The Meeting


Linna had been riveted by the swordsman's story, and it took her a moment to snap out of her reverie. ::Ceri? What do you think?::
::Bring him here,:: came Ceri's instant response. ::I need to see him for myself before I make up my mind, but so help me, it sounds awfully *right.*::
"Could you come with us, sir?" Linna asked Garber. "My friend would like to meet you."
Garber gulped. He'd been hoping this girl would just ask how to get to the valley, and then let him alone. But the chance to see a unicorn again, after all these was too terrifyingly wonderful a prospect to pass up. He nodded silently and stood up.
As they left the Inn, he answered Dwynn's question. "I didn't join the Guard right away. I spent a few years as a guard for a rich merchant. That, and the fact that I've never been one to live extravagantly, allowed me to save some money before I retired. With that and the pension from the Guards, I'll do all right."
They walked through an open field to the northeast. A small stand of trees ahead of them was just beginning to disappear into the twilight. Garber was looking around, still amazed at the changes the explosion so many months ago had wraught, when a white figure caught his eye. He focussed on it, then stared, his heart squeezing within him.
The unicorn stood on a small rise, head poised and watchful. Her horn was shining, casting a soft glow over her. Her white hide gleamed with health, looking as if it could never become dirty. Garber saw her dainty cloven hooves, her silver-blond mane and tail. Then he looked into her eyes, and felt as if he'd lost himself.
'I'd forgotten--I could never have remembered--how beautiful they are,' he thought. He closed his eyes on a vision of another unicorn sinking to the ground, life and beauty ebbing away with its blood. He shook his head to dispel the memory and opened his eyes again.
The unicorn--Ceridon, he remembered--was taking a measuring look at each member of the group. Her gaze seemed to linger longest on him. Finally, he started as he heard a feminine voice inside his head.
::The blessings of Ashtara on all of you. I want to thank you for the concern and suggestions you have offered to us. We are indebted to you all.::
The elf-maid hesitated for a moment, as if she was struck by a dizzy spell.
"Ooooh! Telepathy always gives me a headache!"
Ceridon focussed her attention on Elwynn and dipped her head. ::So, sorceress, what do you think? Am I going to live?:: Her chuckle echoed through everyone's heads.
Shaking off the slight headache, (which she often compared to eating ice cream too fast,) the elf-maid smiled, and said, "Well I'm pretty sure you're going to live for a while at least. However, whether as a human or a unicorn will depend on our efforts. A preliminary exam ought to shed a little light on your predicament, if you will permit me..."
So saying, she removed her hat and began hauling out various magical instruments and laying them on the ground. Among these were a large conch shell, a willow- wood wand with a strange crystal tied to one end, a y-shaped set of tubes with a (very cold) metal disc at one end, and a small, cylindrical object which made a pulsating noise when she held it. All of these were held over, applied or otherwise utilized in a very careful but brief examination of the unicorn. Besides the occasional requests to "open wide, please...breathe deeply please... and again...." the elf-maid spent most of the examination saying "hmm" a lot.
Ceridon blinked in surprise as she watched Elwynn lug out various implements from her hat. Her magical intersts as a human had dealt mainly with medicine and healing, so she recognized a few of the instruments, including the stethoscope. She still couldn't help jumping back a bit when Elwynn first placed the cold metal end on her skin. She snorted and stamped a bit, but submitted to the rest of the examination with good grace.
Seeing the looks of concern on her companion's faces, Karyn reassured the crowd as they observed the proceedure. "It's all right. She knows what she's doing most of the time. She has a doctorate in mythological medicine."
Linna watched Elwynn and Ceri intently, though she gave Karyn a classic double-take at the phrase 'most of the time.' She was eager to learn if Elwynn could discover anything about Ceri's condition they hadn't already discovered...or guessed.
As Ceridon's measuring gaze fell upon Dwynn he felt that old tingling sensation that was at once familiar and strange. The magick was changing again, learning. As Ceridon's message got through he heard Elwynn and just a little to late he shielded all but a small part of his mind.. {Damn! Telepathy. I should have known. Again!} He walked back a bit while exploring the changes.
::Or Anyone?::
::Is this going anywhere?::
Ceri looked up, startled, then gazed at Dwynn. ::You're telepathic, too? How interesting! Do you know what your range is? How much effort does it take for you to send?:: She paused, then continued ruefully, ::Sorry. After this happened to me, I've become interested in how magic works-- how it's different for different people. I do tend to get overenthusiastic sometimes.::
::Ouch!:: {My Head!} He walked over closer to Ceridan. ::I am::, ::now.:: ::And I know exactly what:: A sort of thought static occured. It would have sounded like {Ffwwzzst}. ::my range is. You are!:: Dwynn sighed deep and sat down holding his head in both hands. {How to explain this?} ::We share a common interest than. I have a strange magick, or it has me. It absorbs and controls things that are directed at me, like your telepathy. :Ffwst: I could not have done this five minutes ago. Does it always give one such a headache?::
::Very curious...and no, I've never gotten a headache from telepathy. I don't think Linna has either.:: Ceri paused for a moment, thinking. ::I'm fairly good with herbal remedies. I'll see if I can find something to help you later.::
Though he had _thought_ himself prepared, the sudden vision of the Unicorn at the crest of the hill still catches him off-guard. When a fly suddenly buzzes into his mouth agape, his inhalation pulls it into his throat and he gags & coughs spasmodically. As he finally begins to regain control, tears in his eyes, he looks to Linna and asks, "May I," cough, "touch her?" A weak, but warm smile follows his gaze to the mythical beast.
Ceri seemed a bit distracted by events, so Linna smiled at Sherwood. "Go ahead. I know she won't mind." She watched as he tentatively approached Ceri and reached out his hand. She knew what he would feel; even after three years and more, she was always astonished at the softness of Ceri's hide. She never needed a brush or a bath. It seemed to be one of the perks of being a unicorn.
Awe shone from his eyes as Sherwood reached out for the side of the Unicorn's body. The texture, though he anticipated something on the order of a horse's hide, surprised him yet again. It was much more akin to that of pet cat... soft, and luxurious. After he inhaled slowly, he softly murmurs, "Even a beaver has no more luxurious a coat than this..."
"So, mistress Elwynn, did you perchance discover if this myserious and beautiful beeing was born as a human?" Dwynn colapses grabbing his head. "Ouououch!" And he sits there panting for a while.
The elf-maid removed the strange tube-like device, which she said was a means of "listening to your insides."
"Well," she explained, "Miss Ceridon, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, you were in fact born a human. Unless of course you enjoy being a unicorn, in which case that's the bad news, and the good news is, I don't know how to reverse the process, unless of course you want to be human, in which case it's the other way 'round. Basically, this appears to be some kind of magical spell with what we call a 'causal anchor.' It means that there is a person, place, or thing outside yourself that is in some way part of the spell. I'm positive it's not an illusory state, which means you are actually physically transforming into a unicorn, not just being disguised as one. That means whoever did this really knows their stuff."
Ceri broke off her contact with Dwynn as Elwynn began to speak. She listened intently, chuckling at the rather convoluted explanation she started out with. The news of this 'causal anchor,' however, made her very thoughtful.
::So there's someone or something linked in to all of this.:: She snorted. ::I never even thought to look for something like that. Can you tell us anything more about it? Even what general direction it lies in?:: She looked over at Garber. ::If it's to the northwest of here, then the village Garber told us about is very likely where we need to go.::
The oriental looked up to see the unicorn, his jaw almost dropped at the sight of it, he looked back over to Brea.
"Have you ever seen anything so mythical in your life," he asked her, "I have seen liches, centaurs, satyrs, wizards, and even a god once. THAT is a long story, but I have never seen a unicorn."
He looked backed and listened to the conversations. He sort of understood the "magical" conversation, but he was a fighter not a magician. Thus, he kept his mouth shut.
"So you are saying that someone or something is doing this to her," the oriental blurted out upon hearing Elwynn's diagnosis, "If that is the case then, it can also be stopped!"
He looked around at everybody, "Where to?"
Brea simply stood in awe, blinking bright green eyes at the unicorn standing before her and the others. It suddenly occurred to her that within her short time at the Bard's Hall, she'd seen more magic and magical beings than she'd ever had in her 18 years. At Tak's exclaimation about the various other creatures he'd seen, she merely responded with wide eyes and a raised eyebrow. These were all things she'd only read about in books.
"How many other creatures have I read about am I going to come across in my travels here?" she wondered. She listened thoughtfully for a moment to Elwynn's explanations, and suddenly felt as if she was going to have a headache. Not being a magician, or having much past experience with magic, all this talk of magic and spells simply left her thoroughly confused.
As his headache cleared to a tolerable level, Dwynn noticed the awe felt by some at the appearance of the unicorn. {Crystal would have called me jaded.} He thought. {At least living in Mortford for over 20 years has prepared me for dealing with strange magicks rationally.} He walked over to a tree and kicked it hard as a tear welled in his eye.
Afterwards he stalked off. His foot hurt, his head hurt, but it still made him feel better. He got on his horse and waited quietly for the others to finish.
The awe still shone in his face, as he asked, "Umm, Miss Linna, what did you say her name is?" Then as he concentrated on the conversations occuring around him, he started, "You mean to say this is _not_ a real Unicorn?" His face contorted at this last question, and his face turned red as well. "This is an abomination! Who is responsible?"
"Well, that's what we're hoping to find out sooner or later," Linna replied absently. She watched as Elwynn began her test. ::Why didn't you sense this before?:: she sent to Ceridon.
::Probably because we were too far away, and the tie was too faint,:: Ceri replied. ::Now that she's mentioned it, I can feel some sort of tie, though I still can't tell the direction it's coming from.:: Linna nodded a bit, waiting for Elwynn's word.

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