Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Emerald Forest

Beryl knelt in the kitchen-garden of Seahold, humming to herself. All was well in her wold. At breakfast her mother had announced that Acer was showing certain signs.
“Get out your pipe and leather tools, old dwarf.” she had cheerfully and irreverently addressed the chief of his clan, Beryl’s father. “Time to start making a pair of baby boots.”
After breakfast Beryl, who was very fond of her sister-in-law, had set out to gather certain herbs. Some could be found here, in the safe kitchen garden, gathered in the sun with the company of drowsy bees. Others she would range farther afield for. The sound of a cleared throat caught her attention. She looked up to see a groomsman at the gate, holding her fat pony. Beryl rose to her feet, dusting off her hands.
“Thank you, Bas.”
“No worries, Berry. There’s lunch and what-not in your pannier.”
And her pack-basket lashed behind the saddle on Fat Boy’s haunches, Beryl saw with pleasure. “You are too good to me, Basalt.” she complimented her father’s life-long retainer.
“Tis a pleasure, child.” he smiled up at her. With her half-human blood she loomed a full head taller than he. She mounted and waved cheerfully as her pony ambled reluctantly away from home.
Fat Boy did pick up his pace once he was resigned to not going home until all her errands were done. Beryl slouched in her saddle and mentally ran through the plants she planned to harvest today. Her trips to the deep forest were infrequent for several reasons. One was that Beryl was a homebody who preferred to stay close to her Clan. Of more importance was that few plants grew in the deep shade of the enormous trees. And there were others... She kicked Fat Boy into a reluctant trot.
She found the plant she was seeking near the heart of the forest, where sunbeams were pale golden lances falling silently on the silver-pink blossoms of the wood sorrel. Ground-tying Fat Boy, who was as faithful as a dog in his own way, she set to work with trowel and clippers.
Lost in thought, she almost missed the slight rustling. She looked up and around, cocking her head to one side to better catch the elusive noises. The birds were still singing, undisturbed by her presence as she had been almost still for so long. This other presence, and she was certain someone was there, bothered them not at all. Beryl sighed. She knew what that meant.
In a low, calm voice she commanded, “Show yourself.”
For a moment she thought she’d heard a chuckle, but quickly changed her mind when her stalker stepped out from behind the tree. The tall, icy blond elf in front of her probably never smiled, much less allowed anything as crass as a laugh to cross his lips. Dressed in greens and browns that were never muddy, his long hair hung to his waist, bound back with a gold filet. In his hands he held a bow, drawn, but pointed at the ground in a manner she assumed he meant as non-threatening. Beryl rocked back on her heels and dusted her hands off.
“Merry Meet, kind sir.” she addressed him cordially, hoping he was as she termed him. Elves were not her favorite people. Culturally they tended toward an aloof hauteur that precluded anyone knowing them well, and Beryl herself liked to know the people around her, to see what they needed and provide it if it were in her power. Elves never needed anything.
He took a couple more steps toward her, releasing the bowstring and peering down at her. Beryl suddenly felt very grubby and small. She stood up, her head only reaching to his shoulder.
“What do ye in our wood, human woman?” he demanded abruptly.
Beryl tipped her chin up defiantly. “Simply gathering herbs for a tisane.”
“An whose permission gained you access here?”
“Merely mine own.” She shot back, her eyes flashing. She fell into his speech pattern without realizing she had done so until after she had spoken.
He frowned, his finely sculpted brows lowering over huge green eyes. “No one can enter Ellyndyl’s borders without a permission granted them.”
“Can they not, now?” Beryl decided this one was too stupid for words and bent to pick up her basket.
She concealed her tiny, sharp root knife in one hand as she did so. Aggravated at her indifference to him, the elf raised his bow again, pulling it taut. Beryl set her jaw and took a step toward him, so that the arrow was almost touching her chest.
The second elf appeared almost magically beside her. “Gently, now, cousin. She will unman you before you can let go that arrow.”
Startled, Beryl looked up at him. She knew that richly mocking voice with it’s undercurrent of laughter.
“And besides,” he went on. “‘T’would be very bad form indeed to harm the daughter of Seahold.”
The blond elf showed the first expression Beryl had seen on his face, a fleeting look of consternation, and hastily lowered and released the bow. He was forgotten as she turned and faced her rescuer. Without thinking, she reached up and stroked his cheek.
“Thou hast grown.” she blurted.
He captured her hand and grinned down at her. “As thou hast. Where art thy pigtails and freckles, my friend?”
“It has been ten summers. Thou at least wert old enough to have reached your full size, or at least so I thought.”
He laughed aloud. Beryl was delighted. Perhaps only one percent of all elves even had a sense of humor, but this was one of them, and her friend. He squeezed her hand and she felt a little flutter. More than friend, then. She admitted it to herself and read it in his sea-green eyes as he smiled down at her.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Chaos Mandy challenged me with "1% of Elves" and I challenged Kat with "A chance encounter with the Egyptian god Bes".

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