Goblin Stories XXIX

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
When armies fight most goblins run. If they don't run, be worried, because there's a reason why.

Submitted: May 26, 2016

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Submitted: May 26, 2016

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“Of all the ways this could end, this is the dumbest,” Finny said.  He picked dirt from between his toes as he waited for the battle to start, marveling at the mindboggling stupidity of it all.  “Two groups of people, mostly sane, are about to run straight at each other with swords, spears and other pointy bits of metal.  Whoever doesn’t die at the end is the winner, except the Fallen King’s men plan on going to more fights.”

“It does make you doubt the intelligence of mankind,” Stubs agreed.

It was a sunny morning, warm and pleasant, and in total contrast to the madness that was about to happen.  Two of the strangest armies ever to appear on Other Place were gearing up for a fight that would destroy one of them and possibly both.

On the high ground to the east was a peasant army led by Julius Carton of the Guild of Heroes.  They were allied with the army of the Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua, who had hundreds of dangerous men, women and unidentified things.  Soldiers from Duke Warwick, a small clan of ogres and various unaffiliated goblins had joined them.  Coming from the west was the Fallen King and his army of deserters, thieves, bandits, pirates and whoever else he could recruit from bars and gamboling dens, along with a single hag (one was bad enough).  The two armies weren’t especially large or powerful.  The allied army numbered just over three thousand, while the Fallen King commanded seven thousand.  Neither army was particularly well armed.  Truth be told, both sides were nearly broke, with Julius struggling to feed his army and the Fallen King’s men bordering on starvation.

Julius and his followers did have a few small advantages.  They’d taken the high ground and made trenches and wood barricades, while their goblins had trapped anything on the hillside that didn’t move.  Men had cleared the brush and small trees away so enemy forces couldn’t infiltrate their lines.  Lastly, and this was the most important, their camp contained every bite of food for forty miles.  This meant their side got to eat while the Fallen King’s men didn’t.

The goblins were hunkering down on the west side of the barricades.  They were more tolerated than welcomed by the others, so they kept to their own company.  Most goblins would have fled long ago, but this bunch wouldn’t.  Some stayed out of shame, others obligation, a few from anger, while a couple were just too stupid to know how much danger they were in.  The goblins included Finny and Stubs, Campots and Thipins, Brody and Habbly, with Little Old Dude’s students.  Little Old Dude Himself was nowhere to be seen, nor was Ibwibble the Terrifying.  Those two had disappeared last night, and while some thought they’d run away, the goblins knew better.

Stubs and Finny stood near the barricade, watching the Fallen King’s army approach.  Stubs no longer carried the magic gem they’d brought here.  He’d passed it on to a wizard named Sebastian Thane to use and keep it from exploding.  The gemstone was temporarily quiet, but was full of magic and dangerously unstable.

“You see that little bird over there?” Finny asked, and pointed at a sparrow picking through the weeds.  When Stubs nodded, he said, “When things get scary he flies away.  I don’t see why the humans don’t run away, too.”

Habbly, a dirty goblin wearing a red shirt, watched the Fallen King’s men approach in the distance.  “There are too many people here to get them out it time, especially if they’re carrying food and supplies.  If they run they either leave all their stuff behind and starve, or get caught while they’re running and fight anyway.”

Stubs asked him, “Why isn’t the Fallen King going around us?”

“Julius has the food they need to stay alive.  They win this or they’ll be too weak from hunger to take the next town.  If they pass us by anyway, Julius can send out raiding parties to hit them at night or pick off stragglers.”

“Not exactly a winning strategy on Julius’ part, since we might not win,” Stubs said.

Habbly shrugged.  “It’s fight them now when they’re hungry and tired, or do it later when they’re fed and had a chance to recruit more men.”

Finny gripped his empty scabbard and peered at the Fallen King’s men.  “I thought the Fallen King had more guys.”

“Way I hear it, they tried to take over Cronsword and got beat instead.  That was a big loss, but they took smaller hits before that and afterwards,” Habbly said.

