The New Adventures of Jamie

by Jamie Mac

Chapter 12


With a new day ahead of the boys, Swift decided that he would introduce Eric and Jamie to some of the more reliable beings on the preserve. This would also provide the opportunity to teach the two young boys where the various boundaries lay. As mortals they could cross any boundary they chose, safe or otherwise, but it was important that they know which areas were which. Swift stood up to head out, but Jamie was busy thinking and not paying close attention; his mind was on other things at the moment and he almost looked straight through his friends.

Swift said, "Shall we go meet Nyssa and her clan?"

"Sure," Eric replied.

They all got up to join Swift, save for Jamie who seemed oblivious to everything around him. Kyle put a hand on his shoulder and Jamie suddenly jumped.

"Hey Sunshine, it's okay. We're heading out now, or do you want to stay here?" Kyle asked.

Jamie smiled up at his friend and said, "I'm fine I was just daydreaming a bit. Let's go before they leave us."

Jamie stood and started down the porch steps, Kyle looking at him and slightly puzzled, he wondered what Jamie was thinking about. Kyle trusted that his young friend would tell him once he felt ready to. They walked down the steps following Swift who then headed toward the path they had followed when they first arrived.

Entering the forest, Swift started to explain about the boundaries, "Every Being on the preserve has its own domain, although some overlap with each other. Certain Beings like a couple of the demons on the preserve are restricted to their specific areas."

"We're free to enter every place we want to go on the preserve. However, some areas like the lair of the swamp hag, you do not want to enter. Some of the Beings on the preserve follow the ways of darkness; those areas are especially dangerous. Staying on the main paths is usually safe, although there are some things even there that can cause you trouble," Swift continued.

"Now, while we are free to come and go in any of the areas, we're still bound by the Laws of Retribution. That is if we do something destructive in their domains, they can basically retaliate, so be careful what you do. It is always best to stay on the known paths, or be with other Beings of The Light. Most are willing to warn you if you might be about to break the treaty that we all have agreed to."

"So, as long as we stay on the paths it's safe to explore?" Eric asked.

"Yes and no. Right now we are on the main path, that's always safe. The path on the left is safe, but it can be dangerous if you go too far down it. There's a shrine hidden down that path and if you get too close, you won't exist anymore. But just a little way down that path is one that'll take you to Taaggin and Dohgyn's field where they play lacrosse," Swift explained.

Kyle added in, "Maybe tomorrow we can all gear up and go play them in a game. It's a riot!"

"Sounds like fun to me," Eric added.

The whole time as they walked and talked, Jamie seemed very distant. He was lagging behind a bit from everyone; Kyle noticed and slowed his pace down to talk to Jamie.

"Something bothering you, Sunshine? Sure you don't wanna talk about it?" Kyle asked.

"I don't know. I'm scared. I know what needs to be done and I wonder why we just can't do it. I'm more scared that someone is going to die from this. Sure if I die no big deal; I'm a throwaway anyhow. I understand what is at stake, but I wonder if maybe we need to do something sooner," Jamie finished, a tear running down his cheek.

Kyle wrapped an arm over the young boy's shoulder and said, "No matter what Sunshine I mean what I said: nobody will hurt you. As I understand it, we have to do these things at specific times. Which means we must not rush ahead into something without thinking it through, or having a hint that it is the right time. I think your friend who's starting to guide you will always keep you on the right path."

Kyle then stopped Jamie who was still shuffling along slowly on the path, put his other arm around his young friend, pulled him close, and whispered in his ear, "You're not a throwaway. You're more special than you know. You will see it soon enough Sunshine."

Meanwhile as they walked along Swift would make periodic comments, pointing out other aspects of the preserve. They finally came to the main intersection, a large cross of pathways converging together; from this point you could go in four directions. Swift stopped, allowing for Kyle and Jamie to catch up since they had fallen behind. Swift wanted to give Kyle a chance to see what was bothering the smaller boy; he knew instinctively that Kyle would cheer him back up somehow.

