The goblin child sat on a tree root and pouted. “That wasn’t very nice!” he shouted at the wind.
The wind whooshed a little.
“It was greedy you know! You stole all of the pretty leaves and now there isn’t any left for anyone else!”
The wind gave a mournful whistle.
“Of course I forgive you.” The goblin child sighed. “But you have to learn to control your temper.”
Mapwick struggled with a bashful nature. His camouflage made it easy for him to freeze and wait for others to pass by without noticing him, but after a while his loneliness got the better of him.
He made up his mind to befriend the next creature who happened by. A few hours passed and sure enough, a brownie wandered past, foraging for mushrooms.
Mapwick took a deep breath and tried to bury his panic. The strain of it caused a few cracks to appear on the outer layer of his wood-skin. The brownie heard the sound and peered at Mapwick with curiosity. “Hello?” he asked.
Another crack appeared. “Hi there,” Mapwick said. His voice sounded tinny and strange, but he managed to get the words out.
“I’m Erstwhile, I live over there, in the little hill. Didn’t know I had a neighbor. Would you care for a mushie?” The brownie held out a few skullcap mushrooms.
Mapwick shook his head. “No, thank you. I prefer to eat through my roots, but would you like a cup of tea?”
“Oh, yes,” said Erstwhile, grinning.
Mapwick smiled back. He hadn’t smiled in well over a decade, and it caused still more cracks, but he didn’t mind. He’d done it, he’d made a friend at last, and it only hurt a little.
The first twin leaned in and inspected the thing. “It could be anything: a crashed spaceship, a shriveled-up alien that couldn’t survive in our atmosphere…”
“Or a disembodied eye sent to spy on us by some weird old wizard!” said the second twin.
“You guys are so dramatic, it’s just a dried up rosehip,” said the girl.
The boys stopped and stared at her a moment before shaking their heads. “No way. If that’s not worth a fortune in some wizard’s herb shop, I’ll eat my shoe.”
The girl reconsidered. They were the only other kids in the neighborhood. She wanted them to like her, needed them to like her if she wanted to have anyone to play with. “Well, did you know rosehips can cure scurvy?”
“What, like in pirates?”
“Yeah, like in pirates.”
“Whoa.” The boys looked at her with a new respect.