A Heritage of Power 4: Jerik's Story 1:
Walking Between Worlds
by Fur and Fantasy
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
Run. Run. Just move.
His own breathing, harsh and ragged from two days and more trying to escape the pack of hunters, was all he could hear in the blistering heat of these scrubby, razor-grass coated badlands he'd crashed onto. The monster hound's baying had long since died down to the occasional howl to remind him that they were not far behind.
High ground. Safer.
Jerik was never more grateful for the months he had spent with his uncle hunting and living off the land on Astraulia Six. The large rock formation jutted out of the earth and he was chasing it before his mind had fully understood it was there. If anything would give him a chance, this was it.
He'd have to kill every beast in that pack to live to see the three moons of this alien world again and have a chance to find water and a cave to sleep in. As his empty stomach growled at him, he half-wondered if they'd turn out to be edible. Time enough to worry about that once they weren't about to find out if he was.
He jumped up onto the rock, the metal claws of his gauntlets dug into the handholds he could find as he started to climb. They'd have to come after him slowly, one at a time at most. He heard them coming closer; saw a gout of flame lick out over a hilltop as the sextet of two-headed red hounds crested the top of it. The leader let out a dual howl, both heads turned towards the blazing sun as he seemed to announce his impending triumph over the strange prey-animal they'd found.
Then the entire pack descended towards the base of the rock.
Jerik didn't waste any time as he pulled himself to the top of the outcropping and lay down flat, giving their fiery breath as small a target as possible and leveled his only real weapon at them: the deadly but very simple metal darts, and not that many of them. Six targets, twenty darts. He'd have to make every shot count. All the other ammo in his Glovatrix had been depleted taking out the first half of the pack in three previous battles.
Why did he have to manage to crash here, of all places? Somewhere he didn't have anything to his advantage?
The young teenager fired a burst of the darts, three slender metal projectiles piercing the coarse fur and thick skin of one of the hounds. It fell to the ground as bright red blood spurted from its pierced throat, and the rest of the pack snarled in rage. One of them started trying to scramble up the outcropping as another blasted twin clouds of flame up towards him.
The searing blasts rolling right over the hound climbing the rock, making it too risky to reach over the edge to try and shoot it down so he gritted his bared fangs and waited for the fire to end. He could feel the heat that would have scalded his fur from his skin if it wasn't for the protection of his flight suit, and even that was showing wear at the constant assaults.
It has to end. It hasto.
He closed his mind to everything but what was at hand and popped out over the edge the instant the flames died to level another volley of three at the beast climbing.
It yelped as one of them tore through its leg, sending it crashing down and scattering the others for a moment before another blast of flame nearly roasted him and he jerked back behind the ledge. He could keep them from getting up, but they weren't going to give him the chance to get back down without being torn apart. They were smart beasts; he had to give them that.
He just had to be smarter. Somehow.
What would Jake do in this situation?
"Leave me alone." He actually snarled at the ruff of red ears and fur that started to pull itself past the ledge and got a booted foot in one of its faces for its trouble. There was a pained yelp from the other head before it fell, and they growled amongst themselves, no more trying to climb.
They were going to starve him out ... and just now, he wasn't sure how long it would take them.
He'd die of dehydration first, he was sure. Under the burning, golden sun, he was half surprised to have lasted this long with only a few gulps of tepid, nasty-tasting water to sustain him. His skills were not that good, and though he'd managed to last a week once, it has been under much less stressful conditions. Still, if they were going to stop climbing, he could at least hide from the direct sun and see if he could get his infrared visor screen to work again. Night, with it, might actually give him an advantage.
He managed to roll under some tough scrub-brush at the top of the outcropping and took his visored helmet off, keeping a close ear on his company in case they decided to try anything.
The next few hours passed tortuously quietly. The hounds didn't try anything, but that just made it all the more agonizing, wondering when they would. The sun slowly made its way towards the horizon when he heard the hounds start growling and snarling again. Something had changed and they weren't happy about it. Cautiously, he worked out from under the scrub he was using as cover and looked around to see what was going on.
Two of the hounds had broken off from the main group to attack two biped figures that were approaching, the remainder staying to make sure he didn't run away.
The strangerd were both biped like he was. One wore a blood-red hooded robe, pulled up to conceal her face and shield her from the sun. She carried a long walking-staff that radiated power even to his barely-trained senses. Her male companion did not carry anything, but Jerik was sure the warrior was well armed.
As the hounds rushed forward, they both blasted flame at the newcomers. The robed figure raised her staff, and knocked the flames aside with it, using a very strange flavor of power Jerik could still recognize as such. She said something he couldn't make out and bright blue flashes of light burst from the end of her staff, striking the hounds and making them howl in rage.
"Mage." Jerik murmured uneasily, not quite believing his eyes. "Don't piss off the mage."
The second figure drew a long, narrow, gleaming blade from the scabbard at his hip, driving the needle-like length of metal through the skull of one of the hounds, killing it even as the rest of the pack took off to help their comrades.
It wasn't long before most of the pack had been slain, the two survivors running off with their tails between their legs - literally. The red-robed mage approached the base of the spire while her partner cleaned his blade and sheathed it, pulled out a knife and started to skin the hounds.
"You can come down now!" She called out and pulled her hood back to reveal a sleek Collie's face, light brown fur and long, red hair ruffled slightly by the hot breeze that blew through the wastelands.
Jerik couldn't help but blink a couple times at such a familiar race on a world so far from home, now sure he was hallucinating. There was no way an alien spoke Aristalin, even if she did look like a Collie Kantin.
Still, how many stories of his heritage contained just such events? She did look like every other Kantin he'd met, too. Maybe he wasn't as far from home as he'd figured.
With one deep breath he crawled out to look down at her for an uncertain moment, and then slid down to land rather unceremoniously on his tail.
"Are you okay?" She asked him. Now that she was closer, he could tell that the words she was speaking didn't match the way her mouth was moving.
Of course; she was a mage. She must have had some sort of translator spell she was using.
"I've been better, ma'am." He told her politely, recalling every manners lesson his mother had taught him in his thirteen years. "I haven't eaten or had much to drink or sleep in two days, thanks to those creatures."
The Collie reached into her robes, pulled out a full waterskin and handed it over to him.
"Don't drink too fast, or it'll come right back up," she warned him. "Once my partner's done skinning the hell hounds, we'll make a camp for the night, get you something to eat then and take a look at your wounds," she said, nodding towards the places where the razor-grass and hounds had cut his dark blue flight suit open, staining it a brownish-black with his blood.
"Thank you, ma'am." He remembered his manners. It was hard to drink slowly with the smell of cool water, he couldn't even conceive of being this thirsty, but he knew she was right. He'd seen what moving too fast could do to a survivor. He wasn't in nearly as bad a shape as those from the Estrata two years ago, but he knew he was hurt.
"Are you from a village near here?" She asked him, sitting down next to him. "And what's your name, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Jerik Clawson." He answered the easiest question first between careful mouthfuls of cooling water. "I doubt my home is nearby, ma'am."
"Not surprised," she said. "Your clothes don't look like anything I've seen before, but you never know what people might wear in the Blight, so I couldn't be sure. Escaped slave, or some stranger story?"
Jerik considered her for a moment between sips of water at the mention of slavery. "Did you see that big fireball falling in the sky a couple nights ago?"
"It's the reason we came out here," the mage nodded. "We spotted the hell hounds and decided to check out what was going on."
"That was my ship, what was left of it anyway." He told her quietly. "The hell hounds have been chasing me since the escape pod landed."
That seemed to surprise the Collie, though she recovered quickly enough.
"Well, then it's safe to say you're not from around here. By the way, my name is Melinda, my partner's Connor. Would have said something earlier, but it's not always safe to give out names around here."
"Why?" Jerik asked softly, noting the work skinning the hounds was almost finished, which meant dinner and sleep would come soon.
"Some of the creatures out here aren't as obvious about being dangerous as the hell hounds," Melinda explained as her partner started wiping his knife and pinning the skins out to dry overnight. "Skin-thieves haven't been sighted this close to the borders, but it's better to be safe than sorry with them."
"They need to know your name to take your place?" He guessed, piecing the bits together.
"Yes," she nodded. "Doesn't always stop them from trying to kill somebody, but they're usually at least a bit slower about it. Take enough time to try and get it from you that you can figure out what's up. What languages can you speak?" She asked him as her partner approached. "Need to know if I should use a translator spell on you."
"Aristalin, Kat, Kantin, Mustelid and some Republic Basic. I'd be pretty surprised if any are known here."
"I don't recognize those," she admitted. "Aristalin sounds a little bit like a distant dialect of Felarin, but Connor doesn't speak that anyways. Do your people have any rules against using magic?"
"Just that using it in a crime is an extra penalty, ma'am." He answered seriously before taking another sip of water, grateful that it was starting to seep into his body to make him feel better.
"You can never be too sure," she chuckled. "And Melinda, please. I assume you don't have any way back home easily; do you want to settle for a translation spell, or should I give your mind a quick primer in the most common local languages?"
"The primer, please, Melinda." He chose quickly. "And no, without my ship, I don't have any way home I know of."
"I understand," she nodded easily. "This might tingle," she warned him, taking her staff in her hands and speaking in that same strange language she'd used before. Her own translator spell didn't seem to have any effect on the words, or on the way they almost seemed to crawl into his mind and around his head. It was an entirely new sensation, though one that passed quickly. By the time it was through, Connor was at the spire with them, and Jerik had the strange sensation that he knew three languages he hadn't before.
"Wow," he murmured, then intentionally shifted to Canid as he looked at the pair. "Thank you, Melinda."
"Trade spell?" Connor asked, glancing at Melinda.
"Seemed the thing to do," she shrugged slightly. "Connor, Jerik Clawson. Jerik, Connor, my mate and Defender."
"Hello, Connor." Jerik smiled up at the warrior. "Thank you for helping save my hide."
"No problem," the Collie grinned and sat down, setting a small pack to the side and pulled out what he would need to start a fire. "We got theirs in exchange," he chuckled. "So, rations, or are you hungry enough to try hell hound meat?"
"Rations for me," Melinda said, shaking her head with a shudder. "Those things taste terrible, unless you're really desperate."
"Rations, please." Jerik requested, though it was pretty clear he was desperate enough to try to eat hell hound anyway.
"Sounds like we're going to be heading back for a village after this," Connor chuckled, pulling out the wax-covered packs of dried fruit and meat from his pack and distributing them before he set about building a fire from some of the scrub brush and a tinderbox.
"The Academy," Melinda told him simply before working into her meal with much less enthusiasm than Jerik.
"You sure?" Connor asked her, getting the fire going before starting his own meal.
"When our guest has had the chance to eat, I'll confirm it, but it's as good a place as any. Besides - you know as well as I do we'll get the best price for the hides there. Any other village we'd find they might as well be red-furred wolves."
"True," the slightly older Collie agreed. "Still going to want to pick up some extra supplies; the detour and a third mouth to feed have put a bit of a dent into things."
"So we'll make a bit of a stop at a smaller village on the way," Melinda shrugged slightly. "I haven't been tracking that too well."
"You never do, hon," Connor smiled, leaning over to nuzzle her slightly. "Don't worry, I'd have told you by now if we were going to be going hunting before getting back to town."
"I'm pretty good at that, living off the land, when I'm not being hunted." Jerik mentioned between bites that he was trying very hard not to wolf down. The last thing he needed was to have valuable rations come back up before he had a chance to digest them.
"We might ask for a bit of help with that then, get some fresh meat instead of jerky for the trip," Connor said easily. "Not until we're out of the Blight of course, but it's just a solid day's hike from where we are to get back into civilized lands."
"No problem." Jerik nodded, and then shifted his attention to Melinda. "What is 'The Academy'?"
"Between the Academy and the Defender's Guild, you've got the largest formal schools for mages and Defenders for several leagues," she explained. "They're usually lumped together honestly; I know we both do. Do you have any particular talent for magic you know about?"
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded seriously. "Some training too, though most has been practical, not theory."
"I was fairly sure you had some talent," she nodded slightly. "There's a good chance the Academy will be interested in taking you in, and if they're not, the Guild almost certainly will be. Since neither of us is really looking for an apprentice just now, it'd be a good place for you probably."
"What is the price of training there?" Jerik requested evenly, far too aware that many places placed a high price on such things.
"If you've got the talent, it wouldn't cost you anything. You'll end up doing plenty of work while you're there, but it doesn't cost you anything money-wise," Melinda chuckled. "Some nobles pay to get their children taken in, but that's more a tax on the stupid rich than anything else."
He nodded and fell silent for a time to slowly chew his food and think about what he knew about this world so far. There was a lot that seemed similar, and some obvious differences.
"Melinda, Connor," he looked between them and chose his words carefully. "What is the most advanced or complicated machine you have heard of?"
"Heard of, or seen?" Connor asked.
"There's rumors about a group of flame mages working on some sort of a steam engine or something, but nobody I know's actually been involved in the project so we can't be sure," Melinda explained. "Machines aren't usually too complicated though; magic works better most of the time."
"For limited production it definitely does," Jerik nodded, wondering just how much change he was going to bring to this world just by being here and saying things that he didn't think about censoring. Or doing things he was even now driven to create just to show it could be done. "What it is really good at doesn't seem to even be an idea around here yet." He trailed off as he realized he'd already said too much about ways they didn't embrace.
"It's out there yet, just not fully developed," Connor said easily. "By the way, think these are yours," he added, holding out the bolts he'd recovered.
"Thank you." He took the handful of finely crafted metal bolts and quietly reloaded them into his Glovatrix even as he tried to trace the 'flavor' of mass production down in the languages he now knew compared to what he knew. He was sure it was very different. These two had far too much hand-crafted equipment, and far too little he recognized as the potential product of factories.
"So, is that device of yours some sort of machine?" Melinda asked him. "It would explain why Pyre can't tell me much about it."
"Yes," Jerik nodded. "It uses magic to increase the storage capacity, but other than that, it's generally just technology."
"Explains a lot," she nodded slightly. "So your training isn't far enough that you've designed a real focus yet, I'm guessing. Good time to get started, really."
"We don't normally use them." He kind of chuckled. "But we also don't have anything like schools of magic or a formal system either."
"I'm guessing magic hasn't been that common for your people then," Melinda said easily. "Explains using the machines too."
"It's becoming more common," he nodded. "My father and his siblings are the first to in a thousand years have the gift strongly enough to be considered as potential mages, though weaker gifts have been known and fairly common for the entire time. The machines ... well, those are part of the gift for most of my kin. One of the groups we met called us technomages because so many of us can't cast spells, but can affect machines. We got a lot of weird looks for it."
"You probably would here too," Melinda chuckled. "Even the smallest villages can usually count on having at least one Mage and Defender around here. I'm afraid your gift for machines probably won't be too useful either, at least not just now."
"Fortunately, I'm not limited to those." He lifted the waterskin with his mind and drank without touching it before setting it back down. "I'm not even very good at technomagic. Other things, I have some talent with."
Melinda and Connor both blinked at the display of his moderate Force talent; it was clear that they weren't familiar with what he had just done.
"Was that some of your people's magic?" Melinda asked him. "Or some other skill?"
"That was a very basic use of our magic, yes. One of the easy ones to show another without exerting much effort." Jerik nodded. "I've been told I'm moderately powerful, my father and an older sister are both much stronger, but I'm stronger than many."
"You must use it very differently than we do," Melinda mused. "Normally, a mage who could accomplish that would be nearing the end of their apprenticeship."
"While for us, it's one of the early lessons." Jerik nodded slightly. "Things like speeding up your movement and mind control come much later, though I've had a little training in both. Healing is a pain to learn to do right."
"Damned good sign you're strong enough for the Academy though," Connor pointed out. "I have a feeling you'll be having an interesting career."
"That is almost a given with my family." Jerik grinned at him with a wink. "I've already got quite a start given where I am relative to home."
"The light we saw a few days ago was the ship that brought him here," Melinda explained to her mate as the three of them finished eating. "So Jerik; think you're up for helping me with the tent for the night? Connor will take the first watch, and I'll pick up for him later."
"Sure," he stood and almost fell before he focused and caught himself. "There are disadvantages to using magic to make a two day run without stopping." He chuckled weakly.
"That reminds me," the Collie said as she stood and moved over to help him steady himself. "I need to check out your wounds ... maybe you can tell me why your clothes aren't scratched up anymore while I do that," she observed, looking down the young teenager's lean body, noticing that his flight suit seemed to be in perfect repair.
"Nanotechnology." He told her in Aristalin, knowing the word in would mean nothing to her since it didn't exist in any of her languages. He slipped the suit off with her help so she could tend to the injuries he had. "It's a way we can make cloth that can fix itself. You can probably use magic to do the same."
"We can," she agreed, setting the suit aside and checking him over. "No serious injuries that I can find. I'm guessing that cloth is something you couldn't really recreate here."
"Not this kind, no. At least not without an lot of work creating things you don't have." He acknowledged and pulled his one-piece flight suit back on. "Cloth with similar properties would be much easier."
"Now that'd be useful," Connor chuckled. "Save a lot of money in wrecked clothes."
