Goblin Stories XI

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
It may not be the south of France, but stinking, polluted strip mines make for good goblin vacations.

Submitted: March 24, 2015

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Submitted: March 24, 2015

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Finny looked doubtfully at the vast, weedy, stinking field before him, which was a perfect description of both his life and Congress.  “I don’t recall seeing this on the travel brochure.”

“It’s not a brochure,” Stubs explained.  Stubs the goblin had red skin and wore beaten up clothes with a short red cape.  His prized possession was a decorated scabbard that he’d stolen from an evil knight.  “It’s just a map.”

“No, there’s a skull and crossbones on this spot,” Finny said.  The dirty goblin carried a lantern and few small tools in his pockets.  His skin was in theory pink or peach colored, but years without bathing left it brown as if he had a tan.  Finny took out the map and stabbed a finger at the marked region.  “You only have those when there’s something cool like ruined cities and ancient battlefields.”

Stubs studied their surroundings for anything interesting.  He was sorely disappointed.  The weedy ground had plenty of rocks and low hills.  Plant life was limited to tough weeds, while a few beetles and flies represented the animal kingdom.  What caught his attention most was the smell.  Stubs was no stranger to foul odors, but he couldn’t see anything that might generate the stink in the air, and on a day this sunny and land this flat he could see a long way.

“This might be one of those cultural misunderstandings,” Stubs told his friend.  “The map had all kinds of places listed as exciting travel destinations, not one of them the least bit interesting.”

“Castles,” Finny spat.  “Universities.  Music halls.  Honestly, like we’d be able to set foot in any of them.  Of course that night visit to Tadderly Art Museum was nice.”

“Yeah, you donated that painting of dogs playing poker to them,” Stubs said.  “It was much better than those naked lady pictures they had up.  Why would they put those up?”

“I think we both know the answer to that,” Finny told him.

The two walked across the weedy hills in search of the elusive reason for the skull and crossbones.  The plants gave off more foul odors when they stepped on them, but it was hardly noticeable over the background smell.  They looked for houses or mines, but found nothing.  The ground was too rocky to find tracks or footprints, assuming anything lived here big enough to leave them.

Finny studied the map again.  They’d copied it off a map in a book, even adding the interesting bits like ‘Danger! Stay away’ and ‘Here there be lawyers’, and there were lots of skulls and crossbones.  Once they’d copied it they headed for the nearest one just outside the Land of the Nine Dukes.  It was proving to be a disappointing experience.

“Should we try the next one?” Stubs asked.

Finny scowled.  “We walked for two weeks to get here.  There’s no telling if the next one is any better.  This is my vacation, and I’m staying here until I get to annoy someone or steal something.”

“Maybe it’s dangerous because of the smell?” Stubs asked.  “Humans have funny ideas of what makes a place no good.”

“You visited the tanners in Cattle City the same as me.”  Folding his arms across his chest, Finny said, “If humans can tolerate the smell from boiling cattle hides in vats of pee then they can handle this.”

Stubs dug through the thin soil and hit rock in just three inches.  “I don’t think you could raise crops here.”  Squeezing a weed and getting a spray of noxious gas from it, he added, “Doubt cattle and sheep would eat this.”

Finny kicked rocks and weeds.  “Well this is a fine mess!  We earned a nice vacation after nearly getting killed by that thing with the claws and all the eyes living in the Cattle City garbage dump, and tricking it unto falling into the canal.  The humans weren’t going to give awards for that, and they should have!  This was supposed to be a nice, pleasant trip to an evil empire or haunted ruins, and what do we get but—”

A hole opened up next to Finny and Stubs, and goblins poured out of it and piled onto them.  The two were pulled down and dragged into an underground chamber twenty feet across.  Their captures shouted triumphantly and then took a look at them.

“Hi,” Stubs said.

A goblin with purple skin rolled his eyes.  “Oh for the love of wombats, guys, you said there were elves up there!”

Finny looked at Stubs.  “Well, his ears are kind of pointed.”

