And There Were Three: Chapter Thirteen
Ficum lay on the soft featherbed. It was quite comfortable, but he could not sleep; he tossed and turned for hours. About midnight, he groaned and sat up, rubbing the bags under his eyes and dangling his legs over the side of the bed. His mind was in turmoil. All the information he had received since he had arrived was turning over and over in his head until it ached. He rubbed his head. Bother! he said to himself. I need to clear my head. Maybe a walk outside will help. He rose and opened the bedroom door quietly. Stepping across the kitchen and unlatching the front door, he walked out into the clear night.
Ficum walked around the house. He gazed up at the brilliant stars. Oh Mother, he thought, why did you leave me? Why did Father leave me? Why didn't you save yourself, along with Elinor and me? I need you...I need you. He stopped and listened. Perhaps it was his imagination, but he thought he heard an answer, whispered softly and tenderly. It seemed to remind him that he had his sister now; she would be there for him and to help him.
As if in answer to the whispered voice, Elinor stepped into the front yard.
"Ficum?" she called low.
"I'm over here." She came to him.
"I couldn't sleep," she said. "So I decided to follow you outside when I saw you get up. I figured you couldn't sleep, either." Elinor reached into her dress pocket, and brought out a square something.
"Here," she said, pressing a box into his hand. "This is your box. I-I want you to open it."
"Do you have a torch?"
"No, I'll grab one from inside." She disappeared, and soon reappeared holding a fat stick. Ficum heard the sharp scratching from a match being lit, and a flame sprouted.
"Elinor," said Ficum, "I've never tried to open this box before, although I wanted to."
"Why ever not?"
"I don't know; I guess it was merely fear--of things I knew nothing about. But I just remembered: my foster mother Anomien has tried to open it before, but she never even made it budge. Do you really think that if she, a fairy who can do magical things, couldn't open a box like this, we could?"
"Try it anyway," she replied eagerly. "I'll help you." Though slightly exasperated, he obliged, muttering under his breath a little. Brother and sister worked on the lid: it opened smoothly, gently, and a satisfying smell floated out of its wooden depths. Elinor gasped while Ficum stared.
"Hurry!" he hissed, too excited to care that Elinor was right. "Hold the torch closer; I can't see a thing." He carefully rifled through the contents of the box and lifted the paper lying on top. He unfolded and examined it, his eyes squinting. "Gee..."
Elinor asked him what was the matter?
"My name," he answered excitedly, blue eyes sparkling, "my real name, is Eltar."
Elinor and Ficum (or Eltar, as we must needs call him) lay on a grassy hill close to the house, their arms behind their heads. They talked together and gazed at the night sky; neither felt sleepy. Elinor's laugh rippled sofly in the air as Eltar told of his childhood, the pranks he pulled and and was pulled on likewise.
"Eltar," said Elinor, "when you continue your journey, I'm going with you."
"Really? I'm actually thinking of leaving very soon; are you sure you want to? It won't be safe."
"Of course it won't be safe, not at all. And I'm positive I want to go. In fact, I feel as if I should go, even if I didn't want to. We're twins, you know, and we ought to stick together.
"I wonder what Mother looked like," she mused, abruptly changing the subject.
The night sky began to lighten, and the stars hid their faces. Birds started to sing sweetly. Slowly the golden fingers of sunrise pushed through the clouds and cast their light on the twins. Nearby a rooster announced the dawn while farmers' livestock grunted and rumbled with hunger. Rabbits, deer, and other creatures of the morning passed slowly by, peaceful and content. The grass sparkled with liquid diamonds, shining in the sunlight.
The front door opened, and Anya appeared in the doorway.
"Come on, you two!" she called pleasantly. "I need you to milk those cows and gather the eggs. I can't get breakfast started without 'em." Elinor jumped to her feet and pulled her brother up.
"Mama!" she shouted excitedly. She ran to her mother, dragging Eltar. "We just found out that Ficum's real name is Eltar! So we are..." she spread her arms our in dramatic pretend show, "...Eltar and Elinor! The children of the Sword Lily!" She dropped her arms and giggled. Anya, surprised, gazed at the twins.
"Eltar," she repeated softly. "Such a pretty name. But how did you find that out?"
"We opened my box," answered Eltar. "There was a paper with my name on it."
"Was there anything else in the box?" asked Anya. Elinor gasped.
"No, we didn't look!" she cried. "We were so excited-Mama, can we look in the box instead of doing chores? Say yes, please?" Anya shook her head and smiled.
"Work first, then breakfast; afterwards you can look in the box." She patted her daughter on the cheek and walked in the house.
"Aargh," muttered Elinor in annoyance. Eltar shoved her playfully.
"Come on," he said, "if we hurry, maybe we can look in the box before breakfast."
"Race you!" yelled his sister, her good humor restored. But as they picked up their feet to run, Anya's voice floated back to them.
"And do try to not tire yourselves out too much today. Staying up all night is not good for the young..."
Cheerfully not taking Anya's sound advice, they rushed through their work, feverishly squirting milk and gathering eggs. It was a wonder they didn't tip a milk bucket over, or break a delicate egg, or some other such disaster. Laughing, the twins ran back to the house and handed the dairy to Anya, asking if breakfast was ready. Being answered in the negative, they brought out the gold box and again opened it.
At first they were discouraged, for all they found were papers like to Elinor's, carefully folded (you remember, of course, that she possessed papers which explained her story), although they gave much less information and were more hastily written. But when they reached the bottom of the box, Eltar pulled out a small dried sword lily.
"Oh, how pretty," exclaimed Elinor. Its strong stalk was dark green and its delicate, pointed petals a deep purple. She tucked it in her curly hair. Coincidentally, she was clad in a violet dress with a white sash, and the lily matched it well.
Eltar wondered during all of breakfast when he should leave, and after the meal was done he talked with Hogo about it. Hogo proposed he stay for a few more days, but Eltar felt the urgency of his quest and thought it was best he leave very soon; if possible, that very day. He also mentioned Elinor going with him. Hogo agreed to both suggestions, though he hesitated and sighed deeply. In the end they decided to the twins departing on the morrow, in the early morning; then Elinor could havea whole day to get her baggage together and say her goodbyes.
Anya, on the other hand, was defiant. She wanted neither Elinor nor Eltar to leave.
"What can you be thinking, my husband," she cried to Hogo, red in the face and tears coming to her eyes, "to let not only Eltar travel alone, but Elinor also! They are much too young! The nerve of some grown men as yourself!" She would not listen to reason; only to her heart. In vain did both Hogo and Eltar try to persuade her. Hogo at the last threw his hands in the air and Eltar, touched but disappointed, left the house to take a walk in an atmosphere that wasn't so intense.