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An Elfy on the Loose
cover art © Malcolm McClinton

 

 

Bruno the Elfy has been intentionally mistrained and misled about who and what he is by the Elfy High Council. He is sent to our Earth, finds his talents, rescues his mentor and saves the world (or at least Knightsville, California) from a Dark Elf.

Watch out, universe--an Elfy is on the loose!

 

 

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An Elfy on the Loose

comic fantasy

Barb Caffrey

 

 

 

Chapter 1

"What fools these mortals be," Jon said with a sigh. Heíd come to the Human Realm mainly because of boredom, but look! Now, he was bored by the Humans, too.

Just listen to Ďem. "No, dear, I want him for my party," the woman said.

"No, darling, I need him for my party," said the man.

Really, it was enough to make him gag. And the "uniform" they had him wear wasnít exactly to his taste either. He looked down at the red and purple unitard, kicked at the blue booties (with brass bells at the ends; fortunately he had enough magic left to silence those, or heíd have a migraine), and took off the yellow hat (with the red, purple, and blue feathers) and threw it across the room.

The squabbling couple never even noticed.

"Well, dear, you knewó" said one, who cared which?

"No, I didnít," said the other.

"Oh, yes you did!"

It was enough to make him vomit. Jon got up and started pacing. What could he do to make them listen?

He put on his most stern countenance (not easy considering he stood exactly three feet tall in his sock feet), then went up and tugged at the womanís skirt. She never even blinked.

"Go away, Elfy-Welfie. Weíll go out later."

"Butó" Jon tried to interrupt.

"Really, we will," she overrode him. "Iím going to show you off to all my friends! Theyíve been trying to get a full Elf for years. Just think of the status Iíll get with you, one of the elusive Elfy-Welfies!"

Feeling like a fool, he retreated to the nearest rest room. What, if anything, could he do to get their attention?

Jon took off the ridiculous costume, put back on the sober black outfit heíd been wearing when he showed up here, and went to the kitchen. He found the handy-dandy step-stool heíd been using to get at the Humansí food in order to feed himself (the idiot Humans thought he fed on moonbeams and rainbows; what garbage!), and took it to the other room. He put it next to the man, who was still arguing with the woman. The man said, "Well, dearest, the lodge would adore the Elfy-Welfie. Itís our lodge symbol, for the Godsí sake!"

Jon climbed up the stool and hit the man on the back. He would have rather hit the Human upside his head, but that was as far as Jon could reach, even with the step-stool.

The man never even noticed, except to scratch his back in the place Jon had hit him.

Jon sighed again. He climbed down from the step-stool, picked it up, and brought it back to the kitchen. It was time for his morning snack anyway.

He went to the refrigerator and took out some sliced ham. He never had understood the stricture against pork; it tasted so good! (The stomachache it gave him just had to be purely coincidental.) He bit into the ham blissfully, and for a moment all the cares of the world went away.

A small, dark-haired girl came into the kitchen and stared at him.

"What are you looking at?" Jon asked.

"I didnít thinkó" the girl stammered.

"Damn straight, you guys donít think!" Jon snarled. "Whatís up with the crap out there? No matter what I do or say, I canít get anyone to feed me, so I feed myself. I even took off that stupid blasted Ďuniform,í and they donít even notice. What does a poor little Elfy-Welfie have to do around here to get some attention?"

"I donít know, Elfy," the girl said. "Maybe the same thing their daughter has to do?"

"What do you have to do?" Jon asked, interested despite himself.

"Whatever I can." She sighed. "As for how they dress you, look at how they dress me. Would you wear this?" She indicated her loud yellow shirt, profusely bedecked with daisies, over a purple and yellow skirt covered with even more daisies.

"No, I definitely wouldnít, unless they told me to," Jon said.

"Exactly," she replied. "They say. Why canít I say? Other kids get to dress as they like, but not me!" She dissolved into tears.

As the girl cried, hiccupped, burped, then cried again, Jon thought. Finally, he asked, "Are you able to help me get back to my people? Maybe they can help you, too."

"How?"

"My people are renowned for making life-like replicas," he said.

"Díyou mean they could make someone who looked like me that wouldnít care how her parents behaved?"

"The life-like replica supposedly doesnít care," Jon said. "After seeing how your parents treat youó" He said the word "parents" as if it were a swear word. "ónot to mention how theyíve treated me in the day and a half Iíve been here, I hope to all the Gods the replica canít care. Because if it can, it definitely will dislike your parents."

"Well, letís get going," she said decisively. She dried her eyes, took a piece of ham from the refrigerator, and stood up. "I donít have all day." The girl pivoted and walked out of the kitchen past her still-squabbling parents. "Hurry, Elfy. Weíll go to my room. Theyíll never look in there."

Obediently enough, he followed the little girl.

As she closed her bedroomís door, he was struck by the realization that all the furniture in the room was exactly the height an average-sized Elfy-Welfie could enjoy. His eyes filled with tears, but he tried hard to banish them. Why would she want to listen to a crying whiner of an Elfy, anyway?

"Donít worry, Elfy-Welfie," the girl said, handing him a tissue. "Weíll get out of here, I just know it!"

After he wiped his eyes, Jon thought for a moment. "In the interests of fairnessÖ"

"Whoever said life was fair?" the girl asked pointedly. "After all, look at us."

"True," Jon conceded. "Still, shouldnít you be more worried about who I am, what Iím doing here, that sort of thing? After all, I could abduct you, and not provide the life-like replica. How do you know Iím not going to harm you?"

The girl thought for a moment, fist clenched under her pointed chin, and studied Jon. Manfully, he stood as tall as he could, which wasnít as tall as he would have liked. (Why, oh why, was it that he couldnít have grown just an inch or two more?)

She studied him some more. For a moment, he thought he could hear her thinking that surely his blue eyes, brown hair and glasses were not threatening. She did have at least a five-inch height advantage.

And at least he didnít look like a Dark Elf.

"Well, youíre just not!" she stated emphatically, as if that solved everything.

Of course, the girl hadnít yet learned that Dark people could come in pretty outward packages, either.

Jon wasnít sure if his duties here included pointing out to a Human child the potential error of her ways. If he did, would her parents cause trouble for him? He shivered internally, glad the girl couldnít read his mind, and decided against it. Instead, he contented himself by saying mildly, "Thatís not exactly a logical way to solve your problems, you know."

"Logic? What do I know about logic, and why should I care?"

"Probably more than you think," he said. "And you should care. Without logic, nothing gets solved in the worlds."

"Ah, all right. I know Iím not going to win this one." She got up and paced the confines of her room lightly, like a dancer.

He shot her a dark look.

"I have to pace or I donít think well, Elfy," she said, answering the question he had not asked. "Itís nothing personal. I just like to pace."

"While youíre pacing, will you please tell me your name?" Jon asked. "No one here has asked my name, and no one gave me their name in response, and, well, wellóitís just bad manners!"

"I think my parents are terrified the Elfy-Welfies, being so elusive, are that way because of the souls theyíre supposed to have stolen," the girl said softly. "Which the Elfys never could have done if names hadnít been freely givenó"

"What utter rubbish!" Jon interrupted.

"I couldnít agree with you more, but thatís why they didnít give you their names," the girl replied. "Although if you pointed out it was unmannerly, I think theyíd probably still not have given you their names out of spite. And theyíve placed a binding spell on me, so I canít give you theirs."

After another round of pacing, she said, "I could let you read a letter addressed to them. Would that do?"

"I didnít have time to learn the Human alphabet." Jon sighed. "I wish I had."

He thought a moment, his hand stroking the girlís softly textured, hand-appliquéd bedspread. He looked down at it and thought heíd never seen so many flowers in one place, outside an Elfy park. The flowers almost appeared real, too. He wondered at that, because Elfy craftsmanship wasnít anywhere near as good.

Of course, if magic can heat you and magic can clothe you, who cares about good workmanship? he thought wistfully. He noticed the girl staring at him again.

"Was I woolgathering?"

"What does woolgathering mean?"

"Ah, I was trying to ask if I was staring off into space, thinking about nothing, really."

"How would I know what you were thinking?" she asked sharply.

"I donít know, but then again I donít know what you Humans are capable of," Jon admitted.

"Well, I canít hear you think," she said.

"Good," he said. "But I was letting my mind wander off. Distressing habit, really."

"Thatís okay, Elfy. I donít mind."

"Why not?"

"Because youíve sat and talked with me, and you havenít treated me like a freak," she said, wiping away sudden tears. He handed her a tissue from the box next to her bed.

"Why would I treat you like that?"

"I donít know, Elfy, but many people have," she said. She wiped her eyes again. "As youíve seen, my parents are worthless. They always squabble over everything, and they barely pay me any attention. I donít even know why they wanted you, except they had an obsession for getting an Elfy."

"They had an obsession? Why?"

"I donít know why, Elfy," she said. "But for more than two years now, theyíve gone to the park where we found you, every single day for at least an hour. I know now that they have you, theyíll never let you go, not without a fight." She nodded her head emphatically.

What had he gotten himself into?

And what, if anything, could he do to get through to her parents? He had to have sunlight, and food, and companionshipÖthese people could starve him to death without even realizing it, and if not for their daughter he wouldnít have had any companionship in more than two days.

And she did seem to be rather good company. At least, Jon was hoping that was why heíd had the sudden urge to give her his name. He just had to ask hers first, as Elfy etiquette demanded.

Sometimes Elfy etiquette was so stultifying.

The girl saw him sigh and frown, and mistook the cause. "At least I can freely give you mine. But only if you canít figure it out from my outfit."

Jon pondered her garish outfit once more. "Colorful?" he ventured.

"No, silly! Thatís too New Age of a name for my parents to give anyone."

"All right, let me try again. Flower?"

"No! Really, Elfy, you must try harder," she said. "Remember the Rule of Three?"

"If I fail on the third attempt you can ask me to do anything, and I have to do my utmost to fulfill your wish?" Jon parroted obediently.

"Yes," she said. "Although I thought Iíd be nice, and not ask anything too hardÖ"

Jon pondered a bit longer, staring at his black high-tops. Finally, he exclaimed, "Daisy! Your name is Daisy!"

"Yes." She sighed. "And I hate it. I want to be named Sarah, or Ruth, or even just plain-Jane. Anything but Daisy!"

"Well, do you want to know my name? Because itís even sillier than yours, not that yours is silly at all," Jon commiserated.

"Yes please, Elfy. Iíd like to know your name."

"Jonny-wonny," he mumbled.

"Eh? Speak up, Elfy! I couldnít hear that," she said loudly.

"Jonny-wonny," he enunciated.

She gasped, then dissolved into laughter. "You mean my parents have been worried about losing their souls toÖtoÖan Elfy-Welfie named Jonny-wonny?" she asked, then fell onto the Elfy-sized bed, laughing so hard tears streamed down her face.

"Hey, I feel like you do, Daisy," he said. "Or, should I call you Sarah? Itís the name you picked for yourself, after all."

She sat up, grabbed another tissue, and dabbed the tissue against the corners of her eyes. "Howís this for a plan? Iíll call you something else. Anything else. Why in the world did your parents name you Jonny-wonny?"

"As for what other name, I donít know. I used to be called Ďthe Reflective Oneí by my classmates, but that doesnít exactly scan well in your language."

"I can see that, Jonny-wonny," she said, trying to keep herself from laughing. "But you havenít answered all my questions."

"I know, Sarah," he said, watching her flush with pleasure because heíd called her by her chosen name. "Iím getting to that."

After a beat, he sighed and went on. "As for why my parents called me Jonny-wonny? Well, they didnít. They named me Jon. Just Jon. It means foresight, or wisdom. But when I left school, and accepted the call to come to this version of Earth, my teachers thought my name was not representative of the whole Elfy-Welfie culture."

"What?" She shook her head. "Why should they care?"

"Well, not many Elfy-Welfies get to your Earth anymore. Most of us prefer to stay on our worldóin our dimension, you would probably call itóand to stay strictly apart from anyone else. Hells, most of us wonít even socialize with the True Elfs, and we have more in common with them than we do with you people here," he said, glossing over the problem of the True Elfs. Fact was, the True Elfsónever call them Elves, at least not to their facesódidnít want to have much to do with Elfys, or Humans, or anyone other than True Elfs. But he really didnít need to get into that right now.

"They thought Jonny-wonny sounded more like a proper name for an Elfy-Welfie, never mind that the name means bunny-lamb."

"Does Sarah mean anything in your language?" the girl asked, her lips pressed tight in an obvious attempt to suppress a smile. "I know what it means in this worldóit means Ďprincessí in a very old language, but even if I like the name, I donít think Iíd make a very good princess."

He smiled at her. "Well, yes, it does. In Bilre, the Elfy language, schiaraó" his pronunciation turned the sch- into a soft s- sound, and the word came out Sarah "óis one of the words for ĎfriendíÖa special friend." I probably shouldnít tell her that it can also mean "beloved," he thought. Weíve only just met, so itís a bit early to talk about that sort of thing. He shook his head again and changed the subject. "Iím sorry, itís just frustrating. I came all the way here, and then your parents have treated me so badlyÖ"

"Iím sorry," she said. "You donít deserve it."

"Thank you," he said, touched by the emotion he saw in her dark eyes. "Anyway, I came here, and I donít really remember much about why except I was so bored with going to school all day, and I thought anything had to be better than that."

"I get bored with school too," she agreed. "I donít know why they bother to send me to school. I mostly just watch the flowers grow and read the books I like behind the books they assign me. Which are all boring and I hate them!"

"There, there," he commiserated, passing her another tissue. She dabbed at her eyes again, and smiled at him.

"I know how you feel," she said, nodding for emphasis. "Sometimes, I just hate going to school, but I hate coming home worse, and until you came my life was just terrible."

"ButÖbutÖwe barely know each other," he sputtered. "You know my name now, and I know yours, but we still donít know hardly anything about each other! I donít even know where I am."

"Well, all true friendships grow in time, donít they?" she asked reasonably. "So, weíll learn. Right?"

"All right," he said, still puzzled by this strange Human girl. "Right now we have bigger problems, though."

"Well, letís start with the easy problem." Sarah laughed. The musical notes struck Jon like a peal of bells, nearly an octave lower than her speaking voice. "Thereís nothing to keep me from telling you where we are. Weíre at 103 Queen Jane Gray Street, Knightsville, California, United States of America. Does that help?"

"Well, the United States of America part doesóIím pretty sure Iím supposed to be there, but Iím not sure about the rest." He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs out of his brain. Why couldnít he remember?

No matter. He had to deal with the business at hand. "The fact is, Iím here in this house with two crazy people and one small childóbegging your pardon, of course. Dammit to all the Hells-that-be, how do I get out of here?" He took off his glasses, as theyíd started to steam up, and peered at Sarah dimly. Damn his nearsightedness anyway!

"I understand how upset you are," Sarah said, in her best "all-grown-up" tone of voice. "Besides, I thought the question was ĎHow do we get out of here?í And you really donít need to swear, either."

"Yes, if I can leave, of course Iíll take you!" he shouted, stung by both the tone and content of her last statement. "I wouldnít leave a dying pig here. Why would I leave a bright, interesting small child?"

"Iím no smaller than you are," she pointed out. "In fact, Iím rather taller than you."

He rolled his eyes. "I wonít leave you here. Satisfied?"

"Yes," she said. "But I didnít mean to upset you."

"Iíll get over it, Sarah," he said, shaking his head. "But why are you so worried about me swearing, huh?"

"My parents say I swear too much." She flushed crimson. "Once, they even washed my mouth out with dishwashing detergent! I donít want that happening to me or anyone else, ever again!"

"You donít want me hurt? Thatís such a refreshing change from your parents."

"Iím not them," she pointed out.

"True," he agreed. "Anyway, we were talking about Elfy-Welfie culture. Want to hear more?"

"Sure," she said. "Iím all ears."

"WellÖ" he started, then broke off and laughed. "Your ears arenít half as big as mine!"

"I also donít have anywhere near as big of feet as you, and I am at least six inches taller than you," she said primly.

"I sit corrected," he said. "You do know thatís because Elfys just donít grow that much?"

"Yes, I heard about that, but I donít really understand," she said.

"I canít help it that Iím short," he explained. "Itís just how Elfys are. The tallest Elfy on record was about four feet, two inches, in your measurement system."

"Thatís very short," Sarah said, frowning.

"Well, for our world, it seems normal. Everything is built this size, you know," he said, indicating her room. "This room makes me feel homesick."

"Would you be more comfortable somewhere else?"

"No," he said. "I donít want to get any closer to your parents than I already am."

"That makes sense," Sarah said. "I donít like getting too close to them either."

"I canít blame you for that."

"Anyway, whatís this about Elfy cultureóI didnít think you Elfys had culture!"

"Every species has culture, Sarah," Jon said. "Some is valued more than others, thatís all. And ours has tended to be insular lately."

"What do you mean?"

"Most Elfys want things all their own way, wonít compromise, and donít like new things to come along and upset their dull, boring, same-thing-day-after-day lives," he explained.

"They sound a great deal like my parents," she said. "I was hoping that some people of some sort somewhere would be different."

"Well, Iíve met some very good Elfys, including some of my teachers. Also, my parents were good people," he said, his eyes misting up.

"Why are you feeling down all of a sudden?"

"My parentsÖdiedÖa few years back," he said slowly. "I havenít really felt like myself since."

"Ah," she said. After a moment, she asked, "About the Elfy culture? And it being insular and strange? Will you tell me more, please?"

"Iíd be glad to," he said, taking a moment to surreptitiously wipe his eyes. "Another strange thing about us, compared to you Humans, is that most Elfy-Welfies believe everything should rhyme, because our species name rhymes."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"My parents didnít think it had anything to do with anything. But most Elfy-Welfies do. Unfortunately."

"So, your teachers basically made your name longer and made it rhyme? Because your name didnít suit their ideals?" she asked indignantly.

"More like my nameóand me, personallyódidnít suit their sensibilities, period," he replied. "Iíve always been this way. Many other Elfy-Welfies would not even blink at your parentsí Elfy uniform, you know, but me? Itís too garish for words. I hate it!"

"So, if I found a name that didnít rhyme, and you liked it, would you use it?"

"Yes, I liked being called Jon, before they started calling me Jonny-wonny. But now? I need another name; any other name!" he shouted, remembering with horror how most of his classmates had picked up the nickname "Jonny-wonny" and run with it. Sometimes, all he had wanted to do was to run away.

"Wasnít there a famous line about other names? Something about Ďby any other name, a rose would smell as sweet?í" she asked.

"HeóHades if I know," he mumbled, quickly substituting the polite place name for the swear-word he had begun to say. "I know a few of the lines in A Midsummer Nightís Dream because it seemed appropriate. Although how Shakespeare managed to convince the few Elfy-Welfies who liked to hang around Human theaters back then to teach him how we are, I will never know."

"Okay, wellÖhow about Bruno? Does that rhyme with anything?" she asked, changing the subject so fast his head would probably have whiplash into the following week.

"BrunoÖfool-no?" he asked. "Fruit-no? Brown-nose?"

"Now youíre just being silly," she scolded.

"I guess it doesnít!" he exclaimed. "Sarah, I thank you."

"Bruno, I thank you," she said, giving him a sitting bow in the process. They nodded at each other and smiled.

"Shake on it?" he asked, extending his hand.

"Yes," she said firmly, folding his slightly-smaller, well-tended hand into her own.

He shook her hand and wondered at the strangeness of it all. Why would anyone want to give a little girl a manicure? he thought, idly noting the golden glitter spangled all over the bright fuchsia. Gods, these Humans are strange!

Sarah cleared her throat. "Are you ready to start planning our escape now?" she asked dryly.

"Wouldnít miss it for the worlds," he said.

 

Chapter 2

Time passed as Sarah continued to pace. Finally, Bruno looked at Sarah, grabbed her hand, and led her out of the room. "You know how you have to pace to think?"

"Yeah?" she asked.

"Well, right now I need the outdoors, so I can think," he said.

"Okay, I know just the place." She took his hand and led him back through the house, past her still-squabbling parents (Gods, they had to have been at it for hours!), and into the kitchen. Then they were outdoors.

He fell to the dirt and kissed the ground.

"Whatíd you go and do that for?" Sarah asked.

"Iím so tired of being in that house! I canít stand it! Most of our classes are held outside, and my parents loved the great outdoorsÖ" he tailed off, miserable.

"Ah," she said. "Well, I know where we found you yesterday. Would going there help you think?"

"Sarah, at this point, any place away from your parents would be a selling point," Bruno said dryly.

She led him through crowded streets full of cars and people to a quiet oasis of flowers and greenery.

"Was this it?" he asked. "I donít remember."

"Well, of course not, JonnyóI mean, Bruno," Sarah hurriedly corrected. "You were out of it. Your black clothes were soaked, which is why my parents went to get that garish outfit, once they realized what you are. Theyíd been hoping to find an Elfy-Welfie for years, which is why they kept frequenting the park."

"Why does that matter?"

"The last time anyone in Knightsville saw an Elfy-Welfie, it was in this particular park," she stated. "Why, I donít know."

"You mean the natural beauty isnít enough reason for them to go to the park?" he asked, noting the various types of trees, little furred critters, winged flyers, and small children (most with their mothers or older siblings).

"No, it isnít. At least, not for them," she said. "They wanted an Elfy-Welfie. I liked the scenery, so I didnít mind them looking for what I thought of as a myth."

"How old are you anyway, Sarah?" Bruno asked, trying to divert himself from the thought of his race (not to mention his existence) being dismissed as a myth. Iíll show her myth, he thought darkly.

Sarah, of course, was oblivious to this mood change, which was probably just as well. "Ten, although my parents try to get everyone to believe Iím only seven, because Iím so small."

"Youíre a lot taller than I am," Bruno commiserated.

"Granted, but everyone else in my class is much taller than me. I donít know whatís going on." She sighed. "Iím in the fifth grade advanced class. Why did you want to know?"

"Youíre awfully smart for ten," he said.

"Supposedly Iím a genius, but who cares? My parents donít, unless they want to show off. Even then, they try to make me seem younger by making me wear this stuff," she said, referring to her outlandishly colorful outfit.

"Youíre also remarkably cynical," Bruno observed. "I didnít get that cynical until I turned twenty."

"So, youíre older than I am?" she asked.

"Yes, Iím twenty-four," he said. "Iíd been hoping to grow a bit more, butó" he indicated his height, or rather, the lack of it "óthis is it."

"Donít Elfy-Welfies mature later than Humans?" she asked. "I thought I remembered reading that somewhere."

"We do," he said. "However, we usually get our full growth by age twentyóthatís about equivalent to your ten years of age, Sarahóand if thatís the case, Iím not going to get any taller. So youíll always be taller than me."

"Does that matter?" she asked, looking down at the ground. "My friends are all taller than me, other than you. Iím enjoying being the tall one for a change, so why would that bother you?"

"I guess I donít have to be taller." He sighed. "I had just hoped to be, thatís all. I know itís not going to happen."

"You never know," she said. "I keep hoping, anyway."

They walked a bit farther. Bruno noticed that some flowers were starting to die off; apparently it was near the end of their growth cycle. One nice thing about Elfy parks was that magic could keep flowers blooming longer than normal. Bruno decided heíd ask Sarah later why this wasnít being done here.

They halted. "Bruno, they found you right here," Sarah said. "But if Iíd have known how nice you were, I never would have let them take you!"

"Sarah, I was told to come here," he said gently. "Iím not sure why, but you didnít do anything wrong."

"But maybe someone else could have found you, someone nicer than my parents, if I had stopped them!"

Bruno looked around; no, they appeared to be out of earshot of everyone else. At least the kids who were playing in the park didnít look in their direction. "ĎThings happen the way they do for reasons unbeknownst to us. Learning to live with the unknown is the major lesson of life,í" Bruno quoted.

Sarah stared at him.

"Thatís from the important philosophical treatise, A Poem to the Goddess of Learning," Bruno stammered. "We learn it by rote."

"Ah, sort of like our going to Sunday School?"

"What is Ďsundayschoolí?" Bruno asked, making one word out of the unfamiliar English phrase.

"Well, at the church I attend, we go and learn about God and the Bible and how not to hurt people," Sarah said. "And we learn about it usually once per week, on Sunday. I think thatís why they call it ĎSunday School.í" She smiled.

He smiled foolishly back at her.

"Anyway, Bruno, this is where I found you. Then, because you were too heavy for me to lift, I had to get my parents involved. Iím so very sorry!"

"Oh, Sarah, itís not your fault. Your parents are just opportunists of the worst kind," he said. He decided to change the subject. "I just donít understand why you all were home today. I read that adults go to work every day, and kids under a certain age go to school. Youíre certainlyópardon the expressionóíunder a certain age.í Yet youíre not in school."

"Oh, itís Sunday," she said, as if that should be self-evident.

"And?" he prompted, when nothing else was forthcoming.

"Well, on Sunday, kids go to Sunday School. I just told you about that."

Bruno nodded.

"My parents go to a different church than I do," she said.

"Oh," he said. "But you do have to go to school in the morning?"

"Not if you get me out of here first," she said firmly.

"Iíll do my best," he said. "Take me to where you found me."

She led him to a bare handful of dirt in the middle of the sandbox. He stood atop the dirt, but he didnít feel anything. He decided to sit on it, hoping the law of contagion might do some good, but againÖnothing.

"Itís not working!" Sarah cried. "Why canít you go home?"

