An end into a beginning
Father did not stop me, for he had forsaken me. Mother could not, for she had been dead for quite a while. So, deprived of guardians, I chose a life of adventure.
How often I regretted my decision, I cannot count. Orcs and goblins became my enemies; should I say more? Well, perhaps that goblins and even orcs became my friends too. But I am getting ahead of myself.
My troubles and fortunes began on the 80th day of Spring, 879. I remember it quite well as it was both my 14th birthday. And, also, the dawn my boss' soul fled from this world. I woke up and he was dead, cold as snow. Happy birthday to me…
We were on the road, halfway between Fazilá and Recuervos. For we were peddlers, of the sort who buy wares in towns and sell them in villages. He had been in this business for fifty years and I had been his apprentice for two, but neither of us would keep that trade.
I was Zary, a tanned boy of green eyes, short auburn hair, wee little ears, stubby nose, a few scratches on my face and a fair dose of road dust over my skin. I wore espradilles and a cape, when need be, and at all times, hat, tunic, short pants and a haversack for the little wants of life.
Luckily, my boss was a native of Recuervos, so with great exertion and desperation I managed to get his body on the mule, and drove it to the city. Recuervos is all walls and towers from afar, and not much else up close, and for good reason. The hills of the orcs were not far and many a battle had been fought for its possesion. At the time, however, it was safe but for thieves and bandits; one cursed me from the cross as I entered the gate.
I saw the family of my boss, told them his late news, and gave them his wares. They let me keep four “marees” for my troubles— enough to support my modest needs for a month— and told me to find another job. This I did not do.
Being used to sleeping on the way, I found no trouble to pass the night behind the mighty walls of Recuervos, my safety secured by the Watch. In fact, their men were kind enough to let me sleep in a corner of the gatehouse. And no, that does not mean —as in the stories of young rascals— that I was arrested. If anything, I would adscribe their kindness at always being on the lookout for new recruits. Pay was low, work not very exciting except when it all suddenly become dangerous, so what is not to like?
My call for adventure
Next morning, I learned that I had become some sort of a celebrity among the youngest citizens of Recuervos. My little adventure of bringing the body of my late boss to the citadel seemed remarkable to them, as these girls and boys rarely went beyond the walls. Many had never set a foot outside, for their parents feared of orcs and, most notably, goblins and the occasional dwarf slaver. A boy, once kidnapped, might never be seen again; for girls it was the same, though the danger was thought to be much worse.
Four of these kids with a plan: —Osa, Conda, Erico and Odrián— two girls and two boys, all around my age, filthy rich by my standards of the time, and eager to see the world, skipped school to meet me.
“Boy,” Osa had reached me in the market as I was on the search for a cheap breakfast, “Would you fancy to earn some money?”
“Yes! I do fancy money.” I almost jumped up, as you would do when poverty is grasping your neck.
She then presented herself and introduced me to her friends, asked my name and, all those introductory matters done, she told me of her little plans: hike upriver, to the Matachicos lake, to swim there and camp for a night, just on the verge of the lands of the orcs. And I replied with a quick nod.
Why? I don't know. My new clients seemed so eager and Osa was so full of joy that the whole affair seemed to be blessed by the Goddess. Or maybe I was too young myself, and in every need of being regarded as a little hero. What can I say? We all soon regretted it.
Two days later our doomed party gathered at the gates. They had bought Brisa, the mule, from my late boss family. This made me glad. She was just as happy to see me in her own animal way. You know, sometimes you only learn how much you love something when you lose it. Besides, she would happily bear with all the kids had brought to the trip.
No, I will not be telling you of how woefully unprepared my clients were for the adventure. Yes, they were, but they did not make the usual mistake of bringing too much stuff, as they took just a little more than me, and then some weapons. You see, in this region everybody trains on the sword from an early age. There is always the the “Next Orc War” casting its shadow on us. I had never carried a sword, though, for those were expensive, but I was good with the sling: a couple of wolves and a bandit are my witnesses. And a sling is much easier to carry around. Oh but did I crave a real sword, just like my father always kept hanging from his belt.
In any, case our first hours outside meant for little trouble. Recuervos was at holidays, in preparation for Summer Coming and the guards made no fuss of a few kids on their first field trip. We let them believe we were going somewhere much safer, of course. As for their parents, they had resigned themselves to the prospect of their kids getting lost in the celebration, so they would not be missed until sundown. A perfect plan, in our own juvenile minds.
I heard the first complaints just twenty mils from Recuervos. “I'm too tired.”, ”I got a blister!”, “The road is dusty.”, “It's way too hot!”, “This is your fault, pawn” those were some of the sentences they slung at me.
So I decided to call it a day and set camp discreetly behind a circle of wild olive trees. Yet for all my condescendence —that put us at risk of being found by the guards— the complaining did not stop and I feared my clients would cancel the whole thing so I would have lost my earnings. The night, warm and quiet, saved me from that fate, but allowed for much worse.
