Goblin Brothers

One

In a deep dark cave far away from the eyes of civilization live creatures that no one cares to acknowledge let alone meet. They are monsters, they are nightmares, they are goblins. Hideous and cruel they lurk in shadows, steal and maim and murder all they can. They abide by a different set of rules than the civilizations of the realms. Even evil creatures such as dark elves have order; no, goblins are ruled by chaos. They survive only if they are strong enough and if they are not they are devoured by the very clan that birthed them; stripped of all they possess and forgotten as quickly as the sun sets beyond the mountains. Goblins are despised a reviled creatures; unloved and unwanted. Theirs is a frightening world.

As the flicker of flame from torches danced a hypnotizing dance two goblin whelps crawled along the cave searching for food. Their tummies growled as they often did and already they learned the first lesson of goblin life. Food is always difficult to come by and you will never cease searching for it. While the stomach may rule many creatures and all beings must eat to survive, the goblin is driven by it in a way that is difficult to understand. These two whelps, brothers they were, crept together in search of it as they had a hundred times before and would thousands of times after.

The deep caves of the world were not abundant in food. In pools of water there were sometimes slimy creatures that one could consume, mushrooms were common as well as some insects and bats, but none of these would be considered food by sophisticated beings. Only the creepy crawlers of the dark would consider them edible. That was the life of a goblin.

The boys stuck their hands in cracks in the rocks trying to discover a grub or a beetle of some sort, or if there were very lucky they could find a rodent. For quite some time they explored and searched unsuccessfully; pushing and shoving each other as they did. Yet, their stomachs continued to growl and their temperaments worsened.

At last a glow beckoned from ahead. They ducked down behind some stone when they first noticed it and clung to one another, but the glow did not harm them and so their ears perked up and they chose to follow it.

The light shone from some place much further than they anticipated and their keen eyes noticed it far before their other senses caught up. As they neared a tapping sound was added to the mystery. The goblin boys looked at each other blankly for help or reassurance but found none. There was no other option but to follow the light and the tapping and learn their origin.

With soft, light feet the boys slinked towards the light and the tapping, which they had never quite heard before, when an even stranger sound joined the tapping. It sounded like a creature but they never heard such a sound. It vaguely resembled the sound some of the goblins made when they were very much drunk from cave wine but those were typically unpleasant sounds while these were something harmonious, something happy. Harmonious and happy were entirely foreign concepts to the goblin brothers and they could not make sense of it whatsoever.

The sounds of the tapping turned to clanging and yet it was the humming that pierced their ears and their hearts. The boys crawled, knowing they were very close, and as they slipped into the shadows of a hallway they nearly tripped over themselves as they found a lone dwarf mining away in this section of the cave.

The boys dove behind more stone and huddled together limbs shaking and lips quivering. For several long minutes they remained, clinging to each other awaiting certain death. Yet death did not seem interested in the boys. As the fog of fear lifted slightly the sound of the dwarf humming eased their spirits. Their hearts slowed and they loosened their grip on each other enough to peer over the stone and study the dwarf.

Their eyes widened as they watched a grey haired sturdy dwarf dressed in leather and swinging and iron pickax and humming. He didn’t notice the boys as far as they could tell. The dwarf swung his ax heavily against the stone then inspected the result of his blow then struck again, all the while humming a steady tune. Behind him a few feet away there was a leather pack large enough for both the boys to fit inside if they wanted to stow away to where ever this dwarf lived, though the thought never occurred to them as the grumbling of their tummies interrupted their enjoyment of the hypnotic tune and their keen noses alerted them that there was some dried meat in the pack along with ale. This was the prize they sought.

The boys looked to each other and knew they would try to steal the dwarf’s pack, or at least what was inside. Without the benefit of a plan they pressed themselves to the cold stone floor of the cave, their loose loin cloths leaving them exposed to the coldness of the stone and its jagged edges but they learned long before to ignore both. They were life.

Like snakes along the floor they slithered to the pack, the dwarf intently mining for a gem which caught the boys’ eyes. It glimmered from the dark stone surrounding it and the light from the dwarf’s torch reflected from one of its finer edges. Distracted for only a moment the scent of food kept them focused enough and soon they found themselves upon the pack.

A drawstring was tied round it securing it from the boys, but one of the brothers pulled a bone dagger from his waistband and began sawing the string. The dwarf still did not notice the boys as he hammered away at the stone and hummed his song. At last the string was cut and the boys reached in and quickly found the food they longed for. As they did so however at last the old dwarf turned and saw the boys.

“You filthy buggers!” he roared and kicked at the two whelps catching one on the back side and sending him toppling end over end before crashing against the stone wall. The

other raised his bone dagger to threaten the dwarf but with pickax in hand a mighty swing sent the puny goblin ducking and scampering away for cover. Both goblins quickly fled running on all fours like monkeys they never looked back but shrieked and tripped and crashed their way from the dwarf.

The old dwarf cursed at them but was in no mood and no shape to chase a pair of goblin whelps so he gave up pursuit before it even began.

Two

The two goblin brothers tumbled down the dark dank halls away from the dwarf miner. They ran with all the energy they could muster stumbling and tripping over rocks and gravel along the way like rats fleeing guiltily into the night.

After many minutes the brothers gasped for breath and at last slowed their pace only to realize they were not pursued in the least. Finally stopping they slumped to the floor and sucked in as much air as their tiny goblin lungs could hold. The world spun a little as their wits returned to them and they at last felt safe once more in the darkness that dominated their world.

The larger and quicker of the brothers gripped his fist and felt the leather pouch it held. He sniffed and grinned knowing that there was dried meats and bread inside; delicacies that were virtually unknown to the goblin whelps. The smaller brother caught a whiff as well though he didn’t know his brother managed to snatch the tasty treat.

Goblin nature warned each of them that a conflict was imminent. It was normal and acceptable for goblins to hoard and steal and pilfer and cheat. Sharing was not in their nature. Even as pups their mother reluctantly nursed them, often because they clawed at her and latched on in spite her efforts to prevent them. Indeed there were five of them at birth and now just Nyx and Zyx remained. The others were lost to malnourishment or neglect; never mourned and hardly even remembered. It was the goblin way. With such a foundation the brothers eyed one another.

Nyx gripped the bag tightly. He was confident that he could out match his brother, though the smaller whelp showed some promise with natural magic already able to sense things beyond the obvious with a spiritual wisdom only a few were blessed with. Nyx knew that in the struggle to survive, his agility was superior to Zyx’s spiritual strength. So he budged not.

Zyx looked to his brother and did not offer any aggression. He knew he could not best Nyx most days and yet he wanted to share in the meal they swiped from the dwarf. Instead of brandishing a weapon or taking an aggressive posture he closed his eyes and concentrated.

Zyx focused on his hunger. He felt his empty belly as though from the inside. As his stomach grumbled it was magnified through his spirit and projected outward. Nyx somehow felt it. He didn’t know how but he felt how hungry his brother was. It reminded him of his own hunger but rather than reinforce his own selfish nature it nudged at a suppressed empathy for his brother. Nyx looked to his fist and the food pouch. He wondered what it would be like to share the food with his brother. In fact he couldn’t even think of it properly as goblins have no word for sharing. It didn’t make sense to him but he felt his brother’s hunger and he wanted to help. He wanted the ache to stop and he knew that in his hand was the answer. He held the bag up and studied it; considered it.

Zyx continued to focus his thoughts on his stomach and the grumbling was nearly as loud as the growl of a bear echoing nowhere but in his brother’s soul. He projected that feeling connecting his own spirit to Nyx’s and he knew Nyx felt it. Zyx read his brother’s feelings and knew they were connected. Their hunger was one and their need was one. Nyx held out the pouch.

Zyx opened his eyes and stared deeply into Nyx’s. In them he found love though again it did not make sense to the goblin whelps because the word did not possess the same meaning it did to other creatures. Goblins love to eat, they love to kill and maim and torture and make others suffer. They do not love other creatures, but as Zyx looked at his brother, they felt it for each other though they couldn’t explain it. In that moment their souls were bound as one. What one felt the other did as well.

Nyx looked down to the pouch of food wrapped carefully in his hand. Slowly he untied the leather string and opened the pouch to reveal the delicious contents inside. Zyx opened his eyes at the prompting of his nostrils. Together they studied the food then Nyx reached his hand out to his brother. Zyx took some of the food, a bit of meat and bread, and began to nibble at the dried meat. Nyx munched some bread as the pair sat down across one another and enjoyed the meal together as any civilized human or elf might, though one not dare tell the elves that goblins behaved anything like them

Three

Zyx and Nyx strolled back to the goblin caves with full bellies and high spirits. The meal was the best they had in their lives though it was merely dried meat and bread. Goblins often eat little besides rotten meat and mainly from rats or bats. They also tend to eat mushrooms and other funguses. The dwarf’s snack was more akin to a goblin feast. The goblin boys beamed as they neared their home, unfortunately home was not as pleased to receive them as they were to return.

As they neared the den of clan Trickyfoot they at first heard the typical rumble that echoed through the rock of the mountain. Growls, grumbles, snarls and sneers were common ways in which goblins communicated and they carried far warning any who approach to stay clear. Bones too began to mark the path to their home. Bones of animals devoured but also goblins slain, either by their own kind or perhaps ones who were cast out of the clan to starve to death alone in the dark. Regardless, the ground was littered with them and the boy’s crunched upon them as they traveled.

The clan’s den itself was a maze of caves and catacombs winding through the rock of the mountain. Only the larger openings were well lit with torches. In the center was indeed a large cave representing the heart of the clan with those strongest and bravest residing there and the weaker less significant pushed outward. From the largest cave was an upward sloping path that lead outside and provided the clan with some air and also a way in which to exit in order to hunt or gather food. The strongest goblins controlled this of course including the chief, Gnobum Trickyfoot.

Gnobum was a large and dexterous goblin standing over four feet high and possessing impressively quick reflexes. He was credited with slaughtering dozens of elves and humans and led the clan in raids and hunts. He appeared every bit a goblin king. Aside from being tall he was strong and his body was fit and full unlike most of the emaciated goblins of his clan. He wore a steel breastplate which was nearly unheard of for goblins as most wore leather protection at best and most barely covered their genitals with cloth let alone their bodies with armor. A steel helmet protected his head, pointy in the front like the beak of a crow. It equipped him with an even more menacing appearance than normal but wasn’t even the item that represented his dominance over the clan.

Gnobum wielded a terrifying mace. It was said to have been carved from the leg of dragon and enhanced with iron blades. The weapon was called Skull Masher and was fabled to have been captured by the first King of the Trickyfoot clan Rozukg the Mighty. The legend goes that Rozukg and his clan were cast from their homes by a clan of orcs. He and his warriors returned and challenged the orcs, whose leader carried Skull Masher. Rozukg was so violent and strong that the orcs were unable to defeat him. At last the orc chief attacked him and after Rozukg slayed him he took his mace and drove the rest of the orcs out of their home. From then on whoever held the Skull Masher was the king of Clan Trickyfoot.

Goblin clans were a brutal bunch of mischievous, disheveled, rowdy, violent citizens whose main motivations were eating, stealing and fighting. The strong survived. All others perished. It was not an easy existence by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the only one Zyx and Nyx knew.

The brothers made their way at last to their home, which was really just an area somewhat near the very edge of the clan’s territory which was marked by red foot prints on the ground and cave walls, created by covering a foot in blood then pressing it to the surface.

