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Chapter 8: See You in a Thousand Years

Eventually they had to talk about it. Rowan finally got out of bed and went to have some of the food left from the night before. She sat by the huge window and started to put the tray on the table but she realized that somehow one of the table legs was broken. She felt herself blush.

“I have to go you know,” she said without warning.

Niurgun was silent as she continued.

“I don’t want to I just know I have too. I am afraid to go but I am more afraid of not going, does that make any sense?”

Niurgun walked over to the giant window and stood looking out at the planet below. He knew that in his quarters was the necklace that Rowan wore around her neck and he also knew that it must make its way to her by another path. If this had been the time for him to give it up the Annunaki wraith would have said so, no she came to him when she did just to make it clear to him that Rowan couldn’t stay with him.

“I know,” he answered softly, “I know. Tell me this, how did you and that bastard Fade get to this time?”

“He came for me,” Rowan explained, “well first you came for me but I didn’t understand, and then he took me. I did give him a bloody nose though, and then some more people showed up. I think they were bounty hunters but I’m not sure and then we tried to make what he and a guy named Sukh called a jump and Brannoc and I ended up on the floor of a castle and he said I made it happen.”

Niurgun stared at her for a moment.

“You initiated a time jump with no collar and no training?”

“I guess so,” Rowan shrugged.

“What year did you come from?”

“2012,” said Rowan, “Oct 6, 2012.”

Niurgun was quiet for a long time; finally he spoke.

“I have the necklace you are wearing in a box in my quarters.”

Rowan instinctively reached up and clutched the small egg.

“What do you mean? It’s right here,”

“Yes it is there because I will give it to my daughter and she will give it to her daughter and so on for twenty generations until you hold it in your hand,” Niurgun answered as the words of the Annunaki stranger echoed in his head.

Rowan didn’t know what to say first.

“You have a daughter and I am your descendant?”

“No, I don’t have a daughter, yet, and I don’t know you could be a descendant, you do have the necklace. Most of the Scythian tribe on earth are the descendants of my mother’s brothers so who knows where the bloodline leads, the point is if I haven’t given up the necklace yet you could not have gotten it so there is some part in this story yet to be played out.

“I guess that is true,” Rowan said thoughtfully and then she continued, “I believe that time is not linear. We do not move down a line in time instead time happens around us. My being here is what is supposed to be just as whatever we decide to do is what is supposed to be. Think about it. You come to get me in 2012; I refuse to come with you but in doing so you trigger the ability in my mind to read Thracian thoughts. If you hadn’t done that I would have never been able to read Vashir’s thoughts so quickly and I would probably be dead now. We would have never known each other. And now you know that in order for me to exist in the future you must continue on and I have to go back to where I belong.”

Niurgun paused, “what if you don’t go back. You are here now; will you just cease to exist if I don’t give this necklace to someone who will eventually lead to your birth?”

Rowan shook her head, “truthfully I don’t know but can we chance it? No, so we both know that I am going back so nothing has changed.”

They were both silent for a long time. Rowan spoke first.

“I have seen into many minds, your people live for millennia we will find each other in the future.”

“Oh, I will find you, I promise you that,” Niurgun said adamantly, “but for you it will be a matter of months, at worse a few years before you see me again. I will not see you for a thousand years.”

“Even a few months will seem like a thousand years,” Rowan said with tears running down her face.

Niurgun took her in his arms, the blue and black dragons wrapped around her and he whispered.

“We are bonded until death; I will wait ten thousand years if I have to but please don’t cry.”

Rowan managed to stop crying when she saw how much it upset him.

“Perhaps this is what your dream meant, the waiting, me trapped behind the mirror,” she said in between sniffles.

Niurgun shook his head, “I don’t know. I had that dream many times over the years and the sense of desperation I felt was so overwhelming. The darkness that was rolling towards us was more terrifying than anything I have ever faced. You have been with me since I was so small. How do we explain that Rowan? Perhaps this is what the dream meant but I fear there is something more, something very dangerous.”

Rowan leaned her head on his shoulder. Together they watched the planet below.