"You just have to learn to dodge better," Melinda smirked back at her mate, starting to set up the tent with Jerik's help once he was dressed again.
During the work, Jerik remained silent and simply enjoyed the companionable relationship of the pair as his body came the rest of the way down from its two-day dependence on the Force until he was nearly asleep on his feet.
Just a few moments later, he was passed out on a bedroll that managed to be fairly comfortable even on the rocky ground beneath them. It was a lot more comfortable than he'd been since he'd crashed here.
The better part of the day's hike later; Jerik noticed that things seemed to be cooling off.
They'd started out not long before dawn; he'd slept through the night soundly enough that he didn't even notice the two Collies changing who was on guard until he woke up to find Melinda outside, studying by the light of the three moons and the dying fire. As usual, it hadn't taken long for things to get hot. Not so hot to be dangerous; just enough that it wasn't at all comfortable. He wasn't entirely sure how Melinda could take it so well with her heavier robes, but she seemed to endure it without comment.
Now, as they crested a hill, he saw something that was really beyond his ability to explain easily. Probably a hundred yards away, he could almost trace the line between the wastelands of the Blight and what looked like a temperate plain with tall, green grasses and wildflowers.
"There's a Rohr hunting ground not far from here," Connor explained as they paused at the top of the hill, pointing the direction. "Shouldn't be any trouble if we catch a few game birds; we helped them with a group of bandits a month or so back."
"If you two can catch them, I'm game to cook," Melinda chuckled. "Come on, let's get somewhere more comfortable before we start trying to figure out where to go next."
"The Blight really isn't natural, is it?" Jerik asked as they entered the grassland and the temperature dropped from one step to the next.
"Not in the least," Melinda said softly. "It's the best example of what happens when magic goes awry. Spreading too, even if slowly."
"We don't know that for sure, love," Connor reminded her quietly, almost too quietly for Jerik to hear.
"I can feel how off it is, now that I've been somewhere normal for this world." Jerik told him quietly. "It's ... not right."
"I just mean that we don't know it's spreading ... if it is, it's slowly," Connor explained.
"You'll hear the story soon enough, but that," Melinda explained, indicating the Blight behind them, "is what happens when mage-wars go too far, and those behind them begin to resort to spells of the Left Hand path. Necromancy and demon-summoning ... they're exceedingly dangerous disciplines, which is why most mages stay far away from them."
"I understand." Jerik nodded slightly even as he breathed deeply of the much more natural air in the grassland. "So when do we want to hunt? There is plenty of small game I can catch now."
"Game birds are probably the best things for now, if you think you can hit 'em with those darts of yours," Connor said easily. "I flush 'em out, you shoot 'em down? I can smell a bevy of quail not fair from here."
"I can hit them where they are, but you're welcome to flush them if you want." Jerik grinned up at the adult canine.
"Easier to get 'em out of cover first," Connor chuckled, shaking his head. Still, from what he'd seen, he wouldn't be surprised if the kit could, given a way to spot them.
He took off all the same, rushing towards the birds and diving to the ground near their hiding place, startling them out of hiding and up above the grass. He gasped in surprise to have two of them land in front of his nose and a third on his head.
He hadn't expected it to take long, but he hadn't been expecting it to be that fast either.
"Good think I'm not any taller," the Collie pointed out with a chuckle, taking the dead, twitching birds and carrying them back to his companions.
"I wouldn't have hit you." Jerik told him very seriously.
"I don't think you would have either," Connor reassured him. "So, let's gut these and find somewhere to cook a good dinner."
Jerik closed his eyes briefly and reached out to touch the local energy currents.
"There is a very good place to camp half a click that way," he motioned west, the general direction they were traveling in.
"Sounds about right," Connor nodded. "Should be a campground around there, we can get a little rest." He quickly cleaned the birds, then they turned to leave for the campground.
"By the way Jerik; I should have asked before, but was there anybody else with you when you crashed?" Melinda asked.
"No, I was flying solo." He shook his head. "I haven't found a partner yet."
"Is it normal to be 'flying solo' that young?" The female Collie asked, her hood pulled down around her neck for now.
"Among my family, it's not uncommon. It's a little more unusual to have not found a partner yet." He kind of shrugged. "I just never clicked with anyone that way."
"You'll probably find somebody you can work with at the Academy," Melinda reassured him. "Mages in training work with their Defenders almost constantly."
"Yeah," Connor chuckled. "It's just a good thing they usually make sure pairs can get along, or there'd be a lot higher attrition."
"Is it normal for a mage and Defender to be mates?" Jerik asked almost innocently.
"Pretty normal," Melinda replied easily. "Assuming they're interested in the right genders. I haven't met a mage yet in the field who didn't have at least one Defender they slept with regularly."
"It's not quite as widespread for the Defenders," Connor added, "but largely because a mage who isn't interested in their first Defender can take on a second one eventually if they want. Defenders don't take more than one mage at a time."
That made Jerik blink, but he accepted it fairly easily. "It's not that unusual to only have one Defender though?" He glanced between the pair uneasily.
"Not at all," Melinda chuckled. "It depends, mostly, on how much danger you expect to be in. A mage who spends a lot of time in the Blight usually either finds another team to partner with, or looks for a few more Defenders."
"That makes sense," he nodded seriously and glanced around. "This is the place."
"Looks about right," Connor agreed, noticing a fire-pit already cleared out. "Shouldn't be too hard to get something burning."
"A little tinder and I can do the rest," Melinda offered easily. "Don't think we're going to need many of my combat spells for the rest of the night." Connor nodded, setting the birds down for Melinda and Jerik to strip the feathers from as he hurried off to collect some dry grasses and wood for the fire.
Jerik let out a sigh of utter contentment as he put down the last bird bone from his meal. This place felt pretty good, so very different from the Blight only a click or so away.
"Connor, Melinda, would you mind staying here for the night? I would appreciate an opportunity to meditate. It has been far too long."
