Challenge #02559-G002: Needing a Hand
His name was Marvin. He traveled with a band of friends on various adventures. But his life had not been quite this pleasant before he met them. Abused, mistreated, made to feel stupid, even when he was with the gang, people he thought were his friends, it had been misery. Now, with the wizard, the kobold, and the others, he actually had a chance. But, on quiet nights like this, as they had set up camp and he was not on watch, he thought back to those days, and when asked, again, why he had trouble sleeping, after all this time, he decided it was alright to talk about it. -- Anon Guest
Lady Anthe usually took the middle watch. Her being naturally adapted to the dark also made her naturally inclined to be nocturnal. It also aided in making sure Marvin was okay. Their first few nights as a party cemented the fact that he was a light sleeper, but after a few weeks, the fact that he actually had chronic insomnia became known.
It was at its worst when they were on the road. Some nights, he just didn't sleep between dusk and dawn. He would lie very still in his sleeping bag,, eyes closed, but he was not sleeping. He would always have one hand curled around the hilt of his weapon. Some nights, that grip would be white-knuckle tight.
Most nights, Anthe couldn't get him to respond in more than grunts to offers of conversation, but she kept hope in her heart for a breakthrough. When he felt safe, he would permit himself to be vulnerable. Tonight, her calm announcement that the stars were beautiful tonight actually got a verbal response. "I can't really sleep on quiet nights," said Marvin. "When I was with the gang? It was the quiet before the storm. I knew I was gonna get hurt, and the worst part was the waiting, so... when it went on too long? I'd get something wrong on purpose so the hurting would be over with. Quiet... always makes me tense right up. Can't sleep. Waiting for the hammer to drop."
Anthe could sketch out the rest of the picture. The gang would leave him alone at the base and probably leave him with a nigh-impossible solo task to accomplish while they were gone. When they came back after the period of quiet, they would use Marvin as their punching bag or practice dummy or both. "They made sure every silence was followed by something bad for you, and laughed when you flinched," she guessed.
"You know the shape of it. Yeah," Marvin sighed. "It's easier for me to sleep when there are cities. It's the noise. I know safe noises and not-safe noises and... with you? There's lots more safe noises. Out here? I don't know what's safe and what isn't. I'm jumping at the quiet. I'm jumping at every strange noise. I don't like the nights out here, so... I stay awake. I keep watch. Because I can control that."
Anthe took a deep breath. "It was always boots, for me. Loud, heavy, clumpy boots. A baby Kobold would fit in the palm of your hand, and a youngling would not be much bigger. Even in a small town, a Kobold knows to fear big, loud, clumpy boots and stomping footfalls. When I was bigger, though... the city guard thought it was funny to step on me. Or... step... close... to me." The memory still made her flinch.
"Oh. I... I thought you were pretending to be scared of me when I was walking around. I'm sorry. I'm glad I got better boots."
"It wasn't your fault and you weren't in the right place for gentle correction," said Anthe. "Better boots helped a great deal. So did your absorbing my stealth lessons."
"I am sorry I scared you, all the same."
"Just as I am sorry the open road scares you. Would it help... if I kept a hand on you while you sleep?" She moved her scaly draconic hand to pat his. "You know the feel of me, and you would know that if I left suddenly... things would not be well."
"We can try it," said Marvin. "If it works... I would be grateful for a good night's rest."
"It's a long road," said Anthe. "For us to travel physically, and longer for us to travel in mending our souls. There will always be little cracks and unexpected troubles. The sooner spoken, the sooner we can work on helping each other."
"Thank you," Marvin settled himself into his sleeping bag, one hand out and on the hilt of his sword. Anthe settled by his side and rested her hand on his. In a few minutes, he started snoring. Fast, and peacefully asleep.
Anthe watched over him for the remainder of the night.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / Elisanth]
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