When they arrived to their den they were greeted by several other young goblins, though all of them somewhat older than they. Immediately there was a chaos about the den as they swarmed the brothers and inspected them for food to steal. One particularly hideous goblin with uneven eyes and mangled teeth snatched the leather sack from Nyx’s hand. Instinctually Nyx drew his bone dagger from his belt and threatened the goblin thief but the older creature slapped his face with the back of his hand while he sniffed the empty pouch. Nyx toppled to the ground and for just a moment lay there stunned. As his eye refocused a rage overtook them.

Nyx grabbed his small handmade bone dagger in both hands and leapt into the air like a frog leaping for a fly and as he came down hard he bore the dagger down into his foes shoulder. The wounded goblin shrieked and bucked in searing pain while clawing at Nyx and trying to fling the whelp from his back. Nyx held on with great skill however and rode the older goblin as if he were a wild beast of burden.

All others in the den shrieked as well and soon it was filled with the deafening, yet common, sound of goblins fighting one another. The pair was like a greyish whirlwind of destruction, overturning weapons, kicking over mud pots, falling into the fire at one point and crashing into the walls. The pandemonium was brief but violent.

Nyx showed no signed of releasing his offender but another goblin speared him which loosened his grip and at last the stabbed goblin was able to toss Nyx from his back. Nyx fell to the corner of the den in a heap, holding his side where the spear pierced him. Dark blood oozed from the cut and he whimpered as he held it.

The goblin Nyx stabbed sprinted from the room with the bone dagger still in his neck shrieking down the paths of their goblin town. Some of the other followed him mostly in amusement but some were interested in finishing him off so they could possess the dagger and whatever other meager belonging he owned.

A couple other goblins remained in the den and eyed the wounded Nyx carefully. The whelp owned nothing now that his dagger was gone and the pouch they stole from the dwarf with it, but if he died they could eat him after all and the drive for food was never fully satisfied in a goblin.

One other goblin was still present in the den. It was an older female goblin, in fact she was the boys’ mother, though they hardly had any concept of mother and had little to no filial piety towards her. She was wrinkled and ragged with hanging breasts, wide hips connecting crooked legs, gnarled fingers and hands, balding head with long matted hair.

The goblin mother approached her wounded son. She sniffed at him and studied his wound for a moment. The brother watched carefully, knowing instinctively that this moment was important. This would teach them much about their world and their way of life. How a mother treats her son is fundamental to the child’s development and this was a moment that would shape Nyx’s life more than any could know.

The goblin mother sniffed a couple more times, spat, and waddled away offering no help to her son. Such was the goblin way.

Four

Zyx slowly and cautiously moved to his brother lying in a heap on the floor; a whimpering, dying mass. The smaller brother stood over him and observed him throbbing in pain and writhing on the filthy floor of their dark den. He remembered his brother giving him some of the food they stole rather than keep it all for himself. He remembered the connection they felt mere hours earlier and how for some reason he could feel his brother’s essence. He wanted to feel his brother’s pain.

Zyx closed his eyes and held his scrawny long fingers over the bloodied body of his brother and focused. He conjured his brother’s image in his mind and remembered the way in which they shared food and the love he felt in that moment. Zyx noticed an ache in his side which began as a bit of an itch but grew stronger and more painful. He didn’t flinch however and instead focused on the pain letting it spread through his body; through his spirit.

Nyx sensed his brother’s spirit as though he was reaching out and touching him. A warmth spread between the boys as Zyx intensified his concentration. They shared each other’s pain not unlike they shared in Zyx’s hunger earlier yet together the pain was much less as though the burden of it was much easier to carry together.

Zyx didn’t know what to do next. He could feel his brother’s pain but that was all and while it eased the anguish it did nothing to remove it and nothing to prevent the young goblin from bleeding out in the den of his birth.

Zyx tried to search for the answer in his mind, broadening his spiritual focus beyond his brother, beyond his pain. He felt himself floating, as if in a pool of water, but it was dark and he could not see anything. Slowly the boney little goblin began to see images through the cloudiness. The image of other goblins from their den came to mind. They snarled and snapped at him threateningly and he fled from them in fear as if he were a bird flying from snakes. Next he saw his mother, haggard and cold she stared at him blankly offering no help. Zyx flew past her and past many other goblins he encountered in his world. At last he came before Gnobum Clan Trickyfoot king. Zyx felt the strength of Gnobum’s spirit. He felt his essence, his power, his command but more than the essence emanating from the king, the mace, Skull Masher glowed with a power Zyx had not noticed before. In physical form, Zyx had not ever sensed any power from the mace, but in a spiritual form he could see the weapon’s power shooting from it like beams of light. Zyx even shielded his eyes at first out of reaction to bright light though it was not even physical. The mace contained great power, great energy.

Zyx was still lost and beginning to panic as he felt the pain his brother experienced intensify like waves crashing into his spirit yet felt his brother’s energy faltering. In his mind, Zyx scrambled to Gnobum who didn’t seem to notice him and grasped the mace. At once bolts of electric energy shot through his body and made him shake even though he could not release the mace.

Another face appeared to him, projected by the mace. Zyx did not recognize the figure but it was a strong and powerful looking goblin with the mace in his hand and a crown of bone on his head. Somehow Zyx knew it was Rozukg the Mighty, king of all Trickyfoots. Rozukg gazed at the goblin whelp with dark eyes, deep and still which peered into his soul. Zyx’s heart raced and his breathing accelerated. He felt Nyx’s essence slip further from his grasp.

In a desperate effort Zyx fell at the feet of the great Rozukg. “Please!” he begged, “Please help brother! He dying!”

Rozukg continued to stare at the wiry whelp on his hands and knees begging before him.

Again Zyx begged, “Please! Please save brother!” The young goblin’s voice was high pitched and cracked. His lip quivered and his body shook.

The regal king answered, “I never see a whelp young with much spiritual strength. How do you reach me?”

“I not know! My brother dying! I desperate save him!”

“Save brother?” the King squinted his eyes at the groveling goblin.

“Yes! Yes please! I want save him!” Zyx screamed.

“What will you give for this favor?”

“What you want? I give anything!”

The King considered the offer. “I want life. I spare brother life Rozukg want a life in return.”

Zyx picked his head up in a quick motion and stared eyes wide and mouth open. “You want me kill someone?”

The king laughed. “Yes stupid whelp! I grant you energy save brother, I want life in return. I am king all Trickyfoots!” Rozukg raised his mace high above his head. “Living or dead! So one is allowed live another must die! Must kill one for me, I save brother.” The king lowered his mace and pointed it at Zyx.

“Yes! Yes! I do it!” he screeched.

“Excellent!” bellowed the king, and he waved his mace at Zyx with a wave of energy splashing his face then flowing through his body and into Nyx’s which was nearly spent of life.

Nyx opened his eyes and bolted straight up, gripping his side and looking for the wound. His blood was still wet, covering his abdomen and puddled on the ground. He looked around the den with darting motions. The two goblins who remained stared widely at the pair of brothers, arms hanging limp at their sides and mouths dropped low.

Zyx fell to his back. His body was limp and his eyes half open but glossy and unfocused. Nyx shook him harshly but Zyx didn’t respond. Nyx scooped him up and propped him against the wall. He scrambled around the room searching for something to give him, some sort of beverage. He found his mother’s water skin, filled with a fermented drink and poured some into Zyx’s mouth. The pungent repugnant fluid roused him and after choking and coughing a few times he seemed more alert, though still weary.

“What happen?” Nyx gasped. Zyx searched for the answer through the fog of his mind and the exhaustion of his body. Nyx examined his side and found only a scar where the spear pierced him, already faint as though aged many years.

Finally Zyx answered, “I ask Rozukg save you.”

“You what?” Nyx questioned.

“I ask Rozukg save you,” the young goblin whispered.

Nyx fell to the ground besides his brother and put his head in his hands. “How?”

“I know not. I float and saw lot of goblin. Then saw Gnobum and grabbed mace. It was glowing. When I did saw Rozukg and ask him help you. He said would if did something for him.”

Nyx jumped to his feet again, feeling as good as ever, and bursting with energy. “What you have to do him?”

Zyx paused. He felt a pinch at his side and reached for it. When he did he discovered that he too had a faint scar, matching the one Nyx had. His brother saw it too. Nyx remembered feeling his brother’s spirit, and how his brother eased the burden of pain. He remembered the feeling of energy flowing through his brother and to him. He would never forget it.

Zyx winced and said, “Kill someone.”

Nyx’s eyes sharpened, “Who?”

Zyx shook his head, “Know not. Say life for life.”

Nyx tightened his fists, “I know one, brother. I take care it. Rest.”

Before Zyx could protest, his brother sprinted off into the darkness of the goblin world. Zyx tried to rise but too tired, and too slow anyways to catch his brother, he reclined. The pair of goblin witnesses frozen in bewilderment watched still, then after a moment to regain their wits, also rushed off.

Zyx rested.

Five

Nyx sped through the twisted labyrinth of tunnels. They twisted and turned but he navigated them with ease searching for his target. There was, as always, constant screams and howls, roars and screeches, but his ear blocked out the noise and searched for one voice, one sound through the rest. Nyx’s footsteps were silent as he slinked through the caves and he even passed many fellow goblins who didn’t even notice his small and sleek form slip by. At last his ear caught the sound he was searching for.

Nyx froze in his steps and focused, ears up like a jack rabbit poking his head up from the grass. The young goblin concentrated. Indeed it was the sound he was searching for. It was the whimpers and growls of the goblin he attacked back at their den.

Nyx crept now, no longer sprinting, as he approached cautiously. He honed in on the sounds of his foe. The goblin assassin blocked out everything else, he neither heard nor saw anything; only the voice of his target.

He crawled to the opening of a spur in the cave which was significantly rocky and somewhat removed from the heart of the goblin clan. Even though the footing was treacherous, Nyx was lithe enough to avoid so much as disturbing a single pebble. So skilled was silent was his approach that none of the goblins in the cave heard a single sound that might have alerted them to his approach.

Nyx could hear the words of the goblins inside, each of them the same ones who were earlier in their home den.

“I kill little whelp!” the wounded one howled.

“He already dead likely. Stabbed in side by spear,” another responded. Nyx studied the response and took note of the voice. “I stab him deep!”

There were cheers and laughter from the group; four voices in all.

“Well I kill brother!” the wounded one screamed. The goblins laughed more.

“You wounded. Kill later,” one advised.

“No! I kill now. With dagger from brother,” the wounded one wailed. Nyx imagined his dagger in the hand of the goblin stabbing his brother and he felt his blood boil at the thought and his eyes focused in the dark. He reached down and felt the ground carefully before he discovered a sharp and pointed stone nearby. Nyx gripped the rock in his hand tightly, a sharp edge protruding from his fist. Then he crept closer to the opening of the cave in order to peer inside.

The spur was very dark. Only one small fire burning in a corner for no apparent reason, some recently stripped bones nearby. It was rather small and narrow without much space beyond that which the four goblins already occupied. Nyx spied his target.’

The wounded goblin was sprawled on the ground writhing in pain and anger still while the other three sat near him snickering and laughing. If he were wounded worse they would likely kill him themselves and take his meager belonging but as it was the bone dagger Nyx stabbed into him merely pierced his shoulder muscle and nothing more serious so if not murdered by his own clan he would indeed recover. Since he was the strongest of the four they respected that he could still kill them if needed and they did not dare harm him. Perhaps if they were more cleaver they would recognize that they could use their combined strength in a coordinated attack to kill him, but goblins are typically simple minded and no such strategy occurred to them.

Nyx on the other hand, had a plan. While they argued and laughed and teased he quickly snuck into spur along the jagged wall, half way up in fact as though he were a rat and then leapt over one of the healthy goblins. His flight sent him over one of his foes and he descended directly above his target. The wounded goblin saw Nyx just as he crested his friend but could not quite figure out who he was in the flash of Nyx’s motion.

Nyx gripped his stone with two hands and crashed down on his enemy, crushing his skull with the stone and killing him in a fraction of a moment. The other three goblins fell backwards arms flailing and shrieking as they struggled to keep their balance.

Nyx did not hesitate in the least and instead scooped up his bone dagger and leapt onto the goblin who credited himself with stabbing his side. Nyx drove his dagger into the throat of his attacker and fell on top of him, riding his dead body to the ground.

The spur was filled with shrieks and screams echoing deep into the goblin caves for all to hear. The other two goblins scrambled to their feet and fled screaming and clawing their way through the caves for the second time in the past hour.

The blood in Nyx’s veins cooled and his muscled relaxed as he looked around the spur. Two goblins lay dead. Each of them much larger and stronger than he, yet he murdered them with his swiftness and stealth. He stuck his dagger in his waist and searched the bodies of the slain goblins and the room. Nyx grabbed the spear used to stab him and the gear the other two carried. There was a satchel holding some smoothed stones and bones, a leather belt, a loose cloak and a bone necklace with some rodent skulls strung with a leather strip. They were not anything especially valuable but they were more than any other whelp possessed.

When Nyx was finished scavenging he paused for a moment above his victims. He glared at their expired corpses, now stripped bare and left for rodents or a starving goblin to devour. His work was done.

“For Rozukg,” he whispered, “for Zyx.”

Six

When Nyx was finished looting the corpses of his dead goblin kin he could not resist his goblin blood. He drew his bone dagger and severed two fingers from each of the two goblins he slayed. He did so without hesitation and without the least bit of disgust. Goblins are used to many things that make others squeamish or nauseous. Severed fingers were nothing compared with the gruesome things they witness on a daily basis. Death, dismemberment, blood, guts and violence were commonplace in the goblin caves. They were as normal as drinking tea was amongst elves. Suffice to say, the four fingers were simple trophies for the goblin assassin. The first of many.

Nyx, satisfied that there was nothing remaining in the spur of the goblin caves of value for him, scurried back to den from whence he was born. There Zyx awaited. Nyx felt his brother’s essence as though he were there somehow. It was faint and yet profound enough to be noticed. It called Nyx and guided him back to the den though he knew the way. Like a beacon Zyx guided his brother to him.

As Nyx entered his birth den he found none except his brother, legs crossed hands folded and eyes closed; deep in thought. Zyx felt his brother enter and opened his eyes, red with blood and a smile crept over his face, thin lips curled in a crooked grin.

Nyx paused and studied his brother. He sensed something he never noticed before. Zyx sat cross-legged, grinning at him seeming like the brother he’s always known but there was much more to him than he ever knew. Nyx noticed a strange glow about him that wasn’t quite light. It wasn’t a visible glow like a torch or fire, it was something subtler than that. It was more like the soft glow of the moon; a reflection of some other light. It was as if his image rippled like a reflection in a pool of deep water; difficult to see clearly yet visible nonetheless.

Zyx didn’t wait for his brother to ponder long and instead he stood and embraced him, toppling him over. They rolled on the ground giggling in a throaty laugh paying no mind to the rocks and stones on the ground as their greyish bodies were one.

Each felt connected to the other as they once were in the same womb. Each felt the other’s heart beating and blood flowing and the shared in the elation that only life can give on a day they nearly lost theirs. They rolled until they lay on their backs and their giggling slowed to a chuckle then stopped at a warm smile. They had never known the feelings they felt flow through their bodies; few goblins had. It was yet another of many more deviations from the curse of their heritage.

At last they could conceive no more reason to lay there so Nyx rose only to fetch the dismembered fingers from his pouch and hand two of them to Zyx.

“What are these,” Zyx asked gleefully?

“Fingers from two that tried to kill us,” Nyx answered. Zyx held the fingers in his boney hands and rolled them around, still warm and still wet with blood of their deceased owner. His eyes half closed and in his mind the fingers grew into the embodiment of the goblins they belonged to. He saw each of the slain goblins before him as though they were yet alive. Each looked cross, scowling at Zyx, as though bothered at his summoning them from some important work that only the dead know of. He quickly opened his eyes and looked, wide eyed, at the pale fingers in his hand.

Zyx’s smile was wider than ever. He accepted the fingers and immediately began to imagine what to do with them. He conceived some sort of lanyard to hold these and any other trinket he may encounter.

Nyx had no such plans for the fingers and instead placed them in his pouch. Then the boys reclined against the wall of their den and leaned their heads against one another before dozing off for a much needed rest. Each felt entirely safe next to the other.

In the tunnels of the goblin clan Trickyfoot word quickly spread like a dank breeze in the dark corridors of their underworld. Rumors of a young goblin who somehow healed another with his spirit electrified the otherwise dead caves and dens while word of a whelp who murdered two other goblins out of vengeance excited the clan which was always pleased to add another warrior to its ranks to stave off orcs and other goblin clans from claiming their home, and also one as deadly as Nyx was always useful on a food raid or treasure raid, or any raid for that matter. Violence was a way of life for goblins and the more the better. That aspect of the goblin world was simple. Kill for survival.

More complex was the goblin religious system. They were primitive in their worship compared to the civilizations above ground and the dwarves of the mountains and even the dark elves of the deep. They did not have a highly structured system which included holy texts but instead relied more on spiritualism and ritual. Rather than training priests and clerics they recognized shamans and primitive monks. Their racial diety was Sagobr Dreaddeath. He was pictured as a massive goblin wielding a whip to punish enemies. He strove for the perpetuation of the goblin clans and encouraged violence and enslavement of the other races of the world, especially those on the surface: humans, elves, halflings.

The goblins participated in a very violent religion. Failure to gain the approval of the deity and his representatives often resulted in public whippings or other torture to encourage learning and adherence to the tenets of their faith. Sacrifice to their god was also common, especially the sacrifice of lives captured in raids or other violent acts. Therefor the temple caves were most often painted with blood and decorated with bones and the rotting flesh of those they offered to their cruel and evil deity.

Such was the world of the goblin. Both Nyx and Zyx showed promise in such a world.

Seven

The boys’ mother was the first to return to their den. She didn’t have a name worth remembering and so no one knows it. She waddled in belly and breasts sagging and barely covered by a torn and dirty cloth. Her hair hung about her face as vines covering a swamp complete with putrid stench. Her eyes were alive however and they darted bright yellow to and fro searching her den for her offspring as a jackal searches for a bone. When she caught sight of her boys her taught muscles relaxed and a dry crooked smile spread across her face and her orange jagged teeth bared. She reached up with her dirt covered hand and combed her hair from her face with her long sharp nails. As she entered the boys shot up Nyx with his dagger raised as he growled like a dog protecting its master.

The goblin mother croaked, “It’s good my whelp, no fear me. I your mother am.”

Nyx lowered his dagger but his hand gripped it tightly and his arms were tense; eyes focused.

Their mother swayed her hips as she walked closer to the boys. “No, fear me,” she repeated. “I no harm you.” She smiled sheepishly as she spoke.

Zyx noticed an aura surrounding his mother but it was foreign to him. It appeared somewhat dark with shades of green swirling around like a fog distorting her image. Her face melted somewhat then came into focus again. Zyx tried to sharpen his sight fearing there were something wrong with his eyes, and when that didn’t solve his vision he closed his eyes tightly and reopened them. Still a distorted darkness surrounded his mother and it seemed to grow. His head began to hurt and he thought he heard whispers.

“Betray,” the whisper spoke. “Betray.”

The whispers made Zyx’s head throb and he clasped his hands over his ears and fell backwards. Nyx turned and caught him before his brother could crash to the ground and instead lowered him. Their mother approached hands outstretched but Nyx turned to her and froze her with his icy gaze.

“Zyx hurting!” he spat, “You no help. You let us die would.”

“No, no,” the goblin mother pleaded, “I help! I get food!”

“Then go!” Nyx growled and he turned back to his brother. Their mother clapped her hands and sped off again in search of food.

“Brother! What hurts? How I help?” Nyx pleaded.

Zyx just moaned and held his head. He opened his eyes but there was nothing but bright light again, much like the time he stared into the mace, skull masher. He didn’t even feel the floor of the den but only the pain in his head. His ears rung and his mind swirled unable to make sense of his surroundings or filter his senses. It was as if there were too many sounds and too many lights for him to separate one from another.

His mother, meanwhile, scampered through the caves in search of a shaman. There were several in the clan and they typically were found near the temple, of sorts, located not far from the king’s court, if one could call it that, and throne. It was easy to find because of the stench of blood and decay of flesh flowing freely from it. There was even a little trail of blood that became thicker and wider as one approached. The goblin dam found this trail and followed it to the temple.

The temple was another large cut out of the cave. It was decorated with skulls and bones. Most prominently were skulls of the surface dwellers. Elves, humans and halflings sacrificed to the goblin god; Sagobr Dreaddeath. There was no race spared however and virtually every size of bone could be found in the vast collection. The archway to the temple and all of the pillars and the alter itself were fashioned from bone. If one did not know better it would appear somewhat normal, but it was of course far from it. Sagobr’s temple was devoted to pain, suffering and death. Blood, bones and screams were the offerings that pleased their deity.

The goblin mother squealed as she entered, hastily smearing thick dark blood on her forehead before calling for a shaman to assist her. One answered her pleas for help with a grunt and growl. She explained that she wanted assistance for her whelp. The shaman raised a bone scepter to bash her stupid skull in and sacrifice her blood to their lord but she screamed about how Zyx and Nyx murdered some other goblins that day and now needed attention and food. The shaman stayed his angry hand.

“These whelps, tell me them,” the spiritual leader commanded. Their mother smiled and fell to her knees hands on the goblin’s knees. She told him about her boys. Her words were hasty and barely contained truth but the shaman sensed something more in them. Every time she spoke the name Zyx and Nyx, when she could remember her boys’ names, a spark struck in the shaman’s spirit. He knew there was more to them than he was aware he also knew that Sagobr Dreaddeath wanted them. For what purpose he did not know, but he knew their deity took note and so he obeyed his master and asked the mother to take him to the boys, after she paid him tribute of course; with her otherwise worthless flesh.

Slowly the throbbing in Zyx’s head slowed and as he kept his eyes closed he was able to calm his breathing and once again gain a handle on the world around him. He became aware that he was in the den of his birth and he felt his brother holding his head in his lap. He felt safe and so at last opened his eyes and smiled. Nyx smiled back.

“Oh brother you scare me! I not know what happen. I worry you sick or dying. How you feel?”

Just when Zyx was waking, the shaman approached with the goblins’ mother in tow, carrying a sack with some meats and goblin mead. Both were disgusting and repulsive excuses for food and drink but in the goblin world they were luxuries that many had died for. The shaman halted out of eyesight and silenced the woman with a raise of his bone scepter. The shaman whispered to his god and a dark shadow of a large rat crawled from the floor and crawled forward into the den where the boys sat, listening intently to them and studying them carefully.

