I watched as the goblins scurried around preparing themselves for the conflict. I figured this wasn’t the first time they’d gone to war because of the purpose each goblin had. They fitted themselves with weapons or at least something weapon-like, a small few were unlucky enough to be fitted with cooking utensils. If ravioli was the enemy they’d put up a good fight, but sadly I suspected their new profession would be cannon fodder.

A loud banging came from one of the buildings that I suspected to be the goblin’s forge. I had little idea what went on in there but by how the goblins were equipped, they must spend more time goofing off than banging hammers. The building was small and looked as if it was about to fall apart.

“Impressive isn’t it,” stated the hobgoblin who managed to sneak up on me.

“It’s certainly something,” I responded. I didn’t think it was all that impressive. It was the opposite of impressive but the hobgoblin didn’t have to know that.

“Some of the finest goblin engineers worked on constructing our mighty forge. It will be the key to our victory. With every goblin only given the best gear, whoever is opposing Goran will stand no chance.” bragged the hobgoblin.

“How fast can we mobilize?” I asked.

“We’ll be ready to leave by tomorrow. We’d be able to leave today but some goblin idiots sized my armor wrong. I taught them the lesson of my boot. I am confident that you’ll get to see my magnificence by tomorrow.”

That night, or at least what I figured was nighttime, the goblins celebrated with a feast that was large for goblins. They danced and hollered and drank booze. They were celebrating prematurely and a bad feeling settled in my stomach. There was no possible way this army of goblins would be enough to take on Jorn. Sure their numbers were many but they were small, weak, disorganized, and lacked proper gear.

I knew how much of a difference what good gear could do, for smaller creatures. When I worked for my master's guard I saw first hand that the humans with swords, spears, and armor controlled those who didn’t have any of those things. I was certain that whoever was coming with Jorn they’d be well-armed.

There wasn’t much I could do. I didn’t carry any armor with me or weapons that I could lend to the goblins. Even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t have enough for the many goblins under the hobgoblins command. I could ask the hobgoblin if he could get his troops better gear but knew he wouldn’t be able to even if he wanted to.

I stood by the bonfire and watched the flames as I waited for the time to come and journey back to Goran’s cave. My compass still pointed at the goblin village center, so I had no idea how to get back on my own. When I told the hobgoblin this, he wasn’t worried. He said he had his way of navigating the labyrinth and knew exactly where to find Goran.

As the fire burned out, I heard the sound of a horn resonate throughout the camp. All the goblins stopped whatever they were doing and froze in place. I figured movement, when the horn was blown, was met with feet to the face. Goblins weren’t very smart but I figured that after having their faces bashed in enough times most would get the memo.
“It is time to meet Goran for battle! And to earn the artifact of great power.” roared the hobgoblin.

More cheering from the goblins came. I watched as the mass of goblins pooled together creating a sea of ugly green things. The hobgoblin stood out among the goblins due to his height. He was a massive four feet tall. A whole foot taller than his regular goblin minions.

The scurried behind the hobgoblin as they stumbled over each other as they followed hobgoblin down the corridor. They traveled fast. Normally I would easily be able to keep up but the constant dodging to overhanging rocks made moving through the labyrinth’s tunnels quickly hard.

I was glad when the hobgoblin slowed down. I recognized the end of this corridor as the entrance to Goran’s weird tree and his artificial grass. Maybe his tree was also artificial too. He said he specialized in illusions so I wasn’t sure what to make of both the tree and the grass.

When I entered the room, both the grass and the tree weren’t there. In its place was a desolate plane, with fire and brimstone and rocks jutting out of the ground. I panicked. I had to assume the worst, that Jorn had made his way to Goran before I was able to convince the goblins to come to my aid.

What did Jorn put Goran through to create this type of hellscape? Whatever had happened it must not have been pleasant. My imagination ran wild thinking of all the possibilities and unfortunate circumstances that could have left the once strangely beautiful landscape look so barren.

The hobgoblin must have been thinking the same thing as I watched him scan the carnage. His shoulders were slumped as if he had already been defeated in battle. All the confidence the hobgoblin had vanished in seconds. He didn’t have the unrelenting mindset that was found in the greatest war chiefs. My mother had this mindset. Nothing stood in her way.

Her solution to every problem she faced was elegant. I remember when she bashed away the bandits, the orc tribe, and the demonic notion of taxes. Everyone who had this mindset showed it through their separate way but I couldn’t help but think that maybe if the hobgoblin bashed his problems a little bit more than maybe he’d become a little more unrelenting.

The other goblins noticed their chief’s despair and mirrored his lack of hope. Their backs hunched over in the way that only goblin’s backs could. The hobgoblin, knowing without Goran his prized artifact couldn’t be found, started to back away from the hell hole he’d just uncovered.

“Wait!” shouted a voice that was all too familiar. It was the voice of Goran.

I swiveled my head towards the voice, to find Goran unharmed maybe a little dirtier than before.
“Jorn comes soon,” shouted Goran towards the goblins. “This isn’t time to give up hope and walk away.”

I watched as the hobgoblin turned around. Confusion on his face was evident. I knew what he was thinking. It was the same thought I was thinking. What the living hell had happened to the paradise that Goran had cultivated.

“I made some changes to the illusion I maintain. If we’re going to fight the enemy, it is best if we do it with them uncomfortable and afraid. If we’re going to get through this skirmish, you’ll need to follow my exact words. I have a plan, so listen.” Goran stated.


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