Featuring…Alrune The Elf Maiden, Lady of Embervale, mage
Dresghar The Chronicler, her faithful uncle, erudite
Evrart The (recently promoted) captain of her guards
Gram A goblin guard
Rex The guards’ pet tarasque cub
Goblin guards, sleketons
“So, how are you doing?” Dresghar cheerfully asked the captain.
Brooding next to the window of the command room, his arms crossed and his eyes gazing into space, Evrart let out a slight sigh but did not answer.
Shortly following their expedition to the druidic mausoleum, out of the blue, Lady Alrune had come up with the unfortunate idea to appoint him as the captain of her guards.
Her goblin guards. Only recently had the pesky little thugs dropped the idea of eating him, he wondered how she could think they would obey him anytime soon.
“Are you alright?” Dresghar repeated.
Evrart sighed again and gestured toward the courtyard on the other side of the window, where a few goblins were enthusiastically poking each other with blunt spears.
“I’m trying to get them through basic training, sir. Teamwork. Hierarchy. Elementary hygiene. Stuff like that.”
“And it doesn’t go as intended?”
“Oh well, they happen to follow my orders from time to time. And they know which side of a spear is supposed to be pointed at the enemy. I guess that’s a start.”
One of the goblins tripped over his own weapon, fell in a puddle, and made all the others giggle foolishly.
“Let’s just hope the lady doesn’t have short-term military ambitions, sir.”
Evrart turned his attention away from the goblins – his goblins – and observed Dresghar snooping around the command room. It was a large study located in one of the most ancient parts of the castle, reflecting the architectural style of the humans who had built the early stronghold rather than the ornate design of the elves who had later besieged it, won it, and rebuilt it.
The successive elven governors of the castle had kept the room as intact as possible, going so far as to hire human workers to renovate the elaborate parquet floor and furniture. Lady Alrune’s father, who had used the place as his headquarters during all his campaigns, was allegedly the first to add his coat of arms and colours on the walls and decorate with personal items and weapons.
“Do you know how to read and write?” Dresghar suddenly and unexpectedly enquired.
“More or less, sir,” Evrart replied after a short hesitation. “The baron I used to serve taught me how to sign my name and read simple messages.”
“Well, I guess that’s a start,” the elf sneered. “Now that you’re an officer of Embervale, you’ll need to participate to administrative tasks as well as military ones.”
Evrart rolled his eyes.
“Very funny, sir.”
“Oh, I’m not joking,” Dresghar replied with a mischievous smile. “There. Here are the books where my niece was recording her military expenditures. She’s very bad at accounting, even you can’t do worse. Give it a try!”
And, still smirking, he left the room and abandoned Evrart with a pile of books and the unpleasant feeling of being snookered.
First, irksome goblins, and now administrative chores. Why did he come to Embervale already? Oh, right, he had no place to live when the baron got rid of him, and he deemed the lady here as a respectable person.
He spent the rest of a day – an eternity – struggling to decipher the tiny, tight handwriting of the said lady. He was almost concluding she had encrypted her writings, when an ear-piercing shriek shrilled.
He froze, all senses in alarm. And soon, he heard the distinct sounds of a scuffle right from the next room.
He rushed out, only to find three panicked goblins trying to fend off a much larger group of skeletons.
Good old stupid skeletons, wielding decaying weapons, fighting bluntly without a hint of cooperation. Not that it really put them at disadvantage against the goblins, who were hardly better at tactical thinking.
Frightened eyes were peeking out from the door that led to the guards’ dormitory: the rest of the goblins, not even helping their comrades in need.
And, much to Evrart’s surprise, Alrune was in the room too. Unarmed, her hair undone, wearing a white nightgown, she was trying to comfort the guards’ pet tarasque cub. He briefly wondered why she was playing damsel in distress instead of fighting, but chose to focus on more immediate issues.
“Get out, you wimps!” he shouted at the hidden goblins. “Take weapons and fight!”
He heard them squabbling and moaning, but only one of them hesitantly ventured out of their lair. And stopped halfway when he noticed he was alone.
Exasperated, Evrart crushed a few skeletons out of his way and reached the strongest among the fighting goblins.
“Gram, make those cowards come out! If any of them dares to resist, feel free to tear off their ears – or whatever else comes to your mind!”
The goblin flashed him a vicious smile and headed to the door. A few squeaks and screeches later, the whole company was in the guards’ room and frantically grabbing the nearest weapons.
“Leave those freaking spears alone! Take clubs and maces!” the captain yelled.
“Clubs and maces, you freaking fools!” Gram repeated while dropping her own spear.
And, much sooner than Evrart had expected, all the intruders were shattered.
The goblins cheered and drank all night long, boasting at their military prowess. The next morning, their captain was in a foul mood and had a severe headache when he met Alrune for their daily brief.
“I regret to say that, but I have yet to find where the skeletons came from,” he reported bitterly.
“Really? They simply come from the basement. I animated them in the catacombs under the castle.”
He recoiled, staring at her in disbelief.
A silence fell.
“I’m what your people call a dark elf, and I’m a mage,” Alrune finally stated, her voice deeper than usual. “How could you not expect me to know enough necromancy to animate a few skeletons?”
“If you say so! But why the heck would you do that to attack the armoury? I mean, your own armoury?”
“It was a live exercise for the goblins and you! Or rather, an undead exercise,” she added with a slight chuckle he found appalling.
A rather puzzled Alrune watched him leave the room swearing under his breath. She had given him a trusted position, helped him train his men – err, goblins, and yet the guy was still as grouchy as ever.
Oh well, humans. Strange people, really.
To be continued…