Circles
by NaruMolly (aka Gwenne-chan, or Bard)

PART ELEVEN: The Dance

* * * * * * * *

"You going to be all right, Mal?" asked Jared, looking at him sideways, carefully setting down the glass bottle he was sniffing at.

Malcolm leaned heavily against the wall of the cabin, peering out the window into the dark, churning water in the wake of the ship. Bridgette had insisted that he retreat below decks to rest--and he tended to agree with her assessment of his needs. Just walking from the berth to the back window of the cabin--barely five feet--had him feeling dizzy enough to have to cling to the walls, and his head throbbing in pain as bad as any migraine he had ever had. "I--think so. Just--my head hurting, right now. Bri said there I might have--problems--for awhile."

Jared frowned, carefully setting aside the bottle and picking up a cardboard tube, container and shaking it to see how much of the bluish crystals it contained. "I thought she healed you."

"She did, but--" Malcolm bit his lip and carefully staggered back to the berth, flopping down and closing his eyes, rubbing at his pain-creased brow with a thin hand, "--she said healing head wounds is especially complicated. There's the brain cells and nerve cells to fix, and I guess that's hard enough. And she also mentioned something about 'human minds' and broke off into that language of hers. Sounded like cursing to me."

Jared nodded and poured about an inch of the crystals into the bottom of a clear glass float that had a hole bored into the top. Satisfied, he grimaced and let Jedite take over long enough to put a thin layer of glass just over the crystals. "You going to be able to dance like that? I imagine bouncing about isn't going to do you any good--if you can even stand straight."

Malcolm sighed. "I have to. It doesn't matter one way or the other if I can or not--this has to be done, and now."

Jared grinned, pouring some of the clear liquid into the float on top of the glass before letting Jedite take over once more, to seal the hole in the top of the thing with another layer of glass. "Martyring yourself to gain the attentions of a certain red-haired lady?"

Malcolm shot him a look, then sighed. "I don't know anymore. She told me I--that I reminded her of--" Malcolm broke off and sighed, shaking his head a little. He frowned a moment, then lifted his head to watch Jared prepare another of the floats, setting both of the things into a padded holder with some others. "What the hell are you doing, anyway?"

Jared grimaced. "Making use of some nice bathroom cleaners to try to indulge in some chemical warfare."

"What?"

"Chlorine gas," Jared said flatly. Jedite came to the fore and grinned.

"Yech. That’s nasty, Jar."

"Tell me about it, but--hey--not like there’s a Geneva convention for the things that go ‘bump’ in the night."

Malcolm started to reply, when the whole boat lurched harshly, a hideous, groaning creek filling the air as the ship tilted dangerously to one side. Jared dove after the box of filled floats, cursing fluently. He managed to catch the box before it spilled its deadly contents, though he hit the floor rather hard himself. Malcolm pushed himself up shakily on one arm, lying on the floor where the lurch had tossed him. "What--"

The ship lurched harshly again with another groan of tortured timbers. Jared gritted his teeth as he slid along the floor, but he kept the box steady until the movement stopped, the ship tilted dangerously to one side.

Nathan staggered in through the door, rubbing a bruised elbow. "You two all right?"

"Almost not," said Jared, tightly, pulling himself into an upright position as Cerulean and ZoŽ also came unsteadily through the doorway. Jared carefully closed the lid on the padded box. "What the hell just happened?"

"Storm," said Nathan, half-climbing across the cabin to crouch at Malcolm's side to help the other man sit up, perching on what had been the side of the berth. "Controlled storm."

"Bridgette had the whale beach the ship so we wouldn't lose anyone getting them to the shore," ZoŽ added, grabbing a hold of the door frame to steady herself as she leaned in and carefully took the box of glass ‘bombs’ and handed them to Cerulean who stood behind her. Grimacing, she leaned in, helping give Jared a hand out of the room.

"Nice of her to warn us," said Malcolm, wryly, leaning heavily on Nathan's shoulder as they carefully clambered across the cabin towards the door.

Nathan rubbed at the back of his neck. "The storm came up too suddenly--very nasty--we think Beryl did it."

Malcolm looked at Nathan, hearing the tenseness in his oldest friend's voice. "Are you all right, Nate? I mean--this ship, and the storm--and how your parents died and all."

Nathan nodded shortly, bracing himself to help Malcolm through the door. "No worries, Mal."

Malcolm leaned heavily against Jared's shoulder while ZoŽ leaned through to help Nathan out of the cabin as well. The silver-haired man looked dubious, but raised a hand to hold his bruised head and let Jared help him towards the main deck.