"Not at all," the mage said easily. "This is a good, safe place to rest up."
"Thank you," he inclined his head slightly. "How much privacy would you like until nightfall?"
"If we need more than the campsite offers just now, we'll set up the tent," Connor chuckled, then smiled as the youth stood and considered the small cliff that sheltered the site.
Jerik focused and made the distance to the top in a single leap assisted by a bit of Force-energy, then disappeared from sight as he found the location he wanted.
"That one is going to be a handful for whoever ends up training him." Connor observed with a bemused look at where Jerik had been near the cliff-edge.
"The best of us are," Melinda smiled. "Mage and Defender alike. I definitely think he'll do better at the Academy though; he doesn't strike me as somebody who'd do well with a lone mage and Defender. He's a social creature at heart."
"How can you tell?" He looked at his mate curiously.
"Think about what he's said," Melinda said easily. "It's normal for his people to have partners by the time they're thirteen, he didn't seem at all taken aback by the idea of partner-mates. It's normal for his people to be social, I'm sure of it. And while he might not have a partner yet, there's a feeling about him that tells me he's going to form very deep attachments to the people he cares about. He'll do better in groups, where he has more people around on his level than you do learning in a little village like ours."
"He seems to use magic very differently than you do too." He added thoughtfully. "The Academy can probably handle that better."
"Much better," Melinda agreed. "He reminds me of the old legends of the Shivrae."
"The Warrior-Mages?" He considered the cliff again thoughtfully. "He's already a fine warrior and hunter, and with the magical skill of one many years older. His people do seem to prefer to train for both. If his elders come, I do hope they are friendly."
"Especially if they come with tools anything like his," Melinda shuddered. "Though if they aren't, we've protected ourselves against threats before. Warrior-mages, even with their weapons, couldn't be worse than a demon-plague. Still, if they weren't friendly, I doubt he would be. I wonder how far from here his people are ...."
"Do you think he might be a Shivrae? We don't exactly know where they are from."
"I suppose it's possible, but that would say some really scary things about their development," Melinda mused. "We'll have to ask him. If he is, maybe we can get one of the old Ghost Paths working again, send him back home if he wants to go. But if he was Shivrae, I'd think we'd have heard about those ships before now."
"True," Connor nodded. "It's hard to tell sometimes, just how much is truth or rumor about such things."
"Especially when the last known contact was a few hundred years ago," she murmured. "At any rate, I don't think he's one of them. That ship intrigues me ... after we drop him off at the Academy, I think we might want to see if we can track it or any wreckage down. It should be in Kareptis by then."
"I hate that place," Connor sighed, a private shudder reserved for one of the few major settlements still within the Blight. "But it would be good to recover what we can."
"I know you hate it, love, but would you rather they had time to tinker with anything that might have survived?" Melinda pointed out, leaning over to give her mate an affectionate lick on the cheek. "The Blight-dwellers have a disturbing affinity for finding ways to make things work that shouldn't, after all."
"I know," he leaned into the contact. "At least Jerik's a sweet kid."
"Yeah," Melinda smiled, looking up at the young teenager where he was meditating as she leaned against Connor with a soft sigh, snuggling up against the more muscular Collie. "Glad we got there when we did; those hell hounds would have torn him apart in a few more hours."
Not far above them and out of conversation range, Jerik breathed deeply of the fresh, clean air and settled into his center. More than simply rejuvenating himself, this meditation was to find and adjust to the particular flow of Force within the area and world. Another deep breath, and he allowed some of his shields to drop, exposing himself to the ebb and flow of the Force here.
It felt strange, unlike anything he'd heard of before. He could sense the living creatures around him, the plants, but the Force didn't interact with them normally. It was more like a pond than a river; still, unmoving. Once in a while, he felt ripples in it, beings in the distance drawing on its power and disturbing the tranquility of it.
The only thing that felt the way it should constantly was the deep wound he could sense from the direction of the Blight. A deeply-set sense of death, almost like gangrene or an infected cut.
Maybe this was why he was here, to heal that damage. It seemed unlikely that many here could feel it, or at least the way he did. Melinda disliked it, regretted it, but she seemed resigned to it as well.
He had to wonder just how old it was ... it certainly seemed deeply set. Centuries at least. It was entirely wrong, but maybe they'd just gotten used to it by now.
He tried to sense some of the life forms out in the rest of the world, beyond the Blight, and got some of the strangest impressions ever. Life forms that seemed ... new, somehow. They were still a part of the Force, but it didn't seem 'comfortable' with them.
Creations, perhaps? Not by science, but by magic. As much as most magical cultures treated the Force as a tool, a source of energy and no more, it was certainly possible. He'd heard of the process before.
It would be something to check out later. It might be interesting to know what these creatures looked like.
As odd as it was, he found that it was very calming to lose himself in the Force here. Not entirely unlike a waterbed, in a way. Just then, he felt something tug and move nearby, the Force itself shifting in response to half-heard, half-felt words and motions, a flurry of activity in the once-tranquil pond.
He turned his attention that way to see an interesting variant of telekinesis and an immediate appreciation for some spell work.
Melinda didn't have to pay attention after she cast her spell to set up camp.
With the camp set and it nearly dark, it would be time to go down and rest for the evening. Overall, today was much more pleasant than his previous three on this world.
He just hoped they were right about today being more like what he'd be getting used to.
"We're approaching the village," Connor said fairly early during the next day's hike. "You ever see a Rohr before, Jerik?"
"That would depend on exactly what a Rohr is." The youth chuckled a bit sheepishly. "Some kind of Wolf-taur, right?"
"Yeah," Connor nodded easily. "Actually, think one's coming out to meet us," he said, nodding towards the tall, red and grey figure approaching from further down the trail.
"Then no, I haven't until now."
