My plan was to release “One Goblin Army,” my fourth published short story to Amazon today. However, life punches you in the face time and time again and blah, blah, blah, it’s not finished. I added a new POV that I’m pretty happy with so far and it’s going to take a bit more time to finish a short story with two POVs. So in the meantime, here’s a short preview of the story. It features Grinner on the hunt for Yaro, the bastard wizard, after the events of “The Bog Wyvern.”
Rows of staked goblins lined Spit Stain Road, leading into the stinking cesspool of the Dragon Sputum Empire. Flies and crows choked the sky, their black shapes so thick they blotted out the sun. Plucked eyeballs littered the road, the crows rolling them about with their beaks. Splayed guts curled into messy piles, dust-smeared waste dogs fighting over the precious meat. The only thing missing from Grinner’s homecoming would be for someone to hop out from behind a rock and splash him with goat demon blood.
“Good to see not much has changed,” Grinner said and launched into a dry heaving spell. “Had to come to Phlegm, didn’t you?”
The goblin bounty hunter had tracked the slippery wizard Yaro for days from the southern bogs of Schetzera all the way to the bleak province of Thurva in the Dragon Sputum Empire. Most would have given up, but Grinner’s goblin blood wouldn’t allow him to forgive a double-cross. Not only did the shitbeard wizard skip out on paying him for the wyverns he and his partner Bathbrady killed, but he had the nerve to hit the goblin with some magical fuckery as well. The bastard had to pay. In blood. And coin of course. Grinner couldn’t forget that.
He wished by the Snake Gods Bathbrady was with him. He’d mumble some wise words one of his umpteen gods told him. Exercise caution, follow the stars, or some other mystical sounding shit. Bathbrady looked at the door of death when Grinner left him at the Pink House with Deidre and her weird sisters. He’d could at least keep his promise to him. Find his kids, give them some money, and be a halfway decent goblin for once.
But he wouldn’t stop cursing. Sorry, Bath, fuck all that.
“Hey,” a weak voice called from one of the stakes.
“Ah, guess I’m hallucinating now. Dead goblins are talking to me.”
“I’m not dead.”
Grinner looked up to see a filthy, olive-skinned runt of a goblin, naked save a thin strip of cloth that covered his groin. The wooden stake jutted out through his stomach, exposing ropy guts riddled with flies. Grinner thought he saw a crow tangled up in them, flapping its wings weakly to escape. What a shitty way to die. For the goblin and the crow.
“You Grinner?” the impaled goblin asked.
“I’m not quite sure I should answer you. I mean, your intestines are outside of your body. That can’t be good.”
The goblin craned his neck to look. “Oh, don’t mind them. They’ve been like that for a while.”
Grinner stepped back. “You might want to get that looked at.” He started to leave, but stopped in his tracks. “Soon.”
“Listen, a spell’s been cast on me,” the goblin croaked. “A bad one. Cazkori’s Deliberately Slow Horrific Death, I’m told. If you’re Grinner, I need to give you a message. Then I can die.” He shuddered. “I think a crow ate my eyeball and came back later and shat it on me.”
Grinner winced. “Well, there are a lot of eyeballs around here. Maybe it wasn’t yours?”
The staked goblin’s head drooped. “I’m sure it was mine.”
“Fine, I’m Grinner. But if you try any weird shit or suddenly start spitting acid, you’ll regret it.”
The goblin let out a ragged breath. “Thank Omag, God of Goblin Mercy.”
“Omat is God of Rust. Omog is Goddess of Missing Socks. There is no such thing as Omag, God of Goblin Mercy.”
“Really? I’m sure it was Omag. Never could keep that straight.” Blood bubbled up from his lips. “I’m Wartlunch Blisterlick of the Guzzling Bile Clan, exiles of the Scarred Armpit of Schaa-Ka, dedicated to the obliteration of–”
Grinner nearly choked on his tongue. “By the Snake Gods I’ve hard some shitty names, but that’s fucking awful.”
“It’s an honorable name,” Wartlunch growled, blood trickling from his nose.
“I’ll call you Warty,” Grinner said. “Or Lunchy.”
“Call me by my full–”
“Warty,” Grinner said, rubbing his chin. “Yeah, that’s it.”
“As I was saying, Yaro of the Pearlescent Few has left the following message.” More blood sputtered out of Warty’s mouth, at first bright red, then changing to a darker crimson until it came out as black sludge. His tongue flopped out and a coiled, slick worm with a pinched human face writhed on the tip. The worm yawned and opened its yellow eyes.
“That’s different,” Grinner said.
The worm slithered down Warty’s chin, slowing inching its way to the goblin’s shoulder. Its mouth creaked open. “Greetings.” Yaro’s voice. Black magic at its foulest and shittiest. “If you are receiving this message, then you’ve killed the numerous assassins I’ve sent to deal with you.”
Grinner nodded. He had indeed. He kept their ears in his worn sack as mementos, hoping to stuff them in Yaro’s mouth before he strangled him.
The worm continued. “I’m sure you’re quite smug in your small victories. I must admit, I’m impressed at your resilience, especially for a pissant goblin like yourself. However, I can’t have you hounding me every step I take. I have to win back my true love, Callista, and I need to put all my focus on that endeavor. I’m told Phlegm has a magnificent beast for sale, one that my love would swoon over. If you turn back now, I’ll call off my dogs and we can pretend none of that unpleasantness in Bazug Bog ever happened. However, if you continue with this fruitless venture, well, you’ll see what happens I suppose. Happy journeys.”
The worm went silent.
Grinner sniffed. “That’s it?”
Warty struggled on the stake, flapping his skeletal arms. “Wait, I’m supposed to die now, right? Go on then, spell, kill me!”
“I don’t think spells can talk,” Grinner said.
“That bastard wizard!” Warty thrashed his head to and fro. “How could he do this to me? I was a good goblin. Only razed villages minimally and ate what I killed. Mostly.”
Grinner folded his arms. “Yaro’s a pathological liar. I could’ve told you that.”
The worm on Warty’s shoulder began to throb. An eerie orange light pulsed from its tiny body.
Grinner’s eyes widened. “Oh, shit on a stick…”