I rubbed my hands together and looked down at all the reagents waiting for me to do something with them. Then I looked to Keia.
I really hoped this would work. Partly because I was worried that if it didn’t work then the goblins were going to very shortly get pissy to the point that they killed our asses, but mostly because I wanted to look good in front of Keia.
“Go on,” she said, smiling and patting me on the shoulder. “I know you can do it.”
I let out a long breath. “I hope you’re right about that.”
I took the ingredients and touched the forge. The crafting menu came up, and this time when I scrolled down to the goblinsteel stuff on the menu nothing was greyed out. Because I had all the ingredients right in front of me and ready to go.
I thought about the recipe for the Goblinsteel Dagger and the thing highlighted to let me know the gam had received my command. Then my arms started moving on their own, without thought, and picked up the items and started working them.
It only took maybe the space of five seconds before there was a little sad trombone noise. The items clattered down to the forge in front of me and I let out a low growl.
“He can’t do it either!” one of the goblins said.
“There must be a curse! It’s the Ancient One!”
I frowned and glanced to the regent. He had a huge smile on his face that said he was supremely satisfied by my failure. Well I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction, damn it.
“It’s to be expected,” I said.
“We don’t have time for your excuses,” the goblin regent said.
“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “I’m trying to craft something that’s way beyond my skill level. There are going to be… never mind.”
One look at the regent was enough to tell me that he didn’t give a flying fuck about game mechanics. Heck, considering the way the goblins had reacted every time I started talking about game mechanics there was a good chance everything I was saying here was going in one ear and out the other and not actually registering in whatever passed for a brain on this thing.
“Whatever,” I said, going back to the ingredients and thinking about crafting it again.
Again I went through the crafting animation. Again my body moved without me actually controlling it. Again there was another sad trombone noise, something that seemed just a little over the top if you ask me, and again there was that failure.
I wondered if that sad trombone noise came when I was Spellcrafting as well, and I’d just never noticed it because it was difficult to hear a failure noise like that in the middle of an explosion.
“I don’t see why we’re continuing this farce,” the regent said. “You clearly can’t deliver on the lies. The king doesn’t know what he’s talking about trapped down in…”
I hit the crafting option again. My body went through the motion. I tuned the regent out. I failed again. I didn’t even bother listening to the regent this time around. I just kept hitting the thing.
That was the way this game worked, damn it. You could try a skill over and over again until you got it right. It just meant that the chances of success were way lower if you were stupid enough to try something that was way beyond your current skill level.
Like what I was trying to do right now.
“…traitorous to say something like that!”
I blinked and turned to see Rezzik standing toe to toe with the regent. The regent, for his part, had a half circle of guards all around us with their spears out.
“How dare you talk to me about being a traitor!” the regent shouted back at Rezzik. “If it weren’t for you we wouldn’t have humans down here in the first place and none of this would’ve happened! You know our laws!”
“And the king said that he had confidence in these humans!” Rezzik growled. “You can’t do this!”
“Whatever you’re doing, you might want to hurry it up,” Kristoph muttered in party chat. “Looks like our goblin friends are getting a little stabby.”
It really didn’t help my concentration thinking about all the numerous ways that the goblins had stabbed other people we’d met during our time in the game. It also didn’t help my concentration that this motherfucking piece of shit kept refusing to do its job and…
There was a ding. The dagger appeared in my hand. It was a dull sort of metal. It didn’t catch the light and shine or anything like that, but I knew that I had a goblinsteel dagger in my hands. I knew how to use it.
I thought of my Spellcrafting. I quickly searched through my inventory for something that would be suitably impressive. I needed these goblins to realize exactly who was calling the shots around here, after all, and that would mean…
I found a gem that I’d discovered in my experimenting and grinned. Oh yes, this bad boy would do quite nicely, thank you very much. I took out a gem that looked slightly yellow, the game designers for Lotus were nothing if not consistent in their lack of imagination when it came to this sort of thing, and quickly infused it with the proper sort of spell.
I also prayed that this would actually work. The last thing I needed was for the game to throw a fail state my way when I was in the middle of a crowd of goblins who looked like they were trying to decide whether or not they wanted to follow the regent’s orders to kill us where we stood, or follow the king’s orders as they were being relayed via Rezzik that we were to stay alive.
No matter. I was going to be able to pull this off. All I needed was…
There was another happy little ding. I grinned as I held the dagger high over my head. All the goblins turned to look, their eyes wide, as a little thunderstorm went off in the room with lightning firing towards the skies.
Okay then, that was a little more impressive than I’d been hoping for when I put this together. The most I’d been hoping for was maybe a few little sparks or something that would let them know I meant business, but I figured this would do nicely as well.
“I have the power of goblinsteel and Spellcrafting!” I shouted, my voice carrying over the argument and shutting the goblins up quite nicely. “And I will not listen to traitors who wish to fight the will of your king!”
