CHAPTER 17 - Jasan

Two days later, in the early evening, Will was in the team hut, sitting on the floor. He was playing his bass, but his mind was far away, worrying constantly. Why had they headed north again? And so fast? And why couldn’t he get through to Ace? Had the distance just got too much for them, or had something gone wrong? He couldn’t work it out, it was nagging at him like toothache. He jumped as Clover threw the door open and yelled at him.
“They’re back!” she shouted. “Someone’s seen them, coming up the path from the beach! Come on!”
She soared off, across the camp, and Will put his guitar down with trembling hands. How could they be back? Ace wasn’t back, he was miles away. Something was wrong, he knew it. Something was very wrong indeed. With a shake of his head, he went to find out what it was.

A huge crowd had gathered around them, cheering, patting them on the back, welcoming them home. Will hung back, watching and listening. He saw the four fairies, saw Clover wriggle through the crowd to reach Rose. He saw the lieutenant, trying to speak to Sergeant Svir and give her his report. He was smiling, at a job well-done, he didn’t have any bad news. Then he caught sight of the familiar figure he was looking for, the laughing eyes and the long blond hair. He struggled to get a grip, his mind was reeling. He didn’t know whether to believe his senses or his eyes.
The crowd separated. Norway 1 headed off towards 1st Regiment headquarters, and the first years streamed into the mess. The fairies were telling all about their adventure, how they’d got lost, how the goblins had captured them, how they’d been rescued. He was perched on a table - nothing wrong there. He was chipping in, adding caustic remarks to the fairies’ story - just what you’d expect. Will stayed at the back of the crowd, waiting to see what would happen. And after a while, he spotted him, and came over.
“Hi,” he said, “how’re you doing?”
“OK,” said Will. “Come on, time we weren’t here.”

They went out of the mess, and headed round the back of the building. No-one was in sight. Will whirled round and pushed a hand against his chest and flattened him against the wall.
“Who the hell are you!” he shouted.
“Jasan Březová. Special Brigade. Not that it matters. I didn’t expect to fool you, Will Moseley. I can easily fool everyone else - with your help.”
“Help you! Why on earth should I help you?” shouted Will, going very cold.
“I think you know that, don’t you? Yes, that’s right, think about it. You’d know if he was dead. And he isn’t. Not yet. But if you give me away - you say or do one thing to warn anyone - and he’ll be dead within the hour.”
“Rubbish! You’re on your own! You’ve got no way of getting a message to anyone!”
“You army sprites are so naïve, it’s incredible. Of course I can message. Oh, not like you do. But this isn’t the only Tree of Power in the world, you know. Did you think it was? How pathetic.”
This couldn’t be happening, there had to be a hole in this argument somewhere. Will let go of him and turned away, trying to think. Maybe he could message; he’d heard hints, here and there, about illegal power sources. It could be. He couldn’t chance it.
“You can’t message if you’re dead,” spat Will, “whatever foul method you use.”
“True. But if you kill me, my friend will know it. And guess what? He’s the one who’s guarding your friend. You can’t win. We’ve thought of everything.”
Will let his shoulders sag as if defeated, but his mind was racing.
That’s what you think, he thought. That was a strange expression to use…
He forced himself to look up, to meet those eyes that were so familiar and so wrong.
“OK,” he sighed. “You win. I’ll help you.”
“Good. Now, are we really supposed to be somewhere, or did you just say that to get me outside?”
“Yes, I did,” said Will. “You should be in there, lapping it up. But not swanking. You were overdoing it before. Ace doesn’t swank about important things.”
“There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Come on, then.”

