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Sarah A. Hoyt

Sarah A. Hoyt has published three novels—Ill Met by Moonlight, All Night Awake, and Any Man So Daring—in a series which undertakes a magical recreation of Shakespeare's life. She's also published over three dozen short stories, in magazines that include Analog, Asimov's, and Weird Tales. She's currently working in collaboration with Eric Flint on a time-travel adventure novel for Baen Books.  


Dissy first saw the man within the stone in the junk room of the Denver Natural History Museum.

She volunteered at the museum on weekends and for a couple of hours after her work at a local telecom. Being freshly out of college, untrained and—at least in the eyes of the curators—much too young to be trusted with anything important, she got to escort groups of children around the exhibits during operating hours, and after hours she got to catalogue, label, and look for unlikely treasures in the museum's junk room.

The room was huge, twice as large as most of the other storage rooms in the museum, and it looked exactly like the junk drawers or basements of most houses where a family has lived for any length of time. Into that room went all the donations that the museum had no idea what else to do with.

There was a man in Ellicot who was fully convinced that every pebble picked up from his yard was a dinosaur bone. And an old maiden lady in Greeley who routinely sent in broken Barbies and pieces of pottery carefully labeled as Neanderthal axes or Homo habilis tools. And the museum kept them all, on shelves and cupboards or just on the floor, thrown in more or less haphazardly until someone like Dissy could be sent to look through them. Because you never know and one of the pebbles might very well, one day, turn out to be part of a mastodon bone. And the broken crockery might be some rare nineteenth-century pattern of interest to anthropologists.

Mostly, it was a lot like looking through yard sale goods, or the donation bin at Salvation Army.

Dissy had been at it for three months and she had slowly cleared a path from the front all the way to the back, having catalogued and filed all the other donations—seashells and pebbles, jars filled with strange greenish liquid in which unknown things floated, and—for reasons known only to the donor—an artificial Christmas tree.

It was while moving the big oak branch at the back that she found the monolith.

Grey granite, it tapered from a broad base to a narrow top and looked as if it had been polished by centuries of standing under the weather. It looked exactly like one of the stones from Stonehenge, but smaller. About seven feet tall, it could have served to help build a miniature stone circle.

Cut-rate Stonehenge, Dissy thought, smiling to herself. She bent, looking for some note or paper that would tell her what this was. Some kid had probably made it, for a science fair project. Some kid with power stone-grinding tools.

There was an envelope taped to the bottom of it with duct tape. As Dissy bent to pick it up, she rested her other hand on the stone.

And something happened.

For a moment she thought the stone had moved, and she jumped back, startled.

The stone had become transparent. That was the only way to describe it, but it wasn't true. She could still see it as grey granite, standing there immobile. But at the same time she could see inside it. And inside it . . .

Inside it was a man. A tall man, with pale silvery-blond hair down to his waist, over a rough woolen tunic that didn't reach his knees and displayed a length of muscular leg and narrow long bare feet.

As she looked, he squeezed around, within the tight confines of the stone, and put his hands up to the top of the rock, banging on it, like someone trying to get out. His mouth moved, forming words that Dissy could not understand. And his eyes . . .

His eyes were sapphire blue, huge and with no white, broken only by a black, vertical pupil. And he looked at her. Straight at her.

She didn't need to hear him to know he was asking for help.

Shaking, she took a deep breath, took a step toward the monolith. And it was a monolith again. Just a grey stone, polished by decades under the weather. Nothing else.

Dissy tapped it with her hands, ran her hands over it. Nothing.

She couldn't even come up with an explanation for this. She didn't drink. She didn't do drugs, and as for sanity, she'd always been the sane one.

Oh, she was a crazy magnet, attracting deranged friends like sugar attracted ants.

She'd gone through college blessed with the sort of friends who were likely to call at four in the morning screaming and moaning into the phone, "I just woke up in bed with three strange guys and there's these weird tablets I might have taken. Oh, and there's a police car out there. What do I do now?"

But she was the sane one. The one who dispensed condoms and called the doctor and, when in absolute need, called the parents or the police.

