A Heritage of Power 4: Jerik's Story 9.99:
Enchanting a Staff

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/H and F/H
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"Hey Jerik!" Tomar called out to the younger tom as the two of them looked for a good camping spot, almost a week after they'd left the Academy so he could work on his staff. "How does this spot look?"

Jerik turned to look at the location, first for its practicality in the physical world, then for how it felt in the Force.

"It feels good." He called back and joined his partner in setting up the minimal camping gear they had. They didn't have much magic, but it was a lot more than Jerik had ever used before. The tent broke even with what he was used to. It was weather and windproof, but that was it. He had one of the endless waterskins he'd wanted for months, and they'd been given gruel spoons for when hunting was bad. They didn't provide anything you wanted to eat, it was flavorless gruel, but it was nutritious and warm.

The rest of what had been stuffed into Tomar's bag of holding were normal supplies and rations, enough to last them their entire planned trip and a few days more. Even with the magic, neither Rohr nor Kat wanted to have to rely on it too much.

"About how long you think the enchanting will take you?" He asked, sniffing the air and finishing the tent, before pulling a shovel out to dig a shallow firepit for them.

"Week and a half, give or take a few days." He answered and set up the inside of their tent with padding and blankets. "How does the hunting seem to you?"

"Pretty good," Tomar decided. "They're certainly active, even with us around. I have a feeling we'll be getting home right in front of winter."

"Good on both counts." Jerik nodded. "Feel up to catching something big enough for a few days?"

"Fresh venison sound good?" Tomar asked with a grin as he took a deep breath. "Think there's some around here I could track down while you set all your stuff up."

"Sounds very good," Jerik grinned at him. "And it's something we can both cook up some good meals with."

"I'll go hunting then," Tomar grinned back, setting his pack down and pulling out his short bow and a quiver of arrows. "See you in a few hours, probably."

"I'll be looking forward to it." Jerik grinned at him before Tomar trotted off to gather their fresh rations. "And while you're doing that, I'll be finding some fresh berries and herbs to go with it."

"So, how'd your afternoon go?" Tomar asked Jerik as the deer he'd caught earlier drained from the branches of a nearby tree. A pair of rabbits were roasting over their fire for dinner as their hides dried.

"Productive." He grinned as stuck another branch of fragrant herbs into the rabbits as they turned. "Everything is ready to start the enchantment process in the morning. I do hope you brought something to entertain yourself with."

"I'm under orders to make sure I don't fall behind on my training," Tomar chuckled. "So along with making sure nothing goes wrong here, I'll probably be working on my hunting skills; it's hard to train yourself not to get caught in an ambush around the Academy."

That raised an eyebrow. "How come? I'd think there would be plenty of openings for that, and plenty of people to do it with."

"Oh, plenty of people," Tomar chuckled. "But you need to be in a setting where you learn what to listen for, and where you can be sure nobody else is going to try and play hero. Sure, you can do some work in the city, but from what I heard the last time they set up an ambush scenario, Ein just about bludgeoned the poor schmuck playing the bandit half to death with a roasting spit."

Jerik couldn't help but snicker at the mental image. "I see your point there."

"Yeah," Tomar chuckled. "So part of the training is usually spending a lot of time getting used to what things should or shouldn't sound like. It's better to learn to be alert than to learn how to fight when you're not alert enough," he said, clearly a saying he'd been drilled in believing for some time. "We have the right place for you to work then?" He asked, checking the rabbits and deciding they were done, then pulled out the field plates from his pack for the two of them.

"Yes, it is." Jerik accepted his rabbit and happily began to munch down on the flavorful meat. "So this is camp for a week and some."

"Hey, works for me," Tomar grinned. "It's comfortable ... well defended ... I'll want to set up a few simple alarms before we go to bed for the night, but that's about all it needs, unless you've still got an alarm spell handy."

"Yap," he nodded easily. "Set it up while you were out hunting."

"That'll make it a lot easier," the Rohr smiled. "Two people just is not enough to keep a decent watch set. Any idea what you're going to name your staff?"

"Kaul," he chuckled a bit sheepishly. "Have no idea what it means, but it sounds right."

"Hey, if the meaning gets important, I'm sure you'll figure it out," Tomar smiled, leaning over to lick Jerik's cheek lightly. "What's important is that it's the right name, right?"

"Yeah, it is." He turned into the contact for a soft kiss that tasted of their rabbit meal. "It'll be a little like having my ship back. She'd talk all the time."

"Is that something a lot of technology does?" Tomar asked curiously, eating his own meal with pleasure. There was something that made a self-caught meal all the more satisfying, especially when it was the first fresh food you'd had that day.

"Some of it," Jerik nodded. "Generally the really advanced items."

"At least it's not everything," Tomar chuckled. "Don't know what I'd do if my sword started talking to me."

"You'd get used to it," Jerik snickered and snuggled close to his partner. "There is something very enjoyable about a campfire, fresh caught meal and a good friend to share it with."

"Yeah," the Rohr rumbled, snuggling back up against Jerik with a happy sigh, wrapping an arm around them as they watched the fire and discarded the remains of their meals. "Mmm ... just think ... we'll be able to do this all the time in a few years."

"True," he smiled in contentment. "In a few years I'll be able to take Rohr form too, when it suits us."

"For a while at least," Tomar smiled. "You wouldn't have to though, on my account."

"No, but it could be fun. A few years more and you wouldn't have to actually find a female for cubs." He added a bit more hesitantly. "Just something to think about. It's a ways off."

"Something you'd like, you think?" Tomar asked Jerik softly.

"Yes," Jerik turned his head to nuzzle him. "I think I would like that. Cubs by both of us."

"Mmm ... one of these days," Tomar rumbled happily, returning the nuzzle. "Neither of us is near ready for that yet though," he chuckled.

"No, not for several years yet." Jerik chuckled softly. "We have at least a decade before we can even think about it. Two if we're going to be realistic about caring for them."

"Which we would definitely have to be," Tomar nodded seriously. "Don't worry; I'm not looking at becoming a mother or a father any time soon."

"Good, finances aside, we'll both still be too young to be parents even when it's possible." He nodded. "But for practicing for it ..." He grinned up.

"Mmm ... that's been my line lately, I thought," Tomar chuckled, kissing Jerik lightly. "You want to be on top, I assume?"

"Umm, yeah." He ducked his head slightly. "I'm kinda pushing the limit there, aren't I?"

"Nah," Tomar chuckled, kissing Jerik's forehead. "Though one of these days, when you can shift to other people's shapes too, maybe we can see about putting me on two legs long enough I wouldn't crush you."

"I'll be able to shift my own to something more suitable first," he nuzzled Tomar's neck and gently slipped a finger under his leathers. "For now though, you do seem to respond to my touch well enough." He purred softly.

"Mmm ... that's 'cause I enjoy it," Tomar rumbled, slipping Jerik's light robes off of him. He caught a look from his partner, one he recognized well as the tom having thought of something.

"I had a thought on you topping, if you want to try it." Jerik offered shyly.

"Yeah?" Tomar asked, his ears perking up slightly as Jerik got his leathers off and claimed a warm, wet kiss.

"Yeah, if you don't mind a bit of a shapeshift for me."

"As long as you're sure it'll last long enough," Tomar said easily, nuzzling Jerik's neck. "You still smell like you, right now at least."

"As long as you're ready when I start, I think there should be plenty of time." He purred and gently began to stroke Tomar's sheath.

"Mmm ... what are you gonna be?" Tomar asked as his sheath started filling out. "Or is it gonna be a surprise?"

"That fem form I've been working on." He explained easily. "She can ride you easily enough, face to face."

"Okay," Tomar blushed, moaning softly as Jerik slipped a finger into his sheath to tease his shaft. "Mmm ... you were pretty like that."

"Thanks," he took his time in teasing his lover from his sheath. "I like her too."

"Mmm ... so, is she just a different look, or a whole different person, when you're done with her?" Tomar asked, groaning as his shaft slipped out and into Jerik's hand.

"She's a female version of me. So yes and no." He murmured, happily intoxicated by Tomar's arousal and the excitement of turning him on so much.

"Mmm ... still you," Tomar rumbled deeply, licking his neck. He reaching into the tom's light pants to stroke his sheath. "This is good."

"Yes, still me." He rumbled eagerly. "It will always be me."

"All that matters then," Tomar murmured, kissing Jerik tenderly as he slid the tom's pants off and reached up to fondle his balls lightly.

"Yes," Jerik let his head fall back slightly as he spread his legs a bit more and tried to focus on working his partner to hardness. Before long, Tomar's shaft was rigid, his knot slightly swollen as his lupine muzzle pressed against Jerik's feline one in a heated kiss.

Jerik broke the contact with a hungry groan and stepped back to cast the alter self spell and mold his body into his female one, making it slightly taller than usual to fit with Tomar's that much better. Without much else of a pause he stepped close again to reclaim the kiss and press against Tomar's chest while he shifted to guide the lupine's cock into his slick, twitching female sex.

He swallowed Tomar's groan of pleasure, savoring the feel of the hot, thick shaft inside his body. The Rohr wrapped his arms around him, curling his fingers to scratch Jerik's back through his shorter fur, gradually starting to thrust forcefully into him.

"Oh, Skies." Jerik cried out at the intensity, his body trembling at the strength of the mating and just how good it felt to be filled like this. He gripped Tomar tightly with his entire body, his female sex squeezing down on the large cock inside him, making the ripples of pleasure that much more intense. "Ohhh."

"Fuck," Tomar groaned, thrusting in and out of Jerik's new sex with abandon. "So tight!"

"So good." Jerik cried out at a ripple of muscle that nearly paralyzed him with the pleasure rushing through him. He closed his jaws around Tomar's shoulder and surrendered completely to the orgasm that raced from the base of his tail to the top of his brain. It only intensified when Tomar pressed up hard, groaning as his knot slipped into Jerik's pussy, throbbing hard against his flesh. Jerik felt a spray of hot Rohr cum into his body, the fluid filling his artificial sex.

"Oh, wow." Jerik murmured, trembling in Tomar's arms as they enjoyed the feeling of being so intimately joined.

"Now y'have an idea what it's like for me," Tomar rumbled, licking Jake's cheek. "Mmm ... how long we have?"

"Two or three minutes." He murmured, his eyes going wide for a second as he realized that wasn't anything close to long enough for the knot to shrink enough. "Shu ... it's okay. Just let me focus." He closed his eyes and carefully adjusted the bones of his new hips wide enough that he could pull up and off the knot and still-hard cock before the spell ended.

Tomar groaned, his spent shaft drooping as the Rohr hugged Jerik close to him, tilting his head down to lick his breasts before the spell wore off.

"Fun?" He asked with a bit of a loopy grin as Jerik shifted back.

"Very," he murmured with a slight shudder and another kiss. "Never thought it could be that good."

"Mmm ... love you," Tomar murmured, snuggling close to his partner.

"I love you, Tomar." Jerik murmured in return, perfectly content to stay by the fire for a while before heading to bed.

Tomar smiled softly as he looked at Jerik, still sleeping in their half-open tent as dawn very slowly broke over the forest a few days into their camping. The Rohr spitted a couple of large fish and pieces of venison for their breakfast, building a slow-burning fire to roast them over time. With breakfast cooking, Tomar returned to the inside of the tent, laying down next to Jerik and running a hand down his naked chest lightly. Even with only two weeks of being lovers, months of sleeping near each other had taught him that it was a touch the tom enjoyed most, even in his sleep. Today was no different, and he began to purr softly.

He was exhausted lately; three days of steady enchanting work was taking its toll on him. He wasn't irritable, but he was very clearly tired. Tomar could tell that he needed a little pampering ... hence the fresh breakfast, with fish caught not even an hour ago. And hence what he was planning on doing next.

The Rohr rumbled softly, nuzzling Jerik's chest and reaching down to rub his sheath lightly. Jerik would usually be waking up soon, and Tomar wanted to be sure that today, he had something well worth waking up for. From the way Jerik's body was responding, a deep purr and shifting into the touch, it was likely working.

"Mmmm," Jerik murmured, not yet awake, but conscious enough to enjoy what was happening.

Exactly how Tomar wanted him just now.

