Gail the Gallant
by Val Gryphin
Table of Contents|
parts: I, II, III, IV
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful girl in a lovely enchanted castle. Important young men rode in from miles around in hopes of winning her heart.
Except of course, they didn’t really want her heart, they wanted her title and wealth and, probably, her body too, although that was secondary. However, really, the beautiful girl doesn’t factor into this story.
She wasn’t all that beautiful either, and she had body odor.
Anyway, my name is Gail, Gail the Gallant Knight. What, you don’t think a girl can be a knight? That is antiquated thinking, along with the whole beautiful princess thing. If I want to be a knight, I damn well will be a knight. Just try and tell me I can’t.
I started on my training as a knight in the usual way. I put on a pair of pants, chopped my hair, and presented myself as a young man eager to be abused in the pursuit of prestige. The stable master hated me as I have the unlucky tendency to say what I am thinking and, most of the time, what I was thinking about the stable master was not respectful.
I listen though, even while running my mouth, and I picked up on most of what I was taught. I got to be pretty good on the horses and with my wooden sword, even though I failed every single one of my archery lessons miserably.
One day I got tired of the stable master’s yelling and decided to skip my archery lesson and go hunt gnomes. Those little rats were always biting me when it was hot out, and I was sweating underneath the long wool undershirt they made us wear. “Tradition,” they said. My ass.
Anyway, the damn gnomes liked to swoop in and lick off the sweat from my face. For some reason they thought I tasted good enough to eat, and they’d get excited and bite me after the first lick. I was not amused.
I went off with a net and some tongs. I figured I could swing my net through a cloud of them — I’d be bound to catch a few — and then pull off their wings. That way, they couldn’t fly up in my face and bite and, since the one good thing I owned was a solid pair of boots, I didn’t have to worry about ankle-biters.
In the beginning it all went as planned. Sure enough, as soon as it warmed up, a cloud of gnomes gathered around me and started diving in. I let them get close and then swung my net around and snatched a few from the air. As soon as I did, the rest vanished, and I heard what I’m sure were gnome cusswords from the net. They were pissed.
Then I set about removing their wings. As I did so, they screamed, yelling what I’m sure was, “Do you know how much I paid for these?” and “I gave the tailor good money for these just last week!” and “Nooo, you ruined my new paint job!”
But since I couldn’t understand them, it was easier to ignore the squeals. I knew they would make or buy a new pair of wings within the week, but they tended to avoid me after such incidents and warned their fellows away. Which suited me just fine.
I got to the last gnome, a fat little guy, and I took hold of one of his wings with my tongs, and he screamed. I don’t mean in a my-dad-just-bought-me-these-new-wings-and-now-he’s-gonna-kill-me way. No, this was a this-idiot-is-pulling-off-my-limbs scream. I was so surprised that I almost dropped him on the ground, which could have killed him, although I did drop the tongs. The poor little guy startled cradling his wing and bawling, these great big tears pouring out of his tiny eyes.
I poked his other wing, and instead of frame and covering I felt bone and skin. He started crying harder than ever and, for once, I didn’t know what to say. I studied the blubbering little mess in my hand and noticed his ears were pointy in a way that gnomes’ weren’t, and figured this was probably the bastard child of a gnome and a fairy, although I had never heard of such a thing before.
“Um, I’m sorry?” He looked up at me with a scowl and then burst into tears again. I raised him up close to my face and studied the wing. It was at a funny angle, but it didn’t look broken; it looked more like when I had fallen off a horse and knocked my shoulder out of place. Gods, that had hurt.
“Well,” I started, but before I could say anything else he spat with all of his tiny might into my face. I almost threw him into the bushes right then and there, but then he started bawling again, and I just couldn’t.
“I’m gonna help you, all right?” Carefully I felt his wing, and he tried to curl up in a ball, wailing. He was really trying my patience.
“Ok, that’s it.” As gently as I could, I wrapped him in my fist and placed my finger at the base of the wing. I felt where it was and where it should have be and, as lightly as I could, I popped it back. It slid in with a teeny tiny thunk.
And then the little bugger bit me.
It was my turn to scream, and I let go of him and shook my hand. But he was really latched onto the fleshy base of my thumb, all of his pointy teeth dug in. I was about to break his neck, but then I saw he was still blubbering, eyes squeezed tightly shut, and I gritted my teeth and carefully grasped him in my other hand.
He popped one eye open at me, then slowly released my hand. He immediately curled into a ball, preparing to be thrown into the woods as I examined my bleeding flesh. Which I was going to do, but his little quivering lip made me pause.
“Ah, bloody hell.” I sat down on the ground and pulled my handkerchief out of my pocket and, with my teeth, ripped off a strip from a fairly clean corner. It’s not easy to make a sling for a tiny gnome-fairy, but amazingly enough he let me rig him up.
He was more stocky than a fairy and had that distinctive gnome nose. But he also was taller and had longer limbs than a gnome and definitely had fairy ears. Where he got that potbelly, I don’t know; probably indulging both species’ sweet teeth.
I glanced up and spied a cluster of popberries, which had pretty strong painkilling abilities. They were also extremely bitter and nasty. The stable master liked to make us eat them when our muscles were sore, and then work us harder. The next day we’d barely be able to move.
I stood up to grab a few, expecting the little gnome-fairy to run away. Instead he watched me with a frown of suspicion. I suspected that he didn’t try running away because he wasn’t all that used to running on land and didn’t think he’d get too far. I sat back down and handed him a berry. He took it in both hands and stared at it doubtfully.
“Eat it.” I mimed eating. He took a bite and then spit it right back out and yelled at me. I scowled back. “EAT IT.”
He shrank back and took a few small bites. He grimaced and made faces, but then he started taking larger bites and grinning. I was getting alarmed when he started giggling, then belched and passed out flat on his face.
Great. I had a drunk fairy-gnome thing. Well, hell.
I contemplated leaving him there, but I knew there were foxes and weasels that would probably love him for a snack. With a sigh, I carefully wrapped him in my handkerchief and tucked him in my pocket. I had to get back before the stable master found me gone.
Copyright © 2010 by Val Gryphin