to get the job; if how long one comes out makes it something that somebody doesn't want to read, then I apologize for it not being to that somebody's preference, and I wish that somebody well in finding something that is.

As for the names and such, a lot of that really just comes out of the blue. X3; I usually just go with whatever comes to mind; the only times I'll reject an idea is if it's like a name that I don't think fits in with the rest of the names that I've shown the character's culture to use.

There have been a couple of names that came from elsewhere, though. Morgan's last name is an example; she's named after Radiohead's Thom Yorke (not in-universe, mind you). Another example I could give you is Kashisha; one of my cats (one who's no longer with us, unfortunately) would always hiss at me whenever I said that. I don't know if it's actually a real word in any actual language or not (as is the case with all of the made-up names; any matchups with real words are strictly coincidental); all I know is that there was once a little black bobtailed kitty named Billie who hated that word/name/whatever and that said word/name/whatever eventually found its way onto one of my characters. X3;

There's also at least one instance of something that kind of falls under both the "out of the blue" category and the "inspired by something" category: the appearance of the human disguise Jal'tai used. He's basically Colonel Sanders, appearance-wise. XD I didn't mean anything by having him look like that; that's just the way he looked when he first popped into my head--I have no idea why--and I just kind of went, Okay. X3;

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Old 10-25-2010, 12:02 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

Chapter 16 – To Return

If the sight before the party hadn’t already stopped them in their figurative tracks, the sound that came with it—a long and incredibly loud roar, the product of six voices calling out in unison—certainly would have. The snorunt and glalie and the single claydol in their midst now stared at its source: a cluster of walrein blocked their path, each of the bulky, blue creatures wearing an expression that told all too clearly that they were uninterested in letting the party pass without giving them a hard time about it.

Solonn eyed the foremost of the walrein warily. The Virc didn’t encounter these beings anywhere near as often as they did the less evolved counterparts thereof and generally left them alone whenever they did stumble upon them, and with good reason. Those who had gotten on the bad side of one had not come away unscathed, and their accounts of those encounters had spread among the public—all Virc glalie, as far as Solonn was aware, knew of the strength, resilience, and dangerous tusks of the walrein.

Taking on just one of them was generally considered risky, and here were six—a potential threat to them even given their own numbers. And with the children still in their charge, not to mention the very real possibility that Oth’s present inability to teleport meant that it was unwell in some way or another, Solonn was not of the mind that they ought to be getting into any fights if they could help it.

If Zdir had expected to run into a gang of walrein en route, he hoped to all gods that she had some idea of how to deal with them peacefully.

<We apologize, sirs,> Oth spoke up; a couple of the walrein’s eyes darted around momentarily, trying to pinpoint the source of the words without sound, but the rest of the walrein seemed to guess where it had come from right away, casting an acknowledging and briefly appraising glance at the claydol only to fix it right back onto the glalie almost immediately. <We did not mean to startle you, and we do not mean any harm. We merely need to pass through—we must return these children to their homes. We will not cause any trouble for you in the process.>

The foremost of the walrein drew a deep breath, his already broad chest expanding greatly. “I don’t know who you are,” he said in a booming voice, still keeping his eyes locked onto those of the glalie in front of him as he spoke, “let alone what, but I reckon that you’re not from around here, and I imagine that you haven’t been given the most complete picture of how things work around here if you’ve chosen to ally yourself with those creatures. At any rate, no, you are not passing through, not any of you.”

He had to raise his voice on those last few words; a great thundering noise had arisen and was growing louder by the second. It shuddered to a stop as its cause came into view: beyond the six walrein, a large crowd of sealeo had amassed, and from what Solonn could see of them, they didn’t look any more hospitable than the walrein had. If anything, they looked even less so.

“I won’t attack children of any kind,” the apparent spokesman of the walrein went on, “and neither will any of my men here, but they…” He gave a quick, backwards jerk of his head toward the crowd behind him. “They may not be so inclined to show that kind of mercy.”

<With all due respect, sir… do you not have any authority over them?> Oth asked.

“We do. But at the same time, we understand that their caution may well have saved their lives or those of their loved ones in the past. Now then, if you’re really interested in getting those children back where they belong safely, you won’t push your luck in here. Go find some other route to take,” the foremost walrein said, and his tone told that he was done discussing the matter.

There was a moment that would have been nearly silent if it weren’t for the audible shuffling about of anxious sealeo—Solonn became concerned that they might decide to just charge at them and try to drive them away or worse. He found himself rather surprised that they hadn’t done so already, in fact.

Then, <We will go. Again, we apologize.> To the rest of the party, <Go quickly, but not too quickly. Zdir does not entirely trust that the sealeo will not charge after us, and neither do I, but we must stay together.>

Not quite in unison, the glalie turned around. The party began making their retreat in nearly the same instant. The sounds of restless sealeo were still audible, and there was a sound that suggested flippers slapping against stone that made Solonn worry for a moment that he and the rest of the party were indeed being pursued, but those sounds grew softer rather than louder as they left the site of that encounter further behind, and Oth was giving no indication that anyone was following them.

