Fossilized Air by Dr. Lissa Goins
“And remember,” The old adventurer repeated. “Make sure you keep one eye on the canopy.”
The younger man’s brow furrowed deeper. He’d developed the previous disgruntled expression the third time the elderly leader had said to keep one eye on the canopy. The second time she’d repeated herself in her croaky old voice he’d looked somewhat bewildered, but the first time she’d said it, he just looked almost like that was the most absurd advice he’d ever heard.
The old woman adjusted her heavy crossbow and glared through the dappled forest light. If any of those furry beasts dared to show itself, her bolts would be the first to scratch the back of its ugly eyeballs. She hadn’t lived this long by being a poor shot, after all.
Next to her, the upstart from the village seemed finally get fed up. He’d asked and pleaded to be taught the woodsy arts for months to no avail, and finally just followed after the old woman stubbornly despite getting a tunic shoulder pinned to a tree some yards back. He’d liked that tunic, but darn it, it would have been worth it if she’d actually give him un-ridiculous advice!
Huffing, he stopped. “Why do you keep saying that?” He demanded.
The Alderwoods Watcher glared at him with one narrow green eye. “You asked to follow me on this hunt. If you don’t want my advice you can get yourself eaten on your own time.”
The upstart wavered, embarrassed. He was a good merchant’s son and nobody had ever been so curt to him in his life. But he was too aggravated to be silent. “The thing about the canopy.” He puffed up, sure of himself. “I used to listen at the tavern door every night. And I’ve seen what was left after one was killed in town.”
The elder woman’s crossbow point drifted towards the boy as if wondering if shooting him would speed the trip up a bit. “And?”
Countless hours of manning a shop front showed in his bearing. “Well, the thing was on the ground.”
There was silence in the woods.
Outraged and suddenly red-faced, the boy gestured wildly, snapping off low-hanging twigs and tossing forest debris every which-way. “And! It was on the ground! Not the canopy!”
‘So there.’ Was left unsaid. The woman’s crossbow swayed left again. All of her senses were tuned to her surroundings, years of hard work surviving having left indelible proof in her bearing that she did, in fact, know what she was talking about. She seriously considered shooting him.
No, they’d know it was her after the last one talked.
She sighed. “And have you ever seen a dead body suspended in the air?”
The boy was stupefied. “They float when you kill them?!”
The woman shot him.