Short Story Contest Entry: S.J. Faerlind (PG-13 for some mature content)

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by S.J. Faerlind, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    (My apologies to everyone who reads this ridiculous parody of a bunch of bad stereotypes! :D)

    The Flavour of Magic​


    Sighing in relief, Sivondra used the last of her fading Strength to haul herself up onto the rocky ledge, making room for Andric to crawl up beside her. Breathing hard after the long climb, she removed a small square of paper from her pocket and carefully spit her now-tasteless gum into it. Folding the paper carefully around the sticky glob, she tucked it back into her pocket for later disposal.

    “Watch this!” Andric called, lying on his belly and craning his head out over the impressive drop below. He spat, and his own gum went sailing out into the air, dropping quickly out of sight.

    Sivondra shook her head in disgust. “Was that absolutely necessary?” she asked distastefully. “I thought you were supposed to be a man; not a child!”

    “Trust me darlin’,” he said. “I’m a man alright.”

    Sivondra rolled her eyes in exasperation before fixing him with a withering glare. “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve getting saddled with the likes of you for this assignment,” she grumbled. “You’re sure that dragons are on our list?”

    “Of course,” he replied, scanning the list carefully, his brow furrowed in concentration as he turned it this way and that. “Elder Janan told me to start with the dragon. Besides, we’re here now so we might as well get what we came for.”

    “I still wish you’d let me keep the list,” she said, not bothering to hide her misgivings. “Are you sure you remember how to decode the cipher?”

    “Of course,” Andric scoffed, apparently offended. “My memory is second to none.”

    “Right,” Sivondra replied dryly. “Why don’t you just hand it over?”

    “No way,” he replied. “Though, I might be persuaded if you agree to give me charge of our supply.”

    “You’d waste it needlessly,” Sivondra retorted, immediately dismissing the idea that he might actually be responsible enough to use what little gum remained to them wisely. “I still can’t believe the elders even trusted you with the list,” she added, holding out her hand for him to give it to her. In response, Andric grinned impudently. Holding the piece of parchment high above his head, he practically dared her to try and take it from him. Sivondra shook her head in disbelief. “Come on,” she growled, deciding not to take the bait. “Let’s just get on with it then.”

    The massive tunnel leading into the dragon’s cave was dark, and the warm air was laden with the distinctive odor of stale brimstone. The walls and floor were worn smooth by centuries of repeated use and their glassy appearance was a testament to the ferocious heat of dragon fire. A faint fiery glow appeared in the distance as they strode purposefully along to their destination.

    “We should discuss an emergency escape plan in case this doesn’t go well I suppose,” Andric mused thoughtfully.

    “I’m way ahead of you as usual,” she assured him. “Here, take this.”

    “I can’t make out what flavour it is in the dark,” he complained, pocketing the paper-wrapped piece of fresh gum.

    “It’s Pegasus,” she told him. “If that dragon’s in a bad mood, we’ll need all the Speed we can get to make it out of here alive.”

    “Dragon would be better,” he asserted. “Speed won’t help us as much as Flight if we have to run.”

    “Dragon is in short supply of course, or we wouldn’t be here,” she told him absently. “We were only given one piece of Dragon for this assignment so Speed will just have to do. Besides,” she added, injecting a hint of challenge into her tone, “You told me that you could certainly charm your way into this dragon’s good graces. Were you bluffing when you made that claim?”

    Andric chuckled in the dark. “Watch me!” Permitting herself a grin since he couldn’t clearly make out her features in the dark anyway, Sivondra picked up the pace.

    Rounding a last bend in the tunnel, they stepped out into a huge cavern lit by fire and stared around them in wonder. A pillar of yellow-orange flame was burning in the very centre of the space and they could just make out the dull red of superheated rocks in the middle of it. A blast of dragon flame from the far wall licked out, making the fire rise a little higher still.

    “Here we go,” she whispered as the massive form of a male dragon materialized from behind the burning rocks. The dragon’s nostrils flared as he caught their scent and realized that he had visitors. “Don’t forget to be charming,” Sivondra added, honestly a little intimidated by the powerful creature that was now coming much too close for comfort.

    “Magicians!” the dragon announced in disgust after he had inspected them thoroughly. “I might have known. Go away! I’m in no state of mind to bargain with you. I have much bigger problems to worry about than the length of my toenails.”

    Andric cleared his throat. “Please forgive our intrusion, noble dragon. We are very sorry to hear that you have problems. If you would care to enlighten us about them, perhaps there is something we might do to help?”

    The dragon snorted in disbelief and Sivondra dove for cover behind a nearby rock as flames shot out from its nostrils. Carefully, she peeked over the top of her hasty hideaway to note that Andric had also managed to avoid a crispy fate. She sighed in relief.

    “You?” the dragon asked. “What can you possibly do to help?”

    “Well, we are magicians,” Sivondra offered, daring to leave the precarious safety of the rock to confront the dragon again. “We are gifted with special talents that we might use to help you solve your problem.”

    The dragon’s eyes narrowed as it regarded her suspiciously. “You would offer your help only in exchange for a toenail I suppose?” Looking back over his shoulder, the dragon shot another lick of flame at the pile of burning rocks, making the fires rise a little higher.

    “Not necessarily,” Andric replied, shooting her a look warning her to remain silent. “We will do what we can to solve your problem and then you can decide if our efforts are worth a shortened toenail or not.”

    “That seems fair,” the dragon admitted grudgingly. It sighed and Sivondra dove behind her rock once again to avoid its searing breath. “Very well,” the dragon announced as the flames died down once again. She exchanged a hopeful look with Andric who was also peeking cautiously over the top of his own rock. “I think you have clearly taken on an impossible task to solve this problem, but here it is.”

    Sivondra waited patiently for it to continue but it said nothing further. “It would be easier to come up with a solution if we knew what the problem was,” she prompted. The dragon gave her what could only be construed as a reptilian look of embarrassment.

    “My mate is angry with me,” he finally blurted out.

    “Hmmmm,” Andric replied, nodding sympathetically. “Girl trouble: we’ve all had it.”

    “Tell me about it,” the dragon grumbled. “Come and observe this fine pile of rocks here. I picked each one out carefully and built this nest with my own feet to hold our egg, and she’s still not happy. She wants yet another rock! When I asked what was wrong with these rocks, she argued that none of them were suitable for what she had in mind. I’m tired of lugging rocks around and our egg is safely incubating so I refused.”

    “Let me guess,” Andric said, holding up a hand to forestall the dragon. “When you didn’t give her the rock that she wanted she was mortally offended and left.”

    “That’s exactly what happened,” the dragon agreed.

    Andric shook his head sympathetically. “I’ve run into the exact same problem myself. What is it with chicks and rocks anyway?” he asked. The dragon grumbled in commiseration as Sivondra suppressed an urge to smack both of them.

    “Perhaps we can win your lady back for you,” she suggested, shooting Andric another withering glare. “You must need a break from incubating this egg. If you could tell us where she might have gone, I’m sure we can help.”

    “You’ll probably find her telling all of her woes to the water nymphs in the lake,” the dragon answered sullenly. “If there is a bigger bunch of gossips and nosy busy-bodies around, I’m not sure where else you’d find them.”

    “Thank you,” Sivondra answered politely. “We’ll see what we can do.”

    “Are you sure you want her back?” Andric asked. Sivondra shot him a look of horrified disbelief but the dragon only chuckled, forcing both of them to dive for cover again.

    “Yes,” he answered. “Yes I do. If you find her, tell her that I miss her.” With that, he turned around and headed back to his lonely stone couch at the back of the cave.

    “Are water nymphs on our list?” Sivondra asked once they were once again outside in the bright sunshine.

    “Nope,” Andric replied confidently.

    “How do you know?” she asked skeptically. “You didn’t even look at it.”

    “I looked earlier,” he said, removing the precious gum she had given him earlier from its wrappings and popping it into his mouth with an arrogant smile.

    “Just let me see the list. Just once, please?” Sivondra asked, unwrapping her own gum and placing it delicately between her teeth. Andric only winked at her. With magically enhanced Speed, he then raced off back down the mountain toward the lake. Grinding her teeth in irritation, she waited for the powdered bits of ground Pegasus hoof in the gum to react to her magician’s body chemistry. A familiar feeling of power began to suffuse her and in the blink of an eye she was after him.

    The lake was beautiful, as always. Crystal-blue water shimmered in the sunlight as tiny waves lapped at the pebbly shoreline. Long-limbed willow trees dropped silky fingers to the verdant grass around them and the sound of sweet birdsong rang out through the air. The scene might have been peaceful if not for the horde of sympathetically chattering water nymphs who had gathered on the beach to try and console their dragon friend.
    “Let me handle this,” Andric said confidently, surveying the gathering of beauties in the distance.

    “I think it would be best if I did,” Sivondra protested, digging a small hole and depositing her mostly-spent gum in it.

    “Trust me,” he answered arrogantly. With a last burst of Speed, he covered the remaining ground to the lake much faster than she could have done and Sivondra cursed herself for stupidly spitting her gum out too soon. She eyed the fresh patch of dirt where she’d buried it and decided that it just wasn’t worth it. Sighing, she set herself a speedy, but normal pace and ran to catch up with him.

    “I hear you’re looking for a special rock,” she heard Andric say to the dragon as she came running up. Panting and out of breath now, Sivondra could hardly get a word out so she began frantically waving her arms to get his attention before he ruined everything. Andric ignored her of course.

    “So HE sent you then,” the dragon-lady replied disdainfully. “I suppose he thinks he can get you to convince me to return to him. What did he promise you for your services magician? A toenail I suppose?” She rounded on her water nymph friends. “Do you see what I have to put up with? My love can apparently be bought with a toenail!” The water nymphs chattered sympathetically in their musical voices and Sivondra groaned inwardly.

    “A sad state of affairs,” Andric agreed, shaking his head. “Yet I sought you out in sympathy lady dragon. Upon hearing the tale of how cruel your mate was to you, my heart was moved and I came to see if I could provide you with what you desire instead.”

    The dragon’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and Sivondra tensed, ready to run. “Fine,” the dragon-lady answered after studying him intently for a moment. “Why not? I shall make you a deal magician. Bring me the black stone from the troll’s cave and I will allow you to shorten my overgrown toe-nail and keep what you cut off.”

    “Wait!” Sivondra gasped.

    “Done,” Andric replied winking at her. Sivondra only made a strangled sound in her throat, wishing she could strangle Andric instead. “Wait right here,” he said grinning at the water nymphs. “We’ll be back.”

    “You fool!” Sivondra hissed once they were out of earshot and she had regained her breath. “If you had let me handle it, we wouldn’t have to go and see the troll!”

    “I can’t believe this,” he protested, apparently offended. “I have successfully negotiated a deal to easily get us the dragon toenail that we need and you’re complaining about it.”

    “Trolls are never easy to deal with,” Sivondra informed him coolly. “You’ve gone and made this unnecessarily complicated. We could have had our dragon toenail by now and gone on to procure the next item on the list if you had only let me handle the negotiations.”

    “You couldn’t have done any better,” Andric scoffed and Sivondra snorted in disbelief. “Besides, this will be dead easy. Trolls are stupid and they have simple tastes. We’ll have that rock in no time.”

    Sivondra sighed in resignation. “At least check the list and see if troll is on it, will you?”

    “It’s not,” Andric assured her, pulling out the list and turning it this way and that. “Care to give up control of the stash of gum yet?”

    She gave him a look of utter frustration. “Not yet,” she growled, tossing him a piece of Faerie for safety reasons. Trolls were strong, but they were slow and clumsy. Agility was useful when trying to stay alive in their presence.

    The troll’s cave was even darker than the dragon’s den. Fortunately, they saw the troll sitting outside in the sun gazing at a shiny black rock the size of Andric’s head.

    “Well hello there,” Andric called out as Sivondra watched the creature warily. It grunted in surprise, wiping green goo from its nose as it dragged its ungainly body to its feet.

    “What you want?” the troll demanded to know. Pointing downward, it stuck out its exceptionally dirty foot conspicuously. Afraid to look too closely, Sivondra was sure she saw things squirming in the darkness between the troll’s toes and she shuddered in disgust. Harvesting troll toe nails was a chore that everybody detested. The Makers had to boil the darn things to sterilize them before anyone would dare to harness the power of Strength. Even then, one used Strength only at need. Troll tasted terrible, even when boiled! “Make deal?” it asked, an ugly grin pasting itself on the creature’s face.

    “Not for that,” Andric said. “For that instead,” he added pointing at the black rock.

    “Unh unh!” The troll said, shaking its head and slowly raising its tree-trunk club to its shoulder. “MY rock!”

    “My good sir,” Andric said, spreading his hands out to the sides. “Surely there is something we might give to you in return for such a valued treasure?”

    The troll scratched its head thoughtfully, finally sitting down to consider the question because there had been so many words in it. After what seemed like a very long time, it favoured them with a ghastly grin. “Purdy maiden hair,” it announced. “You get, I give,” it added, pointing at the rock.

    “Done,” Sivondra told it abruptly. She grabbed Andric before he could say anything further and began towing him away. Trolls weren’t big on ceremony anyway.

    “Don’t go anywhere,” Andric called back over his shoulder, “we’ll be back soon!”

    They found a little town nestled along the northern shore of the river that fed the water nymph’s lake and Sivondra sighed in relief on spotting it. There should be girls of a suitable age down there somewhere among the huts and dirt-packed streets. Procuring one dragon toenail had been quite an ordeal so far. She was glad to think that it would soon be over.

