#18: You’re Not Killing Anybody Today

After Dara discovered that the beag sheep had been abducted by a person, our next steps seemed pretty obvious.

“So, we just want to follow whatever trail there is to find the missing sheep?” I asked.

“I don’t think there’s a trail, Karuk,” Dara observed.

“Yeah, this break in the fence is the only thing here,” Gin agreed.

It was almost cute how little they both knew about tracking. I grew up in a hunting tribe in the jungles of Anglachel. I don’t care who took these sheep, there was some sort of trail.

“I can track them,” I said.

“Are we sure we just want to go straight to the sheep? Don’t we want to figure out who took the sheep? When we thought it was a monster, the motive was sustenance. But why would someone try to make it look like a monster took them?” Dara asked.

“You’re thinking about this too much,” I complained.

“He might have a point, Ruki,” Gin joined in. “This person’s motive might tell us how dangerous they are. Maybe we don’t have to go climbing all over the hills of Ronan if this person is still in town.”

“Let’s pretend like that’s the best idea,” I humored them. “Where would we even start?”

“We’d have to investigate,” Dara began. “We would need to talk to people in town and see if there is anyone that had ever expressed any ill will towards Old Man O’Reilly.”

“That sounds dumb. We’re just going to follow the trail,” I decided. I walked through the hole in the fence and began looking for clues.

Whoever had taken these sheep was pretty good at covering their trail. There really wasn’t much left. But they weren’t good enough to fool me. While this person was obviously treading lightly and trying not to leave any evidence, sheep are going to do what sheep are going to do. The most obvious sign of movement was the subtle trail left by the beag sheep in the grass. Admittedly, it was reassuring that the sheep were walking themselves. They could still be alive if this person hadn’t decided to kill them right away or load them up in some sort of vehicle. It also meant they probably weren’t very far away.  

The trail led us to a rockier set of hills near the beach. The trail became slightly harder to follow, because the sheep wouldn’t leave must of an indention in stone, but it looks like our culprit had traveled this way many times. There were signs of well-worn hand and foot holes along the hillside. This person had been climbing to avoid leaving much of a foot trail. That was smart. Most people wouldn’t look along the steeper parts of the hill for clues. 

“Are we going to be there soon?” Gin whined. 

“I don’t know, Gin. I didn’t make this trail,” I reminded him.

“I know, but did they leave any sign that they’re close to where they brought the sheep? My sandals were not made to climb rocky hills like this,” he complained.

“What do you expect? A note that says, ‘stolen sheep pin just ahead.’” I sarcastically asked.

“Probably not?” Gin said skeptically. “Or did they? Is this a trick to embarrass me?”

“You can’t be serious,” I laughed. “No, Gin, they didn’t leave a note or any other sign that we’re getting close. This person is actually pretty good. They’ve been trying to hide their tracks.”

“Should we be worried?” Dara asked.

“I don’t think so. All the signs I’ve see so far only belong to one person and a small group of sheep. I think this person is working alone,” I explained.

“That’s reassuring,” Dara said. “I don’t know if we could fight a bunch of people.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect both of you. No matter what we run into, I’ve got you,” I said.

“I’m glad,” Dara said.

We continued up the rocky hill for about thirty more minutes. We had to double back a couple of times because they had left false trails. Eventually, we ended up at the opening of a cave. We also began to hear bleating sounds.

“Is that the sheep? That sounds like the sheep,” Gin inquired.

“I think so, but we don’t know what sort of stuff we’re going to encounter in there. Both of you stay behind me,” I commanded them.

We eased into the cave and it was very dark. I could still see because my orc heritage allows me to see in pretty dark areas. I just couldn’t see much in the way of details. With that said, I did see a pile of way too extravagant pillows for a cave along the right wall. I drew my hand ax just in case we ran into any trouble. I began to approach it. Walking up to it, I saw something squirming and a tiny pair of wings.

“What is that?” I thought aloud.

Before I could stop him, Dara walked past me to approach the pillows.

“I think that’s a . . . Ah!” he exclaimed. Gin and I also yelped a bit. 

Dara had triggered a net trap. As we began to be suspended in the air, I lost my grip and my ax clattered to the ground below. A rope net tightened around us and we all became much closer than we were the previous night in the single room.

“Baby gwiber,” Dara finished. “I think that’s a baby gwiber. It is a snake with wings. I don’t remember reading about them being native to Ronan. That little guy is pretty far from home.”

“Fascinatin’,” Gin flatly commented. “Do you think you could get your elbow out of my crotch?”

Dara frantically and apologetically readjusted himself, which only made the whole situation more uncomfortable for the rest of us. The net began swinging dangerously.

“Could we stop moving? None of us like this. We have to figure a way out. Dara, could you burn us out?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” Dara observed. “This is a little too tight for me to cast my spells. I have to gesture and I can’t really do that here.”

“O.K. Gin, can you play your drum to conjure a barrier to cut us out?” I asked.

“You really think I can beat on a drum with your ass shoved up against it?” He grumbled.

Then it was up to me. I began staring at the rope to see if there was a weak spot I could push to break it. This all would have been easier if I hadn’t dropped my hand ax. This was a mess of a first adventure.

“What’re you lot doing here?” A female voice called from the mouth of the cave. I looked over and saw a bundle of curls atop a backlit short silhouette. I recognized the voice.

“Tilly?” I questioned the figure.

“And of course you recognize me. I didn’t want to kill you. I was hoping I could clear this place out before you placed me. Oh well,” she conceded, drawing a dagger from her side that shone in the sunlight.

“KIll us?” Gin worriedly screamed.

Tilly chucked a dagger in our direction and I managed to jump a bit, causing the net to bounce up as the dagger swung in our direction. I timed it just right so it would slice through one of the bottom ropes. As the net swung back down, I pushed myself feet first through the newly formed hole. I landed and scooped my hand ax up in a single motion.

“You’re not killing anybody today,” I replied, taking a defensive position.

“That was all very cool, Ruki,” Gin said. “But do you think you could help us down. Not all of us are as athletic as you and it is taking everything I’ve got to hold onto these ropes.”

I looked up and saw Dara and Gin clinging to the rope net so they wouldn’t crash into the cave floor beneath. I couldn’t focus on them right now.

“Hang on a bit longer,” I advised and rushed up to Tilly.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Dara shouted across the cave. “Nobody has to kill anyone. Tilly, was it? Why do you think you have to kill us?”

“Ye’re adventurers, aren’t ye?” she said. “You’re going to want to kill wings over there. That’s what adventurers do, right? KIll rare creatures?”

“You must have heard some nasty rumors,” Gin reassured. “Or we don’t know as much about adventuring as we thought. We don’t want to kill anything unless we have to.”

“Truly?” Tilly asked.

“Yes,” I shouted, trying to tamp down the adrenaline coursing through my veins. Tilly lowered her dagger.

I used the moment to help Gin and Dara down from the net. Then if she decided to turn on us again, at least we’d all be able to fight. Once we settled, Dara began to walk towards her slowly.

“What is a baby gwiber doing here?” He asked. “I thought they were native to Daragon.”

“I don’t know, I just found her one day. A big egg washed up on the beach and wings hatched out of it. I’ve been takin’ care of her ever since. I didn’t tell anybody because I know how my community reacts to anything weird or dangerous,” Tilly explained.

“That’s why you needed the beag sheep,” Dara concluded.

“Yeah, wings needed more meat than I could swipe from the kitchen at the Ale and Cabbage. Stealing sheep seemed like my best option,” She said.

“We can help you get her somewhere safe,” Dara said.

“Really? Where? Do you want to take her to Daragon?” Tilly asked.

“We don’t need to go that far,” He said. “I’ve read about a magical creature reserve across the mountains in Reyes.”

“Would all of you really want to help me after I tried to kill you?” Tilly asked.

“Do you promise not to try to kill us again?” Gin asked.

“Sure,” Tilly replied.

“Then we’re good,” Gin said.

I wasn’t so sure, but I felt confident that I could watch our backs around her and keep us safe, now that I had some sense of what she could do.

“If that two of you are good with it, I’ll let her come,” I said.

“We should probably just leave,” Tilly said. “I don’t want to explain this to my grandma.”

“No,” I said, remembering how much I missed my tribe when I left without saying goodbye a week earlier. “We’re going back and you’re going to explain it to her. I’ll go with you, but you’re going to tell her.”

“And I left my backup components in my room there anyway,” Dara said.

“Ruki,” Gin said.

“Yeah?” I replied, looking down at him.

“Saving a magical creature and traveling across a continent feels like a proper adventure,” he said.

“That it does,” I agreed. I reached down and put my hand on his shoulder. He placed his hand on mine. That’s the story of how Gin and I became adventurers.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


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