Oncoming Storms

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Wyanet and I jogged through the forest. Mist penetrated every layer of clothing. Soaked to the core, our every motion felt heavy. Kalista had abandoned us. I was certain we ran headlong into the waiting arms of a Goblin-masked death. The gentle rise of the hill emerged from the mist fifty yards ahead. Thunder rumbled overhead.

“Listen for my signal.” My hand found Wyanet’s arm. We stopped. “Once we are together again, we’ll make a break for the cave.”

Wyanet didn’t answer. Her eyes jumped at every sound. I grabbed her other arm and gave her a gentle shake.

“Wy?” The look in her eyes reminded me of a hungry animal. “Are you here?”

Wyanet focused on me, the woman I had first met months ago gazed back. She leaned her spear against her torso. Wyanet reached up and grasped the curve at the back of my head. She pulled my head to hers. Wyanet whispered in her native tongue, “Wakan takan kici un.” She let go and stepped away.

“Be safe my friend,” I whispered.

We went in separate directions. I moved to the opposite side of the gully as silently as the shadows I hid in. I scaled the rocky hill that formed the back of the cave. Despite the rain, I could smell the meat rotting on the drying rack. I clambered on my hands and knees to the top of the hill, a rumble of thunder greeted me as I approached.

From the top of the hill, I could see the drying rack. It groaned under the added weight of the dead woman from the day before. They stripped, gutted and strung her up like livestock. The cage that held the prisoners was thirty feet away. A miserable Goblin

wearing a shirt of poorly repaired rings leant on an axe with a broken beard. Huddled in the corner of the cage under a tattered tarp, the remaining woman and the gnome used the man as a pillow. The elf sat in the centre of the cage. His back was stiff as a board. He watched the cage door.

I brought my legs up and got into a low crouch. I took a few deep breaths. Pulled my sword from its scabbard, and focused my entire being on the shadows before the Goblin. I took another deep breath. I stepped off the front of the hill and into the world of shadows. Sorrow and anguish clawed at my mind, threatening to consume me. I stepped back into the material world as quickly and effortlessly as I had stepped out of it. I reappeared at the tail end of a flash of lightning, now face to face with a startled Goblin.

The Goblin jumped back against the cage. It scrambled to bring its axe up. I grinned. The Goblin opened its mouth to cry for help. My sword, honed to a razor’s edge, passed through the Goblin’s throat without effort. It gurgled once and crumpled at my feet. I flicked my wrist and cleaned off most of the brackish Goblin blood. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, a crow cawed.

“Your attempt is admirable, monk, but your subterfuge is about to be undone.” The elf said. He now stood with his arms through the bars. I couldn’t tell how old he was. One of his eyes was swollen shut, he was missing half an ear, and his once resplendent silk shirt stained with blood.

With a single strike, I cut the rope that bound the cage closed. “ What do you mean?” I asked.

The elf pointed at something behind me. I followed where he was pointing. Half a dozen crows had started to peck at the rotting meat on the drying rack. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Goblin poke its head out of a nearby tent. It held a crossbow, and it saw me before ducking back inside.

“Shit,” I mumbled to myself. “Hey!” I called to the other three captives, stealth no longer an option. “It’s time to go!”

The drying rack groaned again. Somewhere a rope snapped. Timber clattered to the ground. A drumbeat began in the centre of the camp, its tempo constant, and its volume increased. The elf stepped out of the cage. He snatched up the axe from the dead Goblin and moved ten feet closer to the Goblin camp.

The gnome woke up first. He saw me and jostled the humans awake. The Goblin drum beat was louder than the thunder. Rapid footsteps squelched in the mud.

“Hey! You lazy humans!” The elf shouted back. “Now’s your chance! In the name of the Wildmother get out of here!”

A lone Goblin charged the elf, and promptly lost its head. The elf collected the dropped Goblin sword before it hit the ground.

The humans realised what was happening and tripped over themselves to get out.

“Can you get away from here by yourselves?” I asked quickly. Several more Goblins had appeared, and the elf now fought four by himself.

The gnome spoke up. His speech hurried struggling to contain his excitement. “Yes, yes, I take them to my village, we be safe there!”

“Go, may the gods keep you safe.”

