Chapter 14

Will led the others out into the sunshine and fresh air. “Everyone keep moving, don’t say anything until we’re out of town.” He kept his voice low enough not to be overheard by anyone outside of their little group. They continued up the road to where Lepton stood with the three horses. His smile was sincere when he saw the two women.

 “Lepton, if you don’t mind I think we are going to have to shift some of the provisions to your horse to make room for the ladies.” Will began checking his horse, then stopped, “Lep, you old dog, you have it all taken care of don’t you?”

He smiled at that then turned his attention to the women. “It is good to see you both again.”

Will wasted no time on greeting. He wanted to put the town and the herder’s family as far behind him as possible. “ Deanna, you’re with me. Beverly you and Data will ride together.”

“Will…” Deanna paused, looking uncertainly at the animal; “I’m not a good rider.”

“You’ll be fine. I’ll get on first. Data, could you give Deanna a hand up.” Will reached down to grasp Deanna firmly by the arm as Data fashioned a stirrup using his hands. Deanna stepped into his hands as he lifted her up and almost over the horse. If Will hadn’t had the firm hold on her that he did, she knew with out a shadow of a doubt she would have been thrown over the side of the animal. When she settled in as comfortably as possible in front of Will, they waited for a few moments for Beverly and Data to mount their animal, then together left the town.

Once they had put the town behind them and were beginning to relax, Will leaned down to whisper in Deanna’s ear, “Mrs. Riker needs to change her perfume. We’ll stop so you can change clothes and clean up. I can’t wait to hear all about what has happened to you since we separated at the river.”

She squeezed the arms that were wrapped around her midriff as they rode. “I missed you too.” She whispered back to him. He understood the deeper feelings that ran underneath the cool surface. He was beginning to understand a lot about her that he hadn’t before. He changed his hold on the reins to allow him to hold her closer.

Lepton slowed, then turned off the road they had been following. They came along a fast moving brook, where they stopped. “Okay, Ladies, we’ll stop here for you to clean up and change clothes. We aren’t spending the night so be as quick as possible. Please.” He helped Deanna down, then handed her the travel bag. “If you need help…”

“No thank you Commander.”

Will had dismounted and stood in front of Deanna, “It’s husband to you.” He smiled and ducked to avoid the bag.

It took very little time for the women to freshen up and change into cleaner clothing. Neither was happy with the quickness of the times allowed, but in the interest of cooperation they effectively used the resources and time allotted to them. They were soon back on the horses and riding again.

Deanna tried to explain about the trouble she had sensed at Fallscity when they left Rankeer behind. Will listened and quietly asked questions. Will and Lepton began discussing the night’s lodgings and the near rescue of Abeathdor. Data and the two men had concluded her destination to be Gendla. They summarized moving her was a temporary measure and due to the Federations appearance.

Deanna followed the conversation up to the point when Lepton was describing Fallscity and it’s inhabitants, and the other small pockets of ‘waste people’. She soon found she only heard words sporadically. She felt Will pull her back against him as she sleepily jerked forward. It felt good to nestle back against his warmth. The air had chilled, and she still wore a silk blouse. She hadn’t changed earlier, because the sun was still warming, and the heavy cloak was not needed.

Deanna had no idea how long she slept, but she was warm and comfortable. Before opening her eyes, she reached out with her mind to get the essence of those around her. Her first awareness was of fatigue and curiosity, then a warmer flow of loving thoughts flooded her senses. The arms that held her tightened as Will felt her stirring.

The hand that rested on Wills, gently soothed his arm softly rubbing it. “Will, how long have I been asleep? She sat up straighter to look around. The scenery looked familiar, but then they had been traveling in the same wooded area for what seemed forever. There was something else about the place, a feel about it, she knew she was here before. “Will, where are we?”

Will spoke softly in her ear, “Lepton has gone ahead to make sure everything is okay. You slept soundly for a good three hours. We crossed the river about forty-five minutes ago.” He loosened the arms that encircled her but did not remove them. Deanna looked to see how Beverly was holding up. She was still sleeping in pretty much the same position that Deanna had been earlier. Data was holding her in front of him, his arms around her, supporting her on both sides, her head was tucked in under Data’s chin. Will caught her checking on the doctor and again repeated his earlier request. “We are going to have story time around the fire tonight. I can’t wait to hear what you two have been up to…”

“Will!” Deanna interrupted, “something is wrong, terribly wrong. Will.”  She couldn’t bring herself to vocalize the things she was sensing.

“Deanna, what is it?” He tightened his hold, gathering her more closely. He knew her well enough to know that the tension he could feel in her body and hear in her voice was the controlled part of the alarm she was feeling. He knew her thoughts were churning in rapid waves, one after the other and if she didn’t gain control soon, he would have his hands full. He stole a quick glance over at the doctor to see if she was alert enough to notice what was happening. “Deanna, can you tell if Lepton is in danger?”

“No he’s not in danger, but we need to get there. Let’s go quickly! Can you find the path, it’s steep ahead we’ll have to walk the horses.” She was looking for a way off the horse, when Will with a firm grip on her arm tried to hold a little longer in place. She reacted almost in anger at his attempt to hold her there. He held on to her not letting her move a muscle, until she sagged against him allowing a moment to center herself. Deanna turned to look at Will, she spoke quietly, “Its okay, I’m fine now.” He opened his arms but reached to help her off the animal when she slid out of his hands to land in a sitting position on the ground. Will jumped off, pulling her to her feet, and brushing her off.

“Deanna?” He asked with humor in his voice, although his eyes betrayed only concern. She nodded.

Data had helped Beverly dismount. She looked at Will, “What’s happening?” Then with a glance at the counselor,  “Deanna, what is it?”

“We have to get to Fallscity. There is much pain.” The empath began moving at a run taking the same mountain they had only less than one day ago came down. She ran until the mountainside became too steep to run any further, only when she couldn’t make her legs continue the sprint up the steep side did she slow and then eventually look behind her. To their credit her friends never questioned her, nor attempted to stop her, even though they had only her word or feelings to go on they trusted her skills implicitly.

She waited for Will to catch up, taking the time to catch her breath. He climbed up to stand with her, his horse behind him. “How much further?”

