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Excerpt for Druid Elevations by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Druid


Elevations


Book Two of the Druid Saga Trilogy



R.L. Berger



Copyright © November 27, 2018 by R.L. Berger
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of spiritual discovery,
science fiction and fantasy.
All names, characters, places, and incidents
are the product of the author’s imagination,
intended for use in fictional context only.
Any characters’ similarity to real people
or other fictional characters is coincidental
and unintentional.

1st Edition
Published on December 8, 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0-9600813-1-8
Smash Words Edition
ISBN: 9780463193747

Table of Contents

Title Page

Author Preface

Prologue

Chapter 1 Puzzles

Chapter 2 Conundrum

Chapter 3 Expansion

Chapter 4 Oppression

Chapter 5 Intransigence

Chapter 6 Darkness

Chapter 7 Vestiges

Chapter 8 Redemptions

Chapter 9 Allies

Chapter 10 Subconscious

Chapter 11 Openings

Chapter 12 Reflections

Chapter 13 Rendezvous

Chapter 14 Preparations

Chapter 15 Enfilade

Chapter 16 Rejuvenation

Notes from the Author

Author Preface



This is a work of spiritual fiction and fantasy. All of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to real people or other fictional characters is coincidental. As many other books before these, it is based upon several religious beliefs and draws heavily from those stories and tenets. The purpose of this novel is not to abridge or interfere with traditional beliefs but to provide unique insights and perspectives on those widely known values.

It focuses primarily on the spirit that dwells within each and every one of us. Despite every effort so far, no definitive scientific proof is available on the existence of our souls. All that we have to lean upon are religious references, vague feelings and our own unique personal experiences.

Religions relentlessly ask initiates and members to believe. There is little provable evidence to support the stories their books hold. They record accounts of mortal men and women as they witnessed extraordinary or miraculous events. Many believe that our souls are silent watchers and witnesses inside us that remember everything that occurs every second of our mortal lives.

This book challenges the reader to seek out their soul and try to connect with it. They are the only part of us that lives on when our mortal bodies turn to dust. Our soul may be more ‘us’ than we know. Imagine our abilities without the heavy, slow, limited shells we wear now. I’d like to take the reader into that realm of possibilities and explore the limits of their imaginations.

We will travel to new and strange worlds and explore very different cultures. We will encounter beings and energies both wonderful and terrifying. It is an adventure in belief that may bring about a new understanding of our sometimes inexplicable emotions and behaviors. The universe is our playground on a journey with unique and interesting characters swept into a strange fellowship.

It is also filled with romance, follies, frills and frivolity. At times the reader will encounter deep drama amidst silly hilarity. Follow unique and colorful characters as they search for hidden hints and clues, discover new understandings with them and try to unravel the mysteries they hold. I sincerely hope that you will find this work as enjoyable to read as I found it to write.

R.L. Berger

Prologue



Regardless of what you may have heard or read about druids, the real story is very different. Druids did not originate on Earth. Our heritage begins long before that on a distant planet among different stars. Druids do not wield mysterious powers like witchcraft, sorcery or magic. There are energies much more powerful and dangerous than mortal beings are aware of in this physical realm.

The forces of creation and chaos exist together in every molecule of this reality. In their natural order, such forces remain somewhat balanced. Their effects are accepted as simple and unavoidable fate, a part of life that all must accept. If, however, some form of intelligence acts to bring about chaos, we druids must try to defend this physical realm of creation. This has always been and always will be our purpose for being and our highest mission.

As one of the druids, I have made contact with one particular mortal being. Edgar Drake has been very receptive to the Elementals and the new beings in his life. His spiritual evolution has been inspiring. He has become my first and closest mortal friend. Through the new beings in his life, his spiritual energies have increased dramatically. Curiously, their spiritual energies have multiplied as well. He has the unique ability to absorb negative influences in his life without letting them affect his positive character or outlook. Both of those qualities inspire others to emulate his emotional and heartfelt examples.

I wonder at Edgar’s unique talents and how they integrated with his life through what he learned and what he taught. He has an unquenchable hunger for knowledge that he pursues with a passion unequalled among his peers. His drive and enthusiasm are infectious. Others are drawn to his unique wit, humor and intellect. His moral compass and sense of duty to help others is firm and unwavering. Even I am inspired by his commitment to the cause of creation.

If Edgar is strong in spiritual energies, his grandchildren are even stronger. They are bound together in body, mind and spirit. The spiritual energies they are able to produce amaze and mystify even the powerful Elementals. Adversity seems to have triggered a deep and powerful connection between them. Their innocence is maintained through that unbreakable bond. No one knows how powerful they will become as they grow. We eagerly await that and the possibility that they may discover new energies along the way. For now I am content to assist and protect them as they face this new crisis. Even now it threatens all of creation.

Chapter 1
Puzzles

Two years later Edgar and Sheema were still researching magic and miracles. Despite their efforts there were very few clues to follow and most of them led nowhere. The druid made good on his promise to set up residences on Earth and Keel. Their dwelling on Keel was a sprawling villa just outside the capital. The lodge on Earth perched near the top of a remote mountain a few miles from Edgar’s former cabin. Permanent portals were set up between properties so the family could travel between them quickly and privately.

The children were growing fast. Jason, now ten, was interested in everything. Kelly was still calm and loving at eight. Myra, now four, was the most difficult to manage. The children were still home schooled at their primary residence. Edgar leaned back in his chair as six of the girls left the room. They were skilled teachers now. He had just finished outlining the month’s lessons for them. They had no trouble handling the day to day details. “Sheema, are you ready for the morning meal yet?” He called out from the den.

She came out of the bedroom wearing earth style blue jean shorts and a sleeveless plaid shirt. “I am now. Do you like it?”

“You look like a country girl.” Edgar smiled. “What are you planning to do in that getup? It isn’t harvest time yet.”

“I am doing some light gardening.” Sheema responded “Planting some flowers near the front step. Trees and shrubbery are nice but it could use a little color. The druid brought some pretty wildflowers from Earth.”

Edgar sat up. “That sounds great. I’d like to help. Eats first, though, okay? It’s late already.” Sheema was out the door before Edgar got up. He sat down next to her on the patio. “Good morning, Kleff and Kelva.” Edgar greeted their friends. “You look to be in fine spirits today.” Edgar smiled.

“All good here, mate.” Kleff grinned back, handing him a cup of coffee. “We’re trying out some new recipes. With the wider selection of foods available, it’s a good time to freshen up our menus a bit.”

“Kleff and Kelva’s Culinary Creations.” Sheema pictured a title. “I like the sound of that; ‘Pre-packaged foods for hungry travelers’. What do you think?”

“Absolutely not.” Kelva scowled. “I hate pre-packaged garbage. Too many preservatives... They are a terrible insult to good taste.”

“I agree.” Kleff nodded. “Why employ a chef when you can get the same food out of a dirty old dispenser?”

“Kleff...” Edgar admonished his friend. “You two are family. We’d love you even if you couldn’t cook. Besides, we don’t pay you, remember?”

“Keenly.” Kleff chuckled. “I’m teasing about your Earth values.”

“I like Sheema’s clothing.” Kelva looked at her outfit. “Where can I find something like that? It is pretty and durable. These aprons we wear are dull and boring. This dark blue material shows every little stain.”

“I can help with that.” Edgar chimed in. “Earth has some nice decorative aprons available. I’ll show you some after the morning meal.”

“Finally, a date with Edgar.” Kelva grinned wickedly at Kleff. “I look forward to that.”

“I want to be there as well.” Sheema smiled sweetly. “I love shopping. We can look through the new fashions together.”

“You will have a chaperon.” Kleff sang. “You know not to try anything naughty with Edgar in any case. He’d have you arrested like he did Alva. Now that’s something I would pay to see.”

“Pervert.” Kelva muttered. “When did you get interested in bondage?”

“Stop it.” Sheema held up her hands. “I need to finish eating and do not want to choke on anything this time.”

“Do you need help?” Edgar slid his chair closer. “I could put a bib on you and spoon feed your meal. It’d be fun.”

“No one feeds me.” Sheema retorted indignantly. “I saw you with Myra when she first arrived. You kept missing her mouth.”

“She got you there, mate.” Kleff scoffed. “You are a bit messy.” He pointed to Edgar’s lap. A few pieces of fruit he missed rested on his trousers.

“These?” Edgar picked them up. “I was saving them for later.”

Kelva attacked his jeans with a wet cloth while Kleff laughed at him. So much for trying to get ahead in the bantering game this morning. Sheema grabbed his hand. “Let me get you cleaned up so you can get dirty again in the garden. Sometimes you are more trouble than the children, dear.”

She marched him into the den and sat him on the sofa. Instead of telling him off, she jumped into his wet lap and kissed him soundly. “I didn’t deserve that.” He smiled. “You were right. I am a little messy.”

“You were a good sport as always.” Sheema rubbed her nose on his. “Now show me those aprons before Kelva gets here.”

Thanks to permanently open portals, Edgar enjoyed a dedicated internet connection from Earth. New computers and software made it easy to order online. The druid set up a secure drop box at their house on Earth so parcels were always delivered in good order. He quickly found a wide selection of aprons on one site for Sheema. She began to scroll through them eagerly. “What did I tell you?” Edgar smiled. “See anything you like?”

“Just leave it open to this site.” Sheema grinned. “I will get Kelva.”

As the girls waded through pages of aprons, Edgar sat back and read. Sheema knew how to shop for whatever she needed online. That was how she found the country girl outfit. “I like these three.” Kelva showed Edgar.

“Great.” Edgar hit the checkout button. “They’ll be here in a couple of days.”

He went outside with Sheema. It didn’t take long to plant flowers near the front doors. Sheema’s claws worked well on the imported earth soil. “Good work, dear.” Edgar smiled. “I think they look nice right here.” He stood back to admire them. They were both dirty from the little chore.

“I adore the delicate smell.” Sheema agreed. “Our guests will enjoy a hint of natural scents from your planet when they visit.”

Edgar shook his head. She always thought of things he didn’t consider. “I get dibs on the shower.” Edgar joked as he moved for the door.

Sheema beat him to it and blocked his way. “You are not tracking dirt into our living room again, darling. This way.” She led him around the side of the house to the patio. The girls dragged Edgar to the water under Sheema’s direction. He stared helplessly at Kleff and Kelva before they pushed him in.

The pristine pool water soon became clouded with dirt and bits of foliage as they scrubbed Edgar clean. Sheema dived in to help rinse the dirt off. She learned to be a fairly good swimmer in the two year interim. It was crucial to keep up with the children. After climbing out of the pool in dripping wet clothing, she gave Edgar a towel. “You look much better. We can sit down under the lights until midday meal. Our clothing should be dry by then.”

The pool water cleared quickly. Strong pumps and filters swept it clean. It was designed for bathing by many different species. Kleff gave Edgar a fresh cup of coffee to help him warm up. “I’d ask if all went well with the gardening mate, but the cleanup looks like it was more trouble than the job was… You look miserable, you know.” He sympathized.

Edgar looked up from his cup. His clothes were still dripping on the tiles. “It’s not the first time I’ve been all wet.” He joked. “It won’t be the last.”

“You do not have a thick coat of fur.” Kelva smiled. “I would look like a ball of fluff after a ducking like that.”

“Nothing a good licking wouldn’t smooth.” Kleff looked at Edgar with a sly grin.

“This is no place for thoughts like that.” Kelva glowered. “It is too early in the day. You could do with a bath yourself, mister musty.”

“That’s my natural scent.” Kleff replied indignantly.

“No…” Kelva denied. “Edgar has a light, rather nice scent. Your pelt stinks. You need to bathe more than once a week, hound.”

Edgar took his shirt off and wrung it out. “It’s still early. I volunteer to throw him in. Are you ready, girls?” He called to them, smiling.

Kleff sprinted for the kitchen door with Kelva hot on his heels. “You sure know how to clear a table.” Sheema jibed. “I want to see what you get for midday meal today. My guess would be hot sewage.”

