When we left Gozon's hotel room, the summer sun was setting and our stomachs were growling. We headed to dinner in silence until we were well away from Gozon's door. Once we'd turned the corner, Grace let out a sigh and rubbed her eyes.
"Am I misunderstanding, or did he tell us, 'You're not elves, so MYOB?'"
I won't bore you with the full details of our interrogation; we were speaking in High Elvish, and it would take a week to read. Here's the Dragon's Digest Condensed Version:
Dragon: (Busting in and sniffing around, snarling, tail lashing.) "OK, Gozon. What trouble are you hiding and why did you have to bring it to a Mundane convention?"
Nun: (Placatingly) "Vern. Calm down. We still don't know--"
Dragon: "Yeah, right, we don't! We got house elves searching his old room, Galindor 'of the Forests' poking his Tolkien-esque nose around. Something's up, and I want to know what it is and how to stop it--and I don't want to be here past dinner, or I may have to start snacking." (Looks at Gozon meaningfully.)
Nun: (stepping in dragon's line-of-sight) "Easy. Gozon may be the victim here. If so, we have a duty to protect him. I'm sure if there's something going on, he'll tell us if we give him the chance--"
Dragon: (circling past nun) "There will be a victim if I don’t find out pretty fast why my 'cushy assignment' is being messed up by a mystery. If this turns into a Save-the-Universes thing…"
And so on. The important thing to note is that we didn't let Gozon so much as sputter until we'd gotten the message across that 1) Something weird was going on, 2) We knew Gozon was involved and 3) We wouldn't tolerate any Faerie trouble. His response was 1) How dare you dictate to a "Grand-Muckety-Muck" of the High Elves? 2) Mind your own business and 3) You'd better keep trouble away or you'll be sorry.
Our part took about an hour. His took four.
Now I sighed. "Guess I should have known better; in his youth, he took on the Dark Elf Evalakkiduznogud and his tribe in single combat--"
"So he said. In great detail," Grace muttered. "Wait a minute--if it's single combat, why say 'and his tribe?'"
"Dark elves cheat. Point is, he's not just a formidable politician, but a warrior. He wasn’t going to be intimidated by an undersized dragon and a nun."
Grace smiled. "Yet we did get out of there before dinner."
"Yeah! We did." Grace always did know how to cheer me up.
Dinner, of course, cheered me even more. We piled our trays with d'Pasimmonierre 's fantastic faire and settled ourselves on the porch, where we got swarmed by tourists. Not that I hadn't been attracting attention all weekend, but now, most people were getting comfortable enough with Faerie presence that they saw me as a novelty and not a threat. Finally, Grace cast a kind of anti-glamour around me, and folks wandered off.
Sure, there's a dragon over there. Is that a big deal?
"So what did we learn?" Grace asked. "Gozon's hiding something. That's certain. That place is warded tighter than the Vatican vaults--and you know what's in there."
I shuddered. "Whatever it is, it's good for his tribe or for him. Probably both. He's actually pleased Galindor is here, too."
Grace picked at her food. "Vern? How bad could a war between the elves get?"
"Remember that Pixie battle you zapped into ancient Egypt?"
"Not I, but God. I was merely His instrument," Grace demurred. "Modesty aside, I do not want to take responsibility for one of the Ten Plagues."
"Yeah. Well, that was a minor turf battle. And High Elves don't transform into locusts."
"You don't think Gozon is looking for a technological edge?"
I thought about it, then shook my head. "Wards can't fool my nose. Other than that expensive briefcase of his and that Armani suit, there's nothing Mundane made in that room."
"Maybe he's meeting someone?" Her eyes strayed over to where a short stocky foreign military type with enough rick-rack and ribbons to stock a fabric store sat flirting with Brunhilde. She easily outmassed him three-to-one, but I guess all those medals made up for that. Still, the whole scene was what our friend's kids would call "sick and wrong on so many levels."
But not on the one Grace was considering. "Nah. Think about Gozon's speech--very focused on himself. Even the semantics indicated a personal rather than tribal insult."
"He did mention the war." She repeated back a five-minute phrase about the impending conflict and how his people would turn to him. Just hearing it again opened up a new level of meaning. I'd have to parse the entire thing tonight to get the real message.
Just then, a hotel employee approached us. He stared at us, mouth gaping, trying to figure out exactly how to politely address a Faerie Wyvern no doubt, then finally settled upon. "Uh…the police just called. They have a dwarf they arrested--he said you'd bail him out?"
Oh, yeah. Cushy assignment. If you don't count the hyper house elves, dwarves in detention and an egotistical Elf who sees Armageddon as a good political move.
And we're not even getting paid.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
More antics, more mystery, new ending. Order from Amazon.
(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg