Friday, April 30, 2021

Kinderling 45

 In case you are interested in starting this story at the beginning, Kinderling 1 can be found here:

The Tricycle of Thought: Kinderling 1

Please don't judge the story or the writing too harshly, this story is written with little to no editing.  It is just meant to get me writing regularly for practice.  

Now back to our story, already in progress..

Have I ever told you that I have the most wonderful, most understanding family ever?  Well I do.

"I have called you all together because I need help with a plan to rescue Mouse."  I said to the gathered family and friends.  In addition to Mizzy, who of course was there, I had Mama, Father, Tommil and Adiz - it's adorable how I never seem to see one without the other - Uncle Zon, Bez and Tilly, and finally Dobbo, who looked like he wished he was anywhere else.  Watcher and Daisy were also there, sitting to the side.

"Who?" Tommil asked.

He got a sock on the shoulder from Adiz, "Her Gorf friend.  The big quiet one."


I glared at him, he shut up.

"Why must you do this?"  Asked Uncle Zon.  He headed off arguments by holding up his hands. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing against it, I just want to know why."

"Because as far as I'm concerned, Mouse is a friend."  I answered, probably a little more strongly than really needed.  "And my Mama didn't raise me to abandon friends."

There was quiet for a few moments.  I was terrified that I was about to be sent to bed without supper like a naughty pouchling.  Then I saw Mama nod, then Father, then Adiz, then Bez and Tilly, and finally Uncle Zon.  All nodding in agreement.  At least most of them understood.  It almost made me cry when I looked at Mizzy and saw the resignation on her face, and then a tiny nod.  She didn't like it, but she knew I had to do it.

"Dobbo, you've been inside the Mountain King's fortress.  Do you have any sense of how the soldiers are deployed or rotated?"  I asked.

"I spent all my time in the slave pins or the Mushroom farms."  Dobbo answered.  "The soldiers were everywhere, but Gorfs all look the same to me.  I couldn't even tell you if the Gorf soldiers that took us to the mushroom farm were the same every day."  He at least had the decency to look embarrassed when he looked  over at Watcher and Daisy.  Watcher seemed to be taking it in stride.  Daisy looked like was about to pound someone.

To be honest, I remember thinking the same thing at one time.  It wasn't until I needed to pay attention to the Gorfs and learn their ways so I could stay safe in the forest that I started seeing them as individuals.  That was when I started realizing just how different Gorfs are from each other.

"However, there were at least a dozen of the little bosses though."  Dobbo added.

"Little bosses?"  I asked.

"You know, the ones in the fancy get-ups that ordered the ones who wore the harnesses around." Dobbo said.  "There were about a dozen of them that I saw.  Maybe more.  It's hard to keep track when you are chained up and hungry.  On top of that, there were some bigger bosses that ordered the little bosses around.  Not sure how many of those there were.  Really I'm not sure of much of anything.  I was there so long, and Gorfs came and went.  When I got there, the place was chaos.  It seemed like they were constantly in a state of war.  From my cell, I saw the race of Man, Dwarves, and so many Gorfs thrown into the cells.  There were even a few Gnomes once, but they didn't last long.  They were pretty beaten up.  I swear, I even saw them drag in an Elf once, all fancy and proper."

I let him talk, trying to glean any information I could from him before he got self conscious and stopped talking.  I think Dobbo knew more than he let on.  Don't get me wrong, I didn't think he was withholding information, I just thought he might know more than he realized.

Mama cut in.

"You saw an Elf?"   Mama questioned, almost a demand.  "A real Elf?  Or are you just making this up?"

"No, no I swear!" Dobbo replied.  "She was tall, and thin, and more beautiful than any creature has a right to be.  Last I saw they were dragging her towards the deeper cells where I was when I first got there.  I never saw them bring her back out, although they might have done that when I was off at the mushroom farm."

"If we're planning a jail break, I think we should include the Elf."  Mama said, now seeming more interested.  "If there is a Gorf tribe strong enough to take an Elf captive, the Elven council will want to know about it, and chances are they will at least send a team of troubleshooters."

"I don't like the sounds of that."  Watcher interjected,  "The Mountain King is holding one of my wife's people, and I feel responsible for that, but the Mountain King is, nominally, my own kind.  Do we really need to set the Elves upon them?" 

"Yes."  Mama said, "The Mountain King isn't just holding Mouse.  He provided Baot with soldiers to enslave my people.  Besides, it is a toss up as to what the Elves might do.  A typical punitive response would be to assassinate the Mountain King and be done with it.  A heavy response could be as bad as killing some or most of the male population.  It all depends on how the Elf has been treated.  It'll be even worse if the Mountain King got stupid and killed the Elf or physically harmed her, especially if she is of the Royal line.  Then there is no telling what they might do."

"Sounds like rescuing the Elf before something happens her might be doing the Mountain King a favor."  I pointed out

"One he won't thank you for young Tandy." Watcher said.

"Mama, you know some Elves.  Would you be able to contact them and get some help?  After all, we are planning on rescuing one of their kind along with Mouse if she's still there."

"We could sure use the help but that would be too much too dangerous."  Mama replied,  "If we tell them that there is an Elf in danger, and they don't find an Elf, it would be us getting punished for wasting their time."

The arguing and planning went well into the evening.  Even Mizzy, once she got used to it, warmed up to the idea and started pitching in.  She would be coordinating provisions for the trip.  Food, spare clothing, and even a neat clay pot she designed that if you put water in it, it would  start boiling in a few moments, yet the pot stayed cool to the touch.  Even on the inside if there wasn't any water in it.  We could use it to make tea, or even to make soup.

"Mizzy, this is wonderful!  I never knew you did crafting."  

"Tilly is helping me learn."  She smiled. "When you went up the mountain to find Flower's tribe, I was beside myself because I couldn't do more to help.  Tilly asked me what I thought you needed and I said you needed me there to cook for you, but I was to scared to go.  She helped me came up with a couple different ideas for things that I could make to help you.  This is the idea that worked."

I have always believed that a Kinderling crafter's abilities depended as much on what they were interested in as anything else.  Mama is interested in healing people, so her devices are useful for that.  Mizzy is interested in home and cooking, so it makes sense for her to be able to make this pot.

"What's the matter Tandy?  Don't you like it?"  Mizzy asked.

"No, I was just thinking, if people's talents are guided by their interests.  Mama with her healing devices, you with this.  I love it by the way."  I held the pot to me like I didn't want anyone to take it away.  "But what does it say about me that my talent seems to be to build devices that hurt and kill people?"

"Oh Tandy, that's one the the many adorable yet infuriating things about you." Mizzy laughed. "You only see the good in others, but you only see the bad in yourself.  You created those lights.  I still love mine, I'm glad you didn't think to take it back.  You made your go-sticks.  I'm terrified to ride on one, especially with your Mama running it, but who else could make a Kinderling fly like that?  Your no-see-me devices have saved how many lives?  Including my own.  Yet all you see are the arrow-chuckers and condemn yourself.  Well stop it.  Those things aren't you, they aren't because you are bad, they stem from your need to protect those you love." 

I promised her I would consider it.  Hey, it's the best I could do.

