After being worn down from pushing my daughters for what felt like half a day, I took a small break, and went back inside goblin-home and to my room. Vera was in the bath together with Stella, who had finally come out from under the large rag in her room. I decided to join them, and hopefully see how she was doing. For a while, we were all soaking quietly without saying anything, until Stella asked me an unfair question.
“Ark, did… you do this to me?”
“If I could do something like that, which would require magic of the highest level, I wouldn’t be as afraid of the Great Protector as I am.”
Stella took a deep breath and spoke again.
“I… don’t want to be a goblin. I’m a human!”
“I know. I know you are, Stella. No matter what changes happen, you are a human.”
I imagine it was overdue. As a fellow human, she was breaking down right in front of me. She held her arms out, as if to show me I was full of shit in saying that she was human, when her hands were green and her fingers had already become pointed like the other goblins.
I waded through the bath to her side, and held her close to me.
“Even if you turn a little green, you’re still a beautiful woman. A beautiful human woman to me, Stella.”
“Ark… I… can’t ever go home.”
“Then stay here. I know I’m not a rich muscular adventurer, but I swear I’ll give you as luxurious a life as I can. Who knows, maybe it’s a temporary thing?”
“We’ll ask the Great Protector when it comes back. That thing has to know some serious magic. Maybe it can undo… whatever happened? But until then, everyone here has already accepted you. Look, are you even bound with ropes anymore?”
“Hah! Where can a goblin run to? A human village? I’d be killed before I could even tell them what happened! And even if someone were willing to hear me out, they’d think this was a curse that could spread… where else can I go, Ark?”
Vera had waded over to Stella’s other side, giving her a hug together with me.
“See, you aren’t alone. And I won’t treat you any differently. These girls have welcomed you into the tribe already. There’s only you who needs to accept what you can of the situation for now. But I need you, Stella. I need you more than ever.”
“Why? You’ve never needed me. I just… tagged along with you and Kairos. Now I’m even more useless having become… this!”
“I need you precisely because you are human. I want you to help me show these goblins how to live in a civilized way. I want to make this tribe strong. To be far more than the greedy murderous goblins we were told they are. I know you’ve seen it… you were not shunned by a single one of them when Truffle gave birth. And aside from what I did to you, have you been harmed in any way by any goblin here?”
“No. Just by me. I can’t change what has happened to your body, but for anything other than that, anything, just ask me, and I’ll do it for you, okay?”
Stella lowered her head to stare into the water.
“I can feel it, Ark. The… life inside of me, growing. Ever since… this started. My hearing is better, I can see clearly in the dark, I… don’t have the stomach for cooked meat anymore.”
“Even if that’s the case, you are still Stella. I won’t abandon you.”
“Together.” Vera said, continuing to cling tightly to my formerly human companion.
“And this one… keeps saying that I’m going to have a goblin baby. I… saw what happened with that other girl. This thing is going to eventually claw its way out of me. My body is going to be completely ruined! More than it already is!”
“Stop calling me that! Stella died, Ark! All that’s left of her… is this… nameless and cursed body.”
Vera gave me a pleading look to give Stella some space again. I nodded and got out of the bath. In fact, I left the breeding room entirely and went looking for Berry again, who was stirring the contents of one of the pots I made for her that she had on the new countertop in her cave-hole.
“Berry… can I borrow you for a moment?”
“Yes. What Husband need?”
“Can… you show me to Beast-talker’s cave-hole?”
Berry took my hand and led me deep into the cave that was goblin-home. It was probably the furthest I’ve ever walked into the depths of the cave. I was brought to a cave-hole that was littered with animal skins and bone-things which were obviously made by Ivory. It was just a normal looking room with the usual things a goblin tended to have, when compared to what I’d seen of the others’ so far.
“This… is going to be Stella’s cave-hole. I’m going to make it… suitable for her. For a human.”
Berry hugged me from behind, her soft goblin mounds pushing into my back.
“I… can’t do anything for her, Berry. I know… you and Vera have been doing your best, but I also don’t know what to do. I don’t… know what it means to be a woman or a goblin.”
“Husband want Berry talk Stella again?”
“Only if you think there’s something you can say to her that might make a difference.”
“Berry think. Husband make human cave-hole?”
“It’s… the only thing I can think of doing for her. When I’m done here, I’m going to spend the night with Lily.”
