Seventh Son: Chapter 15

“We’re not elves!” If Alak was attempting to lie, he was doing a very bad job of it. “We’re just- We- We’ve just got pointed ears, that’s all. Plenty of people have pointed ears. Nothin’ elf-y about it.”

Kala rolled her eyes. “He’s not buying it, y’know.”

He wasn’t. But if they wanted to lie about their heritage, that was their business. Even if they were doing a terrible job of it.

Alak pulled a face. “You don’t know that.”

“I really really do.”

“You really really don’t.” Though he didn’t sound entirely convinced.

“And now he thinks we’re idiots.” She sat down next to Caleb, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Look. We’re not elves as such. We’re… Ugh, there ain’t really an easy way to say this, is there? Fine. We’re half-elves.”

“What do you- How does that work?”

“Well, when an elf and a human love each other very much…”

“That’s not what I meant. I-” He wasn’t sure how to put it into words that were in any way polite, so he gave up and went with his first instincts. “I didn’t think elves did that. With humans, I mean.”

“Normally, they don’t,” Alak agreed. “We’re the exception.”

“And much luck it’s given us,” Kala grumped. “Same old story. Mum was a bard with a troupe of travelling players, caught the eye of an elven princess who ran away to be with her, things happened, we turned up, and-”

“But that’s Fair Aveline!”

“You’ve got sharp ears. Metaphorically speakin’. That’s our other mum.”

“You mean she was like Aveline in the song?”

“No, I mean she was Aveline. It’s about her and our mum.” She ran a hand through her short red hair, spiking it up. “Flame-haired trouper, see?”

“But that song’s hundreds of years old!” He stared at the twins, trying to imagine them as any older than their mid-twenties and failing horribly. “How does that-”

“Your guess is as good as ours,” Alak chimed in. “We weren’t born ’til after she came back.”

“…Came back?”

“From the Land Behind The Sky. And she’d not tell anyone what happened there, or how long she thought she’d been away, and we…kind of maybe ran away a bit before we found out.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking away.

“It wasn’t our fault!” Kala interjected. She got up, pacing irritably back and forth. “Look. They wanted us to go be princes in the Land Behind The Sky because Aveline was a princess – and now she’s a queen or somethin’, I don’t know – and we didn’t want to and they said we didn’t get a choice, and we said screw that and then… stuff happened, and we ran, and now we’re here. An’ I didn’t really want to have to lay all that on you right out of the gate, but apparently we’re doin’ that now, so there it is. We’re half-elves, our mums’re in a song, and we’re probably goin’ to have a really fun time goin’ to get this bloody Heart thing on account of it.” She threw herself down onto the grass again, sighing heavily, and glared at nothing.

Alak winced, and carried on staring at an apparently incredibly interesting patch of grass. After a few awkward moments, he said: “It ain’t anything personal, y’know. We just- we’re normally better about talkin’ about this.”

Caleb nodded. He couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“Aye, if we weren’t havin’ to go back there it’d be all sunshine and roses,” Kala snarled. “Because the fact they’re probably chasin’ after us for somethin’ we don’t want to do is so very nice to remember, after all.”

Her brother grimaced. “That ain’t what I was meanin’.”

“Never is, is it? You think they’re ever goin’ to let us just be us? Fat bloody chance and you know it.”

“Doesn’t mean we need to go courtin’ trouble with them every chance we get!” Alak snapped.

Kala sat up, glaring at him. “An’ what’d you rather do, let ’em think they can boss us?”

“Better than them decidin’ we’re a threat and makin’ an assassination attempt on us!”

“Really? Well if you weren’t-”

Whatever Kala was about to say next died in her throat as Ariane reappeared from the far side of the clearing, lugging a pack that looked to be about half her size. “I couldn’t decide which of my books to bring, so I brought them all – there should be something in at least one of them which we can use, I think? If nothing else there ought to be some mention of the Land Behind The Sky – I’m sure I remember reading about it in Dejoyes, and if he’s got something on it then everyone else will. And I brought all my inks, and my notebooks, and the paper Dana got me and-” She broke off, noticing the expressions on the faces of the three younger members of the company. “Is everything alright?”

“‘s fine,” Kala said, completely unconvincingly. She got to her feet, still glaring at her brother. “We were just goin’ for a walk, weren’t we?”

Alak scowled. “Aye. We were.” He stood up and headed for the edge of the clearing, his sister storming after him.

There was a brief, awkward pause.

Then: “I wonder what all that was about.” Without waiting for an answer, she went on: “It’s inconvenient, whatever it is, because those two are my only link outside the books to whatever is going on with this map.” She knelt down next to the still-glowing embers, dragging a large sketchbook and a small canvas bag out of the pack. “Ah well. I suppose I can sketch it, at least.” She opened the canvas bag, pulling out a wooden pen-box and a carrier containing small glass bottles of ink, opened the sketchbook to a new page, and set to work copying the map.

Caleb watched her for a few minutes, impressed by her skill at replicating the alien curves and lines of the design traced in the embers. But his attention kept wandering, and he found himself unable to concentrate fully on what she was doing – whether it was the twins’ argument, the fact that the others weren’t back in camp yet, or something else entirely, a strange feeling of unease was starting to creep over him.

“I think I’m going to go see where the twins have got to,” he said, when it had become clear that the feeling was not about to go away any time soon.

“Mh-hm?” Ariane didn’t look up from her drawing. “If they’re in a better mood, could you ask them to come back and tell me if they recognise exactly where in the Land Behind The Sky this map is supposed to be? I’m not sure any of the landmarks are mentioned in any of my books, and if I don’t-”

“I’ll tell them,” he assured her, and headed off towards the forest, trying desperately to shake the feeling that something, somewhere, had just gone very very wrong.

Copyright © 2018 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Seventh Son: Chapter 15

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s