The Afflicted Ch. 04byChiShyGuy©
Claude and Aimee were running about the ship. It was a game of tag and Aimee was 'it'. They needed the exercise and their father had deemed them done with swordplay for the day. Claude went rushing up the ladder to the foredeck when suddenly; it felt as though someone had grabbed him by the shirt and heaved him bodily through the air. He missed the top step by a good three feet and fell crashing to the deck.
Aimee leapt upon him. "Tag!" she shouted, then started to run away. The look upon Claude's face made her pause.
"Claude," what's wrong?"
"The ladder...I didn't trip, I flew."
"It was like I'd jumped, but I didn't."
"Nonsense. Stop making excuses. Tag!"
She kissed him this time on the cheek and went racing away. She scurried down the opposite ladder and Claude went dashing after her. As he descended, it happened again. This time he went soaring away from the ladder and flew directly into her, sending them both sprawling to the hard planks.
"Goodness Claude," said Aimee, the breath knocked out of her. "It's only a game of tag, and not that I don't want you on top of me, but father is right there."
"Claude!" called their mother. "What just happened?"
She crossed to them from where she'd been watching the sea.
"I don't know mother," he stammered. "I fell. Twice. It wasn't a normal fall, though."
"No, I saw," said Frederique. "Palo, come here!"
Palo came from the front of the ship.
"Palo, watch your boy."
"You'll see. Claude, that boom there; the one just out of reach. Jump up and touch it."
Claude jumped, touching the boom easily."
"Now look to that hook on the mast. Try and touch that."
"But it's too high. That's a good fifteen feet off the ground.
"Never mind, just try."
Claude gathered his strength, crouched, and jumped. To his surprised he sailed remarkably high and quite nearly touched his goal. It felt quite remarkable to leap so high, until he realized he had to get down. Panicking, he twisted in the air and came down on his side with a frightening thump.
"How wonderful," said Palo. "Our son will be a flyer."
"Yes, my dear," said Frederique.
"Let me try, now!" shouted Claude. "I will fly to the clouds and back."
"Not so fast," said Palo. "Yes, you must start learning, but it will take time."
"Should we go up to the crow's nest where there's more room?"
"No, we'll begin your instruction this evening," said Palo.
"Your father will be instructing you," said Frederique.
"Father? But mother is..." he trailed off, not wanting to finish.
"She is the better flier?" laughed Palo, finishing Claude's thought.
"It's true, she is. They say your mother could fly around the moon and still be home before sunrise, but that doesn't make her the best teacher."
Frederique agreed. "I'm not. I get too impatient. I have always been a natural flier, and I have difficulty explaining things. Your father will do a far better job. Come Aimée, let's leave them too it. Flying your first time is difficult enough without an audience.
As they walked to rear of the ship, Aimée looked sullen
"I wish I could fly."
"Oh my dear, don't despair. You may, someday. Other talents sometimes appear at later times – especially when you undergo the blood ceremony. Often you will acquire at least a portion of your partner's abilities. No need for sadness, though. You are the winner when it comes to first talents. A deplaceur, there are usually no more than fifty among all of the Afflicted.
"Why is it so special?"
"Think of it darling, the ability to go anywhere in a wink. If you had known what a location looked like in America, you could have skipped this voyage entirely. In one blink, you could have put yourself in the New York enclave."
"Then why didn't the council call on their deplaceurs to get us there?"
"There are five thousand afflicted and perhaps half a hundred who can deplace. Deplaceurs have lives too and are only called upon when absolutely needed.
"But mother, how does one move another person? I mean, when I moved Claude he was intimately connected to me, you know?"
"Yes, yes. Not terribly practical is it darling? Let me think, I've only done it twice, very long ago. Ah yes, I forgot. The person simply needs to be inside of the deplaceur somehow. She took Aimée's hand and wrapped it around one of her fingers. "Now, take us to your room."
Aimée winked out, taking Frederique with her. A few moments later, they reappeared in the same spot.
"You see, easy?" said Frederique.
"But this concerns me. Couldn't we wind up in a wall or something?"
"I've been told no. A friend once explained that one simply couldn't be where something else was. What else can I remember? Oh yes, sometimes one might find themselves appearing at a great height. Since flying and deplacing rarely occur in the same individual, this of course would be bad. If this happens, one of two things should be done. First, look to the ground and see yourself there. Second, simply will yourself back to where you were before. But you have exhausted my knowledge, darling. You will receive instruction in New York, I am sure. Now, our only challenge is how to break this news to your father without letting on you knew how before. He has begrudgingly accepted you and Claude – I would hate to anger him by revealing you were sneaking around before. Now, let us spy on your brother. This is always such fun."
They crept to a good vantage point behind a railing.
Palo stood before Claude. "Son, flying is three simple things... but that doesn't make it easy. Lift, Collapse, and Push. The lift part is the simplest. Simply reach into your mind and find the place which allows you to lift. Many people use an image, like a hand lifting an object, or a winch. What the image is doesn't matter as long as it works for you."
Claude struggled to find the right image, then remembered the feeling of a wave he'd had swimming with at the beach a couple of years before. The waves had been large swells, and he had let them lift him high with each one. Recalling that feeling, he willed himself to rise. With a startling jolt, he flew off the deck and his head pounded into a mast above him. He pinned himself there, and then let the image go, coming crashing down to the floor.
Aimée put her hand to her mouth in concerned surprise. When she saw Claude climbing off the floor, rubbing his head... she struggled to suppress a giggle,
"This is harder than it looks," said Claude, "I'll try again."
"Claude tried modifying his image to more of a fountain, and that helped. Though he didn't have the best of starts, he soon was able to float steadily in the middle of the deck."
"Good," encouraged Palo. "That's very good. Now for the other two parts. Collapse and push, they go together.
"Push, I understand," said Claude. "I levitate, and then I push myself from behind and move forward. Here, let me try."
He did, floating into the air; he envisioned a gentle hand pushing him from behind and went sliding forward in the air.
"Very good," said Palo. "But that won't get you going very fast. The air will stop you."
"No it won't, it's only air. Air is nothing."
"Oh, you think so?" asked his father. "How you think birds fly? Do they push their wings against nothing? The air will be your greatest enemy if you try to push your way through it, or it will be your best ally if you use it to your advantage. Here, hold out your hand."
Claude did, and Palo made a quick gesture with his fingers. Claude felt his hand move downward involuntarily.
"What did I just do?" asked Palo.
"You pushed my hand down."
"Wrong, I collapsed the air below your hand. Once I did that, the air above actually exerted pressure from the top. Lift yourself now, move to horizontal, and focus on collapsing the air in front of you.
Claude's father was standing directly in front of him.
"Now," said his father patiently. See the air in front of you, at the same time push from behind, gently."
Claude did as he was told, and suddenly he could see the air shimming before him, a million particles vibrating. He pushed them aside and felt himself drawn in that direction, then he gave a shove with his mind from behind... it was too much. He slid forward with a huge surge and pounded into his father, sending both of them sprawling into a bulkhead.
Aimée couldn't contain herself this time, and burst out laughing uncontrollably. Frederique tried to stop her, but soon fell to laughing herself.
"I thought you were going to give us some privacy," said Claude, though he soon was laughing as well. "Don't worry about it. Stay. Watch."
More laughter followed at his mishaps, but Claude kept working until he could move about the deck with a certain level of proficiency.
"How do you fly with others?" Claude asked. "When you take us for flights, how does that happen? We don't ride you. You simply hold our hands."
"All that is really needed is a touch," said Frederique. "And...I can't describe it very well. Once you touch, they become part of your sphere."
"Can I try with Aimée?"
"If you are careful," Palo cautioned. "Just try lifting at first."
Aimée climbed down took Claude's hand. Standing side by side, Claude imagined the fountain beneath both of them and lifted them easily off the ground. Seeing the air more clearly, he moved them in a gentle circle.
"It's easier with her," said Claude as they touched back down again.
"How do you mean?" asked Palo.
"It just is. With her, I feel stronger, things made more sense. Perhaps it was because I had to take care of her, too. It was just easier."
Their hands still touched, and Aimée shot him a glance which their father couldn't see. The implications of this flight thing had obviously dawned on her as they'd spun in the air. With her hand out of her father's vision, she lifted her hand, palm up slowly toward her mother and raised her eyebrows in question.