* * * * * * * *

Molly looked ahead to where Malcolm walked unsteadily, close between Bridgette and ZoŽ. The two women occasionally had to shoot out steadying hands when he got too dizzy and swayed a little. Molly bit her lip, looking up at the auburn haired man at her side. "Nathan--is he going to be all right?"

Nathan shot her a look, then turn his eyes straight forward, sighing and shaking his head, pushing his hair from his eyes in annoyance. "He'd better be, or we're not goin’ t’ be able t’ do this."

"That's rather cold, don't you think," Molly said after a moment.

"It's true," Nathan said shortly.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked, brow wrinkling, hands clutching at the short red-brown skirt she wore. "You've been angry since we got Malcolm out of the water."

"What d’you expect? I'm not goin’ t’ dance a bloody jig when a friend almost dies."

Molly smiled hesitantly up at him, trying to lighten the dark mood. "You're going to have to do that, or else Bridgette wasted energy stuffing all of our--"

"This isn't funny, Mol."

She bit her lip. "I know it's not, but I--"

Nathan slashed a hand down, turning his eyes angry shoving irritably at his hair again. "Mol--y’ loved Nephlite, didn't ye?"

Molly blinked. "I--yes. Why--"

"He's dead, y’know, Mol. I'm not ‘im." Molly could only blink at the onslaught, eyes widening. "Not only, that, Mol but I'm years older than ye. Surely y’can't love me. I--"

Molly stared at him in shock, then felt an unfamiliar surge of anger. She turned towards him, her fists clenching at her sides. "If that's all you think of me--that I love you because of--" she lost her train of thought. "Yes, I loved Nephlite. I still do; but you say he's dead, and not a big part of you anymore, and I know that." Her voice lowered, her muscles tensing. "And don't think for a moment that I give a damn how old you are. I've already yelled that out with Mom."

Nate paled, biting his lip. "Mol--I--"

She shook her head in negation, stepping back away from him, blinking back tears. She turned, then, and fled to the back of the group, to Gallia, the peacock-haired youma. The youma seemed more than a bit startled to have a crying human suddenly seeking comfort from her, but just curled her arms around the girl, face softening a bit.

Nathan buried his face in one of his hands. "Oh, bloody bloody hell, y’damned dolt."

Cerulean left Lita's side to come over. "My lord? Is there some sort of problem?"

Nathan winced. "I lost m’bloody temper, is all, Cer, and hurt someone who--" he broke off, staring at his hands. "Someone whom at least part o’ me died t’keep safe. Someone who I’d still--" He bit his lip, shoulders slumping

Cerulean cocked his head to one side. "Forgive me, my lord, but it seems to me that I am a poor choice of company to receive these words. Surely she would benefit more from hearing these things than I would."

Nathan looked at the Commander oddly. "Y’learnin’ more of humans, then are you? You seem t’ve taken a wee bit o’ a shine t’ Sailor Jupiter, there."

Cerulean startled his former lord by coloring, his expression turning sheepish. "She is a person who listens well, my Lord. She does not judge and the advice she offers is soundly thought out. And I have much that I have long wished to talk about. As does she." He colored, coughing and looking down, deciding to try to change the subject off the tall girl. "Tell me, Lord, why has your temper been so short? Lady Zois--ZoŽ was always the one who was quick to anger, not you."

Nathan sighed. "I don't like ships. An’ I especially don't like ships on rough water, an' it's even worse when there's a bloody storm."

"Why?"

"My--parents died in a storm, an’ on a boat," he said, sighing wearily, shaking his head.

Cerulean was silent a moment, then nodded, the confusion leaving his eyes. "I see. From the life you are living now--as Nathan Malley."

"Aye."

Cerulean paused, starting to speak, then noted the slumped shoulders of his companion and changed the subject. "I've noticed a strange lilt to your words, Lord. What causes this accent?"

Nathan's lips twitched into a smirk. "I'm Irish, which could explain m’fool temper, too, I s’pose." Cerulean blinked. "I come from a different country than th’scouts do. So do ZoŽ an’ Mal an’ Jared." He shrugged. "We all learned th’ girls' language. Bri's th’ only one who c’n managed it with no accent."

From the head of the strange group, Rei suddenly cried out happily. "It's the unicorns!"

