Hawk, carrying the unconscious Jasen, had quietly followed the guards to a cell in the castle’s dungeon. He had refused the commander’s offer to help carry the ailing telepath. He liked the commander. Once out of sight of his superior, Tychicus, as he was called, had done everything in his power to make the cell habitable. Placing them in the driest and warmest cell available, the soldier had provided him with blankets and all the cold water he needed to care for Jasen. They had to try and keep his fever down.
He was busy changing the compress on Jasen’s forehead when the cell door banged open. It was Tivonna. From the look of happiness on her face, the meeting with her father must have gone well.
Tivonna’s smile died as she saw the worried look on Hawk’s face.
“Is he worse?” She hastily dropped to her knees beside Jasen’s cot and reached out a tentative hand to check his temperature.
Replacing the old compress with a fresh one, Hawk nodded. “I’m afraid so. I can no longer get him to take water. He won’t last long without liquids. We have to do something!”
Tivonna stood. “The first thing is to get him out of here. Come, I have arranged rooms for you in an isolated part of the castle.”
Making sure that his cloak still concealed his appearance, Hawk lifted Jasen and followed Tivonna out of the cell and down a narrow corridor leading to the East Tower. Shortly, Jasen was snugly ensconced in the center of a large warm bed.
Hawk studied his friend’s pale face and labored breathing, then worriedly began pacing the room. He had to do something, but what?
“Should I send for the healers?” Tivonna was sitting beside Jasen’s bed watching the frantically pacing Filidae with concern.
Hawk shook his head.
“Perhaps they can help. They are the best in my father’s kingdom.”
“No. That wouldn’t be a very good idea. We have no way to get their medicines down him even if they would work on his metabolism. They would probably do more harm than good. If he were conscious, he could tell us what was wrong and what medicines would work on him. As it is, we would be taking a very big risk. I don’t want to do that unless there is no other hope. There’s got to be another way!”
As he paced the room, his eyes fell on the backpack sitting in the far corner of the room and a wild idea struck him. Jasen had talked of packing a medi-comp. They had debated on whether it would be safe to use on the planet. If Jasen had brought it...
Hawk rushed across the room and tore open the knapsack. No, this wasn’t Jasen’s but his! Somehow the packs had become switched. He had been wearing Jasen’s, not his own, when he had fallen into the crater at the ruins. If Jasen had brought the device, it would be in that pack. Hawk had last seen the backpack dangling from the crystal spine in the pit. If it was still there...It was worth a try; he would go for the pack. If the medi‑comp wasn’t in the other backpack he would try for the Ourora. It was Jasen’s best chance.
Turning from his place beside the pack, Hawk studied the worried girl. How to break the news?
“Tivonna, Jasen has one chance. We brought medicine with us from our home world. I must get it for him; I need you to stay with him and keep him safe. I’ll get the medicine and return as quickly as I can. If all goes well, I should be back in a few hours.”
“But how? Your home is too far away. How can you make it there and back so quickly?”
Hawk took a deep breath. “Tivonna, do you trust me?”
“Then I’m going to tell you a secret. Jasen is not the only one with unusual abilities.”
Instantly, a bright light flashed and a large snowy owl flew to the chamber window. It landed on the sill and watched the woman with silvery‑blue eyes. Stunned, Tivonna rose from her chair by the bed and walked across the room to the casement. Opening the window, she watched the beautiful bird take flight, heading for the distant mountain ruins.
Hawk was a Wer. Tivonna shook her head, who would have thought? Was there no end to the surprises her new friends possessed? The owl should be able to reach the mountains and return quickly. They had a chance. Tivonna returned to her place by the bed. Replacing the now warm compress on Jasen’s forehead with a new one, she prepared to wait and pray. As she watched the man on the bed before her, Tivonna felt a strange longing. She wanted to know this mysterious person who had risked so much to save her. Even pale and fevered, she found him compellingly attractive. She didn’t even know the color of his eyes. He must be a special person to have such a loyal friend as Hawk. She hoped she would have the opportunity to find out.
