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I'd like to think that my sons generally showed good sense and decency anywhere they went; perhaps his wild conduct may be excused by his youth, but had I been there, he would have heard from me about it. He started to act crazy. Discovering that the psionic skills and tools and weapons he had brought from NagaWorld were not merely fully functional but actually easier to use here, he began acting out. He telekinetically tossed some sheep around, used pyrogenesis on a couple of shepherds, and then fired the disintegrator at a sheep--blowing a crater in a hillside on a miss before destroying the animal. Needless to say, he angered the locals. In some worlds, the appearance of a crazed person with non-natural abilities would inspire fear. These indigs, however, seemed quite at home with the notion that such things were possible, and began to converge upon him. Hopping on his bicycle, he flew away, using the telekinetic rod to grab his loose belongings on the way. Once he was out of town, and Baron had caught up with him, he reorganized things for the ride to the next village.
He took a job as an apprentice to a blacksmith for a few months. It provided him room and board, and although it was hard work, he expected that it would strengthen him. Besides, from time to time fighters came through to have their weapons repaired or their horses shod. Eventually he connected with a samurai who was willing to introduce him to a Wu Jen of his acquaintance; it was not difficult to persuade the mage that he had a propensity for magical skills and a reasonable amount of intelligence. Before long he was studying mystery languages and secrets of the elements and other basic knowledge of wizardry. There were times when he wished it was as easy as math and science; but it was more interesting than some of what he had had to study in his own world, and he took to it quickly.
His sensei, Tau Kai, also arranged for him to be taught in the defensive martial arts style Mao Tse Tung. He was thus able to develop new techniques with his plastic steel bo stick he modeled on the one Dylan had made in NagaWorld. For months he trained body and mind, impatient for some adventure, but eager to learn all he could.
Then Tau Kai had a visitor. A monk named Han Cors needed some help. There was some detail about a priest who stole a magical bell from a temple, and was intending no good thereby. He had left word for some other friends, but had agreed to investigate this immediately. Tau Kai was glad to help his friend, and also brought his young apprentice, whom he called Ee An, to get some exposure to the world of the adventure.
They did catch up. The children had followed the man they had joined under ground, and were back at the water where they had started weeks before. They seemed to be standing back, watching as the young man spoke with an older man, apparently a king, and even more clearly a dying man. In a moment, the meeting was over, and the young man removed his hat in mourning, even as some around him declared him King Rillian.
At that moment, they were distracted by the arrival of the Lion who had sent them here in the beginning. He had not approached; he was just suddenly there, and he said it was time for them to come with him. Then with a gust of breath, he blew away the wood in which they stood, and as it vanished, so did he, and they found themselves back on the ledge not far from the stream above the clouds. The Lion was again by the stream, talking to the two children. He threw a glance at Michael which clearly said to wait for his turn, and then did not look at them again. However, the boy recovered a large thorn from the bushes and, seemingly at the Lion's insistence, pricked the large cat's paw. The blood dripped into the stream.
Abruptly a man arose from the water. Michael was as startled as the children appeared to be: it was the dying king he had seen across the ocean moments before, but transformed to an ageless state in which he was both as old as he had ever been and as new as an infant, and every age between. The man appeared to recognize the child, and greeted him warmly and eagerly, talking in an animated way with both of the children and the Lion. Then the children were directed down the ledge away from Michael's position, and as they left, the Lion again looked to the group of versers in the wood.
They stepped forward, and suddenly and eagerly were greeted by the no-longer dead king: "Michael! Lima! Gor! Kubak! How wonderful to see you all again!" Seeing the confusion of the foursome, he went on to introduce himself as King Caspian, and to remind them of events which they could not recall, a battle he had fought as a young man, and their arrival at lantern waste to drive the enemy, the humans his Uncle ruled, toward the sea. Having been in the verse a long time, Michael took it in stride. In fact, he came up with a theory of what was happening.
When he had been back in Lima's world, he had discovered some lockers which he wanted to open; but he did not have the necessary bracelets to access them. He had developed a retrocognitive skill to enable him to see what had been in there in the past (since his clairvoyance told him only that the inside of the lockers was dark), and thought that if he could step back in time to a point at which the lockers were open, he could get what he needed from them, and return to the future. He had actually managed to step backwards one full minute in time, and saw himself standing in front of himself (he had subconsciously taken a physical step back at the same moment). But then he realized that if he went back in time, he might not be able to come forward again, so he abandoned the plan. Now he believed that his experiments had disrupted his time line, such that there was another one of him traveling a different course through the verse, or perhaps such that he had skipped events in his own life. But it was all theory.
