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Flower of Fire
When she went to bed that night she couldn’t stop thinking about the boy she had seen. He was one of her people! It was so strange. She still didn’t know if it was a good thing or bad thing. On one hand maybe she had found someone she could talk to, on the other hand he might not ever be able to talk to her, in fact, she’d probably never see him again. Yes, that was most likely true. The girl kept repeating it to herself over and over, no use getting hopeful for something that wasn’t going to happen.
A warm wet tongue awakened the girl the next morning accompanied with the odor of a tiger‘s mouth. She stared up into the tiger’s ferocious but still beautiful eyes and was confused. No one had come to wake her up. Had she finally gone completely invisible and been forgotten? She wished. And just as she thought it a servant walked up to her. Inwardly she groaned, but outwardly she showed nothing but indifference.
As the figure came closer she saw that it was not a servant at all but a guard. “Gather all your belongings,” was all he said. He stood over her and watched as she looked around her and back up at him quizzically. “Right… umm… just follow me then.” He shot a quick worried glance at the tiger as if afraid to show it his back, and for good reasons. But in the end he turned around and started walking, glancing back every so often to make sure the girl and tiger were still following him.
Where is he taking me? I’ve never been moved before. The slave kept her eyes fixed firmly on the soldiers broad back, she knew people would be staring at her and her tiger as they walked through the town. She had only been to the center of the town a couple times on errands to fetch this or that item that one of the cooks had requested. They kept traveling and after about five minutes of dusty shuffling they ended up in the market. The soldier slowed down and looked around for a couple seconds to get his bearings straight, then it seemed as if he found what he was looking for and they started off again.
They stopped for good in front of a barren looking hut. A stall was set up in front to sell things, but was currently empty. To the girls amazement the boy elf walked out.
“Here’s your helper,” said the soldier hesitantly, grabbing the girls arm carefully and give her a slight push toward the young man.
“Indeed. She does seem to be what I asked for, but she’s so filthy.” He wrinkled his nose as he looked her over and the slave put her chin up and glared at him. “Alright, you may leave now.” The soldier walked off in slight confusion. “Must be a new recruit, didn’t even realize I was dismissing him as my subordinate.” He gave a slight chuckle but stopped and looked more closely at her, now the disgust on his face was replaced by concern. “We need to get you washed up and tended to, some of those cuts look pretty bad.” He extended his hand to her, “I’m Charlie, well, that’s not my real name, but the humans like it.”
She just stood there and stared at his hand like it was a snake about to strike. She was completely confused and more than a little suspicious. He was so mean one minute, and then nice the next.
“I have to put on an act for them, it’s the only thing that keeps me from getting pushed around more. Plus, they’d be suspicious if I was too happy to see you.” Charlie said as if he could read her mind.
The girl carefully slid her hand into his, shaking his hand firmly yet cautiously.
“So… Do you have a name or do I just refer to you as apprentice?” He said so with a joking air, like he said most other things.
“I don’t know my name.” She said it matter-of-factly, but it cut him. He didn’t know how bad it must have been for her, they must have had her since she was little more than a baby.
“Well, apprentice is it is I guess.” He paused and looked at her closely. She didn’t even squirm under his gaze. “I change my mind. I will call you Tora, if it agrees with you that is.”
She didn’t know what it meant but she liked it. Tora. She rolled it around in her mouth, then said it aloud to see how it sounded.
He watched her and then laughed as she said it out loud with a look of total concentration on her face. “It means Little Flame in our language.”
Tora stepped back quickly and stared at Charlie in disbelief. How did he know?
“Don’t look so shocked. I can feel your aura. You’re just wreaking of fire magic. Now come along, we’ll go find the way to a pond, we can wash you up there. I don’t think you’ve ever had a proper bath before and since they don’t allow slaves in the bath houses, I figured a nice pond would be the next best thing, if not better.”
Charlie turned abruptly, tucking a basket under his arm, and took long strides down a well worn dirt path. His long legs made Tora take two steps for every one of his. She was panting before they finally stopped. They were at the edge of the forest. Charlie turned onto a smaller path into the forest. Tora looked around in wonder, she had never been in the forest before. It smelled green and fresh, so unlike the dusty smell of the market. She let the cool shade wash down her face as she watched her tiger leap away in front of her and out of sight. He never stops eating. By the time she had finished thinking this thought, Charlie’s raven took flight from his shoulder and flew off with the tiger. Guess animals need some time to get to know one another too.
The trees started thinning after a few minutes of traveling. They entered a clearing with a small pond in the middle. The water was as clear as well made glass, and just as smooth.
“M’ lady’s bath.” Charlie said with that edge of amusement he always seemed to have in his voice.
Tora went to the edge of the pond and looked in. For the first time she could see her reflection clearly. Grime was smeared all over her face and body, her hair was in gnarled clumps with bits of dirt and grass poking out. With an angry tug she tore off her ugly, dirty clothes and sloshed into the lake. The water was warmer than it looked.
|Flower of Fire||
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