The Amazing Mr. Tibbles

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


This story was originally meant for an anthology with Fellowship of Fantasy, but they declined the story. Rather than let it go to waste, I've decided to post it here. Enjoy the usual goblin
related silliness.

Submitted: July 31, 2018

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Submitted: July 31, 2018

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The city of Blue Sands had seen better years.Most of the people left two generations ago when the silver mines that were the source of the city’s riches were exhausted.What remained now was a shell of a city with half its original population.More buildings were empty than occupied.Farmers scratched a living out of thin soil and ranchers led their flocks to grasses greened by the occasional rainstorm.The biggest employers were inns and hotels offering hospitality to people passing through Blue Sands on their way to better lands.

Kyler Stetson, chief lieutenant of the Red Hands, hated the city and everyone in it.It showed on his face as he marched through the streets at the head of fifteen toughs. Men and women averted their eyes as they got out of his way.Dogs dared not bark at him and horses shied away, for even animals had learned the hard way how dangerous Kyler was.

He hated the way it didn’t rain for months so you had to watch fires lest they spread and burn for miles.He hated how the dust clung to him and never seemed to come off.He hated how even on a cool autumn night like this the mosquitoes never stopped their attacks.He hated how the decrepit city looked horrible even under the flickering lantern light of evening.He hated the men and women who lived in Blue Sands, how they whined and begged and complained.

Rands Dul, proprietor of The Ghost Minesinn, bowed when Kyler marched by him.“Evening, sir.Get you and your boys something to wet your whistles?”

Kyler stopped and stared at Rands.Gifts, especially alcohol, usually went a long way to pacify the Red Hands, but not tonight.Kyler’s leather armor creaked as he walked up to the innkeeper.He flexed his muscles as he took the steel mace off the hook on his wyvern skin belt.Kyler didn’t take off his red leather helmet, but people on the street could still see his scowl.

“Hey now, wait a minute,” Rands said as he backed away.

“Rands, if I learn you had anything to do with what’s been happening in town, I’ll burn your inn down with you tied up in it.And if I want anything from you, I’ll take it.”

Kyler’s men laughed.They took after their boss in their armor and armaments, and in their attitude.Blue Sands and its people were below their contempt, weak men to be robbed of what little they had whenever the Red Hands felt like taking it.In other cities the law would intervene or the king would send knights to restore order, but that would require a reason to take action or a reward for success. Blue Sands was poor and of no strategic value, so neighboring powers ignored it.Still, if Kyler was right the city might be worth having very soon.

“I’ve paid my tax every month, sir,” Rands said.He looked down and did his best to look not worth killing.

Kyler scowled.“Yes, you did.Month after month you came up with the money.I always thought you did it by stealing from your customers while they slept, but now I’m wondering if there’s another reason.You been getting help, Rands?Someone paying you in silver?”

“Sir, no, I swear it!”

Bystanders looked away.Kyler raised his mace to remind Rands of his place.The innkeeper closed his eyes and stood his ground.He knew running only made things worse.

Splat!

Horse manure splattered across Kyler’s head.He howled in outrage as goblins laughed in the shadows of a nearby alley.

“Ooh, good shot!” a goblin complimented another.

“I was aiming for his boots, so not really,” the other goblin replied.

Kyler and his men raced to the alley, but the goblins slipped into the ruins of a nearby house.Kyler tore open a boarded over window to get inside, only to see the goblins slip out the back and go into yet another abandoned house.

“No time for playing with the innkeeper,” a goblin called out from the darkness.“You’re on a schedule, bullyboy.Don’t keep our boss waiting!”

Kyler’s men gathered around him.One offered, “You want us to get them?”

“No.”Kyler wiped off the dung.It hadn’t gotten into the openings in his helmet so it wasn’t hard to clean off, but the damage to his reputation was serious.He’d already intended to make the goblins pay tonight.The debt just got higher.“Head to the mines as planned.”