The Rohr kissed his way down his partner's chest, fondling his sheath, pausing to pay special attention to Jerik's nipples before moving further down his body, intent on the tom's sheath and the swelling within. He grinned slightly when Jerik groggily moved a hand down to scratch his ears and shifted to make the trip a little easier.

He nuzzled just above Jerik's sheath lightly, then slipped his broad, velvety tongue down into the furry pouch, shifting his hand to his balls.

"Oh yeah." Jerik moaned softly and spread his legs a bit more.

As his shaft emerged, it met Tomar's broad, velvety tongue, pressed it out of his sheath and hardening into the Rohr's mouth, where he lavished it with loving attention while Jerik moaned and gently rubbed his ears in encouragement. It didn't take long before Tomar recognized the bitter taste of pre-come on his tongue and the shift in tenor of his lover's moans.

He reached down, lightly tracing a fingertip around the pucker of Jerik's ass, suckling him hard and bobbing his head up and down his shaft.

"Ohhhh," Jerik groaned deeply, his body arched up as he began to thrust into the hot, wet mouth pleasuring him. "Oh, yess." He shuddered and continued to work Tomar's ears.

He cried out sharply as his balls tightened to pump their contents into Tomar's willing mouth.

The Rohr swallowed it easily, lavishing Jerik's shaft with attention through his orgasm, wrapping an arm around his waist in a hug before licking him clean and smiling mischievously up at the tom.

"Mmm ... breakfast's ready," he grinned, eyes twinkling playfully.

"Good," he grinned a little loopily. "I like your idea of an appetizer." He purred and kissed his partner as he slid up to his knees.

"Mmm ... maybe you'll like my idea of dessert too," the Wolf-taur winked, leaning his upper body up, his hind-body still sitting, though his arousal was more than clear to Jerik. "But breakfast first, I think."

"I think so, to both." He chuckled and slid his hand along Tomar's balls and sheath as he stood. "They both smell good."

"Mmm ... food first, before it burns," Tomar repeated, chuckling and kissing Jerik deeply, more than a little tempted to forget that advice.

"Yes, and snuggling for a bit longer while we're doing that." He agreed with a chuckled and slipped out of their tent, Tomar right behind him. "Maybe try something out I thought of last night." He added with a wink.

"Oh? And what might that be?" Tomar asked with a bit of a grin as he stepped ahead to get the fish and venison out of the fire they'd been roasting near. "Thought you'd like something more than just deer for once."

"Smells, and sounds, great." Jerik grinned and sat down before accepting his skewered fish. "And it was a way to play with you both ways at once."

"Now that sounds interesting," Tomar grinned back, laying down and taking a bite, snuggling up next to his partner as they enjoyed his efforts at breakfast.

"Only catch is that you have to be on your back." Jerik added between bites of the fresh fish. "I think I can be inside your female end and suck your male end off at the same time."

"Well, we can certainly try it," Tomar smiled, kissing Jerik lightly. "Mmm ... not that I really want to change the subject just now, but how's your staff going?"

"It's basically on schedule. I should be done in another four days if nothing goes wrong." He grinned up. "Then a couple days to rest up and head home for a real bed at night."

"Reconsidering whether or not you want to spend the rest of your career doing this?" Tomar asked with a chuckle.

"By the time it's a career out here, we'll have the magic and skills to make it a lot more comfortable." Jerik nuzzled him. "Right now, I'll be glad to see our bed and better temperature controls again."

"That I'll give you," Tomar chuckled. "Have you put any thought into what sort of things you want to do then?"

"Maybe find a territory that needs us, maybe try to hunt the Blight out of monsters." He rambled.

"You do not have problems with ambition, do you?" Tomar chuckled, shaking his head slightly. "Any thoughts on where we should look for territory? Maybe somewhere in Rohr country?"

"When you grow up in my family, that's not ambition, it's basic duties." Jerik laughed easily and reached up to scratch Tomar's chest. "As long as there are Cats around too. I like your kind, but I want some of my own around too. Your mother is near the Blight border too."

"Not sure if I'm gonna want to be that close to home right away," Tomar admitted. "Eventually though, maybe. By the way, would you mind paying a visit some time after winter?"

"I can't think of a reason to mind," he smiled up and reached for the venison to cut it up for them. "We got along well, and I'd like to meet the pups."

"Same reason here," Tomar smiled. "Want to wait until after their first winter, but I'm expecting a letter by the time we're back saying they were born at least."

"Waiting also makes the travel easier and the visit more fun without the cold to bother us." Jerik nodded, then tensed sharply. "Something's coming." He whispered as he gathered spell-energy.

"Can you tell if it's friendly or not?" Tomar asked, turning and reaching for his spare sword near the tent.

"Animal." He shook his head and gathered a deflection spell to change the beast's path if it charged. "Scared, maybe."

"Probably smells the fire and meat," Tomar mused quietly. "Let's get back towards the tent."

Jerik's eyes went wide and he grabbed the Force to help him pull Tomar with him in a leap for the tent even as the deflection spell went off. It did it's job, shifting the path of a dozen or more large elk that had a small fire at the tip of each antler point of their impressive racks.

"Holy ...." Tomar trailed off as they landed hard and heavily. "Candle-elk? Why would they be moving this early ...?"

"I think I'm going to put a out a second parameter to our camp." Jerik said quietly, his gaze on the light he could see from the candle elk as they disappeared into the trees. "Give us more warning if whatever spooked them comes this way."

"Right," Tomar nodded slightly. "They're beautiful though," he observed.

"That they are," he nodded. "I wonder how they survive, being so conspicuous to predators and hunters."

"From what I've heard, those fires aren't just for decoration," Tomar explained. "They're supposed to be a good omen ... not sure what a dozen of them stampeding through your camp means, but they're supposed to be a good omen," he chuckled.

"I'm sure it will make a good story for when we get back. Quasma will no doubt have plenty to say on it soon enough." Jerik grinned and moved to retrieve the rest of their breakfast from where it had been dropped. "At least they didn't break anything."

"No kidding," Tomar nodded. "Would've been a disaster if your staff had been in the way."

"Weeks of work to redo," he shivered at the idea. "One reason it stays in the tent, and near me. That is an investment of energy almost as significant as my father put into his jet."

"Your step-father, you mean?" Tomar asked him, hoping he wasn't going to push him in a direction he didn't want to go.

"Yes," Jerik nodded and handed Tomar his portion of venison. "He's the only father I ever knew."

"I understand," Tomar nodded, taking the offered meat. "It makes sense, really. I've just had it drilled into my head pretty well to always be clear about it; happens when your little sister's going to be calling your mother her father."

"I bet," Jerik grinned and settled back down to finish breakfast; grateful that camp had been disturbed as little as it had been by the herd. "It'll get complicated for us too, given the shifting involved."

"Probably about the same as my people do it," Tomar shrugged slightly, finishing off his meat. "I'll probably be carrying most of them, given what very little I know about shapeshifting magic. I'd be the mother, you'd be the father."

"For the pups, to be sure," Jerik nodded after going to work on his venison. "For kittens though, I'll probably be the mother."

"Brave soul, to judge by how my father's describing it," Tomar chuckled, kissing Jerik's cheek lightly, nuzzling his neck. "Mmm ... you'll be a fine parent though, I'm sure. Once you've grown up a bit for it."

"Thanks," Jerik smiled and turned into the kiss. "I'm not about to change you into a Kat for a year for kittens by both of us. Not unless you really want to do it that way."

"Mmm ... I don't think so," Tomar chuckled. "Not without some other reason to drop half my body and most of my fighting skill. Speaking of which, think we'll be able to start on our team-practice once we get back?" The Rohr asked Jerik hopefully.

"I hope so," Jerik nodded as he finished the meat. "I'd like at least some time to work on it before Quasma's hunt starts."

"Good," Tomar smiled, running a hand down Jerik's side. "Now, as I remember, you had some interesting thoughts for dessert ...." He winked, licking Jerik's ear.

"Yes," the tom laughed playfully and turned to slide his hand along Tomar's sheath, earning a hungry rurr and tender kiss from his partner before they rolled back to enjoy each other.

Jerik sighed. It was hours before dawn, hours after dark, and he wasn't going to be sleeping anytime soon. It wasn't much of a surprise. Life was moving fast, he hadn't had much time to think and a lot had happened in the past seven months.

It was time to spend a night or two meditating until his mind was clear.

With a gentle kiss and whisper to his Defender and lover, he slipped from the Rohr's embrace and out of the tend. He draped a light robe around him against the nippy wind and breathed the fire back to life with a touch of magic before settling down a few feet from it where he could hear the babble of the creek nearby just as clearly as the crackle of the fire.

What was happening to him? Life hadn't been simple back home, it almost never was ... but it hadn't been this strange.

Of course, being an alien world never made things anything less than very strange. It was the nature of the event.

Tomar ... as much as he honestly liked him, he couldn't help but feel it wasn't so much a choice as instinct and need. Just because he didn't have the family Demon haunting him, didn't mean he didn't have the instincts that had developed to counter it and keep his kin on the good side.

He couldn't really mind either. Tomar was a good person, and a good partner. He cared, he was fun to be with ... the lovers part had come years before he had really wanted it and with a male ... a gender he really wasn't all that attracted to normally ... but he couldn't really object either. That Tomar was part female too didn't hurt that, but it was weird.

There were times he thought about trying to talk about it with him ... but he wasn't honestly sure how. After all, it's not like Tomar was the one who'd pushed for the two of them to end up in bed together. It wasn't like with Quasma ... she hadn't really pushed either, granted, but it had also been a once-off.

At least he was older than his grandfather'd been, from what he remembered, even if by less than a year.

That was something nice about this world. No one looked at him funny for having been with a female at his age. No one would hassle him in years to come as it became more obvious he just wasn't interested in males like almost his entire family. Even as young as he was, folks at home had noticed already, and commented, on his unusual interest in females.

It was a pressure he had been keenly aware of. His parents loved him, but being one of the only of his family that couldn't talk to machines was alienating enough. To be marked as a sexual deviant was even worse. Biology itself said he shouldn't have noticed females for a year or two yet, but he'd been interested in them since he was ten.

It made being able to shapeshift even more appealing. He could deal with sex with a male that way.

That was part of it; accepting that he felt more accepted here than at home.

His family cared for him, loved him, but he was different.

Here, they didn't care. Not really. There was some insistence on going with the local standards, but that was just training, not ability or sexuality.

And Tomar ... his partner didn't care that he turned into a she for the Rohr to top. It was a real relief. It would have been unpleasant to explain to a lover that some normal sex just didn't work.

They'd have to work on the time limit, but that would come with practice and time. Tomar seemed ready and willing to accept just about anything Jerik wanted, honestly ....

Now that was a little worrying. He was sure that Tomar would say if he had any strenuous objections to something, but there was no way to be sure until it came up. Jerik was more used to the idea of his partner being an equal ... but Tomar seemed perfectly willing to be a subordinate to him.

It was something to work on, and it would probably lighten up once Tomar wasn't hearing it every day from his teachers. Time could fix that. Time and Jerik's own behavior. If Tomar was treated as an equal, he'd eventually get used to it.

He felt his alarm spell go off in his head, looking around warily as something large walked through the perimeter of his camp. Gradually, he made out a shape on the other side of the small fire that was burning ... and a dozen pinpoints of light glowing where they shouldn't be.

As he watched, a candle-elk cautiously approached the fire, watching Jerik warily, lowering its head slightly towards the grass beneath it.

The tom smiled slightly and held very still, pleased at the opportunity to watch the magnificent creature peacefully for a time.

Convinced that it wasn't dangerous, the creature continued to reach down, grazing a bit near the fire, light playing along its rich brown fur. It bit off some grass, chewing it, watching Jerik and its surroundings to make sure the Kat didn't do anything threatening. The young tom felt that the animal was friendly, if nervous.

Typical of any prey species.

Jerik focused a little more on projecting an aura of non-threatening friendliness, hoping that the candle elk might relax enough to approach him. Maybe close enough to be touched.

It looked up at him as it felt the Force presence stretched out to it, candle-flames glittering at the end of its antlers as a breeze blew by, but they didn't go out. It cautiously stepped closer, intrigued, attracted to the magic nearby.

