CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
Casey padded barefoot down the hall following a warm, savory aroma and into the kitchen where she found Cerberus sitting at the counter on a stool sipping a cup of coffee.
She gave him a smile as she settled onto the stool beside him. “Morning.”
“Mornin’.” He tipped his head. “Feelin’ human again?”
“A lot closer, anyway,” she nodded with a crooked grin.
“Pana has prepared for you her signature dish,” The dog-man said “Kibble.”
Casey glanced uncertainly toward the stove.
“Never mind him,” the Malamute smiled at Casey and plated up a wedge of frittata featuring pan fried potatoes and onions, yellow squash and zucchini, red bell pepper, eggs, sausage, and cheese. It smelled wonderful. Beside it were several slices of apple and a wedge of navel orange.
Casey nearly swooned as the fragrant steam filled her nose. Her hand trembled as she carefully speared a chunk of potato and took her first bite. It was quite simply wonderful.
“How do you take your coffee?”
For a moment Casey was too absorbed in the simple hedonistic pleasure of chewing and swallowing the savory mouthful to answer. But between the first forkful and the second she managed to look briefly up from her plate. “No coffee for me, I need to sleep. Is there any milk back there?”
“There is,” Pana drew the jug out of the refrigerator, “Skim okay?”
That struck Casey as humorous. Falco, able to maintain his ageless state of superlative physical perfection merely by willing it so, declined to indulge in whole milk. “Skim’s fine,” she chuckled between mouthfuls.
Pana drew a mug from the freezer and poured it tall, yielding a delightfully cold glass of milk.
“Thanks.” Casey surprised herself by downing half the glassful in a few thirsty gulps. Fighting to save the world from goblins apparently really took it out of a person.
The food on her plate vanished in amazingly short order. When she’d polished off the last apple slice and drained the last drop of milk from her glass, she sat back with a deep, satisfied sigh. “Pana, that was amazing. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she answered with a pleased smile. She was already cleaning up the skillet and other items.
Cerberus knocked back the last of his coffee. Only a few small flakes of sugar glaze remained as evidence of the cinnamon roll that had previously occupied his plate. “Well, ladies,” he stood and stretched. “I’ve chores to be about. See ya’ll later.”
Casey shook her head bemusedly. “Don’t you guys ever sleep?”
Cerberus shrugged. “Sleep when I’m dead.”
As the Mastiff left, Casey thought of her own soft bed with an odd mix of longing and reluctance. She was exhausted, but the past night’s terrors still hovered at the edges of her mind, just waiting for her to be alone and quiet so they could crowd back in and fill her with horror again.
She wondered if Falco was asleep yet. The only reason he wouldn’t be was if pain were keeping him awake, and if that was the case she should go help him heal. Aside from the fact that it would give her a brief reprieve from the memory-filled solitude that awaited her in her room, it was simply the humane thing to do.
On the other hand, she didn’t want to wake him if he’d managed to find rest.
Closing her eyes, she reached out with the lightest possible brush of her mind to his. Hopefully not enough to disturb him if he was sleeping, just the barest touch to determine whether he was still awake.
She reached out and found his mind… awake. But in what she would characterize as a meditative state.
Unsure whether her interruption would be an unwelcome intrusion, her mental voice was hesitant. ** Falco? I’ve finished eating, shall I come help now? **
There is a pause. Then, :: I am fine, Casey. There is no need. ::
He sounded very weary.
She pondered that. Would he prefer to be left alone, or was he just being stoic? There was no way to know, and she didn’t want to be a nuisance. Should she take him at his word and go to bed?
In spite of her own fatigue, the thought held little appeal.
** The thing is … ** she responded slowly, feeling a hot blush flood her cheeks as she finally admited her fears, ** …I don’t…really…want to be alone right now. May I please come, just for a little while? **
:: Of course. Please come. ::
A thrum of somewhat sheepish gratitude pulsed along the connection as Casey said goodnight to Pana and slipped down from the stool. She had no idea where Falco’s room might be, but she followed her sense of his mental presence in the direction he’d taken earlier, trusting to her perceptions to find him. They led her down the hall to a large, dark stained wooden door which opened at her approach.
Stepping through, she was at once greeted with the lightly sweet scent of incense bearing honey-like undertones. It evoked a sense of ancient times and nobility. A voice from her other memory told her that it was an Egyptian fragrance called Kyphi.
The room itself was dimly lit with candles. The censer rested on a low, wooden table. On two walls, left and right, were marvelously detailed frescoes. One scene was a centurion addressing the Roman senate. Another featured three women posed shoulder to shoulder: the Graces, the embodiment of beauty, charm, and grace. A backless roman couch rested opposite the short table. Across from it were two wooden chairs of the angular roman style. Curtains were tied back revealing the bedroom beyond.
Casey saw a flash of skin as Falco stepped into view having tied a white towel around his waist. She blinked, mildly disconcerted by his state of undress.
He looked… better. But not quite where he ought to be.
He offered a weary smile and motioned for her to sit. :: You look suitably refreshed. ::
She settled into one of the wooden chairs, trying not to look as self-conscious as she suddenly felt. “Yeah, the shower and Pana’s cooking worked wonders; I feel at least halfway back to human. Some sleep would finish the job, but all the craziness is starting to catch up with me, you know?”
He nodded. “It is a great deal, experienced over a short period, to process.”
“‘A great deal to process,'” she repeated, the corner of her mouth quirking. “I guess that about sums it up.” She gave him a rueful smile. “You look tired too.” Hopefully she could help with that at least.
“Yes, some rest is certainly in order. Perhaps fortune will favor us and no disaster will arise until we are appropriately refreshed.” He smiled. “We can hope at any rate.”
“Ack. Please, no more disasters today,” she laughed, then grew more serious. “So, tell me what I need to do to help you heal. I’ve only ever been on the receiving end of this stuff.”
“You could, through an act of will, force the healing,” he explained. “Or you could lend me your strength and I can heal myself.”
“Somehow I doubt that I could force anything on you, even if I were so inclined.” She extended a hand to him. “But I’ll give you whatever I can.”
Her flesh felt cool against the warmth of his palm. He covered her hand above and below with both of his, and a gentle strength pulsed within them.
He closed his eyes. Slowly, with a soft ease that was both relaxing and comforting, strength flowed from her into the man across from her.
Her own eyes drifted closed as a warm languor washed through her, draining the tension from her overtired body. She welcomed the restfulness of it, surrendering freely to the connection between them.
And again, they were one.
Like she had never left, she returned to that intense intimacy she’d experienced earlier. Images, thousands of them, spanning a chasm of as many years flashed before her minds-eye: people, places, things…
…a beautiful son…
…a wife both noble and loving…
…Centuries upon centuries of living history…
This. Was. Fantastic.
She trembled as he ended the contact. Her eyes opened slowly, almost unwillingly.
“Thank you,” he said, appearing fully restored.
“Why does…?” She swallowed, images of the past two millennia still tumbling distractingly through her head. “That doesn’t happen with Alseyne or Pip or Yggthor or Wynne. Just you. Why do I end up in your head sometimes when we share our strength?”
“They aren’t like you,” he said simply. “You and I, despite our age difference, are the same.”
A faint smile touched one corner of Casey’s mouth. “We have the same powers, more or less. That doesn’t make us the same.”
He nodded, accepting her assessment.
Sleepiness was setting comfortably in, now that the tension had been drawn from her. She let the question pass. “Anyway, I think I’ll be able to sleep now. Thank you.” Rising, she covered a huge yawn with one hand, then smiled wryly at him. “In fact, the trick might be staying awake until I get to my bed.”
“I’m fortunate,” he returns her smile. “Mine is right there.” Through the curtains she could see his very large bed in the other room. “Sleep well, Casey.”
“You too,” she smiled sleepily, heading for the door.
It felt like an impossibly long distance from Falco’s room to her own. When she finally got there she stumbled straight to her bed, burrowed into its blessed softness, and fell asleep instantly.
She knew she was dreaming. She knew it. She saw the dream.
But the dream was looking back.
“It’s okay,” a reassuring voice said. Her grandfather was there with her. “No dreams tonight.” He soothes, “I’m watching. You rest now. We can work through all this later. Rest.”
She slipped gratefully back into warm oblivion, her last thought — ** Thanks Grandpa** — echoing quietly down the now-tranquil corridors of her mind.