[tsat home] [#10] [stories]

The Mercenaries of the Light
by Paul Carmichael
©2000 Paul Carmichael -- all rights reserved

No help whatsoever?
Well, if that's the way he wants to play, I'll show him.
I can be just as much a little kid as he can.
So there, Hollis.

Agnes Hollis, grand dame of Bennett City, tried to sink into her sofa and vanish as she stared at the six elf boys in her living room. In front of them were several million gold coins and jewels. To one side of the room, Marion Hollis sat at a side table shaking her head and trying not to laugh too hard.

"Isn't this great, Gramma? Our Teo really came through for us." Andy said scooping up a handful of coins to let them drop through his fingers.

"I suppose, but the market for these coins will not support this many, Andrew."

"We don't want to sell all of them, Mom," George Hollis, Andy's father and now elf kid like the rest of us added. "We have to go stop this ex-Lord of Light character of Andy's so I can get back to my own shape."

"And what's wrong with this shape, Dad?" Allan asked. "You look great as an elf."

"Better than me, that's for sure," Bob Elliott commented. "But I'm really getting to like this. Your kids are rich and we can live off them for the next couple of hundred years."

"You know, George," Marion said with a straight face. "This is the first time in years I've really enjoyed having you around. I've always said that you had never grown up, so why not give yourself another chance. And you are just soooooo cute."

George blushed. "Thanks for that -- dear. How do we get to this place -- Fourlakes?"

"You should know that, Dad," I commented. "Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning."

"In this case, Mr. Carmichael is pretty much right -- for a change," Andy said. "It's not far from the Earth, in terms of light years. But we need to go the Palace of Light which is now officially mine, since Teo said it was, Paulin."

"You rotten little brat," Paul snarled. "That was supposed to be mine. He had no right just handing it over to you."

"But he did, so you can just bite my big toe, elf boy. I won't tell you to go kiss an elf ever again because you're just nasty minded enough to do it."

Erien tugged at my shirt sleeve. "If we have to follow these stars, shouldn't we wait until night time?"

I patted him on the back. "Yes, we should, but Andy likes to do things the hard way."

"There are so many things to do and to see in this world," Erien commented. "Like those drawings that move and talk. Couldn't we watch some more of those until night time?"

Andy sighed. "Okay, which one of you got this kid hooked on cartoons?"

"That would be me," Allan said with his fist pressed to Andy's chin. "You gonna make something of it, rat boy?"

"No, I was just -- curious -- that's all."

"Okay, that's enough squabbling out you," Marion said. "I was just getting used to having three boys, but now six? I don't think so. Can this Elfking of yours actually change George and Bobby back to adults?"

"I don't think so since Teo couldn't, but he should be able to make them appear as their human selves again," Andy commented. "But with Celrin, Talrin and Charlie we could have our own baseball team."

"He's right," Bob said. "And you really do have room for us all."

"What sort of name is Charlie for an elf?" Erien wanted to know.

"He's not an elf," Bob said. "He's my nephew, and won't he be surprised when he sees me. I don't know if I can convince him now that Dungeons and Dragons isn't bad for your health."

"Maybe we had better get moving," Dad said. "Nighttime or not, stars or not, I want to be me again."

Andy flashed a grin at me. "Should we tell him now, or let him figure it out on his own?"

"We can wait," I said.

"What?" Both Dad and Bob demanded.

"You won't be growing any older as humans or functioning as adults, either," I said. "You know -- Andy's 'G' rating."

"Bobby's never functioned as an adult as far as I can see," Marion said.

Bobby brought his hands to his chest. "Ouch, that hurts, Marion, my dearest. Be careful with your barbs because elves can zap."

"Bobby," Andy said and pulled the elf around. "That's our Mom. You don't zap her, okay? Or would you like the green light to take you to visit with Richard and Jaemar for hundred years or so?"

"Okay, you made your point. Give the kid a little power and he turns on you just like that," Bob said with a snap of his fingers. "We go to this Fourlakes place to turn George back to himself. Got it. Shall we?"

"You did remember to take some money for this trip, didn't you, Andy?" Allan asked his twin as we crossed the Courtyard of what should have been my palace.

"Of course, I kept out enough for everyone. Can't just relocate our entire firm to another planet without lots of funds I always say."

"Yes, he does always say that, too." I said.

Dad turned around trying to take it all in. "This is incredible. I had no idea that you could just cross into another world by taking a river walk."

"Why did that big lizard wave to us when we walked through the gate?" Erien asked.

"What big lizard," Bob demanded.

"The big blue one that was lying by the water."

"Oh, that's the guardian of the gate, and a really good chess player," Andy said. "He's a friend of ours and that's why he waved."

"I thought big lizards like that ate people," Erien insisted.

"They do," I said. "This one's different. A lot like you in that respect."

"Oh," he said and shrugged his shoulders.

"I seemed to have missed something here," Dad said. "There was a big blue lizard by the water?"

"That's the neighborhood dragon, Dad," Allan said. "He pretends to be a rock formation so people don't hunt him. He's way cool, and I almost beat him at chess the last time I played with him."

"That was a dragon, and you didn't say anything?"

"But Dad," Andy said. "Not many people can see through that disguise and if we had said something you wouldn't have believed us. No one does. Erien is different. Remember that when things like this come up again."

"I want to see this dragon when we get back."

We trooped inside to be met by the Palace servants, who responded to Andy, not me.

"Food first, then space travel," Andy told them.

"Couldn't hurt," Bob added. "After all, we are growing boys."

"Not really," I told him. "Elves take a long time to grow up. This is perfect for Andy, but I used to be a highly successful salesman."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Andy said. "So you wanna go back home, Carmichael?"

"I didn't say that, rat boy. I jumped at the chance to come here, but I never dreamed I was going to wind up an elf." We followed the servants into the dining room. Although, we could have waited for them to wait on us, we all headed to the banquet table and loaded up plates on our own. "Then again, I can eat like this all day and not gain an ounce either."

"You never did before, either, you skinny rat," Andy protested.

"Now, boys," George started, then cleared his throat as his voice squeaked. "I mean, guys, we're in this together and there's no need to fight."

"Dad's right, Paulin," Andy said and held out his hand. I sighed and shook my head but I shook his hand as well.

After we ate, Andy had the servants take us to the computer room. I had been here once before trying to save the universe from a computer glitch, now all we had to do was figure out how to get the machine to send us to another world.

"Computer, we want to play a game," Andy said.

"Request noted, authorized user Andrew."

"Do we have time for this?" Dad asked.

"Do you have any scenarios available on Fourlakes?" Andy said with a nod of his head.

"Processing." Lights flashed and the hard drive hummed inside the machine for a moment. "The following scenarios are available: Farming in Westlake, river rafting in Southlake, being conscripted as slaves of the Shadow in Northlake, fighting with the Mercenaries of the Light in East City, fighting the Shadow forces in the Dark Forest to Elfhome, and rescuing the demon child of Westlake from kidnappers."

"That doesn't sound too promising," I said.

"Mercenaries of the Light?" Allan mused. "That sounds like us."

"Yeah," Andy commented. "If we help the mercenaries in East City they may help us in the Dark Forest to get through to Elfhome."

"Orcs," Bobby said. "I get to hunt orcs. I've always wanted to, you know."

"Better watch out," Andy said. "Mr. Party Pooper there wouldn't let me save the world and I've always wanted to do that, too."

"Sorry, but who's gonna save the world from you, Hollis?" I asked.

"What sort of creature is a mercenary and do we have to turn into them?" Erien asked.

"They're way cool," Allan said. "We get to be them, but we stay ourselves. What do Mercenaries of the Light wear?" Allan's clothes changed from T-shirt and shorts to a hip length gray-green tunic, matching leggings, leather boots, a cloak of darker green and a leather belt with a silver buckle. A short sword and sheath appeared on the belt. "Woah. Check this out. I'm gonna wear this to school."

"I want an outfit just like his," Andy said. As all of our clothes changed over, he tugged at the earring Scotty had forced on him, and glanced at me. "You think?"

"Yeah," I said and laughed. "Can't be real Mercenaries of the Light without the jewelry."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dad demanded. Both Bobby and he yelped as they got earrings to match ours.

"Can't tell the good guys from the orcs without scorecards," Andy said. "We're now officially, Ace Shadow Hunters and the one thing you have to remember is: 'The Pearl Watcher knows your plans'."

"What is a Pearl Watcher?" Dad asked.

"You'll find out. Computer, do we get an initial allowance to start the game?" Andy asked with his hand out.

"Roll the dice provided, you sweet, little, cutie-pie elfie, you," the computer intoned.

Andy blushed, and turned on Bobby. "If I ever find out that it's you causing this thing to glitch Bobby, instead of me, you're dead."

"What did I do, 'you sweet little, cutie-pie elfie you,'" Bobby repeated the computer's words while dancing out of Andy's reach.

"Cut that out," Andy said and rolled the dice. He picked up his money as the rest of us took turns. "Can you exchange the rest of our coins for local currency?"

"Done. Anything else? No? Push the red button, that one right there, and off you go."

We landed on a dirt road that cut across miles of unbroken pasture land. I coughed and looked around as two large crows took off from the side of the road. "Which way?"

"Beats me," Andy said and watched the crows flight. "I've never been here before, but I'd say it's that way."

"Troops, form up!" Bobby called out. "At-ten-tion! Now, who's going to lead this band of soldiers?"

"Paul is, cause if we meet the bad guys he can always talk them to death."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I demanded.

"I've heard your sales pitches, Carmichael. What can I do? Write them to death? Not likely."

