Goblin Stories XXI

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's good to have friends, especially ones who can cut through steel.

Submitted: September 25, 2015

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Submitted: September 25, 2015

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Habbly sat under a tree and watched water pour down a waterfall, happy that no one was trying to kill him, rob him or even kick him in the shin.  It was a welcome change and likely caused by the fact that there was no one around for miles.  That was surprising since the waterfall was so beautiful, divided into many small streams and forming pools up and down the cliff.  Flowers bloomed, bees buzzed and birds chirped.  This place was gorgeous and should be drawing sightseers, but somehow he was the only one to enjoy its beauty…well, him and his sword.

This reminds me of the Treter River,” Sworn Doom said.  The short sword sat in the lush grass besides Habbly.  Gems studded the sword’s hilt and its glowing blade was decorated with dragons.  Habbly didn’t understand how the sword could see when it had no eyes, but it did.  “Pity you weren’t around to see it back then.  The elves redirected the river to flood one of their cities back during the civil war.  Ruined the falls and the city.”

That got Habbly’s attention.  He sat up in the grass near the bottom of the falls.  “They flooded their own city?”

“The city was going to fall to a rival elf faction, so the owners dug a channel to the river and diverted water to flood it.  Their thinking was if they couldn’t have their city then no one should.  It wasn’t the elves’ finest hour.  Still, the taller towers ended up above the waterline, and I hear humans live in them and get around by boat.”

“The elf civil war was long ago.  Why didn’t they put the river back the way it was and drain the city?”

Sworn Doom chuckled.  “Ten elven families claim the entire city for themselves.  As long as it’s underwater that’s not an issue since none of them can have it, but if it became available again blood would flow freely.  It’s safer for all concerned to leave the city beneath the waves.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“You’re preaching to the choir.”

Habbly shrugged, something he’d done a lot since getting Sworn Doom.  The little goblin had a mop of dirty brown hair that covered his eyes, and a long braid that started at the back of his head and went to the ground.  His clothes were dirty and torn, and his skin tanned both from the sun and dirt smeared on it (bathing not being a popular goblin activity).  He wore a red shirt under his coat, nearly hidden since red shirts were widely considered unlucky, and a leather strap he wrapped around Sword Doom whenever it was necessary to hide the sword.

Two years ago Habbly escaped from Battle Island, a wretched den of violence and depravity unequaled anywhere on Other Place.  He’d grown up there and spent seven years hiding from the worst the world could throw at him.  He’d stolen Sworn Doom from the tyrant who ruled Battle Island and together they’d fled for better lands.  That was the plan, anyway.  The tyrant had offered a reward for the sword, and countless people had come after them.  Worse, elves had come in record number to claim Sworn Doom, for the sword was once one of their empire’s greatest treasures, a weapon trusted only to elves that personally served their emperors.

Average days for Habbly and Sword Doom involved avoiding bounty hunters, adventurers, thieves, wizards and countless elves.  Bad days (which happened often), involved being spotted by these people and running for their lives.  Odd days, which were happening more often as of late, involved sitting back and watching as the bounty hunters, adventurers, thieves, wizards and countless elves fought one another for the right to mug Habbly.  Back on Battle Island such brutal contests drew large audiences.

Recently the pair had found refuge in the Land of the Nine Dukes, a land of poverty and near constant war as the dukes continued their centuries long feud.  Bad as it was, in the last few months a host of new players had appeared.  There was the Overlord Joshua who had seized a lot of land with his army of outlaws.  The Fallen King was on the move with ten thousands brigands.  The Barrel Wrights were trying to organize a peasant rebellion, rarely successful but often attempted.  Lastly there were small players like the wizard Oliman, dangerous men operating on the fringes of civilization.

The Land of the Nine Dukes was dangerous, but it was possible to hide in such a sea of conflict.  Local knights and soldiers were too busy fighting to hunt for Habbly and Sworn Doom.  People looking for the sword had to contend with the armies that haunted the land.  It was easy to lose people in such chaos.  Habbly kept moving all the same, staying in the wilderness where roads were few and seldom traveled.