Throughout the meeting, every possibility, every plan or scheme that anyone could come up with was brought up, argued over, argued over again, and sorted.  In the end, we went with the same plan that Mama and I used to get Mizzy out.  Go, look, figure out a way in and a way out, and go in and get him.  We would keep an eye out for the Elf, or evidence that she was there, while we were at it.  If we saw her and there was a chance to get her out, we would take it.  If not, we would take whatever evidence we could find to the Elves and let them rescue her.

"Tommil, I need a new go-stick.  Can you get a tree to grow one for me?"  I asked later.  

"Sure Tandy, Adiz and I will get right on that."

"Tommil, I need a big one this time."

"How big Tandy?" Adiz broke in to ask.

"Taller than me.  I got an idea."

Friday, April 23, 2021

Kinderling 44

 In case you are interested in starting this story at the beginning, Kinderling 1 can be found here:

The Tricycle of Thought: Kinderling 1

Please don't judge the story or the writing too harshly, this story is written with little to no editing.  It is just meant to get me writing regularly for practice.  

Now back to our story, already in progress..

To my surprise, Watcher and Daisy both stayed at the Garrison rather than returning home.  Not that I was sure they had a home or where it was if they did.  It's a toss-up as to who was watched more carefully by the villagers.  

Daisy was a Gorf, and therefore a known quantity.  One that added up to dangerous!  She seemed content to spend most of her time out on the outside garden terraces even to the point of finding a nice spot in an un-used corner of one of the terraces and making camp.  As soon as Mizzy realized she wasn't dangerous, to us anyway, and heard how Daisy personally carried me and protected me on our way home, Mizzy took to the young Gorf woman and took it on herself to make sure Daisy had plenty of food and everything she needed.

In a way, Dobbo was even more of an outsider than Daisy.  Only a few of the older villagers recognized or knew him, but there were enough that remembered that Dobbo was once one of Baot's people that the story got around.  Baot, of course, was very unpopular in the garrison at Outcropping.

Oddly enough, it was Watcher who was shunned the most.  The odd juxtaposition of being able to speak Kinderling, and also being a Gorf made him doubly strange.  The villagers craved a return to normal.  A talking Gorf was far from normal.  I think Watcher tried to win them over by displaying his most excellent manners, which just made him seem even more strange.

I finally pinned Watcher down and got his story.

"I have told you that I am an exile, but I have the job of Watcher for the priesthood."  Watcher explained, "As such, it is my job to watch for anything that might pose a danger.  The Kinderling village and the surrounding forest are my domain.  There are other watchers with other domains, but this one is mine.  The Mountain Gorf kingdom also has a watcher.  While you and Flower were unable to escape from the tunnel, Mouse and I were unable to.  However, when we were taken in front of the Mountain King, my mountain counterpart was right there standing beside the King.  I merely reminded him of his obligations to a fellow True Gorf, and he let me go."

"What about Mouse?"  I asked, dreading the answer.

"He was put in one of those infernal harnesses and he is now a one of the Mountain King's slave soldiers."  Watcher said.  I could tell it pained him that he was able to walk away while Mouse was still captive. "In a way, we owe the Mountain Kingdom's watcher.  The Mountain King doesn't hold to Gorphom.  When a child is born who is touched by Gorphom, they throw it off a cliff.  The Mountain King wanted to do the same to Flower's tribe because so many of them are blessed but Watcher talked him our of it saying they could use them as leverage when the Deep Gorfs attack."

"Is that at all likely?" 

"Not in the least."  Watcher smiled,  "The Priesthood would never sully True Gorfs on the surface, and there are not enough of us exiles to make a dent in the Mountain King's fortifications.  

"So poor Mouse is doomed."  I felt sad.  But sad wasn't right, I should be angry.  Sad never helped anyone.  Sad means acceptance.  To the Below with acceptance!  

"I do not accept that!"  I shouted.  There it was, that ball of anger in my belly.  Now I needed to ride it, control it, make a plan.

"Are you quite all right young Tandy?"  Watcher asked, concerned.

"Yes.  I'm angry!  Angry is right!"  I yelled, stomping my foot.  Watcher had that look like he was looking for somewhere else to be... quick!

"Oh no"  I heard Mama's voice from across the room, "I've seen that look before."

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Kinderling 43

 In case you are interested in starting this story at the beginning, Kinderling 1 can be found here:

The Tricycle of Thought: Kinderling 1

Please don't judge the story or the writing too harshly, this story is written with little to no editing.  It is just meant to get me writing regularly for practice.  

Now back to our story, already in progress..

A very nervous Mizzy was waiting for us when we finally reached the Outcropping.  She looked well, and had lost most of the gauntness that was left over from her captivity.  She looked like she was almost back to the old Mizzy, except I could tell she had been biting her fingernails, and wasn't taking care of her hair as well as she normally would.  Both things completely unlike Mizzy.  She seemed stiff when put my arms around her, but after a few moments melted into my arms.  I don't know which of us was crying more.

"Young Tandy!  How nice you have finally arrived!"

"Watcher?! How are you here?"  I exclaimed.  "Flower and I have been out looking for you!"

"I see you found -grumble-!  Good!  Did you find any more of Flower's lost tribe?"  

"Yes, I'll let Daisy tell you about it, I haven't been able to communicate so well, so I couldn't tell you who we found or who might still be missing."  I told him.

"Daisy?"  Watcher asked.

I indicated Daisy.  "Her, I didn't have a name to call her, Daisy seemed appropriate."

Watcher almost fell over laughing.  As everyone stared at him, he would try to get  his laughter under control and say something, only to start laughing again.

When he was finally able to control himself again.  puff puff  "And she didn't bash your skull in?"  The laughter continued.  Everyone still stared, but the Kinderlings present all stepped back a few steps.

"Well I didn't call her that to her face!"  I cried,  "I just needed a place-holder in my brain till I find out what her name is, I didn't mean to let it slip out!"  I started to get worried when I saw the fur on Smoke's back start to raise, and her ears start to edge back.

Watcher finally got himself under control.

"Don't worry young Tandy, I'll have a word with...  Daisy..."  Watcher chuckled a few more times, "We'll get this all straightened out."

Watcher pulled Daisy aside to have a talk with her.  At one point, Daisy looked my way with a rather angry look on her face, but stayed over there with Watcher.

"That looks like trouble."  Mama said from behind me, almost startling me out of my skin.  Mama has a way of walking up so quietly, you don't know she's even there.  I suppose everyone's Mama can do that at times.

"Apparently I said something wrong."  I replied.  "I think it's one of those cultural differences."

"Ah!  I worried about that sending you off with a bunch of Gorfs."  Mama said.  "Who is this Kinderling you brought with you?  He looks familiar, but I can't place him, but he seems apprehensive and he seems to be trying to avoid me."

Dobbo!  I looked around to find him talking to Bez and Tilly.

That was a surprise.  Mama never forgot a face.  Although this case I suppose could be an exception.  The last time she saw Dobbo was pretty long ago, and he has been in chains, working as a slave for the Gorf Mountain King for all that time.  I could see how that could change a person.

"The baby stealer."  Mama hissed,  "Dobbo."

Well, I guess Mama is still Mama.  When I looked at her I almost had to agree with Dobbo.  Mama looked like she was about to murder someone.  Someone named Dobbo.

"Now Mama.  I wasn't stolen, so is baby stealer really fair?  Did he steal some other baby I don't know about?"

"No," Mama admitted,  "We were tipped off that he had orders to take you when you were barely a week old.  Nobody said who those orders were from, but Baot is about the only possibility.  When I went looking for him, he was nowhere to be found and hasn't been seen since.  We didn't have any direct evidence of anything, so we had no way to confront Baot about it.  When Dobbo didn't come back, and nothing seemed to happen it all blew over.   Now Dobbo shows up right when Baot has taken over the village?  Seems too much like a coincidence to me."

"Mama, if what he told me is true, he's innocent and has been in chains all this time because he wouldn't go along with Bout's plans.  I think you need to talk to him before you do anything.  Maybe have Father talk to him."  It felt like a betrayal asking Mama to do exactly what Dobbo had said he hoped would happen, but I told myself I wasn't doing it for Dobbo.  I was doing it because I thought it was right.

To my surprise, Mama looked at me and her face, her stance, everything softened.

"You're right, we should let your father have a talk with him."  Mama said and seemed to think for a bit.  Then her look hardened again.  "But don't think you're doing that piece of dirt any favors.  Your father will know if he's lying.  If he is, and he's working for Baot, he'll wish you had just let me finish him.  It would have been over quick."

That gave me a chill.  My parents have always been some of the nicest people I knew.  Of course, most people wouldn't describe Mama as nice because of the way she is, but they just don't understand Mama.  I started wondering if I still understood them.   Until now, I didn't think Mama would ever hurt a fly, let alone a fellow Kinderling, and Father has always been all about talking through our issues rather than resorting to violence.  It was a particularly harsh blow to him when I was caught going after the bullies that tormented me.  He wouldn't talk to me for weeks afterwards, and it took months for our relationship to get back to the way it was.

Watcher and... Daisy?..  walked up.

"Young Tandy, -grumble- has agreed that you may call her Daisy."  Watcher said.  "Once I explained that Kinderling names aren't intended to be as descriptive and defining as Gorf names are, and explained the concept of a name of endearment, which is a concept that isn't known among the fallen. She relented.  Besides, your name, Tandy, has a similar flavor to it as a word we have for a type of stone, -grumble-, that is only found deep within the earth.  How could the name of that stone have anything to do with a Kinderling?"

"Is it pretty?" I asked.

"Is what pretty?" 

"The stone, the Tandy stone."

"Well, while not traditionally considered pretty, it does have a certain sparkle to it when light hits it that is attractive in a way."  Watcher admitted.

"Seems fitting to me."

I figured that I had won, so I decided to switch tactics.

"Descriptive and defining you say."  I asked, confused.  "What about Mouse?  His name doesn't seem very descriptive or defining."

"Have you ever noticed how little Mouse says?  Or how quietly he can move through the forest?"  Watcher reminded me.  "His name in Gorf describes those things."

"What does Daisy's name in Gorf mean?"  I asked.

"You might not want to know Tandy."  Watcher said,  "Some things don't translate well."

Mizzy, who had been quietly trying to strangle my arm to death.  Or maybe just holding on tight enough to make sure nothing could drag me away from her, whispered  "Tandy, let's go inside and get you some food and a bath.  You smell awful."

"Well Mizzy, at least that is something we can agree on."  Watcher told her.

After food, and one of the stranger baths that I can recall ever receiving, with Mizzy insisting in scrubbing every part of me and demanding answers for every little scratch bruise or abrasion.  Most of which I had no idea what to tell her.  Who keeps up with such things?  Life in the forest is rumble-tumble.  Sometimes you might get a scratch or a scrape from a branch or rough piece of bark or something, or you fall and get a bruise, and you just move on.  I could tell Mizzy didn't like that answer, but eventually had to admit I wasn't horribly wounded and let me off the hook.

I hated telling Tommil about the destroyed go-stick.  I know him and Adiz worked hard to get the wood just right for me to make it.  

"You did WHAT?!"  Tommil cried, "You jumped off a cliff with your go-stick to save a Gorf?  Why would you do that Tandy?"

Adiz gave him a funny, exasperated-wife-like, look.  "Of course we'll work on getting you a replacement piece of wood Tandy.  It sounds like that one fulfilled it's purpose and now you have come safely home to us." 

I smiled at her.  See, Adiz understood.

Then I looked over at the ever-present Mizzy, who was seriously not letting me out of arms-reach yet, let alone out of sight, and she was giving me an almost exact duplication of the exasperated-wife-look that Adiz had given Tommil.

"You didn't tell me anything about jumping off a cliff!"

Monday, April 19, 2021

Kinderling 42

  In case you are interested in starting this story at the beginning, Kinderling 1 can be found here:

The Tricycle of Thought: Kinderling 1

Please don't judge the story or the writing too harshly, this story is written with little to no editing.  It is just meant to get me writing regularly for practice.  

Now back to our story, already in progress..

When it came time to go, I was surprised to find that Flower and the tribe weren't going with us.  Flower gathered me, Daisy, and Dobbo together and gave hugs goodbye.  Well, gave hugs to Daisy and I, Dobbo was left out of the hugging, but I'm sure he was glad of that, so I didn't feel too bad for him.

Apparently Flower and the tribe had a different destination that we did.  Not that I blamed them, I saw the effect the Garrison at Outcropping had on Mouse.  I didn't know if the rest of the tribe would feel the same, but I suspected that they would.  I hadn't thought about this part of the journey and found myself sad to see them go.  Not a dynamic conversationalist in the bunch of them as far as I knew, but good people none-the-less.

I was also surprised that Daisy was going with Dobbo and me.  I supposed having a big, strong Gorf around would be handy in case we ran into trouble, so I was glad of the company, but Daisy was number three in the tribe, surely they would need her.

The bridge where Father, Uncle Zon, and I turned the first time we went to outcropping wasn't far ahead, so we had a relatively easy walk ahead of us to get home.

When had I started thinking of the Garrison as home?

*"Home is where your love is dear one"*

"Smoke!"  I exclaimed happily.  It felt like an eternity since I felt the presence of my familiar, I knew she was near-by, but she was nowhere to be seen.

*"Be sure your companion doesn't try to eat me"*

Daisy!   Of course a forest Gorf might see a kitty as a meal of opportunity.  I had been traveling with the tribe for days, and had gotten used to them.  Of course traveling like we were, there wasn't a lot of food gathering being done, and Gorfs will eat just about anything.

I extended my feelings enough to pinpoint the bush Smoke was hiding under and went over with the intention of picking her up.  I quickly found that was no longer an option. 

Kinderlings are small creatures.  I'm a prime example of how tiny Kinderlings can be.  Cats are also relatively small creatures, if you compare them to Gorfs or Man.  However, if you compare cats to Kinderlings, they aren't so small.  Smoke had grown into a particularly large kitty.  She looked like a small jaguar, and was much less lavender and much more a dark smoky charcoal color.  I was initially taken aback, had Smoke now become dangerous to me?  Then I felt the bond, this was the same Smoke that I carried in my backpack, only bigger.  Much bigger.  I brought Smoke out from under the bushes, or more like we walked out together, and introduced her to Daisy.