“Want Berry stay Husband?”
I turned around and put her hand on my chest over my heart.
“Berry, you are always with me here, in my heart.”
“Mm, heart tasty. Tasty like liver, more bloody.”
Ah, she’s a goblin of the bloody meat faction, of course she would see that platitude in that way.
“I’m sure you are busy doing things. Maybe… you could come check on me with something to drink in a little while?”
“Want blue water?”
“I’d rather have more of that red water you gave me.”
With a warm hug and another affectionate kiss on the top of her head, my sweet smelling Berry left me be, to stew in anxious thoughts and to work them out by reshaping a cave-hole good enough for a human-turned-goblin to want to live in.
I locked my fingers together and let them pop. It was time to get started.
~~** Interlude | Jewel’s Room **~~
“We need to do something for Husband.”
Inside of Jewel’s room, all the goblins except Old One, Vera, and the newest, Stella, were present: Jewel, Prima, Lily, Pear, Ivory, Truffle, Doll, Pear, Toy, Pepper, and Crow. Berry was also there, as she had rounded up everyone at first to explain what was going on.
“The human named Stella, who has become a goblin… Husband says he does not know how to care for her. He wishes to, but…”
“Obviously.” Prima interrupted with arms crossed. “Can you imagine becoming a human? Who can understand what she is feeling?”
“I can,” Truffle added. “I had a dream that I was a human once.”
“Don’t you mean a mushroom?” Doll joked.
“This is why… we need to show her the goblin way.” Berry redirected constructively. “Is there any goblin here who hates being a goblin?”
Not a single one present did. All of the goblin tribe were proud to be goblins.
“What we need to do is find a way to show her that being a goblin is better than being human.”
“How are we going to do that?” Pear asked.
“What do goblins do?” Berry asked everyone.
“Find things.” Crow said.
“Fill our cave-holes with shiny things we like.” Jewel added.
“Make many strong ones.” Lily followed up.
“Eat bloody meat.” Was the response from Doll.
“Hunt.” Prima joined in.
“Waste Seed with Husband?” Pear had said the most obvious thing, but every goblin was aware it was also the most enjoyable.
“Husband wants Stella to take Beast-talker’s cave-hole. He’s in there now changing it to be a cave-hole made for a human to live in. I… didn’t know what to say to stop him. But all the things you say goblins do, we do. Now that she looks more like a goblin than a human, we must show her what it is that Bloodmaw Goblins do. If she is a goblin, then she will understand. Prima, remember what Husband said about him not being able to eat bloody meat without getting sick? You saw her eat the bloody leg of both the black-bear and the Black-claw. She didn’t get sick.
“It’s true. Lily even tried eating bloody Black-claw meat. I felt sick eating it and had to make it into fire-meat.” the runt of the tribe mentioned.
“Does that mean Lily will become human?” Truffle asked while playing strike with Button who was also present and sitting in front of her.
“Lily is still a goblin!” she answered angrily.
“It’s Husband.” Jewel interjected.
“What do you mean?” Ivory asked.
“After getting big seed from Husband… All of us have been experiencing new changes happen to our bodies. Prima has gotten better at hunting. I have gotten smarter. Lily eats fire-meat. Doll chops trees better…” Jewel began explaining.
“Then… Do you think it is Husband’s big seed that made Stella into a goblin?” Berry rationalized.
“It might not be Husband’s big seed. It’s possible that it’s because of the strong ones inside. Berry, what changed in you?”
“I don’t feel sick or tired so much anymore. I’m always full of energy” Berry replied to Jewel.
“I smell things way better.” Pear revealed.
“And we know Vera has gained magic.” Jewel finalized.
“We can’t let Husband know that his big seed is responsible for turning her into a goblin.” Berry nervously stated. “Husband might try and escape with Stella, try to find other humans with strong magic to change her back to human.”
All goblins present then decided to keep it a secret from Husband. They decided to plan out how best to integrate Stella into the tribe. Whether it be taking turns bringing her on hunts, helping her collect things she found a liking to and putting them in her new cave-hole, and most importantly, promoting the idea of wanting to have as many strong ones with Husband as possible. Vera, who was not present, had suggested one-sidedly when the changes began, that they leave her alone… but Berry felt they had to do the opposite. To make Stella feel like part of the goblin tribe.
The plan wouldn’t go into action for another two days…