Day One out in the Big World
Now that Luke was out facing the world on his own, he felt a great mixture of emotions. This wasn’t how he’d hoped it would be, but here he was. He was scared, worried, trying to be hopeful and brave; all of these emotions were making him stare off into nothing; he was feeling extremely overwhelmed. The great wide open land was bright, bright green–always very alive and pretty after the rain. He couldn’t take much time to enjoy it. The sun was peeking through the clouds and he could see horse-like creatures far out in the distance. He squinted slightly and remembered seeing something like that when he was a child; he thought they were ghosts.
After a few minutes, he was able to make out what they looked like; they had wolf heads and torsos, their arms were humanlike, and they were horse from the waist down. All of them behaved as if they didn’t know he was there. He’d never seen creatures like this before, which was very strange considering the location.
Even when he carefully went through their herd, they still didn’t acknowledge him. He imagined maybe because they were about the same height they confused him as one of their own. That was a good thing. It eased his nerves a bit.
Just before he was about to leave the crowd, a few of them started looking at him. Alarich was getting antsy and Luke was filling with fear as he scrutinized their movements. The beasts were starting to make growling noises. He almost wanted to scream ‘run!’ and take off, but his conscience was stronger; he kept Alarich steady and breathed as calmly as he could. Two of the creatures slowly walked toward each other, then suddenly snarled and barked. He saw them take quick swings at each other with their claws out. How sharp they looked! He gasped and kicked Alarich a few times. Alarich neighed and immediately sped out of the moving herd. He had to swerve through as they were beginning to fight. Somehow, he was able to escape and belt out a relieved sigh once he was far enough away. He continued on, relaxing himself and Alarich. What an experience that was!!!
By now, the clouds had almost disappeared. It was heating up, but thankfully, the breeze was cool and refreshing. He thought he was starting to hear something behind him. It couldn’t have been another rider... That was impossible. It didn’t stop his determined pace.
A few seconds went by; he realized the sounds were getting closer. He peered over his shoulder and saw one of those beasts were after him. He gasped, “Oh no!” This one was larger; it must have been the alpha!
The creature let out a loud monstrous yell. His eyes grew even larger; he turned back around and snapped the reins, “HYA! COME ON, LET’S GO!” He looked back again at the snarling creature reaching for him. “NOT TODAY FRIEND!” He shouted.
It was swiping its claws at him. He kicked Alarich’s sides and ran faster. They went for a good distance and the creature was finally growing tired of chasing him; it was slowing down and eventually stopped. He briefly smiled with an amazed ‘hah’, then he looked ahead again. “I thought it was never going to give up...!” Alarich made a huffing noise at that, sounding almost sarcastic.
Now refocusing on the surroundings, Luke nodded as they were heading for a forest. He reached into his bag and took the map out. Ti-Tuk village was on the other side of it. What would be in that forest? Was it dangerous? He thought of his studies on some of the beings around this part of the world. There could be ghost giants in there; they’re as pale as white mushrooms (pale-white; hence the reason for their name...), they’re usually just as tall as trees, and they’re extremely mean and ugly creatures. It was a good thing he didn’t have to pass through there. It gave him a stomach-twisting feeling. He put the map away and patted Alarich. “Good boy.”
Gianna said the goblins of that village are very hospitable. The thought of that strayed his mind away from everything else happening at the moment; he imagined them offering exotic food, playing interesting music and giving him great advice. It was better to hope than to worry, right? He never had a book on goblins either. This was undoubtedly going to be a very interesting experience.
As he rode past the forest filled with loud eerie noises, he wondered, the racket must have been coming from huge insects. He heard birds, but these other sounds were so alien to him. Alarich sure didn’t like it either. He patted his neck again to reassure him everything would be ok. “Just a little ways to go and we’ll be at Ti-Tuk.” He said. At least this journey was starting out fairly well! There was also a feeling they were being watched by someone. He eyed the trees, yet couldn’t see anyone. This anxiety must have been getting the better of him.
A couple seconds later, he heard a sudden whoosh in the trees. It sounded very familiar. “Joby?” He whispered.
He was somewhat far from home now; Joby wouldn’t be following him, would he? If he was, the poor little guy was probably worried about him. Luke wanted to check to see if it was him, but for his own safety, he kept quiet and never stopped.
Oddly, he never heard that noise again, and the feeling of being watched was going away too. He was becoming convinced someone really was there. Seriously, if it was Joby, there was going to be some real interrogating when Luke got home.