So she had to be sane. One simply doesn't have time to develop interesting neuroses when one is galloping off at all times to pull one friend or another out of trouble as they're going under for the third time.

She blinked at the stone that remained, stubbornly, just a stone. But perhaps, just perhaps, now that she was out of college and her friends had all dispersed to the most unlikely corners of the globe and daily phone calls had become weekly, then monthly, then stopped altogether, she had gone insane?

After all, she was in Denver—a strange city—and her only acquaintances were her colleagues, cubicle-workers in a large telecom company. And, if she were to tell herself the truth, she held herself aloof even from them and from the other museum volunteers who had made overtures. She had enjoyed her respite from craziness.

But what if the universe had assigned her some minimal level of weird? What if, by depriving herself of weird friends, she had made herself weird?

No. She wasn't crazy. She was sure. She'd seen it.

But perhaps she'd fallen asleep and dreamed it all.

Standing up?

Realizing she still held the envelope that had been taped to the stone, she turned it over and opened it. Inside was a carefully printed card.


Acquired in the North of Portugal, near the village of Lagar Gordo, June 1976. Bought from a local farmer who was clearing up a circle of similar stones in order to build a cow shed. Cost $5, which translates into thousands of the local currency. Had it shipped back home to Denver for considerably more than that. Note, marked resemblance to standing stones elsewhere through the Celtic lands. Locals say the Celts were there too, before the Romans, and that the next village, The Heights of Maia, was once a great cultic center. They say the stones have stood in that field for centuries beyond memory.  

* * *

The note wasn't signed and Dissy could easily imagine that the museum had put it here in pure bewilderment. What else to do with a stone of—truly—unknown provenance and no known use?

Dissy walked around the stone, touching it, trying to make it come alive again. Really, there might be something. Some holograph system? Perhaps it was a trick?

But she remembered the man's face within the stone, the wide open strange eyes, the odd pointy ears, the mouth gaping in a silent scream, the hands banging hopelessly, begging for release as if he knew none was possible.

She shivered and decided she would go home early that day. She would go home and not think of this again. Clearly, she'd been working too much between the day job and the volunteer time here.

* * *

But that night in her little apartment, in a subdivided Victorian on Pearl Street, she couldn't get the man's image out of her head.

He'd looked so desperate. And so beautiful. Like no other man she'd ever seen. He was . . . more perfect, glorified, somehow. Like a Botticelli angel. A desperate, lost angel, shoved from paradise and unable to find his way back.

The image of that man inside the stone, his hands raised, his mouth open in despair, followed her into her dreams.

She dreamed she was standing in the junk room with the stone, and that she did something with her hands and a shaft of light shot out to the stone.

The stone fell apart but each of the shards around the man reformed together into a monster and came toward her, fang and claw, nail and tooth.

And she woke, screaming, her throat sore as if she'd been screaming for a long time.

She took a long draught of water from her bedside table cup and got up to shower, hoping that the neighbors turned a convenient blind eye—or deaf ear—to the ruckus.

* * *

For the next two days, at the junk room after work, she spent all her time on the stone. She walked around it and she touched it; she talked to it, she tried to coax it. But it remained as it was. Just granite.

Except sometimes, when she laid her palm flat on it and was still, she could swear it was warmer than a stone should be and that she felt, beneath the stone, the regular beating of a heart.

She'd held her breath and listened to her own heartbeat and she could swear the beating of the heart inside the stone did not match hers.

But how could it be? No one could stay alive inside the stone. There was no air. And no food. Impossible.

Oh, she remembered when she was very young and read books about UFOs and ghosts and ancient civilizations that had, supposedly, surpassed the current one, she'd read of things like that. Celtic princesses found on an excavation site, alive and asleep with a lamp burning at their feet. When a worker accidentally blew out the lamp, the princess would die and rapidly decay till there was nothing but some dust.

But those were stories, right? Just stories. Oh, sure, Dissy had believed them at fourteen or so. At fourteen or so everyone was willing to believe anything that made life more interesting, right?

And yet, she would lay her hand against the stone and feel the heart on the other side, beat, beat, beat—never quite matching hers.

And the sound of that heart, too, pursued her into her dreams, so that she woke up exhausted and went to work in a half-trance.

