Lost World

    The hunt had been a good one. Dewshine’s wolf Blackthroat had flushed out a small herd of forest deer, and the hunters had harried them down the old game trails, out of the forest and into one of the many grassy floodplains, where Tyldak could swoop down with his net.

They caught three deer at once that way, and while Dewshine and her wolf dispatched the captives in the net, the shape-changed Kimo brought down a yearling, and Cricket and Tass worked together to ensnare the leader of the herd in a tripline held between them. Watching from his lookout in the trees, Skywise saw Dart take aim with his arrow-whip. Strongbow’s son brought down the large buck with one clean shot.

The hunters let their wolves gorge on the largest kill, while they worked to butcher the other deer. The meat had to be quickly harvested and readied for transport back to the Holt before the blood attracted scavengers. The carrion-weasels were already rustling in the underbrush – Kimo left off his feasting to pounce on one. The hairless creatures were ugly and unpalatable to elves, but proved good sport for the wolves. Skywise was more worried about the stalking birds.

But after five hundred years of hunting together in the rainforest, the Wolfriders had honed their craft well. They worked in pairs to quarter the kills, and with the buzzing Preserver’s help, they had all the meat wrapped and ready to carry by the time their mounts had finished feasting. Only a few smears of blood and discarded offal remained for the scavengers.

“Ayooah!” Dewshine cried, raising her bloodstained knife over her head. “Back to the Holt. We’ll feast well tonight!”

They feasted well every night. If not on fresh venison, then the smaller prey of the forest understory. Even on days the elves went without meat, they never went without. The rainforest abounded with food – fruit and roots and fresh greens, and the eggs of a thousand different birds. Skywise looked down at his younger brother, sitting proud astride his potbellied wolf. He doubted Cricket had even once truly felt the pain of an empty stomach. Even Skywise himself had a hard time remembering the sensation. The days of deprivation were so long ago.

Cricket saw Skywise watching from the tree branch, and he gave him a tip of the head.

**Eyes down, brother,** he sent. **We’re done for the day.**

But Skywise was unwilling to give up his perch, not while the breeze continued to ruffle the tufts of the grass, concealing any movement that might be taking place underneath.

**I’ll be eyes high until we’re back at the Holt, if it’s all the same to you.**

Cricket sighed and shrugged his shoulders. **Suit yourself, old growler.**

The jibe struck home, though Skywise tried not to show it. He had always been the one taunting the elders – when had he become one himself? He rubbed his chin absent-mindedly. He supposed he would have grown face-fur by now, had he not had his wolfblood removed.

You’ll never have to worry about that, little brother, he thought. Eyes High and Shale had both undergone the change long before their second Recognition. 

He followed the hunters from the trees, hopping from branch to branch as lightly as a treewee. **Savin!** he sent to his lifemate. **Got some choice deer coming your way. I’d hightail it to the Grandfather Tree if you want to make sure your cut gets cooked the way you like it.**

He had to wait a moment for his answer. **I’m good for now. Set me aside a piece of haunch if you can. Don’t worry otherwise.**

**Stars!** Skywise knew his lifemate tended to prefer a quiet meal in their den to a communal feast, but even she could never resist the lure of fresh venison. He only think of only one distraction powerful enough. **Are you still in the Scroll Room?!**

* * *

Sure enough, Skywise found his lifemate at the Palace. Savin sat before the slowly-turning Scroll of Colors, studying the shapes she saw in the light. Sheafs of paper lay spread across her lap and across the floor. From time to time she glanced down at one paper, and made a marking with her ink-dipped quill.

“No… there!” she instructed Sunstream as she made another mark. “Right, hold it there and go in a little closer.”

Sunstream moved his hand before him as if pushing aside a leaf, and the image in the Scroll grew larger. “That’s right…” Savin murmured. She sketched out a copy of the shape on her paper. “There are five islands there.”

“You’re going to go blind staring at that thing, you know,” Skywise said wryly.

Savin barely looked up from her work. “If that were true, we’d have a small army of Sun-Touchers staggering around the Palace.”

“Sun-Toucher doesn’t stagger.”

“And magic doesn’t make elves blind.”

“Fresh kill back at the Grandfather Tree,” Skywise tempted Sunstream.

“I already ate, thanks.”

“Of course you did,” Skywise sighed. He walked over to Savin and sat down on the floor at her side. “All right, I’ll bite. What’s all the fuss with the maps about?” He picked up a paper and scrutinized the shapes. “You know we don’t need them in the Palace.”

“We’re not always going to be in the Palace,” Savin pointed out. “We’ve got kin spread out all over this world, and we still don’t have a proper idea of where anything is.”

“Oh, I think we do. Haven’t gotten the Palace lost yet, have we?”

She sighed. “Only because the Palace can’t get lost. You want to visit someone or some place, you picture it and you’re there. You want to see Redlance at the Evertree, you just think about him. Suppose I gave you the Lady Mura and a full year’s worth of supplies, and told you to sail to Blue Mountain. Would you know where to go?”

“Sure. Towards sun-goes-up.”

“You go straight east and you’ll hit the Forevergreen.”

He sighed. “All right. Then after that, I’d sail north until I saw Death Water Bay and a giant pile of rubble where a mountain used to be.”

“How many days would it take you?”

“Does it matter? I’d get there eventually.”

“Would you?” She pushed him a blank sheet of paper. “Draw it for me.”


“Draw how you’d go. Draw me the world.”

“Uh… all right,” Skywise smiled gamely, fumbling with the quill pen. He never quite understood Savin’s fascination with putting thoughts down on paper. He supposed it made sense for her people in the old days. The Islanders didn’t have howls like the Wolfriders – they trust their tales to survive multiple retellings unchanged. But now that they had the Palace, and the Scroll of Colors – the only book an elf could ever need – he didn’t see the point of such flimsy copies.

He sketched out a rough plan of the World of Two Moons as he knew it, trying to translate the glowing sphere he had glimpsed from space in a flat drawing. “Well… here’s the Homeland…” he drew a long shape in the center of the page, slightly bulbous at the top and the bottom, pinched in the middle. “And uh… the Evertree and the Frozen Mountains and everything are up here,” he indicated the top half, “and the Forevergreen is down here,” he indicated the lower portion. “You got the World’s Spine down the middle.” He drew pointed mountain peaks on the central isthmus.