Kyler led his band of thugs to the abandoned silver mines on the west side of town.Blue Sands had grown around the mines and then grown over them, so the mine entrance was inside the city.It wasn’t much to look at, just a hole in the ground ten feet across that sloped downwards. Nearby buildings once collected ore, the blue sand that gave the city its name, or provided medical care to injured miners.Those buildings had long ago rotted away or been pulled apart for firewood.Now there was just the hole, and the goblins living in it.

The men with Kyler hesitated.One said, “You sure this is a good idea, sir?That’s monster territory.”

More men grumbled until Kyler swung his mace against a nearby house, breaking the window.“Stow that talk!You’re part of the Red Hands, and you do notshow fear.Monsters die no different than men do.Now man up and shut up.”

That man had acted like a gutless coward, but he was right.The Red Hands ruled Blue Sands, while the mines were home to countless monsters that took shelter deep below the city. You wouldn’t find real threats like dragons or manticores, but small, sniggling, insignificant monsters like goblins lived here in great numbers, with the goblin Fleck as their leader. They could be dangerous if there were enough of them, but Kyler didn’t fear them, and he wasn’t about to let the Red Hands look weak.

“Boss Lemark sends his greetings,” Kyler called out as he neared the hole.“He also sends me.If my boys and I set off a trap or run into an ambush, then these streets will run red.”

“Good to see you on time for the meeting,” a squeaky voice replied from the darkness.They saw a lantern lit in the hole, and next to it a skinny goblin with a broad hat. The disgusting little creature stood three feet tall and had greasy green skin.“The traps are disarmed and no ambushes wait for you, bullyboy. Follow the light and I’ll bring you to my boss.”

The goblin waited for Kyler and his men to enter the mine before he descended deeper into the tunnels.The place was even more wretched than the city above, with garbage strewn about and crude messages carved into the walls.Side tunnels split off in all directions where miners had once followed ore veins.The giggles and hoots of goblins echoed around them.

Kyler glanced down the side tunnels as he walked by.Most were dark, but he saw crude workshops and storerooms in the few brightly lit tunnels.One tunnel led to what looked like a kitchen from a human house.The goblins must have salvaged it from an abandoned building above ground.To Kyler’s surprise, goblins in the kitchen prepared food for young human children. He’d heard that goblins were so stupid that they occasionally mistook orphaned children for goblins and took them in. It looked like the stories were true.

“It’s been a long time since a brawler like you came here,” the thin goblin said.

“Been a while since one of you made Boss Lemark mad,” Kyler replied. It took a lot of effort not to hit the goblin.

“He sobered up enough to get mad?” the goblin asked.

lotof effort.“Go on, dig your grave a little deeper, goblin. There hasn’t been a man in two years who picked a fight with us and lived.”

Most people would be smart enough to be intimidated, but the goblin was too dumb to realize how much trouble he was in.“Yes, your inebriated lord and master has made quite the reputation for himself, but even he’s never come down here.He sent you.You might want to think about how little you matter to him if he made that decision. Ooh, look, we’re here, no traps or ambushes.”

Stories had been passed down for years about how miners had dug out so much ore that you could build houses underground.The stories were true, as Kyler and his men were led into a chamber fifty feet long, thirty feet wide and twenty feet high.Miners had built stone supports for the ceiling that still held, and niches in the walls for lanterns.

This room now held court for the goblins and monsters that had taken over the mine after it was abandoned so long ago.Trash piles four feet high littered the room, collected by the goblins from the city above as food.It smelled terrible, a mix of rotting trash, unwashed bodies and possibly dung.Rude messages were carved into the walls and floor, including the words, ‘Visit scenic Blue Sands for award winning artcuisineculture, dirt.’Lanterns had been replaced with glass bottles filled with fire worms.Some ambitious monster had even made a crude throne from mismatched bricks.

And then there were the inhabitants.Kyler saw dozens of goblins lounging about in the filth, laughing and pointing at him.Goblin warp magic made the air ripple and tingle from the collective craziness and stupidity of so many goblins being close together.Hobgoblins, human orphans taken in by goblins, stayed behind their adopted parents.Those brats looked better fed than Kyler had expected, and their mismatched clothes were clean.Kyler spotted a single darkling standing next to the throne.The smoky black creature stood five or six feet tall, its height varying by the second, and it was armed with a rusty sword.

