The beginning - Part 3
J a c k
W o u l d H a v e
K n o w n
One thing I really wanted was to see adventurers and I knew exactly where to go in order to watch them. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to find the place where I needed to go… for some reason taverns and inns all look like houses and shops. At least make an effort not to build everything the same! I had to search through many villages along the shore, feeling more impatient and irritated that I didn’t find what I was looking for and Jibbs was not helping at all. She was reluctant to fly most of the time and preferred hopping on the grass and taking way too many naps a day for way too long. She was driving me crazy and I was doing the same to her, forced as I was to steal her pebble if I wanted her large feathery butt to go anywhere. You’d think sleeping from sunset to sunrise would have been enough, but no. I think I understand now why Siisa and Moltai were so angry at me when I ran away from my daily chores. Someone who refuses to do what you want them to when it’s important that they do it is infuriating.
So as I was saying, following weeks of walking more than flying (my feet were oh so sore) I finally learned that the difference between common housing and shops were in their sign. Unlike the shops, houses have small letters on the mailbox or the fence to know which is which (except for the ones that do have big signs and I was very confused then). After making my way into more than a few wrong places, finally I found an inn which I entered through a small hole in the gutter. Jibbs was too large to fit and waited outside. Which was fortunate because the hole gave right into the kitchen, of all things. It was perfect for me, with plenty of places to hide. The door to the dining room was cut in half, too, so it was easy to fly there when nobody was looking.
I don’t understand though what use there is for only half a door.
It took many days, and at some point I stopped counting, before an adventurer walked in. I still remember. He had hair the colour of wheat and he carried with him the smell of sea salt. His clothes were dripping with water, too, but it was not raining. He was talking a lot, and laughing a lot, but what struck me the most was the color of his eyes. I had never seen a human with eyes of gold and I still haven’t seen another one of those afterwards. I heard him say he was waiting for his crew, and he stayed a few days. Every evening he sat with what I can only guess were strangers to him, and he talked with them for hours. I loved listening to his adventures, and I’d always find a spot to sit as near to him as possible. The ceiling beams were very useful to run across the whole dining area. He, too, seemed to be one of those people who ate maps for breakfast; he sounded like he knew the whole world like the back of his hand. Oh, and he had a bird too. A ginormous white pelican who sometimes stuck its head through the dining room’s window looking for him. It took two or three men to push his large, dumb looking face out of the inn and the adventurer kept saying the bird was not with him but clearly, it was. It followed him everywhere whenever he went looking for his crew (I watched them from where I sat on the rooftops with Jibbs). I didn’t know there were pelicans big enough for a human to sit on their back.
He told stories better than Jack, like he was born to do that and I decided I’d tell stories better than him. Sadly, his crew joined him the next week and he left with them the day after. I never saw him again. Maybe the pelican ate him…
That very same night, a group of young men with a similar gait came into the inn.
I couldn’t help but to wonder what was hidden in their hip bags. They were much bigger than what I had seen on any other people I watched. Maybe they were what they call nobles, I thought. Maybe they were rich. They carried weapons with them and what better need would there be than to protect their goods? Luck was on my side: they put silver coins on the counter and asked to stay for the night. I followed them across the dining room, sticking near the ceiling. In the hallway I was in the open but humans rarely pay attention to what is above their eye level. I took a chance. The door closed right in front of me.
“Owl farts!” I cussed and I think they heard me because the door opened immediately and they nearly caught sight of me. The head that popped out of the room looked right and left. When they closed the door again, I approached to eavesdrop. They sounded excited about something. I just had to see what it was about.
I waited for the innkeeper to announce mealtime. In the evening, there often was one or two musicians trading a few drops of ale and a plate of whatever food was left for entertainment. That should give me all the time I wanted in the nobles’ room to look through their things and satisfy my curiosity. They would stuff their faces with strange fish and drink themselves under the table while I’d do what I do best.
Crawling under the door was in itself quite the adventure. Old wood tend to make splinters and those splinters snagged my clothes. I had to be more careful than I had ever been so not to hurt myself. You know how mice and rats squish themselves to fit in tight spaces? Yeah well fairies can’t do that. Once or twice I thought I would never see the end of it, especially when large splinters tugged at my shirt and pants at the same time.
‘At this rate, once I get out from under here I’ll be naked.’ Is what I thought.
On the other side, surprisingly with all my clothes still on, the floor was littered with weapons of all sizes, smelly wet socks and leather coats. I avoided the socks and walked on the coats alongside a well-worn lance. One of them had so many pockets inside and out I stopped counting after the tenth one. Just how many spaces did a noble need to put things in? Besides, some of those things could have easily been left back home. Like those round shiny iron beads and what I thought was a bizarre kind of pepper. The money I understood was necessary to keep, though I didn’t get why they had to divide it into so many pockets. Same about the armfuls of white pearls I found. There were a few papers as well, on which something was written but I couldn’t read it. I did however understand the numbers at the end of each line (numbers may be the only thing we have in common). I thought at first it might be for keeping track of what they owned and they had to be rich, because those were big numbers. They possessed many things in many exemplars.
I know what you’re thinking: I was completely wrong about this.
They were as far from what I understood was a noble as could be. But I heard from Jack about nobles before, you know. Nobles, they fancy nice clothes, colours and point lace but he also told me they sometimes wore simpler clothes that blend in the masses. So it’s only when I found holes on all of their coats that I thought… a noble would have bought a new one, yes? That’s when I realized for myself that they were thieves. Because they were still rich. See, the adventurer I had seen the days before was not carrying anything more than a bottle of ink, a moleskin notebook and a handful of money in his sash. Adventurers are poor by definition.
“My very first encounter with thieves!” I smiled, remembering more of comrade’s stories and playing with a huge diamond ring that would easily fit on my head like a crown. In the same pocket I had found a jewel necklace large enough for me to wear like a dress. Leaving these two treasures behind, my interest quickly switched to something that was left on the nightstand. A little round contraption that started moving as soon as I touched it. I thought it was metal at first, but it bended and danced and morphed and when it stopped, I heard a voice inside my head.
“What, you want me to polish you or something?” I asked dumbfounded. I had heard about artifacts but I didn’t know they could speak to you like they were people. The object started moving again, even faster than it was before. If it wanted to be cleaned, it would have to stop doing that. I searched around for something to rub it with and came back with a pure white satin glove.
The door opened and I jumped in surprise, dropped the glove and knocked the object off the nightstand. I didn’t hear it land: the thieves, back way sooner than I expected, expressed their shock in a loud and unanimous voice. As I told you before, humans don’t like the fairies. It’s out of fear, according to Jack, and they either run or fight. I tried to make them run. The magic object I was playing with the moment before had given me an idea.
“I will curse you!” I aimed to look as menacing as possible and stretched my wings wide, trying to get a ray of sun to shine on them. It normally makes a predator think twice before approaching.
“Tough luck, I’m already cursed! If anything ya gonna make it better!”
One more bad idea to add to the list of all the bad ideas I ever had before. Like that time when I fed an injured blueberry kiwi bird a handful of fresh peppers… You know how they already burst if they so little as catch the rising sun before reaching their nest? Imagine feeding them something hot. It took me two days to dig my way out of its blasted hole and it took it three weeks to grow back its feathers and its beak.
Back to the story: The thief who answered to my threats, the cursed one, walked in first. He was shorter than his friends and he looked cleaner as well. He didn’t seem cursed at all, from the outside. For a human, he looked good. Or maybe I just like red heads no matter the species… The three others followed and closed the door behind them before I could do anything to get out. They cracked their fingers. I did the same.
“So what’s it gonna be? A twenty feet long beard? Or maybe a biting plant in your pants? I can also call a thousand crows on your sorry heads and you’ll never hear the end of it.” My threats still didn’t look like they gave them anything to worry for. Where was the ‘humans are afraid of fairies’ I heard so much about?
Were they really scared of me, they wouldn’t have tried to catch me like an insect. I flew up and stuck to the ceiling, trying to remain out of reach, but it was too low to give me safety. They trapped me like a bird, except that they traded the net for a coat and I dropped to the floor like a rock. Swift, I crawled under the heavy leather, fingers crossed that they wouldn’t step on me with their big stupid feet and hoping to find refuge under the beds. The small man grabbed me by the waist the moment I popped out from under the coat. I bit him and tried for the window: it was locked. I spun on my feet to face the thieves, backing against the cold glass and I raised both hands like I was about to do a complicated magic trick.
We don’t even need to do that for the magic to work but I thought it worked well to intimidate someone. Except it didn’t.
“Enough! I am done playing with you!” I should have asked Jack what threats he came up with to get rid of people like them.
“Who’s playing with who? I believe, my sweet little lady, that you are the toy here.”
“And we been bored long enough trying to find a bloody cure to the boss’s curse,” smiled the tallest of them three putting the magic trinket back on the nightstand “that we might as well have a bit of fun wit’cha.”
He had a thin pointy face and small, mean eyes. If he wasn’t afraid of me, I on the other hand was very much afraid of him. His clothes made him look even longer than he really was. Like a tower. A pointy, mean looking tower.
“Don’t meet a damn fairy every day, after all.”
“And see, the thing with fairies like you…” I heard the small man’s voice right behind me as I ran along the window ledge “… is that you are quite fragile.”