Goblin Stories XXVII

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
How do you stop a witch gone bad? Hit her hard, and aim for her self esteem.

Submitted: February 10, 2016

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Submitted: February 10, 2016

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“The key to winning any battle is to make the other side look stupid,” Little Old Dude explained to his student.  “A person is capable of amazing things and making enormous sacrifices if they believe in their cause.  You need to make them doubt themselves, doubt their companions, doubt what they’re fighting for and why.  You need to insult them, belittle them, humiliate them and if absolutely necessary hurt them.  Once that’s done they don’t try nearly as hard and are easy to beat.”

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this ‘beating the enemy’ thing,” Cackler replied.  “It sounds dangerous enough that you’d cash in your life insurance afterwards.”

“Beating them doesn’t mean killing them,” Little Old Dude clarified.  “If the enemy deserts or retreats then they’re beaten.  He might come back some day, but that gives you plenty of time to prepare even more devastating insults.”

Little Old Dude and his newest student were hiding in a deep forest.  Night was coming fast and this would normally be a safe place to sleep, but they were in danger.  The Fallen King’s army was heading for another clash with the Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua’s army.  To get there his men had to travel through these woods and cross a bridge over a wide gorge with a raging river below.  Joshua’s army had been retreating for weeks and wasn’t ready for another fight.

They would be ready soon, though.  Julius Carton of the Guild of Heroes was merging his small peasant army with Joshua’s forces, ogres had volunteered to help, and Duke Warwick was sending soldiers as well.  Together they weren’t that impressive, but at least they’d stand a chance.  The various sides were still gathering and couldn’t face an attack.  Little Old Dude was here to make sure they wouldn’t have to.

Goblins scurried through the forest, hard at work preparing their ambush.  All of Little Old Dude’s followers and students were on the job for the last two days.  Goblins with hammers and picks swarmed over the bridge, barely visible in the distance, while still more were busy in the forest.  They had no hope of stopping the Fallen King, but a delay of a few days would be enough.

“Mark my words, it’s going to be insults that wins this fight,” Little Old Dude said with great authority.  He was a gray skinned goblin with outrageously long eyebrows and mustache, wearing only trousers and sandals.  Little Old Dude had a trick cane fitted with extendible blades, and a bag filled with tools.  Few goblins accomplished what Little Old Dude had in his long life, and fewer still understood why he’d even bothered.  But while many goblins doubted his sanity, to a minority of truly crazy and determined goblins he was a role model, the goblin who’d humiliated kings and turned back an army.

“This is where preparation pays off,” he told Cackler.  “Set traps everywhere, but it’s just as important to learn all you can about the enemy.  Everyone has weak spots, topics they have no defense against.  When you meet the enemy you, hit them with insults and don’t stop!  Don’t pull your punches, either.  If they’ve got daddy issues you hit them there until they’re sobbing like little girls who didn’t get ponies for their birthdays.”

Cackler tried to keep the faith, but this was a hard pill to swallow.  The little goblin wore a blue trench coat and hat, with boots and gloves that left little skin visible.  He had a whip, a backpack full of tools and an unlit torch.  Cackler had ben reasonably successful puling pranks and irritating people before coming to Little Old Dude for further training.  He considered himself capable of handling most foes, but not who was coming this way.

The Fallen King had suffered losses recently, not heavy ones, but they were costing him.  Goblin scouts had confirmed that the spoiled rich boy had lost his temper and sent in his hag to clear the way.  Cackler was willing to face men, but a witch who’d walked the dark road to become a hag was someone even heroes feared.

Little Old Dude saw his hesitation.  He gripped Cackler’s arm and said, “The hag is no different.  She’s strong, but she can fall.”

“We’ve set traps for her, but this woman scares kings,” Cackler said.  “She’s cursed the land itself and killed everything growing on it, twice!”

Little Old Dude took a piece of paper from his bag and held it like a weapon.  Cackler had his own sheet of paper, covered front and back with insults for the coming battle.  Between them they were armed for a battle of words this world had rarely seen.  But could words stop a hag?  “We’re armed with something she can’t stop, a word she can’t face.  Let her throw curses and black magic.  I’m counting on it.”

One of Little Old Dude’s followers ran up and reported, “She’s here.”

“How many are with her?”

“One man, and he looks scared.”

Little Old Dude gestured for Cackler and his follower to leave.  “Go to your positions.  Wait for my signal and we’ll stop the hag in time for breakfast.”

The other goblins scurried off into the sparse undergrowth.  Little Old Dude waited patiently for his enemy to arrive.  He’d overseen the placement and construction of traps in the forest, and at the risk of sounding smug he’d done a good job.  There were only a few ways the hag could come at him, making matters easier.  More importantly, she was confident in herself.  She’d march right in, certain of victory because of her powers, and that would make her an easy victim.

The hag didn’t make him wait long.  He saw her and the lone soldier approach on a poorly maintained trail, the poor soldier carrying a lantern and drawn sword.  The man had no armor and looked scared.  In contrast, the hag was as haughty as he’d expected.  She wore a black dress and flowing cloak, and came unarmed.  She kept her right arm wrapped in her cloak.

The pair was a quarter mile away when the hag stopped on the trail.  She cocked her head to one side and chuckled.  “The dark spirits see you, goblin.  They name you as The Great Annoyer.  They taste your misplaced pride, your weakness, your pettiness.  Darkness can’t help you, for it hides nothing from me.”

“Petty words from a pretty girl, or at least a girl who used to be pretty” Little Old Dude called back.  “You’re not the looker you used to be.”

The hag laughed in response and pulled back the hood on her cloak.  The lantern’s light showed her as a woman of stunning beauty, with long hair black as raven feathers and a face that would make a man’s heart race.  Her hourglass figure was impressive, too.

“You have high standards for someone who eats carrion.”

Little Old Dude slipped between trees, gradually moving south.  “And you’re real selective of what you show.  I hear bad things about what you’ve done to your arm.”

The hag paused and her smiles faded.  “Complain about the thorns on a rose if you will, rodent.  The years have caught up with us both.  You weaken with each season, depending ever more on your rancid followers.  How long until your reputation dims?  How long until no students come to do your bidding and your followers leave you?”

“Can’t happen fast enough,” he retorted.

“You wish to be alone?” the hag asked.  She headed south, a leisurely walk with the man following at her heels.  “I know loneliness.  I know loss.  I know what it feels like to go from being adored to being ignored and held in contempt.  The love of others fades no matter what they say.”

Little Old Dude grabbed a rope and pulled hard.  A net weighed with rocks fell from the trees and landed on the hag.  She screamed and tore at the net while the man tried to help her get it off.  She ripped the net to pieces, but to do so she needed to show off her right arm, clawed, wrinkled, blackened and so very powerful.  From the elbow down it was a nightmare, like it was grafted on from a dead body.  The man screamed when he saw it and ran.

“Stop,” she ordered.  The man froze in mid step.  “You swore to your King that you’d serve me.  To others those are empty words, but to a hag they are a promise that must be kept.”

The hag got off the last bits of the net and held up her ruined arm.  “Is this what you wanted to see, vermin?  Did you want to see what my powers have cost me?I sacrificed my health for revenge on the world!  Every spell I cast spreads the corruption further!  I knew this from the start, from before I walked the dark road, and I welcomed it!”

“So,” Little Old Dude began, “you’re an idiot.”

“Burn!”  Black flames shot from the hag’s right hand.  The flames were strong enough to burn through two trees, but Little Old Dude was far enough back that the flames didn’t come close.  She followed up with more blasts of cursed fire that cleared a full acre of the forest.

“Wow, she’s got issues,” Cackler called out from deep in the forest.  That earned him two blasts of black fire, but he was even farther back and in better cover.  “How much did that one cost you?”

