Continued from The Giant’s Shield (Part V).
All of the events since saving the innkeeper’s wife spilled from Ask’s angry lips, right up until he came to the part where Korenila joined him in the back of the wagon. Only then did he pause to think about the events. “Korenila and Evoxe and Horse never stopped trying to help me.” Tears filled his eyes. “They got kicked out of their healing house, Korenila and Evoxe did, because of that. Horse stayed with me even though I planned to eat her.” He swallowed his tears and tried to speak, but words wouldn’t come out. His thoughts refused to stay straight.
For a long time, he just sat there in the company of a stranger, trying not to cry.
“Oh, get it over with.” The old goblin shuffled out of the room and closed the door, and the tears began to flow as Ask heard his own child-like wails and questions he couldn’t even remember the meaning of once they were out of his mouth. Salty snot and tears found his mouth, and he kept going until he couldn’t breathe and his body felt heavy.
His eyes closed, and as he sobbed, he sank into familiar sleep, where he dreamed strange things– the things that normally happened during dreams, like flying bricks and trees that sang with frightening faces, and evil fires that liked to eat whatever they touched.
Noise woke him, and his eyes snapped open. He looked around, but couldn’t see anything until he spotted the light from the window had a silhouette in the middle of it. Slowly, he turned his head toward the window. He saw nothing but sky, from the angle at which he looked out. The goblin stood on feet that felt like lead and walked to the clear window. He peered out. A sigh exploded from his lips– he didn’t even realize he was holding his breath.
The goblin slumped forward and rested his head on the cold glass. It felt nice and calmed him as he stared out with half-lidded eyes.
Outside, he could see a small garden plot that had wilting plants. The land around the house was cleared of most of the trees, with a few for shade here and there. The yard was large and well-kept– very clean, quite green. The frost hadn’t killed everything yet, and the trees were alive with fire in their branches. It was approaching evening, if he had to guess. The long shadows were extending inward, and he wished he was higher, so he could see the sun, but a cliff in the distance blocked it from his vision.
The smell of something delicious met Ask’s nose, and his nostrils twitched as he sniffed. He turned from the window, and for a moment, a shadow passed the window, but he ignored it and walked out into a larger room that was a combination of kitchen and every other room, minus sleeping space and bathing room. There were places to sit, a table, and kitchen things.
Ask wasn’t paying much attention to those, however. The smell of food overrode any curiosity about the room as he wandered over to stare at the spitted meat over the fire with eyes that were unashamedly hungry.
A hand suddenly held a fat rabbit on a spit in front of Ask’s starved face, and the goblin grabbed it with a grunted ‘thanks’ before he dug in; all of the manners Korenila drilled into him forgotten for the time as he stuffed all he could into his mouth, torn apart by fingers and claws. He even broke the bones and sucked out the marrow.
He sighed as he finished, and reddened as he heard a tinkling giggle from behind. “You eat like you haven’t in months, Ask.” It was Ela. The food he just ate turned into bricks inside his stomach.
“Uh. Yeah. Months.” He hoped that would relieve his embarrassment, but it did nothing. “I’m tired. Thanks for the food.” He spun around, and for a moment, he saw Ela sitting on the floor, and Trun behind her, with his arms draped about her shoulders. Ask’s brows furrowed, and he darted away from the loving pair, back to the room he’d been in.
He felt ready to puke, but it had nothing to do with the rotten meat from early that morning. Slowly, quietly, he closed the door and leaned against it. His back slid down until he sat on the floor, and his head fell forward into his hands with a slap. He made a fool of himself, and he knew it.
Several awkward moments passed, and Ask finally moved again. He punched the floor with a grimace of anger. Stupid Ask. Stupid, stupid Ask. Why did he always feel like he had to be perfect around Ela? Why did she always have to be perfect around him?
Was she doing it on purpose?
His eyes snapped wide open.
What if this was some kind of magic she was using?
His guts wrapped around themselves tightly, and he felt sick again, and swallowed his need to gag and choke.
No. Would she do that?
The idea repulsed him, and he shoved it away. Magic wasn’t able to do that. He heard somewhere that magic only worked when the person it was used on accepted it– that’s why pure magic wasn’t a weapon. It could turn into something that was a weapon, but it couldn’t be a weapon.
He hugged his knees and tried to remember the stories he heard about magic.
All of those so-familiar stories from his childhood faded as he tried to grasp at them, and the young goblin held back a whimper as footsteps approached. It would be Trun, he was sure of it.
The door moved slightly, and then Trun spoke. “Let me in.” He sounded irritated.
Ask sighed and raised his head, ready to stand up and let the other male in. He tucked his feet under himself and began to rise, only for his eyes to meet a familiar pair outside the window. Ask’s jaw dropped. It was the lizard man, and he wasn’t alone this time.