Holding his staff in his left hand, he reached out with his right, muttering an incantation. As he touched the kobold’s arm, the creature’s grasp weakened and he dropped the leg he was holding. A panicked kick to the nose was his reward and it scurried back into the darkness, leaving its friend by itself. With one less kobold to deal with, Lem was feeling more confident and swung his staff at the creature’s hands, only to accidentally hit Abigail in the shin.
- “OOOUUUUWWWW!” she yelled out in pain.
A piece of rock found its way into Abigail’s hand and, with adrenaline flowing through her, she tossed it straight into the kobold’s left eye. The creature howled and reached for its eye, allowing Abbie to crawl away to safety. Lem gave it one final swing and hit the kobold on the side of its face, forcing it to retreat back like his companion.
The gnome backed away slowly from the mine entrance, waving his staff as a threat to the two pairs of beady eyes sneering at him from the darkness. Once he was in the clear, he turned his attention to Abigail. To his surprise, the girl was nowhere to be seen. He looked carefully around the area and sighed in relief when he spotted a flock of blondish hair poking out from behind a nearby rock. Lem put away his staff and walked over.
Abigail was sitting with her back to the cold stone, her arms wrapped around her legs, sobbing quietly. The gnome did not quite know how to handle this situation. To him, a crying human girl, was more of a challenge, than facing the entire kobold mine by himself. He stood there, looking her over, unsure of what to say or do. As he did so, he could see what a sorry state his companion was in. Abigail’s white clothes were not in the best of shape when they had first met but now, they were half-torn and brownish from their journey. Her hair was dirty and shaggy with bits of twigs sticking out. And her skin was covered in red cuts and purple bruises. She finally noticed and looked up at him, with tears flowing down her cheeks.
- sniff “L-Lem… I… I’m so… so sorry!” she sobbed.
- “There-there Abbie…” Lem gave a warm smile. “You are safe now…”
- “I deserved that!” she could not look him in the eyes anymore. “All of it!”
- “It’s okay…” the gnome started.
- “No! It’s not okay!” she cried. “I laughed at you and tricked you! My only friend!”
Lem was surprised… he did not expect to hear that last part.
- “You were right about me… sob I am childish and mean!” she hid her face in her knees and continued in a muffled voice. “That’s why nobody likes me here. I just get in everyone’s way and… sniff and… mess things up… I’m a bad person.”
- “Abbie… listen to me…” the gnome began in a calm and caring voice, putting his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. She murmured something in response.
- “You are not a bad person… far-far from it. You have a kind heart and you mean well… Believe me, I can tell. But you are inexperienced, young and headstrong. This can and will get you in a lot of trouble and you have to be prepared to face the consequences.” Lem’s words seemed to calm her down a bit and her sobbing stopped. “When I saw you were in trouble, I rushed back to save you, twice. Why? Because… truth be told… even if you are a bit too much at times, I have grown quite fond of you.”
Abbie finally looked up and her red, puffy eyes saw a genuine smile gleaming back at her. She smiled back.
- “Thank you, Lem. I… I will never do such a thing again.” She apologized once more.
- “I know… Come on, let’s get out of here, okay?” The gnome beckoned, holding out his hand.
Abigail sniffed one more time and wiped her eyes with her palm. “O…okay.”
- “Are you able to stand?” he inquired. “I know I hit you on the leg back there… sorry.”
- “It’s alright.” She stood up slowly. “I had that one coming.” She let out a shy laugh.
Soon, the two of them made their way back into the deeper woods once more and having found the mine, Lem could now map out their precise location. They tried to get as far away from Echo Ridge as they possibly could and put the events that happened behind them.
* * *