Excerpt: The Sureshot Rises

An excerpt from The Sureshot Rises The Sureshot is in town!

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Durbar pulled his cloak over his head and began to walk to the east end of town, toward the keep and the garrison. The inn wasn’t far from the Harmon Keep. Durbar found it without a problem. The sign above the doorway had a picture of a large solitary pine on a hill. It looked like a mighty giant standing defiantly against his foes; its branches appeared as swords ready to attack. From outside, the inn seemed to be rather busy and there was a noise like the rushing of a great river flowing from the patrons inside. Light invitingly escaped from the cracks in the large double doors. Durbar drew a deep breath and stepped through the doors into the light.

The Lone Pine was a large place. There were a lot of tables throughout the room with a small stage in one corner. In the middle of the back wall was a bar. There were a couple of women serving drinks to patrons. Large chandeliers hung from the ceiling that held four small torches each. There were also torches on the walls. Large buck antlers adorned the walls and furs covered the floor. A huge bear pelt hung on the wall behind the bar. To the left of the bar, while facing it, there were stairs, which led up to the rooms. There were twelve rooms altogether. The innkeeper and his wife lived in one and their daughter in another. The other ten were for guests. The inn was bright and loud. It felt alive to Durbar, very different from the lonely cabin, lost in the woods and lost from the world.

Some people stopped their conversation when Durbar entered the room and stared at the dark, cloaked woodsman. He stood for a moment by the doorway scanning the scene before him. He noticed a crowd of people in the far right-hand corner. He didn’t see Prince Rothan anywhere else so he thought he would pass by to see if he was at that table.

Durbar weaved his way through tables, chairs, and people toward the corner table. As he approached, some of the people standing by it noticed him moving toward them and stepped back whispering alarm to the others. As more people saw Durbar, the crowd parted to avoid his path, which led directly to the prince. Some thought that he might be an assassin sent to kill Rothan. No one could see Durbar’s face because he had his cloak pulled far over his head. Rothan had his guards with him, and as they saw Durbar they stood up, drew their swords, and waited for the approaching man to make a move. All the people between and near them scattered with the threat of violence. Durbar stopped just before the table and paused for a moment. Rothan called out to him as he too stood up, drawing a dagger from his belt, “Who are you? Identify yourself! Why have you come here to threaten me?”

“I have threatened no one, and I am here by your request,” Durbar answered voice clear and strong but forced as his spirit sounded the alarm and the hairs on his neck and arms stood up. Durbar’s eyes darted from one person to another and then back to Rothan. He felt like a hare surrounded by foxes and though he froze in his tracks, his heart raced and his gut told him to flee. Suppressing the trembles deep within, he stood tall.

“What?” shouted Rothan. “Who are you? Tell me now!”  Durbar slowly raised a hand to the hood of his cloak and pulled it from his head revealing his face. Everyone just stood still, waiting for Rothan’s response. He himself was searching for the man’s identity. Then it struck him.

“You…” he began, “you are the man we found in the forest. You are the one who shot Jeshker’s cap from his head. You are Sureshot!” A wide grin crept across the prince’s face.

“Sureshot?” asked Durbar, eyes squinted and brow wrinkled.

“Yes, that’s what I have been calling you because I never got your name,” blurted Rothan. “Fron, Jeshker, put down your swords,” he ordered. The two men glared at Durbar as they slowly sheathed their swords, and the prince returned his dagger to his belt. People in the inn began to whisper. Many of them remembered the mystery man from Rothan’s story. Most of them were a little afraid because of Durbar’s dramatic entrance, but they were all interested in seeing the mysterious bowman for themselves.

“Before we go any further, I must know your name,” ordered Rothan.

Durbar thought for a second. “I am Durbar, son of Adar.” His name meant nothing to those who heard it. They already knew him as Sureshot. Nothing else could match the name Rothan gave him.

“It is good to meet you formally, Durbar, son of Adar. I am very glad to see you. I began to wonder if you were going to come. I am sure that people began to think that I made you up. After all, it is pretty hard to believe that you are so good with that bow of yours. Come, sit down and have a drink with us. Tomorrow you can come with me to the garrison to train, but tonight we’ll celebrate!”

