No one came in until about half an hour before the meeting began. Every man who came in seemed to know exactly where to sit. At about five til six, all of the seats were filled except one: the seat at the head of the table. It must have been about 6 PM when the last man entered, accompanied by his attendants.
The man was not the most handsome man that Hi-lee had ever seen, but he was attractive and quite friendly-looking. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and no beard or mustache. He wore a blue shirt with black pants. He wore a belt over the shirt that gathered it at the waist, almost making a type of skirt over the top of his pants. Hi-lee took this all in at a glance. There were four fairies flying near the man, two on each side. Only Elk-lore could see that two of them looked sorrowful, one looked angry, and one looked proud.
Hi-lee mostly took note of the attendant bringing up the rear of the party. It was a cat, and every bone in his body looked evil. He had gray fur with white on his paws, tail, and face, along with his stomach. His eyes were green, and they had such a wicked look in them that Hi-lee had to cover her eyes and hope that he wouldn't track her down and eat her just for the fun of it. Elk-lore put a hand on her shoulder, mostly to stop her violent trembling.
The handsome man walked to the head of the table and stood. All the other men stood up and did an odd kind of salute. All involved took a knife (some were hidden in boots, others in shirts, and still another strapped on a man's right side) and held it. Then each performed a salute kind of like one in our military, still holding his knife in his right hand, which all saluted with. Each held his knife at his head, but not touching, being careful not to cut himself, until the handsome man nodded and sat down. Then everyone else nodded in return and was seated.
The handsome man grinned a friendly-looking smile. "I heard that one of you found a fairy recently. Which one of you was it?" One man, who looked familiar to Elk-lore and Hi-lee stood and spoke.
"I did, your Majesty Kly, sir."
'Kly,' thought Hi-lee. That name had no meaning--weird.
Kly's grin grew wider. "I see. And did you let him get away?"
"Of course not, your Majesty."
"Traitor!" shouted Kly. "Periwinkle saw you!" Elk-lore gasped very quietly, so only Hi-lee could hear. "Had you told the truth, you would have merely been denounced from your position. However, you lied to your king. You two, take him to the dungeon. He'll be executed at dawn with the others. It was probably that blasted fairy that rearranged our battle pieces, too. That's all right, though. If he stays in Tas-et-lal long enough..." Kly laughed, though his voice didn't sound evil, even now.
He changed the subject. "I have decided that we will begin the plan to invade Jet-a-Miray starting tomorrow morning. Not with the soldiers, of course. Just with me. I will deceive their Sela, but not like I did... well, never mind. I will merely convince her that Tas-et-lal is innocent of all wrongdoing. Of course we have not been killing the fairies, one by one. Of course we haven't been stealing their magic. See, we have four of them right here. Any fairies that Sela Kotu has heard from were playing a cruel trick on her. Fairies are mischievous, you know. She will never fall madly in love with me, of course, but she will learn to trust me. Then, it is an easy matter to invade and take her military by surprise. In two weeks, we shall have control of Jet-a-Miray! And if anyone revolts, we'll kill him. I will send a message telling you exactly when to invade. The foot soldiers will go south, and the knights will invade from the east."
Elk-lore had to grin in spite of himself. 'Did they change their plans on purpose?' he wondered.
"Kly, how is the fairy extermination plan going?" asked one of the men.
"It is working excellently. As a matter of fact, I have already started it here. Any of those blasted pixies that is within the borders of Tas-et-lal for more than 48 hours will feel the effects and lose even more of his magic. At about the ninth evening in a row of exposure, the fairy loses all of his magic, and dies." Hi-lee glanced at Elk-lore and realized that he was a much lighter shade of gray than he had been a few minutes earlier. All three spies remembered that they had already been in Tas-et-lal for four full evenings and a few hours now.
"Won't you have trouble entering Jet-a-Miray, your Majesty?" asked another one of the men.