A thin goblin asked the one with purple skin, “You’re sure they’re not?”

“We’ve been over this,” the purple skinned goblin said.  He wore black pants, a red shirt and a ridiculously long cape, all in surprisingly good condition for a goblin.  He was armed with a wood cane that had a brass duck head on the top end.  “Elves are much taller than us and have pointed ears.”

“You’re sure you’re not making up this whole ‘elf’ thing?” the thin goblin asked.

“You see what I’m working with here?” the purple goblin asked Finny.

Finny shrugged.  “Meh, I’ve seen worse.”

The other goblins let them go, and the purple skinned goblin shook their hands.  “The name’s Dram.  Sorry about that.  We’ve been after those elves for a week, and when we heard the noise we thought we’d finally caught one.  Unfortunately mister dumbbell here can’t tell an elf from a goblin, a man, a troll or a horsehead bookend.”

“I can’t, either,” a short goblin admitted.  Several more goblins nodded to show their complete and total lack of comprehension.

“What would you want an elf for?” Stubs asked.  “For that matter what would an elf be doing here?  They like it nice and clean, with big trees and pretty flowers.  This place can’t get farther from that without things being on fire.”

Dram tapped his cane on the chamber floor.  “I thought so too, but the pointy eared critters proved me wrong.  A bunch of them set up camp in the wastes.  They don’t like it here and neither do the humans and gnomes with them, but they’re sticking around.”

“You trying to drive them off?” Finny asked.

“Lord no,” Dram told them.  “We want them to stay even longer!  Have you heard of Royal Cheese?”

Finny and Stubs looked to one another and then scooted closer to Dram.  Stubs asked, “No, and I’d like to.”

The other goblins gathered around as Dram shared the secret.  “Royal Cheese is a special cheese recipe only elves know how to make.  It’s got wine in it and spices, and they age it twenty years before eating it.  It’s so dark red it’s almost black.”

“Twenty years?” Finny asked.  “I can’t imagine letting cheese sit for twenty seconds!”

“Proof that elves are nuts,” Finny said.

“I’ve had it,” Dram said reverently.  “It was years ago when I first tasted it, and I’ve been on the hunt for more ever since.  When the elves moved in I got my hopes up.  Not all elves have Royal Cheese, but this bunch is rich.  You can tell with all the fancy armor and weapons they have.  And sure enough, when one wasn’t looking I went through his backpack and he had a wedge.  Oh, it was heaven, better than cheddar.”

Finny staggered back.  He pointed his scabbard at Dram and shouted, “You take that back!”

“It’s true, every word!  Me and the boys were hoping the elves would come out again and we could grab one, but it’s been days and none have left camp.”

“You know what this means, don’t you?” Finny asked Stubs.

“Of course, but would the queen marry again at her age?”

Finny grabbed him.  “No!  It means our vacation isn’t ruined.  We deserve this.  Nay, we need it.  Dram, you said the elves haven’t left camp for days.  Then we have to go to them and steal that cheese.  I’m angry and stupid enough to do this.  Are you?”

The other goblins cheered.

 

Dram led the goblins through a network of tunnels running under the wastes.  The tunnels went in every direction and were big enough for the goblins to walk upright.  Stubs used his lantern to provide light, but there were other goblins with candles and torches.  Dram explained, “You can thank the dwarfs for these tunnels.  They mined here for years to get silver and then left it to us.”

“That was nice of them,” Finny said.

“Of course the land is wrecked for men and livestock, but we’re right at home here.  As a bonus, nobody bothers us.”

Stubs raised a hand and asked, “Elves have real good noses.  I once had one sniff me out when I was hiding in the rafters of his house.  Can’t they smell you?”

Dram chuckled.  “Take a deep breath.  You smell that?”

The short goblin looked down guiltily.  “I’m sorry.”

“Not that,” Dram said.  “The stink in the air is from corpse weed.  It’s one of the few plants that can grow here after what the dwarfs did.  We don’t mind, but the elves can’t stop complaining about it.  They say they can’t smell anything, and that they’ll have to burn their uniforms after they leave.”

