It was a beautiful morning. The sky was deep blue and the sun shone down pleasantly.
The door splinted inwards and the Goblin Chieftain charged into the inn. Erin stood up and grabbed a chair.
The Chieftain grinned as he spotted her. He glanced at the chair Erin was holding and then dismissed it. His eyes lingered on Erin. Her face, her body—she didn’t like the way he was looking at her.
She hesitated. The chair was in her hands.
“I don’t want to hurt—”
The Goblin Chieftain roared and charged Erin. He crashed into her and she smashed through the table behind her. The chair she was holding flew out of her hands. She felt something in her body crack.
The Goblin drew his sword. Erin lay on the ground gaping like a fish. He swung down. She rolled left and the sword splintered the floorboards.
Away. Erin threw herself over another table and felt the sword miss her by centimeters. She picked up a chair and hurled it at the Goblin. He swatted it down with one armored hand contemptuously.
The table was between them. Erin tensed to dodge left or right but the Chieftain grabbed the table and pushed. He rammed the heavy table into Erin’s midsection like a cannonball and then flipped the table.
A wall of wood came up and crashed down on her. Erin lay under the table, stunned, until she felt a thick hand grab her by one ankle and drag her out.
The Goblin pulled Erin from under the table and laughed at her. She lay on her back, eyes unfocused. He pulled aside his loincloth and pulled her towards him. Erin looked up at him and felt horror beating in her chest. He bent down to rip her clothes off—
She kicked up, right at his groin with all her strength.
The Goblin caught her leg easily. He grinned at her again. With his other hand he grabbed her leg—
Erin sat up. Her legs were caught, but her hands weren’t. She punched the dangling target right between the Goblin’s legs.
He roared and threw her away. Erin tumbled over and got to her feet. He was clutching at his private parts. She grabbed a chair and this time she didn’t hesitate.
Erin brought the chair down on the Goblin’s head with a heavy thump. Once. Twice. Then the Goblin punched at her.
She saw the punch coming and tried to block with the chair. The Goblin’s fist smashed through the wood and knocked Erin off her feet again. She got up and felt her mouth filling with blood.
The Chieftain roared and picked up his sword. Erin scrambled away. She was near the kitchen. She dashed inside and slammed the door shut.
There. The pot was sitting over the fire, and black smoke was coming out of the lid. Erin reached for it and felt the burning heat. Gloves. There was a rolling pin on the counter but no gloves or oven mitts. Where were—
The door exploded inwards with a terrific crash. Erin turned and saw the Goblin Chieftain. He charged at her.
She ducked. The sword whistled through the air and struck the wall. The impact jarred the blade out of the Goblin’s hands as he shouted something guttural at Erin. She smashed him in the face with a rolling pin.
His nose broke. Erin felt it break but she lifted the rolling pin and hit him again. Hit him. She had to hit him while he was unarmed. Hit him. Hit—
Something heavy hit Erin in the midriff and pushed her back. She stumbled back a bit and regained her footing. Something was weighing her down though. Something was…Erin looked down.
A knife was sticking out of her stomach, just above her waist. It was too far on the left side. It wasn’t symmetrical. And it was in her. In her.
Erin tugged at the knife. It was stuck. She pulled and felt—the skin around her stomach tried to pull itself out with the knife. She clenched her stomach muscles and pulled—
The knife came out with another terrible tearing of flesh. Erin stared at the blood on the blade. She dropped it and the knife fell with a heavy thump on the ground. It should have clattered.
Blood. It was running from her stomach. Erin held her hand over the wound and tried to make it stop. But she was bleeding now, faster and faster. And the Goblin Chief was getting up.
Erin wasn’t making any words. It was just a half-choked scream. She stumbled towards the fireplace, pain tearing up her insides with each step.
Smoke billowed from the pot. The contents boiled and spat at her. There was no time for gloves. She grabbed the pot by the handles.
The metal burned her. Erin screamed as her hands blistered and the skin burned away. The pain was unbearable. But she held the pot and turned.
The Chieftain was on his feet. He snarled at her through his broken nose and bloody face. He had the kitchen knife in his hands. He lunged at her.
Erin tossed the contents of the pot at the Goblin Chieftain. The boiling oil splashed the Goblin’s face and ran down his chest.
He screamed. The Chieftain dropped the kitchen knife and screamed so loud Erin went deaf. She dropped the cooking pot and stumbled away from him.
She held her shaking hands out. Already her skin was burnt black and white in places. Large blisters were already forming out of her ruined skin. But it was only half. Only half of the pain in the world.
The Goblin Chieftain clawed at his face and sank to the floor. He was screaming still, but the sound he made was so very small. She heard him choking. Screaming quietly in agony. She understood. There wasn’t enough sound in the world to convey it all, and the screaming would make the pain worse. But still he had to scream so he did it quietly.
Erin sat on the ground and stared at him. She was bleeding. The wound in her stomach bled without stopping. But her hands—
They weren’t the same. And the agony of both was too much to bear. So Erin forgot the pain. She stared at the Chieftain as he lay on the floor. He was smoking.
Parts of his face were sloughing off. The boiling oil had…melted him. But he was still alive. But he was dying.
Erin heard him breathing. Short, sharp bursts and whimpered pain. He lay on the ground and did not move. The fight was over. She’d won.
Slowly, Erin began to cry.
The girl sits in the ruined kitchen with the Goblin. Both are silent. One is dying. The other is dead inside.
A haze of burned smoke fills the room. The smell of burnt flesh fills the air. Oil mixes with blood and flesh on the floor.
Eventually, the girl moves. Slowly, so slowly, she stands. Staggering, clutching at the hole in her stomach she walks over to a large cloth bag filled with food. She picks up a kitchen knife lying on the ground.
She takes the knife and slices the bag apart. The pain as she tightens the bandage over her stomach nearly makes her faint. Her fingers and palms bleed clear liquid and the world grows black. But she grips the bandage tightly and ties the knot.
Then she looks behind her.
A dark shape lies on the floor, burning. Steam rises from melted flesh. The odor of cooked meat hangs heavy in the air. A dark shape lies on the floor. It moves slightly as it breathes in and out in labored breaths.
The girl goes to sit down next to it. The oil is still hot, but she doesn’t care. She sits with the Goblin and stares into its ruined face. Does he stare back? Only she knows.
A dark shape lies on the floor. The girl sits with it and waits. In time, the breathing stops.
A warm sun shines down from blue skies through one window in the kitchen. It is not midday yet, and a cool breath comes down from the mountains.
The world is silent.
The girl sits back against one wall and closes her eyes. Her blood drips to the floor.
[Innkeeper Level 9!]
[Skill – Tavern Brawling obtained!]
[Skill – Unerring Throw obtained!]