Eventually, <Stop,> Oth instructed the party. <We are back where we began. I… regret to inform you that I remain unable to teleport,> it said heavily. <We have no choice but to take the opposite direction from this point this time. Again, if any of you recognize our surroundings at any point, please let us know.>

Zdir made her way to the foremost position once more as the claydol spoke, and Solonn looked at her with uncertainty as she moved past him. Maybe she had simply made a mistake in choosing the route that had led to the walrein and sealeo, and the opposite path was in fact the one that led back to Virc-Dho… but there was also the possibility that she had chosen correctly the first time, that the right way back to the warren—and maybe the only way there—was now impassable, meaning that they were now more lost than ever before. He caught a look on Zdir’s face as she passed that suggested similar concerns, as well as a hint of embarrassment and apology in the way that the light in her eyes fluctuated.

The party moved out, and as they did, Solonn tried to focus on the lingering possibility that Oth would regain the ability to teleport before they could get hopelessly lost or run into any more trouble. Still, the fact that Oth being able to teleport again was only a possibility at this point made it difficult for Solonn to be too optimistic about the situation. Neither he nor apparently anyone else even knew what was wrong with Oth, exactly, though Solonn still harbored dark suspicions about the way that the guard back at the Security Guild’s holding cell had treated it. He had very little understanding of how a claydol’s body worked, alien as they were; for all he knew, too much exposure to hostile elements could damage whatever mechanism allowed them to teleport—and perhaps permanently.

Please, gods… don’t let that be the case. Please let it heal…

At length, the path split. Both of the routes that they were presented with led leftward, with the main route curving out of sight a relatively short distance past the entrance to an offshoot in the left wall. After a few moments’ worth of tight-browed consideration, Zdir guided the party into the farther path.

That path ultimately turned out to be a dead end, opening into a somewhat large, oddly-shaped room. Solonn prepared to turn back around and saw Zereth out of the corner of his eye already doing so, but Zdir stayed put and appeared to be thinking briefly.

Then, <We will stop and rest here for a while,> Oth announced; Zdir began leading the rest of the party well into the room, away from the exit, as it spoke. <I will make further attempts to teleport while we are here.>

Most of the glalie put a little bit more space between themselves and the snorunt and sat down, many of them leaning against the walls. Zdir, however, remained where she was, staying airborne, and she turned to face the children as Oth lowered them to the floor. Some of the snorunt wore confused or worried looks, while a couple of the others looked annoyed to varying degrees by the current situation.

“Now, don’t stray, any of you,” Zdir said in a lowered, gentle tone once Oth had relinquished its hold over them completely. “The ones who took you from home are still out here, and until we get you back home, we’re the only ones who can protect you from them.

“Speaking of the ones who took you…” she went on, “can any of you tell me anything about whoever it was that tampered with your minds, made you believe things that weren’t true?”

All of the snorunt responded in the negative, shaking their heads or saying “no” in one way or another.

“I don’t think we were awake when it happened… were we?” one of the slightly larger, presumably older ones among them asked of the others, which sent another wave of negatory responses through the children. “I was at the snowgrounds just minding my own business—we all were—and then a couple of glalie showed up. They knocked out Jeril right away. Her and Seska. We couldn’t get out of there. Pretty soon, they got all of us.”

“I tried to fight back,” the snorunt at her side said, looking proud for a moment, but wilted just as quickly, looking aside. “…It didn’t work.”

“At least you tried,” said the snorunt who had been speaking previously. She sounded a bit regretful, even ashamed. “But anyway, yeah. Next thing I knew, I woke up somewhere else, and I thought I’d always been there.”

Zdir nodded in acknowledgment, drawing and releasing a deep breath with a look of disappointment. “Is that what all of you remember, more or less?” she asked, at which the snorunt all nodded in near-unison.

“I’m sorry I can’t remember any more about it,” another of them said quietly, earnestly.

Zdir’s features softened a bit. “That’s okay,” she assured her. “It’s not your fault.”

There was a very brief flash of the light in her eyes then, and a small pile of snow appeared just behind her. She moved around to the other side of it, and Oth joined her there a moment later. “Eat,” Zdir told the snorunt. “You’ve certainly earned it.” Four of the snorunt obliged right away, with the rest only hesitating briefly before partaking of the snow. She watched them for a moment, then turned to face the majority of the other glalie.

<Are there any among you who have not successfully hunted in the past couple of days?> Oth asked then.

That question took hold of Solonn’s attention at once. His eyes widening, he looked over the snorunt, not knowing for sure how they might react to such a question… but found them all just sitting there and eating snow, giving no indication that they’d even heard the last thing that Oth had said. It had transmitted the message to the glalie alone, he realized.

With regards to that message… he had to stop and think for a moment, finding the last few relatively mundane hours preceding the hell that had broken loose in Virc-Dho hard to reach. He finally managed to recall having hunted shortly before he’d gone to sleep on the night prior to the attack on the temple and the snowgrounds, and he was fairly certain that that was in the time frame about which Oth had just inquired. He looked back toward Oth and shook his head.

