Yavin had refused any more conversation about the possibility of an heir or the discrepancy of the diary entry from Elder Roem. If Aoife was bound, Benjamin was convinced she must have also had a son, for rumors do not simply take flight from thin air. But it was curious that Yavin was unwilling to speak more of it, as was the change in narrator at the end of the entry. When Benjamin had tried to bring the subject up again, Yavin loudly declared it was time to eat. While they were in a hurry for the sake of ReAnne, no one suggested being on their way quite yet, all of them sure Yavin had not exposed all that he knew.
So they sat, all five around his small makeshift table and ate more meat and left over biscuits from the morning off the plates with the Mirias crest.
“Ottelo, can you throw a mirage of more biscuits? I am still hungry and these have grown almost too stale to eat.” Pitney shoveled the last bit of one in his mouth and spewed out crumbs as he spoke. “Can you make it show up in my mouth? Maybe I could taste it, anyway?”
“You table manners are appalling, Pit. Here, have the last one,” Ottelo chuckled as he it at him. Pitney swallowed hard the last bite in his mouth, but returned the thrown biscuit to the table.
“Wasn’t the Great King contemplating mirage for you at one point, Benjamin? We really could have had a lot of fun with that,” Edward said.
“Yes, but I believe Veil of Mind is what I was meant for.” Edward nodded his consent. Curiously, so did Yavin.
“Pit and I would have had more fun with it if I had mastered it. Can you imagine throwing groups of people with swords that actually would make contact with metal? You could fight a whole army in a valley without having to step off a mountain top.”
“Yes, until someone with Hindering Touch found you. Then your whole army would be vanished and your defeat would be inevitable at a worse deficit than if you had trained soldiers that couldn’t be blown away by skin contact,” Yavin butted in. “Come, Ottelo,” Yavin stood up and puffed out his chest, “Let us work on this mastery that you do not have. For it is simply a lack of training, not lack of ability.” He looked to them all, “Perhaps when I am done with Ottelo, the rest of you would also like some training?”
“How can you train all of us if Mind Mirage is your gifting?” Edward asked. After a person was gifted, they were paired with a mentor who would teach them all that they knew and help as they continued to grow in their gift. If there was no such person, as in Edward’s case, a child of noble blood would be sent to the Elders to glean what they could from their knowledge and practice within a safe environment around those who could document anything new or previously unknown. “You can’t possibly possess more than one-”
“Great are the gifts of kings when they desire to silence you, Prince Edward. Though I consider myself more adept in Mind Mirage, I am fully capable of exercising all of them.”
Edward looked around the table, but everyone else was shrugging or shaking their heads, mouths open, none of them quite sure of Yavin’s character.
“Well, Pit’s out on this one, unless you have some skills with the sword, Yavin,” Ottelo offered.
“With the sword? No. I choose to fight my battles with the gifts.” Yavin raised an eyebrow at Pitney, “You are sure you have none, then?”
“I am not of royal blood, no.” Pitney lowered his head but everyone could see how red his ears were. Benjamin took a chance to search his emotions and found light embarrassment and some frustration, which was to be expected. It could not have been easy to live in the shadow of Ottelo to begin with, but then to have no gifting to speak of, would have added insult to injury. Benjamin kept searching, feeling a strange void in Pitney that he tried tying to an emotion, but when he pressed he was a bit taken back to find he could feel a a push back…as if he was trying to invade into an area Pitney had a natural tendency to hide. Benjamin startled, making both Edward and Pitney take note, but Benjamin refused to make eye contact with either one. Clearly, his gifting was out of practice if he could not focus in on a benighted person’s emotions.
Yavin ignored it and instead asked Ottelo to throw the biscuit on the table. Ottelo focused his mind and soon, a perfect replica of their morning and afternoon bread was present. Yavin stepped towards the table and promptly put a forefinger through it, which dissolved it into a cloud.
“That’s nice, Prince. But I meant for you to literally throw it on the table.” A confused Ottelo picked up the biscuits and tossed it up in the air. Before it had a chance to land on the table, from out of thin air, a small tree branch appeared for just long enough to hit the biscuit and keep it from landing on its desired mark. Instead, it rolled onto the floor and landed in front of Yavin.
All of the young men at the table jerked their heads in his direction, mouths once again open in disbelief.
“Woah. Was that a tree?” Ottelo asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous, boy,” Yavin said as he stooped to pick up the biscuit and toss it on the table for sure this time. “It was only a branch…from a tree. You see, you must make your gifting become second nature to you. Concentrating so hard to do something will not serve you well. How will you travel to the land of shadows to find Belda if you cannot act out your gifting on a moment’s notice, hmm?”
“But how do I do that? I feel like I have to concentrate so hard to believe that what I am doing will happen.”
“Well, yes. But this is your greatest struggle, is it not? You already think you can do it. There have already been things you know you can recreate, and yet, every time your mind must clear and you must have intense concentration. Believing you are capable is not enough; you have to know that you are. Mostly, this takes practice. Here,” Yavin tossed a small rock at Ottelo, which he caught with no problems. “Recreate this rock so many times that you block the entrance to my cave. I’ll wait.”
