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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 87: Brown 81
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Previous chapter: Chapter 86: Slade 77
Although Derek rose early and was prepared to leave before breakfast, there was already a crowd of elves waiting for him. Word of his presence had apparently spread through the elf community, and many wanted to see this mythical creature for themselves. They called him something that sounded like eh vrek, which after a while Derek realized meant little bug. Apparently this was the name the boys had used for him, and many thought it was his name. There was no point attempting to correct them; they couldn't understand a word he said, and soon it would not matter. However, he did complain to Thalaoniri for sticking him with that name.
Let me know how it goes, the elf thought back to him.
Are you serious? Derek asked. I can do this from pretty far away, so I really could let you know.
Yeah, that's cool. Let me know. It'll be neat to be able to talk to someone at the other end of the world.
Well, it's not so far as all that, Derek thought; but he supposed it might seem so. Thanking Thalaoniri's parents for their hospitality, he picked up his pouch and started flying back toward home, guided by that sense of where all his other things were. He no longer needed the quills; he had his formula, and could find his ingredients. He brought the pouch mainly to put it with his other things, as he hoped one day he would again be big enough to use them.
His trip home was not entirely uneventful. At one point there was a hunter in the woods, and he had to hide. He wished he'd thought to prepare his arrows with his new potion; but then, it was more important that he get home alive to teach the formula to others than that he try to stop one madman in the woods today. He lost a day, but the danger passed, and the tree in which he hid made a comfortable bed for the night.
He dropped his darts with his hidden belongings. It did not appear that his shelter had been disturbed, and there was no sense of anything elsewhere. Securing its cover, he headed back to the tree where his family would be waiting.
His parents were pleased to have him home, and didn't press him about his journey beyond asking whether it went well; he said it did. Landi, on the other hand, wanted to know all about it. Derek could see that ducking his brother's questions would make his parents suspicious that there was some trouble, so he decided to tell at least part of the story.
"Well, I had a rather uneventful trip headed where I thought I should go. After several days, I came to a part of the woods I didn't know, and I met some elves. They told me what I needed to know, so I came back."
"Elves!" Landi said, clearly excited at the idea that his brother had seen such mythical creatures. His father's voice carried a different emotion.
"Elves?" Morani asked, and Derek could see his concern.
"It was all right. In fact, it was kind of silly. They had no idea that sprites were real; they thought we were the stuff of fairytales and legends. They were interested in us, and told me a bit about themselves. In fact, they were quite nice, fed me dinner and gave me a place to sleep while I was there. They live inside trees, like us, only great big trees, many times bigger than any in our forests. And they teach these trees to grow the way they want them inside. The one I visited was a beautiful home."
"You were inside one of their houses?" Landi asked, and again he could see that his parents' interests in this were very different from his brother's.
"Yeah, I was inside. One of the ones I met, Thalaoniri, said he could teach me what I wanted to know if I came back to his place, and then invited me to stay the night."
"That was a very dangerous thing you did," Morani said. "The elves--" He paused, as if looking for a way to say what he meant. Derek took it from there.
"The elves are people, like us. They've made mistakes in their past, and they've grown and changed with time, just as we have. They don't seem to hate us or fear us; they just don't know anything about us. And we don't know much about them. It's kind of a shame, really, because I'd bet we've got more in common with elves than with any other people in the world, but we let a problem that happened thousands of years ago keep us apart."
"Elves can be very dangerous," Morani said.
"Everyone can be dangerous, Dad. You and I can be dangerous. We are dangerous to mice. Elves can be good people, too. Holy writ doesn't tell us that we shouldn't embrace the elves as people made in the image of The King. It only tells us that long ago we had a disagreement, and now we live here and they live there."
"I just think you took a very dangerous risk."
Derek thought about that for a moment. Perhaps it was a risk. He'd never intended to contact elves, or anyone for that matter. He'd gone there to get his pouch, so he could try to learn how to make a sleep drug. He'd found someone who could teach him to do it without studying the sample.
"I'm sorry; you're right. I didn't really mean to get involved with elves. I just sort of ran into them, and before I could figure what to do, we were talking. But they had what I needed to know, so I think maybe The King had that in mind all along."
"So, what is this secret knowledge you went to find?"
Derek looked at his father, and thought a moment. "Give me a couple days," he said. "I want to make sure it really does what I think it does before I start talking about it."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #191: Versers Travel. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: