Curiosity got the better of me, and I went to Coyote’s panel. As usual—and I say this grudgingly, no respect intended—he was witty and charming and had everyone eating out of his hands. Didn’t scratch once, either. Must have mixed a little flea repellent into that cologne of his. I had a vision of him as the spokes…thing… for some major flea meds company.
I was glad I went, though; someone asked him about the ancient Indian gods. I chose that moment to clean my claws, and he took the hint and told the truth about the relationship of Faerie Native American spirits to the True Creator. He left with more groupies, but no cult followers.
The convention area was more crowded than I or my tail were comfortable with, so I decided to wander the halls and try to sniff out any clues about our curious friend (and yes, I intended the double entendre).
Problem with helper elves who are told to clean is that they’re, well, clean. Antiseptic, even. Ever tried to follow the scent of “clean” in a busy hotel? Good thing my sniffer is used to esoteric smells.
Unfortunately, none of them were house-elf.
I’d given up and decided to try PI Investigative Method 2: ask obnoxious questions and make a menace of myself. I found Grace in the dealers’ room.
“Up for some Good Cop/Bad Cop?” I asked her.
I heard a snicker and gave the offender—Coyote, didn’t it figure?--my hardest stare. There were some entendres I don’t intend, and that joke wasn’t funny even when I was human.
Don’t ask about the time I was human. I still wake up shaking.
“So who’s the suspect?” Grace asked as we headed back to the rooms. As we passed the lobby, we saw two employees with a conventioneer mangling the pronunciation of something. I caught something like “oh, horror,” accompanied by nasal snickers and dismissed them. Oh, the horror, indeed. Pitiful.
“No suspect,” I told Grace, “but I think Gozon has something to do with this. Those elves were after his room, and he’s established way too many protective spells, even for a pompous paranoiac like him. It’s just a hunch, but maybe if we get him talking, he’ll spill something.”
“Just remember I have a panel at 10 tomorrow,” Grace said.
We rounded the corner to Gozon’s wing and saw an Elf heading in the other direction. Not Gozon, but someone I knew from way back. “Galendor!” I called.
He stopped as if jerked, then turned and smiled. “Vern!” he called, and as he crossed the hall toward us, continued, “Oh Great Wyvern, Fellow Citizen of the Golden Land, Land of Magic and Beauty, Where the Eternal Winds blow gentle on the softly blooming meadows of Caraparavelenciana…”
He managed to make the greeting end as we got within hand-shaking distance. I’d always admired how Galendor could weave Elvish courtesy and Mundane expediency. Class all around. “Galendor, this is Sister Grace Ann of Our Lady of the Miracles, High Mage of the Faerie Catholic Church, Cantor of Little Flower Parish, She Whose Voice Graces Liturgy and Weaves Magic, and My Partner. Grace, this is the husband of Princess Galinda Tavendor, Galendor of the High Winds Eternal.”
“Of the Forests,” he added, bowing over Grace’s hand.
Grace and I exchanged glances. Gozon was a member of the High Winds Eternal of the Shores. In normal circumstances, it was impolite to make the distinction to non-Elves; to do so was one step away from breaking off diplomatic relations.
“Galendor, it’s only been 115 years. Are things that bad already?” I asked.
He smiled. “I am sure it will all be resolved soon. Let us speak of more pleasant topics. You are here for the conference, then? Of course, they would welcome one of your vast knowledge, your phenomenal wisdom garnered over ages of keen observations—”
“Actually, I’m here to babysit the Faerie,” I grumbled. This was starting to get embarrassing.
His laugh was sympathetic. “Well, you need not worry about me, my ageless friend. My Galinda keeps me well in hand.”
“What are you two doing here, anyway?”
“It is an amusing tale I hope to pass on to our children's children. Oprah, that efficacious, distinguished beauty of the Mundane feel-good television, asked us to be guests on her show about ‘cultural differences and the modern couple.’ Galinda was quite eager to accommodate so influential a personality of Mundane society, and while there, we met a Mensan and her husband, and they invited us here after the taping. It was uncomfortably last-minute; but as we told that portent lady of the limelight, such differences bring excitement into a relationship already burning strong in its passion.”
That explained why they hadn’t traveled with us. Galinda could afford her own personal jet, and she loved things Mundane. I remembered that. I also knew that, nice as this hotel was, it was a little below the station of a Faerie princess, even one with a penchant for slumming. “You’re not staying on this floor?”
“No. I was supposed to meet Kevin at his room, but I’ve gotten turned around somehow. In fact, I should probably be going. You know Mundanes and time…”
Before he could begin an Elvish version of good-bye, which takes about 15 minutes, five when speaking “Mundane”, I interjected. “Listen, Galendor. I’m sure you know by now that Gozonvabosomofic of the High Winds Eternal of the Shores is a guest at this convention. I expect you to behave.”
His jaw set, but he gave me a courtly bow. “Vern, Great Wyvern , Defender Against Evil, Conqueror of Mysteries, you who once saved my life, the life of my bride, and our very worlds! In gratitude for your selflessness, your valor, and your friendship, I shall exercise the utmost restraint if confronting this…representative of the High Winds Eternal of the Shores.”
We spent the next 10 minutes saying good-bye—or rather, he saying a formal Elvish “see ya,” while we nodded. In the back of my mind, I was adding things up.
And the sum of it was trouble.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
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(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg