New Goblin Stories 17

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


Fledgling wizards may think they're treated unfairly, but even Merlin started out being a nobody.

Submitted: February 01, 2018

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Submitted: February 01, 2018

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“Hey!”  Someone poked Habbly in the back as he lay on top of a 50-pound sack of rice.  Habbly grumbled and rolled over, pulling an empty grain sack over himself, but the unwelcome guest wasn’t giving up.  “Hey, this is private property!”

“Then neither of use should be here,” Habbly mumbled.  “You leave first and I’ll be right behind you.”

There was a pause before the man addressed Habbly again.  “Nice try.  Go find another place to sleep, because for the next four hour this warehouse is under my protection.”

Habbly sat up and rubbed his eyes, pushing aside copious amount of dirty hair to reach his eyes.  He studied his surroundings, slightly brighter than when he’d snuck in last night and even less impressive now that he could see it clearly.  The warehouse contained sack after sack of rice, tons of the stuff.  A few rats scurried about while a bored cat followed them, not sure whether it was interested in hunting.  If you were looking for exciting places, this was as far away as you could go.

The young man with brown hair facing Habbly was equally unimpressive.  He was in his late teens and wore gray and black clothes.  Plain was the best way to describe his face, hair, height, weight, everything.  He practically radiated blandness, averageness.

Then Habbly saw the youth’s staff.  It was made of oak, stained and carved with strange symbols the goblin didn’t recognize.  Long, narrow panels made of black marble were built into the staff so beautifully that they looked like the wood had grown around the marble.  Maybe it had.  That staff must have cost real money to make.  Worse, it meant the kid was a wizard.

“Why is a wizard guarding rice?” Habbly asked.

“It’s a paying job, thank you very much, and temporary.  So toddle on out of here and…wait, you’re a goblin.  I thought those sacks you were laying on were you.  Feeling kind of stupid now.”

Habbly yawned and stood up.  He’d come here last night in the hope of finding a quiet place to sleep.  If it was nice enough he would have spent days here in the silence and darkness.  Goblins as a rule were well suited for living in shadowy places like this, but Habbly had another reason to take shelter in a grain warehouse.  Warehouses were boring places where nothing happened, and Habbly was desperate for peace and quiet.  The wizard would doubtless make sure he didn’t get it.

“I am a goblin.  I didn’t eat your rice, although rats are chowing down on spilled grain.  I’m not carrying money, weapons, gems, magic, artwork, knickknacks, horsehead bookends or anything else you might want.”

To Habbly’s shock, the wizard got down on his knees so he could look Habbly in the eyes.  “I need a goblin.  Please, can you help me?”

Habbly stared at him.  “I’m sorry, what?”

“I need a goblin to introduce me to William Bradshaw, the King of the Goblins, the War Winner.  Please, it’s more important than you can imagine!”

William Bradshaw was a name Habbly knew even if he’d never met the man.  Bradshaw was the latest human to be tricked into becoming King of the Goblins, and earned the moniker War Winner by leading his goblins into one fight after another.  No one understood how he’d survived those fights, much less won them, but he had.  The poor fool should have been killed long ago or at least been slapped silly.  Instead he’d become a man both feared and despised.  That made the wizard’s request all the more confusing.

“Um, why?”

The wizard took Habbly by the hand and led him outside.  “We shouldn’t be in here.  Come, we’ll talk outside.”

“That’s not a good idea,” Habbly protested.  He would have rather stayed in the relative safety of the warehouse, but he was half the height of the wizard and nowhere near as strong.  He was pulled outside to the streets of Nolod.

Nolod was a city blended with a sewer, a stinking metropolis of a million souls known for trade, manufacturing and indescribable filth.  The tall brick buildings were stained black by smoke and pollution.  Streets were paved with cobblestones, and then covered with a glaze of mud, sand, dung and trash ground up by people’s feet until it became a paste.  Men of wealth bought clothes monthly not only to stay current with fashion but also to replace clothes ruined by the foul air.  Countless men, dwarfs, elves, minotaurs, ogres and trolls traveled the streets and spoke so much and so loudly that it became a constant background roar.

A few men stopped when they saw the wizard come onto the streets with Habbly.  The wizard waved them off, saying, “It’s under control.”