Suddenly out of thin air came Unegens voice.

“I hate to disturb you two but sensors have just picked up a significant energy spike from the stone circle at Callanish. Energy levels indicate a time jump. Life form readings identify a small but heavily armed party of six Fadians, two Carliff, and two human senders. Chatter suggests that they are here for Brannoc and Rowan.”

Rowan looked at Niurgun, “well I guess my ride is here.”

Niurgun stood up and walked to the desk where the communication devices hovered in midair. As he walked across the room Rowan drank in the sight of his naked back which was covered by one large dragon tattoo, its tail curled on his absolutely perfect backside. He touched the communication ball that Rowan had used to call for help.

“Meet with us here in an hour,” he told Unegen. “We must form a plan to get them off the ship without the prisoner knowing what has happened. He cannot know that we know they are time travelers and he especially cannot know that Rowan is Tolui.”

Unegen answered, “I will be there in an hour.”

Rowan walked over to the desk and touched the same device, “Unegen, make it two hours.”

Niurgun smiled his biggest tiger smile.

Rowan returned it. “There is a really big bath tub in there, plenty of room for two. I always do my best thinking in the tub.”

“Me too,” Niurgun said laughing,

An hour later they were laid back in the warm bubbling water looking out into space through the huge window. The ship had turned so now all that Rowan could see were stars, lots and lots of stars. She felt the side of her neck where Niurgun had bitten her. There was only a small raised spot. The nanocytes had already healed her. Wonderful little creatures, thought Rowan. She was half floating between Niurgun legs when he turned her to face him.

“You are insatiable,” she said as she ran her hands down his chest and reached down between his legs. Niurgun gently took hold of both her hands.

He looked so serious.

“I would gladly spend eternity here with you,” he said softly, “but there are many things I need to tell you before you go so please listen carefully. The Fadians will take you to the Academy for Senders in the royal capital on Availon. The city is called Titania and I know it well having spent ten cycles there as a young boy. Part of the treaty signed ten thousand years ago states that every sender must be trained in the Academy, no exceptions. If you are from a free planet then at the end of training you will be returned to your home world if that is your wish, but many choose to stay on Availon because Cali offers them great wealth. Those who come from the open planets such as earth are the property of the Divine Mother Cali by the terms of the treaty. Most are auctioned off at the end of their training to various interests. The price depends on the level of accomplishment reached by the sender and a powerful sender is worth enough to buy a small world.”

Rowan just stared in disbelief. Niurgun continued.

“Hunters are paid a percentage of the final price so the more powerful the sender the bigger the payoff. Brannoc hunts for his mother so there is no percentage to be paid and since for the last five hundred years she has chosen to keep almost every sender above level two it is highly advantageous for her when he is successful.”

Rowan looked shocked. “They are going to sell me?”

Niurgun pulled her closer.

“I wish that was their plan, no, you will not be sold for any price, but it will be years before you are ready. The training is intensive and you are far too valuable to be harmed so at least I think you will be safe for a while. That said; do not draw Cali’s attention. Try to be invisible. She has ruled most of the universe for over ten thousand years; she has no conscience or mercy and many have begun to doubt her sanity.”

Rowan wasn’t sure what to say, she remembered Brannoc calling her valuable and she knew she had not liked the sound of it.

I still have to go. That is the path I am sure of it,” she tried to sound confident but she wasn’t fooling herself so she doubted she was fooling him.

“There is more you must know,” Niurgun said sounding even more ominous, “not long ago my mother broke the treaty.”

“Why did your mother break the treaty?” Rowan asked.

“A fair question,” Niurgun answered. “But whether she broke the treaty first is a matter of opinion. She refused to hand over a young sender to Cali. The last four senders from our world have not returned to Erdene. They did not stay for riches or power though; Cali transformed them into Carliff, horrible half humanoid, half animal creatures that live only to do Cali’s bidding. Their bodies still live but with the heads of animals. . My mother believes that Cali has gone mad and now the two great races are at war again. The last war almost destroyed us all and we are both much stronger now so this is the beginning of a storm that will sweep across the universe.”

“Where are their heads?” Rowan asked even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer.

