Castle Roland

Sands of Time

by Roland

In Progress

Chapter 19

Posted: 7 May 15

The Caravan traveled from sun up till sun down for four straight days. During that time not much happened other than everyone talking about the training they knew was coming. Thane's four swordsmen were placed in the watch rotation, but always with another guard, usually one of Mablin's hired swords. The four were still not allowed to carry weapons, or anything of the sort, but they were being trained for watch duties under the guidance of Gradon. Being that he was the former Captain of the guard, and as a Teaching Echelon Warrior Adept, he was all too happy to take the job.

A lot of time was spent between members of Xavier's group and the ones from this time, learning and teaching both Northman and the Dragon tongues. Also, all the people, including those who are not trainable, were asking about things they could learn. The most inquisitive of the group was Cael. Having never had something of a trade really before, he jumped at the opportunity to learn anything.

Seeing this, and knowing that Gare would need to learn, Syth and Malachi got together and decided to offer the man something that they had found out wasn't even thought about much in this time.

"Good Sir." Malachi started after they rode their horses up next to the wagon carrying Cael's family.

"What's cans I do fer ya?" The man asked trying hard not to stare at Syth. Thankfully the boy was used to being stared at by now.

"First off," Syth started by looking at Gare. "How is your leg doing?"

The boy couldn't help but grin as he stood up and bounced a little on his recently healed leg. "It's still be hurt'n some, but it be gooder than it was!"

"Good. Xavier said it would be a few days till it is good enough for you to try really working on it. But from what I have heard, Xavier, Olpha, Garnet, and Mablin's Healthman think you will be good as new soon."

That alone was enough for the boys to feel good about what happened. The grins coming from the entire family only made it better. Malachi then went into what they were really there to speak of.

"Syth and I were discussing what we may be able to teach some of the people here. When we were discussing you and your family, we had an idea. We'd like to know what you think about this idea."

"Okay?" The man asked completely confused. "I's not trainable like me boy is. Not sure what I culd be good fer."

Syth shook his head sadly. "It still makes me sad to think that people have been convinced that, just because they are not trainable, that they can't learn to do anything really productive."

"What Sythranel is trying to say is," Malachi jumped in. "that, just because you are not trainable, does not mean that you can't learn subfields. Almost anyone can learn them, and those that get really good at it, can do things on par with a trained being. It's harder, takes more work, but it can be done."

"Really?" Cael said with a light in his eyes. "You means I's can be taught to do something good?"

"Yes you can." Syth said emphatically.

"What's ya got in mind?" The man asked leaning forward.

"Well we know that Gare is going to have to learn how to make both bows and arrows. That is what I am going to teach him." Syth said with a smile. "Why not, while I am teach him, I teach you as well. For an archer like him, it would be good to have someone else also making his equipment, or else he will spend most of his time making arrows, and little time learning to shoot them."

"I's thought only them with magic could make such things." Cael said softly.

"No." Syth said with a shake of his head. "Anyone can be taught to make them. The man that taught me was not trainable. It is true that trainable beings can make better, but a true Mundane can still craft."

"I also would like to teach you the art of the forge." Malachi said, making the man gasp in surprised. "You're strong enough, and from what I have seen so far, are not afraid of getting dirty, or doing hard work. Again working in a forge does not need someone who is magical, just someone who is willing to put in the hard work to learn."

Malachi waited for the stunned man to nod, before he turned his attention to Eleg, Gare's thirteen-year-old brother. "Now you…" Malachi said with a grin. "I am sure you have thought that perhaps we had forgotten about you. I assure you, we have not." The stunned boy simply nodded after a moment. "This evening when we stop, you will find a lute in one of the wagons. It is yours. Xavier had me pick it up before we left Welleger. From what I have been told, it is not the greatest quality, but we will be able to get a better one in Junsac, one that you pick out. We have all heard you singing to the songs that Brey was playing. He is one of Mablin's guards, but he has agreed to teach you how to play. He is not a minstrel but he's decent. He will be able to help you learn to play, and perhaps give you some tips on how to create new songs."

"Thank… thank you." The boy said softly, trying to keep his tears from falling. It took him a moment, but then he looked up. "I… I'm not sure whats ta say. I's though that you would need me to fight or somethin."

Syth actually laughed. "Oh, if you want to learn how to fight, we would be happy to teach you, and welcome you into the brotherhood of arms. You have to understand though. We can not pick what you will do for the rest of your life. Only you can do that. If you feel the Gods calling you to make music, than that is what you need to do. If you feel the calling to learn to fight. That is what you do. There is nothing though, saying that you can't do both if you so choose. Your life is yours to live, no one elses." Syth held the boy's eyes till he nodded. "Good." He paused as he looked at all of the family. "That goes for all of you. If you decide you want to learn how to fight, that is up to you. You do not have to, you can learn to do anything you want. All that we require is that you learn to do something, and to do it to the best of your ability."

Again he waited for them to nod before he spoke. "Good. Now, if you will excuse us, we have much to prepare."

