The brothers’ victory celebration did not last long, however. With nine slain goblins laying about not far from their own home and dusk fast approaching, their chance of being spotted was high. They each grabbed two goblins by a leg and dragged them to the tree line where they had sprung their attack. In only a few trips they managed to clear the battle scene of their fallen foes and also gathered up their equipment.
Once feeling somewhat safer under cover of the trees in the creekbed they took a moment to assess the results of their attack.
“Are you wounded at all, Smalls?” Biggs asked his brother looking him up and down.
“Nah! Those poor buggers didn’t even get close,” his brother replied.
“Indeed. We got the drop on them pretty well didn’t we?”
“Sure enough did. They never saw it coming and by the time they did bout half of them were already down.”
“We made quick work of them, that’s. For sure.”
“As usually. Goblins are cowards, can’t stand up in a real fight,” Smalls spat.
Biggs agreed and moved the conversation on to actual work of recovering equipment and searching for anything interesting among the goblins’ trinkets not wanting to relive past trauma again.
The brothers quickly recovered the thrown hand axes and then began evaluating the goblins’ weapons. As usual there was nothing special about any of them. They had crudely smithed iron weapons that were hardly even sharpened and they were nothing in comparison to the weapons the brothers already carried and not even worth the trouble of carrying about to sell at a later date.
The trinkets however were another story. Anyone familiar with goblins will tell you that they have a tendency toward gathering random items they come across. Often times they are nothing humans or other more sophisticated races would be interested in. Goblins will sometimes carry a macabre pouch of fingers or ears from enemies or victims of there’s. But besides the unsavory habits of goblins, they were certainly attracted to anything shiny. That could range from simple metals to more valuable minerals like gems but either way, those who found a goblin’s stash had a chance of finding something that was actually valuable. This was the dwarf brothers’ hope as they engaged in the unpleasant task of checking the slain beasts for something worthwhile.
Smalls and Biggs found the usual which didn’t disappoint them. Besides the disgusting goblin trinkets, there were in fact several coins and a few smaller gems that they no doubt pilfered from people or took off their victims. They also found some random items clearly stolen from some of the villages they no doubt raided, including the farmer who reported the raiding party in the first place. They included some simple flatware, mugs and some basic plates. No one really knew why goblins would take such things because as far as anyone could tell, the beasts never used eating utensils but they regularly took them. It was even possible they did not understand what they were for.
After recovering everything they valued from the goblins, and the items they would try to return to they previous owners, the brothers had one remaining item that was very curious to them.
In one of the belts of a goblin, Smalls found a small folded skin on which was stained something that resembled a map. At first Smalls merely made a joke about goblins being too stupid to use maps and was about to discard it with the pile of corpses they were going to leave to be discovered by their kin, but Biggs was more interested in it.
“What do you mean? One of them has a map?” Biggs wondered.
“Aye, but it just looks like it has some mountains and a river on it, and maybe something else,” Smalls dismissed.
“Is anything written on it?”
Smalls studied it more carefully and indeed surmised that there was something written on it though he could not read it. “Probably, but who can understand the goblins writing?”
“Well someone can, even if it isn’t us.”
“So? Who cares?”
“You’re not interested in knowing what that map shows?”
“No, why would I be interested in anything a goblin had?”
“Let me see it,” Biggs snorted as he snatched the scalp of leather from his brother and then held it up in the failing light.
Smalls waited for a moment suddenly hopeful that his brother would make sense of the map but after a few seconds of no reaction he chided, “Find anything there wizard?”
“Just because I can’t read it, doesn’t mean someone else won’t be able to and it doesn’t mean this isn’t valuable in some way,” Biggs grumbled as he shot his brother a look. ‘
“Well whatever, we don’t have time to play games, we are still too near the goblin cave. We need to get moving,” Smalls implored.
“Aye, you are right there, brother. Let’s go.”
The pair began a light jog back up the creek bed that lead them to their enemies as the sun set and the moon began to shine brightly. As they glanced back they could see fires glowing by the mouth of the cave that no doubt housed many more goblins. They knew some of them would wander the area at night which made putting distance between them and the cave a high priority.
The dwarfs’ legs were finally heavy and their arms hung by their sides as they trotted in the moon light from their mortal enemy.
Neither spoke a word until Biggs suggested, “Once we get over that hill we need to stop.”
“Think that’s far enough?” Smalls questioned.
“I don’t care, I don’t want to go further tonight,” Biggs replied as the muscles in his legs burned and his back bent with the weight of his gear and the burden of their tragedy.
Another hour of jogging and at last the brothers cleared the hill so they could no longer see the goblin fires burning in the distance.
“This is far enough,” Biggs announced as he collapsed to the ground in a heap not even removing his pack.
Smalls didn’t answer but instead removed his gear and pulled his bedroll out and laid it on the grassy ground.
“We don’t have any cover here,” Smalls warned. “Any night creature will easily spot us.”
“Well, if they are stupid enough to wake me, then they will have to deal with the consequences,” Biggs mumbled as he flopped to his belly and rummaged through his pack in search of his own bedroll.
“At least we killed those dirty goblins, brother,” encouraged Smalls.
“Aye, we did.”
“That makes it worth it.”
“Does it? When will it be enough, brother?” Biggs wondered.
“I don’t know. Probably never.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, brother,” Biggs mumbled as he slipped off to sleep and began to snore.
Smalls looked at the moon but in his mind he could only see the goblin fires and his desire to see them extinguished rose in him like a raging river wiping the banks clear.
“Maybe when the last one has bled his last drop will this thirst finally be quenched,” Smalls told himself.