After hearing the bell and the voice they all looked at each other, pondering what it meant. Brúndaer looked at all of the others deep in thought, and recognition of what it meant was beginning to dawn on the old Elf.
"How many times have you heard the voice saying 'Done' Jamie?" Brúndaer asked him.
"The first time was in the armoury. I was the only one who heard it. The second time was in my room. We, I mean my brothers and I, heard it then. And the last time was just now with everyone. Is it important?" Jamie asked, curious about it more than ever.
Brúndaer replied, "I think it is very significant: I think as we all complete certain tasks, or even when there are certain things we say, we are completing an event. The first time I felt it, but did not hear it; that was when you picked up your equipment in the armoury. That was an event of significance. The second time was because of what was said in Jamie's room by Swift.
"The third occurred just now, and that was when Jamie made a comment about having a family; yet another significant event. I am sure it will continue until all the events tie together, and are completed. Each seems to be a task in the ultimate purpose, which is the final meeting between light and dark," concluded Brúndaer.
"So each time we hear that something important was said or done, we should try to keep track of them … I think?" Swift asked, a bit puzzled.
The adults looked at each other trying to determine if this was a good course of action, all gradually nodding in agreement. Aunt Faervel stood to look out over the gardens, her mind thinking of what the possibilities could mean.
Aunt Faervel then spoke, "I think it would be best to make sure we keep track of all the events, I sense there is a pattern to them. I think we may even find answers ahead of time if we can track these events. I need to go speak with the leader of the Dryads, Nyssa; she has some information for me, I think it will tie to the events of this day as well. As long as I am out I will speak with Xenops as well." She then excused herself and walked down the steps. Turning back she asked, "Gwinis, would you care to join me?"
Gwinis replied, "I would love to. I have been needing to clear my head and a nice walk is called for." She then stood up from her rocker, and walked down the porch as well.
"Okay Kyle let's go, I need my ride," said Jamie, with a sly smile and a goofy grin, that made everyone laugh.
Kyle walked off the porch, stooped down, and joked back with a smile on his face, "Jump on Little One, I'll be your horse for now."
Swift looked at his father, but before he could ask, his father said, "Go ahead boys, I think we are done for now. But before bed I think we should talk a bit more about the day's events."
Swift leapt over the railing on the porch doing a summersault down onto the ground; landing perfectly on his feet. Eric smiled, he thought about it, and when he set his will, he too leapt over the rail turning in the air with another perfect summersault almost matching Swifts, while landing next to him. He looked at his older brother and smiled.
"I think I've figured it out, I just need to focus," Eric said, patting Swift on the shoulder.
"Giddy-up!" Jamie cried whereupon Kyle jumped like a horse and started to run for the practice pitch, Eric and Swift quickly pursuing them and catching up. They all laughed as they ran the short distance to the pitch. Jamie and Eric feeling the happiest they had ever been in a long time. While they laughed and played on the way to the pitch the boys wondered silently to themselves as to how long would it last.
They all fooled around on the way down having a good time. Eric climbed up on Swift's back and they had an impromptu tag game each rider seeing if they could de-horse their opponent. The laughter carried all the way back to the house, but all too soon the seriousness of what they had been told would be weighing on their minds. Right now in this strange new world however, those thoughts did not last long and the horseplay continued; replaced by sheer joy and fun times.
When they arrived at the pitch, Swift pointed down the range and Jamie looked on seeing the arrows at a distance. Jamie hopped off Kyle's back and started to walk towards the target and as he approached he saw what Swift had meant about him stacking the arrows. The grin on Jamie's face was a mixture of being impressed and also wondering if he could do it a second time.
"Today is not the day to try it for a second time," the voice spoke from within Jamie's mind.
Jamie startled, jumped, and then said, "Why not?"
"When you use your will to focus, you use energy. It is a lot like when you run; after a short time, you get tired and start to breath heavy. This is almost the same, remember how you passed out afterwards? If you use too much of the energy it can cause serious damage or even kill you. So before using it again you need to rest up for a while. You should feel fine in the morning," the voice responded.
"Oh I get it, so what I did earlier left me so drained it caused me to be tired and hungry. So even though I feel good right now I still need to relax," Jamie stated.
