"Bare feet? Interesting choice," Kvornan says.
It's the cave, Fergus notes, from his dream. "I threw on a shirt, but I didn't think I'd be needing shoes," he answers, struggling to think back to--this afternoon? Fergus can't quite remember now, where he was or why he came here. "Do I need shoes?"
Kvornan shrugs, a small laugh escaping his lips, "Need shoes? I walked thousands of miles barefoot, back in the day. I still prefer to have the skin of my feet in contact with the earth. When it's not paved over--that's just uncomfortable. But I doubt you'll be encountering any pavement here. Monsters from your subconscious, maybe, but no pavement."
"This is a dream," Fergus decides, looking at Kvornan for answers, "Is this a dream?"
"No," Kvornan replies, "You opened a portal, something not many humans can do. Just me, actually. I used to think I'd be meeting your father here one day, but his explorations only took him so far. I've been expecting you to come here since you were born."
"I don't understand," Fergus says, "I think--I'm sure I meant to go somewhere else. MorcuCorp, they tried to take Tasha, our baby. I wanted to go--to find--" Fergus frowns, struggling to remember real events that feel like a dream, to grasp at his purpose and hold onto it.
"It's disorienting at first," Kvornan says, reaching a comforting hand to Fergus' shoulder, "Especially since you haven't taken any real spirit journeys yet."
"Is that why I'm here?" Frergus asks, "At this cave? My father said this is where he came for his first spirit journey."
"There's a key difference you're missing," Kvornan explains, "Your father came here in spirit only. His body was back on his floor at home, cradled in your mother's arms. You are here physically. This is no spirit journey. But, in some ways, it is. For you, anyway."
"For me? Why?"
"You know why, Fergus. You're special. Your unique combination of abilities, inherited from your ancestors, coupled with your birth on the day when the spirit realm is closest to the realm of the living; you can traverse the spirit realm in your body the way I can. And so, you can take a spirit walk on your real, physical feet."
"My father said, when he entered the cave, he was given a choice," Fergus says, looking into the cave's opening, unable to see anything in there in its darkness.
"It's different for everyone," Kvornan tells him, "But in the end, we all have to make choices. And those choices define us."
Fergus steps toward the cave's opening, glancing back at Kvornan, "Are you coming, too?"
Kvornan shakes his head. "That's my tomb," he says, "My people buried me down there with my mother and father. I think my bones must still lie there. I wrestle enough with my existence here, having to look at my remains is more than I care to contemplate. And, anyway, I cannot guide where you need to go. This is your journey, your spirit. You go alone."
Fergus enters the cave, an ancient tomb where his earliest ancestors, the human ones, anyway, are buried, their bones resting still in niches carved into the caves wall in the days when humans had just begun to use tools. Directed by Kvornan, the neolithic shaman who taught his people to build the stone circles, and who was the first to bury his parents in the the cave tomb he'd had them build. The history of the place comes to Fergus in a rush, and he could spend days just sifting through the images and scenes, but for now, he packs them away in his mental library to deal with what's in front of him.
The spirit of one of his ancestors, one whose body does not lie in this tomb. By the time Sterren of Avendale walked this land, this tomb was long sealed, the stone circle above it was a relic.
She stands now, between him and the bones of Kvornan's father, the first body laid to rest in this tomb.
"You were a lot like him," Fergus muses, the character of both his ancestors shaping in his mind as he remembers them, "Compassionate, dedicatd to service. Shaman, priestess..." Fergus drifts off, a line forming in his mind's eye, a line connecting from Ardax to Sterren, through his grandmother, Aouregan, through his father, Shadow, into himself, a line of ancestors, gifted with the power of magic, healers who served humbly, who sought to never harm in their practice.
That magic is his as well, and Fergus joins his long-dead great grandmother in a harmless display of the power he inherited from her line. His own father took the role of shaman onto himself, dedicating his magic and his very person to service, to helping people, to healing. It's a worthy goal, Fergus thinks.
"But all your magic, all your service and all your love couldn't protect you or your family," Fergus says aloud to the silent ghost. "I need more."
And with his words, Sterren disappears.
It is then his grandfather, Farrell, who joins him in the cave of his ancestors, appearing not in the form he wore in life, but as a cloud of sparkles.
