OVER THE EDGE
Mel Worthington wasn't sure what he'd find when he went over the edge into Fairyland. There he was amazed to discover his mother was revered as a goddess known as the Diamond Queen. Mel has a rightful claim to the throne, but his fierce bodyguard assigned to guide him in this world, has a claim of her own.
Riley Evensong knows it’s her destiny to rule Eldenfair and is suspicious of this human who's been asked over by the reigning king to help solve a technical problem. A strange social media fad called Flitter has all the young fae enchanted and is causing havoc, but this is only the beginning of the evil spells drifting in from the Other Side.
Riley must put aside her resentment of Mel, and Mel must come to terms with his emerging magic so together they can save Fairy tales from becoming warped beyond recognition.
Oh, and there's a talking animal side kick, of course.
When Riley Evensong was summoned to the throne room, she knew this was the moment she’d been waiting for, planning for, and yes, even dreaming of since she’d joined the Royal Guard. At the doorway, she took a moment to straighten the jacket of her immaculate dark green uniform and to corral the one lock of her long black hair that always escaped her braid. This was it. This was the day King Brandon would clap her on the shoulder and say, “Riley, you’ve done a fine job as Captain of my Guard. As you know, I have no heir, but I can appoint a successor to the throne. I’m pleased to announce that I have chosen you to rule Eldenfair. I can’t think of anyone better suited for the job.”
Riley planned to thank the king for this great honor and to assure him she would be a firm but compassionate ruler. She’d be very calm, very professional. And if anyone gave her any problem about not following Convention, she had an iron-clad answer for that. She had a legitimate, age-old claim to the throne.
She knocked once and opened the door. As throne rooms go, this one was suitably impressive. Red velvet draperies held back by golden cords framed the floor to ceiling windows that let in the balmy breeze and golden sunlight of the day. The long polished marble floor led from the double doors to the throne, an elaborate chair carved with flowers and stars. Two smaller chairs flanked the throne, one for the Queen and one for a prince or princess. The Queen, however, had died in childbirth, so no one had occupied those chairs for many years.
The king sat on his throne, finishing his morning’s activities which included a council meeting and hearing the petitions of the people. He was a regal-looking man, tall and broad shouldered, with gray hair and dark eyes. He wore a silver crown and a blue jacket with many ribbons and medals. His three advisors, one plump, one thin, and one clumsy, clustered about in their red and purple robes, as well as two representatives from the troll population, huge lumbering beings with gray rock-like skin and fringes of lichens for clothing. The Lady Sapphira, official Damsel in Distress, blonde and blue-eyed, wearing a flowing pink gown and a circle of flowers in her hair, and the Royal Soothsayer, Fortuna, a bony woman in black robes decorated with silver symbols, made up the rest of the court.
The king spoke to his advisors first. “Sifal, your thoughts?”
The plump man bowed. “I agree with you completely, your majesty.”
The thin, angry-looking man bowed. “It’s a foolish idea, sire. It will never work.”
“Thank you. Ponsonby?”
The awkward younger man flushed bright red and bowed. “Well, I just don’t know, sire.”
“All right, that’s all done. Morning report. Trolls, you sacked one village and were driven back from another by angry villagers?”
“Growled impressively from the hilltops and threw boulders at the few men foolish enough to climb up?”
“Excellent work. Next?”
“Sapphira, your majesty. I’ll need rescuing from the dragon again.”
“Has the dragon burnt his requisite number of fields and towns today?”
“He’s working on it, sire.”
“Let the guard know when you think you might need rescuing. Who’s next?”
“Your soothsayer, your majesty.”
“Good morning, Fortuna.”
The woman cleared her throat. “Sorry about my voice, your majesty. I wore it out predicting disasters yesterday.”
“Sounds good and otherworldly. Beware the Forest of Calamity?”
“A stranger will come, riding a flaming stallion?”
“Check. And a few more ‘bewares’ and omens, sire.”
“Thank you. Next?” Sifal held up a scroll, and the king made a mark beside each item. “Dispute over land, dispute over cow, marriage granted, baby blessed. I think that’s got it. Thank you, everyone. Council is adjourned.” He turned to me. “Good morning, Riley. A chair for the captain, please.”