Someone else had apparently done the opposite; <I am afraid that you will have to make do with ice until such time as the children have been returned to Virc-Dho,> Oth said. <Zdir believes that it would not be prudent to expose the children to predation at this time on the chance that it may disturb them too greatly. She wishes for them to remain as calm as possible for the sake of their safety and our own.>

That made sense, as far as Solonn was concerned—no one needed to be losing their heads at a time like this. He just hoped that no one, including himself, would be affected too detrimentally by the lack of proper food for a while. Ice could occupy the stomach, could pacify hunger to a degree, but without meat, the glalie in the party would start to grow weak and ill before terribly much longer.

Solonn decided to conjure up a moderately sized block of ice in front of himself then, the rest of the glalie each doing likewise for themselves. Though he still felt oddly disconnected from the hunger that he was fairly sure he should at least be starting to feel by now, he started in on the ice right away, trying not to eat too slowly, feeling that the party should and probably would be moving on before much longer.

As he fed, he saw Oth and Zdir make their way over to Narzen, who looked up from his ice with a questioning expression. Narzen maintained eye contact with Oth, and he nodded a couple of times over the seconds that followed, his expression turning from one of vague disappointment to one that suggested that he was intrigued by something and then to another that almost looked eager.

Oth and Zdir moved away from Narzen then, leaving Solonn to wonder what the apparent, silent, one-sided conversation that had just taken place there had been about. That question then moved aside in his mind as he saw Oth and Zdir stop before Zilag and start up a similar conversation with him.

Solonn frowned in puzzlement, wondering what they—or rather she, he imagined—could have seen fit to discuss privately with just one of them at a time rather than saying it to at least all of the glalie at once, if not to everyone who was present. He suspected that the subject they were on about with Zilag wasn’t the same as what they had discussed with Narzen, however: he noted that Zdir wore a visibly more serious expression while Oth spoke to Zilag, and noted also that Oth apparently had more to say to Zilag than it’d had to say to Narzen.

It was all too apparent that the topic in question was unsettling Zilag to some degree, but at the same time, Zilag responded affirmatively to every silent question he received, as far as Solonn could tell, and Zdir looked satisfied enough with his answers.

They began to drift away from Zilag then, returning to the spot near the snorunt where they’d been moments ago. The still-troubled look on Zilag’s face left Solonn feeling strongly inclined to go over to him and ask what that had been all about.

Before he could do so, however, <Zdir wishes to know if anyone else among you wishes to be left in Virc-Dho when we return the children,> Oth spoke up.

Solonn was shaking his head before he’d even quite realized that he was doing so. He was a fugitive, and a fairly recognizable one at that. Showing his face in the warren seemed incredibly ill-advised to him, and he got the distinct, unpleasant feeling that doing so would continue to be a bad idea for a long time—possibly forever, much as he hated to consider it.

<Very well, then,> Oth said. <If any of you change your minds later, please let me and Zdir know. Even if we have already returned the children by that point, we will help you get back to the warren.>

Zdir looked pleased enough with the silent answers that the rest of the glalie had given her, partaking of her ice once more and sending no further messages through Oth for the time being.

Solonn, meanwhile, was less at ease with the matter, for something in the way that Oth had inquired about it had struck him and struck him hard: if anyone else among you wishes to be left in Virc-Dho, it had said. Perhaps by “anyone else” it had been referring to Zdir, the thought occurred to him, but he promptly dismissed it; Zdir had the same good reason not to go back that he had, and he was sure that she recognized that fact. What he suspected instead was that Oth was referring to Narzen and Zilag there—that the matter of whether or not they wished to return was what those private conversations had been about (though why they had been singled out in that way, he still couldn’t guess), and that they had both said that they did want to go back to Virc-Dho.

This didn’t come as any real surprise to Solonn, at least not where Zilag was concerned. He knew that Zilag would want to go back home to his family. He just wasn’t sure any longer if it would be well-advised for Zilag—or anyone else in the party—to do so.

Once again he had remembered the lahain having known his name back in the council chamber, and once again he had found himself wondering just what else the Virc authorities saw fit to know. This time, however, it had occurred to him that maybe they already knew whom he associated with, and with Zdir having once been one of the Virc authorities, he suspected that she was well aware of just what they knew.

Solonn reckoned that if they did indeed know such things, then the authorities would likely want to look to those associates for any information that might help them track down the fugitives. And if they decided that those associates weren’t cooperating enough to suit them… Solonn swallowed hard, feeling as though the remainder of the ice that he’d generated for himself had just tried to force itself down his throat all at once.

But then something else crossed his mind. Wait… Whether or not they really would be in that kind of danger if they went back home seems like something Zdir would know, too. If Narzen and Zilag are in any danger from the authorities, then she wouldn’t let them go home, would she?

That, he couldn’t answer. He sort of figured that she wouldn’t, seeing as how she’d not been able to stand the thought of letting him, Grosh, or Oth be unjustly kept in the Security Guild’s custody. Still, the possibility that Zilag and Narzen would be greeted by harsh treatment from the guild upon their return sent new currents of worry through his already uneasy nerves.

There was yet another reason to hope that Oth would be able to teleport again soon, as if they needed any more. If Narzen, Zilag, or anyone else who decided to stay in Virc-Dho got themselves thrown into the Security Guild’s cells, he could see no other feasible way for them to be delivered from them.

