“Those fields,” Bill said, yawning. “I remember those fields almost like yesterday.”
“I’m getting tired of them. We’ve been walking for an hour, and still, all I see is one cornfield after another. How the hell are they going to harvest it all?”
“M-magic?” Alice whispered, glancing at us for once.
“I wish I could confirm or deny it,” Bill said, walking next to the corns, hand touching the passing corn’s long leaves. “There were many myths amongst children because adults never told us much.”
“Why?” I asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be their future? Aren’t you supposed to take over their reigns?”
Bill shook his head. “They are very strict about that. Only after you swear that you’ll never leave and will take on their legacy, they will teach and show.”
“You never tried to sneak and peek?” Arryn asked.
“Oh, many times. And we never succeeded. It was like magic,” Bill said, sighing. “But there’s one thing that I think is weird, now that I think about it.”
“And what’s that?” I asked.
“I rarely remember seeing corn that was growing. They all were fully-grown. Always,” Bill muttered.
“That’s very weird,” I said, nodding. “Like magic. Maybe they do selective harvesting?” I suggested.
“Like harvest only when they’re literally ready? Have you seen those fields? They’re endless. Do you really think a small village like this can harvest it all?” Bill said, laughing.
“If you look carefully, even those around us aren’t ready, though. Some of them are almost, and others are missing the ear of the corn,” Arryn said, walking more said, examining the corn as well.
“It’s a mystery. And I love mysteries. We should figure it out!” I suggested.
“Hah. I couldn’t figure it out when I lived there, so I doubt we can find anything out even now. Those bastards really keep their secret well,” Bill said, sighing.
“We’ll see,” I muttered.
In the end, it was a slight hill, always going more up than down. It was obvious that if rain was ever happening, the rain and the small sudden rivers would water all the corn. It was in some sense slightly genius location for the down and for the corn. Every time we looked back, we were slightly in awe of the view. It was the not-that-far wall that reminded where we were. We could even see a tiny Kirkwall from here. As soon as we reached the top of the hill, we saw roofs appearing, smoke rising from plenty of chimneys. We could already see past the village that there wasn’t any corn, but forest. It seems that all those endless cornfields were built only on the downhill.
Many of us noticed it was surprisingly quiet. Normally during that time, there were at least some people outside, walking around, keeping an eye on their crops. Right now, there wasn’t even a soul. The only indicator that there were people still in the village was the smoke rising from chimneys themselves.
“That’s odd,” I said.
“I agree,” Bill responded, nodding.
“W-what?” Alice said, looking at us.
“There’s no-one outside,” Arryn muttered towards Alice.
“I hope it’s not what I’m thinking it is,” I said, groaning.
“It probably is,” Bill said. But for my surprise, he seemed surprisingly calm.
As we entered the empty streets, Bill lead us towards the only tavern in the village. Oily Corn. An interesting name, coming from the fact that this village also produced oil from all the excessive corn. So, their only tavern got that name - mostly to advertise the oil itself. There are occasional traders who visit this village just to buy the oil and then sell it at a higher price.
“It’s here,” Bill said. The tavern’s chimney was smoking as well. It was probably a good sign. With a long sigh, he pushed the door open and entered the tavern first.
There was the sound of a ringing bell, announcing our arrival. “Welcome!” a shout came from the kitchen. For our relief, there were plenty of others around, sitting in the tavern, drinking. Perhaps it was only me who noticed something suspicious. But it could be nothing.
As we stepped towards the counter, a dwarf walked out of the kitchen, clapping his hands together to get rid of the flour stuck to his hand.
“Hey, lads. What can I do for yar?” the Dwarf said. It was obvious that the other side of the counter was elevated, just so the dwarf would be on a comfortable level as well.
They all eyed me. Even Bill, which was a bit more surprising. I’d had hoped that he knew that dwarf.
“We are from Kirkwall. Adventurers. We are here to learn about your goblin problems. Where can we find the village’s chief?”
The room became quiet. Everyone stared at us. It was an uncomfortable feeling. But it wasn’t a hostile stare, but quite the other way around - it was as it was about time.
“Finally,” the dwarf said, smiling. “Well, I might not be chief, but chef, but ya found him. I’m the current leader.”
“That’s interesting. I didn’t know tavern’s owner could be the village head,” Arryn couldn’t help but say it out.
“Arryn!” Bill hissed.
“That’s quite alright, lad. It’s probably also surprising a dwarf like me is the owner of the tavern in the first place, am I right? Ha!” The dwarf said, pushing some ale in front of us. We all got ourselves seated at the other side of the counter. “Well. I’m a temporary leader. Our leader was taken away by goblins merely two days ago.”
We all looked at the dwarf, surprised.
“Or well, it’s more that he let himself being captured, in exchange of leaving us alone for a time being,” the dwarf said, sighing. “Do you want some food, lads? I just finished some simple potatoes. I also have some our village special - heated corn with some fresh bread,” the dwarf said, trying to look more cheerful. “Javum, by the way,” the dwarf said, smiling and reaching his hand to each of us.
“Ah. Hiro, Arryn, Bill, and Alice,” Bill quickly introduced all of us as he was first to shake Javum’s hand. “And we’d like some food, thank you!”
Javum nodded. “Wait here just a second.”
It didn’t take long for him to come back with a small pot. Filled with soft potatoes and carrots. There was another bowl with 4 fresh ears of corn. All those corns had sharper brown lines on them He began to fill our plates with different food one by one, finally pushing them in front of us.
“Is that corn… grilled?” I said, looking at it.
“Aye. You have some good eyes,” the dwarf said, smiling. I couldn’t help but take a bite. Immediately a smile appeared at the edge of my mouth. It was tasty.
“Can you tell us everything?” I finally said, looking at him, taking another bite. Everyone else had also dug in their food, visibly showing off their enjoyment. I only hope the food wasn’t poisoned or something.
“Yes, I was about to,” Javum said, nodding once more. “To be fair, if you hadn’t come today, we would’ve abandoned the village tomorrow morning and tried to escape towards Kirkwall.”
Even though I tried to hide my feelings, I already knew what that meant. I couldn’t help but wonder if that quest was too hard for us. The way how others looked, it seemed that I wasn’t the only one.
It was obvious that it was something hard to talk about. Just the fact that Javum was cleaning already overly clean cup was saying more words than any of us could ask.
“Alright,” Javum said, sighing. “It began two weeks ago. It used to be a time when we saw more goblins around this area, so we’ve been more alert than usual. Goblins are small enough, so they can hide between cornfields pretty well. But we weren’t careful enough. Perhaps it’s the fact we’ve gotten too bloody cocky. We’ve always thought we were safe because of how well the country has protected us. And there were always adventurers who were ready to come and help us whenever it was necessary. It has been years since we’ve seen anything dangerous. And since this is the closest village to the Kirkwall as well, it’s only natural to feel safer than any other village. But for a while now, we’ve barely got any help. They only help if there’s nothing else to do.” Javum couldn’t help put to put the cup loudly on the table. Every soul in the room was quiet. Many were sniffing, trying to keep themselves quiet.
Javum began to fill the same cup with some beer, taking one sip himself. He needed that. “Two of our children disappeared. We thought it was just children playing pranks. We thought that our kids were having a sleepover at some other parent’s house. But we soon discovered that they were completely disappeared.
“We began to search them immediately, going through the cornfields, the forest. We needed to find something, anything. And we did. We found goblin’s footprints. I haven’t seen those rascals footprints for years, but I’d still recognize those bastards’ footprints. So, we sent our quest towards Kirkwall immediately. We thought someone would come and help us, fast.
“But nobody came. Nobody.”
There was silence in the room. For quite a while. “I-I’m sorry,” Alice said, looking up at the dwarf. “M-may I ask you a question?”
Javum looked at Alice for a short while. “Aye. *Go ahead,” he said.
“Did you send someone to pressure the guild how important it was?” she asked. All three of us understood where she was going. If the situation was a big enough, the guild would be forced to increase importance and difficulty, or maybe even force someone to take on the quest.”
“Aye. We did,” Javum said, nodding. “But every time we went there, we were just told they’ll send someone as soon as they can.”
“I will-” Arryn barely managed to say before Bill took hold of her hand.
Bill looked at Arryn, slightly leaning towards her. “Stop. We are nobody. There’s nothing we can do,” he whispered.
“I-I’m sorry for interrupting. P-please continue!” Alice said, slightly bowing.
