I stomped down the well worn stone path. My bag and sword were heavy and hot. I was sticky and uncomfortable. The air wasn’t even cool at night.
I saw it again. The huge thing, eight feet tall, wings as wide as four men’s arms stretched tip to tip, bright glowing red eyes, he sat perched on top of something I couldn’t make out. The moonlight only illuminated his plate sized red eyes.
“Yes, I’m coming for you.” I shouted at it. It felt like the thousandth time. “I will avenge my parents. Now if you could just wait there for a few minutes and we can properly have this out.”
I didn’t bother to drop my bag or draw my sword. He’d fly off as soon as I got close. I stopped and peeled my shirt away from my skin and fanned it trying to get some air flow going. “It’s like a thousand degrees here, could you at least like flap your wings for a breeze?” At least I wasn’t wearing trousers, mom had been right about a long, light skirt being surprisingly travel friendly.
“Oh, fine.” I drew my sword and charged forward. As I neared the fence post it dove at me. I lifted the sword, aiming for the side, just damage one of his wings. He’d be down and I could fight him face to face.
I managed to connect with the edge of the leathery wing, but adding one more small cut wasn’t enough to take him down today. The force of the wind generated nearly knocked me over but I was ready this time.
After he flew away I turned to face the danger. Wherever he went, there was danger.
An old woman came out of a hut a short distance from the overly tall fence post. “You’re here to steal my son, you hussy! Well, you can’t have him!” She threw something at me. She had a great arm for an old woman. It landed near me, but didn’t hit me. I crouched down to examine it.
As soon as I did I stood up, when the jerk with the wings shows up there is danger and you run away. I turned and a rat the size of a large dog leapt at me. I swung my sword making a connection, but its hide was too thick to cut through easily.
Another came at me from the side. I swung again, connecting with its side, I knocked it away it gave a horrible squeal.
“No!” The deep bellow startled me but I managed to keep my attention on the third rat coming at me. I swung my sword aiming to hit its face with the flat side of my sword, it squealed and ran away and I turned for the next.
Except when I turned there was a man, a giant, twice as tall as me. He reached down and picked up the fourth rat pulling it out of the way of my sword. I kept going with my swing and toppled over.
A fifth rat, they seemed to run away after they were hit, managed to get its teeth into my leg. As I lifted my sword the giant lifted the rat who didn’t let go of me.
The giant held up the rat by the tail, the rat held me by the leg. I was dangling with my sword above my head, which was of course actually below me. Mom never warned me that a skirt could get in the way if I was being hung upside down by a giant holding onto a rat who was biting me.
“Go away!” The giant shook us. I clung to the sword, the rat clung to me, the giant clung to the rat.
“I’m trying to, but your friend won’t let go of me.” I shouted up to the giant.
“Mitsy, drop it!” The rat let go of me and I fell to the ground. The giant cradled the huge rat against his chest and grabbed another.
I scrambled to my feet and started to run away.
“You stay away from my baby!” The old woman yelled again.
“I’m trying to stay away!” I ran down the hill past the hut shouting. Another rat was coming after me but it stopped. I hoped it meant that the giant had grabbed his friend.
I heard a screech. I hoped it was the horrible man with the wings and not the rats.
I’d walked for weeks looking for the winged man without seeing him. Lately I’d been seeing him more than once a day. I was getting closer. I would avenge my parents. He collapsed a bridge on them.
I kept on running and stumbling forward. I finally regained my balance and put my sword away. I turned around and looked back. I could see the giant sitting on the ground with the rats climbing over him. I slowed and continued down the path.
The screech came again. I looked for the red plate sized glowing eyes. I spotted them in a dark wood to the side.
“Why can’t you ever be like in a nice warm cabin with a cozy fire?” I was hopeful that the last cut to the wing would slow him down. Maybe after all these years I was finally making progress.
He screeched again. He unfurled the huge wings. Behind him something lit up the space and I got a very good look at his wings. Over the years I’d gotten a few cuts into the rough leathery wings, so maybe it was finally making a difference.
I entered the woods and off to my left a flare of light caught my attention. A flare of fire rising up out of the ground. I stepped away but it burned for a few moments and then died down. I walked over to it and kicked at the ground. It smelled like sulfur. There were no trees or bushes growing around it.
“This is a danger I can handle. I looked around for rocks with moss on them and followed the path of them, avoiding the occasional spurts of fire.” The giant man folded his wings around him. Usually he unfurled them to take off as I got closer.
“Hey!” I figured I might as well try something different since I was this close now. I stepped around a bare sandy area and watched a rock sink in fast. “Moss good, sand bad. Check.” I kept moving toward the man slowly. “Stick around for a moment and have a chat with me.”
He seemed to be leaning against a tree. He didn’t move away. I didn’t pull my sword out, but I did keep a very close eye on where all the sandy spots were and where the ground was safely mossy. I wasn’t quite close enough to strike but the ground around me was growing and green so I stopped.
“You killed my parents. Tell me why.” I didn’t care why, I just wanted to avenge them. I watched carefully to see what he’d do. If I could get closer I could strike.
He screeched again, then he spoke. His voice was weirdly thin and reedy, it seemed like it would blow away. It didn’t fit at all with his giant size. “I don’t kill anyone or hurt anyone. I warn. Why do you chase danger?”
I frowned. “I don’t chase danger, I’m chasing you. You collapsed the bridge on my parents. Do you even remember killing them?” I struggled to remember watching the bridge that fell. My parents were in a boat below the bridge and the boat was destroyed, they weren’t able to swim out with all the debris falling around them.
“I remember. You started chasing danger that day. The only thing you’ve gotten better at is finding trouble. I didn’t do anything to them. The bridge was collapsing, I was trying to warn people away.” He unfurled his wings.
This was my last moment. I had to make a difference now. I saw the five steps that it would take to close the distance to him. I pulled out my sword and closed four of them. His wings drooped, he didn’t take off.
I closed the final step and stabbed at his torso. I was going to avenge them. The sword went in more smoothly than I expected.
He didn’t move away. He didn’t scream. He didn’t pull back. He sighed. “I told you, I warn. I’m not here to hurt you. I didn’t hurt them.”
I frowned and pulled the sword out and swung again. This time slicing at his wing. I could feel the sword as it cut through, but nothing on the wing changed. It was like I hadn’t done anything.
He sighed again. I swung over and over. At his neck, I even tried to stab at his weird giant plate eyes. Nothing mattered. “Do you feel any better?”
“Not really.” I jerked and tugged to get the sword out of the tree behind him. He just kept standing there, looking bored.
“Sometimes bad things happen. I’m there to warn people away from bad things. If you don’t take the warning I can’t help you.” He flexed his wings a bit, the edges looked exactly the same amount of frayed as they always had.
My parents, I couldn’t avenge them. I’d tried for over half my life and I couldn’t even manage to do that. I’d learned to sword fight. I’d become an expert tracker. I’d fought all kinds of crazy things. But I couldn’t fight something that wouldn’t die.
But I could try. I stepped forward and punched him. My fist connected with him, he felt like a man, my hand hurt like I’d punched a man in the jaw. He was totally unfazed. I stepped back, watching the fire spurt up beside him, running right through his wing.
“Well, what do I do now?” I put my sword away and plopped on the ground, away from the sand and sulfur smell. My life had no goal, no meaning, no aim. I hung my head defeated.
“Have you considered becoming a pirate?”