Apr 16, 2016

Short Story: “Lost and Found”

"My torch is missing! The nice one, with the streamers and jewels!"
"Sol, I keep telling you those are glass beads, not jewels. Besides, you lose your torch like once a week. Did you look in the place you found it last time?”
"Duh! I checked the pantry! And Etch's boot! And the roof of the wagon! It wasn't in any of those places again! What if someone took it?"


(I’m rewriting book 1 [Colorweaver] for Camp NaNo and I’m having a lot of trouble with Firedrake’s voice because they’re the character I’ve written least. My solution, since I’m also doing short stories for Camp, is to write some from their POV. I’m pretty happy with this one because it’s pretty silly. :) I used a few prompts for this that I'll list at the end. This is set during Colorweaver; it's not in the book itself, but it fits in that time period. Edit: Although as I rewrite book 1, this becomes less relevant because Gilly isn't in the current draft. Ah well.)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Lost and Found"


“I’m going to need you to put on some pants before you say anything else."

Blythe's sharp voice filtered clearly through the curtain blocking Firedrake's bunk from the rest of the wagon. An exasperated Blythe meant trouble for anyone within earshot. Knowing their alcove would be little protection if she turned her ire on them, Firedrake rolled over and peeked out of the curtain to begin plotting an escape route. Climb down the ladder, step over Adair, resist the temptation to manipulate the cat away from the doorway by way of Firedrake's foot...

As Firedrake debated “accidentally” doing this to Adair as well, they caught sight of Sol looking down at himself with his pale eyebrows knitted. Evidently Sol had just noticed he forgot to put on that particular article of clothing. Sol in shorts wasn't a bad view, Firedrake would admit, but not at the cost of being woken up to Blythe's gruff tone. From the makeshift bed on the floor came the sound of muffled laughter. Adair wasn't doing a very good job of hiding this and when a giggle escaped, Sol spun around to stick his tongue out at him.

Sol, who was never very good at remembering his own size, turned to gesture wildly at Blythe. She lunged to catch the pot of soil he knocked off the counter before it hit the floor. "Oops. Sorry, Blade. But who cares about pants! My torch is missing! The nice one, with the streamers and jewels!"

Blythe sighed and returned the flowerpot to where it belonged, then nudged Sol out of the way of further damage. "Sol, I keep telling you those are glass beads, not jewels. Besides, you lose your torch like once a week. Did you look in the place you found it last time?”

"Duh! I checked the pantry! And Etch's boot! And the roof of the wagon! It wasn't in any of those places again! What if someone took it?" Sol all but wailed.

"No one wants your torch."

"Except maybe Firedrake. They use torches," Adair chimed in.

A witch hunt was exactly what Firedrake needed first thing after waking up. "I did no such thing."

"I didn't say you took it," Adair said. "Just that you might want it."

Sol tugged at the gelled spikes of his hair. Only he would take the time to carefully style his hair before leaving his wagon in a tizzy, yet forget something important like a pair of pants. "No no no, not one of you guys! What if someone grabbed it the last time I was out? Like you found it before, Addy, when I dropped it."

"You haven't been anywhere," Blythe pointed out. "It has to be somewhere in your wagon. Did you ask Etri?"

"He told me to 'clean your blasted side of the wagon and allow me to sleep'."

While agreeing with Etri would normally be the last thing Firedrake would do, in this case they were in accord. Already bored with this argument and assuming there wouldn't be an easy way out, Firedrake flopped back down and shoved the pillow over their head. The others could bicker about this all they wanted. Firedrake was going back to sleep.

-----------------------

The next day Firedrake was again awoken by the sound of Blythe's agitated voice. "Dammit, Addy, what did you do with the sachet that was sitting on the counter?"

"What sachet?"

"The one that was sitting on the damn counter."

Firedrake rolled their eyes and sat up. This was going to be a repeat of yesterday, wasn't it? They pushed the curtain aside and swung their legs over the side of the bunk to get an idea of today's situation. Adair had his sketchbook in his lap, a pencil in one hand, and half a loaf of bread in the other. It was doubtless he'd already scarfed down the other half. The only thing Blythe was holding was her hips as she glared down at Adair.

"I don't even know what a sachet is," Adair said.

"It's a small bag."

"Why would I touch one of your bags?"