“How long were you planning on being here?” Sworn Doom asked.

“Just a few more hours.  I hear the coastline is pretty bare these days.  We should be able to hide for a while, maybe sleep in deserted towns.”

There might be pirates or scoundrels to smite.”  The sword sounded cheerful at the prospect.  It didn’t want Habbly to get hurt, but it had an overblown opinion of his fighting skill.  Habbly had survived a lot of battles by running away (which it called strategic retreats), dirty tricks (which it called being resourceful) and occasionally fighting (which it called fun).  Sworn Doom was no bully, but if the chance came to give someone a beating it thought was deserved, the sword was all for it.

Habbly stood and picked up Sworn Doom before leaving the peaceful waterfall.  It was tempting to stay, but he’d learned the hard way to keep moving.  He kept the sword out since there was no need to hide it in the wilderness.  “I hear there are ruined castles on the coastline.”

They’re likely occupied by thieves or monsters,” Sworn Doom said.  “In the waning days of the elf civil war there was a push to tear down old forts and damaged castles since so many of them were infested with monsters and rogue lawyers.”

“Why not fix them up and use them?”

“Not enough men to do the work, not enough soldiers to garrison the forts, not enough time and not enough money.”

“I’ve never understood this ‘money’ thing,” Habbly said as he headed south.  He followed the river since the way was pretty clear and a source of water.  “It’s just shiny rocks!  I’m all for collecting things.I knew a goblin who collected left shoes after eating the right ones, but that was just a thing with him.  Why all this fuss over gold?”

It’s a matter of rarity,” the sword explained.  “Shoes are common so they aren’t greatly valued.  Gold is hard to find so it’s more valuable.”

“Skull root and witch weed are rare, but nobody wants them,” Habbly countered.

Rarity is only part of the reason.  An item also has to be useful for people to want it.  Gold is beautiful, easy to shape and doesn’t rust, even if it doesn’t take enchantments well.  But you’re right, people do the stupidest and cruelest things imaginable for gold.  Me, I’ve always been a big believer of land as a reliable source of wealth.  Get yourself a vineyard or fruit orchard and you were set for life, assuming no one floods it.”

Habbly looked at Sworn Doom, painfully aware that gold wasn’t the only thing people would kill for.  He liked the sword and the feeling was reciprocated, but as long as they were together he’d have no peace.  Too many people wanted the sword and would chase him to the ends of the world to get it.

What was he to do?  He’d be safe if he gave the sword away, but criminals and elves would chase the new owner.  The poor slob would be as miserable as Habbly was now, and likely come to a bad end.  Turning over the sword to the elves would be wrong since Sworn Doom didn’t want to work with them, and because they wanted him for bad reasons like reviving their empire.  Hiding the sword would be just as bad since someone would find it sooner or later.  Worse, Sworn Doom had spent years alone in a treasury on Battle Island, a lonely time, and abandoning it would be as bad.

“Have I even told you about Emperor Opinos?  He was the last emperor worth the title.  No new palaces during his reign, no planet wide celebrations, no, he just tried to make things work.  I saved his life early on.  I think he forgave me eventually.”

Puzzled, Habbly asked, “Shouldn’t he have thanked you?”

“After I saved him he spent thirty years trying to keep the empire from ripping itself to pieces.  It didn’t help that his own followers wanted him dead so they could have the throne.  I don’t think a day went by that someone didn’t try to kill him.  He eventually retired and took up stamp collecting, which cut down on the assassination attempts a bit.  Seriously, poisoned stamps, who’d have thought it?”

Habbly went under a fallen tree.  “How could you have an empire like that?”

It wasn’t all bad, or all the time.  It built up over the years like rot spreading through a house.  The big problem was that later generations took everything for granted.  They inherited their wealth and authority, and they assumed that was the way it should be rather than something they had to earn.  Habbly…”

“I know.  Two of them up ahead and to the left.”  Habbly watched shadowy forms slip through the woods ahead of him.  The two figures were on top of a hill that ran on the east side of the river, about fifty yards away and behind lush growth.  Spotting them was no trouble.  You don’t last seven years on Battle Island unless you’re observant.  He wasn’t too worried about them since they were staying still.  Then one of them tripped and fell down the slope into the river.

This has got to be the most incompetent attack on you ever.”

“Roy!” the other person called out.  The one who’d fallen tried to get up and slipped.  Now that he was out of cover, Habbly could see it was a younger man wearing shabby clothes (Habbly’s were better, and that said something).  The second man still on the hillside tried to go down to help, but slipped on the way down and slid into the first man.

Habbly watched the astounding incompetence.  “I don’t have words for this.”

“I do, but they all have four letters.  Let’s just leave.”

“Walking away,” Habbly said, but he couldn’t help but watch the display of stupidity and awkwardness as he left.  The two men struggled to get up, but the riverbed consisted of flat, loose stones covered in slippery algae.  It took them half a minute to get out of the water, flailing all the time like they were suffering seizures.  “The sad part is I bet they’re getting paid for this.”

One of the men ran out in front of Habbly and shouted, “Uh, halt!”

“Roy, where’s your spear?” the other man asked.

“What?”  The man spun around with panic on his face.  “Oh God, it’s still in the river.  It’s going downstream!”

Sworn Doom sighed.  “I would have never guessed the quality of hired goons had dropped this far.”

The second man stared at Sworn Doom and his jaw dropped.  “Did that sword just talk?”

“That sword just showed utter contempt for you idiots!  Stand up straight and close your mouth before a bird flies in it!”

Both men jumped to attention before the first one, Roy, ran off to retrieve his spear.  Habby saw that both men had daggers sheathed in their belts, but otherwise the spear was their only weapon.  Roy eventually caught up with his spear when it got caught in fallen branches in the water.  He ran back, nearly dropping the spear twice as he slipped, and rejoined his friend.  Pointing the spear at Habbly, he announced, “State your name and home city.”

Habbly was by nature a gentle soul.  He’d seen enough bloodshed in his short life that he’d lost any appetite for violence.  Still, it bothered him when people pointed sharp bits of metal his way.  Shoom!  One sweep of Sworn Doom hacked off the point of Roy’s spear and sent it into the water.

The two men looked at the end of their spear, which was now more of a walking stick.  Roy looked a bit puzzled before saying, “I wish you hadn’t done that.”

Habbly scowled.  “It’s not polite to point.”

Roy bent down to retrieve the spear point from the river and said, “We don’t have many weapons.  Do you know how hard it is to raise an army?  Most of us are using pitchforks and hammers.  I was luck to get a spear.  I wasn’t joking about the name and home city.  Mister Craton says we’re supposed to keep an eye out for strangers and find out who they are.”

“I’m Habbly, and I don’t have a home.”

Craton?” Sworn Doom asked.

“Julius Craton,” Roy told them.  “He came to save us from the Fallen King.  He brought friends of his from the Guild of Heroes, but it’s going to be us doing most of the fighting.  He says he’ll train us so we’ll be okay.”

Roy didn’t sound too confident, and he had reason to be worried.  Habbly hadn’t met the Fallen King’s men and hoped to keep it that way.  Many towns had fallen to them, and their army swelled by the month as wicked men came for a chance for loot.  They had a reputation for brutality and made up for their poor quality with overwhelming numbers.  Low quality troops get better with practice, so in time this huge army would become even more dangerous.

I’ve heard of the man,” Sworn Doom said.  He sounded thoughtful.  “It speaks well of him that he’d help you.”

Roy found the spear point and handed it to his friend.  “He’s a great man.  I don’t know where we’d be without him.  We, uh, we need you to come over and talk to him.  He’ll want to know where you’ve been and what you’ve seen.”

