Murial and PineThorn (A Legend of Afinlyn)

An Essay By Kassady // 3/16/2012

Murial and PineThorn
A legend of Afinlyn
Short Story

(Sorry, not an Essay! I pushed that on accident!)

Murial of the Hoan Mountains, in the land of Afinlyn, lived in a large cave, beautifully furbished with the many treasures she had stolen from passing travelers and merchants. The walls were lined with red, gold and orange fabrics, to insulate the cave in the winter. Cushions and embroidered rugs lay about the hard cave floor, soft and colorful. Chest of drawers edged the walls and stood in strange places, all with intricate carvings of old tales and legends. Candles in ornamental gold, silver and copper candelabras stood glowing on top of the chest of drawers, shedding light unto the precious beauties.

The cave was a third of a mile wide, a half mile long and fifty feet high. In the very center of the cave lay a fire pit that Murial had dug out of the stone by herself. Smoke issued from the firewood she had set out earlier that morning, to scare off the hunters in the valley below.  

When the hunters saw the smoke coming from the mountain top cave, they turned and galloped off, their horses kicking up the mountain snow, hoping that the dragon they feared was in the cave wouldn't pursue them.  

Murial watched, with a devious grin, through the silver telescope she had snatched from an astronomer. Laughing she threw the telescope onto a nearby cushion and came away from the edge of the cave, walking over to her food pantry. “Now what?” she asked herself, her lonely voice carrying around the beautiful cave.  

***  

One brilliant afternoon, when the sun was just coming over the mountain peeks, and the snow started to slide into the river a few miles off, Murial slipped on her large boots and pulled on a hiking dress. Slinging a pack over her shoulder full of food and gold and water, she grabbed one of the metal shields she had collected and sat on it. She pushed herself on the shield off the dry platform of the cave floor and started to slid down the mountain side, bumping along. Dodging jutting rocks and dry spots, Murial zoomed downward vertically. She had done this several times, many times before falling and having an injury, but after many failures, she had figured out how to do it successfully without breaking her legs... again. As she slid across the flat land, her shield began to slow down and soon she was able to jump off and start walking.  

Heading south she knew she would hit the woodlands in about an hour, she would then cross the Grand river and head over to Ovilo for some food supplies, and to see if she could run across any travelers. She doubted she'd run into any merchants or wealthy travelers, sense Ovilo had no major roads, only back roads and forest tracks. It would be where all the hunters, fishers, and shepherds lived.  

Not too long afterward the forest pine trees were looming before her, mixed in with a few leafy trees and bushes. It was a quiet forest, with brown dead pine needles littering the forest floor. Moss grew here and there and large tree branches that had fallen, lay in the forest pathways. Murial didn't take the Forest trail, instead she climbed over a large dead tree branch and started walking in the unkempt areas of the forest that took longer to traverse.  

The pine needles crunched beneath her feat, and sticks snapped. She wasn't bothered by this, knowing that anyone who was passing would think she was a large beast. Making sure she actually stomped, so that she wouldn't be mistaken for a deer, she went along, reminding herself that she should not sing the tune she was humming out load.  

“Ouch!” a squeaky voice cried as Murial stomped loudly onto a large pile of pine needles.  

Murial yelped and stepped away, pulling out her saber and looking down at where she had heard the voice come from.  

The needles began to shake and shift and then something burst out from underneath them. It was a small human shaped creature that floated in the air.  

Murial yelped again as the little creature floated in front of her face. She noticed it did not have any wings, and wondered how it could float the way it did.  

The creature very much looked like a miniature human with green tinted skin and a lumpy nose. Its hair was light brown, held in a ponytail by what looked like snake skin. Its body would have been naked if not for the kilt made of pine needles it wore around its hips. It also wore high small boots, that kicked around in the air, as if this was what kept it upright. The creature had beady black eyes, rimmed with forest green, and framed in beautiful long brown eyelashes. He had large pointed ears like an elf, but they looked way to big for its body.  

“I... I...” Murial stammered, wide eyed in surprise, “I... I... I...”  