"This is the main intersection, almost like with a highway. All the main paths lead back here, so if you got caught say going to the right and followed that path eventually you'd circle back to this spot; although it may take you three or four days to do it. The Dryads call this part of the preserve their home. They claim everything in this stretch off to our right, going back down to the path to the shrine," said Swift.

Seeing puzzled looks on both Eric's and Jamie's faces, Swift added, "I guess I need to explain what a Dryad is."

Eric nodded, but Jamie spoke up, "They're a type of wood faerie, if I read the Druhull book right."

Smiling, Swift responded, "Yes they are, but a lot bigger than the faeries you see in the gardens. Dryads can be well over six feet tall, and most average about six and a half feet. Nyssa is probably the tallest at a little over seven feet. If you're ever on Dryad land; never build a fire. Dryads are closely connected with their trees and fire scares them."

Jamie said, "Their trees are their lives. They age along with them, so they jealously guard them with all of their powers. When a Dryad's tree starts to die, they can continue living by replanting a seed from the very same tree. This makes them all but immortal."

"Jamie, you read too much!" Swift said smiling back at the young boy.

Jamie looked down feeling embarrassed again, Swift spoke up quickly sensing that Jamie was about to turn within himself, "Jamie never stop, and never be embarrassed about a love for reading. Reading is knowledge and knowledge is power. Don't be shy about it. I think it's great that you're so eager to learn."

Kyle added, "I was once told a long time ago, by probably the only member of my family who ever cared about me, that the only dumb question is the one you don't ask. It might not be the same as reading, but finding the answers to questions, even in books, is never a dumb idea."

"They're both right Jamie. I never had much of a chance. I don't read very good at all, and wish I could. I was always told how dumb I was; always held back; never allowed to read books. So what these guys are saying is so true. Don't ever stop being you," said Eric as he sat down and started to cry.

"I'll never amount to anything, I was always told that," Eric added while crying. "I'm useless; I'm garbage; I'm only good for one thing," he sobbed and sat down on the path continuing to cry.

Swift quickly sat next to him, placing an arm over his shoulder, and rubbing his back as Eric cried himself out. He whispered into Eric's ear, "You're much more than that. I don't care what anyone has told you, you have more going for you than you know. Look at how well you did against Kyle in the pitch. You're quick; don't ever let anyone tell you different."

Both Kyle and Jamie stood off to the side, watching Eric as he sat there, all the pain and abuse flowing out in a storm of tears. They all had it bad, this was the first Eric had ever let out a little bit of what had happened to him. As the tears slowed, Eric started to look around. He jumped a little as a quiet voice spoke from behind him, "I am sorry you have felt so much pain, young one."

They all looked up at the golden figure that stood towering above them. Her hair was stark white, but held an ageless beauty. The timeless features of her face defied the years, and did not show any age at all. For all the boys knew she could be a teenager or over three thousand years old.

Kyle bowed and said, "It's good to see you Lady Nyssa, you look wonderful today."

"Kyle, you speak with such elegance for one so young, and beyond your years," Nyssa replied bowing back.

"My Lady, you are the fairest in the realm," Kyle replied with a wink.

Eric's crying had slowed when Nyssa had appeared, he now looked up at her with wonder on his face as she looked down at him and smiled. He felt all his pain burn away in that instant as if by some force she had healed him. The final tear rolled down his cheek as he smiled back.

"Thank you, My Lady. I am feeling better now," said Eric.

"Your brothers will never let you down Eric, and that goes for everyone here. You are all a force to be reckoned with. You may be young, but you are all fighters. The battles you have fought in your lives are more than most knights and warriors have ever seen in a lifetime. You will do well, and always remember that you have fought more demons than most your age or even well beyond will ever see. A man may have the heart of a lion, but he may never experience the struggles that you have endured," said Nyssa.

"Little One, you are on the right path. Follow your heart. There is much danger ahead, the signs show that if you fall; you will always rise to meet a new challenge. Your path is clear before you. You know what must be done, even if you do not fully understand it yet. It will come to you in time," Nyssa finished, smiling at Jamie.

Jamie smiled back, "I think I understand some of it now."

