Marcus winced as the druid gingerly applied the poultice to his eye. The old man wasn’t nearly as wrinkly as Jae-lagh, but he was plenty rounder.
Like one of those hairless boars they had in the wagons.
Lyara stifled a giggle at the thought of Marcus stuffing his face like they did. Anna had a small one she refused to let go of. Tar-lagh wasn’t nearly as relieved at her letting go of his leg as he pretended, though. ‘Leafspear’ as the humans had started calling him.
They said it was because of how spears he threw went flying.
“I wish we knew what they’re planning,” Marcus cautiously prodded his burnt cheek. “I thought they’d have attacked again by now.”
“I can go ask!” Lyara wove between the biglings, hovering by Marcus’ good eye. “What do you want to know?”
“They’re not just gonna tell you,” Gerald rolled his eyes.
“Are you sure? What if I ask real nice?”
“You’ll probably catch them looking for breakfast.” Gauraud held an imaginary stick over the nearby fire. “Might be they’ll shoot you with an arrow and roast you.”
“Are they trolls? Trolls eat anything. Like your piggies.”
A grin suddenly eclipsed the scars of the gaunt man’s face.
Lyara hated walking, but she didn’t really have a choice if she wanted to hide behind the bags and makeshift shelters of the bandits’ ramshackle camp. Ducking under blankets, climbing over crates, and now finally peeking out from inside a large metal hat.
She was watching a pair of man hunters poking around at some pots over a fire.
“We oughtta go now, don’t ya think?” The burly man had grey skin covered in scars, scraggly black hair, and a boar’s nose. “Whatever that flashing was last night, can’t be good right?”
“Nah, boss’ll be here with th’ others tonight. She’ll know what to do ‘bout that magic. ‘Sides, they burnt out one of their own wagons.” They were short like a bigling child, only a little taller than Anna, but had the weathered face of an adult. Their hook nose and wicked grin reminded Lyara of a mean hawk that had chased her once.
The two shared a cruel laugh right as the world went dark.
Not ‘deep in the Naerele ruins of the Wood on a shardless night’ dark, but more like ‘someone put a piece of coarse fabric over your head’ dark – well, more ‘whole body’ than head really. Lyara felt the world tumbling around her as the bag scooped her up, hat and all.
A shard of light appeared as the bag was opened and a young woman with bushy eyebrows peered at Lyara with one eye (the other being aimed off to the side). “Looks like I caught meself sum lunch.” Her yellowed teeth showed in a gap-toothed grin.
Taral scowled as he surveyed their hilltop camp. It was too cramped here. Too many people in too small an area, most of them not staying still. He couldn’t make anyone out, just a teeming swarm milling about and getting in each other’s way. like a disturbed anthill.
“Nar-lagh!” He waved the boy over. “Where is Lyara?”
The boy shrugged.
“Anyone else see her?”
The others shook their heads.
“What about them?” Taral nodded at the human children staring at the little gathering with mixed expressions.
Nar-lagh went over and gestured a bit, mentioning Lyara’s name a few times as well as some human gibberish.
The forest girl nodded vigorously, then began motioning with her free arm as she hurriedly began saying something.
Taral did not understand a single word.
He didn’t need to, either. She was pointing at the bandit camp, and Taral knew enough about faeries – this one in particular – to figure out the rest
He let out an exasperated sigh.
Anna’s father seemed annoyed at her talking to the forestfolk, for as Taral turned to leave he knelt down to look her in the eyes with an expression not unlike Jae-lagh’s scolding face.
Taral looked at the sky. The druids said the old man was gone. Lyara said he was gone. Taral’s dreams said the old wyrm would slither his way out of death’s clutches like he had before.
Taral rolled his eyes.