Gabriella had shocked what temporarily was left of their small group... she’d come out of her bedchamber wearing a dress. That had been yesterday, after she’d shown them that gray Scrying bowl. Subsequent to putting the bowl away, she’d disappeared to the creek to wash, very much preoccupied, and not in much need of a wash either, at least not in Andrew’s opinion. Apparently his having witnessed the image of Derrick and Elise in the bowl had rocked Gabriella’s organized and structured world, but what rocked Andrew’s was that all Fiona and Rick had beheld was - a bowl of water. How could they not have seen it? It had been clear as day, almost like turning on an old, old television where you had to wait a minute or two until the screen slowly became visible.
As soon as Gabriella had left yesterday, Andrew had spun around to face his companions. “What do you mean you didn’t see that? It was right there!”
Rick had looked at Andrew and shook his head in mock pity.
“Nothin’ there. She’s got you on psychedelic drugs, Red. Or toadstools. There wasn’t anything there but water in a bowl.”
“It was there! It was Derrick and Elise in the woods, shouting at each other. It was right there,” Andrew had insisted, feeling like he had seen pink elephants in the sky. So Andrew gave up.
Gabriella had emerged then from her bedchamber in a deep green dress that looked not only like an elegant court dress from some period of time in history, but it had done something to her eyes – wow!
“You,” she had nodded at Andrew. “Come with me. Yes, you!” She had then picked up her bowl and glided out the door.
Rick had hummed the few necessary bars to the funeral song.
“Nice knowin’ you, Red.”
“Shut up. And quit calling me Red,” Andrew had hissed as he got to his feet.
He had hurried to catch up to Gabriella, who was hardly recognizable without her hair bound back in a braid and her hunting leathers. She strode in front of him in such a stately manner that the grass before her seemed to bow to either side in homage to allow her passage. The length of her copper-colored hair wasn’t fully appreciated until it was flowing around her back loose, with small braids forming an intricate design. He’d never seen anyone so gorgeous before, certainly not anyone dressed like that. He had then become acutely aware of his own scruffy appearance: his jeans, although clean, were stained and torn beyond recognition, his T-shirt was beginning to wear thin, and he needed a haircut and a shave.
Nervously, Andrew ran a hand through his coarse orange hair as Gabriella held the door to her work shed open for him. What was going on?
Now, here he was a day later with the biggest headache a person could have. Gabriella had mixed a drink, a tea of some kind, with dried leaves in it, which was supposed to help the pain in some way. It hadn’t subsided yet but he was assured often by his hostess and now instructor that it would.
So he was being instructed in magic now. All this brought to mind was the image of a magician with a bushy black mustache teaching his eleven-year-old nephew a couple of card tricks. Gabriella called him her kyor’shiba, which Andrew didn’t know the technical translation of - there probably wasn’t one - but he was pretty sure it didn’t mean lovebear. He hazarded the guess that it meant apprentice.
She explained that people exhibited signs of kyor’rishtan as early as eleven or twelve years of age, depending on the child’s degree of potential and the gender of the child. Andrew had thought that somewhat strange, Mother Nature was not normally one to discriminate. Did that mean that one gender tended to have more talent than the other? But Gabriella explained that it only meant that girls often began maturing before boys and that all kyor ripened along with the body.
Having clarified this, Gabriella went on to tell him that kyor’rishtan was not what she essentially brought him here to explore, as he did not as yet show as much potential for that as he did kyor’rashni.
Kyor’rashni, she explained, did not rear its formidable head until a person had, for the most part, finished maturing. Andrew had then been personally chagrined to think that he probably would not then advance any closer to the sky than his bony five-feet-eight. Gabriella had interpreted his expression and, barely suppressing her mirth, told him he was likely in no danger of being forever stranded at his current height and weight, that it was probably the incredible amount of talent that he was harboring combined with the shock of leaving his own world. She regarded it as surprising, though, that the same shock to his body and mind did not instead delay the manifestation of kyor’rashni as opposed to the premature exposure they were dealing with.