“Kelva wouldn’t let that happen.” Edgar put the damp shirt back on. “She probably has Kleff in a headlock by now.”

“Leave them alone.” Sheema looked toward the kitchen door. “They look happier than I have ever seen them. What they do in private is their own affair. They need more free time to enjoy each other’s company.”

“You’re right.” Edgar conceded. “I just hope Kleff gets over the needling.”

“He is as good natured as you are.” Sheema smiled. “He will be fine.”

Kleff came back to the patio in swim wear. He ran over to dive into the pool with a yell. The girls piled in after him. Kelva walked over to the table with a grin. “I made him smell himself. He saw things my way.”

Edgar laughed as he watched the girls splash around him. “It looks like he’s enjoying it. I didn’t know he could swim so well.”

“He loves it.” Kelva grinned. “This should be a daily event.”

“Why not join him?” Sheema teased.

“I bathe daily.” Kelva wrinkled her nose. “I am sensitive to odors. Edgar, you smell nice despite your ducking. Sheema always smells good. The strongest odor at this table is your coffee. Kleff has been tormenting me with his nasty stench for far too long. I told him as much.” Kelva smiled.

“Most males don’t mind their own odor.” Edgar pointed out. “…unless they don’t bathe for a while. I got into the habit when I was young. Kids can be harsh critics. I wasn’t perfect but I met their standards.”

“And mine...” Sheema twisted the knife. “If he does smell I politely make my distaste known. I joke about my smelly ape but he does have a nice scent.”

“Thank you.” Edgar sniffed his underarms. “Deodorant is a must.”

Kelva giggled while Kleff returned to the table wet and smiling. His fur was matted and dripping freely on the tiles. Kelva jumped up and took his hand. “Someone needs a good brushing.” She laughed as she dragged him back to the house. Kleff smiled at the pair. He loved a thorough brush.

The druid appeared as they left. “The Elementals need to see you, Edgar and Sheema.” They got up and followed the druid to the hall.

A large projection hovered above them showing a faraway galaxy. It was slowly being obscured by gathering darkness. “It continues to grow.” The spiritual Elemental began. “Druids sent to the area report that it is composed of natural chaos. There were no dark energy beings nearby. Mortal beings inside the darkness are still alive and well. Their suns continue to provide heat but no light. We have not been able to develop any firm theories on how to dispel it.”

“It might be a natural reaction to the decrease in negative energies we caused two years ago.” Edgar replied. “I hope it’ll dissipate as it spreads. It looks a lot like hurricanes on our world. Those storms must cover hundreds of thousands of light years to occlude a whole galaxy like that. Have the druids been able to find a source? It must be coming from somewhere.”

“No.” The spiritual Elemental responded quietly. “The druids can find no concentrations of dark spiritual energies near the areas of darkness. It is difficult for them to explore inside them. It leeches their energies when they venture into it. All we can do is monitor their progress.”

“Mortal beings are not affected?” Sheema wanted confirmation. “Are there any advanced species in the darkness or nearby?”

“Why?” Edgar was curious. “I doubt they can deal with those energies.”

“Druids could use their ships to explore, though” Sheema asked. “They might offer more protection from negative energies.”

“A shield of sufficient strength might help.” The druid pondered. “Natural chaos does not need spiritual energies from mortal beings. It feeds on all dark spiritual energies no matter what the source.”

“We will consider your insights.” The spiritual Elemental thanked them. “Natural chaos is not inherently aggressive in nature. It is still cause for concern.”

The druid bowed to them and formed a portal. Edgar and Sheema stepped through to the patio again followed by a puzzled druid. Midday meal was waiting for them when they arrived. Kleff and Kelva sat at the table. Kleff’s coat was unusually shiny but he seemed his usual jovial self. “Welcome back. You’re late as usual. There’s still time to give the children hugs before they go inside.” He gestured to a nearby table where they were waiting.

Edgar and Sheema went over to greet the children before returning to their table to eat. “Kelva didn’t give you a wax job, did she?” Edgar couldn’t resist ribbing his friend a little.

“It’s fur conditioner. Itchy, uncomfortable conditioner.” Kleff complained. “I have to resist the urge to bite myself.” He growled.

Kelva chuckled quietly. “He will always find reasons to complain about being clean. By this evening he will be as messy as ever.”

Noticing that the children were gone, Kleff nonchalantly picked up his mate and walked over to the pool. He tossed the struggling girl in and returned to the table, smiling. “I want to see if she complains.”

“Ouch.” Edgar winced. “That wasn’t good, mate. Here she comes.”

Kelva walked up to the table, her fur and clothing a dripping mess. She didn’t speak but glared at Kleff with bared claws. “Kelva, please try to stay calm.” Sheema jumped up to block her. “We will go inside. I will help you get dry and change. Kleff can deal with the mess out here. I will help you think of some appropriate penances for him while we get you cleaned up.” She steered an incensed and dripping Kelva to the kitchen door.

“I don’t envy you, Kleff.” Edgar commiserated. “I’d be very worried right now. Kelva looked pretty angry.”

“No worries, mate.” Kleff smiled and shrugged. “One word from her and I can accuse her of complaining just like I did. She knows that.”

“But you need to clean up out here now.” Edgar reminded him.

“I cook...” Kleff kept his seat. “I don’t clean. The attendants do that.” A group of them came out from the kitchen. “I’m going to rinse this conditioner off before it drives me insane.” He walked to the pool and jumped in. Edgar walked back to the den. Some things couldn’t be helped.

Back at his desk, he pored over another book. This one was much older than most of the books he’d looked through before. He wasn’t familiar with the title. The text was archaic and hand written but legible. He began to find correlations to several notes he’d made before. Dragging the notes out, he started comparing them to the new information. The mess of clues started to make sense.

When Sheema walked in he was bent over his work, engrossed in reading and writing at the same time. “You found something.” It wasn’t a question. “Let me see. Where did you find it?”

“Take a look at these.” He handed to notes to her. “I found some very interesting information in this book. Most of the newer books seem to hinge on this one. Perhaps it’s the source they were based on. It all had to start somewhere. I should be looking in older books than this one. If I can find the first source, it might have the answers I need.” He started for the door.

