"Is she all right?" asked Sela Kotu, alarmed.
"She's not dead," said Jocy, not sounding too reassuring.
"That's not Dewdrop, is it?" asked Elk-lore, squinting. Sela Kotu nodded. Elk-lore flew over to Dewdrop, for he was the only one there who could really see her.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised," said Elk-lore. "Kly probably scared her half to death. I don't even want to think about what that monster threatened her with." He slightly raised Dewdrop's head. "Does anybody have any water?"
Water was a common thing in the great hall, for some of the animals liked to drink while eating a meal, and even Sela Kotu herself preferred water to wine. One of the onlookers brought Elk-lore a rather large bowl of clean water.
Hi-lee had expected Elk-lore to splash the water into Dewdrop's face, but instead, he took an empty bottle out of his cloak, filled it with water, and poured it into Dewdrop's mouth. Though even Jocy couldn't see it, Dewdrop blinked. Everyone's eyes were on the two fairies, and everyone was relieved when Elk-lore helped Dewdrop up.
"I am glad that you are all right, Dewdrop," said the queen, hoping her statement was true. "Zobo, send messengers to command all of your troops to meet at your meeting place in one hour. Meet the rest of us as soon as you can. You know where."
She then addressed her subjects. "I apologize for the abrupt ending to this banquet. Perhaps I will soon be able to hold another to celebrate our upcoming victory over Tas-et-lal. I must leave now." She turned to go, but then stopped Dewdrop, who was forlornly flying away. "Wait, Dewdrop! Don't leave!"
"A lot of help I've been," said Dewdrop. "I helped Kly, and--"
"I know, but it wasn't your fault. You have to come to the meeting."
"The meeting? Me? Why?"
"You're the only one here who might have been in Kly's counsels. We need your help. Come on." Dewdrop reluctantly followed Sela Kotu to the secret tower.
Once in the tower, Tay-Bry, Elay, Jocy, Hi-lee, Elk-lore, Sela Kotu, and Dewdrop had to wait for a good ten minutes before Zobo showed up.
"Did you send the messengers?" asked Sela Kotu anxiously.
"I'll do it tomorrow," said Zobo, grinning. He really loved to procrastinate, and he was the only one with enough heart to make jokes right now. "Of course I sent them, your Majesty."
"Excellent. Now, Jocy, Hi-lee, and Elk-lore, could you please tell us what you learned in Tas-et-lal?"
No one knew where to begin. "If we are to believe him, then he has the power to kill any fairy by just snapping his fingers," said Elk-lore finally.
Sela Kotu looked shocked. Zobo said, "But if he can do that, then why is he slowly killing the fairies off?"
Jocy replied, "I don't know."
Dewdrop spoke. "I do, your Majesty. He's jealous of our magic; that's why he's a sorcerer now. And he's so angry at us, he's trying to make us suffer."
"That terrible man!" cried Sela Kotu, even more alarmed.
"No offense, your Majesty, but maybe you should have killed him while you had the chance," said Jocy.
"Why? Then I would be a murderer, too, just like Kly." At least half the queen's counsel sighed. "Now, you already told me his plan, Jocy. Do you know how he will invade?"
Elk-lore said, "His original plans had the knights going south, with soldiers on foot from the east, your Majesty, but after Hi-lee and I scrambled the figures that illustrated this on his map, he decided to have the soldiers on foot go south, and the knights invade from the east."
"Now that he knows that your spies know his plans and can tell you about them, your Majesty, perhaps he will change his strategy completely," said Tay-Bry.
"Perhaps," replied Sela Kotu. "We can't be sure. Do you know anything else about Kly?" she asked, addressing her spies.
"Not really, your Majesty," said Hi-lee, "except that he's just not a very nice person."
The queen slightly grinned. "I think we can all assume that. Dewdrop, do you know anything else?"
"Yes, your Majesty," she replied in her small voice. "Kly has about 16,000 men who will fight in the battle."
Zobo did not like this at all. "We have a little over 13,000 troops, total, including the small animals!" he exclaimed. "How did they get so many?"
"I don't know," said Dewdrop, "but I heard that all men in Tas-et-lal have to join the military so Kly can get more territory."
"How terrible!" said Elay.
"We must use our advantages well," said Sela Kotu, "and we shall win the war."
"What advantages?" asked Zobo.
"Well, for one thing, they can't tell the difference between talking animals and those who aren't. It will be pretty easy to take them by surprise. Also, I'm sure that there are women in the Dumix who would be willing to go undercover as helpless ladies to get into the camps that Kly will set up. They could be spies, and even signal to other troops to tell them when to invade. Well, something like that. Really, Zobo, just because we haven't had any battles in a few days doesn't mean that you should have forgotten what gives us the upper hand in most of our battles," reproached Sela Kotu.
"Unfortunately," said Tay-Bry, "I would guess that Kly's troops are more expendable than ours. He doesn't care if everyone in his military gets killed, as long as we are beaten, right, Dewdrop?"
"Yes, sir," said Dewdrop sadly, nodding. She had seen too much of how Kly treated his men.
"We must draw up a plan quickly, so that Zobo can confer with his troops," said Sela Kotu. "Zobo, what would you suggest?"
"I think that it would be wisest to take most of the troops to the border of our countries and have them guard all of it. However, we'll have to have lots of birds in the air, to see how Tas-et-lal plans to invade. If they don't storm the entire border, but instead, a small portion, then we'll have to deal with that," said the hyena.
"That makes sense," replied Sela Kotu. "Does anyone have a problem with that plan?"
"I don't, your Majesty," said Elk-lore, "but what would you have the fighters do?"
Though Sela Kotu knew that Elk-lore could shoot with deadly accuracy, the thought of hir tall fairies being able to kill humans seemed nearly impossible to her. "Well, what do you think the fighters should do?" asked the queen, as seriously as she could manage.
"We might want to stay well hidden, because I'm sure that Kly has told his men to kill us if they see us, Your Majesty," he replied. "Or, Kly may just kill us all once the war begins. Still, I think that most of the fighters would be willing to be in the front lines and kill as many of them as we can before they kill us, your Majesty."
"In that case, I will let the fighters harm Kly's army in whichever way they see fit. I will not force any of you to go into battle if you don't want to," said Sela Kotu. She wanted to say, 'I won't make you throw your lives away,' but didn't feel that that would be proper. "Perhaps you should go to fairyland to tell them that we are going to war."
"What about your subjects?" asked Jocy. "When will you announce the war to them?"
"I see no need to at all, Jocy," said Sela Kotu. "Enough people and animals of high standing were at the banquet, and know that there will be a war. The rumor will spread so fast that in twelve hours, nearly everyone in Jet-a-Miray will have heard that we are going into battle, and most of them will believe it. Now, Zobo, the time of your meeting approaches. Let me remind you to be careful in your plans, and try to keep as many of our troops from being killed or wounded as you can. Just because Kly is willing to let all of his men be killed doesn't mean that I am."
"Yes, your Majesty," said Zobo, leaving.
"Elk-lore, would you like to go back to your own country and rally the fighters now?" asked Sela Kotu.
"If you don't need me for anything else, your Majesty, then I would be pleased to," he replied.
"Can we go, too?" asked Hi-lee eagerly.
"I don't know, Hi-lee. It would be nice to have you guys here, so I could talk to you about Tas-et-lal, and maybe learn more about their plans," replied the queen. Hi-lee gave Sela Kotu puppy-dog eyes. "Anyway," she continued, justifying her choice," you guys would never come back if you went into fairyland, right?"
"Actually, your Majesty..." Dewdrop trailed off.
"If you don't mind, your Majesty, I should be leaving now," said Elk-lore, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice.
"You're just going to fly there?" asked Dewdrop.
"Of course I am."
"But that takes so long!"
"Do you have a better way to get there?" asked Elk-lore in a slightly annoyed tone. Suddenly, his face lit up in recognition. "Oh! That's right! I'm sorry, Dewdrop; I should have remembered."
"That's all right," Dewdrop said, timidly. "May we please leave now, your Majesty?"
"Of course you may. But--" The queen cut herself off in amazement, because an odd thing was happening. Dewdrop and Elk-lore started to blur and fade away, and in a matter of seconds, they were gone.
"How did they do that?" asked Sela Kotu, her eyes wide. She looked around and found that Jocy and Hi-lee were missing, too. "Something weird is going on here."
"Your Majesty," said Tay-Bry, one of the few creatures still in the tower, "you have just witnessed a fairy's magic."
Slowly, the world around Hi-lee came back into focus. She was confused until she saw Dewdrop, Elk-lore, and the surrounding land. She recognized it as the area near Tas-et-lal and fairyland that she had been to twice before. Hi-lee looked to her left and saw Jocy, who was in the process of materializing. Elk-lore and Dewdrop didn't even pay attention to this bizarre occurrence.
"I hope Sela Kotu won't be too angry with me," said Dewdrop, obviously worried.
"Don't worry about it," said Elk-lore. "She won't be mad. She trusts you."
"What the heck happened?" asked Jocy loudly.
"Dewdrop just brought us here," said Elk-lore.
"How'd she do that?"
"Oh, it's a common power for fairies to have. I know three who can transport themselves and others just about anywhere."
"Then why didn't you just transport yourself away from Kly?" asked Hi-lee curiously.
"Easy," said Elk-lore, knowing that Dewdrop wouldn't mind if he spoke for her. "When she's really scared of something, she can't use her power, and Dewdrop was probably petrified with fear all the time she was in Tas-et-lal." Dewdrop nodded in agreement.
"Well, let's go into fairyland," said Jocy, trying to sound collected.
"Now, that's why I had to come along," said Dewdrop. "Besides to get you guys back to the castle."
Elk-lore gasped. "Dewdrop, look over there!" he said, pointing to a spot near fairyland. Hi-lee and Jocy saw a spot on the ground that glowed twice as brightly as fairyland in the dark night. As they looked closer, they realized that the spot was made up of hundreds of glowing figures. Sensing that something was wrong, Elk-lore flew slowly over to the fairies. "What are you guys doing here?" he asked, realizing that the fairies were all of the fighters.
"The others kicked us out," said one of the fighters bitterly. "If we go back into fairyland, they'll kill us."
"What?" asked Elk-lore, shocked. "Why?"
"You've been away too long," replied the fairy. "Remember how some of those who aren't fighters hate us? Anyway, you wouldn't have gone back in, would you? After you killed the would-be assassins?"
"He did," said Hi-lee. "Just a little while ago, when we had to warn the queen--"
"You went in?" asked the fairy. He slowly circled around Elk-lore, examining him. Hi-lee guessed that doing so must be a common practice, since Rosewood had circled around Elk-lore to look him over just a while ago, though it seemed like an eternity had passed since their stay in the dungeon. "And you're still alive?"
"Listen, you guys. In less than 72 hours, Tas-et-lal will be at war with Jet-a-Miray," said Elk-lore.
"So?" asked the fairy. "Some help this country has been to us. If it was up to Sela Kotu, we'd all be dead."
Elk-lore exclaimed, "No! That's not true! If it was up to Kly--"
"Kly?" interrupted the fairy.
"The leader of Tas-et-lal. He's the one killing us. You know that. Why would Sela Kotu kill us? We were helping her by keeping the invaders from Tas-et-lal out! Kly wants to kill us because we're standing between him and Jet-a-Miray!"
"How do you know?" scoffed a female fairy.
"I have been into Kly's castle in Tas-et-lal, and I have been in one of his meetings. He wants to take this country over so he has a passage to the sea."
"How do we know you're not lying?" asked the first fairy.
"You'll just have to believe me," said Elk-lore. "Look, Cottonball--"
"Hey, I don't go by that name anymore," said the fairy indignantly.
"I don't care if you go by Lady Daffodil of Calma." Scattered laughter broke out at this statement. "I can tell that you don't care about being a fighter any more, even though, if Kly defeats Jet-a-Miray, we're as good as dead. But anyone who is still a fighter, who wants to stop Kly from taking this country over, join my side. Those who don't can just stay with Cottonball."
For a terrible seven seconds or so, not one fairy got up or even moved. Then, one small fairy, who couldn't have been more than 300 years old or so, flew up to Elk-lore.
"I'll help you," she said softly.
"Good for you!" exclaimed Elk-lore, who was cheered by the fact that at least one of the fighters would go against Kly. Then, as if by a silent agreement, six more fairies got up and joined Elk-lore's side. Slowly, more fairies joined them, in pairs, groups, and some all alone. When the movements finally ceased, three-quarters of the group had joined the true fighters.
"Now, what's all this bloody rubbish about a war?" asked a fairy in what we would call an English accent.
"We are going to war," said Elk-lore. "You'll all have to take our word on that. According to Kly, there will be a war in less than 72 hours."
Several voices spoke at once.
"Are we supposed to believe Kly, then?"
"What are we going to do about it?"
"Let's storm his castle!" and the like.
Elk-lore waited until the voices died down and then continued. "Kly may have lied about the date or time of his invasion, but I have no doubt in my mind that he means to start a war. We could go into Tas-et-lal and try to stop the troops there, but I wouldn't recommend it, because any fairy who enters Tas-et-lal slowly loses all of his or her magic." Several fairies gasped. "I'm sure that Kly will be able to kill us all in that fashion or another one if he becomes king of this country, so we will literally be fighting for our lives."
"How do we know you're not lying?" asked an annoyed female fairy, repeating a question already asked.
"You'll have to trust me. If you can't, then you'll be no help to us." Elk-lore could see the fairy roll her eyes at him, but she stayed with the fighters, since she really didn't want Kly to kill all of the fairies.
"Now," continued Elk-lore, "we must decide where we want to attack from."
"Let's just wait for them to get close and ambush them!" exclaimed an over-enthusiastic fairy.
"The wisest plan would be to stay hidden," said Elk-lore, " but we don't know where to hide, since we don't know where they will invade."
"Well, if we're up in the air, then we can see them coming, can't we? I mean, and see where they come in from?" asked someone timidly.
"Of course we could," replied someone else.
"But then, would we have enough time to hide?" yet another fairy asked.
"Sure we would!"
"No, we wouldn't!" At that, dozens of conversations broke out at once. Elk-lore intended to wait patiently for everyone to be quiet again, but Jocy could see that that would take several minutes, so she took action.
"Everybody, SHUT UP!!!" she shouted loudly enough to make poor Hi-lee's ears ring.
"Hey, warn me next time before you do that," said Hi-lee, annoyed.
"Sorry. Hey, all you fairies!" Hi-lee glared at Jocy, then put her paws in her ears. "Listen up! We're going to be democratic here. Everyone who wants to wait until we see where Kly is invading and then hide, fly to your right, my left. Everyone who doesn't, stay where you are." The vast majority of the fairies flew to Jocy's left. "Well, then, I guess we have a plan, don't we?" She said, more softly, "There you go, Elk-lore. I think I settled them down for you."
"Uh, yeah. Thanks," he replied. Collecting his thoughts, he said to the fighters, "Now, we should have lookouts in the air posted day and night in case Kly didn't tell the truth about when he is invading. Are there any volunteers?" About 40 fairies raised their hands. "Split the posts up between yourselves, then, and if you see Kly's men coming, hide and stay alert. I should report back to Sela Kotu now." He nodded at Dewdrop and, within seconds, Elk-lore, Dewdrop, Hi-lee, and Jocy were gone.
Go on to Chapter 16
Go back to The Stories of Julie Bihn