They got to the end of the forest and slowed down as they approached a great stone wall. “That looks ancient...” Luke mused. Vines and shrubs were crawling all over it. There were also spikes in line with each other from one end of the wall to the other–or so, that’s what he imagined. There were no towering buildings on the other side that he could see, either. When it hit him that he was about to meet another kind of people, his shoulders sunk a little in intimidation. What was next? How should he behave? How will they treat him?
“Well...” He searched for the way in and saw on his right two tall, strange humanoid creatures wearing red armor, patrolling the grounds. Their chests were large, bowed frontward, their rears were bent outward and their stocky legs were reversed at the knees. He couldn’t stop staring at them with widening eyes.
They saw him and started getting into a combative stance. He held up his hands, “Wait! Wait! I mean you no harm! My name is- ” One of the guards snorted like a pig at him, then marched in his direction. He jumped and gulped. His mind went berserk with many questions; Am I going to die? Did I go to the wrong place? Were these goblins of Ti-Tuk? Have they changed? Were they not as welcoming as Gianna explained?
The guard stopped in front of him and snorted again. Luke nervously lifted his chin at him and said, “H-Hello...!” The goblin studied him from head to toe, seeing his bag and sniffing him too–and Alarich. “Ahh... Ti-Humok... and Ti-Hork! Ti-Lok! Ti-Humok have come to our home–with Ti-hork! He is doctor Ti-Humok’s assistant! HM!” Luke made a puzzled expression when the guard looked at the other. What in the world kind of language was this! He also thought, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not his assistant!’
The other goblin–Ti-Lok–put his shoulders back with a “HUH?! Ti-Dok!” he ran to them. Luke stepped back quickly, amazed at his speed. This was so WEIRD! Alarich neighed in surprise. Ti-Lok sniffed Luke up and down, then took his helmet off and smiled at him. Luke’s breathing stopped when he saw his wrinkly grey face, two tiny black dots for eyes and a mouth full of shark teeth. He had holes in both sides of his head too; those were his ears. He felt all his color leave him.
“Good to meet you Ti-Humok, assistant of doctor Ti-Humok! Come, come inside!” he put his hand on Luke’s back, “Ti-Dok, be right back!” Ti-Dok nodded once and firmly with another “HM!” and he started walking back the way they came. Luke glanced at Alarich, “W-Wait! Wait! Mr. Thomson’s horse!” Ti-Lok ignored him, escorting him behind Ti-Dok until stopping at a spot in the wall. Luke examined it; there weren’t any spikes in this particular part. Ti-Lok banged on it twice with his fist and then the ground began to rumble. Luke glimpsed back at Alarich again and saw two more guards around him. He breathed in fast. Alarich was watching those two curiously. He seemed... comfortable? Either he was an extremely stupid horse, or he was planning something. Or maybe of course, he knew this place!
Luke heard stone moving and looked back to the blank spot in the wall again. It was sliding open, revealing a village full of many casually dressed goblins walking on a straight road that had a few shops on both sides of it. All structures were wooden huts with coned roofs. His mouth dropped. This was... amazing. AMAZING! Intimidating, amazing and seriously jaw-dropping! “H-How do you know about Doctor Thomson? Where are they taking Alarich?” he asked out of the corner of his mouth. Ti-Lok bobbed his head with another smile, “He come here all the time, don’t you know! Ti-Hork will be taken to special house for Ti-Horks.” Luke slowly looked at him.
“I take you to our president now!”
“You have a president-? I mean, of course...! But why are you taking me to your president?” Oh what was going to happen now!
“Mhm! Because Doctor Thomson’s assistant always go to president!” Ti-Lok walked through the gate. Luke didn’t like what was happening, and he tried to find ways out of meeting someone so important here who would surely not recognize him, yet somehow, something told him he didn’t exactly have a choice–He was most likely ‘supposed’ to accept this and go on. He assured himself everything should be just fine, and... he followed the Goblin inside.
The villagers were really intrigued at his appearance. He could see a sort of eagerness in their eyes as they also admired his bag; if he were alone, they would try to bargain with him right away, he imagined. Gianna did warn him about this. Wow, they were all so tall!
Some of the shops had interesting things outside; especially the herb shop. There were snoring roots hanging from a trellis, enclosed jars with hissing noises set on a counter and leaves with thorns along their sides. He was locked on those. It reminded him of the Dawnbell flower. ‘Mother and Father...’ He had to hurry.
