Practice was draining, both physically and emotionally. In order to keep it more an actual practice and not just a show between me and Kenny, Mitch had us pair up with the other members of the class, helping teach them the finer points of keeping your point centered on your opponent, maintaining your own balance and keeping your line clean when you lunge. I felt the lack of his eyes on me, his presence, the scent of him, the feel of his breath against my skin.
Shake it off, Robby, you've still got to practice with the others!
Sadly, the Berube's didn't seem to get the point too well. I faced them both at different times, and cleaned their clocks in short order. Jesse turned out to be a much tougher opponent than I would have originally thought possible. He was a hockey player, though. That should have filtered into my head at some point. He was used to going very fast on a tiny edge, while using his hands to guide a stick at a small target and to do all of that with control, precision and the presence of mind to watch out for getting creamed into the corner. I wasn't a rink rat, but I knew what kind of skills it took to play hockey, mostly because until recently I didn't have those skills. Even now, I only had the potential to develop them, not the practice of them.
Jesse took the first three touches, but I made him work for them all. His style was highly aggressive, starting from a crossed position, his blade held at an angle to his body, but parallel with the ground. Not an easy position to figure out, because he starts out so ready to sweep and block at the same time, and he has himself already in that precarious balance position that allows for those awesome turning moves. And he wasn't afraid to switch dominant hands on the handle in mid strike. His hands were fast and accurate and he didn't mind fighting while in motion. Aside from Kenny, he was the best natural fencer in the group. Well, yours truly excluded, of course.
I took the next five tags, each one harder and taking longer than the last one to get. The fifth was a flick that I barely managed since he was on the attack. He remained aggressive throughout the engagements, although he didn't loose his temper or his focus. It was almost as though he expected to lose, but he wasn't going to make it easy on me.
The next six passes were swaps, the whole way, each of us managing three hits. But we were rapidly wearing each other out. Hockey players usually only see about three minutes of continuous ice time at a stretch. And while they play constantly and they go at full speed on the ice, we weren't pausing long enough between hits for either of us to catch much of a breath. The score was at 6 to 8, in my favor, but we had all agreed that a match must be won by at least two touches. I was in a position where I could either put him away, or would have to go into overtime, so to speak.
On the last pass, we came set, him going into his cross, me going into a standard two handed en garde used in more oriental styles, a stance I was to learn from Mitch is called Chudan No Kamae, or the middle guard. At any rate, my blade was pointed at his throat, with my point nearly lining up against his blade's angled line. I thought about how he had started most of the touches he had won. He moved in and down, forcing me to block across the top of his blade or risk him getting inside my defense. In fact, he had three touches that way, and I was still kicking myself for letting him have that last easy one. So I expected him to move in a similar way. He was a gifted fencer, and he was well trained in knowing how to block and back up his blocks from his hockey experience, but he wasn't terribly imaginative. A foible I would have to press to point.
Mitch called for us to begin and I took a long stride back and pointed the blade up over his crossed blade. On instinct, he batted me around and away, taking control of center right away and moving to follow me. Which is what I wanted him to do. He bore in, pressing an attack of brutal, downward diagonal slashes. I gave ground, learning his meter, taking the measure of his step and the speed of his stroke into account, all the while blocking at about the same area on my blade.
It was a trick I had learned (re-learned?) from Kenny. Get him moving but keep his motion still relative to you, then spring your counter-attack. Jesse kept plugging away and as I let him take the last of a six step advance on me, I moved in, dropping my blade behind my back to intercept his blade as I ducked low. His blade fell into the pattern I had been counting off and landed against my saber while I was down and moving, ducking under and past him on his left side. He was a righty, so his blade was mostly held in that hand. I turned as I got behind him and my blade slashed up, under his left arm diagonally. I automatically pulled my blow, but he knew that I had basically cleaved through his left shoulder from underneath and behind.
"You okay?" I asked. I really had no problems with Jesse. In our normal realities, we were just faces in the hallways. Never had any of the same classes, didn't hang in the same groups (an easy feat since I didn't have one, really), didn't even see each other in the lunch room. But since my transformation, or rather, my fae awakening, I didn't entirely trust my own strength. After all, I'm a legend among the changelings. If I were to seriously fight a mortal, chances are I'd slaughter him without even trying.
And that's not just a boast. With or without a sword, whether or not I enact the Wyrd and become a Satyr in static reality, I'm just too unearthly fast and powerful. Most changelings are.
"Yeah, I'm okay. Good match, Robby. I'd never have thought you were any good at this kinda stuff."
"Me neither," I replied, grinning. I tried to look into his mortal shell, see if he too had a fae soul. No such luck. Jesse was one hundred percent human mortal, although he was a Dreamer, his dreams mostly involved a certain silver cup big enough to pour a six pack in and still have room left over. And while I wasn't about to rob him of his dreams of drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup, it wasn't something we could share.
That's another thing about us changelings I should tell you. Mortals are often our sources of Glamour, through their dreams. We encourage their creativity and emotion because that is the stuff of dreams, where Glamour is created and reborn and flows. If I could encourage Jesse's hockey hero dreams, then he'd produce Glamour from them. But it is often a tiring and time consuming process to inspire a mortal that way. You have to know them and their dreams well to be able to inspire that sort of dreaming.
Anyways, we broke for lunch, Kenny and Juan and I going to the pizza shop next to the Y and ordering a small (there were three of us, after all). And just as we were about to sit down and eat, a curious thing happened. A bird made of pure Glamour flew in through a solid window and perched itself on the table before us. I glanced at Kenny, who reached forward to the bird's leg and removed a small scroll. The bird vanished and we all immediately sucked in our fair share of the Glamour it loosed in its dissipation.
"A message from the Countess," Kenny read. "We are ordered to appear when the moon reaches first quarter, for the disposition of Croaker's case."
"When will that be?"
"This Saturday," Juan answered. His expression became sullen. Not that I blame him. He was on trial for his very soul, for doing what his mentor ordered him to do. I felt a slight sympathy for him. When a changeling is young, everything that his mentor tells him is law. Luckily my mentor was someone who loved me. Apparently Korbesh only wanted to use Croaker for his own plots. I dropped a hand on Juan's shoulder, squeezing to let him know he wouldn't face court alone.
"Don't worry, buddy. We don't desert our friends, do we Kenny?"
"We'll get you off. Korbesh is at fault here. I know it."
Juan got a kind of odd look and then turned to glance out the window. Kenny and I exchanged a look, mine asking what was going on and his answering that he didn't know. Something truthful had struck Juan in just that simple statement of mine. He was truly in a bind, and he couldn't see a way out of it. I glanced at his partial reflection in the window and saw his expression. It was one I knew well, but never to that degree. Juan looked trapped.
"Hey, it's not like you had much choice, Juan. He tells you to do something dishonorable, he must face the music as well. You can only do as your teacher commands you to. And look at how they repaid you for your loyalty. Tossing you out. You owe them nothing."
"I know, Robby." There was a finality to how he said my name that gave me a real moment of doubt. He didn't expect to live past the next quarter moon.
"You know what I think?" Kenny said, his eyes twinkling. "I think someone should challenge Korbesh to trial by combat in open court, as proof of Juan's innocence."
"No, I wasn't innocent. I carried iron, I knew it was forbidden and I still carried it."
'Heh!" Kenny barked out almost a laugh, but more like an accusation. "I bet there's more iron carried into court by nobles than hidden away in secret stashes by all the commoners of this county combined. Probably a few Trolls carry it too."
"But something else about this bothers you, doesn't it?" I said, passing a glance at Kenny as well. Kenny and I can almost read each other's expressions perfectly. He knew that I wanted him to reach out to Juan as I had, employing touch to establish a bit of communication between the three of us. It wasn't some secret changeling power, or some aspect of a cantrip that we were enacting to get Juan's attention. We were using something as universal and simple, as human, as touch.
We don't often think enough about how much a touch can affect us. I mean, I know I go on a lot about how sex is sooo good, and yes, sex is a lot of touching. But touching isn't sex. And in this instance, Juan needed to feel it on his skin as well as in his head and heart that he wasn't alone. That we weren't going to trick him or leave him out in the cold like his old motley had. Touch, if nothing else, is very grounding, and he needed that kind of foundation. Trust and touch often equate to the same thing.
And I'm talking about touching with emotion, not with lust (although I like that kind too) or with anger. I guess I should have said touching with empathy, since anger is an emotion as well, but I think you get the picture.
At any rate, Kenny reached across and rested his hand on Juan's other shoulder, briefly. We were in a totally public place and we couldn't just give him a hug, as much as my Satyr nature was urging me to. This was probably the scariest thing to ever happen to him, and being reminded of it so bluntly while we were still glowing with absorbed Glamour only made it more real to him.
"Korbesh!" I cursed softly. Juan turned and smiled at Kenny and me, giving us a glimpse of his understanding. His last motley hadn't been a close knit group. They had mostly been Redcaps under Korbesh's control and he had no problem using the Redcap tendency to brow beat others into submission in maintaining his authority. "I swear, one of these days he's gonna meet a sticky end!" A distant rumble of thunder resounded through the clear skies overhead. Kenny looked at me suddenly with wide eyes, a look that Juan shared apparently.
"Uh, Robby, perhaps you should be careful what you swear, especially while you wear that," Kenny said, his eyes flicking down to the Tear of Cerulean, still warm and cool at the same time against my throat. It took me a second to realize that I had just made an oath, and the Dreaming responded to it. Exactly what that would mean, I had no clue. But from how Kenny and Juan were reacting, it obviously meant that sometime in the near future, Korbesh and I would be put into even more direct opposition.
