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A Fairy Tale chapter two

A human in the land of magic

This is the second chapter of an ongoing story

You may not understand it unless you start at the first chapter

Art turned to Rodel and Lani and asked, “Okay, now what?”

“ Oh no, Art. You're not rid of me yet.” stated Lord Cyral, “You and I have many items to go over before I'm done here. Do you think I didn't notice how closely you followed when I cast the spell to open the gate between our worlds? Come, let's talk as we walk back to the inn.”

The four of them started their walk, Rodel and Lani a distance behind so as to not disturb Art and Lord Cyral's conversation.

Art asked, “What would you like to know, Sir? I have no secrets that I have to hide from you. Even if I do I have a suspicion you'd know them soon anyway.”

“ Humph, trying to flatter me, that won't work either, Art. How many spells did you swindle from Lord Balzer besides the gate spell, I can sense you have some but I need to know what they are.”

Art recited the spells he had learned, the gate spell, the freezing spell he'd used on Rodel and Lani, the fetching spell on Lani, the fireball one and the wind one by Dazel, and a few small ones to make oneself more comfortable, such as an umbrella one to keep off the rain.

“ Have you tried any of them yet”

“ Not yet, I've been afraid to try any of them inside as I don't know what the consequences might be. I'll have to find a safe place, I think.”

“ Yes you will, Art, some of those are dangerous. But let's see how much power you have. See that large rock? Try to throw a fireball at it, it can't burn, and it's far enough away from the forest in case you miss.”

Art thought for a moment, calling up the spell from his memory, then lifted his arms and flicked his fingers at the rock while saying the spell sub-tonally. They all jumped back as this huge reddish green fireball hit the rock and bounced over it and into the trees, starting a large inferno in them.

Lord Cyral gestured furiously, muttering spell after spell to try to quench the fire. He finally reached out, grabbed Art's hand, and placed it on his own shoulder. Then, and only then, did anything start to diminish the blaze.

After it was out the old elf, looking exhausted, leaned on Art and muttered, “I think we've seen enough for one day to test your power. Art, I must forbid you to use any spells until you've learned to control them. Do I have your word?”

“ You certainly do sir, That scared me more than you, I think. I tried to keep it small, maybe I went the wrong direction.”

While they walked to the stone Lord Cyral could be heard murmuring phrases as “Never saw the equal,” or, “Drained power from him like a flood and he's not even breathing hard,” and once, “May the gods protect any High who troubles him.”

When they were still a distance from the large stone they could see molten rock just now fading from an angry red as it flowed down the face. They didn't go any farther as the heat was felt on their exposed flesh. Art audibly gulped, “Did I do that? Now I am scared.”

The elderly Lord elf needed to be supported between Art and Rodel as they retreated to the inn. Once inside and in a chair he asked, “Rodel, may I bother you for a tankard of that fine ale? Better make it a pitcher, I'm a bit overcome from the last moments.”

As Art solicitously found a pillow for Lord Cyral, Rodel outdid himself and brought a huge pitcher of ale to the table where they all seated themselves. Lani and Rodel still seemed a bit shaken and Lani was trembling a bit.

After a large quaff of ale Lord Cyral said, “ We now know if you have much power, Art, and you most certainly do. Too much to be untrained in it. If someone had told me that someone could do what you did after only a few days I wouldn't have believed them. I'm going to send someone to watch over you, to make sure you don't hurt yourself or anyone else, and also to train you. Until they arrive don't try anything, just wait here.”

“ You have my word, Lord Cyral. I realize that I need training and am looking forward to it. Thank you for your concern.”

“ Ha, I'm not concerned for you. I'm concerned for my world. Letting you run loose here would be like giving nuclear weapons to children in your world. Unfortunately, I have to return to the Council chambers on important business, but I'll have someone here as soon as I can arrange it. Thank you for the ale, Rodel.”

He rose and walked toward the door, becoming less visible with each step as he did so. By the time he would have reached the door he had evaporated completely.

The next few days were unexpected by Rodel and Lani as business picked up at an alarming rate. The story of Lord Balzer's demotion must have spread widely and quickly as elves crowded the inn, trying to catch a glimpse of the odd human that had instigated it.

