The morning was well underway, deep azure sky was visible through the treetops from the mouth of the cave, and bright sunlight dappled through the leaves to play along the floor of the entrance where Tim stood. One hand raked through his sleep tousled curls as he tried to restore some semblance of order there. Tim’s belly growled. He had slept later than usual. He looked behind him to see that Fal still slept, though Tim couldn’t tell if he really did. Often enough in the past he had thought Fal asleep and been startled by the Guardian suddenly roaring and heaving upward, his head twisting about, searching out Tim and freezing him with hard, golden eyes, huge toothed jaws open. Terrified, Tim would race from the cave, never quite knowing what Fal might do next. Apparently, it gave Fal pleasure to frighten him in this way. When Tim dared to creep into the cave several hours later, Fal would ignore him, acting as though nothing was amiss. Fal hadn’t played this little game since returning from the battle with the small Guardian, but Tim was still wary.
This morning, Tim moved quietly out of the cave and loped along his usual trail zig-zagging up the mountainside. It would take him up toward the gaping mouth of an enormous tunnel in the side of Guardian Mountain. This was a place that he had never dared to explore for fear of meeting Guardian’s even less tolerant than Fal. He usually gave the tunnel a wide berth.
His eyes had grown sharp in his time with Fal and he knew the plants whose roots made a palatable stew and the likeliest places to find them. The morning air was fresh with the scent of scrub juniper and forest pine, carried to him on the inevitable winds scouring the mountainside. He bent his head to his search. Scanning the rocky ground, he looked for the telltale signs of lace-like leaves and stubby, thick stems growing from sweet orange roots beneath. He walked for some time until he passed into a thicket of brush. A lilting melody wafting on the breeze arrested his attention. Curious, he moved through the brush and listened intently. High, thin notes wept even as he heard sobs beneath them, and he felt his heart respond, reaching out to the one who suffered.
He moved closer and with a start recognized the girl sitting on a rocky outcropping. He had met her only once before, when they stood on opposite sides of an attack that never should have happened. Halting abruptly, he stood there mute, just looking at her. She wore her brown hair in a single braid down her back and sat with arms holding slender, tanned knees to her chest. Sun sparkled off of the greystone beneath her, and shone from the wet tracks of tears on her cheeks.
Memories of Fal clawing and raking at the beautiful, small Guardian beneath him, raced through Tim’s mind. Feeling ashamed, he was about to turn away.
A tiny, green flyer, lifted into the air from the girl’s shoulder and buzzed right at his face, coming to a stop and hovering before his nose, wings whirring. It made a loud, chittering noise and shook minute fists at him. He took an inadvertent step back and lifted his hands defensively. He had to cross his eyes to get a good look at it. He was amazed to see that it was human in appearance. Angry, slanted eyes in a sharp-chinned green face, drilled through him. His brain searched for a memory and then he hit upon it. Flyer Folk. At any other time he would have been thrilled to meet this creature he’d only heard about in stories, but right now it was anything but friendly. It looked like it was about to attack him.
The girl lifted her head abruptly and looked at him, her song silenced. She made no effort to hide her tear-streaked cheeks and reddened eyes, but stared up at him, a look of recognition in her eyes.
“I…I k…know you.”
Tim thought about running, surely nothing good could come of this, but something held him there. He kept his eyes on the angry flyer and scuffed the toe of his boot on the gravelly earth. “Uh-huh,” he said.
The girl leapt to her feet, brown eyes snapping. “You! Where is that… that creature who is no kind of Guardian?” She planted her hands on her hips, elbows bent like the mantling wings of an enraged Guardian.
Tim brought his hands up palms out, as if to placate her and maybe fend them both off.
“He’s not here, and…and…I’m sorry.”
“Sorry! It ripped her to shreds! She almost died!”
The little flyer emphasized those words with a burst of chattering sound and made a lunge at his face.
He took a step back, hands up in front of his face. “I know. I know. I’m sorry. He won’t hurt her again.” One help me, I hope he won’t, he thought.
Chancing a look away from the aggressive flyer, Tim glanced at the girl’s reddened cheeks and swollen eyes.
“Is that why you’re crying?” His eyes shifted uneasily back to the flyer whirring before him.
“What?” The girl scrubbed at her cheeks with both hands. “No!”
“Is the Guardian healed?”
“Y…yes, not that you d…did anything to h…help her.”
“I did… I…I tried to stop him.” The hovering green flyer backed off a little, still chittering but more quietly now, the tone almost questioning. Figuring it would be better to show how peaceable he was, Tim dared to lower his hands and clasp them behind his back.
The girl stared at him, her lips twisting up like she was going to cry again.
“One knows, I didn’t want that to happen.”
Expressionless now, she studied him.
He looked at her hopefully. “My name’s, Tim.”
She glared, then shrugged her shoulders, eyes rolling as she canted her head back. The flyer left him and buzzed back to the girl’s shoulder, landing gently and lifting a miniature green hand to rest against the girl’s pale-skinned neck.
Tim grunted and tucked his chin, looking away. Of course, she would hate him.
He heard her let out a sharp, huffing breath. “L…Lisle.”
His eyes darted back to her face, the corners of his mouth daring a smile. She wasn’t quite looking at him, her eyes hovering somewhere to the left of his face. Figuring this was an improvement, he decided he wouldn’t try for further conversation. He gave her an opened handed wave and started back the way he had come, his feet moving easily over the rocky ground. He felt lighter knowing the small Guardian was alright. Then a surprising thought occurred to him, maybe Lisle could be a friend. I’d like a friend. He looked back over his shoulder to see her watching him, her staunch companion staring at him intently. Not too sure about that little green flyer though. His hand lifted in acknowledgment, and unable to stop himself, his lips split into a grin. An uncomfortable gurgling resounded in his belly. Still hungry, he thought, and bent his head to the task of filling his stomach.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42 Chapter 43
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