Ysidroa ran up the hill behind the village wall. Her parents, and many other adults, had warned her many times when she was younger that there were monsters in the mountains that bordered their farmlands. But Ysidroa, being a somewhat rebellious child, had been visiting the mountains for many years now, and had never seen any kind of monster.
She was climbing the hill with as much stealth as she could manage, making sure not to send any rocks tumbling down, and keeping her skin the same color of the stone she was going over as best she could.
She would often climb onto a certain rock, well out of view of the village, that overlooked the beautiful valley on the far side of the ridge. When she was younger she had tried to fly off of the rock many times. She would release the rock with all six hands and flap her wings with all her might. After many attempts she was ready to admit that it was nothing but a childish fantasy, but there was still a small part of her that wanted to sore free. It was only a dream.
Wings werenít meant for flying, her mother had told her when she discovered Yisidroa flapping away while perched on her rock. Wings were for attracting men.
As if sheíd ever want to do that! But her mother assured her that she would want to, and quite soon.
Ysidroa still went to visit her old play place when the troubles in her life started to press in on her. Today though, she had a very specific reason to seek the freedom. It was the day before her betrothal ceremony. She was going to have to marry Tidlaroa, a disgusting, creepy boy. Why would she have to marry a boy at all? She didnít like them (yet), and didnít really see the need to get married at all. If she did have to get married, she wanted to do it with one of her playmates, not with some icky, icky boy. It wasnít fair.
She came up over the ridge in a huff, concentrating more on her personal problems than the familiar scenery. When she came over the ridge she came to a stop, completely shocked by what she saw. The sky over the opposite ridge was turning red. The red section was growing with every second. She began to cry by rubbing her wings together, creating a wandering discordant sound. As more and more of the sky turned red, the cry began to grow louder and louder. Finally, when all the sky in front of her was red, she noticed a roar that she that was building in volume. She began clicking her mandibles and backing away back down the other side of the ridge very rapidly. The roar got louder and louder until finally there was a deafening crash
Ysidroa paused for a second, several meters below the crest of the ridge. Her parents had been right all along. There was probably some sort of dragon on the other side of the mountain just waiting to gobble her up. But how could she not look and see what it was? The adults in the village below might take quite some time to decide if the phenomena was worth investigating, and even if they did they would never tell a little girl like her what was there. Especially if they found out that she had been sneaking about when it had happened. She would never know if she didnít look right then, she was sure of it.
She slowly crept forward until she could extend her antennae over the top of the ridge. It smelled like fire, with maybe a bit of brimstone. The brimstone was hardly unusual for that valley, but something was burning some of the trees. And there was something else. Something that she couldnít quite place, but it was very strong. Finally, working up all her courage, she extended her head to where she could see into the valley below.
It was like nothing she had ever seen before. Her favorite childhood playground was horribly scarred now. Every single tree was on fire. What really caught her attention though was that about halfway down the mountain someone had built a metal building, right over her favorite sitting rock! Parts of it gleamed, reminding her of the head of a spear that her father had just made for a radao hunter. Other parts, closer to burning trees, were beginning to be covered in black ash.
The smoke coming from the burning trees made it very difficult to see much more than the near side of the building. Still it was an ugly building. She had seen pictures of metal buildings in distant cities before, but they were always perfectly square, not broken up like this one. Many parts of it were twisted into strange shapes. In other places the building was jaggedly open, almost as if some huge giant had come and ripped holes out of it using brute strength. In no place did the wall next to her resemble the perfect square that all the building sides in her village maintained. It was, she decided, the ugliest building that had ever been built.
She ducked down for a few seconds to hide her head from the intense heat. A few seconds later a strange grating sound began. She decided she had hidden long enough and took a look.
A door was opening in the building. Ysidroa began to grate her wings together again. If anyone came out of the building now theyíd burn up in the fire!
Luckily for the people inside, the door wasnít opening very well. It seemed to her that such a twisted doorway had no right to exist, much less open. All the doors that she knew of opened downwards to form a short walkway before the doorway itself. In her village the doors had mats on the inside that were convenient for cleaning ones feet while entering. This door was unusual in that the bottom was not on the ground, meaning the door itself would form an inclined plane going up to the opening. It was having difficult opening because the surface of the building right next to it was pulled out and around so that the door had to scrape against it to open. What architect would design a building like that?
The door gave out a horribly loud screech and fell the rest of the way to the ground. Out of the opening walked a monster.