"I will," Dad said. "Can't have our fearless leaders quarreling when we meet the enemy, can we? Bob, you take the position after me, then Erien with Paul. Al'n'Andy will bring up the rear."

"Yes, Sergeant," I yelled.

"Move it out. Your left, right, left. Your left, right left," Dad called cadence for a moment, then waved us to stop at the sight of two riders approaching us. "Excuse us," he said as they rode into range. "We're looking for the Mercenaries of the Light."

Both men made fists of their right hands, touched their foreheads, then their chests with the fists, and pointed at Dad.

"Don't worry, they will find you," one of the men said. Both of the men kicked their horses into a gallop away from us.

"Why did they do this?" Erien asked as he copied the men's hand movement.

"That's probably the way they salute, here," Bobby said and tried it himself. "Forehead, chest, point. Got it."

"Why did they do that?" I asked Andy as we started marching again.

"Do you really want to know? They think we're demons and they did that to protect themselves from the evil eye."

"But if Bobby starts doing that..." Allan started to say, then punched Andy on the shoulder. "That's mean."

"He'll find out," Andy said with a wicked grin.

We marched until we found what looked to be an old farmer, who had a hay cart pulled to the side of the road.

"Excuse us, mister," Dad said. "We're Mercenaries of the Light and we were wondering if you could give us a ride into East City?"

The farmer took a good look at us, saluted and started shouting. "What, and have you little demons burn my hay? Get out of here!"

We kept moving until we could no longer hear the man shouting behind us.

"Why did that man call us demons and yell at us like that?" Erien asked.

"Probably didn't want us to get our uniforms any more dusty that they already are," Bobby answered. "What do you think, Andy?"

"I bet he thinks we're demons and he was afraid we'd burn his hay for payment for riding with him."

"With these ears he thinks we're demons?" Bobby said and laughed. "Not a chance."

"You're the expert, Bobby," Andy said with a little half-smile on his face.

"We should have asked that computer for food and stuff," Allan commented.

"Computer? It's lunch time," Andy called out. Pouches crammed with food popped onto the road followed by water bags. "Now that's what I call service. Thanks, computer."

"You are so smug, you little..." I shoved him teasingly.

"You don't want to eat? I'll take yours."

"No," I said and snatched the pouch away from him. "What's next?"

"We go into East City and meet Percy the Goblin," Andy said with a shrug.

"We need to find the Mercenaries, and not some little goblin," Bobby said.

"We will, but the Goblin's gonna help out a lot," Andy insisted. "You want me to scout ahead after lunch, Dad?"

"Go ahead, Sport. It's really odd, we've been walking for miles and I don't feel the least bit tired, or winded. I could get to like this shape."

"That's the spirit, George," Bobby said quickly. "Looks like the Hollis Home for Wayward Elves is really in business now."

"Not for me at any rate," Dad said slowly as he thought about his wife. "I couldn't take much more of Marian's teasing."

A large crow circled overhead cawing until Andy stood up and held out his arm. The bird landed and rubbed his beak on Andy's sleeve. "Crow two-six-nine reporting to the small person. Small demon person? I have a message from the Dark One. Do you have a shiny thing for me?"

"You bet, crow. What do you say?"

"Nevermore -- nevermore." Andy handed the bird a silver piece.

Bobby winced. "Did you train that bird to do that?"

"Of course. What's the message, Two-six-nine?"

"Dark One says that you small demon persons need to get off the road and undercover quickly. Find Percy in East City and report to Dark One immediately."

"Thanks for the message. Tell the Dark One that we will be right there."

The bird took off again cawing out, "Nevermore."

"When did you teach that bird to say that?" Bobby demanded.

"That day when I was in standard deserted warehouse number 29 with your Uncle Jack, I might add, and you never believed me," Andy said.

"You have an Uncle Jack?" Dad asked.

"Yes, but it's not something I brag about. He always was a two-bit hood. If I understand this correctly, Uncle Jack is working for Ashtar, and he's going to keep on trying to get some fool kid to switch places with me even though I'm a kid now, and once he does I get this Command Chair?"

"Something like that," Andy said with a shrug. "Nothing else is working out quite like it did in my stories so why should that? Okay, we had better get into East City first, since the Dark One is getting impatient."

"Who is this Dark One?" Dad asked.

"He's the local heavy that Earl Roger is fighting. He's the reason that Roger hired all the Mercenaries of the Light anyway. If we can find out where he lives, we can lead the good guys there in the morning, after breakfast."

"Right," I said. "They think we're demons and they are going to share all their secrets?"

"Probably not, since we're just lesser demons at that. So, until further notice all of us are demons, even you, Erien. That's our disguise."

"Right, but I still look for the secret doors and fight the Shadow?"

"You've got it," Andy said and patted the boy's back. "Couldn't ask for a better faithful elven companion."

"But that's Paulin," Erien answered.

"He was demoted. He's now just that stupid little kid over there sulking, okay?"

Erien nodded, and I kept my mouth shut as we kept marching.

Gradually, the countryside showed signs of habitation. We saw farm houses set well away from the road, and the first signs that we were approaching a city. Foot traffic on the road gave us a wide clearance, although Bobby tried his best to return everyone's salutes.

At last, the road turned to cobblestone and we entered East City proper. Several kids stared at us then ran screaming for their grown-ups. We walked another few paces when a small, heavily cloaked figure waved to us from a dark alleyway.

"Hey, you guys, over here," he called out.

We ducked into the alley. Andy took the lead. "The Dark One sent you?"

"Yeah," the man said in a hoarse whisper, looking up and down the street. "You guys think you're real tough walking down the street like that."

"Yeah, and you don't want to know how tough we can get. You're Percy the Goblin?"

"That's right, but how did you know?" he demanded.

"I have my ways. We're friends of Ashtar's. You seen him lately?"

"The Master?" he asked in a squeak. "Not lately. He's not coming here, is he?"

"Haven't heard," I cut in. "Where do the Mercenaries of the Light hang out? We're just itching for a fight, and we thought we'd kill a few before meeting the Dark One."

"Okay," he said and shook his head. For a second, I could see gnarled green skin under the cloak. "This way, but I swear you look like little kids."

"That's the whole idea," Andy smirked. "Gotta keep 'em guessing."

We followed the little goblin through a maze of foul smelling alleys, and byways that appeared to be and probably were filled with open sewage.

"Okay," the goblin said and pointed to the back of a multi-storied building. "Come right back here and ask for the Dark One, or me. They'll let you in."

"Got it," Dad said. "And the Mercenaries?"

"Look for the Hammer and Axe about four blocks down on the left," Percy said. "Plenty of action there."

"Thanks, Percy," Andy said brightly. We left the creature at the Dark One's place and walked down toward the Inn. Dive was more like it. We found the place and I, for one, didn't want to go inside. It looked a complete mess on the outside. "Mercenaries of the Light hang out here?" I asked Andy.

"Some," he said. "I just want to see if David Herrick is here."


"One of the characters in my book that's supposed to play a very important role in this world's history ten years from now. Okay?"

"Listen, Sport," Dad said trying to take Andy aside. "When did you write all these books?"

"It's a long story, Dad. Really long. See, I'm really an alien writer from a parallel universe..."

"Okay, kid, point taken. Some other time," he said trying not to laugh. "We need to find who?"

"Some kid," Andy said. "Let's go on in."

"Oh, yeah," I said. "Not one of your better efforts, Andrew, but so this is coming true now, as well?"

"We'll see now, won't we?" he said.

The inside of the Hammer and Axe looked a hundred times worse than the outside. The floors were filthy, and I could smell vermin everywhere: roaches, mice and rats. The customers looked about par with the vermin. All of them were dressed in various stages of rags and filthy robes, except for one small figure, sitting mostly in shadow, wearing the same gray-green robe as we were. Andy nodded at that one as we walked up to the bar.

"We're looking for the Mercenaries of the Light," he told the bartender who looked like a cross between a hog and a troll.

"Hey, any of you slobs seem some Mercenaries of the Light? The demon kiddies want a fight," he bellowed out as several of the -- patrons guffawed at us.

"We're looking for orcs, too," Bobby added.

"So, what's an orc?" a large creature in the back asked.

"A cross between a pig and your mother, Hogsnout," Allan sneered. The ogre stood up -- and up -- and up -- until he towered over the tables. "What did you say, demon?"

"Allan, what are you doing?" Dad cut in.

"I'm gonna kill that pig over there, Dad. I have to."

"Ten to one on the little demon," a man in a dark gray cloak called out. "Any takers?"

Andy walked over to the man's table and tossed a huge gold piece down. "Can you cover that?"

I heard the man gulp. "That's half the day's receipts, kid..." He said then looked over to study Allan who pulled off his cloak. "Done."

The ogre pulled out a sword that seemed the length of a tree. He crossed the room to face Allan in one step as everyone pulled tables and themselves well out of the way. Allan pulled out his short sword and stood waiting. More and more coins were bet on the fight.

"Okay, demon, you're finished," the ogre grunted out and swung his sword. Allan dodged away easily, almost danced around the creature to slice the back of the ogre's knees. As the ogre lost his balance, Allan stepped in front and pierced the creature's heart on the way down.

Allan wiped his sword and put it away. The fight had taken less than a minute. I reminded myself not to get on Allan's bad side.

"Hi, mister, remember me?" Andy asked the man at the table.

"All bets are off. It wasn't a fair fight."

"My brother won at five to one against, and I'm a lot faster with a sword than he is."

"No, you aren't. You are such a liar, Andy," I laughed.

"Oh yeah, well the first one to cut this guy's heart out and hand it to him still beating, wins whatever he's holding out."

"Here," the man shouted in panic, pushing over the cash. "That's all of it."

Andy snapped his fingers and the rest of the man's money flew from his pockets and pouches. "Don't let me think you're fibbing on me, mister. I think we're done here."

We started for the door. Bobby had to call out, "Okay, if any of you guys see any orcs, I want them. Understood?"

I pulled Bobby out the door before any of the ogre's friends decided to come after us. "Now what?"

"We walk that way, and wait," Andy said. "Or, walk this way," he said and hunched over to walk sideways down the alley in a bad imitation of Chaplin's "Little Tramp."

"Funny, Hollis, funny," I groaned.

Allan ducked down a side alley as the rest of us kept moving. As he watched, the small figure in the gray cloak left the Hammer and Axe to follow us. We kept moving until the person had passed the alley, too, then Allan slid out of the alley and came up behind him.

"Okay, mister," Allan said, pressing the tip of his sword into the stranger's back. "Take off that cloak and let's have a look at you."

Andy was right, uncloaked we could see that it was a kid a little older than we were. "It's okay. I'm with the mercenary force up from Southlake. You are half-blooded elves, right?"

Andy pulled off his own cloak. "Do we look half-blooded?"

"Oh, my mistake," the kid said quickly.

"How can an elf be half-blooded?" Erien demanded. "Is that like having a missing half?"

"Something like that," Andy shrugged. "So, you're from Southlake. You are?"

"David, David Herrick. I never dreamed we'd have this many elves with us, but aren't you just kids?"

"And you aren't?" I asked him.

"I'm a well-trained soldier," he explained, puffing out his chest with pride.

Bobby saluted him.

"What did you do that for?" David asked trying not to laugh. "I can't give anyone the evil eye."

"Isn't that the way you guys salute here?"

"No, people do that to protect themselves from the evil eye."

"But we can't give anyone the evil eye, either," Bobby said. "Oh, that whole mistaken for a demon thing."

"Yeah," Andy cut in. "But we can blight their crops so it all works out."

"We can?" I asked. "I bet that has a lot of threat value. Watch out or I'll blight your crops."

"Hush." Andy held a finger to his lips. "These people are farmers and they take things like that seriously. Look, David, we're supposed to go back to the Dark One's house, now, but I'd really like to talk to Captain Kaelar before we do. Can you take us to him?"

"Who?" Dad asked.

"You're an elf and you don't know Captain Kaelar?" David asked.

"Sonny, I'm old enough to be your father, and I don't like that attitude. This is the first, and I fervently hope the last visit to this world that my family is going to make, so no, I don't know Captain Kaelar or you for that matter, although my son, here, apparently does."

"It's okay, really, David," Andy said placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. "You're a well trained soldier, and you're doing a great job so far. We're an off world task force sent by the Lord of Light to see the Elfking, okay? My Dad is just getting his bearings."

"Now I've heard everything. This way, sir," David said to Dad with a wink to Andy.

We traveled for what seemed like miles through back alleyways until we finally reached a much nicer section of town. David took us inside a veritable hotel of an inn for a meal and a room for the night.

David left us in the dining hall as he went to look for his superiors. The other patrons quickly left as we started eating. And I could see why, too.

"Andy? Do you have to eat like that?"

"Like what?" he said between bites.

"Like a little kid or him for that matter," I said and pointed at Bobby.

"What's wrong with the way I eat?" Bobby protested. "I'm a growing boy after all, and I intend to enjoy this."

"So do I, for that matter," Dad added.

"Way to go, Dad," Allan said. "You're getting the hang of it which leaves you all by yourself, Mr. Stick in the Mud."

"That's my brother," Andy said proudly.

"Oh, bite my big toe, both of you, rat boys. At least my brother has manners," I said and patted Erien on the back.

"Why do you call them 'rat boys'? They look like elf boys now."

"Don't you dare, Hollis," I said, but too late.

Both Andy and Allan turned into two cute little, black and white lab rats.
"We're Rats and Double Rats," one of the rodents said. "See?"

"Hey, can I be a cat?" Bobby asked.

The twins turned back to their usual obnoxious selves before Andy answered. "Now you can."

"I see," Erien said. "Thanks, Andy. Can I watch some of those drawings that move?"

"Sure, when we get to our room. There's David."

"They have TV here?" Allan asked. "All right!"

"Video junkie," Andy laughed. "No, they don't have TV here, but I do. You'll see."

"What about a lap-top for your old man," Dad said grinning.

"Oh, sure, any other requests?"

"What about a piano for him?" Bobby suggested.

Andy looked around the room as David sat down with us. He pointed to an empty corner and brought in a spinet. "You were expecting maybe a grand? Not for him."

"May the force be with you," I said as I headed for the piano.

"No sign of the others, yet," David said. "I did get you a room next to mine."

Stretching my fingers, I sat down to play, and was encouraged to see the dining hall fill again, quickly, in spite of the apparent demons in the room.

David led us to a large room on the third level. He said good night, as the rest of us went through the room. We let Erien double lock all the secret doors, while Andy and I locked and sealed the windows. Once the room was secure Andy sat down on the bed, held out his hands, and called in a large, combination radio, tape player and TV. He flipped on the receiver and started flipping through the channels.

"Here we go," he said and had Erien sit next to him to watch some old 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons.

"How is this even possible?" Dad asked.

"Magic," Andy said with a shrug. "Erien likes cartoons, and so do I for that matter, but what Erien wants -- he gets."

"We interrupt this broadcast for a special announcement..."

Everyone in the room groaned. "Even here?" Dad asked.

"This just in from Shadow Central..." The speaker looked like another goblin reading from several scattered pages. "This evening an army of mercenaries invaded the Hammer and Axe killing Burt the Ogre, and robbing Tessler of the day's receipts. This time, according to the Dark One himself, Earl Roger has gone too far, and this sort of vicious attack will not be tolerated.

"This afternoon, Percy the Goblin brought in six lesser demons, whose help is sorely needed. Word has it that the Master is in Westlake overseeing operations there, and will be arriving in East City within the next couple of days. With this added strength, the Dark One is convinced that we will be able to eradicate Earl Roger and his Mercenaries once and for all.

"That's it for this announcement. Good evening and good hunting."

The TV switched back to cartoons.

I held my stomach laughing hard enough to choke. "I can just see that guy telling the Dark One that six kids took his money and killed that Ogre. No wonder he wanted to exaggerate, a little."

"You mean we aren't an army of Mercenaries of the Light?" Allan complained.

"Yes, we are," Bobby said. "And when I find some orcs, watch out."

"Uh, Bobby," I said. "I have a sneaky hunch that orcs might have been something that Tolkein made up and not for real."

"You're telling me that all of this, a ready made Dungeons and Dragons world doesn't have any orcs? I can't believe that."

"Andy? Are there any orcs on this world?" I asked.

"Besides, you? Yeah, I'm sure Bobby's gonna find some orcs."

"Shhhhh," Erien said with a finger to his lips. "I am trying to hear the rabbit and the little human."

"Andy," Dad said quietly moving away from the TV so Erien could hear. "How much fighting are you planning on doing?"

"None, Dad. That's Al. He's the great warrior now. I'm just making a collection of gold pieces and jewels for Gramma."

"I don't want either of you kids involved with this war that seems to be going on. When we started this, I thought it was one of Bobby's games. You are fighting and dealing with real creatures that could kill you."

"I know that, Dad," Andy said with a slight grin. "But trust me on this, okay? I know what I'm doing, and if worse comes to worst I'll pull out the submachine guns and tactical nukes. But, I don't think that's gonna be necessary. It doesn't take brains to serve the Shadow on this world, and we can use that."

"Like you have brains?" I asked, sweetly.

"I think it's time that we turn in for the night," Dad said. "I think we're going to have a busy day tomorrow. Got that?"

"Yes, Dad," most of us chorused.

"I could go down and get some..." Bobby started. "George, don't give me that look. You're not my dad... Okay, I get the message."

The next morning I woke to find Andy, Allan and Erien already dressed and ready for breakfast. "Wait for me," I whispered, not wanting to wake Dad and Bobby.

The dining hall was all but empty as we walked in. Two men, who appeared to be in their late teens, sat at one table. They wore gray outfits like ours, but sneered so hard with their hands on their swords that we avoided them entirely. A tall, thin man, dressed in a dark gray cloak however, waved us over to his table.

"What are you four doing here?" he demanded in a whisper. "I thought you were supposed to report right back to the Dark One?"

"We were, but the army of Mercenaries got in the way, and we were hoping to have a go at some elves before we meet the Dark One," Andy explained.

"I'll tell him, but get there soon."

"You can count on that," I said. "I can't to wait to meet him."

"That's the spirit, boys. Weren't there more of you?"

"Yes, lots more," Allan said. "They're out hunting this Earl guy."

"Or Earl Gray," Bobby said joining right in. "I could use some."

"Where's Dad?" Andy asked.

"Getting dressed," Bobby commented. "I hope you have food coming and lots of it."

"You go right over there and tell the nice lady what you want," Allan told him and pointed.

"Be there," the tall demon said and left the room.

One of the teens in gray stuck his foot out as Bobby walked past him. Bobby lightly hopped over the foot, then turned around and kicked the kid in the shin. "Oops, sorry, I must have tripped on something," Bobby said and kept walking.

Both of the men stood up and followed Bobby back to our table. "Think you're so tough, demon. Fight us, then."

"What, before breakfast? Are you mad? Come back after we eat, then we will step outside and brawl properly, or not at all," Bobby said.

"Before this goes any further, guys," Andy said. "Our card."

