The Tarred Goat’s takeover

(This story is a brief episode in the history of Tiat, a quarter-goblin thief, who is the main character in a book series I am currently writing.)

The enormously obese proprietor of the Tarred Goat, Garren, stalked across the small room. His cruelly twisted smile sent shivers of fear and disgust down the woman’s spine. She struggled to sit up on the bed, but the shackles binding her to the wall hindered her movement.

Garren chuckled as he watched the gnome struggle. His massive bulk shook with mirth. He delighted in watching his captive writhe and squirm. He paused with every step, prolonging her misery.

From the common room came the sounds of bawdy songs, the bard encouraging participation from the drunken travelers and villagers who crowded the bar. The silvery-haired gnome cried out in desperation, hoping against hope that tonight, finally, someone would come to her aid.

The woman’s small body was barely covered by the shredded remnants of her once-fine clothes. Her eyes, reddened by tears, stared wildly at the grotesque man stalking toward her. She begged, blubbering and crying, for her dignity. When that failed, as it always did, she turned to cursing his name, his family, his ability to perform. Her ire only drew more laughter from the beastly man.

Just as Garren reached the bed, the door of the room flew open. As swiftly as it was opened, it was closed. But not before an elegant elf in midnight clothing stepped through the portal, followed by a similarly clad bald woman.

The elf flashed a smile, twice as cruel as Garren’s own, the pearly teeth stark against his flawless lavender skin. The tall man bowed sardonically toward the obese innkeeper, then swept a more courtly bow to the cowering gnome on the bed.

The elf’s companion also grinned at the portly human. Her hands slid from inside her vest to reveal twin daggers that glinted viciously in the light of the room. She turned her vibrant yellow-green eyes to the gnome.

“You’s be ready, Dreysil,” the goblin asked the smaller woman, with a nod toward the confused innkeeper. When the gnome nodded, the bald gobliness threw both daggers, striking the obese human in each shoulder, severing the tendons that allowed his arms movement. The man dropped to his knees, his screams of pain lost in the raucous noise of the oblivious drunkards carousing in the common room.

“Interesting choice, little Tempest,” the elf drawled. “Perhaps you should assist our new-found friend, while I complete the task you’ve left for me? I should so hate to see our host collapse in pain before he realizes the extent of his dilemma.”

The goblin growled, hating the name he called her, but she hastened to finish her part of the rescue. She slipped across the now-bloody floor to the gnome, where she rapidly released the locked shackles.

Then together, the two women fled from the room, leaving Garren’s further torment to Dueros.

Upstairs, in the elf’s room, the gnome cleaned herself of weeks of torture and pain, while the goblin kept watch for her bondsmaster. When the blademaster finally returned to his room, he grinned evilly at his companion and their new friend.

“The matter is handled, Dreysil,” Dueros smirked. Then he turned to the bald woman, saying, “Perhaps a warm meal would be appropriate, Tiat? Our gnome friend most assuredly needs nourishment and warmth. See to it.”

Tiat scurried from the room, but stopped short on the other side of the door. Dimly, she heard the low murmur of the elf’s voice, then a muffled reply from the gnome. Gnashing her teeth together at being left out of Dueros’ deal, the goblin thief hurried to the kitchen for food.

 

The village was abuzz the next morning. News of a takeover of the village’s largest inn set Tiat’s goblin ears burning. But when she tried to ask Dueros, the crafty elf only chuckled and continued walking, his path leading the pair far from Kalentown.

The tyrant’s ball

The musicians played beautifully, their practiced pieces bouncing through the halls of the palace. Men in their velvet brocades and starchy linen blouses paraded through, guiding their ball-gowned women in the intricate steps of traditional dances. The full silk and taffeta skirts swished and swayed, sweeping lightly across the smooth-as-glass-floor.

The royals, a high prince and his lady, sat upon a dais, high above the crowd. They observed the festivities through jewel-encrusted binoculars, held to their eyes by servants in black crushed velvet. Murmured conversation passed between the two, decisions of life and death, the balance of the kingdom in question.

Flickering light wavered through the crowd of dancers, yellows and reds twisting and cavortingĀ in time to the music. Painted, feathered, and jeweled mask-covered faces turned to the dais as the revelers passed, a quick bow or nod to acknowledge the royals sitting in judgement.

Beneath the plexiglass floors, four stories down, battles raged and fires burned. Cries of anguish and terror drifted into the silence of distance. Charred velvets and stinking silks drifted along in a heat-fueled vortex of air, ash flung far and wide.

With a nod, a wink, or wave of a hand, the high prince decided who lived and who flew. Soldiers moved, untouched in the crowds, to escort the lucky few. Men and women, unfit for the new order, pushed to join the battle, fodder for the usurper’s war.

In velvets and silks, cotton and taffeta, the unwilling soldiers in a tyrant’s crusade, died by the hundreds, their blood cementing his resolve, building his walls.