"Because you prepared dinner on this counter last night and it was here then. You didn't mistake the herbs inside for cooking spices, did you?"

Adair let out a snort of indignation. He obviously spent too much time around Blythe. "Come on, Blade. I think I would know the difference between the smelly herbs you use for healing and the aromatic types used for cooking."

"Well then, where else would it have gone?"

"Beats me. I didn't touch it. Everyone's always coming in and out of here, anyone could have moved it by accident."

Firedrake knew where this was going. Before Blythe could do more than look their direction, Firedrake stalled her with a raised hand. "I didn't touch it, either. I don't have anything to do with cooking or your plants."

To stave off any more of her accusations, Firedrake grabbed their slippers and ducked out the door. This time neither Adair nor the cat were in the way. Today was already shaping up to be better than the last.

-----------------------

Firedrake stood on one leg in order to slide the tight-fitting slipper onto their foot when someone barreled into them and knocked them onto their backside. Firedrake glared up to see Sol giving a sheepish smile before extending a hand to help Firedrake to their feet. “Sorry, Dray. I'm trying to get away from- Crap! Hide me!”

Sol ducked behind Firedrake who rolled their eyes up as far as they would go. “Solei, you do realize you are a foot and a half taller than me and she can see you.”

Gilly stalked over to the pair and began waving her hands around in complicated patterns. Firedrake grabbed Sol by the forearm and thrust him forward. “I don't know what she's saying. Translate.”

“I already know what she's saying! She thinks I took her bracelet.”

This again? Firedrake was beginning to doubt the wisdom in joining up with their short-tempered sister and her friends. There hadn't been a moment's peace in a week with all this bickering. Even the girl who couldn't talk bickered! Had it really been necessary for Blythe to adopt her? One less person here would have made things a lot less crowded.

Firedrake knew they would regret asking, but Sol still stood as though expecting support against the ire of a girl who couldn't be more than fourteen. “Why would you even want her bracelet?”

“I don't know! I don't wear jewelry!”

No, Sol made up for it in ribbons with a vest more fringe than fabric. For someone so obsessed with looks, he knew as much about fashion as a blind bear. Bears also didn't wear pants and Sol bore much resemblance to one.

Gilly grabbed Sol by a fistful of ribbons and gestured at him with her free hand.

Sol pulled back as far as her arm would stretch and squinted his eyes. “Slower, Gil! I can't see what you're saying… Ohhh, no wonder you think that. But I didn't!”

Firedrake put their head in their hands. “Care to elaborate?”

“She thinks I took it to use as scrap metal in the shoe-tree I'm making. Just because I did that once when I found one on the ground-”

Gilly gestured at him again using only one finger. This time Firedrake could tell her meaning without a translation.

“But I didn't this time, I swear. Maybe the clasp came loose?”

Although Gilly didn't look happy about this, she nodded and finally let go of Sol's vest. When Firedrake thought this annoying argument was at an end, she spun around to point her finger at them.

When she started signing again, Sol translated, “She says you like wearing jewelry. Did you grab hers by accident?”

For the Creators' sakes. This was getting ridiculous. “I don't wear bracelets because they interfere with my swords. Doesn't she know that? Blythe's a blade-dancer, too, and doesn't wear them. Now if you'll excuse me...”

Firedrake had more than enough of this and pushed past Sol to head in the direction of the other wagon. If most of the group was here, it would be quiet there. Hell, Firedrake was tempted to hide under the wagon if it meant people would leave them alone for five minutes. So much for this morning being better than the last.

-----------------------

Firedrake looked up from the small braid they were plaiting into their hair at the sound of someone clearing their throat. Oh wonderful, Firedrake's least favorite person. Etri towered above where Firedrake sat, but Firedrake made no motion to stand. Etri would have towered over them even if Firedrake was wearing six inch heels. May as well retain some amount of dignity.

Firedrake brushed their hair over their shoulder and tilted their chin up. “Yes? What do you want?”

“My ribbon.”

“What ribbon would this be, pray tell?”

Etri pointed his sickly pale hand at the braid Firedrake so recently finished. “That is a troupe ribbon, yes?”

“You know perfectly well it is. What's your point?”

Etri held out his hand. “I wish it returned. It is not the dingy one you wear.”