Sheema caught up with him at the portal. “Let me help.” She smiled. “You look in the section for Earth. I will look for Keel volumes.”

They went through the shelves and stacks quickly. Edgar found several dusty old works hiding on a high shelf. Some of them were bound scrolls that dated back well over a thousand years. Opening one of them he found Gaelic characters. Another was written in Chinese pictographs. Sheema returned with a few rags and skins with print on them. They had to be at least as old as his finds.

“I cannot read these.” She complained.

Edgar remembered. “There are readers at the desk. He went over and checked two of them out. “Let’s get these home.”

Sheema used the reader to scan one of the rags. The reader displayed an error message. “Wait, dear. My reader does not work with this writing.” She took it to the desk and returned with a different reader that did work.

Edgar tried to use his reader on one of the scrolls. He had to trade that one in, too. “I had to be more specific. Thanks, Sheema.”

“Readers vary.” Sheema smiled. “The most popular readers deal with current languages. Not many researchers are interested in ancient history. It is a good thing they had the right ones available. These are hard to find.”

“I suppose they have readers in each section that correspond to the material they have.” Edgar mused. “The archives here are very efficient.”

“They are messy, though.” Sheema remarked, looking at stacks of books and papers all over the desks. “They could at least try to keep it neat.”

“Sheema, we made this mess.” Edgar realized. “The desks were empty when we started. Maybe they didn’t want to disturb our research.”

“Oh no...” Sheema stared at the piles of books. “You are right. This is embarrassing. How could I be this messy?”

Edgar helped her return the stacks of books and papers to the shelves. “When I research something I get too involved to notice my mess. I don’t clean up until after I’m done. It’s a rather nasty habit.”

“Among many.” Sheema teased as she rose on a platform with an armload of papers. “I can overlook a few flaws. Thank goodness you look pretty.”

“You won’t kick me out of bed for eating crackers?” Edgar couldn’t resist.

“Not if you share them.” Sheema giggled. She was sharp today.

When the tables were clean, they picked up their prizes and went back through the portal. They hadn’t realized how much time it took to clean up. It was almost time for evening meal. They hurried to the den to wash and change. Edgar’s dried clothing was stiff and itchy. “Pool water isn’t very good for this clothing.” He commented wryly.

“There was no laundry conditioner in it.” Sheema agreed. “Stop complaining and hurry up. We will be late.”

“No one calls me late for supper.” Edgar joked as they hurried to the dining room. Everyone was there waiting.

The druid was there too. He had six new Kee females with him. “These females were sent to us by Clia. Each of them harbors an implacable fear of Kee males. She hopes we will be able to help them.”

“We’ll be happy to try.” Edgar walked up to the group. He knelt and asked each of them their names while Sheema asked the girls to find them something better to wear. She and Edgar paired the girls off and assigned rooms. When the girls returned with bags of clothing, Edgar halted everything. “Let’s sit down for the evening meal first. You must be hungry.” He asked the new girls as they eyed the food. Everyone sat down and made the new arrivals feel welcome with good food and conversation. It turned out they were very hungry.

After the meal, Edgar spoke to new arrivals. “Take as much time as you need to get used to your new home. The girls will help you. Sheema and I are here too, so don’t be afraid to ask if you need anything. Girls, welcome to our family. This home is very special. You need fear nothing here.” He gestured at the imposing druid standing next to him. “Think of it as your home away from home. Have a calm and restful evening.”

“Can we welcome them too?” Kelly asked timidly.

He grasped her shoulder. “These are our children. Of course you can.” The children linked hands as they faced the girls. A golden light spread out from Kelly. White light spread from Myra and green light from Jason joined the glow. Edgar felt their warm auras as they greeted the girls. The room fell silent as everyone felt the love in the combined energies.

After the greeting, the girls escorted the newcomers to their rooms. The females surrounded them, talking and giggling with the new girls. “That was nice” Sheema remarked, holding Edgar’s hand. “I hope we can dispel their fears. I wonder where Clia found them.”

“Why don’t you ask her, dear?’ Edgar suggested.

Sheema sprinted for the den. She mustn’t have called Clia yet today. Kelly came up to stand beside Edgar. “Grampa, one of the new girls is different.” She told him softly. She looked determined to share what she knew.

“Different in what way?” Edgar walked to the living room with her.

“A piece of her soul is missing.” Kelly whispered.

The druid came up behind her and whispered. “Which girl is it Kelly?” She jumped a little, startled to hear him so close.

“You hear too good, nosy.” She wrinkled her nose at the druid. “Come on.” She led the way upstairs to an open door at the end of the hall. One of the girls was talking idly while the other just sat there, staring ahead blankly.

The druid went in and waved a hand in front of her face. She looked up at him as though she’d just awakened. “What is your name?” The druid asked.

“I am Vendra.” She replied simply.

Sheema came up to Edgar in the hall. “All of the girls are from a remote village on a different land mass. No wonder the girls are afraid of males. They must have been rescued from an unreformed location.”

The druid was on one knee in front of the girl. He rose and nodded at Edgar. “This one has been abused badly. She is passive to emotions of any kind. Her spirit is unresponsive. Part of her is indeed missing.”

Myra walked up to stand by Kelly. “Can we help her?” She worried.

Sheema picked Myra up. “We will try, okay?”

Edgar followed when she went to sit by the listless female. Sheema took her hand tenderly. “What is the problem? Maybe we can help.” Sheema spoke quietly.

“You took me from my mate.” The girl’s voice quavered. “He was all I had.” She looked at Sheema with a blank expression.

“Hostage syndrome?” Edgar whispered to himself. “This won’t be easy.”

“Can’t we try?” Kelly looked at them with a plea in her eyes.

The druid knelt again. Edgar sat on the other side of the girl and took her other hand. Kelly stood beside the druid to complete the circle. The other girl assigned to the room stood silently nearby. “I was trying…” She said quietly. “Vendra would not respond to anything.”

