After the last few days I thought that I was prepared for anything. But as I sit here in camp, exhausted from the events of the day I think I was wrong. This morning I was greeted by something I was entirely unprepared for.
As we were preparing to break camp this morning, it seemed strange that Gnoman had not gotten up when Shojin and I did. After checking, it became clear that he wasn’t breathing. That bothered me. I’ve seen Gnoman die before, well a Gnoman anyways, but not one that had travelled with me. I never expected Gnoman to go in his sleep. That seemed almost antithetical to who and what he was. Shojin and I spent most of the rest of the morning digging a shallow grave and finding enough rocks to cover it. We said a few words and as we were gathering our things to leave we heard a noise behind us, turning to find Gnoman.
Now it clearly couldn’t have been the one we’d been with. His dress was different and he had an almost feral quality to him. Like the rage was almost more than his form could contain. His greeting was like that of a madman, sharp and almost a scream.
But as Shojin and I are so wont to do, we just followed our routines that came to Gnoman and we were once again heading south.
We broke for lunch later than normal due to the delays of the morning, but we were hungry so it made sense. As we were about to start back on the road south, we were beset by a raiding party. They were too numerous to count, but the one thing that stood out was that they were all human men. They claimed the reason they were planning to rob us was that we weren’t. Anything we had acquired on our adventures were things we were not fit to own. “Our kind” didn’t deserve them. We weren’t pure enough.
New Gnoman… vehemently and violently disagreed with that assessment. He’d decapitated two before they even knew it was to be a fight and three more just after the fight began proper. After what felt like an hour fighting these racist garbage people I was so exhausted I didn’t think I could fight anyone else if my life depended on it.
Shojin looked like he’d been on the receiving end of a right proper ass whipping, but that was his normal post fight look after all. Gnoman was on his back propped up on one of the decapitated men. His breath had this raspy rattle sound to it and blood was pooling underneath him from some wound we couldn’t see. As we moved to try and help him he stopped us.
“It’s my time”, he said.
It was nearly time for dinner when we’d finished burying him. We may have only known him for part of a day but he died, even if unintentionally, protecting us. By and large, the Gnomans we have met seem to be good men deep down. We left the bandits in a pile by the side of the road. Let the critters feast. At least they would be good for something then.
We’d not made it maybe another hour down the road when we decided to break for dinner. We’d dug two graves and fought for our lives. It had been a pretty full day. As we were setting up what ended up being our camp for the night a person came walking up the hill beside the road. A slow leisurely sort of walk. The sun was at their back so we couldn’t see his face. All we could see as they approached was their somewhat loose clothing, and their hair being blown back over their shoulders in the breeze.
As they grew closer we could begin to hear the notes on the breeze of their playing a flute. It was catchy in its own way. They stopped playing long enough to wave when they were still a hundred or so yards off. So friendly, maybe?
It wasn’t until they were right on us that we were able to see the nearly ear to ear smile on the face of Gnoman. Happy, jovial and friendly. So not like any Gnoman we’ve known before. I was able to get him doing the Jenny thing so there is something to be said for that bit of consistency.
We told him of the day we’d had but left out the pair of Gnoman’s we’d encountered and travelled with. When we spoke of the battle in the afternoon, he got a sad look on his face. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that it always saddened him to hear of things turning to conflict.
Violence should only ever be a last resort he said. Something to be used after all options for a peaceful resolution have passed. It seemed like there was more to this, but it looked painful so we didn’t press.
Before we could even suggest it he had asked if he could travel with us because we seemed “interesting”. We of course accepted.
After the events of the day, I’m left with lots of questions. Why is this one different? Why are the rest of them so filled with rage? Is this one filled with the same rage, but he’s trying to be something else? Would we be burying him tomorrow? I hoped not. This one was weird, but he seemed like our kind of weird.
A peaceful Gnoman? Nope, was totally not prepared for that.