Ysidroa realized that this monster was the reason behind the strange shape of the house. Of course such a hideous monster would need a house like this one. She started rubbing her wings together again. Now the monster was going to come and eat her for climbing the mountain, just like her parents had always warned her.
The strange four-legged monster pivoted around on its bottom two legs and began making some sort of hideous barking sound. To the horror of Ysidroa more barking sounds began to emerge from the new house. Two more monsters came as far out as they could with the fire there. They must be goblins, the most feared of all beasts.
The monsters didn't look quite like they did in the stories -- they had only four limbs instead of five -- but they had to be goblins. They looked as slimy as the stories said they should, but they were a nice looking brown color rather than the unnatural black that goblins were supposed to be. Goblins were more dangerous than any other monster, because they were the only ones that hunted in packs. They could work together to capture you and would take you back to their lair and torture you before eating you.
Ysidroa was very glad that the fire was there to keep the goblins in their home a while longer.
The three goblins were barking very loudly now and gesturing about with their two upper limbs wildly. Suddenly a fourth one emerged, this one holding a gigantic club with several metal poles strapped to its back. It yelped something very loudly, and the other three scampered back inside (they only seemed to use their bottom two legs to move around) and disappearing into the darkness. The goblin that had ordered the others inside leveled his club at the hillside directly above it carefully. Suddenly there was a loud crack that made Ysidroa duck back down. After a few moments she carefully looked back over the ridge. The fire had gone out in front of the goblin!
The goblin walked around the edge of the cleared space until it was on the opposite side of the area protected from the fire. While it was moving it maintained its distance from a pole with a glowing head in the center of the clearing. The goblin put a metal pole into the top of its club and slowly brought it up once more.
Ysidroa was startled by another crack, but this time she didnít duck behind the ridge. Another glowing pole appeared a small distance in front of the goblin. The fires around it began to inexplicably go out. The goblin wasnít watching the spectacle though, it was too busy tapping at its club with his hideous fingers. What a powerful magician!
The other three goblins came out of their house carrying satchels. Two of them with one satchel each began to follow the fourth one up the hill. The third goblin, carrying two satchels, turned around and began to bark at the house. After a few minutes of this it apparently gave up and began to leave. By the time the third one reached the others another magic totem was warding off the fire, almost all the way to the top of the ridge.
They werenít coming at Ysidroa, but they could still go to capture some of villagers, and there was nothing she could do about it. If she tried to go warn them the goblins would see her first. She ducked behind the ridge and scuttled over to some rocks, trying her best not to cry. She must not let them see her. She looked at herself and made absolutely sure that her skin still matched the surrounding rocks. Then she held still, keeping her wings and limbs tight to her body, doing her best to be a rock.
It worked! She watched the goblins pass within fifty meters of where she was hiding. They jogged by fairly quickly.
The magician dropped his magic club and had taken a satchel from the goblin who had been carrying two. They werenít able to descend the slope as quickly as she could, but then again there was no way they could using just two legs.
Ysidroa didnít really understand why they didnít just get down on all fours and take the slope at full speed. Maybe they only did that when they were hunting, and the rest of the time just moved around at this slow jog.
She wondered what she should do now. The goblins were almost even with the village wall, but they showed no sign of stopping there.
Her fellow villagers could see them now and had begun to yell back and forth. She could see her father on the wall suddenly run back toward her house, probably to take down the family musket from the wall. It was not a very useful weapon by modern standards, but it was nonetheless undoubtedly effective. The other villagers were arming themselves as well, and some of them had much better weapons.
The goblins, on the other hand, seemed to not be interested in the village at all. They were jogging by not thirty meters from the wall and not even sparing a glance for the agitated villagers.
Ysidroa decided that now would be an excellent time to return to the village. When her mother found her missing with the goblins so close by she would become very upset, so upset that she probably would punish her daughter more harshly than ever before.
She could hear someone crying with the shrill wing scrapes of a very small child down in the village. Not surprising considering all that was happening down there right then. Ysidroa began to move towards the village as much to help the child (she was reaching the point in a femaleís life when it is very unnatural for her to not help a hurt child) as to return there herself. It was going to be very difficult for her to slip back inside unnoticed with the town in its current state, but she would manage.
But why was the cry getting softer rather than louder as she descended downward? For that to happen it would have to be coming from behind her.