“Come here.” Edgar beckoned to her. “She needs all of us.” Jason came up and sat next to Edgar. The hall filled with girls trying to get a look inside. Kelly began the effort with her heart light. Jason’s emerald light joined it. Myra cast her white light last. Edgar’s loop flared to life at the same time as Sheema’s. The druid bent to add his spiritual energy to the effort. It took several long moments for the girl to finally double over in grief. Everyone sat back as the glow faded. Sheema gathered the wailing girl into her arms. Edgar stood up with the druid. “Thank you, children.” He smiled. “It’s time for bed.” A few of the other girls squeezed into the room. They took the children’s hands to lead them out. The girl was wailing now, shaking hard in Sheema’s arms. Deep seated emotions were starting to work their way out. They had been locked away somewhere inside her love and pain. Now they were finally exposed, raw and painful.

After a couple of very long hours, Sheema laid the exhausted female down on her bed. Edgar and the druid waited patiently in the hall. She told the other girl to keep watch on the still grieving Vendra before walking out to join them. Her dress was soaked in tears. “We should go back to the den.” She took Edgar’s hand.

As they walked to the stairway, the beautiful lullaby began as it did every night. Everyone stopped at the head of the stairs until it ended. “I love that song more every time I hear it.” Edgar smiled as they resumed their walk to the den.

“It keeps getting better.” Sheema squeezed her hand.

“I will remain here tonight.” The druid said softly. He was concerned. This was his family too. He slowly disappeared in front of them.

“I wonder how many more remote villages there are on Keel.” Edgar mused.

“One crisis at a time, dear.” Sheema reminded him. “Thank you for your help with Vendra. I hope she recovers from the pain she endured.”

“I’m sure she will.” Edgar gathered her into his arms. “Clia was right to send them to us. Love is what we do.”

The druid watched Edgar and Sheema go down the stairs. He quietly returned to Vendra’s room. Standing beside the bed, he guarded the girl while she slept. Vendra’s heartbeat was slow and even. Her dreams were quiet. The glow of Kelly’s heart light was sustaining her soul. It was reinforced by the spiritual energies of everyone who helped. Even so, she held onto the other girl tight. She needed a sense of security in this strange place with these new beings. The druid remained, determined to make certain that her rest was peaceful. A life full of misery and brutality was going to be difficult for her to overcome.

Kleff watched from the door to their rooms on the main floor. He was concerned as well. “They’re sleeping now.” He said quietly to Kelva.

“Good.” Kelva crawled into his arms when he sat on the sofa. “Those poor girls… They are as broken as the first ones were. We should do something special for them. What should we do to welcome them properly, dear?”

“You’re right.” Kleff thought for a minute. “In the morning, I’ll ask Edgar if we can have a party for them. You and Sheema could take them shopping while I prepare the food. How does that sound?”

“Wonderful.” Kelva shed a few tears. “I know just where to take them.”

Edgar woke up to an empty bed. He threw a robe on and walked out to the den. Sheema wasn’t buried in a book. Scratching his head, he went back to shower, shave and dress. Walking out to the patio, he saw that Kleff was standing by the table waiting for him. “It’s about time you woke up, Edgar.” He smiled. “The girls are out shopping. I need to ask you something.”

Edgar sat down as Kleff settled into his chair. “What’s up, my friend?”

Kleff pushed the cup over to him. “We’d like to throw a party to welcome the new girls this afternoon. They might feel better if we gave them a proper welcome. It was Kelva’s idea and I agree with her. If you say no the next cup of coffee will be ‘on you’, mate.”

“Since you asked so nicely.” Edgar shook his head. “I think it’s a great idea. Is that why the girls are out shopping?”

“They took the new girls with them.” Kleff smiled, satisfied. “…to pick out some clothing. The plan you used before worked pretty well.”

“I remember.” Edgar took a sip of his coffee. “Am I too late for the morning meal? Where are the girls?”

“It’s still early.” Kleff reassured him. “The meal will be ready in about an hour. The pool is quiet now if you want to use it.”

“Not today.” Edgar sighed. “I have business on Keel.”

“Oh…” Kleff winced. “It’s time for your weekly visit with Alva. That must be torture. Why do you insist on keeping a weekly appointment with her?”

“Alva needs all the help she can get.” Edgar shrugged. “When she arrived she tried to seduce the guards. When they got close enough she attacked them. She hisses and spits at counselors who try to talk to her.”

“I know. You’re the only one she’ll talk to.” Kleff nodded. “She deserves punishment for what she did. You need to move on, mate.”

“I don’t enjoy the visits.” Edgar grimaced. “But Alva is suffering. I can’t help but feel somehow responsible for that. She needs to find a way back to sanity somehow. I seem to be the only one who can help her find a way.”

Edgar got up and waved to Kleff as he made his way to the corner of the patio. A portal to their residence on Keel opened. He greeted the few staff members he encountered as he walked to the front of the house. Walking to the garage, he found a driver to take him to the palace. Clia greeted him when he arrived. “You are early today.” She smiled. “Alva waits for you.”

“I’m sure she does.” Edgar bowed to the queen.

“You need not bow to me.” Clia deferred.

“We’re in public.” Edgar teased. “I won’t disrespect the Queen of Keel.”

They walked toward the entrance to the dungeon. “She is unchanged.” Clia worried. “No one can approach her save you.”

Edgar nodded and entered. He approached her cell alone. She was in an open circular enclosure in the center of the room. Empty cells lined the walls around it. Four guards watched her from different corners of the block. Alva paced, muttering to herself. Looking up, she hissed. “You are late, primate.”

“Nice to see you too, Alva.” He smiled, sitting down on a stone bench near her cell. “What’s on your mind today?”

“I plot your death as always.” Alva snarled. “You and that house cat trapped me. I will watch you choke on your own blood for that.”

“You talk like a Kee male.” Edgar cautioned her.

“You do not like me?” Alva hissed. “You made me this way!”

“You did that all by yourself.” Edgar countered. “Rage and jealousy made you savage. Why can’t you see that?”

“I know.” Alva sat on the chair facing him. “I want you so badly. Do you really not like me? Is my body so bad?” She began to unfasten her jumpsuit.

