Chapter 3:

Meeting New Friends

Second Chance Savior

When Jack finally came to, he was surprised to still be alive. He did, however, immediately regret being conscious. His head pounded relentlessly in the worst headache he’d ever had. The wounds in his back and side throbbed, and every single breath sent fresh, burning agony through his face. He had evidently lost a lot of blood, because he felt very woozy and light-headed, and his fingers and toes were numb and cold. He could only barely see, the damage done to his face having caused it to swell up enough that he could barely open his eyes. Looking around through narrowed slits, he saw that he wasn’t outside anymore. Bare stone walls and a dirt floor told him he was probably underground, or in some sort of cave. Across from him, several mangled bodies hung on hooks, all but one one of them headless and missing limbs. The one that was intact was of a naked woman, maybe thirty-five or forty. The front of her torso had been split open and the entirety of her innards removed, like she was a cow carcass in a processing plant.

Jack lurched forward and puked onto the dirt floor. Apparently whatever had been in his stomach at time of death, however, didn’t come with him, because all that came out was thick strings of congealed saliva and stomach bile. The act of tossing his non-existent lunch caused every single injury to flare in pain, and he nearly passed out as he fell back against the stone wall behind him. He tried moving, but found his neck, wrists, and ankles were all bound by shackles to the wall, with only enough chain to shift position slightly. There wasn’t enough to lay down, and he wasn’t even going to consider standing in this state. He gingerly leaned his head back against the stone and closed his eyes.

Well, you’re not dead. Not sure how much longer it’s gonna stay that way, but hey, go you. He thought sardonically. Best case scenario at this point looked like him dying from his injuries. Based on the fact that he was awake and not already dead, however, the odds on that didn’t look too good. Worst case scenario, he was probably gonna end up on one of the hooks on the other side of the room, probably as food for the goblins that took him. That was probably after they brutally murdered him. Considering his prospects, he suddenly regretted not taking the “eternity of bliss” option instead.

He thought of the girl in the field again. He had no idea what happened to her once the fighting started, but he hoped beyond hope she’d managed to sneak away while he kept them busy. He might not make it out of here in one piece, but at least he would have succeeded in doing something heroic before he died. That thought was comforting, at the very least.

As he sat there, trying to cope with the crushing pain in his face, he contemplated his remaining options. If he stayed put, he was pretty much guaranteed to die. There was no doubt about that. He also was not in any shape to do any fighting whatsoever, even if he had his axe, which he didn’t. Fighting assumed he was even going to be able to get out of his shackles in the first place, which he couldn’t. At this point the only tool he had left was his magic, which he had no idea how to use correctly. He thought about trying to use a spell to cut the shackles off, but decided against it almost immediately. It’d be his luck that he’d get the spell right, only to get the aim wrong and accidentally cut his arm off. If he got out of his bonds by some miracle, he needed to be able to escape the cave he was in without being detected. Considering he had no idea how big it was or where any of his captors would be, that would be a tall order. So basically I’d have to get out of these things, somehow turn silent and invisible and walk out, or try and teleport somewhere and hope I don’t end up reappearing in the middle of a wall. Great.

Last option was to wait until one of the goblins set him free, immediately kill the thing with a spell, and run out while the rest of them were unaware of what had happened and hope no one stopped him. He did know how to correctly use at least one spell, since he’d managed to set Frumpkin on fire with it. What was that spellword again? Rashmofinof? Ragmashinov? If he could remember that word, then he’d be able to fireball the goblin or goblins that released him and make a break for it. That, upon reflection, seemed like his best option.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone whistling as they approached his chamber from the left hand corridor. Jack turned his attention towards the entrance, his heart suddenly pounding in his chest again. Wait! Already? But I’m not ready yet!

The source of the whistling turned out to indeed be a goblin. With the help of two others, it drug another body into the chamber, leaving a dark trail of blood on the dirt floor behind it. It looked like a young girl, maybe nine or ten. With his vision blurry and distorted like it was, he couldn’t tell if it was the same girl he’d tried to help before, but there was almost no doubt in his mind it probably was. He fought the urge to puke again, and leaned back against the wall, dizzy. Well, that was just perfect. Now he wouldn’t even get to feel like this had all been worth it.

The trio of greenskins drug the body over to an empty hook, and two of them hoisted it up while the third drove it into the back of the skull with a wet crack. Jack wretched again, attracting the attention of the three goblins, who proceeded to laugh loudly at him. The two helpers disappeared back down the way they came from, their vicious laughter echoing down the corridor long after they’d vanished from sight. The last remaining goblin walked over to a small wooden table behind the hanging bodies, and picked up a large hooked blade that reminded Jack of a sickle. Oh god.

