Grinless the Goblin

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Summary

Growing up, Grinless (before he was dubbed such, as goblins are merely called "Hey you!" until they do something or show a feature that singles them out from the others) was neither the smallest nor the biggest. And all he wanted was a quiet life filed with pranks, despicable behavior, and things of a gross nature. Never would he have guessed he would become a hero of legend.

Genre:
Fantasy / Humor
Author:
KennethLLynch
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Untitled chapter

Growing up, Grinless (before he was dubbed such, as goblins are merely called “Hey you!” until they do something or show a feature that singles them out from the others) was neither the smallest nor the biggest. And while he played goblin games and got dirty and stinky with the others, no matter how much he enjoyed himself he didn’t once crack a smile. He grimaced, he frowned, he squinted, he gaped, but never did he smile. The most he did was gnash his teeth, which he did rather evilly. So as the goblin clan mother began to give out names such as Bat-ears, Pointy-chin, Veiny, Glorunga, Yowwow, Snotty, and Runs (not called so for athletic ability, but sadly for always running to the latrine pit), he was finally called Grinless. When he responded by squinting and teeth-gnashing, the other elders agreed on his naming.

From that point on, Grinless made it an active choice to live up to his title by outright refusing to smile. Even when laughing he did so angrily with no upturned lips, especially so because if he was laughing it was over someone’s misfortune or because he’d enacted revenge upon a prankster. He wasn’t so much aggressively angry as always grumpy, like no amount of naps could ever put him in a lighter mood. On the contrary, he seemed to like bad moods, having bad luck, and complaining about everything. As an adolescent, no matter what clan, job, or task he was given nothing seemed to settle with him. He whittled the hamster poking sticks too pointy and stabbed himself too much in the testing, he sneezed in the mold pits and blew the food mold to bits, he tore the hamster skins while curing them, he burnt the food and let the campfires go out, and he hogged the slop and mud in the pig sties so much the villagers (and the pigs) complained of his smell and the neglect of the pigs. Finally, they just let him do whatever he wanted, wandering about collecting trash for his secret stash in a rotting log, gather skunk ferns, and mold his excessive earwax into odd figures.

For the annual pranking festival, they encouraged him to take part, recalling with fondness his childhood tricks. The Trickster celebration’s marathon pranks started well, when the feast stew overcooked early, bubbled over, and the burning stench clouded over all. Then the pig herd somehow got free and stampeded, trampling over a few of the young, elderly, and slow. A bit much, but the elders praised Grinless for his genius timing. Yet the pigs were never rounded up, which could lead to food shortages. A banner caught fire from the stew-fire, and soon the whole village was in flames. Screaming and fleeing, the elders changed their minds. Grinless had gone too far; now he was a menace who didn’t know when to stop. Gathered outside the disaster area, the village crowd witnessed Grinless return from the bog where he’d been collecting stink bugs while his pranks ran wild. Having no container, he’d stuck the bugs in his overlarge and waxy ears, he asked, “What’s all the fuss? Did I miss the parade and feast?”

The elders now saw Grinless as a harbinger of even goblin doom. Rather than kicking him out officially, they “awarded” him the right to start his rite of passage years early, though he did wonder why they told him not to bother returning. Probably because they were moving after the village burnt down, he figured. So Grinless struck out alone with a poorly sharpened poking stick, his stink bug collection, and a rucksack full of smelly, slimy plants and mold. Except of course for Krigga, a childhood companion (really just someone he couldn’t get rid of) who claimed to be his best friend and who’d journey with him until the end if his days.

So Grinless promptly lost him in the misty woods.

Grinless The Goblin: Two

The problem was Grinless himself got lost. He shrugged, not having a plan other than to leave his village and old life behind. Having lived in swamps and marshes he decided he’d like to see the drier lands to the East, full of treacherous mountains and barren wastelands; that sounded nice.

Except, being lost, Grinless continued south into more marshes and damp woods. He avoided paths but one main road kept winding its way across his. He also avoided other travelers by moving at night and sleeping the day, but still some annoying people claiming to be an adventuring group, the Steel Shirts, greeted him and welcomed him to their camp (though he was already camped there once!). While leaving, they blathered about their quest for the haunted castle of Rhelgar, with the fabled Indestructible Shield of Habor, and the Undefeatable Sword of Konam. Grinless farted, grumbling about stupid humans not knowing goblins hated them. Especially Grinless, who hated everyone and just wanted to be left alone.

Towards midnight, when he thought he was far enough away from the humans he finally found a nice abandoned castle ruin. He liked the way a constant fog surrounded it yet the moon also made it glow eerily, and a non-existent wind constantly howled through it; rather charming and atmospheric. He huddled in a corner pile of damp, moldy rags and human-sized bones. Cozy! he thought. A bit famished, he decided to treat himself to a hunt. The fog made it confusing and hard to find his usual rodent prey, but luckily some adventurers left some nice juicy warhorses tied to a tree in front of the castle. No one was around, so Grinless decided to do them a favor. He chose the biggest, climbed a tree, and did his special kamikaze spear dive with poking stick straight for the horse’s eye. Even though it hit directly it took a while to actually die, making an awful racket, and broke his poking stick in the process. He was forced to borrow an axe from a saddlebag to hack off a hind leg, leaving the rest (still full of all that lovely blood) for the no doubt hungry adventurers to eat when they were done doing whatever. He dragged the leg thru the dirt and brush for seasoning and went back to the castle and his campsite. He thought he heard a gruff voice saying something about, “Thought I heard the horses...” so he avoided the speaker in the fog.

Back in his corner of the castle he realized there was no good way to cook the horse leg; the area was too damp for a fire, no kindling, and his best poking stick was broke. He hunted around for something and eventually found what looked like a decaying old throne room--just vacated by a spectral Dread knight going to investigate the party exploring the castle front. Beneath the throne was a large chest filled with useless glittery gems and shiny metal coins, but there was a sword and shield that gave Grinless an idea. On the way back he had to duck into an empty (but for two perplexed banshees) room to avoid the adventuring party’s moving battle with the Dread knight. The stone staircase (the only way up or down) crumbled after Grinless got back, and with all the noise and bother of the party upstairs the goblin decided to leave--too crowded. He bid the ravenous rats and huge poisonous spiders farewell, and exited the castle. He was met with the dying screams of the party and the Dread knight cackling something about the only weapons that could defeat him were hidden in the throne room. Whatever that meant.

Outside he found some tamped down mud and a nice sitting rock, and set the fire on the shield’s underside with the meat roasting on the sword; a nice setup. He congratulated himself on his ingenuity. His enjoyment was short lived however. While smoking some horse jerky a figure stumbled out of the darkness; a dwarf warrior, pale-in-the-face, muttering something about his whole party killed while he checked the horses only to find someone had killed his horse Bessa and taken a leg! Rudely, the dwarf sat down and began eating some jerky (though Grinless never invited him) as he introduced himself. He was Goobdwib Macefist, adventuring warrior, now partyless, he added sadly.

“And brainless,” Grinless mumbled. When asked what the meat was Grinless replied nastily, “Warhorse.” Goobdwib froze. The added shock apparently too much, the dwarf shortly after rolled over and went to sleep, eyes-wide open. When he was sure the dwarf was asleep, Grinless packed his things and left, the ash-smeared shield and greasy sword added to his pack. They might be useful, he decided.

