This story has not previously appeared on ff.net, but has appeared in zines. The name of the writer has been altered to a different pseud, but it is the same person.

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The Point

by Lexin

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"So, what's so special about this place, anyway?" Vila's usual complaint, delivered in a tone on unwilling compliance with another's stupid instructions as he prepared for the mission.

"The rebel group here is a little disorganised and somewhat suspicious about other people. We're going to try to convince them that not everyone is as bad as the Federation." Blake had that fanatical look in his eye, the one that was becoming more and more his natural expression.

Avon's distrust was obvious. "You are going to convince them of that?"

"Can you think of anyone better?"

It was clear from his expression that Avon could think of several people, but Blake's temper was becoming almost as bad as his own these days, and in the interests of peace and quiet he said nothing. Nor did he like the idea of going down to the planet unarmed, but the Cziev rebel group had insisted. It seemed that Avalon had been right, and they trusted no one. Well, he could sympathise with that.

They teleported directly into the entrance hall of a rebel base. It looked to Avon' eyes like a school or some such place, and the room they were shown to looked like a classroom, the sort he'd seen on pictures of many offworld planets. Herding your people together to teach them hardly seemed the most efficient way but he supposed it was the best these rimworlds could do.

The most senior leader of the rebels on the planet Cziev greeted them, he was a young man called Flint. Tall, dark and classically handsome he also proved himself to be extremely talkative, and Avon was wearily certain it was going to prove to be a very long day. Flint was accompanied by another man, rather curiously described as his 'partner', and called Morrissey. Quite what form this partnership took was not made clear and Avon eyed Morrissey with some suspicion, especially as it appeared this silent and almost wraithlike individual was not to take part in the talks. Avon wondered what the point of his introduction had actually been or if there was any point to it at all.

Worse was to follow. On being introduced to Avon, the entire rebel group gave what amounted to a collective flinch of pain. He and Blake exchanged curious glances. Avon had of course met people who did not like him before, but he had never known anyone to be so affected by meeting him that they should give a visible shudder at the sound of his name. Much to Avon's ill concealed amusement it was soon clear that Flint was more than a match for Blake. This young man was clear what he wanted – the Federation off his homeworld – and equally clear that he would use whatever means he was able to achieve that, with or without the help of other rebels, and would in now way guarantee to work in concert with other rebel leaders. Much the same difficulties as the rest of the rebellion had with Blake, noted Avon, amusedly storing up the information for anticipated flights with his so-called leader.

Avon often said he was not political, and by his lights he was telling nothing more than the truth. However that had never stopped him having an interest in and an opinion about Blake's policies; after all he was fighting to implement them. Even if, as Avon thought, Blake stood no chance of winning, his clarion calls of freedom and democracy were rallying cries to the poor and dispossessed on all planets. In the early days, and entirely unknown to Blake, Avon appointed himself and Blake's conscience and he still retained that position. And as time wore on and he saw more of the true Blake he also appointed himself as arbiter to see that these blind followers were not cheated.

Several hours passed in tedious argument, and at last they stopped for a welcome meal. Avon found himself seated several places away from any of the Liberator group which included Vila and Cally, and between two of the Cziev rebels. Throughout the meal neither one of these individuals addressed a word to him, though one briefly acknowledged him when he asked for the sale, but they did each talk animatedly to their companion on the other side and right over the top of his head as if he wasn't there. Avon was justifiably annoyed. When the meal was over, he caught Blake's arm. We want a word with you," he hissed, pleased to see that Blake looked worried.

"Oh?"

"What the hell's wrong with these people?"

"Nothing as far as I know. They seem very nice"

"They are not 'nice', Blake, they are insupportably rude. So far not one of them has said a word to me"

"I wish I could say the same," replied Blake feelingly, looking at Flint who was now talking to Morrissey. Morrissey looked paler than ever.

"It's not funny, Blake, and I certainly don't appreciate being ignored. You insisted I come down here. I can't help you if I can't talk to anyone."

"No, I suppose not. I'll tell you what Avon, I'll ask him," the rebel turned to look wryly at Flint, "if I'm given half a chance, why they all ignore you."

A cool stare. "See that you do."

The talks continued throughout the afternoon. As they dragged on it became clear that Vila was getting bored, and Avon wasn't exactly riveted himself. Blake and Cally still appeared fascinated, but then Cally had always been Blake's most devoted follower, politically if not personally.