“Remember how I told you that we used to harvest brains from living celiphs to control the life support and maintenance systems for our ships but eventually we saw that it was cruel and stopped the practice?”

Rowan nodded.

“Well the Fadians use people’s brains, sender’s brains to be exact. That is why no level three has left Availon in over five hundred years. Cali has been building a fleet of Mindships that are the most powerful machines to have ever existed. So my mother did not really break the treaty, Cali did a half of a millennia ago when she stopped allowing the senders to leave if they wished. Of course to confront her meant war and that was the choice my mother finally made.”

Rowan did not know what to say; the thought of her brain being used to navigate a ship like the huge brain that ran the Juchin horrified her.

Niurgun went on, “I saw many terrible things in the city of the Fades and in all honesty I also saw many wonders. There is no city like Titania anywhere in the universe. Titania is alive, it grows, it changes, it dies only to spring back to life again, and it is the isle where time stands still. Even before the development of the technology that has made all who can afford it virtually immortal the Fadians had incredibly long life spans. They are one of the oldest races and their culture is beyond ancient. Their control over nature is immense but their power over sentient creatures is somewhat limited to something humans call glamouring.”

Rowan regained some of her composure and nodded, “Yes, Brannoc tried that on me but it didn’t work. He said I had Fadian ancestry and that was why.”

“Yes,” Niurgun said, “In the same way only those of Thracian descent can telepathically communicate with each other Fadians cannot glamour each other, it only works on other races. I am hoping that your Fadian blood may also afford you some protection under their laws but I cannot be sure. Law there is really just the whim of Cali now; the council of elder was dissolved eons ago so there is no court to protect you. You are without a doubt a level three sender and Cali will know that you already initiated a time jump but what she does not know is that you are also Tolui and that fact must remain hidden from her. She could use you against all Thracians; you understand what a powerful weapon you could be against us, don’t you?”

Rowan nodded. She didn’t know how she was going to hide it but she would try.

Niurgun went on.

“We have spies at the royal court so you will be able to communicate with them but be very careful, always remember that their lives and yours are forfeit if you are discovered but they will be a way for you to reach me. You are a first Rowan, there has never been a Tolui who was also a sender and from what I have seen in the past twenty four hours you may have even more abilities that are just beginning to awaken. You have Annunaki blood as well and no one is sure what that means. Hide your talents as best you can, don’t stand out and I will get you out of there as quickly as I can, this I promise you,” he said as he raised both her palms to his lips and kissed them. “I have a thousand years to form a plan so don’t you worry I will be there before you know it.”

Rowan took his face in her hands and looked him straight in the eyes. She thought to him, you be careful my love, I have to go back to the future so make sure it is a future with you in it.

“I will,” Niurgun answered, “I promise I will.”

Rowan reluctantly got out of the tub and put back on the beautiful tunic and doeskin leggings that Margreth had made. She tucked the small golden egg inside the linen blouse.

Niurgun watched her.

“Hold on to that necklace at all costs,” he said, “I know it is somehow very important and someone went to a great deal of trouble to make sure you got it.”

Niurgun put his nanoleathers back on. Where Rowan had touched the leather and it had parted he simply ran his hand back up the material and it resealed itself as if there was an invisible zipper. Niurgun noticed her amazement so he tried to explain.

“The material is basically alive and it is in contact with the wearer. It reacts to the wearers needs and it can almost instantly repair itself when damaged. The nanocytes in each suit are grown from genetic material taken from the wearer; basically it is a second tougher, more intelligent skin. One person’s suit will not work on someone else.”

“Please keep mine for me, I am going to want it back when I see you again,” Rowan fought back tears as she gently folded her nanoleathers in a neat bundle.

The door made a soft ringing sound.

“Open,” Niurgun said.

The door whooshed open and Unegen walked into the room with Batu right behind her. Unegen exuded her usual confidence and just seeing her made Rowan feel a bit better. Her beautiful dark hair was longer than most of the other Thracians Rowan had seen so far and she had the widest most sincere smile framed by those adorable dimples. She so wished they had more time together, they could have been like sisters; Rowan was sure of it.

