The Goblin King
The grind of his boots on the stone floor of the cave echoed faintly. He walked stiffly, armor creaking with each step, ichor from the monsters he had slain stained him. He came to a narrow bend, and rounded slowly, cautiously. Its massive bulk crouched by a pool, sucking in great mouthfuls of stagnant water. The massive head scraped as it moved slowly up and down. The people of the valley had not exaggerated its size. The head seemed to have a crown that reflected faintly in his torchlight. The darkness in the cavern was not complete, there were dim shapes the man took to be stones scattered on the floor of the cave . It turned around slowly and looked him in the eye. The man tensed, but the creature rose tiredly and walked back into the darkness, its joints clicking and scraping, as though made of stone and iron. From the darkness, a white light slowly grew. The man covered his eyes, and drew his blessed sword. The wise men of the valley had placed special enchantments on it which would ensure his victory. He was not afraid. As the man’s eyes adjusted to the bright light, he saw that it was coming from the creature’s crown, and turned the dark cavern into a white litten grotto. It awaited him him as a king granting an audience to a subject, seated in a great stone chair. Although not beautiful, the thing had a regal air. The man advanced cautiously, and prepared to strike. The thing began to speak, mumbling to itself. It seemed to speak a great many languages.
“Wait.” It finally said in an ancient, grinding rasp. The man stopped. “We must speak.”
“Why?” The man said. “You monsters have stolen our cattle, taken our land.” “It must end.”
“I would see a settling of accounts before you begin.” It replied softly.
The man considered for a moment. The creature was seated. If it chose to surprise him, he could easily intercept it. “Very well. “Speak then, and be brief.”
It’s mouth moved slowly, revealing razor sharp teeth that flashed like polished iron. “Our people are at war.”
The man shifted his weight. “A war which your people started.”
“No.” It replied, pointing a spindly arm at him. “Your people drove mine into the hills a long time ago.” “Did your priests not inform you of your glorious victory?” The creature eyed him as though enjoying a private joke.
The man clenched his sword. “If you have something to say, demon, say it and be done!”
The creature seemed to change shape, settling into the great stone chair as though bound to it. “You should know your history. A people should always remember where they come from.” It assumed the air of a master lecturing a student. “Our people dwelt on the green hills, tamed the wild beasts, prospered in the sun.” “We were beautiful, we lived.”
The man shook his sword. “Lies!” His shout echoed in the cavern. “You are foul beasts, unclean and uncouth.” “The wisemen have passed our knowledge through generations. We know your ways”
The creature shook it’s head slowly, scattering the light from it’s crown about the cavern. It illuminated some of the objects he had sensed earlier. He caught glimpses of great frescos along the wall, depicting creatures not unlike those he had slain, tending sheep on a hillside, building great structures. There were chairs and tables with intricate carvings in regular patterns. “We welcomed you to our lands.” You were fleeing from a great empire in the north, and had nothing. We fed you. Clothed you. Taught you. We gave you land to live. You did not even know how to write.”
The man paused. “Write?”
The creature leaned forward, eyeing him sharply. “Have you forgotten?” It turned again to the table, and pointed at the markings.” “Does this mean nothing to you?”
The man warily eyed the table, ready for any trick. “They do not hold any meaning for me.”
The creature exhaled in a long breath. “You cannot know the truth.” “I have lingered too long in this place.”
The man began to advance again when the light from the creature’s crown went out. He heard a great many clicks and scrapings around the cavern walls; sometimes above him, sometimes quite close, but never venturing into the waning torchlight.
Its voice came from the darkness ahead. “Tell me this, how many of my people have you slaughtered today?”
The man crept slowly toward the voice. “I am a great warrior. I slew at least a dozen.”
A quiet clattering sound came from behind, as though a great many legs moved at once.
The voice came again, as though in his right ear. “And how many bore weapons?”
The man spun around and raised his sword, but saw nothing. “All had vicious claws and teeth. The guards at the entrance bore spears and shields.”
The clattering sound came again, moving away quickly.
“Then, great warrior, you have slain women and children, bakers and philosophers.”
The torch finally gave out. The man dropped it and retreated against the cave wall as quietly as possible, though each footstep sent cascades of small rocks scattering.
“I will not kill you, great warrior, even though you have slain my people without thought.” The voice came from the wall behind him.
He spun to face it but was held fast. His sword was taken and broken like a wheat stalk in the creature’s arms. He was held by many limbs. They were cold as iron, and he could not move.
He could only see it’s eyes as they floated dimly above him, glowing faintly. “You will be taken from this place, and set free on your own lands. In return for your life, I place a geas on you. You will tell others what you learned here.”
The man wheezed for air. “They will not believe me.”
“I know.” Came the cold reply. “You will learn the pain of the wise.”