by David McLeod
Urucará, who is called "Uru" familiarly, the tween who took us prisoner when we first arrived, has deliberately avoided me since that day. Today, I distilled all my courage into one moment and confronted him, asking why he left the bath when I arrived and turned aside if we approached one another on a path. He was very surprised and then became angry. He started to turn away, but I took his arm and demanded that tell me. "The Concordia of this place is broken," I told him. "You and I must fix it." I had found the right argument. He seemed to understand the significance, and agreed to talk with me.
It took most of the afternoon before I understood. He believed that by arresting and binding the hands of someone later found to be a dragon rider and who bore one of the most ancient symbols of their people, he had committed lèse majesty. Some of his friends had given him a hard time about it, too.
"I have two sworn companions who have not deserted me. I know they are disappointed in me. The others," Uru paused. "The others find reasons to avoid me."
"And this hurts you," Phillip stated.
"Yes," Uru agreed.
"Just as you hurt me when you avoid me," Phillip said.
"Yes," Uru said. "I mean. . . I do?"
"Yes," Phillip said. "You do.
"If you had committed an offense," Phillip added, "it would have been not arresting Argon and me and binding us. That was your sworn duty to your people. No, your only offense was afterwards when you broke harmony with me. I readily forgive you of that under one condition."
"What?" Uru asked.
"That you will share magic with me," Phillip said. "I know of no better way for us to restore harmony between us—and to let your friends know that we were in harmony."
Argon had encouraged Phillip, Javari, and Maranon to go with him for a walk on the beach. "We need to be away from the other boys," Argon said. "I am sometimes. . . overwhelmed? Overwhelmed by them." The others readily agreed, and the four had walked westward along the beach, toward the point. The sun had set, but the great moon provided more than enough light to walk safely. They had been collecting driftwood while they walked. At Maranon's gesture, they piled it on a large rock. Javari set the pile ablaze. Its heat was welcome. Night falls quickly in the tropics, and the wind from the sea was cool.
Javari spoke. "Phillip, you saved Maranon's life. Argon, who is in fief to you, saved my life. When we share boy magic, I feel something I have never felt before. Although I have never felt it before, I know what it is. It is a strength. More than that, it is a purpose that I have wanted all my life to find. Maranon felt the same thing, and more, because even though you do not remember him before, he remembers you.
"Our lives are now linked in a way that I do not understand. I have spoken to Maranon. Even though he is a boy, he understands. I have spoken to my father, and he understands, too."
Javari paused, and then said, "We would swear fealty to you, if you will have us. We would leave our people and go with you to find your destiny." Javari fell silent, but his face expressed so great a yearning that Phillip felt he could see the boy's soul. He looked at Maranon, and saw the same yearning.
"Um," Phillip said. "Please, let me talk to Argon."
Javari and Maranon walked down the beach. The younger boy's hand was firmly clasped in his older brother's.
"You should accept," Argon said, before Phillip could ask.
"Why should I?" Phillip whispered. "I don't even know what they're asking! We don't know, really, who they are. We don't know where we are going. We don't know what we will find when we get there—wherever it is. I promised to help you find your home, and that means to your time, as well. That is my first obligation. I can't take on more responsibility. Why should I?" he repeated.
"I know you felt it," Argon said. "You felt it when we first met. You felt it the first time we shared boy magic. You felt it during the storm when we rescued them." He gestured to the two Swallows who stood, holding hands and facing the waves.
"I felt it, too. I felt it when we swore fealty at Japura's village. It told me that was the right thing to do. I felt it when we shared boy magic with them. I know you have felt it, too. Don't you trust your feelings?"
"What did you feel?" Phillip asked.
"I. . . I don't know," Argon answered. "It's something that tells me it is Right and Good; it feels. . . like. . . like a warm cuddly blanket." He blushed so brightly that Phillip could see it even in the moonlight. "That's silly, isn't it?"