"This is my friend.  Not food."  I said to Daisy.  I didn't know if a Gorf would be inclined to try to eat such a carnivore, but didn't want to take the chance.  "Smoke, this is a friend."

Daisy cocked her head to the side and smiled.  I got the impression she understood.  I hoped she understood.  I could tell from the bond that Smoke didn't completely trust the Gorf, but that wasn't unusual.  Smoke was always wary of Gorfs.

We continued on to the bridge and then up along the river.   

"How are things at the Garrison, how is Mizzy, how is Mama?"  I asked in quick succession.

*"Calm beloved, all is well."*

"Poor Mizzy must have been worried sick."  I said.

*"She was not.  I would know if you were in danger."*

"We were in plenty of danger!"  

*"Yes.  Hence my size."*  Smoke said through the bond.  *"I had to be ready to rescue you if you needed it."*

"You grew big so that you could rescue me?"

*"That is the way of things dear one.  We grow to the size our bonds need us to be.  Some of us stay kittens forever, because our bond needs the joy of a kitten.  Some of us become strong, because our bond needs our protection.  I suspected I would need to grow this time when I bonded to you.  You seem to attract trouble.  I like it, I'm tired of being a kitten."*

This was more than I had ever been able to get out of Smoke about the bond and the bonding process.  I have tried to get more information before, but she has always been closed mouth about it. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Kinderling 41

  In case you are interested in starting this story at the beginning, Kinderling 1 can be found here:

The Tricycle of Thought: Kinderling 1

Please don't judge the story or the writing too harshly, this story is written with little to no editing.  It is just meant to get me writing regularly for practice.  

Now back to our story, already in progress..

We were all finally ready to leave the mushroom farm after more discussion and unneeded excitement.  The former Gorf soldiers ended up mostly being from three distinct tribes as far as I could tell, which was extra fun because two of those tribes must have been life-long enemies.  I was impressed by Flower, tiny by comparison, stepping between the two groups and telling them both off, diverting a fight we all could ill afford.  Once that was settled, all three groups decided to go their separate ways.  I was sad to see them go, I had a feeling we could use their strength, but I wasn't going to try to force them.  They had enough being forced to do what they didn't want to do.

The race of Man decided to stick together and make their own way back to Dorinth.  The Woman, who's name was Iowne, promised to talk to her father about re-opening the trade road.  It seems that Kinderlings and Kinderling Silver are nearly as much a myth in Dorinth as the race of Man was to me.  

The two Kinderling traders decided to try to catch up to the Dwarves after learning just how precarious the situation was in the village.  They didn't want to get involved in a fight that wasn't their own.  Dobbo discussed going with them, but they refused to take him.

"So, trying to run away Dobbo?"  I asked him.

"No, I guess not."  He answered,  "I don't have a side Tandy.  Baot would never take me back.  He would probably kill me on site if he found me.  Your people aren't going to accept me.  I'm not sure if your parents will remember me or not, but that doesn't matter.  They'll know I was once Baot's Lieutenant.  If you don't tell them, I'll tell them myself.  I have had a lot of time in chains here.  So long I lost track of the years, it must be five or six.  Maybe more."

"If you left when I was a wee-baby, it'll be more than ten."  I reminded him.

 He visibly deflated.  "So many years.  I was to be married, I my family has probably forgotten me."  I didn't want to tell him, there was no telling what side his family was on, or if they even lived.  I found myself feeling sorry for Dobbo until I remembered that he came to this sorry place by working for Baot.  I had to remind myself not to trust him.

When we finally left the mushroom farm, we were back down to two Kinderlings, me and Dobbo, along with Flower and her tribe, plus a couple former soldiers who were pushed away from all the other Gorf groups that were escaping.  Why were they pushed away?  I have no idea.  I could tell that Flower and her tribe weren't thrilled about having them along either, but until I found a way to communicate with Flower beyond meaningful stares and - I'm afraid often misunderstood - facial expressions and body language, there was no way to know.  What was clear was that Flower wasn't letting the two of them out of her sight, and oddly, the two Gorfs seemed to be in awe of Flower and those of her tribe that had the trait of being "touched by Gorphom", having two thumbs and three fingers on each hand.  The few tribe members who didn't share that trait were all but ignored by those two.

I followed Flower when we left the mushroom cavern.  I didn't know where we were going, and she wasn't able to tell me, but she sure seemed to know.  She lead us further away from the Mountain Gorf fortress gates, and on down the road, apparently discussing our path with one of the women of her tribe.  The woman looked older, but I didn't know if that was from age or from her time in chains.  She sure seemed to know where she was going though.  The road started to slope downwards not far from the mushroom farm, and it wasn't long before we made it back down to the tree line.

It was like a breath of fresh air getting back among the trees.  The area was still pretty rocky, but at least there were trees.  Soon after, we left the road.  I guessed that Flower and her companion were following their noses, because they had their noses in the air and there was a lot of sniff sniffing going on.

In my experience, forest Gorfs don't make roads - the roads around the village were made by Kinderlings - so it didn't surprise me when Flower lead us away from the road.  When - not if - the Mountain Gorfs found their overseers murdered and slaves missing, they would surely send soldiers after us.  Being small, I was easily able to pass through the forest without leaving a trail, but even then any Gorf worth his nose would be able to follow us.  

I guess I didn't need to be too concerned though, because I soon found out what all the sniffing was about.  We soon came across a wide, shallow, swift moving stream.  To my surprise, Flower lead everyone out to the middle of the stream and started walking downstream, pointing, grumbling, and sniffing the whole way to make sure everyone stayed in the middle and away from the edges.  I worried about trouble from the two former Gorf soldiers, but when I looked for them, they were nodding in what seemed to be approval.

It eventually occurred to me that walking in the water like this would wash away any scent we were leaving, and as an added bonus we were traveling further down the mountain and away from the Gorf Mountain Kingdom with every step.  I got a bit of a fright when the water started getting a little too deep and swift for me.  The Gorfs were all fine, but Dobbo and I started having trouble keeping our feet.  Then SWOOP, a large hand scooped me up and I was sat upon a rather large Gorf shoulder.  I noticed that Dobbo was likewise picked up.  He wasn't as lovingly and carefully carried as I was, basically being carried under the arm of one of the former Gorf soldiers, but at least it beat the alternative of getting washed down stream.

That night we slept in a Gorf cave.  The previous inhabitants were gone, and by the looks of things when we arrived, it wasn't by choice.  The whole thing made me nervous.  Before I went to try to get some sleep, I told Flower to tell everyone not to stray outside the cave and I hung my no-see-me at the cave entrance, and hoped for the best.

At first I had an awful time trying to get to sleep.  Sure I had my pack, which meant I at least had a blanket when nobody else did.  I thought I should feel guilty, but remembered that I had never seen a Gorf use a blanket, so the only one suffering was poor Dobbo.  After a short time, I couldn't take his teeth chattering as he shivered any longer and just gave him the blanket.  As I walked back towards the spot I had claimed as my sleeping place, I'm ashamed to say I regretted the kindness.  The night was truly getting cold, and no I had no blanket.