The pizza arrived and the bottomless pit club was in session, Juan graciously joining in. It felt good to be sitting there, eating with him. There I was with my lover and best friend, Kenny, and an enemy that I had converted to an ally, perhaps even a friend. And the simple act of taking a meal with both of them was a bonding experience that I have to admit felt less out of place than it did natural, easy. Just plain right.
But despite it all, I had the feeling that things were about to go into a time of severe trial for us all. Kay and I had to save Croaker, had to expose Korbesh and more importantly, had to figure out how to do it before Saturday. Well, either that or make up a lot of it as we went. Either way was cool with me. Just so long as Juan/Croaker was alright.
We went back into the gym and got back into the second half of the class. We went through a few simple bouts to get us back up to speed, then Mitch held a class on defense techniques involving footwork (which is a lot more demanding and complicated than it seems). This ate up about an hour of time, and we were fully warmed up by the time Mitch called us back to the line. He had something in mind, something he assured us would be both instructive and fun.
This time Mitch had us go three on three, Kenny, Juan and Jesse versus me and the Berube's. To be polite, we didn't stand much of a chance. I knew it, the twins knew it and Mitch knew it. So I decided to cheat big time.
"Listen, I want both of you to take on Jesse at once."
"But that will leave you facing the other two," Bert said, looking anxious.
"And they're both good," Becka said, backing up her twin.
"Look, I can hold my own, but, if you take Jesse out, then it's three on two, not three on one if they take you both out early going one on one. I can keep both Juan and Kenny busy. Just hurry and take Jesse down, and don't try to be fancy about it. Just concentrate on defense and wait for him to make a mistake."
"What if he takes us both? He's good."
"Then I'll have to make sure I take someone out early too, Bert. This is the best plan we've got."
"Okay. We don't like it, but if that's how you want to run it, that's what we'll do." Becka was starting to impress me. She, too, knew we were on the long odds end of things, but she was willing to take a chance. Besides, no bragging, she had seen me fence a time or two before. She understood that I could back up my words with skill.
And to be perfectly honest, I wanted to impress Mitch. He thought I was good enough to try for the Olympics, so I wanted to see if he was right, the hard way.
Mitch had us line up, Me facing Jesse, Becka facing Juan and Bert facing Kenny, both skirmish lines separated by about five meters. I grinned across at Kenny briefly, my look all but saying "watch this." Then I turned and gave both Becka and Bert a firm look, a nod and a brief, fierce smile. Bert actually returned the grin, but Becka was all business. Must be a guy thing and she just wasn't picking up the vibe. Taking a steadying breath, I focused (well at least seemed to focus) my attention on Jesse. His stare was one of utter determination, a narrowing of eyes.
"Begin!" Mitch shouted, backing off the mat. I immediately leapt into the middle of the mat, clearly taking everyone off guard. Jesse, Juan and Kenny had started a flat charge to cover the distance, but I was intending to give Bert and Becka a second to sweep behind me and come in at Jesse. Jesse, for his part obliged by trying to sweep around to my backside. Juan was nearly straight on to my right side and Kenny was completing a pincer move on my front. Which was exactly what I wanted.
I attacked Juan first, to let him know he wasn't going to catch me off guard. I sweep my blade out in a terrifyingly tight arc, the point tucked at an angle to my body. This gave him a moment of hesitation that he used to come set. But my motion continued and my point sang in towards Kenny. He hadn't expected this bizarre variation of the old basketball pick and roll play, either. But he was more than up to the task of keeping me from getting an easy spearing touch. He deflected my point away and up in a wicked lifting cut, and almost immediately went into a coupé at my calf as I turned.
I leapt over his attack and spun in the air, bringing my saber down right at Juan's shoulder, a strangely reminiscent move to the one that should have ended the fight between me and Croaker early last night. Juan recognized the danger and instead of charging off to go try and take one of the Berubes he was suddenly defensive against me. He parried high and took a step backwards, away from Jesse and the Berubes. I had effectively cut Kenny and Juan off, which gave the Berube twins a fighting chance.
Kenny smirked at me, realizing the simplicity and strength of such a plan. But that doesn't mean that he didn't want to win, too. Eshu are nothing if not bold and daring. He charged in and swept for my midsection. I wasn't there, though, diving between his mid-stroke and Juan's counter lunge to my head. I came up behind Juan with Kenny on his other side. I positioned myself so that I was between my opponent's and the other battle. This was turning out to be tougher than I thought. Time to escalate matters.
"Wuza matter, boys? Afraid to take me on together?" That was pretty much all it took. Kenny and Juan came in as one, both making beautifully accurate attacks, ones that would have put a lesser fencer out if he faced them both at the same time. As it was, I went into a tight defensive weave, using their reluctance to hit each other to my advantage. I was far too close inside both of their blade sweeps if we had been going one on one. But by crowding them I was limiting their options, forcing them to only attack one at a time. It quickly became a timing pattern, just blocking, blocking, blocking, taking an occasional attack when I could. We had only been at it about two minutes, but I was panting like a St. Bernard chasing rabbits in a summer heat wave.
Behind me I heard Mitch call a stop, and Juan checked his swing, even as Kenny and I were locking into a bind, about to cut and release. Claps from behind indicated that the rock climbing club wasn't the only audience we had today. Apparently word had gotten out, for the lower deck of bleachers were half full. But that wasn't the reason that Mitch called a stop. Jesse had taken a nearly simultaneous stroke from both Berubes when trying to step between them. Their blades were on either side of his rib cage. Had these been real lightsabers, or even just regular swords, those cuts would have sliced Jesse's upper body clean off. My strategy was working.
"Kenny and Juan, Jesse has been disabled. You are about to be outnumbered, and as it is, one fencer has cleanly kept both of you at bay. Would you like to yield at this time or shall we continue."
Juan and Kenny exchanged fierce grins and I could see beneath the surface that Croaker and Kay were looking at each other as well, challenging each other. "There is no yield!" Kenny called out, getting a wider smirk from Juan. "We fight on!"
"On my mark then. Three….two….one….Continue!" Mitch shouted.
I took the opportunity and dove over Juan's blade, tucking and rolling as I passed between them both. Now, how I knew how to do that, or more importantly how I managed it without either of them sweeping my back I'll never know. I dropped my blade into parry nine almost at once, the blade going over my right shoulder, intercepting Juan's blade. Kenny decided to take on the Berubes, which put me against Juan again.
I was still close to the mats, and I ducked and rolled over my left shoulder, coming half around as I gained my feet. Juan was on me almost at once, his blade singing through the air on a long stroke. Had his blade been that sword from last night, I'd have been in danger of getting chopped across the chest, probably a narrow cut, but one that would take my wind away. As it is, I raised my blade and deflected his blade up and away. Juan wasn't a fool though, and he used the power of my parry to spin, stop and come set again, both of us just beyond the reach of the other's outer third.
We circled, and it gave me a chance to see past Juan's shoulder to how the Berubes were faring. Kenny was pulling a copy of my moves, but Bert and Becka had listened to my orders well. They were concentrating on defense not giving Kenny an easy opening. The win over Jesse had given them confidence, even though they had to do it together. That was another part of the strategy I was counting on, that unconscious twin thing. And they were reading each other effectively enough that they managed to pull attacks and defense moves equally, one protecting the other and setting up for the other sibling's next move. Kenny was hard pressed, but he was giving as good as he got.
Juan launched a probing attack, which brought me rudely back to what I was doing. I had nearly forgotten while watching my Kenny at work. Dirty thoughts were racing about in my head, and I was almost making the mistake of thinking about what we could do later tonight at my house.
Juan probably was counting on that too, because as he swung, he kept me angled so that I could see the other fight. He wanted to distract me. I thought it a bit unfair for him to use his knowledge of my relationship with Kenny to his advantage, but then again I was using Robyn's sense of tactical sense and fighting skills. It almost balanced out.
He brought his saber up under my guard, kicking my blade far out of line for any kind of riposte or second parry. I followed the blade, turning and ducking as he made a savage thrust at my neck. As I came about I returned the favor, trying to reach the few centimeters it would take to just graze his neck. But his reach was longer than mine and so was his sweep. He was barely outside the flashing tip of my blade. Which was what he expected, I suddenly realized. Juan was fighting with all of Croaker's skill as well, but this time with calm and control.
As much as I was trying to impress to Mitch that I was worth going after the Olympic team, Juan was trying to prove to me that Croaker would be valuable to me. He was proving his worth and his skill and his newfound respect for control. And he didn't do it by insulting me or bragging. He was using his raw natural talent. He wasn't giving a moment's hesitation, wasn't backing down, and more to the point, he wasn't quitting. He knew that at any moment I might try some nifty move and put him down, clearing his blade and tapping him out.
My respect for Juan grew, because I also realized that he was learning from me as he fought on. He no longer tried to lift his wrist after a strong parry cleared my blade so he could try that spearing thrust or the coupé to my leg like before. And he even surprised me by trying one of my moves, a three step parry, turn and decapitation slash move. My eyebrows shot up even as I ducked low under the head cut and tried to slash up under his guard. He had the presence of mind to actually jump over my leg slash and came down, his blade trying to coupé to my exposed wrist.
But I still had another trick left to use, and I put it into play almost immediately. Fighting against Juan was rapidly tiring me out, and as good as the Berubes were doing against Kenny, it was basically a matter of time before they got taken as well. Kenny was just too good, unless they got ridiculously lucky.
