Tivonna awoke to the quiet sounds of the forest. The morning sun filtered down through the leaves of the enchanted woods, caressing her with golden light. The warm rays felt good on her face; there was a definite chill in the air today, a storm was coming. As she stirred, memories flooded her mind. She was in the Painted Forest. The change had come early. She had been dying, then someone had saved her.
Glancing at her right arm, Tivonna gazed at the intricate tattoo that flowed from the back of her hand along her forearm before ending just shy of her elbow. The elaborate Celtic knot pattern was the symbol of her house. Its delicate swirls depicted her lineage, and the accomplishments of her house. She had traced the indigo lines many times in her life, finding strength and comfort in this reminder of her roots. Today, however, instead of the familiar display of dark blue lines, the design blazed with color. Lines of red, blue, green and yellow twisted and flowed to form the familiar marking. What had once been a symbol of her house, now served a new purpose. Long ago, those of her race had discovered that the dye used to make the house markings reacted with the power of an elemental upon maturation. The number and strength of the colors reflected the abilities of the newly awakened elemental. Tivonna stared at the four colors comprising the tattoo, no one color held dominance. Not only did she have all four abilities; but she also possessed them in equal strength. The change was complete, and she was now marked with the symbol of her power. It hadn’t been a dream; she was a level four elemental. How had she survived? Coming to full wakefulness, Tivonna sat up and looked around her. She was lying in a clearing near the Sea Tree. Gazing across the clearing, she spotted a lone figure standing on the other side.
Hawk was standing near the edge of the trail grooming the black unicorn. Once the big black had accepted him, they had become fast friends. He had already tended to the other two mounts and was now currying the stallion. Suddenly, his sharp hearing detected the rustling of cloth. Turning, he saw the woman sitting up and staring at him. Putting the comb away, he slowly walked back to the fire. The woman’s bright green eyes followed his every move. He had to be very careful; he didn’t know who this strange lady was, but he had a good idea of what she could do if riled. Stopping beside the fire, he dropped into a cross‑legged position on the ground. Reaching for the coffee pot warming in the blaze, he filled a cup with the steaming brew. Putting on his most charming manner, he smiled and offered the cup to the woman.
“Hello. Feeling better? Would you like something to drink?”
Tivonna studied the stranger with avid curiosity. She had never seen anyone like him. She knew most of the races of Mystra, and nowhere among the many diverse peoples of the planet was there anyone like him. Also, he had been petting Midnight. Unicorns were intensely loyal; they did not tolerate just anyone touching them. Midnight was especially selective; only she and Jonas could freely handle the black. Yet somehow, this stranger had gained the stallion’s trust. Was he the one who had saved her? She did not fear him; somehow she knew that he meant her no harm. His smile was infectious; she couldn’t help but like him. Yet, she felt no recognition within her; he couldn’t be her bondmate. But; if not him, then who?
Cautiously, she gave him a shy smile and accepted the cup from him.
“Thank you. I am Tivonna. Are you my kiosan?”
Tivonna had thought the words in the language of Aquilla, but they had come out in what one part of her mind recognized as Galactic Standard. Where had she learned these words?
Hawk too was surprised. The woman’s accent was different, but the words were clear if somewhat puzzling. “I beg your pardon? I’m Hawk. And I’m not exactly sure what a kiosan is.”
“Then, who saved me?” Now it was Tivonna who was confused.
“Oh, you mean Jasen.” Hawk said, pointing to the still sleeping figure lying on the far side of the fire.
Tivonna had been so preoccupied with the stranger that she had not noticed the other man. Rising from her bed, she walked over and knelt beside the prone figure. Instantly, her heart leaped; he was the one. The man was tossing fitfully in his sleep, his black hair damp with sweat. There were dark circles under his eyes, and his face was ashen; the battle to save her had been costly. Reaching out, Tivonna tentatively placed her hand on his forehead. He was burning up! She looked up at the white haired stranger in alarm, “He is ill!”
“What!” Instantly, Hawk was beside Jasen. How had he gotten sick so fast? The telepath was in bad shape; the exertions of the past few days had taken their toll. He had caught a chill in the night and was now gravely ill. His breathing was labored and his pulse was weak; fever racked his body. Hawk had to get him medical aid immediately. Looking up at the worried girl, he tried to gauge her character. Could he trust her? He would need her help to care for Jasen. “It’s serious. I must get him to a doctor.”
“We must take him to the castle. There are healers there; I know that they can help him. He mustn’t die!” Tivonna was adamant; her bondmate must live!
“I have medicine back at our home; I must get him there. I’ll need to borrow your mounts.” Hawk had to get Jasen away from the girl and back to the Ourora as quickly as possible. In his fevered state, Jasen’s shields were weak. It was only a matter of time before he lost the ability to protect his mind from the thoughts of others. A castle was the last place he should be.
Tivonna studied the Filidae closely. He cared deeply for the one called Jasen; maybe he knew best. “How far is your home?” she asked.
“In the mountains beyond the ruins.” Hawk answered her vaguely. He couldn’t reveal the Ourora to anyone.
The young woman shook her auburn head. “No, it is too far. You must come to the castle with me.” As Hawk opened his mouth to protest, she raised a hand pleadingly and continued. “Please, there is a large storm forming. We must be under cover before it arrives. The mountain ruins are too treacherous to cross with an injured man, especially at night.” Holding up her right arm, she displayed the elemental’s sign for Hawk to see. “Believe me, what I say is true. The castle is his only hope.”
Hawk sighed and nodded his head, “I do believe you; but the castle is dangerous for him. There are things about him you don’t know.”
“He is my kiosan. I would do nothing to harm him and no one else would dare. He will be safe at the castle. My father is the king; he will see that he has the best of care.”
Hawk had no doubt that she was sincere. Yet, her words disturbed him. “That’s the second time you’ve used that word. Just what do you mean, he’s your kiosan?”
Tivonna stared at him in amazement. How could he not know what a kiosan was? Everyone on Mystra knew about elementals and their bondmates. Where had he been hiding? Suddenly, a wild thought struck her. No, it wasn’t possible; no off-worlder could land on Mystra! Or could they? There had been no one on the planet to bond with her, yet she lived. Dreading the answers, she asked the baffled stranger, “Who are you? Where do you come from…you are not from Mystra, are you?”
The moment of truth had come. Hawk had no choice but to trust her; Jasen’s life depended on her help. Choosing his words carefully, he tried to explain. “No, Jasen and I are visitors to your world. You call it Mystra?”
Tivonna was stunned. No ship could penetrate the curtain of lights; it was impossible. As the thoughts crossed her mind Jasen stirred and murmured fitfully, “ship...penetrate...curtain of lights...impossible.”
Tivonna’s eyes widened in fear. Rising, she backed away from the muttering figure. He had known her thoughts! Monster!Demon! The man tossing deliriously by the fire echoed her thoughts and fears.
Instantly, Hawk was on his feet and advancing on the frightened woman, his silvery‑blue eyes flashing in anger. Heedless of the danger, he grabbed her and gave a sharp shake. “Stop it! You’ll kill him! You must get control of yourself. He can’t protect himself.”
His words penetrated Tivonna’s fears and deep inside her instinct stirred; she was endangering her bondmate. Looking up at Hawk, she tried to control her fears. “I do not wish to be afraid; I can’t help it.”
“It’s OK; I understand. Most races have been taught to fear telepaths. They view them as some kind of monsters who will force them to do things against their wills and plunder their deepest secrets. But, it’s not true; Jasen isn’t like that! He’s not trying to read your mind; you’re screaming your thoughts at him. With the fever, his shields are weak, he can’t protect himself.”
With Hawk’s words, Tivonna realized what she was doing. She had let childhood stories cloud her thinking. This man was her kiosan; he could not be the monster she had been imagining. The change had left her emotionally unstable; it would pass. For now, she must master her fears. He needed her help, and she would not fail him.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me; I know I am being foolish. He is my kiosan; he could not be evil. Now I see why you did not wish to go to the castle. But please, you must trust me; I would not, could not harm him; he’s too important to me. There is not time to explain everything to you now. We must leave at once if we are going to reach the castle before the storm. I promise, I will do all I can to guard your secrets.”