I curled up in the smallest little ball that I could manage to try to preserve some warmth and berated myself some more as now I was the one shivering with chattering teeth.  Then a large form wrapped itself around me.  It was the Gorf female who carried me all day.  She patted me with her large, two thumbed hand, and pulled me in close.  Not close like I felt trapped or squished or anything, but close like I felt protected and cared for.

I wished Watcher was there so he could tell me her name.

The next few days we traveled carefully.  I hadn't noticed that first day, but Flower and her companion?  Friend?  Worked the tribe as a team, sending out flankers to watch our back trail and scouts to rove ahead.  The tribe was constantly moving.  The smaller, less physically capable formed the core group.  As flankers and scouts came back to report, often they would bring back reeds, vines, branches, and other materials, and the core group were industrious as they walked, weaving baskets or bundling up the branches into easier to carry bundles.  I was amazed.  I had never seen this side of Gorfs, which confused me, because I had actively watched the Gorfs from around the village.  This wasn't how they acted.

After that first day of walking down the stream, we left the waterway behind and traveled through the forest.  It was plain to see that this is where these Gorfs were most at home.  I walked some, but a lot of the time, the pace was too fast and I had trouble keeping up, so a lot of the time I was carried by that same Gorf who carried me that first day.  She was one of the larger of Flower's tribe, although not nearly as large as the Gorf soldiers or Mouse.  I got the impression that she was relatively young, and I noticed that she was very deferential to Flower and her companion.  Because I needed some kind of name for her, I started thinking of her as Daisy.  I don't know why, it just seemed to fit.  

Not long after we set out on the morning of the third day, one of the scouts came back carrying something and acting all excited.  The tribe gathered around, and Daisy sat me on her shoulder again so I could see.  I noticed that Dobbo and the two former Gorf soldiers were, not rudely but firmly, excluded.  At first I was confused.  They were all reverently looking at a stick, or perhaps tree branch or the trunk of a small tree.  Then Flower pulled out her knife and handed it to her companion, who started expertly carving the ragged end into a nice rounded shape.  She then handed stick and knife to Flower who carved some, and in turn handed the stick to another tribe member.  By the time it got around to Daisy, it was looking similar, but not identical to the tribe-stick that I traded to Mouse what seemed like forever ago for Father, Uncle Zon, and my passage from the cave with the lake.

To my utter amazement, after she was done, Daisy handed the stick and the knife to me.  I had been watching carefully, trying to discern the idea behind what they were carving, so I think I understood how the pattern should continue, but I have to say I was more than a little nervous, feeling like I was being given a great honor and I didn't want to mess it up.

I carefully checked and re-checked the pattern, and then made my cuts.  The knife was too big for me, and it was pretty dull, but I think I did well enough.  My section was more neatly done than some of the previous ones.  When I was done, I looked around for who to give it to next.  Daisy helped me out by suggesting, using a tilt of her head and meaningful look, one of the former soldiers.  As Daisy put me down and I made my way over to him, he fell down on his knees and wept openly as he carefully took the knife and stick and added his markings.  Then he grumbled something to Daisy, who had come with me, and she nodded.  He then turned to the other former soldier.  They had a short grumbling and sniffing conversation, after which he also went to his knees and accepted the staff and knife.  I have no idea what that all meant.  Deep inside I feel like he was asking, "After all I've done, do I deserve this?  Do I deserve to be accepted among these people?"  The answer he received was yes.

As a funny side note.  The second former Gorf soldier started to turn towards Dobbo when he was done, but was quickly and neatly intercepted by Flower, who returned the stick to her companion.  Poor Dobbo was decidedly not going to be a member of the tribe.  Maybe it's just my mean or selfish side, but I was glad that I didn't have to share that honor with Dobbo.  Don't get me wrong, he actually seems like a decent person till I remember he was once a member of Baot's crew, and in a way as I get to know him, how could I not since we were the only two Kinderlings traveling with a group of Gorfs, so he was the only person I could talk to and hope to get an answer back.

As we traveled, I noticed that there was a pecking order among the Gorf tribe.  I didn't pick up on it at first, but it was definitely there.  I don't know how, but I felt like I was able to intuit what the order was.  Interestingly, it didn't follow any pattern that I could define.  It wasn't the order that the tribe members carved the tribe-stick in.  Daisy was near the top of the pecking order, behind only Flower and her companion - between whom I couldn't decide who was on top - and Daisy was near the last of the people to carve, ahead of only me and the former soldiers.  It also didn't seem to come down to size, strength, or age.  If I was reading things right, the tribe member right after Daisy was a short, older male who often had to be helped when the terrain got rough.  The Gorf behind him was practically a child, too young to be a scout or a flanker and not skilled enough to be much help crafting.

After a few more days of walking through the forest, I was amazed when we broke cover and found a road.  THE road.  The Kinderling road, South of the village that the Kinderling militia used for patrolling.  I could tell that most of the tribe members were intimidated by the road, but Flower grumbled at them and the settled down.

Flower brought Dobbo and me forward as if to talk to us.  I didn't think it would work, but was curious enough to go along.  Flower indicated with her hand towards Dobbo, then indicated the direction of the village.  She repeated this a few times.  Then she indicated Dobbo, then me, then indicated the general direction that I knew the Garrison at Outcropping to be.  Again doing so a few times to get her point across.

"Dobbo, she's asking if you want to go to the village, or if you want to go with me to where my people are."  I told him.

"You understood all that?"  He asked.

"Yea, Flower and I talk all the time."  I answered.  Of course it wasn't strictly true, but Dobbo didn't need to know that.

"So, I get to decide if I want to go crawling back to Baot, and hope he doesn't put me in chains or just kill me on the spot.  Or go with you and be flayed alive by that mother of yours."  

"Mama's not like that!"  It was more of an outburst than I intended, and even to my own ears I sounded like a petulant child, but he shouldn't say such things about Mama.

"I am sorry, I was just being playful.  Of course your mother isn't like that."  he explained.  "I should have been more respectful."

I could tell he was worried about his future, and I could see his point.  Yes, for all I knew of Baot, if Dobbo went to the village I didn't like his chances of survival.  And to be honest, with how Mama is seen by people, it isn't out of the question that Dobbo might actually believe Mama would gut him like a fish and leave him for dead if she thought he was a danger.  People didn't tend to understand Mama very well.

"Aw, come on.  I'll pwotect woo fwom my scawwe Mama"  I baby talked to him.  Yes, I was being condescending, but it was an attempt to lighten up the mood, so it was for a good cause.  A guy could do something stupid and get himself killed if he was all up tight and worried about things like Doggo was.

"Fine, I'll go with you.  Maybe I can get to your father first and beg for mercy.  She has to listen to him, right?"  Dobbo said.  Man does he not understand the dynamics between Father and Mama, but I didn't want to be the one to tell him.  With what he seems to think of Mama, he would die of fright before we even got back to the garrison.

