Modern Crusaders: Adeptus Major
For disclaimers, see Chapter 1
"In the highlands of Peru there were two shepherd brothers who were of impeccable character. They became very concerned when their llamas acted strangely. The llamas stopped eating and spent the night gazing sadly up at the stars. When the brothers asked the llamas what was going on, they replied that the stars had told them that a great flood was coming that would destroy all creatures on earth.
"The two brothers and their families decided to seek safety in the caves in the highest mountain. They took their flocks with them into a cave and then it began to rain. It rained for months without end. Looking down from the mountains, they saw that the llamas were right: The entire world was being destroyed. They could hear the cries of the miserable dying humans below. Miraculously, the mountain grew taller and taller as the waters rose. Even so, the waters began to lap at the door of their cave. Then the mountain grew still higher.
"One day they saw that the rain had ceased and that the waters were subsiding. Inti, the sun-god, appeared once again and smiled, causing the waters to evaporate. Just as their provisions were running out, the brothers looked down to see that the earth was dry. The mountain then returned to its usual height, and the shepherds and their families repopulated the earth."
- Inca Flood Myth
Ally sat in the most comfortable chair in her suite and rested her face in her hands, massaging her forehead with her fingers. The brain-imploding headache that had been plaguing her had thankfully subsided to a dull ache, but remained ready to return the instant she... overextended herself again.
That was close, she thought. If I had pushed any more I think my brain might have begun oozing out my nose... literally. I should be thankful it was only a nosebleed. She sighed. And now Evelynne knows. And Sir Arthur and Major Nixon. They might not know exactly what happened, but they know it was something... out of the ordinary. Damnit, it wasn't supposed to happen like this! I was supposed to go with Evelynne somewhere private and secluded and carefully and calmly explain how I was... different. There would be plenty of opportunities for escape and things to hide behind if she got really mad. But no. Instead, I had to go and start bending steel bars with my hands like goddamn Superman. And any moment now she's going to be coming in here demanding explanations, and there's no way I can avoid it. Well, actually, there is a way, but somehow I think she'd still track me down. And between her and Sir Arthur, they could, too.
In the aftermath of the accident at Aztlan, Ally, Evelynne, and her Guards had remained for several hours to help, long after it was dark. By some great stroke of fortune, the casualties had mostly been minor. Only one person had died, a worker who had been caught under the lift as it fell, although half a dozen others had received fairly serious injuries. The young man that Ally had saved was currently in hospital with at least four broken ribs, a broken arm, and a cracked humerus. He had not regained consciousness, so Ally had not had an opportunity to speak with him about his mental screams which had initially caught her attention.
Finally, the Royal party had boarded the helicopter for the flight back to Kilim. The journey had been mostly silent. Ally had feigned unconsciousness in an attempt to delay the inevitable discussion - although after a while it had been unnecessary to fake it. She had awoken to find herself lying across several seats, her head pillowed in Evelynne's lap, and had revelled in the closeness, while at the same time wondering how long it would last. Ally had adamantly refused to see a doctor about her condition, claiming that with time she would be fine.
Upon returning to the Palace, Ally had been sent immediately to her suite with orders to have a shower and wait for the princess. The order had not seemed angry, and Evelynne had appeared more dazed than upset, and Ally held onto a faint hope that at least their friendship would survive the upcoming revelations.
That had been half an hour ago, and now nervousness was steadily eating away at that hope. Ally looked wistfully out the doors to the balcony. I could still escape, she thought. Not even the Guard could stop me. But they'd still know where my friends and family live... Shit, my friends and family.
Picking up the telephone on a nearby table, Ally waited for the tone, then dialled a number from memory.
"Dumela?" a sleepy voice answered.
"Chorus? This is Ally."
"Ally? What's going on? Why are you calling me at the ungodly hour of... one in the morning."
"Chorus, something happened. There was an incident."
All traces of sleep vanished from Chorus' voice. "An incident? Are you okay? Is Evelynne -"
"No, we're both okay, physically, at least. There was an accident at the excavations at Aztlan. A crane collapsed. It happened right in front of us. But what I'm calling about is that I saved a man there this evening."
