A very strange prompt that got completely out of hand…
Write about a purple-winged fallen angel, a phosphorescent orc king and a psychotic elf with a valuable mug, full of rice pudding
Ash wondered if he could stay right here, flat on his back in the hollow he’d created when he fell, for the rest of eternity. He hadn’t expected it to HURT.
Well, yes, of course it would hurt but he figured it would be more of the angsty, regret over deeds past sort of thing, rather than every part of his body screaming at him in outrage whenever he so much as twitched.
He gazed up at the night sky through the almighty hole he’d made in the trees as he’d come down, at least it was a nice view.
Of course, as soon as that thought crossed his mind, the stars began to disappear behind heavy clouds as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.
“Oh great, you’re going to rain on me now aren’t you.”
Ash sat up. He managed it on the third try. Standing took six attempts. Trying to climb out of the hole he was in failed in spectacularly muddy fashion.
A voice came from above him. “Not that that wasn’t funny as fuck, but have you thought about using the stonking great wings you’ve got?”
Ash looked up, startled, and met the eyes of an elf, smirking down at him.
She raised a brow. “What colour are they when they’re not taking a mud bath.”
Ash closed his eyes and slumped. “No idea. I’m not even meant to have them if I’ve fallen.”
Since he had no idea what it would feel like to not have wings, he hadn’t realised they were still there, tightly furled into the centre of his back. If they had managed to stay properly tucked, they might be clean enough to use.
Ash stepped carefully to the centre of the hole and turned sideways to give his wings the length of the place to spread.
They snapped out and he launched.
They worked! He still had his wings and they worked, but oh wood sprites did they hurt. He contented himself with a strongly assisted jump from the hole and landed next to his audience.
She looked him up and down, the midnight dark clearly not affecting her sight at all.
She walked around him. “They’re purple, dark as an emperor’s robe on the back and wisteria mauve inside. Pretty, can I have a feather?”
“No! Well, you can’t pluck any but I suppose you could have one if it moults.”
“In that case I suppose I should keep track of you. Where are you going?”
Ash’s night vision was slowly recovering from the rude shock to his entire system and he examined his new companion in turn.
She looked like a classic elfin lady, all willowy grace and flowing pale hair. Until he got to her eyes, the colour of granite and every bit as hard, and her smile was sharp as a blade.
“I don’t know where I’m going. I’ve been cast out and…”
“Oh, you’re one of those. In that case, you might as well tag along with me. Are you any good at fighting or are you going to be relying on your pretty face to stay out of trouble?”
Ash fought the urge to touch his face, check his features were as they had always been. “I was an active member of the heavenly host but I don’t have my sword.”
They both winced back as a fire-bright meteor streaked from the sky and slammed into the ground nearby.
When the light cleared, a silver sword, hilt picked out in amethysts, was stuck, blade first, halfway into the ground.
“Well someone up there still likes you.”
Ash walked over to it and wrapped his hand around the hilt, pulling the sword free and carefully examining the blade for damage. It was untouched, its mirror shine still pristine. He whispered a thank you to the skies and sheathed in the leather scabbard still pressed against his spine and held tightly in place by his wings.
The elf blinked. “It disappeared.”
“Your sodding great knife disappeared when you put it away.”
“Ah yes, it does that, doesn’t like to draw attention unless it’s necessary.”
“Useful. So, you still have no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing?”
“Right, let’s be off then unless you have any more random weapons to collect.”
“No, I don’t. Where are we going?”
“Grashdar City. Some trogging little orc stole my river crystal goblet and I want it back.”
“I always thought orcs were quite large.”
“I was referring to their intellect.”
Ash smiled at that. “Lead on My Lady Elf.”
“Not if you call me that. The name’s Zyra, and if you try for Lady Zyra I will gut you with your own invisible sword.”
Ash replied. “Very well, Zyra. Which way do we go?”
“We go back to my camp for the moment. I don’t normally wander around forests in the middle of the night, but your arrival was rather loud.”
Zyra’s camp was little more than the embers of a campfire and a well-camouflaged bedroll. She dropped onto the blankets and rolled herself into a cocoon.
“So, what did you do to get booted.”
Ash stared at the ground.
“Won’t say, can’t say or don’t know?”
“All of them.”
“Typical. Well, I’m going back to sleep. You can either keep watch and work out how you’re going to survive down here or find a softish bit of ground and try sleeping off your crash.”
Ash silently lay down on the other side of the tiny firepit and closed his eyes.
He doubted he’d get much sleep, things still hurt too much, and he was still so very confused, but a meditation of sorts would help.
He woke just after dawn as Zyra kicked herself free of her coverings and started digging into the pack she’d been using as a pillow for provisions.
“I supposed I’m going to have to feed you for the moment too. I’ll keep a tally and you can pay me back.”
She handed him a decent portion of trail rations and he ate them gratefully, sharing the waterskin she passed across to help wash the dry food down.
Once she’d eaten, she packed the camp with an efficiency that betrayed more familiarity with this mode of life than most elves would wish to endure.
They started the trek to the Orc’s capital city before the sun had crested the trees.
Zyra squinted at his back as they walked, Ash looked at her enquiringly.
“Does that invisibility thing with your sword ever sort of… leak?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t see your wings this morning, but you’re not walking off balance so I’m assuming they’re still there.”
Ash found a small clearing, then spread his wings, smiling in relief as they came into view on either side of him. Zyra was right about the colour. Strange. They’d been pure white, up there, same as everyone else’s.
He furled them. “Can you see them again now?”
“No, only when you open them up. Useful.”
He supposed it was, he was just glad to have them, and his sword, although it did rain yet more confusion onto how and why he’d been cast out.
They reached Grashdar in the early afternoon and Zyra found them a single room at an inn abutting the merchants’ zone.
She offloaded the bedroll and her pack, pulling a few odds and ends from it and hiding them in various pockets and folds in her clothing.
“Come on. I know exactly where my idiot thief was heading and if we’re lucky, we’ll get there before they do.”
Ash meekly followed along, merely raising his eyebrows as Zyra cajoled, ordered or browbeat every guard or official she encountered into getting them first into the palace, and then in front of the king.
The palace functionary who had conducted them to the audience room bowed as he opened the door and announced them. Ash stepped through the door then stopped, staring in amazement before dropping his eyes and bowing in apology.
The Orc King was sitting on his carved basalt throne, glumly glowing like the evening star. He sighed at Ash’s reaction.
“Yes, I get that a lot, even when people have already heard about it. Although you seemed to have no inkling.”
Zyra answered for him. “He’s a bit out of touch, and a bit socially awkward with it if I’m honest. I just keep him around for the view.”
Ash merely rolled his eyes and walked towards the throne, coming to a relaxed stop as the king’s guards tensed.
He examined the glow, frowning slightly. “What happened?”
“Some batty old witch on a dare from her coven came screaming through here and cursed me to shine like the heavens until I could eat rice pudding from the sacred cup of the Water Goddess.”
Ash looked at Zyra, who retorted. “Which my damn goblet isn’t. It might even make things worse; as I would have told your idiot retainer if they’d bothered to stop and ask rather than stealing it.”
Ash replied. “If it’s river crystal, of course it wouldn’t be the cup, the Water Goddess prefers clay drawn from the bottom of whichever lake she’s taken a fancy to at the time. Of course that means they get broken on a regular basis, which might be a problem but she’s quite happy to give them out if people ask nicely.”
Zyra’s jaw dropped. “How in the seven hells do you know that?”
“I took a turn in her guard formation for a while, it’s good training for advanced techniques in aerial combat.”
The orc king turned glowing eyes in Ash’s direction. “Who, or possibly, what, are you?”
Ash sighed, stepped back a little, and spread his wings.
The door crashed open behind him, and something barrelled into his back, bouncing off with a grunt, then a yelp of pain.
“And here’s the idiot little thief now.”
Ash furled his wings and turned to see a juvenile orc trying to escape the painfully tight grip Zyra had on their ear, while keeping careful hold of the radiant blue crystal goblet in their grasp.
The orc king tutted. “Really Kim, how many times must I tell you to stop and check things before plunging headlong into trouble.”
“But I brought you the sacred cup.”
“You brought me the ceremonial goblet of the High Priestess of the Snake Queen. Anything I try to eat from that will kill me instantly.”
Ash caught the goblet just before it hit the floor. The rice pudding was not so lucky.
Kim started to blubber, and Zyra pushed them away from her in disgust.
The King shook his head and motioned for his guard. “Take the child back to school.”
Ash handed the goblet to Zyra, who looked at its remaining contents in disgust, then pulled out a length of satin and carefully wrapped the goblet in it, before tucking it into yet another hidden pocket.
Ash walked towards the nearest window, ignoring the nervous shifting of the guards as he murmured something beneath his breath. He stepped up onto the window’s deep stone ledge and opened the glass panes, reaching a hand out as something dropped from above.
He turned, a small clay cup in his hand. “Is there any more of that rice pudding about?”
The juvenile and their guard froze, the whole room turned to Ash in astonishment.
“What? I just told you I used to work for her, I sent her a quick prayer with the problem at hand and she sent a heron with a cup from her nearest home lake.”
Later that day, Zyra kicked off her shoes and flopped onto the bed in their shared room. Ash was trying to work out where to store all the gold and gems the grateful king had bestowed on him for removing the curse.
She waved a careless hand. “Worry about it tomorrow, I’ll lend you a look-away pouch until we can pick one up for you in the market, along with the various other odds and ends you’ll be needing if you’re determined to hero about the place from now on.”
“How much do I owe you?”
“I’ll work it out in the morning, I’m tired.”
Ash sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her thoughtfully. “Are you really the High Priestess of the Snake Queen.”
Zyra laughed. “No, that was a very nice piece of invention from His Majesty, I was impressed. The goblet is simply a cup made of river crystal, but I use it for spell-casting and sometimes there’s residue.”
“That’s not actually what I asked.”
That earned him a narrow-eyed glare. “No, I’m not the High Priestess of the Snake Queen.”
“But you’re something more than you want me to know.” Ash shrugged and stood again. “That’s fine, I have no need or wish to pry, and you are entitled to your own business. Just know I stand with you should you ever need it.”
Zyra raised up on an elbow. “That is the most ridiculously noble, stupid, uninformed piece of drivel I’ve ever heard. Where do you think you’re going?”
“I have enough here for a second room, so I don’t need to trespass on your patience any further.”
“Take one step outside that door and I’ll never tell you the truth.”
Ash stopped just before the door and turned, curious.
Zyra slipped off the bed and walked towards him, lithe and predatory. “I’ve decided you can pay me in kind.”
She ran a hand over the leather strap of his scabbard. “How do you get this thing off with your wings in the way? You are going to join me in that bed and make good on those sexy little smiles and prowly walk.”
Okay, this may have been part of the reason he’d found himself in that hole in the forest but, well, the rules were different down here. Ash smiled and did what he was told.