A note from Andrew Seiple

Gribbits are borrowed from my artist friend, Amber Rimkus and used in this world with her permission. Thanks Sis!

Grubholm had been raided into ruins by goblins, it was true, and for a time the twisted little creatures had celebrated their victory and bred happily in that lush place, with plenty of food and empty 'bigger' houses to infest. Access to the main roads of the kingdom also let them send out raiding parties when their population got too high for the area to support, which was about every four months or so. The raiders either came back with shinies and bigger meat, or they didn't come back and that was less mouths to feed, so it was all good.
And for a few years, it had worked.
But the weakness of goblins is that they have no real loyalty to each other. It's all they can do to be a tribe, or even a family. Goblins live in a society where everyone is always out for themselves, for everything they can get, and no one else truly matters.
Which is why the Gribbits had broken them like a rotten twig.
Gribbits aren't much taller than goblins, but quite a bit wider and longer. They can swallow goblins whole, which is bad enough, but worse than that,they're organized. When a Gribbit attacks, he or she does so knowing that his entire tribe is right next to him, hitting the enemy all at once with everything they've got.
Even though they're physically weaker than humans, the fact is that gribbits don't do things by halves, and they don't run unless the whole battle line runs. Unlike goblins, who will gleefully abandon each other at the first sign of trouble.
And worst of all?
Like goblins, and raccants, and other smart tribal monsters, gribbits could sometimes have jobs.
Zuula had recognized what they were dealing with.
And the other golems trusted Zuula enough to follow her lead, which is why they bolted, which probably saved them casualties right there and then.
“Get to cover!” Garon shouted, as wolf-sized frogs waving spears and clubs burst out of the water. “We'll find a safe place to Fight the Battles!
“I'll pick up rearguard!” Cecelia called. “Shield Saint!” She hauled out the old potlid she'd found in the farmhouse's kitchen, and readied the small sword Threadbare had made her, bounding over on the wooden animi. The faster Gribbits closed, aiming for Glub and Garon, the slower members of the parties. But Celia got in their way, slashing at them, making them hop back to their front lines. Their rapidly-closing front lines.
Garon glanced back, saw they wouldn't make it. If they were caught out in the open, they were dead. Fortunately, he knew what his people could do. “Mom? Shaman slowdown two-fer?”
“On it! Call Vines!” Between Cecelia and the gribbits, vines tore loose from the crumbled ruins, and burst up from the marshy ground, flailing and wrapping the oncoming gribbits. Zuula smiled, slowed a bit, ignoring Kayin as the catgirl asssassin tugged on her arm, and waited. Waited until gribbits were hopping over, working to get their tangled brethren free. Waited until she had the most within her affected radius. And then... “Call Thorns,” Zuula whispered and grinned with half-orky glee as the gribbits' croaks turned to screams. And scream they should! Every vine or piece of vegetation within that area had just grown two-inch thorns.
“Hahahhaha! Take dat!” She laughed. “Go up against a shaman, you get—”
Kayin hadn't been trying to get her to run faster. Kayin had been trying to tell her that the gribbits on the flank had moved in while she was busy dealing with the ones behind.
The club knocked the little plush shaman across the street, where another gribbit waited, stretching his maw open wide... be denied, as Missus Fluffbear leaped Mopsy in the air, and caught Zuula, whirling the cat around as soon as she hit the ground, and speeding toward the others.
Meanwhile, Kayin snarled at the one who'd clubbed Zuula. “Hindering Strikes!” Three quick tendon-slicing slashes with her little dagger later, the gribbit was in no shape to jump after her as she ran.
But it didn't have to run. Kayin made it ten feet away, when she heard a whiplike snap behind her, and felt something wrap around her waist as she was jerked backward. “No!” She yelled, as the Gribbit snapped her into its fleshy, slimy mouth...
...and paused.
Toy golems are adorable, and give healing hugs.
Baked clay golems are immune to fire, and can be gorgeous if made in a certain way.
Wood golems? They're splintery. Every time they're struck or grappled, some of their outer layer spikes into their attacker's flesh.
And this gribbit had just stuck her into his mouth, which was way, way softer than his skin.
The little assassin found herself spat out, covered in frog blood. With catgirl agility she hit the ground and rolled, came up running. “Faster Than Death!” she yelled, outpacing the gribbits who were moving in on both flanks.
“Get up here man!” Glub called back to the stragglers. “Heartening song! Move those muscles run those feet! Keep on fleeing or we're dead meat!”
Didn't really have a beat, but they were strengthened nonetheless. The ones in his party, anyway.
Cecelia's group didn't have to worry about that, now that Kayin was out of danger and booking it. Fluffbear was mounted on Mopsy, and Mopsy could book it. The wooden animi was a bit slower, but Cecelia's Horsemanship skill made up for that.
That only left one more member of Garon's party unaccounted for, up until she came down out of the sky like a red streak, divebombing the closest pursuers. “Burninate!”
Fire exploded from the little dragon's maw, carving a streak through the first third of the gribbit horde, and they screamed and fell back, some falling, dying—
—up until a gribbit wearing a mitre hopped up from where he'd been observing the fight, and started croaking. And as he croaked, Gribbits healed, falling back to the lake and getting out of the fight.
“They've got a cleric? No fair!” Kayin screeched.
“Get up to tha inn!” Madeline screamed back from above, her voice fading as she looped around the sky. “You can... hold on....”
Garon stiffened as she wind's whispered him. “There's an inn down that road! It's mostly intact, we'll make our stand there! Follow me! Forced March!” Garon, Glub, and Zuula sped up. The shaman poked Fluffbear, hopped down from Mopsy, and paused to take a look back at the chaos.
Some gribbits had fallen, perhaps a dozen or so between the worst of the vines and the dragonfire, but the wounded ones that hadn't were being hauled back for healing. Including the one who'd tried to swallow Kayin, who was pointing at his tongue and pointing at the little toys.
“Damn...” Zuula said, turning and running.
Gribbits were a threat, and that was true. They worked together, and that was worse. But the main reason they were a problem for her little coterie, was because gribbits learned.
The inn was on a rise. It wasn't much to look at, and like the rest of the buildings, its roof had rotted and fallen in years ago. Goblin graffiti sprinkled throughout insisted vulgar things in their crude language, which is why Glub was laughing and taking notes but nobody else really cared. Garon stomped around, testing the creaking floor, and checking the walls. “Secure the Perimeter.” he nodded, in satisfaction as his skill told him what was what. “There's a family of raccoons in the basement, but that's it.”
“Raccoons means gribbits don't come up here much,” Zuula hissed, waving Kayin and Fluffbear and Mopsy in through the doorway, before she grabbed one end of a mossy table and strained to try and shove it in front of the entrance.
“I got yah,” Madeline said, wings clacking as she clattered to the ground, and got the other end of the table with her jaws. Between the two of them, they got it into place just as Cecelia leaped her animi through the window.
“They're slowing down, I think,” Cecelia said.
“Yeah. Zuula, on a scale of one to ten, how bad is this?” Garon said.
“Eight,” Zuula decided. “Gribbits pretty smart. Dey also nuts about protecting territory. Gonna be hard to get out of here wit'out casualties.”
“We could just pile everyone into one party except for Madeline and the wooden cat, put up forced march, and book it,” Garon said. “We outran them on raw speed that last time.”
“Outrun them ta where?” Madeline said. “They'll chase us to the wagon and Graves. Then they'll have someone to attack that actually is capable of dyin'. And if he goes, then we got problems.”
“We'll have problems if any of us die here too,” Cecelia said. “We're out of reagents for making new golems, even toy golems. If anyone dies they'll be in a soulstone until we can find the dwarves. So no heroic sacrifices, okay?”
“You have plan?” Zuula asked, moving from window to window, hopping up and hoisting herself to peer out of each. “Cause dey do. Dey setting up circle—”
“Perimeter, Mom,” Garon interrupted.
“—circle around inn. Back a ways, but dey makin' it clear dey watching.”
“I could go burn'em out,” Madeline said. “I don't think they gaht a countah to me.”
“Don't bet on that,” Cecelia said. “I learned about these things in my suppression classes.”
“Your what now?” Glub asked.