Most of Avon's boredom stemmed from the fact that he had little to say and knew that no one would listen to him. For once, he agreed with Blake, and Blake put his point across far better in this sort of situation than Avon ever could. As if that hadn't been enough to strike him dumb from sheer amazement, the Cziev revels were still very distrustful of him, though the reason wasn't clear yet. He sighed gently, trying not to allow his boredom to show too much. There was no point in offending his reluctant hosts more than he apparently already had.

When they gathered for the evening meal Blake asked Flint to place Avon beside him at the dinner table. Though a little surprised by the request, Flint complied. Flint's partner, Morrissey, was placed on Avon's other side and it seemed that he did not share the rest of the Cziev rebels unreasonable fear of the tech: he as happy to talk. Flint and Blake continued their wrangling through the meal much to Avon's amusement, and it seemed that his impatience was shared by Morrissey. At least that was the impression Avon gained from the grin on Morrissey's face. Unable to help himself Avon grinned back. "Is he always like this?" Avon asked, sotto voce.

"Ah, you mean Flint's single minded pursuit of his intentions?" Morrissey's grey eyes seemed to sparkle slightly with amusement.

"Yes."

"Always," replied the other wryly. "Ever since I've known him."

"How long is that?"

"We've been married," Morrissey thought for a moment, "five… no, six years."

Avon was a little taken aback by this; Orac hadn't mentioned in their briefing that this sort of relationship was common on Cziev. "How long did you know him before you… married?"

"I didn't." Seeing the puzzled look on Avon's face Morrissey tried to explain, "arranged marriage is an established custom here."

"Even between men? That doesn't make much sense." From Avon's expression it seemed that he was considering some completely new possibilities.

"Customs often don't. It's just the way things are here. The Federation doesn't approve of those particular customs either – both arranged marriages and marriages between men have been outlawed. From what I understand it offends their morality." Morrissey sounded irritated; it seemed that his political standpoint was very close to Flint's, however quiet he was otherwise. He brightened a little. "As it's always been the custom here I don't think they'll make much headway in changing anything."

"But why should men marry men? Surely with no possibility of children there's little point."

Morrissey grinned. "There are sometimes financial or family considerations but basically some men prefer other men."

"So I understand." Avon was silent for a moment.

"If there's anything you want to know please ask," Morrissey said, the grin was back, "I'm not shy."

Morrissey's last remark was quite loud and a sudden silence fell as he said it. Blake looked over at them, smiling a little, pleased that Avon had found someone to talk to a last, then his attention was claimed again by Flint and he turned back.

"How do these marriages work? How are they arranged?"

"One's family, usually one's mother, arranges them with one's prospective partner's family."

"But these things are usually arranged when the partners are still children or so I understand; how do they know which sex you'd prefer?"

"Oh, we don't make any decisions until well into the teens and then they ask. At least if they're sensible they do. Then they allow you to meet your projected partner a few times. After that if you don't absolutely detest him you're married to him. Or her of course, depending on your tastes. You do have the option of categorically refusing, but you do have to have grounds of some sort." Morrissey smiled almost conspiratorially, "Have you every argued with your mother when she's decided on something that's going to be good for you? However, they can't force you to marry."

"What if you discover you can't stand your partner after you've married?" Avon seemed to be only half considering the meaning of his words, and Morrissey looked from him to Blake in some concern, perhaps closer to the current of Avon's thought than Blake or Avon himself would have liked.

"If it's within the first year you an apply to have the marriage annulled. Though that's not advisable, it makes one…" Morrissey was clearly searching for the right words, "damaged goods. After that it's just unfortunate. We do have divorce here, but it's quite hard to prove that you have grounds." Seeing Avon's look he hastened to explain, "There are only two grounds for divorce, one is infidelity and the other is cruelty. Male-male marriages don't have any special rules."

"Oh. How many men chose to marry other men?"

"Ten, maybe fifteen, out of a hundred. Makes it harder for your family to find someone suitable." Morrissey smiled, reminiscently. "I waited four years before my mother found Flint. My younger brother was married before I was. And that," he said, leaning over to murmur confidingly into Avon's left ear, "is a source of shame here."

Avon twisted his wineglass in his fingers for a moment then said, "Can I ask you something else?"

"Of course."

"What's wrong with my name?"

"I haven't a clue. What is your name, I didn't catch it when we were introduced?"

"Kerr Avon."

Morrissey stared for a moment, then quite placidly replied, "Really? That must be a great weight on you shoulders."

"I don't understand."

"Neither do I," put in Blake, who had been listening in, to the surprise of both men. "Everyone we've met so far has reacted peculiarly to Avon's name."

"The name... has certain connotations here." Morrissey paused and looked down for a moment. "It was the name of one of our tragic heroes of semi- legend. In fact there's a picture of him over there." Morrissey indicated a mural on the wall at the other end of the dining room. It shoed a very large number of people, most of them in what were clearly old-fashioned styles of dress, some of which looked highly uncomfortable. The figures were so many and various that it would have taken a considerable amount of time to study them all but the effect was rather pleasant and certainly colourful. A few stood out. At the front a young man in white or cream suit towered over the others. On his arm was a young woman in a pale green dress and beside her a strong old man stood, a long beard flowing over the front of his black armour.

Blake stared at he paining for some moments, then asked, "Which one is he?"

"Kerravon is the young man in black on the end of the picture, at the back."

Blake looked at that portion of the mural for some moments. The figure was of a dark haired young man, aristocratic but pale and sad looking, wearing what looked like a long robe of some sort. He was carrying a bow and wearing a sword at his hip. The figure was shown holding his hands out and open, you could see he was manacled, and across his palms yet attached to the manacles was a chain twined with red and white roses, the chain and the roses hung to the floor. He was looking down at the chain, eyes veiled. Beside him was another of the heroic young men standing brave and proud with his sword out.

Blake stared in puzzlement. "What does the chain signify?"

"Love," said Morrissey, baldly. "He's always pictured like that, it's traditional."

Avon put in, "and what did this… Kerr Avon… do?"

Morrissey looked saddened. "He died."

Avon had been twisting his wineglass in restless fingers. He stilled for a few seconds, then started again. "How?"

He committed murder, then he committed suicide."

Flint looked at Morrissey. "My dear, I think you better tell them the story. I mean now you've whetted their appetites."

Morrissey frowned at him. "All right."

"You do it so well." Flint was a bit, just a tiny bit, arch.

"I do it very badly. But if you want to hear it, be quiet." He took a deep breath and began, "The story is one of a cycle of connected legends called the Surradenaya. This part of the legend is rarely told, at least in my family, but when it is we tell it in this way"

"Wyllen Smith was accused, in that he could never make or possess seven of anything, by the demon goddess Lilianne. He turned her offer of marriage down for the love of his life the War Leader, Annalie the Fair. Annalie was foully murdered at he battle of Kazgar by Lilianne and crazed with grief, Wyllen Smith decided to challenge Lilianne's curse. Thus he came to make the seven swords of power.

"He had just fashioned the seventh sword and placed it out for its day in the sun, as required by he rites of the God of Sun and Sea, called Nuadin, whose faithful follower Wyllen was, when a young woman came up the path through the wood.

"This was Tennara, Princess of the Royal House and sister to Annalie, and was moreover big with child having betrayed and killed her husband the Prince Inthin for the false love of the Lord of Darkness who is called Lucifin. The child was the son of Lucifin, and the young Princess had only just discovered this and was much distraught. As the Princess came nigh to the simple cottage of the smith, she spied the sword lying out in the sun, and bethought her that here was the means of her destruction and that of her unfortunate child. She took the sword up and fell upon it, slaying herself."

The entire table were now listening to Morrissey's tale, and at this there was an indrawn breath of collective horror and Avon noticed that Blake had actually gone slightly pale.

Pitching his voice so that all could hear clearly Morrissey carried on, "The smith heard her cry out and came out from the cottage and saw the young girl and her condition. Taking his knife he opened her up and took the child from her womb. It was a boy. Miraculously, though pulled into the world untimely, the child lived. Though the sword had cut his shoulder, leaving a scar which he carried all his life.

"The smith wrapped the child in a cloak to keep it arm, and took him and the body of his mother to he city wherein dwelt her father the King. The King greeted him as an old friend – if you remember he was the husband of his other daughter – but was rather surprised to see him. When he saw the body of his beloved Tennara he took the sword from here it lay on the cart and slaughtered Wyllen with it. And when Wyllen lay bleeding to death on the ground the child started to cry and the King saw him for the first time and realised a part of what must have happened. The King took the child into his arms and acknowledged him Prince of the realm, giving him the name Kerraven, which means 'black sword', and cursed the sword that had been the deal of his mother and his Uncle the smith." Morrissey took a sip of his wine, and then went on, "That night, the first night Kerraven was within his grandfather's castle, the sword was stolen."

Blake put in, "Who took it?"

"I'm coming to that," said Morrissey, clearly irritated at the interruption.

"Eventually," Flint smiled, amused by Blake's impatience.

Morrissey was allowed to continue, "Kerraven was an unhappy little boy. As well as being materially wealthy and politically powerful, his family were traditionally magicians of great stature, but he lacked the Gift and could do nothing, not even the conjuring tricks and jokes that even the most stupid of his half brothers, half sisters and cousins could do. The other children in the household make sport of him and not unnaturally he resented it, and thus he held himself solitary. It wasn't that he was thick in the head, on the contrary he was extremely clever, but he either had no power or was unable to tap into it. However he was trained in the theory of magic in the hope that some latent talent would show as he grew older."

Morrissey stole a glance at Avon, sitting still and silent. The glass he had been toying with was still hanging from his fingers, but it was clear he was listening closely.

"Kerraven concentrated largely on his studies as a warrior, hoping that he might become a war leader, but in even that he was thwarted, partly because his grandfather disapproved, and partly because his quick tongue, quicker temper, odd silences and the persistent rumour that he was cursed, caused the men he had charge of to have superstitious doubts of him. He had very few friends, though those he did have loved him dearly despite his ways and manner.

"As his grandfather grew older he became less and less able to take long diplomatic trips to the courts of other monarchs, and as a Prince of the blood Kerraven had to shoulder some of those duties. Oddly enough, and despite his dislike of it, he was quite successful at this. Though – or perhaps even because – he was not exactly popular or amusing and was inclined to strike a hard bargain, he was hard to fool and it was discovered that he never, ever broke his word no matter what he provocation. Thus he earned the respect of nearby monarchs, if not heir love.

"It was one of these trips that he met and fell in love with a young woman called Juliana. Juliana was said to be as beautiful as the dawn of a spring day. She was blonde and lovely with skin like peach blossom and eyes blue as the sky reflected in the sea on a cloudless afternoon in summer. She returned his love in full measure."

"That's not how I heard it," Flint remarked, conversationally. "I heard she was just using him."

"Who's telling this damned story, you or me?" Morrissey paused and took a deep steadying breath. "Where was I? Oh yes, Kerraven being Kerraven there had to be problems, of course, and Juliana was already wedded to one of his grandfather's less trustworthy allies, the Pince of Gonsher. However there is no creature more cunning than a young woman in love, and Kerraven was a comparatively innocent young man, and he had been very lonely. As a result he was unable to resist her wiles. No woman, or more exactly, no lady, had ever shown much interest in him before, the rumours of his being cursed had kept them all away. The laughing Juliana said she didn't believe in curses.

"What the unfortunate young man did not know was that Juliana was a witch, and moreover, completely in thrall to her husband, the evil Gonsher. Her love appeared genuine to poor doomed Kerraven, and may indeed have been so, but it was controlled from the tart by Gonsher who wanted information about the old King's plans, his strengths and weaknesses. Kerraven told her – and therefore Gonsher – all that she needed to know, and never even knew that he had done so.

"When Gonsher's plans were set, he arranged that Kerraven and Juliana should lie together one last time and that Juliana should swap for his the cursed sword that had been started so disastrously by Wylen and finished in he darkness by Lucifin who was Gonsher's master. As soon as his hands touched the sword Kerraven knew he had been betrayed, and that he had been tricked into taking a cursed sword of which he would be unable to rid himself, but he was too late, Juliana and Gonsher had gone."

"Hang on a minute," Blake looked up, "How did Gonsher get the sword?"

"Lucifin sole it?"

"How?" Blake sounded disbelieving.

Morrissey sighed, a little annoyed. "He's a God, he can do as he likes."

Gently, Flint put in, "Not exactly. The Lord of Darkness requires human agents to carry out his plans. I heard it that he had it stolen by some relation of Gonsher's who was staying in the castle at the time."

"Can I carry on with this tale or would you rather tell it?"

Flint looked discomfited, "Do go on."

"Thank you, Flint. Kerraven also made the rather horrific discover that if used again in anger the sword would bring about the end of the world. Thus, despite its incredible power, it was useless to him."

"How could it do that?" asked Blake sceptically.

"How the hell do I know?" replied Morrissey. "Kerraven rushed back to his grandfather, and was just in time to take some part in the siege of the city, a siege that was doomed from the start, as of course all their weak points were known and exploited. Kerraven realised almost at once that he was to blame, and suffered horribly, unable to tell anyone what he had done, but feeling responsible for the death of every innocent person. This was compounded by the fact that he couldn't use the sword, his point blank refusal earned him the name of coward and he was unable to explain his actions to anyone because he would have had to explain how he had come by a cursed sword and the whole story would have come out.

"Escaping the city by the skin of his teeth just before it was overrun Kerraven made his way to the encampment wherein Gonsher was lodged and where he knew Juliana must be. He awaited an opportunity, which finally came when Juliana went to the river to bathe. Using his bow, he took aim and shot his betrayer in the back. Weeping for the death of his love, and those of his family who had perished in the siege, he fled into the forest meaning to end his miserable existence once and for all."

"I don't understand why he felt he had to kill Juliana," commented Flint. "I've never understood it."

"I do," said Avon quietly. But he didn't volunteer the reason.

Morrissey gave Avon a cool look and then continued, "once in the forest he further discovered that the power of the sword wouldn't let him commit suicide either, and he was overtaken by a madness, and knew nothing and no one for many weeks.

"At last, the War Leader Davian and his friend Dostin travelled that way escaping form the wrath of Dostin's enemies whom the two of them had robbed to be revenged for the theft from Dostin's sister, the renegade Marini, of her lover, the beautiful Reltha.

"Davian was returning to his home city of Zand, which lay on the other side of the forest and across the plain. He was a little surprised when he was fallen on from above by an apparently angry young man who claimed the forest as his own personal property.

"Not wishing to hurt him permanently Davian suppressed the man using only his fists. Even stranger, that night the young man came to him and offered his body, and though very surprised Davian took him as a day-lover. The next day, and after talking it over with Dostin, he agreed to take the young man with him to Zand, though he didn't know who or what he was.

"As he travelled Davian noticed that the stranger, though girt with a sword, never used it. He fought from a distance, with his bow with which he was lethal, or right up close, with the dagger. The use of the dagger proved his courage, his skill with it proved that he was practised with a blade. However Davian didn't question him to closely as his new friend didn't respond well to curiousity.

"Davian's friend Dostin discovered that despite everything, he liked this odd young man, and also that though it was painful for him to do so he could act as a conduit to the stranger's latent power. At some point in his past the stranger had obviously had some training in at least the theory of magic.

"When they reached Zand, the stranger remained with Davian accepting his position as that of a mere day-lover".

Blake asked the question that Avon wanted answered. "What's a day-lover?"

"Well, it is... was… someone taken merely to satisfy the needs of the body. Little more than a whore, really," Morrissey explained. Then he resumed the lyric tale. "Though the stranger was physically faithful to Davian, he never said he loved him, never even gave the impression he wanted to be anything other than what he was. When Davian and his band fought, he would join the bowmen, this was despite the fact that from his speech and manner he was clearly a nobleman of some sort, and bowmen were commonly taken from among the peasantry, the lowest of the low. But slowly Kerraven was remembering his past, remembering his past, remembering who he was and what he had done. And he hated himself for it."

Avon smiled very slightly staring down at the warp and weft of the tablecloth, his expression was almost as unreadable as it had been throughout the tale. But Blake, who knew Avon well enough after the months aboard he Liberator thought he caught a second's softening, just a moment of understanding.

"In the end, of course, he could keep it a secret no longer and told Davian, asking – begging – that Davian cast him off as he was unworthy to be even his day-lover. He couldn't bear to leave but Davian could throw him out and bid him never to return, and if he did Kerraven would have to obey. Though shocked by the story Davian decided that Juliana was to blame for it all, and besides, he loved Kerraven. He refused Kerraven's request.

"Unfortunately the conversation was overheard and the tattler passed the information to Davian's father, the Prince Duni. The Prince immediately made arrangements for Davian and Kerraven to wed, as thanks to the war Kerraven was next their to his grandfather's throne and Duni wanted the power such a close liaison to another important prince would give him.

"Both were horrified, Kerraven because he considered it the height to foolishness to we anyone to a person with his reputation for reliability and with a curse hanging over his head. However, they had no choice, were offered no way out, and they married."

This time it was Blake who was still for a breathless moment, wild consideration clear on his face.

"Oddly enough, and despite a rather rocky start, their marriage was very happy. This was a source of amazement to everyone, especially Davian's father. When together they fought continuously, but it seemed that they weren't happy apart. Unfortunately they were forced by circumstances – the wars that were going on at the time – to spend more and more time away from one another."

Morrissey's voice quietened, causing all the listeners to strain to hear him, and he continued. "During one of his times away alone with his war band Davian was tricked by the demon goddess Lilianne into drinking a potion. The result was that he became mad, and as time passed this madness became increasingly worse. Kerraven, being so close to Davian and having once been mad himself, saw what was happening. He tried to tell Prince Duni several times, but the Prince misbelieved him, thinking merely that one of their normal arguments had got out of hand. Davian stated to put pressure on Kerraven to use the sword and though Kerraven resisted him he found it increasingly difficult, for despite his madness, despite everything, he loved Davian with all his heart and didn't want to disappoint or hurt him. Unfortunately, Davian knew this and used even their love to try and force Kerraven's hand.

"At long last, Davian, prompted by Lilianne's whispers of betrayal, started to believe Kerraven didn't in fact care for him at all, that he hated him and that this was a the bottom of his refusal to use the sword. Kerraven knew he had no alternatives left and made his plans. He went to Dostin and after causing him to sleep he took from the man nearly all the power he had, leaving just enough to keep him from death.

"That night, when Davian came to bed, Kerraven was waiting for him. Driven by the power of his love for the war leader and using all the magical power he had taken from Dostin, Kerraven took the cursed sword and broke it over his knee. One jagged half cut the throat of his husband and he used the last of his strength, the power he had taken from Dostin and all the love he had ever felt for Davian, to turn the sword upon himself. His blood flowed out to mingle with that of the only real love of his life."

The silence was now total. Blake and Avon were both almost statues of themselves, they seemed to be hardly even breathing. Morrissey was sure of his audience and continued, "On waking from his long sleep, Dostin found them lying together, cold in death. Sadly, for he loved them both, he had the bodies tended. He sent half of the sword – the point – back to Kerraven's family. He set the other upon the tomb in which he laid their bodies. They sleep beneath it, side-by-side, even now. Probably." Morrissey smiled, "if half the tales be true, arguing their way through eternity about the nature of it".

There was a long silence. "What a miserable story," commented Blake at last.

"Yes." Morrissey looked at him for a moment. "You see why no one here would call their child Kerr Avon. It would be tantamount to saying, 'I curse you and I hope you'll have a miserable life'." He turned to the silent Avon. "As you're not from here you probably don't have the same feelings about the name." From the expression on his face Avon wasn't so sure, but he let it ride.

Flint put it, "It's one of our important legends. People have always written plays and books about it".

"I can imagine," replied Blake. "Is it a true story?"

"Bits of it are known to be true. Kerraven and Davian really existed. They're entombed in a temple here in the city and there is half a sword on top of the tomb. Apart from that, I really don't know." Flint smiled, hoping to lighten the tone a little.

He wasn't noticeably successful. "They didn't have happy lives," said Blake thoughtfully.

Flint smiled at him gently, "No, they didn't."

Avon still looked distracted and Blake, suddenly aware that dinner had long since been cleared away, took their leave. "Thank you for telling us the tale," he said, standing.

Morrissey smiled, "My pleasure, Blake."

Flint said, "I'm sorry our negotiations never come to a successful conclusion."

"You're entitled to your opinions," Blake answered with equanimity, his unusual respect for the other rebel leader showing.

Avon had stood up as Blake did, but still remained silent. He seemed to be thinking. Blake lifted his bracelet. "Jenna?"

"Here, Blake."

"Teleport, please."

With a flash they were gone. Morrissey and Flint exchanged amused glances, and turned to help clear the tables.

Once on board Avon was still deep in thought. Blake was concerned and showed it. As they reached Avon's cabin he reached out and took the tech's arm. "Is there something wrong?"

For once Avon didn't shake him off, merely looked at the hand as if he had never seen the like before. "Wrong?" For a second Blake could have sworn Avon was a touch saddened. The expression was fleeting, soon gone, but Blake knew he was not mistaken.

"Yes, wrong. That story of Morrissey's seems to have bothered you."

"There's nothing wrong." Avon palmed the door control. Still worrying, Blake watched him go.

Later, as they left Cziev orbit Avon joined the others on the flightdeck. Cally smiled as she saw him. "Avon?"

Avon didn't seem interested, but he did answer. "Yes, Cally?"

"A message came in for you from Avalon's group."

"Oh?"

"They have a package for you at their base on Telen II. Your brother sent it."

Hoping to lighten Avon's mood Blake said, "That's a kind thought and how typical of Avalon. We can swing round and collect it if you want?"

Tonelessly, Avon replied, "No, thank you."

"Aren't you curious to know what it is?"

"I know what it is, Blake. It'll wait for me."

"Are you sure?"

"One curse is enough."



1 The End