Ponsonby hurried over with a gold chair. Riley sat, and the king waved everyone away. “We’ll need some privacy, please.”
This is it! Riley felt her heart pick up speed. He doesn’t want the court to know yet. There will be a formal announcement, maybe a ball, and then the coronation. Her mind ran off in so many directions she didn’t hear what the king said and had to apologize.
“Excuse me, your majesty.”
“We have a situation, Riley, something that threatens not only Convention, but our entire way of thinking.”
All right, so maybe today was not the today his majesty planned to name a successor. But if he wanted a problem solved, then she was the one to do it. If someone or something was tampering with Convention, this had to be stopped. The king was a strong proponent of the standard and widely accepted rules of How Fairy Tales Should Be. He’d broken tradition by having a female captain of the guard, but with so many modern fairy tales depicting brave princesses taking on non-traditional roles, this hadn’t disturbed Convention, merely stretched it a bit.
He reached down and picked up a slim black box. “Zorill found this near Way Side. He has no idea what it is. He should know, being head wizard for the court, but he says he’s never seen anything like it.”
Riley took the box. It was smooth and rectangular, and when she opened the lid, the top became a screen filled with bright images and the bottom a flat surface filled with little buttons, each with a letter or a number. “It seems to be some sort of portable magic mirror.”
“Except there is no face in this mirror, only confusing pictures. It appears to be a larger version of those toys I’ve seen the young people carrying around.”
It was a growing concern that the younger fairies and elves were enchanted by small handheld communication devices. No one had been able to explain the appeal, least of all Riley, who had been called upon more than once to rescue a youngster who’d been playing on his device and fallen into the river. Why were they so entranced by these boxes when they could see and talk to each other every day?
“Did Zorill try any of these buttons?”
“He didn’t think that would be wise. Who knows what sort of creatures he might conjure up?”
Riley carefully closed the box. “What would you like me to do, sire?”
He took the box and put it back beside his throne. “We have engaged the services of a Waysider to explain this device. Whatever it is, it doesn’t fit Convention. We have to make certain more of these boxes do not find their way over. Also, there must be a way to find out if the smaller boxes are harmless toys or pose a greater threat to Convention.”
“A Waysider? A human?”
“Yes, and I would like for you to be his guide and protector while he is here.”
Not exactly the news she was hoping for, but a valuable assignment. If the threat was as dangerous as the king believed and if she removed it—and she would—it could only serve to make her a more viable candidate for the throne.
“His name is Melchior Thaddeus Worthington. He will be at the gate tomorrow at sunrise.”
Humans often found their way over, usually by sleeping inside a fairy ring, or wandering into an enchanted forest, but Riley was one of the few who knew about the gate in the garden wall near a small village not far from the palace.
“You can count on me, your majesty.”
She was dismissed. She walked back down the long polished floor and out into the marble hallways of the palace. She started across the palace grounds to her quarters in the Guard house when something soft and white bounded across the lawn, calling her name in a sweet little voice.
Oh, not this again. She stopped and pointed a finger at the fluffy bunny. “I’ve told you I don’t need a sidekick.”
The rabbit leaned against her leg. “But every hero or heroine has a cute talking animal to advise them. It’s Convention.”
“I do not need an advisor, either.”
He batted his eyes. “Someone to share your hopes and dreams, then—and advance the plot.”
The rabbit straightened and glared at her. “Aww, come on! I’ve got songs and everything.”
“Definitely no songs.”
“Okay, okay, I won’t sing. But let me tag along. This sounds like quite an adventure. A Waysider coming here!”
“How do you know about that?”
“Are you kidding? As your sidekick, that’s my job!” He got low to the ground. “I sneak, I snoop, I fit in places you don’t.”
“Do not tell this to anyone. It’s a matter of Convention security.”
“But I can keep secrets, too! See how important I am?”
“I do not want a sidekick.”
The rabbit danced around her. “This guy was invited by the council. Hey, maybe he’s the lost heir to the kingdom.”