Juan's slash at my wrist, while I was seemingly out of position, body facing away from him to his right, normally would have called for a parry in the middle third (because I was fast enough to whip the blade across to that blocking position) or a very close parry into the inner third (because Juan was just that fast as well). So instead of going with established protocols that the Jedi class was taught, I used something totally unexpected, and it proved to win the fight.
I dropped to the mat, rolling as I fell and let Juan's blade sail right over me. Before I even hit the ground, I was already thrusting up, the blade point coming around and landing on Juan's right shoulder, skidding across the trapezius muscle right beside his neck. Juan's eyes were open wide as Mitch called a stop.
I looked over to the other battle, also halted in midstroke. Kenny had just tagged Bert, but the twins had performed a bit of sacrificial teamwork, and about at the same moment that Kenny's silvery blade tagged across Bert's tight stomach, he doubled over, keeping the blade out of the way. Becka had simultaneously struck Kenny a blow to the neck from behind, her blade not yet touching his neck, but too close for him to duck, avoid or even have a hope of parrying, considering his posture and blade positioning. Again, applause sounded all around.
Kenny glanced back my way and winked, his infectious smile spreading across his lips again. Oh, yeah, he knows what that smile does to me. I looked up at Juan, and noticed that he was smiling as well, a drop of sweat gathering at his nose.
"That was awesome, Juan. You nearly had me."
"Just trying to learn how to be of more service, my lord."
"You've proven your worth to me already, Juan. I wont let you down."
"Nor I you, if it is in my power to prevent it."
"Thanks. You'll have to show me that drop move again."
"Not likely!" I smiled, taking his offered hand to regain my feet. "You're learning my moves too quickly as it is," I chuckled. I tapped blades with Juan, a fencer's version of the old high five as he helped me to my feet.
Mitch called us to the line and had us go through some simple cool down exercises, mostly concentrating on our arms and wrists. I was soaked through with sweat and felt tired. A quick dash through the shower was just what the doctor ordered. Kenny, beside me kept finding subtle ways to catch my attention as we went through the exercises, bumping shoulders from time to time, getting us both smiling, almost giggling.
"Class, that was an exceptional match today. All of you fought well and I think many of you learned not to underestimate you opponents, no matter how much the odds seem stacked against you. Robby, I must congratulate you. That was a brilliant plan. Next class we will work on defense against two opponents."
"Master?" Jesse asked.
"Was that proper, having two people fight me? It wasn't very fair."
"I do see your point, Jesse. But it can't always be fair. Besides, I think this was a good lesson for you. You lasted almost three minutes against two opponents. That's a feat in and of itself to be proud of. This is not just an exercise in how to work together and fight in groups, however. In about two weeks, we'll be having a competition with one of the other classes here. There will be a tournament for individual competition and a four on four melee."
We all quickly exchanged glances, the idea of competing against another class lighting a fire under us. Kenny and I quickly high fived and whooped loudly. Juan slapped me on the back and I shot him a smile. Jesse's frown changed to more of a neutral expression and the Berubes seemed to grin slightly, although it looked like the wind had been drained from their sails. They knew that they weren't part of the best four in the class. It meant that they would be reduced to the individual competition and a cheering section.
"So, this was partially a training experience, to get you into the idea that you may be outnumbered. And to start teaching you how to deal with that very real possibility."
"I understand, Master. I'm sorry I questioned you on that." Jesse looked to me, though, with a look that spoke at once of rivalry, respect and a certain calculation. I wasn't sure exactly how to take it. He was such a closed book most of the time, that reading Jesse's expressions was difficult at best. He nodded to me, acceding to the victory at least, and perhaps to my budding leadership skills. After all, the plan had worked.
But I had kind of given him two blows to the ego today. I had out fought him one on one, and I had out smarted him in the group melee. It was a terrible thing to do to the ego of a born athlete like him. Even worse, he had been beaten by the two worst fencers in class as well as the best (modest, ain't I?).
I made up my mind to make him into a friend if I could help it. He wasn't a bad guy, and I did kind of single him out with that plan. My reasoning was sound, since I took on both of the other changelings in the group, but I still kinda felt like I'd targeted him with some malice because he was wholly human. That kind of automatic prejudice was something I resolved myself to end right away. After all, it was just two days ago that I didn't know I wasn't wholly human, or rather just human, myself.
That's the curse of being a changeling. We're different, and we know it, but we share kinship with our mortal lives and the mortals in those lives. Living in two worlds at once can be a royal pain in the ass at times because of that duality, that split nature. Still, though, I'd never trade it for anything. It meant that at times I could be Robyn, could be powerful and mystic and skilled and exotic, and that I could also just be Robby, because I was becoming very comfortable with exactly who both of those aspects of me was.
Mitch let us go and we proceeded to the changing rooms. I needed a shower, badly. Plus I was having dirty thoughts and that cup, while roomy enough, was suddenly feeling tight. Kinda strange how fighting gets the same excitement in me that normally I reserve for when I'm alone with Kenny. I guess we Satyrs just have to let the body have its own way at times.
This time, though, the locker room was full, since all five of us males were in a showering mood. Now I don't know how it is in your part of the world, but the kids at my age have all been showering in the Y and at school gym class for years, so it's not a big deal to pare down to nothing and hop under a stream. In fact, I'm fairly amazed that in such a small town as Canterbury, Kenny and I hadn't had the same gym class at least once since sixth grade. We both go to the same middle school and all. Just one more weird event in a string of weird events, I guess.
The banter in the showers was fairly thick, as we were all still going through the anticipation of the coming challenge. Hey, we're kids, we get excited by things and we keep that excitement a while, especially when we get to feed off each other's excitement. Jesse was still a closed book, though. He was chiming in with the jokes and the bragging as much as the rest of us, but he held back from me a little. He wasn't ready to admit yet that a geek had beaten him physically, twice in one day, no less. I gave him time.
I also kinda figured that he was not certain to take how buddy-buddy Juan and I were after the jewel jangling of a few days ago. Got to admit, without having been there myself, I wouldn't understand the change myself. Another curse of living the changeling way, I guess. So much happens in a world that the mortals around you can't perceive (at least not without help) that they don't see all aspects of your relationships. At least Bert was dull enough, socially at least (he's really smart, just not too swuft) to not notice the shift. He and Jesse seemed to be dealing well enough with each other.
Jesse and Bert were out of the showers before Juan, Kenny and I, and while we didn't do anything that the pervs among you are probably begging me to tell you (I'm only in love with Kenny, and we don't spread the wealth, if you know what I mean), we still were feeling the effects of that Glamour from lunch time and the adrenaline from class. That and running water and good spirits is basically a changeling formula for practically just lazing about. Yeah, I was learning a lot about my people, but so far it was only about changelings in general. I had to wonder why none of my kith, the other Satyrs hadn't come and welcomed me back as well. As clannish as Satyrs are, and as storied as their parties are in legends, you'd have thought that the return of a Satyr legend from the Mists would have been enough cue to throw a kegger.
"So, which of the mortals are you gonna chose to round out our four?" Juan asked, wiping water from his eyes as the three of us leaned against the tile walls. The water cascading over his lean, tight form was teasing me, but I didn't let my mind linger on his body. He was a trained athlete in his mortal seeming, mostly geared towards endurance, speed and agility, whereas Jesse was more compactly built. I couldn't help but also compare Juan's form with that of my Kenny, who was just as naked, wet and available to my eyes. Yes, I was becoming a ball park again, but I turned the water stream to a more cold heavy mix, which helped keep the little head from going up periscope, at least fully.
"Who says I'm the one to make that decision? Master Mitch is still in charge of the class."
"No, he's guessed it right, Robby. Dad leaves that decision up to the class members. And right now, after that bold move you pulled off today, everyone will vote for you to be leader." Kenny was flattering me, but he was probably dead on balls correct. Still, hearing him talk like that brought a shy smile to my lips. I stuck my head deeper under the stream in order to cover my embarrassment.
"My bet's on Jesse. He's better than Kenny and me put together without tapping into our more hidden talents."
"He's got a point," Kenny agreed. "He's also trainable. And he has a new respect for your fighting skills, especially after today."
"I'd have to think about it. He's the most obvious choice, but who's to say I'd put the three of us in over the three of them?" The exchanged a puzzled look. "I'll explain it later, once I get a few answers myself. Actually, something else is on my mind right now."
"Court?" Kenny guessed. I nodded. His expression and Juan's seemed to match mine. We were all worried. I reached back and turned off the water from my spigot. Serious talking was required now, not the distractions of that wonderful stream of water pummeling my shoulders and back. I walked to the changing area, rubbing myself dry with my towel. I hadn't said anything, nor implied that they should follow suit, but I think that Kenny urged Juan to follow. I know that Kenny himself was interested in seeing which way my mind was working towards this weighty problem.
"So, what are your thoughts?" Juan asked, breaking the ice while we sat, towels wrapping our waists, drying our hair with the other towel that everyone's mom always seems to pack into your shower kit. It's a universal thing, I guess, Mom's always seem to overdo everything. Well, Dad's too, since Kenny only had Mitch.
"I'm thinking that actions speak louder than words," I said. "Carrying iron is a serious offense, all by itself. In order to redeem yourself in the Countess' eyes, some other action that offsets that offense would really help."
"That makes sense," Kenny said, getting his thoughtful look, eyes narrowing. "But what? I mean, that's the real question. What would be enough to make her give you a second chance, Juan?"
