Goblin Stories Epilog

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Goblins know the truth that even stupid things have to end.

Submitted: June 10, 2016

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Submitted: June 10, 2016

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“Normally I don’t like goodbyes, but this one means no one is trying to kill us,” Brody said.  “I like that.”

“It’s a rare and happy improvement,” Julius Craton told him.  “History shows it’s a temporary one.”

Brody guided Julius Craton through the woods and back ways of the Land of the Nine Dukes, careful to avoid settlements of any kind.  This wasn’t hard to do given how many communities the Fallen King’s army torched before they were defeated, but there were still a large number of fortified towns and castles that had survived the war.  While it was good they hadn’t been destroyed, the people living there might not be friendly.

The Nine Dukes had survived the war largely by avoiding it, and now that the fighting was over they’d sent out their soldiers.  Most people would thank their lucky stars they were alive, but the dukes treated this as an opportunity to raid one another while things were still unsettled.  It was doubtful they’d afford Julius a warm welcome and no chance they’d tolerate a goblin’s presence.

It didn’t help that the last battle had cost Julius so much.  His steel breastplate and chain armor were gone, so damaged by acidic slime that they crumbled at the touch.  He’d given them to a blacksmith for scrap metal.  The most celebrated member of the Guild of Heroes now wore simple cotton clothes, secondhand boots and a backpack loaded with three day’s provisions.  These were good enough for traveling, but useless should a fight break out.  His long sword was gone, broken beyond repair, but he wasn’t defenseless with the magic sword Sworn Doom sheathed on his belt.

The fighting was over, and with it any reason for Julius Craton and the others to remain.  Their army had disbursed quickly, with The Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua’s men leaving the Land of the Nine Dukes entirely.  Many others left as well, for the land had suffered much from the depredations of the Fallen King.  With so many farms and towns destroyed there was no choice but to flee and hope for better chances elsewhere.

Julius pointed at two of their fellow goblins who were taking another route.  Campots and Thipins were still visible in the distance, mainly because Campots had so covered himself in stolen rope that he looked like a ball with legs.  Even now they could hear the little goblin giggling at his fortune in rope.

Julius frowned.  “I’m not sure it’s safe for him to travel like that.”

“We just fought a war and you’re worried about him being safe?”

“Fighting doesn’t end just because the war did,” Julius countered.  “Over a thousand men deserted the Fallen King in his last battle.  They aren’t the threat they used to be, but they’re still dangerous.”

Brody shrugged.  “This might be one of those rare times when the Nine Dukes are helpful.  They wouldn’t fight an army, but starving, demoralized men?  They’re all over that.”  More casually, he asked Julius, “Why didn’t you go with that Vasellia lady?”

“Because she’s a leader in the Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua’s army and I’m with the Guild of Heroes.  She and her people left the Land of the Nine Dukes for a safe place to rest and recover.  They don’t need me for that.”

“That’s not what I meant.  She seemed to like you.  I mean really like you.”

“Of course she likes me.  We’re friends.”

It looked like Brody would have to spell things out.  “That kind of ‘friends’ ends with matching rings and you saying I do.”

That stopped Julius in his tracks.  “What?  Where are you getting this from?”

“The way she looked at you, tried to constantly be around you, supported you in every decision regardless of what people on her own side thought.  That’s where.”

Julius waved his hands.  “You’re reading way too much into this.  She’s a friend and that’s all.”  More softly, he added, “She’ll be safer away from me.”

“What’s that mean?”

Julius went through his backpack and took out a sheet of paper.  “I found this pasted to a tree this morning.  It’s not the first time this happened, but it’s the fastest I’ve ever been turned on.”

Brody took the sheet and saw a passably good drawing of Julius on it.  Below were the words, “Wanted: Julius Craton.  Crimes include inciting peasants to armed rebellion, raising an illegal army, theft of goods totaling 5000 gold sovereigns and murder.  Reward of 1000 gold sovereigns, dead or alive.”

Brody’s jaw dropped.  “What the blazes is this!”

Julius took the sheet back and ut it in his backpack.  “Peasants aren’t allowed to hold weapons in the Land of the Nine Dukes, so by arming and training them I incited them to rebel.  Only dukes can command armies, so the peasants I commanded were an illegal army.  When we collected food before the Fallen King could loot it that was stealing since it belonged to the dukes.  As for murder, only soldiers appointed by the dukes are allowed to use lethal force.  Under a strict interpretation of the law I’m guilty on all charges.”

“But you saved the dukes!”

Julius continued down the trail.  “I have death sentences waiting for me in five countries and fifteen cities.  This is just one more.  Vasellia and her friends have enough trouble without worrying about the bounty hunters that are going to come after me, and I have to get back to the Guild of Heroes while there’s some chance of saving them from bankruptcy.”

