There were old stories about powerful 'mancers that could warp reality to do whatever they bid. These were very old stories, dubbed as merely fairytales by the professors of the Academy, and were told as legends to children at bedtime. Stories of Callus the Shadowlord who nearly destroyed the high elves until they banished him from where he had come. Menkra, who commanded the oceans until she finally became part of them. The Sun God of the Skiridians. All believed to be 'mancers of tremendous power – all gone – thought to be merely myths or legends.

Then there were other stories that were regarded as nothing more than fairytales, even to those who told them. The story of the Wolves of Amgerin. The Thief of Rhoddy. And of course, countless stories about 'mancers and their adventures, mistakes, and creations.

Part of Presleigh hoped that at least one of these would manifest in this strange manor. For the more she explored of it, the more convinced she became that something incredible was here. Each room was kept in pristine condition at the height of luxury in a style long past. There was no dust and yet no sign of who was seeing to the upkeep of the place. She explored a few more rooms and managed a couple more looks into the garden behind the house. The grounds were larger than she thought and she could see a second wing the manor, curving off of the main part at a 90-degree angle. There was a stable too, not too far from that.

Yet there was no sign of life. Presleigh kept her pistol cocked and ready, however, for she couldn't shake the feeling of unease. Eventually she stumbled across a dining room and was able to pillage a small glass saucer from a china cabinet. It made for a good enough focus and she was able to summon her ball of light back, giving her something that made examining the manor all the easier.

Her own home certainly paled in comparison.

It was when she neared the second wing of the manor and a staircase leading up to the third floor that she found a sign of life. Or rather, the sign of life found her.

"Psst! Girl!"

The voice was furtive and hidden in the doorway of a nearby room. Presleigh raised her light up to see better and whoever had spoken scuttled further into the darkness.

"No no no," it said. Its voice was high and thin, perhaps male. "You shouldn't be here at all. And I'll get in so much trouble for talking to you from the mistress. Better leave."

"What is this place?" Presleigh asked, ignoring the speaker's warning. She stepped forwards and the creature retreated some more. She couldn't quite bring herself to call it human as it was low to the ground, hunched, and scuttled more than walked. She caught the glimpse of glassy eyes for a moment before it shied further away from her light.

"Belongs to the master, it does. And we serve the mistress, who serves him. Best go, girl. Doesn't like outsiders. None of us do."

"There's more people here?"

And Presleigh advanced boldly into the room while the creature tried to back away. She magnified the 'mancy, flooding the room with light, and the speaker whimpered and raised a bony arm to hide his eyes.

"Wow," Presleigh said, "I thought you left."

And from behind eyes tearing up from the light the goblin nodded, hesitantly, his skin the color of mossy earth and his bat-ears notched and drooping. Presleigh wasn't one to judge goblins but this one looked fairly old, his skin wrinkled and hanging off his skinny body. Even the carefully cut suit he wore couldn't hide the puniness of his frame. If he stood upright he would probably only reach Presleigh's height.

"Not all," he said and Presleigh dimmed the light so that he was plunged back into the darkness his kind preferred, "Some of us stayed. But you'd best go – I'm going to get into so much trouble talking to you, see? The mistress… she scares me."

He shuddered.

"I'll even show you the way out. My ma and da are servants here too and will help you leave without the master or mistress knowing."

Now his voice sounded hopeful and tentative at the same time. Presleigh was quickly revising her opinion. Maybe goblins were wrinkly and frail normally? He was talking like he wasn't that old. Presleigh ventured to ask the question as to his age.

"Older than you," he sniffed in return, "but young by our standards. Still older than a human. Now come – please!"

"No, I want to know more about your master and mistress," Presleigh demanded, "They fairies too?"

Long ago, so the Academy taught, the fairies had lived among the human world and mingled with the other intelligent races. This was at the dawn of the human era, when civilization was just starting to form. The fairies kept their distance and did not interfere with human affairs, although they seemed content to mingle their blood with that of the elves, creating a race now known as the high elves – part elf, part fairy. Then there was a war of some kind. The only reason humanity even knew there was a war was because of the deep scars left in the earth from where the fairies battled whatever it was they faced and the monuments they left behind to honor their dead. Some parts of the land had never quite recovered, especially in the north where the 'mancy storms raged. Then the fairies had all left. There had been rumors of sightings every now and then, but those had been dismissed as exaggeration or a 'mancer playing a prank on the uneducated.

Of course, Presleigh was pretty sure that the goblin she was talking to was plenty real. Despite her excitement, a small part of her was disappointed. She was hoping for a great 'mancer like Menkra.

"I'm not ready to leave," Presleigh said, "I still want to look around! And I want to see your master and mistress! I've never seen a fairy…"

"You've seen a goblin, that's enough," he sulked.

"And gargoyles."

The goblin's large eyes narrowed and he sniffed in derision.

"Oh, those are just constructs like you humans make. Only the fairies make better constructs than humans."

"Right. Are there other things like that around here?"

"Well," he said slowly, "The stable has some nice lineage in it… and the fountain – but you're leaving!"

He sounded startled at himself. Presleigh was already ignoring him and examining the room. It wasn't nearly as interesting as the others. She must be getting close to the servant's quarters.

"Right. And what's on the third floor?"

"Not saying."

"Then I have to investigate."

There was a shuffle as the goblin moved to block the exit. He glared at her from his hunched-over position and set his narrow jaw.

"We goblins can use 'mancy too," he threatened, "Not as good as the fairies, but I bet I'm better than you. You can't go up there. You have to leave. Now."

"I'm sure you're better at 'mancy," Presleigh said slowly, rubbing her thumb on the casing of the pistol, "but that's why humans invented these."

And she raised the gun and shot the frame by his right ear. He shrieked and threw himself to the ground. Presleigh let out a whoop and ran, jumping over him and started reloading her pistol in mid-run. Behind her, the goblin started shouting curses, but she was already pounding up the stairs.

Fairies! Just imagine it!

The hallway of the third floor was long and narrow. She bolted down it, not sure if the goblin was following, but from the sound of things he wasn't. There was only the slap of her feet against the thinly carpeted floor. She paused halfway down and stopped to catch her wind. She wasn't breathing that hard but her heart was racing from the excitement of it all. Fairies!

She glanced down to fiddle with her pistol, making sure the bullet was in the chamber and the powder packed in and ready to ignite.

"That's far enough."

A woman's voice. Almost right behind her. Presleigh spun and swung with the hilt of her pistol but a hand caught it and stopped it fast. So Presleigh dropped her weight, intending to make a kick at her assailant's ankle, but the woman snapped the pistol out of her hand so instead Presleigh lost her anchor and went flying against the nearest door instead.

It crashed opened and slammed against the interior wall, knocking a painting and a vase from their perches. Presleigh bounced on her back with an oomph and scrambled to her feet, ducking into the middle of the room and fumbling for some kind of 'mancy component. She'd lost her light again. After a moment the shape of the woman framed the door. She was very tall and not at all lithe like the pictures of fairies had described. Kind of bulky, in fact. No wonder she'd been able to pull away the pistol so easily.

"Now can I intervene?" the woman sighed. Her accent was both lyrical and guttural at the same time.

Presleigh was halfway to the nearest window when another voice stopped her dead cold. It wasn't because the voice was anything more unusual than what she'd already seen – it was cultured and had no accent outside of Alannian – but it was also right at her elbow.

He was sitting in the chair she'd just stepped past, one elbow propped on the arm of the chair with his cheekbone resting on two fingers. He was looking out the window and not at all at Presleigh.

"I suppose," he said in a bored, indifferent tone, not even bothering to look at the girl, and that was when the skies opened up again and the torrential rain started to beat against the glass.