* * *

On the third day she went to the Athens for dinner. The Athens was a half-dozen blocks down from the museum, on Colfax. Colfax, the main traffic artery through Denver, had a different character from block to block. The Athens was in the middle of a Greek immigrant neighborhood, surrounded by small working-class ranch homes and the occasional large Victorian divided into many apartments.

By and large, it was a safe neighborhood but a colorful one, frequented by college students from the University of Colorado a few blocks away, police officers from the station around the corner, and warehouse workers from the warehouse district two blocks to the south.

Dissy could easily imagine that any of her co-workers, devotees of fern bars all, would blanch at the thought of an evening in the Athens, but it suited Dissy just fine. It reminded her of the diner near her grandmother's house, where grandmother had taken her to breakfast every Sunday.

Dissy's parents had died when she was so young that she had only a foggy memory of them. Her grandmother had raised Dissy, until Grandma, too, had died a year ago.

Dissy supposed her dinners at the Athens were the closest she could come to going back home.

On this Thursday night, warm midsummer, the Athens was almost deserted, the green vinyl booths empty and most of the chipped Formica tables wiped clean. Only one gaggle of students gathered around one of the round tables by the window, and they sounded unusually subdued, talking in tones that could not be heard more than a mile or so down Colfax.

And at the bar there was only one man sitting, a broad-shouldered man well over six feet tall, with long white hair. Doubtless one of many old hippies who had come to Denver at the full tide of Rocky Mountain High, only to be stranded behind when the trends of fashionable living had moved elsewhere.

Despite the temperature—just at the edge of bearable, thanks to the fans in every window working at full tilt and diffusing the smell of gyros and fries all over the nearer five blocks of Colfax—the man wore a long, dark overcoat. A lot of them seemed to. Perhaps it was the only presentable clothes they owned.

Dissy edged around behind him, and took a small table in the corner by the window, where she could see a good, straight length of Colfax, mostly dark and still in the summer evening, except for the pools of light around the streetlights and the occasional set of headlights swimming by.

The lights of the health food store across the street were still on, but all the rest of the store fronts loomed dark and deserted.

The waitress came surprisingly quickly and took Dissy's order for souvlaki and fries.

As she stepped away to fill it, Dissy looked back at the man sitting at the counter. And froze.

Because the face looking back at her was the same face she'd seen within the stone. The face of a Botticelli angel. Oval, with rounded, sensuous lips and wonderfully traced, arched eyebrows, it was almost too beautiful to be a male's. But the too-tall nose and the sharpness of the cheekbones saved it from vacuous prettiness. As did the eyes—sapphire-colored and elongated, with no white and divided only by a vertical black pupil.

Her breath caught in her throat and she had to swallow to be able to breathe. That face had haunted her from her dreams for two nights and now . . .

How could he be here?

She barely noticed as the waitress set her platter in front of her.

The stranger was looking back at her with the same intent attention, the same riveted look.

Dissy realized she was staring, had been staring for a while. And that she had no idea who this man was. He wasn't—couldn't be—the man in the stone. So, he was a total stranger, in a long overcoat on a summer night. And she was staring at him.

Willing victim for the next serial killer, anyone?  

She turned away and tried to choke down a fry.

Only to find him standing by her table.

She looked up and had to make an effort not to be captured by those sapphire eyes once more.

"Ms. Eurydice Smith?" he asked.

She nodded. "How . . . how do you know my name?"

Oh, sure, Dissy's father, a Greek professor had named her Eurydice. But Dissy had been Dissy since she had been old enough to demand that the name be shortened. Heck, she was fairly sure none of her friends and only a handful of her relatives ever knew her full name. And since all of her surviving relatives were third or fourth cousins twice removed, she doubted that.

Eurydice was for the official documents, for paychecks and school registrations. Had this man been investigating her that way?

But he asked, "Mind if I sit down?"

She gestured vaguely toward the other chair at the table, thoughts of fabulously wealthy unknown uncles who keel over suddenly and of legacies left to anyone named Eurydice running through her mind.

He slid onto the chair with a smooth gracefulness. Like a cat. Someone that big shouldn't move that smoothly.