Nathan's head jerked up, as did Cerulean’s, both of them staring ahead towards the ring of baren-branched trees ahead at the very center of the island they had landed upon. They saw Rei and the other Scouts running forward to press their faces against the unicorns' cheeks in greeting. The only one of the Scouts who made no move forward, was Molly; she stayed back by Gallia, her head bowed. Cerulean blinked. "Unicorns? Here? But--"

"Bri's doin’," said Nathan with a smile. He looked back at Molly, his face softening. "They bonded with Mol."

A few of the youma looked a bit uncomfortable in the presence of the pure creatures, but none withdrew as the unicorns moved amongst them, sniffing and greeting them. A few of the braver youma even dared to run hands--or the closest they had to hands--over the silky manes and noses, earning gentle, approving head butts and soft whickers.

There were more than the original five, numbering, in total, almost 30. Nathan jumped a little when he felt a tug at his sleeve. Looking down, he saw the little foal that had so been taken with Molly. "What--Kali--" the little foal tugged on the sleeve of Nathan's jacket with his teeth again. Then, with surprising strength, the little foal started pulling him towards Molly, who was being nosed forward gently by Ora. "Four-foot match-makin’ service?" Nathan mused, blushing a little as they drew closer.

Kali let go of his sleeve long enough to wuff in reply before he moved behind the auburn-haired man, nosing him forward closer to the girl. "Molly--I--" He stopped when Kali let go of his sleeve and looked at Molly for a moment. "I'm sorry, lass. If y’want to knock m' flat, you're quite welcome to. I could probably use th’ jolt anyway. S’pecially if it takes a bunch unicorns t’get me over t’apologize t’ye."

Molly blinked, then smiled tentatively. She glanced over at the smug-looking pair of unicorns, then back up into Nathan’s bright blue eyes. "No--I think I'll let ZoŽ do that." She put her arms around his waist, pressing her face into his chest, his arms curling around her, head bowing to rest against her hair.

Jared strolled by, the box of glass ‘bombs’ in his hands. "Ugh. You two are like a pair of puppies; kick them and they crawl back even more in love. Gah!" He grinned and winked, though, the broad grin at odds with the gentle look in his eyes.

* * * * * * * *

Bridgette's allies were even more varied than the youma that Cerulean commanded. There were humans, though from other worlds or times, but they were vastly outnumbered by the others that all moved, bowing or saluting Bri in their own ways as she passed them. There was a pair of strange, half-cat, half-human things, like something out of the musical Cats (in fact, they seemed to be well aquatinted with the musical, thanks to Bridgette). Feolin had come, mostly for protection's sake, and was curled around the grove of only slightly twisted trees that surrounded the flat stone of the Circle. A few smaller dragons were scattered around, some seeming to be having a smoke-ring blowing contest. There was a group of gypsies, though all of them had small horns on their heads, and tails like horses. There was also a group of what looked like silver-haired Indians, with golden, bird-like eyes. Each of these had some sort of enormous birds of prey for a companion. These birds were all human-intelligent, and able to speak in several languages fluently. Their gleaming feathers were draped with glittering armor made of almost weightless crystal. There were other creatures, of most any description, but the most startling, however, was the small group of Sidhe.

They were all tall, the shortest of them well over 6 foot tall. Most of them had some shade of blonde hair, except one whose hair was a long, earthy brown. All of them has intense eyes, mostly green--but in varied shades.

Then there was their leader.

He was one of the last of Bridgette's People, though he was no longer what she was.

Nuada was the tallest of the bunch, silver-blond hair reaching almost to his waist and gathered in long braids, with gleaming gems and feathers as decorations. His luminous eyes were a steel gray, and one arm was made of tooled silver. He seemed to resonate with a great power, his face hardly showing any expression. Nuada made everyone but Bridgette uncomfortable when he looked at them, as though they were mice before the unrelenting stare of a hungry hawk. Bridgette, however, seemed to make him uncomfortable; for he knew that since he had changed himself to escape the fate of his fellows, she was a waterfall compared to the slow drip of his own power.

Malcolm leaned against one of the trees, holding his head, talking with one of the bird-men, who was a Healer by profession. "I just get dizzy every time I get up, is all."

Quicksilver frowned. "That does not sound good. I would not recommend you leave a bed for several days, but--it seems we have no choice."

