| The girl threw back her head and screamed. The sound traveled across the open field, disturbing birds that roosted in their hiding places and sending mice scampering through the grass. A small bunny twitched its nose at her in protest.
“Sorry, Hana,” the girl muttered.
You had better be, the bunny replied.
“I just can’t help it, I…” The girl plopped down on the ground and the bunny bounced onto her lap. She sighed, her hand idly stroking the furry head.
It wasn’t your fault. Big blue eyes looked up at the girl.
“That doesn’t make it right.” The girl’s voice was a soft whisper. The wind caught it and carried the words away while playfully tugging at her hair.
“Dandelien!” The shout broke the peace further.
“Not now,” the girl moaned, running her fingers through her short brown hair in an attempt to fix it.
Feet pounded against the soft earth and a man came into view. The moment he crested the hill the sky became a backdrop made just for him. The pale blue emphasized the dark tan of his skin, a white cloud sat over his head like a fluffy halo. The wind, on cue, moved his deep black hair to show off its light, smooth texture. He seemed to control the environment the same way he commanded people: completely and without question.
Dandelien stood up, Hana clutched in her arms.
“Luke.” As the name left her lips it became a symphony to him. Luke’s full lips stretched in a grin. The expression looked unnatural on his face.
“You’ve been out here for hours,” he said. His eyes sparked with aversion when he saw the feathery white mass in her arms. “Oh, hello Hana. Up to your old slander again? I haven’t seen you much lately, not since…” he trailed off. Even Luke lacked the courage to speak about what had passed.
Humans can be so annoying, the thought had an edge of anger to it.
“I heard that,” Luke crossed his arms and glared at the rabbit.
Hana’s mouth scrunched up in a rabbity frown. Tell him to go away, Dandelien.
“I couldn’t do that!” she gasped, casting a horrified look at Hana.
“What? What did she say?” Luke demanded.
His nose is too big. Tell him he’s ugly by rabbit standards.
His perfectly trimmed eyebrows pulled down in frustration. “Damn you and your rabbit.” The expression of anger fit his face much better than the smile. He turned and walked away. The sunlight followed him like a divine trail.
“Do you think he caught that?” Dandelien bit into her lower lip.
Never can tell with Luke.
“Wait!” Dandelien called after him. “Is Blue back yet?”
He stopped and half-turned. “No. Nalita,” he said the name with a familiar fondness that sent a spike of envy through Dandelien, “brought back his sword. It said he would be out until morning.”
“I’ll be back in a little bit,” Dandelien called, her eyes fixed on the ground. The sound of footsteps resumed, announcing his leaving.
“You’re not human, you don’t understand.” Dandelien sat back down and settled Hana beside her.
I understand well enough. And I don’t approve.
Dandelien buried her face in the soft fur. “He’s a prince. What’s there to disapprove of?”
He’s arrogant. He would never have talked to you before the Occurrence.
Dandelien set her jaw stubbornly. “You didn’t talk to me before then either.”
Hana’s eyes fixed on her with scorn. Humans.
Dandelien laughed and stood up, brushing the grass off her pants. “Let’s take a walk before we go back.”
Only a human could walk for fun.
Blue ran a finger along the cold blade of the dagger in his hand. He liked the heartless steel, the feel of power in his hands, how it rent open flesh and spilt blood. A smile as cold as the weapon he carried flickered over his face.
There were people on the other side of the stunted bush. He could hear their voices clearly in the still evening.
“All I’ma sayin’ is that the mission is crazy. I ain’t bashing our lordship, just this goose chase he up an’ send us on.”
“I don’t know, Tom. Orders is orders. Bad business, doubting orders.”
Blue crept closer. There was a rustle as one of the men moved.
“We’ve been chasing these folks for days now, and what’ve we got to show for it? Noth-” Tom was shocked to discover a dagger sticking through his throat. The other guard was horrified when Tom toppled over, dead. He joined Tom before he could reach his weapon.
Blue stood over the corpses, bloodlust gleaming in his eyes.
“Two down, ten to go,” he said cheerily as he wiped the mess off his dagger and set out again. He would have to be quick in order to finish his work by morning. It wouldn’t do to have the lord’s guards following them.
The ends do not justify the means, the thought was faint with the strain of distance.
