Help Brings Trouble – (Re)Quest
Part 8 of (Re) Quest* a retelling of Quest
(Picks up where Rogue Gratitude left off. )
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“You–ah–live around here?” Henneth asked the old man.
“What? Around here?” The old man turned his head and then his body giving their high altitude surroundings a good look before settling his attention back on Henneth. His dark eyes held a look a child might receive for asking a stupid question. “There ain’t nothing but rocks up here.”
Exactly, so what was this old fellow doing up here? He had at least three decades on Henneth and they hadn’t been kind ones. Age had dried the old man out leaving him leathery and thin, like a winter bare branch ready to break in the slightest breeze.
“What business brought you out here?”
Again, the man gave Henneth that look, like he was being dense. “I told you. I lost my ride. Will you help me find it?”
Not a request Henneth could refuse. The walking would wait. He had no destination and no one waiting to receive him. “What kind of beast did you lose?”
“A stubborn mule, my Molly ran off with my cart.”
A mule, great, one of the beasts Henneth had no experience handling and she sounded like she had a mind of her own.
Go find a high spirited bunch of beasts?
He opened his mouth intending to say
nay; the look the old man gave sent him east
trotting after the damned mule anyway.
Rocks kept their secrets, offering no information about the path of one stubborn mule. Henneth hiked on along the trail, eyes locked on the ground passing under foot. Here and there stones had rolled onto the verge. Perhaps after a mule kicked them, perhaps not. He continued on and then stopped. Down the slope a cart lay on its side and a pair of legs stuck out from underneath it.
Green stockings rose out of scuffed boots outlining muscled calves and ended at matching breeches. The legs didn’t move. Of course the old man had not ventured up here alone. Henneth stepped around odds, ends and parcels strewn all over the grass when the cart had toppled. He paused by the body. Should he move the cart? Would doing so cause more injury?
“Oh no…Willow…” The old man hurried, placing his feet with care on the loose rocks.
Willow didn’t reply; he continued to lay inert under the cart; his body half-hid by it.
“If you can you lift it–I’ll pull him out.” The old man got into position without waiting for a reply.
That left Henneth to do the heavy lifting. The cart had tapering walls on two sides and the third side sloped up from the bed at a forty-five degree angle. The shortest side had the hitch which was attached to tangled traces. High on the long side looked like his best bet for a handhold. There were holes bored in it for ropes to lash down a tarp. Poking his fingers into those holes, he hauled the cart upwards.
“Higher, just a little higher…I can almost reach–I got ‘im. You can lower it now.”
The old man dragged his companion a few feet away and laid him down. Long and lean like a young tree, hair like jet, skin like polished onyx, ears that tapered to a point–oh god he was one of them.
Henneth backed up until his backside slammed into a boulder. Dratha screamed a voice inside his mind. Darkfinders. Those who laid paths for evil to enter–Dratha’yarwen.
Evil things are dark;
beware of the Darkfinders,
they hijack old ways…
Henneth pointed at Willow, opened his mouth to denounce him as a devil but his voice failed him; he worked his tongue around in his mouth to moisten it but no more words escaped.
“A black elf missing his consciousness?” White teeth flashed as the old man spoke. They looked too white set in his dark face.
Not at all what Henneth had expected him to say. So he supplied the correct answer in a shocked whisper. “A Darkfinder…”
The man bristled at that appellation and drew himself up, a rebuke on his lips.
“He’s not a Darkfinder. He’s a Pathfinder. There’s a big difference between them. He repairs the world’s magical pathways and he’s damned good at it. He just so happens to be black. Skin color does not determine one’s affiliation with the forces of evil. And he doesn’t associate with those forces.”
Willow cracked an emerald eye that rolled up and then back as unconsciousness closed his eyes and cut off their green glow. Green not black, the color growing things not death’s handiwork, which corroborated the old man’s claims.
“I’m sorry.” Henneth held up both hands palm out.
“Not your fault, he gets that all the time. I told him he outta wear a sign.” The old man smiled in reverie no doubt reliving that conversation. “Warrior of the light, will slay evil for a smile.”
Willow gave consciousness another go and this time it stuck. He blinked luminous green eyes at Henneth that gained sense with each blink. Evil things are of the dark, so claimed the lore. Yet this man’s eyes weren’t the unfathomable obsidian of the Darkfinders, the Dratha’yarwen. Did that mean he wasn’t a servant of evil?
“Lie still old man,” the old man said to Willow, who didn’t look older than forty if that. Catching Henneth’s eye, he explained. “They don’t age like you and I. I think the magic wears them out.” He pointed to his head. “This goes first. They lose their senses and then their bodies break down.”
Willow’s lips moved but no sound emerged. The old man patted his shoulder.
“I know. Just lie still, That cut on your forehead looks bad.” Bending to examine it, the old man dabbed at the clotted blood with a handkerchief he produced from a pocket. Willow bled not red but a green fluid that glowed a soft green–further confirmation that he was of the Magic Kind. Other than that cut, which slashed from temple to the bridge of Willow’s nose, he looked to be okay. A bit dazed though since his eyes couldn’t quite focus.
Henneth left the old man to tend his friend while he gathered their scattered possessions into a pile. Here was the first member of the Magic Kind he had ever met and other than the shiny peepers, he was just a man. A ridiculously tall man to be certain, but a man nonetheless. Where was the magic? The mystery?
He stared at the ceramic jug in his hands. His first contact with a magical being and what a disappointment it had been so far. If only Willow would get up do something–anything–to showcase the legendary powers of his race. Maybe when his concussion healed, he’d do something.
Danger oft wished for
flies swift tonight dragging close
beings best forgot…
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To be Continued in Tiny Messenger tomorrow …
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