One of the kids took the card Andy handed him. "'Ace Shadow Hunters. Trolls terminated, Demons demolished and Orcs hunted. Reasonable rates.' What sort of nonsense is this? Why do demons hunt orcs?"

"Do we get a prize if we give the right answer?" Andy asked.

"Bobby," I said. "Don't look now, but those are orcs."

"What do you mean? We aren't orcs, we're Mercenaries of the Light, demon."

"Not in my book. You waited until that big demon was gone before you decided to get brave and pick on the little kids. That makes you orcs in my book."

"And mine," Bobby said, and rubbed his hands together. "Okay, you orcs, after breakfast you're mine and you're dead."

"What's going on?" Dad asked as he stumbled into the hall. "Where's the coffee?"

"Over there," I said. "Just tell that lady what you want. I think she's going to bring it but it's been a while since we ordered."

"If that's the case," Bobby said. "Why don't we step outside now?"

"How many demons are there?" One of the orcs asked.

"Lots and lots," Andy said with a shrug. "We've only seen the one and we're looking for more. I get the demons, Bobby gets the orcs, and Allan is gonna get the ogres."

"What about me?" I asked. "What do I get?"

"The piano I gave you last night," Andy said. "Boy, some people are just greedy."

"That's no fair. If Bobby gets to kill one of the orcs, I want the other one."

"Oh, that's okay," Andy said. "But let Bobby choose which one he kills, okay? It means so much to him."

"I want that one," Bobby said and pointed at the orc that had tried to trip him. "Come on, orc. It's you and me now."

"Later," Andy said. "Breakfast is here."

"We are going to have this out right now, demon. We are not these orc creatures. We are trained soldiers..."

All of us gave them the salute.

"We're soldiers," one insisted. "We can't give the evil eye."

"You are orcs," Andy said. "If you don't stop jabbering at us you are gonna be dead orcs right where you stand even though this is a respectable inn instead of some dive. Got that? Now, after we eat we will all step outside so you guys and Bobby and Paulin can fight. After that we will send your bodies back to whatever Dark Lord or Dark This and That you call master."

"We serve the Light not some Dark This and That, you foul little demon."

"That tears it, mister. I'm sorry, Bobby, but did you hear what this orc called me? You can fight him, but I get to kill him for calling me names. I'll have you know, you stupid orc, I am the finest American elf that money can buy."

"I wish I'd said that," Bobby said. "Wait a second -- you can't have the demons and my orc."

"What is going on here? Ralph? Thomas? Don't you have anything better to do than to waste time with these kids?"

"Sorry, my lord," said one. "These little demons are calling us orcs, and those two are fighting over who gets to kill me."

"Why do demons kill orcs?" the man asked with a certain air of morbid fascination.

"Do we get a prize if we get it right?" I asked him.

"Yeah, real Mercenaries of the Light would give us a prize for that one," Andy added.

Another man joined the first. He took one look at us and said, "Ah, this is the prize that young David was talking about last night."

"You mean David's got the prize?" Andy demanded. "Man, we've been playing with the wrong orcs, that's for sure. Look, you two orcs, our breakfast is getting cold thanks to you, so why don't you go over there and get us another one."

"I'd do it, boys," said the second one. "Good morning, lads, I am Kaelar of the Otter Clan..." He said removing his cloak to show that he, too, was an elf.

"Klan?" Dad demanded. "Is that Klan with a 'K'?"

"No, it isn't," Andy said. "Think highlanders or something."

"Oh yeah," Bobby said. "Where's his kilt?"

"It's not like that," Andy said.

"Oh, does this mean I don't get to kill my orc?"

"Not if he gets breakfast for us, like right now," I said glared at the orc.

"Oh, right." Both the orcs took off to place the order.

"What exactly is an orc, and why are those two orcs?" Kaelar asked.

"An orc is a creature that looks like a cross between a goblin and a hog," Bobby explained. "They're kind of shock troops for the Shadow. The reason those two are orcs is that instead of trying to fight the big demon that was here they waited until he was gone to pick on us so that makes them orcs."

"What big demon?" asked the first man.

"The one that wants us to go to the Dark One's house right after breakfast."

"You know where the Dark One lives?" he demanded.

"Yes, sir," Andy answered. "We came here to fight the Shadow and they've really been most cooperative. They led us right to the Dark One's place and then to the Hammer and Ax. Did you know that the six of us were considered an army of Mercenaries?"

"I wondered about that since all of my men have insisted they played no part in that. I am Earl Roger Freemont, by the way."

"Yes," Andy said. "The Pearl Watcher. Come on, troops, let's hear it. 'The Pearl Watcher knows your plans'."

"Andy, you aren't a Messenger Crow."

"Want to bet on that? I'd bet I'd make a great Crow One."

"Who exactly are you, lads?" Kaelar asked, clearly confused by the byplay.

"We're an off-world task force here to rescue the Great Sword of the Light from the Elfking before the old Lord of Light gets it," Andy explained.

"The old Lord of Light?" Earl Roger asked.

"Yes, as opposed to the new Lord of Light. I sort of got rid of Scotty and put Teo in his place, but Scotty is going after the Great Sword to win his title back. I'm Andy, the Elven Wizard, and this is Erien, the next Elfking cause the Elflord on Lurynda said he was, and he's the only one of us that was actually born an elf. This is my twin brother, Allan, and that is Erien's twin brother, Paulin..."

"But if Paulin wasn't born an elf how can he be Erien's twin brother?" Kaelar slumped to a nearby bench, holding his head in confusion.

"He's funny that way. It's a long, long story and believe me you don't want to hear it. Just trust us, okay?

"Bobby here used to be our school teacher, but he was fired, and now he's hunting orcs, and this is our Dad. He was perfectly happy being a human bean counter but Scotty turned him into an elf like the rest of us and he wants to turn back to human. Bobby used to want to turn back, but he's grown accustomed to his ears." The last came out in a falsetto sing-song.

Bobby winced, but sang back. "I could have hunted orcs all night, and still have begged for more."

"Yes, that would be loverly," I chanted back.

"But shouldn't we be leaving for the street where the Dark One lives?" Allan chimed in.

Everyone stared at Dad. He cleared his throat and belted out, "And we will, with a little bit of luck."

"Why is everyone talking like that?" Erien asked. "Do I have to say something like that?"

"Try this," Andy said. "The Rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain."

Before Erien could answer, Earl Roger cut in. "The rain where? Can you lead us to the Dark One's house, or not?"

"Of course," I said. "After breakfast."

"You boys eat," Kaelar said. "I'm going home now, Roger. The boys have just made this much more of an interesting century than I ever wanted."

"There," Andy said and pointed to the back entrance of the Dark One's headquarters. "Why don't we take Cpt. Kaelar and go ahead. Give us about fifteen minutes." The Earl agreed and kept his men back.

Andy led the way to the door, and knocked. After a few minutes, a hole opened in the middle of the door, and a goblin peered out. "What?"

"Percy sent us to see the Dark One," Andy whispered. "We brought our uncle, too."

The goblin looked way up at Kaelar and stood back to open the door. "Good thing you're here. The Dark One was getting upset."

"We had a run in with the Earl," Kaelar said. "Blast it all, he got away."

"Yeah, he's tricky like that," the goblin agreed.

We followed the little creature into the depths of the building. Andy paused at an open doorway to watch five ogres packing tons of gold coins into a huge, black safe.

"It's okay, guys, watch." Andy pointed and the remaining stacks of coins packed themselves away. Seconds later, the safe shrank down and floated to Andy's hand.

"Thanks, kid," an ogre said. "That saves us lots of work."

"You are an elven wizard," Kaelar said, amazed. "I never dreamed a boy your age could have that much power.'

"Let's just hope it's enough to crack this baby later on."

"The dining hall is down there," the goblin said. "It may be too crowded to get anything now, but the Dark One wanted to see you immediately."

"I'll check it out," Allan said. He slipped down the corridor. After a moment, we all heard a great shout from the room as Allan rejoined us. "Yeah, he's right. That was the dining hall," Allan confirmed with a shake of his head. "I just made sure everyone was tied up for later."

"This way," the goblin had to shout over the noise from the dining hall.

We found the Dark One in conference in an upstairs room. He appeared to be a middle aged man, dressed in a dark gray business suit. Although we each were pretty much buried in our cloaks, he still gave us the once over. The tall demon we had met before breakfast was there, and Percy the Goblin.

"You are most welcome here, gentleman," the Dark One said quietly. "As I am sure that you are aware, the battle with new forces of the Light that Earl Roger has brought in has not gone well for us. You heard about the army last night at the Hammer and Ax that killed an ogre and robbed Tessler?"

"It was horrible to think about," I said.

Dad pushed his way to the front. "I know you from somewhere, don't I? Charlton? Charlton Burke? We're staying with your brother at the Green Trees back in Salisbury."

"So, my brother has at last come over to the Shadow? That will be a relief when we are trying to move creatures and supplies and need a place to hide. This is good news. May I offer you seats?"

Another great shout rose from downstairs. "Right on time," Andy said with a shrug.

"I hope they save some for me," Allan said.

"What's going on?" Percy demanded.

"Not sure," the demon answered, and bent over a large crystal ball. "Can't find any trace of Roger in the city."

"He has to be somewhere," the Dark One said. "Keep trying."

"Sounds like a lot of people ready to fight, if you ask me," I said.

"No one asked you," Andy said. "Wait, I hear something -- someone's coming."

"I'll check it out," Kaelar said and stepped outside the room. He came back in a second later and closed the door. "That's it, everything is taken care of downstairs. I think we should be able to rap things up here in no time at all."

