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The Dark Elf bowed wryly. "Surprised to see me? Returning was the only way I could get that fairy to stop pestering me!"

"Huh!" Tich'ki said indignantly. "You were the one who kept asking me questions!"

"And you were the one who wouldn't answer any of them." Naitachal grinned. "I confess; Tich'ki kept after me till she'd roused my curiosity."

"I'm sure," Lydia murmured.

Kevin nearly choked. But then the urge to laugh faded as he realized: "I guess my song didn't work."

"Oh, it did!" an angry voice snapped, and the bardling shot to his feet. "It did, indeed!"

"Eliathanis!"

"You just would not stop pulling at my mind! I was in the middle of learning some important information, and you—''

"What's this?" Tich'ki wondered, fluttering around the White Elf. "You're such a fair-haired fellow. What are red hairs doing on your shoulder?"

"Never mind that!" Eliathanis hastily brushed them from him.

"Mmm, and what's this?'' She sniffed audibly. "You taken to wearing perfume, elf?"

"No!" His fair skin reddened. "It—I—"

"Oh, you were learning something, all right!" the fairy taunted. "And I'm sure it was pretty important, too! Maybe nothing to do with the stolen girl, but—"

"I was talking to a troop of dancing girls," the White Elf said with immense dignity. Struggling to ignore Lydia's delighted whoop, he continued, "They travel all over the country. I thought they might know Charina's whereabouts."

"And they really hated talking to such a pretty fellow," Tich'ki teased, then darted sideways in the air as Eliathanis, his face a fiery red by now, took a swipe at her. "You never will catch me like that, elf," she mocked.

"Can't you be serious for even a moment?"

"Now, now. Eliathanis." Naitachal's voice was studiously serious, but his eyes glinted under the black hood. "Seems to me you're hardly the one to accuse anyone else of frivolity. Tsk, should have known there was something warmer than ice under that grim facade."

"Don't you dare criticize me, necromancer!"

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