I pointed the dagger towards the goblin regent. I was mostly going on autopilot right now. Like we’re talking I had no idea what the fuck I was doing, but I knew I had to do something if we were going to get out of this because there were goblin guards listening to the regent.
I guess the argument had gotten a hell of a lot more heated while I was doing my crafting thing. Goblins were moving in with their swords drawn like they were going to give us some of the business. Kristoph looked like he was about to lay into the goblins, and Keia was holding her bow and arrow out like she was about to seriously make the goblins regret attacking us.
Well one of them was going to regret attacking us, but it was going to be the one who was the head of all this craziness.
Lightning arced out from the dagger and slammed into the regent. He flew across the floor with one final angry scream, followed by a rumbling and a voice whispering in my head that what I’d just done seemed just fine and dandy to the source of the voice.
I pushed that voice out of my head. The last thing I needed was a disembodied god in my head telling me what the fuck to do. I’d quickly discovered that it was easy enough to push the thing away. All I had to do was think about it going away and it went away.
I guess the game designers hadn’t been willing to go so far as having a dangerous cthonic god within the game that was able to actually control player’s minds. I had no doubt they could do abit of mind control if they really wanted to, but that seemed like the kind of thing that would open them up to all sorts of nasty lawsuits if word started to get out about it.
The goblin regent came to rest against the stairs. His body sparked a few more times, and it did some weird thing where I could see his skeleton through his body for all that it made no sense for electrocution to do something like that, and then he was still.
I pulled the dagger down. Looked around at everyone. Then looked at my combat scroll which told me I’d just pulled a few more points in Spellcrafting:Combat. Huh. I guess it was the Spellcrafting that was doing the fighting there and not necessarily the dagger itself.
I looked around to the goblins. Then to Kristohp and Keia who were staring at me like they weren’t sure who the fuck I was or what I’d done with the Conlan they knew. Then I looked down at Rezzik who was staring at the regent with something very rapidly approaching satisfaction.
“Anyone else got a problem with me carrying out the king’s will in these here parts?” I asked, tossing the dagger back and forth between my hands and letting it spark just a little the entire time to remind everyone around here what was waiting for them if they decided they wanted to subvert the king’s will.
“Right,” I said. “Now if you’ll have one of the crafters come over here, I think we can take care of this whole problem you’re having with not being able to actually craft anything.”
A few of the goblin crafters looked back and forth at one another like they were trying to figure out whether or not one of them wanted to be the first to try and approach me. I suppose I could understand that.
“I promise I’m not going to hurt any of you,” I said. “I really want to solve your problems, but I’m also not going to tolerate someone trying to kill me while I’m trying to help you.”
My voice was surprisingly hard there at the end. I guess I was learning all sorts of new things about myself. Not that it was going to do the regent a damn bit of good.
Finally one of the crafters stepped forward and moved to the forge. “So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is something you’re not going to be able to understand even if I explain it to you,” I said. “But I can give you the recipe for daggers and we can go from there.”
I reached out and touched the goblin, unsure of exactly how this was supposed to go, and a menu came up asking me if I wanted to grant my ability to craft to this goblin. There was only the one recipe in there so far, but I figured I could very quickly flesh that out. Especially if I had access to this forge room and all the materials we’d brought along with.
“Try to craft a dagger,” I said.
The goblin looked unsure. Like I could totally understand where the little dude was coming from. He’d just tried crafting something and it hadn’t worked, so why would it suddenly magically start working now?
But he reached out and grabbed the materials he needed. His figure went through the animation that went along with crafting things. And a moment later he had a dull new dagger in his hands that he stared at in wonder.
“How is that possible?” he asked, looking up at me.
“I told you,” I said. “I have to be the one to grant you that ability, but now that we’re in business I think we can really do some dangerous stuff.”
I looked out to the goblins standing all around us. “Whaddya say? Do you want to go into business with me and take out the assholes who’ve been slaughtering you wholesale, or do you want to keep hiding down here sending your people to their deaths like the regent would have you do?”
I glanced over to the regent again. A few of the goblins also looked over at him, and it was clear they were weighing whether or not they wanted to wind up like him.
It was going to take some work to make it clear to the goblins that I wasn’t going to kill them indiscriminately, and it’s not like it’d been a great start killing the regent, but it had to be done. The asshole was going to kill us, after all.
Then slowly but surely the goblins all started to get down on one knee. They looked up at me with something that was approaching wonder. Even Rezzik got down on his knees in front of him, which made him barely come up to my knees.
A system message popped up right about then, helpfully informing me that I’d unlocked a new skill.
Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the Leadership skill path! Continue gaining reputation and building your faction to advance this skill!
Congratulations! You are now the head of the Goblin Underground faction! Build out your faction and go forth and conquer in their name!
I looked around at the gathered goblins getting down on their knees before me and doing their best impression of the end of Return of the King, and I couldn’t help but smile a goofy grin.
“Huh. Looks like you made some friends,” Keia said.
“You don’t know the half of it,” I said.
Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!
I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!
I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!
Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.
I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!