Much to Rowans delight a yeoman followed Unegen into the room carrying a tray with what looked very much like a coffee pot and cups.

“Please sit,” Unegen motioned to the seating by the viewing window. The crew member started to place the tray on the low table and suddenly realized the leg was broken.

Rowan felt herself begin to blush.

“Now how could that have happened?” Unegen said barely able to keep from laughing. “Please just put it on the desk and then leave us,” she instructed the crew member, “and thank you,” she added.

“I sure hope that has caffeine in it,” Rowan said as she headed for the tray, “even these amazing nanocytes you put in me have not been able to keep me from needing caffeine!”

“It is tea from earth, Unegen has quite a passion for it,” Niurgun answered.

“Well, that will just have to do,” Rowan said as she poured herself a cup. “Tea is really never a substitute for coffee to an American but it is better than nothing. Take the advice of someone from the future; find the plant on earth that produces a small bean that when roasted, ground and brewed in almost boiling water produces a drink like no other, called coffee. I think it originated on the African continent and then was taken all around the world; you won’t be sorry trust me and while you are at it find chocolate as well I believe it comes from the continent west of Africa that we call South America, with those two substances I think you can conquer the universe. In fact if you combined Truth and chocolate I am not sure what would happen.”

Niurgun and Unegen just stared at Rowan.

“Seriously,” she said, “find them both; you will be glad you did.”

“I will make that a priority Tolui, thank you for the information,” Unegen said as she motioned for Rowan to sit. Rowan poured a second cup and went to sit by Niurgun on the couch that they were very familiar with by now.

Unegen began, “Brannoc has almost completely recovered from his, shall we say, interrogation, he is not happy but he is alive. He has been held in the same room and has seen none of the ship but he has asked about you repeatedly,” she nodded at Rowan. “He seemed truly worried that we would harm you.”

“How sweet,” Niurgun said none too sincerely, “all he is concerned about his compensation. “

“Normally I could not have agreed with you more Niurgun,” Unegen shrugged, “but this future Brannoc seems different, I have only met the cold hearted bastard once at the negotiation for grandmother’s sender Pell but he honestly seems concerned for Rowan’s welfare. I can’t explain it.”

Niurgun huffed and then he remembered one of the lines he had recited the day before from the Annunaki poem, all who hear her song will know joy. Could she really have softened the heart of the Dark Prince? He looked at Rowan, sipping her tea and watching him with those sea green eyes. She looked as innocent of the sins of the universe as he knew Brannoc was guilty. Yes she could soften his heart, he thought, she completely stole mine and now I must send her to the place where evil lives, Titania.”

Unegen continued with the plan, “Well for whatever reason we can use his concern for her to get them off the ship. We have to make him believe that they have escaped on their own and that she was concerned for him as well, concerned enough to come looking for him. I have made sure that he overheard we had an unexpected important guest and we were preparing a celebration. He of course has no idea the guest is you Rowan. We will let him overhear that the guest has been attacked by one of the crew. He will be led to believe there is fighting on board at which time Rowan you will get into the room where we are holding him.”

“Do you think he will believe that?” Rowan asked.

“Since the story has a kernel of truth and it plays on his preconceived notions about us it should be easy enough for you to convince him. He believes us all to be little better than beasts so he will not doubt any erratic behavior you describe. You will tell Brannoc your guard was called away to deal with the problem and you overpowered his guard. The guard will pretend to be unconscious in case you need his help. Gal will be the guard, he volunteered. I don’t think Brannoc would harm you but I don’t want to take a chance. He would probably kill you before he let us have you.”

Rowan didn’t really think he would do that but she didn’t argue. Unegen continued the instructions.

“After you get out of the interrogation room turn to the left, go past two corridors then go right and the last door leads to the drop room, Brannoc will know what to do there. Tell him they released you from your biogel in the drop room and then walked you to the room where you were held, that is how you know the way. The Fadians disdain of other life forms runs so deep that it has blinded them. They believe themselves to be superior so he will not doubt his ability to escape. Can you do this, Rowan?”