"I don't know. Something dangerous, something that she needs done, but can't be done by normal means, or that even the attempt……"
"That even trying is almost a death sentence," I finished. Juan nodded. "Okay, I'm still new to all this, but there's got to be something that the Countess either wants or needs done. If we can do it, well, if mostly Croaker can do it, then we'd go long steps towards getting a parole."
"I'll talk to Dad about it. He knows more than all of us put together," Kenny added. Juan looked positively depressed. Kenny and I shared a swapped glance, and in that instant, I made up my mind on a lot of things. Juan and Croaker were too important to me to just abandon, no matter how much it might affect my other relationships. Here was a kid that had basically been tossed to the wolves by his own kith and kind, was facing the ultimate act of changeling justice for a crime he was only partly responsible for, and he was just beginning to learn that Kenny and I would stand beside him. After all, we hadn't made a formal oath yet. Kenny and I could quietly remove our support and basically wash our hands of the whole matter.
Yeah, we could. But that's not who we are. It just plain made me angry as sin to think that someone could so casually toss aside another life like that. Korbesh was going to be brought to heel about all of this one day, but for the moment, I had to save Croaker. It was a moral imperative.
It was also the right, moral, decent, honorable and, oddly enough, human thing to do. I had been abandoned by other kids at an early age because I was a geek, even back in grade school. You know the type, last picked for the team, pushed around by bigger kids, things like that. My ears had been a target on the bus many a time. But now that I had the chance to let one of the popular kids hang out to dry, it just didn't feel right. He had earned my respect in coming to me to ask for my help, knowing that we should rightfully be enemies. That kind of courage and the dedication to his former mentor that he had shown in the Dragon's Dance had also proven the kind of changeling he really was, even if he had been led wrong.
But back to the look that passed between me and Kenny. It was actually a series of expressions that passed between us. The actual time was probably something on the order of two whole seconds, but so much passed between us just then that NASA would be jealous. First was a simultaneous expression of worry and concern about Juan. We'd both been in tough spots before, Dreaming knows. Facing ritual Undoing was about as hideous a fate as a fae soul can imagine. Then I kind of let my weaker smile, more of a subtle grin actually, creep over my face as I thought of a way to help Juan out and at least get some more time to talk with Mitch at the same time. Kenny caught the grin and he lifted an eyebrow. I tilted my head slightly, eyes shifting to maintain contact with Kenny's as I did. He narrowed his eyes for a second, looking away with his eyes only and then locked gazes with me again. I returned my face to a neutral expression and position. Kenny smiled back at me, and gave a subtle nod. I grinned back openly, probably breaking into that idiotic smile that he seems to be able to bring out of me any time he damn well wants to, just by smiling himself (hey, what can I say, happiness squared will do that to you).
"Okay," I said, mostly in Kenny's direction. "Juan, listen, do you think you can get permission to stay the weekend over at Kenny's after class Friday?"
"No, not huh. Just two days over at my house. Tell you're folks we'll be practicing fencing moves for the team competition."
"You guys want me to stay with you the whole weekend?"
"Juan," Kenny said, and this time he took the initiative to explain things. He stood and put his hands on both of Juan's shoulders. "You know about Robby and me. And between the three of us, that's not a big deal. But I want you to know right now, we both want to help you. Took some serious balls coming to us for help like that. And to be honest, it isn't my first impulse to help you out after what you did." He glanced back at me and then continued. "We don't want you to feel uncomfortable, so don't worry. You wont be interrupting anything this weekend. But we want you to know that you aren't alone, you know? Our motley may be small right now, but we don't leave anyone behind. You will not face any trial alone."
"Thanks," Juan said, looking away, unable to meet Kenny's gaze for very long. Redcaps don't often accept emotion too well, I'm told. Juan was struggling as best he could. And Kenny was reaching out just enough that Juan could accept without seeming weak.
"We are your friends, Juan. And if you'll have us, your family as well."
And I saw something that I'd never thought I'd see. Both in the physical world and in the enchanted world, Juan/Croaker closed his eyes and let a single tear slip out. The sudden burst of Glamour from his own burst of emotion was very powerful. Instinctively I reached up and tapped the Tear of Cerulean and felt the Glamour become malleable, seeking form.
"Croaker, open your mind to the Glamour!" I ordered, deep in the throes of Cerulean's most potent treasure's awesome power. I concentrated, letting the Glamour pour into Croaker's own dreams, his own fantasies. He shuddered, and Kenny stood back from him, drawing Kay Neth's own short spear weapon and guarding us, from what I don't know. I was too lost in the mystic machinations of the Tear.
"Reach!" I squeaked out. Croaker lifted his hands and something solid found his palms. He pulled and out of the raw Glamour, sizzling and sparkling all around us, he pulled forth his own sword, a falchion like reproduction of the blade he had used against me, only this time done in sweeping silver and black filigree, darkly ornate like something out of a highly financed Dracula film. And as he pulled it fully out of the Glamour, the tide of fairy lights diminished, fully connecting Kenny, Juan and myself. In that moment, we all felt the links of our new motley.
"Croaker!" I breathed out as we all stared in wonder at his new sword. "That's awesome!"
"There's a name inscribed on the blade," Kenny pointed out, his own eyes traveling the blade in sheer wonder. "Dentum Magni?"
"It's Latin," I answered. "It means Long Tooth, roughly translated. I couldn't think of a better name for a Redcap thane's weapon."
"You made this for me?" Juan said, nearly crying.
"We made it together. It's your own Glamour and dreams that formed it. I just nudged it your way."
He just stared at me in awe, unable to find the words. "Hold it well," I said at length. "There may come a time when Long Tooth here saves your life, or the life of one you hold dear." I let my hand drop onto his shoulder and slapped him there twice before letting my hand linger. Kenny touched Juan's other shoulder as well, and for just that moment, everything was once again right with reality.
So naturally, things had to go to hell shortly thereafter. Well, not all at once, but….. oh, just read on, you'll see!
Juan's mother picked him up and they drove off, but only after his mother spoke briefly with Mitch about the coming weekend. She seemed genuinely surprised that Juan not only had Anglo friends, but that he was doing so well in class. Apparently he had a reputation as a bully and trouble maker in his neighborhood, which more or less fit the Redcap tendency to either intimidate, brow beat or eat anything that got in their way. Arrangements were made, however, and phone numbers exchanged.
The real shocker for her, however, was at how much goofing off and playful touching was going one between Juan, Kenny and myself. Something my Mom said the day before came to mind just then. "Like puppies and wild horses," she had said. And you know what? The analogy fit pretty damn well. I felt a little wild and puppy-ish just then. I was with my herd, my pack.
Next hurdle was with Mom. I was gonna call for a ride when Mitch offered to just take me home instead. It wasn't all that far. I live like maybe 20 blocks from the Y. Granted, some of it is up some pretty steep hills, but I'd lived in Canterbury my whole life. Hills were a defining landscape feature for me.
Fact is, it wasn't the distance or the need for a ride that prompted my need to call home. I was gonna ask if Kenny could stay over that night. Mom has a rule about asking her something in front of someone else, especially if having that person there might be a pressure situation for her to decide a certain way. So just dropping the question while Kenny stood there, looking up with his deep gray eyes wasn't a way to endear myself to dear ole Mom. She'd want some time to think it over. Having Mitch drop me off at the house wasn't a sure fire bet for giving her that time.
But, it turned out to be a moot point. Mom walked out to the car just as we pulled into the driveway. I have to confess, I did feel more puppy-ish seeing her after the events of the last day. So much for me had changed. Simple things suddenly meant much more to me, like just being held by Mom. I practically bounced out of the SUV and jumped into her arms.
"Oooof! Well, hiya, Robby!" she said, squeezing me tightly. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I was home again, but I wasn't the same. I just hoped that Mom could still love the me I had become as much as the me that was before. Of course, I was overly into the drama at that moment. I mean, it's Mom. She loves me no matter what. I guess in a full day of having life as I know it stand on its ear and poke its tongue out at me, I was just hoping that the one touchstone of my existence, my home, would be unchanged, permanent somehow.
"Hiya," I whispered back. Nothing else needed to be said, but I felt a subtle tension run under her skin. She knew that something in me had changed, I sensed it. She sensed it and felt the urge to hold me tighter, to try to keep Robby her little son just a little longer. If only she knew, I remember thinking.
We released and she planted a kiss on top of my head, right through the hair. I leaned against her and turned against her side, her arm scooping me against her hip. Kenny stood in front of Mitch, also with his father's hands on him, only Mitch just had Kenny's shoulders, his massive hands somehow seeming to be way out of proportion to Kenny's narrow frame.
"Hullo," Mitch said. "Thanks for letting us have Robby over."
"No problem. Any time we can return the favor, just ask."
"Well, actually, I was hoping you and your husband could talk with me a bit. Seems Robby has agreed to what we discussed the other night. I wanted to go over a few details with you."
"Sure, Dennis is inside now. Care for some coffee? Tea?"
"Some tea would be spectacular," Mitch said. I had to suppress a laugh at that. An image appeared to me of Caspian sipping from a mortal sized teacup, his pinky sticking up in the air.
"Come on in then." Mom led us inside and Kenny and I split the scene as soon as we got inside, heading up the stairs. Thankfully, there was no need for him to stab my through the heart this time.
We raced into my room and collapsed on the bed, almost immediately dropping into each other's arms. I'm not sure who kissed who first, but it didn't take long before we were really into it. I reached out, blindly, and found the stereo controls. I clicked the CD player on and let the noise cover the sounds we were making.
