She had felt them coming well before they entered the clearing. The old familiar pressure had started building up inside as the group drew nearer. But this time, it was if it had no way to relieve itself--it just kept building inside her, pounding in her head and through her veins. She was barely aware when they entered the clearing, and the blinding pain kept her from seeing the reactions of the unicorns. Suddenly, she screamed, hands clutching her head as she felt the inner, mental line that separated her human and unicorn selves begin to waver and dissolve, and those selves begin to intermingle.
'No!' she thought fiercely. 'No! *This* is me,' and she thought of all her human experiences--schooling, playing, living with her friends at the orphanage, exploring the surrounding woods. Everything she'd thought or felt as a human--even those stolen times after the change had come upon her--she wrangled back from the muddled mind that threatened to replace her own.
'This is *also* me,' she thought, remembering her time as a unicorn--learning new magic, working with Linna through their bond, galloping through the forest for the sheer joy of her speed-- not even realizing that she had, for the first time, fully accepted that unicorn self as a part of herself. She fought to keep the two selves separate, even as she felt her Self, mind, body, and soul, being torn in two.
Like everyone else, Linna's attention was grabbed by Ceri's scream, despite the tension of the unicorns. She saw Ceri clutching her head, her form blurring and wavering as it had that day the spell had first worked on her.
Linna suddenly gasped, her hands flying to her mouth as she stared in shock. She could make out *two* forms now, human and unicorn, standing in the same place. As she watched, the forms suddenly sprang six feet apart, the way similarly-charged ends of two magnets fly from each other. After another moment, the blurred forms slowly solidified, until, for the first time, Ceridon the human and Ceridon the unicorn stood together, side by side.
When he heard the initial, angry reactions of the unicorns to their presence, Sherwood pushed forward, hands upraised. He didn't know WHAT he was going to do, but he wanted neither unicorn nor human hurt. But when Ceri's scream sounded and everyone stopped, his action - or inaction - ceased to matter.
He watched, amazed, as Ceri's form shifted between human and unicorn...then separated into two unique forms... and stopped, wholly amazed. "This I've never seen before!" he muttered, then was silent.
In the deep silence, the two Ceridons turned and looked into each other's eyes. For a moment, it seemed like nothing could happen, ever again. Then, Linna heard a mental voice that she recognized, from her linkage with Ceri, as belonging to Vannan.
Both human and unicorn unlocked their gazes, turning toward the unicorns--just in time to see two fist-sized rocks flying at their heads. The human reacted immediately, bringing her hands up to catch one of them. At the exact same time, the unicorn lowered her horn to point it at the other rock, which stopped dead in mid-air, then dropped to the ground with a muffled thud.
A wave of murmuring surprise seemed to pass through the herd. ::The separation is remarkable,:: Vannan commented absently.
::Told you so,:: came the insouciant voice of Cedony.
Again, she and Vannan locked gazes. Linna could hear nothing, and if their conversation was audible to Ceri, she wasn't paying attention, her selves having returned to staring at each other. Finally, Vannan sent publicly, ::Fine. Since you know so much, Cedony, *you* can explain matters to them. *We* have work to do.:: And with those not-so-gracious words, he and the rest of the unicorns turned away and walked back into the woods, leaving Cedony to approach the group.
Elwynn dismounted and approached the two beings cautiously. From her hat she produced a beechwood wand with a clear crystal mounted on one end. She held the wand in her right hand and pointed it first at the human, then the unicorn. Each time the crystal glowed with a lilac light, of the same intensity and quality.
"Not to state the obvious, but she's been split." Elwynn said. "They're both her, but I'm not sure if the separation has been stable or not. Such things can cause some serious physical and emotional trauma."
Linna finally got up enough courage to approach the two Ceridons. "Ceri?" she asked softly. "How are you?"
"Certainly not great," the human Ceri said. ::But not exactly terrible,:: came the mental voice of the unicorn immediately afterwards. Curiously, it seemed to Linna that what the unicorn sent was a continuation of one thought, not a response to what the human had said. "What's happened with you?" she asked.
"There may be two bodies here --" ::-- but there's still only one mind.:: "It's as if my consciousness --" ::-- keeps jumping back and forth --:: "-- between them. It's very --" ::-- disorienting. Take a look --:: "-- through our bond."
Linna, after sorting out what the vocal and mental voices had said, sent her mind down their bond, trying to see what Ceri was seeing. Almost immediately, she reeled back mentally, and even a step physically, feeling Dwynn's hand under her elbow steady her. She'd seen how Ceri's viewpoint was indeed flickering back and forth between human and unicorn, and it was definitely disorienting. She shook her head to clear it of that sensation.
::Don't worry,:: came the voice of Cedony. ::With a little time and practice, you'll get used to it...and even learn to control it.::
Elwynn's statements only served to confuse him even further. "ARE the two of them really the same?" he thought to himself. His puzzled brow belied his discomfort. He finally turned toward Cedony, concern tightening his throat, asking through gritted teeth, "Will my friend's mind be forever shifting between the two bodies?"
::No, certainly not forever,:: Cedony replied with a slightly amused tone. ::I know you all have a lot of questions, and I'm ready to answer them, but first, there is one question I have that I'd like answered. Why is *he* here?:: Her mental tone abruptly shifted to glacial as her eyes--and horn--aimed directly at Garber.
Linna gulped and glanced quickly over at Ceri, who still seemed preoccupied with her abrupt split. Gathering courage, both from inside herself and from Dwynn's hand in hers, she spoke up.
"*Garber* is the one who guided us here," she said, putting special emphasis on his name. "Without him, we'd never have known where to come." It didn't seem as if Cedony was ready quite yet to blast or quash her, so she launched into a quick summary of their travels. She even told them all about Garber's dreams, and his discussion of them with Ceri, hoping that that would show him in a more favorable light.
When she finished, Cedony, who had not taken her eyes from Garber, was silent for a minute. Finally, she sent publicly, ::Is what she has said the truth?::
"It is," Garber replied. He held himself still, wondering if Cedony was searching his mind any. If she was, he couldn't feel it. But suddenly, her posture relaxed a bit, though her eyes lost none of their ice.
::Merinen was our Oldest,:: she sent to them all. ::She was the best of us. She was also my grandmother.:: Garber winced a bit, but continued to be still.
::I do not like you!:: Cedony's tone suddenly burst out with passion. ::And I greatly doubt I ever will.:: She paused, then continued a little more calmly, ::But neither will I seek your life. Nor will the others, I can assure you of that.::
As Garber and Linna simultaneously sighed with relief, Ceri, who apparently was more aware of what was going on around her than Linna had thought, stepped forward, a slight smile on the human's face. "Good," she said. "For if you had--" ::you would have had to go through me.::
Cedony looked over at the Ceridons with a somewhat startled expression, then relaxed completely, and even chuckled mentally. She then looked over at Linna with a definite look of respect. ::Well, Chosen of Ceridon, may I have your name?::
"I am Linna," she replied with a bow. She moved on to introduce the others in their group, from Dwynn and Sherwood to Elwynn, who was last. That introduction produced yet another surprise.
::Elwynn Evindem? *The* Elwynn Evindem? Lady, I...I am honored,:: Cedony said excitedly, executing a complicated bow that still managed to look graceful.
Elwynn returned the bow respectfully, although for a moment her eyes rolled heavenward in the manner of one who finds such things a trifle embarrassing. "Your greeting honors me," she said formally, "although I have done little enough to deserve it. I understand your discomfort at my companion's presence." Here she nodded at Garber. "But rest assured he had acted with courage in our travels, and insofar as I know, his intentions are very honorable."
Cedony nodded abstractedly at Elwynn's defense of Garber, her mind apparently concentrating on studying Elwynn's every aspect. Finally, she sent, ::I wonder why the others didn't stay to welcome you. Surely some of them--especially Vannan--must have recognized you.::
"You showed them up --" ::And in front of her,:: Ceridon replied.
::Mmmm. I did, didn't I?:: Cedony replied with more than a little satisfaction in her mental tone, though she continued, ::I didn't *mean* to...:: At the look from both Ceridons *and* Linna, she sent drolly, ::Well, OK. I did. And I *promise* I'll make it up to them later. But right now, we have many things to discuss, and we may not have a lot of time. Please, come and sit. Be comfortable.:: She watched as the group settled down in a half-circle, all facing her. The two Ceridons situated themselves directly facing her, their concentration showing that they were already starting to get used to their unusual situation. Cedony nodded with satisfaction.
Back to the Dragon's Inn Archives page.
Back to my main page.