New Goblin Stories IX

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
this story was originally published in fantastic creatures, a fellowship of fantasy. enough time has passed since since the book was published that i have permission to reprint it.

Submitted: March 28, 2017

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Submitted: March 28, 2017

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The city of Harath had become a place of shrouds.  Black curtains hung in every window and black flags flew from every tower.  There was no sound of music or merriment, and despite the late hour there should have been revelers.  Harath was known for producing the finest wines on Other Place, a fact the elves disputed every chance they got, miserable backstabbers that they were.  No one cared about elf lies, and for good reason as countless bottles of quality wine flowed from wineries established thousands of years ago.  The residents of Harath were joyous and celebrated life, but not today.

Midnight came and went.  Clouds blotted out the moon and stars as if they shared the city’s mood.  Few fires burned and no lanterns were lit.  This meant no one noticed short figures clothed in black garments sneak through the city streets.  The stunted and smelly beings stood between two and four feet tall, and they left not an inch of skin uncovered.  Awkward as their appearance might be, they were as silent as falling snow as they moved through the cobblestone streets.

The furtive people were careful in case they might run into dogs, burglars or various scary beings of the night.  That last category was less worrying than it sounded since the scary beings unionized last year.  Still, there was a chance, however small, that they would be noticed.  That wouldn’t do.  The smelly crowd used every trick they knew to avoid making the slightest sound.  They kept to the back alleys and less traveled roads on their way to the castle.

Castle Sea Crest was a real castle, one of those fine old castles that remembered they were built for war and not just huge mansions.  The walls were yards thick, the bricks made of granite and the towers soared high above the prosperous city.  There hadn’t been a serious threat in generations, but the royal family kept Castle Sea Crest in good repair.  After all, you never knew what the future held.

The black clad figures stopped near the edge of the castle.  Guards patrolled the outer walls every fifteen minutes, and even in such a time of woe they kept a strict schedule.  Timing would be tricky.

Guards armed with spears and torches came near.  The crowd edged back into the shadows and waited for them to pass.  Instead the guards stopped and one took a silver flask from his pocket.  He took a sip and offered it to another guard.  The man waved it off.

“These last few days food and drink taste like ashes in my mouth.”

The first guard put the flask back and looked down.  “Dark times, indeed.”

“I fear worse ones to come,” the second guard said.  He shuddered and looked at the castle before leading the other men away.

Once they were gone the crowd returned.  They were silent as cats, in part because they’d gagged themselves before beginning this mission.  Fifteen minutes more until the guards returned.

A window high up on the castle opened.  The crowd below tensed, relaxing only when they saw more short figures in black wave to them.  The group in the window lifted a large leather bag six feet long and two feet across.  They slid it out the window and lowered it with ropes to the ground below.  The waiting crowd took the large bag and carried it into the shadows.

One by one the figures above climbed to the ground using the same ropes they’d lowered the bag with.  The last person threw the ropes down.  Below him the crowd hung a rope net between the castle wall and a nearby house.  One leap sent him fifty feet down where the net caught him.  They gathered up the net and ropes before fleeing into the night.

They’d only gone a block when alarm bells rang from the castle.  Piercing lights shined in windows, and the drawbridge came down with a thud to release dozens of knights on horseback.  They raced through the city streets, screaming at the top of their lungs the whole time.

“To arms!  To arms!  Wake the citizenry and seal the city!  The King’s body has been stolen!”

One of the black clad figures pulled off his gag.  “So much for the mannequin.”

“I really thought that would fool them until morning,” another replied.  “Maybe it shouldn’t have been smiling.”

“Hurry,” a third whispered.

Harath’s slumber ended as doors and windows flew open.  Men and women ran outside to see what the noise was about.  This slowed the knights from reaching the alleys where the black clad figures scurried with their heavy load.  The delay wouldn’t last long, and the black clad crowd broke into a run.

They reached the city’s outer wall and ducked into a small building.  More people in black waited for them and opened a secret door hidden in the floor.  All of the short figures went inside with the large bag and their belongings.  From there they went through sewers and tunnels until they reached another door a mile from the city.  They peeked outside in case the knights had already gotten this far, but the noise and light was still far off.

It took them the rest of the night to get through the vineyards and fields around the city to reach the safety of home.  Home was a network of caves well away from farmland and human habitation.  The rocky ground couldn’t support grapes or wheat, so it was left empty.

Empty places are where goblins live.

Back in the safety of their cave, the goblins pulled off their disguises.  Black cloaks and pants were replaced with regular leather and cotton clothes, and black soot was washed off from around their eyes.  They set down the bag they’d brought so far and cheered as still more goblins poured into the cave.  Their numbers grew until hundreds of goblins crowded around the bag.  The air rippled as the collective craziness and stupidity of so many goblins close together began to warp space.

“You did it!” a goblin with a crooked staff cheered.  He had green skin and blue hair, and wore heavy robes made from an old carpet.

“You doubted us, Estive?” one of the returning goblins teased.  Now out of his disguise, he had pale skin and small eyes.  His unruly brown hair covered his shoulders in greasy locks that stained his leather clothes.