The creature walked back around in front of the new corpse, and pointedly gave Jack an evil grin as it rested the point of the blade on the corpse’s chest. Please god no. Jack thought, his head getting light and fuzzy. The goblin, seeing Jack’s reaction, giggled again, raised the blade, and sank it with a wet thunk into the girl’s body.

Jack passed out.

He came to consciousness again an indeterminate time later to the distant sound of goblins shouting, and the grinding discomforts of hunger, pain, and nausea. The shouts were getting louder and more aggressive, and there were more of them. All of the noise seemed to be coming from the left hand corridor. Some of the shouts changed to screams. Then something exploded, shaking the ground beneath him and knocking loose a smattering of dust from the ceiling. More shouts and screams followed. These were closer now, and getting even closer. What on earth is going on? Jack thought, straining for some clue. Then, for the first time since arriving, he heard another human voice.

“Alright snotlings, out of our way, or we’ll kill you too.”

It was a woman’s voice, low and sultry.

A nearby goblin replied, speaking in common speech for the first time since Jack had encountered them.

"Fuckk...ovff... vred... bvitch...", it said, seeming to struggle to get the words to come out correctly.

The woman laughed.

“Come make me!”

What happened next ended as quickly as it started. He heard several goblins yell. There was a faint swooshing sound, followed by the sound of something hard colliding with something much less hard. The subsequent gurgling goblin shriek told him what that something soft was. There was another swish, thunk, shriek. Then another. Then silence. Then the woman spoke again.

“Last chance, greenskin.” She said.

A goblin screamed in terror, its voice getting closer and closer until Jack could clearly hear its bare feet slapping the dirt floor in the approaching corridor.

“Ellie! Don’t let him warn any of the others!” The woman said.

“I’m on it!” Another woman replied. Her voice was higher than the other’s. Softer. Musical even.

This stood in immediate contrast to the sound that came next. The new voice said something in a jagged, guttural language that made the hair on the back of Jack’s neck stand up on end. The approaching goblin burst into Jack’s chamber, its face twisted in terror as it ran headlong towards the other corridor on the right side of the room. It made it about halfway before a blinding ball of blue flame rocketed out of the left-hand corridor and slammed into its back with an explosion. The heat from the blast set off a new wave of agony in his face, and he nearly fainted again as he jerked away from the light. When the blast faded, nothing remained of the fleeing goblin but a charred hole in the cave floor.

There was nothing but silence for several seconds afterwards, before the lower voice spoke again.

“That should be the last of the nearby ones.” She said.

“You think we missed any?” The higher voice asked.

A third voice spoke up for the first time now. It sounded younger than the other two, almost childlike.

“Not likely.” She said.

“Let’s keep moving. You two follow the main path. I’m going to check to make sure there aren’t any more hiding in this side channel. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I finish.” The first voice said.

“Be careful.” The higher voice said, then added “come on, Maddy.”

Jack didn’t know for sure if the voices were friendly, but they sounded normal enough. The fact that they were killing the goblins holding him captive was a huge mark in their favor. But just who were they? Were they adventurers? But if so, how did they manage to find him? Was he just really lucky? Were they the girls he wished for, and they came looking for him? Or they’re not good adventurers and I’m still gonna end up dead or enslaved. That’d just be my luck, with how things have been going so far. Jack thought. But in spite of this, he found himself suddenly hopeful. Maybe at the very least he could get their help getting out of his chains, regardless of who they were. Mustering up his courage, he raised his voice and called out in the direction of the voices.

“Hey! Over here! I could use some help!” He yelled. Doing so sent a fresh wave of pain through his face and body, and he grit his teeth and swore as he flopped back against the wall.

“Did you hear that?” The higher voice asked.

“I did.” The childlike voice replied.

Two sets of footfalls approached at a jog down the left hand corridor, until two shapes crossed into the chamber. The first was a little girl, about nine or ten, with ruddy tan skin and curly auburn hair. The second one was a woman, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties, wearing an off-white peasant dress with a low-cut green corset and carrying an ornate staff. What looked like small curled horns rose from her temples towards her forehead, and a thin tail swished gently behind her. Her skin was almost denim blue, and her hair the color of a dark blueberry. Seeing her, Jack blinked hard again, but no, his eyes were not deceiving him. She really was blue. The blue-skinned girl looked over at him, and her eyes widened.

“Maddy, is this him?” She asked in her high, musical voice.

The little girl nodded.

“Yep.” She said.

The blue-skinned girl turned back to the corridor and called out.

“Rose! We found him!”

She turned back to Jack and rushed over to kneel down beside him, her face a mask of concern.

“Are you okay? Can you move?” She asked.

Jack nodded and attempted a smile, but thought better of it almost instantly.

“I’m alright. Better now.” He said. “Who are you guys?”

The blue-skinned girl smiled.

“I’m Eleanor. That’s Madeleine. Frumpkin told us you were coming, but you never showed up. Then Maddy told us what happened.” She said, pointing to the small girl behind her. The little girl nodded slightly, but said nothing. “We’re here to rescue you.”

Jack sighed in relief.

“Thank god. I was afraid I was done for in here. How did you all find me?” He asked.

“Location spell by using some of the blood you left behind. Sorry it took us so long to get here.” Eleanor said. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Jack scoffed.

“Relatively speaking.”

Eleanor looked at him wryly as she fished around in the leather pouch on her waist.

“You know what I mean.” She said, pulling a white feather out of the pouch.

The sound of approaching footsteps from the left hand corridor drew their attention. Madeleine dashed to the side of the entrance and pressed herself into a small alcove in the stone, all but vanishing from view as she did so. Eleanor stood and brought her staff into a defensive stance, and Jack watched as small floating blue symbols materialized in the air around the end of it. A moment later, another human-sized shape rushed into the room, and both Eleanor and Madeleine relaxed. The person who entered was obviously the tallest of the three. She wore well-fitted leather armor and carried a longsword that was stained dark along its length with goblin blood. Her golden-orange hair was cut pageboy short and sat in an unkept shock on her head that reminded Jack a little bit of a campfire. Her skin was as red as a strawberry. She scanned the room momentarily, before stopping a few paces in front of him and Eleanor. She appraised him, before wiping her blade clean and sheathing it on her side.

“This is him?” Sultry voice asked as she crouched down in front of him.

Eleanor nodded.

“Yep. He’s the one.”

The red-skinned woman gave him a nod.

“I’m Rose. Thanks for watching out for our sister. Looks like they put you through the wringer for it.” She said.

Jack laughed weakly.

“You could say that.”

“I was actually about to tend to his wounds.” Eleanor said.

Rose nodded.

“Alright, I’ll get out of your way. We need to get moving soon before more of them show up.” She said.

“Don’t worry. Shouldn’t take more than a second.” Eleanor replied. She knelt back down beside Jack again, and looked him over. She pursed her lips.

“Alright, so, I should be able to mend everything in one spell, but there’s a problem.”

“What is it?” Jack asked.

“Well, your nose is… there’s no real way to put this delicately, but-”

“It’s mangled.” Madeleine chimed in, walking up beside Eleanor.

Eleanor grimaced, and then nodded.

“Yeah, pretty much. If I heal it like it is now, it’s going to look pretty rough. So I am going to need you to help me straighten it back where it needs to go if you care about how it looks.” She said.

“You want me to move my broken nose back into place? With my hands?” Jack said, suddenly feeling queasy again.

Eleanor nodded, her expression sympathetic.

“Afraid so, unless you like the idea of having it point at your left shoulder the rest of your life.” She said.

Jack swallowed hard.

“There’s no other way?” He asked timidly.

“Afraid not.” Eleanor said.

Jack sighed heavily.

“Alright. Get me out of these shackles and I’ll do it.” He said.

“Oh, right. Hey Maddy, you have your picks with you, right?” Eleanor asked.

Madeleine nodded.She reached into the fabric sash around her waist and produced a collection of thin pieces of bent metal. She looked back and forth between them and the locks before selecting two of them and returning the rest. She knelt down on the other side of Jack, and slid the two lockpicks into the keylatch around his right wrist. Within moments, the shackle popped free, and Madeleine moved on to the next until each was undone. Jack gingerly rubbed his wrists until the feeling started returning to his fingers. He took a deep breath. This was going to suck. A LOT. He carefully reached up, and delicately touched the tip of his nose. His face exploded in pain, and he cursed loudly. Come on. You’ve got this. Treat it like a bandaid, Jack. The sooner you do it, the sooner it’ll be over.

He reached up again, his hand just out of reach of his face.

“The pain will stop when you heal it, right?” He asked.

Eleanor nodded.

“It should.” She said.

Alright then. Just a few seconds and it will be over. Count of three, Jacky boy. One. Two. THREE!