She stopped in her tracks. The goblins had captured that helpless child, and now it was desperately calling for help. Calling to her for help. She was paralyzed for several seconds with indecision. Should she go down to the safety of her village or try to help the child? The goblins had left their house and if she hurried she could go in and get the poor baby out. But what if the goblins had left one of their numbers behind to guard the house? She grabbed a rock and hefted it. The goblins werenít very big, she could kill one of them.
She moved herself around the outside rim of the ridge in order to stay out of the wave of heat on the other side, trying her best to not think of what she would do if the goblins had left more than one of their party behind. When she reached the place where the goblins had come over, marked by the huge club and metal bars the magician had discarded, she slowly crossed over the top of the ridge expecting to face the horrible heat. She was hit in the face not by heat, but by coldness.
The ground right in front of her was covered in frost. She approached the glowing totem with some trepidation. The closer she got to it the colder it became, unbearably cold in fact. Suddenly she realized that she hadnít seen any of the goblins get this close to the totems themselves. They had traveled around the edge of the zone that wasnít burning, and she immediately decided to do the same.
As she got closer to the ship she noticed that as she passed each totem the chilled zone was smaller. The first totems the magician had placed must not have been as powerful. With this thought going through her mind she arrived at the door. As she started up the walkway the sheer oddness of the house nearly made her give up and scamper back home, but she could still hear the shrieking child cry coming from inside. She paused for a moment and braced herself, then charged up the ramp with her rock at the ready.
Inside the door was a corridor stretching in both directions. She looked down both sides and could see no one. After listening for a few seconds she decided that the cry for help was coming from the right. She began to explore the complex, moving as quickly as she could. The inside of the house was as twisted as the outside, making it difficult to keep her bearings. Hallways would often dead end in twisted metal, almost as if something had stomped on them to close them off. Horrifying rooms to either side of the hallways would be filled with flashing lights and strange looking machines, which her active imagination generally interpreted to be machines of torture. The rooms were as ugly as any other part of the ship, and she hurried by them as quickly as she could.
Eventually she reached a place where the hallway she was following ended in an open door through which the crying sound was louder. The door led into a room that was filled with debris. The entire wall on the right side seemed to have been designed to look like it had collapsed inward, showing the room on the other side. She slowly entered the room, expecting some kind of trap. After entering she could hear that the baby was through one of the doors on the other side. When she was nearly halfway there, she spotted one of the strange five-fingered goblin hands sticking out of the collapsed wall. Assuming that it was an ambush, she started and waved her rock at it in a threatening manner. Suddenly she realized that the back of the hand was completely covered by the wall behind it. The goblin was trapped beneath it. Looking more carefully she saw that the hand was holding some sort of weird instrument. There was a handle that was nestled firmly in the hand, and on the end of it was some kind of small bowl.
Disturbed by both images of the instrument being applied to the body of a child and also thoughts of why the goblins had trapped one of their own kind there, she hurried on. She had to get out of there before the goblins returned. She went through the door on the other side, and continued down the corridor. Suddenly the corridor came to a T-intersection. The crying seemed to be coming from the right so she came around the corner at full speed, and screamed.
In front of her, moving very quickly towards her, was a giant goblin. The goblins that she had seen before had been taller than her, certainly, but they did not outmass her. This goblin towered over her like the mountain itself and was very thick. In addition where the other goblins had been brownish, this one was as black as a night with no stars just like the goblins of stories.
When she screamed it screamed too, frightening her out of her mind. She hurled her rock at it, hitting it in the upper left abdomen, and began backing up very quickly. Upon being hit the goblin bellowed again and stepped back. Suddenly she realized she had backed into the corridor opposite the goblin, and would need to go toward it to escape. This thought was more than she could bear. Ysidroa broke down and began babbling.
"Iím sorry I came in here. I didnít want to hurt you, just help the baby. Please donít eat me. I donít want to die. Donít hurt me!" As she said this she was shrinking in on herself away from the giant goblin. This action did nothing to really calm her, but it also did nothing to stop her from talking.
As she continued gushing words the goblin was looking at her. It wasnít doing anything besides staring at her and panting. After she had gone on for a while it took a step back and began to speak. She couldnít really understand what it said mostly, but it seemed to say the word "calm" and later the words "must more talk" and then something else. It didnít seem to want to hurt her just yet, so she stopped talking and tried to understand it. It was saying "you must more talk" then it made some sort of barking sound and said "maker of talk."
