Kimber ran the whetstone along the blade with short, furious strokes, each one angrier then the last. How dare he use that tone with her! How dare he forbid her from going! As if he was in a position to forbid her anything. He who argued loudest at Kren's Pub, who forced his opinions on anyone who would listen and some who tried not to, who said the only good Argathian was a dead one. He was nothing more than a weathered, arrogant ex-soldier who called himself her stepfather. Rage ran through Kimber's body and brought her to her feet.
She was not a small woman, nor was she slight of build. She bore the well-proportioned muscular form of her clan. Her waist-length hair was jet black and bound in a tight plait of leather, ribbons and strung stones. The sea-foam green of her short tunic matched her eyes, which were set in an oval face with skin the color of adobe clay. She turned her gaze out over the land before her.
Sharply hewn boulders vied for space with tall, spidery sage-green Anawatha trees, which clung tenaciously to life in the soft, powdery red earth. A sea of azure blue sparkled beneath the summer sun and the ghostly appearance of the twin moons.
Kimber bent and took up a pinch of red dirt. Using her thumb, she smeared a short, red stripe on her forehead; another on each cheek, then fixed her gaze on the moons. Goddess moons, they were, sent to reassure her that at least one of her messages for help would survive the dimensional Web. The great sorcerer would come. Soon. And end the turmoil in Argathia.
She lifted high the scroll she held, and cast the spell that would send it on a desperate search for help.
Prince Treyas Merripen regarded those around him questioningly. "Well?" He leaned his elbows on his wide desktop and waited.
"I can't think what purpose it would serve to take the children," Jansson van Tannen replied, settling back in his chair.
"I can't think what purpose there is in even going," Druce Sinclair mumbled, displeasure evident in his voice.
Treyas looked at his Merian SoulMate. "Because the children want to know," he said. "They need to know. If they have family in Winze, they should at least be offered the chance at reconciliation."
"I don't agree!" Druce snapped, rising. He refilled his wine glass, then turned to the others, his dark eyes flashing. "Most of the children weren't even old enough to remember Winze. Their homes are here, with us. We're their family."
"I tend to agree," Quinlin Thomarius put in. "My boys don't want to go back. Their feeling is that they were unwanted. Why return?" He rose and laid a hand on Treyas' shoulder. "Maybe you're simply transferring your desires to them."
Treyas looked up at him with a sigh. There was truth to the elf's words. He had to admit that. He had grown up not knowing either of his parents and, though he loved his guardian Elek like a father, he had still yearned to know of his heritage, of those who had given him life. He had been fortunate. He had found out. It had closed a gap in his life, had given him a foundation. He couldn't understand why any of the children he and his friends had brought back from the Caves of Challenge ten years ago would feel any different. But, apparently, some did.
"So, yours don't want to go," he said. "What about the others?"
"Well," Quinlin replied, "my girls have each other now. They're content with that."
"And I know that neither of mine want to go back," Druce put in, throwing himself back into his chair. "They've made that quite clear."
Treyas' gaze swung to the others in the room - the two black elves and the Karsab king who had so far remained quiet. "Elvy, Renny, Dar, what do your children say? Do they want to return and find their twins?"
"They're intrigued," Elvy replied. "Especially Maslin. He was with his family in Winze for four years before going to the caves. He remembers his family with love. He knows they put him into the caves to save his life."
"And he's told stories to mine," Renny added. "Stories that have them interested."
"The girls have mentioned their twins a few times," Darosenim Quartermane admitted, stroking his short, red beard. "But I don't like the idea of going back. We don't know how well that Bardic memory spell worked. For all we know, the Winzens could still have their morbid fear of second-born twins. I'm not risking my children's lives to find out."
Treyas rubbed his face wearily. "I guess my main concern is that if we don't satisfy their curiosity, they will. I do not want to go on anymore rescue missions."
Jansson chuckled softly. "With over fifty children between our seven families, rescue missions are a way of life."