“Impossible. He’s human.” The last thing she wanted was someone else making a play for the throne. “He can’t possibly be a lost heir.”
“But wouldn’t that make a great story?”
Riley resisted the urge to reach for her weapon. “You’re going to be a lost hare if you don’t go away.”
The rabbit’s ears drooped. “All right, all right. Party pooper.”
Riley reached the guard house and her set of rooms that included a bedroom, private bath, and a sitting room for visitors, although she rarely had visitors and she rarely sat. But she slumped down in the large carved chair. A human. Someone from Across the Way. Someone who’d get in the way, more likely. Why didn’t the king consult her before dumping a strange man into her care?
Melchior Thaddeus Worthington. Well, wasn’t that the stuffiest name ever? It conjured up a picture of an elderly stick of a man, all tweed and tobacco smoke with hair growing out of his ears, near-sighted, grumpy, and frail. Probably a know-it-all, someone who would lecture her about the proper form of fairy tales.
But Rule of Order for Palace Guard #603 said: An officer accepts his mission and fulfills it to the best of his ability.
To the best of her ability. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. All right, Melchior Thaddeus Worthington. Think you know everything about my world? You are in for a big surprise.
¨ © ª «
“You’re in for a surprise, Mel.”
Mel Worthington looked up from his computer. It always took him a few moments to pull himself from the depths of his research. He’d been reading a fascinating story about a Japanese water demon called a Kappa and how the creature could be tamed by a cucumber, as long as you had your name and age carved into the vegetable. How in the world could such a story have come about? He focused back to his small office in the back room of the Parkland Public Library, the desk loaded with papers and the bookshelves filled to overflowing with volumes leaning precariously on top. He pushed his glasses up. His boss, a tall dark-haired woman who always had a smile, put a silvery letter in his hand.
“You’ve been summoned to the Edge.”
He opened the letter and blinked at the words.
As an expert in the field of fairy tales, you have been asked to resolve a conflict in the Traditional World of Faery. Be at the Edge at sunrise of the second day of the week. Your contact and guide is Riley Evensong of the Palace Guard.
He read the letter a second time, trying to get his mind around the unlikely invitation. “Joanie, is this for real?”
“Yes. I checked. Everything’s in order. You’re on your way to Fairyland, pal.”
Mel read the letter again. Was this possible? For years he’d wanted to visit the world past the Edge, but visas were difficult and expensive. “They need my help?” But he was only a research assistant at the Parkland Public Library. “Are you sure they mean me? Wouldn’t one of the senior librarians like yourself be a more likely choice?”
“As much as I’d love to go, I’m in charge of the national library conference next month. I can’t risk not getting back in time for that. You’re the folk and fairy tale expert around here. You want to go, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course.”
“You’re supposed to bring your computer along with you.”
“I didn’t think they worked over there.”
“I guess you’ll find out.”
Whether or not his computer worked didn’t matter. He had tons of material in his head, every fairy tale he’d ever read or heard or seen. Would that be enough to solve whatever dispute these people had? “Is there any information about the conflict?”
“This Riley Evensong will have all the details. He must be the head elf or something.”
Mel looked at his desk calendar. “Sunrise on the second day. That’s tomorrow! I’d better get home and pack. There’s no telling how long I’ll be there.”
Joanie grinned. “A hundred years, right? Isn’t that how it works?”
Mel had a fleeting memory of his mother sitting by his bed, telling him a story about a man who slept a hundred years, and when he woke, the world had changed so dramatically, he didn’t recognize it.
“Maybe by the time I get back, we’ll finally have those flying cars.”
“Maybe you won’t come back. You’ll find a fairy princess and live happily ever after.”
“Not a bad idea, Joanie. Maybe Riley Evensong has a sister.”
He thought again of his mother, her beautiful pale face, her long pale hair, how she would sit on his bed, her graceful hands emphasizing exciting moments as the brave knight attacked the dragon, or the princess opened the forbidden door in the castle, as wild swans flew to rescue their sister, as the queen defied the imp who wanted her first born child. There was always something ethereal about her. Sometimes she would sit in the garden, lost in her day dreams. Had she been longing for a home in another realm, or was she merely a romantic at heart? As a child, he’d often imagined she was a fairy princess brought over the Edge by his darker, more serious father. He’d look in the mirror, wondering if he might be part magic. He had her pale hair and her large dark eyes. No pointed ears, though, or wings.
