Hubby vs. Wifey Post #1: An elf and a dragon
Today on Hubby vs. Wifey Writing Prompts, we decided to stretch ourselves and write using each other's styles. If you haven't read previous posts, my style is very character-focused and descriptive, and his is action-focused and lore-filled.
Here's the picture we chose (from my Pinterest board this time), and below are our speed-writes. Let us know who you think won in the comments!
The minotaur’s roar echoed through the underground chamber, making stones rattle and fall from the ceiling two stories up. Axon flinched and gritted his teeth. It was getting closer, then. He’d be able to smell its stench before too long. He gripped his hammer pike and felt the split on his middle knuckles crack a little farther, spilling a drop of blood onto the water through which he trudged. His legs ached with small shoots of pain every now and then when he made a stuttering step against fallen stone on the floor of the flooded chamber.
Cursed beast.He spat into the water and listened once more until he heard another, closer roar, and headed to his right in a fork in the way. This chamber was darker. He pried one hand from his hammer and snapped his stiff fingers once, then twice, and finally, the flame perked up. He tossed it gently into the air, and it hovered over him in a small ball of flame that lit the way several yards ahead, sending skittering shadows across the moldy walls. The water shadows made eerie ringlets and ripples on the stone.
Axon was not to be distracted by such illusions, however. He picked up the pace despite the protests of his weary legs. This minotaur was destined to die by his hand. After the battle it had waged against the people of his town above them, he was not to be dissuaded from chasing it to its death – especially not by mere fatigue.
Bah!The way forked again. He stopped and listened intently, flicking more blood from his knuckles into the water.
The distant roar was farther this time, and to the east. He frowned. Had he taken the wrong way after all? He was about to turn around when he saw light shining on the water up ahead. Blue light.
Torn, he stood motionless for a moment. Not hearing the beast’s bellow, he decided to investigate – quickly.
As quietly as possible, he edged his way along the wall until he reached the opening from whence the blue light came. Holding his breath, he peeked around the doorway.
What he saw changed everything, though he didn’t know it then.
A woman, and more specifically, an elf woman, stood waist-deep in the water in the middle of the spacious room. Her damp, black hair hung to her lower back, and a thorny headdress ran from her forehead down the back of her head, about the length of her pointed ears. A gem dangled onto her forehead, which was bent down, studying the dragon, which she was holding close to her serious face.
Axon’s jaw dropped.
That’s where the light emanated from – the aquamarine dragon, the dragon that had curled its tail ‘round her forearm and was staring straight into the woman’s inscrutable eyes.
How long the three stood there, Axon couldn’t tell. The smooth blankness of his mind was stirred up once more by the roar of the minotaur, much closer this time. He had not misjudged the way after all. The woman and dragon turned as one to look at the doorway, and the intensity of their gaze took Axon’s breath away.
He whirled around, clutching his hammer.
The minotaur charged around the corner, howling. Its horns glinted like ebony in the flame’s weak light, and its human hands reached horrid claws out as if to take Axon in their grip and crush him.
Axon gave a battle cry and sprang through the water, his legs leaping high to take the most ground. He felt the eyes of the woman on his back, and somehow, that gave his exhausted bones strength they hadn’t felt in two days. As he and the beast drew near one another, he drew back his hammer, and swung a calculated swing at the minotaur’s thighs. Ducking to avoid the clawed hands, he felt the hammer connect with a nasty crack as the handle jarred in his grip. The force of the connection vibrated his very teeth, and he chomped down to keep from biting his tongue.
The bellow of the minotaur was terrible indeed. It swung again in rage, and this time Axon stumbled in the water as he tried to dodge. The claws from one hand caught his head and raked a crooked slash across his temple and scalp. It burned, and he couldn’t help but grunt from the sudden pain. He pushed back the blood that wanted to run into his face and came up behind the beast, pulling his hammer back for another blow.
Turning suddenly, the minotaur faced him with bared teeth and swung its horns at his torso, reaching out with its awful hands at the same time. Axon stepped back and tripped, but as he fell backwards into the water, he brought his hammer down on the minotaur’s skull. As he emerged, spitting murky water through his teeth, he saw claws coming at his face. He elected to submerge instantly, which confused the beast and gave him time to come up again, closer this time. His wet clothes weighing him down, he burst up through the water, pulling his hammer up as he went. This time, he got a real swing in, and the pike side of his hammer shone in the flaming light just before it sunk into the minotaur’s side.
Axon yanked the pike out and submerged once more, coming up this time behind the bellowing, frenzied beast.
There – a ledge. He pulled himself up as the minotaur looked frantically around for him, holding its sides, its eyes red with bloodlust.
He jumped and swung down with all his might. The pike hit its mark in the top of the minotaur’s skull. He launched himself off the beast’s back and scrambled back through the water as it fell into the water.
Half-submerged, Axon waited for a moment, then two, then three. The ripples in the water dissipated and were still. A red thread joined the murky surface water.
It was over then.
He stood slowly, feeling every ache and wincing with the searing pain on the side of his head.