“The Crown has a problem with nonhuman races. We get taught the most efficient ways to kill them. It's... yeah, it's not very nice. But on gribbits, the doctrine made it clear that they adapt to the tactics that people throw at them. So if you use a strong one early on, then odds are good they'll come up with a counter. And there's no way they'll ignore a flying dragon that can roast them wholesale.”
Garon nodded. “Okay. Madeline, go back to the camp and tell Threadbare we need him and Pulsivar. Then come back with them, stick low if you have to.”
“You sure, Gar?”
“Go. We'll be fine.” Garon held up a handful of soulstones. “I grabbed one for each of us.” He put them in the dirty hearth, then swept ashes over them. “Anyone dies, they'll be here.”
“Wait,” Zuula said. “Before you go, get Zuula's barrel out of de pack, yeah?”
Madeline shrugged, and squirmed her pack free from her back. Kayin helped her get it down, and they drew out the small keg emblazoned with poison symbols.
“Dat be our endgame,” Zuula said. “We get dat in de pond, every one of dem die. But... only want to use it if really really necessary.”
“Yeah,” Fluffbear said. “They're just defending their homes! It would be bad to kill all of them and their little babies too! I'm proud of you, Zuula!”
“Actually Zuula was gonna say it would mess up de plants and poison de land here for a few years. But sure, whatever.”
“Oh.” Fluffbear sagged down a bit. “Still proud of you.”
“How territorial are they?” Garon asked. “Do we know that? Do we have to wipe out every last one to get away clean?”
Zuula rubbed her chin. “Haven't fought gribbits since Zuula was child. Ah... half. Get dem down to half, dey usually call it quits. I t'ink. But pond dis size, spawning pool dat big... need to take down four, five dozen to do dat.”
“Hey, am I free ta leave? Go get help?” The dragon asked Garon.
“Yeah, go Mads, it's cool.”
Madline stopped looking at him, and got to the clearest part of the room. “Scaly Wings!” she flew up and out—
—and swerved, as two volleys of javelins, some of them on fire, hissed up towards her, yelling as a few raked along her side. But she got away, heading south, back towards the camp and aid.
“Countered,” Cecelia nodded grimly. “Those fire javelins, those are an archer trick, right? Shouldn't they be using bows?”
“Nah. Works with any ranged weapon. Bows and crossbows are just more efficient,” Kayin said, staring out from the cracks in the table that made their makeshift barricade. “Had a girlfriend once, back in our guild. She was an archer/assassin who sniped, killed from a distance. Had a blowgun for emergencies, and her tricks worked fine with it.”
“Girlfriend?” Cecelia looked at her in surprise.
“Yeah. Um, is that a problem?”
“No, no. Just... huh. Didn't know that.”
“What's to know? I used to like women. Back when I had parts to do something with, anyway. But we've got killer frog guys right now, desu.”
“Right.” Cecelia cleared her throat. “We're up against a horde. Kayin, please see if you can find me some knives or stabby things. Fluffbear, I'm leaving the party, you're the leader now.”
“Because if I'm alone I can have six animi, and this should help make up for them outnumbering us.”
“Smart,” Garon said. He popped open his chest, and drew out stacks of coins, slotting them into the holes carved into his sides. “Zuula, is there anything you can do with that poison barrel that isn't genocide?”
The little shaman pursed her cloth lips, and considered. “Maybe. Gonna depend on whether or not we got a kettle all up in here. Still got to be careful. We don't breathe. She does.” Zuula pointed at Mopsy.
“If she gets poisoned I can cure her,” Fluffbear said. “So long as it's not too nasty.”
“Glub, do you have anything that might help?” Garon said. “I don't know Bard stuff too well.”
“I'm new to this myself, mister boss dude. Got some water elementalist stuff but it's all level one. Still that'll get us an elemental so booyah. As far as bard stuff goes... Uh... I can sing a song that distracts everyone who hears it.”
“That'll hit us too, so pass.”
“Heartening Song makes you all stronger and sturdier, Rejuvenating Song makes you heal slowly and regain stamina faster. Just that Cool makes me cooler. All the time. My borrowed skills are Knack for Languages and Mend. Fortune's Fool makes me be more fortunate, don't know why I'm a fool for it... oh, hey, Salty Song! This might work!”
