In the end, Anais decided the direct approach was best.
“Mommy Ast,” she said, drawing herself up tall. “There’s a troll in my room.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” Astoreth replied, never taking her eyes from her needlework. “That’s nice, dear.”
Anais blinked at her stepmother. “No, really,” she said, clambering up onto the couch beside her. “His name is Jak an’ he comes in my room and tries to play with my toys. He’s the one who keeps knocking my knife down.”
At the mention of the knife, Astoreth did raise an eyebrow at the child. “Again?” she asked. “I thought your father put that out of reach.”
“He did,” Anais confirmed. “But Jak knocked it down again.”
At this point something about the words troll, knife and in my room seemed to sink in, and Astoreth put her sewing down. “Tell me again what’s going on?”
Anais took a deep breath. “There’s a troll named Jak an’ he comes into my room an’ plays with my toys an’ he especially likes the knife Daddy’s friend Miss Pipiltin gave me but I think he’s in trouble ’cause he never stays long an’ he always disappears ‘fore I can talk to him for long an’ he asked me for help but I don’t know how to help him and I was hoping you knew.”
Astoreth sat back, a bit blown away by the torrent of information. “He’s… he comes into your room? How?”
“Dunno,” she shrugged. “I just wake up and he’s there.”
“And he’s a — a troll?” Astoreth confirmed. “Like… like Mister Do’xian?”
Anais shook her head again. “He’s a kid, like me. He didn’t even know that elves don’t have tusks.” She shifted. “He doesn’t like light. He only comes at night and only when there’s no moonlight.”
Astoreth frowned. “Are you certain, Anais? It might have just been a dream.”
“No,” Anais insisted. “It wasn’t a dream, it was real. I could see him!”
“Sometimes dreams can seem very real.”
“But it happened –”
“And they can happen several nights in a row.”
“But my stuff got moved!”
“It could have been one of the cats. Or Ithruiel.”
“But Mommy Ast –!”
Mommy Ast smiled sweetly, in that way she did when she was bringing discussion to a close. “I know it was probably very vivid, darling, but really now –”
Anais waved her hands in desperation. “Mommy Ast, Jak thinks he’s dead! But he can’t be dead, right? People go away when they’re dead an’ they never come back. Right? An’ I like him an’ I want to help him an’ he can’t be dead.”
Astoreth stopped, and stared at the child for a long moment.
“I… think we need to talk to your father,” she finally said.