New Goblin Stories 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ibwibble the goblin is back, and let tax collectors beware, and adventurers too stupid to get out of the way.

Submitted: October 25, 2016

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Submitted: October 25, 2016

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It was supposed to be a grand adventure in the Land of the Nine Dukes.  The ruins of Broken Crown Castle lay not far ahead, and a band of brave adventurers had come together to slay the monsters living there and plunder its riches.  It should have been so simple.

“Not much farther now,” Javnal promised his friends.  He was finally out of the duke’s militia after serving his year for Duke Kramer, and he’d learned a lot about combat.  Unfortunately he hadn’t been paid during those twelve months, a common fate for men employed by the dukes.  Facing the prospect of going home broke, he’d kept his militia issue chain armor and long sword and struck out on his own.  It hadn’t taken him long to find likeminded men to aid him.

“You said that five miles ago, and fifteen miles before that,” Malcolm Unlied replied. The young wizard was freshly graduated from the Vastan Institute of Magic and Technology, and Javnal’s first recruit.  Convincing him to join had been easy given how massive his student loan payments were.  The wizard’s red cloak, orange robes, well groomed dark hair and oak staff set with garnets made him stand out in a crowd, but he wouldn’t part with them.

“It’s going to be a piece of cake,” Javnal promised.  “Between you, me, the thief—”

“Try again,” Casner said.

“Poacher?” Javnal asked.

Casner covered his face with his hand.  “Scout.  I am a scout.”

“Who just happens to steal things,” Malcolm said.

“As opposed to what?” Casner asked.  “I was supposed to just leave the money there?  Would any of you have walked away empty handed?”

The wizard smiled.  “I wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

There was an old adage that poachers made the best game wardens, since they knew the tricks of the trade and could catch fellow poachers much better than soldiers.  Duke Warwick’s men had caught Casner poaching deer, and rather than execute him the duke hired him.  The wiry poacher, err, scout, proved his worth several times against bandits and marauding wolf packs responsible for killing sheep.  Then he’d found a merchant wagon on the back roads carrying contraband goods, including weapons.  He’d reported it to Duke Warwick only after helping himself to a suit of leather armor, a short sword and a pair of daggers along with some gold.  Casner didn’t know who ratted him out, but he’d left the duke’s service steps ahead of a sheriff.

Javnal pointed to their fourth and final member, an elf whose name was open to some debate.  “With you two and Ren Lemax, we’re going to finish this in record time without a scratch.”

The elf stomped his foot and scowled.  “That is not my name.  I am Ren til’ Lemath Romaxal—”

“No one’s calling you that,” Javnal told him.  “Every elf I’ve met used a pseudonym instead of his full name.  So can you.”

“I just call him Ren,” Malcolm said.

“That’s the name I was given as an infant!  Using that leaves out my family name, my coming of age name, my school graduation name, my—”

“No one cares,” Casner told him.  “When, not if, we’re in an emergency, we’re not going to spend two minutes reciting your name when we need to tell you something, assuming anyone but you can remember it all.”

“I’ve memorized his name up to the point where he lists his romantic conquests,” Malcolm said.  “I’m pretty sure he made those up.”

“That does it, bookworm!”  Ren went for his bow.  He was smart enough to know he’d never get close enough to use his sword before the wizard blasted him, which was kind of odd since Ren wasn’t smart enough to avoid insulting his father.  The fair-haired elf had also insulted his mother, uncles, aunts, grandparents, neighbors, teachers at school, government officials and random strangers he met on the road.  It was no surprise when he left home last year with his bow, long sword, street clothes and little else.  It was surprising no one killed him before he left.  Ren had joined Javnal’s group because no one else would have him regardless of how dangerous he was in a fight.

Javnal put a hand on the elf’s bow.  “Save the arrows for monsters trying to kill us.  There will be no shortage of those soon enough.”

“I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding.  You seem to think I care about your opinions, peasant.”  Ren pulled up his shirtsleeve to show a ring of swords tattooed on his arm.  “You see this?  I earned it by defeating ten students at my fighting school.  Granted three of them weren’t awake when I attacked, but it’s their fault for not being prepared when they knew I was coming for them, the inbred twits.  When you match that I’ll consider listening to you.”

Javnal tried to keep his dysfunctional group heading down the country road.  He knew it would be difficult, but he was confident everything would fall into place once they had a few wins and money coming in.  Especially money.  Men set aside their differences provided they got enough cash, and there would be plenty to go around soon enough.  And there’d be no stopping them if they could get their hands on magic weapons!