Grinless The Goblin: Three

The darkness lifted to early morning a certain distance from the haunted castle, but Grinless decided to chance it to avoid any more annoying people trying to join him. Sadly, who should find him but his self-proclaimed best friend, Krigga. The snaggle-toothed goblin went on, unasked for, into how he survived the misty woods and belchy bog by feasting on the blood of reptiles and rodents. “I know we have the ceremonial cup of hamster blood with every 7-day meal, but the fresh flavor of wood critter blood--there’s nothing like it! I tell ya I could live off the stuff!” and though few would care, this is the origin of Krigga the Blood Drinker. Not that he was particularly good in battle; just at every chance he would drink the blood of something like a hobo vampire.

Krigga went on to say how it enhanced his sense of smell and hearing, just like a wood critter. “But one downside, Grinless ol’ buddy,” he said to uncaring bat-ears, “Something happened to my eyes while swimming in the bog, because they keep filming over with gunk. What you think I should do?” Grinless, who’d been trying to ignore and lose Krigga harumphed, “Go stick yer head in dung-”

“Say, you think that’ll work? I got some right here somewhere...” he began rummaging in his bag.

Trying to sneak off from Krigga, Grinless ran right into Goobdwib. Horribly, the dwarf hugged the goblin with joy. As Grinless squealed and squirmed to get away, the dense dwarf explained how he’d figured it all out. “Grinless, ye saved me life!” Grinless protested angrily, he did no such thing as the dwarf told how realizing the goblin had killed his horse (and spooked the other horses into breaking free) caused Goobdwib to investigate and thus miss dying in the haunted castle like his party. Now Goobdwib saw Grinless as his personal savior and was indebted to him. “and a dwarf-oath is quite serious. We could follow someone on a life-debt our entire, long-lived, lives! All I need is the name of my savior to do the dwarf-oath proper.” Grinless thought, if I can just get away with o him finding out my--

“Grinless! There you are ol’ buddy,” called Krigga, arriving with a pile of animal droppings in hand. “Nearly lost you. Here, found the dung, so like you said-” and he promptly rubbed it into his eyes. Grinless frown-chuckled while the dwarf blinked in confusion. Goobdwib cleared his throat, “Right! Grinless is ye name. Now then,” assuming a ceremonial pose with one arm still gripping Grinless tight he proclaimed, “Grinless, I pledge to thee/for good deeds done/thru trouble and worry respectfully and honor won For brave and selfless acts and staying straight and true/I be your companion axe/for all time attached to you.” The smiling dwarf looked Grinless in the eye and said, “Yer a true hero, Grinless!”

WITH that, Grinless screamed and clawed his way free. He took off running, no direction in mind but away from those tagalongs and the foolish idea of him as a hero. Krigga pelted after saying, “Oh, silly Grinless, he forgot me again. I’m with ya buddy!” Goondwib gathered his things and followed loyally. “Oh, that brilliant goblin doesn’t want to waste time getting to the next quest. He’s so excited he nearly clawed me nose off. Goblins are strange, but can’t argue with the results. I’ve got the rearguard, master Grinless!”

Grinless ran tirelessly. He ran by a caravan halted before a nest of vipers, stamping right over the deadly snakes, unhearing of the caravan’s thanks. Krigga grabbed the smashed snakes for a nice blood-snack on the run. Goobdwib followed shouting the name of the caravan’s helper, “Grinless the goblin is ye savior’s name. Spread the word of his heroics!” Confused but unable to deny what they saw, the caravan did just that.

#

On and on it went. Grinless ran thru a house fire, causing it to collapse and spend the flames, preventing its spread to the town. Krigga grabbed some fried rodents for dinner. Goobdwib continued crying out the town’s savior’s name, Grinless the hero goblin.

Grinless climbed a huge tree and slingshot himself over a deep gorge. Just after the tree fell, creating a sturdy, wide bridge for travelers to use instead of a long, winding treacherous path. Krigga grabbed bird’s eggs for flavoring and rubbing in his eyes. Goobdwib proclaimed the bridge be named after its hero creator: the Grinless bridge.

Grinless trekked thru a fierce battle between stalwart humans and slavering ogres. He tripped the ogre chieftain Chur’guh, who fell and choked on his spiked club. Krigga stopped to enjoy the fount of fresh ogre blood, commenting, “Hmm, tastes like brutality!” Goobdwib hacked at a few confused ogres in passing, rallying the humans under the war cry, “For Grinless, our Hero! Savior of the free lands!”

Run as he did, Grinless couldn’t escape the hateful title of hero.

The unwanted trio eventually came to a point of tired compliance; Grinless couldn’t shake his two companions so accepted their presence like a persistent toe fungus and just tried to keep a certain distance from them. Krigga and Goobdwib saw this as their brave leader scouting ahead for danger or acceptable quests. Grinless would still try to sneak away, but they’d taken to keeping watch of their illusive leader. It was Krigga’s turn; perched up in a tree he was having trouble telling which little blob in the distance was Grinless as his eyes were still clouded with crud. Goobdwib shifted uneasily, “Mayhaps I should be on the lookout? On account I can actually see? Perhaps?” But Krigga interrupted, “Wait, the wind’s shifting... Ah, got his scent. That way!” pointed the half-blind goblin.

They followed, Krigga wrestling with a squirrel. Goobdwib asked, “Ye didn’t happen to get any of his store of nuts, eh?” Krigga shrugged, “Why would I do that?” as he snapped its neck and drained it of blood. Goobdwib shuddered, almost said something, and hurried after Grinless.

Grinless had spied another dilapidated castle set in a dusty, weed overgrown field with a dried moat--a forlorn place and therefore appealing to the antisocial goblin. He found his way in thru a cracked side door. Inside was a mess of old decaying furniture and clothes, leftovers from bandit raids. Grinless was feeling good (or less crabby) about the place until his two sidekicks entered noisily. “Ahoy Grinless! What quest seek ye? What princess to save or royal mystery to solve?” Grinless shushed him, but Krigga sniffed and commented, “Sounds big and empty. Smells dusty and dirty. Me likes! Good for adventuring base, boss?” Grinless shushed him as well. But not just for the awful idea of him doing good intentionally, but because he’d discovered something. Bedrolls, food stores, and a makeshift campfire. Krigga finally sniffed it out too, “This smells newer, boss-buddy. Mebbe not abandoned.” As Grinless went to leave (ditching his foolishly curious comrades) he heard a group returning thru the same side door. He quickly hid behind piles of refuse and broken furniture. He was unfortunately joined by Krigga and a scuffling Goobdwib, who being a dwarf couldn’t sneak well--they rarely saw the point. Grinless looked for a way out while dark clad armored warriors filed past. He was all too aware that Krigga was hunting for rodents again to drink blood. Goobdwib kept catching his eye, pointing excitedly at the obvious bad guys and giving a thumbs-up. Grinless rolled his eyes.

A leader stepped forward, nicer fur-lined cloak, larger broadsword with decorated scabbard. He held forth an intricate amulet with sparkly amethyst, a magical aura lighting his eyes. “Finally, I’ve found it. After long search, the Amulet of Demonogen is mine. and with it, our dark knights, backed by a demon-slave army, will rule over this land!” The knight circle cheered. Krigga stopped blood-feasting long enough to whisper, “I smell great evil--not the fun kind.” Goobdwib turned to ask Grinless what to do, but found only empty space.