“I have no reason to celebrate,” Durbar answered coldly.

“Of course there is reason to celebrate. We are going to win the games this year. My team and I can’t lose. We have some of the best competitors around and now we have the Sureshot!”

“We? I haven’t won anything yet.”

“Oh, come off it. I saw you shoot your bow. You are amazing. You’ll win hands down. Have some faith.”

“I don’t need faith, but I am tired and need some rest now. Therefore, if you have nothing else to discuss, I will get a room and some sleep.”

“Of course, as you wish. I’ll have the barmaid show you to a room,” he offered, raising his hand and beckoning the maid. A young woman approached his table.

“What can I do for you, sir?” she asked eyes cast downward and voice soft.

“Show my friend Durbar, Sureshot, here to a room. I will pay for it.”  Durbar cringed when he heard his new title.

“Yes, my lord,” the barmaid replied bowing slightly.

“Before I bid you goodnight, I thought I should return something,” said Durbar. He produced the blue cap he shot from Jeshker, Rothan’s guard, a few months earlier, and tossed it onto the table. He then turned and followed the barmaid to a room, hearing Rothan’s laughter behind him and the roars of the folks around his table. Durbar was sure his guards were not as amused as the prince.

The maid led Durbar to a room at the end of the hall.  She opened the door and he entered. The room was plainly furnished with a small bed, wooden bench, and a mirror on one wall. A large rug was in the middle of the floor.

“Does this suit you, sir?” asked the maid.

“This is more than adequate, thank you,” he answered. He then reached for the purse he won from the guard. It contained ten silver pieces and eight coppers that were Fron’s and the ten silver pieces that Znak paid him for the goods he sold that night. He tossed the girl a silver piece, and she thanked him enthusiastically then left, closing the door behind her. Durbar placed all his gear against the wall opposite the bed, stripped off his clothing, and laid it out on a chair next to the bed. He washed his face in a washbasin on the table below the mirror. He looked up at his reflection, water dripping from his face, and said, “There is no turning back now.”  With that, he dried his face and slipped into bed. Despite the excitement of the day, he fell asleep easily and peacefully.

Goblin Brothers Part 23

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Twenty-Three

Zyx was meditating and trying to commune with the spirits around him when he was dragged from his state by his brother’s screams.

“Zyx!” the call echoed through the hall. The young shaman heard his name but could not at first decide whether it was from the spiritual world or the physical.

Again Nyx screamed, “Zyx!” and this time, the small goblin knew it was his brother calling him and his eyes opened sharply, straining to adjust to the dancing light of the fire in the room.

“Zyx!” his brother’s screams roused him to his feet and he began to run towards the direction of the cries.

In only a few strides, Zyx caught sight of his brother. Nyx was dragging Kevnos with him and his eyes were filled with tears and mouth drooling as though he himself were poisoned by the centipede. Zyx saw immediately that there was something dramatically wrong.

Kevnos’ eyes were still wide open but red with blood and his mouth was sputtering saliva and foam as he coughed, choked and vomited, hanging to life with the last ounce of his constitution.

“Save him!” Nyx shouted at his brother who stood frozen in his steps by alarm. “He bit!”

“What bite him?” Zyx asked.

“Don’t know! Huge monster! Many legs! Fangs!” Nyx spat as he continued to drag his new friend to the throne room. Zyx brushed aside the fear that gripped him and grabbed one of Kevnos’ arms and together the brothers got their clan leader next to the large fire pit in the Sharpspear throne room.

Nyx crumpled to the ground next to the poisoned goblin and panted in raspy breaths; chest heaving.

Zyx stared at the dying goblin eyes wide. He turned left and right and as if hoping to find the answer as to what to do but there was no help around him. His heart began to beat faster and he breathed too quickly.

Nyx shouted, “Help him! Save like you do me!”

