Goblin Artist

by

ezro

Chapter 4: Welcome to the Tribe

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The next few days gave testament to the notion that anything could become routine. The caretaker would bring us fresh gruel as if two of our group didn’t just nearly lose their lives fighting over it. The pecking order was firmly established with me as the big dog which, oddly enough, not even Alpha contested. The second to eat was Bob who did have to fight for his meal against the little brute, but after some time even those fights lost their suspense.

Bob had an advantage in strength to begin with and having his jaw crippled, Alpha lost his only ace in the hole. Even an unyielding spirit will eventually lose to the absolute difference in strength which the gruel provided.

What relieved me the most, was that after the third time around, the caretaker started bringing two types of gruel with her. The new one was just as gooey as the main one, but it lacked its incredible aroma, firing up all your senses and making you insatiable. It was plentiful and its purpose was simple nourishment. That sat perfectly fine with me. As determined as I was to grow stronger, I really didn’t relish the idea of it happening at the cost of prolonged starvation of the remaining goblins.

Gaining strength wasn’t that easy, however. Alpha seemed averse to fighting me and I wouldn’t risk jeopardizing my relationship with Bob, should my attempt at a spar lead to a misunderstanding. The remaining goblins were just as unresponsive as Alpha, kicking them didn’t elicit much reaction, only they lacked even the basic courage to respond with a hate filled scowl.

In the end I resigned myself to doing simple exercises. Surrounded by perplexed gazes of the remaining goblins, I’d do crunches, push-ups, bridges, pretty much anything that I remembered from my previous life. At first my body seemed to protest, as if my very instincts insisted that eating the gruel and then sleeping till the time of the next meal came was all my body needed for its development, but I persevered.

As pleasant as it was to live in this sort of mind-numbing daze, reducing oneself to some sort of an eating and sleeping machine, and having my days pass filled with a feeling of warmth and contentment, I still felt fear. Whenever I woke up, my gaze would be drawn to the brown blotches of dried blood that stained the formerly white bricks paving the floor of our nursery. The lone door that used to inspire sense of excitement now served as a portent of trials that were to come.

So train I did. It could be attributed to the fact that there wasn’t all that much to do besides sleeping, but I displayed perseverance in physical exercises that I sorely lacked in my previous life. As soon as the caretaker left, having made sure we wouldn’t hurt each other too much in the daily fight for food, I would go to my corner and start wetting the ground with sweat.

Bob and Alpha were usually too exhausted to pay much attention, but the other two goblins observed my actions with keen interest. The effect of their food clearly wasn’t as overbearing as ours, but even if they had energy to spare, they never went as far as to imitate me.

I never learned if what I did at that time had served any purpose or not. My progress was clear, but that could’ve come around naturally from my gruel-fueled development. My coordination did improve, however, and I felt more confident in my new body. Young goblins were expected to fight for their food, so if there was no one who would challenge me, I had to challenge myself.

The undeniable boon of undertaking that training regiment was that it broke me free from the malaise I was caught in. My thoughts cleared and I felt more self-asserted. The situation didn’t allow to make much use of this newly rediscovered sense of agency, but just having something concrete to put my efforts into improved my state of mind.

Days continued to pass this way for what felt like months. Bob and Alpha persisted in fighting come every mealtime. What left me completely flabbergasted, was that despite having to make do with the second grade gruel, Alpha never stopped being an opponent for Bob. What he lacked in strength, he made up with sheer ferocity, and despite the fact that the gap between the two was only increasing with time, it never reached the point where Bob could completely disregard him.

This made me all the more glad that back then I decided to allocate the remaining gruel to Bob. If Alpha could reach this level of strength on his own, then fueled by the steroid-packed grub we’ve been eating he’d become a veritable monster.

The two other goblins never stopped developing either. The caretaker that used to tower over us was now just a head taller than me - about the same height that now separated me and the two goblins. During this period of time they seemed to reawaken their savage nature, cause even if they never challenged us, they would often fight amongst each other.

With our growing bodies, the cave started to feel a bit cramped and I think we all shared the feeling that we were approaching some sort of a boundary. The time when we would leave was approaching steadily, filling our bodies with increasing giddiness.

Finally, the day when instead of our usual caretaker, we were welcomed with the sight of a massive goblin adorned in colorful armor, inspecting us with a gaze filled with satisfaction, has come.

The goblin was even taller than the caretaker. The top of my head barely made it to his shoulders. His body was adorned in a motley of mismatched body armor. His shoulder pads came from two different sets, one flat, while the other had what looked like sharp nails extending out of it. His torso was protected with leather armor over which he strewn a layer of chainmail that made a faint jingling noise whenever he moved. On his head he wore a medieval helmet, open at the front, revealing a face not that much different than Alpha’s.