But when he leaned forward, what he said was nothing like her fantasies. What he said was, "I need your help."

She nodded. Her help? When he said it and looked at her that intently he looked more than ever like the man in the stone.

"I need your help getting my brother out of the stone in the Museum of Natural History," the man said.

And for a moment Dissy's heart beat so fast that she couldn't speak, wouldn't know how to speak. His brother. In the stone. Was the stone an elaborate setup? Was this all about making contact with her? But who would go through that much trouble? For her?

No. Easier to believe that she was going insane.

The man mistook her silence for acquiescence. "My name is Bruide," he said. "I am a Knight of Elfhame Sun-Descending, Squire of the High Court. My brother . . ." He stopped and shook his head, as if he couldn't speak. "My brother Ilar . . . he is my brother of one womb. We were born, the twain, in one day. But we've been separated for over two thousand years."

"I beg your pardon?"

He had been looking out the window as he spoke, but focused back on her. "Over two thousand years. We lived in the north of the land they now call Portugal, in a land we then called The Heights of Maia, devoted to the sweet human Goddess of Spring." He grinned, unexpectedly, and looked very much like a man remembering childhood. "It was a gentle land, and we shared it with several Celtic villages with whom we lived in great harmony, man and elf."


"Every spring there was a Bardic festival in the Goddess's honor." He looked at her, and his features darkened. His lower lip poked out, in a petulant pout and his hair flowed forward, showing the tip of a pointy ear beneath.

Pointy ear?  

"But then the Romans came. They put all to fire and blood. We heard of their coming and we readied our magic to protect the village nearby." A small wrinkle formed on his forehead between his eyes. "Three times the warriors of the village went out to meet the fabled legion on equal terms. Three times they came back bearing the heads of their enemies as trophies. But the fourth time, the Romans ambushed them in a low bog, in foggy weather. Every man's dagger against the other, and the Romans with better armor. And we, the elves of the nearby hill, who were supposed to protect our allies, we too were met by ambush. The Romans sent their magicians against us. And they used great, illegal, dark magics, learned from renegade elves."

He shook his head and tears showed, flowing down his cheeks. "Our best warrior-mages, who went to the battle, were turned to stone . . . encased . . . in stone. Granite. We thought them dead. And we, who stayed behind, the ones with lesser magic or the young ones, we were persecuted by the Romans who settled there. One by one they massacred us, with Cold Iron or evil spells, in the dark of night, till the very memory of elves was erased from the minds of locals and the few survivors, myself among them, went to the isles—what you call Ireland—to start anew.

"Many centuries later, we came to this land, for a new start, but all this time I was half an elf, and I thought my other half dead. And then three days ago I heard him. I heard him shout my name. Begging for help. Lady, will you help me free my brother?"

He stopped and crossed his hands on the table, as if he had said all he meant to say and could speak no more. He looked at her with earnest blue eyes. So much like the eyes of the man in the stone. His brother. Ilar.

* * *

It was all too fantastic, and yet, what else could Dissy believe? Once she'd seen the man in the stone, there were only two explanations—that she was insane or that the man was truly there.

And now insanity would require her to have created this man out of the whole cloth of her mind as well. It seemed like too much. It seemed more likely that he exist.

Once you've discarded the impossible, the improbable, no matter how unlikely, must be the truth.

But elves? In Colorado?

She was close enough that she should be able to see the faint lines of contact lenses in his eyes and she couldn't see them. People just weren't born with eyes like that, were they?

She looked at the man's ear. "More than two thousand years . . ." He looked no more than twenty.

He shrugged and smiled a little and looked past her head, at the wall. "We live long lives, as humans reckon them. It could be said we don't feel time in the same way. It is a sleep and a wakening, a winking and nodding. It passes. We don't count days nor do we hoard the years as brief humans do."

"But . . . The stone was brought here thirty years ago. How could you not have sensed it all these years and only now . . ."

"I was the twin with the lesser Mage gift," Bruide said. "And then I felt something but I wasn't sure what it was, just a twinge of something coming from this direction. But our Elfhame has had its troubles, as well. We were encircled with Cold Iron and we fell into Dreaming. It's a state like a trance in which we feel nothing. It was only a great battle and a great war that freed us from that Dreaming. Yet even then I could hear nothing. Till three days ago. When you touched the stone."

"How do you—"

"I could feel it in Ilar's call, I could feel your touch. You have great magic, Lady Eurydice, and your magic has given Ilar the strength to call me."

"Great magic? I?" This was like all those psychic shows on television, when every caller was told how they had great gifts. On this, Dissy almost found the strength to walk away from it all. But there was that face in front of her, that face so much like the one she'd seen in the stone. And how could one fake that?

"That's why I need you to help me free Ilar," Bruide said.

She hesitated. "We can't go to the museum. I don't have keys. I'm just a volunteer."

He shook his head and his hair swayed back and forth, like a beam of silvery moonlight dancing on a still midnight. "You don't need keys. And you don't need to open the door."

"But there are alarms." Was this all a ruse so she would get someone into the museum? But she couldn't get anyone into the museum. She didn't know how to get into the museum herself. What good was she for that?

On the other hand, he said she could get his brother out of the stone . . .

Again the smile, wide, transforming the whole face into a rakish and, if possible, even more handsome countenance.

"Alarms can be told that we have the proper codes. And cameras can be coaxed into seeing just an empty room. Such is magic."

But— And on that thought, she stopped and couldn't say anything else. But— All the explanations she could come up with for why else he might need her and how this might all be a ruse were too complex and came up sounding hollow.

"I just need you to help me free my brother," Bruide said, his whole face earnest and full of anxiety.

And Dissy found herself taking a deep breath and sighing it out. "All right. I'll try."

* * *

Though how she meant to try was quite beyond her. Starting her little white Toyota—Bruide had said he would follow on his motorcycle—she wondered what kind of idiot she was being, exactly.

She, who had been a serious child and a calm teenager and later the designated sane person of her group, how could she be here in the middle of magic and elves and who knew what else?

And how did she mean to free the elf in the stone, if there was truly an elf in the stone? Oh, she'd seen him, sure. But then for two days she'd touched the stone every which way.

And she had seen nothing more.

It was quite hopeless.

But in her rearview mirror, she saw Bruide riding full tilt, his motorcycle inclining around corners and roaring down the straightaways and it seemed to her as if, sometimes, for just a moment, that motorcycle was really a horse, full of fire and spirit.

An elven horse of the sort fairy tales spoke of, that could gallop across a continent and still arrive, ready for more, at the other side.

* * *

She parked as close as she could to the big glass door of the museum.

Magic was the only sane explanation for Bruide and the elf in the stone, when it all came down to it, but still, if it was all a ruse, she wanted to be seen by the cameras. And she wanted to be where breaking a glass door would bring the police swarming to the scene within seconds.

Bruide parked his motorcycle—or stopped his horse, Dissy couldn't say which as she saw both at the same time—next to her car and dismounted.

He'd opened his heavy coat to show, beneath, a suit of heavy, dark-green silk. It made him look very alien, very different.

"We go in," he said, and put his hand on the door.

Did she imagine it, or did a spark of light fly between his hand and the door to the museum? He pulled, and the door opened.

She walked in after him, half expecting the alarms to ring.

Past the small hall, and the next set of double glass doors, into the vast atrium where the Tyrannosaurus rex's skeleton replica stood, towering forever in a menacing pose, one foot lifted as if for the next step, the hands raised up, ready to strike, the fleshless jaws open for a ferocious roar.

"I hear my brother's screams," Bruide said, leading her—as if he were the one familiar with the layout—past the darkened ticket stations and the silent gift shop, then sharply right and down a corridor to the unassuming door to the junk room.

He touched the lock and the door sprang open.

Within the room, all looked as Dissy had left it. A clear path to the monolith at the end, and the rest a confusion of piled-up boxes and vases and jars filled with strangely colored liquids and repulsive unidentified solids.

Except that the heartbeat was audible. Very loud. Very fast. Echoing in the small room like a drum.

Bruide ran into the room, threw his arms around the monolith, and said something in a liquid tongue that Dissy could not understand but which was, undeniably, "It will all be all right now."

