Instinctively, Blacknail tried to get to his feet but he was far too unsteady and quickly fell over again. That’s when he heard the laughter.
“Ha, that’s what green shits like you get! That’ll teach you to walk around like a man,” he heard a deep male voice say.
Blacknail had been attacked by a human. Apparently, the camp wasn’t so safe after all.
Blacknail felt his insides twist with regret but he didn’t quite know why. Things like this hadn’t been uncommon in the sewers; Blacknail just hadn’t thought it would happen here for some reason. How stupid of him.
Blacknail painfully turned his head to get a look at his assailant. It was an average sized man with brown hair and ugly red spots all over his face where they weren’t hidden by a ratty beard.
His clothes were even dirtier and rougher looking than most of the other bandits, and that was saying something. Blacknail could practically smell rotten food and vomit from where he lay.
With a vicious smile on his face the man walked over towards the goblin and raised a foot as if to stomp on him. Blacknail feebly curled up in an attempt to shield himself as the man leered down on him. This was going to hurt.
The man stopped suddenly as someone spoke up. The voice’s freezing cold tone seethed with anger and startled Blacknail’s assailant.
“You, what do you think you’re doing? No matter how fucking stupid you are you must know who that goblin belongs to,” Saeter said as he stepped out of the bushes and dropped the sled’s rope.
His eyes were narrowed with barely contained rage. The other man backed away a bit and paled.
“I ah… was just foolin round. No harm done now,” the man stuttered fearfully.
“You must know what happens to people who touch what’s mine,” the old scout growled angrily.
“Er no, I’m a new man. I just joined up, see?” the other man explained fearfully as he continued to back away.
“Then let me tell you. They go out into the forest and never come out. The deep green is always looking to claim a few more souls. No one questions it and no one cares about human refuse like you. Look around, where are you right now?” Saeter explained coldly as he stared the other man down.
Blacknail’s attacker paled even more until he was ghost white. He seemed to try and speak but he choked and the words wouldn’t come out. Then with a whimper he turned and fled towards the camp.
He didn’t make it. With a practiced motion Saeter drew his bow and shot the other man in the back. With nothing but a gurgle and a few quick twitches the man collapsed onto the exposed roots of a tree and lay still.
Blacknail found the strength to slowly get to his feet. He pushed himself up and hesitantly felt his head. His propping fingers found a small bleeding gash but he seemed otherwise fine. Goblins had very thick skulls. They got hit in the head all the time.
“Good, you seem all right. Take a seat while I dispose of this trash,” Saeter told him with a motion towards the corpse of the man he had just killed.
Blacknail stared at Saeter uncomprehendingly for a second before collapsing into a sitting position. As the goblin watched, Saeter dragged the corpse off into the trees.
By the time his master got back Blacknail had began to feel better. His headache had faded and the bleeding had stopped. As they broke out of the borders of the forest and into the sun they were met by a multitude of stares.
This was, of course, because Blacknail was dragging a sled with a deer larger than himself on it. When they had reached the very edge of the forest Saeter had given him the sled back for some reason.
Some of the people looking seemed impressed at the goblin’s strength. Most of them just looked hungry. They looked at the deer carcass with obvious anticipation and barely noticed the goblin pulling it. Only a very few gave him hostile looks.
Blacknail was in no mood for cowering; it hadn’t done him any good earlier. He returned the dirty looks he got. He stuck out his tongue or gave them the evil eye. Stupid humans, what did they have against him? He was a strong and cunning goblin!
He hated the fact that they would probably get to eat the deer he’d helped catch. He wasn't even sure if he would be getting any, even after he had dragged it through the dangerous woods and was almost eaten by spiders. Scary dreadful spiders with long poisonous fangs that dropped down on you from places you couldn't see!
Blacknail shivered at the memory then sighed. He knew he had the lowest position in the entire tribe. As the newcomer it was only natural he got the least and worst food. That was just the way tribes worked.
How though was he supposed to work his way up to a higher position when everyone else was human, and thus huge? He didn’t want to be the weakest in the tribe and be picked on anymore.
