“Ah, who cares let's just kill it,” the shorter one said as he drew his dagger.
The goblin felt a flash of panic, and his small eyes went wide in fear. Immediately he whimpered and started to grovel to show his submission to the giants before him. This always worked on humans, well almost always...
“Wait a second. This is interesting,” the other said with a raised hand.
He peered into the cage and looked the goblin over. “I wonder...” he mused to himself before looking it directly in the eyes.
“Sit,” he commanded.
The goblin sat down instantly then smiled up at the men hopefully. Orders were good; they meant the men might consider sparing him.
He really didn't want to be stabbed by the ugly one. The taller man looked friendlier but the hairless one was still giving him an evil look. Clearly, he had to put more effort into his groveling.
“Yes master, I obey,” he exclaimed in his best weak and harmless voice. From experience he knew it was impossible to suck up to his masters too much.
“What the hells, it talks?” the bald man responded.
The taller grey haired one shook his head. It was obvious he wasn't impressed by the other man's intelligence.
“It's not wild, Buck. It's trained, like a dog. They use them in some places to do dirty work in mines and workshops,” the older man explained condescendingly.
“Well, we don't have any use for it and there are more than enough goblins around here. We don't need freakish talking ones too. So, let's just kill it already, Saeter,” the shorter one suggested.
The goblin felt a stab of fear as the bald man Buck once again voiced his intention to kill him. He didn't want to die! There were so many tasty things he hadn't had a chance to try yet.
Luckily, the taller man named Saeter frowned at Buck in disagreement after he spoke.
“No, I might have a use for it. These things are supposed to have a good sense of smell and good dogs are hard to keep out here. They get eaten,” Saeter told the other man.
“Me good smeller! Me no be eaten!” the goblin interjected helpfully.
He could do anything better than a stupid dog, and he had a lifetime full of experience in not being eaten. He had gotten pretty good at it.
Buck gave the goblin a doubtful look but the goblin thought he saw Saeter smile slightly. The older man was obviously the one he needed to suck up to.
“What if the little freak runs off?” Buck asked skeptically.
“Then like you just said this area has more than enough goblins already. One more won't make any difference. Unless you think it's going to talk us to death,” Saeter answered with a hint of authority in his voice and body language.
Buck frowned a bit in response, but much to the goblin's relief he was clearly backing down. Obviously, Saeter was the more dominant male, and much smarter as well since he saw the goblin's worth.
“Whatever, if you want the bloody little thing I doubt anyone will care. Just keep it out of my way. I'll fill the boss in on the actual useful stuff we found,” Buck huffed before walking away.
When he was gone Saeter turned to the goblin and got a large toothy smile of gratitude from the green midget in return.
“So do you have a name then, goblin?” Saeter asked.
It took the creature a few seconds to figure out what the man's words meant, and then the question itself surprised him. Among the sewer goblins he was addressed by his position in the pack and the humans hadn't ever felt the need to name their slaves.
“No, master,” he answered after a second of hesitation.
He didn't know where this was going. Saeter looked thoughtful for a second.
“Alright, from now on your name is... Blacknail, because your one toenail is darker than the rest. Do you understand?” he asked.
“Me Blacknail,” the goblin replied excitedly.
It felt weird to have a name; something to call himself that was his own. He liked the feeling, though. He also liked that his new name described something that set him apart from other goblins, his dark nail. Not just any goblin could have his name. They couldn't even beat him up and steal it!
“Now, if I let you out are you going to stay close to me and do as I say?” Saeter asked the goblin sternly.
Blacknail once again detected a hint of threat in his voice. Well that was normal in the masters. They were always angry at goblins for something. They should really stop leaving all their shiny and tasty things lying around if they didn't want goblins to rescue them.
“You master,” Blacknail gravelly replied to Saeter.
He didn't understand everything Saeter had just said but he understood enough. Besides calling humans master was always the right answer. Saeter grinned gruffly in response.
“You certainly get right to the point. Alright then,” he said with a bit of humour as he moved over and begun to unlatch the cage.
When it was open Blacknail took a few careful steps out before slowly stretching and then turning back to face his new master expectantly. It felt so good to get out of the cage. He just wished he was home and not in this strange place.
His first instinct was to make a run for it as soon as the man’s back was turned. However, now Blacknail was stuck out here among all the unsettling trees and nasty looking men. Home was very far away and the goblin had no idea what sort of dangers lay in wait for him among the trees, but he was sure there were lots!
Thus, he planned on staying very close to this new non-hostile human named Saeter. He was big even for a human so it should be fairly safe close to him, and that was worth a few beatings.
The top of the goblin's head only reached slightly more than halfway up Saeter's body. His green skinned body was shaped like that of a small stumpy person.
He also had a bald head, two long pointy ears, and sharp nails on his hands and feet. His nose was large, long, and beak like. His eyes were small and squinty while his teeth were sharp and needle like.