“It’s okay,” Javum said, sighing. “After the third day of waiting for help, and pressuring, everything changed. They began to assault our village, trying to get the other kids, women.”
I looked around again. As I had noticed earlier, everyone in the room was male. It was normal for men to visit tavern more often. But there should’ve been some women as well. My heartbeat accelerated. The lack of women only meant that the goblins were successful.
“Of course we fought back, at first, but we lost some of them one after another. That is until one of them came to us, and said that if we resist, they’ll kill all of our prisoners,” Javum said.
“Goblins can’t be that smart,” Bill whispered to me.
“They actually can. They’re not that dumb. There can be a lot smarter goblins and other dumber ones. It’s just that average goblin’s intelligence is a lot lower compared to an average human,” I whispered to Bill, quietly.
“Shut up,” Arryn muttered. “We can hear you.”
“That’s fine. Hiro is right. You were Hiro right?” the dwarf asked. I shared a sharp nod. “That’s what we thought too. There’s no way they can be that smart. But then they told us their conditions. They’ll stop attacking us, for now. But we can’t ask help, not anymore. We can’t stay outside. We just have to… live. If we don’t do what they ask, they’ll kill all the prisoners. Most of our farmers can’t lose their families, you understand?”
“What about us?” Bill asked.
“You need to leave as soon as you’ve finished eating. Please understand. You’re just a passerby. That’s how they’ll see you. Alright?” Javum said.
“That’s alright,” I said. “I understand.”
Javum nodded. “Thank you. I can give you some extra food if you want?”
“We’d appreciate that,” Bill said.
Javum gave us a nod and left back to the kitchen, giving us a moment to talk.
“That’s more than we can handle,” Arryn said.
“Don’t pussy out now,” Bill whispered.
“I-I think we should help them,” Alice whispered.
“You want to help everyone, Alice,” Bill said.
Alice chuckled. “T-that’s true.”
“It wasn’t a compliment!” Bill said, frowning.
I sighed. “We should do our best first. We should try to get as much information as possible, and then decide. If it’s too much, we can go back and report it as an emergency. If it’s something we can still handle, we should do something about it. Either way, we need to get out of the village first.”
“Why? Why should we risk our lives?” Arryn asked.
It was Alice who suddenly pushed her toe on Alice’s foot. “Ouch, what was that for?” she said, slightly surprised that Alice could do that.
“Because they have prisoners. And every day matters. Especially when we’ve wasted a week already,” she whispered loudly. It was the first time I didn’t hear her stutter, which made me smile. It made it feel like she wholeheartedly believed in what she said. “I-idiot.” Except for that last part.
“Exactly. We need to be sure what’s going on before we abandon it,” I said, sharing a half-smile.
“I gotta agree with those two,” Arryn said.
“You were the first who-” Bill began to protest, looking at Arryn. “Sure. Fine. Let’s do it,” he said, raising his hands up as a sign of surrender.
We all were terrified. We all agreed that it was probably more than we could deal with. But something inside all of us pushed us forward. We needed this. All of us. The reasons were different, but the aim was the same.
“There ya go!” the dwarf said, pushing a small sack in front of us. “It’s filled with some potatoes, fried corn, and dried meat. It should keep you fed for a few days, at least.”
“Thank you!” I said, trying to give him a smile. “How many do you think there are?”
There was a moment of silence. “We believe there are more than twenty-five goblins out there. It’s safer to walk towards the forest, I think. For some reason, they really keep an eye on Kirkwall part.”
I couldn't help but wonder why we weren’t attacked as we arrived at the village. Perhaps we were lucky. Or maybe they didn’t want us to give a chance to turn around and rush back to Kirkwall for help.
Bill frowned. Arryn kept up her cold expression. Alice was frozen, hands shaking. Me? I felt nothing. Was it because I had to recently walked and met fire giants, which were supposed to be demons? Was it because I was the hero? I knew that goblins were more dangerous than demons - for me that is. Goblins won’t talk. They’ll attack first, and probably will never ask questions. But even so, something told me that we could do it. Or was it the need to do it? The need to prove myself as a hero. It could be the only time I was able to kill a monster.
“Let’s go,” I said, standing up and grabbing the shack. “Thank you, Javum.”
“May the Gods smile on you. And it’s fine if you think it’s too much. Just get help, please. I wish we had more to tell you or more time.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Bill said, raising his hand as we all left.
It was terrifying. The thought of us walking, and possibly being watch gave me chills. All of us looked around, trying to find anything small and green hiding. Until I noticed it. They tried not to seem so obvious, but their eyes told me more than anything.
I began to laugh, loudly, making all of them look at me, confused.
“What the fuck, bro?” Bill said.
“You’re all too nervous. Even the dumbest goblin would understand,” I said as we all still stood in front of the tavern.
“W-what do we do?” Alice asked, looking at me.
“We’ll walk away from Kirkwall, towards the forest. This way we have the biggest chance to escape. They can hide between corns a lot better than the forest. Plus, I’d say they’re probably more prepared at the Kirkwall side.”
“Do you really think that they’re that smart?” Arryn asked.
“I don’t want to take any chances. Do you?” There was a moment of silence, agreement. “Good. I’ll stay left, Bill right. We both keep an eye out on our side. Arryn, try to look at both sides. Alice, try to look back, occasionally. Stay close to Bill. Go!”
We both began walking away from Kirkwall, talking nonsense, just to look like we didn’t know what was going on. We tried to show that we didn’t pay any attention to any surroundings, even though it was a lie.
“150 feet, left side, 2 goblins, one on a tree with a bow; and right side, 130 feet and 170 feet away, two other goblins, one with shield and scimitar. Another, not sure, but they’re on the ground and might be a mage,” Arryn said casually. I could feel how everyone’s stepping slowed down slightly. We all felt it - adrenaline pumping into our system. All I could think of was the fact that might be the end of the legendary recent hero - slain by a goblin.
“Hiro?” Bill said after a short pause.
It was a weird feeling. Even in a situation like that, I could think calmly. It didn’t make any sense. Nobody should be able to stay rational. Not that long time ago I was a shut-in, slightly awkward boy. And here I was, different.
“Arryn, take care of the mage first. Always focus the mage first. Then the bowman. Bill, protect Alice from the right. I’ll from the left. Alice. I don’t know what spells you can cast, so try to either heal us or attack behind us. That’s all.”
It wasn’t even a plan. It was prioritizing, nothing else. But even that was better than nothing. We couldn’t fight in chaos. Not now.
Nobody said anything, which meant they either agreed or just accepted the orders as they were. It was weird to think that they depended on me when it came to making plans or strategies. I was a new member, so why me?
“Hiro,” Bill said as we were approaching the area where we were most likely going to be assaulted. “Use your shield. Leave sword fighting to me,” he said, giving me a smirk.
“You sure?” I asked.
I gave him a nod. “The moment they come out, start attacking.”
And we walked. One step after another. It felt like an eternity. One step after yet another. I could hear my accelerated breathing. And not just mine, theirs as well.
They were only stupid goblins. Only four of them. Yet why did I feel so nervous? There could be many reasons. But I knew it wasn’t just fear. Was it anticipation? Was it the knowledge that it was my first fight, and I might actually stand a chance? Or was I going to find out that I never stood a chance?
A shouting echoed as two goblins ran out behind the tree’s cover. Even I didn’t understand how Arryn had seen them. It was a hard time alone to keep an eye on the point Arryn had pointed out where the goblins were supposed to be.
Immediately I reached out my hand, taking hold of my shield, and pulling it out. There was this smaller goblin, holding a lot larger sword than mine, almost as he was having a hard time keeping it over his head, almost as he was about to drop it on his own head.
But he didn’t. The sword began to fall towards me, and all I could was push the shield towards the sword, hoping that it wouldn’t break. All I could do was ready my legs for the impact.
An arrow passed my head, but from behind me. Arryn had released an arrow. Normally one wouldn’t even notice or see an arrow quickly passing by, but I saw it all.
There it was, the impact. All the muscles in my legs screamed in harmony, asking me what was going on. But they were strong enough, helping me hold my ground.
“Argh. My shoulder. My fucking shoulder,” a shout reached us from afar, except the goblin wasn’t speaking in common, but goblin. I understood goblin. It was a bit hazy, but I understood it. A long time ago, I had learned it, for fun.
Two swords clashed at my left side, as Bill pushed the other goblin’s sword away, crashing the goblin’s sword against the shield. Immediately he made a sharp twist to slash the goblin’s chest. The goblin fell down on his back, screaming, swearing in goblin, letting go of the sword and shield. But Bill didn’t care. He kicked the goblin’s sword further away with his leg and pushed the sword through their chest, just to silence the goblin’s screams.
Another arrow passed me, but this time at the other side of my head towards the tree with Bowman. An echoing sound followed, but not a hit. The arrow must’ve hit the tree instead of the goblin bowman.
“No! Vrug!” the goblin at the other side of my shield shouted. I understood it, finally. We both were watching Bill. I could feel how the sword was lifted away from my shield, tiny steps below the shield turning towards Bill. I knew that Bill wasn’t ready for this. His sword was still inside the other goblin’s chest. So I pushed. I pushed as hard as I could. And I could feel it. The tiny goblin was surprised by my sudden push, as he lost balance fell. And I landed on top of him, shield pushing him even more down.
Another arrow passed me, but this time over my body. No, it wasn’t an arrow. It was something else, something blueish. I looked behind me, seeing Alice holding her wand out, tip slightly frozen.
“Ice shard?” I muttered.
There was a sound of explosion afar, as the tree it had hit began to fall. Goblin on top of it jumped down, screaming the moment he hit the ground. That was probably goblin’s legs that were a goner. The part of the tree that was being separated from each other and bending more time was full of frozen ice, keeping some of the bark barely together. But it fell more down, just to fall on top of that miserable goblin. “Eek,” a goblin scream echoed before they got silenced.
“Nice shot,” Arryn said, taking another arrow and shooting away. I turned my head back towards the goblin that I had just pushed down, just to discover that he was not moving, not anymore. There was also a bond of blood slowly getting larger.
“Nice,” Bill said. He had managed to pull out the sword. So all he could do was run towards the archer that was now lying below the fallen tree. The other mage goblin was not moving either. Arryn had taken care of him.
“Don’t kill him, not yet!” I shouted, standing up and looking around of us. There was nobody else. At least not anymore. “Let’s go,” I said as I looked behind myself, eyeing Arryn and Alice. They both nodded, so we followed Bill.
Bill didn’t move as we reached him. The Goblin below the tree was as dead as they could be. “Damn,” Bill said, turning his face towards the final goblin that might be alive. The mage. It didn’t take long for us to reach them.
The final goblin was trying to pull himself away from us, seemingly still alive. They had just been so slow about it that it seemed from afar to be dead. There was only one arrow visible on his back, near heart, while the other was already pulled out, lying next to him.
I took hold of the goblin and pulled him over on his back, holding my foot on his stomach to keep him still.
“Where’s your hideout?” I said in my broken goblin. Both Bill and Arryn gazed at me, slightly surprised.
“You can speak goblin?” Bill asked.
“Shut up!” I hissed in common. “Where’s your hideout?” I repeated my question.
The goblin began to laugh, but only for a moment. It seemed that laughing was rather painful. “I’d never tell you, scum,” the goblin responded.
“Are you sure you want to go through all of this?” I asked, trying to intimidate. “Your friends are dead already. Do you want to follow their lead?” One thing I’ve read about goblins is that they can be easily frightened when they’re captured. Of course, that’s if they’re captured.
The goblin chuckled once more, suddenly revealing a knife on his hand. I was already afraid of my foot. He was going to attack me, and that was going to hurt a lot. I knew that I wasn’t fast enough to react either.
A flash and the goblin stopped moving. But it wasn’t any of us that killed him, but he had done it to himself, silencing himself with his own knife.
“What the fuck,” Bill muttered.
“D-dead goblin won’t talk, after all. T-that’s strange. G-goblins are very loyal creatures to their leader. B-but their usual instinct is to save themselves first,” Alice said.
There were noises coming from afar. It seemed that the other goblins had been alerted. “A-and it’s not a mage,” Alice muttered, looking at me. “I-it’s a scout, a messenger. I-I hate to admit it, but these goblins really do know what they’re doing.”
We all looked at each other, one by one. But with a slight nod, we did a quick search on the bodies, just to find a piece of paper. Something was definitely written on it, so I quickly pushed it in my pocket. The moment sounds got too loud, we rushed into the forest, leaving the sounds behind.
But there’s was at least one good thing I could be happy about - my first battle didn’t end with my death.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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