Nuri's Quest: The Angel's Fang
Experience Increative writing
Publish DateOct 26,2014 at 1:09 AM
A new fantasy fiction novel by Author Phoenix Raven. Chapters one through three from my novel. The land of Nyir was harsh and unforgiving to all, but seemed it was even harsher yet to one particular young woman. Nuri has suffered painful tragedies her entire life. Everyone she had ever loved seemed to meet a terrible end. Even her adopted family of thieves was no longer in her life. She was alone and filled with anger. This is the tale of Nuri's Quest: The Angel's Fang, written by Phoenix Raven. Read more about Nuri's Quest at NurisQuest.com
A gray-cloaked woman strolled into Abandon, a modest farming village. Approaching a simple thatched farmhouse, the young woman met up with a farmer dressed in shabby, earthen colored clothes. He introduced himself as Thomas; she simply nodded and followed him past humble wattle and daub cottages, towards the center of town. The woman noticed two sad looking children resting on a bale of hay in an alley between two old houses, their clothes tattered and their hair dirty and knotted. She couldn’t help but feel sympathy for them; seeing the homeless children made the town’s name morbidly fitting. She concluded that this wasn’t a very savory village as they reached their destination, the local tavern, The Maiden’s Call.
The farmer strolled in wearing a worried look on his weathered face. The young woman trailed in behind him, pulling back her hood to reveal fair skin, long red hair, and emerald eyes. Undoing the bronze clasp at her throat, the young stranger pulled off her threadbare cloak exposing sturdy black leather armor, an elegant sword, and an ornate dagger at her hip. She hung her cloak and rucksack on wooden pegs by the door and then took a seat across from the farmer at a table near the entrance. The young woman, only a meter and a half tall, looked out of place among the farmers and simple townsfolk. The villagers didn’t see many women wearing armor or with long swords strapped to their backs.
It was a typical night at the Maiden’s Call, with plenty of locals eating and drinking after a long day. Thick straw mats covered the dirt floor of the dimly lit bar, iron sconces with candles decorated tables and walls, and a single iron chandelier hung in the center of the room. The scent of tallow and roast lamb permeated the air accompanied by the steady murmur from the many patrons talking amongst one another.
Rheis, the proprietor, walked over to the table to greet the farmer and young woman. Rheis was a tall, burly man with a smooth scalp and a woolly mustache; he also had a deep scar by his left eye. He wore a thick leather apron with a large coin purse tucked under his belt. “Good evenin’, name’s Rheis, What can I do for yah?”
The young woman glanced up at Rheis. “I’ll have some bread with that stew you’re cooking and a mug of ale if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Yer new in town, are yah? We got some rooms here, if yer lookin fer a place to stay fer the night,” Rheis said in hopes of squeezing some extra money out of a new customer. “What will ye have, Thomas?” Rheis asked the farmer, with whom he was previously acquainted, though the man was not a regular to frequent his establishment.
“N-Nothing for me, th-thank you, Rheis,” Thomas said, with a nervous stutter.
“Yah can’t just sit here. Yah know the rules. Yah have tah order somethin’ or yah have tah leave,” said Rheis, glaring at Thomas.
“I-I’ll have an ale then,” said Thomas.
Rheis snarled slightly as he went to get their order. He returned quickly with a small tray holding a wooden bowl full of steamy lamb stew, a piece of bread, and two tin mugs of ale. “So what do they call yeh?” Rheis asked, looking at the young woman.
“Nuri,” she replied. The tavern fell silent at the sound of her name; two patrons paid their tab and snuck out quietly.
“Hmm! Seems yer name’s not very popular to some of mah guests,” said Rheis, as he set the food and mugs on the table. He gazed at Nuri curiously. “I hope yer not here tah stir up trouble. We don’t take kindly to trouble.”
“Sh-She’s here to h-h-help me,” said Thomas.
“Very well then, dat’ll be four bronze khar, Nuri, an’ two bronze from yah, Thomas.” Rheis collected their payment and returned to his bar.
The people in the tavern returned to their conversations, yet a few quietly stared as Nuri and Thomas started talking.
“Tell me, Thomas, why have you sought me out?” Nuri asked.
“My son, Tommy, has been missing for over two weeks now. I have no one else to ask who would be willing to help me.”
“What about the town militia? You have some strong men here.”