Will sat quietly, watching, and taking care to yawn a lot, so no-one would think it odd if he was a bit quiet.
He’s good, curse him, he thought. No-one’s noticed a thing! The likeness is scarey, they really are brilliant at transforming. It’s not just superficial, either… they’ve dug a little into his mind, to get speech patterns so right, and recent memories.
He’d said something, he was waiting for an answer, his head tilted to one side, infuriatingly. Will resisted the temptation to smash a punch into it.
“Hmm? What?” he said. “Sorry, I was miles away.”
“I said, if you can’t stop yawning, we might as well turn in.”
“Yeah, all right.”
When they reached the barracks, Jasan jerked his head towards the empty bunks.
“Fill me in,” he said.
“Fran Knightwood, Peter Knightwood, Betch Knightwood. All from the New Forest. On Ace’s team. So’s Wayne - Wayne Langdon. That bed on its own. Above Betch, Gran Starheim, leader of the Scandinavian team. Those bunks there, Olm and Beuk Otterlo. Maybe you know them already, it wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Don’t think so. What team?”
“Holland and Germany.”
“Right. Got that.”
“You really think you can get away with this?” said Will.
“Oh, yes. Watch.”
He folded his clothes as neatly as Ace always did, and jumped up to Ace’s bunk.
“See? Pretty simple character, really. I’ve copied harder than this.”
Will was overwhelmed, desperately fighting the prickling in his eyes. This was obscene.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to go to bed? You needn’t be afraid I’m going to murder you in your sleep. I need you alive, to help me.”
He sat up and looked Will in the face, deadly serious.
“I mean it, Will. I’m locked into this as much as you are.”
“Logical,” shrugged Will, and went to bed.

He didn’t sleep. He lay miserably, listening to the others coming in and settling down. And eventually, once it was really quiet and he was sure everyone was asleep, he concentrated as hard as he could, to get through to Ace, however far away he was.
Ace! Ace, come on, come on, wake up!
Huh? Whoa! Oh, my head!

Will’s heart gave a great lurch of relief.
Oh, thank you, thank you… Ace, you’ve been drugged, I think, try and wake up.
Drugged? What?
Try to remember. You found Rose, remember?
Rose! Yes, we found Rose and the others. Yeah, then…Will! Someone’s blindfolded me! What’s going on?
Well, it’s not too good. Special Brigade have got you. Do you know where you are?
I’m on a floor. Wooden floor, very uncomfortable. Can’t see a thing. My hands…my hands are tied…

Ace’s thoughts faded, and Will sighed with frustration. But after a couple of minutes, he was back.

Sorry, lost my concentration. I’m coming round a bit now. Yeah, it was Special Brigade, all right. It was early morning, I’d gone for water…there were four of them, I didn’t stand a chance. And you’ll never guess what they did.
I think I can. They copied you. Made someone else look exactly like you.
How did you know?
He’s here. Now. In your bed.
I know.
Does he know you know he’s not really me?
Yes. Yes, he does. He wants me to help him get away with it, until he’s done what he came to do.
Or else what?
What d’you think?
You’re right, Will. This is not too good. You got a plan yet?
Very funny. No, but I have had a chance to think about it.
Tell me.
He’s come here to do something. And he knows it’ll take a while, because he’s being careful about details. But whatever foul thing he has in mind, you’re going to get the blame for it. And then what? He goes to prison, and me too, probably, for helping him, then they switch you for him. Then they can kill us whenever they feel like it.
Clever. Very, very clever. I hope you’re not thinking of coming to rescue me, ’cos you mustn’t. You’ve got to find out what this geek is after, and stop him.
It’d be easy enough to turn the tables on them if you could escape. You’ve got time to think, Ace, I’m sure of it. If it can’t be done, then of course I’m coming for you.
But if I escape, they’ll just call the whole thing off, won’t they?
Not so sure about that. Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to set this up. I reckon they’d bluff it out. They’ve got such a low opinion of us, they’d never dream you’d be able to find your way back from so far away. And they’ll think that I think they’ve still got you.
That’s crazy, they’d surely know I’d tell you straight away… wait a minute… what are you saying? D’you mean to say they don’t know?
That’s what I mean. They’ve thought this out really well, but there’s one thing they’ve missed. They don’t know we’re twins. And it’s going to help us beat them.

Will watched Jasan carefully as the first years worked on the training course the next day. He had to watch that he didn’t make any mistakes, or seem at a loss what to do. But he was also jealously guarding Ace’s reputation, making sure Jasan didn’t do or say anything that would let Ace down.
He seemed fit enough, yet he wasn’t comfortable. Something was causing trouble. When Will realised what it was, he leaned on the post at the end of the overhead bars, and waited till he’d landed. He was careful to smile, as if they were just having a joke together.
“You’re used to being taller than this, aren’t you?” he asked.
“So?” said Jasan.
“You’re having trouble getting up to the bars, and you shouldn’t be. Jerk your head back as you go up, you’ll find it gives you the bit extra you need.”
“Thanks, Will,” said Jasan thoughtfully.
Will just wished he felt surer that he was doing the right thing. He felt like a traitor.

