Welcome to Fiction Friday, a feature on our blog where we contribute a new piece of lore to the universe of one of our games. This Friday, we are bringing you part 2 of The Delivery, a story that debuted earlier this month. You can check out part 1 here before you dive in to the new installment.
— — —
Five days later, Grorglesnax dragged himself into the cluster of curiously ornamented tents that was the Artificer Collective. The sun beat down hard upon his bald head – he was near Totemcall, Daelore’s most arid and sandy locale – and his body was covered with several fresh bruises. A few of the places the wasps had stung him still sported shiny red welts.
Lips parched and feeling dizzy, he looked around, saw no one, and collapsed, deciding that waiting for service could be done prone just as well as standing. For a while, the only sounds in the tent camp were the muffled clangs of smiths and the buzzing of an unidentified bug around Grorglesnax’s motionless left ear.
After a period of time – Grorglesnax was not sure how long, or even if he’d been conscious for the duration – there was some rustling in the closest tent to him, a grey burlap number with several strings of bead-bones draped off an overhang. A goblin head, wearing pince-nez glasses situated uncomfortably close to its eyes, poked out of the tent flap and pointed a tight little scowl in Grorglesnax’s direction. The tent flap closed for a moment and then reopened as the full goblin to whom the head belonged scuttled outside toward the orcish intruder.
The goblin was dressed in a tunic that appeared to made from the same material as her tent. One hand on her dagger, she inched up to Grorglesnax and prodded him with her foot.
“Can I… help you?” she asked.
Groaning at a pain in his shoulder, Grorglesnax pushed himself to his feet.
“Parcel…” he said, holding out Killbert’s paper and a bag of coins. “For the Warspire orcs.”
The goblin eyed the bag suspiciously and then snatched it, opening the top to reveal its contents. She looked back Grorglesnax, less suspicious now but still annoyed that someone had dared interrupt her creative endeavors.
“Please go wait in there,” she said, pointing at a maroon tent at the edge of the camp. A golden sun was painted on the side. “Can you tell me what the Collective was working on for you?”
Grorglesnax shook his head. “They… they wouldn’t tell me.”
The goblin squinted, her mouth curling into a small frown.
“Very well,” she sighed. “Wait there, and I will find what you came for.”
Inside the maroon tent, Grorglesnax was surprised to find a circular, bubbling bath, heated by a carefully tended fire. A goblin with a patch of slicked-back black hair and puffy purple robe was sitting on a nearby chaise lounge and hopped up when Grorglesnax opened the flap; the goblin placed the book he’d been reading, “The Deepwood Terrors: A History,” on a small end table before approaching the battered orc.
“Hello sir!” the goblin said with a toothy smile, indulging in a deep and showy bow. “Welcome to the Artificer Collective! I do hope your journey to us hasn’t been too taxing.”
Grorglesnax stared at him. Eventually, the severity of the orc’s injuries seemed to dawn on the goblin spamaster.
“Err… well, please let any prior unpleasantness wash away in our bubblytub while you wait for your completed parcel!” the goblin said. “You can leave your outer clothes here and wait in the tub for however long you’d like!”
Grorglesnax had half a mind to be reticent, but he knew he needed a moment of recovery after the abuse he’d taken on his trip – after the wasps, he’d accidentally ventured near the Break and briefly tangled with an unknown creature who blasted beams of light at him from a staff-mounted kobold orb. Gingerly, he shed his clothes, handed them to the spamaster, and eased himself into the tub.
He heard a rustling behind him, and suddenly the spamaster’s hand jutted into his field of view, proffering him a glass of zelfeyade. Grorglesnax mumbled his thanks and sipped on the cool beverage, allowing his mind to unfocus before the inevitable hardship on the way back to Warspire.
Maybe this all was just a test, he thought to himself. Maybe when I get this back to them, they’ll promote me to a grunt or a scout…
— — —
The wait had ended too quickly for Grorglesnax. In seemingly no time, the first goblin he’d spoken to entered the tent and told him his parcel had been found and was ready, and though the spamaster told the orc he could continue to soak, Grorglesnax knew he’d already be due a tongue-lashing for dawdling by the time he arrived back. He got up, toweled off, retrieved the parcel and left. The parcel was roughly cylindrical, with one end bigger and heavier than the other, and about two arrow-lengths long. It was wrapped in twine and brown paper, and Grorglesnax was tempted to open it, but he was determined to complete the delivery by the book.
Just do the work. No mess, no fuss, he thought.
He made good time, despite the added weight of the parcel, and by the second day of his return trip, he found himself in the Halloway Forest. His only new injury so far had been a shock from a krelln hollowbell as he crossed the Sibron. In the forest, he’d so far managed to steer clear of any additional hostile primates, and he was actually kind of enjoying the leafy shade and fresh air.
And then, without warning, a large rock hurtled in his direction, connecting with the back of his head.
Grorglesnax fell forward, throwing his arms out in front of him and accidentally casting away the parcel as he did so. His hands slipped on the mossy ground, and his face hit the earth. He tasted blood, and the base of his skull felt wet as well. He felt dizzy.
He tried to push himself up, but his limbs were wooden. He peered out at the world through slitted eyes, hoping they were still shut enough for his assailant to think him unconscious.
Soon, he heard the crunch of approaching footsteps, and a pair of goblins came into view. One, a thin female wearing a leather vest and an eyepatch, put her hands on her hips and surveyed the scene. The other, Grorglesnax realized with a start, was the spamaster who’d served him back at the Collective, now clad in a light shirt and what looked to be freshly-pressed jodhpurs that flared at the waist.
“Nice shot,” the spamaster remarked, bending over to get a better look at Grorglesnax’s injuries. “He shouldn’t be in any condition to fight anyone anytime soon. Anyway, I checked his things back at the camp. He didn’t have any weapons on him.”
Those dirty double-dealers! Grorglesnax thought, mind aflame. They meant the whole time to take my money and steal the parcel back!
“Right, right, that’s good,” said the other goblin, distracted. “Now help me look around. I can’t see where he pitched the thing.”
“All right, all right,” the spamaster said, straightening up. “It can’t be far.”
The goblins continued to talk as they hunted through the brush and checked inside hollowed out trees, but Grorglesnax could no longer hear them. His head was buzzing with white-hot fury.
They think I’m nothing!
He moved his right arm into a push-up position.
They’re trying to steal from me!
He moved his left arm into the same.
They’re leaving me to die in these woods on a stupid job that I was sent on by a bunch of lazy fools!
He pushed himself up. He felt hot. For the moment, the goblins hadn’t yet noticed his current state.
Nostrils flaring, Grorglesnax looked in the direction he’d last seen the parcel. Quickly, he spotted it, buried deep in a dense bush at such an angle that you’d have to be directly in front of it to see. He scrambled over to pick it up and noticed that the paper had gotten torn in the fall.
Catching a dull glint of metal, he paused for a moment to look closer. He heard a muffled yell, as if off in the distance, and knew his mobility had been discovered. He didn’t care. A new indignity had just made itself known to him.
They sent me here to pick up Marrow’s Skull Crack Axe and they wouldn’t even let me bring a manticore!
At that moment, the spamaster reached him, attempting to fell him with a tackle from behind. Grorglesnax screamed in anger and twisted his body violently, shaking the goblin to the ground with a thud. Grorglesnax ripped through the paper and gripped madly at the axe, turning to face his opponent.
The goblin scrambled to his feet, holding out both hands in front of him.
“You’re crazy, man!” he said. “You can’t fight us in this condition! Just give us the axe, and we’ll –”
“Try me!” Grorglesnax roared, rushing toward his foe. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement, and he ducked just in time for another rock to whiz over his head. The other goblin fumbled with her sling to ready the next shot.
The spamaster reached for a small club, but as he drew it, Grorglesnax was upon him, swinging the huge axe in an arc that chopped the goblin’s arm off at the shoulder. The spamaster fell to his knees, crying out – until Grorglesnax slammed the flat of the axe down, hard, on his head, crumpling him to the ground.
The orc turned toward his other opponent, who let another rock fly. Accessing a pool of strength he never knew he had, Grorglesnax raised the axe and batted the stone to the side as if flicking away a careless fly.
“Run,” he growled.
The goblin looked as if she was considering it, but she drew a short sword instead. Grorglesnax raised his leader’s legendary axe again and charged, howling the entire time. After the orc parried a stab with the sword, the goblin tried to dodge out of the way, but she wasn’t fast enough. She screamed in pain, clutching the side of her head as her left ear fluttered to the ground.
Grorglesnax held the axe to her neck.
“Now will you run?” he breathed.
Tearing up, the goblin nodded.
“Go,” he said. “Tell them of Grorglesnax.”
She turned and dashed away. Panting, Grorglesnax surveyed his surroundings. All was at peace again. If not for the bloody ear and the still goblin, no one would ever know a struggle had taken place here.
Grorglesnax hoisted the axe onto his shoulder. Nearby, he found a large, misshapen boulder with a shady outcropping. Setting the axe down beside him, Grorglesnax laid down and fell asleep, dreaming of what he’d do to Killbert when he returned to Warspire.
Stats: 1 Pt Baddie, 3 Ini, 1 Atk, 3 HP, Melee
Skills: Rage 1
Game: Too Many Bones