“Ouug arwhee uck awooo,” a goblin holding a short sword with an intricate, but heavy, hilt said to his two companions; Translated into the common tongue: “You boys know who we’re looking for. You all know the prophecy.”
“Uk. Ooowheekee uhuk huk arwoooo arweek ook,” said his companion armed with a brightly polished dagger; Translated roughly: “Yea but I’m not gonna just go in there and politely ask if anybody’s seen him.”
“Whoowhek! Hueeek huek arrdooweeee uk arwoo!” a third with a rock tied to the end of a stick added; Translated: “He’s right! I came for glory and to take many human ears!”
“I heard all warriors take the ears of their victims as trophies.”
“So you’re a warrior now? Have you named your stupid bashing stick?” the goblin with the shiny knife teased.
“I have! It shall be ‘Firestarter!’” the goblin held his weapon before him.
”Named for kindling?”
“No! Named for the blaze of fear it shall spread in the hearts of men!”
The other goblins rolled their eyes and wished they could have left Gwerk home in the caves.
“Riiiight,” the goblin with the sword took charge. “Let’s get moving. Gwerk, remember: wait until we have the town surrounded. We can’t let him escape. The future of our people depends on us.”
Gwerk was preoccupied with his weapon and visions of himself standing atop a pile of ears and shaking Firestarter at a sky dark with smoke, ready to overthrow the heavens. He nodded along to the victory song being composed in his thoughts and his companions misinterpreted the gesture as compliance. They slinked back down the hill overlooking Windy Wood to rejoin the rest of their force.
The tribe was gathered in a nearby valley and split into three squadrons. In silence, under a night sky smothered with heavy quilts of clouds, the hill goblins of Windy Wood marched for pride and the preservation of their people. Nearly all were armed with no more than sharpened sticks, throwing stones and unkempt fingernails. They walked hunched over and looked more akin to pigs sniffing for mushrooms than a party of fighters on a warpath.
“Wake up, son! Pinkys are attacking the town!” Frank Trueheart shook Addi in his cot.
“Huh? What’s going on?”
“Get up and help! I’ll be out there,” Frank stopped long enough to look back once more at his son and then flew out of the cabin in his undergarments.
“Pinkys are attacking? What does that even mean?” Addi wondered if sleep had twisted his father’s words. In all his life, he had never heard of goblins doing such a thing. His father might as well have told him that the squirrels were joining in and manning the catapults. Addi pulled on his boots and pushed through the front door more annoyed at being robbed of sleep than worried about whatever his father had said but after a single step, he realized that his dad wasn’t pulling his leg.
Flames were dancing in Windy Wood against the screen of dawn. It was true! Pinkys were attacking the town! Addi didn’t know whether to laugh or be frightened at the absurd reality. He armed himself with the first thing within reach, a shovel, and ran down the path after his father.
When Addi entered town, Frank Trueheart was nowhere to be found in the chaos that had consumed Windy Wood. It was clear that the goblins, in preparation for the assault, had focused entirely on enthusiasm in lieu of martial training or tactics. The pinkys weren’t just attacking the citizens; they were attacking everything in sight. Addi watched as one goblin scaled the livery and gnawed on the structure’s support beams. A pair of pinkys cackled and took turns rolling a rock through a flower garden, flattening all of the innocent blossoms. Scattered throughout, smaller groups of goblins had already turned on each other and were wrestling in the dirt, biting their own kind.
Unfortunately, not all of the mayhem was so harmless. An early raider had rushed into town before all others with a visible lust for violence. When the bloodthirsty goblin raised his weapon, a club poorly made from a stone and stick, the knot holding the implement together failed and the rock zipped through an oil lamp stationed on a window ledge. The lantern exploded and engulfed the cottage and confused goblin alike. The blaze carried easily on a summer breeze and the back of the burning pinky, spreading among the dry buildings of Windy Wood.
“The beasts are enkindling themselves to vector their destruction! What madness!” the mayor clutched his head and bemoaned while standing atop his roof. Rellec Munchik, who proclaimed to be the most intelligent man in town, was largely useless and contributing by directing the damage control efforts of his constituents from a safe height.