A word on Gorfs

Note:  I don't claim to be a "real writer", but that is what this blog is for.  To get me in the practice of writing daily, or somewhat daily, so one day maybe I will be.  :)

The Birthplace of the Name:

So I have this world that most of my fantasy writing is based in (and yes, most of it is awful, and no you'll probably never get to read it.)  For this world, I wanted some baddies.  My initial idea was to go with Orcs and/or Goblins, because frankly my intro to the fantasy genre was Tolkien, so fantasy bad-guys mean Orcs and/or Goblins.  BUT...  For one, I didn't want to just copy Tolkien, where's the fun in that?  And for two, as much as I love Tolkien, I don't really believe in absolute evil or absolute good.  Tolkien's Orcs and Goblins were a little one-dimensional in that regard.

So I wanted to make up something new.  Something interesting.  BUT...  I couldn't come up with a name.  What to name my wondrously evil... ish...  baddies?  

For that first story, Gorf or Gorfs, was the name that popped into my head.  It sounded so lame, but since I was busy NOT thinking up a better name, and I had story story story bashing at the inside of my skull wanting to get out, I just went with it.  One can do a find and replace on the word Gorf as easily as any other word.

Then the next story.  Then the next and the next.

Yea... I'm not going to get around to doing that find and replace.  Since their initial appearance, where the Gorfs were, for all intents and purposes, just set-dressing, the Gorfs have grown.  They now have a home in my head.  They have a creator, a diety of sorts.  They have a culture, or multiple cultures really because they are a product of their environment.  With a few exceptions, they can be found all over my fantasy world and in a way are the glue that holds it together.   More importantly, as per my original specification, they aren't just unidimensional minions of -insert boss level baddie here-.  Or at least they aren't, if I'm doing my job as a writer properly.

What then IS a Gorf?

The Gorf race was created by Gorphom.  In it's own image?  Who are you kidding?  That would be boring, and the one thing that an omnipotent being that dragged itself from the chaos of the primordial ooze to its their place as an equal among the celestial beings could never stand, is boring.

Gorfs are roughly bipedal, generally with proportionally longer arms than "normal," whatever that means.  They almost invariably have proportionally large noses.  Not too bulbous, more tubular... think cucumber rather than eggplant.   They tend to have the coloring of their surroundings.  So Mountain  Gorfs, and Deep Gorfs (who live underground) tend to take on the greys of the rock surrounding them.  Swamp Gorfs tend to be earthy colors like the browns and greens of the swamp lands.  Desert Gorfs likewise tend to be the sandy color of the desert. Oddly enough, it is said that the Gorfs in service of the King of the Southern Realms took on the red and yellow coloring of the tabbard they wore in the King's service.

What size a Gorf?


By that I mean that they are all sizes.  From the tiny Swamp Gorfs, little taller than the Fairies of the Swamp Glen, to the enormous stature of the Mountain Gorfs, often mistaken for giants by the race of Man, there are Gorfs of all sizes.  Gorphom had a dislike of uniformity.  So it's people, it's children, were made to be whatever size they happened to be.

Can a Mountain Gorf procreate with a Swamp Gorf?  YES!  It's all part of Gorphom's design.  We won't get into mating practices... I'm not THAT kind of author you sicko!  But yes.  The smallest Swamp Gorf female can easily bear the child of the largest Mountain Gorf male.  It just works out, because Gorphom wanted it to be so.  The resulting child will grow to be whatever size it is.  In general, they will grow to whatever size it makes sense for them to be.

Touched by Gorphom.

In general, Gorfs have four fingers, and one thumb on each hand.  Just like the race of Man, just like the Elves, just like... well... for whatever reason, most of the sentient races.  HOWEVER, Gorphom itself has only three fingers on each hand.  It makes up for the lack of a finger by adding another thumb.  So Gorphom has three fingers, and two thumbs on each hand.  The thumbs are on the same side, so it's thumb, thumb, finger, finger, finger, rather than thumb, finger, finger, finger, thumb (although wouldn't that be interesting.)   Those who are born "Touched by Gorphom" share this two thumb, three finger trait with Gorphom.  They are special to Gorphom, and receive gifts from Gorphom.  Unfortunately, much of the true teachings of Gorphom have been lost to it's beloved Gorfs.  Partly this is due to the Gorfs turning away from Gorphom, but mostly this is by Gorphom's design.  For the most part, Gorphom never asked for, nor does it want, to be worshiped.

What are these gifts?  Heh... this is Gorphom we are talking about.  It's bound to be anything.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Kinderling 40

 In case you are interested in starting this story at the beginning, Kinderling 1 can be found here:

The Tricycle of Thought: Kinderling 1

Please don't judge the story or the writing too harshly, this story is written with little to no editing.  It is just meant to get me writing regularly for practice.  

Now back to our story, already in progress..

The warning from the strange Kinderling left me a little unnerved and at a loss as to what to do.  We found Flower's people, but even with my arrow chucker Flower and I weren't going to fight our way through an entire platoon of Gorf soldiers to rescue them, even if I was becoming more and more convinced that the harnesses were making them slow and dumb.

While we were waiting for the slaves and Gorf soldiers to leave, Flower and I sat back in our hiding place and munched on our stolen mushrooms.  It used to be a joke around our house that pilfered snacks taste best.  When we were little, Tommil and I would challenge each other to see who could sneak into the kitchen and escape with a treat.  Father, of course, rooted us on only to extort a cut of the bootle for himself to buy his silence.  I know now that Mama was in on the whole thing too, but back then the rare occasion of getting one over on Mama felt like sweet sweet freedom.  It's not lost on me how much that game in my formative years molded my personality and fomented the individualist streak that tyrants like Baot despise.

These mushroom weren't so sweet though.  Don't get me wrong, they were primo mushrooms.  The kind that would put a bounce in Mizzy's step just having them in her kitchen and having the opportunity to cook them.  It wasn't even that Kinderlings rarely ate raw mushrooms, preferring them cooked where Gorfs, as far as I had ever seen, usually ate them raw.  Although, Watcher did mention a mushroom stew the day we first met, so I might be wrong about that.  My enjoyment of the mushrooms was damaged by the growing certainty that we failed our mission.  Sure, we found Flower's people, but in the process we lost Watcher and Mouse.  It was all for nothing for the amount of good we could do.

"Flower, what are we to do now?"  I asked, knowing that even if she understood me - I've been increasingly convinced that she was able to - I wouldn't understand her reply.

Oddly enough, I kinda did understand the reply.  Flower smiled a sad smile, patted me on the head gently, and then indicated the two of us, pointing at me, then her, with both thumbs of one hand.  Then she waved her hand out over the cavern and with both hands mimed breaking something.

"Gotcha, were going to break your people out."  I whispered.

She shook her head no, and waved bigger, indicating the entire cavern.  Then she pointed at where the three overseers were standing and waved as if she were pushing them off to the side. 

So, Flower didn't just want to set the slaves free, she wanted to set the Gorf soldiers free as well.

Well huh...  That wasn't such a bad idea.

I started looking at the movement in the cavern with an eye towards making a plan.