The other boys heard the one-sided conversation as they walked up behind Jamie: all of them looking a bit concerned as their friend spoke with a voice he seemed to hear more than them. They stood there quietly, just waiting for Jamie to finish his conversation. The whole time Jamie was not even aware they were gathered around him.
Snapping back, Jamie looked at the others smiling, tapped his forehead, and said, "My friend says I need to relax and not do much for the rest of the day. He said I burned way too much of my energy and should just take it easy."
Kyle spoke up, "Well it sounds then like I should carry you to a nice spot where we can all sit back and relax."
Kyle winked at Swift when he said this, and Swift smiled back knowing what Kyle had in mind. Eric caught the exchange, not quite sure of where this was leading them. He cocked his head a little bit and looked at Kyle, with a clear 'Alright, what is the deal?' look.
Kyle looked back at him still smiling, and said, "Let's go to the gatehouse. I think that'd be a great place to relax."
"What's a gatehouse?" Eric asked, with a puzzled look still on his face.
Swift explained, "In the old days when a large house would have walls around the land it sat on and a gate in the walls, a gatehouse is where the gatekeeper would stay. He would open the gate for guests, or others, to let them in or out. They had many uses; in some areas the gatehouse would be the home of the gatekeeper's family, but most were more utilitarian. The gatekeeper was sort of the first line of defense in some places, the one to raise the alarm, as well as keeping people out who did not belong. Sometimes it was used more formally, if a guest arrived before the house was ready they could stay at the gatehouse for a short period. Other times travellers going to the main house would stop in to change out of dirty riding clothes and make themselves presentable for the lord of the manor."
Without warning Jamie turned and ran around behind Kyle, jumped on his back, and said, "Let's go, sounds cool to me."
Kyle grunted under the sudden weight, more from the surprise of Jamie jumping on him like that than anything else. He got a better grip on the small boy; shifting him so that he would be easy to carry as they started to walk towards the garden and the path that would lead them to the gatehouse.
They all took in the beauty that surrounded them as they hiked along the path through the perfectly laid beds of flowers, trees, and shrubs. They soon passed by the large home they now apparently shared. Jamie thought about it as they went by, wondering if he could call it a real home. He thought about the other events that had occurred so far that day, looking at each one, and had a feeling as if he had done this before.
Jamie laid his head on Kyle's shoulder as he thought back to his home life and the dangers there, along with those with living on the streets. Could being a warrior with the fate of the universe resting on his shoulders, really be a small boy's destiny? Is this what the voice spoke of when it told him that his name was written in the stars long before he was born? While Jamie looked around his mind continued to think of some of the past events. He wondered if somehow this tied into why his parents hated him. He wondered if this was also why he could see Swift as he truly was, maybe there was more to him than he realized. He thought about that and many other things as he rode his friend's back towards someplace that he had never even heard of. He wondered about that as well. Would it cause him more pain, or was it really a place to relax.
Kyle's thoughts began to wander as well when he felt Jamie's head rest upon his shoulder. He knew that he had feelings for the younger boy, although he was not quite exactly sure what they were. He was deep in thought as well about the other matters that had been raised, were the coming events going to be dangerous to everyone. How did Jamie see things that nobody else could. As he was puzzling it out he stumbled over a small stone in the path, which brought him back to paying attention to what he was doing; after all he did not want to drop his precious cargo. Kyle then realized what he had just thought and started to smile. 'His precious cargo.' Had he now found what he was missing in his life? Maybe that special someone he would care for, for the rest of his life; as long as the person had those same feelings back for him.
Shaken out of his thoughts for a moment when Kyle stumbled, Jamie whispered in his ear, "Are you alright? I can walk, I really do feel better."
Kyle looked back over his shoulders, smiled at Jamie, and said, "You're fine. I think it's something with this will and focus thing. I'm not sure, but you feel like you weigh less than my backpack. I also need to pay attention; I was sorta day dreaming there when I stumbled. Sorry."
"Funny, I was doing the same thing. Maybe we can talk later," Jamie whispered back into Kyle's ear.
Goosebumps ran down Kyle's spine as he realized that perhaps they had both been thinking along similar lines, but he did not let on to Jamie. He merely smiled and added, "Sure thing, Little One."
