Friday, November 21, 2014

Fantasy Friday: A Dowry for Hamelin, Part Two

Weapons wrapped up in silk for sale down in the River Valley, with her Dragon blade at her hip, the end glowing softly in the summer breeze, Malory stood with a pack slung over one shoulder, watching as her son said goodbye to his boyfriend, speaking in hushed tones. Malory’s smile disappeared when he noticed the Widow White make her way over to her, leaning heavily on a can of wood and brass, her pudgy fingers gripping the cane as if her knee were too fragile to support her girth for even a fraction of a second.

“What’s going on here?” She demanded, looking from the two boys chatting to Malory. “Is that boy going out on a hunt?”
“I don’t know about yours, but mine isn’t.” Malory replied evenly, still smiling at the young lovers. She turned to regard the wide older woman with an eyebrow raised. “How is it I can help you this fine morn, Widow White?”
“Oh, I’d just heard from a little birdie that you were heading out into the wilderness, you know how the gossip of the village travels m’dear.” The old woman tittered, looking Malory with wide unblinking eyes. “I know your lad is interested in my Oliver. Not a union I would personally suggest when there are so many fine maidens around…”
“Are you suggesting my son isn’t worthy of your grandson?” Malory asked tone still even, cordial in fact.
“Oh, not at all, it’s just… I had so desired the chance to see great-grandchildren at some point. If your boy brings home a suitable gift, I would, of course, have to take it and allow my Oliver into a union with your son, should that be what he wants.”
“And if I’m watching the way those two are chatting, I believe it is.” Malory said as Oliver laid his hand on Hamelin’s cheek, who leaned into the touch.
“It’s just so… unnatural, don’t you think?” The Widow White asked, looking up at Malory from her stooped position. “Two men, that is. I mean, how will they ever explain this to the rest of the village?”
“It’s not the villages business what these two adults are up to.” Malory said with a smile. “Hamelin merely lives with me out of convenience, which I imagine is the same with your grandson.”
“He does help around the shop…” she offered lamely.
“Which you could hire one of those fine maidens you were speaking about earlier to help you once he’s moved out on his own!” Malory gushed.
“Moved out? Oh no, my Oliver couldn’t move out. I need him too much.”
“You just said he serves as a caretaker for the shop. That’s what shop hands are for, and we have many young girls who would love to learn from your experience about herbs and tonics. We can’t let you take all your secrets to the grave, you know.”
The old woman tittered waving a hand at Malory. “Yes, I know I really should take on an apprentice. But so should you, you know. You won’t always want to be the village blacksmith, and monster hunting is dangerous business.”
“I’ll need two apprentices then,” Malory said with a smile.
“Aye that you will.”
“Are you ready Hamelin?” Malory called out, causing the young Wood Elf to snap his neck in her direction. It was still early morning and nobody saves for the four of them were out, save, of course, for a few older hunters who merely laughed at the younger warriors embarrassment. They held hands for a moment longer before Hamelin moved away, looking at Oliver with a look of longing.
“Enough of that!” Malory said, snapping his attention back to her, and the sloping road that led down the mountain road to the River Valley. “Keep your hands ready, I don’t want to have to deal with any surprises on our trek down.”
Waving goodbye to Oliver and the Widow, Hamelin grabbed the straps of his backpack before looking at his mother. “What have you encountered before?”
“Pesky soldiers for our Lord and bandits mostly. Honestly they’re almost the same. At least the bandits will try and kill you to take your belongings.” Malory answered, sneering at the word soldier as if it left a poor taste in her mouth.
“We never have any problems when we go hunting,” Hamelin mused, looking up at a tree with a colorful red and orange bird sitting on the branch. “We see a lot of these though.”
“A beginning Monster Hunter’s best friend and worst nightmare,” Malory said with a smile, looking at the bird. “That’s a Coloraxe, named after its nasty little beak and the fact that it can shoot out a spray of colors if threatened.”
“Really? We usually leave them alone.” Hamelin said, looking at the bird as they passed it.
“The beaks are worth their weight in gold as a whetstone for finer weapons, but otherwise they’re useless. I’ve heard some wizards take the strange little birds as pets, and that some clothiers pay for their plumage.”
“It is rather fancy,” Hamelin agreed.
“Well, don’t get too cocky, they come in flocks of thirty or forty birds. They hunt in flocks, going from tree to tree and devouring all the insects and small mammals they can catch before moving on.
“Oh… none of the hunters ever mentioned that.”
“That’s because Coloraxe meat is terrible and stringy, no hunter would want to eat from one.” Malory explained, turning along the road, still heading down the mountain. The giant trees coming up from the River Valley formed a thick canopy that they were walking along, allowing them to see the creatures that stayed at the high altitudes. The heat from the sun and the lack of shade made Hamelin sweat and tire, but he wasn’t about to slow down when his mother was continuing on in her long strides with her full dragon leather buckled on.
After another ten minutes, she stopped beneath an overhang of rocks, pulling a waterskin from her side and drinking from it slowly. Wiping her sleeve, she offered the plump skin to Hamelin, who happily took it and drank from it, only to realize it was the bitter alcohol that his mother enjoyed, Everchill. A shiver ran down his spine as the drink cooled him considerably, though his throat became numbed by the magically chilled substance. He wiped his own mouth before handing it back to his mother, who gave him a wane half smile.
“Handle your liquor yet, boy?” She asked him after taking another drink.
“Of course!” Hamelin said with a laugh. “I can handle it better than my old hag of a mother at the very least.”
“Hag am I?” She said with a smile.
Hamelin held his fingers close together. “Just a little.”
“Well, in that case I’m going to march us down this hill at double speed, just to show you what these old bones can still do!”
And with that she took off at a loping jog, her long legs carrying her further and further away. Hamelin, desperate to catch up, raced after her, laughing, as she ran down the trail leading into the River Valley. Coloraxes took flight, squawking merrily as Hamelin ran past them; up ahead his mother had drawn her Dragon Sword and was running with it, the red ember tip sparking from the rocks as she held it low.
Suddenly she leapt from the path and into the trees, her sword gripped in two hands as she came down upon a creature that Hamelin would have never seen. Originally colored like the tree line they were descending into, this creature was at least ten feet tall, and all muscle, with a large head and oversized hands ending in long crooked grey nails. Malory was on its back, stabbing into the creature’s neck viciously, the wounds slowly closing around them, the flesh stitching itself back together as the large tusked mouth howled in agony.
Hamelin immediately drew his bow and nocked an arrow, taking careful aim… and firing across the gap of stone and open air into the creature hanging off a tree, the arrow sinking where a kidney would be on a human. He nocked another arrow and smiled as his mother fought for a foothold on the beast. Firing a little higher, he gave her one when his serrated arrow pierced the rocky hide just below the left shoulder blade, allowing her right leg something to stand on. The creature bellowed, swiping at Malory, but with each slow swing, she crawled further down its back, slicing into the mottled grey flesh with her sword at every available opportunity, painting the treetops beneath it purple with the monsters blood as it drizzled down to feed the plants.
“There we go!” Hamelin muttered to himself, his mother hopping off the creature and to a smaller branch near its knee, slashing down to the bone on the appendage, causing it to go limp and forcing the monster to grip two thicker branches to support it. Nocking two arrows, Hamelin took careful aim and fired, both arrows flying faster than you could see. One arrow missed its mark, instead slamming into the creatures head, piercing through the right eye socket; however, the second arrow made its mark, stabbing into the creature’s spine, just at the base of the neck. The creature’s whole body went slack, its gigantic hands clamped down over the branches, its feet embedded in the wood. The head moved slowly, the mouth opening wide enough to reveal the several jutting tusks from the lower mouth of the beast.
Malory stood and waved at Hamelin, motioning for him to run over, and fast. Hamelin sprinted, bow out, firing two more arrows into the creatures side just to keep it good and injured. When he got close his mother laughed, twirling her sword to get the jam-like blood off her sword.
“Shot it right where anyone would have, good job!” She said, huffing a little. “And thanks for the footholds, I needed those.”
“What is this thing?” Hamelin asked, looking at the crippled tree-beast carefully. Now that he was close he could see the pebbly hide forming a color changing coat that would render the creature virtually invisible if it so wished. The fact that its head was half the size of Hamelin didn’t make him think it was a friendly creature.
“Chameleon Troll… nasty blighters that like to lurk in the River Valley,” Malory said, sheathing her sword. “This one is getting ready for mating season if it’s climbing this high up.”
“I’ve walked this trail countless times, how come I’ve never had a problem with them?” Hamelin asked, staring at the creature as it eyed him hungrily.
“They’re ambush predators and you always travel in groups. Not a combination that fits… now take this end of the rope,” Malory said, tossing it out to him, “while I truss up our prize for dissection.”
“Dissection? Here? On the road?” Hamelin asked, obviously confused.
“No better time, and it’ll recover from that arrow to the spine once it finishes pushing it from its body. The villages down in the River Valley pay good for Troll flank, and the tusks are worthy trophies.”
“Worthy enough for the Widow White?” Hamelin asked, hopeful.
“My gut says she wants something over the top, especially since I’m with you. Now tie that off to a boulder while I start dissecting him, I’ve got it tied around his waist.”
“Will this kill the Troll?” Hamelin asked as he watched his mother pull a dragon tooth dagger from her belt, gutting the creature and holding a flask to the wound. The dagger, holding the flesh back, kept the wound from closing as quickly as the flask filled with syrupy purple blood.
“Should, but with Trolls I never consider them dead unless I remove the head.” Malory said, reaching into the carved hole and rooting around inside the belly of the creature. “I think once we have everything we need we should put it out of its misery as it’ll be in for a few weeks of painful healing.”
“How painful?” Hamelin asked.
Malory paused for a moment. “Well, I’m removing one of its livers and half its heart, so you tell me.”
“It has multiple livers?”
Malory just laughed at her sons face as he held the rope, ignoring the growling Troll she was elbow deep in several hundred feet above the forest floor.

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