Hawk flew as swiftly as he could toward the mountain valley. He picked up a strong tail wind, which he suspected was due to Tivonna and reached the ruins in record time. Circling the area, he searched the terrain for any sign of the giant crater. Spying the huge pit, he spiraled downward into the gaping black hole. The pack must be here! He really didn’t have the time to return to the Ourora; Jasen was failing fast. At last, he saw the familiar crystal spine and, yes, swinging from the spear was the backpack.
Lighting on the rocky projection, he tore open the knapsack and searched inside. Yes, good old Jasen, he should have been a Boy Scout. The medi‑comp was there near the top of the pack. Hopping onto the box‑like instrument, the bird grasped the device’s carrying handle in both talons. Now, if only it wasn’t too heavy! With a strong beat of its wings, the owl took flight carrying the medi‑comp tightly in is clawed grip. The bird flew rapidly toward the castle aided by a friendly wind, which pushed him along increasing his speed. He had to make it in time!
Castle Aquilla was old. Hundreds of generations of monarchs had lived and died inside its walls. The castle was honeycombed with secret passages and spy holes left over from past ages. Many of the passages had been sealed over or forgotten, and few remembered they even existed. Gaius was one of the few who knew that the passages existed and how to operate the hidden entrances.
When Tyr had asked him to spy on the princess and her companions, Gaius had thought little about it. Royalty was always spying on each other and it was a good way to make some easy money. He had thought it was just another boring job. Now he was not so sure. The princess had closeted herself away in the East Tower and no one was allowed to enter. Even the king and queen stayed away. And where was the second visitor? He was not in the room and no one had seen him leave the tower. There was something strange going on and he was determined to find out what.
The East Tower suite had once been the guest quarters for visiting royalty. The ceiling of the chambers had been lowered to form a loft type space above the room, where spies could lay and watch the occupants of the suite. Gaius was snugly tucked away in the spy hole watching the princess care for the sick stranger, when a large white owl clutching a golden object in its talons streaked through the chamber’s open window. Landing in the middle of the room, the bird vanished in a flash of light, and an exotic white‑haired stranger stood holding a rectangular box in his hands. This just might prove interesting.
As the white bird flew in through the window, Tivonna rose from her place beside Jasen’s bed and moved to the center of the room to meet it. She waited impatiently as the beautiful owl spiraled to a landing in front of her. “Did you get the medicine?”
Transforming from bird to man, Hawk held up the medi‑comp for her to see. “Got it!” Stepping past the stunned girl, he walked to the bed. “How’s Jase? Any change?”
Receiving no answer, he turned from the bed and looked back at Tivonna. She was standing frozen in the center of the room staring at the golden box in his hands.
Technology! Tivonna could not believe what she was seeing. Was he out of his mind? He would destroy them all! Getting hold of herself, she walked over to stand beside the puzzled Filidae. He was an off worlder; she had to make him understand the danger.
“Hawk, I know you care for Jasen very much but you can’t use that. Technology is forbidden on Mystra. If you activate that machine, you will destroy us all. I can’t let you do that; I will stop you if I must.”
Understanding dawned; of course, she feared technology and rightfully so. He had to be very careful, she was quite capable of carrying out her threats. She would not hesitate to attack him if he tried to use the medi‑comp. He had to convince her it was safe.
“Tivonna, it’s all right. I know about machines and how they react on Mystra, but this one is different. The technology of Jasen’s planet contains no metal. It won’t react like the others. We just landed an entire starship in the mountains, and nothing happened. I would never do anything to harm you or your world. You have to trust me. This box is Jasen’s only chance; you must let me help him.”
Tivonna stared at him, fear warring with hope, then slowly nodded her head in assent. Hawk had trusted her, now it was her turn. Please, God, let him be right.
Immediately, Hawk turned to the bed and placed the medi‑comp on Jasen’s chest. The instrument was another scientific wonder from Jasen’s people. Made of the golden pseudo-metal, it was featureless except for one round crystal set in its center. Once activated, the instrument scanned the patient’s body and diagnosed the illness or injury. Then, it synthesized the proper medications and injected them automatically, as needed. It was like having a doctor and laboratory in a box. Hawk pressed the crystal, Jasen had assured him no other action was needed, and prayed. Immediately, a soft hum filled the room and the box began to glow.
“You are sure that it can help him?” Tivonna watched the softly glowing device with awe. It was the first machine she had ever seen.
