Welcome to the third installation of Charlotte’s feature week! Today we have a short story from the Draykon Universe, featuring (of-course), Rikbeek the oh-so-stylin’ Gwaystrel!
Be sure to check out the other feature posts from this week; you’ll find them all at the bottom of this post!
Rikbeek Earns His Keep
The gwaystrel hung, upside down, in the folds of a voluminous skirt. With his webby wings clamped firmly around his furred body and all sounds muffled by the thick fabrics that surrounded him, he existed in a state of perfect repose, quite ready for sleep.
Until his host giant’s body shifted and began to descend in a manner that he recognised. The too-tall was sitting down.
A flash of brief panic. Which side am I on? Front or back? If too close to the rear side this fourteen-wing-spans-tall monstrosity will adhere me to the – a quick swivel of the head – hard surface rapidly approaching – evacuate –
The gwaystrel twisted his small body, opened his wings and darted out and away, just as the host giant merged its lumbering body with the thing it thought of as a chair.
Spitting with indignation, the gwaystrel circled the giant’s head, dragging his claws through her no-colour hair to pull strands of it loose. The host always hated that.
She made a noise of protest and swatted him away. Her mind touched his with a brief note of apology for almost sitting on him.
He ignored that. Swooping at the hand that tried to banish him, he bared his small but well-sharpened teeth and bit.
‘Eeaw,’ the giant said, or something of that sort. ‘Rikbeek!’
Rik-beek. He often heard those sounds, usually spoken in a manner rich with annoyance. Rik-beek. If it was supposed to be a name, it was a stupid one.
But at least her blood tasted good. He sampled a bit more, enjoying the musicality of her voice when she swore at him again. He’d chosen this particular too-tall because she smelled good, tasted good and sounded good. And she had such a succession of visitors; their blood never tasted as good as hers, but the flavours were varied and interesting. It was an endlessly renewing banquet, all for him.
A babble of sounds interrupted his reflections, rending his delicate ears. Testing the confines of his surroundings, he found that he was in a space, one of those too-big ones with a top on it. No access to sky. Many more too-talls streamed in, turning themselves into giants with chairs stuck on the back as his host had done. They brayed like worvilloes, their horrible sounds merging into an appalling cacophony that echoed painfully in his ears.
Meeting, his own too-tall told him in the silent way. Government.
Meeting-Government, he thought resentfully. Crush and noise. Babbling echoes. Mess of smells, danger of death. Stupid meeting. Stupid Government.
His too-tall host showed no signs of moving, so he flew up, over the heads of the babbling worvillo-imitators. A familiar whiff of scent reached him as he flew; he surveyed its source. Height: taller than the host giant, fifteen-and-one-half wing spans. This dark figure smelled of moonglow; his sounds were Ang-Strun.
This one had good blood too. The gwaystrel tasted it on his way past, nimbly dodged the resulting blow and hurled himself at the exit.
He passed through several rooms beyond, all full of too-talls, all reverberating with too much noise. Points of light streaked past his vision, searing his tiny, sensitive eyes. He careened onward, his mind a panicked blur of chaotic noise and lights and smells, until at last he reached somewhere new and everything faded into tranquillity.
This space was better.
Quiet. Dark. Not the thin stuff but real dark darkness, quiet quietness. Sleep!
He circled the room, seeking a suitable roost. His senses mapped the shapes of two too-talls lying horizontal on the floor.
Sleeping? This must be the sleeping-place.
Only the layout did not match his notion of the generality of too-tall sleeping places. There were no beds, no blankets. But there were desks, as big as the one his host giant used. More of the chair-things crouched behind them.
No matter. Suitable quiet-dark. Sleep.
He settled, snapping his wings shut around himself. Consciousness faded gradually…
Light seared through the comfortable cocoon of his webbed wings, hauling him out of slumber. He opened his wings and launched himself into the air, screaming his rage, arrowing at the source of the disturbance. He threw sounds at the thing, his large ears swivelling to catch the echoes. His mind built a picture of a too-tall, bending over the desk-thing. This one was careful in its movements, stealthy.
Doesn’t want to be discovered.
The intruder prowled through the contents of the desk, opening things and picking up pale, flat objects that rustled when they brushed against each other. Paper. The too-tall kept lifting its head, so its eyes would see if either of the two sleeping giants should wake. It had a nasty ball of light hovering near its face.
None of these activities justified the interruption.
Ruined my sleep. Stupid too-tall, too-fat, too-loud and too-bright.
The gwaystrel flew at the figure, teeth ready. He pierced the skin and blood flowed into his mouth.
Eurch. Tastes like crap.
He bit again anyway. He was hungry, now that he thought about it, and he might as well be recompensed for the loss of slumber. The too-tall ducked and moved away from the desk, flapping its hands at the gwaystrel. After another few bites the intruder began to make the harsh noises that indicated displeasure.
Good, he thought, and bit some more.
Rikbeek?His distant host giant’s words came to him in the silent way. He replied with fury, hurling at her an image of the skulking too-fat that had destroyed his rest.
He felt her approval before she withdrew. She applauded his torment? Betrayal! He would bite her extra hard when he saw her again.
In the meantime, this one had plenty of flesh left to puncture.
He drove the intruder before him, relishing the lumbering thing’s attempts to drive him off. But his entertainment was short-lived; several more giant-ones spilled into the room, his own nice-smelling host giant among them. They stopped and made some startled noises.
‘I don’t see anyone,’ said one of them.
‘Follow the gwaystrel, gentlemen,’ his host-giant replied. Rik-Beek had time for one last dive, one last bite, before the skulking one was grabbed and hauled away.
‘A spy,’ said one, shaking the intruder. ‘From?’
If the giant expected an answer, he didn’t get one. The skulker blessed the gwaystrel’s ears with beautiful silence.
‘Vale will get it out of you,’ the giant said. He sounded happy about it.
Rik-Beek hoped that this “getting it out of him” would hurt.
Some of the giants folded themselves over, peering at the horizontal ones. ‘One’s drugged,’ said one. ‘Other’s knocked out.’
This prompted some head-shaking and more of the harsh words. Then the talkative giant looked at his host.
‘Good work, Lady Glostrum. But, um, how did you know he was here?’
Glos-Trum. Yes, those were the sounds that went with his too-tall.
If that was a name, it was stupid too.
‘I had some help,’ she replied, pointing at him. Heads turned and bright eyes settled on the gwaystrel.
‘You wouldn’t care to sell him, I suppose?’
Sell. He knew that word. It meant to send something (him) away, replacing him with something more desirable (something that clinked and shone and that all the giants loved) in return.
Sell me? Sell me to some too-fat, too-stupid? He dived at her head.
‘No,’ she said to the other giant with a trace of regret. ‘I don’t think so.’
Rik-Beek bit her anyway.
If you’d like to read more short-stories from the Draykon Universe you can find ‘Leximandra Reports, and other tales’ by Charlotte E. English FREE on Amazon
, Barnes & Noble
and Kobo Books
The schedule for this featured author week is as follows:
The Ebook Apothecary
28th: Short story by Charlotte E. English
30th: Review of Orlind