"Idiot! Don't you know that, if I wished, I could kill all of the fairies at once?" He snapped his fingers. "There. I just killed one. If I killed them all at once, Jet-a-Miray might start a war with us. We want to take them by surprise."
By now, Elk-lore was nearly white, and he had such an odd mixed expression of shock, anger, and hatred on his face that Hi-lee thought that he was going to explode. Kly went on. "If we kill the fairies slowly--"
"Then won't they complain to Sela Kotu?" asked a third man.
"Ha! Fairies are too proud to ask for help! They're proud, irritating, brave little fools. Would they ever grovel at the feet of men to save their own lives? Of course not. They're too vain..."
Elk-lore's look lost all of its shock and became mere anger and hate. He slowly raised his bow and slowly got an arrow out from his clothing as Kly kept talking.
"They're so easy to kill. There's no challenge to it. Remember when I got rid of those six guards just because I felt like it?"
Elk-lore was beyond feeling the shock of Kly's last statement. He put the arrow on the string and slowly pulled it back. He didn't consider the consequences that he and his friends would face for killing the leader of Tas-et-lal. All he noticed was himself, his weapon, and Kly. All he knew was that Kly was the enemy, and that the bow and arrow could kill the enemy. Nothing could invade these thoughts, not even when he suddenly started to glow. Only when the target moved (along with everyone else at the table and the cat), and walked up curiously to his corner, was Elk-lore's concentration broken. He realized with a shock that he had started glowing and he couldn't do anything about it. Before he could even consider which way to flee, Kly had picked him up by the wings and was examining him.
"My, my. What have we here? Men, get the eagle. Mouser, get our little rodent friend. Try not to kill them, but don't let them escape." He said this all coolly as he held Elk-lore's feet together, to make sure that he didn't try to escape.
Jocy tried to fly out the window, but her wings were too wide. She struggled, but five men managed to hold her.
Hi-lee attempted to crawl behind the bookcase, but Mouser, the cat, quickly spotted her. He used his paw, but no claws, to retrieve the mouse. When he got her out, he held her by the skin on the back of her neck with his teeth.
"Let her go!" said Elk-lore, knowing that the men could hardly do anything worse to him. "She doesn't like being held like that!"
"Well, well. Temperamental, aren't we?" asked Kly. Elk-lore glared, then tried to put an arrow on his bow. "Give me those right now, or I'll kill you, and all your friends in fairyland." Elk-lore meekly handed his weapon to Kly. He'd easily give his life if it would also kill the monster who had been murdering all his friends, who had caused his very country to turn against him, but he couldn't take anyone else's life, too.
"Come. We will take them to their quarters."
Kly led the way through the large, confusing castle. They went out the door of the central room and to the left, down the hall, and down four flights of stairs. Then they went through the courtyard and into another long corridor. Finally, Kly lifted a trap door at the end of the hallway, and the party descended still more stairs to get to the dungeon. Kly walked, without blinking, past many prisoners, some who begged to be released, and others who were so weak that they could hardly raise their weary heads. Some, however, were proud, and looked as though they would spit on Kly if given the chance. These prisoners raised Hi-lee's spirits. Finally, the group opened a door and came to a small room at the end of the dungeon.
Hi-lee didn't like the looks of the dungeon. It seemed to be designed just for animals, fairies, and the like. It had all sorts of restraints in different sizes chained to the wall and even some attached to the floor. Kly took Elk-lore to the farthest wall, opposite the door, and put his feet in a single shackle attached to the floor. He put the fairy's wrists in small, long-chained handcuffs attached to the wall.
"All right, Mouser, give me the rodent," said Kly. The cat obediently dropped Hi-lee on the floor. She tried to bolt, but Kly stepped on her tail. Hi-lee squeaked in pain. "No, no," he said, "you won't get away that easily." He locked her in a steel bird cage attached to the ceiling. Hi-lee tried to squeeze between the bars but found that she couldn't, very nearly getting her head stuck in the process.
"Now for the eagle," said Kly, grinning. "Over here." Two men held Jocy's wings while two others put short shackles on both of her feet. The shackles were attached to a metal pipe that came out of the wall about four feet above the ground. Jocy could use it as a perch. A cold, hard perch.
"Pardon the inconvenience," said Kly, grinning. "I just hate losing my guests unexpectedly." Kly left, with Mouser and the other men following.
Hi-lee looked around the room. It looked terribly grim, like any average dungeon, but it somehow looked new and unused. Jocy and Elk-lore's shackles weren't even rusted, and her own cage almost looked polished. Suddenly, she heard a voice. Hi-lee perked her ears up and listened carefully.
"I believe that those are spies from Jet-a-Miray. The eagle and mouse look like they can talk, and the fairy... Well, there's only one fairyland. And if they are spies, then we will try to get them to talk. Don't give them food; we don't want them to get too comfortable. If they tell us all about Jet-a-Miray, I'll let them live--as long as I need them, that is. If they don't tell us anything by, oh, say, this time Sunday, kill them. We wouldn't want them to overstay their welcome. Don't kill the fairy, though. He'll die soon enough. Come on. We still have important matters to discuss." Hi-lee heard footsteps and a door closing, and they were gone.
"Did you hear that?" asked Hi-lee.
"Hear what?" asked Jocy.
"They're not gonna feed us unless we tell them about Jet-a-Miray's plans, and he's gonna kill us if we don't talk by Sunday," replied the mouse.
"We can't tell them anything, no matter what. Got that, Elk-lore?" asked Jocy.
"I'll never tell him anything. Not even if he promises to give me back all of my magic and then some. Not even if he threatens to cut my head off. Not even--"
"Don't worry," said Hi-lee cheerily. "He told them not to kill you. Said you'd be dead soon enough." Hi-lee heard a sigh. "Oh. Sorry. Don't worry. We'll get out of here. I've never gotten killed before." Elk-lore just sighed again. "All we need is a plan to escape."
"Can't you see?" asked Elk-lore. "We're all going to die here at the hands of our enemies. You two are going to starve, unless they kill you first, and they'll take all my magic away. I'll be dead by Monday. If a fairy loses all of his or her magic, he or she dies. That's how Kly's doing it. He snaps his fingers to take a fairy's magic away, and that fairy dies."
"Is that how he kills them? By snapping his fingers?" asked Jocy.
"It can't be. He killed six of us at once, with no delay. I think he can kill us however he wants. If he decided that blinking his eyes would take all the magic away from all fairies, he could do it," said Elk-lore. "How can you go up against a man who can do all that?"
"Come on, you can't give up hope," said Hi-lee. "We know what he's doing to kill fairies, right? And we know his plans to take over Jet-a-Miray, right? So all we have to do is get out of here, sneak back into our country, and tell Sela Kotu. She'll tell Zobo to prepare the Dumix, and we'll stop them for sure!" Elk-lore only lowered his head. "Oh, Elk-lore," pleaded Hi-lee. "Don't give up! We've gotten so far! You can't quit now. Do it for Kara. I'll bet Kly killed her, huh? You can't let him get away with that, can you?"
Elk-lore yawned involuntarily. "All right. I won't give up." He yawned again.
"You must be tired," said Jocy. "Why don't we all get some sleep now?"
"No, no," said Elk-lore. He yawned. "I'm not tired at all." He hated to admit that Kly was taking his magic away, even as he spoke. Elk-lore yawned again. "I...have to...stay... awake..." Elk-lore dropped to the ground.
"I hope he's all right," said Hi-lee anxiously.
"He's fine," said Jocy. "It was a short drop. I wonder what Kly is planning now."
Little did Jocy know that Kly was a few stories above them, talking with someone in a private room. She knew even less about who he was having a conversation with.
Kly was talking to his cat.
Go on to Chapter 11
Go back to The Stories of Julie Bihn