Brody followed him in silence.  He didn’t think about money often, as goblins couldn’t spend it anywhere, but clearly Julius needed the stuff.  Slowly, he asked, “After all that, you’re not going home with any gold, are you?”

“Where would I get it from?  Joshua’s army, and that sounds so odd when he’s not even teething yet, is broke and on the run.  Duke Warwick is the only duke not after my head, but he lost a lot of money when the Fallen King torched so much of his land.”  He patted Brody on the back.  “We did a good thing.  That’s going to have to be enough.”

It wasn’t enough.  Brody smiled when he saw a side road ahead of them that lead to Sanctuary, a small island cut off from the world and only accessible through a magic door.  He’d nearly gotten Julius through that door before this foolishness started.  Now he had another chance.

“You know, you could take a vacation.  A few weeks in Sanctuary would do you wonders.”  Those weeks would turn into decades once Brody locked the door behind Julius and broke the key.

Julius had a thoughtful look on his face.  “I can spare a little time.  A week at most.”

“Just until the heat dies down,” Brody said approvingly.  “I wish I could get a few of the others to come.”

“They’re all seen to, thankfully.  The peasants and their families went to Duke Warwick, Joshua or joined a new group called the Barrel Wrights.  I’d never heard of them before coming here.  Have you?”

“Nope.  Take a left here.”

Smiling, Julius said, “They’ll be safe with them.  The ogres went home and so did Duke Warwick’s men.  Little Old Dude left with his students and a few new goblins he’d picked up.  That just leaves Witch Hazel.  Last I heard, her house was looted and burned down by the Fallen King’s men before the final battle.  I may not like her much, but she did help us.  I hope she’s okay.”

“She’s doing better than okay,” Brody said.  “Duke Warwick invited her to join him.”

Looking worried, Julius said, “That may not be a good idea.  She helped us, but she’s still a troublesome person who caused a good deal of mischief.  What possible interest could Duke Warwick have in her?”

“He’s widowed.”  Julius didn’t get the implications right away, and blushed when he did. 

“Warwick would never, probably…likely not do something like that!”

Brody frowned and asked, “You don’t have much experience off the battlefield, do you?”

“Uh, no.”  Julius got nervous when his personal life came up.  “I can’t seem to go a month without being sent on a mission.  It’s hard sometimes, but it has to be done or people suffer.”

Someone else would have to do it in the future.  They were mere miles from the magic door, and Brody could save Julius from a grizzly death at the hands of bandits, hags, monsters or the authorities.  Just a few more hours and he’d be safe.

They heard hooves beating the road ahead of them, and a lone knight in plate armor approached.  Brody looked for cover and found nothing big enough and close enough for them to hide behind.  Julius stopped on the road and rested his right hand on Sword Doom, the weapon still sheathed.  The knight came to a halt twenty feet ahead of them and lowered the tip of his lance until it pointed at the ground.

“Julius Craton, I presume?”

“You are correct.”

The knight’s helmet hid his face, but somehow he still looked uneasy.  “Sir, your name and deeds are know to me, as are the charges laid against you.”

Julius said nothing and waited for the knight to continue.  The pause dragged on until even the horse looked nervous.  Finally the knight spoke.

“Though my duke has issued a warrant against you, I shall not bar your way.  I know your deeds and how you defeated a threat my master should have sent me against.  It shames me that a foreigner defended my lands, but the fault doesn’t lie at your feet.  I’m not fool enough to think I could best you in combat, either, nor would it bring me honor if I did when you lack a horse, armor and proper weapons.”

Julius bowed.  “Your words bring you honor.  This land has known enough bloodshed.  Peace and hard work will bring it to health again.”

The knight bowed.  “Your reputation precedes you.  I fear your estimations of me may be premature, for I can’t offer you the aid you deserve when remnants of the bandit army still haunt this land.  My duke has finally set his men loose against them.  I can only bid you good luck, and offer a warning: not all of my brother knights share my view of you.  Safe journey to you.”

With that the knight saluted and rode off.  Brody breathed a sigh of relief at this rare sign of intelligence among humans.

“He’s right, we should get moving before nightfall,” Julius said.  “Knights and soldiers might not recognize me in the dark and could attack.”

“They might do it if they do recognize you.”  Brody led him down the side road and into a patch of woods.  It was a pleasant route, but one that turned foul as they came upon yet another burned out farmhouse.  The fields were laced with ashes, and there was nothing of the house or barn save charred wood, the home’s stone chimney and a well.

Julius looked miserable.  “I’d hoped to spare these people such suffering.  They can rebuild it time, but their lives were hard enough before this nightmare came to them.  They deserved better.”

“We all do,” Brody told him.  “Half of life is rolling with the punches the best you can.  Julius, where are you going?”

“My water bottle is empty,” he said as he walked to the well.  “The Fallen King’s men left the well intact, but they may have poisoned it by dumping dung or animal carcasses into the water.  Give me a moment to check.”

The well had a wood crank with a rope and bucket attached to it.  Julius lowered the bucket into the water and brought it up.  He smelled the water and tasted it before drinking.  He filled a leather water bottle and was about to leave when he peered into the deep waters of the well.

Then he grabbed the bucket and dove in.

“Julius!” Brody screamed.  He heard a splash as Julius hit the water, and the crank whirred as it let out rope faster than was ever intended.  Brody ran up to the well and grabbed onto the lip.  Panicking, he shouted, “Julius!  Oh God, oh God, what do I do?”

Seconds later Julius came back up.  He was soaking wet as he climbed the rope back to the top of the well.  But before he got out, he dropped a shiny yellow bar that was so heavy it sank halfway into the ground when it landed.

Brody stared at the bar in horror.  It was made of gold and had to weigh fifty pounds, a treasure men would kill for in a heartbeat.  “Oh no.”

“It’s gold, Brody!” Julius shouted.  He was smiling, a rare act in the time Brody had known him.  “There are two more bars down there, maybe more.  Do you know what this means?”

“We’re dead if people find us?”

“I suppose so, but that wasn’t my point.  This bar has to be worth five thousand gold coins.  With this and the other treasure here, I can pay off the bankers that are threatening to foreclose on the Guild of Heroes.  We’re saved!”

“But Sanctuary is just down the road!”

“It sounds wonderful, it does, but I have to do this.  I’ve spent years in the guild saving others.  Now I can save the guild!  I’m going down for the rest of it.  Keep an eye out for me.”

Julius took a deep breath and dove back into the well.  Brody dropped to the ground and covered his face with his hands.  He’d failed to save Julius again.  But he was still alive.  That meant there would be more chances to get the poor man to safety.  He just had to be patient.

Miserable as he was, Brody knew he wasn’t the only goblin still in danger.

* * * * *

“You need fear nothing, little ones!” Hammerhand Loudlung boomed.  The ogre took small steps as he walked with Stubs and Finny, largely because he was very large and they weren’t.  They traveled north, moving as fast as they could without the ogre carrying them.  He had offered, but the two goblins preferred to keep their feet on the ground in case the ogre decided to do something brave or stupid (goblins consider the two words synonymous).

“You’re being awfully confident that other people aren’t going to act dumb,” Stubs said.  The red skinned goblin watched nervously for anyone who might try to rob them.  He wasn’t normally so skittish, but he rarely held something so powerful, and so horrible.

“My confidence rests not in others but in myself and in you,” he said.  Hammerhand crouched down to look the goblins in their eyes.  “You two fought a war and lived, yet you still don’t believe in yourselves.  Have faith!  Have courage!  Have a drink!”

In addition to his huge hammer, the ogre had a fifty gallon barrel of beer strapped to his back.  He’d already emptied half of it during their trip and it sloshed as he walked, but he hadn’t drained it alone.  Hammerhand had been generous in sharing his bounty with anyone they’d met, and the beer had eased their way with many local officials.  He also told them where to get more, a bit of free advertising that would no doubt send business to his fellow ogres in Killrith.

They’d been walking north for weeks and had reached Ket Kingdom.  Ket was known for rich farmland, world class archers and a king so stupid he struggled to have an IQ in the double digits.  The road they were currently on ran between fields of wheat so tall the goblins could hide in it if they needed to.

“We’re almost there!” Hammerhand continued.  Stubs wondered if the ogre was even capable of talking softly.  Smiling and smelling of beer, he said, “There haven’t been many problems along the way except for that griffin, the elf patrol, a couple bandits and those two bounty hunters who tried to collect the price on my head.”

“I thought there were more,” Stubs said.

“It just seems that way.”  Still smiling, Hammerhand said, “Don’t think so poorly of others.  After all, we’ve met thousands of people who did us no harm.  You see, most people are good, and the rest are just a bit stringy.”

Stubs and Finny screamed and ran into the wheat fields.  Hammerhand shouted, “It was a joke!  I don’t eat people!  Come on, guys, how long have you known me?”

“Too long,” Finny called back.  The dirty digger goblin came back reluctantly, as did Stubs.

The truth was the two goblins would have separated from Hammerhand in a heartbeat if they could.  They wanted nothing more than to wander off in search of fun, good times and whatever mischief they could get into.

But they needed him.  Stubs still held his black scabbard with gold decorations, but it was no longer empty.  After they defeated the Fallen King they still had his horrible sword to deal with.  It had survived the explosion that took the Fallen King’s life and the worst that both Hammerhand and Sword Doom could do to it.  The goblins had abandoned the weapon once and would not do so again.  It had to be destroyed.