“Then over here is the New Land.” He drew an oval to the left of the Homeland, then scratched out a little spike coming off its lower right curve. “And we’re here on the Spur, and the Islands are all down here,” he dotted the page with little ink splotches. “And the Plainsrunners and the Wild Hunt are up here in the middle. And there’s Howling Rock.” He drew a clumsy wolf’s head tipped back in mid-howl in the center of the map.

“That it?” Savin asked.

He heard a note of challenge in her voice. He glanced up at Sunstream and saw the golden-haired elf shake his head subtly.

“No,” Skywise said. “There’s… well… there’s a big frozen sheet of ice down here by the southern pole,” he explained, growing more confident as his memory returned. “And a little hook of land that comes off the ice… like so…” he drew a hook reaching northward towards the Islands. “And… uh… there’s that big red island over… here somewhere.” He drew a circle in the ocean to the right of the Homeland.

Savin looked at his map with an amused expression.

“Well, you do better,” he challenged. “No, wait, why should you have to?” He stood and gestured to the Scroll of Colors. The cylinders turned and the stream of light between them shifted into a blue-and-green sphere. “There’s the world. There’s the only map you need.” He studied the continents and frowned. So he had drawn the Homeland much too large, and the red land much too small. So he had forgotten multiple chains of islands, to say nothing of the Ice Bridge that linked the Homeland and the New Land. He had still captured the essence of their world.

“Say you want to go to… what-do-you-call-it? Coldhaven down there,” he said, indicating the hook-like promontory jutting above the southern ice fields. “Say you can’t take the Palace because Rayek is guarding it all to himself like a hog. You just study the Scroll until the image is locked in your head. Then you get in your ship and sail south. Just follow your thought like a lodestone.”

“Suppose you can’t study the Scroll,” Savin said.

“The Scroll Room is open to anyone!”

“But not everyone can read the Scroll,” she reasoned.

“Well… well, then ask you Sunstream to help you. He could put the thought in your head.”

“Maybe I don’t want someone mucking around in my head – no offense, Sunny.”

Sunstream shrugged equably.

“Maybe I don’t want to hook onto some magic line and let it pull me there,” she continued. “I did that once before, remember, and it just about drove me mad.”

“Well, most of that was Recognition,” Skywise pointed out.

“You sure about that? Sunstream – how good did it feel chasing the Cry from Beyond? Was it as simple as ‘following your thought.’?”

“If my thoughts were ‘I want to cough up my soul and die, if it’ll make it stop.’”

“That was different!” Skywise protested.

“We’re all different, Skywise,” Sunstream said. “Magic’s like dreamberries – it feels great to most of us, but some of us just don’t have the stomach for it. And if there are elves who would rather read a map off paper than the Scroll, I’m glad to help Savin.”

“Besides, will that ‘thought in your head’ tell you how long it will take to get there?” Savin pressed. “How many safe harbors you’ll find on the way? Suppose you’re going overland – might be good to know where the closest rivers are – and where a mountain range is going to force you right into a rainshadow.”

Skywise shrugged. “I thought half the fun was the ‘not knowing.’”

“Not when elves die from not knowing! These maps could save lives!”

All at once, he felt like a fool. Eastwaker! Of course, she was thinking of her father. He had been Speaker of Green Moon Bay before he stepped down in favor of Savin’s half-sister. But retirement had not suited him, and within a few years he had set off with his lifemate and a small crew, intent on exploring the coast to the west. No one knew what had become of him – and Savin refused to look for answers in the Scroll of Colors. Ignorance led to hope, however slight.

In all likelihood, the sea had claimed his little ship long ago, as it had claimed so many elfin lives. The Islanders all had the urge to explore – what the Wolfriders might call “quest-hunger.” But for every elf who returned with incredible tales to share, it seemed another two were never seen again.

“You’re right,” Skywise said. “Of course you’re right. It’s a good idea – it’s more than good. And when we all go back to the star home, you can make maps of the stars themselves. Just… don’t lose yourself in this, hey? I’ve been there – you can get so muzzy-headed in the Palace you forget the world outside.”

“I don’t think that’s likely,” Savin said. The sphere that was the World of Two Moons continued to gentle turn. As the unknown red continent came around again, she reached out and gently tapped it. The sphere froze, and little ripples ran over the image.

“It’s almost half the size of the New Land,” Savin said. “Why haven’t we ever gone there?”

“There’s nothing there to see,” Skywise said. He gestured, and the continent detached itself from the globe to grow into a large picture that filled the Scroll. “Look at it. It’s nothing but red dust.”

It was indeed, the most barren of the landmasses. Where the Homeland and the New Land both were painted with the colors of forests and plains, deserts and uplands, snow and jungles, this continent was a uniform reddish hue. An old mountain range along the western coast had long since worn down to hills and canyons. If one looked closely at the southern and eastern coastlines, one could just make out a thin seam of green hugging the sea. But as soon as one left the water, the vegetation dried out, giving way to beige plains and red sand. The center of the continent was a massive upland the color of rust.

“We have an old bedtime story of an island far to the west,” Savin said. “That when the Daystar set at the end of the first day, it touched down on the ocean, and it boiled away all the sea, leaving a flat land burned like charcoal. Of course only pips ever believed it. Mura taught us that we were on a great ball that rolled through the stars – and that if we travelled far enough west we would eventually go all the way around the world and end right back where we started. But I always liked the story of the Burning Land.”

She smiled wonderingly. “It doesn’t look burned exactly… but it sure looks dry – like something boiled off all the water. I wonder… if any elves ever lived there, and what sort of stories they might have made up about the lands to the east.”

“I don’t think any elves ever made it there,” Sunstream said. “It’s so remote, many moons journey by boat away from any land. And the land looks so old… exhausted, like it’s been sitting there alone for so long.”

“He’s right,” Skywise said. “Hard enough to imagine your ancestors making it here across the Vastdeep… I mean you’ve shown me the crossing in the Scroll, and I still don’t know how they made it. And that first boat of Mura’s was still better than anything I’d ever seen any other elf try to make. A crossing twice as long… in the little rafts or bark-cups the Homeland elves could manage… I just can’t see it.”

“No… probably not,” Savin admitted, looking suddenly very sad. Then a new thought struck her. “We’ve never gone there in the Palace, have we?”

Skywise thought about it. “That rust-rock? Not that I know of. But ol’ blackhair’s taken the Palace on more than his fair share of jaunts. How about it, Sunstream? Your father ever gone there?”

Sunstream cocked his head to one side, as if listening to the breeze. “No. He flew over it once. Saw nothing worth landing for.”