<We will now resume our journey toward Virc-Dho,> Oth said then, sounding regretful, and telekinetically gathered up the children once more. As the other glalie began to rise and cluster around the snorunt, Solonn hurriedly finished his ice, then quickly rose to join the others. The party and their charges departed the cavern and went back out into the unknown, with Solonn still harboring concern for what might await some of them after reaching their destination in addition to that which he had already held for the trip.
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:03 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

The party backtracked to the fork in the road, taking the other route that it had offered this time. Not long afterward, they were met with another choice of multiple directions to take and subsequently ran into another dead end, but they didn’t stop there, and they only made a very brief stop for necessities at the third dead end that they encountered.

Meanwhile, nothing of their surroundings looked at all familiar to Solonn, and no one else had given any indication that they recognized anything around them since Zdir had mentioned that the place into which they’d unexpectedly teleported looked familiar. Maybe that wasn’t the place she thought it was after all, Solonn considered dismally. It truly seemed that they were traveling blind at this point—and there was the chance, he couldn’t help but consider, that they were headed straight for the Sinaji’s lair.

That thought sent a fresh bolt of fear into him. Before he had long to dwell on it, however, <Solonn! This place… we have been here, have we not?>

Being addressed directly when he’d not been expecting such a thing startled him initially; he threw a gaze about somewhat wildly, but couldn’t seem to connect any of what it showed him to anything that he could remember.

Then his wits congealed once more, and he nodded to Oth in confirmation as he realized that yes, he and the claydol had been here before, and recently, at that. He’d been here alone several times prior to that, furthermore; it was simply his first time looking at it from this angle.

Oth had moved to the front of the party and was now leading them towards an irregularity in the path before them, one that revealed itself to be a large, deep hole in the floor as they drew nearer to it. The party had managed to stumble upon Grosh’s home.

Oth came to a stop at the edge of the pit, and it once again relinquished its hold over the children. <Be careful not to fall in,> it warned them.

It leaned forward, peering down into the hole in silence. Next to it, Zdir was looking into its depths similarly, wearing a look of contemplation. She nodded at something that had been spoken silently.

<Solonn… do you suppose that your father would mind if we were to take shelter in his home while he is away?> Oth then asked.

The question took Solonn slightly by surprise, but then it occurred to him just why Oth might be asking such. When he and Oth had been on their way to visit Grosh, he had told it of how Grosh had managed to remain undisturbed in that hole for so many years. It might have occurred to the claydol that if such a creature had stayed successfully hidden there for so long, then the party could perhaps avoid being noticed likewise there.

Solonn figured that Grosh would have no problem at all with their using his home to keep themselves safe—if anything, he imagined, the steelix would be elated to know that he could be of some help to them, even if it was in some distant, indirect way.

Gods… he’d be happy just to know we’re alive, he recognized, which made him rather heartsick. Solonn nodded to Oth in response to its question, silently praying as he did so that the steelix on whose behalf he answered would be reunited with his home and what remained of his family before much longer.

<All right, then,> the claydol said. <I have proposed that we stop here to rest for a while, longer than any of our previous stops,> it then announced, which elicited a groan from one of the snorunt. <This—> It gestured toward the hole with one of its turret-hands, the other still clutching the herbs that it had gathered to its chest. <—has been the home of one of our allies for many years. He is elsewhere at this time, but I have assurances that he would not mind our staying here in his absence.

<Given a bit more time to rest, I may be able at last to teleport us to the warren. I sincerely hope that I will be. If not, that tunnel,> Oth said, pointing toward a passageway off to the left, <ultimately leads back to Virc-Dho, but fear not—it is a scarcely-traveled route. People virtually never come here. Our hope is that we may be able to avoid notice here, or at least more able to do so than we might be anywhere else that we can presently reach.>

That was, in truth, all it was: a hope. Still, it was better than nothing, Solonn supposed, and he furthermore reckoned that an extended period of rest might very well help the claydol succeed in finally reconnecting to its presently unavailable ability, which would make the final phase of their rescue of the children much easier to pull off without any further trouble. And spending that period of rest out of sight in that pit was certainly preferable to doing so out in the open.

A familiar scraping noise arose then; looking down into the hole, Solonn eventually saw a platform made of ice rising up toward the surface. It wasn’t of his making; he looked to Zdir, saw the brightened light in her eyes, and figured that either Oth had told her how to gain entry to the chambers below or else she had simply figured it out on her own.

She moved out onto the platform once it was level with the floor, and Ronal followed her, but she shook her head when Solonn and Zereth tried to do likewise.

<Zdir and Ronal wish to make certain that no one else is down there before the children are allowed to descend, just in case,> Oth explained.

As Solonn watched the platform slowly carrying Zdir and Ronal downward, the light from the two glalie’s eyes dwindling as they went deeper into the chasm, he found a thread of concern for them uncurling in his mind in spite of the fact that, for the most part, he still doubted that they’d find anyone down there. He didn’t question Zdir’s choice on this matter; he understood that no one else here—not even Oth, really—had as much reason as he had to believe that this place was left almost entirely alone. Now given cause to think about it, it occurred to him that maybe he was taking the safety of the pit before him at least a little bit for granted.

Before long, though, <They confirm that it is empty,> Oth said, and the platform could be heard rising again as the claydol spoke. There was no one on it as it ascended, Zdir and Ronal presumably having gone into the chamber adjacent to the one into which the chasm opened.

With the platform not being large enough to accommodate everyone who still waited outside at once, Oth directed Narzen and Zilag to go and sit down on the flat expanse of ice next, then moved to hover over their heads, assuring the glalie that it would attend to the snorunt on this descent and assuring the snorunt that it would not drop any of them in the process. All but a couple of the snorunt looked less than successfully comforted by its words as it brought the fuchsia aura to surround them once more, and one of them failed to bite back a whimper as he, along with the rest of the snorunt, were made to drift downward through the air after the sinking platform. Not long after, the platform returned to bring the remaining members of the party into the pit.

Grosh’s home seemed to lack some of its sense of familiarity as Solonn now beheld it. With so many more people gathered together in the chamber further inside than he had ever seen occupying that space before, it seemed much smaller than he remembered it being. It was much brighter than usual as well, with the light from so many eyes illuminating it.

“When can we leave?” one of the snorunt asked.

<We will leave once we have all had a chance to rest properly,> Oth answered.

The snorunt who had just spoken frowned. “But I don’t like this. I don’t like hiding in a hole when we could be going home. You said you knew where home is, right?”

“We do,” Zdir said. “But Oth might not be feeling well. It might be hurt. We want to give it a chance to recover before we continue.”

The snorunt narrowed his eyes slightly, holding Zdir’s gaze, looking as though he were trying to decide whether he liked her response well enough or not. Finally, shooting a glance at Oth, “You’d better hurry up and get better,” he said, then stalked off to sit against the wall. Several of the other snorunt seated themselves as well, as did most of the glalie.

<In the event that I… do not recover during our time here or at any point prior to our arrival at Virc-Dho,> Oth then began, another of those psychic transmissions that seemed to exclude the children, <we have decided on an alternate course of action for returning the children to Virc-Dho. For their safety, Narzen has agreed to escort them into the warren. He has also agreed to having a link established with me prior to doing so that will allow him to keep us informed of happenings within the warren.>

Out of the corner of his eye, Solonn saw Zereth shudder slightly. A bit to the right, he saw Narzen with that odd, eager look on his face again—it seemed that Zdir had certainly approached the right person about being the party’s eyes and ears back in Virc-Dho.

At any rate, Solonn found himself rather liking the thought of them having one of their own in such a position almost at once. They could know if Narzen were in trouble, be it through his transmissions via Oth or a conspicuous lack thereof, and Narzen could also inform them if anyone else among them who chose to stay in the warren were in any trouble.

He’ll have other things to keep an eye on, Solonn had to tell himself. He can’t spend the entire time guarding Zilag and his family.

<For now, we should try to rest as soon as we can,> Oth went on; the children apparently heard it this time, all of them turning to face it. <One of us will keep watch at all times, and we will take shifts. Who wishes to go first?>

“I’ll do it,” Ronal said simply, rising, and he moved over to sit in the imperfect archway separating the two chambers.

<The moment you feel too tired to focus on your surroundings correctly, wake someone else,> Oth told him. Zdir shot it a glance. <Someone other than me,> it added.

Oth set about trying to fall asleep right away then, and the blue light filling the room gradually dimmed as all but Ronal eventually followed suit. Solonn lay there, eyes closed, but remained awake as the time passed. Concerns about what might lie ahead for those who were gathered there with him, wondering about what might be happening at the moment to certain people who were presently elsewhere, and even the knowledge that he probably wouldn’t have long to sleep before someone prodded him awake so that he could take his shift all kept his mind too preoccupied to allow it to drift away with any ease. Above him, unbeknownst to him, ice crept over the ceiling, and the thoughts that attended him marred its surface with aimless, crooked lines that kept changing direction abruptly as if twitching.

At some point, he gave up trying to sleep for the time being. No sooner had he sat back up and opened his eyes than Zereth entered his field of vision.

“You want to go next?” Zereth asked in a whisper.

Solonn cast a glance to the archway and saw that it was unoccupied. He found Ronal lying nearby, seemingly asleep, and realized that it was Zereth who was just finishing his shift. Solonn hadn’t noticed when he’d relieved Ronal of watch duties; he wondered if any others’ shifts had come and gone without him noticing.

Hoping that he’d be more attentive in the task that was being offered to him, Solonn nodded and rose, taking his position in the archway. He tried to stay focused on the presently unoccupied chamber in case anything unwelcome descended into it, but only partially succeeded.

It did help somewhat that the possibility of someone finding them there had already had a stake in his mind. It also helped that every so often, as he gazed out into the as-yet undisturbed emptiness of the room before him, he thought he heard a scraping, rustling, or other noise that compelled him to investigate it. Every furtive look that he stole up the chasm showed him nothing, however, leaving him to chalk each of those sounds up to his mind playing tricks on him. Nonetheless, no matter how many times it happened, the first thing that crossed his mind whenever he heard something was the chance that it might mean that the party had company.

“Hey. Been on watch for very long?”

The utterance was only whispered, but it sent a jolt through Solonn almost as if it had been screeched right in his ear. He bit back a hiss and turned to identify the speaker—it was Zilag—then turned back to stare into the empty chamber once more.

“I don’t know,” Solonn admitted just as voicelessly. He heard Zilag set himself down beside him. “I don’t feel at all like sleeping, though. I think I can stay here a while longer. Go ahead and get some more sleep for now, if you want.”

“Hm. Don’t really feel much like sleeping right now myself, to be honest,” Zilag said. “Besides which… I don’t know. I guess I just kind of feel like you could use as much of a break as you can get after… well, you know. Especially considering what the folks back home decided to do to you and Oth and your dad afterward.”

Solonn turned a brief, surprised glance toward Zilag, but that surprise faded quickly as he realized when and how Zilag must have learned about the lahain’s decision to have him imprisoned. “Zdir and Oth told you about that, didn’t they?” he asked, at which Zilag nodded. “And you believe what they said, right?” Solonn asked, unable to help himself, hearkening back to the seemingly incomplete readiness to trust Oth that Zilag had shown back in his home.

Zilag sighed. “I’ll be honest with you: if your dad were anyone, anything else, I’d be a bit more skeptical. But I know how they feel about him, how… how deep it is, you know? Hell, I even felt a little bit of it myself the first time you took me to see him,” he admitted, looking away guiltily.

“Mm,” Solonn responded dismissively to that. “Don’t worry about that; I used to feel that, too. But anyway… since you do know what happened… what had to be done,” he said carefully, “you know they’ll surely want information at the very least, and they’re likely to see you as a good source. And if they don’t like your answers, they might…” He swallowed, suddenly especially concerned that his next words would make him sound paranoid, less credible. “They might just decide against taking chances and just put you out of commission, same as they did with me.”

“Yeah, she told me that, too. She says she doesn’t think they’re too likely to do that, but she wanted me to know that they might, said she couldn’t in good conscience let me go without me knowing what I’m possibly getting myself into.

“And I won’t lie: she had me pretty worried there for a moment, and there’s part of me that still is,” Zilag said. “But… well, I gave it thought; don’t think for a moment I didn’t. It’s been in and out of my head this whole time since, in fact. And what occurred to me is that yes, going back’s a risk, but so’s staying out here. Who’s to say that someone—maybe even the folks back home—won’t find us somewhere out here? If anything, honestly, it would probably look worse for me if I were found along with all of you than if I were approached alone.”

Solonn’s eyes widened slightly; that angle hadn’t occurred to him. “Gods, it might…” he agreed.

“And besides which…” Zilag went on, “besides which, Hledas and the kids are still back there. I know that Hledas at the very least is worrying herself sick about me, and Kavir might be starting to get worried by now, too. Even Ryneika might be starting to sense that things are off. I can’t let them go on worrying about me for much longer, Solonn. I just can’t.”

Solonn nodded in solemn understanding. His own thoughts drifted out toward Mordial, toward the steelix whom he was sure was fretting both for him and for Jen off in that distant region at that very moment, and he winced at the pang of guilt that those thoughts brought.

“Just… be careful, all right?” he said.

“You know I have no intentions of doing otherwise,” Zilag responded.

“Hm…” Solonn didn’t question that in the least, but he found it hard to be quite confident that Zilag’s caution would prove sufficient. What he really wanted was for Zilag not to have to be so careful at all, and the only way that such seemed possible to him at the time was for Zilag and his family to be relocated.

"Maybe,” he said, “when Oth has recovered… if it recovers,” he forced himself to add, much as he didn’t want to, “you and your family could be brought out of there. You could leave Virc-Dho for somewhere safer.”

Zilag’s eyes flickered a bit, and he nodded slightly, but he also gave a little half-sighed laugh. “Hledas wouldn’t like that.”

Solonn tried to imagine Hledas doing without visits to her beloved gossip halls and nearly couldn’t. He gave a very faint smile. “Probably not,” he concurred. “Still, it’s something to consider. I’m sure she values you and the kids more than any gossip hall.”

“Oh, no question,” Zilag said. “No question about that at all.” He drew in a long breath and exhaled. “Well… we’ll get all this sorted out when the time comes, all right? My family, yours, these kids here… we’ll get it all taken care of. In the meantime, go and try to get yourself some rest,” he suggested gently. “I’ll go ahead and take over for you.”

Solonn hesitated at first, but then nodded in acquiescence and returned to the chamber where the others slept, still doubting as he set himself back down among them that he would see any sleep that night.

When he rolled onto his back and his eyes met the ceiling once more, he saw what he had unknowingly done up there while he’d sat awake earlier. He looked at the patterns, results of his unconsciously reaching out to his mother element for solace, and decided, albeit still no more than half-wittingly, to seek his element once more in the hopes of being able to vanish into it as he’d done so many times before—no thoughts for a little while, no fears, just that connection. In doing so, he hoped, he might finally get a bit of rest.

A short time later, the room got just a little darker.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 03-02-2011 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:05 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fifteen Now Posted]

Solonn opened his eyes. It seemed that he’d been right about simply being unable to sleep for the time being. Sighing in resignation, he sat up yet again. Soon after, he took to casting his gaze in a different direction every so often, figuring that it couldn’t hurt to have an extra pair of eyes watching over the party.