Hawk had little choice; without help, Jasen would die. He would have to trust the girl; he just hoped it wasn’t a mistake. Nodding his acceptance, they quickly broke camp. Gathering limbs, leather thongs and a spare blanket, Hawk quickly constructed a travois and fastened it to one of the spare mounts. Then wrapping Jasen snugly in a warm blanket, he tied the ill man securely to the mobile stretcher. The telepath had grown quiet; Hawk feared he had slipped into a coma. They had to hurry! Mounting the second white unicorn, he secured the lead lines from Jasen’s animal to his saddle. He had found a long black cloak in the spare packs. Donning the garment, he pulled the hood up to conceal his exotic features, and followed Tivonna toward the castle. Hawk’s mood was bleak; he had a bad feeling about this.
King Arcus paced the floor of his study. What’s taking them so long? It was now long past midnight and, for the hundredth time, he cursed his errant daughter. Oh, Tivonna had been very clever. Leaving messages for her parents and instructing the servants not to disturb her. She would spend her remaining time visiting with friends in the nearby village. After saying her goodbyes, she requested solitude to prepare herself for her coming death. They had honored her wishes until noon. Sivena had gone to check on her just before the midday meal, desiring to spend some time with her daughter. Instead, she discovered Tivonna was missing.
The following hours had been chaos. A quick search had revealed no sign of the missing girl; now midnight was almost upon them. In desperation, he had sent word to the Elemental High Council requesting their aid. The council had immediately dispatched a number of its strongest members to Aquilla. If they could reach the castle in time, they might be able to deflect some of the coming destruction.
They had arrived only moments before midnight. All had waited as the dreaded hour had come and gone. Nothing happened! The council members and Sivena had immediately closeted themselves away to discuss the ramifications of this momentous event and to decide what to do about Tivonna. Arcus had been left to pace and wait. But what was taking them so long? Surely, they had reached a decision by now?
The king’s musings were interrupted as the chamber door opened to admit Sivena. Rushing over to her, he took her hands in his and searched her face for any sign of distress. She didn’t look upset; maybe the news was not as bad as he feared. “They have decided?” he asked tentatively.
Giving her worried husband a reassuring smile, Sivena nodded. “They have rescinded the death order. She is to be found and brought before the council. This is an unprecedented occurrence. We must know what has happened.”
Arcus felt the tension drain from his body as relief swept over him. The death order was canceled! “Then, you think she still lives?” He couldn’t believe it was possible.
Sivena’s smile grew brighter. “Oh yes, if she had gone mad, we would definitely have known. Arcus, I cannot believe it; it’s a miracle.”
Holding his wife tightly, Arcus agreed. It was a miracle. He didn’t want to think about what this odd occurrence might mean to Mystra. Right now, he was just thankful that his daughter lived. Breaking off his embrace, he gave his wife a kiss and headed for the door. “I’ll cancel the death warrant and send out search parties. Don’t worry; we’ll find her. ”Then he was out the door and gone.
Sivena watched her husband leave and smiled. The grief had vanished; he was like a man reborn. Soon her family would be together again; but for now, she had work to do. Exiting the room, she returned to her chambers where the other elementals waited.
Hawk and Tivonna were just passing the King Tree when the soldiers appeared. Spotting the armored figures, Hawk prepared to flee; but Tivonna quickly reached out and laid a restraining hand on his reins. “Wait, they are my father’s men.” The soldiers drew nearer and surrounded the trio; flight was out of the question now. Pulling his hood lower over his face, Hawk waited.
“My lady,” The guard commander dipped his head in a sign of respect. “We have been sent by your father, the king; he requires an audience with you.” Turning, he stared at Hawk, curiously trying to penetrate the concealing cloak. “And who might your companions be?”
“They are my friends. The one who is ill is my kiosan; we must get him to a healer immediately. You may escort us to the castle; I’ll see my father when he has been cared for.”
