Kluk stood before the carved stone door in the dragon’s cave. In front of him, running a hand gently across the carvings, was Chief Pulgok. He was flanked by two hobgoblin guards with a third standing behind Kluk, putting the poor goblin in the middle with nowhere to run.
“Now, there must be some way to unseal the tomb.” Pulgok said as he inspected the door. “Kluk, take your spear. Insert the blade… here.” Pulgok pointed to a small diamond carved into the door, the shape was almost identical to the cross section of Kluk’s spear.
It was a little high up for Kluk to reach, forcing him to stand on his tiptoes. One of the hobgoblin guards laughed as Kluk tried to insert his spear into the hole. Finally, with much careful positioning and several failed attempts, Kluk inserted the blade into the hole. There was a click and the doors swung open.
Kluk gazed at the ruins inside the doors. Huge stone pillars, crumbled and broken. Doorways to houses with roofs caved in. Everywhere, the mummified corpses of dead dwarves. Some bore signs of ancient wounds, while others were crushed by rocks or curled into tight balls, the victims of starvation or dehydration.
“There’s magic in the air here. Keep your wits about you.” One of the hobgoblins said. Kluk wanted to slap him.
As if triggered by those very words, the corpses of the dwarves began to slowly rise up, their dried skin cracking and sloughing off in places to reveal bones and dried organs underneath. Kluk didn’t waste any time before lashing out with his spear, driving it into the chest of one of the dwarven undead. There was a hiss and a crack as the spear drove home, a small hole exploded in the zombies chest and it collapsed in front of Kluk.
Did you know I could do that? I didn’t know I could do that.
Kluk did not know his spear could do that. There was little time to worry about it though, as the dwarf zombies were still rising. They lurched forward on dried, broken legs and swung rusted axes with ponderous but forceful blows.
Kluk stepped back as one of the zombies took a swing at him. He bumped into a hobgoblin, stumbling over the hob’s outstretched leg and knocking both of them out of the way of a deadly horizontal swing. The hobgoblin jumped up, grabbing Kluk by the collar.
“You worthless grub! Stay the hell away from me!” The hobgoblin heaved Kluk into a throng of zombies, knocking all of them to the ground.
Kluk struggled to free himself from the pile but couldn’t get up from the ground fast enough. He rolled out of the way of an axe swing, and tried to get his spear into position to block. One of the zombies raised its axe high overhead and brought it down in a two handed chop. Kluk screamed and closed his eyes. He heard a loud thud, and opened his eyes to see Cheif Pulgok standing over him, the zombies that had surrounded Kluk were scattered.
Kluk got to his feet and began stabbing the zombies with his spear. The cracking of their dead flesh as the magic seared it away was a welcome sound, but there seemed no end to the restless dead.
“We need to make a retreat. Akgol, cover our escape.” Chief Pulgok ordered. The hobgoblin that had chucked Kluk moved into position and Chief Pulgok grabbed Kluk, pulling him along after the other two hobgoblins.
Kluk could hear the distant sounds of battle as the rest of them fled through the ruins. Slowly, those sounds faded away and Kluk couldn’t tell whether they were too far to hear the fight, or it had ended altogether.
The goblins delved further into the dwarven ruins, which angled downward, going ever deeper into the earth. As they descended, the buildings grew taller, the structures more ornate and the decorations changed from fading colored stones to metal filigree and cut gems. One of the hobgoblins walked up to a wall set with lapis lazuli and pulled out a dagger. He edged the knife under one of the stones and pried it loose. Kluk waited for another mass of undead to appear, but none did.
The other hobgoblin stopped and also drew a dagger. Together they began pulling semi precious stones from the walls of the ruins, until Chief Pulgok walked over and smashed the wall apart with his flail. The hobgoblins picked up the shining rubble and put it into their pouches. Pulgok picked up a few stones and handed them to Kluk.
“A reward for your service.” He said.
The goblins continued downward through the ruined city. Dwarven corpses could still be seen, some of them locked in combat with skeletal goblins and hobgoblins. None of the corpses stirred though, and Kluk was thankful for it.
Aw, come on. I want to blow up another zombie.
Although Kluk could barely follow the path through the ruins, Chief Pulgok seemed to know where he was going. They walked through the dark and twisted streets until they came to a massive stone temple. The doors were heavy stone, with silver and gold filigree runes that Kluk couldn’t read. Dwarven seemed likely though.
“Our prize is through these doors. Kluk, open them.” Chief Pulgok said. Reluctantly, Kluk approached the doors. He reached up to the great steel ring and tried to pull on it, but it wouldn’t budge. He looked around but could find no way of opening the doors.
He tried poking the door with his spear, but nothing happened. He knocked, he pulled, he got on his knees and begged the door to open. There was no way that he could even make the door budge. It was too large and heavy. Out of options and frustrated, Kluk banged his head against the door. He felt it slide back on the hinges and swing open. Unable to stop himself from falling forward, Kluk landed on his face. Kluk looked up at the massive door as it slowly swung open.
Oh hey, that rune says ‘push.’ His spear said.
Kluk picked himself up off the ground. Chief Pulgok and the other hobgoblins had already entered the building. The ceiling was so high that Kluk couldn’t see the rafters above. The supporting pillars showed scars and burns from battle and the inner sanctum was littered with the bones and equipment of dead dwarves and goblins, the floor was sticky with black ichor. In the center of the room, a greatsword stuck out of the ground, wrapped around the skeleton of a dwarf. A tarnished silver crown lay on the floor near the skeleton.
