Chapter Twenty-One: The Goblin Road (2)Mature

The night passed uneventfully.  They took turns at watch, each one sitting awake for three hours while the other two shared the blanket, but other than a herd of deer that wandered through in the wee hours of the morning, nothing disturbed their campsite.

            Nothing, that is, except whatever it was that stole in unobserved to carve watchful eyes in every tree within a three-yard radius.

            Breakfast was another meal of raw onions, and before they set off again, Seymour gathered some more of the bulbs to eat later in the day, along with generous quantities of hazelnuts and walnuts.  The dried blackberries, it turned out, were really not worth the trouble of ingesting, so those remained on the vine.

            They hiked back to the goblin road, Seoc now walking in the boots that Simon had been wearing the previous day, and Simon riding piggyback on Seymour.  Then they turned right and began to trudge southward once more.

            Their progress was slower than it had been the day before.  This was partially due to the fact that Simon was about thirty pounds heavier—and thirty times squirmier—than Seoc, so Seymour had to stop to rest more frequently.  Mainly, though, it was because their bodies were not accustomed to an onion based diet.  They were all fatigued from lack of proper nutrients, and after a while, Seymour grew lightheaded from overexerting himself on so little food.  The onions had their worst effect, however, on Seoc, who seemed to be mildly allergic to them and had to walk all morning with hives and a bad headache.

            By noon, the road had brought them back to the river.  They stopped at a pleasant, sunny bend for lunch and respite, and by sheer luck, Seymour managed to catch another fish.  In the process, he also caught five fat leeches that attached themselves to his feet and ankles.  These he plucked off and threw back into the water before Simon could get any ideas.

            There was no sense in avoiding a campfire now, Seymour had to admit.  If the goblins had wanted them, they would have abducted them when they had stolen the horses.  And whatever it was that was so persistently carving eyes in trees—it seemed to know exactly where they were.  There was no use in hiding from it.

            They ate fish and drank water, which they boiled in a little cast-iron pot that the goblins had left behind.  Seymour drank a bit of brandy as well to stave off withdrawal, but he was able to stop himself before he became drunk.  It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

            When their stomachs were satiated, Seymour and Seoc fell asleep in the sun.  Simon, meanwhile, built a sandcastle.  It turned out looking more like a pile of mud than anything else, but the intention was there.

            There were six carved eyes watching them by the time they left.

The End

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