They started to move away when Eleg called out. "Thank you." Syth and Malachi both smiled and nodded to the boy who was really the same age as they were. Things were going to change, and this was the start…

"I am sure some of this may be boring to you, but I feel that it may be a good idea to go over the fields and subfields." Xavier started, getting nods from everyone. It had been a hard four days, but now they were far enough along on their road to Junsac, that it was time to slow down and start the training.

"Going down the list, we have the Animal Adept." He said while pointing to Thane, Ev'izar and El'izar. "They are able to befriend animals."

He next pointed to Syth who was petting the head of his winged bobcat, Agrona. "Next are the Druids. They are masters of elemental magic, and are able to focus that magic through an animal companion."

"Then Enchanted Archer." Xavier continued motioning towards Gaer. "They are able to focus their spell casting into their arrows, as they fire them."

"Next there are the Legionnaire." Xavier started, but stopped when he saw Mablin sit up straighter. Xavier sighed. “I assume by your reaction, this is another Field that has been lost to those outside of Sandstorm."

Mablin looked over to Gradon who shook his head. "I believe so, as I have never heard of it before."

"Okay…" Xavier sighed again. "The Legionnaire is a master of martial weapons, much like a Swordsman, however, they have the major ability of being able to turn any weapon magical for a time." Both Mablin and Gradon raised their eyebrows in surprise.

"Moving on, there is the Mage." He indicated Olpha, Lucas, and Mablin. "They are the most powerful of the spell casters, but most of them need a book, making them somewhat limited in the number and variety of spells they can cast."

He waited to see if anyone had any questions, when none were forthcoming, he continued. "Mystics, focus their magic into potions that they create and use later. These potions can have devastating effects, but are sometimes not only hard to create, but hard to control."

"Tell me about it…" Felix chuckled as he held up a book he had been working on. "I've been working on this new potion for weeks, and still can't get it to come out right." This caused several people to chuckle, but more to groan.

"I am sure you will figure it out." Xavier said with a smile. "Just try not to blow anything up while you are working on it." Felix tried to look annoyed, but failed when he couldn't help but grin. "As you all know, I am a Shaman. We draw our power from the Spirit Realms themselves. We have the ability to cross over into the Spirit Realm, and sometimes, the more powerful of us, can call upon the spirits themselves for information. We also have the ability of true healing, as Gare has found out the hard way."

Gare grinned, nodded, then patted his own, newly healed leg. "Yep… and he do a good job too."

"Next on the list is the Sorcerer." Killian raised his hand before Xavier called on him. Xavier nodded and smiled at the boy. "The Sorcerer is the rarest, and most feared of the spell casters, since they draw their power from the very air around them, pulling it and shaping it to their desire. There is no real way to teach a Sorcerer since there is no need. They get better simply by doing it."

Xavier paused, and took a drink from his mug of ale. He then looked at Aegir and smiled. "Than we have the Spirit Warriors. They are able to slide in and out of the Spirit Realm, fighting in both at the same time. They are the primary warriors against things like Spirits and undead."

"The most common of the Trainable beings are the Swordsman." Xavier continued, and several people, including Malachi, Braki, Rumeck, some of the guards with Mablin, and the four that currently belonged to Thane. "They are the front line fighters in most fights, being that they are so heavily trained in weapons and fighting."

Xavier than nodded to Gradon, and Garnet. "Next are the Warrior Adepts. They are a cross between a spell caster and a Swordsman. They can augment physical traits for short periods of time, and learn spells from their chosen spell type, or run wild, meaning that they do not have any one spell field they can learn from."

Xavier waited till he got nods from everyone, before continuing. "Finally we have the Wild-cats."

"Wild-Cats?" Mablin said questioningly.

"Yes. From your tone, I will have to assume this is yet another one that you have not heard of." Xavier asked, to which Mablin simply nodded. "Okay, I will go into a bit more detail then. Wild Cats are rare, and sometimes mistaken for Lycanthropes. They start with a single Patron Animal which they are able to take on the aspects of. The Patron Animal is a spirit that helps to guide the Wild Cat. As they grow more powerful, they gain not only more access to their patron's abilities, but also other Patrons. I have only ever seen one that made it to what you would call Legendary Echelon. She was a truly scary being that could become any one of her Patron Animals."

Mablin shook his head in wonder. "I can imagine that causing quite a stir, and people not reacting well to it."

"That is an understatement." Xavier said with a small smile. "So that is all the Primary Fields. Secondaries, well I can not list them all, since any occupation could be considered a sub-field. One does not have to be trainable to have a sub-field, but it does make it easier. All you need to do is have some spark of magic inside you, which you all do. Since they are things that can help everyone, everyone will be expected to learn at least one, and the trainable beings will learn at least two. Remember the better you are, then the better the group is. And the better the group is, the better the individual is."

"Isn't it better to focus on one sub-field so that way you can master it?" Lew asked.

"Perhaps, but let me ask you this." Xavier said with a smile, silently thanking Lew for asking his question. "What good is a, let's say, Sailor, when there is no water around. Or a Miner without a mine? However, if said Sailor also learned to be a Healthman, or the Miner knew how to work the metal they pulled from the ground. Would that not make them better all around?"

