Welcome back to the dangerous world of Lunnoor. Where Lannie meets a brownie, and hates him immediately. Enjoy!
“There’s a brownie in Lord Gabriel’s tent.” Lannie plopped down on the bench beside Emmy. Her friend paused with a forkful of pancakes halfway to her mouth. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
Lannie drummed her fingers on the rough wood of the tabletop. “Nope. Lord Gabriel was wearing all of his clothes inside out and had no shoes on.”
Emmy stuffed the forkful in her mouth and glowered at the rest of the mess tent, sparsely filled with a few early morning risers. The sun had just peered over the treetops when Lannie had seen Lord Gabriel. Emmy would have laughed at the ridiculous sight. Lannie just felt sick to her stomach.
“It’s too early in the morning for this,” Emmy grumbled around another bite of pancakes.
Lannie rolled her eyes. “The sun is up, time to get to work.” She leaned around her friend to check for her bow. Good, Emmy was armed.
“Breakfast first,” Emmy said. “Want some?” She held out a plate with a few pieces of pancake drowning in maple syrup.
Lannie shook her head. “Eat fast.” They didn’t have time for this. Their only hope was that the brownie was alone. A whole family of them would drive the entire camp mad.
“Considering how fastidious he is, the brownie must have been there for a while,” Emmy said thoughtfully before taking another leisurely bite.
Lannie almost snatched the plate away from her. Could she eat any faster? “The creature has been in Lord Gabriel’s tent a month at least. He just joined camp a week ago.” That was her excuse for not noticing it until now. She had never been so close to swearing as when she had seen Lord Gabriel. Pixies, naiads, dryads, fine. She could battle them all day, warn against just obvious evils and people would listen. But brownies? Lannie scowled down at the table, scarred from countless meals.
As soon as the danger was over, she was going to strangle Lord Gabriel. She stood up. “Come on, we need to go before our whisper-spelled lord decides that a sword sticking out of him is a good fashion choice.”
Emmy shuddered, but she stood up. “Don’t make jokes like that, Lannie. It’s not funny.”
Lannie bounced from one foot to the other. Why was Emmy moving so slow? “I wasn’t joking.”
Emmy stretched, then rolled her eyes as she picked up her bow. “If you are in such a hurry, go get Lord Beldon.”
“I tried, he’s still out on guard duty.”
“This job wasn’t enough?” Emmy made a face. “That man is a glutton for punishment.”
Lannie decided not to her tell her what she thought about him.
A man with a familiar round face hustled up to clear Emmy’s plate. He beamed at the two of them even though Emmy had dripped syrup all over the table. “A brownie showed up today,” he shared cheerfully. “He is doing all the dishes for me! I haven’t had such a relaxing morning since I don’t know when.”
Emmy’s jaw dropped. Lannie almost cursed for the second time that day. “You do know what they do to human hosts.”
“Help them?” the man said hopefully, his smile fading a little.
“First, they drive them mad; second, they convince their hosts to kill themselves.”
The man leaned back, his round face looking more like a moon every second. “He would never,” he spluttered.
“We will drop by your kitchen later,” Lannie promised and led Emmy away from the still spluttering man. No matter how attached he was to it, it was a faerie bent on his destruction, and it had to go.
The sun had climbed above tree-covered hills. The new rays of the morning warmed the earth underneath it. Lannie took a deep breath of the invigorating, cool morning air. She was going to miss the foothills.
“Now we have two,” Emmy sighed as they strode in step towards Lord Gabriel’s tent. “This just isn’t my day.”
Lannie snorted. “Make it your day. Two brownies, patrol, and we have to pack. Tomorrow we break camp.”
“Glorious!” Emmy’s fist pumped the air. “Goodbye, naiad infested streams! Where are we going?”
“Two days into the plains,” The King had only just told Lannie this morning. “The Rebel has captured a strategic town.”
“He has a name you know.”
Lannie glanced at her friend. “His actions have made him unworthy of it.”
Emmy was staring at her, compassion in her eyes. But she didn’t say anything else, just squeezed Lannie’s arm.
Lord Gabriel’s tent was on the opposite side of camp from the mess tent, as well as about as far away from the King’s tent as you could possibly get. The walk gave them ample time to watch the beginnings of the breaking of camp. Boxes and barrels appeared out of nowhere to be stuffed with all the worldly possessions they had. The tents left unoccupied by the last battle would be taken down and distributed by their neighbors.
Lannie turned her head away. She had already delivered too many condolence letters. There were enough tears in her memory to drown a dryad.
There were two guards around Lord Gabriel’s tent, distinguishable even without its flag. Where had he bought such a bright orange cloth? Slouching guards with crooked helmets and half undone armor. Brownie work. One of them was eying his dagger in a way that made Lannie shiver inside.
“Pull yourselves together,” she barked. The guards just eyed her warily, until the one in the center saw her badge. Then he snapped to attention. Lannie glared at the other one until he followed suit.
“Messenger Lannie!” the one with the dagger greeted her. “Lord Gabriel is out at the moment, but I can pass along any letters.”
He sounded too cheerful for someone with bags under his eyes.
“No letters!” Emmy chirped from beside her. “We are here to fix your brownie problem!”
“We don’t have a brownie problem,” The other guard said. Then sneezed, his helmet sliding forward over his mop of curly hair. “Ever since that brownie showed up, our job has been as easy as pie!”
“You mean other than the nightmares?” Lannie asked blandly. “Or the incessant muttering in your ears that comes from nowhere and everywhere all at once?”
The guard with the dagger shifted from one foot to the other.
“I suppose you have also neglected to see Lord Gabriel’s outfit this morning.” The guards exchanged a look. “As well your friend here’s unfinished suicide note.”
The guard with the dagger blanched, though his voice was angry. “How did you know about that?”
The other guard gaped at his companion. “What?”
She hadn’t wanted to be right about that. “You have a brownie,” Lannie said, though she tried to keep her voice gentle. It didn’t work well. “The rest comes from the territory.”
“Let us do our job and your problems will be solved in no time flat!” Emmy cut in.
The guards didn’t move.
“Are you sure the brownie is the cause of our nightmares?” the guard with the dagger asked. His eyes glittered with hope. Good. A talk with the King and he would be alright.
He stepped aside. The curly haired guard grunted, but the other shot him a look, and that was the end of that.
When they stepped inside, the multiple open boxes of neatly folded clothes, as well as the made bed were just as Lannie expected them to be. Not a speck of dust anywhere inside the orange tent. Unless you counted the crumbs on the brownies face.
The fat brownie stopped stuffing a roll in his mouth just long enough to squeak in surprise before darting under the bed.
Lannie drew her dagger and marched to the far side of the bed. Emmy nocked an arrow to cover the near side. Months of working side by side took over. They didn’t need to speak to know what the other one was going to do.
Emmy nodded to Lannie. On a silent count of three Emmy strode forward while Lannie dove underneath the bed, going headfirst into a nest of thread and food. Once inside its nest, the so-far-silent-to-her whispers began. The whisper song you could barely hear, but somehow still knew the words to. A haunting lullaby begging her to listen.
Lannie ignored it and stabbed at the brownie. With a nest so close to Lord Gabriel’s head, Lannie almost felt respect for a man who had avoided insanity for so long. Almost.
The brownie’s red eyes gleamed in the darkness. It hissed and batted away her outstretched dagger.
“Get out!” she snarled. The brownie bared its pointy teeth at her. Why did all faeries have pointy teeth? Gurgling something, it took a swipe for her face. It was rewarded for its efforts with a gash on the arm.
The brownie jumped away from her dagger’s range. That point happened to be just inside the range of Emmy’s bow.
A solid thwack came from above. The gleam in the brownie’s eyes faded, and it slumped over, an arrow protruding out of its back. The whisper song ended.
Lannie wiggled out of the nest. Emmy helped her to her feet.
“Disgusting,” Lannie made a face and tried in vain to dust off the smear of frosting on her tunic. “Why anyone would want this thing in their house is beyond imagining.”
Emmy shrugged and glanced around the pristine tent. “It would be nice not to have to clean my tent.”
Lannie just stared at her. She couldn’t be serious. Under her fierce gaze Emmy threw her hands in surrender. “I was joking! You know what a joke is, right?”
“I don’t joke about stuff like this.” There was no reply.
On their way out, Lannie gave the guards instruction on how to dispose of the dead brownie. Her least favorite part; she would pull rank on it whenever she could.
“Go talk to the King right afterwards,” she added at the end. “It will help with the nightmares.”
The guard with the now-sheathed dagger nodded, his back already straighter now that the whispers had ceased.
The curly haired guards looked away from her gaze, muttering something under his breath. One dream free night and they would both thank her.
“Patrol?” Emmy asked hopefully as they walked back to the center of camp. “I think I prefer shooting naiads over brownies. They aren’t as round and furry.”
“The kitchen brownie first,” Lannie said. She was going to cut off the infestation before it started. “I’ll stick it this time though.”
Emmy sighed. “And then patrol?”
“And then patrol.”
The moral of this story being if you see a brownie, run in the opposite direction. And don’t ever, ever feed one.