No, he’d made up his own fairy tale from his fond memories of all the wonderful stories. Now he was actually going to see the fairy tale world.
Finding the world beyond the Edge had been a remarkable discovery, a weak place in the barrier that separated Earth from Eldenfair. At first, there had been a wild scramble to cross over, but only a few managed to make it through. Even fewer returned.
The novelty soon wore off. An occasional visitor was permitted inside, but the rulers of the magic land were concerned about the effect of too many tourists wandering about being eaten by trolls and enchanted by sorcerers. Now it seemed almost commonplace to have the fairy tale world existing nearby.
Almost. Mel couldn’t wait to see it. He wanted to go to the gate right this minute and camp out until sunrise. He managed to finish his work and went home, but he couldn’t sleep. He was finally going to find out if all those stories were true.
Riley woke even earlier than usual, ready to get her assignment over with and return to her normal duties. Her mood was not improved when the rabbit met her on the pathway to the gate in the garden wall.
“No,” she said.
“But think how thrilled the Waysider will be when he sees a real talking animal! They love that.”
“This is an important mission. I’ll not have you interfering.”
He hopped alongside, matching her stride. “I won’t get in the way.”
“Of course you will.”
“How do you know that? You haven’t given me a chance. Aren’t you even flattered that I consider you hero material, Riley Evensong, daughter of the great Blue Evensong, writer of the Rules of Order?”
Riley stopped and glared down at the rabbit. “Do you hear everything that goes on around here?”
He grinned and pulled up his long ears. “What do you think these are for?”
“So you know it all, do you? What do you think these strange devices are?”
The rabbit drew a dramatic breath. “You’re asking my opinion?”
“Just answer the question.”
He scratched behind one ear. “I’m sorry to say I have no idea. But I do get a kick out of watching the kids fly into trees.”
Riley decided this wasn’t worth an answer. She continued down the path. The rabbit hopped after.
“Okay, let’s go meet this Waysider. Maybe I can be his sidekick.”
“You are not going to be anybody’s sidekick. Go away.”
¨ © ª «
A crumbling stone wall, a wooden fence covered with ivy, and a garden gate with a worn latch. Mel expected a gnarled old gatekeeper, or a witch who would demand payment, or even a crow waiting to lead him in.
He was surprised to see a tall and very stern young woman at the gate, her long black hair pulled back in a severe braid to reveal beautifully shaped pointed ears. Her wide dark eyes narrowed, and she looked annoyed, as if meeting him was the last thing she wanted to do. Beside her, jumping up and down and waving, was a large white rabbit.
He held out his hand. “Hello. I’m Mel Worthington. You must be Riley Evensong.”
¨ © ª «
Riley tried not to stare. Was this some kind of mistake? This man wore a suit and gold-rimmed glasses, but otherwise bore no resemblance to the fossil she’d imagined. He was young, slim, and handsome, with light hair and dark eyes. He carried a medium sized duffle bag.
“Melchior Thaddeus Worthington?”
“Just Mel, please.” His voice was pleasant and his smile gave her an odd little shiver.
“I’m Riley Evensong, your guide.”
“I’m Timmon,” the rabbit said. “Welcome to Eldenfair.”
The man, Riley was secretly pleased to note, was not amazed to see a talking rabbit. “I’m very happy to meet you. I’m excited to be here and hope I can be of assistance.”
“May I help you with your bag, sir?”
“Thanks, but I can carry it.”
“Then follow me this way, sir. It’s a short walk to the palace.”
The short walk turned into a long stroll because the man had to stop every few minutes and stare. “I knew everything on this side would be brighter and more colorful, but this is astounding. It’s a world of gem tones. The valley’s a brilliant emerald, the mountains sapphire blue. It’s exactly like the books.”