At the same time, Ace jerked his head off his shoulder as he heard the door of the room being opened, and a few words in a language he didn’t understand. He felt a thrill of fear as someone knelt down beside him, but all they did was pull off his blindfold and untie his hands. The sudden brightness stung his eyes, but he still took care to have a good look round. Small room, one door, no window. Outside, a bare passageway. And two elves standing there, just watching. Ready to move if he tried anything. It was the same ones. The one who’d done the transforming was the one in the room.
“Nĕco,” he said to Ace, gesturing to a can of water. Ace tried to pick it up. It was very heavy, he wished he could stop his hands shaking. But they waited patiently until he’d drunk every drop, then gestured again, and Ace guessed they were telling him he could get up and walk about a bit. He struggled to his feet, limping about, wondering whether to try to jump them. As if they knew what he was thinking, the two in the passageway pulled knives out, casually, as if they were comparing them.
OK, thought Ace. Point taken. I’m going to need a much cleverer plan than that.

The one in the room gave an order.
He’s in charge, thought Ace. “I don’t know what language you’re speaking,” he said, watching to see if they could understand him. “I know it’s not Welsh or Norwegian, but that’s not much help. I know what tree you are, though. You’re some sort of willow. Gross. But you’re not Salix caprea, that’s something.”
At the word ‘Salix’ he glanced up.
“Salix alba,” he said shortly, and waited while the other two forced Ace down again. Then he tied him up again, and put the blindfold back on. The door banged, and Ace was left alone.
Oh, great, he thought. That was fun. Enough water and exercise to keep me alive - just. I see. They know if they let me die that Will would kill the geek. I’ve just got to get out of here. I can’t see, but I can still hear.

He listened for hours. He heard no other voices, beside the three, no sounds of any coming or going. He was leaning against an outside wall, he could tell by the way it got warmer then cooler as midday passed. It didn’t smell like thick forest, but there were trees nearby, because there was a blackbird singing constantly above his head.
We’re in the middle of nowhere, he thought. There’s no-one else here, it’s too quiet. They’ve built this place just for this job. It must be very top-secret. I wish I knew where I was. Will’s behind me, which must be south, judging by the heat of the sun. So they took me north. Don’t remember how they did it. Or how far it was. But it’s a long way, I know that much.
Ace sighed to himself. His arms were really hurting, and he was getting a bit fed up of that blackbird. Then he laughed.
Poor old blackbird, it’s not your fault.
There’d been a blackbird on Wildside, that never shut up. It used to like his tree… he thought of his tree, and its last words came into his mind.
Don’t look down, he thought. Let’s have a bit of optimism round here.
He started singing. He worked his way through all the Iron Maiden songs, starting with Prowler. He got as far as Run to the Hills before one of them came in and gagged him.
Rats, thought Ace. I was enjoying that. Perhaps they’re trying to concentrate. It can’t be that they don’t like heavy metal.
He tried to get comfortable enough to go to sleep. If he could just get an hour or two. He had to stay awake tonight. Will would get through as soon as he could, and they had a lot to talk about.

Can you open your eyes inside the blindfold, so you can see the fabric? asked Will.
No, they’ve thought of that, it’s much too tight.
They’d filled each other in on everything they’d managed to find out, but a plan of escape was proving very difficult.
What about when they untie you? If you could bar the door, somehow, could you fight them one at a time? Or are they too big?
It’s not that so much…it’s just that they tie my hands to this ring in the wall, so I have to sit with my arms above my head. And when you’ve been sitting like that for twelve hours you can hardly hold a cup, never mind punch anyone.
Above your head! How cruel is that!
I know,
groaned Ace. Just enough agony to make me useless, but no more. It’s so efficient, it scares me. Maybe I can’t get out.
We’ll think of something. There’s got to be a way.
You know, Will, I think you’re going to have to tell someone.
No, Ace, they’ll kill you! Nothing’s worth that!
They’ll only kill me if the geek finds out, if it spoils his plan. Tell Gran! He’d play it cautious and cagey, he’d want to know what they were up to, too.
Gran’s in Spain, Ace, I’ve got no chance of doing that distance.
Rats, so he is. Will! Where’s that message from Gran? They’ve emptied my pockets, has he got it?
He’s certainly got your penknife,
said Will. No… hang on… you got changed, before you left. I bet it’s still in your other jeans.
Go and have a look,
said Ace. If he’s asleep.
OK… hang on.

