Ivan laughed. "Us? Now we're reduced to woodcutters? I think not! I'm going hunting in the morning. I suppose the younger set might find knocking down trees amusing, but make sure they do it away from camp, so they don't break anything."
Volya grinned. "We should make some boar spears. The oaks are thicker down hill, surely this world can supply us with pork chops."
"Feeding on acorns," Makariy muttered quietly.
Leonti thought about the servant girls and their sacks.
Like us. I hope acorns taste good.
Khar looked over at movement on the path up from the river.
One of the servant girls from the pottery lesson edged cautiously out of the trees, looking ready to bolt.
He stayed sitting and tried to look nonthreatening. "Hi. Umm, how are everyone's pots doing?"
She blinked. "Oh! Umm . . . I don't know? I just . . ." She cast a nervous look behind. "I just . . . Sorry. I don't want to get you into trouble . . . Lord Ivan got pushy, ordered me . . . I ran away."
"Very sensible of you." She's too bright and emotional to have been chipped. "You look too young for him to be . . . bothering you."
He lowered is habitual mental shield. Swallowed. She's glowing! Women who glow get chipped fast, early . . . Holy . . . She's free of that threat, she'll never turn into one of those dull creatures . . .
Like I tried to make Lada into. Shame washed over him and he pointed. "Go around that tree, there's a big bush right up against it. You can crawl under it, no one will see you there."
She scampered around him, keeping a safe distance. A rustle and she was out of sight.
Well, Mentalists acting like Mentalists, like every Elite, every Noble in history. He finished the careful wrap, binding the end of the latest attempt at a decent bowstring and stood up to grab the bow.
It was pretty damn good looking. Oak and Ash laminated; the glue he'd made with deer hooves seemed to holding well. Time to test it. And stop getting head aches using magic to sneak up close enough to the deer to slash them.
He looped the bottom, bent the bow and got the top loop on.
"Hey, looks like a real bow."
He glanced up. "Anatoly. You're pretty quiet. Trying to sneak up on a deer?"
"Nah, doing Lord Ivan a favor and fetching back a runaway servant girl."
Khar grinned. "What? Lady Anuska throw him out of her bed, so he's hunting among the servants?"
"None of my business, I'm just earning points." Anatoly raised his nose
Khar straightened suddenly. "Wait. A servant girl got away from an Old Mentalist!" He pointed at Anatoly. "Back off! If you've got the plague in your camp, I want nothing to do with you! Out! Get!"
Anatoly recoiled, paling. "No, it's not . . . It's not."
"Go. Away. Right. Now." Khar bared his teeth, "And if I was you? I'd go on a long, long hunting trip."
The fool backed away. Turned and ran. Out of sight, but easy to track by sound.
Downstream. Fool. Or if he's got any sense at all, he'll grab his gear and keep right on going.
Khar shivered. "I hope to hell I'm wrong. But I think I'll move. I don't like so many people knowing where to find me." He looked over at the bush. "Would you like to come with me?"
"Think of a suit of armor, all around you. it keeps your thoughts in, and other peoples' thoughts out. Continue to soak up the sun and keep the thoughts where they begin, while I teach you something dangerous, but very much needed, here."
Forty-nine studied to the boy. Fourteen, and he's already controlling his power. Lord Klim doesn't even seem to realize how strong the boy is, for his age.
"So. Now that suit of armor is going to protect you physically. In your mind think of that metal armor. But now it's going to be magic mental, malleable enough to bend with you, soft enough to never cut you. Think of you mental shield and squeeze that immaginary metal down until it's so dense it is impenetrable." He reached to touch the boy and hit a barrier an inch away. "Excellent. Now the shield needs power, so like your mental shield, you need to feed it a thread of the power . . ."
He felt the shield stiffen under his finger, and grinned. "Well. I thought you'd pick it up fast, but that exceeds all my expectations. How do you feel?"
"Umm, a little stretched, but not weakening." He sounded surprised.
Forty-nine picked up an inch-thick stick. "Now, this part is dangerous, if not carefully controlled."
He held the stick upright and set the end down in front of Leonti. "Hold out you're left arm and point your fingers at the stick. Imagine the shield flowing off your fingers, a thin sheet, just an inch wide, and a few inches long."
He lifted the stick, leaving the bottom three inches behind.
"Relax now. We'll practice everyday. But in an emergency, you'll be able to protect yourself." He watched carefully, but the boy released the shields and disappated the power easily. Oh Klim . . . you may complain about him being quiet and too polite, but that's only in comparison to Benedikt, who was a boisterous youngster. This one is even stronger.
Leonti grinned, then went to check the fish trap.
The Forty-nine took a dozen nice sized bass off to Ludmilla the cook, and the boy headed for the east side to pretend to be snotty Family child.
Leon frowned. "We're pretty high up. Should we move lower? The snow will be deeper up here, and it will be colder, this winter."
His father eyed him. "Now that is a good idea. Much though I hate to give up that handy well . . . I think some exploring to the west is an excellent idea."
Lord Ivan stalked past, looking irritated.
Father sighed. "Bloody old fool. I'll see what the others think."
What they thought, at high volume, was to stay in this prime spot, and go hunting in the morning.
Leon watched his father walk away, and into the trees. His father stopped at a straight oak sapling, giving it a shake to test its strength. Leaning down to slice it, because cutting a spear was not beneath a True Man's dignity . . . or not cutting it.
His father straightened up abruptly. Stood stiffly for a long moment, then turned and walked back. Looking pale.