And then Bruide danced back gracefully, amid the piles and stacks of objects, to stand by her side. "Let's free him, Lady Eurydice."

"Call me Dissy," she said. "And free him how?"

Her mouth was dry, her throat constricted. She had promised this man that she could save his brother. But what did she know of magic or of saving someone? If all this was true, if there really was magic, then surely Roman Mages were accomplished enough that they would have set this spell too well.

Bruide was an elf and couldn't unlock it. Why should Dissy be able to?

"You're a Mage," Bruide said, as if he could read her mind. "Only a Mage could have made my brother strong enough to call to me. And only a Mage—a great natural Mage—can open this spell and set my brother free."

"But I know no magic."

"Magic is just your will, just what you want, directed at the problem. Want it hard enough and it will happen. Spells and chants and visualizing, all it serves to do is concentrate your will. Just think of it hard enough."

She stood there. The heartbeat banged loudly.

Did she want the stone to open? She wanted the stone to open.

But nothing happened.

The stone stood there, immobile, granitic.

But she wanted it to open. She got close to the stone. She extended her hands to it. She wished it to open.

Nothing happened.

She felt Bruide's hands on her shoulders. The contact made her jump a little. He smelled of the sea with a faint tinge of oranges.

He wrapped his hands around her waist and she leaned back into him. It seemed natural and right. She felt him lean protectively over her and she felt as if light wrapped around her.

She wound the light around her, feeling it like pulsing power. And then she channeled the power and threw it toward the stone, willing it to open.

Seen through the eyes of magic, the stone felt . . . not like stone but like a knot made of slippery, greasy, tangled hair—dark hair. A skein of darkness wound around the elf.

And now it was transparent and she could see him, blue eyes fixated on her, mouth tightened in expectation. But it was still there, tight, impenetrable.

Ilar was banging on it from within and their power was hammering on it from without. But if it was a skein, surely it could be opened. A thread could be broken and unwound. Pushing on it as a whole would only make it give and then spring back into place, but breaking it and pulling it apart would dissolve the whole.

She found a weak point in the weave, and she threw her whole willpower, her whole strength at that point. It snapped with an audible sound, and she pulled at it.

A piece of the thread flew up, and in the flying it became a dragon—wings spread, jaws open. A smell of rot and corruption filled the room.

And in that moment, Bruide let go of her and was standing in front of her, holding a sword—where had he gotten a sword?—and a thick, golden shield.

He shoved upward with his sword, gracefully.

Blood rained down on them from the dragon, and the dragon screamed. Bruide jumped and managed to make Dissy jump, pushing them away from the creature.

Dissy felt the thread of the monolith slip between her mental fingers, and reached for it again, desperately, managing to get it at the last minute by tugging at it madly, ignoring the fall of the dragon that crushed half the boxes and packages and made the whole room tremble.

Another spiral of darkness came loose, and another, and—suddenly—they were surrounded by a Roman legion.

Only the legion was grey and half transparent.

Beyond them, Dissy saw Ilar standing up and looking puzzled, shaking his head as if to overcome dizziness.

Two thousand years in the same position. How would that be, even if the elves didn't perceive time in the same way?

But the elf who'd been imprisoned in the stone shook himself and, grabbing from the littered ground a splinter of stone—which someone in Greeley thought was a fossilized Viking sword—charged forward, madly.

One of the ghost legionaries pushed his sword forward. It touched Bruide, who looked shocked as blood appeared on his skin.

Bruide paused no more than a second, but he grabbed his sword and swept it around in a broad arc, beheading legionaries as he did. They didn't make much of a move to defend themselves.

"They're just ghosts," he told Dissy, again reading her mind or seeming to. "Revenants. No will left."

From the other side, Ilar was cutting at the legionaries, advancing toward Bruide. The brothers met as the last ghost legionary fell. They hugged and screamed something in the liquid language, something that echoed of welcome and victory.

And as they did, Dissy felt something move against her foot. She looked down.

There was the dismembered arm of a plastic Barbie creeping up her leg. She reached down, grabbed it. It tried to squeeze around her finger, but she threw it.