“Shut up!” He snapped. It was galling that the thing could hear not only his words, but his thoughts as well, even when it was far away. Stupid sword. He would find a way to get rid of it first chance he had.
Your conscience is always watching.
“I said shut up! You’re not my freakin’ conscience, Tor!”
I never said I was.
Something smacked him on the back of the head, hard. His talking must have given away his position, damn it all.
You should purge yourself of such vulgar language.
“Shut the hell up or I’ll throw you down a pit!” He shouted while ducking down and whirling in one smooth motion.
The guard, sword poised to strike, was looking at him as if he’d lost his mind. The sword came down, but it was a fraction too slow. Blue tumbled to the side, planted a hand on the ground, then launched himself at the guard’s legs.
His dagger cut a gash in the back of the guard’s leg, hamstringing him. The guard had been bringing the sword around for another blow, but it went wild as he tumbled to the ground with a pained scream. Blue pinned the sword to the ground with his elbow. He hated swords. His dagger slipped through the full plate armor into the guard’s midsection. It met skin, then blood. The guard made an attempt to free his weapon. The dagger bit deeper. With one last gurgling breath the guard died.
Blue collapsed back, panting for breath. His eyes rapidly scanned the foliage for a second threat. Nothing.
Breathing easier now, Blue realized that his head hurt. He gingerly pressed fingers to the back of his skull to check for blood. He must have been hit by something blunt because all he felt was a large bump.
You should be more careful.
Blue scowled, grumbling as he scrambled to his feet. Three down, nine to go.
It was dark by the time Dandelien got back to camp, Hana hopping in her wake. A fire, kept small so that it wouldn’t be noticed, cast its measly light over the enclosure.
“Hello, Luke,” she said with a bright smile. He didn’t bother to look up from the axe he was polishing. “Hey, Nalita,” she added reluctantly.
The woman was leaning over the fire stirring a pot of stew. Long blond hair hung loose over her shoulders. Dandelien hoped a strand would fall too low and catch fire.
“Velcome dack, Fanfelieen,” Nalita replied in her oddly musical voice.
You forgot about me. Dandelien smiled and turned to the sword lying on the ground near Nalita.
“Hello, Tor. How’s Blue doing?”
Immoral as ever. He got a konk on the head, but he’s all right.
“Musz Blue ze guarfs killing?” Nalita inquired.
“Yes.” Luke tilted his axe to see the light from the fire dance over it. “We wouldn’t want to be hit from behind.”
“You so smarz,” Nalita said with admiration. Hana radiated disdain.
“Of course.” Luke was clearly smug as he stuffed his tools back in his pack.
I’m hungry, Hana complained.
“When will the stew be ready?” The question came out sharper than Dandelien had meant it to be. It wasn’t her fault she didn’t like Nalita. She simply couldn’t get along with someone who….Dandelien couldn’t pinpoint exactly why she didn’t like her, but there was a very good reason for it. Maybe it was that annoying way she talked.
Hana laughed in her mind. Dandelien blushed.
“Soon,” Nalita told her with an ever-happy smile.
“Should I wake up Ragnick when it’s ready?” Dandelien asked Luke.
You’re being pathetic. Dandelien’s blush deepened.
“No, I’m not dealing with that idiot tonight,” he replied.
Idiot? He may smell like onions, but at least he has some common sense. Unlike-
“Be nice,” Dandelien scolded.
“That stupid rabbit of yours better not be talking about me,” Luke growled.
“Don’t be silly, Hana adores you!”
“I can hear her sometimes, too.”
Dandelien pushed a clod of dirt with her toe.
Hearing snippets of thoughts every once in a while is hardly what I’d call a talent.
“And what have you done for this group, rabbit?” Luke protested, “Tor can talk to others when he wishes, but the only one you can talk to is Dandelien. Oh, but I’m forgetting. You can stop attackers with your incredible cuteness!”
Do not call me cute! You’re the one who lost the Crown Jewel!
Dandelien drew in a sharp breath. The Jewel was a touchy subject with Luke.
“What’s the bunny saying?” His pearly white teeth showed as he snarled. Relief swamped Dandelien. He hadn’t heard.
“She’s apologizing for the insult,” she lied.
“Good.” Satisfied, Luke lost interest and went to talk to Nalita. Dandelien settled back in her spot and tried to ignore Hana’s angry shouts.