They approached the main driveway to the house and started walking down it; from there it was a short walk to the gatehouse. The driveway was like the garden, edged with fine shrubs and flowering bushes and different topiaries. At the end of the garden a small bridge crossed a large stream, going over it one entered a broad expanse of forest cover: it was the official break between the yard proper, and the wilds beyond.
As they crossed the bridge Jamie asked, "Is this the same creek we passed along when we entered the preserve this morning?"
They stopped and Jamie climbed off from Kyle's back to give the older boy a break. They all looked over the edge of the bridge at the bubbling stream only a few feet below them. As they watched the water flow, the sounds of it gurgling and churning over the small rocks had a calming effect.
"Yes, this is the same creek. Although, it's more of a stream now since there is much more water flowing through it," Kyle replied, as he watched Jamie explore the bridge.
"There is more water now, so I guess more little creeks feed into this?" Jamie asked, looking back at Kyle.
"Swift can answer that better than I can. I know there are some creeks that flow into it, but he knows more," Kyle said diverting the question to Swift.
"Yep, we followed the main part of the creek for a bit on the trail, then when it turned, there are smaller streams that drain from various swamps and ponds into it. There are also some springs and glacial melt runoff that flow into it as well. It's very good drinking water," Swift added.
"Looks cold, and refreshing," Eric added, tossing a stone into the flowing water and watching as the resulting ripples faded away.
"It is. All of the water we drink comes from this creek. It's pretty much the main source for the house amongst other things. If you follow the creek up a bit you'll see a pretty good-sized dam with a water wheel; including a large mill house that houses everything. Inside it there's a generator we use to power everything. We make our own power since if we were on the main power grid people would need access to the house and property if lines needed to be repaired or other work done. The power was added later, everything used to be done the hard way: hand pumps and such," Swift continued.
"It was easier in the Fifties to stay off grid by hiring some people to come and convert things so that the house could have proper plumbing and electric. We do have people who work on the outside who can come and help. They're a part of our small circle of guardians who know about the preserves. You'll be meeting some over the next few weeks. Dad was saying the output of the generator was down, so he wants it checked out.
"So, Eric your games will always play unless we lose the Internet, then you have to use the discs. But we only seem to lose the Internet if the dish falls off the house, or we have a horrible storm. Let's finish the trek to the gatehouse, I think you guys will love it," Swift finished, having explained the power and water systems to both Eric and Jamie.
"This place is so awesome: your own power station, water source, all the food in the house. Everything a kid could want. I can stay here forever," Eric said smiling. "And if you'll let me, I will."
Swift looked at Eric and Jamie saying, "This home will always be yours for as long as you want it to be. I hope that's settled."
"It'll take me a while to get used to the idea, but I think I can live with that," Eric replied, looking over at Jamie questioningly, knowing the smaller boy still had reservations.
"I feel this could be our home … I can't explain it, but something is telling me we are safe here," said Jamie. Then thinking he was feeling much better asked, "Is the gatehouse on this road?"
"Yeah, it's not much further …"
But before Swift could finish, Jamie suddenly took off running, yelling back at them, "Race you there!"
They all took flight after Jamie, everyone amazed at his speed. Swift decided then to really test Jamie's speed and ran full out, soon overtaking, and then passing the smaller boy, leaving him a bit behind. Jamie picked up his pace and soon caught up with Swift, but the race was almost over; around the next bend Jamie could see a large fancy looking building. So he gave it all he had and caught up with the nimble Swift, gaining and overtaking him at the last possible second, then skidding to a halt in the gravel at the entrance to the gatehouse.
Jamie touched the door laughing and excitedly said, "I won!" The young boy then stood there panting, trying to catch his breath, as Swift came up right behind him. He was followed shortly by a walking Kyle and Eric, who were laughing the whole time.
"We knew better than to try racing the two of you," Eric said with a grin.
"That's for sure. I couldn't beat Swift with one leg tied behind his back," Kyle added still grinning at them.
Jamie with a 'Guess what I just did?' look on his face, said, "Would you believe I beat Swift?"