"Saved a - Oh shit, Ally, you mean you used..."
"... unconventional means, yes."
"Did anyone see you?"
"Evelynne, Sir Arthur, and Sir Arthur's second in command, Major Nixon. They were right there. I don't think anyone else saw, but I'm not sure."
"Damn, Ally. What's happening now?"
"Now I get to explain everything to Evelynne. But what I need from you right now is a favour."
"I need you to call my parents and let them know what's happened. If you can't reach them, call Annie. They'll know what to do. I'd call myself, but I don't know how much time I have. You should also be prepared just in case someone comes for you. I know you can't do what I can, but... Hopefully I'm being paranoid, but just in case, you need to know." There was a hesitant knock at the door to the room. "I have to go. My interrogator is here. Chorus..."
"Don't worry, Ally, I'll take care of it. And remember, this is Evelynne. She loves you."
"I hope so. Look, I really have to go."
"Go. And good luck."
Ally hung up as the knock came again. Taking a deep breath, trying to calm her roiling stomach, she called, "Come in." She felt absurdly proud of the fact that her voice did not waver.
Slowly the door opened. The first person into the room was small and grey, and immediately walked over to Ally's feet and loudly demanded to be picked up. Ally reached down and complied, bringing the cat up to bury her face in its soft fur. "Hey, Cassie." Ally looked up to see Evelynne standing uncertainly in the doorway. There was an awkward silence, which Ally finally broke. "Hey, Evelynne. Please, come in."
The princess did so slowly and hesitantly, closing the door behind her, and Ally's heart broke as she saw just how uncertain the woman she loved was. Evelynne took a seat in a nearby chair, and silence reigned once more.
"You're looking better," Evelynne said finally. "You're not as pale."
"Thanks. I managed to meditate a bit. That always helps."
"It always... Do you mean this... kind of thing happens regularly?" Evelynne asked quietly.
"No, not really regularly, but it does happen. Tonight was the worst it's even been, the hardest I've ever pushed myself."
"Tonight... Ally, what happened tonight?" The princess voice was raw with confusion and uncertainty. "I saw you move that metal bar. And it wasn't like it was aluminum or anything like that either. It was steel, and must have weighed four hundred kilograms. And you bent it. With your bare hands. Ally, what happened?"
Ally sighed. "When I was growing up," she began, "I found out that there were things I could do that nobody else could do. I would know things that nobody else knew. It was sporadic and difficult at first, and sometimes months would go by and I would be as normal as the next kid. But as I got older, I began to experiment, to see what my limits were. To be honest, I still haven't found them."
"By... 'things', you mean, like bending steel beams?"
"Not quite. I didn't learn how to do that until much later, when I was in university, actually. And before you ask, no, I'm not an alien, and I wasn't found in a spaceship like Superman. My parents are Catherine and William Tretiak, and while they can be a little weird at times, they are as human as anyone. No, one of the first things I realised was that if I tried hard enough, sometimes I could tell what people were feeling. Not thinking, but whether they were happy, sad, angry, confused... Over time, I learned to expand that ability, and then I was able to read people's thoughts. Needless to say, it didn't make me particularly popular. Still, it was something that stayed with me until grade six. Then it... didn't vanish, exactly, but it got buried."
"Grade six," Evelynne murmured. "What happened in -" She broke off as realisation dawned. "When they... When you got..."
"When I got shoved naked into a school hallway," Ally finished bluntly. "You have literally no idea what it's like to not only have that happen, which is humiliating enough, but to know, for a fact, exactly what the people laughing at you are thinking and feeling. The scorn, the derision... the petty spitefulness. All of the words they were thinking but couldn't bring themselves to say in a school - not to spare my feelings, but for fear of getting caught. Anyone who tells you that 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me' is talking absolute bullshit." She hung her head. "Needless to say, that put an end to my mind reading experiments for a while. It took me six years to discover how to use those abilities again." Ally laughed humourlessly. "I went to a therapist for a while, but he couldn't understand why I was so traumatised, and it wasn't as if I could tell him."
"Isis, Ally. You mean those panic attacks...?"
