And the post is slightly late. I am filled with shame.
There’s no sense in going about the details of the fight, because there wasn’t all that much to it. The human, Ethan, went down like a sack of manure. He was drunk, he was big, and he’d probably never had to fight someone his own size before. And humans aren’t made to fight and win. They’re good at a lot of things, but no human without years of fighting experience has ever beaten me, and none ever will. I punched him in the mouth, and he stumbled backwards. I stepped forward and hit him again, and he fell flat on his back, crashing into a table on his way to the ground.
The fight was over, but I was surging with energy. I was grinning, looking around the room for another challenger. “Well? Come on, then! Who else? Who else? I’ll fight all of you! I’ll fight the best you have!”
Ethan was shaking his head, trying to get his senses back, when he heard me taunting the crowd inside the inn. He pushed himself into a sitting position and slapped at the leg of the man next to him from the ground. “Are you lot just going to let that thing stand there and mock us? Get him!”
The man hesitated for just a moment before charging me, but when he moved another four jumped into action. None of them were as big as Ethan, but then fighting five humans at once is a good laugh all in itself. The first one to charge me I stopped dead in his tracks by smashing him with a headbutt. One of them jumped on my back and started punching me in the head, but I grabbed him and spun and threw him to the ground where he hit with a real satisfying thump, like a squash or melon will if you rap it on its side. But I was off-balance, and one of them got in a good shot at my face. I roared, and I swear, the coward fainted away dead on the spot. It was at this point that the other two began to rethink just how smart it was to rush in and fight me. It’s not everyday someone walks into your little village’s tavern and starts busting heads.
I mean, they started it. But still. Humans tend to forget who started what pretty quick, in my experience.
So there I am, standing in the middle of this crowd, breathing heavily and smiling, grinning, through the blood trickling down my face. Everything about me is different, from the color of my skin right down to the fact that I’m the only person in the joint who’s having a good time. They’re all watching me, looks of shock and horror on their face, and I do the only thing I can think do.
“You humans are a bunch of no good grots, attacking a feller while he’s sitting down eating and trying to gang up on him when he beats you fair and square. Just a bunch of no good grots.” I grinned a little wider, exposing my mouth full of teeth and fangs and such. “That’s why when I come back next time, we’re going to have a proper fight. No punching fellers when they ain’t ready, no jumping on them, no biting, no nothing. Just me and the biggest, meanest guy there is in this place.”
“You already knocked him flat on his arse!” someone in the crowd shouted. Ethan, who still hadn’t stood up yet, turned red as the blood rushed to his face. I laughed at that. I’d never seen a human turn red before, and when I laughed, he turned a little redder, even.
“Then get two! Or three! As many of you grots as it takes to make it a fair fight! Or at least a fun fight.”
And with that I left, leaving the humans to pick themselves up and figure out what to do next.
* * *
I spent the next two weeks in the woods, gathering whatever berries and leaves I saw animals eating, and catching whatever I could with my bare hands. It wasn’t easy, and I realized right away why the humans banded together in villages; it’s just easier to get along if you have someone else helping you with the work. The wizard knew that to, I think, except he decided to lock himself away in his keep and yell at the dead instead of dealing with other humans. Seemed smart to me at the time, but I didn’t think that way anymore. I started to get lonely like without anyone to talk to or look at. The dead didn’t talk to you, but at least they’d acknowledge you. Get out of your way like, or follow whatever orders you gave them. It let you knew that you were really there, and that the world had to react to you.
Of course all the little animals would get out of my way, too, but that didn’t do me any good. You can’t eat something you can’t catch, after all.
By the time the full moon sat high in the sky, I was ready to go back to the village. I was good and hungry, I was bored of hunting and gathering, and I figured that if I went too the village too often, they’d start to wait for me so they could ambush me, fair or no. Like the first time, I went in the middle of the day, after the sun was at its highest in the sky and it was starting to cool down some. I walked straight to the inn without talking to anyone, but I heard a lot of gasps and windows and doors slamming shut as I walked by. Word had gotten around about my last trip to town, it seemed.
When I got the inn, I threw the door open, and stood there for a minute just smiling. All the laughing and joking and shouting stopped instantly, and I walked up to the counter where the man and the girl from last time were both working serving their customers. I sat down at an empty seat and put my elbows up on the counter, waiting for the man to come and talk to me. He didn’t at first. Just stood there staring at me. But I locked eyes with him, and eventually he came over, even though he didn’t want to.
He stood in front of me for a second, as if he couldn’t decide what to say, and finally he just gave up and said, “What do you want?”
“You got any more of that roast meat from last time?”
“The beef? No. We have chicken tonight.”
“I’ll have that. And ale, if you got it.”
He frowned at that, his eyes narrowing in anger. “Of course I have ale,” he said. “What kind of–” He stopped mid-sentence, like he just remembered what had happened the last time I was around and he decided he didn’t want to make me angry.
I laughed. The silly human didn’t understand me at all. I hadn’t been angry at all last time. Annoyed, sure, but it all turned out to be a lot of good fun.
I turned around in my seat and looked around the bar. A lot of the others were whispering to each other, but they went silent and looked away when they saw me looking at them. I was amused by how scared they were of me, but at the same time, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be anyone to fight that night.
I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad. I got a good hot meal out of coming to town, but food alone will never be as good as food and a fight.
When I turned back around, there was a plate of food and a tankard of ale waiting for me. The chicken was good, like a meatier, juicer version of the birds I sometimes caught in the woods. I devoured the meal and pushed the plate away from me, enjoying having a full belly for the first time since I’d last been in the village. The girl came up to take the plate and put it in tub full of soapy water.
“Do you have money this time?” she asked. I was surprised to hear her speak. She was a small thing, not fully grown yet, with a thin body and light-colored hair. Her voice was high, and I realized that it was her who had screamed that I wasn’t hurting anyone when that human Ethan had started the fight with me.
“I don’t,” I said.
“Sweetheart, leave the… the fellow alone,” the paunchy man said.
I’d never heard the word “sweetheart” before. I looked at the man, then back at the girl and saw that they shared a lot of the same features. Same color hair, same color eyes. I figured they were related. Father-daughter, not that relationship meant anything to me at the time.
The girl ignored her father, and said, “Customers who can’t pay have to work off their bill. That’s the rule.”
I looked at the girl, considered her carefully. She wasn’t afraid of me the way everyone else in the village was. Maybe she was too young to be afraid of someone that looked as different from the rest of them as I did. Or maybe growing up working in an inn meant that she was used to all kinds of strange folk coming through the doors, and when you grow up with all kinds of people coming and going, one stranger’s pretty much the same as the next. “How do I do that?” I asked.
“You can help us with the dishes or help us mop the floors or wipe the down the counters. There’s always lots of things to do.”
I’d seen the dead mop the floors of the keep before after the wizard or I had killed an adventurer. It looked boring, but then, everything the skeletons and the rotting fellers did looked boring. But more than that, it had looked easy, and if pushing around a stick with bristles at the end was the cost of such a good meal, then that was more than fair.
“Alright,” I said. The girl smiled. Her father’s eyes went wide, not in fear, but out of surprise.
“Good!” she said.
She walked over to the corner of the inn where they kept the mop and the broom, and brought them over to me. I got to work, vaguely aware that the entire building was dead silent other than the sound of the girl humming to herself as she went about her own work.