“Usually you make demands when you have the upper hand, or at least a weapon,” Habbly told them.

Roy cringed when he looked at his ruined spear.  “Please?”

Habbly, if I could ask a favor.  I’d like to meet this man.”  Sworn Doom had never asked Habbly for anything before.  What little Habbly knew of Julius Craton was that he was a good man in a world with very few good men.  They’d be in no danger.

Habbly gestured to the two men.  “Lead the way.”

It took three hours of walking to reach Julius Craton and his followers.  He’d taken refuge in a town of about four thousand people, a number rising fast as more peasants came to fight for their homes.  The men were strong, but Habbly had a good eye for fighters from his youth, and these ones weren’t ready for combat.  It would take months to get them into shape, and the way Habbly heard it the Fallen King would be here in weeks.

The town had no wall but was circled with piled up dirt and rocks with sharpened stakes sticking out.  Inside the crude wall the town was filled with wagons, animals and people.  They’d piled up supplies to last for months and had likely stripped the countryside bare of food to do so.  There were a few well armed men, but they were outnumbered a hundred to one by untrained peasants.

At the edge of town was an inn that Julius had taken for a headquarters.  Roy stopped outside while Julius dealt with other matters.  Habbly peered in to see the man and was impressed.  Julius was heavily strong, wearing chain armor with a steel breastplate and armed with a long sword.  He carried himself like a man who’d been in many fights.  The gamblers on Battle Island would have given him good odds in the arena.

A male elf in leather armor leaned on a table next to Julius and set down a map.  “The Fallen King has divided his army into five parts.  My guess is he’s having trouble feeding them and spilt his army to spread their depredations over a wider area.  Only one is coming our way, a small blessing.”

Julius looked at the elf and frowned.  “We can hold off that one, but the one headed for Cronsword worries me.  I’ve been there.  The city is incredibly rich and swarming with thieves and gangsters.  It’s going to be a tough nut to crack, but if the Fallen King pulls it off he could recruit another ten thousand men from the gangs.  We’d never be able to stop a force that large even with help.”

“Speaking of help, we’re not getting it,” the elf said.  “I sent messengers to the Nine Dukes asking them to come together and drive off the Fallen King.  Dukes Kramer, Edgely and Thader all refused to help on the grounds that you’re an illegitimate peasant and they’ll never take orders from you.”

“They’d be working with us, not under us!  And we’re saving their land!”

The elf rolled his eyes.  “Julius, your common sense is showing again.  Four more dukes didn’t reply at all.  Duke Thornwood said he’d publicly kill you and feed your body to crows.  Exactly what did you do to the man?”

Julius held up his hands.  “I’ve never even met him.”

“The only one who’s going to help is Duke Warwick, who in his infinite generosity is sending two hundred heavy infantry.  He says he can’t send more without leaving himself open to attack by the other dukes.  This is one of those times I feel superior to humans.”

Julius raised an eyebrow before asking, “And what do you think would happen if we asked nine elven leaders to work together?”

“There’d be a bloodbath and all of them would be dead before they even met the enemy.  I said I feel superior, I didn’t say anything about my people.  They’re certifiably insane.”

To Habbly’s surprise, a blue skinned goblin wearing swim trunks came to the table.  “It’s not all bad news.  A tribe of ogres volunteered to join you.  Um, actually, they’re demanding to come fight.  They said they heard you were organizing a war, and they want in regardless of what it’s about.  I have a letter addressed to ‘The Craton, slayer of great beasts’, and thirty ogres signed it vowing loyalty.”

Julius took the letter and smiled.  “I recognize the clan name.  One of their sons joined the Guild of Heroes and earned quite a reputation.  Looks like the rest of them want a chance for glory.”

“That strange and glorious thing that is good news,” the elf said melodramatically.  “I thought I’d never see it again.  I’m going to ask if the guild can spare a few more members, or barring that food and money.  I’ll get back as soon as I can.”

Habbly,” Sworn Doom began, its voice soft and solemn, “I need to ask something difficult of you.”

Habbly tensed, worried he was about to be dragged into a war.  “What is it?”

Sworn Doom hesitated before he spoke again.  “You freed me from Battle Island, my owner foul in every sense of the word.  I owe you so much.  But I was made to fight in worthy causes.  This man is good.  I can sense the righteousness radiating from him.  I know you want nothing to do with this war, and I can’t fault you for that.  You are a capable warrior and show proper reluctance to use force, as one who understands the consequences of violence.  I respect that.

“I want to help this man.  Drawing you into it against your will would be wrong, but all of my being urges me to take action.  Habbly, it hurts to ask this, for you are a friend like none I’ve had in a hundred years, but would you be willing to relinquish me to Julius Craton?  If you say no I understand and will bear no ill will.  I hope you don’t think less of me.”

“You’re sure about this?” Habbly asked.

I am.”

Habbly nodded in reply.  “Then that’s what we’ll do.”

The elf marched out and looked at Habbly.  The goblin hid the sword behind his back, and the elf thankfully didn’t notice.  The elf looked at him laughed.  “A red shirt!  You live dangerously!”

Habbly went into the inn while the elf walked off.  Julius smiled at Habbly and said, “Hello, there.”

Roy began to speak, but Habbly walked up to Julius and handed him Sworn Doom.  “You’re going to need help.  Here, take this.”

“What?”  Julius accepted the sword but looked confused.

Julius Craton, I am Sworn Doom, and I swear myself to your cause.  Your enemies shall fall before us.”

“Wait, this is a relic of the Elf Empire.  You’re just handing it to me?”

Habbly ran out the door before anyone could grab him.  “Pretty much.”

Habbly ran into an alley before he started dancing.  “I’m free!  No more bounty hunters, no more elves, free!  The sword is safe with Julius because no one’s stupid enough to fight him.  Oh happy day!”

“Invaders!” a man screamed.  Armed men swarmed through an opening in the crude wall around the city.  They screamed and laughed as people fled before them.  A few peasants tried to hold them back, but they were chased off.  Habbly gulped when he saw the bleeding crown on their flag.  This was a small group, likely scouts, but the Fallen King’s men had already arrived.

“No!  I was so close to getting away!”  Habbly ran for cover, painfully aware that he was unarmed as of a minute ago.  The scout party grabbing draft animals and tried to lead them away.  It looked like they’d be successful when Julius stormed over and kicked one of them to the ground.  The others let go of the animals and pointed their weapons at Julius.  Julius stood his ground, a long sword in his right hand and Sworn Doom in his left.

“My name is Julius Craton,” he announced.  The men edged away and exchanged worried glances.  Standing his ground, Julius said, “I don’t like killing people, but I’m very good at it.  I know who you serve and what you’ve done.  That ends now.  Any man who surrenders will face justice under the law but won’t lose his life.  Any man who refuses will receive a proper burial.  You know I can do this.”

The blue skinned goblin ran over and grabbed Habbly by the shoulders.  “Everyone else ran away!  We have the help him!”

Habbly studied the men facing Julius.  He had a depressing amount of experience judging people in a fight, and it took him seconds to realize how this would end.  But leaving would be wrong.  He’d armed Julius, and he was responsible for what came next.

“You’re right,” he told the other goblin.  “You get two buckets of water and I’ll find some soap.  We’ll clean off his armor when he’s done.”

One of the raiders raised his sword.  “Come on, we’ve got him outnumbered!”

Habbly thought back to the fights he’d seen in Battle Island’s arena, and he shuddered.  “I hate it when they say that.”

The Fallen King’s men charged in a disorganized clump, screaming and swinging their weapons as Julius waited for them.  The first one reached him, his sword raised high for an overhead swing that—

The blue skinned goblin opened his mouth in horror.  “Oh my God!”

The other nineteen didn’t do any better.


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