Jerik privately wondered who had created it; the species couldn't have occurred as a result of anything but magic.

It wasn't nearly as strange as the Rohr or griffons, but it all but exuded its magical nature even without the little fires.

He slowly pulled up a little grass near his hand and gradually offered the grass in his hand to the large herbivore.

It considered him, but reached out, taking the offered grass and another step closer to Jerik, nuzzling his hand lightly. He could feel the warmth from its antlers, see the fire really was real, not just some sort of illusion.

A good omen, hmm? Well ... when he thought about it, the fact that a herd of them didn't burn the forest down just might count. Plus any critter created by magic was likely to be either good or bad.

Right now though, he was simply beautiful to be this close to, and utterly thrilling to have fed.

He took a risk and moved his hand slowly to gently stroke the candle elk's muzzle.

It tolerated the touch, though its eyes were fixed on Jerik's as he stroked its face lightly. For a moment, all of Herath, all Jerik's issues, seemed to go away, leaving the boy and the magical elk alone for a quiet moment. It felt as much like a dream as anything, a moment he knew he'd treasure forever.

Like all good dreams, it was soon over with the bellow of another candle elk that this one lifted his head to answer, then trotted away.

He caught Tomar glance out the tent, assess the situation for what it was, and retreated to curl up back in their blankets against the slight chill in the air.

Jerik had to smile at that, then settled back into a light meditative trance and was hit with the full grief he hadn't even acknowledged yet. The loss of his Ko's-Ri. He'd built it himself, a real accomplishment for one without the Gift. It was also something almost any of his kin could fix in a few hours of molding local materials into the item. No technology base needed.

To him ... it was broken. The crystals were fine, the parts weren't actually destroyed, but the power cell was ruined, and worse, the delicate connections inside had broken. Even if he could recharge his power cell, he'd get intermittent function out of it at best. It was almost like something was trying to strip him of the things that made him a Clawson.

Maybe it was a good thing. They claimed him, but he wasn't like anyone else, not even his littermates. Sure, Tessy and Jeff also lacked the family Gift, but they fit in with their kin in ways he couldn't even understand. Maybe this was a good thing. His kits wouldn't face the Demon, they'd likely have power, and they could grow up somewhere that being different was okay.

Maybe one day he'd be able to go home ... or they would find him or his descendants ... but for now he could focus on building a life for himself here.

A good life.

He did have everything he needed. He had a partner who cared for him. He had a place in society that was respected. He was doing well in his duties here. He had a lot to look forward to.

It wasn't like what it would be to most Clawsons to be stranded on a low-tech world.

He didn't hear the tech anyway, at least not unless it could speak normally.

He hadn't even seen a year here, but he felt good about what he was doing and what he had. He liked this world. If he didn't fight it, he could focus on enjoying it even more. Little things, like the moment with the elk ... how many of his kin would have missed it, too focused on trying to get their ship working and get off the 'backwater, no-tech hellhole' they'd found themselves in?

He found himself letting his breath out slowly and stood with a calmness he hadn't known in some time. It would not be the end of his meditations on the matter, but for now, he was content to be grateful for what he had.

"I love you," Jerik whispered with a soft kiss to Tomar's ear before he dropped his robe to the other side of the tent and snuggled into the Rohr's warm embrace.

"Love you too, Jerik," Tomaer whispered softly, hugging him tightly before they both returned to sleep.

The last planned day of their trip, Jerik was finally putting the finishing touches on Kaul. He was really hoping that this enchantment work was working; he hadn't heard a thing so far. The way Temreth and the others had been talking, he should have heard something by now, in his head at least.

"*Hey, bright boy!*" A female voice pointed out, 'shouting' at him mentally. "*Maybe if you listened, instead of thinking over me all the time?*"

"Hu?" His head snapped up, startled not just by the contact but by the attitude so clear in it. "*Kaul?*" He reached out with his mind to find her frequency. It would be critical in the years to come, he was sure.

"*Yes, Kaul.*" She sounded exasperated. "*Who else would it be? Anyway, it worked, I'm here.*"

"*Good.*" 'I think.'

"*I heard that.*" She shot back. "*Why don't you gather your Defender and get out of here before we're completely covered in snow?*"

"*Huh?*" Jerik finally opened his eyes, looking out at the physical world around him, Tomar sitting just upwind from him as snow gathered around the Rohr's body, building up on the ground around them both as the wind howled.

"Into the tent!" Tomar shouted over the wind. "Thank Marash you're awake!"

"Sweet Bastet." Jerik whispered and grabbed the few items still around him to make the difficult journey of only a few yards to their tent. This was a moment more than any that he was grateful for the weatherproofing enchantment on it. It didn't provide heat, but it keep the wind and water out. "Let's get a little heat in here."

"*Brilliant idea.*" Kaul rolled eyes that didn't exist, but went silent and cooperated with his effort to create a bubble of heat to warm them and dry off.

It wasn't much, but it would be enough. Tomar laid down once he was back in, laying down, his large body shivering all over.

"Are you okay?" He asked Jerik shakily, looking up at the tom with concern in his expression.

"I'm fine, but you are not." Jerik frowned and focused on a variant use of freshen to fully dry his thick fur. "We can't afford you getting sick either."

"Sh-should've shaken you out of it," Tomar chuckled slightly. "Thanks for the drying spell."

"Yes, you should have." Jerik agreed. "Or at least been more careful about how you shielded me." He leaned forward to kiss his forehead. "Thank you for trying."

"*He's freezing,*" Kaul observed, "*but he should be all right now, if we keep this up.*"

"I intend to." Jerik nodded seriously and focused a warming spell on Kaul's length after he dried himself off. "Let's get your clothes off and come snuggle under the blankets. We need to keep you warm." He instructed by rote even as he stripped himself.

"Intend to what?" Tomar asked, stripping himself, seriously grateful that he was wearing his armored skirt when he'd gone out into the storm.

"Keep you warm." Jerik explained and helped him get everything off before pulling his feet between them and snuggled close under all the blankets they had, his staff between them against Tomar's fur to help warm him more, the heat of the spell that was keeping the tent at a nearly comfortable level. "Kaul's talking, at least to me."

"Worked then?" Tomar asked with a smile, wrapping his arms and forelegs around Jerik reflexively. The young tom could feel the Rohr's body fighting to warm itself again, but he was gradually shivering less.

"Yes," he smiled and welcomed the embrace. He reached down between them to hold Tomar's back paws in his hands, the heat of his palms warming cold toes quickly as he rubbed them. "Just relax and warm up. That's what's important now."

"At least we brought gear so we have food for the duration," Tomar said, focusing on the logistics of handling the crisis while he kept himself awake.

"How long do you think this'll last?" Jerik asked softly, doing his own calculations and ever more grateful for the tent's enchantments.

"Judging by the amount of snow we got in the clearing through the trees and the herd of candle-elk that ran through our camp a few nights back, I think we're looking at a major blizzard," Tomar said softly. "Few days, maybe a week. Candle-elk don't run from minor storms, not most of them. Some good omen, huh?" The Rohr chuckled, shaking his head slightly, taking a deep breath as he finally stopped shivering. "Next time you enchant a staff, you're doing it inside the tent," he joked.

"More to the point, it means we're going to be hiking back to the Academy post-blizzard." Jerik said as he scritched Tomar's body, glad he wasn't shivering anymore. "It'll be a lot longer than the trip here."

"You're assuming we're going to get moving once the storm's over," Tomar pointed out. "We're already under a couple inches, by the time this is done ...."

"Heat can do amazing things," Jerik reminded him softly. "And I have a good TK shove too. We'll get out. It just might be slow going. We'll probably have a rescue party headed our way in a week or so too, once we're late getting back."

"With any luck, they'll be able to find our gear," Tomar mused, snuggling close to Jerik. "By the way, what was it that was keeping you up the other night?"

"I had a lot of thinking to do. About what I've left behind, the future here ... all that stuff I haven't really haven't had a lot of time to work on at the Academy."

"Decide anything?" Tomar asked him.

"That maybe I fit in better here than back home." He murmured. "Most of my kin would be going crazy to get out of here, but I kind of like it."

"Good to know you like it," Tomar smiled slightly, kissing Jerik's cheek. "Why didn't you fit in back home, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Because I can't hear machines, I don't have the family Demon to contend with because my father died before I was sired," he snuggled in close. "Because I'm interested in fems, not toms ... a tomkat isn't even supposed to notice fems until he's fifteen or sixteen. I noticed at ten, and never really was interested in guys. It's not just perverted according to society, it goes against known biology."

"*You're a weird boy.*" Kaul piped in.

"That's a kinda weird society," Tomar mused. "Sorry," he added sheepishly, ducking his head. "Or was it just the timing?"

"It's not weird when that's how your entire species was designed." Jerik pointed out gently. "No more 'weird' than Rohr genders. And yeah, it's mostly timing. If I'd been fifteen or sixteen when I first got interested and it was for fems, it wouldn't have been nearly as odd. Still unusual, but not nearly as disturbing to people."

"Guess I can understand that; I was thinking mostly of a society where guys were expected not to be interested in fems," Tomar explained, nuzzling Jerik's neck. "And I'll admit that we've got weird genders, for most people. Heck, even most herms."

"We're expected to not be interested until we're sexually mature," he tried to explain it better. "Interest in guys comes first, usually at twelve or thirteen, when you first start showing signs. It was kind of a survival thing, keeping males away from females until they could stand up to an adult."

"Makes sense," Tomar agreed, rubbing Jerik's back. "Didn't mean anything bad about your people," he apologized. "It's just that I've never heard anybody say their parents were upset to find out they were interested in members of the opposite sex."

"I know, and sounds even stranger here, where it's pretty obvious felines don't have the same maturity cycle." He snuggled close and fed a little more energy into the heat spell.

"Uhm ... mind if I ask you a kinda strange question?" Tomar asked uncertainly. "You say you're not interested in guys, but ... well, you don't seem to have any problems with the male parts of me," he pointed out.

"I know." He admitted. "It's weird. I'm not attracted to any other guys." He snuggled in. "I don't look at you and think you're sexy. It's something else. Maybe because we're partners. I don't really know."

"Maybe because you know I'm part girl too," Tomar mused, kissing Jerik's neck. "You're not making yourself do it though, are you?"

"No," he shook his head sharply. "I don't know why you're an exception, but I wouldn't if I didn't want to, partners or not."

"All right," the Rohr smiled, hugging Jerik. "Just wanted to make sure. Love you, Jerik."

"I love you, Tomar." He returned the embrace.

"*You are so mushy.*" Kaul muttered silently.

"*Hush.*" Jerik told her. "*Can you keep the warmth spell up while I sleep?*"

"*Well enough to keep you two from freezing, but we're going to be exhausted if we have to keep this up for the whole storm.*"

"*I know.*" He murmured. "Do we have anything in there to help with the heat in here?" He asked softly, motioning to the bag of holding.

"I'll check," Tomar said, reaching over to pull the bag to him and opening it up. He pulled out their endless waterskin and the gruel-spoons first, setting them to the side. "Might as keep get those out," he said softly, fishing through for anything that might help with a fire and pulled out two extra blankets when he came across them.

"Unfortunately, all we've got is the tinderbox," he sighed. "Of all the things to not prepare for, we pick an early cold snap."

"Bad oversight, but not too much of one." Jerik said firmly. "We have a wind and weatherproof tent, warm food and drink for as long as we need it, plenty of blankets and body warmth. I will have to be careful and conserve my energy, but I can keep the magical heat up most of the time. We will be fine."

"Just irritating," Tomar smiled slightly. "And don't overdo it; now that we're both past the first shock, we shouldn't need the spell too much, at least for now. We'll just have to spend the next few days snuggled up close under the blankets ... and somehow, that doesn't strike me as all that horrible a fate," the Rohr winked, looking for a bright side to being stuck inside the tent.

"Very true," Jerik grinned and nuzzled him lightly. "How about pulling out the grooming kit to pass some time?"

"Sounds good to me," Tomar rumbled, pulling out the requested kit with a light lick to Jerik's cheek as he started setting the bits and pieces out for them to work with.