Rowan nodded. “Yes I can,” she said with as much confidence as she could muster.

“Good,” Unegen said, “I have no doubt you can. I will meet you two on the lower deck in a few minutes. Don’t take too long, the Fadian rescue party is preparing to search the surrounding countryside and we do not want them to be far from the stones. Your escape would not go unnoticed by us but for a few moments so they need to jump quickly before we are forced to come looking for our prisoners.”

“We will be there,” Niurgun assured her.

Rowan, Niurgun and Batu walked slowly through the ship heading for the lower deck. Rowan ran her hand along the wall touching Sara’s consciousness.

“Sara likes you Niurgun. She says she will sing for you when you learn to hear.”

Niurgun smiled.

“Please ask Sara how I will learn to hear.”

Rowan paused, listened and looked puzzled.

“Well what did she say?” Niurgun looked curious.

“Sara says that you will teach them all to hear Niurgun. You will teach all the children so they are deaf no longer. Then she said she will miss me. What do you think all that means Niurgun?”

“I don’t know about the first part but I understand the last part.” he whispered as he took her in his arms. “Not one day will pass for a thousand years that I do not think of you.” He kissed her one last time and wiped the tears from her face.

“Come now we have to get you back to your time.”

Unegen, Gal and six other crewmen were waiting on the lower deck when they got there. Unegen ordered them to take positions down the corridor out of sight and Niurgun was to go with them. Niurgun took Rowan’s hands

and kissed her palms.

“Until we meet again Tolui,” he said quietly, “watch Brannoc and never trust him”

Then he turned with the other men and went down the corridor to get out of sight.

“Good luck,” said Unegen.

Rowan grabbed her and kissed her on the cheek.

“Thank you my friend.” She said as Unegen quickly wiped a tear from her cheek.

“We will meet again Rowan. Gal will be with you from here on.” Unegen turned to Gal and touched his arm. “You take good care of her and yourself.”

Gal and Rowan went down the corridor. Gal stopped at a plain grey door.

“He is in there,” he whispered. “Once inside you must turn off the magnetic fields that have him immobilized. The device to do so is here.”

He undid one of his wrist devices and handed it to her.

“Press here.” Gal took Rowans hand and held it over a spot on the device. “This will release him. Tell him you hit me with this.”

He handed her a large tool that looked very much like a wrench. Then Gal took a small blade from his belt and sliced the top of his head. Rowan gasped.

“Oh Gal don’t,” she whispered but he already made the cut and blood began to run down his face.”

“Don’t worry Rowan I will heal in no time. I will always be glad to shed blood for you, mine or someone else’s. Now we can make some noise.”

He slammed his shoulder into the bulkhead head and made a loud grunting noise.

“Now go he whispered, and I thank you.”

Rowan squeezed his hand and then he dropped to the floor with a convincing thud.

Rowan pressed the small plate beside the door and it slide open. She was a bit unprepared for what she was about to see; Brannoc was laid out on a table like the one she had been on when she was released from the biogel. The same blue glow that had frozen her in place at the standing stones surrounded Brannoc but it only extended about six inches above his body.

He was completely naked. Rowan had seen a lot of nakedness in the last twenty four hours but Brannoc was about as perfect as naked gets. It must be these nanocytes, thought Rowan; everyone here looks like they were born in a gym. Focus girl; focus. She hit the small area on Gal’s wrist device and the blue field dissipated. Brannoc sat up looking quite shocked; Rowan just tried not to look down.

“How did you get in here? Did they harm you?” His voice was hoarse and he looked even paler than usual.

“There is some kind of riot or something going on,” Rowan answered as she waved nonchalantly towards the door. “One of them came and got my guard, said he needed help. They both ran out and I guess he forgot to lock the door. I don’t think they considered me much of a threat anyway. I picked up this tool and hit your guard in the head. I saw them use this thing,” she held up the wrist device, “so I figured it would release you. You don’t look so good. Can you walk?”

Rowan began to look at him more closely. His skin was discolored in hundreds of tiny diamond shapes like he had been wrapped in netting and it had left impressions.

