Goblin Stories XX

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Wars have a bad habit of interfering with your life, and there's no reason you should put up with that.

Submitted: September 10, 2015

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Submitted: September 10, 2015

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“This is a strange way to start a Tuesday,” Ibwibble the Terrifying said as he watched a girl riding a washtub down the nearby river.  He had no objections to her method of transportation, but humans had all kinds of silly laws (like no dumping baked beans on the mayor), and he was sure this was against the rules.  Humans this young seldom traveled alone in the wilderness, either.  The event was even stranger because he hadn’t seen a human in days.

Bang!  The washtub hit rocks hidden in the shallow water.  The girl’s transport was made of metal and already had plenty of dents in it.  This one must have been the last straw, for she abandoned ship and scrambled onto the flat rocks edging the river.

“Hello!” she called.  Ibwibble assumed she was trying to attract the attention of other humans, but she pointed straight at him and waved again.  “Can you hear me?”

Ibwibble got up from his crude camp in the tall grass growing near the river.  He had green skin and black hair, and he wore clothes covered in bulging pockets.  He also carried a rucksack filled with tools and useful bits, a new addition to his outfit.  It was kind of surprising the girl saw him, as he’d done a good job hiding.

“I’m looking for a—” the girl shrieked as she nearly lost her footing on the slippery rocks.  It didn’t help that her boots were three sizes too big and stuffed with handkerchiefs to make them fit.  Once she regained her balance, she said, “I’m looking for a place to buy food.”

Ibwibble looked around the forest glen.  There were no houses about and no roads, which was ideal for people trying to stay out of sight and not at all helpful if you were looking for a hot meal.  That plus who she was asking for help made him laugh.

“You’re asking a goblin for directions?”

“I’d ask someone else if there was someone else, but you’re it,” the girl countered.  “My ride’s leaking like a sieve, I’ve run out of bread and I’m miles from home, thank God, so I’m desperate enough to ask anyone.”

“I am not a tour guide or a chef,” he declared.  Striking a fist against his chest, he said, “I am Ibwibble the Terrifying!  Run in fear if you like, or scream.  It won’t help, but it might make you feel better.”

The girl giggled.  “I don’t scream when I see a goblins.  That’s something children do.  I’m fifteen.”

“Fifteen what?” he asked.  Ibwibble studied the girl and decided she wasn’t a threat.  She was slender with long brown hair and brown eyes.  Besides the oversized boots, she wore a deerskin leather blouse and skirt, both with blue beads sewn in elaborate patterns.  The girl carried a backpack and walking stick, but no weapons.

“Fifteen years, silly,” she said.  The girl curtsied and added, “Ann Marie Questor.”

“That’s a big name for a little girl.”

That got her scowling.  “I’m not a little girl, which is kind of the problem.  I’m running away from home and an arranged marriage.  Do you know what it’s like to have your parents run your life like you’re a slave?”

Ibwibble gathered his things and scuffed up his campsite so know one would know he’d been there.  “What answer would end this conversation?”

“It’s terrible!” Ann Marie shouted.  When Ibwibble walked away she followed him and continued her lament.  “I could deal with most of it.  I did my chores, I did my lessons at school and I even looked after my little brothers and sisters.  I couldn’t have a minute to myself without someone pestering me for help.”

Running in front of Ibwibble, she looked him in the eye and announced, “But then they decided I had to get married.  At fifteen!  I ran away in the middle of the night and stole a washtub to ride downriver and get away.  I even had to borrow a pair of boots since I only had slippers.”

“Can’t say I understand the problem,” Ibwibble told her.  He marched away from her, but the girl kept after him.  He final set down his rucksack and said, “Following me is a bad idea.  I’m a known troublemaker with a bounty on my head.  It’s not big enough by half, or even three quarters, but dangerous men are after me all the same, so you’d best be on your way.”

“What did you do to get a price on your head?”

If there was one thing Ibwibble liked talking about, it was himself, and Ann Marie just gave him the perfect opening.  He struck a pose and said, “I’ve led a long and colorful career, which the brain damaged idiots living here forgot, but in the last month I reminded them to fear the name Ibwibble when I took up hunting tax collectors.”

“Tax collectors?”

“I’ve bagged three of them,” he told her.  “I track them, kick them in the shins, chase off their horses and paint them whatever color of paint is handy.  They’re fierce beasts and hard to find, but it only takes one tax collector to ruin an entire village.”

Ann Marie nodded.  “That fits my experience.”

