Legion of Light
Chapter 6: Hearth Stones
Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life
By the time Saturday finally rolled around, I felt like we had gotten a lot of things done. Our food and other supplies had been restocked, we had the invitations out for our Saturday get-together, and Mike and his dad would be hosting at their house. We had decided to make it a lunch invitation.
Thursday morning Dad called me and said the paperwork was completed on what he called 'the DeWitt Road property', referring to the warehouse and office facility that Dad had shown us, and that he had keys for me.
Con called me to say he had several hundred copper coin 'spy toys' manufactured.
Ginny gave me the final approval to continue with my beard 'project'. I was starting to feel better about it as it began growing in. I had never let my facial hair go more than a couple days in my life, so this was a new experience for me.
Grandpa A.J. Had decided to fly out so he could spend a little time and appear in public places without worrying about someone thinking it odd. Aaron and Ambrose were accompanying him, having decided it was high time they got a look at both California, and Meadow as well. All three of them were talking about spending at least two weeks.
One thing that still bothered me a little was just how badly I'd misjudged things with Grandma and Grandpa Carson. I stopped in to invite them to the Sunday get together, and while I was there, I tried to apologize to them for what I felt was completely ignoring them through all the recent development and excitement. To my surprise, they laughed!
"Davey," Grandpa Bill said, "Your Grandmother and I aren't dead, and we're not in a nursing home, but we are retired. We both had very long, very exciting and very challenging careers. We both went through long periods of time during those careers, longer than you've been alive, where we had to be dynamic, take-charge, balls of fire."
Grandma added. "We didn't retire because we had to sweetie, we retired because we were finally at a point in our lives where we could live at the slower pace we both always wanted."
"We are still active, energetic people, and we still have things we want to do, but excitement, mystery and drama are not things we look forward to." Grandpa said. "We will be content to experience our excitement and drama vicariously, through you and your friends, but we don't want to experience them with you. We will be there for you when you need us of course, as we were when you needed us to buy this specific house when we moved here. We will do what we can Davey, but we will be your old, retired Grandparent's when we do."
"And not to be a pest, dear" Grandma added, "but could you please get that damned gun safe out of our garage?"
I was embarrassed of course that I'd forgotten that there was a safe full of weapons in their garage. I jumped it into the storage area on Meadow right then and there.
I was surprised that I hadn't already known and understood their feelings on being involved in what I was doing. I decided I needed to socialize more with them as just their grandson, and let them be as involved as they wanted to be. Not accepting my apology was just their way of saying not to worry about it so much. They still accepted the invitation to the Sunday picnic on Meadow.
Con, once he knew the details of my adventures as a beggar, had provided me with some excellent disguise elements, even rigging me up a spray booth in the staging area that darkened my skin to that Mediterranean cast that everyone on Meadow seemed to favor. It darkened my brown hair slightly as well, which made it a closer match to the dark brown hair that was the predominate coloring all over Meadow. Not that I didn't occasionally see blond, redhead and black heads of hair. I'd even seen several people with green or blue eyes. I also had a scar appliqué for my throat that required a special solvent to remove. Con gave me a box full of them.
Friday evening, while everyone was busy getting things together for the lunch in the morning, I begged off, saying I had some research that I needed to work on, and spent 6 hours in the Meadow version of Hong Kong again. I had my beggar's bowl in hand at first, but I had parked myself this time near a restaurant with a large outdoor dining area, and even though I pretended to be a mute, I wound up washing dishes in the place for over 6 hours.
The dish washing experience was interesting. I'd never been a dish washer, and certainly the manual, backbreaking methods used in this kitchen were something I would have been hard pressed to experience on Earth. But the big, barrel-chested cook who first grabbed me off the street didn't trust me with his precious dishes at first anyway. I spent most of my time hauling water and boxes of clean dishes from the sinks and dirty dishes to them.
What I loved was the constant chatter. I don't know if its just normal restaurant kitchen behavior, but everyone in the kitchen and boiler areas jabbered at each other constantly. I worked, as much on auto-pilot as possible, and opened my mind to their thoughts as I drank in their words. I started work during a mealtime shift, obvious by the jam-packed crowd out front and the frenzy in the kitchen. The cook fed me something once the rush was over, and gave me time to sit on the ground behind the restaurant, near the big boilers that produced all the water for their cooking and washing. He sat beside me and motioning at my throat, examined my scar. He shook his head and rumbled something that sounded sympathetic. We both ate our meals, a sort of mush with bits of sausage in it. Two bites in, he'd set his bowl down and ran back into the restaurant. He came back out with a handful of tomato wedges and a couple large pats of butter, which he proceeded to divvy up into our bowls.
I took my biggest chance then, with the two of us absorbed in our meals, and the cook jabbering at me between spoonfuls. I gathered my mental energies, and entered the cooks mind. As I remembered Eru doing it, I followed his thoughts and words into the verbal centers of his consciousness.
We finished our food, I tried to make gestures of appreciation and thanks, and made a few throat sounds, pretending at the application of great effort to do so.
He clapped me on the shoulder and we went back to work. We got the kitchen cleaned, and the dishes done, which I actually got to help wash this time, in time for the next meal rush. Most of their dishes were wooden, but they did have some fired clay pottery. The wooden stuff was actually better, as the pottery was pretty crude.
Right in the middle of the second rush, I realized I was starting to understand bits and pieces of the chatter around me. The cook's name was Borthun, and he was yelling at one of the waitresses, an attractive older woman whose name I hadn't caught to that point. What he was yelling just suddenly started making sense, as my brain begin to finally integrate things. Somewhere some bits of my awareness lined up finally, and it began coming through.
" ... care if he wants a rare cut of the lamb shank! If he wants rare lamb, he comes for the midday meal!" I caught.
I spent the remainder of that meal rush listening and hauling water and dishes with a big grin on my face. Halfway through, I felt Ginny thinking at me.
Davey? Are you busy?
Kinda sweetie. I"m working on something I can't stop in the middle of.
Okay, just checking in, I haven't seen you all day, and its getting late!"
Probably another hour or two, sorry. Gotta get back to it, bye Blossom!
Bye Sweetie! She said.
Borthun caught my pause as I was having my mental conversation, and had also seen my recent grin.
"Scarecrow, you are smiling like a boy during his first trip to the brothel. I wonder what is going on in that head of yours?" He said laughingly to me.
And I understood the entire sentence!
I pointed at my ears, and then pantomimed his words reaching from his mouth to them, and nodded my head and smiled. Then I touched the scar, and pantomimed words from my mouth to his ears and frowned and shook my head.
"You can understand me then?" He said. I nodded my head a bit, then shook it a bit, pantomiming a back and forth gesture.
"Ah! You understand some?" I nodded vigorously!
"Yela! He hollered at the attractive older waitress he'd been yelling at earlier. "The scarecrow can understand what we say a little it seems!
I took another chance as Yela came over to 'meet' me, now that they knew they could be understood to some degree. I took both their hands, put them on my chest for a second, and then in the best hoarse whisper I could muster said "Dave".
Yela, mimicking my gesture put her hand on her own chest and Said "Yela". Borthun repeated this with his own name. I smiled widely.
Just then one of the other waitresses yelled at us, reminding us that we were in the middle of a rush, and we all scrambled back to work.
When the meal rush was over, and things had been cleaned up for the night, I looked at the sun lowering itself in the sky. I pointed at it to Borthun and pantomimed walking away, and sleeping.
"I understand. You need to go. Probably got a family somewhere who will worry?"
I nodded yes at that. He reached into a pocket and pulled out several copper coins, both larger than the ones I'd seen in my previous begging trips.
"Come back tomorrow and I'll put you to work. You are a hard worker!"
Yela handed me a cloth wrapped bundle as I left, and I waved goodbye, and I took off down the street. My 'safe' arrival area had been a narrow alley between two buildings with high windowless walls. When I returned there it was still deserted, so I quickly jumped back to Meadow.
Despite the length of my day, as it was now past midnight our time, I woke Ginny, bubbling with excitement. She took one look at me, still in my beggar's disguise and said "Davey McKesson, have you been keeping secrets from me?"
I grinned sheepishly. She got over her upset when I showed her the coins and better yet the cloth bundle, and the small half-loaf of heavy, brown bread and chunk of pork shoulder. The meat was still warm from the spit, and we both ate a little of it while I recounted my day.
Ginny made me go change out of my beggar's outfit, and I washed the disguise out of my hair and off my skin, using Con's spray booth. When I returned to our room and slid in beside her, she pulled me to her and kissed me heatedly.
"I missed you today. I missed you more tonight. Make love to me!"
That night, I received a new 'special' nickname from Ginny that served her well for all our years ahead. When she got excited, as she urged me on, she called me 'beggar boy'.
