Chapter Fifty-one – In which Ark is met with a turn of events he never for a moment could have imagined happening.
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I woke up in an unfamiliar room.

No, it was familiar, actually. I could smell the familiarity of it more than see it, since it was completely dark. It was the scent of Berry’s cave-hole. Was she taking care of me? I don’t think I was injured, but I won’t pass on a chance to get some tender loving care from Berry.

I rolled to my side and felt a body next to me. It took only a little feeling with my hand to realize the body was not that of a mother goblin.

“Diana?”

A smaller body than Berry cuddled up into my chest, and I just sighed in relief. She was safe after all. I put my arms around her protectively, and enjoyed a warm hug with my precious daughter.

I was under some kind of thick blanket or something, because I was not the least bit cold, and the bed I was lying on was incredibly soft. I planted a fatherly kiss on her head and just closed my eyes again.

I was home, safe.

When I opened my eyes next, it was to a familiar hand shoving me softly.

“Husband, wake.”

There was some torchlight in the room this time. Both Berry and Diana were there, Diana was snugly attached to me, and I got to see that there was some kind of black furry blanket covering me. Underneath me was a thick layer of straw, and Berry was just sitting down on the floor looking at me.

“Berry… I… did my best to keep her safe.”

“Husband…”

“What’s wrong?”

Berry had a worried look on her face.

“Husband… Sleep two full suns.”

“That explains why I’m starving.”

Berry shook her head.

“While Husband sleep… Something happen.”

“Don’t tell me someone got a fat belly? Was it Crow? Do I have a new daughter?”

Berry shook her head again, and the expression on her face became tighter.

“Then, did… the Great Protector decide to kill me?”

“What? No! Husband not die!”

I breathed a bit easier hearing that.

“Are all the goblins safe? Is Doll’s arm okay?”

“All goblins save… except Beast-talker.”

“Right. I knew that much. The Great Protector couldn't do anything for her either?”

“Too late save Beast-talker.” Berry said, but that didn’t seem like it was what was bothering her.

“What’s the problem then?”

“Other human name Stella…”

I felt my heart sink. She didn’t do anything wrong… all the goblins are fine according to Berry, so… did the Great Protector do something to her instead?

“Best Husband… see.”

I nodded.

I extracted myself from my comfortably hot-blooded daughter and found that I was wearing my underwear. Yep, Berry is the best. I’m all for skinship, but I’d like to appear decent when possible in front of my daughters. I just wish this one would call me daddy instead of Husband.

I got up and Berry gave me something to drink first to quench my thirst. It wasn’t blue, but red in color and it tasted just like red should taste, if not a little sweeter. She was putting the pots I made for her to good use already it seems. It wasn’t exactly a cup of coffee, but it would get the hamster spinning the wheel upstairs well enough.

Berry escorted me to the breeding room, where Vera was already waiting for me.

“Stella.”

Even Vera seemed worried about something. She beckoned me to follow her to the room Stella uses, and Berry kept by my side as well. The magic lamp should have run out of light without me to recharge it, so Vera had to have figured out how to use it on her own. She’s a really clever goblin where magic is concerned.

It wasn’t a long walk from the entrance of the breeding room to my room in the northwest corner to find Stella hiding away under her large rag once more.

Vera had reached for it and pulled it back slightly.

What I saw… wasn’t Stella. But at the same time, I knew it couldn’t be anyone else.

“What the fuck happened?”

Stella… my only human companion… had been affected by something.

“Goblin.”

Vera said a single word so bluntly, I felt my knees give out.

Stella’s skin had taken on a green hue.

“Happen after Husband return. Slow change, but… she…” Berry didn’t have an idea how to explain it either.

“The Great Protector… did it… do this to her?”

“No. Great Protector no come. Tell Prima since Husband show care, rescue goblins, leave human for Prima watch. Prima agree, think Husband not have problem seed-stick if human stay.”

Vera stood in front of me and put my hand on her belly.

“Goblin.”

And then she took my hand and pointed at Stella.

“Wait. Wait wait wait… Vera… you aren’t saying she’s got a goblin strong one in there?”

Vera nodded.

“Know.”

I reeled.

“There’s no way that’s possible. Both Stella and I are humans!”

I had pushed Vera out of the way, but not in a harmful or dismissive way. I crawled over to Stella and hugged her.

“Stella? It’s me. Are you awake?”

I didn’t notice it immediately, but she was no longer bound by any ropes. She…

Stella rolled over.