Both of the late arriving boy's eyes went wide at the revelation. Swift stood next to Jamie nodding his head in affirmation however, that Jamie was not kidding. It surprised both of them since they knew Swift was known for his running skills. To have the much younger and smaller boy beat him was quite a shock to all of them. Jamie was well mannered enough to not gloat over it however; he knew the odds were that Swift had held back a little on him. Much to his surprise, he would find out later that he really had bested Swift.
"Jamie that was not a wise thing to do," the voice suddenly said, causing Jamie to jump. "You should not have run, you could have spent too much energy and become sick again. Let Kyle carry you back to the house, you have expended enough energy and you are not used to that yet."
This time everyone seemed to sense the presence was there, as they all looked at Jamie. He looked at the others and then down at the ground and said, "He just told me I shouldn't have run here, I'm still weak."
Swift spoke up, "Jamie he's probably right. What did he say at the pitch?"
"He pretty much told me that I really need to rest … I was actually thinking of trying with my bow again," Jamie replied, feeling a bit bad he ignored what he was told to do.
Kyle, quick to see the subtle change in Jamie's mood added, "Jamie, we all brought our weapons. I guess we all thought after your nap and dinner you would be okay. So really it was kinda everyone. We must all be more aware of what we do now."
Again Eric spoke, but it was not his voice, "Yes Kyle, you are correct. Since I am ageless, I sometimes forget I work through children. Since everyone is a child in my eyes, I did not think to make it clearer. Please forgive my error, I will try to be more precise in the future."
While they stood there waiting for more, Eric said, "He's gone. I wonder why he uses me to speak through?"
This time it was Swift who spoke with the unnamed voice, "Eric, your mind is the most accepting of my ability to exert control. Do not think of it as a bad thing, it is a gift. Even though you feel sometimes you are unorganized, you have a very well ordered mind. That is also another of your attributes. I must go now. I will be back, but I have other things to attend to in other universes. Know this, this is not the only place that things are happening in. I will be here when you need me. Jamie can call upon me if you have questions that need urgent answers. Until then Jamie, you rest. Kyle, Swift, Eric: keep an eye on Jamie."
Swift released by the voice said, "That was a strange feeling. I was there, but it was like I was alongside of everything. Strange too, I tried to look but all I could see was all of you and a shadow shaped like a human standing next to me. So let's enjoy ourselves and relax. I know both Eric and Jamie will love this, Kyle already does."
The gatehouse was not a large building. Although it was very opulent, the design made it look very much like the Victorian-style house they had come from. Yet this structure was on a smaller scale, and the abundance of glass indicated that it depended more on sun than electricity for lighting. The double hung glass doors looked very much like the French Doors on Eric's bedroom that led out to the balcony. The roof was a bit different, instead of a normal slope it curved up towards the peak, which was encased in another cupola all enclosed in glass in a rectangular shape. The coloration of the roof made it obvious that it was made of hammered copper, but that same fact also indicated that it was cleaned regularly.
Opening the doors, and looking inside, Eric whistled as Jamie stood looking at the fine furnishings in the single large spacious room within. On the back wall was a large fireplace with a fire already laid out and ready to burn. To the left of the door was a large couch with a collection of throw pillows on it. Off to the right of the fireplace there were mats stacked up which could be laid out on the main floor area to make the floor comfortable for sitting on, as well as plenty of cushions that one could play with or just use to get comfy.
The eye catcher that took up most of the room was the large pool of churning water with steam coming off of it; the hot tub took up much of the right side of the room. There were dressers and clothing hooks behind it and a towel bar, which had towels hanging from it. Behind the sofa were shelves with games, books, and other items for amusement; everything that one could want to make for a nice comfortable getaway. Completing the room's appointments, were a coffee table that sat in front of the sofa, and a small table with chairs that lay behind it.
"It's getting chilly out, so I'll light the fire. It'll make it nice and cozy in here in a short time," Swift said as he walked over to the fireplace grabbing a long wooden matchstick.
The hot tub of course was the main focus of the room, even though it had likely been added some time after the gatehouse had been built. It was sunken into the floor with flat stones of slate lining the rim, each of them a slightly different colour and shape. The stones were all pieced together as only a puzzle master could have done. Along the back of the hot tub was a brass rail that held enough towels for anyone who might wish to jump in.
