The windows rattled and the door shook with the force of someone pounding on it. Fear gripped her and she shivered. They can't get in unless I invite them or the whole house falls down.
She heard thumps on the roof.
They'll tear down the house just to get to me. What am I going to do? Her mind threw pieces of spells at her, but nothing stayed long enough to be effective.
Then it went quiet.
It's a trick. She looked at the door. I relax and the house will fall.
"Hey, girl! Get out here and help!"
Her ears perked up. That sounded like...
"I'm not doing all the work!"
She peeked out the door and saw the people who had been trying to get to her inside the house. "About time," the male growled. "Pronounce your victory so I can relax."
"Victory," she said loudly.
He grinned malicious at the pile of bodies. "You heard her. You've been defeated, now leave."
Fenny watched him walk over to her and remembered the first time she had seen him. She had been walking out in the woods, getting to know where she lived, and he had been gutting something. She had never found out what and she didn't want to know. He had yelled at her and she had ran. The next morning, there had been freshly caught and cleaned fish on her doorstep.
She had seen him briefly after that. They had no great conversations, only nodding to each other. She helped those in the forest and kept to herself. She found presents of food on her doorstep and her garden was weeded before she woke.
"Why are you here?" she asked.
Re'yen snorted. "It's Halloween night."
"I can take care of myself tonight."
"Like the guys who were about to destroy your house?" He gave it a speculative look. "You'll need to fix the roof before the next rain or you might as well sleep outside."
"Because you'll get wet."
"No," she said shaking her head. "Why are you really here?"
"You've been nice to the people around here and I'm the strongest of those who will help you."
It had spread that he was helping her. Some of the creatures thought that he was mad, some took it on themselves to tell him he was making a mistake. Some who had been friendly stopped and others started.
He didn't care. The rest of the creatures, besides a scant few, could throw themselves off a cliff. He'd leave anyone alone who left him alone. His attitude didn't happen around this girl.
He didn't know what it was. He had seen her when he was cleaning his kill and he yelled at her like he would anyone else. She had looked at him with such a startled and hurt expression before she ran away. He couldn't get her off his mind so he brought her something.
Re'yen had meant for that to be it. He had felt guilty for some reason and had left her some fish. She started helping creatures and he saw that she was trying to do some good. He had reasoned that if she wasn't hurting anything, he could at least feed her since she wasn't doing too good of a job herself.
Then tonight came and some of the others had looked to him to do something. He had grumbled about it and growled at a few who came too close. He had gone home, but heard noises from her direction. Scowling, he had gone off to help.
He kept watch the entire night. After he had defeated the first few, the rest weren't so bad. They were mostly afraid of him anyway.
The girl came out with him and used her small magics to distract those who came to hurt her, to frighten her away. He had given her looks plainly meant to scare her back inside the house, but she had stayed.
Dawn came and light with it. He stretched and took a step toward the edge of the clearing. Home, he thought. Some sleep would make him as good as new.
He turned and raised an eyebrow. "What do you want now?"
Fenny lowered her arm. "Where are you going?"
She glanced back at her house. "But you hurt some of them. Won't they be looking for you? Couldn't they attack while you're sleeping?"
He shrugged. "Then they'll find out that I don't wake up well."
She gave him a concerned look. "Won't you come inside? You can sleep there, where they won't look for you. You've already scared everyone away."
He felt his jaw slacken. "You... would invite me inside your house?"
She gave him a half smile. "Yes."
This was unheard of. A creature didn't go inside a human house. Not unless they tore it down first. They had to be invited and it wasn't known for a human to do that. He swallowed. "On my honor, I shall not seek to harm you while I am your guest," he said formally.
She laughed. "If you did, you would only have had to stay away last night."
Fenny went inside and the creature followed her hesitantly. She almost laughed, but she didn't want to offend him. What did one offer a creature for comforts?
She turned and he backed up a step. She ignored the look of wariness and asked, "Do you want something to eat? Drink?" He shook his head. "Okay. I'll get you a blanket and a pillow." She walked quickly to her bedroom.
She fetched the items from her chest at the end of her bed and took them out to him. "Um " she said looking around.
"The floor's fine," he told her gruffly and went to the hearth to sleep. She blushed and went back to her bedroom. She got out of most of her clothes and went to bed.
She woke up a few hours later and dragged her consciousness out of sleep. If I don't get up now, I won't sleep tonight, she told herself firmly.
Her eyes flew open. There's a creature in my kitchen.
Her next thought was, I should fix him something to eat. He did help me last night. She pushed the blankets back and set about getting dressed again. The trolls would have torn the house apart if not for him. Who knows what else would have come if I had been completely defenseless. Some of the not nice creatures, the mischievous elves and gnomes, the darker creatures that hid in the shadows.
There were rumors of dark creatures in the deeper woods where she hadn't been. The black creatures instead of gray. She shivered and pulled on her shirt. She was going to stay away from those if she could.
I wonder what he is, she thought. I don't know his name or even what creature he is.
She shook her head. He helped me and that's all I'm going to think of, she thought firmly. She walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.
She blinked. "Where did he go?" she said scowling.
"To get breakfast." She turned to see him in the doorway, holding five fish. "Or lunch if you want."
Her eyes lit up at the meal and she took them from him eagerly. "Thank you!" she said enthusiastically. "I'll cook them-" She paused and looked at him. "Do you eat cooked meat?"
He shrugged. "Sometimes."
She nodded and went to the kitchen. "I'll have these ready in half an hour. Is there anything you're allergic to?"
"You're being nosy."
He didn't say it with any anger in his voice, so she gave him a smile. "I don't know anything about you. You could be a creature that doesn't like white mushrooms."
"I'm not allergic to anything you can find around here," was all he would tell her.
They ate and he finished long before she did. He cleaned his plate and left without a word. She blinked and waited for him to return.
She finished eating and cleaned up. He still didn't come back. She shrugged. He brought lunch. I guess he can leave when he finished eating it.
Fenny dried her hands on the sides of her pants and went outside to check the garden. She had harvested everything that could be eaten the day before.
She got a good look at it and grimaced. They had torn it apart. Literally. The ground had huge gashes in it where hands and claws had ripped into the ground.
She sighed. It was nearing the time when the ground would be frozen. She could smooth it out now or wait until spring. She went to get the hoe.
While she was working in her garden, her visitor was on his way home. He had a small building made out of rocks, mud, and fallen trees. Trees were stacked on top of each other for three walls and the fireplace was at the back third. Mud was slapped in the cracks along with brush and whatever else he could find that looked like it would work.
"Is she safe?" a small creature chittered at him from a branch.
He glanced up, made sure it was alone, and nodded. "She's fine," he said gruffly. It ran off to tell everyone the news.
It had been a good night for the girl. Once they were defeated, they wouldn't bother her anymore. Most of the creatures who lived around here that didn't like Fenny had challenged her last night.
He snorted. Fenny. What a name. It was definitely human.
His ears perked up and he relaxed. "Sk'lou."
A small creature peeked out from behind the door. "You're back," he said happily. He ran out to him and Re'yen picked him up.
"Anyone bother you last night?" he asked.
Sk'lou shook his head. "No. I didn't hear anyone."
He frowned and sniffed the furry creature. He narrowed his eyes. "Did you eat any of the red leaves?" Sk'lou wouldn't look at him. He held the boy out from him. "How many did you have?"
He squirmed, but held up a hand. Four.
Re'yen tucked the creature to his side and turned back toward Fenny's clearing. That many could kill Sk'lou.
He ran until he was out of breath. Sk'lou watched the scenery pass with bright eyes. Re'yen could feel the creature's temperature going up.
He burst into the clearing and his ears rose up. He found a hint of noise in back of the house. He ran to her and she turned. "I need help," he told her. He glanced down at the bundle in his right arm. "Can you fix him?"
She stepped forward and looked at the small creature. "What is he and what's wrong?" she asked.
He growled. "A halfbreed of a Ska and a Miklou." She didn't say anything. "Too high and mighty to treat one?"
She looked at him, her eyes wide. "Of course not!" she said insulted. "I am not a naturalist. What happened to him?"
"He ate red leaves."
She nodded. "Ska love them, but to Miklou they're poisonous. Bring him inside and I'll give him something."
He followed her and she found the medicine she wanted. "How long ago did he eat them?"
"Only a few hours," Re'yen said.
She dosed him with the medicine. "It should counteract what's in his stomach. It depends on how much he's digested by this time." She gestured to the hearth. "You can sit there with him if you want. I didn't put your blanket away yet."
He took her advice and held the small creature close, wrapping them both in the blanket. She stayed inside and began baking bread.
She finished the bread and set it to rise. Walking over to Sk'lou, she put a hand on his forehead and nodded. "I think he'll be okay."
Re'yen gave the boy a worried look. "Last time, he ate three and he was sick like this for a week."
"It shouldn't be that long with this medicine. It's too soon to tell, but I'd say he'll be better by the day after tomorrow." She disappeared into a separate room and came back with a book. She found the entries for both species and began reading.
The older halfbreed patted the younger's hair while he slept. He was small and slight, scrawny more than anything. He was a human-shaped creature with brown fur lightly on most of his body. He had claws instead of fingernails and toenails and sharp pointed teeth. His eyes were a shade of green no human would ever match.
Re'yen wasn't much different. He had grown up to a wiry body with the same fingernails, toenails, and teeth that Sk'lou had. His eyes were a fainter green. Sk'lou's ears were a bit longer than a human, but the top of Re'yen's were furred and came to a point further up on top of his head.
Fenny's eyes sharpened and she hm'd to herself. Her finger tracked the words and she smiled in triumph. "Can you bring him back in a couple days?" she asked.
He looked up at her and shrugged. "Why?"
"I think I've found a way for him to eat the red leaves without getting sick." She frowned. "Does he know they make him sick?"
He gave her a 'don't be foolish' look. "No, he was sick in bed for a week because he wanted to stay out of the sun."
"So they make him sick and he sneaks them anyway. What if I said I could make something that tastes like red leaves, but won't make him sick? Would you bring me some leaves so I could test it?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Test it on who?"
She sighed and looked at Sk'lou who was in his lap. "Unfortunately, he's the only one I can ask." A low growl came from Re'yen's direction. "I wouldn't hurt him-"
"You're not going to."
She got up and sat beside him, ignoring the noises he was making. Pointing to the paragraph, she said, "See? It's simple to get the toxin out." He looked away from the book. She frowned and then realization crept over her face. "You can't read it?"
"I know a few words," he said defensively.
She took the book back. "What it says is that the red leaves make Miklou sick because of the toxin in them. If you boil the leaves, you can use them in other things. If I can make bread with the leaves in them, but not the toxin, he won't get sick."