If Terris had only known what his ill-advised actions would bring down upon him later that same sun, he would have chosen differently. As it was, however, he was fully engaged in what to him seemed a very good idea.
“There’s one!” shouted Terris.
Terris ran. He was a small man, strong from years of eking out a living as a mediocre blacksmith, but he was no woodsman. The roots and branches tripped and slapped at him, grabbing at the crudely made iron cage he held in his outstretched arm.
“Oooff… missed. Rend it!”
He looked to see where his sons were. Three men, younger versions of Terris himself, stumbled and tripped through the undergrowth, cursing and falling, hunting the tiny, shimmering flier folk. The dawn light cast slanting shadows through the woods, further obscuring their efforts.
We’ll never catch one a them bumblin’ through the woods like this, thought Terris. I’ll just have ta come up with a plan. “Hold up there Berk! Narn! Lellin! Git back here and set down. I gotta think.”
His sons waded back and slumped to the ground in heaps surrounding him, glum and sullen expressions on their beard stubbled, dirty faces.
Not goodlookin’ my boys, thought Terris, as his gaze passed over them. They shoulda' been out on they own a time ago, but for what I feed and clothe’em. Makin’ it too easy for ‘em, I am. Still, we get us some a them flitters and we’ll be set. Folks would pay a lot to see real, live flitters. I’ll be able to stop smithin’. Not much good at it anyways, he thought with a shrug. The boys can get places of they own. We’ll none of us be a’hungered again. Terris thought this was a fine idea. Now, we just have to catch ‘em.
Terris remembered when he had first seen the flier folk as a boy. Wonder and awe had filled him, fluttering in his belly like the flitters that he watched with delight. It was as if he was seeing the magic of the woods in their shimmering wings. It was enough to make him forget the hunger that plagued him constantly in his boyhood, even for just a little while. For years he had hung about at the borders of the woods, every time he could get away, hoping for a glimpse of them.
That's it! Them flitters like that marshy place on sun-filled days. Just like today. Terris thought of the marsh at the edge of the woods where it opened up to the small pond, hidden from view of the town. A special place he came across as a boy skirting the edge of the forest forbidden to him by his farn, afraid to venture too far in, his belly hungry and fretful. There he saw them hovering and flitting among the tall stalks of fluff weed, their wings impossibly beautiful in the sunlight. He spent hours hidden behind rocks and trees, staring with avid eyes, drinking in the magic. How could I ‘a forgot?
“Boys! Git to the marsh. We’ll hide an’ wait real quiet. They’ll get close if we waits long enough, then we’ll grab ‘em.” Pleased with the plan, Terris stood up.
His sons peered up at him.
“Marsh?” Berk looked at him, unbelieving.
“I ain’t never seen no marsh round here,” said Lellin. Then a gleam came into his eye. “But ifn’ there’s a marsh, maybe we could get us some swimmers! Eatin’ time!” Lellin rubbed his stomach and nodded.
“What are you’s talkin’ about?” Narn, looked at his Farn, then his brothers, mouth and eyebrows twisted in confusion.
Terris looked at his man-boys, scowling. “Leave off your stomach for now Lellin. You’ll have plenty of coin to fill your belly with when we get us some flitters. Come on, I’ll show you where ta’ hide.” Terris picked up the cage and stalked off.
“We ain’t goin’ inta forest? Berk’s lanky frame shuddered as he trudged reluctantly after his Farn.
“Just a little ways,” said Terris.
We never gonna’ catch those flitters,” muttered Narn, head down and following behind his brother.
“I’m hungry. My belly’s rumblin’ hear that? There it goes again. When we gonna’ eat? Huh?” Lellin dragged his feet along the ground and rubbed at his stomach.
His sons whined and complained, but followed Terris to the marsh just inside the edge of Darkling Forest. There, with many emphatic shushing motions and pointing gestures, Terris managed to get his sons hidden and quiet.
They sat and they waited. Visions of a coin box filled to the brim kept them all silent. Several hours passed when one of the flier folk, tiny and red-hued , landed close by their hiding place to rest unaware on a lily pad, floating in the sun dappled marsh. Four men lunged out of their hiding spot and by some miracle of the One, not only caught the unlucky flitter but did so without harming it, and stuffed it into the cage.
Then Terris, again gesturing for silence, set the cage carefully on the ground and gestured his sons back into hiding.
An hour later, Terris and his sons had caught another of the tiny flier folk, who responding to the distressed noises emitting from the cage, had landed upon the cage, chittering loudly, trying to unfasten the latch and release the unhappy occupant.
Terris held the cage aloft with its two, tiny occupants, and his sons leaped and cavorted about him like young pullers, accompanied by loud, self-congratulatory whoops.
“Now we gonna’ earn us some coin and eat!” Shouted Terris, grinning broadly.
It didn’t work out quite the way he planned.
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