"In what way?" the man asked.

Kaelar pulled off his cloak, and said, "Gentleman, perhaps I should introduce myself. I am Cpt. Kaelar of the Mercenary force from Southlake that has been brought here, by Earl Roger, to rid East City of the Shadow, specifically you. I never dreamed it was going to be this easy, or that you people cannot tell the difference between an elf and a demon."

"And since they can't tell the good guys from the bad guys without a scorecard, here -- my card," Andy cut in. "We're the Ace Shadow Hunters, and we hunted you. Are you gonna come quietly or do we have to get tough?"

"I don't believe this," the Dark One declared. "Elves? I don't suppose you live at the North Pole and make toys?"

"Cute," I said. "Very cute. Go ahead, Andy, take the sucker out for that one."

I felt the demon ready a spell so I shot a bolt of green light at him. "Sit, demon, stay. Good boy."

"You will pay for that, elf," the demon spat, although he was shaken by the sting.

"That tears it," Andy scowled. "I won't allow such blatant melodrama into this scene. Both of you, behave yourselves. Whose gonna narrate this bit anyway? You or me?"

"Probably me," I offered. "I'm the fighter more than you."

"All right, but cut those stupid clichés okay? Or there's gonna be big trouble when we get home. And that goes for the rest of you. No more clichés. It's bad enough that we have to call him 'The Dark One,' but we aren't gonna get into anything else.

"Now, Mr. Dark One, should we go downstairs to see his Earlship or do we have to wait for him here?"

"Blast you, boy. I've earned my title." With that, the man sent a bolt of black light at Andy's chest.

"Now that wasn't very nice," Andy said and tapped his foot. "Do you see this kid? This one right here," he said and pointed at Dad. "This is my father. He doesn't look like much right now, but he's still my Dad and he doesn't want to see me start to use senseless and graphic violence..."

"It's okay, Andy, get him. I hated his guts when I was a college student staying in England."

"Hollis," the Dark One said and shook his head. "So you did go to the Light after all. How cute." With that the Dark One raised his hands over his head and started chanting. Andy pointed his finger.

"Green light, please stop him."

For a moment, the man turned gray, but turned right back. He started chanting louder.

"Try that again, green light, but harder."

This time the light had no effect on the Dark One.

By this time, the demon drew a long sword and was advancing on Erien and myself. The goblin headed for the back door.

Allan stepped in front of us, with his own sword drawn. Erien reached into his shoulder bag and retrieved a long sword of his own. Kaelar blasted the little goblin, and the battle began.

The demon laughed at Erien. "Not to be melodramatic, but do you really think that rusty old toy could stop me?"

"Yes, I do," Erien said. He stepped forward, raised the sword and tapped it against the demons. Centuries of rust fell away from the blade. For a second, a bright crown appeared above Erien's head as the Great Sword of the Light woke from it's slumber and absorbed the Shadow from the demon. The creature screamed once before it imploded in on itself. The glow from the Sword faded away as did the crown.

"Impressive work," the Dark One said, "but still not enough to win this war. I call on the Shadow..."

"Green Light, please burn the Shadow out of him," Andy called out.

Green light swept through the room like a flash fire. The power knocked the Dark One from his feet, threw him against the back wall, and burned until only a black smear was left where the man had been.

"I surrender," Percy squeaked out from the corner of the room where he had been cowering.

"He wasn't kidding when he said that you were the next Prince," Kaelar said with a bow to Erien.

Erien shook his head. "Not me. I'm not going to wind up like Jaemar."

"Who calls on the Shadow?" a voice asked from the crystal ball.

"The Shadow?" I asked. "Oh, man, we really got a wrong number. Sorry about that, mister, we were just calling out for pizza."

"This isn't the Shadow's Old Time Pizza Parlor and Delivery Service? Hang up and we'll try again, thanks. Blasted crystal balls," Andy said with his voice muffled.

"Where is the Dark One?" the voice demanded.

"No Dark Ones here," Kaelar said. "My kids made a mistake, thank you."

The crystal clouded over as the speaker broke the connection.

"Something tells me we had better leave," Andy said. "There are probably still a few demons here that have brains. Come along, Percy. For helping us out the way you did maybe Roger will give you a reward."

The goblin spat at him.

I sent a strong bolt of green light at the creature. "I'd learn some manners, if I were you."

Downstairs we found the Earl's men ransacking the house. "I don't understand it," Roger said as we met him in the dining hall. "The Dark One was supposed to have tons of gold and jewels hidden away in here, but we haven't found anything."

Not one of us said a word.

Andy cleared his throat. "Erien? Why don't you show Roger where the secret doors are in the basement. You might find something."

"What basement?" Roger asked. "We haven't found any sign of a basement."

"Over there," Erien said and pointed to a wall. Soon enough he had the secret door open, and led Roger's men down to look for treasure."

"That will keep them busy for a while," Andy said. "Now, Roger, there's something I wanted to ask you. Since the Shadow Hunters got rid of this Dark One for you, do you think we could borrow some of your Mercenaries? We need to fight our way through the Dark Forest to get to Elfhome, and we may need help."

"Help? You? I wouldn't think so knowing the six of you, but just leave me some. This is going to take a lot of cleaning up, and the Duke is not going to be happy about this."

Andy looked up and shook his head, rarely a good sign.

"What?" I asked him.

"Scotty's on his way here... And so is Teo. This could be interesting."

"Shouldn't we split?" Allan asked.

"No time. Uh oh, guess who just landed upstairs, and it wasn't a crow, either."

"Ashes?" I asked. "Great, I have a serious problem with that Arch-demon I need to straighten out. Where is he?" I ran back to the bottom of the stairs. "Hey, Ashtar! Down here."

"Don't you dare, Ashes," Andy yelled out. "This is just ruining my script."

"So? I'm telling the story now and I don't want to spend the next 15 pages following your story line, Hollis. Get your butt down here, you stupid demon."

"You don't have the power to fight him," Andy pointed out.

"But Erien does, and... Oh, I see. Erien's down in the basement with the Sword, and... Never mind, Ashtar. It was all a big mistake."

"I would say so," the demon said from the top of the stairs. "What are you elves doing here?"

"Just hanging out, Ashes, old son," Andy said. "You know, we have a poker and pizza get together every year, and you just missed it."

"Where is it?" Scotty Freeman said from behind us.

"He's got it," Andy said, and pointed at Ashtar. "Get him."

"So it's true, Scotty. You are no longer the Lord of Light. I have waited for this moment for a thousand years," Ashtar said.

"Run for the hills," Andy shouted out. "The demon's loose again."

The five of us ran down the corridor only to crash, and hard, into Erien and his men coming back from the basement.

"We found the treasure," one of the men said as we picked ourselves up. "I've never seen so much gold."

"Cool," Andy said and snapped his fingers. "Don't worry about it, I just put it away for safe keeping. Come on, Erien, Ashes and Scotty are fighting it out back there and we need to make a quick getaway."

"Where are we going?" Kaelar asked. "We can't just go to the Dark Forest. We need men and equipment and..."

"Let's go rescue the demon child from the kidnappers since Ashes is occupied," Andy said.

"What demon child?" I demanded.

"Doesn't matter," Andy said with a new urgency in his voice. "Let's go, now!"

We stood in the middle of a woods, somewhere, in front of us was a ramshackle cabin that looked ready to collapse.

"What's going on?" Bobby asked. "Why do we want to rescue a demon child, anyway?"

""Because he needs to be rescued, that's why, and we needed to get away from Eastlake in hurry. I don't know who is gonna win that fight, but whoever it is doesn't like us, remember?"

"Oh, yeah," I agreed that this change in venue was one of Andy's few good ideas.

"Where are we?" Dad asked.

"In Westlake, about to rescue the Duke's son."

"Robin?" Kaelar asked. "You mean the demon child is lord Robin?"

"Your nephew, I believe?" Andy asked.

"Oh, stop being so smug, Hollis. Just because you wrote this doesn't mean you know everything. If I had my way..."

"We'd be hopelessly lost, and you wouldn't bother to ask for directions either," Andy said. "I know I don't know everything, but for once in my life I know more than you, so there. Now then, let's get this over so we can hide out in Castle Westlake for a day or so."

With that, Andy marched up to the cabin door and banged on it. "Hey, open up."

A man, that looked in desperate need of a shave and a bath opened the door. "What's going on? Demons, are you? What do you want?"

"You Hawker?" Andy asked.

"Yeah, what's it to you?"

"We're pals of the Master's. We just left him in Eastlake, okay. We want the kid," Andy said and pushed his way inside. The rest of us followed Andy inside to find two more men and three children; two boys around six and four and a make shift crib with a toddler in it.

In spite of Hawker's protests, Andy headed for the crib. "He's in bad shape," he said and started healing the baby's wounds. "Don't you believe in bathing the kid?"

Kaelar took a place beside the crib and shook his head.

"He gets a bath once a week like the rest of us," Hawker said.

"Hey, you demons can't just come in here like this? We got our orders," insisted another of the men.

Andy pointed at him, and we all watched as the man turned into a small butterfly. "Do the rest of you have any questions?"

"No," both men chorused as the butterfly headed for the window.

"I'm not afraid of him," said the larger of the two boys who was quite the little porker himself. He stood up and for the first time I saw that the smaller of the boys had elf green eyes and looked battered.

"What happened here?" I asked.

"He's mine, stay away," the fat kid said. "I'll hit you too."

"Cut it out, Jake," Hawker said.

"I'm not afraid of them," the kid said and took a swing at me.

"Maybe you should be," I said and pointed. The kid shot up to the roof and banged his head on the wood. For the first time, the smaller kid laughed. I left Jake dangling in the air. "Don't hit demons and half demons, kid. You'll live much longer if you remember that. Hi, what's your name?"

"Paul," the little one stammered out.

"So am I. Erien, can you do something with this kid? He's really hurt."

A crow flew in the window, hopped on the sill then gulped down the butterfly. "Hello? I have a message for the Hawk. Are you the Hawk? Hello, small demon persons. Do you have a shiny thing for me?"

"Give the crow a shiny thing, Hawker," Andy said. What's the message?"

"Hey, I don't have any coins, old Eastlake hasn't paid us yet," Hawker complained.

Andy snapped his fingers and the men's pockets emptied out. Bobby grabbed a silver piece and gave it to the crow.

"Say 'nevermore'," he said.

"Nevermore, nevermore," the crow cawed out. "Arch-demon Ashes says to dump the kid in the river before the elves get here. New Light's Lord is fighting with Old Light's Lord and Ashes will be heading for Northlake to join the Crow Lord and the Army."

"Got it, crow," Andy said. "Good job. Tell Ashes that small demon persons have everything under control." The crow cawed out a "nevermore" and vanished.

"This one is much better, and probably ready to get out of here," I told Andy. The boy looked relieved, as well as a lot cleaner and free of bruises.

"So is this one," Andy said lifting the toddler from the crib.

"Bad men," the baby said and pointed.

"Rotten brat," Hawker answered. "He's supposed to be a demon, but would he use any of his power for us? All we got this week was burns for the trouble."

"Toddlers are like that," I said. "Especially demons. We should know."

Andy handed the baby over to Kaelar who held him close for a second, then brushed the boy's hair away from his sharply pointed ears. "Something Charles would never tell me, I see. I think we need to settle matters here."

"Green light," Andy called out, "Please tie these people up and bring them with us to Castle Westlake."

Green light flooded the cabin, and in a second we all stood in the courtyard of a huge Castle. People scurried everywhere at the sight of us, some screamed. Hawker and his companion yelled louder than the rest, but couldn't break the bonds that had appeared around them during the move.

"What's going on here?" Hawker demanded.

"We thought that since you took such good care of the kids, Robin's father would want to thank you personally," Andy said. "Ah, unless I'm mistaken, here he is now."

Three men hurried out of the castle to see what the commotion was all about. The eldest of the lot stopped as if frozen in place, until Kaelar held up the baby. The other two almost bumped into him.

"I believe this is yours, Charles?"

The man rushed to take the baby in his arms. "What happened? Kaelar, how did you find him?"

"It wasn't me, Charles, you have young Andrew here to thank. This was his doing. I just came along for the ride, so to speak. And these fine gentlemen are the individuals who took Robin for the week. We thought you might like to thank them for taking such good care of him."

The men struggled harder against the bonds of light. "Blasted demons. Turning on your own won't help. So help me, the Shadow will deal with you for this."

"Let them," Andy said. "We're the Ace Shadow Hunters. Your Grace?" he said turning to the Duke. "The little one there is Paul from Avondale. You know him?" The man nodded. "I think he will need a ride back to his mother, and the same with Hawker's kid here."

"I'll see to it immediately, young man. Won't you all please come inside? I think this calls for a celebration."

As the bodies of Hawker and his man were cut down from the gallows, Duke Charles addressed the assembled people of West City. The seven of us sat on a raised podium away from the gallows.

"Today, I have had to exercise one of the more unpleasant aspects of my title. The men who just died here kidnapped my son in the name of the Shadow to force my men and myself to do the Shadow's bidding for the life of my son.

"Thanks go to Andrew Hollis, and 'Ace Shadow Hunters' for bringing my son back to me, safe, and delivering these people for the Duke's Justice. I..."

Two beams of golden white light appeared in the sky overhead. On one of the beams two riders appeared, and I could just make out Teo with his Spear, and Fidge riding at his side, while on the other beam Scotty rode down the light on a skateboard.

"Man, does he have to steal everything from me?" Andy grumbled as he watched the procession, referring to another story where Andy had visualized Scotty as a modern version of the God of Love. Most of the audience fled the scene, screaming.

Scotty skidded to a stop, hopped off the skateboard and grabbed Andy by his tunic. "Where is it? Before I blast you into so many atoms, where is the sword?"

"Put me down, you oaf," Andy said and broke free of Scotty's hold. "Some people are just so rude. Scotty, this nice man here with all those soldiers is His Grace, the Duke of Westlake. He was in the middle of a really great speech honoring us for glorious deeds and rescuing innocent children so will you bug off?"

Teo and Fidge touched down. Both swung off the horses, and approached the podium. "You heard the boy," Teo said with his Spear pointed at Scotty. "Bugger off, mate, or do we both get tough?"

"I came for the Great Sword. Taelin doesn't have it and someone used it this morning in East City to destroy a demon."

"It wasn't me," Andy said. "Did anyone here destroy a demon with the Great Sword of the Light?"

"I did," Erien said and pulled out his sword. "See?"

"That rusty old toy?" Scotty demanded. "One of these days, Andrew Hollis, I am going to wipe that smug grin off your face and show you that playing games with me is dangerous..."

"Big talk for a little godling," Andy smirked.

"That does it," Scotty half shouted.

But, before the ex-god could do anything, Andy held out his hand and said, "Stand on one foot and caw like a stork."

The look on Scotty's face was priceless when he started cawing and acting like a stork. "What -- caw -- are you doing to me? Caw?"

"I'd think twice about messing with me if I were you, Cupes, old buddy. You aren't the Lord of Light any more, by your own choice, remember? You gave up the title and the power, but I didn't. Now, fly away for the winter like a good stork."

Scotty looked down at the white feathers covering up his chest and arms. "This isn't..." His newly formed beak precluded any further speech and seconds later he started flapping his wings and took off. Andy bowed as the rest of us applauded.

"He's gonna be back, of course, but this will give him something to chew on for a while."

"Where is the Sword?" Teo asked.

"We're working on it," Andy said quickly, and gave Erien a pointed glance. "I'm sure it's safe enough for the time being."

"But..." Erien started to say.

"That's not the one they want," I told him. "We're still looking for the other one."

"I will leave that in your hands, then," Teo said.

"I'm not sure you should, Teo," Fidge piped up. "Andy can be rather closed mouth when he wants to be, and he's one that never lets on all that he knows.'

"I trust him," Teo said. "We need to get back to East City, anyway. That way," he said, and both of them hopped back on their horses and took off up the beam of light.

Andy patted Erien on the back. "Good job, kid. Just remember that Teo's right. Rule number one: "Never tell Lords of Light everything you know."

"It's not fair," I complained. "Why aren't we in the planning session?"

"Because we're the kids and they're the grownups," Andy said. "We've gone over this before."

"But we're the heroes of East City and..." I broke off with a huge sigh. "Isn't there something we could do?"

"Yes, there is," Andy said with a calculating smile. "I think we need to scout out the area and see what we're facing. You want to come, Allan?"

"Not right now," Allan said. "I'm teaching Bobby how to play poker."

"Is that what you're doing? Bobby, dear, sweet, Uncle Bobby," Andy said. "Please don't take him for too much, or you will answer to me."

"I don't know what you mean," Bobby protested.

"Don't you?" Dad cut in.

"Come on, Crow Two, let's get going," Andy said.

I felt myself shrinking, my whole body seemed to shrivel as we changed into a pair of crows. As the last of the feathers sprouted on my arms, I rubbed my beak on the ground. "Hawks-- yes, but crows?"

"You'll see. Everyone loves messenger crows," Andy said. "I do."

"You're just plain weird, Andy. Really weird," I sighed. "Let's go."

We soared out from the castle heading for the band of blue water we saw in the distance that marked the West River. The Kingdom of Fourlakes was aptly, if not imaginatively named. Four huge lakes, each an inland sea in it's own right, dominated the center of the peninsula. Four major rivers, and hundreds of smaller streams, flowed out from the lakes further dividing the kingdom by waterways.

The first person we found was Scotty Freeman, heading to Castle Westlake on foot, with his skateboard tucked under one arm. He looked furious, but was approaching the castle cautiously.

Andy circled the boy's head and landed on his shoulder in spite of Scotty's efforts to shoo him away. "Hello? Crow One reporting to the old Light's Lord. Are you the old Light's Lord?"

"Yes, I am," Scotty blustered out. "Who amongst the Shadow dares to send me a message?'

I came in for a landing on Scotty's other shoulder.

"The Crow Lord says, 'what's the big idea sending the Ace Shadow Hunters to this world, you little wimp? Too scared to face us now that you're power has been taken away? Go play with your elves somewhere else, and leave the real fight to the big boys.' That's the message, you got a shiny thing for me?"

"How dare he? Where is the Crow Lord?"

"In Northwater with the Army and Arch-demon Ashes."

Scotty handed over a gold piece. "Okay, Crow One, tell your boss that he's really asking for it now. I may not be the Lord of Light anymore but I still have my power."

We took off, and when we'd flown out of Scotty's line of sight we popped away from Castle Westlake, coming out over a huge field covered with the Shadow Army. Andy headed right for a large tent in the center of the field. Two men, Arch-demons both, came out as he cawed.

"What is it, Crow One?" one of the creatures asked as Andy landed on his outstretched fist.

"The Old Light's Lord is on his way, Crow Lord. He has an off-world task force with sub machine guns and tactical nukes!"

"Thanks for the warning, Crow One. Take this message to the Duke of Eastlake. Tell him that Arch-demon Ashtar and I will be joining him in the Dark Forest. We'll cross the West River tonight and save what forces we can. Hurry."