"What are you saying? Are you the translator for the goblins?"
"Negative, it is ... translator ... I no ... why you are..." Its speech was nearly incomprehensible. Only by concentrating could she make out the strangely accented words it seemed to be inserting between meaningless garble. It continued, "negative matter ... I speak up ... you speak ... translator make..."
Suddenly she decided that this goblin didnít want to hurt her. Maybe it was afraid of her after she hit it with a rock and so was trying to understand her better in order to negotiate its release. She decided that it was not like the other goblins and she should conscript it to help her find the child. "You will take me to the baby! You must help me free it before the others get back!"
"Donít baby what ... talking..."
"Yes, the baby. Itís crying right now."
"Yes negative baby. What ... you saying ... baby. Negative baby."
"There is a baby! You canít say thereís no baby! I can hear it crying, like this." She began to rub her wings together to create a crying sound.
This produced an interesting reaction in the goblin. It started to fold slightly in the center while saying, "humor, humor, humor," over and over again. This enraged her enough to make her forget that she was talking to a giant goblin. She stepped towards him and picked up a piece of twisted metal.
"You will take me to the baby immediately," she ordered. The goblin eyed her weapon for a couple seconds, touched the part of himself where the rock had hit, and then started back the way it had come.
" ... me. I show you ... no baby. What you ... is only an ..."
"I donít understand you. Talk slower." Ysidroa now felt that she had complete command of the situation. With her twisted metal club in hand, she thought she had intimidated the goblin into accepting whatever order she could think of. Her fear of her parents stories was beginning to leave her entirely as she found out what cowardly creatures these goblins really were. She had everything well under control.
"Slower no help ... translator for everything there is ... help no ... speed."
"A magical translator for everything? Where did you get such magic? Where did such a cowardly creature as you steal it from?" she asked, brandishing her weapon.
"We ... the universal translator. We have no ... to steal. We can ... whatever we want to."
"How could you make whatever you want if your afraid of my ... "
The conversation, and Ysidroa, came to an abrupt stop when the corridor ended in another room. This room was larger than any other room she had seen in her exploration of the house. She was suddenly afraid that there might be other goblins in the room waiting to assault her. The goblin, on the other hand, showed no sign of fear and walked briskly towards a machine in the center of the room. When he got there he hit it, and the crying stopped.
It had been a trap! They had made that crying sound to get women to come into the ship so they could be trapped and tortured and eaten. Just like her mother had always told her. The goblin looked at her and she slowly began to back away. The goblin started to speak again.
"I said there was no baby. I was no afraid of you, you just ... me." The goblin took a breath and started again. "You no to be afraid of me. I ... say to you. It ... very important." His accent and vocabulary had been improving very quickly. "There are ... of your..."
She calmed down enough to stop backing away. "I donít understand what you are saying."
"You have ... more than you just. You are not alone. More of you. They all must ... I say to all through you. I say to you, then you say to them." The goblin was gesturing at her with its upper legs again.
Finally she understood. "You want me to take a message to the rest of my people."
"Yes, you take a message to say that they ... to ... or they will..." The goblin paused for a second to see if she understood. "Tell the rest of your people to ... that they ... go."
"I donít understand. You want me to tell my people to leave? Why should they leave the village?" She was beginning to be somewhat confused by the conversation.
"Your ... village must leave of they will ... my ... will..." The gigantic goblin began to raise his voice as he garbled out more and more unintelligible words. "It is important that you all leave. If you donít ... far away you will..." The goblin looked up at the ceiling. Ysidroa followed his gaze but saw only metal. Finally the goblin looked back at her and asked, "what are we in?"
"We are in your house."
"My house is going to ... it is not ... here. To be here you should be afraid."
"Afraid? Why should I be afraid? Is it dangerous here? Are you threatening me?" She looked at the goblin suspiciously holding up her club, expecting him to spring some sort of elaborate trap.
"Yes! It is very dangerous in my house and near my house. Iím not threatening you, but you need to go. You ... go to your village and tell them to leave. Far away. They ... go far away because it is dangerous."
As it said this the goblin leaned forward suspiciously and reached toward her with itís upper right leg. She waved her piece of metal at it threateningly. "Why should I believe a word you say goblin? Are you threatening my people?" She took a couple steps forward in the corridor, but stopped when she was at the edge of the room.