He knew hurting humans was a very bad idea but fights were how goblins usually rose in rank. Maybe he could use some sort of large snare tied to an even larger tree, or maybe he could dig a big hole and...
Wait, if no one knew he was the one who made the trap then he wouldn't get in trouble but he wouldn't rise higher in the tribe either. Blacknail sighed and kept walking. He wished he was back home in the sewers. Things were so much simpler there.
By the time they returned to camp the sun had started to set behind the trees. Its red light shone out from gaps in the foliage and dyed the clouds above crimson. The camp was now full of dozens of bandits. They lounged about in various sized groups and around newly lit campfires.
At the edge of the clearing all the horses from the caravan had been brought over and tied up. Blacknail gave them a dirty look when he saw them. The smelly things should have just been killed.
“Stupid horses,” he muttered.
One of the horses returned his gaze and gave an aggressive snort. Blacknail stuck his tongue out at it. The stupid thing was tied up and couldn't do anything to him. At least his position in this tribe was higher than that of the horses. It hadn't been in the caravan.
After they had walked away from the edge of the clearing Saeter turned to Blacknail.
“Leave the deer carcass here,” he told the goblin as he sighed in fatigue and stretched.
Blacknail had dropped the sled almost before his master had finished speaking. He then immediately plopped down onto the ground and begun to massage his aching feet. Ouch they hurt. He had surprised even himself by dragging that deer.
Back in his old life he had never had many chances to test out his strength but obviously he was an even stronger and smarter goblin than he had thought! Truly, his master was lucky to have him as a servant.
“Must really be getting old, I never used to get this tired after just being out in the bush for a few hours,” Saeter mused to himself as he sighed and did a few more stretches.
Blacknail gave him an unamused look out of the corner of his eye. He was the one who had been doing the hard work! He couldn’t complain though as Saeter had saved his life several times today. Of course, he was also the person who had put him into danger in the first place.
“You're finally back, Saeter; about time,” Blacknail heard a familiar harsh voice say.
It was the dangerous looking chieftain named Herad. She detached herself from a group of her rough looking minions and leisurely strolled over to them. She gave their catch an appraising glace but didn't seem impressed with it at all.
“A deer, eh? It looks a bit skinny but I suppose it will have to do. I'll have some the lazy bastards behind me skin it up since you went and fetched it for me. You and your pet there seem a little roughed up. I wouldn’t want to overwork an old man,” she remarked with her usual crooked smile.
“Then I am no longer needed here,” Saeter replied with a nod.
“I guess not,” she agreed before calling several other bandits over to take the deer.
Saeter began to walk away over to his camp, and after a quick nervous glance back at Herad the goblin followed him.
“Oh and Saeter, I'm glad you're getting some use out of that goblin. You know the rules. Everyone pulls their own weight or they’re gone,” Herad said coldly to their backs as they walked away.
Blacknail shivered from a chill that hadn't been caused by the cooling afternoon air. He was fairly certain he knew what gone meant, and it wasn't to be let loose in the forest. Praise his master for giving him so much hard work, and making him useful. To think that he had thought his master was mean and unfair because he was working him too hard!
Once they reached Saeter's campsite his master took a few minutes to unpack and put his stuff away. Blacknail watched him for awhile but then curled up and lay down to rest.
After only a few minutes though he was nudged awake by a familiar light kick and he opened his eyes to see his master standing over him. Maybe his master would give him some food now, he thought as he yawned.
Instead, Saeter had a cup of hot water and a rag in his hand. He motioned for Blacknail to stand and then cleaned the goblin’s head wound. He finished up by tying the long rag around Blacknail’s forehead and telling him to leave it there.
“Stay here and practice,” Saeter told him and dropped the cord he had been making earlier at his feet. Blacknail eyed it wearily but got up.
“Food time?” Blacknail asked his master hopefully.
“Not yet. Time to practice,” Saeter responded. Blacknail sighed in irritation.
He really didn't want to try making rope again. It was hard and tricky and he just couldn't get it right. He frowned in displeasure. He remembered Herad's threat though and sighed.
He picked up the cord and walked over to a large rock and sat down. He then got back to work. Seater gave him an approving look and then turned and walked off. Blacknail was thus left all alone to work. Well alone, if you didn't count all the other humans wandering around.