“Ark…”

She wasn’t hideous in any way from the transformation, And it was just a few things that changed overall. Mostly her green skin, her ears became a bit more pointed and jutted out of her head to the side like most goblins but still had a tinge of her human color. Lastly, her eye color had changed dramatically–to the greenish golden color that the others had. She also still had her human teeth.

“Stella. You’ll be okay. I promise.”

“...leave me be.”

Stella rolled over and covered back up with the large rag once more.

Vera stood protectively in front of her and pointed at the exit to the room.

“Alone.”

I sighed and nodded. My steps were like lead weights as I left Stella alone in her room. I walked to the bath, dropped my underwear and activated the heating rune panel, stepping inside to submerge my body and try to make sense of what was going on. Berry had also joined me.

“Goblins all talk. Stella goblin now, not need ropes. Also get own cave-hole. Free pick Beast-talker or Vera cave-hole…”

“She’s a human, Berry.”

“Berry… not know what do Husband. Not know what say.”

I leaned back, only my head from the chin up was still above water. I didn’t have the first idea of what to do either. Nothing but misfortune has befallen Stella, and I haven’t been able to protect her from a single thing.

“Stella change goblin… Listen Speak gob.”

“Are you saying Stella knows how to understand gob?”

“Yes.”

“Ugh.”

“Husband? Is bad Stella change goblin? Husband hate Stella not human?”

“You know I wouldn’t turn her away because she’s become a goblin… I just can’t begin to know what she’s feeling or thinking right now, Berry. I know that I couldn’t imagine being anything other than a human. She has a family, you know? A human mother and father… if they see what she’s become… they would probably kill her on sight. The little bit of hope she had been holding onto, of maybe one day escaping after all the horrible things she’s had to endure since being captured… It's gone now. She might… even try to kill herself.”

It was a feeling beyond misery. Was I somehow to blame for her misfortune even now? Berry had shifted the heavy topic since she wasn’t sure what kind of answer to give. Who can know what it’s like changing into another kind of being?

“Also other things goblins talk. All agree.”

“Which are?”

“Husband keep the promise not go forest, can go sun when want. Also, not need pick goblins at night. Husband only must give big seed when goblins ready more strong ones.”

I also changed the topic slightly. The good news I had received from Berry after seeing with my own eyes the bad news that affected Stella, I really was at a complete loss for what to do.

“Berry… why was I in our daughter’s room? Was it to keep me separated from Stella?”

Berry chuckled a little bit.

“Reward spend time with Husband. Keep say all goblins Husband why Diana Artemis strong hunter.”

“Little brat. Doesn’t she know it’s because she had such a wonderful and dedicated mother? I barely did anything! I ought to spank her.”

Berry leaned her head onto my shoulder.

“All Berry do teach how use poison and pick berry. Diana Artemis have sense for hunt. Husband… she strong because big seed is strong. No trick.”

I huffed.

“Strong? I didn’t kill a single one of those wolves, black-claws, whatever you call them.”

“Matter if Husband make last kill? Diana Artemis not make last kill black-bear, Husband treat same hunt bear alone.”

I deflated.

“Berry. Please let me bury my face in your chest.”

She giggled.

“Husband milkies.”

I was smothered by a soft pair of breasts and hated the fact that as a man this was all I needed to escape from the reality others couldn’t. I don’t know what it is that I will be able to do for Stella in the future, but I will not forsake her. If she wants to run… then I will help her. I’ll even consider going with her and do my best to protect her until we find my mother. Surely… she must have a way of undoing this… curse.

While Stella was suffering, I was being pleasured by the delights of my sweet-scented goblin wife. I was becoming hopeless. No, I was already hopeless from the moment Prima forced herself on me near a month ago. These girls were everything to me, and they were my family now. While I had a much larger emotional attachment to my progeny, I never rejected a single one of these goblins I’m making a large family with.

“Berry… if you were a human, you’d be a saint.”

“What saint?”

“They are people who can heal injuries with the magic of the gods and even bring the dead back to life.”

“But Berry hunt with poisons?”

“And yet, you are what cures my poisons.”

I filled my sweet Berry up with as much seed as she could take and felt the euphoric state of it calm me down completely. There was nothing I could do right now, but I would fix that, I swore. Whether Stella chose to stay here in this room with me, or if she wanted her own cave-hole, whatever she needed me to do for her to keep her humanity, I would do. I would be atoning for a long, long time.

I had a few things to do now, the most important of which was to see my other daughters. Orchid, Lilac, and Button. If Diana was any standard, I had to enjoy their youths quickly before they were strong hunters wanting their own rooms and taking me out to kill things like large black wolves as big as I was.

I’d rather not have to do that again…

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