A digital drawing showing a young woman and an elfen creature from behind. The young woman has long brown hair and is wearing a pointed black witches hat. Above the figures is the title 'Del and Aglat' in white cursive font, with the author's name, Nina Greenhill, below it.

Del and Aglat #2: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Del and Aglat is a monthly column by Nina Greenhill.

“Well, this is it,” Del said, walking through Orleigh’s wicket gate. It was dwarfed by the main gate with its cart and animal traffic.She walked in the narrow passageway, thinking that coffins must be wider than the walls either side. She was always surprised by the temperature drop from the sun to the shade but this one was extreme. She shivered as the guard on the other side waved her past and she entered the street. 

The cobblestones were as black as the slate roofs, but she could tell that it was because of the grit packed down. She could feel it getting in the treads of her boots and she sighed. She didn’t have to worry about this at Orli. The street grime was cleaned daily there, but here it could withstand the buffeting winds that were throwing her about as she walked. 

She pulled her cloak tightly around her, telling herself she would be getting a thicker one, fleece or fur lined if possible. Hers was a light fabric, meant for ease of travel, not for the important things like avoiding hypothermia. 

If she kept to the main street through town, there would be more people, which meant more body heat. But where people were, pickpockets were rampant. Del made the decision to duck into a less-used alleyway that seemed to run alongside the main street. Less people here. She would just have to find a fabric shop sooner rather than later. 

Turn right,’ a little voice in her head said. 

Del was confused for a moment, having never actually received a direct order from herself. Nevertheless, she turned right and found herself in front of a row of bakeries. Her stomach rumbled at the smell. She hadn’t realised she was hungry. 

Del resolved to listen to herself more often. 

*

Aglat was having quite a job keeping up with this human who took longer than average strides. Being an imp, he had small legs. He had been running along the timber framing of the buildings after her. She had crossed half the village by the time he had caught up. 

He was comfortable calling it a village, having travelled from the city Ericourt, and passed ‘proper towns’, in his opinion. Towns were certainly places with buildings higher than four stories. Orleigh couldn’t even boast an average of three. 

Aglat had noticed her straightway, thanks to his Thru-vision. As an Imp he could see past the physically obvious. What he saw underneath the girl’s hair was a birthmark – one he had not seen for in a long time. 

He sat in the eave of a building, watching her enter the bakery. His scarf was little more than a few shoe laces tied together. His jumper was a fastly fraying old sock with a few holes for his arms and head. He’d had to ditch his beautiful elf made cloak a couple of towns ago after a scuffle with a wild pack of woodsnappers. He had been sad to see them tear it to pieces, but he figured that it was better his coat than his life. 

Her life was the one he had to concentrate on. He knew how to survive this town, she didn’t. Aglat would be helping this human for the foreseeable future, as was his duty. He would not renege on what he had promised all those years ago. 

(Caption: A drawing in black ink on a white page of Aglat, a small imp, from behind. He is facing a row of buildings. There are leaves on both sides of the page.)

*

Del pushed the door handle, walking out of the bakery. She had a paper bag full of pastries and was looking forward to finding somewhere to sit down and eat them. She held the bag between her teeth as she tied her hair into a ponytail. She was getting annoyed at the wind flicking it into her face. Once secure, she started walking, putting the pastries into her one cloak pocket. That was something she needed to remember when she bought her new cloak – lots of pockets. 

She stopped in her tracks, aware of how empty the street had become. Shutters were being closed and she heard the door lock behind her. 

Move!’ the voice in her head said. 

Del turned toward the man street, reasoning that would be safer than this deserted alley. 

She picked up her pace, building to a run. The alleyway kept going, never seeming to end. 

Shit, you’re trapped now.

Del wondered how she knew she was trapped. She stopped running and looked behind her. She could still see the wrought iron sign of the bakery. It was stopped mid-swing, presumably from the wind. Her brow furrowed – the wind stopped something from moving?

Was she stuck in some form of street magic? And how did she know she was trapped before she actually noticed it? 

People started snaking down from the eaves, and out shutters to street level, closing off her escape routes. 

Do as I says and we might just get through this,’ the voice told her. 

Her teachers at Orli had always said that decisions should be made only after a careful process of research, experimentations of cause and effect, discussion of repercussion, and of sifting through evidence for both sides. 

Del didn’t think she had all that much time to make an analytical dissection of this voice which was now telling her to duck, so she did and she avoided the knife flying through the air right where her head used to be. 

Deciding to trust the voice wholeheartedly was a quick decision. 

“Well, well! She can move!” a very audible, external voice said. 

‘Any tricks up your sleeve, I need to know quick smart. Think about it and I’ll know.’

Del pictured herself walking through the wall in the back room of the courthouse. 

‘We might be able to use that.’ 

Del focused on the wiry person in front of her. He wore a tie that was coated in more grit than her boots. 

‘Don’t look, but at your right is an unoccupied house. When he makes a move, I need you to run into it and go through the back wall. It’ll let you out at the Grocer’s Markt. I’ll let you know where to go from there.’ 

Aglat was standing on the roof above the street, ready to run to the other side. “If we get to the Grocer’s Markt, that’ll be the miracle,” he muttered to himself.

Gritty Tie Guy turned around to address his flanking compatriots, giving them a toothless grin. “Moving Missy doesn’t feel like talking…”

Del was already moving through the wall before they ran to follow her. 

You’re a fast bugger!’ 

Coming out the other side, she ran as each direction was shouted in her head. After passing flower sellers, pumpkin carts, and big baskets filled with onions she finally dove under the table of a Mushroom Sprouter. 

She could hear shouts from the Markt, of Gritty Tie Guy raising geese to find her. Before long, they continued the chase out to the surrounding streets. 

She felt a weight sink onto her shoulder, not very heavy at all, just unexpected. 

“Well, you managed all right then!” said the small imp. She realised his voice had been the one guiding her through the town. 

“From now on, if you have something to say to me, speak it out loud,” she said. 

He held out his hand and nodded.“I’m Aglat.”

“I’m Del.” She shook his tiny hand. 

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