Before Hawk could answer, the humming stopped and the golden glow expanded to encompass the still figure lying on the bed. Alarmed, Hawk reached for his friend only to be stopped by the now impenetrable force field. Beyond the curtain of light, the medi‑comp began a strange metamorphosis. The surface of the box seemed to melt and, as Hawk and Tivonna watched in alarm, golden tentacles began to erupt from the device. They could only watch in horror as the golden appendages attached themselves to Jasen’s body. Hawk shuddered; they seemed to be burrowing into his skin. Tivonna gasped as one of the tentacles came to rest on Jasen’s face, completely covering his nose and mouth. “Hawk, we have to do something. It will kill him.”
Hawk struggled to calm his thoughts. Jasen told him the box was a healing device. He had no reason to think it was a lie. “I don’t think it’s meant to hurt him. I think it’s trying to save him.”
As if in answer to Hawk’s words, there was a soft chiming and words began to form on the force shield. Taking a step closer, he scanned the information written in Galactic Standard displayed there. As he read, he felt the tension ease from his body. Jasen had been right; the box was a healing device and it was busy trying to save the telepath’s life. Finishing the message, he watched as the words faded from view as mysteriously as they had appeared. Turning, he found a worried Tivonna watching him expectantly.
“It’s OK. The force shield is to protect the patient while he’s helpless. The tentacles allow the medi-comp to monitor his condition and provide the treatment and support he needs. Everything is going to be fine; we were in time, but it was close. The stress and strain of the past few days threw his body chemistry out of balance. The medi‑comp is injecting him with the necessary electrolytes and compounds to stabilize his metabolism. Unfortunately, he also has a bad case of pneumonia. But we kept his temperature down, and he is not dehydrated. As soon as his body chemistry is stabilized, the medi‑comp will start antibiotics; it’s also giving him oxygen. Barring complications, he should be fine in a few days. Now, all we have to do is keep him warm and quiet. Our doctor-in-a-box will do the rest.” He pointed toward the glowing shield. “The device will disengage when treatment is complete. I know it looks ghastly, but he’s in good hands.”
“But, how can a golden box do all of that?”
Hawk shook his head. “I’m not sure. Jasen’s race has a strange affinity with what he calls the energy of creation. They can program the energy to take the form they need. It’s all too close to magic for me.”
“Magic, the ancients spoke of beings that came from the stars and could mold the universal force, what they called the fifth element or spirit. It is believed that individuals with psychic gifts and the ability to wield elemental energy are from their blood lines. I never dreamed I’d meet one.”
“Well, if what he believes is true; he is the last of his kind.”
“All the more reason to keep him safe.”
Gaius quietly withdrew from the spy hole. This was quite a scoop; the duke would pay well for this information. Technology that worked on Mystra! The man who controlled such technology would be ruler of the entire planet. He would be a god. Yes, the duke would give a lot to know about this. Slipping from the tower, he prepared to travel. This was too good to wait; he had to reach Tyr immediately.
Unaware of the spy in their midst, Tivonna and Hawk sat beside Jasen’s bed and watched as the medi‑comp gave its life‑giving treatment. Spying a bowl of fruit and a plate of cheese on the table by the bed, Hawk made himself comfortable and began to eat; flying was hard work. Looking at Tivonna, he smiled.
“For what?” The girl turned startled green eyes on the Filidae.
“For trusting me. You have every reason to fear machines. It took a lot of courage to let me use that.”
“I am just glad that he will live. If he dies, so do I.”
“What! What are you talking about?”
“He is my kiosan.”
“I think it’s about time you told me about this kiosan business. What is Jasen to you and you to him?”
Collecting her thoughts, Tivonna tried to explain. “An elemental cannot control her power without help. When her power matures, what we call the change, she must be bonded to an appropriate mate. One who can help her tame her powers and establish her control. If not, she goes mad and her power goes wild, then she dies. You have seen the ruins.”
“That was the result of an unbonded elemental’s death. The same would have happened to me if Jasen had not come. But more happens during bonding than just taming the elemental’s abilities. My race is the result of breeding between my human ancestors and alien visitors to our world. We carry a gene from those alien visitors that was activated by the forces unleashed during the cataclysm. The gene allows me to access vast amounts of energy. But, that energy is too much for a human body to contain on its own. The forces over time break down my cellular structure, eroding my control and eventually killing me. Bonding to someone with the gene that is complementary to me in power prevents the breakdown.”