“Yeah? What's it do?” Garon asked.
Glub told them, and Garon nodded, as the starts of a plan started to form inside his bovine noggin.
“Found a kettle!” Zuula announced, just as Kayin came up from the cellar, dragging along a cluster of butcher knives.
“Perfect. How they looking out there, Celia?”
Cecelia paced around the common room, peering out the windows. “I see the one with the mitre. I can't exactly tell but I think he's buffing a few of them that are wearing furry hats and others with metal helms. Like helms that cover half of their bodies.”
“Berserkers and Knights, probably,” Zuula said. “Dis be bad.”
“There's also a couple on the rooftops wearing pointed cloth caps with feathers. Archers?” Cecelia said.
Then she ducked, as a javelin sped through the window, narrowly missing her face. “Yep, archers. Wow, pity my dodge skill is maxxed.”
“You didn't get a few levels from that chase?” Garon asked. “I upped Ruler twice.”
“Different skillset. And that's upping your level one, I'm trying to rebuild level fives. Anyway we're running low on time. What's the plan?”
Garon grinned and beckoned the toys in close. “Here's how we're going to turn this thing around...”
It wasn't a wind's whisper, in the end.
A few minutes after they started their desperate plan, it was a Simple Decree, used in a manner that most rulers wouldn't.
The decree was simple.
Your Ruler has declared a Royal Decree!
“Please survive. I”ll be there in five minutes.”
“Now!” Garon called to Glub. “Everyone, get to your places!”
Zuula poured a flask into the bubbling kettle, then slammed the lid over it as smoke started to roil up. She beat feet into the kitchen, with Kayin following.
Garon nodded to Glub, as they climbed into the chimney, leaving the blob that was Glub's least water elemental bouncing happily in the main room.
Cecelia smiled, and settled back into the cupboard they'd found her, leaving the wooden cat outside. She held her hands over her ears, and said “Dollseye!”
And from the chimney, Glub fired up his bardsong, using the one he hadn't had occasion to try yet.
It was called Salty Song, and it was ANNOYING.
And thanks to the acoustics of the chimney, every gribbit within a three block radius was subjected to it.
It ground at their moxie, tore at it, not much at first because Glub's skill in it was very low, but the skill only improved as he sang.
Inside her cupboard, Cecelia grunted, and tried to ignore it. It wasn't easy, and some of her own moxie drained. But knights and steam knights both had charisma as a boosting attribute, and she had the moxie to wait it out, she thought.
The gribbits didn't.
The gribbits attacked, just as Garon had hoped.
They would have anyway, those were definitely pre-battle buffs their cleric was handing out, but this made them jump the gun a bit. That was the first part of Garon's plan, draw them in before they were good and comfy.
And so after a few volleys of javelins arcing over the roof, that didn't do much beyond splatter Glub's elemental, the gribbit Knights rushed the barricade, using their armored helms as battering rams, clattering in through the wide doorway. The table took a few hits then shuddered back, as the three armored gribbits looked around, saw the wooden cat, and frogpiled it.
That's when the Frogzerkers gave mighty bounds and leaped over the walls, running on pop-eyed rage and croaking battle cries, holding salvaged wood-chopping axes in their hands and looking around for unengaged targets.
They found none.
Behind them, hordes of regular, unjobbed gribbits poured in, spears ready, and lidless eyes open, staring around. The wooden cat rocked and fell, battered to pieces, but the song still echoed.
They looked to the chimney, and the steaming kettle in it, with the fire merrily going. The song was loudest there...
And just as Garon had hoped, one of the frogzerkers knocked the kettle aside with a contemptous blow.
Green smoke exploded throughout the inn, and the gribbits croaked in dismay, and coughed, trying to back out. They jammed the entrance and the windows, screeching in dismay as red numbers rolled up from their fat bodies—
“Now!” Garon shouted. “Fight the Battles!”
—Ceccelia burst from the cabinet, butcher's knives whirling, pot lid and sword in hand. “Shield Saint! Dolorous Strike! Dolorous Strike!” She wasn't as strong as she'd been as a human, but wherever her sword stabbed, a gribbit died. The butcher's knives focused on a single target at a time, hacked it down, then moved on with gory efficiency.