Tomar fought to keep himself from fidgeting too much as Jerik meditated. He'd been doing that a lot during the past two days, trying to keep himself centered and his magical power charged to keep the tent warm. As much as the Rohr knew it was necessary, knew that he was supposed to keep quiet and keep watch ....

They were in a tent that wasn't properly sized for the two of them, half-buried in snow already, and had been in it for two days solid and there was no sign of it letting up soon. Tomar barely had room to sit up, let alone stand. He was, quite frankly, going completely stir crazy.

He sighed quietly, laying down, curling around Jerik a bit. He didn't want to disturb him, but he couldn't get out of here the way Jerik could, even if it was only in the tom's mind.

"Would you like to try to learn?" The tom asked quietly without twitching a whiskler.

"Did I disturb you?" Tomar asked sheepishly, tucking his tail between his legs reflexively.

"Tomar," he opened his eyes and turned around to gently try to untuck the canine's tail. "Please don't react like that. I'm not upset."

"Sorry, reflex," the Rohr shrugged slightly. "I don't just do it when somebody's mad at me, you know. Uhm ... if you wouldn't mind, it'd at least be something to do. I'm starting to think that going outside and starting to carve a path for us is preferable to waiting for the storm to stop."

"All right," he nodded with a small smile. "Get comfortable, a position you can hold easily for hours, but aren't likely to fall asleep in."

Tomar sat up, moving towards the middle of the tent so he could rest the weight of his upper body on his 'shoulders.'

"Just try to relax. The first step is to clear your mind. Tune out your body and don't think. Drift in the emptiness."

"Try not to think about thinking about nothing, huh?" Tomar chuckled slightly, trying to do as he was told. It wasn't all that easy to still his mind, get everything out of it ... especially not the things that he'd had drilled into him that he didn't even know he was thinking about, like a constant ear on their surroundings.

"Something like that," he smiled. "I know it's not easy, especially the relaxing your guard part."

"Too well trained," Tomar murmured, taking a deep breath and finally managing to clear his mind. Anything that attacked them here and now had earned the right to eat them.

"I know where everything within half a click is, the alarm spells are still in place too." Jerik assured him. "Now, picture a perfect pearl."

"Whose perfect?" Tomar asked, the strange question perfectly serious as he imagined a wholly natural pearl, slight imperfections by most people's standards making it unique and perfect to the Rohr thinking about it.

Of course; a created species in a world where people could culture and shape 'perfect' pearls wouldn't necessarily have the same standard of perfection.

"Whatever it means to you," he answered just as seriously. "Just hold it in your mind, understand its perfection."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tomar asked, confused and not sure exactly what he was supposed to understand, but trying to all the same.

"Why is this pearl perfect to you?" He offered another way to ask the question.

"All right," Tomar nodded. His mind mulled over a number of solutions before settling on one. The pearl was nature's creation, and meant to be as nature made it. Nature rarely decided to make things perfect; their current situation was proof enough of that.

"Good," Jerik smiled when he felt his partner settle on a reason. "Now hold that pearl in your mind, and form a completely clear glass of water beneath it."

Tomar focused, imagining the crystal he'd seen some of the Senior Defenders using, clear and brilliant, filled with pure water.

"Now allow the pearl to move downward slowly into the water. Watch how the water ripples and gives way to the smoothness of the pearl without trauma."

"You're assuming it's smooth," Tomar chuckled slightly, trying to do what Jerik was saying. It was a lot easier than just keeping his mind quiet.

"Quite true," Jerik chuckled as he glanced at the pearl in Tomar's mind and found a much more square and knobby one than he'd expected. "This is part of it, to understand perfection in yourself. This is called the Pearl Drop meditation. For you, it is meant to be interesting and calming. For me, it is more complex."

"What does it mean for you?" Tomar asked him, opening his eyes and coming out of the meditation, accidentally as much as intentionally.

"It is one of the meditations that helps with levitation." He explained easily. "Many of them have dual purposes like that."

"You know," Tomar teased, "telling me you're doing this when you're levitating isn't the way to convince me to go hang-gliding with you next time."

"Oh, I don't have to any more," he reached out to ruffle the Wolf-taur's chest fur. "It's a training tool. I outgrew it years ago."

"Mmm ... well, we'll see what you come up with for your next harness then," Tomar rumbled, nuzzling Jerik's neck and drawing him close for a hug, nabbing the waterskin and taking a drink. "Jerik?"

"Yes?" He happily snuggled close to his partner.

"Dunno why I'm asking this but ... y'ever wonder what it would've been like if you'd picked one of the others?"

Jerik actually blinked, then looked up to meet Tomar's gaze. "No." He shook his head a bit. "Haven't thought about them at all, really."

"M'kay," Tomar smiled, kissing Jerik's forehead. "Like I said, not sure why I asked ... guess it just came to mind, what with you stuck in a tent that'd be a lot roomier with a Mouse or Vixen in it with you," he chuckled slightly.

"Probably, but I like being close to you," he ran his hands down Tomar's chest. "Care to burn off some of that nervous energy?"

"Mmm ... if we don't get out of this tent before somebody manages to find us, they're going to get entirely the right idea about how we kept warm," Tomar smirked, kissing him and drawing him down under the blankets.

"They'll think that anyway." Jerik giggled and happily helped strip his partner's clothing off.

Jerik shivered involuntarily when he opened his eyes to sunlight shining into their tent threw the fabric near the top. When he expanded his senses, the world was calm outside. The wind had stopped howling, the sky was clear and the air and land very still.

Tomar shifted in his sleep, snuggling up closer to Jerik as he sat up. Still, Jerik could almost see by the movement of his pointed ears that he was slowly catching up with what was going on.

"We can go outside," he scritched the Rohr's ears gently. "The storm is over."

"*Finally.*" Kaul groaned. "*You two put mink to shame.*"

"Gimme a minute to get the blinders out," Tomar said, waking up and fumbling for the pack to get the crude wooden goggles he'd made while they were stuck, to keep the two of them from being blinded by the snow when they looked out.

"You won't see much but snow, given the warmth spell wouldn't have melted much beyond the tent." Jerik reminded him as he pulled on his travel clothes and robes. "But I'm sure the storm is over."

"Yeah, but the sun hitting it in the clearing could still hurt," Tomar pointed out, getting dressed in his armor, the weight enough to help keep him warm in the absence of winter-suitable clothes. "Let's see just how much we have to dig," he said, strapping the goggles around his head.

"I'm not that worn out." Jerik objected as Tomar stuck his head outside the tent and looked up and around.

"Whether you are or not, looks like we picked up a few feet easy - comes up to the bottom of my hindbody, to judge from the looks of it, and that's with the tree cover. You'll have to ride once we start moving, unless we want to just wait for rescue."

"I'm not inclined to wait, personally." He shook his head. "If you'd back in here, I'll clear out that snow."

"Go ahead," Tomar said, backing up and starting to pack their gear up.

Jerik nodded and scooted to the entrance before gathering the Force and giving a hard telekinetic shove up and out across the clearing that had been the rest of their camp.

Snow flew everywhere, piling up into a sort of ramp up to the rest. It was wet, but they'd have a way out.

"Good enough to start." Jerik nodded and looked back before crawling outside and into the thin layer of snow left just outside. "Ready to get out of here?"

"Just as soon as I get the tent packed," Tomar nodded, getting out and quickly breaking it down with practiced ease. "Next time we come out this way? We're going to make sure to pack some paw-warmers." He took the cloth-and-leather packs they'd made up during the past week, stuffed with a bit of nutmet, and strapped them to his paws before settling his pack across his back. "Hop on up, Jerik," he offered, judging the direction they had to go in from the sun.

"Thanks," he climbed up on his partner's wolf back and snuggled close to his armored back. "Maybe we'll get lucky and have meat to cook tonight. I'm voting for going a bit slower and eating and sleeping well."

"Sounds good to me," Tomar nodded. "If you can, grab a nap up on my back. I won't let you fall off," he promised.

"Sounds good," he murmured, more than happy to strap Kaul to his back and positioned himself to rest while Tomar walked.

A few hours later, Jerik woke up to the sudden cessation of the rhythmic jostling he'd gotten used to from the walk. Tomar was pulling something out of the pack ... a javelin, Jerik realized as the light spear was pulled out past his nose.

"Quiet," the Rohr whispered, aiming at a wooly boar rooting through the snow. "And fish my spear out."

He nodded without a sound and shifted to hold on while he got the heavier spear out and handed it forward before sliding off to give Tomar his best chance at a kill.

The Rohr reached back, hurling the sharp javelin, the slender weapon warping some as it flew through the air, embedding itself in the boar's side. The animal squealed in anger and pain, turning about and glaring at Tomar. It charged as the Rohr brought his spear down, shifting his body to put himself between Jerik and the beast, just in case something went wrong.

It wasn't likely, and the young mage was quite capable of taking care of himself, but he didn't complain. He just got ready to finish their very angry dinner off if the spear didn't do the job. He wasn't about to let Tomar get hurt over a meal.

It wasn't necessary; Tomar angled the spear just right at the last minute, impaling the charging boar and twisting it off to the side to halt its forward movement and let its body finish realizing it was already dead. Its blood flowed down the spear, onto Tomar's hand, staining the snow beneath it crimson.

"If we can get a campground cleared," the Rohr observed as he took some of the snow to clean his hands on, "I think we've got something more than gruel for dinner!"

"Very much more," Jerik rumbled, very eager for fresh meat. "You start butchering it, I'll find a spot to clear nearby?"

"Sounds good to me," Tomar grinned, pulling out his field knife and indicating back the way they'd come. "There was a small clearing about ten paces that way," he said. "Should be a good spot; it's where I found this guy's tracks."

"Toss me the bag of holding and I'll start setting up camp then." Jerik nodded and caught the magical bag when it was sent his way, then backtracked Tomar's trail to a small clearing that would be a good campsite for the night.

A strong Force-wind cleared the deep snow to the ground in an area large enough for the tent, fire and a bit of room to sit by it. By the time Tomar returned with his kill, everything was set up, the fire was burning cheerily in the crystal cold air and there was a blanket on the ground to sit on.

"That'll be good for half the trip home." Jerik observed with a grin as Tomar skewered the two hind legs and set them over the fire to cook.

"Hell, right about now salt would be good for half the trip home," Tomar chuckled, sitting down next to Jerik on the blanket, letting the fire warm him as he slipped off the paw-warmers and set them near the fire to absorb its heat.

"Oh, yeah." Jerik groaned and stretched out in the welcome heat. "Those gruel-spoons may keep you fed, but it leaves a lot to be desired flavor-wise."

"Maybe that's something else you can work on," Tomar chuckled, leaning over to give his partner an affectionate lick. "Though it's a lot better than spending a week starving."

"True," he nodded. "Though it's way off my field of study right now. Still, it can't be that hard to have it spiced or something. At least taste like it's good for you too."

"Maybe Quasma can give you a couple tips for it," Tomar mused. "Oh well; better than nothing. Thanks for setting everything up," he added with a smile. "Feeling better after your nap?"

"Yes," he nodded and happily snuggled against his Defender in front of the fire and the mouth-watering smells of roasting meat. "If I save a bit, I could probably have a pair commissioned to make a meat stew instead of gruel by the time we're out on our own."

"Mmm ... that'd be a lot better," Tomar rumbled, his stomach doing the same much more loudly.

"Hush, you," he chuckled, looking down at his hind-body.

"*You two are terrible,*" Kaul told Jerik with a mental rolling of her proverbial eyes.

"*You'd better get used to it, Kaul.*" Jerik all but smirked at her. "*We're always like this, and we'll be having pups and kittens in a few years.*"

"*Just make sure I'm kept well out of reach once you do,*" she observed dryly as Tomar pressed against Jerik with a happy sigh.

"So glad to have some air," the Rohr murmured.

"Yeah, I'd want to sleep outside if it wasn't so cold." Jerik murmured, eager for the meal to be hot enough to eat.

"If we eat it now, it'll still be raw on the inside," Tomar pointed out, knowing just what Jerik was thinking. "At least it's not all that incredibly cold outside anymore ... guess the blizzard was just a preview. Let's hope that's all it was, at least."

"At least for the two or three days it'll take to get close enough to the Academy that it'll be milder." He nodded. "It looks like it'll be clear into tomorrow at least."