“Can we take this into an alley, or at least a doorway?” Habbly asked.  It was broad daylight, or at least as bright as it got through the thick layer of smog.  Goblins stayed out of the light to avoid bigger races.  “I’d rather not be chased off the street.”

“No one’s going to bother you while I’m here.  I should have introduced myself earlier.  I’m Kadid Lan, wizard of earth magics.”

“Charmed,” Habbly told him.  “Earlier you sounded like you wanted me for something other than target practice.”

“I wouldn’t dream of hurting you!” Kadid exclaimed.

Habbly scratched his head, digging out a pile of dandruff in the process.  Wizards were known for being powerful, grumpy, overconfident and preferring quiet to company.  Kadid defied expectations.  What could Habbly possibly do to help a wizard?

“Let me explain,” Kadid began.  “I studied under Uoni Marthax, one of Nolod’s resident wizards.  He’s powerful and respected, or at least feared enough that men give him a wide berth.  Not long ago your King was fighting Quentin Peck, the richest man alive, and he came to my master for help.  My master refused him.  He said your King’s problems weren’t his and turned him away empty handed.  King Bradshaw went on to defeat Peck, and when he did he revealed the horrors Peck had done to the world.  Peck had created suffering like you wouldn’t believe across three continents.”

“I’d heard about him,” Habbly replied.  The poor goblin had grown up in the living nightmare known as Battle Island and survived the war against the Fallen King.  Suffering and fear were no strangers to him.  But Quentin Peck was in a class all his own when it came to wreaking havoc.  He’d pretended to be an honest businessman, all the while insidiously destroying the kingdoms he traded with.  No one knew exactly what Bradshaw had done to Peck, but the richest man alive was gone and none mourned him.

“Afterwards I told my master that we should have helped your King.  My master disagreed.”  Kadid scowled, which would have looked intimidating on anyone except him.  He just couldn’t look bland and scary at the same time.

“And that’s bad?” Habbly asked.

“It’s inexcusable!  My master doesn’t want anyone angry at him, so he does nothing.  He ignored Peck even when your King said what was happening, and my master is only too happy to ignore the next problem and the next after that.”  Kadid looked down.  “And I used to be just like him.”

Habbly rubbed his eyed.  This was getting maudlin.  “I’m not seeing where I come in.”

Kadid’s scowl was replaced with a pleading, sincere look.  “I want to be more than what I was.I want to be the kind of person who makes the world better, like your King.  I want to be a hero.”

Passing men snickered.  Kadid raised his staff and shouted, “Angry wizard doesn’t like being laughed at!”

“Then angry wizard shouldn’t guard a warehouse,” a man retorted.  “That’s poor man’s work.”

Kadid snarled before returning his attention to Habbly.  “I left my master’s service after he called me a fool.  Fool, maybe, but I’m no coward.  I want to go to the King of the Goblins to apologize and offer my services.  My old master was happy to let others win or lose.  Your King fights for those in need, and I’d like to fight beside him.”

Habbly stared at Kadid and did his best not to look horrified.  He wasn’t worried that Kadid would do something stupid like attack Bradshaw.  The War Winner could take care of himself.  But it was clear that Kadid was feeling heroic.  Habbly had seen that plenty of times before, and it usually ended with the guy dead.

The wizard and goblin were drawing an audience as pedestrians stopped to watch.  Most of them snickered at the wizard’s words.  Nolod was known for riches and filth, a contradiction the city excelled at, but honor, courage, decency, these were foreign concepts.  Seeing a man pledge himself to a distant king was laughable.

Not all men were so snide, their faces instead betraying fear and revulsion.  Will Bradshaw had come to Nolod to face Quentin Peck, a man against a metropolis, and he’d won.  The fighting had taken less than three weeks, yet the city hadn’t fully recovered from their battle.  Half of Peck’s many businesses had closed forever and the rest been snapped up by opportunists, and many of Peck’s ships had been seized or stolen, reducing trade.  If Kadid was willing to follow in Bradshaw’s footsteps then he was a threat to the city.

Habbly waved for Kadid to follow him into an alley running between warehouses.  Once they had some degree of privacy, he said, “You’re an idiot.”