“I, I, I!” mimicked the creature, its voice becoming deeper instead of smaller when it made fun of her words. It started circling her in the air, glaring at her with it's beady eyes.  

“Uh...” Murial muttered, unsure of what to do. She lowered the saber, its blade tip nearly touching the pine needled floor, the curve to the blade keeping it from touching the ground.  

He-- she was sure it was a male-- stopped circling her and smiled at her. It was not a happy smile, to say the least, it sent shivers down her spine. He bared his teeth in a grin and started laughing menacingly. “Stop!” Murial cried at him, anger and fear creeping into her voice and heart. She lifted her chin up and glared at him, “Who are you?”  

He laughed, “Who are you?”  

Murial squared her jaw, “I asked you first!”  

“You were the one to step on me!” he squeaked, cocking his head at her with a devious grin.  

Murial's eyes darted from side to side, wondering what she should do, but first she had to know, what the creature was, “What are you then?”  

He rolled his eyes, still grinning, “I am an Imp! And what are you? A pig? More like a large clumsy bear!”  

“Am not!” Murial cried out in defense. But the fact that she was face to face with an Imp, made her feel a little intimidated.  

“Are you an Ufzach?!” he asked her in exasperation, calling her one of the stupidest creatures in the land. “I said I was an Imp! You haven't run away? Either you are a brave hero, or a huge Ufzach.”  

Murial narrowed her eyes at the Imp, set on not being scared, “I am neither, you fool! I am woman!”  

The Imp laughed out loud at her answer, and tumbled around in the air in amusement. Gripping his stomach as if he was laughing so hard it hurt, “Me? The fool?!” he cried in disbelief laughing still, “Let's remember who stepped on who.”  

Murial stepped a foot back from the Imp uncomfortably, “I said I was sorry,” Murial said, her head tilting down ever so slightly.  

The Imp laughed again, “Humans! Woman...” he said with a tone of mocking in his voice, “What is your name?”  

Murial was surprised by the gentleness behind his question, which totally contradicted all of the stories she had heard about Imps, “M- Murial,” she said uncertainly.  

“Hm... I'm PineNeedle,” he said confidently.  

Murial snorted, “PineNeedle?” she asked incredulously.  

PineNeedle puffed out his chest, “Yes! All Imps are named after their environment!”  

“Oh...” Murial muttered, taking another step back, “Well... I'm sorry for stepping on you and it was nice meeting you PineNeedle.”  

The Imp raised a thin eyebrow at her, “Oh no... you can't just leave like that Murial!”  

Murial was afraid she'd hear this eventually, she gulped, “I.... I have things to do!”  

The Imp started circling her again, his legs crisscrossing in a pretzel shape. Murial lifted her chin and met his beady eyes bravely. The saber was still in her hand and as her heart started pumping faster, the sword's tip edged upward.  

He laughed again and it made the hair on her neck, that had finally laid back down, stand up again. “There is a price to pay when humans trespass on Imp's territory. That dirt trail was made for a reason.”  

Murial opened her mouth to protest that she had, many times before, crossed in the woods without having to use the trail but her voice seemed to have stuck dry in her throat.  

He stopped circling her, and pursed his lips, “Now... what will be the punishment.”  

Murial's saber twitched at the thought of slashing him there and then. But Murial refrained and instead thought fiercely of how to get out of her predicament.  

“How about-”  

“A duel!” Murial cut him off, her voice squeaky from fright. She swallowed and opened her mouth to explain, “A duel of wits.”  

He raised both of his thin eyebrows this time, “You wouldn't be able to keep up, darling.”  

Murial prickled at the name he gave her, “I'm up for the challenge!”  

He gave her devious crooked grin, “Well then, so be it.”  

Murial narrowed her eyes, “What will it be then? Capturing a fairy? Jinxing a knight? Murdering a king?”  

“Pish posh, no!” he exclaimed, shaking his head and waving his hand dismissively, “Too easy! All of those are way too easy!”  

Murial nodded, gulping quietly, “Riddles?”  

PineNeedle grinned but shook his head, “No... not fair at all! I'd win with the first riddle.”  