She looked at him, felt his trust and belief in her abilities. Deanna put her hand on his shoulder to pull him down and kiss him lightly. He grinned, “what was that for?” he asked surprised.

<For trusting in me and for everything.> her voice answered in his head.

“Come on, is that the waterfalls I hear now?” Will had begun moving again keeping one hand on Deanna’s back, the other holding the reins of his horse. Several yards behind him Beverly was carefully climbing with Data and his mount following.

“We’re almost to the falls, it’s a little tricky getting around them, and very slippery. I think Lepton is returning, yes, look that’s him.” Deanna and Will stopped, giving the other two time to catch up.

Lepton was alone on foot and looking very agitated. They met at the area in front of the falls. The roar of the pounding water made conversation impossible. He motioned for them to follow him, taking Deanna’s arm, leaving Will to walk his animal. She tried to communicate with him, but his emotions were so overwhelming she couldn’t penetrate through them. She touched the hand that held her arm, trying to reassure him somehow. Her own mind was running riot again. Her thoughts continually returning to the kind people that she had in one day befriended. She bit back her fear at what lay ahead, telling herself they would do all they could; they could do nothing less or more.

Finally they were out the other side of the cavern and in the warm glen. She inhaled deeply, and gagged, now with the pine scent was another more terrifying odor, that of burned wood. Once again panic was riding hard on her heels trying to overtake her, now she was tasting the emotions of her companions as well as her own.

Beverly came to stand beside her. “Deanna, what has happened? What are we walking into?”

“I don’t know, there has been an attack, but I feel sadness, fear and pain. Come on, I can’t stand this not knowing any longer.” She ran ahead. Lepton took Beverly’s arm and held her back, trying to talk to her. By then, Will and Data had joined them. Will listened for a while, then handed his reins to Lepton to go after Deanna. The rest followed behind….

**** Chapter 15

Deanna ran head on into a scene that was akin to her worse fear. The wooden buildings were either smoldering or heavily vandalized.  She swallowed hard, forcing herself to breath she lowered her barriers and was hit immediately by a paroxysm of such magnitude she nearly collapsed from it. She searched for the source and found Lagi sitting against of one of the wooden tables that had been knocked over to lie on it’s side. Her bloody arm was lying across her stomach staining the cloth of her outfit and saturating the material, which bound the wound.

“Lagi, oh noo…” Deanna ran to the woman, kneeling down in front of her, she tried to touch an unharmed place to let Lagi know she was there. She gently placed her hand on the older woman’s shoulder, the pained eyes slowly opened and filled with tears that spilled down her cheeks. “Lagi, what happened? Where are the others?”

Will had come to join her stooping to check on the woman, he stood and signaled the doctor to join them. Beverly quickly took charge of the situation, looking into the woman’s injuries. Data returned handing her the med kit and tricorder. She stepped back, motioning Deanna over to her, “Deanna, Lepton explained that some of Gringbald’s men found this place, they went about ransacking and destroying things. Everyone had been hidden in one of the passageways under the main structure.” Beverly paused for a moment, knowing the result the words she had to say would have; she wanted the empath, her friend, to have the comfort of having the news told to her by someone who shared the emotional response it would bring.

Deanna could only sense the trepidation and pain from Beverly; she was to numb with her own fears to sense more from her. She waited while Beverly found the words Deanna knew she didn’t want to hear.

The doctor continued, “For some reason Solace ran out of the building, Rankeer had been hiding among some trees watching, he went after her. They beat Rankeer. When they found Solace couldn’t communicate, were going to take her with them. Lagi tried to convince them to leave the child and take her in instead. Well, you see the result of that. Rankeer is over there in a hammock. He’s in been pretty badly injured, go with Will over to see him until I get done here. He’ll feel better knowing you’re here.” She resumed her work on healing Lagi’s arm.

Will took her arm walking her toward Rankeer, “Deanna, Beverly said you were quite fond of the little girl. We are not letting this go. We are going to Gendla to get Abeathdor; we will also find Solace. This is not the end of the story.” He knew she was hanging on to her self control and fighting the overwhelming urge to crumble, to give in to the despair that floated all around them. he was hoping to give her a premise to hang on to, that of life, that they could/would set thing aright.

When she continued walking slowly toward Rankeer, Will stopped her turning her toward him, he gently held her chin to direct her gaze to meet his own. “I mean it. We will work this out, we are going to find her.” She tried to smile, but the effort never reached her eyes. He gently pulled her into his embrace. “We will complete this successfully…I promise I’ll do everything in my power to finish this.” He whispered into her hair. Together they went to Rankeer, Deanna beginning to brace herself for this meeting also.

Rankeer had taken quite a beating, his left eye was swollen and black and blue, he had a large cut over the eye and the cheek below it was cut and swollen. It looks like he had been hit on the side of the head with a plank. His left leg was bandaged and strapped to a large piece of wood to immobilize it. He lay before them unconscious, whether that state was due to his injuries or something his friends had given him, they would need Beverly to decide.

Deanna moved to touch his hand, she opened her mind to try to get a sense of Rankeer’s mental condition. What she did get was the vision that was Rankeer’s dream. She saw through his eyes the men carrying Solace, and the malice with which they struck him over and over again. He moaned in his sleep as he envisioned the attack. Deanna gave into the tears she could no longer hold back.

Beverly arrived at their location to have a look at Rankeer’s injuries. She bit back all she would have liked to say about anyone who would attack another so viciously. She directed Will and Data in aiding her to reset the leg and settling Rankeer into a better position.

Deanna went to set up the area by Lagi as a makeshift kitchen. Lepton had gathered all the supplies he could find, and together they were attempting to serve the survivors a warm nourishing meal. Deanna finally asked the question that had been playing hide-n-seek with her ability to reason since they arrived at Fallscity. “Lagi, was our presence here responsible for this attack?” She swept her hand out to encompass all the damage that had been ravaged upon the glen.

Lagi carefully shook her head. “Lady, they were hunting us. We became too confident of our seclusion. It was probably only a matter of time. They did not ask of any others. They did not ask anything. They came to destroy.”

Deanna sat beside the leader of the “waste people” and asked, “You don’t know why Solace ran out from safety do you? Where did she run to?” Deanna couldn’t let it rest; she had to know, to understand the incomprehensible. She had been so totally shaken by the lose of Solace and could find no explanation for the child to have run into danger, or for the abduction of the child.

Lagi looked long at Deanna, then out into the area before them. “She ran to that area while the men were searching the buildings taking all they could find.”

Deanna walked to the area Lagi indicated; she turned to look back at her verifying that this was the correct place. The counselor began a careful search of the area, kneeling looking through the grasses and among the pine needles.

Data soon joined her. “Counselor, may I assist you?”  He knelt beside her assuming the same position looking through the plants, “What is it we are looking for?”

“I don’t know Data. This is the area that Solace ran to, do you see anything that would entice a child away from safety and draw her here?” They both continued their search, carefully and thoroughly, yet nothing appeared that would qualify as a solution to that puzzle.

Will and Beverly soon joined them. They had not been long at it when Deanna observed Will stooping to look more closely at something he had found. She went to him, when she saw what he had found, her breath caught in her throat. He saw her reaction; she had wrapped her arms across her stomach as though she were holding herself together. He handed the small object to her. Her hand shook as she took it out of his hand and closed her own fingers around it. This time she made no attempt to hold the tears in. This time it was too much, she collapsed on the ground and cried.

Will pulled something out of his pocket and was studying it. He handed it down to Beverly, who was sitting on the ground with Deanna. She ignored Will, pushing away his hand. He sat behind Deanna, wrapping his arms around her, “Look, is that what you thought we found? Deanna look!” His voice held the authority of a command; one he knew would catch her attention. She looked. It was a twin of the lightfoot carving Will had found on the ground, the one she held in her own hand.

She looked at him confused. “I don’t understand.”

He held up the one he took from his pocked. “I am not sure I do either. This is the one I found at the site we were to meet at, where I found your belongings. It was lying beside an empty mug and sleeping bag. What can you tell me about them.”

Deanna had stopped crying and held on to Will’s hand to look closer at his carving. She looked from the one in her hand back to that in Will’s hand. Slowly understanding came. She attempted to explain it to the rest. “Solace gave me that one as a gift to hold for her until I saw her again.” She held up the one in Will’s hand. “Rankeer made it, he must have made a second one.” Deanna swallowed, regained her composure, “The lightfoot were special to Solace, she seemed to have a special relationship with the animals. I remember looking at the carving as we sat in front of the fire.” She traded a quick look with Beverly, “I must have left it there. I was afraid my carelessness did this, that I left it behind here. I forgot I had it with us at the campsite later.” On one hand she was relieved, on the other hand- it resolved nothing.

Will nodded, standing he held out his hands for each of the women to pull them to their feet. “It has been a long day. Let’s try to get things organized and find a suitable shelter for these people. Data check out the remaining structures as to which can be made the most comfortable for the injured. Deanna, Beverly begin making rounds organizing the injured and their needs, what it would take to provide for them. I attempt to contact the Enterprise, so far they are either to far away or there is interference with the transmissions.

Several hours passed Will found the women, sitting with Lagi and a few of the others grouped around a fire. He motioned them away from the group. “I think we have things under some control, how many seriously injured?”

“Just Rankeer and Lagi were seriously injured. The rest are mostly scratches and bruises from the clean up.” Beverly answered him tiredly.

Riker looked both over and realized both women were nearly dead on their feet. “Good. It’s been a long day. Why don’t you get cleaned up? Data and I will do what we can to put the finishing touches on the shelter. It feels like a storm is brewing, so don’t linger long. We want everyone safely tucked in by the time the storm hits.”

He had walked with them back near Rankeer’s hammock, where Data was talking with the young man. Beverly inquired about their travel bags. Data lead her to their things. “Data no news from the Enterprise?”

“No Doctor, I have concluded that someone on the planet may be interfering with communications. It is unlikely the captain would not have returned and attempted to reach us.” He handed both bags to Beverly.

Lepton, Will and Deanna were talking with Rankeer, as she approached Beverly heard Rankeer explain what had happened. It was much like the dream Deanna had earlier tapped into. Rankeer smiled at her as she joined them. The smile held no mirth; it was merely the recognition of a friend.

“You are all from the starship? You are here to get the queen back?” He looked from one to the other, then left his gaze stop on Deanna.

“Yes, Rankeer, we are all here to help. This is Commander…”

“William Riker, Deanna’s husband.” Will quickly interjected, then he finished the introductions. “We have learned about the queen and are here to do all we can to see to it that some kind of order is restored. We are going to Gendla for Abeathdor. We will stay until we find Solace too.”

Beverly saw the fatigue and pain in Rankeer’s eyes. “Rankeer, we will talk later, right now, you must rest. I’ll give you a hypospray that will help you rest and speed your recovery. Okay?” He didn’t have time to answer, Beverly leaned forward to find an area on his neck not harmed by his assailants and delivered the medication.

They moved away from the injured man allowing him to rest. Lepton and Data went to continue the work on the one large remaining structure, leaving Will, Deanna and Beverly. Deanna looked up at Will. He knew the look and answered it. “We are married. I thought it best to advertise that, in case we are discussed, Gringbald’s men would have no connection between us and the first away team.”

“You didn’t mention Data and Beverly’s union?”

“If anyone asks for identification we have only ours. I don’t want to stray too far from the basic truth. Things are less likely to get confused.” Will paused then asked, “Does it bother you to say we’re married?”

She watched his expression closely, then choose his tactic of avoiding a question with a question. “Would you say then this is a marriage of convenience?”

In the same tone he queried, “In a manner of speaking aren’t they all?”

Beverly stopped any answer with hands raised, “Okay, I’ve heard enough, when we come back you can play verbal tennis all you like - As long as I don’t have to listen to it! I’m ready for a warm bath.” Beverly was tired and in no mood to listen to the typical Troi-Riker speakfest, where they bait each other, neither saying what they really felt. The game had been going on for years, as long as Beverly had known them. She checked one more time on both patients, each was sleeping soundly. Finally they were on their way to the hot spring.

Will caught up with them. “I though you might want some company. I’m an excellent back scrubber and I can do a pretty mean shampoo.” They looked at him like he had to have grown feathers. “Okay, I have some outfits that Lagi had sent for you. And I’m not leaving, I don’t think anyone should venture anywhere alone, especially you two. I promise to be a good boy.” He handed the clothes to Beverly, and continued to walk with them.



