Author's Note: I feel like I should give a bit of a disclaimer here. This chapter may feel like a recap episode from an anime, but it also is one of the last chapters before the WAAAGH really begins, and I feel that some setup and consequences for Swordsman, Alchemist and Sorceress have to be established. So, the city and the guild need information, as well as try to make sense on whatever answers they get. And getting those answers will require them explaining what happened.
Don't worry, things will be picking up very quickly after this chapter.
The sun was beginning to set as Monk, Swordsman, Alchemist and Sorceress finally arrived at the city. Monk walked ahead of them, wanting to keep her distance from the three traitors who helped the goblins. It absolutely galled her that they left druid behind. Monk knew what she was going through at this very moment, and she knew it would not stop until she was dead or rescued.
It was weird that nothing happened to her and druid while they were caught but that is all it was. Weird. The idea that goblins didn't do anything to women was just preposterous.
Once the gate for the city was in front of them, Alchemist raised both hands over her head. "FREEDOM!" Swordsman joined in the cheer, jumping up and clicking his heels. Sorceress leaned heavily on her staff.
"Finally. A proper bath, some hot food and a drink. I definitely need all of it."
Swordsman finished his own celebration before looking at her. "It's not over though," he glanced back towards the woods where they came from. Alchemist and Sorceress both nodded. Monk, for her part, just gritted her teeth. These three were about to celebrate after leaving a woman behind to goblins!? She wanted a bath herself, but she also wanted to go around for money to put together enough to pay for adventurers more experienced than porcelain to deal with those goblins.
The four of them entered the gate, slowing to a stop as some guards and adventurers came forward. Monk smiled in relief seeing the two farm girls with them and pointing right at them. "There, she was captured with us and helped us escape," one of them said pointing at Monk herself. She looked at the plates. There was a female paladin and what looked like a dark haired male fighter with a massive sword who wore silver plates. There was a male ranger wielding a bow who had a pet wolf behind him and a female in bright purples and blue clothes with a lute on her back. Monk guessed she was a bard. The latter two had bronze plates.
And all of them had their weapons in the hands and were beginning to surround them. The paladin looked at their plates, then to the guards. "This seems to be both guild business as well as business of the Kingdom. Let's take them to the guild for questioning. We have methods to know when someone is lying."
"The Law Master will want to deal with them herself. We should take them to the stockade." Monk looked back to the three traitors and their pale faces. She felt some degree of satisfaction at that.
The guards and adventurers eventually settled on taking them to the guild for questioning, with the guards all present for the duration and a recorder there to notarize the entire proceeding.
Monk sat uncomfortably in the four chairs that had been brought to the Guild's office. Each of them had manacles attached to the arms and legs of each so all their limbs were bound. Well, all their limbs, she was allowed to have her hands and feet unbound because the farmers vouched for her. The Guild Girl and a Guild Priestess was sitting across from them and all the adventurers who greeted them at the gate behind each of them and the guards were on the sides of the room.
"Listen, those goblins out there," Alchemist tried speaking before her voice stopped working as her mouth kept moving. The priestess had her holy symbol in her hand and was looking straight at her.
"The seriousness of this situation requires us to keep things in as orderly a fashion as we can. You will speak when you are allowed to speak. We ask questions, you answer."
Guild Girl sighed, looking at Swordsman. "This is the second time I've seen you in as many weeks involving these goblins. Last time, you told me that goblins had captured your sister," she paused to look at Alchemist, "and the sorceress in your party," she nodded at her in turn. "Now here you all are and the women looking no worse off than you." She took a deep breath then looked Swordsman in the eye. "You also told me that maps had to be given to the goblins to keep them from feeding your sister's leg to a squig."
Monk felt her stomach drop. Maps, he gave goblins maps!?
Guild Girl looked him dead in the eye. "What happened out there?"
Swordsman swallowed the lump in his throat. "Our party went out to take a contract to hunt some goblins. There was me, my sister, Sorceress and a Priest. We found them in a ruined castle. We attacked by they got the drop on us. We were...careless." Monk felt part of her glare softening, almost against her will. "Then there was an explosion and green smoke of some kind. I don't know where it came from but there was an army of goblins that weren't there before. They had weapons, armor, things they call squigs and spiders. One of them started speaking and killed all the local goblins, took us prisoner and declared war."
A few of the guards in the room started chuckling and Monk could see the even the adventurers were shaking their heads. Guild Girl looked to the Guild Priestess who was watching him carefully while holding her holy symbol. "Well, he's not lying."
Swordsman looked to the side. "I know, I know. But that doesn't mean I'm telling the truth. Just like last time." Monk blinked. Last time?
Guild Girl sighed. "Why would goblins take you prisoner"
Alchemist spoke up. "Because I blew some up. They wanted to learn how to make explosives." The adventurers around the room groaned. One of the guards looked confused.
"What? They wanted to learn how to make explosives? Can goblins even do that?"
The paladin looked at him, a tired look in her eye. "Goblin Slayer has made it clear to those of us who know him that goblins can be taught new skills. Once some know it it won't be long before they all know it."
Guild Girl leaned forward, her face in her palm. "Then what happened?"
Sorceress spoke up. "Alchemist and I were often tied to trees, rocks or each other to lure in various goblin clans or tribes where Skarsnik had prepared ambushes, capturing and killing entire tribes to build up their forces while he was sent back to get maps, with the instructions that if he didn't return fast enough we would be losing limbs to feed his pet squig."
Guild Girl sighed. "Squigs, again?" Monk heard the female paladin ask the fighter near her what a squig was and only got a shrug in response.
Sorceress continued, "I was nearly given to the gob-slaves, what Skarsnik calls goblins not born from mushrooms, until I used magic to put some of them asleep. He wanted to make use of my magic. I had to cooperate or be fed to Gobbla."
"Stop!" Guild Girl raised her hand before rubbing her temple. "This is too much. None of this makes any sense." She looked pointedly at the priestess by her side.
"So far, there aren't any lies..." the priestess was looking just as confused as Guild Girl was.
Guild Girl's head fell on the desk. A second passed before she looked back up at Alchemist. "You make potions. Can you make anything that confuses people? Make them see things that aren't there? Feel sensations that aren't happening?"
Alchemist's face went pale. "Well, I suppose I could do that. I don't know how to do it yet-"
"That was a lie." Guild Priestess said looking at Alchemist, who was now looking even paler.
Guild Girl nodded to herself. "So, you went to attack some goblins for your contract and one of your potions exploded, making you all see or hear things that didn't happen. I see how it is."
Swordsman's chair started hopping as he tried standing up. "Listen! we're telling the truth! Denying it won't make these goblins go away." The Bard behind Swordsman waved her hand and sung softly under her breath and Swordsman's voice faded away.
Guild Girl turned to Monk. "Witnesses pointed to you saving them, and you were part of the two parties that took the escort quest for food. Could you explain everything that happened on your end?"
Monk nodded. She talked about how her party was the rear guard. Everything was going fine until they had gone through some wooded hills when Sorceress came out of the treeline and magically put half of the entire caravan to sleep. Monk talked about the goblins pouring out of the trees from all sides, how they had strange bipedal mounts, and how she took Druid and ran.
Guild Girl was looking through some paperwork on her desk before pulling a single sheet of paper and reading it for a few minutes. "It looks like this is the 2nd quest you've taken with us. Your first was, oh. I'm sorry for what happened." Guild Girl leaned over and whispered to the priestess, her face softening and a look of pity was sent her way. Monk gritted her teeth. She didn't want to be pitied, or for people to take it easy on her because those goblins got their filthy claws on her. "You mentioned strange mounts?"
"Yeah, strange pink things. Two legs, practically all mouth. They hopped as fast as horses gallop."
Guild Girl looked immediately to the priestess. "She is not lying..." Guild Priestess trailed off.
"What happened to both parties of adventurers?" Monk sighed deeply.
"The goblins have the druid who was with me. I tried rescuing her but these three stopped me. Every other adventurer is dead."
Guild Girl leaned back in her chair. The recorder notarizing the proceedings was at his own desk, writing every word. Eventually Guild Girl sat up. "Okay, here's what's going to happen from the Guild." She looked at Monk. "I'm happy that you did everything you could to save as many people as you could, and you were doing your best to fulfill the contract. Unfortunately I cannot pay you for a contract that is not completed. Feel free to rest, wash up and maybe find a new party, if you wish to continue as an adventurer. I will cover all costs for your food." Monk nodded.
