Chapter Six - Decisions

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IT WAS STILL DAYLIGHT WHEN GEORGE LED STRYKER through the doorway and back into the garden. After the pleasant warmth of Ellyonia, he soon noticed the drop in temperature and was glad to reach the heat of the kitchen. Mum looked up from the book she was reading.

'You're back early,' Mum said, surprised to see him.

He glanced up at the wall clock noting he had only been gone for about thirty minutes. 'We're tired,' he sighed heavily. 'Stryker had me up early but I'll take him out again later on.'

He fed the dog, washed and then went to sit and watch some TV. The football had not started and Dad had not yet returned from taking Danielle to Shrewsbury. While he waited he pondered on how they were to go in search of these mysterious Key Stones without alerting their parents. He worked out that for every five to ten minutes that passed in the real world was equal to roughly four to five hours in the Elven lands. That meant if they could find some excuse to be out of the house for four or five hours it would give them the equivalent of three to four days in Ellyonia. He did not know how long this search would take but if they could not find the Key in that time then the Elves would have to make other plans. When Danielle returned he would talk to her and Jessica, let them know what happened in the woods and what the Elves wanted them to do about it. Then they could make their plans.

The trials of earlier started to take their toll and he struggled to keep his eyes open. The last thing he remembered was Stryker climbing onto the settee beside him.

'Mum won't be pleased with you boy,' he whispered too tired to do anything about it.

Then his eyes closed.

He awoke with a start. For a moment, he forgot where he was. Stryker had gone, probably relegated back to the kitchen.

Someone was shouting.

Dad was sat in his armchair watching the match. 'Sorry for cheering,' he said with a laugh. 'But they've just scored a brilliant goal. Watch!'

George rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stared at the TV. The timer counting down in the corner of the screen showed that the match was well into the second half and Dad's team was winning two - nil.

'Lucky,' he mumbled watching a replay of the goal.

It was a good goal but he was not going to let Dad know he agreed. The points would put Dad's team above his in the league, something Dad would not let him forget.

They swapped good-natured banter for the remainder of the match with George reminding Dad that a win tomorrow would put his team back on top and that next week they were playing each other.

'We'll be five points clear this time next week,' he shouted ducking through the door into the hallway as a well-aimed cushion flew in his direction.

'Mum,' he yelled. 'Dad's throwing cushions in the living room.'

'Why you little...' he heard Dad shouting has he took the stairs two at a time.

George reached the landing just as Mum demanded to know, whatever was going on, from the kitchen.

He smiled to himself and walked along to Jessica's room.

Her door was open and he poked his head in. 'Whatcha doin' Jess?'

'Catching up with my homework,' she answered. 'Have you done yours yet?

'Not yet, but don't tell Mum. She thinks I've done it all.'

'It's your funeral,' Jessica told him knowing that he would eventually get found out and grounded yet again. But he never seemed to learn.

'Anyway we've got an important job to do tomorrow,' he said then explained all that had happened since she left with Danielle and Dad earlier in the day.

'And just how do you expect to carry out this search?' Jessica asked when he finished the story.

'If we can get out early enough, say we're taking Stryker for a walk, we can be back in time for dinner and Mum and Dad will be none the wiser.'

Jessica looked at him with an are you mad expression on her face.

'Look,' he explained. 'With the timey wimey thing that goes on in the Elven lands we could be away for days and it would still only be a couple of hours here. It'll be okay you'll see.'

'Let's wait and see what Danielle thinks,' Jessica insisted. She still did not look convinced.

'Okay,' said George. 'But I more or less agreed to help them.'

It was late when Dad brought Danielle home. George waited up forcing himself to stay awake until he could speak to her. He heard his sister calling goodnight as she came up the stairs. He gave her a few minutes then got up and went to his door. The gentle murmur of the TV came from downstairs but other than that all was quite.

He cracked open her bedroom door. 'Dan... you still awake?'

'Just about,' came a weary reply from across the darkened room. 'What do you want?'

'It's the Elves... I promised I would help them find something tomorrow,' he whispered.

'You did what...? Danielle threw back her duvet and switched on her bedside lamp.

'I told the Elves I'd help them find a key to stop some demons from invading the world.'

Danielle looked stunned. 'Are you sure... I've only been away a couple of hours... how on earth did you manage that.'

'Well...' he sat on the end of her bed and told her all that had happened while she was away.

Danielle waited until he had finished before she spoke. 'So you just went ahead and agreed to help them.'

George nodded. 'Come on it'll be fun. We'll only be away a few hours. And you said that you wanted to see them again.'

Danielle shook her head and stared at him. 'Yeah, see them, but not go off on another adventure with them. It's dangerous, we nearly got killed last time. Don't you remember!'

'But I've already...' George started to say.

'And yes it might just be a few hours here, but it'll be days in Ellyonia,' she said, interrupting him.

'Dan,' George said sharply. 'That demon thing was in my mind, it seemed to know me. We have to stop them escaping their prison. If they do, I think they will kill all the Elves. Then they'll come for us.'

Danielle smiled reassuringly. 'Don't worry it won't come to that. We'll go and see the Elves in the morning, see what we can sort out. But no more quests okay.'

He let out a sigh of protest but Danielle raised a hand to stop him.

'Look I'm tired, you're tired. We'll sort it in the morning. Now go to bed,' she said forcefully.

He nodded again realizing it was useless arguing with her. She was right, it was late and he was tired. He got up and walked to the door. 'I'll see you in the morning then, 'night.'

'Goodnight.' he heard her call has he closed the door behind him.

George crossed to the window at the end of the hallway. He stood for a moment looking out over the garden. It was a clear frosty night and starlight lit the tops of the woodland trees.

Don't worry, he thought. Even if she doesn't want to help, I won't let you down.

Come morning he would set out to find the Key Stones, with or without his sisters.

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