“Hey there, handsome devil, and what might your name be?”
The stone gargoyle stared implacably at the tiny figure that had just deftly scaled the more than a hundred foot climb to the ledge on which the gargoyle was perched. The small creature was barely more than three feet tall and rather unremarkable in his appearance, except for his being a goblin and the occasional manic glint in his eye. The gargoyle regarded the strange goblin implacably with its sightless eyes, “…”
“Bruce, eh? Huh, never would’ve guessed that one.”
“Oh, sorry, meant no offense. The name suits you perfectly. I just was expecting something a little different, given that you’re a gargoyle. I hope that doesn’t sound racist; we’re still pretty close to Iguana Street, so I should probably watch what I say.”
“But, look at me; I mean, simply because I’m a goblin, my dear parents—note the sarcasm, my stony friend—thought it perfectly reasonable to give me a name like ‘Crepusculo.’ No joke, but please, if it’s all the same to you, just ‘Crey’ will be fine.”
Seemingly from nowhere, Crey produced a flask, pouring a strong smelling liquid into two small mugs. “Join me for a drink, Bruce? I’ve got a bit of time to kill, and you don’t look like you’re going anywhere.” Noticing the cracked and broken moorings securing the gargoyle, Crey added, “At least not before me,” before downing his drink, coughing and choking slightly on the harsh liquor.
“Good shit, huh? Oh, here let me give you a hand with that.” The goblin proceeded to pour the other mug of liquor into the gaping stone maw of the gargoyle. “That’ll put some hair on your chest. Goblin liquor, only good for two things: taking the rust off of armor and getting yourself or someone else fucked up enough to screw a goblin, preferably someone else.”
“Oh hell no, have you looked at me here? Goblins have waaay too many razor sharp teeth and boniness for me; then again, I suppose you don’t get a lot of company up here, so maybe you’re a man of less discriminating tastes, hehehe.”
“Ah, I don’t know, maybe I’d find other goblins more attractive if I’d grown up around them, not that I’m looking for more companionship. I tend to prefer a certain amount of solitude, present company excluded, of course.”
“That’s a fair question, I suppose, given I brought it up; not that I was wanting to talk about it, mind you. Long story short, my darling parents—notice again the sarcasm here, Bruce, that’s very important—saw fit to sell me off at the tender age of five. I’m told they got a tidy sum for me. In retrospect, it was probably the greatest kindness they could’ve done me,” Crey paused for a moment, thinking, and added under his breath “or, then again, maybe not, all things considered.”
“Still, you never really get over being sold, especially not by your parents. Anyways, as a result, I spent my tender years being trained by a human I knew only as ‘Sarge.’”
“Yeah, trained not raised; raising would suggest that there was some concern given to my growth and development as a person. Don’t get me wrong; Sarge did right by me. He treated me properly, was concerned about my well-being, both physical and mental, and never regarded me as his slave even though he bought me. Still, bottom line is that, as far as Sarge was concerned, I was simply a weapon to be crafted and honed, and credit where it’s due, he did a helluva job at that.” The little goblin gave the gargoyle a mischievous smile that would quail most creatures not made of stone.
“Sarge definitely had military experience, but I don’t think he was ever an actual sergeant. I get the feeling that the kind of rank and station he probably attained are not really given readily known names. Whatever he had been, Sarge ran his own ship now and put all of his considerable skill and knowledge into building it up. He always had a real eye for talent, knew when someone had that extra something about them that could make them deadly. That’s why he bought me; he knew just by looking at me that I was born to lurk in shadows and strike unseen. I was one of his first acquisitions, but he soon brought on a few more. Not too many, just five of us, enough to have a specialist for each situation. We all dealt in wetwork of one kind or another, getting jobs done that no one else could, but we were all uniquely suited for a given kind of task. Even though we each tended to work alone, it was the closest thing I had to a family.” Crey sighed wistfully.
“Yes, HAD, past tense; one of us decided to forgo the group dynamic and tried to take the rest of us out. Pretty sure I was the first attacked; all I know is I basically died.”
“Thank you, Bruce; of course, I’m fully aware that my ‘death’ would make it a bit difficult for us to have this conversation. I’m just telling you what I experienced. I’ve gotten black out drunk on Goblin Liquor, which made me seriously pray for death for three days straight, but this was something completely different. Maybe I was only mostly dead; all I know is I felt like I died. Then about six months later and a couple thousand miles from where I had been, I was awake and decidedly not dead, I think. Even after I woke up, I still felt half dead for another 7 weeks or so.”
“Yeah, I realize it’s possible I actually did die and that this is the afterlife, but if it is, it’s basically the same as regular life, and if it’s not, then I’m still alive. Doesn’t really make much difference to me. Either I’m dead and things are the same, or I should be dead but I’m not. I suppose most people might be more concerned about something like that,” the goblin stood up and began prepping his gear and stretching, “but Sarge always said not to sweat the small stuff. Probably wasn’t referring to near death experiences, but I don’t know, Sarge had a kind of a weird life, so he might’ve been.”