Then he turned.
They were still there – the woman and the dragon, watching him rise.
They were gone.
Arden slid on his belly under the bed and got nose to nose with Karola. “Careful. Father’s home and he smells like ale again.” He pulled himself back out and disappeared around a corner with quick, pattering feet bare against the stained wooden floor. Mila tugged on Karola’s sleeve. Her huge, innocent eyes were asking what her voice could not.
“It’s ok, Mila,” Karola whispered reassuringly, “I got enough today for both of us, so I don’t think he’ll be angry tonight.” She patted Mila gently on the top of her head. “We should get to the meeting room. Do you have yours?” Mila tugged at a small coinpurse under her ragged dress. “Good, let’s go.”
Karola crawled out from under the small cot and helped Mila to her feet. The two ran off down the hall and into the large chamber at the end where a number of other young boys and girls were already gathered. One by one they stood in front of a rotund man with a balding head and unkempt beard. Gorruph, or Father as the children called him, was an angry dwarf who ran this orphanage. He had a tendency to spend stay out during the day and come back at night drunk.
Karola spotted Arden’s messy, dirty-blonde hair near the front of the line and waited nervously for father’s verdict on his offering. The children all had similar coinpurses to Mila and would show the contents of each to the man at the end of each day. Arden had a good crying face and was able to get quite a few people to give him money, especially near the schooling district. If father was happy with Arden’s offering, it usually put him in a good mood by the time Karola and Mila’s turn arrived.
“Bah!, What’s this?!” Gorruph backhanded Arden across the face and sent him to his knees. “Four coppers? You been takin’ the rest for yer self, ye little rat?” He went to swing at Arden again, but Jessup jumped in the way and caught Gorruph’s blow with his midsection.
“There was no one in his square today, Sir.” Jessup held tight to Gorruph’s hairy arm. “It was raining hard and he was all alone when I made my rounds to…”
“Shut it, whelp. No one asked you.” Gorruph shoved Jessup aside. Grunting to himself, Gorruph continued with the children’s offerings.
Jessup offered Arden a hand, but Arden stood up defiantly on his own, wiped the corner of his mouth and scurried past Gorruph who was busy counting coin from the next child. Karola and Mila took one step closer. “Quick, take a few of my coins,” Karola said hastily in hushed tones. She and Mila opened their sacks and Karola tried to split what she had earned that day between them.
There was a loud cough behind Karola. She turned timidly to see Gorruph staring coldly down at them. “What’s this then?” he asked accusingly.
Karola tried to explain, but her voice was shaky. “Please, Sir. I…she, Mila didn’t get much today. The markets were empty and…”
“More blasted excuses, eh?” Gorruph interrupted throwing his head back in disgust. “I’ve about had enough of you,” he reached out and grabbed Mila by the shoulders and pulled her in taking a look at her coinpurse. Karola tried to hold Mila back, but wasn’t strong enough and was knocked aside. “It’s been almost a week since you’ve brought in more than one silver,” he continued. Mila’s face turned up as the foul odor of his ale breath swept across her face.
“Let her go!” Karola shouted with all the strength she could gather. “She can’t talk! It’s not her fault she…”
“She can’t talk,” Gorruph repeated mockingly. “Probably why she was abandoned in the first place.” He shoved her aside too. Mila’s small form fell clumsily to the ground.
Karola screamed and tried to slap at Gorruph, but he caught her arm and wrenched it to the side. “And you,” he pulled in close, “you half-breed with your pointed ears. Some kind of half-blood, elf freak. No wonder you’re in here with no family, eh? Your dad probably executed for mixing blood with the old race and your mum sent back home in chains?”
Karola kicked furiously and caught Gorruph in the shin just below the knee. He sword loudly and hopped on the other leg a few times. “Why you piece of…” He bent down and pulled up Mila by the hair. “I’ve had enough of you two causing trouble. And not bringing in your share of the coin neither. We’ll see about that then.”
Gorruph dragged the two girls to the front entrance. “The rest of you lot, get to bed!” he shouted back over his shoulder. Just before slamming the door on his way out he added, “You can eat in the morning.”
The day was finished and very few people were in the streets. In this part of the city, the only people that were out were either too eager to get home to bother with a drunk and two yelling girls. Gorruph took Karola and Mila two blocks down the road and into a narrow alleyway behind a old, run down storehouse. He approached a dried up well and pulled both the girls to their feet.
“Slacking on the job, will ya?” He said to Mila before turning to Karola. “And take a swing at me, eh? Well then, take a night in the wishing well and see if that don’t clear things up for ya. You’re lucky to have a roof, ya brats. Now learn to behave!” With that, Gorruph threw both the girls down the shallow, dried up well.
However, as they hit the bottom some eight feet down, the ground cracked and gave way beneath them. Both girls fell another ten feet and into an underground river. Karola could barely swim, but she knew Mila couldn’t. Doing her best to keep her head above water, Karola turned round frantically looking for any sign of Mila. There, just a few feet ahead, Karola could see Mila face down in the water drifting away in the slowly building current. With all her might, Karola swam forward and caught the edge of Mila’s dress, pulling her in. Karola turned Mila over and kept her face and mouth clear.
Just then Karola and Mila hit a rock and were separated. Before Karola could close the distance, the small stream separated into two directions each one leading down a different cavern. The stream turned into a small rapid that lead into complete darkness. Karola spit and sputtered trying to keep her head out of the water but constantly being spun around and flipped and dunked without warning.
Karola’s limbs were starting to fatigue. Just as she was about to lose hope, the water calmed and seemed to slow. Karola drifted on her back for some time, completely exhausted. She couldn’t stop thinking and worrying about Mila. Where was she now? Was she alright? Had she…
Karola didn’t want to think about it, but couldn’t help it. Here in the dark, that was the only thing that filled her mind. She continued to drift and worry occasionally reaching up absentmindedly at some of the rock formations on the ceiling. Then she realized, this far underground, she shouldn’t be able to see anything at all. She righted herself in the water to find she could stand. The water had shallowed to only a foot and she seemed to be near a kind of shoreline.
Sitting on an elevated rock near the water’s edge was the source of the faint light that filled this little cave. A tiny, lizard-like creature sat curled around itself. It had a frilled head and was glowing with a dull, blue light. It was staring directly at Karola, its head tilted slightly to the side. It didn’t seem at all bothered by her sudden appearance, but rather seemed curious.
Forgetting about how things were for a moment, Karola took a step closer to the creature, and another step until she was just out of arm’s reach. They stared at each other for almost a minute before Karola, completely in awe at the sight of this wonderful little creature, stretched out a hand toward it.
There was a voice in her head. It didn’t come from anywhere, it simply was.
“We don’t like that,” it said.
Karola pulled her hand back and looked around for the source of the voice. Again she heard it, or rather, perceived it. “I’m here.”
Somehow, without a direction from which the voice originated, Karola could feel the source from beside her; from the little creature. Karola stared, her wonder renewed.
“What are you?” she asked, though she couldn’t tell if it was out loud or in her head.
“Fey,” it replied. The creature’s head tilted the other way but stayed fixed on Karola.
“Fey, like farie-kind?”
“Something like that.”
“I thought faries were just stories.”
“Some are,” it replied, “some are not. We are not. We are fey. Who are you?”
“My name is Karola.”
“And who is the other?”
Then recent events came flooding back into Karola’s mind. Her thoughts started crashing around her like the rapids. Questions, doubts, fear, anger, worry, grief all rushed at her at once. She felt her chest begin to tighten and the emotions tightened around her mind.
Click, click, click.
Something like a tongue snapping in a beak entered her mind and cut through the wall of emotions. Her vision cleared and she saw again the small creature staring at her. “Who is the other?” it repeated.
“Mila, her name is Mila. I lost her in the rapids. I have to find her and make sure she’s alright. I can’t…”
Click, click, click.
The fey turned its head to the side for a moment looking off into the distance. Karola too turned and for the first time saw where she was now that her eyes had adjusted to the darkness and the dim light from the creature. The walls around her were not like that of a cave, they were carved and intricately designed. There were pillars holding up the ceiling with other fey creatures carved into them near the tops. She was in what appeared to be the ruins of some ancient, subterranean castle. She had lived in the city all her life, but she had never heard of another city underneath it.
The fey turned again and faced Karola. “The Mila is. Not was. She is fine. She is with us.”
Karola felt a twinge of excitement. “She’s alright?! But, where is she exactly? Who are you?”
“We are the fey.”
Karola was having a hard time understanding what this fey creature meant. “Can I see her?” she asked excitedly?
“Do you wish to?” the creature again cocked its head.
Caves rush past. Tunnels twist and turn. Shallow water laps against the ground. A small girl lies in the water. She is breathing. She opens her eyes.
Karola’s senses returned to her and she stumbled to her knees in the water. The fey stuck out a leg and licked its foot. “What just happened?” Karola was trying to catch her breath.
“You wished. You saw.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Fey can use wishing-magic. We wish. We will. We are.”
“But I am not fey; how did I see her?”
Again, Karola was pulled from herself, but not far. She entered the eyes of the fey before her and saw a tall, elven woman with long, dark hair and pointed ears. A crest was on her head and a familial sign tattooed on her shoulder; the sign of the fey. It was then that Karola realized she was looking at herself. Her perception rotated from the fey back to her own view. Somehow, she could now see herself as the fey saw her. “What am I?”
The fey dropped into the water and swam toward Karola. She reached into the water and lifted it toward her face. It leaned in and in her head whispered, “Do you wish to know?”
Karola closed her eyes. “Show me.”
Karola saw her past, her future. She saw Mila, an adult, a warrior, a hero. She saw Arden, a knight, valiant. She saw demons, angels, fire, castles, and clouds. She saw herself sitting on a high throne above a kingdom. She saw a fey the size of a war horse at her side curled around her. She saw what was and what would be. She saw herself for who she truly was. Not an orphan.
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