Fairies, perhaps more than any other creature may be subject to the capricious ups and downs of fate that are a part of life on Felarya. A rather unconventional story, unrelated to my main Felarya series.
Fleeing desperately, cursing her clumsiness, she dodged through the tangled maze of creeping vines, dangling seedpods and twisting roots. Foliage in ever imaginable shade of green, accented here and there with a magenta or lavender flower: beautiful foliage, foliage that was familiar, yet on a scale that was unfamiliar. Her stumble had cost her just another minor injury so far, another mar on the otherwise perfect skin of her sleek athletic legs. Adrenaline coursed through her system, blocking out the pain, keeping her on her feet, keeping her bounding forward. Yet the adrenaline did nothing for the shame, for the disgust she felt. She was being taunted, being played with by that hideous giant pursuing her. She had gotten out of tough situations before, that was just part of life on Felarya. But this. After all she had been through, it was simply wrong.
- Several weeks earlier -"Noo! Stop," she yelled as the rough foliage tore at her skin. Keeping her mind rational had been all but impossible, but for the moment, the pain of being whipped by those thorny vines snapped her out of her stupor. Reyna's formerly comely body was in sad shape: bits of plant material tangled up in the snarled mess of turquoise hair that had formerly been the envy of her tribe. Her delicate bare skin, a healthy soft pink accented with a sprinkling of cute freckles was now dirty, bruised, bleeding from numerous tiny cuts. But worst of all, the pride of her appearance, her most cherished feature – her translucent butterfly wings, with veins the color of freshly picked mint – had been all but torn off.
Gathering all remaining energy and willpower she hurled herself forward, hoping to finally be out of reach of that hateful plant. With no wings to rely on for balance, she landed off kilter, twisting her ankle, then scraping and abrading one of her shapely legs as she tumbled to the ground. More pain. Pain was good. Her mind was still in a haze from the powerful pheromones produced by the plant, but at least she knew her mind was in a haze, and that might mean the difference between life and an unspeakable death.
"My lucky day!" boomed a voice from overhead.
Before she could orient herself to the source of the voice, a giant hand engulfed her, lifting her high above the jungle floor.
Reyna stared into a set of lustful blue eyes. "I came here to harvest nectar today, and what do I find but this luscious little tomthumb as well. Most of the tinies in this part of the jungle are wise enough to avoid this little grove, but you my little morsel…" A long pink tongue traced the perimeter of the giant's voluptuous lips, pausing briefly to accentuate the sharp tips of each of her top two canines, glistening white with a coating of saliva.
"Stop! I'm not a tomthumb. I'm a fairy," whined Reyna pitifully.
"Oh? So where are your wings then?"
"They were torn off by that horrid plant," squeaked Reyna, her mind steadily clearing. "Look at my antenna! Tomthumbs don't have those!" she said, motioning to the delicate, curled pair of mint-green antenna poking out from between the rumpled turquoise strands of hair.
"You tombthumbs! Getting drunk on feyweed and dressing up like fairies. And quite a wild party it was from the look of it!" The neko's eyes narrowed as she again licked her lips, her feline ears twitching with excitement. "I have just the place for you to sober up."
"No! You can't! I'm a fairy!" Reyna had a playful streak with her own prey, some might say bordering on cruel, so she knew in her gut how these conversations tended to go, but this was different. She was not a valid prey. Why couldn't this neko see that?
The female neko gazed at her a moment long as she contemplated. Unlike this silly tomthumb female, Her own silver hair was cut short, sensible, well out of her eyes. Wearing only thin sandals, and a scant loincloth meant that her skin was deeply tanned, while her 5'8" stature clearly toned from physical activity – from her tight abs showing just a hint of rippling muscle beneath the surface, arms with the clearly defined biceps of a creature accustomed to supporting her own weight with either arms or legs as she swung through trees, and finally her legs themselves: powerful, with thighs proportionately much larger than Reyna's dainty appendages.
Reyna didn't need physical strength, she had magic. She had magic.
"You're right. I can't," said Roxee finally.
"Thank you. Thank you so much, now if you could just–"
"I can't eat you like this, you're filthy! I'm going to have to wash you off first." Roxee bounded off into the jungle, leaping over boulder and fallen tree alike with the grace and agility of a gazelle. Yet unlike a gazelle, Roxee craved living flesh, and saliva began pooling in her mouth in anticipation of this rare treat.
Despite the soft flesh of Roxee's hand, the ride was agonizing for Reyna, the euphoria of the feyweed wearing off, replaced by dizziness from the bounding ride. Pain from her injuries was becoming more and more apparent, yet the worst part was in her mind. Now, far from the intoxicating pheromones that had shrouded all rational thought, emotions began to seep back into her mind as her fate sunk in.
An icy shock hit her, and reflex alone saved her from choking on the deluge of water. She felt her body lifted, and gasped for breath before being plunged again into the pool of water.
Several dunking cycles later, Reyna panted and wheezed – her 3" body easily trapped within the cupped palms of Roxee's enormous hands. The neko's deep blue eyes scrutinized the dainty body intently.
"You cleaned up nicely, my little morsel. In my younger days I would have devoured you straight away, but I've grown wiser and more patient. The tinies around here are very clever – and I savor each one of them. Oh! And I do appreciate you for not wearing clothes. You're not like most of the tinies I catch – clothes really have a nasty texture, and can be so tedious to peal off you little morsels."
"I don't wear clothes, because I'm a fairy! Why can't you see that," said Reyna, tears of frustration and despair forming at the corners of her eyes, her mind now fully clear. She recognized neither this section of the jungle, nor the meandering little stream that she had been so unceremoniously dunked into. There would be no friends to save her this far from home.
"Ahh my little cosplay fairy, now where is your magic?" said Roxee, lifting the tiny creature to her mouth. "Perhaps here?" she said, wrapping her lips around Reyna's left leg up to the knee. The neko's rough tongue stroked and massaged the tiny foot a few times before she pulled the fairy's leg out from between her lips. "Hmmm… No? Let's try the other one."
"Stop…" should she even bother pleading further? Was that what this horrid neko wanted?
"Perhaps both at once will unlock the source of that fairy magic. Mummmmmm. *Slurrrrp* I do believe I've found it."
"No," said Reyna, this time at barely a whisper.
"Oh, my little cosplay fairy, you're magically delicious."
The neko's pupils suddenly shrank and the very color of her eyes seemed to shift toward crimson as she let out a blood-curdling scream, while Reyna found herself tumbling towards the water.
The slapping impact of the water's surface stung her skin, jarring her to her very bones, but at least the water dampened the hideous shrieking of that neko. Reyna was this time able take a breath before hitting the water, and swam as soon as she managed to orient herself. Her body may have been dainty, but her lifestyle was far from sedentary, and she swam vigorously for a web of overhanging roots at the bank of the little stream – the most promising bit of cover within view.
Even the gentle current was almost too much for her, but she managed reach the roots, ducking beneath the surface to emerge in the murky shallows. About a third of the roots of a gnarled tree overhung the bank of the stream – the silty shoreline undercut in some prior flood. She scrambled panting over the slimy algae-covered surfaces of stones, packed sand, and bits of dead foliage, the neko's screams still assaulting her ears.
"Stupid neko doesn't know her place in the–" she grumbled before her voice was abruptly silenced. An unknown hand clapped over her mouth whilst another wrapped around her waist from behind. A hushed voice spoke into her ear. "Be quiet if you want to live."
The neko's screams of agony now turned to rage, her cursing becoming more and more coherent. "Grrrg! You little bug, I will find you, find the rest of your family and bite off their limbs one at a time! I will drown you in their blood before I finally grant you death!" Grabbing a large stone from the bank, she hurled it at the cluster of roots, the twisted woody tangle crunching and splintering from the impact.
"She doesn't know where we are exactly. There's a tunnel entrance very close, we just need to wait for the opportune moment," whispered the mysterious voice.
"If that pretentious little neko thinks she understands anything about vengeance, she's sorely mistaken," growled Reyna. "At my normal size I'd stomp on her and let her squirm between my toes until her head popped like a grape."
The mysterious hand again covered Reyna's mouth. A male voice, firm but pleasant-sounding whispered, "But you're not your normal size. You're my size. And I try to protect people my size. A task which you're making rather difficult."
Roxee tore another stone from the silty bank, glanced right, then left, her face still twisted in pain, a guttural growling emanating from between her lips, fangs bared in aggression. Spinning half a turn, perhaps hoping to surprise her quarry, she drew her arm back in preparation to hurl the stone.
Reyna was unprepared for the forceful tug of her mysterious benefactor's strong arms, as he lifted her clear of the water, and guided her through the twisting roots. He was humanoid, two arms, two legs, but that was about all she could see in the dappled light under the roots. Physically stronger than she was in her current form, and much more agile, especially with her wings torn off. But she could resist. For the moment she was free of the neko. Would this creature seek to imprison her? Perhaps he was a fairy hunter? Should she follow a stranger? A snap judgment told her this creature could be trusted, and she followed him through the twisted shadows of the roots.
The passage grew narrower and darker as the two of them charged deeper and deeper into what was now clearly a tunnel. Reyna had no sense of direction, no indication of where the walls were – she could only follow the lifeline, the now invisible guide who was leading her by the hand – leading her who knows where. But as dark and frighting as this passage was, surely it was better then being in the throat of a furious neko. And whatever the destination would be, it had to be more pleasant then what would lie at the end of said throat.
A pear-green glow appeared at the edge of Reyna's perception, then blinked out. It appeared again, this time stronger, definitely a source of light. The two emerged into a little chamber bathed in a cool light, and the stranger motioned for her to sit down against the organically curved walls. The chamber really did seem to be shaped like a stomach, but as Reyna sat against the curved wall, she felt its texture on the bare skin of her buttocks – cool and dry with a pattern of smooth veins.
"These little hollows sometimes form naturally inside trees. Some collect sap, but this one has long since dried up. They make good hiding spots if you can't make it back home," said the stranger, his form now coming into focus in the dim light as he knelt over her. Clearly male, with a rugged, if not particularly muscular body, curly hair that appeared slightly green in this odd light, and a comforting, if not especially friendly expression. And odd rounded ears protruding from the top of his head.
"You're a neera!" Reyna exclaimed.
"And you're not very perceptive without your magic," he responded. "I probably brushed against you a dozen times with my tail while I was leading you through that passageway." He gazed at her appraisingly. "My name's Anton. Let's see how badly you're hurt."
"I'm Reyna. Ouch! Watch it, that's sensitive."
"The cuts and abrasions don't look too bad, but your wings… they're just stumps. Will they… will they grow back?"
A sullen, defeated expression on her face, she responded a few moments later in a choked whisper. "I don't know. I just don't know. I've never known anyone to have their wings damaged this badly." Tears began to form at the corners of her eyes as she contemplated the ramifications of that statement.
"Well then, you're fortunate to have run into me. But this is not a free ride. As soon as you're back on your feet I expect you to pull your own weight."
"But with no magic I can't–"
"Don't give me that sob story. I have no magic. None of my people do. And I did just save you. So stop moping, and prepare to get those dainty little feet of yours dirty and calloused. Your flying days may be over, but you can still walk like the rest of us."
Reyna stared up into his firm gaze and composed herself. "You said no magic – so what did you do to that neko?"
Anton set his bow and the quiver of arrows down on the curved floor, and removed a single arrow from the quiver as he sat down next to her. Showing her the arrowhead, which appeared to be a hardened bronze, he pointed to a pair of grooves. "I fill these grooves with a special paste that I make from extract of succuberries."
"The berry so spicy, it burns like the fires of hell. That's… That's pretty brutal."
"That's the idea. Now let me clean up some of those wounds. We rest here for an hour or so, then move to the next safe hole."
* * *
Despite Anton's assurances, it had taken five hours to get as far as they had. He had bandaged up her wounds with some thin gauze, and applied a few medicinal herbs – except for the stumps of her wings, which Reyna would not let him touch. The two now stood at the edge of a tunnel, nestled in another clump of roots.
"You're telling me there's no tunnel, and no cover between here and that next tree?"
"But… but… it's too far. This is insane. Not only has the mangy neko not given up, but anything could get us. Even an ordinary bird could gobble us up."
"Don't worry about the birds. I've managed to graze most of them with my special arrows. They tend to avoid us."
"But you're right, the neko is a problem. She's relentless, especially when her pride is wounded." Anton continued to scan the clearing for any sign of movement; not an easy task in long, shifting shadows of the late afternoon sun. "Relentless…" he mumbled, a touch of sadness appearing in his hazel eyes.
"Oh, so she's 'a problem' and that's that?" snapped Reyna. "Just go on with our business, and make a suicidal dash across an open field. I suppose you've lived a charmed life. Always managing to escape?"
"Always managing to escape… so far. But far from charmed. That neko devoured my wife, my only son, and my older sister. We neera tend to have large families in the hope that some survive. But for me, that door has now closed. So I do what I can to help others. Whether they deserve it or not."
"I… I'm sorry," said Reyna, her cheeks blushed red in embarrassment, ego temporarily deflated. "And neera are not allowed to take a new mate?"
"Even if I wanted to, there are no female neera of the right age in this section of the jungle. Having that neko in our backyard tends to thin out the dating population," said Anton with a forced smile.
Reyna had trouble looking Anton in the eyes, but instinctively put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. This was unfamiliar territory: her friends were usually the ones comforting her.
"But the upside is that there are lots empty safe holes these days. I've stashed rations and supplies at the one across this field, so let's go. We can just make it before dark, before the nocturnal predators come out," he said, standing and extending a hand to Reyna.
Reyna sighed deeply, took his hand and let him pull her lithe little body upright.
* * *
"Please, let's rest for just a minute," said Reyna, panting heavily. They had traversed over half the distance with nary a sign of a predator.
"We'll walk for a while, but we have to keep moving forward. And keep your voice down; many predators have excellent hearing," said Anton, pressing his mouth against her ear.
"It's not just the distance: weaving in and around these shrubs and clumps of grass is exhausting. What I wouldn't give for a clear path about now."
As if on cue, a clearing came into view; a channel in the grass that had been trampled flat. Anton instinctively put his hand on Reyna's mouth, and the two of them crouched down.
"That neko has been through here, right?"
"No, she doesn't leave tracks this obvious. This looks like the work of a large toad," he said, scrutinizing the channel of flattened grass as a fairy might glance over the page of an old tome. "It's a big one, but I'd say not quite big enough to be a threat to the neko. Oh well. But the track leads in almost the exact direction we want to go. Let's follow it."
"Follow it? Are you crazy? If it's that big, it could gobble us down so easily that–"
"Yes it could, but we're small enough not be an interesting meal for it. Besides, staying in its tracks means we know where it is and where it's heading. And we'll be coming up behind it."
Reyna grumbled, unconvinced and followed Anton along the shadow side of the trampled channel in the grass.
It took them a scant ten minutes to catch up to the toad, which stood just over 3' tall, was perhaps 5' long, and had just snagged a large green parrot with its long, sticky tongue.
"Perfect timing! Now let's run! If we can make it around before it finishes swallowing that bird, we'll be clear." Anton grabbed her hand and charged headlong into the dense grass, cutting a wide arc around the toad.
"I thought you said we had to be quiet! Stomping through the grass at this speed is making a ton of noise," panted Reyna.
Anton shot a glance over his shoulder at the frantically flapping wing of the parrot that was hanging out of the toad's mouth. "That bird is ten times our size. The toad would have to abandon it to catch us. And better still, any birds in the area are likely to be wary at the mo–"
*Whamm* The ground shuddered with a deep thud.
"Oh crap. Run faster."
"Faster? I thought–"
"There's second toad."
Anton scanned the terrain, instinctively picking out a small thorny shrub amongst the variegated green undergrowth. "There! If we duck under that shrub the toad should break off pursuit."
"It's gaining on us! Can't you shoot it with one of those special arrows?"
"Amphibians don't seem to be affected," he said, darting under the thorny shrub. The toad's tongue shot out, slamming into the foliage above them.
"It's still after us!"
A struggling green feathered form was hanging from the toad's mouth. "See. It wasn't after us. We're too small to be an interesting meal. But let's go before it's in the mood for dessert."
Fifty yards further, which seem like miles for Reyna in her diminutive form, and Anton led her into a twisting opening in the roots of a tree, up a spiral passageway, then into a larger chamber within the tree.
Flopping heavily on the organically curved floor of the safe hole, Reyna panted in exhaustion. "My feet are killing me. No, every part of my body is killing me. How do you do it? Running everywhere I mean."
"Don't know how to answer that. I've always walked… ran. Having wings must be great."
"It was," she said, suddenly realizing that the wall she was leaning against was directly touching the skin of her back. Such an odd feeling.
"Say, won't any of your friends come looking for you?"
"They would… if they knew where I was. I was at the edge of our territory when I caught the scent of the feyweed. I don't know how far I traveled, but I don't recognize this section of the jungle at all. And unless my wings grow back, I'll never be able to make it all the way back." her voice trailed off. "If my wings don't grow back… I don't know if I can live like this."
"You can, and you may even learn to like it."
"Excuse me? Like it? A life at 3" tall. Unable to fly! At the absolute bottom of the food chain! What kind of ridiculous statement is that? What kind of life is that?"
