A Rise of the Runelords campaign journal that became two books

4. The monster under my bed

23rd of Rova – Sunday, the day after the attack

Outside the Cathedral, Sandpoint

When you take away a child’s innocence and feeling of security, you become a monster. To a child it really doesn’t matter if the monster is a goblin, giant, dragon.. or a man. Appearances are secondary when you bring down a child’s world.

I was reminded of this when the boy and his mother ran to us, pleading and begging us to come with her and help. Their home had been attacked by someone or something. The tear-eyed boy mumbled about a monster with gleaming eyes under his bed who had killed his dog during the night. The woman sobbed, torn by having doubted his son in the first place and having left his husband behind to investigate what had really happened. I could see she believed he was already dead.

I remembered my monster, a man of riches, greed and such paranoia that he made the lives of others around him hell. He had burned down my village, slain my family and stolen me and my twin brother and ultimately separated us. I guess an unconscious feeling of empathy made me join the others in helping the woman and her boy.

Monsters exist but they can be slain. That I knew too as I had slain mine personally.

We had been give rooms from a local tavern called the Rusty Dragon, owned and run by Ameiko Kaijitsu, the Tian who had held the fish-eating contest. From Sandpoint and our base, if one can call the Rusty Dragon a base, we traveled eastwards to the town border. There we found an inconsequential cottage – their home. As we entered, the woman and the boy remained back, too frightened to approach even with us at guard.

I was not surprised when we found the remains of the husband lying on the boy’s room floor, his legs visible and his upper body hidden within an open wooden closet. Frank grinned, Harsk cursed, Vidarok frowned and Ilori I guess got a bit paler. As the others remained to examine the surroundings, I snatched a fresh apple from their main room table and went outside to see if there was something out of place, maybe some hidden threat. From the door, I looked back at the woman and the boy who were a good hundred feet away. He was gripping tightly the hem of her skirt, and she was holding her arms around him, looking nervous and heartbroken. I waved at them. They didn’t respond to my gesture. I took a bite of the apple.

I heard Harsk and Frank arguing about the corpse in the boy’s room. I looked over my shoulder and saw Frank appear with the lower half of the man’s body on his arms. Nice. Had he cut the man in half? There was blood all over Frank, and a lot of it was dripping on the floor, leaving a trail. The barbarian looked quite happy with himself. He was half-way in the main room when we heard a loud scream from the boy’s room, followed by Harsk bellowing scriptures in holy defiance. Time slowed. Fire danced around Ilori and the temperature in the house rose noticeably as she summoned her magic. Frank dropped the corpse on the floor, splashing blood and thundered back to the boy’s room, Vidarok right at his heels. A commotion ensued.

I kept eating my apple. It was a really good apple.

I was expecting Frank to tear down half the building with his hammer but realized quickly that my companions were trying to capture the assailant alive. I sighed and threw away the apple core and paced to the boy’s room door. A goblin was struggling with Frank and Vidarok, and the druid was bleeding quite a lot from his leg.

I had an inspiration. I drew back my hood –  realizing then it was the first time any of them had seen my head uncovered – and stared at the goblin with a killing intent. The little bastard froze for a second, intimidated, and Frank pummeled it unconscious with his bare hands. Vidarok looked relieved.

**

“Tie him up”, Harsk told Frank, who took a skein of rope and bound it around the goblin so that it couldn’t move its hands or feet.

“Hang him face down and we’ll interrogate him”, I suggested and pointed at a wooden beam supporting the ceiling. Frank complied, and as others gathered around, I took a cup of water and splashed its contents at the face of the goblin and followed with a quick punch. That woke it up.

Wasting no time, I grabbed it by its throat and demanded it to tell us who it was and why it had attacked. The insolent creature just coughed and laughed. I grabbed and twisted it a bit harder, but to no avail.

Monsters exist. Something inside me stirred. I pulled the goblin closer to my face and bared my teeth. “Where do you come from and who is your leader?” I asked the beast, drilling my gaze into its gleaming eyes. It had the desired effect.

