My search for a little car to replace the one I was rearended in continues. This weekend it is eating my life.
Another snippet closer to publication date! I still have a lot of work to do, the beta reports are largely in, and after the car thing is handled, I can focus on making Trickster all that it can be.
Oh, and the bit at the end? There’s a song…
In the morning she found Dean, three very rambunctious sprites, Devon, and Ellie waiting for her. She looked at them and spoke to Ellie.
Ellie wordlessly handed her a steaming mug. Bella sipped, shuddered, and looked at the others. “Devon?”
“I know, I can’t come. But you need this, and I figured I’d better show you how to use it.”
He had a slim little laptop waiting on the table. “Uncle Lom has wifi in the house, so…” he tapped a few keys. “See, I bookmarked it for you. Elflife discussion forum, but if you login here…”
She nodded. “I can connect to you.”
“Yeah. I’ll stay on, just in case. But I might not respond right away… Unless?”
She shook her head. “You can help more by monitoring every so often and helping Ellie and your grandmother here at the house. I may not even need this, it’s a back-up plan, you understand?”
He nodded and she switched her attention to Dean. “You have a list?”
“Gave it to Ellie.” He gestured at the sprites who were clustered near his head waiting to talk to her. She had deliberately not been letting their high-pitched squeaks of excitement distract her.
“The McGregor brothers,” was his laconic introduction.
She held out her hand, and they flew to her, one sitting in the palm of her hand, the others on her shoulders. She could feel tiny hands in her hair, and one had a grip on her ear.
“Um… Hello.” Bella really wasn’t sure what to do about them, and as she looked closely they did not at all match what her mental picture of them had been. The one on her hand had a luxuriant red beard, but was nearly bald, and burly in build. He grinned at her.
“Pleased to meetcha. That one,” he jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward Dean, “Said we munna wear our kilts. Said you’d not take us w’out owr trewsers.”
Since he was sitting on her hand, she was truly grateful for Dean’s admonition, and shot him a look, which made him break into a grin. He turned away abruptly.
“And you are?” Bella addressed the sprite in front of her.
“Ah’m Ewan, that ‘un,” he pointed at the left shoulder, “ist t’de’il in disguise, Calum.” He shifted his attention to the other shoulder. “An t’un takin’ liberties w’your ear is Iver. Let go o’tat, boy!”
The pressure on her ear fell away. Bella thought she heard a murmur of apology in that ear.
“I’m glad to meet you all.” She assured him gravely, hoping her amusement wasn’t showing on her face.
He stood up and threw her a sloppy salute. “We’re at your service, ma’am!”
“Did Dean tell you what the mission is?” She was curious if they would be willing to go up creatures thousands of times their size.
He nodded. “We’ll be your eyes and ears in t’air. Looking forrad t’some action, t’boys an’ me.”
“Thank you. Let Ellie,” who had unofficially become the team quartermaster, “know if you need anything. We leave her in about two hours.”
He snapped another salute and the three of them careened off, bouncing off one another with muffled curses, once off the table, and even Dean’s chest, which he endured with a stone face.
“Have you got what you think you will need?” Bella asked him.
He nodded. “I’m ready to go. Where are we going?”
“I suggested that my family meet me in two days in Longview, if they can come that quickly. I will touch base with them once we are above. Oh, and I need Devon again…”
“Right here,” the boy came around the corner, a scone in his hand.
“I need to charge this,” she held up her cell phone. “And my options are going above and renting a hotel room, which I’d rather not, or a cyber cafe. My home is a little far to go just now.”
He nodded, “I have a MGC to AC converter. I’ll go get it.”
He all but ran out of the room, with Bella calling after him, “what the heck does that mean?”
“Magic to alternating current, duh!” he didn’t even slow down.
Bella sighed, “Teenagers make me feel old.”
This got a short laugh out of Dean.
“I will go stage everything we are taking. How are you planning to do transport?” He asked.
“Anything that can be damaged by cold we carry. The rest of it gets wrapped against moisture damage and tagged with ‘come-here’ spells. I’ve already figured out that I can pull items to me from here. That saves us some steps.”
He actually registered an emotion, showing a little surprise. “You can do that?”
Bella cocked her head slightly, “You can’t? I’m sorry, I’m still figuring out what I can do with magic. I’d tried it yesterday.”
“Was that what had you so tired?” His eyes narrowed in thought.
Bella shook her head. “No, that would be the transport bubble from there to here.”
Now he did look startled. “You’re lucky you didn’t kill yourself.”
“Drat. I keep running into that. There are so many things that just aren’t covered in the books.”
“That one is just…” she could see his struggle for the right words. “Insane. Look, next time ask me, ok?”
“Sure, if I have time.” She got up, and went to get Ellie.
Behind her, she heard him mutter, “I thought I was the one with a death wish.”
She ignored him, knowing that she had already done far more than any Underhill lore said she could. She wondered sometimes if they just hadn’t been trying anything new for so long that they didn’t know what they were capable of anymore.
Ellie came down to the armory with her, scrupulously avoiding going too close to Lom’s door. His half of the cellars was protected by so many layers of spells, and most of them nastily lethal, that Bella didn’t blame her. She had decided to stage the mission equipment here in her workshop so it wouldn’t be in the way.
It also gave her an opportunity to speak to Ellie completely alone for a change. Even in the house, Bella was no longer sure that there were no listening ears.
“While we are gone, Melcar will be here. And here…” Bella handed Ellie a spell, the tiny orb of glowing energy. “If you need me, that’s linked to me, wherever I am.”
The little elf nodded. Bella had always had trouble reading her face for emotions, with the wood-elf’s craggy skin and the age-lines that mapped her life on her face.
“I don’t know what the Council is thinking,” Bella went on, awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I wish I had a better clue about all this. With Lom incapacitated, I hate taking off and leaving everything on you and Lucia like this. What can I do?”
“You’re doing the right thing.” Ellie held out her hands, and Bella took them. “You need to go take care of the mission, and he will be in good hands. As I said before, this is the best thing for him, some impetus to get out of bed and not mope himself to death.”
“He’s not allowed to do that,” Bella growled.
Ellie laughed. “Let’s get you on the way to above, so you will be home sooner.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m leaving the door attuned to you, so if you need to come down here.”
They went back to the kitchen, where Devon brandished her cell at Bella. “All ready to go!” he announced cheerfully.
“Terrific,” Bella told him. “You still aren’t coming.”
He nodded, only a little crestfallen.Good, maybe he understood duty and wouldn’t try to follow them. She nodded at Dean, and looked down at the table. The sprites all had tiny mugs of something, she looked closer. Surely that wasn’t…
“Whiskey before breakfast?”
“Och, aye! An w’breakfast, too!” Callum cheerfully informed her.
Dean intervened. “They don’t get drunk. Sprite metabolism is very fast.”
“Ok,” Bella let it go, dubious, but she needed them. “We eat, and go.”