I opened my eyes to be greeted by the night sky, filled with stars. I took a breath and immediately regretted it. As long as I didn’t move or breathe, I was fine, but if I failed to follow that rule, my entire body punished me, which is to say, hurt. A little round face peered down at me, and I was certain that a goblin was about to bite off my nose. I was greatly relieved then, when I noticed that this little round face was framed by blond hair tied up in two pigtails.
“Do not move, Father,” said the face, apparently belonging to my child, which is to say Ednathorpe. “I believe you have broken every bone in your body.”
“I have not,” I gasped, punished for every syllable. “A giant did it for me. Where is he anyway?”
“No, the last remnants of my patience, sanity, and consciousness. Yes, the giant, stupid girl. Owe.”
“It wandered away after I shot out both of its eyes with my bow,” she said, with a bit too much smugness, I thought.
“And where are the goblins?”
“Most of them are all around us. The giant stomped most of them into the dirt as it blindly wandered around.”
“Well, it appears you have inherited my warrior instincts and abilities,” said I. “Now, please reach into my saddlebag and retrieve the three healing potions that I have stashed there. I think I shall need all three.”
“I am sure you could do with three or maybe even four potions,” said Edna, “but your saddlebags, your saddle, and your entire horse are nowhere to be seen.”
“Drat,” said I.
“Maybe she will wander back to us by morning.”
“You shouldn’t assume that,” said I. “By this time, Hysteria has returned to Rumplegate, and is using my money to buy her way into a game of poker.”
Edna watched over me the entire night and made sure that a large fire kept us within its warm glow. This might have been important on any trip through the wilderness but having to spend the hours of darkness on blood-soaked ground amid the mangled and dead bodies of a score of goblins made it doubly, or triply, or quadropoly so. Who knows what terrible predators glared at us from just beyond the edge of the illumination, which is to say the light? But by morning, they were gone. And to my great surprise, Hysteria had returned. She still had the healing potions in her saddlebag, but my money purse which had hung on her saddle horn was now empty.
Ednathorpe brought the healing potions to my lips, and I drank them. Even so, it took a while before I was once again steady on my feet.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” I told Hysteria. “A horse of your years.”
She looked at the ground and kicked the dirt. There was no use dwelling upon it though. What was done was done. Instead, we continued on toward Fencemar.
It was late when we arrived. We stopped first at the stable, and notwithstanding the fact that my purse was decidedly lighter, in fact empty but for a few coins I had stashed on my person, and notwithstanding the fact that I was not overly happy with my noble steed, which is to say Hysteria, I still arranged for hay and water and a good brushing for her and for Acrimony. After all, as far as I knew, he was guiltless.
Edna and I stepped through the tavern door in time to hear someone speaking loudly from the common room. We looked inside to see a fellow dressed as an adventurer, speaking before a crowd consisting of a few townsfolk, some travelers, and if looks were to be believed, a fair-sized mercenary group.
“And now, I shall tell you how I, Eaglethorpe Buxton, saved Celestria and defeated the zombie horde with only this fork!”
“Varlet!” I cried. “You are not Eaglethorpe Buxton! You did not save Celestria! You were not even born when that happened! And what did you do to your beautiful hair?” The fake Eaglethorpe Buxton stared back at me, eyes wide. “Mother said I could cut it.”