Defeats both small and large had taken a toll on the Fallen King’s army.  They’d never been high caliber soldiers, nor well armed, but weeks of marching and days without food made them worse.  The goblins could see even from this distance that the men were thin and moved slower than they should.  The bandits and thieves were caked in dirt and dust.  There were no battle cries as they neared, no pounding of drums, just a slow march.

Finny leaned against the barricade and frowned.  “I’m not getting this whole ‘army’ thing.  You’d think the habit would have died out years ago after everyone who tried it got killed.”

“Sometimes you don’t have a choice,” Habbly told him.

“I want the rope back when you’re done,” Campots pleaded with Thipins.  The two goblins were arguing next to two goblin catapults they’d built last night.  Their construction used up all of Campots’ rope and left the poor goblin miserable.  The rickety contraptions weren’t nearly as large or powerful as human made siege engines, but they were the best goblins could make.

“You’ll get your rope and as much as we can steal from the enemy,” Thipins promised as he cranked a catapult arm down.  He had a few buckets of rocks to fire, along with a live skunk he’d adopted days earlier and called George.  George was being a good sport about the whole thing, largely because he thought he was a pet and not ammunition.

“I bet a small green frog that both catapults rip themselves apart with the first shot,” Brody said.  The blue goblin was staying clear of the catapults on the off chance they might take out spectators when they self-destructed.

“Don’t jinx him,” Habbly said.

More quietly, Brody asked Habbly, “You’re the expert.  What are our chances?”

Habbly studied the enemy army with eyes that had seen years of needless fighting.  “Don’t ask.”

“Weren’t both of you hanging around Julius Craton?” Finny asked Habbly and Brody.

Brody looked ashamed.  “The others told us to leave.  They didn’t want us to get hurt when the fighting starts.”

Finny gripped the top of the barricade.  “It’s starting.”

The goblins hurried over to the barricade and watched.  The scene was both confusing and alarming as the Fallen King’s army began to climb the steep hill.  It was slowing them down and tiring them.  A few men set off traps and were thrown back into the men behind them, but their army forged on.

“It’s like they’re not thinking,” Finny said.  “They’re going to get killed if they keep coming!”

Brody squinted as someone stepped in front of the enemy army.  “Or we are.  It’s the hag!  Hit the ground!”

The Fallen King’s hag stepped in front of the enemy army and chuckled as she raised her arms, one healthy and the other a withered, blacked wreck from her fingertips up past her elbow.  Men, goblins and ogres alike took cover, many diving into trenches.  The corruption spread further up the witch’s arm as she cast a spell.  The air turned black as pitch around her and then reached out like thick, pulsating tentacles.  Moments later those repulsive limbs stretched high into the air and came down across the hillside.

The ebony limbs raked the ground, ripping apart barricades and setting off traps.  A whole row of peasant spearmen was knocked over like bowling pins.  Two tentacles went straight for Julius Craton.

Brody’s eyes went wide in horror.  “No!”

Julius Craton drew the sword Sworn Doom, the sword bellowing, “Doom!”  He hacked through the first grasping tentacle, chopping off fifteen feet from the end.  The severed piece flopped around on the ground like a fish on land before it boiled away into a noxious cloud.  The second tentacle tried to strike him from behind and lost twenty feet as he cleaved it apart.

“Did I ever thank you for giving him that sword?” Brody asked Habbly.

“No.”

“Thank you.”

The hag screamed in pain, and the remaining tentacles withered away as fast as they’d grown.  She gripped her ruined arm and cursed so loudly the goblins could hear it.  The Fallen King’s men hesitated, but she swore at them and pointed up the hill.  The enemy came again and left the hag to recover.  They went up where the hag’s tentacles had cleared them a path.  With no traps to worry about, they climbed the hill faster.

“We spent days making those traps!” Thipins screamed.  “Covered pits, dung lobbers, trip lines, a work of art destroyed in seconds.  That woman has no respect for craftsmanship!”

Stubs looked down and shook his head.  “A shameful loss.”

Thipins loaded his two catapults with rocks and the skunk.  He petted the skunk and said, “It’s for a good cause, George.”

“They’re not in range yet,” Campots said.  “Give them a minute.”

The goblins tensed as the two armies neared.  The Fallen King’s forces howled and swung their weapons in the air as they closed the distance.  The defenders rallied as best they could after such a horrible attack.  For a moment it looked like the peasants would run, but Julius Craton moved to the front rank.  The goblins couldn’t figure out why, but that was all it took to keep them from fleeing.

“Supper time!”  The goblins turned around to see Dumple and his fellow cooks coming with all the food they could carry.  They’d loaded wheel barrels with pots of goblin stew, the foul concoction killing grass ten feet away with its fumes.  Dumple smiled and wheeled the feast to the waiting goblins.

“What are you doing?” Brody asked.

“With this foolishness about a war and people getting killed, we figured you’d all like some hot food beforehand,” Dumple explained.  “Honestly, just because everyone’s going to die is no reason to skip a meal.  We brought plenty for everyone, so feel free to have second helpings.”

Human troops stayed well back from the goblins for a variety or reasons, but now they had a new one.  Peasants and soldiers alike gagged at the stench of the goblin stew.  Many of them backed away.  Thipins watched their reaction and told Campots, “Dump the rocks and let George go.”

With that Thipins ran over and commandeered the wheel barrel Dumple had brought.  He pushed it to the waiting catapults and grabbed one of the pots.

“That’s a bigger portion than I’d intended,” Dumple said.  His confusion turned to shock when Thipins loaded the pots into the catapults.  “Wait, what are you doing?”

“Fire one!”  Thipins firing one catapult while Campots fired the second.  Two pots of goblin stew flew through the air and landed in the enemy’s left flank.  The pots knocked over a few people when they landed, but more importantly they dumped their contents over a wide area.  Men screamed in horror at the stench.  Thipins pulled back the catapult’s arm and shouted, “Reload!”

“No, stop!” Dumple begged, but other goblins held him back as his stew was loaded and fired.  Two more pots went into enemy lines, and two after that.  The first catapult broke down, actually firing it’s own arm over the barricade, but the second held together long enough to fire the last pot before it came apart.  Gallons of goblin stew splashed across hundreds of feet as the pots rolled down hill and emptied out.  Dumple watched his lovingly prepared food splattered over the enemy, not a drop eaten.  The poor goblin fell to his knees screaming, “Oh the humanity!”

The goblin stew proved more effective than flaming oil.  Men pinched their noses closed and squeezed their eyes shut.  The tore off any piece of clothing that had the foul stew on it.  They would have thrown up except their stomachs were empty.  Large patches of grass died and turned black.  A full thousand men stopped their advance, and as one they ran away.

An enemy leader tried to rally his men.  He grabbed a soldier by the collar and dragged him up the hill, screaming for the others to follow.  A few men did.  Just then they triggered the last trap left on the hill and the only one to escape the hag’s attack.

Carefully cut strips of sod flopped aside as the buried trap dumped a thousand gallons of liquid filth.  Ibwibble the Terrifying had carefully collected every speck of dung and drop of urine from the camp the night before and stored it here.  The rancid smelling concoction poured down the hill in a flood of indescribable foulness that washed over the enemy up to their knees.  That was the last straw.  The enemy was already nauseous from the goblin stew, and this new assault was too much.  Goblins cheered as men fled in disgust.  The Fallen King’s army lost its entire left flank before the two sides had even met.

Finny laughed and jumped for joy, shouting, “We did it!”

“Then why are the rest still coming?” Brody asked.

The goblins stopped cheering.  The Fallen King had lost a thousand men, maybe more, but the other six thousand continued their advance.  They were spread out over such a large area that most of them were too far away to see what had happened to their left flank.  Ignorant of the loss, they continued up the hill.

Finny rolled his eyes.  “Only humans could be this stupid.”

* * * * *

Julius Craton watched in amazement as the Fallen King lost a large portion of his army.  The odds were still two to one against, but Julius had a lot of talented and experienced men on his side.  More importantly, he had ogres.

“Hammerhand!” Julius shouted.  The young ogre ran over with a gleam in his eyes, excited by the prospects of battle.  Julius was going to give an order when he smelled alcohol on the ogre’s breath.  “Are you still drunk from yesterday?”

“Never!  I’m drunk from this morning.  They brew a fine beer in these parts, and there’s plenty of it.”

Julius pointed at the fleeing enemy and said, “The enemy left flank is retreating.  Take the ogres and Duke Warwick’s men, and lead them down the hill on the left.  Ignore the deserters.  Swing right and hit the enemy center.”

“Magnificent!”  Hammerhand ran back to his fellow ogres and explained the plan.  The best warriors Julius had charged down the hill in a line, an easy feat when no one opposed them.  Before they reached the ground covered by filth, their formation swung like a door and hit the exposed enemy center in the side.  They were badly outnumbered, but the move caught the enemy off guard.  Enemy troops fell back and got jammed together so close that they couldn’t fight.

But the enemy still pressed on.  The right flank still didn’t know what was going on with the left and center part of their army.  A competent commander could have issued orders with horns or flags, but the Fallen King didn’t use either.  His army kept coming, ignorant of their losses or at the very least not reacting to them.

“Where’s the hag?” Julius asked.  They were minutes away from the enemy hitting their broken defenses.  She’d done a lot of damage with only one spell, and a second could cost them any chance for victory.

Witch Hazel was to Julius’ right, along with Sebastian Thane.  They were his best chance to stop the hag, no easy task, and one made worse when she could take cover in the still swollen ranks of the enemy.

Witch Hazel pointed to the army’s center.  “There!  She’s casting a spell.  Stop her!”

Witch Hazel cast a spell and tried to turn the hag into a newt, while Sebastian Thane created flaming serpents and swarmed them over the hag’s legs.  Enemy soldiers around her ran off to keep from being hit by their spells or her retaliation.  A wave from the hag dispelled both attacks, and her response rocked the army.

Gouts of black flame shot up from the ground, blasting through the trenches and barricades.  The defenses burned away in seconds as men scattered in terror.  The flames died back, and black, horrifying, oozing things as big as men slithered up from the holes burned in the ground.

Julius hacked apart the nearest abomination, and then a second.  They screeched and melted when they died, but the rest were converging on him.  He took down a third one and saw a peasant impale a fourth with his spear.

“You can’t stop all of me,” one of the things croaked.

Another slithered closer.  “I hate you.  I hate everything you stand for, you judgmental, self righteous, stubborn fool.  You’re no different than the men who spurned me!”

Julius ducked a clumsy attack and dispatched another abomination.  “They’re talking like they’re one person.”

Witch Hazel cast a spell and flattened one of the monsters.  “They’re extensions of the hag’s will.  Stop her and we stop them.”

Julius saw more of the horrors slither up from the ground.  “Do it fast, because she’s making more.”

Sebastian paused, a frightened look in his eyes.  He’d brought the magic gem with him inside a pocket.  He grabbed it and pointed it at the hag.  He knew only a few spells and none of them strong.  Tapping into the gem’s stored power might make his spells powerful enough to stop the hag.  But the gem was so unstable that using it could release too much energy and make it explode.  Pointing the gem at the hag, he told the others, “Back up.”

The gem lit up as Sebastian drew on its energy.  Grass burst into flame around him.  The gem grew hot as it magnified his meager spell.  Sebastian trembled and gritted his teeth.  His skin turned red and hot to the touch.  “It’s too much!”

Witch Hazel stepped over and put a hand on his shoulder.  She could feel the energy coursing through him and threatening to overwhelm him.  She began chanting, and while took all her strength, she redirected the excess power back into the spell he was casting.

Sebastian gasped and passed out from the strain, but only after finishing his spell.The gem flashed and seven flaming serpents poured out of it, each one fifty feet long and five feet wide.  They hesitated a moment and looked at Sebastian, then turned their gaze at the hag’s nightmare creations.  Two serpents spent themselves burning away the monstrosities.  They spit out blindingly hot flames and destroyed them all, then faded away.  The other five turned their attention to the hag.

“Garbage magic magnified is still garbage,” the hag said.  She cast a spell and formed a black wall of howling faces around her.

Two serpents flew through the air and rammed the black wall, one after another.  The first nearly burned through before spending all its power, but by the time the second struck the wall had recovered and blocked it as well.  The hag staggered under the attack, and the corruption spread further.  Her entire left arm was ruined, and her shoulder blackened and withered.