“You expect much opposition at what’s left of Broken Crown Castle?” Casner asked.

“Lots,” Javnal told him.  “Back when I was in the militia, there was a list of places we were never to set foot in.  Broken Crown was at the top of that list.  It’s been abandoned for eighty years, plenty of time for monsters to move in, and it’s in the wilderness.  Few soldiers or knights patrol this close to the border, so dangerous men and monsters go unchallenged.”

Casner frowned.  “What do you expect to find?”

“Bandits, harpies, animated dead, monkey snakes, giant ants, maybe a mimic or golem.  That’s why I asked you guys to come.”

Casner put a hand over his face again.  “Money.  What kind of money do you expect to find?”

Javnal smiled.  “Lots.  Broken Crown Castle was fully garrisoned when Duke Warwick’s grandfather destroyed it.  A castle that size with hundreds of men would have needed thousands of gold sovereigns to pay the soldiers and knights, plus whatever was in the castle’s vault.  And the lord of the castle had a magic flaming sword called Chromas.  I call dibs on the sword.”

Malcolm raised a hand and asked, “Why didn’t Duke Warwick’s grandfather and his men take this treasure?”

“That’s the beauty of the plan.”  Excited, Javnal pointed at the ruined castle already visible on a distant hilltop.  “Warwick’s grandfather couldn’t breach the walls, so he had his men dig under them.  He meant to send his men through the tunnel, but they damaged the foundation and brought the whole place down.  He didn’t have time to excavate the ruins since he had to run off and fight more battles.”

“Whereas we can spend weeks or months looting the place to our heart’s content,” Malcolm finished.

Ren gave Javnal a murderous look.  “Months of digging through rubble, what a joy.  Do you see a beard on my chin?  Do I look four feet tall, foul smelling and stoic?  This is a job for a mud grubbing dwarf, not an elf warrior.”

Javnal shrugged.  “I tried to recruit a dwarf, but the ones I met weren’t interested.  If you don’t want the money then you can go back to town.  Maybe the mayor has forgiven you for saying there’s no difference between him and his horse.”

“Is there anyone you won’t insult?” Malcolm asked the elf.

“It wasn’t an insult.  It was an observation.”

Casner said, “I notice your list of enemies doesn’t include soldiers.”

“The area is off limits for Duke Warwick’s men, and Duke Kramer’s men won’t go near it.”  Javnal smiled.  “They say the ruins remind them of their defeat there eighty years ago.”

“I thought humans were used to defeat and humiliation,” Ren said.  “It happens to them so often.”

Malcolm rolled his eyes and asked Javnal, “You couldn’t find someone of equal skill and less arrogance to join us?”

“Um, no.  Recruiting help is hard when there’s a price on your head and not much in your wallet.”

Shocked, Malcolm said.  “You never said there was a bounty on you!”  His indignation was replaced with shock when he saw the guilty look from his other two companions.  “Wait, all of you are wanted men?”

The awkward silence went on a few moments before Javnal coughed.  “I kept my armor and sword after being mustered out.  It seemed only fair since the duke never paid me, but he didn’t see it that way.  It could be a problem and there are…places we’re not welcome, but that leaves 99% of the world to earn our fortune.  Let’s leave legal niceties to the lawyers and focus on the mission.”

The road to Broken Crown was a lonely one.  Land between Duke Kramer and Duke Warwick’s territory was mostly vacant due to the countless wars that raged between them.  Here and there enterprising peasants tried to clear a few acres of forest and start farms, but the dukes’ armies had a bad habit of eating everything they came across when they were on a campaign.  Farms not under a duke’s protection were prime targets for looting by hungry soldiers.

That meant there were no houses on the forested road.  The trees were high, with thick underbrush and slender young trees growing along the edge of the road.  Tracks were few and weeks old.  There were plenty of birds and insects flying about the lush green foliage, but no people.

“I don’t suppose you could catch us some lunch?” Ren snidely asked Casner.

Missing the insult, Casner nodded.  “I see good places to set snares.”

Ren stopped walking, his left hand raised as he went for his sword with his right hand.  The others stopped behind him.  They couldn’t see what was bothering the elf.

“I smell humans and farm animals,” he announced.

“There’s a village not far ahead,” Javnal told him.  “Peasants keep trying to settle here.  I figure we can spend the night with them and go to Broken Crown in the morning.”

Ren waved his left hand like he was shooing off a fly.  “I’m not done.  I smell goblin.  The scent is fresh and offensively strong.”