"A nice little down payment on all these 'gifts' I've been blessed with." Ally sighed explosively, consciously forcing herself to relax. "It's not all bad, of course. In addition to the ESP, I found out that if I concentrated in the right way, I could make things move without physically touching them. Discovering that was the high point of my childhood. My parents were, naturally enough, mildly surprised." She chuckled honestly for the first time at the obvious understatement. "I remember my Dad coming out into the back yard to find me hitting a baseball thrown by a pitcher who wasn't actually there. It would have been a home run, too, but it the pop fly was caught by an invisible outfielder who threw me out at first."
Evelynne laughed as well, although hers was more uncertain. Just when she thought there was nothing more to shock her, Ally threw something more in her face. "So... uh... you just concentrate hard enough and things move?"
Ally sighed. "It's not about how hard I concentrate, but just how I concentrate. Think of it this way: no matter how strong you are, there's no way you can pick up a ball using the back of your hand." She tapped hers for emphasis, then wiggled her fingers. "You have to grasp it with the front. In the same way, if you don't use the right mental 'muscles', nothing is going to happen. But when you do..." Ally took brief stock of herself. I can do this, as long as I don't try anything too intricate. She reached for the right frame of mind. Looking towards the bookshelves along the walls of the room, she raised a hand and held it out in a reaching motion.
There was a moment as she focussed and channelled, and then a small leather-bound book eased out of its place on the bookshelf and impacted an instant later in the palm of her outstretched right hand. Hmm, The Tempest. How appropriate to see you, Prospero.
Evelynne jumped slightly at the slap it made. Ally hadn't moved an inch from her chair, and Cassie slumbered peacefully, blissfully unaware of the events around her.
"Oh, Isis and the Duat," Evelynne gasped.
Ally ignored the outburst. "And, like anything else, with practice I became better at controlling it." Holding the book resting on her upheld palm, she suddenly dropped her hand. The book remained floating in the air, bobbing slightly, held up by nothing more than Ally's will. She made a small twirling gesture with her fingers, and the tome started to move, slowly at first, then faster, until it was orbiting Ally's head at a fairly rapid speed. "And better." Another hand movement brought another book from the shelf into a different orbit. "And better." A third joined the other two. By now Ally looked like the nucleus of a very... literary atom.
Ally sat in the centre of her shell of books and watched them, easily controlling the flows of thought that regulated their movements. Getting things started was the difficult part. After that it became a simple matter of continuing the movement, rather like juggling tennis balls. Eventually, after several moments, she stopped the movement. Another thought sent the books across the short distance to where Evelynne was sitting, and one by one they gently dropped into her lap.
Evelynne stroked the covers of the books, hesitantly at first, then more steadily as her fingers assured her that the leather bound volumes were real. She looked up at Ally. "You can really do this," she said in awe. She paused. "That's how you saved me, isn't it? In Marseilles. You stopped the bullets."
"Almost." Ally rubbed her shoulder for emphasis. "I basically created a... an aura, I suppose, that absorbed the bullets' kinetic energy. I wasn't in as much danger as everyone thought I was, which was why I was so uncomfortable when everyone thought I was a hero. I managed to stop one completely, but I wasn't so lucky with the other two. Believe it or not, I don't regularly go around stepping in front of bullets. The most I'd stopped before was an arrow, when Lung Shou was teaching me how to do it."
"You mean you didn't know it would work."
"But you did it anyway, even knowing you might be killed." Evelynne's voice was intense.
"Well... actually, I didn't really think about it. I just reacted," Ally said uncomfortably.
"You see?" Evelynne said. "You are a hero. Even though you had... certain advantages, you didn't know if you could do it, but you tried anyway." She smiled genuinely, despite her roiling thoughts. "No matter what, I'll always consider you a hero."
Ally squirmed in her chair, eliciting a sleepy protest from Cassiopeia, who quickly subsided again.
Evelynne thought for a moment. "You said your... mind reading abilities went away for six years. Does that mean that they're back? Can you just... hear what people are thinking?"