“Haha, yeah, you’d think revenge would be the first thing on the list after an experience like that, and believe me, if the opportunity presents itself, I will proceed to gut the traitor with an honest to god smile on my face. I’ve got my suspicions on who it was but nothing certain, and I’m not even sure everyone else died. They may have taken out the traitor already, or the traitor may be long gone by now. Anyway, I’ve got more pressing concerns at this point.” Crey packed up the mugs and flask and pulled a long coil of rope from his pack.
“See, the place I woke up, it was some kinda hollow turned shrine. Wasn’t real clear at first on what or who it was a shrine to, but eventually I figured out that the symbols and what not pointed to Count Ranalc.”
“Yeah, I know, right. I get betrayed, mostly die, and then wind up in a shrine to a long dead/absent deity of betrayal and chaos. Now, I’m not the superstitious or particularly religious type, but even I can’t overlook something like that. So, I figure either the good Count isn’t dead and had something to do with my revival or someone is yanking my chain and wants me to think the Count is somehow involved. I’ve got no idea why though for either option.”
“I considered that, but if the Count had anything to do with my betrayal, it seems an odd choice for him or his agents to return me to life in his shrine. No, my guess is Sarge isn’t the only one with an eye for talent; maybe it’s the Count, maybe not, but someone decided my life was worth saving, and my only lead on who is the Count. Now, I’m a pretty simple goblin when it comes down to it, and I have a straightforward policy not to be in anyone’s debt, complicates things too much. So, I’m following whatever leads I can to locate the Count, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
“Oh, one of the priests here used to be a member of a cult devoted to Count Ranalc, and I’m just betting he still knows a thing or two. Oh look, that’s him coming down the path now. Mind holding this for me?” The goblin proceeded to tie the end of his rope around the gargoyle’s lower jaw before rappelling swiftly down the face of the church in the falling shadows of the sunset.
As he came to about thirty feet above the ground, he pushed away from the building, giving the rope a strong tug as he did so, and fell the remaining distance to the ground before landing on top of the priest walking below. Planting his feet on the priest’s shoulder as he landed, Crey leapt forward, tucking into a roll as he hit the ground and knocking the priest face first into the mud from the recent rainfall. Coming out of his roll to his feet, the goblin brushed himself off as there was the whistling sound of a large object falling followed by the thudding impact of an equally large object hitting the ground. Harsh screams of pain from the priest erupted immediately.
Turning around casually, Crey saw the priest, still prone in the mud, struggling and screaming under the weight of the gargoyle that had crushed his legs. Smiling, the goblin strolled over towards the gargoyle and said, “Knew I could count on you, Bruce. Thanks for the assist,” patting the gargoyle as he passed. As Crey came around to in front of him, the priest scrabbled and grabbed at the goblin begging for help, unrealizing of the goblin’s role in his predicament. “Please, please, you’ve got to help me, you’ve got help me get this thing off of me.”
“Hey, easy now buddy, this ‘thing’ happens to have a name. His name is Bruce, and he’s a good buddy of mine, rock solid, in fact. But, we can worry about introductions later; right now, we’re going to play a game.” Crey pulled out his crossbow and a long crossbow bolt as he spoke.
“Are you insane? I’ve been maimed and crippled; I’ll likely die if you don’t get help now.”
“Pffft, c’mon, I’ve had way worse; you’ll be fine. Just get the cleric to heal you up, and you’ll be right as rain. Now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite game, ‘Goblin Got Your Tongue?’” As he spoke, Crey grabbed the priest roughly by the throat, lifting up the man’s head and torso far enough to position the crossbow bolt sticking upright from the ground with its sharp point jabbed against the soft underside of the priest’s jaw. Feeling the bolt draw blood as it pierced his flesh, the priest swiftly supported himself with his arms to avoid impaling his jaw on the bolt.
“For those of you unfamiliar with the rules, our contestant will be asked a series of questions, and the longer he takes to answer, the greater chance that his strength will weaken from blood loss and that the razor sharp bolt will slice through his jaw and cut off his tongue. If he tries to remove the bolt, I will shoot him in one of his arms, and we reset as needed. Got to play by the rules, you know.” Coming closer to the priest, the manic gleam sparkling in Crey’s eyes, he said, “Either I get your tongue to dance for me in your head, or I’ll make it literally dance later. Now, shall we begin?”
“Man, Bruce, I tell ya, I could barely keep up with that priest he was spilling his guts so fast.”
“Yeah, yeah, poor choice of words, I know; he’s fine. I just knocked him unconscious so he didn’t have to deal with the pain. The cleric will be along in a few minutes and will patch him up just fine.”
“I wasn’t really going to cut off his tongue, probably. What would I want with his tongue anyway, yech? But there’s nothing quite like the right threat to get someone talking. Anyways, it’s been a pleasure, Bruce, but I gotta get out here. I’d invite you to come with me, but I get the feeling you’re normally pretty attached to this place. Maybe this incident will get them to repair that. Thanks again for the company and the assist.” With that, the goblin disappeared into the nearby underbrush, mulling over everything the priest had told him about the Count, as the sound of approaching footsteps reached. He hadn’t learned much, but it was enough to give him a direction as he proceed on his way.