Frederique nodded knowingly then took their father by the arm.
"I must say, that was a very good first night's lesson and Claude should be proud of his work. I'm sure he's exhausted though, and needs his rest.
"No, I could go on for..."
"You really DO look tired, brother," said Aimée. "You wouldn't want to overextend yourself. Let's get you to bed."
"Oh. Yes." said Claude, catching on and yawning. "It takes so much energy."
They were excused and went back to Aimée's room. The fact was, it hadn't taken too much energy. While the learning curve was steep, the effort of it had taken very little out of Claude. He felt as if he could fly forever and yearned for the skies instead of the tiny cabins.
"Strip," said Aimée.
He had no choice and followed her orders as she did the same.
"Lie down, in the air. Right here."
She directed him to the center of the room and Claude levitated with his body parallel to the floor, about two feet up. She measured him against her legs.
"Two inches down, please."
He lowered himself down.
"Perfect." She lifted her leg across him and grabbed his cock to guide it in as she moved downward. He had a surprise for her, pushing himself upward to finish burying himself the rest of the way.
"Ooh!" she said, laughing. "This has definite possibilities."
Combining Claude's newly gained talent with their other pursuits provided hours and hours of new enjoyment. Though they loved their newfound pleasures in the bedroom, their hours on the deck were still a welcome break from the stifling cabins.
Their sword instruction continued, but it became a new adventure for Claude because his parents began to tutor him in the art of airborne fighting. Claude quickly discovered that working in three dimensions was amazingly more difficult. It as though he was learning fencing from square one.
The next few days were grueling as he was drilled in the new techniques. His flying had come along incredibly easily. It seemed he had inherited his mother's natural ability. He would never forget the moment when the idea of fighting and flying suddenly clicked into place in his mind. Hanging in midair blocking blows from his father, all of the motion suddenly seemed to slow down. Palo's strikes had always been a blur to him, and he could only block and parry based on instinct and the discipline his father had drilled into him from a young age. In that one moment, his father's sword was now easy to see and react to. In the past, he had always been on the defensive, but with this change he started to go on the attack. It was now his father who was moving backward in the air.
Faster and faster their blades flashed. Watching from below, Aimée sensed it first. She somehow felt it before she heard it. The 'click' Claude had felt resounded within her, and she felt a strange, shared, exultation.
Frederique heard the noise and looked up in surprise. She smiled at the sound and said a silent "Yes."
"What has happened?" asked Aimée.
"He is awake now. Truly awake."
They watched Claude and Palo circle around the crow's nest. Even their bodies were a blur as they retreated and advanced. Aimée and Frederique gasped with excitement, and cheered at times at the amazing swordplay.
"Mon dieu, this is amazing!" exclaimed Aimée. "Could you beat Claude, mother?"
"Oui!" said Frederique. "Today I could. In a few years, I doubt it. He has amazing potential."
Yet as amazing as Claude had suddenly become, Palo was not to be underestimated. He also had the advantage of the affliction and much more experience than Claude. It seemed he had the upper hand as their blades flashed even faster when suddenly, inexplicably, the noise stopped and Palo's curved sword came hurtling downward, sticking into the deck of the ship.
Claude looked to his father fearfully. Palo was a terribly competitive individual and Claude feared his wrath. They hung in midair, facing each other.
"Yes!" said Palo, screaming with joy and pulling Claude into a fierce hug, midair.
"You're not angry?" asked Claude, looking to him bemused.
"Angry? The last person to disarm me, other than your mother, was more than fifty years ago. Today it is my own son who does such a thing! By god I'm proud of you boy. But don't get cocky, Claude. I know how you did it, and I'll take care to not give you such an opening again."
They descended to the deck to the applause of Frederique and Aimée. Palo was beaming with pride and Claude was blushing from his accomplishment.
"I'm so proud of you, Claude." said Frederique, hugging him.
Claude turned to Aimée and kissed her passionately. The mood was so animated not even Palo seemed to notice.
Frederique was looking to the sword in the deck thoughtfully. She took Aimée aside and whispered something quickly. Then she turned to Claude.
"Well now Claude, you've disarmed your father. Let us see how well you manage against me."