Finny stopped in his tracks.  “Uniforms?  They’re soldiers?”

“Mmm hmm,” Drama said.  “Twenty elves, ten gnomes and ten humans, all armed.  One elf is a wizard who keeps fooling around with a glowing crystal and little trees.  It’s dangerous, but the cheese!”

“Armed men and armed elves working together?” Stubs asked.  “That doesn’t sound right.  Elves don’t get along with anyone.”

Dram shrugged.  “They said they worked for something called the Versile Consortium, and they’re worried about other elves attacking.”

The goblins stopped in a large chamber with tunnels leading up to the surface.  More goblins came until they numbered over a hundred.  The goblins came armed with daggers, clubs, lassos and shields, not a force that would impress a general but it was good for goblins.  Dram led the way up one of the tunnels to the surface.

They blew out their lights and slowly opened the door leading outside.  Light came down and so did the sound of many people talking and moving around.  The goblins waited patiently in case their arrival was noticed, but when no one sounded an alarm they crept outside.

The elf camp wasn’t impressive.  It was only fifty feet across with piles of loose rocks heaped up four feet high around the edges.  The elves and men watched for enemies, but their gaze was directed at the sky and the distant horizon, not the tunnel entrance fifteen feet from their camp.  There was a pile of baggage on the north edge of the camp, and hopefully their prize was hidden in those sacks and backpacks.

 

Stubs and Finny took one look at the elves and came to the same conclusion: they’d come ready for a fight.  They wore chain armor and had swords, spears, shields, and two had bows.  It was all high quality, nearly new by the look of it.  The men were equally well armed, and even the short gnomes, no bigger than goblins, wore armor and had sharp knives.  Regardless of race, they all wore blue vests over their armor.

A man in chain armor approached the elf wizard.  The wizard wore blue flowing robes and held a wood staff with green leaves on it.  He stood chanting over a small oak tree that was blackened and withered.  The man watched him, clearly uneasy.

“That’s the fifth tree you’ve killed,” the man said.  Other elves in the camp winced at his pronouncement.  “How many more are going to need?”

The elf wizard stopped chanting.  Looking miserable, he stroked the tree.  Leaves fell at his touch.  “I find this equally distressing, I assure you.”

The man pointed at the pile of baggage and said, “It’s not the trees I’m worried about.  We only have two more.  If we leave to resupply we risk drawing attention.  I’m good with a sword, we all are, but if the Elf King figures out we’re here he’ll send warriors and griffin riders after us.”

Finny crawled across the ground, careful not to make a sound.  Stubs followed him while Dram and his goblins crawled for a small depression that would help hide them.  The mounded rocks around the elf camp actually worked to their advantage since it helped hide things low to the ground.  Finny decided to thank them for being so thoughtful after he raided their supplies.

The elf wizard reached down and plucked a glowing crystal from the dead tree.  It was as large as a hen’s egg and faceted.  Finny didn’t know much about gems or crystals, but he didn’t like them.  People got weird around shiny things like that and didn’t think twice about killing for them.

“Your caution is warranted, but our gamble has paid off,” the elf wizard said.  “The crystal is fully charged.”

The other elves and gnomes hurried over while the rest of the humans kept watch.  Their faces fairly shined as they gazed upon the glowing crystal.  The wizard smiled and announced, “My spells were able to draw out the corrupting magic used by the dwarfs when they mined this land.  I regret having to focus the spell through these innocent trees, but it was necessary.  We have not merely cleansed this land of dwarf taint but harnessed the energy in a useable form.”

“How much magic is in there?” a gnome asked.

“Five hundred fifty magems,” the wizard told them.  “It’s enough power to make a magic item as great as those used by the Elf Empire.  And this is but the beginning!  I drew out the toxic magic from a mere tenth of this wasted land.  We can fill eight or even nine more crystals from this site alone, and I know of nine sites like this one.”

The human frowned as he studied their surroundings.  “I don’t see an improvement.”

“Patience, friend, the healing will take time,” the wizard said.  He opened an ornately carved wood box and set the crystal inside.  Closing the lid, he said, “The taint is gone, but fresh seeds have not arrived, and the soil is still thin and poor in nutrients.  In time it will recover to full health.”

“Curse the dwarfs,” the gnome said.  “This would have never happened if they’d used proper magic wards and shielding in their ore processors.  They let the power leak out and infuse the land with a taint only weeds and goblins can survive.”

The elf chuckled and put the box into a backpack.  “Ah, but such wards are expensive to create and must be renewed monthly.  I’ve never known a dwarf to place the wellbeing of anyone or anything before profits.”

Finny and Stubs reached the piled up rubble.  They began taking stones off the wall one at a time and gently setting them down so as not to make a sound.  It would take a minute or two to make a hole in the wall.  As a bonus, the very supplies they’d come to raid were blocking the elves’ line of sight with them.  They might be able to get in and out unseen.

“If we have the crystal charged we should head back now,” the human warrior said.  “We can come back later with a properly armed expedition to draw out the rest of the power, or go to one of the other sites closer to our home territory.”

“Agreed,” the elf said.  “Now that we know the process works we can return and report success.  When we’re done, the Versile Consortium will have magic weapons equal in number and power to that of the so called Elf King.  No longer will we live in fear of his attacks.  We shall take the throne for ourselves, outcasts no more, and lead this world back to the glories of the Elf Empire lost so long ago.”

“The faster we’re home the better,” the gnome said.

Suddenly the wizard looked worried.  “Speed is not advisable.”

“What?” the human asked.  “We’re five hundred miles from home or help of any kind.  We need to get back with this without delay.”

“Normally I would agree, but I don’t want to risk jostling the crystal when it’s full,” the wizard said.

The gnome frowned.  “And why is that?”  When the wizard didn’t answer, the gnome said, “As quartermaster for this mission I must be kept fully appraised of danger.  Is this dangerous?”

The human folded his arms across his chest.  “I’d like to know the answer to that myself.  No one said the crystal was unstable.”

“No, not unstable,” the wizard said hastily.  “It’s perfectly safe to handle so long as it’s not struck.”

The human and gnome glanced at one another.  Neither looked convinced.  The gnome asked, “And if it were to be struck, how bad would that be?”

The other members of the camp backed away from the wizard and crystal.  The wizard held up his hands and tried to sooth them.  “Five hundred fifty magems is a lot of power, and I’ve done what I can to render it inert for the journey.  But it does pose a small risk.  For safety’s sake I’ll carry it myself to prevent accidents.”

The gnome put a hand over his face.  “How big of an explosion are we talking about?”

“Very big,” the wizard admitted.  “It’s a risk, I’ll grant you that, but if the Versile Consortium is ever going to reach its full potential we have to take these risks.  How long have we suffered attacks by rival elves?  How long have we had to hide our bases and send our agents in disguise?If we’re ever to take our rightful place then we need to take chances, even dangerous ones.”

Sighing, the gnome said, “Very well.  Let’s go home and put the crystal to use.”

The human smiled.  “We might even get rich doing this.”

“How?” the gnome asked.

“Easy.”  The man waved at their devastated surroundings.  “You could charge kings to purify their land.  They’d pay to have their old dwarf mines made into farmland.  Don’t even tell them about the crystals.”

“That could work,” the elf said approvingly.

Finny and Stubs finished making their hole in the rubble barrier.  It was only two feet across, but that was plenty of room for a goblin.  They slipped into the camp and hid behind a pile of backpacks.  Stubs took out a knife and cut open a backpack from the back.  He fished around inside and took out a knife, rope, spare clothes, iron spikes and other things of minor value.

Dram came in through the hole with a few more goblins.  He crept up to Stubs and cut open a leather sack.  The goblins took out the contents, pocketing a few useful items before returning the rest.  Another bag turned up coins and water bottles, but no cheese.  Where was it?

