New Goblin Stories 11

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
If you can see goblins, it's because they want you to.

Submitted: June 05, 2017

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Submitted: June 05, 2017

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It was a blissful summer day, bright, warm, cheerful, and most definitely not the time to flee for your life.  Other goblins would hide under these conditions, waiting for the right time to escape unnoticed, but not Little Old Dude.

“One of the great ironies of staying hidden is knowing when to let the other side see you,” Little Old Dude explained.  He leaned back in the flimsy canoe and pointed his walking stick at the two goblins with him.  “It’s always better for an enemy to never know you’re there, but that’s not always possible.  In such situations choose what they see and when.”

“So, you’re not going to stop talking long enough to help out with the oars?” Cackler asked.

Little Old Dude didn’t try to hide his annoyance at the question.  “How long have you studied under me?”

“Too long,” Blunder grunted as he paddled the canoe.

Canoeing down a wide river was normally a peaceful, even pleasurable experience.  Dragonflies darted through the air, flowers bloomed on the overgrown riverbanks, birds sang and puffy clouds drifted high overhead.  Truly it was a beautiful day.  The goblins were even alone, for there was no other vessel on the river or people of any race within eyesight.

But life for goblins was never peaceful.  Most of the time the problem was other goblins causing trouble.  In this case there was danger from men, a threat that could kill all three goblins on their rickety vessel.  They kept close watch for soldiers or knights while drifting downstream at a leisurely rate.

The canoe was poorly built from scrap lumber, typical of goblin manufacture.  Some boards were rotting and others sprouted green shoots.  One of the oars was larger than the other, and the smaller one had split down the middle and was held together with string.  Unusual for goblins, there was a large clay pot they were using as a live well, and the water stirred inside.  There was also a wood tube in the bottom of the canoe.  No water came up through it, and the goblins were careful not to step on the tube.

“I’m not helping with the oars for very good reasons,” Little Old Dude said.  The gray skinned goblin was balding in the front and compensated by growing a beard and outrageously long eyebrows.  He wore only leather pants and carried a trick cane equipped with various blades.

“Do tell,” Cackler said.  The little goblin wore a blue trench coat and hat that nearly covered his purple skin.  Normally he carried a weapon, but for this mission was unarmed.

Little Old Dude rolled his eyes.  “For one, we are trying to be conspicuous without being suspicious.  Three goblins traveling on a river is going to draw attention.  Three goblins hurrying down a river look like they’re fleeing, probably avoiding reprisal for a crime.”

“Which we are,” Cackler said.

Ignoring him, Little Old Dude continued his lecture.  “Authorities are going to be on the lookout for threats, especially in the Land of the Nine Dukes with all their silly wars.  Goblins are normally not considered dangerous, and goblins leaving your territory even less so.  We stand the best chance at leaving Duke Thornwood’s territory without incident by being relaxed, calm, and slow.”

“What’s the other reason you’re not rowing?” Blunder asked.  Blunder was Little Old Dude’s newest student, and weighing in at a hundred pounds was big by goblin standards.  Admittedly much of that was fat, and the bulky, tan skinned goblin in raggedy clothes was hard to miss.  Most people made the mistake of considering him harmless.

“There are two oars and three goblins,” Little Old Dude replied, “and lately my back’s been giving me trouble.”

The two goblins grumbled but kept rowing.  Few goblins aspired to greatness, and those who did went to Little Old Dude.  He was a living legend, the goblin who’d stopped Coslot the Conqueror, the goblin who’d fought the Fallen King and his hag.  For decades he’d confounded the powerful and wealthy, all the while evading responsibility for his actions.  Some humans respected Little Old Dude and far more feared him.

Age had slowed Little Old Dude, but his mind was sharp, and years ago he’d accepting paying students to make ends meet (and to avoid doing as much work as possible).  Many infamous goblins had studied under Little Old Dude, learning his secrets in return for cheese and general labor.  He wasn’t picky about students, and there were always openings for the aspiring troublemaker.

“The river’s shallow on the left side,” Little Old Dude told his students.  They dutifully paddled to the right.  “Test the depth.”

Bumbler shoved his paddle straight down.  “More than six feet.”

“That should be enough.”

“I’d feel better about this if we had daggers,” Cackler said.

“Soldiers consider armed goblins a threat, so we use concealed weapons or none at all” Little Old Dude told him.  The boat rocked and there was a thud from below their feet.  Little Old Dude rapped the canoe with his walking stick.  “That’ll be enough of that.”

The rocking died away as the canoe rounded a bend in the river.  Little Old Dude watched the shoreline for threats.  The land of the Nine Dukes had few monsters, but it had psychotically aggressive dukes.  They made war on each other at the drop of the hat, and could be counted on to start at least three major armed conflicts per year.

The Nine Dukes had taken a beating from the Fallen King, a sociopath who’d gathered an army of criminals to ravage the land.  Most of the dukes had avoided fighting to preserve their armies.  It made sense in a deranged sort of way, as if any of them had fought back it would have left them so weak that a neighboring duke could have swept in afterwards and finished them off.  So they’d stayed in their castles while the countryside burned.

The damage was still evident a year later.  Blackened husks of houses littered the landscape and fields were thick with weeds.  Wandering vagabonds were common, some searching for honest work and others looking for loot.  A few enterprising monsters were even sniffing around the nearly empty landscape.  The Nine Dukes would recover in time, but not soon.

“How worried should we be about Duke Thornwood?” Cackler asked.

“Very,” Bumbler told him.  “He’s a mean one.  I saw his men torch their own villages to keep other dukes from taking them.”

“Thornwood is good example of what’s wrong with nobility,” Little Old Dude said.  “He inherited his job instead of earning it, has no respect for his men or anyone else’s and has no self control.  He’s needlessly brutal, vindictive, hateful and bigoted, and those are his good qualities.  And he’s addicted to gold.”

“Addicted?” Cackler asked.

“Can’t get enough of the stuff.  He wants more land to get more gold, so he can conquer more land and get more gold.  It’s a vicious circle.”

“He needs therapy,” Bumbler added.

They floated by several inhabited houses.  Farmers tried to reclaim abandoned fields in time to plant, and were thus far too busy to waste time on goblins.  Little Old Dude waved to one man who saw them.  The man watched them long enough to see that the canoe wasn’t stopping, and then went back to his work.

“How soon until we reach the town?” Cackler asked.

“In about two hours,” Little Old Dude answered.  “That’s going to be the real test of our mission, with thousands of humans, some of them armed and paranoid.  I’ve positioned my other students in the area if we need help, but if all goes well we’ll sail right through.”

Worried, Cackler asked, “And if it doesn’t?”

“We’ll be hacked to pieces,” Little Old Dude said cheerfully.  “It’s a good incentive to do things right the first time, so remember your lines, and let me do the talking if anyone asks questions.”

They journeyed on for the next hour in silence.  A copper colored dragonfly settled on Little Old Dude’s walking stick, and he spent ten minutes studying it.  They passed more settled land, either reclaimed or rare spots that had survived the Fallen King’s rampage intact.  More people saw them and some stared, but none moved to stop them.

“Why did you agree to take this job?” Cackler asked Little Old Dude.  “I know we’re getting paid in cheese, but since when do goblins hire themselves out?  And why the devil did you make us come?”

“I sort of get why we’re doing this,” Bumbler said.  “It’s a fieldtrip, and we get to use what you taught us.  I’m just saying there has to be safer ways of getting experience.”

“Safer?”  Annoyed, Little Old Dude sat up in the canoe.  Careful to not cover the tube in the canoe’s bottom, he demanded, “Since when did either of you want safety?  You came to me because you want danger, daring, the big reward, and that does not come by being safe.  It comes by taking needlessly stupid risks, just like this!

“And I brought you two because you’re doing terrible in my classes.”  He pointed at Cackler and said, “You bombed your last test and fell asleep during my lecture on trapping outhouses.”  Pointing at Bumbler, he said, “And you skipped out on the group discussion on weaknesses in elf architecture.  Lastly, you both smell, and I mean bad.  This is an opportunity to air you out.”

Settling back down in the canoe, he added, “And we’re doing this because I hate Duke Thornwood.  Passionately.  The man’s a twit like most nobles, but he goes that extra mile to be scummier.  He reminds me of Coslot the Conqueror, with the way he hates, the way he uses people and leaves them broken.  This isn’t the first time I struck at him.  I hit him hard years before you two signed up.  Thornwood had planned on kidnapping farmers from neighboring dukes and selling them to slavers.”

Bumbler stopped rowing.  “He what?”

Little Old Dude pressed a button on his walking stick, and a blade popped out from the tip.  “The slavers were unexpectedly delayed when their crew suffered food poisoning, their ship caught fire and the Guild of Heroes learned of their location.”

Pressing another button, the blade retracted.  Little Old Dude looked at his students with grim satisfaction.  “That was one of my better days.  I’ve done other things to stop Thornwood, but those were minor accomplishments.  When the chance came to strike another blow I took it.  Now if you two want to get an A then keep paddling, because we’ve got miles to go and risks to take.”

The goblins continued on their journey.  Settlements were sporadic in this section of Duke Thornwood’s territory.  A few men took offense at goblins traveling through their land and threw rocks at the canoe.  Most missed, but one nearly hit Bumbler.  He snatched it out of the air to the gasps of angry men.  Bumbler looked tempted to throw it back, but he dropped it into the river and paddled on.

“Well played,” Little Old Dude said approvingly.  “The next part will be difficult for you, but essential for our plan to succeed.”

“I know,” Bumbler grumbled.  “It’s just, I came to you because I was tired of being looked down on!  And now I have to invite it?”

“It’s easier to live up to people’s stereotypes than fight them.”  Little Old Dude looked in the distance and saw a crude town ahead of them.  “Behold the town of Sell Sword, so named because it was founded by mercenaries who got tired of fighting and settled down.  Smart men.  There are thousands of humans and hundreds of soldiers there, battle tested men that Duke Thornwood uses as his first line of defense in case of invasion.  We stand no chance against them in battle.”

Sell Sword was built next to a narrow portion of the river.  Travelers by boat had to pass a small stone fort, soldiers in chain armor and armed with spears, and a tower with catapults loaded and ready for battle.  There were other boats moored to a short wood dock, and armed men boarded any vessel nearing the town.

“What’s that smell?” Cackler asked Little Old Dude.

“Five thousand humans and no sewers.”  Little Old Dude waved to the soldiers searching boats and tapped the tube in the canoe.  “Not one word.”

“Now I’ve seen everything,” a bored soldier said as the canoe approached.  “Goblins on a boat.”

A second soldier pointed his spear at the canoe.  “I’m not boarding that.  I’ll get fleas, assuming that floating woodpile doesn’t sink if I go on it.”

“Hey!” Little Old Dude shouted.  “Hey, human!  You got nails?”

The soldiers stared at the goblins.  One asked, “What?”

The canoe came up to the dock, just as every other boat did.  Little Old Dude stood up and smiled.  “Nails!  You human have nails?  Boat no good.  Boat sank twice this month.  Three times last month!  Me needie nails to make new boat.”

“Go beg somewhere else, goblin filth,” a soldier spat.

Little Old Dude kept smiling as he reached into the live well in the canoe.  He pulled up a string of five live trout with a leather thong running through their mouths and gills.  Now that they were out of the water, the fish swung their tails in a vain attempt to escape.  “No beg, trade!  You like fishies?  Yummy fishies!  Trade fishies for twenty nails.  Good deal!  You no get better!”

Cackler smiled.  “We good goblins.  Friendly goblins.”

“Yup, yup,” Bumbler added.

“I didn’t know goblins fished,” a soldier said.

Another soldier shrugged.  “Bet they stole them.”

An officer with a plumed helmet studied the goblins.  “Let’s see the fish.”

Little Old Dude handed the string of fish to a soldier, who handed it to the officer.  “See, see!  Good fishies, all as long as my arm.  Worth twenty nails.”

For a moment the officer looked concerned.  Goblins stole what little they needed from men, so an offer to trade was unusual.  Little Old Dude saw goblins sneaking around the edge of the town.  These were more of his students, ready to make a racket if their illustrious teacher needed a distraction to escape.  It would be safer for both them and Little Old Dude if the students did nothing, since a distraction risked drawing an attack from the men.  But the moment passed and the officer relaxed.

“It’s better than the salted pork we keep getting stuck with,” the officer said.  He handed it off to one of his men.  “Fry them up for lunch.”

With that the officer walked away from the dock with his men.  Indigent, Little Old Dude said, “No nails.  I give you fishies you give me nails!  We had deal!”

“We’re taking the fish as toll for traveling the river,” a soldier said.  “Go away, you wrecked creature.”

“You no fair!” Little Old Dude shouted as Cackler and Bumbler rowed away.  “Me no trade with you again!  This last time goblins come here!”

“We should be so lucky!” the soldier shouted back.  His fellows laughed and insulted the goblins as they left.  Men in other boats didn’t laugh, but shook their heads in dismay at how foolish the goblins had been to expect a fair deal from Thornwood’s soldiers.  The goblins at the edge of town slunk off into the shadows, while Cackler and Bumbler rowed hard until the town was far in the distance and no humans were in sight.

“And that was the stupid goblin routine,” Little Old Dude said proudly.  “Make the other side think they’re taking advantage of you, and they won’t look too closely at what else you’ve got.  It’s saved my life more times than I can count.”

Bumbler frowned.  “It’s humiliating.  I’d just like to say I’ve got a pouch full of dried Runny Joe flowers.  I could have fed a pinch to the fish, and after dinner those men would have spent tonight and most of tomorrow with explosive diarrhea.”

“I’ve done that myself,” Little Old Dude said.  “It’s a fun trick at parties.  The soldiers would have definitely remembered us and reported us to the authorities if we’d poisoned them.  We don’t want to draw attention in a stealthy mission like this.”

“Can I come out now?” a voice asked from beneath them.

“Not until I say so,” Little Old Dude replied.  “Maybe not for a few hours after that.”

“It’s not that I’m ungrateful, but it’s kind of cramped down here, and the air tube isn’t very large.”

Night fell soon as the canoe reached the edge of Duke Thornwood’s territory.  This didn’t mean they were safe.  Thornwood had a bad habit of sending raiding parties out at night to loot neighboring farms, and border territory was often home to thieves and bandits.  A lantern briefly lit up in the darkness, then went out and lit up again.

“On time and in position.  This is why I like working with the Brotherhood of the Righteous,” Little Old Dude said with a smile.  The goblins rowed to a bend in the river where tall cottonwood trees grew.  They didn’t beach their canoe, in large part because that was impossible.

An older man in white robes emerged from the cluster of trees.  He was followed by two men in plate armor armed with axes, and behind them came a hulking ogre.  The furry ogre also wore plate armor and was armed with an iron club.  The armed men and ogre had circles painted on their chest plates, each circle divided into three equal segments.

“Father Fountain,” Little Old Dude said.  “Any problems?”

“By His grace we went unnoticed by the wicked duke and his minions,” the white robed priest said.  “I see you were equally blessed.”

“About that,” the voice said from below the canoe.

“Complain, complain, complain,” Cackler said.  He and Bumbler picked up the live well and threw it overboard, revealing a small hatch in the bottom of the canoe.  They unlatched it and a tall man in workman’s clothes climbed out.  The canoe was only the top part of the vessel and had a large section underwater.  Once the man came out the crude vessel was unbalanced, and the goblins and their passenger had to jump off before it capsized.

Little Old Dude took his passenger’s hand and pressed it into the priest’s.  “Father Fountain, allow me to introduce master stone wright Lumino Foxtrot, formerly employed by Duke Thornwood.”

“Employed?” Lumino shouted.  “He had me dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and taken to his new castle, then kept me under guard every minute!  I haven’t seen my family in weeks!”  The man reached into his pockets and took out handfuls of leather tokens.  “You see these?  Thornwood said he’d pay me for my work, as if that made up for being kidnapped, and then he gives me tokens.  Said I could redeem them for gold once he had the coins, as if that would ever happen!  Real work for phony money.”

The ogre stepped forward and placed a hand on Lumino’s shoulder.  “Have no fear, good servant of the Most High.  Your family has been evacuated to safe lands far from here, and you shall soon join them.”

Father Fountain handed Little Old Dude a wheel of cheese.  Goblins were addicted to cheese, and it was one of the few forms of payment they’d accept.  “Was their difficulty in rescuing him?”

Little Old Dude shrugged.  “Locked doors, guards, attack dogs, nothing we couldn’t handle.  We made it look like Lumino stole a horse and rode off in the night.  Thornwood will be looking in the wrong direction for days or even weeks, and no one is going to link Lumino’s disappearance with us.”

Turning to the ogre, Little Old Dude said, “Speaking of the canoe, Thornwood’s men are going to catch on if we use the same trick twice.  You mind destroy the evidence?”

The ogre swung his club at the canoe and smashed it apart in one blow, reducing it to splinters floating on the water.

“We’re headed back home,” Little Old Dude told the priest.  “If you need help with Thornwood again, just say it.  I’ve got students behind in their homework who need the extra credit.”

“You have done a great deed, my friends,” Father Fountain told the goblins.  “Saving Lumino will set back Duke Thornwood’s efforts to strengthen his hold on the land.  With this and the deeds of others righteous souls, we shall prevent him from bringing war and injustice to the peoples of this land.  You have my gratitude, and the gratitude of the Brotherhood of the Righteous.  Come, my paladins, we must leave before dawn.  Farewell.”

“Wait,” the ogre said.  He kneeled down in front of Little Old Dude, which didn’t bring them eye to eye, but was a good start, and placed a hand on the goblin’s shoulder.  “You have done His work and brought His love to those in need.  May His blessings be upon you, for truly you are a loyal servant of the Lord.”

The men and ogre fled into the night, leaving the goblins alone.  Little Old Dude started to lead his students away when Cackler asked him, “He thinks you’re holy?”

Little Old Dude shrugged.  “I’ve been called worse.”

As they headed back home, Bumbler stared at the cheese wheel in Little Old Dude’s hands.  “We’re getting some of that, right?  I saw that guilty look!  You’re not eating the whole wheel!”


© Copyright 2017 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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