"It's my life," Anton snapped. "And despite all the hardships, there is joy, there is pleasure. At 3" tall I can appreciate the beauty of a sunset or field of wildflowers just a much as someone 100' tall."
"I hadn't thought of that," she said, reflecting a moment. A gurgling growl broke her trance. "Say, I could really go for a couple of tinies about now."
"Oh come on, I didn't mean you. I just meant something smaller. Usually I eat human-sized creatures anyway, so I'm actually helping you out!"
Shooting a disapproving scowl her direction, Anton removed a glass jar from a niche in the chamber, then closed the shutters that were letting in the last rays of sunlight. Then a moment later, a pear-green glow began to illuminate the little chamber.
"What are those things?"
"A type of firefly. They're normally dormant, but when you give them a few drops of flower nectar, they glow nicely," he said, setting the jar on a shelf that appeared fused into the wall. The chamber was somewhat larger than the prior safe hole and had the same organic feel. At its maximum the ceiling was well over twice their height, and the rounded walls were sprinkled with little niches, shelves and cupboards that seemed to blend into the walls themselves.
Anton opened a second cupboard, producing a pair of ceramic jars, and placed them on a low, folding tea-table. "Biscuits. Goldenflower seed butter. We're fresh out of tinies, Madame."
The two ate in relative silence, Reyna greedily devouring the biscuits, washing them down with a cup of rainwater that Anton served her from a carved gourd, not even bothering to imagine the food as a more interesting, wiggling meal. Folding the little table out of the way, he rolled out a pair of reed mats.
"Only one chamber I'm afraid, but I'll try to stay on the other side," he said, sitting on the mat and removing his shoes. I usually wear just a nightshirt when I sleep – although I suppose since you fairies don't wear clothes at all, that shouldn't offend you."
"It's OK," she said, reflecting again on her situation. "Actually, I'm not used to sleeping alone at all. Do… do you mind if I cuddle up with you?"
"Suit yourself," he replied, laying down on his side on the mat. A hint of cool night air drifted through the chamber as he wiggled and adjusted himself on the mat.
Reyna lay down beside him, pulling the back of his head between her bare breasts, and began idly stroking his soft, fuzzy mouse-like ears. For all that she had been through, for all that could have happened, she was at least thankful not to be alone. The mere thought of trying to sleep without friends nearby, without hearing the gentle sounds of breathing, of murmuring and mumbling, the gurgling of nearby tummies, the thought of that was perhaps worse than death. This creature may not be a fairy, but he was warm, soft, and made pleasant sounds as he drifted off to sleep. Reyna wrapped her right leg around his torso, pulling his now slumbering form closer, the way a shipwreck survivor might cling to a life ring.
* * *
Golden beams of sunlight illuminated the little tree house that morning. Reyna had seen almost nothing of it the prior night, the home of Anton's younger brother and his family. With an angry neko on the prowl, they dared not illuminate the place after dark. In the three days that had passed since Reyna's near fatal experience, her scrapes, bruises, and abrasions had all but healed, yet her wings remained pathetic stumps. A neera female in her mid-teens with auburn hair in a single ponytail, wearing a simple, knee-length cream-colored dress, accented with a pale yellow bow awoke her that morning.
"Good morning, Miss Fairy, I'm Deirdre, Nevin's eldest daughter," she said, offering her a bowl of water to wash up with, and a slice of bread and some dried fruit for breakfast.
"Anton is on his morning scouting rounds and won't be back until noon. He said it's too dangerous for you to leave the house this morning, but that you could help me with the seed processing chores."
"Oh, he just decided that, did he?" said Reyna.
The plain-looking neera girl blinked then stared, unsure how to reply to the fairy's snappy response. "Didn't… didn't he save your life?"
"Yes. I'm not used to having others decide things for me is all. I'll help you out."
"I've never met a fairy before," said Deirdre, setting down several clay pots, and an assortment of simple tools.
"Hope you're not too disappointed," said Reyna, stroking the partially healed lacerations on her bare legs. "Definitely not at my best."
"Fairies don't ummm… usually eat neera, right?"
"No. Not usually," said Reyna. Neera are so small and weak that they're not considered worthy prey for a fairy. This line of thinking somehow made her uncomfortable, and she wanted to change the subject. "So, what is this seed processing, exactly?"
"Oh, it's really easy, actually," said Deirdre, coming back with a stack of baskets, and some additional kitchen tools. "These goldenflower seeds are already roasted. We just shell them, mash them into a paste, then grind the shells into slug-grit."
