Chapter 24
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“This tribe is one my old tribe sometimes fought. There was always lots of bad blood between us, that’s normal for Gobbos, but recently they started to win all of the battles.”

“Really? What changed to make your tribe start losing.”

Opal pursed her lips. “Half-goblins.”

Rain tilted his head. “As in half Goblin and half… something else?”

“Yes, they aren't picky. Look.”

She pointed from where they hid upon a rock shelf overlooking a cavern filled with lush foliage and jungle trees. A sandy dirt road of sorts wound through the centre of it and ended at the entrance to another cavern. To either side of the entrance were a pair of guards holding spears. They were taller than the average Goblin, at first Rain had thought they were Hobgoblins but on closer inspection he realised that they had non-goblin features. One had some Human like features, tall, a beard, long black hair, hairy arms and chest. The other had the upper body of a particularly large Goblin but its lower body was that of a snake, a Lamia.

“They look strong. Why didn't they conquer your tribe?”

“We’ve fought Half-Gobbo tribes before, I even have some tribal memories of past Gobbos doing it. The reason that smart Gobbos don’t make their tribes into Half-Gobbo tribes is because they always always die out, they go extinct. We just needed to outlast and avoid this one and the problem would take care of itself.”

Rain furrowed his brow. “Really? Why would they die out?”

“Think about it. A bunch of half breeds are born who are stronger than regular Gobbos. What happens? They take over the tribe. Then to keep the Half-Gobbo faction strong and in control they breed with more non-Gobbos. If they are breeding with strong monsters they eventually kill the regular Gobbos and split up because they are not tribal monsters. If they are breeding with levelers sooner or later a half who can level is born who then takes over the tribe from the half breeds. The leveler eventually kills every monster in the tribe for levels, as levelers do, then leaves for the surface. You wouldn't think it would be that way every time but it always is. Half-Gobbo tribes get outbred and burn out.”

“I suppose it would have to have happened that way or there would be no regular Goblin tribes left.”

Opal began pulling things from the rucksack the Kobold carried. 

“I used to scout this place sometimes for the tribe, keeping an eye on what they were doing. I think we can take it but… I need some information.”

She pulled out a simple brown travelling coat with a hood that had belonged to the Halfling tracker then removed her swords and jacket and swept the coat over herself. She then grabbed a palmful of dust and dirt and rubbed it over her face.

“I’m going inside to see.”

“What? No way. That's far too dangerous.”

The Goblin snorted. “I’m just another little Gobbo to the halfs, they won't give a shit, it’ll be fine.”

“It’s too risky.”

“You want to eat and become strong? You said yourself that Inquisitor is going to come for you. You have to be ready.”

“I… just... just be careful,” said Rain sighing.

Opal flashed him a white-toothed grin. “Easy. Now watch.”

“W-wait, you can't leave me alone with him!” whimpered the Kobold, chained to a rock behind them.

Opal flatly ignored that and slipped down from the rock shelf and disappeared into the jungle foliage, climbing down a tree to reach the ground. 

Rain watched silently as the hooded figure of Opal made her way out of the brush and onto the road and then hiked her way up it to the round opening guarded by the two Half-Goblins.

They pointed their spears at her and barked a command. Rain nearly leapt off the shelf to go after her but with difficulty managed to control himself, his claws scoring the stone as he held himself back. Opal meanwhile put on an act filled with simpering body language. She nearly fell to her knees she was so supplicant, repeatedly nodding her head and pleading with her hands. One of the halves eventually laughed and shook his head. He knocked the other’s spear aside and she was allowed in. She entered through the circular tunnel and disappeared. 

Rain leant back against the rock with a sigh. He rested his arm on his knee and settled in to wait.

About an hour later she returned and scrabbled back up the tree and leapt onto the shelf discarding the cloak.

“Okay. I got what I needed. This should be easy breezy. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully…. I think.”

“What did you see?”

“A big cavern, but not open, it’s nearly all filled with trees as I thought. That's what makes me think we can do this. All the trees mean they can’t fight in a big group or find us easily.”

“Makes sense. I can probably take on any Goblin or Half-Goblin one on one, just not the whole tribe at the same time.”

“Exactly. The only problem is that Gobbo tribes always have multiple escape routes, it’s how you got into my old tribe’s camp remember? So while we can get in and take out a few of them most of the tribe will flee and vanish into the dungeon if they think they can't win.”

Rain snorted. “You found all the escape tunnels didn't you.”

“Yuss. There’s three of them, not many, but this is a very defensive tribe for Gobbos. They made a lot of enemies by being so aggressive and bloodthirsty.”

“We sneak in, block all the exits then kill the tribe bit by bit while they have no escape. You’re getting scarily good at thinking up traps.”