The others looked at Jamie, but his face showed nothing of the significance of what he had just been told. Jamie felt he knew now the outline of what needed to be done, and that he was going to be the one that would need to do it. He just had to figure out all the fine details before putting a plan into motion.

They walked with Nyssa through the glade of oaks, each one cared for by the Dryads as this was their home. She enjoyed showing the boys some of the wide variety of beauty that lay within her domain. Soon they came to an immense oak tree. It had to be very old: it shaded half the field it covered and was ten times as tall as the trees nearby. The buds appearing on the branches showed the signs of spring on its way.

"This is the Mother Tree; from this tree all Dryads and life have come into being, in this place. Partake in the fruits and waters of our land; rest here before you continue your journey," spoke Nyssa in a commanding voice.

Other Dryads then appeared, carrying plates laden with fruits of all kinds and cups filled with water, honeydew nectar, and other types of juices all of which were derived from tree fruits. Swift lay down on a bed of moss and Kyle followed suit a bit further over. Then Jamie sat down next to Kyle and finally Eric took up a spot next to Swift. They all looked on at the offered fruits and drinks being shared with them by the Dryads.

"Woah!" exclaimed Eric as he took and bit into an oddly shaped piece of fruit.

The morsel had exploded as his teeth had come down, and most of its juice was now running down the young boy's face as he smiled. The Dryads as well as the other boys giggled as the red juices dripped off his chin staining the shirt that he was wearing.

Eric laughing as well asked, "What kind of fruit is this? It's so juicy and tasty."

Eric then took another somewhat more careful bite, chewing and swallowing, while licking the juices from around his mouth and wiping his chin on the sleeve of his shirt. His actions brought another chorus of laughter and giggles from everyone. Eric just continued to smile enjoying it all.

"It is a Jackfruit, not very common in most parts of the world. We have several different types of fruits that only grow here on the preserve as well, so some of what you see before you may be new to you," said Xnedra, one of the Dryads serving the boys.

Eric smiled back, "Well, whatever they are, it's delicious."

Jamie sat watching Eric and decided it was time to be fed once again. He moved over and laid his head down on Kyle's lap and looked up with an expectant grin. Kyle smiled at him and said, "I think someone really likes being hand-fed."

Shyly, Jamie said, "I've never had someone treat me as nice as you do. It's really neat, but if you don't want to it's okay."

"I'd love to Sunshine. I would do anything for you and I really mean that," said Kyle with deep feeling in his voice.

Kyle picked up a nearby platter of fruit, and looked it over. Jamie turned his head and gazed at the wide variety of fruits on the platter, both ordinary and unusual. Regular meals had never been a normal part of his life even before he had run away from home, and now having had a few days of them he was definitely appreciating the change in his life. Moreover, exotic fruit, vegetables, and well-prepared and cooked meat had never been part of the equation when he was living on the streets. The choices there were of necessity limited to what one could get cheap or free.

"So, what tastes good?" Jamie finally asked Kyle, unable to control his curiosity any longer.

"You let me figure that out," said Kyle with a kindly tone as he reached over and picked out a medium-sized red berry.

Kyle brought the shiny morsel up to Jamie's mouth and nodded his head in response to Jamie's questioning eyes. The younger boy then opened his mouth and Kyle lowered the berry whereupon Jamie took a small tentative bite. His eyes immediately widened and he quickly reopened his mouth, and Kyle then popped in the rest of the berry.

Jamie's reaction to the intense burst of flavour was instantaneous; there was no question he wanted more, as his mouth quickly again. Kyle anticipating this had already selected another one of the berries and held it ready for Jamie.

"What are those?" Jamie finally asked after having eaten several.

"Just strawberries," replied Kyle with a casual grin.

"No way, you're kidding!" replied a shocked Jamie. "I sneaked some strawberries once in a grocery store but they weren't anything like that!"

"They were probably those horrible things imported from California," said Kyle. "They haven't got any taste at all. They're grown almost like in a factory, and once they submit them to radiation that kills any leftover flavour. Mostly though it's the way they grow them. This is what a real strawberry is supposed to taste like."