Tivonna’s tone and manner left little room for arguments or questions. She was a royal princess and, by her words, a fully bonded elemental as well. The commander had no wish to incur her wrath with prying. He would take them to King Arcus; the king could decide what to do after that. With the soldiers surrounding them on all sides, Tivonna and Hawk began the long ride back to the castle.
As they rode, Hawk studied his escorts. They seemed to be good soldiers who wanted no part of this duty, but were just following orders. They were careful to keep their distance and none approached Hawk or Jasen, except to offer food and water during rest stops. It was obvious no one wanted to risk angering the elemental. This gave Hawk hope; maybe Tivonna could get them safely hidden away in the castle without anyone guessing that they were really from off planet. He would just have to wait and see. Thankfully, Jasen was still quiet. While the coma worried him, it was also a blessing. The guards had no idea that a telepath was in their midst.
It was beginning to grow dark when the company finally reached the castle. Halting in the courtyard, they waited while the commander reported to his superior. There was a brief discussion, then he returned. He did not look happy. Turning to Tivonna, he reluctantly broke the news. “I have orders to take you immediately to your father. Your friends are to be held in the dungeon until the king decides their fate. I’m sorry.”
At those words, Hawk tensed, then relaxed as he felt the sword point pricking his back. Glancing around, he saw that a circle of obsidian blades surrounded him. The soldiers had all drawn their swords; fighting was not the answer. He would give Tivonna time to work things out; then, if necessary, he would act. His abilities were still secret; he would keep it that way. When the time came, he would have little trouble escaping the castle’s cells.
Tivonna was livid! Turning on the guard, she vented her outrage. “How dare you! These are my friends! You will not throw them in a dungeon! I will not stand for it!” In the distance, thunder began to rumble and a slight wind blew through the clearing. The commander swallowed hard; this was not going well. Helplessly, he glanced at Hawk, and paled when he saw the swords pointed at the stranger. Instantly, he looked away; but it was too late. Tivonna’s attention had been focused on her companion and what was happening to him; her temper flared anew.
“Leave…Him…Alone!” Lightning split the sky in punctuation to her words, causing the guards to flinch.
Seeing what was about to happen, Hawk intervened. Speaking perfectly in the language of Aquilla, he addressed the angry elemental. “Tivonna, you must control your temper. This is not helping Jasen. Do as they say; this is not their fault. I’ll look after Jasen; you talk with your father.”
Hawk’s soothing words pierced Tivonna’s anger. Jasen was still lying on the litter; fighting would not heal him. She nodded, “So be it.But,” she turned to the frightened guard commander, “I hold you personally responsible for them. If anything, anything at all happens to them, even a bruise; I’ll make you wish you had never been born. Do I make myself clear, commander?”
“Yes, my lady, I’ll see to them myself. No one else will be allowed near them; they will receive the best of care.” The guard was much relieved. He owed the stranger a big debt; this could have turned ugly.
“See that you keep your word.” Walking over to Hawk, Tivonna glared at the guards around him and they hastily put away their weapons. In a softer tone, she addressed him in Galactic Standard. “I will be as quick as I can; my father should be reasonable. I’ll come for you personally. Go with no one else.”
The Filidae nodded and asked in the same language. “And if they prove uncooperative?”
Tivonna’s eyes narrowed, “Then they will regret their decision!”
Hawk smiled and patted her shoulder. Then, switching to the language of Aquilla, he spoke loud enough for the guards to hear. “Just don’t level the castle; we’ll be in it too.” He chuckled as the guards paled and looked uneasily at the elemental. Good, let them be nervous; it served them right.
Tivonna smiled wickedly and whispered, “You have a vicious streak in you, sir.”
Hawk echoed her smile. “I know.” Then, in a more serious tone he continued, “Now off you go and be quick. Jasen doesn’t have much time.”
Tivonna nodded. Her new friend’s ploy had worked. She was still angry, but now her anger was controlled. That made her all the more dangerous. The guard commander delivered her to his superior and returned to escort Hawk and Jasen to their cells. He was determined that nothing would be allowed to happen to the two visitors.
Tivonna nodded to the Captain of the Guard. “You may take me to my father now.”
The captain bowed low and waved her toward the West Tower. “This way my lady, the king will see you in the Main Audience Hall.”