“That's because I got a new one before we left the caravan. How is it my fault no one noticed until now?”

Etri snorted in disbelief. Not only had Adair picked up Blythe's most obnoxious habit, now the other dork continually attached to her hip had as well. “The story you tell is too convenient. That is mine.”

Firedrake raised their hand to cover the ribbon braided into their hair. They wouldn't put it past Etri to try cutting out that lock while Firedrake was distracted. No, Etri didn't touch people. It was more likely he would convince Adair to do it for him. Adair would blindly follow just about anyone if there was an offer of food involved.

“I keep telling you, it is no such thing. Mine was worn out, as you'd so obviously noticed, so I got another one. It's not my problem you lost your token of membership.”

Etri's freakishly pale eyes narrowed. How could a man who showed no emotion otherwise seem to forget this whenever Firedrake was around?

If everyone was going to be so irritable, Firedrake didn't have to put up with this. As they debated returning to Blythe's wagon to pack up their things and leave, Adair's cat raced across their outstretched legs. Firedrake grimaced and brushed away the coating of fur the animal left everywhere it went. Cats were disgusting.

Then it struck them that it was carrying something awfully familiar in its mouth.

Firedrake jumped to their feet. “Quick, catch the cat! It stole my wallet!”

The cat bolted through the open door of the twins' wagon. Firedrake made it through the doorway in time to see its tail disappear under Sol's bed. Oh Creators. Firedrake was never seeing that bag again and Adair had lost the ridiculous animal for good. No loss there, anyway.

Firedrake kicked their way through Sol's clutter and leaned down to look before jerking their head back. The smell of something rancid wafted up to their nose and stung Firedrake's sinuses. It smelled as though something had crawled under there and died, although Firedrake was willing to bet it was only a sandwich Sol left there a month ago. Firedrake debated for a moment if summoning fire would cause an explosion- who knew what was under there with the cat and the sandwich- then decided to risk it. There was a month's worth of gig earnings in that wallet!

With a snap of their fingers they knew was entirely unnecessary, Firedrake called a small ball of flame into their palm. With the other hand pinching their nose tight against the putrid stench, Firedrake sprawled flat on the floor and shoved the light under the bed. The cat let out a piercing yowl and almost ran over Firedrake's face in its effort to get away. Firedrake spit a curse after it, then crawled forward to investigate. Even with their small stature, they managed to wedge their shoulders between the frame and floor a few times. It was worth getting stuck, though, when the glow from their hand illuminated the cat's hoard. If it was shiny or involved ribbons, it was there. Firedrake wasn't about to stay under here any longer than necessary, so they let go of their nose in order to snatch their wallet- a drawstring pouch with sequin embellishments- then the rest. A gold and rhinestone bracelet, which they dropped into the wallet for now. A fire-breathing torch with long ribbons streaming from the bottom was stuck between their teeth. A ribbon in the color of their troupe was rammed in next to the bracelet. Trying to breathe through their mouth and torch, they caught sight of another bag split open and its contents spread across the floor. Those were definitely Blythe's herbs and Firedrake could guess why: catnip. Firedrake snatched what was left of the bag with a free finger and backed out.

Dusty, smudged, and smelling of more than just the catnip they'd crawled through, Firedrake dropped the others' “stolen” possessions onto Sol's unmade bed. With another snap of their fingers in Etri's face that snuffed out the orb of light, Firedrake hissed at him, “I may be the newcomer. It doesn't make me a thief.”

Usually. Firedrake snatched one of Etri's knives from the shelf while his back was turned. Let Etri think the cat had hoarded it away for a while, then Firedrake would sneak it back where it belonged. Etri would tell the others about the cat's pilfering nature and it would be impossible for anyone else in the group to fit under Sol's bed to check if this was indeed the case again.

Now the next task was simply doing the same for the others who unjustly blamed them. A trinket here, a bauble there. A smirk curled over Firedrake's lips. If everyone was so set on condemning them, they'd bring aggravation in return.


(The prompts used in this were two lines of dialogue: "I’m going to need you to put on some underwear before you say anything else" and “Quick catch that cat it stole my wallet!”. The two more general prompts were "A story about finding something that has been lost" and "An important object is stolen by a crow, raccoon, or other inquisitive animal. Bonus points if MCs all blame each other until they find out the truth.")

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