Silver. In Royal Class, Mr. Haxton-Gale bought another bottle of red wine. Verentil paired it with a bowl of berries fresh from the cliffs – and two whole scoops of ice cream.

”What will those dwarves find? ” asked Mrs. Haxton-Gale.

”Adventure! ” said Verentil.

”Monsters? ” she pressed.

”Certainly. ”

”Dragons? ” she pressed harder.

”Maybe a frost drake, ” said Verentil. ”Definitely demons. ”

”How exciting! I wonder if everyone will die. ”

”If so, their deaths will be engraved in stone, ” said Mr. Haxton-Gale.

”In painstaking detail, ” agreed the missus.

It was all right to contemplate the death of every human in Callech Borea as an abstract consequence of Eaurlindels rage, but Verentil felt uncomfortable thinking about the death of his new best friend on an adventure the prodigy himself initiated. Verentil would sprout anew from a root in Reverie if he were ever torn to pieces by demons underground. Should he be more careful about sending less immortal beings into danger? The youngest elf was tipsy, but not at risk of suffocating, when he collapsed onto his bed that evening. Yllaariels stinger failed to tickle all the right places with its usual precision – leaving Verentil only on the precipice of bliss.

e distracted, ” the prodigy complained.

”When an old secret comes to light, ” said the imp, ”more than one gear starts turning. ”

”You sound like Tiryendil. ”

Yllaariel scooted up Verentils back and put his lips against the prodigys ear.

”Do you want to remake the world? ” asked the imp.

”Maybe, ” replied Verentil nervously.

”That will be tough if you keep getting sent back to Reverie. ”

Yllaariel tapped his stinger on one of Verentils uniquely perfect buns. He sounded like Eaurlindel. Instead of saying that out loud, however, Verentil lifted his uniquely perfect rump a little higher and nodded submissively. Next morning, the remaker of worlds crawled out of the bed well created by Yllaariels density and stepped onto his private deck. He reached up with small hands, stretched as far as he could, a bit more, took hold of the heavens, and pulled them down to his smooth butter honey chest. After repeating the exercise several times, the pain in his bottom subsided and he felt light as air once more.

Why was Yllaariel the one that floated?

Elves were such inscrutable creatures.

The first new elf in twenty-two universes leaned over the railing and looked into the water. Boulders and pebbles glinted in the rivers depths. Their haphazard arrangement represented more than unsorted alluvial erosion. In a moment of enlightenment, Verentils mind interpreted the river bottom as a metaphor for all the worlds in this cycle of Creation – washed by an ethereal current.

Why should the remaker of worlds remake just one?

Every pebble should become an amber jewel!

Raising his gaze, Verentil stared into the spaces between Silver Woods ghostly trees. Branches shifted in breezes, forming patterns of light and dark that altered the respective transforms – and readjusted the boundaries between realities. It was dangerous to trespass in the Wood even without Eaurlindels singing blade or Tarnished Chapters snipers. The idiots were doomed.

A skiff appeared out of nowhere. It glided across the forests reflection on water between Verentil and shore. At its prow stood one orc. A cloak of gray pine needles beneath a shawl of rusty leaves wrapped her powerful physique. The female Jorok caste served as the ”mouths and faces ” of orc society. They never appeared by chance.

At the rear of the skiff, two wiry Shorok males pushed poles – and pulled. With long, flat faces and narrow eyes, Shorok had a stature similar to Verentils (albeit wrapped in long strands of ropey, coiling, sinuous muscles). Traded as commodities by orc clans, the diminutive males excelled at fussy work. The poles these two pushed and pulled were scarcely longer than they were tall. The Silver was much deeper than that, of course, but orcish ”oar sticks ” fixed in water and released on command. They were tricky to master, but these Shorok showed great skill.

Initially indifferent to the riverboat, the Joroks imposing head turned toward Verentil at the precise moment she passed between him and the Wood. Eyes and ears met. It was not love, or resentment, or anger, or any emotion the prodigy could identify. He waved, cheerfully. The Jorok nodded, enigmatically. Mist rising from the river swallowed her skiff. The skiff and its orcs vanished like ghosts. Slipping partway through the dark transform could not evade even the youngest elfs eyes completely when he concentrated – but it was still impressive.

”More gears than one, ” said Yllaariel.

Verentil nearly jumped out of honey amber into cold river water.

”Don do that! ” he cried.

”Get better, ” Yllaarield replied.

”How would she know about the secret roads? ” asked the prodigy.

Yllaariel wrapped Verentil in a back hug and nibbled.

