Goblin Stories III

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

Goblins pick up what others throw away. You'd be surprised what that includes...

“Now let me get this straight,” Finny began.  “No one here is going to try to kill me, chase me, sue me or kick me in the shin.  For the first time my life, I can walk the street without getting in trouble.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Stubs told him.  “People put up with a lot in Nolod, but it’s best not to push your luck.”

Finny and Stubs the goblins stood at the edge of the upper class district of Nolod.  Finny was short and had pale skin so covered in dirt that it looked brown.  His clothes had once belonged to a merchant before the goblin stole them and trimmed them to fit.  Finny also had a lantern, but the city was lit so bright he didn’t bother using it.

Stubs was no taller and had red skin.  His clothes were a bit better than Finny’s, with a red cape and fewer holes in his pants, but that wasn’t saying much.  He also had a scabbard he’d recently stolen.  It was empty after he wisely threw away the cursed blade it once carried.

The pair had arrived at the city state of Nolod only that day, and a few hours of sneaking brought them to the best part of town.  Of course the words ‘best part’ didn’t really describe anywhere in Nolod.  The vast metropolis was an overbuilt, filthy, foul smelling place.  People could make vast amounts of money in Nolod’s markets and port, but the city was so disgusting that it qualified as both reward and punishment for any who lived there.

“We’re sort of tolerated in Nolod,” Stubs explained.  “They don’t like us, at all, but the locals ignore us if we stay off the main roads and don’t make much noise.  And the food!  You would not believe how much these people throw away.  You and I are going to fill our bellies inside of five minutes.”

Finny didn’t look convinced.  “If it’s so great, why did you leave?”

Stubs waved his hand.  “Oh, that.  It was a simple misunderstanding with the city watch.  I borrowed a few tools, a shovel and a couple live minks, but it was worth it when I tricked the Prime Minister into dropping his pants.”

“No!”

“Yes!  It wasn’t like the minks were going to bite him.  Well, maybe they would have.  But that was years ago.  I’m sure everyone’s forgotten about it by now.”

Stubs waved for Finny to join him in an alley that ran behind some of the finest restaurants in the world.  These establishments served exquisite meals with choice cuts of meat and rare spices, prepared so lovingly that men, elves and dwarfs would pay handsomely for even a taste.  Stubs and Finny were after their garbage.

“Good lord almighty,” Finny said.  His eyes opened wide at the sight of the huge trash cans outside the restaurants’ back doors.  Each can brimmed with scraps of food, plus all the parts trimmed off before the meals reached the tables.  “You weren’t kidding.”

“And it’s like this every night!” Stubs told him.

Finny walked up to a can and took out a handful of garbage.  “It’s a goblin paradise!”

“We just got to eat fast before somebody else comes,” Stubs said.  “This much food brings in hundreds of goblins.  There are other people who show up for a free meal, too.  You can get harpies, were-beasts, sewer monsters, even young dragons.”

“Do they fight over it?” Finny asked.

Stubs gulped down a mouthful of garbage.  “Sometimes.  That’s why it’s best to eat and run.”

A door opened next to the goblins, and an elven busboy stepped out with a bag of garbage.  He saw the pair, and made a face like he’d bitten a lemon.

“Evening,” Stubs said cheerfully.  The busboy dumped the garbage and went inside, locking the door behind him.

“They bring us food?” Finny asked.

“All we can eat,” Stubs said.  “They don’t want it and they don’t want to carry it off.  So if we get rid of it for them, they’re happy, sort of.”

The goblins ate heartily and filled bags with refuse for breakfast.  They left the alley as more goblins arrived for their turn.  There was a flapping noise and screeching voices overhead, proof that harpies had come for a share of the feast.

“It’s amazing,” Finny said.  “All this food for the taking, and nobody cares.  You could feed an army with this much chow.  I mean, sure, the city smells like a hog farm exploded, but I can live with that.”

“We’re living the good life,” Stubs agreed as they ducked into another alley.  This one was behind workshops, and the trashcans were loaded with building debris.  Just then they heard a sound from inside a can.

“Silly cat,” Finny said.  He pointed back the way they’d come.  “The food is over there.”

Stubs’ face went blank.  “That’s not a cat.”

“Of course it is,” Finny said.  Stubs handed Finny his scabbard and then climbed into the trashcan, moving carefully as if there was something valuable inside.  Worried, Finny called out, “Stubs?”

“Shh, it’s okay, don’t cry.”  Stubs climbed out of the trashcan carrying something wrapped in rags.  It took Finny a moment to realize what it was.

“No,” Finny said.  He hurried over and looked at Stubs.  “This, there’s some kind of mistake.”