“What are these?” she said as she rubbed his skin.

He winched in obvious pain,

“They took my skin off bit by bit, it’s what they do. My nanocytes are healing me but it is going to take a while longer. I can walk. We need to get out of here now; my things are in that cabinet.”

He motioned to a hardly visible crack in the wall that was the cabinet door. It was locked so Rowan hit it hard with the wrench. The door popped open. Rowan grabbed his clothes and his wrist devices and handed them to him.

”Do you need help?” she asked.

“No, I am fine.” Brannoc assured her but when he stood Rowan thought he was going to hit the floor. She grabbed him and helped him back on the table.

“Well maybe a little help,” he said quietly.

Rowan helped him get into his leathers.

“I know the way to the room we were in when we came aboard,” she said. “I think I can get us back there.”

Brannoc nodded, “good, get me there and I can get us off the ship. Hopefully my message has brought us help. How long have we been on board?”

“About two days I think,” Rowan answered trying to sound vague.

“That should be more than enough time, you go first and I am right behind you,” Brannoc said as he motioned for the door.

Rowan touched the door plate and it whooshed open. She stuck her head out into the corridor looking first down at Gal sprawled on the floor and then both ways in the corridor.

“It’s clear,” she said as she stepped out to go to the left.

Rowan had taken a few steps when she turned to make sure Brannoc was able to follow her and she saw Brannoc with the huge wrench swung high over his head about to cave in Gal’s skull. Rowan knew she couldn’t yell so she just dove at Brannoc hitting him hard in mid swing. The force knocked them both to the ground but the wrench missed Gal. Gal never moved and Rowan was more than impressed with his trust in her; she was glad it had not been misplaced.

“What did you do that for?” Brannoc hissed.

“There will be no killing,” Rowan said as she glared at him. “We leave this ship and no one is killed understand?” Brannoc was surprised by her forceful response, Rowan continued to reprimand him. “Did you ever think about how you could change the future if you killed someone? You were concerned about my clothes contaminating the time line and you think it would be okay to take out a person?”

Brannoc nodded, “Of course you are right, I was not thinking. It is just that the last forty eight hours with these beasts has not been pleasant for me; I lost control.”

Well perhaps the attack on their home world by your crazy bitch of a mother had something to do with your treatment, thought Rowan but she just said “Try and get control of yourself I don’t know how to get us out of here.”

Brannoc nodded and then replied, “Just get me to the room where we came aboard the ship. I will get us back to the stones.”

The two crept down the hall. Rowan of course knew that no one would disturb them but it was exhilarating anyway. When they got to the door that Unegen had said was the drop room it seemed to be more heavily constructed than any door she had seen on the ship. Rowan pressed the door panel and the door slide open to reveal an airlock and at the other end of the airlock there was another door. The door behind them closed and the door to the drop room opened.

The room was round and completely empty except for one instrument console. The ribbed light panels ran up the walls like in the other parts of the ship but the walls here did not look like the organic skin Rowan had seen in the rest of the ship, it looked very metallic. In the center of the room was a round hole in the floor and through it Rowan could see space. The hole was filled with the same kind of blue field that had kept Brannoc immobilized on the table.

Brannoc did not hesitate a second as he walked across the transparent blue field to the instrument panel that hung in midair near the edge of the hole. Rowan backed away from the gaping hole. He touched the device several times and then motioned for Rowan to come, she took a few tentative steps out onto the blue field and then Brannoc grabbed her hand and pulled her out onto the center of the blue glowing floor. Suddenly they were enveloped in the electric blue light and Rowan had the feeling of being in an elevator that was going way too fast.

Almost instantly the light dissipated and they were standing in the stone circle of Callinish. Rowan felt Brannoc drop to his knees as they arrived in the circle. She reached down to help him to his feet and the next thing she knew she was hit with something. For the second time in three days the world went white.

Rowan was only out for a few minutes. She woke to hear Brannoc yelling at some Fadian about why he had stunned her.

“My Lord we believed she had taken you. I thought she meant you harm,” the man responded in his own defense.

“Do you know how valuable she is?” Brannoc screamed back.

