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The Wishing Map
Chapter Seventeen: Naimian
Previously: Abandoning his oddly-behaving sister Gina, Zack befriended a party of naims (gnomes) and amazed them with his gift of storytelling.
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Only after Gina’s sixth mugful of meeth did they realize she was drunk; Shelcor and Maerith were ashamed of themselves for not noticing which bowl she’d been dipping into. Meanwhile, Zack was fast asleep in the alcove, along with his naim friends. Calling the innkeeper over, Maerith said, “The girl will need a room ter sleep in.” She pointed to the alcove. “An’ see the boy has a bed too. Feed ‘em when they wake, an’ give ‘em ter eat an’ drink, but nay grownling’s meeth! We’ll pay when we return on morrow’s eve.”
Shelcor and the innkeeper walked Gina up the stairs between them. Gina told them she loved them three times, then threw up on the stairs once and twice again in the room. The innkeeper’s daughter followed with a bucket.
Just before Maerith and Shelcor left, they asked the innkeeper to “remind the boy that spiffwits can’t fly.”
“That I’ll do. So, they’re human, eh?”
“Aye,” Maerith answered. “Very.”
When the fisher folk left the Screaming Spiffwit, Zack was still asleep in the alcove, but when the innkeeper and his daughter came back downstairs ten minutes later, he was gone.
And so were the naims.
Zack had not gone willingly. Neither had he gone consciously. He’d left the Screaming Spiffwit asleep on a plank of rainbowwood, carried by eight adult naims and one naim chelding; they’d been thoughtful enough to bring along his backpack. When the innkeeper and his daughter saw that Zack was gone, they assumed Maerith and Shelcor must have changed their minds and taken him with them.
Zack managed to sleep through six hours of rumbling, but now in the seventh hour his eyes finally opened. Why is my bed rumbling? And why are there leaves overhead? “Crud, that’s right!” he exclaimed, recalling how he and Gina had fallen into Ismara, been rescued from drowning, and been taken to an inn in the village of Kellansend. But that didn’t explain the rumbling or the leaves. He sat up. At that moment there was a violent jerk, as if his bed had struck a pothole. He lurched to the right and put his hand out to stop himself; it hit some sort of moving surface, causing him to tumble sideways.
“Whoa! What’s going—”
“Fair morn, Master Storysmith,” said Noddie with an unstifled yawn. She reached behind her and, with Sniggle’s help, pulled Zack back into an upright position. They were aided in spirit if not substance by Bud, who’d been dozing on Zack’s lap.
As his head cleared, Zack realized he was riding on one of the wagons he’d assumed were toys the night before. No more than five inches off the ground, and only about a foot deep, the seven foot long lumber cart was crafted from rainbowwood, perfectly jointed and pegged with nary a nail.
It and the other three empty woodwains were being pulled not by ponies, but by tiny deer. Size was where any semblance of daintiness ended, however: they were working deer, with wide muscular shoulders and woolly ochre hides.
And at the front of each team was a full-antlered stag.
Thoughts: Have you ever been hijacked into using a previously untapped talent? Most of us discover our life’s calling purely by “accident.”
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