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Giving is Easy

December 23, 2012

It was late and Ærik was tired. Admittedly, Tina’s passion for rubies was amusing, but he was running out of places to get them from! A quiet drink in the Lazy Turnip sounded like a really good idea.

So there he was, minding his own business over a glass of plum wine, when a familiar and not entirely welcome voice called an enthusiastic greeting. Hlín’s cheery voice was definitely distinctive; it was usually three octaves higher than anyone else’s for a start.

He looked up, hiding a wince. The gnome had abandoned her usual purple, which, even if her hat made her look like an inverted turnip, was at least a tasteful colour, for a festive outfit of jarring reds and greens.

She bounced over and joined him with a big smile. He felt himself warming to her sheer enthusiasm all over again. It was impossible not to like the naive little gnome, even if cynicism and sarcasm went right over her head.

“Happy Winter’s Veil, Ærik!” she chirped, “I have a present for you! It’s lovely!”

Ærik’s heart sank, and he ran through a mental inventory of what he’d… acquired… lately. None of it seemed suitable for a four-foot-high dynamo.

He looked at her expectant little face and smiled back despite himself. “I, ah, have a present for you, too, Hlín,” he replied, mentally kicking himself, “but I don’t have it with me. It’s in my bank. Didn’t want to damage it, you know how it is.”

Her beaming face made him feel more like a heel than anything in his career thus far had.

“Look, you sit there,” he found himself saying, “and I’ll go and get it; I might not see you again before the festival.”

With a rueful sigh for the rest of his wine he headed out into the twilight to borrow a kite. The flight would give him time to go through his bags and see what he had tucked away or could make quickly!

A while later he returned with a beautiful red and white parcel decorated with a green ribbon.

“For you, my friend,” he said, handing it to her with a flourish.

Hlín’s face lit up and she tore open the wrapping gleefully; exclaiming in delight at the exquisitely inked fan within. Rather than keep admiring it, however, she bounded out of the room and was back a moment later with her arm behind her back.

“For you!” she enthused, holding out a bunch of flowers, “I picked them myself!”

Ærik took the flowers and stared at them for a long moment; a handful of snow lilies wrapped in green tea leaves. The gnome’s smile started trembling when he did nothing but look at them blankly. Then the funny side struck him and he burst out laughing. Smile restored she clapped her hands in delight, oblivious to his chagrin.

As they sat down again, he muttered to himself too quietly for her to hear: “Trust a priest to fleece you without ever meaning to.”

——–

Prompt taken from The Writer magazine

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