“Ah, good evening Mr. Stetson,” a goblin on the throne said. “My, my, this is a day to remember. Your master had finally seen fit to send an emissary.”

“Fleck.”Kyler spat the word like it was an obscenity.

If Kyler hated the people of Blue Sands, he despised goblins.The filthy creatures constantly caused trouble, pulling pranks, stealing goods and setting embarrassing traps.Worse, goblins had an instinctive form of magic that could warp space.If enough goblins were together their collective stupidity and craziness fueled their warps, magic that could move men and objects in any direction.Kyler had once been caught in such a warp and suddenly found himself ten feet above a dung heap.He’d never liked goblins, but after that day he’d come to loath them.

“Boss Fleck,” the goblin corrected him.All goblins were odd, but Fleck took weirdness to new levels.The goblin wore a small, dirty outdated suit and children’s shoes small enough to fit his feet.His tanned skin was clean, a rarity among goblins, and his bald head practically shined in the light of the fire worms.Fleck had a neatly trimmed mustache and wore a monocle over his right eye.He also had a cat on his lap, a tawny tomcat that stared at Kyler.

Making an already weird situation even more bizarre, five goblins in the back of the room began playing makeshift musical instruments.Their tune was soft and ominous, and when Kyler approached Fleck the music grew louder and faster.

Kyler pointed at the crude band and demanded, “What the blazes is that?”

“Mood music, an essential for epic conflicts.”Stroking his cat, Fleck said, “Your master and his followers have been in Blue Sands for two years without bothering to say hello.A lesser person would take offense at such a snub, but Mr. Tibbles suggested I be more understanding, so you are forgiven.”

“I don’t want your forgiveness or your understanding, goblin,” Klyer replied.“And who the devil is Mr. Tibbles?”

The darkling stepped closer to Fleck and explained, “Mr. Tibbles is his cat.”

Kyler stared at the goblin, too overwhelmed by the stupidity of it all to reply.He eventually said, “You talk to a cat and think it talks back.That’s crazy even for a goblin.And you, darkling, what are you doing here?Word is your kind is good in a fight, and near impossible to kill. Boss Lemark would pay good money to have you in his service.”

The darkling’s already blurry features changed as Kyler watched, so much so that the faceless creature grew a third arm for a few seconds before it dissolved back into its body.“The singing voices told me I could find an end to my immortality by serving the goblins of Blue Sands.No other reward interests me.”

One of Kyler’s men laughed.“I’d heard darklings were crazier than goblins, but this is ridiculous. What fool would give up immortality?”

The darkling blurred again, growing small wings for a few seconds before they evaporated.“What fool would want to go on like this forever?”

Fleck chuckled and rubbed his cat’s chin.“Stetson, or do you prefer Kyler?We’ll go with Kyler.It’s more personal.Kyler, you sent a messenger the other day who claimed you had a matter of some importance to discuss.Do tell, what has brought you to my court?”

Kyler bared his teeth.“You don’t have a court, goblin.You have stinking, played out mines and worthless followers.Boss Lemark was willing to leave you to your hole in the ground and ignore your pranks.Now he wants more.”

“Isn’t the man funny, Mr. Tibbles?” Fleck asked his cat.The cat, no surprise, didn’t answer.It didn’t move at all.“The leader of the Red Hands wants more.Years ago you were chased out of the city state of Nolod and then the kingdom of Oceanview, both times with heavy loss of life.Then you settled here.I can see why you’d want more when you have so little.”

“We rule the city above,” Kyler retorted.“We rule the villages around it.Our men number two hundred strong, and thousands of peasants obey us.”

“As long as we are comparing our respective realms, these mines run for miles around and under Blue Sands, far more real estate than you command,” Fleck replied.“I count five hundred goblins under my command, a hundred human children you call hobgoblins, two mimics, my dear friend the darkling, a young minotaur who is currently too busy to be bothered with you, and my cat, of course.It wouldn’t do to forget Mr. Tibbles.I think there are a few Unidentified Monsters Lurking in Shadows living in these mines, but UMLIS are so good at hiding that I can’t be sure.”

Kyler gripped his mace.“How long do you think you can keep it?”

Fleck opened his mouth, but had no time to answer.A tentacled horror slithered out of a side tunnel and crossed Fleck’s throne room.The red and black monster must have weighted five hundred pounds and had an oblong head covered with eyes.It waved long tentacles as it slithered across the floor.Men and goblins alike backed away, but the monster ignored them as it entered another tunnel.

“What the blazes was that?” Kyler demanded.

“That’s Erving, the tentacled horror,” Fleck said with a casual waved of his hand.“He’s technically not one of us even if he lives here.He’s also behind in his rent.”

“Erving said he’ll have it by Tuesday,” the darkling told Fleck.

One of Kyler’s men rolled his eyes.“I’ve heard that one before.”

“Pipe down!” Kyler yelled at the man.

Fleck shrugged.“Returning to your question, Kyler, I rule here for the simple reason that no other goblin wants to.I saw possibilities in the job, and my followers let me lead them.I rule because outsiders such as you tried and failed to usurp me five times.Their challenges were more fun than threatening.Would you like to have fun with us, Kyler?It can be arranged.”

“I don’t want fun.I want silver.”Kyler waved one of his men forward.The man held out a small wooden box and opened it to reveal traces of blue sand. “Silver ore.We found it in an abandoned smelter in town.That building had been checked a dozen times and found empty, and last week we found this.”

Fleck looked bored as he shifted his monocle from his right eye to his left.“The man brings us sand, Mr. Tibbles.What will his next gift be?Dirt? Earwax?A horsehead bookend?”

“I’d like one of those,” a goblin said.“They’re tasty.”

“It’s not a gift, you gibbering halfwit,” Kyler growled.“It’s proof.We’ve checked the land for miles around.There are no new mines opened.That means the ore came from here.These mines aren’t played out after all.You’ve got silver.”

Fleck ran his fingers over his cat’s back.“Oh, that.”

“That’s all you’ve got to say?” Kyler demanded.

“My followers and I aren’t welcome in the shops above because we’re goblins, known troublemakers and a tad pungent.It’s odd that you aren’t excluded for the same reasons. And to be fair, is there really anything men here sell that’s worth buying?If there is treasure here it’s of no value to me, so why should I worry about it?”

Kyler scowled.“You control these mines.If men have been getting silver ore from them it’s because you allow it.Who are they and what sort of deal did they make with you?”

“Deal?”Fleck laughed and petted his cat.“There is no ‘deal’, Kyler.This is trash removal.”

“Trash?”Kyler kicked the nearest heap of garbage, sending trash and a small goblin flying across the room.“Silver, money, riches are coming out of these mines!Don’t you get how valuable it is?”

The goblin band’s music grew softer as Fleck stood up from his crude throne.“I understand risk when I see it.Silver once poured from Blue Sands like a waterfall.Countless men struggled to get a share of it, fighting, stealing, cheating, lying, and those were just the politicians.More ruthless men such as yourself brought untold violence to this city.”

Fleck picked up his cat and walked over to the nearest hobgoblin, a little girl in a ragged dress.No doubt she was some orphaned whelp or abandoned brat that the goblins took in while collecting trash from Blue Sands.

“Kitty,” the girl giggled, and petted the cat.

“He is a good kitty,” Fleck said.The goblin smiled at the girl before turning a stern gaze at Kyler. “Humans say Blue Sands is worse for the loss of silver, but I’ve lived here long enough to know that the city is far superior without it.Gambling halls and bars once left their clientele broke in body and spirit while emptying their wallets, but now are closed.Violence decreased when the silver mines dried up, or at least it did before you and your leader Boss Lemark the lush arrived.I don’t care for the change.”

Fleck walked close enough to Kyler to touch the man.The goblin band picked up the volume and tempo of their music when their diminutive leader addressed Kyler.

“Yes, Kyler, we found silver in these mines.We discovered thin ore veins when connecting two tunnels. It’s not a rich find like in the old days of greed, debauchery and brutality, but as finds go it remains significant.If news of our discovery had gotten out it risked drawing in men like you, or worse, kings and conquerors who’d rampage across both Blue Sands and my realm to claim the treasure.So I’m getting rid of it.