They stood at the hot spring Will took off his shoes and touched a toe into the water. “Nice. “

“Before you go any further let’s check to see if the spring may have been tampered with.” Beverly had the tricorder out before he had a chance to say or do anything. “Okay, looks exactly as it was before. Commander are you going to turn around so we can undressed an in the water?”

He obediently turned his back and stripped off his own vest and shirt, while he heard the two going into to the water. He felt their towels land on his head. “Very funny.” He knew by their chuckles that they thought so. They had moved further out into the spring, Will took the opportunity to strip down to his shorts and got in too, staying close to the steps. He felt the warm water work its magic on the sore muscles and tired limbs. He could hear the women splashing as they continued their routine. He could also feel the change in the air, a breeze had picked up, and while still comfortable it was cooler. Will climbed out of the water and over toward their belongings he sat down hoping to dry near the lit torches surrounding that area of the springs. He could just see the two in the water through the darkness of the early evening.  He quickly dressed. ”Are you almost done, I really don’t think you want to be in there if it starts storming.” He could hear them swimming over to the side.  Commander Riker stood facing away from the steps as he held out the towels to the women.

“I’ll wait for you right over there.” He waved his arm near the path back to the buildings. Then slowly turned in that direction, thinking how much he’d like to recreate all this as a holodeck program, one he could share with a certain ship’s counselor.

“Deanna, how many times has Will referred to you as his wife, since that little impromptu ceremony today?” The counselor stopped dressing and turned to look at the ship’s doctor. Beverly shrugged her shoulders, “I was just thinking, do you think that it is legally binding? Well, you know, will you have to have it annulled? Hey you might as well give the prospect a little thought. What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

Beverly, I appreciated your concern, I don’t know what to think or what to do right now. I know my feelings for Will and right now I think I know his for me, but is it this planet? Things seem greatly enhanced here: my abilities for example, the extremes in the ranges of the inhabitants dispositions toward what we see as down right evil, or this people’s kindness and gentleness. How much weight should I put on what happens between us here? Have you noticed the lack of competition, there are few women here that would appeal to Will. Maybe hi is suffering from withdrawal?”

“I’ll only say one more thing: if you had these feelings toward anyone else, would you pursue them, test them  to see where they would go?” Beverly smiled a little as she put on her shoes, “I have noticed the lack of females, they’re probably locked away or all giving birth. They have this penchant for breeding I’ve heard.”

“Yes, so I’ve heard.” Deanna’s tone quickly turned back to a serious note, “Beverly what do you think happened to Pater’s son back there? He mentioned the ‘sickness’ like it was a well known problem.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. It could be a viral infection, or a parasite. Who knows what those two could have got into. There is the possibility of flea carried diseases. We saw the mattress was loaded with them.” Beverly stopped to think about that for a moment, then added, “If you notice any differences in your own health or that of any of us mention it to me. We’ll act on anything unusual quickly, to prevent any of the worse case scenarios.”

“Sounds serious.” Deanna was concerned by the course the conversation was taking.

“It could be, on the other hand, it may be nothing. We’ll just be observant. I’ll speak with Data, he may spot something quicker then the rest of us. We seem to have our emotions are overdrive with all that has been happening. How are you dealing with all this? You have your own emotions to deal with plus all of ours."

“I think as well as could be expected. It helps to know we are going to make getting Solace back a priority. I think right now I’m just very tired.” She collected the clothing she had on earlier, then stood to look Beverly in the eyes, “How are you holding up?”

The doctor smiled, “Much better now that we are all together.”

They gathered up their belongings and found Will on the path heading back into the springs. He looked at the bundle of clothes they carried separate from their bags. “We’ll wash those in the stream near the falls. You do smell and look much better. We do have to talk. I need to know how you came to be caught by the herder’s family back there.”

Beverly looked at Deanna, who kept her eyes lowered. The doctor replied, “Let’s just say the report for the captain will prove entertaining if nothing else.” She could see his face now as he reading the report, looking up at them when at one of the high points, looking up at them, running a hand back over his smooth head, then continuing on to the next interesting portion.

Data and Lepton had finished with the work on the shelter. “Commander, there was enough usable wood to maintain only one building. I choose the largest to house all sixteen of us. It is the building that the hidden tunnels are under.” Data and Will were walking over to the structure as Data continued explaining his reconstruction. They returned after a short time. Will was anxious to get everyone settled in.

“Let’s gather everyone together. We’ll begin with the injured, get them settled in and see to their needs, then everyone else.  We can settle in last. Doctor help Deanna prepare an area for Rankeer and Lagi. Data will show you what he did for them.” He moved to talk with Lepton about the rest of the group.

Data had suggested hammock for Lagi and Rankeer. Beverly’s concern was for the broken leg. She was informed by the android that provisions had been made for that too; he would suspend the leg from the ceiling above to keep it immobile and in the needed position for the restorative factors to function. The women found they had little to prepare, Data and Lepton had completed the preparations in a remarkably short amount of time.

The injured and any with special needs were moved in to the large building. The rooms were large, open and airy which made it easy to make adjustments to accommodate everyone. When everybody was settled in, Will requested his fellow officers to meet outside for a debriefing. Data went straight to the fire and immediately seated himself and waited. Once they had all joined Data, all eyes turned to Will, waiting for him to direct the proceedings. No one sat too close to the fire, gusts of wind now swept tongues of flames out of the stone boundaries.

“Okay, before the storm breaks and we join the others, let’s try to paint a picture of all the events leading up to the present. I would like Doctor Crusher and the Counselor to begin with the period after we separated at the river. When you left with Lepton -what happened next?”

They explained the river crossing and Lepton bringing the others to them, and their trek up the mountainside to Fallscity. Beverly recounted the meeting of Rankeer and Solace, her medical examination and prognosis. Deanna, professionally detailed her encounter and the child’s revelations. It was all told very factually with little emotion.

Will’s attention was engaged when the counselor was recalling their departure and later when she began to sense a problem back at Fallscity and Rankeer’s return to there. He questioned them about the provisions they had with them and the finding of the meeting site.

“We simply followed Rankeer’s directions. They were very precise.” Beverly answered, knowing the path that Will’s questioning was going take.

