Mar 12, 2018

Short Story: "This For That (Re)Quest"

Now there were four things Adair needed to do when this was done: spend more time with Firedrake, read more of Etri's books, get some contracts for Sol to sign, and work on his fear of heights so he could stop disappointing Blythe. All this because he innocently agreed to help a forgetful friend who wanted to snack on olives, of all things.


(This is a fun short story that was inspired by two prompts: this one and this one. This takes place a few months after book 3 [Iconoclasm].)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "This For That (Re)Quest"


"Hey, buddy? Can you get me a book? Like a really thick one?"

Adair stopped chewing and stared at Sol with his sandwich halfway to his mouth. Sol didn't read. It wasn't that he couldn't, not exactly, but it certainly wasn't something he went out of his way to do. When he did the book was more likely to have pictures in it of monkeys wearing hats than it was to contain actual words, so this request was odd. Then again, when was anything about Sol not odd?

"Whhmph dho-" Adair gave up trying to ask and worked on chewing the largest bite in the history of mankind. Luckily Sol was the kind of person to wait patiently when his best friend was being a greedy moron. Adair swallowed and tried again. "Why do you need a book?"

"Oh! I was wondering what ‘whhmph' meant! I thought you were making up words. Hey, we should make our own language and not tell the others how to speak it! How smarfy would that be? I bet we could make up loads of words! Then we could talk and they'd never know what we were saying!"

Adair leaned against Sol's worktable and brushed crumbs from his shirt as he waited for Sol to get to the point. At least the two of them had mutual patience going for them.

"I don't think they ever really do." Between Sol's tendency to get distracted and Adair talking about paint colors and recipes, they tended to get a lot of blank stares from the others. "We can try if you want, though. But I was wondering why you wanted a book."

"Oh! Right! Sorry." Sol gestured at the pile of wood and carpet on the table with one hand. His other hand was busy pressing down on a smaller piece of carpet. "The glue needs to set and my arm's getting tired. Something heavy can sit on it so I don't have to."

"Please don't roost on the desk." Adair could only imagine this thing getting glued to Sol's pants. At least he hoped Sol wore pants. He wasn't about to check and there was a sixty-forty chance Sol forgot again.

"I'm not feathery enough to be a chicken," Sol said, as though this was what Adair implied.

"I know where to find a book. I'll be back in a sec. Don't move!" Adair headed for the door, nonchalantly grabbing the pot of glue as he walked past and hoping Sol didn't have another one stashed away somewhere. The sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could make sure Sol didn't end up glued to something-- or for that matter, so the cat didn't end up glued to anything. This morning Sol had been struck by the idea to build what he called a "cat palace" to reconcile with Willow after their last argument. Frankly Adair didn't want to know what a cat could argue about. Maybe Sol ate her canned fish or played with one of her catnip mice.

He stepped out the door and into afternoon sunlight a good deal dimmer than the weaving-lights Sol had hovering and bobbing around inside his wagon. Adair placed the glue pot onto the stair of the wagon and called out, "Hey, Etch!"

It came as no surprise when Etri's head appeared over the roof of the wagon he shared with Adair and Blythe. Even expecting this, Adair's heart pounded at the thought of being so close to the edge of a fifteen foot drop. He said more to his feet than to his sentinel, "I need a book."

"You wish to read? I will be right down."

He wasn't exaggerating. Etri's black boots appeared in Adair's vision far too quickly for Etri to have used the ladder to climb down. Adair wasn't sure if Etri using his weaving made the height thing better or worse. Better, he supposed. Etri couldn't fall when he had no body to be pulled down by gravity.

With Etri firmly on the ground and back to normal, Adair smiled sheepishly up at him. He hated getting Etri's hopes up about the book. While he liked hearing Etri read aloud, he could think of about ten or a hundred things he'd rather do than read on his own. Unless it was a cookbook. Those he would devour before devouring the good things he made from the recipes. "Nah. Not really. Sol needs it."

"I know Sol does not wish to read." Etri crossed his arms in a disbelieving stance more often used by Blythe. All he needed was the raised eyebrow to complete the look... or maybe he was doing that and Adair just couldn't see it behind the dark hair that always fell in Etri's face in alluring waves.

Adair fought the urge to brush the hair aside in case any glue had stuck to his hands. "He says he needs a book to hold down the thing he's making. Can I borrow one of your really heavy ones? If you don't, Sol might glue his butt to it instead."

What Adair thought would be a good argument didn't sway Etri. "Usually Solei is gluing his rear to objects. I fail to see how it could be my problem if the same could happen to one of my books."

Etri did have a point, but that was okay. Adair and Sol could come up with another way of holding the carpet down that didn't require anyone's butts or books or books about butts. Adair was pretty sure Etri didn't own any of those in his collection of dry tomes about the history of lumber production or whatever. Buttresses, though, were a possibility because he did own books about architecture. Etri had started researching art almost obsessively after becoming Adair's sentinel and Adair knew it was because Etri was determined to be the best sentinel possible despite his lack of any standard training. It was a little like how Etri insisted on growing his hair out for the sentinel braid. It wasn't required for him to wear this, only tradition, but Etri had this drive to prove himself worthy of his status. No matter how many times Adair told him he was already perfect, it never seemed to stick.

With his thoughts now fully on the man he loved, Adair found his attention returning to the original subject. His head snapped up when Etri cleared his throat. Right. He could sort out buttresses belonging to his sentinel later. He had a task to do. "I'll tell Sol and we'll get something else."

Etri caught his hand as he began to walk away. "There is no need. I simply require a contract."

Adair blinked. This made no sense. What was his was Etri's was Blythe's. They'd never needed a contract before. "But we're already bonded. Do contracts work between people who are linked?"

Etri laced their fingers together and squeezed his hand. "Never for you. For Sol. Before Blade and I lend him what he wishes, he must sign a contract. This way he takes care and is less likely to lose or break what we lend."

That, on the other hand, made a lot of sense. Adair kind of wished he'd known about this sooner. It would have saved Sol from using up all of his orange paint, for one thing. "Good point. Where can I find it?"

Etri nodded towards their wagon-home he so recently sat atop. "Blade has them filed away. She should have blank ones prepared, as well."

Of course she would. If Blythe was anything it was organized. Organized and entirely unlikely to put up with Sol losing or breaking anything of hers. Adair tugged on Etri's arm, his signal for wanting his tall love to come down to his level, and was granted a kiss. With an extra kiss to Etri's nose that always left him adorably flustered, Adair headed up the stairs with a grin on his face.

His good mood vanished as soon as he noticed Blythe laying herbs across every one of the kitchen counters. He'd planned to start dinner once he got the book for Sol and now this changed his plans. There was nothing he could do about it, though. He had to share the kitchen with her since it was where she prepped her healing stuff and they'd probably need it if Sol's invention backfired again.

He walked over to his other sentinel and wrapped his arms around her waist. She sighed at the interruption but didn't move away. "I'm busy here. What did you need?"

Adair nuzzled against her back. She smelled good, like whatever herbs she'd been cutting. These weren't the ones he used for cooking, so the closest description he could give would be "kind of spicy and a little minty." "Besides a hug? A contract. Etch says you have some blank ones?"

"Of course I do. You'll have to wait, though." She rapped her knuckles against the counter top. "They're under here and I can't get to them until these are done drying."

Wait, the counter top lifted? Adair spent at least eighty percent of his day in the kitchen and he never knew that. Blythe must have guessed his thoughts because she chuckled. "You never found them? We figured you'd realize they were there. We keep them where Sol can't find them because he kept using them for scrap paper."

Sol had a habit of tearing pages out of Adair's sketchbooks to do exactly this. Once the herbs were out of the way, this was another reason to make him sign a contract. "Good idea. I'll go let Sol know he can't have the book."

"Sol doesn't read." Adair covered a laugh behind his hand and a cough when Blythe gave him the same look Etri had with the expected raised eyebrow.

Adair had never learned how to do the raised eyebrow thing despite months of being around her. One time he thought he'd had it until Sol noticed and rushed him to Blythe to make sure he wasn't coming down with some deadly illness that made his face twitch. "Yeah, I know. He wants it to hold down glue."

"Of course he does, and I bet Etch wants the contract so our dopey inventor doesn't ruin the book." She lowered her voice and glanced around. They were alone except for the cat who was snoozing in a patch of sunlight. "Between you and me, I sometimes wonder if Etch loves those books more than he loves us."

Etri never needed a contract signed to keep Adair safe, but apparently the safety of his books was a more important worry. Maybe Blythe was right. Or maybe Adair was a little irked that no one deemed it important enough to tell him about said contracts. An entire tube of apricot-orange paint, and that color wasn't cheap.

Too late he realized Blythe was talking again and only caught the end of it. "-but I could dry these faster if I had some heat. Can you ask-"

"Dray! Yeah, I'll go do that." The sooner they got the herbs out of the way the sooner Adair could start dinner and the sooner he could claim one or two of those blank contracts for himself.

"I was going to suggest Sol since he needs the book anyway."

Adair pushed himself up on his toes to kiss her, then headed for the door. "No good, he's got his hands glued to a table. Well, not literally. I hope. I'll be back in a sec!"

After enough searching that seconds turned into minutes and were creeping towards a quarter hour, Adair finally spotted Firedrake in a field not far from where the wagons were parked. Firedrake was practicing with their swords... knives... daggers... whatever they were, they were on fire, which was perfect. Adair jogged over and immediately regretted that decision. As he bent over and tried to catch his breath, he wheezed out, "I need to borrow some heat."

Firedrake stopped spinning and lowered their swords. Yeah, swords. That had to be the word. Those were too long to be knives. "Excuse me?"

Adair straightened up, realizing now how stupid the request sounded. "Your heat? Blythe wants it so she can dry her herbs faster. I know this sounds dumb and she's probably just setting me up, so I'll be leaving."

Firedrake scoffed, but not for the reason Adair expected. "Is that all I ever am to anyone? A stove?"

"Umm... I'm pretty sure that's usually Sol." One of the benefits to having a Lightweaver as a friend was that Adair could use him as his own personal stove. It came in handy when he got so wrapped up in a drawing that his food went cold. All he had to do was hand a bowl to Sol and it would be reheated in seconds. The trick was getting Sol to not balance the bowl on his head because he took his role as a stove quite seriously and assumed that a stovetop was the same as his top.

"Hmph. I'm twice the stove he could ever be. I'll give her enough heat that those herbs will be dry in seconds." Okay, so this was turning into some sort of spitting contest. Whatever, as long as someone gave Adair the heat Blythe wanted. "I shall need something to put the flame into. Solei keeps borrowing all my vessels and conveniently forgetting to return them."

"Yeah, Sol likes to borrow a lot of things," Adair muttered under his breath.

"Precisely. He should have a few left, if he hasn't smashed them all to bits by now." When Adair turned to leave, Firedrake called to him, "Wait. We all know I can do this better, but why didn't you ask Sol first? You two are always attached at the hip. I would have thought he'd be your first choice."

Once again Adair was hit with a twinge of guilt. Firedrake had become like a sibling to him and he hated to think they felt neglected. After this fetch-quest was over Adair would have to spend more time with Firedrake. Then read more books for Etri. Then get Sol to sign a bunch of contracts so he'd stop stealing his art supplies. Adair maneuvered past the blades and wrapped his arms around Firedrake in a tight but careful hug. When Firedrake kissed his cheek, he knew he was forgiven. Still, he should do something to make up for being a terrible brother. Maybe they could go to a concert together. Firedrake loved music.

Adair gave Firedrake a squeeze and stepped back a safe distance from the flames. Even knowing Firedrake could-- and would-- prevent the flame from hurting him, fire still scared him a little. "I was already with Sol, yeah, but by now he's probably entirely glued to a table. Also he needs a book."

"The glue I can understand, but a book? Sol doesn't read."

Adair shrugged as he began the trek up the hill. "So I've heard."

To his amazement Sol was where Adair left him. This could only mean the assumption about the glue was right, but Adair was too afraid to ask because he knew it would fall on him to find a way to unstick him. Maybe olive oil would do the trick... "Dray says you should have something for holding fire. Can I borrow it?"

Sol nodded his head to the left. "Yeah, it's over by the window."

Adair prodded at the pile and found nothing in the mess that looked like it could hold anything. Except... he spotted a small wooden box and picked it up. He prodded at the stuck catch until it opened and was rewarded for his effort with a clump of pocket lint. Scrunching up his nose, he quickly set it back down. Something made of wood wouldn't really work even if it wasn't gross inside. What he needed was a thing that could hold fire. What held fire?

He nudged half a chess set out of the way. When a piece slipped off the board, he dove to catch it and rammed his knee against the trunk supporting the pile. He need not have bothered with the rescue; the poor knight was already missing its head. As he wondered when Sol learned how to play or if this was a thing Etri left behind when he moved out, Sol called over to him, "Oh, wait, no! I gave you my last jar. Right?"

Frit. Sol gave him a couple when he needed to can up a few things last week. Adair had only himself to blame for this one. He was limping out the door when Sol asked, "Hey, can you get me a jar of olives? You know the green ones with the things in the middle? I'm starving."

"Olives with pimentos? Yeah, sure, fine." At least Adair knew he had those. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was the contents of his own pantry even if Sol did occasionally like to commandeer it as his own personal hideout and probably knew what was in there better than Adair did.

By the time Adair returned to his wagon his knee was feeling a little better and giving Blythe another kiss on the way to the pantry helped distract him even more. The preserves were easy enough to grab-- they were on the bottom shelf, right where he'd left them. Right where... the jar felt suspiciously light. He unscrewed the lid to find it half empty. He knew it was almost full just this morning because he'd put a small amount on his toast. This meant a third contract for Sol to sign: no using all his paint, no ripping pages from his sketchbooks, and no stealing his preserves. His gaze traveled the shelves, seeking the olives Sol wanted, and he sighed. Considering how this day was going, of course it would be on the top shelf.

"Blade! Can you reach something for me?"

"There's a step stool in there. That's why it's in there."

Technically the stool was also for Firedrake since they were shorter than he was, but Adair wasn't going to argue technicalities with a height looming in his near future. He eyed the stool with trepidation. He didn't trust it not to suddenly rise five feet in the air as soon as he stepped on it. Considering how Sol spent so much time in here, it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility. "I know, but please? Pretty please with sugar on top?"

Blythe nudged him out of the way so she could get past. "Just this once, then I want you to do it next time. It isn't as though I can do much until I have heat, which I seem to remember you were supposed to get. Why are you looking for food or is that a dumb question?"

"It's not for me. Sol wants some olives."

Blythe rolled her eyes. "That would have been my second guess. Can't he get it himself? He can at least reach rather than sending in Shrimpy McGee."

Adair stuck his tongue out at her. This had the added bonus of proving it wasn't blue and he hadn't been snacking on the jar of preserves he held. "No, he needs the book and-"

"Right, right, he's glued himself to a table again." Blythe reached up with barely a stretch and retrieved the jar. She handed it to him with a shake of her head and a comment under her breath about his brave heroics in the face of dangerous step stools.

Now there were four things Adair needed to do when this was done: spend more time with Firedrake, read more of Etri's books, get some contracts for Sol to sign, and work on his fear of heights so he could stop disappointing Blythe. All this because he innocently agreed to help a forgetful friend who wanted to snack on olives, of all things.

As he passed through the kitchen Adair grabbed a spoon from the drawer and stuck it into the preserves. There was no way he was going to let this go to waste and he was perfectly happy to let Sol have the olives. He began to wonder how Sol had been eating the preserves since no spoon had gone missing, but he probably didn't want to know. He climbed into Sol's wagon to hand him the olives, then scurried away before Sol could ask for something else. By the time he reached Firedrake he had acquired an empty jar and a stomach ache. This so wasn't worth it. If he saw another blueberry again it would be too soon.

Through the last mouthful he said, "Here's your jar."

Well, he tried to. It probably sounded more like "Whhmph."

Firedrake snuffed out one sword and placed it in the grass so they could take the jar. With the tip of the other blade they transferred some of the flame into the glass. The first time Adair saw this done he thought it was a trick until Sol and Firedrake showed him that they both really could place fire anywhere they wanted without anything bursting into flame or melting.

Firedrake sniffed. "Ah, the scent of burning blueberries. Blythe will surely appreciate this."

They held the jar out to Adair who took it with some hesitation. It wasn't nearly as hot as he'd expected and holding it was just on this side of bearable. In hindsight, though, he probably should have grabbed one of his potholders. "So how will this dry the herbs?"

All Adair could think of would be tipping the fire onto the counter. Despite the lack of history of Firedrake's fire causing anything to combust, Adair wasn't about to test this in his new kitchen.

Firedrake picked up the sword and relit it by bringing it to the other. "Blythe will know what to do."

So Blythe had done this before. Then why couldn't she have retrieved the heat? Adair pondered this as he climbed the hill for the second time in ten minutes. His legs felt like jelly-- or possibly the preserves-- by the time he was back inside his kitchen. He handed the jar to Blythe and kept a careful eye in case she decided to dump the flames onto the counter. Her watering can was within reach and he could only hope it was full. When she squinted at the jar, the fire inside flared into a blinding white glow that made him scramble to cover his eyes. Belatedly he thought of grabbing the potholders for her, but her hands were probably fine since being a healer meant she didn't injure easily.

Sure now that both his sentinel and his kitchen were safe, Adair slumped into one of the chairs at a table also covered in herbs and waited for her to finish waving the jar above the neat rows of leaves. He eyed the watering can again, this time hoping it might be empty. If his stomach kept rolling like this, it might gain a new purpose as a bucket for him to be sick in.

All too soon she finished and the herbs were in their respective bottles and jars. If she'd given him one of those to use, it would have been a lot more convenient than making him down what felt like ten pounds of blueberry while running a marathon crossed with a scavenger hunt. As he tried to keep his stomach under control, she lifted the counter and rummaged inside. Adair felt too sick to care about asking her for a contract for himself. "Here you go. Etch knows what to do."

It seemed like everyone around here did except for him. All he knew how to do was to never say no and to eat so much his stomach felt like it was going to burst. He took the contract without a word and dragged himself back outside. Etri was already on the ground, which was good because there was no way his stomach could handle seeing him perched up high again. Adair handed over the contract along with a pencil he always kept in his pocket. After Etri signed it in his tiny cramped handwriting, he brushed Adair's mouth with his sleeve. The look he gave was all too knowing and all too incorrect.

Adair batted his hand away and took the contract and pencil back. "It's not what it looks like, I swear. Dray needed a jar and Blade needed fire. Food was the only way to get it."

It wasn't the dumbest thing he'd said all day, but it was close. With a small, fond smile on his lips, Etri leaned down to kiss him, then pulled a book from somewhere inside his coat and handed it over. "And you need rest. You have run yourself ragged for this."

Adair wondered for a moment how Etri was so aware of this when none of the others were until he recalled that Etri usually had a bird's eye view of everything happening in their small camp. Adair fought back another wave of nausea at the thought and headed back into Sol's wagon for the last time. He placed the book on Sol's worktable, wanting to drop it but knowing to be careful, and then dropped the contract and pencil in front of Sol. It turned out Sol's arm wasn't glued down when he caught the pencil before it could roll off the desk and drew a sun with a happy face at the bottom of the paper.

Adair let out a long sigh of relief. Finally, this was all done, he could go rest, preferably somewhere far away from anyone who'd want anything from him. Maybe he could take up hiding in the pantry, although that was probably too close to the row of preserves. Certainly not the roof of the wagon, either. Under the wagon had some potential...

"Hey, can you get me-"

Adair took a step back and was holding his hands out to block the request before the words were even out of Sol's mouth. "Sol, you know you're my best friend and that means I love you and want to help with whatever this thing is- Creators help me, why does it have arms?- but there's no way in the name of any of the nine Muses that I'm doing this ever again."

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