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The Adventures of Mochaki – Chapter V

 Read chapter IV at:

Chapter V

The camp was only a couple minutes’ walk outside the city, but was so well hidden in the dense undergrowth of the forest that Mochaki did not spot it until he took the final few steps past a bramble bush into the clearing. It was small, with an unlit campfire in the middle of the clearing and three small tents towards the edges. Mochaki stopped to look around, only to cower in fear as long spiderlegs skittered past his head, straight towards the tent on the right. Mochaki’s heart pounded painfully for a few more moments before he could straighten up again, only to see Reika smirking at him.

“You’ll get used to Lord Farleigh, kid. But if he does decide to eat you, I wouldn’t worry. He’s big enough to swallow you in one bite.”

“Reika!” Barret’s gruff voice was sharp with disapproval, but Reika shot him a wide smile before heading into the woods, flipping a dagger in her right hand.

“W-w-would he-”

“Lord Farleigh is harmless. I promise he does not eat goblin.”

At that, a new thought occurred to Mochaki.

“D-does he eat cookies?” Mochaki whispered.

Barret’s frown made him look bigger somehow, as if his large muscles were somehow tied to his eyebrows.

“You want to know if the giant spider eats cookies?”

“I know spiders like flies. I m-mean the small ones. Not the flies, the spiders. The small spiders that live in the farmhouse always eat flies.”

“Lord Farleigh eats whatever we eat. He’s not much of a hunter, but a pretty good cook. If you want to know something about him, you’d best ask Cat. She’ll have an answer for you.”

Mochaki nodded when it seemed like Barret was waiting for a response. Barret gave him a single quick nod, made a strange gesture with his hand and set off into the forest at a brisk pace. Mochaki waited until he was gone before he tried to make the same gesture, but only succeeded in accidentally poking himself in the eye.

Once the tears had stopped, he slowly approached the tent where he could hear high-pitched giggling from Cat. At the very least, he knew she was not in danger. Lord Farleigh had not taken her there to eat her. That made Mochaki feel brave enough to creep up to the entrance and lightly clear his throat.

“Come in!” Cat sang out.

Mochaki carefully pushed into the tent, eyes darting to locate the spider hanging from the ceiling above Cat. Cat seemed completely unconcerned by the fangs some inches from her head, focusing instead on piling sticks on top of each other.

“U-uh I h-h-have cookies.”

Mochaki could swear that the spider shared a meaningful look with the elf, but it was not one he understood.

“Mochi! Come play with us, I’ll teach you how!”

“I-it’s Mochaki-”

“Come on, you have no need to fear Lord Farleigh. He is very well behaved.”

Mochaki hesitated for a moment, only to have Cat jump up, grab him by the wrist and somehow gracefully sit back down while he sprawled onto the ground next to her.

“This is a game I was taught by some bored human children two towns back. You must retrieve a stick without disturbing any of the other sticks. The etchings here are point values, so if you pick up a stick with one line it is only worth one point. Alternatively you could pick up that stick with ten lines for ten points, but that one will be very difficult to move with all of the sticks piled on top of it.”

Mochaki’s head swam as the elf child jabbered away about the sticks. All of his senses were zoned in on the spider glaring at him from above. It was only when spots began dancing in his vision that he realised he was holding his breath. A giant gulp for air knocked several sticks off the pile.

“I do not think I have ever seen someone lose this game without ever touching a stick,” Cat was frowning at him. Her eyes darted from his to the spider and a small smile spread over her face. “Lord Farleigh, perhaps you would get dinner ready for us? I am so tired of those dried up packets Barret forces us to carry around.”

A moment later the tent sprang up, relieved to be free of the weight of the gigantic spider. Mochaki sympathised, his lungs inflating for the first time since entering the tent.

“Why did you come inside when you are so frightened of him?” Cat asked with a giggle.

Mochaki rubbed his face, it felt hot and uncomfortable.

“I wanted to offer him a cookie,” he responded glumly. “They are specially for meat eaters because they contain flies, mealworms and a little bit of sheep fat.”

Mochaki half expected the lively elf to laugh at him again, but instead he looked up to find her studying him with keen brown eyes. She opened her mouth but anything she would have said was drowned out by an eerie metallic screeching. Mochaki flattened his ears and assumed his best cower position, barely taking notice of Cat as she leaped out of the tent. He heard a low whoop, then silence, then another thunderous screech. The noise was terrible and angry! It felt like his ears were still ringing moments later when the sounds of battle penetrated Mochaki’s awareness. They were fighting?