The gnome grabbed the hand of the humans. The woman pulled away. She rushed over to me and planted a kiss on my cheek. I nodded and pointed toward the hill with my sword. The man, a burly fellow with legs as thick as tree trunks, picked up the gnome, grabbed the woman’s hand, and sprinted in the direction I had first come from.

I shifted my attention to where the elf was fighting. Three more Goblins laid dead or dying on the ground. The elf fought six more, but he was losing ground. I bolted towards the fray. When I got close enough, I launched off the ground. I flew through the air, shifting my body to drive my left foot forward. My kick connected with a Goblin. The Goblin, thrown off balance, tumbled away into the mud.

I landed. A spear shaft shot towards my gut. I rolled to the side and lashed out with a heel kick. The kick caught the Goblin in the side of the head. It staggered into one of its fellows. The elf saw the opening and brought the scavenged axe down onto the Goblin’s skull. The elf jerked his axe twice. It didn’t budge. He abandoned it in time to parry a sword lunge with his off hand. A Goblin on the far left tried to hack at the elf’s forward leg with a hatchet. The elf slid his leg back. The Goblin missed. The elf tossed his sword into his right hand and plunged it through the Goblin’s throat.

I dodged another spear. I kneed its wielder in the nose. I was starting to feel like we could win.

Bowstrings twanged. I bent backwards. Two arrows, one with filthy black fletchings and the other with magnificent white, sailed through my space. I grabbed the black arrow out of the air and threw it back in the direction it had come from. There was a grunt, and I knew the other arrow had found the elf.

An arrow shaft protruded from the Elf’s right thigh. He twisted and pointed two fingers at a tent in the direction the arrows had come from. Two Goblins stood in front of the tent knocking another round of arrows. A thin streak of orange light shot from the elf’s fingers. The tent ignited. The archers scattered.

Lightning flashed.

Thunder boomed.

Drums pounded.

An angry roar echoed through the camp.

The fighting paused. Our current opponents backed away. They snickered and cackled.

The burning tent illuminated the camp, and I could see Blarg charging at us at the head of fifteen more Goblins.

The story will continue, May 9th

Written by: Sweeney

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

Creating original content in an online space is a time consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. It will help keep me producing content for time to come. Thank You, you are appreciated. 


Hopeless Circumstance

Kalista, Wyanet, and I sat in the shade of an oak tree in the middle of the forest, on a sunny spring afternoon. We ate a light lunch of common field rations and listened to Wyanet tell a story about her past that Kalista had conned her into. Kalista had shed her gambeson. She sat with her legs crossed leaning back against her hands. I had doffed my cloak and sat on it like a blanket.

Wyanet took a long deep breath. She sipped on her waterskin, folded her hands and placed them in her lap. “Love is not made for my kind.” Wyanet started. She paused and took another second to collect her thoughts. “I have had many lovers. Every one of them abandoned me in some way.”

Tears started to form in the corners of Wyanet’s eyes.

“Love is a trick.”

A tear crept down Wyanet’s cheek, and she brushed it away.

“I do not wish to speak of this anymore”

Wyanet reached into her rucksack and fumbled with something out of sight.

“This is a stupid game. I do not wish to play again,” Wyanet snapped.

A mix of emotions sprinted across Kalista’s face. She reached for Wyanet’s hand, thought better of it, and pulled back.

“I’m sorry.” I hung my head.

“Why are you sorry, you did not have anything to do with their betrayals.”

“No, but it’s just what…”

Kalista jumped up and pulled her gambeson on. “Let’s get moving again.” She interrupted. “If we don’t we might not make it to the cave before nightfall.” Kalista turned away from us and replaced her hood.

I looked at Wyanet, she wore an empty expression as she rewrapped the uneaten food in linen and tucked it into her bag. I threw my cloak on and jogged after Kalista, who was already a hundred feet away.

“Where did you find her, Willow Twig? She’s just a great big ball of sunshine.” Kalista asked as she heard me catch up.

“She found me,” I replied. “I was on the road about a month back and I had a run in with some highwaymen. I wasn’t myself at the time, and there were too many of them. Wy came out of nowhere and single-handedly saved my ass. We’ve been together ever since.”

Wyanet caught up to us.

