They ate in silence, Iliana finishing astonishingly quickly. She sighed as she sat back, sated. She was beginning to work through some of the questions in her mind. How long had this game been going on? When had it begun to get deadly? Whose idea was it to start in the first place? How many game masters had their been? Who was the current one? Was he the source of all the runners' woes, or was he just unable to change what had already gone too far? She knew the game had to be stopped. She knew the danger it posed to fledgling runners. She also didn't think that the players of the game knew the vital role that runners played in keeping thing running smoothly in the five lands. Inland runners were one thing. They were picked young, trained hard and rigorously until they were fourteen then sent on missions inland until they were eighteen, and then they had a choice to become outland runners. Most inland runners were the children borne of a runners' pairing. Runners did have to be careful who they paired with. Profiles were made, and runners tended to pair with their same breed of animal. There were some runners who had chosen domestic felines, and these had a wider variety of choices.Iliana hadn't told anyone yet about the second gift she had been given as a present of her and Kyle's blood bond. This gift would make it infinitely easier to find information, for no one would think to check certain animals for magic. They couldn't, anyway, it was too impractical.
"Coin for your thoughts, sister."
"Just pondering the puzzle, brother, I don't know yet where to begin to unravel it.? Puzzle was their conde for the game. Iliana was afraid of others finding out what she was planning and wished to keep it as discrete as possible. It was her speculation that the less one knew, the better.
"I told you I would do my own checkingt, sister, do not trouble your mind quite yet. Your faery friends wish you to see them this night, and they say they are bringing in a special guest. I wonder who that could be?"
"Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it is an elf, some say they are good at traveling."
Kyle sighed, "yeah and the barronness finds her voice again�"
"She will one day, no doubt."
Kyle's sister's ability to foresee things sometimes frightened him. He could never tell when her foresight struck except for, sometimes, her voice took on a far away quality, as it had just done. The baroness, six years their senior had not spoken in as many years. The los of three children in four years had taken a hard tole on the woman. Some said she had gon silently mad. Others said that she was afraid of her own voice because of the power in it, which may have caused her to lose the children. Still others claimed that she had become even more powerful since the loss of her voice and could will things to happen just by focusing on them. So what would happen if the rumor about her focusing on things and making them happen were true? Then, what if she regained her voice? Would she lose the ability to will things to happen just by looking, or would her voice enhance that gift making it even more of a force of reckoning?
"When do I meet my friends, Kyle, brother of my blood?"
He smiled. Just the way she lilted that phrase made him smile. "In half an hour, Sister of my blood, in half an hour."
She sat under a mountain ash, wondering how in all the lands Morgan Brighteyes had come to be here. All the way from Earth? That was a hell of a journey. Was he insane? He was as far from his power sorce as a drop of water was from a pond! She thought that elves couldn't travel beyond their power source � was she mistaken, or was this some cruel joke?
"I am pleased to meet you Morgan. I hope your � uh � journey wasn't too terribly hard on you."
Morgan smiled. "I'm exhausted, young runner, but that is tae be expected. I was told you wished to find out about a game that is being played with the lives of your fellow runners, is this true?"
"Yes, it is. It needs to be stopped before something horrible happens. Not hat it hasn't already, we lose at least two runners every moon, and even more during Mead, Wort and Barley Moons. Blood, Snow and Oak Moons aren't too bad. Most of the time, anything between Wolf and Hare Moons we fair pretty good."
Morgan's eyes had gone wide at the mention of the moons. He had no idea that the people here followed the lunar calendar. He had thoughtthat, here, they followed a sun based calendar, as most of the populous of Earth did. He sighed, "So bacically what you're saying is anytime between Blood and Hare Moons, you are OK, and starting at Dyad Moon, things turn sore?"
Both Fawna and Pendle nodded agreement. Three sylphs, Shaydra, Shandeen and Shaia sat in the Mountain ash above Iliana's silvery form. She was again in the half-human form, the one she preferred at night and sat at her eas. She was beginning to like this Morgan. Like him a great deal. She had seen his expression when she had mention the moons, and took it for the surprised shock it was. She smiled inwardly. It must give him great pleasure to know that others followed moon based cycles. There were ones here that did not,but they were far and few between.
"So in this game what are the basic rules?"
"All start points and end points of missions are safty areas. Once a runner leaves those safe areas, they are fair targets. Since start and end points are safe areas there are only a set number of circumstances that allow a runner to remain within the safe areas. Inland runners are excluded from the game, which doesn't please many people, but since they are naught but children, it makes sense. If you are pregnant, recovering from an injury, or helping to care for another ingured runner, you are allowed to remain within the safe areas. They are trying to get a rule past that says that fathers may remain within the safe areas for their child's growing years, but we shall see how that goes. If a runner is hit and falls inside a safe area, the one who struck the runner is still charged for breaking a rule, however, if the runner dies outside the safe area, even if it is right infront of the gate, it is considered a fair hit. The severety of the punishment depends on the severety of the rule broken."
"Isthere not a rule that says rookies are to be kept safe?" Shaia spoke in her whispery, airy voice.
"They are to be put under magics that keep them safe for their first two years of running. All inland runners are also put under these magics. It is up to the master, however, to remember to take that precaution. As you know, the master who didn't take those precautions has joined his two or more rookies."
Morgan smiled. He knew about the deaths of the rookies by indirect means and was very glad he was not there to see them die. Who ever was responsible for those deaths would have been dealt with, and dealt with a speed that would even surprise the young runner seated in front of him. Morgan was beginning to like the eighteen year old. She had apparently started her running at sixteen as in inland runner, for she did not have the look of a rookie runner about her. Lean, strong and statuesque looking, she must be at least two years into running. If not two, just beginning her third, for he remembered that two years was considered rookie status. He was beginning to wonder about this game himself. Who's idea was it to start the game? Had it always been this deadly? Who was in charge of making the rules, and how could he find them? He would definitely have to ask the dryads if he could tap into their power nexus for the duration of this stay. He had used a special gate to get here, and now that that gate was no longer operating, he would have to find another source of energy. This was one of the main reasons he did not make outworld trips. No two power sources were the same on any too worlds, and finding a balance between his needs and those of the world on which he found himself was not always easy, or simple. He was finding out rather quickly that finding a solution to the game puzzle wasn't going to be simple either. First off, where did one begin looking? Wheredid one find the game masters and the rule makers who ran this game? After finding them, how did one go about finding out which one of them was the greedy bastard who was lining his vestcoats with the prophets? He was beginning to become exasperated at the whole nest of worms, and he hadn't
Even started to untangle it yet. This was not a good sign, not a good sign at all.
Haha, poetprodigy7 depending on how far you read on fiction press, you may remember this character.