Swift having already lit the fire in the fireplace, started to strip down. Then as he slid into the steaming water, only his bronzed back and bottom were seen by the others. He called out, "Hot tub time! Come on everyone, jump in!"
That was all the encouragement that was needed. Kyle was already taking his clothing off when he said, "Come on, Jamie, Eric, it's great!"
Feeling a bit surer of himself, Eric started to remove his clothes but left his briefs on. Jamie smiled at the fact they were coloured while his were camouflaged, watching Eric as he headed towards the water. Hesitating at first Eric dipped a toe in, and then finding it very pleasant jumped right in, and let himself momentarily sink below the surface. He then resurfaced and moved to sit next to Swift. Moving into position he added, "Wow this is nice. I never dreamed anything could be so awesome."
"Come on Jamie the water is great," said Kyle, knowing that he needed to encourage the smaller boy to get into the water.
Jamie remained where he was however; being self-conscious about the scars on his body he was not sure what to do. He was also a bit embarrassed by the fact he was so much younger than the other boys. Nevertheless, he also wanted to join in and enjoy what looked like a nice relaxing soak. After a few more moments, Jamie finally drew deep down inside himself and getting up some courage he took his clothes off down to his T-shirt and briefs. He jumped in, going straight to the bottom, only to surface right away.
When Jamie surfaced it splashed warm water onto everyone, but already being wet no one minded. He luxuriated in the bubbling water as he felt the warmth seep deep into his body. It had been getting chilly outside, and with the run and coolness of the gatehouse he now appreciated the fact that Swift had lit the fire in the fireplace. All of the boys could see the glow of the evening setting sun reflecting off the walls, changing the colours in the room to a brilliant orange.
Jamie stood up and moved in the water to sit next to Kyle. Looking up at his little friend Kyle could see the scars on Jamie's back through the wet white T-shirt that clung against his skin. His eyes widened a little at the sight of so many scars. Kyle knew that Jamie had been beaten, but the full extent of it he had been sure of until now when the evidence was plain to see. Kyle also had the unpleasant suspicion that the T-shirt was likely hiding many other injuries beyond those he had just noticed. As Jamie settled in next to him to enjoy the warm bubbling water, Kyle put an arm over his young friend's shoulder to help hide some of the scars.
Jamie looked at Kyle who smiled back at him with a wink and a nod towards his back. Jamie hung his head while looking sheepishly at Kyle, whose reassuring smile indicated that he would not say a word; they both settled back. Swift and Eric did the same as the bubbling water ran over them soothing all the aches and pains away from the events of the day.
After a good long soak in the steaming water, the built-up tension in the boy's muscles after a long day of activity had subsided and they felt completely relaxed. Swift climbed out of the water first and began to dry himself with a convenient towel. The last of the day's sunlight had faded while they were in the water and the gatehouse had taken on a soft glow from the fire that flickered gently in the fireplace. Hanging the towel back up Swift found several candles, placed them around the room, and then lit them which allowed a nice soft light to fill the room.
Kyle got out next and instead of immediately drying himself he sat back down on the edge of the hot tub with his legs on either side of Jamie's shoulders and his feet dipping into the warm water. The flickering candlelight reflected off the drops of water still clinging to his skin like tiny diamonds as he reached down and began to give his young friend a deep shoulder rub. Jamie looked up, his eyes speaking silently to Kyle, and he almost purred as the strong fingers dug in helping the youngster to relax even more.
While Kyle was busy with Jamie, Eric stepped out of the hot tub and facing away quickly slipped off his wet underwear, grabbed a towel, and rapidly began to dry himself. He then wrapped the towel around his waist and sat down in front of the fire on one of the mats and leaned back against some large fluffy pillows. Swift looked down and saw that Eric's eyes were only half-open and that he had a contented smile on his face.
A gentle knock on the door caused them to all turn and look. It was Aunt Faervel. She was carrying a basket and entered the gatehouse putting it down on the small side table.
"You boys didn't make it back to the house in time for dessert so we thought you might be in here relaxing and forgot about the time," she said kindly as the boys looked at her wondering what was in the basket. "Gwinis said you might like a care package for the evening; since it's getting late and that you might stay down here to sleep tonight."
Aunt Faervel started taking things out of the basket and laid them out for the boys, paying no attention to the varied states of dress around her. Jamie had sunk lower into the water when she appeared and Eric pulled his towel more tightly about himself, only Swift and Kyle seemed unconcerned. Slowly the number of things on the side table grew as she worked. There was a large thermos which Swift knew meant hot cocoa; the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate Kyle recognized as the ingredients for making S'mores which were his personal favourite; and there was also some cheese, sausage, and crackers in case anyone wanted something a bit more substantial. There appeared to be a few other things in the basket, but Aunt Faervel left them in as additional surprises for the boys.
Eric was the first to speak asking, "How did you know we were in here?"
"Oh, we have our ways," said Aunt Faervel with an enigmatic smile.
"Aunt Faervel has a gift about such things," said Swift in explanation. "She can sense where I am most of the time and so she would know from that. I'm sure she can sense the rest of you the same way."
"One more question," Eric asked a bit hesitantly, holding up his wet underwear. "Are there any dry clothes I can put on? I sorta jumped in with my undies on."
Kyle and Swift both chuckled and Swift answered as Kyle pointed, "That dresser over there has lots of things in it. I'm sure you'll find something that will fit."
Everyone grinned as Eric suddenly became quite aware that that he was holding up his underwear in front of Aunt Faervel. She then chose that moment to slip out of the gatehouse and quietly closed the door behind her. She knew from sad experience how delicate such situations were with boys that had been living as Eric and Jamie had. She remembered all too clearly the difficulties Kyle had had when he first came to stay. In spite of those memories however, she departed with a smile on her face knowing the boys would enjoy the treats and were happy being together.
The sight of the food caused Jamie's stomach to suddenly grumble and he looked up at Kyle uncertainly. He wanted to get up out of the water but he knew if he did that that the scars on his back would be visible through the wet T-shirt that was plastered to his skin.
Kyle instantly understanding placed a hand on Jamie's shoulder and bent down to his ear and whispered, "It's okay buddy, wait just a second."
Kyle got up from behind Jamie and walked naked across the floor and got an extra-large towel. As he did so Jamie could see several old long-healed scars on Kyle's back. The welts were deep and long and Jamie unfortunately knew all too well from personal experience what they meant. Kyle returned a moment later with a towel and held it in place so that Jamie could rise up out of the water and then wrapped it around his friend's back.
Jamie's eyes brimmed with tears of thanks and Kyle nodded saying quietly, "I know what it's like Little One."
Kyle led Jamie over to the dresser and held the towel up so that Jamie could slip off his wet things without being seen. Jamie took another towel and dried himself while Kyle continued to screen him from the others. Kyle could see glimpses of Jamie's back as his young friend used his towel. He saw that some of the scars on Jamie's back were an angry purple which meant that they had only recently healed, while others were faded and much older looking. The welts stood out as testimony that this was a boy who had been whipped within an inch of his life and not just once. Finally, Jamie looked in the dresser and found a pair of underwear that fit and then arranged the towel he had been using around his shoulders and back.
"If you want a shirt there'll be some in the dresser drawer below the underwear," Kyle said.
Jamie looked back over his shoulder and replied, "I think I'll just keep this around me for now. It's really soft and comfy."
Kyle then lowered the towel he had been holding up and used it to wipe the few remaining drops of water off himself. He then searched in the dresser and found what he was looking for; the T-shirt he pulled out had an image on it of two large sculptured heads facing each other. Once he had pulled it on and turned around Swift grinned recognizing the iconic design. The T-shirt was one of Kyle's favourites, amongst others with related images on them.
Swift started towards the goodies that Aunt Faervel had laid out and announced, "We can spend the night here if you'd like. We've got lots of food to snack on. The thermos is hot chocolate and there's other things here too still in the basket."
The boys quickly dug into the feast. Kyle immediately started to assemble S'mores while Jamie busied himself slicing off some of the sausage and tried the cheese and crackers. Eric on the other hand found a popcorn maker hidden in the basket and grinned. Swift sat back with a cup of hot chocolate with a marshmallow in it and smiled at how his friends were enjoying themselves.