Puzzled, Tivonna followed the guard to the appropriate chamber. Why would her father wish to see her in the Audience Hall? He usually met with her in his private study. Oh well, she would know soon enough; they were here. The captain opened the door to the chamber and waved her in. Obediently, Tivonna entered the room.
As she stepped into the chamber, a flood of elemental forces struck at her from all sides. The waves of pure power overwhelmed her and sent her reeling into the chamber wall. What was happening? Instinctively, the powers deep within her stirred. Rushing outward, they met and blocked the strands of energy threatening to engulf her body. As her own strength grew, the attacking beams of force began to weaken. With an act of will, Tivonna deflected the oncoming energy, hurling it back to its source. Abruptly, the attack ceased.
When the forces died, she looked around the chamber; her father was nowhere in sight. Instead, five members of the Elemental High Council were lying in a semi‑circle on the floor before her. They were the ones who had launched the attack.
“Why?” She demanded of the stunned adepts. “Where is my father and why did you attack me? I am no threat to you!”
Firice, the oldest of the council members, slowly rose to her feet. She was pale and shaky; having her own powers thrown back in her face was a new and unwelcome experience. “We are sorry. You are an unknown, possibly dangerous. We had no way to know your state of mind; we thought it best not to take any chances. Once you were subdued and there was no chance of your powers running out of control, there would be time to discuss your change. We are very interested in learning what happened to you.”
The woman was scared; she feared they had made a grave mistake. Their attack had failed to neutralize the young woman and had instead succeeded only in alienating her. It was obvious that she was in full control of her abilities, and they were formidable. She had defeated some of the council’s best. They would be at her mercy if she chose to retaliate. Also, her father, King Arcus, would not like what had happened here; neither, for that matter, would the rest of the High Council. Tivonna had no reason now to trust them. They may have lost the council the services of this unique young woman, as well as the friendship and patronage of the powerful King of Aquilla. Why had she listened to Tyr? She should have known better!
The rest of the council members managed to struggle to their feet. Tyr rose gracefully and swept her long black hair back over her shoulders. Her pale ivory features betrayed nothing of what she was thinking. She stood still, inscrutable as a porcelain statuette, and studied the auburn haired woman before her with calm black eyes. The rumors were true; Tivonna was indeed powerful. She had defeated them all and she hadn’t even been trying! The Duke of Cenchrea would be greatly interested in what had transpired here. The duke had plans for Mystra and the beautiful elemental might be of use to him. Tyr would contact Gaius. He and his spy network would keep a close eye on Tivonna and her mysterious companions. They too might prove valuable to the duke.
Tyr’s thoughts were interrupted as King Arcus stormed into the room followed by an equally outraged Sivena.
“What is going on here?” The king demanded. “Why was Tivonna brought here instead of to me as I instructed?”
“Your Majesty please, we just wished to question her about the change. We must know how she survived; we meant no harm.” Firice tried to ease the tension building in the room; things were getting out of hand.
Before the king could speak, Tivonna intervened. She had had enough of this farce. “I have nothing to say to you; not now or ever. I will have nothing to do with you or a council who attacks first and asks for explanations later. If that is your idea of requesting information, then you will get no answers from me. I have broken no law. I was bonded before midnight of my twenty‑first year; you have no authority over me. I wish you to leave this castle, immediately. I have no desire to see any of you ever again.”
“What do you mean attacked?” Arcus was becoming angrier by the minute. Glancing at his wife he asked, “Did you know what was planned here?”
Shaking her head, Sivena answered, “No, if I had known I would have stopped them.” She stared at the members of the council in disbelief. “How could you? My daughter came here peacefully; there was no danger. Why would you do such a thing? Be sure that I will be filing a full complaint with the High Council against your behavior here tonight. I suggest you return to them and explain yourselves.”
“I will not have anyone usurping my authority in my own castle. You have offended both my wife and my daughter; you are no longer welcome here. You will leave here at once!”
The adepts bowed low to the angry royals and, glancing nervously at Tivonna, hastily left the room before the angry king changed his mind and locked them in the dungeon.