Blacknail waited there and worked for awhile but his heart wasn't in it. Wrapping and twisting the plant fibres soon grew unbearably dull. As he worked it began to get dark and the goblin nodded off.
The sound of a large group of humans yelling in unison roared through the clearing and echoed off the surrounding trees. It was followed by the sound of birds taking flight and horses' startled whinnying.
Blacknail shot to his feet and was instantly awake. Was the tribe under attack?
The goblin quickly scanned his surroundings. In the center of the clearing a giant pile of wood burned. Waves of red flame rose up from it and crackled as they leapt high into the cloudy evening sky. Dozens of human figures cast a multitude of long shifting shadows over the grass and onto the trees as they moved around the fire.
The sound voices was now very loud. They laughed, yelled, and hooted as they celebrated. It was very goblin like. Blacknail almost felt like joining in, but suspected he wouldn't be completely welcome.
The smell of roast deer blanketed the clearing. There was next to no wind to clear the air so the smell simply built up and filled the area. The meat's delicious and smoky smell caused Blacknail to begun to drool. He licked his lips clean.
“To victory and plunder. Are we not the greatest thieves and cutthroats in all the world? Drink to that,” Herad yelled in a voice that was unusually cheerful for her, and which sounded a little forced to the goblin.
Her speech easily drowned out all the other voices and a ragged cheer followed her words as most of the bandits raised their cups high into the air. Blacknail thought he saw the chieftain’s figure posing right beside the fire where the gathered bandits were thickest.
The goblin looked away from the spectacle and saw that he was alone. Not even Saeter was around. He knew that there was some food tucked away in his master's bags. For a second he was tempted but he knew it would be a bad idea. Saeter would know if something went missing and he didn't want to steal from his master anyway.
There were other options though, options that were more suited to a goblin as cunning as Blacknail. Saeter had shown him how to find various edible plants such as wild carrot but what he really wanted was meat. He deserved delicious deer meat.
The goblin smirked gleefully as he watched the bandits and their actions. A plan soon formed in his head. He turned and closed his eyes, letting his night vision come back.
With that done he examined the edges of the clearing. He quickly spotted the locations of the guards that were posted for the celebration. He smiled and giggled to himself. It was time for him to be a sneaky cunning goblin.
Blacknail moved away from his campfire and slipped into the shadows. He crouched down and began prowling about on his hands and feet. As a goblin, this type of movement was natural to him.
Low to the ground, he moved slowly over and around the trampled grass towards the bonfire. On the way he crawled over to a pile of wooden crates and disappeared out of sight behind them.
After a few seconds he peeked around the crates and glanced at his target. None of the bandits were looking his way. He quickly broke from his cover and scurried forward until he stopped behind a patch of grass and weeds that was still standing tall.
He was close enough now that the shadows the bandits cast shifted around him.
After another hurried look to make sure no one could see him lurking in the dark, he crept slowly over to a tent and hid behind it. A quick sniff and a rummage through an open sack revealed a small bit of cheese. He took a second to scoff it down before continuing on. He wanted more than a bit of cheese.
Most of the humans were milling about as they talked to each other, ate, and did some weird ritual that involved hitting their cups together. Blacknail didn't see his master Saeter anywhere but he saw Vorscha and Herad. They were standing next to the fire and talking to each other.
Then an opportunity presented itself; a nearby man at the edge of the group placed his plate of food and cup on a crate and then walked off into the dark. He was probably going to mark his territory.
Blacknail waited patiently until no one was looking in that direction and then dashed forward. By exploiting the nearby humans' blind spots he reached the target unseen.
He quickly grabbed the meat on the plate and the cup beside it. Then as fast as his little legs would take him he dashed away from the fire and back into the safety of the concealing darkness.
Blacknail hurried back to the pile of crates he had passed earlier, and glanced back to make sure no one had noticed him. To his relief no one had. He was such a sneaky cunning goblin, so much more cunning than all the ugly giant humans!
The goblin giggled in delight. He was breathing heavy and nervous but also feeling exhilarated.