“You find the rendezvous point, you knew we were to meet you there, yet you deliberately went off on your own. Why? What was so important that you left, knowing you may miss us or that missing could further endanger you or our mission?” He was speaking very soft; each word was a reproof. Deanna had sensed when he first found them in the hands of the herdsman that beneath the surface he was angry that they had taken that chance. He had been holding it all in waiting for the appropriate time to officially show his disappointment in the course they chose to follow.

Both women sat quietly, Deanna spoke, “We were not thinking with a clear head when we left the area. It was a stupid thing to do. It will not happen again.”

Will nodded, the official reprimand out of the way, “Okay, continue, what happened after you left the area?”

Beverly continued the narration of the walk to the top of the ridge, the finding of the lightfoot pen and how they returned to wait for Will and Data to arrive at the appointed area.

Deanna picked up from there. “We were out of fresh water so we drank all of the…” She paused hunting for the correct words to describe the drink. “We drank all of the drink Lagi had sent along. We had been sitting by the fire relaxing talking about all that had transpired that day. Apparently the drink had relaxed us more then we were aware of, I had been studying the carved lightfoot, thinking of the pen on the other side of the ridge. Here were all these gentle animals crammed into that large pen waiting to be sent to the research center to be tortured and experimented on. I thought of Solace and the way she had with the animals, so, I decided we should set them free.” She paused, sensing Will’s reaction to the information, she found amusement but also something akin to consternation.

Will Riker had his poker face on, looking at her with all seriousness he said, “Go on.”

She took a deep breath and continued, “I talked Beverly into coming along. Thinking that if we left our things you would know we hadn’t gone far and intended to come back.”

“But you didn’t return. What happened next?”

Deanna sat studying Will, she either didn’t hear what he said or was hesitating in continuing, so Beverly picked up the story again. “We got to the pen, opened the gate chased the animals out…and we passed out. Probably due to Lagi’s drink. I should have checked it out more thoroughly before we…over indulged. When we regained consciousness we were in the back of a transport, that we couldn’t get out of while we were moving. That is how we ended up with Pater and sons. It was his sons that were keepers of the pen. That pretty much brings us to when you found us.” She omitted the part about how they came to be covered with the lightfoot dung, or how much time it took to accomplish the task.

The storm was now upon them, the thunder boomed in their ears and the wind began driving the stinging rain against them. “We’ll finish this later, right now, let’s get into the building.” They began moving even as he spoke. When they stepped up onto the veranda, Lepton came out to talk quietly to Will, motioning directions into the house. After Will had thanked him and Lepton had gone back into the house, he told them of their sleeping arrangements. Once again he stressed the importance of keeping with their story, now as much for the protection of their hosts as for their own protection. “There is a second floor with two rooms. Lepton thought it would only be fitting for the two married couples to have some privacy. They have already taken our belongings up."

Will led them through the large kitchen and up a set of narrow wooden stairs. When everyone stood at the top of the stairs. Data looked into each room, finding his belongings he directed, “Doctor, you and I are here; while the Commander and Counselor will be sharing those quarters.” He pointed across the hall and down several feet from their room was another door.


Beverly opened the door, a small light had been supplied on the corner table. A thick mat with the sleeping bags lay on the floor. A hammock was strung in the corner near the only window. “Doctor, I did not know your preference. These people appear to favor the hammock.”

“I’ll take the floor if it’s all the same to you Data.”

Data looked at the hammock, “As you wish Doctor.” He literally jumped into the hammock, looking perfectly at home. The doctor shook her head in disbelief as she crawled into the sleeping bag. She listened to the rain blowing against the slatted wooden covering over the window, and thought this may be the first good night’s sleep she had had since leaving the comfort of her own cabin on the Enterprise.

Deanna found their room much the same as Beverly had found theirs. The room Deanna and Will were to share was the only room with two windows. Deanna found herself charged with nervous energy, she paced around the room until she caught Will’s concerned look, she found herself in front of the window. She pushed out on the bottom of the slatted covering to find that it easily propped open looking out into the glen.

Will watched her for a few minutes before speaking, “Deanna, this was not my idea. I don’t want to put these people at any risk by placing them in a position where they would have to lie for us. They have been through enough. When Lepton came out to tell me of the arrangements, he was pleased to be able to do this for us. It was almost like a gift to us.” Will grinned and continued, “For some reason he truly believes us to be married, as I suppose we are in the eyes of this world, and thanks to that little demonstration in front of Pater.” She felt her cheeks warm at the memory,

He continued, “I didn’t want to admit we were lying to him and these people. Do you understand what I’m trying to say.”

She could sense and hear the sincerity in his voice. “I understand. Let’s get some rest Will, it’s been a long day. You choose, floor or hammock?”

“I think I’d like to give the hammock a try.” He went to the hammock and slid effortlessly into it. “I haven’t slept in on of these since I was a kid. Although, my memory of them makes them a lot larger than this.” He smiled over at her. “Are you sure you’d rather not sleep here?”

“No, I wouldn’t think of depriving you of that honor. I’m fine here, really.” Their eyes met and held for a long moment before either could break the gaze. “Will, would you mind turning out the light.”

“How about if we turn it down low, I’m not sure how to light it again.” His arm was long enough to allow him to stretch to the table and turn the knob on the light lowering the flame until it the entire room was cast in shadow light. He watched as Deanna turned her back to him to dig through her travel bag, he saw her pull out a long night gown, then turned on his side away from her, affording her the small amount of privacy available. “Goodnight Will”. He turned toward her to see she had climbed into her bag, “Goodnight”.

She lay listening to the rain, turning again for what seemed like the tenth time is as many minutes, trying to find the position that would allow her to sleep. She heard Will get out of the hammock and stand before the window looking out, just as she had earlier. He stayed at the window for a short time then went back to the hammock. She had tried everything to try to relax herself. All the relaxation techniques she knew as a psychologist and had taught to others, none had worked for her now.  She couldn’t seem to turn her mind off; her thoughts went from one subject to another. First -the abduction of Solace, the fear she had for the child, and her own inadequacy in aiding her. Then Abeathdor, again her inability to help find and help the younger woman. Next her mind replayed all the questions she had regarding her relationship with Will Riker. It had continued speeding from one subject to the next then back to begin the process over again.

 When the sounds coming from the swinging bed confirmed that he had gone back to sleep, she quietly slipped out of the sleeping bag. She stood quietly at the window, hoping not to disturb Will’s rest. He had left the window open a bit, she pushed it further, to lean out and let the rain fall on her face. Hopping to let the rain distract her from her thoughts she allowed it to soak her face. Will groaned and moved. “Deanna, what is it? Can’t you sleep?”

“I’m sorry, I tried to be quiet. Am I disturbing you?”

He went to stand behind her, his hands on her shoulders massaging her neck. “Yes, seeing you stand here in the middle of the night is disturbing. What’s wrong, your neck is tighter than my hammock is strung.” He worked his hands up; the back of her neck to the base of her skull, then down again and across each shoulder. Moving her hair from one side to the other as he worked. She gave herself up to the feeling of his hands on her neck, working out all the fatigue from the restless time spent in the sleeping bag.

“Deanna, talk to me. What’s going on.” It was the softness in his voice; the affection in his tone that touched her now, as it had on other occasions.

“I can’t stop thinking about all the things I am unable to do. Solace, for example, I can’t stop thinking about her. Abeathdor, if I hadn’t gotten us tied up literally maybe we might have her by now. There is so much to accomplish, and sometimes the end seems even further away now then it did in the beginning. Listen, I’ve kept you up enough, get some rest. I’ll go back and try again.” She made a move to go back to her bed, his hands caught and tightened on her shoulder, holding her in place.

“You’re not keeping me awake. I haven’t been able to sleep either. Let’s talk, maybe we can come up with some solutions, that will let us get some rest.”

“It reminds me of a saying on my planet. ‘A man with his house in order can sleep through a stormy night.’.” She had turned to face him and could almost see him raise his eyebrows in his mock serious expression.

“And what does that mean Counselor?”

“I guess it means if you have your priorities straight and you’ve done all that you can do, you more relaxed when the storm hits; knowing things are secure and the storm outside is no threat- nothing can take your inner calm away.”

“So, we need to put our house in order. Take care of what we can, and leave the rest until we can take care of that too.” He paused, “Isn’t that what we have been doing? We - I didn’t expect to run into some of the problems we have encountered. We’ll take it one step at a time until the mission is completed.” Again the pause. “Come with me. I know how to put you to sleep.”

She looked at him, trying to read what he was thinking. When she still hesitated he, gently pulled her along to his hammock. “Think how many times you have fallen asleep on my shoulder, while I told my best stories. Come on.” He sat on the side of the hammock, “I think what we have here is a custom made story telling hammock. I think we can both get on this.” He slid on, then patted the area beside him.

 She looked at him skeptically, “Will are you sure we can both get on this…” She stopped at his look, shrugged then slid close to him. It took a few minutes of shifting until both were comfortable. Then with her head on his shoulder and his arms around her, Will began to tell his story.

“I’ll tell you of our adventure after we separated at the river.” He continued talking softly, she listened to the way he accented his words, to the inflection he put on the thoughts behind the words, but mostly she left herself relax in the warmth she sensed from him. He supplied the security that finally allowed her to sleep.


The counselor’s escape into sleep and the peace it brought was brief. Her dreams were filled with tormenting visions.  Solace was screaming, holding in her hand the small wooden figure. She turned to face Deanna, her hands held out in front of her as though beseeching the empath for help. Deanna was frozen, unable to do anything but watch in horror as Gringbald dressed in surgical clothes carried the child away. The scream continued as the two moved down a hallway, Deanna’s vision followed them until they grew small and vanished.

Next one other person appeared a tall woman with red hair. At first Deanna thought it was Beverly, but there was something about the way the woman carried herself that led Deanna to reconsider the identity. Deanna’s view of the woman so far consisted solely of her back. The dream allowed her a closer look, as though she had magnified the vision. Deanna could now see there were ropes tied to the head, arms and legs. She looked up to see where the ropes went, they continued to ascend, up many feet above here she could see someone looking down. The face was unfamiliar, but the laughter she heard emanating from that direction was familiar. The laughter was mocking her. She looked again at the woman to see a precipice now appeared below her. Her mouth was moving, but Deanna strained but could hear nothing, she began crying out to the woman to speak louder. Finally after much entreaty she heard the words, “Help me, only you can help me.”

When Deanna slowly began to come out of her crazed sleep, she was in her sleeping bag on the floor. She looked around; the room was eerily lit in a gray light. She saw her travel bag in the corner and Will’s backpack near it. She looked to the hammock to see it empty, she was alone. Deanna wondered if the comfort of Will’s arms and his story were also part of the night’s dreams. She shivered at the memory of those dreams.

There were footsteps approaching the door. It slowly opened Will looked around the corner. “Good you’re awake. How are you feeling?” He came the rest of the way into the room.

The way he asked the question made Deanna a little nervous. “Fine, I guess I overslept. How long have you been up?”

“A while.” He walked over tot he mattress and sat on the edge leaning over to look at her. “You seemed to have had a bad night. I was a little concerned. Beverly wants to look at you, sees been busy with Rankeer and Lagi this morning. I volunteered to come up and check on you.” He smiled down at her, moving a strand of hair away from her face. “Can you tell me anything about what was happening last night?”

Deanna started to sit up then realized when the cool damp air hit her, she had very little on, she slid back into the warm sleeping bag. “What happened? The last thing I remembered was you holding me on the hammock telling me your adventures.. I remember having nightmares. They were horrible. But how did this happen? Was it all dreams?” She looked questionably at Will.

He was sitting very close to her, he leaned in to trace the orbs around the eyes as though he could erase marks of the restlessness night. She didn’t need her empathic skills to know what he was feeling. It was clearly written on his face and in his eyes. He leaned down to kiss each eye. Deanna put a hand on each side of his face and held his head inches away, while she studied his features. She pulled him down to her.

Sometime later Will whispered, “When this is over Mrs. Riker, we will have some serious time alone. I think we have some small items to work out.” He stretched out beside her with his arm protectively around her. “You really had me worried last night. I think we need to figure out what was happening.”

“Will, the nightmares were very real. I felt their emotions.. The fear and pain..” She stopped and shivered, at the remembered intensity.

He hugged her closer to him, “Can you tell me about them. What do you remember?”

She hesitated, not wanting to go back into the depth of them. “I saw Solace, she had her hands stretched out to me. Gringbald took her away. I could hear her screaming even when I could no longer see her.” She stopped talking.