The other three serpents rose up together and flew at the hag as one.  She braced herself for the attack, knowing the cost she would have to pay for surviving it would leave her even more horrible than before.  She might not have any normal flesh left.

“So be it,” the hag said.  “Let my body match my soul, tortured and lost.”

“I’d stick with ugly,” a voice said.

The hag looked down and saw a plug of ground two feet across pop up behind her.  Little Old Dude and Ibwibble the Terrifying climbed out.  Together with Little Old Dude’s students, they’d laced the hillside with tunnels and hidden entrances the night before, and this one was the closest to her.  Little Old Dude pressed a button on his cane and extended a short blade.

“You made your choice, Madeline, so I have no pity for you,” Little Old Dude said.  He stabbed her in the foot and Ibwibble kicked her in the shin, minor wounds but enough to break her concentration.  She cried out in pain as the two goblins retreated underground.  Minor as the injuries were, the magic barrier weakened and fell without her focusing on it.  The three flaming serpents struck and unleashed their fury in torrents of fire.  With their power expended the three serpents vanished.  Nothing remained of the hag except bad memories.

Back at the top of the hill, Julius told Witch Hazel, “Get Sebastian out of here.  The rest of you, form a line!  They’re almost on us!”

Witch Hazel grabbed Sebastian by the heels and dragged him back to their camp.  She escaped seconds before the Fallen King’s remaining men reached the crest of the hill and attacked.  Thousands of screaming, wild eyed, foul smelling men went headlong into the defenders.  Julius Craton’s army staggered under the assault, their line bending backwards.

In the chaos of the moment, no one noticed that Sebastian had dropped the magic gem when he’d passed out.  It landed in the short grass and began to hum.

* * * * *

The two armies crashed into one another in a confusing melee.  The Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua’s forces held their own against a thousand enemies.  Julius Craton’s peasants were being pushed back, but it was a slow retreat and not a rout.  Ogres and Duke Warwick’s crack troops continued their flank attack, running riot through the enemy’s center and rear.

Goblins ran through this chaotic mess, ducking between knots of men and dodging the few enemies who saw them.  There weren’t many goblins, and they were far weaker than their enemies, but they came on regardless of the risk, slipping through the armies like salmon going upstream.

Little Old Dude came back above ground and tripped an enemy with his cane and watched the fallen man get trampled by his own side.  “Sloppy.”

“You want some of this?”  Ibwibble the Terrifying ran through the enemy army and stomped on people’s feet.  Most goblins would have called it a good day with defeating the hag.  Ibwibble wasn’t most people.  He kicked two men and punched a third.  “I got some for you, too!”

Enemies tried to stab Ibwibble, but their long swords and battleaxes were hard to use in the tightly packed crowd.  Two men accidentally hit each other trying to get the little goblin.  The other goblins were equally hard to fight in such close quarters, allowing them to do damage far greater than their small size suggested.

Most of the goblins split up or were separated, but Stubs, Finny, Brody and Habbly stuck together.  They worked their way through the mass of humanity, striking enemies only when they had to.  They had a far greater goal than mere victory.

“Where’s Julius?” Brody asked.  He ducked under an enemy sword and kept moving.

Finny pushed a man over in his way and followed the others.  “He was in the middle somewhere.  Can’t he handle this himself?”

Brody tripped over a fallen enemy and the other goblins helped him up.  “The men around him are just farmers.  Magic sword or not, he’s not going to make it through this without help.”

The others looked dubious at Brody’s claims, but Habbly backed him up.  “It’s more than that.  Craton has been in too many fights, too much stress.  Come on, guys, you can see it in his eyes, the way he looks when he thinks no one is watching.  He should have been retired years ago. He puts on a good show, but he’s at the breaking point.”

Finny backed away from a crowd of spearmen that ran by and nearly ran him over.  More enemies followed, but to Finny’s surprise they were running away.  He saw a crowd of ogres rush after them, the furry beasts battering aside anyone in their path and singing drunkenly.

“Hey, I know some of those guys,” Brody said.  “They’re brewers from the town of Killrith.”

One ogre was so drunk he slipped and fell over, landing on one of the Fallen King’s men.  The ogre laughed and got up while the man stayed on the ground and groaned.  Stubs rolled his eyes and said, “That’s why beer and armies don’t mix.”

The ogres’ charge left an opening in the enemy ranks.  Brody ran into it after Julius, and the other goblins followed.

The noise from the fighting was unbelievable.  Men shouted and screamed.  Swords clanged as they struck armor.  Wood shields splintered and spear shafts snapped.  Officers shouted orders, but few could hear them.

An enemy saw Brody and tried to stab him with a pickax.  Brody ducked right and the pickax went deep into the soft ground.  Habbly kicked the weapon’s handle and broke it while Stubs and Finny tripped the man.  Down but not out, the enemy struggled to his feet and punched Finny, knocking him down.  Habbly hit the man just below his ribs and forced the air from his lungs.  He staggered and fell, allowing the goblins to flee.

Finny scrambled across the ground, trying not be stepped on in the process.  A man tripped over him and cursed, knocking Finny to the ground again.  He got up to his hands and knees, and that’s when he saw a faint light in a patch of grass.  Finny crawled over, heedless of the fighting around him, and found a most familiar and unwelcome sight.  It was the magic gem he and Stubs had delivered to Sebastian Thane.  It hadn’t been glowing like this when they handed it over, and the hum was louder.  “Oh no.”

“Finny!”  It was Stubs and the others.  They helped him up and tried to lead him away, but Finny dug in his heels and pointed at the gem.  Brody and Habbly didn’t grasp its importance, but Stubs did.  “Oh come on!  How many times do we have to get rid of this thing?”

“If I’m right, just once more.”  Finny grabbed the gem and yelped.  He sucked his fingers and then wrapped the gem in the edge of his shirt so he could safely hold it.  “It’s hot and making noises a rock shouldn’t make.”

“I think it’s going to blow up soon,” Habbly said.

Finny stared at the magic rock, now a weapon instead of a treasure.  “That might not be a bad thing.”

* * * * *

Julius Craton fought with his back to a tree deep in his own camp.  His forces had been pushed back so far that he’d been left behind.  He was barely holding his own, and help was nowhere in sight.  The Fallen King’s men were on him like a swarm of flies, coming in from all directions.  They suffered terrible losses at his hands but kept coming, many of them pushed forward by the men behind them.

“Come on, lads, we win or we die!” an enemy officer shouted.  He charged Julius and swung his rust sword in a clumsy swing.  Julius blocked the attack with his long sword and stabbed at the officer with Sworn Doom.

Doom!”  The men following him backed away as their officer fell to his knees and then on his belly.  Glowing brightly, Sworn Doom said, “It’s not an either or question.  You come at Julius Craton, and you die.  Not a hard concept to grasp.”

Julius gasped for breath.  The brief lull as the enemy held off was welcome.  Sworn Doom’s bravado aside, he was exhausted.  The fight had gone far worse than he’d thought.  The Fallen King’s army had lost so many men that they were no longer a threat to any but the smallest of villages, but they weren’t running.  Any commander worth his salt would have pulled back long ago to save his men and try again later.  Why was the Fallen King staying in the fight?

“You.”  The word came out like a death threat.  Julius saw the Fallen King himself join the fight.  He wasn’t a sight to impress, with dirty, bloodstained clothes, messy hair and a tangled beard.  But the magic sword he held made up for any personal deficit.  The purplish black long sword dripped black ichor that burned the ground it landed on, and a face on the blade moaned and scowled.

“You illegitimate halfwit!” the Fallen King roared.  “You dare stand against me?  You don’t even know your father’s name, and you’d pit yourself against the son of a king?  The gall.  The audacity for a fool like you to face his better in combat, it staggers the imagination.  What made you think you’d win?  What drunken delusion made you think you stood a chance?”

“Because he’s been putting idiots like you in the ground for fifteen years,” Sword Doom replied.  “And for the love of God, get that gore drenched perversion of a sword to stop drooling!

The Fallen King stared at Sword Doom.  “What?”

Yeah, that’s right, you spoiled brat, you’ve met your match!  You’ve got some nerve bragging about being royalty.  This is the best you could do?  Rally an army of losers and idiots, and send them to their deaths?  And I wasn’t joking about your sword.  Get it under control or someone’s going to do it for you!”

“He has a bit of a temper,” Julius explained.  He stepped away from the tree and toward the Fallen King.  To his credit, his enemy didn’t back up.  “I’ve been fighting monsters like you for half my life.  I’ve heard all the excuses why they do horrible things, how it’s their right to rule or how noble their grievances are.  But that’s all they are, excuses.  You’ve ruined half the Land of the Nine Dukes, and they had nothing to do with you losing your throne.”

Moving closer, Julius continued talking.  “None of this was necessary.  You could have gone on to great things, king or not, but instead you destroy everything, the same as your sword.  You’ve even destroyed your own army.”

Shocked, the Fallen King turned around and looked at the battle raging behind him.  On the top of the hill he had an excellent view of the ogres and Duke Warwick’s infantry as they went through his forces like a scythe.  Men ran for their lives, yet found nowhere to go as they were pushed into other formations.  Those men who’d fled the goblins’ olfactory assault were still running and would soon reach the horizon.  The Fallen King brought seven thousand men to this battle and had less that two thousand left.

“No,” he said.  His eyes darted left to right.  The peasants were still falling back, but this proved to be a blessing as the army of the Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua finished fighting their enemies and came to help.  With the peasants in front of them and hundreds of battle hardened fighters coming at them from behind, the Fallen King’s remaining men panicked and tried to flee.  No reinforcements came, for the few men remaining in his army’s center were trying (and failing) to hold back the ogres and infantry.

“I wondered why you didn’t order a retreat, or send men to stop the ogres before they attacked,” Julius said.  “It just hit me; you never commanded an army before, have you?  You’re not issuing orders with flags or horns and you don’t have a reserve.  You just threw these men into battle.”

The Fallen King was silent, but his mouth gaped like a fish out of water.

“You did a good job raising your army,” Julius conceded.  “With enough training and good officers they would have been a threat equal to any I’ve faced.  But you just sent them in, no plan, no support from the people, no goal other than burn it all.  You may be the son of a king, but you’re no general.”

“They failed me,” the Fallen King said.  “Victory was within reach and they failed me.”

“It’s over,” Julius told him.  “Order your men to surrender and their lives will be spared.”

The Fallen King’s sword howled, and he raised it to attack.  “I will not be a prisoner.  This hill shall be my grave, but it shall be yours as well!  My bodyguard, to me!  No retreat, no surrender, no mercy!”

Julius raised his sword in time to block the Fallen King’s first swing.  Black ichor splashed from the blade and burned where it landed.  Julius brought down Sworn Doom on it.  The two magic swords flashed when they hit.  Acidic ichor flowed in torrents when Sword Doom struck, but neither sword was damaged.

“Low born cur!” the Fallen King bellowed.  He swung again and missed, his blade spraying ichor with every attack.  “What right do you have to judge a king?  What do you know of my pain, my loss?”

Julius blocked a swing with his long sword.  He stopped the Fallen King’s blade, but the black ichor pitted his sword so badly it snapped off at the hilt.  Julius lashed out with Sworn Doom, but the Fallen King dodged the shorter weapon.

The Fallen King kept up his attacks ruthlessly, his misses splashing acid across the ground.  Wild eyed, he screamed, “Do you even know my real name?”

Julius blocked another swing and struck the Fallen King a glancing blow.  “I don’t care.  No one does.”

Twenty of the Fallen King’s bodyguard caught up with him after breaking away from the ogres.  They crested the hill and moved to encircle Julius.  He saw them coming, but while the Fallen King’s army was falling, help was still minutes away.  He couldn’t run without the Fallen King striking him in the back.  He blocked another blow and took a deep breath.  This was going to be bad.

* * * * *

Finny led his fellow goblins across the battlefield.  The crowds thinned out as more men fled or fell.  They saw a panicked enemy soldier throw down the Fallen King’s standard of a crowd dripping blood, then try to run away.  He would have escaped except the ogres trampled him on accident.  One ogre stopped to apologize before returning to the fight.