They had no trouble seeing him as Art pitched right in, helping Lani in the kitchen and waiting tables. Even the many dark elves that showed up were on their best behavior when they heard of the punishment that had been meted out. The few arguments that did break out were quickly quelled by Rodel reminding the bickering elves that this was treaty territory.

It was the late morning of the third day when this peaceful interlude ended. All conversation stopped in the crowded room when the door opened and this massive black elf entered. He must have been well over seven feet tall as his plumed helmet brushed the ceiling beams. It was apparent to all but Art that this was elfin royalty, though even he was startled for a moment by the impression the giant elf made.

As the massive elf stood at the end of the hallway and surveyed the room Art took in his display of finery of gilded leathers and bejeweled fabrics he wore. He had a sword across his back with the heavily jeweled handle readily available behind his right ear. Wherever he looked the occupants of the room, although they were still seated, bowed their deference to his presence.

When he strode forward to the largest table the elves there quickly rose and moved away. His bulk in the hallway had hidden the much smaller elf that trailed him. She stood not much more than five feet tall but looked even more minute next to her companion.

She was dressed quite plainly, not as elves usually dressed, but in soft colors and only a few shades. Her accouterments were also bland with just a few jewels and gold bracelets. This was undoubtedly planned to only accentuate her other assets of long, golden, wavy hair that hung well down her back, the gorgeous face with its sparkling green eyes, and the curvaceous body that her garments hid, but also showed delightful hints of the contents.

When they were seated Art approached their table, but before he could sat anything the petite blond said, “This is Prince Ardel. He expects, and you will deliver, only your finest food and drink to him. He will start with your finest wine right away. What do you have on the bill of fare?” As this was delivered by her in a loud voice Rodel was already bringing wine and goblets.

“ We have chicken, duck, and quail eggs, ham, sausage, and beef slices if you desire breakfast, or there will be a venison roast, baked ham or beef roast done shortly. Does any of it appeal to you Prince Ardel?

“ Stop! You do not address the Prince directly, human. In fact, we desire an elf to serve us, not a lowly human. Go scrub the floor or something suited to your station and get an elf to wait upon us.”

Art turned to get Lani when she shrilled again, “ Wait, go to our coach and fetch the basket of wines there. I doubt if you have anything decent here. Be careful you don't break any, they're worth more than your miserable human life.”

Art gritted his teeth but did as told and removed the basket from the coach and returned with it to the table to be greeted with, “Not here you dolt, take it to the bar so he can prepare it to be served correctly.” and then, quieter but still able to be heard, “Stupid humans, I don't know why they're allowed to run loose.”

After the Prince and his companion had eaten she beckoned Rodel to her side and ordered, “Prepare a suite for the Prince and me and make sure it's suitable for him. We've been traveling for days without sleep and must rest. You, human, human. Human, can't you hear? Fetch our luggage and take it to our room, quickly now.”

After the Prince and his companion had retired to their suite and things had returned to just the normal bustle Art declared to Rodel, “I don't know how much more I can take from that little witch If I hadn't sworn to Cyral that I wouldn't use any spells I'd have frozen the big one and spanked her pretty butt.

“ I don't think that would be a good idea, Art. If she can have a Prince as a bodyguard she must be pretty important.”

“ I don't care if she's the queen, the way she treats us all like dirt is bad manners in any world. Her spells won't work on me and if it wasn't that I promised not to spell anyone she'd learn some manners from me. As long as it's slow right now I'm going to take a nap and cool off.”

After a nice long nap Art was ready for the evening rush. He was wiping tables and straightening chairs when the Prince, walking silently, negligently pushed Art over a chair as he strode into the room followed by his diminutive companion. Art held his temper in check as he picked himself up, but muttered obscenities under his breath.

The slight blond said as she passed, “Clumsy oaf,” and she and the Prince walked out, but she reappeared alone not two minutes later, proclaiming, “The Prince is gone, you can all relax and go about your business.”

Art told her, “Now that your body guard is gone I hope your manners improve, Miss. They have been deplorable while he was here.”

“ You assume too much Art, he was not my bodyguard, I was his,” as she smiled and walked to him. “And I am not Miss, but the Lady Aletta of the Council, I think you were expecting me.”