“Hey!”

“No, you’re an idiot among idiots.  Wizard, you have no idea what you’re asking for.  If you go this route then you’ll never know a second’s peace.  Enemies will come after you day after day after day until you’ll dead.  I’ve seen it happen to better men than you.”

“What?”  Kadid struck a pose pointing a finger at Habbly.  “You’re insulting your own King!  He fights the good fight.”

“And nearly dies from it.  How long can his luck hold out?  Gamblers put his odds of living until year’s end at one in ten.  You want to be like him, fight alongside him?  You’ll go down with him.”  Habbly put a hand over his face and shook his head before saying, “It’s just like Julius.”

Kadid’s outrage changes to surprise and then delight.  “Julius Craton?  You think I’m like him?”

“Yes.”  Habbly looked at Kadid, the poor, bumbling fool.  “I know him.  He’s a friend of mine, sort of.  I gave him the magic sword he uses these days.”

“That’s incredible!  You’ve helped the greatest hero of our day!”

It was awe inspiring how blind Kadid was to reality.  Maybe Habbly could get through to the wizard if he tried harder.  “I met him, armed him, and I nearly watched him die.  Julius is a man three steps ahead of death and losing ground fast.  He fights one noble quest after another, usually alone or with too few helping him.  He’s worn thin.  Most men would have given up or died by now.  He’s tough, so I figure he’ll last another eighteen months.  After that he might get a funeral if someone can find his body, people will make nice speeches, and then they’ll look for their next hero.”

Kadid leaned his staff against the warehouse and threw his hands in the air.  “Don’t you see?  That’s what I’m trying to fix!  Your King fought against impossible odds alone.  Wizards, dragons, generals, knights, none of them helped!  That happens all the time in Nolod and most of the world.  No one is willing to risk their lives or reputations.  They sit back and let someone else face the danger, and let the consequences be what they may.  You need more men like me to help men like your King and Julius Craton.  I want to be that man!”

Habbly gave Kadid a skeptical look.  “You think you’re as strong as they are?”

Kadid looked down and rubbed the back of his head.  “Um.”

“He’s not,” a passing woman said.

“It’s embarrassing,” said a dwarf.

“Ran for his life from a devil rat,” a man added.

“That happened once!” Kadid shouted.  “Don’t laugh!  You weren’t there!  It was huge, with red eyes and sharp teeth, fifty pounds of hate!  I got it in the end!”

“You’re guarding a warehouse,” Habbly pointed out.  “That’s not exactly heroic, is it?”

Kadid looked down.  “I need the money.  The journey to your King is going to take weeks.  That means money for food, road tolls, taxes, maybe bribes.  This is one of the few honest jobs I could get.”

The wizard bent down to look Habbly in the eye.  “You’re right.  I’m no hero, not yet, but I could be.  I could help men better than me, learn from them, and in time I’ll be as great.  It’s a risk I’m glad to take if the alternative is living the life of a coward.”

“Living a life is better than dying for your dreams.”  Habbly was getting a headache.  This fool was so dead set on being a great man that he was going to end up just plain dead.  What was it about humans that they were constantly ready to throw away their lives?  Goblins weren’t this stupid!

“Let me explain it to you this way,” Habbly began.  “I’ve seen more fights than I can count and been in too many.  I’ve been in a war.  Whatever you’ve heard about glory in battle is garbage.  I came to Nolod to stow away on a ship going far away, somewhere there are no fights or at least less of them.  I’ve had my fill of war and want no more of it.  So when you come begging for the chance to run into battle, I’m letting you know as someone who’s been there that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Habbly saw men running in the street.  He peered out and found a gang of men lazily walking toward the warehouse.  There were eight of them dressed in leather and armed with daggers, clubs, gaff hooks and blackjacks.  Young, strong, healthy, they were a threat and the street cleared as they approached.

“Trouble,” Habbly said.

“Evening, governor,” one of the gang said.  “Seems to me we have a problem.”

Kadid should have run off.  Instead he stepped out of the alley to meet them.  “And what would that be?”

“The captain who rented this warehouse didn’t pay toll.  You own a warehouse, you rent one, no difference, you pay the Warf Rats fifty guilders a month.  We take it in cash or in cargo, but make no mistake, we take it.”

“My employer rented this warehouse for two nights and will have his goods shipped off tonight,” Kadid told the gang as they spread out in a half circle around him.  “He’s already paid the fees Nolod requires.  He’s not paying a guilder more, especially for protection money.”

“Ooh, strong words, governor, strong words,” the gang’s leader jeered.  The others chuckled.  “What’s he paying you?  Can’t figure it’s enough to die for.”

Kadid gripped his staff and pointed it at the nearest gangster.  “Your boss should have sent more men if he’s going to threaten a wizard.”

The leader drew a dagger and held it up to his face.  He licked the flat of the blade and smiled.  “An apprentice wizard for hire, hmm, let me think, does that intimidate me?  You know what, no.  Thought I felt something for a second there, but it was just gas.”

Habbly watched the two sides ready for battle.  Kadid was outnumbered and by all accounts not that great of a wizard.  The only smart thing to do would be back down, run or maybe get help.  But he was sold on the dream of heroics, of being a big man, and it was going to get him killed.

And then Habbly saw it, a sight to disgust any sane, moral being.  The streets had cleared around the fight, but only for twenty feet.  Men, women, even children who’d been going about their business stopped to watch.  Not one came to help Kadid, who might be an idiot, but was at least in the right.  Some of them placed wagers on the fight, as if this was a sporting event.  Habbly had seen the same thing on Battle Island and its gladiator pits.  Men fought and died while crowds cheered, like it was fun.

It made him mad.

The gangsters moved in, Kadid began casting a spell, but Habbly got the first hit in.  He grabbed a mop from a nearby washerwoman and swung it like a club, striking a gangster across the face.  Two gangsters turned to face him while the other six went after Kadid.  Habbly jabbed the mop handle in a man’s gut and then cracked it against his shins.

Kadid finished his spell.  The layer of filth coating the ground slid across the street and gathered in front of the wizard in a glistening, stinking column six feet tall and two feet wide.  There was the slightest pause before it sprayed at the gangsters and splattered against them, ruining their clothes and blinding them.  The crowd cried out in disgust as a fair portion of that toxic stew hit them as well.

“You’re not getting one coin!” Kadid screamed.  He swung his staff and struck the gang’s leader in the shoulder.  Another swing hit the man in the ankles, tipping him over.  “Not now, not ever!  Do you hear me?  Nothing!”

A gangster drew his dagger and threw it at Kadid.  Habbly raised his mop in time to catch the dagger in the mop head.  He pulled the dagger free and tripped the man with the mop handle.

Three gangsters cleaned enough filth from their eyes to get back in the fight.  Kadid saw them coming and cast another spell.  Cobblestones pulled free from the road and connected end to end, forming a long whip made of bricks.  The whip swung at knee height, sending all three men screaming to the ground before the cobblestones went back into the street.

The gang leader staggered back to his feet.  Kadid saw him and charged the man.  The leader had just enough time to raise a club and block Kadid’s staff swing.  Two more followed and broke the man’s club.  The leader swung his dagger, but Habbly ran over and grabbed the man’s arm to make sure the blade never hit.

“Are you intimidated now?” Kadid yelled.  He struck the leader hard enough to drop him to the ground.  Another gangster tried to tackle the wizard.  Kadid braced his staff against the warehouse and pointed it at the man.  The gangster’s charge sent him straight into the staff stomach first.  That staggered him long enough for Kadid to hit him across the face.

Two gangsters tried to run.  Habbly tripped the first with the mop while Kadid chased down the second one and knocked him down.  A lone gangster looked strong enough to continue the fight, but seeing so many of his fellows defeated convinced him to surrender.

Kadid breathed hard as he stared at the men.  “Get this through your thick skulls.  This warehouse is under my protection.  You won’t steal a single grain of rice out of it.  You won’t get so much as a copper coin from my employer.  If you even think about setting the warehouse on fire, I will personally entomb you in bricks and dump you in the ocean.  Am I getting through to you, or do you need a demonstration?”

“Clear, governor,” the leader gasped.

As the gangsters tried to leave, Hably whispered to Kadid.  The wizard ordered, “Drop your weapons.  You can leave, but not armed.”