Ibwibble pointed at her and said, “There’s room in this land for one source of chaos, and that’s me.  Since these tax collectors don’t understand that I’m running them off one at a time, and when I’m done there won’t be a person here who doesn’t know the name Ibwibble the Terrifying.”

“Do you do evil suitors?” Ann Marie asked.

“Is he terrifying?”

“I’ll say!  He’s thirty years older than me and three hundred pounds heavier!”

Ibwibble looked at Ann Marie and made some calculations.  “So you’re about a hundred pounds…”

Anna Marie put her hands on her hips.  “Ninety!”

“Right, ninety, so he’s got to be about…wow!  I’m trying to picture how that would work.”

“That’s why I left,” Ann Marie said.  She sighed and looked down.  “I like boys, but ones my own age.  I get that mom and dad are scared and wanted protection for the family, but why did they have to make a pact with the richest man in town when they knew his only son was as big as a whale?  That’s how deals are sealed, you know, with marriages between two families no matter how harebrained and mismatched those marriages are.”

Ibwibble picked up his rucksack and headed out again.  “It’s a shame, no two ways about it.  I suppose I could take out the tax collector coming after your family, but I’m already on the trail of another one of the buggers headed due east.  He just hit a town and is headed for another one.”

“They’re not doing this because of a tax collector,” she told Ibwibble.  “Didn’t you hear about the army?”

Ibwibble stopped.  “Army?”

“The big, scary army rampaging across the countryside, burning towns, eating every bite of food, stealing everything they can lay their hands on, that army.  There are ten thousand of them and they’re following someone called the Fallen King.  My family is so scared of them that they arranged a pact and marriage with the most powerful family in our town for protection.  How can you not have heard about this?  It’s been going on for months.”

“Burning towns?”  Ibwibble tried to grasp the situation and failed miserably.  “This ‘army’, it’s more dangerous than tax collectors?”

“It’s like a whole horde of tax collectors.”

Throwing down his rucksack, Ibwibble shouted, “Well this is a fine howdy do!  Here I am trying to make a name for myself, and this ‘army’ decides to show up and ruin everything!  This is my territory!  Mine!  I spent decades sowing confusion and spending way too much time on a marketing campaign to get my name out there, and I did not do it so this ‘army’ could show up and ruin everything!”

Ibwibble proceeded to throw a tantrum, stomping the grass flat and kicking innocent squirrels (well, relatively innocent).  He screamed and shouted, swearing in troll, gnome and elven, before falling flat on his back.

Ann Marie walked over and looked down at him.  “Are you okay?”

“I just found out my life’s work is being erased by an army eating everything in sight.  It is not a good day.”

“I know you have problems, but I’m kind of out of food.”

Ibwibble got up and picked up his rucksack.  A few things had fallen out and he needed a minute to stuff them back in.  “There’s a village not far from here.  The tax collector is headed there next, so there might not be much left and they might not be in the mood to share.”

Smiling, Ann Marie held up a purse and jingled it.  “I brought money.”

 

 

The trip through the woods was uneventful.  Ann Marie’s boots tried to come off several times and she had to stuff more handkerchiefs in them so they’d fit.  She filled the time telling Ibwibble about her hometown, including her friends, enemies and neighbors.  She shared detailed information about them all, specifically who was dating who and whether she thought the relationships would last.

Ibwibble didn’t care about any of this, and any other time he would have made insults and sarcastic remarks.  This time he didn’t.  He was a beaten goblin, his life rendered meaningless.  It was hard enough to get noticed when you’re small and weak (not to mention smelly), even more so when you’re a goblin.  Others might have shrugged it off, most goblins could, but not Ibwibble.  He wanted to be known and respected.  He’d spent twenty years pulling off the most outrageous stunts to get noticed.

But it was for nothing.  No one would remember him or respect him with tax collectors and this Fallen King hogging the limelight.  What was a Fallen King, anyway?  Did the man trip or something?  The guy couldn’t walk without falling over, and somehow he still got the respect Ibwibble hungered for just because he had an army.

“I told Jessica that Tony wasn’t good for her, but she wouldn’t listen until she saw him flirting with that tramp Ellen,” Ann Marie told him.  “The jerk didn’t get that he’d done something wrong even after Jessica slapped him.  I say he got off easy.  I’d have kneed him between the legs.”

Ibwibble grabbed her hand and pulled down hard.  Ann Marie squeaked in surprise before Ibwibble could put a hand over her mouth.

“I smell smoke.”  Ibwibble took a deep breath and frowned.  “It’s too strong for a cooking fire.  Wait here.”

Ibwibble scurried through the dense undergrowth between the trees.  He was careful to avoid brushing into a plant that might move and betray his location, and he was as quiet as a mouse.  He reached the edge of the woods and stopped, his eyes wide in horror.

Ann Marie scurried up behind him.  “What is it?”

“The tax collector got here first.”

The village was gone, a flat plain of ash where it once was.  Ibwibble had been through here a few weeks ago and found a small but happy community of two hundred humans with cows, goats, sheep and donkeys.  The humans were gone and so were their animals.  Where the houses had been were only ashes and scattered stones that had once been chimneys.  The bare fields in the distance were the only sign people once lived here.

Ann Marie peeked around him.  “Tax collectors don’t usual do this.”

Ibwibble got up and went to inspect the damage.  “I’d heard they were fierce, but this is horrible.  There were cows here, Ann Marie.  No cows, no cheese.”  Studying the ground, he added, “There are tracks, but not enough for this army with ten thousand men.”

Ann Marie followed him and dug through the ashes with the tip of her boot.  She snapped her fingers and smiled.  “Wait, wait, I know what happened!  The town was destroyed on purpose.”

Looking at her with a mix of confusion and disbelief, Ibwibble said, “What?”

Ann Marie ran her fingers through the ashes and said, “The ashes were raked through.  See the lines?  Farmers burn down their houses when they’re too beaten up to use or if they have to move.  Then they rake the ashes to get out the nails.”

“Why?”

“Wood grows on trees, but nails cost money,” she said with a smile.

Ibwibble shook his head.  “One guy burning down his house to start over makes sense, especially if insurance was involved.  But two hundred people burning their houses down, and not one of them rebuilding?”

“Ooh, new idea,” she said.  “The people ran away from the tax collector or Fallen King, maybe both.  They couldn’t take their houses with them and needed the nails to rebuild, so they burned them down to get the nails.”

Walking through the ruins was eerie, like entering a graveyard.  There was the sense of something missing, or worse, something lost.  It left Ibwibble feeling cold.  He knew there were more villages and towns near here.  How many of them had been abandoned and burned out?

There was a rumbling in the distance.  Ibwibble grabbed Ann Marie by the hand and dragged her away.  “We’re leaving.  Come on.”

“Okay, okay!  What’s gotten into you?”

“I heard something to the west.  If these people ran off because they thought an army was coming, maybe an army is coming!”

“Running faster!”

They reached the edge of the woods as the approaching sound grew louder.  Taking cover behind some trees, they waited as hundreds of people came down the road.  It was hard to see who they were with the dust and ash they kicked up.  Ibwibble strained his eyes and picked out figures in the dust cloud.  They heard the sound of men moving and speaking alongside the braying of donkeys.

“Keep moving,” a voice in the dust called out.  “It’s just a few more miles to base camp and food.  You’ll be okay, but we need to keep moving.”

A strong wind kicked up and blew away the dust to reveal refugees fleeing with their livestock and possessions.  Donkeys and oxen pulled carts loaded with clothes, tools, children and elderly.  Armed men escorted the refugees, and while they were few those men looked dangerous.

“Three villages lost,” an armored man hissed.  “We keep losing ground to these cretins.”

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” a man in blue leather armor replied.  “The Fallen King is pushing us and the dukes hard, and he has the men to do it.  I don’t see a way out that doesn’t involve running.”

“We can starve them out if we keep sacrificing villages and farmland, but it also leaves us weaker,” the hissing man said.  “Rebuilding will cost us dearly in lost food and farm goods.  We could win the war, only to rule nothing but ash and ruin.”

“Who are these people?” Ann Marie whispered to Ibwibble.

“They’re with the Evil Overlord Joshua,” a voice whispered from behind them.  “Stand up nice and slow, and goblin, you keep those daggers in your pockets.”

Ibwibble and Ann Marie got up slowly and raised their hands.  Most of the refugees continued on while the hissing man and his friend came over to investigate.

“Good work, Kretchner,” the man in the blue leather armor said to the dangerous looking man behind Ibwibble and An Marie.  The man in blue smiled like there were things going wrong with his brain.  Ibwibble decided then and there that he liked him.  “We’ve run into a fair number of the Fallen King’s scouts, but you two don’t look like you’d qualify for the job.”

Ann Marie curtsied and said, “We’re running for our lives, sir.”

“Smart girl,” the hissing man said.

“She’s saving herself from an arranged marriage, and possibly cracked ribs if the guy is as heavy as she says,” Ibwibble told them.  “Me, I’m trying to figure out how my home territory got overrun with tax collectors and kings who keep falling over.”

“What was that last one?” the hissing man asked.

Thumping his chest with both fists, he declared, “I’m Ibwibble the Terrifying, and I am sick to death of yahoos showing up and causing mayhem and chaos.  That’s my job!  I don’t know who you’re with or what you want, but this territory is taken, so clear out and make a name for yourself somewhere else.”

The smiling man leaned in close.  “I’m twice as tall as you and ten times as dangerous.”

If that was supposed to intimidate Ibwibble, it didn’t.  He clenched his fists and narrowed his eyes, saying, “Bring it on.”

The hissing man took the smiling man by the shoulder and pulled him back.  “Wait, I’ve heard of him.”

“Finally, someone knows about me!  Did you find out from my business cards or my publicist?”

“Neither,” the hissing man replied, which proved to Ibwibble that both the time and money spent in those efforts was wasted.  “Ibwibble has been plaguing this region for decades, causing considerable annoyance and property damage.  As of late he’s been attacking tax collectors working for the Nine Dukes.”

“So I’m only eight times as dangerous?” the smiling man asked.

“Try six.”  Turning to Ibwibble and Ann Marie, he said, “The Fallen King is your foe, little one, not us.  We’re fleeing his forces and heading for rough ground where he can’t easily dislodge us.  We’ve emptied and burned the towns we rule in his army’s path so he can’t feed his men by looting them, but it’s not enough.  His army will be here by nightfall.  Come with us and fight him, or flee before he arrives.  The choice is yours.”

“I’m coming!” Ann Marie said.

“Do we want her?” the smiling man asked.

“I can read, write, and I’m good at math,” she told them.

The hissing man paused to study her carefully.  “Can you do bookkeeping or accounts receivable?”

“I can fake it.”

“Good enough.  And you, goblin?”

Ibwibble looked back at the wreckage that used to be a village.  In Ibwibble’s tiny little mind this place had been his, his to annoy, his to steal cheese from, his to proclaim his importance, and it was gone.  More villages might be lost soon, also his, all because of the Fallen King, a man who couldn’t even stand up right.  Ibwibble was losing his place in history to an idiot.

This wouldn’t do.  He opened his rucksack and took out a folding shovel.  Locking the two halves in place, he said, “I’ll catch up to you.”

Alarmed, Ann Marie said, “Wait, you can’t—”

“No,” he said firmly.  He marched to the middle of the devastated town and started digging.  “I’ve been in a foul mood all day, and that man is the reason why.  He thinks he can push Ibwibble the Terrifying around, and it’s high time he learned nobody does that.  I’m going to throw a tantrum of epic proportions.  We are talking snares, pit traps, falling logs, dung lobbers, and everything else I can dream up and throw together in time.”

“Dung lobbers?” the smiling man asked.

“Don’t asked,” the hissing man replied.

Ibwibble stopped digging just long enough to shake his shovel at the sky and declare, “I didn’t start this fight, for a change, but by golly I’m ending it!”

 

 

It was nearly dark when the lead elements of the Fallen King’s army arrived.  They’d been running to get to this village before it could be evacuated and burned, and even under the light of their guttering torches one look showed they were too late.  Hungry, tired and dispirited, the men’s shoulders drooped at the prospect of another night spent under the stars with little to eat.

One man pointed his sword at a goblin standing in the middle of the burned village.  “Hey, what’s he doing here?”

The men approached with swords drawn.  They’d heard the Evil Overlord Joshua employed a few goblins, so this might be a messenger from him.  Given that it was a goblin it was far more likely this was a trap.  The little pest didn’t run away, instead watching with a disgruntled expression as they drew closer.  When a man with the Fallen King’s flag approached, the goblin pointed at it.

“You’re with the Fallen King?  The guy who fell and can’t get up?”

“Watch it, goblin!” a swordsman shouted.  “I’m in the mood to hurt somebody, and you’ll do just fine.”

Another swordsman said, “We’re with the Fallen King.  What’s it to you?”

The goblin reached down and picked up the ends of several long ropes made of vines twisted together.  When he lifted them, the men could see that the ropes stretched out across the destroyed village, some coming very close to them.

“Just making sure,” Ibwibble said.  He pulled hard on a rope, triggering the first of many traps and sending men screaming into a pit.  From there things just got worse.


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