Against The Current, thrilling installment #6

4 03 2008

First: read, second: comment, third: give me all your worldly possessions. Well, actually the first two would suffice. ’nuff said.

The light of the fire stood like a beacon against the darkness of the forest, and like a beacon it drew attention to it; its attendants were already gathering.

On first look there was nothing unusual about them; they looked pretty much like one foot high deer. Admittedly they were a bit on the short side, but that didn’t make them unusual, or at least not much. On second look however… On second look the tail moved just a bit too much like a snake, the body was just a bit too lean, the legs ended in just a bit too many spidery digits, four instead of each hoof, and the head just looked a lot more like something out of a nightmare than it ought to, sporting pupil-less black eyes, large ears each as big as the rest of the head and instead of the snout a trunk with two concentric rings of small, razor-sharp teeth along its opening. Nothing unusual at all.

The creatures kept well out sight, but they were watching. Anticipating. And with the anticipation came excitement and pushing and shoving and bickering. One of the creatures staggered out of the flock to try and keep its balance, only to hit that oddly shaped rock to the right. The rock was warm, soft and growled. In an instant the small creatures stove away, leaving the dark grey wolf to watch the scene in solitude, a shadow amidst the shadows.

Triumphantly Laiva pulled the small wax paper package from her backpack. The cardboard box holding it had been crushed, its contents scattered among her clothes, but here it was.

Carefully she unwrapped the paper. There was no reason to water proof the contents like books or documents, but they were dear to her, and it didn’t hurt either.

She ran her fingers gently over the small metal pieces. They didn’t look much, their surface veiled by a layer of black where it wasn’t dull, and were far from being valuable in any case, but nevertheless Laiva wished she wouldn’t have to ruin them.

They were all she owned for adornments, after all, even when she didn’t wear them anymore. Having little silver stars and moons in your hair was simply embarrassing at her age, but she had been four when she got them.

Her mummy had never worn any ornaments for as long as Laiva could remember. As far as she was concerned they only got in the way and she failed to see the point in any case. Incidentally there were a few pieces, proper jewellery even, but those were family heirlooms; locked well away and not for wearing.

To a four year old, however, what the other girls had was a much stronger argument than anything a parent could have said, and thus her mother had finally given in and presented her with the cutest, most embarrassingly adorable adornments she had managed to find in the city. The five little silver plated clasps had made her a very happy little girl indeed and she had worn them non stop for weeks, hardly taking them off at night. That had been a long time ago, of course, but Laiva still treasured them. And thus they were among the things she had stuffed in her backpack earlier that night.

She pulled an arrow from the quiver and held one of the clasps against its head. There werewolves were still watching intently, but they weren’t moving and with a bit of luck they hadn’t figured out what she was up to yet. She focused on the spot at which the two metal pieces met and braced herself. In theory, all it took was a fire spell, but the problem was concentrating it in such small a space. She had seen the village smith doing it plenty of times, but there had never been a reason to try it herself. Which, admittedly, wasn’t enough to stop her, but then the smith hadn’t let her have a go and trying it on her own was bound to get her in trouble. Her parents had been very clear about that after her accident with the table.

She took a breath and voiced the syllables until a gentle glow engulfed the metal pieces. Laiva could see the heat building up with her inner eye; growing, spreading. She was almost there; she could nearly feel the blaze of the fire. Just a bit longer.

With a shriek Laiva dropped the arrow and frantically waved her hands through the air. That had been a bit too long. The pain quickly faded, however, and when she picked up the arrow, carefully and at the shaft, the clasp was clinging to it. She tipped at it, not to burn her fingers a second time, but it had cooled down already. Then she tucked at the clasp to test for the strength of the connection, but her worries were unfounded. The clasp was fast attached to the arrow head; it had worked.

Laiva glanced at the werewolves. They gave no indication that they had noticed her shriek or anything that had come before or after. She didn’t know what she had expected, but them doing nothing at all was even more unnerving than their cold stare. Slowly she took her bow. They didn’t even blink. Either they really were that stupid or up to something. She would probably learn soon enough.

In one fluid movement Laiva brought up the bow and released her improvised silver arrow. A nightmarish howl ripped through the silence of the forest, but was quickly turned into a gurgling sound. The lead wolf staggered for a moment and then collapsed for good. It had tried to move away at the last moment, but the distance had been far too short for that. And this time it wouldn’t stand up again.

The other wolves slowly stepped back into the shadows, keeping their gaze fixed at Laiva. Maybe she was just imagining it, but she could have sworn they looked shocked. Even after vanishing in the shadows, Laiva could still feel their presence, though. Shocked as they might have been, there were hiding, not fleeing.

Laiva took another clasp and arrow and a few syllables later the metal pieces started to heat up. This time, however, Laiva stopped her focus before the heat spread through the whole of the metal. She felt it getting warm in her fingers, but this time it wasn’t enough to burn her; she was getting the hang of it.

She put the arrow on the bow, but there was no clear target and she couldn’t afford wasting a single shot; even so there were more wolves than she had arrows. She had counted eight, one of them now lying dead, but even if there weren’t any more and assuming every arrow hit its mark, that left her with three of them and naught but a dagger. Her only chance was driving the werewolves away, preferably as long as the fire lasted. After that there wouldn’t be time for more than one shot anyway.

An idea crossed her mind. She had a few bandages in her pack and one of those she took now out and tore a stripe off. Then then she took a new arrow and wrapped the cloth tightly around the shaft, just below the arrow head, and secured it there with a double knot. Laiva pushed it into the fire; the dry fabric instantly caught fire. It wouldn’t burn for long, but it should be long enough. She took aim at the shadows and released the arrow.

The arrow didn’t hit any of the werewolves; it passed them and got stuck in a tree behind, but for a few moments they were illuminated and that was all Laiva needed. Another of those nightmarish howls confirmed that the silver arrow had hit.

One more werewolf fell that way, but then there was a commotion followed by the sound of heavy animals dashing off. She had won it; it was over.

The tension left her and all of the sudden she felt tired and weak. Her legs gave away and she sat down, leaning against the trunk of the tree. Drowsiness came upon her and she slipped off in a dreamless slumber.





2 responses

15 08 2008

In the first chapter you say,

“Then she
fetched her backpack from the corner of the room and stuffed some
spares in and continued to the door.”

You don’t elaborate on what the spares are, but I’m having a hard time believing that she would consider treasured silver hair ornaments as “spares”. Her escape seems a bit of a deus ex machina.

My two cents.

26 08 2008

Fixed. Well, it never really was deus ex machine, but now it should seem less so as well.

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