He looked out toward the exit, and at the same time, the glalie hovering there looked back into the chamber where everyone else still lay sleeping. It was Zereth who was currently keeping watch, and this struck Solonn as odd in a very detached way; hadn’t Zereth already done his shift? The peculiarity of the situation vanished from Solonn’s mind before it could truly light there, though, and the fact that Zereth didn’t seem to see him despite their gazes having met didn’t quite take root there, either.

The loud scraping noise that broke the silence in the next moment had no trouble at all seizing his attention, however, sending a spike of terror straight into his heart.

Much faster than he had ever made the descent or seen anyone else do so, an ice platform brought a group of strangers into the adjacent chamber. Zereth, still facing away from the shaft leading upward, seemed completely oblivious to their arrival—Solonn opened his mouth to alert him and the rest of the party, but couldn’t get a single syllable out before the intruders poured through the archway, far greater in number than it seemed could have come down on a single platform, filling the space around them with their eyelight. As if he were vaporized, Zereth simply vanished among them as they rushed past him.

Solonn made to shout again, invoking a protect aura to surround himself and calling upon a sheer cold strike against one of the attackers as he did so—but neither his voice nor either of the techniques that he’d attempted answered his summons. Feeling his heart rate easily triple, he tried charging at one of the invading glalie instead—only to find that he couldn’t move.

On the verge of panic, Solonn made attempt after attempt to rise and to lend himself to the defense of the party and children in whatever ways crossed his mind, but he couldn’t get himself to move an inch, nor could he command any of his abilities. The intruders seemed not to notice him struggling there at all, but before his eyes, he saw them begin to smash and tear into the rest of the party and the children. Cries of pain and fear rang out, and the air became heavy with blood mist, and all the while he remained unable to do anything against the attackers—

The horrible picture before Solonn’s eyes changed abruptly into an entirely different scene. Nonetheless, there was a delay before he truly recognized that there was no one there who shouldn’t be, that barring anything that might still be awry with Oth, everyone around him was all right.

Oh, thank the gods… he thought, taking a deep breath of blessedly clear, mist-free air in an attempt to calm nerves that still didn’t quite believe that the dream was over, feeling his pulse reluctantly slowing back down.

“Come on, move aside,” he heard Zdir say quietly. He turned and saw her gently shepherding the snorunt closer to the walls, clearing a space in the middle of the room into which she then brought another small snow pile into being.

<The rest of you should feed yourselves, as well,> Oth said, and the tone of its mindvoice told all too clearly that a night’s rest had not replenished its power as had been hoped. <We will be heading back out into the caverns above soon.>

Solonn held a dismayed gaze upon the claydol for a couple of moments. Though something inside him offered up a silent reminder that it had only been less than a day since Oth had found itself unable to teleport, that maybe it wouldn’t be much longer before it recovered from whatever was behind that problem, the possibility that it simply wouldn’t recover seemed to loom larger than ever. So did the possibility that he would never see Grosh or Jen again and that anyone who ran into trouble in the warren would be unreachable…

These thoughts brought it to his attention that he still didn’t know for certain if Narzen or anyone else who might decide to go back home was aware of the potential threat posed by the Virc authorities. There was, he recognized, a chance that Zdir might have told them back when she’d discussed their venturing into Shoal Cave with her in the first place; though he had been at least within partial earshot of each of those conversations, he’d had too much on his mind at the time to pay any real attention to what they were saying. At the very least, he reckoned, she might have had Oth run that matter by Narzen when the two of them had had their private discussion with him.

Still, he had to be sure. He approached Zdir, who turned a questioning gaze up at him at once.

“There’s something I need to know,” he said, whispering.

Zdir raised an eyebrow. “And that is…?”

“The others… do they know?” he asked. “About what was done to Father and to Oth and me, I mean. About… about what certain people might want from them, considering who they associate with.”

“Of course they do,” Zdir assured him. “All of them, including your friend. I made certain.”

A small wave of relief washed over Solonn at this. “Thank you,” he said.

“You’re welcome. Now go on, get yourself fed so that we can move out soon.”

Solonn did as he was advised, and he once again found himself having to rush a bit to finish when everyone else was ready to go. Soon, Zdir and Ronal were riding an ice platform back up toward the surface, and it wasn’t long before everyone else had come up out of those chambers, as well. With that, the party set off, leaving Grosh’s home behind.

Apart from a pair of zubat who immediately turned tail and fled at the sight of them as they drew near, they encountered no other living souls as they closed more and more of the remaining distance to Virc-Dho. In passing once again through the place that had once belonged to spheal and the evolved forms thereof, they found it empty save for the occasional scattered shell of some unknown marine creature, just as it had been the last time that they’d been in the area.

Solonn found himself considering that perhaps those walrein and sealeo whom they’d run into the day before had come from here. He wondered, though, if such creatures really could have moved so far since the last time that he’d been here prior to following Zdir through this place, which hadn’t been terribly long before then—from what he’d seen of them, they were rather ungainly. Meant more for the water than for the land, his mother had said of them once.