Meanwhile, in a goblin hut…
Allow me, for a while, to pause our narration and tell the tale of a the true hero of this story, a true hero of sorts perhaps, but surely the closest thing this tale has to a hero. This was Tinytusks, a minor goblin chieftain. Only some of these events, I witnessed myself —these shall become evident. So use your discretion. Disclaimers done, let me contnue…
Two days before the death of my boss, Tinytusks and his band had set up a hut on the southern coast of the “Wetty Lake”, as goblins call it. For us, humans, it's the Lake of Recuervos, just north of the city. When it was all done, the goblins had a feast of flapjacks and salted pork fat. Finally, the chieftain spoke to his men:
“Good-for-nothing's, the Great War Chief of the Four Corners of the World, told us to keep this place from marauding dwarves, pointy ears and humans. And you promised we would do just that. And the best way of doing that is raiding on human lands!”
Tinytusks, as an adult goblin, was ten centis taller than my poor self, of dun skin, short black hair, wee little ears, stubby nose, and Krashban, the goblin fathering god, has graced him with a lean, muscular body. He was exactly what any discerning goblin girl would call handsome. Still, the good-for-nothing's lowered their heads in dismay. This was supposed to be easy, right? Just wait here, nicely and quietly, eating their beans, and pork, fishing a little, for a month or two, for no human would be stupid enough to venture in these lands to accomplish nothing. Thankfully, Tinytusks knew his raiders throughly and was flexible enough to adapt his plan to their needs.
“And that's easy because humans consider these lands as their lands. So we can just stay here and wait for loot to come to us!”
Every goblin and his ticks roared in applause.
Some boring days followed. These should have been, in all probability just the first of many that summer. But one stupid morning, the bravest among Tinytusks' warriors: Ivmeasec, Zicky, Ahem and Loglegs woke him up.
“Chieftain, we're in danger. The humans! They are coming!”
Running is good for the soul
Three hours later, my clients and I were happily eating. It was midday, sunny, and we had managed to find a dry spot on the marshy ground. These would be the last day, in a long while, that would meet those three circumstances. We, I mean, they were having a chat about their posh life, so I went for the mule and petted her for a little when I heard a little “plof”.
Looking around, I could only see the woods the other side of the river, but nothing immediately dangerous could come from there, so I turned to the marsh, which in these goblin lands is mostly featureless, but for trees, bushes, pools, streams, rocks, peat, high grass, giant mushrooms, and muddy ground. All of that mingled with a pandemonium of several species of fishes, amphibians, birds marsh deers, dwarf wolves, rabbits, lynxes, and the gods only know how many billions of bugs. So there are a few places where a goblin might hide. However this one said something in the goblin tongue which I later learned meant, err… something that is not polite to put in writing.
I took the mule and lead her to where my clients were eating, and whispered a single word to them: “goblins”. And they went all pale at once. I was expecting them to go for their swords, or freeze or run for their lifes, but not to shout and beg me to defend them, while grabbing my arms like I was some sort of rescuer god.
Luckily, the goblins were having doubts, or, at the very least, did not approach us, so I could devise the foolest plan ever.
“Run!”, I told them, “follow the river and I will hold them back.” Oh, yes, I understand now how stupid I was, but heroes do that in every story, so at the time I thought it would be a wise, or at least a brave and heroic thing to do.
My clients did not even pause for a “thank you” but fled in panic, leaving all their belongings behind. And I turned back to where I thought the goblins were coming from and, there they were, 16 goblins, waddling towards me, spear, mace, javelin or ax drawn.
“Hold still or I'll shoot you!” Oh well, I did shout that at them as I readied my sling, what may I say? Again, I was trying to save the kids.
I owe my life to Tinytusks. Any other goblin or orc chieftain would have ordered his warriors to charge at once, and I would have died, quite heroically. But the chieftain halted his goblins.
Soon, the whole scene turned into a scene from a puppet theater. My clients, disregarding my advice, had went deep in the marsh, his feet deep in the muddy ground, in a sorry attempt for escape. The mule was happily standing, not understanding or caring for what was around. And there I was staring at the goblins, which, minute by minute, started to look like, well… people.
Fate casted the dice when the goblin called Thicky, gave a step towards me. I decided what to do in an instant. Not giving myself up, of course, nor running away, and I did not want to kill anybody, so I shoot at him, right at his wrist! I almost believed my display of skill would impress them, but the goblins charged at me, and before I could load another stone, they jumped over me, four goblins at once, grabbing me a prisoner.
As for my clients, they were panicked enough to fell in a pondweed covered pool, from which they could only escape when the goblins reach and captured them. Rain began right after that, and didn't pause, until we all, friend and foe, reached their hut.