Casner laughed.  “That’s what’s got you worried?  Children fear goblins.”

“Not where I’m from,” Malcolm said.  Casner and Javnal looked at him.  He shrugged and explained, “In my home town goblins try to play with children.  Parents work hard to keep them away.”

Drawing his sword, Ren snapped, “I didn’t live this long by taking chances.  Goblins are getting confident since their latest king led them to defeat a human monarch.  I didn’t think humans could sink so low, but it happened.  Goblins have been pushing their luck ever since, and I’ve no desire to walk into an ambush.”

Sword at the ready, Ren edged further down the road.  His eyes narrowed as he watched the forest for signs of life.  He stopped ten feet from the others and bared his teeth.

“Goblins, show yourselves.  I’ve a short temper and no time to waste on vermin.  Step forward and show proper respect, and you may leave with your lives.  Bother us with your tiresome pranks, and I swear by the father who sired me—”

“Who you hate,” Malcolm interrupted.

“Who I hate with the fury of a thousand exploding stars, that I will strike you down and leave your bodies for ravens and rats,” Ren concluded.

Nothing happened.  Javnal walked up alongside Ren.  “I’m sure there are goblins here, but did you really think they were going to come out of hiding just because you told them to?”

“It’s a formality.  That makes it legal when you kill them.”

Casner laughed and continued down the trail.  “My brave brothers in arms are worried about goblins.  I’m trying not to lose faith in you, but I didn’t have any to be—”

He never saw the tripwire he stepped on.  There was a twang as a log swung down the trail and hit the thief, err, poacher, um, scout in the back of the legs.  He was knocked on his back, and seconds later thirty pounds of horse manure flew through the air and splattered across his chest and legs.

“Scoundrels, flee from Ibwibble the Terrifying!”  A goblin jumped out of the woods on the right of the trail and struck a pose.  He was odd even by goblin standards, with green skin, black hair and startlingly bright blue eyes.  At four feet tall he was big for a goblin and looked healthy.  His leather clothes had countless pockets bulging with God only knew what.  The goblin carried a club and had a dagger sheathed on his belt.  He paused and looked at them.  “Wait a minute, you’re not tax collectors!  What are you doing here?”

Ren gritted his teeth and headed for the goblin while Javnal helped Casner up.  “We’re killing you, which should qualify as a public service.”

“You idiots!” the goblin screamed.  “I worked for days to get this ambush ready, and I didn’t do it for small fry like you.  Go back wherever you came from and we’ll pretend this didn’t happen.”

“I’ll handle him,” Javnal said.  He drew his sword and headed after the goblin.  He despised goblins, dirty, rude, troublesome creatures, but he had no love for needless slaughter.  He’d just scare it off with a show of force.

Ibwibble saw him coming and waved his hands in front of him.  “No, stop!”

Javnal cried out in shock as the ground gave way underneath his feet and he plummeted ten feet to the mushy bottom of a pit.  Thankfully there weren’t spikes or dangerous animals in the pit, but it was still a nasty shock.

The goblin pulled at his hair.  “Not the pit trap!  I’m going to need hours to reset that!”

“Go left!” Ren ordered the others.  He sheathed his sword and took the bow off his back.  He notched and fired an arrow so quickly it seemed to happen by magic.  Ibwibble dove to the ground, just fast enough that the arrow went through a bulging pocket on his sleeve instead of piercing his chest.  He rolled off the road and ducked between trees.

There was a rustling to their right.  Ren spun around and fired at the sound.  Casner limped over and pushed the leafy cover aside to find that Ren had hit an old oak.  Frowning, Casner held up a rope tied to a young, springy tree.  One pull would make the tree move as if a person had brushed against it.

“That’s what you heard moving,” Casner said.

“Get me out of here!” Javnal shouted.

“Hold on a minute,” Malcolm told him.  He went back to back with Casner and studied the trees lining the road.  “There’s too much cover.  I think we’ve only got one goblin to deal with.  If there were more they would have mobbed us by now.”

The lush greenery along the road moved again, this time much closer and in two places.  Ren shot both of them and Casner went to investigate.  Again he found ropes tied to sapling trees.

“Impressed as I am with your speed, it would help if you hit something with a pulse,” Casner quipped.

“I’ve crippled elves for saying less than that,” Ren snapped back.  He notched another arrow and watched for movement.

Casner untied one of the ropes and brought it to the pit trap.  “I’m going to tie this to a tree and drop it to you.  Think you can climb up?”

Ren’s eyes bulged and he shouted, “Snare!”

The warning came too late.  Casner stepped into a snare smeared with dirt so it blended in with the road, hidden so well the former poacher hadn’t noticed it.  There was a twang as the snare went off and dragged Casner screaming ten feet above the road.  He dropped his sword and one of his daggers fell out of his belt sheath.  Casner swung back and forth like a piñata at a children’s party.

Ren watched Casner swinging by his heels.  The elf turned to Malcolm and said, “Please tell me no one is watching us.  My reputation couldn’t survive being associated with you idiots.”

“Ah ha!”  Ibwibble charged out of the woods and wrapped both arms around Ren.  The elf shouted in revulsion and staggered back.  He dropped his bow and punched the goblin in the head and across the back.  Ibwibble held on tight, shouting, “I gotcha!  I gotcha!”

“Shoot him!” Ren screamed.

Malcolm pointed his staff at the goblin, but hesitated.  “I’ll hit both of you!”

Ren swore and kept hitting the goblin.  He couldn’t draw his sword since Ibwibble had an arm over the weapon’s hilt.  He finally beat the goblin off and drew his sword as Ibwibble ran off into the forest again.  Ren stopped to pick up his bow and shout, “You’d better run, rodent!  Wait…oh he didn’t!”

“What’s wrong?” Malcolm asked.

“He took my wallet!  That thieving, slimy, smelly cretin!  He’s almost as bad as my relatives!”

Still swinging overhead, Casner calmly asked, “Would one of you kindly get me down?”

“Oh, sure,” Malcolm said.  He pointed his staff up and cast a spell.  A small jet of fire shot from the garnets on the staff and burned through the snare.  Casner screamed as he fell to the ground.

Bruised and angry, Casner shouted, “I didn’t mean like that!”

Malcolm shrugged.  “You left room for interpretation.”

“Still sitting in a pit,” Javanl called out.

Ren snarled and headed into the forest.  “You two dig out our fearless leader.  I’m going to get my wallet back and whatever remains of my dignity by killing that miserable little monster.”

With that the elf stalked off alone into the forest.  Malcolm looked at Casner and asked, “Should we help him?”

“I’m wondering why I should help any of you,” Casner retorted.  He tied the rope to a large dead tree and lowered it into the pit.  “Here you go, but I can’t see things getting better in the near future.  You might want to stay down there for a few minutes.”

The rope grew taunt as Javnal pulled himself up.  His armor and other gear weighed a lot, so getting out was hard work.  “This wouldn’t have happened if I had a magic sword.  I’m sure of it.  Hold on, almost there…”

That was when the tree gave way, falling across the road and landing with a bang!  Javnal fell too, although he landed with more of a squish when he hit the muddy bottom of the pit again.

Flat on his back for the second time today, Javnal called out, “I hate you all.  I just want you to know that.”

“He’s not that heavy,” Malcolm said.

Casner studied the tree.  “It’s been cut at the base, and it looks recent.  I think the goblin did this.”

“It’s Ibwibble the Terrifying!” the goblin shouted from the depths of the forest.  “Not the goblin, not vermin, not rodent, Ibwibble!”

They heard Ren cry out, “There you are!”

Malcolm looked skeptically at Casner.  “I don’t see this ending well.”

“For him or us?”  Casner picked up his sword off the ground and pointed it at Malcolm.  “It occurs to me that you’re not using your magic on that goblin.”

Malcolm’s brow furrowed.  “Yes, I’m not shooting at a target I can’t see hiding in dense cover.  And I didn’t chase after him when he clearly knows the terrain better than we do and has obviously trapped the road.”

“You couldn’t just blast everything and catch him that way?”

“How good are you at putting out forest fires?” Malcolm asked.

Casner hesitated.  “Not very.”

“Me neither, so I’m happy to let Ren deal with this.”

As if on cue, the goblin swung across the road on a rope tied to a tall tree.  He screamed in delight and waved Ren’s belt before he disappeared into the forest on the other side of the road.  Ren chased after him, one hand holding his sword while the other kept his pants up.

“You disgusting beast!  I’ll make your end slow and painful for this!”

“Fifty soldiers, ten knights, three ogres, a hag and two cows have tried to kill me, and I’m still here!” Ibwibble called out from the forest.  “You’re lucky I’m feeling charitable or I’d use the really nasty stuff on you, pointy ears!”

Ren made a growling, hissing noise before he ran after the goblin.  Neither Malcolm nor Casner made any move to get involved in the mess.  Casner said, “He’s as crazy as any goblin I’ve met, but I’ve never seen one so bold.”

“Most goblins aren’t,” Malcolm replied.  “There are exceptions to every rule.  After all, most humans aren’t wizards.”

Back in the forest they heard leaves crunching underfoot, branches snapping and hard breathing.  Then there was the sound of shattering pottery, followed by the elf’s anguished cries.  A minute later Ren staggered back to the road, his face pale and his eyes watering.  He smelled horrible, and his clothes were stained from his shoulders down to his knees.

Casner covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve.  “What is that?”

“Liquefied hog waste blended with skunk musk and powdered carrion,” Ibwibble said cheerfully from the forest.

Ren swayed back and forth, eventually steadying himself by leaning against an oak.  “There are times it’s not good to have an exceptional sense of smell.  The goblin threw a pot at me, and I struck it before it hit.  The pot broke open and the stuff went everywhere.  It, it’s dripping into my shoes.”

Together the three of them pulled Javnal out of the pit.  It took some effort because the warrior was so beat up from falling down the same pit twice that he couldn’t help them.  Ren was so nauseous that he was little help, either.

“One day our deeds with be the stuff of legends,” Javnal promised the others.  “With no witnesses, this won’t be a part of those legends.”

They heard timbers creak in the forest.  Ren sounded exhausted when he said, “Catapult.  Small one.”

Beaten up as they were, only Malcolm ran fast enough to avoid the fifty pounds of fresh horse manure that flew between the trees and splattered across the road.  The wizard frowned as he looked at his bedraggled and filthy companions.

Ibwibble walked out onto the road not far ahead of them, still carrying Ren’s belt.  The goblin thrust out his chin and folded his arms across his chest.  “I worked for days to get this ambush ready, and in five minutes you numbskulls ruined it.  You guys had enough, or do I need to break out the good stuff?”

“He’s in the open!” Casner yelled at Malcolm.  “Blast him already!”

Ibwibble rested a hand on the dagger sheathed in his belt.  “Yeah, wizard, make with the magic.”

Malcolm kept his eyes on the goblin but did nothing.  “I think not.  You’re far too confident for my liking.  If you know of my profession and are standing out of cover anyway then you’ve got reason to be confident, likely more traps.  Satisfy my curiosity and tell me why were you trying to catch a tax collector.”

“Because they’re the most feared beasts in the Land of the Nine Dukes!  If wyverns or chimera attacks a town, people try to drive them off.  They might lose, but they always try.  If a tax collector shows up he takes everything they have and there’s nothing they can do about it.  That’s a real threat.  People aren’t going to take me seriously if there are tax collectors waltzing around and grabbing everything that’s not nailed down.  This is my territory, and I won’t let anyone just show up out of the blue and make me look bad.”

Javnal took a step closer, a bold move given recent events, and said, “Look, Ibert—”

The goblin stomped his foot.  “Ibwibble!  Get it right!”

“Ibwibble, sorry.  Uh, look, we said some things we shouldn’t have and we’re sorry, so can we just put this behind us?  My friends and I are on our way to the ruins of Broken Crown Castle.  There’s no need for us to fight if you’ll just let us by.”

The goblin frowned.  “That dump?  What do you want to go there for?”

“We’re looking for money and the magic sword Chromas buried in the ruins.”

Ibwibble gave him a look that managed to mix contempt and disbelief with a healthy dose of ‘I question your sanity’ throw in.  “You have got to be joking.”

“We can do it, I know we can!”

Casner scrapped horse manure off his leather armor.  “I have my doubts.”

“Oh for crying out loud!”  Ibwibble marched up the Javnal and poked him in the chest with his finger.  “I did all this work to catch a tax collector who’s coming any day now, and you ruined my ambush for that?  There isn’t anything worth finding there!  There never was!”

“But the castle was destroyed with all hands!” Javnal protested.

“It was destroyed eighty years ago,” Ibwibble said with exaggerated patience.  “Did you think you were the first people to hear about it, or you were the first ones to come?  People looted the castle five years after it fell.  They walked away with a little gold and some silver.  Ten years after that another bunch of people came to the ruins.  They dug up a few silver coins and some dented copper pots.  The group that came eight years after them only got scrap iron.  The last five groups to explore the ruins got nothing from it but tetanus.”

“What about the magic sword Chromas?” Javnal asked.

“Never heard of it.”

