But still, that didn't take away the fact that he was taking a chance, a slim and dangerous one, but a chance, to get a glimpse of Fig. Just to see that he was still alive, well, and living a good life. That was all Gren wanted, was to see that he was happy.
Gren sighed wistfully, and continued down the path towards the Pavillion. So far, he hadn't been spotted, and he took that as a sign from someone above that this was a good plan. It wasn't long before he heard deep male voices, and a wheedling feminine giggle. Gren quickly hid behind the shadow of the potted Feverfew, and looked at the scene ahead.
Two male norns were staring lustily at a little petite female norn. She looked of Purple Mountain heritage, having arms and legs of a PMN, but had a red tail and white haired head. However, she looked rather uncomfortable, shuffling about but still smiling and giggling all the same. The males danced around her, trying their best to impress her with their antics, and the female smiled unwillingly. They kept on however, until finally she slapped them, and turned her back. The males finally got the message, and turned to go.
Soon, the two males retreated, and the female was left alone. She looked extremely tired, and her arms sagged. Gren almost came out of his shelter and embraced her, knowing that she must feel so unworthy. But he didn't, knowing that it was an extremely dangerous idea and he was in enough of it as it was. It was then that Gren saw...
...Fig. Appearing out of nowhere and coming up to the female, arms out in a hug. She grinned, and held out her own arms in the same fashion, awaiting for the embrace. The Grendel was amazed at how much older and wiser Fig looked, no longer a child but an adult. Already he looked many times bigger than Gren, but still, he knew it was him. The impish, twinkling look he had grown to know so well was there, in this norn's eyes... it had to be Fig.
It took all of Gren's energy just to not run out, knock the female down, and cry out Fig's name. However, he stayed where he was, waiting for the most perfect time to make himself known.
After the initial hug between Fig and the female, they stood back and started talking.
"Allegra! How are you? I haven't seen ya for so long!" Fig started, grinning broadly. "Is the pregnancy going well?"
It was at this Allegra lost most of her gleam, and slightly wilted. "No," she whispered, "It was a stillborn. I grieved for the longest time too. But... Hand says it wasn't my fault. Everyone knows that the Grendel comes out and blows his evil, mystic breath on all pregnant female. That's how stillborns are made y'know." After this long sentence, Allegra stood back and smiled self consciously, pleased with her cleverness.
Gren, however, was stunned. Was this one of the lies The Hand spread around? That he, intentionally, went out and killed Norns for no reason? Even going out and having the power to make healthy babies into stillborns, and not mentioning Mother Nature for it? He started shaking with rage, claws clenching and spasmodically opening up.
"Awww, Allegra. Don't tell me you go for that crap. You know that Hand makes these things up, just to put the blame on others. I'm sure that the Grendel wouldn't - and couldn't - do such a thing," Fig consoled, his eyes too flashing a little bit with anger.
"How would you know Benedict?" Allegra retorted, "Hand knows everything, and why should I trust you anyways? You're the one who was raised by that... that... monster!" Allegra practically screeched on the last word, before wheeling around and running back into the Kitchen.
"Allegra! Wait!" he called, hand reaching out to the vacant space where she once was. Fig's eyes dimmed, and he sat down, heart broken.
Gren took his chance. He stood up from his crouched position, and started walking towards Fig. Once he reached the Baobab plant, Gren coughed a little and tried to catch Fig's attention. It worked.
His head snapped up, and Fig's eyes widened. Gren only stood there, too overjoyed to even speak. Only the periodic fluting call of the birds broke the silence that was happening between the two. Soon Fig put out a tentative hand to touch Gren's claw, then abruptly pulled away. Finally, he was able to work his jaw loose, and Fig spoke.
"You're... you're alive," he whispered, awestruck. "I-I can't believe it. I thought Hand killed you that night... when...."
"That's enough son," Gren answered. "I'm alive, that's sure; a little blind, and a little crippled, but still breathing. Now close that mouth before I have to close it myself. I can't stay too long." He smiled affectionately towards Fig, and leaned a little on the post that supported the Pavillion. "Now tell me, how is my little Fig?"
"I'm... all right," Fig admitted, "It's not a bad life. But I still miss you, Gren. I even have a mate... sort of." Fig suddenly shut up, and looked a little ashamed. "Though she doesn't really think we are..."
"Allegra is it? Heh, she's trouble, I'll guarantee that. However, I'm sorry that this encounter has been brief, but I really must go, before someone discovers me."
"Oh! Please don't Gren! I don't know what to-" But Fig never got the chance to finish his sentence. At that moment Allegra was walking up from the Kitchen, looking apologetic, when she spotted Gren.
Albia stopped. Or at least it felt like it, for all three of them wouldn't do anything but look at each other. Finally she spoke.
"Oh my Hand-" Allegra quickly covered his mouth, face full of panic and shock, then gave a muffled scream. "Benedict, I never thought, never did, oh my Hand, oh my Hand... you're with him!" Blubbering, she fell back on her haunches, and started screaming.
Fig / Benedict ran forward and reached for Allegra, but she flinched away. She continued screaming, yelling and cursing Fig and Gren with all her might, and hardly ever taking a chance to catch a breath. Her face gradually turned red, to the point that Fig had to stoop down and clamp a hand over her mouth before she called attention to all of Albia.
However, the Kitchen Clan had heard Allegra's insane screaming, and voices were urgently calling to the scene. It wasn't long before the first norn was spotted running towards them, a half-chewed carrot still in his hand from his early morning breakfast. His mouth dropped open at the sight that was before him, and he nearly dropped the carrot from surprise. Other norns were pushing from behind, ready to fight whatever that was causing such an uproar. They too, paused dramatically when they saw the frantic Allegra, a blushing Fig, and Gren... standing quietly with his eyes glazed over.
"It's the Grendel!" many norns quickly shouted, assuming that this legendary monster would be the root of all problems.
"Kill him!" yelled one rambunctious young norn, holding up the Coffee pot viciously.
"I say drive him out before he does anything worse," another answered, this one holding down the Coffee before the youngster could hit anyone in the eye.
All of the Norns started calling simultaneously, jeering towards the slumped Grendel, and claiming different ways of getting rid of him. A couple started towards Gren, anxious to get a few kicks on his hide. If it wasn't for Fig who abruptly pushed them back, both of them would have seriously injured the frail Grendel.
Gren just sat there through the whole riot, looking as if he really wasn't there spiritually. His eyes were half closed, and he listened vaguely to the upraised voices of the Norns as they tried to decide his verdict. Suddenly he felt his arm jerked up by some unseen force, and he was brutally twisted around into the presence of The Hand.
It just hovered there above his head, saying nothing and doing nothing. The rest of the Norns were suddenly silent, not saying a thing in front of their guardian. They shuffled about awkwardly, until finally The Hand cast a meaningful finger towards their direction, and that too ceased. The only sound left in the whole Garden was the quiet whimpers of Allegra.
Abruptly, the Hand spoke.
"Gren... I'm surprised at you. We left you alone, peacefully I might add. Yet you still come back here, searching for your..." It paused, then spat out, "Fig."
Gren lightly fluttered his eyes, then glanced at the ground again. He seemed too hopeless for words.
Suddenly, a small, but determined, voice spoke up.
"Let me see him.... please," it said, and out of the crowd came a tiny girl norn. She was of regular variety of norns it seemed, except for one unique features. Her eyes. They were beyond enchanting, blue with a few flecks of silver. However, they were blind eyes, for they seemed to be fixated on one particular spot.
"A child of the mind," Gren thought vaguely, and a small smile stirred before collapsing.
The girl norn shuffled slightly forward, and laid a paw on Gren's shoulder. No one opposed even to this touch, the other norns seemed to shocked for words, and The Hand stayed silent. She slid her paw down, feeling his scales and getting an idea of his image. She paused slightly when she came to the irregular shaped claw, but lightly touched the tips before continuing up to his face. Finally, after what seemed hours, she stopped and faced the crowd.
"I don't see why you feel so harshly towards him," she stated. "He seems to be just like us, only... different. But everyone is different from each other, aren't they? I'm blind, others tell me there are norns with a Saturn gene, and that norns can come in all shades of the rainbow. We don't exclude them, do we? So why should we exclude the Grendel?"
Her small voice had raised in triumph on that last word, and she fell silent. Many of the other norns seemed ashamed, staring remorsefully at the ground and up into the sky. Even the one norn who had shook the Coffee pot so bloodthirstily seemed crestfallen.
Suddenly, he looked up and walked determinedly towards Gren. He dropped the pot, and leaned towards him... and gave Gren a small tickle. Gren instinctively giggled, and the little norn smiled. Soon others joined him, and they all gave Gren hugs. Fig and the blind norn gave especially large ones.
When they had all finished, they stopped the smiles and laughs and looked towards The Hand solemnly. The Hand hovered quietly, apparently having an internal battle, and then seemed to droop. It then went over to Gren and gave him a tickle.
"I guess I was wrong," it murmured, and tickled Gren again.
Gren could only grin. He felt relief, and smiled.
"Happily Ever Afters can happen to Grendels too," he mused, then turned towards Fig for another hug....
"Unkie Gwen!" a small norn cried delightfully.
Gren looked down upon the norn, and lifted him up on his lap. The child squirmed a little, but was grinning all the same.
"Hey kiddo," he teased, then lifted him up in the air. The norn squealed and waved his arms delightedly.
Fig and Allegra watched on as their son, Gregory, played with Gren. The two laughed and chased each other, even though Gren was a little slow. Fig smiled, and leaned towards Allegra, who's small belly was already large with another child. She seemed content, and leaned on him too.
The blind female who saved Gren's life, Lisa, came hurrying over to the couple. She waved a greeting, and sat down near them.
"How's things going?" she asked, and cocked an amused ear towards the sounds of Gren and Gregory playing. "Busy it seems."
"Oh, great!" Fig said. "Gregory has really gotten attached to Gren... and the sad thing is, he forgets his old dad sometimes."
Gregory turned towards his father. "Do not!" he declared. "Love dad too!" and ran over to Fig, who gave him a hug.
Gren looked on happily. It seemed things were going all right. The Hand even exchanged a kind word or two sometimes, although he was more often than not aloof. He shuffled over to the small group of norns, and sat down.
Suddenly, Fig picked up the nearby drum, and started playing a beat on it. They all ended up singing a folk song, and Gren sang with with, heartily. He looked at each of them against the glow of the kitchen fire, Fig, Allegra, Lisa... and Gregory. He smiled again, and raised his voice up with theirs. For once, he was truly happy.