It did not take long before Jamie felt as if he had died and gone to heaven, his head lying in Kyle's lap as the parade of berries continued to disappear. Kyle was feeling the same things too; it was almost as if fate had meant them to be together. Shortly afterwards Eric and Swift began to notice that Kyle's fingers were getting licked and gently sucked clean as they continued dropping bits of fruit into Jamie's mouth. They also grinned at each other as they heard the usual chewing and swallowing sounds gradually changing themselves into something more resembling soft moans.

Jamie's steel blue eyes shone as he looked up into Kyle's face. The look Jamie was giving him was understood by Kyle without the need for spoken words. He gently placed a hand alongside Jamie's cheek, and caressing it he leaned down next to Jamie's ear and softly whispered, "I love you Sunshine."

Meanwhile Swift and Eric sat there watching the impromptu display of affection with growing amazement. Finally, not able to stay quiet any longer Eric quipped to Swift, "Boy those berries sure look like they taste better than these ones."

Kyle and Jamie looked over and saw Swift and Eric grinning back at them. Jamie started to blush, but Kyle looked down at him and said, "Don't worry Sunshine, it's just teasing. They don't mean anything bad by it. I think Eric's just feeling a bit left out. Maybe we'll have to give Swift a few more demonstrations on how it's done and then he can try feeding Eric."

With this remark it was Swift's turn to blush and Jamie and Kyle's eyebrows rose wondering if perhaps they had accidentally stumbled onto something. Unable to help himself Jamie began to giggle and it didn't take long before Kyle joined him. Swift's face grew even redder while Eric looked at the group not quite understanding what everyone found funny. It finally dawned on Eric as to what was happening and he decided he wanted in on the hand feeding.

Changing his position and smiling at Swift, following Jamie's example Eric laid his head on Swifts lap, smiled up at him, and looked into Swift's dark brown eyes. Swift was stunned a bit, he had secretly been hoping, but never expected this. Taking a platter of fruit in his hand he imitated Kyle's actions, and held a juicy morsel over an expectant Eric's mouth.

The feedings then began once again in earnest; both boys popping different selections of the various fruits into their partner's mouths accompanied by the sounds of sheer joy. Kyle looked over at Swift, and noted a tear on his cheek. He knew that Swift had feelings for Eric, but was unsure if Eric fully understood. Now looking at both of them he realized that Eric had begun to reflect those selfsame feelings back towards Swift.

Eventually eating their fill, the boys got up and said their farewells to the Dryads. Nyssa sent them off with her blessings and that of the Great Oak as well. Swift then headed out in a different direction from the path that they had come in from.

Noting the change, Eric said, "I see we're going somewhere else, since we're not heading back the way we came."

"Yes we are. I thought I would take you to the gorge, and show you a few other beings on the preserve. Then by the time we get back home, we can have dinner," said Swift.

"Is it past lunch already?" Jamie asked, somewhat perplexed by the way time seemed to fly by.

"It is Sunshine, it was nice of Nyssa to offer us lunch," Kyle said.

Jamie was enjoying Kyle's company and felt the need for some comfort, so he walked next to Kyle and slid his hand into that of his older friend. He looked up and smiled. Kyle responded by looking down and smiling back, adding a wink saying it was okay and that everything would be fine.

"A little further ahead we need to be careful of what we say, the demon Groxocho lives in the next domain. It won't take long to get by his domain, but there will be some fear; demons radiate a very strong fear. As we go by you will feel some of that fear, just remember that it's a false emotion," Swift warned.

"Groxocho is one of the higher demons, if I read right?" Jaime asked.

"Yes he is. How much do you know about him Jamie?" Swift asked.

Hesitantly Jamie spoke, "He was one of the strongest of the demons, next to their king Gorgrog. If they were somehow set free or got loose, Groxocho would be third in line for King after Gorgrog's son. If I read right, I think somehow they are also tied to the events we're connected to and the things that have been happening."

