© Dalai Lama
1 of 13
The tiny beading drop glistened and bulged as it rolled down the waxy green valley of a holly leaf. Drip! A miniscule puff of dust arose as it spattered to the dusty ground inches below. Another drop wiggled and rolled from a leaf higher up, plunging from leaf tip to the next holly leaf below , and eventually it joined the first drop in its tiny muddy crater. Drip, drop, drip. The stream of droplets followed several different courses as they scurried down the holly leafs in the race to earth. The quiet glory of daybreak faded as the sun shed its colorful robes to rise into the waiting sky.
The solitary green blade of grass twisted another few degrees as it sought to strain every ounce of goodness from the shifting sun's rays. It had drank deeply of the nourishing drops all morning. A slight breeze whispered across the low ground and the blade bowed and bent in supplication. A large beetle lumbered by, its shiny black carapace warmed by the afternoon sunshine. The antennae of the beetle flickered and swept the air by the blade of grass, but the ungainly bug continued on, mercifully ignoring the green blade. A shadow swept across the sky, blotting out the sun and day rapidly became night for both beetle and blade of grass. Crunch! Both beetle and grass blade were obliterated by the rough tread of an enormous boot.
The sudden arrival of the boot startled a butterfly who had been trying gather a quiet lunch from the hyacinth next to the holly bush. The orange and black wings fluttered and pumped, driving the tiny insect upwards to safety and a better vantage point. The huge body towering above the boot began to quake and soon more drops began to drip down on to the holly, but these new droplets were clear, not bright crimson. Two large callused hands worked a claw hammer, prying the long nails from the woman's neck and the grayed cedar wall behind her. After the last nail was out, the large hands picked up the limp woman and slung her over his broad shoulders. A flash of color caught the butterfly's kaleidoscopic vision, but then he remembered alighting once before on the rose colored dress. There was no pollen there. He hovered for a few more moments as the man with the shiny head disappeared behind the corner of a wooden hut, then he went back to dining on the hyacinth.
An angry bumble bee jumped up and throbbed his displeasure at the interruption. He circled twice and then darted to try and ward off the woman with the white stripe on her head. She snapped her fingers twice and the angry buzzing insect became a small stone, plummeting to the ground below and shattering. The fingers that had wrought the bees doom now dipped into the crimson pool, then hastily shook and brushed against the black dress in a frantic effort to clean them. The woman's skeptical eyes peered closely at the liquid pool, narrowing at the dead lizard that lay next to it. Two blow flies arced in, buzzing on a direct trajectory towards the tasty lake, only noticing the woman in the black dress at the last moment and veering off in a frenzied pattern. They dodged and zipped about, until one of them felt brave enough to ignore the woman and alighted on the surface of the crimson pool to slake its hunger. Its proboscis pierced the surface tension and its hairy black abdomen began pumping to draw the red fluid up into its mouth. A moment later and the fly began flapping erratically for a second before laying still. It began to disappear, like the shade from a dissipating cloud, and soon all that was left of the insect were its bulbous faceted eyes, and two lacy transparent wings which floated on the crimson pool. They woman snorted and walked away. Now that the interloper was gone, the second blow fly landed on the pool and poked through for a much needed drink...
Part 2 of 13
The boy scraped the last coins from the chest and handed them to the scruffy looking mercenary.
"That's only 78!," The herald promised 100 gold!, And what am I supposed to do with these pieces of junk?" The mercenary held up the stick and a haphazardly fashioned shield that wasn't much bigger than a dinner plate.
"The banners say 78 gold, can't you read?," the boy held up a poster in front of the man, who disheveled appearance rivaled the town drunk's.
The man studied it, his eyes fiercely focussed on the one and the two zeroes. "I guess you're right, but don't I at least get a sword?"
The boy rolled up the poster, "The swords were first come first serve, although I do have a bow left if you are interested." He tried to stay updraft of the stale sweaty aura the mercenary exuded.
"Nah, those are only good for hunting rabbits. A strong warrior like myself needs a sword" the mercenary slashed down with the club, then winced, holding his shoulder.
"Well, off you go then!," The boy turned and closed the hasp on the chest. "You can spend your gold at the smithy or the healer, but before you think about guzzling it away at the tavern, take a look at the corpse by the church to see what we do with those who try and scurry out on a deal."
The mercenary eyed the two small red drinks skeptically. He drank more beer than that before breakfast, and they weren't even giving him a sandwich! "This isn't going to take long is it? I mean, shouldn't I be given a hunk of cheese or at least some bread?"
"I'd go myself, if it weren't for this leg here," and the boy rapped on his peg. "Don't worry, you'll be back before lunchtime, and if you happen to find the silversmith's pouch down there, you will be rewarded with one fourth the gold it has. That is, if you can carry that much gold." The hook had been set, but the boy was sad to see the last of the quest items given to such a wastrel. But the steady stream of mercenaries had trickled and then dried up. Some said that another town beckoned to their sense of adventure.
"So, you want me to bring the whole wolf back, or just its head?" And I'll be keeping that silversmith's bag all to myself.
"The whole wolf, and be mindful that you don't get its tainted blood on you," The boy shoved the chest under a counter and patted an even larger chest that lay behind him. "That is, if you want to claim the bounty."
"Don't worry, I know what kind of wolf we're after," the Mercenary reached beneath his soiled tunic and produced several strings of garlic.
The boy stifled a guffaw , and was thankful for the reek from the cloves, as it was the only thing masking a sort of rotting from the mercenary that he didn't even want to speculate on.
"What about the demons?" The mercenary's eyes flickered from the boy's face to the huge iron bound chest
For a moment the mercenaries eyes hardened, and the boy saw a hint of something resolute and vicious underneath the stink and foolishness. "A thousand others have been before you. I doubt that a single demon remains anywhere in the county. The wolf you seek is likely dead too, and all you need to do is find the corpse and return it here." The boy did not fear the man, as the witch had imbued the boy's wooden leg with a dozen potent spells, all of which he could call upon at will. The only thing that worried him was that the mercenary might ask to see the hundred thousand gold bounty in the chest, as it had been parceled out one hundred at a time to the foolhardy adventurers. The boy's face grimaced when he thought about all that wasted money, but his soul wrenched even more when he thought of his love Gillian nailed to the back of her home, her throat ripped out by some of the foul dogs.
Well, maybe they hadn't been lovers, but they might have been someday...
"I'll bring back the wolf, you just make sure a wagon's ready to carry that gold back home for me," The mercenary tightened what was left of his boots, and then turned for the door. "You say his pelt will be blue?"
"Yes, he will have a blue coat, and when he's dead, the blood will be a bright orange. Do not touch any wet areas as they will burn your skin." Adria had done some testing and eliminated Mortephlegm and Chaoshowler as culprits, since the strength of their spittle diminished after a brief exposure to air. Indeed, whatever demon dog this was, was a new and stronger breed than any she or Cain had ever heard of before.
"Blue coat, orange blood," The mercenary mumbled and let the door clatter shut behind him as he headed out.
© Dalai Lama
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