As the scout drew closer, Jerik could see that it was a female, leather wraps around her breasts and the crook where her biped upper body met with the massive lupine body that extended behind her, a long spear in her hands.
"Wow," he murmured, a bit wide-eyed but completely without fear. "I've heard of 'taurs before, but I wasn't sure they actually existed."
"Oh, we exist, little one," the Rohr scout chuckled as she trotted up to the newcomers. "And we have keen ears. Though I haven't seen anybody in clothes like yours," she observed. "A newcomer to our lands?"
"Yes, ma'am." Jerik nodded politely to her, his excitement at meeting something so different clear in his eyes and the subtle shifts of his body. "Do you know how your kind came to be?"
"Curious too," she chuckled. "I could tell you, but our shaman knows the old stories better. Is that glove of yours some sort of armor?" She asked him.
"A little armor, mostly weapon, ma'am." Jerik answered easily, his full senses taking in all the differences and similarities of this new creature to what he knew and what he'd heard of. This was what he'd sensed in the Force the night before, the creature that was part of it but not yet natural to it.
"It would be appreciated if you'd remove it before coming into the village," she said easily. "Without knowing what it's capable of, I'm sure you can understand."
He nodded and slipped it off, made a quick couple motions that folded it onto itself into a small box and slipped it into a pouch on his belt.
"Thank you," she nodded. "Well, I think we can head into the village now. It's just that none of us have seen anybody dressed like you," she explained to Jerik as Connor pulled some long cord up from the top of his scabbard and quickly peace bound his sword.
"I'd be very curious if you had," the youth grinned up at her. "It's not something anyone outside my family wears, and they're a long ways away."
"How far away?" The scout asked him curiously. "By the way; my name is Selar, of the Whistling Wind village."
"I'm Jerik, and I'm not so sure of how far."
"Pity; it could have been interesting to see if your people would be interested in trade," Selar observed.
"We're pretty sure he's from farther away than would be practical, Selar," Melinda explained easily. "We found him in the Blight. He was there because of a magical accident that was also responsible for that bright light in the sky a few days back."
"Ah," the Rohr said understandingly. "Well, you're lucky to be out of that accursed place then, Jerik."
"Definitely," his shudder was not at all faked. "Hell hounds are not fun to be running from."
"No, they're not," Selar agreed. "We've lost cubs to them before, both when they went exploring and when hunting in the Blight was bad enough they cross the borders."
Jerik couldn't help but notice the large furry orbs between her hind legs when she turned to lead them to the village not far away.
"Are all your kind both genders?" He asked curiously.
"Yes," Selar said easily. "It's how we were created, long ago."
The quartet approached a small village, large wooden buildings filling the clearing with occasional tent pitched near a half-finished structure where one was being added. More of the wolf-taurs walked around, most of them dressed in much the same way Selar was, a roughly even mix of males and females in the group.
Some of them wore long skirts that came back to cover their hindquarters, but it didn't seem to be something that mattered on a gender-basis. To judge by the intricate decorations, most of them were either decorative or ceremonial.
The Rohr occasionally stopped to look at the newcomers, their noses typically working overtime as they sniffed the air, picking up the various scents they brought with them. A pair of younger Rohr, about the size of regular wolves at the lower shoulder' trotted up towards Melinda with expressions that were equal parts respect and eager curiosity about the mage.
Before they could ask any questions though, Melinda chuckled and tapped her staff against the ground, the ruby in the tip glowing briefly before she said a sharp command word and sent what looked like a brightly flaming bird flying off from the tip, the cubs taking off after it and laughing.
"Illusion, nothing more," she told Selar as the older scout glanced back at her, the question in her eyes. "If they catch it, it won't hurt them."
"All right," Selar nodded easily, clearly trusting what Melinda had told her as the four of them approached one of the largest buildings near the center of the village.
Jerik watched them all back with equal curiosity and interest in gathering information, though he used far more than his nose.
They didn't seem to be quite up to the tech level that Melinda and Connor were probably used to. He saw a number of staves and spears, noticed that just about everybody was carrying a knife, but nobody seemed to have a sword, at least not that they were wearing. They seemed more tribal by nature, though that might have just been the distance from the settlement to a major city. Not that he knew what that was, but he didn't think they'd have stopped here if a larger city near.
"I'm going to go bargain for our supplies," Connor told Melinda quietly.
"I'll send word if the Chief gives an order not to sell," Melinda nodded before her mate broke off and quickly made his way towards a wooden house with a large stone structure nearby that smelled of oak-smoke and meat.
"There shouldn't be any trouble," Selar reassured her. "Hunting has been good lately, and we just brought in a fresh harvest of grain-grass two weeks ago."
"Good to know," Melinda smiled as they reached the main building, Selar knocking on the door. It opened a few moments later, revealing another Rohr female, this one wearing a richly embroidered skirt that covered her lower body.
"Welcome back, Selar," she said easily. "I take it these are the newcomers you went to meet?"
"Yes, Jenra," Selar nodded. "Lady Melinda, Jerik, this is Jenra, the village's shaman."
"Good to see you again," Melinda smiled, inclining her head respectfully to the shaman. "I hope your husband is well?"
"Grumpy, but well," Jenra chuckled, glancing at Jerik appraisingly, looking the young man in the strange outfit over quickly and sensing the untapped power in him. "Eager to get out of the house again, even though it's another month at least."
"And people wonder why Connor and I haven't had pups yet," Melinda chuckled. "May we come in, or are you busy?"
"Come in, please," the shaman said easily, backing away from the door. "I'm guessing that your young friend is curious about my people?"
"Yes," Melinda nodded after a moment to realize that Jerik did have enough manners not to break into a conversation between his elders. There was no doubt that the youth was beyond curious, though.
"Take a seat then," Jenra offered easily, indicating a number of low, plush mats and couches in the main room, a second room set off with a curtain in the doorway.
"If you don't need anything brought to the house Jenra," Selar said easily, "I'll be back to my patrol. Give Father my best wishes."
"I will," Jenra nodded with a smile. "Thank you, Selar." The scout turned, trotting away as Jenra closed the door and turned around, making her way to one of the large, thick mats and settling down on it.
"So, Jerik," the shaman said easily. "What is it you're most curious about?"
"How did you come to be, ma'am?" He asked and sat down on a mat with Melinda.
"Please, call me Jenra," the Rohr said with a smile for him. "We aren't really sticklers for titles. As for your question ... it depends, in part, on who you ask. There is a bit of disagreement about some of the particulars. Would you like the full story, or the condensed version?"
"The condensed one, please." He chose, sensing as much as knowing that the full version could well take a couple days to finish.
"All right," Jenra nodded, leaning back comfortably. "The short version is that Marash, the Great Mother, created the Rohr from the great wolves that roamed Her territory. We were not the first race She had created, but we were Her first people. For some time, Marash and the Rohr ruled the plains, challenged only by the greatest of beasts. The Old People of the cities and villages were allowed to pass through, and we would trade with them from time to time, but for the most part, the Old People and the Rohr were strangers to each other.
"Then the Great War began. Marash was driven away by the Blighted One, and the Rohr were left to face Him alone. The Old People didn't realize the threat He posed until the Rohr were forced back into their lands by His armies. When this happened, when they saw that He planned to reduce all to waste, they worked with us against Him. We fought hard, and many people perished against the forces of the Blighted One. But in time, He was driven back, out of the lands of the Rohr. We were preparing to defeat Him for once and for all when He unleashed the great magic that created the Blight.
"Most of those who survived left the wastelands. The Rohr returned to our ancestral lands, but without Marash, we needed help to survive as we once had. We began to interact more with the Old People, and over time, befriended them. Through trade and learning each other's ways, the Rohr became the people they are today."
"Who, and what, was Marash?" Jerik asked, fascinated by a creation story that was likely accurate.
"That is where the debate begins," Jenra said easily. "For most of our people's history, we have believed that Marash was a goddess. However, over the last few generations, some have suggested that she was instead a powerful mage. I tend to believe she was a mage, myself. Of course, after a certain point, the difference between goddess and powerful mage is blurred."
"Particularly going back to the times before the Blight," Melinda nodded. "The Blighted One was responsible for the deaths of many of the most powerful mages, most of whom had unique knowledge that we haven't been able to decipher from their notes yet."
That swiveled Jerik's ears over to the Collie, his face following a moment later with a curiosity heightened by surprise. "How, after so long?"
"The ancient mages were very careful about their notes," she explained. "They used coding methods that would fight the efforts of each other to decode them, let alone less powerful wizards. It's not a simple matter of figuring out the codes, because the codes shift periodically. Some of them even rewrite themselves after each attempt to break one of the cipher spells. It's very ... irritating work. Humbling, but irritating."
"And others, if they were mages, never left behind notes that have been found," Jenra added. "Marash was one of those. According to our legends, she was adamant that the secret of creating new life was one that could never be allowed to spread. Given what happened with the Blighted One, I must agree."
Jerik nodded, filing that in the back of his mind to see if he could get a look at some later and give things a try with logic and Force, rather than spells and local thinking. It was hard to protect against what you didn't know about, after all, and he had broken ciphers that were considered unbreakable. He wasn't anything as good as Cypher, but he was one of her students.
His mind wandered back to the curiosity he had when he first saw the scout, and just how inappropriate it probably was.
"Is there a question you're not sure if you should ask?" Jenra asked him easily.
"Yes, ma'am." He startled. "I ... I'm curious how you are put together."
"More than you can gather just looking at one of us dressed?" She guessed, not sounding at all put out by the question.
He nodded seriously, encouraged by her reaction. "Your husband is pregnant, from what I understand. It's kind of hard to wrap my brain around that idea."
"We're used to that," Jenra chuckled. "Actually, both genders can have children among our people. My first son is already training at the Defender's guild, and my daughters have moved out while my husband carries this litter. If you'd like to see him, and he's awake, I could ask if he feels up for visitors."
"I would appreciate that, Jenra." Jerik inclined his head to her in respect and thanks.
"Not a problem," she smiled, standing up, supporting her upper body with her arms as her wolf-body stood, then lifting her long torso up to go to the second room, looking through the curtain.
"He's still napping, but to judge by his belly, the pups should be waking him up soon. If you want, you could take a look at me to compare when he's awake," she offered. "It's not particularly smart to be in the room and not family when he's waking up like this," she chuckled.
"I would like to, Jenra." He nodded, excited by the opportunity to get a close look at a body design so different from what he knew.
"Definitely mage material," Melinda chuckled as Jenra started to undress without any sign of embarrassment or that this was inappropriate. She removed the leather wraps around her breasts first, set them aside and reached down to lift her decorative skirt up. It revealed that her forebody was fully female, her sex just visible between her forelegs as she pulled it up over her upper body and head and set it to the side with more care than the wraps.
"May I touch?" Jerik asked softly.
"Just be careful," Jenra said easily, her tone suggesting this wasn't the first time she'd had a conversation like this one. "I'll let you know if you touch anything you shouldn't or a little too hard. All in all, we're not normal for hermaphrodites, but each half of our body is built more or less like its more normal counterpart."
"You say you are a hermaphrodite, but you use the male/female designation of other races?" Jerik glanced up and ran one hand slowly down the center of Jenra's chest and abdomen, using the Force as much as his eyes and touch to get a grip on her anatomy and how it went together so nicely.
"Most hermaphrodites don't have two clearly different versions of their 'gender,'" she pointed out. "We call ourselves by the gender of our forebodies; it's easier to tell the difference."
"I'm still amazed how comfortable you are with this sort of thing," Melinda chuckled, shaking her head slightly.
"Just one of the differences between Rohr and the Old People," Jenra chuckled a little indulgently. "We just don't feel the need to cover ourselves."
"Because you were created to be attractive?" Jerik guessed.
"Quite," Jenra agreed with a smile as Jerik's hands moved along the above-his-head-height lines of her wolf-body sides. "Goddess or mage, Marash created us in the image she desired of us. We wear clothes mainly for decoration, comfort, and to appease the Old People. We get used to it quickly enough."
"Clothing does have its usefulness beyond modesty." Jerik chuckled softly, his head tipped slightly to one side to get a look at her male parts at the far end of her body.
"And we use it for that," she agreed as he looked down at the large sheath between her hind legs and moved on. "Are you figuring out what you were curious about?" She asked him.
"Yes, ma'am." He stepped back and smiled up at her. "Thank you."
"Not a problem," she said easily, glad to know she'd been right about his curiosity being just that. "Would you help me with my skirt?" She asked him, picking up her wraps and donning them with practiced ease.
"Sure," he grinned and did his best to anticipate where his hands would be most useful in putting the large garment back on.
She picked it up, handing him the rear portion.
"Move around back; I mostly need somebody to make sure nothing catches on my hips or tail," she explained as she picked up the front part and got ready to lift it over her head. A low grumble came from the other room, and she chuckled.
"Then we can see if my husband's up for a brief visit."
"Yes, ma'am." Jerik nodded and helped her guide the garment. "I remember when my mother was pregnant last year. She was always grumpy."
"There are some who handle pregnancy well," Jenra chuckled, finishing dressing and shaking a bit to get it to settle down comfortably. "And then there are those of us for whom only the reward of holding the newborns is worth the months of inconvenience and hours or days of excruciating pain."
She walked over to the room, poking her head under the curtain and into the second room.
"Ryk?" She asked. "Up to meeting somebody who's still trying to figure out how males can be pregnant?"
There was something resembling a sleepy mutter from the other side before Jenra chuckled and stepped out.
"He's willing to see the two of you, just don't be too noisy for a bit," she said easily, pulling the curtain aside to let Jerik through as Melinda stood, leaving her staff up against the wall.
"Understood." Jerik nodded seriously and slipped into the other room.
The young Kat entered the room just ahead of the Collie, seeing a long, large Rohr male stretched out on his side on a thick mat, surrounded by a few blankets and other soft things for comfort. He stretched his upper body out languidly, the belly of his lower body clearly very full and pregnant as he propped his upper body up on an elbow and looked over at Jerik and Melinda.
"Good to see you again, Melinda," he said easily. "I take it the kit is the newcomer?"
"Yes, we found him in the Blight a few days ago." She nodded easily as Jerik waited patiently. "This is Jerik."
"Good to meet you," the nude male Rohr said easily with a nod to him. "Consider yourself lucky you won't have to go through this yourself," he added with a chuckle. "At this rate, we might well be stopping after this next litter."
"I am," he nodded seriously, his curiosity bright in his amber eyes. "It sounds like it's rough no matter who carries the pups."
"It is, though easier for me than for Jenra," Ryk admitted. "Just waited too long to have my first litter. Lucky I have the best midwife in the village to help me," he said with a warm smile for his wife, waiting just outside the room.
"I told you that you should have had the second one," she chuckled.
"Yeah, well we can thank the Whispering Cairn tribe for why I didn't," Ryk chuckled, shaking his head. "Don't know how much you're interested in Rohr politics, Jerik, but it's complicated trying to lead a tribe and have a life at the same time. Fairly universal, except that we try more than most other species I've met."
"Why did they stop you?" Jerik asked curiously as he watched the pups move inside Ryk's extended belly.
"We've been traditional enemies for generations now," Ryk explained. "Territorial disputes and the like. Being pregnant makes you effectively immune to challenges for rank, but once in a while you'll come across people who try to say that you're using it to 'hide' from your duties as Chieftain. Given the Cairn's relationship with us, I didn't want to take the chance they'd lure any of the tribe over by arguing that their Chief would have proven she was stronger if she'd had the chance. The charm I used to avoid going into season didn't wear off until last year."
"My magic isn't quite as predictable as what mages practice," Jenra explained. "But it usually means there's a good reason it worked out the way it did."
Jerik nodded. "That is how my family views it. Things generally happen for a reason."
"Much healthier way of looking at things than bemoaning your fate," Jenra chuckled, her ear flicking slightly. "I think your Defender is done fetching supplies, Melinda. Is there anything else you wanted to ask about, Jerik?"
"No," he smiled at them both. "Thank you for your time and indulgence."
"No problem," Jenra said easily.
"I hope the pups are healthy and the birth an easy one," Melinda said to Ryk, smiling at the pregnant male. "If you want some extra help, just send word to the Academy and we'll send out one of our midwives."
"It should go fine," the Chieftain said easily, shaking his head. "When you get back, tell Tomar we're still waiting for a letter back," he chuckled.
"Pups," Melinda said, shaking her head with a chuckle of her own as they turned to leave, meeting Connor at the outer door.
"So, ready to head out?" The male Collie asked them easily, his pack clearly heavier than it had been when they arrived.
"Yes," Melinda nodded, Jerik's more subtle nod not far behind. She couldn't help but smile at the kit, his mind working overtime on everything he'd just learned.
"Let's head back home then," Connor nodded, the three of them turning to leave as Melinda claimed her staff and they made their way from the village.
A Heritage of Power 4: Jerik's Story 1: Walking Between Worlds
Het Level is Low Slash Level is Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
57 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written December 5, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: Herath, Star Wars (Furry)
Primary Races: Canine, Kat
Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Violence
Blurb: Jay's grandson Jerik was conceived after his father's death, so he has neither the family gift nor the Demon, though he does have a strong magical talent. It is a talent that will serve him well when he crashes on the primitive world of Herath.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
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