“I already asked them. They say leaving the town defenseless is not worth the life of one boy. Meanwhile children have been turning up missing for many seasons now. They believe he’s already dead, but I know better. He’s a clever boy, my Tommy; he’s a survivor.”
“Where did you last see your son?”
“It was just over two weeks ago while I was tending my fields. He liked exploring the woods near our house at the east edge of town. I have been searching for him every day since his disappearance with no luck until yesterday. When I risked traveling a bit further east, I found this on the side of the road.” Thomas placed a worn leather sling on the table. “This belongs to my son. He’s quite skilled with this old sling. He can hit a goose in midflight. Sometimes he brings home wild game and we eat hearty. He shall be a great hunter one day. Please, I’m more than willing to give you every last bit of silver I have if you just bring my boy home to me. I have fifty silver khar here with me now, and it’s yours if you bring him home. The eastern road, you know where it leads don’t you?”
Nuri was about to answer when their conversation was interrupted.
“Are you going to eat that?” said a small voice from behind them.
“Who wants to know?” Nuri asked as she turned to see a wispy little girl, ghostly pale with knotted coal-black hair and sad, gray eyes. She was clad in a black moth-eaten tunic, clutching a soiled rag doll to her chest; the child’s feet and legs were bare and filthy.
“I… I… was hungry,” said the child, who couldn’t have seen more than ten winters.
“What’s your name, little girl?” Nuri asked with a warm smile.
“That’s an odd name for a little girl, and you needn’t call me Sir. I’m not a knight or a noble woman,” said Nuri, still casting a kindly grin at the timid child.
The little girl blushed as she nodded and eyed Nuri’s food hungrily.
“Here, it looks to me like you need this more than I do. I’m not even hungry.” Nuri passed the small wooden bowl of lamb stew and the portion of bread to the scrawny girl.
Grimly lit up with a warm smile and gave a slight curtsy in accepting the food. Nuri reached out to the little girl, grabbing her shoulder before she could walk away. “I’m sorry to ask, but that doll of yours, have you had it long?”
The little girl nodded, “Yes, since I was very little. She’s all I have. Did…Did you want her?”
“No, she just looks familiar. I suppose it’s just a common doll. I’m sorry; I hope you enjoy the food.”
The little girl sat on the ground in a corner of the tavern to eat her stew.
Nuri returned to her conversation with the farmer. “Yes, I know where that road leads. There’s an old abandoned mine off that way. I’ve heard rumors of some foul things that live there; though, it takes a lot more than silly rumors to frighten me.”
A loud angry voice interrupted their conversation; it was the barkeep shouting at the little girl sitting quietly in the corner. “Yah really don’t belong here, yah know! This is a tavern not an orphanage,” Rheis shouted from across the bar. He eyed her angrily as he polished one of his tin cups with a piece of torn cloth.
Nuri stood up from her table, glaring at Rheis. “Are you going to make her leave?”
“This doesn’t concern yah, woman. Best mind yer own business!” said Rheis, shaking his fist at Nuri.
Nuri slammed her hands down on the table, “I am making it my business. If you want her to leave, you’ll have to deal with me.”
“Fine, I’m not lookin’ fer a fight,” said Rheis coolly. He decided to back down and returned to polishing his wares. He waited until Nuri sat back down and continued her conversation with Thomas. As soon as Nuri’s attention was elsewhere, Rheis crept over to the corner where the child was sitting and pulled her up by her hair. “I said, yer not welcomed here,” he growled. The young girl gave out a yelp as she dropped her doll on the ground, knocking over her bowl, slinging her food into the air.
Rheis began dragging the child towards the door but before he got very far, he felt a sharp pain in his back. He dropped the little girl, and she fell to the ground as the barkeep’s body lurched forward violently. Rheis’s head slammed down on the table where Nuri had been sitting.
The patrons in the tavern fell silent as they watched the conflict unfold. Nuri was standing behind Rheis, holding his arms behind his back.
“Look here, shovel face. I didn’t come to your backward little town looking for a brawl. In fact, I try to help people,” said Nuri sternly. “But if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m more than happy to offer it to you, in abundance.”
Rheis struggled to break free and there was a loud crunching sound coming from his shoulders. He cried out in pain as Nuri tightened her hold on him.
“You’re not listening; I told you I’m not interested in any trouble here. Now it looks like you spilled the little girl’s stew, so I suggest you get young Grimly here a fresh bowl and another serving of bread; I’ll even pay you extra for it. Then, you’ll allow her to finish her meal in peace, or you and I will need to have another one of these conversations.”