While Will looked, Ace thought about that message, and knew what they had to do. It frightened him more than he cared to admit, but he knew it was right.
It’s here, said Will quietly.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
I can’t, I can’t, we hardly know him! What if he kicks up a fuss and arrests the geek?
Then they’ll cut their losses on their other plan, whatever it is, and kill me. Look, I know it’s frightening, but we have to. ‘If anything strange happens, tell Major Inari’. That’s an order, Will. We have to obey it.
You’d risk your life to do that?
Yes. Wouldn’t you?
Mine, yes. Not yours.
Hey, come on, Will, where’s your logic? That doesn’t make sense, and you know it.

Will didn’t answer, and Ace kept quiet, letting him think.
He’s got to make his own mind up, he thought to himself. After all, if they do kill me, I’ll only be dead. He’s the one who’ll have all the grief to bear.
You’re right, said Will. We promised to obey. Just because it’s not safe doesn’t let us off.

Next morning, as the elves got ready to go out training, Will lingered, fussing over his bootlaces, until he caught the sound of lemming squeaks. Then he ran out of the hut, stopped to pat the lemming, and raced off to the training ground with the others. When they were out of sight, Major Inari bent down and pulled out the folded paper Will had tucked into the lemming’s collar. His eyes widened as he read it, but he didn’t rush off. He was careful to continue with his usual routine. All the same, he made his way back to Signals more briskly than usual. He let the lemming loose into its comfortable pen, and hurried to his desk. He closed his eyes and thought of General Herdalen, thought south, south, all the way to Spain.
General Herdalen, Major Inari.
Go away, Pice, I’m asleep.
Stop joking, Gran, this is serious. Listen to this.

He told him everything Will had written, and the general came out with some extremely strong words.
Is it possible? asked Major Inari. You don’t think Will’s gone a bit funny, do you?
No. If he says that’s not Ace, then it isn’t. But he’s right, if we can get Ace out of their clutches, then we can string them along and find out what they’re after.
And who ordered it. Mecsek himself, do you think?
It could be. Oh, if we could pin something on him! It makes your teeth water. Listen, I’ll speak to Will myself. I don’t think we’ll tell Gia, just yet… then she won’t be able to say anything about methods that may seem a little… unorthodox, to a fairy.
Her first concern would be security, you feel?
Well, it might be. You know what fairies are like, they can be a bit ruthless sometimes. Don’t let sentiment get in the way. You get through to Ace, will you? Reassure him that we’re not going to do anything hasty, or he’ll spend the day waiting to get knifed, which won’t be much fun.

General Herdalen stretched, threw off his blanket and got to his feet. Other elves were getting up, all around the lemon grove where they’d camped for the night. Elves from Spain 1 and the remnants of Spain 2, which he was personally welding into one new section. He had a lot of morale-building to do here. He thought it was working, but he couldn’t leave yet.
Unfortunately, he thought. Over 20 at seven o’clock in the morning! Ugh.
He called to one of the young elves.
“Find Captain Vilar, please. My compliments, and would he report to me as soon as he’s had his breakfast. And bring me some coffee, will you?”
“Yes sir, “ smiled the little Spanish elf, and dashed off. General Herdalen washed his face in the dew, and combed his hair, then perched on a low branch, looking north. France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway…
Will, it’s Gran, can you hear me?
Just about… I’ll just get down off this rope. Can you give me a couple of minutes, sir? I’ll shake off the geek.

General Herdalen smiled to himself. His coffee arrived, and he sipped it thoughtfully, waiting.

Will slithered down the rope.
“I haven’t got the energy,” he groaned. “I think I’ll just watch for a bit. You don’t have to come,” he said to Jasan.
Jasan frowned a bit, suspiciously, and Will remembered something Ace had told him last night.
“Look, I’m a willow,” he said kindly. “Give me a bit of space, can’t you?”
That rang true, he could see. It was something he was used to. Will wandered off a bit into the trees, and concentrated. When the general tried again, Will heard him much more clearly.
Well done, he said warmly, and Will knew what he meant. That took some courage. Where is he, Will? How far away?
He’s north-east of here, about two hundred miles, I think. He was moving incredibly fast, for about ten hours. I think they put him in a car.
North-east… they’ve no base up there, that I know of. Some secret hideout. Now, how can he escape, that’s the thing. Tell me every little detail.

Will described everything Ace had told him, the place, the people, the routine, and the general thought hard.
He mustn’t try anything against three guards, or he really will get himself killed. The answer is in the twelve hours they leave him alone between their visits. And the key is this ring in the wall. Get that off the wall, and it’s easy. Are the walls planks or logs?
Split logs, I think,
said Will. Too bumpy to be comfortable, but not so thick you couldn’t feel heat and cold through them.
Then the ring must be screwed into them, which is easier. If it was planks, it might have been a nut and bolt, you see. Now there’s something I want you to try. Don’t get too excited, it might not work. Not everyone can do it. I can’t. But Madge and Heather can. It’s more of a fairy thing, really. You ever seen Madge mend something?
said Will, but I remember hearing about how she mended a broken window. Imagination squared, she called it.
That’s it. Heather was helping her. But Heather couldn’t see the window.
said Will. But Madge could! Gran, are you seriously suggesting that we can shift a screw when neither of us can see it!
It is possible. Such a thing has been done.

He didn’t mention it had only ever been done by fairies.

It’s worth a try, Will, it’s definitely worth a try.
Well, yes. Sure, we’ll try…
It won’t be easy. But have confidence, and keep at it. But not all night! It’s pooling, remember, so give it a break after an hour or so. If you two flip again, we really are in the soup. But hasn’t anyone else noticed anything odd?
Don’t think so. Should I tell anyone? What about Wayne? He’s used to, well, just being himself, when only our team’s around.
That’s a very good point. No, don’t tell anyone. It’s safer that way. I’ll speak to Wayne myself, and warn him not to relax at all, without being too specific about the reason.
Will sighed. Oh, it’s wonderful to talk to you. Is it nice in Spain, sir?
No, it’s horrible. Much too hot. But the job’s going well. Hang on, Will. I know how you’re suffering, but bear up. Something good will come out of this.
said Will. Of course. It’s the pattern. Oh, I’ll have to go, sir, everyone’s going to breakfast.
Good luck,
said the general, and brought his mind back to the Spanish lemon grove.
“Spotted the pattern? At what, twenty-seven?”
He shook his head, proudly.

Will snatched a moment to talk to Ace as a crowd of them walked to the target range together. He wanted to warn him what they had to do, so he could take a good look when they took his blindfold off. If Ace had a clear picture in his mind, that would help. Ace was a bit sceptical too, but very willing to give it a try.
Late at night, they were ready to go.
There are two screws, said Ace. Quite big, solid brass.
Brass… 70% copper, 30% zinc. Transition metals, hard and dense.
Got that,
said Ace. We’re going to shrink them, one at a time. The one on the left, first.
Go for it,
said Will.
It took a long time to be sure they were pooling their thoughts, at that distance. But they got there, and bent their minds together on that brass screw, trying to see it, to see into it, to shrink the atoms of copper and zinc. But nothing happened, nothing at all. After an hour, Ace was feeling dizzy.
Break it off, Will, nothing’s happening. Take a break.
Yeah, OK. Disappointing. But we’d better not talk, Ace, it’s a bit too close to pooling. Think about something else for a bit, then we’ll try again.

They tried three times, but the screw didn’t budge a bit. The third time it took them a while to untangle their thoughts, and they knew it was time to stop.
I think we need a different approach, said Ace. There’s something bugging me… we’re not tackling this right. Let’s get some sleep, you’ve got to get up again soon. Then I’ll have a think. I’ve got nothing else to do.
OK. You get creative.

Ace smiled, and fell asleep. He didn’t wake for three hours, until the guards came in at six o’clock. He didn’t feel nearly so bad this morning, and decided to have a bit of fun. He drained the water can thirstily, but when they let him get up he started jumping about the room, going from wall to wall, and touching the ceiling. He made it obvious he wasn’t trying to escape, so they wouldn’t get edgy, but he wouldn’t stop when they wanted him to. Every time they tried to grab him, he darted out of the way. They got him in the end, of course, but he’d had a lot more exercise than they wanted him to have. He sighed as they pushed him down and tied him up again. The leader showed Ace the gag, and said a few words in a menacing voice.
“Zpívat zakazano!”
“I suppose that means don’t start singing or you’ll gag me,” said Ace cheerfully. “You’ve got no taste, you.”
He shook his head.
“I won’t sing,” he promised. “Got too much thinking to do.”

He thought about everything they’d tried last night, but it was hard to concentrate. His arms soon started hurting again, and the blindfold was very tight. They’d caught his hair in the knot, and it was really annoying him.
It was a fairy-thing, Gran had said. How would Madge and Heather have tackled it? Something told him that when they tackled that window, they wouldn’t have been concentrating on the chemical components of glass.
How do fairies think? he wondered. They’re all different, of course, but what have they got in common? Not Dan, maybe, but all the others? Sensible - mostly very sensible - and yet, I don’t know, emotional. They’re often crying when they’ve been pooling, and not a bit ashamed of it, either. It’s all back-to-front, like Rose’s map-reading.
Ace’s mind quivered on the brink. He knew he’d get there if he could go a bit deeper.
Come on, think, he told himself. Think like Will for once. Crying…fairies cry, and don’t hide it. It’s on the outside. All their toughness, and courage, and brains, is deeper in. They hide that. They really are back-to-front. Or we are. How did Heather know that Madge needed her help? Without messaging? Can they sense each other’s feelings? Maybe pooling’s different for fairies. We try to concentrate on the same thing. Maybe they try to feel together, instead of thinking. But how can they? he asked himself, in amazement, and the answer came to him.
Because they’re always talking about how they feel! That’s their raw material, it’s not thoughts, it’s feelings. So we’re going to have to talk like fairies do, and tune in to each other’s feelings, instead of each other’s thoughts.
He knew it was the right answer, but he groaned.
Oh, great. Will is really going to love this.

Have you gone bonkers! Will shouted. I’m not doing that! It won’t work anyway, it’s just silly.
It’s worth a try,
said Ace. We have to think fairy on this one. Do it like Madge and Heather would.
We can’t! Maybe they can, but we can’t do that!
You know it’s the right answer. You know this would work. You just don’t want to try it, do you? Admit it.
Damn you, Ace, OK… I agree, it might work. But it’s not that I don’t want to, I can’t, I tell you. It’s impossible.

Ace thought hard. He’d known all along that this was going to be the hardest part, persuading Will to try it. He was going to have to push him harder than he wanted to. But he knew he had to. He was the leader, he had to think about what Gran wanted, what the army needed them to do.

It’s not impossible, just revolting. You don’t think I want to do this, do you? I know what’s stopping you. You’re afraid of losing control. Well, you will. You’ll lose it, totally, and you’re too proud to do that. D’you want me to stay here for ever and rot, is that it?
You know it’s not! Stop it, Ace, this isn’t fair!
Tough. If you could free me by chopping your own hand off you’d do it, wouldn’t you?
Well, I’m not asking that. I’m asking you to lose your pride.

Will went quiet on him before he spoke again.
That’s what the Tree said.
Ace shut up, at once. He knew he didn’t have to say anything else. He’d get there, now.
You know what, Ace, when I see you again, I am going to push you in the bloody fjord for this.
Your language,
said Ace tenderly, is getting worse and worse.
You’ll hear worse than that before the night’s out. Come on, then. Technical stuff first…you seeing it?
I’m seeing it. I can’t see anything else. All those little ridges… if only they’d just go a bit smaller, so the whole damn thing would just slip off the wall.
Shocking language, Ace.
Can’t think where I’ve picked that up from.
That’s not all you’ve picked up, is it? You must have had to think really hard to work this one out.
Yeah, it doesn’t come easily. But I can see how to, now, since, well, you know.
Since we flipped. We thought we knew each other so well, but we didn’t really. Not as much as we do now.
No. Maybe if we talked more, it wouldn’t have been so bad.
Maybe. Feelings, you mean? D’you think we actually could? When it wasn’t life-and-death important, like now?
If we were drunk, perhaps. But we’re only skimming the surface, even now. Come on, Will, jump right into the pool and we’ll drown together.

Nice one,
Will smiled. Oh, I don’t know. What do I feel? Lonely, I suppose. I know I ought to be worrying about what’s going on, but I’m not. I just want you back. I miss feeling happy. ’Cos I do feel happy when you’re around, Ace. So proud of you.
Proud of me?
Oh, yes. Well, you’re so brilliant, and so beautiful. Everyone loves you. Anyone would be your friend. Yet it’s me you want. That makes me feel very humble, Ace, I’ll tell you that for nothing.
Stone the crows. Have you been drinking?
No! I’ve touched nothing but water, since you told me that was all you were getting. It’s no good trying to keep it light, Ace. You’ve got to come in deeper, this is serious stuff. The fairies take it very seriously. You don’t see them laughing, do you, when they’re sitting in corners with their heads together.
No. No, you don’t. But it bothers me that you should feel like that, I don’t think you get a fair deal. ’Cos everyone thinks I’m stronger, but you and I know that’s not true. You see me as I really am. Never sure about things, like you are.
I know. Not as confident as everyone thinks, are you? But I’m the one you trust to know that, and that means a lot. And anyway, there’s one person who doesn’t think like that.
Gran, d’you mean? Do you love him, Will?
Yes, I do. He really does treat us as equals, and always has. I know you worry about it, Ace, but you mustn’t, ’cos I don’t. We know, that’s what matters. But it is nice that Gran does too.
Opposites, he calls us. But maybe not as much as we used to be.
No. We went to opposite extremes when we were younger, trying to be ourselves. But we know who we are, now. We can have the confidence to learn from each other a bit.
I really am drowning,
said Ace. This is what you get when a deep person gets open.
So what do you get when an open person gets deep?

Ace struggled for a moment. Yes, it was easy to say what was on the surface, I’m frightened, I miss you, I want to come home. He had to do better than that.
Oh help, this is awful, said Ace. This is harder than I thought.
You’ve not found your own feelings yet,
said Will. That’s why it’s hard. When you have, you’ll be able to say them, all right. Come on, Ace, you can do it. Look a bit deeper.
cried Ace.
What’s the matter?
It moved! The screw moved, it slipped a bit!
It’s working? I don’t believe this!
Oh, Will, you’re brilliant, I don’t deserve you, I really don’t. I’m coming home, and I can’t wait. I don’t just want to see you, I want to hold you, I want to hug you and not let go. Except that people would just laugh. Fairies can show their feelings, and nobody minds a bit. Why can’t we?
We can if you want, Ace,
said Will calmly. It’s no big deal.
The ring fell out of the wall.
We did it!
I’m going,
said Will. You need to concentrate, and listen. Get back to me as soon as you’ve escaped.
OK, Will!

Ace held the ring tightly so it made no noise, and tugged at the blindfold. Once that was off, he could see to expand the ropes and slip out of them. He’d already chosen which logs to shrink, the furthest side, away from the guards. He slipped through the gap, and out into the cool night air. He saw at once that he was on a mountain-side. Above him was bare rock, but below him the trees grew more thickly, towards the valley.
He crept away, not wanting to jump too soon in case stiffness made him clumsy, and noisy. But once he was moving freely, he leaped up into the canopy and away, down the mountain as fast as he could, across a tiny road, and into a big forest, where he knew they’d never find him.
Safe away, he said.
Well done. Oh, this is too good to be true, sighed Will. It was worth it, then. You were right. But you usually are.
I bullied you into it, Will. I’m sorry about that. But you didn’t sound as if you found it that difficult in the end.
No… that was strange. ’Cos you did, didn’t you? D’you think we got a bit tangled up again?
I’m not sure…but I meant everything I said. That was me, all of it.
Same here. And I don’t even feel embarrassed now, thinking about it. But all the same, I reckon that’s enough fairy-stuff to keep us going for a bit, don’t you?
Definitely. Couple of years, I should think. No point overdoing things. What time is it?
Nearly five o’clock.
Crumbs, you’ve had no sleep, and it’s nearly morning!
Doesn’t matter. Too happy to sleep.
Hey, don’t go round looking happy, or when the geek hears I’ve escaped, he’ll realise we can message.
True. OK, sad face. Done that. Now listen, Ace, I didn’t tell you this before, I didn’t want to depress you, but you’re over two hundred miles away.
Two hundred! How did they do that?
I think they put you in a car.
Oh, typical. Every time I get to go in a car, it’s because something horrible is happening.
Never mind that now, you loony. You’ve got to find a place-name, so we can pinpoint where you are, and help you home.
I could just head towards you.
This isn’t England. In Norway, the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line.

Will slipped another note under the lemming’s collar, but the joyful smile he flashed at the major told him everything. Major Inari lost no time in getting the good news to Spain. But General Herdalen didn’t contact Will straight away. He asked Major Inari to find out exactly what the first years were doing, so he could pick his moment. Today of all days, no suspicions must be raised.
The elves had to do a long run, which made a lot of them cross, especially as they could see the fairies enjoying themselves sweeping up and down the fjord. Will could have done with something less energetic, but really, so long as it wasn’t pooling, he didn’t mind what it was.
Maybe it won’t be, he thought, till this is all over. Gran could have dropped a hint to the sergeant to lay off it for a bit. That’d really blow his cover.
Then he started wondering if Jasan knew yet, and exactly how they did their messaging, just as they started to cross a stream in single file, across a log. It wasn’t a good idea. He was too tired to get away with not concentrating, and he slipped and fell in. Jasan gave him a hand, to pull him out, just as Ace would have done, but there was no love or laughter in those eyes. Wet and miserable, Will slowed down a bit, and Fran and Peter overtook them.
“What is up with those two?” said Peter.
“Something’s wrong,” said Fran. “They’re not themselves at all. Not since Ace got back from that mission."

When they reached the end, Sergeant Olt gave Will an hour under the clock for being so clumsy as to fall in the stream. That was a punishment he usually hated, because you felt so stupid just standing there, but today he didn’t care, because that was the time Gran chose to message him.
Will, are you safe to talk?
Yes sir, I’m under the clock.
Oh, dear. What for?
Clumsiness. Fell in a stream.
You go to sleep tonight, d’you hear me? Don’t stay awake talking to Ace all night. So, you did it! I thought you would.
It was a bit weird. You have to think fairy. I don’t recommend it. But he’s free, he’s safe, that’s all that matters.
How’s he getting back?
Ah, now that’s where we need you. Where’s Selbu, Gran? I can't find it on my map.
Er… I don’t know. But don’t worry, go into my house, there are maps in there, better than that one you’ve got. They’re in the bedroom, in a drawer. Look for the one called Trondheim, I think that’ll be the right area, from what you said.
Thanks, that’s brilliant.
Cheer up, Will. It’ll be a long journey, but he’s coming back. You just watch the imposter like a hawk. Tell Major Inari at once if he does anything suspicious. And get some sleep!
OK, Gran.

As soon as his hour was up, Will slipped away to Gran’s house. He felt better as soon as he got inside. So much had happened to them in there, he felt as if Ace and Gran were near him. Surprisingly, the maps were exactly where Gran had said. He soon found the right one, and studied it carefully. He pulled others out, and fitted them together, until he was sure of the best route, then got through to Ace.
How are you? he asked.
Pretty bad, actually. It sounds stupid, I know, but now I’m free, I feel worse. It hurt so much, you see, being tied up, it took my mind off the other things. I miss you, Will, this is dreadful.
I know, I feel just the same. Now I’m not so worried, it’s much harder to bear. It’s been a bad day. But we’ve got to get you home, and the first part’s going to feel horrible, ’cos you’ve got to go north.
Go further away? Why?
There’s hardly any roads, and they’re all little and twisty. It’d take forever, there’s no big places to aim for, only tiny villages. But if you go north, you’ll hit the railway line. There’s only one, crossing west to east, you can’t miss it. Jump on a train heading west, it’ll finish at a big place called Trondheim. Then, you catch an Oslo train - there’ll be plenty - but you get off at Otta. From Otta you need to follow the road to Sogndal. It's a long way, but you should be able to hitch a ride on a car. Then you’re nearly home. You’ll have to cross-country from there, about fifty miles.
That could take a fortnight!
I know. But it’s the fastest route, believe me.
I believe you, of course… but we’ll be getting further apart for days, yet.
Day by day, watching you disappear, wishing that you were still here beside me…
On my own, swimming against the tide, there’s nobody on my side, but your memory.

Love that song,
said Will.
We’ll add it to our setlist. And actually, we have got Gran on our side.
It’s a damn good job we obeyed that order. We’d have been sunk without his help.
Will, you’ve got to stop swearing!
I need it, just now. Come home safe and I’ll be a reformed character, honest.
I’m on my way. Railway line, west to Trondheim.
See you soon.

That was a bad moment. Will had done everything he could now, and he was feeling very low. Quietly, he put the maps back where he’d found them, in a little chest of drawers by the bed. On top of it was a lamp, and a box of matches. But there was something else too; an old-fashioned tinderbox, steel, beautifully made. Will kept very still as he noticed the name etched on the lid. Ket Herdalen. He was overwhelmed with pity as he realised that was probably the only thing Gran had to remind him of his twin.
I bet he doesn’t use it, Will thought. It’s something to look at, last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Very private, very special. Yet he let me come in here, knowing I’d see it.
He was very moved, and it gave him fresh courage. What on earth had he and Ace got to fuss about? He had to get cracking, get back to the barracks and do everything right, so Jasan wouldn’t get suspicious. This was no time to be feeling sorry for himself.