Goblin Stories XVII

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

It was supposed to be a simple escort mission, and then the goblin showed up.

“You’re getting paid to do this,” Duncan Stormeye said through gritted teeth.  This job had been a pain in the neck since day one.  He hadn’t met a single person worth asking to join his adventuring group, and his standards were low!  The Brotherhood priest they were escorting insisted on bringing a cow with him, which slowed them down.  He’d had no luck whatsoever romancing his fellow adventurer Tandy Darksky, who was more interested in listening to the priest’s lectures.  He could deal with all this, but the last straw had come a week ago when that wretched goblin decided to tag along with them, a miserable, smelly creature that could only say—

“Thurp!” the goblin shouted.  He said that word, if it was a word, morning, noon and night in response to every situation.  The wretch wore dirty rags and carried a club and wood shield, and it had pointed ears on its wide face.

“Is it absolutely necessary to keep that thing around?” Duncan asked the priest.

Father Amago patted the goblin on the back and smiled.  “Thurp asks little of us and has done no harm.  Surely you can afford to show him some small kindness, the same you would ask another person to show you.”

Duncan looked to his two fellow adventurers for support and got none.  Tandy wasn’t going to say a word against the priest no matter how annoying the goblin was.  She wore leather armor that showed off her curves, and her long brown hair flowed behind her.  Fools and drunks often mistook her good nature for weakness, a mistake she was too willing to correct with her sword.  Sternhammer showed the same stoic acceptance that he did to all other problems as he trudged along in his plate armor.

“It’s just for a little while longer,” Tandy told him.

Sternhammer shifted his ax from his right hand to his left.  “The pay is the same whether he follows us or not.”

Pay.  It always came down to money.  The Stormeye family had been refugees for a long time, driven off their old land by war and drought.  Duncan had become an adventurer in the hopes that he could bring in the money his family needed to buy land and settle down again.  He’d stolen his sword from a drunken mercenary, which was totally justified after what the guy said about his mother, and gotten his leather armor on loan from an uncle.

But Duncan had a long list of ‘successful’ missions that had generated little income.  He, Tandy and Sternhammer had worked as bodyguards, bounty hunters, night watchmen and once they even hunted wolves.  A few employers hadn’t wanted to pay up, but they’d convinced the holdouts, sometimes at knifepoint.  An entire year of traveling and fighting for whoever could pay had netted them a grant total of 98 guilders after expenses.  You could make more selling insurance.  The lack of money is what left them here on a deserted road in the Land of the Nine Dukes escorting a Brotherhood priest to a new settlement.

Speaking of whom, Father Amago decided this was a good time for another lecture.  “Mercy to others is the fifth step toward purity.  Showing mercy is easy when the other party is deserving, but when they are flawed, as we all are, mercy can be harder to show.  Taking that step, to help those who seem unworthy in our eyes, can be difficult.”

“I worry sometimes that people go easy on me because I’m a woman,” Tandy replied.  “I don’t want to get treated better than someone else.  Let me do my fair share.”

“Thurp!”

“This is the most annoying job we’ve taken,” Duncan said to Sternhammer.  Father Amago and Tandy were so deep in a discussion on religion that they didn’t notice the comment.

The dwarf shook his head.  “Rounding up those drunker aldermen was worse.  It took days to wash off the mess they made on my boots.  The goblin hasn’t pulled pranks on us or set traps.  I’ll stay my hand against him so long as that lasts.”

“How can you put up with this?”

Sternhammer’s stoic expression, or lack of expression, didn’t change.  “I survived my divorce when neither the judge nor my wife’s lawyer were at all merciful.  If I can endure three hundred years of alimony payments, I can deal with this.”

Duncan kept his eyes on the road so he wouldn’t have to look at the goblin.  They were in Duke Kramer’s territory, and while he wasn’t as bloodthirsty as the other dukes it was best if they didn’t run into any soldiers.  The dukes demanded strength, blind obedience and a willingness to accept criminally low pay from their men.  Normally Duncan would have some sympathy for the soldiers, except that such low pay encouraged them to extort money from, well, everyone.  Duncan had 98 guilders, and he had no intention of letting that number drop.  To that end he kept his tiny band to the back roads where they’d likely avoid notice.

“I would like to say how much I appreciate your help in this matter,” Father Amago said.  The young priest wore brown robes and no armor, and he was unarmed.  That was acceptable in civilized lands, but out here it was asking for trouble.  “The Brotherhood of the Righteous insisted I have company for this journey, and you have exceeded all my expectations.  I shall make sure to tell my superiors of your devotion and hard work.”

“You’re too kind,” Tandy said.

“Not at all.  Your reference from the Gilcas Trading House spoke highly of you, and how the caravan you guarded for them didn’t lose a guilder’s worth of cargo.”

Looking nervous, Tandy said, “Um, that’s probably because no one attacked us.”

Duncan nudged Tandy and whispered, “Don’t say things like that in front of a client.”

“I’m not going to lie to a priest.”  She was whispering, too, but managed to make her reply sound hot.

“It’s not a lie.  It’s an omission.”

“What’s the difference?”

Duncan glanced at the priest and whispered, “My way we might get another job.”

The goblin ran between them and yelled, “Thurp!”

“I’m especially grateful how well the three of you have handled a trip of this duration,” Father Amago continued.  “Four weeks of walking has been taxing, but we’ll reach High Ridge soon.”

“I’ve never heard of that settlement,” Sternhammer said.  The forested road they were traveling on was deserted, with no houses of any kind.  Wherever High Ridge was, it was a long way from here.

“It’s quite new, and I am eager to meet them,” Father Amago replied.  That fit with what Duncan knew of the Brotherhood of the Righteous.  They sent priests to every town they could find to win over the locals.  Rulers like the Nine Dukes didn’t like the Brotherhood showing up, as they had a bad habit of insisting that rulers follow their own rules.  If the Brotherhood was strong enough in a kingdom they could make the rulers behave, something no king or nobleman appreciated.

Sternhammer grunted and said, “I imagine so.  I have good maps of the Land of the Nine Dukes, and there’s no mention of a High Ridge.  How did you hear of it?”

Looking up at the sky, Father Amago said, “I received a vision.”

“Really?” Tandy asked excitedly.

Not sounding at all excited, Duncan asked, “Really?”

“I heard His voice telling me to seek the town of High Ridge,” the priest said solemnly.  “He said there were souls there in need of guidance, and that I should bring a cow.”

“Unusually specific,” Sternhammer replied.

“Uh oh,” Duncan said under his breath.  The priest hadn’t mentioned this before.  As far as Duncan was concerned anyone who was hearing voices qualified as unreliable, right up there with merchants who say ‘it’s a bargain’ and lawyers who say ‘trust me’.  He started to wonder if there even was a town of High Ridge.  Wouldn’t that be great, they might be looking for a town that didn’t exist!

“Thurp.”  The goblin ran ahead of them, offering Duncan some minor relief.  The goblin went up the road to the top of a hill and began jumping around.  The pest was pointing and shouting at something, but with the goblin’s limited vocabulary (Thurp!), there was no way to tell if a good thing or a bad thing had his attention.

Duncan waved the others back and headed up the hill.  When he got to the top he grabbed the goblin and dragged him back down.  He told the others, “There’s a river ahead with a toll bridge over it.  The river’s pretty narrow so I figure we can find a shallow spot and wade across.  That way Duke Kramer’s men won’t see us and we won’t have to pay.”

“Thurp!”  The goblin waved his club toward the bridge.

“As long as the riverbank isn’t too steep.  I wouldn’t want Bessie to hurt herself.” Father Amago stroked his cow’s back.  The goblin grabbed Father Amago by the arm and pulled hard.  The priest seemed confused but went along.

Duncan ran after them.  “We don’t want to go up there.”

“He seems to think we do,” Father Amago said.  Duncan rolled his eyes as the goblin and priest went up the hill.  He followed them to make sure they stayed out of sight.  When they got to the top, Duncan did his best to make sure the other two stayed in cover.  Father Amago nodded and said, “I believe I see the problem.”

Duncan studied the bridge.  Everything seemed boring enough.  There weren’t any people waiting to cross, but on an isolated road like this that wasn’t surprising.  “What do you see?”

“I see a toll booth and no one manning it,” Father Amago said.  “My understanding of local events is sadly lacking, but road tolls are a reliable source of revenue for any government.  Why doesn’t Duke Kramer have men here?”

Tandy and Sternhammer followed with the cow.  Sternhammer shrugged, his response to most of life’s problems, and said, “We can continue without wasting coins or time.”

Duncan led the group on slowly.  The priest was right that this was strange.  Duncan had ducked quite a few tolls in his days, and every time there had been armed men to make sure people paid.  They reached the stone bridge and found the toll booth ruined, smashed open and burned.  There were cuts in the wood booth like it had been attacked with an ax.  Sternhammer checked for valuables and came up empty handed.

“It’s been cleared out,” the dwarf announced.  “There’s no money nor signs of coins melting in the fire.  Judging by the damage and missing coins, this was a robbery.”

Tandy waved her sword at the wreckage.  “That’s insane.  If I was going to rob a toll booth I wouldn’t chop it up and burn it down.  Just break down the door and grab the money.  This is way more work than you’d have to do.”

“Thurp.”

“See, he agrees with me,” she said.

Father Amago made a holy gesture in the air and declared, “Evil times are upon this land.”

