Nodie started breathing heavier. He focused on the walls right in front of him, pale pink, a colour that wasnít even remotely threatening. Inward he wished for the cleric to get him his groceries. He always shopped at this store because he knew the store, where the hiding places were. The service was speedy because the owners knew him, but today there was a new help. A shirt red-head with a freckled face and a dull look on her face. Undoubtedly the young woman led a boring life, maybe she had a kid or two, a no good excuse for a husband and money problems. But Nodie was getting less and less inclined to excuse her stalling because of the fact that she looked burned down.
"Miss?" he asked.
The woman looked up and said: "Yes?"
"My bags?"
"Eh, I have en eh, small problem." She said, without the emotion in her voice being mirrored in her eyes. She looked as if she could not care less. When he had looked at her for a few seconds more he started to see the barest flicker of movement at the edges of his eyes.
No.
Nodie knew that turning his head away would not make the hallucination go away. A few years ago he still had been confident that his fatherís curse had not been passed on to him, but since then the evidence for schizophrenia had become hard to ignore, even for Nodie himself. Images popped up around him, all of them frightening and menacing, voices came and went in his head and it became harder to ignore them. At first he had been able to sush them, to talk them away, but now all they did was shout harder until all he could do was put his fists over his ears and hide in a corner until the episode passed.
Something similar happened with the visions. At first they had been blurs, shadows often accompanied with the sound of small tapping feet. But now he could see them. Looking sideways to the place where the movement had been, Nodie saw a small putrid-grey dwarf with big ears, burning yellow eyes and black claws that made him think of getting a tetanus shot.
No.
Looking did not make them go away. Denying did not make them go away. Lately they had been visiting him more often, coming closer, staying longer. It was as if they knew that Nodie could see them, and that they knew he was going to snap soon.
The babbling of the store help finally caught his attention again.
"Sir? Are you ok?"
"Iím fine." He said, maybe a bit more scared than he had intended his voice to be, "Really."
"Will you consider what I asked?" she asked looking him deeply in the eyes.
For a split second Nodie did not know what she meant, but when she batted her eyelashes and leaned forward he knew she was coming on to him. So the no-good-excuse of a husband had bailed on her. That was to be expected, he guessed in a world where duty was a dirty word.
"Iím sorry," he said, "I have to go."
"But your bags?"
Nodie saw that his bags were still on the counter. Getting them meant that he would have to cross half of the store again, not to mention getting closer to the goblin again.But not getting them meant that he would have to go back tomorrow. Risk another vision.
With leaden legs, Nodie turned and stepped toward the counter, placing one foot ahead of the other, fighting the thick air that seemed to have clogged around him. All the while the goblin seemed to wait for him, staring coldly into his direction, baring his teeth.
"Thank you." Nodie said, grabbing the bags and stepping gratefully away from the counter again. He did not want to turn his back on the goblin, but it would look weird if he walked to the door backwards, not to mention the message it would send to the clerk.
When Nodie was almost out, he saw the goblin move toward the clerk, itís eyes shone with bad intentions, itís claws raked the air. It was the first time one of the goblins had moved to anyone else. When the goblin was close enough to the young woman that he could touch her, it lifted one arm and arched forward, jumping toward her throat.
Nodie turned around, shouting "Noooo!"
Shaking his head, he saw nothing. The young woman looked at him with a scared look in her eye, but she was unharmed. The goblin was gone. Had he all just imagined the reflection in the mirrors? Was he really the one toying with his own thoughts?
Nodie felt sick. He knew he needed to get away, get out of the store to the outside. It was storming, rain poured out of an overcast sky, but compared to the bright lighting of the store it seemed like an impressionist painting of a gentle sunset. Outside there was safety.
Nodie gripped the handle of the door, pushed and nearly ran out. He knew the girl behind the counter was probably telling herself how fortunate she was that he had declined her offer to go out. She should know better anyway than to ask out a stranger in the city. This place was crawling with weirdoes, murderers and other scum that would take advantage of her. Being completely honest Nodie knew he would probably fall into the first category. Maybe that one wasnít the worst to be in.
What made him worry was the fact that he could easily go from the first to the second. Lately Nodie felt as if he wasnít in control of himself anymore. Identity Diffusion, that was called. Nodie hated the word, losing control was so dangerous. Alas it was something to be expected of schizophrenics.
Looking over his shoulder, Nodie saw a flicker of two bright eyes from the shadows of a window silk. The goblin had followed him out. Facing it did not make it go away, talking it away did not work anymore. What other choice did Nodie have than to run and hope he could stay ahead of it?
Running blindly through the streets under the stale sky with the rain beating on his head, Nodie slowly felt his conscious slip. The constant running for his life seemed to make him forget who he was, where he needed to go. He tried to stop, but always there was that goblin behind him, two eyes, running feet, a wheezing breath.
"Hey!" a voice called.
Turning in response, Nodie saw a dark figure sitting on the ground. Looking more closely he noticed some long strands of blond hair hanging from below the wide hood. A white face then looked up toward him, two blue eyes looking a bit angry, but not threatening. Thos eyes could never look threatening.
"Some help would be appreciated." The woman said, "Didnít your mother teach you to look around when walking?"
"EmÖ Sorry." Nodie said, "The rainÖ" not too mention a goblin. Looking around, he saw no eyes. That did not mean that they werenít there, but maybe he was safe for the moment. Nodie extended his hand and helped the woman, half a head taller than he it seemed, back up to her feet.
"My name is Arianne." She said, "Whatís yours?"
"... Nodie."
"Nice to have met you Nodie. Are you ok?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"A person looking around like you do is usually afraid. Iím nothing to be afraid of, which makes me wonder who youíre looking for. Should I be afraid?"
"No, noÖ" Nodie said, "I thought someone was following me, but I guess it was just shadows."
"Modern world got to you too." Arianne smiled, "Well Iím off to the library if youíre ok. Bye Nodie!"
With that she started walking away from him, leaving Nodie baffled. He had walked her over, he had had to help her up and then she asked if he was ok. Looking in the direction where Arianne had vanished, Nodie shook his head. Strange person.