The Lion walked with the foursome, leaving the king back at the water, and spoke with them. They had done well, he said; there was one more thing he would invite them to do. The giants at the castle had acted treacherously, and it was time for them to be punished. Would they be willing to execute his wrath against them? If so, he would transport them and all of their equipment to a familiar safe point not far from their; if not, he would open the way for them to leave his world into another. Michael had not forgotten the giants, and was ready to attack them again; but he checked to assure that his three companions were also willing to do this. They were. Getting back together with their jeep, they soon found themselves appearing in the glade of evergreens on the south side of the rock plateau they had recently been atop and beneath. Michael began to make plans.
The corridor they followed kept wrapping around to the right as it progressed around the building; windows were high in the walls, allowing some light and air in, but not providing any view in or out, or any means of escape. There were several areas which seemed somewhat like rooms, yet were little more than widenings in the corridor. In half of these were shrines, each with a table and a bell, each bell made of a richer metal. In the other half were surprises. The first surprise was a group of four guards, young men willing to defend their liege with their lives. These proved no match for the superior combat skills of the martial arts trained trio. Around the bend, they came into another room; this time as they crossed the floor to examine it, the floor dropped from beneath them, dumping them into the darkness below.
They were all unharmed, but rather lost in the darkness. Tau Kai had not light spells, and Han Cors had not packed more than his weapons. Did anyone have a torch? No, Ian had no torches either; however, he suddenly had an inspiration: there was a flashlight in his dufflebag. Feeling the zipper in the dark, he opened it up, and groped inside to find the familiar plastic cylinder. Crossing his fingers, he flipped the switch--and on came the light.
Sensai and leader were both suitably impressed, and quickly gathered their belongings in the dim light. There was a door leading out of the room, so they carefully scouted ahead. A group of orcs was awakened by their arrival, but these proved little more trouble than the guards had been--and they had a scrap of a map which led to a hidden potion along the way. Stairs led up to a door, clear from this side, but which matched the wall so perfectly that they had walked past it on the other. Through this, the resumed their course.
He wasn't going to try to drive the jeep. The fusion power plant and electric drive could create major disasters if something went wrong. But he wanted the vehicle--the fifty-caliber mounted machine gun alone was worth the effort of moving the vehicle within range. So he decided he would create that magical floating shield under the jeep, and use it to move the jeep. This worked quite well, and he moved the jeep, full of his weapons, equipment, and comrades, across the open area toward the castle.
He was still several miles away from the castle when the giants began pouring out of it, and charging down the mountain. He struck, throwing balls of fire at the lead giants. Lima also opened fire with her bow. The giants had no missile weapons, and so were trying to close the gap by running the distance; but they were far enough away and slow enough running several missiles could find each of them (and again, shooting at them resembled targeting a barn) A couple got almost within grasping range, but Michael had his M16 ready to put several holes in them, and Lima produced her pistol, a weapon Michael had never seen fired. It put a huge hole in the body of a giant who was close enough that he almost fell on her.
About half of the attacking giants were dead; the other half scattered into the hills around the area, looking for cover. Michael now pulled his trump card: he caused the stone of the castle to begins softening to mud in large sections, and collapsing upon itself. He knew that there would still be giants within the building; they would be destroyed in the castle. Furthermore, the giants who had fled into the hills would have no comfortable fortification to which to return. He was satisfied with his judgement.
He was also still alive, far in the north in a wasteland in winter. Somehow, he would have to get to someplace more survivable.
Once again, it was Ian who saved the day. Han Cors examined the cage, and recognized that the release to raise the bars was on the wall across from them. Once he knew how to open the gate, it was a simple matter to use his telekinesis to turn that release and so release himself and his companions. They were little delayed, and resumed their quest.
I've gotten things out of sequence, of course, but it's not that important. During those various fights, and the fall through the trap door, they got banged up quite a bit. Ian kept them going, using the psionics he learned from his brother to repair their injuries and keep them going. It was one more feather in his cap--Han Cors at one point complimented Tau Kai on the versatility and skill of his apprentice, but even the mage was surprised by some of what Ian was able to accomplish.
