TROUBLESOME NEIGHBORS by M. K. Theodoratus
The Lady Renna, holder of Ren Creek, gathered oak galls to dye another batch of yarn. The bright fall sun cast deep shadows in the woods surrounding her. Two half-filled baskets swung from her yoke, her uneven gait sending them brushing against the willows growing along the stream. Renna swung her short-handled hoe in time to the bird song soaring from the trees.
The woods went silent. The brush under the trees rustled, a slight sound only one with elf powers could have heard. Turning to face the noise, Renna tightened her grip on the hoe. Black Tail, her pet sow, emerged from the trees with her nose coursing the ground. Renna giggled.
“You silly beast, you scared the life half out of me. You had me thinking you were a Feldsman up to no good.” Renna tapped the hoe against her leg. “Why aren’t you grazing with the herd? Where did your piggies go? Ditch them again?”
Black Tail looked up at her, grunted, and went back to her rooting. Renna felt silly for teasing the pig as if the animal understood. She knew she should send a mindspeak to the swineherds, but she didn’t have the heart. Her pet looked so happy rooting through the mast. As if reminded food was waiting, the huge sow disappeared into the woods with her tail wobbling in the air.
Renna discovered a patch of lichen she could use for violet dye growing on some rocks protruding into the streambed. She laid the yoke on the bank and stepped into the shallow water, soaking the legs of her trews. She scraped the scale off the rocks into her hand and transferred it onto a cloth she laid on another rock. The sun beat down on her. Sweat grew on Renna’s upper lip and temples in spite of her cold feet.
Pig squeals and baying hounds interrupted her work. Frantic dog howls rose above the din. Gripping the hoe, Renna ran through the trees towards the commotion, her soft-soled shoes skimming above the forest litter without a sound.
Renna located Black Tail in a clearing, backed against a huge oak. The sow bared her fangs at the four brindled dogs facing her in a semi-circle. Blood dripped from where a dog had torn into shoulder. A dead hound lay on the ground before her. The hounds howled and snapped at her but moved no closer. Black Tail’s hooves dug into the earth and her snorts sounded like growls to Renna’s ears.
Before she could scatter the hounds with her hoe, two Feldsmen dropped into the meadow, using elf power. Static from the transfer pulsed and dissipated. Renna froze. Feldsmen weren’t known for their elf magic.
Both men wore their hair peasant short, though one wore the jerkin of a Felds guardsman. Long fighting staves rested on their shoulders. Renna’s eyes narrowed in anger. She had told Gorsfeld to keep his men off her lands. She felt like snarling as loud as her pet but bit her lips closed, suddenly cautious.
Knowing she remained well within her boundaries, Renna used her elf powers to shadow so the invaders wouldn’t notice her. I’ll give them a chance to call the dogs off. If I upset Gorsfeld again, Krisran will lecture me as if I had the brain of a scatter wit.
“Finally, your dogs led us to a sow. I thought we’d never find an unguarded one.”
“Where are the piglets?” asked the short one, dressed in drab peasant’s clothing. “Lord Gorsfeld told us to only seize unmarked piglets.”
The taller guard, touching the dragon patch on his jerkin, raised his voice. “Don’t think we’ll find any piglets.”
“You think they ran away from the dogs?”
“Don’t be stupider than you are. Pigs stay close to their dam until they’re weaned.”
“Still, could’ve run away from the dogs.”
“Her dugs have shrunk.” The taller, dark-haired guard grinned. “But, this one’s by herself with no swineherd in sight.”
The peasant glanced around the meadow and twitched. “Don’t see no one. You need help doing something?”
“Seems a shame to leave a lone pig to the tender mercies of the forest.” The guardsman wiped his hand over his mouth. “Don’t guess you control an ounce of elf power though?”
The peasant shook his head. “You think we could capture her without no spears to prod her?”
Renna clenched her fists until her nails dug into her palms. The slithering slimes.
“Mayhap, we could drive her across the boundary with our staves?” asked the guard. “Your dogs know how to herd pigs?”
“Can’t you transfer her to the boundary with elf magic? You’re supposed to be ranger trained.” The peasant tugged at his ear. “If we could slaughter her on the sly, our families’d eat mighty fine this winter.”
“Can’t move nothing that big any distance. Why do you think I asked you if you had any elf powers?”
A hound ventured closer to Black Tail. She rushed him, and he twisted away. The pig grabbed his tail and, whirling on her hind legs, whacked him against the tree. Renna clutched the hoe harder. The remaining dogs stayed in position, but growled instead of baying.
“Blast,” said the peasant. “That’s one fighter.”
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Tell us 5 random things about you the person, not the author
1) I'm as grumpy as my elves are snarly.
2) I like salty things better than sweet ones.
3) I buy "Made In America" whenever I can.
4) I wonder why so many Christains aren't more Christ-like.
5) Caffine is my drug of choice, and I swill it regularly at the computer.
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