One step at a time
There weren't always dragons in the valley. They were in the mountains this time of year, they would return again in the fall, during their migrant season. Leena was dazed, but she wasn't worried about dragons, they were the least of her worries.
Leena walked into town to the tavern in a daze and sat at the bar, staring forward, waiting, stirring inside. There were murmurs about her, but she didn't hear them, she didn't care, not anymore. The murmurs of strangers were the least of her worries. The bartender asked her what she wanted, but Leena didn't hear her initially. She waved her hand in front of Leena's face. It took the barwoman snapping her fingers to get Leena's attention. "Can I get you something madam? Someone?"
Leena's eyes went from the barwoman's hand to her face, "I'm no one's madam. Something to drink."
"I've got a pale sarsaparilla."
"Stronger," Leena replied.
The bar woman looked her over and around the bar room. "White wine?"
Leena pulled the coin pouch off her wrist from her lap and took a few silver coins from the pouch and slid them to the barwoman. "Stronger. I want to forget today happened."
The barwoman's eyes grew wide at the generosity. "Whiskey?" The barwoman leaned into Leena, winked her deep green eyes and in her mind she heard the barwoman's voice tell her, "I can add a pixie bump if you like. I'll take care of you." The barwoman's whispers in her head were sultry and comforting, it was the best thing she had heard all day.
"Whiskey. And keep them coming." Leena answered nodding.
"Sure thing." The barwoman put a cup in front of Leena and from her palm, a small cloud filled the cup before she poured. "My name is Daisy. I might not own this tavern, but no one will mess with you as long as I'm here tonight." In Leena's mind, she heard Daisy's voice again, "I'm only a quarter pixie, so you shouldn't get too destroyed."
Leena thought back to Daisy, "I'm already destroyed."
Daisy looked sadly at Leena and nodded before going to help another patron at the bar. It was early afternoon and Leena, while dressed pristinely, was destroyed inside. She looked down into the cup of whiskey. She knew the pixie essence in the drink would do things to her mind and body she hadn't felt before, but she didn't care. She didn't care about the money in the coin pouch, staining her green and white dress, or how puffy her face was from crying. She couldn't imagine sinking any lower, so she might as well be drunk, and probably a little high from Daisy's essence. She leaned an elbow on the bar and rested her head into her hand; fingers running into her hair. A flower fell out of her hair and onto the bar. She flicked the flower down the bar while staring into the whiskey; Daisy's essence showing in the cup, a slight metallic sheen on the surface. Daisy was telling the truth, she either wasn't much of a pixie, or she didn't put much effort when she released her essence. She picked up the cup and took a sniff. The strong oak smell of the whiskey outweighed that of Daisy, but she could still smell her. She took a sip; though not always a fan of whiskey, today, it was a gift from the gods and from Daisy. She looked at herself in the mirror behind the bar: red face, red eyes, perfect dress, pretty brown hair. That morning she felt beautiful, but now, she was a fool, destroyed. The warmth of the whiskey began to move through her, perhaps it was more of Daisy, she wasn't sure. Leena finished the cup. She hadn't eaten much that day and the effects were hitting quickly. "Another Daisy," she spoke low. She didn't need to shout or flag for her; Daisy knew one way or another.
Daisy walked back and poured another whiskey, holding the bottle by the neck. She surreptitiously poured more of herself into the drink. "That will cost another silver." Leena looked into the cup and the metallic shimmer left by Daisy was brighter, bolder than the first.
Leena looked at her and thought, hoping she would hear, "I want to get fucked up, not fucked. Can you make sure of that?"
Daisy's voice whispered in her mind. "I didn't need to read your mind to know you didn't want men to bother you today. It won't be an issue." Daisy drew a rune on the bar in front of Leena with her finger then slammed it with her fist. A ring echoed from it for three feet, moving through Leena, then dissipated. Daisy spoke out loud, "But that's for free as long as you're here."
"Everything has a price," Leena said caustically. She didn't mean for it to sound so rude, but she was upset.
Daisy spoke into Leena's mind again. "You have the right to get fucked up without getting fucked in here. No one gets hurt without my say so." Daisy grinned showing her fangs, then ran her black tongue over her teeth.
Leena spoke out loud, "You have my gratitude today," and took another sip.
"You're smart. You know a lot of pixies? Fae?"
"I know enough. My experience has all been business. Mostly in the markets, there was a farm blessing three years back, that summer there was almost no rain."
"We're more than business as a people," Daisy replied.
"And you're more human," said Leena.
Daisy gave her a bit of a glare. "Yet I don't own this tavern outright and men look at me like a dessert. If I ever have children, maybe they can have a better life than this." Daisy topped off the cup and left the bottle, walking away from her.
Leena didn't mean to insult her, but Daisy was right. She looked in the mirror and felt worse. She plucked the flowers from her hair and stacked them in a neat little bundle on the bar. She continued to drink. How did this happen? Motherfucker. After the second cup she was crying again. Her reflection was blur in front of her. She was sick of the sight of herself and looked down at her dress and cried more. Seeing a loose thread, she pulled it off the skirt of the dress and bound the flowers with it, at least something nice could come of her look today. She poured herself another cup and kept sipping the whiskey, by now the flavors were meaningless in her mouth. She wasn't sure if her buzz was from the liquor or Daisy's essence. She felt the high in her body: a warmth, a comfort, the stress fleeting. Her mind was starting to feel the same way. Her tears were drying, her pain was numbing, but the memory of the day was there. It was nice to not have it hurt as much. Motherfucker. Leena shook her head, smiled and sipped some more.
"Last call," said Daisy. "Another silver coin will get you a room upstairs and breakfast tomorrow."
"I'm barely on my third drink," Leena replied.
"Sweet blood," She said affectionately, if not a little patronizingly, "That's your second bottle. Look around."
Leena looked around the room to see a few people getting ready to leave for the night or arrange for rooms.
"All day, about nine hours. What do you think that rune did?"
"Keep patrons away?"
"And kept you there drinking." Daisy said pointedly. "Why do you think it was free? One silver for the room and breakfast."
Leena took a deep breath and nodded. "That's good business. I rep-res-pect that." She slurred while taking another coin out of the wrist purse. She stood up from the stool and immediately stumbled, catching herself on the bar.
"Oryon!" Daisy called. Leena felt him come before he reached her. It wasn't so much his footsteps, or the floor, it was his presence. With Daisy's essence imbued in her, Leena could see things she couldn't normally; she could see more of Oryon than most humans normally could. Oryon was private security for the tavern, he was an ogre with hunter-green skin, brown eyes, deep brown beard and chest hair cascading out of his black vest, and the biggest smile. From that smile and his large arms emitted a golden glow, and Leena knew it meant she was safe. "Room ten for Leena here. She's had a tough day."
"Not sure what gave her a tougher day, you or her time before she came in here," Oryon said. For a large ogre, he was surprisingly gentle taking her hand and wrapping it around his forearm, which was larger than her thigh. "I can show you to your room Miss Leena."
"Yes you will," Leena said matter-of-factly in her drunken stupor. "O-Ohryion, was it?"
"Oryon, Miss Leena, I understand what you mean." He gave her hand a little tap as he lead her to the stairway.
As drunk as Leena was, she knew that this ogre wasn't going to hurt her, his golden aura was one of safety, goodness, and joy. "How did a nice ogre like you end up helping messy drunks like me?"
He laughed and the golden glow on him grew and shimmered. "Good upbringing. Great friends. Wonderful wifey."
"You sound like a lucky person." Leena burped and focused her attention on climbing the stairs.
"Not all luck. I meet lots of people. Some good, some bad."
"Am I bad?" She interrupted sadly.
He looked at her sympathetically, "I think you had a really bad day, and you can make some good of it tomorrow."
"I don't know how that's gonna be possible." Her voice cracked.
"Uh-oh, Miss Leena, you dropped something," he said a little seriously. He pointed to the floor with his free hand. "Your smile." She looked up at him with big tears in her eyes and a weak smile. Oryon was a blur of green and gold. "And your feet." He scooped her up carrying her down the hall and the pair had a couple laughs as he brought her to her door for the night. Oryon was as strong and playful as he was polite and kind.
"You can put me down. I thi-ink I'll be alright."
"I'll be at the end of the hall, right at the top of the stairs until morning. Keeping the bad people out." He gave her a gentle touch to the shoulder and a little tap under her chin. "A good tomorrow. If you forget everything else, don't forget that. You start there." He pulled a black and white kerchief from his pocket and dabbed her tears and and tapped her nose playfully, leaving her with one more smile as she went in the door and he went back down the hall.
Leena locked the door behind her. She took off her dress and shoes, she couldn't stand wearing them anymore. She used the wash chamber: urinated, vomited, and washed herself the best she could. She felt better almost immediately. Tomorrow, motherfucker. She lay in the bed on her side in case she needed to vomit again. In the soft glow of the candle light, she could see her dress she left hanging on the chair across the room: a ghostly, ghastly apparition hanging there, mocking her. She closed her eyes, but she knew it was there, that damned dress. She knew she would have to put it on again in the morning and it would be utterly embarrassing. She opened her eyes one more time and looked at the bowl next to the bed, readying it again in case she would be sick. Leena took a deep sighing breath before closing her eyes and fading thoughts falling asleep. Drunk. Alone. Carried to the room by a golden ogre. This is not how I expected to spend my wedding night.
To be continued...
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions