Continued from The Sand Flea (Part IV).
Violence and raged ruled Ask.
He snarled and lashed out at the objects in his room. He did not touch horse, or human, or elf, but Korenila felt threatened.
“Stop, please!” she begged, but he ignored her as he clawed at the walls, leaving deep gouges. His red eyes glared at her for a moment before he went back to his destructive tantrum. Korenila backed away with a pleading glance at Evoxe.
The elf walked toward Ask, and then tapped his shoulder. The goblin looked up with a wild cast about his eyes. “Are you finished?”
“You are now.” Clap! With unnatural speed, his hand covered Ask’s mouth and nose in a scented cloth. It took very little time for Ask to succumb to sleep, but he fought it every second until his body went limp in Evoxe’s grasp, and all was dark once again.
The darkness was growing familiar– dreamless, featureless dark. It was a false sleep. It only numbed his body and rested it. There was no refreshment in this. Ask’s mind never felt truly rejuvenated when he woke– not like when he collapsed back home after a long day of work.
He woke, and the sky through the small, lone window was different again. It was cloudy, but light enough to see. There was a weight on his chest. He slowly looked down at the resting head of his horse and sighed.
“Stupid b-” he cut off and coughed, “Beast.” He ran a hand over the horse’s nose. It was soft, and felt silky under his calloused hands. The goblin sighed and closed his eyes again tiredly.
Shouts sounded near, and two were familiar. Horse shifted her weight uneasily. Her head wasn’t on his chest anymore. He opened his eyes. In the small space of his room, Horse was blocking the doorway as someone tried to get inside. He frowned in confusion and watched as a knife swung near her head. His yellow eyes began to shift as he rose from the bed with a snarl. With purpose, he walked toward the door and rested a hand against the horse’s tall neck.
When the knife swung again, he grabbed the hand that held it and yanked inward. His claws dug into the young man. His bandages and war-worn features labeled him as a soldier, brought back for physical care from great wounds. The war-boy gasped and stumbled, then fell. Ask watched the boy as he writhed from re-opened wounds. “Stupid sand flea.”
His own back felt like it was erupting with pain, and he leaned against Horse. “Let them… take him.” He jerked his head slightly, towards his bed, and slowly he walked back, while Horse stepped backwards to help support him in the cramped room. As he got to his bed, he looked back. “Don’t hurt… Horse.” With a slap to the beast’s rump, he forced himself to crawl into bed. The pain wasn’t as horrible any more, but when he laid still, it waned just enough for the deep, refreshing sleep of exhaustion, rather than the black sleep of medicine.
Dreams teased at his mind, each slipping away before he could remember or grasp them.
Finally, he began to ease out of his sleep. The dreams lasted longer, and he held on for a few more moments, until they began to blend with reality, and then he opened his eyes and rejoined reality. He felt like himself. For now; his anger was gone, and his mind was clear.
Yellow eyes slowly looked around as he propped himself up. Horse was back in her stall, with the door locked now. The large padlock looked hugely thick, and she looked grumpy. Evoxe leaned against the wall near the main door, and Korenila was nowhere he could see.
Ask spoke. “What happened?” His voice was less hoarse, but still sounded bad.
Evoxe looked up. “A delirious patient broke out and came after you. You woke up and protected yourself. His wounds reopened, and now you and your horse are to blame, because you had to go and say ‘For Njolr’ when we brought you in.”
Ask’s mind slowly turned over the elf’s words, and his expression darkened. His tail twitched back and forth. “So. Now what?”
The elf looked at him. “You’re pretty clear-headed right now. You tell me, what’s the logical thing to do?”
“Smart for you, or smart for me? Smart for me is to leave as soon as I can. Smart for you is to publicly get rid of me.” He looked away.
The man’s voice softened. “You really think we would abandon you, huh?”
“If you did, people would be happy with you. Seeing a goblin leave is the best thing a human can see, isn’t it?”
The man laughed. “Only in Njolr.” His response was brief, but the effect was like a physical bludgeon to Ask’s mind.
“What?” His voice was giving out. “Water.” He requested hurriedly, then took the cup Evoxe offered and drank as the elf explained.
“Goblins are our allies. Have been for decades.”
Ask’s mind tried to comprehend this. Had he been supporting his people’s enemy, or were the people from Njolr his people?
Evoxe spoke again, and Ask’s ears pricked up to catch the softspoken words. “Find out who your people are, if you have a people. Drop the ‘For Njolr’ until you figure it out. People here have been hurt badly by those from Njolr, and hearing its greeting makes them…” He glanced toward the door with a pointed look, and Ask followed his gaze. He stared for several moments before he understood.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Ask paused, then held out a four-fingered hand. “Thanks. Got some food?” His forced half-grin was uneasy, and looked strange with his mouthful of sharp teeth, he was sure.
Evoxe simply chuckled and left to fetch something, perhaps the same soup as always. He was a quiet man, Ask decided, and seemed like a decent person– perhaps even more kind than the innkeeper’s wife back home.
Ask’s expression darkened as he closed his eyes to fight off tears. Horse whickered at him, and he just looked up at her. “Stupid Horse.” His throat choked in the middle, and it came out like a child who was mid-cry had spoken, rather than him.