Dominick cleared his throat.

“Please, My Lady,” he said to the Queen. “You may not blame me, but I blame myself. You entrusted me with a sacred object and I let it be stolen. How can I ever regain your trust?” He blinked, surprising himself by the way he spoke. There was something about being in the presence of these people that forced a more formal tone into his speech. He found it disarming.

The Queen smiled.

“You are to go with the group we have assembled to retrieve the Sword,” she said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to find, we have a Sniffer in residence and he has never failed us.”

“A Sniffer, My Lady?” Dominick asked.

“That’s me, son,” said someone from behind.

Dominick turned in time to see a dog the size of a small horse lope into the great hall. It was the very same dog, like a cross between a bloodhound and a wolf, that Dominick had run into earlier today.

“The name is Bob,” the dog said.

“We’ve met,” Dominick said.

“So? You want a medal or something?”

Dominick wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Sounds like you really made a mess of things, kid,” Bob said. “But hey, try not to let the guilt of letting down an entire world gnaw at you too much. I’ll fix it. I’m the Sniffer.”

“A Sniffer?” Dominick asked.

“That’s what I said.”

“Bob,” Dominick said. “The Sniffer?”

“There something wrong with this kid?” Bob said, walking over to the dais.

“He is new to our world, Bob,” Roberta Green Tree said. “You must try and practice some patience with him.”

Bob only grunted before laying down on the floor in front of the dais, his chin between his paws.

“A Sniffer,” the Queen of the Fae explained to Dominick. “Has the ability to follow the trail of anyone, over anything, so long as he has the scent. Your thief left her tray in the bath and Bob was able to pick up her scent from it.”

“She went west,” Bob said, his eyes closed.

“And so we are going after her?” Dominick said. He had begun to feel a little better about things, though the idea of chasing down a thief in a strange land gave his guts a bit of a churn.

“Yes,” said Honrig the Dwarf King. “You and a small group of warriors.” He gestured to the dwarf behind him. “This is Tot. He will represent the dwarves in this quest.”

The dwarf, Tot, stepped forward. His face was like a craggy cliff face, old and full of pits and creases. The old dwarf nodded to Dominick.

“We’ll find your sword,” Tot said.

“For the trolls I send with you my oldest son,” Chief Kendrick rumbled. “Samlinel.”

Samlinel stepped forward. He was all smiles and fur. “I am honored to be on this quest with you,” he said, bowing to Dominick. The bow made him uncomfortable.

“Bonta,” was all the Elf Lord, Uto, said.

A female elf stepped forward from behind the throne. Her hair was dark and long, her eyes cold and fierce. She stood at rigid attention and then bowed formally to Dominick.

He felt the blood rush to his cheeks as he nodded in return.

“Great Spaht, are we about done?” Bob was still on the floor, his chin still resting between his outstretched paws.

“Patience, young Bob,” said Roberta Green Tree, a smile in her voice.

“Young?” Bob snorted.

“To a fae,” Roberta said. “You are but a babe. Now let us have our formalities. The One should know who he travels with.”

“Fine, fine. Let’s just speed it up already. All this laying about is making me twitchy.”

“Dominick,” said Roberta. “Representing the fae in this endeavor shall be Vivian and Harold.”

Dominick’s sudden loss of tension must have been visible based on Roberta’s smile.

“Harold is seeing to the supplies,” Vivian said as she hovered near him.

“As for the humans,” Queen Genivene cut in. “I will be sending Captain Ovati with you. At her insistence.”

Captain Ovati glared down at Dominick from the dais and he quickly found the tension returning like a shot from a gun.

Less than an hour later and Dominick found himself, for the very first time, on horseback, heading west through a sea of grass that stood up around them over two feet tall. It was a rather unique and horrible experience. Everything on, and in, Dominick bounced as he rode, and in a most violent fashion. It was more than a little uncomfortable.

“You’ll get used to it,” said the elf, Bonta. She must have noticed Dominick’s discomfort.

Bonta looked right at home in the saddle, as if she’d been born there.

“If you say so,” said Dominick. “Personally I feel as if my insides will never been the same.”

Bonta only nodded and trotted on ahead.

To be continued . . .

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