Goblin Stories XXII

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
When the going gets tough, goblins get out of the way. Well, normally they do.

Submitted: October 09, 2015

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Submitted: October 09, 2015

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Brody sat at the main table in the Happy Times Inn, wondering if the establishment’s name was supposed to be ironic or just poorly times.  The village and inn were in danger of being overrun by the army of the Fallen King.  Refugees from other destroyed villages packed the inn’s private rooms.  The streets were filled with wagons and livestock, plus whatever goods the refugees could carry.

But for a change Brody had company.  The blue skinned goblin shared the table with another of his kind, a dirty little goblin called Habbly who had messy hair and a long braid.  Habbly wore a red shirt under his jacket, not a good sign.  Everybody knew the guy wearing red got killed first.  Habbly hadn’t talked much since handing a magic sword to the hero Julius Craton, and the lack of conversation bothered Brody.

“So, what’s keeping you here?” Brody asked.

“Guilt.  You?”

“Pity,” Brody explained.  He looked out the door where Julius Craton was trying to train the local peasants how to fight.  Brody had tried to get Julius to safety before this mess started, but the hero had felt compelled to help.  “Most goblins can just take a nap and forget sniggling little feelings like those.  I envy them.”

“Amen, brother.”

Julius entered the inn with an elf, a fellow member of the Guild of Heroes.  An ogre soon joined the pair, and while he wasn’t the biggest ogre Brody had seen, he was the best armed.  The ogre was a mere six and a half feet tall and had thick fur over his heavy muscles, no doubt still a teenager, but it was the war hammer he carried that caught Brody’s attention.  It was made of black iron and must have weighed a hundred pounds.  The ogre had red marks on his kilt, and Brody had a sneaking suspicion they represented enemies who’d faced him and lost.

“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Brody and Habbly,” Julius told his friends.  “They’ve decided to throw their lot in with us.”

“How unlike your kind,” the elf said.  He studied Habbly and asked, “I know the blue one isn’t suffering from a head injury, and you look to be in good health.  What brought about this suicidal urge?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Habbly said, and proceeded to not explain.

The ogre sat on the floor, as the inn’s oak chairs were too small for him.  “Running wouldn’t help him.  The countryside is being overrun to the north, west and south, and we’ve got Duke Thornwood and Kramer to the east.  They’re better off with us than on their own.  Hammerhand Loudlungs, guild member for ten years, at your disservice.”

“Charmed,” Brody replied.

Habbly pointed at the elf and asked, “Who’s this?”

The ogre sighed.  “You just had to go there, didn’t you?”

“I had a falling out with my family some years ago, and in revenge they stripped me of my names,” the elf explained.  “That includes my school title, my army title, my twentieth year name, my city name, my family name and my personal name.”

“Can’t you just call yourself whatever you want?” Habbly asked.

“No.  I am officially a non-elf, equal to you in my people’s eyes and unworthy of being named.  My deeds with the guild mean nothing to them, and when I die they’ll bury me in a dung heap.”

“But you’re a hero!” Brody protested.  He pointed to the sword Sworn Doom, currently sheathed on Julius’ belt and a gift from Habbly.  “That sword is supposed to be special to elves.  What if you brought it back to them?”

Habbly shot Brody an angry look, but there was no reason to worry.  The elf said, “It doesn’t work that way.  It should, but it doesn’t.”

Brody looked to Julius and the ogre before asking, “So what do you call him?”

“Stubborn,” the ogre told him.  “Hey, Julius, speaking of your new toy, it’s being awfully quiet for something that’s supposed to talk.”

“It naps when it’s sheathed,” Habbly explained.

Julius and the elf sat down at the table, and the elf unrolled a map.  Pointing at it, the elf said, “This is the situation as we know it now.  The Fallen King’s men are on the move everywhere.  They’re making slow progress against the Nine Dukes and pretty much everyone else, but they’re not stopping.”

“Any light on the horizon?” Julius asked.

The elf frowned.  “If you’re looking for good news I don’t have much.  There’s a town called Castaway on the coastline that’s holding out.  Some human wizard calling himself Olimon fortified the place with earth magic and a flock of gargoyles.  I’ve also got reports that the town of High Ridge still stands.”

Julius studied the map and asked, “Where is that?”

“I have no idea,” the elf told him.  “No one can tell me where it is, but it’s supposed to have held off three attacks.”

Brody reached over and tapped the south of the map.  “It’s here.”

“That’s just woods,” Julius said.

“It’s a goblin community with about a thousand guys living there.  It’s new they and don’t draw attention to themselves.  I’m surprised they didn’t run away.”

“I’m glad they didn’t!” Hammerhand bellowed.  “I’ve heard you little ones have been fighting back since this War Winner of yours came to power.  I like that.”

“You like every fight,” the elf said.  “Someone called the Overlord Joshua, or maybe the Evil Overlord Joshua, has gathered up a lot of troublemakers and outlaws.  I’d say we have to stop him except for the fact that his men have fought a string of battles against the Fallen King.  They’re being driven back, but it’s an organized retreat instead of a rout.”

“What sort of troublemakers?” Julius asked.

“It’s a long list.  They’ve got the Croner Twins, a human fire wizard called Sebastian Thane, a werewolf, Vasellia the Swordswoman and plenty more.”

Julius smiled.  “Vasellia?”

Hammerhand chuckled.  “You know her?”

His face turning red, Julius said, “Not the way you mean.  We fought the pirate lords together.  She’s a good fighter, and more importantly she’s a good person.  She wouldn’t sign on with this overlord if he were evil.  We should send a messenger and see if Joshua is willing to form an alliance.”

“Moving on,” the elf said tartly, “we have one bit of undisputed good news.  There are reports of a gang of goblins making trouble for the Fallen King.  They’ve set fire to enemy supplies, stampeded their horses and cattle, set traps, ambushed enemy scouts and generally been an incredible pain in the neck.  I’m told on good authority that their leader is a gray skinned goblin with white hair and long eyebrows.”

“Little Old Dude,” Hammerhand said in awe.  “I heard he retired.”

Julius saw the confused looks from Brody and Habbly, and he explained, “He’s the only goblin ever invited to join the Guild of Heroes.  He refused and said he was too old for that kind of nonsense, but we still respect him.We might be able to coordinate with him.”

The elf looked at Hammerhand and said, “Tell me the guild is sending more help than you.”

“They’re not.”  Hammerhand pointed at a wagon parked outside the inn and said, “Guild leadership sent me with all the weapons and armor they could spare, which isn’t much.  They also said that every guild member who can still stand is either here or facing another threat.”

Habbly looked down and said, “We have some extra weapons since last week.”

“What’s this?” Hammerhand asked.

The elf pointed at Julius and said, “A raiding party from the Fallen King attacked just after I’d left.  They ran into our favorite killing machine over here, and making a long story brutally short we didn’t have anyone to interrogate afterwards.”

“No wonder the peasants look spooked,” Hammerhand said.

If Julius was bothered by the elf’s description of him, he didn’t show it.  “They’re peaceful people, not used to violence.  The few swords we got in that fight won’t be enough.  I’ve got the peasants making spears and clubs.  It’s poor equipment for a fight, but better than nothing.”

“It’s not any worse than the other side,” Habbly said.  “Some of them are using wood axes and pitchforks.”

Hammerhand nodded.  “The little one makes a good point.  Our enemies are poorly armed, and from what I’ve heard they have no siege weapons or magic.  Can we keep them from getting better armed?”

“They can’t get weapons easily,” Julius said.  “The best sources would be stealing them from the Nine Dukes, but they’ve pulled back to their castles and walled cities.  There are no merchants selling weapons, and local blacksmiths were evacuated by the dukes along with their workshops.”

“Magic might be an issue,” Brody said.  He cringed under the gazes of the others.  “There are three witches in the Land of the Nine Dukes.”

“Are they good witches?” Habbly asked.

Hammerhand shrugged.  “That depends entirely on how they’re prepared.”

Both goblins screamed and dove under the table as Hammerhand rocked the inn with his laughter.  Julius reached down and pulled the goblins back up, then sat them down again.

“Don’t scare the goblins!” Julius scolded him.

“I doubt the peasants would take your sense of humor well, either,” the elf said.

Hammerhand held up his open hands.  “Come on, guys!  I have two loves, pranks and fighting.  Let me guess, this isn’t the right time or place.”

“What would be a right time or place for that joke?” the elf asked.  “If you’ve gotten that out of your system?”

“No.”  Hammerhand nudged Brody and asked, “You hear about the time Julius saved a foreign merchant?  The merchant gave him a girl from his harem.”

Brody scowled.  “I’m not falling for another of your jokes.”

Julius looked down and blushed again.  “That, um, that actually happened.  But everything worked out okay.  I got her settled down and helped her get a job, and she married a good man.  Hammerhand, stop laughing!”

Peasants peered into the inn, confused by the ogre’s outrageous laughter.  The sound echoed through the inn and could be heard across the village.  Julius blushed so hard even his neck turned dark red.  The goblins exchanged confused looks, neither one understanding what was so funny.

“It was slavery!” Julius protested.  “You don’t give people away, and you certainly don’t keep them.  It was the right thing to do.”

The elf shook his head.  “Only you, Julius, only you.”

“I don’t get the joke,” Brody told Habbly.

“Me neither.  Maybe it’s political.”

Hammerhand had nearly calmed down, but he exploded into laughter at Habbly’s comment.  Julius looked down at the floor and the elf rolled his eyes.

“Can we change the topic?” the elf asked.

“Please,” Julius said.  “We were talking about witches.”

“Hmm, so we were.”  Hammerhand calmed down and gestured to Brody.  “You say we have three witches to worry about.”

“There are three, but I’m not sure you should worry about them all,” Brody said.  “One of them is a bit accident prone.  She’s had some potions misfire and spent most of this year as a newt.  She’s greedy, not evil, and not too good at what she does.”

Julius nodded.  “Then she can’t help us or the enemy.  What of the second one?”

Brody shrugged and said, “She’s a bit better, but she’s young and kind of flighty.  She spends most of her time chasing local boys or having them chase her.  She’s not nasty and won’t help the Fallen King, but she might help us.”

“That statement implies we could pay her,” the elf said.  He looked at Julius and smiled.  “Perhaps she’d accept something in trade.”

“You’re not doing that to me again!” Julius said angrily.

“Come on, Julius,” Hammerhand said.  “This time it wouldn’t be a surprise.  Be honest, that date could have worked if you’d given Queen Jessica a chance.”

Julius looked up at the ceiling and said, “Brody, these witches seemed to bother you when you brought this up, but so far I’m not seeing a threat.”

Brody gulped and looked down.  “The last of the three worries me.  She’s done terrible things, but she only when people ask her to do.  She does nothing on her own.”

“I’m not following you,” Hammerhand said.

“People go to her when they want something bad to happen to their enemies,” Brody explained.  “If you ask her to hurt someone she does.  She curses people, burns barns, makes livestock die, sometimes worse things than that.  Whoever hires her has to pay, but not in gold.  The witch wants things that are important to you, and the cost is equal to the damage she does.  Some of her customers suddenly age decades while others lose their own homes and herds.  Sometimes she doesn’t charge at all if what you’re asking for is terrible enough.”

The elf scowled.  “Why does this woman still live?”

“She doesn’t go after the dukes or other important people.  They’re safe from her, and they can get her help.  As for everyone else, a few men have gone after her and she’s still here.”

Julius gestured to the map and said, “Show us where she lives.”

Brody pointed at a region near the center of the Land of the Nine Dukes.  “Around here.  She moves around a bit, but never far.”

The elf frowned.  “That territory was overrun by the Fallen King last week.  There’s a chance they met, assuming he knew about her.”

Hammerhand pointed at Brody and said, “The Fallen King’s army is made up of local recruits.  If the goblin knows about this witch, then so would the men serving the Fallen King.  The question is whether the man is fool enough to bargain with her.”

Alarm bells rang in the distance and men cried out in terror.  Julius charged out of the inn with the others following into the dwindling light of dusk.  Brody had limited experience with fighting and none with armies, so he didn’t know what to expect.  He ran alongside Julius up the earthen wall around the village to find a single man attacking them.

They would have lost if there had been a second one.

Peasants ran from the attacker and animals fled, and for good reason.  The lone attacker wore nothing save scruffy clothes and a look of madness and rage on his face.  He howled and ran at whoever was closest.  His hands were empty, for the back flames pouring off them burned anything he touched.  A peasant swung a hammer at him, but the crazed man caught it and crumbled the iron head like it was a sandcastle.  The peasant threw down the wood handle and fled.

“Problem solvers coming through!” Hammerhand bellowed.  He swung him hammer in a wide sweep, but the madman jumped over it and brought his flaming hands down on Julius.  Julius saw it coming and drew Sworn Doom in time to block the attacks.  The madman’s black flames never reached Julius, but the sword didn’t cut his skin.

“Give me a clear shot!” the elf shouted.  He grabbed a bow off his shoulders and notched an arrow, but the madman was too close to his friends for him to fire.  The madman struck Julius a glancing blow, enough to burn holes across his breastplate, and followed it up with a kick that drove him back.  Hammerhand jabbed the madman in the gut with his hammer’s handle, a blow that could have caved in an oak door.  The madman grunted and doubled over, then burned off a corner of the hammer with a swing of his blazing hands.

Brody scooped up a handful of mud and threw it at the madman’s face.  He missed the man’s eyes but managed to hit his mouth.  The madman stepped back, spitting out dirt.  Habbly grabbed the wood handle the peasant had thrown down and jammed it between the madman’s legs, tripping him.  Hammerhand kicked the fallen man so hard he threw him into a house.  The madman got up and shook himself like a wet dog, then attacked again.

There was a hiss as the elf fired his bow.  The madman held up both hands, and the black flames burned away the arrow before it hit.  Two more arrows followed to no better effect than the first.  But that slowed him down enough that Habbly got behind him and hit him in the back of the knees with his handle.  The madman went down again.  Brody scooped up a double handful of dirt and dumped it on the man’s face, this time getting into his enemy’s eyes.  The madman staggered to his feet and flailed about, his arms spinning wildly and the black flame on his hands eating through the edge of an outhouse.

Julius recovered and charged with Sworn Doom.  The sword was awake and glowed like the noon sun.  As he lunged in for an attack, it glowed brighter still and shouted, “Doom!”

The blow connected, and the blazing sword cut through the black flames to strike home.  The madman staggered back into the outhouse and burned through the wall before falling in.  Hammerhand brought his hammer down on top of the smelly building and collapsed it on the madman.  The flames burned inside the wreckage for a few seconds more, and they waited for their enemy to rise, but the black fire flickered and died out.

Julius dug through the broken boards until he unearthed their enemy.  He checked the man’s hands, which were unburned in spite of the magic fire that once covered them.  “He’s got scars on his palms.  Looks like two broken swords crossing each other, just like the men in the raiding party.  He was with the Fallen King, so his army and this witch have met and made a deal.”

“Why did they send him alone?” the elf asked.  “This would have been a real threat if he was supported by a few hundred men, or God help us another like this one.”

Brody backed away from the dead man.  “I got the feeling his brain wasn’t working good enough to fight alongside someone without killing him.”

“He did have a sort of rabid feeling to him,” Hamerhand agreed.  “The fool paid a high price for the witch’s gift.  I doubt this is the last man we’ll meet that she’s twisted.”

It was a solemn moment, one totally ruined when Habbly looked at the dead man atop the destroyed outhouse and said, “Can we roll him out of the way, because I gotta go bad”.


© Copyright 2020 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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