“I found a few old miners, desperate men who still dreamed of the big score.I invited them into my realm and told them to take away the silver before others learned of its existence.They were only too happy to help.It’s a small operation, producing fifty ounces a month, but every swing of their hammers and picks lessens the risk to both me and Blue Sands.”

Kyler bent down to look the idiot goblin in the eyes.“How long did you think you could keep this secret?”

“As of today, eighteen months.”

“Eighteen months!”The cave echoed with Kyler’s outraged scream.“That, that’s—”

“Nine hundred ounces of silver,” Fleck interrupted him.

Kyler grabbed Fleck by the shoulders.“You idiot!Do you know what that’s worth?We could have outfitted our men with better weapons, bought horses, maybe hired a wizard! We could have left this toilet of a city with that kind of money!”

“And bring your particular brand of cruelty to another city? I think not, Kyler.No, the men who dug the ore and smelted it spent the cash on food, clothes and medicine rather than making you more of a threat.”

“How much is left?” Kyler demanded.

“Mr. Tibbles tells me the men could keep digging ore for another eighteen months, but he is a bit of an optimist.”

Kyler pushed Fleck away and grabbed his mace.“That’s nine hundred ounces that aren’t getting away from us.You could have cut a deal with Boss Lemark.We would have let you keep your tunnels and garbage.But you cost us money we need.You’ve got until sunup to leave, and take your monsters with you. The darkling can stay if it feels like taking orders.”

“You flatter yourself,” the darkling replied.

Kyler waited breathlessly for Fleck’s reply.He wanted the goblin to refuse the order.He wanted the excuse to cut loose and tear their pathetic little world apart.He neededto hurt them the same way he needed water and food.

Fleck walked to the nearest bottle of fire worms on the wall. He sprinkled rotten meat into the bottle, and the worms gorged on the feast.Their light grew brighter as Fleck headed back to his throne and sat down. Goblins and older human boys gathered around him.The air rippled even more as the excited goblins charged the air with their warp magic.The music grew soft and ominous.

“Well?” Kyler demanded.

“I’m not going anywhere.”Fleck looked bored.He sounded bored, and it made Kyler’s rage double.“This is my home, my realm, and you’re not welcome in it.You annoy me.I was willing to ignore you in the hopes you’d leave like other troublemakers before you.But you wouldn’t leave, so I had to take steps against you.”

Kyler laughed.“One man is worth ten goblins, and we’ve got two hundred men.What makes you thing you’ll win?”

Fleck leaned down until his lips were inches from his cat’s ears. “Should I tell him, Mr. Tibbles?”

“Stop talking to that stupid cat,” Kyler snarled.“It’s not going to answer you.”

One of Kyler’s men raised a hand and said, “Uh, sir, the cat hasn’t moved since we got here.I think it’s stuffed.”

The goblins howled with laughter, as did the children with them. Even the darkling chuckled until his form blurred so badly it didn’t look human at all.

“You, you’re talking to a stuffed cat?” Kyler asked.This was so confusing it made his head hurt.

“Mr. Tibbles and I were close for so long that after he passed on he asked if I could stuff him,” Fleck said.He spoke such utter nonsense as if it was the most logical statement in the world. “How could I say no when we’re such good friends?”

“You are the craziest goblin in the world,” Kyler told Fleck.

The goblin band stopped playing entirely as Fleck smiled. “Praise indeed, but not enough to save you.That blue sand you showed me, you found it in the old smelter on Fifth Street at the edge of town.I know because I put it there.”

Kyler stared at Fleck.“What?”

“As I said, many troublemakers such as you and your boss Lemark the wino have come to Blue Sands and left, good riddance to them.You stayed.I was patient and thought I could wait you out like the others, but I realized that would never happen.Your numbers are too small, your reputation too damaged to take over a new territory. You couldn’t leave because there was nowhere you could go, so I have to remove you.My people are small and weak.Five hundred of us wouldn’t be enough to get rid of two hundred men…not without help.”