Ti-Lok led him up a few steps, around a turn in the road and soon met a gate. Beyond it was a sort of mansion hut with many windows, decorated with all sorts of elements of the forest; more vines, plants and small trees everywhere! Perhaps these people couldn’t get enough of these surroundings. About five guards were patrolling the place too. Ti-Lok explained the importance of Luke to them; he was ‘the assistant of the talented doctor T-Humok’. Three of the guards held up javelins and the other two came through the gate to inspect Luke. He winced a couple times as they sniffed him down and checked his bag. Luke thought, ‘Please don’t find the necklace... don’t take my parents’ money!′
One of the guards then looked at Ti-Lok, “Not only does he smell like Doctor Ti-Humok, he also seems really young and inexperienced. This is his first time here?”
“Hm! He is the assistant, I know!” Ti-Lok nodded.
‘My inexperience is that obvious... Not a pleasant thought.’ Luke mentally said.
“Hmm... Alright. Proceed.” The guards stepped aside. Luke felt confused, but some of the weight had lifted off his shoulders.
“Come come Ti-Humok!” Ti-Lok patted his shoulder forcefully. Luke held his bag close, “Ahem... right... Do you name all humans Ti-Humok then?-Because my name is Luke.”
“Well yes! You were never told?”
“Doctor Thomson kept almost everything to himself when it came to traveling.”
“Ahh... See, when we use ‘Ti’, we’re addressing one with respect before saying their name.”
“Very honorable...” Luke said.
As they walked up the steps to the mansion, two guards stood at the front doors. Ti-Lok told them who Luke was. Again, he was sniffed down, but this time, he didn’t pay much attention; he was gaping up at the extreme detail in the architecture.
“Proceed.” The guards said, opening the doors.
When they entered the mansion, Luke saw a long corridor leading straight ahead and five doors on the left and the right. He wondered if anyone ever felt claustrophobic in this room. Would they have time to worry about that? Probably not. Ti-Lok didn’t say anything else as he took him up the hall.
At the end was a thick, decorated wooden door; it was very fancy. Carefully, Ti-Lok opened it and Luke looked in too see a fat goblin sitting at a desk, staring directly at him, then he blinked one eye at a time and smiled. At this point, Luke wasn’t sure what to think anymore. Only that... these creatures were very ugly, but friendlier than his own people for the most part. Well, if that were even possible. It was really disturbing.
“Ti-President, this is assistant of Doctor Ti-Humok! His name is Ti-Luke.” Ti-Lok announced. The president smiled wider at Luke. “It is good you are here... Though I actually expected to see Doctor Ti-Thomson.” He called him by his name! Luke just made a faint smile. The president continued, “Sadly, my personal physician has died...” he knelt down and started removing one of his shoes. Those were some of the most interesting things Luke had ever seen. Then he saw it–The goblin’s foot; it was like a cat’s foot but with only one toe. It was infected too. Luke raised his hand over his mouth as his belly growled in disgust.
“Eh?” The president noticed. Luke closed his eyes, trying to remain calm and collected.
“Is he not Doctor Ti-Thomson’s assistant?” The president asked. Ti-Lok looked from him to Luke a couple times. “Well I...” Luke opened his eyes, “...Ti-President, I am just trying to find my way to Bleeding Tower Isle. I know Doctor Thomson, but I am not his assistant.” The room had fallen densely silent. The emotion on the goblins’ faces was not a comforting sight to see.
“You can’t help me?”
“No sir... I can’t. I’m sorry. I came seeking help.” The president frowned slowly at him, then he started to get angry. But before he was about to order him out, he examined Luke’s young face a little more and saw traces of sadness and loss in it. “Explain yourself.”
Luke bowed his head slowly. “My parents were poisoned. Now they’re in a deep sleep that they can’t wake up from... unless I bring back a remedy.”
“We don’t have anything for that as far as I know. Why would you want to go to Bleeding Tower Isle? That is dangerous territory. Are you sure you want to go there?” The president asked.
“I’m absolutely positive.” Ti-Lok walked closer to him, and in a quieter voice, he said, ”Why...? There is no other way?”
Luke straightened his posture, turning to him. His demeanor became more serious. “What is it about Bleeding Tower that is so dangerous?”
“People never come back the same. Too messed up in head to talk about it.” Ti-Lok sadly explained. That began to crush Luke’s hopes. “You don’t know...?” Luke asked.