Malcolm nodded, and winced, holding his head again. "I have to. I'm one of the Centers here; I’m one of the few that I brought that know even the basics of what’s going on--and only because Bri’s had us doing this kind of thing since we were little. Though--not with magic." He shook his head. "Though she had us treat it like a meditation." "And you are one of the more powerful amongst us all," Quicksilver pointed out gently. "Do not be bashful about the truth." Quicksilver shoved his gleaming hair behind his shoulder, bells and shells woven into the braids chiming softly. "I can erect some blocks that will prevent the dizziness, and most of the pain, but they will cause some more damage." Quicksilver scowled. "I would not offer such a thing, if this were not critical."

"What--sort of damage?" asked Malcolm, watching Bridgette speak with Nuada, the tall Sidhe looking as uncomfortable as a schoolboy in front of a principal.

Quicksilver sighed. "Perhaps a loss of sight, perhaps a recurring vertigo; perhaps even permanently. I'm not certain. It is always different for each person. It will not kill you, but--it will take much to correct it, and we will have little time and less energy to do so after the spell has been danced and set into motion."

Malcolm looked up once more, glancing around at everyone, and at the twisted landscape. "Do it."

* * * * * * * *

"Oof!"

"That's it. We're dead!"

Jared smothered a smile and crouched down by Serena, where she was sprawled in a tangle of arms and legs. "Found a ant leg to trip over there, huh? I hate those things." He winked, as Serena blushed. "With all due respect, Lady Moon, I don't think improvisational is quite needed in this one. If you like, we can work on that later though."

Rei snickered as Serena blushed and accepted Jared's hand up. "Great--so what happens if she has a klutz attack in the middle of the spell?"

Nathan wandered up and grinned. "Oh the usual; th’ power will back lash on the area killin’ us all." The others stared in shock at him, thought Jared had to bite his fist to keep from bursting out in laughter. Nathan winked. "Kiddin’," he laughed, waving his hands soothingly. "Bri claims it's not dangerous what we're doin’--just bloody difficult."

ZoŽ wandered up, finger twining in one of the curls before her ear again. "I doubt Bridgette would ask any of us to do something like this if there were any serious danger."

Jared paused, and nodded thoughtfully. "You’re right. Bri’s never let any of us do anything that would have put us in real danger." He shook his head a little, glancing over as Lita wandered over with Cerulean. "How’s it going over there with the creature convention?"

"Well--I think the rest of them have gotten it down," said Lita grinning. "Course I couldn't tell you. I'm having enough problems keeping my own feet doing the right thing much less try to figure out if someone with six feet and four arms is getting it right."

"And the unicorns," said Cerulean softly, glancing back uncertainly at the small foal who was shadowing him with an adoring gaze. The back of Cerulean's coat had a hunk of fabric missing, obviously chewed. "They seem to be doing something--moving amongst the dancers, but I’m not sure what they’re doing."

Jared shrugged, putting an easy hand on Serena's shoulder. "Bri claims they're part of the focus. You know--the old purify thing with the horns." He shrugged and grinned at the Commander. "You seem to have made a friend with one."

Cerulean colored. "He ate my coat."

Lita giggled. Jared raised a hand to hide a smile. ZoŽ laughed outright, though not the infamous high-pitched cackle. Nathan grinned. "Well, Cer--looks like y've found some love after all."

Cerulean looked at him a moment, then smiled, reaching back to tousle the foal's forelock. The small unicorn whickered and pressed his face against Cerulean's side--nibbling at his already torn coat, bright eyes sliding closed in ecstasy.

"So--" said Mina, crossing her arms, head tilting to one side. "We've got two circles to start out with, right?"

Nathan nodded, digging in his coat for a bag of M&M's before continuing. "Aye--th’ four o’ us an’ y’Scouts’ll be in th’ inner circle, since we, ‘specially th’ four o’ us, are just there t’ get things goin’ and focused, an’ not actually in the process o’ recallin’ th’ world like what th’ outer circle is doin’." He tore open the bag and thoughtfully fished out one, peering at it. "Then we all move through th’ inner an’ outer loops in the knot pattern that we showed y’earlier. Then th’ two circles break up forming the bigger one with all o’ ye except th’ four of us. Then we all do a sort o’ pinwheel, an’ back to our two original circles, an’ we go in opposite directions. Th’ inner circle leaves, then, an’ the outer finishes up the rest. Once we get out an’ on the sidelines, one o’ the rest’ll be singled out t’ be the leader."

"Simple enough," said Jared. "But can we pull it off?"

Nathan grinned, "Probably not."

"Thanks for the confidence," muttered Rei.

Jared shrugged. "We--look at it this way: we've got over 90 percent of us that have never done this sort of thing. Bri claims the Sidhe have--and those bird-folk--but they're used to different steps."

"Why not let them do their own steps?" asked Darien.

Nathan grinned. "Part o’ tha’ involves flyin’. We've had t’tie th’ patterns to the ground for the rest o’ us."

"Where in the world did you get those things?" Serena asked finally, staring at the candy bag that Nathan had been slowly emptying as he talked.

"Oh--Nathan's always got chocolate on hand, Se--Sailor Moon," said ZoŽ with a laugh. "Sherlock Holmes thought by playing his violin, so Nathan, having to be different, thinks by playing his violin and stopping at the end of every phrase to munch something chocolate."

Nathan grinned broadly and held out that bag. "Anyone wantin’ a few for luck's sake?"

Jared grinned and winked at ZoŽ. "Keep the green ones away from Cerulean."

"What?" asked the Commander, confused. He turned to peer at Jared--and stopped wincing as there was a loud tear. He turned, looking from the corner of his eyes and groaning, looking as the foal at his side pulled off a hunk of his coat, chewing happily. "Was that really necessary?" he almost whined, but was unable to be mad at the small unicorn and the large, adoring eyes the foal turned on him.

Jared giggled. "It’s just an in-joke, Cerulean. Have to be from earth to get it."

Lita cocked her head, trying not to laugh at the unicorn foal and Cerulean's one-third devoured jacket. "I guess you gotta be from Ireland; I don't get it either."

"Good thing," said ZoŽ. "I think you would flatten him." She winked, her emerald eyes gleaming.

Malcolm came over, hand held to his bruised head. "Bridgette says we're ready to start."

ZoŽ put her hand on his arm, biting her lip. "Are--you going to be all right?"

Malcolm shook her hand off and nodded slightly, turning and heading for the center of the open area. Zoe sighed, and just followed him quietly. Cerulean tried to follow as well--but felt a tug at his coat and another tearing noise. He closed his eyes and stripped his coat, leaving it in the possession of the unicorn foal. Under the jacket, he’d been wearing a loose-sleeved shirt of black linen. Lita giggled and walked beside him. "Well--at least since the unicorn likes you, that means you aren't evil."

Cerulean blinked. "I--see." He looked around, seeing the youma getting into their places, interspersed amongst the others that Bridgette had brought in. "I--have never seen a more unlikely group of people trying to do something so ridiculous in such a short time."

Lita grinned at him. "Happens on Earth all the time; we try to do lots of crazy things."

"Like what?"

"Karioki--and bunjee jumping."

"What, and what?"

"Nevermind." She stopped a moment, then leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. "Good luck, Cerulean."

Before she could walk off, Cerulean caught her hand and pulled her back, looking into her eyes for a long moment. He actually was almost the same height as the tall girl, only a little bit taller. "Thank you, Lady Jupiter," he said after a moment, and kissed her hand.

"My name's Lita." They stared at each other a moment, then Lita squeezed his hand once more, smiling warmly, and then moved to take her place in the inner circle.

Jared, trotting to catch up after muttering some last minute instructions to Melvin and Feolin, winked at Cerulean, poking him in the arm with a slender finger. "Flirt." Giggling at Cerulean's confused look, he moved to his position in the inner circle, next to Nuada.

* * * * * * * *

Melvin leaned comfortably in the embrace of the tree he had chosen for his look out. Despite the semi-sinister look of the black-barked trees, they actually had a comforting feel to them--a sort of warmth, as if her were young again, being cradled in his mother’s arms. Shoving his glasses up his nose, he turned to peer at the two rings of waiting figures at the center of the strange place he had been brought to. The tall woman named Bridgette, with white-feathered wings arching gracefully over her head, moved to the very center of the Circle. Closing her eyes for a moment, as though gathering herself, she reached to her belt and drew a small, glittering dagger from the sheath there. She nodded once, Nuada nodding in return--and drove the blade into her hand.

Melvin grimaced, wincing in sympathy. As he watched, her faintly luminescent blood pooled a little in her up-turned palm, and then dribbled down her splayed fingers as she turned the palm downwards. The blood flowed down the pommel of the dagger, gathering at the end--and then dropping to splash on the smooth stone of the ground, five similar drops falling from each fingertip at the same time.

The world shook.

With the first drop, Melvin felt dizzy as the strange wail of some instrument filled his head, the world tilting around him, causing him to clutch at a tree limb for support.

The dancers went into motion.