His original goblin physiognomy was remodeled over what must have been years of hard abuse. The nose, though short, was impressively broken and crookedly healed in two different places. His lips looked unnaturally large and leathery. They were covered in a bungled mess of tiny threads of scar tissue that must have been healed and ripped open time and time again. Small eyes sparkling with vigor hid under the hollows of his protruded forehead, it too marked by several indentations.

Most of his body and face was covered in intricate streaks of paint that emitted a faint bluish light, similar to the one produced by the lichen growing on the walls of our cave. It highlighted every groove and indentation, be it on his armor, or his face, and gave his appearance an unreal feeling.

Clearly satisfied with the effect he was impressing on us, he pushed his chest out and gave a booming roar, further magnified by the small space we were in. We still didn't have an inkling regarding the goblin language, but there was something so royal and domineering in that voice that everyone of us stood up to attention, all our gazes focused on his figure.

The goblin gave another roar and turned around through the open doors, not even checking if we followed, because, of course, we did.

He led our group through a labyrinth of dimly lit corridors, the blue glow he radiated casting long shadows along the brick walls. As we tried to keep up with his steps, our ears began to catch sounds of a thunderous din, echoes of which reverberated along the passageway.

As we followed, the noise steadily became more distinct. It was just two sounds really, a massive thud followed by a frightening bellow coming from countless throats.

Boom. Roar! Boom. Roar!

Just these two eruptions of sound, undulating once slower and then faster, but clearly increasing in tempo as we were nearing their source.

When the clamor began approaching intensity that we could barely stand, even making the vines growing along the walls tremble, we reached a massive open hall.

In its centre stood a giant figure, almost too large to still be called a goblin, dwarfing even our guide. His bulging body was completely coated in the glowing dye, radiating light so bright that it illuminated a great pyre behind him and a group of around a dozen young goblins standing in front of it.

Surrounding them in a circle was a horde of adult goblins, their skin similarly covered in streaks of fluorescent paint. A hazy sea made of countless threads of blue light was pulsating in the darkness to the rhythm of their dancing bodies.

The uproar increased even further as our group joined. The savage melody exploded in intensity. Hundreds of feet stumped the ground as one.

Boom.

Heads arched back as hundreds of voices bellowed at the same time.

Roar!

The tempo kept increasing as we were brought to join the group of young goblins. The elder looked us over and turned towards the pyre in front of us.

The din grew unbearable, shouts completely overlapped with thuds of the shaking ground, even our bodies trembled with the walls of the hall.

With a bang, the pyre suddenly caught fire and blazed in a blindingly white light. It enveloped the hall, banishing surrounding shadows and even the sounds along with them.

In a completely white, silent space I heard a voice.

 

System integration initialized.

Race: Goblin (juvenile)

Type: Dungeon species

Proceeding with advancement…

Calculating physical characteristics…

Collating psychological traits…

Calculating hitherto experience...

Error.

Error.

Mentality incongruent with the current race.

Some attributes exceed the limits of the current race.

Initialize normalizing of subject’s psychology and attributes?

5...

4…

3…

2…

“No!!!!” I snapped back out of my confusion, hoping to God that it wasn't too late.

Normalizing canceled.

Advancement to Goblin (youth) cannot continue.

Proceeding with subject’s evolution...

Calculating optimal evolutionary pathway...

Recalculating physical characteristics…

Recalculating psychological traits…

Recalculating hitherto experience…

Analyzing environment…

No congruent evolutionary pathway found…

Creating temporary variant species…

Complete.

Proceed with evolution to Azure Goblin (youth)?

5…

4...

3...

2...

1...

Evolution in progress…

Assigning attributes… complete.

Assigning skills… complete.

Assigning traits… complete.

Remodelling subject’s body…

Aaah!” An incredible wave of pain assaulted my body. It felt like every pain receptor was stimulated to its extreme at the same time.

...complete.

Evolution complete.

You have two unspent attribute points and four unspent skill points. Would you like for the system to assign them automatically?

5…

4…

“No!” I shouted, barely holding on to consciousness after the torture I had just suffered.

Unspent points will be available for later use.

Your status window is now available.

System integration complete.

As the voice in my head disappeared and the bright light faded away to once more reveal the ceremonial hall, the last thing I heard before fainting was the shockingly intelligible voice of the elder:

“Welcome to the tribe.”

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About the author

ezro

Bio: Check out some of my other stories!

Goblin Artist
https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/27022/goblin-artist

Heroes of Erathia
https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/27147/heroes-of-erathia/chapter/402592/chapter-1-death-of-a-chicken

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