Once again, we took off and popped out. We came out over another encampment built in the heart of a deep wood and Andy cawed out a greeting until a tall, gray haired man, stepped out of a tent, and extended his arm.

"Hello? Crow One and Two reporting to the Duckett of Eastwater? Are you the Duckett of Eastwater?"

"I am the Duke of Eastlake," the man said, annoyed.

"We have message for Duckett," I said. "Have you seen him?"

"I am the Duckett of Eastwater, Crow. What's your message?"

"The Pearl Watcher knows your plans," Andy cawed out.

"What is a Pearl Watcher?"

"The Pearl Watcher," Andy insisted. "I watch Pearls. I watch Pearls real good, too. A Crow Lord said that lots of Shadow Army is coming over the river and through the woods tomorrow to help Duckett."

"At last, how many men in the army?"

"Lots," I cawed out brightly. "Lots and lots."

"I mean how many exactly?"

"What do you want, Mr. Duckett, a mathematical crow?" Andy said. "But be careful, Mr. Duckett, the Pearl Watcher of East City is coming to kill you tonight with bands of elves disguised as Shadow Army."

"Kill the Duckett, kill the Duckett," I called out.

"These elves have otters and deers and lions and tigers and bears."

"Oh my!" I cawed before I could stop myself.

"Lions and tigers and bears."

"Oh my!" I said again with a hurt glance at Andy.

"Lions and tigers and bears," he said again.

"That's enough, Crow One."

"That message," Andy cawed out. "Give me your ring."

"My what?" the Duke demanded.

"Your ring so I can prove to man in stone place that I talked to you."

"Okay, you little thief, but remember I know the Crow Lord personally and if I don't get this ring back..."

"Got it, Mr. Duckett. Give ring back." With that, Andy raised his wings and we both took off. We flew westward from the Dark Forest, and across the river into Westlake. Andy circled over another group of Shadow creatures camped out in the woods, apparently waiting for the evening to cross.

As Andy cawed out a greeting, a tall man dressed in dark gray came to hold out his arms. "A new Arch-demon person?" I asked Andy.

"I guess. Your turn, Crow Two. You give message."

I landed on the demon's arm first. "Hello? Crow One and Two reporting to Arch-demon person. We have a message from the Duke of Eastlake. Show him the ring, Crow One."

"My shiny thing, Crow Two. Okay. Here," Andy cawed with a certain amount of petulance.

"That is old Eastlake's ring," the Arch-Demon confirmed. What's the message?"

"There is a fake Duke in the Dark Forest. He's calling himself the Duckett of Eastwater. He's leading the Light's soldiers disguised as Shadow army. Tonight, when you cross big river, you must call out Kill the Duckett, Kill the Duckett so the real Duke will know who you are."

"Kill the Duckett!" Andy cawed out.

"Got it, Crow Two, and thanks."

We flew on to the next band of the Shadow creatures. This one was much larger than the last. Andy took his turn with three demons.

"Crow One and Two reporting to demon persons," Andy said. "Are you the demon person?"

"Yes, we are," one of them said.

"We have message from the Duke of Eastlake. Do you have a shiny thing for us?"

"Yes, you thieves. Here," he said and handed over two dimes. "What's the message?"

"The Pearl Watcher knows your plans."

"He does? Who told him?"

"Wrong message, Crow One," I said.

"Oh, right. There is a fake Duke in the Dark Forest. The real Duke is calling himself the Duckett of Eastwater now so you will know it's really him, but there are huge bands of Light's men crossing river tonight to kill the Duckett. You must call out, 'kill the Duke', so the real Duke will know who you are."

"Kill the Duke, kill the Duke," I called out.

"We will catch those mercenaries this time," another demon said and rubbed his hands together gleefully.

Flying up and down the river we found five more bands of Shadow creatures that we told to kill either the Duckett or the Duke, which should insure that things are interesting tonight.

We landed on a stone wall surrounding the gardens at Castle Westlake. The rest of our party ran up to the wall as we landed. Both of us turned back to elf-form and almost fell over as we stepped away from the wall. We were exhausted.

"What happened?" Allan and Bobby demanded.

We told them the story. Kaelar whistled, while Bobby banged on Andy's back. "Kid, this has got to take the prize for devious. Good work."

"Now, let's go tell his Grace what's going on," I said. "In the morning we can lead his troops across the river to clean up. By the way, Andy? Who are we for, the Duke or the Duckett? I got lost back there."

Andy laughed, then frowned. "The Duckett, I think. That Duckett," he said as Duke Charles joined us in the garden.

"Well, Charles," Kaelar said. "Looks like young Andrew has all but solved our problem for us." He went on to explain what had happened.

The Duke shook his head, and laughed. "So all we need is a clean up action? That we can handle. Kaelar, I know that Robin is only half-blooded as you would say, but will he be able to do all these things when he gets to be this age? Turning into things, and popping out all over creation?"

"Not hardly," Kaelar said. "I still can't do two thirds of what Andy can with his power."

"That's a relief," the Duke said.

"Robin's going to have a lot of problems as he gets older," Andy said. "Please let the staff and the pages here know that he isn't a demon. It will be much easier for him in the long run if he gets teased about his ears rather than having everyone scared to death of him because they don't know the truth."

"I suppose you are right, son, but he will have the Title. They will not be able to take that away from him no matter what they think he is."

"If worse comes to worse," Allan said, "the Hollis Home for Wayward Elves can always find room for one more. We almost have a baseball team as it is."

After dinner, Robin attached himself to Andy and did not want to let go. Andy didn't mind carrying the toddler around the castle, in fact, the two of them kept up quite a conversation. "Finally," I told him. "Someone you can relate to on the same level."

"Blow it out your ear, Carmichael. This kid is going to be very important to this world's future, and we're gonna help him, too."

"Oh, right. You know that, too?"

"Sure do. I never had a chance to write more than an outline in longhand, but I did it. David Herrick is another one that will help him along the way."

We walked back out into the gardens. Robin started bouncing around in Andy's arms until Andy set the baby down. Seconds later, a pair of red foxes crept out from under some bushes, and ran up to Robin to be petted.

"Shall we?" Andy asked. "You know I've always had a thing for foxes."

Before I could answer, Andy snapped his fingers, and we both shrank down to fox shape.

"More foxes," Robin said trying to pull on my fur. I doubted if he realized that we were the same elves.

"Changers?" one of the foxes asked me.

"You can talk?" I asked right back.

"Yes, we are Changers, and yes they can talk -- fox -- that is. We're foxes and we talk fox now, too," Andy explained.

"You teach Man Kit to Change?" asked the big male.

Andy closed his eyes for a moment, then shook his head. "Not yet, he's too young. Someday."

"We wait. You go now? This place is ours. We take care of Man Kit now."

"I think we're being kicked out," I said.

"Very territorial, these beasts," Andy commented before we changed back to ourselves. The two foxes started herding Robin deeper into the garden. I grabbed the kid and picked him up. "Sorry, guys, but I don't think his dad wants him out this late."

"I go with foxes," Robin said sternly.

"Not this time, kiddo, maybe tomorrow."

"I go now," Robin insisted. I passed the kid over to Andy.

"Come on, squirt," Andy said. "Let's go in and I'll tell you a story about foxes."

"Yes, story."

Andy looked over at me and grinned. "It takes a grandfather, you know."

"So I never had any kids. Sue me."

The next morning we rode out early into the gray predawn light. Thirty of the Duke's men, and a dour-faced individual named Aaron Jones, rode with us. Kaelar took charge, and led us on a straight route all the way to the river.

As planned, we galloped down to the riverbank with Andy providing a hail of illusionary arrows after us. We crossed the river while soldiers in Westlake livery took pot shots at us from behind.

We found the far bank lined with bodies, and a few wounded, groaning where they lay.

"Kill the Duckett," one managed to croak out as we approached.

"Oh, good," I said. "He's on our side. "

"Is not," Allan said and killed the creature.

"Allan, was that really necessary?" Dad asked. "These are living creatures, more or less. There is no need to kill them."

"I know Dad, but don't you feel it? The Shadow must be destroyed."

"Yes, I feel it, but all life is sacred. Even these people."

"Don't worry, Dad. I have an idea," Andy said. "We can't leave the wounded here to come at us from behind. I'll handle it." He walked around the battlefield turning any creature still living, maybe ten or so in all, into healthy bunny rabbits. With another snap of his fingers he made them all pop out.

"Where did you send them?" Dad asked.

"To the gardens at Westlake. They'll be okay for the time being."

"Good job, son. I'm proud of you."

"Andy," Bobby said and tugged on Andy's arm. "Do you see what I see?"

A band of ten smallish creatures wandered out from the woods. I took one look at them and felt a wave of revulsion and disgust from the pit of my stomach. I grabbed a sword from a body."

"Not a chance, Paulin. Those orcs are mine," Bobby said. "Sorry, George, but not all life is sacred."

"I see what you mean," Dad said and found his own sword.

"Here. Over here, you orcs," Bobby called out.

The creatures took one look at us, relaxed and put away their weapons. "Took you demons long enough to get here," said the lead orc as he approached us. Bobby chopped off his head, and had killed four more before we even got a chance at them. All told, the battle took less than two minutes.

"Are you happy now?" Andy asked Bobby as they both wiped their blades on an orc uniform.

"Nope, sorry, but killing orcs is a lot like potato chips. You can't kill just one. Here, orcs. Here orcs," Bobby called out and walked back into the woods.

"Talk about a one track mind," Allan commented.

"I don't believe I did that," Dad said looking down at the orc he had killed.

"It's okay, Dad," Andy said. "You're an elf now, and you didn't have any more choice in this than the rest of us."

After we collected Bobby from his orc hunt, we continued the march. Andy found a few more wounded soldiers to send back to the gardens, this time as females.

The Duke of Eastlake's camp was in shambles when we arrived. Two guards put up token resistance as we entered the grounds.

"What happened here?" Kaelar asked.

"The Light's men," one of the guards said. "They came at us all night. Some were shouting to kill the Duckett, and the rest were shouting to kill the Duke. The ones that wanted to kill the Duckett fought the ones that wanted to kill the Duke but they all turned against us. Better come this way. We just made it through the night, and his Grace was wounded."

"How many men are left here?" Jones asked.

"Maybe ten at the most, sir. Haven't been able to get a good head count."

"Let's do that now, while you see to his Grace," Jones told Kaelar while leading the guard off toward the barracks tent.

The six of us followed Kaelar into the Duke's tent. We found the man lying on a cot, looking ashen."

Kaelar shooed away the healers around the Duke and knelt by the cot. "My lord? We came as soon as we could."

"Too late," the Duke said. "Roger's men won through after all. I'm done for, but all I need you to do is find Crow One to get my ring back for my son. The title is his now, and..." The Duke looked up at Kaelar, then the rest of us. "What's going on here. You aren't demons. Guards, to me."

"We're sorry, my lord," Kaelar said. "I'm afraid we didn't leave you any guards. I am Captain Kaelar, an elf of the Otter Clan and brother-in-law to Duke Charles Blake. I am sure that he will want to have words with you, and so will His Majesty."

Erien stepped forward and placed his hands on the Duke's shoulders. "It really is too late, sir. He's not going to talk to many more people. I'm sorry."

"The Shadow has always taken care of me, boy. I would swear on my Title that it was the Arch-demon Asmodeus that struck me down. Everyone trying to kill the Duckett or the Duke..." The man trailed off, as his face went blank.

Earl Roger poked his head in through the tent door. "Does he live, yet?"

"No," Kaelar said. "He died just now. We were too late. The Arch-demon Asmodeus did this."

"The Shadow turned on my father?" asked a young man that came in with the Earl. "You were right about them all along, Roger. I am sorry to have doubted you."

"Would you care to be alone with your father, your Grace?" Roger asked him.

"Here," Andy said. "Your father wanted me to give you this." He turned over the signet ring.

"Thank you, all of you for trying. Even though my father fought the Light for so long, you can rest assured that I, as Duke, will bring the Light back to Eastlake."

We filed out of the tent to let the new Duke grieve.

After the arrangements had been made, Kaelar sent Jones and the rest of Westlake's men back. Roger and the Mercenaries would finish cleansing the Dark Forest, while we traveled on to Elfhome.

After half a day's ride through the wood, Kaelar stopped at a slight widening in the path, then whistled a long melody. Rope ladders dropped from the branches overhead. Hundreds of elves, from the very young to the ancient gathered in the branches and welcomed us as we climbed up.

Elfhome turned out to be an intricate collection of tree houses of various sizes joined together by an incredible system of bridges and ropes. It didn't take long before the elves had us swinging around the city like so many Tarzans. Finally, tiring of our time as apemen, we headed for the central building for refreshment first, before our audience with the Elfking.

In spite of it's size, the dining hall soon filled with elves wanting to meet their cousins from the Black Forest. We did have a chance to eat before being pummeled with questions. Andy, as always, acted as spokes-elf and told our tale from finding Teo in the box, to our trip to Fourlakes. The audience started laughing and even cheering as Andy told how the two of us became messenger crows.

"...And so by the time we got there, the Shadow had all but destroyed its own forces."

"Brilliant, simply brilliant," said an ancient elf standing in the back of the hall. Everyone rose as the old man hobbled slowly down the aisle. "The Green Light has chosen, and wisely, I see. You used your head, instead of your power, and won the smart way. I congratulate you."

Andy dropped to one knee, and the rest of us did the same. "My Lord Taelin, all of us helped."

"True, but you, Andrew, are my heir apparent, and this speaks well of your rule after I am gone."

"Me?" Andy squeaked out. "Isn't Erien the next Elfking? He's got a crown and everything."

"A prince of the Elves to be sure, but not the Prince. After all, I was the first Elven Wizard and born human as well. I think you will find, Andrew, that we have a lot in common, you and I."

"You know why we are here?" Andy asked.

"Eros has accused me of hiding the Great Sword from him for the last thousand years. He said he got this information from you?"

"More or less," Andy admitted. "Erien, show his majesty the Sword."

Erien drew his Sword. "My lord, my ancestor, Fiorin, went on a quest for this Sword before the last battle."

"I remember," Lord Taelin said and took the Sword.

"Family history tells me that when he finished his quest he returned to the great Stone Hedge and placed his sword on the altar stone. It vanished, but nothing was ever heard from the Light again, until I met my new family. Since neither Lord of Light wanted this sword, we figured that it had to be the other one they wanted, and did you not get that sword?"

"Yes, of course," Taelin said with a laugh. "So that is the blade that has caused all this ruckus. I never would have guessed. Erien, my son, I thought much of your ancestor. A valiant warrior, and faithful to the end he was. We tried to reach him for years after his sword came through the gate, but we, as you know, could not." He patted Erien on the shoulder, and returned the Sword.

"We welcome you, all of you to Elfhome, and to the Elven race."

"Excuse me, your majesty," Dad said with a slight bow. "I never intended to become an elf like the rest of my family. The ex-Lord of Light did this to me, and I need to know if it can be undone."

"Only on your death, lad. The Green Light reclaimed one of its own. But, there is a simple solution. Andrew, watch this, and learn the way of it, so you can do it again if necessary." Taelin cast a spell, complete with arm movements, and a few choice words. Dad's entire body began to glow, then we watched as he grew back into an adult human.

"I'm me again. I..." he touched his now rounded ears with a confused look on his face. "I'm still an elf, too."

"Yes, you are. This shape will serve you on the human world when you return there. It is a strong glamour, nothing more. Underneath you will remain an elf. When, and if you decide to return to us, Andrew can undo the glamour."

Dad nodded, and seemed satisfied.

"Uncle Bobby?" Andy asked. "Your turn?"

"What, and give up hunting orcs? Not me. I'm a Hollis twin, and you're stuck with me." Bobby sighed. "Ashtar effectively ruined any career chances I had back home. I can't return to teaching, and I have no one waiting for me at home, like Georgie. I'm sure we can work out the arrangements for Charlie, but I'd almost like to change my name and start fresh.'

Andy laughed. "How does 'Kevin Robinson' strike you? Who knows, you just might get that Control Chair yet."

"Bobby, you can't be serious," Dad said. "You really want to stay a kid?"

"It worked for those two, so why not? Now all I have to do is figure out a way to make a fortune like they did. Can I call Mr. Corbin, Uncle Steve, too?"

"What fortune?" I asked. "All I get is..."

"Some lousy royalties while Andy gets the rest," everyone else including Dad chorused. I blushed down to my toes.

"I've always wanted to write, Mr. Alien writer from another universe. How many books did you publish?"

"Dozens and dozens," Andy said with a wink to me. "Don't worry, I'll teach you everything I know. What a team we'll make. You write the books, and The Silver Forest Book Company will publish them. Then again, when I open that safe I could buy 'Random House'."

"We already have a big, rambling house," Allan cut in. "Why do you want another?"

"It's the name of a -- uh -- Randogian Publishing Company, okay?"

"Oh, got it."

"Kids, one of these days I am going to understand this game, but in the mean time..." Dad gave us the hint.

"Right," Andy said and cleared his throat. "Your Majesty, where is the blade that Fiorin sent through the gate?"

"I don't know. I gave it to my son centuries ago. Llewelyn? Where's that sword I gave you?"

"I don't have it, father. I gave it to the Duke of Westlake four hundred years ago. Remember when he saved my life?

""Oh, right, and you gifted him with the sword. I suppose the next step would be to ask the present Duke about it."

"Hollis, did you write us into circles like this?" I demanded.

"Nope, we left my story ages ago."

"That's a relief," Bobby said with a wicked grin. "I don't want you to teach me to write if this is a sample of what you come up with."

Duke Charles sat in his study, with his chin resting on his hand. "I'm sorry I can't help you any further, boys, you know I owe you my son's life, but I had no idea my ancestor received a magic sword from the Elfking's son. To tell you the truth, I never believed in elves until I met Robin's mother, then her family, but four hundred years ago there was a tale of a wandering band of elves that helped Duke Gregory Fox win his title."

"I know him," Andy said, relieved. "Back on home ground again, my lads. It's back to the future for us -- oops, wrong Fox. Back to the past."

"And just how are we supposed to get there?" I asked.

"Simplicity itself, my dear Paulin. When in doubt, call the big kid with the stick. Yo, Teo, we need you."

Both Scotty and Teo appeared in the study. "Get lost, you little bugger," Teo said. "They called me, not you."

"I'm in this as much as you are, you overgrown peasant. How'd you like to fall in love with a sheep?"

"Hey, none of that, Cupes," Andy shouted out. "It's my 'G' rating you're messing with. Get lost, you little bugger, we called him, not you."

"Go to sleep in a glass coffin for a thousand years, and see how you like it," Teo said pointing his Spear at Scotty's chest. "By the Light, send this lot of elves and him, too," he said glancing at Dad, "to where they need to go."

"You can't leave me out of this," Scotty said and grabbed my arm as the light swirled around us.

End Part 4
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