Tiny Messenger – (Re)Quest
Part 9 of (Re) Quest* a retelling of Quest
(Picks up where Help Brings Trouble left off. )
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Willow lay unable to do much else. Pain lit up his leg south of his knee and north of his ankle indicative of a fracture somewhere in his right tibia. He could signal his companions and draw their attention to the break or he could lie there and let it be. Lying there won out. It’s not like either one of them could do anything for the pain. He was Magic Kind; anything that might deaden the pain would conflict with his magic and cause more harm than good. So he lay there and watched a bee with an odd profile crawl along a grass blade.
It took a moment for recognition to cleave through the pain fogging his mind and identify the creature. It–no–she was only part insect. From the smallest race of the Magic Kind, the Taliarten, she wasn’t much bigger than a caterpillar. With brilliant eyes, a characteristic of those touched by magic, she advanced on her six jointed legs. Iridescent, translucent wings draped like petals over a segmented body covered in fine hairs. More of those hairs framed a woman’s face which possessed a bee’s mandible and proboscis for collecting nectar.
Her anatomy differed from insects in several crucial ways; four of her legs extruded from her abdomen and two from her thorax. She bent nearly ninety degrees backwards using a special joint between thorax and abdomen giving her a centaur’s profile from side-on.
fly swift; find recipient;
deliver my plea.
Her bright eyes scanned him seeking confirmation of something. What did she see? A black Pathfinder with livid green eyes lying on the ground with his head pillowed on his lover’s lap?
Right on cue, Jow dabbed at the cut oozing blood into Willow’s eye and one of his brown, gnarled knuckles interrupted Willow’s field of view. For nine hundred and thirty years, he’d avoided romantic entanglements that went beyond a couple nights of good hard shagging with mortals–the non-magical kind as they liked to style themselves.
Then along came a callow youth called Jow who refused to take no for an answer. A youth who’d spent two decades pursuing him across Shayari before he’d finally given in. Now they were both two spent candles with a finger width of wax left above a charred wick. Magic tended to preserve but there wasn’t much to preserve anymore. Old age had rotted them both, like wood left too long in the wet and weather.
Jow clucked his tongue; maybe he knew the dark paths Willow’s thoughts traveled. Maybe the cut he probed went deeper that he’d expected. Not that Willow could feel it. His broken leg sent pulses of pain through his nervous system that override all other pain signals.
A buzzing recalled his attention to the Taliarten woman; her head had come up, bringing her thorax up as well. She looked like a tiny bluish centaur with a bee’s wings and fuzzy abdomen.
One of nature’s smallest watchers, she’d come to him with news right when pain prevented him from focusing. Not that he could help her with a bum leg and all. A shadow fell over her, startling her into flight to avoid the boot lowering towards her.
Willow opened his mouth to shout a warning but no sound emerged. He’d lost his voice a century ago when extreme old age had kicked in. He threw out a hand palm out and that caught Jow’s notice. At a hundred and two, Jow still had an eagle’s eye. Maybe he saw the Taliarten or maybe not but he did call out to the younger man, name still unknown.
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“Stop!” the old man shouted.
Henneth froze. Something buzzed past him and landed on the pathfinder’s black hand, which shook. Pain etched lines around his eyes. Henneth cursed. Some rescuer he was; Willow was hurt bad and he’d just noticed. So had the old man traveling with the Pathfinder; their eyes met in shared guilt.
Henneth glanced away first. That old man reflected his future back at him. Four decades from now, Henneth would be a pale copy of him, a wizened wanderer. Would he have companions or would he walk alone through his last days?
“Where are you hurt? Willow?”
But the Pathfinder wasn’t listening, not to them. His attention remained fixed on the insect crawling on his palm.
“What is it?”
Henneth judged it safe to approach. What he saw shocked him; he sat down hard on a rock that dug into his backside. The creature’s base was more insect than human–bee at a guess.
“Is that…a…” he ran through the Litany seeking a match. Was she an ally, an enemy or one of them other folk? The Litany was an epic poem broken up into sections. Since she hadn’t bit or otherwise maimed Willow yet, her race probably fell in the allies section. So Henneth started his mental recitation there. Since the races were listed alphabetically, he’d gotten through only the As before the old man spoke up.
“Taliarten,” the old man breathed as if it were a prayer.
tiny folk who hear bugs speak,
care for flowers too.
Willow blinked three times and then the bee-woman-amalgamation ceased her buzzing and fluttered off his hand. She didn’t go far; she alighted on a dandelion and her bluish coloring clashed with the yellow petals as she poked around for pollen.
Willow rolled onto his side despite the old man’s attempts to keep him flat on his back. Shaking his head, Willow extended an arm and dragged a black finger through the earth beginning the first of a series of symbols. At last some communication from the mute mage.
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To be Continued next week …
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