A/N: Thanks for the reviews ShiningxXxShadowxXxThief and ShearViscosity!
Marak spent a good part of the night healing his ill goblins who had breathed in the mysterious fog.
More than just the Guard he set out with consumed it. A class of pages had been out with their lore master learning both human and elvish constellations. Several healers had also ventured out of the kingdom to gather various plant ingredients for spells and potions. A few other goblin subjects were also out rambling over the nearby hills. They all tricked in, wheezing and coughing. Marak quickly relieved them of the symptoms, but not knowing what other symptoms might appear, he ordered them to stay in bed to be monitored. Everyone else was either forbidden to leave the kingdom or assigned to clear their part of the forest.
Marak himself was determined to rescue Dibah and Elizabeth immediately.
If these humans were so determined to get their hands on goblins then they were in luck because they would so be facing the most goblin of the goblins.
Unfortunately, when he looked through the water mirror to find his stolen people, he found the entire house they were in filled with sleeping humans. Everyone from the mistress and master of the house to the police officers below were collapsed in magic induced sleep. The only exceptions were Helen and Aganir who argued in a second story bedroom.
"Is that elf already back to wooing?" Marak wondered aloud to Jeffrey, who stood behind him holding the reigns of four horses.
"If he is, it's going poorly," the goblin military commander observed.
Putting the irritation aside, Marak moved the image on the water mirror to directly behind the house. The goblin King stepped through the water and out onto the grass in the backyard. Jeffrey followed, pulling the horses behind him. After tying them to a tree, the duo entered the house and made their way to the basement. Police officers littered the stone floor, their guns lying uselessly on the floor beside them. A man in a white coat who appeared to be a doctor was slumped over a chair.
Marak and Jeffrey stepped through the sleeping bodies to get to the captives. The King administered a cleansing potion to Elizabeth which was designed to rid the body's system of unwanted substances. Jeffrey did the same with Dibah. Several minutes past before they began to stir. In that time, they performed Locating Spells on them to search for wounds in need of healing. They found nothing. Just dried blood on shirts where bullets must have punctured through. Odd.
"The elf guard said you had both been shot with human guns," Marak said once Elizabeth was fully awake. "What happened?"
The goblin woman explained how they had been distracted by Helen and the children when the humans had shot them.
"One of the bullets went through my magical hand," Dibah said lifting it up and flexing it uselessly. "The King's Bride healed it and our other wounds, but it still doesn't work."
"The King's Bride healed us?" Elizabeth repeated, confused.
"Human's can't work magic," Marak said, though he could sense the statement was the truth. Then an explanation rose up in his mind. "That night at he took her to the hospital... Silly elf."
Elves and goblins could store magic in humans that they could use, but it didn't' spring from them naturally and would run out. It was a pointless practice in Marak's opinion because the magic would have to be renewed regularly and the user couldn't match the skill of a truly magical being.
Very like an elf to give such a temporary gift, Marak thought.
"Have you attempted to perform spells?" he asked Dibah.
"Yes," the goblin said. "Nothing."
The King took his green claw and examined it. "If only I could see the wound and the damage that had been done... Did Helen come down here on her own?"
"She healed it while a group of human's watched," Dibah said. "One of them recorded it with a film camera."
"It's one of those human inventions that they use to make films to tell stories with moving pictures," Elizabeth explained. "A few of us have gone to see them during our trading journeys."
"Yes, I know what it is," Marak said. "I didn't realize they were so readily available."
One of the perks of living in such a secluded part of the country was that human technology reached them so slowly. Yet, here they were being attacked by weapons they didn't understand and being recorded with devices humans used for entertainment.
"The Richardsons who live in the Hall at Hallow Hill had a camera," Jeffrey said. "A day guard saw them using it several times by the lake this summer. They had cousins visiting and they recorded each other as they played in the water and had picnics. We've never seen any of the other families use one though."
Marak surveyed the rescued goblins and then the fallen kidnappers at their feet. It was time to have a chat with these humans. But first, he would see how Helen fared.
Pent up fury sent Helen's chest heaving as she watched her masked captive laugh uproariously. This was absolutely not the time for frivolity. Here she was thinking she would have the upper hand only to have him make fun of her.
"Now that you have me prisoner, what do you plan to do with me?" he asked once his laughter had subsided.
"Don't tease me," Helen said. All the things she planned to say about the way he had been fooling her and all the answers she had planned to demand from him all evaporated. Light from the street outside poured over him and he was smiling so broadly, she was finding it difficult to think.
"Teasing you? No, I am very pleasantly surprised. You tricked me. I knew I liked you, but I didn't know you would be so much fun."
Helen took a deep breath to clear her mind and restrain her irritation.
"What do you want from me?" she asked. "Why do you keep coming to me and why did you give me magic?"
"Isn't the fact that I like you reason enough?"
"No. Now answer my questions or I'll scream and the guard right outside my door will come in. Chances are he'll shoot you."
The masked man just smiled. "Is that what you want? To have those humans shoot their bullets into me like they did to those goblins below us? Like they do to each other in your war?"
Helen stared at him silently trying not to let the alarm she felt play out on her face. She wouldn't want to see him- anybody, she reminded herself- shot. Not again.
"I just want the truth," she said. "I can't stand all this mystery and folklore. I'm going mad with it."
The mirth left Aganir's black eyes as her blue ones stared into his, serious and desperate.