"Yeah! To keep away predatory slugs and snails. It works on most creatures with gastropod-like features. If you crack the shells to just the right size it's very irritating and gets under their skin. We haven't lost anyone to a carnivorous slug since before I was born," said Deirdre, beaming with pride. "I'll crack and mash, then you need to put them through these sieves. The grit needs to be coarse enough that it doesn't pass through the fine sieve, and fine enough that it does pass through the coarse sieve."
Reyna furrowed her brow, her mind straining to keep up with the complex processing procedure. All this effort just to deal with some carnivorous slugs. Wouldn't it be easier to just shrink them and stomp on them... her fingertips stroked the stump of one of her wings idly. "Sure. I'll handle the… what was that thing called again?"
"A sieve. Oh it's easy, don't worry."
Despite Deirdre's assurances, after perhaps twenty minutes, the pile of unsorted shell fragments in front of Reyna's cross-legged form had grown larger and larger.
"It goes faster if you tilt the sieve like this," said Deirdre, grabbing Reyna's hand and twisting the sieve to the correct angle. And watch how you hold that catch basket, or you'll spill."
"Aaagh! This is too difficult." snapped Reyna. "I– I'm terrible at this kind of work. I'm just a bad neera, that's all."
"You are terrible at this. But you'll get better. Uncle says there are no bad neera. Just inexperienced ones."
* * *
As the wind whipped through her long turquoise hair, Reyna could almost imagine she was flying. Her speed dropped as the rope came to the top of its arc, and she sprung onto a branch a good 70' above the jungle floor. Just a week ago, she would have looked down upon this branch when at her full height, but now… now the jungle floor was a dizzying distance below her. And while nary a trace of any of her other injuries remained – that which had defined her existence, her pride and joy, those delicate yet powerful lacy green butterfly wings – showed not a trace of regeneration.
"Not bad. You're getting the hang of it. But what did I say about the ropes when you're done?"
"Yes. I know! I was concentrating on not falling, thank you very much," snapped Reyna, her mood once again deflated. "Always Mr. Negative."
Anton put a firm hand on her shoulder, gazing into her eyes. "Not negative. Just trying to help. Fairies may be strong enough to survive on their own, but neera are not. We all need to help each other out. And that means leaving the swing lines in the right position so someone else can use them later."
"It's just that I was finally having a little fun," said Reyna, drooping her head and wiggling her bare toes against the bark of the tree branch. Although she had tried wearing sandals for a bit, they just felt unnatural: like any other article of clothing. "Swinging though the trees– it made life seem worth living, and then–"
"Life is worth living. And you'll have fun again – I promise. But at the moment you're inexperienced – and you may not realize all the dangers there are. Now come on! Swinging can be just as much fun when you leave the lines in the correct position.
"Let me show you where we have the swing-lines in the north-western quadrant of our territory," he said, handing her a line.
Reyna waited until his back was turned to her, then allowed herself a satisfied grin. It really was fun.
Alternating between running along branches, climbing through narrow twisting passages in the trees, and even sliding down zip-lines, the two covered the distance with surprising ease. Still not as good as flying, but not bad, thought Reyna.
"This is as far as we have the lines set up," said Anton, panting gently, perspiration stains now showing under the arms of his green and tan striped tunic. "Say, does anything look familiar?"
"I like this part of the jungle," said Reyna with a contented grin.
"Hmm, don't know of anything special here specifically. And we're quite a long way from home. We really should be getting back."
"No, let's stay. Maybe we can go dancing in that field over there. It looks so nice," said Reyna, now teetering dangerously close to the edge of the branch.
"Oh no! It's the feyweed! Reyna, snap out of it," said Anton, grabbing her firmly by the arm, just in time to prevent her from toppling off the 200' high branch.
"Fey what? Noo. Let me gooo! You never let me have any fun. Lemme go or Ima gunna eatcha ya tastee l'il critter."
"Uuugh. I can't carry you all the way back. What to do, what to do?"
"Lemme go and play," she whined, tugging on his hand.
"Oooof. You're gonna hate me for this one, you're really gonna hate me," said Anton, holding onto the now delirious staggering body of Reyna with one hand, while fumbling with a vial from his belt pouch. "Get back here now…" he pulled her off balance and as she tumbled to her knees, he clapped a handkerchief to her mouth.
"Yaaaaah!" Reyna screamed, pushing the handkerchief away from her, coughing violently. "You horrible little monster – what the hell did you do to me?" she stared pitifully up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks, her chin covered in viscous orange drool.
"I'm sorry Reyna, it's all I could think of to snap you out it. It's an exotic onion oil I use to make tear gas out of," he said, tears also forming at the corners of his eyes. "Guess I got a little as well. But we have to get clear of the feyweed scent. Can you swing? Just one rope swing away and we should be out of range."
"Waaaaah!" sobbed Reyna, "Just let me die here. I make a horrible neera. I have all the worst parts of fairies and neera put together."
"You know I won't give up on you. Now I just need you not to give up on you. Can you do that for me, Reyna?"
Reyna gave a tearful nod.
"And you could say that you have the cleverness of a neera, with the curiosity of a fairy – you just haven't figured out how to put them together yet. Now take hold of the swing line, and don't let go, OK?"
Reyna gave another tearful nod and staggered to her dainty feet.
- Present day -
Roxee bounded gracefully, silently through the forest on this cool morning, a few swirling tendrils of mist delightfully refreshing, as just a hint of perspiration glistened on her bronzed skin. The first round of her hunt always had the same goal – to see what her prey were up to that morning, to establish which fields they were most active in, what they were doing that day, and if she were extremely lucky, to catch one off guard. Roxee suffered the problem of having been too good a predator in the past, and pickings these days were rather slim, most days having to settle for a parrot or perhaps a duiker: certainly tasty, but having to be plucked, skinned, cooked. Prepared. Like what the tame nekos do.
Today, however she caught a glimpse of a tiny humanoid form tiptoeing along a stout branch, nine feet above the jungle floor. Roxee knew that tree well: at the end of the branch was an inviting-looking knothole, one which appeared to be one the neera's beloved tree-tunnels, but which actually led nowhere. A dead end. An inexperienced tiny might seek refuge there. There were so few inexperienced tinies remaining, yet Roxee decided to try the tactic anyway.
Leaping first onto an old stump, then to the branch, a wave of satisfaction washed over her, as the tiny form darted into the knothole, exactly as she had hoped. Trapped!
Roxee peered into the knothole, saliva already beginning to pool under her twitching pink tongue. What would it be today? Male? Female? A neera, or perhaps even a tomthumb? Only an inexperienced tiny would seek refuge here, and inexperience probably meant young, tender and juicy.
"Oh my! Fortune truly smiles upon me today! It's my little cosplay fairy!" said Roxee.
"I suppose you think you've got me. But I think your hand is too big to reach through this knothole," said Reyna, her voice remarkably steady, her time with Anton having given her wisdom, calm, and a new perspective.
"It is. But there's another way in," said Roxee, the grin on her face broadening. She dropped to a lower limb of the tree, and reached into the gaping hole left by a broken branch, deftly thrusting her hand inside.
Sensing the danger, Reyna jumped out of the knothole and scampered up to a higher branch.
"And that was the last of your cover," said Roxee, the pupils of her deep blue eyes now fully dilated, her feline tail twitching with excitement. "It's a pity about those wings of yours. A real fairy could fly away. But for now, please do keep climbing. The chase is half the fun."
"You're right. I can't fly," she said, darting from branch to branch, ever higher, while skillfully staying on the opposite side of the tree from the ravenous neko, her balance and agility now fully adjusted to her new condition. "But there is one minor ability that I do seem to have recovered."
"Unless it has something to with your flavor, I'm not really all that interested," said Roxee, having now climbed around to the side of the tree where the voice had been. But there was no sign of her quarry. "Uuugh. Don't tell me you've been talking to those horrible neera. Some of them would rather kill themselves than be captured," she said, scrutinizing the jungle floor beneath her for any sign of a fallen body. "Stupid prideful neera."
"Yes, some of them do have a lot of pride for such little creatures," came a voice from behind Roxee.
Roxee turned around in alarm to find herself face to face with… a face. A set of tranquil green eyes gazed back at her. Eyes in a place they most certainly should not have been: 40 feet above the jungle floor with nothing below them. Actually, upon second glance, there was something below them: a neck, shoulders, a naked set of breasts… an oddly familiar body kneeling on the jungle floor. Roxee was too surprised to even move as the dainty fingers of Reyna's hand snatched her from her branch.
"I still can't fly, but I do seem to have gotten my size magic back," said Reyna, smiling calmly at the now struggling neko in her hand.
"If you're going to eat me, just do it. I will not be tormented by an oversized butterfly with boobs."
"A few weeks ago such an insult would have bothered me. But now…"
The neko growled and struggled, trying to claw at the enormous hand.
"And no, I'm not going to eat you. I have a debt to repay," she said, placing the confused neko on the ground in front of her. "What I went through may have been horrific at times, but I never knew what it was to be tiny. Not really. I could always change size at will – I could be tiny but I didn't truly understand it." And with that, a halo seemed to form around Reyna's body. Her form wavered, then shrank until she was at the same height as Roxee. She smiled, brought her arms in front of her, fingertips sparkling with magical energy, then seemed to grow again.
Roxee watched in confusion as Reyna again became large, over ten times her own size. Glancing left then right at the now enormous blades of grass around her, she blurted in frustration, "Well that was pointless! We're now at exactly the same size difference that we were before. Besides, I thought you said you owed me a debt. This is some way you have of repaying it!"
"Oh, I do owe a great debt. Just not to you. Darling, you can come out now."
Another towering figure emerged, this one with suspiciously rounded ears.
"It took me a while, but I was finally able to get him to this size. That string of beads around his neck is fairy glass – my engagement present to him," she said, throwing an arm around Anton's waist and giving him a playful peck on the cheek. "Now darling, it's your turn to experience things from a new perspective. Being a predator can be wonderful, and a neko is an excellent choice for your first prey. Those little claws tingle delightfully on your tongue."
Reyna turned back toward Roxee and smiled. "You might want to run, dear."
- End -
Copyright © Kululu17, 2019
Felarya: The Fairy And The Healer - Part 1
Felarya - Jade - The training begins (Pt2)
Felarya - Jade - The training begins (Pt1)
A rather unconventional story, which may raise a few eyebrows. And how shall it end exactly? Hmm… why doesn't one of the community who is better at this sort of thing write (or draw) the final scene?
The only thing I noted was at one point Deirdre mentions a character called Nevin? Not sure if they were an element otherwise removed from the story but I couldn't work out who that was. Otherwise great job!
What I also very much liked was the practical realities of neeras' lives. How they can in fact confection weapons against nekos. How they make use of trees' natural features (sap-collecting holes) for cover, storing provisions there in case of need. How a dash across open ground is a perilous necessity when so small... And their technical skills that Reyna struggles to learn - slug-grit! There's a skilled complexity to their lives that she had never suspected before. We learn of it alongside her.
Thank you! Very happy that Reyna came across as fairy-like even in her diminished form. Fairies are often synonymous with size magic, so it's interesting to consider what remains if that element of them were pealed away. And since many of your stories helped me wrap my head around Felaryan fairy culture, it means a lot to hear that the story struck a cord with you. It's that mix of an alien mindset, a tremendous danger, contrasted with beauty and an inner warmth that to me that makes them so fascinating.
As well, I'm happy you liked the description of the neera's existence: they would have to be very resourceful just to survive at such a tiny size. Thanks again for your comment.
What a fun glimpse for Reyna and for us! What a surprised that she could control her size the whole time. Though we were not a surprised as Roxee.
A fairy being the hunted instead of the hunter? huh ?
It was amusing to read, seing a fairy, who normally stands a top of the food-chain being in a reversed position, compared to that and got to learn the other perspective. Better take care of your wings dear fairies!!!
Just as always...some basic positive things to mention: the seasoning by dry humor and the well-descrived scenery.
I have to admit. You got me at the end. I didn't expect the fairy to get her magic back like that and it was a bit surprising too, that she "married" Anton and espcially...that he made him the predator. Unexpected.
I personally wonder whether he is really going to eat the Neko. As far as I got his character here, I don't feel like he would do such a thing. I feel like it would be against his moral standards. Still, he has a fairly good reason to do so. But just as you said as well, the question to that answer remains to the imagination of the audience or to someone who is "brave" enough to finish what you have started here.
Thanks. A fairy at the bottom of the food chain was one of those things that is theoretically possible, but I don't seem to recall ever seeing. And it makes for such an interesting story.
Yes, the end. Well, surprises are fun, aren't they? And she hasn't quite got all her magic back, just some. I suppose you could argue a pretty important part.
Regarding her "engagement", I honestly wanted a better formulation, but couldn't come up with anything. I'm not sure if fairies even get married in the Felarya universe. The intention was a symbolic way of showing that she had taken him as a mate/partner, and "engagement gift" was the best synonym I could come up with. Think of it as a fairy phrase that the great translation spell didn't get "quite" right. XD