Looking around a second time to be sure, I’m very certain now that he meant me. There’s literally nobody else up here on this corner of the rafters but me. Why? Tribute? What? Is the dungeon-master sacrificing goblins to the dragon to let the trash-mobs get past his staircase? That’s pretty cold-blooded, guy. But more importantly, why has he singled me out to be today’s snack? I feel like I have better things to do than be eaten by a dragon and also more importantly, if I might be so bold, I feel like I deserve to just be treated better as well in general, you know?
I turn and book it away as fast as my goblin-elder body can run. I’m a decrepit three and a half years old mind you. I’m not just one foot into the grave, I’m both feet along with the rest of me into the grave. Goblins generally only live about three years and, I would say, I’ve had a good life up until this point. Very successful. I was born to a good wave. I was blessed with magic. Trained by the very best of my time. Trained the very best of my time. Now here I am, running to not be a ritual sacrifice.
You know? I can’t help but feel like the dungeon-master has been bullying me a little lately. I’m starting to get a little… peeved about it. I mean, I appreciated the drink last time at first but that went downhill quickly. Then there was uh… yeah, that time he gave me a coin. I remember that too. And now? Well now I’m being chased literally a minute after respawning. Give me a break, guy. Come on. Are you mad at me dungeon-master? I’ve been doing my best though. I’ve been doing my best for you. So why are you such a passive-aggressive jerk?
Out of the corner of my eye I can see the royal-guards rushing towards the staircase to come up and get me. Why am I an old guy again I ask the universe. Couldn’t I have been some young hotshot goblin who’s not being chased? I amble as fast as my old body can take me to get away from the group. Ugh. What a life this is turning out to be guy. This is not how I imagined my retirement was going to be, tell you what. Not that I’ll ever get to retire, but, you know.
As I run along the rafters towards another exit I look over my shoulder at the group of armored goblins catching up to me and for a moment I feel a heat grow at my fingers as a tiny, freshly birthed magical flame begins to blossom. For a moment I think I’ll just throw a fireball at them, that should do the trick truth be told. But then I stop myself when I realize that I know them.
That one there’s Gil’zil, his parents were jerks but he turned out alright. Real straight edge guy. Good kid. The one next to him is Zig’nal, she’s the funny one but I think she just does it because she’s hiding her emotions behind humor. She hasn’t learned to lower those barriers yet but she’s getting there. All of them, I know all of them. Gil’zil and Zig’nal and Nix’dim and Pil’pal and Rif’ral and Tin’fel. Oh, there’s Min’man and Hil’zal and Rip’wan and Dil’den and Jin’jim and Lil’pal and uh… oh. Phil. Phil is in the back, but we don’t talk about Phil. He’s the odd one. It all started when his parents gave him that stupid name. Poor kid never had a chance. Dungeon life can be so cruel.
I sigh and let the magic dissipate, I can’t kill these kids. I practically raised these kids. Taught them everything they know. From gutting rats to reading. All of the R’s of the goblin world. Really covered everything there is to know about life. They’re all good kids. Ah hell. I’ve had a good life. I’ve had a long life. Heck, I’m already three and a half years old. What more could a goblin ask for? I slow down and stop and turn around. Raising my hands and staff I tell them I’ll go with them. I’m too old to be doing this kind of stuff anymore anyways.
The royal-guards catch up to me and look at each other a little uncertainly. Standard protocol would have been to punch me in the gut, so they’re being nice I guess. That’s the kind of behavior good educators can help foster, friend. They take a moment to huddle together and murmur between each other, one of them putting a hand on my shoulder so I don’t run again. Waiting for them to do their thing I look around to the arena, even in my old age, my eyes are still as sharp as ever. I can see that the goblin-king in all of his pudgy glory has left again. He was just there a moment ago. He must have sneaked out while I was being chased. Hmm.
The group nods in an affirmative tone with a loud collective grunt and they look back to me.
Gil’zil speaks “Elder, why you chosen? Is it because of stairs? What dragon? Never seen dragon. Must be very far. Dragon can eat rats instead.”
The others murmur in agreement. I stop them and tell them the king has ordered it so, that the dungeon-master has ordered it so. It’s not their place to disobey. They murmur between themselves again. Before looking back to me.
“Will you run?” asks Zig’nal. I say look at me, I am too old to run twice in one day. Hil’zal laughs and Rip’wan shoves an elbow in his gut. Looking at them I can see that they are conflicted. Perhaps I have been underestimating the potential emotional maturity of goblins I think to myself. None of them take the lead. Gil’zil who is usually the leader of the wave is hesitant. He’s too kind hearted, it’ll get him killed one day.
I take Zig’nal’s hand off of my shoulder and turn to walk away.
“Where are you going?” they ask.
“To dragon” I say. “Are you coming?”
A second later I hear thirteen sets of boots shuffle on behind me as I take the lead. Someone has to step up and do what needs to be done after all, right? I need to show these kids that you get things done, that you make things happen by just doing them. By taking that first step, by walking towards that dragon. That’s how you find purpose and meaning. They still need to learn that and they’ll learn that by watching me. A final lesson.
In truth though I doubt we’ll get that far. I puzzle for a moment. What floor are we on? Uh… ninety-nine. The dragon is on… ninety… uh… four? No, ninety-five. Yeah. For sure. So that’s… uh… four stair-cases? Yeah, that’s pretty far for these old bones and the adventurers are getting faster with each run so they’ll beat us to the dragon for sure. Of that I’m pretty certain.
But we’ll see what happens when it happens. Haha, oh man. I wonder if the thief-girl is still mad at me?
Bet she is.