Diary. This is the part where I really started to understand the hue-men. That’s what the Updwellers call themselves I learned. I think it’s because they come in so many hues. When I was there I saw pink ones and brown ones and...well, that’s all, but I bet they come in other colors. Maybe some of them are ordinary green like me. I hope so.
I found out lots of stuff about them around that time and yet I’m still a might confused about most of what they do and what they say. One hue-man can be as kind as your own mother on Gashwhisker day and another could be more ornery and dangerous than a mondohusk with a sore tooth. The worst part is you can never tell which is which until it’s too late.
Anyway, there I was in the forest shooting my mouth off at the girls. I said before, I just couldn’t help myself to hear them disparage goblinkind like that. I know it was just a story. Updwellers probably know as little about us as we do about them, but it still got me all riled.
Red was the first to speak up, “Ker! don’t be rude.” she said, “It’s probably just a girl from one of the other campsites that got lost.”
The adult hue-man, or maybe it’s hue-woman, looked up at me through the fire. I could tell the light was in her eyes by the way she held her hand over her face to get a better look at me.
“It’s okay, honey.” she said, “Are you lost?”
Red stood up and walked over to me. It was too late for me to dive back into the brush, so I stood there gape jawed. Her eyebrows got all scrunched up when she was close, but she didn’t say anything. The light from their fire made it hard for me to see just like how the darkness made it hard on them. With red up close to me in the shadows I could make her out more clearly. Her skin was a light pink color and her face had little brown dots on it. She had hair the color of sand and her eyes were covered in a weird little mask. It was no good at hiding her face. It was just a hard little frame that rested on her nose and ears. The eye holes were covered in thin stone- so thin that I could see right through them like they were made of water. More Updweller magic, I reckon. They eyes behind them were a grayish-blue color, not a normal color like red, yellow, or even green.
She walked right up to my face and held out her hand. It held one of those meat tubes wrapped in a thicker, beige tube that almost looked like a rolled-up mushroom.
“Are you hungry?” asked Red.
I grabbed that tube and shoved it into my face hole faster than wingtooth snatching up a korbi chick. I almost swallowed it whole. The dang thing was so soft it barely warranted any chewing.
“I guess we answered that question.” said Red, smiling. “I’m Red, what’s your name?”
“Wa-Wartha.” I croaked. I almost forgot how to speak, being on my own all those days.
The hue-woman stood up and said, “Miri and Red, why don’t you girls take Wartha back to her camp? I’m sure her troop-leader is worried sick.” She handed yet another tube to Miri who stood up and walked right over to Red and me.
“Do you know which way it is?” she asked as she held the tube out in front of me. She clicked on something with her thumb and a cone of light spat out of the end of it almost as bright as the sun.
“Gah!” I yelled and covered my face. I was afraid that if they got a good look at me they’d know I wasn’t really like them at all.
Red stood between me and Miri and said, “Jeez Mir, you’ll blind her like that! Her eyes aren’t used to the light after walking around in the dark.” She had no idea how right she was.
“Oh sorry!” said Miri as she turned her magical cone of light toward the forest. “This way, right? I remember passing the other troop on the way in. We can find it.”
“Be sure you stick together, girls, and come right back here!” said the big one as the two hue-girls led me off into the forest.
We got a ways into the forest. Miri led and Red and I hung back a ways.
“It’s ok,” said Red quietly to me, “I know what you are and we won’t hurt you.”
I looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“You’re a goblin, aren’t you? Like in the story? My dad told me all about you. He said you don’t hurt kids and that you really live underground. Is that true?”
I nodded my head in silence.
“I knew it. You’re safe with me. Are we going the right way to get to your cave?”
“No,” I whispered back to her, “but that’s ok. I’m not going to my cave.”
“I can hear everything you guys are saying.” said Miri from about ten feet ahead.
“No you can’t!” said Red.
“Uh-huh. You called her a goblin and she didn’t say anything but she must have nodded because you said, ‘I knew it.' Then you told her she was safe with you. Jeez Red, you don’t whisper very soft.”
“Miri,” said Red, “you promise not to tell anyone, right?”
“Are you kidding me?” Miri said, “She’s a Woods Girl, just like us. Even if she’s not hue-man. We take care of each other.”
Miri slowed down a bit and Red and I caught up with her. She shined the flashlight on me, but not directly in my face. Her eyes got as big as soup-bowls when she saw my green skin and big pointy ears.
“Oh wow.” she said, “You truly are a goblin! You’re for real!”
“It’s ok,” said Red, “She’s friendly and she’s a Woods Girl. Let’s get her home.”
“I’m not going home.” I said, “ I just need to get back to my...friend.”
“We can take you to your friend.” Red said
I wasn’t so keen on that. They already flipped out the first time they saw Drucilla.
“Maybe I should go the rest of the way alone so you girls don’t get lost.”
“No way.” said Miri, “There’s a giant cockroach running around in the forest. We saw it!”
I realized then that I couldn’t be secretive with these girls anymore.
“Miri, Red,” I said, “do you promise not to scream if I show you something.”
“Yes, Girl’s honor!” they said in unison.
“Ok. Stand right there.” I said and I stepped further into the woods a bit and whistled.
Silent as a stalactite Drucilla crept out of the trees, the leash still around her from when I tied her up.
“Oh my God!” gasped Miri. Red didn’t say anything, but she stared at Dru like she was a shadewolf with two heads.
“This is Drucilla, my spider mount.” I told them, “She didn’t mean to scare you earlier, she was just curious.” It was a little bit of a lie, but not too much.
“Hi Drucilla.” said Red and she held out her hand for a second but thought better of it. “Does she bite?”
“No.” I told her, “Even if she did her venom sacs were removed when she was a pupa.”
“I don’t really like, bugs.” said Miri. “No offense. They just gross me out a little.”
I was about to correct her on the difference between insects and arachnids, but then Red said, “Actually, she’s kind of cute! Very fluffy. Can I pet her?”
“Sure!” I said, leading Dru toward the girls on her leash. “She likes it best right in the middle of her thorax.”
Both girls tentatively rubbed Dru’s back with their hands. Miri looked away and scrunched up her nose like she was putting her hand in a pile of sick, but she was a good sport about it.
“Oh wow,” she said, “It’s actually soft and warm. Like a puppy.”
“What’s a puppy?” I asked and they both laughed out loud.
“It’s like a-” started Red, but she stopped in mid sentence when she noticed light coming up from their camp. “Oh crap!” she said, “Looks like they sent someone else after us. It’s probably Ker! You should probably go. She CANNOT keep a secret.”
I hopped on top of Drucilla and unfastened her leash from the tree.
“Thank you so much for being so kind to me.” I said to them. “Here.” I reached into my pouches and pulled out two nightraptor feathers. They were nearly as long as my forearm.
“They’re beautiful!” said Red. She took one and handed the other to Miri. “I love how they sparkle in the flashlight!”
“RED! MIRI? Where are you?” came the voice of Ker from the woods.
“Goodbye friends!” I said, “May the Dark Hob look over you!”
“Bye Wartha!” they said together. Dru and I slipped off into the night before Ker came close.