new goblin stories 12

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Leading your own gang is hard work, especially when you're short, smelly and foul tempered.

Submitted: June 23, 2017

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Submitted: June 23, 2017

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Boss Jesseck watched the street for signs of ambush or traps, certain that the letter he’d received with teddy bears on it was an invitation to disaster.  In any city but Cronsword that would be a sign of paranoia or just being silly, but this slovenly metropolis was run by thieves.  You couldn’t trust your own mother in a place like this.  Fortunately that wasn’t an issue for Boss Jesseck since he he’d been born when a giant mushroom opened and dropped him out, and thus didn’t have a mother (although he’d heard good things about them).

Minutes dragged on into a full hour with no sign of threat.  It was a warm, sunny day, and the cobblestone streets were choked with merchants, laborers, artisans and tradesmen.  There was also a smattering of tourists, better known to the residents of Cronsword as victims.  But try as he might, Boss Jesseck couldn’t find assassins laying in wait or mercenaries on the hunt.  It was actually kind of disappointing to learn that this wasn’t a trap, because that meant he’d have to actually attend this stupid meeting.

“You sure about this, boss?” a lanky goblin asked.  Boss Jesseck and fifty of his most trusted goblins crouched in an alley a block from their destination.

“No,” Boss Jesseck admitted.  He checked the invitation again and frowned.  “But the other gang bosses are going to attend, and that means I have to be here to make sure they don’t plot against us.  Stay here, and if you see anything dicey, come in after me.”

Boss Jesseck took a deep breath and left the alley.  He was four feet tall, big for a goblin, and had green skin and black hair.  His clothes were a mishmash of merchant and sailor attire, including a captain’s hat, blue pants, pinstriped coat and leather shoes.  His appearance drew attention from the packed streets, for goblins, even influential ones like him, were seldom seen in the light of day.

This was dangerous.  Cronsword was a city divided, each street claimed by a gang who ruled it, taxed it and ran the rackets.  The gangs defended their territories jealously from all comes, and it was common for a street to be taken over by rival gangs.  Boss Jesseck and his goblins controlled Cheese Street, which provided them a regular ration of cheese.  Leaving his haven to come here meant entering a rival gang’s territory and risking capture or assassination.

A well-dressed merchant frowned when Boss Jesseck neared.  “Why don’t you goblin filth stayed off the streets?”

That earned him a kick to the shin.  The man jumped up and down, yelping the whole time before he recovered and drew a dagger.  Boss Jesseck drew out a club from inside his coat and held his ground.

“It’s been awhile since I sent a tall one like you to the healers.  Put that toothpick away or you’ll leave on a stretcher.”

“You dare!”  The man waved to others in the crowd.  “Come on, let’s show this runt that we don’t take guff from his kind!”  No one moved to help him.  “What’s wrong with you people?  Are you going to let a goblin strike a man?”

“Seems to me you started this, and you can finish it on your own,” a shopkeeper replied.  “Speaking of which, watch your right side.”

Astonished, the man could only say, “What?”

Wham!  Boss Jesseck struck the man’s right foot.  The man howled as Boss Jesseck followed up with a blow to the knee and then to the stomach.  The well-dressed man fell to the ground in agony, and Boss Jesseck moved on without another word.

“He tends to go for the right foot first,” the shopkeeper told the well-dressed man.

“Let’s get his wallet!” another man shouted, and the crowd descended on the merchant.  He cried out in surprise as the men who’d walked beside him moments ago turned on him.

“I want his boots!” yelled a third man.

Boss Jesseck rolled his eyes as he walked off.  “Only in Cronsword.”

Boss Jesseck reached his destination, a towering building in the center of Bankers Row.  Most streets in Cronsword offered a single trade or business so customers could better find them.  Bankers Row was named after the moneylenders who kept Cronsword running with their loans.  The buildings here were built to impress with soaring towers, decorative columns and pretty trees, but they were also as heavily defended as castles.  The walls were thick, the foundations deep, the windows were narrow and the guards brutish and armed to the teeth.

One guard nodded to Jesseck and opened the door to the largest bank.  “You’re expected, sir.”

That caught Boss Jesseck by surprise.  “A man calls a goblin sir?  That’s a first.”

“Boss Hatchwich’s orders were to show due respect to all the bosses coming for today’s conference,” the guard said.  “And after what your goblins did to the Fallen King last year, respect is owed in spades.”

Boss Jesseck entered the bank to find the interior set for the event.  The spacious main room included a large rectangular table and chairs, including one that had a short set of wooden stairs.  That was a thoughtful gesture given Boss Jesseck was so short he had trouble using large furniture built by humans.  The table was set with plates, glasses, decanters of wine and generous helpings of of food.

Two gang leaders were already seated.  The first was Boss Crassok.  The one-eyed gang boss wore a patch over his ruined eye and favored red clothes.  Boss Minter was a slender man decked out in fine silks.  This left only seven seats left once Boss Jesseck sat at the table.

“Jesseck,” Crassok said.  “I wasn’t sure if you were invited, or if you would come.”

“You’re showing a lot of backbone these days, goblin,” Minter added.

Boss Jesseck grabbed all the cheese off the table and piled it on his plate, including two pieces off Crassok’s plate.  “I’m here for the same reason you are, Minter.  We drove off the Fallen King, but a lot of gangs went under during that fight.  Cronsword’s been unsettled ever since.  Some streets are unclaimed by any gang and others change hands every month.  That’s not good for business.”

“And then there’s our host,” Crassok said dryly.

The fight against the Fallen King’s men had been brutal.  Boss Jesseck ruled every goblin in Cronsword, and had led them in defense of the city.  They’d done well, but other gangs had been defeated.  The battle could have easily been lost except a mad scientist named Umber Hatchwich had marched his monstrous clockwork man Forewarned into the Fallen King’s forces.  Hatchwich had saved the day, and in the aftermath of the fighting had gained so much respect that men had flocked to him.  He’d taken prosperous streets for his territory and held them against all comers.  Today he was a gang boss equal to any in the city, and maybe greater.

“Gentlemen!”  Boss Hatchwich entered the bank flanked by two heavily armed men.  Umber Hatchwich had been the deciding factor in defeating the Fallen King’s attack, pretty ironic since the man had intended on conquering the city with his clockwork.  These days Hatchwich wore black and yellow clothes of fine silk, his white hair trimmed short, and he had a brass gauntlet on his left hand.  There was no telling what it could do, but Boss Jesseck was willing to bet that the gang boss/mad scientist had weapons built into it.

“Hatchwich,” Boss Jesseck mumbled.  It was hard to talk with so much cheese in his mouth.  “Not sure what you’re planning by calling this meeting.  There’s never been one like it in Cronsword, and it’s got people scared.  You mind filling us in on what this is about?”

“Of course, but there’s no sense in repeating myself.  I’ll gladly explain my intentions once the others arrive.  Speaking of which, I believe I see a few of our fellow bosses on their way.  Allow me to greet them, and help yourself to…ah.  I’ll have the servants bring more cheese.”

“Put it next to the goblin,” Boss Minter said.  “He’ll get it all, anyway, and bite the hand of anyone else reaching for it.”

Hatchwich left the bank, leaving his two bodyguards behind.  They were dangerous looking men even before Hatchwich had armed them.  One had a gauntlet that included a saw blade, while the second had a brass sword with steel teeth.  Boss Jesseck stared at them for a moment before he recognized them.

“You two used to work for Boss Usema.”

“Yeah, before we kicked him out for being an idiot,” the one with the sword said.  He sounded excited as he explained, “We got lucky when Hatchwich said he’d be our boss.  We thought he’d keep all those crazy inventions to himself, but then he went and gave us some!”

“Pretty trusting of him when you could run off with it,” Boss Minter said.

The man with the gauntlet turned it to show a brass cap on the edge.  “These things need fuel to work, and only Boss Hatchwich knows how to make it.  They’d be useless in a week if stole them.”

“Why would we want to leave?” the man with the sword asked.  He sounded confused and a bit hurt by the suggestion.  “Boss Hatchwich has been good to us.  It’s not just the weapons.  He hired a pretty lady to teach us how to write.  Look at this!”

Proud as could be, the man took a scrap of paper from his pocket and showed it to the gang bosses.  It read, ‘I am Eric.’ in large and not very neat letters.  “Teacher says I’m reading at a third grade level.  Used to be that nobody on my whole block could read, but now I can, and teacher says I’ll get even better at it!”

“Hatchwich is teaching his men to read?” Boss Crassok asked.  He sounded awed.  Most people in Cronsword were illiterate, and chances were Crassok couldn’t read, either.

“All of us,” the man said proudly.  “Not everybody learns fast, but we’re trying.  He said that if we do real good on our lessons then he’ll take us as apprentices.  A year ago all I could think about was my next trip to the bars, and now I’m making something of myself.”

Boss Hatchwich returned with the remaining gang bosses.  They were a deadly bunch of men and one elf, each one representing hundreds of experienced fighters.  They eyed one another warily as they took their seats.  There was always a chance they’d turn on a rival, making this meeting dangerous even if Boss Hatchwich was willing to play nice.  Illustrating that point, one made the mistake of reaching for the cheese piled on Boss Jesseck’s plate.  A low growl from the goblin made him rethink the move.

Never before had all the gang leaders of Cronsword met like this.  Together they commanded thousands of armed and battle hardened men.  Their personal fortunes were staggering, and their territories were worth millions of guilders.  Impressive as the sight would have been, there was an inescapable truth that made them grim.

“Ten bosses sit at this table,” Boss Hatchwich said as he sat down.  “The gang bosses numbered twenty before the Fallen King’s invasion.  Fourteen gangs fell that day, and while four have been replaced, it is still a sorry state of affairs.  There was an uneasy peace when twenty ruled, if only because none dared openly attack the others for fear he’d be attacked in turn.”  Pointing his gauntleted hand at the bosses, Hatchwich asked, “Where does that leave us?  Fighting each other.  Constantly.”

“It’s a temporary situation,” Boss Minter said.  “More men come to Cronsword every day.  Our ranks are refilling with refugees who fled the Fallen King.  Everyone here will be back to full strength by year’s end.”

“To what end?” Boss Hatchwich asked.  “I took control of a leaderless gang after the fighting was over, and talking with my men revealed a terrible truth.  The conflicts between the gangs have been going on for generations.  In that time this city hasn’t grown or improved, while rival cities have.  Worse yet, this fighting could destroy us again.  We risk being conquered by the next enemy to come to our gates, not because we are weak, but because we are divided.”

“I see where this is headed,” Boss Jesseck said.  He fished through his coat until he found a long handled match.  Taking it out, he placed the wood tip in the corner of his mouth.  “You want one gang ruling this city, but instead of defeating the other gangs, you want us to sign up with you.”

“Close, but no.”  Boss Hatchwich handed out maps of the city that showed which gangs ran which streets.  “I believe we’re best served by forming a council of equals.  Together we can run Cronsword without the threat of violence we’ve lived under for so long.  We can also improve the city and extend our reach beyond its borders to include neighboring communities.”

Boss Jesseck chuckled.  “I wonder how equal I’ll be in this council of equals compared to the others here, or to you.  I got to think a man with brass monsters and clockwork weapons is going to have more of a say than a goblin.”

“Yeah, what happens if we have plans you don’t like?” Boss Minter asked.  “Are we supposed to believe that if this new council votes against you that you’re going to take it?”

Boss Hatchwich smiled.  “Except you’re not going to do that, because my plan makes you wealthy beyond your imagination, and without the risks you’ve been taking for years.  We’re squabbling over scraps when we could be feasting.”

“Speaking of feasting, somebody mind passing the food?” the elf gang boss asked.

“Sure, but don’t expect any cheese,” Boss Minter said.

“It’s what you get for showing up late,” Boss Jesseck snapped.  “And I’m not sold on this idea by a long shot.”

“Pass the steaks,” Boss Minter asked.

Boss Jesseck grumbled but passed over a platter of hot beefsteaks.  “You talk about us reaching out and taking more territory.  I don’t want more than I’ve got, and for good reasons.  If we try to conquer territory outside Cronsword then we’ll be fighting whoever rules that land.  It’s the same dance, just changing partners, nothing more.”

“He’s got a point,” Boss Crassok.  “Where did that roast chicken go?”

“It’s by Minter,” Boss Jesseck said.  “If we go on the warpath we risk drawing attention from kings who don’t want us expanding near them.  My boys are good, and I’ve got even more of them than I did last year, but I don’t want them fighting another war.  It’s risky and the rewards are slim.”

Hatchwich wasn’t giving up.  “The closest territory we could expand into was hit hard by the Fallen King’s army before it reached us.  The few people still living there could offer little opposition.  Once we annex it, it would be child’s play to repair the economy and let the money pour in.  Jesseck, pass the bowl of cherries.”

“Your arms are longer than mine!  Get it yourself!”

Boss Minter took a sip of wine and frowned.  “You’ve got guts, Hatchwich, and you learned quick how to rule a gang.  Credit’s due there.  But you’re asking a lot from us, and I have a feeling you’re going to ask for more.  Taking land means forming an army, and we’d have to contribute men to it.  But an army has to have one leader to be effective.  Someone, and I think you’re nominating yourself, would have to lead that army.  That makes you boss of our men.  I don’t like that.”

Boss Jesseck pointed a half eaten slab of cheese at Boss Hatchwich.  “Working that land would take men.  Where are they coming from?  Sure, we’re got refugees coming by the boatload, but we’d need thousands of men to do the job.”

The elf gang boss cleared his throat.  “If the goblin can find flaws in your plan, then it’s a bad plan.”

