CHAPTER TWO: Grom Becomes an Adventurer (13)

     Bornen was slouching over, sitting on the stump of a once proud elm tree he had cut down no less than three seasons ago, and he appeared very docile or sluggish. (At least he didn’t seem in too much of a hurry to greet Grom as enthusiastically as one might expect, but that can be attributed to the blood loss).

     “Papa, what happened?” Grom approached him slowly.

     “A goblin’s quarrel,” he declared in rickety tones, shamefaced as ever, “I was pierced by a goblin’s quarrel.”

     He implored desperately, “And Mam, is she close?”

     Bornen shrugged and shook his head, “I couldn’t find her anywhere. When I arrived, she wasn’t here . . . but those wretched goblins were. I scared them away, I did. That’s when I was wounded.” Grom examined the injury and observed that something was a little odd about it; the arrow’s head was sticking through the top of Bornen’s boot, penetrating his foot from below.

     “That’s strange, but, it looks as if you-“

     “Stepped on it, I know,” he cringed bitterly, then added, “don’t tell anyone, all right?”

     “Wait here, I rode from Snowberry on a pony. I’ll go fetch it. We can look for her together and then-“

     Bornen waved a trembling hand, “Go,” he began, then added dully, “but don’t come back for me, my boy. I’ve been done in, so it seems . . .”

     “What are you saying Papa?” Grom asked gravely.

     “My part in history is now in the past. This is where the mighty Bornen Stonefeather is slain.”

     “But-” he ventured.

     “Go,” the elderly dwarf said sternly, “I told you my time has come. It’s better if an adventurer accepts their end, rather than try to run from it. But what a disappointment, really, I expected to be crushed under the foot of some ferocious giant or swallowed up by some undiscovered creature inhabiting the Realm . . . I mean goblins? How embarrassing.” (At this point Grom had already wandered off to find the pony, letting his grandfather continue, because he was well acquainted with the long windedness that accompanied remembering the ‘good old days.’) “Craig Beak,” Bornen remarked with undeniable certainty, “now that was a real monster! Not like these goblins . . . they’re all knees and elbows. An eaglebear was the real stuff of nightmares; claws that could carve through steel, teeth that could chew through armor, and muscles as tough as stone, too! But a goblin? They're about as tough as the nuggets you pick from your nose, and just as green too. Killed by a goblin’s quarrel?” He nearly shuddered at the thought. “It’s detestable is what it is . . . inexcusable. Do you know which kind of adventurers have songs that feature death by goblin? Neither do I, because they’re not sung about . . . nobody is foolish enough to go around singing songs about nameless nobodies. Grom, are you paying attention to me? Grom?” The mists of reminiscence faded from his eyes, and Bornen turned his head from side to side, realizing he had been left alone.

The End

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