After grabbing a couple of practice swords from the bin by the door, Swift led Kyle, Eric, and Jamie out of the armoury. Jamie still could not shake the single word he had heard spoken out of his head, but he kept it to himself. They walked up the stairs, through the bulkhead doors, and into the warm sunshine. Swift stopped, seeing Thondir standing there waiting for them.
"We're just heading to the practice pitch. Care to join us?" he asked the tall Elf.
"I would love to, but I need to speak with Jamie for a moment," Thondir replied, holding his hand up. "You can all stay, this involves everyone."
Jamie hung back a little bit still somewhat scared of the big man who stood in front of them. Thondir sensed his fear and smiled at the small boy, trying to let him know that all was well.
"Did I do something wrong, sir?" Jamie stammered a bit uncertainly.
"No Little One, you are fine. There are a couple of Elders here that would like to meet you. I know you are somewhat nervous still, so I asked them if they would stay back until I asked you," Thondir stated, as he wanted to make sure Jamie was alright with meeting more adults.
Kyle and Swift had given Thondir the full story of Jamie: all that they knew; along with the details of beatings and the assortment of scars they had seen on the small boy. The same Jamie, who now stood there looking every part a warrior and not a child. Thondir could see the change in Jamie's appearance, even though it was subtle. There was enough however, that he could sense the raw unchecked power that was held within the boy who stood before him. He waited and gave Jamie time to decide if it was alright to bring the other elders forward.
After a moment Jamie said, "That would be fine sir. I'm okay."
"Little One, I would like you to meet Brúndaer and Lornen," both of the elders bowed as they came forward after their introduction. "They have traveled a long distance to be with us today. I just returned from picking them up at the airport, along with more food. I hear our sideboard was emptied earlier today," he said with a smile and little laugh at the end.
"Sorry sir, I can do some chores or something to pay for what I ate," Jamie replied.
The three Elvish men stood there looking on in amazement at the young boy, who spoke so politely, although they also felt the underlying fear that his voice betrayed. Kyle then walked behind Jamie and wrapped his arms over his young friend's shoulders to reassure him.
"Little One, it's okay. Remember what I said, and what Swift said when we came here? We both said there is no payment required, all you need to do is learn," said Kyle. "No one here will ever hurt you."
"I'm sorry sir, it's just well most people want something. You know … something for something," Jamie ended, as tears began flowing down his cheek.
"Little One," Brúndaer began, "We will never harm you nor let harm come to you. If you have any questions, please ask them of us."
Lornen added, "We are here to help you and the others find the path before you that has been chosen. We are also here to make sure you all remain safe during these troubled times."
"Thank you, I think I am fine now sir," Jamie finally replied after a moment to compose himself.
"One more item, Little One," Thondir added, with a smile and a wink. "Please call us by name. Sir, is what I call my grandfather."
Jamie giggled hearing this and the smile he now wore said that he was fine now. Swift looked about and pointed over to a picnic table; it had been placed in a little niche in a bed of marigolds that had blooms the size of baseballs.
"Shall we all go get comfortable?" Swift asked, as he started to lead everyone to the table.
The elders smiled and followed along behind the boys. Jamie kept looking back, as did Eric, wonder plastered on their faces. They knew that this wondrous place was much more than they had ever dreamt of. Yet somehow both also seemed to know that they had dreamt this before they had even met. They would figure that out at another time, perhaps. Dreams have a way of connecting some people; they may never know the how's or why's of it, but it does happen.
They all took seats and Jamie looked up the elders who seemed like giants compared to him. Not that much over four feet tall, he felt he could almost stand on the picnic table and still be short compared to them. He also felt immense wisdom radiating from them, just from the way that they talked and carried themselves; as if the knowledge had been handed down for generations.
Thondir started out, "The weapons you have chosen suit you Little One. You will make a fine archer, and the daggers will be wielded by your expert hands as well. I see you surpassing some of our finest weapons masters." He stated his opinion mainly to relax Jamie, but also let him know he would someday become an expert with the weapons he had donned.
"Yes Little One, you will become a master with the bow, I can sense it," added Brúndaer, who then continued, "I have to ask you: as we approached the house I sensed something, and even for my age and experience it was strong. Did someone speak with you?" he queried.
Jamie slightly shocked by this said, "Umm … yeah … sorta … When we had picked up everything I felt odd for a minute. I saw a change in Eric and I thought I heard a voice say 'Done'. It was odd. I just shook it off, thinking maybe I was going nuts."
Kyle interjected, "Jamie you have changed too, when you look in the mirror you'll see it. I noticed it right away with your eyes, they are no longer ice blue in colour, they seem to have a more hardened steel blue colour now. Sorry for interrupting."
"It's fine Kyle, you know we would rather you state something than forget during a conversation; things no matter how small might be of great importance. Little One, you are far from going 'nuts'. There has only been one other who has heard that voice. He passed into legend long before I was born, and that itself was a long time ago," said Lornen, picking up where Brúndaer had left off. "It is a long story, some night you and I can sit someplace, and I will tell you the whole tale. For now, simply know that you are far from going nuts."
"Your gift goes beyond anything most of our kind have seen in centuries. You might not feel it, but we can feel the power within you Little One, as well as in your companions. It was not chance that brought you all together; nor was it luck. It will become more apparent as you embark on your training," Brúndaer stated. "Swift, Kyle, we leave the younger boys training in your hands. Eric, you have a special gift as well, it surfaced when you picked up your sword. Be patient, you have a great talent in you that was laying dormant, Swift and Kyle will help bring it out."
Eric thought about everything that was being said, and he was certain that he did feel something; he felt it even more after he had picked up the sword. He felt a calm in him, as well as an understanding that there was much he had to learn in a short time. Somehow, deep down he knew that his friends and he would be saving a world; which one he just did not know.
Jamie looked at the elders, puzzled by what he was being told and asked, "This power is good, right? I'm not becoming some sort of evil person am I? I know I've had to do some bad things …" he trailed off on the last statement, with tears on the rims of his eyes.
Thondir spoke, "Little One, what you have done you had to do. No person should be forced to live like you and the others were. For now, know this, the power within you is for the good. There is more, but for now I think you would like to see just how well you can shoot that bow of yours," he concluded, winking at Jamie.
"Yes sir, I mean Thondir; I would love to. Thank you, I feel better now," Jamie replied, with enthusiasm coming back into his voice.
"Then off with all of you. We shall see you at dinnertime. Swift be sure to keep inside the grass line for now until Eric and Jamie learn where the safe areas are," Thondir said.
"We will father. Uncle Lornen, how is Aunt Faervel? It has been a while since I have seen you both," Swift said, watching the expressions on the faces of the other boys.
"She sends her love, and will be joining us for dinner. She is off visiting her friend at the moment," Lornen said, knowing full well Swift had finally told his friends who everyone was.
Brúndaer not to be undone chimed in, "Yet no one cares about this old Elf, with all the wisdom," saying it with a mocking smile.
"Of course I do, Grandfather. It's just that you never like to get mushy," Swift parried back, and since he was letting the cat out of the bag he decided to let all of them out.
Kyle, Eric, and Jamie looked on with their mouths hanging open as the revelation was made. Jamie realized it first as he noticed they all had some of the same facial features, something which he had not paid close attention to before.
First to speak, as the realization fully unfolded in front of him, Jamie stated, "Then that means Gwinis is your mom Swift … that's why she called us brothers!"
Eric looked at Jamie and said, "What do you mean Little One?"
Before Jamie could reply, Brúndaer held up his hand, "Tell them in a while Jamie, for now let them puzzle this one out on their own."
"You're right Thondir, he is very quick," Brúndaer added as a final comment.
Swift stood and bowed to his elders. Kyle and Eric stood as well following Swift's lead. Jamie sat there, his head cocked to the right looking as though someone was speaking to him. While everyone looked on at him, the young boy was still processing the realization that he had had. He finally stood with a grin plastered on his face, and bowed deeply.
