Bonus Story: Not Just Small Talk

on October 28, 2008 in Other Tales


“You’re putting me on,” Oru said.

“No, I’m not,” Honey said. They were alone in her room. The door was closed, but the hall outside was quiet. Honey had thrown off decorum and was sitting on the edge of her tea table, while Oru sat on her bed. They each held a square glass jar of clear liquid.

“How do you have twenty-seven gods with the same name?” the goblin asked.

“Owain the Father knew a good name when he heard it,” Honey said. “What are your gods called?”

“Oh, I don’t think you could pronounce their names,” Oru said. “I know I can’t.”

“That’s why I like our gods. Owain, Owain, Owain, Owain… it doesn’t get much simpler than that,” Honey said. “You’ve got Owain the Father, who begat Owain and Owain. Owain the Elder begat Owain the Proper, and Owain the Younger begat Owain the Deceiver.”

“And that goes on for, what, a dozen more generations?”

“Not quite,” Honey said. “Some of the Owains just sort of… show up.”

“We mostly use descriptive names for ours, like the Bleak Black Voice That Whispers Beneath The Stones,” Oru said. “There’s a place near our village that we’re not supposed to go near, because the Burrower Under The Bog sleeps there… supposedly. I actually think every village tells their children that the Burrower sleeps nearby. I asked my mother about it, and she said that even if that’s true, there’s still got to be one bog he does sleep under, and wouldn’t I feel foolish if it turned out to be ours and I woke him up?”

“I guess it’s not so strange,” Honey said. “Unpronounceable gods, I mean. The humans over the sea have an emperor whose name they can’t pronounce, and if he doesn’t like you, he murders your name from history.”

“Really?”

“My hand to Owain,” Honey said. “My grandfather talks about it all the time. He likes to say that all we have is our name… that isn’t the least bit true, of course, but he likes to say it just the same. His grandfather came from over there… well, I mean, burrow gnomes aren’t from here, anyway, but he came over on the Convallaria. ”

“Oh… I don’t know what that is,” Oru said.

“It was a ship,” Honey said. “It’s sort of a big deal. My grandfather says it was the first and last time a Callaway set foot on a boat.”

“Why’d they come here, if they hate sailing so much?”

“Religious persecution,” Honey said. “My family were Owainists, and the Owainians were in power, you see. Or was it the other way around?”

“I don’t know how you could begin to keep that straight,” Oru said.

“It helps if you drink more,” Honey said. She took a swig to demonstrate.

Oru took a sip from her own jar. “Are you sure this is made from potatoes?” she asked.

“Yes, quite.”

“It doesn’t taste like any potato I’ve ever eaten,” Oru said. “And I’ve eaten a lot of potatoes. Potatoes and beets. That’s what we grow.”

“Oh, your family are farmers, too?” Honey asked. “How much land do they own?”

“Uh, er… we don’t own the land, per se,” Oru said. “But my family are hard workers, and they get a purse from the province every other week.”

“Oh, how nice for them,” Honey said. Her nose crinkled slightly. Charitably, it might have been because she’d just put it over the mouth of the jar and sniffed. “It doesn’t really taste like anything. I prefer… I mean, I used to prefer sweeter drinks to stronger spirits, back when I used to drink.”

“What are we doing now?” Oru asked.

There was a sound in the hall. A door closed somewhere… the shirelings’ door rattled in response. Honey started at the sound, becoming absolutely still, a guilty look on her face.

“You know, you’re harder to see when you do that,” Oru said. “You go all… soft around the edges.”

“What do you mean, soft around the edges?” Honey asked, shaking herself out of it. “I do no such thing.”

“You do!” Oru said.

“You’re just not used to drinking hard liquor,” Honey said. “Your mind’s playing tricks on your eyes, or vice-versa.”

“No,” Oru said. “You and your cousin both are hard to see sometimes… especially when you’re together. It isn’t like you’re invisible, just… unnoticeable. Is that a gnome thing, like how elves can whisper across rooms and hobgoblins can reach things on high shelves?”