“Long have I sought to reclaim this place.” Chief Pulgok said. “The dwarves sought to keep me from my birthright. But I have returned to claim it.”
Chief Pulgok walked over to the sword, gripped it with both hands and ripped it from the ground. An otherworldly howl filled the room and ghostly souls erupted from the ground. The souls swarmed around Pulgok as he grew larger and larger, his face and body becoming more wolfish in appearance.
“Three hundred years my power has been denied to me. Now it is returned!” Pulgok turned and stared at Kluk, his eyes burning bright red with hellfire. “I owe you much, Kluk. You will be the last to sacrifice yourself for my glory.”
With incredible speed, the demonic chieftain rushed to one of the hobgoblins, swinging the greatsword in an overhand chop. The blade carved clean through the hobgoblin in a single stroke.
Kluk gripped his spear tightly and started to back away slowly. His knees shook, his teeth chattered, there was no strength left to stand, let alone fight.
“Fear not Kluk.” Pulgok said as he tore apart the second hobgoblin with his bare hands. “You’ll die a hero. There are no goblin heroes that live beyond the end of their tales. This will only cement your place in legend. It is a gift, in the end.”
With that same preternatural speed, Pulgok rushed Kluk, swinging the greatsword in a horizontal slash. Kluk shrieked and stumbled backwards, falling just as soon as the edge of the blade crossed where his head would have been. Kluk immediately rolled to the side as the sword swung down in a vertical chop. There was a small click as Kluk rolled across a pressure plate. A hail of darts shot out from the wall, but they bounced harmlessly off the demonic Pulgok’s hide.
“Ah, that interminable luck. Incredibly useful, in the right hands, but so very frustrating. I lost many far more capable warriors to that luck of yours. But that kind of fortune is impossible to deny.” Pulgok swung the greatsword again, and Kluk narrowly dodged the blow, rolling behind Pulgok.
Kluk struck at the demonic goblin with his spear. The edge of the blade grazed Pulgok, but that same sparking energy that so wounded the zombies burned Pulgok as well. The chief howled in rage and took another swing at Kluk. This blow hit home, sending the little goblin flying.
“That spear! That vile blade! I should have recognized it. Your luck extends farther than I thought, goblin. But this is destiny, and you will not take my destiny from me!” Pulgok rushed Kluk, his form seeming to disappear and reappear as he moved. Pulguk swung wildly at Kluk, but his attacks passed harmlessly through Kluk as often as the blows landed. Kluk’s frantic dodging, coupled with Pulgok’s shifting in and out of etherealness, kept the worst attacks at bay.
Kluk tried to return the offensive with his spear, but he could do little more than graze Pulgok. The powerful enchantments on his weapon carried most of the weight of Kluk’s attacks, each grazing blow left a burn on the demon that ate away at his flesh.
The fight continued on and on, Kluk dodging furious swings that shifted in and out of the material plane as he tried desperately to land a solid blow against the demon. Kluk was being worn down, slowly, as he tried every trick he could think of to land a blow. Kluk needed space, room to move, or he’d be dead. When Pulgok next swung his blade Kluk rolled with the attack, practically throwing himself to create distance between them. He continuted to roll as far as he could before finally springing up and turning to bring his spear to bear. Kluk hurled himself into a charge, rushing forward as swiftly as he could. Pulgok flickered in and out of reality, the timing between each shift became shorter and shorter.
The moment the charge connected, Kluk’s spear seemed to pass harmlessly through Pulgok, who grinned with delight. But the demonic goblin reappeared an instant later, and the spear buried itself in Pulgok’s chest. Pale white fires flickered around the edge of the wound as Pulgok staggered back. He flickered out of reality once more and the spear dropped from his chest. Pulgok fell forward, disappearing at last just before he hit the ground. The only things that remained were his armor and the greatsword he had wielded.
Kluk gasped for breath and tried to recover himself. He reached out to support himself on the greatsword, and found his mind filled with visions.
A horde of vicious goblin raiders charged down from the mountains, their sharp teeth gnashing at the flesh of helpless women and children. A small band of warriors, elves, men and dwarves stood fast at the bottom of the hill, ready against their charge, at their head, the mighty goblin leader…
Stop it! He’s already got a magic spear. He doesn’t need you.
Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that was you little brother.
Don’t you little brother me. I’m older than you are.
But I’m bigger.
Kluk could hear the two sentient weapons arguing in his head, drowning out his own thoughts with their squabble. Unwilling to deal with their voices, Kluk let go of the greatsword and the spear alike. Silence replaced the echoing voices. Kluk looked around the room, a single pale dwarven ghost remained. Kluk reached for his spear, but the dwarf held up a hand.
“I never thought that my people’s souls would be freed by our greatest enemy. You have my thanks, goblin. Take my crown, it is imbued with magic which will guide you to be a just and powerful leader for your people. The time of my kingdom is long gone, and though I loathe the thought of goblins ruling lands of their own, your actions give me hope that my prejudices may be unfounded.” The dwarf bowed and faded from sight. Unsure what else to do, Kluk picked up the crown and placed it on top of his helmet. The two items seemed to lock in place, as if the crown had resized itself to fit.
Kluk picked up his spear and walked towards the doors. As he exited the building, he saw Akgol limping towards him. Akgol looked up at Kluk and raised an eyebrow.
“Did you get taller?” He asked.