Zyx considered the question and slowly answered, “I not know. Too many sounds and too many lights.”

“Sounds? Lights? I not see any. What sounds you mean?”

“I think they not real. I hear them in head. See them in mind. I no think they real.”

“Not real?”

“Yes more like dream. I no understand but I see and hear.”

“Brother I not know what you say. You safe now?”

“Yes feel ok. But I feel like there others.”

“Others?”

“Yes. Our mother. Another. And a rat.”

The goblin shaman smiled. He had found another brother, another spirit walker, another who could commune with those beyond the physical world.

Eight

The goblin shaman stepped into the den where the boys rested and stood before them quickly studying the pair. Nyx did not hesitate but instead leapt to his feet, blocked the shaman from his brother dagger in hand and waved it around in warning.

“Stay back!” Nyx growled, “I kill you!”

The shaman did not speak but instead focused on the young welp’s aura. It glowed bright and red, full of rage and hate, typical for a goblin born into the conflict and violence of their world. It was strong for one so young however. His physique matched his aura. The shaman was not impressed with such things, but he suspected that Nyx would make a fine warrior for their ever-rotating ranks.

“Clam, I no hurt you,” the shaman whispered to Nyx with no words, but instead with thoughts. It confused him, but rather than enrage him further, Nyx’s heart and breath slowed as he lowered his hand.” Nyx sat down with a plop on his rear.

To Zyx he thought “I feel you welp. You have power.” It confused Zyx but he recognized the words in his head and although Goblins are not known for their problem-solving skills, he put together that the older goblin was speaking to him as he somehow spoke to his brother; with his spirit. Zyx tilted his head.

“You come with me,” the goblin shaman ordered as he pointed a gnarled and curved finger at the young wlep. Zyx stepped back half a step and thought, “I stay with brother.”

The shaman cackled and snorted then with a half smile thought, “Why you think you matter? You nothing. Lowly goblins. Your mother cleaned rat cages. You eat scraps. You worthless.”

“No!” Zyx shouted.

“Yes! You come with me or die.”

“No!” Zyx growled and from his spirit a growl burst forth and pushed the goblin shaman back like a wave of anger cast outward. Dust from the cave walls fell like a fog around the boys and the shaman. Their own mother cowered in the hall before rushing off in search of braver beings than herself. Zyx seemed so much larger for a moment and hardly resembled a goblin. For a brief instant both Nyx and the shaman thought they saw something that appeared more like a bear than a goblin, large and ferocious.

Zyx stood tall as his brother sat beside him clutching his knees to his chest. The shaman hesitated for a moment before he squinted his eyes and gripped his staff, shaft smeared with blood and decorated with strips of leather tied to bones, knuckles of many victims and sacrifices.  In both hands the shaman raised his staff high above his head then swung it hard to the floor. Too far from the boys to strike them they did not flinch or brace themselves against an attack but watched listlessly.

The staff cracked the floor of the cave sending a blast of energy in all directions. Dirt and dust whipped up from the floor in a rush and the meager possessions of the lowly goblin family were tossed about is garbage in a storm. The blast struck the boys harder than any blow from a fist or foot they had ever felt. The blast stole the breath from their lungs and cast them against the cold walls of the cave. The shaman began to howl in a pitch that deafened the boys but that was the least of their pain. Huddled on the ground the boys lay next to one another, gasping for air in a room filled with dust and debris, unable to hear a sound beyond the piercing squeal of the shaman. Worse, they felt as though their very will to live were being sucked from them. They felt suddenly weaker like their muscles had been drained after intense and prolonged labor.

Neither welp knew what was happening but Zyx felt compelled to reach out to Nyx in his mind and urge him to hold on. Zyx  felt the fear and the pain in his brother, and he felt it too in his own body. He knew they could not endure whatever was happening for long. Nyx felt the pain in his brother as well and as one mind they thought of something. Nyx and Zyx locked eyes momentarily and an understanding flowed between them both. Nyx gripped the dagger and hurled it without raising his eyes in the tornado of dust. The dagger traveled true and struck the shaman in the leg. The goblin spiritualist yelped and the drain on the boys’ spirits halted as their life force returned.

The boys stood shoulder to shoulder eyes fixed on their unwelcomed visitor. Zyx searched for the strength to growl again and from deep within, an animalistic growl built and burst from his spirit, once more stunning the shaman and causing him to stumble. This was the opening Nyx was looking for, he lunged forward striking the shaman directly in the nose, breaking it and causing blood to gush forth and spill on his fist and the shaman’s face. Their opponent fell to the ground. Nyx grabbed his dagger, the shaman’s staff and the bags he carried with food and drink and motioned for his brother to follow as he dashed out of the den.

Zyx paused for a moment wide eyed and scanning the scene before him, but quickly gathered his wits and followed his brother’s lead. The boys scampered off into the direction of their earlier adventure into the caves deep in the mountain, away from the goblin town. From behind them they heard screams, yelps, barks and howls. Even though the noise faded behind them they had an unnerving feeling that there was someone in pursuit.

It was nearly an hour before they stopped. The boys did poor to track in which direction they were heading and in all honesty were not concerned about it. Their sole aim was to get as far away from the goblin town as they could. In a very short amount of time the boys learned a very clear lesson about life as a goblin; their lives were in constant danger and they could not count on any to protect them except the pair of them. All who they encountered seemed to be a threat. Such was life as a goblin.

Nine

Back in the den of the welps the shaman lay, ears ringing and back sore, nose broken and bleeding the metallic taste in his mouth. He licked the corner of his mouth and his own blood helped him focus his thoughts more intently on the tiny, invisible yet alert rat that he sent after the boys. The spiritual rodent tailed the boys to their resting spot and observed the safely but cautiously. Nearly an hour after the attack however and the shaman’s energy was very nearly drained.

He was disturbed further by the return of the boys’ mother with some soldiers she fetched. The term soldier does not apply to goblins in the same way it would humans, elves or dwarves. Even orcs are far more warrior-like than goblins. For goblins however, the term does refer to a class in their society who are far less cowardly than the average goblin and therefor in charge of the lower classes. Only the shamans held respect equal to that of soldiers. The soldiers represented the goblin elite, if such a thing were even sensible. They were characterized by improved diet, equipment and most obvious was their whips, the mainstay of goblin life and the enforcer of their order. From among the soldiers the king arose and they remained his favored at his will.

A pair of soldier approached the den after listening to the wild tales of the mother. They nearly smashed her skull in when she ran up to them, but when she told them that he boys attacked a shaman, they felt it necessary to investigate and likely to discipline someone with their cruel whips, each a collection of strips of leather and shards of bone and rock. Their approach broke the shaman’s concentration and with effort he opened his eyes in the dusty room.

The first soldier to approach squawked “He dead?”

“No, dumb slug, his eyes open.”

The shaman turned his head to cast a glance at the soldiers which said far more to them than any words and they took half a step back, knowing that it was always dangerous to anger a shaman. They could do far more with their spirits than the soldiers could with their whips.

“Who do this?” The first soldier asked. The shaman did not answer, still weak from the attack and concentration of his energy.

“Was it whelps?” The second added, “This woman tells us her boys attack you.”

The shaman jerked his head and rolled to his chest before crawling to his feet. His vision blurred for a moment before the blood could return to his head and focus his eyes. When they did focus he saw the mother of the boys who attacked him. Had he more strength he might have killed her on the spot but his body and spirit were drained.

The shaman locked eyes with the boys’ mother and said, “My name Nakbor. I shaman of Rozukg Dreaddeath. You worthless. Your boys attack me, must now die.” His boney, dry hand lurched out and gripped her throat. She howled in fear and agony. The hand felt physically weak but somehow burned her flesh. As she wailed Nakbor opened his mouthed and inhaled her pain. His grip grew stronger, his eyes rolled back in his head until they looked entirely black. Her screams echoed off the lonely stone walls of her pitiful destroyed den. The den where she once whelped. Where she nursed her young. Where she neglected them and ultimately where she betrayed them. They fled the den where she birthed them and fled from the shaman she brought to enslave them. They escaped with their lives, but she would not any longer.

Nakbor’s hand seemed to reach through her and strangle her spirit, tearing it from her body as he sucked the life from her. While he did, he felt all her pain, her despair, her desperation and it made him stronger. At last there was no spirit left in her and her body fell limp to the floor like a sack of rotten potatoes.

Nakbor stood completely still, eyes closed, enjoying the revitalizing feeling of draining a spirit from another being. He felt stronger, and wiser, more alive than before. Even his physical wounds were healed. The break in his nose no longer throbbed and the blood that trickled from it halted. His aches and pains too were removed.

The pair of soldiers next to him stood dumbstruck, mouths hanging open but eyes alive and darting from the dead goblin and the shaman. It was not often that they saw a shaman perform rituals up close and the event was more than their primitive minds could grasp.

Finally, Nakbor opened his eyes and the soldiers hopped up and down in excitement. They even began to pace about in a primal frenzy. The shaman had no patience for their activities however and scolded them, “Enough! I no have time! We find and kill boys! Get me slavers! I stay here!”

Even though goblins’ speech is simple the shaman spoke too many words for the soldiers to process and so they continued to stare blankly. The shaman was not amused. “Slavers! Now! Or I next kill you!”

This was comprehendible by the simple creatures and they sped off bumping into one another and running pell-mell down the halls.

Nakbor gripped the woman’s heal and dragged her into the filthy den. He felt no spirit in her but was not surprised. He had however absorbed the spiritual connection she had with her boys, weak though it was. The shaman grinned as he sat down, legs crossed beneath him to rest. He could feel the boys’ spirits. He knew he could find them and seek his revenge. Still though, he wondered, how powerful was the young spiritualist? And how brave and deadly was his brother? Could they be assets to the clan? Nakbor shook the thought from his head as soon as it entered. Whether they were an asset or valuable didn’t matter, they injured him and therefore would contribute to the tribe by shrieking in pain for the pleasure of Dreaddeath. The shaman smiled at the thought.

Ten

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 dreamt. 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 dreamt. 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.

 

Eleven

Back in the Trickyfoot goblin town, the soldiers scampered their way to near center of the town and word of the skirmish involving the boys followed them like a wind at their backs spreading throughout the dens, homes, slave pens and even to the King’s throne. Goblin society was built on a fragile structure of strength, treachery, deceit and conflict and a pair of whelps resisting and defeating a shaman threatened the order of things. One of two things would have to happen, the shaman would be disgraced and killed or reduced to the lowliest of classes, or the boys would have to be found and subjugated. If nothing was done the entire class system was threatened and any number of whelps and slaves might revolt and destroy the hideous fabric that wove together the goblin world.

Goblin towns were generally organized with the lowest class towards the outside to fend for themselves, the dirties. The dirties class were hardly afforded any privileges in the tribe. They usually had to fend for themselves and find their own food, often by trying to steal it from other goblins. They were forced to do the lowest jobs, when there were no slaves to do them, like cleaning up animal pens or cleaning up after other goblins. Understand that as disgusting as goblins are, being forced to clean up after other goblins would be worse than a death sentence in most cultures. Usually they aspired to move into higher classes and indeed many of them do if they can prove cunning or strength by hacking and slashing their way through society, or some valued talent or ability. Others are shoved to dirties level through failure and ineptitude. It wasn’t a pleasant place to be.

The level just above dirties was the trappers and farmers. This class was largely responsible for feeding the tribe. They set animal traps, foraged for food and cultivated edible fungus for cave goblins and simple crops for hill goblins. It wasn’t glamorous work but was important. Failure to feed the higher classes was dealt with harshly. The cruel whips of slavers and soldiers were quick to punish, or motivate, the trappers and farmers. Goblins were efficient enough at catching prey. Not brave creatures, they were somewhat clever when it came to traps and set them all around their communities. If the goblins were talented at anything, it was at capturing and abusing other creatures or beings.

The third, and first class with any prestige, was the soldier class. The soldiers were responsible for obvious things like defending the village and leading assaults, whether during raids, or attacks on other goblin villages or perhaps even orc strongholds. They were far braver than typical goblins who are known to flee at first sight of a fallen comrade. These have the strength to stand tall in the face of danger and even inspire other goblins around them. In battle, goblins have been known to fight on, far beyond their own spirits would allow through the example of soldiers or perhaps, out of fear of them. Since goblins are not large creatures in the world, they value speed and dexterity over strength. The soldiers carry swords or clubs or any other manner of weapon along with the typical whip. One of the goblin’s favorite tricks is to lash a creature or foe with the whip and even bind their leg or arm and then attack with the deadlier weapon of its choice. In spite of the goblinoid’s reputation of cowardice and weakness, no average being would do well in a tangle with a goblin soldier.

One of the most revered and valued classes in goblin society is the slaver, they are also the cruelest. The whole of the goblin’s world revolves around slavery. Since goblins are limited in their statue and strength, they rely on slaves for most of the physical labor. Slavers are highly skilled with nets, bolas and whips to capture and subdue creatures. The goblin slavers subjugate a variety of creatures and beings. Giant rats and wolves are common among their captives and make up the bulk of animals used for labor but they also fill their towns with slaves from other goblin tribes, orcs, trolls, ogres and if they can manage to capture the higher creatures like dwarves, gnomes, elves or humans, they too are forced to serve the vile needs of goblins. Whether for labor or for abuse, the number and type of slaves that a goblin tribe possesses is its source of prestige in their world. The slavers are responsible for capture and keep of these slaves and so they are highly regarded in their society.

Another prestige class is the shaman or mystic class. The so-called spirit goblins. Goblins are not intelligent creatures in the least, and also lack in patience necessary to study classical magic arts, but goblins, so primal and primitive in nature, often show a surprising innate ability to get in touch with worlds beyond the physical. Like in Zyx, certain goblins are born with this ability and it is difficult to cultivate, but still highly regarded. Most use this power to do harm to others, but many still are able to heal or inspire their comrades in battle or to perform elaborate spells that shock and mystify enemies. Because of their primitive minds, the goblins fear the shaman class more so than the others at times.

The final and royal class of goblins, commonly referred to as the betters, represent the governing class, if there is such a thing in the goblin world. They tended to be the cleverer among the tribe and typically bamboozled or swindled their way to the top, sometimes through violent treachery, sometimes through trickery by way of intelligence. How ever they got there, the betters were as close to royalty as goblins got. They ordered other goblins around and did little for themselves. They did not contribute much to day to day function of the society but did sometimes benefit the tribe through use of their marginally improved reasoning skills to make decisions on matters of governance. They meet in chaotic and loud gatherings to argue over whatever issues face them, usually whether to raid, rape and pillage a poor farming community, and the goblin who won the others over rose in honor and prestige. It was primitive, but functional.

These classes were important in the goblin world and upsetting the balance, like it would in any society, threatened the entire structure. The boys, though they thought they were safe and free, were never in more danger than they were at that moment. Their resistance and flight created a crack in the Trickyfoot foundation that demanded repair. The crack would be mended with their blood.

Twelve

The goblin boys were not worried whatsoever about the impending hunt for their hides, they figured no one would care they were gone since no one seemed to care they were there in the first place. Wrong though they may have been, they were very comfortable after their meal and mead. Zyx had a chance to study the totem staff that Nyx grabbed during their dash from their den. Shamans created totems to help them channel their spiritual energy and cast spells. This totem held tremendous power.

It was crafted from a leg bone of an ogre and so it was much longer than many. That fact alone made it powerful as it held within it some of the strength of the creature that died to provide it. The poor ogre slaved away for years in the goblin town before succumbing to neglect and abuse only to have his wretched corpse pillaged and recycled into satchels from his flesh, totems and daggers from his bones, and his teeth and knuckles made into dice or trinkets which goblins valued more than most cultures value gold coins.

Leather strips were wrapped around the staff. All were remnants of Nakbor’s victims, and all contributed energy to the totem. Blood too was smeared and soaked into the leather adding to its aura. Finally, on the top of the totem was the top part of a giant rat skull secured with the sinew of a poor elf who was tragically captured by the goblins some decades ago. Poor soul was tortured for weeks before succumbing to the abuse of his captors. All in all, the totem was very powerful and filled with strong auras and spirits from decades of victims.

Zyx could feel the power in the totem and even hear the sounds of the souls used to build it. Faint cries, screams and moans filled his mind as he held in out in front of him. They confused him for a moment as they seemed to cry for mercy but he knew they were not from the world of the living but rather the spirit world. The young goblin closed his eyes and focused on them. The image of a twisted and deformed ogre came to him along with a giant rat. In a moment, they vanished and a squeal from Nakbor pierced his ears and caused him to shake his head. When he shook enough to escape the screams of the totem’s creator, he focused again on its power. Nyx watched his brother ears up and eyes wide.

“What it do?” Nyx asked.

“Don’t know,” Zyx answered.

“It seem powerful.”

“Me thinks so.”

“Then do something.”

Zyx squinted his eyes and let the totems power flow into him. He felt a variety of sensations. Hot, cold, a suction from a vacuum, screams and howls and even a healing warmth. Zyx focused on one of the more obvious sensations, a flame. It was one that he recognized easily and he tried to separate it from the other auras held in the totem. He pictured a single flame. Suddenly a flame sparked from the top of the totem. It appeared so suddenly that Zyx hopped backwards and almost dropped it. Nyx also scampered away a couple of steps hugging the ground, then broke into a joyous laughter.

“Do more! Do more!” Nyx chanted.

Zyx swung he totem around and the flame remained ever burning from the top of the staff without charring it at all. The boys were very impressed. Zyx dismissed the flame in his mind and it vanished. Closing his eyes once more he searched for an element of the staff he could isolate like the flame. He sifted through the various sensations and came across a cold feeling multiple times. He focused his mind on the cold and it indeed seemed to be a frost sensation. It was cold and felt like it could choke out life itself. It grew stronger in his mind and he held it. Nothing happened though and Nyx grew impatient.

“Why nothing happen? Make it work!” Nyx blurted. When he did Zyx’s mind lost a little concentration and he jolted. In that instance a burst of frozen air flew from the totem and down the cave. Both brothers leaped back and stumbled, squawking as they did. When they fled the frost Zyx dropped the totem, tossing it away from him though it did not hurt him in the least.

The boys looked at each other, eyes wide and mouths open. Wide grins crept across their faces and the hopped up and down together before Zyx slowly inched towards the totem. He snatched it off the ground and held it far from his body. The goblin spiritualist searched again for the cold sensation and it was much easier to find this time. He again focused his energy of the feeling of frost. Zyx held the feeling and then projected it forward and as he did, another burst of cold air launched from the totem away from him.

The boys did not flee so far this time but only flinched a little, then celebrated with more hopping and cheering. Zyx practiced the spell a few more times, blasting frost forward and down the hall. They grew bored with the frost spell however and wanted to up the level of difficulty. Nyx began to toss rocks up and have Zyx blast them with frost. This delighted them for a moment too then they decided to go in search of something else to freeze. They wandered away from their resting place to find a new target.

The cave wound some and narrowed at places and widened at others. Zyx decided to produce the flame from his totem. While Goblins can see in the dark well enough, their vision does not illuminate colors but the flame gave them a better view of their surroundings. The cave walls sparkled in the lights with bits of quartz and crystal scattered about the stone it gave the appearance of stars that neither of them had ever seen but was mesmerizing nonetheless.

They found themselves gazing up at the high roof of the cave. What they failed to see was the cave spider in a nearby crevice. The flame deterred the spider from attacking but all his eyes watched the brothers standing not twenty feet from the webbed corner that he made home. The flame bothered him but cave spiders do not have too many opportunities to feast and two young goblins were perfect prey.

Unwilling to let the succulent meal escape, the spider shot a thick string of web towards Zyx and struck him directly in his torso, breaking his concentration and making the flame extinguish. Nyx jumped backwards away from his brother eyes darting around to try to make sense of what was happening. The spider leaped from his hole and on Nyx web spraying all over the young goblin. The cave spider’s fangs, dripping with venom, tried to pierce the goblin but with swift moves he evaded the attacks as he tried to escape but the webs entangled him and he couldn’t get far from the spider.

Zyx saw his brother under the spider and although he was somewhat restrained from the webbing he reached the totem and without standing he quickly focused his attention on the cold feeling within. Not quick enough however the spider’s fangs found Nyx’s chest and injected their venom deep into his body. Nyx cried out in a primal animalistic scream and could feel the venom slowing his limbs, lungs and heart. He suddenly felt very weary and sleepy.

Zyx shouted “No! Brother!” and as he did he cast frost from the totem and it flew in a great wave and struck the spider sending it toppling over. The spider screeched and tried to regain its footing but he found it difficult to move the legs struck by Zyx’s frost. Zyx pointed the totem at the spider again and sent another blast of frost at their attacker. Another and another blast flew from the young goblin until the spider no longer moved or made noise. Literal frost surrounded and entombed the spider.

Zyx wriggled from the webs that bound him and crawled to his brother. Nyx was a very pale green and his eyes were clouded. He looked dehydrated and he shook uncontrollably. Zyx shouted and gripped his brother and tried to shake and shout him awake but Nyx was nonresponsive. The spider’s poison was deep in his blood.

 

Thirteen

In the boys’ birth home a huge stirring had settled across the village. Whispers passed from one goblin to the next and before long the boys had become legend. Their acts had been exaggerated to the point where they were said to have slaughtered a dozen soldiers with spells and great feats of physical strength. This all sounds preposterous and glorious to any who doesn’t comprehend the goblin ways but to those who do, they understand that rumor is fact amongst goblins and facts are fleeting. The whole affair had already begun to fade shortly after the party put together to find and destroy them had departed.

The rumors reached the court or the Trickyfoot king, Gnobum. Some of his servant goblins were whispering to each other and it annoyed the king.

“What you whisper about?” The king shouted, pointing his twisted obsidian mace at the pair of gossipers.

“Nothing, my king, forgive stupid goblin, no hurt me,” one stammered in response cowering low and even covering his head as though the mace were already crashing down on him though the king was many feet away atop his throne constructed of bone.

“Tell me!” the king demanded, “Or I crush you skull!”

“Just whelps, king. Some Trickyfoot whelps.”

“What about whelps? What interesting about whelps? Tell me!” The king screeched.

The servant goblin took a few steps backward as if the king’s voice blew him back and continued to cower with the other gossiper hiding behind him trying best not to be seen. “They killed goblins, many goblins, and beat shaman of Sagobr. I hear they strong, one powers has, other mighty, deadly. They run away. Shaman to hunt them now. Call for soldiers.”

