The Forgotten Ones
by Michele Elaine Wilson © 1999
Sean and the Master Teacher were sitting on a hill overlooking the town. The two had become friends in the short time that Sean had been visiting there and they looked forward to the late afternoons when all the classes were over with for the day and they could relax and talk. Sean was a tall muscular redhead with sky blue eyes. The Master Teacher was named Ryan and his people considered him tall but Sean was several inches taller. Ryan was slimmer then Sean and had brown hair and gray eyes.
"How did ye become a teacher?" Sean asked.
"I didnít have much of a choice. My father was a Master Teacher and he decided that I would be one also. Fortunately, I like teaching," Ryan answered. "How about you, how did you become a Bard?"
"As a child I was fascinated by the Bards that came by the palace," Sean replied. I was musical from a very young age and learned all of the new songs that they had to teach. I also had a talent for telling stories so becoming a Bard was a natural for me."
"It must have been nice to be able to choose your own profession," Ryan said with a sigh.
"Well, it dinnae stop me Dad from trying to talk me into being his successor, but I donít think Iím cut out for ruling a country and having to wield that much magic," Sean said.
"If you are from a palace does that make you a Prince?" Ryan asked.
"Well itís kinda complicated. Me Dad isnít the King but he is the chief ruler of the land. Me Mum, however, is actually the Queen of her people, so technically, Iím a Prince but none of us use the titles except Mum. The only title I ever use is Bard," Sean answered with a smile.
The two men were silent for a while.
"What type of training did ye have to go through to become a teacher?" Sean asked.
"My father was my main instructor until I passed the first tests necessary towards becoming a teacher," Ryan said. "He was a very harsh taskmaster and I was expected to be perfect and not make any mistakes while learning. Errors were punished by a hard beating." Ryan looked down towards the town.
"That isnít right!" Sean exclaimed. "A child makes mistakes when they are first learning. That is what teachers are for to teach them the right way to do things. The Bards that taught me were patient and corrected my errors when I was learning stories and songs."
"I take it you werenít taught by your father?" Ryan asked.
"Oh, I learned the magic arts from him, but he was a good teacher. He made sure we understood the fundamentals of magic before we ever tried anything," Sean replied.
"Did he ever punish you when you made a mistake?" Ryan asked.
"Nae, he usually corrected the error," Sean replied, "and then showed us the right way to do things. Now if we misused our magic then that was another story. He would blister our backsides for that."
Ryan was silent for several minutes. "It must be nice to have learned without the fear of punishment. Tell me how teaching is handled where you are from. Do you have Master Teachers?"
"Aye that we do. Master Khigh was one of my main teachers. The Bards also taught with their stories and songs," Sean replied.
"Are all Bards teachers?" Ryan asked.
"Aye to a degree, although some of the people Iíve encountered in me travels consider Bards to be little more then entertainers. In some places, like me home for example, we are considered teachers. We teach the history of places we have traveled to and we also tell stories to the young ones that have a moral to them. We try to show the battle between good and evil and right and wrong. It is our job to create the teaching songs and stories," Sean answered with a smile.
"Why donít you tell me one of your teaching stories, Sean?" Ryan asked.
"Sure," Sean said, "this be a story about being responsible for your actions."
The man stood on a high hill with the old man and looked down at the destruction that the earthquake had caused. He and the old man were far from their homeland. The man was a traveler and had passed through this land called Athena several years before. The old man was called the White Mage and was the ruler of a world called Caledonia. He was one of the strongest practitioners of white magic, which is derived from the Source of Light, in the known universe. The representatives from this section of space had asked for help from the Tuathan Council and the man and the White Mage had answered that call.
"Is there anything we can do to stabilize the place, sir?" the man asked.
"Iím doing everything I can," the White Mage replied, "but unfortunately there are no citadels of the Source of Light on this planet. Without that direct pool of the Lightís energy to draw on, I canít put a lasting binding spell on the place."
The man turned to the White Mage in surprise and asked, "the Source is present here isnít it?"
"The Source is called by many names but it is present everywhere. Unfortunately, direct conduits into the Source are rare. They are mainly on the planets where our kind live," the White Mage replied.