Mochaki curled into a ball, his breath coming fast. They could handle it. Reika said she could kill even a dragon. Whatever was attacking them, Reika would take care of it. Even as Mochaki thought of this, doubt filtered through him. Reika had gone off somewhere, and Barret had followed. Mochaki did not know where Izenal had gone. What if it was just Cat and the spider out there? What if they were in danger? What if whatever killed them decided to come for him next?

Mochaki looked around wildly. There had not been a lot of time for Cat to take her weapons, but Mochaki could not spot anything useful around him, not even so much as a dagger. Another screech, then Mochaki’s blood went cold. Was that Cat screaming in pain?

Another moment of indecision, an angry huff and a stomp, and Mochaki grabbed the only thing he could see – a small stick with ten etchings on one end. His foot hovered for the briefest moment before he ran outside, wildly waving his stick in the air.

A moment passed, and another, before Mochaki opened his eyes. He stood alone in the camp his new party had made. There was no sign of Cat or Barret or even the big spider. Then more screams came from deeper in the forest. How had they gotten over there so fast?

Mochaki hated running. He hated the burning in his lungs and the stickiness of his skin as he pelted through the forest. But he was a goblin, and goblins were good at running.

It took him only a few moments to catch sight of… that. Mochaki halted and stared, unnoticed, at the creature. It was bigger than anything he had faced before. It had a long centipede-like body with ten limbs that were adorned with sharp serrated edges. A plume of greenish smoke seemed to emit from its body. Massive pincers were snapping at Barret’s head as he shouted at Reika.

“Can you gut it already?”

“Can’t! The poison is-” Reika’s voice cut off with a hacking cough.

Mochaki watched as the pincers dug into Barret’s thigh and tossed him against a nearby tree. The creature rubbed its back legs together and Mochaki fell to the ground clutching his ears. Up close the noise was nearly deafening. It felt like his ears would explode. It was a few moments before he could look up again. Lord Farleigh was curled into a twitching ball just outside of the green smoke. A few arrows flew from somewhere to the right. Two bounced harmlessly off the creature’s scales, and one lodged into gap between its hardened carapace. It writhed, releasing more smoke. Loud coughing came from behind it.

“Damn it Cat, stop shooting! I can’t get anywhere close.”

Mochaki was relieved to hear that Reika was still alive, as was Cat who seemed to be the one shooting. Barret still lay knocked out beneath the tree, a disconcerting pool of blood forming around him.

Mochaki shook his head and turned his focus to the creature. It looked… like an insect. It was far bigger than any insect had the right to be, but then so was Lord Farleigh. Mochaki did not know much about fighting, but he definitely new about insects.

Not only that, but he had just what he needed!

Mochaki dropped out of sight, took his bag and carefully felt around inside until… ah, there it was! Still as greasy as ever. He popped back up to watch Reika dodge a couple of heavy hits with the grace of a wildcat. She even took a moment to launch a couple of daggers at the creature, but it did not seem to make any real impact on it. A moment later a few more arrows peppered into it. Mochaki took a deep breath and made his way over to where the arrows were coming from.

He was almost next to Cat before he saw her. In fact, he only saw her when a sudden movement held an arrow tip right in his face.

“Mochaki? Don’t sneak up on me right now!”

“Cat, I-i-i.”

“Not the time, can you not see that I am fighting.”

“But I-”

“Move, goblin.”

Mochaki flattened his ears and spoke as loudly as he dared in the face of the angry elf, and with the monstrous creature behind him.

“I can help!”

When Cat did not immediately shoot him, Mochaki carefully opened his eyes and held out the handful of oily cookies. Cat stared, dumbfounded.

“These have a bunch of stuff bugs don’t like. Kebs made them, because he says the pests eat his cabbages. I don’t think they do, I think it was Vog who ate the cabbages, but the cookies are still good. Kebs thought some humans might lik-”

“Get to the point,” Cat snapped out.

“I-i-if you can get this in its mouth o-or the face, it might leave.”

Cat said a couple of words Mochaki did not recognize, but her tone made them sound like bad words. She grabbed the cookies, scrunched up her nose at the smell and scraped them over the tip of the arrow. They left behind a pungent oily coating which even Mochaki had a hard time stomaching.

Then Cat pushed him to the side, took careful aim, and shot.

The arrow did not quite reach the small mouth lodged between the pincers, but instead seemed to embed itself in some kind of gland just above the mouth. The reaction was instantaneous.

The monster screeched and writhed. It’s pincers snapped wildly as it backed into the trees. It shook its head, but the arrow clung. A few moments later it began jumping. The earth shook as it slammed from tree to tree, desperate to outrun the smell of the cookies. It left a trail of destruction and green smoke as it went.