With the late hour of my return home, and the events that followed, we were both a little bleary-eyed in the morning, especially since we had all agreed to meet early so we could still get in a full hour of meditation and a normal two hour session in the Garden, but by the time we were showered and dressed, aided by a reinvigorating wave of Light that I washed us in briefly, we were ready to go.
With everyone now in possession of their self-powering bracelets, Ginny and I only had to jump to Meadow to meet everyone before we headed off for our morning meditation. When I jumped everyone through to the meditation chamber, Con was sitting there waiting for us.
"Good morning everyone!" He said cheerily.
We were all a bit surprised, as Con had been so wrapped up recently in his research that he hadn't joined us in several days, but we were glad to have him, and we quickly formed our circle.
"Eru, before we begin today, I have some exciting news, along with a bit of an apology to everyone. During the course of the week, with everything else going on, I've been getting in a little 'observation time' near the area of Meadow which would be Hong Kong on Earth. The difference is that I've been doing it in person, disguised as a beggar on the street."
Phew! Talk about Revenge of the Chaos Bomb! I was struggling to think of a way to get things restored a little before I shocked them again, but Con beat me to it.
"Legionnaires, please be aware, that through Dave's efforts, we now have an acceptable method of acquiring audio pickup on with our platforms." Con threw a handful of the coins onto the floor between us. I picked up the conversation then.
"As a beggar on the streets of Maldre's Crossing, I received these coins. They are certainly the meanest, lowest value coins possible, and thus fairly ubiquitous in the area. Con has created hundreds of copies of these coins, with one slight difference. Each one is a microphone, designed to transmit audio it picks up to the nearest platform."
As soon as they had seemed to be accepting this information, I decided to throw the rest of the gas on the fire.
I tossed my larger coins from last night onto the floor. "These coins I received last night. Not for begging, but for spending an entire day washing dishes at an inn or restaurant of some kind."
"You washed dishes for 6 hours last night, and got paid at the end of the day? How did you communicate?"
"Pantomime and gestures mostly." I answered. Arden was quickest this morning and caught it first.
I of course had my mind wide open to the thoughts and conversation around me, and let me tell you, market places and restaurant kitchens appear to me to be places where people just talk non-stop! Between the first and second meals we served of the day, I took a chance and opened a channel into the cook's verbal centers, similar to the channel that Eru opened for us that day when we all so suddenly learned all those languages."
"So you know their language now?" Chet asked.
"Well, I finally started to understand it when it was spoken to me towards the end of the day."
Eru jumped in then. "And so today during our session, we will open those channels again!"
And that was exactly what we did for our entire session!
When we finished the session and headed for the Garden, we were surprised again to find Con accompanying us. I was a bit surprised, because while the teachers were very deferential and polite to Con, they had never offered him a lesson, so he had stopped trying.
Today, he walked up to the border and a teacher appeared immediately.
"Greetings Constantine," The teacher said. "Lets us walk in the garden, and you can tell me of what you seek." Con turned briefly to grin in triumph at us before taking the teachers arm and disappearing into the garden.
I turned to the rest of the crew with wide, teary eyes. "That is the first time."
"This was the first time Con came for a lesson?" Felicia asked.
"No, the first time they have offered one." Ginny said.
Everyone went silently into their own lessons, thinking about Con.
When we finished our lessons, Con was waiting, and I could tell by the flush on his cheeks, and the light in his eyes that his first session had borne fruit.
"I must stay today and keep working, but I will come to Meadow when it is time for these new friends to know of me. Tomorrow I will attend the entire picnic, okay?"
Of course it was okay, we told him, and watched him practically skipping as he headed towards the curtain.
I met everyone on Meadow and once we were all done changing, jumped everyone to the various places back home they needed to go, finishing with delivering Ginny, Eru and I to my bedroom. Mom and Dad joined us and we were very quickly on our way To Mike's.
Mike's sisters, Carrie and Callie, were both in college now, attending the University of Washington, and apparently, carving a swath through the entire male population, leaving broken hearts behind like mile markers on the highway. The twins had gone to live with their Aunt in Seattle when things had been at their worst with Mike's dad, and enrolling at UW let them continue to live with their Aunt, who they adored. That left Mike and his dad Owen as bachelors, and they had co-existed as such for a while. The lunch plans were only slightly modified when Ginny and Alicia decided there would have to be some housecleaning done before their 'cave' was fit to host a proper luncheon. Mostly it was this cleaning that I had missed last night while I was busy washing dishes.
