Short Story Part 2
In this prompt we are given a random room assignment, a random material, and a random organic object in a state of decay. This is how I extended the previous prompt.
I awoke not in the clearing where I last recalled, but on a firm warm surface. I blinked again to clear my eyes of the artificial sleep and to focus on where I now found myself. The pungent smell of cedar helped with the waking and could explain my surroundings, if indeed I was surrounded entirely by wood. The walls, the ceiling, the surface that I lay on were all made of living cedar.
“Am I in a tree?” I asked aloud in disbelief.
“Yes.” I jumped not having expected an answer and the voice laughed at me. “It’s quite dangerous just to nap in the grass when we’re as little as we are.”
I shifted to find the person who found me amusing to decide whether they deserved my wrath or whether I should laugh at my predicament alongside them. His smile seemed to glow from across the room and he showed no sign of pretentiousness.
“I wasn’t small long before the belladonna knocked me out.”
He shrugged. “The fairy queen does have her ways, though they might not always make sense. I’m Nimbus.” He offered his hand and pulled me up to a sitting position. “I’ll help you through the forest. But what do you mean to do once you get through?”
“There’s a wizard that needs punched in the face.”
He lifted a brow while studying me and when I didn’t flinch, he finally spoke again. “You are serious. That wizard has killed many men and fae.”
“He took my family and left my kingdom in tatters. The least I could do is find him and punch him in the face.”
He nodded, considering my position. “Can you ride a shrike, Kezia?”
My mouth dropped open. “How do you know my name?”
“The fairy queen told me.”
“I didn’t tell her!”
Nimbus smiled. “You didn’t have to. Can you ride a shrike?”
I crossed my arms. “I’ve never been small enough to ride a shrike.”
“That’s fair. You haven’t been in a treehouse either from the sounds of things.”
“You call this a treehouse?”
“It is a house built inside a tree. What would you call a treehouse?”
My brows knitted together as I thought about the treehouses in my childhood, but I didn’t want to take the time to explain them to Nimbus when his treehouse made more sense than my own. “It’s a nice treehouse.”
“Thank you.” He started over to the kitchen area and began pulling various foodstuffs from the pantry and cupboards. “Would you mind fetching the saddlebags from outside the front door? We’ll want to fill them with plenty of food.”
“You put saddlebags on the shrikes?”
“Why not? It’s handy to travel with food.”
I watched him a moment longer wondering how long it would take for a shrike to wing through the forest out to the other side, but said nothing as I located the round door in my peripheral vision and headed toward it.
Off to the side of the door hung a dozen dried red roses, they perfumed the room with a faint sense of their former smell and I breathed deeply to enjoy as much of them as I could. It proved a nice break from the pungent smell of the tree. The door lock clicked as I turned the knob and the calling of birds immediately assailed my ears as I opened the door. Just outside two stout little birds stared at me expectantly.
They cocked their heads in interest but didn’t tweet in reply. Maybe I would need to call them by name. Do the fae name their shrikes? I suppose they do. I grabbed the saddlebags by the door and at that motion the birds started to flutter their feathers and step about proudly. I chuckled at the sight of them ready to go as though they were the brilliant horses I used to ride in my kingdom. My heart sank a little at the thought, but before I could think about it any further, I forced the tears down and strode back into the treehouse attempting to act as nonchalant as I could.
Nimbus glanced at me out of the corner of his eye and if I knew him better, I would have sworn he knew what emotion I had just stuffed down and why, but he didn’t say a word. How much do the fae know of the human world anyway? He and the fairy queen knew about the wizard, and she told him my name. My brow furrowed but I forced myself to change the subject.
“Those are nice dried roses by the door.”
“They’re for you, but you didn’t come as early as I thought you would so I had to dry them.”
My mouth fell open. He knew I was coming? How did they know I would come this way when I hadn’t decided until three days ago? Fresh roses wouldn’t have dried by now. I glanced back at the flowers wondering how long they had waited for me.
“Six months,” he answered without me having asked the question.
“When my kingdom fell?”
He nodded and turned to face me but I couldn’t look him in the eye. The sharp pang of loss still felt too near and sudden for me to face in someone’s knowing glance. Without a word this fae I just barely met slipped his arms around me and pulled me in for an embrace. The unexpected tenderness broke my last defenses and the sobs wracked my insides. I don’t know how long I stayed there but his shoulder was damp when I finally cried my last tear and lifted my head. His concerned brown eyes met mine.
“How long have you waited to do that?”
I shrugged, the words still escaping me.
“Probably,” I whispered.
He nodded and guided me to the dining room table. The booth and table carved out of the wood while their legs stayed rooted to the tree itself. “I’ll get you some breakfast and handle the packing. Then we’ll be on our way. Unless you want to rest for another day?”
I grinned. “I do like it here.”
“Good. I’ll still get us ready just in case your strength returns with a bit of food.” He leaned close as though he might hug me again, but seemed to hesitate. He smiled almost in an embarrassed way before turning to pick up the saddlebags where I dropped them and taking them to the kitchen where he continued to prepare our food.