“Excuse me, ma’am, are you all right? It’s not safe out here alone.”
She opened her eyes. Before her stood a man who was not much more than a boy, as he was younger than even she herself. No more than seventeen or eighteen winters had he seen, if she judged properly. He was somewhat handsome, in a pitiful sort of way; he was dirty, dressed in tattered grey clothes, and his hair (was it blond? She really could not tell for the dirt) was uncut and unkempt. His eyes, blue and sparkling, betrayed an innocence that proved he should not have been here any more than she.
“Miss?” the boy asked again, obviously worried. “Are you all right? Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you,” she said softly, after a long pause. The words were broken, and she spoke them through trembling lips. She realized she had not spoken for days.
“What are you doing out here all by yourself?” he asked, kneeling down next to her. Now she could get a much better look at him. An empty scabbard hung from his belt. His eyes, so beautiful, were indeed full of concern for her. But did he ever stink!
“I got lost,” she whispered, trying not to look into his eyes. She realized that those eyes reminded her of her brother’s. That was the way he had looked at her, always concerned and caring.
“I think you got more than lost,” he replied, and nodded at her. She realized he must have been looking at the scars on the side of her neck. She pulled the cloak up higher around her throat.
“It’s nothing,” she breathed. Still not looking up, she asked him. “Who are you? What is your name?”
“Rigel,” he said simply, though with a slight flourish, as if the name should have inspired awe in its nobleness.
“Rigel,” she said, taking a quick glance at the boy’s slight smile. “Before I answer you, answer me: Why are you out here in these wastes?”
The boy stood up to his full height, and stuck out his chest proudly. “I’m a warrior,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been traveling around, righting wrongs, fighting for justice, battling the king’s forces in my own little one man vendetta.”
The girl laughed, despite herself. It felt good, even though it hurt her lungs. “A warrior? Oh, Rigel, you’re just a boy . . . ”
Rigel choked, audibly, as if the girl had struck him. “You don’t believe me? I’ve slain three tens of goblins by my own hand!”
“With what?” she asked. “You don’t even have a sword.”
“Bandits stole it from me,” he explained sheepishly, his eyes turning toward the earth. “It was rather embarrassing so I’d rather not talk about it.”
“How could a warrior who claims to have killed thirty goblins let himself lose his sword to simple bandits?”
“They outnumbered me eight to one!” he exclaimed, holding out his hands, as if begging for her to understand. “I could have handled six, maybe seven, but eight? Even the best of us have our limits. I was lucky to get away with my life!”
“Fine,” she said, shaking her head. Finally, she looked up at him. Why do his eyes have to be so beautiful? “You can call yourself whatever you want, just help me get out of this miserable hell.”
- from the unpublished short story "Shadow of the Wasp Part 1: Rigel & Anilita's Story"
* * *
One of the first "serious" fantasy stories I wrote in high school featured a princess who had escaped the evil despot who had overthrown her father's kingdom and enslaved her people. On her desperate flight to escape she ran into a young ranger-type who helped her along in her journeys. Rigel was that young ranger.
In the end he of course redeems himself, but because she is a princess and he is a poor member of the untouchable class they cannot be together. I actually wrote four stories at the same time that dealt with similar themes of hopeless or unrequited love (I was a goofy romantic in high school - see the original cover at the bottom of this post). These stories however hold a special place in my heart because I wrote them around the time I started dating the young lady who would one day become my wife and mother of my children. They were one of the first things I shared with her, and she really like them (or claimed she did). I maintain that those stories helped her fall in love with me, proving that I was a sensitive type of guy she could see herself with.
So yeah, in a roundabout way "Rigel's Story" landed me my wife and my children. I don't care how cheesy and juvenile it is in retrospect - it's still the best thing I've ever written.
I've actually gone back and forth on the title between In the Shadow of the Wasp" and "Hopeless Love."
I've always had a teenager's flair for silly romantic drama.