"Gó raibh maith agat," he said and walked away still smiling.
The elders just looked at Jaime. They stood and bowed to him, as the other boys looked on at him their mouths hanging open. Jamie had spoken in Old Elvish, a language used long ago, in a time that was less troubling than what lay ahead; although, the world always seemed to be in trouble of one sort or another.
Swift was the first to get his wits back and said, "Okay, let's head for the training area." He was however still somewhat puzzled, by Jamie's pronouncement.
Brúndaer looked at Thondir and Loren and spoke softly, "He has only just begun."
They all watched Jamie as the small boy walked away; their thoughts said that there was much more to this small boy then even they had guessed. Standing up from the picnic table they walked towards the house, not speaking but in deep contemplation. Meanwhile the boys headed in the other direction.
It was a short walk to the practice area and on arrival Eric and Jamie looked over the area. On one side there was a small building with a fence around it, facing towards the north and the woods beyond. A long lawn was laid out straight east and west, with archery targets set up and marked off with distances painted on small signs every ten yards, the furthest of these which said one hundred yards. Kyle climbed the rail and dropped into the practice pitch, and as he landed Eric saw his feet sink somewhat into the soft soil.
Kyle motioned to Eric to follow him, while Swift took Jamie to the archery range. Swift looked at his friend, 'or was it his brother?', he pondered to himself while showing and explaining the range to Jamie.
"Okay Jamie the range is marked off in yards. Let's start at the ten-yard mark, and I'll show you the basics," Swift said, as they walked down the range.
Jamie stopped at the forty-yard mark saying, "Can I try from here?"
"Sure thing Little One, but I want to let you know a first shot from this distance is tough for a beginner," Swift said, yet still there was something nagging at the back of his mind that told him Jamie would make the shot.
"I think I'll do fine," Jamie said with confidence.
Swift watched as Jamie took his place on the range. He unslung the bow from over his shoulder and into his hand as if it had belonged there all the time. Swift cocked an eyebrow at the move as it was so fluid; unexpected for someone who had never held a bow before. Once again reaching over his back Jamie pulled an arrow out of the quiver in a fluid movement and had it set and knocked on the string. He drew back holding the bow with a slight angle to keep the arrow on the rest with a finger in place to guide it as he drew back.
Kyle leaned over the fence of the small pitch he and Eric were standing in, and looked on for a moment with fascination as Jamie held and aimed with the expertise of a master. Eric looked on as well, not quite sure as to how it all worked, since he had only seen a bow once in his life and the memories of that unpleasant encounter did nothing but anger him. His anger was soon replaced however, as he watched Jamie in wonder. There was a sharp twang as the arrow was loosed from the bow and sped down the range towards the targets.
The arrow flew straight and true, hitting the target just outside the ten-ring. Swift whistled, as he watched Jamie set another arrow to follow the first in a practiced fashion. The boys could hear the twang of the bow as it released its second arrow, which also speeded down the range and planted itself into the target right next to the first arrow.
"Did I get it right?" Jamie asked Swift.
Too stunned to reply at that moment Swift looked at Jamie, then over to the other pitch at Kyle and Eric who had the same expressions of amazement on their faces. Finally, he spoke, "Jamie, that was beyond incredible! I've never seen anyone do what you have just done … I … I don't know how to say this but you're as good as some Elves I know who've been shooting for years."
Jamie smiled, "Can we move back?"
"Be my guest," Swift said with flourishing bow, pointing to the fifty-yard marker.
Back in their own pitch, Kyle took one of the practice swords Swift had left with him and he twirled it in his hand with precision of a master swordsman. He then looked at Eric saying, "Okay, I got a funny feeling you're going to be as good with that katana as Jamie is with that bow, but let's cover some basics first."
"Alright," Eric said. "I don't think I have the same talent as Jamie does, but I think I've an understanding of sword fighting."
Kyle tossed him the wooden practice Katana, and Eric caught it in his hand right at the hilt. This already spoke volumes, as he looked down amazed at the fact he caught it so easily. He then looked up back at Kyle, who was just as amazed as him by the almost instinctive reaction.
Kyle took up a standard fighter's stance, and Eric followed suit copying the same position as Kyle. Both then started to circle each other in the pitch. Suddenly Kyle leapt forward expecting to strike a gentle blow against Eric's side with his sword. His blade suddenly connected with Eric's katana and both slid harmlessly against each other down to the hilts, as Eric seamlessly countered the move.
Kyle was not entirely surprised by this after just seeing what Jamie had done. He recovered and then pressed his attack with Eric countering every stroke almost as if by instinct. They parried back and forth using the whole pitch. Jamie paused for a moment in his archery to watch them; the clacking of the wooden practice swords echoing off the trees made it sound like a fever pitched battle was taking place. Jamie smiled as he then walked back to the fifty-yard mark, noting that both Kyle and Eric seemed to be equally matched; neither gaining nor losing ground to the other as they battled together fiercely.
Swift sat down in the cool grass, pulling out a long blade and sticking it in his mouth. He looked on as Kyle and Eric fiercely attacked each other, each of them countering every bow that most would have missed and been killed by if the swords had been real. The battle was intense and paying close attention to it, he did not notice the faerie that had approached him. While he continued to suck on the blade of grass she started to speak with him.
"Who is the little one? He has a glow about his person. Is he one of us?" Xenops asked Swift.
Swift looked at Xenops, "What do you mean 'he has a glow about him'?"
"He has magic in him, can you not see it?" Xenops asked.
"No I can't. This is odd. He can see the barriers, and has a glow about him," Swift spoke aloud not really expecting an answer, more trying to fit pieces of a puzzle together in his head.
"Well if he can see the barriers, he has very potent magic in him. Does he know?" she asked Swift.
"He knows he has something. You know of the prophecies, right?" he responded.
"Yes, is he the one? The one they speak of?" she asked him, slightly shaking at the possibility of meeting Jamie.
Swift replied with a smile, "Yes, I think we have found them. All the signs seem to point to it."
"Do you mean they are the ones the legends speak of? The ones who are to stand against the dark?" Xenops asked, full of questions, as she sat down on Swift's knee and looked up at him.
"Yes, Father seems positive, along with my Grandfather and Uncle. They all seem to think these are the boys," he replied.
Jamie heard the conversation, glanced over, and saw the faerie sitting on Swift's knee talking with him. He looked back down the range and decided to take it to the limit and walked back to the hundred-yard mark. As he reached over his shoulder and drew an arrow from his quiver you could have heard a pin drop. Everything went silent; even Kyle and Eric who had been practicing their swordsmanship stopped and walked over to the fence of the pitch. The faerie on Swift's knee turned and watched, Swift raised his head as well.
Jamie set the arrow on the bowstring. He drew back, aiming slightly higher than the target, his bow cocked to right, and a look of determination set on his face. Focusing on the target and absolutely nothing else he let fly. The arrow spun and twisted as it flew down the range to the target; it had a perfect spiral in its flight. Everything appeared to be in slow motion as the arrow arched midway down the range heading true for its target. Finally, it slammed into the back of the shaft of the second arrow wedging itself halfway down the shaft.
Swift stood up which caused Xenops to quickly take flight, and they were both stunned to say the least as they looked at the arrows now wobbling in the target. Kyle and Eric climbed the fence leaving the pitch they were in and started to walk over to Swift. When they got there Jamie was still standing, looking down the range, the bow in his hand, and then he turned his head and smiled.
"Is that how it's done?" Jamie asked, his smile fading as his face started to flush.
Swift looked at Kyle then Eric and still in somewhat of a state of shock replied, "Not bad at all, Little One."
Jamie started to walk back over to the other boys, but he felt strange and knew that he needed to sit down. When he got closer to them he attempted to tell them that he was feeling funny, and as he tried his bow slipped from his fingers and hit the ground just as the world went dark around him.