At the words “demon-slave army” Grinless had climbed the old tapestry he’d been eyeing, headed for a window exit. The dull dwarf tugged the tapestry, whispering loudly, “Hey Grinless, we haven’t stopped the evil knights yet, we can’t leave!” Grinless gave his best ‘Are you stupid or insane?’ look (completely lost on the dwarf), waved him away and continued climbing. Krigga shrugged, wiped blood from his face and followed. Goobdwib finally understood in his misplaced or lacking logic that Grinless had scouted ahead and was now leaving to plan a proper attack. So, he climbed awkwardly up as well. This was too much for the old, motheaten tapestry which ripped, spilling them in a loud clutter. They were found and thrown in the dungeon.

While unkempt, it still functioned as a dungeon. Lounging in the bug-ridden, moldy hay Grinless could’ve relaxed but for his unwanted companions. Krigga kept whining there was nothing in the cell big enough to satisfy his blood craving. Goobdwib kept pestering Grinless for plans of action or else coming up with his own harebrained schemes. So far, he’d come up with three ideas all involving disguises (a pope, a maid, a guard) they didn’t have. He failed to see this as a drawback and wouldn’t shut up. Eventually the self-proclaimed Warlord (something or other, Grinless didn’t care) came down with knight flunkies and marched them into a bigger underground chamber, possibly old torture chamber. There the Warlord began interrogating them, starting with: “You, the one called Grinless the goblin hero. What do you here?” Grinless said, “Not hero! and how you know my name?” while glaring at Goobdwib. The dwarf whistled, avoided eye contact.

“The dwarf told us. He’s also got a banner in his pack.” The dwarf reddened and coughed.

“So,” the Warlord continued. “You mean to stop my evil plans of dominatio-”

“Nope! Don’t care,” interrupted Grinless. The Warlord and knights stopped in confusion. They argued quietly a moment, the knights shooing the Warlord on. He cleared his throat, “Well, anyway, a demonstration of my power!”

A ragged, squealing peasant was brought in and chained to a wall; the space cleared around it. The Warlord grasped the amulet, which glowed brightly, his eyes matching its color, and out seeped liquid violet resolving into demonic forms that attacked the peasant, who screamed horribly, before they dissolved into purple mist. Cackling, the Warlord turned to a yawning, bored-looking Grinless. “Ha! Think to stop me now-”

“Nope. Never did,” said the goblin, picking his ear. “Can go now?”

The flustered Warlord and knights held a muttered conversation with more gesturing. The occasional demon would leak out the Warlord’s eye to go feast on the dead peasant or rattle bones before vanishing. Krigga looked thoughtful, while Goobdwib looked green. The Warlord was about to let them go when Goobdwib shook himself and said, “No! He is Grinless the goblin, Hero for all, and he will stop you. Mark me words!” The Warlord and knights hesitated, but Grinless stomped angrily. “No! Not hero, wanna leave ’em alone. Shut yer yap!” The knights swiveled to the goblin. “No, ye don’t mean that. You’ll stop them and save the day like you always do!” spat back the dwarf, all turning to him. Grinless got in Goobdwib’s face, “No! Me no save day. All accident or misunderstanding. Just. Wanna. Leave. Alone!” The dwarf shouted, “No!” and they were fighting. The warlord and knights looked at each other confounded, shrugged and watched. Krigga inched over, pointing to the fresh corpse, “You gonna finish that?”

Grinless scratched and headbutted the dwarf. Goobdwib threw jabs. The goblin dodged nimbly and kicked for the crotch. His foot met a hard under-codpiece; he cursed and hopped about. Goobdwib barked, “Ha!” and put the goblin in a headlock. Grinless hissed and bit like a mad cat, squirming out and crawling over the dwarf. Then Grinless had the dwarf in a headlock, held largely by all his beard and hair. He had him good and tight, until beard hair tickled his pointy goblin nose. He snorted, “Ah, ah, ah...WHICHEW!” and projectile sneezed clear across the room. The snot trail was a good 10-15 ft, but dead center of the mucus blast was the Warlord. In particular, his eyes, where now lodged old desiccated stink bug bits lost from Grinless’ collection long ago, forming an impossibly gluey mess right over the Warlord’s enchanted eyes.

Everyone stopped and stared. The Warlord shouted, “Great Abyss, get this mess off me!” The knights scrambled to clean him up, but it wasn’t looking good. Sniffing a green drip, Grinless saw signs of trouble and snuck off to retrieve their travel packs.

Unable to clean out or open his eyes, the Warlord demanded they remove the amulet. Its energies began to build up, the demon spirits aching for release. The amulet was caught on the Warlord’s intricate helmet he insisted on wearing all the time, because it made him look intimidating, which one Knight forgot to unbuckle properly. The Warlord’s howls mingled with the demon cries. Goobdwib and Krigga finally got the hint and scooted after the already fleeing Grinless. They reached the surface just as the Warlord exploded with dark knight bits and demonic ectoplasm. The group left the castle as it shuddered dangerously. As it collapsed in a ruin of spent magics and dust, another figure came running out. It was a lithe elf dressed in flowing earth-colored robes. “Well met! I’m Fernfrick, and thou saved my life. For that, I’m forever indebted to you...”

Grinless groaned and ran faster from his group of insane followers.

Sometime later the group was camped out in their usually arrangement: Grinless alone in his ragged, smelly tent some distance from the others; Krigga with his upside-down tent; Goobdwib with his sturdy, squat, square tent; and Fernfrick with his willowy animal-hide-free tent. Krigga and Goobdwib had learned not to bother their reluctant leader so much until on the road at least, but Fernfrick kept tidying and sprucing up Grinless’ tent with nice smelling flower garlands. Grinless of course hated this, would curse and tear apart and throw out the flowers, hastily redirtying his things. Grinless also yelled at Goobdwib for cleaning and polishing his sword and shield--just when he’d gotten it greasy and ashy to his satisfaction with all his favorite flavors. Goobdwib accepted this affectionately, but protested, “That be no way to take care of arms!” Grinless snapped back, “Not arms and not yours; mine things! You hands off, you and elf.”

At this the dwarf and elf would glare at each other with the age-old antipathy of their races. Goobdwib thought the elf too feminine and focused on growing and picking flowers and nice smells and wearing long flowing robes, and his refusal to commit violence was cowardly. Fernfrick abhorred the dwarf’s coarseness, ignorance, impatience, and penchant for easy, violent solutions. But most of all what set them against each other was the competition for loyalty to Grinless. They would fight to prove who was more committed to Grinless’ cause, rushing to serve and assist him until they were tripping over each other, while Grinless just wanted to get away.

This morning, after the dwarf and elf fought to serve Grinless breakfast and he’d yelled at them for messing with his stuff, Krigga stumbled into them rubbing his cloudy eyes. “Grinless, boss-buddy, me eyes feel bad-worse and squirmy. You sure they OK?” Grinless glanced at the snaggletooth goblin, his large eyes covered with milky film, small white forms moving in the corners. Grinless looked closer and picked one up, Krigga flinching. “Hmm, maggots,” commented Grinless. “Is good?” asked Krigga, eyes tearing up. Grinless popped one in his mouth and smacked away. “Hmm, pretty good. Grow more maggots, be fine. Keep up good work.”

Krigga gave a pained smile and nodded, brushing eye-maggots into the corners. For once dwarf and elf shared something: a shudder and look of disgust. one thing they agreed on: goblins were weird.

“So,” the dwarf cleared his throat. “What quest today, master Grin?” Grinless glared at Goobdwib; he hated that nickname. Fernfrick glared too; he wished he’d thought up that nickname. The elf piped up musically, “Perhaps master Grinny would care to follow the trail East, to yonder mountains?” Grinless glared at the elf, then frowned and shrugged, moving to pack up. He of course went the opposite direction trying to lose the others, but Krigga’s sharp (and pointy) nose found him out and they caught up with him heading West.