“Bunch of idiots!” The outraged monarch muttered. He glared at the backs of the departing council members. “Attack a man’s daughter in her own home. Countermand a king’s orders in his own castle. Who do they think they are anyway?”
Tivonna watched her father angrily pace around the room muttering under his breath and broke out laughing. “Oh father, how I’ve missed you!” Running to her startled parent, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a tight hug. “And you mother.” Turning, she embraced the queen as well. It was good to be home but she could rejoice later; there was something important she must do now.
“Father, I am sorry for the trouble I caused. It really was for the best. I don’t have time to tell you everything now. The Captain of the Guard had my kiosan and his companion thrown into the dungeon. My bondmate is very ill. I must get him help immediately.”
“What! Who ordered him thrown in the dungeon? I issued no such order!” The irate king glanced at the door through which the council members had departed only moments before. He had a nasty suspicion who had been responsible; but he could take care of that later, first things first.
“Explanations can wait; I’m just glad you’re home safe and I want to make sure that you stay that way. Go see to your young man; we’ll talk later.”
Giving her parents a grateful smile, Tivonna ran from the room. Grabbing a passing servant, she ordered the East Tower Suite prepared. That part of the castle was nearly empty, there would be no prying eyes to uncover the two’s secrets or bustling crowds to disturb the sick telepath. Her first priority was to get Hawk and Jasen safely hidden away; then she would decide what to tell her parents.
The king watched bemused as his daughter fled the room. It certainly was turning out to be a strange day. His thoughts were interrupted by a soft chuckle from his wife.
Sivena shook her fair head and smiled at her husband. “Well, no one can accuse us of leading a dull life. I’ve had enough excitement to last me a lifetime.”
Arcus walked over and embraced his wife. “We have been lucky, my wife; far luckier than I would have dared hope. Today could have turned out very differently. How much trouble are we in with the council?”
Sivena laughed. “Not very much. They need my powers and your patronage. They can’t afford to stay at odds with us. I’ll send a letter to the council head tomorrow. A few explanations and apologies on both sides and things will be fine. What are we going to do about Tivonna and this mysterious bondmate of hers?”
“We wait and try to be patient. When she is ready, she will tell us what happened; for now, it is enough that she is home and safe.”
“Speaking of safe, I have one more task to perform or none of us will be safe.”
“The storm? It’s near?”
“Very near. The forces are almost assembled. I must go divert them or we will face major trouble. Want to come watch?”
“Of course, I love to watch you work.”
Arm in arm, the king and queen left the chamber and headed for the walkway running along the top of the central tower. From here, Sivena would be able to channel the storm’s intensity into less destructive avenues. Pausing in the entryway leading onto the balcony, Arcus watched as his wife walked out onto the platform to face the storm.
Sivena could feel the forces of the gathering storm tingling through the air. The storm was big and violent. She thought of asking Tivonna for aid but then decided against it. Tivonna had more important worries and she should be able to manage this on her own. Lifting her hands toward the malevolent clouds above, Sivena reached out and grasped the airy forces and bent them to her will. She channeled the more violent, destructive elements to the South, out over the nearby ocean where they could spend their savage fury on the unrelenting sea. Snagging a few of the tiny harmless rain clouds, buried in the center of the storm, she pushed them eastward where their gentle rains would nourish the settlement’s growing crops. When all was as she wished, she lowered her hands and turned to face her husband. “It is done.”
Arcus watched his wife as she joined herself to the savage elements of the storm. She was beautiful. The wind lifted her long golden tresses and blew them wildly about her head. Sparks leaped from her fingertips and arched between her palms. She looked like a pagan goddess, a sprite of the air, at one with the storm. When she had finished, Arcus stepped forward and wrapped her in a tight embrace. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. How is it that I have such a wondrous creature for a wife?”
“Didn’t you once tell me you were born under a lucky star? It must be true.” Placing a kiss on his cheek, she stepped back. “Shall we retire, my husband? I for one have had more than enough activity for one day.”
“And I.” The two weary monarchs, arms intertwined, left the balcony and headed for their chambers. Behind them, the night sky was quiet and a soft breeze blew through the treetops.