“So we could be the first elves there,” Savin said. **Oh, think of it, Fahr. The first elves to walk on a new land.**

Skywise couldn’t help but smile smugly. “Oh, I dunno. I’ve already been the first elf to do some many things.”

“First Wolfrider, maybe,” she challenged. “But think of your great quests – you and Swift and Rayek meeting all those new elves for the first time. You went to all these lands, but they got there before you. We’ve had the Palace alive and flying for five hundred years. This could be one of the last places where no elf has ever been before.”

Skywise felt the old quest-hunger rising within him. But he had enough of the Wolfrider caution in him to hesitate.

“What do you think, Sunstream?” he asked.

Sunstream exchanged a quick glance with Savin, then smirked. “If you’re going to do it, better decide fast. Before my father gets the idea to beat you to it.”

* * *

**Swift,** Skywise’s sending interrupted the chief’s supper. The tribe had gathered on the largest platform on the Grandfather Tree, and Pike and Skot were overseeing the roasting of one deer, while the more traditional Wolfriders enjoyed their meat raw and bloody.

Swift offered Rayek the bowl of fried mushrooms, but he waved it away politely. Swift cheerfully scooped up a handful and popped them in her mouth. **Where are you?** she sent back. **You’re missing your own feast.**

**Feel like taking the Palace out afterwards?**

Swift snorted at the thought. **After all the meat I intend to eat together, the only thing I’m going to feel like is a long sleep.**

Savin’s sending cut in. **Aw, come on, Swift. I’ve got a new quest for you.**

Swift sat up at attention. **A quest, you say?**

* * *

In the end, it was a small party that set out for the unknown land. The feast had left most of the Wolfriders too pleasantly incapacitated to be of much use, and few shared Savin’s desire to be on the first expedition.

“You just come back and tell me if there’s something worth fighting over there,” Skot said.

“I’m sure you will bring back some fine tales,” was Aurek’s verdict. “For myself, I have more than enough mysteries here to keep me occupied.”

“Maybe in a few days,” Eyes High yawned. “Or in a moon-dance, after we’ve gotten ready for the rainy season. There’s still so much to do.”

“Teru and I are still taking in the cotton tufts,” Newstar said. “Before the mold sets in.”

“Sounds like too much dust in the air,” Tyldak grumbled.

 “I suppose we should wait,” Swift said reluctantly, as she bid goodbye to Venka. “Eyes High is right – there are more important things to do now. I should be thinking of the tribe – preparing the dens… filling the storeholes…”

“Being responsible… but where’s the fun in that?” Venka teased. “You go enjoy yourself, Mother. I’ll look after the tribe.”

So only six elves accompanied Savin across the sea – Skywise, Swift and Rayek, Sunstream and Quicksilver, and the ever-present High One. All seemed satisfied with the small party. “It’ll be just like the old days,” Skywise told Swift cheerfully. “The two of us, getting into trouble – our lifemates, hauling our rumps out of the fire – and our cubs, laughing at the sight we make!”

“Do you ever think these quests would go much more simply if we simply had Petalwing cocoon everyone but us?” Rayek whispered to Sunstream.

“That’s a little excessive, Father,” Sunstream replied. He watched Swift and Savin scuffling over the paper map, looking for the best place to land the Palace. “A leash would suffice.”

Rayek settled the Palace high in the atmosphere, high enough to see the curve of their planet on the horizon, and the elves clustered in the entryway as Sunstream turned one of the outer walls transparent. The southeastern coast of the continent lay exposed beneath them, a broad expanse of red rock. “You can see forever,” Swift said, pressing her hands to the crystal wall her son had turned transparent. No clouds.”

“No rain,” Rayek remarked. He pointed to a green-brown floodplain. “But there is some water, I think.”

 “Anything lighting up the ol’ magic-feeling down there, Sunstream?” Swift asked.

Sunstream closes his eyes and concentrated. “There is life… and something… almost familiar. But not. Timmain?” he looked up at the High One for guidance.

She listened a moment. “The land is not as empty as it appears. There is an intelligence here.”

“Elves?” Savin asked curiously.

“Humans?” Swift asked nervously.

“Neither, I think. Something… as Sunstream said. Familiar, yet unrecognizable. I would advise caution, children.”

“Where are you getting the feeling from, cub?” Swift pressed. “The river?”

“I’m not sure. But it makes sense. The red desert looks even bleaker than the Burning Waste. I don’t think we’ll find another Sorrow’s End down there.”

“Well, that settles is,” Savin said. “The river it is. Time to drop anchor.”

Watching the coastline closely, Rayek chose a spot a half-day’s walk from the coastline, on the banks of a great salt marsh. Some five hundred years of practice made for a gentle landing, though the floor shifted a little under their feet as the weight of the Palace sank into the soft earth. The elves crowded around the crystal wall to catch their first ground-level glimpse of this newest land.

The view was one of beautiful emptiness. The estuary extended far inland, a maze of brine pools and grasses which grew no higher than an elf’s waist. In crossing the sea, they had caught up with the sun – while it was well past midnight in the Great Holt, the sky over the marsh was still painted orange with sunset. Far in the distance – perhaps as much as a day’s journey westward, strange towers of rock rose above the flatland, covered with vegetation.

Sunstream waved his hand, and the wall reformed into a doorway. Salty air washed over them, and Savin breathed in deeply.

“Ah… it smells like the mangroves fields back home.”

“This is your quest, Savin,” Swift said. “First step’s all yours.”

Savin tugged off her boots, and thrust a bare foot outside. The mud squelched under her toes. She took a step, then another, then looked back at her footprints and grinned.

“And we will call it… Savin’s Land,” she said with a mischievous tilt of her chin.

“Dung to that!” Swift whooped, splashing into the mud in turn. She jogged up to dry land, then tipped her head back and howled loudly.

“Ugh,” Savin moaned. She glanced back at Rayek, who was leaning in the doorway, his face pressed into his palm as he slowly shook his head.

“The call of the wolf,” he sighed. “‘Here we are. Come and eat us.’”

 “Come on,” Swift urged. She looked up down at her stained and waterlogged moccassins. “But… I think Savin had the right idea about taking off your boots first.”

Sunstream and Skywise duly removed their footwear and rolled up their trouser legs. Quicksilver, who shunned shoes whenever she could help it, bounded out without hesitation. Rayek simply floated above the mud until he could reach the high ground. Timmain waited until they were reunited before closing the door. The Palace shivered, and its crystal shell took on the appearance of weathered, salt-stained rock.