Eric was not entirely certain how the popcorn maker worked so Swift came to his aid and showed him how to attach the handle and lid, and how to swirl the pan gently over the heat of the fire. Soon the rapid-fire sound of kernels popping filled the air and Eric shortly had an extra-large bowl sitting in front of him that the others periodically would reach into and snitch a few kernels from.
"Is there anything we can play?" Eric asked, after a few final satisfied burps.
"We've got a bunch of board games and cards too if you like that. Everything is on the shelf behind the couch over by the goodies basket," suggested Swift.
The boys rearranged themselves: Eric and Swift seated themselves near each other and Kyle and Jamie did the same so that the older boys could each help their partner as they learned a couple of new card games. Soon however the events of the day wore the boys down and the cards were forgotten. Jamie was the first asleep and was curled up in front of the fire. Kyle still could not completely understand it, but there were strong feelings developing in him about this young boy he was getting to know. He smiled at the small figure lying in front of the fire looking like he had always belonged there. Kyle then laid down curling up next to Jamie in a protective fashion, placed an arm over the sleeping boy, and shortly drifted off himself.
Eric was not far behind still only wearing the towel he had earlier wrapped himself in. Swift got up and added some additional wood to the fire and smiled at the scene of the sleeping boys in front of him. He grabbed a couple of blankets that were lying nearby and spread one out over Kyle and Jamie who were fast asleep. Then he lay down next to Eric and spread the other blanket over them both. Soon the cares of the world faded from his mind and he joined his friends in a blissful sleep after the long hard day. Dreaming of arrows stuck in targets, of swordsmanship, and of events yet to come. Along with having the dreams of typical boys: running and playing hard, not having to worry when or if the next meal would come. It was the first time they all could feel those warm feelings; knowing that breakfast was reliably around the corner along with lunch and dinner.
Back at the house the adults had all gathered. Faervel walked into the study and sat down with a smile on her face saying, "The boys are right where I thought they would be. They made it down to the gatehouse and since the sun had set we all had it figured right, they are probably full of snacks and sleeping fast by now."
Faervel continued with her report on the meeting with Nyssa, "We spoke with Nyssa and it was a very enlightening conversation. It seems when the voice told Jamie that his name had been written in the stars for a long time the voice was quite correct. Nyssa confirmed this, saying all the auguries and signs pointed to this being the final meeting between Light and Dark. She also said that the damage that was done will be repaired in the end, and that the timeline would flow back into its normal place.
"The duplication of events is the reason there is a rift in time. She spoke also saying that it was no chance encounter with the full gang. We need to keep the Little One safe. He must be with one of the guardians or the boys until the final event. His life will be in grave danger should he be found alone. Fáfnir and Nidhogg have been in touch with Nyssa and will send Jamie a dragon to watch over him.
"We tried to find Xenops, but as you know when you need to find a faerie they can be impossible to track down. We ran into some of her sisters and they said they would let her know we needed to talk. I am not going to hold my breath on that one, considering how unreliable faeries can be. If we see her we should talk to her, but I would almost be willing to say that by the time we do we will have already found out what she knew, and she will have forgotten what she should remember.
"We also ran into Taaggin and Dohgyn. They will keep a close eye on the boys as well, although I do not trust that pair too much. They are so frivolous I almost want to keep an eye on them. From all that Gwinis and I have gathered, everything is in play now. Now it is a matter of which side gets to checkmate first," Faervel finished, knowing that everything was now in flux, and knowing that danger was going to be in the boys lives for quite a while.
The rest of the adults absorbed the information and decided that the best course of action was to let everything unfold as it would. Meanwhile Gwinis had gotten up and left the room. She returned a short time later looking all the more regal in a blue outfit and cloak that complimented her bronze coloured skin nicely, she had over her other arm another cloak of green and handed it to her husband Thondir.
"I think my husband. we shall take a walk down to check on the boys. I am of the same mind as Faervel and do not wish to trust our children to the hands of two of the most frivolous Satyrs on the preserve. Besides they may just muddle the boy's brains with that horrid wine they drink," Gwinis said, smiling at her joke about the wine. This in spite of the fact that she knew full well the Satyrs did make some of the finest wine the world had never seen.
