Holl, Keith Doyle's best friend, has finally tied the knot with his beloved, Maura in the Little Folks' new home, Hollow Tree Farm. Keith has good news of his own: he has started on an internship as a copywriter with a Chicago advertising agency, coming up with slogans and designs for new products, but the project he is really enthusiastic over is chasing air sprites in a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, one of the agency's client businesses is using the Little Folks' land as a dump for toxic waste. Holl's young cousin Dola sees them do it, but they see her, too. To prevent anyone else from finding out, then men kidnap her and Holl and Maura's new baby, Asrai. All of the Little Folk are called in to hunt for them. Keith reaches out to the new and wonderful air creatures he's found in hopes of bringing the baby and her brave guardian back to the farm.
Everything you wanted to know about mythology but were afraid to ask… in case you’d wind up getting turned into a newt for asking a stupid question. – Steven Savile
"A wonderfully whimsical new fantasy writer emerges in Jody Lynn Nye."– Anne McCaffrey
"A great sense of humor."– Piers Anthony
"A good, jolly read... a book for people who like their fantasy straight up, with fizz, but without cuteness."– Diane Duane
"I always cry at weddings," Diane Londen said, snuffling noisily into her handkerchief. "Oh, God, I only brought one hanky! I'll be a mess by the time the bride comes out."
Without looking up from his viewfinder, Keith Doyle reached into his pocket and passed over to her his own square of cotton. "Here. I can always grab a napkin off the table if I need one."
"Don't you dare!" Diane admonished him, refraining from shoving his shoulder only because it might knock over the video camera he was adjusting. His face was invisible, leaving only a thatch of wavy red hair showing over the body of the camera. She directed her remarks to that. "It looks too nice to disturb."
Freeing his eye from the rubber focusing ring, Keith glanced over at the huge buffet table laden with a feast of good-looking dishes that lined one entire length of the Little Folks' great room. Well, the concept of huge was relative. The tabletop hit him just above knee high, as he had found out to his agony when he had arrived and tripped over it, and the bowls and platters were small compared to what graced the Doyle family table on major holidays, but the feast itself, for pure variety and quantity, was nothing less than spectacular.
The Hollow Tree farmhouse had been transformed fantastically in a matter of only a few weeks after he and Holl had returned from their transatlantic trip, almost more than it had since the Little Folk had moved in at the beginning of the summer. With a special impetus urging them on, the Folk had worked wonders. In one month flat, the house had gone from being a pretty ordinary building where people lived and worked and repaired the neglect of decades, to a fanciful bower, complete with braided arches of vine and flowers over every door, 3D sculpture pictures in wood, glittering stone, and colorful woven tapestry on nearly every wall, waiting for Titania and Oberon to make their big entrance, stage left.
All the Little Folk were already in the big room. It just about held the eighty-some of them, with a little space left over for the handful of Big Folk visiting for the wedding. Midriff high to a medium-sized human adult, the Little Folk resembled the Big Ones in nearly every way. They were proportioned just like humans, with the notable exception of tall, elegantly pointed ears where their big cousins had to be contented with small, rounded scrolls of flesh, and their faces looked young, almost childlike, even those Little Folk with beards or gray hair. And they could do magic. They assured Keith time and again there was nothing about the wonders they worked that he couldn't do himself with practice and patience, but he still held them in awe.
Not enough awe to quench his delight that his best friend, Holl, was marrying his ladylove Maura, and that he, Keith, was here to witness the event, not to mention recording it for posterity. It gave him a rare chance to see his mysterious friends at their best. Keith knew that this was to be the first wedding among the Folk in over forty years, certainly the first since they had come to the Midwestern United States, and the first real celebration of any kind in who knew how long.
Out of pure excitement, not to mention a little pride, everyone had gone all out to deck the house in beauty. Flowers festooned every vertical surface, leaving one to perch well forward on the chair seats lest a casual lean backward crush a careful arrangement and dust the unwary sitter with pollen and petals. The blossoms' scent filled the air. Living vines entwined with streamers across the ceiling and doorways. Each one of the Folk, large and small, had on new clothes, specially made for the occasion. Keith surveyed the range of costumes that embraced styles from a nod to ancient Greece to a whimsical interpretation of modern metal-head.
And there was the feast to come. Among the Little Folk there were some notable cooks. From Keith's point of view, after years of school food, any meal actually prepared for less than a hundred tasted pretty good. Add skill and time to improvise and season, and the results were ambrosial. Keith's belly rumbled in anticipation. On the table, cold plates of meats, cheese, and fruit were arranged around big empty spaces awaiting the arrival of the hot dishes, which Keith could smell cooking just beyond the doorway. Big bowls, carved beautifully in some of the elves' favorite designs, ivy and honeysuckle, held their quivering cargo of creamy yellow or ruby red ever so slightly out of reach of the flies that circled hopefully overhead. No pest alighted on the food or dishes. There was a distance beneath which the insects couldn't go, though they kept on noisily trying. Keith sensed a benevolent buffer layer of magic that protected the picnic from the ants. He wondered if it would keep out the questing fingers of a hungry college student hoping to extract an olive from the crudités tray.
To Keith's delight, in the center of the table was a broad, flattened bowl filled with un-sliced loaves of fresh bread. He didn't need to see the look of pride on the face of Holl's sister Keva when she caught him eyeing it hungrily. Little old Keva made the best bread in the world. Keith had eaten enough of it to give it his wholehearted approval. To make his joy complete, he spotted butter and fruit preserves in wooden dishes nearby.
Though pastries and other goodies abounded, there was no wedding cake as Big Folk were accustomed to seeing, so he suspected the ornately-fashioned braided bread at the nearest edge of the table served much the same purpose. The wooden-staved keg at the other end, seeming a little self-conscious under its crown of vine-leaves and larkspur, had to be full of homemade brew. Elven hooch sneaked up on you, Keith recalled. It had to be magic, because although it packed a good kick, it didn't leave behind hangovers as a lasting memento. The wallop happened all at once, and got the punishment over with.
Holl and Maura had kindly waited for the fall class session at Midwestern University to begin before celebrating their nuptials so their classmates could join them. That consideration told the Big friends that they were valued as much by the bride and groom as the folk of their own size. Keith thought this was a terrific way to begin his junior year.
A peep through his viewfinder framed some of the Big guests arriving. Keith waved over the camera's top at Teri Knox, a pretty girl who'd been in the secret classes taught by the Elf Master. She was graduating this summer. Her honey-blond hair was almost hidden by a wreath of silk flowers, a medieval accompaniment to her modern sleeveless, soft jersey dress. Teri spotted him and waved, making a deliberate face for the camera. Barry Goodman, next in at the door, echoed the expression. Teri caught Lee Eisley's sleeve and pointed toward Keith. Lee shook his head with a pained, pitying look on his dark bronze face. Keith grinned. This was going to be a great tape.
Lee was the first Big pupil the Elf Master had ever taught. He'd been out of college for over a year now. Though he was a quiet man, Lee's high GPA in journalism had helped him to get a foot in the door at the Indianapolis daily paper. Hard work and talent got him the occasional feature article, each of which Catra, the archivist, had carefully preserved in a scrapbook. The Elf Master was proud of his oldest pupil and was glad that the young man made time to keep in touch. Contrariwise, Keith knew Lee would rather lose his byline and five or six teeth than miss an event like this. All of them had reason to be grateful to the Little Folk for helping them to master difficult academic subjects, but before Keith came along, had never had much social interaction with their small benefactors.
Dunn Jackson was the newest keeper of the secret. He was Diane's addition to the class, as Diane had been Keith's. The three of them shared an Introduction to Philosophy course that threatened to swamp them all in a wave of gibberish. If the Master hadn't begun a parallel tutorial in the basics of philosophical thought, Keith could have kissed goodbye his consistent B average. Dunn's cheeks were flushed red under his light coffee-complected skin. He was excited to be here, too. His eyes were wide, moving here and there, trying to take everything in at once. Keith liked him. Dunn had an enquiring mind that ran along some of Keith's favorite channels. He and Keith had gotten together over speculations that if Little Folk of the Caucasian persuasion existed, there might be some of his own color out there somewhere. It was a concept worth exploring one day.
The other newcomer was an elf from the Old Country. In Keith's opinion, Tiron felt at a disadvantage being thrust into a new country among seven dozen new Folk, and it came across as an attitude problem. One facet of his real personality was as clear as the blue sky: Tiron was a womanizer. Without having to ask for details, Keith could tell Tiron had set the sisters Catra and Candlepat against one another—not too difficult a thing to do—as rivals for the prize of his affections. His direct challenge of Holl's position as an acknowledged leader was going nowhere; Holl was too popular. Pity would have been out of place for the newcomer, though. Tiron wasn't suffering for lack of attention. The older Folk sought him out as a tie to the old country, and the younger ones as a curiosity, someone their own size with whom they hadn't grown up. His skill in woodworking was also a great addition to Hollow Tree Industries, putting him immediately into the first rank of craftsmen and craftswomen. Keith was sure in time Tiron would relax. If he didn't, some of the fathers of daughters would take turns decking him.