Chapter 3

Year 28 of the First Age

Davian Whisperwynd left his cart a couple leagues away. He was deep in the swamp, but also goblins had a keen sense of smell and the stacked heads had a distinct odor. His wagon brimmed with the decayed heads of trogs he had killed.

Though he did not break his vow, these past seven years and return home, he often stopped travelers to get word of worldwide events and to hear news from his home. Maris-ta-Sehlim had not endured another raid from goblin marauders since he undertook his vow.

Travelers sustained him and delivered supplies in addition to sharing news; they knew his efforts kept the roads safer. And they reminded the city who it was that kept them safe.

He pushed away his pride at the thought. Davian did not do this for pride; his only goals were to prosper the selumari who lived in his home… though he was not opposed to those benefits extending to the few vagha or eldarim who lived there. Or to the new race that had appeared a few years ago; travelers called them humans.

Davian had not met a human. Perhaps he would, someday, after his vow had been made complete. He assumed the citizens of Maris-ta-Sehlim would embrace them if they were good. All lives have value, he’d come to believe during his solitary journeys. He disliked the trogs and morehl, but had to acknowledge that they had at least some intrinsic value.

Over these past many years, he’d become something of an expert on the goblins. He’d even learned their language, a beastly sort of grunting compared to the eloquent elvish tongue. Davian learned that his efforts had made an impact on them, as well; recently he sat outside a goblin hut and listened to a trog sow warn her brood against going out alone into the bogs where she thought it unsafe.

[The blue elf who whispers in the wind might get you and take your head,] she insisted before blowing out a crude candle in the mud hovel where Davian hid outside.

That had been two days ago, and Davian had chosen to spare that village. Even though the head of a goblin wife took up just as much space as that of any other trog, he felt it dishonest to wipe out such helpless prey purely to add to his pile, even though he knew this brood would be mature enough to be a menace in a matter of two years. It only took trogs about six years to reach fighting age.

Davian still wore the mud that he’d caked himself with that night. He regularly used it to cover his blue flesh and camouflage him in the thick of the swamps. Currently, he stalked through the peat mats that squelched his footsteps as he approached a set of mud huts in the marsh. Even after so many years, he never grew accustomed used to their distinct stench, it made his stomach turn until he acquired a temporary nose-blindness to.

He crept into the edge of the tiny village and noted yelling from within, like the howls of a trapped feline. Davian peeked around the nearest hut’s corner and spotted her: a goblin wife.

There were five of the shacks, each with a variety of inquisitive faces peeking out. Goblins typically birthed litters of eight each spring. Within a few years time, this tiny cluster of hovels could grow exponentially.

A goblin wife laid in the middle of the huts, growling, scratching, and wailing. She was an ugly thing and caught in the throes of childbirth. With a final scream, she pushed out the last of her disgusting pups.

Davian relaxed his fists from the grip of his weapon. It did not seem right to kill her in such a state. He nearly left when he heard the raucous singing beyond the huts. A group of hunters dragged a few wild goats towards their home, arguing over who had made the actual kills.

He counted them. Five. One for each hut. He remembered that goblins were polygamous. These males likely shared the one wife until the next brood was old enough, or until they found and abducted another female from somewhere else. The size and makeup suggested these were probably the leftover children from a village he’d razed years ago when he first began his singular war against the Brackishomme.

Five trogs. He frowned, cracking the mud caked on his jaw. It would take six to finish filling the cart. Davian cocked his jaw. Five would have to do. Perhaps he would encounter a rogue goblin upon the road.

He pulled his blade and charged into the center, leaping over the surprised and exhausted goblin sow.

Davian struck down the first trog with ease and the others were quicker to draw their axes; none of them proved much of a challenge and he hacked down three more with ease.

The last of the trogs panicked and dropped his weapon. He tightened his fists and drew an orb of darkness in clear midday, threatening to fling the arcane spell at him with lethal intent.

This one has a strong aptitude with magic, Davian thought as he brought his sword to bear. With a quick and lethal stroke, he cut the beast down before it could fling the spell at him. It is good that I end his bloodline before he can breed again. He shuddered; death magic in the hands of untrained goblins could prove disastrous for his people on a large scale.

With the five lying dead, Davian recognized that none of them had shown much experience with real combat. His private war had been effective enough that he’d knocked out the ruling class of blooded warriors. It would take them years to recover… years in which Maris-ta-Sehlim would be safe.

Davian spotted a pitcher of water nearby and sniffed it. It seemed clean enough, and he used it to wash the blood and mud from his skin, revealing the blue underneath. He felt more like himself again beneath the streaks of remaining grime. He took a few spare moments to rinse out his hair as well and make himself look more like a proper selumari, and less like a trog wild-man.

The elf who had terrorized the goblins of Brackishomme looked on the goblin wife with pity. Her breaths came in ragged gasps and whimpers. She gathered her pups to her side protectively and refused to look at her other brood and alert the hunter that they were hidden all around.

As beastly as she was, Davian knew she felt sorrow for her dead kin; she likely feared for her extended litter as well as her own well-being. He ignored her glaring eyes as he cleaned his blade of the goblin blood.

Using his feet, Davian rolled the heads into a pile and removed a stringer from his belt. He pushed the sharp end through the thick cartilage of each ear, tying them together for easier hauling.

“Noxigant will come! He will throw down your city and smash it to bits!” the goblin wife roared, spitting curses at him.

[Noxigant is a myth, like the rest of your corrupt religion. There are only four gods in Esfah and their bastard brother Death is not worthy of note.] Davian replied in the goblin language. He’d come to learn in his study of them that the god was prophesied to come to the peoples and help them make war upon their enemies. Death would arrive as the four Faces of Death, of which Noxigant was one. These heralds would come to only the strongest of the goblin clans-proof made positive through the blood of the clan’s enemies.

She appeared startled at first, hearing the hunter speak her tongue, but then she unloaded on him with a hail of curses. [Death has shown us his four faces—and they will be unleashed upon the world. Perhaps they have not yet come—but Noxigant will aid us! And until that day, my children will ready themselves to make war upon your precious city.]

Davian finished stringing the final head and then sighed. He knew she spoke the truth, and that she had forced his hand—he could not let her train up a brood with such dedicated hate. He drew his sword and, a few moments later, filled out the length of his stringer with the final tally to complete his seven-year task.

After slogging through the remaining distance of Brackishomme separating him from his wagon, he tossed the last bundle of heads upon those heaped high in his cart. He moved to its front and smiled. Soon, he would be in his home.

Not long ago, an eldarim herdsman had offered him the use of a dragonkin to pull the laden wagon. Davian released the scaled creature from the yoke and let it slip off and into the wilds, free. The path to Maris-ta-Sehlim was mostly downhill from here, and he could manage the unwieldy cart on his own.