Hello again! Thanks so much to those who reviewed, favourited and subscribed to this little story! It means to much to me. :) This is a little longer. Just a slow going chapter, I know, but it's all about setting the scene :) Enjoy!
"Come on, you great ugly brute! Wake up! I can't carry you the whole way back to the house, it's too far and you're too heavy," the green girl chastised quietly, adjusting the boy's position on her back. Her shoulders ached from the weight of him, but her conscience would not let her leave him to die. He moaned softly; one of his wounds was obviously paining him, even in his comatose state.
Elphaba did not know whether the site of her phosphorescent self had made the boy faint, or simply overwhelming exhaustion. She found the first thought vaguely insulting, although she couldn't blame him. People tended to reel at the sight of her, so it wasn't a new concept. The boy himself didn't look like he was from Munchkinland; his skin was darker than the standard milky complexions, and he wasn't wearing the garishly coloured garb that most common Munchkinlanders favoured.
Finally, Colwen Grounds – the home of the Eminent Thropp - came into view. Doctor Dillamond – their resident physician, and, as a Goat, one of the last working Animals in the country – was pottering around outside his small annex; he had clearly seen her coming from his high window. His large, watery eyes gazed at her in concern as she approached, and he danced impatiently from side to side in anticipation.
"Where did you find this one, Fabala?" he asked, immediately ushering her inside.
"The footpath. I was picking mushrooms for dinner when I saw him, sprawled out in the road. I think he's about my age; he's badly wounded too. I don't know if it was an animal attack or…" the girl trailed off as she deposited the boy on the table, gasping for breath.
"No, I think this was the work of human hands. The cuts are too clean, and perhaps not frenzied enough, to be animal. Someone certainly wanted him gone, though. Pity. I think he's close to the brink – I don't know if I'll be able to save this one," the Goat sighed, shining a light into his patient's dark eyes. His pupils responded, though barely. Elphaba bit her lip before she replied.
"As long as you can make him comfortable, Doctor. Make his passing an easy one; I suppose that's all that matters. I just couldn't leave him out there, it wouldn't have been right. I can't even do that to the wild dogs that kill the chickens," she murmured, half to herself.
She was a stoic child; unbendable and independent, but despite her outward harshness on the world, she had a deep affinity with other living creatures and could not bear to see them suffer. Her younger sister, two years Elphaba's junior at eleven, often called this compassion Elphaba's 'one virtue', as though it made up for her unfortunate complexion. Elphaba herself, however, viewed it as a weakness. Why, she often scolded herself, should she feel pity towards the inhabitants of a world which had been nothing but cruel to her from the moment she was born?
Much to her dismay, Elphaba felt a tear well up in her eyes as the strange boy began to thrash from side to side, groaning in obvious agony.
"His dreams are troubled. Crush some poppy seeds into the anaesthetic essence and add one torn milkflower petal and bring it here. Quickly! It will numb the pain and settle his mind. I pity this child; he must have been through a terrible ordeal." As he ordered her around, Doctor Dillamond began to mix up another concoction for the oozing wounds. He worked so quickly that before Elphaba had even managed to find the milkflower, Dillamond had administered the paste on most of the cuts and bruises. The only one left was the gash on his abdomen and the blunt force trauma on his skull.
"I know you would like to stay and help me further, child, but please go and find Nurses Wella and Omda. I will need their assistance if we are to save this child. You go about your business – perhaps play with Nessa or read to your father. On you go," Dillamond ordered, though not unkindly, trotting around to the other side of the table to continue his work. Elphaba knew better than to argue.
Elphaba found her father Frex and sister Nessarose together in the Summer Parlour, talking in hushed, reverent voices about the Unnamed God and His virtues. They both smiled widely when she entered.
"Fabala, darling. Come and join us. Your Mother is currently in a meeting with the chief of the Lollipop Guild and won't be out for a while. Did you find plenty of mushrooms for dinner? Cook was hoping so. Her casseroles are never the same without them," he father smiled, rushing on in his sweet tempered way. He was a pious man, a Minister, but never short with smiles and joviality. Despite her aversion to religion, Elphaba loved the dim little man and his other dim little daughter. She was more like her mother herself – sharp and ambitious, clever, and never one to suffer fools gladly. However, Melena had the one thing her green daughter seemed to lack – a sense of humour.