Zyx recalled the time his brother was badly hurt and he somehow reached out to him spiritually and healed him. The thought strengthened him and filled him with confidence. First he had to settle his self so he closed his eyes. It took all his effort, but Zyx managed to focus on his breathing and begin to slow it. Once he was in tune with his breath his heart followed and the physical world around him began to fade as he was increasingly sensitive to the spiritual one.

Immediately, Zyx could feel the pain Kevnos suffered as though it were his own and his screams shook him to the core. He tried to maintain his concentration through the agony and terror and reach out to the dying goblin. With intense effort Zyx managed to block out the distractions and find Kevnos’ spirit.

Kevnos was writhing on the ground, arms flailing about and screaming so loudly that it was difficult for Zyx to tolerate. Face contorted and muscles tense, the shaman clung to the spirit and tried to reach out.

“Calm! I here! I help you!” Nyx tried to say through his spirit. He had never actually spoken in this manner before, not to a spirit that was still connected to its physical form. He didn’t actually know if it was working or not. The words were thoughts in his mind and not actually verbal so it was a strange sensation.

Kevnos rolled into a ball and held his body with his own arms and sobbed, “I no want death! I feel slipping, falling.” He moaned and wailed some more while he rolled from side to side on the ground.

“How I help you? What make poison stop?” Zyx asked. The shaman could sense the poison but had no idea how to neutralize it. He was very aware of the pain and agony the goblin ranger was in. He tried to focus on that.

The pain rolled through Kevnos like waves of thunder coursing through his veins. Zyx could almost see it in his body. It rushed through him and was attacking his nervous system causing his nerves to fire uncontrollably and attempting to shut down his lungs and heart. The venom was moving quickly, that much Zyx knew. Time was short.

With Kevnos in so much pain, he was not much help to the shaman. Zyx decided to try to ease it. He concentrated on the agony. It in spirit it appeared as flashing light like the twinkling of stars but red and hot. He reached out and began to smother the lights with his hands as he stood over the huddled lump of goblin still screeching in misery.

The lights burned Zyx and he now felt their affliction but he continued to try to take them from Kevnos. Each one he touched burned him and seared his own spirit but after taking a number of them from Kevnos, the goblin ranger stopped writhing and merely laid still, sobbing, yet somewhat calmer.

“What you do?” Kevnos asked, eyes open wide, filled with tears, but looking through Zyx unable to process the spiritual world.

“I take your pain,” Zyx explained.

“Why?”

“I help you.”

“Why?”

“You our clan. How I stop poison? What I need do?”

“I have potion. I cure me.”

“Where?”

“Weapon room. It in gourd.”

Nyx sat up after recovering his breath and watched his brother in trance. He had no way of knowing what the mystical goblin was doing but he hoped it was somehow helping their new friend. As he sat and waited he saw that Kevnos’ body was growing pale and his breath was so shallow he could hardly see his chest rise or fall. He didn’t know a lot about venoms but he could tell that the goblin was near death. All he could do was wait.

When Zyx opened his eyes his vision was blurred and it took a second to get a sense of his environment once more.

“What happen?” shouted Nyx as he leapt to his feet. “He live?”

Zyx shook his head and snapped back into the physical world. “He dying. Need potion.”

“What that?”

“It in gourd.”

“What that?”

“Don’t know! Look in weapons! He dying,” Zyx finally shouted. Nyx didn’t hesitate and rushed to the weapons room and began tossing weapons and armor about looking for anything that might even appear like it would help cure a poison.

Zyx focused on his breathing as his head spun and he battled to stay upright. His body still burned and he squinted his eyes and tried to endure the wave of searing pain he absorbed from the dying goblin. Kevnos’ body was still. His eyes were cloudy and lifeless. His mouth and face covered in foam. A faint raspy breath struggled from and back into his lungs.

Nyx found a collection of gourds in a corner. He froze and considered them for a moment then peered in. Each contained a fluid. Nyx tried to figure out whether this was what he needed. He decided that since the venom was a liquid then the cure would also be a liquid. It was reasonable enough. Since he had no idea which was the one he needed, he grabbed half a dozen of them in his arms and then rushed back to his dying friend.

“Which one?” Nyx blurted as he looked at the various colored liquids in random colored gourds.

“No know.”

Nyx considered them for a moment and then picked one up and dumped it into Kevnos’ open mouth. Much of it spilled all over and soaked the ground. He paused a moment and then when nothing changed he began pouring another, then another and another. With the fifth one Kevnos groaned.

The boys stood over their sick friend and waited. Kevnos blinked his eyes and milky tears ran down his face. He began to choke and foul fluid spat out with each cough. The brothers stepped back mostly out of fear and confusion.

Kevnos rolled to his side and vomited. He gripped at the ground and cried out. His eyes focused enough to sense that he was still alive and upon looking at the mess of empty gourds around him, pointed at a greenish one and whispered, “This. Bring me more.”

Nyx understood the request and dashed back into the weapons room, found another two gourds that looked similar and ran back to their goblin king. He held one out to Kevnos. The sick goblin crawled to sit half upright, gripping his abdomen as he winced with every motion. He held out a hand once he was seated and Nyx placed a gourd in it. Kevnos strained to lift it to his mouth but once there, began to sip some of the fluid contained within.

“You save me. I live,” the Sharpspear king whispered. The brothers cheered and hopped about to celebrate.

Goblin Brothers Part 22

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Over the next few days, Kevnos continued to teach Nyx more about hunting, trapping and tracking. Zyx did not care for the tasks and so he chose not to participate. Not only did he not enjoy the physical exertion that was necessary to keep up with their ranger leader, but he did not enjoy learning about the skills that Kevnos had mastered. He was preoccupied with the whispers in his mind that whirled all about him like a breeze that he could not catch.

Not about to tolerate laziness and lethargy in his new tribe members, Kevnos gave Zyx the task of preparing the fire and cooking. Zyx was not especially thrilled to be the cook, but he learned the basic task from Kevnos quickly and he soon was proficient in skinning and cooking the beasts that Nyx and their new goblin king captured or killed on their daily trips through the caves around the Sharpspear town.

This new job gave Zyx a chance to get to know the anatomy and more important the spirits of the beasts he had the opportunity to handle. Zyx did not know it yet, but all living creatures have a spirit of sorts. Some are stronger than others, but all have one. Even plant life has a spirit, though many times it is called an aura. These are not typically the focus of priests, shamans or clerics but the druids and often even the rangers of the world are sensitive to the spirits and energies of plants. The Deep had very little plant life with no light to enjoy so Zyx had no chance to feel flora energy.

Even though the beasts Kevnos and Nyx brought to Zyx were already dead, he could still feel their spirit. He even noticed that it felt as though the animal spirits were fading the further they got from life. It was as though the spirit clung to the physical form for a time and gradually separated from the corporeal world. The young goblin was eager to receive new beasts to prepare for their meals every day so he could interact with their spirits.

The process Zyx used was very rudimentary. With no training and no real knowledge he could only learn through experience and trial and error. He knew that closing his eyes to the physical world helped focus his spirit sensitivity so he often spent time with his hands hovering over the animals and his eyes gently closed. He body relaxed and his breath slowed and then his ability to feel the auras of the beasts grew. He did not learn much from these experiences as the spirits of the animals did not speak to them, but he could feel what they felt. Mostly there was a sense of disappointment and pain in the spirits he sensed. Zyx learned that the animals caught in Kevnos’ traps and with his arrows and spear were afraid of dying. Their own death confused them and they clung to their physical bodies as long as they could. Zyx wondered if a spirit could be reunited with its body but had no idea how to explore that question.

Another bit of wisdom that Zyx gleaned from his new job as clan chef was that even the bones of the beasts contained some of their essence. With the Sharpspear clan eating like kings, there were many bones left over when their meals were completed. When Zyx was cleaning and disposing of these bones he could feel energy in them when he held them in his hands. The larger the bone the more energy was contained within. He found the blood as well held energy of the creature that created it.

