Scott came back to his body with his sister Chrissy shaking him awake and calling his name. She had a note of panic in her voice.
“Scott? Scott! Wake up!” Chrissy saw her brother's eyes flutter open and great relief washed over her. “There's a man on the phone for you. He says they've got Mom.”
Scott pushed himself to his feet. “What? Where?” he said, his mind a little foggy. “I'm coming.”
He followed his sister to the phone, and took it when she handed it to him.
“Hello?” he said, his mind sharpening fast. He sent a tendril of thought into the phone and tried to follow it, but he found out it didn't work that way when the man on the other end spoke. His tendril went up and outward, arrowing in a straight line to the man's mind.
“We have your mother. If you don't want her hurt, you will show yourself outside your front door with your hands raised above you head in the next two minutes.”
“What if I don't believe you?” Scott asked, branching his tendril out on the other end. He could “see” four other men there, all armed, and one was holding his pistol to his mother's head right now. “She could walk through the front door any minute now.”
“Say something, Mrs. Blaker.” the man said.
“I'm not married.” said his mother. “I don't answer to that form of address.”
“Do you believe she won't be walking through the door anytime soon?” the man asked, a grin obvious in his tone.
“No.” said Scott, and his mother watched, astonished, as all of her captors simultaneously took their guns out and shot themselves in the mouth. Scott could hear her screaming and screaming, and he had to send another tendril out to soothe her down.
Melissa Blaker had been forced into a van at gunpoint as she was getting into her car. She dropped a ceramic Dalmatian dog that had been won on Wheel of Fortune in the early eighties, and the men who took her were amused that her biggest complaint was about the broken knick knack.
She was taken to a house on the outskirts of town, and when one of the men had called her home to speak to Scott, it took a few minutes for him to come to the phone. A very uncomfortable few minutes, as one of the men held a gun to her temple the whole time the call was being made.
Finally, Scott picked up, and Melissa heard her son's voice through the speaker phone. A brief exchange of conversation ensued, and then to her horror, all the men surrounding her committed suicide.
She was covered in spattered blood and brains. Bits of bone and skull were all over the walls and ceiling, and it looked like a scene out of a horror movie. She didn't even know she was screaming until a blue light of calm came from nowhere and everywhere, and she could think again after it left.
“Mom, you're okay.” Scott told her, still on speaker phone. “Go ahead and wash up, upstairs in the bathroom.” he said. “It's okay, Mom, nobody's going to hurt you, I promise, but you can't go out of the house looking like that. Go get cleaned up, Mom. The keys are in the van outside, and you can drive it home in a few minutes. Just go wash the blood off your face, okay?”
He listened for a moment, then spoke again, cutting her off. “Mom, just go get cleaned up, and come home. I promise I'll explain everything once you get here. Just wait until you're home, okay?”
Chrissy watched as he hung up, then threw a barrage of questions at him. He laughed and held up his hand to stem the flow.
“If you really want to know what's going on, go outside, and ask Emmanuelle to tell you. She's in the car in the driveway.” he told her, getting up and going to the front door.
“Wait, what?” she said. “Where are you going?”
“Tiana's.” he said tersely. “I need to talk to her father.”
Scott didn't bother knocking on the door; it was still broken from being kicked in the day before. Both Morgan and Tia Bruce were sitting together on the couch, holding hands and talking quietly.
Their daughter Tiana was still in her room, evidently packing to go. They were discussing what options remained open to them when the front door opened and their nemesis walked in, like he owned the place.
“You!” Tia spat. Her husband put a restraining hand on her arm, but she threw it off. “You murdered over a hundred people in their sleep! You would give Dreamland to the Kalastiel uncontested!”
“You are the last living members of the Council.” Scott said mildly. “I only suffered you to live at Tiana's request. Mind how your tone in how you speak to me.”
“You you would threaten me, in my own home?” she sputtered. She continued making noises of protest until she was lifted into the air by invisible bands with no give against her exertions, and she went silent and pale as she realized the full extent of Scott's power.
“Here, this will teach you a better use for your mouth.” Scott said, forcing the woman to her knees. He went over to her, and stood tall right in front of her, stroking her hair with one hand.
She had her eyes squeezed shut as tight as they could go, dreading what was to come next. After a long moment, when nothing happened, she opened her eyes, a millimeter at a time, until she was looking up at him.
“There, that's better.” he said, smiling down at her. “I knew you could keep your mouth shut, if properly inspired.”