She grinned. “I know.” Then pursed her lips. “Though there are some strong looking Half-Gobbos in there. This Gobbo tribe is wow, so slutty. They really banged anything they could get their grubby little hands on.”

Opal grabbed the Kobold’s chain and they slipped down into the jungle. They didn't take the road but slunk through the dark shadowy jungle following the wall of the cavern. Ahead Rain saw the two guards, this time from the side and close up. They were on a slight rise but not far from the edge of the foliage they hid under.

“You need to kill them both quick, can't let them get inside and call the alarm.”

Rain nodded his agreement and set his feet, half crouched and ready.

Opal watched until they seemed particularly distracted, both talking to each other and looking away from where they hid, and then she dropped the hand she was holding up.

Rain moved. His feet drove down into the soil so hard it compressed beneath them. He exploded out of the foliage like a demonic shadow, his paws came down on the Lamia-goblin’s shoulders and his jaws snapped shut on his neck like a bear trap instantly severing his spine. He rode the falling corpse to the ground and keeping his momentum fell on the second guard as they started to scream holding their spear up to try to defend themselves. Rain jabbed him in the gut ending the scream in a gargle then he grabbed his head and forcefully twisted, snapping his neck. The Human-goblin flopped to the ground dead.

Opal emerged from the foliage with the Kobold and slunk up by the side of the round tunnel to look in. After a moment she sighed in relief. 

“No ones coming, looks like that scream wasn’t heard, there's still no one there. Here, let's take them inside.”

Each grabbed a guard by the arms and they dragged them through the short two meter tunnel. On the other side trees and bushes grew up close and they found a tree surrounded with dense foliage a little away from the entrance. To the Kobold’s horror he was tied to the tree with the two half goblins either side of him. He gave the two corpses a wide eyed look.

“Y-you’re just going to leave me here?! With these??”

“Yup!” said Opal brightly.

They returned back to the tunnel. On this end of the tunnel was a massive thick stone disc to one side. Pegs were driven through a section of the disc with which ropes had been attached and left to dangle.

“This is the main door thing. They all heave on the ropes and pull the disc over the entrance blocking it off when they need to defend from other monsters or levelers or monster tribes.”

Rain examined the disc and then stepped to one side and set his shoulder against it. He then heaved. His feet slid against the ground as he strained, but after a moment the disc began to ever so slowly move, inch by inch, then picking up speed it rolled over the entrance sealing it off. Opal drew her cutlass and then hacked all of the ropes attached to the pegs until there was nothing remaining. While Opal was doing that Rain found a wedge-shaped rock and together with another rock he hammered it under one side of the disc using his abundance of strength, ensuring it was nigh impossible to remove. 

Opal gave him a thumbs up and they dashed off into the jungle. She led them around the perimeter until they came across a hole in the ground.

“Uh, got any ideas?”

Rain scratched his chin and frowned looking around, he then looked at a nearby tree growing next to the cavern wall. He moved up to it and tried pushing the trunk to no avail. He then tried wrapping his arms around it and heaving, it moved, but only a little. Frustrated he climbed between the tree and the wall and pulled up his feet against the bark, then using the wall as leverage he shoved outward with all his might. He snarled and pushed himself to the limit. The tree cracked, and then with a groan it began to fall, finally crashing down over the hole and blocking it with its trunk. He couldn’t have imagined doing something like this when he had first stumbled ashore on the great lake starving and soaked, he’d come a long way, his strength outpacing even his size.

Opal jumped around the trunk trying to see if she could slip down any gap. She could not and gave Rain the nod before they moved on. They were about to leave when a Goblin dashed out of the jungle. 

“H-hey what was that noise? Wait, what is that monster you got with you!?”

Opal froze before quickly shifting disposition and making placating gestures. 

“I was coming back with a new nice monster for the tribe to breed with and this tree fell on the hole I came in through just as I was getting out!”

“Uhh, really? Huh. Lucky you didn’t get squashed… Wait why are you so clean apart from your face?”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s embarrassing but if you must know I tripped and fell in a lake, I’ve only just got around to reapplying some nice dirt.”

The Goblin eyed her suspiciously.

“I… don’t know, that sounds kinda- ghurk!”

Opal stabbed him in the neck. Several times. Then dragged his body under a bush.

“Did that Goblin really just find the fact that you are clean more suspicious than the fact you have a monster like me with you?” said Rain in disbelief.

“You wouldn't get it. It’s a Gobbo thing.”

She grabbed his paw and pulled him back into the jungle. They quickly found the second escape tunnel. This one was more easily blocked with a nice nearby pile of rocks, they shoved and heaved them into the hole filling the bottom of it. 

Soon enough they were on the way to the third potential escape route having yet to see another Goblin. That luck abruptly came to an end however as the final escape tunnel was right next to a camp of Half-Goblins.