Rheis failed to reply, so Nuri tightened her grip even more. The bartender was only able to tolerate a few more seconds of this before he shouted, “Alright!”
Nuri released him and Rheis limped slowly back to his bar where he grabbed a fresh bowl from the cupboard, filled it with hot stew and acquired another piece of bread. Feeling defeated, Rheis limped back over to Nuri’s table.
Nuri extended her hand to the child. “Little girl, sit here next to me. You don’t need to eat on the floor.” Grimly picked up her old doll and sat next to Nuri at the table. Rheis set the bowl and bread down in front of her.
“Thank you, shovel face,” the little girl snickered.
Rheis only grunted slightly as he turned back towards the bar. He was about to limp away when Nuri grabbed one of his arms and slipped five bronze khar into his hand. “You see? That wasn’t so hard now, was it, Rheis?”
He took the money, but said nothing. He limped back and remained silent for the rest of the evening. Everyone in the tavern was in shock. They had never seen Rheis take a beating from a patron before, but after it was over, they returned to their conversations.
The slender middle-aged farmer across from Nuri whispered to her, “Are we f-f-finished here? I trust you have the information you need?”
“I’ve heard enough. I’ll search for your son, Thomas,” said Nuri.
“Thank you, I will be eternally grateful.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I don’t know if I’ll find him. Like I said, I’ll search for him. That doesn’t mean I’ll actually bring him home.”
Thomas nodded as he stood up from the table. He glanced anxiously at the barkeep and gave him a nod as to say good night. He then scurried out the door.
Nuri sat with her new friend for a while, ensuring that the child could finish her meal without further incident. The child kept beaming a warm smile at Nuri as she shoveled the warm lamb stew into her mouth. “You really are hungry, aren’t you? Where are your parents?” Nuri asked.
The child just shook her head.
“Your mother and father, or maybe aunts, or uncles? Someone who takes care of you?”
“I have no such people,” said Grimly timidly.
When Nuri saw the child nearly done eating, she brushed her hand over the girl’s knotted hair. “You take care of yourself, little Grimly. Rheis is right about this not being a suitable place for children. These people are backwards and don’t seem to care much about anything. You’re not the first orphan I’ve seen in this town since I arrived.”
Nuri walked to the exit, and gathered her belongings from the pegs on the wall. As she opened the door, she glanced back at the child sitting at the table, then back up at Rheis. The burly man looked down at the cup he was polishing, pretending he was not intimidated. “I’ll be back, Rheis.”
The little girl watched Nuri leave the tavern and expected the bartender to eject her as soon as he saw the door close, but Nuri’s promise to return haunted him. He remained at his bar polishing his wares and tending to the needs of his other patrons.
Nuri stood on the lonely road outside of the tavern debating if she should begin her journey or wait until morning. She was not afraid of the darkness. The young woman felt oddly comforted in the shadows, perhaps because of her past. After all, to a former thief, the darkness was an ally. She didn’t look overly rugged or fierce, yet Nuri had a grievous reputation as someone not to be trifled with; she was known for having a very unpredictable temper, unusual strength, and great skill with a sword. People rarely spoke to Nuri much unless they needed her services.
Nuri made her way to the eastern road that began on the north side of town. She drew her sword from its sheath and whispered, “Lux via.” Her sword illuminated brightly, allowing her to see better in the darkness. The young mercenary hiked bravely into the shadowy wilderness. The trees were tall and lush, and the night breeze felt cool on Nuri’s skin. The sounds of chirping crickets and croaking frogs echoed around her, and the scent of peat filled the air. Occasionally she heard the light trickle of water from the narrow stream that ran alongside the road. It was not a well-traveled path compared to other roads in the area; it was giving way to some tall grass and small shrubs, and it was even a little swampy in places.
Most people avoided this particular road because it came so close to the mountain and the destination it led to was not worth the risk for most people. It was the road to Beggars Hole, a bleak lake town, surrounded by swamplands. Beggars Hole had an even less savory reputation than Abandon.
After traveling for several hours Nuri found a small clearing off the main trail where the grass was dry; it was the perfect place to rest for the night. She knew better than to camp too close to the road, you never know who or what may find you as you sleep. She unpacked a green blanket and laid there on the soft grass. Nuri didn’t bother with building a campfire since the night air was comfortable. She used her backpack as a pillow and rested her weary head upon it.
