ELFQUEST
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krwordgazer

PART 2 The wolves’ images were troubled, confused. Cutter held Holdfast’s head between his hands, looking deep into the feral eyes, trying to make sense of it. “Someone’s coming,” he said at last, glancing at Skywise. “Someone . . . strange.” “How many?” Skywise asked. “Just one.” Strongbow tightened his grip on his bow. *Whoever it is won’t even get close to the Holt,* he sent. Nightfall nodded, her eyes, like Strongbow’s on the tiny girl cub in Moonshade’s arms. “That’s right,” she said. “Don’t worry, Moonshade.” “I wonder who-- and why?” Redlance said. “Could Shuna, Dart and Kimo have--” “No!” Cutter said firmly. “They wouldn’t give the Holt away, even by accident.” He looked around at the group, steadying them with his eyes, wishing Treestump and Clearbrook were here to help, rather than far below in the old troll caves finishing their sword. “But the stranger is heading right for us, all the same.” He took a firm grip on New Moon, glad that at least Treestump was done using it. “Strongbow, Nightfall, Redlance, Skywise-- you’re with me. Leetah, Moonshade, you stay here. If you have to, take the cub and hide in the Palace.” Cutter leapt into the trees, followed by his tribe members, their wolf-friends skulking through the underbrush below. The stranger was walking steadily towards the Holt, never hurrying, never slowing. A black, square thing in his hands gave off a low, whirring noise. Cutter froze on a branch, staring down. The scent was vaguely human, but with something else, too-- a scent he’d never encountered before. And-- *Look at his ears!* Skywise sent excitedly. *Could it be?* *Look at his hands!* Nightfall replied, confusion in her sending. *Five fingers! And he doesn’t smell like an elf. Cutter, what is he?* *Whatever he is, either he can hear our movements, or he’s picking up something from our sending,* Strongbow sent grimly. Sure enough, the dark-haired, elf-eared being had stopped, turning his head from side to side as though puzzled. He tilted his black square thing towards the treetops, and his eyebrow lifted. Lowering the thing, he spoke. “I come in peace.” Human ears would not have heard the faint hum behind his words-- the hum of a universal translator. Cutter, aware of the hum but not understanding it, felt a jolt in the pit of his stomach. The stranger spoke their words. Could it be a half-elf, like Two-Edge? But with the other half human instead of troll? *Come on,* he sent to the others. *The game’s up.* The Wolfriders dropped from the treetops, surrounding the stranger, as their wolves crept out of the bushes to join them. The stranger gave no visible reaction. His face remained expressionless; his scent did not change. If any of the things strapped to his belt was a weapon, he made no move to draw it. “I come in peace,” he repeated. Cutter kept his hand on his sword. “Where do you come from?” he growled. “Who are you? How did you find this place?” Again, no visible reaction. The stranger’s deadpan stare was slightly . . . irritating. He spoke matter-of-factly. “I am Lieutenant Commander Spock of the USS Enterprise,” he said, not seeming to care that none of his words meant anything at all. But then -- “I come from the stars.” “The stars?!” Skywise burst out. “How--” Nightfall and Redlance stared. Cutter blinked. *Bat dung!* Strongbow sent forcefully. *The tall one’s lying!* The stranger, wincing slightly, put a five-fingered hand to his temple. “Fascinating,” he said softly. “A mind-touch, without physical contact.” His brown eyes fixed on Strongbow. “I assure you, sir, that I am telling the truth. Our observation units have reported that in the past few revolutions of your world around its sun, you have regained the ability to launch your ancient vessel into space. It happened the first time in the midst of a civil uprising in one of the native cities-- one governed by, if I recall the name correctly, a 'Grohmul Djun.’” He regarded them expectantly. Cutter opened his mouth, then shut it again. Everyone else seemed equally speechless. “It happened again,” the elf-eared being went on, “just two cycles of your larger moon past.” “It-- happened again?” Cutter stared at the stranger in bewilderment. Beside him Skywise made a small, inarticulate noise. Cutter turned to the stargazer. “Skywise?” “I. . . was just having a little look around, Cutter.” Skywise glanced at the stranger, wonder in his eyes. Then he grinned apologetically. “The Sun Folk were asleep. And Timmain said--” “A. . . little look. . . around.” Cutter shook his head in disbelief. “And you didn’t tell me?” “Well-- I was going to. When I got ready to do it again.” The grin was impish now. Cutter found, as he often did, that he didn’t know whether he wanted to shake his soul-brother or laugh at him. But this wasn’t the time. He looked back at the stranger. “What did you say you were called?” “Spock.” “And why have you come?” “I came,” Spock said, his voice courteous, “to give you greetings from the United Federation of Planets.” He held up his hand, palm up, his fingers spread in a strange pattern. “It is a group uniting all free worlds.” Cutter took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. “Well, Spock. We have a saying. In sending-- 'mind touch,’ as you call it-- there is only truth. If what you’re telling me is true, send it. Now.” The calm eyes regarded him thoughtfully. “It will be necessary for me to touch you.” Cutter stepped forward, ignoring Strongbow’s silent protest, silencing Holdfast’s growl with a swift glare. “Go ahead,” he said. Spock hung the black, square thing around his neck and bent down. The human-like fingers reached out, touched Cutter’s chin, his cheek, his temple. A confusion of images swept over Cutter. A hot, red world without moons. A strange, bird-looking thing floating in the dark, all made of bright-metal and glittering with colored lights. A human face with the look of a chief, dressed in clothing resembling Spock’s. Stars. Suns, worlds, and stars. Cutter stepped back. His heart was pounding. He looked at Spock, careful to betray no fear. “We. . . we’d better take you to see Timmain.”