“Yes, sir. It’s supposed to be.”
“Could you give me some information about this conflict?”
“It’s not exactly a conflict, although it could become one. We have found a strange box that came from your side of the world. We need to know what it is and if it presents a threat to Convention.”
“Convention? Oh, yes, the way things have always been in fairy tales.”
Riley was surprised he knew this. “Yes. Can I assume, sir, that you yourself believe fairy tales should be preserved in their original form?”
“Aren’t there many variations, though?”
“I mean the core. The younger son, the witch’s curse, the children lost in the woods. Three wishes. The gold that turns to dust by morning, the fruit you should not eat. It’s important we not lose these things.”
“I agree. I’m very curious to see this mysterious box.”
She had to stop again to give Worthington time to gape at the palace. She had to admit it was a beautiful castle, all white with gold towers and many colored flags flying in the warm breeze. Even the moat was serene, white swans drifting on the surface of the water.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “Do you mind if I take a picture?”
“Go ahead. It won’t turn out.”
“Really?” The small black rectangle he took from his pocket looked exactly like the devices that had charmed all the young elves and fairies. He aimed his device at the castle. He touched the screen with his finger and then turned it so she could see the image.
“That’s odd. Other people have tried to take pictures here.”
“Did they use a cell phone?” He frowned at the little device. “I’m surprised I have bars here. I thought electronics didn’t work over the Edge. Let me try something.”
He touched the screen a few more times and put the object to his ear. After a moment, he said, “Joanie? Can you hear me?” The person named Joanie must have answered because Worthington laughed. “Yes, I’m here. My phone works, can you believe it? I’m standing here with Riley Evensong in front of the most fantastic castle you can imagine. No, everything’s fine. This place is stunningly beautiful. No, I’m not sure what the problem is, but I’m getting an idea. I’ll call you back later.”
“An idea?” Riley said.
He put the object back into his pocket. “I think your mysterious box might be someone’s cell phone.”
“It’s much bigger than that.”
“Then it’s someone’s laptop.”
“A computer. A machine that gives you information. Here, I’ll show you.” He set the duffle bag down, searched in it for a moment, and brought out a box almost exactly like the one the king had shown her.
“That’s the same thing,” she said. “Does it pose a danger to our world?”
“I wouldn’t think so. You still have magic, right?”
“Then you can treat this as a novelty, nothing more.”
Riley wasn’t so sure. “We’ll see what the king has to say about that.”
Worthington marveled at the castle’s many features, the inner courtyard with its gardens and fountains, the golden doors and marble hallways. After insisting that Timmon stay in the garden, Riley led the young man up the curved staircase to the guest rooms and opened the first door, revealing a chamber decorated in rich blue and gold furnishings with a window that looked out on the flowering trees of the orchard and a smooth green lawn that ran all the way to the forest hidden in emerald shadows.
“Your quarters, sir. I’ll leave you to get settled in. Will twenty minutes do? We have a meeting with the king. I’ll come escort you to the throne room.”
“Thank you. And you really don’t have to call me sir.”
“Yes, I do.”
His ready smile was so warm Riley shut the door with more force than she intended. Timmon met her at the top of the stairs. The rabbit grinned and batted his long eyelashes.
“Ooo, I sense a story coming on. The Fierce Palace Captain and the Handsome Stranger. She doesn’t like him at first, but soon he wins her over with his polite charm and intimate knowledge of her world.”
“I told you to stay outside.”
“I came inside.”
“Go away!” She started towards him, but he hopped up on the banister and slid all the way down to bound out of the castle.
“Is everything all right, Captain?”
Riley regained control of her emotions and her expression and turned a bland face to Dirand, who had come out of the council room on the main floor. “Yes, thank you. You know how annoying these talking animals can be.”
He grimaced. “Yes, my crow is forever going on about his relatives. Has our visitor arrived? Does he know of any solutions to our problem?”
Riley was always cautious around the thin, sinister-looking advisor. According to Convention, Dirand would be plotting to take over the kingdom. So far, he hadn’t tried, but it was only a matter of time. “He owns a box like the one that was found here. He doesn’t think it’s dangerous.”