“Nobody helps goblins,” Kyler spat.

“Nobody?”Fleck gazed lovingly at his stuffed cat.“Mr. Tibbles disagrees.He thinks miners who dug up nine hundred ounces of silver would love to help us, if only to dig up another nine hundred ounces.He thinks their families would love to help us, because losing that silver means less food, less clothes, less medicine.He thinks their friends and neighbors would help, if only to get rid of you.”

“Those men are cowards and always have been,” Kyler countered.

Fleck gave Kyler a look, a devious, insane, giddy look as he answered. “They outnumber you dozens to one, a fact they are very well aware of.When you found the evidence I planted, you searched high and low for where it came from.That frightened them, as I knew it would.They don’t want to lose their only chance at a normal life.So when I approached them and offered the services of five hundred goblins, a darkling, a young minotaur and several other monsters to help evict you, they accepted.

“Tonight is the night we attack.Your men are strong and better armed than we are, but your boss Lemark is too drunk to lead his forces.The Red Hands count on you, their chief lieutenant.They follow you, they fear you, they depend on you, and tonight they don’t have you.I have you, and you won’t escape me.”

Goblins seized clubs, lassos, nets, short hammers and other poor quality weapons.The goblin mob was a threat to lesser men, but to Kyler they were a temporary impediment that was about to be removed.If there really was a fight outside rather than just a goblin lie, he’d join it once he got rid of this presumptuous pest.

“Kill the leader then back to base!” Kyler ordered.He grabbed his mace and ran straight for Fleck.His men followed him, except for two who stayed back.They charged the horde of goblins as the goblin band’s music sped up and got louder. Goblins raced into the cave from side tunnels and hit the men from behind.Most were knocked back, but a few tenacious goblins hung onto their enemies or tripped them.

Kyler nearly reached Fleck before the darkling got in his way. The darkling might be crazy enough to want its immortality to end, but it fought like a dragon.It dodged Kyler’s first swing and blocked another man’s attack with its sword.The darkling then kicked a man in the belly and knocked him over, where goblins poured over him and dragged him into a tunnel.Kyler landed a blow on the darkling that would have crippled most men, only for the darkling to shrug it off.

“I got him!” a small goblin shouted as he wrapped itself around Kyler’s left leg.Kyler kicked a larger goblin twice with his left leg, dislodging the small goblin in the process, and then kicked the pest aside.“I don’t got him!”

A lasso caught one of Kyler’s men around his chest.He screamed as goblins and brat children pulled the lasso so hard that he toppled over.They dragged him into a side tunnel as goblins tripped another man. More goblins came from those side tunnels until they numbered over a hundred strong.

Kyler spared a glance at the two men staying out of the fight. “What are you doing?”

The two men ignored him, and the goblins ignored them.Down two men and with two more holding back, Kyler wasn’t doing well.He had to end the fight fast, and that meant getting past the darkling to kill Fleck. The grinning goblin stayed on his throne as men and goblins clashed around him.

Kyler pressed the darkling hard, swinging his mace again and again.The darkling parried most of his blows and ignored the few that struck home.Its attacks held Kyler back and sent another of his men down.The fallen man cried out for help as goblins piled on him.Kyler ignored the fool and kept up his attacks.Kill the leader and the rest would fall.

The rippling in the air grew as the goblins warped space.Dirty paper plates suddenly appeared and rained down before one of Kyler’s men was caught in the warp and hurled screaming across the room.He rammed into one of the support columns and fell unconscious to the ground.Kyler was down another man and no closer to Fleck.

Fleck finally decided to join the fight, and in the stupidest way possible.The goblin stood up on his throne, grabbed his cat by the tail and swung it over his head. He hurled it at Kyler while screaming, “Mr. Tibbles, attack!”

Kyler ignored the stuffed cat and hit the darkling hard enough to knock it over.He was about to find out exactly how immortal darklings really were when the cat hit him in the head.

Wham!

The cat struck like a hammer blow, sending Kyler to the ground. His men panicked when they saw him fall. Some tried to run while a few tried to fight their way to him.Those who fled were quickly outrun by goblins and pulled down.Those who fought to the bitter end faced the darkling and an ever-growing mob of goblins.

Kyler struggled to get up.He got to his knees and no further.Goblins surrounded him and jeered as Fleck picked up his stuffed cat and smirked.

“When I had Mr. Tibbles stuffed, I placed ten pounds of lead inside him,” Fleck said.He looked at the two men who’d avoided the fight.“Well?”

The men glanced at one another before one spoke.“The Red Hands have been on the run for years.We barely get enough to eat in Blue Sands, and it’s not going to get better if we get silver out of your mines.Lemark or Kyler would swipe most of it.We’ve been talking for a while, him and me, and we’re tired of playing losing hands.You said men like us have left Blue Sands before.You let us walk out of here and you’ll never see us again.”

“An acceptable deal for all concerned,” Fleck replied.He pointed his stuffed cat at the exit, and the men left without another word.Fleck then grinned at Kyler.“I wonder how many more of your men are going to abandon you tonight?”

Kyler recovered enough to stagger to his feet.He gripped his head with both hands as if it was going to fall off and ran for the exit.Goblins followed him with Fleck in the lead.

The blow Kyler had taken was serious, but over the years he’d taken harder hits and lots of them.He needed to keep moving and get to his men.Once he got a hundred of them together he’d come back and finish Fleck and his goblins.Just a few more steps and he’d reach the mine entrance, and from there it was a short walk to the Red Hands’ headquarters in an old mansion.It took him too long, but Kyler reached the exit.He was recovering from the blow and even picking up speed when he got outside to see Blue Sands had become a battlefield.

Enraged townspeople armed with hammers, picks, shovels, clubs, staffs and even wood boards pressed the Red Hands on all sides.Hundreds of goblins fought alongside the men and women of Blue Sands, swarming out of alleyways to pile onto lone men.A young minotaur barely five feet tall rammed into Red Hands formations, breaking them and letting others follow in his wake.The tentacled horror Fleck had called Irving joined the fight and grappled two men.Bit by bit the Red Hands were being pushed to their mansion.If Kyler didn’t get there fast his people would shut the doors and leave him out here.

“No, you can’t win,” Kyler said.“We’ll regroup at headquarters and come after you.We, we can burn the city down and bring in new peasants to work the mines.”

Goblins caught up with Kyler and surrounded him.Fleck walked up, still stroking his stuffed cat, and pointed at the mansion.“In olden days the mayors of Blue Sands lived there.I’ve been inside once or twice.It’s quite an impressive place, but it has one defect.Did you know that mine tunnels run under the city?It’s true, and some quite close to the surface. I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this day, Kyler, and five hundred goblins can move a lot of rock when they’re motivated.”

Still suffering from Fleck’s earlier attack, Kyler muttered, “What are you saying?”

“Wait for it,” Fleck replied.

There came a rumbling sound, a noise distant and muted, but still powerful.The ground vibrated under Kyler.Men and goblins across Blue Sands struggled to stay on their feet, but the mansion suffered far worse as the front half of the building sank into the ground.Its walls crumbled and men ran shrieking from the ruins into the waiting arms of their enemies.When the rumbling and shaking stopped, half the Red Hands headquarters lay in ruins and the other half had vanished underground.

Townspeople and goblins charged into the wreckage, overpowering the few men still standing.A cheer rose across Blue Sands as the Red Hands were defeated and chained up like the criminals they were.Then a group of angry men saw Kyler.

“Let’s get him!” Rands Dul the innkeeper shouted.He waved a shovel and led a mob of shop owners and farmers after Kyler.

“No,” Kyler whispered hoarsely.He staggered backwards before he started running for the nearest stables. “I, I have to get out of here. Get a horse, I can reach the nearest city in—”

Wham!

Kyler felt a blow like a hammer hit him in the back.He fell to his knees and saw Fleck’s stupid stuffed cat roll across the ground next to him.Fleck walked over and picked up the cat before smiling at Kyler.

“I am sorry about that, but when Mr. Tibbles gets angry I simply can’t control him.”


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