New Goblin Stories 7

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Inviting a goblin to dinner? Bad. Inviting a snob? Worse. Inviting both? Bolt down the furniture.

Submitted: February 09, 2017

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Submitted: February 09, 2017

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“I promise not to panic,” Brody the goblin told his friend Julius.  “I might faint, scream, run away or wet myself, but no panicking will occur.”

Julius frowned.  “Any of those actions is the definition of panicking.”

Brody waved his hands.  “No, that’s a sensible reaction to being in life threatening danger.  Everyone except you does that when they’re going to get snuffed out.  Panicking is doing something stupid when a killer is coming after you, like hide under a bed, run upstairs or try bargaining with someone who clearly wants you dead.”

“The dangerous part is done,” Julius promised.  “Now we turn in our prisoners and get out without embarrassing ourselves.  That may be harder than is sounds when nobility is involved.  I’ll go in front and do the talking if it makes you feel better.”

Not going at all would make Brody feel better.  He was a small goblin with blue skin, blue hair and what looked like antenna growing from his head and shoulders but did nothing for him.  He wore swim trunks and looked boyish, and wasn’t prone to cause mischief, making him a rare goblin.  Making him rarer still, he was friends with the renown human hero Julius Craton.  They’d been traveling together for some time, with Brody doing his best to keep Julius from getting killed.

That shouldn’t be a hard job given Julius was the most famous and possibly most dangerous member of the Guild of Heroes, the people you call when the world falls apart.  Julius looked kind of average, a man in his thirties with brown hair, clean shaven and in good health.  He had a fair number of scars and wore chain armor, and had the magic short sword Sworn Doom.  He was also a veteran of countless battles and had a record of victories none could match.  Julius had a reputation for fairness and mercy, which fools took for weakness.  Most enemies didn’t live long enough to regret their mistake.

In Brody’s experience, half the people in the world love and adore heroes while the other half try to kill them on sight, which made introductions kind of awkward.  He never knew whether to run and hide when people came toward him and Julius.  Arguably angry people who attacked Julius had a bad habit of quickly becoming dead people, reducing the overall risk, but it still wasn’t fun.

Brody did what he could to keep Julius out of trouble, but the hero kept running straight for danger.  Julius’ reasoning went he was strong and skilled while others weren’t, so he was the best person to deal with threats.  The problem was there were an enormous number of threats and very few people qualified for dealing with them.  It took a lot of effort to keep Julius from taking on every problem in the world, but Brody tried.

“I think you’ve earned a vacation,” Brody suggested.  He pointed at the fifteen prisoners following them, their hands bound and tied to a wagon.  Two farmers who owned the wagon guided the old plow horse pulling it.

“Try Roaring Waters Falls,” a heavily bandaged prisoner suggested.  “They’ve got a good gift shop.”

“You’re not part of this conversation,” Brody told the man.

“Well excuse me for trying to participate!”

Julius shook his head.  “There’s so much to do.”

Brody had known Julius would say that and was ready.  “I know.  I saw farmers rebuilding houses burned by the bandits.  That’s weeks of hard work.  Hey, we could help them out!”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Julius said.  “The sooner they have a roof over their heads the better.”

“That’s the spirit!”  Brody’s enthusiasm was genuine.  Construction work was hard but safe, and would keep Julius out of danger for a while.

Julius and Brody journeyed through a dense forest with the wagon on their way to the nearest city.  Farmers were encroaching on the woods, clearing more land each year, but the woods were still thick enough to hide many secrets and dangers.  That included the prisoners Julius had taken.  The Ulti Bandits had preyed upon this region for three years before running into Julius.  There were other dangers, and Brody kept an eye on their surroundings until they left the forest and entered farmland around a small city.

Brody had worried about their reception, but in this case all seemed well.  There was more cheering than cursing as he and Julius approached the city of Crow Haven, and the soldiers hadn’t drawn their swords yet.  That was good.  Crow Haven’s gates opened to let in Julius, Brody and the wagon.  The prisoners Julius had tied to the back of the wagon were sullen, no surprise when Julius had to keep peasants and shopkeepers from killing them.

“Good people!” Julius shouted over the roar of the growing crowd.  “Please, these prisoners need to be questioned by Earl Wolfshead.”

“They need a knife in the back, same as they gave us!” a rancher shouted back.  “You dirty thieves cost me half my herd, and for what?”

One of the bandits shrugged.  “For twenty guilders a cows.”

