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08 November 2008 @ 11:38 pm
NaNoWriMo Entry: 04  

Chapter Three: Pride and Maybe Prejudice

“This is ridiculous!” Elsith exclaimed a day later as they bolted from the massive swarm of locusts on their trail. The mass buzzed angrily behind them like a particularly thick and raging cloud, ignoring everything in its path to get to them. It blotted out the sun when it passed overhead, until Abe went straight for their center and distracted them from advancing, that one crucial second. “We are not plants! Why are they chasing after us and why are they eating meat?!”

“Just keep on running, you stupid donkey!” the little ghost brat yelled out, prompting an enraged protest from Elsith and a quick warning from the mage. Elsith risked a look behind him to see how far the locusts were and to check where the rest of his companions had run off to. Kalien was galloping next to him, Watanuki thrown over the front of his saddle. The boy’s horse was quickly being consumed somewhere behind them. It did nothing to stop the rest of the swarm from advancing and catching up to its targets.

There was a cry from behind – Stormbringer, the foolish magician, was struggling to control the horses. Elsith adjusted his pace to come up next to the damn beasts and nudged them back on course, forcing them to gallop straight as Abe urged them to keep from veering to the left from the other side. Later on, he would admit to the dead boy having his uses despite being a ghost. For now, Elsith had to deal with the three of them being at the tail end of the group and quickly being overtaken by the locusts.

“Control these horses!” Cairre instructed as he did something that redefined all that Elsith thought was reckless: he stood up in his seat and dived for the back part of the cart, holding on to a rattling jar of grains to steady himself.

“Cairre!” Abe shouted. “What the hell?!”

“You are an idiot! Return to your seat immediately!” Elsith ordered, before he remembered who owned who. Still, angry outbursts in times like these were perfectly justified. After all, the man was going to break his neck and they had barely started this quest.

It was then that the magician uttered three words, voice inhuman and terrifying, like large snakes or perhaps vultures, and the whole swarm exploded into flames, scattering the burning bodies of the insects over their heads and sending the horses into panic. Kalien was at the ghost’s side of the cart in an instant, grabbing a hold of the reins even as Elsith struggled to keep them from veering too far into his side of the path. A rock ricocheted from one of the wheels and caught him at the hip, drawing blood. Watanuki was screaming something, but the princes were too busy trying to bring the horse down to a slower speed to listen. Above them, the locusts continued to burn.

------

He wondered, as they were making a tally of the damages done to their provisions and letting the horses rest, how Cairre had that sort of magic. Most magicians learned practical abilities – building fire, summoning water, growing plants, lighting paths, healing wounds, calling for help – but that was definitely not like any cooking fire he had ever seen. It had the strength to burn a forest down, or perhaps exterminate a small village. Elsith himself was unable to use magic – rather unfortunately, he had been born incapable of it, and could only grow up refining his combative and academic abilities – but he had obsessed about it enough to know when something was of a different level than usual if he saw it.

“Your highness,” the magician of his suspicions spoke up, approaching him carefully, slowly, with a clean, damp rag held out in a hand. “Please let me look at your wound.”

He snorted and turned his head to look at the cut. It stung, but Elsith was a hardened soldier despite his upbringing, and this was nothing compared to some of the injuries that he had suffered before. That the magician thought it would bother him insulted him a little. “Don’t you have healing spells?” he asked instead, eyeing the rag. “No matter. Kalien will take care of it later.”

“I apologize,” Cairre said, voice a little thick and Elsith ignored the paleness about his features. “I did not learn much of healing spells from my late master, and my specialty in that field lay in those used to undo magical damage. I’m afraid I might make it worse, if I tried.”

Elsith did not particularly want to hear his explanation and told him so, dismissing him with a toss of his head. Cairre obliged and left him to join the baby ghost by the carts again.

Kalien was still busy apologizing to the young Watanuki – the boy had gotten a shock from being manhandled, perhaps, and was now throwing the remains of his breakfast up on the charred grass. Elsith snorted and busied himself with the business of trying to shake off the ash from his hide. If there was one thing he hated more than being injured, it was being unnecessarily filthy.

It was then that something fell, screaming, from the sky, and landed right on top of his back with a heavy thud.