Ally shook her head. "It doesn't work quite like that. I have to concentrate on it, usually, and then all I get are impressions of what the person is thinking at that particular time. Emotions and concepts, mostly. It isn't like in the movies where the telepath can delve into your most secret memories while you're unaware. It's only what you're thinking right now. Of course, if you happen to be remembering something, I can read that, but I can't bring it up on my own. It's usually really confusing, too. Different people think in different ways, in different languages, using different symbols... And their thoughts are chaotic, too; they jump from one topic to the next and back almost at random. So I usually settle for just getting a surface scan of the concepts."
"Have you... ever read my mind?" Evelynne asked haltingly.
"Once," Ally admitted, hanging her head again. She looked up again at Evelynne's gasp, and saw the hurt expression on her face. "I don't go around reading people's thoughts at will! I actually have a personal code against it. I only do it when absolutely necessary, in an emergency or with the person's permission." She faltered. "Sometimes I can't help doing it, though. I'm sorry."
"Do you remember that day, just after we got here, when I talked to Annie on the phone?"
Evelynne cast her mind back. "You mean... that morning you told me you were gay?"
"Yeah, that's it. You told me you were alright with it, and I... I had to know for sure that you were. I've had... experience with people who say they're okay out loud, but really think I'm an abomination. I didn't want you to be one of them, and you were already my friend, and I needed to know you weren't." Ally swallowed. "I shouldn't have done it, and I'm sorry."
"That time... you were sitting in front of me... I was holding your hands... and you looked into my eyes. I said, 'Can you see that I'm telling the truth?' That was it, wasn't it."
Ally nodded. "Yes." She was a little surprised that Evelynne could recall the exact circumstances so well.
"I felt you doing it," Evelynne whispered.
Ally head snapped up. "What?"
"I felt you doing it," the princess repeated. "You looked into my eyes and I suddenly felt... dizzy. Like I was off balance. Does that usually happen?"
"Never," Ally said. "As far as I know it's undetectable. At least, nobody I've ever read before has said anything."
"Can you... do it now?"
"Now?" Ally asked, startled. "You mean you want me to..." Evelynne nodded. "Um... okay. You're sure?"
The princess nodded, more certainly than she felt. "I'm sure. I just want to know if it was what I felt it was."
Feeling very uncomfortable, Ally slowly and carefully stretched out with her mind, opening it to the thoughts of the woman in front of her. It seemed to happen incredibly easily, and she found herself following the link that she had discovered weeks before. Then Evelynne's mind opened up within her. Ally was careful to remain mostly disattached, sampling her friend's thoughts and emotions with a feather light touch.
Those thoughts were a confused jumble of amazement, curiosity, hurt, uncertainty, love, embarrassment... Too many to distinguish. Ally just left her mind open, trying to intrude as little as possible. Across from her, she saw Evelynne shake her head.
"You're doing it right now, aren't you?" Evelynne asked in a whisper. "I can feel... something. Like... someone else is looking out of my eyes... But that's not quite right... I don't have any words for it." Experimentally, Ally withdrew her mind from the link. Evelynne's eyes widened. "And now you're gone... right?"
"Yes." Ally was shocked. Nobody except for Mrs Chen had ever been able to feel her before, and the Chinese woman was a special case.
"Do it again," the princess requested.
Ally complied, easily re-establishing the link. Suddenly the jumble of thoughts cleared slightly, and words appeared, as clearly as if Evelynne were speaking aloud. *Ally, can you hear me?*
She nodded. "Yes. I can hear you."
*What number am I thinking of? 43, 43, 43, 43, 43...*
"The number is forty-three."
"Isis," Evelynne said aloud. "You really can do it."
"Yeah. Of course, what you were doing is a special case. You were basically going through the entire mental aspect of speaking out loud, but without sending any signals to your actual vocal cords. Normally, people are just a big muddle."
"Wow," the princess said. "So if you can do all this, why have you kept it such a big secret? I mean, you could be the biggest celebrity in history, and even if you didn't want that, I know of literally hundreds or thousands of scientists who would love to study what you can do."
