Character Inspiration

Most of the time, my characters come completely from my imagination. I try not to use people from my life, except in small ways. But every now and then a part of my life is fun to see as fiction.

 

 

Nina swung her mace, taking the beast in the jaw, though it did little damage. Her strength wasn’t in fighting, but she didn’t back down. Not until Mike stepped around her and finished the beast with one wave of his staff. Fire erupted from it, a torrent that forced Nina to shield her eyes. She checked Mike to see if he had taken any damage, but he hadn’t. She would have healed him as she had done so often in the past, but he hardly seemed to need her anymore.

“Thanks,” she said, and he waved it away.

“I like protecting you. I’m glad I finally can.”

Nina smiled. It wasn’t long ago he was just a novice, hardly able to keep himself alive in the safest places. But he had changed. Nina followed him now, not to keep him safe, but to keep him from leaving her.

“You’re quiet again,” he said, stopping to rest beside a tree. Nina eyed the tree and didn’t sit beside him until she was satisfied it wouldn’t come to life and attack them. You could never be too sure. Mike waited only a moment to press her further. “What’s on your mind?”

Nina held her mace across her knees and twisted her hair with her free hand. “I’m wondering why you’re here.”

“Same reason you are,” he said. “To hunt ogres.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“Of course not,” Mike said, chuckling. “As many worlds as I’ve visited, I have yet to find one where women say what they mean. Give me a clue?”

Nina started several sentences but never finished one. “It’s just…” and, “I was thinking…”

Mike sighed. He didn’t seem surprised by it, and why would he? He was used to having to drag things out of her. Oh, she could talk. She could go on for hours about anything in the world that didn’t really matter. But as soon as his questions turned to the things that haunted her, she lost the ability to verbalize. She concentrated on picking the tangle out of her hair and didn’t attempt to speak anymore.

“Maybe you should write it down,” Mike suggested. “You’ve been trying to say something for a long time.”

“I could write it,” Nina agreed. “But I’d never give it to you.” The tangle was unfixable. She took her small scissors from her pack and cut it loose from her hair, and Mike shook his head at her.

“You give up too easily.”

“It’s just hair,” Nina said, tucking the shorter piece back into her braid. She could tell by Mike’s face what he was going to say before the words left his mouth.

“That’s not what I meant.”

Nina considered making some comment about men not saying what they meant, but it couldn’t be applied to Mike, not even as a jibe. He was as direct as he was strong. Caught without a witty reply, she did what she always did. She changed the subject. “We should get moving.” A glance at Mike’s face left no question he was aware of her attempt to distract him, but he would let it pass. For now.

They crept through the forest together, keeping close, and keeping silent, until they reached the place where the ogres had gathered. Nina was useless. She could only fight one at a time, and even then, they were too strong for her. But Mike barely hesitated before he drew a ring of ice around them. He took a few injuries, but nothing Nina couldn’t fix. She healed the bruises as if they’d never happened, but she muttered under her breath.

“No worries,” Mike said. “Good as new.”

“Yes, but you felt it.”

“Well,” Mike grinned, “there is that.”

Nina refused to smile, though she loved it when he said that. “Some of this, at least, came from you getting between me and the ogres.” She jabbed him in the chest to make it clear how she felt about that.

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “What else do you expect me to do?”

Nina glared up at him. For all his directness, he was still a mystery to her. His hair, mostly gray with bits of brown still showing, made him seem older than he really was. Sometimes he seemed like he could be her father, though they were only five years apart. Other times, he seemed…

“There you go again,” he said. “What I wouldn’t give to see inside that head of yours.”

“Ha,” she barked a fake laugh. “You’d run like an imp in a room full of mages.”

He picked up her shield and handed it to her. “Stop dropping this.”

She cocked one eyebrow at him. “Why should I carry it, when I have you?” But she did carry it. She’d do pretty much anything he told her to, and he seemed to know it. He carefully phrased his suggestions, keeping them as far from commands as he could. She used that to her advantage as often as possible. She enjoyed twisting his words, and sometimes she was sure he enjoyed having them twisted.

“I think we’ve done enough today,” Mike said suddenly. He looked to the sky, though it couldn’t be clearly seen through the canopy. “What do you think?”

“I’m satisfied,” Nina said. She’d have hunted through the night, but she understood his desire to stop. “We should both be getting home, I guess.”

“Yes. My boys will be wanting their bedtime stories,” Mike said. “And I’ve spent too little time with the wife, of late.”

That thing Nina wanted to say bubbled to the surface again, but she pushed it down. Mike watched her sideways as they headed for home. When they reached the point where they could no longer travel together, he stopped and shifted from foot to foot. “Will you be okay?”

“Of course.”

“I’ll see you here tomorrow, same time?”

She nodded. “If you show up,” she said. He frowned at her, but she turned and walked away without waiting for a reply. “Someday,” she whispered, “you won’t.”

She heard him stop walking. Had she said it too loudly? When she turned around, he was standing there, looking down at her, his brown eyes filled with worry. “Why did you say that?” he asked. She tried to back away, but she hit a tree.

“Because it’s true. And it should be true.”

“I should stop coming?”

“We can’t kill them all,” Nina said, dodging the real question. “They breed faster than you can burn them.”

“So we should give up?”

“You should give up.” She pushed him back, and he moved willingly. But he stopped, and her wrist bent backward. A reminder that it was willingness that moved him.

“Say what you mean. For once, Nina. Just say it.”

“I come here for you,” she said. “I don’t care about monsters any more than you do. And don’t take it the wrong way. I love my husband as much as you love your wife. But I’ve come to need you somehow. I don’t have a right to need you. And you can’t help me. Not any more than you already have.”

“I’ve helped you?”

“Yes.” She smiled. “Part of me wants to beg you not to go. And part of me wants to scream at you to disappear, just the way I’ve always known you would. To leave me hanging, wondering if you’re alive, or if you were ever real to begin with. Because you came at a time when I needed you, and though I never really knew you, you changed me. I’ve healed you a thousand times, but really, all this time, you’ve been healing me.”

“I won’t disappear that way.”

“Yes, you will. And when you do, I’ll look for you. But only for a while.”

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~ by Rachel McMahon on December 20, 2012.

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