“Ah, good news.” He gave her a little bow. “Until later, Captain.”
Riley checked on the other guardsmen posted around the palace to make sure everyone was at his or her proper place. She knew each one by name, from Snarly Bill, the grizzled veteran who’d served under her father, to Farley Fairgrove, the newest nervous recruit. She made sure to keep up with their families, too, their home situations, and their plans and aspirations as members of the guard. Guardsmen and women were often considered expendable players in fairy tales. Like her father, Riley constantly reminded her people they were valuable members of the court.
Snarly Bill, keeping watch at the west entrance, reported that all was well. At the east gate, Farley Fairgrove, after dropping his spear and then losing his helmet bending down to retrieve it, reported that Sifal, the king’s cheerful advisor, had left to make preparations for the Mid-Summer Fair. Riley had almost forgotten the fair was coming. This was something Worthington might like to see. Plus she could check that all was running according to Convention. If the young fairies and elves would rather play on their devices than enjoy the fair, she needed to know.
She went back up the stairs and was almost run over by the third advisor, Ponsonby. The man gulped and stammered an apology, his ruddy face even redder with embarrassment.
“So sorry, Captain! The king has summoned me to the throne room, and I had to find my best robes.” He tugged at the collar of the robe in an unsuccessful attempt to straighten it.
“Not a problem.” She always felt sorry for the gawky young man. He was a second son, which meant by Convention that he was the buffoon. The first son was the overachiever, and the youngest was always the hero. Not much left for son number two.
“Did the fellow come, the one from Way Side?”
“Yes, he’s here.”
“Can he help us?”
“We’ll see. We’ll meet you in the throne room.”
“Oh, yes, of course.”
Ponsonby almost tripped over his feet as he went down the stairs. Riley shook her head in sympathy and then knocked on Worthington’s door. He answered right away, the device he called a laptop tucked under one arm and his eyes wide with wonder.
“A whole herd of unicorns galloped by. Absolutely amazing.”
“Yes, sir. They like the grass in the far meadow.”
“I thought I saw a dragon, too.”
“Maybe a small one this time of day. This way, please.”
¨ © ª «
Mel had hoped the stern young captain would relax a little, but she was all business. She also looked as if she expected him to make an error in court etiquette, but he stopped the right distance from the throne and gave what Riley noted with approval was the correct bow. King Brandon was everything a fairy tale king should be, handsome and wise-looking with serious dark eyes.
“Your majesty, it’s a great honor to be invited to your kingdom and an honor to meet you. I hope I can be of service.”
The king gave a slight nod of his head to acknowledge the greeting. “We are pleased to have you here, Mr. Worthington. These are my advisors, Sifal, Dirand, and Ponsonby.”
Mel wasn’t surprised by these men, either. A plump, happy man in yellow robes, a thin, sour-looking fellow in black, and a tall, red-haired man who looked as if he’d dressed in the dark. This would be the King’s Best Friend, the Angry Brother Who Wanted the Throne, and the Court Fool.
He inclined his head. “Gentlemen.”
The king took a computer from beside the throne. “Mr. Worthington, we are experiencing what I call a threat to Convention. Do you know what this box is?”
“Yes, sir. I have one like it right here.” He showed the king and his advisors his laptop. “It’s called a computer. It gathers and stores information.” He opened the other one. “This one works the same as mine. Since you don’t have electricity here, I’m not sure how it’s still working. Where did you find it?”
The king motioned to another man standing by the wide windows. “Zorill, our court wizard, found it near the gate where you entered Eldenfair.”
Mel would’ve known Zorill was a wizard right away. He was a tall man with bright inquisitive eyes, his long beard braided at the end with gold streamers. He wore a purple robe covered in gold stars with a matching pointed hat, and he carried a twisted staff decorated with jewels, including a large faceted jewel at the top.
He took a few steps towards Mel and stopped as if to keep a safe distance from the computer. “It is primarily a device to gather information? What sort of information?”
“Whatever anyone puts into it.”
“Could someone use it to cast spells?”
“I don’t know how it could do that here, but I suppose it’s possible. I don’t know what it’s using to keep itself running.”
“Someone has altered it, perhaps. Or due to the proximity of magic, it has become sentient. We must find out! The future of our world is at stake!”
The king held up a hand to calm him. “There is a more immediate problem.” He turned to Mel. “Our younger folk are enchanted by your technology. We can’t get them to study their magic, to keep their minds on their spell casting. They are forever on these small devices, similar to this computer, as you call it. They’ve even been known to fly into trees.”
“We have the same problem on my side, your majesty.”
King Brandon motioned to another one of the wide windows. “Bellamber, come show Mr. Worthington what you’re doing.”
A young fairy settled beside him in a flurry of sparkles and diaphanous wings. She was a glorious little creature with huge blue eyes and a pert little face. She held out a small cell-phone shaped device. It was pink and decorated with more sparkles.
“I’m talking with my friends on Flitter, see?”
Mel looked at the screen and line after line of abbreviations and tiny pictographs.
New *Ncan works! #bestspellever
Try it 2nite @bittyspotsfortunehunter
Don’t 4get 3xaround #puffofpinksmoke
Mel thanked the fairy for showing him. “Would you mind explaining Ncan?”
“Short for incantation.”
“I understand you can communicate with your friends telepathically?”
“Yes, we can do that.”
“Then why would you need a device like this?”
“Because it’s fun! Plus you can go back and look at messages and pictures. Look. This is my page on Faebook.”
Mel admired her page, which was exactly like a human teenager’s Facebook page, except that on Bellamber’s, the pictures continued to move and change, accompanied by music that sounded like rock and roll. “Thank you very much, Miss Bellamber.”
The little fairy stroked his arm. “My pleasure, sir.”
A gruff noise from Riley made the fairy fly off, her fingers already skimming over her tablet. Riley stood with her arms crossed. “You see what we mean, sir?”
King Brandon fixed him with an intense stare. “Is this a danger to our world?”
Mel shook off the fairy’s obvious attempt at an enchantment. “With all due respect, your majesty, I think you’re overly concerned. It’s a fad, that’s all. They’re just having fun.”
“But they’re neglecting their studies.”
“Why not put their studies on Faebook or Flitter? That’s where their attention is right now. Have a spell study page. Make it entertaining. I think they’d be curious enough to try it.”
The king looked interested. “I’ll suggest it to their instructors.”
“Here’s something else you can do. Have all the adults suddenly take an interest in these things. If your young fae are like our teens, as soon as adults are involved, the fad is no longer cool and dies away.”
“No longer cool?”
“They like having things that are secret and special to them. If the old folks are chatting away on Flitter, the kids will find something else. What did they do for fun before all this happened?”
“They had spell casting contests among themselves. They slid down rainbows and turned themselves into animals.”
No wonder human technology was so appealing. “You realize the more you forbid them to do something the more they’re going to do it.”
This struck the right note. “Yes. Yes, we have experienced that before. Sifal, you remember the Cauldron Incident? When we expressly forbid the elves not to mix all the potions at once?”
“And the attempts at time travel,” Sifal said. “And granting more than three wishes. Disasters all.”
The king rubbed his chin. “Perhaps there is something to this method.”
Zorill disagreed. “We still don’t know for certain these devices pose no danger.”
“Still, this is a start. First, we will have lessons placed on these devices. Then, if need be, we will provide everyone in the kingdom with a device—what did you call them, Mr. Worthington?”
“A cell phone.”
“We will provide everyone in the kingdom with a cell phone in order to render them, as you said, Mr. Worthington, not cool. Take this computer and monitor its activity. If you see anything out of the ordinary, report it to me immediately.”
Sensing dismissal, Mel hoped there was more to his mission. “Was there anything else I could do for you, your majesty?”
“You are welcome to stay as long as you wish. I’m sure we’ll need your assistance with these devices.”
Being IT for Fairyland was not what Mel expected. He didn’t consider himself a computer expert. Still, he’d been invited to stay, and even though his attractive young bodyguard showed no sign of thawing, he was going to enjoy every minute of his visit.
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