Project elfhome, p.1
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       Project Elfhome, p.1

           Wen Spencer
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Project Elfhome


  Table of Contents

  FOREWORD

  SINGING STORM OF FIRE Fire Fanned by Wind

  Storm Front

  The Meeting of the Storms

  LITTLE HORSE

  ALL THE KING’S HORSES AND ALL THE KING’S MEN

  DRABBLE: A New Day Dawning

  WYVERN

  DRABBLE: Storm Winds

  BARE SNOW FALLING ON FAIRYWOOD

  DRABBLE: Fleeting Impressions

  PITTSBURGH BACKYARD AND GARDEN

  CHASED BY MONSTERS Author Note: I had the strangest dream, and you were there.

  DRABBLE: Three Ways the Twins Do Not Meet

  BLUE SKY

  DRABBLE: How Oilcan Does Not Meet Team Mischief

  PEACE OFFERING

  PRICE OF PEACE

  THREADS THAT BIND AND BREAK

  AFTERWORD

  HARBINGER

  PROJECT ELFHOME

  WEN SPENCER

  Project Elfhome

  Wen Spencer

  Stories exploring the fascinating realm of Elfhome, a world where modern day Pittsburgh has collided with the kingdom of the Elves. A special entry in the the best-selling Romantic Times Sapphire award winning Elfhome series. Contains some of Wen Spencer's best shorter works including gems "Bare Snow Falling on Fairywood," "Pittsburgh Backyard and Garden," "Peace Offering,” and more tales set in the world of best-selling Elfhome series entries Tinker, Wolf Who Rules, Elfhome, and Wood Sprites!

  Pittsburgh: a sprawling modern Earth city stranded in the heart of a virgin forest on Elfhome. Sixty thousand humans, twenty thousand black-winged tengu, ten thousand elves, an unknown number of invading oni, four unborn siblings of an elf princess, three dragons, and a pair of nine-year olds geniuses.

  For every story written, there's a thousand others not told. Lives interweave. Fates intersect. People change one another, often without realizing the impact they've made on others. They come together like a mosaic, little pieces creating a greater picture.

  Project Elfhome tells the stories of those impacted by Tinker and Windwolf as they struggle to make Pittsburgh a safe haven. Some of the characters are familiar: Stormsong, Pony, Blue Sky, and Lain. Others are new to readers.

  Law forages for wild plants and fish to sell to elf enclaves. A social misfit, she drives a hundred year old Dodge, has a pet porcupine, and saves damsels in distress in her spare time. A mysterious phone call sets her on a collision course with danger as she races to save a young female elf.

  Jane Kryskill is the producer for the popular TV series Pittsburgh Backyard and Garden. She spends her days keeping her host, Hal Rogers, from getting himself killed as he takes on man eating plants. She's not happy when the network drops famed naturalist Nigel Reid and his cameraman in her lap to film Chased by Monsters.

  Olivia is sixteen, a runaway wife of a religious cultist, illegal immigrant, and soon to be mother. As Pittsburgh plunges into war, she makes a desperate bargain with the mad elf lord, Forest Moss.

  As the war between the elves and the oni builds to a head, these three women struggle with their own problems, supported by a circle of unique friends, yet entangled with each other.

  BAEN BOOKS by WEN SPENCER

  THE ELFHOME SERIES

  Tinker

  Wolf Who Rules

  Elfhome

  Wood Sprites

  Project Elfhome

  ALSO BY WEN SPENCER

  Eight Million Gods

  Endless Blue

  Project Elfhome

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

  Copyright ©2016 by Wen Spencer

  Foreword, “Singing Storm of Fire” (“Fire Fanned by Wind,” “Storm Front,” & “Meeting of the Storms”), “Little Horse,” “All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men,” “A New Day Dawning,” “Storm Winds,” “Fleeting Impressions,” “Chased by Monsters,” “Three Ways Do Not Meet…,” “Price of Peace,” “Threads That Bind and Break,” “Harbinger: Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night,” and Afterword ©2016 by Wen Spencer; “Wyvern” first appeared in Faerie Tales ©May 2004; “Bare Snow Falling on Fairywood” first appeared at Baen.com, ©February 2014; “Pittsburgh Backyard and Garden” first appeared at Baen.com ©March 2013; “Blue Sky” first appeared in Jim Baen’s Universe ©August 2006; “Peace Offering” first appeared at Baen.com ©January 2012.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

  A Baen Books Original

  Baen Publishing Enterprises

  P.O. Box 1403

  Riverdale, NY 10471

  www.baen.com

  ISBN: 978-1-4767-8180-8

  Cover art by Dave Seeley

  First Baen printing, September 2016

  Distributed by Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Spencer, Wen, author.

  Title: Project elfhome / Wen Spencer.

  Description: Riverdale, NY : Baen, [2016]

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016018030 | ISBN 9781476781808 (hardback)

  Subjects: LCSH: Elves—Fiction. | Pittsburgh (Pa.)—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION

  / Science Fiction / Adventure. | FICTION / Science Fiction / General. |

  FICTION / Fantasy / General. | GSAFD: Fantasy fiction.

  Classification: LCC PS3619.P4665 P76 2016 | DDC 813/.6—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016018030

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Pages by Joy Freeman (www.pagesbyjoy.com)

  Printed in the United States of America

  eISBN: 978-1-62579-521-2

  Electronic Version by Baen Books

  www.baen.com

  Acknowledgments

  I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten some of the people who helped greatly with these short stories, as some were written long before the thought of a collection occurred to me.

  Here are the ones I remember:

  Beth Bowles

  Andy Bradford

  Ann Cecil

  Brian Chee

  Russell Davis

  Joan Fisher

  Bonnie Funk

  Kevin Geiselman

  Ruth L. Heller, DVM

  Nancy Janda

  Don Kosak

  Laurel Jamieson Lohrey

  Nan Nuessle

  Ellen McMicking

  Sue Petroulas

  Hope Erica Ring, M.D.

  June Drexler Robertson

  David Stein

  Traci Scroggins

  Larisa Van Winkle

  N. A. Young

  FOREWORD

  Before We Begin, I Would Like to Say a Few Words

  I learned how to read before I started kindergarten. I was an avid reader, devouring entire libraries’ worth of books. Unfortunately, since I read quickly, as soon as I found something I loved, I would have read all that was available.

  Eventually I realized that if I wanted an unending supply, I was going to have to make it up myself. So I did.

  The problem with being a writer is it’s a skill that doesn’t turn off easily once you have it ramped up to novel-a-year speed. It kind of goes into overdrive and every chance it gets, it spits out more ideas than you can possibly use. How did these established characters first meet? How did that person get his name? What was it like building a railroad through virgin forest filled with monsters? What if your brother was half-elf? What would a garden DIY show be like on a world with man-eating plants?

  I write down all story ideas because a year goes by faster than I ever thought possible. At the end of the ye
ar, the next novel has to be queued up. At some point, I decided to make the ideas that didn’t fit into novels into short stories. Some of the short stories grew into novellas. Some ideas, however, stayed less than short stories.

  Meanwhile I started to read fiction online. Okay, to be totally truthful, I started to read fan fiction online. There were a handful of worlds and characters where I once again devoured everything the author wrote. Other fans, however, had stepped forward to explore all the possible angles. I loved the explorations into lives of characters who didn’t have a point of view in the original story. I liked it when the fans took the plot in different directions just to see what it might have been like. And most of all, I was envious of the idea of dribbles and drabbles and such, where a moment is explored and yet not expanded. They were little snapshots of fiction—dependent on the knowledge of the original work—and yet always so vividly drawn.

  I wanted to be able to use that freedom to weave something that wasn’t a novel, but something more than just a collection. With drabbles and short stories and novellas, I wanted to make a mosaic of the world of Elfhome. I titled it Project Elfhome and started to collect bits and pieces.

  What you hold in your hands is the end result. This is a collection of novellas, short stories, and drabbles that join together to make a cohesive picture of four worlds colliding in one space. The City of Pittsburgh on Elfhome.

  SINGING STORM OF FIRE

  Fire Fanned by Wind

  Before you ask, no, I don’t know how I came to be. I can, however, discount many of the rumors.

  My father, Sword Strike—who is the queen’s First and thus the moral compass for the entire holy sekasha caste—did not go mad. He did not rape my mother, Pure Radiance, nor did he mistake her for the queen during a drunken orgy. That anyone would even suggest any of the above proves that living forever does not make you wise.

  Sword Strike couldn’t have. Ignoring who my mother is, the Wyverns would have beheaded my father instantly if he had lapsed into random madness or rape. As for drunken orgies—despite what might be believed of the elfin court, such things are just not done—as in the sun just does not go out.

  Besides, one must consider too my mother, Pure Radiance. She is the queen’s oracle for a reason. I have seen the female stand blindfolded under oak trees and catch falling acorns. No male could touch her with force—she would foresee the event a week before he thought of it.

  I wouldn’t put a lot of weight in those stories that my mother tricked my father somehow. Yes, she can manipulate events with amazing cunning. I’ve seen humans set up ten thousand dominoes to trip and fall in succession, and I thought “my mother does that with people.” But again, one must consider my father—who could and would—behead her the moment he discovered that he had been tricked. Since everyone knows that he’s my father, there could have been no trickery involved. (Okay, one could argue that my father knows that attempting to behead my mother would be impossible since she could stay twenty steps ahead of him at all times. I would think, however, this would infuriate my father, and having dealt with them my whole life, it is safe to say that the only thing my father feels toward my mother is bewilderment.)

  My own theory, that has stood the test of time and knowing each of them well, is that my mother saw my existence necessary for some trigger of events. She approached my father to act as her stud, and took away his seed while leaving him clueless as to why. When I was a young child, I naïvely thought I would be the center of her plan, the pivot on which the fate of worlds would hang. For most of my adolescence, and the first years of my triples, I then became convinced that my mother was the one hiding a mental illness and I was just the first sign of her madness.

  But I digress.

  I’d been drowning myself in elfin novels at the time I met him. An odd and painful way to suicide, to be sure, but it let me escape my existence without doing bodily harm. Even in my deepest pain, I still believed that my mother had some great plan for me that I merely had to wait for. She was the queen’s oracle—the greatest intanyei seyosa ever born—surely she had some great, secret reason for bearing a half-caste child like me.

  I was in the far corner of the royal garden, hiding with a book, trying to wade through the thick, endless prose of Flame Pen. It bored me to tears, but at least it wasn’t me suffering political scandals and lover’s betrayal. No one paid enough attention to me to include me in such things.

  There he found me, and took notice. “Is that any good?”

  I peered over the top of the book, already forming in my mind the title for this episode: Singing Storm of Fire is Tormented by Yet Another Minor Noble.

  The Wind Clan noble was a young double like I was, maybe a decade older than my fifty years. By his clothes, he was hopelessly provincial. Somehow—as they all did—he’d mistaken me for sekasha despite my coloring, and pay court. Some wanted in my pants, thinking I’d be tenge and thus safe to bed. Others wanted me to pledge to their Vanity hand. Once they learned I was half-caste, and training in my mother’s caste and not my father’s, the taunting would start. Why did they all have to act as if I misled them when I tried my best to ignore them?

  I’d found, though, that being stunningly rude was the best way to rid myself of unwanted attention, so I responded in low tongue. “It’s a load of dung, but better than any company I can expect here at court.”

  “Ah, that doesn’t take much,” he responded in kind, not put off by my rudeness. “Have you tried Shakespeare?”

  “Shakespeare?”

  “He’s a human. I’m afraid, though, all his works are in English.”

  “English?” I cocked my head. “What is that?”

  “It’s one of the human languages. The humans have quite a few of them.”

  Was he mocking me? So far, this wasn’t going like any of my previous brushes with members of the court.

  “What are you doing here?” I snapped. “This area is for Fire Clan only.”

  “I am Fire Clan.”

  I scoffed. He was clearly Wind Clan with his black hair and blue eyes.

  He spoke and gestured and a flame shield wrapped around him—the heat of it spilling over me.

  “Forgiveness,” I bowed to him, properly chastised. Remembering my manners, I gave the hated name that my mother had bestowed on me. “Singing Storm of Fire.”

  “Fire…storm song?” He rolled the conflicting images against each other, for the storm in my name indicates a thunderstorm. “It does not quite suit you—you lack the red hair to pull it off. I would think Discord would be a better name.”

  I glared at him, regretting not for the first time that I wasn’t following my father’s path. If I had, I would have had a practice sword and the allowance to answer such pettiness with violence.

  “Red hair, indeed! You are one to speak: you look like Wind Clan.”

  The corner of his mouth twitched only slightly but his eyes openly mocked me.

  And I lost my temper. Not that it was a rare thing for me—I’d been warned repeatedly that it wouldn’t be tolerated in my mother’s caste—but this was the first time I dared to attack a domana. And attack him I did. With a curse, I launched myself at him, and we went down in a rolling tangle of arms and legs. I have to give him one thing—he knew how to fight. Within seconds I knew I wasn’t dealing with my normal tormentor, who instantly curled into a ball and wailed when struck. He proceeded to deal out blows equal to my own.

  Suddenly I was knocked back with a hit that rocked me into darkness. When my vision cleared, I had cooling winds wrapped around me, and my mocker stood between me and my father. Sword Strike had his ejae unsheathed and was glaring at me with murder in his eyes.

  “Leave her be,” the male child commanded, perhaps ignorant of the fact that my father was the queen’s First.

  “This will not be tolerated,” my father growled.

  “I provoked her.” He stated it as if it was the truth. Stripped clean of anger and left only with terror, I knew
that my father wouldn’t perceive the child’s words as spiteful.

  “No harm has been done,” the child continued. “There is no need for this.”

  “You’re under the queen’s protection,” my father snapped. “It doesn’t matter whose child she is—attacking you won’t be tolerated.”

  “She is a child, and it will be tolerated,” my protector stated coldly. “The Wyverns enforce the queen’s law, but it is the queen that sets it and defines its limits. We will take this matter to her, if we need to.”

  I had stayed tucked in a ball, terrified. My father had the right and ability to kill me where I stood, and I knew it well.

  “She’s my daughter and part of the queen’s household and has been told that fighting won’t be tolerated in the oracle caste.”

  “Shame on you,” the child dared to chide my father, “for denying your daughter the sword that is hers by blood. You let one of your lineage stray from the path given you by God?”

  And my father’s attention left me to focus on the child between us. I couldn’t breathe, not because of fear, but in pure amazement. No one ever spoke to my father so, not even the queen.

  “She chose her mother’s caste,” my father said finally, in a voice that was full of hurt, not anger.

 

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