“Backstab!” from the direction of the kitchen, and then Kayin was among them, using the smoke for cover and shanking with a poisoned steak-knife in each hand. “Poison Blade!” She'd call, whenever the green sludge that Zuula had helped her prepare started to fade. Whenever the skill kicked in, one of the vials tied to her back would vanish, and her blades would re-coat with venom.
Garon fought the Frogzerkers, weakened from their poison but no less deadly. But his wooden form was sturdy, and he was about as strong as they were, without needing rage to boost himself. And every time they dealt him a good hit, he'd go defensive, and call out “Blood is Gold!” One of the coins set into his side would clink and vanish, and he'd heal.
For his part, Glub stopped the song, dropped from the chimney, and started hauling gribbits corpses toward thee most cracked part of the floor.
And whenever he dropped one off, a little black paw would come up out of the crack, touch it, and Fluffbear would say “Zombies!”
The dead gribbits rose, and without directions, went after the nearest living things with delicious brains.
Which happened to be living gribbits.
It was glorious chaos, and though to the gribbits it probably felt like a hellish eternity before the survivors could get clear, it was probably only a minute, at the most.
Garon dispatched the last of the frogzerkers with Cecelia's help, and glanced up, as water splashed down from above.
“Dude, they've got a Water Elementalist!” Said Glub, as large balls of water catapulted in to douse the smoke, arcing from the direction of the lake. “A really good one!”
“Start up the song again! Everyone, phase two!” Garon bellowed. “Archers next!”
“Okay dokay!” Fluffbear squeaked, and left the party. “Invite Zombie!” she said, following it up with four more castings, then commanding the ones that remained to go and eat archers.
The rest of the toys barreled out the door, with Glub switching back to his salty song, and Cecelia pausing to grab one of the Frogzerker's axes and animating it. They ran straight into the gribbit Knights, who desperately tried to break their charge.
“As if! Rammit!” Garon bellowed, lowered his horns, and bulldozed one through the adjacent ruin's wall. Then Cecelia was on the other ones, with Kayin flipping over them to stab at the froggy bits the helms didn't cover.
Javelins came at the golems, clipping and wounding them, hindered by the archers having to aim around their friends.
And then the remnants of the mob that had rushed in croaked hearty cheers as a dozen of their surviving friends stumbled out of the remnants of the fog.
Cheers that died in horrified throats, as they saw the bloody wounds of the 'survivors.'
Cheers that turned into screams as the zombies, with Fluffbear and a mildly-poisoned Mopsy in the middle, made a beeline straight for the Archers' perches. Hastily the javelin tossers hopped for cover as some of the regular gribbits turned and fled, having quite enough of THIS, thank you very much.
Some of them didn't flee far.
“Call Vines! Call Thorns!” Zuula said, grinning, as from the mossy and overgrown roofs, plants grew spikes and lashed out at the Archers.
And as they fought, the gribbits retreated. They'd been put on the back foot, ran into too many surprises at once, and needed a few minutes to figure out how to adapt and overcome, here.
But that was a few minutes that Garon wasn't about to give them.
“To the pond! Bring the barrel!” Celia nodded, then ran to grab it. It was still a bad solution, but if things went poorly, they'd need it.
They fought their way after the gribbits, who were low on moxie now, low thanks to the salty song, and disheartened by the surprise the friends had sprung on them. The friends hacked and stabbed at the ones they could catch, downing them then moving on as fast as they could, keeping rolling, trying to turn it into a rout...
...which lasted until they reached the town square again, and saw what awaited them.
“Dey gots a queen!” Zuula yelled.
Eight feet tall it towered, as fat and long as two draft horses together, glaring down at the golem friends with beachball-sized eyes. She wore a crown on her head, and rolls of fat underneath her maw shook, as she pointed a massive webbed paw at them, and croaked deafening words.
“Uh,” Glub said, pausing his song. “She says we are not amused.”
Then she turned to her fleeing subjects, and belched out a rapid fire series of words, that spoke of duty to tribe, queen, and damply, and the routed gribbits slowed... stopped... and started to regroup. Behind them the gribbit cleric followed, healing the wounded, and glaring at the friends.
