Author's Note: I apologize once again for the enormous delay in uploading another chapter. Thank you to all the reviewers who gave me hearty encouragement and advice, and who gently reminded me to update.
"Well, that's the story. I hope you took notes. This will be on the test." Max said with a smirk. She was pleased with the two strangers' reactions. She usually only got such impressive shocked looks when she snapped open her wings.
The man named Numair's eyes seemed to light with excitement. "So it is possible to change worlds? I've read of only one example in history, and that was even before the Human Era, I wondered if it was even possible anymore. It makes sense, having to combine Gifts, even if they were such powerful Gifts like Roger's and Thom's… we heard about them even in the Carthaki University. Could one willingly join Gifts, or does one have to 'steal' it from someone else? How does the Gift work in other worlds? If you run out of Gift, will it come back in that other world?"
Max cried, "Shut up! You talk more than Nudge!" which of course made her feel homesick for her flock and the verbose twelve year-old.
"Oh, sorry." Numair said with a sheepish grin.
"You can worry about your scholar question later. Did you forget that there's a war going on?" Alanna snapped.
Fang whistled. "So your Thom wasn't kidding."
Max stood abruptly. "That's it. We don't do war. We can do fights. We can do battles. Heck, we can even do duels to the death. But not wars."
Numair stood up. Max realized he was even taller than her brother Iggy back home, which made her feel another pang of homesickness. "Please." He pleaded. "We need you."
"Well, get in line and take a number!" Max shouted. "Lots of other people need me, too! I'm already supposed to save my world! And my flock needs me, and Ella, and my mom…" She could feel her eyes sting. She thought, Jeezum, if I start crying in front of strangers, I will fly to 35,000 feet and fold my wings in.
Alanna's voice softened. "Max." She said quietly, completely uncharacteristically calm. "At home, I have three children. Thom is nine, and little Alan and Alianne are seven years old. We live on a coastal fief, one that has already been attacked by the Carthakis. My husband, as a royal spymaster, could be a hearty prize for pirates. Two of my greatest friends, King Jonathan and Queen Thayet, have five children. There have already been attempts on their lives. If they die, the children will be orphaned."
"Like we used to be." Fang said softly.
Max glared at him. Whose side was he on, anyway? She felt a new emotion, one rarely if never felt in Max's heart: sympathy.
"Sure, cater to my poor do-gooder heart!" Max said angrily. "Where do we go?"
Fang, Alanna, and Numair both looked at Max in awe. None of them had expected her to actually agree to this. Fang in particular knew her long and impressive record of lack of cooperation.
"Well, we were going to meet up at Port Legann after we'd dealt with the hurroks." Numair suggested. "My student, Daine, is there."
Was it just Max's imagination, or did the tall man say "My student Daine" the same way that she herself said "My friend Fang"? An evil grin flickered on her lips.
"Where?" Fang asked.
"It's about five hours journey west by southwest." Alanna explained.
Max snorted. "Which means about half an hour. Have fun on your dangerous mission. We'll meet you there."
At the same time, light brown and black wings unfurled. Fang and Max ran a few feet before leaping into the sky in perfect synchronization. Their wings beat and carried them upward.
"Mithros, that was a sight." Numair said with feeling.
Alanna looked at her fellow mage and friend. "Numair, you forgot to tell them something."
Numair swung a long leg over his horse and asked playfully, "What might that be, Baroness?"
The Lioness scowled, hating to be identified as nobility. "You forgot to mention we don't know how to get them back to their own world."
The mage smiled, a glint in his brown eyes, and silently put a long, bony finger to his lips.