4. Goblin Dinner

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It was obvious the man had not expected to see me. He walked absentmindedly, looking down, deep in his thoughts. He carried a load of firewood, probably meant for the sauna. None of the wood showed any axe marks, though. It appeared he had just picked them from the forest floor.

When his eyes registered my presence, he stopped in his tracks, eyes round with surprise. His tail twitched on the ground once, moving right behind his legs as if he was trying to instinctively hide it. It resembled that of a bull's, but was hairier.  

He looked around, nervous. Then he fixed his eyes on me again. His eyes were small, dark brown, almost hidden behind his long brown hair. The hair was just as coarse as his beard. The backs of his hands were hairy too.

Nana rushed out of her house, down the creaking stairs towards me, and then saw the man.

"Oh..." she stopped but only for a moment. Then she hurried to me, holding a small shot glass filled with that same foul-smelling potion Jonathan had brought to me earlier. "Here, gulp this down."

I took the glass and gagged and retched when I downed the drink.

"She's been bitten?" A deep male voice said from the level of my shoulder. The man with the tail was standing there, staring at my neck. Nana nodded.

"She has. By the Meri clan."

He hissed and took a step backwards. I did not like that.

"You managed to get to her in time?" his small eyes measured me with clear suspicion.

"We think so. At least the bite marks stopped bleeding almost immediately after she took the drink."

"Could I have some water, please..." I coughed, interrupting their conversation, "This thing tastes like shit!"

"Sorry, no. You should not dilute it at all. Especially when we are talking about the Meri venom." 

Nana took the glass from my hands and I swear I saw the few remaining drops sizzle as if they were boiling. They evaporate into the air, "And now you can go and sleep. This stuff may make your sleep rather light, though, and cause you to see vivid dreams. Especially in the beginning when your system isn't used to the antidote."

Sleep. The word made my knees buckle.

"Ok, I go to sleep now. You can explain all about flying mothers and men with tails and other Creatures when I wake up." 

All those things could wait if only I could get some sleep.

"Indeed we will explain it all to you," Nana said, "Good night!"

I managed to get to my old room where I had slept all my childhood summers. Now I understood the saying of falling asleep before the head hits the pillow. Because now I did just that.

For a while I slept heavily, but then I became aware in my dream. Eyes.

Eyes everywhere around me in the darkness of my dream. Some were pitch black, showing no white, some were human eyes, some animal, and there were demon eyes too. And the kinds of eyes the man with the tail had. I heard snippets of talk as if from coming from behind a wall. And then a book floated in front of me. It had a pen laid across it, and when I looked the pen started writing words in the empty pages on its own. The words it had written rose into the air, hanging there, weightless. I could not read the words no matter how I tried. Then the book exploded into a pile of dust and from inside it rose an object.  A little golden cobra, looking much like the golden uraeus of Senusret II from the twelfth Dynasty on ancient Egypt, my analytical mind told me.

The golden snake turned its head towards me. In one explosive movement it shot from the ashes and flew towards me, its mouth open and fangs showing. I screamed and covered my neck with my hands, almost falling from the bed when I tried to escape it.

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