And then a robed gribbit was there, perching on the queen's back, resplendent in a wizard's hat, and waving a bent staff with a goldfish bowl on the end of it, towards them. The water of the pond roiled, and lifted up, forming itself into a ball.
“Oh, there's the elementalist,” Garon said. “Shit! Watch out!”
The ball arced toward them, and they scattered— not fast enough, as Celia took it head on, and it knocked her back down the street. A red '84' floated up from where she fell, and she got up, glaring.
“No! Slow Regeneration!” Garon yelled to her, and then he had no time for words as the rallied gribbits charged him, and Zuula and Kayin fell in next to his sides, covering his flanks. Glub switched to his heartening song, and tried to stay clear, punching with tiny wooden hands whenever a gribbit came after him.
The upside was that at least the gribbits weren't trying to swallow the friends. They'd learned their lesson from the last time they tried it, and while they didn't know if all of them were as splintery as Kayin, they weren't about to take the risk.
“This is bad,” Garon whispered, as spear after spear rattled off his chest, gouging and forcing him back. They were in the open again, and the gribbits were all around them, but even then they'd have a chance. The tribe was wounded, depleted, and most of their combat job elites were down.
But the queen was here, and to his horror he saw her wading forward, massive bulk shifting as she stepped almost daintily towards the battle. And up top the elementalist grinned in froggy glee, and manipulated up another ball of water, readying it for a throw...
“Burninate!” Madeline howled, and the watery ball exploded into steam. The water elementalist shrieked, stared up, then hopped down into the pond again. The queen screamed, bulk shaking as the dragonfire just tagged her, searing her wide back. She opened her mouth to tongue the tiny dragon out of the sky, but hesistated. These things were splintery, right? Then Madeline was past and up, and away.
And Garon smiled, as a black form sprang out of a nearby ruin, and two of the gribbits in the back of the mob died. He fought harder, laying about him with his axe, dropping a Blood is Gold as necessary.
From the lake, water lashed up at Madeline, and she answered by dropping gouts of fire, as the two Elementalists lashed out at each other. The gribbit had levels and skill, but Madeline had much greater mobility and the whole sky to dodge around in. Eventually the gribbit would fend her off and return to the fight, but that was fine. She was buying them time, and that's all they needed.
“Call Vines! Call Thorns!” Zuula hissed at the queen. This was draining, but she'd leveled up back there a couple of times, and refilled her sanity, so that was fine. The queen snapped through the vines without stopping, taking the scratches on her hide, glaring at the little dolls that had so wounded her tribe, hurt her people. Zuula sighed. “Fine. Fast Regeneration. Beastly Skill Borrow: Owl.” she rose into the air, spirit wings shimmering from her back, as she called upon her totem. Darting toward the queen with her well-practiced triple digit flight skill, she harried her, slowing her down, and causing the giant ruler to thrash about with her paws. For once the frog couldn't eat the annoying little fly, and oh, did it gall her!
“Excuse me,” Threadbare called, through his Minorphone.
The battlefield paused, as the fighting stilled, and everyone looked back.
“Is there some way we could work this out? I'm very certain this is definitely a misunderstanding.”
“You want me to translate that?” Glub said, taking the opportunity to pick up one of his severed arms.
“Yes, please.” Threadbare said, strolling down the street, with every buff active, adjusting his jacket as the gribbits stared at the sharp-dressed bear.
He was very glad he'd used Dazzling Entrance before coming into sight.
You are now a level 9 Model!
+3 AGI
+3 CHA
+3 PER
Your Work It Baby skill is now level 41!
Your Work It Baby skill is now level 42!
Your Work It Baby skill is now level 43!
Your Work It Baby skill is now level 44!
Your Work It Baby skill is now level 45!
Checking Dietary Restrictions time counter...
Your Dietary Restriction skill is now level 45!
Buff adjusted accordingly.
Oh, well, that was nice.
Glub croaked out words to the gribbit queen, using his knack for languages. The queen croaked back.
“She says your people threatened her eggs, and killed many of her tribe. She wants to know why she should not keep fighting here.”