And for a moment I thought he cared, thought Rowan.

She sat up to get to her feet and then she saw them, the Carliffs. Rowan gasped in horror.

One had the body of a young woman. She was wearing a chest plate and a short skirt made of some sort of nanofabric that clung to her body leaving nothing to the imagination. The chest plate looked like metal but parts of it were grown into her chest pushing between her ribs and twisting her upper body. Dried blood was crusted on her sides and down her legs; she smelled awful.

The female Carliff had the head of a creature that resembled an alligator but with a shorter snout and her skin was a nauseating mustard color with black spots. A chain was attached to a golden ring that hung from the end of her snout and saliva dripped down onto the chest plate. Her hands were gone and in their place were grotesque triple claws that probably came from some giant insect. She hissed at Rowan as a greasy looking black tongue rolled out of her mouth. One of the Fades yanked on the chain connected to the ring in her nose. The poor creature yelped and the man laughed.

“Looks like she likes you,” he said to Rowan.

The other Carliff was less hideous but just as disturbing. He had the body of a man and Rowan could tell by the tattoos he had once been a Thracian. His head was from a regal looking dog-like creature and Rowan immediately thought of the god Anubis.

He had jet black short fur, a long elegant neck and pointed ears. He was wearing tight nanoleather pants, heavy boots and nothing else. His eyes were the most intense yellow and he too had a gold ring in his nose but no chain. He looked at Rowan with a sense of animal intelligence that made her shudder.

For a split second she thought she caught a wisp of a thought from him. No, not so much a thought as an image, a vision of a snowy landscape raced through her mind, three moons hung in the sky and many creatures, like the one the head had once belonged to ran along a ridge in the silver moonlight. Just as suddenly as it came the image was gone but his yellow eyes glinted and Rowan could have sworn he nodded ever so slightly.

A hand reached out to Rowan and she heard a familiar voice.

“Let me help you up and it is nice to see you again.”

Rowan looked away from the Carliffs to see Sukh, his broad face and dark eyes were almost a welcoming sight after the Carliffs. She took his hand and got to her feet.

“I would like to say the feeling is mutual but every time I see you I get zapped,” Rowan answered.

“It wasn’t me this time,” Sukh said with a crooked smile.

As soon as Rowan got to her feet two of the Fades grabbed her arms and another one quickly put a collar around her neck. It was a paper thin piece of metal that weighed almost nothing. One of the Fades touched several point on the collar and it activated. Rowan felt like she had been kicked hard in the chest; her head swam and she thought she might faint.

Sukh reached out to steady her. He gently took hold of her arm and talked softly.

“The collar device generates a powerful magnetic field. Your collar is now dampening your brains ability to open up a hole in the fabric of space-time. It takes bit of getting used to. You may feel dizzy and nauseous for a while but now we can transport you without getting sucked to wherever your brain focuses on. Just try and relax and the discomfort will pass.”

Rowan leaned on him, grateful for the support, she wasn’t sure she could stand on her own right now.

“We must leave immediately,” Brannoc ordered. “Now that she is collared we should be clear to jump. They will undoubtedly notice that we are gone very soon and I don’t want to have to take on a whole Thracian battle wing.”

The group moved into the circle of stones. The members of the group gathered close around the two senders. Their collars began to glow blue and the blue spread out until it was all that existed. Rowan felt the unfolding began but this time she did not feel her soul spread out. She did not feel the joy or the sensations of being everywhere at once. The beauty rushed around her but she was like a rock in a stream feeling the rush of the waters but trapped in a cold, hard stone.

As the glow intensified Niurgun watched from the edge of the forest on a hilltop not far from the stone circle. His collar felt the enormous energy emanating from the stone circle as the two senders collars tapped into the earth’s magnetic field, sling shotting them across time and space. The air crackled with energy and a shock wave rolled across the small valley as they displaced the air around them and they moved into the void. Niurgun’s personal shield shimmered as the wave hit. Suddenly the circle was empty.

She is gone, thought Niurgun, the Eki has come, she is barely more than a child and I have sent her into the arms of pure evil.

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