Mishtil and Drugar Wormchomper had wandered around the woods for half the day. Dusk was starting to blanket the land as the sun sank behind the western hills. The brilliant shades of autumn afternoon were giving away to soft shadow bathed in crisp air. Still, the other companions we’re not found.

Currently, the pair sat with their backs to a great oak. Mishtil had found some apples in the wood that she now cheerily munched on, her feet swaying back and forth to some imaginary tune. The child goddess had begun to worry, but that dissolved as the sweet juices of the fall fruit sat upon her lips. Her free hand stroked Wormchomper’s head as the badger nestled it against her leg.

“Maybe something happened, Drugar. Maybe they decided not to come and I am here alone. I don’t think Silwyn could have resisted, though! She would be so happy right now. There is so much to see! I guess we can rest for now. Maybe we’ll find them in the morning.”

Wormchomper cooed in reply. The badger had ate her fill of apples and was quite content to lay against the goddess’s warmth. Her eyes lay softly closed and her breathing slowed, a sure sign the badger was about to nap.

Mishtil continued to gently scratch the animals head, considering following suit. Suddenly, the badger’s eyes jerked opened. A hiss escaped her mouth as she rolled over onto her feet, scurrying backward so that her hind quarters were against the oak. Mishtil flinched in alarm despite herself.

The dusk seemed to suddenly grow darker as if in preparation. There was no sound of other animals now, only that of the wind shaking the brush around them. The goddess stood, flattened against the great oak. Her eyes darted around the area, looking for what had caused such alarm in the badger.

She found it.

A small dirty green skinned humanoid crept from the brush, standing as tall as she. It wore patched together leather armor and held a tarnished blade in it’s hand. Mishtil caught the scent of decay on it, like meat left out to rot. It’s head was obscenely round with pointed ears hanging from either side. Sharp teeth were set into its face with the occasional gap. It moved like it was stalking prey.

“Hello,” Mishtil said nervously. “What… what are you? Do you speak?”

The goblin replied in a shrieking language that Mishtil could not understand. She was suddenly aware of how weak she was away from Yurilda. It slowly advanced toward the goddess, its mouth curling upward into a wicked grin.

Mishtil had heard the tales of the demon races that lived in this world and she was not a fool. She began to run, wincing in pain as she blindly crashed through some briers. They tore at her clothes and left red drips of blood running down her skin.

The goblin did not hesitate for a moment. It gave chase, crashing through the thorns after her, seeming not to notice. It shrieked in it’s high scratchy voice, filling the air with its war cry. The noise made the goddess feel sick. She did not pause, her panic only causing her to run that much faster. Mishtil did not dare turn to see how close her pursuer was.

A stream rose up ahead of her, but she dared not change her direction. The goddess plunged into it, the shock of the cold water making her gasp. The mocking laughter of the goblin sounded not far behind her. The demon kin was gaining! She sloshed forward, the cold water coming half way to her knee, each step feeling like it was weighed down by stone rather than the now soaking wet garments that she wore.

She had just crested the opposite bank when pain exploded in her head. She fell to the ground, a small rock covered in her own blood landing near her. For a moment she was paralyzed with pain, her vision swimming, her thoughts wanting to fade to black. Though a child she may be, she was still a goddess of the Astar Uln, however. Mishtil forced her self to roll over onto her back.

The goblin was stepping out from the stream, grinning wickedly. Each footfall was slow and deliberate, the demon kin taking sadistic pleasure in this part of the hunt. It spoke a few more words, and while Mishtil did not understand them, their meaning was clear. She fought to stay conscious, all of her effort being poured into keeping her eyes open.

The encroaching darkness of the evening suddenly lessened. A bright golden moon peaked over the tops of the trees, shining down into the small clearing they had made their way into. The goblin inexplicably stopped, turning to view it with confusion splayed across its face.

Mishtil eye’s suddenly went wide as she stared at the moon.

“Mugan?”

The goblin let out another shriek, though this one was far from the war cry it had screamed earlier. It’s voice was etched with pain and surprise. The demon kin clutched a spear that protruded from it’s ribs for but a moment before falling to the ground, its green thick blood producing an ever widening pool. Mishtil rolled her head slightly just before darkness overtook her to see a wooden mask carved from the Tadilisus tree staring back at her. A weak smile found its way to her lips before she went unconscious.

 

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