Ally laughed mirthlessly. "Yeah, because society in general has always treated 'special' people really well, hasn't it? Evelynne, the last person to publicly display abilities anything like mine got himself nailed to a cross. And while I'm certainly making no claims of being any kind of Divine Messenger, do you think anyone would listen? I would be either the next Messiah, or more likely the Antichrist, and either way my life would be over. Besides, what about my friends and family? What would happen to them? They don't even have my abilities to protect themselves. And what about the other people like me around the world who just want to be left alone? Say what you want about that X-Men movie, it got one thing accurate: when faced with things they can't explain or control, people panic. The more people, the lower their collective intelligence."
"Wait a minute. People like you? You mean you're not the only one who can do this?"
"Not really. I have the most... diverse set of talents of anybody I've personally met, but there are a few people out there who can do similar things. With all of the stories of witches, magicians and miracle workers out there, I'd imagine there must be more. Not all of them can do the same things, of course. In my mind, I've classified people according to their psychogenic abilities into three... no, make that four categories."
"'Created by the mind'. I prefer that term rather than 'psychic' or 'psionic'. 'Psychic' has a bad connotation these days. People think of those nine hundred numbers where you can get 'your own personal prediction'. Although I suspect that some of the predictors are more accurate than people think. 'Psionic' is just used improperly. Technically, it's using technology in conjunction with psychogenic abilities. There are all sorts of rumours that the CIA has done experiments with it." Ally shrugged. "Call me anal, but it's just my nitpicking science background showing."
"Oh, okay. So what are those four categories?"
"Well, first there are the people who have little to no ability at all. Obviously, they make up the bulk of humanity. Oh, occasionally someone will get a 'hunch' or be really 'lucky', but it's usually not something they can control. Then there are what I call the Savants. They're those people who can perform one skill at a... I hate to use the term, but... superhuman level of ability. Those people who can play symphonies when they've only heard them once, paint excruciatingly exact replicas of works of art, figure out the cube root of three million, four hundred eighty seven thousand, two hundred and five in their heads... you know. For some reason the ability seems to emerge in autistic people a lot, but not always. Chorus is a Savant." Evelynne looked surprised. "He has this absolutely incredible ability to learn languages. I think the longest it's ever taken him to learn one fluently is about a month. And not just grammar and vocabulary, either. Also colloquialisms, speech patterns, social rules to some extent... It's really quite awesome to watch."
"You're right, " the princess murmured. "He's learned Lantlan a lot faster than I realised. I just never thought about how strange it was."
"He doesn't exactly broadcast it. And even if someone gets surprised, so what? He's just a guy with a 'gift for languages'."
"I guess so. So that's two. What's the third?"
"I guess the third category are those people who possess one, or rarely two, abilities that could be considered 'paranormal'. I call them Talents, because they have one... well, talent. Yuri Geller can bend spoons, some of those psychic hotline people might actually be precognitive... Carrie in that Steven King movie. They can all do one thing, albeit sometimes extremely well. I've met exactly four people who could be called Talents. My Mom is Talented," Ally added. "She can pick up on a person's emotions, kind of like I can. Actually, I was the one who taught her how to do it. But if she hadn't had the potential to begin with, she'd never have been able to learn."
"Your mother is like that? What about your father?"
"Ah, Dad is a very special case. The only term I've been able to come up with is 'anti-psychic'. It is literally impossible for a telepath to read his thoughts. It's like he's not even there. I have absolutely no idea why. It sucked when I was a kid, because he was always able to sneak up on me. On the other hand, I could play hide and seek with him without even being tempted to cheat by scanning for his thoughts." Ally shook her head, smiling slightly at the memory. "Other than that, he has no psychogenic abilities whatsoever. The downside is that whenever I'm with my Mom, I always know for a fact that she loves me. With my Dad, I have to do what everyone else does and listen to his actual spoken words. Oh, I'm not complaining. I know my Dad loves me too, but just once I'd like to be able to feel it."
There were several moments of silence, as they both contemplated those ideas. "So who are the fourth category?" Evelynne asked finally.
"Well... as far as I know, the fourth category is... well, me." Ally pointed to herself. "I've never met anyone who could do all the things I can. Through whatever random mutation or developmental accident, I'm kind of a mixture between a Talent and a Savant. I have the Talent potential to do these things, and the Savant ability to actually learn from other people how to do them. Like I said, Talents normally have only one ability, and no matter how hard they try, they can never learn another. I guess it's the same kind of thing with Savants: they tend to be incredibly specialised. Chorus can learn languages, but he's absolutely hopeless at art. And his singing..." Ally shuddered theatrically.
"So people have taught you how to do things?"
"Yeah. A woman in Vancouver taught me how to better control my telepathic abilities, and a Kung Fu master in Thailand showed me how to use my psychokinetic ability to deflect bullets. Actually, he taught me how to deflect punches, but I improvised. I'm not going to tell you exactly who they are," she said. "They don't deserve to have people bugging them about what they can do. It's not that I don't trust you," Ally hastened to add, "but, well, it's their secret and their privacy."
"That's okay," Evelynne said. "I understand." She paused. "So what made you... expose yourself tonight? I mean, you could have stood back and just let things happen."
Ally sighed. "I know. And I really wanted to help out with the rescue at the main lift, but I also didn't want to reveal myself in front of all those people. I do have some experience with using my abilities surreptitiously, but they seemed to have things under control. But then that man..." She trailed off, remembering.
"What about him?" Evelynne prompted gently. "How did you even know he was still alive?"
"He... screamed," Ally said quietly.
"He did? I didn't hear anything."
"No, with his mind. He couldn't speak, so he projected his thoughts. As for why he didn't project them to everybody around, I don't know. Maybe he recognised my own mental abilities. Maybe we're like magnets, and telepaths' thoughts are naturally drawn to one another. What I do know is that he's at least a Talent. Nobody else could project with that kind of strength."
"Isis," Evelynne said. "How do you think he learned?"
Ally shrugged. "Maybe he didn't. From the few cases I've seen, Talents sometimes emerge during a traumatic event, so this might be the first time he's used his abilities. I'd like to talk to him and find out."
"You might be able to do that in a few days. In the meantime," Evelynne said, "I'll see about keeping the authorities away from him." She looked Ally in the eye. "Regardless of what else you've said, I agree with you that he doesn't deserve to be poked and prodded just because he's... different." She smiled crookedly. "You've taught me that too much publicity is not always a good thing." She sighed and rubbed her face. "I think that it would be the understatement of the century to say that you've given me a lot to think about."
"There's... something else." Ally spoke so quietly Evelynne almost missed it, and looked anywhere but at her companion. This was the part she'd been dreading most. She had considered avoiding it altogether, but her conscience had vetoed the idea.
"What is it, Ally?" For the first time, Evelynne thought that Ally looked... frightened. Before she had been cautious, nervous, but still relatively calm and confident. Now she looked as though she was expecting someone to drive knife between her shoulders.
Ally struggled with the words for several seconds. "We're... linked," she said finally.
Evelynne frowned. "Linked?"
"Our minds," Ally explained. She pointed to her own head, then Evelynne's. "There's a... psychic connection. I discovered it the night before... the night before you knighted me, when I was meditating. It's like a string, or a wire between my mind and yours. I don't know why it's there."
"You mean... you didn't create it?" Evelynne still wasn't sure exactly what Ally was talking about.
Ally winced, and said in a very quiet voice, "No, I'd never do that, not without your knowledge and permission. It was just... there. And it's been there ever since. For all I know, it's been there since we first met."
"Oh." Evelynne digested this new piece of amazing information. She was surprised that she could still find it amazing, after the revelations so far this evening. "So... what is it doing?"
Ally shrugged again miserably. "I don't know. Nothing active that I can tell. All I know is that it makes you the easiest person to read that I've ever met. And, if I concentrate, I always know exactly where you are and what your general emotional state is. Nothing specific," she said quickly, "just whether you're content or angry, or hurt, or anything."
Ally nodded, still not looking up. "Even when I was back in Canada I could tell. Usually I need to be at least in the general vicinity to do something like that. I was afraid..." She broke off.
"You were afraid of what, Ally?" Evelynne asked softly.
"I was afraid that this... link was what was drawing you to me. That it was what made you think you loved me." Ally hunched her shoulders as if expecting a blow.
Evelynne was shocked. A bond drawing me to Ally? How could she do that to me? But she didn't, did she? She said she didn't know why it was there. And she wouldn't lie, not now when she's been revealing everything else. She said she knew what I was feeling. I wonder...
The princess closed her eyes, not quite sure what she was doing, and fumbles in her mind for some kind of "string" or "wire" connecting her to Ally. She could feel her love for Ally still present, if a little shaken, when she thought of the other woman, but other than that, no pull, no drawing together that seemed out of place. Of course, I don't really know what I'm "looking" for, she admitted. But what if...? Drawing a picture of the other woman in her mind, she concentrated on it. Where are you? she asked the image. What are you feeling?
"Holy Isis!" Evelynne gasped suddenly. Ally head shot up. "I saw you. I... felt you. And you were... Oh, Ally." In an instant she was out of her chair and wrapping her arms around Ally's startled body. "Oh, love," she whispered.
Cassie was knocked from Ally's lap to the floor, where she complained loudly once, then sat down to wash herself. She was ignored by the two humans.
For a brief moment, Evelynne had felt Ally's emotions as if they were her own. The other woman was awash in misery, sure that their relationship would never survive this particular bit of knowledge. A hopeless longing was entwined with deep sadness and guilt over her imagined transgression. And, worst of all, a bone deep loneliness at the thought that this person, this other piece of her soul, would soon be gone. Then the connection had broken, but it had been enough to catapult Evelynne out of her chair.
Now the princess felt Ally's arms hesitantly come around her own body as she knelt on the floor, and kept up her tight embrace, stroking Ally's back. Ever so slowly Ally relaxed, fearful that this support would be snatched away, until she suddenly collapsed into Evelynne's arms. Tears that were rarely shed streamed down her face as she buried it into the side of Evelynne's neck, and she let loose all her fear and anxiety in helpless sobs.
Evelynne rode out the storm, keeping up a continuous stream of soothing words, and not relaxing her hold in the slightest. "Oh, love, it's okay," she murmured. "It's alright."
Eventually the tears passed, and Ally slowly loosened her frantic clutch. Raising her head, she displayed tear-reddened eyes. She sniffled. The princess smiled and pulled a handkerchief out of a pocket. "Here," she said.
"Thanks," Ally whispered hoarsely, wiping away the remnants of her tears. "Sorry."
"Don't be sorry," Evelynne said. She paused. "You know, I thought of something."
"Oh?" Ally asked in a small voice.
"Well, you were thinking that maybe I was in love with you because of this bond, right?" Ally nodded. "Well, what if you got it backwards? What if the bonds exists because we love each other?"
Ally looked surprised, then speculative. "I never thought of that," she murmured.
"That's why, even with all your... abilities, I'll always be considered the brains of this fa... relationship," Evelynne joked, covering her near slip gracefully. She was rewarded with a quiet but genuine laugh. The princess sighed. "Ally, I'll be honest with you. You've given me a lot to think about. Which is certainly an understatement." She felt Ally stiffen again, but continued. "You've just turned many of my views of the world on their heads. I can't say it won't have an impact on me, or on our relationship. But I promise you that no matter what, I will talk to you about how I feel and what I'm thinking."
"Okay," Ally said softly. "And I promise that whenever you want to ask questions, I'll answer you as best I can. Even though I myself don't know everything there is to know about what I can do, I'll always be honest with you."
"That's good." Evelynne laughed suddenly.
Oh, I just thought that I made a mistake in knighting you." She grinned. "I should have made you my court wizard instead."
Ally smiled back. "Believe me, the irony has not gone unnoticed on my part."
Evelynne's chuckle was interrupted by a yawn. "I need to sleep," she said, "although I don't know how much I'll actually get." She hesitated. "Before I go, though..." She turned to pick up the books that had scattered from her lap when she had left her chair so quickly. Holding them out in Ally's direction, she sheepishly asked, "Um... could you do that spinning book thing again?"
Continued in Chapter