“Now, Mr. Bruce, as I already pointed out to your sweet wife, you are the last surviving member of the Council.” Scott said. “I need you to call the dogs off me and mine, or it will be war, in which you will lose.”
“I would rather not suffer the losses such a victory would cost me, however, so how about we call a truce, and spare both sides more sacrifice? As your sweet wife pointed out to me, the Kalastiel have gained as much as the Humans have lost.”
“More.” Morgan Bruce told him. “You have done things, many things, that have never been before. There was a reason those things had never been done, but did you stop to think of any consequences? No, you went ahead and forged your own path, Wilder, and now you must tread it alone.”
“The Council, whom you saw fit to murder in their sleep, has been alone in keeping the Kalastiel power in check all these milennia, because We alone knew the true price of the Kalastiel power that Humanity alone must pay.”
“What price?” Scott asked, closing his eyes. He knew that it had been dangerous, allowing Tiana to mate with Flindair, but it was done now, and there was no going back. He needed to hear what had been wrought.
“Tiana will never be yours.” her father hissed. “You have condemned my little girl to love two men. Only one will be you, and you will have no say in who she chooses for the other. Never will you be sure if the child she carries will be yours or the other's.”
“This was Tiana's own choice.” Scott said quietly. “I allowed her to make that choice herself. I did not KNOW what it would cost, but I suspected, after having been with Sononia. She chose that opening, but not alone. She will never be alone again.”
“There can be no peace with the Council for you.” Morgan Bruce told him. “Not after this. With one stroke, you have undone what we have existed for. The sole purpose of the Council was to prevent the Kalastiel from gaining more power than the Humans!”
“Onthamar and I climbed the Mountain this morning.” Scott said. “Together, we Sang the Movert out of it's Tree and killed it.”
Mr. Bruce opened his mouth in shock.
“Together, we watched it's Tree begin to die, and then we had to run to get off the Mountain. I would not have made it, had not Onthamar picked me up and carried me to the Grove. He told me it was death to let the Sun set on us on the slopes, and I believed him. Was I wrong in this?”
“No, he was right, it is death to climb the Mountain after the sun has set there.” Morgan said absently. “The Movert's Tree is truly dead?”
“We didn't stick around to watch it rot into the ground, but yeah, we killed it.” Scott said. Mr. Bruce turned and grasped Scott's jacket, imploring him with is look.
“You have to kill Flindair as soon as possible!” he said desperately. “You HAVE to! It's our only chance!”
“Why? Will Humans have to fight Kalastiel once the Moverts are gone? The Trees grow beside each other just fine. The branches are even intertwining, not competing.” Scott countered. “I see no reason to fight. Why could we not learn from each other?”
“Because you're a naive young fool.” he said bitterly, turning away. “All is lost.”
“All is NOT lost!” Scott retorted. “So quit fighting me, and throwing everything away!”
Morgan stuck his jaw out stubbornly. “We will fight to save Humanity!” he said. “That means fighting to undo what you have brought down upon us!”
“You would fight your own daughter?” he asked. He looked at Tia.
“You? You would fight against your own daughter?”
“She has betrayed us.” Tia spat. “She went against everything we brought her up to be by running away from Jerasen and her destiny.” She laughed. “I suppose she thought to escape Dreamland by giving herself to you.” Tia snorted. “She deserves what she gets.”
“Is that what you think, too?” Scott asked her father.
“She cut herself off from my love the moment she gave herself to you. She betrayed my will for her, and voided every promise the moment she broke her word to Jerasen.”
“I never promised Jerasen ANYTHING!” Tiana said stridently, coming into the living room and facing her parents. Scott subtly offered his arm, and she took it, standing with him.
“YOU promised me to Jerasen.” she said. “I never signed anything, and I never even SPOKE to him, so how can I have broken my word? We never even HAD any words!”
“You had commitments put upon you at your birth, and we have never hidden it from you. We did everything we could to prepare you for it.” her mother replied. “And what did we get in thanks for our efforts?”
“I never wanted to fulfill those “commitments” put upon me, and I never once hid THAT from you, either.” Tiana retorted. “Are you so surprised at what I did?”
“I am.” her father said softly. “You have disappointed me greatly, Tiana.”
“Well, that's what you get for not giving me any choices, Father.” Tiana told him, holding Scott's arm more tightly. “Scott has allowed me to choose my destiny, and he stands beside me.”