They came to drier, rougher lands, craggy and ravine-filled. The others wanted the good, safe trails, but Grinless kept trying to lose them in dangerous gorges. He even found a cave tunnel system and started exploring alone, but his peace, as always, was short lived as the others blundered in. Goobdwib wouldn’t shut up about how much dwarves love being underground, knew all about caves and mining, and pointed out all the various rock and mineral types. Fernfrick would comment on every underground flora he saw, the rare mushrooms and phosphorescent lichen and mosses. Krigga kept scampering off to hunt cave critters by sound (he said the caves were nice and echoey), and came back to slurp their blood noisily. He feasted on blood more than he ate any other food, so much that his teeth and gums had turned a funny color, and his skin was getting pale and thin. Goobdwib, looking uncomfortable, said, “Friend Krigga, mayhaps you should try eating or drinking something other than, uh, blood.” Krigga hunched his shoulders, glaring narrowed eyes to the left of the dwarf (because he couldn’t see him properly) and said, “What you mean?” Fernfrick, trying to help but more than the dwarf, chimed in gently, “What if you introduced other things into your diet, hmm? Like maybe fruits, nuts, and some nice mushrooms. and, y’know... less blood.” Krigga turned sharply to his right, again not quite lookin at the elf, “Eh? Why do that?” Goobdwib said, “Well, it may not be so healthy with all the blood-drinking... I mean, you drink so much-” Krigga backed away from them, and right into Grinless, spat out, “I no drink too much blood! Me quit anytime. Get off back!”

Grinless meanwhile ducked into a nice dark and twisty cave tunnel, losing sight and then sound of his hateful companions. As he went further on into the dark quiet of the caves, he began to relax. Alone but for the crawling cave-bugs, chittering bats, and glowing moss, Grinless felt at home here. He paused for a small break and mushroom snack, listening to the dripping stalactites. Some furry, many legged, bug-eyed thing even came up and cooed at him. Grinless gave a small pleased frown and pet the curious thing so it came nearer for more attention. Grinless sighed and thought, this would be a nice place to live, away from all the noisy people. The fury thing chirruped and looked up at him. Grinless then snapped its neck, put it in his bag for dinner later, and continued his pleasantly alone hike.

Eventually he came upon a more widely spaced cavern, much of the floor smoothed out from pools or running water drained away ages ago. It smelled funky but might make for a nice living area, if he could just find a cozy little chamber to bed down and collect his smelly molds and rotting things in. Someone else thought so too, because he found stuff already in it; all manner of odds and ends bottled, strung up, candles stubs, and odd symbols painted on the walls. Grinless beat a quick retreat up into a shelf area just as he heard movement. first it was small sounds, regular-sized beings. Then it was something bigger, much bigger, shifting and slithering up from the bigger cavern tunnels. The odd smell got stronger, of windblown air and carrion. Finally, three witches shuffled in carrying sacks and lit lanterns to their apparent cave homes. They greeted a large shape with glowing eyes crawling from the darkness--it was a dragon. “The time has come, my pretties--to enact our grand scheme,” said one witch.

“at last, put the dunderheads to sleep with our magic potion--” said a second witch.

“--and let our dragon-friend blow it as a mist across the land so we can take over!” said the third witch, cackling. The dragon rumbled approvingly, and pulled out a moose to snack on messily.

Grinless groaned inwardly. He had a bad feeling about this, that the usually craziness would happen if he didn’t leave now. and that, of course, was when he heard the telltale sounds of a dwarf and elf arguing from another passage.

Grinless’ unlikely comrades were not in a tunnel near him, but their racket carried all over, echoing throughout the large cavern. It was enough that the 3 witches and the dragon all stopped what they were doing to hone in on the intruding party. Their notable entrance was the sole focus of the cavern inhabitants, a circle of witches and dragon ready to welcome or more likely capture them. In their clumsy ignorance, the elf and dwarf were too busy arguing to notice this even as they entered the cavern. Their shouts of who was Grin’s right-hand man vs who’s the idiot that lost master Grinny echoed out until they finally noticed they were surrounded. Then they went silent, and Krigga sniffed loudly in the quiet, said, “Sounds like big cave thingy. Smells like old compost and dry rot though. Some peoples here?” A vexed looking witch snarled, “Just some old compost piles and a huge dry rot factory.” The dragon growled menacingly. Goobdwib and Fernfrick had the grace to look sheepish, but Krigga blinked blindly and said, “We’s in trouble again?” The dwarf cheerfully replied, “Ayup. Worry not, Master Grin will save the day!”

Grinless shook his head at their stupidity and crawled silently into an exit tunnel.

The witches bickered about the dwarf’s comment until the dragon rumbled, “Other one’s here,” sniffing the goblin out. Grinless froze, feeling giant glowing eyes upon him, then he was caught up by a long tail. “Drat!” he cursed.

Set before them the witches and dragon went into their takeover spiel, Grinless yawning and looking about, clearly not interested. While one witch went thru their stuff another covered them with a staff glowing dangerously. The third witch saw to a large bubbling cauldron with the staff-wielding witch talking “...so with this powerful sleep potion in mist form blown about the land by Bonemaw here,” indicating the dragon, “We will rule all, my sisters, Egra,” pointing to the one searching their stuff, “Tegra,” the one at the cauldron, “and I, Fedra. and you’ll not be stopping us, er, who’re you again?” Goobdwib and Fernfrick glanced at each other, trying to announce themselves first, but it was incoherently jumbled. Grinless cut in raucously, “Nobody! and no care ’bout your plans.” All three witches stared at him. Fedra, said with slitted eyes, “How do we know for sure?” “Yeah,” cried Tegra, stirring the cauldron, “How do we know you’re not really adventurers waiting for the moment to stop us?” Goobdwib and Fernfrick looked about to burst with heroic declarations. Grinless silenced them with a look and shout of, “NO! Me no adventurer, just wanna be alone. THEM idjits,” pointing to the other three, “want dumb adventures and quests.” The dwarf and elf looked shocked at this. Krigga just looked pale. Grinless went on, “Me say ‘Bah’ to quests. You take over, have nice time. Leave me alone, me no care.”

“Really?” said Fedra, stroking a warty chin. “But again, how can we know for sure?” Grinless rolled his eyes, “You let me go, me no stop you. Me far away, me no CAN stop you. Want know for sure? Keep others tied up ’til you takeover.” The three erstwhile Grinless mascots looked shaken by his surprising disloyalty. Krigga was actually shaking with need for blood. He even sniffed and said, “Um, you gots any small blood-filled critters to drink? Please?” He was ignored.