"But the planet had to have something that was holding it together. It was stable for many millenium," the man exclaimed.
The White Mage looked over at the man and explained, "this planet was stabilized by an ancient race with advanced technology. This isnít really a suitable place for this type of habitation because the internal forces of this planet are too unstable. There are very few places on this planet that have enough stability for a modicum of safety. There certainly arenít enough stable places for this large of a population. A race of superior beings decided that they could do what nature could not and stabilize the forces from within the planet. They were able to infuse the planet with an artificial binding that kept the place from tearing itself apart. As a result, we now have a large population, living on a planet whose technology is breaking down and threatening the stability of this world, and no one knows how to fix the machinery so that they can continue to live here in safety."
"What happened to that race? Canít they fix it?" the man asked.
"They could if we could find them. Unfortunately, they didnít tell anyone where they were going and they didnít think to teach these people how to maintain the machines they set up," the White Mage replied.
"That wasnít very wise. Didnít they think that their machines would one day start to break down?" the man asked.
"From what is known about them, they were a very egotistical race that felt their technology would last forever," the White Mage replied.
The two men were silent for a long time. The White Mage worked with the land trying to infuse some temporary stability into it.
"Can we not find these people and tell them to come back and fix their machines?" the man asked after a while.
The White Mage smiled at the man. "A wonderful suggestion. In fact I know the perfect person to go and hunt for this ancient race."
"And who might that be?" the man asked.
"I was afraid ye were going to say that. Would it be too much to ask ye where I might start looking for these super beings?" the man asked with a sigh.
"I believe that farther to the south there are ruins where these people lived. There might be some references in the Book of Ancient Lore that would give you more information. Iíll ask the Mayor to lend the book to us." The White Mage looked over at the man and smiled. "After all, we both know how much you like wandering around. Be sure to take your horse, however, I donít think shape-shifting is looked on too kindly here. You will also be traveling to other worlds and it might be best to have a safe mode of transportation."
"Well, Sunset is a veteran of many a slipstream shift and he likes to travel as much as I do. I gather that time is of an essence though so shouldnít I use the fastest methods available to me to travel? I can go faster if I can shift into the appropriate animal along the way," the man replied.
"Normally I would agree with you but I have a very strong feeling that it would be a mistake for you to do any shape-shifting this time around. This trip will be difficult enough. Just do as I ask this time will you and donít argue!" the White Mage said and looked sternly at the man.
"All right if ye feel that strongly about it then Iíll do as you ask. I wonít shape-shift at all on this trip," the man said and looked over at the White Mage with a smile. He figured that discretion was the better part of valor and that this time it would be a good idea to obey. He also had a hunch that the source of the old manís feeling was the Source of Light itself and no one in his right mind would disobey the Source.
Later that evening the White Mage and the man poured over the information that was in the Book of Ancient Lore. The writers of the book were so in awe of the Benefactors, as they called the super beings, that it was difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as information went. The two men finally had a few clues as to the beings that they needed to find.
"This reference to Atlantis is interesting, sir," the man said. "On that planet I like so much, they have legends of a place called Atlantis that was suppose to have had a superior technology but was destroyed somehow and left not a trace. The common belief was that an earthquake came and either destroyed the island or caused a tidal wave that destroyed the place."
"I believe some of the legends from that place mentioned aliens from a fourth dimension" the White Mage said.
"Aye but blast if I could ever figure out what they meant by that," the man replied. "I think they were referring to traveling through the dimensions though. We can do that and I donít think we are from a fourth dimension. It is merely a matter of knowing where the interfaces are and finding the one you are looking for."
"It is easy for us because we can see the interfaces, but I have found that the vast majority of beings are incapable of seeing them," the White Mage said, "so of course, to them, it looks like the work of supernatural beings. That is one of the reasons you have to be so careful when you travel. It is important that we donít appear to be gods to anyone. We may have a longer life span then many but we arenít totally immortal and we can die. We donít want anyone thinking that they need to take on gods and defeat them and as a result we lose our lives needlessly in the process." The White Man looked over at the man and smiled as he said, "then again you listened when I gave you that lecture didnít you."