"After they were defeated long ago and locked away, the knowledge of the demons was gradually lost and now not much is known about them. However, it does seem pretty clear that some people still believe and worship these demons today; some people in places of high power are even thought to be under the control of them. Although that is uncertain since if they are dormant their power may be limited. Some however, say that they still retain their full power and are merely biding their time, and if I read it right, it's very possible. I feel somehow they are involved in this … quest … I guess we can call it. I'm not one hundred percent sure," Jamie concluded.

Pausing for a moment, Swift looked at Jamie and smiled. Kyle, Swift noted, was still hand-in-hand with Jamie. Eric had a slight smile watching as they held hands. Jamie thought to himself that maybe he was correct in that this whole great adventure was their quest.

The voice spoke, from Eric again, "Jamie, you are correct. This is a quest, and the tasks are many. I will give you additional information, but here is not the place to speak of it. As Swift stated, the demons while dormant can still hear and sense things that we say. While they cannot sense my presence, they can feel yours which would draw their attention to you. Pass this area quickly, I shall speak to you again when it is safer."

"I guess that answers any questions we might have at this moment. I think let's get by this spot to a safer place," Swift said quickly.

Jamie gripped Kyle's hand tighter as they started to walk, their pace quickening. The singing of the birds had ceased, and the silence became ominous as they walked deeper along the edge of Groxocho's domain. A deeper, darker, stretch of forest lay before them with little light filtering down through the trees. The trees in this area looked dead and dying, with mould and moss clinging to their limbs. The ground was bare; dirty puddles covered in a sickly looking oil were everywhere, as if nothing could live or survive in this unholy ground. A sense of death and dread hung heavy in the air as they all started moving quicker, their eyes alert to any danger that might be present.

Suddenly a tree limb cracked and fell from above, without a second's hesitation Kyle pulled out his sword and met the large branch full-force, deflecting it just enough that it narrowly missing hitting Jamie. Everyone jumped as it crashed to the ground mere inches away from where they were standing. Now realizing the full extent of the danger Swift let out a whistle as Jamie's colour started to return to the now shaken boy. The near miss sent shivers down everyone's spine and both Kyle and Jamie were shaking. Eric had a terrified look on his face that said loudly that he was about to run.

Swift made an instant decision, gathered the boys to him, grabbed their hands, and said in a deep low voice, "RUN!"

Everyone bolted at that moment as they followed behind Swift, who led them along the correct path making sure not to outdistance anyone. Swift and Kyle frequently looked back behind them making sure that they were not being followed. Swift led the group and Kyle took up the rear position. Kyle making sure that Jamie and Eric did not fall behind or get lost. This was important since neither of the two boys knew exactly where they were, and it also kept anyone from getting separated along the way.

After what seemed like a twenty-minute run, but in fact was only a few minutes, Swift slowed to a fast walk as the woods became more airy and the heaviness felt as if it were lifting. Finally coming completely out of the dark murk and into an open area, they slowed and finally stopped. Swift stood, bent over with his hands on his legs, trying to catch his breath, with Eric doing the same. Jamie collapsed on the ground with a frightened look still on his face as he panted heavily. Kyle finally appeared a few moments later, his short sword still in his hand with a look of deep concern etched on his face. During the run Kyle had happened to look at the blade of his sword, and although he was certain he had only struck a branch that was falling, he could see a strange thick dark type of blood on it.

Swift looked at everyone and asked, "Are you all okay?"

Eric nodded his head while still catching his breath, "I'm good."

"Me too," Jamie replied holding one side of his chest hoping the stitch he felt in it would go away.

Kyle looked at Swift and down to his blade saying, "I really thought it was a tree limb, until I saw the dark blood on the edge of my blade." He then started wiping the blade on the ground trying to get the oddly coloured blood off of it, before it dried to the blade, or ruined it.

Re-sheathing his sword Kyle, Swift, Eric, and Jamie all gathered together. Swift then noticed Eric seemed a bit off, and asked, "What's up Eric?"

"I have taken control of Eric, he will be fine," the voice said. Swift and Kyle had jumped back almost reflexively, beginning to draw their weapons, but then they relaxed.

"You have broken the rules," the voice began in a volume much louder than normal, and the anger in the tone was unmistakable, as if it were speaking to some unknown person. The wind suddenly picked up and the air grew dim almost as if the sun had set in response to the query.