I waited till the Strange Kinderling that we had spoken to before was looking my direction and, throwing caution to the winds, I waved at him to get him to come over, and dove back behind the rocks for cover.  At first I didn't think he got the message, but after some tense minutes he made his way our direction.

"I told you two to lie low and go bring back an army."  he hissed.  "What are you trying to do?  Get yourselves killed?"

"I don't have an army to go get." I explained, "So I thought I might borrow yours."

He looked at me puzzled.

"You think you could get one or two of those Gorf soldiers to come back this way?"  I asked.

"Won't do any good, they can't be reasoned with or bribed.  They are controlled somehow."  

"You let me worry about that."  I whispered.

"You are going to get me killed."  he replied, "They have those two Dwarves now, they don't need me to tend to their mushroom beds anymore, and the overseers have been looking for any excuse at all to put me in their stew pot.  I heard them talking about it."

"Well, guess you really need to get out of here then."

The strange Kinderling huffed, then sighed, and walked away.

I watched from our rocky outcropping as the Kinderling went back to work, but I could tell he was watching the Gorf soldiers more closely, as if trying to figure out a plan.

Then, out of the blue, he stood up and chucked a round mushroom cap at one of the soldiers.  The soldier was looking the other direction, and the round cap bounced off the back of the soldiers head.  By the time the soldier turned around, the Kinderling had his focus back on the mushroom bed, counting as if he was counting the mushrooms, gradually making his way to the end of the row.  The Gorf soldier followed.  By the time the Kinderling walked past our outcropping, the Gorf soldier was transfixed on him.  I don't know if he was curious, or confused by the Kinderling counting mushrooms, but more importantly, the Gorf soldier now had his back turned towards Flower and me.  Flower got my attention, indicated herself, and mimed a pulling motion.  Then pointed at my knife and mimed cutting a harness off herself.

The plan went strikingly well.  Flower snagged the back of the harness, and pulled back with all of her strength, putting her weight behind it, toppling the Gorf over backwards while  I hopped in and cut the harness off.  

I sure was glad to have a good knife, because the harness was tough.  I almost didn't manage to cut through it, but after sawing for what was probably quite literally my life, it finally came away free.

Flower had her hand over the Gorf's mouth trying to keep him quiet, while also trying to keep him from getting up and murdering us all.  The odd Kinderling sure did pick the biggest one he could find.  Eventually, with much grumble grumbling and sniff sniffing in the Gorf soldier's ear, she had him under control.  

Not control like the harnesses, but quiet and mostly not trying to murder us.  The two of them were quietly grumble grumbling and sniff sniffing.  I also noticed that tears were also streaming down the enormous Gorf's face.  

I remember talking late into the night with Mizzy while we were recovering.  She had been awake, and aware of everything that happened to her while she wore the harness.  I wondered if that was the same for this poor Gorf soldier.  What had he been forced to do? 

"C'mon, we can't stop now.  We need a few more to make this work."  I whispered. 

With all the commotion, I was sure our gooses were cooked, but I guess we were far enough back in the back of the cavern that the other Gorf soldiers didn't see or hear the struggle, and I'm guessing that the Gorf overseers weren't paying attention.  They seemed to be breathing in the smoke from a small fire they had made in a small pot, and enjoying it far too much.  

I pointed the overseers out to Flower and asked, "What are they doing?"

Flower shrugged.

"They are breathing in the smoke from some of the non-edible mushrooms."  The strange Kinderling said, "It makes them feel good and see things that aren't there.  It doesn't work on Kinderlings though, so don't go getting any ideas."

"By the way, I'm Kniff."  He added.

"Flower, do you think our new friend can help us free some more guards?"  I asked.

She looked at the freed Gorf soldier and grumbled a few times.  He smacked his hand to his chest as if to say "Let ME do it!", pulled a knife out of  it's sheath at his belt and started casually walking up to Gorf soldiers, grabbing them, and cutting their harnesses off.  None of them had a chance to move out of his way, if they even saw him coming at all.  None of them put up much of a fight either.  My best guess is that all that time in the harness had made them dull and inflexible, like the kitchen Gorf had been.  Tiny little me was able to pull her away from her kitchen.  She didn't even resist.

All the while the overseers, secure in their positions, were sitting over by the entrance to the mushroom farm, alternately lighting their small bowl of mushrooms and breathing the smoke, and...  well I guess it was giggling, but it sure didn't sound anything like any sound a Kinderling would make.  Luckily, each Gorf soldier that was freed took a few moments to regain their composure.  Flower just followed along and softly spoke to each, now former, soldier to keep him quiet.  Some handled it better than others.

"Flower, ask about keys"  I whispered.  

Flower grumbled at one of the former soldiers that seemed to be snapping out of it better than the others, he shrugged and pointed towards the overseers.  One of the other former soldiers, a large Gorf easily bigger than Mouse, and covered in scars must have heard what they were talking about because he smacked his hand to his chest, much like the first freed Gorf soldier, and grumbled at a few of the others.  Before I could say anything, they closed the distance between where we were gathered and the overseers and hacked them to death with their swords.  Then the big one came back and handed Flower a ring of bloody keys.

All this time, the slaves in chains had, for the most part, sat quietly and watched.  

Flower started by freeing her kin.  There were smiles and hugs all around.  It seemed there were a few other Gorfs who were chained, but weren't part of Flower's tribe, but she unlocked their chains too.  Once Flower was done with the Gorf slaves, I got the keys and freed Kniff and the other two Kinderlings.

"Free the Dwarves next,"  the Kniff said, leading me to where the two of them sat.  He then said something to the Dwarves in a language that sounded familiar, but I was at a loss to understand it.  They clasped hands like old friends. The Dwarves didn't waste any time and set to gathering up some mushrooms, took what little they had, and started to leave.  One of the two stopped by the overseers long enough to take a belt knife.  He said something our direction that sounded like a question while holding up the knife.  Kniff answered in their language and they left.

"Oddly polite couple Dwarves those."  Kniff said, "Even asked permission to take that knife."

I didn't know anything about Dwarves other than having seen a few pictures in a book, and heard an outlandish story or two told by one of my grandfathers.  If I had never read that book, I'm not sure I would have even known they were Dwarves.

I then set the Men free.  One of the three was a woman.  The language of Men is still taught in Kinderling school in the village because enough of the older Kinderlings insisted that the race of Men would return back up the trade road one day and the village would once again flourish and become rich.  I always considered it to be wishful thinking.  For a while as a youngster, I wondered if the race of Man was something Kinderling parents made up to scare us into being good little Kinderlings.  I gave up that idea when I started learning their language, not even my weird parents would go so far as to make up a whole language just to propagate a myth.

"Careful Tandy, we don't know anything about these Men!"  Kniff said.  It was clear he didn't trust them.  I'm ashamed to admit that I considered leaving the chains on them.  After all, I was looking at the face, or maybe kneecaps, of what amounted in my view to a myth.  And a lot of the stories surrounding that myth were violent and strange.  Then I decided to talk to them.

"Hello, I am Tandy.  I am here to rescue you."  I said slowly in the language of Man.  

"You speak Dornish oddly little one."  The woman said.

"Wait, you can talk to these things?"  Asked the Kniff, shocked, pulling me around to face him, which I did not care for one bit.