“G-Gugmut”, the goblin stuttered as it dangled by the rope head downwards, “Gugmut the great is our boss!”

“Is he a goblin?” Ilori intervened with a sharp question, maybe remembering the other goblin talking about the elf or half-elf who had engineered the assault against Sandpoint. The little green beast coarsely laughed at this. “Gugmut is a half-breed goblin”, it explained, drool dropping on the floor.

“How did you get here?” I asked it. “I came from the east, long-shanks..” I noted the goblin was clearly gathering some mental fortitude so I twisted its throat and shook it violently to remind it of its position.

Frank was losing his patience. He stepped forward, and drew the horse chopper so that our captive could see the goblin blade.

“Do you know this? It belonged to one of your filthy dog-killing vermin breed!” Frank roared in anger. The goblin screeched. “That’s Gresgurt’s blade!” Frank grinned contently in response. “Not anymore..” I interjected before Frank had the time to do something stupid.  “Where from the east exactly?”

“From Mosswood, that’s where Gugmut keeps his camp”, the goblin cried. Harsk crossed his arms and turned his head a bit to the side. “Can you take us to him, if we let you go free afterwards?” The dwarf asked diplomatically. But the goblin knew what fate had in store for it. “You’ll kill me anyway, bastards..” it whimpered.

Monsters exist but they can be slain. I had one more question.

“You were part of the attack against Sandpoint”, I stated rather than asked, “but did you see the leader, a half-elf or elf who was responsible for the attack?” The goblin just laughed at me weakly. “Longshanks, Gugmut is my boss..”

I let go of the goblin and in a fluid motion, drew my other kukri blade and slashed the beast’s throat open. Black-greenish blood sputtered to the floor and mixed with spit and human blood. The woman has quite a mess to clean up, I thought as I replaced the kukri into its scabbard. But it wasn’t over. Frank let out an inhuman bellow and grabbed me by my shoulder, pushing me so our faces were an inch away from each other. We stared at each other intently, the situation quickly escalating to a hair’s breadth from a brawl.

To match his gaze I had to look up and could feel his breath on my face as he tried to control his rage. “Why.. did.. you.. do that, pointy-ears?” I realized that time I might have gone too far, acting on my own initiative like always. The brute was one and a half times wider – granted, I was not a man of small stature, rather I was quite lean but muscular and standing at 6 feet 4 inches I towered above normal human men, but Frank was really huge, easily two inches taller than me and heavier by a good 80 pounds of solid muscle.

And an half-orc like Vidarok, I realized then while looking at him from an inch away. Curious. That explained a lot, I thought as our staring competition continued for something that felt like an eternity. His arms were shaking like the ground in an earthquake, his biceps and neck muscles bulged and I think he almost ruptured a vein on his forehead. I on the other hand tried to remain calm and composed.

It was Harsk who broke the showdown. He said nothing but approached us, pulling us apart from our arms. “I wanted that goblin alive as my pet, you bastard”, Frank steamed. I simply shrugged. “He had served his purpose, and had no valuable information to offer.” The others I guess seemed to agree. An intelligent if very stupid goblin would have made a horrible pet anyway. Frank grunted and dismissed me with an obscene gesture.

**

The barbarian took the corpse of the goblin down and lifted it to his back. Harsk reassembled the husband’s corpse as well as he could, closed the dead eyes and covered the body with a linen. Then we walked out to the family. We had decided that Ilori was the one to tell the news to the woman. It was a hard thing for the young fire sorceress to do, but she managed with her words and manners to soothe the mother’s worst pains and mental anguish. All she asked of us was to take his son into the care of the sheriff, Hemlock. We complied, so she remained behind to take care of the house and the husband’s body while we returned to the city with the boy.

The return reminded me of my past. A monster had come, shattered my world and driven me from my home. Here he was like I was then, traveling to the city with strangers, afraid and unsure what fate had in store for him. I wanted to look him in the eyes and tell him monsters exist but they can be slain. Instead I did nothing, and said nothing.

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