There is likely only one benefit of having a terrible day, and that is the deep sleep that ends it. Exhaustion is seldom considered a blessing, but it does lead to fitful, though ungraceful, repose in one’s bed. This is not always guaranteed of course, but on certain occasions, one is so exhausted from their labors, that they welcome the abyss of sleep with open arms, and slip into the warm embrace of a mattress. Thus, one such person is not likely to be seen anytime soon, nor advisable to wake. Lorcan was sleeping in such a way. He didn’t move a muscle, showing no signs of life, nor having any intentions of doing so for the foreseeable future.
Lorcan lay facedown in a dusty bed, in a position from which he had not stirred the entire night. The dust Lorcan had dislodged from the bed sheets earlier after collapsing had settled on him, giving him a grayed, almost ghostly appearance. To the untrained eye, it would seem that Lorcan had passed away in his sleep, and even as a spirit had refused to move from slumber.
As Lorcan lay there, the shadows of two small figures scuttled across the room toward him. They stopped at the edge of Lorcan’s bedside, hesitated a moment, then climbed up the bedposts and onto the mattress. They moved slowly towards Lorcan’s shoulders, spindly legs edging forward like awkward spiders. One of the creatures stretched out it’s arm tentatively, extending a long finger towards the sleeper’s side. It stopped in midair, as if reconsidering, but, unable to contain its curiosity, the goblin poked Lorcan hard in the side.
Lorcan stiffened, and rolled away from the intruders, and let loose a colossal sneeze, expelling all the dust he had exhaled during the night. He slowly opened his leaden eyes. As he saw the creatures in front of him, he cocked his head back in surprise, unsure of whether or not he was still dreaming. Rubbing his eyes hurriedly, and realizing he was not dreaming, ye yelped, swatting at the goblins, knocking them both off the bed. They fell on their heads, crying out in pain, landing on one another in a heap.
Lorcan sat up abruptly, looking at the two creatures in horror, scrambling to grab the nearest thing to defend himself with. The only thing within reach was an iron tankard, and Lorcan brandished it over his head, aiming it at the two trespassers. He was about to hurl the tankard at the two, who were now scrambling over each other in fright, when one cried out shrilly, “Don’t kill us! We surrender!”
Lorcan paused, bewildered, slowly dropping his arm. With curiosity battling his alarm, Lorcan looked down his nose at the two…things that struggled to their feet in front of him.
They were about the height of a toddler, both with long, spindly arms, legs, and fingers, large, floppy bat ears, and long pointed noses. They both possessed a dark brown complexion (at least it appeared they did; they were both so filthy, they could have been radiant white and no one would have known), and were dressed only in loincloths. The one who had cried out was the slightly taller and thinner of the two, and to this one Lorcan spoke first. “Who…what…what are you?”
The thinner one, sensing that the peril had subsided, quickly regained his composure. Looking angrily up at Lorcan, it said, “It’s WHO are you, first of all. It’s very rude to call someone a thing. Second, I might ask the same! Who are YOU, trespasser?”
Lorcan leaned forward, curiously viewing the two beings in front of him, who were now eying him offendedly and massaging the points of their heads where they had fallen. “I’m no trespasser, you are! I’m Lorcan MacBroin, and this is my home!”
“Oh no it isn’t!” insisted the other goblin, who was shorter and fatter, “This is our house, and we found it fair and square, so it’s ours!”
“Found it!?” cried Lorcan, “This has been my house since three years ago! You can’t just take it!”
“Oh yes we can,” defiantly said the taller, “it says so in Puckleflup’s Rules of Scavenging that we can take whatever house we want, if no one is using it.” The goblin folded his arms and pointed his nose in the air, as if that settled things.
Lorcan sat on his bed for a minute, mouth ajar, indignation and confusion written on his face. “I was using it, I just had to go away for a while, I-“, Lorcan stopped himself. Clearly this would get him nowhere. He shook his head, and waved his hand as if pulling aside a cobweb, and said, “Alright, whatever, I don’t care. WHO are you then?”
Sensing victory, the two goblins perked up. The taller stepped forward and bowed low, his nose brushing the ground. “I’m Puckleflup, patron of finders keepers, author of Puckleflup’s rules of Scavenging, devourer of pies, and master of this castle.” He beamed proudly, as if expecting Lorcan to applaud.
The fatter one stumbled forward and also bowed. “Dobble, devourer of pies, at your service.”