Egra, sifting thru their things, said, “What do we do with them after?” Grinless shrugged, “Me no care. They won’t leave me alone. Really annoying.” Tegra cackled with delight, “Oh, I like this goblin,” winking at him. Grinless shifted his eyes left and right, not wanting any other fans (or anything more). “Hey, not so fast!” Egra said, having discovered the group banners made by the dwarf and elf, unrolling them. Goobdwib’s was roughing with loud, contrasting colors and misspellings, proclaiming in bold lettering, “Grin’s Great Gusto Group.” Fernfrick’s was neater, more elegant in script, spelled right, with complimentary colors, saying, “Grinny’s Good Guys.” Egra eyed them suspiciously, “Is that right? You’re THE Grinless, the hero?” All witchy eyes narrowed on him. Grinless threw down his hood and stamped about in tantrum, “Me yes Grinless! Me no hero! NO HERO! Not do hero things, all accident or them’s fault. Not me!” he huffed and glared at the witches challengingly. Bonemaw curled its tail in amusement. The witches looked at each other. “Well, he did say we could keep the others tied up,” said Tegra. Fedra raised an eyebrow, “I wanna believe you kid, but you’ve got a reputation. Y’see how that’s a problem, right?” Grinless gnashed his teeth and smooshed his forehead in frustration, “But if me leave, me no can stop you. Me just wanna be alone! Or,” he grumbled, looking particularly irked, “Or, you tie me up too--but away from them! --until you take over, then let me go. Or let me go now.” The witches thought some more. Then Egra called out again as she pulled out Grinless’ magic sword and shield, “What’s this all about then?” Witch eyes regard him suspiciously again. Grinless sighed and shuffled over. Fedra brought the glowing staff to bear, but Grinless ignored her as he grabbed a hunk of meat already uncovered. “Meat cooker! See?” he then expertly built a fire on the shield’s underside, meat pierced with sword, and began roasting. The witches stood gaping. Fernfrick nodded, “Not into meat, but that’s an appropriate use of weapons.” Goobdwib wept openly, “Why, master Grin? Such abuse of such lovely arms!” Krigga jumped up and down with hand raised, “Make mine raw and bloody, boss-buddy! and bloody!” Fedra chuckled, “Alright, I believe the goblin kid. I just don’t have the heart to keep him. The others though...” “Wait!” called Egra determinedly, “Explain these, huh? Seriously, explain what these are?” She held small amber-brown lumpy forms. Grinless wiggled his bat-ears, “Those me ear-wax figure collection. Made ’em meself,” he poked a finger into an ear to check on the current ear wax consistency. “Ehh, that’s a bit much even for my witchy tastes,” said a grossed out Egra handing them and the pack all back to Grinless. “I’m not even gonna go into your mold collection. You goblins!” Tegra, stirring the pot vigorously, looked at Grinless with inviting eyes purring, “Ooh, your own ear-wax collection?” Grinless shuffled his feet, put out the fire and packed up his things. “Me go now? You happy takeover, keep them, we all even. Yes?” Fedra looked at the other two and Bonemaw, who sniffed for the roasted meat. “I don’t see why not...”

Then Krigga, sensing a cave-rodent near squealed with delight, “Bloodybag snack! Mine!” scampered off, zigging and zagging around everyone. Fedra aimed with her spell staff but couldn’t hit the squirrelly goblin. Krigga tripped a fleeing Grinless whose pack flung out, spilling the ear-wax figures right into the cauldron. All three witches stared in horror. Tegra’s face dropped, “Well that’s no good.” The other two yelled, “The potion, no!” The cauldron bubbled fiercely, changing colors rapidly and steaming angrily. Tegra backed off, but Bonemaw was still near looking for the meat so it blew up right in its face. It drew back with a bewildered expression. Then it began to sneeze.

Huge, roaring, wind blasting sneezes. The cavern shook, rocks fell, dust blew everywhere. The witches shrieked for it to stop, but the dragon couldn’t. It shook itself, clawed at its face, smashing blindly into cavern walls in its fit, and still the sneezes came. Grinless having scooped up his things ran for a tunnel. Goobdwib and Fernfrick managed to grab Krigga and follow.

The tunnels shuddered with each dragon sneeze, debris falling and dust clogging the air. But Krigga took the lead, claiming over the cacophony, “Me ears and nose know the way out. Follow!” Sure enough, before the whole cave tunnel system collapsed over the failed coup of Fedra, Egra, Tegra, and Bonemaw, Grinless and company led by Krigga emerged into daylight unscathed and accidentally saving the day again.

Coughing out the last of the dust, Grinless turned steely eyes to the dwarf and elf. “Me no suppose you two just shut up for once about this?” Goobdwib grinned brilliantly, “Sorry master. The world must know of your good deeds.” Fernfrick smiled more benignly but nodded along. Krigga just searched under rocks for blood-filled lizards. Grinless growled, exasperated, and took off ahead of the others.

Grinless’ journey continued over years, many more mishap adventures added to the legend of Grinless, despite his best efforts. He did become better at sneaking away from his tagalongs (usually). He would vary his habits, rise at diff times, have a decoy pack in the open with his real pack in the bushes for when he “relieved” himself he’d really just leave.

On one such occasion Grinless took such a circuitous route in losing the others he became thoroughly lost and wound up in prime human territory. In particular, the city of Lewnord, capital of the human lands and Kingdom of Fitz, so the sign declared. Not that Grinless cared about that. He wasn’t too literate especially with human words. All he’d gotten out of the sign was “Population: 1,053” which he mistook for “Poop collection,” and this being what a good mold and slime colony needed he decided to check it out. So, he was rather confused to see more and more humans and their dwellings, then a city springing up around him, while still no scat supplely. There sure were lots of diff kinds of human stinks though.

As he neared a trading bazaar on the merchants’ road. the crowds thickened. Grinless couldn’t help asking, “You all like poops this much?” Their reaction was, understandably, to be taken aback and turn away in disgust. When word got out of a goblin present, people wondered if this could be the legendary Grinless the Goblin, really the only well-known goblin for hundreds of years (and the only one with a positive reputation). Finally, people got the nerve to ask, “Are you Grinless? THE Grinless, the hero?”

Last thing he wanted was welcome or more followers. Gnashing his teeth and shifting narrowed eyes, he thought quickly. “Uh, no... me Chinless, the goblin. Yesh.” A few went away disappointed, but a few persisted, either suspicious or just wanting him to be the rising legend. “Are you sure you’re not Grinless? You look pretty glum, and you are a goblin.” one headscratcher said. People nodded so Grinless shot back, “What, me gots ta be that one guy jut ’cuz me goblin? That racist!” Suddenly the crowd turned on the man with disapproving looks and mutterings. “Wait, no! I didn’t mean it like that. I just-” he backed away, vanishing into the crowd. Someone else said, “Hey, if you’re not a hero, what you doing with that sword and shield?” Grinless confidently took out the dirty shield and greasy sword, “What these old things? Look like hero stuff? Me look like hero?” People agreed a hero wouldn’t have such filthy gear or smell so bad. They still stood round rattling their heads, aiming for a conclusion of some kind.

Then over the crowd’s hubbub Grinless heard an all too familiar elf and dwarf bickering. Sure enough, his dreaded followers were there in the crowd consulting a map, Goobdwib arguing for his banner over Fernfrick’s, Krigga sniffing about for blood-snacks. They were almost upon him! But instead of running, Grinless decided to turn the tide using the dumb humans. He got their attention and pointed at the group, “Another goblin!” While the people looked, he scampered behind them and mimicked a human voice, “My gots, eh be hem! Datz der Grinless hero guy!” They reacted accordingly, shouting and rushing in with praise and inane queries while the real Grinless snuck off frown-snickering.

Searching thru the poorer sections of the city for the elusive fecal funds, Grinless heard how his faux self had been mobbed at the marketplace and taken to King whatshisname’s castle. Grinless scowl-chuckled and continued his hunt. The smell was right, and ripe, but no one collection of poo. Though the people here did just dump their rubbish into the streets, sometimes even aiming for the gutters. Shrugging, he sat on the curb and began going thru the refuse. He’d just found some choice rotting food stuffs when armed soldiers spotted him and came over. “Hey there, goblin.” Grinless, defensive, breathlessly said, “Me no Grinless, lemme alone!” This, and his arms up to elbows in street gunk, surprised even the steely demeanored soldiers. The leader got his bearing and said, “We know, we already escorted him safely to the Castle; the King received him. However, other goblins being generally bad sorts, we can’t just have you wandering around...um, doing whatever you’re doing-” “Muck collecting!” “Whatever.” “But, that racist!” spat Grinless triumphantly. “Maybe. But those are the rules. Only Grinless is diff because he’s a hero.” Caught in a logic trap, Grinless still refused to play the hero. He took another route instead, “Um...me no goblin! Me, uh...this skin condition. Yeah! Very bad, me hurty alla time. Contagious!” The soldiers regarded his green skin. Then his sharp teeth, long pointy nose, bat ears, and noticeably four-fingered hands. “Nice try. Come along goblin.”

“Drat!” Grinless cursed, grabbing his pack they escorted him, at a distance because of the smell.

Incidentally, they also took him to the castle. There, they dunked him in a water barrel, unable to stand his stench. Then they brought the sputtering, soaking, complaining goblin right before the king. His group welcomed him with open arms. “Master Grin! There ye are. Had me worried sick, ye did!” said Goobdwib. Ferfrick smiled and said, “Master Grinny, so good to see you safe. and oh, thee has bathed for the king, how thoughtful. It just needs something...” while patting him dry with a blanket he also strung up flower garlands. Noticing, Grinless tore them up and stomped on them. He also noticed a white-bearded guy in robes and fancy metal crown--the king, whatshisface--who was speaking, “...the real Grinless? The goblin hero? You’re sure this time?”

“Oh yes,” said Goobdwib proudly, “We be knowing him best, after all.” Fernfrick added happily, “Yea, this our great leader, hero and savior of many catastrophes and secret takeovers. The one and only, Grinless the goblin!” Grinless gnashed his teeth and snarled at the group, the king, the royal retinue, and all the guards. He did not want to be here. The king looked unconvinced. “But he’s so...surly. Doesn’t look like much of a hero.” Fernfrick added flatly, “Well, his name is Grinless...” Goobdwib added, “What, ye thought our other goblin friend was more heroic? No offense, Krigga.” All eyes went to Krigga; pale, sickly-looking, flies buzzing around his nearly sightless eyes. Even more unappealing, when it was thought he was the hero, servants had doted upon him even with his strange request for endless goblets of blood. The kitchen did so with the most available--chicken’s blood--which Krigga was downing greedily. He hiccupped, grinning, and waved at where he assumed Grinless was, instead making an elderly courtier uncomfortable. The king blinked, “I see. Not much of a choice. I guess this one looks more competent... Sure, we’ll say he’s Grinless the Hero. It works for our purposes...”

Grinless, damp, not as dirty as he’d like, and surrounded by strange humans and his hated comrades, was in a foul mood. and not even the ones he usually enjoys. He was furious and tired of being treated like a hero. He finally snapped and drew his meat-roaster to use it for its original purpose--as a sword. The magic Undefeatable Sword of Konam, long dormant from the torment of merely cooking dinner, came fully awake, glowing and singing vibrantly. All were shocked at the mopey goblin’s transformation to raging goblin warrior. Well, perhaps that’s pushing it. Anyway, he looked quite intimidating. His comrades backed away trying to placate him, Goobdwib laughing nervously, “Now now, Master Grin. Glad to see you ready to use the sword correctly for once, but no need, no villains about to fight!” Fernfrick merely said, “Violence is rarely if ever the answer, Master Grinny...”

That did it. Grinless, eyes red pinpricks, roared, “Me hates them nicknames, and me hates alla you! YAAAH!” he charged.

Several things saved his group from mortal injury then. first, Grinless was ever more of a trickster and a lay about than a warrior, so he only flailed about gracelessly. Second, Krigga with his usually blind clumsiness, wanting to know what the commotion was, turned right into everyone else, spilling chicken blood on the floor. Grinless ran, slipped on blood, tumbled over the pile of another goblin, elf, and dwarf. He was launched into the third thing, which was an assassin disguised as a guard moving in on the king. Grinless flipped thru the air, sword spinning out to cut the assassin’s face and weapon-filled hands off, who then fell and impaled himself on the king’s scepter.

Everyone froze for a moment, except the dying assassin, who twitched and bled all over the dais. Finally, the guards snapped to, sealing the room and hunting for other assassins, then hurling them and the dying one into the dungeon. The king, visibly shaken but also impressed said, “Well. Now I see the stories are true. Grinless, your methods are rather...unorthodox, but effective. Not even I or my personal guard suspected this plot. Fortuitous though, this leads to the next ceremony planned, and your reward of course...”

Grinless cursed, “Dingbat!” putting away his ruined meat-roaster, now a cheerily glowing magic sword again. Grinless knew he’d hate whatever came next.

After a few hours rest, clean up, and preparation, Grinless and company were called down again for the ceremony and reward. Krigga was still chugging away at his chicken blood, a discomfited server trailing him with a jug of more. Grinless harumphed, “What dis ceremony ’bout? Why we gots ta go? Only reward me wants is to leave forever!” Fernfrick sang out, “But Master Grinny, they’re finally going to officially recognize you in all your glory! Isn’t it grand?” Goobdwib swelled out his chest, “and you’ll finally get credit for all the good deeds done and battles won. Brings a manly tear to me eye!” Both elf and dwarf looked at Krigga and said, “Maybe you should take it easy on that stuff...” Krigga hiccupped and snapped, “Me celebratin! For Master-buddy-boss Grinless. Off me back!”

After much droning and lengthy officiating, the main chancellor and master of ceremonies presented some scroll of importance and fancy-looking jeweled sword. “This, the accord of all human lands, finally uniting under the ancient stewardship of the Fitz dynasty. and with this, the ancestral blade signifies his divine right to rule. These I present to you, O King, now Emperor.” The king, resplendent in fresh robes and heavier begemmed crown, stepped forward. “I do hereby accept these, to take the reins of humankind, under the ancient and mighty name Fitz, to unite all for strength and safety.” Grinless blinked sleepily, but the humans smiled brightly. The king went on, “and now, with all the power at my command, I shall whip this land into shape. I shall hunt down our enemies and slay them to the last child.

I shall take control of all commerce and fill the royal coffers first, so fueling the Fitz family forevermore. My word is law, and none shall disobey me or else face my wrath.” his face changed into something sinister and tyrannical. The people finally caught on, looking around nervously. “It’s too late, the accord signifies my power and control of all. I played the nice king, but now the games are over. My might makes right. Poppa’s home, baby! It’s good to be the king.” He laughed maniacally as the crowd murmured in horror and shock. His guards brought weapons about threatening all into silence.

Goobdwib scratched his head, “This don’t seem quite right. Totally diff direction from a min ago...” Fernfrick looked panicked, appealing to Grinless, “I don’t think people knew this was in store for them when making the accord. Quick, do something Grinless. This could enslave all humankind!” Grinless yawned and shrugged. “Me no care. When can leave?” Krigga just drank more blood, snapping fingers at the servant, “Keep blood pouring.”