Ottelo tossed the rock around in his hands, cleared his mind except for repeating ‘I know the rock’ in his head. He started to furrow his brow in concentration, but when Yavin cleared his throat, he took a deep breath and focused on the entrance to the room. Slowly, sometimes one by one and other times by the handful, the small rock started to multiply filling up the entrance and darkening the room even more.
When the entrance was filled halfway, Ottelo felt something hitting him from behind. It was little, at first, and then the push of the object when it connected with his back started to hurt. “Hey!” Ottelo finally cried out and turned to see Yavin’s arm up in the air and a pile of rocks at his own feet. “Were you throwing those at me?”
“Yes. And you took too long to notice because you were concentrating too hard. Incidentally, my rock pile was created in the same time it took you to make four. But also, you shouldn’t have let my distraction break your gifting. Look.”
Ottelo swung back around to see the entrance wide open again and all his rocks vanished into oblivion.
For the better part of an hour, Ottelo tried to fill the entrance while ignoring the rocks that met with his back in increasing pressure. The room grew darker when, finally, the small hole at the top no bigger than a man’s head was filled one by one.
“Um…” Edward stood up slowly and drew his sword even slower. He was surprised he could see it, as he hadn’t realized he was exercising his gift in the first place. He glanced to Benjamin who seemed more lost in the excitement of Ottelo’s success than searching the room for intruders. But there it was. A vex, small in size, but still dangerous, had crawled through the small opening and was crouched in at the foot of Ottelo’s rock wall. Its eyes glowed and flickered with the rhythm of the candlelight and it seemed to taunt Edward, eyeing him from under its pronounced browbone.
Edward turned to Yavin, who was still busily tossing rocks at Ottelo. With Pitney just as focused on Ottelo’s success as Benjamin, Edward took a cautious step towards the entrance to the cave, now just three stones away from being completely closed off. At each subsequent step towards it, the vex would shift from the right to the left. Until Edward was a mere five feet away, sword still drawn, he realized he wasn’t exactly sure what he would do when he reached it. He didn’t have a lot of time to try and figure it out for as his next step fell, the vex stood up on its hind feet and spread its wingspan, hissing at Edward, which broke Ottelo’s concentration and the rocks he had worked on so diligently vanished. Pitney and Benjamin both stood just as Edward went to swing at the creature, but it took the opportunity to fly fast through the now opened tunnel.
Edward turned back to Yavin, but Yavin was looking at Ottelo with his arms crossed, giving no indication that he even saw the vex. He began to chuckle, deep and slow at first, until he ended with an all out belly laugh.
“That’s it, my boy!” He smacked him on his back, forcing the unsuspecting Ottelo to take a few steps forward to steady himself. “Do you know what you’ve done?” Ottelo responded with a shake of his head.
“The vex saw the rocks, climbed them, and believed he was trapped by them! Your rocks were like my branch, don’t you see? They were, at least for a time, solid! Well done, to be sure!” Yavin began to move around the crowded tables of books in a fit, speaking to himself. “Although, one does wonder for how long they were like that…I mean…I am capable of doing it for quite some time, but this is a very fast lesson, indeed. The right men for the quest, perhaps…maybe the rumors were true…all but one is yet to be tested…”
“Benjamin. It is time for your lesson.” Yavin stopped in the middle of his own thoughts.
“I be your pardon, but did no one else hear that? The vex hissed at me! Or is that something that only I can hear?” Edward frantically searched the faces of those around him.
“I heard it. The sound is simply unfamiliar to me and I do not have the eyes of Yavin to see what you both saw, but hear it with my ears, I did,” said Pitney.
Benjamin rested a hand on Edward’s shoulder. “I must have been too concerned with Ottelo’s wall to notice. Sorry, brother.”
“Yes, yes, Prince Edward. We are all very much in awe that you can chase off vex.” Yavin flitted his hand in the air and turned his attention back to Benjamin, gesturing to his wide-brimmed hat near his pack. “It is time you learn why you were fitted with such a thing, dear boy.”
Benjamin made his way over to Yavin who had taken up a criss-crossed leg posture on top of the trunk he had pulled out a few inches from the far wall, stroking his beard with one hand, as was his habit. “Read me. Come on, now. Don’t be shy.” His mustache curled up into a bow as he smiled.
Feeling a bit intimidated, Benjamin shot a last look to Edward, but he gave the growing all too familiar shrug where Yavin was concerned and took up a conversation with Pitney while Ottelo continued his practice of blocking the entrance with small rocks.
Cautious, but curious, Benjamin turned to Yavin to see his eyes narrowed at him. “You are not sure of me. You think I have an ulterior motive.” Benjamin blinked his eyes, but said nothing. “You may be right. Does that not still benefit you for further information, either way?”