The rest of the adults in the room agreed, and they broke the meeting for the night, as Gwinis and Thondir prepared for a walk to check on the boys. The hour was late and by now it was certain that they would all be asleep. Gwinis walked to the kitchen quickly before they headed out and grabbed a couple mugs of hot cocoa for them to drink as they walked down to the gatehouse.
Taking their time, Thondir and Gwinis walked along the drive arm in arm towards the gatehouse. "Little One has been hurt deeply, I am surprised he is handling all this so well," Gwinis said to Thondir.
"Yes, to be with people who do not understand a gift, and to have them belittle you, even torture you, to try to stop something you have no control over is a sad thing. I sometimes wonder if it would be better to shelter them here and allow the world to fall," he replied. "He is a fine son. It is too bad his real parents never got to know him. I think we will find out much more about him as we get to know him. They're both smart, I think Swift was right in saying the two boys will do honour to our name."
"I understand your heart all too well my husband. I feel the strength in Jamie, I also feel the deep pain he carries down inside, hiding it from everyone. Yet he will hold onto his strength even more than he holds onto his pain."
"Yes, I feel it as well. I feel that is what drives him, gives him strength, courage, and the manners of one much older and wiser. I somehow feel that he may even be from a different age, maybe even a different place. Yet that is only speculation on my part. For now I want them to be just boys. It is time for Swift as well, with the loss of his brother, he needs healing, and I find his new brothers are starting to have that effect on him."
"Yes, Swift has grieved long enough. I think unless he tells his brothers however, that we should keep this to ourselves. This is the happiest I have seen our son in thirty years," Gwinis finished.
They stopped on the bridge and leaned on the railing watching the moon reflect off of the water as it shimmered and created flashes of light; looking like so many fireflies. Sipping their hot cocoa, it had been a while since they had taken a stroll in the night, and they enjoyed the fact they could do so now.
Gwinis looked at Thondir, "It is something, that once again we are the guardians of children, and that they are the ones who will save the world."
"Yes, hopefully for the final time. Let us also hope they can be kids for a little while. They need to heal as well, and enjoy some fun times, before they go off to fight a battle to save the universe," Thondir said.
They left the bridge and arrived shortly at the gatehouse. They carefully opened the door, and smiled at the scene before them. On one side of the fire sleeping spooned up were Kyle and Jamie: Kyle cradled Jamie's head in his arms holding the boy close, their blanket all askew revealing that not much was being worn by either of the boys. On the other side were Swift and Eric, both sleeping in similar fashion, with Swift hugging a sleeping Eric in his arms.
Thondir and Gwinis walked into the room. While Gwinis re-covered the sleeping boys, Thondir added some wood to the fire which had already burned low with only a few glowing coals remaining. He poked the fire back to life, banked the fireplace, and walked back behind Gwinis.
Gwinis took Thondir's hand as they stood looking at the four sleeping boys in front of them, pointing at Kyle and Jamie whispering, "I remember the night Rhys was sleeping with Swift like that, after Swift was scared by that Manticore at the Norwegian Preserve. I think Rhys cuddled with Swift for a week like that, just to make sure Swift felt safe."
Thondir smiled, "Yes, I remember that as well. And now look at him; he is caring for Eric just like Rhys used to do with him. Swift was forced to become an adult fast. Maybe he can slow down now and be a teenager once again for a short time," he finished, looking over at Swift who was curled up next to Eric almost mirroring Kyle and Jamie.
"I feel, that Swift has also found something else in Eric. I think we should make sure to encourage that part as well," Gwinis said.
"I get a feeling about that as well, I thought he might have feelings towards Kyle, but now I think those have changed seeing as how Kyle and Jamie are bonding, and so fast. Although I don't think any of them quite knows just what is happening with them yet," Thondir replied.
"We should go and let them sleep, and let nature take its course; allow the flowers to blossom any way they want. Maybe even nudge them a bit if they seem to be missing the signs," Gwinis replied.
Thondir almost laughed at his wife's matchmaking inclinations. He turned towards his wife removing his hand from hers, and offering her his arm. They walked out closing and locking the doors to the gatehouse. Both of them marvelling at how so often in the course of history the fate of the universe rested, once again, in the hands of four young boys.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead