Goblin Stories XXVIII

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Goblins rarely try to fix their mistakes, mainly because that makes more mistakes.

Submitted: April 13, 2016

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Submitted: April 13, 2016

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It’s an irony that you can often smell armies before you see them, especially if they’ve been in one place for a while.  It’s not a pleasant odor.  Thousands of unwashed bodies plus the stink of the trash and dung they generate is noticeable for miles when the wind is right.  Pleasant smelling flowers and grass get trampled into mud, and smoke from cooking fires never stops when there are so many mouths to feed.

That’s how Finny and Stubs knew they’d found the right place.

“Now that is a lot of people,” Finn said.  The red skinned goblin clutched his empty scabbard tightly, worried that a soldier might try to steal it.  There were gold decorations on the black lacquered scabbard, so it was a legitimate concern.  Finny’s clothes were ragged before his long march here, and were even worse now.

Stubs kept his head down as he surveyed the army before them.  The small digger goblin wore equally ragged clothes over his tanned and dirty skin, and carried a lantern and ornate wood box.  The two of them were under cover behind some scrub trees a mile from the camp.  They’d avoided several armed patrols to get this far, and another one was coming their way.

“This is the place, all right, but is the guy we need here?” Stubs asked.  He held up the wood box that contained a terrifyingly dangerous magic gem they’d stolen months earlier.  “These guys are supposed to have a wizard.  If he’s here we can palm off the gem and let them use it to beat up the Fallen King.  If not we have to keep looking.”

“I still don’t know who’s in charge of this bunch,” Finny told his friend.  “Everyone we meet gives a different name.  Julius Craton, The Dread and Evil Overlord Joshua, Sworn Doom, Duke Warwick, the King of Spain, it keeps changing.  I want to make sure we’re not giving this rock to someone worse than who they’re fighting.”

“Is that even possible?” Stubs asked.

The Fallen King had been rampaging across the Land of the Nine Dukes for months, robbing, burning and otherwise making a nuisance of himself.  A person could walk for miles without seeing a house left standing, a fact the two goblins knew from personal experience.  Thousands of men followed the Fallen King regardless of his needless violence or perhaps because of it.  The man didn’t seem to have a goal besides making sure there was nothing left behind him.

Finny looked down, ashamed.  “Can they help fix my mistake?”

Stubs put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “You didn’t cause this.  You threw away that bad magic sword.  It’s not your fault the Fallen King found it.”

“If I hid it, he would have never found it.  If I gave it to someone—”

“Then they might have done the same thing with it,” Stubs told him.  “Keeping the sword was too big a responsibility for us.  We’ve been running and hiding ever since we got this magic rock.  If we’d kept the sword the same thing would have happened, maybe worse since hiding a big sword is harder than a small rock.”

“A small rock that would like very much to explode.”

Stubs frowned.  “It hasn’t blown up so far.  It’s gotten a bit warmer, it vibrates and it started humming yesterday, but there have been no explosions. ”

“One explosion would be enough.”

The army, or possibly armies, they were watching included a wide assortment of people.  Roughly half were peasant farmers armed with scythes, pitchforks, hammers and makeshift spears.  They were getting training from men and women in armor, but it was questionable how much they could improve in the short time they had.  There was a smaller group that was more varied, with men, women, monsters and even a few goblins.  They were busy building a stockade fence around the camp.  A third group was arriving only now and consisted of soldiers flying the red and orange flag of Duke Warwick.  There were only two hundred of them, but the dukes’ soldiers were a tough lot and experienced after years of constant fratricidal fighting among the dukes.

The good news was there were so many people that Stubs and Finny stood a good chance of sneaking in unnoticed.  The presence of other goblins, who weren’t being chased off for some reason, only made that easier.  Unfortunately someone in that hodgepodge army knew what they were doing, for they were on high ground with all nearby cover cut down.  There were guards everywhere, attentive ones at that.  Finny and Stubs would be seen coming in.

“We could wait until dark,” Stubs said.

“The sooner we find their wizard, the sooner he can study the gem and do something with it,” Finny said.  “I see people going inside the camp.  We can pretend we’re with them.”

The two goblins walked nonchalantly toward the camp.  Goblins were seldom welcome anywhere, but this appeared to be an exception.  That being the case, pretending they belonged was a good way to sneak in.

On their way over they came across a green skinned goblin wearing mud caked clothes and digging a pit trap.  He muttered with each shovelful of dirt, saying, “Decades wasted, my audience and admirers chased off by a king who can’t stand up right.  Maybe some other goblin would put up with this, but not Ibwibble the Terrifying!”

“Hi, we’re—” Stubs began.

Ibwibble threw down his shovel and shouted, “There’s got to be a law against that!  You don’t scare off a guy’s audience!  If somebody has the gumption to become a force for chaos and annoyance, then by golly he deserves a little respect!”

“Do you have a wizard?” Stubs asked.

Ibwibble checked his pockets and a full rucksack next to the pit trap.  “Sorry, fresh out.”

“Is there a wizard in your army?” Finny clarified.

“Oh, him.  Yeah, blond hair, young enough he doesn’t shave often and real popular with the ladies, the poor kid.  Last time I saw him he was in the mess hall.”

A gray skinned goblin walked up to them with a small mob of goblins following behind.  He stopped and said, “Ibwibble.  Still shooting for fame?”

“Little Old Dude,” Ibwibble said with respect.  He looked at Finny and Stubs before saying, “I spent a year learning from him.”

Little Old Dude took a shovel from one of his goblin followers and climbed down into the pit with Ibwibble.  He addressed his students and said, “Watch closely, because this is a complicated trap, and I don’t want any of you getting killed before you pay me.”

It was tempting to see what the other goblins were going to do, but Stubs and Finny were on a time limit.  The Fallen King was on his way, and his army would be here in a matter of days.  That meant they had to get the magic gem into the wizard’s hands as soon as possible if he was going to do any good with it.

The two goblins had only gone a short distance before they ran into a squad of guards.  The humans were armed with spears and wood shields, and they looked worried.  A guard stepped in front of the two and said, “Halt, state you name and affiliation.”

Thinking fast, Stubs pointed at Ibwibble and said, “We’re with him.”

That may have been a mistake, because the guard’s face turned red and he scowled.  “Then you can tell you boss that he’s not welcome anywhere near the latrines!  I don’t know what he wanted that filth for, but he dripped gallons of it on the ground when he took it.  And for the love of all that’s holy, he’s to stay out of the stables!  Whatever he did in there, the horses are still spooked, and it’s been three days!”

“We’ll pass that right along,” Finny promised.

The two goblins went into the camp, trying hard not to be noticed or stepped on by larger people.  They ducked into a tent when they saw a man in armor walk up to greet Duke Warwick’s soldiers.

“Sir Julius Craton,” a foot soldier said.  He and his men saluted.

“Just Julius,” Craton said.  “I’m not a knight or nobleman, so the sir isn’t necessary.”

“The sir was earned long ago,” the foot soldier replied.  “Duke Warwick sends his regards, and that my men and I are to follow your commands as if they were his own.  Whether this road leads to death or glory, we’ll follow it at your side.”

Julius shook the foot soldier’s hand and led the men into the camp.  “I can’t guarantee glory, and we’ll see what we can do to avoid death.”

Stubs leaned over to Finny and said, “I think they’ve got this taken care of.  Maybe they don’t need us.”

Finny looked down at his scabbard.  “I need to be here.”

The two hurried along until they found a large barn that had been turned into a mess hall.  A double row of long tables and benches reached from the front of the barn to the back, enough to seat a hundred people at a time. Cooks struggled to bring food fast enough to feed everyone.  The fare was modest, bread and boiled vegetables with a few eggs to go around.  No one complained at the meager meal.  Indeed, there was a lot of chatter as people gossiped and occasionally even laughed.

Finny pointed at a bald goblin with turquois blue skin sitting next to another with messy hair and spikes jutting from his shoulders.  The bald goblin was beside himself and his friend was trying to comfort him.

“My rope, gone,” the goblin lamented.  “Every inch of it used.”

“I needed it for catapults, Campots,” the other goblin told him.

A woman in armor sat across the table from them.  “Is he ever going to stop babbling about his rope?”

“It’s a thing with him, okay?  He needs rope.”

Finny and Stubs hurried to the other goblins.  They might know where the wizard was, and would me more likely to answer questions than the humans.  Before they could ask, a young human woman dressed in a flimsy black outfit sat down at the same table.

“Hello there, Vasellia.  I thought I’d chat with one of the ladies in this army, but since there aren’t any I’ll settle for you.  Eating with goblins?  Does everyone here put up with them?”

“Witch Hazel,” Vasellia said through clenched teeth.  “I’m putting up with you because I have to, but I have limits.  Don’t mistake tolerance for acceptance.”

“Ooh, touchy.  Menopause must be coming early.”

Before Vasellia could go for her sword, Finny came up and asked, “Excuse me, I’m looking for a wizard I can borrow for a little while.  I heard you have one.”

Vasellia answered before the goblins could.  She frowned and said, “Sebastian?  What do you want him for?”

“I’m surprised he’s not here,” the goblin with spikes said.  “I’ve never seen him more than ten steps from Vasellia.”

Witch Hazel smiled.  “I see you like them young.”

Vasellia slammed both fists on the table, silencing the room.  “Shut your mouth before I shove a fist in it!”

“This is a bad time, but we really need him,” Stubs said.

Vasellia glared at Witch Hazel, who smiled back.  The swordswoman said, “It was puppy love and that’s it.  He’s over it and flirting with that Questor girl.”

“Oh, you missed your chance,” Witch hazel teased.  Her smile changed from mischievous to seductive when she saw Julius Craton come into the mess hall.  “If you’ll excuse me, there’s something I’ve been meaning to do.  I might get killed tomorrow, so I’m having fun tonight.”

Vasellia grabbed Witch Hazel by the wrist before the witch could leave the table.  “Oh no you don’t!  I was getting somewhere with him when we were fighting the pirate lords, before my fool employer tried to kill us both.”

“About that wizard?” Finny asked.

Witch Hazel tried to pull free and couldn’t.  “You had your chance, you blew it.  It’s someone else’s turn.  Now let go of my arm before I turn you into a newt.”

Vasellia had her sword out in a flash.  “Bring it on, tramp.”

The two of them overturned the table and ended up wrestling on the ground.  Men ran over to watch the fight while all four goblins scurried under tables.  Julius Craton ran over and pulled the women apart, no easy feat even for a hero.

“What started this?” he demanded.

Stubs and Finny left the mess hall while the swordswoman and witch hemmed and hawed.  The other two goblins joined them outside.

“Now that we’re free of homicidal humans, can you two tell us where to find this wizard?” Stubs asked.

“What do you want him for?” Campots asked.

Finny stepped forward and said, “Because I did something bad and I need to make it right.  It’s my fault the Fallen King has his magic sword.”

“He has a magic sword?” the goblin with spikes asked.

“One that drips black slime and eats through things like acid.  I threw the sword away and he found it.  Stubs and me found a magic gem with oodles of power, but it needs a wizard to use it.  You’re fighting the Fallen King.  You have a wizard.  He can use the rock to beat the Fallen King and make everything right again.”

The other goblins exchanged nervous glances.  Campots said, “Um, yeah, that’s not going to happen.”

Finny grabbed Campots by the shoulders.  “You have to help us!”

Looking even more miserable, Campots said, “We can take you to Sebastian, no problem, but he can’t use your magic rock.  He’s a kid with a bit of talent and that’s it.  You need a tougher wizard than him.”

“There are no other wizards!” Finny shouted.  “We’ve looked.  There weren’t many in the kingdom to begin with, and most of them ran away.  There’s only two left, yours and a guy called Olimon living in a town called Castaway on the coast.  We couldn’t reach him with the Fallen King’s arm in the way.  It’s Sebastian or nobody.”

The spiked goblin put a hand on Finny’s arm.  “We’ll take you to him, but don’t get your hopes up.”

The four goblins scurried off in the growing camp.  Duke Warwick’s men made themselves at home while a band of ogres came in.  The hulking, furry beasts were armed with clubs, and their musky body odor was noticeable fifty feet away even in the army’s stink.  There were only thirty of the boisterous ogres, but they were worth five times their number in infantrymen.  The goblins tried to steer clear of the incoming ogres but nearly got trampled by them.

“Watch your step, high pockets!” Stubs shouted.  The ogres came to a halt moments before stepping on Finny.  A smaller ogre in the lead bent down to study them.

“More goblins came,” he said in surprise.  “You little ones usually avoid wars, yet you’re coming by the score to this one.”

A larger ogre stepped up and poked Stubs with his meaty finger.  “Amazing!  Even goblins yearn to fight alongside Craton.  You’re small and yet you still seek battle, proof even the meek and weak are drawn to one so great.”

“Is that what’s happening?” Finny asked Stubs.

“Let’s go with that.”  Stubs smiled and said, “That’s right, we came to sign on for the good fight.  Leave us a couple guys to hit when the fighting starts, okay?”

The ogres burst out laughed.  The larger one said, “I love it!  Loudlungs, this is the strangest war I’ve ever fought, in, but by God it will be a thing of glory when we’re done.  Let us eat and drink, and drum into the night so the enemy may know who they face in the morning.”

Shocked, Finny asked, “In the morning?  I thought we had days.”

“Hunger and hate drive the enemy like a horse being whipped,” Hammerhand Loudlungs replied.  “All sources of food have either been burned or harvested and brought here.  The enemy can’t rest without the delay making them weaker with hunger.  They know we’re doing this and hate us even more than they did before.  The Fallen King must attack us to seize our food supplies or his army will starve before it reaches the next town he could loot.”

The larger ogre leaned down and put a beefy hand on Finny’s shoulder.  “Be strong, little one.  The battle ahead will test you, but you will come out stronger for the challenge.”

With that the ogres headed deeper into the camp, laughing and singing the whole way.  Worried, Finny turned to Stubs.  “I thought we’d make it here in time to help.”

“We still might be able to do good.”  Stubs looked to the other two goblins and said, “Please, take us to your wizard.”

The four goblins worked their way through the growing crowds of peasants, soldiers, ogres and other beings.  Few armies were as varied as this one, but for the most part there was no fighting.  They eventually reached a small house set deep inside the camp.

“Here’s your guy,” Campots said.  He opened the door to reveal a young man with blond hair and wearing expensive (although damaged) clothes sitting on a bed.  He was reading a scroll and muttering as he ran a finger over the text.

Finny and Stub’s hearts dropped when they saw him.  All the stories they’d heard about wizards were that they were old, crotchety men who wielded vast power and a fair bit of wealth.  But this wizard, this boy, looked like he still had problems with acne!  How much power could be command when he couldn’t legally buy a beer?

“Sebastian, these guys say they need to talk with you, and I need all the rope you’ve got,” Campots said.

Sebastian set the scroll aside and looked up.  “Campots, as much as I appreciate you breaking me out of prison, I can’t give you something I don’t have.”

“Can’t you magic some up?”

“It doesn’t work that way.”  The young wizard turned his attention to Finny and Stubs, and he smiled.  “I’m sorry, but I’m rather busy preparing a scroll for tomorrow’s battle.  We can talk after we’ve won.”

“Optimist,” Campots grumbled.

Stubs approached the wizard.  If the man needed goblins to save him then he was pretty weak, but the selection of wizards was limited.  Stubs held up the ornate wood box and opened it.  The gem glowed so brightly it up the house with it’s radiant light, and it made a soft hum like cicadas singing.

“Oh.  Oh my.”  Sebastian took the box from him and looked at the gem in awe.  “Where did you find this?”

Finny shrugged.  “There was this elf wizard, and something about trees and dwarfs and magic.  Most of it didn’t make sense and we forgot the rest.  The important thing is this thing is supposed to have gobs and gobs of power.  The elf said he could make something really nifty with this rock.”

Sebastian set the gem and box onto the bed and cast a spell.  Glowing symbols appeared in the air and rotated around the box.  The symbols started out red and turned purple, then began to pulse like a heartbeat.

Sounding worried, Sebastian asked, “This is an awkward question, but how long ago did you, ah, borrow this?”

“Two months?” Finny asked Stubs.

“Two and a half tops,” Stubs replied.

Sebastian cast more spells and made more strange symbols rotate around the box.  “I must say I am amazed.”

Excited, Finny asked, “Really?”

“Really.  You two should have been blown up weeks ago.  This gem is carrying a power load easily five times higher than should be possible.  If I ever meet this elf wizard I’ll shake his hand, assuming he hasn’t accidentally blasted it off.  The danger involved in making a power receptacle like this is enormous, and even with constant reinforcing and containment spells, which it hasn’t been getting, it’s a fifty-fifty chance it would go off like a bomb when you tried to use it.  You might want to stand back.”

The four goblins edged away.  Sebastian cast more spells and looked up at them.  “I meant fifty or sixty feet back.  Farther would be better.”

“But can it make rope?” Campots asked.

“It can’t make anything!” Sebastian shouted.  He cast four more spells and the humming died away.  “That should stabilize it for a while, but your gem is going to need constant supervision until I can bleed off enough power to bring it to a safe level.”

“Can you use the power you take from it?” Finny asked.  He sounded desperate.

“Yes, but only a little.  Taking out too many magems at once risks releasing all the power in an explosion.  I can use the power contained here to cast one additional spell per day for the next fifty days.”

Panicking, Finny cried out, “That’s it?  The elf said he could make a weapon out of this, a good one like when the elves ruled Other Place!”

“Maybe he could, but I can’t.”  Sebastian stared at the gem the same way a man would watch a poisonous snake.  “If the gem wasn’t so degraded, and I had another twenty years training, and a fully equipped wizard’s lab, with insurance, maybe I could use the power constructively.  As it is, the gem is going to be a danger to everyone around it for months to come.”

“It’s useless,” Finny said softly.  His shoulders slumped and he looked down.  “It’s worse than useless.”

Sebastian closed the box and stood up.  “Magic is difficult to tame and easy to lose control of, and not nearly as powerful as people give it credit for.  You meant well, friend, and some good can come from the gem, but it’s not going to win the war.  I’ll keep it under control for now.”

Stubs and Finny left with the other two goblins.  They walked to the edge of the camp, away from the army but still close enough to hear and smell it.  Finny leaned against a wood barricade and then slumped to the ground.  Stubs sat next to him and gave his friend a pat on the back.

“We tried,” Stubs said.  “That’s got to count for something.”

“I thought I was setting things right,” Finny said, his voice just above a whisper.  “I made things bad for so many people when I threw away that bad sword, but I was going to fix it.  That’s what you’re supposed to do when you mess up.  Humans do, and elves and dwarfs and trolls, the good ones, anyway.  But I keep making things worse.”

He looked out over the mass of people waiting for tomorrow’s battle, most of them frightened except for the ogres who were doing drum solos and getting incredibly drunk.  “All these people got together to fix my mistake.  I wonder how many of them will still be here tomorrow night.”

Witch Hazel walked over and joined them at the barricade.  She was sporting several bruises and a tear in her outfit (which amazingly stayed on), but she seemed in good spirits nonetheless.

“I was wondering why you two wanted Sebastian, and he showed me the magic gem you gave him,” she said.

“That’s from us,” Finny said.  “Don’t suppose you can make it work.”

“Lord no.  That’s a mess I don’t want to get involved in.  I was going to ask you some questions about it, but after what I heard on my way over, I think I need to say something first.”

The witch stepped in front of Finny and looked at him, her expression hard to read.  “The Fallen King is not your fault.  He was building an army long before he found his magic sword.  Getting it didn’t change his goals or make his army grow faster.  The sword makes him more dangerous, but it’s not powerful enough to make his army any tougher.”

She reached out and lifted up Finny’s chin.  “The Fallen King decided to do evil.  Ten thousand men made a conscious choice to follow him.  You had no control over that any more than I did.  People came here and are risking their lives to stop the Fallen King, and you’re one of those brave people.  Be proud.”

It was a truly inspirational thing to say, and far better than they expected from a witch, but the whole thing took on a sour note as Witch Hazel covered her mouth and nose with her hands.  She made a gasping sound and tried not to throw up, then ran away, crying out, “Oh God, what is that?”

Stubs sniffed the air but didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.  “That was weird.  All I smell is dirty socks, manure, smoke, a grease fire and a touch of burnt rat hair.”

“And good quality rats at that!”  Finny and Stubs turned around to see three goblin chefs cooking a vat of goblin stew.  A rotund goblin smiled at them and beckoned for them to taste the vile concoction.  “Dumple at your service, and this is Fumes and Mask.  You two look like you’ve had a hard time.  There’s one surefire cure for a bad day, and that’s a double helping of hot food!  Help yourself before it eats through the pot or explodes.”

Stubs’ jaw dropped and he drooled.  Helping Finny to his feet, he said, “Hey, this is a classy war they’re throwing!  Fine dining and all you can eat to boot!”

“There was a boot, but it went in the pot,” Dumple told them.  “Watch out for the laces.”


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