By Milli Morgana Crow
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A Brag was a Goblin, a shape-shifter that usually takes the shape of a horse then lures its victims to mount it and as soon as you were on his back a terrible ride awaited you. Oh how stupid he was! Ian let go of the branch and fell down to the earth below, the fallen leaves softening his landing only little. Spirit rushed up to his master and licked his face in a worried motion. Ian now realized how intense the pain below was and he felt like his behind was being torn into two, not to mention his front. He clutched it with his hands and let out a high-pitched scream. Oh that Brag! He was sure he couldn’t walk for a couple of suns. He tried to stand up but he noticed that it was easier said than done. Spirit looked at him with what almost seemed a grin on his face. Ian couldn’t close his legs and tried to walk but succeeded in only taking a couple of clumsy steps. If that wasn’t enough he heard someone behind him giggle. Just thinking that someone had witnessed his stupidity made him wish he had encountered a Banshee instead of a Brag. He turned around but didn’t see anyone, but sensed that he was being watched and made fun of.
“Come ou,t whoever you are.” He said, his voice still high-pitched and an explosion of laughter and giggle erupted around him. Ian knew better then to show his anger, for the laughter could come from a Fearie or a Black Annis.
“Do you think it’s funny to see a man in pain?” He asked angry but only giggles answered his question. He tried to keep his temper, feeling utterly stupid and humiliated. He turned around and called Spirit and he started walking away but only succeeded in falling flat on his face, making the forest shake in laughter. Ian angrily sat up and started throwing the leaves that lay scattered around him.
“Are you alright?” child’s voice asked and he turned around and saw a little girl standing there. She was tiny and plump with rosy cheeks and big brown eyes. She wore a pink dress with a pocket from which a little mouse stuck its head out. She looked at him concerned. But Ian looked in awe at this tiny girl and realized that he had just encountered a dwarf.
“Are you alright?” he asked him again, only a little bit slower. He looked at her and nodded. She closed her eyes and smiled sweetly.
“Hi, my name is Leany. Nice to know you’re doing well. The horse that you mounted was a Brag.” she said childishly. Ian was pleased to know she had seen the entire thing and waited every minute for a lecture from a child.
“My name is Ian McGilles from the McGilles clan,” he said politely, for you should always be on friendly terms with dwarfs. He looked through the trees and saw that the light was slowly disappearing and it would be dark soon and he hadn’t found a place to camp yet. He tried to stand up and this time succeeded without making a fool out of himself. Leany looked at him with big eyes for she had never seen a human and never imagined that they could be so tall. Her father had told her and her brothers stories about creatures that looked like dwarfs but were only ten times bigger and lived in houses the height of some trees. Her mother used to tell her that if she weren’t nice a human would come and take her away. They were horrible scary creatures that shook the earth with their feet. However, this human didn’t seem scary but rather harmless and clumsy.
Ian growled, first the Brag and now a dwarf. What would come next, a Banshee? But Ian wasn’t that lucky for as he turned slowly to face Leany, she uttered a terrified scream. Before he had even seen what had made her scream he had taken out his sword from its halter and found himself facing a Wedluon. Leany lay on the ground white as snow but still breathing and untouched. Ian looked at the Wedluon that glared back at him with its red eyes. It tried to come nearer to Leany, but Spirit let out a threatening growl and the Wedluon hesitated. Ian didn’t have much choice if he wanted to save Leany but leapt over her and stood facing the creature. Immediately it charged at him trying to sink its sharp teeth into his skin. Ian knew that the only way to kill one was to pierce its stomach, for no weapon could penetrate its spikes. This gruesome creature, half porcupine half boar, had nearly caused him long ago to lose his leg as he had been searching for mushrooms at twilight and was attacked unarmed by one.
It jumped narrowly missing Ia. It landed gracefully on the ground ready for its next attack. Ian held his sword high, trying to sense the creature’s emotions. If it was scared it would probably defend itself instead of attacking but Wedluons weren’t scared of anything or anyone. They were like warriors not afraid to risk their lives. The Wedluon shifted its weight on its hind legs and leapt again, but this time the damage was done. It had cut Ian’s shoulder with its fangs coloring the ground red. An intense pain had rushed through Ian’s shoulder as the beast struck him. The Wedluon dug its teeth into the wound tearing his flesh open. Ian had no time to scream. He hit it on the head with the handle of the sword and the creature backed away. Ian’s blood was streaming out of its mouth. Spirit charged it but the creature had no interest in him. It had tasted human blood and would not give up until he had succeeded in hunting Ian down. Never had Ian slipped so near to death for only one of them would come out of the fight alive. Ian was still standing there his left hand clasped over his right shoulder while blood covered his clothes red.
The Wedluon looked at its prey without any mercy for he sensed that it was wounded and getting weaker and would soon be powerless. It liked its lips, tasting the blood that was still fresh in his mouth.
Ian didn’t know how long he could continue…his knees were getting weaker while the pain became more intense with every breath he took. Its fangs held a poison that made you suffer such pains that you started hallucinating until you were powerless and an easy prey for the hunter. His vision was getting cloudy while the pain had become beyond words. He felt like lightning had struck him and was slowly spreading throughout his entire body, into every vein. His mouth started foaming and the only thing he could think of was Carmos, Reamus, Kyle and Growen who depended on him and on the seeds he had to bring home.
The Wedluon sensed victory and threw himself with all its weight on top of Ian but Ian was quicker. The Wedluon had landed on the edge of his blade and let out a blood-chilling scream as it blew out its last breath and died. With his remaining strength Ian pushed the heavy creature off himself and breathed short, shallow breaths. He had slain the beast or did he really…
“Leany…” He said remembering that Leany laid there unconscious. He noticed he had even more trouble standing up so he shuffled on his knees over to her and took her into his arms. How light she was. It was the first thing that crossed his mind as he picked her little body up from the ground. Her breathing was soft but steady, so that meant that she wasn’t in any real danger. Spirit came over to them and licked her face in an affectionate way. Her body stirred and she slowly opened her eyes and saw a large brown nose. She screamed, thinking it was the Wedluon, and Ian nearly dropped her for he wasn’t prepared for anything like that.
“It’s okay Leany. You’re safe. It’s only Spirit.” Ian said, calming her while he soaked her clothes in his blood. Leany looked at him, his face smeared with dirt and blood while his clothes where soaking from the blood that gushed out of his wound.
Ian felt something hard hit his head and when he turned around again something hit his forehead.
“Stop it!” Leany said, jumping out of his arms. Ian fell on his butt and clutched his shoulder in pain. He looked around and saw a dozen little people standing in a semi-circle around him looking really angry. Most of them where round and had rosy cheeks like Leany, but there where others who had long beards and were armed with shovels and picks.
Leany ran up to him and asked him if he was ok but her voice sounded far away as Ian felt himself falling and falling into an endless nothingness that had swallowed him whole. The shouts and the voices were just fragments from a long forgotten dream while the only thing he could remember was the rain, the rain that fell out of the sky on him washing away the blood and his pain.
“Everything that followed afterwards was like in a dream. I was awake but I was asleep knowing what was happening to me but unable to react. I remembered lights, bright lights and a rhythmical sound and the pain, the pain that wouldn’t want to go away haunting me like a Bogie that lived in the cupboards and would haunt you and cause mischief the only way to get rid of one was to move to another house but I couldn’t move to another body…
But when I woke up the first thing I remembered that the pain was gone and that there was a wonderful smell filling the room.”
Ian awoke feeling that the pain had ceased and that he lay on something soft. There was a lovely smell filling the room he suggested he was in. He slowly opened his eyes trying to focus and saw that he was in a room he had never been in. The ceiling above his head was inhumanly low, made out of dirt He felt his back and felt a combination of soft and hard. He felt feathers, leaves and twigs underneath his palm and he took a handful and held it in front of him just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. What he hadn’t noticed was that there was a little door made out of wood opposite the bed and a light shone from underneath. He stopped and listened and heard friendly voices, most of them female and one male.
“We can’t have a human here.” The male voice said followed by the sound of the scraping of a chair on the floor.
“Nonsense, Jeripho, he saved your daughter’s life. We can’t leave him to die outside can we?” an irritated woman’s voice replied.
“But did you see the size of him. It took all the men from our village to carry him inside. Who knows, he might be dangerous,” Jeripho said.
“Jeripho shame on you if only your mother could hear you! He saved your only daughter’s life so why do you care about size?”
“I don’t Mimsa but…”
“Nothing, but he’s staying here until he recovers from his wounds and that’s it.”
“Aren’t I the man of this house?” Jeripho asked angry.
“Ha, a thickheaded dwarf like you? Now hush. You’ll wake the boy.” she said, ending their conversation.
Ian felt his stomach grumble and curiosity and hunger drove him to look what was behind that door. He shuffled on his knees for the ceiling was too low to stand straight. He pushed the door open and a lovely scene met his blue eyes. He found himself looking into a kitchen with walls and ceiling also made out of dirt. There was a little oven and a fire burning and a cauldron hung over it. The smells that came out of it filled the kitchen. In the middle of the room stood a little table and three little chairs. On one of those sat an old bald dwarf with a long white beard and hazel eyes looking at him with big eyes. Behind him stood a plump woman, Mimsa Ian suspected, holding a wooden spoon in her hand. Ian felt nervous and out of place in this small house.
“Hello young one come in. How are you feeling? I am Mimsa Leany’s mother. We all thank you for saving our daughter’s life. Don’t we Jeripho?” he said poking him with the spoon. Jeripho growled at Mimsa but thanked Ian politely. Leany rushed into the room through a door located near the oven and when she saw Ian she flung herself into his arms.
“Thank you for saving my life. Is your wound doing better?” She asked and Ian replied “Yes”.
“Come, join us at our humble table,” Mimsa replied as she placed a plate filled with delicious looking round pieces of dough and poured him some soup from the cauldron in a bowl the size of a small cup. Ian was glad that he kind of fitted into the small kitchen and that he had encountered this particular race of dwarfs. Carmos once said that he had encountered a gnome that was fifteen fingers tall but the ones Ian had encountered where 50 fingers and very helpful.
“Here you go,” she said, placing a couple of the round pieces of dough on a plate and handing it over to Ian who took it eagerly. Maybe he was hungry as a wolf but he would not eat til everyone was seated in front of a bowl of soup except he, who was sitting on the ground in front of a table that came up just above his ankles.
“Enjoy your meal,” Jeripho said to Ian and they all started eating. Ian tried to control his hunger but couldn’t and ate the three pieces of dough and the bowl of soup as if it was nothing. Jeripho looked in horror as this human devoured a large quantity of food in less then a blink of the eye. But Mimsa had another point of view.
“Oh look at the boy. He’s hungry. Oh Jeripho, why couldn’t you have such an appetite?” she said poking him with a spoon. Jeripho became red in anger, thinking that his wife wanted him to become like this disgusting human; whom he had to admit saved his beloved daughter but would devour the food and the table in one bite.
“So you could feed me with a shovel!” he said, continuing to slowly sip his soup.
“Do you want another bowl of soup dear?” Mimsa asked happily, taking the bowl out of his hand.
“Please madam, it was delicious,” Ian said feeling a little bit embarrassed for he felt like he was eating all their savings away. But Mimsa shone with pride for no one had praised he cooking and she took it as an honor to be praised by a human.
“Oh, you know how to make an old woman shine in pride. Call me Mimsa and this grumpy old troll here is Jeripho. Why couldn’t you praise my cooking skills while I cook for you every day?” she said angrily, turning to Jeripho whose anger was building.
“When I taste something that needs praising, I’ll let you know. But if you continue cooking like this you’ll never hear it.”
“That does it!” Mimsa said, furious, and snatched away the bowl of soup in front of Jeripho’s nose and poured it back into the cauldron.
“From now on you’ll make your own food if mine is so terrible!” She said and Jeripho cursed his big mouth, for he knew once his wife said something she meant it. She handed Ian another bowl with a foul look at Jeripho, who was trying to find an excuse.