Darosenim's blue eyes took on a mischievous glint. "Especially when nine of those children were bred from the King of Catastrophe."
"I resent that, Dar," Jansson replied calmly. "We van Tannen's simply have a thirst for life."
"That's not how Kyel explains it," Darosenim teased.
"Oh, Kyel." Jansson waved away the mention of Kyel Sylvain, King of the Elves, his advisor and surrogate father. "He's just getting old, set in his ways. And he wants everyone else that way - nice, stolid and boring."
"Indeed?" A quiet voice sounded from the doorway of the study. Kyel stepped into the room, his tall, sinewy form seeming to float across the colorful carpets. He was dressed completely in black, as was usual, and his crystal blue eyes sparkled like small jewels set in his ebony skin. He approached Jansson.
"Kyel! I...I was..." Jansson rose, flushing. He smiled and clasped Kyel to him in a brief hug. "When did you get back from the Caves?" he asked lightly, looking up at the elf who towered a good foot and a half above him.
"Nice save," Darosenim whispered loudly. He rose to pour Kyel a glass of wine.
Treyas chuckled and waited for the black elf to answer.
"Only just," Kyel replied and sank into a chair.
"And?" Treyas pressed.
"Unfortunately, children are still coming into the Caves, both by their own choice and the choice of others."
"Baerns!" Darosenim muttered, handing Kyel the wine. "I thought we would at least have slowed it."
"Are they still coming from Winze?" Quinlin asked.
Kyel sighed, nodded and took a sip of wine. "Yes."
"Then Jan's song did no good?" Treyas asked with a frown.
"Sending a Bardic Spell through a sorcery web was a gamble at best," Kyel replied grimly. "I imagine the impact it made was short-lived."
"All the more reason, then, for not going back to Winze," Druce said. "If they're still fearful of twins, it would be far too dangerous."
"I agree," Quinlin said.
"But we don't know that for a fact," Treyas argued. "Maybe these aren't twins coming into the Caves. Maybe they're lonelings or...or..." he shrugged. "It could be any number of things."
"Give it up, Trey," Jansson said. "They're not going to let you go. That's obvious."
Kyel looked over at him. "You seem upset by that, King Jansson. Please explain."
Jansson ran a hand through his brown curls and sighed. "It's just that I understand what Treyas is getting at. I wish I had known a little about Xyza's life."
Treyas flinched. Jansson rarely mentioned the little girl. Though he had not given rise to her birth, he had still loved her as his own. To have her background snatch her away after nine years was excruciating. Especially when Jansson had had no idea of that background.
"Xyza was a special case," Quinlin said softly. "I highly doubt we would find another Fane Queen amongst our children."
"Still," Jansson said, "I wish I had known." He slouched back into his chair and stared morosely into his wine.
Kyel shook his head. "Perhaps now is simply not the time, Jansson."
Jansson said nothing and a heavy silence fell on the room, until broken by the arrival of Treyas' ten-year old daughter Falan. Treyas smiled and motioned her to him.
"What can I do for you?" he asked after giving her a hug.
"I just came to see Uncle Jansson," the little girl replied. She turned. "Are you done with my cats? Can I have them back now?"
"Cats?" Kyel asked, his gaze going to Jansson.
Jansson nodded. "There were some mice in the lower section of the palace. I borrowed Falan's cats to roust them out."
"Cats?" Kyel said again. "In my workshop?"
Jansson frowned. "I highly doubt that. Nothing can get into your workshops with the WardSpell. Not even dust."
Kyel passed his hand across his face. "Cats can. They alone are immune to WardSpells, no matter how tight." He rose. "Why didn't you simply tell me about the mice?"
"You were gone," Jansson replied. He shrugged. "Besides, they're just cats."
Kyel fixed a withering gaze on Jansson. "I don't like cats," he said slowly.
Jansson frowned. "Since when?"