“Wow, that’s…just wow.”
Tivonna nodded. “There is one thing else. A kiosan is also entrusted with the ability to neutralize his elemental’s powers, at least temporarily. If she starts to misuse them, he can stop her; he is the only one who can.”
“It’s sort of like a safety switch to control all that power.”
“Yes. Once bonded, an elemental cannot live apart from her kiosan, her chosen, as you would call him. If he dies, she dies. If he leaves her for more than three months, she will become ill, then die. The working theory is that male and female each received only half of the genetic information to safely channel power. During bonding, they share the information from their respective genes, creating a stable whole. So you see, Jasen is very important to me; I could never harm him. My instinct is to protect him at all cost.”
“I see. What does this mean to Jasen? Are you lifemates?Married?”
“No, most elementals marry their kiosan, but it’s not a rule. I only have to stay near him. Everything else is up to the individuals. I know that Jasen is different. In fact, I’m amazed that I’m still alive. I have never heard of anyone that could stabilize an elemental once the change had begun. In fact, I’ve never known of anyone, not of my race, being able to bond at all.” She held up her right arm. “Yet according to this tattoo, I am not only bonded and in full control of my abilities but I have all four gifts, each equal in strength. I don’t wish to cause him hardship. But I can’t undo what has happened.”
Hawk gave Tivonna a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. Jasen is a reasonable fellow. We’ll work it out somehow. Why don’t you try to get some rest? I’ll take the first watch.”
“Sleep sounds good.” Tivonna rose and walked to the door leading to the hallway, and the second set of chambers beyond. Stopping in the doorway, she watched the Filidae sitting quietly by the bedside. She realized she had grown fond of this strange being. He made her feel that everything would turn out alright. She trusted him and was glad he was her friend. Exiting the room, Tivonna prepared to get some much needed rest.
Hawk sat thinking about his conversation with Tivonna. He had no doubt that Tivonna believed what she said to be true. But Hawk didn’t buy it. If Jasen was the only man on the planet that could match the elemental, he bet that Tivonna was bonded closer to the telepath than she knew. He wouldn’t be surprised if the girl found herself in love with Jasen. And what of Jasen? Hawk knew a little about his people. Telepaths married those who were their mental complement. He knew that Jasen despaired of ever finding a suitable mate since he was the only living telepath left. What if this strange girl turned out to be Jasen’s match too? How deep had the mind-link gone? Things could get pretty interesting in the coming weeks. Hawk couldn’t help but smile. He couldn’t wait to see the expression on Jasen’s face when he found out that he had inherited the auburn haired, green-eyed elemental for life.
During the following days, Tivonna and Hawk took turns keeping watch on the telepath. Three days after Hawk returned with the medi‑comp, Jasen’s condition began to improve. A day later and the machine ended its treatment.
As it became obvious that her bondmate was going to live, Tivonna left the room long enough to visit with her parents.The king and queen had been extremely patient.They had not pressed her for an explanation but instead had offered her every assistance.She and Hawk both agreed that it was time they knew the truth about their otherworldly guests.After much debate, the two decided to take the monarchs fully into their confidence, withholding only the knowledge of Jasen’s telepathic abilities.Tivonna was overjoyed; she disliked keeping secrets from her parents.
One evening while Tivonna was visiting with her family, Hawk sat dozing in a chair beside Jasen’s bed.He was jerked awake by a soft moan coming from the bed.Leaning over, he smiled as Jasen opened his eyes.
Groggily, Jasen looked up at Hawk and muttered, “You look horrible. You should be getting more sleep.” The words trailed off as the telepath drifted off into a natural healing sleep.
Bemused, Hawk reached over and laid a hand on Jasen’s forehead. It was cool; the fever had broken and the coma ended. Jasen was on the road to recovery. Now, if only he could find a way to tell him about Tivonna. Oh well, that could wait till later. He was too tired to figure it out now. Jasen was going to be just fine, that was all that mattered. Everything else would sort itself out given time. Rising, Hawk headed for his own chambers and bed.