"Shall we decide it here and now?" continued the voice. "You know the time is not right, and this is not the place, but yet you chose to attack here. So we can make the decision now, if you so desire."

The wind suddenly raised itself to a crescendo, and through it they all heard what sounded like the screech of a 'NO,' but loud and displaced. Then just as suddenly the wind died off, and the sunlight returned, the strange sensation passing.

"My counterpart knows better, but yet tries. His failure is my opportunity. You will learn more later. Hurry back to the house, it is still unsafe to speak of matters here. You will not be troubled again," the voice said, and was gone.

Eric looked at the others shaking a bit, "I feel so odd when he does that, but I think let's get going. I got a funny feeling standing here isn't a bright idea."

"I couldn't have said it better myself," Swift said.

They all took off heading at a brisk walk towards the house and the safety it provided. Jamie walked along with the others, but a bit apart from them. He kept looking back over his shoulders; afraid that whatever had stirred would come back. He was also a bit embarrassed, he placed a hand over the front of his pants and felt a large wet spot and knew what had happened. He hoped that nobody else would notice. Soon they entered the yard and came within sight of the house.

The boys arrived in front of the deck that surrounded the house, the adults already waiting for them, with concern showing on their faces. Thondir spoke almost immediately, "What happened? The Voice spoke to Brúndaer; it said that you were in danger, then it left."

Swift sat down on the steps leading to the deck and began to relate the events of the day, "We stopped by and visited Nyssa, and she sat with us and gave us lunch …"

"Some liked their food better than others," Eric interrupted with a giggle.

Swift laughed and continued, "Barring the hand feeding that Jamie sure enjoys, everything was as usual – the best fruits and vegetables in the world. As we left I was going to take the boys to meet our cliff troll, and see if he might have some information; also to show them some of the more exotic areas of the preserve.

"We left and headed out east towards the bridge over the chasm to see Oglu the cliff troll, then I was going to take the boys to see the dwarves. To get there however, we had to pass by the southern edge of Groxocho's domain. We paused just before crossing that accursed ground, when suddenly Jamie's friend came and told us to beware and take caution. About midway through there was a loud crash, a tree limb came down, and Kyle just saved Jamie's skin in a nick of time with his sword; then we ran from there.

"After we passed out of the area, we stopped. Kyle had a strange coloured blood on his sword from deflecting the falling branch. I can only believe that it was Groxocho's blood. I've never seen anything like it. Then the voice spoke again, threatening his counterpart and giving warning that the time was not now. After that we hurried to get back here," finished Swift.

Eric added in, "I was close to pissing my pants. I've never seen anything like that."

"Well it sounds like you have had the misfortune of meeting Groxocho. That is troubling; I had thought he was dormant. These are bad tidings if he is more awake and aware than we expected," Thondir said, while looking at the other adults.

There was another adult sitting on the porch with the others, he looked familiar, and Jamie kept looking at him. The Elf smiled back and raised his hand in salute to Jamie saying, "Hello again Jamie. I can tell you seem to know who I am. I am one of the protectors. My name is Orrian Lorara. We met on the bus when you first came here." He continued, "I was told that you can see through our barriers and so therefore you know I am an Elf. I would judge by the look on your friend's faces that they did not realize who I was until now," He finished smiling at everyone.

"I thought you were the driver when we got on the bus. So much had happened, but I knew you were Elvish because of the ears," Jamie replied.

"Wow, you had me fooled!" exclaimed Kyle. "I just thought every time I caught that bus it was the same driver."

"I keep myself well hidden, Kyle. I arrived here a bit after you had left to meet Nyssa. I had some information to share, but since you are all here I can let everyone know," Orrian replied.

"It is getting late, I should get in and start dinner for everyone," Gwinis said as she stood up.

"I think we will need to discuss all of this further when you boys are rested up a bit. There is much more here than we realize," said Brúndaer.

Eric suddenly stood rigid once again. Swift noticing said while pointing at his friend's stiff form, "I think Jamie's friend has something to say."