“Shaman called for king’s soldiers and no tell king?” Gnobum rose to his feet, much larger and many goblins and an actual imposing figure. The servants cowered and backed away until they thudded against the stone wall behind them. “That make me angry!” The king raised his mace high and swung it around his head as though he battled a group of enemies before leaping from his throne and smashing the mace to the floor in one mighty motion creating a massive blast of stone flying in all directions. All servants in the room ducked to the ground and covered their heads.

He shouted, “Bring me Thux! I need my chief slaver!” Servants scattered in all directions some to try to fulfill the king’s wishes, others to hide but word did reach the Chief Trickyfoot slaver that his king demanded his consol.

Thux was also a larger goblin and strong. He carried a wicked barbed whip, with three separate lashes, that was feared by all in the clan except the mightiest among them and well known to the Trickyfoot slaves. It was a weapon that brought even the strongest and proudest creatures low and forced them to submit. None wished to feel its lashes especially in the hands of its cruel wielder. With confidence, Thux entered the court of his king and upon reaching the throne, he bowed, “You call my king?” he began.

By this time Gnobum had time to calm somewhat and was once again seated on his throne contemplating what to do next. In his meditation, he got the sense that somehow he knew these whelps. He could not understand how but he imagined them reaching out to him for help. More than that though, he sensed their ability and therefor their value to the tribe and as king of the Trickyfoots, he was always looking for ways to strengthen and expand his tribe. Goblins typically dwelled in the dark cold crevices of mountains, but the most successful kings and tribes managed to live and thrive in the open hills or sometimes valleys of the world. A goblin king could dream of such things at least and two powerful whelps could be useful in achieving it.  

“Thux! You hear of whelps attacking shaman?” The king asked.

“Yes king. I hear of them.”

“I want them. They seem strong. Trickyfoot need strong goblins. I want raid soon. Orcs threaten us. Strong goblins we need.”

“Where they now?” the slaver asked.

“Not sure. I hear shaman want to find them. This shaman not respect king. I king, not he. He not command my goblins.”

“Of course king.”

“But!” the goblin king paused and twisted his mace in his hands. “Shaman speak to Sagobr Dreaddeath. We not make Dreaddeath angry. Bring shaman too. I judge who live and who die.”

“Yes king. I capture them.”

“Good! No fail me Thux!” the king smiled pleased with his decision and perceived cunning. “Go! Send slavers! Bring them here.”

With a wave of the king’s hand, Thux bowed once again then trotted off to organize a party of slavers.

Thux returned to the slave dungeon where they held their unfortunate prey captive. It was the worst place imaginable. Constant pain, torture, screams and agony were the hallmarks of the goblin dungeons. Most prefer death but goblins were talented at inflicting pain and preventing death. Once there, Thux organized some of his slavers. Five in all. He ordered them to get wolf mounts from their pens, nets bolas whips and barbed ropes to capture their targets. And instructed them on the specifics of the mission. Capture the boys. Do not kill them. Do not let the shaman kill them. Capture the shaman. It was a complicated mission for goblin slavers who were used to raiding and capturing anything they did not kill and there was a significant chance that they would not complete the mission as designed but such was life in the goblin world. With equipment, supplies and weapons prepared, they set off to find the shaman who ordered this mission in the first place and could track the boys.

Before they could set off they had to find the shaman who so strongly desired holding them accountable for their rebellion and violence against him. Nakbor grew angrier and more focused in waiting for an escort and in the meantime, had begun construction on a makeshift totem specific to the mission at hand, capturing and torturing the boys. In typical goblin fashion, it was a macabre collection of body parts, blood and bone mostly from the mother of the boys. Her ears, her tongue, her teeth and her hair were used to decorate her thigh bone all covered in her blood. Already it reeked of death and hate and would not even have appeared as a totem to any but those familiar with the shaman arts. Nakbor even had enough time to enchant the totem quickly with one enchantment.

Once the totem was constructed, the goblin shaman held it in his hands and focused his thoughts on the boys. He pictured them in his mind and chanted hateful words of curse. Specifically, he chanted goblin for “flesh to dust” over and over. The image of the whelps turned blood red then black in his mind as they shrank and wilted away like flowers in bitter sun until they were nothing but dust. The process took more than an hour but once finished Nakbor smiled, anticipating the pain he would inflict with the spell. It was a spell that, as an experienced shaman, he could inflict, but it was easier and faster to cast the spell using the prepared totem.

At last the slaver party reached the shaman. Nakbor didn’t hesitate with more words than he needed and didn’t bother explaining anything to the simple slavers. He merely uttered, “follow me,” and turned to head off after the boys, their spirits still very strong in his mind.

Fourteen

Deep in the depths of the mountain, Nyx convulsed with spider venom coursing through his veins. Zyx scrambled and shook his brother to no avail. As Zyx screeched and screamed, holding his brother, he could feel the venom. It turned Zyx’s stomach and caused his muscles to ache. Nyx’s eyes closed and his mouth foamed when he coughed, a putrid stench spewing from his belly. Zyx began to sob, “No! Brother! Brother! Brother! No die!” He drew his brother into his lap and wrapped his arms around him as he rocked back and forth. Tears fell from his face and with his arms clasped across his brother’s chest he felt his heart slowing. Zyx closed his own eyes in absolute despair.

Zyx could feel the venom moving deeper into his brother’s body. He knew it would not be much longer before it had over taken his small form. He focused on the venom and felt as if he could differentiate it from the blood in his brother’s body. Zyx imagined it leaving Nyx’s blood. In his mind, he pictured the venom flowing against the blood stream towards its origin, the puncture holes in his brother’s chest. The mystical whelp felt the poison moving away from Nyx’s organs and out of his tissues, but it turned his stomach and his head began to heat.

The venom was sucked from Nyx’s body and spiritually into his brother’s causing Zyx to flush and feel hot as his vision blurred and he struggled to maintain his focus. Zyx continued to rock back and forth with his brother in his arms but his head was foggy and eyes could not focus. The physical effects only strengthen his spiritual resolve however and he clung tighter with his mind to his brother’s spirit ever willing the poison from him.

Nyx’s color improved from a very pale green to his darker normal shade and his heart rate improved from nearly nothing to its normal rate. Soon his limbs too no longer shook and instead his hands clinched as if ready for a fight. At last he coughed and his eyes flung open. He struggled free from his brother and flailed about wildly for a moment fending off imagined attackers. Nyx soon realized none were there and he looked first to the cave spider, frozen in layers of frost, then to his brother who lay on his back, shaking.

Nyx dashed to him and shook him, not unlike Zyx did to him minutes earlier. He too shouted to his brother and Zyx heard his call and it settled his spirit though he could not respond. Nyx searched the room for anything useful and could not find anything to help the situation except the totem Zyx used to subdue their attacker. He grabbed it and placed it in his brother’s hands. Zyx gripped it and clung to it as though he were clinging to life. It helped Zyx to focus his spirit and a clarity of thought emerged from the fog of venom.

In reality, Zyx was merely in a trance though his body seemed in dire condition. This state was still very unfamiliar to him however and continued to perplex the young whelp. Zyx saw his body and his brothers from outside himself. He watched as his brother tried to lay his body in a more comfortable position and sat over him looking for signs of worsening or improving condition. Zyx saw the concern on his brother’s face and wanted to soothe him.

“I ok brother,” Zyx whispered in his mind. Nyx looked about and then back to his brother, sensing that he heard something but could not make it out. Nor did he see his brother’s mouth move.

“I ok. No worry,” Zyx whispered again. This time Nyx was sure he heard something and equally sure his brother had not spoken. He had enough experience with his brother’s ability to trust that it was real though, so he exhaled and say back.

Zyx, still very unsure about what he could do and how, spent a moment to consider what happened. Already he learned that he could heal others, though he wasn’t sure if it was the founder of the Trickyfoots, Rozukg, who gave him the power or himself. He was casting a frost spell with the help of Nakbor’s totem. Now, he drew poison from his brother. When he performed these things with his spirit it did seem to drain him spiritually and physically, however. He even felt the effects of the poison as he drew it from his brother’s veins. Zyx understood then, that the spiritual connection he could make, also connected them in a deeper way. He could share in the effects of their pain or fear, but he felt it. He wondered what else he could do.

Zyx understood too, for the first time, the nature of his trance. In such a state, he could move around as though he were in physical form, but without physical limitations. He could fly, in a sense, in him mind. He moved from over his own body and that of his brother to the spider he froze with the totem. He felt the creature’s life force still strong beneath the ice and knew it was still alive. He wanted to delve deeper into the spirit of the spider but he could not figure out how. Part of his suspected that he could speak to the beast, but he didn’t know the language. He called to the spider, “Spider! Hear me!” There was no reply. “Spider! I speak you!” Nothing. Zyx gave up and looked about the room further. There was little of interested except that the spider had the remains of former prey in the deep crevice from which he attacked. Goblin corpses. Three of them.

Zyx projected his spirit further and explored the paths around them. He did not get far however before he felt a tug on his spirit as though he were tied to his own body and could not venture further. Besides, he suddenly felt very sleepy. His spiritual walk drained him of his energy and he thought that he would surely fall into a deep sleep if he did not wake promptly. He crawled back to his body and then opened his eyes.

 

Nyx was still seated next to his brother and squeaked, “Zyx! You live!”

“Yes brother, you too,” Zyx whispered. “Spider live too,” he added. Nyx turned eyes squinted at the spider encased in frost. He looked very closely, not sure whether to believe his brother. Mere inches from the face and fangs of the spider, its eyes blinked. Nyx squawked and then, drawing his dagger high, began to thrust down onto the creature’s head, breaking first through the ice, then the beast’s face. In a moment, Nyx had plunged his dagger through the spider’s brain and slain it. Hardly stopping, Nyx continued in a fury and flurry of blows until covered in goop from the beast. Nyx at last sat back, plopping next to Zyx, breathing deeply and heavily. Each smiled. They were a dangerous team.

Fifteen

The boys rested for several long minutes, neither talking, each replaying the encounter with the spider. Each was impressed with the other. Zyx was again impressed with his brother’s strength and quickness. Nyx proved more than once that when he was angry and focused there wasn’t anything that could stop him, so far. He already killed other goblins, helped defeat and actual goblin shaman and now killed a cave spider. While most of these were with his brother’s aid, they were still impressive feats for a whelp. He had a bravery and fury that was beyond his age.

Nyx continued to be shocked by the abilities of his brother. He didn’t understand how his brother could manipulate energy, project his thoughts and spirit and even cast spells through the totem. He was too young to understand the ways of shamans and spirits so the whelp was beyond impressed with the things his brother was capable of. They had no idea what they could do when they had fully developed their abilities. All they knew at that moment was that they couldn’t go back. They fled their home out of necessity and now were lost in the caves and caverns of a mountain they couldn’t name in a world they knew nothing about. Surprisingly, none of this worried them. They were goblins after all and they only worried about what was right in front of them.

Eventually Zyx remembered the corpses in the crevice behind the spider’s trap. Together the brothers clawed and cut their way through the webs and found two corpses. They dragged them out and cut away their webbed cocoon. Inside they found two dehydrated corpses mummified after the cave spider drained them of all blood and fluids. Their faces were drawn and distorted in an eternal cry of agony. The brothers would have been the next pair of mummies stashed forever in a crevice of a cave had they not known existed. These two perished long ago yet provided the brothers with a gift they never expected.

Inside the cocoons, each goblin was equipped like soldiers but neither with equipment they recognized. These two had hide tunics with thin plates of iron woven through on the chest and back. They also had goblin sized bows made from a wood they had never seen before and quivers with bone arrows tipped with stone heads. The dead goblins also had daggers made with obsidian and wood spears. This was equipment far superior to any they came across in their short lives. In truth, the more elite goblins of Trickyfoot were equipped as well if not better, but the whelps had no opportunity to wield such equipment.

Each brother donned a tunic and took a bow, dagger and spear. They laughed and cheered as they admired their equipment. Needing more room for practice, they traveled down a widening corridor, but not before Zyx grabbed the powerful totem.  The cave changed from rough natural walls to carved and sculpted walls heading slightly up. After several minutes they came to a larger opening with a tall ceiling and wide walls. They were too excited to notice that the area looked like it had recently been occupied with a burnt area with some ashes in one corner.

The first thing Nyx wanted to try out was his new bow. He notched an arrow after some thought and then loosed it directly as his brother. Fortunately he did not draw it back much and the arrow fell harmlessly at Zyx’s feet. Zyx squealed and drew his bow in an effort to retaliate. He struggled and fumbled with the string and the arrow and at last had in lined up well enough. When he released the string however his finger slipped from the bow and his arrow dropped causing it to fire directly downward and shattered against the stone floor. Nyx had another prepared and fired it with accuracy and more strength at his brother. Zyx fortunately ducked in time to avoid being struck in the head. The arrow sailed high and smashed against the wall. For the next few minutes the boys attempted to shoot each other with arrows. Nyx was fairly skilled with the bow but Zyx struggled with it finding it cumbersome to aim and draw at the same time.

It was all fun and games until Nyx fired an arrow and Zyx could not dive out of the way fast enough. It struck the smaller brother in the shin. Zyx screamed in pain as he dropped the bow and fell to the ground holding his leg as blood rushed from the wound, arrow protruding from the hole. Nyx dropped his bow as well and rushed to his brother.

“It hurt! It Hurt!” Zyx screamed.

Nyx examined the wound briefly then gripped the arrow and yanked it out in one swift movement. Zyx rolled around howling “It hurt! It hurt! Why you do that?” Nyx dropped his head. Uncharacteristically for goblins, he felt bad about hurting his brother. He looked around for some way to help. He grabbed Zyx’s leg and tried to hold the wound. It only made it hurt more and the small goblin wiggled free of his brother’s grip and continued to wail around. Nyx didn’t know what to do.

Suddenly an idea came to him. He grabbed the totem up off the ground and thrust it into Zyx’s chest. Zyx was still screaming in agony as blood splashed all over the stone around the room. The young goblin gripped the totem as he continued to flop about like a fish out of water.

“Heal!” Nyx encouraged, “Use this heal.” He smiled and nodded his head vigorously hoping his brother could fix what he did.

Zyx still cried but paused to consider what his brother suggested. The wound in his leg throbbed and blood continued to pour from the hole. Neither whelp had any idea how to stop the bleeding with traditional healing. Zyx wondered if he could heal himself. So far he only healed his brother.

He tried to calm his mind and ceased crying. The wound beat like a drum through his body but Zyx was able to focus on the pain. In his mind he pictured dark blood and torn flesh. He saw the bone in his leg and the damage that was caused by the arrow. His hands tingled around the totem and a warmth flowed through the mystical totem into his body and towards his leg.

The pounding of the wound began to subside. Though neither could see it, the flesh was repairing. Nyx noticed the flow of blood stopping and the wound closing. Zyx felt the warm healing magic surround the hole in his leg and fill it. Warm turned to hot and his cells repaired and duplicated to reach one another and rebuild his leg. He focused his mind and could almost see his body putting itself back together. Finally it felt as though everything was repaired.

Zyx opened his eyes and looked at his leg. The blood no longer flowed and the pain had passed. He flexed his toes and nothing hurt. He sat up then stood without pain. He smiled and looked up at his brother. Nyx smiled even wider than his brother.

Sixteen

The goblin brothers’ short memories served them well in forgiving and not long after Nyx shot his brother in the leg, they were back to playing together. Zyx soon gave up the bow and gave it to his brother along with the arrows. Nyx practiced a few more times, firing arrows at imagined targets rather than his brother and found he liked it quite a bit. He quickly became proficient enough to fire the weapon and slung it behind his back. Next, they played with the daggers and spears. Nyx had some experience with daggers already in his quest to survive childhood in the goblin clan. In fact, he had already killed with a dagger. He gripped the dagger he found on the body of the mummified goblin in his hand and swung it left and right as if slicing an imagined foe. So swift and deadly with the weapon he was, that his brother Zyx backed away from him not interested in being his brother’s victim again. For his part, Zyx didn’t like the feel of the blade in his hand and neither did he swing it with much strength or quickness. He gave up before long and ultimately gave the blade to his brother who gladly took it and practiced attacking with the pair of daggers. With two blades, Nyx was even more dangerous swinging one then another in arcs that would prevent any from drawing too close to the lithe goblin. He spun and twisted and twirled with the deadly weapons in his hands as if he had used them for years. He was very happy with himself and his new weapons.

Lastly, the brothers tried out the spears. This was simple enough to Zyx and though he did little but poke forward with the basic weapon, he felt better with it in his hands. None of the weapons they found however, made him feel more powerful than the totem they stole from Nakbor. That already proved more valuable to the spiritual goblin than any of the blades his brother was fond of. Still, while they perhaps had different skills, they complimented each other in a way that was useful. Nyx was swift, strong, ferocious and deadly. Zyx was able to sense things beyond the physical and draw on spirits he had only begun to understand. He could heal wounds and draw poison from the body. These were impressive feats, especially for a goblin. Not to mention his ability to cast a frost spell from the shaman’s totem. Though still very young, they were already an effective pair.

After some time playing with and practicing with their weapons, their stomachs reminded them that they had not eaten for many hours. Rather than head back towards the more familiar caves and caverns of their clan, they explored further from their home.

           

The cavern lead upwards slightly and wound around somewhat. It forked at one point and the boys paused to decide which way to go. Nyx, not with any experience in tracking or navigating studied the ground for clues as to which way to go, but though he noticed that one path seemed to be more worn than the other. One lead upwards and the other, the one which was more worn, headed slightly downward. It seemed to him that the one that went downward made more sense to follow though he couldn’t articulate why.

Zyx on the other hand, tried to clear his mind and project his spirit. He sat and focused his thoughts but he could not sense anything at all. After nothing spiritual happened in the first few moments he grew frustrated. He could not understand how he was able to float around spiritually before and yet when he wanted to do so to explore the two paths, he was unable. He shook his head and said “I no know. Go way you go.”

Nyx pointed toward the path that lead downward. Neither was perceptive enough to notice that there was scent of freshness, ever so slight, coming from the path that lead upward. The other had a sour scent, a scent of decay and death.

As the boys traveled further down the path it altered from a clearly rough and mostly unworked, natural cavern to one that was smoother and worked by creatures at some point. It widened and rose as they skipped ever downward towards what they hoped would be something to eat.

The boys’ skipping turned to trudging. Their trudging turned to dragging. They began to complain.

Zyx whined, “Where we go?”

“We find food,” Nyx snorted.

“What food? I hungry,” Zyx complained.

“Any food. You hungry, you find food.”

“You leading. Not Zyx.”

“You want lead? Do it!”

“I want to eat!”

The boys were virtually snarling at each other and Nyx had not done it consciously but he gripped one of the daggers on the belt around his tunic. Zyx too was gripping the totem tightly and without thinking about it was waving it in front of him.

In each boy blood boiled, driven by hunger pains in their bellies which had surprisingly grown accustomed to food already. It was then that Zyx remembered the moment they first connected. With Nyx about to feast on the stolen food from the dwarf they pilfered, Zyx reached out to him spiritually for the first time. Lost in the deep caverns of the mountain it seemed like ages earlier but in reality, it was mere days. The memory cooled Zyx’s blood and he relaxed his grip, closed his eyes and focused on the memory of their shared meal. The memory helped him focus his spirit and remember the feeling of his brother’s spirit. He was able to project the feeling and Nyx felt it also. It cooled his head as well and they each sat back and rested.

Resting against opposite cave walls they thought about what they were going to do.

“We lost brother,” Zyx admitted.

“Yes brother. We cannot go back. We lost now.”

“We live though. Together we live.”

“How you know?”

“I know.”

“Your powers tell you?”

“Not sure. I know.”

“Ok brother. We live. We find food now,” Nyx said confidently.

“Where?” Zyx asked.

“Keep follow path. Food somewhere.”

“Ok brother, I follow.”

The brothers stood up and clasped hands in a pseudo hand shake. Each standing tall, shoulders back. Zyx slumped a little though. “Armor too heavy. I leave it.”

Nyx pleaded, “No, it protect.”

Zyx squirmed from the tunic and dropped it to the ground. He held up the totem, “This protect.”

“Good,” Nyx accepted and they continued on their way, Zyx a bit lighter, wearing nothing but his loin cloth again, the totem in one hand and a spear in the other. Nyx carried much more equipment including two bows and quivers, two iron daggers and the bone dagger he brought from their home clan. He also had the protective tunic on, feeling very much like a royal goblin though they were only kings of lost caverns.

They were once again brimming with confidence even though their bellies were empty and grumbling. They had endured much in the few days since they were grown enough to wander from their birth den. Each obstacle they encountered they had overcome. But life in the deep caves of the mountain was difficult and while their spirits were high, their eyes missed the hole in front of them covered with leather and disguised with dirt and dust. The brothers stepped on the trap and immediately fell together directly into the pit.

Seventeen

Zyx and Nyx fell some twenty feet too surprised to scream and then hit the bottom so hard the wind was knocked from their lungs and they lost consciousness from the concussion of slamming against the hard stone. Sometime later Nyx groaned and opened his eyes. Staring up, he tried to imagine where he was and when he tried to figure out who set the trap he shuddered and looked for his brother who was still unawake next to him. Their gear looked intact however and even the stolen totem survived the fall. Still, the smooth walls looked difficult to climb and Nyx knew he wouldn’t be able to do it alone.

Nyx shook his brother to wake him and with only a couple shakes Zyx stirred and began to rise. He sat up and held his head which ached terribly.

“What happen?” Zyx asked eyes closed tightly through his teeth.

“We fall in trap, brother,” Nyx explained.

“Why trap here?” Zyx asked but his brother didn’t respond and instead was trying to imagine how to climb out. The walls slanted inward making gripping and climbing near impossible even with tools. It also appeared they were carved and smoothed making it even more of a challenge.

Nyx pulled out one of his daggers and tried to chip it into the stone but it failed to grip and after only a few tries he gave up on that strategy. He got his spear and measured how much closer he could get to the top of the trap with it by holding it up above him but the spear was only another three feet and together he was still far from half way from escaping. The leather hide that was used to cover the trap was with them also and Nyx picked it up and turned it over a few times but didn’t figure out any way that it could assist them in escaping.

Zy stood and surveyed his surroundings through squinted eyes. There was dried blood and hair from what seemed to be large cave rats. He didn’t see anything around on the floor of the trap that could be helpful; just some rocks and evidence of former victims.