“I choose his love, over yours, Father. I do so with great pride, and great sorrow that you cannot support me in this, but I go my way. The way that Scott has chosen with me.”
“Your way will lead to the death of us all!” Morgan protested firmly, standing up. “How do you know that you can trust the Kalastiel?”
“The Kalastiel saved my life.” Scott said simply. “All of them saved all out lives, and that of the Grove, last night, while you slept. Thousands appeared in Dreamland, and held off the main force of Moverts, without which, we would have lost everything.”
“Your choice of location for that Grove is why you must depend of the Kalastiel forever.” Morgan spat. “The Humans cannot defend that place alone. Especially after halving your own numbers last night.”
“I still have the rest of the day to make more Warriors.” Scott grinned. “Know any other birthday virgins? I do.”
Morgan widened his eyes when he realized Scott was talking about his own sister.
“Get the fuck outta here.” Scott said scornfully. “That's sick, man. You think I would fuck my own sister? No, I have someone else in mind for that. Asshole.”
Scott looked at Tiana. “Do you have everything you need? You're never coming back to this place again.”
“I'm afraid so.” she replied sadly, looking at her parents. “I guess this is goodbye.”
“Yes, well.” her mother said tersely. Her father didn't say anything, and didn't look at her, either, staring at the fireplace until she was gone.
Outside, Scott took Tiana to Emmanuelle's car, and put her inside, with his sister Chrissy, who was getting the scoop on what was going on. She was about to get out when his mother pulled up out front in the van.
“Tell me what is going on!” she demanded, striding toward her son. She still had blood drying in her hair.
“Thank God you're okay!” he said, going over to her.
She pushed away from his hug and looked at him angrily. “You tell me what's going on right now! What the hell are you into? Those men knew your name and mine, and told me I better pray that my son loves me, because it was YOUR account that I was being kidnapped!”
“Mom, I'm sorry.” he said. “All this is my fault. I never meant to get you involved, but everything got so bog, so fast”
“What is it, Scott? Is it drugs?” she asked, her voice a little less hard. “How much do you owe them?”
“It's not about drugs, or money, Mom.” he said, closing his eyes. “It's because I can do this.” He lifted the van with some tendrils, then dropped it, making it jump and rock on it's suspension springs.
“So when all those men shot themselves That was you?” she whispered. “Jesus God!”
“Nope, just me.” he said. “Go take a shower, and pack a week's worth of clothes, and another bag of stuff you want to bring, but no more than that. We have to leave this place and never come back. It's not safe here, but we have another half a day or so before we gotta bug out for good.”
“Where- where are we going?” she asked. “No, no, I'm not going anywhere! I'm calling the police!”
“We can't do that, Mom.” he said patiently. “I made those men kill themselves, remember? The cops ain't gonna believe NONE of this, none of it.”
She looked at him a long moment, then nodded.
“Just go take a nice hot shower, Mom, then pack your things, as if you were going to the cabin, and then pack another bag like you're never coming home.” he told her, then gave her a little push with one hand to get her going.
She stumbled upstairs, and he quickly went through the house, gathering up a few pictures, then went into the basement and got out his father's old foot locker. He took the medals from the service he'd been awarded, along with the many sets of wings he'd earned over the years. He also discovered some old flight logs and journals, written in his father's hand, that he'd never known existed. He put these in the bag, leaving the uniform behind. He also left his father's service pistol in there.
Scott went back upstairs, into the kitchen, and filled a few bags with the food from the cupboards, cans and jars and dry goods. He loaded all this out into the van, and checked on the girls. They were all deeply engrossed in conversation still, so he left them to it, sitting in Emmanuelle's car.
He went back inside, to check on his mother. She was just getting out of the shower as he went in, so he called up the stairs for her to hurry, please. She said something back, but he didn't catch it, because two other cars were pulling into the driveway, one behind the van, and the other behind Emmanuelle's car, out on the street.
Scott's shields went out, but he saw to his relief that it was Jordan Miller, along with three of the girls from the group of thirteen who's men had died on the first night.
Belinda was Jordan's girlfriend, and Amber, Kate, and Tara were all classmates with Jordan, who, along with their respective boyfriends, all shared birthdays with each other. The whole group had lost their virginity together, in a large orgy by the lake, in which they didn't trade partners.
Unbeknownst to any of them, the mushrooms grew in great profusion in the woods surrounding their town, and all of them had breathed in the spores throughout all of their lives. They all woke up in Dreamland, but three of the boys didn't wake up in the morning.