Now, I could easily tell you that while our parents were downstairs talking about the business of getting me into the sport fencing classes and the equipment needs, tournament schedules and other details (like required medical insurance), that while that was going on, Kenny and I got thoroughly naked, got down to brass tacks and fucked like cats in the moonlight. And while I was sorely tempted to either top Kenny or let him top me (hehehe, see, gory details are starting to slip through, you just had to be patient), it just wasn't in the cards. We were both content to just pet and kiss and feel each other's heat. Besides, they probably expect a certain amount of horsing around from us, just not full on skin to skin nudity. And at any rate, that other business is something that takes more time. Neither of us was hung like a bear, if you are wondering, but you don't just jam it in and it all begins.
Then again, if you're reading this, you probably already know that, don'tcha?
At any rate, we probably tongue wrestled for about five, maybe ten, closer to fifteen minutes when we both realized that continuing would require less clothing and relaxed, the promise of other pleasures to come enough to sate our young teenage bodies, at least for the moment. Besides, our souls were together, the bodies were just fun. Love is a matter of something more than just meat.
I'm getting off track here. Kenny sat up and gazed down at me, his eyes still deep and gray and unfathomable, but there was a certain note of concern in his expression that took me a moment to decipher. He wasn't worried about us, that was a given. And he wasn't thinking about the upcoming competition. That was more of a fun thing anyways, as far as the two of us was concerned, and its outcome was practically a given as well (no boast!). He wasn't even thinking about Croaker and appearing at court Saturday night.
He was worried about me, directly. And I couldn't see any reason he should be. I asked him what the deal was and he practically lunged onto me again, this time just clinging. Just needing to be held. So of course I held him, held him like he was my child and not my lover, like he was suffering night terrors and needed another heartbeat against his chest, another warm shoulder to cry on.
"Kay, what's wrong?"
"I just worry, sometimes, Robyn. Worry about what we're up against."
"I take it you're gonna tell me about that bit now?"
"You need to know, my lord."
I sighed, loudly, disturbing his short, straight hair. "Kay, when it's just us, do me a favor?"
"Drop the 'my lord' bit. We're a little to intimate for that, I'd like to think."
"I kinda like calling you that at times. Reminds me of back before the fall of Cerulean. Back when we had such hopes, such dreams."
"We still do, beloved," I said, it sounding suddenly as natural as when he said it to me. Funny, I never thought I'd ever be anyone's "beloved." I felt him turn his head against me, grinding his cheek against my narrow chest. "So are you gonna tell me, or am I gonna have to guess?" I giggled out. He sputtered to a giggle as well, extracting himself from my embrace, as good as he felt against me.
"Well, first off, you probably should be very cautious around Donna Trag."
"Okay. Any special reason?"
"She has a reputation. First off, she is an awesome fighter in her own right. Among Sidhe knights she's known as the Black Dragon. Also, she's known for being especially harsh on those nobles that don't swear allegiance to her in her territories. It's only because of your fame and reputation that she hasn't demanded you tie yourself to her banner. Well that and the fact that Queen Mab wouldn't let her anyways."
"Queen Mab? Why does that name sound familiar?"
"She rules this whole kingdom. The Kingdom of Apples. Basically her territory covers from Delaware and Pennsylvania up into the maritime provinces in Canada. She has first claim on your allegiance if anyone else does."
"Because you fought to free her from a mob back during the Accordance War. Despite you're only having commoner rank then, you defended a noble and even fought off the challenges of other nobles for her kingdom. She owes you a great deal, and that latitude gives you her protection. Your current knighthood is under her authority."
"Any way we can use that influence to help Croaker?"
"Not at this time. Mab would have to acknowledge you again, and she rarely leaves Caer Loon or Caer Palisades, whichever she's at depending on the seasons. And both are very far from here."
"Out in the wastelands of the empire, are we?"
"More a distant province, far from the halls of power. Gives us more freedom to operate, though.
"I guess we should pay her a visit in the near future. Okay, so we can't use that influence directly, but Donna Trag knows that we can have that influence at any time, so she acts as though it were in force. I think I understand that. What about the other knights and nobles at court. For something as important as a trial concerning iron I'd think the whole nobility would turn out.
"You'd be right, too. Our best bet is to get your people behind you again, and rally what nobles you can to your cause. I do have a few in mind, but….."
"But, this is the thing that nearly had you in tears a few minutes back," I guessed. He nodded, standing up and walking towards my dresser. The mirror over the dresser was reflecting his fae mein while I stared at his mortal seeming's back.
"You may have to seduce someone to gain their support," he said, evenly. But I saw the look of worry that passed over his face. He had just found me again. Sharing was out of the question. And I have to admit, I fully rebelled against the idea of having to seduce anyone while Kay lived, loved and was beside me. Satyr's might have an insatiable craving for the carnal, but I had found my Column A. Nothing in Column B even appealed to me, definitely not enough for me to risk Kay's love.
"We'll find another way than that," I said, trying to calm his fears. I sat up and saw my own fae mein in the mirror as well. "You said something about my people?"
"Yes. There are no Satyr nobles at Donna Trag's court. They all live in other counties. You would be the closest thing to recognized nobility among your kith."
"So we need to court the Satyrs. I was wondering why none of them had come to visit me since my chrysalis. If I'm supposed to be a legend, you'd think that they'd throw one hell of a party."
"They'll probably come for you tonight, beloved."
"More than likely." Kay turned to me and gave me a sidelong glance. "And you'll be expected to go fully crazy with them." He smiled, but I could see that it was a smile that held something back.
"I'm not going unless you come with me, Kay Neth. Now and forever and for all the times beyond that, you and I are joined at the hip." He bit his upper lip in some sort of personal pain. Tears were forming, but he wasn't about to let them fall, to let me see him so conflicted about whatever it was that was eating him up inside.
"Robyn, this is part of who you are. I know that you love me. Believe me, I know. But I can't be the only one you hold to, not while your blood sings in your ears like it does."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means, beloved, I know how things must be. There will be times that your kith will require you to do things that your humanity wouldn't let you do. That your love for me might make you feel guilty over. And I understand that is what you must do."
"Whoa! Time out! This sounds like you are giving me permission to sleep around."
"If that's what we have to do, my lord, then that option must be open for you to exploit." His eyes closed and he turned from me, only able to look at me when he was again facing the mirror. "Robyn, it is the way things are done. Courtly love, bedroom deals. It has always been the way. And Donna Trag fancies you."
There was a moment of pain that passed across his face and then a bad attempt at a smile. The revelation passed through me like sitting too close to really powerful stereo speakers cranked up high. For a moment I was floundering, uncertain what it all meant. Then as the realization washed over me, I understood at once why Kay was so upset, yet trying to hide that pain from me.
I stood up and wrapped him in my arms, embracing him from behind. I put my chin on his shoulder and stared at his closed eyes in the mirror. "Look at me, my love," I said, softly. His gray eyes opened and he found the strength to keep our gazes locked, despite the quivering at his chin. "Look at me and hear me and feel the truth here and now and always. I will never, ever, want anyone in my arms, my bed or my eternal life as much as I want you. I will never consciously do anything to hurt you, either head, hand or heart. And if using my body to convince others of the truth or to sway them to our side has always been the way, then you and I will simply have to find another way."
"Robyn," he said, barely able to talk. I felt the tightness in his throat, the trembling in his chest through his back ribs.
"No words," I said, leaning my head against his. "We've never needed them before, we don't need them now." He turned under my arms and embraced me as well, both of us just needing the surety of flesh to know that we weren't losing each other.
After several minutes of just holding and comforting one another, he let me go, wiping at his tears. We sat down and just held hands, trying to gather our collective wits. I felt a huge lump in my throat dissolve, letting me talk again.
"Okay, so Donna Trag has eyes my way. I might be able to use that against her, should the need arise. But I won't break my oath to you to get her judgment, you know that, I hope."
"Okay, so getting the Satyrs backing me sounds like a good idea. What other political forces are we dealing with?"
"Well, your army, in bits and pieces. A good many of your former thanes are in this area. Others will come to your call, if they believe it's really you."
"But that takes time. What can we count on right now?"
"There aren't many Eshu in this county. If we were closer to Boston we'd have more support from that quarter, but out here in the near wilderness, Eshu are more the traveling type, less likely to settle. We could get some support from the Trolls. Grahame likes you now, or at least hates you less. Caspian can help with that regard."
"Sounds like a fair amount of support so far. I get the feeling that the telling point will be the other nobles, though."
"Yup. Two are dead solid set against you, so might as well forget about them."
"Dame Chakra, a Sluagh, and Lord Simara, a Sidhe."
"Why are they dead against us?"
Kenny sighed and stared to the ceiling. "Chakra is a pacifist. During the Accordance War, she tried to convince the commoners to let the criminals of the Night of Iron Knives off the hook. She wanted them to have full amnesty."
"She sounds like one that we should court then. She sounds like she doesn't like to see changelings Undone."
"She's also hates Satyrs in general."
"That could be a tough hurdle, but if we play up the sympathy and mercy aspects, she might side with us."
"She might. Baron Simara will be another matter entirely. He hates you because Donna Trag likes you. Also because you have an unbeaten record in ritual duels. A record he could only claim with one exception."
"I beat him, didn't I?"
"Unfortunately, yes. And that kind of rivalry sits hard with Sidhe. The Baron is also much older than you in this life, so he remembers the last time you defeated him in a duel….and it was a practical spanking. Against anyone else he's a god. Versus you, my love, he just couldn't hack it. For some reason, he just can't beat you. And he's wicked good with a blade."
