Aevyrn's adventures with his friend Donovan continue in this newest excerpt!
To Part 1
[On holiday, Aevyrn and his friend Donovan, two elf military trainees, decide to go for a forest romp and get hopelessly lost. After being attacked by unknown creatures, Aevyrn slowly regains consciousness here in the unfamiliar woods...]
The pain returned as a distant throb, waxing and waning. My eyes flickered open, and I lurched up with a scream.
…Or, well, rather, I attempted to sit up. I hardly made it three inches off the ground before the searing pain in my ribcage and skull returned with full force. Needless to say, my back slapped back down against the cold, hard floor. My head swam.
Even as I waded through the unbearable, burning pain, my senses were beginning to return to me. I knew I had no weapon. Not that I could do much about that: I was struggling just to clear my mind and think; I had no chance of using my knife effectively while drowning in this muddle, let alone finding the blade in the first place.
But my training had not completely deserted me. As I lay still, more details shifted into focus: my torso’s bare skin grazed the cold stony floor of what appeared to be a cave, and a soft fabric was wrapped around my forehead and chest.
Where am I? I wondered, for surely I’d been dragged somewhere away from the battleground. I remembered no cave there.
From the corners of my consciousness, I began to register a voice: a husky tone, harsh and deep though not masculine. I ignored the unseen woman and tried to prop myself up on my elbow. But I fell to the ground, again unsuccessful.
The voice I’d ignored began to rise in pitch and urgency… and closeness. As I winced from my own painful folly, a blurry image swept into my line of sight: the woman, bending over me and shouting at me angrily.
Bewildered, I raised my hands in a feeble attempt to defend myself. The pain swiftly joined her in shouting at me. I had no choice but to heed the messages, dropping my guard in defeat.
Instantly the shouting stopped, and I felt the fabric peel off my forehead. I grimaced and grunted as a cool, wet cloth touched my head. Whatever liquid the cloth contained stung, but after just a few moments, the pain had ebbed from a shrieking cry to an aching murmur. For the first time since the attack, I felt as though I could breathe again.
My wavering gaze cleared and finally focused on the woman, who was still leaning over me, now silently looking over my body with the clinical intensity of a chirurgeon. As she pulled the cloth away, her brown eyes were cold and hard and focused, as if her look alone could sew back together the wound on my forehead. Her skin was a dark, milky-smooth brown. Her jet-black hair was tied back in a thick knot that rested on the nape of her neck.
She was quite beautiful, despite her deadly stare.
I stirred a little, uncomfortable under her gaze. “Atalim tu ai?” Who are you? I asked, hardly recognizing the weak, hoarse voice that ushered from my parched throat.
The woman’s fierce gaze shifted from my forehead to my eyes. A hesitation, a slight hint of uncertainty in her stare.
“Estalis telim ai?” Do you understand me?
The woman’s gaze shifted back to my wound. She offered no further reply.
She ran her thumb above the wound on my forehead, muttering. Her voice, although at first harsh and dark, seemed to soften along with her gaze. However, I could not understand a word.
I closed my eyes and sighed. She does not speak elf… Nor was she an elf, for she lacked the telltale pointed ears. I rested my head on the cold stone floor in surrender to her ministrations as I resumed my observations.
The cave air felt moist and cool, though I could hear crackling and felt warmth to my left; I turned to see a small fire built there. On the right, the woman knelt beside me. My father’s knife was nowhere in sight (I assumed it was either lost to the forest or the woman had found and taken it). And as for Donovan—
Donovan! The urgency came crashing back on me: the haunting sound of his screams in the dark.
Could he be here, as well? I hardly dared to hope.
“Have you seen my friend?” I asked her, this time wise enough to use the Common tongue.
Then another thought came crashing in. “Am I your prisoner?” I added.
I could only hope my accent wasn’t too thick to understand; I hadn’t needed to use Common for the past year or two.
The woman glanced at me with a hint of disdain in her gaze. She did not reply, offended by my question or not understanding my Common either. Then she began untying the bandages on my ribcage. And she poked at the wounds there with her deft fingertips.
“Bleeding heart, woman!” I cried out in pain and surprise.
Still bent over her task, she barely glanced up to bark at me, as if scolding a child to be still. Then her gaze returned to the wounds on my torso.
I bent my head to look up at them myself... and she and I both grimaced in unison at the look of the lacerated flesh.
The woman rose and strolled over to the fire, and for the first time I noticed the small clay pot sitting beside its flickering flames. She took a scrap of cloth from the cave floor, and I realized it had likely once been part of her uniform: she wore a short tunic, but her trousers were scandalously short and torn, revealing her legs above the knee. Clothing, cloths, and bandages were all the same green hue.
She dipped this new cloth in the clay pot and wrung out the excess liquid. Then she returned to my side and jabbed the soaked, hot cloth into my stomach.
I hissed at the stinging pain. What on earth is in this salve?
Again the woman snapped at me, though this time her voice was gentler, and I would swear I heard her laugh.
As she tended me, my gaze again drifted up to her. “Did you rescue me?” I murmured, mostly to myself. This time, she did not even look up to acknowledge I’d spoken. Her nimble hands quickly cleaned the cuts and sponged off excess liquid. Her stare was fixed on my torso wound.
She’d clearly had experience tending to wounds. Perhaps a healer of some sort? And judging from the fact she spoke no elvish, she was either human or…
“Are you a fairy?” I asked as awe began to tint my whispering voice. I was aware fairies dwelt near these parts, but I’d never in my life expected to actually meet one.
The woman glanced up at me, just a reflexive peek, but for a moment—just that moment our eyes met—all her fierceness melted away into the softness of her deep, rich brown eyes.
I watched her wordlessly, for my voice had fled at the look in those deep pools. And for a moment—just a moment—she stopped her work to return my stare. The look in her eyes shifted to curiosity—intriguedness.
And then, in an instant, it was swallowed once more by her no-nonsense attitude as she resumed tending my wounds.
Well, I had business of my own to tend to.
“My friend,” I croaked out despite my voice—or lack thereof. I cleared my throat and tried again, though the quality of my tone was no better for it. “Please, my friend—a man, an elf like me—”
She continued nursing my wounds, ignorant to my pleas in a language she did not understand.
I considered attempting to sit up once more to gain her attention, but I knew that would only delay my mission. So I did the next thing I could think of—I snatched her hand mid-dab.
She glanced down with an exasperated sigh. That much I could understand no matter which language. She struggled to pull her hand out of mine, but I held fast.
“My friend,” I enunciated, using my free hand to pat my chest and then motion to my side, as if another person were lying next to me.
Her forehead went from a crease of frustration to questioning.
“Male.” What other words might she know, if any? None that I could think of. I tapped my pointed ear tips. “Elf.”
Her eyes lit with the first hints of realization.
At last! A spark of communication. I began pantomiming gestures, growing more and more excited. “We walked—through the woods.” I waved my hand wide to signify the leafy trees. “We were attacked.” Then I hesitated, wondering whether I should attempt to imitate the sound the beasts in the woods had made.
As a horrified shudder wracked my back, I thought better of it, opting to brandish my imaginary knife instead. “My friend... gone.” I looked around the cave. It hardly took any work to appear at a loss.
Have you seen him? Do you know where Donovan is? I practically pleaded.
When I finally released her hand, the woman held out her open palm toward me in a “wait” gesture. Could that be a shared sign between our tongues, or did it mean something else to the fairies?
She scooted backward across the cave floor, rising to her feet and kneeling down among a bundle of belongings, searching for something. She then returned, presenting me with my father’s hunting knife.
Reunited at last. I pulled it out of its sheath to inspect it. The battle in the woods had dulled the blade, but nothing that a whetstone couldn’t fix.
As the woman’s gaze locked with mine once more, she performed some miming of her own: she pointed to me. Pointed to the knife. Pointed out of the cave. “Elfff,” she pronounced slowly, with a thick accent.
But I understood it.
Then she pointed to herself... and made a motion of drawing a bow.
Pointed to me again. Pointed to herself again.
Pointed outside the cave.
And then, she said another word I understood:
Perhaps I’d found an ally in searching for Donovan after all.
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Characters and story inspired by Mitchell Anderson and me.
From Him, To Him