Once it was out of the immediate area, Mochaki and Cat raced over to where the battle had taken place. Cat rushed to Lord Farleigh’s side even as Mochaki skidded to a halt next to Barret. There was a lot of blood. In a blind panic, Mochaki grabbed a couple of leaves and pressed them to the ugly gash on Barret’s thigh. A moment later big, warm hands covered his. Mochaki glanced up to find Reika giving him a quick, tight smile.

“I got him, kid. Shove off before you give him a rash or something.”

Despite her tone, she very gently pushed Mochaki out of the way as she took over. Mochaki watched her for a moment, keenly aware of her shallow breaths and trembling hands. Humans could not hide fear any better than goblins could. Reika was afraid for Barret.

Mochaki glanced over at Cat, to find that Lord Farleigh had gotten onto his feet and was being hugged fiercely by the elf. Mochaki shuddered at the thought of hugging the spider.

“Damn it, Izenal. Where are you?” Mochaki hopped at Reika’s sudden shout. He backed away a couple of steps, and noticed Izenal’s glowing red eyes appear from the bushes to his left. The tall rock-like person walked over to them calmly, crouched down next to Barret and murmured something in a low voice. Moments later pale yellow light seemed to siphon from his hand into Barret’s wound, slowly stitching the gash back together. Barret’s eyes fluttered open moments after.

“That hurt,” Barret groaned. Reika punched him on the shoulder, and he groaned some more.

“What were you thinking? I am not babysitting Cat if you get yourself killed!”

Cat’s indignant retort was cut off by Barret’s hoarse chuckle.

“I wouldn’t dare die and leave Cat with you, Rei,” Barret responded. Mochaki expected Reika to punch him again, but instead she made a quick loud sound that could have been a laugh.

“Anyone else lose some blood, or just me?” Barret asked, his eyes already trailing from Reika to Izenal, and then to Cat behind them.

“Just you, Barret. The rest of us know how to dodge,” Cat called.

“Dodge my foot,” he muttered. “You just use me as bait. I’m getting too old for this. Did you manage to kill it?”

Barret slowly pushed himself up as he spoke.

“Didn’t kill it. The beast just ran off. Maybe one of Cat’s arrows hit hard.”

“Actually,” Cat corrected Reika. “It was Mochaki who scared it off.”

Mochaki froze, his body felt weighed down when several pairs of eyes suddenly trained on him. With a nervous squeak he took a couple of steps back. Barret was the first to turn his attention to Cat.

“Mochaki did?” He did a poor job of hiding his disbelief.

Cat giggled, then launched into a description of Kebs’ cookies. By the end of her theatrical explanation, even Izenal was cracking a smile.

“Your cookies are that terrible, kid?” Reika snorted when they were all done laughing.

Mochaki stiffened. They had no right to judge the cookies Kebs had put so much effort into. Kebs was good at keeping pests away from the clan. Sure the cookies did not smell great, but one bite would drive away anything from fleas to small rodents.

“Don’t give him a hard time,” Barret scolded. “Those cookies very well saved our lives. Thanks, Mochaki. Just… don’t give those particular cookies to anyone for eating.”

Barret’s gratitude helped soothe Mochaki’s anger. The cookies were helpful. Someday, he would tell Kebs that his cookies could literally save a life. The old goblin would probably appreciate that. The thought sent a pang of homesickness through Mochaki. Right now, the clan was probably gathered together, devouring whatever they managed to hunt for the day. A couple of the warriors would be sparring around the fire, and Akta would be telling the younger goblins all kinds of stories. Mochaki missed the noise and the smells of his clan.

“Barret,” Izenal’s voice was soft, but everyone around him quietened. To Mochaki it felt like the expectant silence that came before the elders addressed the clan. “I have found something… unnatural. I believe what we just faced does not belong here. Please follow me.”

Mochaki looked at Barret. Moments before he had been smiling, glad to know his team had survived the fight. Now, he had a grave look on his face. He nodded at Izenal, shared a look with Reika that Mochaki could not unravel, and allowed Izenal to take the lead. Mochaki watched the team fall into step. They moved quietly, in a practiced manner, as if they had done it a thousand times before. Still unnerved by the sudden weighted silence, Mochaki found himself hesitant to follow. If they could laugh after facing a monster like that, he was afraid of whatever could make them all look so tense. Mochaki stood until they were almost out of sight. Almost. Then he trailed after his new party.

Read the next chapter at: 

Begin Your Adventure

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