Something dawned on Goobdwib’s helmet brain, “Oh no, what’ve ye done Grinless? You must undo this, or even other people’s lands could be affected. Dwarf, goblin, even silly elf woods-” Ferfrick protested, “Hey!” “-Ye gotta fix this Grin, for the good of all.” Grinless shook off the dwarf’s hand, “Me no did nuffin, me no gots do nuffin. Lemme alone. Your fault anyways!” Goobdwib then began wrestling the magic sword of Konam from Grinless’ pack, “Well, if not you, then someone ought ter do something-”

“Hey, give back! Only meat-roaster, not magic sword!” The sword protested thrummingly, aching for battle. They fought until finally the sword flew out (perhaps aided by its magical spirit of Konam) high into the air, and struck the ancient Fitz sword. CRACK! All fell silent as the swords clattered to the ground. The accords had somehow also been shredded in the sword’s flight, ribbons falling to the floor. The chancellor, the king’s man, glanced at the king, “It’s only a crack, m’lord. The sword can be fixed and the accords can be pasted together-” The royal sword shattered and crumbled to dust. The accord shreds burst into flames, down to ashes. A breeze howled thru the throne room and blew accord ash and sword dust to the far corners of the lands. The chancellor’s face fell, “Nope, that’s it. We’re boned.”

Grinless’ magic sword then chimed gleefully and returned to its master’s hand. He cursed, “Fartstaff!” All eyes turned to Grinless and company the king, outraged at all the power that just slipped thru his hands, shrieked to his guards, “Get them! They ruined my future empire. Kill them!” Guards moved in, weapons flashing. Grinless glanced around, “Me no can fight alla dems. Ideas?” But Krigga’s constant liquid diet of the particularly runny chicken blood finally took its toll. His guts bubbled and boiled, Krigga moaning in pain and holding his tummy. Grinless put ears to Krigga’s abdomen, “You pregga, Krigga?” But Fernfrick stepped forward, “Oh, I warned thee, friend Krigga. This will pain you, but it may aid us. Accept my apologies-” The elf took up the smaller goblin, wielding his bottom toward the oncoming guards. Krigga groaned, “Oh nooooes!” as his bottom erupted with horrendous projectile diarrhea. Streams of hot brown waste shot out, knocking down some guards with the force of the blast. Others slipped in the puddles, falling on others. The king and chancellor tried calling for more guards but began retching loudly from the awful smell of rotten eggs buried in pig manure lined with rotting cabbage.

Goobdwib said, “Now’s our chance, run!” and he charged a hole in the crowd, the others following. More guards followed down the halls, but Fernfrick had the rearguard, still wielding poor Krigga’s sick bottom, launching spurts of liquid stinky brown, guards sliding and vomiting on their trail. Fernfrick made sure to occasionally pat Krigga’s back, soothing, “There there, just let it all out. Good goblin. My that’s odorous...” Krigga was crying with pain, “Augh, the running and bouncing no helpee!”

and so, it was that Grinless and company saved the land from tyranny, and made good their escape (though it was easy to follow them, none dared for the stink), and they fled into other lands.

Grinless and company trekked all over the lands, largely away from the human capital, still expecting that king something or other’s revenge. Krigga’s bowels had calmed down a bit, and under Fernfrick’s gentle care he was getting his full green color back. This entailed hearty veggie stews and fruit and nuts (and the occasional blood snuck in there). While Goobdwib admitted he looked healthier, he admonished the elf’s too tender ways, “Ye’ll ruin him. He’ll be a flower-prancing, sissy, pacifier in no time. Then he’ll be useless to us. Er, more useless...” Fernfrick gave the dwarf a cool eye, Krigga taking advantage by squeezing some vole’s blood into his bowl, the elf said, “Pacifist, thou means? But what would you suggest, dwarf? Breaking bones? Wholesale slaughter? Are not these what led to his drinking problem?” The dwarf opened his mouth, shut it, shook his head, and finally spoke, “Not really, I mean no! Nothing so drastic. Just good, vigorous exercise, get the blood flowing. He can start by swinging a sword around, get used to it, then lessons later. Or, more practically, he can help by chopping wood. Exercise and practical, eh?” Ferfrick reluctantly agreed.

Meanwhile Grinless had been enjoying relative peace and quiet a ways away. His thoughts kept turning towards home. He missed the place if not the people. Though he did miss the mischief of the little ’uns, the Trickster fest, the familiar bog with its welcoming stench and rotting flora. Maybe he wouldn’t mind settling down, not IN the village, but somewhere nearby. He could make an appearance at the Fest, show those young ones a thing or two about playing tricks. He even wondered what his fam was up to. Not that he wanted to spend time with them he was just curious. He might want to bug them for snacks and things, but that’s it.

Right on cue, the discordant duo, Fernfrick and Goobdwib were racing and pushing each other to be first to greet Grinless and give him breakfast. Grinless sighed the sigh of the severely tried, and braced for stupidity and vexation. Goobdwib hip-checked the elf, sending him flying, and bowed before Grinless, “Aye and good morn to ye, Master Grin.” Grinless muttered, “What good about it now?” Goobdwib pretended not to hear as he presented breakfast, which Grinless began reluctantly eating without looking at him. “So, I, uh-” he began but the elf leaped and slid to kneeling just before Goobdwib gracefully, cutting him off, “Master Grinny, what be our quest this lovely day?” Grinless’ brows furrowed more, he turned away from both of them. Though this was quite ordinary he was quickly losing his appetite. He mumbled around his food, “Don’t want no quests, no adventures. Just lebbe alone.” Goobdwib hurtled himself on top of the elf, crushing him flat, and made it into a position of abasement, “What was that master? What heroic deed shall we do?” Grinless leaped up and threw down his food. “No! No more. No heroics, no quests, no save day. Me done. No more of this. Me go home!”

Goobdwib and Fernfrick, who’d been quietly wrestling to be kneeling in front of the other, finally stopped, both looking up in wonder and crying, “What?!” The dwarf stood up, thoughtlessly helping the elf up, saying, “But ye can’t mean that. There’s still so much more good we--ye can do out there!” Fernfrick dusted his robes off, “Yea, the dwarf has a point, for once.” Grinless growled, “Me no wanna do good! Not never, not no more. Me goblin. Me want go and do goblin things. So, me go home.” With that he stomped off. The elf and dwarf looked at each other, saying, “But what about us? What shall we do?” Grinless called from the brush, “Me no care!”

Shortly after Grinless was all packed up. Unsure what else to do both elf and dwarf did the same. Krigga hastily cleaned his face of blood and hid the bird bodies to join the others, asking, “What we doos now? Where we go, boss-buddy?” Grinless hoisted his pack and trumped, “Home!” Krigga froze in momentary surprise, a small beetle crawling over his pale, unfeeling eyes--the dwarf and elf shuddered--then he said, “OK. But, um...” Krigga racked his pickled brain. He felt there was something important that he and Grinless were forgetting, like how Grinless’d been told not to bother coming back, but instead he said, “How we gets there?” Grinless stopped. He realized, though he wouldn’t admit it, that his sense of direction was horrible and he had no idea how to get back. Fernfrick and Goobdwib looked at each other hopefully, the glean of adventures still possible in their eyes. Into the silence Krigga went on, “You want long way back, or short?” All eyes turned to the mostly blind goblin. Grinless began uncertainly, “You-you know way back?” Krigga, peering up and away into the trees, not at anyone else, said, “Sure! Me scent boggy bog and misty woods from many ways away. Never forget them smells. So: long or short ways?” Grinless said, “Short ways.” Krigga shrugged, grabbed for his pack where it wasn’t until Fernfrick slid it into hands, and said, “OK. Follows me.” Then Krigga walked into a tree. The others looked at each other worriedly. Krigga shook himself, scratched his head, then walked around it, “C’mon!”