Nuri thought back to the child she had met in the tavern, and how the little girl had reminded her of someone she once knew. She stared up at the night sky and saw familiar faces take shape as she gazed upon them.
Nuri awoke hours later to the sounds of birds chirping and the soft swish of the wind in the trees. She sipped water from her flask as she observed two wild rabbits grazing on the nearby grass. They scurried off when she stood up to roll her blanket and stuffed it back into her bag.
The lone mercenary smiled as she discovered a blackberry bush on her way back to the path. Nuri unpacked a small threadbare sack and used it to gather as many ripe berries as she could reach.
Nuri snacked on her humble harvest as she made her way back to the road and continued east with the morning sun shining down on her pale face. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her head, which helped block out most of the harsh light that was beaming down on her. The young woman was never fond of traveling when the sun was in her eyes, as she always felt that she needed to be on guard. Bandits often robbed travelers in the morning hours; anyone blinded by sun was an easier target. Fortunately, there were no bandits on the road that morning.
It was late afternoon when Nuri heard someone shouting in the distance. She drew her sword and sprinted to see what it was. The howling became louder and more desperate as Nuri approached. It was clearly a masculine voice, and one that was yelling for help.
Then she saw him, a man bound with his arms behind his back, tied to a tree. He looked to be a sailor by trade, wearing tall captain’s boots and a bright blue buccaneer coat over his off-white peasant shirt. A large pack was laying on the ground turned inside out with various items scattered by the man’s feet.
There were several dire badgers surrounding the stranger. These creatures were much larger and more aggressive than the average variety that dwells in the forest, and these looked particularly hungry and agitated. The sailor was kicking at the creatures to keep them away; one of them had already clawed him, as there were multiple scratches on his legs.
Nuri crept up behind the first badger and thrust her sword into its side. It squealed loudly and hissed at her. A second badger charged at Nuri’s legs with its sharp fangs. Nuri leaped over the animal and gave it a swift kick, causing the creature to screech in pain and fury as it hurtled forward several meters.
The sailor pleaded with her to set him free so he could defend himself. Nuri leapt over the other two badgers that were attacking the man and swung her sword, snapping the ropes that had bound him. He nervously unraveled the remaining broad twine from his arms, and reached for his sword only to remember that it was no longer sheathed in its scabbard.
The two of them stood shoulder to shoulder facing the angry badgers, as the hungry animals snapped and hissed at their heels. The sailor smiled as he punted one of the animals with a strong kick; it squealed as it flew backward a few meters and slammed into a tree. A fifth badger climbed up on a fallen timber behind the sailor and skittered up onto his back, while he was preoccupied fighting the others. He panicked as the fifth badger snapped its jaws at the back of his head. “Get it off,” he shouted.
Nuri quickly spun around and swung her sword, knocking the badger’s head clean off its body. The lifeless corpse of the fifth badger fell to the ground. Nuri yanked the stranger back by his collar and retreated as the other four badgers feasted on the fifth one’s headless body. They slowly backed away while the four remaining animals were in a feeding frenzy.
“That was utterly disgusting,” groaned the stranger. “I’d like to thank you for the help. Allow me to introduce myself, the name’s Captain Blue.” He smiled and extended his hand in friendship.
“I know who you are,” said Nuri. She pulled back her hood exposing her face.
Blue was startled and retreated. “Out of the frying pan, aye?” He scanned the ground for his sword; the people who had left him to die had discarded it somewhere. He caught a glimpse of polished metal shining in the nearby grass and made a run for it. Blue tumbled to the ground reaching for his blade; the pirate grasped the hilt tightly and jumped to his feet. He pointed his worn cutlass at Nuri as he slowly backed away from her.
Nuri shook her head. “Watch your step there, Blue!” she shouted.
“Oh I plan to; I also plan on leaving here with my head still attached to my body,” Blue said smugly, as he backed up so far that he stepped on one of the badgers, and it squealed at him fiercely. Startled, he fell over on top of it, leaving a second badger inches from his head. Nuri grabbed her dagger and flung it at the second badger, killing it instantly as the blade went straight into its head. Blue had his hands over his eyes, expecting that Nuri had thrown the dagger at him. The other badgers having their fill of battle and already gorged on the meat of their fallen companion, skittered off into the forest.
