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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games (Continued)
Previously: The naim (gnome) child Bud was pierced by an arrow as Zack struggled to halt the war he’d unintentionally ignited.
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“Uncle Zaggy, it hurts!” the squirrel-sized boy screamed.
Zack picked Bud up, attempting to shelter him with his body, then shoved him under his layered shirts, hoping that might provide some sort of protection. “Stop!” he roared over the din. But this time, no one heeded.
It wasn’t that they were unaware of him; to the contrary, two large factions were working their way toward him at this very moment. One was Bulgy’s gang, now swollen to nearly two hundred. The other was Lyffwin’s hoard, brandishing spears, bows, axes, and broadswords.
“Nay!” cried Tuber. “Yer don’t have ter choose this! Yer can change the way the story ends!”
“Listen to Tuber!” Zack ordered. “You don’t have to do this!” He waddled around like a pregnant woman (with Bud under his shirt), kicking at the clumsy little warriors. They were running on pure rage, striking at everything in their path. He continued to punt his opponents, successfully disabling some, but others stabbed at his legs with sharp sticks and bashed at his knees with rocks, and the pain from so many minor blows was increasingly major. Twenty thousand naims at war, and it’s my fault! My fault! Oh, God! Oh, Uol! “Please!” Zack prayed under his breath. “Please!”
The two formally armed factions, having fought their way to the middle of the field, now arrived at Zack’s location. The fighting subsided. Even in the midst of their rage, both Root and Leaf Naims wanted to see what would happen to the disgraced Master Zaggyzim.
“Kill him good!” Bulgy commanded.
“Pierce his lying heart!” Lyffwin screamed.
“Wait!” said Zack. “This is all just a misunder—“
He never finished the sentence, because at that moment the largest fellows from both the Leaf and Root Naim militias simultaneously thrust out their lances—
—and impaled him!
His first thought was, At least now they’ll stop fighting. And it almost made him smile, but his heart tore when he realized that little Bud must certainly have been pierced by the lances as well. He looked down at the Root Naim lance plunged deep into his abdomen and the lethal end of the Leaf Naim lance sticking out from his chest. Why doesn’t it hurt? He’d heard of people with horrible injuries feeling no pain, especially at the moment of death, but that didn’t explain why he was still standing.
The crowd around him began to wonder the same thing. The two naims with the lances pulled them out, causing Zack to lurch forward and then backward. Bud’s muffled cry came from under his layered shirts. Others crowded in to inspect the tips of the deadly instruments. Nothing: no blood, no entrails.
“Stick him again!” Lyffwin ordered.
“More spears!” hollered Bulgy. “Kill ‘im better this time!”
Zack started to shout, “No!” thinking he could free Bud before the skewering resumed, but then another voice, commanding and powerful, shouted it for him:
Thoughts: Have you ever thought you were about to die, and had no control over whether you did or didn’t?
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