"Yes, I can.  Let got!"  I said shrugging him off.  Flower grabbed him and pulled him away.  Kniff quickly found himself surrounded by the Gorfs of Flower's tribe.  

"Don't let them hurt him Flower, I don't think he meant any harm."  I said over my shoulder as I turned back to the Men.  I heard a gruff of what I hoped was agreement from Flower.

"We need to get out of here before more soldiers show up.  How do we know we can trust these?"  The woman indicated towards the Gorfs.  It wasn't lost on me that she included Flower's tribe as well as the former soldiers.

"These,"  I indicated Flower's tribe, "are friends.  We can trust them.  These others," I indicated the former soldiers, who I noticed seemed to be shaking down into three distinct groups, with a couple loners who didn't seem to fit into any group. "were being controlled using those harnesses.  They were just as much a captive as you were."

"I would feel more comfortable if we could go and leave all the Gorfs behind." The woman said.

"If it weren't for Flower and her tribe, I wouldn't be here at all and you would still be in chains."  I said.  I waved Flower over, "This is my friend Flower.  That is her tribe.  They are who we came to rescue.  The rest of you are sauce."

Then to Flower, in Kinderling "She's right though, it's past time we got out of here.  What's the plan?"

Flower looked at me like I had lost my mind, I could almost hear her say "I don't have the plan, I thought you had the plan."

"Ok then.  Make it up as we go along.  Hasn't killed us so far.  You find out what the Gorfs want to do, I'll talk to the Kinderlings and the Men."

I called the three Kinderlings together.  Kniff made the introductions.  "This is Hoak, my travel companion and partner.  We are traders, we came this way looking for a Dwarven settlement that we heard was around these parts.  Sadly, we found Gorfs instead.  The other fellow is Dobbo, he was here when we got here.  Said he was from a village not far from here.  I didn't even know there were any of our kind in the area."

I gave Dobbo a good solid once-over.  He was an older Kinderling, older than Father, maybe old enough to be my grandfather's age. 

"You wouldn't happen to be the daughter of Bonnie and Tadius would you?"  He asked.

I was happy to hear a familiar accent from Dobbo.  He was definitely from the village, although I didn't recognize him in the least.

"Should I know you?"  I asked.

"No, I would be surprised if you recognized me.  Last I saw you was when you were a wee baby, still in your mother's pouch, and even then I wasn't allowed to get close to you."  Dobbo said. "I was one of Baot's Lieutenants so your parents didn't trust me, although I swear I would never stoop so low as to being a baby snatcher."

As a side note, no, Kinderlings are not marsupials.  Some of the forest creatures around the village are, however, and "still on your mother's pouch" is a common Kinderling idiom for a young child.

"If you are one of Baot's Lieutenants, what are you doing here?"

"I know you aren't here to rescue me." Dobbo continued, "Baot left me for dead when I found out his plans and objected.  I think he expected the Gorfs to kill me.  I take it from the harnesses that Daggi succeeded, how bad is it."

"It's bad."  I answered, "The village was overrun by Gorfs.  A lot of Kinderlings were killed in the initial attack.  Baot has declared martial law with himself in charge and has been throwing his weight around ever since.  He has a couple platoons of Gorf soldiers with harnesses, and he put everyone who wasn't loyal to him in a prison camp."  I didn't tell him that we already rescued them, I didn't know how much I should tell him.  

"Please believe me, I didn't know anything about the plan to attack the village until Baot brought me up here and by then it was too late and I was in chains.  He bragged about it before he left."

"You seem to know an awful lot about the harnesses."  I accused.

"I only knew Daggi was working on a way to control the beasts, make them more docile and less dangerous.  I never thought the Gorfs were anything more than cleaver animals.  It made sense to use them for work if we could control them safely.  Then Baot brought me up here to meet the Gorf King.  I had no idea.  I know you won't believe me, but there was a Gorf that actually spoke Kinderling.  I swear, I'm not making it up!  Then Baot goes and asks the Gorf King for slaves to use in Daggi's experiments.  I couldn't take it.  I mean, it's one thing if they are just dumb animals, it's quite another if they are smart, like people.  So Baot and I got into a huge argument over it.  Next thing I knew I was in chains with Baot bragging that he traded me for a couple Gorf slaves for Daggi to experiment on, so I was still helping the cause.  I have been here ever since."

"If you were his lieutenant, why would he do that?" I asked.

"Because I threatened to tell the village council about him, about his real goal."

"And what is that?"  

"He wants to set himself up as the new Kinderling King.  Half the village council already knows about Baot's plans to tame Gorfs and use them for manual labor, but they don't know the half of it.  They don't know that Daggi is creating devices to control them and they don't know that Baot plans to declare himself King.  We gotta warn them."

"Too late, as far as anyone can tell, the council is dead."  I said, "My father is the only surviving council member."

"Your father became a council member?"  Dobbo said,  "I guess that makes sense.  As much as your father and I never got along, I have to admit he's well suited to it.  Probably much better suited than Baot was."

"As far as I know, Baot has never been a council member."

That seemed to shock Dobbo.  "Baot never joined the council?  How did that happen?  He had half the council practically in his pocket.  He was a sure thing for the next open seat."

After a short quiet pause, Dobbo chuckled, shaking his head. "That must have really ticked Baot off, your father got on the council but he didn't.  I never understood why, but Baot really hated both your parents.  When your parents got married he ranted about how his worst enemies were conspiring, as if they got married just to spite him.  As far as I ever saw, the worst your parents ever did to Baot was ignore him."

"If he was like that, why did you stick with Baot?"  I asked,  "He and his whole family are nothing but bullies!"

"Good question I suppose."  Dobbo answered,  "My parents were killed when I was very small and my grandparents took me in.  They were old money, from when the race of Man would come and trade for Kinderling silver.  Grandfather had a claim on one of the better veins handed down through the generations from the time of the last King.  The problem was, they lived in the Grand Trees, so the only other kids around were Baot and his gang, all children of  what my grandmother called boot lickers, who tried to elevate their standing by ingratiating themselves with the Grand families.  I didn't realize it at the time, but Baot was always nice to me because he had to be.  I was too young to understand how horrible he was to others."

I often heard Mama and Father talk about the Grand families, and it was almost never in a good way.  Most of the council seats were taken by members of one or other of the Grand families, and Father often came home exasperated because they were constantly wasting time trying to pass edicts that either made no sense, or were useless because they wouldn't be followed by anyone... or both.  Kinderlings tend to have a strong individualist streak.  It seems the Grand families buck that tradition by having a strong authoritarian streak.

The think of it is, I could see Dobbo's point of view.  Of course Baot would be pushed by his parents to be nice to Dobbo.  So of course he would think of them as friends.  At least until the inevitable betrayal.  I'm sure Beso's old friends, Ghead and Weph, who I last saw in chains, pulling Beso's carriage would agree.  On the other hand, this was one of Baot's lieutenants.  Part of me wanted to leave him chained here.

In the end, mercy ruled out.  Maybe I'm soft.  Maybe I need to suck it up and become tougher.  But I just couldn't leave Dobbo to his fate.  When we left, Dobbo went with us.