Guild Girl looked to the other three. "You three acted against others in the Guild. You helped attack a convoy this city needs. You, Sorceress are responsible for the deaths of several adventurers. You will be turning in your adventuring tags and stripped from all Guild Halls registries. You will never be adventurers again. As for your freedom, well, that is up to the Law Master." She turned to the guards. "These three are no longer part of the Guild. Whatever happens to them will not affect us." Monk watched as their tags were torn from their necks and the guards dragged their pale faces, from the room. Alchemist had burst into tears as her tag was ripped off her.
It didn't take long for news to spread. Monk had barely gone down for breakfast the next morning where she heard that Sorceress was scheduled to be hung from the gallows the following week due to her part in killing adventurers and attacking supplies meant for the city. Swordsman and Alchemist were being sent to the capital in chains where they would be kept in the debtors prison until their family paid off the price the city magistrates paid for the escorts that were all killed.
Monk also noted that a notification had been put on the board with a 15 gold bounty for any information from adventurers on a new creatures discovered called squigs. She supposed her testimony from the ambush was enough to convince Guild Girl of their existence.
Still, she didn't want to feel sorry for the three adventurers who worked with goblins. She really didn't. So many deaths were on that sorceress's head. However the tears of Alchemist stuck in her mind. Unfortunately, it seemed that they had gone insane during their time with the goblins and lost track of reality. Seriously, goblins being born from mushrooms? Monk knew from experience that that was not true.
However, every instinct she had was telling her to get out of this city. It had brought her nothing but misery. Her fist job, she was made a goblin plaything. It took her a long time to recover from that. Her second job, she got ambushed by goblins and was used as bait to be a goblin plaything again. She still wanted to be an adventurer. Just one who was as far from goblins as possible. And there were too many goblins here.
Two days after getting back from her second job she had packed her things together, used the last of her money to pay for a wagon to take her to another city. Hopefully one with a lot less goblins.
It would be some time before she found out that her wagon was the very last one to ever leave that city.
Cow Girl sat on the chair on the porch of her and her uncle's farm. She wished she could tell Goblin slayer how she felt but she didn't think he would know how to react to that. His social skills were improving thanks to his party and he was becoming a little less broken. Last time he was here he mentioned that Elf Ranger was calling in his promise to go on an actual adventure, which was her price for helping when the goblin lord attacked the farm. Cow Girls was happy for him as it meant he was nearly ready to move on to something that wasn't goblins. Maybe the time would come when he could behave normally again and not have his every waking moment and thought be about goblins. He was doing a great service to the world but she wished he could take a break.
"Still waiting?" Her uncle was at the door. At times like this she felt like a housewife waiting for a soldier husband to come home. The thought filled her with glee but also depressed her. She knew she was just as bad as him when it came to letting things go. She was of the age where it was time to get married, have children and start raising a family. If she waited for him too much longer she would be a spinster and be unable to get married or have children.
But just like he couldn't get over goblins and what they did to his sister, she couldn't get over how much she wanted him. "Yes."
Her uncle sighed. "I can't deny he brings good money, but you do better than him. He's cracked in the head."
"Maybe, but I will wait a little longer." It was a regular conversation she had with her uncle. What was not regular was him sitting down next to her, looking up at the green moon.
"Listen, he's a good man and he pays well. He's already proven he can protect you and the farm if it comes to it. However, he's often gone. I won't be here forever and you can't run the farm by yourself. That man has a lot of women around him. You do need a husband who will be here to help on the farm, or who can take you in and be able to protect you." He breathed deeply before continuing, "Maybe it's time that we found you a man who is bit more...present. Someone who isn't gone anywhere from days, weeks or even months at a time."
Cow Girl looked across the field, the grass rustling. "I know. But I think I will still wait."
Her uncle nodded, looking out across the field himself before he froze. "No, you will not. Get in the house. Now." Her uncle rushed back into the house and came out with a sword and a bow. He wasn't a warrior and hadn't had any formal training but he had been taught a few things by Goblin Slayer and he had hunted for food with his bow. Cow Girl blinked.
"The grass is rustling. But there's no wind. Something's out there."
Cow Girl nodded and went into the house. She sat next to the window with her back to the wall so she could listen to what was going on outside and hopefully not be seen. "I know you're out there! Come out where I can see you," her uncle called out.
A few moments of silence.
Then, with a loud cry of exultation, Cow Girl felt her blood freeze as she recognized the cries of goblins. "WAAAAGH!"
"Shit!" her uncle shouted and she heard his arrows begin hitting the wall behind her back. Cow Girl got on her hands and knees, trying to make her way to the trap door goblin slayer built for them. Hopefully she could hide under the house.
"Git 'im Gobbla!" a voice cried out and her uncle's pained cry followed by a loud crash against the door hurried her pace. A torch was thrown in through the window, her hope of staying safe under the house dashed as a fire started to spread.
Cow Girl rushed to the back of the house and jumped out of the window, running as fast as she could before dodging into the tall grass. She looked back at the farm. Goblins of all sizes, large and small had just finished surrounding her house. The barn was on fire, the cows running out of a door that had been broken into with a bunch of goblin riding strange pink bipedal things chasing them, cheering loudly. One cow having a goblin jump onto its back and stabbing it while the pink thing starting eating it while still alive.
Cow Girl held her breath, crawling as slowly as she could. She had to get out and back to the city.
Cutting through the field on her hands and knees, she had to stop and lay still several times as goblins passed by. The road was just a little ways off but she had to avoid it. It would be faster but she would be a visible target.
Sweat dripped from her brow as she kept crawling. Her shadow growing as the air felt hotter. Cow Girl blinked. She looked behind and saw the fields she was in were now on fire, and it was getting closer to her.
Forget cover, if she stayed in it she'd burn! She got up and started running as fast as her legs could carry her.
"A humie! A humie!" the cries of goblins came from her right. There, on the strange things that were eating her cows was a small group of goblins. Cow Girl ran a step or two before sharp pain bit into her back. The sword slash knocked her to the ground. She kept crawling. Goblins began surrounding her, a pink thing jumping on her leg, catching it in its mouth and biting hard.
"AAAAAGH!" Cow Girl screamed in pain as her leg was bitten off. The last thing she saw was a goblin's spear coming down at her.
Review Responses: Thank you all for taking the time to review this story.
Fawkes Draksin: Well, Goblin Slayer definitely has a motive now beyond goblins being bad.
Kevin Bakeland: Well, I hope this one met your expectations.
Dragonheart51: Oh yeah. And not only just Goblin Slayer will have a problem.
MiquellTKMC: Well I'm happy that you're so excited.
Skylord F: Actually, they don't. Greenskins from Warhammer are basically sentient fungus. They're born from shroom spores and they reproduce by spores leaving their bodies just by being in an area. They're completely asexual. According to the Warhammer Wiki they form their own ecosystem by the order the spores develop in a new area. First squigs are born, then snotlings who start cultivating fungus and herding the squigs. Goblins come after, being clever and able to build shelters, smelt iron, forge weapons and armor, and finally orks as the biggest muscle and the strongest. More often than not orcs will be the rulers of clans and tribes but Skarsnik takes every precaution when dealing with them. By that I mean he poisons, assassinates or arrange the death of any orc who starts getting a bit big for his britches.
The very nature of these greenskins though does mean that eventually entirely new clans of greenskins will start growing and developing independently of Skarsnik. And their numbers grow very fast.
Haunted Reader: Skarsnik wouldn't be Skarsnik if there wasn't some level of strategy involved with what he does. He is likely the smartest and most cunning goblin to ever live in the Warhammer universe. Strategies are something he is really, really good at. And yes, I'm trying to leave out as much bloat as I can. I figured one clan against a world unprepared for it was enough of a balance and had enough content for a compelling story that I didn't feel the need to add more than was necessary.
Cavalier-de-Milan: Oh yeah. The gob-slaves lives are generally worse off now, but they'll become a lot more dangerous in the long term because they aren't completely stupid and are learning from the king of ambush specialists directly by being forced to set up said ambushes. I like your example of the equivalent of going from the stone age to the steel age. It's very apt and is basically what is happening to them. They're being forced into it kicking and screaming but they'll learn.