Farrell's influence on his grandson had been personal and direct; Fergus had grown up with him, in his house, after all, and had learned much from him. The husband of a priestess, father of a shaman, descendant of dragons, fairies and werewolves, Farrell lived surrounded by magic, and though he was forced to accept it, he never put any faith in it, relying on reason and science to understand the world. He had wielded no superhuman powers, and yet had discovered the means to go beyond what ordinary magic can do, traveling through time, making himself invisible, crating a potion that could teleport back home from anywhere in an instant.
With Farrell as an example, Fergus had put aside his own magic when growing up, focusing instead on his studies, on logic and reason.
"You were able to protect your family," Fergus says aloud to the sparkling cloud spirit of his grandfather, "You rescued my grandmother from MorcuCorp's labs, and brought your family to safety." But that's not enough, Fergus thinks, safety in hiding is not enough, "But I need more."
Dismissed, the sparkles dissipate into nothingness.
Fergus is not surprised to see the spirit of his great-grandfather Reinier appear next, slayer of dragons, dressed in his armor. This man's memories had become so much a part of him that he had become a part of his own mind, contributing his opinions like some internal voice.
"I know what I've gotten from Sterren's line, and what I've gotten from my grandfather, but what do you have to offer?" Fergus asks him.
Fergus is surprised when Reinier grasps him by the shoulders and answers, "You are a Landgraab! That is a gift beyond anything the others offer."
"What is so special about being a Landgraab?" Fergus scoffs.
"Look at your history," Reinier says, "You look to your magic to protect you, but you know magic has never yet stopped a Landgraab. You look to the genius of your grandfather, but you forget who created his mother. A Landgraab. You want the strength to not only protect your family, but to destroy those who would threaten you? You need to be a Landgraab."
"You would help me fight against your own family?" Fergus asks.
"If you want to win, you must let nothing stand in your way. Not blood, not family, nothing," Reinier advises, "It has been too long since a true scion of the Landgraabs has risen. You are my true heir, it is time for you to rise and take what's yours."
"Interesting choice," Kvornan opines whenFergus joins him at the stone circle on the hill above the cave tomb.
"You saw?" Fergus asks.
"I'm aware without seeing," Kvornan corrects him.
"Did I make the right choice?" Fergus asks, kneeling beside the shaman.
"You get to a point where it all becomes gray," Kvornan answers, "Right, wrong don't exist. At least, not until the results are in. Will you get what you're after? Will it be what you expected? Will it be more, less? Better, worse? These things are still up in the air, you have yet to pluck them down into reality. You've chosen to fight fire with fire, as they say. It's better than standing still to be engulfed. Or so you might think. There are some who swear by the cleansing effect of fire..." The shaman drifts off into his trail of thought, and Fergus smiles, reminded of his father.
Kvornan turns his attention back to Fergus, "Did you like them?" he asks.
"Bridgeport Ghost," Kvornan says, "I wrote those for you, to bring you to me. The way the book of fables I wrote brought your father. I'd never done a graphic novel before, though."
"What should we do?" Tasha asks, "Just wait for Fergus or...?"
Before Jilly can answer, the space in front of them, which had only moments ago been occupied by Fergus before he disappeared into nothingness, suddenly begins to glow with a swirling light.
"Maybe it's a portal?" Tasha suggests, drawing on her vast knowledge of science fiction and comic books. "It looks kind of like a portal...not that I've ever seen a portal. But if I were making a movie, that's what I'd make my portal look like..."
"Maybe I should go inside?" Jilly wonders, stepping closer to the maybe portal.
"I wouldn't. We have no idea what's on the other side. It could be, like another planet or something."
"But what if Fergus sent it?" Jilly asks, "I'm going in."
Jilly takes another step forward, and Fergus himself appears, walking towards them through the portal.
The portal closes behind Fergus as he steps completely into the room.
"How long was I gone?" he asks.
"Not even a minute," Jilly answers, "Where did you go?"
Tasha rushes forward to grasp his hand, feel his realness as she presses her forehead to his. It was less than a minute, but it felt so much longer.
"Don't be scared," Fergus whispers, "I've got you."
"What about Julian?" Jilly asks, interrupting the touching reunion, "Did you find out where he is?"
"MorcuCorp has him, so I'm not going to be able to find him with magic. We're going to have to infiltrate them more directly," Fergus answers, "First, I need to get Tasha to a safe place. Back to Drake's Hollow. Once she's with my parents, you and I will take care of MorcuCorp."