Around the next corner they encountered a dragon. Mercifully, the dragon was asleep; still, they did not imagine they could get past it without awakening it. It was chained to its place, but there was no getting past it without going almost right over it. Even though it was a small dragon, and looked like a young dragon, it was certainly enough of an enemy that it could finish the three of them if they didn't get it first. Ian decided to strike while it was asleep, and see if he could finish it before it awoke. He would use the disintegrator.
He did not kill the dragon on the first shot; it was the first time he'd tried to kill something with it that survived the blast. Actually, I think he missed the dragon, and hit the wall, which caused debris to fall on the creature, and alerted it to his presence. But he managed to get another shot off before the monster could get its bearings, and this one proved fatal to it.
The next bend took them into the central chamber; they were getting close to their objective. But they also expected that the worst was yet to come. This as yet unseen enemy had kept a dragon in the hall; what would be beyond the dragon?
But while they rested and recovered in the hallway, reinforcements arrived. Tau Kai had left word for his friends, and Tiras Kittim had caught up. This expert in the kau sin ke (my weapon of choice, so Ian was familiar with it) had brought along a couple of mutual friends: a samurai and a shukenja. Now there were six of them, two of them potent fighters fresh for battle, one a healer ready to help them. They went forward into the next room.
Two demons had been summoned from some dark recess of the supernatural realm--or that was Ian's assessment. Anyway, the fighters took them on with full force. Ian took a couple shots at them, may even have done them some damage; but he said the victory would not have been theirs without that help.
The renegade priest was quickly brought down at this point; although there was a secret passage running through much of the complex, the entrance at this end was not at all secret, and they recovered the stolen bell, brought the thief to justice, and returned home to their daily routines.
It took a couple days, and was not entirely uneventful. He realized when morning came that he was much higher up than he had been. The car was flying perfectly level; but when they had made the long trek to the giant's castle, it had been slightly uphill all the way. Now the ground was falling away beneath them, and they were well above it. He successfully adjusted the altitude--but realized that he didn't want to overdo it, since they would reach that chasm in a couple days, and there was a very high ridge on the far side.
Lima told me that when they got back to the land of the talking trees and and animals, they were flying very quickly above the treetops, and Michael couldn't slow the thing down right away. They sailed right past the castle, and wound up stopping some distance beyond, still near the tops of the trees. At that point, Michael was afraid to drop the jeep, so he left it in the air, and looked for a way to get Gor out. This was not so easy--the bear had been asleep for days by now, and at twelve feet tall was too big for Michael to easily move about. They ended up leaving him up there overnight while they took rooms in the castle, then coming back the next day to carefully lower the car, and with much help load the bear into a cart to take inside.
Michael and Lima lived there for quite a while. Michael learned some interesting things while he was there, and Lima learned some basics (such as how to write, a lost skill in her world where words were all read off computer screens). He also tinkered with magic some more. I expect that that's what got him. It's often been observed of me that I'm too careful for the enemies to kill me, but that I'm curious enough that I'll eventually do something that goes so far wrong that I'm gone. Michael is more of a soldier than I, and has often been killed in battle--he considers giving his life in the fight to be a proof of his courage and nobility, despite the fact that he knows death is not the end. Yet he also is curious, often experimenting, trying to push the envelope of what he can do. In the midst of a wonderful peace, I suspect he created his own disaster.
There was one other odd thing. Michael may have been wrong about his theory regarding the time problem. At first, of course, he thought that those who took him for King Michael were mistaken--that they had identified him with some historical figure who shared his name. After all, all dryads looked the same to him; probably all humans looked the same to the dryads and the animals. None of them expected him to remember them; only the aged dwarf had been alive the last time he was alleged to have been there, and the dwarf could neither see nor hear well at all. But when the King started on the subject, it was obvious that this was someone who knew him personally, who had met him before, at a time and in a place he had never been. It had baffled him. So he did the most reasonable thing he could: he asked the Lion. The Lion's words, cryptic as they were, opened his eyes to the nature of time in the verse in a way he had never realized.
"You will be here before; you have been here again."
M. J. Young Net