“Here you go lad. At least you know good cooking when you taste it,” she said and placed another plate of sweets in front of Jeripho’s nose who smelled the delicious treats. Oh blueberry pie with honey crust that melted in your mouth…Jeripho thought feeling his mouth watering as he smelled and looked at his favorite desert that Mimsa only made on special occasions. When he was just about to take a piece Mimsa ruined it all.
“Oh I totally forgot you don’t like my cooking, so you won’t get it,” she said taking it away from him and handing it over to Leany.
“Fine, then have it your way. I’m going out to get myself some mushrooms and careful, boy, she might poison you with her terrible cooking,” he said kicking himself in the head but he was too proud to show it. Because of his big mouth he had just missed his favorite dish and now he had to trade it in for tangy mushrooms and rye bread.
“I hope you choke on them!” Mimsa called after him and he banged the door hard looking back at the boy that was responsible for all of this. If he hadn’t joined them and wasn’t hungry, Mimsa would never have commented on his manners and that boy wouldn’t have complimented her cooking and now he would have been seated in front of a large slice of pie drinking his honey-wine.
He climbed up the stone steps and took his blue coat and put it on along with his hat. He took a lantern with him and pushed open a door that led into the storage room. Oh if Mimsa would find out that he had been in here she would throw him out of the house but just looking at all these treats made Jeripho close the door behind him and feast on the storage.
Meanwhile Leany, Ian and Mimsa were having a great time in the cozy kitchen eating Jeripho’s favorite pie.
“He’s a thickheaded bald man, that husband of mine. You’ll see soon he’ll be crawling on his knees to have a plate of soup. Hmp the nerves of that little fella,” Mimsa said with her hand on her side making Leany and Ian laugh.
“So tell us, Ian, where are you from?” Leany asked, curious.
“Let the lad finish his plate first,” Mimsa said sternly.
“It’s ok I’m done. Thank you for the lovely meal Mimsa and for healing my wounds,” he said politely and then turned to Leany.
“I came from the Northern Region of Shanain where our cottage lies isolated between green hills and forests.”
“You live in the Highlands? Where the snow on the big mountains never melts and where the Barbe Glacee live?” Leany asked, her eyes sparkling.
“Oh if you live so close to our cousins then you must have been traveling for suns.” Mimsa said. Ian recalled seeing on one of his expeditions what seemed a little gnome that was riding on an avalanche.
“Yes the Highlands are my home. There I live with my four brothers and my father Carmos McGilles.”
“Carmos McGilles you say, the famous knight that saved the Lady Medlyn and took her to a distant place where they got married and lived until the end of their lives.” Leany asked, curious at the puzzled Ian.
“Well my father’s name is Carmos and my mother’s was Medlyn but I never knew he was a knight and I didn’t know my mother so well for she died when I was eleven cycles old.”
“Oh poor Lady Medlyn, what a kind and helpful Lady she was,” Mimsa said.
“Now that you mention it, you look like her. You have your father’s height and shoulders but your mother’s hair and blue eyes that sparkle like the dew when the suns rays shine through it.”
“I do not mean to offend you but are you sure?”
“As sure as I’m sure that’s my daughter sitting in that chair opposite you,” she replied determined.
“But father never told me he was a knight.”
“He probably had his reasons for keeping it from you. Now tell me, Ian McGilles, what brings you so far away from home?”
“Our mother died when I was eleven cycles old and left my father and me with three boys: Reamus and the twins Kyle and Growen. The draft had got her two moons after the twin’s birth and since then everything changed. We survived off the land, of four crops that we grew on the land. Carmos didn’t have much time for growing crops in the Highlands in a hard task and in the end the draft succeeded in taking them away. So I was sent by my father to head East to Lawrskin where I have to buy seeds so we can survive for another cycle.” Ian said and Mimsa and Leany listened carefully.
“So young and handed such a responsibility. You are a brave young lad and I wish you all the luck in this world, but I’m afraid that I can’t let you go just yet. Your wounds are not yet healed and you would be a too easy prey for the beasts that lurk in this forest and many others you’ll have to cross to reach your destination. So that’s why you must stay another two days before you continue your journey. I know that time is scarce, but you’re no help to them if you’re inside a Black Annis stomach,” Mimsa said and no matter how much Ian wanted to argue about it he knew he had no other choice.
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