"I see your point." Lew said smiling a toothy smile. He then stood up, and walked over to Syth. "If you would have me, I would like to learn the form of Sect Warrior that you know. I think it is called the Wolverine."

Syth stood and grinned. "I would be happy to, my friend." He extended his hand which Lew took and shook smiling himself.

"I would like to learn as well." Tillcor said as he stood. "If you would have me of course." He rushed to add.

"Of course." Syth said with a smile, feeling, for the first time here, that his being a Drow was not being held against him. "Is there anyone else that would like to learn?"

It took a moment, but finally another hand raised. "I have never been one who can do things physically." Felix said blushing, and looking down. "But I would like to learn."

Syth moved over and extended his hand to Felix. Once the boy took it, Syth smiled. "Of course. It would be my honor to teach you."

"Well looks like I'll be spending some time in the forge once we find one…" Malachi said with a chuckle. Several others joined him.

When everyone calmed down, Xavier spoke again. "We had asked that everyone who is looking to us for training, pick either two sub-fields, if they do not have one, or a second one, if they already do. I hope you have all decided?" He got nods from everyone, including some of Mablin's guards, even Drathmore. He made a note to speak with Mablin soon to make sure the man was not thinking they were trying to step on his toes. "Good. Let's start working out a training schedule. Teacher Mablin has graciously agreed to travel at a slower rate. We will travel from sun up till shortly after high sun. We will spend the rest of the day, and part of the evening training. He has also agreed to set up classes teaching people to read and write."

Xavier paused and took a deep breath. "To those that look to us for training, these classes are mandatory if you do not already know how to read. I would strongly encourage anyone else that does not know how to read to attend as well, since it can not hurt to learn something as vital as how to read and write."

He paused as he got nods from everyone, including some people who looked very excited. The one that made him smile the most was Cael, the former beggar man. Xavier than pointed to Braki. "Okay, let us start with you. What sub-fields have you chosen?"

The next afternoon, the caravan found a nice spot to stop, and the training started in earnest. Since none of Syth's new 'students' needed to learn how to read and write, Syth started with them right away. Even Tillcor knew more about reading and writing than most. Of course that was due to the training of his former master, than anything else.

Syth had all of them sit in a circle, then started to talk to them, explaining what it meant to be a Wolverine, and a Sect Warrior. "I do not know how much you know about Sect Warriors. You each have heard of them before, but, I am not sure if you really understand what it truly means to be one. So I will explain." Syth waited till he received nods from everyone before he continued.

"Sect Warriors learn how to fight in the way of the animal they mimic. For me it is the Wolverine. When I first became interested in being a Sect Warrior, I watched several different masters display what they could do, and what called to me. Even in Sandstorm, Wolverine's are rare. That is because the learning of how to use the Renders is difficult at best. Also, out of all the Sect Warriors, Wolverine's are some of the most vicious. Just like the wolverine itself. It is no shame to decide that being a Wolverine is not for you, there are other Sect Warriors that are just as effective, without being so downright nasty." Syth gave them a predatory grin that actually made Felix sit back some.

"Remember a Wolverine doesn't care who it attacks, how much bigger the enemy is, or if it is wise to attack them. They usually make other animals back off because of how insane they are. A Wolverine Sect Warrior takes that attitude, but also adds the intelligence that the Gods gave us to the mix. When most people would expect a being to fall back, we press forward, knowing that we are doing the unexpected. We learn about how people think, and how to make them afraid, that way we can turn it to our advantage."

He paused long enough to make sure that he had their full attention before he reached behind his back and pulled his Renders out. "These were designed as much for intimidation as they were for effective use." He handed one to Lew, and the other to Felix. He gave them a few moments to look them over, before Felix passed his off to Tillcor. Once the other boy had a chance to look it over, Syth spoke again. "These are some of the hardest of the Sect Warrior Weapons to learn to use, and to master. As you can see they can be used for punching, slashing and piercing. Being a pair, they are meant to be able to defend and attack at the same time."

Syth paused then smiled softly. "However, you will not have to worry about learning about the Renders for a while yet. First we teach you how to size up an opponent, how to use your own intelligence to figure out what their weak spots are, and finally how to hold yourself so that no matter what you may be feeling inside, you project an air of lethality that will, hopefully, cause your enemy to second guess themselves."

"Teacher Gradon?" Xavier said as he pulled his war steed next to Gradon's borrowed war horse. Syth had decided to spend his time really learning the language, as well as helping teach the others how to read and write in the Dragon Tongue, so he gave Gradon his Dragon Steed.

"Yes Xavier, what can I do for you?" The man asked somewhat curious at seeing the normally very self confident young man, now looking almost scared.

"I was wondering if we might be able to talk, in private?"