Zyx experimented with these bones while his brother and Kevnos were hunting and trapping. He used the totem he stole from Nakbor during the skirmish far in the distance back at clan Trickyfoot to compare the energy. Zyx could feel very strongly the energy from the totem and it certainly empowered him to strengthen his spirit and focus his own energy. The bones from their meals were much less powerful. Zyx could not sense much with them beyond the animal’s own existence. He figured that the more powerful and strong the animal, the stronger the energy in its bones and blood.

Back out in the caverns and caves surrounding Sharpspear Clan, Kevnos was busy teaching Nyx all he knew. The pair were filled with energy as they roamed together in the Deep. Kevnos was eager to show the whelp all about the world of a goblin hunter. They worked with their spears early on being one of the simplest weapons they could train with.

Kevnos showed Nyx how to thrust, slash, parry, block and all sorts of other maneuvers with the spear. Nyx internalized the moves easily. His balance and strength was already sound for a whelp his age and he was growing even stronger with the solid diet he was now on with the abundance of food they caught. When not searching for prey, they practiced basic sparing.

Besides the spear, the goblins practiced with their short bows. They were small, given the goblins’ relatively short stature, and did not have great range, but they fired an arrow with decent velocity and they were effective in the narrow and low caves of the goblin world. With this weapon too, Nyx was proficient quickly. He was already comfortable with the weapon, having found one earlier, but with the ranger’s training, he became quite accurate and deadly with one. That skill would soon be put to the test.

One day, while Kevnos and Nyx patrolled the caves around the Sharpspear clan, Kevnos halted his protégé with a hand signal. Nyx froze in his steps and immediately drew and arrow and notched it in his bow, quickly scanning their surroundings. Nyx saw no threat, but Kevnos studied the tracks intently and eventually pointed to them.

Nyx looked with eye squinted but the tracks appeared to be little more than some light scratches on the cave floor. When Kevnos looked up at him, the young goblin merely shrugged.

“Cave centipede,” the hunter whispered. Nyx didn’t really know what that meant. His ignorance did not allow him to be afraid. If anything, he was curious.

Kevnos studied the tracks for a long minute then decided they should had back in the direction they came. They turned and silently began back towards the clan village but they had already been detected.

From a crack in the cave ceiling, a clicking suddenly began like the sound of rain on glass. Nyx looked about trying to find from which direction the sound was coming but it was undetectable to him. The clicks echoed off the cave walls and through the stone and Nyx continued to spin about trying to find a target, bow readied.

Kevnos was more experienced and knew precisely which direction the sound came from. He readied his spear, pointed at a crack above him as the sound neared. The hunter looked back however, in a moment of strange concern for another goblin, Kevnos looked back.

“Whelp!” he shouted, “Run!”

Nyx looked at his mentor just as huge long antennae came poking through the crack followed by legs, fangs and many more legs.

The centipede bolted through the crack like lightning, legs cracking against the stone, mouth wide, ready to attack and kill the goblin hunter.

Kevnos got his spear up in time but the centipede knocked it to the side with a swing of hard sharp legs and lunged at him. The ranger dove to the side with the spear and barely managed to avoid a quick bite from the beast.

Nyx shrieked and loosed an arrow at the attacker but it struck a hard tergite, a hard plate that protects the centipede’s body, and fell harmlessly to the floor.  He shouted a primal bellow and fired again and again as Kevnos scrambled away from the beast. One arrow finally hit the soft tissue as two plates separated and the creature cried out in pain and swung its head to face Nyx.

The young goblin stepped back when he saw the large fangs dripping with venom and the hungry mouth waiting for soft goblin flesh, but his mentor would not let the beast feast on him.

Kevnos hopped to his feet and threw his spear at the monster hitting it near its head and burying the weapon deep in his body. Once more a scream like scrapping rock echoed through the halls and the centipede turned back to his first, and larger, target.

Kevnos gripped his bow and drew an arrow but was not quick enough to escape the many legs of their attacker which was on him before he could get his weapon up. The centipede toppled Kevnos to the ground and buried his fangs into the ranger who yelped as his eyes went wide and his face contorted in agony.