"A match for me?"
"You'd think. I dunno why it wasn't more of an even fight that time. He still holds that hatred in his heart though."
"Okay, who else?"
"Well, aside from Grahame and Korbesh, there is only one other titled knight in the area. Dame Birchfoot, a Pooka."
"Pooka?" Okay, sue me, I've been under the knowledge that I was a changeling for all of a day now. I still didn't know everything.
"Yeah, Pooka. They are a kith of animal-form shape shifters."
"What, like werewolves?"
"I'll explain the difference there another day, but that's not a bad way to think about it. They are notorious tricksters and they seem to have to lie about something every few minutes or they go a little crazy."
"Only a little?" I said, a joke and a laugh in my heart. His comment about werewolves kinda caught my attention though. I'd have to ask him about it at the next earliest opportunity.
"Let's not be too judgemental," Kenny hastened to remind me. "Sluagh are kinda like Goths, although they tend to be shy, seem to be haunted or at least able to talk to spirits and rarely speak above a whisper."
"Right, the quiet side of the Marilyn Manson crowd, gotcha. So what's Birchfoot's take on things?"
"Pooka aren't known as being what you might call stalwart warriors. The fact that Dame Birchfoot has a title either speaks highly of some act she has performed in the recent past, or to a martial prowess that should be taken into consideration."
"I'll have to keep that in mind."
"Robby, there's something else you should know. Donna Trag may try to use you as a means to an end. The commoners have more power in recent years, but they also follow strong leaders, especially those that champion their causes over those of the nobility. Your standing up for Croaker, making him your thane, that's gonna stir up some of the commoners, might nudge the current balance of power. Are you sure you want to disturb the waters that deeply?"
"I'm only sure of two things right now," I said, rubbing the back of Kenny's hand with my thumb. "One, that I love you more than life itself," he blushed and smiled at that. "And two, that saving Croaker is what we must do next. Whatever the consequences of that are, we'll deal with it."
"You know, you're really starting to scare me."
"You start acting any more noble and I may have to help you try to start a palace revolt."
"Stop teasing me and just give me a kiss."
"Not yet," he whispered, releasing my hand. The creak of the steps caught my attention and I had to snap my gaze over to the bedroom door. My Mom came upstairs, a grin on her face.
"Mom?" I replied at once.
"You up for a little adventure?" Kenny and I exchanged quick looks, grinning.
"I have got us a campsite at Salisbury Beach State Res for tonight and tomorrow night only. Kenny, honey, you're Dad said it was okay for you to come with us if you wanted. Dad's outside getting the camper ready now."
"Can Kenny and I tent out?"
"I don't see why not. You sure you wouldn't rather stay in the RV?"
"Okay, you can tent out. But it's still Kenny's decision on if he wants to go with us."
"Thanks, Mrs. French. I'd love to go."
"Okay, why don't you hurry back to your house, pick up a few things and we'll head out for the beach in about three hours."
"Okay!" Kenny said, bolting to his feet. He started to head out the door, paused in front of my mother and with a smile on his face, hugged her, whispering a thank you before heading downstairs. Mom was at a loss for words, which considering my family, was a major event.
"Thanks Mom," I said, coming up and giving her a hug of my own. "I know I've been kinda crazy the last couple a' days, but I want you to know, well, you know."
"The Jedi class has been good to you, huh?" she asked, hugging me back and swaying slightly.
"Yup!" In more ways than you may want to know, Mom, I thought. "After we get back and Jedi practice on Friday, can I stay the weekend at Kenny's house. He wants to show me how he makes the lightsabers and I think Mitch wants to start teaching me real fencing."
"We'll see when we get back. Pack some clothes up, kiddo. You're father is in a mood to get away from phones for a while." Her smile indicated that Dad had been overworked of late. A lot of his job involves travel, hence why they bought the RV a few years back. A home away from phone, as Dad called it at the time. Although, I had overheard that they were trying to purchase a beach house up at Seabrook, New Hampshire, just over the state line from Salisbury, so they wouldn't have to get parking rights and such for the RV to just get out of town a few days.
Which was just as good in my opinion, since I wanted to get away from changeling politics a bit myself. Perhaps at the beach and epiphany would reach me about how to deal with Juan/Croaker's situation. If nothing else, it would give Kay and me a little more honeymoon time. The more I thought about it, though, it seemed that there was something I was forgetting. Something important.
Packing for the beach was about as mundane an activity as could be expected, even as excited as I was, and I finished it quickly. I was bounding down the steps and out the front door with a duffle bag full of my Jedi gear and my clothes and such before I knew it. I nearly bolted into the RV at full steam, practically bouncing on my springy Satyr legs when I heard a conversation going on inside the RV. I cautiously paused, set my gear down outside the open door and listened. It was my parents talking.
"It's good that he's fencing, now. He needs that physical outlet, especially if we are right about his magic," Dad said. Maybe I hadn't heard that right.
"I worry about it though. He's much more powerful than we could have hoped for, but his energies are different from ours. You'd think that genetics would have pulled him towards one of our talents more. But he doesn't fit either of our bloodlines." Okay, now Mom is talking magic, too? Do I tell them about my forehead adornments and why I'll be shedding in bed now? I decided to listen in more. Something they weren't telling me was going on, and with everything else around me going to the dogs, I needed to learn as much as possible. Besides, this was a secret they kept from me, a potentially dangerous one. I suddenly felt all of three years old, with my ice cream toppled from the cone onto a dirty stretch of sidewalk.
"You worry too much Ann. He's still young, still growing. But have you seen his aura lately?"
"Yes, he's awakened, at least partially. So are Kenny and Mitch, and that scares me. Could they be supernaturals as well, or are they Mages like us?" My parents are Mages? What the hell does that mean? I wondered. Suddenly, life was full of unexpected turns.
"I don't know. All I do know is that if Senator Kelly calls again I may have to give him laryngitis." They both giggled at that, Mom almost breaking out into full laughter. "At least we'll be able to observe Robby and Kenny more closely. If there's something fishy going on from Mitch and Kenny, we'll figure it out tonight."
"You're scared too, right Dennis. I mean, he's our only son. I'm frightened about bringing him into our world. What it means he'll have to face some day."
"He's got to grow into who and what he is, Ann. If that means he's a Magus, like we are, then so be it. If he is merely enlightened but not awakened, we can't force it on him. And yes, hon. I'm very scared for him. He's such a sweet kid, I fear that the struggles in our world may very well tear him apart."
"Yet another reason he needs that fencing class? Help toughen him up some?"
"He needs as many skills as we can give him. If learning to shove three feet of steel into someone's chest saves his life one day, then I wont look on his training now with regret."
"Me neither," Mom said, sighing. I could hear her changing positions on the padded bench seat behind the RV's dining table. "I just hope he doesn't hate us forever for not telling him about all this. I feel so guilty not raising him like I was raised, totally honest about magic."
"We were the products of a different time, my love," Dad replied. "To us it's the way of the universe. To Robby, it's something in Harry Potter. He has to live in both the mundane and the magical one day. At least let him become grounded enough in the mundane so that he can keep his magic, whatever course it takes, secret. That's his best protection."
"I know. It just feels wrong."
"I know," Dad sighed. "My father was right about him, though. He's an old soul with a new form. Ever look into Robby's eyes when he was little?"
"Everyday," I could almost hear Mom smile.
"Like staring into forever. Joy and light," Dad said, wonderment in his voice. "I used to watch him sleep when he was about six or so. He would open his eyes and stare back at me, just our eyes meeting, and he'd smile. So cute and happy. I remember him like that. Every time I think of him, that's the first image I get."
"He is one of a kind," Mom said, and I was nearly on the verge of tears. Conflicted, you know? "I remember this one time, you were in Boston on business, when he came into the bedroom with a picture he had drawn for you. He climbed up on the bed and explained it all to me. The airport, the subway route done in blue. He was very precocious at that age, probably four years old. Dennis, he said to me 'Mommy, why doesn't Daddy just make his boss come to him?' And I was just about ready to spill my guts about us. I'm not sure what stopped me. He just suddenly was talking like he knew about what we could do."
I felt myself going over the verge of tears. Picking up the bags, I made three giant hops back to the front door, eyes streaming. God, I had it too good. My lover from across time, my loyal followers within arms reach, and the best parents a guy could have, and all of it touched with magic and powers beyond mortal ken. And within all of it, love. Be it friendship begun with Juan, to the unbending adoration of parents, to the unswerving devotion of Caspian, even to the unbridled passion and patient love of my Kenny/Kay Neth. Whatever I had done in my previous lives to deserve such love, such unspoiled good fortune, I pledged I would spend this life trying to help others find as well. Everyone should be so lucky. No matter the cost.
I sat on the front steps, bags beside me and tried to regain my composure. Joy and light, my father had called me. That was what I would do my best to bring to those I could. That's what I had to be for them still, especially with the revelations to come. I wasn't sure I wanted them to know I was a changeling yet. Kenny and Mitch needed to know what was going on. I trusted them implicitly, as much as I trusted my parents. But could they be made to trust each other? Only three days ago, I was a normal boy with parents watching to see if my innate magic, my Joy and Light, would blossom forth as they expected it to. Now, I was a creature of unearthly power, still learning of my fae heritage, and now I find out that my parents are the human equivalents of fae.
Confused yet? That makes two of us. Or however many of you are reading this plus one. But to be honest, I was happily confused. I suddenly realized that nothing would be too startling to them. I could eventually reveal my fae nature to them. I could trust them with my secrets. After all, they loved me. Just go back and read what my father had said. Read about how my mother spoke. They could deal with me being a Satyr. They could probably deal with me and Kenny as well. It was all a matter of timing, I realized. Just like always, I'd have to pick my battles and fight them when the time was right.
I should pause here and mention that right now, as tight knit as my family was, and still is, I never really saw my father as being so poetic and expressive about me. I knew he was proud of me, and that he loved me. And I had no problems expressing my feelings to him. I'd just never felt that depth of emotion in him like when I eavesdropped on their conversation in the RV. Perhaps he saved that for Mom, in which case I'd just overheard an intimate moment from them. That made me feel a little guilty. I didn't like the idea that Mitch might have overheard Kenny and me. I'd lay odds that my parents didn't want me peeking in on their pillow talk either.
To make a long explanation of a short segment short again (like that'll ever happen), we packed the RV, Kenny and Mitch came over with Kenny's bag and his Jedi gear, including our sabers and the double ended saber too. We also loaded Kenny's bike along side mine on the back bike rack. Travel around the campsite would be limited to either foot power or biking once the RV got hooked up.
Kenny gave Mitch a good-bye hug and we were off for Salisbury Beach. What followed next was a long period of going about fifteen miles an hour just to get to the site. Traffic was at the usual heavy summertime levels out that way. In order to get to Salisbury Beach Center, where the Res is, you have to snake through the outskirts of the town of Amesbury, most of the town of Salisbury, and then across a section of muddy salt marches to Salisbury Beach. The total trip might be 15 miles of roads, but the road narrows to one lane over most of it, and the beach is a popular vacation destination. At least in the RV you could stretch your legs a bit.
Once at the campsite, we helped Dad hook up water and power, set up the awning and pitched my small pup tent. Dad said we should go check out the area while he and Mom made preparations for dinner. After getting our bikes down, we hit the roads, familiarizing ourselves with the bathrooms, the camp store and the directions to both the beaches and the inland road to Salisbury Beach Center, where the arcades, restaurants, candy shops, batting cages and the small amusement park were set up around the final loop of road before you drive into the Atlantic Ocean. There were about sixty other RV's in our area, with other primitive campsites stretched around and to the river side of the camp zone. About thirty kids our age were about on bikes as well, with quite a few more younger ones staying close to their home camps.
Kenny and I raced for a bit, just trying to see as much as possible before the sun started sinking and we had to get back to camp for food. We might have been drunk on each other's presence again, but we also were growing boys. The bottomless pit club was in session almost at once. Dad's patented barbeque ribs seem to taste better when we camp out. And he had apparently out done himself this time. It was all so relaxing, so peaceful. My family and my best friend and nothing to bother us.
That is, until I got the 411 on how Satyrs party.
Kenny and I stayed up until the mosquitoes started coming out, forming up into squadrons to attack bare skin. We decided to crawl into the tent before the real blood bath began. I brought a little CD player with me and tuned in the local classic rock station. The mood and the beach just felt right for more old music. Must be the eternal fae spirit thing in me that likes all the old stuff so much. Go figure.
At any rate, an old Bonnie Tyler song came on, and I thought back to the talk Kenny and I had early while the lyrics were playing and we were playing as well. The talk where he was basically trying to give me a political hunting license to go and screw around for support. Courtly love, as it's called. The song seemed to be coming from Kenny, at least for me. I imagined myself answering back on the "turn around" part. I let my vision slip into the fae side, briefly and I could actually see his eyes shining back at me in the darkness of the tent, making the "turn around Bright Eyes" section actually mean something deeper for me. If at no other time, right then I knew that I would never let anything come between us. We were stronger together than apart, and that strength was what we both needed, as much as we needed each other.
We didn't turn on a camp lamp inside the tent. We didn't need one. Kenny and I were already good at just going on touch alone. We took our time and stripped each other, giggling slightly when we'd tease one another with a tickle or a long, smiling stare. We weren't rushing either. We had plenty of time. I kissed him deeply as he pulled my shirt up over my head, and he trapped my arms inside the shirt. I'm not much into the idea of bondage. I mean, sex without motion is like driving with no tires, lots of friction but you don't go anywhere. Still, with him holding my arms behind my head like that, kissing me like only he can, I was nearly transported right then and there.
We got down to the business of gentle love play once naked. Hands, for the most part, stroking each other, down the length of our bare, flat tummies, over the developing muscles of our chests, the long smooth flow of our tight thighs. I found he liked it when I caressed his face with one hand and traced the lines of his torso with the other, both of us kneeling and facing each other. This was exploring fun, and we took the time to do it right.
When he finally had teased me enough (and with him, enough is never enough!), or so he thought, he finally touched my aching cock. I'd been standing at full attention, awaiting his attentions, since first entering the tent. He traced his nails across the shaft, making me anxious for him to lower those soft, strong fingers to the head. My own hands were dancing circles around the tops of his thighs, getting his breath hot and faster. The cool winds of summer nights were gathering and blowing outside, but inside the tent, all was warm and gooey and getting faster.
I let my fingers brush against his boyhood, tracing the slight space around his legs before his more sensitive parts pointed skywards. I lingered one hand on his face as I slid m fingers against first the base of his cock, then up towards the head, sliding along on his skin, tracing blood vessels and riding my fingers tightly over the slight bumps along the length. He sighed and I could make out the shadow of his head tilting back in growing bliss.
I lay down on my side, still holding his firm yet mobile penis in my hand, my other hand sliding down his body as I went. He copied my movement, although instead of moving so that we could kiss and cuddle, he went to the opposite side, and in moments I could feel his breath on my thighs and knees. I knew what he wanted next. So did I. It wasn't long before we were both making silent moans against each other's hardness, using our mouths in a kiss as intimate as any that mouths share, only this time our mouths had other parts to play with. And play we did, teasing, sighing, trying to keep the other just at the edge of pleasure without completing, without reaching that moment. How long we went on like that, I don't know, but it was a good long time. When we finally did allow each other to cum, it was no less powerful for us both holding off for so long. Kenny crawled up to face me after we had finished and we swapped spit (and other fluids) for a while, before just nuzzling each other, holding and enjoying that after sex heat I love so much.
We just lay there, tasting each other's skin and tongue and mouth from time to time. That was just the warm-up, and we both knew it, but it was very nice, too. Like I've said so many times before, when it's just the two of us, we've got nothing if not time. Besides, it's such a turn on to just be held some times. Just to let your hands linger and stroke slowly on your lover's flanks, to feel his hands trailing tips against your skin. I know that Robby was still new to this, but a lot of Robyn's preferences were coming back to me, if you'll forgive the pun.
I checked my watch (strangely, aside from the Tear, the only stitch of clothing I still had on) and was amazed. We'd been at it for the better part of three hours, I guess time flies, huh? Our skin was molded to each other, just stuck together with sweat and that addictive under-the-covers heat. I felt like Kenny was a soft magnet and I was liquid steel.
And liquid was suddenly something I wanted. Sex heat and just moaning and groaning for a few hours takes a lot of sweat out of you. Gatorade should use sex as an incentive to buy more sports drinks.
"You too?" Kenny asked, stretching against me. God, I love it when he does that. Makes all my muscles twitch at once.
"Yeah, need to empty the bladder and get some water going. Hate to say it, lover, but you're wearing me out and we haven't even gotten to the main event yet."
"Then we'll just have to take a break and get a drink so we can work on your endurance," he said, smiling into the darkness.
"I thought it was the Satyr that was supposed to be insatiable?" I said, passing him his underwear.
"I'm not allowed to have my moments?"
"With me, Kenny, always. Always."
We dressed quickly and got out to our bikes. We also grabbed our gear bags and the sabers, including the big double blader. We took care of out immediate need to flood the toilets with yellow and took copious amounts of water from the drinking fountain, also taking time to fill up our canteens. Sounds like a lot to do, but it took barely ten minutes.
We had scoped out a spot on the seawall facing the Merrimack River side of the campgrounds. The reservation is bounded by the city of Salisbury Beach on the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Merrimack on the south. West was the salt marshes. The riverside beach was bounded with a seawall of poured concrete which would deaden the sounds of our sticks smacking as Kenny and I engaged in our second favorite activity to do together, fencing. Across the wide mouth of the Merrimack, the distant lights of the coastal city of Newburyport twinkled, adding to the bare illumination of starlight. The moon hadn't even so much as slivered yet, and was hours away from rising anyways.
"You know, Bright Eyes, I've been fully fae again for three days now, but I haven't learned any powers yet." My tone was kinda teasing, keeping with the mood between us. Sex is a great way to re-enforce a moment, but for Kenny and me, foreplay was just about every waking minute we were together. If it was just us together, there was always a subtle subtext going on. "Any hints?"
"Well, I'm really good with Wayfare and Legerdemain and Chicanery. As I recall you were always good with Wayfare, Pyretics and Primal.
"Okay," I said, swinging the double bladed saber about, sensing its weight, trying a few steps to get its movement. "I have an inkling about Wayfare, what are those other's you mentioned?"
"Pyretics is fire."
"Well, d'uh!" That got me reproving glance number four, the slightly amused look coupled with mildly annoyed.
"Primal is mostly dealing with things in nature. Talking to rocks, giving things the toughness of oak bark, healing, changing shape, that kind of thing. It's a tough one to master, but it's cantrips are useful."
"So it's kinda like elemental magic?"
"That's a good way to think of it. Legerdmain is mostly about moving things about, like David Copperfield, you know. Sleight of hand and stage magic stuff. Very hard to master. Chicanery is similar, but instead of being based on moving things, it's more about moving ideas. It's how you deceive and fuddle the memories and emotions of others."
"No wonder you get out of tight spots by talking through them," I smiled. He grinned back.
"You're pretty good with that," Kenny said, watching as I went through some pantomime of a Sith Lord training ritual. I have to admit, the thing was too long for me, but I was thoroughly enjoying the way it moved. Balanced.
"Okay, so show me how to do something we both know. Like that Hopscotch trick."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah of course I'm….." and I had to stop look over at Kenny and blink as my eyes opened in horror. The glimmering fairy lights of Glamour were dancing about him and stretching out to my running shoes. "Oh don't tell me!" I said and then he farted….loudly, and with a flutter.
I shot into the air like I had rockets strapped on my Nikes. I shot up about ten meters. While in the air I managed to somersault to take some of the momentum out of the sudden and unconscious leap, and readied myself to land, hard. I came down feet first on top of the seawall. Thankfully it was about ten feet from the sand at that point and I was only slightly winded by the landing. I took the shock in my knees, flexed down and sprang forward, twisting in the air and landed back in front of Kenny. With a look of utter joy and amazement on his face, he smiled at me. And he never saw me swing around rapidly, hooking the left-hand dowel of the double blader behind his ankles as I spun. He landed on the sand, still giggling, even as I pounced on him.
We wound up rolling around, tickling and teasing each other until we fetched up short against the seawall, him somehow winding up on top of me. He gazed down into my eyes and the smile vanished, replaced by a look of urgency. Okay, I thought, what's going on behind his eyes now.
"Hey, Bright Eyes. You awake in there?" I said, my hand coming up to stroke his chin.
"Just thinking," he replied. "Where did that come from?"
"Oh, that. Well, that song, while we were getting serious. I was thinking about earlier, in my bedroom, and that song kinda said what I think you were feeling and what I was feeling as well."
"You think I was worried about losing you?"
"I know you were."
"Well, yeah, I was. But I'm not anymore. I just worry about what we're getting into."
"Nothing we can't handle together."
"I hope so, Robyn. I truly hope so." His eyes looked out over at the lights of Newburyport, as a barge sailed by, it's running lights casting a flickering line of light on the dark river waves.
"Turn around," I sang up at him, "Bright Eyes."
"You're gonna make me cry, you know," he said, smiling down on me again. He brought his face down to mine and gave me a brief kiss. "I thought we came down here to practice?"
"We are practicing." I kissed him back and then let my hands play about on the small of his back, going under the waistband of his shorts and underwear.
"Swords, remember? Cantrips, maybe?"
"You're sword is sticking me in the gut right now," I smiled.
"Robyn, I think we need to cool down a little, or else the tent will smell like a sewer. Besides, I want to teach you the Hopscotch cantrip. It's time you learned about your powers."
"Oh alright. But once we get back to the tent, there's some torture I have in mind for you."
"Oh goody!" he smiled, climbing off me. He offered me a hand up and I gratefully took it.
Now I could go into the intricacies of changeling magic here, but it wouldn't help you to figure out how to do it. Very few humans can master the Arts. You just haven't evolved the proper mechanisms for dealing with the Glamour you people are constantly making, yet don't realize you even have. Suffice it to say that it's not as simple as it sounds. First off, you kinda have to have a mind set based on the Art in question. You also have to have a certain emotional orientation that backs up that mindset, something that influences the strength of the Art. There's also a subtlety to it. You must be able to reach the object or person you are casting the cantrip on, which isn't quite what it sounds like.
And, unfortunately, using ambient Glamour for a cantrip requires something called a bunk. Now according to Websters, a bunk is absurdity, drivel, hogwash, nonsense, gibberish, and malarkey. Honestly, that's pretty much the point of it. When Kenny showed me the trick with the quarter, he'd bunked, sneezing and shouting a word at the same time. When he gave my running shoes a lift by firing his afterburner, that was a bunk. Basically, as far as changeling magic went, a bunk was something that is either silly, innately childish or has the stain of the mystical about it. I've heard that some bunks are as intricate as drawing a doorknob on a wall in order to open a portal through it, or like laying out tarot cards for some of the more divination based Arts. Think of it like this. The kinds of things that kids do to either amuse themselves or each other on the playground may be considered bunks. Singing songs, or making up nonsensical verses, rhyming words that don't exist, all those are bunks. Doctor Seuss would be proud.
You can directly use your own Glamour to do a cantrip, just force it out, but it's not that hard to throw or pull a bunk. Most changelings prefer to bunk when casting anyways. This might sound like a disadvantage, but the truth of the matter is, Glamour flows from you to the target of the cantrip, usually in a visual fashion, when you cast. Only the most subtle of casters can get away with pulling one quietly. There's some other aspects, like counterweaving and nightmares and such, but for what I'm about to tell you, you don't need to know. Just know that at one point in your life or another you've probably witnessed a bunk and then something weird happens. That's one of my changeling cousins at work.
Anyways, Kenny had me focus on a useful application of Hopscotch. One that he'd seen me use many times in the past, and that a fencer might need, given the need to be armed. I stood about ten meters away from my normal blue lightsaber, Kenny pushing it point down into the sand so that it was standing upright. I learned my first bunk, whistling out of tune, and felt the Glamour first gather and then leap from me. My thoughts shaped the Glamour, forcing it into the shape I demanded and the lightsaber suddenly shot straight at me, handle first, leaping the ten meters to my hand. It was fairly miraculous. I could easily abuse this new ability, and just thinking of the pranks that this made possible sent a shiver through me. I was excited beyond words to describe. I was now feeling the raw power of the Dreaming at my command, not just brushing against me, or through the Tear. This was from me and at my control.
Remember I mentioned a Glamour high a while back? This was like a minor tremor of that. Just an all over body surge. Kenny was in my arms congratulating me. That just made it better.
He suddenly jumped back from me, and his own silvery blade twitched and flew across about two meters of open sand and fell into the palm of his hand. "Now, lord Robyn! Have at you, thou knavish cur!" And he charged, swinging.
I grinned and we met on the open sand, blades singing in. It was like that second time in the gym. We were all over, pulling moves that were not only unfit for normal combat (at least as mortals would know it) but that simply aren't possible without a series of ropes and wires and springboards.
He dropped from one such pass, and looked at me with his happy grin. He suddenly sprouted fire all over like Croaker had. I stopped my forward charge and just stared in awe. Kenny looked insanely strong and confident, suddenly. His dark hair was lifting in some phantom breeze, the cuffs of his shorts and the hem of his shirt also flapping like a flag in a stiff headwind. His eyes were glowing with an internal light that brought me up short. He was awesome and terrible to behold at the same time.
"This is the Dragon's Ire. It is something that all changelings can call on in combat. The power of Glamour used in the raw glory of the fight."
"How?" was all I could squeak out. I had the feeling that the answer was far easier than I could have formed a more detailed question for. He explained it briefly, and while I'd tell you, it just wouldn't affect you. Well, at least, I don't think human's can do it. I tried and I shoved a bit of Glamour into the effort and was rewarded with a temporary flickering of fire on my skin, a gush of wind in my ears, a pale nimbus shifting colors in my vision a few degrees sharper, a few shades lighter, as if granting me nightvision.
But I heard someone approaching and we both quickly dosed the Dragon's Ire and jumped behind a clump of sea grass. Kenny quickly snapped his wrist and the double blader skated over the sands towards our hiding place, as though it were on a fishing line. I kept watch from the weeds while Kenny got the sith saber back to us. A beam of light played against the wall, lifting and scattering over the concrete. A passing car engine followed the lights as they traveled across the surface of the seawall. We both released a breath and kind of slumped against each other. Both of us were coated in a sheen of sweat at that time, burning from internal heat.
I quickly checked my watch as saw that we'd been fencing for about two hours. When I told him how long we'd been at it, he looked at me and smiled. "Seems we just can't seem to fuck or fight on short terms, huh?" We laughed silently, just enjoying the feel of skin on skin, sweat on sweat, in the joy of using our fae powers. I felt fully alive.
That's the thing that most mortals I get don't understand. Despite all the problems and concerns about money, family, society and other more mundane problems, life is meant to be enjoyed on little bit at a time. Kenny and me having sex together, fencing, just being kids, being lovers, all of that was what made everything else in this life livable. Probably for all my previous existences as well. Living in the moment, living for the moment. That's what I do, in both worlds.
Which was a philosophy about to be put to the test. Just as Kenny and I uncrouched to go back to the tent, intent on spending the next few hours in an equally sweaty preoccupation, something dark and thick and heavy fell on us. Our weapons were quickly pulled from the sack that had been thrown over us. Kenny and I struggled for a moment and then were hoisted up onto some sort of flat surface. I got the distinct sensation of rolling, and I reached to my hip. Sky Fire's bite could work equally well on fabric as flesh, and I didn't like the idea of being shanghaied. But Kay's hand dropped on my wrist as I struggled to bring Sky Fire about.
"Not yet, beloved." Something in his voice, its fearless quality, caught my attention. He wasn't worried. Something was going on, and so I decided that we could wait to find out what. I was uncertain about this course of action, But Kay was Eshu. He could always find the right path. I trusted his judgment.
And so, tossed in a sack, together with my boyfriend, and with new found knowledge of the old powers singing in my mind, we were taken away. By whom, I did not know. All that mattered was that Kenny/Kay Neth was with me, and together we could face anything.
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