Stubs set the bundle down and opened it.  He took out the tiny human baby and cradled her in his arms.  “It’s okay, see?  It’s all right.  Shh.”

“Stubs, what’s going on?” Finny demanded.

“She’s a foundling,” Stubs told him.  He rocked back and forth to sooth the baby.  “Someone threw the little one out.”

“In the trash?” Finny shouted.

“Keep it down.  You want her to cry?”  Stubs looked around.  “Sometimes little ones wander off and get lost, but this one’s too small to move on her own.  Her skin’s red.”

“So’s yours,” Finny said.

“Yeah, well, when humans have red skin it means they’re really young, like days old.  Someone had her not long ago and threw her out.”

Finny stared at the baby.  “That, that’s monstrous.”

“You see me arguing?”  Stubs patted the baby’s back.  “I hate when this happens.”

Finny grabbed Stubs by the arm.  “Happens?  Happens means this has happened before.”

“This is my third foundling,” Stubs said.  “I know guys here who’ve found even more.”

Finny reached over and pressed a finger into the baby’s hand.  She grabbed on tight, and it took some effort to get free.  “She’s healthy.  Why would someone do that?”

Stubs shrugged.  “You got me.  Humans do all sorts of dumb stuff.  I once saw a human with a knife run straight at a guy holding a glowing sword.”

“How did that end?” Finny asked.

“Pretty much the way you’d figure it would.  We’ve got to move fast.  If she was a little older we could give her rice porridge or yogurt, maybe mushed up fruit, but this small she’s on the all milk diet.  If we can’t feed her, we can’t keep her.”

Finny looked at the surrounding buildings.  They were all closed for the night, with no lights on or people about.  “Where do we find her family?”

Stubs shrugged.  “Nolod has a million people.  Any of them could be her parents.  Even if we find them, they might throw her out again if we give her back.  We don’t have time to look for them when she’ll be hungry soon.”

Panicking, Finny asked, “What do we do?”

Stubs slid the baby inside his shirt.  “There you go.  It’s a lot warmer in there.  Don’t worry, Finny, I’ve done this before.  If we’re quick we can find her a new family before dawn.”

The two goblins scurried off into the night.  Stubs led them through the city’s alley’s and back ways, careful to avoid attentions.  That was harder than it sounded, for the streets were filled with people even at this late hour.  Many streets were brightly lit with lanterns and torches so the residents could keep doing business.  Humans, dwarfs, elves, minotaurs, ogres, there were even a few adolescent trolls.  Thankfully few people noticed the pair, and those who did ignored them.

“Where are we going?” Finny asked.

“There’s a place outside Nolod where we can drop her off,” Stubs said.  “It’s a small shrine built by the Brotherhood of the Righteous.  Humans stop there every day.”

Finny hurried along carrying his lantern and Stubs’ scabbard.  “But will they want her?”

“Oh yeah.  Women with no kiddies come to pray for a baby.  We noticed it one day and started leaving foundlings for them.  They’re happy, the baby’s happy and nobody knows we’re involved.”

“You!”  Two powerful hands grabbed Stubs by the collar and lifted him off the ground.  The human wasn’t very tall, but his bare arms showed off impressive muscles.  “I knew I’d catch up with you one of these days!  You’re going to pay for what you did to me!”

“That’s the Prime Minister?” Finny asked.

“Huh?  No, it’s Tehsil, a bartender who works in the Drunken Lemur,” Stubs explained.  He hunched over to conceal the baby.  “What are you babbling about?”

Tehsil scowled and bared his teeth, or at least the few he had left.  “Babbling?  You painted my cat!”

Stubs sighed.  “I’m sure it’s shed its fur by now, or is it you don’t like cubism?”

More humans came out of the nearby buildings.  Most of them looked drunk, and you could have lit the alcohol fumes coming from their mouths.  They grinned and pointed, clearly not about to intervene.  Worse, they filled the street enough to keep the goblins from passing even if Stubs was free.

“I’m going to give you the beating of a lifetime, you stunted freak!” Tehsil said.  He pulled back a fist for a punch, but it never landed.  Finny set down his lantern and the scabbard, and jumped Tehsil.  The bartender roared and let go of Stubs before throwing Finny aside.  “You want a beating too?”

Finny got up off the street and held up his right hand.  It had a billfold in it.  Tehsil stared at it in confusion.  He’d likely been sampling his own booze, for it took him seconds to shout, “That’s my wallet!”

“Drinks are on the house!” Finny yelled.  He tore open the wallet and scattered the coins across the street.  The crowd hadn’t been interested in saving the goblins, but they clearly had no love for the bartender, for as one they went for the money.  Tehsil dove to the street and grabbed what he could, but there was no way he’d get even a fraction of his money back.

“Let’s go!” Stubs shouted.  He ran down the street, dodging between men on all fours grabbing for coins.  Finny stopped only long enough to grab the lantern and scabbard before following him.  A few men started fighting over the money, and the goblins escaped just before a major brawl broke out.

The pair stopped running after a block and fell gasping to the street.  Stubs gave Finny a smile and said, “Thanks.”

“Oh that’s nothing.  I once stole a knight’s helmet and buried it in a dung heap.  Ah, good times.  The little one slept through that?”

Stubs looked at the baby.“Yeah, she’s out cold.  That’s a good thing.  If someone saw us carrying her they’d think we took her.  There’d be no end of trouble from that.”

Finny looked behind them.  “The fight is still going on, so we’re in the clear.  How much farther is it to your shrine?”

“We’ll make it by late morning.  There’s a place we need to stop on the way to keep the little one happy.  Come on, I’ll show you the way.”

The pair continued through the streets of Nolod for another three hours.  They left the wealthy part of the city and entered the slums.  Most buildings were wood here, and so decrepit that even goblins would think twice about living in them.  The later it got the clearer the streets became until only goblins traveled the roads.

“Hey, Stubs!” a goblin called out.  “Good to see you buddy!  I was just saying to Merv that…oh.  Sorry, pal, you don’t have time to talk.  How many is it for you?”

“Three,” Stubs told the other goblin.  “Me and Finny are heading for the shrine.  Finny, this is Honest Al.”

Finny gasped.  “The cursed goblin!”

“Yeah, I cannot tell a lie, no matter how much I want to,” Honest Al said.  “You need a hand?”

“We’re good,” Stubs said.  Still walking, he asked, “Have there been many foundlings lately?”

“Lots,” Honest Al told him.  ‘I’ve see eight this month.  Most are older than yours and we took them in.  A human I know said something about a recession.  I think that’s what’s making it worse than normal.”

“You wouldn’t guess things are bad looking at the expensive restaurants,” Stubs said.  “Everybody there is dripping in jewelry.”

Honest Al shrugged.  “Some people always have money.  Listen, if you don’t need me there are some inflammatory truths I want to spread.  You sure you’re good?”

“Nothing’s wrong that more goblins can fix,” Stubs told him.

Honest Al smiled and waved at the baby before running off into the night.  Finny watched him go and said, “Wow, just when you think you’ve got it bad, you meet someone worse off.  Imagine never being able to lie.  It would take all the fun out of life.”

“He manages,” Stubs said.

Stubs and Finny finally reached the edge of Nolod.  Beyond the city were farms and large plantations.  A few farms had dogs trained to sniff out goblins, but the dogs were satisfied with barking at them from behind wood fences.  The stink that hung over Nolod was gone, but so were the city’s ever-present lights.

“Hold on,” Finny said.  He lit his lantern and the two continued on.

“Thanks for bringing my scabbard when we were getting away from Tehsil,” Stubs said.

“You thought I’d leave it for that jerk?” Finny asked.  “How’s the girl?”

Stubs stopped to check her.  “Sleepy, but that won’t last much longer.  Humans this small drink like a fish.  She’ll want milk soon, and she’ll cry until she gets it.”

“Can we get her to the shrine before then?” Finny asked.

“No, but there’s a way around that.  I know of a widow living on this road who keeps goats.  The baby will be happy with that.”

The houses and farms thinned out as they went farther from Nolod.  This was partly due to the increasingly swampy ground.  Stubs said it would get drier in a few miles, and the change was for the best.  Fewer farms meant fewer potential witnesses.  But the sun would be up soon and bring farmers with it.  They had to hurry.

“There she is,” Stubs said, and nodded to a small house and barn next to the road.  The buildings were built well, but from poor quality materials.  The roof was thatch instead of tile or wood shingles, and the fence posts were untrimmed logs.  To their surprise, there was a light on in a window.  Finny peered in and saw a woman wearing a simple cotton dress start a fire in the fireplace.

Whispering, Finny said, “That’s no widow.  Her hair isn’t white, and she hasn’t got any wrinkles.”

“I’d put her at twenty, twenty-five tops,” Stubs whispered back.  “But she says she’s a widow.  I asked her once how that can be true when she’s young.  She got all teary eyed and ran off.”

The baby squirmed inside Stubs’ shirt and made a discontented sound.  “No time left.  We have to feed her now.”

Stubs and Finny went to the barn and found it locked.  This stopped them for all of two minutes while Finny picked the lock.  They went inside and closed the door behind them.  Inside they found five goats in simple pens.  Stubs took the baby out from inside his shirt and let her feed from a nanny goat.  The goat looked up and bleated.

