“What do wizard here?” demanded a deep, surly voice. It took me a minute to realize that it was the creature talking.
“I’ve come for the girl. I mean no harm, unless you try to hurt me first.” I called. The creature didn’t sound too bright. Maybe if I could reason with it, I could get Luella back quickly and get on my way without any more fighting.
“Wizard make food die.” It informed me sounding angry.
“I make no food die.” I reasoned, loudly. “I’ve come to take the girl back home.”
“No made food die?” It seemed to be sinking in. “Come for girl?”
“Yes.” I said. There was a loud pop, like a cork from a bottle. I peered over the boulder and didn’t see the creature anywhere.
“Are you sure you are ONLY here for the girl?” a small, very formal sounding voice asked in my ear. I turned to see a purple bat, just like the small bats outside. He was also a much smaller version of the giant one I had been talking to. Only cuter, and apparently much smarter.
“Excuse me?” I asked, trying to switch gears.
“The girl. You said you have come to take her home.” The creature said, sounding testy. “Did her parents send you?”
“Umm, no.” I said. “Her betrothed did.”
The purple bat blinked at me. “Betrothed? She has a betrothed that can send a Wizard to seek her out?”
“Yes, she’s due to get married in a few weeks to the Lord Duke Kovar.” I told the bat.
“You humans do rush things.” It said, sounding a bit put out.
“What do you mean?” Luella was supposed to be 18 years, a prime age for noble women to start considering marriage. “She’s a bit young, granted. Especially for Kovar but it’s not unheard of for a girl her age to marry.”
“Right.” The bat seemed to be confused but resigned. “Perhaps you had better come with me and fetch her. She has been weeping since she arrived.”
“Thank you.” I said, following the little purple form. “I didn’t think it’d be that easy to get her back. I heard she’d been kidnapped. Oh, by the way, you might want to send somebody to call off your friends out front before Peregrine does any more damage.”
“We believed you were here to enslave us after destroying the orchards.” The bat said in a conversational tone as it fluttered along. It squeaked once loudly and a small, bright green bat flew in from the entrance. They had a brief squeaky conversation before the green bat flew back toward the entrance. “She was not taken on purpose. One of my cousins was large, and searching for food. We tend to become stupid when we are big. When he saw the girl, he thought she was something edible.”
We entered a large cavern. In the corner huddled a small figure. I ran over just as a small, five year-old girl with long brown hair looked up at me. Tears streamed down her face. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“This isn’t the girl we were looking for.” I said, dejected. The child got up and latched onto my leg, crying. Despite having such a large family, I didn’t really do kids. I tried to pry off her death grip.
Kid’s worse then Caterina. I placed my hand on her forehead and hummed a soft little tune. She passed out. I laid her back down in the corner.
“I am sorry.” The bat said in a very business like tone. “But if possible, could you still please take her home? When we discovered what had happened, we were going to return her. But she does not know where she lives.”
“Yeah, we can take her back to town. Somebody will be able to find who she belongs to.” I said, resigned. I picked the limp girl up in my arms. Batty escorted us to the entrance.
“If you don’t mind my saying, I’ve never seen a talking, purple bat before.” I said, making conversation. “It’s very interesting.”
“Well, I have never seen a female Wizard before, so that makes two of us amazed.” It retorted tartly.
I halted. “How did you know I’m a female?” I asked, suspicious.
“I know the difference between a female scent and a male scent.” It hovered directly in front of my face. “You are definitely female.”
“Do me a favor.” I said, glancing toward the entrance. I resisted the urge to sniff myself. “Don’t tell anybody. Females can’t be wizards. I could be put to death.”
“Acceptable.” It said. “As long as you do not punish us further for taking the girl. We have lost five of our fellows already and many more are injured.”
“Agreed.” I replied, exiting the mouth of the cave. Peregrine was parked on a boulder conversing with a small yellow bat.
“Did you find…” he started when he noticed what I was carrying. “That’s not Luella.”
“No kidding.” I said, putting the kid down on the ground.
“I am sorry.” My guide apologized again. “But food has been so scarce since the orchard was poisoned. We have been having to hunt farther for food. Getting big helps us cover more ground.”
“Yes.” I said, remembering. “You seemed to think I was responsible.”
“Twas wizard magic that stopped our trees from growing.” A small blue bat told me sadly. A chittering of agreement followed the statement.
“The villagers seem to think you are the ones who killed the orchards.” Peregrine told them.
“No, not us.” A small orange bat perched on his head. “Vlatz make fruit trees grow. We don’t kill them. Because of us, Nekross once had the finest orchards ever. Now, some wizard has ruined them and we are blamed.” The Vlatz made upset screeching noises in agreement with the orange one. The purple Vlatz flew up and landed on my shoulder.
“Wizard.” It said respectfully. “ I have heard what one wizard can do, another can undo. Will you heal our fields? We are starving creatures.”
I glanced nervously at Peregrine. Fixing the fields may require a healing spell. Unfortunately, healing spells have to be sung. The more powerful a spell, the more complicated the notes had to be. That was why women were allowed to be healers. Unless you castrate a promising talent, a Wizard’s voice changes and can rarely do anything more then a simple sleep spell or purge. I have a very good singing range myself, and am an excellent healer. Nobody except Uncle Alvar and my parents knew that. With Peregrine present, performing a strong healing would be impossible without giving myself away.
“I’ll take a look, but I can’t promise anything.” I said. I needed to see the field before I could decide what to do. We followed the cloud of Vlatz to the orchard. What we saw shook us.
An entire orchard of fruit trees stood barren and dead. Not a living thing grew anywhere, not even grass. The trees stood like petrified soldiers, guarding a used battlefield. The barren and black ground crunched as I walked over it. This would take some effort. It looked as though the entire field had been poisoned, the ground as well as the trees. A standard healing spell would be useless, because it only affected living things. The ground would remain poisoned and kill the trees all over. Or worse, the healed trees would adapt to the poison and pass it onto the fruit. The whole area would have to be cleaned of poison before the trees could be brought back. I found a usable workplace with a boulder large enough for a work station.