“You are both beacons of joy and happiness, aren’t you?” Kalista remarked.

I chuckled, “Why be happy all the time when it is so much easier to run away from your problems?”

Kalista was taken by a fit of laughter, “That is very true, and if I had a drink right now we would drink to that!”

Wyanet gave us a puzzled look, but nobody explained the joke. We continued on in near silence. We would stop every now and again to rest our legs. At one point, Kalista managed to shoot a hare we had startled from the undergrowth, or more accurately, insult it to death. The little creature hung from her belt, and promised to be a delicious supper.

“We should make camp. It will be dark soon.” Wyanet announced.

“The cave isn’t much further. We can camp there.” Kalista replied.

Something felt off to me. My stomach had started to twist itself and I became very aware of how quiet the forest had become. Kalista held up her hand and motioned for everyone to get down. The words to express my growing sense of dread caught in my throat.

“Merde,” Kalista whispered, “where did they come from?”

I crawled on my stomach to get beside Kalista, and Wyanet did the same on the opposite side. We laid on a small hill that helped form a tiny valley. Directly opposite us in the hillside was a narrow rocky opening just large enough to fit a man without crouching.

The entire valley area hosted a collection of crude hide tents of various sizes. The space in front of the cave mouth had several drying racks made from small trees that were sagging from the weight of dead animals on them. Across from the drying racks, was a cage made from tree limbs as thick as my wrist that had been lashed together. Inside the cage were two women, a man, an Elf who had been beaten bloody and a Gnome with twigs in his hair. All of their clothes were ragged, but the women’s were far worse.

As we watched, two Goblins approached the cage. One of the women started to wail. The Goblins, each no taller than four feet, drew their swords and entered the cage. The first Goblin kicked the gnome aside. The second Goblin pointed its sword at the elf who sat in the corner ignoring what happened. The man grabbed the woman who screamed like a banshee and held as tightly to her waist as he could. The first Goblin grabbed the dress of the other woman and started to pull her from the cage.

Kalista’s panicked whispering caught my attention. “You can’t go down there!” Kalista was trying to hold Wyanet back with little success.

“We have to help them.” Wyanet countered.

I pushed off the ground with my left arm. I rolled over Kalista and landed on Wyanet’s back, forcing her to the ground. I wrapped my arms under hers and locked my fingers behind her neck. Wyanet grunted as she tried to force me off.

“If we go down there right now we could end up in that cage too,” I whispered into Wyanet’s ear. She stopped fighting, and we continued to watch.

The first Goblin had pulled the woman to the centre of the camp. Eight other Goblins had come out of their tents and were cheering on their fellows. The woman fought the Goblin as best she could, but it only ignored her. Even more Goblins had started to slink from their tents. The woman had stopped trying to slap the Goblin. She grabbed the frayed collar of her dress, summoned all of her strength, and ripped her dress open. The Goblin who had had a firm grip on the dress, tripped, and fell face first into the dirt. All of its compatriots laughed. The woman scrambled forward and snatched up the Goblin’s fumbled shortsword. She turned the point of the blade on herself, and plunged the jagged rusty blade into her chest. All the Goblins went silent.

A moment passed.

All twenty of the gathered Goblins burst out in a unified, high pitched, cackle. The other woman in the cage screamed. The first Goblin picked itself up from the ground, looked at the woman bleeding out, shrugged, and started fighting with the rope that served as a belt.

Kalista squirmed beside me, Wyanet put her face to the ground, and I felt her body go limp beneath mine.

“WHAT HAPPENING!” A very deep and harsh voice cut through the cackling.

A seven-foot-tall humanoid covered in coarse fur with a crushed bear-like face emerged from the largest tent. All the Goblins went silent again. The fury Goblin lumbered through the rabble. He got to the middle of the circle and saw the dead woman with the Goblin’s sword in her chest. The fury Goblin smacked the first Goblin with a paw-like hand. He then grabbed the smaller Goblin and hurled him across the camp with little effort.

“SLAVES FOR SPIDER LADY! NO KILL SLAVES!” The fury Goblin bellowed before lumbering back to his tent.

The story will continue, April 25th

Written by: Sweeney

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

Creating original content in an online space is a time consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. It will help keep me producing content for time to come. Thank You, you are appreciated.