The whole family had certainly needed one, the day their eldest daughter had come wailing into the world the most unnatural colour the colour of a raw lettuce. They had never been slow to tell her that at first they hoped she would grow out of it, but had since come to accept that she was simply an anomaly, and constantly insisted that her verdant skin actually verged on beautiful.
Elphaba joined Frex and Nessarose, curling up in the window seat and hugging her bony knees to her chest. Immediately, her father picked up on her subdued mood.
"Whatever is the matter, Elphaba? Where are the mushrooms?" he asked, reaching out and gingerly patting her spidery hand. Elphaba shook him off – she did not like to be touched.
"I found a boy in the woods today. He was hurt, and I had to carry him the whole way back from Millers Pond. I took him to Doctor Dillamond but I think he's going to die," she explained, her face as hard and impassive as ever. Blocking out emotions was how she dealt with most situations. Nessarose clapped a hand to her mouth, ever the melodramatic child.
"Oh, you poor thing! Was he one of ours?" she cooed, bringing her wheelchair closer to her sister. Elphaba shrugged.
"I don't know. He didn't look like it – too tall to be a common Munchkinlander, and we know all the sons of the taller nobility. Too dark as well. I've never seen anyone like him before."
Her father thought for a moment. "Tall and dark, you say? Black hair, brown eyes, quite strapping? Well, he'll be from the Vinkus. There's civil war there at the moment. The poor boy must have escaped from his village and crossed the border. The news is that the rebels are burning every dwelling they come across. A fortnight ago they even broke into the Summer Palace of the royal family and killed every one of them, including their twelve children. It was a massacre," he sighed sadly, too engrossed in the story to see the horror that crossed his younger daughters face. Stifling a sob, Nessarose wheeled herself away and began to read a book of fairy stories, obviously horrified at the news.
Elphaba, however, was not so easily cowed. She too was appalled at the thought of these deeds, but her inquisitive mind yearned to know why. When she asked her father as much, he simply shrugged his slouched shoulders.
"No-one really knows what started it, my Fabala. One day it was a peaceful country, poor but happy, the next there were rebel groups from independent tribes rising up against the monarchy. In a way I hope this boy doesn't pull through, so that he doesn't have to remember the atrocities he no doubt witnessed."
"I hope he does wake. I've never met a Vinkun before, although I've heard of them. I've read about them – they have so many interesting customs. He could tell me about them," Elphaba said, a slight smile passing over her face at the thought of new knowledge. Frex smiled with her and nodded, praying to the Unnamed God that his blighted daughter was not disappointed.
Three days passed before the boy awoke. Elphaba hurried to see him at once, as she always did with the patients she left in Doctor Dillamond's care. He was groggy and his eyes could not focus properly, but when he saw her he made to sit up.
"What are you, creature?" he tried to shout, although only a feeble wisp of a voice emerged. He looked afraid. "Why did you take me from the forest?" His voice was so heavily accented Elphaba could barely understand him, although she could just about discern that he was in fact speaking the common Ozian tongue. She smiled impishly.
"I'm a creature of the woods who came to rescue you in your time of need," she said sarcastically, cocking an eyebrow at him. The poor boy looked more confused than ever and seemed to have no reply, so she took pity on him. "I'm the daughter of the Eminent Thropp. I was walking in the woods and I found you and brought you back here. This Doctor here saved your life," she explained stiffly, gesturing to Dillamond who was busying himself with paperwork. "And," she added as an afterthought, "My skin is natural. I don't know how I got this way, I just happen to be green. Sorry if I scared you." Elphaba finished the statement with a matter of fact nod. The Vinkun boy took a moment to let her words sink in before replying. His voice was softer still, although most of the fear and anger had left it.
"Thank you," was all he managed before flopping back down onto his pillows, exhausted. He looked around him with glazed over eyes, taking in none of his surroundings. Elphaba itched to question him about his home culture, but knew she would be immediately dismissed for bothering him. To satiate her curiosity, she allowed herself one question.
"What's your name? We're all getting tired of calling you 'the boy'."
He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment, as though fighting off some barrier in his brain. After several seconds, he let out a breath he had been holding and fixed his eyes on the ceiling.
"Ero… Or… Yero. Something like that… I think."
"Don't you know for sure?"
"No, I can't really remember…"
"Which do you prefer?"
"Um – I think – uh… Yero. We'll go for Yero."