"Of course." The man said as he pulled his war horse out of the line of wagons, and joined Xavier as he slowed his War Steed to a halt. As they let the wagons pass, they were soon joined by Lew, Thane, and Garnett. As the last wagon passed, Xavier spurred his horse so they started walking at the same pace as the wagons. Lew, Thane, and Garnett hung back giving them space. "I asked those three to act as rear guard, since you and I will be in a pretty intense conversation." Xavier said in way of explanation.

"You have my attention." Gradon said now truly curious.

"First, what I am about to share with you is difficult at best for me." Xavier said quickly. "Also, where we come from, you are a Teacher, and no matter what you may hear, what I need right now is a Teacher."

Gradon looked at him confused, causing Xavier to sigh, run a hand through his hair, and re-think what he was saying. "Let me try it this way. In our home, no matter your station in life, whether it be a duke, or a prince, your teacher will always outrank you, unless it was in a courtly setting. What I would ask of you, no what I need of you right now, is to be my Teacher."

Gradon fought off a lifetime of training and indoctrination. While Xavier did not outright say it, Gradon knew that this boy was someone important. "Are you Royalty as well?"

Xavier squared himself up in the saddle and spoke to Gradon using everything he had learned from a lifetime of being a Prince. "Yes sir, I am. My full name is Xavier Seandra, Crown Prince of the Seandran Empire."

Gradon almost fell off his horse in shock. Xavier quickly continued. "Please Sir. I ask you to please treat me as a normal person unless we are in a Courtly Situation. I am not from this area, as you know, and I need people that will treat me as a normal person if I am to do what is needed."

It took Gradon several moments to get his thoughts under control, he really had no choice here, when he thought about it. A Prince has commanded him to act a certain way, he really had no choice. He then thought back to how they have been acting. The Beggar family especially. He'd watched Thane give up his chair for the mother. That was just not done. Things must certainly be different where they come from, and by the Gods, this Prince had asked to be treated a certain way, and he was going to do it. "Very well. I shall do as you ask."

"Thank you." Xavier said as he let out a sigh. "Now for the fun part." He said with a smile, that actually made Gradon chuckle.

"If that was the easy part, than I am not sure I want to know what else is going on." The man said with an easy laugh.

"First off, please know that while some of what you have been told about us is not the full truth, I hope you will understand why we have had to keep certain things from you." Xavier said after taking some moments to decide how to explain things. "Truthfully I would probably not even be telling you this if it was not for your son."

Gradon's eyes went wide with shock. "What's wrong with Aiger?"

"Nothing is wrong with him yet." Xavier said then shook his head. "Please forgive me, I am not very good at this sort of thing."

Gradon took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "Just relax, and tell me what it is you need to tell me."

Xavier nodded and took almost two full minutes to really gather his thoughts. "When I begin to train your son," Xavier said softly, "it will require me to take him into the Spirit Realm, so that he can get used to really being there."

"That makes sense." Gradon said just as softly. It was taking all of his self control to keep his voice from showing any sign of emotion.

"It would be best if I did this as soon as possible, since he is already so far behind where he should be."

"Again, that makes sense."

"Here's the problem sir." Xavier said, his voice cracking slightly. "With as afraid as he is of everything to do with spirits, and the Spirit Realm, I was hoping that you would be willing to go with us. That way he can think you are there to protect him."

"From the way you say this, I assume that I would not be able to?" Gradon responded.

"You will be able to, if you have a magical weapon. If not, we can lend you one for that time. But that is not truly the issue that I have at the moment."

"What issue is that."

"When we go into the Spirit Realm… Everyone with us will be able to see exactly who and what I am." Xavier said softly.

Gradon's eyes snapped to the young man. He almost spoke right away, but held his tongue till he got his temper under control. "And what is that?" He asked in a tightly controlled voice.

"To fully understand that, you need to know the entire truth about us."

"And that is."

"As I said, my father was the King of Seandra. However, war came to our land. War that we thought we could win, but… it was not meant to be. The Brown Dragons had allies with Dark Mages. The ability of sending the undead to fight us, turned out to be more than we could handle. So my father's kingdom fell." Xavier said with tears. No matter how many time he thought about it. No matter how many times he said it. It still hurt, deep down inside.

"So you are refugees from Sand Storm… Or I should say Seandra?" Gradon said, sympathy coloring his words.

Xavier turned in his saddle and looked Gradon in the eyes. "Yes, but it is much more than just that. My father's kingdom fell ten thousand years ago. To get us to safety, my father threw us forward in time. I don't think he even imagined we would go this far though. That's why everything is so foreign to us!" Some of the frustration Xavier was feeling tinged his words. He tried not let it, but he couldn't stop it.

Gradon was silent for several minutes, while Xavier wanted to say something, he couldn't find the words, so he simply let the silence linger. Finally Gradon spoke. "No matter how hard I find this to believe, it explains so many things. Not the least of which is what you are able to explain about Aiger." He turned to look at Xavier, much like the boy had done before. "I have known a lot of people in my day, many of them important people. I have learned how to read people, and how to know when things are being left unsaid. I knew there was much that you were not really explaining in full detail to us. I also know that there is something else you have not said yet. While this is difficult to believe, it does not, in my estimation, call for the nerves which you have been showing so far." Gradon paused, and Xavier knew better than to say anything, so he simply waited.

