The boys collapsed after more than an hour of fleeing their retched homeland. They breathed hard but freely in the deep cave air. They ached all over but strangely a pain came from deeper within. It was if their spirits ached. It was a draining feeling that made their limbs heavy and heads sag. Their eyes were getting more difficult to keep open and at last their weariness overtook them and they drifted off to sleep.
In their sleep, strange images and dreams assaulted their minds. Death, bones, corpses, rats and blood circulated around in their heads, causing their bodies to twitch and writhe as they dreamed. The image of their mother arose suddenly. She looked sick and twisted, face ever changing in expression but never one of love or nurture, goblin mothers don’t love or nurture their young no, they were expressions of resentment and disdain. Her image was more disturbing than the others as it was recognizable and detestable. Her face suddenly exploded into flying bits of flesh and bone and through it snapped the face of Nakbor the shaman, teeth jagged and rotten biting at the boys. Both goblins jolted awake, hearts racing and breath coming fast. They looked at each other as if to confirm that they really did just dream what they dreamed. One look was all that was necessary, they knew it was true.
The boys sat up and inspected their surroundings. They were in a cave that had become very unfamiliar. The walls were high, rough with jagged dark stone rising above like death trying to swallow them whole. Though they were by no means experts on life under the earth and the civilizations that carve out the mountains as their homes, it was clear that the area they wandered into was not part of any underground town. It was far too unfinished for that.
Nyx decided to inspect the contents of the satchel he swiped from the shaman as they fled. In it he found meat and goblin mead. He squeaked in excitement and hurriedly unwrapped the meal from a leather wrapping, tore bits and offered them to his brother; very uncharacteristic for a greedy goblin but already the brothers had developed different habits than typical goblins, especially ones of such low class.
The boys gobbled up the meat, which was nothing more than giant rat meat, with glee. Goblin cuisine consisted mostly of the unappetizing foods they could find in the caves of the mountains. Goblins kept many rats and wolves but also collected and even cultivated a variety of mushrooms and other fungus which don’t need sunlight to grow. Then there are the fish that can be caught from the various deep lakes, ponds or streams. Nasty bottom dwellers with thick scales and bulging eyes they are not in the least tasty. Lastly, the goblin menu may contain any of the various insects or arachnids which live in the endless caves and crevices. Disgusting creatures and not appetizing but can be cooked over flame and eaten none the less.
As a result of the poor food choices available in the mountains and holes, goblins prefer to raid farms, villages and camps for tastier foods. It is a glorious feast indeed when goblins make off with beef or pork, chicken or lamb. The cheeses and wines of the world are intense delights for goblins who had nothing but spider legs for a week. When starvation stares a goblin clan in the face, a raid is usually planned if for no other reason than to steal food and simultaneously thin the ranks that need feeding. It isn’t a pleasant reality, but it is theirs.
After swallowing some of the rat meat, Nyx pulled the top off a chitin shell filled with goblin mead and sniffed it curiously. The scent was sour and it burned Nyx’s nostrils. He was completely unfamiliar with its’ scent. Zyx watched his brother ears up and eyes wide sniffing the air and catching only the faintest scent of mead. In spite of the warning from his senses, and because goblins almost entirely lack restraint, Nyx put the shell to his lips and tipped it back. The liquid burned his mouth and throat and Nyx howled in discomfort shaking his head from side to side. The mead warmed his belly as well however, in the most pleasant way. After taking a moment to stare into the shell trying to make sense of what he had just tasted, he tipped it back again and swallowed some more. This time he thrashed about a little less and after a solid mouthful he rolled back rubbing his belly in joy and cackled a little.
“It warms brother! It warms!” Nyx declared.
Zyx scrambled to his brother and grabbed the shell before pouring some of the mead down his own throat. He gripped his neck as the alcohol burned its way down, but he too discovered the warming sensation that began in his belly and crept outward. Nyx snatched the mead from his brother and the two began to drink swig after swig until the shell was empty. Before they had even finished drinking it all the warmth spread throughout their body like an internal sunshine, the likes of which they had no concept. They laughed and giggled as they finished the rat meat. The brothers rolled around on the cave floor wrestling each other and punching each other in a playful celebration.
After a time, the brothers dozed off for a peaceful nap, free from the horrors of their earlier dreams. It didn’t last long but the boys awoke more refreshed than even, what with full bellies and the gentle calming effect of the mead. They smiled, genuinely smiled, for the first time in their short lives and felt happy, though they had no words for the sensation. It was different from the joy goblins receive when they successfully raid a village, kill its citizens and take their provisions. That was more a primal satisfaction than anything else. And even the wealthiest among the goblins, if wealth were such a thing, were not happy as we might think of it, but instead they were ever paranoid that they would be robbed or attacked for their meager possessions and more importantly, their status in the clan. No, goblins were not happy creatures. They were only temporarily not starving or under threat of death. The brothers however, were, for a moment, content. That was much more than most goblins ever achieved.