By the time Addi arrived, the mayor was shouting at half the town to chase off the pinkys and the other half to race to and from wells to fill buckets with water.
“Awruuuhigg!” a cry startled Addi when he stopped to gawk. He barely sidestepped a goblin’s thrust and the pinky, carried by his momentum, stumbled past Addi. The runt struggled to lift his sword but readied for a second charge nonetheless.
“Awruuuhigg huc huuuuc!” the goblin squealed as he lowered his head and pointed his blade.
The pinky stopped short and swung in a sweeping arc that missed Addi by several feet. The weight of the opulent sword was too much for the goblin’s grip and the weapon sailed off into a patch of long grass. The pinky watched his expensive sword fly and was trying to memorize its approximate location when Addi brought his shovel into play. With one lazy swing, the pinky’s skull cracked and he crumpled.
“They aren’t much more than pink skin stretched over bones,” Addi sympathized over the lifeless body. “What has gotten into these things? I better find Dad.”
The defense of Windy Wood was successful once the last of the fire was extinguished. The worst injuries sustained were due to smoke inhalation and a few minor burns. Not a single ear was lost among the populace that hadn’t already been missing. Nadler had defended his father’s tavern alongside the woman with the braided blond hair whom had not departed with The Dealer after all. Nadler fought off a band of pinkys with a battered old sword that had been left behind by a guest years before he was born. The only other resident who even owned a proper sword was the elderly town marshal but he was too feeble to stand for any length of time and fought off the invasion sitting atop a stool outside his home. The stool didn’t prove to be a hindrance. In the end, the senior warrior was encircled by a mess of pinkys inattentive enough to enter his range.
After his own share of scuffles, Addi spent the conflict dashing through burning houses looking for his father. If he knew anything for a certainty it was that Frank Trueheart would be helping the town’s families to safety and not looking to abuse the maddened goblins. Every time he kicked through the embers and ash of a collapsed home, his heart raced. What if his dad had been buried beneath in an act of bravery? Addi’s fears stemmed from the first book in ’The Sword and the Road’ trilogy where the same misfortune befell the family of Broxton’s protagonist. The idea of anything or anyone outworking his dad, even Death himself, seemed impossible but where was he?
“Addi! Addi!” a widow who bought apples from the Truehearts screamed when she spotted the youth. “Addi! My boy, come quick!”
“What is it, Ms. Harring?” Addi asked but wasn’t certain he wanted to know.
“Come with me! Thank the Goddess I found you!” the widow moved at a pace dangerous for a woman her age and Addi chased after.
“Ms. Harring!” Addi burst through the door of the cottage the widow led him to. “Is he ok?”
“Is who ok? Not so loud, please. There’s enough of that out there,” the widow stood beside a large, gold accented travel chest constructed of thick wood and patted it like a faithful pet. “Could you be a dear and help me hide this for a second? It’s so very heavy and I’d hate for those nasty pinkys to damage it during all this riff raff.”
Addi ground his teeth. Irritation mixed with the medley of anxiety and frustration already bubbling in his mind.
“Be careful with it. The front door will be a tight fit,” the old woman chided and Addi boiled over. He kicked Ms. Harring’s door and broke it free from its hinges.
“That should do the trick!” he shouted at the terrified widow before stepping out and filling his lungs to capacity.
“DADDDDDD!” he roared.
“What?” the response came from the wreckage of Ms. Harring’s neighbor’s home, not ten feet away. The roof had fallen in and Frank Trueheart was unharmed and wrestling with the debris. “Stop screaming like a fool. It’s embarrassing.”
“Sorry, Dad.” Addi felt like a barrel of apples had been lifted off his chest.
“Get over here and help me with this for a second. I think there’s a cat trapped under here,” Frank Trueheart said to his son.
In the aftermath of the assault, Frank and Addison Trueheart visited every home in Windy Wood and offered their assistance. By the time they had completed the circuit, the sun was fully awake and already warming the ground. The town was a mess. Pinky corpses dotted the street and many homes had lost roofs and walls. On top of all that, Ms. Harring was crying about a new door. Addi recognized the look on his father’s face and knew he wouldn’t see his bed for a long time. There was work to do. For the first time in his life, but not the last, Addison Trueheart hated goblins.