"If they manage to get another storm like that before we're close to the Academy again, then I am seriously starting to save up for a better tent as soon as we get back to Academy City," Tomar grumbled. "Bigger too."

"Next time we can just remember to ask for a bigger one, until we can afford a better one." Jerik considered the sky. "Would you pass me my notebook and writing quill?"

"Sure thing," Tomar nodded, pulling them out of the pack and handing them over. "Have something on your mind?"

"Starting a list of what we want to have when we head out on our own." He grinned and began to write quickly. "What features were you thinking for the tent, besides big enough to stand up and move around in?"

"Warm enough on its own that you don't have to exhaust yourself during weeks like this is the biggest one," Tomar said seriously.

Jerik nodded and wrote down 'temperature control' to cover the hot end of things too. "Anything else?"

"If we can arrange something that'd work to keep animals from running over our camp again, that'd probably be helpful," Tomar mused. "Just not so well that the hunting drops."

Jerik had to chuckle at that. "Or at least a spell to do it, a more advanced alarm spell."

"That'd work too," Tomar chuckled. "Heck, just using an audible version might do the trick. At any rate, I can't think of too much more, at least not for now."

"True," he nodded and write down that in the notes, then added their meal preference for a new gruel spoon. "Anything else you can think of that would be useful enough to buy quickly?"

"Survival gear, or are we talking about a more general wishlist?" Tomar asked him.

"I was thinking magic items, but general gear too. It doesn't hurt to make the list while we're out here wishing for it." He smiled up.

"General gear, the paw warmers and a well-oiled overskirt for my armor," Tomar said seriously. "For magical gear, we should probably add a razor-scabbard to the list for one of these days. Handy things to have, particularly for me."

"What are they?" Jerik happily took the distraction to smells of cooking meat.

"Scabbards enchanted with a sharpening spell," Tomar explained. "You leave a weapon in the scabbard for a full day, when you pull it out it's sharpened to a razor's edge without the brittleness; go through bone like butter for the first few minutes of a fight.

"Definitely useful." He nodded and wrote that down. "Sounds like it's a fairly simple item too. Anything else?"

"Healing salve from the Prelate," Tomar decided after a few moments deliberation. "After all, if there's some sort of emergency, we really don't want to be without healing."

"Definitely," Jerik agreed fervently. "Even under good conditions, the first aid kit and my skill can only do so much."

"So, anything you've got for the list?" Tomar asked Jerik.

"An enchanted book for writing notes in; something that won't run out of paper. Light armor, a couple dresses for Ryka, a portable alchemy kit."

"Ryka?" Tomar asked, looking down at Jerik as he checked the boar. "Who's Ryka, and why would you be shopping for dresses for her?"

"Sorry," Jerik ducked his head a bit. "That's what I'm calling my female Kat form. It's easier for me to keep things sorted out when I name the forms I take on regularly."

"Oh, so I do know her," Tomar chuckled, kissing Jerik's cheek lightly. "Yeah, some dresses might be nice for her. Though I certainly wouldn't object if you had to go around in the buff all the time," he winked.

"*Here we go again,*" Kaul groaned silently.

"*Dinner first,*" Jerik chuckled even as he nuzzled a bit of Tomar's exposed fur. "Glad you like her, but I think dinner's cooked enough to eat."

"I know," Tomar chuckled. "Just thought I'd let you know," he winked, pulling the meat off the fire and giving one of the legs to Jerik, his mouth watering as he bit into the hot, dripping meat.

The meal pasted in relative silence, both too hungry for the real fresh meat in their hands to bother with talking. It was only mumbles and groans of pleasure at eating their first good meal in a week.

The next morning, Tomar nuzzled Jerik lightly as they woke up, warm breath washing over his fur.

"I'm gonna go start breakfast," he told his partner with a rumble. "Heart-meats for breakfast?"

"Sounds good." The tom nodded and stretched out as Tomar got wood for a new fire. When the small pile of branches were piled up, he focused with Kaul, half surprised at how she relaxed into the magical vortex and assisted in casting the dry version of freshen to get ride of as much moisture in them as possible and created a small spark to light it without complain or comment. She actually seemed happy.

He did have to admit, it was a lot easier to use spells with her, now that he was getting used to it. His spells worked more effectively, and weren't as draining ... it would take a little experiment when he had the time and facilities, but he was sure he'd prefer working with her to without.

"Thanks," Tomar called, preparing a skewer of the major organs from the boar; its liver, kidneys, and heart. That done, he put it over the fledgling fire, spitting another leg to go along with the organs for them. The boar had been large, but Tomar's larger stomach was starting to complain about the fact that it wasn't full as often as it wanted to be again.

"It's growling again." Jerik snickered and relaxed on a water-proof blanket in front of the fire. "Good thing hunting is still easy."

"Yeah," Tomar chuckled. "Especially since I can't really use snares on the move. Tonight I want to set a few up, see if we get lucky during the night."

"*It'd be a first if you didn't,*" Kaul observed dryly.

The mental imagery, from Kaul and his own mind, made Jerik burst out laughing.

"What?" Tomar asked, looking back at Jerik with a slightly bewildered expression as the smells of the cooking meat filled the campgrounds.

"Sorry, Kaul likes to comment. She said that it would be a first if we didn't get lucky."

"Okay, her mind's officially as dirty as either of ours is," Tomar smirked to Jerik's continued laughter. "If not worse. Are you sure you want to take the chance somebody else'll hear her some day?"

"*He'd better be teasing,*" Kaul groused.

"It's too late now anyway." Jerik continued to snicker. "She's here to stay."

"Guess we just have to be grateful she can't talk," Tomar chuckled, shaking his head.

"That'll probably come eventually," Jerik winked with a few more snickers and happily accepted half of the boar's heart to start breakfast.

"Figu-" Tomar was cut off suddenly by a number of loud war-cries from the forest, a small horde of gangly, green-skinned humanoids charging out of the trees and into the clearing from all directions.

"Goblins!" Tomar shouted, spinning around and instinctively grabbing for any weapon he could find, grabbing hold of the spit carrying the hot boar's leg and clubbing one of the goblins with it, knocking him flat to the ground.

"Damn," Jerik twisted Kaul to release the sword and energized it as he fell into his most effective combat training and went after the attackers with a vengeance. He never went far from his partner, though, guarding his back as the Rohr guarded his.

He wasn't as good with a regular sword as he was with his K'os-Ri, but he was good enough to slow the goblins down. He blocked the clumsy, frenzied strikes of the goblins approaching, attacking when he had the chance. His blazing blade felled one of the goblins, earning him a little breathing room.

Tomar, for his part, was still mostly unarmed. The spit was hardly designed for combat, and while it went through the second goblin with surprising ease, and another of the small green nuisances found itself in his hands and thrown back into his comrades, he quickly slipped a forepaw beneath the first goblin's shortsword, flipping it up into his hand and praying it would hold up through the fight.

Jerik pushed his empty hand forward sharply, sending a wave of Force into the mass of creature before him. Without hesitating he used the time to call the bag of holding to him. "Sword or spear?" He asked sharply.

"Sword!" Tomar called back. "No space for the - argh! Dammit," he swore roughly, spinning for the goblin that had managed to catch his side with a club blow, forepaw coming up in a sweeping blow that sent him flying with a sickening snap of its scrawny neck.

"Here." Jerik got the much heavier weapon out and shoved it towards his partner, pommel first.

Tomar grabbed it, the blade biting deeply into the neck and shoulder of another goblin on the return stroke, dark green blood spraying out across Tomar and staining the snow. A slightly larger one, wearing some half-decent armor and carrying a relatively new blade, shouted incoherent gibberish at his comrades, urging them into the fight.

"I found the leader!" Tomar shouted at Jerik. He swung his sword in a broad arc, following it with his hind-body in a massive spin that sent the green creatures scattering, giving Jerik a clear spell-shot at the leader of the war-band.

He nodded and grabbed the large goblin with the Force and slammed him head first into the largest nearby tree he could see. He was about to throw him again when Kaul demanded his attention to the three goblins rushing him.

Just before he did as his staff told him, Tomar was covering for his distraction, hurling one of the other goblin's clubs at the trio, tripping the leader and forcing the other two to move around him, giving Jerik enough time to focus on them.

Tomar snarled in pain again, reversing his sword and driving it back into the goblin that had managed to flank him while he was distracted, the creature's warm blood washing down his thigh and over his head.

"Damn it, that was a juicy one," he muttered, shifting to move forward and get a little more room to maneuver - only to have his leg give out when he tried to put his weight on it, pain stabbing through the limb from what he'd thought was a relatively minor wound. With a startled squawk, he fell off balance, landing on his side and crushing a second goblin beneath his bulk.

Another one of the goblins started gibbering, noticing that their leader's skull had suddenly acquired a rather severe flat spot, and that a number of their comrades had fallen in exchange for, if he was generous, two particularly effective blows in return.

Whatever he said, it seemed to work, the green creatures starting to scatter, taking off with whatever they'd managed to grab, dark green blood oozing and spurting from corpses, melting the packed snow where the bodies had fallen.

"Tomar!" Jerik was at his side the moment he was sure the fight was over. "What's injured?" His entire focus was on the moment; what he had to do to help his partner.

"Hind left leg," Tomar said through locked teeth. "Gods-damned pest got the drop on me."

Jerik nodded and helped maneuver him so the injured leg was on top while he lay on his side. "Sweet Bastet." He shuddered when he got a look at the deep wound, a dagger still in it. "We're going to need that rescue, or we'll be camping here all winter." He said seriously and touched a few pressure points on his partner's hind body to numb it and slow blood flow. "Be very still. It's close to some very sensitive places."

"I guessed that when my leg wouldn't work right!" Tomar snarled at him, immediately snapping his jaw shut, but too late to keep the words from coming out the way they did. "Sorry," he apologized, wincing as Jerik tried to figure out if he could remove the dagger safely. "Look like it was intentional?"

"Definitely," he nodded. "Don't worry about snapping. Are you still feeling pain?" He looked up from unpacking the first aid kit and some other items.

"Not feeling much of anything beneath my lower back," Tomar admitted, sounding more than a little unnerved by the fact now that he thought about it. "I'm really hoping that's something you wanted to do."

"Yes it is. You'll recover better if you aren't in pain all the time. You aren't paralyzed, by the way, but it's best not to move without sensation." He explained as he pulled out some heavy, absorbent gauze from the medical kit and pressed it against the wound before carefully pulling the dagger out along its exact entrance path. "It's a good thing I know how to hunt and trap too." He kept up the conversation while he worked, trying to keep both his and Tomar's mind off what he was doing. The blood flow was slower, and not nearly as bad as it would've been if the knife had been a fraction of an inch forward, but the gauze was still soaked quickly.

"Just make sure you don't manage to get yourself hurt while you're doing it," Tomar chuckled slightly. "Are you okay?" He asked Jerik, noting a few points where his robes had been cut during the fight, stained slightly with blood. "Pretty clear you didn't meet the guy who did this, but just checking."

"Just a few scratches." He answered absently while he worked to staunch the blood flow and bandage the deep wound. "I think you fell on the one who did this to you."

"I know I did," Tomar said. "After I gutted the one next to him - now there's one I'm glad I beat to the punch. Thought it was the one who got my leg, but now I think he was going for higher up."

"That would have been bad." Jerik shuddered and put the finishing touches on the bandages. "I'm going to lift you telekinetically into the tent. You aren't going to be able to do much but lay there for a while."

"Okay, somebody up there is obsessed with me spending time stuck in that tent," Tomar grumbled. "Think we're close enough for a whisper spell or something to get back to the Academy?"

"I'm going to try, after I secure the area." He nodded and focused on lifting his much larger partner and moving him into the open tent without bumping the leg. "At least the door can be open this time, and heat provided by the fire if it's closer to the entrance."

"There is that," Tomar sighed, reaching up to rub Jerik's side lightly as he sat him down. "Don't stay out all day, okay?" He smiled up at Jerik a bit. "I'm not really looking forward to having to choke down more of that gruel any time soon."

"Me either," he nodded and leaned down to kiss his partner. "But at least we have that if need be."