“I don’t think so,” Honey said. “I’ve never noticed not noticing myself. I’ve been trying not to draw attention to myself at school, though… maybe I’m just very good at that?”

“Maybe,” Oru said. “But you didn’t answer my question… if you aren’t drinking any more, why are you drinking any more?”

“Oh, this?” Honey said, looking at the jar as if she were surprised it was in her hands. “It’s just a little something… well, it’s actually a class material, and I have just taken to keeping some of it in the room for bedtime. I have a difficult time sleeping, you see, ever since… ever since coming to university.”

“Trying to drown your troubles?”

“Drown…” Honey said. She chuckled. “You know, drowning is the most scandalous way for a gnome to die… they used to say ‘he died of the drink’ when somebody fell into the river, because it was considered better than the alternative. Anyway, it’s the weekend… half the floor’s away at the skirmish match, half’s gone to the arena, half’s out partying…”

“That’s too many halves,” Oru said.

“Well, that isn’t my fault,” Honey said. “I’m not used to doing things by halves.”

Oru snorted.

“That sounds like something Hazel would say,” she said.

“We are cousins, you know,” Honey said. “She doesn’t have all the wit in the family, and what she has, she didn’t get from her father.”

“You know, when you asked me if I wanted something to drink, I thought you’d be making tea,” Oru said.

“Yes, well… I suppose I didn’t much feel like making tea,” Honey said. She sighed. “This isn’t at all how I pictured spending my thirties, you know… there’s so much work in being at university, and nobody here knows what it means to be a Callaway. They know about the Convallaria, but they don’t remember that gnomes were on it.”

“You know, me, neither,” Oru said. “I mean, the part about where I pictured myself… except teens instead of thirties. I never dreamt I’d get to go to university. I knew there were scholarships for goblinoids, but they usually go to kobs and hobs… excuse me, kobolds and hobgoblins. They’re ‘disciplined’. They’re ‘motivated’. They’re ‘driven’.” She kicked her legs. “You’ve met Moeli… does he seem ‘driven’ to you?”

“Well, since you mention it…”

“I am so over Moeli,” Oru said. “He has about as much personality as a bag of wet leaves. Do you think he’d fancy me if I were taller?”

“How would you be taller?”

“I don’t know yet,” Oru said. “I’ll work that out after I figure out if it would help.”

“Well, I think you’re well quit of him,” Honey said. “Boys are nothing but trouble.”

“Right, maybe we should do like the rest of the floor and take up with each other,” Oru said. She laughed. “Do you suppose Hazel and Shiel…?”

“Not very likely,” Honey said. “There may be a certain amount of buggery among the shires, but there is not one case of lesbianism among gnomenkind.”

“My great aunt Eri was a lesbian,” Oru said. “Her neighbors threw her into the peat bog. Not because she was a lesbian, though. It all had to do with this tree that was on the line between their plots… I don’t remember the whole thing.”

“That’s horrible,” Honey said.

“Used to be a lot of people got thrown into the bog,” Oru said. “Not so much any more. People complain about the Imperium, but I think I prefer judges and things to the old way.”

“You have Imperial judges?”

“Or they have us,” Oru said. “Don’t you?”

“Not really,” Honey said. “We’re more… what’s the word?”

“Autonomous?” Oru said.

“I guess.”

“So, did you get a scholarship, too?”

“Not exactly,” Honey said. “Though my family did endow a scholarship, as part of the… but… that isn’t… what I mean to say is, we could afford the tuition without one, so…”

“Oh, well, that’s nice for you, I’m sure,” Oru said. “I don’t think Shiel approves of my being here.”

“What do you mean, doesn’t approve?” Honey asked. “Is she on the admissions committee now?”