He softly spoke to her, “Deanna, were all the dreams like this?” She nodded. “What do you think they mean?”

“I suppose it’s my own feelings of inadequacy. We haven’t found Abeathdor, and now a small defenseless child is in danger and I feel responsible.” She couldn’t look at Will. She closed her eyes and continued. “Abeathdor as a puppet, used by Gringbald…I think Solace will die if we do not reach her quickly.”

Will tightened his arms around her. “Last night during those dreams it seemed you lost control. You fought me, twisting, turning and screaming. I understand now what was happening. It took Data and I to hold you still so Beverly could give you a hypospray. I’ve never seen you like that. We couldn’t penetrate through where ever you were. That is why you are here, and why you are dressed as you are…. or aren’t.” She heard the smile in his voice, a trait that always endeared him to her.

“I can imagine how much you must have hated that.”

He glanced over her, then playfully added; “You have no idea, especially when I have to undress you in front of an audience.”  Then more seriously, “If you are feeling up to it. Beverly is waiting to check on you. I imagine you’re hungry by now. We’ve had lunch. While Beverly is checking on you, I’ll get you something to eat. It looks like we’re going to lose a day traveling. The rain is pounding out there. Seems like a good day to get our wits together make some plans and get rest up.” After a few moments, he continued, “I think I know your feelings for Solace. I’m looking forward to meeting this child. We will find her, we’ll be in Gendla early tomorrow.” He kissed her on the forehead and waited for her response.

She nodded and whispered, “Okay.”

He eased himself away from her and off the mattress to go fetch the doctor.

When Beverly opened the door Deanna was already on her feet hunting for clothes.

“I brought you the outfit you had on yesterday, we got everything dry. Lagi also sent up an outfit to wear today. She felt you would be more comfortable in.” Beverly handed the clothes to Deanna. “Before you dress, let me do a quick check, since I only have limited equipment, I need to rely on intuition and eyes.” When the doctor had done as thorough a check up as conditions would allow, she sat on the mattress to study the readings on her tricorder.

Deanna began to dress. She decided to wear the one-piece unisex outfit that Lagi sent up. She looked over at the doctor, noticed she was still looking at her tricorder. “Beverly, I feel fine, a little tired, but that ‘s probably a residue effect from the hypospray.”

“That’s possible. Will, said you were not aware of anything that happened last night. Can you explain how nightmares could have that effect. You were very demonstrative, we were unable to wake or calm you. It was very unnerving to see you like that.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know how to explain it. Those were the most intense nightmares I have ever had. The most unsettling part was hearing Solace scream. When we’ve never heard a sound from her. It’s possible my physical response was incorporated into the unconscious part of the mind- my dreams began actually taking sounds and sensations from the physical reality and mixing them into the dream. In other wards feeding on each other. I couldn’t move to help either person, maybe someone-Will, was trying to restrain me from tossing and turning. The more restraint, the more I felt I had to move to help them.”

“Sounds possible, but I’m concerned about the fact we couldn’t breach that line into consciousness. I used a hypospray of the neuroblock, yet you show high levels of psilosynine. Have you noticed any new sensations, any new abilities?”

“No, none that I’m aware of yet. I suppose I kept the entire house up last night?”

“I know you went over the dreams with Will, let’s go over them again to see if we can find something that may offer an explanation.”

Deanna stood at the window looking out at the rain, and began once again to recount her nightmares. Will returned with a tray of food. Listening to the dissertation he quietly laid the tray on the small table and leaned against the wall to listen again to the dementia of the night. When he noticed Deanna’s voice begin to sound weary he glanced over to the doctor to see if she too noticed the change.

Beverly heard the change in the voice and saw the look of concern on Will’s face. She shook her head to signal her awareness. The doctor had the feeling that they were on the brink of understanding some of the night’s events.

Deanna had just finished the first dream, when Beverly stopped her. “Did you say surgical clothes? Deanna, go back a minute, did you say Gringbald was wearing a surgical gown when he carried Solace off?”

The empath looked from Beverly to Will, “Yes, I saw it quite clearly, why?”

“What does that signify to you? It was your dream, think about it.” Beverly looked at Will to see if he understood what that detail could represent. He was watching Deanna, waiting for her to realize the importance of that one image.

Deanna looked from one to the other. “The medical research building! But how could I have known that? Maybe that is just a coincidence because of the lightfoot, my mind just coloring in the dream with other images.”  She thought for a moment, then softly, “Oh no, not there…not Solace.” Tears coming to her eyes at the thought of such a thing.

“Okay, we’ll leave that for now. Go on with the next one, the dream of Abeathdor.” Will spoke hoping he could relay a sense of calmness to her, helping her to carry the feeling of weariness for just a little longer.

She began the narration of the other nightmare, when she began describing the ropes attached to the woman and how she hung over a precipice, Will stopped her this time.

“Remember when you first had contact from Abeathdor, where was she? You described where she was being held from your empathic link with her.”

“I said she was in a tower, high above the ground near a river. If all this is true, they are both in Gendla. How would I have come to know that?”

“It seems you are able to tap into dreams. Perhaps one of the men who ransacked Fallscity, or even Abeathdor was able to communicate this to you.” Will picked up the try and sat it down on the mattress, then walked over to her. “Come on, we can talk while you eat. I made it myself, with Lagi’s direction. AND I have been assured of it’s nutritional value.” Will was looking very pleased with himself.

Beverly couldn’t resist, “Yes, but how does it taste?”

Will grinned, Deanna had just put some into her mouth when he answered, “I have no idea.”

They both watched, as she froze then smiled. “It really tastes pretty good.  Come on help me, there’s entirely too much here for me.”

The three sat eating and talking until Beverly remember she promised to spend time with Rankeer. “I think he is going to be okay physically, anyway. Deanna, when you’re up to it, maybe you could talk with him. He’s carrying around a lot of quilt. I’ll be downstairs when you’re ready.” Beverly quickly made her exit closing the door behind her.

Will and Deanna stayed and talked while finishing the meal. Will gathered the tray up as they went to join the others.

Deanna found Rankeer awake and in better spirits then the last time she had seen him. Most of the improvement was a tribute to Beverly’s administrations; his physical wounds were healing fast. The empath opened her mind to get a sense of his emotional state. He was feeling much of what she would have expected from anyone as closely involved in a situation such as this.

“I understand we have something in common.” Rankeer looked at her. “We both feel we are to blame for the events leading up to the abduction of Solace.” She paused when she felt his surprise. “I feel that had we not been here at all, this would not have happened, or if Beverly and I had come back with you when I first began to feel there was a problem, this may not have happened.”

“Lady, you did send us back. I told you to go ahead, that the queen’s safety was more important. I still believe that. Solace was safe…for a while. I could not keep her safe.” He hung his head, Deanna touched his arm gently.

“Rankeer, we cannot always protect those we love. It would mean thinking for them, living for them and not allowing them the space to grow and become their own person. You could not know what she was about to do, or why. Children sometimes act quickly, without what we would consider good reason.

“You have made a home for Solace, she was happy in that home. We cannot always control the outside influences that come to bear on us. There is a wise old proverb from earth that says, ‘Time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all.’”

“Yes, Lady, my mind tells me that all you say is true, but my heart sees cracks in the logic.”

“Mine too, Rankeer. We will work on that, reminding each other that as much as we may want to, we cannot always direct our own footsteps. Ask yourself, what could you have done that would have changed the outcome.”

Deanna and Rankeer continued to talk until Data approached letting Deanna know Will had asked everyone to assemble in the kitchen for a meeting.

When everyone had gathered in the spacious kitchen, Will had several large thin slabs of a slate like stone lain on the long wooden table. He and Lepton were tracing on the slate and devising a somewhat detailed map. Lagi was on one side of Will and Lepton on the other each advising him on the placement of roads and buildings. Sometimes asking different ones who were scattered throughout the room for their opinions.

Deanna looked the crowded room over. Lagi appeared the den mother over the mostly younger people. These intelligent, eager to please young people called “waste people” were living their lives as if outlaws. It reminded Deanna that without their queen this would be all Solace would know of life. Throwaway people because they or their family could not, would not conform to the mean spirited dictatorship that Gringbald and his men forced on them. All their hope rested on the hostage queen, Abeathdor. Could one woman live up to that much expectation?

Deanna watched as Data drew in roads that others described and helped him locate their spots on the makeshift map. She watched Will fulfilling the positions of leadership, how he listened to those advising him, questioned until a defined result was achieved. There was no doubt as to his ability to be an excellent Starfleet captain.

Her attention drifted to see Beverly talking to the red headed man Rimamai, who had played such beautiful music for them. Deanna hadn’t seen him again until now. It pleased her to know no harm had come to him. She was startled from her thoughts by Will’s voice.

“Deanna do you remember the location of some of these buildings in relationship to the state building you met Gringbald?” She joined them at the table, but could add little to what Data had already detailed.

There was something gnawing at her. When the conversation had moved on to where she thought she would not be missed, she quietly made her way out of the kitchen area and on to the veranda. The rain was steadily falling, the wind had calmed, but the gray day held out little optimism for its beholders. Deanna sat on the step protected by the overhanging roof. She tried to center herself to find the source of her uneasiness. She concentrated on the sound of the rain and tried to let the peacefulness soak down into the depths of her soul. She slowly sifted out emotions, finding their sources and eliminating them. Then she reached out with her mind, she could not sense Abeathdor. But there was something else, something new. It felt as electric as the storm had last night. The feeling you get when your mind can’t piece together a mental picture. It felt like finding a favorite book with pages missing, or working on an intricate puzzle to find the pivotal piece gone.

Deanna was brought back to the physical reality of the veranda when she felt the presence of someone. Lagi was standing in the doorway watching her. She turned to acknowledge her. “There’s something refreshing about a rain storm. It’s as though it’s nature’s way of giving life a fresh start.”

The other woman nodded in agreement as she slowly came to share the step Deanna was sitting on. She looked closely at the empath, then asked “Have you learned something new, Lady?”

“Why do you ask?” The empath had not dismissed the idea that Lagi may too possess a form of empathic ability. She had been trying to learn how much of the population could be influencing her.

Lagi’s answer was not totally unexpected, “I have watched you with Solace, when you communicated with her. You had much the same look about you now. It’s your eyes that reflect what you feel or where you are.”

“Lagi, is it possible that you have some other skills too, like being empathic? Is it possible that there are many people on this planet with these skills?”

Lagi looked at Deanna a little strangely, “What would these skills do for me?”

Deanna described what having such skills would be like. When it became apparent Lagi was not totally comprehending what she was asking Deanna decided to try to send her thoughts to the woman. She thought/sent  <Lagi, is it possible your people have always had gifts of this type of skills and perhaps due to fear or an outside influence allowed these skills to grow dormant?”

Lagi was almost awe struck that anyone could have that ability. She had heard of it, but until Deanna demonstrated it, never had she imagined that it could be that refined and direct or personal. “Tell me Lagi, do you sense something ..something that isn’t quite right?” She paused not sure how to word what it was she herself was feeling. “I feel as though there is something I’m not seeing but should. Something important. It almost makes the hair on my neck stand up, it is that electric, and I can’t put it into prospective, I can’t make sense of it. I don’t know where or how to look for the answer.”

“Lady I can sense nothing. I must rely on observation as my defense. I can surmise who my enemies are by keeping my eyes and ears open, then I follow my instincts. If I am wrong, I endanger my life and those who depend upon me. It is better to misjudge harshly then kindly these days.”

Then it wasn’t always as it is now, thing were better once?” Something clicked in Deanna’s mind, maybe she could find the missing pieces to this puzzle.

“Things are always unsettled at the times when the sovereignty is in question. But since Gringbald has forged the entire planet together it is his belief that fear and suspicion will keep him in control. It has worked only because we live among cowards, ferocious cowards, but cowards none the less. We have learned to trust only those who have suffered as we have, as waste people. Even with that there have been some that have lived double lives. One as we live the other as one of Gringbald’s well compensated henchmen. These are the ferocious cowards.” Lagi stopped speaking Deanna could sense her sadness as unsought memories stirred up by her words replayed uninvited through her mind. Deanna remained silent gently laying a hand on the woman’s good arm, giving her time to work through all the mental pictures of the past, before going on.

to be continued

please click here to continue with part five