Hooray for Starbucks WiFi! Sorry for the late post, here’s the week’s story.
The Magician Jaymel, Part 3
By the time he reached the cave, Kriss, Grisa and Helsa stood watiing next to the Kobold cave.
“We need to get out of here, now,” Jaymel said.
“What’s the hurry?” Kriss said adjusting his new armor. “Did you screw something up?”
Jaymel clenched his jaw. He had to swallow his pride. “Yes, I saw a unit of royal guards, I tried to delay them with magic, but it’s pointed the finger straight to us.”
“Good one,” Grisa said, chukling. “Sounds like you did just fine.”
Kriss shrugged. “Yeah. We’re not mad. You tried to buy us some time, and you gave us enough to gather up the treasure. Let’s get out of here.”
Helsa nooded her agreement. All three carried heavy bags of spoiles bursting with coins and knicknacks.
Jaymel approached Helsa, fishing through his pocket for his reagent satchel. “We’ll need to move fast.” He placed a hand on Helsa’s bag and chanted. He drew three bird feathers from his reagent pouch and poured arcane power into the spell. The strain on the bag lessened. “This should make running easier. Say the trigger word if you need your body to lighten, you know the one.”
He lightened the other two bags and led the way into the forests. The knights were close behind, expanding their search to the cliffs. It wouldn’t matter soon.
Jaymel wished he could help them more, but every inch of him ached. The cost of magic weighed heavily on him and even a feather lightened bag would exaust him. HE dragged his feet as they ran, until Helsa paused to regard him. “I can carry you if you need it.”
His cheeks flushed, both from embarrassment and outrage. “I don’t–”
“Don’t act tough,” Helsa said. “I know you’re tired and there’s nothing my magic can do for you.”
He looked away and nodded.
Helsa tugged at her collar, unfastening the top button of her blouse. “Go on then. Besides they know your face right? This is the best approach.”
Jaymel didn’t have much of a choice. He stepped close, put his hands on her shoulders and embraced his last resort. The world expanded around him, but he knew better, it was him that shrunk. His robes fell useless to the ground, Grisa scooped them up without a word.
He scurried onto Helsa’s shoulders, careful to only prick the top layer of her clothes. His whiskers brushed against the fabric of her robe, centering his bearings.
“Who’s a good boy?” Helsa said, smirking. She ran a finger down the small of his back, stroking his short grey fur. It felt devine, no matter how demeaning it was.
He squeaked in protest, and scurried to her other shoulder.
“Don’t waste time Jay. You can’t ride on my shoulder.”
She was right. He peered over her shoulder and down her robe, some distance away he made out the line of her cleavage. Jaymel swallowed back a lump in his throat and pattered forward cautiously. She poked him from behind, sending him into a helpless freefall and landed sliding down her chest and between her breasts.
Helsa wasted no time rebuttoning her robe and they pushed forward. Jaymel struggled to reorient himself, careful to fold in his lttle claws. He pressed his nose against the fabric, letting his peer through the thick fabric. He could make out the outlines of the trees and tried focusing on them rather than his comfortable environs.
“Don’t enjoy that too much,” Grisa teased. “Helsa doesn’t want you making a mess in there.”
“Shut up,” Jaymel said, though it came out as a squeak.
Other than the obvious reason, Jaymel enjoyed being a mouse. Seeing the world through beady nocturnal eyes had its benefits. It put things in perspective, something any two bit magician had to embrace. The smaller body mass made it easier to rest and recuperate as well. He could sleep for an hour or two, where his elven body would need eight. The creeping sense of vulerability and mortality as a rodent made him appreciate each moment. Something a long lived elf could never hope to do.
Jaymel could only watch the trees flitter by as his companions fled from the military unit. He sniffed at the air, trying to drown out Helsa’s scent and focus on the forest air. Straight ahead, as planned, they had the perfect escape route.
“This is my favorite part,” Kriss said.
This is my least favorite part.
Grisa’s whooping cheer predated the sensation of weightlessness. The forest gave way to a sharp cliff and a fall hundreds of yards straight down. The floating feeling in the pit of his stomach strengthened and a wild freefall siezed them.
“Oh, wait… what was the word?”
Grisa grinned, looking back at him. “Yeah… what was it?”
“Transisto!” Jaymel said, but it only came out a squeek.
“Oh right.” Kriss said, winking.
“Transisto.” The three said in unison. A great gust of wind pushed from underneath their falling forms and slowed them to a drifting crawl. Jaymel’s little rodent heart thundered in his chest, threatening to burst.
“Not funny.” Helsa said, swatting Kriss on the arm. “If you killed Jay with shock you too would have died.”
“Just us?” Grisa said.
Helsa nodded. “I could save myself. Just fine. If you’re going to do something stupid and reckless, make sure it only mauls you to near death. I’m just fine with bringing you back from the brink, but I can’t do anything if you die.”
Jaymel sulked. Apparently it was too much to think she was concerned about him.
She reached down and stroked the top of his head through her robe. “Besides, there’s only one mouse I tolerate enough to keep as a pet.”
Jaymel smiled at that.
They drifted under the safety of the treeline just before the royal guard spotted them. The enchantment faded moments after they reached the ground. Helsa pulled Jaymel from her robe in time for him to catch a smug look from Kriss. His friends delayed the trigger word intentionally to ensure a safe landing. It irritated Jaymel to no end, Kriss knew the limits of magic better than Jaymel did.
“We setting up camp here?” Grisa said, handing over Jaymel’s robe to Helsa.
There were no objections.
Grisa dragged Kriss into the woods by the hand. No one needed guesses to tell what she wanted.
Helsa offered her free hand and Jaymel scurried into her palm. As much as he enjoyed being in her arms, he feared the hidden danger of shapeshifting more. She draped the robe over him and her reversed the transformation spell. The world around him returned to normal and the flow of time slowed, even the few minutes as a rodent, likely sheared months from his life. As a rodent he aged as a rodent did, the short lives of a mouse paled to the hundreds enjoyed by a elf. Helsa steadied him, channeling warm light into his skin.
The nicks and scrapes from the Kobold scuffle knitted and closed and the fatigue that came with the transformation spell fled.
“Thank you, Helsa,” Jaymel said. He squeezed her arm and stepped away. All things considered, he felt much better. “It would take a day of travel for them to catch up to us, maybe more. We may have to part ways here.”
Helsa quired a brow. “Part ways? Because the guard saw your face?”
“Yes. I shouldn’t go into the city with you, it could bring trouble. The reputation of elves is bad enough without having one suspected of treachery.”
“I suppose you have a point,” Helsa said. She pulled a lock of hair behind her ear. “You shouldn’t be alone, though. Kriss and Grisa can cash in the spoils, I will stay with you.”
Jaymel flushed. “T-that’s the worst scenario of all.”
“If I’m captured, you would be blamed. You may even be excommunicated from your order.”
“You’re good at hiding, little mouse and it won’t be without benefit for me. I need you to help me finish my book.”
“Oh, right,” Jaymel said, sighing. “I’m surprised you would read a romance novel. You don’t strike me as the type.”
Helsa shrugged. “What type am I?”
Jaymel flinched. “W-well. You’ve always struck me as a particularly serious woman with little interest in flights of fancy. You tend to share my disdain for Kriss and Grisa’s nonsense and holding up our agenda.”
There it was. Helsa carried little interest in romance, yet perhaps she enjoyed it as a cautious observer. Jaymel cleared his throat. “So, if this is the case. Why read about it?”
“I’m interested in real love.”
Jaymel had no words, so she went on.
“Carnal attraction is something animals suffer from, it is a crippling need to procreate, nothing more. Yet love is a malady of the heart, ineplicable and reaches across impossible boundaries. People can fall in love regardless of creed, ideals and even race.”
An uncomfortable silence flitted through the air of the forest. Helsa stared at him with her usual hooded eyed, an expression he often associated with boredom, yet she watched with undivided attention. He took a step closer. “And did you want to explore this phenomenon first hand?”
Jaymel’s head swam. He has interest in Helsa, true, but love? He doubted it had been anything like that. If anything he assumed it to be wanderlust from his own people.
She turned her gaze skyward, tracing a finger along her chin. “You make a fine test subject. Like Kriss and Grisa, nothing would come from us being together. Their carnal desires are different, as there is no risk of a dwarf and a human bearing children together. Yet I do not think of what they have as love.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“They’re both idiots.”
Jaymel laughed. “That’s true enough, but even idiots can be in love. However, I agree. What they have is more of an open friendship.”
“So are you interested or not?”
“I’m not.” Jaymel needed no time for his answer. “Love isn’t an experiment. You can’t snap your fingers and expect it to work. I think you are a beautiful woman– for a human– and I consider you a valuable ally. I refuse to call anything between us, forged by an agreement, ‘love’.”
“Interesting.” Helsa’s expression stayed stoic and sharpened her stare upon him.
It worried Jaymel when Helsa said that word. He always imagined her crafting a diabolical vengance for his lack of cooperation.
“Good answer,” she said, breaking the silence. “Very romantic of you. When Kriss and Grisa return, I’ll tell them to go to the city themselves. After that, the real experiment will begin.”
She moved to sit on a nearby log, smiling down at her book– her rare smile worried him more than any scowl he had ever seen.