“Well... there was one Ti-Goblin that could take memories from others before they died. But he moved from here not too long after. We only got ‘the isle of phantoms’ out of him. That’s plenty for me!” The president said. The isle of phantoms... Luke knew about phantoms. They’re vicious, angry spirits. This is exactly why Gianna told him to be very careful and wise.
“Do you think the phantoms are only on the isle?”
“Don’t know for sure.” Ti-Lok replied, and the president shrugged. Great. Just great.
“We do have something you could use though. We can give you a weapon and a special weed that repels ghosts! Ti-Lok, go find the blacksmith!” The president then cupped his mouth, “Ti-Kah!!!” A moment later, the door opened. A female goblin dressed in a pink gown glared in at them. Luke remembered something like that on his mother’s face countless times. When Ti-Kah saw him though, her features suddenly lightened up.
She came in, over to him and rubbed his head and shoulders, “Hello there Ti-Humok,” she took in his scent and made a pleased ‘mm’. “Ti-Kah!” The president coughed. She stopped and backed away from Luke. A shiver shot up his spine. He never wanted that to happen to him ever again–if it was a goblin, anyway.
“Bring in the thinebell weed! Our friend, Ti-Luke, requires it for his journey.” The president told her. Luke could tell she was bewildered by that. She nodded and left the room. Now it was just him and the president.
“Why are you going there anyway? Do you know what you seek isn’t there?” The president asked. Luke focused his eyes on him, “I need to pass through there. I’m on a set path.”
“Well, you are a brave Ti-Humok. A little word of advice though... never tell just anyone what you’re up to. You never know what will happen.” Luke looked at him with a blank expression that soon became a small smile of gratitude.
Then something came to his mind. “Have you seen any wolf/horse hybrids around here?” he asked.
“Yes! They come to these parts during harvesting time. We call them Ti-Shenku.” The president then rubbed his belly, “Tasty things, they are!”
Luke’s eyes widened, “You hunt them?”
“What?” The president sat straight up in his seat, “Yes, we outrun them every time!” Luke got quiet right then.
The door opened again and Ti-Kah, Ti-Lok and the blacksmith (Luke assumed) came in. The blacksmith was holding a sword in a braided brown leather sheath. Luke fixated on the weapon, not realizing the vial containing a black leaf in Ti-Kah’s hands. The handle was gray oak with little swirls etched into it. How beautiful. It seemed to have a good weight to it too, but he wouldn’t know until he held it. How many more of these did the blacksmith have in his shop?-He wondered.
“I’ll let you have these, but you must pay a small price.” The president said. Luke’s eyes flashed back up to him. Again, he remembered what Gianna said about goblins and bargaining.
“We need you to give us a lock of your hair.”
“We have a warlock in town. He promised us he would help make a remedy for hair growth.”
Ti-Lok snickered and went to collect a small knife from a drawer. Luke eyed him uncomfortably, “Does it have to be me?”
“We need Ti-Humok hair,” Ti-Kah purred. He felt that shiver again.
“It takes a long time for our hair to grow.” The president said. Luke made a nervous expression at him. Before he knew it, Ti-Lok had already started cutting some of his hair. His jaw fell open in disbelief and Ti-Lok said, “Hm! Nice, NICE hair! Heheh!” As he sawed away at it, Luke could only think ‘I want to get out of here–RIGHT NOW’. Despite how he felt, he kept calm–as calm as he could be.
Ti-Lok finished and held the lock up, smiling proudly.
Ti-Kah and the president were instantly in awe of it.
“It’s thick... How precious!” she said.
“It should be good for us then!” Ti-Lok chimed. Luke gazed pitifully at his hair.
“Ti-Luke... you may wield your new sword.” The president waved toward the excited blacksmith who held the blade out farther and bowed his head. Luke imagined, as he looked at it, all the possible foes he would have to battle and all the blood he would spill; blood of fellow humans, and malicious creatures. These scenes played out in his head like he was seeing them happen in the present time. This sword was going to make him a true warrior. He reached out and took a hold of it with a tightening grip, his pupils fluctuating as he engrossed it.
“...The thinebell weed should be used carefully.” The president mumbled, noticing Luke’s odd behavior. He motioned Ti-Kah to continue speaking for him. She walked closer to Luke with the vial. Finally, the young man looked up into her button-like eyes as she held it in front of his face, “When you feel like you’re being watched by unseen eyes... when the voices come and your heart feels like it’s being squeezed, hold this up and brush your finger over the tip of it in the direction of the threat. The dust flies off and stops the ghosts for a while. Just long enough for you to get through.” He blinked, lowering the sword, “What does the dust do to them?”
