Chapter Five Part 1: But I Don't Want to Fight You
A hand reached out and grabbed her arm with a firm grip. She could feel the shock in her shoulder as she lost all sense of footing and support beneath her.
It was Matt.
She reached up to grab his other hand with a grunt as he pulled her up. The dust was beginning to settle and she could see the figures of the goblins collecting around them. While Matt brought her up onto solid ground, she noticed he was paying attention to the goblins behind them. They had weapons drawn; they held spears, swords, and axes, but none of them looked eager to jump in and attack. They watched with a sort of hesitance she didn't expect from goblins, who she'd only ever seen in combat when interacting with humans.
Matt tried to help pull her up into a stand, but she couldn't manage it. She flopped onto the ground, half-catching herself with a frustrated mutter under her breath.
The goblin chief then yelled something that urged the goblins forward, charging at them.
"Wait!" Matt yelled. "If we could just-"
The she-goblin lunged at him with a sword, though fear marked her face. Clandestine grabbed for her sword, trying to will her exhausted limbs to move faster. It wasn't working. She heard a grunt from Matt and looked up. He'd ducked the swipe of the sword and suddenly was on the other side of her, which probably wasn't the best move. Because he was surrounded, and the only mostly-able-bodied of the two of them who could fight. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest and the sweat and dust like a layer of anxiety on her skin. The heat from the fire, though no longer flying at them, filled the air. She had to get moving.
A goblin broke from the ring around Matt, hurrying over to her. It was a smaller female one, and she only had a little spear. Clandestine swiveled around, finally drawing her sword at her side, and lifted it up to meet the little one's spear. But she drew back with a yelp and looked scared when she dodged Clandestine's sword.
Clandestine didn't know what to do with that. She growled as she pushed herself up onto her knees with great effort, and faced the small goblin, who was shorter than her, even when she was sitting. She pointed her sword at her as she took in deep, heavy breaths.
Magic takes too much out of me.
The small goblin was trying to explain something in goblin. Clandestine couldn't understand it.
I should've done something else. Not that she could think of what that something else could've been.
The goblin began to approach her again, this time walking around the sword and reaching for Clandestine's hand. She then sped off and started to try and pull Clandestine away from the fight. Clandestine ripped her hand away and looked back over to Matt with worry as she set her sword into the ground and used it as leverage to pull herself up. It felt like it took all of her energy just to get to her feet, and if she took a step forward, her legs would collapse any moment. But in the few seconds, she did get to her feet - she saw Matt moving with a speed and agility she'd only gotten a glimpse of back in the bar. The awkward and hesitant advanced of the goblins were slow, and Matt was quick to avoid and evade as he easily jumped around them. It was... almost entertaining, but she was beginning to worry at how long Matt would be able to manage it but was also worrying about the goblins. They almost looked... inexperienced. Like they'd never been in a real fight before.
And that was when she felt something run into her legs, immediately throwing her off balance and sending her immediately to the ground with an "Oomph!"
Turned out the little goblin was persistent and began grabbing her feet and dragging her away.
"What?! No! No!" She swung her sword weakly at the little goblin, but her arms felt like useless noodles. Her aim was very poor. "Let me go, you little bug!" She tried to kick, but her legs weren't cooperating. Her kicks were more like nudges. She let out a loud, frustrated groan.
"Fight us!" she heard the goblin chief say.
"You said you didn't want violence!" She heard Matt retort.
"You chose violence when you came here!"
Clandestine pulled a knife out of her boot and staked it in the ground. That got the dragging to stop, but she was only farther away from the fight, and her body was still obnoxiously spent. She looked up at Matt again. He had yet to make a move against them but that was when they were more scattered and confused. Now they were all six closing in on him. She growled again, this time attempting to push herself up in one final push, mustering up all her strength. She could hear the insistent protests of the little goblin behind her, but before the goblin could follow, she stumbled forward into a clumsy run, that felt more like a constant fall, just one wrong step from wiping out. She reared up her sword as she hurried over to help him, but then she felt a sharp pain in her leg just before she could slash away at a goblin.
As she fell again, looked over to see the offending party. It was the little goblin. The little she-goblin who'd just stabbed her. "You little-!" she yelled as she reached out to grab the grinning goblin, only to be interrupted by a large goblin landing on the ground right beside her. She wasted no time in jumping on him and slashing his arm with her dagger. He let out a pained cry that startled her, and he started crawling away. She looked back over to Matt.
Two more goblins were on the ground in pain and Matt was backing further away with the goblin chief towards the fire. Matt didn't look so good either. It looked like his arm was bleeding through his sleeve again, among the other bloody spots from all of the teeth from the giant worm. But she didn't have many moments to look at him because the one remaining goblin in their feet was hurrying towards her. She didn't know where the little she-goblin went, but apparently, she was no longer obsessed with her.