“So where do we go now?” Swift asked. “Rayek, can you see anything interesting nearby?”

Rayek flew above them and scanned the environs. **More marshland. This entire coast seems flooded. But there are those rock towers further inland. And I think there is a grove of mangroves or… something, to the north.**

**Can we reach it before nightfall?** Savin asked.

**Perhaps, if we knew the terrain. But I agree with Timmain about caution. I recommend we confine ourselves to the immediate area for tonight, and start fresh tomorrow.**

“I’m with Rayek,” Quicksilver said. She was up to her knees in brackish water, bent over sharply at the waist to watch the little fish swim in her shadow. “Anyway, there’s more than enough to look at right here. Mother – I think these fish are dusk-minnows.”

They spread out, looking for new discoveries. Swift flushed out some small birds and watched them take wing. Skywise examined the foam-like egg sacks of some small creature coating the leaves of certain plants. Quicksilver pointed out a large crab that was digging a burrow in the mud.

“Tracks!” Sunstream announced, and the elves hastened to join him around a line of prints just above the waterline. They were three-toed like a bird’s, yet the toes were broader than ever a stalking bird, and the print was larger than an elf’s hand. In front of each print was a smaller crescent-shaped indentation. Swift paced along the tracks, trying to measure its stride.

“That’s no sandpiper,” Quicksilver proclaimed.

“No,” Swift said. “And I can’t figure out how it’s walking. What are these little crescents? Almost looks like…”

“Four legs,” Savin ruled.

“A four-legged bird?” Swift asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Or a very big lizard,” Skywise pointed out.

“It’s not walking like a lizard,” Savin said. “Look at the angle. Lizards and crocodiles sprawl. This thing is walking like a deer.”

“Not our forest deer, that’s for sure,” Swift said. “It’s got to be the size of a shagback – at least.”

“But does it act like a shagback?” Sunstream mused. “Or more like a wolf?”

They exhanged glances, as they tried to fathom such a creature – a lizard-wolf the size of a zwoot.

“You were saying something about starting fresh in the morning?” Swift asked Rayek.

* * *

They struck out at dawn, with their weapons and supplies slung over their shoulders, travelling on foot towards the wooded grove Rayek had seen from the air. They kept to the dry ground, gradually moving further and further inland to escape the briny watercourses and the host of swarming insects that rose from the reeds with the morning sun.

“What is it?” Quicksilver asked, when Sunstream winced and touched his temple for the third time since leaving the Palace.

“Timmain. She keeps sending something about danger… strangers…”

“But not elves,” Swift queried.

“I don’t think so. I keep… casting a net, trying to see if I can pick up an elfin sending, but there’s nothing. Just the buzz of thoughts that make me think of wolf-sending.”

“Humans,” Rayek decided. Savin scoffed.

“Pfft. If elves couldn’t make it all the way out here, I don’t see how humans could.”

“Not all humans are as… passive as the ones at Crest Point.”

“So you keep telling me. I’ve yet to meet one that can match elfin ingenuity.” She thought about it a moment. “Now… trolls – I might believe. If they weren’t such terrible swimmers.”

They reached the grove after an hour of marching. The “trees” didn’t appear to be trees after all, but some sort of giant grass. Their green trunks were scarcely wider around than an elf’s arm, yet they grew to great heights, and when the wind caught their fluffy crowns, the whole forest creaked and moaned as the trunks swayed in the breeze.

“It’s beautiful,” Quicksilver breathed.

“But barren,” Swift ruled. “Looks like there’s only one kind of tree here.”

Leading the party, Savin suddenly froze and let out a wordless shriek. Within heartbeats, Skywise was at her side, sword drawn. “What?” He swept an arm about her, drawing her close. “What is it?”

Shuddering, Savin pointed. An enormous centipede was working its way up one of the swaying trunks of grass-tree. It was as large as an elf, and its weight was causing the tree to bow. Startled by the noise, it turned its head in their direction and wriggled its antennae.

Skywise added his own cry of disgust and swung his sword down. It sliced cleanly through the creature, and its segmented body slowly tumbled to the ground in a coil. Its many limbs continued to twitch.

 “Worm-walker!” Savin cried, clinging tightly to her lifemate’s vest. “Blech, I hate those things!”

“Have you ever seen one that size?” Swift asked.

NO! High Ones – the little ones we have at home are bad enough.”

“Giant grass, and now giant vermin,” Rayek remarked. “I’m afraid to ask what comes next.”

“There’d better not be any humans here,” Sunstream said.

They edged around the dead worm-walker and continued on. Swift’s initial judgment was confirmed: the grass forest was largely devoid of life – the greedy stalks prevented any other plants from taking root, and without a diversity of ground cover, there was little food for animals. Apart from a few insects – mercifully of a typical size – and a solitary rat gnawing on a fallen grass-tree, they encountered no creatures. Compared to the constant chatter of the rainforest, the silence was unsettling.

They came to a clearing, then another, and by noon they had left the grass forest for a mixed scrubland. Immense plants like ferns grew in clusters between boulders, while the grass-trees struggled to establish themselves on less-than-ideal soil.

“I’m beat,” Quicksilver said. “I say we call a rest.”

Savin plucked at the vegetation. “These dried-out twigs will certainly burn well.”

“I don’t know if fires are a good idea just yet,” said Swift.

“Why not?” Savin challenged. “Don’t tell me you of all elves believe Timmain’s warnings.”

“She’s always been a jumpy old wolf. But when something gets Sunstream’s hackles up…” she let her voice trail off meaningfully.

So they made camp under the shelter of one of the giant ferns, and passed around the waterskin while chewing on rations of smoked meat and roots. Skywise yawned and stretched out in the shade. “Well, someone wake me when the sun is behind those hills over there.”

Rayek frowned and lay his hand palm-down on the soil. “Does anyone else feel that?”

Sunstream and Savin followed suit. A distant series of tremors lace through the ground, like the thud of heavy footsteps.

They listened. They heard the sounds of snapping foliage, and a lowing moan of terror. They scrambled out from under the shadows of the fern and saw the grass-tree crowns to the northwest dancing wildly in the absence of wind.

“Stampede?” Savin asked, getting to her feet as the noises grew nearer.

“A stampede of what?” Swift drew New Moon. Savin shot her a dubious look.

“Whatever it is, I don’t think that’ll be enough to stop it.”

The grove of grass-trees was shaking as if to its very roots. The elves heard the steady drumming of footfall, and a new sound – a ghastly shriek like some creature of nightmare. Like magic gone bad.

“Get down!” Swift ordered as the foliage parted and the source of the cacophany burst out into the clearing.

They crouched down behind the boulders, watching in spellbound silence. There – surely – was the beast who had made the tracks in the mud: a four-legged creature twice the size of a shagback, with a long, paddle-like tail and an almost absurdly small head, topped with a strange bony crest. Its pebbled skin was striped in shades of muted green and brown – the perfect camouflage among the reeds and grass-forest. Only now its disguise was stained with blood from a dozen different cuts – both shallow and deep – across its shoulders and haunches. Each gash was long, like the slice of a swordblade, and from the way the beast staggered, it had been losing blood for a long time.

A moment later the cause of its injuries flew out of the forest. Savin had to clap her hand over her mouth to hold in a cry.

At first they appeared as black shadows – they moved so fast. They threw themselves on their stricken prey and inflicted another half-dozen swift cuts, before the larger beast shook them free with a great toss of its shoulders.

The predators were the size of stalking birds – almost as tall as a High One and easily thrice the muscle mass. But these weren’t birds – at least any kind Savin had ever seen before. Their skin had the same pebbled texture as their prey’s, and instead of wings they had fully-functioning arms that ended in clawed hands as nimble as an elf’s. Their heads were massive – a bird with a crocodile’s jaws. But though their maws foamed with exertion, they were not bloodstained. Savin looked at their feet and she understood. Their true weapons were the massive crescent-shape claws – one on each foot – that the creatures wielded like swordblades. Even now as they shrieked and howled and hemmed in their prey, they were constantly flexing their killing toe, tapped their claws on the ground like an elf might drum his fingers.

**We should go,** Sunstream sent.

**Go where?** Swift replied. **We move, we’re exposed. We’re downwind from them for now – safest thing is to sit tight.**

The prey beast gave a long bellow of frustration, and fell over on its side. The predators waited a moment, just to ensure the beast wouldn’t rise, then flung themselves at their prey. Within moments, they had the beast eviscerated with precision kicks. Then their jaws sunk into the flesh at last, and they tore great chunks of meat free.

Their prey wasn’t quite dead. Savin saw its tree-trunk legs continue to kick.

**I think I’m going to be sick,** Quicksilver sent.

**I hate it when they do that,** Swift agreed.

**Don’t look,** Skywise advised his daughter.  But they couldn’t shut out the sounds of greedy feasting, nor the anguished moans that continued to issue from the dying animal.

**Monsters!** Rayek sent angrily. **For the love of Yurek, finish it cleanly!**

**I know, lifemate,** came Swift’s reply, **I know.**

One of the predators looked up.

**Did you see that?** Savin sent.

**What?** Swift asked.

A second carnivore lifted its bloodstained muzzle from the carcass and stared in the direction of the elves.

**Nobody move,** Swift ordered.

**They saw us!** Savin exclaimed.

**They can’t see us from that angle. Not unless they can see through rock.**

**Then they smell us!**

**We’re downwind!**

All three creatures were looking towards the boulders now. The apparent leader of the trio took a step forward, its killing-claws drumming irritably on the ground.

**Uh… I think they hear us…** Sunstream sent.

**No one hears a Wolfriders in den-hide.** Skywise retorted.

**No – our sendings! They can hear our sendings!**

**What? Aw, you’re pulling our tails.**

The lead predator opened its jaws and screamed, then streaked across the ground, as fast as a wolf. The elves staggered to their feet, weapons raised, as the reptile sprang onto the boulder above them, and snarled out a high-pitched challenge.

“No – sudden – moves,” Swift whispered.

An alien sensation prickled their minds at once, like a sending, but pitched so low they could barely make out the thoughts.

“Sunstream…?” Swift whispered.

**I can hear them. Wait…**

Sunstream’s aura envelopped them, and they could hear the creature’s thoughts as clearly as an elfin sending. ((New ones! Not friends! Strangers!))

“Oh High Ones…” Savin murmured.

Sunstream tried to communicate. **Hunters, you and I. Could be friends.**

((No strangers in our land!!))

**We are strong. We will defend ourselves.**

The reptile’s scaled lip actually curled back from its teeth, mockingly. It readied to strike.

And Rayek stepped forward, unleashing a powerful magic blast with both hands. The reptile went flying, and its companions shrieked their displeasure.

**GO!** Rayek sent, as he sent a second bolt of energy into the fallen predator. Arcs of lightning rose from the ground to strike the two beasts who held back. **Go away or die!**

Snarling in anger, the three reptiles fled into the woods.  The downed prey beast had fallen still at last, and silence reigned over the clearing once more. One last garbled sending touched the elfin minds. ((We tell friends! Friends will come!))

“Well…” Rayek spoke at last. “I think it’s safe enough to say we’ve found Timmain’s strangers.”

“My head…” Skywise moaned. “That was more than any wolf-sending.”

“Timmain was right,” Sunstream said. “They are smart. Smart as wolves – maybe moreso.”

“Poke it,” Swift declared. “Call up the Palace. This quest is done.”

“Wait!” Savin cried. “Wait, wait, wait! We just met giant bird-lizards! That can send! And you want to pack it in? I thought you were Swift the bloody Seeker.”

“I sought. I saw. I’m out of here.”

“I can try to send to them again, Mother,” Sunstream offered.  “Explain we mean no harm.”

“After Rayek just blasted their chief into tomorrow? Nicely done, by the way. Uh-uh. You hear them – their ‘friends’ are coming to deal with us. And by the time they get here, I mean to be back in the Great Holt.”

“Friends…” Savin murmured. “Why would they say ‘friends’?”


“He sent ‘friend.’ If he meant the rest of his pack, wouldn’t he send ‘family’ or ‘kindred’? A friend isn’t family. A friend is something else.”


“So… don’t you and your wolves call each other ‘friend’?”

Swift’s eyes widened. “You think those… things have elf-friends?” She looked at son and lifemate and saw their pensive expressions.

“Sunstream, call the Palace,” she said again. “We’ll wait for those ‘friends’ to come – but we’ll do it in safety.”

* * *

With the Palace moved to their new campsite and disguised as an uncommonly thick grove of grass-trees, the elves waited. No one could bear to harvest meat from the dead reptile, and so it slowly rotted in the sun, attracting scavengers. More strange beasts slowly arrived – small lizards and featherless birds, and a strange flying beast that looked like the offspring of a bat and a blade-beaked crane.

The scavengers took the choicest cuts of meat and left the rest of the carcass for the insects. The sun swung over the western hills, and the shadows lengthened. But the reptiles and their ‘friends’ did not appear.

“Wonder how far away the rest of their pack is,” Skywise mused.

The sky was beginning to turn golden in the west when one solitary bird-lizard ran into the clearing. It stood a little larger than the ones they had battled at noon, and by the scars lacing its back, it was much older.

“An elder, let’s hope,” Swift said.

“Should I send to it?” Sunstream asked.

“And let them know we’re still here? No, let’s wait a while longer. See what happens.”

The beast sniffed the ground and the air. It followed the scent trail the elves had left from the boulders to the grass-trees, to the edge of the Palace itself. Safe inside their crystal walls, the elves watched through the magical clearstone as the bird-lizard came closer and closer.

When it meant to part the tree-stalks with its snout, it bumped against the Palace wall. Quicksilver covered her mouth against a squeak of alarm. The bird-lizard sniffed the wall, rubbed its muzzle against it, then placed a three-fingered hand against the crystal. Savin reached out and pressed her four-fingered hand overtop the image.

“Quit it!” Swift hissed.

They could hear the creature’s sending, a wordless vent of frustration and disbelief. It paced along the wall, keeping its shoulder pressed to the illusion of foliage, until it came to the corner of the room.

“By Yurek, it’s measuring…” Rayek marvelled.

“Does it know we’re here?” Swift demanded of her son. Sunstream had no answer.

“It knows this isn’t natural,” Rayek said. “That’s proof enough of its wits.”

Another sending came, a little clearer. Whether it was Sunstream’s doing or the Palace’s, they were beginning to understand the bird-lizard’s thoughts. ((Come share. We share thinking.))

**Will you attack us?** Sunstream asked.

“Tanner’s needles!” Swift exclaimed. “What are you doing?”

**We are strong. If you hurt us, we will hurt you.**

((Truth. No hurt. No kill. Come share. Where are you?))

Sunstream opened the Palace door. Swift and Skywise could only gape in disbelief as he stepped outside, Savin close behind.

The bird-lizard turned around, jaws open in something that almost resembled a grin.

“Mother!” Quicksilver cried.

“No fear,” Rayek said. He extended his arms. “I have a shield raised. That beast won’t be able to strike.”

The bird-lizard approached the elves, bobbing its massive head nervously, just like a sandpiper on the beach. A low, steady hiss emanated from its throat.

**We are elves,** Sunstream sent. **Hunters like you. We mean no harm.**

The bird-lizard let out a barking rattle, deep in its throat. 

**We will defend ourselves,** Sunstream insisted. **But we do not kill without reason. We would be friends.**

((Come hunt? Hunt our food?))

**No. Come… to see, that’s all.**

The bird-lizard snarled and tensed. ((See food? See land? Hunt land? Our land!!))

“I don’t think he understands you,” Savin murmured.

“Can you blame him?” Sunstream whispered back. “What other creature explores simply for the experience?” **We hunt… memories,** he tried. **We feed mind, not bellies.**

The bird-lizard seemed to relax, a little. It brought its head closer and inhaled their scent.

**I am Sunstream. And you?**


“Is that his name or what he is?” Savin wondered aloud.

“What are you doing out there?” Swift demanded. The bird-lizard – Talon – snarled at the sudden noise.

**No fear, no fear,** Sunstream sent swiftly. **That is my mother. She is our chief. Are you chief of your kind?**

Talon ducked his head. ((Chief. Friend chief.))

**Who are your friends? We would like meet them.**

The bird-lizard immediately dropped into a defensive pose and let out a shriek. Blood-stinking breath washed over Sunstream and Savin.

**Nimh!** Skywise locksent. **For the love of Timmorn, get back inside!**

“I’m fine,” Savin shouted back. “We’re both fine, right, Sunny?”

Sunstream nodded, his nose still wrinkled from the stench.

“And Rayek has his shield up. Just… wait a minute.” She snapped her fingers to get Talon’s attention, and locked eyes with him as his head came up. His eyes faced forward like those of a bird of prey. There was something quite unnerving about their cunning stare.

“Will he understand me if I send?” she asked Sunstream.

Sunstream touched his forehead briefly. “There. He should now.”

**Maybe your friends don’t want to be our friends,** she sent. **If they tell us to go, we’ll leave. But maybe they would like to meet us first.**

Talon’s head cocked to one side, as if he was studying her. Again he bent his muzzle and sniffed the air. When he breathed in, the force of his inhalation lifted a lock of her hair. ((Friend… daughter?))

“What?” Savin stammered.

((Smell of… friend. Think like… friend. Friend daughter.))

She couldn’t understand what he meant.


No, it couldn’t be. It was a wild rum-dream, nothing more. Some things just weren’t possible.  Sunstream had said it himself, no elves could have possibly made the crossing across the sea – certainly not in a little schooner meant for racing between the Islands.

“Rayek… could you drop the shield? Just for a moment?”

“Have you run mad?”

**He won’t hurt me. I know he won’t. Please. I need to try something.**

She felt the shield go down. She took a step towards Talon, holding out her hand for him to sniff.

**Nimh, what are you doing?** Skywise begged.

**Trust me.**

She brought her hand right up to the creature’s muzzle, let him smell her again. She laid her palm on his pebbly skin. **Show me your friend,** she sent, and an image formed in her mind, as real as any memory… an elf with russet hair and a lazy smile…

“High Ones!”

Then Talon bent his head and bumped her shoulder, and before Savin really knew what she was doing, she was clambering up onto his back, like she might mount Starjumper. **Take me there!** she commanded, and Talon spun on his heel and took off at a sprint. The air rushed over her, and she clung to the bird-lizard’s thick neck for dear life.

She heard her family calling her, her lifemate’s anguished cry. But soon they were back in the grass-trees, and she could hear nothing but the wind and the snapping of stalks.

**Follow me!** she sent.

Talon ran on, faster than any beast Savin had ever ridden, faster than a dolphin riding the Mura’s bow wave. Savin held on with her arms about his neck and her legs about his ribs, her head bent to avoid the flying debris that broke off the grass-trees. They raced through the forest, then broke out onto the scrublands once more. Talon ran towards the sun, over the gently rolling hills, over long dried-out riverbeds, towards the strange pinnacles of rock.

A pair of strange bat-birds flew overhead. Far to the south on the plains, Savin caught sight of great four-legged beasts, moving in a vast herd.

**Nimh?** Skywise’s sending was already growing distant.

**I’m fine! Don’t worry – just follow me.**

The plains flew beneath Talon’s feet. The limestone pillars grew larger and larger on the horizon. Whenever she dared lift her head, Savin could see the crowns of vegetation that adorned them. Groves of grass-trees grew in their shadows. But as they drew ever-nearer and Talon began to slow, she saw more. What she had taken for one particularly large series of pillars was in fact many, all surrounded by a wall of stone blocks. High above the ground – higher than even the largest beast could reach – she glimpsed scaffolding made of grass-tree stalks, clinging to the limestone pillars. Thin curls of smoke rose from within the structure.

**I am Savin from Green Moon Bay!** she sent openly. **Savin, daughter of Eastwaker and Gullwing!**

No answer came in sending. But she knew they had heard her – a chorus of voices erupted inside the fort as Talon drew up short of the great rock wall. There was no gate, only walkway overhead, and a great system of ropes and scaffolding at the midpoint between rock towers.

She saw elves flock to the walkway – elves with strange faces, dressed in reptile-hides and feathers. One lad had painted his face with white clay to resemble a skull. They pointed and murmured, but made no move to help her. Then she heard a voice she never thought to hear again, booming: “Man the lift, you fool! That’s your big sister down there!”

She still couldn’t believe it. Not when the young elves let down a rickety-looking cage and barked “Well, get in!” – not as she climbed off Talon’s back and into the cage to be hoisted over the wall. She wouldn’t believe this rum-dream could come true – not until she cleared the wall and a pair of strong arms plucked out of the cage and crushed her close in an embrace six hundred years overdue. Her father’s arms.

“Savin!” Eastwaker wept. “My little Savin-girl – by Mura, it’s really you! How did you ever find us?!”

* * *

Later, once Swift and Skywise and the others had caught up with her, once all the introductions were made and the evening fires stoked, the newcomers sat around the hearth to hear Eastwaker’s tale.

The camp within the rocks had no name – to them it was simply Home, as it had been for hundreds of years – ever since Eastwaker’s band had given up trying to rebuild their ruined ship. The soft limestone allowed for caves to be dug, and the hollow tree-stalks were easily adapted to a multitude of uses. Some elves perched on the scaffolding now, the better to hear their origins retold. Others fought for places around the newcomers. Elves dressed in reptile skins plied the Wolfriders with drink – a clear liquid that tasted like watered-down rum. A trio of elf-maidens cast appraising glances at Rayek and Suntop’s exotic complexions, while several warriors eyed Swift and Skywise’s brightmetal swords with naked envy.

Savin sat at her father’s side, raptly studying his face. Strange, how she had found it so hard to picture him, yet now all her memories were coming back, clear as day. The way he laughed, throwing back his head just as Loosestrife always did. The mischievous twinkle in his eye, that secret smile he saved just for her, his youngest-born.

Not anymore, she corrected. That honor fell to Warmask, the smirking elf with the skull paint on his face. Her first thought upon looking him in the eye was that he was some unnatural melding of Loosestrife and Skot – a veritable Madcoil of elfin mischief. Beside him sat his elder sister Juniper, an elf-woman with features not unlike Savin’s own, but cast in the pearly-fair coloring of a Glider.

Juniper and Savin; they were sister plants. Eastwaker had named her after the child he never thought to see again.

They had been among the many children born in the years after the stranding, clearly. She remembered her father sailing with a crew of a dozen. Yet she counted fifty-two elves in his band now, ranging in age from old Brine, who she dimly remembered from her childhood in Green Moon Bay, to little Cycad, a baby Eastwaker introduced her as “Cypress’s latest pip.”

Savin remembered Cypress well – Eastwaker’s lifemate had born him two children in Green Moon Bay – and calmly endured his Recognition to Savin’s mother. Now it seemed she had Recognized someone besides her lifemate, yet from the warm looks of love exchanged between the pair, the latest arrival made no difference to their bond.

“We were twelve when we started out from the Bay,” Eastwaker explained. “We only meant to follow the coast as far west as we could. We did – we scouted all around the Cauldron and found Sunset Point. Took us nearly three years – and by then we were itching to get home. Thought we’d take a risk and run the open sea.” He shook his head. “We didn’t reckon on the winds. Or the currents. We got caught in one roar of a wind after another– couldn’t even begin to tack against it. Kept blowing us further and further west – we figured the only thing for it was to ride it out, then try to cut north of the stormline. That didn’t work out so well either. There’s a huge patch of sea out there – we called the Idyl Water. No wind – and the current just pulls you in one giant circle. We were becalmed there for months. That’s when we started losing folk.”

“You must have been caught in it yourself,” Brine interrupted. “Or did your ship manage to sail around it?”

Savin bit her lip and exchanged a glance with Skywise. “Uh… our ship is a bit different than the kind you’re used to,” Skywise said awkwardly. “The currents don’t really bother us.”

“Oyster was the first to go,” Eastwaker continued. “Then Sureknot and Sculpin. We watched the sun and the salt just… shrivel ’em up until there was nothing left. Figured we’d all die. Some of us… we ever started wondering if we shouldn’t just do the deed ourselves and save time.

“But then one day we caught a breeze – just a puff, really, but we still had sail enough to catch it, and that got us out of the Idyl.  We rode another current south-west. Another eight days or so and Mako spotted land. But it took us another month to make landfall. The current turns south and would have blown us halfway to Coldhaven if we hadn’t fought it at every wave. You’ve seen the coast – I swear the river mouth is the only decent landing site on this whole side of Hearthstone.”

“Hearthstone?” Swift asked.

“That’s what we took to calling it, when it was clear we weren’t getting off it any time soon. Made it feel… more like home.” He shrugged. “Not that we didn’t try to leave – especially after we met the locals. The dreadclaws,” he explained to their confused expressions.

Swift whistled. “Is what you call them? Good name.”

“It’s what they call themselves – or what they would if they spoke our tongue. They’re our friends now, but believe me, that was hard won. Took years to learn to send to them. Their thoughts… they’re so different from ours – makes learning the human jabber look like child’s play. But we learned it… and eventually it was just easier to send their way.” He reached over and gave Savin a one-armed hug.  “By Mura, Freckles, yours was the first real elfin sending I’ve heard in over four hundred years!”

“That’s why we never sensed you!” Sunstream exclaimed. “That’s why I never knew about you – all these years. I’ve been trying to figure why I never heard you before. But if you were sendings in… Dreadclaw-Thought…”

“Well, we were also a long way from the Islands, pip,” Eastwaker said gently.

“Pft, that doesn’t matter to Sunstream,” Quicksilver said proudly. “When we’re all done our tales, he can send back to Green Moon Bay and tell Evergreen and the others all about you!”

“Really?” Eastwaker marvelled. The Hearthstone elves sitting closest to Sunstream all edged back slightly, giving him a respectful distance.

“Evergreen!” Cypress’s eyes lit up at the mention of her eldest child. “Tell me, is she still with Gale? Did they ever Recognize? Did Loosestrife ever Recognize – that little rascal!”

“Pft – not likely. And yep, Evergreen and Gale are together… but there was a rough patch or two. She, uh… she Recognized Noontide; Gale didn’t take it well. And Noontide and Evergreen – they had some great years together. But, Noontide – he died. Drowned off Race Rock. After Noontide was gone… Gale tried, but Evergreen wouldn’t just… pick up where they left off.”

Eastwaker whistled low. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Savin shrugged. “But Gale finally got his wish – and they Recognized. Still took ’em a while to get back together, but they made it work.”

“So Evergreen has two children?” Cypress cried, delighted.

“Uh-huh. Pair of boys – well, not boys anymore – both old hands on the Lady Mura now. And you and Father…?” she looked meaningfully towards the infant in Cypress’s arms.

“Never happened again,” Cypress sighed ruefully. “Twice looks to be it for us. Of course he can’t seem to stop meeting eyes – Islands or here, it makes no difference. And little Cycad here is my third baby since we washed up here – third! Can you believe it?”

“Eight of us survived the crossing and the first month ashore,” Eastwaker took up the tale again. “And eyes start meeting eyes. Me and Pearldiver. Azure with Brine. Cypress with Mako. Sargasso with Brine. Sargasso with Mako. And as soon as our pips were old enough for it, damned if we didn’t all start Recognizing each other all over again. There were some queer pairings in there, I tell you.”

“Tell me about it,” Juniper muttered under her breath.

“Wasn’t easy for some of us. And of course, it was always hardest on the girls,” he added sadly. “No one wanted to breed in a place like this. And they didn’t all make it, the pips.” He summoned a smile. “But enough did. This one did – don’t quite know why.” He reached to his right to ruffle Warmask’s unruly auburn hair.

“Love you too, Papa,” Warmask sneered.

“And Juniper – it’s her boy that sired little Cycad. My lifemate Recognized my grandson! Figure that.”

“But… the dreadclaws,” Savin said. “How did you ever end up bonding with them?”

“Oh, only with this clan. There are clans all over Hearthstone. And they’ll fight to the death over territory. But these ones… once we learned how to send to them, we convinced them it was better to work together than to keep killing each other. We help them hold their territory, they help us stay alive. We even got them to let us ride them.”

“I did that,” Warmask piped up.

“That he did. First dreadclaw-tamer of our band. Although the dreadclaws think they tamed us, to be honest. Well, after that we started bringing in enough game to actually feed ourselves properly. And we had one less thing trying to eat us. Not that we were free and clear – there’s a reason we have those walls around our camp. You see a land-shark yet? Or a glutton? No? Trust me, you’d know one when you saw one.”

He turned a gentle smile on Savin. “I thought about you and the others all the time. And don’t think I didn’t try to get back to you any way I could. When we had to give up on making a boat out of those cane-trees, a few of us even tried to walk our way home. Thought… if the world really is a ball… this land might link up to other lands. And if we kept walking west we’d get back to the Islands. Well, that didn’t work either.”

“Ten days inland you start to hit desert,” Cypress explained. “So hot, we call it the Forge. So we went north, following the coast. We went north until we ran into the sea, then we went west until we ran into the sea. Then we went south.”

“Took us nearly twenty years,” Eastwaker continued. “But we mapped the whole coast of this rock. After that… we decided there was nothing for it. So we came back here where it all started, and settled down with our children to make the best life we could. Even figured out how to make something like rum. This one and his lot,” – he slapped Warmask’s shoulder – “they only think of the Islands as a bedtime story. As far away and long ago as Mura herself. In fact, I think you once accused me of making it all up.”

Warmask shrugged.  “I was little. And you told me you sailed here on a flying fish! What was I supposed to think.”

“That was the name of the ship!” Savin burst out laughing.

“Well, how I was supposed to figure that out? Told you – I was little. I’d never seen a ship! Or a flying fish, for that matter. Might as well tell me you rode bonebats here!”

 “What’s a bonebat?” Skywise asked. “You mean those ugly leather-winged things? With the woodwhistle stuck on the back of their heads?”

 “Can’t blame the young pips,” old Brine spoke up. “This is all they know. But we elders… well, we never quite gave up hoping that somehow… if we could only hold out long enough… one of you would build a ship strong enough to get out here and find us.”

“Hah – I just never thought it would be you, Freckles!” Eastwaker exclaimed. “Whenever I think of you, you’re still that little girl who far more interested in fiddling with plants than learning to sail.”

“I wasn’t that little when you left,” Savin reminded him.

“Suppose you weren’t. And look at you now. Found a whole new tribe of elves – got yourself a lifemate and a pip – you’re a mother now.”

“Grandmother,” Quicksilver piped up.

“Grandmother?” Eastwaker gaped at his daughter.

“Her name’s Weatherbird,” Savin explained.

“Oh, I’d like to meet her one day.”

“You can! You can come back with us tonight and see everyone! And you and Cypress can set up your hut down by Big Beach and never leave the Bay again. Or you can stay for a quick drink in Corbie’s tavern and be back here by tomorrow!”

“Corbie still has her tavern? Wait – tomorrow?” Eastwaker frowned. “What kind of ship do you have, girl?”

Savin shared a conspiratorial smirk with her Wolfrider kin. “A very special ship,” she said at length. “And a very old one…”

Elfquest copyright 2014 Warp Graphics, Inc. Elfquest, its logos, characters, situations, all related indicia, and their distinctive likenesses are trademarks of Warp Graphics, Inc. All rights reserved. Some dialogue taken from Elfquest comics. All such dialogue copyright 2014 Warp Graphics, Inc. All rights reserved. Alternaverse characters and insanity copyright 2014 Jane Senese and Erin Roberts.