    “Let’s split up,” she suggested, eyeing the mid-afternoon sun. “We can cover more ground that way. As soon as we find a maiden and bargain with her to donate a lock of hair, we can head back to the troll’s cave.”

    “No problem,” Andric agreed and went to trot off down the road.

    “Hold it,” Sivondra said, firmly grabbing his arm and waving an admonishing finger under his nose. “Remember: the hair has to come from a MAIDEN, right?” Andric gave her a sly smile before nodding and continuing on his way. Shaking her head and muttering under her breath, Sivondra headed for the docks.

    She found no fisherman’s daughters there, only men and merchants, and so proceeded on to the main part of town. She soon discovered there was a notable lack of young ladies out walking today. There were plenty of wives hanging up their laundry and sweeping their steps, but most of the girls she saw were much younger than what the troll probably had in mind. Disappointed, she moved on to the main part of town. Carefully scanning the buildings that bordered the main square, she caught a glimpse of a familiar silhouette in the window of one of them. Frowning, she read the sign over the doorway. “By all the gods,” she muttered, shaking her head in disbelief, “why me?”

    “What exactly do you think you’re doing?” she demanded to know, entering the establishment and striding purposefully over to a man seated in a chair surrounded by a handful of scantily dressed women. Taking a swig of his ale, Andric pasted an innocent expression on his face for her benefit.

    “I’m diligently searching for the lady we need to find of course,” he announced, earning himself a sultry smile from his nearest companion.

    “In this place?” Sivondra asked incredulously, her voice rising an octave. “I hardly think you’re likely to find what we need here!”

    “Well how do we know unless we look?” he answered, apparently offended. “There could be ... uh ... new recruits,” he suggested brightly.

    “Let’s go,” she insisted, grabbing him by the ear and hauling him out of the chair.

    “Goodbye ladies,” he called out, laughing as Sivondra towed him bodily to the door. Jeers of disapproval were silenced when she tossed a few coins on the table by the door on the way out.

    “Get serious,” she told him furiously once they were back on the street, “we don’t have time for this!”

    “We have all the time we need,” Andric assured her, pointing at something behind her. Still angry, Sivondra whirled around to look where he was pointing. The stalls of the marketplace behind her were draped in brightly striped fabric. The riot of colour was so garish and obnoxious that she almost failed to see what he was trying to show her. In the middle of it all, a young woman sat quietly darning socks while minding her stall of farm produce.

    “I see her,” Sivondra told him.

    “I’ll...,” Andric began.

    “Oh no, not this time,” Sivondra insisted. “I’LL handle this!”

    “I thought you’d say that.”

    As she approached the stall with Andric in tow, the girl looked up from the sock she was mending. A sunny smile welcomed them and Sivondra smiled warmly back in return. “Would you like to buy something?” the girl asked tentatively.

    “Yes,” Sivondra said, “but not what you might expect.” The girl only looked at her in confusion so she hastened to explain. “We’re magicians child. Do you know much about magic or the search for magical ingredients?”

    “Magicians!” the girl breathed, her eyes widening in awe. “Um, no; I don’t really know anything about magic.”

    “We need to get the ingredients for our magic from magical creatures,” Sivondra explained, “but they must donate them voluntarily. We cannot steal these ingredients or trade for them with anything stolen. The ingredients would lose their potency if we did.”

    “I see,” the girl acknowledged, obviously confused about what any of this had to do with her.

    “We need a lock of your hair to trade for something else,” Sivondra explained, smiling. “Is there something we can provide that would convince you to part with one? Or perhaps there’s a price you would set? We have coin to pay if money is what you want.”

    “Oh,” the girl responded, clearly surprised by the request. She appeared to think about that for a moment, blushing shyly when Andric favoured her with his most charming grin. “There is something,” she finally admitted.

    “Yes?” Sivondra prompted encouragingly. The girl’s face reddened a little further.

    “Well,” she said quietly, “Some money would be nice, but you see there’s this ... boy ...”

    “I see that we have arrived just in time,” Andric remarked mock-seriously.

    “Why don’t you go find something else to do,” Sivondra suggested frostily, glaring daggers at him.

    “Am I going to get in trouble this time?” he asked cheekily before turning around and heading back in the direction they had come.

    “Ignore him,” she advised the girl. “I do. Now: about this boy ... “

    Recommending that the child give serious consideration to avoiding boys altogether, Sivondra’s purse was soon a little lighter and a lock of neatly braided dark hair tied with ribbon was securely stuffed into her belt pouch. Retrieving Andric from a bar-stool in the local watering hole, she headed once again for the troll’s cave.

    Before too long, they had traded the lock of hair for the rock that the dragon-lady had wanted. Chewing Troll for Strength, they laboriously carried it all the way back to the water nymph’s lake and dropped it at the feet of the dragon.

    “Our part of the bargain is concluded my lady,” Andric said grandly, favouring the dragon with a sweeping bow.

    “So it is,” the dragon agreed after carefully inspecting the stone. Resignedly, she lay down in the soft grass by the lake and extended a taloned front foot in their direction. Attaching two handles onto a wire from his pouch, Andric put his boot on the inside claw and began to saw away at it to make it shorter. Sivondra could see that it was slightly malformed and instead of being worn away in the usual manner, had curled around as it grew, almost growing back into the dragon’s foot.

    “That looks uncomfortable to live with,” she noted sympathetically.

    “It is,” the dragon-lady admitted. “That is the reason that I wanted the rock in the first place. That type of rock is the only kind hard enough to withstand dragon claws.” Andric cursed as the wire broke under the strain, forcing him to replace it with another so he could finish the job.

    “Ah, I see,” Sivondra replied. “You wanted it so you could use it to file down that nail then.”

    “Of course,” the dragon-lady said sadly, “yet my mate would not hear any more talk of rocks. I never even got a chance to explain.”

    “This is all just a misunderstanding then,” Sivondra said, suddenly happy for the dragon couple. “He thought you were unhappy with the rocks he found for your nest and assumed that was why you wanted another.”

    “What? He told you that?” the dragon asked incredulously. “Of course I’m happy with the nest! How could I not be?” Andric gave a triumphant grunt as the chunk of overgrown nail was finally severed. Stowing it carefully in his pack and wiping sweat from his brow, he came over to join them.

    “Your mate told us something else too,” Sivondra told the dragon, smiling. “He said that if we were to find you that we should tell you that he missed you.”

    “I see,” the dragon said as softly as a dragon could manage. The water nymphs sighed happily and then waved goodbye as they dove back into their watery home. “Thank you,” the dragon said, picking up her new rock with a forefoot. If dragons could smile, Sivondra was sure that this one would have been. “I must be off home then.” Sivondra backed up as the dragon spread her impressive wings out and took to the air. Smiling in satisfaction, she watched her fly away.

    “You see?” she said, turning to face her companion. “We didn’t have to go to all that trouble to get the dragon’s mate to go home so we could get our toenail. If you had only let me handle it, we wouldn’t have wasted the whole day.”

    Andric only gave her a ridiculous grin. “Come on now Sivondra, no harm was done and we got what we came for. There’s no point in complaining about it now.”

    “I suppose,” she agreed reluctantly. “What’s next on the list?”

    “Hmmm, let’s see,” he said, unrolling the piece of parchment. He stared at it for a long moment, obviously thinking hard.

    “By all the gods, it takes you a long time to invert the code sequence,” she muttered.

    Andric’s eyes widened and then sought hers. “I’ll make you a deal,” he offered, favouring her with his most winning smile. “I’ll trade you the list for the last piece of Dragon gum.” He held up a hand to forestall her objections. “I realize that it should not be squandered needlessly. I swear to use it only in the last defense of my life.”

    Sivondra considered the offer carefully and finally decided that the relief of knowing what was on their list far outweighed the possible uses of Dragon gum. “Done,” she exclaimed. Fishing the last piece of Dragon out of her pocket, she held it up for him to see and then tossed it over. “Now give me the list,” she insisted, eager to see what the next ingredient they had to procure was. Andric held up the scroll for her to see and then tossed it over. As she caught it, he popped the last piece of Dragon gum into his mouth and began to chew furiously.

    “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked him incredulously.

    He didn’t offer any explanation and within moments, he had risen up into the air on the power of Flight. He waved, and then flew away as she tried in vain to figure out exactly what he was up to now. Dumbfounded, Sivondra could only watch him go, the scroll in her hand temporarily forgotten. Once he had diminished to a tiny black dot, she remembered the list and carefully unrolled it to stare at it. Concentrating carefully on the complicated combinations of letters and symbols she perceived the words:

    DRAGON
    TROLL
    WATER NYMPH
     
  2. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    *throws cold water on story*
    Oh hey there! Were you sleeping? :D
     
  3. Dreamscaper

    Dreamscaper Royal Hamster Wrangler

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    lol, love the ending.
     
  4. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Awww... thanks Dreamscaper :)
     
  5. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    *kicks story thread back to revive it*