Targo walked into the Tomus Transport Station and looked at the posted schedule. The next Transport to Gadmar would not be arriving for another fifteen minutes.
Gadmar was Tomus' other neighbor, though it would still be a four-hour trek to reach the Galaxy's third planet.
Targo sat on the bench in the station and went over his plan.
He had figured on stopping at each planet on his way to Anthium. He still did not expect to meet anyone who would willingly volunteer to join him on this perilous journey, but it could not hurt to try.
If Targo traveled to the remaining four planets, only to arrive on Anthium as alone as he was now, he would still fight the Throgs. And somehow, he would defeat them.
Targo wondered what he would find when he reached Anthium. He had never been to the planet, but he remembered what he had heard about Anthium, prior to the Throgs taking over.
Anthium had the reputation of a bright, lively, and productive planet. Abundant in fields, forests, and crops. In fact, the majority of the Golstar Galaxy's vegetables, fruits, and grains were shipped from Anthium.
Targo knew that the Throg attack on Anthium, differed from those on Nio and Sinuin, due to the fact that the planet was not completely demolished or uninhabitable. And while some were slain, many Anthiumites had survived. And after driving away the planet's natives, the Throgs set up their headquarters.
No doubt they've destroyed every forest and crop by now. Targo thought bitterly.
Feeling thirsty, Targo opened up the pack that Marin had given him, and withdrew a bottle of water. He drank some, and then rummaged through the pack to see what else Marin had packed for him.
There were several rations of food, a pocketknife, a matchbook, some more water, and a folded blanket.
Targo pushed the blanket aside, so as to put the water back, when he saw something sticking out of the blanket's folds. Targo pulled it out and saw that it was a photograph.
It was taken at Targo's family's house on Nio and he stood to the front, between Darel and Ava; their parents stood behind them.
Targo felt tears brimming in his eyes once more as he gazed at the picture. He turned it over and found that Marin had written on the back of it.
Targo blinked a couple of times to clear his vision, and then read what it said:
I took this picture a few weeks ago, when we came to your family's house for a
visit, and thought that you might like to have it, especially during your
journey. In this way, they will be with you the entire time.
Good luck and be careful. –Marin
Targo turned the photo over and looked at the picture again, just as the Space Track
Transport zoomed into the station. The train-like vehicle hovered in place as its doors slid open and people began climbing out.
Gently placing the photo back inside the blanket, Targo stood, slung the pack over his back and boarded the Transport.
He made his way over to an empty seat at the back of the second car. Targo sat down by the window and put his pack on the seat beside him.
As the Transport took off through space, Targo glanced at the clock above the door to the car. Eleven-hundred hours. He would not reach Gadmar then until three-hundred.
Targo settled more comfortably into the cushioned seat and put his head back, intent on getting more sleep. This proved to be a restless feat however, as sleep only brought him disturbing dreams.
Targo saw his family running across the damaged remnants of Nio to greet him, however they turned into Throgs as they reached him; he witnessed the Throgs rebuilding Nio and taking over it as they had done with Anthium; Targo arrived on Anthium to find his family alive, but being held captive by the Throgs. Targo attempted to free them, but the Throgs saw what he was doing and seized him. They began to drag him off to some unknown destination…
Targo awoke with a jerk, shaking slightly. The dreams had been so vivid, and they kept replaying themselves through Targo's mind, even now that he was awake.
He glanced up at the clock again and saw that two hours of his trip remained. Targo was still drowsy, but he would not allow himself to sleep. His recent nightmares rendered sleeping an impossible task.
Instead, he opened a can of rations from his bag and ate, while he watched the starry scenery fly by.
The last couple of hours seemed to pass by rather quickly. It did not seem that more than an hour had passed when the announcement came on.
"Gadmar Station. Now approaching Gadmar Station."
Targo looked out the window to see a green and brown planet coming into view, while Gadmar's dark green moon Magos, gleamed beside it.
The Transport came to a stop. Targo gathered up his pack and climbed off along with about fifteen other people.
As he did so, Targo spotted a flag at the station's entrance. The green and brown form of Gadmar was at the center between a pair of hands, on a light green backdrop.
Targo did not understand the symbolism of the image, but it was obviously the flag of Gadmar.
Targo had never been to Gadmar. In fact Nio, Tomus, and Militar were the only planets that he had ever been on. And he was not on Militar long enough to learn much about it, before hurrying back to Nio.
Stepping onto Gadmar was like stepping into the Middle Ages.
For Targo was greeted with rolling hills blanketed in fields of fresh, green grass with sandy paths winding through them to allow passage. In the distance, Targo could spot villages, adorned with medieval cottages; to the west, was a mountain range.
Targo started down the nearest path through the hills, heading for one of the villages. He would need to find Margad Station; that much he knew. It would be there, where Targo would catch the Transport to the next planet, Psychor.
First, he would have to find some Gadmarites, and ask them where Margad Station was located.
Of course, he would not reach the station today. He knew that it would probably take a couple of days to reach it on foot, so he would also have to find a place to spend the night.
Targo entered the first village and took in his surroundings.
The sandy road continued through the center of the village, and to both sides, rested several medieval dwellings. In the center of the village, there stood a well.
Targo walked up and stood beside the well, looking around for someone that he could get directions from.
And while there were a few people milling about, Targo registered just how quiet and serene this village was.
Until a loud, clattering sound to his left, abruptly broke the silence.
The sudden noise caused Targo to jump about a mile. As he attempted to compose himself, Targo realized that the sound had come from the well.
Targo peered over the edge and, through the darkness, he could faintly see an outline of something drawing up towards him. As the object grew closer, the clattering of it grew louder.
Targo finally came to realize that he was looking at the bucket inside the well as it rose to the surface. He was only relieved for a few seconds however, before Targo noticed that the bucket was moving of its own accord. There was no one around drawing it up.
Slightly frightened, Targo backed away a few paces. With some distance between himself and the well now, Targo watched as the bucket clambered to a halt. Targo stared at it for a few seconds, trying to decide whether to run or not.
A voice behind Targo made him jump so far, that he practically closed the distance that he had just put between himself and the well.
Targo turned to see a man with short reddish-brown hair, who looked to be in his mid-twenties, emerging from behind the nearest house. To further complete the medieval feel of Gadmar, this fellow was wearing a dark green tunic over tawny-colored breeches.
Trying to find his voice, which seemed to have leapt from his throat, Targo stammered a feeble, "H-hello"
"Sorry about that; didn't mean to frighten you." The man said. He stretched out his hand and added, "Name's Finrig."
Targo shook Finrig's hand, introducing himself as he did so.
Finrig walked up to the well and looked into the bucket. "Well's out of water again."
"That well," Targo started, "I mean, the bucket. It—I...I saw it come up on its own."
Finrig chuckled. "No it didn't. That was me."
"But, you were behind that house." Targo retorted, indicating the small cottage
behind him. "You couldn't have."
"No, it was me." Finrig insisted patiently. "Just used magic was all."
"Ma-magic?" Targo repeated.
"Yeah. More than half the population of Gadmar can use magic; especially those of us that live here in Kijam Village." Finrig explained. "In fact, there's only one village on Gadmar that doesn't use magic."
Targo was about to respond, but Finrig held up a hand and stated, "Hold on."
Finrig closed his eyes, held his hands out over the well, and mumbled something. This
was followed by a splashing sound within the well; as if someone had just poured a copious amount of water into it.
Then, Finrig pointed a finger at the bucket and whispered something. The bucket began to lower itself back down.
Targo gazed at Finrig in disbelief. "How-how did you do that?"
"Like I said—magic." Finrig answered.
"Can magic be learned?" Targo asked.
"Yes it can." Finrig responded. "But it can be difficult for anyone who's never used it before."
The bucket returned then, brimming with water. As he began to disconnect it, Finrig said, "So Targo, where are you from?"
"Nio." Targo replied quietly.
"Nio…Nio." Finrig mused. "Isn't that the planet the Throgs recently—?"
"—Yeah, it is." Targo intercepted.
"I, um…I had heard that there weren't any survivors." Finrig posed tentatively.
"There weren't." Targo answered grudgingly. "I was away at the time."
"Oh. I'm very sor—"
"—Don't, please." Targo interrupted. He had just escaped this very thing on Tomus. He was not at all eager to have people on the other planets pitying him as well.
Finrig seemed to understand. He nodded and then asked, "Where are you headed then?"
"If I have to. I'm the—the last Nionian." This last part was still difficult to accept. "I have to do something."
"Throgs are dangerous."
"I have to avenge my planet and my family.
Finrig nodded again. "Listen, I understand where you're coming from. But Throgs are a risky business."
"Yes, but they're my business." Targo responded. "If I find anyone along the way who wants to join me, then they can come too. Otherwise, I'm doing this myself."
"I don't guarantee you'll find anyone around these parts what wants to help." Finrig told him. "We Gadmarites have vowed we won't do any dealings with the Throgs unless forced to. We're afraid of provoking them into attack or invasion, y'know?"
Targo nodded. "Do you know where Margad Station is?"
"To the North." Finrig replied.
"Thanks." Targo said. "It was nice meeting you Finrig, but I should really be on my way."
As Targo turned to leave, Finrig called after him. "Wait a minute."
Targo stopped and turned around.
"You got any weapons to fight the Throgs with?" Finrig asked him.
"I've got this." Targo unhooked his D-Faser and showed it to Finrig.
"Wow. What is that?" Finrig asked, sounding thoroughly impressed.
"How's it work?"
"You aim it at your target and pull the trigger. It shoots out lasers."
"Lasers?" Finrig sounded confused.
"Yeah. Through the double-barrel." Targo explained, hooking the D-Faser back onto his belt.
Finrig still seemed bemused, but he stated, "I guess you're prepared then." He paused thoughtfully and added, "But if you'd like, I could teach you magic. It could be like a backup weapon. You could use magic, and your, um…defuser."
"I would like to learn magic, but I can't stay." Targo answered. "I really have to get going."
"No, no. I meant that I would come with you and teach you along the way."
"Not to Anthium!" Finrig stated hastily. "But to Margad Station."
"It would only take us a couple of days to get there." Targo pointed out. "Would that be enough time to learn magic?"
"It's enough time to learn what you need to learn."
This sounded like a good deal to Targo, and he agreed to it.
He waited beside the well, while Finrig went inside his cottage to pack a few things. When Finrig emerged a few minutes later, he carried a pack similar to Targo's, only smaller and beige in color. It also had an insignia of some sort embroidered upon it.
The two of them then left for Margad Station.
Along the way, Finrig explained more about Gadmar to Targo.
He talked about how the Gadmarites knew about technological advances elsewhere in the Galaxy, even though Gadmar itself remains in the medieval era. In fact, the Space Track Transport was the only technological item that they used.
Other things however, such as Targo's D-Faser, (which Finrig still had trouble pronouncing correctly), were too complicated and futuristic for the Gadmarites. They found more enjoyment living in the past.
The insignia on Finrig's pack was his family's heraldic symbol. It was in the shape of a shield and had an azure backdrop. The foreground consisted of a rooster's silhouette standing inside of a silver crescent moon.
The rooster, Finrig explained, was the heraldic animal of his family's house; the right-facing crescent moon however, was a more personal symbol, as it signified the second-born son.
"All Gadmarites have heraldic emblems that they are proud of, and we find ways to express them." Finrig explained.
Magic was another trait of the Gadmarites, and something that they would find
very difficult to live without. Finrig explained that a Gadmarite's magic skills were both inherited and natural. But he knew that it could also be taught, because Gadmarites often taught spells to each other.
Targo asked Finrig what he would be teaching him.
"There's a number of spells that would help you against the Throgs." Finrig replied. "And I'll teach you as many as I can. But first, you need to learn the basics of casting a spell and the repercussions of magic."
"Repercussions?" Targo inquired. "You mean there are consequences to learning magic?"
"Oh yes. For the majority of the spells." Finrig answered. "But most of them are mild and all are only temporary. But I warn you, that you're bound to have a brief, yet severe headache when you first begin. Only because you've never used magic before, and you'll have to tap into a whole other area of your mind. As you use magic more often and improve your skills, the headaches will lessen in intensity and, after awhile, they won't happen at all anymore.
"First, how to cast a spell. There are two things that you must do to achieve this: you must see what you want to happen and say what you want to happen. As you get better, you won't have to concentrate on the seeing part so much."
Finrig stopped and set his pack on the ground to open it. He reached in and produced a silver goblet, which he handed to Targo.
"For your first spell, you're going to fill that goblet with water." Finrig told him. "What you do, is close your eyes and picture the goblet in your mind, first as empty, but then gradually filling with water. As you're doing this, you'll place your right hand over the goblet and say the word, fyllan. That's the incantation and it's a good beginning spell.'
"Is there a way for me to know if it's working?" Targo asked.
"Trust me, you'll know somehow. Now give it a try, but sit down first."
They walked a few feet ahead where several large boulders lined either side of their path. Targo and Finrig took a seat on these boulders opposite each other.
"Do I have to be sitting down in order to cast magic?" Targo inquired.
"No. But for your first attempts, it's a good idea. Especially with that headache I told you about. Go on now, try it."
Targo took one more look at the goblet in his left hand, and then closed his eyes. His mind's eye saw the empty goblet filling with water. Targo placed his right hand over the top of it and uttered, "Fyllan."
Nothing happened. Targo tried again and yielded the same results.
He gave it ten more attempts, and on his eleventh try, Targo felt a prickly, tingling sensation in his head. It was not painful really, just unusual.
Then came Finrig's voice. "Well done, Targo!"
Targo opened his eyes and caught a glimpse of the brimming goblet, just before a searing, blinding headache took him over.
Targo set the full goblet on the ground, closed his eyes, and clutched his head in his hands. This pain was worse than any migraine that he had ever experienced. Targo
could not even move or speak due to it.
"Just try to relax, Targo." Finrig said. "I know it hurts, but it'll go away in a minute or so."
Gradually, the headache began to recede. When it was gone completely, Targo picked up the goblet, now able to relish in the fact that he had achieved his first magic spell.
As he began drinking the cool water in the goblet, Targo asked, "So this is going to happen every time I use magic?"
"At first. But like I said before, as you use magic more often and become better at it, the headaches will stop. Though naturally, the first one was the worst as you began to open your mind beyond its normal limits."
"Right before the headache came, I had this tingly feeling in my head." Targo explained. "What was that?"
"Remember when I said that you'd know when the spell worked?"
"That's how you know." Finrig stated. "I couldn't tell you what you would feel exactly, as it's different for everyone."
"How does magic work?" Targo questioned. "Does it just happen from the words you say when the spell is cast?"
"It's the energy behind the words and the willingness in the caster for the spell to work." Finrig replied.
"So what's next?" Targo inquired.
"Before we continue, I want to explain to you about directivus magicus and elementius magicus." Finrig said. "They mean directional magic and elemental magic, respectively."
"Fyllan for example, is a form of elemental magic. Elemental magic controls or uses certain elements. Fyllan is a spell that conjures water—and water is an element."
"I think I understand." Targo said. "What's the other one mean? Directional magic?"
"This term is used to describe any spell used to move or direct objects to a specific location. But you'll learn those later on. First, you'll do some more elemental spells. Elemental magic doesn't have any side effects to it, although you'll probably still suffer from a headache afterward.
"There are five elements controlled by elemental magic: water, fire, lightning, ice and ground elements, such as soil and rocks. You've learned fyllan, now let's try its opposite, ignus."
Finrig picked up some stones and set them up in a circle, putting dry leaves and twigs in the center. "Ignus is a spell that conjures fire. What you have to do, is put both hands over the leaves here, picture fire in your mind, and give the incantation."
Targo did as Finrig instructed and said, "Ignus."
"Ignus!" Targo tried again without faring any better.
It was not until his fourth try, when Targo received the prickly sensation in his head, joined with an exceptional feeling of warmth in his hands, which only lasted but a few seconds.
Targo heard the crackling of flames and smelled the scent of burning leaves and wood. He opened his eyes to see the bright orange and red flames.
"I did it!" Targo exclaimed happily. "I did—!"
The headache kicked in and all Targo could concentrate on was the pain. But he had to admit that while exceedingly painful, this headache was not as bad as the first one.
The pain diminished and Finrig commented, "That was very good. Elemental magic may prove to be easier for you to learn that I'd anticipated."
And as it happened, Finrig was correct. For Targo learned the other three elemental spells quickly and easily.
His third piece of elemental magic was thundos.
Finrig explained that thundos was used to conjure lightning, and then aim it at your opponent.
When Targo accomplished thundos, he noticed that it was not lightning that was conjured, as much as electricity. But of course, electricity was unknown to Gadmarites, so they labeled it lightning, like the weather element.
Targo did find it somewhat odd however, that on a medieval planet that did not even use electricity, they had a spell that produced it. Targo attempted to ask Finrig about this, but the concept of electricity only seemed to confuse him.
Next was freosan, a freezing spell that served a dual purpose of producing ice, and
immobilizing someone. And the last two were risan and solidus. Risan was used to raise dirt, stones, and other ground elements, while solidus hardened said objects and made them more solid.
Targo suffered a headache after each spell, though the severity of them lessened as Targo progressed.
Having accomplished elemental magic, Targo was ready to practice with directional magic. Finrig however, suggested learning other spells before focusing on those that required direction.
"Directional magic demands more focus that elemental magic." Finrig explained. "And while you have the mind power for it Targo, I think that directional spells may be a bit easier for you if you practiced some other spells beforehand. So next, we'll move on to spells that cause blindness, deafness, and other hindering effects."
Targo liked the sound of this. "You mean I could just blind all of the Throgs with magic and—?"
"—Consequences, Targo." Finrig cut in. "You're forgetting about the consequences to magic. If only it were that easy, to blind an enemy and be done with it."
"What happens when you try to blind someone? Targo asked.
"For a few minutes after casting the spell, the caster is blind as well." Finrig told him. "Same thing happens for the deafness, muteness, and fainting spells too."
"Is the effect on your opponent permanent?"
"Yes. Of course, there's the palma scield, which shields you from the effects of the spells. But it wouldn't help you any against the Throgs, because then the effect on them would only be temporary."
"But if, for example, I used the blindness spell, or the fainting spell, then I would be blind or unconscious afterward and I would be vulnerable to attack."
"Do you want to learn it anyway?" Finrig asked him. "You never know, it may prove useful at some point. And besides, there's always the shields."
"What shields?" Targo asked.
"One thing at a time." Finrig answered calmly. "Let's try the blindness
"I can't." Targo responded. "I would have to practice on you."
Finrig smiled. "That's where the shield comes in."
Finrig closed his eyes and began mumbling something, while moving his right hand down in front of him. Suddenly, a fuzzy-looking, light blue glow encased Finrig's entire body.
Finrig opened his eyes and looked over at Targo. "This is a shield. You can try any spell on me and, while you'll feel the effects of the caster, nothing will to happen to me. So now, you can try the blindness spell."
Targo agreed and Finrig instructed, "Close your eyes and tell me what you see."
With my eyes closed? Targo thought. "Nothing."
"Exactly. Focus on that darkness; concentrate on nothing else."
Targo was doing his utmost to stay focused on the darkness before him; it was more difficult than he had initially thought. Targo had to keep his mind from wandering.
"Now raise your left hand up in front of you, with your palm facing me." Finrig
Targo obliged. He found his concentration on the darkness waning once more and quickly made to focus again.
"With your mind centralized on the darkness, say these words: na seon."
Targo concentrated on the darkness, aimed at Finrig and said, "Na seon.
He waited for the prickly feeling that did not come; yet Targo hardly expected to get this on his first try.
He tried three more times, but his mind was getting tired. Soon enough, Targo could no longer concentrate. He had to rest.
"Rest for a couple of minutes and then try again." Finrig suggested.
Targo stopped where they were and sat down. His head was hurting slightly, even though he had not accomplished the spell yet.
When the pain calmed, Targo stood and tried again. He closed his eyes and focused on the darkness. His left palm facing Finrig, Targo said, "Na seon!"
Four, five, and six more vain attempts. Each time, Targo grew to a point where his mind could not remained focused any longer. But he found himself able to concentrate for a longer period of time with each successive try.
Yet, there still was not any prickly feeling in his head to prove that the spell had worked. And every time Targo opened his eyes, he was still able to see. For he knew that if the spell had worked, Targo himself would be blind as well. He had never before wished so much to be blind; to open his eyes and not see anything more than he did with them closed.
On his seventh attempt, Targo received a tingling sensation in his head, just as his mind lost focus. But Targo knew that he must be closer.
And on his eighth time, no sooner had Targo uttered, na seon, when he felt the tingling in his head. Feeling elated, Targo opened his eyes.
Or so he thought.
For upon opening his eyes, Targo saw nothing but darkness. It was an odd perception, to open his eyes and see absolutely nothing. But it also proved that he had achieved the blindness spell.
"Finrig, I did it! It worked!" Targo exclaimed. "I can't see a thing!"
"Good job!" Finrig replied from somewhere to Targo's right. "Very good indeed!"
Then, the excruciating headache set in.
Finrig grasped Targo by the arm and guided him over to a rock. "Have a seat and wait for the headache and the blindness to wear off."
When the pain calmed down, Targo stated, "Now that I've achieved this spell, will it be easier for me to use it from now on?"
"It should always work on your first try now." Finrig's voice answered from the left. "And after awhile, you won't need to concentrate as much, or even close your eyes first, for the spell to be effective. Eventually, your mind will automatically focus, and all you'll have to do is aim and say the incantation."
For the next couple of minutes, Targo and Finrig discussed the spells for deafness, fainting, and confusion. During which Targo tried to guess, (usually incorrectly), where Finrig stood as they conversed.
"You can also make others dizzy, or make them fall into a deep sleep." Finrig
stated. "The sleeping spell is one of two spells that aren't permanent; the other one being the fainting spell. But in both cases your opponent won't wake up for at least three hours, possibly longer."
"What are the side effects to those spells?" Targo inquired. By now, the general shapes and colors of his surroundings were coming into view, and Targo realized that he had asked this last question to a tree.
"They're similar to na seon." Finrig responded. "Depending on which spell you use, its powers will temporarily affect you as well. Although the effects of the confusion, dizziness, and sleeping spells last a couple minutes longer than the blindness lasts."
Putting the Throgs into a deep sleep was appealing to Targo, but having to involuntarily take a nap afterward was disconcerting.
Then Targo thought of something that had not occurred to him before. "Finrig, can...can you kill someone with magic?"
Finrig hesitated for a few seconds before quietly responding. "Yes."
"And…and if someone did, then...would the caster…d—die as well?" Targo asked, as he anxiously awaited an answer that he was not sure he wanted to hear.
"That depends." Finrig stated, taking a seat opposite Targo on the other side of the path. He leaned forward with a most serious expression on his face. Finrig drew a deep breath and continued. "The rules of using magic to kill are very specific, yet very simple.
"If the killing spell is used in answer to an act of evil, or if it is used in self defense, then the caster is safe.
"This spell, when used in any other way however, kills the caster as well…and immediately after. And it is the only spell that can penetrate any of the shields."
"Well, Throgs are pure evil." Targo reasoned. "So, if the killing spell were used
on them, the caster would probably be safe. Right?"
"I suppose." Finrig replied evasively.
Dusk was setting in now. Pinkish clouds were drifting through the pale blue-gray sky, and Gadmar's dark green moon Magos, shone large and bright.
Finrig glanced up at the darkening sky and said, "We better move on. The next village is Racad, and I know of an inn there where we could stay the night."
Finrig did not seem to want to discuss the killing spell anymore, and so Targo decided not to press on about the subject. Targo did think that it may prove to be useful against the Throgs. He wondered what the incantation was and how the spell was cast. But he would wait and ask Finrig about it at another time.
They gathered up their packs and continued on, arriving at Racad Village in ten minutes' time. Targo observed that this village was more industrial than Kijam.
The majority of the buildings here where shops, pubs, and other businesses. Finrig led the way to a tall gray and white building, whose front was shaped like a castle.
A crown-shaped sign hung over the door that read:
King's Court Inn
A Royal Night of Sleep for Everyone
Upon entering, Targo saw that the common room of the inn was bigger that he would have imagined from the outside. All around, the room was illuminated by candlelit lanterns.
There was a hearth in the wall to the right, and to the left there was a desk. A woman stood behind this desk, whose white linen cap and long white dress with the blue bodice over the top of it, bore her the unmistakable appearance of a medieval innkeeper.
As Targo and Finrig approached, she kindly smiled and greeted them. "Welcome to King's Court. How may I help you?"
"My friend and I need a room for tonight." Finrig replied. "Do you have any vacancies?"
"Yes we do, on the third floor." The innkeeper stated as she unhooked a nearby lantern that was on the wall. "I'll show you the way."
They began their ascent up three flights of steep, wooden stairs. Having grown up on a planet that had since advanced to escalators, elevators, and hover lifts, Targo was glad that their room was not on the top floor.
She led them down a corridor, stopping in front of the seventh door to the left. She opened the door, and then stood aside to allow Targo and Finrig to enter.
The room was averaged sized and did not contain very much. There were two beds in here, one against the right wall and the other along the back wall; each bed with a nightstand beside it, and a window above it.