"I had a choice?" the man said with a return grin. "Of course I listened. You didnít get to travel if you didnít learn that lesson well. Iím always careful wherever I go and not just because ye would block me ability to travel if I wasnít. I kinda like being alive and in one piece."
The next morning the man saddled his huge roan horse named Sunset. The Mayor was there along with the Town Council to see him off. He had been well provided with provisions and maps that showed the way towards the Ur Mountains in the south. The man and the White Mage had decided that his best bet was to start with the ruins there and see if he could get into some of the structures and find a clue as to where the Benefactors had gone.
Because of the promise not to use shape-shifting magic, the trip took the man over a week. The evening of the ninth day found the man looking towards the red mountains of Ur. The gas moon Minos shown brightly in the night sky and with its bright light the man could see the white marble ruins.
"Now I wasnít expecting pyramid shapes, Sunset," the man said as he patted the big horse that stood by his side. The horse pushed against the manís hand. "All right," the man laughed, "I know it is past your suppertime. Weíll make camp here and explore the ruins in the morning."
The man set about the business of making camp. He noticed that a golden light seemed to appear and disappear nearer to the ruins like the revolving light of a lighthouse. An immediate search of the surrounding area showed nothing.
"Well Iím too tired to check that out now," the man said, "Iíll investigate more carefully in the morning. I donít think anything can get past the wards anyway."
After dinner the man sat leaning against his pack and played his small harp for a while. He watched as the music danced and wove its way around the landscape. For him music was sensed not only by the ears but by the eyes as well. He could see the colors of the song and wove those colors into an intricate tapestry telling a story of heroes and villains. This was his latest teaching ballad and told the story of one of the great battles between good and evil. The colors danced over the countryside and spun over and around the marble pillars.
"I wonder if ye have stories to tell?" the man asked as he looked over at the ruins. "Will they be stories of good people or evil? Did ye fancy yourselves as gods I wonder? Maybe tomorrow we will have some clues, if I can get into your buildings there."
The man set the wards that would protect him while he slept. To the East he thanked the fire that warmed the worlds and the ward flared with a red light. To the South he thanked the earth that nourished the worlds and the ward flared with a green light. To the West he thanked the metals that strengthened the worlds and the ward flared with a yellow light. To the North he thanked the waters that gave life to the worlds and the ward flared with a blue light. The four lights spread outwards from the wards and flowed together forming a dome that flashed with a white light as the colors met and then settled down and shimmered like starlight.
Deep inside the pyramid the flash of light registered on one of the instruments. The instrument sent a probe of answering light towards the dome but was unable to penetrate. A signal was sent out towards the sky to the beings that had created it asking what it was suppose to do now. It then patiently waited for new instructions. Inside the wards the man slept peacefully.
The man deactivated the wards in the morning. He had sensed that there were no major disturbances in the night. After breakfast he rode the hour he needed to get to the ruins themselves. Reddish sand had piled against the white marble structures. Closer examination showed that the structures were unscratched even though the dirt and sand had blown against them for many milleniums. Some of the pillars had tumbled and many of the structures were half buried by the dirt, but the surfaces themselves were unmarred.
"Well whatever these things are made of it is not natural to this planet," the man said. "It looks like marble but marble does nae stay this pristine. I wonder if this is native to their home world or if they created it, and if so, what did they create it out of?" The man ran his hands over the structure. "It is cool like marble but it has an almost greasy feel to it like there were some sort of coating on it."
The man walked around the pyramid shape. He could sense, rather than hear clearly, a hum that seemed to emanate from the structure. He looked over towards his horse and realized that it was affecting the animal too. "I donít like this much either, Sunset. It is almost as if this thing were alive," he said to the animal.