Tomar lifted his head a bit to look at his partner well past midnight. The tom was shifting, restless and uneasy. His face almost looked to be in pain, even in the darkness of the warm tent.

He pulled Jerik close, kissing his forehead and rubbing his back lightly.

"Wake up, 'Rik," he told him, shaking him lightly.

The tom didn't respond for some time, not until Tomar had shaken him again a bit harder, and even then it wasn't much more than a disoriented mumble as he struggled to consciousness.

"Wake up," Tomar said firmly, trying to get Jerik to fully join him in the realm of the conscious.

Jerik moaned and struggled to open eyes that really didn't want to open, but eventually managed to focus on the Rohr above him. "Whaa?"

"You were having a nightmare or something," Tomar explained softly. "Whatever it was, it looked like you were hurting."

"Head still does," he mumbled and rubbed his temples shakily. "Feel like I got hit by a semi."

"A semi?" Tomar asked him, shaking his head and ignoring the question he'd asked himself. "What happened?"

"Really big heavy vehicle." He answered, then focused on rubbing his temples again. "Don't know. Feels like my brain is trying to melt and ooze out my eyes."

Tomar's heart felt like it caught in his throat; he didn't know what to do if there was something wrong, or how to even tell if something was wrong.

"I don't think it's serious. I've had bad headaches before." He tried to reassure him. "It's just unpleasant."

"That sounds like more than a bad headache," Tomar said softly, hugging Jerik. "Just let me know if it gets worse, okay? Don't know what I'll do, but ... there has to be something."

"I'll be fine," Jerik murmured, trying to reassure him. "Just let me sleep for a bit more, okay?"

"All right," Tomar nodded, nuzzling him gently and rubbing his back. "Sorry to wake you."

"S'okay." He murmured and closed his eyes, knowing he wouldn't sleep but waiting it out was the only way to deal with such things.

Tomar sighed softly, closing his own eyes and hoping he could sleep, knowing that Jerik was in pain and not having the slightest clue why. It was a horrible position to be in for a Defender, and a friend. He eventually drifted off, only to wake up when Jerik began to get up quietly.

"Feeling better?" He asked softly, sleepily, wincing as his leg twinged.

"Much, especially now that I know what it was," he leaned over to kiss him. "That was a memory crystal rupturing. I knew it would happen once I crashed here, just not when or in what order. That one was on healing." He added as he pulled out the medical kit. "Some is still beyond me, and some we don't have supplies for, but I can help more now."

"Hopefully something to make the muscles stop screaming at me?" Tomar asked hopefully.

"Damn, that shouldn't have worn off on it's own." Jerik muttered and quietly focused, pressing several points along Tomar's lower body. "Better?"

"Better," Tomar nodded slightly. "Still sore, but it's tolerable, and it's not completely numb."

"I can numb it completely." He looked up with the offer.

"No," Tomar said, shaking his head. "Like I said, it's tolerable. I might ask you to numb it the rest of the way later, but for now, I'd rather you didn't have to undo any work if something really bad happens and I have to move."

"All right," he nodded in acceptance. It was the same choice he would have made for himself after all. "I'll start the fire and breakfast, and open up the tent." He added as he dressed, then tucked Tomar in as best he could before opening the tent to the outside and fresh air.

"Thanks," Tomar sighed, wrapping the covers around himself and inhaling the fresh air as Jerik went out to work. This was the second time he'd managed to inconvenience Jerik this trip, and this time it was definitely significantly. Granted, both had been protecting him from something, but it wasn't a very good track record to start with.

"It's not an inconvenience, Tomar. It's taking care of my partner." Jerik smiled at him over his shoulder while the fire began to crackle to life.

"I still feel guilty about it," Tomar chuckled slightly, shaking his head. "I'm supposed to be working to make you grateful to have me around, and keeping you safe in our fights. The two we've had, one of us managed to get hurt in each. I've got a long way to go before we go into the field."

"So do I," he looked over at him seriously. "I normally wouldn't be ready to go into the field without my teacher for another ten or twelve years. I am grateful you're around. I wouldn't have chosen you if you weren't the right one." Jerik said with all the conviction of his life. "Getting hurt is what happens in a fight. It's why it's best to avoid them."

"The senior Defenders would be so cross with you if they heard about that," Tomar smiled fondly at Jerik. "Doesn't help me that I've got an extra few feet of 'me' sticking out from behind my back; most of them aren't sure how to train for that. If I'd had my armor on, that fight would probably have gone better."

"I'm sure of it. Same with if you'd had a weapon out to grab when they appeared instead of the poker." He nodded and fetched the remains of the boar they'd killed the previous day and set it over the fire to roast. "We definitely need to make a priority of learning to fight together. I doubt we're going to get any less violent lives for a long time."

"It's something I've wanted to do for a while," Tomar admitted. "You're just not supposed to start until after your mage has his true staff."

"Well now I do, so that hurtle is cleared." Jerik nodded seriously. "After breakfast, I'm going to try to send a whisper spell to Mage Temreth about sending help."

"I didn't have the energy after working on you and setting everything up. Sending even a short, one-way message at this distance will require a lot of effort."

"All right," Tomar nodded. "So if it gets there, we probably still won't have any help until tonight at the earliest, and that's if they get things ready for a teleport."

"Most likely it'll be tomorrow sometime, maybe later." Jerik countered, not wanting to hope for help that soon. "We're in good shape though. Your wound isn't infected and the bleeding has stopped, we have plenty of food and I've set up enough warning that nothing is going to surprise us."

"Okay," Tomar nodded. "Can't blame a guy for hoping though, right?" He chuckled slightly. "So, how'd the snares work?"

"Not at all, just trying to be realistic. Even if it takes them weeks, we'll be fine." He added with assurance. "I haven't had a chance to check the traps yet." He added with a chuckle and brought the meat into the tent to eat with his partner.

"Guess we're lucky you got some hunting in too then," the Rohr chuckled, taking breakfast from his partner and sitting up a bit so he could eat. "Thanks 'Rik," he smiled. "Even if you do think of it as just taking care of your partner, you're a good mage to be defending."

"I want to be," he smiled fondly and reached up to scritch Tomar's chest. "You're a good partner."

"Thanks," Tomar smiled, the two of them starting to eat and relaxing into a survival mode to wait for help.

Temreth looked up from the scroll he was studying, the tell-tale sound of a whisper spell in his ear.

"Recros," he said, holding up his hand to recall the spell and its words before it faded. The spell condensed into pale light, and he studied it carefully.

"Injured bad on way back. Jerik." Short, and incredibly weak - the young apprentice must have cast it from the very limits of his range, which left him at least half a week's hike from the Academy, longer if the cold snap they were having was any indicator.

"Quasma," the Stoat said sharply, looking over at the Lynx where she was working. "Do you have a spell to locate a person yet?"

"Yes, sir." She nodded and came over to him quickly, worry on her face. There were few reasons she could think of for that question in that tone.

"I just received a whisper from Apprentice Jerik," the Stoat told her seriously. "As you know, he's distinctly late getting back. According to the whisper, somebody was seriously injured on the trip. We need to find them, fast. I believe you'll have the best chance of it."

"I will find him." She straightened a bit, determination taking over from worry. If his whisper had gotten here, she should be able to detect him. The ranges were not that different.

"Locus nominos, Jerik Clawson domini ...." She trailed off, tracing the symbols with the amethyst finial of Numin, her staff. She repeated the words, focusing on the spell, praying she could get a bead on Jerik.

"*You realize it will be a miracle if we can find him,*" her staff pointed out to her gently. "*If we can't, it's not your fault.*"

"*If we don't, who will?*" Quasma pointed out before her full attention was on the spell and the distant senses seeking her friend.

She felt cold as her senses stretched out towards him, reaching farther than she'd ever forced a spell to go before. She was sure that it was his surroundings she felt. She knew the direction ... she just couldn't tell how far they had to go yet.

Unfortunately, the spell reached the limits of its range before it could tell her. A whisper spell was intended to travel for miles; her spell wasn't quite that long-ranged for the detail they needed.

"I know the direction, but I couldn't get how far. It's outside the spell range." She reported as the spell faded.

"Then I think it's time to see just how far your studies have come," Temreth said as a Servant brought in a thick tome. The Stoat took it in his small hands.

"Locate Target," he said clearly, the cover flipping up and dozens of pages flipping rapidly as his book turned to the requested spell.

"Use your decoding spell, then recite this spell," he said, setting the book on a stand for Quasma's reference. "Make sure you have a clear image of Jerik in your mind, and if you need help with the spell let me know."

"Yes, Mage." She nodded and studied the spell. She realized immediately why he offered help; it was a Second Circle spell, more than anything she'd handled on her own before. Still, she was sure she could cast it correctly after studying it.

She took care inscribing each of the symbols; it wasn't all that different from the spell she'd just used, at least not on the surface. Longer, more complicated ... and intended for greater distances. She formed the mental image of Jerik he'd told her to use, privately wishing she had something of his to provide a better link to him. Still, the violet points of Numin's amethyst finial began to glow as magical energy gathered, as she studied the spell and cast it all at once.

Instantly, she had a crystal-clear image of the camp that Jerik and Tomar were at; surrounded by snow, the dead bodies of goblins nearby. She was relieved that it wasn't Jerik who was injured, but she knew that meant Tomar was instead, and he'd be even harder to bring back to the Academy if he couldn't move.

And, if they were camping at this relatively sane hour of the day, he almost certainly couldn't.

At least they didn't seem to be in immediate danger.

"I have their location," she reported. "Tomar is the injured one, and he likely can not move. They are still encamped and Jerik is tending the fire. There are goblin bodies nearby."

"Good," Temreth nodded as a Servant brought in a map of the area they were supposed to be in. "Mark the point where they are on the map, and begin putting together all the drawings and descriptions you can. I'm going to have to go fetch one of the more powerful Mages to arrange for a teleport circle to their location, and the supplies we'll need to bring them back. We'll be back when we're ready; be ready to come with us."

"I will be, Mage Temreth." She nodded and picked up a quill on his desk to mark their location with a small X.

As she started preparing the drawings, Temreth turned and left the room, hoping it wouldn't take too long to find a mage who could prepare the teleport circle for a new location.

Jerik certainly had a knack for getting into trouble. At least he also seemed to have as much of a knack for surviving it.

Mage Schol double-checked the symbols drawn around the room-sized magical circle shi'd drawn in hir teleportation chamber. Mage Temreth stood nearby, watching the half-dragon Rat work, about half the symbols shi was using ones he didn't even recognize beyond the base.

"Are you almost done?" He asked, trying to conceal his impatience.

"If you think you could learn to craft a teleport circle, draw it, and safely charge it faster for a nearly-blind teleport, you're welcome to try," the herm said dryly. "But yes, I am. Call your student here; I'll need some time to review her materials before I can cast the final spell. You might want to teleport there yourself first, make sure she's right and that Apprentice Jerik knows we're on the way."

"I just might do that," Temreth nodded slightly, summoning a wind-whisp and sending it off to Quasma. They already had a stretcher ready to move Tomar into the circle once it was there, and a number of volunteers ready to help carry it. It was a fairly well-organized effort, for as little time as they'd had to prepare it.

It helped that there was only one injured and one walking to rescue.

Temreth couldn't help but be grateful when Quasma arrived and he had something to do besides wait, even if it was just to keep her calm.

"All right, let's see what we've got here," Schol said, setting out the drawings and map and inspecting them, hir green-scaled tail swishing behind hir. "Not bad," shi admitted as shi inspected them. "That spell of yours seems to be fairly effective, Temreth, even in the hands of an apprentice."

"That was the idea," Temreth observed. "It should just be a few more minutes, Quasma," he reassured the Lynx. "I'm going to go make sure that he knows we got his whisper, and that they're ready for us."

"At leased dressed for company." She couldn't help but snicker, then turned serious. "Just don't surprise them, Temreth. Jerik's a lot more dangerous than he looks when he's defending somebody, and it's not with magic."

"I'll keep it in mind," Temreth nodded, leaving the room to keep from interfering with Schol's spell when he teleported, and to collect his Defender so she wouldn't completely flip out after hearing he went somewhere without her.

"It's ready?" The powerful black Eagle asked, her brilliant white head-feathers ruffled in anticipation.

