Fairy Slayer, page 5
At the table sat Danira, another older elf, and a wizard. The elf and wizard were both dressed in traditional clothes, the elf in white and the wizard in blue. The elf had on a long shirt that reminded me of the Old West and shiny silver leggings that clung to his meaty thighs. The wizard almost disappeared inside his blue robes. Only his head and fingers were visible. Danira was dressed in something resembling human military garb. She wore tan cargo pants, a camouflage long sleeve shirt, and a bulky black vest covered in pockets. Her feet, clad in heavy black combat boots, rested on the table top. She looked relaxed as she glanced our way.
“Finally!” Danira grunted out as she stood to greet us.
Ariette and Kalista both gave her a salute that Danira returned. Then all three looked in unison to the monitors lining the wall. Across them were displayed pictures of the monstrous creature I had killed at different angles. The screen on the far left displayed a list of words and numbers, some percentages and some not. I couldn’t make out what everything meant, but there was a section on the bottom left that showed the results of a DNA analysis for the creature. It was a mix of troll, human, and chimera.
I didn’t even know chimeras actually existed.
The wizard caught me as I looked at the screen and Ariette, Danira, and Kalista sequestered themselves in a corner of the room. He stumped over to me, one hand on his staff, and I realized that his left leg didn’t seem to work because he was using his staff as a crutch. He shifted all his weight onto it as his right leg left the floor and then picked it up when his left foot left the floor.
“Ain’t never seen anything like it before, huh, son?” He pointed his chin at the screens in front of me, and I turned to take him in. I had never been this close to a wizard before, so I carefully studied his outfit.
His robes wrapped his figure in a swath of deep blue material, but it looked lightweight and airy despite the amount of fabric. The staff in his hand was old and roughed up, with a few dents in the wood up and down its length.
I’d heard a wizard’s staff was a reflection of his inner life, and if that was so, this poor dude was roughed up, too. At the tip of the staff sat a yellow glowing stone that I knew from school was the source of his power. His gnarled hand was wrapped around the staff just below the stone, and his knuckles were white with how tight of a grip he had on the thing.
His eyes were extraordinarily kind though. I’d never seen kinder eyes in my life. They were a light gray and sat so deep in his face that they all but disappeared when he smiled. His skin was swathed in wrinkles and age spots, and his bulbous nose took over the rest of his face.
“No, I haven’t,” I answered his question as I turned back toward the screen. The gash in the creature’s side made my stomach turn, and the knowledge that I did it made it almost impossible to keep the vomit down. I hadn’t thought straight in the heat of the moment, and the fact that I had torn open another living creature was shocking. But if I needed to make the choice again, I would do the same thing every time.
“Quite a feat, killing that thing. Only wish we could’ve caught it sooner before it ripped up two whole city blocks.” The wizard leaned on his staff as he spoke, and his hot breath hit my cheek.
“Yeah, me too.” I was silent for a moment as I finally remembered all the dead bodies I counted on the street. And with it, I remembered the whispered conversation Ariette and I overheard outside the dark black car. It suddenly dawned on me that somebody had sent this hybrid creature to destroy everything, and whoever sent the creature also sent a lookout to ensure it did its duty.
“I’m Ekador, second level wizard, bounty collector, and guild poker champion.” A gnarled hand reached out toward me, and I took in the dirty, yellow fingernails for a moment before I grasped his palm.
“Milton,” I replied.
“So, Milton, I hear you’re our new adept around here.” His kind eyes weren’t quite enough to make up for the fact that this wizard was very much in my personal space with his acrid breath.
“Yep, I guess I am. Kind of got swept up by Ariette in the middle of all the action, but this beats the hell out of delivering packages.” I casually stepped to the side and acted as if I was simply interested in the screen on the far right.
“Yeah,” Ekador chuckled, “she’s got a way of doing that to people. We’ve been hurting for an adept for a while, though. Ever since ol’ Frankie got himself kidnapped and blown to smithereens--”
“Wait.” I froze. “Blown to smithereens? No one said anything about that.”
My voice ended in a screech, and a few heads turned to look at me while I composed myself. Ekador didn’t seem to notice because he just barreled on with his thought.
“Uh-huh. Anyhow, we’ve been hurting around here because you guys can go into places the rest of us really shouldn’t, you know, and you’re a hell of a lot less conspicuous. So I’m just trying to say, welcome aboard, son!” He finished off with a grin and displayed a set of chipped and yellowed teeth.
I flashed a strained smile in return.
My eyes then darted to Ariette, and I saw that she was still huddled in a circle with Danira and Kalista. The blonde warrior elf glanced up at me at the same moment, and something in her expression told me she wasn’t happy about what was going on in that circle.
I forced my attention back to the screens and tapped Ekador’s shoulder.
“Am I reading that right?” I pointed to the corner of the screen where the DNA results were laid out. “The creature was a cross between a troll, a human, and a chimera?”
“Yea.” Ekador shook his head. “Never seen nothing like it before. We’re trying to trace where it came from, but so far, we’ve got nothing. It’s like the thing just popped up on the street and started ripping the world apart.”
“I didn’t even know chimeras existed. I thought they were just a myth.”
Ekador looked at me sternly and put a hand on my shoulder.
“Boy, if you’re going to be a part of this guild here, you’re going to have to get over that notion of a myth. Ain’t no such thing. The only reason stories about creatures ever get made is because at one time, somebody, somewhere, saw the truth. Not a single person’s got an imagination good enough to make all that up.” Ekador shook his head and gave me two solid pats on the shoulder.
Alright, then. I guessed today was the day I gave up a lot of notions about how life was.
“So how does this place work, exactly?” I motioned to the room in general.
“They didn’t teach you this stuff in school?” the aged wizard asked, and when I shook my head, he looked shocked. “Your human school is good for nothing but wasting time and stressing kids out. Let me give you a little lesson here.”
He waved his hand for me to follow as he began to circle around the room. I matched his stride as I listened to him speak. His wise, crackly voice gave the explanation a whimsical feeling like he was telling a story.
“Years ago, the Seelie king realized the Unseelie were going to be too hard to manage if the world and its people were divided. He knew the humans needed to feel safe in their own world, or else he’d have a civil war on his hands, and possibly the destruction of the Seelie alongside the Unseelie. So, he created the guilds.”
Ekador paused just a single moment to let that sink in before he continued, “Every guild has a territory, and every guild is responsible for keeping their territory safe from evil and danger. We’re the Jefferson Guild. We take care of Jefferson City and everything around it for about a one-hundred mile radius. Anything Unseelie, basically. Each guild has a guild master and under the guild master are the branches. Each branch has a role. We have the Human Relations branch, I call it HR for short. They deal with Human complaints about the Fae and whatnot. Boring stuff. Then, we got the Advancement branch. They’re supposed to come up with cool new stuff to detect and fight Unseelie, but I’m pretty sure they just play video games all day.” He paused and shook a finger at me.
“Whatever human inv
“So, lastly,” Ekador went on as he continued his circle of the room, “we have us. Special Operations. We are responsible for taking down and disposing of any threat, in any way we feel necessary. We are by far the best branch, but I could be biased. Of course, within each branch, you’ve got your hierarchy and your commanding officers. Your team is one of six field teams. You go in and defeat the big bad, whatever it may be, whenever it’s Fae related or the humans can’t. But, uh, between you and me, your team is the best on there is. That’s why the guild master, Hasen, sends you guys on most of the missions. Ariette and Kalista are two badass gals.”
I looked around at all the Fae on computers, dressed in nice clothes that were definitely not made for battle. Then, I looked at the three female warriors.
“Are we the only field operatives on our team?”
Ekador caught on to the reasoning behind my question as he glanced around the room, too. “Yes. There are many Fae who would like to be on your team, but only a select few are good enough to be on Danira’s squad. Besides, Ariette might as well be twenty warriors, the way she does business.”
A shiver shot down my spine at her name, and I looked up to see the elf headed my way. Kalista and Danira followed closely behind her.
“I’m going to go review the tapes. They’ll get you fitted for your gear, and then we’ll meet back here in half an hour to discuss the next moves. Let’s get this solved, team,” Danira grunted as she brushed past me and out of the room.
“What tapes?” I asked, and my eyebrows knitted themselves together at Ariette’s worried expression.
“Not important, let’s get you clothes,” Kalista muttered as she yanked my arm.
I stumbled behind her into the hallway.
“See ya in a few, Ekador,” Ariette hollered out as she rushed behind Kalista and me down the hallway. We darted into a room fifty feet down, on the opposite side of the hall, before either of them said a word.
“What tapes?” I rounded on the two of them with my arms crossed.
They shared a worried glance before Kalista spoke.
“The humans were flying a drone in the airspace when the monster started attacking. They have footage that shows everything… down to when you killed it. Danira just wants to study its movements, but if she watches the whole thing…” Kalista trailed off, and worry crossed her face. Of course, right when she’d seemed to agree I was on the team, here I was, about to get her in serious trouble.
“If she watches the whole tape, she’ll see that I didn’t actually kill the thing, and she’ll be pissed,” Ariette finished.
“You don’t think she would... you know...” Kalista sliced a finger across her throat as she looked at Ariette with wide eyes.
“No,” Ariette replied as she shook her head. “She wouldn’t do that. But she might kick us out of the guild, possibly banish us to Mt. Urdu--”
“You’re not helping,” Kalista muttered as she smacked Ariette’s shoulder.
“Or she might just cover his ass with us. Who knows, Kal? Danira’s so unpredictable. I hope she accepts that we found an adept and didn’t want to lose him, so we lied. Simple.”
The expression on Ariette’s face told me it was anything but simple.
“Shit, guys, I’m sorry I caused all this trouble.” I rubbed a hand through my sandy blond locks.
“You should be,” Kalista grumbled at the same time that Ariette said, “Don’t worry about it.”
Kalista’s eyes held thunder in them, but Ariette’s were soft. She rubbed my bicep with her right hand, and the spot tingled at the contact. Her blue eyes stared Kalista down until her violet ones averted to the side.
“Yeah, whatever, don’t worry about it.” Kalista shrugged as she amended her earlier statement. “We both made a choice, even if we knew it was wrong.”
After a pointed look at Ariette, Kalista spun on her heel and headed further into the room. I hadn’t even taken a moment to look at my new surroundings, so I glanced around and saw that we were in what looked like a clothing store. There were racks of shirts, pants, and jackets, as well as shelves full of boots. It wasn’t a store, though, because almost everything was identical. There was some slight variation in color and design, but I could tell the idea was for everything to blend in and have one uniform look. It kind of reminded me of a factory.
“Pick your poison, HC,” Ariette said gently beside me.
“So, I just pick which ones I like?” I had never been much for shopping, and the idea of picking out a uniform that would distinguish this new life I was leading was kind of daunting.
“More or less. You want to be comfortable, but you should also be able to move in it, fast if you need to. Sometimes we get stuck in cold weather, so try to stick with long sleeves, pants, and a jacket. It’s a lot easier to remove layers than to add, but remember, whatever outfit you choose will tell every single Fae exactly who you are before they even speak to you.”
I froze. That sounded terrifying. Did the Fae have some sort of clothing language I didn’t know about?
Ariette laughed out loud at my expression, and I realized she was joking.
“Haha, very funny,” I muttered. Then I waded into the racks of clothes, on the lookout for something I’d be comfortable dying in. There wasn’t much. After a moment, my hand landed on a piece of fabric that caught my attention. I picked up a light tan shirt, and it felt like someone had pulled a cloud from the sky and woven it into the material. The cloth stretched in my hand and molded to my skin with a soothing and cool effect.
Fae clothing was insanely awesome.
I continued my trek and added black cargo pants and a green army jacket to my pile. When I finished, I placed everything on the floor, ready to be done with my old life once and for all. Then I ripped my worn out delivery shirt off and tossed it into a nearby trash can.
I felt eyes on my bare chest, and I glanced around to catch Ariette staring unapologetically at my toned torso. I smirked a little before I turned back to the shirt. As I did, I caught Kalista behind a rack of clothing. She was also staring at me, but unlike Ariette, the dwarf-elf turned away the moment I caught her eyes.
I finished changing, added black combat boots to my ensemble, and turned back to Ariette with my hands on my hips.
“Do I look badass yet?” I smirked.
She let out a loud laugh that reminded me of music in the summertime.
“Not yet, HC, but you’re getting there.” Her eyes lit up as she looked me up and down, and I could swear she licked her lips a little.
“He needs a weapon,” Kalista said as she popped up between us and then she motioned for me to follow her.
We exited the uniform room and went through the door directly across from the hall. This was the only door I’d seen that was locked.
Of course, I only knew it was locked because Kalista had to reach one hand up to the center of the wrought iron design, where it glowed yellow before it swung backward and allowed us entry.
I had to work hard not to shit my pants when I walked in. Ariette was right behind me so it would have been a total disaster.
The room was dark, with enough light for me to make out the fact that every wall was covered in weapons. There were giant swords, huge guns, bows and arrows like the one Ariette had, spikes, staffs, and other weapons I didn’t know. The one thing they had in common was that they all looked terrifying.
I tried to cover my unease with a joke. “You guys should definitely use this as an interrogation room.”
“Oh, don’t worry, we do,” Kalista said as she ran her finger down one long blade that glowed in the light.
“So, which one do you like?” Ariette asked as she brought us back to the task at hand.
I moved to stand in front of the wall and looked over the weapons in front of me. Some of them were so tiny I was sure I could hide them anywhere, others were large and made of a beautiful gold, but each weapon sat next to magazines of dull lead bullets.
Suddenly, my vision went blurry, and one of the guns near the bottom seemed to jump out at me.
I reached toward it, not totally conscious of what I was doing. But the moment my hand wrapped around the gun, a jolt ran through the entire length of my body.
I had found my weapon.
“Okay, great, let’s go.” Kalista nearly tripped in her haste to get out of the armory.
“It’s been thirty minutes,” Ariette said in explanation of Kalista’s actions. “She thinks we’re about to get the boot.”
“What do you think?” I asked quietly.
“I think,” Ariette turned to me, and this time, I reached a hand out to her shoulder, “there’s no sense worrying until we know just what is going on.”
Moments later, the three of us entered the base room again to find Danira already there. She was at the table with Ekador, and the elf they’d been with earlier was nowhere to be found. As soon as her single black eye saw us enter, she motioned harshly for us to join her at the table.
The five of us sat in awkward silence, and I tried to push away any feeling of guilt. After all, Ariette made me come here, and I had stopped a deranged creature from killing more people, unsanctioned magic use or not.
“So ...” Danira started, and all three of our heads instantly popped up. That one black eye was fixated on me, and every cell in my body wanted to squirm and disappear under her gaze. “You killed the creature.”