Stubs pointed to the crest of the hill, where the fighting still raged.  “Finny, it’s Julius.  They’ve got him surrounded!”

The four goblins went to save him, quite possibly the world’s least inspiring rescue attempt.  They reached the top of the hill in time to see Julius and the Fallen King trading blows.  But this was no duel of equals, for the Fallen King’s bodyguards were joining in.

It wasn’t the decisive move it could have been.  The Fallen King’s sword continued spraying acid with each swing, drenching the ground with black ichor.  Grass and broken barricades dissolved when splashed with it.  The bodyguards tried to attack and stepped on the contaminated ground by accident.  Men cried out in pain and leapt back, then pulled off their boots as the acid ate through the leather.

Julius pushed forward and forced the Fallen King back to the edge of the hill.  His armor was smoking where acid droplets were burning through.  A bodyguard attacked him from behind and nearly hit.  Julius grabbed the man with his free hand and threw him into the Fallen King.  Two more bodyguards charged in.

Finny watched in horror at the sword he’d once thrown away.  It was awful, destroying everything it came near as it poured out acid.  Why would the Fallen King touch such a thing, much less keep it?

The gem in his hands began to hum louder, and the pitch grew higher.  How long until it went off?  Hours?  Seconds?  There was no way to tell, and no one to fix it with Sebastian gone.  Finny didn’t know how bad the explosion would be, but Sebastian had cautioned him to stay back fifty or sixty feet in case it went off.

That’s when everything fell into place in Finny’s mind.

Finny pointed at Julius and screamed, “Guys, roll him down the hill!”

Stubs, Brody and Habbly ran into the fight, pushing over a bodyguard and kicking another one in the shin and they slipped in.  They reach Julius as he and the Fallen King crossed swords again.  The three goblins shoved the Fallen King out of the way and grabbed Julius by the legs.  Julius didn’t have time to react before they pulled hard and sent him down the hill.  He cried out in surprise as he and the three goblins tumbled down the slope and rolled over several fallen men and knocked down two enemies still standing.  They stopped a hundred feet away when they hit the ogres.

“Just the man I was looking for,” Hammerhand said as he helped Julius up.  “Come to join the fun?”

With Julius safe, Finny ran toward the Fallen King and his bodyguards.  Julius’ bizarre escape momentarily caught them by surprise, and Finny went unnoticed.  He spotted a patch of black acid on the ground, a puddle three feet across and still steaming as it ate through the topsoil.  Finny threw the gem as hard as he could onto the acid and then dove off the hill after his friends.

Confused, the Fallen King looked down the hill.  He heard a strange noise behind him and turned to see the magic gem in the acid.  It’s humming turned to a scream as the gem dissolved, and its light became blindingly bright.

“What the—” he began.

BOOM!

The explosion threw men to their knees across the battlefield as a purplish light flashed across the hilltop.  Tons of dirt was thrown two hundred feet into the air before raining down.  The ground shook and cracked in places from the force of the blast.  The Fallen King’s sword screamed as it was thrown into the sky by the blast and landed point first in a boulder, driving it in up to the hilt.

The few of the Fallen King’s men still standing gasped in terror as they realized the explosion had struck where their master had been.  Some threw down their weapons and tried to flee while others surrendered and begged for their lives.  Julius’ peasant army and the followers of the Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua were just as surprised by the blast.  Stunned by the blast and their enemy’s sudden collapse, they took enemy prisoners but didn’t follow those fleeing.

Julius walked back up the hill with Hammerhand, the other ogres and the goblins.  He reached the top and found a crater twenty feet deep and forty feet wide.  Stray bolts of magic arced across the crater like lightning, a last remnant of the gem’s stored energy.  Smoke rose lazily into the sky and the air smelled of charred wood.

There was no trace of the Fallen King except his sword, jammed in a rock and howling in frustration.

“Wow,” Julius said.

Hammerhand put an arm around Julius’ shoulders and smiled.  “That’s got to be the biggest and strangest win you’ve ever pulled off.  How did you do it?”

“I’ll tell you when I figure it out myself.”


© Copyright 2017 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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