The Wild Child

by Howard Faxon

Copyright© 2014 by Howard Faxon

: A Darkover orphan breaks free of the system and discovers his latent powers--fan fiction.

Tags: Magic  

I grew up as a sullen child in the Thendarra spacer’s orphanage. As a babe in arms I was found with an off-world identity card fastened around my neck naming me Mikhail NPN or no patronymic known--the mark of a true bastard.

I had dark-red hair that would never behave and bright green eyes. Despite my years my body stayed child-like with slim hips and shoulders. I had no muscles to speak of but I could run with the wind, and that’s what I did. I ran. Every chance I got. The pitiful locks on the rooms and gates seemed made to be opened by one such as me. When trapped between the walls of an alley I found that I could easily and quickly climb the walls to the roof-tops, where loose roof corbels made ready weapons to hurl down upon my pursuers.

Once I stole a spool of braided off-world heavy fishing line my success was assured. Large fishing hooks were easy to filch. I could then snatch food from the merchant’s carts under their very noses and be gone before they noticed. I managed to barter for a few decent blankets and a piece of canvas to call my own. During the cold times I slept wrapped around chimneys.

During my second summer I accumulated a waterskin, a shoulder bag, a sturdy steel camp knife, a slim yet sturdy piece of rope that was deceptively long and a well-tempered slender saber still steaming from the cooling tank of a smith. I spent what seemed to be ages clearing and polishing the fuller as well as slowly sharpening it until that thing would shave the tiny red hairs from the backs of my forearms. Knives were tools. This blade seemed to be an extension of my arm.

My ultimate prize though, was a glowing blue stone half the size of my thumb in a silvery cage. Someone had negligently dropped it while walking through the market. Folk simply walked past it as if it were a stone or a leaf in the woods. It shone like a beacon to me. I snatched it up and hid it deep within my clothes, against my skin. I took it out at night to stare at it in wonder, tracing the tiny blue-white paths within it that seemed to grow and stretch with my attention.

Soon after that my time of growth came upon me. Positively everything ached. My clothes no longer fit. I became dangerously clumsy. I fled the city and trapped game to live off of as I no longer could trust my body to answer my commands. I had to learn an entirely different set of skills to exist, then prosper in the woods. Creating a shelter is easy. Creating an invisible shelter is another matter altogether.

I learned that a series of bent wood withes would hold up the walls of a tunnel dug into a hillside. Further, a wall of mudded-in stones partially covered in dirt and live brush made a nearly-invisible wall to hide my rude little redoubt. Over time I dug it deeper and secured it with more braces. I learned to taper the floor up to a corner where I had a small fire and an air hole where most of the smoke was convinced to follow the wall up and outside. Over time I grew into my height and weight, then slowly regained my dexterity. I learned to tan and stitch hides into clothing as I saw the mountain folk wear. I slowly learned to rock in the walls of my rude shelter, then build a stone floor. A raised plinth before the fire pit gave me a respectable place to sleep. It was widened over several years’ time to provide for a larder and a small smoke-house. Still, I stayed in the forest except for occasional forays into town for things I needed such as flour and salt, for which I traded animal pelts. I talked to others so little that I was amazed that I recalled how to speak at all. I spent over eight years in the woods. The wolf packs and great cats knew me. Since I only took what was needed I was not a threat to them.

I did not know it, but I was carefully observed.

There were few left at hold Edelweiss. The house had disasterously supported the wrong side during the Hastur ascendancy. Many died while others became thralls or cast the dice and traded all they had for a berth on the giant starships that had just recently come to the planet.

The great table-shaped scrying matrix lay in the deepest basement of the hold. It had rung like a bell some twelve years before. This was so unusual that two of the clan’s talented ones began watching. The matrix kept following a small ragged boy which none of the surviving family could interpret. However, when the child was seen going through locks as if they were mist the connection was made. The boy was an Edelweiss. He had the family talent. Nothing could hold him. Nothing could bind him. Nothing could stop him. He was one of them: a true member of a clan of assassins.

His antics, successes and failures became the talk of the daily dinner table. When he discovered a star stone and became sealed to it there was a great exhultation. They were all of older blood. Watching him climb from success to success in his solitary existence finally brought forth a concensus among the elders--they needed a head of clan and this young man, because of his obvious strengths, despite his near-total lack of education, was their only hope. Will-he or nill-he, he was elected.

Two guards were sent out to contact me. I felt that I was hunted and took to the trees. I garrotted both of them and stole their possessions before disposing of the bodies down a deep ravine.

The clan elders were shaken that their best trail men had been taken so easily. This wild child was so much better than their best trained warriors that they knew they had no chance--without help. After much bitter recrimination a message was sent off to House Hastur that their aid was required lest their house fail.

I was six-foot four and slender as a whip. I wore my red hair tied in a queue at the neck. During the warm season I wore a loincloth and boots. When the winter rains came I wore a greased leather tunic with a hand-woven heavy sleeveless under-tunic that went to my knees. I wore greased leather boots with felt liners and a greased leather hooded cloak over all with a belt to keep out the winds. I used long flights with stone tips and a throwing stick the length of my fore-arm to launch them. I did not suffer for the lack of meat.