"I donít know. Are you sure this is where you found me?"

"Yes, Iím sure!" she said, crying softly. "I donít know what else to do."

"There, there," he said, patting his clothing quickly. He knew he had a handkerchief somewhereÖ"Will this help?"

"Yes," she said, taking the pristine white square of cloth from his hand. "This should do nicely."

As she dried her eyes and blew her nose, he thought. And paced, although the sandbox wasnít well-suited to pacing. He kept wanting to fall, and he knew he looked ridiculous.

He felt like saying, "Sarah, come look at me! I look silly and stupid, just what your parents thought an Elfy-Welfie should be!" But the half-hysteria passed quickly, as it always had.

"Bruno? Why donít you get out of the sandbox? Before your nice black clothing becomes tan and wrinkled and nasty-looking?"

He smiled, agreed with her, and climbed out of the sandbox. Then, to make her laugh, he took her arm into the crook of his elbow, acting for all the world like the lords and ladies of days gone byódays long gone by, even in the Elfy Realm, much less here, by what little he remembered of his Inter-Realm History classes.

To his gratification, she laughed. This made him feel a little better. But he had to get her out of here. There had to be some way, any way, out of this situation!

Finally, he offered, "Iím not sure, but if I try hard and focus, we might be able to leave. Are you game?"

"Yes," she said. "What do I have to do?"

"Just be yourself. I can use you for an anchor, which should help me find my people."

"All rightÖif youíre going to do it, do it fast before I get scared!"

"Stay there. Iíll be here, but my mind is goingÖelsewhereÖ" His voice tailed off as he stared into nothingness.

* * *

His mind roamed across scores of dimensions, searching for his home level, the Elfy Realm. "Damn, they never told me it was going to be this hard," he said. Then he wondered if talking to himself was the first sign of insanity.

"Although not strangling that couple had to be insanity of the rankest sort," he mused, the sound of his own voice a comfort as he continued his search throughout the vast expanses of what was so euphemistically called "no-time." He hoped heíd find his way home soon. His teachers never had prepared him for any of this!

Then he spotted something. It stuck out like a sore thumb, almost like those garish purple sequins did on Daisy-who-wasís dress. Was that it?

His mind ranged closer, searching for someone who was listening for himóor for any other weary traveleróyet he wasnít able to find anyone to hear him. "Now what?" he asked himself.

As he slowly regained consciousness, he realized three things. First, it was dark outside, meaning many hours had passed. Second, it was getting cold, and Sarah wasnít wearing a sweater (nor, come to think of it, was he). Third, he remembered something his teacher Roberto the Wise (sometimes called Bob-bob by the common Elfy-Welfie on the street) had once said.

"Here, Jon," Roberto had said, forgoing the appellation "Jonny-wonny" and handing him a small green book. "If you get into any sort of trouble, use this. But be warned. It will require something of you."

"What?" he asked.

However, Roberto hadnít been clear on that, saying only, "Itís a different something for everyone, Jon. Just be careful, thatís all I ask. Not all of us are unsympathetic, you know."

Sarahís face came into focus, and he tried to smile at her. He couldnít move much, which was unsettling.

"Bruno, are you okay?" she asked.

Slowly, he shook his head no. He knew he couldnít talk just yet. His older classmates hadnít lied about the toll magic took, even if they had lied about almost everything elseÖwell, no matter. Sarah needed him.

"How can I help?" she asked. "I canít carry you, and I canít move you. I canít even get anyone elseís attention. During your zone-out I couldnít do anything, except stare at you and wonder what was going on!"

Hmmm, that was interesting. Heíd never heard or read anything about a Human child augmenting an Elfy-Welfieís magic before, but it appeared Sarah had done just that. No wonder heíd stayed out in the other dimensions so long!

He tried clearing his throat, but all he managed was a soft, sputtering sound. "Are you trying to talk, Bruno?" Sarah asked softly, smiling a bit.

"Y-yes," he sputtered. "AlthoughÖIímÖnot managingÖit well."

"Oh, good! Youíre back! Now, how do we get back to your realm?"

"Iím not sure," he said slowly. "With your help I barely managed to reach my world, but no one was listening."

"What do you mean, no one was listening?"

"Do you know what an answering machine is?" he countered.

"Yes."

"Thatís what I got, a feeling of, ĎCall back later. Weíre not home right now to take your call,í or whatever."

"Oh, great!" she said, sinking to her heels. She looked on the verge of tears.

"But I did think of something that might help."

"What? I thought you said you were exhausted, and no one was listening for us."

"They arenít, but one of my teachers gave me a book to use in case of emergency," he said, glossing over the fact of the unspecified "requirement" Roberto the Wise had discussed. "Letís go back to your house so I can get at my backpack, and Iíll get the book right out. Iím sure itíll help us, somehow."

They walked back through the darkening streets, dodging cars, mopeds, bicycles, and occasional other pedestrians as they went. Why do trips back always take longer than trips out? he thought.

Then, to his complete surprise, Sarah shrugged and said, "I donít know, Bruno. I thought it was one of those law-of-nature things, or one of those unwritten rules Mom keeps talking about."

"Oh," he said, chastened. Then, curiosity got the better of him. "How did you hear me? I didnít think I spoke aloud!"

"Oh, you didnít," she replied. "I have always been able to hear subvocals. Canít everyone?"

"Um, no," he said.

They tromped into the house. Her parents sat on the couch in apparent amity (temporary, he was sure). The man said, "Where were you this afternoon, Elfy-Welfie?" just as the woman said, "Daisy, where were you? I wanted to take you to the ballet this afternoon, didnít you remember?"

"I had to take the Elfy outside. He was homesick," Sarah (formerly Daisy) said calmly. "Thatís why I couldnít go to the ballet. He was ill."

"I didnít know Elfy-Welfies got homesick," the man said, quelled.

"Yes, they do," Sarah said. "Quite often. Iíll probably have to take him outside again in the morning before I go to school."

Much to Brunoís surprise, Sarahís parents accepted this explanation for their long disappearance. He was sure Sarah was doing something, but what? Nothing except magic could shut those two up for long. But he hadnít felt anything magical. Hmm. Bruno wondered if Human magic felt enough like Elfy magic for him to know how to understand it, react to it or (at worst) shield himself from it.

In the conversational lull that followed, Bruno asked, "Sir?"

"Yes, Elfy?" the man asked.

"Where did you put my backpack?"

"Oh, your things?" The man frowned for a moment, then his brow cleared. "We put them in the attic. Is it time for you to sleep now? Of course, you need your things, you need your things!"

"Yes, I need my things," Bruno said as calmly as possible, while he thought furiously. What was Sarah doing to her parents? First, they hadnít noticed heíd changed clothes before they left. Next, they didnít notice that both his and Sarahís clothes were now dirty. Finally, after squabbling all day for the right to take him out and show him off to their friends, all they could manage to do now was to give him the bumís rush.

Also, why was Sarahís mother so quiet? Before, nothing could have shut her up. Yet now, she sat as if she didnít want to call attention to herself. Whatís going on here? he thought.

"We put your backpack in the attic," the man said, repeating himself like a Stepford husband. (Bruno knew he wasnít supposed to understand such specific cultural referents. He just did.) "Let me show you the way up."

Sarah interrupted with, "No, Father. You know how your arthritis bothers you. You really donít want to be tromping up to the attic again tonight, do you?"

"Ah, no, I donít. Thank you, Daisy," the man replied, tipping her a grateful (albeit condescending) smile.

What could cause two such argumentative people to become pliant? What, if anything, had gone on while he and Sarah were out?

"Good. Let me take him up there," Sarah said, taking Bruno by the hand and leading him out of the room. They went through a hallway he hadnít seen before and up three flights of stairs.

"Noówonderóyouódidnítówantóhimótrompingóupótheóstairs!" he said as they neared the top of the last flight, wheezing hard. Why did it take more out of him to walk up these stairs than it had for him to come back from the other dimensions? If he ever made it back to the Elfy Realm, he resolved to ask his teacher, Roberto the Wise, about that.

"Oh, I didnít want him finding that book before we did," she replied. "Although he really does have arthritis, and it bothers him, too. It seemed that Ďdiscretion is the better part of valorí in this instance, or some such."

"Oh, another one of your quotes," he said.

"Well, quotes do well to fill those conversational null-spots, donít they?"

"Zcuckfshwl," he muttered in his own language.

"What was that?"

"I canít directly translate it," he equivocated.

"Oh, itís a swear word?" she asked mischievously.

"Yes, but Iím not going to pronounce it again. Youíll just have to think up your own swear words!"

He concentrated on making it all the way up the stairs, once again noticing that Sarah was having no problems despite her legs being no longer than his. What in all the Godsí names was going on in this house?

"I wasnítÖcut outÖfor this," he muttered darkly.

Finally, they were in the attic. As he recovered his breath, she searched for a light, finding the switch at last. A dust-devil stirred up at the movement, until Bruno silenced him with a flick of one wrist.

"At least I can still do that," he said, satisfied.

In the back corner, he found his backpack. Search as they might, though, they couldnít find the book.

"Now what?" Sarah cried.

"Let me search my pockets," Bruno said desperately. He started with his pants, and ended with his top shirt pockets. Finally, he looked inside his shirt, and found the small green book tucked between his waistband and his shirt (where he hadnít put it earlier). "The Emergency Book" it said in Bilre, the Elfy language.

"This is going to take a while," he muttered. "Maybe you should try to get some rest, Sarah."

"Nope," she said. "Iím staying here to make sure you just donít take off in the morning."

"Why would you think that?"

"Why should you care?"

"Man, oh man, are you cynical," he said. "You interest me, but your parents donít. I want to be around just to find out what happens next. So of course Iím not about to leave now!"

"Oh," she said in a quiet, small voice. "Forgive me for doubting you. I havenít had many friends, you know."

"Well, you have one now," he said firmly. "But for the moment, I need to concentrate. If youíre going to stay here, you might want to relax."

Rummaging around his backpack, he found his incense, his incense burner, a few candles of various sizes and shapes (fortunately none that would shock Sarah), some matches, and a few other things he might need. While looking for this and that, he said, "This will take a while, but you donít need to be uncomfortable while I search this book."

"What do you need all that stuff for?"

"To help me concentrate," he replied. "Iím not particularly gifted with magic. I need all the help I can get, and doing certain things in a certain order to get ready is said to help a lot."

"I think youíre plenty gifted, Bruno," Sarah said. "After all, youíre my friend, right?"

"Well, yes," he said, smiling and flushing slightly. She really was cute, in a small fashion. Too bad she was way too young for him.

"Well, as my friend, youíre definitely a gifted person, because Iím gifted," she replied. "We just have to find out what your gifts are."

"Ah," he said. "I hadnít thought of it that way before."

"See that you do in the future," she said, settling down on the floor to watch him light the incense and place it in the burner, then light the candles. "In fact, make certain of it."

He settled down to read, looking up around three in the morning to notice Sarah fast asleep, head pillowed angelically on folded hands. She doesnít do anything by half measures, he thought admiringly.

Then he thought harder. Why should I admire a small child, just because she looks cute while she sleeps? Something was wrong with this whole situation.

At that thought, a picture formed in the book. "Hello, Jon," Roberto the Wise said. "I hear youíre in trouble. Already. How can I help?"

"Roberto, are you really there?" Bruno asked eagerly.

"Well, if Iím not, Iím a particularly well-fleshed imitation," the image said with a grin. "In either case, I can help you."

"Well, for one, I need to get out of here," Bruno said. "But I also need some answers."

"Say on," Roberto said. "But do it fast, all right? I donít have all night."

Bruno rolled his eyes. "Roberto, what in all the Hells am I doing here? I recall being told I had to leave and that I was going to the Human Realm, whether I liked it or not. But I donít remember much else."

"What, youíve forgotten the terminal boredom you found with all-things-Elfy already?" Roberto teased.

"No, I havenít," he said, flushing brightly. "You would know; you were the one who told me to keep hanging in there, and helped me learn as much magic as I could even though I thought sometimes Iíd never learn." Bruno rubbed his head hard. Sometimes it had hurt so much after trying to learn all that stuffÖ

Damn, now heíd lost some of what Roberto had said! "Say again, Roberto? Youíre breaking up. I canít understand you."

"Ah, youíre zoning out again. I see the silly Humans havenít broken you of that bad habit yet," Roberto said. "You can take the Elfy out of the culture, but you canít take the culture out of the Elfy."

"Roberto," Bruno said warningly.

"Oh, all right," Roberto said, smiling. "You do know that the Elfy High Council wanted you gone because you were an irritant, right?"

"Yes, I did know that. But that doesnít answer my question," Bruno said, starting to get annoyed.

"Hear me out, will you?"

"I will, for the moment. Continue," he said, with a wave of his hand.