She couldn't stand up, and she'd given up on her sword. The goblin was coming fast with a spear, so she pulled her gun. The goblin slowed down, staring down the barrel with wide eyes. Then they both heard a cry of pain. The moment the goblin glanced back to see who it came from Clandestine shot him in the knee. He went tumbling to the ground, tears immediately coming to his eyes as he yelled in pain. Clandestine winced. Pity was not lost on her, but she was quickly distracted when she saw Matt on the ground as well, with the chief running up to him with a fireball in his hand. Matt rolled out of the way with a pained cry and propelled himself at the old goblin, pinning him to the ground. Then he put his arm around the chief's neck and started choking him out.
For a few seconds, all she could hear was the chief's weak gasps for breath until Matt finally let go, letting the chief fall to the ground, rasping. He stood up, and at that moment she realized where the first cry had come from. It had to have been Matt.
Half of his shirt was scorched by fire, and she could already tell that the burn was starting to blister. A hand went over her mouth.
"Leave," Matt said, standing over the chief's and clearly trying to project his voice to all of the groaning goblins sprawled out on the ground. "You leave, or I will kill you all. Starting with your chief."
There was little in way of a response as several of the goblins tried to scramble to their feet, some more injured than others.
"Now!" Matt shouted.
The goblins tried their best to hurry. But it was then that she saw the little she-goblin by the fire, making it dance like she saw them do before that had summoned the big worm. For a moment her heart sank, and dread washed over her at the thought of having to face the giant worm again, but when the ground shook, it was a bunch of little worms that burrowed to the surface, and they all came up to the goblins.
The little she-goblin hurried over to her chief and dragged him over to one of the worms, throwing him over what she could only define as the worms' "back." The others seemed to be doing the same, grabbing onto the worms, who then dove partially into the ground and dragged the injured goblins out towards the entrance she and Matt had peeked in through. Clandestine and Matt watched in silence as the goblins slowly disappeared into the dim light of the tunnel, and when they were out of sight, Matt hurried over to her.
Clandestine slowly put her gun back in her holster and looked up at Matt. He was staring at the knife in her leg, and she was staring at his burnt flesh. The smell was unpleasant, even from a small distance. But it was at that moment it dawned on her: he'd seen her use magic. In her panic, she'd used it and completely forgotten she had a partner with her who didn't know about it, and she didn't even know how he felt about mages. Sure, it'd saved them from the jaws of a giant sand worm, but he'd seen her use magic. She didn't know if he'd comment on it, but she didn't want to hear it, and she wasn't going to bring it up. If he was going to turn her in... she could deal with that later.
She looked up at him with a strained smile and laughed weakly.
"I don't suppose you could've asked them for directions on the way out before they left, huh?"
Human is a stupid word when used to define the standards of what makes a person a person.
Humanity is just as susceptible to corruption and immorality as any other race, and if I were bold I would say humanity is the lesser race. We, as a people, have dehumanized every other existing person on the basis that they are less like us. Even our terminology is flawed. Dehumanization is the word we use - the word I use - only for lack of a better one, but its flaw lies in the root of the word. DeHUMANization - to again, set the ideal standards for what makes a person a person as a human is an insult to every other intelligent race.
Humans are not more capable of compassion, making informed decisions, and creating a bright and beautiful culture than harpies, or werewolves, or ogres, or goblins. We have only deceived ourselves, in the midst of great tragedy, that those who are not like us are not for us.
Perhaps the reality is that they are not against us as we so perceive, but they are afraid because we have made them to be. Maybe, to the rest of the non-human world, we are the oppressors, and the enemies, and the ones to be feared. Who else asserts themselves with such reckless entitlement? Who else so vehemently assumes their superiority simply because they perceive themselves to have more personhood and others to appear more animalistic? Who else jumps to such vile conclusions based solely on appearance, and lack of understanding?
Have we become so blind that we categorize people with emotions, and families, and communities, as monsters because they intimidate us? Because we are too proud to admit that another race might, in some ways be superior to us?
There is no greater enemy than us humans. And I speak - or write - as one myself.
Our imperialism - and even more so, our insistent rejection of all things magic - sets us apart from the rest of the world. I would know. Because even though we have convinced ourselves that our greatest enemies are the "monsters" who trespass into our borders (though we often trespass into theirs and never consider it wrong - hypocrisy) the greatest threat to humanity is humanity itself.
Which makes it all the more imperative that those who exercise authority over our own kind are not so blind as to believe otherwise.
But unfortunately, apart from one, they are.