The man lead his horse away from the structure and settled down on the ground to watch. There were no movements near the structures at all. It was as if anything that was alive was keeping its distance. Finally with a sigh the man pulled a green crystal from his shirt. It was suspended from a fine silver chain. The crystal glowed with an inner light that pulsed in time to the manís heartbeat. The man slowed his breathing and concentrated on the crystal that he held in front of his eyes. As he focused his concentration on the crystal it glowed brighter. From within its depths, the man saw the structures in front of him. He concentrated harder and the structures began to move and form buildings and a town square. He could see humanoid beings walking through the town. The pyramid dominated the center of the town and glowed with a blue light. There were flashes of lightening but they seemed to flash in reverse. Instead of coming from the sky and hitting the ground, the lightening flashed from the pyramid and went up to the sky.
The man shook his head and put the crystal away and said with a heavy sigh, "I sure donít see how the old man can expect me to deal properly with those beings. They arenít likely to be impressed by the likes of me. They would respect him, I bet, because he is powerful like them. Me, Iím just a Bard."
The man got up and started walking back over towards the pyramid. He believed that what he needed was there and the crystal had shown him the entrance inside. It took several hours of digging before the outline of the door was revealed. He had seen beings ride up towards the top of the pyramid to enter the structure. It took another hour of hard work before he could locate where the mechanism was to open the door. The man spent another half hour trying to get the mechanism to work and finally reverted to the use of magic to blast the door mechanism open.
"I guess I shouldnít give up me day job to become a burglar," he laughed.
The man sent a magical probe inside the structure before he entered but encountered nothing that appeared to him to be dangerous. He suspended a ball of light in front of him and cautiously entered the building. The first thing he noticed was that the air was cool and clean. Expanding the ball of light he saw that there were a series of ramps that led down inside of the building. As he walked, lights started to come on and the hum that he had heard faintly outside became louder. He noticed that the hair on his arms was starting to stand up on end and there was an unpleasant tingling sensation. He shuddered slightly. He made his own light disappear as more lights came on and he could clearly see his way.
Further down, the man noticed that there were banks of lights and displays on the walls that showed diagrams that made no sense to him. There was writing on some of the displays but the man was not familiar with the language. It reminded him of something but he wasnít sure what. It seemed like a long time passed before he finally got down to the floor level. There was one machine sitting in the center of the building directly under the point of the pyramid.
"Now ye are promising," the man said, "I wonder what ye can tell me."
The man jumped as a voice came from the machine. He didnít recognize the language.
"If ye are going to talk to me ye are going to have to speak a language I know," the man said to the machine.
The machine responded "TALK TO ME."
"Okay," the man replied, " what do you want me to say?"
"KEEP TALKING" the machine demanded.
The man told the machine about the problems with the planet and about his trip to this place. He was just getting ready to ask about the Benefactors when the machine ordered him to stop talking. It sat there for several minutes while lights flashed rapidly back and forth across its displays.
"YOU ARE NOT ONE OF US. HOW DID YOU ENTER?" asked the machine in a cold voice.
"Through the door of course," the man said with a chuckle.
YOU ARE NOT KEYED TO THE DOOR. HOW DID YOU ENTER?" the machine demanded again.
"I ye must know I used magic to force it open," the man answered. He felt a little odd talking to a machine.
"EXPLAIN THIS WORD MAGIC," the machine commanded.
"In any sufficiently advanced civilization, technology is indistinguishable from magic. Why donít ye think of it as mental technology," the man replied.
The machine was silent for a moment and then said, "THAT DOESNíT MAKE SENSE. WHAT DO YOU WANT?"
"I need to find the beings that this planet refers to as the Benefactors," the man answered. "I presume that the people that made ye are the ones I am looking for."
"THE BEINGS THAT MADE ME DO NOT WISH TO BE FOUND BY YOU," the machine declared.
"I dinnae ask you if they wished to be found by me, Iím telling you that I need to see them," the man said. "Their little planet here is falling apart and they need to do something about it."
"EXPLAIN," the machine ordered.
"Their technology is failing and the planet is becoming unstable," the man said. He was starting to get irritated.
"IMPOSSIBLE. THEIR TECHNOLOGY IS PERFECT," the machine said haughtily.
"Donít be bloody daft," the man snapped, "nothing is perfect. Iím telling you that the technology is breaking down. How else do ye explain the earthquakes?"