Then it occurred to him that the walrein and the rest of their people might well have already departed the area sometime before he’d led Oth along this route to visit Grosh—as he thought about it, he didn’t recall having given terribly much mind to his surroundings at the time, knowing the path by heart and being fairly preoccupied with the conversations that he’d had with the claydol en route.

Solonn hoped that the former inhabitants of this place had indeed just relocated of their own accord, by their own power. The possibility, however remote, that they might have been whisked away by some unknown teleporter in league with the Sinaji still brought a shudder whenever he thought of it.

There eventually came a point at which he could see that the path up ahead was crossed by another, a landmark that Solonn recognized as a sign that they were very nearly at their destination. But before they could reach that intersection, <Raise your shields and retreat at once!> Oth called out suddenly, a command that Solonn didn’t hesitate in the slightest to obey—he’d seen what provoked it himself. There had been glalie passing by through the tunnel that crossed the one that the party was currently using, heading for Virc-Dho. The split in the path had been just far up ahead enough that there was some hope that the party hadn’t been spotted; nonetheless, they moved more than half again as far away from it as swiftly as they could manage before Oth indicated that they could stop.

Some of the blue eyes that surrounded the claydol cast questioning gazes at it or at Zdir, while others warily eyed the intersection from which they’d just fled. <Zdir recognized those glalie as members of the Security Guild,> Oth said to the glalie alone. To everyone present, it said, <There were some people up ahead, and we could not tell for certain whether they were friend or foe. Since they are heading toward Virc-Dho, we will wait here for a brief while before proceeding, long enough to put some more space between them and us in order to hopefully avoid any more close calls with them.>

Solonn continued to stare at the intersection ahead, more than half-expecting the guild members or someone whom he had equally little desire to run into to appear there at any moment, but minutes passed with no such thing happening. Eventually, Oth indicated to the rest of the party that Zdir felt that it was safe to continue.

When they reached the mouth of the narrow, curving passageway that led into the border cavern, however, the sound of voices from the cavern beyond became audible, telling them that moving ahead now would once again put them at risk of being noticed by the wrong people.

Solonn expected another command to turn back to be issued via Oth, but no such instructions came. Sending a part of his mind to the source of his protect ability, he turned toward Zdir and found her with that familiar look of deep thought on her face. He frowned, hoping to all gods that she would decide what the party was going to do next quickly, all too aware that the owners of the voices that they were hearing could choose to head back their way at any moment…

He caught movement out of the corner of his eye then, but it was only Zilag nodding at something. Solonn was certain at once that Zdir had just had Oth tell Zilag something and immediately began wondering what that something had been.

<Zdir is going to try and listen in on the conversation in the border cavern from out of sight in order to try to identify the nature of the speakers,> the claydol announced; once again, it spoke only to the glalie. <If she is able to determine that there are Security Guild members among them and no Sinaji, she will send the children ahead on their own into the border cavern and the guild’s custody. Narzen will stay with us, and I will be establishing a link with Zilag instead. We will allow a little time to pass between sending the children into the border cavern and sending Zilag into the warren—hopefully this will reduce the likelihood of anyone believing that he had anything to do with them.>

Solonn stared at Oth for a second, surprised at the change of plans. His eyes then darted to Narzen and then Zilag, finding the former looking not nearly as disappointed as he’d expected given how keen Narzen had seemed on the previous plan to establish the psychic link with him instead. Apparently, however much that idea had appealed to Narzen, the idea of staying out with the fugitives appealed to him even more. Zilag looked less at ease, but the fact that he had consented to the link at all gave Solonn the impression that he was surely either entirely over any mistrust that he had held for the claydol or else damned near entirely over such, at which Solonn managed to send a small, approving smile his way.

Zdir went into the curving tunnel then, and several moments that felt like several minutes to Solonn passed with her remaining there. Come on, hurry before someone finds us here… he urged her silently, shooting a quick glance back toward the other opening into the cavern that they presently occupied, still fully aware that the glalie conversing in the border cavern weren’t the only ones about whom the party had to worry.

Zdir returned in short order, looking fairly relieved. Soon thereafter, Oth set the children back on their feet, and the fuchsia aura that had surrounded them vanished. <The voices coming from up ahead belong to Security Guild members,> Oth said, its mindvoice sounding just as relieved as Zdir had sounded, and the way that the snorunt all looked up at it when it spoke told that it had not excluded them this time. The claydol lowered its head toward them slightly. <What all of you—> Its free hand drifted away from the rest of its body and drew an invisible circle encompassing the children alone. <—need to do now is to go to them. We will remain outside and make sure that no one who poses any danger to you can come in. Now go,> it instructed them with a waving motion of its still-detached hand. <Hurry, while they are still in there.>

A couple of the small, gray faces that regarded it held looks of uncertainty upon it for a moment, but soon their owners were rushing to catch up with the rest of the snorunt, who were now running into the passageway toward the border cavern. In nearly the instant that the last of them disappeared around the bend, <Get back out of here as fast as you can manage,> Oth instructed the rest of the party. It was rushing forward in the direction opposite to the one that the snorunt had taken even as it spoke, and all of the glalie followed suit immediately at its command.


Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-25-2010 at 12:11 AM.
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