Fred and his father arrived first, Fred having recruited his dad to be the shining example of someone with old world values who could still accept the reality of our situation. Chet showed up with his dad and mom Oscar and Ellie, and his three brothers Hank, Leo and Dwight, or as he referred to them, due to the coincidence of their initials, 'Huey, Louie and Dewey'. They were obviously used to it. When the cartoon moniker slipped out, Hank laughed.
"Yup, that's us, and have you met our lesser known brother screwy?" he said, pointing at Chet.
Arden and Alicia arrived next with his parents, Gary and Lisa. His parents both worked at the Angel's Camp Medical Center. His dad was a physical therapist and his mom was an emergency room nurse.
The lunch that had been arranged was a pasta salad extravaganza, with Ginny, Felicia, Eru and I serving up four different appetizers, 5 different pasta salads, and a huge heaping mound of fresh cut fruit. Eru remembered our pomegranate ice dessert from our first meal together fondly, and so we had a special experiment for our beverage of choice, which was an icy non-alcoholic pomegranate Margarita.
After lunch was over, and the dishes garbage and other paraphernalia were cleared away and dealt with, we all gathered again in the living room.
I stood in front of them all and began.
"Welcome everyone, and especially our invited guests, Gary and Lisa, Oscar and Ellie, Hank, Leo and Dwight, and a special welcome and thanks to Owen for hosting us. You all know me, once I used to be skinny little Davey McKesson, and you used to see me at your houses, hanging out with your kids and being the geek I was. You all remember how we all came together and became what we called the 'Legion of the Doomed'. I'm sure you never thought then that we were forming a bond that would be so strong and last so long as to have us all be here in our mid twenties, still friends and working together."
"What we are about to reveal to you is a secret that has been shared for many, many years by a group of people that has grown larger and larger over time. I have a gift, or talent if you want to call it that. My dad was the first person I talked to about it, as well as the first person to see me use it. Dare, my little furry friend was the first to experience it with me."
Dare, who had been sitting curled up in Ginny's lap gave a little squeak when I called her name. She was nine years old now and depending on who you listened to, had already exceeded, or was close to exceeding, her expected lifespan. She seldom traveled with us anymore, preferring to stay curled on my old bed at Mom and Dad's. Her age had begun to deny her the use of her tap into my jumping ability, so I had built her a ferret door so she could spend time in Mom's garden and out on the patio when she was feeling up to it.
"The number of people who knew I had a secret quickly doubled as Mom and then Ginny joined the group. Between my 15th and 16th birthday, my Grandpa and Grandma Carson joined the widening circle of people who knew. By my sixteenth birthday that circle grew to include my Grandfather A.J. McKesson and my Uncles Ambrose and Aaron McKesson. Very quickly that number increased due to some dramatic events which caused some concerns for my health and safety. Cyrus joined the group next, followed a while later by Ginny's parents. In the next couple of years the number of people who new I had a secret grew to quite a few because we added a whole bunch of folks back in North Carolina who had been keeping a secret of their own which it turned out was related to mine. The circle has slowly grown over the years to include everyone in this room and their parents, except for those of you here who are learning it for the first time."
"What about Alicia's parents?" Mike's dad asked. "I don't see them here tonight."
"We were each asked a while ago if we thought our parents could be trusted to keep the secret, so the fact that you are here is because your Son trusts you to share the secret with us. When I was asked this question, my answer was no, that my parents could not be trusted." Alicia answered.
"Because of their beliefs?" Chet's dad asked.
"Because of the radical nature of their beliefs. Because they are encouraged to hate, not love. Because they cannot look beyond the good guidance a book full of 2000 year old words offers, to see that there are things in the world that 2000 year old words can never explain. They would see Dave's gift, and they would see sin and damnation." Alicia answered.
"I have seen this view, in the old world. In the terrorism and persecution of others because of their differences." Formerio said suddenly. "Always it is in the name of God. Always it is because a group comes to see theirs as the only truth that can exist. It is fear and hate. I have seen it kill men standing beside me. When such fear and hate is confronted by a different truth, they must destroy it."
"Please let me interrupt here. The open honesty of this discussion does us all credit, but it has turned us from our course here today." Eru said. "Dave, please continue."
Heads nodded all around, and I saw Chet's dad reach over and pat Alicia's hand.
"In the past, when it was time to reveal the truth, I have often done a specific thing. I will do this same thing for you all today."
I looked around the room, checking expressions, letting my thoughts lap at their thoughts and emotions, looking for any sign of a problem.