He watched from the ridge as his target moved into sight. He tried not to think about the fact that said target was only ten years old– if that...

He wasn’t paid to think about things like that, all he cared about, or should was the money– but sometimes... like now, his conscience would rear its ugly head and remind him of what he once was.

“That’s him,” his companion confirmed excitedly.

He looked over at the young man and nodded. He knew.

Something in his expression made the young man turn. “Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts.”

“And thirds, and fourths... and you would too if you knew what’s good for you,” he answered.

The young man just shook his head. The convictions of youth– and zeal had made thought unnecessary.

He thought about the path that had brought him here, and wondered if things could have gone differently...

He was young once, full of convictions and even his fair share of zeal– but it would never have led him to the point where he’d be standing there, planning on kidnaping a child.

Back then he’d had a name, though he’d be hard pressed to remember what it was, even harder pressed to share that name with anyone, especially not with the men who’d hired him. Somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered that he had family– and that his employers would be more than willing to use them against him, should the need arise.

All they knew him as was Cynic, and that was all he thought of himself as now. The young man didn’t have a name, at least not one they’d give him. Cynic thought of him as Zealot, and that was fine too.

The boy– he had a name, Wilson TwoBears. Cynic wondered how this would change the boy. He was innocent, and very soon that innocence would be shattered. It wasn’t anything he’d done, except perhaps be born to the wrong people. His employers had a problem with the boy’s parents, and very soon– they’d learn that the past does come back to haunt you.

‘Their fault for not protecting him better,’ he thought.

Zealot smiled at him, blissfully unaware of his part in this little show. The man thought he was helping his cause– and in a way he was. His body would throw the boy’s parent’s off the trail– allow Cynic to deliver the boy to their enemies... to be... converted.

He was ten– what chance did he have?

Cynic lowered his head as a very quiet voice told him this was wrong. When he looked back up, he was back in control.

‘They shouldn’t have let him play in the woods alone,’ he let his anger transfer to the parents. They were the one’s who’d put him in danger– they were the ones failing to protect the boy...

He let his anger burn, but it wasn’t enough to completely hide the fact that he was the one... he was the one who would deliver the boy to his parent’s enemies.

The boy was still playing– completely unaware of the danger waiting for him. Cynic took a deep breath. It was time.

Wil laughed as he ran through the woods. It was one of the few places near the farm where he could play without someone from the TwoBears clan watching over him. On one hand he appreciated the attention, but on the other...

He wanted to be just a kid. The constant attention of his extended family could sometimes be stifling. If it were his parents, he could deal with it– but when they were away, every TwoBear in the area felt it was their duty to watch over him.

He headed down stream, watching the water spirits as they played along the bank.

It was a good day.

As he followed the stream, he smiled. He could sense another presence, Marlena. He ran towards her, glad to have a friend to share the day with.

“Marlena!” He called. “Isn’t it a wonderful day?”

“You should not be out this far by yourself,” she answered in a soft voice.

“But I’m not by myself,” he answered. “You’re here.”

“That I am child... but...”

“No buts! You’re here.... Eric’s down by the creek. And I think I saw Mimi playing in the trees.”

“It is not the same child. You should seek the companionship of your own kind...”

“But you’re my friends.”

Marlena’s eyes blazed slightly, but Wil only smiled at the flickers in her irises.

“They’re family Marlena... they like me ‘cause they have to. And all they want to do is watch over me... and try and teach me Bear’s path.”

“It is a noble path,” she told him.

“I know– and I know Bear’s path... I just...” He paused looking at the trees, then he turned back to her. “I just don’t know if it’s my path.”

“Hasn’t he told you?”

Wil shook his head. “He doesn’t really talk to me... he just... Sometimes I can feel him watching me... or I catch him out of the corner of my eye... but... it’s almost like he’s waiting for something...”

Marlena nodded. “What do you want?”

Wil sighed as he sat down next to her. “I don’t know. I like playing with mom on the simulators– but it’s so slow... and.. I don’t know if I’m ready or willing to get a datajack... And then there’s Dad... he still follows Bear... even though your people gave him back his magic...”

She smiled at him. “We merely helped him find a way to work again...”

Wil looked up at the trees. “Marlena... is there a way... a way I could do both?”

She looked at him. “You can always do both– but it will cost you child... To follow Bear, you must dedicate your life to his teachings... and your mother’s path is... it is not of Bear...”

“That’s what mom keeps saying... that and that if I get drilled... that’s it for working magic...”

Marlena nodded. “Your mother understands.”

“So what do I do?”

“Listen to your heart child... that is all you can do.”

Cynic smiled as he closed in on his prey. They boy, lost in his own fantasies was making it easy.

He paused as he heard him talking. One look around revealed that the only people there were himself, Zealot and the boy.

“So what do I do?” He heard the boy ask.

Himself, Zealot, the boy and the boy’s imaginary friend... nobody to stop him.

Wil froze as he heard the voice behind him– it wasn’t Eric, or Mimi... it was a man.

“So– what are you doing out here?”

Wil wheeled around and shot the man a startled look. “The question is,” he answered in a half angry, half frightened voice. “What are you doing here?”

The man merely smiled and then drew a gun. “Taking you.”

Wil backed away slightly. This was the sort of thing his family worried about. And if they knew that someone had tried anything, he’d never get away to be by himself.


The man moved in reaching for his arm when Marlena flamed into view.

Cynic’s eyes widened as a wall of flame sprang out between him and the boy. From the side he could see Zealot moving in on the boy. That left him free to deal with the fire elemental staring him down.

As he began to form the banishing spell, an earth elemental sprang up wrapping itself around the boy.

He backed up slightly.

Two elementals! This was unexpected. The boy was 10, and there was no way he could have summoned them. His family were shaman... he could deal with anything they dished out– but elementals?

He’d almost convinced himself it was an illusion when the fire elemental changed from a wall of flame to a woman made of flame.

His eyes widened as he felt the heat from her glare. “Leave.”

He shivered at that one word. There was something in the way she spoke that set his nerves on edge. He backed away, feigning fear... and then he summoned his water elemental to deal with her.

He smiled as a human form appeared next to him, but the smile was short lived... instead of water, he saw a form made out of air. Its voice sounded like the wind in the trees. “Go.”

Cynic had started backing away in earnest when he heard Zealot scream. He turned in time to see the young man enveloped by another earth elemental. It was too much. He turned and ran.

Wil squirmed out of Eric’s grip and looked around. “Marlena?”

“We’re fine... now I see why you don’t like to play with your own kind... they have no sense of humor.”

Wil squinted for a minute when he realized that there were two more elementals gathered round. He recognized Ben immediately, and told him to let go of his prize.

Ben grumbled but finally let the young man go. The man collapsed breathing hard. Once Wil was sure he’d be alright, he turned towards the other stranger.

“Hi,” he said.

The water elemental turned, surprised that someone had talked to him.

“What’s your name?”

The water elemental gave him a startled look. No human had ever bothered to ask. He shrugged and was about to leave when Wil called to him.

“You don’t have to go– we were about to play hide and go seek.”

Copyright 2001 - M.T. Decker

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