"No, it's not silly," Phillip said, taking Argon's hands in his. "In all you've been through, in all we've done together, one thing has been a constant. We have followed our feelings. We had known each other for only a few hours when we first had sex; but we followed our feelings, and it was good. We fell in love in only a few days. That's unusual. But we followed our feelings, and it was good. I left my world and people to come with you; that was a big step, but I followed my feelings, and it was good. Your feelings told you of the need to rescue Javari and Maranon—"
Phillip's mouth snapped shut. He thought hard, and then asked, "Argon, how did you know their boat was about to crash onto the rocks? You couldn't have seen it from the cave."
Argon's face became a mask of surprise; his eyes and mouth were wide open. "I. . . I just did. . . I. . . heard them, I guess."
Phillip squeezed Argon's hands and said, "No, you could not have heard them over the sounds of the storm. Why do the other boys overwhelm you?"
"They just do!" Argon scrunched up his face; Phillip knew he was about to cry. He pulled the smaller boy close and hugged him.
"Don't cry, Argon," he said. "Please don't cry. It's not a bad thing. I think we've just discovered your talent. You're what the cleric now calls an empath.
"You're not just following your feelings; you're seeing the feelings of people around you. You saw Javari and Maranon's fear; that's what led you to the mouth of the cave. You probably followed that fear through the water when you found Javari. If you hadn't, I don't think I would have found Maranon.
"In the village, you feel what all the boys are feeling; that's what overwhelms you. Now, you feel what Javari and Maranon are feeling, and you feel what I feel, and that tells you that we should join these boys to us.
"Your own feelings, and your seeing of the feelings of others, have led us in harmony since we met. Now your feelings tell you that we should join these boys to us. If that's to be an oath of fealty, then that's how it is to be. And it will be good.
"My feelings tell me the same thing. I felt really good knowing Japura and his friends, especially Jurua. But it wasn't the same. I feel differently about these two boys. I know it will be good. I was afraid, though, until you spoke. Come," he gestured toward the two Swallows.
The four boys sat around their fire. The flickering flames made it hard to tell what emotions were moving across their faces. Phillip spoke.
"When you asked how we could be Humans and yet not be enemies, I explained that we were not from the western continent, and that we were castaways, seeking Argon's home. Before you commit to the bond you are proposing, you must know why we are castaways, and where my home is. It is something we are reluctant to tell anyone, because. . . well, I think you will understand."
Phillip paused to gather his thoughts. Javari spoke into the silence. "If you wish us to keep your secret—and I see it is a secret—we will do so. I swear. Maranon?"
"I swear," said the boy.
Phillip nodded. "Thank you. We would like you to keep our secret only so long as it does not harm you to do so.
"About half a year ago, a few days after the winter solstice—how easily I've fallen into their way of telling time!—I was summoned by a person of authority to translate Argon's language. You see, Argon had been brought to the place where I lived, and no one spoke his language. Argon and I learned to speak to one another."
Phillip paused, and then continued. "It was not until Argon saw the stars that he learned he was not on his world, but on another world that circled another sun and which had different stars in its sky."
Neither Javari nor Maranon seemed surprised. "Do you find this so easy to believe?" Phillip asked. "My people have lived on many worlds, yet I could not believe Argon, at first."
Javari realized that Phillip had not intended the question to be rhetorical. "No," he said. "It is not easy to believe. We do believe it, though. Maranon and I have offered to give our lives to you. We would not have done so had we thought you held any Evil, even deceit. We believe you."
Phillip was stunned. When they offer to swear fealty—they really mean it! I don't know if I can accept that responsibility!
That thought took only an instant. Perhaps to give himself more time to think, Phillip asked Argon to continue the story, saying in the secret language of the lodge the same words that boy had said to him twice before, "Say what you will. I have trust and love for you."
"Phillip took me to his people." Argon began. "They knew about moving from world to world. They prepared us for the journey, and they sent us to my world. When we got here, I saw that the stars were my own, but that the Sailors Star was in the wrong place. Phillip understood, and told me that we were thousands of years from my home."
Argon looked at Phillip, and then continued. "Phillip promised to help me find my way home. He knows that he will never be able to return to his home. I loved him long before he made this promise."
