Got this prompt a while back, and I wanted it to be Eral and Bowman. Do I know what led up to this little scene? Absolutely not! I may try to come up with more, but for now I have some fun with a What If scenario, bringing my leaf-winged characters together for some crack AU type shenanigans.
The prompt: “Stop running away!” “AND WHY SHOULD I NOT.”
Bowman’s heart pounded and he breathed quicker than his lungs could truly take in the air. His legs burned from so much running, activity he definitely wasn’t used to. Most days he’d be flying, his speedy wings propelling him forward. Wherever forward might lead him.
He was lost in a maze of twisting corridors, dimly lit and echoing faintly with every one of his frantic steps. They loomed a foot or so overhead; he didn’t know what they might be for, or where they might lead him, but he yearned for some glimpse of the outside world. He’d barely managed to escape into these tunnels on his own. At least here, whatever had captured him couldn’t follow.
Whatever had bound his wings wouldn’t be able to bind the rest of him, blast it.
His wings, strong as they were, couldn’t budge the odd material wrapped around his torso. It chafed at the all important limbs, and he couldn’t risk scratching them up without even a guarantee that he’d actually get them free. His arms, also trapped partially at his sides, couldn’t reach a proper angle to shove at the loop. All he could rely on was his sprinting speed.
Around a bend just feet ahead of him, a figure stumbled into view. Bowman smiled at first, and then skidded to a halt with a distrusting frown as he parsed the details of his fellow duct-traveler.
For one, his clothes looked so human, from the collared shirt to the leather boots. Pale skin, dark, swept-back hair, and blue eyes set him apart from any wood sprite Bowman knew. He had wings at his back, too, though they looked strangely folded under the bindings that also held them in place. His hands were bound by the wrists behind his back.
Most notably, this pale stranger was six inches tall, standing over Bowman by half his own height.
“What?!” Bowman blurted, scrambling backwards so abruptly he nearly toppled himself. He didn’t want to wait around to find out what was going on with that stranger, that … small giant. That was just too much to deal with.
“Hey, waitasecond!” the man griped after him. Bowman didn’t spare a look back, but he didn’t need it to know the man followed. Footsteps that didn’t match his own echoed around him in the metal corridors. “What’s going on here?”
Bowman didn’t want to take any chances. For all he knew, this man was just another part of the bizarre trap he’d found himself in. He didn’t slow, and he didn’t look over his shoulder. He simply ran on, though his aching lungs made him think that might not last much longer anyway.
The man swore, and by the sound of it he wasn’t gaining that much ground despite his height advantage. “Dammit, kid. Stop running away!”
“And why should I not?!” Bowman shouted back, wishing he could turn his indignant glare on the strange miniature giant. “How do I know you’re not part of all this?”
“I don’t even know what ‘this’ is!” the man insisted. “I’m just as tied up as you are! Will you stop for a second?!”
Bowman scowled as he ran, but didn’t slow just yet. He didn’t have enough information to say for sure if this man was part of whatever was going on, or another victim like himself. With this many unknowns in the game, he really ought to seek out an ally.
Why did his only option have to be some strange almost-giant?
He let his sprint taper into a jog, which came to a steady walk. Finally, he stopped and turned to face his would-be pursuer, finding that the guy had slowed down along with him. He stood his ground and stared hard up at the guy’s face, searching for signs of a trick there; in the dim lighting, he didn’t see much aside from annoyance.
Two could play that game. Bowman would get his answers somewhere, blast it. “What is going on?” he demanded.
The stranger didn’t seem bothered nor intimidated by his glare, and merely rolled his eyes. “If I knew, I’d already be unbound,” he shot back confidently. “But it looks like maybe we need to work together if we’re gonna get anywhere, so how about you drop the attitude, kid?”
Bowman bristled. “I’m not a kid! You don’t look any older than I do!”
The man smirked. “Looks are deceiving,” he countered. “I’m Eral. You got a name under all that piss and vinegar?”
Bowman didn’t know what the expression meant, but all the same he narrowed his eyes. “Bowman,” he said, giving the shortest introduction he could just to spite this Eral. “How did we get here?”
“Beats the hell out of me,” Eral said with a shrug. “But we might have better chances getting out if we can get our wings untied. Sound agreeable, Bowman kid?”
Bowman scowled again. “I’m not a kid,” he insisted. “But yes. We need to get untied.”
Eral nodded, his smirk still faintly present on his face, taunting Bowman with his nonchalance. “Alright. If you can reach my hands and get them undone, I’ll get that loop off you for your wings, okay? Then you can get these bands off mine.”
It was a reasonable plan, though Bowman’s wariness clung to him like cobwebs. He eyed Eral critically and nodded, for once having nothing to say in contrary stubbornness. Suspicion and snark could wait until his wings were free.
Eral turned, and to Bowman’s chagrin his wrists were nearly Bowman’s eye level. Luckily, the loop keeping Bowman’s wings restrained only kept his arms partially restrained. He had enough movement to tug at the bindings around Eral’s wrists, searching for some kind of weak point in the knot that he could exploit.
While he did, he stared at Eral’s wings. They were somehow folded up into a leaf bud shape, same as a wood sprite’s when they were still just a sprout. Strange bands wrapped around each one, preventing them from unfurling into the proper shape, but Bowman wasn’t sure how they’d folded up so tightly in the first place. If he attempted to curl his own wings up so tightly, he’d break bones for certain.
“Any luck?” Eral prompted, glancing over his shoulder.
He wouldn’t be able to see Bowman’s progress, but Bowman waved him off anyway. “It’s a tough knot,” he snipped. “I’ll get it.”
He glared at the knot as he worked at it, finally managing to work his fingers into the mess of coiled string and loosen one loop by degrees. He gave it a few more tugs, a smile flashing onto his face in spite of himself, as the bindings loosened more and more. Soon enough, he tugged one end free, and from there it was much easier to pull the knot loose.
“I got it,” Bowman announced, some pride and relief in his voice as Eral finally managed to tug his wrists apart and let the rope fall to the ground. Bowman took a step back as the small giant turned to face him, absently rubbing at the raw skin where the ropes had dug into his wrists. Bowman had some sympathy, but he was impatient. “Now you can help me, right?”
Eral grinned and shrugged. “Absolutely, kid. I’ll do my best.”
Bowman opened his mouth to protest the nickname, but flinched when Eral leaned over him to grasp at the loop tied around his torso. Eral’s shadow fell over him, a claustrophobic thing that made Bowman want to duck out of reach and back up. He tensed, but resisted the urge to flinch away.
Eral was, to Bowman’s surprise, quite careful with the task at hand. He didn’t simply yank at the bindings keeping Bowman’s wings restricted; such an action would probably only frustrate them both. Instead, Eral carefully worked the loop upward bit by bit, inching it along without putting too much strain on Bowman’s delicate wings. Even then, Bowman winced once or twice as the pressure shifted along the bones and joints within his wings.
“This knot doesn’t wanna loosen up,” Eral commented, though he didn’t sound too concerned. “Luckily it’s moving right up. We’ll have it over your head in no time, kid.”
Bowman scoffed, but remained rooted while the mini-giant worked. “I’m fully grown,” he grumbled, some heat in his cheeks to accompany the admission. “I’m not a kid.”
Eral’s gaze flickered to meet his, but not for long before his focus returned to the rope. “It’s just nuance, Bowman,” he conceded. “I’m old. A lot older than I look. Lots of people are ‘kid’ to me.”
Bowman’s consternation showed in the distrusting set of his brow, but he didn’t say anything to counter the claim. A lot of things were strange about Eral already. What was one more? “How much older than you look?” he asked, wondering if he’d get a real answer.
He didn’t. “It’s tough to say,” Eral admitted, sending him an apologetic smirk. “There’s a point where you stop counting. Almost gotcha.”
Indeed, Bowman could feel the ropes moving up at a slightly faster pace as they loosened. His wings tapering inward helped the task, and soon enough Eral was pulling the whole loop over his head. Bowman stepped back from him at last to regain some space, and gingerly opened up his wings.
They were sore from being so cramped, and the bindings had chafed against them at points, but they’d make it without any damage. Bowman stretched out his wingspan before finally tucking his wings against his back once more, this time without some stupid rope keeping them there.
Eral humored him, but soon made an impatient, rolling gesture with his hand. “Alright, everything in one piece? Can we get my wings all stretched out and showing off now?”
Bowman rolled his eyes. “Yes, one blasted second,” he countered, mimicking Eral’s gesture to prompt him to turn around. “Let me see them.”
The bands around Eral’s leaf bud wings looked tight, and Bowman winced faintly at the sight of them bound so soundly. “What is this?” he asked, carefully working at one of them. He was careful not to scrape it against the wing too much; it looked like they had the powdery scales of butterfly wings, and he didn’t want to damage them.
“I think they’re just rubber bands,” Eral mused, patiently waiting for Bowman to work them free of his wings. “Once my wings are furled it’s pretty easy to keep ‘em that way.”
Bowman could relate, considering he’d only recently been freed from his own bindings. Their wings were all-important for their ability to navigate the world, so they had to be careful even when struggling to get free.
Thankfully, the rubber bands came loose fairly quickly, and Bowman tossed both to the ground with a certain sense of triumph in the action. He looked over his hands, where some of the glittery dust from Eral’s wings had rubbed off.
“It’s just pixie dust,” Eral reassured him. “Won’t stick or anything.” Bowman looked up just in time to see those leaf bud shapes uncurl before his eyes, spreading wide into leaf shapes even more convincing than Bowman’s. If he hadn’t already touched them, Bowman might think there really were leaves fixed right to Eral’s back.
Eral grinned, and Bowman, in spite of his misgivings about the entire situation, smiled along with him. They could both relate to the relief of being free, even if they still didn’t know where they were.
“Thanks, Bowman,” Eral said, his gratitude outweighing any teasing that might have lingered in his tone. “Look at us go, a regular leaf winged team.”
Bowman rolled his eyes. “We’re blasted unstoppable, alright,” he quipped. Then, rolling his shoulders, he inclined his head at his apparent ally. “So why aren’t we already flying out of here, then?”
Eral snickered, and it made him look altogether youthful for someone who insisted he was older than he could remember. “I like the way you think, Bowman kid. Wanna lead the way?”
“Yeah,” Bowman shot back, full of confidence. “I can do that. Better keep up, Eral.”