“It freezes them.” Her reply made his mind soon go off into wonder; he’s never heard of something physical affecting something that isn’t. He betted Esmé would know. If only she were here...
“...Thank you.” He said. She and the president nodded at him.
“Here,” The blacksmith took his belt off and tried to fit it around Luke’s waist. It was too big. Ti-Lok raised a finger, “I have something!” He yanked a small knife out of its sheath on his hip and drilled a hole into the belt. Stunned, Luke clamped it together and then smiled a bit, and the president asked, “You left home like this?”
“...This is my first time out. I didn’t, and I still don’t know what I’m up against in the world. I had no choice...” Luke answered. The president rubbed his chin. “Hmm... My people will help you with whatever you need.”
“Ti-President,” Luke said, “you have already done so much for me. I can’t thank you enough. You have given me a sword, a source to repel evil ghosts and some very helpful advice. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.”
“You’re very welcome, friend of Doctor Ti-Thomson.” The president gave him a warm smile. “What about food and directions?” he asked. That look sure was unnerving.
“No... I’m all set.” Luke said, momentarily smiling back.
“Good, good.” The president sat back in his seat and the other goblins briefly giggled with each other. It was very strange, unsettling and good to see all at the same time.
Now it was time for Luke to leave the village. Ti-Lok escorted him out of the mansion and led him down the way to the back gates. Most of the goblins outside stood back with those same eager, bargaining eyes. Luke often questioned if he was going to be approached by one of them as Ti-Lok talked about his family and how happy life was there.
“Do you have children?” Ti-Lok asked. Luke’s thoughts halted at that moment. “No, of course not.” Ti-Lok quickly stopped and looked at him, “You are very young Ti-Humok? I did wonder why you so small.”
“Well I am of age, it’s just...”
“Ahh, you taking care of your first family before anyone else!” Ti-Lok smiled. “...Yes.” Luke replied a little awkwardly. Good thing this goblin doesn’t ask too many questions.
They arrived at the gate and Ti-Lok told him to wait by the guard house. “I will get your Ti-Hork now.” He walked away with a happy sort of stroll. It was odd that Luke was not thinking too much about these creatures’ mannerism and build anymore. Maybe it was because they have–for the most part–treated him as one of their own. The nearby guards were closely observing his every move, however. It wasn’t suspicion–it was purely curiosity. Did a human’s presence excite them this much every time, or was it about seeing a new face? They never spoke to him.
A few minutes later, Ti-Lok returned with Alarich. That horse was happier than Luke had ever seen him. What did these goblins do with him...?
Taking Alarich’s reins, Luke had a ghost of a smile spreading across his lips. “Hello again.” Alarich shook his head and greeted him back.
“They fed him treats all Ti-Horks love. It makes them stronger for days. Special recipe! Come from forest, hm!” Ti-Lok said. Luke petted Alarich and gently mounted him, then bowed his head in thanks, “If he is happy, then so am I. I’m really glad I met you all. I’ll say it again: I can’t thank you enough!”
“We love your kind. Ti-Humoks have been nothing but nice to us. Please, to remember me, take my flask of water!” Ti-Lok reached into his guard belt and held it out to him. Luke smiled and took it, “Thank you... Ti-Lok.” Ti-Lok stepped back with another, quieter and humble “hm”.
The goblin guards opened the gates and Luke saw the land softly descended into a great wide open wheat field that went on for a good distance. There were many mountains out there. “Do I go through those?” Luke whispered to himself.
“Yes, you need to follow path in the field and go straight through pass between mountains to get to Bleeding Tower. But be careful–field shifters come and go out there all the time. You never know who they are or what they look like; they change too quickly.” Ti-Lok told him. Luke glanced at him worriedly. Ti-Lok put his hand on his shoulder, “You’ll be fine. We made that path and watch it all the time. You are man now, with sword... fighting for those he love. You are warrior! HM!” He hit his chest with his fist. Luke watched and thought about his parents and sister. He was being cowardice and selfish. He couldn’t be this way–not even in a desperate situation. “Yeah, you’re right.” He said to himself, then put the flask in his bag and kicked Alarich’s sides. As they started walking, Ti-Lok waved, “Don’t forget us! Be careful!”
“I won’t forget you!” Luke waved back. They certainly would be something to think about when he was in dark times and needed light in his life...