She felt other things at her feet, and, looking down, she saw everything in the room: rocks and jars and vases, moving toward them, animated of a purpose. And it didn't seem to her the purpose would be good.

"We have to get out of here," she screamed to Bruide as she backed away, stomping on the creepy-crawlies on the floor.

Bruide translated, yelling at his brother in the liquid language.

Bruide started stomping toward the door, and Ilar too, seemingly not caring about the things writhing and twisting beneath his bare feet.

Dissy reached the door first and opened it, yelling at the men, "Go through, go through, go through."

The men went through first, and she after. Just as she closed the door, she could see one of the jars launching itself into the air.

* * *

She shut the door behind herself and heard the jar shatter against the door, and the wet splotch of whatever was inside the jar.

There was a sound of stomping from somewhere and the ground trembled under their feet.

Dissy looked toward Bruide, but Bruide and Ilar grabbed her hands and started running, with Dissy between them.

They ran full tilt toward the door.

Only to be met by a walking, roaring dinosaur skeleton.

Bruide roared back and slashed at it with his sword, while Ilar grabbed Dissy and dove beneath the dinosaur's descending skeletal foot.

Crashing through the double doors, pulled by Ilar, Dissy was relieved to hear Bruide running behind them and jump after them, his hand on her waist.

They fell outside, on the asphalt, while, inside, the T. rex skeleton rattled and crashed to the ground.

"It was the evil magics of the Romans," Bruide said. "They put all their will and part of their souls into that bind. The souls thus imprisoned remember only anger and desire for revenge. And they will try to destroy all when the spell is released. This was intentionally done. It prevented Celtic insurgents from releasing imprisoned elves."

The twins stood and looked at each other, then embraced again. Dissy felt a pang. She'd never had a sibling. And now she had no one. She shook her head. It was silly to miss what she'd never had. Yet she longed for . . . family. Belonging.

* * *

Ilar said something to Bruide, speaking softly and looking towards Dissy.

"He asks if you'll come with us, lady. To Elfhame Sun-Descending."

She hesitated. "I have a job," she said. But there was the museum behind them, in ruins. Surely someone would want detailed explanations of what had happened there. And doubtless the police with their technology would find her hair and fingerprints and a drop or two of her blood all the way through the mess. Visions of being tried for vandalism and years and years in jail danced before Dissy's eyes. And she did not, for one second, imagine her employers would keep her job open for her. Not in the age of layoffs.

It came to her, startlingly, as something always known but never thought of, that she had nothing beyond her job to hold her here. A job she didn't even like.

"He says you cannot run and you cannot hide. You are an emerging Talent and you will one day be a great magician. Only a great Mage could, untrained, free him from that spell."

Ilar spoke again, in the liquid tongue. "If you don't use it, evil and good will come after you, one to attack, the other to beseech your help. Either or both can drive you insane or kill you," Bruide translated.

The museum would need explaining. And her job . . . Did she really want to go on working in that forest of cubicles where she was always afraid of making friends because one or the other of her friends might be next week's layoff?

And had she not always felt a little out of place, a little odd in the world? Was that magic? Who knew?

She looked at the elf twins who stood looking at her—with broad shoulders, narrow waists, muscular legs, and those sapphire-blue eyes you could drown in.

Were they just another brand of crazies, like the ones she used to attract in college? Perhaps.

But at least, the crazies she attracted were getting better looking. And then they'd fought together. They'd magicked together. They felt closer to her than all her friends who were now scattered around the world and didn't seem to remember her anymore. And they were much closer than the third cousins once removed whom she'd never even met.

She took a deep breath. "How can we get there?" she asked.

Bruide grinned and gestured toward his motorcycle. There was the suggestion of a horse there, and then, in the same blink, there was a black sports car, low-slung.

A strange black car with three seats across the front.

Bruide got in and Dissy got in after and Ilar next.

"This is really just an elvensteed in another form," Bruide said.

An elf steed, who could cross continents in a single night. Dissy strapped down and leaned back.

Ilar slipped one muscular arm behind her back.

The car took off with a purr that suggested contained power.

Forget the cubicle and software, forget the museum's junk room. This was going to be fun. 


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