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Trouble in Álfheima

Chapter Text

The carpet was brown this time.

Brown, and close-cropped to the ground like a buzz cut. 

Stephanie preferred longer carpet, sinking her fingers into the long strands and pushing them around like wind over a  grassy plain. 

But, if there was one thing she had learned in her four years of life so far, it was to make the best of changes, so she ran her hands over the new carpet in circles until her fingertips tingled pleasantly.

Taking a look around, the walls were bare, and most likely going to stay that way for the few months they would live there, to make the packing up easier later.

Wait.

Where was Daddy?

She whirled her head around, back and forth, looking in every corner of the one-room apartment, but he was nowhere to be found.  Where was he? Daddy was supposed to be WITH her for the WHOLE DAY on the first day of moving in, where did he go?

Suddenly, the door busted open and Daddy came in from the outside, carrying a gigantic box. Stephanie breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, he was just unpacking more of their stuff! He set the box down by the windowsill and opened it up, pulling potted plant after potted plant out of it.

He looked up to see that Stephanie was looking at him, and he grinned at her. “Hey, my little Pixie,” he said, “Are you ready to ROCK?!”

“Yeeeaaaah!” she said in response, pumping her fist in the air.

“Good, because we got a biiiiig day ahead of us,” he said, spreading his arms out as wide as he could, and pointed out the window.

Out the window, in the night sky, were a million multicolored stars, and Stephanie’s vision zoomed into them, stars whizzing past her vision, and the mundane sounds of the apartment faded as she heard a voice calling her name, people yelling, people screaming, an evil LAUGH-

 She awoke with a start and sat up abruptly in bed, heart pounding.

She took stock of the situation.

No brown carpet, no bare walls, only pink furniture and pink bedcovers.

Right.  She was NOT in an apartment with her dad.

She was in her own room, in LazyTown, and she was ten years old, not four.

Plus, her dad never owned a big box of potted plants, that was silly.

Even so, the transition really disoriented her.  The dream was so…real, right down to the feeling of the carpet under her fingertips, and it’s not every morning that you age six years just by waking up.

 Plus…for just a split second, before she was fully awake, she thought she would see her dad when she opened her eyes.

But no.

He was still travelling the world with his job, and she was still in LazyTown without him.

Stephanie sighed, and stood up, trying to shake off the soul-crushing disappointment. Her life before Lazytown involved a lot of packing up her life into the same suitcase or two, moving from daycare to daycare and public school to public school, after school program to after school program, chaos littering the way…she definitely didn’t miss that part.

But she DID really miss her Daddy.

She got dressed, and slipped out the door. Maybe playing with her friends could make her feel better.

-

She had slept in a little bit late, the rest of the kids were already up and playing when she walked out the door—Trixie and Stingy playing a one-on-one game of basketball, Ziggy sitting on the bench eating candy, and Pixel was…doing some sort of test, both he and Sportacus tapping at their wrist computers.

Intrigued, Stephanie walked up to them.

“Did you get the route?” Sportacus was asking.

“Yep! Locked and loaded!” Pixel said excitedly.

Sportacus put down his goggles, and prepared himself to run.

“On your mark, get set, go!” Pixel yelled, pressing the button on his computer.

Sportacus shot off down the path, jumping and flipping as he went.

“Watcha up to, Pixel?” Stephanie asked.

“Oh, hi Stephanie! I’ve come up with an automatic flip counter!” Pixel said excitedly, “I’m testing its limits on Sportacus right now! Look, it attaches to the software that Sportacus already has, and it can count flips, jump ropes, and anything else numerical that has to do with exercise! That way, we never have to worry about losing count ever again!”

By the time he was done with that sentence, Sportacus was already racing back, doing his last few final flips before he landed, hands on hips, right where he started.

“What number did you get?” he asked, slightly out of breath.

Pixel pressed a few buttons, and gasped. “SEVENTY-FOUR?!”

“Yes!” Sportacus said, fist pumping, “That is what I counted too!”

“You did SEVENTY-FOUR flips just now?!” asked Stephanie, jaw hanging open.

“And Pixel counted them accurately!” Sportacus said, gesturing to the beaming boy, “That is a fantastic invention, you should feel very proud of the work that you have done!”

“Th-thanks, Sportacus,” Pixel said, looking up at him with wide eyes, “I’m gonna go put it in the computer right now! You know what they say about technology, it can always be improved!”

Sportacus chuckled as Pixel ran off, looking fondly after him.

That look suddenly reminded her of her dream, and she deflated again.

“What’s the matter, Stephanie? You look a little down,” asked Sportacus, a note of concern in his voice.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she assured.

“Stephanie, you know you can ALWAYS talk to me, right?” he said, nudging her with his elbow.

She DID know that. And what harm would it be to talk about it? She had come out here in the first place to try to make herself feel better about it, and here Sportacus was, offering to do just that.

Stephanie fiddled with her bracelet. “Sportacus…you aren’t from around here, right?”

Sportacus chuckled.

“Yes, I suppose you could say that. What was your first clue?” he asked, exaggerating his accent for comedic effect.

She giggled, but sobered quickly as she continued her previous line of thought.

“Sportacus…I love it here in Lazytown,” she began, “It’s the only place that I have ever lived in for two years in a row, and it’s the first place that I have ever felt at home.”

“It is a great place,” Sportacus agreed, nodding.

“But…my dad and I, we never settled down in one place for very long. No place ever felt like home, but having HIM always did,” she said, tears coming unbidden to her eyes, “And I know he sent me here because-because his job made it…made it really hard for him to take care of me, and I could be h-happier,” she swallowed hard.

Sportacus put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Go on.”

“What…what do you, um, do when you’re homesick for f-family?” she asked, on the verge of tears.

Sportacus tugged her in for an embrace as the tears spilled over, patting her comfortingly on the back as she sobbed into his chest.

“It is…sad, when you must go somewhere without the family that raised you,” Sportacus said carefully as she continued to hold onto him, “But, if you keep your heart open, I swear that you can find home, and family, anywhere. Then, wherever you go? You will NEVER be alone.”

Stephanie pulled back from him, lip still wobbly.

“Let me put it this way,” Sportacus said, “Is there anyone here in LazyTown that makes you feel welcome, and safe? Is there anyone that you would do anything to help, and that you could count on their help in return?”

Stephanie sniffed. Everyone in this town, in one way or another, was exactly how Sportacus described.  Her uncle who always took care of her, Bessie who answered her every social question no matter how stupid it sounded, her friends who always made her feel included in LazyTown since the first day of that fateful summer, even Robbie Rotten, he made sure that none of their days were ever boring.

And here was Sportacus, helping her right now.

“Thanks Sportacus,” she said, wiping her eyes, “Sorry for crying.”

“Oh, no no no NO, Stephanie, it is very important to your health that you express your emotions!” Sportacus encouraged, clasping her hand in both of his, “And, I understand completely.  I have not seen my family in many, many years.”

Stephanie was taken aback. “Really?”

Sportacus nodded. “Being without them? Makes me feel very sad, at times. But when I do feel sad, I think about all of the family that I have here, in LazyTown,” he smiled. “And I count myself lucky that I have so MANY family members, in different parts of the world.”

“I guess…I guess we are the lucky ones, having such a big family all over the place,” Stephanie grinned.

“Yeah,” Sportacus said, and they high fived.

“Remember, Stephanie, I, your uncle, and even Bessie are all here if you ever need to talk to somebody.  That is what family is for!” he ruffled her hair.

“Yeah, I know that,” Stephanie said, flattening her hair back out.

Suddenly, Sportacus’ crystal went off.

“Someone’s in TROUBLE!” Sportacus gasped, stepping away from Stephanie.

“I will see you later, Stephanie,” he said, and did his signature move. “Be good!” he called, and he raced off, flipping as he went.

Stephanie waved after him as he went, glad she came outside today.

She DID feel better.

“Hey, Stephanie,” said Pixel, walking back over, “Check it out.”

He pointed to his wrist computer’s screen, where a little icon version of Sportacus was rushing across a digitized map of LazyTown, picking up speed as his airship did in real life.

“Nyoooom,” Pixel said, giggling.

AS Sportacus’ airship continued north, Stephanie was struck with a horrible thought.

“Oh no, he’s heading towards the ocean! I hope it’s not Uncle Milford and Bessie on their beach vacation!”

Pixel shrugged. “Even if it was them, we know that Sportacus will take care of it, in a snap!”

It didn’t stop Stephanie from worrying, however, as Sportacus headed towards where she knew the ocean to be.

“Look, his ship is turning! See, it’s not them,” Pixel said, pointing out at the airship making a left turn.

Stephanie exhaled.  Of course, Sportacus sometimes went to OTHER towns, saving people that they didn’t even know.

“Sportacus has probably saved somebody from EVERY single town in the country,” Stephanie mused aloud.

“But we are his FAVORITE town!” exclaimed Ziggy, “That’s why he keeps coming back to us!”

“You know what, Ziggy? I think you are right,” said Stephanie, smiling, as she watched the airship turn to a tiny speck in the distance.

-

Morning turned to afternoon, and afternoon turned to night, and night turned again to morning…and Sportacus was still not back.

That particular morning, Trixie and Stephanie were playing a little one-on-one basketball, while Ziggy, Pixel, and Stingy drew with chalk on the blacktop.

“I can’t believe that Sportacus is STILL gone,” said Trixie, dribbling the basketball and passing it to Stephanie.

“I know,” Stephanie said, looking up at the sky, “That emergency must have been somewhere pretty far away.”

While she was looking, a tiny moving speck caught her eye.

A BLUE speck.

“Hey, is that Sportacus?” she asked, squinting up at it.

Her question got the interest of the boys as well, and they all crowded around to look up at it.

“No, it’s a paper airplane!” Trixie said, as the speck continued to glide downward.

Sure enough, a paper airplane soared through the air above them.

A BLUE paper airplane.

 Stephanie dropped the basketball on the ground.

“FOLLOW THAT PLANE!” she yelled, pointing out at it, and they all raced after it.

As it dipped lower and lower, it seemed to move faster and faster.  Stephanie ran after it with all of her might, and she was catching up!

“It’s…too…high!” Stephanie panted, as they ran underneath it.

“You gotta…JUMP, Pinkie!” Trixie gasped, holding her side.

Stephanie steeled herself, and prepared to jump as high as she had ever jumped in her entire LIFE-

When a butterfly net swung itself up, caught the paper airplane, and swung back down to the ground.

Stephanie skidded to a stop, seeing a smug Stingy holding the pole of the net.

“Stingy,” Stephanie said, breathing hard, “Why…do YOU have…Robbie’s butterfly net?”

“Oh! It’s not MYYYY fault that he leaves it just…LAYING AROUND for anyone to find!!” he protested in a huff. “All that matters is…we got the letter!”

The kids celebrated with a HOORAY!

Stephanie carefully unfolded the paper airplane, and they peered at the contents inside.

“Ugh, why does Sportacus always have the WORST handwriting?!” Stingy complained. “I don’t even know if those are WORDS!”

“Don’t worry, I can read it,” Stephanie said, waving a hand at him and squinting at the near-illegible scribblings that seemed to be even WORSE than usual.

“This letter is for Robbie Rotten!” Stephanie said in surprise.

“What does it say?” Trixie asked.

“’Robbie,’” Stephanie read aloud, “’I have reason to believe…that there is something very dangerous going on in….alf…heima?’”

“Alf-what?” chorused the other four kids.

“I don’t know, look, the A has a little accent,” She said, showing the weird word “Álfheima“ to the others.

“Ohh, go on, go on, what does the rest say??” asked Stingy, still clutching the butterfly net’s pole with a death grip.

“’If this message reaches you, then that means that…’” Stephanie gasped, heart sinking into her stomach, “’I am in danger as well!’”

A collective gasp came from her audience.

 “How could SPORTACUS be in danger, huh?? Is-is that even ALLOWED??” asked Ziggy, genuine worry in his voice.

“Wait, guys, there’s more-'Please, don’t tell the kids. I don’t want them to worry.  -Sportacus,’” Stephanie finished, heavy finality in her voice.

“Well, it’s too late for THAT,” Stingy remarked bitterly.

“What…what should we do?” asked Ziggy.

Stephanie put the message on the bench and thought back to what Sportacus had said yesterday.

Is there anyone that you would do anything to help, and that you could count on their help in return?

“We have to go save him,” Stephanie said decisively.

“What?”

“We can’t just…HAVE this information, and then do nothing with it!” she said, voice cracking from emotion, “Sportacus ALWAYS helps us, Sportacus always SAVES us from dangerous situations, and now HE needs help! HE needs to be saved! Sportacus is our FAMILY, and we can’t just leave our family in danger!” Stephanie declared.

“Yeah!” the other kids chorused.

Stephanie felt a fire coursing through her veins. 

“Now lets go save Sportacus!” she threw her fist up in the air.

The kids all cheered their agreement.

“Pixel!” Stephanie exclaimed as a through struck her, “can you find out where Sportacus is, right now, with your computer?”

“Yeah!” he said, pressing a few buttons, “Just have to find Sportacus’ last known coordinates…”

They all gathered around him with bated breath as he tracked Sportacus’ movement over the last day.

“Got it! His last known location was…” he watched as the display zoomed in on the map, “here! In the middle of Iceland!”

“ICE-land?”

“Wow, that WAS far away,” Trixie said under her breath.

“Great!” Stephanie said, “Pixel, lock onto those coordinates and find us a route!”

“On it!”

If Sportacus was in another COUNTRY, Stephanie reasoned, they would have to find something that would get them there FAST…

She whirled around and looked at Trixie next.

 “Trixie! Go get…the rocket!”

“Yes ma’am!” she saluted, and ran off.

“Ziggy! Take that candy out of your mouth!” Stephanie ordered, “It’s time for business!”

“Right!” he exclaimed, furrowing his brow and tossing the taffy over his shoulder.

“Stingy! Go get our rocket suits!”

He balked for a moment at being told what to do.

“Fiiine, if it will save SPORTACUS,” he said, grumbling. “But what are YOU going to do?”

“Me? I’m gonna…prepare for the WORST,” she said, narrowing her eyes, and dashing over to the nearest apple tree.

There was untold danger waiting for them in this mysterious place called Álfheima.

They were gonna need a LOT of sportscandy.

Chapter Text

In comparison to their trip to the moon, the rocket trip to Iceland was just a quick hop.

But, to Stephanie, it seemed about a thousand times longer.  Sportacus was in TROUBLE! She was BURNING with purpose and the need for action, and this rocket just couldn’t fly fast enough, no matter how hard she pedaled!

After what seemed like an eternity of flying over the ocean, with the five of them swapping off turns at the pedaling and eating the sportscandy from the dispensers, they finally caught sight of an island.

“Scanning terrain for potential landing sites…” Pixel said as they circled the rocket around the island, “Got one! Zone 4-2, prepare for landing protocol!”

The rocket tilted into landing position and slowly, gently, touched down to the earth below.

Stephanie threw the door open, and a blast of cold air barreled its way into the rocket.

She slammed the door shut again.

“Coats!” she blurted, “Everybody needs coats!”

Once they had all slipped into their winter weather outfits, Stephanie cautiously opened up the door again, climbing down the ladder and taking in the scene.

They had landed at the bottom of a gently-sloping hillside.  There wasn’t much around, besides a gigantic gnarled tree and a house in the distance. It appeared to be daytime, but the grey sky overhead made it impossible to tell what time it was.

“Maybe Sportacus just went to, ah…visit that house?” Stingy asked hopefully.

“I don’t think so, the trail ends before that house,” Pixel said, looking at his wrist computer, “Follow me, we are super close!”

They all walked together through the damp grass, Pixel in the lead, up the hill towards the ancient tree.

“Brr, I thought Greenland was the cold place,” complained Ziggy.

“Well, Greenland certainly has a higher volume of ICE, but we ARE still basically at the Arctic Circle,” Pixel explained, “Hey, did you know that there is a volcano that went off here that stopped air traffic across northern Europe for almost a week? It’s called-“

He was interrupted by his wrist computer letting out three quick beeps.

He gasped. “Stop!”

Everyone froze mid-step.

“This is it! This is where he was last seen!” Pixel said, taking a couple more steps and standing underneath the branches of the big tree.

“There wouldn’t be a chance that, he was, I don’t know…still HERE, would there?” Trixie asked hopefully.

“The chances are…low,” admitted Pixel. “The connection between our computers was severed hours ago. He could be ANYWHERE by now. Wherever he is, we have to find him another way.”

Everyone looked to Stephanie, who suddenly felt the pressure to make some sort of decision.

“We should look around a little,” she suggested, to four affirming nods. “He could still be here somewhere, maybe even in a sugar coma! Let’s check here first before we look around anymore.”

They all set to looking around the base of the enormous tree.

Stephanie looked up into the branches, looked in amongst the tangled roots, rifled through the grass, as the tiny spark of unease inside her grew and grew into a simmering panic. She recalled all the times that Robbie Rotten had hidden Sportacus away, and only an accidental slip-up on his part had given them the upper hand to save the day.

If there was an even bigger, BADDER bad guy out there…who knows IF they would ever find Sportacus again!

“Hallo?” called a distant voice, interrupting her thoughts.

Everyone looked at each other.

“Behind the tree!” Stephanie said, and they all clumped together, close enough to feel each other breathing.

Stephanie’s heart pounded as the footsteps got closer.

“Benedikt?” a woman’s voice asked.

None of them moved, fearing what lay behind that innocent-sounding voice.

The footsteps took a step to the right.

The kids shuffled to the left, keeping the tree inbetween.

“Jósafat?” the woman asked.

She stepped.

They shuffled.

She stepped.

They shuffled.

Stephanie reached into her pocket and gripped the apple she had stored inside. This game couldn’t go on forever, and she had to be prepared.

The mysterious figure feinted to the left, stepped to the right, and came face to face with all five kids.

“BOO!” she shouted.

Stephanie screamed and threw the apple as hard as she could.

THWACK!

“OW!” said the mysterious figure as she stumbled a few steps backwards, clutching her head.

Adrenaline pumping, Stephanie paused as she FINALLY got a good look at this person.

Taller than Stephanie but shorter than Sportacus, she wore a bright red shirt adorned with a daisy design smack dab in the center, hanging down over blue jeans. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, which exposed the face of a young adult…

She was just a regular woman, not an Álfheima monster.

Stephanie’s mouth dropped open as she connected the dots. There was a house up on that hill, and they had been making a bunch of noise, of course whoever lived there would want to come down to investigate…

And Stephanie had just ASSAULTED her with an APPLE!