Kyle saw what was about to happen and ran to Jamie. With a burst of speed, he managed to catch his young friend just before he hit the ground. Quickly sitting down himself, he gently cradled Jamie in his arms and the apparently unconscious boy's head laid in the older boy's lap.
Kyle looked down at his stricken friend and then bent his head close and could hear Jamie breathing gently and that relieved some of his immediate anxiety. He held his friend close and bringing his lips near to his friend's ear he whispered something softly and then he lifted his head up again. Kyle watched Jamie carefully and saw the boy's chest moving slowly up and down, and with the hand he placed on Jamie's chest he could feel a strong heartbeat.
Jamie felt disconnected from his body, as if he were adrift on the sea. He was aware, but yet everything around him was darkness. He heard a voice, and then saw a pinpoint of light; he tried to focus but could not. Jamie's head felt as if it were bobbing up and down almost as if he were trying to swim in thick soup, but with blackness all around him. The light grew brighter; Jamie focused his concentration on the light again. He thought to himself, 'I guess I'm dead,' when the light closed in on him.
The voice he had heard earlier spoke to him, "Do not focus so much energy on what you are doing. A little nudge would have had the same effect and would not have drained all of your energy," it said.
"Who are you?" Jamie asked.
"I have no name as you would know: understand that I am one of the entities that have been struggling since time began. An accident caused us to separate, creating two possibilities. We have struggled for eons since then, long before the worlds were formed. My time is short with you right now, I had to warn you to not use so much energy."
Meanwhile, Thondir had arrived along with Gwinis, and the boys had moved Jamie to the shade of a nearby tree. Kyle still sat cradling his friend's head, a tear running down his cheek. Eric sat next to him a hand on Kyle shoulder looking down at Jamie's still face. Swift standing by; his sword drawn making sure they all remained safe. Gwinis was the first to speak.
"What happened? Xenops told us a bit, but the rest we did not understand," Gwinis asked the boys.
Swift spoke, while pointing down range, "Little One was standing on the archery range at one hundred yards, and look at the target!"
They all looked downrange at the twin arrows still stuck back to back, as Swift continued, "I've seen archers hit from that far even making the ten ring, but I've never seen anyone stack an arrow the way Jamie just did. He turned to us smiling, and said 'Is that how it's done?' then started to walk over to us. I think he was going to say more, but as he tried he fell over and that's all we know."
Jamie lay there, not hearing the others who were attempting to rouse him. He listened as the voice that seemed to be next to him in the unconscious depths of his mind, continued to speak with him.
"I cannot tell you all right now, we will all speak together later. For now, I am here to guide you. I know you are afraid, but do not worry. I will be here to watch over you," the voice continued. "For now you must go back, it is time for you to wake up. I will speak with all of you at the appropriate time. You will be very weak when you wake up you may even drift off to sleep, that is fine. Now let Gwinis guide you back; before you drift too far away."
Darkness returned as Jamie lay there, but he felt something more, a second voice and saw another light. Although he could not quite understand it all, he recognized the voice, he had heard it before: it seemed to be telling him it was okay to come back now.
Gwinis placed her hand on Jamie's forehead, closed her eyes, and looked up into the sky. As she did this Jamie's eyes slowly opened up; he felt like he had been swimming and was now coming up from under the water, slowly coming to the surface. He breathed deeply as he stirred, moving some, but without enough strength to move very well. He felt so drained, as he fought to open his eyes.
Finally, his eyes fluttered open long enough to say, "I'm hungry." It was all he could manage as he then fell into a deep sleep.
"The worst is over," Gwinis stated. "We can get him to the house now. There is something else as well, I felt another presence with him. It was not harming him, it seemed to be guiding him back towards me."
Kyle handed his sword to Eric announcing, "I'll carry him." The look on Kyle's face said he would have it no other way, as the concern and love for his little friend was etched deep in his expression.