"Since they got into my workshops!" Kyel snapped. He stepped toward the portal but stopped at Falan's little squeak of alarm.
"Grandpapay! Don't hurt them!" she cried.
Kyel's countenance softened. Treyas felt magic move through the air, and three cats materialized on the floor of the study. The animals regarded Kyel almost with amusement, and twisted lovingly about his legs, before following Falan from the room. He shuddered once, cast a TravelSpell and disappeared.
"Now that," Jansson said, "was strange." He rose. "I'd better get over there, see what damage has been done. As for Winze, Trey, I'm open to going. Count me in."
Treyas smiled in gratitude at his long-time friend, then shot a glance to Druce as he grunted his disapproval of the whole thing.
Jansson grinned. "Apparently more open than some others," he mumbled and stepped into the portal. A second later, he was gone.
Treyas turned his gaze on Druce, but before he could say anything, the Merian rose with a gesture of dismissal.
"I know! I'm just your squire. I can't prevent you from going. If you have your heart set on it, then so be it." He sat down his wine goblet and headed for the door. "I promised Brynne we would spend some time together with the children. Fill me in on the details of the trip later."
Treyas watched him go with a frown. Darosenim exhaled loudly.
"Someone's in a foul mood," he mumbled. "Not that I blame him really."
"Not you, too," Treyas grumbled.
Darosenim shrugged. "Winze was hard for Druce." He drained his goblet and rose. "I need to go as well. I should listen to Druce's sage advice about spending some quiet time with my wife."
"And Winze?" Treyas pressed.
Darosenim paused. "Count me in as well. Good-night." He left through the portal.
"We wish we could say yes," Renny said. "But I think Winze would take exception to our kind."
Treyas nodded. He knew the meaning. Not only were Elvy and Renny black elves and renounced necromancers, they were also Jodau. Lovers of the same sex were not easily accepted outside of Glede, and occasionally not in Glede. Treyas certainly didn't want to put either of them in an uncomfortable, or potentially dangerous, situation.
"I understand completely," he said, rising with them. "The way it looks, we may not be going anyway. I'll let you know."
They nodded their acceptance, bade their goodnights and left. Treyas touched at his MindLink with Druce. The Merian didn't respond and, with a heavy sigh, Treyas left the study for his own quarters.
Jansson hesitated before taking the last three steps into the palace's lower quarters. As always, the air smelled musty, and touched at his skin like spider webs. He grimaced and peered into the gloom toward Kyel's workshop. The door was closed, though an eerie blue light glowed underneath and all about the edges. A GuardSpell. Set up with color so non-elfin residents would know it was there.
A quick movement caught Jansson's eye and he leapt back, startled, as a mouse darted past. Damn! Apparently neither the cats nor Kyel had been successful. Jansson glanced about, then started toward the blue glow. He supposed he shouldn't be too surprised at the prevalence of mice here. At one time this had been the granary. All sorts of food products had been stored here. As a child, Jansson had spent hours playing amongst the wooden barrels and metal bins, using the space as his own private world. He had been everything here, from a bold, fierce warrior confronting his enemies, to a regal young prince surveying his property. Strange how the mice had never bothered him then. They were almost as companions to the only child, friends and confidants to a small boy who had none. Children weren't common about the palace then. None of the soldiers' families lived on the grounds and, even if they had, Jansson doubted they would have been allowed to play with him. His father, though kind and generous as he was, had always drawn a thick line between commoners and royalty.
"They mix like oil and water, Jansson," he used to say. "You are the oil and must always remember that you are on the top."
Jansson wondered how his life would have turned out had his father lived. When Jansson had grown old enough to assume princely duties, would he have remained the 'oil on the top' instead of who he was today? He wouldn't trade any of his commoner friends for royalty.
He stopped before the heavy, wooden door, thinking of the elf beyond. Kyel had been his caregiver, guardian, advisor and father for the past twenty years. He owed his life to the black elf. In more ways than one. A smile touched at his lips as he caught oaths of frustration coming from the workshop. He supposed it was time to beg forgiveness for the cats.
He was about to announce his presence when something hard and pointed pressed against the small of his back. He stiffened, his heart leaping, his breath catching in his throat.
"Don't move!" A gruff voice came from behind him.
A gruff voice holding just a little too much youth. Jansson relaxed with an audible sigh and rolled his eyes, recognizing Druce's son. "Kind sir, do me the favor of removing your dagger from my back so that we may talk," he said. "I have no quarrel with you."
"No!" the voice replied. "I have captured you. You are my prisoner. Walk." The weapon poked harder into Jansson's back.
"Ow!" he cried. "I'll walk, I'll walk." He turned away from the door and began to walk down the dark corridor. Abruptly, he spun, whipped out his hand, disarmed his attacker and grabbed him in a bear hug.
"Hoi!" Gair cried out in surprise, struggling against him. "Help!"
There was a wild shuffling of feet, and Jansson was attacked from behind. Small arms wrapped about his neck, waist and legs, pulling him away from the boy. He fought back, then tripped over the small bodies pummeling him and went down hard.
"Gods! Uncle Jansson!" Gair yelped. "Are you hurt?"
Jansson sat up, grimacing, and rubbing at his backside. "Just my pride, Gair," he replied, then laughed, looking at the other children. They all carried wooden practice swords and had woolen hats pulled down snug over their heads. "Who are you supposed to be?" Jansson asked.
"We're Rendars," Ashton replied. "Come to seek out slaves for our trade."
A small shudder ran through Jansson at the mention of the slave traders. It had been only a year since he'd fought against them, rescued his older son from their brutality. The scars ran deep in both, but deeper yet in Tavin, Kyel's youngest. Jansson wasn't sure if 'playing' Rendars was such a good idea. Still, he remembered how he had played 'troll attack' when he was young. It was ironic that the trolls had indeed come, destroyed the palace and killed his father. He shook away the unpleasant thoughts.
"What are you all still doing here?" he asked the boys. "It's late."
"We're having a sleepover," Tey replied. "Mama said it was all right."
Jansson looked at his son. "Ah, I see. Boys only? No girls allowed?"
"No girls!" Brishan said forcefully. "Unless they want to be our slaves."
"Oh, gods! Don't let your Aunt Zira hear that," Jansson teased. "She'll take you to task for it."
"We don't need girls for slaves," another boy snorted. "We have a King!"
"Spare me, please," Jansson begged, then collapsed as all six boys piled onto him, laughing and shrieking.
"What is going on?" An angry roar stilled the play, and Kyel stepped into the corridor.
Jansson sat up and gave an apologetic grin. "Kyel! They've captured me. You have to help. Please!"
Kyel huffed out an impatient breath. "Jansson, I am working here. Can't you go play somewhere else?"
"Ah, grandpapa!" Tey wailed. "This is the best place."
"It is also my place," Kyel replied sternly.
"Besides," Jansson put in, cupping his hand about his ear, "I think I hear applecakes calling."
"Applecakes!" they shrieked in unison. "Come on!"
They started for the stairs as one body, then Tey rushed back and planted a kiss on Jansson's cheek. "You're free, papa," he announced then dashed to join his friends.
Jansson chuckled, watching them disappear up the narrow stone staircase.
"Do get up," Kyel said. "A King's place is not sprawled in the dirt and mouse excrement of a cellar."
Jansson grimaced, coming hurriedly to his feet. He wiped his hands against his tunic in disgust. "I thought you were going to take care of the mice," he muttered.
"I have been a bit busy taking care of my workshop," Kyel retorted as he turned aside.