Nyx picked up a rock and threw it up and out of the trap. It did absolutely no good at all so he did it again just to be sure. Still nothing. Zyx sat back down and watched his brother who next picked up one of the bows and fired and arrow directly up. It struck the ceiling then fell back towards them but tumbled harmlessly down; broken.

Zyx tried to save him from further futile acts of desperation, “Brother, no help. We stuck here.”

Nyx snorted then sat against the opposite wall. After all they struggled through in their short lives, they still ended up trapped. They sat in silence as a dark cloud settled over them and gripped their hearts. To pass the time as he tried to imagine a way out, Nyx pulled out a dagger and began scratching the floor with it in no discernable pattern.

Zyx closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He settled into a trance without trying and began to imagine his surroundings. Like before, he was able to navigate and see the trap they were in. It took a moment to realize that he was moving in spirit rather than body and when he did he moved up the walls and to the top of the trap. At the top, he saw where they fell directly into the hole. He inspected further and could see where someone could walk to avoid the trap. There were some clear footprints around the trap as well. They weren’t large but because Zyx had no experience in identifying such things he could not decide if he should be more afraid or less. It was clear though that someone or something had set and was likely checking the trap. There didn’t seem to be anything useful at the top of the trap either. Zyx was able to travel a short way past the trap before he again felt like he was losing the connection with his body. He wanted to travel further but was afraid what would happen if he went too far away so he returned to the trap, down the full twenty feet, saw his brother scratching the ground mindlessly and his own small form against the wall. In the next moment he opened his eyes, back in his body.

“I not see far past trap,” Zyx explained.

Nyx didn’t even look up but kept playing with his dagger. “We stuck.”

“Someone will come. Saw feet around trap.”

“They big or small?”

“Small.”

“Maybe they no kill us.”

“Who you think trap us?” Zyx wondered.

“No idea. Better to get out first,” Nyx answered, “Not know how. Need rope, ladder, something.”

Zyx sighed, “only have weapons and leather from trap.”

Nyx’s eyes widened and he stared at the leather then he leaped up and began cutting strips of the leather with his dagger. Zyx watched intently, leaning forward and cheering his brother on. Nyx worked quickly eyes focused and muscles tense but completely in control, sweat forming on his brow. After a while his fingers cramped and he ached but at last he created a leather rope from the trap’s cover.

Next Nyx tied his rope to one of the spears. He threw the spear up, trying to hook it somehow at the top of the trap. A dozen times he tried before the spear landed across the opening of the trap leaving the leather rope dangling. It was just long enough to reach but the task of climbing was left to master before they could be free.

Nyx gathered his gear and secured it to his tunic and then gripped the rope. It took a moment for him to get a grip on the rope and sort out his legs to steady him then slowly but surely climbed the rope. At the top, he grabbed the ledge and pulled himself over then, out of breath, rested on his back a moment. His arms swelled from the work and chest heaved from his effort.

Below, Zyx secured his spear and the totem and tried to grab the rope and climb but was struggling to get more than a couple feet from the ground. After a couple of tries he could get a decent grip on the rope and learned to use his legs but there was a significant difference in strength between his brother and himself. Zyx’s arms shook before long during each attempt and he released the rope and fell back to the floor of the trap.

Nyx heard his brother struggling and leaned over to look at how he was doing. “What wrong?” he asked.

“Can’t climb. Too hard,” Zyx answered breathing deeply.

“Have to. Get out of trap,” Nyx encouraged. “Can’t stay for trapper find us.”

Zyx again gripped the rope and climbed for a few feet before his lean arms gave out and he thudded back to the ground.

“Hurry brother,” Nyx called with a little more urgency in his voice.

“I trying. Can’t do it.”

“You hold it, I try to pull you,” Nyx suggested. Zyx grabbed the rope and wrapped his arm around it, holding tightly. Nyx sucked in air deeply then began to pull his brother. It was slow work but he was making some progress before he flew backwards. He scrambled back to the edge and looked down to his brother who was laying on his back on the ground.

“What happen?” Nyx called out.

“Can’t hold it. Too hard,” his brother sobbed.

“Can’t hold on? I pull, you hold on. It easy,” Nyx scolded. “Try again!”

Zyx gripped the rope again and tried to wrap it around his arm to ease his task. Nyx pulled and again slowly lifted his brother from the trap floor and towards the top. He stepped, all his strength lifting his brother away from the trap and then again, he flung towards the ground. The hard stone bruised his arms as he crashed against it and he squinted his eyes and tensed his back as he rushed to the edge.

“What happen?” Nyx shouted to his brother who was rolling around on the floor, himself bruised and sore. “Don’t let go! Hold the rope! I lift you out!”

“I can’t! I can’t!” Zyx cried. “I not strong like you.”

Nyx saw his brother, writhing on the floor and crying. He saw his weakness and tinge of resentment rose in him like water slowly boiling. He cinched his fists as he watched the small whelp on the floor of the trap and knew it was better for him if he left his brother who couldn’t even hold on to the rope long enough to be pulled to safety.

Nyx ground his teeth eyes fixed on the sad and pathetic sight of Zyx on the trap floor, then he turned away from the trap and walked away, leaving his brother at the bottom of the trap.

 

Eighteen

Zyx’s heart raced. His brow and palms sweated. He tried to close his eyes and focus his spirit but his heart was pounding too hard and he could not slow his body. He gripped the rope and tried to climb it once more and this time he got a bit higher before his muscles gave and he crumbled to the ground bruising himself further. Again, he tried and again he fell. Once more he attempted to climb the rope but he could not pull himself even half way up the pit. He sank to the floor as his heart sank in his chest and then tears flowed from his eyes making a puddle of mud under him.

Zyx sobbed until he was drained and breathed slowly once more. He sat against the wall of the pit and focused his spirit. Through his spirit he floated from the pit and to the top of the trap and looked around. He saw no one there but noticed his brother’s foot prints heading away from the trap. He followed them as long as he could before he felt himself losing his grip on his spirit and his head spun and his knees grew weak. He returned to the pit before it got worse and his spirit was lost. He collapsed to the ground and drifted off to sleep in just the last moment.

Above the pit a creature made his rounds, checking his traps for tasty morsels. He typically could hope for little more than a rat but he didn’t mind much. In fact, he was plenty satisfied scrounging in the caverns and caves for rats and mushrooms and whatever else he could find. It was a simple life, but he was the king of his own clan and he was happy.

This day we was lucky, as his trap captured another meal, or at least he thought he was lucky. He noticed that his trap was tripped before he got there so he hopped with glee and clapped his hands before creeping up to his pit trap. He listened for a moment at the edge trying to determine what his catch was this day. He had to be careful, he knew, because some quit dangerous creatures could fall into his pit and he could end up being the meal after all. There was no sound from the pit. He gripped his spear tightly and laid his sword down besides him. He looked closer and noticed the spear with a rope tied to it still dangling into the trap. The trapper snorted in disgust figuring that his prey escaped unharmed and ran off. He got up and picked up the spear. He identified it immediately as a goblin spear. With that he jumped back a step and looked around both spears tightly gripped in his hands. He saw no immediate threat but that did not ease his mind.

After a few minutes of staring down one side of the cave then the other the trapper settled. He decided to study his trap closer and try to determine where his victim went. He crept up to the pit and studied the foot prints. The trapper immediately identified them as coming from a goblin. A single goblin and followed them for a few yards into the cavern. He returned to the pit and was surprised to see a goblin at the bottom. The trapper hopped back, spears readied, then looked closer. The goblin at the bottom of the pit wasn’t moving and the trapper wondered if it was dead.

“You there! You live?” the trapper called. There was no answer. “You live there?” he called again. Still nothing. So, like he had done a hundred times before. He went to his pack and got a rope ladder, shoddily made but effective enough, and prepared to lower it. There was a rock nearby that he used to attach the ladder to and he did so. Just as he prepared to lower himself in, someone shoved him from behind and he tumbled down squealing all the way and hit the ground hard enough to knock him out next to his victim. Both now, caught in the pit trap.

Zyx opened his eyes slowly and immediately noted the pounding in his head and the aching in his body, but the first sight he saw was his brother and he smiled at first then squeaked with joy.

“Brother! You come back! Thank you! Thank you!” he squealed. Nyx didn’t say anything but did smile in response then looked over to his brother’s left. Zyx looked too and there, tied up in the rope was another goblin they had never seen before. Zyx hopped up and scampered to the far side of the pit, behind his stronger brother.

“Who that? Where he come from? He from Trickyfoot to kill us?” the questions poured out.

“Don’t know,” Nyx answered,” He set trap though. I watch him check pit.”

“What we do?” Zyx worried?

“We ask him question. Find out what he want.”  Zyx settled a little when he heard this and sat back. He looked around the pit and noticed the rope ladder. “Oh!” he exclaimed, “I can climb that!”

“I know,” Nyx agreed, though with much less enthusiasm. Zyx ignored his brother and gave climbing the ladder a couple tries and although he was still very clumsy at it, he could indeed make his way up.

“Stay here,” Nyx ordered. “Need you help ask questions.” Zyx climbed down and sat back again slumping down against the edge of the pit and folding his arms in front of his chest. Not long after the captured goblin groaned and wriggled against the ropes So Zyx sat up in curiosity safely behind his brother who held a spear close to their captive.

The captive tensed against the ropes and kicked his legs with eyes wide but discovered he was indeed bound tightly. “Who you? Why you tie me?”

“We ask question. Not you,” Nyx explained holding the spear closer to the goblin trapper. “What you name?”

The goblin looked at Nyz, then studied Zyx for a moment then Nyx again. He could tell they were young, only whelps, and that they were not armed especially well and therefor were probably outcasts or lost, but either way, were not a significant threat.

The trapper took a deep breath to settle his natural fear and answered, “I Kevnos.”

“Where you from?” Nyx asked.

Kevnos scrunched his brow and considered the question a moment. “I from here.”

“Where here?”

“Here is here.”

“What you mean?”

“I mean, I here. You here. We here. And here is here.”

“Nevermind. Why you hurt us?” Nyx asked changing the direction of the questions after they hit a goblin dead end of reasoning.

“I just set trap. Why you fall in trap?” Kevnos questioned.

“We no see trap.”

“Then your fault you got hurt. No mine.”

Nyx stepped back and scratched his head a moment then unable to counter the goblin’s logic threatened with the spear once more. “You going to hurt us?”

“I no hurt you. I trap rats for food. You fall in trap. You rats?”

 

“What? No! We goblins!”

“Then I no trap you then.”

 

“What? But we fall in trap.”

“Then you rats?”

“No!” Nyx shouted and held the spear to their captive’s neck. Zyx intervened.

“It mistake we fall in trap,” Zyx explained. “We just want out. I no strong enough to climb out.”

“Oh good mistake!” Kevnos answered. “You want out?”

“Yes!” Zyx exclaimed. “We want out.”

“Yes, yes, untie me and we climb out. Use ladder I made,” Kevnos offered.

The brothers looked at each other for answers but neither had one. So the shrugged, untied Kevnos, even while Nyx kept a spear on him, then they climbed out, Nyx first, then Zyx then Kevnos, their new companion. Such luck they made a new friend. Such is goblin life. One moment they can be about to kill one another, the next they can be friends. All it takes sometimes is for them to forget why they were fighting.

Nineteen

“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.”

 

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