Little Old Dude hurried to the next set of traps.  Timing this would be hard, but Cackler could keep her busy if she got too aggressive.  He ran into a foxhole and grabbed another rope.  He also checked the piece of paper with his half of the script.

“Drama queen!” Cackler shouted.

“We got the invitation to your pity party,” Little Old Dude said.  “We passed on it the same as the rest of the world.  Pack up your attitude and go find someone who cares, you narcissistic halfwit.”

That stopped her in her tracks.  The hag’s jaw dropped.  Little Old Dude followed up with a sting of abuse even he was proud of.

“Goblins are supposed to be stupid, but you’re so dumb you threw away your life to get even!  Bad things happened to you.  News flash, everybody gets dumped on some time or another.  You could have packed your bags and tried your luck somewhere else.  No reason you couldn’t move on when I’ve done it a dozen times.  But no, you threw a hissy fit and turned yourself into a walking advertisement for bad decisions.  I get even with people all the time, and I do it without costing me my arm, my looks and my immortal soul.  How does it feel being dumber than a goblin, Madeline?”

The hag backed up.  “That name means nothing to me.”

“It used to!  It’s the name your mom and dad gave you, you spoiled brat.  You traded it in for power, and you didn’t even get a good deal!  Even a withered up lump of a soul like yours must be worth more than what you got paid.”

“Somebody wanted it?” Cackler called out in the distance.

“Some people like junk,” Little Old Dude said.

The hag tore at her cloak and screamed.  She grabbed the poor soldier who’d been sent with her and cast a spell on him.  He writhed in agony as black flames poured from his hands.  His eyes rolled back in his head and he howled.  Transformed into a walking weapon, the man ran for Little Old Dude.

“Same old trick,” Little Old Dude said.  He pulled the rope and added, “It was interesting the first time you tried it.  Now it’s just lame.”

The rope triggered a trap in front of Little Old Dude.  A log ten inches in diameter swung down from the trees like a battering ram, going between two trees and covering the only way the cursed man could attack from.  The man raised his burning hands a second before the log struck him.  The magic black fires consumed the log front to back and reduced it to ashes.  The cursed man resumed his charge, and ran straight into a pit trap.  The ground sank under his feet and dumped him into a pit half filled with water.  He sputtered and coughed as he tried to climb out, but the very fires that made him so dangerous also made escape impossible, for he burned the ground he tried to grab onto.  Time and again he pulled himself up a few feet before the dirt beneath his fingers was consumed and he fell back in.

“People are afraid of this chick?” Cackler asked.  “I don’t get it.”

Little Old Dude checked his paper.  “Madeline has been living off her reputation for a long time.  She used to be big.”

“I’m still big!” she shouted.  Scowling, she added, “It’s the battles that got smaller.”

“No one’s buying it,” Little Old Dude said.  He hurried over to the trigger ropes for his next set of traps.  “You’re counting on us being afraid of you and running off.  Ha!  Like anyone is going to run from a used up has been like you.”

“Has been?” Cackler shouted.  “Try never was.  She’s all smoke and mirrors.  Any wizard could do what she’s done.”

The hag clenched her teeth.  “Your words pale in comparison to the hatred of the dark spirits.  Day and night they sing of blood and fire, pain and death!  They scream my praise and make the world quake!”

“Not particularly well adjusted, is she?” Cackler called out.

“But well suited to politics,” Little Old Dude replied.

The hag pointed her shriveled arm at him.  “Hey, I’ve got standards!”

“Cranky and stupid,” Little Old Due said.  “I fought Coslott the Conqueror, you old bat.  That guy had an army twice as big as your Fallen King, and better quality men, too.  Coslott lost!  He was a big deal and now he’s king of a third rate power.  If you were smart you’d know the Fallen King is going to end up the same way or worse.  Instead you signed on with that fool.”

“That’s like hitching a wagon to a dead horse!” Cackler shouted.

Little Old Dude pulled a trigger rope for a catapult trap.  The goblin catapults weren’t very large or accurate, but they were safe from the hag’s earlier attacks hidden in shallow pits.  Horse manure flew through the air and splattered across the ground.  The aim wasn’t perfect, but a large lump landed in the hag’s hair.  She screamed and tried to scratch it out, but that just dug it in further.

That did it.  The hag sent streams of black fire into the forest.  More catapults fired in reply, missing this time.  She drove her right hand into the soft forest soil.  A wave of dirt rose up in front of her and rolled forward until it hit the catapults and tipped them over.

“Your dark spirits pulled a fast one on you, hag!” Little Old Dude shouted.  “You lose more of your arm every time you use your magic, but you’re getting less power with every spell.  Time was you could have fought off an army, but you’re down to petty magic, and it’s still costing you the same.  You got swindled every way possible, Madeline!”

“Stop calling me that!” she screamed.  “You doubt my power?  You think you can face my gifts?  I have been lenient thus far, but that ends!”

Little Old Dude kept moving.  If the hag really poured it on he was done for.  His best chance was to keep her off balance and keep as many trees as he could between the two of them.

“You haven’t been lenient, you’ve been losing!” Little Old Dude yelled back.  “This is piddling stuff and you know it.  You’re scared, hag.  You can’t blight pastures and fields the way you use to.  How long do you think you’ll last when it gets out that you’re a push over?”

“I—” the hag began, but her words were cut short when she walked into a trap.  This one caught her leg in a snare and pulled her off her feet.  She swore and tore the snare apart with her right hand, now ruined two inches above her elbow.  She stood up and looked to one side.  “I should have seen that?  If you saw it you should have said something!  I’m tired of getting lip from you.”

“Talking with your imaginary friends?” Cackler asked.

“You bargain away your life and place in eternity, you’d think you’d get quality dark spirits in return,” the hag retorted.

“See, I wouldn’t think that,” Cackler said.

The hag paused and stroked her chin with her ruined hand.  “Yes, that should do nicely.  Fool goblin, you’ve given me an idea.  The dark spirits say the forest is filled with your traps.  I’ve no wish to set off another, and I don’t have to.  You’re right, I used to blight land, spoiling it so it wouldn’t yield good fruit for twenty years.  You think me a spent force?  Let me show you what I can do.”

The hag bent down and began chanting.  The air grew darker still and smelled foul.  Little Old Dude ran for his life as leaves fell off the trees.  In seconds a wave of corruption spread from the hag and consumed all around her.  Trees died, rotted and fell.  Snares, catapults and pie traps crumbled away.  Little Old Dude saw a tree about to fall on him and rolled to the left.  The tree landed with a thud and turned to sawdust and then dirt.  Trees hundreds of years old rotted away under the hag’s spell until none were left.  He barely escaped her spell as the forest died.

Now standing under the night sky and lit by the full moon, the hag stood up and smiled.  “Satisfied, rodent?”

“Couldn’t be happier.”

There was a crash as the bridge over the distant gully collapsed, a sound that could be heard for miles.  The hag looked puzzled and said, “That spell doesn’t affect stone.”

“No, but hammers and picks do,” Little Old Dude said.  He kept running from her as he told her, “My goblins have been undermining that bridge for days.  They needed a little more time to finish the job, and you were stupid enough to give it to us.  I’m sure your friend the Fallen King can bridge the gully by having his men cut down the trees and build a new…oh, wait.”

“You tricked me,” the hag said.  “You used me to destroy the forest so we couldn’t cut down trees to span the gully.  The nearest woods is two day’s travel from here.”

“And you can’t fill in the gully with rocks and dirt since the river flowing through it would wash away anything you dumped down there,” Little Old Dude said as he continued fleeing.  “Which means you’re stuck here and so are your friends when they show up.  They’re looking at days of hard labor with nothing around here to eat, all thanks to you.  What do your dark spirits have to say about that?”

The stream of obscenities from the hag was memorable, and included some swear words even Little Old Dude hadn’t heard before.


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