To the left, were a small bathroom, a writing desk, and a chair. Guttering candlelit lanterns sat in sconces along the walls, providing the only light for the room.
But for Targo and Finrig it was perfect.
"Is this to your liking?" the innkeeper asked.
"Yes, this will do fine." Finrig answered, while Targo nodded in agreement.
Finrig reached into a tan-colored pouch on his belt and produced three copper
coins, which he handed over to the innkeeper with a word of thanks.
The innkeeper left and Finrig headed for the bed to the right. Targo went to the other bed, sat down, and opened up his pack.
He withdrew the bottle of water he had been drinking earlier, then walked over to the desk and fished out some rations, along with a second bottle of water.
Picking up a couple of the rations for himself, Targo glanced over at Finrig, who was rummaging about in his own pack.
"If you're hungry, you can some of these rations." Targo told him. "And that water too, if you want it."
"Thanks." Finrig replied.
He approached the desk and picked up the water with an amused expression on his face. Targo realized that Finrig had probably never before seen water that came pre-packaged in small, individual bottles. The rations seemed to be a strange phenomenon to Finrig as well.
After quietly studying the items for a few seconds, Finrig merely shrugged as he pulled out the chair and sat down. Targo meanwhile, did all he could to keep from laughing.
Finrig was about to open one of the rations, but then stopped suddenly, looking guilty. Targo glanced up at him inquiringly. "What's the matter?"
"If this is all the food you have, I don't want to…"
Targo saw where Finrig was going with this and smiled. "Don't worry about it. I've got some more in my pack. Help yourself, it's fine."
Assured that he would not be eating Targo's only supply of food, Finrig opened up one of
the cans and began eating.
When Targo was finished, he reached into his pack and began to pull out the blanket. As he did so, the photograph slipped out of one of the folds and glided to the floor. Targo had nearly forgotten about the photo; he scooped it up off the floor and looked at it.
Finrig looked over at him. "What do you have there?"
"It's a photograph of my family." Targo replied.
"Photograph." Targo repeated. Then he remembered that Gadmar was in a period of time that preceded photography. He realized that Finrig, or possibly all Gadmarites for that matter, probably did not know what a photograph was.
So he was surprised when Finrig asked, "Is that one of those things taken by a…um carma, or …corma?"
"Camera." Targo corrected him, startled that Finrig knew what a camera was. For whatever Finrig called it, Targo understood what he was trying to say. "How do you know about cameras?"
"Gadmar may be in the past, but some Gadmarites, myself included, have been to one or two other planets. So we sometimes learn about these newer inventions." Finrig explained.
Dismissing the fact that photography would only be considered a new invention
on Gadmar, Targo decided to share his picture with Finrig.
"That's my mother and my father." Targo stated, indicating the people in the photo as he named them. "My older brother Darel and my younger sister Ava. This was just a few weeks before…"
Targo's voice trailed off, but he could tell that Finrig understood.
"What about you?" Targo asked. "Do you have any siblings?"
"I have one brother and one sister who are both older than me and another sister who's younger."
"Do they all live in Kijam Village?" Targo inquired.
Finrig shook his head. "No. I moved to Kijam on my own a couple of years ago. I'm originally from Talliv Village, and my little sister still lives there with our parents.
"There's a mountain range, the Talu Mountains they're called, that runs between Talliv and Kijam. My brother lives in a village about ten miles west of the mountains and my older sister's on Militar. She's in the Golstar Galaxy Military; pretty high up in rank too."
"My father and brother were in the Golstar Military." Targo began. "I was going to join too before…I had just graduated from the Nio Military Academy. I was on Militar registering during the attack. That's...that's why I survived." Targo finished quietly.
Finrig nodded comprehendingly. Targo was glad that Finrig understood how he felt, but also knew that Targo did not want anyone to pity him or be overly sympathetic. He was grateful that Finrig did not keep casting him the grievous looks that he had recently endured, nor continue to say how sorry he was for Targo's predicament.
They went to bed soon after this and as Targo lay down, he realized just how sleepy he was. The long hike across Gadmar and the innumerable headaches had worn him out.
He got between the sheets and pulled the blanket up over him for extra warmth. And as Targo said goodnight to Finrig, he caught a glimpse of Magos illuminated in the black sky, before closing his eyes and drifting off into a peaceful sleep.