Continued from The Sand Flea (Part V).
The weeks passed by as Ask slowly recovered. His blackouts happened less frequently, replaced instead by restful sleep, and his mind recovered quickly. He spent much of his time either in bed, or restlessly wandering while his body refused to let him go far. Horse often escaped her stall to spend time with him– typically with uncanny timing.
Ask tossed and turned during one night as he had one of his uncommon nightmares. He tossed onto his side as he watched a fire. His next shift brought him across his belly, and onto his other side as he tried to flee from the images of that monochrome, heat-less fire that plagued his mind.
Something grabbed his arm, and it wasn’t the phantom sensation of a dream. His eyes shot open. He was almost laying on his back, and would be, if Horse wasn’t holding his arm with gentle teeth. The goblin stared up at her with puzzlement for several long moments before he slowly shifted himself onto one side, so he faced her. She released his arm– wet, but unhurt. “Stupid Horse.” His voice caught, and he wondered why as he stroked her nose. Her soft lips flapped lightly against his cheek, and he swatted her away.
Again, she lipped at him softly, and he shot a glare at her, then sighed. “Stupid Horse.” He patted her silky nose and looked down at the bed with a sigh. His stomach growled, and he reached for the bowl at the side of his bed. Jerky, supposedly to return the strength to his jaw. As he gnawed on the dry meat, he thought.
This horse saved his life twice, and liked to protect him. Did it think it was a dog? A weak grunt of laughter escaped him, and Horse eyed him for a moment before she lipped at him. He shoved her away.
“Stop that. You’re getting me wet.”
A light seemed to flicker on in her eyes, and she began to lip at him all the more. He swatted at her, careful not to use his claws, and laughed until he was tired. In his own ears, he sounded like a child.
“Stupid horse.” He smirked as his eyes drifted shut. Her warm head rested on his chest and stomach, and one of his wiry arms wrapped around her as he slipped down into his now-calm dreams.
He woke to unfamiliar sounds of movement and first cracked an eye open before he shoved himself to one side.
The rip of a sharp knife through cloth warned him of the fate he narrowly avoided. Pain shot through his back as he slammed it into the wall, and he spat out a snarl before he stopped suddenly. His attacker was another goblin. He stared in shock.
He almost thought he was the only one.
The other goblin pulled his knife back and slipped it into a sheath. His grin was wide and toothy. He was bulkier than Ask by a long shot, and hunched with middle age.
“Ha. They were right. You are an agile thing, aren’t you?”
“Horse?” Ask’s voice was a croak through the pain, and the other goblin blinked in surprise.
“Your horse?” He frowned, then pointed to the stall, where Horse was slamming against the door angrily. Her eyes rolled and settled on the stranger, who pointed at her. “Guard dog, I think.”
Ask’s laugh was almost delirious as he pushed himself slowly away from the wall. The air on his bare, half-scarred back felt cool.
“Think you can call that thing of?” The older goblin frowned. “I think she really is going to break through. Make her stop.”
Slowly, the younger goblin slipped from his tangle of blankets and stumbled over to the stall. He thrust his hand toward her nose without a thought that she might bite him, and rested a hand on her nose. She tossed a few times, but calmed. Ask turned to look at the other. “Who are you, anyways? Why did Evoxe let you in?”
With a snort of laughter, the other replied. “He let me in because I’m adopting you. I just had to make sure they weren’t lying about you.” He nodded. “My name is Krusk Ghosthand.”
“Krusk Ghosthand?” He blinked. “Weird name.”
“Yours is weirder. Goblins shouldn’t have Njolr names.” Krusk smirked. “If you want a goblin name, I can help you pick one.”
A frown furrowed Ask’s brows. “I don’t even know if I can be a goblin right after growing up in Njolr.” His shoulders slumped, and he turned away to face his horse and pet her nose.
“You have good reactions. Korenila says you’re scary when you’re mad or in pain, and Evoxe tells about how you didn’t hurt either of them, even when you were mad with pain. You’re strong, fast, scary, and able to stop yourself from hurting allies. You’re a goblin. You just don’t know our customs or language yet.” He nodded and scratched his hip.
Ask remained unsure as he watched Krusk. “I’ll think about it.”
“It’s a big choice. Take your time.” He gave a brief nod and walked out of the small room.
Left alone with just his horse, Ask sighed and slowly relaxed. His back ached, and suddenly, something weird was happening in his life again. This time, it didn’t seem bad. Slowly, with a slight struggle, he freed Horse from her stall and let her help him to his bed.
Somehow, the visit from Krusk felt strange to his mind, as though it wasn’t right. He closed his eyes and sighed, then paused as Horse rested her head on him. He looked down. He was getting fat. His muscle was no longer as visible, nor his bones as prominent. A scowl crossed his face. Fat meant slow. He needed to start moving more instead of laying around. He forced himself to sit back up and tried to think of what he could do.
Running was out of the question. He was too tired to walk. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something he could do that would bring strength and burn away the layer of fat that covered his body.