Continued from The Giant’s Shield.
When Ask returned from his ride, he fell asleep as soon as his belly was full, right at the table, and Evoxe had to carry him to the stable so they could clear the dishes away without waking him.
Ask was outside before sunrise, seated at the edge of the drop and staring in towards the house and the grass. He waited for the sun to rise as his eyes slipped shut again and again. A nudge to his cheek woke him, and his jaw dropped open as he finally saw it– the sunrise on the first frost. All was silent in the early morning, even though he was certain the others were rising. The house looked like polished brass, and each long piece of grass looked like it was on fire.
The goblin’s yellow eyes widened as he struggled to take it all in– as much as he could– before the fiery sunrise passed. Horse stood beside him and watched as well, and he placed his hand on her leg tiredly, and then leaned against it as once more, his eyes began to slide shut.
He woke to the sudden sensation that nothing was underneath him, and as he opened his eyes, he saw the rock face shooting up in front of him. He squirmed in the air and looked down.
He was falling. A scream ripped from his throat as he fell. The trees, so far below, were growing rapidly. He couldn’t even hear himself as he fell. He looked up, and Horse looked down at him, a dot on the cliff before all went dark as pain erupted through his scarred back.
Breathing was hard. There were sticks underneath him, poking at him and jabbing against his bones. Slowly, he rose, only to stumble until his back found the rough bark of a tree, and he slid down to sit. Where was he? Dazed yellow eyes looked around as he coughed before his head dropped and eyes closed again.
Noon found him awake and half-starved, he felt. He wandered about, heading deeper into the forest until the dense trees blocked the light, and he began to feel dizzy.
Something kept him on his feet, but he couldn’t name it as he simply continued forward. The only sounds he heard were the cracking of branches and dead leaves underfoot, and the occasional rustling of the wind through the trees. He paused as his mind went over that detail again. There were no animal sounds. A nagging voice in his head spoke of some kind of danger, but he couldn’t concentrate, and his feet began to move forward again, intent on going deeper.
The sound of his passage through the forest quieted. His own footsteps became silent, despite their weight. Ask’s ears drooped tiredly, and he forgot to keep his mouth all the way shut, while his half-lidded eyes warned him only of obvious pitfalls.
Forward, still forward.
Finally, his knees hit the mossy ground. His face followed, and all was black.
Something nagged at him, even as he slept, and he heard things– he heard Evoxe and Korenila arguing about something he couldn’t make out. Horse was screaming and battering at her stall. The girl, he didn’t know her name, was huddled behind her curtain, trying to be invisible as she quietly cried.
Everything came through a thick haze, as though he was watching it through the eyes of someone part blind, and then, he woke up. There was a massive, smooth wall in front of him that curved outward, toward him. It was flat on the top, and the bottom was lost to the ground. The entire wall was made of stone, and an inner voice screamed for him to run.
He slowly rose to his feet.
Ask took a step.
He touched the wall.
Ask let his hand rest on the smooth stone, then looked up and around. He didn’t recognize anything around.
His mind wasn’t working properly. He was still in a daze as he removed his hand, then sat down heavily.
That was a mistake, the youth reflected as he rubbed his rear. It felt like someone took a huge hammer and slammed it against his ass.
There it was again, so suddenly. The silence was there, and this time, his senses jarred him into awareness. He looked around, then ducked behind a stone. The scrape of two rocks sliding past each other came and went slowly, and Ask couldn’t bear to look– his fear was too thick.
As the sound faded into nothing, sounds of forest and fauna began to sound. Unfamiliar birds began to cry, and bugs began to buzz or flit about. Something yipped in the dark, and the sounds of the coming night began to take hold.
He lost a whole day, maybe more, and he was so tired.
With a grunt, he rose to his feet. Finding shelter wasn’t an option– it was a requirement, and he couldn’t just huddle in a crack and expect to be awake enough to find his way home-
His thoughts stopped. Home. Was that what he was calling that house he spent a year in?
It was, he decided without much thought. What else would he call it? He lived there, and he liked it there. He enjoyed Evoxe’s way of keeping order. He enjoyed Korenila’s warm comfort. He enjoyed the scarred girl’s smell and hair. He enjoyed being with Horse.
How had he fallen, and why? Why didn’t Horse catch him? His brow furrowed as he sought out a place to lay down. The goblin’s face reddened as the cloud of doubt slowly settled over him. Had Horse wanted him to fall?
“Stupid Horse.” Somehow, it felt unusual to call the beast that now. He narrowed his eyes further. “Stupid Horse.” That felt better, but not quite right. “Stupid Horse!” He shouted this time, and that sense of unease faded.
She wasn’t stupid, he knew.
She was a good Horse.
“I’m sorry.” His voice sounded small and childlike, even to himself as he crawled into a small hollow under a tree for a night’s rest.