They saluted, and then rose into the air.
Claude had sparred a bit with Frederique before, but this was the first all-out fight they were going to have. On the first exchange, Claude saw the difference in his mother's style. Where his father tended to fight horizontally, replacing the earthbound lunge with a quick flight forward, his mother had no limits on the direction she moved. A master flier, her swordplay meshed with her flying perfectly. Up, down, diagonal; the entire sky was her place for fighting. On one particularly heated exchange, she even spun all the way upside down and forced Claude to instantly adjust his tactics to accommodate thrusts and parries coming from an inverted sword arm.
He felt he was acquitting himself well when his mother took a glance beneath them and suddenly moved with such rapid grace he realized she had been merely toying with him. A quick flick of her wrist, an extra push, and his sword was hurtling toward the deck directly toward Aimée!
"Below!" screamed Claude.
In an instant, Aimée winked out of existence – Claude's sword clanging to the deck where she'd been.
"What happened?" called Palo, surprised. "Where did she go?"
"I'm here!" said Aimée from the foredeck.
"How did you get there?"
"Play along," whispered Frederique.
Claude gazed in amazement at his mother. Not only had she planned this, she had even timed their swordfight and disarming him for the right moment.
They descended to the deck, and faked the discovery of Aimée's rare ability for Palo's benefit. Aimée went through the motions of learning how to deplace.
The next evening, Aimée had been winking in and out everywhere when she made a sudden and profound realization. She walked over to the sword bin and pulled out her favorite blade, as well as a small dagger.
"Attention, everyone. I would like to make an announcement."
"Yes, what is it dear?" asked Frederique."
"I would like to announce that I am officially, the finest swordfighter in our family!"
"Oh, you think so, do you?" said Claude.
"I know so. I will start with you and then work my way up. Come, brother," she said. "Try and best me."
"I think I can." said Claude, smiling.
"If you say so, but do not go easy."
First, they sparred cautiously, looking for openings, but in a flash they engaged in a cacophony of blows. Frederique smiled to Palo with pride, as their two children seemed to be perfectly matched in sword abilities. As a young man, Claude was naturally stronger, but Aimée's superior (and now, also awakened) reflexes countered his strength and gave a perfect balance to them.
The one advantage Claude had was flight, and he found himself subconsciously lifting away and above Aimée when she launched a particularly fierce attack.
With his airborne ability, Claude felt he had the advantage and began circling Aimée, wearing her down then retreating away. Yet, still she seemed to be grinning with unfounded confidence. Claude saw an opening, and lunged with the intent of piercing her shoulder to disarm her. Suddenly he was off balance because his target was no longer there.
"Hello!" he heard Aimée's voice say. He turned to see her standing on the quarterdeck.
"How did you get there?"
"How do you think? You can fly, no? That is your power, I am using mine."
With that, she disappeared and the next thing Claude felt was her body against his back and her sword across his neck.
"Hello," she said into his ear. "I would actually be saying 'goodbye' if you were an enemy."
She dropped the sword to the deck and then disappeared again. Claude looked to see her at her father's throat, her dagger now drawn. Whoosh and she was now behind her mother, hands clasped around Frederique's neck.
"God in heaven!" exclaimed Palo. "I had never considered the implications."
"Deplaceurs are fearsome fighters," said Frederique. "You are very lucky, but I will warn you to be cautious, my girl. Dead is dead, and even power such as this cannot protect you from everything."
"I understand, mother," said Aimée. "So, what will you teach me now?
"Honestly, we can teach you nothing."
"Oh come mother, there must be something."
"No, not in fighting by yourself," insisted Frederique. "Just as flying changes the nature of swordplay, your gift changes everything. To take true advantage of it you will need to wait for New York and proper instruction."
"This week has been a great success," continued Palo. "Claude has disarmed his own father, and Aimée has discovered the most amazing gift and a frightening skill when it comes to fighting. Instruction is through. We've two hours before sunrise, enjoy your time."
The following evening, they emerged to a lovely sky. The captain met them on the deck with a polite smile.
"My dear guests, I'm happy to report that we are nearing the end of our voyage. I do wish to tell you we are entering more busy seas and would request you keep your activities to the more normal variety."