Jack reached up, and with a jerk, twisted his nose back to center with a wet crunching sound. When he regained consciousness some time later, Eleanor was leaning over him, her face concerned. When she saw he was awake, she leaned back.

“How do you feel?” She asked.

Jack sat up, and took a deep breath. His face didn’t hurt anymore. He could also breathe through his nose again. He checked his side, and back, and shin, but everything felt like it normally did. After the amount of discomfort he’d just been in, feeling healthy again made him want to jump around for joy.

“Good as new.” He said. “How did you do that?”

Eleanor smiled.

“Magic. Now, let’s get you out of here.” She said. She stood and offered her hand to him.

Jack reached out and took the girl’s hand. Something sizzled, and he jerked his hand away from her with a yelp, sucking air through his teeth and shaking it frantically. He looked down at his palm to see several small blisters were already beginning to form underneath the skin. Eleanor looked at him in confusion for a split second, before a look of realization crossed her face.

“Oh, did I burn you? I figured you’d be immune to heat, considering.” She said, withdrawing her hand and looking at him with a mixture of concern and masked amusement.

Jack looked up at her, still nursing his scorched hand.

“Considering what?” He asked with a grimace.

“Well, when Frumpkin told us you were coming, he said you specifically requested ‘really hot’ companions-”

“The exact term he used was ‘a harem of super hot girls’.” Madeleine interjected, giving Jack a pointed look.

“Anyways”, Eleanor said, shooting Madeleine a sideways glance before continuing. “It’s considered a great honor to meet a hero and to work alongside them. Only, no one ever requests Ifrits, Fire Tieflings, or Ember Sprites because our intense body heat tends to make working together difficult. So we were overjoyed when he told us we’d been specifically selected by you. But, I didn’t really expect to be requested by someone who is so sensitive to temperature.”

“...wait, you’re my harem of super hot girls…?” Jack asked, feeling a sinking sensation in his gut.

Eleanor grinned.

“Yup! That’s us! I’m Eleanor, the Fire Tiefling. The little one you rescued earlier is Madeleine. She’s an Ember Sprite. And Rose over there is an Ifrit. It’s a pleasure to meet you in person, mister hero!”

“...Are you kidding me?” Jack asked.

“What do you mean?” Eleanor asked, tilting her head in confusion.

Jack hung his head, and buried his face in his hands. Of COURSE Frumpkin took his description of “hot women” literally. Here he was, face to face with beautiful women who were overjoyed to be around him, and he couldn’t so much as even give them a high-five without needing skin grafts. Perfect. Just FUCKING perfect!

[So, what do you think, kid? Are they hot enough for ya?] Frumpkin’s voice popped into his head, along with what sounded like a hair dryer.[Do I know how to nail a wish or what?]

You made them literally hot! That is not what I meant at all! Jack thought, mentally envisioning strangling Frumpkin with his beard as he did so.

[Whoa, hey! I gave you exactly what you asked for. It’s not my fault that you used language that apparently has multiple meanings.] Frumpkin said as the sound in the background clicked off momentarily. Maybe it actually was a hairdryer.

Can’t you do something to fix it? Jack pleaded.

[Sorry kid. No refunds. You got what you wished for. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a perm to finish blowdrying.] Frumpkin said. With a click the blowdryer sound resumed, much louder than before.

Hey! I’m not done talking to you! Jack thought

[WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!] Frumpkin yelled back. Somehow, the hair dryer sound got even louder before the connection in his head ended abruptly.

“...Are you okay?”

Jack snapped back to reality to find the three girls all staring at him.

“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’m fine. Why?”

“You’ve just been sitting there staring off into space.” Madeleine said, raising an eyebrow.

“Sorry about that.” Jack said sheepishly.

Eleanor cast another sideways glance at Madeleine, who shrugged.

“So, are you ready to go, mister…?” She trailed off, looking at him expectantly.

He looked at her for a second, trying to figure out what she was wanting. Then it occurred to him that he’d never introduced himself.

“Oh, Jack. My name is Jack.” He said.

“Nice to meet you, Jack.” Eleanor said with a smile. “Can you get up on your own?”

Jack nodded, pushing himself to his feet before dusting himself off. He looked around at the three of them. This was not the most auspicious start to a new life, but seeing his new companions in front of him for the first time, he found a small bit of excitement returning. He was, after all, still a hero for having saved Madeleine. Maybe somewhere along the way he’d figure out how to get better at this whole “saving the day” thing. And maybe, just maybe, figure out how to not get burned by them anymore in the process.

“Alright, let’s get out of here. Lead the way!”