It took several hours to reach a camp where Glen guessed there were perhaps a hundred or more elves all dressed for war. The sun was going down when Glen and Sandra were escorted to a tent. They were left alone, but Glen was sure there were guards near enough.
Sandra sat quietly and hugged her knees which were pulled up to her chin. She seemed to be in her own little world. Glen paced and tried to make sense of what was happening. It was weird, as Sandra said. It was unreal, impossible, and no human being would ever believe it. Glen felt stupid, like he was in the midst of something out of a children’s story, or an old wives tale, or a folktale where some anthropologist would point out the underlying meaning but would never believe that it might be real. Elves and ogres did not really exist, Glen told himself, but here he was and here they were. He had long since rejected the idea that this might be a dream. “That would have made this B-movie extra bad.” He mumbled. Sandra took Glen’s mumble as an opening to speak.
“My grandmother.” She paused and shook her head before starting again. Glen sat down beside her, not touching, but close enough. “My grandmother used to talk about her grandmother like she was, I don’t know, weird. She said her grandmother had the magic. That’s what she called it. She said her mother had some, but not like her grandmother, while she could hardly do anything at all.”
“When was your grandmother born?” Glen was curious, but he was not sure why he asked that question. This – whoever it was that seemed to be giving him these thoughts was getting annoying. Glen probably should have been frightened by the invasion of his mind except there were two mitigating feelings. The first was that the someone, whoever it was, felt so comfortable. Glen could not imagine any harm coming from that direction. The second was there were far more frightening things happening all around him, he hardly had time to worry about what might be trying to help him.
“1908,” Sandra said. “She would have been seventy this year if she was still alive.” Glen nodded. It was presently 1978. After a pause, Sandra added the word, “Cancer.”
“And her grandmother?”
“I don’t know.”
Sandra shrugged. “Grandma said her great-grandmother was a half-blood. I remember asking once half-what? I got the strangest answer.” Sandra looked like she did not want to say it, but as an elf chose that moment to enter the tent with a tray of food, Sandra found the courage to verbalize what had always seemed loony. “Fairy.” She said. “My great- great, whatever-grandmother was a half-fairy.”
Glen nodded. “1849 gold rush,” he said as the elf put down the food and turned to leave. “Wait a minute.” Glen spoke up, and the elf paused. “What are you going to do with us?”
The elf turned and shrugged. He was skinny, terminally skinny the way certain elves were, and his ears were very pronounced and pointed, but they matched his pointed nose. “Nothing that I know of.” At least his voice sounded normal.
The elf decided to sit and as he crossed his long legs he leaned forward to place a hand over the fire. It rose up with new life. Given the circumstances, neither Sandra nor Glen were surprised by that bit of magic. Sandra scooted a bit closer to the fire for the warmth. Glen decided to to look around.
The fire was in the middle of the tent floor and there was a small hole in the tent roof straight above it. Curiously, the smoke from the fire went straight up and out the hole without the least bit of it filtering into the rest of the tent. Neat trick, Glen thought. He noticed that most of the light in the tent did not come from the fire, but from several globes near the tent roof. Glow-balls, he called them, and he imagined they were like fairy lights. Of course, they were not plugged into anything and they were not battery run so he was at a loss as to what powered them, but they glowed just fine and the light was warm and comfortable. Their night in that tent did not look frightening, but then it did not look all that comfortable if they chose to sleep. There were only two blankets rolled up on the dirt floor, but Glen did not get to examine them closely because by then Sandra found the courage to ask a question.
“Do you have a name?”
“Macreedy, son of Macreedy, son of Macreedy, son of Macreedy.” The elf said. “My sire had many daughters, but only one son of Macreedy.” He smiled and cocked his head back to look toward the tent door and said, “You might as well come in, too. These people do not appear dangerous and I don’t believe they rub off.”
A young female head poked in through the tent door. Her face looked more human, being not nearly so skinny, but the ears were still a giveaway. The face looked unsure, though, so Glen felt obliged to speak up.
“No human cooties, I promise,” he said.
“Well.” The elf came in slowly to take a seat beside Macreedy. “As long as you promise.”
“My name is Sandra,” Sandra said. “Daughter of Mona, daughter of Edna, daughter of another woman and another and another who was a daughter of a full blood fairy.”
“Really?” The elf maid found her smile as Sandra nodded and the maid turned to Macreedy. “That may explain how they came to be here,” she said, but Macreedy was shaking his head.
“Let me see if I can say this the way Master Olerian of the Bean taught the lesson.” He coughed, lowered his voice and affected a very formal tone and look. “The magic is generally well faded by the third generation, and the blood indiscernible by the seventh, though the child is not considered fully human again until the tenth generation.” The elf maid giggled, and Glen decided that this elf was in truth a simple girl who might have passed for a seventeen- year-old human, if that.
“I’m the seventh generation and Melissa is the eighth,” Sandra said, looking mostly at Glen in case she counted wrong.
“You have a baby?” The elf girl looked surprised. Macreedy was still shaking his head as if to say that would not explain how they came to be there.
“Ellean.” Glen interrupted and got the elf girl’s attention. He called the girl by name because his inner voice said that was the elf maiden’s name, not because she had given her name. “Just to be clear, how old are you?” Ellean lost her smile and looked like she was embarrassed by the question. Macreedy spoke for them both.
“I will be one hundred and ten this year,” he said proudly. “Ellean is seventy-three.”
“Only,” Ellean said and she looked down at the fire.
Sandra felt the shame and reached out to the girl. “Women mature faster,” she said.
Ellean did not take Sandra’s hand, but she did look up and smile briefly.
“That’s years,” Glen said, and Sandra looked at him in surprise. She was thinking it was something like maybe a lunar calendar, with Macreedy looking about nineteen or twenty and Ellean appearing to be sixteen or so. “Standard counting is roughly between five and seven to one, like dog years except we are the dogs.” Glen concluded, and he pulled himself a bit closer to the fire. After a moment, Sandra also scooted closer in order to close the circle.
“Old Lord Inaros is reported to be fifteen hundred years old,” Macreedy said. “But that is extremely rare, even among elf-kind.” He smiled for Sandra, but Sandra was not paying attention. Ellean was staring at her.
“I was wondering if your real name is Cassandra,” Ellean said.
“Her hair is too blond.” Macreedy interrupted and shook his head.
“There are dyes.” Ellean came back, but this time Sandra shook her head.
“Just Sandra,” she said. “Why?”
The elves paused to look at each other before Macreedy spoke. “Our goddess was once named Cassandra,” he said. “It is not to be spoken of with humans, but I can say this much, that we have many gods and goddesses, but they are all one.”
“I thought maybe…” Ellean began to speak, but Macreedy took her hand to quiet her.
“So we still do not know how you came to be here,” Macreedy said. “Even if Miss Sandra managed the passage by some virtue remaining in her blood, it does not explain the presence of this man.”
Glen reached for Sandra’s hand and she readily gave it, and her smile, too. “We are thinking of doing a lot of things together,” he said, and Sandra’s smile broadened. “How about you two?”
Macreedy shifted in his seat and looked a little uncomfortable as he glanced at Ellean and dropped the girl’s hand. Ellean had no trouble matching Sandra’s smile. “We have talked,” she told Sandra and she held out her hand again, but Macreedy did not take it
“But about how you got here,” Macreedy spoke hastily to try and get back on the topic, but he was interrupted by a new voice from the door.