CHAPTER EIGHT: The Ailes

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CHAPTER EIGHT: The Ailes

She didn't dream about faeries or Morrigann that night or the next. In fact, she didn’t dream at all. Eirnin kept them going at such a fast pace that it was all she could do not to collapse and fall instantly asleep as soon as they made camp. The only thing that kept her awake was her ravenous hunger at the end of each day.

Elves might not need to eat and sleep much, but this human certainly does.

Her belly full of the simple, yet filling, meal of salad and wild game that Eirnin had once again prepared, Story licked her fingertips clean and gave a contented sigh. Despite his promise, Eirnin was staring at her, probably in disgust over her “gluttony,” but she didn't care. Actually, she was kind of getting used to it.

“It's a good thing we'll be arriving in Stoneybrook day after next. Keeping you fed is turning into a full time job.”

“Ha ha.”

“Really, you eat as much as a troll.” He winked to let her know he was only teasing.

“One more comment about how much I eat, and I'll show you just how troll-like I can be.” She bared her teeth at him in what was meant to be a ferocious grin but quickly morphed into a jaw-splitting yawn. Eirnin took the hint and got up to draw the circle around their camp.

For the last two days, he’d been constantly peppering her with questions about her world and how humanity functioned. He wanted to know everything, no matter how inane it seemed to her. Truly, he would have put the twins to shame with his incessant responses of “but why?” to every answer she gave him. Though he tried to feign nonchalance, it was clear that he had a voracious thirst for knowledge of “earth” and “humans.” The most annoying thing about it was that he left little room for her to ask her own questions in return.

“So what exactly are Gnomes? You keep comparing me to them.” She settled back against a mossy tree stump and held her hands out toward the fire. “In my world they're these tiny garden statues with tall, red, cone hats. I'm assuming that's not the case here.” She made a face. “At least I hope not.”

Eirnin snorted and settled down across the fire from her in his now-customary spot. “Your world is very odd.”

“I know. You've told me that several times. The gnomes?”

Pulling his bow toward him, he removed the string and began inspecting it for imperfections. “Gnomes are the earth people of Ailionora. All the races have a bit of magic, you see, and theirs is tied to the soil and growing things. They're mostly farmers, and they produce the bulk of the food in Ailionora. You'll like them.” He flashed a grin at her. She gave an obligatory eye-roll, but felt her mouth quirk into an involuntary half-smile.

“Aside from the fey, they're the most populous race in Ailionora. They're simple folk, but generally quite happy. Unfortunately, the fey, especially spriggans, love to torment them. Most of the tricks we elves use to keep the fey away were learned from the gnomes long ago, right after the Change.”

She could hear the capital “C” in the word. “The Change?”

Satisfied that his string was in good repair, Eirnin began rubbing a chunk of beeswax along its length, slowly and methodically. “The old legends say that a thousand years ago, before the Change, elves used to be immortal. We could be killed of course, but this was hard to do since none of the fey could get near us, so it was a rare occurrence—”

“Why couldn't the fey go near you?”

Eirnin gave her a measured look, red flickers of irritation in his eyes.

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