“ You are the one sent by Lord Cyral to be my babysitter? I don't think that's going to work out if you're as impolite as you have been the last day, Lady Aletta. I won't put up with your highhandedness if we're to work together.”

“ Oh, don't you be stubborn. I was told to test you to see if you'd refrain from using spells when you were angry, and you did. I'm sure we can get along.”

Raising her voice she said, “I apologize to all present and to all who were present for my rude behavior. I was ordered to do so by the Council, but come forward, I wish to buy a drink for all.”

As the crowd rushed to the bar Lady Aletta put her arm in Art's and pulled him to a corner table. “Let's you and I talk about what's ahead, is that alright?”

And when they were seated, “We can't test you here, from Lord Cyral's description of your power it would be too dangerous. I think we have to go to the desert where you can't burn anything down and we have plenty of space. Does that sound like the right thing to you.?”

Art was a bit dazzled by her sudden attitude change and the natural charm of this beguiling Lady's smile. “Uh, if you think that's best. You know more about it than I do. I certainly don't want to hurt anyone, When should we go?”

'There's no great hurry, why don't we get to know each other a little more and enjoy the evening, we won't be staying in a comfortable inn where we're going. First, you must call me Alet, that Lady Aletta title would get heavy when we're alone. Second, let's make you more presentable.”

She gestured and mumbled a spell and Art felt his head start to tingle. Reaching up he felt his hair growing down over his ears, then below his ears and to his shoulders. “Stop Alet! That's enough, I don't want my hair down to my uh, that's far enough, my ears are covered.”

“ Now you look like an elf, can you act like one? You must try to be more graceful when you walk instead of those plodding great strides of yours.” At Art's look of consternation she laughed, “I'm just funning with you, Art, you walk just fine.”

The rest of the evening was spent talking and comparing their lives. Art's was the ordinary one of a human boy growing up to be a well behaved young man, a hard worker but without long term plans.

Alet's was much different, raised in a very influential, wealthy family, with the finest schooling in the worldly subjects as well as those of the magical world. She showed great promise at an early age and did eventually become very powerful, when she was taken under the wing of the Council as an apprentice, which title she held now.

“ Alet, I've been wondering. How did you grow my hair? I thought humans were immune to spells and couldn't be altered directly.”

“ That's true in most cases, but you have some of our blood too. I didn't alter you, just sped up some of your own functions. I don't know if I could turn your hair green, should I try?” She was grinning and chortling.

Art grinned and chuckled back, “No, I'm pretty used to this, I think I'll let be, but thanks for the offer.” Art was now under Alet's natural charm and heedless of her yesterday's baiting of him.

Some hours later Alet noticed the time. “You should get some sleep, Art. I slept for a couple hours this afternoon and will be able to go for a couple days with no problem, but you will need rest for tomorrow, we'll be going a long way.”

As they rose Alet gave Art a light hug,” We're going to have fun along with the hard work, see you in the morning.” Art said goodnight to all his friends and went to his room where he hardly was undressed before he fell asleep.

He felt his shoulder being lightly shaken, then a little harder. He groaned as he rolled to see Rodel standing over his bed. “Is something wrong, Rodel? Do you need help?”

“ Oh no, Lady Aletta sent me to wake you, it's time to get up.”

Art looked a the pitch black night out the window. “Why does she want me up so early? It's still dark. How long have I been sleeping?”

“ You've been asleep for almost a full day. It's early evening now and Lady Aletta says it's a good time to travel. I have coffee when you get downstairs and the Lady says not to linger.”

Hurriedly dressing and doing his toiletries took little time so when he stumbled down the stairs he was just getting over his grogginess. The tankard of hot coffee brought him fully awake. After a quick meal he asked Rodel where the Lady was. “She's preparing your means of transportation, I believe, out in front.

Art shouldered his pack of clothes and gear he'd removed from the truck, said goodbye to Rodel and Lani with some hearty hugs and a few tears from Lani, and walked outside. From the light of the ever burning magical lights flanking the door she saw Alet packing a wooden platform with supplies.

“ Uh, Alet, shouldn't that have the wheels put on before you put all that gear on it? How are you going to get it high enough?”

“ Ha ha, you're so funny Art. It doesn't need wheels, you're going to carry it.”

“ Whoa, wait a doggoned minute. I'm pretty strong but that has to weigh five hundred pounds, I'd never get that on my back. Say, have you been drinking coffee?

“ Now you're being silly, it's not going on your back, we're going to ride on it. Haven't you figured it out yet?”

“ I know it has to be magical because I'm not putting that on my back.”

“ Put your pack right there under that strap and sit here next to me. Now give me your hand, I'm not strong enough to lift this, but Cyral says you have plenty of power. I know the spell and you'll do the lifting, are you ready?”

“ I guess I am, do I do anything more than just sit here?”

“ After a while, when you get tired, tell me and we'll rest. While we're moving I'll teach you the spell. Alright, hold on with your other hand, here we go.”

They shot straight up like a rocket until the trees were just seen as a green blur in the light from the two moons, then slowed and stopped, hovering in the air.

“ Art, you're crushing my hand, let go.” He did and they dropped almost as fast as they had rose.

“ Quickly, hold my hand again but don't squeeze it!”

Their fall slowed more and more until they were stationary again about half the distance they'd risen.

“ By the gods, Art, I've never even heard of power like that. I meant for us to slowly rise until we cleared the trees but when I pulled power from you it was overwhelming. How do you feel, are you tired?”

“ I feel fine. Maybe a little queasy from our express elevator ride, but I'm okay. Are you alright?”

“ I'm alright except for a very sore hand. When you said you were strong I thought you might have been trying to brag but now I don't think so. We're at a good height and I'll try to start slow, but hold on to the wood tight, not my hand.”

After a few jerky starts and sudden stops Alet said, “This isn't working, I'll have to split the spell, using your power to hold us up and mine to move us forward. Then if I can figure out how to take just a little from you we can speed up. Ready?”

“ Lead on Commodore, I'm just here for the ride. This reminds me of a girl I tried to teach to drive a car with a clutch pedal, all jerks and panic stops.”

They started forward at the rate of a slow walk, gradually increasing speed until they were at a hard run.

Alet was visibly straining to keep up the rate of speed until, “Art, I'm going to try to tap your power in as small an amount that I can, but get ready for anything.” The platform jumped forward at more than twice the speed.

“ That wasn't too bad, Alet. Can you do that again? We could make some real progress.”

“ Yes, I think so. But first let me stop using my power. I'm really struggling.” They noticeably slowed and she said, “That's better, I'll just use mine to steer and keep us stable. Art, if you start to feel even a little strained let me know immediately, we don't want run out of power at this speed and height. How do you feel?”

“ I'm perfectly fine, I feel just a little tug, but it's nothing like my job would be. I'm sure I could do this all day. Why don't you try for more speed? I'll let you know if it bothers me.”

Alet doubled their speed again, and in a little while again. After a third time she diverted a little of her power to create a shield as the wind was tearing at their clothes and their eyes were watering. Each time she checked with Art to make sure he wasn't feeling too much strain.

“ I know you're not feeling any stress, Art, and at this speed we could make it to our destination today instead of the three days I had planned, but I would like to approach it in the morning rather than at night. Why don't I slow us a bit and I'll teach you how to control this spell?”

“ Sounds good to me. That way you can rest while I drive, and if I get tired, you can. My friend Tom and I do the same when we go on vacation.”

For the next hours Alet taught Art the spell and how to control it until he was fully in command of the lifting force and speed. Then she slowly relinquished control of the stabilization and steering, always ready to regain it if Art had trouble.

In mid afternoon they approached some tall hills, almost mountains. “Art, slow us to a walking pace and let me take control. I'm going to put us down in some nice valley and you're not ready to do any landings.”

Alet skimmed the tops of the hills until she saw a good spot, an open valley with a small stream running through it. The grass looked lush, rolling across the ground in waves from the slight breeze. Off in the distance could be seen a herd of deer like animals grazing. She gently landed the platform not very far from the stream where they got off and stretched their stiff muscles.

“ This is an idyllic place, Alet, but I hope you brought a tent, it's going to be chilly later at this altitude.”

“ I think I can do better than that,” as she pulled a small chest from under the bindings. Looking for a flat area she set the chest in the middle of it and opened the top. A panel unfolded from the chest and then unfolded again, and again and kept doing that, other panels unfolding from them. In just a few minutes there was a cabin like structure, complete with windows and a door. Even a small flue pipe stuck up from the wood shingled roof.

Art stood goggle eyed until Alet grabbed his arm and pulled him forward, “Come and look, it has two bedrooms and even a little kitchen area. Lord Cyral is letting us use it, it's his home when he's on trips, and has never let anyone else use it. I think he likes you.”

The first room inside the door was a small kitchen with a little table and two chairs. He was amazed to find beds in their rooms, already made with down quilts. There was a small wardrobe in each room and a comfortable wooden chair.

Art was shaking his head, “Alet, you'll have to excuse me for a while, I have to go outside, sit and think. Things are happening too much and too fast for me to take it all in. I have to stop and think to comprehend all of it. A few days ago I was a guy on vacation, now I'm a powerful magician or wizard of some sorts. I have to get my head around it.”

He walked out and strolled slowly, head down, some distance to a dead tree and sat on one of the branches. Every so often he would gesture as if he was arguing with someone or he could be seen shaking his head or nodding.

Close to dusk he rose and stretched. He looked around and began making a pile of dead branches and twigs which he dragged back to the cabin. Dropping the wood he turned to Alet, “I think I have a handle on it now. It is was it is, there's no turning back time, this is my fate or destiny or whatever, it's mine and I'll learn to live with it. Now, what's for dinner. We didn't have anything but those sandwiches for lunch and I'm starving.”

Alet giggled, “I've heated some stew, hungry man. Why don't you build a fire while I dish it up.”

Art cleared the sod away with a shovel from the platform and started a small fire. Alet had brought out two of the chairs and they sat eating beside the fire as the stars started appearing. Soon the sky was ablaze with them as one moon peeked over a hilltop.

“ Are you ready for another lesson, Art, or do you want to wait awhile?”

“ No time like the present, let's do it, what do you have in mind?”

“ See that dead tree you were sitting on? Try to lift it.”

Art concentrated on the tree, suddenly it shot into the air. In his surprise he released it and it crashed to the ground, breaking many limbs from it.

“ No Art, that's not the way. You're thinking of your power as a switch, either off or on. And when you're on you're really on. Think of it as a faucet where you can let just a drip out or a flood, try it again.”

He concentrated again and this time the tree lifted a little slower, but again crashed to the ground.

“ Alright, you're getting it, Art, try it a some more times until you can control the speed, then try lowering it slowly instead of just letting it drop.”

He worked on it for hours until he could lift the tree just a few inches and lower it slowly to earth with not a twig being broken. He had stood periodically during his actions and even walked around while doing so, so as to see if physical activity impeded him any to find it didn't.

When he had quit and sat in his chair he had a light sheen of sweat on his forehead, “You know, Alet, controlling it is harder than just letting it blast away. I'll sleep good tonight.”

“ It will get easier the more you do it, so don't worry. I think you'd better get to bed while I clean up. I want to leave early enough to get there at dawn.”

The stars were still twinkling away when Alet woke Art. She made some small lights that floated over their heads as they took turns at the stream for their ablutions. Art was replacing the sod over the fire site when she returned, whispered a spell to the cabin and it quickly refolded itself and the cover closed with a click.

They were soon away, floating over the unseen ground below them. When the first light of dawn shone in the sky Alet lowered them to a hilltop that overlooked a barren scene that stretched to the horizon. As the first of the sun's rays fully illuminated it Art could see dune after seemingly endless dune of almost white sand in the trackless waste. There were a few stunted bushes and tufts of grass at the base of the hill that captured the morning dew that ran down the rock face before it evaporated but there was no vegetation at all farther out.

“ Something's wrong. Can you feel it, Art? There's something or someone out there. Try to stretch your inner eye outward and see if you feel what I'm feeling.”

He tried to expand his awareness and thought he was succeeding when he jerked back, almost nauseous. “What is that, that thing? It's loathsome, whatever it is. Are we going out there?”

“ No, not until we know what it is. Can you place it's location? We have to find out what it is and report it, whatever it is. You're sensing more strongly than I am, but I can tell it's not good.”

“ How are we going to do that if we don't go there, and I don't want to go anywhere near it.”

“ Either do I, but we have to. If you can place it and if we go high enough and get the sun behind us it won't be able to see us. I'll set a shield so it shouldn't be able to sense us either. Wait for the sun to come higher and we'll try.” We'll unpack the gear here to make the platform lighter. We can always come and get it, there's nothing here that will harm anything.”

They unloaded the platform while Alet said, “I want to teach you a farseeing spell if we can't get close enough. It will let you see like you humans do with glass lenses. That way we can stay far away and still see.”

“ Alright, but what do we do of we do get into trouble? Do you have offensive spells to get us out? The only one I have is the fireball, and that didn't work out too well the last time I used it.”

“ Let's hope we don't need one, Art, but you've learned some control now. Can you try to throw a small one here where it's all rock? Just aim it so that if it doesn't turn out small that it goes into the desert.”

“ Ok, here goes, I'll try to make it as small as I can.” He concentrated, lifted his arms, snapped his fingers, and a little spitball sized orb of yellow fire dribbled from his fingers, almost catching his pants afire.

Alet chuckled, “I think you'll need more than that in an emergency, but you've control pretty well mastered. Try for one a little bigger.” A series of softball sized ones hit the stone some distance away.

“ I think I have size figured out now, but not distance. Should I try that into the desert?”

“ I don't think so, Art, there is something on the other side of it, you know. For now I don't think we have to worry about that. But we do have a weapon now if needed. Practice a few more while we wait, different sizes and different speeds if you can.”

For the next hour or so Art practiced until he was sure he had control of the fireballs. They then mounted the platform and Art took them high in the sky, so high that they could see a line of green hundreds of miles on the other side of the desert. When their breathing became a little labored he dropped some until they were comfortable.

He then took them back over the hills until the sun was directly over the edge of the desert. Sensing where the disturbance was he came from the hills directly between it and the sun. Using their farsight they could see a large group of black elves in a circle. In the center was a swirling something with no discernible shape, just a large swirling dark mass with angry colors flashing and slithering in it.

Although Alet was trying very hard not to lose her breakfast from the emanations from whatever it was she said, “We must go closer, go closer.”

Art was also feeling nauseous, “I don't think we should, whatever that is we won't see any more than we can now.

In a flat, low voice Alet droned, “Closer, must go closer.” and wresting control of the platform from Art, dived toward the black elves.

“ What the hell are you doing, Alet, we can't go down there.” and wrestled control from her and stopped where they were. Now, he too felt the strong compulsion to dive to the elves. He fought it but was giving into it when he did the only thing he could think of. Using all the strength he still had control of he sent a monstrous fireball winging toward the scene below.

When it hit the thing, whatever it was, it released the coercion on them but returned a huge black, smoking fireball with red flames emanating from it at them. Alet, now in command of herself cried, “Get away, Art. GO!”

Art turned the platform and sped away, turning and dodging to get away from the fiery death flying towards them, but it followed every twist he took, steadily gaining on them. Art increased their speed again and again until it wasn't gaining anymore but was still back there. After many miles Alet, looking back said, “ I think it's starting to shrink, but it's still coming. Can you go faster?”

“ Yes, but I'm starting to feel the strain. Let's hope it gives up before I do.”

“ Well, whatever you do, don't stop, we have to get to the Council and report this.” Looking back again, “It's much smaller now, and fading fast. As soon as it dies I'll take over and you can rest, and oh, thanks for saving us, my hero.”

Don't hero me, Lady, until you see the back of my pants. Some hero to do that.”

Alet laughed, “As soon as we're safe we'll stop, I may have some refreshing to do myself, my hero. But then we have to go nonstop to the Capitol.”

After a while they did take a short stop at a stream and cleaned up. Then Art took over again and at a top speed that wouldn't blow them off the platform they continued to the Capitol. Alet took over as they approached the place compound and circled until they received permission to land. Art was overwhelmed by the beauty and enchanted by the spires and towers that looked almost lacy in their fine scroll work of carved stone and magnificent height.

They were finally allowed to land and did so in a flowered field just inside the walls. They stood and stretched as Alet led them to a doorway and into a small waiting room, “Art, wait here, I have to see Lord Cyral, but I'll be back as soon as I can.”

Art found a very comfortable chair, almost a throne, and sat there, admiring the room. It was paneled in exotic woods with carvings of nymphs and sprites playing in pastoral scenes. The silk drapes were edged with fine lace and were pulled back to expose the exquisite stained glass windows repeating the panels' motif.

It wasn't long before Art was dozing. He was awakened by Alet calling, “Art, wake up and come with me.” She led them down a series of halls until he was thoroughly lost when they stopped and she tapped on a door. They were bid enter.

Art was not surprised to see Lord Cyral sitting in what was obviously his office. The room was lavishly decorated in excellent taste. Two carved chairs were placed before his desk and he gestured for them to sit.

“ I've heard the Lady Aletta's version, Art, and now I'd like to hear yours of what went on in the desert. Take as much time as you need, but don't leave anything out, even if you think it's unimportant.”

Art thought for a moment, then related everything he could recollect from the time when they first arrived at the top of the hill overlooking the desert to their arriving at the palace.

When he finished Cyral leaned forward, “That was well told, Art, and it matches Lady Alettas's remembrances very closely, except for the short stop you made. It seems she didn't think that important.” The last remark was delivered with a sly glance at the blushing Lady.

“ I'm sorry Mi'lord, it must have slipped my mind.”

“ No matter, Lady. You know where to get a room for Art, and he's probably hungry, too. I have to see the King.”

Alet took Art and arranged for a room and food to be brought to it. She left him with, “I have some duties to perform, Art. Get some rest but don't wander too far, we may be called before the Council.”

It was well past dark now and he was very tired from the stress of the day and the late hour. He was just able to eat the luxurious meal brought to his room by a young page before falling full length on the bed and falling asleep.

He was awoke by persistent tapping on his door. As he was still fully dressed he opened it to Alet, “Hurry, Art, we are called before the Council.”

He pulled the door shut, “Okay, let's go, I'm ready.”

“ Well, not like that you're not. Not with your camping clothes on. We have to get you dressed properly to appear before the Council. Follow me and hurry.” As he followed her down halls and flights of stairs he saw that she was dressed very elaborately in fine fabrics and wonderfully wrought jewelry and gems.

They finally went through a door opening to confront a cherub looking elf with a wide smile. “So this is the fellow I have to fit out, he'll be my first human. Are they all so big? Never mind, I'm sure we have something or can whip it up right away. Human, hold your arms out to your sides and let me measure you.” After a second, “Alright, I have it, you can lower them.”

He went through a door, but returned almost immediately with three other elves that had their arms loaded with garments. Laying them onto a table they started undressing Art. He pulled back “Wait a moment, I haven't washed yet and I must smell like a dead skunk.”

The little elf said, “I didn't want to mention it, but you're not exactly flower smelling, go right through there, these elves will help you. The elves quickly stripped him, poured hot water over him and scrubbed him almost raw, then a rinse of scented water. One even shaved him with a wicked looking extremely sharp knife.

It didn't take long to dress him in a undershirt, creamy shirt, light blue vest, a darker blue overvest, heavily brocaded long tailed coat, satin knickers, patterned, light blue silk stockings and upturned toed shoes that matched his royal blue coat. Then came the jewelry, a necklace and bracelets of heavily gemmed gold. The last was a gold clasp on his hair to pull it in a pony tail to expose his ears.

Looking in the full length mirror he thought he looked ridiculous but Alet didn't, “I suppose that's alright for a rush job, but we'll have to get you tailored if we stay here long. Come along, they're waiting.”

She led them to an anteroom where they stayed for at least three hours. Art lost patience, “I thought they were in a hurry to see us, Alet, what's going on.”

“ I know, Art. This what court life is like, hurry up and wait, sometimes I think they do it on purpose to show how important they are. Just then a page stuck his head in and motioned for them to follow.

When they entered the Council chamber the first thing he saw was a large slab of pure emerald resting on four gem cut diamond legs. Lord Cyral stood behind it as the head of the Council. In front of him were rows of desks arranged in a fan pattern, and behind each sat a richly caparisoned elf, most of them elderly.

Behind Lord Cyral was steps leading to two immense thrones, carved from single blocks of ruby, and cushioned with pillows of sable fur. They were much larger than what would be needed for the average elf.

Lord Cyral slapped the emerald slab which gave a sharp ring, “Call to order, these two are the witnesses to what is happening in the desert. We already knew that the worst of the dark elves had a cabal and were planning some mischief. Now we know a lot more thanks to these two brave youths. I have read their testimony they gave me, do you have more questions?

A very corpulent old elf struggled to his feet, “How can we believe the testimony of a common human. Look at him, he doesn't even know proper court dress, just look at that coat.”

Lord Cyral eyed the coat, “If I'm not mistaken, sir, that's a coat that you grew too heavy for and put it in the palaces inventory and were paid quite a bit for, isn't it?”

The fat elf plopped into his chair and remained silent. This sort of thing went on for an hour or more, an elf standing and objecting, or the rare one getting to his feet and demanding that something be done about the group in the desert.

This bickering ended when the Lord High Chamberlain struck the floor three times with his gold and silver staff and announced, “King Oberon and Queen Tatania, all kneel.” All the elves rose and went to one knee next to their desks, even Lord Cyral and Lady Aletta. Art followed, sinking to a knee and bowing his head.

At the command, “All rise.” they all took their seats except Lord Cyral, Lady Aletta, and of course, Art. When Art rose and looked at the Royal couple he was overwhelmed, first by their size, Oberon must be close to ten feet tall, and the Queen was at least eight feet. Secondly, by their beauty, in the land of mostly handsome men and gorgeous women, these two stood out.

It could be determined that the King was the King of all elves with his blue-black curly hair combined with his lighter shaded skin and gleaming green eyes. The Queen's voluptuous body was arrayed in layers and shades of wispy textiles that teased more than revealed, but accentuated her golden tresses with copper hued highlights.

The King's voice rang, “That's enough of this disagreement, you all know what has to be done here, even if you don't believe these young ones we must know what's happening. Stop quarreling and get to it.” He then rose, bowed to his Queen and started down the steps. At each step his size diminished so that when he reached the floor he stood only a few inches taller than Art.

He strode to Lord Cyral and beckoned Alet and Art to join them. When they did he turned to Cyral, “Are they needed any longer here or may I take them for a walk.”

Lord Cyral gave a small bow, “I think not, Your Majesty, as always, your word will spur them on, and if not, I think I can.”

The King put a hand on Art and Alets's shoulders and urged them behind the thrones, and down a corridor to a magnificently landscaped walled garden. “Lady Aletta, may I have a few words with Art. Please feel free to call the page for refreshments, you both must be thirsty after hearing all that balderdash in there. Art, come with me, we'll stroll and let you stretch your legs after standing there that long. I have a proposal for you.”

“ Sire, I don't know what you mean about a proposal. I'm here in this world at your leave. I'm in no position to bargain with you.”

“ You have proven to be one of the most powerful people in the magic arts that I know of, and you're one of those creative humans that I admire. That's a combination I have need of. There's going to be a war between the light and the dark elves. Some of the dark will be on our side but a few of the light will go to their side. You see, the dark ones want to invade your world and take over. I need your help to stop them.”

“ Are you sure of that, Sire? If they try we'll fight, and when humans fight it's terrible, I'm afraid we're a bloodthirsty bunch. Both sides will probably lose, as in most wars.”

“ I know, and the same thing will happen here. If we have an open war both sides will be almost wiped out and there won't be any civilization left. It'll all be gone and might never come back. With whatever the dark's have out there on the desert they think will give them the edge, but it won't. I know what it is and it's strong enough to create great damage but it must be stopped before all that damage is done.”

“ Where do I fit in, I have no training in warfare?”

“ No, but you're human and creative, which we are not. I'm hoping that you can come up with something to stop that thing before war starts. At least try Art, both our worlds need that or both will suffer.”

“ Certainly I'll do what I can, but I think you're depending on a young human too much. Won't your Council come up with a plan to stop it?”

The King gave a wry grin, “That in there? That's window dressing. They'll come up with a plan alright, in a week or so. Lord Cyral and I have already sent spies and troops out. If we do any good, they'll take credit for it. If all fails they'll be looking for someone to blame. Think about it, Art. Now let's go join the Queen and Lady Aletta, I see they're chatting. I have hopes that you come up with something.”

They walked to the Ladies. The Queen looked at Art, “What did you tell him Oberon? He has a look on his face like the whole world is going to end.”

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