Challenge #02331-F141: One Quiet Evening a Long Time AgosteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  3 months ago 

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"I do not sleep. I Wait." -- AmberFox

Marvin didn't understand a lot of things. He certainly didn't understand how an Elf and a Kobold managed to sweet-talk him away from the gang. The gang who -they had said- he should be grateful to forever because they let him live. The Elf and the Kobold said he shouldn't have to be grateful for table scraps and daily beatings.

He was sixteen, and already taller than most grown men. Some folks whispered that he was part Gargantuan, and the gang had complained that he was always hungry. The Elf and the Kobold didn't complain. Lady Anthe - the Kobold - said that he was as big as a horse, so it was only fair that he'd be able to eat one as well.

Marvin decided to stick with cow, pig, and chicken. Horses were nice. He didn't want to turn them into food. He didn't know about the Elf and the Kobold, though. Something about how nice they were made him afraid of their anger. Which was, despite having a proper bed for the first time ever, Marvin couldn't sleep. Lady Anthe had curled up on a pile of pillows by the fireside, under her cloak and a small duvet, and was sound asleep. Her snout poked out, but that was the only sign she was there.

"You can sleep," said the Elf. Wraithvine. Marvin couldn't tell if they were a he or a she and apparently Wraithvine liked it that way. "You need sleep."

"So do you," said Marvin. "Right?"

A smile. "Elves don't sleep."

Marvin said, "Neither do I." He felt compelled to add. "If someone's awake, I get a beating for being lazy so... I don't sleep. I wait."

"You don't need to do that any more," murmured Wraithvine. "You can sleep."

Marvin curled up on the bed, sitting up with his knees to his chest and his back to a corner. He folded up his arms on his knees and settled his chin. He tried, he really tried, to close his eyes and relax. He couldn't do it. Not for more than a few minutes at a time.

Wraithvine had folded themself up in a special way on the bed. Legs in a tangle with both feet on top of the opposite knees. Hands resting palm up on those. Back straight. "Sit like this if you can," said Wraithvine. "Breathe with me."

Marvin took his boots off to do it, and struggled with getting his feet to go like Wraithvine's were. If he got it wrong, the Elf didn't say. He followed Wraithvine's directions.

"Close your eyes and breathe as slowly as you can. Feel the softness of the bed. Hear the crackle of the fire and Anthe's snoring. Listen, and know. Sense what is around you."

He could see without using his eyes. Wraithvine still and calm on the bed opposite. Lady Anthe curled up in her huddle hoard. The slow midnight business of the night shift in the inn. The clip-clop of the night soil carthorse as the dunnikin men went about their business. There was no anger in the air.

"Now go back. Back past the pains of recent memory. Back past everything your conscious mind remembers. Back... to the peace you knew with your mother..."

He could feel it. Warm and a heartbeat and pure darkness and pure rest and... Marvin woke up with drool under his face and a platter of breakfast in front of his nose. He sat up and wiped his face. It was mid-morning and nobody had a stick or a chain.

"Eat up," said Lady Anthe, bearer of breakfast. "We have a big day ahead."

He would learn, eventually, that these were good people. This was what good people did.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / stevanovicigor]

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