The machine was silent for a few minutes as the lights again flashed rapidly across the screens. "THERE DOES APPEAR TO BE SOME DISTURBANCES," it finally said.
"Fine, so we agree to that," the man replied, "now how do I contact these people and get them back here to fix things?"
"THE BEINGS THAT MADE ME DO NOT WISH TO BE FOUND BY YOU," the machine repeated.
"Now look here ye hunk of junk I said that I need to find these beings and I mean to do just that, however, I have what I want and see no further need to stand here jawing with you," the man said as he started to walk away from the machine.
"YOU HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN PERMISSION TO LEAVE," the machine declared.
"I donít need permission from some bloody stupid machine to leave," the man called over his shoulder.
"YOU CAN NOT LEAVE HERE," the machine exclaimed. A bolt of energy came from the machine and rushed towards the man.
"Bloody Ďell!" the man said as he deflected the bolt with a flash from his crystal. He mentally thanked the Source that he hadnít hidden the crystal under his shirt after he was done using it.
"YOU WILL STAY HERE UNTIL I RECEIVE INSTRUCTIONS AS TO YOUR DISPOSAL!" the machine ordered.
The man didnít like the sound of that and took off at a run up the ramps towards the door. He continued to dodge bolts of energy from the machine. A sudden hissing sound warned him not to breathe as an acrid smoke started to fill the place. He dove through the door just as it started to slam close. Gasping for air he stumbled towards his horse and quickly mounted. Sunset took off at full speed and put as much distance between them and the ruins as he could before he started to tire.
A couple of hours later saw the man sitting by a mountain stream. His horse was resting after his long run. The man had taken the time to catch the White Mage up on the news.
"Ye know Sunset, I dinnae think Iíve ever heard the old man swear that much at one time in me life," the man said. "Maybe it is a good thing Iím looking for these beings instead of him because he is likely to blast them into a million pieces at this point. I think I know how to start looking for them. The crystal picked up the resonance of a message going out from that machine. I think it is a good guess to say that it were asking for help from its masters. If we can pick up that type of resonance from one of the interfaces then we should be able to trace them. I must say Iím not looking forward to meeting these guys."
The ride towards the interfaces between worlds can not be rushed. The man had decided to make camp for the night and make sure that both he and the horse were fully rested before he made the journey. The wards had been intensified in order to provide a shield of invisibility. The man could sense the probes that came from the machine but the probes could not sense the man.
The next morning the man mounted Sunset and headed deeper into the mountains. It was easier to manipulate the fabric of time and space if you had natural paths to follow. Although Sunset was a veteran of these trips through the interfaces, the man discovered that if he kept talking to the animal it made it easier for the horse to make the trip.
"Up around the next corner, Sunset, ye will find that the path has split in two," the man said to the horse. "Take the one that is not as solid."
The paths came into view. One path turned towards the east and was rocky and the other path went forward and started to climb. The path shimmered like a mirage seen in the distance of a desert. The horse didnít hesitate to step onto the path and he walked onto it at a steady gait. The path became more translucent as they went along. The mountains began to disappear and the sky darkened as stars began to come out. Man and horse walked on a gossamer stream that led into the sky. After a while the man stopped the horse and they stood overlooking a network of shimmering paths.
"I think we should take this path Sunset," the man mused, "I donít get a strong signal from any of them but at least this one has a signal."
As the man and horse stepped on the path, it became a tunnel of light and it finally emerged into the hills of an earth-type planet. The man looked down from the hill and saw in the distance the lights of a large town. He could see farms surrounding the town and upon examining the vegetation around him he could tell that the existence of the people had to be hard. This was not the best land to try and farm. He couldnít sense much in the way of animals that could be used for food.
"This is sure a strange place to be getting a sense of those super beings," the man said. "If they were suppose to be helping these people they didnít do a very good job of it. Life has to be hard for them."
The man decided against going into the town that evening since it was late and he didnít know how strangers would be greeted. He sent out a probe through his crystal to see if he could find any of the artifacts from the Benefactors. He sensed that there were some buildings not far from where he was standing. He headed away from the townís direction and further into the hills he found what he was looking for.
The ruins were similar to the ones on Athena except for one thing. It looked like the destruction of these ruins was deliberate and there were char marks on the remaining walls. It appeared that the land surrounding the buildings had been salted to prevent the growth of anything. The scene was total destruction.
"Someone must have hated them very much," the man said. "I wonder what happened here to cause this?"
The man dismounted and started looking around the ruins. The pyramid had been leveled. He started looking through he rubble to see if he could find any trace of the machine. He was so intent on his search that he wasnít aware of the men until they attacked. A large stone struck the man on the back and with a cry of pain he spun around to see where the attack came from. A large group of men were arranged in a semi-circle at a distance from the ruins. Other men were trying to catch the manís horse.
"I mean you no harm," the man called out.
"You are in the place of the evil ones," one of the men replied. "No decent man would be searching among these ruins." The spokesman was a large swarthy looking man with long black hair and beard. He held a wicked looking sword.
"Iím a stranger here," the man said. "I didnít know it was taboo." The man knew that his words were falling on deaf ears and that these men were not going to listen to him. Still, he had to try. "I came upon these ruins and didnít know what they were. I was trying," he was saying when suddenly the man gasped as he felt a large knife strike his shoulder.
"No," he cried. Sunset heard the cry and lashing out at the men trying to catch him, he sped over to the man and reached him just as he started to fall. The man grasped the mane and managed with his good arm to pull himself up. There was a blinding flash of light and man and horse disappeared.
The man awoke to see a tiny red-headed woman sitting next to him. "It is about time you woke up," she said in a voice that was a sweet soprano.
"Where am I and how did ye get here, Sis?" the man asked.
"Never mind where here is," she replied, "and as for getting here letís just say that being your twin has its disadvantages." The smile told him that she wasnít serious. She helped him sit up.
"Have I been out long?" the man asked.
"Three days" the woman replied, "actually, I helped for part of that time. It was better to have you out then thrashing around and reinjuring the shoulder I am trying to heal."
"I need to travel soon. I donít suppose I could convince ye to let me get going," the man asked hopefully. His twin sister was a Healer and was very much immune to his charms.
"You need at least one more day and donít even think about trying to leave without my permission," she said. "You lost a lot of blood and that knife was dirty to boot and caused an infection that I just now have under control. I wouldnít let you leave at all but I have my instructions to help you get back on the road as soon as possible." She didnít look too happy about the prospect of her patient leaving her.
"The old man, huh?" the man asked.
"Aye, he needs you on your way as soon as you are able. I donít suppose you would consider taking me with you to keep you from hurting yourself some more?" his sister asked.
"No way!" the man exclaimed. "If that is the type of reaction Iím getting to these people Iím looking for Iím not about to put you into danger. I think I know where their home world is now, but there is no guarantee that they are still alive and havenít been killed by another race."
"So is there any chance of getting you to be careful for a change?" she asked sternly.
"Did anyone ever tell ye that ye sound just like Mum sometimes?" the man said with a grin. "Ouch!" His sister smacked him along the side of the head.
"Yes as a matter of fact," she replied sweetly. "Now lay down and rest while I get you some food."
The following morning the man headed off along his way. While he was searching the ruins he had found a small device that seemed to be giving off a faint vibration. His hand had closed on it just as the stone hit. He had thrust it into his pocket before he turned around. Using the device as a signal, he headed on a different path when he reached the interfaces.
The man and the horse walked the path for what seemed like several hours. "They must really be on the far reaches of the universe, Sunset. I dinnae think Iíve ever traveled this far before," the man said.
The man came out of the tunnel into a field full of flowers. The planet was one of the loveliest he had ever seen. The air was fresh and crisp and a light breeze blew through his hair. In the distance, he saw a gleaming city made of white marble. This city was fully functioning. The man rode slowly through the fields towards the city marveling at the beauty that was around him.
He came upon several men walking down the road and hailed them. "Good day to you, sirs. Could you tell where I might be able to find someone that could help with some answers to some technology problems?" the man asked.
The men turned to stare at him. They were all handsome beings and they looked up at the big man riding the horse.
"Arenít you a long way from home, elfling? Besides you kind would hardly understand technology," one of the men answered with a sneer. They turned their backs on him and walked away.
The man stared at them in amazement and muttered, "how rude they are." He continued on the road and came to the town. The men and women paid little attention to him as he road along. After a time he came to the city center which held the largest pyramid that he had seen yet. This one had an entrance on the ground level and he dismounted and went towards it. Before he could enter a man carrying a large staff stopped him.
"Halt!" the man with the staff commanded. "You are not allowed in here."
"Listen, I have come a long way to find you people and I am in no mood to play stupid games" the man said. "Your machine at Athena tried to zap me. Your followers on the last planet I was at tried to kill me. Now I need to talk to someone about your malfunctioning machines on Athena." The man stood with his hands on his hips and glared at the man with the staff.
"If you have a problem, elfling, take it to the Elders over at the Council Chamber," the guard said and pointed to a large building across the street from the pyramid.
"Thank you," the man said and turned and headed towards the building. As he entered the building he saw that it was a large open room with tiers of seats. There were dozens of groups of men and women lounging around on comfortable divans. They were sipping from golden goblets and eating off of jewel encrusted trays. None of them paid any attention to the man.
"Diplomacy," the man muttered to himself. "I have to remember to be diplomatic. I need their help."
The man strode towards a group of men that were sitting near the center of the room. "Excuse me for interrupting you," the man said, "but I need to speak to someone about repairing some machines of yours that are malfunctioning on Athena."
The men turned to look at the stranger in their midst. "You are a long way from home elfling," one of them replied. "Your kind are not involved with technology. Why do you come bothering us? You long ago decided on the nebulous path of magic. Go play your little parlor tricks and leave us alone."
"We never used our magic to create an unnatural situation like you did on Athena and now your technology is breaking down and you need to fix it. We can not magically stabilize an unstable planet without a conduit to the Source of Light which the planet does not have," the man replied.
"Do you realize that you are talking to a Senator?" the first man said. "I am a man of importance. You canít just waltz in here, elfling, and make demands of me or anyone else in this house. We do not need to do anything. Now leave!" The senator turned his back on the man.
"I am not leaving here until I get some help from you people. You canít just interfere in a planetís development and then just walk away and leave it to its destruction when your interference caused the problem in the first place," the man said and stood and glared at the people in the assembly. "You have an obligation to these people."
"Nonsense," one of the women called out. "We donít owe anybody anything. We choose to help or we choose not to help. In this case we choose not to and there is nothing you can say to change our minds." She turned her back on the man and continued her conversation with the bored looking man next to her.
A sudden flash of light rocked the room and silenced all conversations. En masse they turned and stared at the man standing in the center of the room. A green crystal was flashing on his chest and his blue eyes were flashing with anger.
"I can see why there are people who consider ye all to be evil and who would not want your help," the man roared. "You set yourself up as gods and play with the lives of innocent people. After a while you get bored and move on caring not a whit about those people left behind whose lives you messed with. You think that because you have your technology that you are superior to those around you. You scoff at us elves but we, at least, had the sense not to play god.
"I donít care what you indolent bored creatures may think but you do have an obligation to help those people on Athena. Your wonderful technology is failing! It is failing because its creators are flawed beings. You have lost all decency and the spark of humanity that would make you superior. You have sunk to the level of animals that care only for themselves. In fact I know animals that are more human then you are.
"Look at you! You lounge around here stuffing your faces, doing nothing, because you no longer have the brains to do anything else. You have stagnated for so long that I doubt there is a being here that could fix any of your technological wonders. Maybe I should give up on the whole bloody lot of you and find another race of people that have technology and have them fix your messes. You obviously are not capable of either fixing your machines or dredging up the compassion to want to fix your machines."
The man stormed out of the place without looking at anyone else in the room. He reached the outside and found his horse and mounted and galloped out of town. He rode until he reached a grove of trees and dismounting he sat on the cool grass next to a stream. He wasnít surprised when a few minutes later his twin sister joined him.
"I thought ye had a trace on me crystal, Sis," the man said and looked over at her. "The old man asked ye to keep tabs?"
"No, I have a link to you naturally and I could feel you getting very angry," she answered with a laugh. "I checked through the crystal and saw that it was safe to be here so I came. Because we are twins the crystals that we have are two parts of a larger one. You know that when you are thinking straight." She came over and sat down by him.
"I donít understand these people, Sis," the man said. "How can they not care? Iím afraid I blew it down there when I lost me temper with them. You know how we redheads are with our tempers." The man looked over at her and gave her a wane smile.
"My dear twin, you with a temper? Who would have ever guessed?" his twin said with a laugh. "Just because Mother insists that you spend as little time with Father as possible in order to forestall explosions between you two. After all we did get our red hair from him. The blondes in the family are much more even tempered." She reached over and took his hand. "Besides I think you may be surprised. You may get a reaction that you werenít looking for."
The two of them sat side by side for about a half-hour when they turned and saw a group of young people approaching. There were six of them in the group, four males and two females. The group looked at each other nervously. Finally one of the females stepped forward and said, "excuse us for bothering you but we heard what you said down in the Senate building and was wondering if you could tell us more about the problem on this Athena."
"I told you so," the manís twin whispered to him with a grin.
"The planet was artificially stabilized by your machines," the man explained. "The inner core of this planet is intrinsically unstable and very few places were really meant to have settlements. Because your peopleís actions stabilized parts of the planet that were unstable the population grew and now there is a flourishing civilization that is in danger of being wiped out by earthquakes. Whatever you did is coming undone and needs to be fixed or the death toll is going to be catastrophic." The man looked at the young people. There was no trace of his earlier anger.
"Could you take us there? I think we can fix the problem," one of the young men said.
"Are you sure your elders will allow it?" the man asked.
"They wouldnít even know we were gone" one of the young men said," as you noted, they have stagnated and now they no longer care about anything, including what we do."
The young woman who spoke first looked sad.
"In that case we will gladly take you," the man said with a smile.
The White Mage stood with the man on a high hill looking down on the town. People were working hard to clean up the damage that had been done by the earthquake. The tremors had stopped shortly after the man had arrived with young people. The young people had denied that they were the Benefactors and told the people of Athena that they were actually just technicians that were sent to repair the machines.
"I still donít know why you wanted me to talk to those people instead of handling it yourself," the man said. "They werenít impressed by me at all. You have enough power that you could have made them listen. They would have respected you."
"You sell yourself short," the White Mage replied. "Yes I could have dazzled them with magic that was ever bit as impressive as their technology. That wasnít what was needed though. These people needed to be moved into action. You have the passion for language that can reach a manís heart. You were what was needed."
"But I almost failed," the man protested.
"No, you succeeded," the White Mage explained. "You brought the help that was needed. I knew you would. You canít reach everybody, but those you reach, are changed for the better. A Bard canít ask for a better gift then that."
"So ye see, whether you like it or not, you are responsible for your actions," Sean said. "The young people took the responsibility of maintaining the equipment put in place by their elders. Responsibility is not just an individual thing; sometimes ye need to take responsibility for things that are greater than just one man." Sean looked over at the Master Teacher and smiled.
"That was a wonderful story, Sean," Ryan said. "Do you write your own stories now or do you get them from others?"
"For the most part I write me own stories now," Sean replied.
The air shimmered before them and there was a young woman standing there before them. She was around five feet tall and was very slender with red hair and blue eyes.
"Kira!" Sean jumped up and gave her a hug. "Ryan, I would like you to meet me sister. Kira this is Ryan. He is a Master Teacher here."
"A pleasure, Ryan," Kira said with a smile. "I had some time to spare and thought I would check on my most troublesome patient." Kira had a sweet soprano voice and an infectious laugh.
"Me sister is a Healer," Sean explained with a shrug of his shoulders. "Ouch! I shouldnít have done that."
Kira shook her head and went over to her brother. "Here let me look at that shoulder. I told you that the muscle was severely damaged and needed to be immobilized but you wouldnít listen. Honestly Ryan, he is a wonderful Bard, but a lousy patient."
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