Nimble, laying between blades of grass, atop his small tattered wings, stared at the clean blue sky, his hands clenched over the wound in his belly. I would’ve liked a grand name. Arch Nimblus Ganymetrix or Sir Nimble of Toppledown; something nice for a seedtomb. But after trying to save a clueless private from the hostile’s feline beast, he figured his epitaph would probably be less noble . Here lies Nimble, Man-at-Arms, Gored by a Pussy, he thought, fucking great.
The whole operation had gone bad when duke Findingle had shown up--flying in from the East, a whole battalion of noobie sprites in tow, all polished up in silks and stardust. It was the Battle of the Lock all over again.
“Who the rings put him in charge,” Dip had grumbled, hovering next to Nimble and sharpening his miniature sword with a speck of gravel.
The two, part of the recon group, had stationed themselves behind some leaves in an old, twisted oak tree over the LZ; Wheelabout and Trink, spotters, had parked themselves across the way in the hostile’s chimney cap. Nimble and Dip had looked at each other, down at the picnic table below them, and back at Findingle. Over in the cap, Wheelabout and Trink were throwing the far-off Findingle middle fingers. Nimble and Dip had laughed.
“Command has their wings up their asses as usual,” Nimble had said.
Now stranded in the grass, one wing twisted and a gaping hole from the humans’ cat in his gut, Nimble wondered if his own wing was up his ass. Typical. He began dragging himself toward the old oak, sand and bits of weed tearing at the wound. “I should have expected this,” he spit, “fucking Findingle.”
Duke Findingle, and his lot of rookie nancies, had a reputation for being sloppy. When the battalion had formed ranks at the back of the oak, apparently based on wing color, or some other such nonsense, Nimble knew it was going to go bad.
“One of us better go tell him,” Dip had said quietly out of the side of his mouth when they saw Findingle.
“Yea,” Nimble had agreed, “don’t suppose you’re volunteering?”
“Hey, you’re the one who had to go and get himself promoted in the Grand Quest,” Dip had said, mockingly puffing out his little chest.
“Fuck civility and truth.” Nimble had buckled his doublet and set his wooden cap down tight. “I’ll be right back.”
As Nimble dragged himself forward, bleeding, he wished that he and his squad had just flown off then. He hoped one of them made it. Off to his left, Nimble heard the growing chittering buzz of ground hornets. Great--Here lies Nimble, Son of Snap, Raped by Angry Hornets--magnificent, just fucking magnificent.
Nimble had tried to warn Findingle. But the duke had been hopped up on clover from what Nimble could tell. Nimble had cut his way through the ranks of young faelings, their pristine wingtips capped in silver, to the duke. Findingle had been easy to find in the mess; the pompous twit, wrapped in gold-foil armor, was flitting about the field, shouting orders, atop a day-glow Orange Sulpher butterfly.
“Sire,” Nimble had said, racing to keep up with Findingle’s mount, “we have a problem.”
Findingle, eyes glazed, had glanced at Nimble and pushed forward toward a batch of sprites lugging dewdrop slings.
“Sire,” Nimble had tried again, “the hostiles switched desserts sire, bad intel, hymenoptera sire,” Nimble had said in rush, trying to get Findingle’s attention. Marmalade in spring meant hymenoptera--wasps and hornets--a whole quagmire of problems.
The duke had slowed his butterfly mount, looking at Nimble.
“Listen here,” Findingle had said, leaning toward Nimble, “we’re going in there, and we’re going hard. It’s going to be glorious--do you hear me--I said glorious! The Grand Quest, private, must be fulfilled.”
“But Sire,” Nimble had pleaded, “I’m with recon, surely Lord Mock informed you?”
“Bah,” the duke had said, “don’t prattle to me about Mock. Lord Mock this, Lord Mock that. This is my battle private; now get back in line.” And with that, the duke had charged toward the head of the column, leaving Nimble with two young sprites, struggling to carry a spiked acorn.
“Jackass,” Nimble had cursed, spitting in the direction the duke had flown off.
“Oh-no sir,” one of the young sprites had said.
“He is a great fairy,” the other had chimed in, “he’s going to lead us to glorious victory, a strike at incourtesy and barbarism--it’s the Grand Quest sir for civility and truth!”
Nimble had heard the same words when he was just a faeling, when some Lord had sold him the same drivel that Findingle was apparently still peddling. Nimble had known it was no use trying to convince them otherwise. He had unbuttoned his doublet, tipped his cap back and pulled out his sword. If it was all going to go splinters and webs, he might as well try to save some of them.
But Nimble had only saved two, and now he was as good as dead. Across the field, Nimble heard a cry and the whir of the hornets moved away. Some poor sprite was getting his. It didn’t matter; with the oak only feet away, Nimble’s arms gave out. Laying there in the dirt, listening to far-off din of some straggling fae fight for its life, bleeding out, Nimble wondered why they even cared what the humans did. What did it matter if the Smiths or Burkes, or whoever they were, were going to use the tablecloth as a napkin? Nimble rolled over, looking up into the leaves of the oak. He could see Dip there, slung over a branch, a bloody stinger protruding through his mouth. Nimble closed his eyes, and though he no longer believed any of what the Great Song said, he decided to die with a happy thought.
Here lies Nimble, friend of Dip, died in the Grand Quest