Jansson followed him back to his workshop, then stopped in the doorway. The place was a shambles. Parchments were strewn on the floor; bundles of herbs were torn open, their leafy green contents spilling from them like entrails; a collection of jars, all broken, lay on the stone floor, jagged bits of glass held in place by shiny, multi-colored ointments that now oozed together; and a pile of tins lay coated with a fine dusting of the powders once in them.
Jansson winced and dared a look at Kyel. "Three cats did all of this?" he asked weakly.
"Three cats in pursuit of a several dozen mice," Kyel replied, picking his way across the room.
"Well...how did they get in? Wasn't the door shut?"
Kyel turned a weary gaze on him. "The mice have been in here for years. They do not bother me. I do not bother them. The cats, however..." He stopped and pointed upward. Three dark holes in the stone near the low ceiling stared back. Vents. A vain attempt to keep the air moving through the cellars to prevent food from rotting. They hadn't worked well, which necessitated the storage facilities being moved above ground.
"Oh...yes," Jansson mumbled. "I forgot about those."
"Do tell." Kyel gathered up several scrolls and returned them to his desk.
"Gods, I'm sorry, Kyel." Jansson began to scoop the herbs spilled on the worktable into a pile.
"Stop!" Kyel leapt forward, seizing his wrists.
"That is poison hemlock, Jansson," Kyel returned. "It is quite deadly."
"Poison...gods, Kyel! What the hell do you have poison hemlock down here for?"
"It is a sedative and a pain killer when used correctly. But even a small amount can kill. We need to get you washed up. Come."
"I think I got some on my face," Jansson cried, true panic settling over him. "Is it on my face, Kyel?"
Kyel sighed. "No. There is nothing on your face. Yet. But keep fussing and it will be. We'll go up the back stairs to the courtyard and wash your hands at the pump basin." He pulled Jansson out of the workshop, reset the GuardSpell and guided him toward the stairs.
"Ward that tight!" Jansson cried. "I don't want any of the children near it!"
"I have. Now, come on."
Jansson gave a last worried glance at the workshop. A small scroll lay on the floor just outside the blue GuardSpell. He started to mention it, then remembered the mess on his hands and went with Kyel up the stairs. He supposed the elf could always pick up the scroll when he returned.
In the kitchen, the six young boys had succeeded in polishing off one entire tray of applecakes and were starting on the second. Zira watched them from her chair near the hearth as she rocked six-month old Amaris to sleep. The dwarf cook clucked her tongue as she stirred a large batch of batter.
"Boys!" she declared. "You should be thanking the gods your wee one is a girl, Your Majesty."
Zira smiled, looking down at the downy head of her youngest.
"Mama," Tey said. "Can we go back down to the cellar for a little longer?"
"Och, it's getting late, Tey. Maybe tomorrow."
"Please, mama," he begged. "Just for another hour?"
The others joined him in his pleadings. Zira sighed, her gaze drifting amongst them. "Be still with ye!" she admonished gently. "Ye'll wake Amaris again. All right then, one hour, then it's off to bed."
"Thank you, mama!" Tey cried. He leapt up, planted a kiss on Zira's cheek, then dashed from the kitchen, the others following.
They raced back to the cellar, intent on picking up where they left off with Jansson, only to be disappointed to find both him and Kyel gone.
"Danns!" Gair mumbled. "Just when it was getting fun."
"Hoi! Look here!" Tem gestured to the still open door of Kyel's workshop. The others joined him, though all were very familiar with the telltale glow and took care not to touch it.
"Gods!" Tey said. "Grandpapa's sort of a slob isn't he?"
"It looks like a Deathwind went through there," Brishan added.
"No Deathwind," a female voice said. "My cats."
The boys whirled as one to stare at the three girls before them--Falan, Dara and Cwen.
"What are you doing down here?" Tey demanded.
"Playing," Dara, his sister, retorted. "Mama said I could have a sleepover, too. The cellar doesn't belong to you."
"We were here first though!" Tey protested hotly.
"So what? We're here now." Dara glared back at him.
Falan ignored their sibling squabble and peered into the workshop. "Tens! My cats did all of that? No wonder Grandpapay was angry. Hoi! What's this?" She bent and retrieved the scroll that lay wedged by the door.
"It looks like one of Grandpapa's," Tey replied. "You'd better leave it alone." He made a grab for it but Falan was quicker. She danced out of his reach and unrolled the scroll.
"What does it say?" Jasson asked.
Falan frowned. "I don't know. It's some sort of strange language."
The others pressed around her to stare at the scroll.
Cwen read the words aloud softly, stumbling over the unfamiliar spellings. She stopped and pointed. "Look. These three words are set apart. I wonder why."
Falan screwed up her face in thought, then spoke the three words. "Aris terranden Argathia."
A sudden draft of cold air whipped around the children, drawing a collective gasp and snuffing out two of the wall lamps. Gair grabbed for Jasson with one hand, Tey with the other.
"What's happening?" Tem shrieked.
"Oh, gods!" Falan breathed. She stumbled backward, away from the others but in so doing, her feet tangled with Gair's and she, Gair, Jasson and Tey went down in a pile. Almost immediately they vanished, swept up by a TravelSpell of such magnitude, it threw the other children aside into the dark corridor like so many rag dolls.
Outside, near the pump basin, Kyel gasped, his head snapping up in alarm. Jansson looked at him, puzzled.
"What's wrong?" he demanded. "Is there something about this hemlock that--"
"The cellar!" Kyel breathed. He spun and bolted for the stairs.
"Kyel! Wait!" Jansson shook the water from his hands and rushed after the elf, pounding down the stairs behind him.
Kyel caught him at the bottom. "Hold! Don't disturb the magic."
"Magic?" Jansson peered into the gloom uneasily.
"TravelSpell," Kyel murmured. "And it's still active."
"Hush! Let me work!"
Jansson clamped his mouth closed and watched Kyel move slowly down the corridor toward his workshop. A sudden movement to his left caught his eye. His eldest daughter, Chaia, hurried down the corridor, a scowl on her face. Kyel saw her at the same moment she saw him.
"Chaia! No!" Kyel's cry of warning came too late.
Chaia took but two more steps and vanished.
"Chaia!" Jansson's yelp of panic echoed against Kyel's and he darted forward.
"Jans! Stop!" Kyel grabbed him by both shoulders, propelling him backward.
"But, Kyel, Chaia...she..."
"Stop!" Kyel snapped, silencing him. "Disturb the magic anymore and I'll never find her! Now plant yourself over there and make sure no one else comes down here."
Jansson retreated to the foot of the stairs, shaking. He waited but a few moments before speaking. "Where'd she go?"
Kyel frowned but said nothing, his blue eyes distant. Jansson knew he was doing a StrandSearch, following the TravelSpell's magic trail. What he couldn't figure out was why it was taking so long. Kyel was extremely adept at StrandSearches. He should have been done and pulled Chaia back by now. Jansson sank down on the bottom step as his gut churned. The door at the top of the stairs opened, throwing a shaft of yellow light down on him.
"Chaia?" Zira's voice pierced the darkness.
"Zira, stay!" Jansson called softly, bringing up his mental shields against her MindRead.
"Oh, Jans. Has Chaia found the boys yet?" Zira called.
"The boys?" Jansson came to his feet. "I thought they were in the kitchen."
"Aye, they were but I was going to give them another hour to play before bed," she replied, her voice coming closer. "Then I remembered that Dar said Ashton had a bit of a cold. He shouldn't even have been down here." She rounded the curving stairwell. "Why is it so dark down here? Did the lamps go out?"
Jansson glanced at the walls, then answered, forcing a calm to his voice he did not feel. "Yes, I guess they did. Are you sure the boys came back down here?"
Zira eyed him warily then glanced at Kyel. "What's he doing?" Her eyes narrowed. "Why are ye blocking me? What's going on?"
