A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 11byTaLtos6©
***Selena has a sister. She might look a little different, but hey, they have a lot in common. Well, uh, ... they both like candy, Yeah, that's it...
Have I made you wonder about Shaevre? Not quite the same as she was in the prologue, is she? You'll get a look at her again in this chapter.
Book of the Merren Part 6
"What more is there to do?" Selena asked after they'd had breakfast.
They were in the stone garden, the three of them walking around the perimeter, weaving in and out of the groups of large and small stones there. Nahl'een was like a completely different girl today, Selena noted as they walked holding hands through the stones. She seemed to want to stay close to Selena, as though she was a little afraid that the rogue would disappear if she didn't remain in some sort of contact with her. Selena found that she liked the new Nahl'een quite a lot.
"Not very much, some, and quite a lot," the demon smiled, "As far as your recollections, not very much more. As far as finding out what you might possess of ability and power, there is a lot to be done, and there will be -- if you would permit it -- only a little physical examination. That was something which my son would have left to me in any event. I need to look for features which might let us see what you received when you were made."
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" Selena asked.
The demon laughed softly, "Just keep thinking of your ten golds, Selena. There will be nothing done to you. I only need to look. In fact, I'd likely already have been able to tell what I wanted to know if you weren't wearing all of that, and had decided to be a little more comfortable. The temperature here cannot be changed. This home was built for demons, so I am always quite comfortable, since I live like what I am. My son and Nahl'een are always dressed as you are, though they wear lighter clothing. That is because Nahl'een needs to learn to live in both ways, and here, she will likely spend most of her time looking and living as a human girl.
But Dahlgren is not here now, so we choose comfort, don't we, little one?"
Nahl'een nodded, looking up at her sister, "I like this best," she said, moving her wings a little, "not have to keep my wings so tight."
"We're all the same here, Selena, other than for a few features like our wings and tails," Ny'Zeille smiled. "You may hang on to your bashfulness over your body if you wish, but I cannot make it cooler in here for you. Ah, here we are."
They stopped in front of a large carving. It was a large stone sphere, perfectly round in all respects, and though it seemed to be sitting on the floor, it was in fact sitting on a smaller stone which acted as a base for it, having an indentation so that the sphere remained in place.
"Come here, Nahl'een," the demon said, "and let's begin."
The girl released Selena's hand and walked to the stone. She stood where her grandmother told her to while the demon took a position about the same distance from the stone, but about ninety degrees farther around it. Selena stared a little as they both sank down to their knees.
"Go ahead, little one," Ny'Zeille said quietly, "try this again, whenever you are ready."
Nothing seemed to be happening as Selena watched. She only knew that she ought not to disturb the pair, but she wondered what this was about as she stood watching.
After another minute, she heard a soft grating sound, but that was all.
"Slowly," the demon said, "and only say it if you think that you cannot hold it, or you begin to have trouble."
There was no reply from Nahl'een, but gradually, Selena could see that there was a line of daylight under the stone. It was no more than a hairsbreadth at first, but it grew gradually, and in another few moments, the stone sphere hung suspended in the air before them, about three feet above the small circular stone which had served as its base.
Selena was astounded.
"Axis," the demon said, "choose one, Nahl'een."
The stone shifted very slightly.
"Another, if you can, little one."
The round stone began to shift in space slowly, until it rotated and slowed to a stop.
"Hard to stop," the girl said through her teeth.
"Yes," the demon said, "hard to start, and hard to stop. Will you try for a third today?"
There was no reply for a moment, and then Nahl'een said, "Not today. Too much, Gramma."
"That's fine," Ny'Zeille said, "Do you want me to set it down, or can you do it? Remember, not quickly."
"I can do it," the girl said, and the stone sank very slowly downward until it sat just above the base.
"Not right," Nahl'een said with effort.
"I can set it down for you," the demon said, and the sphere shifted sideways a little and sat back down silently, though Selena felt the weight of it settling as a slight bump through her feet when it stopped.
The pair stood up again, and Ny'Zeile stood hugging and praising her granddaughter.
"What was that?" Selena asked in amazement.
