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Fairies, chapter 1 - Fairy wings

Triggered by this.

Ages ago, I had a dream sequence, and part of it related to "pulling wings off of fairies".

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The war had gone on for ages now. No one remembered the start, or why, anymore. The trees, the vines, the land itself were all chosing sides.

The sides were not what one would think. There were elves, trolls, sprites, fairies, dryads, gremlins, firefliers, arachneans, and a lot of other species that had generated during the Diaspora. There were three main sides, but they shifted: the hominids, the altered, and the new forms.

The hominids were simple - elves, trolls, giants and the like. Some of the more extreme changes that still walked upright and didn't have extra limbs or weird sizes sometimes grouped in with us, sometimes with the altered. We didn't trust them, because of that.

The altered were things that sort of were hominids in origin once, but drifted to smaller, extra limbs, missing limbs, and seemed they were no longer a similar species. They say that the test is interfertility, but that doesn't always work between hominids. Besides, a troll making it with a fairy? Either splat or laughing. There is a severe parts incompatibility there. But some of the "we are all one" types say that we were all once "human".

Then there are the new forms. When a tree gets up and tries to stomp you into the dirt, that's a new form. A vine with eyes and tentacles in its leaves? A new form. The new forms are threatened by the hominids, they say. We will destroy them like we did in the past. We will eat them. There may be some truth to that. Everything has to eat, and we don't process dirt and micro-organisms as well as treezans do. The dryads manage by consuming the sheddings, excretions and dead falls of the treezans, but that doesn't work for elves and trolls. This is why the dryads, a mostly hominid altered form, are allied with the treezans - they have a symbiosis.

The centaurs are another group that waffles tribe by tribe. Trolls like horse meat (hell, damn near any meat), so they see centaurs as food. If you have allied centaurs, you have to keep watch on your trolls. Then again, a crazy, hungry troll at one of my own troop last year, and we had to hunt the bastard down. It's bad for morale if you have to worry about being eaten by your own side. Then again, that could be a large reason for the war: food, and who gets to eat who.

Now, once upon a time, when I was little, I thought fairies were the cutest thing. My dad had brought one home from the war, in a cage, for my mother. It was a royal fairy, with huge (relatively) wings, exquisitely patterned. Looked a little worse for wear, with some tears on its wings, but mom was thrilled, and nursed him back to health. Even us kids were fascinated. When it got stronger, we found out that he could pick locks. In retrospect, it was pretty obvious. My dad caught him, and held it by his wings until he passed out. Then he put him back in a bigger cage, and zap welded the door shut.

After that, it was a battle of wits between my dad and the fairy. He never would give any of us his use name, much less his Name - not even my mom. We kids called him "Royal" (yeah, I know, not very original). He even stung my mom on several occasions, and she thought he was beautiful, and did her best to pamper him. She even fed him some of her own blood, not just tree sap. I asked him why, once, a curious child. His reply? "Even a guilded cage is still a cage." It was years before I understood what he meant. Not long after that, mom found him dead in his cage, and we were never sure whether something killed him, or he killed himself.

Last week, we ended up striking into fairy territory, needing to thwart an expansion of fairywood treezans, dryads and fairies onto land we were trying to farm and cultivate non-sentient trees on. Ever get attacked by a swarm of bees? Take that, multiple it by thousands, and that's what a fairy strike is like. If enough can stab you or sting you, you end up paralysed or dead. We made sure to bring with us all who had been paralysed when we retreated - being exanguinated by a fairy swarm is not a fun way to die.

Now, we elves are agile climbers. Treezans hate that, although you would think that having someone to trim deadwood would be nice. Dryads can do some, but they can't spend too long away from rooting soil. So there I was, climbing a thrashing treezoid in full leathers, grabbing fairies and ripping their wings off. If I had time, I'd crush their head or throat, but only because I'm nice like that.

You see, fairies breathe by the same motion that moves their wings. If you see one that's absolutely still, he's either holding his breath or dead. The biggest of them is the length of my forearm (mom's royal was), and they feed on tree sap and blood. Without their wings, they can barely breathe, and slowly suffocate, and can't move except by walking, which takes more air than they can get in. One particularly sadistic bastard that I knew grabbed one, immobilized it, took it back and cauterized its wings off, and let it loose on the floor. It took the fairy a couple hours to die, struggling to get away. Sick. So I try to make it quick.

I've been a soldier for 20 years, and an officer for the last six. I know the fastest way to kill every species I know of, and the slowest. I know what they eat, what is poison to them, and their attack tactics. I can even sort of keep track of all the shifting alliances. I've had the privilege of riding a centaur - he and I are sworn blood kin (which is the only way you get a centaur ride, unless you're gravely injured or very, very young.) I have people in intelligence and tactics consulting with me on small details of every known race.

But some nights, I lie awake, and think of the waste, in lives and potential beauty, that these generations of ever increasing war have cost us all. I try to think of ways for the different races, even the ones that chill my blood (arachneans scare the shit out of me), can live and eat in symbiosis with each other, so we don't have to kill each other for food and growing space. I've never told anybody, as I try to work out the web of needs, for fear that they will think I'm some sort of soft hearted fool. Not even my blood brothers and sisters, who I trust with my life.

Each time, as I drift off to sleep, I find myself cursing the ancients who caused, somehow, the Diaspora, as they destroyed themselves in some final cataclysm of war. Who knows, maybe our war is just an extension of that, and will continue on until the last species triumphs, only to die from something it lacks.

-- end chapter 1 --

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
cadhla
Jun. 5th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
...okay, that? That pleases me.
copperwise
Jun. 5th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
Rock ON. This is great.
ysabetwordsmith
Jul. 10th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
Hmm...
This looks interesting. Good setup and conflict, though it could use more cohesion. I like the racial tensions ... and the hint that they need each other whether they like it or not.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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