“But what of the information we are giving you by simply being here? I am yet unsure how you will use it to your benefit.” Benjamin wasn’t surprised Yavin had read him so clearly. “You have given us a name, a place, but no insight as to what we would be up against while we travel there, except to instill fear in us. And you have hinted that she is possibly Pitney’s long lost mother, the disappeared Lady Wentry and yet you refuse to confirm anything at all. I would say then, that we have all the reason in the world to be leery of you.”
“Well then, let us see if you can get some of the information you seek, shall we?”
Benjamin let his own thoughts crash to the back of his mind to make room for Yavin’s. Instead of sensing satisfaction and smugness…arrogance, as he thought he would, he felt a strong, overwhelming sense of peacefulness.
“Do you know how I got there…to that peacefulness…even as I was shunned, forsaken by family and king, and forced to live in a cave? By understanding that I was only one man…and I could house all the secrets in the world and have all of the greatest intentions, but I am still only one man and my place is to let my heart be bent by the will of circumstances I cannot control. To be the best that I can, but be and do only what I can. Not what others might wish of me. Everyone here is trying to be the best they can. To what they believe is best for the good of all…would you agree? Or is there a hint of doubt? No, don’t say it. I can feel it from you. You are unsure. And rightfully so. But is your doubt well placed, I wonder.”
As he spoke, Benjamin shifted his focus to the whole room. Edward was curious, intrigued by the vex and perhaps by Yavin’s disregard of it. Ottelo was still concentrating on building his rock wall, but a sense of accomplishment enveloped him. Pitney wasn’t angry or fearful. He was indifferent. Perhaps because Edward was still rambling on about the vex and how he wished Ottelo would hurry up so he could follow it down the hall.
“Look at me in the eyes, Prince. For the eyes will give you the thoughts of man. And your wide-brimmed hat will hide your own eyes from intrusion.”
Benjamin slowly turned his gaze to Yavin. He stared, eye to eye with the old man, blocking out the others in the room once again. “Now, let go.”
Benjamin’s eyes seemed to bore into Yavin’s until he was no longer looking at them, but as if he was looking through them. Instantly, thoughts that were not his own ransacked his mind. One by one they came to him as if it were knowledge he had always had as his own.
Belda is indeed Pitney’s mother. She comes from the land of Havarth.
Lord Wentry never knew. The Coills knew. She sought refuge with the Coills when he abandoned her, but they wouldn’t have her.
Someone is not revealing the whole truth. Is it me Prince Benjamin?
Secrets that I keep mean gifts are bestowed to me.
Kings pay a lot for their secrets to remain hidden.
But the time has come for some secrets to be told. Will you tell?
He gave me the gift of Veil of Mind and went against the treaty.
I am not the only one.
How many others?
Wentry loved her. She used him.
King Lothair used them both.
Only one son was allowed to live in the light.
The other was forced to live in a shadow.
Have you guess it yet, Prince Benjamin?
King Lothair has more than one son.
“No!” Benjamin yelled out loud. Both Edward and Pitney turned, shocked at the outburst, but Benjamin recovered quickly, not truly wanting to believe what had just happened and managed to calm any alarm with the shake of his head.
Yavin grabbed the tie on his cloak and whispered to him, pulling him so close that Benjamin could smell the biscuit from their last meal on his breath. From this distance, he could make out the flame of a candle perched beside Yavin, reflected in his elderly eyes.
“Now, Prince Benjamin…you know something that has not been known by many before. Will you tell to the possible detriment of them all? Or will you keep the secret and see what good it can do your company on their journey?”
“But…does that mean…does he know…is Ottelo-“
“Does it matter, my boy? Soon, you will leave here and find her in Havarth. But from this point on, you will have to decide if our secret remains or is revealed. And what good either choice will do for your sister. Now, I have more lessons for you. Let us see what your instincts tell you to do.”
Questions that were decidedly his own starting flooding to the forefront of his thoughts. He had learned at the beginning of his training how to quiet his own mind and hear others instead, but never had he longed for answers as he did now, save the one that was always on his mind as of late: how to save ReAnne. Still, with some effort, the quiet came and he once again was staring into the old man’s eyes. He focused on the rhythmic flick of the candle light reflected in them until the thoughts that were not his came again.
Went against the treaty…King Lothair used her…King Lothair has more than one-
Bam! In his mind, he hit a brick wall. A push-back. A block to Yavin’s thoughts. Benjamin furrowed his brow, intense concentration covered his face as he tried to push through it, knowing there was more… but not being able to…quite…reach…it. Again he heard it…King Lothair has more–
Another wall. He tried again…King Lothair has…
“Agh!” Benjamin grunted out loud, but did not break his gift.
…more than one…son.
“Aha!” He cried out again.
“Well done, Prince Benjamin…you at least know how to push through a block. Let us see if you can create a block for yourself, and then I will teach you how to sneak around one instead of using a battering ram to burst through it. I’d be surprised if the whole of the dessert and all its creatures in it didn’t feel you push through that last one. There are more subtle ways of reading thoughts…but careful that you don’t succumb to someone else with the same knowledge of it…there are more than just you and I that will know how.”