"What you have just seen," her friend grinned back at her, "is the reason why you are here. There are very, very few of us who can lift more than our own weight like this. There have only ever been less than a handful who could do it at this young age. Nahl'een is the only one known who is at present, a child."
"You asked me to come so that you could show me this?"
"No, don't be silly," The demon said, "You are here because I thought that you are more than likely Nahl'een's sister. That means that you more than likely have some ability as well, though you probably are not aware of it. That is what we are here today to find out."
The rogue was about to scoff when she suddenly found that she couldn't move again.
The demon grinned and looked at the ground. Fixing her gaze on one more-or-less round little pebble, she caused it to lift into the air, where she looked from it to Selena and back across the ten feet or so which separated them.
"You should try to think," she said, "In all of your travels and adventuring, was there ever a time when you needed something to miss you while you were not in a position to dodge it? A time when someone or something threw something at you, and you could not sidestep or duck?
A time such as this?"
The pebble moved through a gentle arc, just as Selena was released. There was no time to move or to even turn her head as she watched the pebble come at her forehead. She was sure that it would leave a lump, but then it was gone, skittering across the polished stone floor away from her.
"Why did you do that?" the rogue scowled a little at the demon.
"You're mistaken," she replied with a wide smile, "Why did you do that?" She laughed and pointed to the pebble as it sat on the floor of the exercise area almost twenty yards away.
"I didn't do anything!" Selena said.
"There are only three of us here," Ny'zeille said, "Did you do anything, Nahl'een?"
The girl shook her head, giggling.
"Well, I didn't do anything but toss it gently at your head," the demon laughed, "So that leaves only you, my friend, and I am so happy to be right about you again."
"Come on, you're telling me that I sent that stone over there?"
"Who then?" Ny'Zeille laughed, "Shaevre? She is not even here. She is outside at the moment, fawning a little playfully at Arrax' nephew, Xhan, hoping for a little affection from him -- which she will not get, since she lacks the required social standing and he acts like a petulant thirteen year-old human to her. You did that, not anyone else."
The pebble slid along the floor for a few feet before it rose into the air again to fly to a spot about a foot above Selena's head. She didn't notice it floating there, but Nahl'een grinned and began to giggle.
"You didn't answer me," Ny'Zeille said, "Was there ever such a time?"
"Well, no," the rogue replied, "at least, I can't think of any."
"You need to think harder," her friend said with a smirk, "Surely all of the close calls that you have lived through in your time have not been the result of blind luck and happenstance. Think, Selena." She released the pebble.
The pebble was back on the ground.
"Fine," Selena scowled as she rubbed her head, "There were a few times when something missed me that I was sure would nail me. You're telling me that I caused things to swerve or something and not hit me?"
"Yes," the demon grinned, "You weren't aware of the ability, but when you needed it and had nothing else, you managed it. You don't even know how you did it, you just did it.
You don't believe a word of what I am telling you, but that's fine, my friend. I've already shown you reasons why you ought to believe me when I tell you of something which is outside of the realm of your experience, have I not?"
"Yes, but -- "
"And I've shown you that it is possible. You saw with your own eyes how a little girl like Nahl'een can lift an object many times her own weight with her mind, correct?"
"Yes, but -- "
"I have even forced you to demonstrate that you possess this ability within yourself, haven't I? You threw that pebble away with far more force than I used to make it come at you. I only tossed it as lightly as I could so that it would hit your forehead. You sent it flying as fast as a comet, not me!"
"Yes, but -- "
The demon stopped, "But what?"
Selena looked a little deflated, "But I can't do something like that when I WANT to do it. I see that I can do it if I am FORCED to do it. I saw that, and believe me, I am amazed. But you and Nahl'een can do it because you WANT to, not because your life depends on it. If I could do that, ...."
"You can do that," Ny'Zeille said. "If you can do one, then you can do the other, since they are the same thing. Your new sister here is a few days away from being six years old, Selena. Do you think that she flexed her mighty mind to lift the stone? She's only a child. She defined her will to do it, nothing more, and then she did it. You can do the same; you only have to believe that you can.