I was able to silently scale a tree within moments, then using a stick as a grip, lower a noose over an animal feeding at a bait and haul it kicking to a quick death. I took deer, porcupine, wild pig and bison calves in this fashion. My spool of off-world fishing line refused to age or rot. It gave me an unfair advantage that I refused to surrender. I kept dreaming with my star stone. It kept me calm and focussed. Over time I realized that I was being taught a specific type of focus necessary to speak to the stone. That was when I learned some of what a star-stone could do.

Kindair Hastur received the message from one of the back-country clans concerning their continued existence. After a bit of research he regretfully brought the matter up before his cousin, Ardais. “They are thieves and assassins, yet they are brothers on this world. They profess ownership, or at least clan consanginuity with this wild brethren. Twice he has viciously dispatched trackers like a hillman at war. What is your reading?”

Truly, he did not despise his cousin, yet he had the habit of unearthing the most devious, the most difficult of problems. Ardais was severely tempted to teach his cousin’s horse to bite him in an amazingly painful place...

“Show me your report.” A small crystal exchanged hands.

Late in the fall, just short of the times of killing winter cold, a small holding was built out of rock, deep in the mountains. The winds promised an unusually fierce winter. Kindair had been given the onerous task of breaking this dangerous hawk to the jesses. He sat and played all the old tunes he could remember night after night, using his star-stone to heal his fingers after his incessant playing, to lure food and heat his cabin. His quarry remained elusive.

Night after night I heard the incessant songs. First they annoyed me. Then they angered me. I was being subjected to a long-term Laran attack. I wanted nothing to do with those who called. No doubt they were prepared to subdue and perhaps enslave me. I spent much time concentrating on my stone. Eventually I learned to turn the trap back upon itself, strengthened by a bit of my anger until it became a tooth-grinding agony to those that sent it.

Kindair found himself constantly dizzy, unable to eat. The droning screech in his ears refused to dissipate. In sheer fury and confusion he sent out a call for help.

Ardais was appalled at the condition his nephew was suffering under. It took a circle of four to break the resonance that was carving his mind into mush. It took them weeks to understand what had happened. When Kindair learned that his own calling had been perverted into a Laran maze he found himself profoundly disturbed. He vowed to never again use his talents to take unfair advantage of those with lesser or no Laran abilities ever again. It was a painful lesson that helped him mature as a Laran-wielding adult.

My skills with my stone slowly, subtly grew. By spring I constantly felt an itch at my back as if I were being watched. It angered me deeply. I somehow knew that my blue stone held the answers I needed. I gradualy fed my strength, my anger into that stone until I felt it ring and shiver in my hands like an anvil struck by a powerful blacksmith’s blows. When I felt that my stone was near to bursting I lay still and cast my mind out, seeking those that watched me. I saw the ghostly image of a chamber where others in robes sat about a table topped with a large flat crystal. I felt it to be the key to my anger, my leash. While observing this thing I clasped my steel dagger from my waist and screamed out as I thrust it through that image while I screamed and discharged all my free pwer into it. With a violet-blue flash my vision snapped out as I became insensible on my pallet.

Miles away, the cirlce of seers had been thrown against the walls of their chamber. Only their slow breaths and the steady beating of their hearts showed them to be alive. The irreplacable scrying stone was fractured into several blackened fragments. The stench of ozone rode heavily on the air. One of them slowly stirred and blinked his eyes. “What in Zandru’s name was THAT?”

I slowly woke the next morning, aching in every joint and bearing a head that rang like a bell. “Ohh. Bad decision. Bad decision.” I was positively ravenous. I had some honeyed grain and dried fruit stored somewhere. My belly thought that my throat had been cut. I slowly sipped water and ate my fruit confection that had been put up in mid-summer. I sat on my chair and pulled on my britches. What had happened? They were too short by over a handspan. Still, I pulled them on, took up my knife and made my way to the smoke house. I was prepared to put some muscle into carving free a piece of dessicated meat to gnaw on. I almost fell over backwards as my knife slashed through the hanging hind quarter with the texture of dried maple. After picking my morning’s meal off the floor I took the blade out into the sun to examine it. Why was it shining a pearly blue color? I tried it once more against the dried meat, but more carefully. It cut through the stuff with hardly an effort. I gave a small laugh. Wonderful effect. Painful process! I sat in the sun chewing away at that smoked venison, wondering what had happened. I would have been even more distraught had I known that I was the proud posessor of silvery-white hair, light grey eyes and slightly pointed ears. It made my next foray into town for supplies quite interesting. I didn’t notice that my stone was sitting on my chest, exposed to the sunlight. I heard a slight bell-like ringing in the back of my mind. Something told me to pay it no attention. I soon fell asleep in the sun as my matrix explored and expanded my mind. We had broken through into another level.

The seers had all regained conciousness. They inspected their scrying matrix with dismay. One said, “I seem to remember a glowing hand with a fiery blade striking down at the matrix, just before the explosion.” One other nodded in agreement. Another said, “What have we awakened? Our cousin exhibits talents not seen since the great wars. We all have read of the ages when battle wizards walked the earth leaving nothing but death and destruction in their wake. By Zandru’s Hells, what have we done?”

I soon felt uncomfortably cramped in my current home. I cast about with my mind to find a better place. Before long I found the remains of a collapsed tower, long abandoned, deep within the mountains. It did not call to me so much as I felt its potential. It felt comforting. I gathered my possessions and strode out for my new home. With a thought, I turned back and caused my old redoubt to age and crumble as if it had not been used in centuries. I knew I had a challenging journey ahead. I faced it with anticipation.

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