“So, there’s hallways on the inside?” Gabbie asked. These hallways were different from the one Sannier took the party through.
“Yeah. Everything is way up here. There’s only two ways in and out of Rockestel. The outcropping where you guys met me, and then the one in the back.”
“Rockestel was built a long, long, looong time ago. There were a lot of wars and stuff, and so my people built Rockestel to keep intruders out. If intruders did somehow get into the moutain, they still wouldn’t be able to get up to our houses. Only rock elves have the power to move the rocks.”
“Woah, woah, woah. First, there are more than one type of elf?”
“Huh? You didn’t know? There a whole bunch of elves. Water, fire, air, electric, yadda, yadda. There’s not many, but there’s enough.”
“Oh, right.” Gabbie laughed, trying to cover up her ignorance. “And, are you going to take us down with that huge rock like your mom?”
“Err,” Silverskin flinched. “I kind of can’t do that.”
“I’m…I’m half rock elf. Rock and air.” Silverskin shrugged. “That’s why I look different from my mom. The people here like to remind me of that all the time.” There was something akin to pain stitched into the elf’s admission. He wouldn’t meet Gabbie’s eyes.
“What do they say to you?” Gabbie asked. There was a sudden flare of protectiveness that sparked from within her chest. Sure, Silverskin was a little bothersome, but she could see now that he only was protecting himself.
“They say that I’m ugly. That I deserve to fall off the mountain.”
“Have you told your mom?”
“No.I don’t want to trouble her. She’s the pinky finger to the sub-queen.” He lifted his own pinky finger and wiggled it. “And I’m the pinky toe of the mountain.”
“I say you’re more of the heart of the mountain.”
“Why’d you say that?”
“You’re still here. You’re strong enough not to let those terrible people bully you out of existence. I think you’re going to become someone powerful Silverskin. I really do!”
Silverskin scratched the back of his head, suddenly shy.
“T-Thanks. If you…really think so.”
“Plus, if you’re half air elf, can you do some tricks with the air?”
“Yeah!” Silverskin brightened. “Let me show you!” He coordinated his hands in a series of movements Gabbie couldn’t quite catch. Soon, both children were lifted into the air. Gabbie felt as though two strong arms constructed from solid flesh had picked her up, but she couldn’t see anyone behind her. Silverskin smirked when he saw Gabbie’s excitement. “Let me take us to the deerne pens!” He pointed down the hallway and in a deep squeak called out, “Charge!”
The two flew down the hallways. They passed a few elves on the way. They either shook their heads in disappointment and laughed. Gabbie didn’t care. She was practically flying! They rocketed down three flights of stairs until Silverskin’s magic blinked out. Gabbie settled back onto her feet. She felt a little woozy from the sudden reunion with the mountain floor, but she didn’t let that show. Silverskin unlocked a door set with wooden bars.
“Here’s the our way down.” Silverskin opened the doors wide. Gabbie saw not a room, but a stage. There were squares of yellow-red grass waving from a breeze. The ceiling resembled the sky outside-dark and balmy. Huddled together in pairs were animals nipping at the grass in chunks. They didn’t look like they knew they were being held inside of a mountain. Gabbie would have been fairly fooled herself she didn’t already know where she was.
“These guys are deerne?”