“It has nothing to do with the way you look.” Edgar scowled. “Hate made you evil, Alva. These Kee wouldn’t be here if they didn’t care about you. I wouldn’t be here either. You’re here because you became a predator. You’re exhibiting primal behavior. That belongs in the past with your distant ancestors. I remember a time when you cared about Sheema. She was your sister. She misses the old you and so do I... Focus on that, Alva. You’re better than this. I know you are. No good can come of hate…”

“Why do you keep resisting me?” Alva’s jumpsuit was lying in the sand. “I know you want me. I could make you happy.”

“You have it backwards.” Edgar shook his head, staring at her. “You want me. Males are toys to you. When you get tired of playing with them, you throw them away like trash. No one wants to be treated like that. I know you, Alva. I know how your mind works. You’re deceiving yourself. Think back to all the males you left behind. They didn’t break up with you, Alva. You left them.” Alva stared at him angrily. Her brows went down and her lip curled up in a silent snarl. “And, you’re back to hating me.” Edgar got up and approached her cell. “I’m smarter than you think, Alva. You wouldn’t like that about me. You don’t see me as a person. You see a piece of meat that you want to devour. You’re a wild animal that needs to prey on victims. Love wins hearts, not hate. Real love is very different, Alva. It has nothing to do with our bodies. Love originates from our spirits. I can’t believe that a less evolved primate like me has to tell you that. It’s as simple as a nursery rhyme. You’re an animal, Alva. Wake up!” He yelled. Startled, Alva leaped to the other side of her cell.

“What?” She shook her head. “What did I say? When did you get here? Why am I in my underwear?” She picked up the jumpsuit to cover herself.

“So… there are two of you in there.” Edgar smiled. “How do you feel, Alva? Are you all right?”

“Why am I here?” Alva looked confused. “I need to bathe. Can I go home now? I do not like it here. Help me, Edgar…”

“I will.” Edgar reassured her. He nodded to the guards. They brought new clothing and bath water to her cell. “Alva, you’re on Keel and you need help. We want you to get better. It’s been two years since you got here. You’re very ill. Isn’t that right, doctor?” He invited the psychologist to join them.

“Yes.” The doctor came forward. An assistant stood nearby.

Alva stared around at everyone. “Could I have some privacy, please? I need to bathe and change clothes.”

A cover dropped down from overhead to cover the cage. Edgar stepped away and motioned the doctors to join him. “She needs to stay focused on reality. Alva suffers from dual personalities.”

“We saw.” The counselor nodded. “We can help her now. Thank you.”

Edgar nodded and left. He told Clia the same thing. “You need to make certain the bad Alva is completely gone before you consider releasing her. It may take quite some time to resolve that condition.”

“I understand.” Clia nodded. “You have a loud voice, Edgar. I think everyone in the palace heard you.”

“Sorry about that.” Edgar apologized. “Alva needed a jolt to revert back to her original personality. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that earlier. The primal Alva must have come out when she perceived a threat to herself.”

“You visited her every week for two years.” Clia sympathized. “You must care about her very much.”

“I care about everyone.” Edgar smiled, taking her hand. “Alva was Sheema’s sister and part of our family too. No matter how bad she got, I remember Alva when she was happy. Sheema misses her terribly. I feel a responsibility for her welfare. How are you holding up, Clia? I worry about you too.”

“I am quite well, thank you.” Clia squeezed his hand with both of hers. “I do not miss the lack of a mate. A partner and family will happen in time. I need to help my planet recover and become strong. The spirit of my ancestor stirs within me. He keeps me focused upon this destiny. This is where I belong.”

“I’m glad.” Edgar smiled. “Your spirit is strong and determined. We need to stay strong for those we love. Thank you for sending those girls to us. Our family will give them the love they need.”

“I remember.” Clia whispered. “I was one of the sisters for a time. Those girls were in medical facilities for years before I decided to send them to you. No one here knew what to do for them. They were too fearful of male domination and abuse. I remember times like those very well.”

“Thank goodness they’re in the past.” Edgar commiserated. “Are there any more females we need to care for?”

“Not yet.” Clia confirmed. “There may be more in remote villages that we have not reached yet. Most victims of brutality and violence respond well to the treatments we provide. Even if Alva accepts treatment and is released, we will keep her on Keel. She will have a good life here with us.”

“I feel better about Alva now.” Edgar turned to leave. The female attendants were right behind him. He stood still for hugs from them. They served the queen and knew Edgar well. The girls waved to him from the palace steps as he left.

Edgar emerged on the patio. Sheema and Vendra were waiting for him. Kleff and Kelva stood near the table. He sat down and Sheema jumped into his lap. “I know where you were, dear. You need not fear a scolding from me. You are always helping someone in need.” She gave him a firm hug and kiss before hopping back into her chair. “Now, please eat something. You will need your strength today.”

Edgar ate as he relayed what happened with Alva. Sheema smiled lovingly at him until he finished the last bite. “Now they’ll finally be able to help her. I didn’t realize that she had dual personalities until now. I got frustrated and yelled a little. It was enough to wake her up from the primal state she was in.”

“I hope we can become sisters again one day.” Sheema hugged him again. “Alva really does have a good heart. Her cunning nature is what gets her into trouble. By the way, Vendra wants to have a word with you too.”

Vendra came up to hold his arm softly. “I remember everything that you did for me last night. You unlocked the cage my heart was hiding in. I was in a very dark place. My mate convinced me that he was the only one who cared enough about me to keep me near. I did not realize how much he intimidated me until I met all of you. I do not know how I can ever thank you enough but I will try. I will not be afraid of anyone here from now on. I trust you.” She looked around at everyone. “I finally feel what love should be.”

Edgar nodded, lifting the girl into his lap. He hugged her warmly as she relaxed in his arms. She cried a little but hugged him back. “You’ll always have a place here, Vendra. I meant what I said yesterday. This is your family now.” He said before he put her down gently.

Sheema got up to take her back to the house. She gave Edgar a kiss before she left. He could see the happiness in her eyes when she smiled up at him. “I love you.” She whispered before she left with the girl.

Kelva hopped into his lap for a playful hug too. “Share the love.” She giggled as she jumped down. Edgar stared after her, startled at the affection as she disappeared into the kitchen.

“You should be more careful with those kisses.” Kleff warned. “Nothing gets females more excited than a meaningful kiss. I stick to quick hugs. They’re safer. You may not live long with all the mates you’re courting.”

“But I’d die happy.” Edgar teased as he got up. “Sheema won’t let that happen and neither will I. Alva was a good lesson on the temptations of lust. I’d never think of taking more than one mate. Sheema’s the only one for me. Kelva is your mate and your worst tormentor. I’d never think to take that joy away from you, my friend.”

“Thanks a lot.” Kleff snarled as Edgar left the table. He sauntered back to the den with a smile. Today was going pretty well so far.

Sheema waited for him on the sofa. “Vendra is getting over her old life quickly. She joined the girls as soon as we arrived upstairs. They are playing with the children. You showed her how a loving mate should act. Now you need to remind me.”

Chapter 2
Conundrum

Later that afternoon Edgar came back to the den, eager to read the latest books he brought from the archives. The druid was waiting for him. “There have been troubling developments. Concentrations of darkness have appeared in more galaxies including ours. They seem to propagate near populated worlds and spread quickly.” Edgar turned on the vid-screen to see the reports. A vid-cast clearly showed a swirling darkness fan out from a seemingly random point in space. The stars near it were already beginning to dim.

“Are they interfering with mortals in any way?” Edgar was concerned about that issue in particular.

“Not yet.” The druid admitted. “But inhabited planets within the darkness are reporting increases in the number of crimes and unrest.”

“The darkness might present more opportunities for beings to engage in acts of crime and violence. Natural chaos seduces them to act on negative influences.” Edgar made the seemingly unrelated connection.

“It also inhibits their travel and supply routes.” The druid pointed out. “That contributes to feelings of frustration and fear. When beings become extremely frustrated they tend to become desperate.”

“Right.” Edgar lapsed into deep thought. “Are the planets increasing security patrols and offering assistance to beings in need?”

“Yes.” The druid nodded. “Those efforts have a limited positive effect. Negative chaos is definitely affecting general populations.”

“Then we need to find a way to penetrate the darkness somehow.” Edgar concluded. “Let me think about that. I still have trouble with the fact that natural spiritual energies are visible to mortals. Why are we able to see it now?”

“I do not know.” The druid was puzzled as well. “I will ask the Elementals. Perhaps they will be able to find some answers to those dilemmas. They are all more small pieces of a very disturbing puzzle.” The druid disappeared. Edgar went to the bathroom again to look in the mirror. He was able to see his own spiritual energies clearly now. His vision was crystal clear but the swirling glow in his eyes was disorienting to look at if he stared too long.

Sheema brushed past him hurriedly to use the facilities. Edgar made a quick exit and waited in the den for her to come out. When she did he had to stare. She was dressed in a dark red halter top and silvery bell bottom slacks. Even without footwear she reminded him of a disco dancer. “Where do you find those outfits?” He whistled. “That one is probably illegal in a few states.”

“Your album covers.” Sheema smiled, twirling. “They are fun to look at. I cannot seem to find some of the clothing on the albums though.”

“It was probably custom made.” Edgar suggested. “Music stars like to be original when they perform. It’s called sensationalism.”

“Oh.” Sheema stopped. “I do not want to be sensational. I thought this might be a little too revealing for me.”

“You can wear it when you dance for me.” Edgar’s eyebrows danced. It made Sheema break out in a fit of giggles. She ran back to the bedroom to change again. He sat back in the chair until she came out. This time she looked ready for a party. She wore a sleeveless white blouse with a candy sprinkled white skirt. They walked out to the patio together, ready for the party.

Sheema sprinted back for the living room as Edgar sat down. “She must have forgotten something.” Kleff watched the door close. “Ready for the party, mate?” He pushed a cup of coffee toward Edgar.

“I wouldn’t miss it.” Edgar grinned as he sipped at the hot beverage. “Where is everyone?” He looked around at the empty patio.

“Getting ready, I suppose.” Kleff shrugged. “The children’s lessons ended early. I wouldn’t want to be on the second floor right now. They’re probably in the middle of a clothing fight up there.”

Edgar laughed, imagining pretty clothes flying everywhere. “I found them.” Sheema sat down with a few music albums. “We cannot have a party without music. It might help the new girls to hear some of these songs.”

“Good idea.” Edgar nodded. She ran off to set them up. “Trust her to turn it into a dance party.”

“The meal will be out soon.” Kleff got up. “There are three courses. I’d better check to make sure it’s properly presented. Kelva probably needs a hand too. We’ll see you soon, mate.” He walked toward the kitchen door.

Music began to play at moderate volume. Sheema returned to the table. Edgar rose when the living room door burst open. The girls raced out followed by the children. It looked like a fashion show as they all started dancing on the patio. The children ran to Edgar and Sheema for hugs. Edgar picked Kelly up and spun her around. Sheema cuddled with Myra. Jason waited his turn quietly. Edgar sat down and beckoned him over. “How’s my boy today?” He smiled.

“I’m fine, Grandpa.” Jason was reserved compared to his defiant stage. “Is this for the new girls?” He looked around.

“It’s a party.” Edgar hugged him by the shoulders. “We all get to enjoy ourselves. Relax a little, Jason. Get your glider out and have some fun.”

“The batteries are dead.” Jason shrugged, walking over to sit at their table.

Edgar followed him, concerned. “Is there something bothering you, Jason?”

“Are mom and dad really dead?” Jason asked again.

Edgar took a seat beside Jason. “What’s on your mind, son? I’m sorry but your parents are gone. I have proof if you want to see it.”

“No” Jason shook his head slowly. “I just miss them.”

“I know you do.” Edgar sympathized. “I miss my parents too. Look, Jason, I can be your dad now if you want me to. I already think of you as my son.”

“You do?” Jason’s eyes lit up. “Can you really do that?”

“Yes, I really can.” Edgar looked at Jason seriously. He jumped into Edgar’s arms and hugged him tight. Edgar wasn’t surprised. Boys his age needed a solid sense of security. Life didn’t make much sense to him right now.

Jason ran off to find the girls. Edgar shook his head and returned to the table. Kelly gazed at him as he sat down. “Thanks, Grampa. He needed that.”

Edgar smiled at Sheema as he picked Kelly up and sat her in his lap. “I just had a talk with Jason.” He looked at Sheema. “He wants me to be his dad. What do you think, Kelly? Do you want Sheema and me to be your mom and dad?”

Kelly squealed and grabbed him around the neck. Myra started crying and latched onto Sheema. “That must be a ‘yes’.” Sheema managed to whisper.

They ran to the other girls shrieking. “I think so.” Edgar smiled.

“Can we do that?” Sheema posed the same question to Edgar.

“I don’t see why not.” Edgar took his cup. “We’re both young and strong enough now. I’m willing to be whatever they need me to be.”

Sheema leaped up to grab his neck in a stranglehold hug. “Thank you, love” She whispered as he struggled to breathe.

When she finally released him he sat back gasping for air. The girls walked the new additions to their table. “Here they are, Edgar.” He rose to greet them. Kleff and Kelva walked to the table as well. They were nicely dressed for the occasion. Attendants were busy setting the meal out on the tables.

The meal was as good as Kleff boasted. Their drinks were a real treat thanks to Kelva’s extra touches. The cake was even better than Edgar remembered. When his plate was clean, Edgar sat back, pleasantly sated.

The girls were playing tag with the children when the druid arrived. For once he wasn’t wearing his customary hood and cloak. Instead of the black vestment and midnight blue shirt, he opted for a formal white shirt with a curious dark purple shoulder length mantle. On closer inspection Edgar could see that it was made of tiny metallic links instead of cloth. His arms were filled with gifts and treats for the girls and the children. Everyone gathered around him as he put the gifts on the table. He sent up a shower of lights that glittered in the air like tiny jewels. “One of these goes to each of the girls.” He started handing them out. The necklaces each bore a small but intricate amulet. “Touch the center of it if you need me.” He placed one over each of the newcomer’s heads. “These are for the children.” He gave each of them a tiny oval locket. When they opened them small holograms projected images. They showed the druid on one side and Edgar and Sheema on the other. “Finally, the Elementals send a small token of welcome.” He handed out small clear discs to everyone, including Edgar and Sheema. “This is a very recent development. The disks are called tellars. When held in the palm of your hand an image of your spirit will appear. They work quite well to converse directly and privately with your own spirit.”

Edgar turned the disc over and compared it to his loop. The girls began to disperse, talking with each other about the unusual treasures. The druid came over to stand near Edgar. “I thought that was what the loop was for.” He was a little confused. “My loop has always been a little frustrating. I can’t get it to work when I want but it comes to life unexpectedly on me.”

“The loop allows your spirit to communicate with and assist you.” The druid explained. “It is controlled by your spirit. The tellar is controlled by you. I think you might find it to be a singularly unique experience.”

“Hmm..” Edgar grumped. “What if my spirit isn’t in the mood to talk?”

“Your spirit communicates with me often.” The druid smiled. “Keep the loop. Your spirit needs it as much as you need the tellar.”

“Right.” Edgar shrugged. The shield above the house began to darken. Some of the girls went inside the house. Attendants cleared the tables. Sheema was still talking with the new arrivals. Kleff and Kelva were back in the kitchen.

“The Elementals have news about the darkness.” The druid continued. “It is passive in nature but mortals in contact with it become sad, depressed and feel isolated from others. The frequency of unexplained accidents has increased dramatically. Dark thoughts and actions are not the only outwardly apparent effects of the darkness.”

“Passive negative energy.” Edgar mused. “It sounds like bad luck magnified. Increases in crime, accidents, depression, isolation… I should speak with some psychologists. Maybe they can develop some sort of plan to deal with them. If panic and desperation join the mix, this could get a lot worse.”

The druid nodded. “Agreed. I will relay your thoughts to the Elementals.”

As he prepared to leave, Sheema walked up with the new girls. “I told them they would be meeting the Elementals soon. They are afraid.”

“There is nothing to fear.” The druid smiled at them. “All they want to do is meet you and welcome you to the family. It will be a private audience. I will be there with you. You have nothing to be concerned about.”

One of the girls looked at Edgar. “Will you be there too?”

“Of course.” Edgar smiled. “Sheema and the children will be there. We love to visit the Elementals. All the girls will be there with you too. It’ll be a very happy occasion. The Elementals want to see you.”

“All right.” Vendra sounded apprehensive. “We will try.”

Sheema led them into the house as the druid disappeared. Edgar found himself alone on the patio in the dark. He walked to the pool, thinking.

Sheema came back out to join him. “I told the other girls about the new arrival’s concerns over the Elementals. They are reassuring the new girls too. It will be all right. What are you doing out here all alone?”

“I’m trying to imagine what it feels like to be alone in the dark.” Edgar confessed. “The druid told me about some of the effects the darkness has on mortals. Loneliness, fear, sadness, isolation, an increase in freak accidents… How do we counter effects like that?”

“Oh my...” Sheema looked around her at the darkness. “That sounds horrible. I lived through a time like that. Without the love and attention of you and our family, who knows what would have happened to me?”

“We should consult some experts.” Edgar suggested. “Maybe they can come up with some sort of combined treatment. Mental health can usually focus on one or two problems at a time but all of them? One more thing…” Edgar looked at Sheema. “Do the new girls have com-links? I didn’t see them tonight. Most of the other girls wear theirs constantly.”

“We can take care of that tomorrow.” Sheema took his hand and led him back to the den. “I can think of a few things we can do until then.”

“Do they involve gliders?” Edgar picked them out of the pool. “The children left them behind again. Maybe we can use them.”

“In your dreams.” She teased. “Leave them by the door. We do not need children’s toys.” When he put them down she jumped into his arms. “Now, what could be more fun than gliders?” She purred.


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