Untitled Flower Fairies
Kelig Raklray took another swing at the tree he was using for a pell. Maybe exercising on an empty stomach wasn't the smartest idea, but he could hardly sit around and wait to starve. There wasn't much for a fourth-rate swordsman's apprentice to do in the swamp.
He'd been wandering, more lost than anything, since his last master died in a battle with a Drasrt. There hadn't been anything left to bury of him. The humanoid lizards considered themselves the top of the food chain and humans a tasty treat.
Overcome by heat and hunger, Kelig slumped down in the sparse shade of a gnarled tree, his sword hanging limp and unregarded by his side. The moss dripping from its branches hung black and dead. The whole swamp had been like that, twisted and dying, the water sluggish and stagnant.
He felt a stab in his sword-arm above his elbow-cup. Oh Sun, not another. He slapped at the stab and felt warm blood, his own, wash over his hand. He wiped the remains of the giant mosquito off his glove and onto a patch of unwholesome-looking yellow grass. That was the sixth today. He had to get out of the swamp before nightfall or he wouldn't need to worry about finding food.
He sheathed his sword and reached up to take his helmet off when he saw something with wings coming at his face. Reacting on instinct, he swatted it.
Kelig was pretty sure giant mosquitoes didn't shriek. He wrenched his helmet off and wiped the sweat and hair from his eyes. Lying in the disgusting yellow grass was a tiny woman with purple wings.
“Oh sweet Sun,” he groaned. He took off the leather gloves and picked her up carefully, sliding one hand under her body. He had no idea how to revive a woman who was less than three inches tall.
He dug in his pack and found his last clean handkerchief. He folded it atop his well-worn leather gloves and laid her gently on it. His almost-empty waterskin still had a mouthful or two. He took one and got a drop of water on his smallest finger. He let it fall onto her face.
Tangle sputtered as the big, warm water ball enveloped her head. She gulped a mouthful and sputtered more, then sat up on the handkerchief. Her head ached and she fluttered her wings. One was still a bit bent. Getting smashed against a metal wall had not been in the Council briefing.
She stood up and looked up. And up. And up. Humans were enormous. She realized he'd built her a nest in his gloves.
“Can you hear me?” she called. Huge he might be, but he was also cute. The brief thought of Bud crossed her mind. Bud would think he was cute too.
“I can hear you. Are you all right? I'm sorry!” He looked so upset she tested her wings and fluttered up to his shoulder. He bent wing sent her drifting but she corrected. One arm wasn't moving right.
“I'm all right. I should have approached more carefully.” She was lying but she'd heal fast enough.
“I'm really sorry,” he said in a softer voice. “I was sweaty and in the helmet you looked like another giant mosquito.”
Tangle laughed. “You big meanie. Bloodsuckers aren't purple.”
“I know. You're really beautiful. I'm Kelig by the way. Kelig Ralkray, adventurer for hire.” He tried to sound impressive and it was all Tangle could do not to laugh again. Males had such an inflated sense of their own importance.
“Excellent. I want to hire you to kill the Lord Kalad and end his war with his sister which destroys the whole countryside.” She gestured around at the dying swamp. “The only problem is, I don't have anything to pay you with. Yet. Do you work for spoils?”
Kelig was shaking his head and staring at her. “Lord Kalad? You don't aim small do you, girl? Look, I'm barely trained. Most of that 'hero-for-hire' bluster is just that, bluster. “ He stared. “You're not all right.”
Tangle wobbled on her feet and he caught her before she could fall off his shoulder. With her good arm, she pulled out the spell-effect. “Find Thorn,” she told it. “Follow it,” she told Kelig. The dizziness and pain in her arm overwhelmed her.