”I don know, ” the imp said. ”How would a seer know about secret roads? ”

Verentil waved away the critique.

”Fine. Then she knew before I did anything. ”

Yllaariel pointed his stinger at the Silver Wood.

”Its hard to pick the right needle in a forest, ” he said.

Verentil considered first the imps point, and then his other points.

”So… before I wrote it all down, ” he said, shifting his no longer sore bottom away from danger, ”a seer would have been required to interpret all the symbols against the background of every possibility. ”

”Which would clearly be impossible, ” agreed Yllaariel.

”But because I did the hard work, they can now see Thorvums destiny? ”

”You sound like Tiryendil, ” said Yllaariel, nibbling harder.

”Is Thorvum in danger? ” asked Verentil.

”Not from her, ” said Yllaariel. ”That one is an ally. ”

”How do you know? ”

”Because Im the second oldest elf in all Creations, ” he said.

Verentil relaxed into the elongated pixies embrace.

”Whos the oldest? ” he asked.

”Youll see. ”

”How many universes will that take? ”

”The more the better, ” giggled Yllaariel.

The imp faded away like another ghost.

”You can warm me up and then leave me like this! ” the prodigy cried.

But the imp could. Verentil rushed inside to find another solution to his most immediate problem. Several days later, it was no ghost that materialized on his deck in the middle of the night. Though deep in dreaming trances, the prodigy retained an awareness of the world around his body while he frolicked with werewolves and centaurs. He was, after all, made from condensed psychic dream drops. Yllaariel was no longer anywhere to be seen or felt, but the shadow beyond the deck door was much wider than an elongated pixie. It was likely a dwarfs shadow. He was a quiet dwarf, skilled at getting onto private riverboat balconies – and opening locked deck doors.

Verentil trembled with anticipation. Was he going to be abducted – or assassinated? Being immortal wouldn help with abduction. He had a few tricks that might throw a kidnapper off his trail, but maybe the dwarf was just there to steal a backpack. Was another gear turning? Verentil remained motionless while the thief, assassin, or abductor entered his room and approached his bed.

It was so exciting!

Silhouetted against light from outside, the dwarf briefly cast a shadow on a wall. The shadow of a stinger emerged beside it – and struck. Thick dwarven fingers stopped inches from Verentils neck. After several moments, the prodigy reached out and touched their tips. They were made of stone! Yllaariel extruded from a dark hole. Old elves had amazing tricks – like killing a thousand enemies with a single cut before even one realized they had died; or petrifying an assassin by stinging his shadow with a shadow stinger. Verentils best trick was lifting his uniquely perfect little bottom just right.

Well, he had to admit that was a pretty good trick.

”What was he going to do? ” asked the prodigy breathlessly.

”Grab you and disappear. ”

Verentil examined the statue. It was amazing. Still….

”Theyll charge me extra for transporting a statue. ”

Yllaariel grabbed the dwarf by the back of his petrified leather armor. Improbably, almost comically, the elongated pixie lifted the statue into the air, carried it out to the deck, and tossed it into the river. Apart from the deep, slurping splash (and the fact any boat coming along by day would see the statue a hundred or so feet down through crystal water), it was a fine solution to this most immediate problem.

”Thats not the end of it, though, ” said Verentil.

”Of course not, ” Yllaariel agreed.

Verentil ran through possibilities. Thorvum would have no reason to abduct the prodigy… unless he wanted to be sure no one else could learn of the secret roads. Had Verentils new best friend only acted friendly to gain advantage? Such behavior was commonplace in Sand House, and dwarves were even more notorious schemers than graduate assistants.

True, Thorvum acted friendly before Verentil demonstrated any capacity to reveal the lost secrets of Glacierbeard Hold. That was not dispositive. He might have realized Verentil was a real elf and not just a fairy crossbreed or pretender. Precious few realized what it meant to be a remnant of Beautys Remnant. Dwarves were one of the oldest civilizations in the presently known universe, however, and some knew a lot. Yllaariel complimented the prodigy for scratching beneath the surface without prompting.

”You think it was Thorvum? ” asked Verentil.

”No, ” said the imp. ”But every dwarf has rivals. The higher up, the more. ”

”How would they connect him to me? ”

”Spies and augurs. ”

”So they know Thorvum has a secret, ” said Verentil, ”but came after me because…? ”

”Easy target. But you weren . So another secret has been revealed. ”

”And more gears will start turning? ”

”Yes, ” said Yllaariel.

Verentil clapped his hands and pounded his feet on fluffy tiramisu.

”I really am changing the world! ” he cried.

He clutched onto Yllaariel and refused to let the imp evade his duty.

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