"Almost," Temreth nodded. "You want to come with me, or wait for the circle? I'm going to go let them know what's coming, so we'll be going back with the rest of them either way."

"You know I want to go with you," she fluffed her feathers, her tone as serious as ever.

"I know," he smiled to the other students. "All right," he said, turning to the other apprentices who had volunteered. "Sela and I are going to teleport out to make sure Apprentice Jerik and his Defender are ready. The rest of you, prepare to go with Mage Schol when shi's ready."

With that, he rapidly chanted the teleport spell, etching the symbols into the air with his staff before he and Sela were ripped through space, emerging about twenty paces from the camp, near a stack of dead goblins.

"Well, it seems Quasma's drawings were accurate," he observed. "Ready Sela?" He asked, pulling his robes tighter around himself.

"Hold Apprentice!" She ignored her mage, stepping in front of him with her shield up to buffer against the youth half way through a charge at the intruders.

He skidded to a stop with a fluff of snow, Kaul drawn as a sword. "Mage Temreth." Jerik almost stammered, startled by the teleports' effects on his magical alarms. "You heard it." He breathed in relief.

"We heard," Temreth nodded, stepping out from behind Sela. "My apologies for not sending advance warning, but I wasn't sure how you managed to get the whisper back to the Academy in the first place, and didn't want to waste time figuring out how to send one back reliably myself. In a few minutes, Mage Schol should be sending a group of apprentices through to help us move Tomar back through a teleport circle. If you would take us there, we can start the group getting ready."

"Great." He smiled in real relief and sheathed his sword into the full staff again and headed the short distance into camp. "Tomar is going to be so glad to get out of that tent."

"What happened to him?" Temreth asked as they followed him. "The goblins?"

"Yes," he nodded and smiled warmly to the prone Rohr inside their tent. "They surprised us over breakfast, one managed to bury a dagger in his left hind leg. Missed everything vital, but he can't put any weight on it. You saw what we did in exchange."

"Would've done more, but they ran before we got the chance," Tomar muttered. "Glad to see some friendly faces besides Jerik's," he added with a smile. "So, I'm guessing our rescue's here?"

"Yes. Jerik's whisper spell reached us. The rest of the party will be here soon." Temreth said as Jerik began packing up camp as quickly as he could without dealing with the tent.

"Is there any way I can help?" Tomar asked Jerik, hoping for something he could do.

"Be still so you don't hurt yourself worse." He said seriously, their few things packed up quickly. "I know it sucks."

"Definitely a Defender," Sela chuckled, shaking her head from near the entrance of the tent. "Don't worry, Tomar. From what I saw, you made a good accounting of yourself, unless your mage is more a warrior than a mage."

"He took out two of them with a cooking spit, before he even got his hands on a weapon," Jerik pointed out with a chuckle and a bit of honest pride in his partner.

"Well, it was handy," Tomar said, blushing slightly as Quasma rushed up to the tent, sticking her head in to check on Tomar.

"They're all here!" She called back out.

"I could have told you that." Jerik teased her with a grin of relief on his face.

"Hey, he doesn't seem to mind seeing a different face," Quasma pointed out with a smirk, then hugged Jerik tight and got one in return. "Next time you send a whisper saying somebody was hurt bad, say which somebody!"

"I'll try to remember." He murmured as the various apprentices approached, carefully working to move the tent before helping Tomar onto the stretcher, the Rohr looking completely and utterly embarrassed by the effort and attention on his behalf.

"Would it be easier unconscious?" Jerik offered softly from his partner's side.

"Only if it was something with a mace that made me that way," Tomar said, ducking his head.

"Hush," Temreth chuckled, shaking his head. "Would you feel any better if you were walking back with an injured mage on your back?"

"No sir," Tomar admitted. The group quickly made their way back to the teleportation circle, glowing on clear ground.

"Mage Schol already started swearing, Mage Temreth," Quasma warned him. "Shi has ankle-deep snow in hir teleportation room."

"The weather is outside of my control, Quasma," the Stoat chuckled, shaking his head. "Shi was going to be irritated one way or the other, I'm sure."

"It could be a lot worse," Jerik commented as they got inside the circle.

"Quite easily," Temreth agreed. Everybody gathered together, the circle flaring as space shifted and became one, and they were left standing, surrounded by the aforementioned snow that had come through the first time.

"So you two are the ones who -" Mage Schol started.

"No time; we need to get Jerik's Defender down to medical," Temreth said smoothly, ushering the Apprentices out quickly, before the half-dragon Rat could start yelling.

"Thank you," Jerik murmured to his teacher when the door was closed behind them and the group was headed for the healers.

"Shi's a good person, but has the temper of her father," Temreth observed as they hurried through the halls towards the Prelate's rooms. "Shi'll cool down once hir workshop's dry again."

"That shouldn't take long, at hir Circle." He nodded, his hand yet to come off his Defender.

"No, it shouldn't. I think shi just likes to complain. He will be fine, Jerik," Temreth pointed out, glancing down at his hand. Not many pairs bonded this quickly, and few mages as young as Jarik were so protective of their Defender.

"I know," Jerik looked up with a bit of a smile. "It doesn't stop me wanting to be here." He tried to explain something that went even deeper than instincts for him.

"I understand, Jerik," Temreth chuckled. "But he might prefer if you helped with the stretcher to petting his head."

"It's all right," Tomar blushed. "I think my ears went numb just after the teleport," he chuckled as they reached medical.

"Well, you're not hurt that badly if you can joke about it," Quasma observed, the group stopping so a number of Servants could take over for the apprentices.

"I know enough to keep it from getting that bad." Jerik said seriously, more than a bit sick at the idea that it could have easily been different. If it had been his leg, instead of Tomar's, he'd either be dead or needing magic that he wasn't entirely sure Prelate Raphael had at his disposal.

As it was, the Bear was ready for them.

"Thank you, Mage Temreth; I'll take over from here," he said briskly. "Now, let me look at that wound," he said.

"Hard to miss it, Prelate," Tomar joked as Jerik helped to remove the bandage.

"You've done something to numb him?" The Bear asked Jerik, inspecting the wound. It was deep, for a goblin's attack. Clearly he knew what he was doing. Fortunately, Jerik had also done a fairly competent job of keeping it from getting as bad as it easily could have become. Many mages would have simply tried to pull the dagger out without taking the care to make sure they didn't sever something critical.

"Yes, Prelate. There are places you can apply pressure to affect sensations. The lower half of his wolf body has a muted pain response."

"Fortunately, it shouldn't interfere with my healing methods," the Bear mused. "Some I've met would have trouble with it. It doesn't seem that the wound was poisoned, also a plus ...." He looked up at Tomar.

"Marash isn't a jealous goddess, Prelate," Tomar said, shaking his head. "And for this one, I'll take the healing if it's in the offing."

"It definitely is," Raphael nodded. He spoke a brief prayer, focusing longer, carefully gathering the energy from his own deity and working it into Tomar's body, starting at the bottom and healing him from the inside out. Before long, he was finished, the wound sealing with a faint scar.

"You can undo you work now, Apprentice," Raphael told him. "He should be fine now."

"Thank you," Jerik said, truly impressed by the Prelate's work. He took a moment to work over Tomar's lower body, undoing the numbing he'd set in place to allow his partner to rest.

Tomar winced slightly as full feeling came back into limbs that had been mostly numb long enough for him to get used to it, but he was quickly trying to get back onto his feet.

"Thank you, Prelate," Tomar said, bowing his head respectfully.

"Try to watch out for daggers," Raphael suggested with a chuckle. "And let me know if you have any further troubles."

"I will," Tomar nodded.

"Do you need any help, Jerik?" The Bear asked.

"No, Prelate." He shook his head. "I wasn't really hurt."

"That's what I like to hear," he smiled, glancing over at Tomar. "You know, you're doing your job just as well, perhaps even better, if you live through a fight where you took hits your mage would have otherwise. At the very least, I know I prefer healing to attempting resurrection."

"Yes, Prelate," Tomar nodded. "Thank you."

"Now, the two of you go rest, and get a decent meal," Raphael told them. "Before you report to your teachers. And that's an order."

"Yes, Prelate." Jerik smiled his thanks and quite happily ushered his Defender out and towards their quarters. "It's good to have you walking again."

"Better to be walking again," Tomar rumbled. "Think they'll give us time to get used to having beds again before they have us report?"

"The Prelate ordered us to rest," he grinned. "So at least one night."

"Good," the Rohr sighed slightly, stretching out as they started up the tower. "It is so good to be home."

"Skies, you should have seen Tomar." Quasma shook her head as she, Remys and Tessi walked along the corridor of the quarters of Transformation school's apprentices. "That wound was ugly."

"I'll bet Jerik was about ready to go mad," Remys mused. "They both got back okay though?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Tomar looked like he wanted to die with all the fuss made over him, but they're both doing fine now. The Prelate let them go an hour ago."

"Well they'll certainly be back in their quarters then," the Gila Monster chuckled. "It'll be good to see them again."

"And to meet Jerik's staff," Tessi grinned. "Knowing him, he'll be something else."

"Yeah, like a she," Quasma pointed out with a slight smirk as they approached the door. "Unless I'm seriously mistaken."

"Oops," Tessi giggled. "Well, looks like he hasn't locked the door. Should we just head in?"

"Why not?" Quasma shrugged and pushed the door open. "Oh my." She grinned and stepped in, her eyes on the naked Rohr and his equally naked female friend making out.

"I th- ah c'mon!" Tomar groaned, reaching over and grabbing a blanket off Jerik's bed, pulling it down over them quickly, blushing deeply.

"What's - oh," Tessi said, blushing beneath her fur as she picked up the arousal scent from the two of them.

"Do you two ever quit?" Remys asked, shaking his head as he stepped in and the door closed.

"Don't you guys ever knock?" Tomar asked back, popping his head up from under the blankets just in time for his eyes to roll back as Jerik did something under the covers.

"The door was unlocked." Quasma pointed out. "Nice to know he plays as a she."

"You forgot to lock the door?" Tomar asked Ryka as some of his clothes disappeared under the blanket.

"Apparently." Her voice muttered from under the blanket before he came out with leggings on and a glare for Quasma.

"What'd I do?" She asked with a giggle.

"Sorry," Tessi piped up, at least having the decency to look embarrassed.

"Anyone else would have knocked." He pointed out. "Unlocked door to you or not."

"Come on, it's not like I saw that much," Quasma pointed out, rolling her eyes. "You guys want us to come back later?"

"Yes!" Both males nearly shouted in unison.

"All right! All right!" She raised her hands and backed out. "We'll see you in an hour?"

"That'll be fine," Tomar said. "We'll probably have some food here by then."

"Oh like it's really just eating that you're waiting for," she teased, ducking out and closing the door before a pillow slammed against it.

"Now, back to what we were doing?" Jerik asked and shifted form into Ryka, her bare breasts adding a sensuality to her movements that wasn't there as a Jerik.

"Mmm ... I think so," Tomar rumbled, kissing her and glancing back at the door. "Locked this time?"

"Locked this time," she nodded and slipped the leggings off. "I think we were about to get serious," she murmured and deepened the kiss as she lowered her body onto her lover's rigid cock.

"Oooh yeah," Tomar groaned into Ryka's mouth, starting to thrust lightly, fondling her breasts beneath the covers while she squeezed down around the large cock inside her body.

"Love how you feel in me." She panted, riding his thrusts with a bit more skill.

"Love how you feel around me," Tomar groaned, his balls tingling. "Mmm ... think Quasma wants you like this some time," he rumbled.

"She does," Ryka shuddered and closed her jaws on Tomar's shoulder. "Can't wait until you can pin me down doing this."

"One of these days," Tomar grunted, his knot swelling as it popped in and out of Ryka's body, his jaw closing around her shoulder. "Close ...."

"Oh, yeah." She pressed down to take his knot inside before it got too big and pulled her internal muscles upwards, putting as much pressure on it's base as she could.

Tomar groaned, fighting to keep from biting any harder as his balls contracted, spilling his seed deep into Ryka's sex as she milked him, her sharp teeth against his skin to muffle her cries of pleasure.

The Rohr panted, hugging her tight against him, licking her neck affectionately as they slowly came down.

"Think it'll last long enough to let my knot come down normally?" Tomar asked hopefully after a few minutes.

"Maybe," she murmured. "Longer than last time at least."

"Mmm ... we'll see then," Tomar sighed happily, nuzzling his mate's neck. "This is incredible, Ryka," he murmured.

"It is," she smiled and nuzzled him. "The future will only get better." She added with a shiver and deep purr. "Love you."

"I love you too," Tomar rumbled, snuggling up close. "Ryka, Jerik, or whoever you look like."

"Jerik, for you." She purred, then sighed. "It's wearing off." She made the adjustments to her pelvic bones to slid off his knot, but snuggled against him without changing back until the spell had actually worn off.

"Want your other end to get some attention?" Jerik purred deeply and kissed him.

"Mmm ... should have the better part of an hour for it ... sure," Tomar rumbled deeply, pushing the blanket aside and lifting his hind-body up, tail raised high and wagging.

"I don't know why they're so prudish about that sort of thing," Quasma grumbled lightly as the three of them went to get something light to eat while they waited. "Not like anybody doesn't think they're romping like rabbits in heat."

"Oh, please," Remys rolled his beady black eyes. "Anyone else would have thrown us out faster and you know it. You keep teasing them like that, and you're going to end up getting in trouble."

"Doesn't change the fact that they're not hiding anything," the Lynx shrugged as they sat down. "I mean, is there anybody who hasn't been with their Defender at least once around here?"

"I haven't," Tessi said shyly.

"Neither have I." Remys glared at Quasma. "You're just jealous that Tomar's getting what you want."

"So I've got good taste. And you're really telling me that you and Kennara have never ...?" Quasma looked at Remys, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes, I am," the Gila Monster said simply. "I've got better things to work on right now than my sex drive. Like you should," he pointed out.

"I've already cast a Second Circle spell, I'm not behind." She almost bristled.

"Maybe not behind, but you're hardly top of the classes," he pointed out. "Maybe you're a little too focused on trying to get back in bed with a certain tom?"

"I am not." She flattened her ears sharply.

"All right," Remys said with a bit of a shrug. "At any rate, it's good you were able to find him. A regular rescue probably wouldn't have been easy, I'm sure."

"No, it wouldn't," she cooled off. "Would have left them out there a lot longer too."

"At least they're both back all right," Tessi piped up, glad that the impending fight seemed to have been avoided for now.

"Yeah," Remys nodded. "I was starting to get worried about them; it's not like Jerik to be running late without anybody hearing about it."

"It's not like his camping spot was within range of anything he could cast." Quasma pointed out. "It was a miracle he reached Mage Temreth as far out as they were."

"I know," Remys nodded. "I was just saying that it was why I was concerned," he explained. "Now we know what was holding them up."

"They're lucky they had the gear they did," Tessi observed. "Sounds like they got caught in that blizzard we heard about."

"Jerik would," Remys chuckled, shaking his head. "He knows how to get himself into trouble, even when he's not trying."

"Knows how to get out of it too," Quasma pointed out. "I think he's one of those people I got warned about associating with. The kind that is a trouble foci."

"I'm sure of it," Remys chuckled. "But he's a good friend, and as much as he might get into trouble, he does know how to get out of it too. He's either going to have a long and interesting career, or a short and very interesting one."

"From his family, I guess a long one." Quasma chuckled. "They tend to be survivors."

"So, do you think his staff will be anything like him?" Tessi asked.

"Probably," Quasma nodded with a chuckle. "Only stranger."

"Now there's a scary thought," Remys chuckled. "Stranger than Jerik? He's already from another world."

"And he's using the crystals from his former sword as its finial." Quasma pointed out. "It's an incredible piece of work too. I've never seen a finial that intricately carved before. Not by an Apprentice at least."

"I'd assumed it was that way before he put it into his staff," Remys admitted. "Did he carve it here, himself?"

"Yap," she nodded. "He worked with cheap wood and quartz to perfect it before creating the one he's using. I saw at least three attempts that I thought looked good before he managed to create what he wanted to. I think every part of that staff has had at least one mock-up created before he even went for approval."

"That's Jerik," Tessi chuckled, shaking her head. "Always the perfectionist."

"It makes him an exceptional Transformationist." Quasma pointed out. "It's a field that really does require that kind of nature to excel at. The magic isn't so dangerous as Remys', but you have to know what you are changing into incredibly well to do a good job of it."

"Makes me glad that I'm not specializing the way you three are," Tessi said, shaking her head a bit. "I don't have to worry about those things as much."

"You also don't get all the fancier tricks we do," Remys chuckled. "But that's a debate that's gone on for centuries, and will for centuries more."

"One that your side is as obvious as your specialty, or lack of it." Quasma snickered. "Think they're done yet?"

"Mmm ... probably not yet, but by the time we're back it'll be close to the hour," Remys chuckled. "We'll just have to remember to knock this time."

"He probably locked the door this time." Tessi chuckled as they started towards his quarters.

"Well, if he didn't ...." Quasma giggled.

"We're still knocking first," Remys said, rolling his eyes. "You're just lucky he hasn't reached the point where he can turn you into something."

"At his progress, it won't be long." Tessi giggled. "Then you'll really have to watch out."

"Okay, okay," Quasma grumbled good-naturedly. "I'll be good."

"We're not asking for miracles," Remys smirked. "Just be better."

"Before he turns you into a literal fly on the wall." Tessi added with a snicker and knocked on the door, which opened for them, allowing the smells of food to drift out.

"So are you two decent now?" Quasma asked with a giggle, poking her head in to see the pair in their favorite position; Jerik relaxing between Tomar's forelegs.

"Yes, we are," Tomar said with a blush. "Come on in; we ordered enough for everybody, I think."

"Looks more like you ordered enough for everybody on the floor," Remys chuckled as the trio stepped in and saw the spread of food available, mostly baked goods and fruits.

"Hey, we've been on a carnivore's diet for the better part of a month now," Tomar pointed out, finishing buttering a bun. "And that's when we weren't spending a week on gruel. It's all well and good when it's your choice, but when it's forced on you, it gets old."

"So you did get caught in the storm?" Tessi asked and sat down to pick up a sweet roll.

"Yeah," Tomar muttered, shaking his head. "Jerik had just finished his staff a couple hours after it started, right before it got really bad. That was when things started getting bad."

"Next time, we're getting a bigger tent." Jerik chuckled softly and claimed an orange. "And a gruel spoon using meat flavoring."

"Oh, so you get a week to get sick of the flavor of meat-sludge instead of wheat-sludge?" Quasma asked with a smirk.

"Hey, we don't shoot your good ideas down," Tomar pointed out. "Besides, we were thinking of something that'd be more like stew than gruel."

"Well, good luck," the Lynx chuckled. "So! What's she like?"

"Even more snarky than you." Jerik chuckled and levitated the carved hardwood staff to him. "This is Kaul."

"I don't think that's possible," Tessi snickered. "Everything worked out right in the enchantment?"

"Yes," he nodded. "Even the extra enchantments to prep it for my energy sword spell." Jerik grinned and held the staff sideways to draw the brilliant, slender blade.

"Very cool," Quasma grinned. "So now you can baffle your combat instructors right along with your magic ones, huh?"

"Just making use of what I already know," he chuckled easily. "I have years of sword training already. No reason to waste it."

"True," she nodded. "Though isn't it weird, getting used to having a blade at the end?"

"A little," he nodded slightly. "It's why it's such a light blade."

"So has Kaul started bugging you about wanting a voice of her own yet?"

"*Well, bugging might be too strong a word ....*"

"After the first couple minutes." He chuckled.

"*Hmph,*" Kaul pouted mentally.

"Numin's the same way," Quasma chuckled. "I think he figures that unless I give him a voice, the rest of the world won't have the 'blessing' of finding out just how much he knows."

"Figures that your staff would be a know-it-all," Remys chuckled. "Whisper's just that; nice and quiet most of the time."

"Probably scared of you." Jerik winked at him.

"Actually, it feels more like a good friend," Remys smiled slightly, leaning his slender black staff against the wall as he snatched a hot, meat-filled bun from table to eat. "No need to speak, when you know what each other is thinking already."

"Impressive," he murmured, honestly surprised at that.

"I still think you scare him," Tessi teased lightly. "I've heard some mages talk about a bond like that, but it's usually after they've had their staff for a long time."

"I guess we're just a bit closer," Remys chuckled slightly. "So what's yours like, Tessi?" He asked her, nodding to the creamy white ash wood staff with its aquamarine finial that was taller than she was.

The ginger tabby smiled, looking up her staff.

"Wildwood's ... interesting. All over the place, most of the time. But when he focuses, he's pretty insightful."

"In other words, kinda like you," Quasma giggled.

"A little, maybe," Tessi admitted with a bit of a blush. "Don't think I'll be hurrying up to let him talk with the rest of the world though; he's a little too scatter-brained most of the time."

"Far too honest in their opinions too." Jerik chuckled.

"*What, you want me to lie to you?*" Kaul snorted in his head.

"*No, but you have no sense of socially appropriate behavior yet.*"

"Yeah, that's something most of them seem to have in common," Quasma chuckled. "Thought some of them are a little more tactful than others, from what I've heard."

"Most likely. Now, what have you found out about that treasure hunt?" Jerik asked her.

"Well, I'm pretty sure I know where it is we have to go," she explained. "I've got a map in my room I can bring down later so we can take a look at it."

"And we've just about got the plans together to get approval; it's mostly a matter of formalities now, I think," Remys added.

"Ahem?" Tessi coughed quietly, looking between the two of them.

"Oh yeah," Quasma said with a bit of a blush. "And Tessi'd like to come along, if we don't mind splitting things a fourth way."

Jerik considered her slightly, not really surprised. "So what are you bringing to this mission?"

"For one thing, I can use my spells more often than any of you three can, even if I don't know as many yet," Tessi pointed out. It was true; she had her parent's talent for magic, and knew how to use it. "And I'm not looking for a full share; I figure we'll take out what you guys need to pay off your debt first. But are you going to tell me that you really couldn't use some extra help with it? To haul everything away, if nothing else; there's a limit to how much can be stuffed in a pack."

"Agreed," he nodded and relaxed with a slight smile. "Any objections?" He looked at Remys.

"Honestly, she'll probably be handier than I will be, unless we run into some undead in the mine," Remys chuckled. "I don't mind."

"And I don't either," Quasma said easily. "I'm sure the extra help'll be worth it to keep us out of trouble."

"All right, you're in." He nodded to Tessi. "Starting tomorrow, we all need to make time to start combat practice together and with our Defenders. It's too easy to hit the wrong target with eight people in the group. Especially if we run across goblins again."

"Remys and I are scheduled for third bell after lunch," Quasma told Jerik. "Think you guys can arrange the same?"

"It's not usually difficult, especially given we have good reason for the request." Jerik nodded with Tomar's agreement. "I'm sure most of the instructors who care are aware of our plans to some extent."

"They are, and that we're going to be wanting to train together," Remys nodded easily. "Tessi? That time work for you too?"

"Yes," she nodded easily. "Not a problem."

"Think we've got that covered then," Quasma smiled. "Bet we blow everybody away with this," she added, her smile breaking into a grin.

"One way or another." Jerik chuckled. "So did anything interesting happen here while we were gone?"

"Well, I managed a Second Circle spell while we were trying to find you," Quasma offered with a grin.

"That is something to note," Jerik grinned back and relaxed into the small talk of Academy life that he'd missed so much in his month absence.

A Heritage of Power 4: Jerik's Story 9.99: Enchanting a Staff

NC-17 for M/H and F/H

23 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written January 16, 2006 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Herath, Star Wars (Furry)

Primary Races: Dragon, Enchanted Item, Feline, Gila Monster, Kat, Rohr (Herm Wolftaur), Stoat

Contents: Furry. Gen. Sex (Teen), Violence

Pairings: Jerik Clawson/Tomar, Ryka Clawson/Tomar

Notes: The Pearl Drop meditation was created by Hyperbunny.

Blurb: Three weeks in the wilderness to enchant his staff, and bond with his Defender, are not going to be as simple as anyone expected.

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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