Twila put down the book she was looking at and picked up another. She’d been working with very little sleep, trying to finish while Axra was still recovering. So far, none of her aunt’s books said much about the staff of elements. There was the occasional vague reference but nothing that told her where it might be or even what it did.
She looked over at where a cup of tea had seemingly materialised right next to her from nowhere.
“Thank you, Lilly,” she said. Noticing the other woman behind her.
“Oh… I… I didn’t mean to disturb you. I… I’ll leave.”
“You aren’t disturbing me,” Twila said. “I’m not really having any luck anyway.”
“I… I’m sure you’ll find it,” Lilly said. “Th… there’s no one I know as clever as you so…”
“Well, thank you,” Twila said. “But it’s less a matter of cleverness and more a matter of finding the information. Assuming it’s actually available.”
“Sh… should I… you know… ask Gail?” Lilly asked, glancing at the ring that was still stuck on her finger.
“No!” Twila cried. “We’ll find another way. She already knows that Axra has Todberührung and you have Zerstörelicht. If we tip our hand too much then she might figure out what we’re up to. If she decides to stop us at this point, there’s not a lot we can do to fight against her.” She took a sip of her tea. “Besides, I think we should keep her away from you as much as possible.”
“Oh… right,” Lilly said. “I… it would be cruel to give her the wrong idea. We… well then let me help you look.”
“Please do,” Twila said. “I’ve still got this stack to go through.”
“Are you feeling better, Princess?” Bonnie asked.
“I’m fine,” Axra said. “I don’t know why they want me to stick around for observation. I wasn’t hit that hard.”
“It’s only for a few more days,” Bonnie said. “Please bear with it.”
“Well, you don’t have to be here,” Axra said. “Why don’t you go hang out with Lysara?”
“It is my duty to protect you,” Bonnie said. “And right now I’m the only one who’s available to stay by your side. Besides, there was a small matter I needed to discuss with you.”
“Would this small matter be about how I can take care of myself?” Axra asked, not bothering to hide her annoyance.
“No,” Bonnie answered. “It’s about what you said to Lilly. I know that you meant nothing by it, but please don’t do anything to give her hope where there is none.”
“What are you even talking about?” Axra asked.
“Surely you’ve noticed,” Bonnie said. “The way she feels… the way she’d react to being called precious by you.”
“Lilly’s always been sensitive,” Axra said. “Unconfident even. Sometimes she needs to be reminded that she’s important. What’s your problem with that anyway?”
“You really haven’t noticed,” Bonnie muttered. “Please excuse me, Princess. It seems I was mistaken and spoke out of turn.”
“This is a hassle,” Velvet said. “Can’t you do this by yourself?”
“Hey, I’m helping you, remember?” Lysara countered. “I could have let you come alone but Bon needed to talk with Axra in private so I was nice and came along.”
“You remember what she looked like better than I do anyway,” Velvet said. “Why do the deep dark elves have to be living so far from the others anyway?”
“They aren’t that far,” Lysara said. “Just far enough to give them some autonomy. I think the problem is that you’re kind of lazy. No offense.”
“None taken,” Velvet said.
The two finally arrived at the new home of the deep dark elves, getting several friendly waves and smiles, which Lysara happily returned.
“So good to see you again,” Derry cried. She ran up to them and briefly hugged Lysara. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Well, we found Zerstörelicht,” Lysara said. “Right now everyone else is busy with a variety of things. Velvet and I came here because we made a promise to a nice old lady to deliver a sword to her granddaughter, Blome.”
“Little Blome?” Derry asked. “I don’t know if her mom will want her to have something like that right away. But I can take you to her mother and we can give it to her care until Blome is old enough and then you can tell me all about your adventures down there.”
“Sounds good,” Lysara said, as they followed Derry. “It hasn’t been long, but it feels like a lot has happened. Besides, we’ve gotta hang tight for a bit while Axra recovers and Twila finds out where the elemental staff is.”
“Elemental staff?” Derry asked, scratching her head. “I may have heard stories about something like that… It might be in the books we brought for Miss Elaine.”
“Really?” Lysara said. “We’ll be sure to tell her that when we get back.” She elbowed Velvet. “Aren’t you glad we came here?”
“I still think that I don’t need to be here,” Velvet answered. “Why are there tiny arms around my neck?”
“Hey, Mister. Are you here to teach me how to beat things to a pulp?”
“Blome, get off of that nice man. I’m so sorry about this.”
“Carrying someone her size is no big deal,” Velvet said. “I barely even noticed her.”
“We came to give you this,” Lysara said, presenting the blade. “It’s for little Blome.”
“Oooh, gimme,” Blome said. Her mother hurriedly snatched the blade.
“This was my mother’s,” she said. “She called it the obsidian cleaver, even though it’s not actually made of obsidian.”
“Mom, it’s mine,” Blome complained, making no move to release her grip on Velvet’s back.
“You can have it when you’re of age,” her mother stated. “Now, let go of him.”
“Yes’m,” Blome said, hesitantly climbing down. “You’ll have to train me another time, Mister. It looks like mommy’s gonna be mad if you do it now.” She happily skipped back to her mom.