“Doubt you?  Brat, you and Oler broke into a castle in the capital city of a kingdom, and on a day when the humans are riled up like wasps when you hit their nest.  You’re lucky you’re still breathing.”

“Hmm,” Oler muttered.  Oler was hulking by goblin standards, with dense muscles and strong arms and legs.  His leather clothes didn’t quite fit, and his fair skin and brown hair were always dirty.

“Show us, show us!” goblins shouted.

Brat and Oler untied the bag and carefully took out King Justin Lawgiver, a sight to behold even now.  His skin was wrinkled and his hair white, but there was a strength to him, a look of nobility.  His clothes were fine linens dyed deep blue, with a sable cape and fur lined boots.  He still wore his signet ring and jeweled crown.  The King smelled of lavender from the perfumed oils he’d been anointed with.

“Speech!” the goblins yelled.  “Speech!”

Brat smiled and said, “We snuck in by—”

A goblin waved his arms.  “Not you, Justin!”

Estive rolled his eyes and pushed his way to the front of the group.  “None of that!  You get things ready, and do a good job!  It’s not often we have a guest.”

The goblins hurried off, one saying, “Wouldn’t want to look bad in front of the King.”

It took two hours of hard work, something few goblins bothered with even for a minute, but they made the cave presentable.  Colorful streamers dyed with berry juice hung from the cave walls.  Tables and chairs of dubious quality were brought out and dusted off.  A large table was brought out for Justin Lawgiver to rest on since he was the guest of honor.  Goblin cooks who’d been abducted and dragged here against their will were politely asked to prepare a banquet.

Musicians played horns and fiddles as goblins piled their plates high with heaping helpings of food.  There was some concern that they’d offend Justin since goblins eat what humans couldn’t stand the sight of.  The fear proved baseless as the King was being a good sport about the matter.  That wasn’t surprising given that he was dead, but he’d been a good one even when he was alive.  One goblin set a plate of food beside the King on the off chance he’d feel better and ask for a snack.

The celebration was in full swing with raucous music, copious eating and much laughter.  It went on for hours and even the goblin cooks joined in.  Once the music and gorging was done, the goblins gathered around Justin Lawgiver’s body.  They fell silent, but their expressions were not dour, nor were their tears.  A few goblins gave the King a pat on the back and some encouraging words before they settled down.

Estive gathered up his ratty robes and struck his staff on the cave floor.  Bang!  The goblins turned their eager eyes toward him.  Once he was sure he had the crowd’s attention, he waved his staff over the cave and addressed the goblins.  “Friends, allies, neighbors, people we tied up and dragged here, we come here together to bid a fond farewell to Justin Lawgiver, who through no fault of his own was King.”

“Poor guy,” a goblin said.

Not bothered by the interruption, Estive pointed his staff at their esteemed (and deceased) guest.  “Justin, also known to us as Big J, J Master and the Guy with the Crown, was an honest, hardworking man who gave his people a chance to make the best of themselves that they possibly could.  I’ll never understand how he lasted so long.  Forty years a King and every day of it a struggle with other kings, merchant guilds, his nobles and especially his family.”

Brat shook his head.  “Four sons and one throne.  I do not like that math.”

Getting a little annoyed, Estive said, “You’ll get your turn.  Justin fought the longest battle I ever knew to make sure his people never fought at all.  He created alliances, brokered trade deals, soothed wounded egos and tried so blasted hard to keep everybody from killing each other.  The job took years off his life, no question.  If the world was fair he would have been born a potter or yam farmer.

“Instead he was surrounded by petty, vindictive, greedy and otherwise not at all nice people.  Any one of us would have run off in a heartbeat, but he stuck it out and made it work.  My theory was he used magic or possibly blackmail, but I’ve been told by people who know such things that he didn’t.

“And he was good to us!” Estive shouted.  Goblins chorused their agreement as Estive said, “No more anti-goblin raids by the army.  No more goblin hunting parties for the nobles.  No more bounties on goblin heads.  He put a stop to that here and in neighboring lands.  They hated him for it, but he stood strong no matter how they yelled at him and threatened him.”

Oler belched and scratched himself.

“That’s why we had to do this.  Poor Justin wasn’t even cold and his family started fighting. ‘I want to be King!’  ‘No, I want to be King!’  They should have been giving him a proper send off after the good he did for them, and instead they brawled over who got his stuff.  Greedy bums one and all.”  Estive banged his staff on the cave floor again.  “The guy was dead and they still weren’t going to leave him alone!  So, brothers, friends, hangers on and idiots who wandered in, we have come together to bid a fond farewell to dear Justin Lawgiver, King to the Humans, and ensure his peaceful rest.”

A goblin in the crowd waved to get Estive’s attention.  “You’re sure he’s not a goblin?”

“We’ve been over this,” Brat said.  “Several times.”

“I mean, it makes more sense if he’s always been one of us,” the goblin continued.  More goblins nodded, proof that the man/goblin debate still wasn’t settled.

Estive lost his patience and threw a rock at the offending goblin, missing by inches.  “He’s twice as tall as you are and four times as heavy!  And, I might add, he was born instead of falling out of a giant mushroom like we are!”

“I’m just saying,” the other goblin persisted.

“Just say it somewhere else.”  Estive waved his staff at Brat for him to come over and take his place.  “Before we bid goodnight to Justin, I’d like to ask the people who knew him best to say a few words.”

Oler picked his ear and farted.

“It’s Brat’s turn first, Oler,” Estive said.  He stepped away from the body and let Brat speak.

Brat brushed his dirty hair aside and spoke to the goblin mob.  “We were able to break into the castle by—”

Estive threw a rock at Brat and hit him in the shoulder.  “Talk about the dead guy!”

“Okay, okay!  Geez.”  Brat rubbed his shoulder and began again.  “The first time I met Justin was twenty years ago.  The boys and me had broken into his castle for some food.  It wasn’t hard when they just dump their potato peelings and coffee grounds in buckets where anyone could get them.  Anyway, we were nearly out when Justin and his knights came by.  Me and Oler hid up in the rafters and waited for them to leave when a rafter gave way and dumped me on the floor, and both my buckets landed on my head.”

Brat laughed.  “Hoo boy, was that embarrassing!  The knights went for their swords and I was about to run when Justin broke out laughing.  He went down on his knees and then sat down so he didn’t fall over.  I’d seen him plenty of times before that, but that was the first time I saw him laugh.  When he got his breath back, he told the knights to escort me outside the castle, and he let me keep my stuff.  Then he said that from now on he’d have his cooks leave their kitchen scraps outside the walls where we can get them.”

There was a pause as Brat looked at the King.  “Most people won’t do that for you.  I mean, he couldn’t eat the stuff, but he still could have kept it from us or burned it.”

“We should have done more for him,” a goblin said.

“After that I checked in on him every chance I got,” Brat continued.  “So many people shouted at him, demanding stuff.  Most of the time they wanted gold, but his sons kept demanding his crown.  I found him once when he was alone.  He was watching little kids playing in the streets, and he had this big smile.  I went over and said he should go play with them.  He shook his head and said ‘There are things a King cannot do.’  So I said, ‘But you want to,’ and he nodded.”

“We tried,” Estive said.

“We tried,” Brat echoed.  “I got him laughing a couple of times, and I made a few of his enemies look stupid.  I can’t take too much credit for the last part when they were already as dumb as toast.  But it was a little bit of happy against a whole lot of sad. 

Today we’re putting things right.  Justin will be with friends from now on, and let those jerks argue without him.  Oler, it’s your turn.”

Oler looked surprised.  He tried to back up, but other goblins nudged him up to the King.  Oler wasn’t sure what to do.  He’d seen funerals before.  Most of the time people said profound things about the dead guy.  Oler wasn’t good at that.  Other times they were polite and poetic.  He really wasn’t good at that.

“Go on,” Brat urged him.

Oler looked at the King for a while as he tried to come up with honest words to say.  He placed his right hand over Justin’s stilled heart.  “We will meet again.”

Estive and Brat patted him on the back and let him join the other goblins.  As one the goblins gathered around the King and lifted him up.  They carried him to a small chamber in the cave network and placed him there with the streamers and a plate of food (just in case).

With the King safe in his tomb, Estive placed a folded piece of paper in Justin’s hand.  “A map, should you get lost on your final journey.”  He placed his staff across the King’s chest, saying, “My staff, should the trip prove tiring.”  Finally he took two dice from Brat and slipped them into the King’s pocket.  “Loaded dice, because you’re the unluckiest man I’ve met, and anything that tips the odds in your favor is good.”

From there the goblins gathered rocks and wet clay.  They carefully placed the rocks across the chamber’s entrance, fitting them together so tightly it was hard to see between them.  They mixed the clay with powdered stone from the caves until it took on the same color as the native rock.  They pressed the clay between the rocks and over them like cement.  Goblins heated the clay with fire until it became hard as stone.  More goblins chiseled the clay to remove any imperfections.  Normally goblins wouldn’t go to so much effort, but there are things you’ll only do for a friend.

When they were done, the entrance to the chamber was gone, covered so well it looked as if it was a solid wall and always had been. 

Brat gave an approving smile.  “Even I couldn’t break into here.  If the humans find our cave and searched it, they’d never find Justin Lawgiver.”

“I hear tell you can’t be a king without a crown,” a goblin said.

Estive waved his hands.  “Nonsense!  William Bradshaw King of the Goblins doesn’t have a crown, and he’s the best King our people ever had.”

“If it’s true Justin needs a crown, then he should get to keep the one he has,” Brat said.  “I won’t see him demoted for silly reasons like being dead.”

Oler sneezed.

“Good point,” Estive told him.

The goblin that brought up this topic said, “What I mean is, if Justin Lawgiver has his crown then his sons can’t have it.  That means none of them can be King.”

Brat laughed at the news.  “Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.”

Estive looked at the camouflaged tomb.  He tapped it with his knuckles and smiled.  “He’s safe now.  We did it.”

“That we did.”  Brat smiled and looked at the others.  With their solemn duty done, he said, “Let’s go throw ducks at people.”


© Copyright 2017 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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