“Back off a bit, Mads,” Garon called up, and the little dragon wheeled away. A watery globe arced after her, but the queen turned and slapped her consort lightly, and the ball dispersed into droplets.
“Did you threaten the eggs?” Threadbare asked Cecelia.
“No, we found them and were looking at them when they attacked us.”
“Ah. I see. Please tell her that we mean her eggs no harm, and would have left them alone regardless.”
“Well, actually—” Zuula began.
“Would have left them alone regardless,” Threadbare said, with long experience in dealing with Zuula.
The little shaman shrugged, and returned to shore.
The queen considered that, running her eyes over the remnants of her tribe, and croaked.
“She says this may be so, but her people are dead, and she does not see why she should spare you.”
“Spare us?” Threadbare said, moving up to where ten gribbits lay dead in a heap. “Mercy no. We're sparing them.” He beckoned, and Pulsivar oozed out of the shadows, purring, and rubbing a bloody cheek against the bear's paw. “Please let her know that if she wishes to continue the fight we will, but we came here to fight goblins, not her people.”
That seemed to make her happy. “She's bitchin' a lot about goblins, and telling me the awesome tale of how they won their home,” Glub said.
“Ah, okay. Listen to her. Please tell me when she's expecting me to be appreciative.” For his part, Threadbare smiled and nodded whenever Glub gave the signal. It really wasn't too different from his early days, listening to Cecelia's stories and woes back during the tea parties, before he understood what she was saying.
And it worked.
CHA +1
“All right,” Glub said, much later, after some negotiations. “Boss, you're gonna repair and forge their armor and weapons, since they don't have a proper smith, and montage the smith job to one of their own. In return they'll forgive us our trespass and the deaths, and let us leave in peace.”
“And we get nothing but departing safely, but that's all right,” Garon said. “We came in here to grind levels, and sweet Ritaxis, did we ever.”
“There's still a few more we could get,” Kayin said, glancing back to the barrel Cecelia was sitting on, now. “I mean, it'd be kind of a jerk move, but... we are up against the Crown, and if we don't pull off that very sneaky mission, we're gonna die in Fort Bronze. A little more experience could give us an edge.”
“Mm.” Threadbare said. “You're thinking of using Zuula's poison stocks?”
“If we dump it in the lake, then they all die. And their kids. And the pond and the land around it are poison for years,” Cecelia said.
“And what do you think of that?” Threadbare asked.
“I think my father would do it without hesitation, to make us all stronger. So fump that noise.” Cecelia's mouth set into a line of determination. “If you can't get strong without being evil, you don't deserve to be strong.”
“Works for me,” Garon said. “I was going to try to threaten them with it if we got in a bad spot, but I really didn't want to use it. It really was a last-ditch maneuver.”
“Let's agree to not do that or things like that, then.” Cecelia said. “No matter how bad it gets, genocide isn't an option, okay? I made that mistake last life, I want to start fresh with this one.”
“I think we're all good with that,” Threadbare said. And the rest of them nodded, one by one. Kayin and Madeline were a heartbeat behind the others, but no one called them out on it.
“All right,” the dapper teddy bear decided. “Tell her I agree to her terms. Everyone else, feel free to hang about if you want, or go get the camp in order. After I'm done we'll pack up and leave peacefully.”
“I almost feel guilty,” Garon said. “We got these levels, and you're going to have to lose a day montaging.”
“I got a level of golemist while you were fighting,” Threadbare said. “And model because evidently they like my hat.” He hadn't missed the fact that the tribe had spent most of the negotiations staring at his headware. Given that the sole concession that gribbits made in the way of clothing was hats, it wasn't too hard to figure out the object of their gazes. “And besides, the stronger you all get, the better off I am. It's good to be king, after all.”
“I agree,” croaked the queen, in heavily-accented common tongue, and the golems stared at her, mouths wide open.
“You understood every word we said, didn't you? All this whole time?” Garon slapped his wide wooden palm to his muzzle.
“Yes. It seemed best to hide that until I was certain of you. Now I am. I am glad you decided to avoid treachery. You are good people after all, and I am sorry that we misunderstood your intentions. Now what is this about fighting the Crown, and sneaking into Fort Bronze?”
Spoiler: Spoiler



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Andrew Seiple


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