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!” Stephanie exclaimed, “Please don’t call the police!”

“Oj…the-the police?” the woman said in accented English, rubbing her forehead, “Wh-why would I call the police on five little-“

She stopped mid-sentence and looked over their shoulders.

“Is that a ROCKET?!” she gasped, voice cracking with excitement, “Wow!”

The kids were all speechless as her careful, cautious manner completely disappeared, and she pushed past them to examine their rocket.

“Is that how you GOT to Iceland?” she asked, touching one of the boosters.

“Um-“

“With your American accents, I figured that you weren’t from around here,” she was saying, starting to climb the ladder, “But I’ve never seen any-are those, what do you call them…ellipticals?” she asked, poking her head inside.

The kids looked at Stephanie, but Stephanie certainly didn’t know what to do with this…extremely enthusiastic lady crawling around their rocket either!

“There’s nowhere to put the fuel, and I don’t even SMELL any exhaust,” she was saying, “How do you POWER this thing?!”

“Exercise and sportscandy!” Ziggy said cheerfully.

“EXERCISE?!” she gasped, going in for a second look, “That is CRAZY!”

Stingy smacked Ziggy. “Stop telling her about MYYYY rocket!! For all we know, she could be some sort of SPY!”

The woman peered back down at them. “A spy? ME?” she laughed, “This is my house, and my garden! For all I know, you could be the spies here!” she smiled mischievously.

Stingy made an offended noise, and stamped his foot. “NO!!! YOU are the spy!! I bet YOU are the one who kidnapped Sportacus, and are just admiring our rocket to distract us from rescuing him from Alfheima!”

The maybe-not-a-spy gasped from atop the ladder.

“Álfheima?” she repeated.

She jumped from the top of the ladder straight down to the ground, her mirthful demeanor completely gone. “How…how did YOU learn about Álfheima?“

Stingy clapped a hand over his mouth.

“Should we run for it?” Ziggy whispered, a little bit too loud.

“No! No, no, no, please don’t run away, I’m human, see?” she said, wiggling an ear at them. “I’m not from Álfheima.”

“What on earth does being HUMAN have to do with it?!” asked Trixie, echoing what they all were thinking.

“Be-because HUMANS don’t come from Álfheima, obviously??” she sputtered, “Don’t you know anything about the place that you are looking for?”

That gave Stephanie pause. What DID they know about Álfheima?

One. It was very dangerous.

Two. Sportacus was headed there when he sent Robbie that message.

End of list.

“We…we don’t know much,” Stephanie said in a small voice, “But…we got a message, from our friend, who said he was in danger there. Pixel, can you show-”

Pixel nodded and projected a picture of the paper airplane message out of his wrist computer.

The woman squinted at the holographic letter, mouth moving wordlessly as she deciphered Sportacus’ atrocious handwriting.

“He never, ever, EVER asks for help, and…we are all really, reallyworried about him,” Stephanie said, honest words tumbling out that she had thus far been too afraid to say.

“Danger in Álfheima,“ she muttered, thinking hard. “And your friend is involved with it?”

“Usually is,” Trixie said.

The woman straightened up. “Okay, come inside,” she said, motioning them to follow her in her walk back up the hill, “We have a lot to talk about.”

“What do you mean?”

“You aren’t the only ones who have friends in Álfheima,” she said, “And if things are as dangerous as this implies, they might need myhelp as well. Now come in! I will make some tea.”

“Wait a minute, lady, Sportacus is MISSING, and you’re inviting us in for TEA? Who even ARE you?!” Trixie demanded.

She stopped walking, and turned around.

“My name is Dídí,” she said, after a pause, “And I might be the only human being on the planet that can help you right now.”

-

When Stephanie crossed the threshold into the house, she was suddenly enveloped in heat. Dídí’s fireplace was roaring, contrasting starkly with the cold from outside. She sighed contentedly and put her coat up on the coat hanger.

The kids tentatively looked around the living room while Dídí went to the kitchen to make some tea. Her house wasn‘t exactly gigantic, but it looked…underused. There was a couch that was about the same size as the one that Pixel had in his room, and there was a teeny table over by the windowsill, and there were a FEW nice paintings and wooden decorations on the walls, along with a tall cabinet of ancient knick knacks.

The kids all piled onto the couch, halfway sitting on each other to fit.

Dídí came in and served them all tea, but she ran out of mugs and had to serve Ziggy in a sundae glass and Stephanie in a cereal bowl.

Dídí lived alone, it was becoming apparent.

Stephanie slurped at her nontraditional soup. Dídí just seemed like a normal, run-of-the-mill Icelandic woman.  If Stingy hadn’t accidentally mentioned Alfheima to her…

Stephanie was just happy to have a lead after their fruitless search beneath the tree.

Dídí pulled a chair up and fixed her five visitors with a stare.

“You are…Stephanie, Trixie, Ziggy, Pixel…” she was met with a nod with each correct name she assigned, and then turned to Stingy with a pause.

“Is your name really Stingy?” she asked him.

He sniffed. “I have many names, that belong to me,” he said haughtily, “And Stingy is but one of them.”

Stephanie tried to send a “sorry-about-him” look to Dídí, but she seemed unfazed by Stingy’s antics.

“Tell me about this elf friend of yours,” Dídí said, putting down her cup, “You must really care about him.”

“Elf…friend?” asked Stephanie.

“Yeah, the one you are looking for,” explained Dídí, “The one who went to Álfheima.”

“Pfft, SPORTACUS? He’s not an ELF!”  Trixie scoffed.

“Álfheima means ‘elf world’,“ Dídí patiently explained, “He’s GOT to be, if he got there on his own. Humans generally can’t show up uninvited.”

“Well, Sportacus isn’t LIKE everybody else,” Ziggy said proudly, “He’s a hero!! He flies around in his airship and-and helps people all the time, wherever his magic crystal tells him they need him!”

Dídí raised an eyebrow. “He has a magic crystal and you still can’t believe he’s an elf?”

“Well, uh, when you put it THAT way…” said Stingy.

“Does he have any…strange physical characteristics?” asked Dídí.

“Just his silly MUSTACHE,” Trixie snickered.

“Trixie! Be nice,” Stephanie scolded.

“What? It’s like two cat whiskers!”

“Hm,” Dídí took a sip of her tea. “Can he do…a lot of things that most people can’t do?”

“He did 74 flips in about two minutes yesterday,” Stephanie said.

Dídí‘s jaw dropped, but she composed herself and continued. “Okay, big question, have you ever actually SEEN his ears? Or does he keep them covered?”

“That’s a weird question, Of COURSE we have seen-“ Stephanie began, and then paused.  When she really thought about it…

“Guys. Have we ever seen Sportacus without his hat on?” she asked her friends, urgently.

They all thought hard, but the answer was no, Sportacus had always had that hat on, during every single rescue, every single holiday, every single FLIP, for the multiple YEARS that he had been in LazyTown.  

They had never seen his ears even ONCE.

“Oh my god,” Trixie said in awe, “Sportacus is an elf.

“A SECRET elf!” said Ziggy with a similarly reverent tone.

“It really explains a lot, if we are honest with ourselves,” admitted Stingy.

Dídí nodded slowly. “It’s the only way he could get into Álfheima without assistance.”

“But…how are WE going to get there?” asked Pixel, “You said that humans can’t go to Alfheima.”

Dídí put her cup down, and stood up. “That’s where I come in!  I have what you call…a special arrangement,” she said, touching her necklace. “I can take you all to Alfheima, and I can help you save your friend.”

“Hooray!” the kids cheered.

“The bad news is…” she sighed, “Álfheima…it can be a pretty dangerous place, even on a good day. And if an ELF calls it very dangerous, that’s even worse. We have NO IDEA what we are getting into, kids. Are you sure you want to go looking for him?”

“Lady, our lives at HOME are pretty dangerous, too,” Trixie said, scoffing, “We are always falling out of trees, planes, crashing rockets, getting kidnapped, dealing with Robbie Rotten in disguise trying to steal our sports equipment-“

“Who?” Dídí asked, looking concerned and confused.

“But Sportacus is the guy who always saves us from all that! He’s probably the reason that we are all alive right now, and we really owe him,” she continued.

Dídí nodded brusquely. “Then, we shall go to Álfheima.”

-

They all followed Dídí out the door and back down the hill.

While they walked, Stephanie caught a glimpse of the raised red mark on Dídí’s forehead and felt guilt surge in her gut.

“Um…” Stephanie said tentatively, “I’m…sorry for throwing an apple at your head, Dídí.”

“What? Oh, don’t worry about it,” Dídí waved a hand at Stephanie dismissively, “I would have done the exact same thing at your age, probably.”

“Really? You’re not mad?” Stephanie asked.

Dídí chuckled. “Trust me, I’ve been through MUCH worse things than five Útlenskt kids showing up in my garden and pelting me with apples.”

“That was DEFINITELY only Stephanie who did that,” Stingy supplied unhelpfully. “Not the rest of us. Just saying.”

Stephanie sighed.

“Hey, I’m glad that you were prepared for the worst, in case I WAS the bad guy who took your elf friend,” Dídí said, nudging Stephanie playfully. “But, I shouldn’t have scared you. I actually thought you were my elf friend, Benedikt, playing a trick on me, or I would not have in the first place.”

“Wait a minute, we’re heading right back to where we started!” said Trixie, pointing at the tree. “What gives?”

“Well,” Dídí said, ducking underneath its branches and standing on top of a root, “Like I said before, Álfheima translates to Elf World.”

“Do we need to use the rocket?” asked Stephanie.

“Oh, no, no, no need,” Dídí said, trying to hide a smile, “Just watch THIS, you’re gonna love it.”

She cleared her throat.

“Hlynur!” she called, looking toward the tree. “Hlynur minn, vaknaðu!”

“Is she talking to the tree?” whispered Stingy.

“She said we’re going to the ELF world! I’d believe ANYTHING at this point!” said Trixie.

“Hlynur minn, við þurfum að fara til Álfheimaaa!” she called, hands cupped around her mouth.

She went closer to the tree and touched one of its branches. “Heyrir þú í mér?” she spoke, loudly and slowly, “Má ég fara til Álfheima?”

“Ó, Dídí Álfavinur,” came a deep voice from the tree, startling Stephanie, “Alltaf getur þú farið til Álfheima.”

The kids gasped as the tree shifted in front of their eyes, opening up a cavernous hole at the bottom of its trunk.

Dídí stood near it, arms crossed, smugly smiling at all of their gaping jaws.

“Well, let’s not waste any time,” she said, clapping her hands together, “Follow me!”

Stephanie was feeling the tingling excitement of adventure already, and as she looked around at her friends, she saw that feeling mirrored back to her.

Taking a deep breath, she crawled in after Dídí.

Once inside, it was complete pitch blackness.

“Where are we going?” asked Stingy from the back.

“Into a tree, obviously.” Trixie said.

“Thanks, Trixie,” Stingy deadpanned back to her.

I don’t even know where we’re going,” admitted Pixel, “Because my GPS is going HAYWIRE in here.”

“And also, it’s DARK,” Trixie said, a smirk in her voice.

“Thanks Trixie,” deadpanned Stingy again, “Neeever would have noticed that one without you.”

“Wait, what’s that up ahead?”

“Are those lights?”

“AAH!!!”

They all screamed as they stopped just before a precipice.

Stretching out in front of them, was the BIGGEST cavern they had ever seen.

The walls held twinkling lights, reflective crystals, and glowing plants, all of which fed off of each other, making the cave walls shine and sparkle as bright as the sun with a million different colors.

And the cavern…

The cavern was ENORMOUS. Stephanie wasn’t even sure that it WAS a cavern, it seemed to stretch back and downwards into infinity, the lights twinkling and scintillating both near and far, like the night sky itself had come down to settle into this cave.

“Hey!” called Dídí, waving at them from the very very edge of the cliff, “Watch THIS!”

She saluted the five of them, and then LEAPED off of the edge into the cavern!

Stephanie screamed, rushing forward to try to catch her, but-

Dídí hadn’t fallen.

In fact, she was suspended in the air right where she jumped, lit from all sides by the twinkling lights inside the cave.

“It’s okay!” Dídí assured them, with a huge smile on her face, “The cave won’t let you fall!”

“This is officially the CRAZIEST day,” Pixel murmured in awe.

“Hold onto each other, kids, and follow me to Álfheima!“ Dídí shouted, turning around and floating deeper into the cavern.

The five of them exchanged incredulous looks, but shrugged, and joined hands anyway.

“Everybody ready?” Stephanie called, hearing affirmations in response.

“One…two…THREE!”

They all leapt off the precipice together.

There was a heart-stopping moment where Stephanie was filled with instant regret for JUMPING OFF A CLIFF, but…as she hit the apex of her jump, she felt her body get lighter and lighter, like being filled up with helium, and she hung in the air just like Dídí did.

And then, a subtle force began to gently tug her forward, like gravity had changed its mind about abandoning her, but it pulled her forwards slowly instead of slamming her to the ground.

“We’re FLYING!” Trixie said, vibrating with excitement, “WOOOOO!!!”

“Actually, I think we are more like floating,” Pixel noted.

“Don’t ruin my dreams with science, Pixel, or I’ll let GO of you!” she shot back.

“Ohh, don’t let go, PLEASE,” Ziggy said, voice quaking, “I’m so afraid of HEIGHTS! Why do we have to float up so HIGH?!”

Now that they had floated a little ways into the cave, Stephanie could see that they were actually passing by some of the starlike balls of light, rather than them all being unreachably distant like the night sky.  She reached out her hand to brush one of them as they went by, but her hand was pushed away from it by what felt like a repelling magnetic force.

“What IS this place, Dídí?” asked Stephanie.

“This place…is the place in between the human world and the elf world,” Dídí called back to them, voice reverberating and echoing off the huge walls, “Benedikt said something like…it is made of the same stuff as dreams are.”

“I think I’ve SEEN this place in my dreams before,” Stephanie said, kicking her dangling feet and looking at the lights that passed by below her.

Strangely, she felt absolutely no fear in looking down, now that she knew that she wasn’t going to fall.

“Hmph. MY dreams usually have more MONEY in them,” Stingy said from the other side of Pixel.

As they went further and further across the expansive cavern, one of the lights in front of them grew stronger, brighter, and bigger.

Stephanie realized that it was that light that was drawing them forward, like metal to a magnet.

And the pull was getting stronger.

“Brace yourselves, we are going to land!” Dídí yelled, and Stephanie tightened her grip on Trixie.

They got heavier and heavier as they headed for the bright light, flying faster and faster, until finally-

CRASH!

They all tumbled out over each other, landing in sweet-smelling grass.

“We made it!” came Dídí’s voice from above them, “Great job, kids!”

She helped them all back up to their feet, and gave them all high-fives.

“That was, hands down, NO contest, the COOLEST thing I have ever DONE!” crowed Trixie, punching a fist in the air.

“Yes! Me too!” Dídí agreed, nodding enthusiastically. “Now, all of you stay here, please. I will be right back. I need to go find Jósafat and uh…” she took a deep breath, “Break this to him…GENTLY. Stay right there, please.”

And she was off, leaping through the clearing and dodging the trees like they were her home.

The kids peered around the clearing. There was a grassy hill, eerily reminiscent of the hill next to Dídí’s old tree, but there was something…different about it, somehow. It looked brimming with life, teeming with sparking magic, little flitting glitter spots shining among the too-green grass.

The enchantment of the scene was…captivating.

“Ugh, NONE of my instruments WORK in here!” cried Pixel in frustration, pressing buttons to no avail.

“Well, duh, we are in the ELF WORLD now!” Trixie said, “Doesn’t technology hate magic or something?”

“Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Trixie,” Pixel sighed. “They probably have technology here that we can’t even understand.”

“Guys?” Ziggy said, quietly.

“Gee, I don’t really see any COMPUTERS around here,” Trixie said, looking around exaggeratedly, “Do you?”

“Guys?!” Ziggy said again.

“Well, there still could be ELF technology, maybe they just developed some sort of…alternate type of tech!”

“Are you telling me that they make computers out of-out of STONES or something?”

“Why not? They did it in MINECRAFT!”

“PFFT, MINE-craft?!” Trixie sputtered.

“GUYS!!” shouted Ziggy.

“What?” said both Pixel and Trixie.

Ziggy was stock-still with terror, and raised one trembling finger to point off into the distant fog.

That’s when they, too, saw the shape.

It was a humanoid shape, striding menacingly towards them from far away, wiggling its extra-long fingers at its sides.

And, as it emerged from the fog into the light of the sun, it got WORSE.

The terrible creature was HUGE, about the size of Robbie Rotten, and had a pale, sickly white face and a boyd that looked to be covered in dripping tar.

“Is that a g-g-goblin?” Ziggy asked, terrified.

They drew in closer to each other as he began to stalk around them, knees up high, movements quick and jerky like an animal. His wild eyes scanned the children, back and forth and up and down, as if he were trying to comprehend what he was seeing.

His eyes narrowed, and he raised up a finger, appearing as if he were counting them.

Suddenly, he stopped.

The kids were frozen to the spot.

The creature opened up his mouth and SCREAMED.

The children screamed, and ran up the grassy knoll to hide behind one of the trees.

“I th-th-think that guy ATE Sp-Sp-Sportacus!” said Ziggy, shaking in his boots.

“Shh!” Stephanie shushed, swallowed hard, and chanced a glance around the tree.

The creature didn’t even seem to be LOOKING at them anymore, nor interested where they went. He was just…screaming at nothing, jumping around the clearing in some sort of fit, waving his arms all over the place and making blubbering noises.

“NÓG! NÓÓÓÓÓG!” he screamed, his voice screechy and reedy, hands clutching his head, “EITT MANNABARN VAR NÓG!

Stephanie was at least eighty percent sure that those were words, and maybe even in a language that humans spoke. But she couldn’t be completely sure, because even when this goblin creature made wordlike noises, they were still in the same high, screeching register as his gibberish moans and groans.

“AF HVERJUU!!!!” he screamed out, arms splayed to the side and face raised up to the heavens, “AF HVERJUUUUU!!!!”

He froze, and turned his whole body to fix Stephanie’s exposed face with a wide-eyed stare.

They stared at each other.

He raised one sickeningly-long finger to point at her and screamed again.

STEPHANIE screamed again.

“BUUUUURT!!” he screeched, full-tilt sprinting towards her as he wiggled his extra-long fingers in front of his as he ran-

“JÓSAFAT!” came Dídí’s voice from the opposite direction.

She was running with all her might, hair flying behind her, stretching out one hand as if to try to stop him from where she was. “Hætta þessu! Þau komu með mér!”

He froze in his tracks. “Dídí…Álfavinur?” he said cautiously, turning around to see her.

She smiled toothily.

“HÆ!!!” they said simultaneously, wiggling their fingers at each other.

“Þessi…mannabörn eru með þér?” He asked in disbelief, lip curling with disgust.

“Já, svo ekki hrella þau!” Dídí said, jabbing a finger at him.

“E-en-en-biddu nú-” Jósafat looked almost offended, as he gestured back and forth between Dídí and the children, but then slumped.

“Allt í lagi þá,” he mumbled.

Dídí looked up at Stephanie, peeking her head out from behind the tree, and waved.

“It’s okay, come on out!” she called, “He won’t hurt you.”

“You-you KNOW him?” asked Trixie.

“Is he going to e-e-eat us??” Ziggy asked, voice shaking in fear.

“No, he is NOT going to do that,” Dídí said, throwing a hard look at Jósafat, “Anyway, I would like you to meet… Jósafat Mannahrellir!” she presented.

He smiled uneasily and waved a hand at them as they crept slowly out from behind the tree.

“He is a…guard of the elf world,”  Dídí explained, “He protects it from humans who would do it harm, and? He has been one of my greatest friends since I was a little child!”

“REALLY?” Ziggy gasped in disbelief.

“Yep!” she said, smiling wide.

“Afsakið,” said Jósafat, voice still just as high and reedy as it was when he screamed, “Sæl og blessuð, eh heh heh heh,” he said, in a tone that showed that he was taking GREAT pains in an attempt to be nice.

Five sets of eyes blinked up at him.

Jósafat crooked a finger at Dídí and gestured to the children.

“Biddu nú en,” he said, fairly quietly, crossing his arms, “Afhverju geta þau ekki talað mannamál?”

Stephanie didn’t understand what he had said, but Dídí’s face looked like he had said something ridiculous.

Mannamál?” she repeated, face grimaced in confusion.

“Þau-þau skilja ekki mannamál, eru þau…” he put a hand up to shield his mouth from the children, “Heimsk?”

“Heimsk?!” exclaimed Dídí, “Nei! Þau eru bara að tala ensku.”

Jósafat looked back at the children, and narrowed his eyes. “Jæja, ég skil ekki þessa…ensku, segðu þeim að tala mannamál.”

Dídí rolled her eyes.

“Ahem!” said Trixie, “If this…guy is some Elf World guard, then has HE seen Sportacus?”

Dídí turned to Jósafat. “Hefurðu séð álfur í dag? Hann heitir Sportacus?”

Jósafat narrowed his eyes, and tapped his chin with his horrifying fingers.

“Ég…ég…” he said, deep in thought, and then harrumphed. “’É-ég sé svo marga álfar allan daginn! Ég veit ekki ÖLL NÖFNIN ÞEIRRA!!!” he screamed, getting right up close and towering over Dídí.

Stephanie gasped and drew back from the pair, but Dídí stood firm, narrowing her eyes.

“Þá, við þurfum BENEDIKT!!“ she screamed right back into his face, making him recoil.

“Farðu,” she pointed out into the forest, “Og ná í hann!“

They stared at each other for a moment, tensions running high, until-

“Okay!” said Jósafat, high and singsong, and he crept away, calm as can be.

Stephanie watched the strange goblin man retreat into the fog and disappear, leaving the six of them to stand in the clearing.

“Well, not much to do until he gets back,” Dídí said, rubbing her hands together, “Want to play catch?”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the slightly-bruised apple that Stephanie had thrown at her just hours before, and tossed it to Stephanie with a wink.

Stephanie felt embarrassment pool in her gut, and flung the apple out across the quickly forming circle. She regretted throwing that apple at Dídí, now. She had only known her for less than a day, but in that time, Dídí had dropped everything to help her and her friends, guided them to the elf world, kept them safe and even played with them so they wouldn’t get bored.

She reminded Stephanie of Sportacus, and anybody who reminded her of Sportacus was worthy of Stephanie’s trust.

They all threw the apple back and forth in silence, too busy contemplating the whirlwind of events from the past day to really laugh and joke with each other.

“Man, what is that Jósafat guy’s DEAL?” demanded Trixie, throwing the apple off to Dídí, “Why did he scream at you and then run away like nothing ever happened?”

“Honestly?” said Dídí, catching the apple and throwing it all the way to Pixel, “I think he was embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed by what?” Pixel asked, fumbling with the apple and tossing it back out, where it landed in the center of the circle. “Whoops.”

“Well,” Dídí said as she walked over to pick it up, “He didn’t recognize the name Sportacus. He just gets so…touchy, when he doesn’t know the answer to something, ESPECIALLY when it has something to do with his job. So, he…lashes out.”

Stephanie nodded sympathetically, despite herself. She might not understand Jósafat Mannahrellir, but she DID understand how embarrassment could make somebody angry.

“But really,” Dídí continued, “He shouldn’t be so worked up by not knowing somebody’s name, especially such an uncommon one as Sportacu-“

Dídí suddenly gasped, and dropped the apple.

“Wait. What if Sportacus is just a nickname, not his REAL name?” Dídí said excitedly, “Do you think that could be true?”

 “Yeah! One time, Sportacus told us that he has another name, do you remember guys? Huh?” Ziggy said, vibrating with excitement.

Stephanie gasped as something clicked in her memory.

Did you know, that where I come from, they call me by a different name?

“He does! He does!! You’re right, Ziggy!” Stephanie exclaimed, bouncing up and down. “He told us what it was, it’s uh...it’s…it’s really long…”

Stephanie furrowed her brow, trying her best to remember. She remembered his twinkling eyes when he said it, she remembered trying to copy back what he said, but what was that NAME—

“Ohhh, it’s Íþróttaálfurinn!“ Trixie finally said impatiently, crossing her arms.

Everyone turned to look at Trixie in shock.  The way those complicated syllables rolled of her tongue, it was clear that she had practiced hard to commit it to memory.

It was very…unlike Trixie to do something like that, and she seemed to know it, from the way that she held herself across her own torso and wouldn’t meet anyone else’s eyes.

“Wow, nice MEMORY, Trixie!” Stephanie said, holding up her hand for a high five.

Trixie smiled a small smile and hit Stephanie’s hand HARD.

“Íþrótta-ÁLFURINN?“ repeated Dídí, stifling a laugh. “Really?”

“What? What?! Is his name embarrassing here? PLEASE tell me his name is really embarrassing here,” Trixie pleaded.

“No, sorry, it’s actually a pretty traditional elf title,” Dídí said, still trying to stop herself from laughing, “It’s just that…having a title like The Sports Elf certainly explains how he could do seventy-four flips in two minutes.”

“The SPORTS Elf?!” gasped the kids in unison.

“I’m starting to think that there is a lot about your friend that you don’t know,” Dídí said, amused, “But? I am so glad that you remembered his title, Trixie, that is a GREAT lead for Benedikt to go off of when he gets here. But for now…”

She pulled a bandana out of her jeans pocket, and held it out.

“Have any of you ever played Skollaleikur?”

Chapter Text

Skollaleikur turned out to be the Icelandic word for Blind Man’s Buff, a game that Trixie had played before, but was new to the rest of the LazyTown kids.  

And, it was so much FUN! Stephanie got to be It first, which meant that Dídí tied that piece of fabric around her eyes like a blindfold, and spun her around.  

“Now,” Dídí said, holding her still after three spins, “Try your best to HEAR where your friends are. Don’t just run around like a beheaded chicken or you’ll just fall flat on your face, listen.”

Dizzy and disoriented, Stephanie listened. She walked with her hands out, concentrating on what she could hear—any crack of a twig, any muffled laughter, any soft footstep scrunching in the grass, she changed direction to head towards it.

After about a minute, she became aware that she was following what sounded like the same footsteps, quickening like a panicked heartbeat as she came closer, and closer. Stephanie was so close, she almost HAD them-

When she heard a THUD and an “OOF!” right next to her left hand.

She reached out quickly toward the bigger sound, touching what felt like a floppy piece of fabric laying against someone’s back-

“Zig-gy, I got you!!” Stephanie said, sing-song, letting go of his cape and ripping off the blindfold.

“Stephanie, you ALMOST got me!!” squealed Trixie, standing JUST where Stephanie had been heading toward, “I was RIGHT here, and you were THIS close!! But I lived, HA!”

They played round after round, with Dídí as the ultimate referee to keep them playing fair. As Stephanie found out, the game was a LOT harder when you weren’t It. You had to be very quiet, very sneaky, and try your LEVEL BEST not to laugh when Pixel slipped on a leaf and fell over, or when Trixie ran headlong into a tree and mouthed a VERY bad word rather than get touched by a blindfolded Stingy.

NOTHING was funnier than stuff that happened when you were trying to be QUIET, and after a while, they had to take a break from playing because it HURT to stifle their laughter for so long.

“Ohhhhh, I can hardly BREATHE from laughing,” Stingy said, laying on the ground, his chest rising and falling exaggeratedly, “PHEW!”

Stephanie felt much the same, her face ACHED from smiling.

“This game is so FUN, Dídí!“ she announced cheerily.

“Yeah, thanks for teaching us!” Pixel said enthusiastically.

“Oh, no problem, no problem,” Dídí said, suddenly very interested in folding the blindfold around her hand.

Just at that moment, Jósafat re-emerged into the clearing, carrying a fully-grown man in his arms.

The kids all gaped at him. They had been having so much fun playing the game that they had nearly FORGOTTEN about Jósafat’s quest.

But here he was, staggering toward Dídí, straining with the effort of holding up this heavy man.

“Jósafat minn,“ the man was saying, “Þú þarft ekki að halda á mér—AHH!“

Jósafat unceremoniously dumped him on the ground and wiped the sweat from his pallid forehead.

“Fann hann,” he deadpanned to Dídí.

He looked to the children, ensuring they were watching him, and pointed aggressively at the man on the ground several times.

“BE-NE-DIKT,” he enunciated slowly with each point, eyes wide and head nodding as if willing them to understand him, “Þetta er BENEDIKT.“

Luckily for Jósafat, it wasn’t that hard of a concept to grasp. Plus, if she had any doubt at all that this was the famed Benedikt, all Stephanie had to do was take a look at Dídí. The young woman was bouncing with excitement, hands clasped right in front of her gigantic smile as she watched Benedikt struggle to pick himself up off the ground, muttering under his breath as he brushed himself off. Yes, this was clearly the Benedikt that Dídí had been talking about so fondly.

And when Benedikt finally looked up and caught sight of Dídí, he gasped in pure delight.

“DÍDÍ!!!!“ he screeched, clasping his chest with both hands.

“BENEDIKT!!” Dídí yelled back, and they wiggled their fingers at each other before they embraced warmly, chattering happily in Icelandic.

While it took a little bit of puzzling to figure out Sportacus, it was super clear to Stephanie that Benedikt was an elf.  His outfit, a blue overcoat covering a stylized red shirt and billowing neon green pants were a good indication on their own, but what really gave him away was his pointy ears and his too-round nose.  If you had sat her down with a bunch of crayons and instructed her to draw “an elf”, she would probably draw something close to Benedikt.

Except for the fact that Benedikt looked to be close to six feet tall, having to lean down to kiss adult Dídí on the forehead.  When he pulled away, he pulled a bouquet of flowers out of nowhere, presenting them to her with a smile.

“Who is this, a magician?” scoffed Stingy, turning his nose up.

“Ooh! I love magicians!!” Ziggy said excitedly. Stingy rolled his eyes.

This commotion drew Benedikt’s attention from Dídí to the five human children, and his eyes widened.

Ó? Hvað höfum við hérna? Við hofum GESTIIIII!!!!“ Benedikt yelled in a vibrato voice that reverberated unnaturally off the distant hills.

“Hver eruð þið? Hvað eruð þið að gera hér—DÍDÍ!“ he gasped, putting a hand to his chest in fake offence, “Hvenær eignaðist þú BÖRN?!“

Dídí blushed. “Nei, Benediiikt! Gætirðu bara-bara gefið þeim galdra? Þá gætum við talað saman.“

“Ekkert mál, Dídí mín,“ said Benedikt, rubbing his hands together with a glint of mischief in his eye.

Benedikt jumped and bounced around in front of the children, waving his arms near their faces and mumbling nonsense words.

“Uhm…what is he doing, Dídí?” asked Stingy, leaning his face away from Benedikt’s wiggling fingers.

“Oh, don’t be afraid,” Dídí said, waving a hand at Benedikt’s…eccentric movements, “He’s just performing the spell that lets you understand the languages of Álfheima.“

“D-does it hurt?” Ziggy asked apprehensively, following Bendikt’s jumping body with his eyes, left and right, left and right.

“No, no,” Dídí assured, as Benedikt pulled a strange bag out of his sleeve and emptying it of its powdered contents, “But it WILL make you sneeze.”

Benedikt leaned right up close to Stephanie, and blew the powder into her face.

“BLAGH!” Stephanie choked.

Benedikt went down the line and blew the powder into all five of their faces, leaving everyone spluttering just like her.

As Stephanie coughed and sneezed through the cloud of powder, she couldn’t help but feel like a magic spell should be a little more…elegant than this.

Benedikt was still speaking, rapid fire, as this was all going on.  But after the dust cleared away from Stephanie’s face, she realized that she could completely understand his words.

“Hello? Hello Hello? Can you understand me now?” he was saying, bouncing up and down with excitement.

“Yes, yes we can,” the kids murmured.

“Excellent!!” said Benedikt, clapping his hands and spinning in a circle, making his jacket flare out. “So, kids, what brings you down to the lovely, beautiful, and SCINTILLATING Elf World?” he asked, throwing his arms out to the sides and letting sparkles fly from his fingertips.

“Wooow,” said Ziggy, completely enchanted.

“We-we are looking for our friend, Sportacus!” said Stephanie, as the cold realization that Sportacus was probably in trouble overtook the feeling of laughter in her chest, “He sent us a letter, saying that there was danger in Álfheima, and that HE was probably in danger too, and-“

“Wait a minute, back up,” Benedikt said, rolling his hands around each other as an illustration, “Sporta-WHO?”

“They say that his title is Íþróttaálfurinn,“ Dídí said.

“Hey, this magic stuff made me understand that word! It DOES mean The Sports Elf!” Trixie said excitedly.

Benedikt shrieked.

“How do YOU kids know the prince of Álfheima?!“ he demanded.

“The WHAT?!” gasped all of the kids simultaneously.

“Prince of Álfheima? Son of King Aðalsteinn and Queen Brynhildur? Ringing any bells for you?“ he asked, miming the ringing of a hand bell with one hand, “Ding ding ding!!”

After the trip down to the elf world, finding out that Sportacus was a secret elf, Stephanie thought that NOTHING could surprise her anymore.

She was wrong.

Apparently Sportacus was a secret PRINCE, too!

“Sportacus? The PRINCE?” she could only manage to say, her mind SPINNING.

Benedikt seemed mildly confused by HER confusion. “Uh, yes? Well,technically, you see, he’s ONE of the princes, being one of the royal identical triplets and all-“

And just like that, the rug was pulled out from under Stephanie AGAIN.

“I-Identical TRIPLETS??” gasped Pixel, voice cracking as he echoed her thoughts.

“There are THREE Sportacuses?” asked Ziggy, stars in his eyes.

“Oh man, Robbie Rotten is gonna FREAK when he finds this out,” Trixie whispered to Stephanie, nudging her with an elbow.

“It looks like you and your friend have a LOT to talk about!!” Benedikt said gleefully, “We will go and visit Aðalsteinn and Brynhildur, the king and queen of the Elf World, in their castle.  They will know how to get in touch with their son!“

He motioned toward the forest.  “Come on, everybody, let’s go to the castle!”

As he turned around to take a step into the woods, Jósafat stepped up to block his path.

Benedikt shrieked in surprise.

don’t think that’s a wise idea,” said Jósafat shrilly, throwing an arm around Benedikt and steering him back toward the children.

“Why not, Jósafat dear?” asked Benedikt, wincing and gingerly lifting the arm off of his shoulder, “Don’t tell me that King Aðalsteinn has a TOOTHACHE again!“

“No no no,” said Jósafat, leaning in conspiratorily, “It’s just that…a couple of years ago they hired a new…advisor, and he is…how do I say this…”

Jósafat looked around, left, and right, to make sure that no one besides Benedikt and the six humans were there to hear him.

“Annoying,” he whispered.

Benedikt rolled his eyes. “Annoying? That’s it?”

“VERY annoying,” Jósafat clarified, crossing his arms and pouting.

Benedikt sighed. “Annoying isn’t really a DETERRENT, Jósafat minn, or how on earth would you and I have ever become friends?” he said with just a TRACE of a smirk.

Jósafat opened his mouth to complain, but then shut it again, giving Benedikt a surly look.

Benedikt grinned, and winked at him.

“C’mon kids! To the Elf Castle!” he called, turning around and walking on.

Chapter Text

The walk to the royal castle was shaping up to be pretty long.

They had been walking through the forest for at LEAST a solid hour, or at least that’s what it felt like to Stephanie, and her feet were starting to hurt.

Luckily, Benedikt was an excellent tour guide, which distracted her from the pain in her feet.  Benedikt had exactly one setting, and that was ON—he bursted with energy, darting left and right, speaking and flirting with everything that they passed by, even things that were too small for the kids to even see.  And on top of that, he seemed absolutely THRILLED to have an audience of new people.  He told them story after story about Álfheima, of different areas and creatures that he has seen, how they built the royal castle in seven days, stories about everything that they happened to pass by, punctuated by little magic tricks like growing flowers out of nowhere or releasing sparkles from his hands.

In addition, he listened intently to THEIR tale of how they came to the elf world, laughed when Dídí told him about how they threw an apple at her, reassured Stephanie that Dídí had tried to kill him with her jacket on their first meeting, which did make her feel better.

But seriously, Stephanie’s feet were starting to HURT.

“Kid, I think you’re limping,” Dídí noted quietly, watching Stephanie walk with a wobble in her step, “Do you need to sit down for a minute?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Stephanie waved away, “We can rest AFTER we find Sportacus.”

Dídí blew a breath out.

“It’s, uh, not gonna be that easy,” she said carefully, “Finding a missing elf around here, it’s…more like a marathon than a sprint, trust me. Plus, how much good are you going to be to him if you can’t even walk?”

Stephanie cast a glance up ahead at her friends, who were looking entranced as Benedikt conjured a rainbow around his head.

“I don’t want to cause any trouble,” Stephanie whispered.

“I will, then,” Dídí grinned, and cupped her hands around her mouth.

“Hey, Benedikt,” she called, “Can we rest for a minute?”

“Why, of COURSE, Dídí!” he said immediately, veering off the path toward a steeply-sloping hill of flowers, “Silly me, I had quite forgotten that all of you have had a VERY long day!”

The rest of the kids sighed in relief, and sat against the hill, as if Dídí‘s request had finally given them the freedom to show how tired they were.

“Did we bring any food?” asked Stingy, “I’m starving.”

“Oh! Yeah!” said Stephanie, reaching into her backpack and pulling out some hastily-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

There were only five, which puzzled Stephanie for just a moment before she realized that before this day, she hadn’t KNOWN Benedikt or Dídí. 

Strange. It felt like she had known them for much longer.

They solved this problem by each tearing a piece of their sandwich off and depositing it into Dídí and Benedikt’s hands, who thanked them profusely, Benedikt declaring that he LOVES the crust of the bread and how did you know???

So they sat, quietly eating, admiring the scenery around them.  The hill they were sitting on contained many flowers of different kinds, which they were careful not to sit upon after they witnessed Benedikt arguing with a sunflower earlier that day.

Stephanie’s eye caught a little grass elf, a tiny green thing with even tinier pointed ears and antennae, staring at her from the inside of a daisy.

She raised up a hand and slowly waved at them.

The grass elf waved back at her, winked, and zoomed off, bouncing through the grass like a grasshopper.

Stephanie made a mental note to examine grasshoppers more closely in the human world.

“Benedikt?” asked Pixel, carefully.

“Yes, my dear?” answered the elf.

“How come no human has ever SEEN a real elf? I mean…documented one? I can’t access the internet right now, but…everything I have ever read on the subject before indicates that elves are only the stuff of legend.”

Benedikt chuckled. “Well, we have MANY ways to hide ourselves when we are out in the human world,” he said, snapping his fingers and disappearing from view.

“Woah!” exclaimed Pixel, and Benedikt reappeared with a little pop!

“Invisibility, of course, is a classic, but! I could also create…an illusion,” he said, wiggling his fingers toward the children as his face warped into a more human face before their very eyes, with a tiny nose and rounded ears. “Oooooh!!!”

Dídí grimaced. “Put it back,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

Benedikt snapped his fingers, and he was back to normal. “Also, I’m not exactly six feet tall when I go into the human world, so I am VERY good at hiding.”

Pixel tilted his head to the side. “How do you change heights? Is that another magic trick?”

“No, it’s-well, let me put it this way,” Benedikt said, “The elf world…it’s our home! It’s the source of all KINDS of magic! And when we are closer to it…we are stronger!”

He pointed back towards the way they came. “Out there in the human world, away from our magic, most of us-“ he brought his hands together, making a noise like beeeeeyoooouuu, “-shrink!”

“You just…become smaller?” asked Stephanie.

“Well, not ALWAYS, but…we are all affected by being far away from the source of our magic.  Some of us shrink, turn invisible, develop allergies-“ Benedikt sneezed with the intensity of a gale force wind, “-or sicknesses, lose our wings, or even the points of our ears get rounded off!” he gasped. “That last one is more common in halflings than full-blooded elves, of course, but it does happen.”

Trixie’s jaw dropped. 

“Are you telling me that if I just…saw you, hanging around in the human world, I wouldn’t even know that you were an elf??” asked Trixie, astonished.

“Oh, no, no, I am MUCH smaller when I am in the human world,” Benedikt corrected, “I would DEFINITELY not pass as a human out there. I told you that Dídí tried to kill me with a jacket when we first met? That’s because she thought I was a biiiig giant rat!”

Dídí and Benedikt laughed. Stephanie thought that was a weird thing to laugh about.

“Hey, Benedikt,” Dídí said with a smile, “Remember, when you dressed up like a human with two gigantic stilts just so you could come see me in my school play?”

“Yes! I thought I did a good job of it!” Benedikt protested.

“Your leg fell off during intermission and made my teacher’s wife faint!”

“Ahh, but it was WORTH it, Dídí my dear! You were so CUTE as that little strawberry!” he said, leaning over and pinching her cheek playfully.

“Stop, Benedikt!” Dídí giggled, swatting his hand away.

“Is Benedikt your husband, Dídí?” asked Ziggy suddenly.

Dídí and Benedikt turned to look at each other simultaneously, and grimaced in disgust.

“What?! No! Eww!” sputtered Dídí, “He is HUNDREDS of years older than me!”

“Oh,” Ziggy said, thinking very hard, “Is Benedikt your dad?”

Dídí opened her mouth to protest, but didn’t seem to be able to find any words.

Stingy sighed.  “Please excuse him for his stupidity,” he said, “He has taffy instead of brains.”

“Oh, be nice,” Dídí scolded, “Benedikt is more like…my adopted uncle.”

“And Dídí is my FAAAvorite adopted niece!” Benedikt hugged Dídí with one arm, who grinned. “I bet none of YOU have a niece that has saved Álfheima!” he boasted.

“Saved Álfheima?” chorused the kids in surprise.

Benedikt had the mischievous grin of an older relative about to embarrass somebody, and RELISH in it.

“Dídí…didn’t…TELL YOU?!” he gasped, putting his hand to his chest in very fake disbelief.

 Dídí blushed.  “Benedikt, no, we don’t have to go into-“

“DÍDÍ here,” interrupted Benedikt, gesturing to her with both hands, “Saved Álfheima, and EVERYONE in it, when she was only six years OLD!”

Stephanie gasped, and turned to look at Dídí, who was covering her face.

“You don’t have to make such a big DEAL about it,” she mumbled.

“Why do you think she has that necklace??” Benedikt asked, pointing at the little pendant depicting a circle surrounding a lightning bolt, “King Aðalsteinn HIMSELF gave it to her, after she defeated the most powerful, EEEEVIL, and WRETCHED dark elf Sölvar Súri!“

 Dídí crossed her arms.

“Now, Benedikt, I didn’t DEFEAT him, I just…uh…reversed, the, ah, effects of all his dark magic, and, um…healed you and the royal family from his toothaches,” she mumbled, voice trailing off.

While she was speaking, all five of the kids had gravitated toward her, starry-eyed.

“How on EARTH did you do THAT?!” gasped Stingy.

“Go on, Dídí,” encouraged Benedikt, sitting back and grinning madly at the chaos he had caused, “Tell them the story!”

“PLEASE!” Trixie pleaded.

Dídí gave Benedikt a look, and sighed. “Well, I was afraid of the dark, as a kid.”

“Me too!” piped up Ziggy.

“And because of that, my mother said to me, if I was ever…frightened, or had a nightmare, to close my eyes and think very hard about anything beautiful that I could imagine.  She said that doing so would make my inner light strong, and would make the horrors disappear.”

Dídí idly plucked a handful of grass and shredded it between her fingers absentmindedly.

“She told me all this to help me with my nightmares, but it turns out?” she shrugged, “That’s actually HOW you defeat dark elf power. When I came to Álfheima, Sölvar had captured the tooth fairy, and was turning everyone else into dark elves by giving them toothaches.”

“Pfffft, TOOTHACHES?” Stingy scoffed.

“Hey!” Benedikt protested.

“Yes, Stingy, I thought that too!” said Dídí, gesturing at him, “But if you’ve actually…SEEN an elf, an elf KING, succumb to darkness, and war, and destruction, because of his pain…”

She shook her head to dispel the memories.

“Anyway. Sölvar was a strong dark elf. He had taken King Aðalsteinn and Queen Brynhildur‘s power, and then? He took out BENEDIKT!”

Benedikt nodded solemnly.

“I was all alone, against him,” she said, looking far off into the distance. “Oh, I was so scared.  He was three times my size, and purple, and mean, and UGLY, and he had taken down every adult in Álfheima that I trusted, all at once.“

Dídí rubbed her face with her hands.

Stephanie tried to imagine herself at six years old, having to defeat a big bad guy, without her daddy by her side.

“You were so little,” said Stephanie softly, “How did you defeat him?”

“It was just like my mother told me,” Dídí smiled despite herself, “I closed my eyes, and thought very hard about all of my favorite people and things in the world, and how much I loved them, and when I opened my eyes?”

The kids waited with bated breath.

“All of my friends were healed, and Sölvar was passed out on top of his throne, powerless.“

“Woooow,” the kids collectively sighed, staring adoringly up at her.

“And that was it? He was defeated??” asked Trixie.

“Well, no,” Dídí continued, “After I stopped thinking so hard about beautiful things, it kind of wore off, and he resurged in his power.  We have our friend Daði the Dragon to thank for coming to the rescue, he took out Sölvar with his mighty exploding fire breath, from fifty feet away!”

Dídí pumped her fist in the air.

“Took him out, like…killed him?” Pixel said in a small voice.

“Uh, yeah,” Dídí admitted, “Sorry.”

The five LazyTown kids looked at each other in stunned silence.

Stephanie suddenly wondered what they had gotten themselves into.

Benedikt clapped his hands together to dispel the awkward silence. “Well! Time to get moving again, if we want to reach the castle at a reasonable time,” he said, standing up, “Onwards!”

So the kids stood up, brushed themselves off, and began to walk again.

Chapter Text

“Here it is,” Benedikt announced, making some trumpeting noises with his mouth, “I present to you, the Royal Castle!”

The LazyTown kids gasped as they beheld the golden fortress sitting at the top of the hill. It shined so brightly that Stephanie could hardly even see it at first, but as she squinted at it she could make out some towers, a set of big heavy double wooden doors, and a huge wall surrounding it.  It looked like a cross between a traditional castle and a cluster of crystals, judging by how the tall golden towers of the castle were just slightly too tilted to be held up by anything other than magic.

Plus, this castle had a halo! A halo of purple and yellow and green floated lazily in the sky above the castle, translucent like a multicolored cloud.

“Why is there a rainbow going AROUND the castle, huh?” asked Ziggy.

Trixie shrugged. “Gay rights?” 

Benedikt turned to Trixie and let out a surprised HA! of gleeful laughter.

“Hey Benedikt, when’s pride month around here?” she asked, as the elf continued to laugh his head off.

“Oh, all year round, Trixie dear,” said Benedikt, wiping a tear from his eye as he sobered slightly, “All year round. Goodness me. But that has nothing to do with it.  It’s actually the BIG-gest magic spell in all of Álfheima!“ he announced, leaping on top of a nearby rock and throwing his arms out to the side.

“That’s a SPELL??” gasped Stephanie. That was a far cry from choking on magic powder, it was BEAUTIFUL.

“It is called the Light Elf Halo!” Benedikt continued excitedly, hopping back down from the rock, “It keeps the castle enchanted alll year round! It also protects it from Dark Elf interference, keeps the fountains running, and uh, keeps it standing at those…eh heh... slightly odd angles,” he finished sheepishly.

“Let me get this straight,” said Pixel, “If you have that thing, you don’t need to have indoor plumbing? Or security? Or structural integrity ??”

“Well, uh, you still have to have SOME structural integrity,” Benedikt said, laughing nervously, “But, ah, it DOES give us a little bit of…” he wiggled one hand back and forth, “ Flexibility , in that regard.”

“Wow! I wish I had one of those for my Minecraft world,” he said.

“What’s Mine Craft?” asked Benedikt, curiously.

Pixel’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “What’s MINEcraft?!” he repeated, voice cracking, “It’s my favorite video game! Oh man, I wish I had some screenshots of my world to show you, but I-I’ll do my best-”

Stephanie smiled wide as Pixel’s eyes lit up, explaining the basics of Minecraft to an intently-listening Benedikt. Pixel had been a bit quiet, ever since he found out that he was completely without his usual technology, and he was pretty rattled—not that he would admit that right now, what with the whole Sportacus rescue going on.  But if there was one thing that would make him happy, it was being asked about Minecraft. 

So, with the sound of Pixel animatedly chatting, they started up the hill.

It turned out to be quite a climb, up to the castle. The road was steep, and the hill was tall, and the sun beating down on them made things a bit…unpleasant.

“Why is this castle so high up?!” asked Stingy, panting a little.

“I don’t know if I can go on,” said Ziggy, slumping and dragging his hands at his sides, “One of you...is going to have to carry me.”

“Ugh, as IF!” scoffed Trixie, “I’m not carrying YOU when my feet already hurt SO bad!”

“Rock Paper Scissors for who has to carry Ziggy?” suggested Stingy.

“No, you always cheat at that game!”

“Do not!”

“Do too!”

Do not!

Do too!”

Stephanie was tired, but she was even MORE tired of their bickering, so she sped up a little bit to walk beside Dídí instead.

In front of the pack, Pixel didn’t seem to even notice the climb.  He was still talking to Benedikt, hands flying everywhere as he explained how redstone worked, while Benedikt nodded and took notes in his little book, asking questions every so often, fully and completely mesmerized by Pixel's explanations.

Wow, thought Stephanie, Benedikt and Pixel are like two peas in a pod.

Stephanie turned to Dídí to say exactly that, but Dídí had her eyes fixed on the golden castle, a strange look of longing in them.

“Watcha looking at?” Stephanie asked.

“Huh? Oh, nothing,” Dídí said, snapping out of her reverie, “I’ve just...I...I have really missed this place.”

Dídí sighed fondly.

“I haven’t actually been here since…” she paused, “Well, since…for a few years, anyway.”

“Why not? The entrance is right in your backyard,” Stephanie asked, gesturing vaguely back the way they came, “If I were you, I would be coming here every day.”

“Oh, it’s a long story,” Dídí waved a dismissive hand, “And look, we have just arrived at the castle! I’ll tell you later.”

Stephanie shrugged, and dropped the subject as Benedikt held open the heavy wooden door for them with a sweeping bow.

-

The castle’s entryway was, quite literally, a FOREST.

It was nearly indistinguishable from the one they had just walked out of. There were tall trees, grass and flowers flourishing beneath them on gentle slopes, the only difference was the fact that it was lit entirely by floating orbs of light, each the size of Stephanie’s head. The well-worn path through this indoor forest lead to another large doorway, beyond which was a brightly-lit throne room.

The first thing that Stephanie noticed about the throne room was the flowers. The entire room was carpeted with all types of living flowers--except for a very regal-looking rug made of dried flowers that stretched like a path through the middle of the room.  In fact, all of the decorations were plants or plant-based, from the flowers on the floor to the ivy on the walls to the gigantic sunflowers growing just behind the two thrones at the end of the room.

Stephanie just barely got a glimpse of the two elves sitting in the thrones, one in a white dress and a bearded one with a big crown and a blue robe, when she was tugged behind a tree growing in the entryway.

“Group huddle, group huddle,” Benedikt said, putting his arms out and motioning them all closer.

“Now,” he said in a whisper, “Most of the time, Aðalsteinn is the most joyous and nicest guy in all of Álfheima, but given that you all are humans? He might need a little bit of time to...get used to your presence here. Know what I mean? You know what I mean.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Ziggy, but Benedikt was distracted by taking a peek around the tree, and then looking back.

“Now. All of you let me approach him first,” he said, touching his chest with both hands, “And then we will introduce the rest of you aft-”

“AÐALSTEINN! BRYNHILDUR!!” Dídí shouted, running up ahead of Benedikt straight to the thrones, dried flowers crunching underfoot.

They both smiled in delight at her, standing laboriously up out of their thrones as she came running up.

“Dídí Álfavinur,” said the bearded elf, a cheery smile on his face as he embraced her so tightly that she disappeared into his blue robe, “Oh! My dear girl, you have been away for so long!”

“Sæl og blessuð, Dídí mín,” said the other elf, probably the queen judging by her tiara, and Dídí disappeared into gossamer white fabric.

Benedikt rolled his eyes, and turned back to the kids.

 “Just…stay here with Jósafat, okay? Okay,” he said, not waiting for a response as he dashed over to join Dídí.

Stephanie looked wildly around and sure enough, Jósafat was lurking on the opposite side of the tree, surveilling the children with squinted eyes.

“When did YOU get back?” she asked.

‘I come and go as I please,” Jósafat snarled, and went back to his squinty-eyed watching. 

“And you’ve brought Benedikt with you!” Aðalsteinn was exclaiming, embracing Benedikt just as warmly as Dídí with a gigantic grin, “It is good to see you as well! What brings you to the royal castle?”

“Well, that’s, uh, it’s kind of a funny story, we wanted you to meet some, ah, FRIENDS of ours!”

Benedikt looked back at where the kids were hiding behind the tree, and motioned with his hands for them to come forward. 

“Aðalsteinn, Brynhildur,” Dídí said, as the LazyTown kids shyly crunched along the flower rug, “This is Stephanie, Ziggy, Pixel, Stingy, and Trixie!”

The king’s eyebrows nearly disappeared up into his hair.

“Dídí my dear, ah, could you please explain to me why you and Benedikt have brought FIVE human children into our world?” Aðalsteinn asked, plaintively. 

“Be polite, Steini minn," Brynhildur scolded, "They might be her children .”

“No, no, of-of COURSE they’re not!” Dídí stuttered, “I'm only- when would I have-nevermind, that doesn’t matter.  These kids are actually friends with your son.”

Aðalsteinn looked taken aback, then skeptical. “A bunch of human children ? Friends with our son?

He looked up, pleadingly, at Dídí and Benedikt. “And you just believed them?!” he asked, gesturing helplessly at the five children fidgeting on the rug.

“Hey, it’s true! We ARE friends with him!” Trixie protested, “He has a weird mustache, and does lots of flips and his name is Íþróttaálfurinn!” 

Brynhildur and Aðalsteinn gasped in unison.

“Please answer me this, young one, because it is important,” said Brynhildur, walking over to Trixie and placing a hand on her shoulder, “What…color is his hat?”

Trixie’s eyes widened, put up on the spot by this tall regal woman, as she answered, “B-blue?”

Brynhildur looked back at Aðalsteinn, and they both nodded.

“Tryggvi,” they said simultaneously, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“TRYGGVI??” gasped the kids.

“Will the revelations never CEASE?!” cried Stingy.

“Of COURSE it would be Tryggvi,” Aðalsteinn said, shaking his head fondly, “Of course! Always caring so much for all of his charges, with that big heart of his.”

“Are you the, ah,” Brynhildur said, “The children who live in that town, the-the IdleTown, or-“

“Yeah! We live in LazyTown!” said Stephanie excitedly, “And Sportacus-well, uh, Tryggvi, I guess-is our resident hero! He saves us from all sorts of danger, and he plays sports with us, and teaches us how to be healthy!”

Sportacus’ royal parents looked at each other fondly. “Yes, that sounds like Tryggvi and his humans,” she said, “You know, he writes about you in his letters every so often.”

“Um, that’s nice and all, Mrs-Mrs. Elf Queen,” stuttered Stingy, “But the reason that we’re HERE is because…he’s missing.

“Have you seen him?” asked Trixie, hope in her voice.

“I’m sorry, my dears,” Brynhildur said, “We haven’t seen him for many a year. He is a full-time hero in the human world, like our other two sons, and as such he can’t come back to visit very often.  In fact, we weren’t expecting him for another...ten years or so."

“But-but he did come here!” Stephanie insisted, “He sent a letter that…said that there was something dangerous going on in Álfheima, and that he might be in danger too !” 

The king and queen looked at each other, troubled.

“Danger? In Álfheima?” Aðalsteinn frowned, “I haven’t heard of any trouble recently.”

“Nor have I,” said Brynhildur, “But anything serious enough for Tryggvi to leave his human charges is worth investigating. We had better ask Trausti.”

“Great idea, Brynhildur dear,” Aðalsteinn agreed, “He may have heard something in his travels.”

Aðalsteinn cleared his throat and tapped his royal scepter on the ground twice.

The room suddenly darkened.

“I summon Trausti, the Royal Elf Advisor, to a meeting in the Royal Palace! Immediately!” Aðalsteinn’s voice BOOMED into the high ceilings of the throne room.

A few bright orbs of light manifested themselves above Aðalsteinn‘s scepter, and flew out the windows, presumably in magical search of this Trausti guy.

Less than ten seconds later, there came a distant voice.

“Coming, your majesty!!” it called, accompanied by the approaching sound of running footsteps and heavy breathing, until-

BAM!

The sound of the front doors slamming open was immediately followed by a pink sparkly blur barreling its way through the throne room and skidding to a stop in front of Aðalsteinn, panting hard.

“Trausti!” said Aðalsteinn, smiling in greeting.

Trausti’s mute pink, sparkly, wizardlike robe fluttered back into place as he put his hands on his knees, catching his breath.  The robe hung all the way down to his ankles, and was trimmed with fur at the bottom, the wrists, and the neck. Stephanie was idly wondering why he would choose to wear a fur-trimmed robe in this summery weather, when he abruptly stood up.

Trausti wiped the sweat from his brow, and straightened out his robe, buffing his nails on it briefly and smiling wide.

“You called?” he said smoothly, as if he wasn’t gasping for breath just a moment ago.

Jósafat gasped. “That’s him! That’s him! That’s the basta-“

Jósafat started toward Trausti, but he was interrupted by Benedikt stepping in front of him and plastering on a huge smile.

“Hello! I don’t believe we have ever met before,” Benedikt greeted cordially, as Dídí threw an arm around Jósafat’s neck and wrangled him backwards.

“Trausti,” Trausti introduced, ignoring Jósafat and sticking out a hand to shake Benedikt’s vigorously, “Trausti the Elf Advisor, AT your service!”

“This elf has been INSTRUMENTAL in rebuilding the kingdom after the dark elf attack fifteen years ago,” Aðalsteinn said proudly, “He really has a head for business and infrastructure!”

“Oh, you FLATTER me, Your Majesty,” Trausti said, a hand to his heart, “But it is true! I am very good at my job, ha ha!”

“And, he was one of the elves rescued from Sölvar Súri by you, Dídí,“ said Brynhildur.

“Is that REALLY Dídí ÁLFA-vinur!“ Trausti gasped, striding over to where Dídí was waving two fingers from her eyes to Jósafat‘s, “Oh! Oh, thank you, thank you , for SAVING me from that awful, AWFUL place!”

Before he could so much as shake her hand, Jósafat jumped in front of Dídí and hissed at Trausti, who leapt backwards with a very undignified squeak.

This time, Benedikt was the one who dragged Jósafat away.

“I just don’t like him,” Jósafat said, pulling away from Benedikt and crossing his arms.

“Agh, you don’t like ANYONE, Jósafat dear,“ Benedikt said with a beleaguered sigh.

“He-ey!! Guys!! Did everybody forget that Sportacus is MISSING??” Trixie complained loudly, waving her hands around and looking pointedly at the arguing adults.

“Of course I do, little human child!” said Trausti in a booming voice, grinning widely, “But, have you considered, he might be very BUSY! He might be visiting his FAMILY! Or, maybe he just doesn’t WANT to be found!”

Trausti was…frantically energetic. Unlike Benedikt, who seemed like his boundless energy simply needed to find an outlet through his wild movements, Trausti had a desperate quality to him, as if he would crumble to dust if he wasn’t moving at all times.  He jumped around and gestured with every sentence, despite the sheen of sweat that made him seem perpetually exhausted. It all gave Stephanie a weird feeling about this guy, which was not helped by the fact that he kind of looked like Robbie Rotten without his big chin.

“That must be it!” Trausti was saying, clapping his hands together, “It is a new trend, you see, to just… disappear , for a while! It’s called…a vanishing vacation!”

“Vanishing vacation? ” asked Stephanie, suspiciously.

“Yes, yes,” Trausti nodded vigorously, “It is VERY in style right now, just like that MOVE of his.”

Trausti threw his arms up and his head down, in an imitation of Sportacus’ final move, but he just…HELD it there for an extremely awkward period of time.

There was complete silence amongst the children.

“NEVER do THAT a- gain ,” said Stingy, crossing his arms.

Trausti cleared his throat.

“Yes, well, ahem. Dancing is not exactly my forte…” he mumbled.

“Look, mister,” Trixie said impatiently, “Like we were just SAYING, we got a NOTE from Sportacus, that literally SAID that there was danger in Álfheima!“

“Ahh, WHAT danger? Look around!” he clapped his hands, and music began to play out of nowhere.

“The elf world is a paradise and everyone is happy here and…” sang the elves, as if it were a tune everyone knew.

The humans stood and watched as the king, queen, Trausti, Benedikt, and even Jósafat danced formally around each other while singing the praises of the elf kingdom.

Stephanie hummed along. It was VERY catchy.

“You have all certainly taken the…music-out-of-nowhere thing in stride,” Dídí noted as the elves continued to dance and sing, “It used to really scare me, when I was little.”

Trixie shrugged. “I mean, it happens all the time at ho-“

She gasped suddenly. “Is that an ELF THING?”

“Like a party trick,” Dídí nodded.

“Oh my god! Why am I even surprised, at this point,” she asked, throwing her hands up in the air.

The elves ended their song on a high note, and the music stopped abruptly.

“You know, Trausti,” said Aðalsteinn, stroking his beard, “Now that you mention it, there have been quite a few disappearances lately.”

Trausti’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “W-what? I’m sure it’s n-“

“You're right, Steini minn, there was Vigðis Álfalæknir, Matthias Steinálfur, Gudný Grassálfur…“ Brynhildur ticked off a few more elves on her fingers, “And if we count my son…disappearances like this haven’t happened since Sölvar was alive!“

Dídí gasped.

“Do you think he could be back?” she asked, fear evident in her voice.

Trausti’s face darkened considerably at that. 

“That FOOL?!” he downright growled, “Of COURSE no-“ 

He froze midsentence upon the realization that EVERYONE was staring at him, in complete silence. His eyes darted between them all, and suddenly his face lit up with a smile.

“Ah, of COURSE not, Your Majesty!” Trausti said, in a more jovial tone, “That good-for-nothing dark elf!!” he shook his fist into the air with a frown, and then let out a nervous laugh.

“That-that just makes it even WORSE!” sputtered Trixie, “First, we get a note saying that Sportacus is in DANGER here, and NOW we find out that MORE elves are missing? And that this hasn’t happened since Dídí had to save the WORLD from the most EVIL guy possible?! C'mon, we gotta DO something!“

She grabbed at two of her three pigtails, face screwed up in distress. Stephanie felt a twinge in her heart to see her friend so upset, and stepped forward to take her hand.

Brynhildur considered. “Well, we could just use the Wisdom Well to-“

“WAIT!” Trausti shouted, interrupting her, “I hear someone calling me!”

He sprinted toward the front of the castle.

I didn’t hear anything,” Stingy announced.

“Me either, where is he going , huh?” asked Ziggy, craning his neck.

Trausti skidded to a stop at the castle doors, opened one of them just a crack, and stuck his head out.

Everyone in the throne room waited patiently while he chatted indistinctly with some other elf, their high falsetto voice a heavy contrast to Trausti’s deep one, and then Trausti was racing back into the throne room, tripping over dislodged flowers in his haste.

“I have just received word from a VERY trustworthy friend of mine that Tryggvi has been spotted in…” he paused for dramatic effect, “The Southern Mountains!”

“Southern Mountains?!” Benedikt gasped, “He’s in TROLLHEIMA?”

“Yes! Exactly that!” said Trausti, pointing at Benedikt with two finger guns and a wink.

“Well, then, let’s go!” Trixie exclaimed, letting go of Stephanie and starting for the door, “How far away is Trollheima?”

“Two days by foot,” said Benedikt.

They all slumped.

“But with the help of my friend Daði the Dragon,” he grinned, “It could take less than one!”

Ziggy gasped. “D-do we get to ride a dragon , Benedikt? Huh? Do we? Do we ??” he asked, jumping up and down.

“Ziggy, I thought you were afraid of heights,” Pixel noted with a smile.

“Not when there’s a DRAGON involved!” Ziggy protested. “NO one is afraid of heights when they get to ride a dragon!!”

“What an absolutely SPECTACULAR idea!” Trausti praised, clapping his hands together, “Please! Start your journey immediately, and good luck on your quest! The royal family and I will be waiting right here for you when you get back!”

“Yeehaw!” Benedikt leapt up and punched the air, “Let’s gooooo!”

He turned around so quickly that his overcoat flared out, and did a perfect cartwheel on the royal rug before leaping up to his feet and skipping away.

Stephanie giggled, and followed him with a cartwheel of her own, popping back up to her feet only to immediately go back down to walk on her hands, a trick that she had FINALLY mastered with the help of Sportacus last August.

She hardly noticed the soft gasp behind her, until Brynhildur called her back.

“Stephanie? Come here a moment, child,” she said.

Stephanie flipped back to her feet and walked over cautiously. Was she in trouble for doing a cartwheel on the royal rug? Benedikt had just done one, and she thought that it meant it was okay for her too. Were only elves allowed to do that? Or was the cartwheel okay, and the handstand considered rude? She didn’t know!

Queen Brynhildur didn’t scold her, however. In fact, she didn’t look angry at all. Her face was quite curious as she leaned down, and gently touched the sides of Stephanie’s face.

Before she could even ask why, Brynhildur pushed her hair back, tucking it behind her ears.

Stephanie heard a collective gasp from everyone in the room.

“What?” she asked, looking around at a sea of shocked faces and hands covering mouths, “What’s wrong?”

“Stephanie, y-your ears ,” Trixie said in awe, “They’re… pointed!”

Stephanie grabbed at her ears, exploring them with panicked fingers, as sure enough—they tapered up and up into an unmistakable point.

“B-but I’m human,” Stephanie sputtered, “I’m-I’m human .”

“Not completely,” said Brynhildur, brow still furrowed, “At least in part…you are one of us.”

Chapter Text

Deep down in his bunker underneath LazyTown, Robbie finally stirred.

He stretched his arms out, slowly, and let out a HUUUGE yawn.  After an extended period of insomnia, he had FINALLY fallen asleep, and slept like a rock, at that!

He felt GREAT!

“Ahhhh,” he sighed contentedly, gently plucking his blankie off of his lap, “What a good nap.”

He deposited his blankie carefully on the table next to his chair and stood up slowly, stretching out his long limbs to their fullest capacity.  They snapped, crackled, and very much popped, but Robbie didn’t mind—just par for the course when one spent a long night sleeping in a chair, and a small price to pay for enjoying some peace and quiet.

But? Robbie Rotten had lived in LazyTown long enough to know that peace and quiet would never last very long.

“I wonder how those little brats will ruin my day today,” he mused, looking around the lair as he braced himself for something to happen.

Nothing happened.

Robbie cleared his throat. “Ahem. I SAID, I WONDER HOW THOSE LITTLE BRATS WILL RUIN MY DAY TODAY?!” he downright yelled.

Everything was still quiet.

TOO quiet.

“OGH! Are they going to make me INVESTIGATE?” Robbie asked, scandalized, and began stomping up the stairs, “Those DASTARDLY little children!”

He pulled down his trusty periscope, breathing on the glass and wiping it clean with his cuff, and then took a look out into the middle of LazyTown.

And he looked again.

It was broad daylight, the middle of the afternoon, no less, and there was NO one there.

“Hmmm,” Robbie said, a touch of worry running through him as he scratched his chin, “Quiet as a MOUSE today.”

But then a thought struck him, and he smiled, the slow, easy smile of a NUMBER ONE VILLAIN who had just gotten his way.

“Maybe…they are finally being LAZY? Like I ALLL-ways WANTED them to be??” he said, clasping his hands together hopefully, “A-HA! I simply MUST see this!”

He changed periscopes, the mechanism clunking heavily as he peeked instead through the window of the computer boy’s house.

Deserted.

He peeked inside the mayor’s house.

Deserted.

He peeked inside ALL of the houses.

Deserted!

Now panicking, Robbie scaled the ladder to the surface at a speed that would make even the sportiest of elves dizzy, heart pounding with dread as he threw the latch open and ran as fast as he could throughout the town.

No matter where he ran, or what he looked under, one thing was clear—he was the only living soul in LazyTown.

That hadn’t happened since-

“Oh NO!” he gasped, as the thought suddenly struck him, “It’s-it’s that first day of summer all OVER again!!”

He looked around helplessly, tears forming in his eyes.

“They’ve LEFT me,” he sniffled, sitting down hard on the bench, “They’ve all just…LEFT me.”

Looking down to complete his look of pure despair, he caught sight of a crumpled piece of blue paper flapping in the breeze, stuck to the bench by an errant piece of chewed up taffy.

“Wait a minute,” Robbie said, narrowing his eyes, “That looks like…one of SPORTA-flop’s NOTES!”

He reached over and pulled it off the bench with a sickening streeeeeetch-SNAP! And squinted at Sportanote’s atrocious handwriting.

“Robbie Rotten…”

Robbie gasped. “It’s for ME!” he said, touching a hand to his chest before going back to it.

“Danger in…Álfheima?!“ Robbie dropped his arms down, sighing, “What the hell is that SportaFOOL doing in ÁLFHEIMA? He said he wasn’t going back for another ten YEARS!”

Robbie tutted, shaking his head, and brought the paper back up to his face.

“If this message reaches you…that means that I am in danger too…don’t tell the kids, I don’t want them to worry.”

Robbie squinted at the paper, moving it back and forth, upside down and right side up, forwards and backwards, inspecting it at ALL angles.

“Am I crazy,” he said slowly, “Or is SportaHERO asking for my HELP??”

He sighed. “Not sure how much help I would be, out there,” Robbie mumbled, “I’m only HALF an elf, and while I am devilishly handsome…”

He gave a winning smile to the empty sports field.  It did not smile back.

“…I’m not as powerful as His Royal Sportscandiness!” he finished indignantly, crossing his arms.

Robbie stared grumpily into space, silently cursing Sportacus for putting him in this position, while giving him NO details! What kind of help did he NEED? Álfheima was a big place, where exactly did he GO?? All he GAVE him was some STUPID paper airplane note that wasn’t even in paper airplane form anymore-

“Waaaaaait a minute,” said Robbie suspiciously, “Why was this note all CRUMPLED? Why didn’t I receive it in my LAIR? And HOW did he stick it to the bench with a piece of sugary taffy without-“

Robbie gasped sharply as a nasty realization hit him with the force of an exercise-powered rocket.

“Oh NO! The KIDS got to it FIRST!!” he shrieked, dropping the letter and gripping the sides of his face.

“And if I know those LazyTown brats,” he said, “They probably went after him THEMSELVES!!”

 “Oh HELL no,” Robbie said, standing up decisively from the bench, “HELL to the NO! I am NOT going to let those children DIE because of some…stupid…SportaDISAPPEARING ACT!”

He stomped back down into his lair, with a mission.

Fighting through all of the clutter, Robbie came upon one of his most…experimental inventions, covered with a cloth.

“I was saving THIS one for a RAINY DAY!” he said, unveiling his machine with a flourish, “So I could go to the STORE without getting wet, ha HA!”

Jokes aside, that was actually exactly what he had made the machine for.  His elven heritage meant that he did have a pretty decent store of magic inside his body, and he was VERY good at the teleportation spell, thank you very much.  But the grocery store was in the next town over, and while he could technically teleport TO the store, it would drain him too much to manage the teleport back.  So, with the help of a magic containment device of his own design, a big dial, and a showerhead that he had stolen from the LazyTown gym, he had created a magical amplifier that could store magic for him when he had a little extra, and give him the boost he needed to make the trip there AND back.

He had been pouring his magic into the storage unit, a little at a time for almost a YEAR while he worked out the kinks in the rest of the machine.  There was enough magic stored in there to LEVEL LazyTown, if that’s what he wanted, or just to make trips to the grocery store every day for a couple of months.

But instead Robbie was going to use it all, as well as whatever he had stored in his body, in one fell swoop—hoping to find himself in front of a gnarled old Icelandic tree, half a world away, to rescue the five biggest thorns in his side and his main rival.

“Well, it’s not like I had anything BETTER to do today!” he sighed, clicking the dial to its highest setting.

A pale green beam of light shone down out of the showerhead.

Robbie took a deep breath, and stepped in.

The stored magic clung to his body as it poured down out of the showerhead, like the static electricity of a woolen blanket fresh out of the dryer, sending shivers up and down his spine and making all of his hairs stand on end.

Robbie squeaked as the force of all of that magic bodily lifted him off the ground, levitating him a foot into the air as the last of it gathered up into a green nebulous sphere.  He squeaked again, with even less dignity, as it disconnected from the showerhead like a green bubble blown from a bubble wand, floating aimlessly upwards with Robbie Rotten smack-dab in the center.

He suddenly worried, a bit too late, about what could go wrong.  What if all this power was too strong for his wimpy half-human body? What if his spell didn’t take him to the right place? What if it drained him so much that he DIED??

He squared himself.  He had to TRY.  It was up to him to save his fellow LazyTown residents, no matter how annoying they were, and if he were honest? They were all well worth the risk.

Yes, EVEN that damned blue elf.

“Sure hope this doesn’t KILL me,” he muttered, and snapped his fingers.

Robbie Rotten vanished, leaving LazyTown completely, and truly, empty.

-

Robbie regained consciousness slowly, for the second time that day.

And he felt AWFUL.

His head was pounding, his limbs numb, and to top it all off? He was COLD! The store of magic inside him was completely empty in a way that he had never experienced before, and Sportaflop’s stupid energy meter would probably run into the negatives if it was measuring him right this second.

The augmented teleportation spell didn’t KILL him, but it sure felt like it got CLOSE.

He tried to raise himself up from the ground, but an overwhelming wave of dizziness brought him right back down.

Okay, he thought, I guess I can stand to be LAZY for a little while.

He blinked his eyes open. Through his hazy vision, he saw sunlight filtering gently through the branches of a tree.

Was it…THE tree?

He mustered up the energy to tilt his head upward, and caught an upside-down glipse of a gnarled old tree trunk that shimmered with a magical aura, one that he had last seen as a seven year old boy.

Despite all of his pain, he smiled to himself.  He had done it! He had teleported THOUSANDS of miles in one jump, and made it to Álfheima’s entrance!

He mustered up another drop of energy and turned his head to the left, where he saw a VERY familiar rocket in the distance.

He gasped sharply as the bottom dropped out of his stomach.

The LazyTown kids had at LEAST gotten HERE!

Had they discovered how to get to Álfheima? Where THEY in as much trouble as Sportaflop??

Knowing them? They probably WERE!

Even moving his head that much made him dizzy, but the desire to save the kids and help out Sportacus burned so brightly within him that he coughed a few times, and spoke the magic words that his mother taught him so many years ago.

“Gamla tré, gamla tré,” he chanted weakly, feeling like he was speaking through cotton, “Má ég…fara til Álfheima?”

Underneath his sprawled out body, he felt roots shifting.

“Gaman að sjá þig aftur, Litli Róbert,” boomed the tree with a bit of fondness in his voice, “Hvað ber þig til Álfheima?“

God, how do I explain all this to a TREE? He thought.

Best to keep it simple.

“Ohhh, nú þarf ég að bjargar…vinum minum,“ said Robbie, with a groan of pain.  The pounding in his head was worsening with every word he spoke, and WHEN did he start shivering?

“Börn?” asked the tree.

Robbie nodded slowly, eyes fluttering shut. “O-o-og íþróttaálfur,” he croaked.

Robbie heard the sound of the earth shifting as the tree pulled a root right out of the dirt and touched it gently to Robbie’s cheek.

Robbie seized up as the tree’s consciousness  connected with his own. This was no ordinary tree spirit, as he had always thought, this was an immortal being of VAST magical power. He had been a bridge between worlds for thousands and thousands of years, and he was immeasurably POWERFUL in a way that Robbie could barely comprehend. He had seen endless beings pass through him to and from Álfheima, but he specifically showed Robbie those who had made the crossing in the past two days—an elf in a blue costume, one human adult…and five human children!

Robbie’s heart swelled with pride, despite himself.  They had figured it out! Those LazyTown brats had gone to Álfheima!

Well, that certainly made his job easier. Get to Álfheima, save the kids AND Sportacus, go back home to LazyTown and take a nap.

It sounded downright EASY when put like that, if ONLY he could just move…

“Gerðu svo vel,“ the tree rumbled in a sing-song kind of way, breaking the connection and placing the root back down into the earth.

Robbie blinked his eyes a few times, realizing that his vision had miraculously cleared. And, his body ached a LOT less. And his headache was completely gone.

The tree had restored Robbie’s magic for him while they were connected! He was full to the BRIM!

He pulled himself up out of the dirt laboriously, slowly standing on shaky legs.  There was no telling what would have happened without that tree’s kindness, and Robbie knew what he had to say.

“T-t-t-ah, um…AHEM. T-t-t-takk fyrir, g-gamla tré,” he forced the nicety out of his mouth, hoping no one else could hear it.

“Það var ekkert, Litli Róbert,” said the old tree, and Robbie could hear the smile in his voice as the entrance to Álfheima opened up at his roots. “Góða ferð.“

Robbie crouched down, staring down the dark passageway, and took a deep breath.

“Hang tight, Sportacus,” he said quietly, voice echoing into the passage, “I’m on my way!”

Chapter Text

Stephanie sat uncomfortably on Brynhildur’s throne, legs dangling four inches off the ground.

Brynhildur was running her sparkling light-magic around her head like a doctor taking her temperature, and asking a lot of questions—like if she had ever noticed her ears being pointed outside of Álfheima, which she had not, or if her pink hair was her natural color, which of course it was.

After what seemed like forever, Brynhildur straightened up.

“Stephanie, I believe…that you are half elf, half human,” she said, “Or, as we in Álfheima say, a halfling.”

“Woahhh,” chorused her friends, staring at her wide-eyed. Benedikt clapped and beamed at her, Dídí gave her a thumbs up.

“Your magical signature is….” Brynhildur paused, as if searching for the right word, “definitely elven, but there is a part of it that is undeniably human. Can you tell me who your parents are?”

“Well, my daddy’s name is Marcus Meanswell,” Stephanie said, pausing to imagine what Daddy would look like with pointy ears.

She shook the mental image away. “I’m pretty sure he’s not an elf. But my mother…”

She trailed off, shifting in discomfort. She usually didn’t…bring her up, to other people, for this very reason.  But if it meant finding out who her FAMILY was…

“She, um, died,” Stephanie spoke slowly, wincing into the silence of the room, “When I was only one year old. Daddy always called her…Violet.”

She deliberately avoided the gazes of her friends as she looked up at Brynhildur. “Do you think…she could be…”

“I don’t know,” Brynhildur admitted, “But we can find out. Come with me.”

Brynhildur walked regally around the thrones, and disappeared in the gigantic sunflowers behind them.

Suddenly, Stephanie was aware of someone taking her hand.

She turned to find Trixie, stock still, eyes wide and shining.

“I didn’t…know about your mom,” she whispered, mouth trembling in a frown.

‘Well, I didn’t tell anybody,” Stephanie shrugged, but squeezed Trixie’s hand back.

Pixel, Stingy, and Ziggy silently crowded around the two of them in support as they all headed through the flowers.

-

Brynhildur lead them all the way to the back of the throne room, where an intricately ornate well was sitting up against the wall.

It was empty.

“The Viskubrunnur is a source of all elven knowledge,” Brynhildur explained, tapping the side of it.

“The wisdom…well?” asked Trixie.

Brynhildur nodded.

“It knows everything about our history, our present, and sometimes? Even our future,” she smiled, “If anything can find out who your mother is, Stephanie, this can.”

Stephanie peered into the empty well, one eyebrow raised skeptically.

“But first,” Brynhildur continued, “I need a piece of you, so it knows what to look for.”

Stephanie nodded brusquely. She had read the Harry Potter books, she knew what to do. She winced as she plucked out one of her own hairs, and handed it over to the elf queen.

Brynhildur looked at the hair in confusion for a moment, then shrugged, dropping it into the well.

Just when Stephanie thought the elf world couldn’t get any weirder, Brynhildur began to sing over the well.

The throne room darkened, and a ghostly tune weaved its way through the air.

The only light remaining was the faint turquoise glow coming from the wisdom well, growing brighter and brighter as it slowly filled to the brim with water. The lights danced just below the surface, little magic sparks flitting through the water, mirroring the lights that danced from Brynhildur’s fingertips as she continued to sing her haunting, beautiful song.

Viskubrunnur tell us please

Who’s this halfling’s family

Which one of us gave her life

And which one was her father’s wife

Suddenly the lights of the Viskubrunnur converged into the center of the water, and began to change—from pale green to bright pink, from an amorphous blog to the shape of a head and shoulders.

Brynhildur, hands still poised over the water, nodded for Stephanie to approach.

Stephanie stepped forward cautiously, heart pounding, and peered down into the Viskubrunnur.

Her daddy had no pictures of her mother. It was his greatest regret, he said, that they never took a picture together as a family. So Stephanie had had a lifetime to just imagine what she could have looked like, all from her father’s loving words.

She could never have pictured this.

Her mother looked just LIKE her.

Well, she didn’t look EXACTLY like her. Stephanie’s skin was darker than her mother’s, whose extremely pale skin resembled Dídí more than Stephanie. However, her eye color, eyebrow shape, pink hair and bangs? Were all mirrored back at her by this woman in the wisdom well. Her hair was longer, pushed back behind her pointed ears and done up in intricate braids, and atop it all was…a silver tiara.

“Is that her?” asked Stephanie in a small voice, “Is that…my mother?”

She looked up from the water to Queen Brynhildur, hoping for a sage nod or a sympathetic smile.

Instead, she was surprised to find the regal queen of the elves distraught.

Clutching the wisdom well with a white knuckle grip, the other hand up to her mouth, eyes streaming with tears, Brynhildur appeared inconsolable by the face in the water, and Stephanie wasn’t quite sure how to react to that.

“Did you…know her?” asked Stephanie awkwardly, after a moment or two.

Brynhildur had to turn her back to compose herself, letting out one wet sob before turning back and nodding.

“V-Valdheiður,“ she whispered.

Benedikt gasped. “Valdheiður Álfahetja??”

“The very same,” Brynhildur nodded, voice heavy with grief, “The first great defender of Álfheima. The Sword Bearer. And…”

She sighed deeply, pursing her lips against yet another incoming sob.

“My sister,” she managed.

SISTER.

Stephanie’s head spun as she connected the dots. If Stephanie’s mother was the elf queen’s sister, then that meant-

Stephanie looked up at Brynhildur, really looked this time, and suddenly realized that their eyes were the exact same shade of brown.

“Auntie?” she whispered.

“Y-yes,” Brynhildur exhaled brokenly, another sob hiccupping itself out through her warm smile.

“Is…is she really dead?” Stephanie couldn’t help but blurt, tears filling her eyes.

Brynhildur nodded.

Stephanie’s heart broke all over again.

And through the new fissures came a childish whine, as she felt herself start to cry.

It was painful. Her eyes stung, her throat choked on a golf-ball sized lump, her head prickled with pins and needles, but it was more than that. This whole SITUATION was painful. Sportacus was still MISSING, and she had just seen her dead mother’s face for the very first time in the magical well of a royal elf palace, and sitting here on the cold stone floor and CRYING wasn’t helping ANY PART of this, but no matter how she tried, she just couldn’t STOP-

One, two, three, four sets of hands lifted her from the stone floor and nudged her into the arms of a warm presence, that cradled her head with one hand and rocked back and forth, pressing her head against a chest and murmuring a gentle lullaby in the voice of a queen.

Eventually her sobs grew quieter, devolving into gasping breaths and sniffles, and she finally opened her eyes.

Brynhildur smiled down at her with all the ease of someone who has held a crying child many a time, though her eyes were not exactly dry.

Stephanie felt heavy, oh so heavy, but she had to ask one more question.

“Did you know?” Stephanie asked, clearing her throat, “About…about-th-that you had a niece?”

“I never knew,” Brynhildur murmured to Stephanie, stroking her hair, “I wish I had. She never told us that she had a child.”

Stephanie said nothing, she just closed her eyes at the maternal contact and exhaled slowly.

“She only told us that there were things in the human world that were worth protecting,” Brynhildur whispered, “Only now do I see what she meant.”

-

Robbie fell down into the grass of Álfheima, WILLING himself not to have a full-blown panic attack. Crossing the Color Cave was always his LEAST favorite thing to do as a kid, and even now that it was over, only the physical sensation of being facedown in the grass was keeping him grounded.  Álfheima was nice and all, but he would probably be appreciating it a whole lot more if he could just CALM DOWN-

“Who are you?” came a reedy voice from above him.

Robbie froze, daring not even to breathe, and turned over, blinking in the sunlight.

Standing over him was some sort of…GREMLIN. Hands on his hips, an impatient look on his pale white face, covered head to toe with GRIME.

“And what are youuuuu doing HERE?!” continued the creature, pointing down at Robbie with a finger that had to be about a FOOT LONG.

“AIIE!” Robbie shrieked, popping up to his elbows and crawling backwards in terror, “Don’t TOUCH me with those FINGERS!”

The creatures paused, and looked at one of his own fingers, as if seeing them for the first time.

He grinned, a wild animal grin.

“Then tell me WHO you are, and WHAT you are doing here!!” he said, jabbing the finger into Robbie’s face for emphasis.

Robbie yelped. He had never encountered this particular…being before, he was SURE of it. And his first impression? GROSS. He looked to Robbie as if he were draped in raw sewage as a fashion statement, and SMELLED the part! Worst of all, he reminded Robbie of the cautionary tales his mother would tell him, about the evil dark elf Sölvar Súri.

And wouldn’t that just be his luck, immediately encountering the most EVIL of the Dökkaálfar in his first MOMENT in Álfheima?

Robbie gulped, thinking quickly.

“A-ahem,” Robbie said, fighting back his own fear response to pull his shaky body up to his full height, “I, uh, have a BETTER idea!”

The creature crossed his arms and sniffed, narrowing his eyes at Robbie in a skeptical manner.

Don’t let him smell your fear, Robbie, he thought to himself.

“Why don’t YOU, tell me who YOU are,” Robbie demanded, “And what YOU are doing here!!”

He pointed HIS finger into the face of this unpleasant man, fueled by the bravado of his crazy idea.

The gremlin man snarled, and bit Robbie’s outstretched finger.

Robbie lost all pretense and screamed as pain burst through his captive hand, tugging and tugging his finger until he finally pulled it free from the clutches of that creature’s sharp teeth.

“You MANIAC!” he gasped, examining the angry purple bite marks in his poor index finger.

“I am NOT a maniac, I am Jósafat Manna-hrellir!“ said Jósafat indignantly, “And I am doing my JOB!”

“Some JOB,” mumbled Robbie, cradling his finger to his chest.

“Which IS, might I add, to have YOU state your name, business, and show me your PASSPORT!!!” Jósafat screamed, inches from his face.

Once bitten, twice shy, the old adage said, and Robbie was DEFINITELY feeling that way as he flinched backwards away from Jósafat’s scream, shielding his face with his hands.

But despite all of that, upon the mention of a passport, Robbie finally figured out what he was dealing with—a Guardian. And if his name was anything to go by, he was the one tasked with keeping Álfheima safe from the prying eyes of humans.

Most importantly, he wasn’t a legendary Dark Elf sent to turn him evil. He was the Álfheima version of a TSA agent—if said TSA agent had a penchant for BITING uncooperative passengers.

And Jósafat was baring his teeth again.

“FINE!” Robbie shouted, throwing his arms in the air, “I am…ROBBIE ROTTEN! The number ONE villain in all of Laaaazy-TOWN! And, I am only HERE on a RESCUE MISSION!”

He crossed his arms grumpily. “Are you HAPPY?!”

Jósafat only crossed his arms back, looking at Robbie skeptically. “Why, pray tell, would a self-proclaimed VILLIAN be doing on a rescue mission?”

He curled his lip at Robbie. “Seems pretty suspicious to me,” he said.

“Be-because I don’t trust a bunch of HUMAN CHILDREN to do it!” Robbie exploded, “Mister Flippity Blue SPORTS ELF disappeared, and after they stole my MAIL, they all went AFTER him, and I happen to KNOW that if they’re left UNATTENDED for even an HOUR, they will most likely get themselves into LIFE THREATENING DANGER!!”

He gesticulated wildly as he ranted, and Jósafat at least had the decency to shrink back into himself slightly.

“And FURTHERMORE, this is MY rivalry!!” Robbie yelled, pointing a thumb at his own chest, “Mine!! And that means nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, gets to capture that Sporta-LOONY except for ME!!”

Jósafat narrowed his eyes, fixing Robbie with a scruitinizing stare.

Suddenly, he began to stalk around Robbie in a circle, stepping with high knees.

It was far more unsettling than his aggressive behavior earlier.

“Human CHILDREN, eh?” he asked, with a sudden attempt at a mysterious air to his squeaky-chair voice.

Robbie turned with Jósafat, unwilling to let him out of his sight. “Yes?”

“Blue sports elf, you say?” Jósafat said, continuing to circle, quirking one eyebrow at the very trapped-feeling Robbie Rotten.

“Yes! What part of that did you not UNDERSTAND?!” griped Robbie.

“You wouldn’t happen to be talking about, oh, I don’t know….” Robbie stiffened in discomfort as Jósafat leaned in close, TOO close, to whisper-

“Íþrótta…álfurinn?”

Robbie leaned back to look at Jósafat in shock. “Y-yes!! Do you KNOW him?? That’s EX-ACTLY who I am looking for!!” he said, bouncing in genuine excitement.

Jósafat smirked, and stayed infuriatingly coy.

“Jæja…I have SEEN the children of which you speak,” Jósafat said in an aloof manner, which was a bit rich coming from a man who had just BITTEN ROBBIE’S FINGER.

“WHERE?!” Robbie leaned in desperately.

“Last I recall,” Jósafat said, tapping his chin, “I saw them…”

Robbie leaned in even FURTHER.

“With Dídí Álfavinur, at the Royal Castle,” he finished, smugly smiling.

“Great! I’ll be going now!” Robbie said, saluting him and starting to walk past.

Jósafat placed a disgustingly long-fingered hand DIRECTLY to his chest like some sort of soul-sucking alien, stopping Robbie in his tracks.

“Ah-ah-ah,” Jósafat tutted, “First! Your PASSPORT,” he said, releasing Robbie and holding out his hand expectantly.

“Ogh, what IS it with you and PASSPORTS! I don’t have TIME for this, MannaHRELLIR! Sportacus needs my HELP!”

With that, Robbie tried to walk past him again, but Jósafat grabbed him by the back of the collar and yanked.

Robbie stumbled backwards, desperately trying to find his footing again, when Jósafat pushed him up against a tree.

“Passport, or NO ENTRY TO ÁLFHEIMA!” Jósafat screeched, holding him in place by the lapels of his vest.

As flecks of spittle flew into his face, Robbie just couldn’t TAKE it anymore. After the stress of nearly DYING in the process of teleporting across the world, the perilous crossing of the Color Cave, and now the biting, and the SCREAMING, Robbie Rotten was seriously at his limit!

“Get out of my FACE!” he spat, temper rising.

Jósafat only leaned closer. “Or what,” he sneered.

“Or-or I will get out of YOURS!” Robbie declared, and snapped his fingers.

“Wha-“ said Jósafat, waving his hand through the empty air in front of him, “Where’d he go-“

He whirled around, and caught sight of Robbie, who had reappeared in the middle of the clearing.

“HEY!” Jósafat cried out, running toward Robbie full tilt.

SNAP.

Robbie teleported back behind Jósafat’s back again, enjoying his confusion as he turned from side to side in search of him. Oh, he was having FUN now. It was so EASY to cast spells in Álfheima! The air was so thick with magic that he could restore himself twice as fast as usual, the small amount of spent magic from the teleportation spell flowing right back into him almost immediately.

Then Jósafat was running toward him again, even ANGRIER this time, but Robbie couldn’t care less as he readied his fingers.

SNAP. He was on the other side of the clearing.

SNAP. He was behind a tree.

SNAP. He was in front of a rock face.

Robbie could amost SEE the smoke pouring out of Jósafat‘s ears as he barrelled toward Robbie with a feral yell, hands outstretched ready to THROTTLE him-

SNAP!

Robbie disappeared at the last moment, and Jósafat ran face-first into the rock, staggering backward drunkenly and tipping, falling, crashing to the ground like a felled tree.

Robbie had a split second to worry that the hit had KILLED him, before Jósafat SHOT up to his feet, holding his head.

“UrrrrghhhhhHHHHH FINE!” harrumphed Jósafat, stamping a foot, “GO without a passport, SEE if I care!”

Robbie grinned in excitement. He had WON!

And, he was NOT above a little bit of…post-win gloating.

“Why, I think I WILL! Thank you for your BLESSING, Jósafat MannaHRELLIR,” said Robbie, pulling out his pantlegs like a skirt and curtsying exaggeratedly.

If looks could kill, Jósafat would have been guilty of first degree murder.

“Oh! You winged elves, you are so DRAMATIC!” grumbled Jósafat, and he ran away into the underbrush.

“W-w-w-winged elves-?” sputtered Robbie, looking around wildly, “Where?”

Something colorful caught just on the outside of his peripheral vision.

He whirled around, trying to see this colorful stranger.

But again, it JUST eluded his vision.

“Hiding behind me, ehh?” he growled, and spun around even faster.

Around and around and around he went, reaching out to grab-

“A-HAH!” he exclaimed, finally grasping the corner of a wing and stumbling to a stop.

But his excitement was short-lived, because he realized that someone was touching HIS wing.

Wait.

His wing?

Robbie craned his neck, further than it had any right to go, and saw that the colorful, transparent, GOSSAMER wing he was clutching was actually growing out of his own back.

Robbie screamed.

 

 

Chapter Text

In the old days, when the sun above Álfheima was young and the great Royal Castle had not yet been built, the elven royal family lived in an ancient, stone-carved castle on the side of a cliff face.  The royal family was a king, a queen, and two princesses—Brynhildur and Valdheiður.

Both girls were adept magic users, with very different passions. Brynhildur worked to maintain peace throughout the kingdom, while Valdheiður had one goal—to fight for what was right.

Right as the two princesses came of age, and discussions began of who was going to take a spouse and run the kingdom of Álfheima, their castle was completely destroyed by a dark elf attack in an act of war.

Brynhildur and Valdheiður worked together to save what was left of their homeland and their people as they fought valiantly against the dark elf attacks. Brynhildur’s quick thinking and clever strategizing lead to many decisive victories, while Valdh eiður went out to the front lines, rallying the troops, and leading charges into battle. Her mighty sword was feared by all of her enemies.

In the end, the war was won, and the kingdom returned to peacetime. Brynhildur and Valdheiður designed and created the Light Elf Halo, and brought their best architects to build a better, more defensible royal palace, which they did in just seven days.  Brynhildur took Aðalsteinn as her spouse, and they began ruling the kingdom together from the castle. Valdhei ður, however, was not content to stay in the palace during peacetime.  She continued to venture out into Álfheima, righting wrongs and solving conflicts wherever she could find them.

Many human generations passed in this way, until there came word of possible dark elf activity in the human world.  So, Valdheiður decided to cross into the human world, to continue to combat the forces of evil. But alas, after only eight years in the human world, she was killed in battle, and the sorrow of this loss still permeates the land of Álfheima to this day.

King Aðalsteinn bowed his head as he finished his retelling of the Saga of Valdheiður, shoulders shaking for just a moment.

Stephanie blinked a few times as the lights came back on in the throne room.  She was sitting on the dried flower rug, looking up at the throne, exactly how she was when the story began. Over the course of the story, her friends had crept closer and closer to her until they were all five huddled up like penguins, coming together for warmth.

Her throat felt suddenly tight.

Lucky for her, there wasn’t a dry eye in the entire room.  Not Aðalsteinn, or Brynhildur, even Benedikt was sobbing into a glossy-eyed Dídí‘s shoulder.

“What…” Stephanie asked, clearing the waver out of her voice, “What…happened to her?”

“We don’t know,” admitted Brynhildur, “She stopped sending us letters a few years before her death, and none of our Heroes could find out anything else.”

“Daddy would know,” muttered Stephanie wistfully.

BANG!

Their moment was sharply interrupted by the slamming open of the castle doors.

They all turned their heads as one to see Trausti, strolling into the throne room with a huge smile on his face.

“Your MAJESTIES!” he called in a slightly singsong way, “I have just-“

Trausti froze midsentence upon seeing the pile of LazyTown kids on the ground, eyes widening to saucer-size as he GASPED.

“Ur-uh-ugh-buh-“ Trausti garbled incoherently, gesturing wildly from the kids, to Benedikt, to Dídí.

“Wh-WHY are you all still HERE?!” he finally shouted, voice rising to a squeak on the last word.

There was silence from the throne room.

“We, uhm-w-we were just-“ Stephanie began, but Trausti made a sweeping motion with his hand as if to cut her off.

“Ogh! Doesn’t matter!” he dismissed, kicking up flowers as he sprinted around the children and shooed them to their feet.

“You have all wasted enough time here as it IS!” he declared, pushing them aggressively toward the door, “Go! Go! To Trollheima with you!! Right n-ghk!”

Trausti choked as a stern hand yanked him backwards, and up into the air.

“Trausti! You must calm yourself!” scolded Brynhildur, holding Trausti up by the scruff of his robe like a misbehaving kitten, “We have just found out that this is Valdheiður‘s daughter!”

Trausti’s jaw dropped.

“V-V-Valdheiður had a DAUGHTER?” he asked in awe, completely forgetting his undignified position.

“That’s me!” said Stephanie proudly, hands on her hips.

Trausti made a noise like his brain was short-circuiting, and Brynhildur gently placed him down.

“That’s-that’s-that’s-“ he sputtered, “That’s impossi-hgh-OGH! Doesn’t MATTER!” Trausti declared, shaking his head back and forth as if to clear it.

“What matters is…” he trailed off, motioning to the LazyTown kids to come closer.

They shuffled towards him cautiously, closer and closer, until they were no more than half a foot away.

“YOU ALL NEED TO GET TO TROLLHEIMA! NÚNA!“ he screamed, sending them all stumbling backwards in fright.

“Now wait just a MINUTE, Trausti,” said Aðalsteinn sternly, standing up from his throne and laying a hand on his shoulder, “There is NO REASON to scare them like that.”

Trausti’s eyes widened at the contact, and then even more at the implied threat. “Apologies, my king,” he said smoothly, turning and curtsying politely, “I forgot myself.”

“Twice,” mumbled Stingy, crossing his arms with a sniff.

Trausti turned back to the children, urgency in his face. “But, isn’t it TRUE that your…your SPORTS elf man NEEDS you??”

Stephanie felt a guilty twinge, and lowered her eyes.

“Just think of it! Poor Tryggvi, all ALONE in Trollheima,” he lamented, draping an arm around Stephanie’s shoulders and bringing the other to his forehead, “STUCK, in the darkest corner of a Troll dungeon!”

“A Troll dungeon?!” gasped Ziggy.

Trausti spun, releasing Stephanie and landing on Ziggy, hand touching down on his smaller shoulders.

“Ex-ACTLY! You don’t know what those trolls will DO to him there!” he said, throwing his free hand out in front of them both as if imagining the scene, “He will have to survive on only dust, and-and garbage, and OH! The horror!”

He spun away from Ziggy in favor of collapsing against Benedikt. “I can hardly bear to THINK of it,” he whimpered, pressing his face into Benedikt’s chest.

Benedikt gently, but firmly, pushed Trausti off of him.

“I…think Trausti is right,” admitted Stephanie haltingly.

Trausti smiled at that, nodding vigorously.

“We HAVE spent too long here, when Sportacus is in real trouble!” Stephanie continued, panic flooding back into her voice, “That’s the whole reason we came here in the first place!”

“Yeah!” chorused her friends.

“And I would NEVER forgive myself if we got to him too late,” Stephanie said, desperation breaking her voice.

“Yeah, me either!!” Ziggy echoed.

“Stephanie, are you sure that you are up for that journey? It has been quite the trying day,” said Aðalsteinn.

“It’s okay, Uncle. I’ll be fine. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to save the day, believe me,” she said, chuckling slightly, “And after we’ve rescued Sporta-uh, well, Tryggvi, we can have a BIG family dinner!”

“I look forward to it, Stephanie,” Brynhildur smiled, “But please, promise me this.”

Queen Brynhildur took Stephanie’s hand in both of her own, and looked deeply into her eyes.

“If anything goes wrong…CALL for us. Aðalsteinn and I…we won’t let you go through it alone.”

There was something behind Brynhildur’s eyes, some undertone in her request, that Stephanie didn’t fully understand.

But, if there was one thing that she knew how to do, it was keep a promise.

“I promise, Auntie Brynhildur,” Stephanie said, nodding once.

Brynhildur smiled down at her. “Þá, góða ferð.“

Stephanie embraced Brynhildur, and then Aðalsteinn.

“C’mon, gang,” she said, steeling herself and stomping toward the castle door, “Let’s go find Sportacus.”

Trausti ushered them all out the door, and then slammed it behind them.

-

Robbie snuck through the words, following an old, well-worn path.

Lucky for him, he didn’t have to spend a whole lot of brainpower on navigation. The Light Elf Halo’s magical aura was the strongest thing around for miles, and its pull was ever-present in his mind, like a distant lighthouse shining with magical energy.

Which was good, because the rest of his mind was fully occupied with a single word.

WINGS.

He had heard that some elves, upon puberty, manifested wings.

He had assumed that, since he was only a halfling, he wouldn’t be one of them.

He had obviously assumed incorrectly, because there they were, flapping in the breeze, just the same as any other limb in his mind.

“I never thought this would happen to ME!” he griped, “What am I supposed to DO with them?!”

He froze in his tracks.

“Ahhh,” he said, grinning madly, “What does ANY being do with their wings?”

He paused for dramatic effect, and then answered his own question.

“They FLY!” he exclaimed, clapping his hands together.

He looked to the left, and then to the right. No one to make fun of him if he failed.

He flapped his wings experimentally.

“Seems to be in working order,” he observed, “Now time to put it to the TEST.”

He flapped his wings purposefully.

Nothing happened.

He flapped them harder, and harder, and HARDER, but he was still standing firmly on the ground.

“Not as easy as the BIRDS make it SEEM!” he complained, grunting with effort as he worked muscles that had literally never been used before.

Robbie Rotten, the laziest man alive, was actually SWEATING, exerting himself so much that any Sports Elves ANYWHERE should be SO PROUD of him, panting hard as he tried desperately to lift himself up off the ground.

He had nearly given up when he felt one foot, then the other foot, lift off of the dirt path.

“I’m-I’m FLYING! I’m FLYING!! Ha-HA!” he squealed in delight, kicking his feet under him to prove it.

No sooner had he said that than he immediately lost his balance and crashed, facedown on the dirt path.

“Well,” he said, muffled, “THAT could have gone better.”

He lifted his face up, coughing the dust out of his lungs, and caught sight of a grass elf, two inches tall, laughing heartily right in front of his face.

“Shut the HELL up,” he growled, “Or I will STEP on you.”

The grass elf flitted away, and Robbie Rotten stomped on, slightly grumpier than before.

-

In fact, Robbie angrily stomped all the way to the edge of the forest, where he finally caught sight of the Royal Castle.

From the bottom of the hill.

He stared balefully at the steep path upwards, and made a decision.

“Nope!” he announced to no one, “NOT TODAY!”

He snapped his fingers, and reappeared at the door of the castle.

Shaking off the disorientation, he pushed the castle doors open with great effort.

“Hello?” he called softly through the empty entryway.

No one answered back.

“Helloooo? Pink Girl? Are you there?!” he whispered urgently.

He frowned. “Why am I whispering?”

“H-hello?” he called louder as he crept into the throne room, voice echoing back to him again, “Loud one? Computer boy? Candy Lad? Sticky?”

No one angrily corrected him, which was the SUREST sign that they had gone from the premises.

Robbie slumped. Right place, wrong time. Again!

In fact, a quick look around confirmed that there was NOBODY in the castle! He knew that there weren’t many attendants since the Halo did most of the day-to-day work, but…nobody? Not even the king and queen?

“Odd,” Robbie mused, drumming his fingers on the side of his face. Sportacus’ letter still echoed through Robbie’s mind, telling of danger in Álfheima, making things that were just odd send a chill of suspicion up and down his spine.

He shivered, and ran back outside.

Robbie sat down on the front entrance. Not really knowing what else to do, he took a moment to look out at the surrounding forest. From his vantage point up on the hill, it looked vast and impenetrable, but down at the bottom were the barely-visible beginnings of many worn paths that wove through it.

Which one had those little brats taken?!

He almost wished that Jósafat would show up again, if only to give him another clue. He had NOTHING to go on. NOTHING!

Well, nothing but that set of footprints through the grass that he hadn’t noticed before, and what was that glinting off of the royal pathway??

Robbie LEAPED to his feet and raced towards it.

It was a shiny, metallic, decidedly non-elven paper. Robbie picked it up by pinching just a corner, and sniffed it.

He gasped. He would know that smell anywhere.

“It’s a TAFFY WRAPPER!” he exclaimed, “The-the Candy Boy has come this way!”

He looked wildly around, half expecting to see the little caped crusader standing nearby, but no such luck.

“But how do I find them NOW?!” he asked, scratching his head.

He thought for just a moment, then snapped his fingers.

“What am I even TALKING about! This is Álfheima! I am full of MAGIC! And I…“ Robbie adjusted his vest with a grin, “Can do what-EVER I want!“

He held the taffy wrapper up to his face, focused his eyes with great difficulty on the faint fingerprint that Ziggy had left behind, and cast a tracking spell.

Sustaining a tracking spell would have drained him dry in the human world, but here in Álfheima it was…well, it was honestly still difficult. Almost as difficult as flying had been earlier.

But it was doable, and that’s all that really mattered.

Robbie concentrated hard on the little fingerprint, and the spell came to fruition with a shimmering blue trail. It weaved its way down the path, zig-zagging a little as little boys are often wont to do, and then disappeared into the forest on one of the Eastern paths.

“By George! We’ve got ourselves a LEAD, Watson!” he said to himself in a British accent.

In a moment of downright stupid impulsivity, he spread his wings and took a running jump.

To Robbie’s complete and utter shock, he actually pulled it off! He floated down the steep hill without touching the pathway even once, letting the warm air boost him as he sailed, until he touched down to the bottom with barely a stumble.

“Ah-HAH! I’m not hopeless at flying after all!” he crowed, dancing in a little circle, “I just needed to do it…in the LAZIEST way possible!”

He allowed himself ONE victorious chuckle, and then got back down to business. If he was going to find those LazyTown BRATS, and save that SportaPRINCE, he had to get GOING.

He strode back into the forest, with the new certainty that he was on EXACTLY the right path.

-

Stephanie had TOLD Brynhildur and Aðalsteinn that she was fine.

But the truth was, she was NOT fine. Now that all the excitement of the palace was over, and they were just walking through the forest again, everything was crashing down inside her head, and she hardly knew which way was up. Half elf, half human? She really felt like she was half DREAMING right about now.  She walked numbly, barely feeling her feet touching the ground, seeing her mother’s face whenever she closed her eyes.

Benedikt had surged up ahead and was teaching them a new song, high-ho or something like that, but Stephanie didn’t feel like singing. She just let herself fall behind, watching her friends learn it as if behind a pane of glass.

She hardly noticed Dídí conveniently falling behind with her until she was touched on the shoulder.

“How are you doing, kid?” she asked.

Stephanie just shrugged.

“What do you mean-“ Dídí shrugged back.

“I don’t know,” Stephanie said slowly, “I just thought…”

She sighed, unsure where to begin.

Dídí waited.

“My-my whole life, I thought my mother was human.  And, that she was p-presumed dead,” Stephanie began, swallowing hard.

Dídí nodded for her to continue, keeping the sympathetic hand on her shoulder.

Stephanie appreciated that. It made her feel a little more real.

“Then, when…it turned out that the first thing wasn’t true, I thought…maybe the second thing wasn’t true either.  It’s so silly, but I thought for just a second that-maybe she was just in Álfheima this whole time, and I would get to see her. Meet her. But then-“

Stephanie threw her hands up, and then back down again, attempting a grimacing smile despite her teary eyes, “No, she’s…still dead.”

Stephanie sniffed. “I would trade all of this magic stuff…if it meant she would be alive,” she admitted.

She finally looked up at Dídí, who had tears in her own eyes.

“I understand that,” she said, rather thickly, “Well. I cannot imagine, but also I understand. I felt the same, you know, when my own…my own mother…passed,” she swallowed hard, clearly reluctant to continue, “A couple of years ago.”

Dídí let out a ragged gasp, pinching her nose. “It-it destroyed me,” she whimpered, “I could not eat, I could not sleep, I could not do anything.”

Stephanie blinked back unshed tears and touched the hand on her shoulder. It was her turn to wait for Dídí to speak.

“I was dreading my return to Álfheima, you know,” Dídí finally said, “Before you and your friends came.”

“Why?”

“It…it is hard to say,” Dídí said, carefully choosing her words, “I think…that the magic in the human world, had been…extinguished for me, and I was afraid that Álfheima would be the same way, so—I never went.“

Dídí chuckled at herself, despite everything.

“It is only now, that I see. I was so wrong!” she said, gesturing around them, “The Elf World still thrives, and I had no idea, because I was grieving too much to find out. My old friends, Benedikt, Jósafat, Aðalsteinn, Brynhildur, they are doing so well! I missed them, I missed them so MUCH…”

Dídí breathed a shaky sigh.

“It is important to mourn the dead,” Dídí said, “But we must hold tight to those who remain.”

Stephanie lunged forward and latched her arms around Dídí’s middle.

Dídí let out a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob, and she patted Stephanie on the back.

Stephanie slowly released Dídí, hoping that her hug had gotten the message across better than words: she was not alone.

And looking at Dídí’s teary, smiling face, she just might have succeeded.

“Agh, I thought I had no more tears left on the topic,” Dídí said, wiping her eyes, “But yet, here we are.”

“Sportacus says that it’s important to your health to express your emotions,” Stephanie said, reaching up and taking her hand.

“This Álfaprinsinn of yours seems pretty smart,” Dídí noted, sniffling a bit.

“Yeah,” Stephanie said, and they walked hand in hand, behind the singing group.

Chapter Text

After a little while, Stephanie was feeling much better, good enough to let go of Dídí and finally join her friends in learning High, Ho, Diddly Do. It was a simple little traveler’s song, and Benedikt had changed the lyrics to fit the quest they were currently on.

And, there was a little dance to do as you walked!

Stephanie was in her element, and she picked it up quick, eager to sing and dance with her friends again.

Singin’ high, ho, diddly do

Going along our merry way

Singin’ high, ho, diddly do

Adventurers we call ourselves

We are not afraid of dark elves, monsters, trolls, or wolves

Singin’ high, ho, diddly do

Going along our merry way

Singin’ high, ho, diddly do

Adventurers we call ourselves

Together we’re on a quest to rescue Sportacus!

Singin’ high, ho, diddly do

Going along our merry way

Singin’ high, ho, diddly do

Adventurers we call ourselves!

Once all five of them had gotten the hang of the little song and dance, Benedikt gave them an ear-to-ear smile and provided some background music with a clap of his hands. Even better! They danced and sang, even convincing a reluctant Dídí to join in, who immediately outclassed them all with her mastery of the “hard version” of the dance steps. And, she just smirked when they begged her to teach them! With all of that singing, dancing, and begging, the seven of them were at the cave before they knew it.

The last verse died in Stephanie’s throat as she got a good look at it. The dark cave was carved into an enormous rock face, which was itself just the beginnings of a craggy mountain that seemed to go up FOREVER.

It wasn’t nearly as big as the infinite Color Cave, of course, but the yawning maw seemed…scarier, somehow.

Possibly because it came with the knowledge that a real life DRAGON lived there.

“Um, Benedikt,” Ziggy said, trembling with fear, “Daði is a-a NICE dragon, right?”

Benedikt smirked a little bit in response. “Weeeell-“

“He’s a vegetarian!” interrupted Dídí, jumping in front of Benedikt, “And, he’s a big softie. Very good with kids.”

Benedikt pouted.

“Aw, you’re no FUN Dídí,” he complained, setting his chin on her shoulder, “What’s an adventure without a little fear?

Dídí stepped away, making Benedikt stumble, and crossed her arms.

“I still haven’t forgiven you for making me think that he was going to EAT me,” she sniffed, “I was SIX!”

“Oh, it was FUNNY,” Benedikt said, waving his hand dismissively.

All of a sudden, there came a noise from the cave that could only be described as a gigantic snore .

The kids all instinctively grabbed hands and drew closer.

Benedikt leaned over to the clustered group and tapped the nearest one on the shoulder.

“I think he’s napping,” Benedikt whispered to Pixel, “You all stay here . I will wake him up.”

Benedikt brought his wrists up to his chin and engaged in what could only very loosely be referred to as sneaking. He took gigantic steps toward the cave, body jerking back and forth, it reminded Stephanie more of black and white cartoon animals than anything that she had seen in real life, but it did its job—getting Benedikt to the mouth of the cave without waking Daði up.

He cleared his throat.

“Hello-o!!! Daaaaði!!!“ called Benedikt into the echoey cave.

“So much for all of that sneaking ,” muttered Stingy scornfully, but he still squeezed tighter to Stephanie’s and Pixel’s hands.

“Daði?“ called Benedikt, leaning in and knocking on one of the cave walls, “Come on out! I need to TALK to youuuuuuuuuu!!”

The snoring stopped.

Then there came a groan, some growls and some grumbles, and then the earth-shaking sounds of some very, VERY big footsteps shuffling their way toward the entrance.

Stephanie held her breath. It was REALLY hard to believe that he was a nice dragon while hearing noises like THAT.

Then the dragon’s head poked out of the cave, blinking in the setting sunlight, and Stephanie completely understood why Dídí took the time to reassure them.

His head was as long as her entire body! It was covered in bright green scales and spiky horns that shimmered in the light of the sunset.  His brows were high, scaly, and arched, and the narrowed eye beneath them was so dark brown that she could just barely see its catlike pupil. Two great, big, gleaming , white teeth stuck out from his upper jaw, resting against his bottom lip like some sort of warning.

He jerked his head toward them, and Stephanie stifled a scream.

Nice dragon, very good with kids, nice dragon, very good with kids, Stephanie repeated to herself as his roving eye searched around.

The rest of her friends were showing barely-disguised fear as well, except for Pixel—who was looking on in pure curiosity and wonder.

“Man. I’m gonna have to update my mod ,” he muttered, scribbling a sketch in Benedikt’s little book.

“Down here!” called Benedikt, waving up at him with a gigantic grin.

They silently stared at each other, dragon to elf, until-

“No!” shouted the dragon in a booming voice.

The LazyTown kids shrank back.

Benedikt only crossed his arms, unperturbed.

“Come ON-“ he began, but Daði cut him off.

“Whatever it is, no! Not after LAST time!” he admonished, and ducked his head back into the cave.

“Ughh, come ooon, Daði,” Benedikt pleaded, throwing his head back in frustration, “I swear, we JUST need a ride to Trollheima! You don’t even have to DO anything this time!”

“Ohhhhoho, that’s what you said LAST time you asked me to go on an adventure,” said the dragon, a wavery quality entering his voice, “And WHAT happened? I KILLED someone, Benedikt!”

Benedikt gasped, and touched a hand to his heart.

“H-how was that MY fault?!” he stuttered indignantly, “Plus, he was an evil dark elf ANYWAY, and was trying to kill the rest of us, so I don’t know if that even-“

“There is NOTHING you could say, Benedikt ,” Daði spat with scorn so palpable that Benedikt recoiled, “That could convince me to go on another…ADVENTURE with you!”

“Please, Daði?“ Dídí said, stepping forward, “It’s a rescue mission!”

Daði gasped.

“Wait a minute. Was that…Dídí?” he asked, finally poking his head back out. His spikes were no longer raised, his brow had softened, and on the whole he seemed…gentler.

Nice dragon, good with kids.

“Yep! It’s me!” Dídí cheered, waving up at his head.

When he finally saw her, his face cracked into what was unmistakably a dragon’s smile.

“Ohhhh, DÍDÍ!!!!” Daði cheered, stepping fully out of the cave, “It is so nice to see you!!”

Dídí bounded toward him, all delighted giggles, and LEAPED into the air, catching Daði by the neck in a dangling hug.  He gently swung her back and forth a few times, and then set her back down on the ground, where she promptly scratched underneath his chin to his contented sigh.

“Oh, Dídí my dear, I’ve missed you so MUCH!” Daði squealed, “I was so sorry to hear about your mother, by the way.”

Dídí stiffened and nodded a bit too aggressively, gesturing out wildly at the LazyTown kids.

“Th-these are my new friends!” she said, beckoning them towards her, “Let me introduce-oh come on, everyone, he won’t bite. Remember what I said before? He’s a NICE dragon.”

Daði gave his best winning smile, but Ziggy still grabbed Stephanie’s hand as they shuffled their way toward him.

Daði lowered his head, and with the full encouragement from Dídí, each of the kids took turns stroking the scales of his snout, scratching him under his chin, letting the fear fall away in favor of familiarity.  Stephanie had to admit, he was a beautiful dragon.  Not that she had seen any others, of course, but his forest-green scales, his golden underbelly, his enormous wings that were folded politely behind his back, it was a lot to take in, the fact that their newest friend was-

“A real life dragon,” said Ziggy in awe.

“Everyone, this is Daði,” Dídí finally said, “Daði, this is Stephanie, Pixel, Stingy, Ziggy, and Trixie!”

Dídí bounced as words tumbled excitedly out of her.

“They’re from the human world, but they’re from a completely different part of the world than me! They flew a rocketship to my house all by themselves, can you believe it! They came looking for Álfheima, and I brought them because their friend-“

She gasped.

“It’s why we need your help, Daði,” she said, suddenly serious, “They are friends with Íþrótta- well, Tryggvi, the prince of Álfheima, and he’s in trouble.”

Daði‘s jaw dropped.

“Tryggvi the hero?” he whispered quietly, “ He’s in trouble?”

“Yes! he’s in Trollheima!” Benedikt said, jumping back into the conversation, “Our sources say that he has been imprisoned there!”

Daði gasped.

“Tryggvi is STUCK in Trollheima,” said Benedikt, gesturing wildly with his hands, “And so we all need to GET to Trollheima, so we can RESCUE him-” he pretended to pluck an imaginary Tryggvi out of thin air, and place him in his coat pocket, ‘-And that’s where we need your help! Could you pleasepleasepleasehelpusoutwithit- !" Benedikt gasped as he lost his breath, smiling with manic desperation up at the dragon’s head as he panted heavily.

“So…you just..need a ride?” Daði asked.

“Yes!” said Benedikt.

“All of you?” Daði asked reluctantly, eyeing the full group, “This is…a little more than I usually carry.”

“Please, Daði?” pleaded Dídí, scratching him under his neck, “You would really, REALLY be helping us out.”

Daði thought about it for a moment.

“Alright! For Tryggvi, I will do it,” he finally said, to widespread cheers, “But! I will have to take a rest, midway.”

“Fantastic!” cheered Benedikt, flinging sparkles into the air.

“We can leave at first light tomorrow,” said Daði.

All of the sparkles abruptly fell to the ground like shooting stars.

Disappointed shooting stars.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that , Benedikt, we can’t go tonight!” Daði harrumphed, “Just look, the winds are all wrong. I’d be pushed back to the SEA if we left right now. It has to be tomorrow.”

Immediately there was a cacophony of clamoring, mostly directed toward a very nervous-looking Benedikt.

“TOMORROW-“

“You said it would only take a day!”

“Why can’t-“

“Oh, thank GOD!” Dídí outbursted, silencing the rest of them.

Everyone else stared at her.

“What? Am I seriously the only one who noticed that these kids look dead on their FEET?”

The three adults looked down at the children, who were suddenly doing their best to NOT seem tired.

“How long have you all been awake, anyway?” Dídí asked, nay, demanded.

“I…am not even sure what day it is right now,” admitted Stingy.

“Well, from what I remember before my tech quit working, we had been awake for about…” Pixel yawned, “Eight hours, before we got to Álfheima.”

Dídí did some quick calculations on her fingers and gasped.

“Oh. Oh GOD. Okay, you all need to go the-the HECK to sleep.”

She turned to look at Daði.

“Daði dear, do you mind if we-“

“Oh, oh! Of course not! Where are my MANNERS,” he said, suddenly turning around and strutting back into his cave, “Come in, come in! Make yourself at home.”

 Daði took a deep breath and breathed fire—once, twice, and the cave lit up with light and warmth.

It wasn’t slimy, or barren, as Stephanie had suspected it would be, it was…rather homey.  There was a wrought-iron chandelier and a stone fireplace, both of which Daði had lit with his fire breath, that cast some light on the place.  It was softly carpeted with gigantic leaves, walls decorated with dried flowers of all sizes, and a few small pieces of paper that, upon closer inspection, seemed to be crayon illustrations of Daði himself.

Stephanie looked over at Dídí, who promptly put her reddening face in her hands.

“Would you all like some fruit? I don’t have any fresh on hand, but! I’ve been drying some pears for the winter…” Daði said, reaching over and daintily plucking a basket from the back of the cave.

Stephanie’s eyes widened. The pear slices inside were as big as her face!

“Dig in,” Daði invited, and the kids wasted NO time.

To Stephanie’s rumbling stomach, they were the best thing she had ever TASTED. These pears were sweet, just slightly chewy, and had the peculiar smoky taste of what was probably dragonfire.

“I have NEVER eaten a sportscandy like this, ever in my life!” Ziggy said, holding the slice with two hands and taking a massive bite.

“You said it, Ziggy,” agreed Trixie, smirking and taking a bite of Ziggy’s slice as well.

“Hey!”

“Sportscandy, goodness. You really ARE Tryggvi’s charges,” said Daði fondly, “Oh! I miss that hero.  The conversations we would have about fruits, and vegetables!”

Daði bustled around the cave to the extent that a creature like him COULD bustle, pouring water carefully in his living plants and using his teeth to set an enormous kettle on the fire.

“I think he should trade in that boring old airship for a DRAGON, personally,” said Daði, “Then he would be riding in style , I told him! But no, APPARENTLY that would ‘draw attention in the human world’, or so he says. Tea?” 

They ate silently, tearing through the dried pears and drinking Daði‘s tea, until suddenly-.

“Did you really kill a DARK elf, Daði?” Trixie blurted.

Daði shrank into himself at that.

“I don’t like to talk about it,” he mumbled, head drooping, “It was…necessary, but not something that I’m proud of. I’m really a very peaceful dragon, at heart.”

“Until Jósafat comes around,” muttered Benedikt.

Daði gasped. “Jósafat Mannahrellir! Is he here?”

“What? No, no,” Benedikt shook his head, “I don’t even know WHERE he ran off to this time.”

Daði deflated. “Good. That dramatic little-“

He grumbled to himself, then took a long draught of tea.

With a stomach full of dried pears and a warm drink, Stephanie could barely keep her eyes open.

“About time to hit the hay?” asked Daði, smiling gently down at them.

Stingy answered with a loud snore, passed out against Pixel’s shoulder.

“Yesss! I call left wing!” Dídí said, racing across the cave.

“Huh?” asked Trixie around a huge yawn.

“I always sleep under the left wing,” Dídí said, as if that explained it all, sitting down, cross-legged, in a very specific spot.

“Ready!” she called.

“We’re sleeping underneath your wings?” asked Trixie.

“Trust me,” Daði answered, “Sleeping underneath the wing of a dragon is the BEST way to sleep! I slept underneath my mother’s wing as a baby, and Dídí always sleeps under mine, when she’s here.”

Stephanie piled together with her friends as Daði settled down, letting his wings gently float downward to the ground.

Stephanie was afraid that she would be claustrophobic, but once the wing came down, trapping a pocket of warm air around her and her friends, she just felt safe.

Like a baby, underneath her mother’s wing.

Did her mother have wings?

The question was the last thing she thought before she slipped into sleep.

-

Stephanie dreamed of LazyTown. 

She dreamed of the bright sun, the wavy architecture, and the sports field, where she was playing some one-on-one soccer against Sportacus. 

She ran, skidded, and leaped, chasing him as he flipped around the field, keeping the ball away from her at every turn. But with one lucky shot and one well-aimed kick-

GOAL! She hit the ball into the goal so hard that it broke through the other side and started rolling up the grassy hill.

“WHOO!” she said, ecstatic that she scored a goal against SPORTACUS! 

But when she whirled around to see his reaction, he was looking the other way, standing perfectly still. 

“Sportacus?” 

He turned around sharply, and Stephanie took a big step back.

It was all wrong. His skin was purple, his mustache had grown to include a beard, and his clothes had turned as black as night.

“You’re not Sportacus,” she said stubbornly, “You COULDN’T be Sportacus!!”

“I could be,” he said, taking a step closer to her. 

His normally sparkling eyes had gone flat, cold, and red.

As she stared into them, she heard a sinister voice laughing, louder and louder, until it was the only thing that she could hear, and the only thing she could see was Sportacus’ terrifying red EYES as the world went black around her-

Stephanie popped awake with a gasp.

The facts of the real world slowly trickled back in as she fully dredged herself from the terror of her nightmare. 

Right. They were in Álfheima. Looking for Sportacus. With Dídí and Benedikt. And Daði.

She laid back with a sigh, heart still beating out of her chest as she stared up at the thin membrane of Daði’s wing.

Her dream felt so REAL. Now that she was awake, she could see that some of the scenery had been wrong, so it COULDN'T have been real, but seeing Sportacus with that cold look coming from those terrifying eyes ...

Suddenly she really was claustrophobic.

She quietly stepped over her soundly sleeping friends and wiggled through the space between Daði’s wing and body, escaping to the cave’s entrance to take gulps of the cool night air.  

She looked out at the clearing as her breathing slowed. The completely full moon shone down upon it, bathing everything she could see in its silver light. A slight fog was beginning to roll in, lending a deeper chill to the air, and if she squinted into the trees...she could see distant lights floating among them, too big and too blue to be fireflies. 

Day or night, Álfheima was beautiful . Stephanie thought that from the moment she arrived. But it also felt oddly familiar, like visiting a beloved playground from a town she hadn’t seen in years. 

She slid downwards, leaning her back up against the rock, and pushed her hair back to feel her ears for the hundredth time that day.  Her body obviously felt at home here, even if she felt a jolt of surprise every time her fingers found those little points. But this was not the home she knew.  Her home was LazyTown, she wanted nothing more than to find Sportacus, and get back there safe and sound.

She wondered if the same moon was shining over LazyTown right now. It probably wasn’t, but it was nice to think about.

“Can’t sleep?”

She whipped her head around, caught, but no one was there.

“Not really,” answered a different voice.

Stephanie moved toward the voices, past Daði’s softly snoring head, and peeked underneath his left wing to see Benedikt and Dídí still very much awake.

“Well, you see…I told Stephanie about…my mother,” Dídí was saying, laying back on one elbow.

”All of it?” Benedikt asked.

“No, no, just….a little. Thought it could help her with…well. Y’know.”

“I’m glad you did,” came Benedikt’s voice seriously.

The silence stretched on.

“Do you think we will be able to find him?” Dídí asked at last, “Their Sportacus, I mean.”

“I have no doubt, Dídí my dear, no doubt,” said Benedikt, laying a hand on her shoulder, “But in what state we will find him is still…uncertain.”

“Benedikt?” Dídí asked, sitting up fully.

“Yeah?”

Dídí threw herself at Benedikt in a tight embrace.

“I’ve...missed you,” said Dídí, haltingly, into his shoulder, “And I am...happy, to be back.”

“Awww, I’ve missed you too,” said Benedikt, kissing her on the forehead, “And I’m SO happy you’re back.”

 Stephanie felt like she had eavesdropped enough, and she crept back around Daði’s head to look at the moonlight-drenched forest.

“Hold ON, Sportacus,” she pleaded to the empty air, “We are coming for you, I swear .”

She slipped back underneath Daði‘s wing, nestling back down between Trixie and Ziggy, and slept again.