"While part of me does not know if I want to hear what else there is, I must ask one question first. Is the secret you are holding, cause for danger to me and my family?" Gradon was really struggling with saying this. Part of him screamed that one was never this forward with a member of Royalty, but the other part of him remembered the young man in front of him asking, almost begging the man to treat him as a normal person. That part won, since it was always best to do as a Prince asked you to do.

Xavier wasn't ready for that question, so it took him several moments to form a response. "Honestly, I am not sure." He paused again struggling to make his thoughts form words. "If what I am, and what we know became common knowledge, perhaps. However, when I try to reclaim the Kingdom of Seandra, most assuredly."

"You really think you can take back Sandstorm?" There was no emotion in his voice, so Xavier wasn't sure how to take it.

"I do not know. What I do know is this. We will either do it, or die trying." Xavier said in complete honesty.

Gradon nodded his head. "Good. It is a true measure of a man, seeing how they deal with adversity. What they are willing to give up to take back what was taken from them, and to hold up to the demands of royalty." To say that Xavier was shocked would be an understatement. "However, I get the feeling there is more to all of this, than what you have said."

Xavier didn't speak for several moments, when he did speak though, he did not look at Gradon, he simply stared ahead. "One of the things that we have learned in this time is that Magic seems to be muted somehow. We're not sure why or how. But we know that things that would be simple to us, now are difficult. Things that were common knowledge before, now are not."

"Like the Spirit Warrior?" Gradon asked.

"Yes, exactly like that. It seems the longer we are here, the more that has been lost. One of the things that I have already figured out would be a huge bargaining chip for us is magic that is inherent to Dragons that they seem to have forgotten."

"You know it is not often I hear someone speak so casually about The Dragons. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of anyone do so." He paused, than spoke again, his curiosity getting the better of him. "What is it that you think they have lost?"

"Dragons have the innate ability to shapeshift. At birth there are two shapes that a Dragon can turn into almost at will. It is something we are born with." Xavier said the last part softly.

It took Gradon a second, but then he caught onto what was just said. Turning sharply he looked at Xavier. "Are you saying that you all are… Dragons."

"No, not all of us, just myself and Garnet." Xavier paused, then spoke again. "When we go into the Spirit Realm, there is no way to hide that. When we go in there, Aiger will see me for who and what I truly am."

"Now I see why you need my help." Gradon said softly, still trying to believe what he was just told.

Xavier, knowing that Gradon was having difficulties turned in his saddle and motioned for Lew to approach. When the Pantherling came even with them, on the other side of Gradon, he spoke softly. "I assume you told him?"

"I did." Xavier answered simply.

Lew placed his pawed hand on Gradons shoulder and squeezed gently. "I know it is not easy to believe good sir, but it is true. Not only have I seen it with my own eyes, but felt it with my own hands. I am sure when the time is right, and if it is your wish, he will give you the same proof that he gave me."

Gradon actually laughed. "To be honest, I am not sure I want to see that, although I think that I may not have a choice." Gradon turned and looked Xavier directly in the eyes. "No matter what you are, you seem to be the only one that can help my son. I want to see my boy back to the boy I knew many years ago. One that was not scared of his own shadow. For so long I doubted what he told me, when he never before gave me reason to doubt him. I feel a great deal of responsibility for what Aiger has become. If it means I have to deal with being around a full Dragon, than that is what I will do."

When they stopped for the day, Gradon went into Teacher mode immediately. He grabbed all the new students, as well as everyone that wanted to, and began weapons training. Garnet was most impressed with the man, as he never once let up on the students. What was even more impressive was the way he used the people that had some experience to teach the others, while making sure he did what was needed to help teach the others.

The one that was a surprise, somewhat, was Aiger. Even though he seemed to jump at his own shadow, when it came to combat, he was certainly his father's son.

"I would not have believed it, if I was not watching it." Xavier said as he watched from next to Gradon.

The man did not have to ask who Xavier was talking about. He had already seen all the kids from Seandra focus on those that they were 'responsible' for. Even Thane, who was an Animal Adept, had been helping with the combat training for the four kids that were indentured to him.

"Yes. Before he started seeing things, Aiger was a very good student. I used to take him with me to show the new Guards that they weren't everything that they thought they were. Being bested by a ten-year-old boy has a way to deflate some egos." Gradon said with a laugh.

"That I am sure of." He smiled at Gradon than continue to watch.

Gradon and Xavier decided to give Aiger a full week before they took him into the Spirit Realm. This was both a good thing and a bad. The good part was that it really gave Aiger a chance to get his confidence level up. The down side was that it made it so Xavier could not start his training properly yet.

They all knew that the chance of Aiger really focusing on Xavier, and seeing his true form, would be much greater if it was just the two of them talking. Now though, now, they could wait no longer.

Aiger was to the point where he could go no further in his training without learning about the Spirit Realm. Had he been just a Swordsman, he would already be close to Primary Echelon.

So now here they were, a good ways away from the rest of the camp. Olpha, Lucas, Lew, and Malachi came along to provide protection, while Xavier, Aiger and Gradon went into the Spirit Realm.

"Aiger, I do not want you to worry too much." Gradon said sensing his son's fear. "Xavier has already shown that he knows what he is doing."

"Will… We'll be seeing Spirits...right?" He asked, all the self-confidence he had gotten over the past week, now gone.

"Yes you will." Gradon said after putting both hands on the boy's shoulders and squatting down to look him in the eyes. "However, Xavier has already said that I will able to go with you. He's also made sure I had a sword that can hurt Spirits, so you'll have nothing to worry about." Aiger looked hopeful as he glanced over at Xavier who just nodded. "There is also something else that he needs to talk to you about. Now I know at first it will scare you, just like it did me. But then when you think about it, you'll realize that, if something were to try anything, Xavier would be the one to protect you more than I would."

"What's that?" Aiger asked curiously. Xavier and Gradon had already decided that it would be the man that revealed Xavier true nature. Having him be the one to do it would be less frightening for the boy. Also knowing that Gradon wasn't afraid would help Aiger adjust quicker.

"Tell you what, let us sit, and get comfortable." Gradon said as he sat down, then pulled Aiger into his lap. This way, when the boy tried to run, and Gradon was certain he would, the man would be able to hold the boy.

"Xavier, please take a seat as well." Gradon said, also scripted. When Xavier was sat down, across from them, Gradon started to speak softly. "The first lesson that you are going to get tonight will be taught by me. Xavier and I have been going over this for the last few days. It should not be hard, from what Xavier said."

"Okay." Aiger said, already feeling comfortable in Gradon's strong arms.

"Good, now first I want you to close your eyes, and relax. Just listen to my voice." Gradon said in a soft relaxing tone. "The Spirit Realm is just like our world, as far as what you will see there. The landscape, the places, all will be very similar to what you see here. In the past, you have often looked across the veil that separates the two worlds, without even thinking about it. Now, you are going to learn how to do that consciously." After getting a nod from the boy, Gradon took a deep break and then continued with the script that he and Xavier went over the last few days.

"The first few things you need to know is this. As a Spirit Warrior, you are the one person who can physically move into the Spirit Realm. Shamans, while they can go there, have to leave their physical body here. Also, while Shamans can take other people there, Spirit Warriors can not." Again he waited till Aiger nodded before he continued.

"With you being able to physically move into the Spirit Realm, you have the advantage of being able to take your weapons and armor over as well. Most armor would not be able to do much, but Xavier has said that there is armor that was specially designed for Spirit Warriors that will offer protection in both realms. It is called Spirit Armor. The more powerful you get, the more you will be able to harm spirits, undead, and the like. Even right now, you would be able to hurt the undead more than I can." Gradon made sure to push pride into his voice. While many people may have tried to say that he wasn't a very smart person who knew how to deal with people, they were very wrong in that opinion.

"Now though, we are going to teach you about the Spirit Realm, and how to enter it. You will not be able to do it yourself for a while yet, but you need to start learning how to do it for when the time comes." Again Aiger nodded without saying a word. Gradon looked across to Xavier who took a deep breath then nodded.

"Now it is time for your first lesson, and that is how to look. When you open your eyes I want you to let your eyes unfocus on the world around you. Do not let them focus on any one thing. Then you need to think about the Spirits, the Spirit Realm, and what is in there. It may take you a few minutes to actually be able to see across…" Gradon paused when Aiger spoke up.

What the man didn't know what that Aiger had opened his eyes already, and was now staring straight at Xavier. "Why do you have a large shadow around you?" He asked then looking around he spoke very softly. "It, it almost looks like a huge dragon…" He then focused on Xavier's eyes and spoke again. "Does everyone look like that?"

"No Aiger. No one other than a Dragon would look like that." Xavier said softly.

"Are you…" He couldn't even finish the question as he started to shake slightly, yet his eyes could not be torn away from Xaviers.

"Yes he is." Gradon spoke softly. "That is part of the reason why we are here, away from everyone else. This is a secret you needed to know if you are going to be working with him."

"I knew it…" Aiger said softly. The thing that shocked Gradon was the fact that the boy wasn't trying to run away. "I knew there was something there. It just all fits. I have seen that shadow a lot, and the smaller one around Garnet, but no one else." The boy paused than spoke to Xavier. "Is he a Dragon too?"

Xavier nodded, but the grin on his face and the shake of his head, made the others chuckle. "So here we were, worried about how we were going to tell you, and then convince you not to freak out… and you knew it all the time?"

Aiger couldn't help it, he started to giggle. That action alone caused everyone else , including Gradon to start laughing. When they calmed down, Xavier just shook his head. "This went much better than I had hoped. Now though, it's time to get serious. Remember, when we are in the Spirit Realm, you will be there physically, while your father and I will be there as well, only it will just be our Spirits. Understand, the citizens of the Spirit World will not like us being there. You will need to follow my directions. In the unlikely event that something does attack us, let your father and myself handle it. Okay?"

"But you are a Dragon!" Aiger said quickly. "No one would attack a Dragon!"

Xavier gave him a half smile as he spoke. "In the Spirit Realm, being a Dragon does not make me any more powerful than another being. Actually in a short amount of time, you will be more powerful than I when we are in the Spirit Realm."

Aiger was stunned into silence as he thought about what was just said, it made no real sense to him, but Xavier had never lied to him yet. Finally he nodded his understanding. "Good, if we are ready than. I will begin to move us into the Spirit Realm." Xavier said with a grin.

"So are we ready to do this?" Garnet asked as the small group stood way off to the side. It had been three weeks since they left Welleger, and Xavier had approached his group of friends to see what they thought about letting some of the people with them, in on who they really were.

Each of them had been adamant in their own way, on who they wanted to learn the truth, and it came down to almost everyone with them. The one person they agreed not to tell was Hontel, since he was just catching a ride with them back to Junsac. So the group came together one last time to make sure they were all still in agreement. "I see no reason not to. They have all gained our trust in one way or another." Lucas started out.

"Lew, Mablin and Killian certainly need to know." Syth replied while stroking Agrona, his winged Bobcat.

"Look at what Gradon did when he found out his son was a Spirit Warrior. When he figured out that we are pretty much the only ones that could train his son, he resigned as captain of the guard, and hired on as the captain of the guard for our caravan. That shows a dedication to family that seems to be pretty rare for this time." That from Olpha. "Not to mention how he took it when you told him about us. His dedication to family reminds me of your father's." She was somewhat glad to see that someone could mention Xavier's father without making Xavier break down. They all missed the man that they considered either a father or a second father, but it was starting to ease.

"Not to mention Cael and his family. The moment I offered to heal Gare's hip, he immediately asked what he could do to pay off the debt. You were all there when I tried to reason with him, saying that I was just doing my duty as a healer. But he would not accept it. I still have to deal with the fact that as far as he is concerned, his entire family is indentured to me until he is satisfied that he has repaid his debt." Xavier said after a moment, as he threw in his reasonings.

"The twins and Rumeck must know." Thane said adamantly.

"As must Braki and Tillcor." Garnet spoke up after a moment of silence.

"And what of Felix. He is promised to travel with us. As such I feel he deserves to know the truth." Xavier spoke somewhat hesitantly. However, one by one, everyone nodded. "Okay then. Malachi, may I ask that you take Hontel off and keep him busy while the rest of us speak with the others. As for those that we do not wish to have involved, I will make sure that they are separated, and that we will not be overheard." He paused to see if anyone else wanted to comment. "Very well." Xavier said with finality. "After we finish our evening meal, we shall start the conversation. I am sure this will take more than one evenings conversation." With that they all split up to prepare for their evenings events.

Three hours later, Xavier called the larger group together. It was decided that only Gradon, and his son Aiger would be there, as well as Cael and Gare. They would let their families know what was needed afterwards. Mablin, Killian and Drathmore were there. Mablin’s guard captain was a last minute addition, but all agreed that he should know as well. Other than them, arrayed around the fire was Lew, Braki, El'izar, and Ev'izar, Felix, Tillcor, and Rumeck. As for Xavier's group, the only one who was missing was Malachi who was off with Hontel.

"My friends." Xavier started after he was sure that not only could they all understand each other, but also that Mablin had once again cast his spell that shielded their words from being heard outside the group. "First off, I want to again, thank all of you for joining up with my group of friends and I. What we are to speak about will most likely take several nights discussions. For tonight, I shall simply hit on the high points, then answer your questions during the rest of our travels."

Even though everyone, except for Xavier's group was more than slightly confused, they all nodded in agreement. "First thing I think you all need to have is a history lesson. The history that brought about the place you know as Sand Storm. As it has been said, that place is inhabited by undead the likes of which are not seen elsewhere. Honestly while I do not know this for certain, I do not doubt it."

"But you said you were from Sand Storm." Mablin said rather confused.

"We are, sort of. Where we are from is actually a kingdom called Seandra. A Kingdom that included Sand Storm." Xavier said carefully.

"I have never heard of Seandra." Mablin said slowly as he thought hard about it. He was an Ruinseeker and knew much of the history, but that was not something that he had ever heard of before.

"I am not surprised. From what I understand, Seandra fell about 9,500 years ago." Mablin was about to say something, but Xavier kept speaking. "It fell to the combined might of Brown Dragons, and Dark Mages. It was during the time you now know as the Great Dragon Wars, but at the beginning. When the Sand Dragons were destroyed, almost to the last. However, the Browns paid a dear price from what I understand. They no longer have any Greats.

"I have never heard of Sand Dragons... How do you know this?" Mablin asked both intrigued, but also questioning the truth of it.

"Because, when King Rathort died, a Supreme level Sorcerer, greatest of all the Sand Dragons, and King of Seandra, he used the remaining magic he had left, as well as the Dragon's Death Gift, to send his son, and a group of his friends, forward in time." By now, Xavier had tears in his eyes.

