By Maya Toman

When the elf entered the tavern, everything about him screamed trouble. His long hair, forest-green tunic, leather boots, and runic rings shouldn’t be allowed. He didn’t have an earphone either. Even un-integrateds wore earphones.

Maynard tapped the shiny device that curved around her ear like an old-fashioned hearing aid. She twisted her hand in the air, focusing her gaze on the elf. The lines and dots before her eyes, informing her that the temperature was 78.4 degrees Fahrenheit and that she had nine unread messages, morphed into a different sequence.Un-Integrated

ID: Emrys Yymyr Ende

Race: Elf

Citizen of: Aran

Currently in: Tavern 2, Section B, Delle, Usrië

Age: Unknown

Status: Un-integrated

She snapped off the data report with a wave of her hand. Every time she read someone’s profile, she felt like she was invading their privacy. Yet she kept doing it because it was readily available.

Pushing aside her moral dilemma, she plunked a tankard of wine onto a customer’s table. Its recipient began guzzling as she strode away. She reached the table where the elf sat and pasted on a false smile.

“How may I help you, Emrys Ende?” she asked, her tone coldly polite.

He reciprocated her fake smile. “I would like some mead, please.” His voice was strangely accented—a vestige of his homeland tongue, another un-integrated aspect of his life.

At least he hadn’t requested ledarel or something else odd and un-integrated like himself. She flicked her fingers, twisted an invisible knob, and swiped out a message to a waitress. “Large mead, table F.”

Then she narrowed her eyes at Emrys. “You could get killed for being here.”

He shrugged. “So you say.”

“Why haven’t you integrated?”

He smiled, this time for real. “Why have you?”

“Wha—what?” she sputtered. How? How could he know she had tried to look like everyone else, to hide her past, to conceal her race and her language?

He bowed his head. “Anira, you have left behind so much that I fear you have forgotten what you truly are.”

She clenched her fist in warning, the symbol for contacting the police. “I’ll call the authorities.”

He grinned again. “Let them come and attempt to capture me. I can escape. Once you could have, too.”

“I was a fool and a rebel.”

“You were a true fool. The true fools are the wisest of all, and now you have lost that. But it is not too late, sister.”

“Emrys…” she said. “Please…”

“Secrets always rise to the light someday,” he murmured, as if casting a spell.

Her whole body shook. “If you do not vacate this tavern immediately, I shall have to contact the authorities. How dare you insult my reputation and insinuate that I used to be like you! Leave. Now.

He stood and bowed. “My lady, forgive me.” The words, normally trite and out of place, sounded noble and true when he spoke them, and she hated him for it.

Someone in the corner clenched a fist, twisted it, and tapped out a location on an invisible earphone display.

Emrys closed his eyes. “Farewell, sister, daughter of kings. You can never fully forsake your beautiful past that was Anira Rylen Ende, elf, princess, and beloved sister. I shall miss you.” He turned and walked away, fading into darkness.

She reached deep into her being and retrieved the tattered remnant of the elvish power she’d once possessed. “Forget,” she whispered, and the tavern’s patrons forgot that Emrys had been there, and the authorities forgot they’d been notified of a threat.

“I shall miss you,” she mumbled to an empty table. She wondered if she would ever perform a spell again. She doubted it; that part of her seemed to be completely gone.

A waitress approached, bearing a large glass of mead. Maynard painted on another false smile. “That’s mine, thanks.”

She sipped the alcohol. Maybe Emrys was right—the races should be diverse and no one should conform to the humans’ concept of normalcy. Maybe the differences between magic and science, between swords and guns, could be reconciled. Maybe circumstances could change.

But she didn’t want to remember, and it was easy to suppress thoughts of the past and watch a news video on her earphone. She’d rather let someone else handle the difficult problems.

When she finished the drink, the memories had dissipated.

Maya Toman is a homeschooled teenager from Michigan. Her many hobbies include writing (fantasy and poetry), reading (fantasy and historical fiction), dancing, martial arts, taking walks in the woods, listening to music (Andrew Peterson mostly), playing the piano, organizing other people’s stuff, and studying languages (Latin, Welsh, and Quenya). She is a pursuer of truth, goodness, and beauty in everything she does and a firm believer in the power of grace when she fails. Her favorite Bible passage is Ephesians 2:8-10.