Continued from The Sand Flea (Part II).
Rest and darkness. There was peace, and he felt no pain. All was perfect, and he simply drifted.
It was said that those who died for their country became martyrs, who found peace after death. He felt certain he had found his peace, until something pressed insistently against his mouth. He opened it to object, only for the unmistakable shape of a spoon to enter.
Delicious soup filled his mouth, and the spoon pulled back out. For a time, he tasted it before he swallowed. The spoon pressed against his mouth again, and he opened to let the spoon past lips that began to ache. He tried to open his eyes, but they felt pasted shut. A soft voice spoke, and he couldn’t make it out. Obediently, he ate his soup, and drifted back to rest.
Consciousness came and went, and he slowly began to gain strength. When his eyes finally opened, he looked around blearily at the very-close walls around him. He was laying down in a tiny, dark room, with a pillow, blanket, and the mattress he laid on. Before he could fully understand what he saw, his eyes closed again and he returned to sleep.
Time moved forward, and it felt like a long time before it was time to eat. The soup was just as delicious, and he ate more quickly. A voice spoke, and it sounded excited. He could make out the words now. The voice belonged to a woman. “He’s waking, Evoxe!” She sounded happy.
Instinctively, Ask scowled. Perhaps he was still alive.
“He’s moving! I wonder if he likes the soup I made.”
A male’s voice spoke. “After eating it so long, I wonder if he even tastes it anymore.” This second voice sounded bored. “If he’s moving, we can leave him now.”
“Evoxe, we are not leaving him by the side of the road just because you don’t like goblins.” Her tone was patient. “He needs help, so we will help him fully, or until he leaves us on his own-“
Her voice trailed into silence as he returned to sleep. He felt so tired and heavy.
The sounds of a horse woke him. He cracked his eyes open. It was dark, still, but only because the curtains were tied shut. Curtains? He looked around, and he realized he was in a wagon with a tarp cover. It was moving, but slowly, and along what felt like a smooth road. A shadow appeared beside the wagon, and he shifted slowly, painfully onto his side. Clumsy hands pulled at one of the ties, and he forced himself up to peek out the new gap.
His horse was walking beside the wagon. It wasn’t saddled, nor did it wear any tack. His eyes closed, and he fell painfully to the gap between the mattress and wall, but fell asleep before he could cry out.
Movement woke him, and he forced one eye open. He was being moved, if the bouncing of a human’s gait and the moving ceiling above were real. He simply watched for a time before he tried to speak, but his throat didn’t let the words out. He was carried by a man and a woman, and hooves clopped slowly somewhere behind him.
Someone said something that sounded like a greeting, and without a thought, Ask found his voice. “For Njolr.” His voice was faint and so hoarse he didn’t recognize it for several long moments. The voices that had been speaking faintly around him became suddenly silent. He looked around. Some looked hateful. Others looked confused or worried. Everyone was on a cot or a bedroll, and most had bandages of some sort. It looked like some sort of a sick ward. Blearily, he spoke again. “Where-?” His eyes were already falling shut again, so he stopped talking.
Birdsong woke him, and this time, his head was clear, and although he was tired, he felt like he could stay awake more than a few moments. He opened his eyes and looked around. A room with two doors, one larger than the other. One had a door, the other had only a half-door, up to his eyebrows, if not as tall as he was. He was on a bed, and across from him was a water basin on a table.
Clothes hung from hooks on the wall at the end of his bed. They were his– that familiar fur vest and those leather pants were his, but there was more past those– clothes from Tarok. The hairs on the back of his neck rose. Why were there sand flea clothes next to his? He paused, then looked past the Tarokian trash. Fresh clothes, made to match his own– a fine fur vest and some perfectly-made leather trousers. Slowly, he rose to a sitting position to get a better look. The floor was covered in a thick Tarok rug, and he thought he saw a large shape over the half-door. Slowly, he forced himself to his knees to look over as the shape moved.
White hot pain shot through his body, and he collapsed with a snarl. Sharp teeth dug into the soft sheets of the bed as he spat and writhed and tried to find relief. His back felt like it just received the flaying all over again!
His teeth tore into the sheets, and his claws dug in as well.
Suddenly, the pain stopped as he felt a touch at the base of his spine. Soothing cold spread over his body, and as he panted and slowly relaxed.
“Be quiet now. You need your rest. Your injuries were deep– still are. They only started healing recently. You need to lay still.” The voice nagged at his mind. It was familiar. “Who are you?” he croaked.
“Korenila. My man and I found you in the wastes after your horse dragged us to you.”
“Horse?” He frowned, then paused. “I thought I…”
“She saved you.”
The goblin was silent for a time.
Finally, he spoke. “Where am I?”
“You’re in Gred, in Tarok. This is the sick house. The other patients didn’t want you near, so we arranged a room for you and your beast in the stables.” She sighed. “You really should watch what you say.”
The goblin paled. “No… I won’t be cared for by-” he panted- “Sand fleas.” He tried to rise, but she held him down with one hand, and he quickly fell asleep as her hand softly glowed.