Phillip filled in the silence that followed. "Argon and I both believe that the four of us should be bound. But, you must reconsider in light of what you have heard. Argon was seized and forced unwilling into a strange land. We do not know how or why. Despite the best efforts of my people, we did not return to his home, but to this world at this time. We do not know how or why my people's efforts were thwarted. Someone—something—may be lying in wait for us, still."
"We understand," Javari said, but he looked at Maranon. The younger boy nodded without hesitation. "We do understand," Javari repeated. "Where there is strength, there also is challenge; where there is purpose, there also is resistance; where there is harmony, there also is discord. I told you we saw strength and purpose in you; we truly knew what we were asking."
"Then," said Phillip, "we accept. We will—if your people allow—take you to be our companions. I will accept your fealty."
"How do you feel?" Phillip asked. He had wakened early the next morning, and nudged Argon, who was cuddled with Maranon. Phillip gestured for Argon to follow him. Now, they were sitting on the seawall, watching the stars disappear and the sun rise from the depths of the sea.
Argon knew what Phillip meant. "Okay, now," he said. "Since I know it's all the boys' feelings, it doesn't frighten me. And since I know it's people's feelings, I think I can sort them out."
Argon smiled and then said, "You feel different when I smile at you, and now I know why it is. I love you, too, Phillip. I love you so very much."
"Our people are ambivalent about you," the cleric said. "They understand that you carry the symbol that links us to our king and our past, and most of them believe that you hold it rightly and in the Light. However, they are unaccustomed to such weighty matters, and they live in fear of Human slavers.
"If two boys of this village were to swear fealty, the ceremony would be conducted in public and with great joy. Under the circumstances, I agree with Javari and Maranon's father that it be conducted only before the family."
The boys' father spoke. "All here are of my family, save the two boys from far away. You are bound to me by ties of blood, love, and fealty. If anyone has any reason to doubt the wisdom of this, I sincerely ask, urge, and command him or her to say it, now." He looked around. "I mean it," he added.
The people's silence was their assent. The man nodded to the cleric, who was his nephew.
"Phillip, Windrider and Spartus," the cleric began, "will you accept the fealty and love of Javari and Maranon? Will you endeavor to lead them in the Light, to guide them toward that which is Good, to protect them from that which is Evil? Will you cherish them forever?"
Phillip replied. All he had to say was yes, but something impelled him to say more. "Javari and Maranon are very precious to me. I love them in the same way I love Argon, who has also pledged fealty to me. I do not know where destiny may take me and these others who are pledged to me. I believe, however, that what we do—what we do here, now—is Right and is Good. I believe that it is in harmony with this world. I do accept Javari and Maranon as companions. I accept their fealty and love. I offer them my love and that of Argon, who has said that I might. I will eschew Evil and Darkness. I swear this for as long as I exist. . . even if that be forever."
All the boys are excited about the impending arrival of the Dwarves. Maranon told me that they were strong. "Stronger even than you," he said. The Dwarves are known for their prowess as wrestlers. Maranon loves to wrestle with me. I could easily defeat him, for what he calls wrestling is simply rough-and-tumble rolling around on the floor. I always let him pin me. He knows that I let him win, and he knows I know he knows. His favorite pin is to sit on my tummy pressing my shoulders down with his hands, and demanding a victor's kiss.
"They're going to ask you to sail to Elvenhold," Japura said. "I overheard. Father saw that I overheard, and knows that I will tell you." Japura had asked Phillip to walk with him in the hills behind the fishing village, saying that the emptiness of the sea made him uncomfortable.
"Won't he be angry that you've told me?" Phillip asked.
"Only at himself, and only for a moment," Japura said.
"But I must take Argon home! I must!" Phillip said.
"I know," Japura said. "The Council knows. But they also know that you will find no one to help you on the eastern continent."
Japura reached for Phillip's hand. "Please, don't be sad," he said. "The Council believes that you will find help in Elvenhold. They really believe that—I. . . uh. . . I asked Jurua to truth-tell them.
"Oh, Jurua is allowed in the Council. He knows so much of our history," Japura answered Phillip's unspoken question. "He said that the clerics know that not all of our people's magic was sent to Solimoes with our ancestors. They believe that you will find Mages, powerful magic users, more powerful than our clerics, if you go to Elvenhold."
Phillip realized that he was holding Japura's hand, and squeezed it. "Thank you, Japura. You are a true friend."
"This is not a decision I can make by myself," Phillip said. He had revealed what he'd learned from Japura without, however, naming his source. "I believe the Council is sincere in its beliefs. On the other hand, I have promised to take Argon home and I have promised to protect you all. A voyage to a continent we don't know? A voyage across an ocean whose width we cannot guess? The risk that we would encounter slavers, and not the ancestors of the Elves? That is not the protection I promised."
"Oh, but it is," Argon said.
"Don't look at me like that," he added. "I'm not crazy.
"You didn't promise to protect us against the sea, or storms, or even slavers, but against Evil. You promised to pursue that which was Good. And, you know you are sworn to the light." The boy spoke the last sentence in the secret language of the lodge.
"Yes, but—" Phillip began, to be interrupted by Argon.
"You know I'm right," Argon said. "But only you can make this decision. I am sworn to you, and will follow where you will."
"I, too," said Maranon.
"And I," added Javari.
Once again, Phillip and Argon faced the headman. This time, however, they faced the headmen of more than 30 other villages, two Dwarven kings, and a score of clerics. Javari and Maranon had insisted on accompanying them, citing their oaths of fealty. They had expected resistance, not believing that a boy would be allowed into the council, but it seemed that Javari and Maranon were expected.
"Phillip Windrider, also Spartus, you and your companions have been the subject of much discussion." Japura's father spoke for the council, perhaps because he had known Phillip the longest, perhaps because he had made Phillip a tween, perhaps because he had given Phillip the medallion.
I and my companions—plural,_ Phillip thought. They must know that Javari and Maranon have sworn fealty. The man was speaking again, and Phillip turned his attention to him.
"When you gave me permission to reveal to the council the whole story of your and Argon's origins, it was if a door had been opened. Our Senior—the wisest of our clerics—would ask something of you." Javari's father sat, and a man in a white robe, belted with a hempen cord, stood.
"We do not believe that going to Argon's home island will give you the answer you seek, nor will it resolve your current situation. We believe that you may find the answer from the Mages of Elvenhold, which we hope and believe still exists to our west.
"We are on the horns of the bull. Our ancient king ordered us to this island to preserve that which was beautiful and peaceful in our peoples. That order was put aside when slavers came, and we were forced to learn again the arts of war. Our king also ordered us not to contact those who remained behind, lest we be discovered.
"We have already been discovered, and we believe we must convey that information to the current king.
"It seems that events have come together to resolve both our and your dilemmas. You are known to be a linguist; we have no person with that skill. It is a skill that likely will be needed. Argon is known to be a deep-water sailor, albeit an Apprentice. We have no one who has any notion of what that means. That, too, is a skill that likely will be needed. Javari and Maranon are competent sailors. Moreover, neither they nor you know our strategy and tactics for fighting the slavers. If any of you were captured, you could only reveal the location of this island—something our enemies already know.
"We offer to build and equip a ship capable of making a voyage to Elvenhold, yet which can be sailed by four. If we do so, would you, Phillip, undertake to lead your companions on that voyage?"
Phillip stood amid the silence and the hopes of a nation for the space of one breath. He looked at Argon, who whispered in the secret language of the lodge a phrase that had come to mean so much to them, "Say what you will, I have trust and love for you."
Phillip looked at Maranon and Javari. They did not know the language of the lodge, but they seemed to understand what it meant. Maranon, though the youngest, spoke for them both. "We will go to the end of World with you, Phillip. Speak your heart."
Phillip's stomach felt like the water that tumbled through a wadi after a summer thunderstorm. "Yes," he said. "I will. We will."