***

The rest of the way, the goblins had not bothered Nodie again. The storm had subsided by the time Nodie reached his home. He lived in a solitary house of bleak grey stone at the edge of the city. The house was square and functional, but at least inside there werenít many places where something small and agile could hide and lay in wait for someone to come close enough.
Nodie carefully opened the door, making sure he did not stand in the opening where anyone on the inside could get him before he had time to react. Going in, locking the door behind him, Nodie walked through every room in the house before he relaxed. No goblins. That was a victory on itís own. Some people had conquered schizophrenia on their own, maybe he could do that, reach some kind of knowledge of what was real and what wasnít.
In the kitchen, Nodie took a bottle of wine, some bread and butter and went back to common room. He sat down in the half-dark chamber, in a comfortable chair. Nodie had never liked brightly lit rooms, there were no shadows to reveal bright eyes and too much places to see movement. The goblins had not hurt him yet, though he doubted that would stay like that with what he had seen today.
Thinking about his misfortune, he suddenly felt very alone. Reaching for the phone, Nodie dialled the only number he knew by heart.
"Riverview Institution, How can I help you?"
"Iíd like to talk to Remie AchteríDocht, room 219, please."
"One moment please."
He heard a few moments of some easy listening rending of a number one eighties hit and then the deep pleasant voice of his father with the faint German accent he had retained even after he had emigrated at the age of 6.
"Yes?"
"Itís me dad." Nodie said, "How are you."
"Good, good, though theyíre trying to kill me."
His dad was always convinced that someone was trying to kill him, or lock him up because he was the only one who knew about a big government conspiracy to poison the drinking water. Nodie had not expected this time to be any different, but for once he would like to talk to his dad as if nothing was wrong with him.
"Who is?" he asked.
"Havenít I told you? The Erdmen of course."
Nodie dropped his glass of wine, the red liquid being easily absorbed by the thick carpet on the floor. But Nodie did not notice the stain. Erdmen. Earth men, the german name for the folkish legend goblins.
"Do you see them?" Nodie asked.
"Iíve always seen them, boy. Theyíre aliens, escaped from a hidden naval base where there ufo crashed. Iíve known this all along. The nurses here donít believe me. The psychiatrist looks at me as if Iím crazy."
"You are sick dad."
"So they keep telling me, but did the goblins ever go away?"
"Did you tell mom about this when she was still alive?"
"I tried, but she did not listen. They killed her."
"Mom died in a car crash."
"They tampered with the car. I should have seen it coming, but they were gone for such a long time I thought I had dreamt it all. Imagined it. I was happy then. I had Yelena, you. My life was simpler without the goblins. But they came back worse than ever after that, I can never be sure, but in my heart I know that they cut the breaks in her car. I would not be surprised that they were the ones that killed her."
Leaning back, Nodie did not know what to believe. His father had never told him this. Maybe then heíd have been more concerned about the goblins. Maybe heíd have understand that they might be real. Were they real? He still could not be sure. Had he ever told his father about what he saw? Had they influenced each other in a weird twist of Folie ŗ deux? Nodie felt confusion grow with every breath he took, could he even be sure that he existed?
"Why didnít you tell me this?"
"They did not seem to harm you. I thought you were safe. You see, I told Yelena. They come after the ones you love." Whispering his dad continued, "They know who you love mostÖ"
A sudden flash of memory entered his mind. The red-head in the store who had made a pass at him. And then suddenly, the pale open face in the rain. The goblins had vanished after he had met ArianneÖ
"Iíve got to go, dad." Nodie said, not waiting for his dad to reply. Where had Arianne said she was going? The library.
No. Not her.