Duncan had little interest in how Duke Kramer collected money as long as it wasn’t his, but if someone was attacking government property then things were bad.  Maybe one of the other dukes was invading Kramer.  The Nine Dukes went to war so often it was almost seasonal, like robins coming back in spring.  But Tandy was right, the damage was excessive…almost animalistic.

Drawing his sword, Duncan said, “We move fast and quiet until we find out who or what did this.”

Father Amago studied the ruins.  “I hope the people of High Ridge are safe.”

“I hope there are a people of High Ridge,” Duncan muttered.

They spent the next few hours moving as fast as they could.  The cow slowed them down and made far more noise than Duncan liked, but they still made good progress.  The forests thinned out and were replaced with cropland.  More worrying, the damage they’d seen on the bridge was evident elsewhere.  They came across two farmhouses burned down to the foundation stones.  Thankfully there were no bodies, but there were an awful lot of footprints for such a lonely place.

“These tracks are fresh,” Duncan said.  He looked at Sternhammer and said, “Check your maps and find us another road.”

Sternhammer took out a vellum map and unrolled it.  “The next town on the map is Fire Light.  We can reach it in five hours of hard marching or take another road going southeast.  That one comes dangerously close to a branch office of the law firm of Billin Bye d’Hour.  I should add that during my divorce their lawyers are the ones who took my house, workshop, pension, gold, company stocks and pet gerbil.”

“Thurp,” The goblin said sympathetically.  He made a caressing motion with his hands, as if he were petting the lost gerbil.

“Right, we’ll be safer in the town,” Duncan said.  He wasn’t crazy enough to enter a nest of lawyer no matter how dangerous it was out here.

“A warm tavern bed to sleep in sounds wonderful,” Tandy said.  She saw Duncan’s disapproving look and frowned.  “We can afford it!”

“I can’t,” Sternahmmer told her.  “This month’s alimony payment is due soon.”

Just then a flock of birds burst from the trees a hundred feet further down the road and shot into the sky.  There were over a hundred of them and no visible cause for them to flee.  Duncan backed away.  “I hear voices.  Into the trees, now.”

The adventurers, goblin and cow did their best to hide in the woods, but the trees were too far away to reach in time.  The raucous crowd coming down the road numbered about a hundred men, dirty, shabbily dressed and armed.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” one of them shouted.  The rest of the crowded laughed and encircled Duncan and his friends.

“Travelers,” Duncan said.  He kept his sword up and got his back against a lone tree.  “We’re headed for the town of High Ridge, or barring that Fire Light.  Whatever quarrel you have that makes you travel armed doesn’t involve us.”

A large man with a dull sword and wood shield swaggered up to Duncan.  “We decide what involves us or not.  You’re headed nowhere, stripling.  There’s no town in a hundred miles of here called High Ridge.  As for Fire Light, there’s no town by that name anymore.”

The men laughed, a callous, hateful braying that made it clear who was responsible for the destruction of Fire Light.  They edged closer, fingering their weapons and grinning.  Duncan couldn’t see a way out of this with his life, much less his money, but he’d no intention of going quietly.  The Stormeye family was a lot of things, but never cowards.

“Stop!”  Father Amago stepped in front of Duncan.  The priest raised his hands not in surrender but to point at the ragged horde facing them.

The crowd looked surprised, and many glanced back and forth.  Father Amago walked up to the crowd’s leader.  “You two men wear army uniforms.  You’ve deserted the Nine Dukes.  Those men there wear the red jackets of the Coral Ring Merchant House.  I see scars from shackles on the wrists of many here, proof you were once jailed.  You were all good men once, but you’ve fallen from the light of His presence.”

“His?” the enemy leader asked.

Another man leaned over and said, “Capital h His.”  Waving his hand up at the sky, he added, “You know, Him.”

“People still believe that?” the leader said.  He raised his sword and shouted, “I believe in steel!  I believe in gold!  I believe in whiskey and the Fallen King and my own right arm!  I don’t need anything else!”

The crowd cheered, but Father Amago shouted over them.  “Fools!  I cannot count how many fell to the same lies!  You dull yourselves with drink and violence, living only for your next minute.  The world has seen millions of men no different from you, and few live longer than a year.”

Father Amago pressed forward, and to Duncan’s surprise the mob of human vermin fell back.  “What promises did this Fallen King make you?  Freedom?  Revenge?  Wealth?  Lies, one and all.  His freedom is the freedom of the grave, where no one may ask or demand anything of you.  The revenge he offers is to kill and maim those who should be your brothers.  The wealth he promises you won’t last, for you destroy the towns that create that wealth.”