It was slow at first, with singe steps, but the two circles were all ready weaving in complex patterns amongst themselves. Even though the steps were all in perfect unison, the inner circle stood out as better than the outer--except for the Sidhe scattered in the outer ring. Still, the outer circle seemed to almost lack the energy of the inner one, seeming almost sluggish in comparison.

And the four musicians stood out even more.

A thin pillar of light appeared at the very center, where Bridgette's blood had fallen. The winged woman herself, had spread her wings, flexing them, and flying across to sit in one of the stone chairs to one side, her intense gaze fixed on the dancers, her impaled hand still dripping blood onto the stones, though she seemed not to notice.

The music in Melvin's head began picking up, and the dancers' feet began to move almost in blurs, the sound of their metal-bottomed shoes ringing over the virtually silent Island. The circles began to break up, weaving in and out of themselves, inner mixing with outer. The pillar of light began to widen a bit, and each of the dancers seemed to begin to glow brightly in some color--no two alike. None of the glows were brighter than those of the four musicians. the four of them seemed to flicker through all the colors at once, almost painful to look at.

The lights liming the bodies of the dancers grew brighter, and Melvin blinked, after images of the complex patterns they were dancing in etching themselves on his vision in blinking trails. As he watched, the four musicians moved back into the center, their right hands stretching out to meet in a cross in the center, actually within the pillar of light. The Scouts, Darien, and Nuada formed a tight ring around them, their hands linked to close their ring. The musicians stretched out the hands that weren’t joined in the center to grip the linked arms of the outer circle at the four quarters, forming the sign that was apparently the sign of Wayfarer--or at least Bridgette. The music shifted a little, and the Scouts, Darien, and Nuada broke off, two each, going to join one arm of the cross. Slowly, the other dancers completed complex patterns of motion and joined an arm. Then the four arms spun around, reforming the original circles, around the now obviously growing column of light. The music sped up into almost a gallop and the two circles linked hands, moving swiftly in opposite directions. They dropped hands, then the inner circle people all moved outwards as the outer circle closed in, almost touching the brilliant pillar. The Scout's circle spun outwards, reaching the edge of the stone--and then stopped, all of them peering intently at those still dancing.

Aside from the focus, their part was over.

* * * * * * * *

Malcolm tried not to sway as he spun to a stop and fixed his gaze on the remaining dancers, his hand pressed to his head. He felt dizzy, but then Quicksilver had warned him that it would wear off.

If he remembered correctly, watching the circle of dancers spread back outwards as the pillar of light similarly began spreading, soon the spell would single out the leader.

Cerulean danced out of the circle his feet flying.

* * * * * * * *

Melvin watched the remaining dancers continue to weave and dance around the graceful figure of the black-haired man whom had been introduced as "Serr" or something. The pillar of light was expanding more and more rapidly, almost reaching the people who stood around the edges, watching. He had been told that nothing was dangerous about the spell, but still--he flinched as the pillar suddenly expanded outwards, almost explosively, as the dancers suddenly came to a halt with the music. The flash of light temporarily blinded him. When he could see again--

He stripped off his glasses and stared about himself incredulously.

* * * * * * * *

Jared gaped. **This is the Negaverse!?**

The barren clearing was starting to grow lush grass before his eyes, the waving blades interspersed with dark purple-glowing flowers--the same that Bri had grown earlier in Malachite’s and Zoisite’s rooms. The ringed trees were leafing out, flowers blooming and filling the air with fragrances that Jared could only dream of. And it grew lighter. Raising his head, he saw the perpetual black shell of clouds thinning and pulling away from a tentatively blue sky.

He turned to say something to Malcolm--and rushed to the fallen man's side.

* * * * * * * *

The hair on the back of Joerdan's neck prickled and he peered across the dark expanse of water towards the hidden Island, frowning. "What are they doing out there?"

"My Lord?" queried the nearest youma.

"Nothing," Joerdan snapped. Then he saw something. A seemingly thin beam of light show white-hot from somewhere out in the darkness reaching up to the dark sky above; on the Island, he assumed. Frowning, he walked down to the shoreline, squinting at the beam curiously.

It grew in brightness slowly--and then suddenly Joerdan's eyes widened and he flung himself to the ground as it flared to an even greater intensity as a wall of bright power swept over them all.

He felt no pain. Nothing. But--there was a faint warmth growing on his back. Was something bleeding on him? He pushed himself up on an arm and could only blink.

Sunlight. And the beach was covered with gently waving grasses that grew all the way up to the entrance to the caverns that had led him here, the song of seabirds filling the air.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 12

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury