Dawn found Drace flat on his back, dreaming of an extremely large panther talking to a woman, whose features he couldn’t clearly see. He got the impression she was beautiful, but it was like looking into a mist. Everything seemed vague as he walked towards her for a better look. Something buzzed his face and he tried to brush it away. He bumped his nose with the back of his hand and instantly came awake.
“Damn it all to hell!” he swore quietly and rolled up onto his knees. He cupped his nose with both hands, and gritted his teeth as pain radiated through his head. When the pain subsided, he sat back on his heels and ran his hands through his tangled hair.
The sound of water splashing made him look; he saw Pride stretched, having a leisurely piss. He became aware of the state of his own bladder and looked around for Vashti’s whereabouts. The fire was burning again with something that looked like a thick tortilla cooking on a flat rock on the
Knowing she wouldn’t leave the fire for long, he decided she was allowing him a moment of privacy. He rose to his feet, went to Pride, and put the horse between himself and the camp. Between the two of them, he thought that spot was well watered.
He led his horse to the fairy pool for a drink, and to wash his hands and face. Kneeling by the pool, he saw his reflection for the first time. He leaned forward on his knees and gasped. Whoa! he thought. The bridge of his nose was swollen and bruised; both eyes were blackened; and a nasty bruise covered one cheekbone. There was dried blood in his tangled hair and he had a days’ worth of beard stubble. He looked like the victim of a car accident. “Wow, MacKinnon. You’re lookin’ good,” he quipped.
There was a fluttering noise by his ear, which he nonchalantly swatted, thinking it was a bee or a fly. Then a small voice exclaimed, “Oh!”
Drace jerked back in surprise, twisting around to find the source of the voice, one hand on the ground for balance.
The fairy flicked quickly out of sight behind some leaves of a small bush. Drace’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “No, no, I saw and heard you.” Drace used the voice he usually used for skittish horses. Fairies… of course. I’ve already survived the panthers. At least the fairy was cute, and he hoped, harmless.
She peeked out from her leaves, shaking her tiny head.
“Now come on. I won’t hurt you,” he crooned.
She shook her head again.
She hesitantly came forward. Drace held out a large hand and she flew down, stepped onto it, and relaxed her dragonfly-like wings. She had very long black hair, and her eyes were very blue. She wore dark magenta flower petals as a dress.
“Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?” Drace whispered.
The fairy replied in a high bell like sound. Drace shook his head. “I don’t understand, sorry.”
She made the sounds again then took flight, landing on this shoulder, her wings buzzing. “Oh.” She placed one tiny hand on his bruised cheekbone and repeated, “Oh.”
“Yeah, ‘oh’ is right. Now go on. I need to get back before Vashti misses me, ok?”
The fairy nodded, chimed something else and flew off his shoulder. She stopped, seeming to have an afterthought, flew back quickly, and kissed his cheek. Waving with slender delicate fingers, she flew up and disappeared into the trees. As Drace got to his feet he heard the giggles of several small voices above him.
He waved over his shoulder as he strolled back to camp, Pride in tow.
Vashti looked up from cooking as he appeared. “Why are you smiling, my Lord? Whatever have you been doing?”
He accepted the cheese wrapped in the warm bread. “Just meeting new friends while I’m here in the twilight zone, and having my poor vanity eased,” he replied.
“I wondered how long they would leave you alone. Fairies love attractive men.”
Drace inhaled deeply through his nose, “Ouch,” he sighed at the twinge of pain. “I don’t know that I’d say I’m very attractive on my best day, let
Oh, he is very wrong, thought Vashti. He is an extremely attractive man, bruises included.