“Oof!” Elsith grunted the same time the something started fussing up a storm of angry cusses. Instinct dictated that he should rear up and throw the dirty-mouthed intruder off of him. He had always been one to follow his instincts, so he did.

“Ow!” the thing shrieked. And then: “Stupid horse!”

“How dare you!” Elsith said automatically, indignation getting the better of his shock. He recognized the bundle of limbs as a human girl. “You drop on me and then call me stupid? Foolish girl!” He stamped a hoof near the girl’s head and snorted hot air into her face. She abruptly punched him on the snout.

Elsith reared back and whinnied, too surprised by the gall of the girl to grind her skull to dust. She had pulled out two metal things from her sides and were just about to point them at him when Kalien, his dear brother, reached for both her wrists and pulled her up from the ground.

“Get the guns!” the baby ghost was saying, and Watanuki seemed to be in a panic trying to get her to let go of her strange weapons. Cairre did the useful thing and pried them off her fingers, getting kicked at the side a few times for his efforts.

“Lemme go!” she was yelling, and kicked everyone within kicking distance. Elsith stepped back and glowered at her.

“Silence!” he commanded.

The girl spat at him.

In retrospect, Elsith should have known better than to be angry enough to attack the girl. And then no one would have had to throw themselves at him, filthy arms wrapped around his neck, and then he wouldn’t be suffering from anger, rage so hot it burned at him. His father had always said that his pride was bigger than Autopia itself; an exaggeration, he was sure, but not a very inaccurate one.

Still, the burning humiliation of feeling himself tied down to a tree was something that he would never get over, possibly at least not in this life time.

“Are you calm now?” Cairre was asking over the mist of red over his eyes. Elsith ignored him in favor of pawing in agitation at the ground. Some distance away, his brother, the ghost, and the other boy were talking to the girl, assumedly about the quest and the wish.

“Elsith.”

“Do not call me by name, plebian,” he snapped without thinking. “You may call me Your Highness.”

Cairre shrugged a shoulder and picked up a rag. “Yes, of course.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded when he noticed that the magician had taken to rubbing him down with the rag. He couldn’t have moved if he wanted to, the rope around his neck too short to grant him much in terms of mobility.

“Cleaning you up. You have ashes all over.”

Elsith peered at him from an eye. “Ah.”

“Brother!” Kalien was cheerfully making his way over, accompanied by the three people from the other worlds. Elsith eyed the girl – sort of short, with reddish hair, and marks on her arms. She was wearing what Elsith understood to be cut off versions of underpants, though he wasn’t exactly sure of the material of the rather short trousers. At least Watanuki’s clothes, while simple, seemed tasteful. He had called it a school uniform. Was this also her uniform? There was a leather belt passing around her waist, the metal weapons back in their sheaths.

“This is Rebi, brother! She comes from the witch.”

“Thrilled,” he replied dryly, kicking up dirt and towering over her with his height.

She bared her fangs at him, and pointed a finger at his face. “I’m not gonna take your shit, ya hear me? If it ain’t for that stupid wish, I wouldn’t help ya or your lot!”

Elsith only managed to restrain himself from biting her finger off with the thought that it would not only taste bad, but would probably have a multitude of peasant germs on it. Instead, he glowered for Watanuki to take her away and glared for Cairre to release him from the offending tree.

------

The arrival of the girl did change their little cliques when they got back to traveling. Watanuki, having lost his horse, had to sit with Cairre in the cart. Rebi, the uncouth, appallingly dressed young woman, also sat in the cart. This seemed to make the baby ghost feel crowded, because he took to floating along Kalien’s other side as the two princes took the lead. Behind them, Rebi and Watanuki were arguing up a storm, something about a place called Japan and the quality of their men and drinks.

“Baby ghost, what is this Japan that they speak of?” Elsith asked after an hour of trotting haughtily along. He was no longer as miffed as before, thought still undoubtedly annoyed.

“I’m not a baby,” Abe snapped. “I’m fifteen!”

“And I am a thousand six hundred,” Elsith snapped back. “You are not even a hundredth of my age, so by all rights, yes, you are a baby!”

The ghost was staring at him with strange eyes, and when he looked behind him, the other two foreigners had also stopped their bickering to ogle. “What are you fools gaping at? It is a prime age for a member of the Summorn family. Our father was three millennia old when he was sacrificed for this land!”

“That doesn’t make me a baby,” the ghost was saying briskly. “In our world, people only live up to eighty at average, usually not even. You’re just OLD.”

“I am at the prime of my youth!” If looks could kill, the ghost spirit would have been disintegrated to fairy dust by now. As it was, Elsith did not have that kind of magic and could just glare with a cold blue eye.

“Young Abe,” Kalien said gently, ever the kind one. “What is Japan?”

Abe gave him a sullen look, then shot Elsith with another glare before they both decided to ignore each other. “Our country. Like this, I guess, but with a lot more mountains.”

At this, Cairre spoke up, possibly for the first time in an hour. “Mountains? There are a lot of uses for lava in a potion. Do you think it would be possible for me to retrieve some from your country?”

“Are ya a moron?” Rebi demanded from her perch next to him. “Ya’d die first before you could get t’ the actual lava.”

“Why do you speak like that!” Elsith interrupted, less interested in activities that he couldn’t involve himself in (like magic) and over-invested in righting a wrong. It had always ground on his nerves when peasants spoke like peasants, because he knew that they could do so much better. He understood that they had no use for proper speech, and that it was clearly just a nuisance to them, but sixteen hundred years of breeding had carved some things into him, one of them being the importance of proper speech.

“I talk however I want, horse boy,” the woman bit out, baring her fangs again. Elsith snorted and tossed his head, clearly snubbing her. There was a satisfying, outraged protest.

“Brother, perhaps it would be better if we could get along with them,” Kalien told him a little later, when the baby ghost floated to the cart, presumably to tell Cairre all about lava in their world. “They are going to help save our country, after all.”

“Their ignorance and cheek are both astounding and highly insulting,” Elsith retorted, offended that Kalien, who was half his age, would dare speak to him about getting along with peasants. It wasn’t like Elsith didn’t try; on another day, he would have had the girl flogged for discipline.

“You must understand, brother,” Kalien said with a small, amused smile, reaching over to stroke his mane soothingly. “They are sacrificing themselves for a foreign land, but their stakes are just as high as ours.”

“In their small, narrow worlds, maybe it is,” the older prince bit out, displeasure apparent by the wrinkle between his brows. His brother mere chuckled and gave him one last pat, understanding as he always was of Elsith’s ways.

------

That night was difficult at best: they had reached the end of the plains and had to cross a narrow ridge between two mountains, maneuvering the horses and the cart through rocky, uneven ground. Cairre called for some rest when the moon was at its highest and the horses started foaming at the mouth. Watanuki and Rebi looked exhausted, as evidenced by their silence, and even Kalien was starting to look drawn around the mouth. Elsith surveyed his companions with a critical eye and nodded.

“Let us set up camp here for the night. I shall take first watch, for I am not tired yet,” he announced.

“No one needs to take any watch,” the ghost scoffed, hovering over the horses. “I’m a…” he paused. “A spirit. I don’t need food or sleep. I can keep watch all night.”

He gave him a critical look, but saw logic in that. “Very well, then. Let us dine and rest for the night.”

Cairre set up a small fire in the circle of rocks and toasted a few handfuls of dried fish. Elsith wandered off some distance away to scrounge for water and perhaps some grass; he was successful in finding a thin stream, but the surroundings were all rock and gravel as far as the moon allowed him to see.

“Stormbringer,” he called when he came back, upon seeing that his brother was already half-asleep against a boulder. “There is water over there. Perhaps you should refill the jars.”

“I will,” the magician replied, swallowing the last of his supper. He went to the cart to retrieve an empty container. “Elsi—Your Highness,” he caught himself admirably enough. “You should eat. Here.”

He stared at the bale of hay presented to him, wondering where it had come from. And he would have asked, if Cairre hadn’t already disappeared to fetch water, nimbly climbing the larger boulders with ease.

“He gathered some from the stables yesterday,” the young ghost thought to inform him, hovering just outside his field of vision. Horse vision was terribly irritating, really. Elsith didn’t know how they survived with it. Nevertheless, he turned his head to look at Abe, who was giving him a disinterested stare. “He also grabbed some grass from the plains back there. They’re in the cart, if you want them fresher.”

“This is quite fine,” Elsith told him haughtily, but refused to eat. “You are a very creepy little child,” he added. “Please leave me to eat in peace. I know my bale of hay is enviable to you who cannot consume anything, but it is mine and I will not nor can I share it with you.”

Abe gave him a look much like he was insane. Elsith shooed him away.

Later on, after he was done eating and everyone had gone to sleep, Elsith lowered himself to his belly, a nest of white horse curled on the ground, and allowed his brother to use him as a pillow. The rocks were uncomfortable, but it was a cold night and there was hardly a need to be selfish with body heat, at least not from his brother. Kalien slept fitfully, but for the most part, contented himself with pressing his cheek to Elsith’s and cooing in his sleep.

He woke up near dawn feeling strangely cramped, and looked around to see why – Watanuki and Rebi had moved from their place in the cart to share his space, Watanuki tucked up against his legs and Rebi comfortably sprawled on top of him. He would complain if he had the energy to, but nighttime was for sleeping and he decided to keep his silence. Abe had positioned himself on top of a large rock and was watching over them like a particularly mismatched brood. For once, they didn’t glare at each other, merely nodded to acknowledge the other’s existence.

There was a sound behind him and craned his neck to see what the magician was up to. Cairre Stormbringer was tending to the fire, feeding it some dried twigs. He looked tired, but alert. Elsith couldn’t make out anything else, the man blending into the dark easily because of his clothes. The only thing he could see clearly were the magician’s hands, lit up by fire.

They were good hands, Elsith thought as he settled back down to sleep, eyes closing easily. Battle-scarred, but the kind of hands scholars should have.
 
 
 
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 8th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
THAT LAST PARAGRAPH. *DEAD*

YUKEH THANK YOU, I THOUGHT I WAS NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO WRITE TONIGHT BUT IF I READ THIS ENOUGH TIMES I THINK I WILL FEEL WARM AND FUZZY ENOUGH TO TORTURE JED SOME MORE.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: D:yukitsu on November 8th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
Warm and fuzzy to torture----

YOU'RE A CRAZY SOCIOPATH AND I THINK I SHOULD INFORM YOU OF THIS FACT.
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 8th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
...W-what? I need to feel better so I can start making someone else feel worse, okay.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: ;_;yukitsu on November 8th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
I-- see. D: Well, it does give us more Jed funnies, so I guess it's all right!
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 8th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
I... should post the latest bits! (Did you read the last page of the printout earlier?)
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: ;_;yukitsu on November 8th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
Yes! (I didn't get that far. D: The food came.)
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 8th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
*goes to post*
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: YAY YAYyukitsu on November 8th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
YAY! ♥
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 8th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
baby, you're my forever girl: » domestic violence。ficcentricity on November 9th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
...horse punching kjsdhajkd
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: Ufufuyukitsu on November 9th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
asdasjdhasjkdh
Lynlynkye_kestrel on November 11th, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)
jasdfasdfdsaf
Elsith reminds me of a--

... brat unused to affection and so is throwing up a tantrum to try to cope with it. orz.

And Abe is proving to be one of the most useful of the lot, next to Cairre. XD;;

I AGREE WITH MIA, FANGIRLING OVER THE IMAGERY OF THAT LAST PARAGRAPH BRB.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 11th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC)
Re: jasdfasdfdsaf
That is pretty much what Elsith is! Overachiever, used to being the best and getting his way, always makes sense, and used to depending on only himself (all of which has made him very very very arrogant). Being a horse sucks, but being dependent and helpless sucks even harder. D:

Huhuhu, Abe is useful ~~~~ ♥

OTL THANK YOU.
Lynlynkye_kestrel on November 12th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Re: jasdfasdfdsaf
|3 He can't get tired, he doesn't need to eat, and he can fly.

*pokes Elsith* Come on, say that the baby ghost is useful ~
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on November 12th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
Re: jasdfasdfdsaf
;;; He admits it to himself, I suppose that itself is already a big thing?
do not feed the animals: yay.izkariote on November 12th, 2008 10:56 am (UTC)
...I FINALLY GET TO READ THIS. *feels ridiculously accomplished!*

Also: I snerked at "young Abe". Does that make me an evil person? x_X
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 12th, 2008 12:29 pm (UTC)
Ohohoho. XD

Not very ! Huhuhuhu, young Abe indeed. ;;;; What a baby.