Safely hidden among the crates, Blacknail licked his prize meat. It was so good and tasty! He begun to chew and gnaw it as the delicious fat melted in his mouth. However, much to his disappointment he was soon finished.
Thus, he turned and examined the cup of liquid he had stolen. He had assumed it would be water but it wasn't. He didn't know what it was.
He hadn't had time to smell it before he grabbed it and Blacknail had never really had anything but water to drink. He wondered what this would taste like. Well it wasn't urine. He knew what that smelled like.
He took a sip and then stifled a choking gasp. Ugh, it burned all the way down! Why did humans drink this? He was about to throw it away when a nice complex aftertaste developed.
He took another sip and then another. He smiled to himself happily. It wasn't so bad once you got used to it. Nice really, he felt nice. He felt really nice. He drank the rest of the liquid down. Actually, this stuff was amazing. He wanted some more.
He was such an amazing goblin, and he had such a great master. “Hiccup”. Why even Herad wasn’t that bad. She was just very fond of knives and dressed all dark and stared at you like she wanted to kill you and all your littermates... ok, Herad was pretty bad.
“Hiccup”. Everyone else was great though... except everyone who wasn't! Also, this drink was great. What was it? He tried to get to his feet to find someone to ask but stumbled and couldn't quite get up for some reason.
Never mind then, he would just stay here for now. “Hiccup”.
He licked his fingers to get another taste of deer meat. Then he started giggling uncontrollably. All those stupid humans prancing around that fire hadn't seen him steal their meat and drink.
They were so blind and stupid. It was funny. It was hilarious. He was the sneakiest goblin ever!
His laughter apparently attracted someone's attention because through a break in his sniggering he heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Uh oh! He tried to stop giggling but he found his situation too hilarious.
“Blacknail?” a deep voice asked.
The crate he was behind was suddenly moved, revealing a concerned Saeter looking down at him. Blacknail smiled up at his great master.
“Master, hello,” he giggled.
Saeter examined him for a second before taking in the empty cup in his hand. He sniffed the air.
Saeter sighed and roughly messaged his temples with his fingers. Intense exasperation was plainly written in his body language. Blacknail thought it was hilarious.
“This is just what I need, a drunk goblin. I didn't even know goblins could get drunk,” Saeter remarked with another sigh.
“Me drink stuff every day,” Blacknail responded groggily as he raised his cup unsteadily into the air.
Why was he doing that? Things were getting kind of blurry.
“How in all the hells did you even get that?” Saeter remarked with disbelief.
“You great!” Blacknail replied cheerfully.
“Well, at least you're a happy drunk,” Saeter sighed.
He then grabbed the goblin by the scruff of his neck and dragged him over to his campsite, which didn’t hurt much for some reason.
Once they reached Saeter's fire the man sat Blacknail down. He then pulled out a flask of water and refilled the cup Blacknail was still holding.
“Drink,” he commanded.
Blacknail did, and managed to only spill a little over himself. He was disappointed it was just water but he was still thirsty so it was fine. Saeter gave Blacknail a troubled expression.
“I was going feed you but you were gone. I was afraid you had run off, but I see you decided to get your own supper somehow,” Saeter explained.
“I hungry. So I sneak, no one see,” Blacknail whispered confidentially to Saeter as he wiggled his fingers in front of his face. Saeter gave him an amused look.
“I guess that's a type of foraging and I did tell you to find your own food. Maybe I should watch my tongue.” Saeter said with a chuckle.
“Yes, master,” Blacknail responded enthusiastically and totally without any sort of understanding. He tried to raise his hands above his head but he wobbled and had to stop.
“I should knock some sense into that skull of yours but you’re drunk and already have a head wound,” Saeter told the goblin.
“Come morning though, you'll have a serious hangover coming down on you, goblin. That ought to be punishment enough,” Saeter remarked as he gave Blacknail a deeper less sympathetic smile.
“Nap time,” mumbled a suddenly tired goblin as he let out a deep yawn.
Saeter threw a ragged piece of cloth over the drowsy goblin and entered his tent for the night. The goblin curled up around his makeshift blanket and fell asleep under the open sky, while feeling the most comfortable he had ever been. Maybe, it wasn’t so bad here after all…