Nyx, seeing the attack, gripped his spear and sprinted toward the centipede. He leapt over the beast’s body and then drove his spear into a spot just under his head plate, deep into his brain. It made no sound except for the clanging of its hard exoskeleton as it collapsed lifelessly to the cave floor.

Nyx rolled from the beast’s back and pulled his mentor from under it.

“King! No die! I kill it!” he cried, but already Kevnos’s eyes were rolled back and foam spat from his throat and mouth. The venom rushed through his veins seeking to smother the life from his body.

 

 

Excerpt: Sureshot the Assassin

There was a soft twang followed by a sound like a sudden breeze as two arrows spun through the dark forest toward an elk bull standing in the midst of his herd. The arrows pierced through the shadows and sped at their mark. The bull lifted his head as though he suspected something foul, but it was too late. The arrows both struck his side and he stumbled upon their impact. The other elk tensed as they struggled to gain a sense of what was happening. The large, proud bull mustered his strength and rose to his feet again but was immediately penetrated by two more arrows. The other animals understood that he was under attack and fled together from the direction of the danger. The bull collapsed when another pair of missiles found their mark in his side as though he had accepted his fate.

Rothan and Durbar stood side by side proudly watching their target succumb to their assault. They lowered their bows when the great beast fell to the earth and proceeded to move towards him in order to finish off their prey.

They moved swiftly through the forest brush in the dark cover of the high canopy which blocked out most of the sun’s rays. Pulling a dagger from his hip, Rothan slit the bull’s throat to end his agony.

“This will do nicely,” said Durbar admiring the bull.

“No doubt we will feast like kings tonight my friend,” Rothan responded.

“Aye, let’s dress it here so that we can cook it as soon as we get back to the camp.”

“Good idea, I am as hungry as a bear,” Rothan chuckled.

The men started to strip the bull and gut him, but their work was not unnoticed. There were some other hunters tracking the elk herd that day and they were interested in taking advantage of the work that had already been done. They watched patiently for a while, sizing up their competition, the smell of blood filling their noses.

It was not long before the temptation of stealing away a kill was too much to resist and the hunters encircled the friends and their meal.
Durbar sensed their movements and twice looked up and scanned the dark surroundings. Though he could see nothing, he was alert to a danger he could not identify. When he heard a soft growl however, he knew that he and his friend were in great danger.

“Rothan,” he whispered, but it was too low for his companion to hear. Again, he whispered though a little louder, “Rothan.” The young prince pricked his head up and stared quizzically at the woodsman.

“What is it?” he asked lowly.

“Draw your sword slowly,” Durbar instructed, “but do not make a sudden move.” Durbar led by drawing his sword first and Rothan followed, still unsure as to what was amiss. Durbar tensed and gradually stood up then his friend followed suit. Before he could stand completely upright, the hunters attacked.
Half a dozen wolves burst from the thick brush and rushed toward the two men. Durbar and Rothan swung around, swords drawn, ready to meet them. The wolves did not slow their assault but continued to bound towards the men. A wolf leapt at Rothan and he jumped backwards while swiping ineffectively at the snarling wolf. Another wolf reached Durbar from behind and the woodsman was forced to slash at him while leaping up to avoid a bite.

The men survived the initial wave, but the wolves encircled them and closed in with teeth barred, saliva dripping from their curled lips, and low growls rumbling from their throats. The men backed up until they bumped into each other facing away from one another, satisfied that their backs were covered.

The wolves proceeded to test the men by lunging nearer and nearer to them without exposing themselves to any serious danger. The men held their ground as their hearts pounded in their chests and their muscles tensed all over their bodies. Only the assurance of their companion helped the pair to keep from panicking.

Without warning the wolves attacked all at once. Each man faced three wolves, so they swung wide trying to keep the beasts from them. Both Rothan and Durbar slashed a wolf apiece and sent them to the ground. Durbar managed to parry the other two wolves’ attacks and kick one in the side as he stepped to his left to avoid a bite. He was unable to finish off that wolf however, and the beast continued his pursuit of Durbar.

