The area in which they stood was deserted now, all but for the Guardian who stood, wings folded upon her back, golden eyes staring unblinking at the man who lay, shivering before her, looking up.
Lisle, after releasing the frantic captives, stood beside Ell. Moss landed upon Lisle’s shoulder and curled her fingers into the folds of Lisle’s tunic, hanging on with all the force of her tiny body. Lisle rested her hand upon her Guardian’s scaled shoulder and felt heat rise into her palm. Gareth stood over the prone man, watching him, hand on the hilt of the hunting knife that he had tucked into the scabbard at his waist.
The Guardian, shook her wings slightly and moved away a few steps. She settled herself upon her haunches. Slowly she eased her foreclaws along the ground to lie down, as a small hunter will, tail curled about her. At a glance and a nod of her muzzle at the ground beside her, Lisle understood that Ell wanted her to sit down at her side.
Moss clung tightly as Lisle moved to sit down beside Ell.
“Yuh…you’re safe n…n…now.” Lisle whispered to the tiny, green flyer clinging to her shoulder.
Ell closed her eyes and Lisle did the same, leaning back against her Guardian’s warm, scaled abdomen. It was almost too warm for Lisle's comfort. Lisle took a breath, trying to calm herself, deeply inhaling the light floral scent that always accompanied her Guardian. She felt her insides still roiling with anger at this small man who had imprisoned Moss and her companion. How dare he try to earn coin from their misery? Her inner vision filled with fire, red and burning.
She felt Ell’s side rumble against her back and heard a low, guttural growl. She knew that Ell too was angry. In an attempt to calm herself, she envisioned an expanse of water, of deep, crystal serenity. Immediately its surface began to boil as if a great fire burned within its depths. Not knowing what else to do, she just watched the seething bubbles, not trying to calm them. The bubbling held her attention and that in itself was calming. Gradually the bubbles subsided, now just rippling the surface. The water calmed.
She felt Ell take a deep, whooshing breath, sounding like the bellows of the smithy she saw here in this village. Feeling peaceful now, she opened her eyes and saw that Ell’s head was turned, eyes open and watching her. Ell reached over and tapped Lisle gently on the forehead with her muzzle as she had done once before.
Lisle closed her eyes and felt herself sink beneath the surface as peaceful waters closed over her. Noting without surprise that she had no trouble breathing, she drifted to the bottom as serenely beautiful white light surrounded and filled her. Looking around herself she saw the Pathways of the One, that vast web of light stretching out in all directions.
There was the man, she realized his name was Terris, a spark upon the web. His colors were a bit muddied at the edges but a clear aqua toward the middle. She wanted to feel angry with him, even here, but it was all too beautiful, so balanced and perfect.
She looked about for Ell and found her blazing light close by. Ell’s light grew into a figure of light, her Guardian, shining from within with that sparkling, cobalt blue light. Lisle stared, riveted by her beauty, floating before her in that space of light.
Gradually an idea formed in Lisle’s awareness. It took shape and grew within her. She understood that the concept came from Ell, dropping whole and complete into her awareness without words. Ell wanted her to communicate this idea with the others. Lisle felt no fear at the thought of communicating something so long and complicated, though normally she would have cringed at the thought. Rising to the surface, filled with Ell’s message, Lisle opened her eyes. I am Ell's voice, she thought. Feeling calm she turned to the man, Terris.
Using her own words she said, “Terris, you are to come with us on our journey to Guardian Mountain, as our cook. You are to tell your sons that every bit of the coin from the imprisonment of the flyer folk is to be returned. The Guardian will allow your sons to stay here in the village as long as they never again imprison or cause harm to the flier folk. The Guardian will be watching them.” Lisle nodded her head then, message delivered without a stumble. She crossed her arms on her chest in unconscious imitation of Moss.
Gareth looked at Lisle, eyes wide. He glanced from her to the Guardian and then to the small man lying prone on the ground. His mouth turned down, forehead furrowing in displeasure. She could see he was not happy with this man accompanying them. Gareth fidgeted with his knife and looked grimly at Terris.
Lisle wasn’t sure she was happy about it either. She knew it was what Ell wanted, she had seen it all clearly. But how could they trust a man who would imprison flyer folk? Where is Moss? She thought. During her communing with Ell, Moss had left her shoulder. Maybe they couldn’t trust this man, but she did trust Ell, and Ell wanted Terris to go with them.
Terris pushed himself up from the dirt and stood, keeping his head bowed. His gaze went to the coin box abandoned on the ground before him and his hands twitched toward it. Lisle saw his glance, feeling her mouth form a scowl as she shook her head hard at him.
With that she saw him draw back, looking hastily from her to the Guardian, then retreat into his cottage. She assumed he would gather what things he might bring with him. She knew he would pass on the Guardian’s message to his sons who had already hidden within the cottage. He would be too afraid not to.
It was not long before she saw him exit the cottage, a heavily weighted pack on his back and move to stand beside Gareth. Gareth in turn, moved away a few steps, fidgeting with his knife and glancing pointedly at Terris. Terris hitched his pack higher onto his back and looked at the ground, shuffling his feet nervously.
Just then, Moss made a diving attack at Terris’s head. Grasping a few hairs in her hand as she hurtled past, she ripped them from his head.
“Yow!” Terris grabbed for his head and ducked. “You scrigging, little flitter! I’ll…”
A rumbling growl filled the air. Lisle saw Terris jerk his head toward the Guardian, unuttered threat caught between open lips, eyes wide with terror.
“I never meant it no harm, and won’t do now. By the One, so’s I won’t.” The fearful words poured out of him.
Ell blinked her eyes slowly at him, golden orbs accepting his promise. Lisle’s lips twitched upward grimly as she watched. Terris would be keeping that promise whether he wanted to or not.
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