by Susan O'Fearna

Ow! That hurt. I'll have to watch out for rocks. Lomarr Jarana was trying to get out of this gods-forsaken area. She'd already sprained her ankle and achieved a surprisingly brick-red sunburn since starting out on foot over the lowlands that morning; her handiwork had been discovered earlier than expected. Before she could leave the premises.

Serves me right, crashing that party. Finally the fool leaves the sanctuary of his bloody island and I get a chance to do my job. And what do I do? I screw up, naturally. That makes it final, tradition or no, this is one little chamel-woman who is not cut out for life as an assassin. The chamel-folk were a folk from another world, another dimension if you will; a few hundred of them had been trapped in this world hundreds of years previous and they were predominantly assassins and such, today. Their ability to fade into large groups, like chameleons, seeming to belong, made these types of jobs natural, almost second nature for the chamel-folk.

But not Lomarr. Her Maman (called Maman from years in France as a child) had been a master assassin and had given her advice, a type of training as she grew up. Lomarr had killed a would-be dictator as per her contract late the night before. Cut him from the pack of psycho-phants by making him think the wall-flower wants to seduce him, for Maman had always thought the hangers-on of a petty tyrant were more than just sycophants, but a little psycho as well.

That had been Maman's way of getting a public target in private, while Maman had been alive. Only problem was Maman had never had to try that ploy while in mourning for a husband. Lomarr was not at all interested in getting into anyone's pants, or skirt for that matter. When Tomfy had been killed, her lust for life died, as had her physical lusts. After having been married to Tomfy for three harrowing years, she'd been unable to tell him that her inability to get pregnant wasn't his fault, or hers. Human-folk and chamel-folk were in-compatible, genetically.

The jack-ass knew you had a very poor attention span for a seductress, silly, she berated herself mentally.

"Hey! What the--Ow! Dammit!!"

The sudden unwanted intrusion into her thoughts was caused by a drop-off she'd missed seeing, somehow.

"Now -- oh wow!"

A valley surrounded her. A valley, not of green grass and a spring or creek. No horses here. Only glass, no, rock. Crystals.

No. Not crystals, cristels. We live!

"Huh? What? Who said that?"

We did. We are cristels, few ever find us and those who do are gifted with shards.

"What do you mean 'gifted with shards'?"

At that, a glass-like crystal--no cirstel--flew off the wall toward her and she reflexively caught it.

"What is this, some kind of child of yours or something?"

The others cannot answer you now. Once you touched me, they were closed out of your mind. I am called Dorry. You must wait here in Cristel Valley for moonrise so my partner can join us. If you sleep, the valley can heal the ankle and your cuts.

"Ok, sure. Fine."

But do not touch the walls. That would be fatal.

"To me or to you?"

To us all. After bonding, physical contact with the day-wall valley would cause a shatter. The entire valley would die and you would be buried in razor sharp crystal.

"Oh. But it's OK for me to lay out my bedroll, though, right?"

Yes, but do not touch the walls.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Wake Lomarr.

"G'way. Lemme be. I'm sleepin', can't you tell?"

Lomarr wake.

"OK, already. Jeez, can't you folk let a person sleep? And why can I barely hear, feel you? Is it hear or feel?" Lomarr said while she got up and rolled her bedroll into a carrying position.

Both. When bonding occurs a telepathic link is established between the pair and the mobile.

"Pair? I've only seen one of you. Where is your partner?"

Yes, pair. You must wake to relieve the bonding from my partner. And we must talk. Do you see her?

"Her? Uh, yeah, I see another cryst-cristel floating toward me from the wall. Her, does that mean you're male?"

No. Only for humanoid bonding do we take on masculine/feminine names and pronouns. Usually the day-cristel is masculine, while the night-cristel is feminine.

"Okay. Her name is what? Yours is Dorry, right? By the way, how'd you know my name?"

Her name is Darris. Yes, my name is Dorry. We know your name because the link allows us to know all about you and Tomfy and your Maman. Everything, Lady Assassin. Pardon, former Lady Assassin.

"Hah! I only decided to quit before sleep took me. Is there a place where I could, uh, you know? And maybe some water?"

Yes, the valley empties out onto a plain about fifty yards from here. But first you must accept my partner, Darris.

I am Darris, Lady.

"Okay, let's go!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Okie-dokie. Now, you said we had to talk?"

Dorry is somnolent now. It is we who have to talk. I am a moon-cristel or night-cristel. Sunlight is fatal for my kind. If I die, Dorry dies; therefore we must devise a container for me that is light-proof. This is imperative. You will be torn if I die, if we die; as bonded we are part of you now. For the time being, wrapping me in a cloth and burying me in your duffel-pack will do. Eventually, you will need to have a special box and pendant designed for us. Questions?

"Yes, Why a box? Why a pendant? And why 'us'? If sunlight kills you, why doesn't moonlight kill Dorry, if sunlight kills you? When we left the valley you weren't repeating 'don't touch the walls' like a scratched record. Why not?"

A box is the only plan I know to protect without separating. Dorry is fragile in other ways. I cannot be crushed; Dorry is fragile. I will shatter when exposed to other-light; Dorry is not sensitive to light. The moon halves line the walls now. Physical contact is not desired, but not fatal for us. A pendant will keep which-ever of us is 'up' in physical contact with you. That allows us to do our jobs. More on that in a minute. Anything else?

"Okay. You are sensitive and Dorry is fragile. I need to commission a box and a special pendant to be made and you'll give me the plans. Why do you have to be in physical contact. And last, but not least, what jobs?"

Yes, yes. Physical contact strengthens our link. We can discuss our jobs after you are straight on your jobs and need for training.

"Training!? Oh gods, no more training. My job is to protect you from sunlight and Dorry from being squashed or touched by anyone else. Anything more? Oh, yeah, and have a special box and pendant made."

No, those are your jobs. Sleep. Dorry will discuss your training and our jobs with you in the morning. Before you retire, please wrap and store me. Also, you must hold Dorry as you sleep, so he can channel the valley and they can finish healing you.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Oh, gods, I hate mornings! Coffee, caffeine, ice water, anything hot or cold, just to get that taste out of my mouth. 'Snake skat', that's what Tomfy used to call it. The residue left in your mouth after sleep. Blech!

"So you let me sleep, huh? What, no jobs, no training? How about food, coffee? No, of course not, you're not human or even sorta-human, how could I possibly forget. I'm talking to a telepathic rock."

Your sarcasm does not help your situation. Tend yourself, then we will talk as you walk.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Your training is one of our jobs. We must teach you to speak to us silently, with your mind. To think at us, if you will. Your gift will not work unless contact is maintained. Your gift is personal camouflage. The trait of you people, the chamel-folk is hereditary. It is the ability to fade into a group and not be noticed. You do this by telling other people's minds to not see or notice you. It doesn't always work, since some people's minds are too closed. Your gift, controlled by Darris or myself is to change your physical attributes without cosmetics; hair color, eye color and complexion.

However, we are limited. I can change your naturally medium brown hair to red, red-blonde, light brown or blonde. I can change your medium blue eyes to bright blue, green or hazel. Your complexion I can darken from whatever natural tan you have to ebony, even. No lighter than your natural coloration, though.

Darris can darken your hair; black, dark brown or darker reds. She can darken your eyes to darker blue, brown or black to the extreme that the pupil is not visible. She can bleach your skin from your natural tan to albino white.

Sun is light hair, dark skin; moon is light skin, dark hair. One exception; hair: Darris only can make your hair the silver-white of moonlight. Termination of physical contact means termination of disguise. Do you understand?

"Sure. I've even decided on my next job. Police-type work, kinda ironic, huh? Undercover police."

The End

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