Blacknail thought of himself as quite the handsome creature but was pretty sure his masters thought otherwise. Saeter however did not seem surprised or repulsed by his appearance.
“Alright, let's see how well trained you are. Go, Blacknail,” Sater said forcefully while pointing to a spot on the ground a dozen feet from him.
The goblin quickly rushed over to stand on that spot and then turned to smile proudly at his master. Too easy, this was a command he had mastered long ago!
“Stay,” Saeter commanded next as he placed a piece of dried meat on the ground in front of himself.
The scent of the meat reminded Blacknail that he hadn't eaten since that morning and that the men of the wagons hadn't been feeding him all that much anyway. He liked gruel as much as the next goblin but it got old after the first few weeks. Now he wanted something different.
However, he ignored the rumble in his tummy and didn't move. He was far too clever for that. He knew this was a trick. He had figured it out in the city after only five beatings! Truly, he was a genius among goblins.
“Good goblin, now come,” Saeter told him next.
Blacknail moved to stand in front of Saeter. He had been called a good goblin! His old masters had never done that.
Saeter then reached down to pick up the meat and to Blacknail's surprise handed it to him. The goblin shoved the delicious smelling meat into his mouth before his master could change his mind. He managed to get it down with only a tiny bit of choking and gagging. The men of the city had never given him anything so tasty.
“Hungry were you?” Saeter asked while giving Blacknail an odd look. “Well, good. You've got discipline, I can work with that,” Saeter said with just a bit of satisfaction in his otherwise rough voice.
Blacknail suddenly belched loudly as the food he had eaten too quickly tried to come up again. His new master's smile faded a little and he hesitated for a second before pressing on.
“Anyway, follow me. Back at camp we'll see what you can really do,” Saeter told the goblin before beginning to walk off.
The goblin knew the follow command, but he mostly knew he didn't want to be left alone there without his nice new safe master. He was unused to being above ground in the day and the bright blinding sunlight and strange fresh air unnerved him. Bleh, he dearly wished for the safe darkness and comforting smell of the sewers.
Blacknail followed Saeter through the remains of the caravan. It was much more interesting looking, and smelling, now with all the bandits scattered around looting corpses and wagons.
Blacknail stuck close to his new master for safety as the men around them looked huge and dangerous. They were all obviously armed with various weapons, some of them still slick with red human blood.
A few of the attackers stared at Blacknail as he passed and called out to Saeter. Blacknail was relieved that after a brief response from Saeter all of the men quickly lost interest in him and went back to looting and carrying stuff.
After walking down the road a bit Saeter led the goblin over to the woods. After so many days of seeing the trees from a distance Blacknail was surprised at how intimidating they looked close up.
In front of him a wall of greenery stretched. Trees many times his own height with light bark towered overhead and their long branches stretched out in every direction. Thick bushes sat underneath them and blocked most the ways forward. Only a few areas were thin enough for people to pass through.
Blacknail gulped nervously as he approached the twisted mass of twigs and leaves before him. He much preferred trees when they weren't all so close together and hard to see through.
However, the goblin’s new master calmly strode through a gap in the bushes and into the strange overgrown domain beyond. Blacknail hesitated a second before following. Briefly, he considered trying to find another master who was still out on the road, but then he gathered up his courage and stepped into the woods.
Branches towered above him cloaked in greenery as he passed through the threshold. The canopy wasn’t thick enough to block most of the sunlight but it still concealed way too much from the goblin's sight for him to be comfortable.
His earlier thoughts of human eating forest monsters didn't seem so exciting now. They were actually quite terrifying. As he nervously followed the man named Saeter under the tree branches, Blacknail couldn't help but imagine legions of fearful beasts with bad intentions laying in wait above him.
With a start, Blackanil realized his new master was beginning to pull ahead. That would be bad! He really didn't want to be left alone where there was no huge tough human to scare everything hungry for goblin away.
All the trees and bushes looked exactly the same to Blacknail. If he lost sight of his master he would quickly become hopelessly lost.
The goblin quickly plunged through the bushes in front of him in pursuit of his new master. He immediately regretted his actions, though. The branches poked and scratched him painfully so he had to slow down.
Ack, why were the bushes so pointy? He hissed in frustration and annoyance. Moving slower he carefully sulked after Saeter, while trying to make as little noise as possible and keep an eye on everything around him.
A few minutes later heard what he thought was his master's voice but couldn't see him or make out his words. The concerned goblin quickly pushed through the bushes again, and after a brief prickly resistance he found himself stepping through the last barrier at the edge of the woods and into a small clearing.
Blacknail shuddered. The scrub had been filled with bushes that poked and scratched him. There were also so many new confusing smells and he itched terribly now. As he scratched himself vigorously he heard a sound off to his side.
He turned to look and jumped in alarm at what he saw there. Only a few feet away a strange tall human with a drawn sword was scowling at him.