Stubs stopped to check his map.  “I’m not sure how close we are to the Kingdom of the Goblins.  The map shows two borders and has lots of question marks.”

“We’ve only met humans so far, so I think we’re still in Ket,” Finny said.

A farmer working his fields called out, “You left Ket a while ago.”

“But there’s no way you’d live in goblin lands,” Finny called back.

“Royal maps say I do, and that keeps the tax collectors away,” the farmer replied.  “You boys keep walking and you’ll see more goblins than you know what to do with.”

With that nebulous answer the three continued north past three villages and miles of farmland.  They eventually left the lush wheat fields and found themselves in a forest of young trees growing in thin, rocky soil.  The farther they went the more graffiti and other signs of goblins they came across.  This included a trap that hit Hammerhand in the legs with a bucket of dung.  The ogre just laughed and brushed it off.

Another hour brought them to the Goblin City, a monument to poor management and worse housing standards.  The city was in ruins from years of neglect, and little remained outside of the gatehouse and city wall.  Goblins ran by in their thousands, hooting and babbling in the sheer joy of causing chaos without other races reminding them of bothersome things like consequences.  Hammerhand attracted a lot of attention and was soon surrounded by a mob of goblins.

“Are you invading us?” a goblin asked.

Hammerhand smiled.  “No, little one, I come for help.  Summon your king, for his aid is needed in a most important task.”

The goblins huddled together and spoke in hushed tones before sending one of their members running into the ruined city.  He came back shortly with the King of the Goblins.  William Bradshaw the War Winner was famous among goblins and infamous with most everyone else for being competent and leading his goblins to victory time and again.  He was also so bland looking that few people realized how dangerous he was until it was far too late.  It was only his uniform that gave others pause, with black pants, a black vest, a green shirt, black boots, a black hat with a green ribbon, black gloves with green fingers and a cape black on the outside and green on the inside.  No one else on Other Place dared wear those colors.

“Hi there, Will Bradshaw at your service.  So, you mind telling me what this is about?”

Stubs looked down and stepped in front of his king, a man he’d never met before but held in high regard for helping goblins.  Ashamed and afraid, he set down his prized scabbard and drew the cursed sword out.  Goblins cried out in fear and backed away when they saw the awful thing, its face howling as the purplish long sword dripped black acidic ichor on the ground.  There was a thin crack running down the length of the sword, but otherwise it was intact.

“I took this from a bad man and threw it off a cliff.  It survived and an even worse man found it.  My friend Finny threw a magic gem at it that blew up.  That’s where the crack came from.  Hammerhand hit it a bunch of times with his hammer.  The magic sword Sworn Doom even hit it.  But it’s still here, dripping nasty stuff and making faces.  We can’t break it and we can’t get rid of it without someone else finding it, and when that happens it hurts people.  We don’t know how to stop it.  You help goblins when they’re in trouble.  Can you help?”

Will studied the foul sword as it snarled at him.  He pointed at a large boulder and gestured for the others to join him.  He picked up the sword and carried it to the boulder, and then unhooked a fire scepter from his belt.

“Hey there,” he said to the scepter.  There was a tiny fire salamander residing in a fire opal at the scepter’s end.  It looked at him and waved.  Will pointed at the sword and said, “I understand this sword is evil, which is a case of truth in advertising if ever there was one.  I’m also told it can take a beating and keep going.  But it’s never met you.  You think you can help me break it?”

The salamander grinned and rubbed its tiny hands together in eager anticipation.  Will held up the sword and pointed his scepter at the blade.  The sword scowled at him and poured out more acid.

FOOM!  The scepter blasted the sword with white hot flames.  The fire poured out in a torrent that never seemed to end.  Goblins looked away from the blinding light and backed away.  When he finally stopped the sword remained, but it was so hot it was white.  Will set it on the boulder and told Hammerhand, “Try now.”

Hammerhand unstrapped the barrel of beer from his back and grabbed his hammer with both hands.  The sword saw him coming and screamed as he ran at it.  The ogre bellowed a war cry and swung his hammer with all his might.

BANG!  The sword shattered under the blow.  White hot bits of metal flew in all directions and started fires where they landed.  Goblins hurried to put them out and brought back the hot bits of metal.  They no longer dripped acid, and the foul screaming face was gone from even the shattered pieces.

Hammerhand put one of his hulking hands on Will’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry we had to bring our problems to you.  You have my respect for helping us.  Tomorrow I must return to the Guild of Heroes, so today we celebrate.  Drinks are on me!”

The goblins cheered and danced around the broken pieces of the sword, and Stubs and Finny joined in.  Stubs felt better than he hand in months, for a great weigh and responsibility had been taken off the little goblin.  He smiled and laughed, dancing until he fell over.

Finny helped him up.  “You okay?”

“I’m better than okay, I’m happy!  It took forever, but at last it’s over.”

 

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