Part III

       Katie slipped out the gate carefully, glanced around, then dashed across the clearing and dived into the trees.
              There is no path; there is no path. And there was no path, becoming a wall of greenery around her. Finally, she allowed herself to relax.
              She didn’t want to leave Paul behind, but he hadn’t given her much choice. Despite being awed by her self-control within his mind, he was very certain of what needed to be done.
              “I’ll hold him off for you. As long—as long as I can. Don’t worry abou—about me.” His walls were breaking under the barrage. “You need to find him—find your brother. Something—something is going to—going to happen. You must reach him. Before—before it’s too late.” He was visible strained now, and Katie gently lowered him to the ground, carefully maintaining physical contact with him. Her strength was holding him together. “You need to know—you need—”
              “Shhh.” Katie knew they were losing ground.
              “Take these, and don’t let anyone have them.” In their linked minds he handed her two parcels. “Open the first as soon as—soon as you get out. The second—”
              Paul closed his eyes for a moment, and she could feel him gathering the last of his strength.
              “—hold on to it. Partition your mind and hide it. You—you know how—You’ll know when.” His eyes stayed closed this time, his breath grew shallow and rugged. Katie reluctantly broke contact, then took off at a dead sprint.
              Katie eventually slowed her pace, and glanced around. The forest had thinned out and she was following a faint animal trail. She allowed herself to pause a moment, and then began walking.
              She opened the first parcel.
              “Did you find it?”
              “Oh, we found it alright. That arrow of yours dropped right on its head.” He peered in close to Kris curiously. “Been wonderin’ why you didn’t do that sooner?”
              He shrugged. “Didn’t know I could. –May I see it?”
              The package was handed over. “Lighter than expected.”
              “Indeed it is.”
              “May we…?” Don and Nol stepped forward, and Kris gently passed it to them.
              Don hefted it, then glanced up at Kris, who nodded. Don opened the case, pulled out a bundle, and unwrapped.
              Kris will have found the Book by now, though he can’t read it yet. He’s still untrained, and hopes that the Book will help him gain control. You need to find him and help him. Neither of you alone can take this dark orange alone.
              You can find him. Your Sight will guide you, and you know how to walk between worlds. Don’t take any unnecessary chances. Don’t sacrifice yourself for anyone, especially Kris. He has his own path, as do you. Only for this moment in time do they cross.
              As for the other parcel, hide it away. You may need it, or you may not.

              Paul’s voice faded from her mind, and she continued down the path, walking through worlds, searching for the right one.
              “Is this what I think it is?”
              Kris reached out to touch it, but jerked back. An orange spark jumped between the book and his fingertips, and his band flared up.
              His thugs backed away defensively. “You were one of them all along. You tricked us!”
              Kris shrugged, pulling back his sleeve to expose the glowing band. “It was what I had to do.
              Don and Nol let their sleeves fall away as well.
              “Get out of here, then. You are no longer needed.”
              “You used us!”
              “You were there to be used. Would you rather have been jailed? That is what I saved you from, and this is how you thank me. Yes, you fought for me, found and brought me the book from a place I could not go. But that is all.” Kris turned his back and walked away from the thugs, between Don and Nol, this time successfully taking the book as he passed.
              They started forward, but Don and Nol raised their glowing band in front of them. The thugs stopped, turned, and rode away.
              Katie felt a flicker of band usage as she passed through a world, and paused there. A dust cloud was approaching from down the path, and although it was still a ways off, she steeped aside and took the time to hide herself.
              As they passed, she took a good look at them, and then began to carefully work her way toward wherever they were leaving.
              “So that’s the Book of Bands?”
              “Hopefully? You don’t know for certain?”
              Kris shrugs.
       “Why not?”
              “One, it’s existence is only a rumor, as are its contents. Two, many fakes are known to exist. Three, some of those fakes shocked me as well.
              “Oh. So how can you tell?”
              “I can’t.”
              “Well, what good does having this do you?”
              “Someone who can tell me will come.”
              “How do you know?”
              Kris shakes his head.
              Three men are standing by a wagon in the middle of the road. Katie can sense their bands and discovers that she can read two of them. But the third…
              She whispers his name, and sees his head whip around to face her.
              What are you doing here!?
              Kris frowns.
              He doesn’t answer.
              “Kris?” Don repeat himself, hesistating at first, then reaching out and shaking Kris’s shoulder.
              “You can trust her. She’s just here to help.”
              “She needs our help. Just as you need hers.” He looks between Kris and his sister. “You can trust her.”
              “How do you know?”
              He raises his band. “It’s part of what I do.”
              Katie stops within shouting distance, and pauses. One of them accepts an object, probably the book, from Kris, and approaches her. He hands it over.
              “Yes, it’s the real thing.” It’s lighter that I expected, but heavy in my mind, she thinks to herself.
              “Good. I thought so too, feeling it’s presence up here.” He taps his temple. “So, can you help him?”
              “I’ll do what I can. I can’t train him, or give him full control of what he’s capable of but—“
              “Thank you. I think that will be enough.”
              She shakes her head. “It’s what I need to do. Do you know what his…”
              “No, I can’t see it. But I can easily guess.” I think he’s already used it.
              That’s… unexpected. Is he aware?
              I don’t think so.
              Then I have little left to do. “Thank you. This makes my job a little easier.” She starts to step forward, by he puts his hand on her shoulder.
              “Careful, he still doesn’t trust you.”
              “I know. Thank you.”

The End

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