New Goblin Stories 10

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's amazing the people you'll meet when traveling. You don't want to meet them, but you do anyway.

Submitted: May 09, 2017

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Submitted: May 09, 2017

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Grump the goblin was always in a foul mood, but was now in the foulest mood of his life, having spent the last week kicking squirrels, smashing pixies and dumping trash on passing mimes.  His generally poor disposition was known for miles, but matters had recently come to a new low.  This prompted mayors of neighboring communities to post bounties on the little goblin.  Three bounty hunters had made the mistake of accepting the offer.  Two of them returned empty-handed and with liquid manure dripping from their clothes.  The third had been found gibbering in the woods by a wandering priest and was currently convalescing in a nearby monastery.

For now the reign of terror was on hold as Grump fumed in a forest glen.  The red skinned goblin scowled and sat on the ground, rocking back and forth.  His cheap leather clothes were stained and his shoes were long gone, sacrificed to convince a bounty hunter that he’d been hiding in an outhouse.  His greasy gray hair stuck out in all directions.  Grump cupped his hands together, cradling the only thing that had ever mattered to him.

“And another thing, I don’t like your attitude!” he yelled at a tree.  “The silent treatment got old a while ago.  And don’t go thinking you’re better than me!  You are, but I don’t want you thinking it.”

The tree, unsurprisingly, didn’t answer.  Grump was willing to put up with that until he found someone who would respond to his abuse.  That was proving to be a difficult task.  It was getting so that people ran at the sight of him.  He couldn’t even get an angry mob to attack him after what he did to the last one.  He’d made camp here because there was a crossroads not far from the glen.  In theory that meant people/victims would come to him, but no one had showed up for days.  It annoyed him that he didn’t have anyone to bother.

Wind blew the tree’s leaves.  Grump pointed at it and said, “It is not me fault!  You’d be mad, too!”  The goblin got up and marched up to the tree.  He kicked it, stubbing his toes in the process and jumping up and down.  “You did that on purpose!”

Grump would have done something truly regrettable that likely would have hurt him worse than the tree, but he heard horses coming.  Horses were useful sources of manure to throw or trap teapots with.  He rubbed his foot with one hand, holding the other close to his chest.  Maybe he could convince the horses to make a donation.

The visitors were a man and woman riding two horses.  The man was so young he probably still had trouble with acne, a blond haired punk dressed in fancy black linen.  On closer inspection the outfit was beginning to fray near the cuffs.  The lady’s dress was nice but also looking worn.  The horses were study animals, but clearly tired from overuse.

Wind rustled the tree’s branches again, and Grump snorted.  “No, they had money.  Rich folks turned beggars.  I wonder what happened that they’re broke and on the run.  Not sure whether to laugh or cry.”

That was when he heard a gurgling noise from the woman.  She had a bundle clenched to her chest.  A baby!  That was too much!  He didn’t know what sort of trouble they were in, but you don’t bring babies into dark forests.  Indignant, he marched out to confront them on their lack of parenting skills.

The man stopped his horse when he reached the fork in the road.  “This doesn’t appear on the map I bought.  Three paths, but which one to take?”

“Is there no one living here we could get directions from?” the woman asked.

“I see no houses, Isa, nor fresh tracks on the road.  I think this trail’s not been used in weeks or even longer.”

Grump emerged from the dense underbrush along the trail and headed for the man.  “Right, pal, let’s see your fatherhood license.”

The man stared at Grump.  “My what?”

“Your paperwork.”  Grump tapped his foot on the ground and frowned.  “Someone should have made you pass a test before getting a kid.  Question one on that test was ‘do you bring babies into God forsaken wildernesses’, and the answer was no.  So I’m revoking your license and impounding your brain until we can get it working again.”

“Tristan, what’s going on?” Isa asked.

“I have no idea.  Goblin, there’s no test for fathering a child.”

Grump rubbed his free hand over his face.  “Let me get this straight.  You’re lost, you not only don’t have your paperwork but you never even took the test, and is that scabbard empty?  It is!  You’ve got a baby to protect and you’re unarmed!  That does it, let me take a look at those fontal lobes of yours.”

“My sword broke!” Tristan yelled back.  “I don’t even have the hilt anymore after I sold the gems on it to buy food and lodging at the last city.”

The man dismounted and walked over to Grump.  “You are right that I need to get my wife and daughter to safety, a task easier done if I knew the roads and trails here.  If you want to help, tell me which one of these leads to Oceanview Kingdom?”

“You can’t even tell which kingdom you’re in?”  Grump ran up and scuffed up the man’s boots with his feet.  “Did I do any damage?  I can’t tell with the sorry state your shoes are in.”

“Stop that!”  Tristan went for his sword, his hand stopping halfway to the missing weapon.  He sighed and rubbed his eyes.  “Goblin, my journey has been long and hard, and my responsibilities are great with both wife and daughter to care for.  I can’t offer payment for your aid, but if you know the answer to my question it would help us greatly.”

“Do I look like a tour guide?  Do I look like I care?”  Grump marched up to the woman and said, “Lady, dump this loser and take the kid anywhere but here.”

“That is most unkind,” she replied.  The baby in her arms smiled and made a gurgling, laughing noise.

“Oh sure, you say that now, but just you wait,” Grump told the baby.  “In three years you’ll be swearing like a one eyed, nine fingered carpenter with gout.”

“I—” Tristan began.

“No!” Grump yelled.  He poked the man in the chest with his free hand.  “I do not have to take this from some down on his luck pretty boy.  You have problems?  We all have problems, and yours are not my fault!  So pack up that sob story of yours and find someone to dump it on other than me!  And I’m going to kick you in the shin for getting a baby involved in this.”

“Ow!  Cut that out!”  Tristan bent down and rubbed his shin where Grump had kicked him.

That should have been enough to send them both back the way they came, but to Grump’s surprise, Isa dismounted her horse.  She had some difficulty getting down.  Grump figured the woman wasn’t used to riding.  She rested the baby against her shoulder and approached Grump slowly.  “You’re very upset.  What’s the matter?”

Grump’s lip quivered.  “None of your business!”

She came closer.  “I’d like to help.  I think you’re someone who needs help.  That’s not a bad thing.  Everyone needs help from time to time.”

Grump looked down at his closed hand clutched against his chest.  He only did so for a fraction of a second, but Isa saw it.

“What do you have there?”

“Isa, don’t get close to that brute!”

Grump’s eyes teared up.  He held his composure for three seconds before he burst out crying and dropped to his knees.  Isa put an arm around Grump and kneeled down alongside him.  “Shh, it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay!  My best friend died!”  Grump opened his hand to show the shriveled up brown lump he’d held for the last week.

Tristan stood up and came over.  “What is that?”

“My friend, Zippy,” Grump explained.  “I found him crawling around eating leaves.  He was so cool!  He had six pairs of legs, and there were big red eyes on his butt.  I’d never met someone with eyes on their butt before.  We spent weeks together.  I’d talk and he’d shovel food down his throat every waking moment.  It was bliss, the only time I’ve ever been happy!”

Wiping tears from his eyes, Grump said, “Nothing went right before I met Zippy.  I was burned out of three houses.  The Pirate Lords torched my first one and everyone else’s in Castle City to send a message to the king in those parts.  Then the Fallen King burned down my home in First Light, because he was burning down everything, and hey, why not torch my house, too?  And Char the dragon got hiccups and incinerated my third home!  All right, he apologized, so that sort of makes it better, but I still lost a house and my entire collection of royal fingernail clippings.”

The goblin looked at Isa through eyes blurred by tears.  “I thought everything would be better here with a friend and new home.  But one morning Zippy got sick.  I tried to make him feel better.  Nothing worked.  His legs came off and he stopped moving.  Now he’s gone and I don’t have anyone to talk to except that tree, and he’s a mean drunk.”

“What?” Tristan asked.  “Dearest, I don’t think we can help.”

“I can,” Isa told her husband.  “Goblin, your friend is going to be okay.”

“He’s got no legs!”

“Not yet, but he will.  I’ve seen the animal you’re talking about.  Your friend, uh, Zippy, is a dragonfire butterfly.  You met him when he was still a caterpillar.  I saw them often when I was a girl.”

Grump stared at her.  “There are more like him?”

“Thousands upon thousands,” she promised.  “Your friend is growing up in his chrysalis.  In a few weeks he’ll be done and fly off.  Be patient and you’ll see him again.  Show me where you met him.”

