Elk-lore, Hi-lee, and Jocy arrived at the castle early that evening. Sela Kotu was very pleased because her spies had brought a fairy, but Tay-Bry had reservations.
"Your Majesty," he whispered to the queen, "I have nothing against fairies, but shouldn't you be a bit more cautious? You know all that fairies can do with their magic."
"Nonsense," said Sela Kotu. "Jocy and Hi-lee trust him, and I certainly trust my best two spies."
"Your Majesty, the two spies are reckless and foolish."
"They have come through many times before when we have had trouble. Remember that skirmish we had with Calma? Who outwitted their flying squirrels?"
"Yes, your Majesty," said Tay-Bry reluctantly, seeing that there was no way to get through to the Sela.
Sela Kotu walked over to the spies. "Tay-Bry, would you please keep an eye on our guest?" she asked.
"Yes, your Majesty," said Tay-Bry, trying not to sound annoyed.
"That's him over there," said Sela Kotu to Elk-lore. "Could you excuse us now? I need to talk to my spies." Elk-lore flew over to the doctor and Sela Kotu talked to Hi-lee and Jocy.
"What is his name?" asked the Sela.
"His name is Elk-lore, your Majesty," said Hi-lee.
"And you two trust him?" asked Sela Kotu.
"Perhaps 'trust' is too strong a word," said Jocy. "He seems to be observant. He figured out my name because Hi-lee here said to me 'Jocy, do you think that...' He doesn't know her name, though," she finished, glancing at the mouse.
"That reminds me, your Majesty," said Hi-lee. "He is a very good shot with his bow and arrows."
"I see... And the arrows are less than half a hir long?" The mouse nodded. "Thank you, Hi-lee. I will speak to Elk-lore in the meeting tonight," said Sela Kotu. "Hi-lee, would you go ask Maral to get Zobo? Tell Maral that we're having yet another meeting. The third in three days, actually. Jocy, would you go request the unicorn's presence? Thank you." The two spies left.
About an hour later, the meeting was held. Tay-Bry had told Sela Kotu that it was not wise to take the fairy into the secret tower, but the Sela decided to have the meeting there, anyway. She didn't want any eavesdroppers.
Everyone who normally attended the meetings had arrived, along with Elk-lore, so Sela Kotu began.
"I have called this meeting because, as you know, the fairies are in grave danger..." As Sela Kotu continued on, Hi-lee noticed that the candles were not really necessary. The bright glow of the fairy illuminated the whole room. "...so I will let Elk-lore, the fairy, speak about the troubles that have befallen all fairies. Elk-lore?"
Elk-lore continued to flutter in the center of the room, slightly above everyone's head. He spoke as if he had planned what to say for a long time.
"As you know, a terrible thing is happening to the fairies, even as I speak. Yes, our magic is being stolen. You probably won't believe me when I tell you who is responsible. It is your 'friends' at Tas-et-lal." Everyone gasped in disbelief. "They have been taking our magic for about a year now. Some of us fought back, but they were promptly dealt with. They wouldn't have been killed so easily, except that most of us don't know what to attack with besides our magic."
"Don't you still have some magic? I mean, you're flying and glowing and everything," said Hi-lee.
"I didn't say that they took all of our magic. After all, what harm are flying, glowing creatures a hir tall going to do to them? Well, that's what they thought....
"Some fairies, mostly the middle aged ones, just gave up. A couple even became helpers of Tas-et-lal in return for some of their magic. All of the fighters despise those who help the very people who stole their magic in the first place."
"Who are the fighters?" asked Sela Kotu.
"If Your Majesty would be kind enough to wait, I will get to that," replied Elk-lore. "We don't know how Tas-et-lal is stealing our magic. We have sent our most valiant fairies to enter their country and find out. All it resulted in was the death of the most trustworthy citizens of fairyland. However, we know why they are stealing our magic. They want to enter Jet-a-Miray and take over. We have been stopping them from invading for a long time. We were able to hold them back easily with our magic, but now they can take away our only weapon. Not only that, but they worked quickly. In only two weeks, they took magic from every fairy in Jet-a-Miray.
"The young and the old fairies make up most of the fighters. The old fairies have nothing to lose, and the younger ones want revenge. There are also a few middle-aged fairies who are fighters, but not a substantial number. The fighters had to think of ways to stop those from Tas-et-lal without using magic. They made swords and spears and all sorts of weapons. The most effective, however, was the bow and arrow. Some fairies were so good with it that they could kill someone with one little arrow if the man was a hundred feet away. One young fairy was such a good archer that he could easily shoot an apple from two-hundred feet away. All of the fighters stayed on guard near the border of Tas-et-lal and Jet-a-Miray, and they shot anyone who dared to cross over here. Unfortunately, for every man from Tas-et-lal that was killed, one or two fairies gave their lives, even though they stayed hidden. No one knew how they could kill fairies when they couldn't even see them, but he who can steal a fairy's magic can do anything. The exchange of lives was a bad trade, but, like I said, the fairies had nothing to lose but their lives, and they tried to be brave.
"They managed to hold the invaders off for a year. One day, though, something strange and tragic happened." Elk-lore had been trying to remain detached from the terrible story that he was telling, but his voice trembled as he continued. "Six brave fairies were on guard, watching the border, and all of them were suddenly struck dead. That was just two afternoons ago, actually. That event would not be so noteworthy, except the fairies had not been attacking the humans; before, the only ones who died were those who were actively fighting. In the confusion, two men from Tas-et-lal managed to sneak in. They were wearing armor from another country. The best archer of the fairies was sent to follow them and kill them. He didn't shoot them until he caught them in the act because he hated killing people. He caught up with them just in time to see them poised to kill Sela Kotu, so he shot them both dead, and then reported back to fairyland."
"Elk-lore, may I ask you something?" said Sela Kotu, taking out the two small arrows. "Are these yours?"
"Yes, your Majesty," he replied coolly. "Thank you for cleaning them for me. These things don't grow on trees, you know." He took the arrows nonchalantly.
"Do you realize what this means? You saved Sela Kotu's life!" exclaimed Hi-lee.
"It also means that you killed two men from the only country allied with us," said the queen. "I'm surprised they haven't declared war on us for that."
"They will start a war," said Tay-Bry. "Not over the death of their would-be assassins, but because they want to take over our country."
"How do we know that we can trust the fairy?" asked Zobo suspiciously.
"If he says that he is telling the truth, then we should believe him," said Elay. She was the type that would believe in setting a mass murderer free if he apologized and promised never to do it again, so her opinion had little effect over everyone but Sela Kotu. Actually, the queen brought the unicorn to each meeting to remind everyone to be just and sympathetic. It didn't hurt that a unicorn has a very soothing effect in tense situations, either.
"I think that it would be better to have him with us than against us," said Jocy.
"And I'm with her!" said Hi-lee.
Sela Kotu said, "In that case, I agree with my spy team. Elk-lore, I think that you could help this entire country, if you want to. Would you consider going into Tas-et-lal to find out what they are planning?"
"Braver and more capable fairies than I have tried and been killed, but I would be honored to give it my best effort, your Majesty," he replied.
"Hold it!" exclaimed Hi-lee. "You're letting a little fairy risk his life for a country that doesn't even give him a paycheck? Do you think that he's expendable just because he's small? Well, I'm small and expendable, too! I'm going with him!"
Hi-lee got even weirder when she was angry.
"But...It's dangerous!" protested Sela Kotu.
"Oh, I get it," said Jocy in controlled anger. "It's a mission too dangerous for your trained spies, but you'll let an untrained fairy take it. I'm going, too." Jocy tended not to fly into silly rages like her partner.
"But you two are my spies," Sela Kotu objected.
"That's the point, Your Majesty," said Hi-lee. "Spies are supposed to be sneaky and risk their lives, aren't they?"
"All right, then," said Sela Kotu reluctantly. "You two can go with him, but be careful, okay?"
"Yes, Your Majesty," the spies replied in unison, almost like two children replying to their mother.
"You three will depart tomorrow morning. You will stay inside the castle or the courtyard for the night. I would suggest getting some sleep. Tay-Bry, Elay, and Zobo, stay here. I'd like to talk with you. You other three may leave," said Sela Kotu. All of them, even Elk-lore, knew that they didn't have a choice about the matter. It was more of a 'you other three will leave', but in polite terms, so they went down to the garden. Jocy flew to a tree to perch, and Hi-lee hid in some grass.
"How did you two start working together?" asked Elk-lore. "I mean, an eagle and a mouse are kind of an unlikely pairing.
"Well... Should we tell him?" asked Jocy.
"Why not?" asked Hi-lee back. "He told us his story."
"All right. I'll let you start this time."
The mouse cleared her throat and began.
Go on to Chapter 7
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