"Okay, for now I will go along with this, however, I have great doubt. So, if this is all true, where is his son now?"

"You are speaking to him." Xavier said softly.

Mablin, as well as everyone else, stared at Xavier, the disbelief clear on their faces. That is when Lew spoke up. "My friends, I know this is much to take in, but I can attest to the truth of his statements. At least the fact that he is a Dragon, and a Dragon the kind of which I have never seen before."

"I can also attest to this." Gradon said as he gathered everyone's attention to himself. "Before Xavier could start training Aiger, he needed to reveal himself to my boy. The reason is, in the Spirit Realm, Xavier has the shadow of a Dragon around himself. I have even seen him in his natural state. He enlisted my aid in telling Aiger, so he informed me first. I too found it hard to believe, that is, until I saw it with my own eyes."

"But he is a Halfelf!" Drathmore exclaimed. "Trust me, there is no one that would mistake a Halfelf and a Dragon!"

"If you wish, I will show my true self to you." He started to take off his tunic, and Garnet stood up.

"My Prince, let me. I am smaller, and while I will still cause shock to those here, I will not cause as much as a Great will." Xavier nodded and sat back down, as Garnet looked at Mablin. "I know that you wish to believe us, and that part of you does, but always, there will be some doubt in your mind unless you are able to see for yourself."

Garnet then began to strip of what he wore as clothing, while looking to the rest. "I understand that in this time Dragon's are feared, and I am sure it is with good cause." He stepped back making sure that he had more then enough room, and also to make sure that he was shielded from view of the others in their group. "If any of you wish to not see this, then please, look away now."

The twins moved over to Thane, and jumped into his lap, hoping for their protector to once again protect them, yet they did not hide their faces. Everyone else made no attempt to shy away, although each one of them were obviously fearful. The exceptions being Aiger and Gradon. Aiger actually had a smile on his face, as he had seen it before.

Even though he and Xavier had spoke about how difficult it would be, and how it hurt almost as much as the first time he shifted, Garnet still was not really prepared for the pain that ripped through him as he released the magic that held his shape to that of a Dragonling. He was barely able to stifle the scream of pain as he shifted to a form he had not worn since they had been here, but like all else, it only took him a moment to get re accustomed. Like putting on an old favored pair of boots.

Once he was in his natural state, he looked around at the wide eyed group sitting near him. Lew stood up, and walked over to where Garnet sat. "Some of you may be thinking the same way I was, when Prince Xavier showed me his true self. That it may simply be an illusion of some sort." Mablin was the first one to nod, but soon they all were. Even though Lew was nervous standing this close to a full blooded Dragon, he stood before Garnet and spoke. "Master Dragon, I am sorry to have to ask this, but would you please allow me to reach my hand inside, and gather some of your saliva." As soon as he asked, Mablin's eyes shot up wards. When Drathmore looked at him, he nodded.

"There is no way for an illusion to replicate the release of saliva." Mablin said slowly as he watched Garnet lower his head, and open his mouth wide. Even though they knew it was Garnet, and would not hurt them. The sight of so many huge teeth even made Mablin somewhat weak in the knees. They all watched in stunned silence, as Lew reached in, pressed a certain part of Garnets mouth, and suddenly there was viscous fluid running down Lew's arm, coating his fur as it went.

Even before Lew pulled his hand back, Cael, Gare, the twins, Rumeck, and even Drathmore were on their knees. Braki though surprised them all. He was standing in front of Garnet, clearly shaking, but still he stood before the rest. "Please Master... Not be hurtin me friends!" He then shook his head, and spoke slower. "Master. Please do not hurt them, they are my friends!"

Garnet looked wide eyed at the tiny Dragonling standing before him, and could not help but laugh. At least he laughed until he started to change his shape, then the laugh turned into a gasps of pain. It seemed like the changing went on forever, it certainly took longer than Xavier's had. For nearly five minutes everyone watched in fascination as Garnet shifted back. Finally though, Garnet was back to his Dragonling form, and down on a knee, panting heavily. Braki again surprised people by rushing to Garnet's side, and helping him stand. "Thank you young one." Garnet said as he panted.

"Please my friends, do not kneel in front of any of us. My father's Kingdom no long exists, so that means I am a Prince without a land. Until such time as I regain Seandra, I will not accept the title of Prince. To do so would not be proper." Xavier said as he stepped in front of those that were still kneeling. He reached out and helped Cael to his feet. Seeing the man still kept his head bowed, Xavier sighed. "Things certainly are different here." He then turned to Mablin. "Do you still have any doubt as to who and what we say we are?"

It took the Mage a few moments to gather his thoughts and speak. Finally though he straightened himself and spoke in a strong clear voice. "While part of me screams that what you claim is impossible, turning away from such proof as I have seen this night, plus all the small things that make much more sense now, would certainly make me a fool." He paused for a moment before he looked around at everyone else. "I do not know about everyone else, however, I feel we have seen and heard enough for one evening. While I am sure there is still much to be learned, I feel if we try to do any more this evening, it would not be for the best."

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