Brody figured that response would earn the prisoner a blow to the head, but to his surprise the crowd was stunned rather than enraged.  The rancher pushed his way to the front of the crowd.  “Twenty?  Who’s paying twenty?”

“I never got more than fifteen,” one farmer added.

A different farmer pointed at Brody.  “Was he with the bandits?”

“What?”  Brody didn’t panic.  He did not panic!  It was tempting!

Fortunately a rancher spoke for him.  “You muttonhead, he came with Craton!”

“Hey, I wasn’t here when he came!”

Julius raised his hands and called out, “I need someone to summon the sheriff and his men at arms.  Please ask them to come so I can turn over my prisoners.”

The crowd settled down and four men went to fetch the authorities.  Normally that was a sign for Brody to run for his life.  Sheriffs, knights, soldiers and armed men in general hated goblins and were capable of showing how angry they were with swords.  Brody fought back the instinct to flee.  Julius was much loved (in most places) and men in power gave him a lot of leeway, which included allowing Brody to live.

Scores of men in armor carrying spears and shields marched out of Crow Haven.  The city’s sheriff, a nasty looking man in plate armor named Bilge, pushed people out of his way.  The soldiers stopped in front of Julius and came to attention as if he was an officer.  Looking ever more irritable, Sheriff Bilge inspected the prisoners.

“That’s Brian Ulti and his men,” Sheriff Bilge said.  He scowled and turned to face Julius.  “Where are the goods they seized?”

Brody pointed at the wagon.  “In there.  There isn’t much left.”

The sheriff’s face turned an interesting shade of red.  “Silence, dog!”

“He answered your question honestly,” Julius said.  “Everything we found in the bandit camp is in the wagon.”

Two soldiers looked under the tarp and winced.  The sheriff pushed them aside and his face went pale.  Over the years the Ulti bandits had taken a fortune in goods, and little was left.  “I see.  Men, take custody of the prisoners and the recovered goods.  Craton, Earl Wolfshead will want to speak with you.  The rest of you, you’ve got jobs, see to them!”

“Charisma, it’s a lost art,” Brody said.  Julius shushed him.

Brody and Julius were led into Crow Haven and found the city disorderly and confused.  The city was growing so fast it had filled in the area between the castle and city walls, and had spread outside those walls.  Houses were packed tight and made of wood, stone, canvas and in one case living trees.  People saw Julius returning successfully and cheered, and a good number of them threw garbage at the prisoners.

Brody grabbed a rotten apple before it hit a prisoner and ate it.  “They’re setting out the buffet early.  Are you getting paid for this?”

“Not this time,” Julius said.  Being a hero paid poorly or not at all, and this job fell in the second category.  “Earl Wolfshead’s family has been a supported of the Guild of Heroes for generations, but is barely breaking even financially.  We have so few friends that we have to back them up when they’re in danger.”

“There’s no bounty on us?” a captured bandit asked.  “The nerve!  We’ve been a plague on this land for three years.  You’d think they could have the decency to recognize that!”

“Not helping your case,” Brody told him.

Brody, Julius and their unwilling guests were escorted into the castle.  Brody had seen better.  The mortar was coming loose between the bricks, the doors were cracked and the floors were filthy.  Guards were present, but most looked like they should be getting pensions.

Armed men led away the prisoners and the wagon was sent away.  Servants directed Julius to follow them, and they grimaced when Brody came.  Julius didn’t give them time to protest.  “Brody’s a friend and helped in this mission.  He goes where I go.”

The servants looked queasy at the thought of letting a goblin in the castle, but they reluctantly led them to a dining hall.  The room was huge, intended to seat the entire castle staff.  Three long tables ran the length of the room and a fourth smaller table was across the front.  There were dozens of chairs rather than benches, with bigger and nicer chairs closer to the front of the tables.  Servants laid down tablecloths and lit lanterns while others brought trays of food.  The castle might need work, but Earl Wolfshead made sure dinners got the attention they deserved.  Roast duck, venison steaks, barbecue boar ribs, boiled eggs, piles of fruit, countless loaves of bread and more, it was a feast for all five senses.

Before the entered, a servant told Julius, “None enters the earl’s presence armed.  Hand over your weapon and it will be returned when you leave.”

“I don’t like this,” Brody whispered.

“It’s expected behavior.”  Julius placed his sword, still sheathed, in the servant’s hands.

Guests and castle staff were already filing in.  Men and women headed for specific seats rather than grab whatever was available.  The servants who brought Brody and Julius directed them to the smaller table at the front and sat them on the left side of a large throne.

