Elf vs. Orc 9Sings-to-Trees' head shot up. He knew Fleabane's barks like the back of his hand. Short, rapid barks, not grating, hysterical ones--somewhere between a greeting and a warning. Fleabane knew the person approaching, but he didn't really like them.
That meant it was either one of the humans from down the road (excepting Matilda, who brought cheeses and always had a tidbit for a hungry coyote) or the rangers.
"Shit!" Sings-to-Trees leapt to his feet and began kicking Celadon's armor under the bed, followed by the extra blankets.
Celadon got unsteadily to her feet. "What is it?"
"Company. Might be rangers."
She could have asked questions, like "Are you going to turn me in?" or "Why are you panicking, if they're your people?" but Celadon was not inclined to waste time on stupid questions. She looked around hurriedly for a hiding place.
Sings-to-Trees caught her elbow. "Do you trust me?"
"Does it matter?"
"I suppose not."
Getting her into the hiding place was awkward, but Celadon took it in s
Elf vs. Orc 8Celadon woke up in the elf's arms.Elf vs. Orc 88 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
This sounded a lot more romantic than it actually was.
For one thing, learning to sleep in proximity to another person is an acquired skill. You learn what to do with the arm that always seems to get stuck between you and where to put your feet and whether they mind having a leg draped over theirs and who can use whose arm as a pillow without nerve damage or a sore neck. Then there's the whole complex negotiation of blanket treaties and sheets and who gets what and who needs layers and who has to stick their feet out.
Without acquiring these vital habits, you wake up pretty much like Celadon—stiff, sore, with a knee wedged into your ribs and blankets tangled around both of them like sleeping anacondas.
While it's traditional when parties of the opposite sex find themselves entangled for someone's hands to be in an embarrassing position, that actually wasn't the case. She was pretty much in the elf's lap, where one of his knees was up and digging into
Elf vs. Orc 7This was easier said than done.Elf vs. Orc 78 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
She gave him some very practical suggestions about how to tie the ropes. A bit of slack between the feet, enough to shuffle, not enough to run. A rope around the neck as a kind of leash in case she attacked him. He could tell she'd done this sort of thing before.
Sings-to-Trees, at that point, would have been happy just untying her completely and pointing her in the direction of the outhouse, but he had a horrible feeling he'd disappoint her if he didn't at least try to hold up his end. So he steeled himself to stay awake a bit longer and got the ropes set up, and hauled her out of the bed.
Then she wound up needing to use him as a crutch anyway, since her knees kept buckling, so it was a bit of a moot point.
"Can you hold this?" he asked, handing her the leash rope after a few brutal hops toward the door.
"What if I try to escape?"
He sighed. "Just yank it if you feel yourself getting any ideas."
She started laughing, then they took another step and the
Elf vs. Orc 5Sings-to-Trees's primary thought through the whole violent encounter was Not the throat again!Elf vs. Orc 58 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
His neck hurt. He felt like a troll had used his esophagus as a dance floor. This could not be healthy. If he lived through this, he swore he would be nice to his throat for the rest of the year. Hot teas. Scarfs during winter. Anything.
For awhile, he didn't think he was going to live to see sunrise, let alone winter.
Then she'd apologized. The orc had stood there, with a distinctly sheepish expression on her face, and she'd apologized.
None of his patients ever apologized. Most of them couldn't talk, and it didn't seem to occur to the ones who could.
Half of him wanted to reply automatically—No, it's okay, these things happen, don't worry about it—and the other half was jumping up and down screaming You just tried to kill me, you green-faced lunatic! You can't just apologize for trying to kill people!
Perhaps fortunately, his throat was aching too badly
Elf vs. Orc 6He got a nasty start a few hours later, when he came in to check on her.Elf vs. Orc 68 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
He'd tied her hands, her feet, thrown a loop or two around her waist, and roped everything to the bed, the chair, and the fire iron, just for good measure, He'd done everything short of hog-tying. She wasn't going to get loose in a hurry.
He wasn't sure why he was bothering, really, since he had a horrible feeling that if she said "Will you untie me?" he might do it, and if she said "please," he'd definitely do it.
Still, she didn't seem to be a threat conscious, so maybe that was okay.
Then, because his feelings were still churning and there was nothing for emotional turmoil like hard work, he'd gone off, fed the chickens and the gargoyle, picked peas, turned the compost heap, washed his hands and made soup. By the end, he was really quite exhausted, and ready for at least a nap in his chair.
Then he came back in to discover that her fever had vanished and she was shivering violently with cold.
Elf vs. Orc 3Sings-to-Trees was being strangled.Elf vs. Orc 38 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
He'd always expected a patient to kill him some day, but he'd thought he would be a lot older, and it would be an angry bull or a careless moment with a manticore or something along those lines, with an outside chance of being crushed under a nearsighted troll. He really hadn't anticipated anything like this.
The orc had been giggling to herself for a few minutes, and when he tried to talk to her, she only giggled harder. He didn't know if she could speak any of the languages, or if she was so delirious that she wasn't even hearing him. He had no real idea what the normal temperature for an orc was, but her skin burned against his fingers, and if he had to guess, he'd say she was running quite a high fever.
There was something very surreal about a giggling orc. It wasn't malicious, like when pixies left flaming piles of pixie-crap on your doorstep and hid to watch you step in it. This was a throaty, genuinely amused chuckle—reduced to a s
Elf vs. Orc 4She let him go. She couldn't do much else. He was an elf, sure, but there were rules, and you didn't kill healers and you didn't kill priests.Elf vs. Orc 48 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
The rage had to go somewhere. You couldn't go from halfway to gnawing your shield back to normal just like that. Celadon swallowed it, bitterly, the stone shattering, the red sea pouring through the wreckage. She threw her head back and snarled with the pain.
The elf lay sprawled on the ground beside the bed, holding his throat, his eyes closed. He was breathing in tight little gasps. She could have stomped on his head, but of course she wouldn't.
She was furious. Mostly at herself, truth be told. It had been so obvious. He'd checked her bandages, he hadn't been wearing armor, and this was as far from a cell as you could get. What more did she need, a sign saying "Non-combatant, please do not throttle," in several languages? But she'd been so mad—and scared, yes, let's be honest with ourselves—that she hadn't seen past the Enemy.
Elf vs. Orc 2Celadon Toadstool was delirious.Elf vs. Orc 28 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
The funny bit—uproariously funny, it seemed to her—was that she knew she was delirious. The world was billowing around her. It looked as if someone had meticulously painted the inside of a cottage on silk, and then hung it in a gentle breeze. The corners floated inward and collapsed back out again with a sigh.
That someone would go to all that trouble, painting a cottage on silk, was hilarious.
She knew she was wounded. She couldn't quite remember how she'd been wounded. Imagine not remembering a thing like that!
This also struck her as hilarious.
Her name, in Orcish, was Urrsharruk-gah, and she had skin the delicate gray-green of the gills of cave mushrooms, and eyes the color of stolen gold. Her hair was thick and dark and she wore it tucked under her helmet to keep enemies from being able to grab it, which was problematic, because she'd lost her helmet somewhere along the way, and she wasn't in the best of shape anyway.
Even in her immense good humor
An Evening With Sings-to-TreesAn Evening With Sings-to-Trees8 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
Sings-to-Trees had hair the color of sunlight and ashes, delicately pointed ears, and eyes the translucent green of new leaves. His shirt was off, revealing the sort of tanned muscle acquired from years of healthy outdoor living, and you could have sharpened a sword on his cheekbones.
He was saved from being a young maiden's fantasy—unless she was a very peculiar young maiden—by the fact that he was buried up to the shoulder in the unpleasant end of a heavily pregnant unicorn. Bits of unicorn dung, which was not noticeably more ethereal than horse dung, were sliding down his arm, and every time the mare had a contraction, he lost feeling in his hand.
It had been nearly two hours, the ground was hard and cold and his knees felt like live coals wrapped in ice. She'd kicked him twice, and if Sings-to-Trees hadn't known that it was impossible, he'd have begun to suspect that the unicorn had arranged a breech birth out of spite.
No, he was being unfair. It couldn't be any more fun for her t
Quick the DonkeyQuick the Donkey9 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
The donkey's name was Quick.
His front hooves were neat and dexterous and opposable, and his back hooves were the size of dinner plates and had unassuming steel shoes. He had a pale grey hide and pale pink nostrils, and ears like enormous fringed fans, and if you lifted up his cowl far enough, you would find large, slightly worried brown eyes, with the devastatingly long eyelashes reserved for beauty queens and large ungulates. He was a small, neat-footed donkey who kept his elbows tucked in and could vanish into a crowd much more easily than a bipedal donkey wearing a yellow robe with checkerboard edging had any right to do.
He had a goldfish in a plastic bag. She was a small, neat-finned goldfish with kinder eyes than are usual among fish. Quick was only guessing about the "she" pronoun. He wasn't sure how to tell the difference, or if it mattered one way or the other. Well, it probably mattered to another goldfish. He wasn't sure if the kindness of the goldfish's eyes was really the
Saints of San AxolotlEcho birds are as common as muck, and about the same color. Theyre found only in San Axolotl, where they scurry along the paving stones and under the tables of the street cafes, through trash-clogged back alleys and down the walks of rooftop gardens, looking for scraps and seeds. Once you leave the city, though, the echo bird population tapers off within five miles, and the only specimens anywhere else in the world have glass eyes and are wired to their perches.Saints of San Axolotl6 years ago in Fantasy More Like This
Echo birds are not mimics. There are all kinds of mimics in the bird kingdom, from the pygmy mynah to the rare and savage Cassowary Macaw, whose repertoire generally consists of the screams and curses of its last unfortunate victim. Mimicry is no longer a particularly impressive trick. Any old parrot, with time and patience, can learn to whistle the national anthem and make obscene comments, or both at the same time.
The echo bird, however, does something quite beyond mimicry. If you encounter an echo bird, all you will s
Miss Tansybaum's CarnivalBy all accounts, Miss Tansybaum's Circus of the Moderately Peculiar should not have continued to operate. They were a very small operation as circuses went, they had no rides and their menagerie consisted of a single geriatric lion and a handful of obscure species, such as the Sudanese Crooning Lizards, who were obscure for a reason. Sure, Brendan the Mono-juggler could keep a single ball in the air for hours, but you got tired of watching after the first few minutes.Miss Tansybaum's Carnival5 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Lord Maggothaunch's Carnival of the Un-Ordinary should have crushed them out of existence in the first year--indeed, that was among the lord's stated goals--and its failure to do so was a source of intense frustration for him. Did he not have scantily clad women and a genuine, if sullen tiger? Did he not have a genuine freakshow, with real live freaks, including a pair of dubious Siamese twins and a two-headed calf in a jar?
Miss Tansybaum did not have a freakshow (at least not in the conventional sense, although the less