But first, you must learn a simple thing which Nahl'een knows as a truth. If I set you a tiny, simple task involving no ability other than what the dimmest stablehand might have, I am sure that you would fail in it, for no other reason than how you have learned to define a problem in such a way as to stack the chances of your failure against you.
You cannot solve a problem unless you define it first. Anything else is blind luck. You have learned human ways of definition, and they are mostly incorrect. If you were really human, I wouldn't even bother with this. It's not worth my time, unless I had another reason. In you, I have a reason and more -- though you will have trouble until you learn to avoid this pitfall.
Master this tiny thing, and you will be ready to learn much more. Fail at this utterly, and there is no point for me to try. Are you ready?"
"You make it sound as though I must move a mountain, "the rogue said.
"Not at all," her friend said, "That is for next week.
Today," she said, bending down for a moment, "We will work on what you can manage. Come with me."
Selena followed the demon as she walked a little farther through the stone garden. She found that Nahl'een had taken her hand again, and she felt a little better and a lot less stupid. The warmth of the building was causing little prickles in her scalp from just the barest beginnings of the onset of sweat and they bothered her. It was just at that temperature. She thought that she'd feel a little better if she had been sweating. At least her body would have made up its mind what it wanted to do. As it was, it seemed to be just on the edge and it bothered her a little.
"Do you know what she's going to make me do?" she asked her small companion in a whisper.
"No," Nahl'een smiled, "Only it is not Nahl'een today. I am happy."
Selena wanted to grumble as they were led to a stone bench.
"Sit astride that." Ny'Zeille said. A moment later, she held up the pebble between her thumb and her forefinger.
"Here is our old friend again," she smiled as she set it down carefully on the polished surface, "Take a good look at it. Hold it in your hand for a moment if you think that you need to get re-acquainted, and look it over if you must. When you are done, place it back on the bench and let me know when you are ready to be defeated by a simple pebble which has no mind or will."
"I don't need to look at it," the rogue said, "I remember it from before and I didn't like it then."
"Be that as it may," the horned one said, "Try to lift it. I don't care what means you employ; your head, your mind, your fingers or your tongue. Try to pick it up."
Selena looked at Ny'Zeille as though she'd just turned green. "What do you mean?"
"I meant try to pick it up by any means at your disposal."
Selena wondered if it had been placed under a spell of some sort. She bent down, leaning on her elbows to examine the pebble suspiciously. Sitting back up, she looked at the pebble and nudged it with her finger as though she were afraid that it might turn into a dragon or something. Nothing happened. She picked it up.
"The pebble wins the first round," Ny'Zeille smiled, "and you cannot follow instructions. Put it back down and try to pick it up."
It happened three more times, and Selena was growing frustrated. "But, I AM picking it up," she protested.
"And the pebble keeps defeating you, since you have not successfully defined the problem. You are thinking like a human."
"I AM A HUMAN!" she yelled in frustration.
She found herself looking at the others, who regarded her with a great deal of surprise on their faces for a moment. Nahl'een said nothing, but she stood there with her mouth open a little, and her eyes a bit wide.
Selena's little tantrum did nothing to dampen the demon's infuriatingly cheery mood. She stood looking delighted.
"Still wrong," she sang musically, and the storm clouds gathered over the rogue's head.
The demon grinned, "You're even wrong about that feeling of anger, but don't hold your breath now, my friend. Your head may explode."
Selena glowered at the little stone. It began to vibrate for a second and then it was still. She didn't see it. She was in no mood for subtlety now.
"GO ON!" the demon yelled, "Try to pick it up like a good little human would! You will still fail!"
Selena had been sitting so as to straddle the bench. Now she sat with her fists on her knees and her jaw clenched tightly. Her eyes closed and three seconds later -- just as she thought to sweep the stupid pebble off the bench with her hand and stomp away...
The pebble shattered with a small bang.
Selena started and opened her eyes. All that there was left was a little stone dust and a tiny cloud of it in the air above the place where the pebble had been. She watched the dust drift away.
"What did you do?" she asked Ny'Zeille.
"Why do you keep blaming me for what you do?" she retorted, "You are still wrong, but at least I can say one thing to you. You have just proven to me that - no matter what you might believe - you are most certainly not a human. There is no human alive who could do what you have just managed to do in your anger.
