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PART 3 Timmain. The name seemed to electrify the little group. Spock watched as they gathered around their leader, leaving only the wolves to guard him. They were clearly communicating in mind-touch, though he could pick up nothing of it now. Perhaps it was closer to mind-meld, a more intimate contact. The ease with which they spoke mind to mind fascinated him. Spock found himself contemplating the blond leader. His stance, his expressions, his voice-- he communicated command with every part of his being. If Spock had permitted himself, he would have been amused. Remarkably like the Captain. A child-sized Jim Kirk. These were not children, though. That was very clear. Though there appeared to be some disagreement between them now, they were all ready to defer to their leader without pettiness or bickering. He raised an eyebrow to himself at the weapons they carried. So primitive. No phasers, not even a firearm. How had they managed to regain space flight? Perhaps approaching them now had been a mistake. And yet they had attained space flight-- even, apparently, some form of faster-than-light travel, which was the Federation’s ear-marked sign of readiness for interplanetary relations. It was. . . odd. Perhaps, if they permitted him to meet this Timmain, all would be made clearer. After a while the elves broke apart, facing him again. The leader stepped forward. “I have shared with the others what you showed me,” he said. Spock found his eyes drawn to the silver-haired one. His eyes were bright with excitement, and he looked as if he wanted to ask a thousand questions. But he said nothing. “We’ve sent to Timmain, and she says to bring you to the Palace,” the leader went on. Spock raised both eyebrows this time. “You are able to mind-touch across distances? Fascinating.” The leader merely nodded. “Will you come?” Spock nodded in return, wondering who Timmain was. If she lived in a “Palace,” was she their queen? He found, as they began to walk again, that the silver-haired one was walking beside him. The others, elves and wolves, kept him in the middle, walking before and behind, and still keeping wary eyes upon him. Spock found that calling them “elves” actually seemed to fit them, and realized that if he had been fully human, the fairy-tale aspect of this scene would be, as Kirk or McCoy would put it, “getting to” him. The silver-haired one's earlier silence had, apparently, only been a wait for the right moment. Now he asked, “How many of you are there?” “In the vessel I came in, over four hundred,” Spock said, aware that the universal translator would convert this to a number that made sense to these beings. The elf whistled. “That many!” “And many more populated planets, many of which have attained space travel,” Spock told him. “It is the Federation’s business to seek out new life, new civilizations.” The elf leader shot a glance back at them at this, and the silver-haired one chuckled. “We’ve done a bit of that ourselves.” “Might I ask your names?” Spock said courteously. The elf at his side glanced at the leader, who looked back again and gave a slight nod. The red-haired one and the female were listening curiously. But Spock could literally feel the stony silence coming from the dark-haired one who walked behind him. He wondered if this, also, was a form of “sending.” “They call me Skywise,” said the silver-haired one. “That’s Cutter,“ he said, pointing at the leader. “And those are Redlance and Nightfall. They’re lifemates.” Then he jerked his head a little, back over his shoulder. “That’s Strongbow.” He looked a bit apologetic, clearly aware of the dark one’s disapproval. Spock was acutely aware that though the elves appeared to be accepting him, this “Strongbow” had not unbent his bow-- and that four wolves were still watching him closely for the slightest threatening move. But Skywise continued to ask eager questions, and Spock answered him as simply and clearly as he could. He told him about some of the peoples that made up the Federation, and a little about Starfleet. He described the different kinds of stars-- red giants, white dwarfs-- and the yellow main sequence star that was this planet’s sun. Spock was, again, surprised at this elf’s ignorance. These beings seemed as primitive as their weapons-- except for their astonishing mind gifts. And except for something else. The elves were slowing their pace greatly to match his, Spock realized. It was as if their physical bodies had been constructed to a greater efficiency than he had ever seen before in sentient beings. Again, it was odd. They were approaching a steep, green hill. Off to one side, Spock could see a huge, gnarled tree with many hollows open in its trunk and branches. He was aware that eyes were watching him from that tree-- but something told him that if he showed any interest in it, this would be viewed as a threat. He kept his eyes forward, examining the hill they were approaching. It would be a very steep climb. Could the Palace be at the top? But at that moment a rock face that showed amidst the greenery just ahead shifted and appeared to melt. An opening appeared-- into the green hill. Spock had made Earth folklore and literature one of his many studies in his youth. The elfin folk were said to steal or lure humans inside their green hill, where the human, living among the faeries, would forget his or her earthly life, or would emerge after what seemed a week to find a hundred years had passed. . . Spock shook his head slightly, taking firm control over his human half. Illogical. The appearance of a hill was only an illusion, the opening clearly achieved by some technological means. He stepped inside. Crystal. Multifaceted, translucent, glistening prisms cast colored light from one surface to another. The ceilings were high and imposing, as in a cathedral. Carefully, so as not to startle his guides, Spock unslung his tricorder again and turned it on. “Fascinating,” he breathed. The crystals had several properties in common with dilithium-- but without the volatility. He had never encountered a substance like this. Then, “Timmain,” the elf leader, Cutter, said in a voice of deep respect, and stood aside. A slender woman was coming towards him, nearly Spock’s own height. Her ears were large and shapely, her eyes huge, arresting. Her form seemed to fluctuate slightly, as though he were viewing several images of her superimposed on one another. She was wearing nothing but the drapery of her long, silver hair. Spock felt his mouth go dry. I am a Vulcan, he reminded himself fiercely. I am in control of my emotions. The being held out a graceful, four-fingered hand. “Greetings, Spock of the stars.” Her voice was like flutes played a long way off. “Welcome to the Palace.”