Puckleflup wheeled around, glaring at his brother (Lorcan assumed they were brothers), and smacking him on the head. “You can’t be the devourer of pies, I already said that!”
“No you didn’t.” “Yes I did!” “No you didn’t, I’ve always been the devourer of pies.” “That’s a lie!” “No it isn’t.” “Yes it is!” “It isn’t.”
Lorcan watched the two bicker in annoyance. He got up, and left the room, leaving the goblins to squabble, unaware of his absence. He walked down the corridor to the main hall, looking disdainfully at the cobwebs and dust covering everything. It looked as if nobody had even stepped foot inside the chapel in his absence. The main hall was the worst. Spiderwebs, dust, shards of broken wine bottles, and bits of food littered the room. Lorcan thought ruefully that he had seen cleaner taverns. He groaned and muttered curses as he fetched a broom.
Lorcan spent much of the day cleaning the chapel and stewing over his irritation. As he swept he would say things like, “…ungrateful people…no respect for religion…finders keepers…show them finders keepers…nail them to the wall…”
A great deal of what Lorcan said made little sense, including to himself, but he felt better saying them. He was angry, at the goblins, at the townspeople that had let the chapel fall into disarray, angry at his friends for not welcoming him, and angry at himself, knowing that he was being childish.
“What were you expecting?” he muttered. “It’s not like they would have any reason to miss you. You were only here for a year.”
This, and many belike things occupied Lorcan’s mind as he cleaned the chapel he had once called his home. It took him the whole morning, afternoon, and partially into the evening before he finished cleaning. As he did, Lorcan looked over the benches and stone walls of the small chapel and sighed. He sat down wearily on the nearest bench, and propped the broom against the wall. He lay back, groaning as his sore muscles relaxed. His anger subsided, having let it all out through aggressive housekeeping. Instead, he just felt drained and unhappy. He knew he was acting childish and entitled. Of course everyone’s lives had gone on without him; he was not so vital to their lives. Without him, the sun would continue to circle the earth just the same.
Lorcan knew he was being irrational, but it didn’t stop him feeling the way he did. He felt bitter and alone. Some of his comrades had married, others had joined or left the Order, the village was growing and prospering, and all seemed to be going so well. Everyone except the Priest that no one had missed, sitting in a forgotten chapel at the edge of town. Didn’t he deserve some happiness? Hadn’t he worked hard to be just and courageous like his comrades? Surely he had done no less than them, so why did everyone seem to have so much more than he?
Lorcan shook himself free of his dreary thought. He looked out the window and saw the sun dipping below the trees. It was about time for the Order to end the day and give the weekly report around the fire. Lorcan’s mood brightened. He had always enjoyed the fireside report. Perhaps Kane would be back, and he would announce Lorcan’s return.
Lorcan left the chapel hurriedly, calling to the two goblins that if they were still there when he got back, that he’d nail their ears to the doorpost. He walked quickly through town, not wanting to e late. Few were out of their homes at that hour, and it was unlikely that anyone would have recognized Lorcan anyway, so he made his way to the training grounds without incident.
The members of the Order sat around a large bonfire, eating, laughing, chatting of the day’s events, the regular pleasantries. Everyone sat in small groups, wither on the earth or suitable rocks, merrily boasting of their latest exploits. Lorcan moved forward eagerly, wishing to join in, and looked for a welcoming circle. He saw some friends here and there, but never in a great enough concentration to make him feel comfortable sitting down. Being open and social had never been his strong suit. He wished that someone would look over at him, wave him over, do something to acknowledge him. Some sign of recognition. Alas, nothing. Eventually, Lorcan resignedly sat by himself, watching the other groups enviously, straining to catch snippets of conversation.
“…yes, Kane’s back…boy sitting in his chair…got a right talking to…wonder how Shay is…” and so on.
Eventually, a figure Lorcan recognized as Kane stood from a distant group, and walked toward the fire. The chatter hushed as the Captain reached the edge of the fire and turned to face everyone. Behind him, marking the edge of the fire pit, was a large boulder, somewhat shaped like an arrowhead, flat on both sides. In the center of the stone, there were words engraved, left there decades, maybe centuries ago. It read: PENETRALE DOMUMQUE- UT IN DOMUM SUAM DEFENDAT NOS, ET NOS DEBEMUS DEFENDERE DOMO ALIORUM. Hearth and Home- In order to defend our home, we must defend the home of others.
Kane cleared his throat and called out, “Alright everyone, gather round!” To which someone called back “We’re already gathered round!” leading to some laughter from the crowd.
Kane glared at the person who’d spoken. “Quiet down you. Good evening friends, comrades…chair thieves (he looked pointedly at Vincent, who grinned broadly). I’m very happy to see you all, alive and well. I have received reports that in my absence you were all training quite hard, and have the battle wounds to prove it. Despite Ul’vade’s best efforts as Chirurgeon, you’ve all survived. (More laughter.) I commend you on your hard work. Now, we have some business to take care of, and I know you all have short attention spans, so I’ll do it quickly.”
Kane proceeded to relay the results of some field reports, general news within the group, and a few other things which are both tedious to write, and uninteresting to read, and will therefore be kept from this writing. Suffice it to say that generally all was well. In happier news, Shay had been located and brought back home. She was recovering in the infirmary, and was expected to rejoin the group shortly. This was of no small comfort to the Order, as many had worried greatly. All cheered at her safe return.
There were also a few rank advancements within the Order. Lorcan watched as some young men and women were made Swordsmen, initiates, or so on, some discomfort growing in his gut. He himself was only an initiate, and here were some youngsters that were likely very new to the Order, achieving more than he. It didn’t seem quite fair to him, and did nothing to improve his mood. Though of course he was glad to hear that Shay was well, he felt a little hurt that so many were overjoyed at her return, and indifferent to his.
Before he knew it, the meeting was over, and all were bid to their homes. Startled, Lorcan leapt to his feet, looking around to see where Kane had gone. He spotted him walking way, and chased after him. He placed a hand on the Captain’s shoulder as he came up behind him.
Kane turned, a little surprised, and his face brightened as he saw Lorcan. He smiled widely, “Lorcan! How good to see you back! Welcome home, I’d been wondering-” Kane stopped, his expression changing to one of concern. “Lorcan, are you quite alright? You look rather ill.”
Lorcan, who had been matching Kane’s smile, stepped back, looking worried. “I…I hope I’m not sick. I feel well enough, though a little tired.” He felt his face, as if to find something on it.
Kane shook his head, his smile returning. “That must be it. That, and the firelight, that’s all. I’m glad you’re back, we’ve all missed you here. I want to hear about your crusade, and-” he stopped again as he looked past Lorcan. Evanlyn stood afar off, looking grim, signaling to Kane and mouthing “Shay’s awake.”
Kane’s expression hardened slightly, and he began to walk past Lorcan to follow a departing Evanlyn. He turned to Lorcan and said, “I’m sorry Lorcan, I’d love to speak with you, but this is rather urgent. We’ll talk tomorrow.” He clapped Lorcan on the shoulder, and took off running. “It is good to have you back Lorcan!” he called over his shoulder.
Lorcan stood there, emotions mixed. He felt good that Kane was glad to see him, but once again, he had been made second priority. Of course, again, Lorcan knew he wasn’t the center of the universe, but still…
So, Lorcan made his way home, feeling sullen. He had a distance to walk, and so took his time stewing over the day. “Goblins, my home forgotten, youngsters accomplishing more than me, whatever could happen next?” thought Lorcan, as he approached the chapel. Lorcan placed his hand on the door to shove it open, but it didn’t budge. He tried a few more times, but it wasn’t until he threw himself against the door that it opened, a loud bang resounding inside the church. Lorcan walked inside to find a long bench toppled over on the ground. It seemed the two goblins had used it to bar the doors to keep him out.
“Dobble! Pucklef-OW!” cried Lorcan, as pain sprung from his lip. He put a hand to his lip, pulling it away and seeing blood on his fingertips. Had he bit his lip? No, he, wait… Lorcan tentatively felt his teeth with his tongue, and stopped suddenly. “No, it can’t be.”
He ran past the main hall, down the corridor, and into his room. As he approached the mirror on his bedside table, Lorcan picked up a candle, lighting it feverishly. As the small flame sprung into existence, Lorcan held it up, lifting the mirror to his face.
“No…no, what is this? What’s happening to me?” Lorcan looked, horrified at his own reflection, hardly recognizing or believing what he saw. His face had…changed, contorted. His pupils had grown, making almost all of his eyes black. Small fangs now sat where teeth had been. His ears had an unpleasant long, pointed look to them, and his skin, normally a light pale white, was dark green.