The Story of Olivier Part III

VI

Retaliation for what I had done never came from Alteng. My own mental anguish was enough for a thousand slashings from my nephew. I went back to hiding for a couple of days. I remember hearing the distant sounds of the activities of the other Kobolds. Alteng knew where I hid myself, but he only came once to harass me with his pain. I am unsure why he did not continue each day. Maybe, I did not cry out or plea with him enough through the torture that day. I really no longer cared what pain I felt or what he did to me. I hardly felt any of it over the new wound I had received. I wanted nothing to do with comfort either. I did not even visit Alteng as he slept. I did not seek him to sign my contract. I wanted nothing to do with the voices of the others as they milled around with their daily lives. I wanted only my own company and pity.

I only sat in a corner curled into a ball and thinking. I thought on all my failures. It seemed so hopeless to try and accomplish what I was sent here for. How could Alteng ever forgive me. I knew Alteng would no longer heed my pleas, not that he did anyway. Yet, I knew I had to do what I came here for. If he signed the contract without his heart in it, would the authorities grant me oblivion? After all, there would be no one in life or death who wanted to meet with me again. A smile tweaked my lips at the thought. Is not oblivion what I wanted in the first place? I had no dreams of pleasantry or what my brother had.

So, with a bit more determination, I pushed myself out of inaction and forced myself to approach Alteng again with the contract.. I just had to get him to yield like I did the others. So, I came to him whether he was alone or not. Sometimes, I suffered greatly. Other times, he only growled for me to leave, then hunted me down later. I guess I should have been more persistent at these times, but I could not bring myself to cause him more pain in front of his friends.

I met the female he was so fond of. Her name was Ther, and she smelled pleasantly of the kitchen. I could just imagine the meats and herbs that would be for dinner by her scent. My mouth watered and my aching stomach reminded me of the eternal hunger I felt. She was startled by my sudden presence for the first time, but she held no great fear of me like I had expected. I was rather grateful to come into Alteng's presence when she was around, because he would not physically attack me. He would just yell at me without cursing, but I was good at ignoring him. I could talk to her, and she would respond kindly. The pain was less when I was around her and the weight fell from my shoulders. It made me laugh out of turn. I had the strong feeling that Alteng did not like this at all. And, there were times that the hook found its way secretly sunk into my back. I don't think that she knew of his violence, because her laughter and talk continued on normally as the pain sunk into me. I tried not let on the hurt, and when it became impossible to hold it any longer, I would bow stiffly to her and return to my hiding. My nephew would find me later and make me pay for my indiscretion.

While I spent some time healing from one of Alteng's many attacks, I felt a strong pull that brought me back to my unsteady feet. Not exactly understanding why I followed where I was led.

The force took me above ground. Although I was not in full possession of my senses as I had been in life, I knew this and enjoyed it greatly. I could not feel the breeze on my face or the warmth of the sun upon my shoulders, but the smell of the grass and flowers filled me. The freshness of the air seemed to lift me out of a cold cellar. Birds sang in the distance. The rustle of the leaves in the trees made me smile. I was always like this when I was on my own. I spent as much time as I could outside in the sun during the warm months. It was almost like warm hands caressing my face. Hunting and exploring was so much easier. It seemed like I did not have to concentrate so hard upon where things were and I did not stumble as much.

As my feet took me forward, I had to think why was this happening. If I was to get Alteng's signature, how could traveling from the mines help me or make any sense? I cocked my head and stopped in my tracks. I had no one I could ask but my nephew. The pull tugged at me, so I continued forward. As my feet took one step after the other on their own accord, I turned my senses upon the spirit of Alteng, and I soon found my answer.

I came before him, yet I was still outside the caverns. What a strange being my nephew was to wander into the dreaded outside world and so far away. He was not driven out by the others. He did not need to leave the mines to do his hunting. There was enough life within the caverns to sustain the family there. I had no choice but flee to Tönnin. Once I was established there, I never traveled more than a mile from home.

"What are you doing?" I asked rather cheerfully in hopes of learning something new. "Are you not afraid to be so far from home?"

He gave a cry startled. The hook sunk deep around my collar bone and yanked me forward. "What are you doing away from the mines?" He demanded.

"I am not cursed to a place. I am cursed to you. Where you go, I go," I answered quickly and suddenly. I blinked a moment. I had realized the answer to my question of this mystery. "Besides, what does Preetz means to me without you there. I've never been here before, and I died in Tönnin."

I should have recognized that growl that came from his throat as a foreshadow of what was to come. A flurry of blows sliced into me. Yet, no matter how incapacitated he made me, he could not leave me behind. The pull tugged at my reluctant, hurting being, and I submitted without argument. He had put a few more miles between Preetz and himself. I found him on the back of a wagon heading away from where he called home.

My presence in the straw caused several negative reactions. Alteng called me several unpleasant names I did not quite understand. The horse that pulled the wagon brayed loudly. The wagon jerked violently. The driver cursed wildly. No matter the hustle or the commands the driver did, it did not save us. A loud snap cracked the air. Alteng fell backwards into the straw. The wagon soon crashed to a sudden stop.

Only a few moments passed for my nephew to resurface from the straw. He cursed loudly and grabbed me around the neck with his hand. He thrust me from the wagon with force and another curse. The fall would have hurt if I had been solid. He jumped down after me. Taking the hook, he jabbed it into my back. He ran off into the woods off from the road. He did not take the time to investigate whether the driver was alive or not. He only painfully dragged me into the woods. The arduous journey seemed to take forever, and I knew we must have covered several miles. The experience was so harrowing that I could not concentrate enough to remove myself from my awkward position. I was glad to be a mere ghost at the time. Although the hook in my back hurt and tore, the branches, thorns, and other solid objects I was drawn through were only a faint touch. I knew they were there and I passed through them, but there was no pain or comfort involved.

Finally, we stopped. My nephew shoved me off the hook. Again, the fall would have hurt had I been alive and solid.. The wound burned, but I have had much worse. He pulled me up by the hair to face him. The hook touch the side of my neck where the death blow had been. I bit my lip and squeezed my eyes shut. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

"What do I have to do to be rid of you?" he demanded.

"I . . . I c . . .cannot leave until the pardon is signed," I squeaked. "I must stay with you until then or until my time is up."

He released me as he threw up his arms. I cringed back, and he towered over me. "What good is you mission if you get me killed in the process?"

"Alteng? How am I getting you killed?" I asked innocently. A chill ran down my back from his accusation.

He pulled me forward by my collar. The deep scent of the iron hook hovered over me. A deep, menacing growl filled his throat. I squeezed my eyes shut again and squelched up my body in his grip. I clenched my teeth in the preparation of the coming pain. My back tensed, and the recent wound there throbbed. Long seconds passed like eternity.

He finally let go a breath and me. I fell backwards from his release. "You truly are an idiot! I can't believe we share the same blood."

I knelt before him and clenched my hands to my chest. "I know I'm stupid," I spoke quietly. "I am sorry, Alteng. Forgive me."

"Olivier, you are a ghost," he told me in slow measured words.

"I know. At least, that is what I think I am. I have died, but I am here," I answered not quite understanding his point.

He took in a deep breath. "You are an unnatural being. You aren't supposed to be here. Your mere presence frightens animals because of that. There is no telling what a human will do to me if he catches you following me. Understand? I'm surprised that Frau Preetz and her family accepts me with you hanging around. I guess they understand, as I do, why you are here."

"Oh," I answered as I began to wring my hands. Finally, my fingers made their way to my mouth where I chewed on them.

"So, let me go!" he ordered.

"I cannot!" I returned. I pulled at my sleeves and shuffled my feet. "You are my purpose here. If I am not with you, you cannot sign my contract. So, I have no purpose here, and the Dead will not put up with that. So, I must follow you whether I want to or not."

"I am not signing your contract! I'd much sooner die!" he spat at me. He had held off on beating me until then. He had carried the sword with him. It entered under my rib cage and sliced its way upward and inward until it came through my back. I swallowed the taste of the metal in me. I squeezed my tearing eyes closed. My hands wrapped around his hand on the hilt of the blade. He pushed deeper. A stronger nausea spread through into my throat. A pain shot down my throat in the same intensity and pain as my innards. The hilt of the sward with his hand entered deeper into the wounds and spread its edges. My mouth opened in a silent scream of agony. Then he withdrew sharply with a grunt of disgust. I fell to my knees and nursed this new wound. He fled me as I sat holding my insides in.

Although I found it hard to move, I could not let him get too far from me. It was not a conscious choice. It was a force that dragged me along. I could not allow him to leave me behind. To be truthful, I really did not want him to.

I did not walk beside him, but when he stopped, I caught up to him. He turned to me and snorted. He then ran across the field and into a barn. I cocked mt head and joined him there. The din of the animals started as soon as I caught up to him. I held up my arms over my head and cringed down. The noise was almost as bad as the physical blows dealt me. Yet, I could not leave. The screams and commotion swirled around me in a dizzy of confusion. Yet, Alteng's presence stayed there. Tears ran freely from my eyes. If I could get away, I would go, but I could not.

Finally, Alteng's hand grasped my throat and threw me forward. He kicked me before him as we escaped the chamber of confusion. Once outside, he grabbed my hair and pulled me back across the field into the woods once again. The discomfort did not matter. I was grateful to just be away from the chaos of noise. We traveled for some time. He finally stopped and pushed me up against a tree. I could have pushed myself through the living wood, but what little penetrated my being tingled in an unpleasant way, and I refused to go further. I knew and understood the pain coming, but I did not know the go through.

His hand pinned me to the tree and the tip of the hook touched my jaw. "Go back! I don't need this harassment. Leave me alone!" he shouted in my face.

"I cannot," I answered on the verge of tears.

"Why is it I can travel the mines of Preetz without you on my heels, but here, you follow me like a lost lamb?" he demanded as the tip of the hook pressed threateningly into my jaw.

"Because at Preetz, I am not lost. I do not know here," I answered.

He ripped my jaw through to the teeth and down into my mouth. "What am I to do?" he cried out. Even if I had an answer, I could not reply properly. He shoved me then let me go. He stomped and paced the ground in front of me. Without support, I slid down the trunk of the tree. I cradled my wounded jaw and pulled my legs into myself. I silently listened to his foul rants and raves and his various curses of me.

He finally exhausted himself. With a sigh, he spoke mostly to himself, "I will return to Preetz."

Relief washed over me. I would be much more comfortable with other Kobolds instead of these big humans that, according to my nephew, could not be reasoned with about my condition. Once rested, he got up from his position and calmly, without a word, tore into me until I was nothing but a quivering mass of ethereal material. He left me there and headed home. Despite the pain, I was still able to follow him.