“Now what do we have here? Looks like a scrawny little goblin,” the big ugly pink human drawled as Blacknail took a frightened step back from him.
“Maybe I should save us all some trouble and kill you. I doubt Saeter would really care too much,” the dirty rough shaven man said with a sneer as he towered over the goblin.
The human's foul breath washed over the goblin as he talked. Blacknail froze in terror. The huge human man was so close!
“Enough, Ferret. Stop scaring my goblin,” Saeter shouted irritably at the other man.
Blacknail’s new master had stopped walking away and turned back towards them. There was a dangerous look in his eye as he stared towards the other man.
“I’m just having a little fun, Saeter. Don't you worry,” the foul smelling man said with a laugh. His eyes however were still hostile when he turned away from the goblin.
Sighing in relief, the goblin scurried after his master. Blacknail was pretty sure Saeter didn't want to kill him but he wasn't so sure about this new human.Obviously, he feared challenging Blacknail and his new master though, because he didn’t pursue them.
The meadow the goblin found himself hastily scrambling through seemed to have been filled with long grass in the recent past but most the plants had been trampled down. Only a few patches of standing plants remained.
Several crude tents of various sizes were scattered around along with the remains of a fair number of burnt out fire pits. Heaps of various types of equipment were piled around in seemingly random places making the camp seem haphazard.
Saeter was headed towards one of the fire pits that was off to the side of the clearing. Blacknail trailed him. His master reached the camp site and began to rummage through a bag. After taking out a few items Saeter straightened up and turned to the goblin.
“All right, time for some real tests,” he told Blacknail sternly.
The goblin felt a hint of alarm, but only a hint. Surely, he was a clever goblin that wouldn't fail any tests. He grinned eagerly at the thought of showing off his intelligence.
The more his new master trusted him the safer he would be. It would also make it easier for him to eventually escape back to his old home.
Saeter began to drill Blacknail through various commands. They worked through some very simple ones to some more complex ones. If Blacknail didn't know a command then Saeter showed him, which was a system the goblin liked much more than being smacked with stick every time he did something wrong. That was what his old masters had done.
Blacknail learned every new command after seeing it once, and in the process learned quite a few new human words as well. Saeter was pleased at his quick progress and showed it with comments such as “Good,” and “Well done”.
Saeter was constantly giving him new things to do. Blacknail was careful to try and remember all the new commands so that he would not be punished when his master demanded he perform them. He was really not sure why Saeter had taught him to shake his hand or play dead though. Maybe it was to lure prey closer? He hoped he wouldn't be used as bait...
“Hmm, that will do. You learn quickly enough. Now for a real test. You can't run around bare ass every day so let's see if you can make your own clothes,” Saeter announced.
The grey haired man then headed over to the side of the clearing that the bandits hadn't trampled where some tall plants were still growing. After a quick inspection he chose one and pulled it out of the ground.
“Here, see this is Wolf Mane. This is Wolf's mane,” he told Blacknail slowly and clearly as he held the dead plant up for him to see. “I want you to pull these plants up like I just did. Get to it.”
“Yes, master,” Blacknail said and nodded vigorously in confirmation. He scanned the vegetation in front of him until he found a dead plant like the one his master had pulled out then moved to stand beside it. He grabbed it low close to the ground and pulled. It didn't budge.
Afraid of taking too long and incurring a punishment he tried again and this time put all his strength into it. The plant came loose with sudden jerk and Blacknail was sent spiralling over backward. His momentum carried him until a rough impact with Saeter's boots stopped his roll.
Blacknail cringed in horror. He hadn't meant to touch his master and incur his terrible wrath. He shielded his face with his hands and peeked up. Much to the goblin's confusion though Saeter was just scowling down at him, and made no move to hit him. The edges of his mouth were twitching upwards for some reason though.
“Try again,” Saeter said as he suppressed a smile.
Blacknail rushed to his feet and found another stalk. This time he pulled it out correctly. After a few minutes he pulled several more out with no further problems.
“That should be enough. Follow me,” Saeter said as he gathered all the plants and carried them back to his camp. Once there he sat down and begun to pull the plants apart.
“Watch and do this. You need the fibres, the stringy bits,” he said as he held them up for Blacknail to look at.
Saeter pulled the stalk apart and extracted the long stringy fibres. Then he rubbed them gently between his fingers till they came loose. When he was done he handed Blacknail a plant.
The goblin took it and gave it a doubtful look. This was nothing like anything his old masters had made him do. With a shrug the goblin copied the actions of Saeter and stripped out the fibres and cleaned them by rubbing them.
“Good, now the hard part,” Saeter continued.
He then straightened the fibres out and begun to weave them together carefully with his fingers. “Watch carefully,” he told Blacknail.
The goblin peered at the cord forming in Saeter's hand as he twisted the fibres together. It seemed sort of complicated but how hard could twisting pieces of plant be for a genius goblin like him? He eagerly went to work.