“She always talks about how hard she worked to get here, and then she looks over at me… as if to say, ‘and you didn’t’,” Oru said. “She talks about how she struggles… if you ask me, struggling’s all very well and good, but there’s not anything wrong with a piece of comfort. I struggled to get my hair to behave, I struggled to catch Moeli’s eye, and it just made me miserable… and what do I have to show for it? Now, back home, we might not own any land, but we have a nice little house and a garden, and poor as we are, I don’t think we’re any poorer for not struggling like Shiel does.”

“Shiel’s a twit,” Honey said. “Anybody can see that she’s just uppity.”

“She’s alright,” Oru said. “She just has a big mouth… I’d hate to see her mother’s arms.”

“Yes, I… wait, what?”

“Her arms,” Oru said. “From when she nursed.”

“I thought you didn’t do that.”

“Oh, it’s not quite like you do,” Oru said. “See, goblins are born with our teeth all in, and…”

“I don’t believe I want to hear this,” Honey said. “I have enough bad dreams already.”

“I have bad dreams sometimes, too,” Oru said. “Mostly about the Burrower, but sometimes about Great Aunt Eri. But not because she was a lesbian.”

“I have terrible dreams,” Honey said. “Sometimes they’re about the… a fire I saw, but sometimes they’re about folks on the floor.”

“Like who?” Oru asked.

“Do you know that girl with the ugly, bruised feet?”

Oru stared blankly.

“Tall, leggy… really bad feet?” Honey said. “Kind of full of herself? Has silver feathers for hair?”

The goblin laughed.

“She has feathers for hair and you notice her feet,” Oru said. “Yeah, I know her. Eda? Something like that… you’ve been dreaming about her?”

“Just the one,” Honey said. She shivered, then took another drink from her jar. “But it was enough.”

“What… what did you dream?”

“I dreamed she was dead,” Honey said. “Killed… torn apart. In that fountain down by the five-sided square.”

“Why would she be in the fountain?”

“I don’t know,” Honey said. “It was just a dream… my dreams mostly don’t make any sense.”

“Well, at least you know it is just a dream,” Oru said. “Now, if you have any dreams about that Mack girl…”

“Oh, I dream about her, too,” Honey said.

“Oh? Is she murdered in them?” Oru asked. She forced an expression of contrition. “Not that I want… I mean, they are just dreams, and I’m allowed to dream, too.”

“No, she isn’t murdered in them,” Honey said. “She’s doing murders.”


Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!







10 Responses to “Bonus Story: Not Just Small Talk”

  1. Kevin says:

    I just noticed the foreshadowing in here

    spoiler for people who haven’t read the whole story

    Leda’s death and Honey’s apparent ability for prophecy make me wonder if Honey foresees Mack killing someone

    Current score: 0
    • Daezed says:

      Or perhaps saw mack and steff’s date…

      Current score: 0
    • keyonte0 says:

      “I just noticed the foreshadowing here”

      Damnit!

      Current score: 0
    • Zarkloyd says:

      Putting a spoiler in as the first comment is a real dick move dude.

      Current score: 9
      • Athena says:

        His comment was posted two years after the story was… and the next comment wasn’t posted for another two years. I dislike spoilers as much as the next person but… well, if you really want to avoid spoilers, don’t read the comments. Asking someone to wait another two years for the next comment to pop up before they give theirs is getting a touch unreasonable.

        Pointing out that the spoiler line should have come *before* the foreshadowing line, that’s a bit more reasonable.

        That said, I’m further than ever (so this is now my first time through this stuff) and I pretty immediately spotted the prophecy thing (and thus, foreshadowing). On the other hand, as a fellow sufferer of premonition I’m probably predisposed to that recognition.

        Current score: 1
  2. pedestrian says:

    “It helps if you drink more”

    is the proper answer to every theological dispute.

    Current score: 3
    • capybroa says:

      Catholicism’s most enduring contribution to global spiritual thought.

      Current score: 6
    • Wolf says:

      I’ll say an Amen to that!

      Current score: 0
  3. MadnessMaiden says:

    You should have skipped a few more lines before the spoiler, Kevin. >.<

    Current score: 2
  4. partyboy says:

    So mack is going to kill more then one person

    Current score: 0