“What about the gold?” Casner demanded.  “There’s supposed to be pay for an entire castle garrison in there!”

Ibwibble gave him a pitying look.  “You’re not from around here, are you?  Soldiers in the Land of the Nine Dukes get paid when their duke has money, which is rare, and when he feels like paying them, which doesn’t happen.  I’ve fought knights who hadn’t been paid in years.  They get food and a bed to sleep in, and the promise of gold that never comes.”

Casner pointed his sword at Ibwibble.  “You’re lying!”

“Why should he lie when he’s already beaten us?” Malcolm asked.

Red faced, Casner bellowed, “Because he’s a goblin!  Goblins lie!”

“Fine, don’t believe me,” Ibwibble said.  “Keep going down the road and tell the farmers living there where you’re going.  They could use a laugh.”

Javnal’s heart sank.  Worse, given his own experiences he was almost certain the goblin was right.  He’d gone a year without pay before he left the army.  It wasn’t hard to imagine the same thing happening to the soldiers who’d once garrisoned Broken Crown Castle when it still stood.  Their first adventure was a loss before it had even begun, with no gold, no magic sword, nothing to show for it except bruises.

Ren took his belt from Ibwibble and put it on.  He turned and walked back the way they’d come, saying, “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dig a grave for my self esteem.”

Casner and Malcolm left next.  Desperate, Javnal asked the goblin, “You’re sure about the magic sword?”

“A hundred other people didn’t find it.”

Feeling even worse than before, Javnal joined his friends.  It would take days to reach the nearest sizeable town, a long walk where his group would verbally (and possibly physically) tear each other apart.  He wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Some good you were, wizard,” Ren said.  “You didn’t do anything in the entire fight.”

“I kept from laughing.  You’ll never know how hard that was.”

Ren took off his shirt and wrung out some of the liquid filth staining it.  “The thief was no better.”

“How many times do we have to go over this?  I am not a thief!”

“A thought occurs,” Malcolm said.  “We, meaning the three of you, aren’t welcome in the Land of the Nine Dukes for a variety of reasons.  It might be a good time for us to head for greener pastures.  The Gilcas Trading House runs caravans through this area and they always need guards.  We won’t make much, but Gilcas always pay their men and it lets us relocate at the same time.”

“It’s better than nothing,” Casner said.

Javnal looked back and saw the goblin marching off into the forest.  One goblin shouldn’t have been a threat.  “What went wrong?”

“I don’t have time or patience to go over that list,” Ren said.  He stopped and shouted, “I still want my wallet back!”

Ibwibble tossed the elf’s wallet on the road.  Ren went back to retrieve it and set off the last of Ibwibble’s traps, which dumped three gallons of blue dye on him.

* * * * *

Feeling very low indeed, Ibwibble headed for his camp in a nearby cave.  He went inside and dug through a pile of supplies and gear he’d amassed for his hunt of tax collectors, dangerous and canny beasts.

A light appeared farther back in the cave.  Ibwibble glanced over and saw Dawn Lantern open to reveal a glowing eye.  The lantern’s casing was made of lapis and obsidian with platinum edging, and the eye was made of a flawless faceted blue diamond as big as a plum.  The diamond eye turned to follow Ibwibble as he sorted through his belongings.  Dawn Lantern was one of the mightiest magic items on the world of Other Place, and had been abandoned in this cave for decades before Ibwibble showed up a week earlier.

You return early.”

“You won’t believe the day I had,” Ibwibble told it.  “Some yahoos ruined every trap I set.  All that work and not a tax collector to show for it.  I’m telling you, some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.”

Ibwibble found a shovel and coil of rope among his disorganized possessions.  He pointed the shovel at Dawn Lantern and said, “And why did it happen?  They were on their way to loot a castle that’s such a wreck even goblins don’t live there.  Hey, have you ever heard of a magic sword called Chromas?”

No.  Who made it?”

“Who knows, or cares.”  Ibwibble loaded himself with tools to rebuild his traps and placed them in a wheel barrel.  He’d need the wheel barrel to carry horse manure from the small human village up the road.  They couldn’t figure out why their stables were cleaned every night this week, and as long as Ibwibble was careful they’d never know he was involved.

“Need help?”  That was a dangerous offer given the power Dawn Lantern possessed.

“No, I got this.”  Truth be told, it had never occurred to Ibwibble that he could claim Dawn Lantern and use its great strength.  His mind simply didn’t work that way.  He left the cave and told it, “Don’t wait up for me.”


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