Scott went out into the yard and met Jordan, grasping each other by the forearm and meeting steady gazes. No words were exchanged for a very long moment, while they shared their experiences with each other.
“So, where are we going?” Jordan asked, smiling.
“I was hoping you would have a clue.” Scott said. “I'm lost in the woods, here.”
“Me too.” Jordan said. “I had no idea about Dreamland until I woke up there.”
“The ones trying to kill us know a bit about it.” Scott said. “The last one is in the house next door.” He nodded at Tiana's house.
“Is it worth the time talking to him?” Jordan asked. “We should stay on the move for now.”
“I agree. How much cash do you have?” Scott asked. Jordan looked at him quizzically.
“You haven't bent anyone out of their cash yet?” he asked. “Just walk into a bank, and make the Teller give you some stacks, man. Who cares about the cameras? You didn't say a word, and so far, it's not illegal to accept free gifts. Have the teller walk out from behind the counter and give it to you. Hell, have the whole bank bringing you money.”
“Okay, I get it.” Scott laughed. “Are we ready to go? I just need to finish loading my Mom into the van, and we can go.”
“Go where? Jordan asked. “Any ideas?”
“Well, there's a ton of National Forest around here.” Scott said. “What we need is some alone time for about 24 more hours, until the conjunction is done for the year, then we can go back out into the world again, when there's no chance of getting Sung into Dreamland. I don't need another repeat of what happened this morning.”
“What conjunction?” Jordan asked. “Like the stars and planets and stuff? I don't believe in horoscopes, dude.”
“Yeah, evidently our moon, the Kalastiel moon, and the Movert moon all line up together at a certain time of the year, and if you're born inside that window, your genes can be activated by some mushroom spores that grow on all three planets, too. It has to do with losing your virginity to someone else infected by the spores, too.”
“That's what triggers going to Dreamland. I'm not sure how everything devolved into war, but I do know that I don't want to fight the Kalastiel, and continuing to deny them the power that they could realize can only foster resentment.”
“I would foster friendship and peace with them. The Moverts have pretty much proved themselves unable to coexist peacefully, so I'll exterminate them like vermin, and keep some as pets or zoo specimens or something.”
“Jordan, I want us to Sing with the Kalastiel, in a time when the Battle doesn't take up every waking moment there. I want time to think in peace; and I want to hear the ideas of Onthamar. I believe he has a lot to teach us, and even more to learn from us.”
“Why did you pick me?” Jordan asked quietly. “Out of everyone there, you picked me.”
“You met my eye, and you jumped to the task I needed done.” Scott said. “I don't need much more than that to recognize a friend. And when I asked you to step up and give more of yourself than I had a right to ask, you did not let me down, and today, I am proud to call you friend. I can see that I chose well.”
“Well, thanks for this.” Jordan said, blushing. He looked up at Scott suddenly. “Can I ask a favor?”
“Anything?” Scott smiled.
“Well, I know how much you need me here, but when I sang with Shalastra, it made an opening in the relationship I have with Belinda, and I kinda need to go find her.” Jordan said. “While I'm doing that, I could find and round up the THIRTEEN you took the first night there. I can feel where most of them are, and they're here on the West Coast, mostly California, but I think a couple are up more north.”
“Are you sure?” Scott asked. “It will be dangerous out there, by yourself.” He paused. “I could go with you, later. Just another day.”
“We only have a day.” Jordan said. “You wiped out every member of the Council who had been to Dreamland, and the rest of the Ops are reeling from the lack of Leadership, but they WILL recover, and with deadly effect.”
“Okay, go.” Scott said, closing his eyes. “You taking Belinda with you?”
“And Kate.” Jordan nodded. “Amber and Tara stay with you, to make circles with.”
“Hey, before you go, I need you to do me another favor.” Scott said, licking his lips nervously. “I need you to sneak around the side of my house, and knock on my sister's window. I need you to Fill her. Having power is the only way she's going to make it through the next year.”
“Are you sure? She's your sister, man. Becoming psychic will only make her a target. If she stays empty, she's safe.”
“If she's psychic, she gets to stay with me.” Scott said. “If it's a choice between being Filled and staying by my side or having to leave me forever, today, right now, she will choose to be Filled.”
“Okay, but she's not in her room.” Jordan said wryly. “She just got out of that car, and she's coming over here.”
“Yeah, well, have fun, and I'll see you two tonight.” Scott smiled, going into the house and leaving her sister to smile and bat her eyes at Jordan.