"Thank you Kyle. We will meet you at the house. I need to talk to Swift and Eric for a moment," Thondir said.
Kyle shifted himself, and then reaching his hands under Jamie, picked him up. He felt so light as Kyle stood up holding the small boy in his arms. It felt as if he was carrying a small sleeping puppy in his arms, Jamie seemed to have no weight to him at all. Kyle and Gwinis started back towards the house, while Swift and Eric stood with Thondir at the side of the archery range.
"Father, I felt something," Swift stated. "When Jamie let the arrow fly, it felt like there was something pushing the arrow along its path."
Eric added, "I felt something as well. It was like someone was pulling on my gut when Jamie released the arrow."
"This is interesting. I have heard of similar tales, although they were before my time. We need to speak of this with my father and brother," Thondir replied, and then he added, "Did you hear anything, or see any change when it all happened?"
"I felt it, I did not see anything other than Jamie. It seemed like he put everything he had into making that shot. I almost think he willed that arrow down there. It was as if every bit of energy was being pulled and thrown at the arrow," Swift answered.
"That fits what I felt. It was like an energy coming from him, but it also felt like it was being pulled from all around," Eric added, and then continued, "It almost felt like static: that tingly feeling you get like when you touch a nine-volt battery to your tongue, but all over your body."
Xenops who had been hovering close by, piped up, "The shaft of the arrow glowed white when he fired it. Swift and Eric are correct, you could feel the draw of energy from everything."
"I think this just confirms our thoughts. We have found them all. I could feel the reservoir of power in Jamie. I also feel it in Kyle and Eric, although theirs has not fully manifested itself as yet. I think Jamie drew on the pure energy from everything around him to make the shot; that is what drained him, causing him to pass out," Thondir stated. Then seeing some alarm on Eric's face he quickly added, "Jamie will be fine boys. He used his will, and he put more behind it than was needed. Some rest and food will bring him back around."
"You're saying I have this power as well?" Eric asked.
"Yes you do. After dinner we shall all have a long conversation in the study about everything that has happened. For now, let us head back to the house and see how your brother is doing," Thondir replied.
Xenops flew off to talk with her sisters, first saying goodbye to everyone. The boys gathered the equipment up, Swift picking up Jamie's bow; he left the arrows in the target, however for Jamie to see when he felt better. Looking around he realized that Kyle must have carried Jamie with the quiver and daggers still on the smaller boy's back.
They arrived back at the house in short order. Gwinis stood up from the rocker that sat on the back porch of the house, and greeted them as they walked up the steps.
"How's my little brother doing?" Eric asked, without realizing what he had just said.
"He is fine. Kyle is with him in his room. I see you have figured out that part of the mystery, Eric," she said with a smile.
"I think it came to us down at the practice field," Eric replied.
"Now you boys go put your weapons away, wash up, and check on your brothers: Jamie and Kyle. Dinner should be ready in an hour," Gwinis said while giving them a gentle pat on the butt sending them on their way.
They both took off, Swift running just ahead of Eric who was keeping right up with him. They hit the steps and the thudding sounded like thunder as it echoed down the halls. Reaching the third floor they slowed down not wanting to wake Jamie. They both went to their rooms and met a few minutes later in the hall outside Jamie's room.
They knocked on the door, but no reply came from within the room. Swift opened the door, peeked in, and saw Kyle laying on the bed his arm under Jamie's neck. Kyle appeared to be sound asleep, next to a sleeping Jamie. Swift started to pull the door closed when Kyle looked over and smiled, waving with his free hand for them to enter. They walked into the room Eric looking on, with concern in his face as Jamie slept deeply. Swift walked over and sat in the big comfy chair, as Eric sat down on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed.
"I set him down and he curled right up on my arm. I didn't want to disturb him, so I just laid down with him," Kyle said. "So how does it feel to have three brothers now Swift?"
Swift looked over at all of them, "I am proud to have you as my brothers. You do honour to our family name. Welcome to your new family," and he smiled at the three boys before him.
This time they all heard it: "Done."
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