By Frego Bintwhizz
A gnome tells a tale of the time he was abducted by harpies.
I suppose I was asking for it, poking around like I always do. This is, usually I’m careful. When I salvage items, I always keep myself alter. I don’t – or, at least, I am usually very careful not to – become engrossed in whatever interesting things I come across. As tough as that is, I’ve always managed to keep at least one eye on my surroundings, on the lookout for other scavengers or possible threats.
I guess my pas had just never trained me to look to the sky for such threats. And so, when I heard the screech, I looked ’round myself in all horizontal directions, failing to look up. In my confusion at seeing nothing, I was an easy target to grasp and up we went.
I dropped the strange trinket I had found (that’s a shame, too; whatever it was, it sure was intricate) and managed to put away my Socket-3 Springwrench. I tried to twist my neck around to see what was carrying me, but everything above me was a mess of wind and feathers in my face. And so I hung there from my breeches and suspender straps. Not willing to let a brilliant opportunity like this go to waste, I took in the beautiful view below.
We dashed around pillars and swooped over dunes. I concentrated hard to keep my bearings. At our speed and with the constant alterations in course, my wrist compass was very little help. I was fairly confident our trip took us northwest for the most part. And when we landed high atop a rocky pillar the salty smell told me we were close to the ocean, which meant my guess at our direction had been at least partially correct.
“Thank you!” I quickly managed, “I’m quite sure I would not have been able to get up here on my own.” I turned and took a bow. “Frego,” I exclaimed, “pleased to meet you.” When the intentions of another party are unknown it’s best to act friendly and thankful; this has gotten me out of numerous scrapes. My abductor hissed and fully faced me. I tried not to cringe but I may have anyway, an ugly beast of a harpy she was. I don’t mean to say that all harpies are ugly, but this one was quite trollish in the face.
“Thank you!” she squawked, perhaps mocking me. “Monies, treasure!” she said loudly with an aggressive flap of her wings.
“Oh, of course!” I said, “I didn’t figure this was a free ride.” I dug in my pockets and produced a couple of silver pieces. I extended them to her.
“Monies, treasure!” she screeched again, knocking the coins from my hand and dusting them into a corer of the shallow nest we were in. The coins landed in a pile of other trinkets.
Immediately following the jangling of the coins that had been tossed aside, there came a loud screech from above. Another harpy – this one coincidentally also ugly – landed near us, eyeing the pile of trinkets just as I had been. Her eyes shined at the fresh coins and then turned to face me. “Monies, treasure!” she, too, squawked.
The first harpy crowded in toward me as well. “Monies, treasure!” she chimed in – though I must correct myself, ‘chime’ is not the proper word. This was more the sound a gear might make when it’s been stripped of its teeth: ‘she strip-geared in,’ perhaps. I kept my wits, despite the distance between myself and them at a constant wane. I dug into my pocket again and found a few more silver pieces. Never be stingy when your life is in danger, I say.
I held those coins out again. Just as before they were immediately knocked to the ground. The second of the two harpies managed to scoop one up before the first could fling them all into her corner. When the second harpy flew away, another stepped up to take her place. I was then that I noticed I had attracted a lot of attention. It was almost flattering.
This process continued. I would produce coin, they would knock it from my hands, screech “Monies, treasure!” and fly off. Then the remaining harpies would wait for my to come up with more coin. Quickly enough I ran out of coin and had to start giving them other things I had on me: random pieces of metal, a few of my tools, basically anything I had on me that looked valuable. Pretty soon, I was empty. I had nothing to offer the.
I could have never predicted what came next. The harpies gathered in around me, closer and closer, all the while screeching for monies and treasure. Pretty soon I was backed into a corner with nothing more to give them! Realizing I had little left to offer them, they began going through all they had stripped me of. I have no doubt I was red from head to toe.
As my abductor tucked all of my ‘treasure’ into her corner, the other harpies did their best to steal it away. Finally, my abductor had apparently had too much. She picked up one of her own eggs and tossed it right at another harpy’s face. In all my days I have never seen anything so unintentionally comical. The whiff of the egg preceded a screech and an explosion of feathers, after which only I and my abductor remained. She calmly slid the rest of my treasure into her corner.
Over the next few days I had the fortunate luck of being left alone in my abductor’s roost as she flew off, collecting more treasure. Though things most certainly were interesting, my stomach made it all too clear to me that if I did not escape soon I would eventually die of hunger. I put my brain to work. I had three distinct advantages: one, lots of feathers; two, assorted ‘treasure’ brought home by my lovely house-mate; and three, an absolutely colossal amount of feathers.
I managed to keep my work secret by hiding my tools within the rocky cracks of the nest. Luckily I built my creation with the Telescoping-Inward Fold method of construction. This meant, simply, that until fully complete, I was able to fold and deconstruct my creation and easily hide it away. And the feathers. The feathers came from all around, sticking to my skin and getting stuck in my hair. I would cough them up at times – much to the entertainment of my abductor.
Finally, one day as my abductor was out finding more trinkets, I unfurled my creation in all its glory. The belt and shoulder harness were made from strips of leather, padded with my house-mate’s down. From bits of piping, wire and springs, I constructed wings. Can’t forget the feathers. For as long as I live I will never forget the feathers. I perched on the edge of the nest and gave a few test flaps. The wind nearly lifted me away. I nodded, happy with my work.
As happy as I was, the screech clued me in to the distaste the harpies had for this. There in the sky was my abductor, rapidly approaching. Though I never got to test this device in a safe environment, and though I care very deeply for my life (it is one of the most precious things I own), and though I knew my abductor had far more practice in the skies then I, I figured it was now or never. I fully extended my wings and dove from the edge.
My inexperience in such manner of travel quickly sent me down the pillar’s edge. The sun reflecting off the water told me that in my haste to escape, I had jumped from the west side – the exact side I hadn’t wished to jump from. Not letting little things like that get in my way, I stretched the wings out. My head snapped downward fast, dazing me for a bit. I was, however, sailing un-smoothly, out towards the ocean.
I gave myself a mental par on the back, trying to recall what I knew of ocean currents to get me safely away (and, by safely, I meant not neat the harpies). In all that excitement I had forgotten what I was running from; thus, it was the perfect time for a reminder. With a swipe of her talon, my abductor tore at my wings. “Holding steady” had previously been a monumental task; now became an impossible one. Another swipe left me at the whim of the winds.
Perhaps she got what she wanted, I fell – wings and all – into a haphazard spiral. This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life. Before long the wind resistance ripped the wings from my back and I spun in all directions. Sky tumbled over ocean in a rapidly shifting blue sphere about me. I giggled uncontrollably this entire time. When I finally took a breath, it was just in time. Moments later, I hit the ocean.
I’m not sure when I blacked out – whether it was before the impact or after – but fate was kind to me that day. I awoke upon the shores of the Pillars of Flame, salt in my eyes and sand in my breeches. I had but one useful item with me: my wrist compass. And somehow, with only a compass, I needed to figure out where I was, get some food, and get to safety. But that is a tale best told later.