Grump took her hand and led her and Tristan to a forest glade a mile away.  Isa spotted a vine twined around a tree and pointed at it.  “You found him here, right?”

“How’d you know?”

“That’s blood vine, named for the red sap that flows from its wounds.”  Isa ran her hands over the vine until she stopped and smiled.  “There you are.  Your friend wasn’t an only child.  Look.”

Grump marveled at the sight.  There were four more caterpillars just like Zippy!  Each one was chowing down on leaves, red sap running down their chins.  He ran ahead and found more vines with more caterpillars on them.  “Zippy has a family!”

A butterfly swooped by, and Isa reached out and let it land on her hand.  Grump studied the red and purple butterfly, as gorgeous an animal as any he’d seen, a living work of art.

Isa watched the butterfly leave before taking the hard brown chrysalis from Grump.  She took a stray thread from her dress and tied the chrysalis to the nearest blood vine.  “There we go.  Zippy can wait here until he’s ready to come out.  Until then you can talk to his brothers and sisters.”

Grump stared at the caterpillars in wonder.  He sat down, mesmerized by the tiny insects gorging on leaves.  “There are so many of them.  They’re beautiful.”

Tristan edged forward and took his wife’s hands.  He kneeled down next to Grump and asked, “Can you tell me which of those roads we met you by leads to Oceanview Kingdom?”

“Huh?  None of them do.  The first goes to a mine that closed down years ago when they ran out of copper.  You got all sorts of critters living in it now.  The second goes to a village abandoned when they found barrow wights nesting nearby.  The last road circles around in the forest for thirty miles and ends in the woods without ever going anywhere.”

“But my map shows a road leading to Oceanview.”

Grump pointed back the way they’d come.  “That’s an hour’s walk up the road.  It goes east first and then south after a while, and will take you to Oceanview in a week, faster with your horses.”

Tristan rubbed his bruised shin.  “Thank you.  We should be going.  Isa, how did you know about those butterflies?”

She smiled and cuddled their daughter.  “They’re all over the woods in our homeland.  Surely you saw them yourself when you were growing up?”

Looking down, Tristan said, “Father rarely let me leave his house except on business.  Such beauty was mere walking distance from my door, and for years I never saw it.”

Before they left, Grump turned to Isa and asked, “Will the same thing happen to me?”  Her confused look showed she didn’t understand the question, so he pointed at the caterpillars and asked, “Will I get to be beautiful one day, like Zippy?”

Isa smiled and pressed two fingers against Grump’s chest.  “Silly goblin, in here you already are beautiful.”

Too stunned to even open his mouth, Grump stared at Isa as she left with Tristan and their daughter.  They were long gone when he finally recovered enough to say, “That woman is stark raving mad.”  Smiling, he added, “I like her.”

Returning his attention to the caterpillars, he said, “You need names.  You’ll be Zippy #2, and you can be Zippy #3…”

* * * * *

Grump laid on back watching Zippy and his kin fly overhead.  He could tell they were happy, and that made him happy.  He was content again, a strange feeling, but a welcome one.  He’d found more blood vines in the forest.  They didn’t have caterpillars on them, but now he knew where to look in the future.

An older man stomped down the dirt road and drew Grump’s attention.  His clothes looked a lot like the ones that idiot Tristan had worn when they’d met a week ago, and there was some resemblance in the face, too.  But where Tristan had shown concern for his loved ones, this stranger scowled and snarled under his breath.  That might be because his right arm was in a sling.

“Wretch!” the man bellowed when he saw Grump.  Grump got up and frowned.  He was having a good day and had no intention of letting this moron ruin it.  “A man and woman came this way.  Three men swore to the fact.  Where are they?  Which way did they go?  Speak, or I’ll beat the truth out of you!”

There had been an ever so slight chance that Grump wouldn’t act like, well, Grump.  He’d been doing better since meeting Zippy’s family.  But the thought of letting that evil old man within a mile of a baby (who already had enough problems with one parent mad and the other unlicensed) closed that door in a hurry.

“Yeah, they were here.”  Grump waved a hand at the nearby crossroads.  “They took one of those three trails.  I don’t know which one.”

Grump smiled at the snarling man.  “I guess you’ll have to check them all.”


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