“I’m not picking fights, long ears,” Boss Jesseck growled.  “Not asking too much for you to show the same courtesy.”

“Gentlemen, please,” Boss Hatchwich said.  “My dear mother once told me that men working together can do anything they put their minds to.  We can work out a fair distribution of leadership positions, responsibilities and rewards.  Fallow land doesn’t say empty for long.  If we don’t take it then someone else will, making them a potential threat on our border.”

Standing up, Boss Hatchwich took off his brass gauntlet and set it on the table.  “I see that a sign of good faith is needed.  I am willing to—”

“Did anyone see what happened to the meat pie?” Crassok asked.

“Minter had it last I saw,” Boss Jesseck told him.  “Heaven above, how can a man that thin eat so much?”

“I’ve got a fast metabolism!” Boss Minter shouted back.

“I was saying,” Boss Hatchwich said in an annoyed tone, “that I am willing to provide you with proof of my good intentions.  Taking and holding land would be difficult without proper arms.  That is no longer a concern.”

Without further adieu, Boss Hatchwich handed the gauntlet to Boss Crassok.  “I have been busy these last few months making clockwork men, but also a fair number of clockwork weapons.  Each of you will receive an equal share of these weapons, including ones built to a goblin’s proportions.  I believe you’ll find them most impressive.”

“You’re sharing your weapons with us?” Boss Crassok asked in amazement.

“You sharing how to make the fuel to power them?” Boss Jesseck asked skeptically.

“Boss!”  Every head turned to see a goblin run into the meeting.  Armed guards with Boss Hatchwich’s clockwork weapons were chasing him, but the little goblin ran under the table and came up next to his boss.

“My invitation was for gang bosses and no one else,” Hatchwich said.

“I’ll handle my own boys,” Boss Jesseck told him.  He turned to the goblin and asked, “What’s this about?”

The goblin handed him a sheet of paper covered in writing.  Whoever had made this had used blue ink, unusual to say the least, and the writing was flowery.  “These papers showed up all over the city, and the countryside and even towns miles from here.  I can’t read much, but I recognize the words Cronsword and danger, so I brought you a copy.”

Boss Jesseck waved for Boss Hatchwich’s guard with the toothed sword.  “You, Eric, make yourself useful and read this out loud.”

The guard preened like a peacock at the chance to show off his new skill.  The gang bosses looked on expectantly as Eric began, “No Secrets: Your leaders are keeping the truth from you!  The mad scientist Umber Hatchwich has seized control of a gang in the city of Cronsword.  He is forging the other gangs into an army with his devilish clockwork monsters.”

“There is nothing wrong with my clockwork, and certainly nothing devilish!” Boss Hatchwick yelled.  He reluctantly conceded, “Maybe their good looks.”

Eric continued reading.  “The fiend seeks to conquer lands near the fetid, thief infested city of Cronsword.  With his horrid clockworks that pretend to be men and foul criminals, he is a danger to all right thinking peoples.  Indeed, he will be satisfied with nothing less than world domination!”

“World domination?” Boss Jesseck asked.  “You want to take over the world?”

Boss Hatchwich blushed.  “Well, I don’t like to boast.”

“How much did you pay to have these ads written up?” Boss Minter asked.

“I didn’t ask anyone to do this.”  Boss Hatchwich took the paper from his guard and studied it.

Boss Jesseck rolled his eyes.  “You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?  Whoever did this is going to show up after the fact and try to charge you for it.”

“Definitely,” the elf gang boss agreed.

Boss Crassok leaned back in his chair.  “Don’t you hate when that happens?”

Boss Hatchwich looked stunned.  “No one knew what I was planning to discuss for this meeting except me.  How did any learn of my plans?  Who would spread warning of my intentions?  How far has this news traveled?”

“You’ve got problems, Hatchwich,” Boss Jesseck said.

Two armed guards entered the bank and saluted Boss Hatchwich.  “Sir, there’s a problem outside.  A man…what we think is a man, is asking to see you.”

That news was odd enough to bring all the gang bosses to the door.  They found a crowd outside gathered around a single figure.  He, if it was a man, wore glossy black plate armor festooned with spikes and sharp angles.  He carried a pair of short swords that ended in wicked barbs.  Dark vapors drifted from his mouth.

Umber Hatchwich, I am Casteel of the Encroaching Darkness,” the strange figure said in an echoing voice.  He held up a paper identical to the one Boss Jesseck’s goblin had brought into the meeting.  “News of your deeds, both completed and planned, has reached me.  You seek to place all of Other Place under your grip.”

Suddenly sounding bashful, the nightmarish figure said, “So, um, I was wondering if you were hiring.  I brought a resume.”


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