All day Gabriella taught him to “find his way around his brain.” Andrew knew that there was over eighty percent of the brain that went unused, so far as experts were able to determine, and Andrew figured he’d just reached out and touched at least forty percent. He continued returning to the idea of when you chopped wood or rowed for the first time, suddenly muscles you didn’t know you had were crying out in opposition.
She hadn’t educated him, as Andrew had expected, in how to raise an object off the table or pull toward them one of the many crockery pots and containers on the shelves all around the small shed. Nor did he learn to make anything appear, or disappear, for that matter. In fact, when Andrew meekly inquired what was she going to teach him to do, she regarded him thoughtfully and told him, Nothing at all. He’d been a little miffed at her for taking his poorly developed semantics so literally, but Gabriella told him that there was no sense learning to run if you couldn’t walk. Which naturally made sense.
But Andrew was growing weary of being the underdog in everything. Much as he enjoyed learning about this world, Andrew would pay a dear price to accompany Gabriella to his own world and sit her in front of his computer, or ask her to apply the Hardy-Weinberg equation to q = 0.01. What’s the subphylum cephalochordate? What are the three properties of logarithms? The quadratic formula?
It wasn’t a wish borne out of hostility; it was just that the two worlds were so different. She treated them as children because they had no experience in gutting windits? Swinging a sword? They weren’t supposed to comprehend all that, any more than Gabriella was supposed to be acquainted with spreadsheets or football. Funny, in a painfully ironic way. Back home, Andrew, especially after one look at his skinny body and orange hair, was categorized as weird because he was too smart. Now, he was totally ignorant and still weird. Triumph eluded him entirely.
Andrew could contemplate this without fear of Gabriella bestowing upon him one of those looks... she had taught him how to shield his thoughts. She told him to envision a strong brick wall encompassing that part of his brain, securing his thoughts from getting out and others from getting in. It had taken him a mark or so, as well as a steady ache, but he’d finally accomplished it, amazing himself at the mental quiet that ensued, making it so much more easier to concentrate. He of course, prided himself on not the brick wall she had told him to erect, but the titanium fortress he had instead created. Brick was not as strong as titanium, and it seemed to Andrew that of all the things there were to protect, his own thoughts were the most important.
Suddenly, Andrew found himself opening his eyes. How long had he been asleep? And the pain was almost gone! He sat up with a groan and the realization that someone had laid him on his pallet, and also that the day was nearly over. That tea was powerful!
“Isn’t it just like a guy to wake up after everything’s done,” Fiona snickered as the smell of dinner reached Andrew’s nose.
“Sure is,” Rick agreed amicably. “Wake up, Red, it’s chow time.”
Andrew shot him a mirthless look as he accepted the bowl Fiona presented him.
“Feel better?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, somewhat surprised.
“It’s actually quiet without Derrick and Elise bickering back and forth,” commented Rick.
“Shouldn’t they be getting home soon? They’ve been out there all yesterday and last night,” asked Fiona, cocking a worried eye at Gabriella. “I mean, it’s been raining all day and night,” she finished, her concern unabated in the face of Gabriella’s stern expression.
“Getting home is up to them. If they can get along with each other long enough for the puzzle spells to dissipate, then they will find their way home.” Gabriella’s expression softened. “I am sure they are uncomfortable enough in the storm that they will reconcile, if only long enough to return to a warm cabin and dry clothing.”
Andrew wondered about that – Elise and Derrick got along together about as well as orange juice and toothpaste.
The thunder boomed through the dark sky again as the wind blew the rain frantically against the window. Andrew loved a good storm. When he was on the inside. Stretching, he ran his fingers through his hair and experienced a pang of sympathy for Derrick and Elise.
“I’d hate to be them out there in that storm,” Rick muttered as he spread his long body on the floor pillows in front of the fire.
The door burst open, slamming into the wall with a bang, causing everyone to jump.
“You guys! Come on, Elise is being attacked! Come on!” cried Derrick urgently as the wind blew in with the rain and the lightning lit up the sky behind him.
Only later did Andrew realize that there was no sign of the chain that had encircled his wrist.