Finny nodded to the goat.  “We appreciate your cooperation, ma’am.”

The baby fed for five minutes.  Stubs patted her back until she burped, then checked the rags she was wearing.  “No mess yet.  That’s more good luck.  Come on, Finny.  We’ll reach the shrine by dawn and be back in Nolod for lunch.”

The goblins left the barn, careful to open and close the door so slowly that it didn’t make a squeak.  That made it all the more surprising when Finny got hit with a broom.

“Take that!  And that!  And three more!” the woman shouted.  Her long brown hair flew up and down with each swing of her broom.  Finny went down and Stubs ran behind the barn.

“Cut that out, you crazy broad!” Finny shouted.

“You were doing mischief in my barn!” the woman shouted.  She stopped swinging her broom and pointed it at Finny.  “Bad enough I have the revenuers after me, but now I have goblins causing trouble.  I’ve a hard enough life without you lot making it worse!”

“We didn’t do nothing, honest!” Finny protested.

The woman raised an eyebrow.  “A goblin, honest?”

Finny shrugged.  “It’s rare, but it happens.”

Stubs came back from behind the barn.  “It’s true.  We didn’t do any harm.  We just needed some milk.  We’ll be on our way and you’ll never see us again.”

The explanation didn’t satisfy her.  “And what would a goblin need milk for?  I’ve seen your kind drink bilge water.”

“We didn’t need it, it was for her,” Finny said.  He pointed at the baby in Stubs’ arms.

The woman stared hard at them.  “Of all the thieving, awful, no good things you could do!”

“We didn’t steal her!” Stubs said.  “We, we found her in a garbage can last night.”

“I don’t believe you!” the widow shouted.

The baby whimpered and then burst out crying.  Subs patted her back, saying, “There, there, the crazy lady didn’t mean to scare you.”

The widow lifted her broom for another swing.  “Crazy?”

“It fits,” Finny told her.

The baby gradually calmed down.  The woman walked up to Stubs and looked at the baby.

“We’re not lying,” Stubs told her.  “Someone in Nolod threw her out with the trash.”

“Filthy place, and filthy people,” the woman said.  Her expression softened as she looked at the baby.  “You swear by all that’s holy that what you say is the truth?”

“We do.”  Stubs smiled and edged closer to her.  “Say, maybe you can help us.  We can keep the little one warm and dry.  Safe is easy to do, too.  Nobody hides like goblins.  But we can’t feed her.  She’s too little for solid food.”

Stubs came closer.  He shifted his grip so he was carrying the baby with both hands from the bottom.  He spoke in a calm, soothing voice.

“But you can help us.  You’ve got those goats, and little babies like goat milk.  How about it, huh?  We stop by a couple times a day so she can drink a bit of milk.  She won’t take much, not when she’s so small.  And it would only be until she can eat solid food, a year tops.”

The woman bent down.  Tears formed around her eyes as she reached down and stoked the baby’s cheek.

Stubs came closer.  His face looked somber, almost pleading as he said, “That’s not too much to ask, right?  Food for a hungry baby?”

Tears poured down the woman’s face as she snatched the baby from Stubs and ran to her house.  Stubs called, “Hey, wait!”

The woman raced into her house and slammed the door shut.  Bang!  They heard a thud as the door was barred from the inside.  Finny handed Stubs back his scabbard, and together the two goblins went up to the window.  They saw the woman sitting on her bed, cradling the baby in her arms.

“You’re good,” Finny told Stubs.

Stubs smiled.  “I’m very good.”


Submitted: December 16, 2014

© Copyright 2021 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Alteng

That saved them a trip indeed.

This was a tricky story to pull off, But I do have a good suspension of disbelief, and I often write something that borders on not likely. I'm working on it.

The story of Labyrinth comes to mind in this and the idea of goblins stealing children. A folklore based idea, I believe.

I just wonder if a goblin would exclaim "Good Lord Almighty". I would think that they would pray to a god like Loki, who is not exactly good.

Another thought is the bartender would not have a billfold. I word think he would carry a money pouch or purse, especially since Finny throws it out and coins spread. Keeping coins in a billfold is tricky business, mind you, and it doesn't go over too well.

I liked the bit about the widow, and she was young. I saw right away that she was going to take the baby, but that's me.

And, I have a character that is dealing with the Honest Al issue. He's not cursed. It's just that no one believes him when he lies.

Fri, January 30th, 2015 7:33am

Author
Reply

Jim Henson's Labyrinth is the main inspiration for my book and these stories. I'm pleased someone recognized my source material. The bartender having a money pouch might work, but in fairness I have plenty of coins in my wallet and it's usually not an issue. I'll have to think about that. Thanks for the feedback.

Tue, February 3rd, 2015 7:28am