"I don't think I want to tell you," he said. "I don't think you will like it, at least not at first. But..." He took both of her hands in his. "But after some time, once you get used to us... It took my mother more than a year, but she was happy with us. And..."
Helen tore her hands away from his and back off the bed quickly. "Why aren't you still handcuffed?"
How long had he been free? How could she not have noticed?
Aganir glanced down at his wrist in surprise.
"Oh, that." He rubbed the bare skin where she had cuffed him. "That metal is ghastly goblin stuff. I hate the feel of it."
Helen backed up until her shoulder blades hit the wall. She had underestimated her would-be-captive. There was absolutely no way to gain control of this situation.
"It was a nice try though," Aganir said encouragingly. He stood and started crossing the room toward her. "You took me completely by surprise."
"Stay back! Don't come near me!"
She bolted from the room and shook the sleeping guard to wake him. "Officer, you have to help me!"
No matter how much she jostled him, he did not stir.
Helen yelped when she saw Aganir standing in the doorway, still partly illuminated by the street light outside the window.
"What did you do to him?" she asked.
"I put him to sleep," he said like it was the most normal thing in the world. "Do calm down. You're making me nervous."
"I'm making you nervous? You're the one breaking into my bedroom and planning to kidnap me!"
"You don't have to worry about that yet," he assured her.
"Then when? When do you suggest I worry?"
"I can't tell you that."
"Why don't we?" came a rasping voice all too familiar to Helen
The girl turned to see a shape moving in the shadows at the end of the hall. The way Mr. Marak was draped in darkness and Mr. Aganir was shinning in pale light reminded Helen of that "dream" she had a couple of months ago when she and her brothers first moved to the area.
"Telling her doesn't break any rules," Marak said.
"But it will upset her," Aganir protested. "She's already upset enough."
"And it's making you nervous," the other man said. "We know. But we might as well tell her. Whenever she finds out she will be upset."
"But, putting it off won't hurt anything."
As they volleyed back and forth as if she wasn't even there, Helen's fear decreased and her annoyance grew. Fed up with them controlling whatever it was that was going on, Helen decided to cast her own light o this situation. Feeling the wall beside her for the nearest light switch, the girl flipped it, filling the hall with cleansing illumination and revealing a sight that flattened her lungs, cutting off any attempt to breathe.
She should have been ready for this. Tending to the monkey tailed Elizabeth and the scaly Dibah should have made any other sight seem all but normal. But nothing could have prepared her for this.
The creature who stood at the top of the steps looked almost nothing like the bandaged man she had talked and laughed with so many times during the last couple months. Instead of off white wrapping, brownish black fur sprouted out of his face, neck, and wrists. She expected the creature's arms to end in wolf paws, but instead hands with long, boney fingers protruded from the mass of hair. Then the head. Helen couldn't imagine how that wolf snout could have been concealed within bandages. It didn't protrude as far out as a real wolf's, but far enough that his profile would never pass for human under natural circumstances.
Only Marak's eyes, those golden eyes, looked familiar. Those and the fashionable clothes he wore. The perfectly tailored trousers and jacket contrasted eerily with his monstrous appearance.
The police officer was lucky. He could sleep peacefully through this sight.
Both men gasped. With a sizzling crack, the light went out.
The hall was even darker than before because Helen's eyes needed to readjust. That was a relief. The inability to see allowed her to gather her composure. Finally able to breathe, she sucked in every bit of sweet oxygen she could.
"You've disqualified yourself, Marak," Aganir said. "It was your own rule. Neither of us was supposed to reveal our appearance to Helen. The game is over, mutt. You lose."
"We aren't supposed to reveal our appearance to her," Marak said. "No rule was made about her uncovering our appearance. Nice try, silly elf."
"So all this time, I could have 'accidentally' allowed her to take off my mask?"
"What have the two of you been playing at?" Helen screamed.
"We're telling her the truth," Marak said. "Helen, I am the goblin King. He is the elf King. In order to produce an Heir, we must each marry a woman from outside of our races. I can marry a human or an elf. He can only marry a human. A short time after you arrived, we both chose you. Since we can't both bring you home, we decided to spend time with you and allow you to choose your own husband."
"Husband? Marriage? Heir?" Helen stammered. "No! I don't want to do any of that. Not right now. Certainly not with either of you." She turned to Aganir. "You've been creeping through bedroom windows and playing mind tricks on me. And you." She turned to Marak. "You've pretended to be an invalid! You pretended to be my friend. You couldn't be less of either."
None of them spoke for a long moment. She watched Aganir shift uncomfortably, but couldn't see Marak's reaction.
"We don't have to settle this for another month," the goblin King said. "We should focus on the more immediate problem: The humans and the weapons they are releasing into the forest."
"You're right," Aganir agreed. He seemed relieved to focus on something else. "We should take the lawman as well as his human guards and question them on the extent of the damage they have done."The sun will be up soon. We can use Huntington Lodge."
"But wait," Helen protested. She still had a lot to say.
She wanted to convince them to leave her alone. She wanted to talk about the condition those poor goblins down below were in. She had questions about the magic Aganir had given her. But she couldn't ask any of that. Sleep began to take its power over her.
As Helen fought the force that weighed her eyelids down, she got a quick glimpse of Aganir as he picked her up.
"Don't worry," Marak's voice came. "We'll send you good dreams."