***

Arianne sniffed the air of old books and smiled. The aroma of a library was always almost intoxicating. If she had been a weaker person she might have gotten to use drugs, but now all she needed was an occasional sniff of old paper to keep her happy.
Arianne had always loved the library, from the moment her parents had died and she had gone to live with her grandparents on her motherís side. She remembered spending hours in libraries just like this one, reading every book she could get her hands on. Fantasies were her favourites. Those books were like friends to her, friends that took her to different worlds, made her friends with people so exotic she could not imagine them living in the real world. She smiled at the thought of how many times she had wanted to be the princess swept away by the courageous questor, or be the amazon who needed to save her tribe by venturing into the world.
Looking up she saw that most of the desk-lights around her had been dimmed. Hers was still burning and a few others downstairs. The warm light that her single light spread could not illuminate the ceiling, but she knew what it looked like. The bookshelves reaching like pillars to support the large painted tiles. This building could be in one of her beloved books, and maybe that was why she was reading here in stead of at home. Besides, there was no-one to go home to, not even a fat cat to keep her company.
She knew she was usually the last to leave this public library. One time she had gotten a spare key from a considerate night guard. He locked the doors when he went home without having to worry if she was still inside. She hoped he would not get in trouble for doing something like that. She had tried to return the key and to promise she would be out on time in the future. But only a few days later he had found her, engrossed in books when he had come back in. He had been mortified about the idea of a fire and she being locked in. And now she had her key. Maybe that was her treasure. Keys in fantasynovels always had some meaning, some mystical use.
Returning to her books, her thoughts were lost in the make-believe world within seconds. And the real world might just as well not existÖ
Except that someone was watching her. Looking around, Arianne tried to see who was there. She saw nothing, not even the faintest moving of shadow in shadow. Maybe she was just excited about her book. "Come out wherever you are!" she called, hoping to draw out whoever might still be in the library. A request so foolish would definitely get someone to try and silence her.
"No-one answered."
Shrugging, Arianne got back to reading, she probably had some stress or unresolved issues. A sound from downstairs caught her attention. Looking up again she fought the urge to switch on all the reading lights. Maybe there were rats or mice around. Maybe the run in with that young men in the street had gotten her paranoid.
Thinking of the slender men with his wet black hair and dark haunted eyes she felt intrigued. She had not felt this interest for a men in some time now. With her luck, he would probably turn out to be a serial killer. Her judgement of men seemed to be flawed at best. Shortly after one another she had been betrayed, shambled and hurt. There had been a time when she had thought of swearing men off, but apparently she had not been as firm about the idea as she had thought or else that man would not have been in her mind now.
Standing up, Arianne thought she might better go home now. She would probably not be able to focus on the story with all the noises and her nerves on end. It was an old building, youíd expect it to be noisy, but before she had never noticed it. She gathered her books and returned to the front desk. She had a locker there where she usually kept the books she lend along with some money, cookies and water in case she did spend the night here unintentionally.
"Be very quiet." A voice said behind her.
"Who?" she asked, turning around, she saw the same young man that had ran her over this afternoon. Startled she noticed that he looked terrible. His hair was even more tangled than before, his coat hung half open and rain had made the front of his shirt wet. He was dripping all over the carpet, forming a puddle around his wet feet and ankles. But what caught her attention most, was the gleaming knife he had in his hands.
"Donít move. I donít know if they can hurt you."
He was crazyÖ he was a murderer and she had told him where she was going. Stupid, stupid stupid. She told herself, but it was too late. Her mind, surged by a run of adrenaline, worked in overdrive. Where were the nearest exits? Where could she escape? Where were the phones to call 911?
Strangely enough the man, Nodie, she remembered, stabbed his knife around her, as if he was trying to keep something low away from the circle of light. On top of everything he seemed to be crazy as well. This man would top the charts.
"What are you doing?" she called.
"I donít think you can see them. I donít know if theyíre even real, but Iíd rather not find out, would you?"
"What?"
"The Goblins!" Nodie called back, stabbing at one of the three that were trying to get to Arianne, "I realised today that maybe they were real. For years I thought I was schizophrenic, but tonight of all nights, when they finally stayed away, my father tells me that they killed my mother. So I donít know what to believe, only that they left when I had met you."
Arianne looked at him with wide eyes. Was he really expecting her to believe such a wacked out story? The stuff came right from a soft horror book. She remembered that if he followed that same storyline he would come up with voodoo any time now as the cause of his problems.
"Whatís the nearest exit?" Nodie asked.
"Down the stairs through the main, assuming you want us to move through open spaces."
"Iíd prefer those yes." Nodie answered, "Letís get out of here."
"I have to click of the light." Arianne said.
"Leave it."
"Itís a fire risk, not to mention it would cost the city money if it stays on all night."
"Very eco-conscious of you, but I donít want to go down in total darkness."
"you donít even know that they are real."
"Letís just say I would not like to find out they are real in pitch black night."
Nodie pulled Arianne by her arm behind him toward the stairs. He did not like the idea of the open steps, but they would have to take the chance. One step at a time he pulled Arianne down until they were on the first level. He did not even stop to consider where the goblins might be hiding, safety was within reach.
"Where are we going?"
"Home." Nodie answered, "Someplace I know well."
When they left the library, more than one pair of shiny yellow eyes followed them down the street. They did not need to follow him, they knew where he was going. Home.

***

Nodie opened his door, making sure he was not standing in the opening. He did not want to be caught off-guard. Arianne looked a bit doubtful, but finally decided to go along with Nodieís safety measures. She still did not believe him fully; After all, she had seen nothing to prove that there were such things as goblins.
She was slowly deciding to go again before her bad judgement got the btter of her, when Nodie called: "Watch out!" the next thing she knew, a sharp, hot pain stung at her head. Gripping to her hairline, she felt warm blood, but also something resisting her reaching. It was not actually solid, but it was there. As suddenly as she had felt it, the presuure was gone.
"Where did it go?" she asked.
"It jumped down and ran out the door."
"How did they get here before us?"
Nodie approached her and tried to look at her wound, which was not easy considering she was taller than he, "I donít think they needed to follow us. Maybe it was a mistake to come here."
"Why didnít it attack you if it knows where you live?"
"My dad said something about them attacking the ones you love. I never believed his theories, not before this night. All the time heís been stuck in that asylum, getting meds without needing them."
"So I take it he can see them too."
"He never told me. If he had I might have believed him. All the time he kept talking about aliens and government conspiracies."
"Well it does all feel strangely similar to the average X-files episode." Arianne shrugged, "Ouch."
Nodie retracted his hand, "Sorry. I donít think you need stitches, it seems pretty shallow."
"What did he use to cut me?"
"By the way they look Iíd say he used his claws. Theyíre sharp little nasty things."
"I hope they arenít too nasty. I donít want to get an infection."
"How can you think of infections when you were attacked by something you canít even see?" Nodie asked, "Shouldnít you worry about staying alive?"
"Of course, but after that Iíd like to be sure I donít get an infection. Have you ever had one?"
Nodie sighed, "No."
"So you canít speak from experience." Arianne said, "What do we do now?"
"I donít knowÖ facing them seems to make them angry, shouting at them makes them shout back harder. That leaves us with running."
"Maybe we should get ourselves a nice big mythical creature to eat them."
"What do you suggest? A dragon?"
"You said it, not me." Arianne said, "Running doesnít seem to be such a bad idea."
"Weíll go through the backyard, itís nice and wilted. And very close to the road."
"Lead the way."

***

"This way." Nodie said, leading Arianne right over the path through the patches that had ones contained flowers. "Theyíve been awfully quiet."
"They make a noise?" Arianne asked.
"They breath and wheeze." Nodie said, "I think."
"Great." Arianne said sarcastically. "I should not have asked."
"I think they might try to take us here." Nodie said, "They probably know me from when I was born. Theyíve had years to study me."
"You say that now when weíre almost in the ambush."
"I didnít have much time to think, you were hurt."
Arianne smiled, "I didnít mean it like that. I just need something to yell at. Thatís hard when I canít see what hurt me."
"Do you think we should make a run for it?"
"It sounds as reasonable as walking calmly into the trap." Arianne shrugged, "Make sure you tell me when you see them so I can be prepared."
"Will do." Taking her hand, Nodie felt good. He was not alone anymore, sadly that feeling was probably why the goblins attacked Arianne in the first place. He took a deep breath and counted to three.
At the third count both he and Arianne started a wild dash for the gate at the back of his garden. He knew where the ambush would be, there was one patch in the yard where he could not see the ground clearly. There theyíd jump out on them for sure
Big was Nodieís surprise when the goblins seemed to crawl up from the ground, still moments before the reached the dangerous place. He yelled in disgust when he saw the dozen of small hunched figures run toward the path, clearly aiming to run them of their feet and put them in a disadvantaged position.
"Theyíre coming!"
"Where?"
"All sides. Watch your step."
But it was all in vain, his warning reached Arianne too late. One goblin already tripped her ankle and she went down, dragging Nodie along. On the ground they were easy prey for the goblins who were all too real and tangible at this moment. Rips appeared in their clothing, blood welled up from scratches and Nodie called out in pain when he felt teeth gnawing at his shin.
Beside him, Arianne too was crying and struggling to get up. But more and more goblins streamed toward them, seemingly burying them alive. The end seemed to be near. It was a matter of moments before they would be overrun with little bodies, suffocating them.
Suddenly the wave of goblins crawled back. Nodieís heart skipped a beat, they never had intended to hurt him, did this mean Arianne was dead? Then the sky was darkened once again, this time by dark blue leathery wings.
Iím Dreaming, Iím deadÖ Nodie thought, it was a dragon.
"Excuse me?" a voice asked him, "Are you alright?"
"Are you real?" Nodie asked.
"If your girlfriend wakes she will tell you that she can see me. I think she might need some help getting up though."
A man suddenly came up from behind the dragon.
"My name is Sovyl." The man said, "I hope we didnít get here too late. We intended to be here sooner, but apparently the goblins messed up our timeline or something like that. Whatever happened, it made us late. We were supposed to appear here in time to prevent the ambush from happening.
"Do you see them?"
"Me? No, but Aviath does. Apparently they are minor demons that gather around humans with the ability to see them to drive them mad."
"Then my dad could be really sick?"
"The chance is considerable Iím afraid. I can help you though. Me and Aviath are not from this world. We can take you to another planet and help you bond to a dragon. Currently weíre thinking of dragon tears, but now, seeing youÖ."
"What?"
"I think you might be better of at Cy Dragonstake. Something a bit more dark might be better for you. Your girlfriend however Iíd still like to send off to Dragon Tears. There are few people who would stay with someone like you. Itís quite admirable."
"I know she is." Nodie said, "gently helping Arianne up in sit-position, "Are you ok?"
"I think I am? What happened?"
"You know that dragon you talked aboutÖ."
"No way!"
"Meet Aviath and his rider Sovyl. Apparently they invite us to go on a trip to the stars with them to meet the dragons."
"When do we leave?"
"Youíve got nothing to pack?"
"Not a thing." She laughed out loud and said: "I think my luck has changed."

***

Stats & Hatching: Nodie - Arianne

Nodie is a Candidate at the Bipedra 2004 (Cy Dragonstake)
Arianne is a Candidate at Kethoda Isle (Dragon Tears)