Continued from The Sand Flea (Part VIII).
Ask continued to run through the healers’ temple, desperately seeking someone who believed him. His back began to burn with a dull ache. “Bandits are coming!” He pointed back, behind the temple. “They’re that way!”
Several scoffed at the panting goblin.
“You’re for Njolr!”
“You’re just going to rob us blind!” The patients’ voices kept the priests from hearing, and as Ask tried to run towards a male priest that had fancier robes than the rest, a hand wrapped around his ankle, and a group of seven patients bustled him out the same door he entered through.
The priests had no idea, save that they felt certain Ask left from all the shouting.
Outside the temple’s side door, fists rose and fell onto the injured goblins as two of the patients held him in place.
He took their abuse, but not without screaming that an attack was coming.
“Shut up!” A huge man slammed a fist into the goblin’s jaw, and it went slack as a sickening crunch wove through the bone.
“Ahahk! Ahahk hummin!” Ask’s voice rose shrilly. He could taste blood in his mouth.
Crack! Pain wracked his chest, and although his eyes were open, all went dark for a moment. Crack! Another rib.
“CRACK!” There wasn’t any pain with that one. He coughed and looked up. Horse was there, and most of the men had scattered. One was laying on the ground wheezing beside Ask.
Horse’s soft face nuzzled Ask’s shoulder, and she lowered her head so he could grip her mane for support. Instead, he scrambled onto her back before he collapsed onto her neck and whispered. “Otta ‘op em.” His jaw wouldn’t work right. His legs refused to hold on properly, and he fell off.
Once again, that blackness of sleep without rest.
He woke, and when he did, he opened his eyes. It felt like they were being stabbed. The distant sound of Horse struggling woke him quickly, and he forced himself up, forced himself to follow.
Her desperate, struggling neighs forced life into his legs, and he began to run. They had a thick rope around her neck, and one person was trying to get a knife to her throat. “NO!” It sounded slurred. He threw himself in the way and clung to her neck. He couldn’t breathe. He just held on, hopeful that they wouldn’t cut through him to get to her.
Everything was going wrong at once.
Ask held on tightly, and the voices around that protested faded into nothing.
The last thought that crossed his mind as he faded into unconsciousness was that it was strange– he wanted to eat her not too long go.
Light found his eyes again, and he was in something that jostled and moved, and Horse laid next to him. She was breathing and alive, and so was he– although he was miserable.
He slowly moved his jaw. It could open and close on its own now! He sat up. His chest was only a little sore. A scowl furrowed his brows, and he looked around. The walls of the wagon were high, and he couldn’t see through them. The roof was open, and there was a rolled tarp at one end. All around, straw was tied to the sides and piled at the bottom, presumably as cushioning.
Alone with his horse and disoriented, Ask tried to climb the sides to peek out. He slipped back down quickly. He tried to shift the straw out of the way, but it didn’t give,. Finally, he simply curled up beside Horse and sighed. “Where are we going?” He grunted.
Evoxe’s voice broke the quiet unexpectedly. “Goblin lands. Your horse caused a lot of trouble protecting you, and they were going to kill her, but you got in the way. None of the patients felt safe with the two of you there-“
“What about the bandits?” He scrambled to the side he heard the elf’s voice come from. “I was trying to warn them about the bandits!”
“I scouted and saw nothing.” The man sighed. “It was three days between your horse killing an injured man and our departure.”
The young goblin blinked. “What?”
“We were there for three days after your horse killed someone, and nothing happened.” Ask could almost hear the grinding of the elf’s teeth, and his ears lowered. “I saw them. They were friendly until I mentioned coming from the hospital… temple… thing.” He held his head. “They chased me.” Bitter tears stung his eyes. “Those stupid people are going to die because they don’t want to listen!”
Evoxe sighed. “They have guards, lots of them. Most of the injured are fighting men. Even if the bandits come, and you end up right, none of those people will trust you, because your horse killed one of them.”
Nobody could see him. It was safe to cry, he was sure. The tears flowed down his cheeks, and felt like fire instead of water. “She was trying to save me. They broke my jaw and my ribs.”
Another sigh. “I know, Ask. I know. I’m-” his voice trailed off. “I’m upset because all of this could have been prevented. We should have kept your mouth shut somehow when we were taking you in, or kept you in the stable to begin with. Finding you that close to the border, we had no idea what you would talk about.”
“It’s fine, Evoxe.” It was Korenila. “It’s fine, Ask. Everything will be right eventually.” Her words put a halt on the conversation.
“Korenila?” Ask built up his courage. “You should just… leave me. You can go back to your temple then, right?”
There was a long silence, and the cart stopped. The back opened, and Ask began to walk that way. Korenila walked in and wrapped her arms around the short male. “We aren’t going to abandon you, Ask.” With one hand, she wiped his tears from his face.
“Why?” His voice broke, and he tried again, more firmly. “Why?”
“Because that would be cruel, and we really do like having you with us. I’ll keep you company for a while as we ride.”
Ask felt tears burn his eyes, and he forced them back as he clung tightly to the human who cared for him even when he was violent and scary, even when she was forced from her home, even when he offered to leave and make things easy for her.