The greatest human mage might change the pebble to something else -- or make it appear to have been changed, but he or she could never destroy it. Any feats of fire and brimstone they perform is only making use of already explosive tendencies in carefully selected materials. You have just caused the pebble to be destroyed utterly.
No human can do this -- not one."
She smiled warmly at her friend, "Welcome to demonkind, Selena."
She stared at both of them. "What, ... What just happened here?"
"You broke the stone," her sister said in awe, "I can't break stone."
"I set you an impossible task," Ny'Zeille said, "Your interpretation was as I thought that it would be. Humans cannot distinguish the difference between doing something and trying to do something. They believe that it is the same thing, and it is not. My words were chosen to force a human into failure, since what I asked cannot be done.
No one can try to do anything and succeed. At best, they DO it, and call that success. For what I asked, all that there is -- all there can be, is failure. Any action is to fail. I could not attempt to pick up the pebble either -- not without actually picking it up, which was NOT what was asked for. In demon terms, if you will -- on this plane and on any others, one cannot try and succeed. One can only try and fail. If you want to pick up a stone, and it is within your ability, then you pick it up. Trying is not doing.
I could have asked you to try to pick up the stone that Nahl'een lifted with her mind and it would have been the same, but you would say that it was impossible because you are not strong enough. I gave you a small stone. In demon terms, the absurdity is easy to see, but to one raised in a human world, it causes trouble that one is not even aware of.
Humans doom themselves with their own words and thoughts at every turn. On a warm summer day where you might have to be somewhere at a certain time to get past a guard or two for a, ... a package of jewels, for example. You might have the thought that you want to go to the nice beach that you know where no one goes for a pleasant swim in the sunshine. The thought is a nice one and so you feel good to have the thought. Yet you must be somewhere else, and so you dash your own lovely thought. If it remains in your mind, and if the beach is close enough, you might tell yourself that if you hurry, ..."
"You never rush a job, any faster than your plan," Selena said, nodding, "You'll get it wrong then or make a mistake. I understand, Ny'Zeille."
"Then what was your error?"
The rogue sighed, "Besides getting angry? That you can't pick up a pebble while you try to pick it up. You either pick it up or not, but trying is not picking it up."
"Correct at last!" the demon said, "Too bad it came to you too late for the pebble.
The rest,... well that my friend, is your own ability for you to unlock in a little time. But it proves that you are not the human that you thought yourself to be."
"Would you help me learn how to control it a little?" Selena asked.
"Would you stay and teach Nahl'een the dances which are taught to rogues so that they know how to dodge?" the demon asked, "What you want takes time. What I ask takes time as well. Do we have a bargain? If you agree, I will tell you why we stared at you when you shouted at me."
Selena began to chuckle, "I'm beginning to think that you are not evil -- I've learned that much. But you are very sneaky. I am coming to appreciate it about you. Alright, if nobody has a problem with it, and I still get my ten golds, then we have a bargain. Now what were you two staring at me like that for? I saw that, and I was afraid that I'd done something wrong -- other than yelling at two people who like me."
"Oh no," Ny'Zeille laughed, "You did something right. Look at my eyes and I'll show you what we saw."
Selena's jaw fell open a moment later. "I did that?"
She looked at Nahl'een, "Really? You saw that too?"
Nahl'een plastered herself against Selena and nodded, hugging her tightly, "Ah-hah," she said happily, "You are like me."
"Come, Nahl'een, "the demon smiled, "we have no jewels to steal today. All that there is left for us to do about it is to go to the beach. You come too, Selena. You can sit on the sand and tell us more of your adventures. You have two friends who would like nothing more than to hear of them."
Arrax sat up to his long ears in administrative details. He was baffled at the number of small and inconsequential things which awaited him at every outpost that he came to, cursing the idiot who set the policy so that someone like him had to be in charge of dealing with what amounted to little more than minutia because no one wanted to take responsibility for it. He'd been at this all morning so far, and wanted a break from it more than anything. He looked up, noticing the presence of someone standing in the doorway.