"My house is going to ... my house is dangerous. You must leave now and tell your people to go far away or they will all..." The goblin contorted its face for a second before continuing with the words, "my house will go." After this he barked very loudly. Ysidroa startled backwards a few steps at the explosive noise.
"You canít kill us! You canít even defeat me."
"I can kill you, and I will kill you all. You will go now and tell your people to go away. Go far away or I will kill you all!" With this proclamation the giant goblin began touching the machine in front of him very quickly in many different places. "I have powerful magic and I will kill you all if you donít go far away very ... !"
Suddenly a beam of light shot out of the wall and cut the piece of metal that Ysidroa was holding in half. She squealed and began to run backwards down the corridor. After her the goblin shouted once more, "I will kill you all! Go far away!"
Ysidroa was obeying as fast as possible. She ran backwards until she passed the intersection where she had met the horrible goblin. There she turned herself as quickly as she could and began galloping at maximum speed back the way she had come. She had to get back to her village in time to warn her people to get away. The goblin was going to come and kill them all.
Thoughts of how she was going to convince her people of the danger went through her mind as rapidly as her feet were carrying her. Would they even listen to her stories? Could they possibly believe what she was saying without seeing it for themselves? She had to get them to flee, she just had to. There was the door up ahead.
Flames were coming through the door leaving carbon marks on the opposing wall. She let out a vocal wail while crying with her wings. The goblinsí totems had failed. There was no way to escape. She was going to die in this place, with no way to warn her people of their impending doom. They were going to die, and so was she when the goblin got around to her. Unless ... .
She stopped crying and began to look for more weapons. She would have to be quick. There was another metal club on the floor, hardly twisted at all. So quick that the goblin didnít see her coming, or it would destroy her with its magic. She hefted her new club and set off back down the corridor the way that she had come. She went along as silently as she could, passing through the same maze that she had navigated twice. Past the room with the goblin hand sticking out of the wall. Funny how she hadnít even noticed it on her way out. Past the rock she had hurled at the giant goblin magician. All the way back to the terrible goblinís lair.
And there was the goblin impossibly folded up against the machine looking out of its door at her. It was making horrifying sounds as it rocked back and forth, and there was water coming out of its eyes. It reminded her of when her grandmother had died. It had been an accident with a motorized cart, and water had been splashed all over the street. Ysidroa had seen the entire thing.
It was obvious the goblin could see her. "You are going to die?" she asked.
"Yes, Iím going to die, and so are you. So is your village, and so are my..." More water spilled out of its eyes and it hit its head back against the machine. "There is nothing I can do. I was wrong. I thought I could ... it for..."
The horrible garbling sounds it was making were disgusting. Still the words that it said in her language were unmistakable. That was due to the magic translator, she decided. "Did you say that the other goblins were going to die?"
"Yes, the goblins will all die too."
"Because they canít possibly get far enough away before my house ... What Iím trying to say is that there is nothing I can do to stop the ... Why didnít you go to your village?"
"There is fire outside. Your totems have failed."
The goblin raised its head up and looks at her again. "What," he asks, "did you say?"
"Those poles your friends had, they stopped working." She began to advance into the room, still holding her club. "Why donít you save us with your magic?"
He ignored her question. "They werenít really my friends you know. Not all of them anyway. We used to ... all the time. That is one of the things that I regret now, more than ever. I should have become friends with all of them. It doesnít matter anymore. Nothing matters anymore."
Deciding that there was no reason to kill the dying monster she dropped her club. "Why werenít you friends with them? They were the same as you."
"No we were ... in many, we were not the same. We had many ... ." the magic translator failed him again.
"Differences," she filled in.
"Yes, differences. Just like you and I are different."
"Why are you dying?" she asked once more, unable to comprehend what has happened to the goblin. "Did your magic turn back on you?"
"Yes, thatís what happened, but not here. We were far away when it happened, and we came here to try and ... what had happened. We didnít want to die, but ... here, I mean putting our house down here destroyed what was left. Now we have brought death to your people as well as ourselves." More water came out of his eyes and he pushed his head down between his leg joints. "What have I done?"
"Iím sorry that you are dying." She stretched out one of her front legs to touch him. She wasnít really sorry. She didnít have to kill him now, and there was no risk to her people.
"I am too." He looked up and lifted his hand to touch hers --
© 2005 by Michael Whitney
Bio: Michael Whitney is ...
E-mail: Michael Whitney
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