Blue slowly pulled his hands from his eyes and felt around his chest and body for the dagger. Then he looked over and saw it sticking out of the dead badger’s head.
Nuri approached and reached down to retrieve her blade. Blue flinched again as she got close to him. “See what you made me do?” Nuri let out a deep sigh as she approached the dead creature and retrieved the dagger from the corpse. “Now there’s badger blood on my dagger.” Using her cloak, she cleaned the animal’s blood from her blade before putting it away.
“You…You saved my life,” said Blue. A bead of sweat was running down his face and his hands were a bit shaky. “Oh, my hat.” There was a dusty three-cornered hat on the ground partially tucked under the dead badger. He pulled it free and then dusted it off. It was black with a single yellow feather protruding from it. “Filthy buggers,” he mumbled.
Nuri extended her hand to help Blue to his feet, but he hesitated. He was still in a bit of shock. It was obvious that the two of them were not friends. “Fine, don’t take my hand. Good bye, Blue,” Nuri slid her sword back into its sheath and continued east down the road.
Blue set his hat on his head and got to his feet. He watched Nuri pull her hood back over her head as she walked away. “Aren’t you the least bit curious how I ended up tied to a tree in the middle of nowhere?” he shouted.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Nuri answered casually as she continued walking away.
Blue stood there speechless for a minute. He knelt down by his other belongings and hastily tossed everything back into his bag, then slung the rucksack over his shoulder. He straightened out his coat and dusted himself off. “I must be mad as a sack of hammers,” he whispered to himself, as he followed behind her. “Where are you off to in a hurry?” he shouted.
“I promised a farmer I would search for his son.” Nuri quickened her pace in hopes that Blue would leave her alone.
“No really? Where are you going? Who are you going to kill?” Blue had the expression that he himself did not realize what he was saying, it was more like his mouth spoke of its own accord.
Nuri stopped, turned, and marched up to Blue, grabbing him by the collar with both hands. “I’m going to kill you if you don’t leave me alone. Don’t make me regret saving your skin!” she shouted threateningly.
“Yes! I did thank you for that,” he said. “But…but why did you save me?”
“You haven’t heard? I’ve quit. I’m not with Kane’s band anymore. Besides, no one deserves to die like that, helpless and bound. Not even scumbag pirates like you.” Nuri released him and turned around again to continue down the road. Blue stood briefly frozen. He was only mildly insulted, and then continued walking behind Nuri.
“While your agenda may have changed, your personality remains as charming as ever,” Blue uttered with abundant sarcasm.
“Why are you still following me? Don’t you have some ships to sink or booty to loot?” Nuri said coldly.
“Well, my dear, you did just save my life back there. I’m in your debt. Also, my curiosity has taken hold, and I simply can’t ignore it. You did say you’re off to find a farmer’s son, did you not?”
“Yes! He’s a young boy and has been missing for over two weeks now. His last known location was by the eastern edge of Abandon.”
“This is a dangerous road, my dear. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors about the mountain; they may be true.”
“I hope they are true. I could use the sword practice.”
Nuri stopped walking to look Blue up and down. “You weren’t mugged. Why were you tied to that tree back there?”
“Okay, you caught me. What gave it away?” Blue replied smugly.
“You’re still wearing your jewelry for one, like that gaudy ring you’re so proud of, I’m sure it’s worth something to someone. A proper thief would leave nothing behind. Your sword, for example, while it may be a rusted, worthless relic they would have attempted to peddle it off for coin. They were either incompetent or were unable to finish what they had started.”
“Very observant, young Nuri. Actually, they ran off when the badgers had appeared, leaving me behind. However, my ring is anything but gaudy, it happens to be an official crested ring of the house of Gaylord, Nobles of Arcadia. You would not believe the respect people have for this seal,” Blue bragged as he brandished the ring on his hand.
“It looks gaudy to me, so I’m not surprised it wasn’t stolen. Your attackers lacked the nerve to kill you face to face. What sort of spineless scum did you cross this time?” Nuri inquired with a spiteful smile.
“Just some former crew mates of mine; we hadn’t exactly parted on the best of terms. I’m sure they would have preferred to make me walk the plank, or left me to starve on some forsaken desert island, but you need a ship for that sort of thing. They did take what little coin I had left to my name. So tell me, is this farmer paying you to find his child, or are you doing this purely out of the kindness of your black heart?”
“He’s offering me fifty silver to return with his son.”
