Reaver’s ears twitched to the sound of trickling water, and the crunch of his advisor’s heel behind him. He curls his long tail around his scythe, so Mannor didn’t have to step over it. He knew the enemy were within war shot, the mighty bows strapped to his reapers backs. These massive weapons made from black iron stolen from the dwarven halls were forged in the bowels of the earth where the magma ran free.
Mannor peers across the cavern, his dark red eyes picking out the small movements of the goblins craving out the Rockwall. Some moved jagged stones across to a ditch in crude trolleys while others chipped away at glistening gemstones. Jewels of every hue and color sparkle in a heap as the Flubb light gave the cave a disco effect.
The cavern was one of the biggest of Reaver’s dwelling, and with the steady trickle of running water down its damp side and precious stones, it offered far more sustainability than his deeper caves. Reaver and his army of reapers had been carving out his ratdom under the Topland surface, steadily amounting a network of cave systems and cavernous room from the dwarfs strongholds for his ever-growing family.
With the sudden murder of the dwarven king, Reaver had been able to take advantage of their disorganization and capture many parts of their kingdom. With the amassing of territory, he had left a small band of reapers in each domain to secure his holdings, but this one had been conquered by an unusual foe.
Mannor hissed, pointing a long twisted finger at a stone dais wedged up on a pinnacle. A big yellow tinged goblin languished on a cot made of rags. Two muscular goblins with tin shoulder pads and dented breastplates stood by his side with massive hammers while a female fed the Goblin food.
“That must be the master.” Said, Mannor.
Reaver voice sounds harsh through the black rags that wrap his face and body as if it pained him to speak.
“Then he will die last.”
He wrapped a stray black cloth over his scarred snout and peered down to the horde waiting below in the darkness. One milky white eye could not see the vastness of his brothers and sisters, and although the cave ceiling was bright with hundreds of flubbs. His army had sequestered themselves well within the shadows. The Flubbs bioluminescence caused washes of blue to splash the cavern floor, and gemmed walls, a sparkle of green glistened on the goblin king’s head as he adjusted a tattered crown.
“This Goblin King has settled himself nicely in your absence Reaver and is stealing your stones. I will make him grovel at your feet and beg for mercy.”
Reaver turned a burning red eye on his old advisor. Mannor had stood at his side for many battles and knew that look.
“He is mine.”
Mannor flicked his head around to the small unit of reapers standing quietly behind them. A few still panted heavily from the climb with the war shots on their backs; the other half were burden with long thick rods with sharp tips and feathers from the carcass of a Topland bird. Each reaper mimicked they master’s dark, ragged clothing.
The burden of the war shots didn’t allow them the luxury of protecting their bodies like their brethren below, where each reaper wore the armor of their fallen foes over the dark cloth. However, some had fashioned theirs with paints, spikes, and other metal findings filed to sharp edges. Most had the skulls of dead animals and trinket from their battles wrapped around their waists. Each reaper was more grotesque than the next as they sort to be scarier than their neighbor
Five of his reapers move toward the ledge where Reaver stood, at the edge, they bow down as if a deity was waiting in the air before them. Mannor flicks another finger to their waiting counterparts, and they scurry to their side. Each one kick out the legs of the war shot to steady the burden and placed their bolts at the base of the groove and taut metal strings. The legions of reapers below wait in anticipation, some sniggered through labored breathing and unsheathed their muffled weapons. Soon the call will be given, and goblin blood would run free.
Reaver nodded to his advisor and held his scythe in the air. Mannor pulled a notched sword from his belt and held it aloft as Reaver slammed down the butt of his weapon on the stone floor. The slow rhythmic beat echoed around the cave as the reapers moved forward.
A goblin who sat high up the rocky wall in a sling saw the approaching army before anyone else, but he was too far up for anyone to hear his calls. The goblins on the ground turned around stupidly as the Goblin king tried in vain to sit up on his cot. His scrappy crown slipped down over his eyes adding to the comradery of the scene. Eventually, the two guards help him to stand, his large belly reached down to his knees and hindered his walking. The deep boom of Reaver’s scythe grew faster.
A noise like thunder shook the stone wall as large chunks of rocks showered down on the goblins. The war bolt embedded in the wall caused the collection of small blobs to go into a frenzy. Loud shrieks emerged as they threw down their tools and ran around in distress as another canopy of noise fills the cavern.
Two more bolts shatter the wall that the goblins had started to flee through. A huge fragment of stone crushed a band of goblins as they tried to escape with armfuls of gems. One still clutched feebly at a large red ruby as she drew her last breath. The goblins cried out and scampered in vain to shift the cave-in.
The war cries of the reapers announce their coming and fear flowed through their masses as the goblin king waddled through. His guars swung their massive hammers over the heads of the crowd making a path for their charge.
Another blot whooshed over the kings head and embedded itself in the rubble, killing those close by. The king turned and pulled at his flabby ears as the reapers flowed out on the cavern floor like a wave of death.
The horde of reapers closed over the pathetic party and drowned out the screams of their victims with roars of triumph. The goblin king found himself squashed by his two guards and the rock at his back. The sea of reapers ebbed and flowed like a boiling tide as a big rat made its way through the throng, each step was punctured by a wicked looking scythe as the figure neared the trembling king.
The goblin king pulled his two guards in front of him and hid his face. Reaver stabbed the first through the breastplate, and he collapsed dead at his feet, the other fainted and crumbled on top of the first. Reaver stuck him as he spoke.
“You take my cave for your kingdom?”
Reaver sucked in another breath as his weapon came away with sticky green blood. The king groveled at his feet pleading for mercy and pulled at his slack clothing in distress as he looked around at the faces of the reapers.
“You take my stones for your kingdom?”
He lowered the scythe in front of the king’s terrified eyes, and a glob of blood fell from the blade landing in his lap. He watched as the tip of his scythe rose and hooked off the tattered crown. It was nothing more than an old steel rebar that had been twisted to form a roughly round shape with a green sapphire fitted into a makeshift loop.
“I’m not the king.” The goblin squeaked and flinched as reaver tossed the crown into the leering crowd.
“I’m just a beater put in charge of the mining. The King is in Nextus.”
The goblin clamped his clammy hands over his mouth as the words escaped his lips. Reapers at his side serrated the air with their teeth and barked at him. Mannor had made his way to Reavers side and knelt down to look into the goblin’s face. He lifted his quivering chin to meet his blood red eyes; the goblins yellow orbs flicked between the Reaver and this new rat in dismay.
“You will tell Reaver where this Nextus is, no?”
The goblin had found a quiet reserve in the face of death. He closed his eyes and thought about a tiny blob sitting on his mother’s lap waiting for his father to come home, thought about the lank, greasy hair and a flowery smell of the only love he had ever had. Thought about the smoky yellow eyes that he would never be able to tell he loved again. Jora knew he was about to die and accepted his fate.
Jora pulled his chin from Mannor’s hand and turned his face away, Mannor sharp nails sliced the skin of his neck drawing blood. Mannor glanced up to his leader and smiled.
“So be it.” Rasped Reaver as he turned and walked through his army of reapers.
Jora closed his eyes and held the image of his wife and child in the eyes of his mind as the sea closed over him.
Picture credit Voyage_of _Roadkill
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