With that he pulled out a holy text from his robes and held it up.  “The path you walk upon can only lead to your deaths.  But even after what you have done there is hope, for He is forgiving.  He is just.  He is righteous.  You may kill us, but if you survive this battle it will only be to lose the next one or the next after that.  Your false king offers you nothing save lies and betrayal.  Come, and be redeemed.”

There was a short pause as the crowd stared back before their leader said, “That has got to be the finest last words I’ve ever heard.  Kill them, and save the woman.”

Tandy raised her sword.  “The woman doesn’t need saving.”

The crowd was about to charge in when Thurp when mad.  Granted, he was a goblin, but this was mad even for his kind.  The little goblins screamed his one word vocabulary and ran between the Fallen King’s forces.  He swung his club at rocks and trees, bashing it into the ground, basically hitting everything except the people who were trying to kill him.  The Fallen King’s forces stopped and laughed.  Thurp kept hammering away at inanimate objects like tree stumps.  The entire time he shouted, “Thurp, thurp, thurp!”

Pop!  A door opened on a hillside where Thurp had struck it.  Creak!  The ground split open as more hidden doors opened.  Every place he’s struck was the door to a hidden house filled with goblins.  Goblins poured out by the hundreds until there was a thousand of them, armed with hammers, clubs, spears and rocks.  The Fallen King’s men were so shocked they staggered back as the goblins emerged.

“Right, what’s this about?” a goblin with webbed fingers asked.

“Thurp,” Thurp said, and pointed at Duncan and his friends.  Thurp then pointed at the Fallen King’s rabble, and his voice dropped to a low, deadly, “Thurp.”

“That clears that up,” the other goblin said.  “Right, let’s take out the trash.”

Duncan had no idea what was going on, but he wasn’t going to question good luck.  He charged alongside the goblins with Tandy and Sternhammer at his side.  Sternhammer was a living fortress, weapons bouncing off his heavy armor as he struck anyone fool enough to approach him.  Tandy and Duncan were fast enough to support the goblins whenever the Fallen King’s men threatened to overwhelm them.  They ran across the battlefield dealing with threats while Sternhammer moved relentlessly forward.

Father Amago headed straight for the enemy leader.  The priest shouted praise to his God, ending with the words, “God grant me strength!”

A pale blue light poured from his open hand, which he clenched into a fist.  The verminous leader raised his wood shield, and the priest drove his fist through it.  Wood splintered and the shield was cracked in half.  His next punch went into the leader’s gut, and the blow sent him sailing into the air where he crashed into a tree.

Duncan saw the enemy leader land next to him, and he spared the priest a quick look.  Red faced, Father Amago explained, “I have issues with anger.  I’m working on it.”

The rabble was barely organized, and with their leader down they panicked.  Many threw down their weapons as they fled.  Many didn’t escape as the goblins pulled them down and tied them up.  One man tried to escape with the group’s flag, a foul thing showing a crown dripping blood.  Duncan kicked him to the ground and chopped the flag to pieces.

It was, Duncan reflected, the most one sided battle he’d been in.

 

 

It was hard to judge how much they’d gotten from the battle.  Most of the Fallen King’s men were broke, and their weapons were so poorly cared for they wouldn’t be worth much.  In spite of that they still walked away with 27 guilders in cash and another 38 in salvaged gear.  The rest went to the goblins, who weren’t too picky about their weapons’ quality.

“What’s that thing?” a goblin asked and pointed at the cow.  The poor animal was tied to a tree, still frightened from the battle.

“It’s a cow, stupid,” another goblin said.

“Really?”  The first goblin came over and smiled.  He was quickly joined my more curious goblins who touched and petted the cow.  “I’ve heard of these things.  Where does the cheese come out?”

“I’m grateful for the help,” Duncan told the goblins.

“We had to do it,” the goblin with webbed fingers told him.  “These guys are running all over the place.  They’re torching everything they can get their hands on, human or goblin built.  Even the dukes aren’t this destructive.  It’s come down to fight or lose everything.”

“Thurp.”  Thurp walked up to the goblin with webbed fingers and pointed at Father Amago.

“You don’t say,” the webbed fingered goblin said.

“It’s all he does say,” Duncan said.  “Maybe you can help us with a problem.  Have you ever heard of a town called High Ridge?”

The webbed fingered goblin blinked.  “That would be us.”


Submitted: July 25, 2015

© Copyright 2021 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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LauraKJourner

Actually loved this! Wish I could write fantasy as well and consistently as you. So looking forward to more of this.

Sat, July 25th, 2015 7:01pm

Author
Reply

I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I try to write two stories a month, but it can be challenging at times. In regards to your own writing, don't sell yourself short. My work came from years of practice (writing junk I have long since deleted) and reading what successful authors wrote. With time and practice you'll outdo me.

Sat, July 25th, 2015 6:41pm

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