“Sir Craton.”  It was Earl Wolfshead, a plump man in his fifties wearing red robes trimmed with sable.  He entered the hall followed by his attendants, and behind them a crowd of soldiers.  The soldiers stopped at the hall’s entrance and waited while their leader took his place at the table.

Julius kneeled.  “Earl Wolfshead, it is an honor and a pleasure to meet you again.”

“You may stand,” the earl said.  Once Julius was upright, the earl nodded to him.  “I am pleased the guild took my needs so seriously that they sent their best man.  Your reputation does not begin to give you the credit you deserve.  In one month you arrested men who’d bedeviled me for three years.  I hadn’t intended tonight’s meal to be a celebration, but in a pleasant change fate has been kind and we may enjoy your company and your success.”

“To serve is an honor,” Julius replied.

Earl Carl looked at Brody with obvious disdain.  “You bring a goblin into my house.  Explain.”

“Allow me to introduce Brody, a friend who has traveled with me this past year,” Julius said.  “Brody has many good qualities and proved his value many times over, including in dealing with the Ulti Bandits.  I vouch for both his abilities and good character, and swear he will cause no disturbances.”

The earl looked unconvinced, but was willing to let it pass.  “Your word carries great weight.  If this goblin has won your admiration then he may stay.  My steward will seat you and we can begin our meal.”

Brody and Julius were directed to specific seats on the earl’s left.  Brody noticed no one sat until the earl did, and even then they waited until men higher on the tables sat first.  Once the earl was down, servants dished out heaping helpings of food.  A serving girl stopped when she got to Brody, hesitating before feeding him.

“Don’t worry, I’ll eat off someone else’s plate,” he assured her.  She looked shocked, and he added, “I like rib bones.”

Sure enough, other diners soon produced a pile of bones from their meat dishes.  Thy tossed them aside, sometimes onto the floor, and Brody scooped them up for his dinner.  A few people looked appalled, but most took it in stride.

Earl Wolfshead went through one plate of food after another, speaking between bites.  “Sir Craton, it may interest you to know that I received a letter from King Baldos of Oceanview Kingdom.  The king asks for your aid and apologizes for the misunderstanding that occurred during your last visit.”

Julius looked surprised by the news.  “Last time I was in Oceanview, the king’s knights tried to cut off my head.  I’m not sure what part of that I didn’t understand.”

“King Baldos claims they acted without his instructions and have been severely punished,” Earl Wolfshead replied.  “How you wish to respond to this matter is your own affair, but I was honor bound to pass along the message.”

A young woman wearing silk on the other side of the table stared at Julius.  She blushed and asked, “Daddy, can’t Sir Craton sit on this side of the table?  We should show him more gratitude when he’s done so much for us.”

“Sybil, the rules of etiquette are quite clear on the matter,” the earl said between mouthfuls.  “Family sits on the right side of the main table and guests on the left.”

“At least let me prepare a plate for him.”

The earl wasn’t budging.  “That’s servant’s work, unfit for royalty.  Sir Craton, I should make format introductions.  This is my daughter Sybil.  My wife and younger children are visiting my in laws, where in a welcome change they bring chaos to a household other than my own.”

“I’m sure they’re wonderful people and will grow to be worthy heirs to your noble family,” Julius said.

The earl grunted.  “Truly spoken like a man who’s never met them.”

Julius kept his eyes on his plate, more nervous now than when he’d defeated the bandits.  Brody had seen this before.  Julius was at home on the battlefield where rules were simple if brutal.  Put him in a social situation and he became the proverbial fish out of water.  Adding women into the mix made a bad situation worse, as he found the fairer sex bewildering.

Brody was nearly as out of place as Julius.  He kept quiet and munched away on boar ribs stripped of meat.  Two men watched him, their faces showing disgust and amazement in equal measure.  One said, “You have to admire how strong his jaws are.”

“And his teeth,” said the other.

Servants brought bowls of chicken soup, one to each person, but no spoons to eat it with.  Now that Brody was thinking about it, there was no silverware on the table, not one spoon, knife or fork, just metal cups.  The other three tables were the same.  Men and women ate with their hands just like goblins.  It made him feel more at home, but it was odd.

“Anyone got a spoon?” Brody asked.  He figured Julius would want one.

 “Eating utensils are not allowed in the presence of the earl,” a servant said.

Brody waited for an explanation, and when none was offered he asked, “Why?”