Blue’s eyes lit up with greed and he grinned wildly. “I knew it. Tell you what. This may be dangerous. Allow me to assist you on this little adventure, and my sword will be at your disposal. It will only cost you fifty percent.” Blue grinned.
Nuri laughed loudly. “I’m not giving you twenty five silver for annoying me and getting in my way, Blue. Besides, I have seen you fight,” said Nuri taunting the pirate.
“Fine, I’ll help you for twenty silver khar,” he haggled.
“Not on your scurvy life,” Nuri laughed while shaking her head.
“Fifteen! And that’s my final offer.”
“I’ll give you ten if you just shut up and stay out of the way.”
“Alright then, ten silver. I can promise that you won’t regret it.” Blue grinned smugly and followed behind Nuri down the quiet road feeling as though he had won.
“This will be exciting, won’t it? Yes, you and I, on the same side for a change, fighting shoulder to shoulder. What grand adventures await us?” Despite his promise to remain silent along their journey, he carried on a one sided conversation for hours. Some were tales of his adventures at sea; others were heated stories of his exploits with women. He even sang several old sea fairing songs with the skill of a traveling bard. While Blue’s voice was warm and smooth, Nuri’s dislike of the pirate made listening to his stories and songs feel like some sort of grueling endurance trial or punishment.
At the base of the mountain, Bald Man’s Butte, there was a large cave resembling an open mouth and the remains of a small settlement where men once lived. They were miners who excavated the caves under the mountain for gold, silver, and jewels. Greed motivated them, guided them, and consumed them as treasures often do, but men are not the only beings in the world motivated by greed. Some years ago, the men simply vanished.
Goblins picked up where the men left off. Greedy goblins with chisel, shovel, and pick chipping away, night and day, at the rocks and stones under the mountain.
Goblins were not much taller than Onaarri children, yet they were often wicked and cunning. Some possessed great strength for their size. The green-skinned creatures would often claim caves and abandoned mines, hoping to find jewels, silver, gold, and even copper. Anything shiny would attract a goblin’s attention.
Goblins made slaves of children to help them mine the tunnels under the mountain. They found them easier to control through fear and intimidation. The children were not as strong as the goblins, and that made resistance easier to deal with. Grown men would be capable of heavier work, but at the cost of possible rebellion. In fact, Onaarri men often defeated the goblins when they attempted to take on whole towns or villages. Most child slaves did not survive long enough to reach adulthood, let alone rebel.
Smoke billowed up from several campfires nestled in the clearing between the cave and the surrounding thicket of sickly, dying trees and moss covered stones. A dozen iron cages hung from the branches along the edge of camp, and goblin filth and animal bones littered the ground.
Angry shouts and grunting echoed from the cave as a number of goblins emerged wielding whips and spears in one hand while clutching wooden torches in the other. Snarling and shouting in the common tongue, “Move along you filthy rats. Back to your cages you go!” The goblins were escorting nine Onaarri children out of the cave. Black soot from the mines covered most of the children’s clothes, hair, and skin. Some of them looked frail and malnourished. One could arguably discern which children had been enslaved the longest by how frail and dirty they were.
The goblins lifted each child up into their own iron cage. One by one, the children were locked up for the night, with their bare feet and legs dangling from their cramped cells.
“I’m thirsty!” cried one of the girls. Her clothes blackened and torn more than any of the others, suggesting she had been there for years. She looked weak and malnourished, yet her spirit refused to break.
“Shhh,” whispered Tommy, a boy in the next cage. “Don’t make them mad again, Alice”
“What are you two on about up there?” shouted Grimp, the goblin jailer. He was dressed in a poorly crafted chain link tunic and tragically dented bronze helmet. He was no taller than the children, but he was stocky and strong with a long bumpy nose and pointed ears.
The boy took a stand for the young girl and shouted, “Alice is thirsty. She needs some water.”
“Oh she does, does she? Alright, I’ll give you both some water,” said Grimp. He hobbled over towards the mouth of the cave, glancing up at an unusual contraption.
Goblins are not only greedy and devious, but they also have a knack for building and inventing things, crude and poorly made as they may be. Just above the mouth of the cave, there was a large metal caldron filled with rainwater. The goblins cut a hole at the bottom, where they attached a hose made from animal skins with a crude spout at the end, allowing them to open and close the flow of water. Grimp picked up the hose and opened it, spraying the two children, and knocking them around their cages.