Reluctantly the men disarmed and left a pile of weapons at Kadid’s feet.  Habbly whispered more to Kadid, who added, “And your money.  Come on, empty your wallets.”

“What the…you’re robbing us?” a gangster sputtered.

Kadid leaned down into the man’s face and scowled.  “Call it the price of stupidity.  Angry wizard is losing his patience.  Money, now.”

The gangsters emptied their pockets and produced a small pile of copper coins.  Injured, disarmed and broke, they fled into the crowd.  With the show over the crowd dispersed, moving on as if it was just another day.  A single man with a badly stained suit stayed behind and marched up to Kadid.

“Look at what you did to my clothes!  This is never going to come out!  I demand—”

Kadid pressed the tip of his staff against the man’s neck.  “You stayed to watch the show, you take responsibility for the consequences.  Beat it.”

With that the fight was over.  Habbly handed the mop back to the washerwoman while Kadid took the loot from the fight and retreated to the warehouse’s doorway.  Exhausted, Habbly joined him there.

“That was pretty impressive for someone who doesn’t like to fight,” Kadid said.

“I don’t like it, but I’m good at it.”  Habbly sorted through the weapons until he found a dagger that fit his hands well.  “That’s not bad magic.  Why did you hire out for a job this small if you’re so strong?”

Kadid looked worried.  “Um, those two spells are all I can muster.  I won’t be able to cast more magic until tomorrow.  But I’m getting better!  Last year I could only cast one spell a day.”

Habbly put a hand over his face.  “You can cast two spells a day and you want to be a hero.”

“I want to be the man who saves those in need.  Is that a bad thing?”

“No, I guess not.”

They spent the next few hours talking and keeping an eye out for the Warf Rats.  Thankfully the gang didn’t make a second attack.  Men came near dusk with wagons and loaded up the rice for shipment elsewhere.A richly dressed merchant counted out ten guilders and handed them to Kadid.

“Good money for two day’s work,” the merchant said.  He tipped his hat and left without another word.

Astounded, Habbly asked, “That’s all you got paid?”

Kadid shrugged.  “That plus another job and the bounty money on that devil rat should get me where I’m going.  Are you coming or not?  I don’t want to force you into this, but it would go smoother with a goblin’s help, and I think you’d be happier in a kingdom of your own people.”

“I don’t know,” Habbly said.  He and Kadid left the now empty warehouse behind and headed into Nolod’s tangled web of streets.

“We’ll find a flophouse to spend the night and make a decision in the morning,” Kadid said.  He stopped in mid stride when they came across an elaborate poster stuck to a wall.  “That’s weird.”

Habbly went over to study the poster.  “What is?”

“This.  I’ve seen lots of advertisements in Nolod, but they’re always on cheap paper and have sloppy writing.  This one’s made of high quality paper.  It looks like it’s made with linen as well as wood pulp.  Pricy.  And look at that fine penmanship.  The blue ink is a strange choice, too.”

“No secrets,” Habbly read aloud.  “I’ve seen these before in Sunset City.  That’s hundreds of miles from here.  Let’s see what they’ve got this time.”

“Ooh, look at this!”  Kadid pointed to a paragraph near the middle.  “It says Julius Craton is on a secret mission to Oceanview Kingdom, where he will do battle with the Red Hand criminal organization.  I’ve heard of them.  They used to work out of Nolod before they were chased off.  Still a dangerous bunch.”

Habbly’s jaw dropped.  “Do you have enough money to pay for ship passage to Oceanview?  Please say yes!”

Kadid looked confused.  “What’s the matter?”

Habble stabbed the middle of the poster with his new dagger.  “This!  If Julius was on a secret mission, it’s not a secret anymore!  Anybody who comes across this poster knows about it.”

“Not just this one.”  Kadid pointed his staff at identical posters on other buildings.  “Look.  There are dozens of them.  Who put these up?  They weren’t here this morning.”

Terror gripped Habbly’s heart.  “I’ve seen these posters in other kingdoms!  If there are so many and they’re spread so wide, it’s almost certain the Red Hand will hear about Julius’ mission.  He’s walking into a trap!”


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