“It’s a first at banquets I’ve attended,” Julius admitted.

The earl tore off a piece of bread and dunked it in his soup.  “The life of royalty is constant danger.  Assassins are a fact of life, and the devils use every tool at their disposal.  A killer once attacked my great grandfather with the knife off his dinner plate. Thankfully he lived, but it was a close thing, and he ordered no knives, forks or spoons be allowed at meals.”

Brody frowned.  “You could use wood spoons.”

“My grandfather was attacked by a killer using a wood spoon,” the earl said.  “It wasn’t a very successful attempt, but it prompted him to outlaw wood utensils at dinner.  My father forbade glass and clay bottles which cold be broken and used as weapons, so we drink from pewter cups.”

Sybil put her elbows on the table and propped up her head with her hands.  “One more generation and food won’t be allowed at dinner.”

“Sybil, that’s quite enough, and elbows off the table.”

The young woman’s mood suddenly brightened.  “Sir Craton, I understand you’re unmarried.”

Julius had been trying to drink, and ended up spitting wine across the table.  Sybil giggled and her father said, “That’s not acceptable dinner conversation.”

Brody raised a hand and said, “Pass the salt.  We’ve got salt, right?”

Sybil was up like a shot.  “I’ll bring it!”

Earl Carl grabbed her by the arm and sat her down.  “Let the servants do it.”

Stymied again, Sybil scowled.  “Can I at least ask Sir Craton about his victory?”

“You may,” her father conceded.

Julius relaxed now that the conversation was steered back to a comfortable topic.  “I can’t claim it as a great victory.  We—”

The discussion ended when Sheriff Bilge showed up.  The man had removed his armor and wore a black tunic with white sleeves, and black boots.  He sat across from Julius and scowled.  “I apologize for my tardy arrival, sir.  I was delayed seeing to the prisoners.”

“Your absence was expected and no offense was taken,” the earl said.  He waved for the sheriff to sit before he dug into a rack of ribs.

“Sir Craton was going to tell us how he caught the bandits,” Sybil said, her voice fawning.

“Craton is not a knight or nobleman, and should not be called sir,” the sheriff said hotly.

The earl tried to talk with his mouth full and made a sort of sloshing sound instead.  He swallowed and tried again.  “Julius Craton is a high ranking member of the Guild of Heroes who has given military service to my family and this land.  As he is not one of my subjects I can’t grant him a knighthood, but the work he’s done demands recognition.  Therefore etiquette allow a sir in this situation.”

“You were going to tell us about the bandits,” Sybil prompted Julius.

Julius set down a joint of beef and wiped his hands on a napkin.  “I have to give much of the credit to Brody.”

“The goblin?” Sheriff Bilge sputtered.

“He made contact with goblins living in your lands and they located the Ulti Bandits’ camp in the woods.  Once we knew where they lived, we waited until nightfall.  Brody and the goblins harassed the bandits until they chased after them.  When they were gone I dealt with two bandits guarding the camp and set an ambush.  The remainder returned an hour later, exhausted from both the chase and the late hour.  I caught them by surprise and defeated the first five, then offered the rest a chance to surrender.  Thankfully they took it.”

Earl Wolfshead nodded.  “A commendable effort.”

“Craton returned with only a pittance from the bandit camp,” Sheriff Bilge said.  His tone was harsh and his eyes were locked on Julius.  “They stole good valued at a thousand guilders, and what little he brought can’t hope to pay a tenth of that.”

“I’m surprised we found as much as we did,” Brody said.  “Bandits live a step ahead of starvation.  They eat anything they grab and sell the rest for food and drink.”

“I didn’t ask for a goblin’s opinion,” Sheriff Bilge shot back.

“And yet you received it,” Earl Wolfshead replied.  “I counted the stolen goods as a loss long ago and anything returned is a bonus.  Since Sir Craton brought the bandits back alive I can sentence them to hard labor cutting timber.  Twenty years at the job should make up the loss.  And Sheriff Bilge, kindly address our guest as Sir Craton.”

“Sir, I will not.”

The table fell silent and all eyes turned to the Sheriff.  Earl Wolfshead set down his pewter cup.  “I beg your pardon?”

“Your lordship, this is too much!”  Sheriff Bilge pointed at Julius, who remained silent.  “I have served you faithfully for eighteen years, yet you bring in an outsider to do my job.  You praise who the Guild of Heroes sent, yet their choice belittles you!  He was abandoned at a beggar woman’s doorstep as a babe.  He is illegitimate, with no father who’d admit to siring him nor mother to bearing him.”

And that ended the pleasant part of the meal.  Brody always expected trouble and had already spotted three good escape routes (two of which involved going out a window).  He opened his mouth to suggest he and Julius make their excuses and leave when Sheriff Bilge knocked him to the floor.

Earl Wolfshead leapt from his seat, a move that made everyone else stand to attention.  He waved his hands down, “Sit, everyone, now.”

Brody scooted under the table, a safe place to be when idiots were about.  Julius kept quiet and the rest of the guests were as silent as the dead.  Earl Wolfshead kept his eyes on Sheriff Bilge, who glared at Julius.  The earl sat down before addressing his sheriff.

“Sheriff Bilge, I respect the good service you have rendered over the years, and I recognize the great hardships you endure, but your behavior is unacceptable.  You demean a guest at my table.  You strike another.  You refuse to obey me.  Etiquette demands a harsh penalty, but I will allow you to apologize to those you offended and let the matter go.”

“Apologize to a goblin?” the sheriff roared.  His face went from red to purple.  “Apologize to a bast—”

The earl slammed both hands against the table.  “Enough!”

Julius bowed to the earl.  “Your lordship, my presence brings strife to your household.  With your permission I will take my leave before I do more harm.”

“I’ll not have a guest driven from my house.”  Earl Wolfshead turned his attention back to the sheriff.  “My house, my rules.”

The sheriff wasn’t backing down.  Brody studied the man for a sign he was going to attack.  Professionals like to call those signs a tell while goblins called it the crazy look.  The sheriff hadn’t reached that point yet.  But as Brody watched him, he saw something out of place.  Oh dear.  This would be bad if it got out.

Brody climbed back into his chair with a handful of bones.  The sheriff bared his teeth at him.  “Stay in your place, vermin.”

Sybil cleared her throat and put on a phony smile.  Trying to defuse the situation, she asked, “Does, ah, anyone have a small portion of venison?  The one on my plate is a bit too much.”

Brody met the sheriff’s gaze and decided he was done being nice to the man.  “Cut it in half, your ladyship.  You can borrow a knife from the sheriff.  He’s got two.”

The earl shot up again, and everyone else followed.  “You what?”

“They’re tucked in his boots,” Brody explained.  “The handles are black leather so they blend in.”

The sheriff backed up.  “Sir, I—”

“No weapons are allowed in my presence!” the earl thundered.  “Those rules are enshrined in Etiquette for Royal Personages and Other Really, Really Important People, by Yuri daFool.  You’re the man who enforces the rules and you’re not following them!”

“I forgot I still had them!”

“Forgot?”  The earl pointed at the sheriff and bellowed, “There seems to be a lot you’re forgetting lately!  Your manners!  The rules!  The obedience you owe me as your liege!  You complain I brought in an outsider, yet all Sir Craton needed to do the job was help from goblins!  I’m left wondering why you didn’t do the same?  How many years earlier could this matter have been resolved if you had?”

Julius went down on one knee.  “Your lordship, please, I’m sure this matter can be settled privately.”

Sheriff Bilge kneeled as well, but only long enough to draw a knife.  He charged Julius, screaming, “This is your fault!”

Earl Wolfshead shouted for his guards.  Men ran to his aid.  Women screamed.  Brody jumped onto the table and grabbed a bowl of soup.  He threw it at Sheriff Bilge and aimed for the man’s face.

Julius was a generous man, often going out of his way to praise Brody and list good qualities the goblin didn’t know he had.  In the past Julius had claimed Brody was brave, observant and quick witted.  But Julius had never admired Brody for his upper body strength, and for good reason.  The steaming hot soup fell short of Sheriff Bilge’s face and struck him in the crotch.

The sheriff screamed a high pitched wail and dropped his knife.  He covered where the soup had hit with both hands while his mouth opened wide like a bass who’d been hooked.  Julius jumped to his feet and grabbed his chair.  The sheriff staggered forward two steps before Julius clubbed him with the heavy chair.  Sheriff Bilge fell backwards and writhed on the floor.

Guards dragged the sheriff away.  Earl Wolfshead dropped back down in his chair, clearly shaken by what had happened.  Julius set down the chair and apologized to the earl while Brody stayed by Julius in case they still had to flee.  Men and women milled about, not sure what to do and talking excitedly.  Amidst this chaos, Sybil looked depressed and asked, “Daddy, please tell me this doesn’t mean you’re going to take away the chairs.”


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