Murial looked around for inspiration, nothing caught her eye, but a devious plan started playing out in her mind, something she would definitely have a fighting chance against, “I have an idea!  

***  

“Now... this should be easy, yet challenging for the both of us,” Murial said, the snow crunching beneath her feet from the mountain, her shield, that she had left under a special rock, in her cold sweating hand.  

PineNeedle hovered above her, frowning and shivering, “And w-w-what is 'this'?” he asked rubbing his forearms with his little hands.  

Murial stopped and pointed to the trickle of smoke at the top of the mountain, “A dragon lives in this mountain cave... except, he's been jinxed by a wizard. The wizard turned the dragon invisible so that he could create even more havoc under his control, but the dragon escaped the wizard and now lives in the mountains. There are great treasures in the cave that the dragon has horded for so long... I was thinking we could stop by.”  

PineNeedle grinned and rubbed his hands together, “Ah! M-m-marvel-l-lous!”  

Murial smiled, enjoying the joke with herself, “Now... you can come up with the rules.”  

PineNeedle shivered and floated over to a jutting rock, sticking out of the snow like a sore thumb. He sat on the rock, his pine needle kilt crackling, “So what is the point? Slaying the dragon and taking the treasure? Or taking the treasure from underneath its nose?”  

Murial wiped the smile of her face, “Oh... um... I was thinking the latter.”  

PineNeedle smiled greedily, rubbing his hands, “B-b-briliant!” his squeaky voice stuttering as his teeth chattered. “And... a-a-actually there is a-a-a drag-g-gon in the f-f-forest!”  

Murial nodded, with a smile, that would only make it more easy she thought, “Perfect! That would make sense, so you'll go your separate way to the forest and you'll rob that dragon. I'll rob this dragon. How about the point is to not be killed?”  

PineNeedle nodded, “We'll meet at the forest edge. If you don't make it there by sun set, then I win.”  

Murial nodded, “Wonderful.”  

PineNeedle nodded and turned to go, floating off the rock, but he turned to Murial and said in his squeaky voice, “Don't try to run away... I have ways of finding you. You will be killed if you run away, trust me!”  

Murial nodded with a grin, “Wouldn't dream of it,” she bowed and turned towards the cave. This was going to be so easy.  

PineNeedle turned and floated off into the forest, happy to finally be back in his element. His shivers soon went away and he floated through the forest to where his dragon's cave lay. He chuckled to himself, he loved it when humans thought they were smarter then him. He had tamed the dragon for his own, it had been easy, and it would be even easier to take the treasure. “Ufzach human!” he chuckled as he reached his destination.

The mouth of the cave was covered with a curtain of moss, but anyone could see and smell, the spiral of smoke that twisted out, wrapping around trees and breaking through the tree tops to the sky above. 

**** 

Murial waited with the large bag of treasure she had taken from her own cave, it had only taken an hour or so, and of course it was easy as pie. She waited playing with a few of the precious trinkets she had stolen from herself. She chuckled at the thought. “I'm so good, I can rob myself!”  

She had found a comfortable dry patch of grass beside the forest, where she could wait without travelers eyes seeing her. She was in the outskirts of the forest, so three or four pine trees shaded her from view. Plus, if anyone was coming from the mountains, all they'd see was the large, full push of poisonous berries.  

“Halo?” called a squeaky voice.  

Murial sat up in surprise to hear the Imp's voice, something she had not expected to hear ever again, “PineNeedle?!” Murial called standing up and looking around.  

PineNeedle floated over to her with a small knapsack in hand, slung over his shoulder, “Well... hello,” PineNeedle said dryly, frowning at the sight of the woman.  

Murial grinned at his gloomy face, reckoning he had the same feeling she had about him being alive, “Hello... Your catch looks rather poor if you ask me!”  

“No one asked you!” he squeaked angrily, setting the knapsack down, “Humans look but never see!” he muttered waving his hand in the air. The knapsack increased rapidly in size, that soon, was larger then Murial's.  

Murial growled under her breath, “Stinking magic creature!”  

PineNeedle gleamed proudly, then his face fell, “I guess this means we have to decide on a new challenge...”  

Murial nodded, sitting back down in the grass, resting her elbow on her knee while leaning her chin on her hand.  

PineNeedle crossed his legs and floated down next to Murial.  They sat in silence, thinking for a while wondering what they were going to do.

While they were thinking, a group of nobles were passing in the forest along with their legend ranger, who was renowned throughout the land. They had got wind of a thief in the mountains that kept on stealing from passing traders, and came to investigate.  

“The hunt was splendid last summer!” the voice carried through the forest, along with the sound of horses trotting.  

Both PineNeedle and Murial sat up straighter at the sound, their careful and vigilant eyes scanning the trees and surroundings.  

“Oh yes! Tilantous has such a wonderful aim!” said another conversationally.  

“Why, thank you,” said a pleasant deep voiced man in appreciation of the the other man's praise.  

Murial eyed PineNeedle and stood up with a brilliant plan, “HELP!” she screamed, grinning at the horrified look the Imp was giving her.  

“WHOA!”   

“What was that?”  

“HELLO?”  

“Did you hear that?”  

“Where are you?!”  

“We're coming!”  

“Get your horse's butt out of my face!”  

There was many yells from the party of heroes and nobles, all mixing together in a confused jumble.  

Before the Imp could react, Murial jumped out in front of the horseman and waved her hands frantically, allowing the actress tears to fall down her face as if she was in distress, “HELP!” she screamed again and stumbled forward to the horsemen.  

The ranger, Tilantous swung off his horse gracefully and pulled out his bow and arrows, as fast as lightning.  

Murial stopped afraid he was actually going to shoot her, she raised her hands innocently and ran forward, looking behind her in pretend fright, adding to her act, “HELP!” she screamed again, running right up to the horses who whinnied skittishly, afraid of all the noise and the sudden movements of Murial.  

“Whoa!” the noblemen steadied their steads.  

“What is it?” asked a strong tall nobleman dressed in velvet red and purple. He had gotten off his stead and had picked up the faking distressed maiden, pretending to go weak at the knees.  

Murial blinked rapidly, trying not to laugh, “Oh... oh... it's coming!” she wailed, putting her hand to her head.  

“What's coming?” asked one of the men still on a horse, holding the reins of his unsteady horse.  

“Pine...” Murial searched quickly for a more scary name for the Imp then his real one, “PineThorn!”  

“PineThorn?” chorused many of the knights together in awe.  

Everyone looked over as a TWANG shook the forest. Tilantous' bow string was quivering, the arrow was gone.  

Murial looked behind to see where PineNeedle floated looking incredulously down at the arrow sticking out from his chest. Like a sack of potatoes, PineNeedle dropped limp to the ground.  

Murial gasped and rolled out of the nobleman's large arms, she stumbled off the ground and ran over to where PineNeedle lay.  

PineNeedle glared through his beady eyes at her, green blood trickling down his bare chest already, “You...” he squeaked breathing raggedly, “Won.”  

Murial smiled, brightly and took the snakeskin out of his hair as a token, “Nice meeting you PineNeedle.”  

He smiled ruefully, wincing, “You mean...” he gasped for air roughly, “PineThorn.”  

Murial smiled and roughly took the arrow out of his chest, “Bye... PineThorn, the almost witty!” 

He sneered at her one last time and fell into a never ending sleep.  

“YAHOO!” Murial yelled for joy, jumping up with the snakeskin in one had and the now green tipped arrow in the other.  

The party of men gaped at her in surprise, shaking their head as she jumped around singing a merry victory song.  

“Well fellas!” Murial turned to the men, grinning, “Well done! Pretty good show, huh?”  

They eyed each other still surprised at her yells of triumph.  

“Are you...” Tilantous started to ask, stepped forward cautiously, “Are you alright?”  

Murial smiled and nodded. She waved to them all and turned around with the words, “Thanks!”  

They watched the retreating figure of the woman.  

Tilantous shrugged and climbed back on his stead, “We're on a mission men, onward!”  

An hour later, they all arrived at the cave, to find Murial.  

“Oh great!” Murial sighed in exasperation, beginning to scheme yet again.  

The End.

 

 

 

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