“There’s your water. Now get to sleep you filthy rats!” Coughing and sniffing after their unexpected shower, the two children settled down in their cages.
Once Grimp had moved on, Alice whispered to Tommy. “I’m sorry you got punished for me. But thank you for trying.”
“It’s okay, Alice. We need to stick together. I’m sure someone will come looking for us,” Tommy whispered.
“I hope so,” she sighed sadly. “I miss my daddy…”
The night air felt cold as Nuri and Blue traveled down the road. “You smell that, Blue?” Nuri whispered.
“It wasn’t me this time, I swear it,” said Blue apologetically.
“No! I smell smoke,” said Nuri. The two of them had been bickering for hours as they walked, and Nuri was nearing her fill of the pirate’s shenanigans.
“Ohhh, right, the fire. Yes, I got a whiff of that a ways down the road. You’re just now picking up on that, are you?”
“If all you’re going to do is make jokes, at least be useful while you’re making them,” said Nuri angrily. “You’re good at climbing, aren’t you? Why don’t you climb one of these trees and tell me what you see in the distance?”
“Damn it woman! I’m a pirate, not a monkey. Besides, it’s a bit dark; I’m not going to see anything except darkness,” Blue said.
Nuri gazed at Blue and growled. “Obviously you won’t see much, but a campfire may stand out, even in darkness.”
“I suppose it’s no different than climbing up to a crow’s nest. Fine, I’m climbing.” Blue scaled the tree with great alacrity; effortlessly reaching the top. He surveyed the surrounding area, but the other trees made it difficult to see much of anything. Finally he spotted multiple flickering lights a short distance from their location.
“What do you see?” Nuri asked in a loud whisper.
“Well, there’s a lovely tea room set up a couple trees down, owned by a charming young chimpanzee,” Blue replied in his usual satirical fashion.
Nuri drew her sword and struck the tree several times with tremendous force. The timber creaked loudly as it toppled over with Blue clinging to the branches for dear life. He staggered from the fallen tree pulling twigs and leaves from his hair and clothes. “Was that really necessary, Nuri?” Blue growled angrily.
“No,” Nuri replied, “but it was fun and you deserved it.”
“I could have died. It’s fortunate for you that I have the reflexes of a cat. Before you lost your temper, I managed to spy several campfires ahead, by the foot of the mountain. You really need to learn how to control your anger.” Blue adjusted his hat. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Probably not,” Nuri sighed as she raised her sword with a disappointed look on her face.
“No! I really wasn’t thinking about that right now. I was thinking we may have a goblin problem up ahead,” Blue whispered quietly as he pulled the last few leaves from his clothes.
“I’m thinking we have a goblin problem right now, actually,” said Nuri.
“Oh no, they won’t be a problem unless…” Blue paused as he realized what had happened and drew his sword.
The two of them had caused so much noise in their bickering that they had alerted the goblins to their presence. They found themselves surrounded by no less than twenty goblins. While a few may have been easy work, twenty spears did not seem very promising.
“So how’s this work, Nuri? Ten for you, ten for me?” Blue whispered nervously.
“How about I take fifteen, leaving five for you? Think you can handle that?” said Nuri sarcastically. She swung her sword, cracking two of the goblin’s spears, yet more were advancing on them.
The goblins pushed in on Nuri and Blue, forcing them both to step back. Suddenly, they were both swept up, caught in a net that had been set by the goblins. Nuri and Blue hung swaying from a tall tree.
“Now let’s see if we can’t shut you both up!” Gnarg, the goblin lieutenant, yelled as he swung the staff end of his spear at their heads knocking them unconscious.
Blue and Nuri awoke a short time later. Both of them bound to a tree, with their arms secured behind them. They found themselves at the goblins’ mining camp. Nuri immediately noticed the caged children suspended from the dead trees.
The goblin lieutenant had taken their weapons and packs and tossed them into a pile of other assorted items, probably looted from unwary travelers.
“Well I guess we found that man’s missing son, along with a few others. You think they’ll pay per child?” Blue whispered.
“Shhh! Don’t go giving the goblins any reasons to kill us. They may not like the idea that we are a rescue party,” Nuri whispered.
The goblins began to deliberate amongst each other, deciding what they were going to do with the two new captives. Some suggested roasting them, since they hadn’t eaten fresh meat for days, while others wanted to ransom them for gold and ale.
As the goblins argued amongst themselves, Nuri heard something moving from behind her. She tried to turn her head to see what new danger was creeping up from behind, but was unable to see anything. She was expecting more badgers when a soft voice whispered to her from behind. “Shhh, I’m going to untie you. Please do not speak.”
Nuri felt someone unraveling the ropes at her back and glanced over to Blue. He was gesturing for her to turn her head. Once Nuri’s bonds were undone, she turned to see who had freed her; it was Grimly, the little girl from the tavern. “Are you mad?” Nuri whispered. “This is no place for a child. You know what these goblins do to children?”
“I’m well aware of what goblins do, just as I’m aware that you showed me kindness back in town, and I am not one to ignore kindness,” Grimly explained softly as she began to untie Blue. “I like to help you free the children. No one should have to grow up in a cage.”
“While I’m grateful you freed us, you really should get out of here before they notice you,” Nuri whispered.
“I’m hoping they do, after all we need a diversion in order to free the children,” said Grimly quietly.
“Diversion, What are you planning on…?” Before Nuri could even finish, Grimly stood up in front of them and shouted at the goblins. “Hey! You ill-bred dizzy-eyed miscreants, you’re not very good at locking cages, are you?”
Every goblin was now staring at the little girl. They assumed she was one of their slaves who had broken free. She picked up an animal bone from the ground and threw it at Grimp, the goblin jailer. The bone made a loud BONK sound as it struck his helmet.
“Hey shovel face; try and catch me if you can,” Grimly shouted and she ran off into the woods.
Grimp was enraged. “You all say you’re hungry for fresh meat? The goblin that catches her gets to eat her!” he shouted.
With all the goblins in a mad frenzy, they did not notice that Nuri and Blue were free. They all pursued the little girl into the woods, leaving the camp deserted.
“Well, not subtle but I like it,” Blue whispered as he stood up looking at the cages around them.
Nuri got up and rushed over to the pile of loot to gather her weapons and backpack. She also grabbed Blue’s personal effects and tossed them over to him.
She started running towards the woods after the child. She paused only briefly to shout at Blue. “What are you waiting for? We need to help her! Those goblins are going to murder that little girl!”
“Wait! Think!” Blue said sternly. “If we run off into the forest we’ll just be captured again. These goblins have nets and traps all around this camp. Yes, that child may die, but nine others may be set free. Let’s not allow her sacrifice to be in vain. We have a real chance to save all of these children if we hurry.”
Nuri stood frozen at the edge of the camp, debating in her mind. She realized that Blue may be right. She could not see in the darkness, and illuminating her sword would only draw attention to her.
“Hey… Hey you,” whispered Tommy from his suspended iron cell. “The goblins leave the key over on that hook by the cave entrance. Hurry, they’ll come back soon.”
Nuri rushed over to the hook and grabbed the keys. She went right to the nearest cage to unlock it, and then unlocked all the cages while Blue helped the children get down safely from their hanging prisons.
Blue looked up to Tommy. “What’s your name, kid?”
“I’m Tommy,” the boy replied.
Nuri looked up as she was unlocking the sixth cage. “Tommy? Named after your father, are you?”
“My dad? Yes, his name is Thomas. We live in the town not far from here.”
“Thomas sent me to find you, he’s been worried. We’ll get you all home,” Nuri whispered to the boy. Tommy smiled as Blue helped him down from his iron cell.
Nuri unlocked the last three cages and helped the children down to the ground. She then stood staring into the dark woods, scanning the tree line for her brave little friend.
“We really should get going, Nuri,” said Blue, after freeing the last child. He hoped his plea would convince Nuri to flee before the goblins returned.
“What about Grimly? She freed us and is risking her life to save ours,” said Nuri with anxiety in her voice.
The children cried out in fear as they heard horrifying screams from the woods around them. Goblin war cries, perhaps, or screams of victory? There was no way to be sure. It was so dark; they couldn’t see much beyond the campfires.
“I don’t like the sound of that, Nuri. Come! Let’s get these children to safety,” Blue whispered. He didn’t want to frighten the children any more than they already were.
They hastily made their escape from the goblin camp, putting some distance between them and the goblins. Once Nuri felt they were safe she held out her sword and whispered, “Lux via,” and her blade glowed brightly. The frightened children felt comforted by the warm glow of Nuri’s blade. They hurried off into the dark woods towards the town of Abandon, fearing the worst had befallen their brave little hero.
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