Hardy’s Pants by JM Paquette

Also for Cliff, but an entirely different genre!

“I have only one question: where did I get these pants?”

The room had fallen silent when the magic went off, people glancing around nervously to see the damage. Sometimes the magic waves did nothing at all; sometimes, there was a lot of blood to clean up. Kitsen looked down at his clothes again, trying to decide if it was only his clothing that has been swapped out, or if the constricting material about his waist and chest was a sign of worse damage. He looked quickly at Nell, with whom he had been reciting the plan a few moments before. She didn’t look horrified, so that was a good sign.

“So, the girl is in the tower?” Fred volunteered helpfully, the young man clearly trying to get the conversation back on track. The rest of the men looked casually away from Kitsen, trying to ignore the magic as much as they could. A man in the back of the room had fallen over and had not gotten back up. No one was willing to touch him and see.

Kitsen nodded distractedly, cautiously pulling at his new outfit, hand reaching up to touch a new earring. “That’s the information I received,” he said, thoughts of glory and rescue and spires and princesses fading as he realized that the clothes he was now wearing were actually starting to affect his breathing. “I can show you…” he paused, trying to catch his breath. “In a moment,” he finished.

“Nell,” he gestured to the woman standing closest to him, “a little help here?” She acquiesced without a word, but her face was slowly turning red, color creeping up from her neck and ears to her cheeks as she took in the amount of bare flesh revealed by the gaps in his new outfit. He stepped towards her, the circle of eager male faces moving aside as he dealt with this newest magical inconvenience.

A quick snap of her blade and the shirt came free. She moved as if to repeat the motion for his pants, but he grabbed her wrist. “I’ve got this part,” he insisted, taking the blade and slicing the material free. As they fell to the floor in a pile of linen, he saw a name carefully written on what remained of the waistband: HARDY.

He thought for a moment, running the name through his memory. He couldn’t recall ever knowing anyone named Hardy, so that was a bit of a relief. Wherever this Hardy was after the magic wave, Kitsen didn’t have to worry about him. Though he spared a thought for the small naked man who must be out there somewhere–maybe he had been covered in Kitsen’s clothes.

“My clothes,” he muttered, annoyance bubbling up at the loss of a perfectly good shirt and pants. The material was new and sturdy and comfortable–and it wasn’t so easy to get good clothes these days, especially for someone as tall as he was. He reached a hand absently for his pocket, trying to touch the reassuring bulge that had occupied his front pocket for the last six days.

He froze as his hand touched bare skin, not registering the shapeless cloak that Nell was holding out in his direction.

The map was gone. How were they supposed to rescue the princess without the freaking map?

Frantic, he knelt and picked up the pants on the floor, shaking them out. A folded piece of faded parchment fell out of a pocket. He lifted it gently, opening it carefully and examined the marks on the inside.

It was still a map.

Hatchmarks were clearly mountains, and Kitsen recognized the Vanya Mountain range to the north. The X marked a cave, and there was a stylized dragon along the side, tail curling around a pile of what appeared to be gold and jewels, smoke rising in long swirls from its huge maw.

“It’s a treasure map,” he whispered, eyes meeting Nell’s, offered cloak and previous embarrassment forgotten.

Nell smiled, a real smile, but then her face grew serious again. “What about the princess?”

“Screw the princess,” Kitsen said, standing up, wrapping the cloak around himself, and tucking the map into a small pocket sewn into the inside. He turned to address the room.

“Hey guys, who wants to go kill a dragon?”

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