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CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

TRAINING


It took Brydon several days to find the strength to even stand. He had lost a considerable amount of blood and the brief periods he forced himself to stand caused waves of dizziness to assault him. His right leg was too badly wounded to put weight upon, so he hobbled around pathetically on the other using a strong staff Rakyn had given him.

His left shoulder ached and was so stiff he could barely move it. His ribs were definitely broken, making it hard to eat, breathe, or even move, and his head set up a dreadful pounding to accompany the dizziness whenever he sat up.

“I feel like I fell off a cliff,” he joked to Rakyn one day after the prince asked the usual question of how he felt. Rakyn was pleased that his humor had returned. Brydon neglected to tell him that the sorry jest was camouflage for worry. His friends had need of him and here he was, unable to even walk. He punched the bed in frustration. After a moment, he guiltily gave thanks to Adona that he was still alive and that his sword arm was undamaged, except for a deep gash and some minor bruises.

On the day he could hobble outside to greet the sun, Rakyn began his training.

Talk to me, Rakyn said in his mind as he sank down on a fallen log next to the prince.

“What do you want me to say?” he asked.

With your thoughts, Rakyn commanded with a sense of annoyance.

Fine, Brydon snapped and returned the feeling. Rakyn winced.

Now, turn down the volume and the range. I am right here and you are broadcasting for leagues.

“How do I do that?” Brydon asked aloud.

“Concentrate. Picture... picture a rolled up scroll, very narrow, that stretches from your head to mine. Now, focus your thoughts down and send them through the tube.”

Brydon imagined the thing, but narrowing a thought was not so simple. He realized that he had just been sending his mental words in Rakyn’s direction, not directly at him. He tried to compress them down, but succeeded only in giving himself a headache.

“Try it another way,” Rakyn suggested. “Picture a small object to yourself—and only to yourself. Now, keep a tiny image of the thing and send it through the tube.” Brydon did so, keeping the image small. It was simple.

A leaf! Rakyn said in his mind happily. Magnificent! Keep practicing that until sending images comes naturally and then we will work on words. First you have to learn how to protect yourself. Some thoughts can hurt, especially if they were sent for that purpose. Brydon nodded, recalling Reed’s attacks.

“I see you have had some experience with that,” Rakyn said and Brydon looked at him sharply. Rakyn smiled. This will also keep people from reading your thoughts when you do not want them to.

“Even you?” Brydon inquired.

Even me. Now what you need to do is picture a thick dark wall around your thoughts, keeping out everything
. Brydon did so.

“Now, let us see if it holds,” Rakyn said aloud. He was silent for a moment and then asked, “Did you feel that?”

“Not a thing,” Brydon said. “Should I have?”

“Perhaps not. Let me try again. Anything?”

Brydon shook his head.

“How about now?” Rakyn stressed the last word and Brydon felt as though something
had bounced off the wall in his head, so slight that he had only noticed it because he was concentrating.

“I felt that, sort of. What was it?”

“Amazing,” Rakyn said. “Make the wall thinner, like glass maybe, but not fragile.”

Brydon pictured glass. Thick glass. Blue glass, like the goblets in the castle in Eaglecrest.

“Can you feel this?” Rakyn asked.

“Am I supposed to?”

“Usually. What is blue?”

“I thought you could not read my thoughts.”

“I can’t at the moment, but something is blue,” Rakyn said, puzzled.

“The glass,” Brydon explained. “I made it blue.”

“And it is just as strong as the wall. Astounding. Your mental armor is incredible. Truly. Like no one’s I have ever met. See how long you can keep it up.”

Brydon shrugged. It was not hard to picture the wall.

“Let us make this more difficult. Keep thinking of the wall and answer this. A prince has five diamonds and two rubies. He trades two diamonds for five sapphires, a ruby for three emeralds, and a sapphire for a ruby. How many gems does he have, and what are they?”

“Is that all you Silveran princes think about? Gold and gems?”

“Of course. Answer the question.”

“Twelve. Three diamonds, two rubies, four sapphires, and three emeralds,” Brydon replied.

“Your wall did not budge. Very good. How did you do both at once?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really even have to think about the wall. I just know it’s there. It’s sort of like putting on clothes. Once they’re on, I don’t have to think about them again until it is time to take them off.”

Rakyn sat back, thoughtful. “Can you drop it?” he asked. Brydon’s blue glass vanished. Rakyn’s voice was in his head again, immediately.

Good. Put it back and we will try something else.
Brydon replaced the wall and made it green this time.

“Now picture the tube again. Make a hole in your wall big enough for the tube, but nothing else. Can you do that?”

“Sure.”

“Now, send an image to me and close the wall again,” Rakyn ordered. Brydon did so and found it a little bit difficult.

“Good,” Rakyn said. “A bed, is it? You are tired?”

Brydon nodded and dropped the wall. He was completely exhausted and allowed the prince to help him back to the cave. His head protested.

“It is tiring, especially at first,” Rakyn explained as Brydon sank down on the bed. “But you are very quick and you seem to be somewhat more talented than even I was. It is a good sign. Sleep now.”

Brydon had neither the effort nor the desire to resist and was soon asleep with the prince watching over him.


Over the next week, Brydon’s strength slowly returned and he learned how to do amazing things. He found out how to retain the wall-shield even in his sleep, how to attack others with a painful thought (he liked to picture a dagger plunging into his foe’s head) and how to send an idea directly to Rakyn without visualizing the tube. He also worked each day on extending his “range”. The range was part of what Brydon had always used to determine if intruders were nearby. The way to achieve more range was to send out a smaller quest for knowledge in a single direction. He managed to reach his mind all the way to Ruby, which Rakyn said was some six leagues away. The prince told him his range would get even longer with practice.

Brydon learned how to send healing thoughts to his body each night to speed the healing process. Rakyn said it was working well. On the fourth week after his fall, Rakyn began to practice swordplay.

“You have learned how to make a mental shield for your protection,” Rakyn stated. “But we need to see if you can hold it in battle. As you know, Reed is a master swordsman, as well as being devilish with his gift. He uses both talents to find any edge he can, and he is merciless.”

“Who is Reed? What do you know about him?”

“Only what Nykar has been able to discover. I know he has taken over Ven-Kerrick with trickery, deception, and murder, even though it cannot be proven. I have not been able to locate the Gauntlet Knights. I also have not determined a way to oust Reed without starting a civil war. The Concurrence is in a fragile state. Tar-Tan has never been a willing participant, Bodor prefers to govern itself, and my brothers will seize any strife as a means to further their own ends—they would split the Concurrence to satisfy their greed.”

“Are your ambitions any nobler?” Brydon asked.

Rakyn smiled. “Perhaps not. But I know there are players in this game that make my brothers’ battles look like petty squabbles. Silver is so divided that any sizable force could crush us. Reed will not be satisfied with Ven-Kerrick. His kind are never finished with conquest.”

Rakyn was skilled with the blade in his own right, perhaps better than Reed, although not as good as Toryn. They danced around; Brydon’s leg had healed enough to allow movement for short periods of time. Sometimes, when Brydon concentrated, Rakyn would send a burst of force with his mind. Brydon’s shield was strong and usually he did not even feel it, but once Rakyn half-blinded him with an attack and Brydon forgot to maintain the shield. A moment was all Rakyn needed and he sent a burst of white-hot force at him; Brydon lost control and reeled to the ground.

“Ah hah!” Rakyn cried, exhultant. “That was why you were defeated!”

Brydon got up slowly, holding his head with one hand. Before he could even speak, Rakyn launched into an explanation on how to combat both attacks. That night, they sat outside the cave on velvet covered chairs, watching the sunlight and sipping cool ale that Rakyn kept far back in the cave. Brydon was amazed at the quantity of goods they had smuggled to the cave from the Black City.

“How long before I can leave?” he asked the prince.

“A month,” Rakyn said, running a hand through his dark hair.

“Forget it,” Brydon snapped flatly.

Rakyn sighed. “I knew you would say that. A couple of weeks, at the very earliest.”

Brydon champed at the bit of impatience, but his leg wound had torn open after the exertions of the day and he knew it would be a disadvantage until it was more fully healed.

“Where is Nykar?” he asked to take his mind off of Shevyn in the clutches of Reed, an image that haunted him day and night and threatened to send him northward, his injuries be damned. He had not seen Nykar since his first waking.

“He is in the Black City, keeping an eye on things for me. Keeping my regents honest, mostly.”

“He is your spy?”

Rakyn nodded. “I suppose you could say that. He is my spy, my guardsman, my royal advisor, my assassin, and my friend. He is the only man I would trust with my life.”

Brydon had not realized the two were so close and he suddenly missed Toryn terribly. He felt like half a person without the black-haired Redolian beside him.

“Thinking of your friend?” Rakyn asked.

“I thought you could not read me with my shield up,” Brydon said quietly.

“I can read your face,” Rakyn said. “Heartache is not hard to see.”

“How will I know if he is even alive?” Brydon questioned agonizingly.

“Your range is not yet far enough,” Rakyn replied.

“But yours is.”

“Perhaps, but I do not know Toryn.”

“Does it make a difference?” Brydon asked.

“Of course. You already have a link with him. That is how you can reach him so easily. You would know his mind in a crowd of people. I would not be able to tell him from a hundred Parmittans.” Rakyn was thoughtful for a moment. “I do have an idea, however. I have the same sort of link with Nykar. If I need him, I just follow the link, even if I have no idea where he is. It is kind of like an invisible cord that binds us together. It formed naturally, built of our friendship and trust for one another. Think of Toryn and see if you can detect any sense of direction. Block out everything except an image of Toryn and drop your shield. Do you see or feel anything?”

Brydon, eyes closed, was quiet for a long time, then he said, “I see... no, it is more like a feeling, or sensation, but... it is like a silver chain, going away into blackness.”

“That is it!” Rakyn exclaimed softly. “Now, focus all of your abilities on the chain and follow it. Go!”

Brydon sent his mind winging down the silver links until they blurred into a sparkling line. He went on for what seemed forever and then he began to slow. He tried to force himself onward, but the effort was too great and the distance too far. He had not the power. Furious, he screamed Toryn’s name.

Rakyn’s voice came to him from far, far away.

Come... back... Brydon...

He released his hold on the chain and slid backward in a blur, until he snapped into his own mind. He felt instantly weak, as if he had run on foot over two mountain ranges.

Rakyn knelt at his feet and his cerulean cloak trailed in the dirt behind him.

“I... should be kneeling, not you... Your Highness,” Brydon joked weakly.

“Do not count on it,” Rakyn said. “Are you all right?”

Brydon nodded. “What went wrong?”

“Nothing. He is too far away. You overextended yourself. It is similar to lifting a tree. You have to build your strength and work up to it slowly; you cannot simply rush out and heft it. One thing is certain, though.”

“What is that?” Brydon said, hiding a yawn. He needed rest.

“Your friend lives. You would know it if he were dead.”

“How?”

“The link would be severed. The chain would snap back with enough force to knock you out. You have created a bond between the two of you that cannot be broken except by death.” His voice sharpened somewhat. “Be aware, though, that through this link, you are vulnerable. Your shield cannot block the link and if your enemies can reach Toryn, they can reach you through him. Remember this.”

Brydon nodded, struggling to retain the knowledge as a wave of weariness washed him into oblivion.
 

CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

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