Jansson took hold of her by both shoulders. He supposed honesty was the best policy, yet Zira had only recently suffered the loss of Xyza. Jansson had no desire to lay more pain on her until he was sure of what they were dealing with. He opted to lie.
"Kyel is working on his GuardSpell. And I did see Chaia. She was in the corridor, but she was too far away for me to speak with. She's probably gone toward the back. That's where I used to play when I was little."
"But, Jans," Zira protested, "it's not safe back there. That part was never really rebuilt after the fire."
"I'll go back and roust them then," Jansson promised. "You go on upstairs. I'll bring them up as soon as I find them." He gave her a gentle kiss and steered her back toward the kitchen above.
She studied his face, gave Kyel a parting glance then did as Jansson had asked. He breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Kyel. The elf was standing still and rigid, staring into the air about him.
"Kyel?" Jansson approached him slowly, giving a wide berth. "I'm going to look for the boys. Have you--"
He was interrupted by a soft moan, and whirled to peer into the darkness. Kyel immediately relit the torches, sending the soft glow of torchlight into the passageway.
"Oh, gods!" Jansson cried. "Dara!" He rushed forward to help his daughter sit up, then saw the others laying behind her.
"Papa?" Dara seemed dazed and blood oozed from a small gash on her forehead. She began to cry and held to him, trembling.
Kyel silently attended to the others. They were all quite badly shaken, though none appeared to be injured. Kyel turned Tem to face him. "Tell me what happened."
Tem stared at him blankly. "I...I don't feel so good," he mumbled, then quickly turned aside to retch.
Kyel held him until he calmed, then systematically helped the others to their feet. Jansson stood and looked to the black elf questioningly. Kyel turned back to Tem. "Who else was down here with you?" He waited but Tem was silent, his dark eyes glazed and unfocused. Kyel turned to the nearest girl. "Cwen? Do you remember what happened?"
The little girl's chin trembled, and tears slid down her cheeks. "I want to go home. I want my papa."
Kyel put an arm around each child and looked back to Jansson. "Who else was playing over here?"
"Tey, Jasson and Gair."
"And Falan," Ashton managed. "She was here, too. She found one of Grandpapa's scrolls on the floor. It was her fault."
"Scroll?" Kyel asked at once.
Ashton nodded and pointed. "It was lying there, by the door. Falan read it. There were some strange words on it. She said them, and then this wind came through. And...and we..." He broke off with a shudder, then looked up at Jansson. "I want to go home. Where's Jasson?"
Jansson glanced at him, then looked back at Kyel. "Are you trying to tell me that they all got sucked up in a TravelSpell?"
Kyel sighed, then nodded. "Apparently so."
"Then fetch them back!"
"I can't. They have crossed over the dimensional web."
"The dimensional web?" Jansson repeated in disbelief. "How the hell could Falan cast a Spell across a Dimensional Web? She's a child!"
"Jansson," Kyel admonished gently. "Take the children upstairs, but under no circumstances do I want you to use magic. That includes the Portal."
"But what about Jasson?" Ashton asked, his voice trembling.
Kyel looked down at the child, and gave a wan smile. "I shall do my best to have him back home as soon as possible. Now, please, go with Jansson."
"Two of my children, Kyel!" Jansson murmured, herding the children before him. "Two!" He raked a hand through his hair. "What am I supposed to tell Zira? We just lost Xyza a year ago! Now this!"
Kyel ushered him forward. "We will tell her the truth," he said. "There is nothing else we can do. I am going to Lidgerwood. I am going to ask Treyas to contact Elek. If anyone can read through a dimensional web, he can. I want you to go to Willow. Tell her that no one, and I stress this highly, no one is to use magic until I get back with Elek."
"Then how are you going to get to Lidgerwood?"
"I will take Maki. It shouldn't take more than a few hours. Now, go. Quickly. Before we lose the trail altogether."