Roberto raised an eyebrow at that show of irritation, but otherwise allowed no reaction to show. (Roberto was a very well-bred Elfy-Welfie.)

"You were too different, in their minds, and they didnít know what to do with you. Whatís worseóand what angered me very muchóis that some seemed to think it was perfectly fine to treat another living being with disdain and disrespect."

"That doesnít answer my question either," Bruno said grimly.

"I know. Iím getting to that. Earth, at least the dimension youíre on presently, needed at least one Elfy-Welfie observer. There have been some very strange currents flowing out of there, things not seen in over four hundred years. You were Ďelectedí to go for the simple reason that the ĎPowers that Beí among our people didnít want you around anyway."

"Oh, thanks a lot!" Bruno exclaimed, trying to keep his tears from showing. "I already knew they lied to me, the other students, and most of the other teachers. You never did. You always helped."

"And Iím going to help you now, too," Roberto said. "Díyou see that little girl on the floor?"

"Yes," he said. "Sheís been helping me."

"Sheís been doing no such thing," Roberto replied firmly. "Sheís trying to drain you of your magic, whatís left of it. The shields I just placed on you have turned her magic aside, and instead youíve drained her."

"If sheís the problem, then why was she helping me to find a way to talk with you? When I couldnít do it alone?"

"I donít know. And weíre running out of time. Get to the point!"

"Sarah would never harm me. In fact, she helped me reach out to the other dimensions."

"Well, maybe itís not her," Roberto said, "although from this distance it seems like it. Anyway, this is your last shot: what do you need?"

"I need out of here, for both me and her," Bruno said. "Oh, and I need new clothes, too. These simply wonít do. Send something for her thatíll fit, all right?"

"Problem solved," Roberto said, winking. "Next time, give me something hard, will you? I need a challenge."

At those insouciant words, the picture in the book dissolved, and as it went so did the attic. Bruno found himself, along with Sarah, on a grassy knoll that could be anywhere. The sun was coming up over the horizon (what horizon? where had that come from?), and Sarah was now dressed in a dark maroon jumpsuit similar to the black outfit he was wearing, complete to matching high-tops with the same stealthy-movement solesónot that Sarah needed any help to move silently. He also noticed that her outfit included a backpack just like his. "What on Earth, and in all the Godsí names, is that backpack doing on her?"

The book fell open, and Robertoís face briefly appeared. "You asked for something like what you had, didnít you?" he asked, and poof! He was gone again.

In fact, if they werenít somewhere totally different than theyíd been before, he would have thought that Roberto was a few flowers short of a bouquet. But they were somewhere elseÖnow they just had to find out where.

 

Chapter 3

Bruno went and knelt next to Sarah. He didnít want to startle her, so he gently whispered in her ear, "Sarah, wake up. Wake up, please."

"No, Mom, just a few minutes moreÖ" she whined, only half-awake.

"Iím hardly your mother, Sarah," Bruno said with asperity.

At that, Sarah bolted upright, and said, "No, of course youíre not. Why should you be?"

"You were talking in your sleep."

"Oh," she said, wiping the sleep out of her eyes. She looked around avidly, and said, "You did it! Weíre away!"

"Yes, weíre away," Bruno replied glumly. "But I donít know where we are."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean just that. I donít know where we are. I opened up the emergency book, the one I showed you, and searched it for most of the night. It was well after halfway between midnight and dawn when I started thinking about how odd your house was."

"What do you mean?"

"Sarah, youíre starting to repeat yourself." Bruno laughed.

"I canít help it, itís early," she grumbled.

"Ah, youíre not a morning person?"

"Nope. Never have been, never will be if I have anything to say about it."

"Whatever you say, Sarah," Bruno said, taking it on faith that a personality as strong as Sarahís would determine at ten years of age that she would never be a morning person. "Iím not going to argue. May I continue?"

"Okay, hit me with your best shot."

"What?"

"Oh, itís a saying my parents have, thatís all," she replied. "I think itís from a really old song."

"Ah, all right," Bruno replied, still very puzzled. "Your house is very odd, Sarah."

"How do you know?" Sarah asked defensively. "How many Earth houses were you in?"

"Only the one. But houses are houses! And that house was very strange, take my word for it. Please? Because youíre my friend?"

"Oh, all right," Sarah grumped. "I still donít know whatís so odd about my house, but whatever. Iíll trust you, for the moment at least." Then, she brightened a bit and said, "Still friends?"

"Yes, of course weíre still friends!" Bruno shouted. "Why wouldnít we be? I have no idea where weíre at. Iím not about to throw away the only new friend Iíve had in years in this strange place!"

"Ah," she replied, quelled. "I forgot about that."

"Itís when you forget stuff as important as that I remember youíre only ten years old."

"I mostly donít remember it myself, Bruno," Sarah said, sighing. "Sometimes I feel so much older, then I look atÖthisÖ" She looked down at her outfit and started laughing. "Where did my dress go? Did you have anything to do with getting rid of it?"

"Yes, in a wayÖ" Bruno watched as Sarah pirouetted on the grass. At least sheís enjoying being away from her parents, he thought.

"Thank you for the wonderful new outfit. Itís just like yours, isnít it?"

"YesÖI was getting to that," Bruno replied, trying to stay calm. "Forgive me, Sarah. I donít tell stories well, especially when I have to tell it all out of order like this."

"Iím sorry," she said. "Iíll be quiet." Then she sank down onto the grass and put her head into her hands.

At that, he went to her and gave her a hug. He didnít know why until her tear-stained face looked up at him and smiled. "You donítÖlike it when I feel bad, do you?" she asked.

"No, I donít," he replied softly. "I donít like it at all. But I do have to explain what happened. Will you please listen to me? Without tears?"

"I can do that, my friend."

"Good." Bruno smiled, then went to get the emergency book. This time, oddly enough, it came right to his hand. "Díyou see this?"

"Yes," she said. "What about it?"

"Can you read the title?"

"Yes, it says ĎFor emergencies only; consult at your peril,í" she said. "What is peril, anyway? Iíve heard of perilous times, but I thought that applied only to wars."

"No, perilous times are those like weíre in now," Bruno said, sighing. "We donít know where we are, we donít have any food, we donít have any waterÖ"

"Let me look, Bruno," Sarah said. She started rummaging through his backpack; finding no food there, she started looking through her own. She took the backpack and threw it, stamping her foot. "Thereís no food or water there, and I want some. We need some! Iím hungry, and I am sure you are too."

"Yes, I am rather hungry, now that you mention it. I could use some more of that ham, or a bit of cheese, or some dark bread, and some water, and some juice, andÖ"

"Ah, youíre really hungry," she teased. Then she looked back at her backpack. "Does that backpack look different to you?"

"It looks lumpy, probably because of the way you threw it."

"No, Bruno. Come closer. Look at the blasted thing!"

He went over to her backpack and picked it up. It seemed heavier than his backpack. "Why donít you look again?" he asked. "I canít get your backpack to open."

"Oh, you can look, I donít mind," she said.

"I think you have to give me the backpack open. Thatís why my backpack will open for you, because youíve already Ďmetí it," he replied. He handed the backpack back to Sarah, and started pacing.

"A thinking backpack?"

"No, not exactly, Sarah. Itís just to protect against theft. Roberto made quite a bit of money on the spell patent for this when it first came out many years ago."

"Whoís Roberto?" she asked as she re-opened the backpack. "Nope, I donít see anything, but itís sure heavier than before. Bruno, come over here again and check the backpack for any hidden compartments, okay?"

"Sure thing," he said, walking to the backpack. "My backpack doesnít have any hidden compartmentsó"

"That you found," she added.

"Yeah," he agreed. "But yours does. Look here!" He indicated an inner pocket with a partially hidden zipper. Sarah unzipped the pocket, and bread, cheese, and two water bottles fell out.

"Breakfast is served," she said.

Bruno stuffed the bread and cheese into his mouth, almost afraid it was going to disappear. Sarah ate more slowly and delicately, savoring every morsel. When they were finished, they each took a water bottle and sipped. Bruno was pleasantly surprised by the slightly orange-flavored water. "Does your water taste orange?" he asked, tilting an eyebrow.

"No, mine tastes like lemon and lime," she said, sipping blissfully.

"Well, thatís interesting. Itís almost as if they knew our tastes in advanceÖ"

"Whoever they are," she put in.

"Damn, I wish youíd stop doing that, Sarah!" he exclaimed. "Yes, whoever they are, although I strongly suspect itís Roberto."

"How would Roberto, whoever he is, know enough about me to program preferences?"

"Roberto is the best teacher I have ever had," he said, stumbling over the words. "In some ways, heís almost the only real friend Iíve had since my parents died a few years ago." His eyes teared up again. "I wish I had a tissue."

"Check your secret compartment," she advised.

Bruno went back to his backpack, shaking his head all the while. Inside, just as Sarah had predicted, there was now an extra, hidden pocket in the same place as Sarahís backpackÖand his now contained tissues. He took one, marveling at the oddity of it all, and mopped his face. "Thank you," he breathed.

"Youíre quite welcome," she said.

"I wasnít thanking you, Sarah, although Iím glad youíre so helpful. But are you the one whoís giving us all this stuff?"

"Not as far as I know."

"I rest my case," he said, throwing the tissue away (while lamenting the lack of garbage cans) and wiping his hands on his pantsuit. "And maybe youíre right after all; maybe it is a thinking backpack. Although why Roberto would keep it secret, I have no idea."

"I donít know either, but Iím glad he sent us some," she said. "Roberto must be a nice guy, if he brought us here and provided us with these so thoughtful thinking backpacks."

"Wherever we are," he replied dolefully, deciding in that instant not to tell Sarah about Robertoís doubts. She didnít deserve such hurt. "Until I see him, I wonít be able to ask about the backpacks. They must be some sort of experimental prototypeÖhopefully we donít have to worry about them malfunctioning." He frowned at this. Elfy malfunctions were legendary, which was why progress often went at an incremental pace.

"Why donít we go exploring?" she asked brightly, startling him out of his reverie. "I have a brand new, comfortable outfit to wear, and a good friendÖyou still are my friend, arenít you?"

"Yes, Sarah, Iím still your friend." Bruno sighed, wondering how long it was going to take her to understand that. He was jerked abruptly out of his musing when Sarah danced up, grabbed the backpacks, and skipped away. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"Exploring! Come see!" She exuberantly performed a few pirouettes, then tripped away as if the weight of two fully loaded backpacks was nothing.

Swearing under his breath, Bruno got up and followed Sarah, albeit much more slowly. It seemed like the manicured, short grass went on forever. Oddly, there were very few bugs, those being the types that appeared on every plane: gnats, mites, mosquitoes, and the ever-popular biting flies.

Bruno watched Sarah run through the grass while still carrying the backpacks, and wondered why she had so much energy when he had none. Could Roberto have been right? Could she be draining my energy and using it for herself? Although if she is, she canít possibly know itÖmaybe she needs training. Although he didnít know how Elfy girls got their training in magic, much less how a Human girl would get any.

Bruno knew that girl and boy Elfys were sent away to separate schools at the age of twelve. Bruno himself had been held back and home-schooled by his parents, not for being slow, but rather because they hadnít trusted the school system. Bruno had never been sent to a segregated, all-boy Elfy school until he turned sixteen. That was right after his parents had died in a fiery aircar crash, after heíd become a ward of the state.

Many Elfys used magic frivolously, almost as if it was going out of style, and they didnít want to use technology. Yet his people had aircars, while Sarahís realm, the Human-Earth Realm, didnít. Elfys would use toasters, light rail, and buses, when they wouldnít use electricity to heat their homes (why pay for electricity if the magic was free?) and only used modern plumbing for elaborate, sybaritic layouts. He wondered if the Humans had those, too. He simply hadnít had enough time on Sarahís EarthÖhe needed to know more!

If the Elfy High Council was going to just send him out, why allow him to be so woefully unprepared? This was just silly!

Bruno rubbed at his head, and frowned. He felt a headache coming on; surely, this meant he should stop thinking so hard. He vowed to ask as many questions of Roberto, providing Roberto found them anytime soon (wherever they were), as he needed in order to make the headache go away.

This avowal immediately made him feel better.

But he still had no idea where he was. He didnít recognize anything, except green grass, yet he had the oddest feeling. He wasnít sure, but he thought they somehow had made it back to the Elfy Realm after all, and the not-knowing made him dizzy.

Sarah had stopped and appeared to be weaving on her feet. Bruno jogged the equivalent of three city blocks to get to her, hoping sheíd not fall before he made it.

"Bruno, I feelÖsick," she gasped when he was only a few steps away. He sprinted toward her and turned her around; her greenish-white face was alarming. He told her to let the packs fall, then gently helped Sarah lay down on the ground.

"Will you two help me? I need a pillow for Sarah," he asked the backpacks. Before he could feel too silly about asking backpacks, of all things, for help, a fluffy white pillow appeared in the air by his right hand. Maybe the packs had more power here for some reason? Bruno reached out and caught it before it hit the ground. "Thanks," he said over his shoulder to the backpacks, as it never hurt to be polite.

He went to Sarah, knelt on the grass, and put the pillow under her head.

He started stroking her long, black hair, just to soothe her. He remembered, distantly, that his mother had used to do the same thing when he was a wee small Elfy and ill from eating some herb he wasnít supposed toÖanyway, he stroked. He talked, mostly nonsense, and tried not to think about the two of them in the middle of nowhere, one very ill and one mildly so. After all, considering Sarahís sudden illness and his own headache and dizziness, wasnít it more likely than not that theyíd both been exposed to something? He wasnít a completely stupid Elfy.

"Sarah, hold on," he said as he continued to stroke her hair. "Somehow, Roberto will come. I know he will!"

"Why are you so sure, Jonny-wonny?"

"Please donít call me Jonny-wonny, Sarah, or Iíll start calling you Daisy again," he threatened, smiling to take the edge off his very real threat.

"All rightÖBruno," she gasped, and tried to smile. It was a feeble thing, like to her real smile as a tiny birthday candle on a cupcake was to a candelabrum.

"Donít try to talk, Sarah," he soothed, and continued to stroke her hair. This was very like petting a cat, he mused. Except Sarah didnít claw when she was done with the petting.

He tried not to panic, but he had no way to treat her illness, and no way to get her any help. He felt completely useless, as he had no healing magicÖvery few did outside of the clerical orders, and even Roberto himself had very little.

He propped the backpacks behind him and asked them to stay put. They did. Then he fell asleep, her cradled on his lap (with the pillow between) and his arms around her. Lost on a sea of too-green grass, with no way out in sight.

That was how Roberto found them in the morning.

 

Chapter 4

Bruno woke to a hand shaking him. "Wake up, Jon! Wake up!"

"Go Ďway," he mumbled. "Mínameís Bruno."

"No, your name is Jon."

"No, itís Bruno!" He bolted upright into the arms of Roberto the Wise. "Roberto, what took you so long? Where in the Hells are we? And whatís wrong with Sarah?"

Roberto ran one hand through his salt and pepper hair. "It took me some time to navigate the maze around this park. Now do you know where we are?"

"Geadhail Mebrugud?" Bruno guessed. "The little-used Meditation Park? The place most Elfys tend to forget about because itís too dangerous to go in there?"

"Got it in one. Of course, youíre forgetting one thing, student of mine. There is another reason I brought you here, other than the isolated nature of the place. Think about it while I check on your companion."

Bruno thought, slightly distracted by Roberto calling Sarah his "companion." In some ways, that was a compliment, because in Elfy culture it meant Sarah could not be separated from him during this trial except by death. In other ways it was not, for the very same reason.

Roberto went over and felt for the pulse at Sarahís neck. "Sheíll keep," he said.

"You shouldnít treat Sarah that way," Bruno protested. "Sheís been very good to me."

"No, she hasnít. Thatís what Iíve been trying to tell you." Roberto frowned.

"Check her, Roberto! Sheís all good. Thereís nothing Dark within her at all. Check before you condemn; isnít that always what you taught me?"

"Oh, all right, Jon. Iíll check," Roberto said, as if humoring him. "But think first about why I brought you here."

"Well, you donít completely trust Sarah, but I do, so you wanted to check her out. Thatís blindingly obvious."

"Quite correct," Roberto agreed. "But thatís not entirely it. Iíll let you in on a secret; part of what took me so long was because I needed to get away from Robin Goodfellow Academy in such a way as to not draw suspicion. Some of the headmasters want you permanently lost, you know, and I didnít want them to know you were back."

"Thatís understandable, I suppose," Bruno said, filing the information away for later study. "But you really should give Sarah the hazelnut test."

Roberto raised an eyebrow.

"Come on, what do you have to lose?"

Roberto snorted, grabbed a hazelnut from his backpack, and put it in her mouth. There was no reaction.

"There! What did I tell you?" Bruno asked exultantly. "Thereís nothing wrong with her. Sheís wholly of the Light."

"She might just be diabetic; you know what this realm does to diabetics. The hazelnut test isnít always reliable." Roberto took the nut out of her mouth.

At least heís not going to let her choke on it, Bruno thought, obscurely touched.

"It is reliable ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, as you well know," Bruno corrected. "Youíre splitting hairs, and youíre also wasting my oh-so-valuable time. Are you going to help us or not?"

"Yes, I want to help you." Roberto sighed, shook his head, and started to pace.

Bruno shot him a sharp look. What is it about everyone needing to pace when they think hard? "Roberto, you need to help me. Sarah is ill now, but wasnít before we came here. What happened to her?"

"I put a spell on her food," Roberto replied.

"You what?" Bruno shouted. "Thatís against everything we believe in! Food is supposed to be sacrosanct!"

"It is allowed if youíre worried about the taint of the Dark," Roberto replied. "Slowing her up while someone, like me, checks out her bona-fides is perfectly fair."

"But thatís not all you were doing, was it?" Bruno asked. "You didnít believe in her! Why?"

"You know thereís something strange going on in her house, right?"

"Yes, I know, but stick to the point! Why didnít you believe in her?"

"I thought Sarah might be Dark, thus causing the problem. Now I know that she most likely isnít."

"She isnít Dark! Sheís only ten. How could she be Dark so soon?"

"I donít know, but thereís something wrong there. However, I tentatively agree with you. She doesnít appear to be Dark, but she could still be tainted by the Dark influences in that house."

"Wouldnít I have felt it?" Bruno asked, startled. "I felt oddity, yes, but not Dark."

"Youíre still young, especially in magic, and itís possible you could miss it. Plus, Dark in the Human Realm feels different than Dark in the Elfy Realm."

"That makes sense," Bruno said, nodding his head slowly. "But please, you need to believe me. She isnít like her parents. Iíd never make common cause with anyone malign, you know that!"

"You wouldnít normally, Jon, but the whole situation isnít normal. After all, how many times have you been previously sent to the Human Realm?"

"All right, I concede that point," Bruno said, running his fingers through his short dark hair. "But you should trust Sarah. Sheís good! Why wonít you get that through your head? And will you please take the spell off her?"

"Oh, all right. In a few minutes. I want to talk with you alone."

"Roberto, I know Sarah can hear us," Bruno told him. "She hears subvocalizations; she told me this back in her Realm. If she can do that, surely she can hear us now. And youíve already insulted her and made her ill. Why should she trust you?"

"Iíll worry about that later," Roberto said, rather too casually for Brunoís comfort. "I prefer we talk alone, without interruption."

"As you will, Roberto," Bruno said, sighing. "But Iím really starting to wonder about you."

"If you canít trust your teacher, who can you trust?"

"Exactly," Bruno said, nodding. "But I donít think youíre going to understand."

"Try me."

Bruno stood up, looked at Sarah as she slept peacefully, and sighed. What, if anything, could he say that would make Roberto understand?

"Díyou know, Roberto, I used to look up to you?" At his teacherís quizzical look, Bruno explained, "Itís not because youíre six inches taller, not just that youíre older, and certainly not solely because youíre my favorite teacher. I believed you stood for good, and right, and the Light."

"Even the best of us do things they might later regret, for the common good," Roberto muttered.

"How is it for the common good to put a spell on Sarahís food? You never should have done that! You poisoned her! How does that help?"

"I didnít mean to poison her." Roberto shook his head. "It should just have made her sleepy."

"Well, it didnít," Bruno said irritably. "It made her ill, and me too! Why did you do that? Sheís never harmed you!"

Roberto opened his mouth, but Bruno waved him down. "Save it, Roberto. JustÖsave it."

Roberto sat on the ground, looking astonished.

"Listen up," Bruno continued. "Weíre going to have new house rules around here. You arenít going to treat Sarah badly ever again. Sheís an innocent child, and you know better! Now, reverse your spell!" Or prepare to suffer the consequences, he thought.

"I just did, Jon," Roberto said quietly, with an odd look ofówas it respect?óin his eyes. "It should take a little while, anywhere from twenty minutes to a few hours, for your companion to wake up."

At Brunoís angry look, Roberto tried to explain. "Please, you have to understand. I was worried about you. I didnít want the Elfy High Council to send you there with no backup and no protection."

"That still doesnít excuse what youíve done," Bruno muttered.

"If I didnít care about you, why did I give you the emergency book? Why did I transport you and your companion? Why am I here right now, for that matter?"

"I know you care, Roberto," Bruno said, annoyance creeping into his voice despite his best efforts. "But you should have trusted me, should have known better. You trained me, after all. Iím not stupid."

"I know you arenít," Roberto said, quelled.

"Maybe I should chalk it up to one of your old sayings?" Bruno asked, smiling a bit.

"Sometimes fools have the best of intentions? That saying?"

"Yep," Bruno said.

Roberto laughed for a moment, then sobered. "She will be fine, Jon, I promise you. And you know my promisesó"

"Are still good," Bruno interrupted. "Yes, I know."

"Iím sorry I worried you," Roberto said. "Now Iím going to say something you almost never hear a teacher say: You were right, and I was wrong."

"Ah," Bruno said, satisfied. "Then you believe me?"

"Iím trying to," Roberto said, sighing. "Thereís nothing I can detect thatís wrong with her at all, although she does have a great deal of magical power."

"I told you that already!" Bruno shouted. "How do you think I got the answering machine message?"

"What answering machine message?"

"When I went into the Ďno-timeí zone, trying to get back to the Elfy Realm with Sarah, all I got was a message telling me to basically get lost and try again later," Bruno said. "I thought you set that up?"

"Nope, it wasnít me," Roberto said. "Although it might have been one of the other teachers who didnít agree with the Elfy High Council, as you have a few other partisansÖIíll ask around."

"Oh great, another player in the game," Bruno groused. "Iím confused enough already! As if Sarahís house wasnít enough."

"What is with that house?" Roberto asked. "I had an awful time cutting through the interference to answer your distress call. And why do you keep calling heró" he motioned toward the girl "óSarah, anyway? I thought her name was Daisy?"

"Yes, it was Daisy, Roberto," Bruno said, smiling. "Emphasis on was."

"I donít get it," Roberto said.

"Her parents named her Daisy," Bruno said, enunciating very slowly. "I re-named her Sarah. She did the same for me. Although Iíll still answer to Jon, I prefer Bruno because itís the name she gave me. Besides, it doesnít rhyme with very much."

"Bruno? Juneau? Uno? Yeah, thereís not too much you can rhyme with that, as far as I can tell, unless you pervert the nameÖ" Roberto mused. "Of course, when you get older, you can do as I do and tell everyone to flip off."

"Thatís what I plan to do. If I have to, Iíll just tell them to zcuck themselves." Bruno laughed.

"Anyway, your friend will improve soon, and Iím sorry. So tell me about her house." Bruno sat for several minutes and told Roberto everything heíd noticed about Sarahís house while being imprisoned there.

"How strange," Roberto said. "Maybe thereís a blood connection?"

"You think her parents may have set a spell on her?"

"Or on the house," Roberto said, confirming it with a nod. "Sarah is good, from what you say." At Brunoís warning look, he added, "And from my testing."

Bruno nodded, satisfied.

"But her parents, on the other handÖ"

Sarah sat up and shouted, "I am good, Bobby-wobby!"

"Oh, Sarah! Thank all the Gods and Goddesses youíre all right!" Bruno went to Sarah and hugged her close. Sarah hugged back, then looked at Roberto defiantly.

"Why wouldnít I be good?" she demanded.

"Now, DaisyÖ" Roberto said, trying to placate her.

"Daisy-me-nothing! Donít you Daisy me, Bobby-wobby!" Sarah shouted. "My name is Sarah! Get it right!"

"What is it with kids and their secret names?" Roberto said, half-laughing. "All right, SarahÖ"

"Why wouldnít I be good, anyway?" Sarah repeated. "Whatís wrong with my house? Whatís a blood connection?"

Oh, this is going to be good, Bruno thought, as Sarah stood up. For some strange reason, a child-sized Human and a fully-grown Elfy were the same height, so Robertoís rather tall stature didnít faze her one bit. In fact, they appeared to be a good physical match.

He listened as Sarah castigated Roberto, calling him every name sheíd ever heard and a few sheíd just made up, and smiled to himself. Sheís sure learned how to argue; maybe thatís one good thing her parents did. Sheís not unarmed against Roberto.

Although Roberto definitely seemed to be unarmed when it came to Sarah. Bruno decided to intervene on Robertoís behalf, as Roberto seemed clueless.

"Sarah, Roberto was afraid for me," Bruno said, trying to be kind.

"Why? I would never harm you! Youíre the best friend Iíve ever had!" Sarah started to cry. She went to her backpack and pulled out a tissue.

Maybe Roberto super-charged Sarahís backpack, so it hears her subvocals? Bruno thought. Because there surely wasnít any tissue in there before.

At his thought, Sarah looked up and smiled. Bruno realized that he must have been subvocalizing again, and blushed.

Roberto cleared his throat.

"Look, Sarah. I know youíre not about to harm Jon. I tested you myself."

"Was that what the business with the nut was all about? Because I really didnít understand that," Sarah said.

"Yes, that was part of it. Iím afraid that Jon has many enemies."

"Iím not one of them," Sarah said. "Iím his friend. Canít you see that?" At that question, Sarah pirouetted. "He changed my name. He changed my outfit. He changed my circumstances."

"How do you know the word circumstances at your age?" Roberto asked.

"Iím a genius," Sarah said airily.

"Ah," Roberto said. "Even genius Elfys donít do this well at ten-equivalent, Sarah. Iím a bit discombobulated."

"Discombobulated? You, Bob-bob?" Sarah laughed.

"Itís not funny," Roberto grumbled, evidently irritated by the play on his name and looking to Jon for support. When he saw that Bruno was laughing even harder than Sarah, he reiterated, "Well, itís not!"

"Oh, all right. Iíll stop teasing, and I guess Iíll forgive you, too," Sarah said, frowning slightly. "But you need to understand this: Bruno is the first male friend Iíve ever had. I will never hurt him. I am good, I am!"

"I know you are. Help me out, Jon?" Roberto asked, waving his hand toward his erstwhile student.

"I know youíre my friend, Sarah, and thatís all that matters," Bruno said, wondering if that was the right thing to say.

"But he should care, too," Sarah said, pointing at Roberto. "Heís your friend. Shouldnít he be my friend, too?"

Bruno went and put his arms around Sarah. "Look, Sarah," he said, whispering up into her ear, "it doesnít matter to me whether or not Roberto likes you. But I want him to like you, because I know youíre good."

"So, thereís a difference in that? I donít really see it," she said, whispering conspiratorially back, her breath momentarily warming Brunoís ear.

"A lot of people donít," Bruno whispered, breaking the hug. Then, smiling, he indicated Roberto. "I had the hardest timeÖ" he said in his normal voice, before Roberto interrupted.

"And the hardest headÖ" Roberto muttered.

"Great. Now youíre doing it, too?" Bruno couldnít help rolling his eyes.

"Doing what?" Roberto asked innocently.

"Oh, forget it. Just forget it!"

"Bruno, itís okay," Sarah said, smiling. "I think I know what youíre talking about."

"You do?" he asked.

"Yes." She smiled serenely. "Roberto didnít know how to handle you either, did he?"

"No, he didnít," Bruno said, nodding. "Although it was more that he had to learn how to understand what I was saying. At first, after the accident, I had a great deal of trouble talking. And I had to relearn my magic all over again, almost like it was the very first time."

"Well, that makes sense. Every time people meet, they have to work hard at understanding each other. My grandma used to tell me that, and I think she was right," Sarah said, as if quoting a proverb.

"Your grandma? Where was she and why didnít I meet her? She sounds nice," Bruno said. Then, astonished, he saw Sarah once again break down and cry.

"Oh, honey, Iím sorry," he breathed, not noticing the endearment heíd used in his haste to comfort Sarah.

"Itís all right," she said, not looking all right at all. "Youíve known loss, too."

"Sarah, you not only sound older than ten, you sound much older than ten," Roberto said.

"How would you know, Roberto? Have you met many ten-year-old Human girls before?" Sarah asked with asperity.

"No, but I recognize when something is abnormal. You, Sarah, are not normal."

"Thanks a lot, Roberto!" Bruno shouted. "Way to make Sarah feel good, there!"

"Iím sorry, but itís the truth. I suspect something, but must check it outÖ" Robertoís eyes went glassy. "I have to test some hypotheses, and soon."

This statement meant nothing to Bruno.

"Sure, Roberto, but can we please get back to the subject at hand?"

"UmÖhmmmÖyes. What was the subject again?" Roberto asked.

"Why were you so worried that Sarah might not be a good person?"

"Oh, that," Roberto said, smiling.

"Why in all the Hells are you smiling?" Bruno asked.

"Well, it has a lot less to do with Sarah than you might think."

"Why?"

"Because it has more to do with you."

"What?" Bruno asked, shouting. "Me? Iím nothing. Iím no one. I was sent off because the Elfy High Council didnít like me. So you said, and so I believe!"

"Well, it has more to do with what the Elfy High Council thinks youíll become," Roberto replied mysteriously. "They want to use you before you end up using them."

"What?" Bruno asked. "Now Iím even more confused than I was before!"

"Ah, forget it. Iíll explain it all to you later," Roberto said.

"Later? When will these explanations commence, Roberto? Youíve been putting it off now for how long? An hour, maybe two?" Bruno started to pace, walking around a now-prostrate Sarah with a brief "Excuse me."

"Soon," Roberto soothed. "Really soon. But now, I have to talk to Sarah."

"Why?" Bruno asked.

"Because sheís a wild card."

"What kind of card am I?" Sarah said, her ears perking up. "A greeting card? If so, would I be a nice one or a bad one?"

"Definitely a nice one," Bruno said.

"I said you were a wild card," Roberto stressed to Sarah. "As in, I donít know what part you have to play in all this. Youíre obviously meant to be Brunoís companionÖ"

"His what?" Sarah asked.

"His companion. Someone who cannot be separated from him for very long, or his whole mission to the Human Realmóyour Earthówill fail," Roberto clarified.

"Then why should I allow you to carry Sarah off?" Bruno asked the obvious question.

"I donít know," Roberto said, spreading his hands. "Because you trust me, at least a little?"

"Iím not sure why I should," Bruno said. "Tell me something I donít already know."

"All right, I will," Roberto said. "Jon, you have enemies among the Elfys, simply because of who you are."

"What?"

"Youíre a gadfly. Our people donít like change. And I thought some of our people had managed to get you sent off to Gaul," Roberto said with a hangdog look.

"Iím not a prison!" Sarah shouted.

Bruno was startled that sheíd understood the reference. Maybe theyíre teaching ten-year-olds more than they used to? Or maybe they treat ten-year-old Humans better than their twenty-year-old equivalent Elfy counterparts?

Sarah interrupted his reverie by declaiming, "Iím a person, and I am Brunoís friend! Iíd never, ever harm him. So, why did you harm me, Bobby-wobby?"

"Please, donít call me that." Roberto shook his head and frowned. "Even the common Elfy on the street knows better; they call me ĎBob-bob.í"

"You donít deserve a short name after what you did! You poisoned us!" Sarah shouted.

"I was sick too, Roberto," Bruno reminded his teacher. "Did you intend to poison us both?" He looked at Roberto, full of suspicion.

"No, I didnít. I only put a spell on Sarahís food, one to make her sleep, as I said before. Did you eat any of her food?" Roberto asked anxiously.

"Yes, I did. I felt dizzy, weak, and nauseated, and I only drank a small amount of her water."

"Damn." Roberto sank to the ground and put his head in his hands. "The spells are being perverted. Already. How can we do any magic to get you out of here if anything we do will be messed up?"

"I donít know," Bruno said, "but right now we have bigger fish to fry."

At Robertoís surprised look, he explained. "Look, youíve insulted Sarah and upset me. Thereíre a whole bunch of questions I need answered, right now."

"Such as?" Roberto asked.

"No, apologize first!" Sarah broke in, shouting. She stood up, balled her hands into fists, and threatened to swing at Roberto. The effect was startling.

"IímÖsorry, Sarah," Roberto said.

"Go on," Bruno said.

Roberto took a deep breath and added, "Jon, Iím sorry I distrusted you and Sarah. Itís been difficult since you left, and it was very hard for me to get here to help you."

"I had noticed your outfit, and meant to ask about it," Bruno said.

"Yes, quite," Roberto said, a faint frown creasing his face. "Do you honestly think Iíd wear this if I had any choice in the matter?" He waved his hand from his feet to his head and indicated the yellow, black, green, and purple outfit, complete with floppy-brimmed hat.

"I can kind of see the hat on you. It gives you a nice, rakish look," Bruno said, grinning.

"Well, the hat by itself wouldnít be too bad," Roberto allowed, and took it off. The hat was black, slouchy, and feathered. The three feathers were white, indicating purity and chastity. "But with the rest of it?"

"Yes, definitely a bit of overkill there," Bruno said judiciously.

"I thought it looked silly," Sarah chimed in, smiling. "And I do accept your apology, Roberto." She offered her hand to Roberto, who after a momentís reflection folded it neatly within his own. "So, youíre older than Bruno, huh?"

"Yes, I am," Roberto said. "But Iím not going to tell you how much!"

"Ah, because youíre afraid Iíll use it against you?" she asked.

"What?" Roberto asked, waving at Bruno. "Help me out here. What is she talking about?"

"In the Human-Earth Realm, people believe if we hear their names, weíll use that knowledge against them," Bruno said. "Maybe she figures if she knows your age itís the same thing?"

"Only the Dark Elfs do that, and as far as I know no Elfy has joined that cult in over three hundred and fifty years," Roberto said.

"I know that," Bruno said. "But itís what they believe."

"I didnít say I believed it, Bob-bob," Sarah said, winking. "Oh, all right. Roberto."

"Well," Roberto said, slowly relaxing again, "Itís not that. I just donít want Jon to know my age."

"Youíre afraid heíll think of you differently?" she asked.

"Yes, because Elfys have a strange belief about age in general."

"I donít," Bruno said, butting in. Two pairs of eyes looked at him, startled. "What, you thought Iíd wandered off or something? No, Iím still here. And I donít think I have any age-prejudices at all, either for or against."

"Well, can I say Iíd prefer not to press my luck?" Roberto said, winking at Sarah. He seemed delighted when Sarah winked back. Roberto tugged at Sarahís hand, and said, "Would you like to go for a walk, my dear?"

"Yes, Iíd be honored," she said coyly.

"This doesnít answer my questions," Bruno said warningly. "I must have answers, and soon."

And what was it with all the sweetness-and-light all of a sudden? Had Roberto cast a spell? Bruno had grave reservations, and some of this must have shown on his face.

"Just a moment, my dear," Roberto said, releasing Sarahís hand the exact moment he spotted Brunoís frown. He pulled Bruno over to the side, saying to Sarah in the meantime, "I need to talk with Jon alone."

"Okay," Sarah said uncritically. "Boy talk?"

"Something like that, yes," Roberto admitted.

Now Bruno was sure Roberto had cast a spell.

They both sat down on the too-green grass, Roberto smiling and open-handed, Bruno wary and frowning.

"Look, Jon, I need to observe Sarah some more. I want to see what she can do, and you know I canít have anyone watch while I test her magic," Roberto said.

"All right." Bruno sighed. Yes, spells were allowed to calm magical candidates, although usually Roberto didnít stoop to such. What in the worlds was going on here?

"That makes sense, I guess, but I want answers, and I intend to get them. Deal?" Bruno asked, continuing to frown.

"Deal," Roberto said, offering his hand. They shook on that.

"Treat her kindly, will you, Roberto?" Bruno asked.

"Always," Roberto said, then took Sarah away to test her.

Both Sarah and Roberto left their backpacks where they were as a silent pledge they would come back. That was a good thing, Bruno reflected, as he watched them walk away. After they took about ten steps, he realized that he couldnít see them any more. But he hadnít felt Roberto cast a spell.

"Thatís odd," he said. "I thought I could see the whole horizon here?"

After a beat, he thought, Well, Roberto said he needed to test her. Did he cast a new kind of invisibility spell, something I canít detect?

Then, after another beat: Why didnít I get a definite time for when theyíre coming back? After all, Sarah is my companion, my friendÖI need her and she needs me. Why did I allow her to go off only with Roberto, no matter what he said?

"Maybe he cast a spell on me?" he mused. There was a quick fix for that. He went to his backpack and asked, "Can you please give me the emergency book?"

The backpack spit the book out as if it tasted bad. "Thanks, pack," Bruno said, not sure if he was being silly.

The backpack wiggled a bit, then went still. Strange stuff, here in Geadhail Mebrugud.

He opened the book and saw nothing for a long, long time. Then, for some reason, he fell over the three backpacks, which made him realize that heíd lapsed into the practiceóa dangerous one for Elfysóthe park was designed for in the first place. His very skin crackled with magic, now.

But he still had no idea where Sarah was. Worse yet, he had a funny feeling that she and Roberto werenít coming back.

He knew that feeling hopeless wouldnít solve anything. It was one of the first rules of magic: If you allow yourself to feel hopeless, you canít tap into your power and you canít use your spells.

And he knew he had power. Roberto had said so; so had Sarah.

But even if they hadnít, right now he had to have more than enough, because finding Sarahóand, incidentally, Robertoówas now the most important thing in the worlds.

Just in case he was right about Roberto casting a spell in order to encourage cooperation, he sat down, closed his eyes, and concentrated on casting a spell to banish almost every known Elfy magic, major and minor.

There was a slight clearing, but not enough to prove that Roberto had cast any spells. "Hmm," Bruno said, furiously searching his mind for other spells that might help.

While sitting within reach of the backpacks (as he wasnít sure if heíd have to get anything from them), he cast a finding spell, which had no immediate effect. Then he tried a communication spell that should have allowed him to speak with Sarah even if she were over fifty miles away. He tested the spell; it worked, but Sarah was not within range. Neither was Roberto.

This was bad. This was very, very bad.

Then he shook himself into sense. Why waste time on nonessentials when something inside told him that Sarah needed his help? Who knows, maybe Roberto did too, wherever they were. Roberto had spoken about Elfy enemies who somehow believed that Bruno was a threat, including the Elfy High Council and some of his other teachers. If they saw Bruno as a threat, they just might see Roberto as a threat because he had always been Brunoís champion.

None of this sounded good to Bruno.

In addition, if he tried to leave Geadhail Mebrugud on his own (not an easy task), he didnít know anyone well enough to trust, assuming what Roberto believed was true. If the Elfy High Council wanted him gone badly enough to exile him to the Human version of Earth, then he might not be safe anywhere in the Elfy Realm.

This thought did not bring him great joy either.

But it was better to try and have nothing happen than to try nothing just because he was afraid. There was no reason to believe his spells had been perverted, just because at least one of Robertoís had been. Nothing had recoiled so far, anyway, and that made Bruno feel better.

At last he did what any Elfy child of the Gods would do: he stood still, threw back his head, closed his eyes, and asked, "What can I do now?"

There was no answer, but he suddenly had a feeling he was asking the wrong questions. That meant there were a few more things he needed to think about.

"Hm. All right. Letís think about this from another angle."

He considered the situation anew. His friend and companion, Sarah, was gone. Would she really want to leave him? Bruno doubted that. Sarah had wanted to get away from her odious parents even more than Bruno had, and had been overjoyed when theyíd managed to leave.

No, he couldnít believe Sarah would deliberately leave him alone, nor did he believe sheíd want to go anywhere without him. Looking back, Sarah had definitely treated him at all times with respect and dignity, and had in some ways offered him a kinship heíd never known before. Sarah definitely wouldnít leave him on her own.

The next, extremely bitter, thought was, would Roberto abduct Sarah?

The answer that came back chilled him.

"Yes, if he thought it necessary. Or if those above him told him to do it. Or if he were controlled himself."

Scarcely noticing that it hadnít been his own thoughts that had answered him (uncanny things had often happened in Geadhail Mebrugud in the past, which is why it was to be strictly avoided by the common Elfy), Bruno asked, "What should I do?"

"Grab hold of the backpacks," the disembodied voice said.

Not thinking, yet hoping for the best, Bruno went to the backpacks. First, he shouldered his own. Next, he shouldered Robertoís, which was oddly thin for a mage/teacher of his caliber. Then he grabbed Sarahís.

At that, Sarahís backpack took off, dragging Bruno almost as if Bruno weighed nothing. "Whatóareóyouó?" Bruno started to ask.

"What do you think I am?" the insouciant, somehow feminine voice came back.

"Female? Here? I thought only SarahÖ"

"Sarah, yes. And me," the voice said, and if a disembodied voice could be said to wink or smile, Bruno could swear this voice was doing both.

"Whatóareóyouó?" Bruno tried again. Sarahís backpack was pulling him at an astonishing rate, at least ten miles per hour. Since Bruno was no marathon runner and had short legs, this was not easy to maintain, and he was starting to get winded. Yet losing his grip was unthinkable.

"Oh, come on, Bruno! What do you think I am?" the voice said, and would say no more despite all Bruno asked or pleaded.

The backpack pulled him inexorably for at least an hour. Bruno could barely see and could only hear the heartbeat that proved he was still living, pounding loudly in his head. He knew if they didnít stop soon, heíd probably pass out.

Up ahead, there was a blackness rimmed about by silvery, shadowy arms. Bruno wasnít sure what it was. It didnít feel inimical, exactly, but it also didnít feel right.

Heíd rather have stopped to figure it out, but the backpacks wouldnít let him. Instead, they approached the blackness, Bruno hanging on to the packs for dear life.

It looked like a vortex, or maybe a Gate, though Bruno had never seen one so wild and untamed before. But why would a Gate be out here, and where would it take him?

The pack pulled him into the blackness until he felt a brief moment of nothingness, almost as if they were in the "no-time" realm. As he stumbled and nearly dropped the packs, he realized that he was out of Geadhail Mebrugud. ButÖbutÖbutÖ

Ahead was a gently shaded street he somehow recognized. But howÖ?

He shook his head. There had been that very brief period of nothingnessÖoh, yes. Now he knew where he was.

He was back in the Human Realm. Back where he and Sarah had started from, except instead of returning to the attic, heíd returned to just outside the park where heíd appeared in the first place.

The sun had come up (which explained the shadows), but he had no idea what day it was, nor where Sarah or Roberto was. He asked the world at large, "Where is Sarah?"

There was no answer forthcoming, which chilled him. The only thing he could think of to ask next was, "Now what?" He didnít get an answer to that question either.

He didnít have a clue as to what to do next. So, he got out the emergency book from his backpack. It slipped and fell out of his hands, almost as if it had been greased.

"Please, book? I need you." Bruno felt strange talking to another inanimate object, but everything had gone so wild and strange since heíd first stepped inside Sarahís house that it almost felt normal.

Bruno was finally able to pick the book up. By chance or design, the heading of the book now read, "To be opened only in the event of grave danger."

Bruno figured the loss of his companion and friend was the gravest danger that had ever happened to him, so he opened the book. Robertoís voice, tinny and thin, greeted him.

"Come quick, back to your companionís house! Something has gone horribly wrong and we need your help, quick, fast and in a hurry!"

Bruno dropped the book into his backpack, took hold of the other backpacks and ran toward Sarahís house, trying his hardest not to think about a danger that could confound a mage of Robertoís strength and experience.

Bruno continued to run, despite the fact he was tired from his earlier long run. I need to remind myself never to take up marathons, he thought, trying to distract himself from the pain. Now he knew what lactic acid buildup really meant!

As he turned the corner, he slowed down, mainly to give his aching legs, back, and lungs a break. As he took in huge gulps of air, he slowed first to a jog, then to a fast walk. Just as he was forced to slow his pace even further, Sarahís front door was in sight.

"Now, thatís odd," Bruno said as he looked frantically for Roberto and Sarah. He saw neither of them.

Cautiously, he went up to the door and knocked. Surely this was the correct protocol? As he wondered, Sarah opened the front door.

"Shh," she whispered, putting her forefinger to her lips. "My parents are fighting with Roberto. Get in here before they notice you, too!"

"All right," Bruno said quietly as he felt himself being pulled inside. Sarah closed the door softly behind him and motioned Bruno to follow her.

As he went through the front room, he faintly heard Robertoís raised voice. Roberto was saying, "Now see here, madam," but just as Bruno had been ignored, Roberto was apparently being ignored, too.

"Oh, Elfy," Sarahís mother said in a high-pitched, carrying whine. "I just have to take you out today. Get into that uniform we bought you."

"ButóbutóbutóIím notó" Roberto sputtered.

"What do you mean, Elfy?" her mother said. "Youíre not what? Interested? I donít care, youíre going!"

"Whatís going on?" Bruno whispered.

"Like I said," Sarah whispered back, tossing her long, black hair, "My parents are fighting with Roberto. Fortunately for us, theyíre all upstairs in the attic, so I can get you inside without being seen."

"Butóbutóbutó" Bruno tried, knowing he sounded like Roberto.

"Please, Bruno, wait for later?" Sarah pleaded. "I know you have a lot of questions. So do I, and Iím sure Roberto does, too. Not that I care."

"What happened?" Bruno asked again.

"I canít tell you right now," Sarah said, looking around. She motioned for silence.

In the distance, Bruno heard Sarahís father say, "Why doesnít that outfit fit anymore, Elfy? Did you witch it?" in a threatening tone.

"No! Like Iíve said, Iím not the same Elfy as before!" Robertoís desperate voice shouted.

"Well, we know all Elfys can change their shapes just as easily as they change their names," the woman said, loudly enough for Bruno and Sarah to hear. "I think youíre the same Elfy, and even if youíre not, which you are, I say youíre going out with me today! And thatís final!"

"Sarah, wható?"

"We donít have time," Sarah whispered urgently. "Theyíre about to take Roberto out and show him off to their friends, and theyíll be coming down here anytime. Please, Iíve got to get you inside my room before then!"

"All right." Bruno let himself be pulled toward Sarahís room. As they went through the kitchen, he realized how hungry he was.

"Can we stop for food?" he whispered.

"No," Sarah said.

They heard footsteps and voices on the steps.

"Quickly! Get in here!" Sarah pulled Bruno through the kitchen, toward her bedroom. "We have about half a minute, no more. Iíll go and distract them until they leave. I definitely donít want them knowing they now have two Elfys to torment, rather than just one!"

"Thatís a good point," Bruno mused softly, just as Sarah pulled him to her door.

"Get in, quick! Iíll make sure they donít come in here."

"You said before they never do," Bruno interrupted.

"True, but thereís always a first time. Anyway, since they didnít see you, hopefully they will not sense you either. Now, get inside!" Sarah pushed him inside the door.

Bruno whirled, but wasnít fast enough to stop Sarah. He did, however, hear her say through the door, "Iíll be back as soon as I can. Weíre really in for it now."

Bruno went and sat on Sarahís bed, running his hands across Sarahís elaborately embroidered bedspread, even more confused than before.

What in all the worlds and time was going on here?

 

Chapter 5

Bruno immediately tried to cast a spell to help him hear what was going on outside Sarahís bedroom, but nothing happened. Damn this house anyway. Time for plan B, otherwise known as a nonmagical remedyósomething heíd used to great effect while at school. He got up, wincing at the pain of his overtaxed muscles, and put his ear to the door. A simple glass jar would intensify the effect, and if Bruno was only somewhere else heíd go get one (or at worst case, ask the backpacks to make one). But he could only use what he had, and hope it would serve.

Bruno heard Robertoís voice, slightly muffled through the door, as he and Sarahís parents tramped down the stairs.

"Unhand me, fool woman! You donít know who youíre dealing with!"

Bruno frowned. That wouldnít cut it with Sarahís parents.

Sarah evidently thought the same thing, as she said something that was totally muffled by the door.

"But we promised, Daisy," Sarahís father said.

Bruno once again heard Sarah say something, but it was too low for him to pick it up.

"Daisy, we wonít harm the Elfy," Sarahís mother said. "We plan to keep him around for a long time."

For what, exactly? Bruno still hadnít figured that out.

Sarah said something, but Bruno still could not understand. He tried again to cast a listening spell, but of course it didnít work.

Here I had all this power in Geadhail Mebrugud, he thought. I meditated and gathered power, and thatís dangerous for most Elfys, at least those who arenít Masters or Adepts. But now, I canít do anything?

Then he heard a door slam. Suddenly, there was silence. Blessed silence.

He walked back to Sarahís bed, still mulling everything over. He might as well rest as he was thinking. He sat on the bed, closed his eyes, and felt for the proper magical concepts. He sketched them in his mind, adding the listening ear that he was so fond of, and hoped this time heíd hear Sarahís voice.

He stood up and walked back to the door. Just as he got there, Sarah opened it and slipped inside.

"Weíre safe, for now," she said. "My parents are gone, and they took Roberto with them."

"Iím glad they left, butó" Bruno did his best to gather his thoughts. "Sarah, whatís going on?"

"Can we eat first?" she asked anxiously. "I donít know how long itíll be before my parents get back, and I know youíre hungry. So am I."

"Yes, of course we should eat," he said. "But I have many questions."

"I know you do," she said, her voice softening. She reached out and took his hand. "I missed you last night, you know."

"Itís only been one night?" he asked.

"So it appears," Sarah said, sighing. "Although my parents think itís Monday morning, I guess."

"Thatís odd," Bruno said. "Well, letís go get some food. Are you sure weíll be undisturbed?"

"I think so." Sarah frowned. "I told my parents I had a headache. As they were concentrating on Roberto, they didnít pay attention to me, and told me I could stay home. They should be gone for several hours, so we have time to have a good breakfast."

"Wonderful," Bruno said. "Lead on into the kitchen, fair lady."

Sarah laughed, disengaged her hand, pirouetted, grabbed his hand again, and led him out into the tiny kitchen.

"Whoa!" he said, laughing. "That was dizzying!"

"Iím glad I have such an effect on you," Sarah said. "I donít know why, but you always make me feel better."

Touched, Bruno used his other hand to hug her close.

"Iím glad youíre glad," he said.

"Iím glad youíre glad Iím glad tható"

"Enough already." He gave her an ironic nod, which she matched with a grin. "Now, where can we eat? There donít seem to be any chairs here, and we probably shouldnít use your dining room."

"Weíll eat in my room, as thatís safest." She nodded firmly. "But weíll have to bring the bowls and plates back out. My parents will complain if they smell bad food odors."

"How do you keep them out of your room as it is?"

"Iím not sure," she said, worrying at her plump lower lip. "I really donít know."

As she talked, she kept trying to open the pantry, but her arms just werenít long enough.

"Here, Sarah," Bruno said. He went to get the step-stool, and placed it right next to her. "This should help."

"Ah, thank you, Bruno!" Sarah said. She used both hands to balance as she climbed. So braced, she opened up the pantry, grabbed two metal cans of some sort and a box, and handed them down to Bruno.

"What do you want me to do with these?" he asked, eyeing them askance.

"Hold onto them, will you? Until I get back down."

She descended, moved the step-stool over a few feet, and again climbed until she could reach two blue bowls and mugs. She tried handing these to Bruno, but his hands were full.

"Must I do everything myself?" she snapped.

"Iím sorry, Sarah," Bruno said quietly. "Iím tired, everything aches, and you said to hold these. So Iím holding them."

"Well, for the moment, can you please put them on the floor? Thank you!"

"Why are you so angry?"

"I need to give you these things." She rolled her eyes heavenward. "But I canít unless your hands are empty."

"I donít know what youíre doing," Bruno admitted. "What are these metal things for? I can kind of see the box, but whatís in it?"

"Oh," she said, her eyes looking at the floor tiles. "You canít read, can you?"

"Not this," he agreed. "I donít have a clue as to what this is. Itís the kitchen, so itís probably food, but thatís all I know, and youíre not explaining things very well."

She pointed at the cans. "Well, this is tomato soup, and the metal thing is a called a canóit keeps the stuff inside from going bad." She pointed at the box. "And these are saltine crackers."

"Crackers make sense," Bruno agreed. "But how are we going to cook the soup? Are we going to leave it in theÖcans? That doesnít sound good. How will we eat it?"

"Bruno, youíre being silly!" she scolded.

"No, Iím not, Sarah," Bruno said, trying not to shout. "Think about it. I donít have a clue what weíre doing because Iím not from here. Will you please explain?"

"Well, we put the soup into the bowls," she started.

"That sounds nice, but how do we heat it?" Bruno didnít know what human technology looked like, but none of it looked low enough to the ground for Sarah to use even with the step-stool. "Not to mention, how are we supposed to get the soup out of the cans and into the bowls? Those cans donít look big enough to fill one of these bowls, either. Iím confused," Bruno said, feet scuffing the brownish-gray linoleum.

"Thereís a microwave," she said, pointing to a large dark object sitting on the countertop across from her. "Canít you use it?"

"No," he said, deciding not to ask how the microwave worked. "Elfys use magic to heat food."

"And your magic doesnít work here, I know." She gnawed at a thumbnail.

"No, it doesnít," he said glumly. "Iím trying to figure out why, but so far I have no answers. Does your work here?"

"My parents havenít taught me many spells." Sarah frowned. "And the ones I do know, I have a hard time controlling."

"So we might make a bigger mess if we tried to use your spells than if you make food the way non-magical Humans do?"

"Pretty much," Sarah agreed. "Why donít you put the cans on the counter, and weíll try to figure this out?"

"I can do that," he said, straining his shoulders just a bit to put them there. "What now?"

"Let me give you the bowls and Iíll take the mugs," she said. He took the bowls and held them in his hands.

"Donít just stand there!" she scolded, climbing down the step-stool.

"What would you like me to do instead, Sarah?" he asked wearily. "I still donít see what you want to do with these cans. How do we get soup from them?"

"First you open them with a can openeró"

"Whatís that?"

Sarah gave him a strange look. "Youíve never used a can opener before?"

"No, have you?"

"Well, Iíve seen it done," she said airily, waving a hand.

"I donít even know what a can opener looks like, where it is, or what to do with it once we find it!" Bruno shouted, finally losing his temper.

"Right now," she said in a soothing voice, "all you have to do is take the crackers and the bowls into my bedroom, okay?"

"All right," he said grimly. As he picked the box of crackers up off the floor, he realized he was going to have more problems. The box nearly fit between his left hip and his left hand, but it was bulky.

This just wouldnít do.

"Sarah, Iím sorry, but I canít carry the saltines and the bowls at the same time. Iím not big enough; Iíll drop them! Then weíll have to clean up and neither of us will have eaten and weíll both still not know what happened to each other, and Iím oh, so frustrated!"

Sarah looked like she wanted to squeeze his hand, but of course both of his hands were occupied.

"Iím sorry, too, Bruno," she said. "Roberto really tried my patience, and I need some food in me before I can talk with you."

"I understand that. Iím hungry too, but we need information almost as badly as we need the food, so can we somehow get on with it?"

"Iíll try, Bruno," she said, quelled. "Well, let me take the saltines, and you take the bowls, all right?"

They carried them into her bedroom, then went back out into the kitchen, where Sarah put the cans of soup away. "These are just too hard to make," she said. "And here I thought it would be so easy!"

"It might be easier if you were fully grown. This kitchen definitely wasnít set up for children or Elfys!"

"Thatís true. But if you were my parents, it wouldnít matter anyway."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because to them, if I donít do it right the first time, Iím an idiot."

"Thatís ridiculous," he said flatly. "Youíre a kid, not a grownup. Besides, theyíre hardly the heights of perfection themselves. I mean, just look at Ďem, fighting over me, then fighting over Roberto and not even noticing that heís not me!"

"That was pretty silly." She smiled in reminiscence.

"I hope youíll explain everything after we eat."

She nodded. "Thanks for putting up with me. Iím sorry Iím so cross."

"Itís all right. But now, we have to think."

"About what? About how to get out of here again? About what happened to Roberto and me? About what happened to you?" she asked, ticking off questions on her fingers until she was down to her thumbnail.

"No. I was thinking about something more prosaic," he said.

"What?"

"How about what weíre going to have for breakfast?"

"Ah, you," she said, lightly hitting him on the shoulder with her hand. "Letís look in the refrigerator."

After a quick survey of the contents, they realized ham, cheese, grapes, apples, and juice were readily available. "Sarah, we canít carry all of this at once. Weíll spill it and make a big mess."

"Weíll be fine, Bruno," she said reassuringly. "Letís take it one step at a time."

Bruno took one step and asked, "Like this?"

She laughed so hard her shoulders shook. After sheíd recovered a bit of sobriety, she said, "I suppose if we each took one step, it would take forever."

"Yeah," he said. "But at least I made you laugh. I missed you, Sarah."

"I missed you, too," she said quietly. "But for now, letís eat. Then we can catch up."

"All right," he agreed, wondering why girls always stated the obvious.

"I have an idea, though," she said.

"Oh?"

"Why not take a little at a time into my bedroom, as we took the bowls and the crackers before?"

"Ah! That makes a great deal of sense," Bruno agreed.

"I thought youíd see it my way," she said dryly. Then, smiling, she picked up two apples plus the grapes and went into her room. Bruno picked up the ham and cheese and followed her.

"See? Weíre halfway done," she said brightly.

"Wonít we need glasses, too?" he asked as he followed her back out into the kitchen.

"You worry too much." She took the step-stool, went to the appropriate cabinet, ascended to the right level, got the glasses and handed them down to Bruno. "See? No problem."

Bruno took the glasses into Sarahís bedroom, holding the door open for Sarah as she carried in the orange juice. "Is that heavy?" he asked.

"No, itís not too bad," she said. "Besides, it wonít be as heavy to carry back because weíll drink a lot of it!"

"Well, thatís one way to look at it."

"Thatís what I thought," she nodded, satisfied.

Other than Sarah having to run into the kitchen to get a knife to cut the ham and cheese, the breakfast wasnít too bad. By mutual agreement, talk would wait until their stomachs were full.

Finally done with breakfast, Bruno looked up at Sarah. Sheíd been waiting for at least five minutes, pacing while he ate.

"Iím sorry, Sarah," he started to apologize. Next time he wasnít going to let her make breakfast. Heíd just go to the refrigerator and serve the two of them. It wasnít like he didnít know where it was. Why should he stand on ceremony when he could help his friend? No matter what Elfy etiquette had taught him about not fixing your own food in a friendís house, and instead waiting to be served whatever they felt like, sometimes Elfy etiquette just didnít make any sense at all.

Elfy etiquette be damned, he thought.

"Donít be sorry," she said. "Itís my fault, all mine!"

"How could this be your fault?" Bruno asked skeptically.

Her eyes darkened noticeably. "For some reason, Roberto doesnít like me. He took me away from you, and now weíre both back here. Heís trapped, and I donít know what to do!"

Bruno stood up and put his arms around her. As she quieted, he said, "Roberto is a teacher. He neither likes nor dislikes you."

"Ha! I donít believe you," she said.

"Will you please let me finish?"

He felt her nod slowly against his shoulder. He stepped about a foot away from her and gesticulated as he said, "You have done nothing wrong. Iím angry at Roberto for fooling us both."

"He didnít fool me."

"Now, I donít believe you," he snarled.

They were at an impasse. Her brown eyes met his blue bespectacled ones in mute appeal, and said, "Letís clean up this meal before we do anything else. Maybe we can calm down as we clean."

"Good thinking," he said, surprised once again at Sarahís wisdom. How was it she could be so mercurial on one hand, and so wise on the other?

Maybe Roberto was right: Sarah wasnít an average ten-year-old girl. That bore serious thinking about.

They picked up the bowls, which held a few broken grape stems, some cracker crumbs, some ham rinds and not much else, and took them to the kitchen. As Sarah silently indicated where the garbage can was, Bruno wiped the bowls out into the can. They continued cleaning until everything was out of her bedroom and back in its proper place.

"Sarah, where is your bathroom?" Bruno asked, stalling for time.

"Here," she said, indicating another room off the hallway between Sarahís room and the living room.

"I wonít be long," he said, and went inside.

He couldnít help noticing that the tub and shower facilities were distinctly lacking according to Elfy standards. But the toilet looked the same, although it was a bit higher off the ground than he was used to; that was something.

Maybe Humans and Elfys werenít that dissimilar after all.

As he performed his ablutions, he once again tried to tap into his magic, but it was as if the world had gone entirely blank. Dammit, just this once heíd hoped he was wrong and that he would still be able to access his magic. Heíd hoped that Sarahís room had been warded by her parents. He couldnít always pick up warding, as heíd never been formally trained in all the ins and outs of that, and heíd been hoping it was something just that simple.

But it wasnít. And now he wondered why he hadnít seen this earlier.

Sarahís house was an Elfy trap.

 

 

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Author Bio

Barb is a writer, editor, musician, and composer. She holds two degrees and is an inveterate and omnivorous reader. Her short fiction is available in Bedlam's Edge, How Beer Saved the World, and the forthcoming Stars of Darkover, while her poetry has been published in the Due North anthology, Joyful Online, Written Word online magazine and the Midwest Literary Review.

TTB titles: An Elfy on the Loose -- book 1
A Little Elfy in Big Trouble -- book 2
ChangingFaces

Author web site.

 

###

 

An Elfy on the Loose Copyright © 2014. Barb Caffrey. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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  Reviews

"Barb Caffrey's An Elfy on the Loose is a fresh and unexpected take on the urban fantasy genre with a charming and original protagonist. You'll want to read this one."
~ Rosemary Edghill, author of Dead Reckoning, The Bast Mysteries, Music To My Sorrow
 



"You will never look at a little person again without wondering..."
~ Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, author of the popular Night Calls series.
 


"It took me awhile to categorize this book. Yes, it's a fantasy, but it's also something more. Then it hit me: a fantasy/mystery/thrilleróthat's what An Elfy on the Loose is! Filled with fascinating characters both good and evil, characters that, because of their strengths...and weaknesses...seem to come to life for the reader, and a riveting conundrum of a mystery with many facetsóWhy is Sarah/Daisy's house an Elfy trap, blocking magic? Who and what are Sarah's parents and why do they want to hold an Elfy captive? Why can't they tell the difference between Bruno and Roberto, his teacher? The further into An Elfy on the Loose I read, the deeper it drew me into the story. And I went eagerly!"
~ Stephanie Osborn, author of the popular Displaced Detective series.
 


"Quick and witty, Caffrey's Elfy on the Loose is one of those novels that grabs you and refuses to let go. Straddling a fine line between absurdity and suspense, it's a story for the ages."
~ Jason Cordova, author of Corruptor and many, many short stories.

 

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