"Since my counterpart chose to act, I can now give you more information," said the voice speaking through Eric. "He was unwise in this course of action. The timing was not right."

Brúndaer said, "What can you tell us? How much can you share?"

"I can now tell you more than I normally could. Little One needs to seek the orb," the voice said.

"The orb? I had thought that was just a legend," Lornen added.

"It was meant to be as such in order to keep it hidden until the day the one who would bear it should arrive. Much knowledge of it has been lost. It has fallen out of my counterpart's sight as well as mine. It will not be an easy task," the voice continued. "Little One will be the only person who is able to handle the orb. It has destroyed lesser men during its existence to protect itself, and has only allowed a very few to handle it for a short time. One such person once ran this preserve. You know whom I speak of, Thondir. Seek his works out, there is much in them.

"At this stage it will no longer respond to anyone else's touch. If you seek it and find it, do not touch it lest you lose your life. Others are moving throughout the world searching for it as we speak. When my counterpart attacked Little One on the trail, he opened his mind long enough for me to know that he is searching for it as well.

"There is however, plenty of time at this point. Take caution, and remember only Little One can touch the orb," said the voice vanishing as quickly as it had arrived. Eric shook himself again, trying to get rid of the odd sensation he felt every time the voice took over his body.

"Wow, that was a lot of stuff. So are we all involved in this?" Eric asked.

This time the voice spoke through Kyle, "Yes, you are all important in this quest. Should you fail then the fate of the world will be thrown into chaos. As I have said, there are two prophecies: one of Light of which I am a part, and one of Dark, which is my counterpart. We have struggled for more millennia than you could comprehend."

"I guess that answers that question," Eric said, although he was still slightly confused. The words of the voice made it seem that if they were to fail then the world would be in a far worse state than it already was.

"We have much to discuss," said Thondir. "There are things that need to be done. People to speak with, and information to gather. I also think Jamie's friend let something slip without actually saying it. I need to think about that before I talk about it further."

"I can add something to all of this," said Orrian. "The gang that the boys ran into are members of something more than just the simple street thugs they appear to be. It seems they all bear the markings of a cult; one we are not familiar with. The membership tattoos they bear are an old arcane drawing, I have not seen the likes of it before. I have brought a copy of it with me. We managed to get a hold of it through the police files, after the boys had their battle with them.

"At first we thought after the boys gave them the thrashing they deserved, that the gang would collapse. We were wrong. Not long after they regrouped and they're now as strong as they ever were. Someone of power has a hold over them, and controls them, but who that is we do not know. I am going to speculate here however, since meeting the Light, that the gang is controlled by the Dark. It would fit with what Jamie's friend has said, or in this case did not say," concluded Orrian.

Brúndaer said, "If this is the case, then they have to be guarding someone. They singled out Little One specifically, calling after him when the boys encountered them. I know we may be speculating, but I do think we are on the right track. May I see your drawing; I may know the mark. It might give us some insight, and if I do not recognize it I know someone who will, and I can get in contact with him."

Orrian handed the piece of paper bearing the image to Brúndaer, who then looked at it. He turned the image in different directions and held it at different angles in order to get a good look at it.

"Are there any colours to it, or was it plain black?" he asked Orrian.

"I'll have to ask, I only have this drawing," said Orrian. "Maybe one of the other protectors can get an actual photograph of the tattoo. It was hard enough with all the chaos caused by Swift and Kyle, to get any information. Maybe now things have settled enough we can get in and get more. Your dragon caused quite a stir in the buffet Kyle, the owner still has not been back and it remains shut for now. The gang member all spoke of both dragons as well, which has pretty much been dismissed by the police as a drug-induced hallucination. They are claiming it was due to Flunitrazepam, the latest drug on the streets.

"I will take my leave then and head back to town and contact our friends to see what they can find out. I will call you with whatever information I can get," finished Orrian.

"You can stay for dinner and head back in the morning if you like. We have plenty of room and food, and it is getting late," invited Aunt Faervel.

"I think I will take you up on your offer. Whatever Gwinis is cooking sure smells good," replied Orrian, a smile on his face.

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead