"First of all," said the mouse, "my name is Hi-lee."
"Hi-lee?" asked Elk-lore. "That name makes no sense." (Everyone in Jet-a-Miray has a name that means something in a language that they have reserved for names. ) "Don't you have a real name?"
"No, no, not at all. My parents didn't make any sense, either," said Hi-lee nervously.
"Her real name is Cos-la-si," the eagle said, grinning.
"Ears like corn?" asked Elk-lore. Hi-lee waited for him to laugh at her silly name, but he never did.
"I thought that all fairies were mischievous," said Hi-lee. "How come you're not?"
Elk-lore replied, "I'll tell you once you finish your story. Please, go on."
"Okay," said the mouse. "Anyway, it's still true that my parents were senseless. When I was born, I did have big ears, so they named me Cos-la-si. As I grew up, my ears wound up being the right size- almost. They had a special purpose, though. When I was seven years old--"
"I'm sorry," Elk-lore interrupted, "but how old is that...I mean, compared to... you know..."
Hi-lee understood. "Mice are supposed to be adults when they're sixteen. They only live to be 37, though. Now, can I continue?" The fairy nodded apologetically.
"Anyway, when I was about seven, I found out what my ears were good for. I was sleeping in my burrow, which was about five feet away from where my parents were, with lots of dirt in between. All I heard them say was that Dad had found a good head of lettuce and that we'd have it for dinner. This may not sound like a miraculous talent, but, since I hate lettuce, I was able to go over to a friend's house for dinner that night, at least. And my ears got better.
"By the time I was eleven, I could hear my brother and sister--" Hi-lee cut herself off, anticipating another interruption. "Mice usually only have a couple siblings," she informed him. Elk-lore nodded gratefully. "I could hear them talk to each other if they were 600 feet away. The only disadvantage was that I became a very light sleeper, because a little sound like someone walking into my burrow would sound very loud to me and wake me up. I finally learned to put on earplugs whenever I went to sleep." Elk-lore mentally pieced this information with a vision in his mind from that morning, at the kotu-berry bushes.
"One morning, I heard that Sela Kotu was looking for spies. Actually, I was walking by the castle and I heard her having a secret meeting about it. Finally, it dawned on me that maybe I could be a spy. I was only fifteen at the time, and Sela Kotu had only been queen for about a year. So I had to go home and talk to my family about becoming a spy. My brother and sister said that, if that was what I wanted to do, that I should go for it. My parents were worried because being a spy was so dangerous, but I decided to talk to Sela Kotu anyway and see if I could get a job.
"My parents and siblings didn't go with me because I thought that I should go alone. I left them and went to the castle. Actually, I saw the guard at the wall surrounding the castle and decided to try to sneak past her. She was alert, though, and saw me right away. She rang a bell after I told her that I wanted to talk to Sela Kotu. I later found out that this called for one of the nearby back-up guards to take his or her post. The other guard took me to Sela Kotu personally. It wasn't very comfortable, because she held me by the skin on my neck. I've always hated it when someone does that, but I put up with it because I wanted to be a spy.
"She brought me to Sela Kotu and said--" At this point, Hi-lee took to acting out the whole conversation. "'Your Majesty,'"--the mouse motioned broadly-- "'this mouse was caught at the south-east castle wall entrance. She requested to speak with you.'
Hi-lee jumped and faced the other way. "'All right,' said Sela Kotu. 'Let her speak. You may return to your post.'
"The sentry did so--" Hi-lee fell on her face, as if she had been dropped-- "and Sela Kotu spoke to me."
Standing grandly, Hi-lee said, "'What business brings you here?'"
The mouse faced the other way and cowered on all four paws. "'I wish to be one of your spies, your Majesty.'"
"'What makes you think that you are qualified?'"
With more confidence, the mouse (still on all fours) said, "'Because I have amazing hearing. I'll go over there,' (I pointed to the wall about 60 feet away--it was a big room) 'and you whisper something. I'll be able to tell you what you said.' I went to the wall, she whispered something to her doctor, and I came back."
By now Hi-lee had tired of acting, and was telling the story in a more lazy manner.
"I said, 'You said "Let us see if the mouse speaks the truth."'
"'And you do. Though you seem to be very young, you shall be one of my spies. What is your name?'
"'My parents call me Cos-la-si,' I replied.
"'That is a lovely and- appropriate name. Tell me, do you like this name?'
"I said,'Well, I never really thought about it before.'
"'Did you know that the leader of the Dumix is called Zobo?' she asked.
"''I don't care?' What kind of a name is that?' I asked.
"'One's name does not dictate anything about anyone's personality. However, if you request a new name, I shall call you- Hi-lee,' said Sela Kotu grandly.
"I liked the name and decided to keep it."
"Where does Jocy come in?" asked Elk-lore.
"I'll let Jocy tell that," replied the mouse.
Jocy spoke. "I have been a spy for Jet-a-Miray for 30 years."
"I probably won't even live that long," said Hi-lee under her breath.
"Why not?" asked Elk-lore.
"Mice only live to be 37 years old here. Not a second over. I guess you didn't know that?"
"Really..." Elk-lore was somewhat surprised. "So, if nothing goes wrong, you know when you're going to die?" asked Elk-lore. Hi-lee nodded. "Well, someone in fairyland lives almost forever. Most of us live to be at least 2000 years old."
"How old are you?" asked Hi-lee.
"In case you couldn't tell, I'm a young fairy. Only about 350 years old. Hey, when you're about 35 or so, why don't you move to fairyland? There's enough weirdoes there, you'd fit in just fine. No offense."
The annoyed eagle cleared her throat. "May I continue? As I was saying, I've worked for this country for 30 years. That's not long considering we eagles usually live at least 200 years. I got my job because I can change my feathers and such to match the color of my surroundings."
"That's why your name means chameleon!" exclaimed Elk-lore. "Oh. Sorry. Go on."
"Anyway, I had been the best spy in all of Jet-a-Miray for a long time until one fateful morning when the young Sela Kotu told me that I would be working with a partner. I thought that it was a dumb idea for a spy to have a partner, and when I saw who I would be working with, I was sure of it. Three guesses who she was. Lucky for her I don't like how mice taste. Believe it or not, though, we managed to get along and make a great spy team. I guess when you're risking your life with someone, you have to become friends. She has great ears, and I, being an eagle, can see very well. In fact, we're almost unstoppable. We were only caught once-"
"How'd you escape?" asked Elk-lore.
Jocy answered, "We'll tell you another--"
"It was easy," interrupted Hi-lee. "When the guard tried to take us to the torture chamber, I bit him and Jocy pecked at him until he let us go. Then all Jocy had to do was pick me up and fly out of there."
"And dodge the swords," said Jocy.
"Oh, yeah, I kinda forgot about that part," replied the forgetful mouse. "But that's not important. Anyway, I guess our story's pretty much over, then. We've been able to sneak into any country we've wanted to, and we'll sneak into Tas-et-lal in a couple of days. But if we get caught, you must deny that any of us are spies from Jet-a-Miray. If they found out that we were spying on them, they might start a war with our country."
"They'll start a war with us soon, anyway," said Elk-lore. "You just wait and see. As soon as they get past us fairies, they'll try to take over. It would be better if we provoked them and took them by surprise. Not that anyone will listen to a fairy."
"I will," said Hi-lee softly.
"Are you going to tell us why you're not mischievous like other fairies now?" asked Jocy somewhat impatiently. She wanted to get some sleep so she could wake up refreshed in the morning.
"Right. I almost forgot," said Hi-lee. That was a big surprise.
"Okay," said Elk-lore. "It's not that all fairies are pranksters and I'm not. Most of us, in fact, are really pretty serious. But naturally the witty, playful fairies are the ones who come into contact with those outside fairyland--usually. Think about it. If you're in a crowd of people, doesn't the voice that you hear first belong to someone stating a smart aleck remark? It works that way with us, too."
"But why do you call us mortals if you guys die, too?" asked Hi-lee.
"Did I ever call fairies immortals? We'd better get some sleep now. Something tells me that tomorrow is going to be a long day."
Hi-lee crawled back into her hiding place in the grass, and Jocy made herself comfortable on the tree branch. Both of them fell asleep in a couple of minutes because, as spies, they had to catch up on their sleep whenever they could. The fairy didn't sleep, though. Just a short time ago, he had believed that fairies were immortal, and they nearly were. They had become too vulnerable without their magic. More fairies had been killed in a month than he had seen die in the rest of his lifetime combined. Sure, he had always known that everyone, even fairies, had to die sometime, but her sometime had come too soon. Much too soon. Would he die fighting too soon as well? Or would he miraculously survive the upcoming battle? Elk-lore was brave, but the thought of his own death still gave him chills. He toned himself down from a glowing ball of light to an entirely dark figure. He looked like a shadow. At least they hadn't taken that power away from him.
'Surely there must be some way for someone to live forever,' he thought to himself, remembering a beautiful tale he had heard long ago.
Go on to Chapter 8
Go back to The Stories of Julie Bihn