They were girded for war, all relative youngsters, led by an older and more experienced-looking leader with warpaint that accentuated her scars and the tips of her ears, one of which was ragged and partially shorn away by a sharp implement like a saber. They were armed with clubs and spears, but no bows and no rifles or repeaters.

“They sent their greenest kids to me, thinking I’d be a pushover,” Jinny said. “Don’t you worry, little Witchazel,” she said. “Mommy’s no pushover.”

Seeing empty scryers laid out in front of her–the wild folk were only coming from a single direction–Jinny decided to have a word with them. She fumbled for a potion from the root cellar, one that would project her voice and allow her to hear replies a bit better, and downed it.

“Hello there!” she said. “My name is Jinny Witchazel, and this is Witchazel Farm. I can’t help but notice that you’re trespassing on my land, armed for war! If you’re here to buy some potions, salves, or spells, I’m happy to oblige you! But if you’re here for anything else, I’ll thank you to get gone from my lands before I have to take action to defend myself.”

The leader held up an arm and the wild folk stopped their advance. “You can call me One-Ear,” she said, “for my actual name is not for you to know. We have heard that you, in violation of whatever trust the wild folk had placed in you, directed outsiders to one of our most revered edor leaders, and not long after one of our brightest rising stars was killed at one of our most sacred sites.”

“I know all about what happened at the Meeting Rock,” Jinny said, “and I’m really sorry about it, love. It’s awful! But the easterners I sent up to Father Zelten meant no harm, and you’ve no quarrel with me!”

“It is we who decide when there is a quarrel,” One-Ear replied. “Not you. Just as it is we who decide when squatters will be permitted on the lands that we have long shared with our green brethren. You have gained a reputation as a betrayer of secrets and a caster of unlucky spells, Jinny Witchazel! We have come to see justice done upon you.”

“Is it really justice, to cut a young woman down in her prime when she is with child?” Jinny said.

One-Ear seemed surprised by this revelation, and whispered to the other young elves in her cohort. “We were not aware of this,” she said. “You may depart, then, if you wish, leaving your word never to return.”

“I have often felt that the wild folk and the edor were treated badly, with a heavy hand where a light touch would do. Are you to throw in your lot with them, love, and see yourself counted among those who fling the innocent off lands they have worked?” Jinny said. “I have my reasons for wanting to stay.”

This, in turn, seemed to make One-Ear angry. “You’d dare put us and they in the same group?” she hissed. “With child or not, human, you will leave or you will die.”

“I’m not leaving,” said Jinny. “This is the patch of ground I’ll die on, my child by my side, if need be. You said that I have a reputation for unlucky spells; are you ready to see what I’m capable of?”

“We are through talking,” One-Ear said. She made a curt movement. “Attack!”

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