“Griffins!”

The cry went up from the south edge of the camp and sent the elves and their allies into action.  They drew swords and manned the rubble barrier while the wizard drove his staff into the ground.  Finny saw ten griffins flying in, each one carrying two armored riders.  The griffins came in low and hit the barrier with their hind legs, smashing through it and sending Versile Consortium elves and men flying.  Landing on the opposite side of the camp, the griffin riders dismounted and drew their swords.  They were all elves.

“In the name of the Elf King, we order you to surrender and accept his authority,” a the griffin riders commanded.

“Never!” the wizard shouted back.  He cast a spell and his staff sprouted thick vines.  They grew so fast they seemed to fly through the air before binding three griffins.

Finny and Stubs fled the camp, with Dram and his goblins a step behind.  The battle behind them was a chaotic mess.  Elves and griffins fought elves, men and gnomes in a confusing melee.  The goblins regrouped well outside of the fight.  There were a hundred goblins, but they lacked the weapons, magic and monsters of the other two sides.  They watched on in horror as the two groups fought.

“What do we do?” Dram asked.

Finny pointed at the battle and said, “That funny glowing rock is dangerous.  They said it could blow up if someone hits it by accident, and it would take everything here with it.  Well I’m not going to let that happen!  Save the cheese!”

And with that dubious battle cry the goblins charged into the fight.  They kicked elves in their shins, tripped them, even bit them as they worked their way into the camp.  A griffin tried to attack Stubs, but he ripped up a handful of corpse weed and jammed it into the griffin’s mouth.  The poor animal’s eyes bugged out and it threw up.  They reached the baggage and grabbed as much as they could.

Finny grabbed the ornate wood box and checked inside.  He saw the crystal but nothing of interest to him.  He was going to set the box down when the wizard saw him.

“Put that down!” the wizard screamed.

If the wizard wanted it, Finny wondered if he’d trade for it.  “Throw me the cheese and I throw you the crystal.”

“Don’t throw it!” a dozen elves screamed.

Finny looked down at the box.  “Throw me the cheese and I’ll put down the box gently.”

That might have led to a trade, but an elf warrior tackled the wizard before they could complete the transaction.  Finny set down the box anyway and grabbed a backpack before fleeing underground.  The crystal was of no interest to him and he had to escape before someone grabbed him.  He gave the elves one last look and saw the elf wizard use his magic to make a beetle as big as a horse and send it after his enemies.  Clearly it was time to leave.

 

Finny and Stubs spent the next few hours in a happy daze.  While they hadn’t found cheese in the bags they’d stolen, the thin goblin was wildly successful.  Dram had if anything undersold the flavor of Royal Cheese.  The full wheel of cheese hadn’t gone far with so many goblins wanting a taste, but even a little went a long way.  They stayed underground in case the fight was still going on.  With any luck whichever group won would decide it wasn’t worth the effort to hunt them down.

“That was amazing,” Finny said.  He and the other goblins were slumped over in a large cave with the remains of their raid on the elf camp.  There was a lot of stuff, some of it even useful.

“A good vacation then?” Stubs asked.

“Oh yeah.”

Dram dug through the elves’ bags and found some coins.  Tossing them on the floor, he said, “We’ll have to get rid of those, but I bet there’s stuff here we can use.”

Finny smiled and grabbed a backpack.  “I saw some rope in one of these.  You can always use rope.”

“Do you think there’s any more cheese?” Stubs asked.

“Nah, we went through everything,” Finny said.

“We didn’t check that funny box,” Dram said.

Stubs froze.  “What funny box?”

“That one over there,” Dram said.

The box was half buried under a pile of empty leather sacks, but there was no mistaking the ornate design.  Another goblin must have grabbed it without realizing the danger.  Terrified, Finny pulled off the leather sacks and opened the box.  The glowing crystal lit up the cave.  Goblins gathered around it with fear in their eyes.

Finny gulped.  “Uh oh.”


© Copyright 2020 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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