Rothan did not fare as well. Though he struck one down, he was unable to hold off the other two and a wolf managed to clamp down on his right leg. The prince yelped in pain and buckled over to try and wrestle the wolf off which allowed the other to bite into his left forearm.

With hair standing up down their backs, the wolves growled at Durbar and inched closer. The woodsman stood tall with his sword drawn back prepared to strike when the opportunity presented intself. The yelps from his friend sparked his attack as Durbar knew he could wait no longer. He feigned to one side and when the wolves lunged he spun and slashed one in his side. The other snapped at the woodsman’s hand but was not quick enough. With fire in his eyes, Durbar swung downward as he continued to spin and slain the wolf with a blade to his skull.

With his attackers dispatched, Durbar turned his attention to saving his friend. Rothan was doubled over and found himself underneath two wolves who were trying desperately to incapacitate him. Durbar quickly ran his sword through both of them and tossed the wolf carcasses to the side.
Rothan was limp but alive. His breathing was heavy and labored and he was bleeding from both his leg and arm.

“Rothan! Rothan! Are you all right?” Durbar pleaded. Rothan merely coughed and writhed but appeared to Durbar to be all right. The woodsman quickly set about to dress the wounds as his friend tried to recover from the attack. Durbar was worried about shock but Rothan managed to calm down and was lucid once more.

“Thank you,” Rothan murmured to his friend. “You never cease to amaze me. You will always be the Sureshot.”

Goblin Brothers Part 19

“Why you set traps?” Nyx asked the brothers’ new friend Kevnos.

“I needs to eat,” the trapper plainly explained.

“Why you trap us?” Nyx demanded.

“I set trap, what I trap not up to me.”

“But you trap us,” Nyx pointed the spear at their new friend.

“But now you out, so no trapped now,” Kevnos reasoned.

“Ok fine,” Nyx lowered his spear and tossed Kevnos his weapons. “Why you here? Where is here?”

Kevnos hopped about for a moment then gathered his gear and beamed as he said, “This my kingdom, I is king here. No other Sharpspears here. I only one left.”

Zyx perked up. “What is Sharpspears?”

“That my clan. They all gone now.”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“Come! I show you!” Kevnos skipped down the cavern away from the trap and deeper into the mountain. The looked to each other then followed trying to keep up with the swift goblin.

Kevnos lead the boys towards his clan’s home. As they neared the center of the goblin village it began to resemble their own lost home, the Trickyfoot clan. The walls morphed from raw rock cut only by water or creatures long gone, to ones cut and hewn from to form more intentional paths and dens. The boys even noticed that several dens looked similar to the one they were birthed in; the same one that they escaped from after several violent encounters. For a fleeting moment they missed the home from which they fled. But the memory of the den they were birthed in only conjured feelings of pain and regret, so they let the memory pass by with no more consideration. Still, they resemblance was uncanny.

The tunnels led to more formal dwellings including those of the higher classes. The warrior’s dwellings, the temple, the slave pits all were similar to the town of the Trickyfoot Clan, but all empty. The biggest difference between Trickyfoot’s town and Sharpspear’s was the condition. It was clear that a significant battle had taken place. There were many broken or damaged pillars, destroyed bridges, ladders doorways and ravaged rooms and halls. Broken weapons, furnishings, and all manner of other common items were strewn about the town. The boys would have asked Kevnos about these things but he was scurrying along too fast to keep up with. Eventually Kevnos entered into what was clearly the king’s court. There was a table smashed to bits and rubble everywhere. Even the throne itself was smashed at one end and resembled more of a pile of stone than a seat suitable for a king.

Kevnos hopped atop the former throne, raised his arms wide with spear in one hand and sword in another and declared, “Welcome clan Sharpspear! I am King!” He chuckled as he declared himself king. The boys looked to each other searching for answers but didn’t find any.

“Where your clan?” Nyx asked. Zyx began to search around the room a bit. He studied the room and the damage that was all around him.

Kevnos sat down on the heap of a thrown. He searched his memory. With his voice, shaky he began to explain, “Orcs raided clan. They kill many. Enslave some. Destroy everything. Take everything. I think only I left. I only goblin lived.” It wasn’t typical for a goblin to show sadness but as Kevnos recalled his clan a lump rose in his throat and a tear formed in his eyes.

“Why orcs attack?” Nyx asked with no real understanding of what an orc was except that he was taught that they were violent and strong creatures and they typically attacked, killed and stole from the goblin clans. They were despised by goblins even more than the traditionally civilized races of the world.

Kevnos considered the question, “I no know. I know they stole our loot. Sharpspears had many raids. Took many things from towns near mountains. Our king had much wealth. Had jewels, coins, weapons and trinkets from humans and some elves and dwarves. We doing good. Strong clan. Orcs heard. They jealous. They want our treasure. Weeks we fought. Many goblins battled. Our king killed. Orcs murder him. Many give up then. Others keep fighting. Orcs too strong. Most Sharpspears killed. Many taken. I not see other Sharpspear for long time.”

“Some who live try to build tribe back. Kevnos one. Orcs came back. Kill all who still live. Unleash many wolves. They hunt and kill rest of Sharpspears. Now only me.”

“How you not die?” Nyx wondered.

“I ranger. Out scouting. Try to find Sharpspears new home. One orcs won’t find. I not here when they attack. I came back find rest of clan dead. I bury ones I could. Rats and others eat rest. Now I king,” Kevnos smiled when he once again declared himself king and added a subtle chuckle. Even so, it was clear that he was sad about the demise of his clan.

Nyx didn’t know what to say to their new friend. Goblin society does not practice empathy and so it isn’t something that they are capable of. The goblin whelps could tell that Kevnos was sad but even that was somewhat of a foreign concept. Sadness wasn’t a common emotion. Suffering, fear, jealousy, despair and regret yes, but sadness was something that came from missing something or someone and goblins didn’t typically miss things. The lone Sharpspear did however and the boys noticed but weren’t equipped to respond to his sadness.

Not knowing what to say to their new friend, Nyx decided to ask about Kevnos’ occupation, “What means ranger?”

With the question, it allowed Kevnos the chance to shake the foreign feelings of longing and sadness from his heart and so he smiled wide and adjusted the spear across his lap to prepare like a father about to tell a story to his pups. “Ranger a goblin who good trapping, hunting, tracking and those things. I good those things. That why I gone when orcs attack to kill last of Sharpspears. I leave caves to find place for clan make new home. I no get lost outside caves. I no get lost here. I good reading tracks and I good at not being ate. Many spiders, rats, trolls, orcs dwarves in mountain will eat or kill goblin. I not be eaten. What you do?”

“Do?” What mean?”

“You have job?”

Nyx looked over to his brother but Zyx had his eyes closed and was busy trying to tune in to the spirits of the fallen clan who lingered in their home, so he turned back to Kevnos.

“We no have job. We only young.”

“Why you leave clan?”

“We had fight. They try to take us. We ran.”

Kevnos chuckled, “Well, welcome Sharpspears! Can be my clan!” Nyx smiled also and the two cackled together.

Zyx did not hear any of the conversation. The air in the clan hall felt heavy to him and seems difficult to breathe. He closed his eyes as he learned to do when he wanted to sense his surroundings beyond what his physical senses were able. He slowed his breathing and his heart ad as he drifted from the physical world and into the spiritual the air became a thick fog around him and weighed him down. The novice shaman found it difficult to make sense of anything as he woke spiritually. The fog became a wind that swirled around him and howled like wolves in the night and made the hair on Zyx’s neck stand and his skin crawl. The wind intensified and even caused a physical pain that confused the young goblin. He forced his spirit through the wind and the howls and the pain to see what the commotion was all about and the moment he did he saw the spirits of hundreds of murdered goblins swirling about in panic and terror screaming with so much fear and pain that Zyx jumped back and fell to the ground holding his ears eyes wide sweat forming on his brow.

Kevnos and Nyx looked to him eyes wide and mouths open. Zyx looked at them at cried, “There many spirits suffering here.”