So, the possibly last journey of their little group began. Despite Krigga’s blindness and occasional spatial challenges, he did appear to be on a path to...somewhere. They passed many sights and landmarks beautiful and wondrous, all lost on the unseeing Krigga and the determined Grinless. The latter goblin ignored any and all travelers and any situation that could possibly contain accidental heroics. Sometimes he succeeded. Sometimes he failed, to Goobdwib and Fernfrick’s pride and joy. But mostly they just went at a hard pace.

Passing a narrow mountain trail, they went by a fissure thru which they saw red glowing magma--a dormant volcano. Fernfrick paused to admire it saying, “Liquid rock, unborn future stone and mountain formations. one day they’ll form new landscapes, support new life-” Goondwib butted in with a lecture on igneous vs other rocks and their cycles, so Fernfrick interrupted, “Then again, I’ve always found forest life more interesting...” and brushed past the dwarf, knocking loose stones into the crevasse. The group moved on, but the falling rocks created a domino effect of spillage, turning into an internal avalanche dislodging boulders, until whole shelves of stone cracked and fell into the lava below. The magma steamed and bubbled furiously, began rising as something deep within stirred. For days the lava rose, the mountain vibrating imperceptibly, until it became a steady and notable tremor. Days after, when Grinless and company were on a valley path backdropped by said mountain, the shaking became a loud, quaking rumble, the mountain erupted with smoke and fire.

The group turned back to watch curiously, except for Krigga, who looked off to the left of the mountain with sightless eyes. “Huh,” said Goobdwib, “Dinnae think that mountain was so close to erupting.” Fernfrick cast sly eyes at the him, “Oh, you knew not? Even I thought it’s peace would nay last long.” Before an argument could fully begin, Grinless said, “Whatever, go on,” turned and continued on. The dwarf and elf followed reluctantly, offering suggestions of warning local villages and helping with evacuation. But it was to deaf goblin ears (truly they were partly deaf; the grueling pace left little time for ear-wax figure making, so the wax continued to build up and he was having trouble hearing things). Yet Grinless, like the others, felt if not heard the even bigger explosion of the mountain falling away as something pushed and pulled its way free from the lava in which it had slumbered for eons.

A massive being, golden rocky skin, cavernous face, glowing orange eyes, and huge uneven horns on its head, emerged from the mountain remains, smoke and fire sweating from its body. It stretched and yawned a roar, before rumbling in a rockfall voice, “I awake! I, Titanomog, have slept with the earth, but now hunger. Hunger for destruction and devouring the lives of insects I’ve heard building their petty empires thru my dreams. None shall escape my wrath. None shall stop me. Tremble before my power, puny ones!”

Fernfrick said softly, “By the gods!” Goobdwib’s eyes bugged out, “What shall we do?” Grinless shrugged, hiked up his pack, and walked away. Everyone looked at him, shocked, somehow. “But master Grin. We must do something! We can’t just leave that thing to cause mayhem,” the dwarf called. Grinless said back, “Me no do nothing. Not me problem.” Fernfrick looked panicked for once, “But what about all the people? That thing can destroy whole kingdoms. Thousands could die!” Grinless, shrinking down the path, shouted, “OK, have fun! Me no care.” Krigga tried to look at them sympathetically, instead glancing at a tree stump, shrugged at ran after Grinless. “Wait boss-buddy, me show you the way!”

The dwarf and elf stared at the fleeing goblins in confoundment, somehow. They’d done so much propaganda of Grinless’ heroics, they fully believed deep down inside the goblin lay a heart of heroic gold. This cold, hard lump of lead, undeniable at last, threw their whole way of thinking out of alignment. Finally, they looked at each other, found some encouragement in their mutual desire for good, and ran towards the rampaging Titanomog.

A few days later Grinless and Krigga arrived at the new goblin village, completely by accident--because not only had the village moved away from the disaster grounds left by Grinless’ youthful pranks, but also to avoid the very goblin who had somehow found his way there now. But to Krigga it smelled close enough to the filthy and rotting smells of the grey marshy and boggy lands; to Grinless it looked basically the same. The goblin villagers were quite surprised to see the two, thinking (and hoping) they were gone for good. They certainly weren’t expecting their return. A new clan mother was there to greet them with disgruntled glare, “Grinless, why back so soon? Or at all? We told you--er,” an elder whispered in her ear, “we AWARDED you early rite of passage journey, and to start a new village...far, far away. So why back again?” Grinless, fingering in his overly waxy ears, heard only half and cared even less. “Eh, tired of rite passaging and travelling. Want boggy home, settle down, no more adventures. No worry, me stay away from village. Wants to be alone.” Some of the goblins waggled their ears, considering this, but another goblin pushed thru the crowd. Grinless recognized the pointy ears and petite frame of his sister, Glorunga. While not wanting or expecting an embrace, Grinless did sneer not unhappily and nod at his sibling, greeting her mopliy. When she approached, however, it was to swat him with a hamster-poker stick.

“Yow! What and why for, Glorunga?” he said in between swats, “Me no happy to see you either, but why?” After she stopped, Glorunga said, “For all your funny hero business. Good deeds and intentions. Pah!” Grinless frowned deeply, “What? Me no hero! What you say?” More villagers gathered, the elder folks looking at Grinless disapprovingly, nodding to Glorunga’s words and muttering as she went on. “We hear of your good deeds even here. Hero! Legend! Known across lands, even hated human lands. Bah! This not goblin way. Disgrace! Against tradition. Bad example!” This was when Grinless noticed the little ones peeking out from behind elders and garbage piles. He first thought it curiosity, but soon saw their eyes gleaming with something else.

Glorunga continued, “Your tales go all over and back, you so big hero, now they have banners, mini-tapestries, toy swords and shields, even collectible figures! All of Grinless, the Goblin HERO!” she spat out the last word venomously. Grinless grimaced in disbelief, then horror as the goblin children stepped forward holding much of said merchandise, including (somehow) replicas of his magic sword and shield. His own magic sword hummed in joy and recognition; he shushed it. Glorunga wielded her stick again, “No matter how many times we take ’em away, they find more. Hero-worship! Idolize! All! Because! You!” the last remarks punctuated with swats. Grinless protested, “But-but- me no try be hero! All accident. Misunderstanding. Me hates good deeds, swears!” The goblin kids had now formed a circle around him, shiny-eyed with admiration. “And! And!” Glorunga swatted him some more, “This latest! Giant mountain monster, Titanomog. You round up army and defeat it, with help of dwarf? and elf?!” The elders made disgusted noises. “Save entire world! No goblin deeds. Now little ’uns think hero and good deeds...good! and want do! Ruined next generation. All! Because! You!” she swatted him viciously. Finally, he’d had enough. Grinless screamed in terror and ran off into the marshy woods. The children cried in delight and chased after, chanting, “Grinless! Hero!” Krigga reappeared after draining an entire cask of hamster blood, hiccupping, “What me miss? Grinless, boss-buddy? Wait up!” he took off for the new misty woods, to be lost a second time.

So Grinless found his own hut in a ravine a ways from the village. The children, having formed a fan/scout’s club in his honor, kept pestering him. He was also haunted by a certain dwarf and elf, who’d sneak in and polish his trophies, clean up his hut, to his unending vexation. Grinless rarely ever found true peace and quiet.

THE END

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