All of Ask’s life, he saw war and trial. Peace was not commonplace, and the orphanages were full. In the capital, the stench of construction filled his long nose. In the forests, the scent of smoke lingered. On the waters, it was almost impossible to be out of sight of a warship that was fighting for some people or another. Even in the homes of civilians, the words of the army were repeated without a thought. “For Njolr,” the people said as a greeting to each other.
Ask’s long ears twitched as sat on his roof in a squat. He sniffed curiously, and his lips pulled back to display sharp teeth. The voice he heard was foreign, and said something unusual.
The voice said “Njolr should be burned to ash,and its lands salted.”
The goblin on the roof hissed quietly between his teeth, and his tufted tail flicked back and forth like an angry cat as patriotic rage welled up within him. His chest hurt, and his claws dug into the wood of his wood board roof as his wide, slitted eyes darted about in search of the fools who dared threaten Njolr in one of its own settlements.
“Be quiet.” A second voice scolded. “If anyone heard you say that, you would be killed, you stupid drunk!” Finally, some sense, even if it was from a woman like the innkeeper’s wife. Ask settled slightly, until the first voice spoke again.
“I ain’t from here, I can say what I want, bitch. Your job is just to accept my cock and my coin.”
The goblin darted toward the inn, jumping from one roof to another with a noisy clattering of claws on wood and stone until he arrived at the house right behind it, where he settled in to watch. His rage felt like a tight ball of fire in his throat as he stared down at the dark-skinned man below. The filthy sand-flea was in the middle of forcing the innkeeper’s wife over the hitching post.
She was struggling. Movement inside her husband’s work told Ask that the man didn’t mind his wife getting raped. Ask minded, even if she was a horrible banshee woman. He slipped down the side of the building he was on and kept to the shadows as he approached the man from behind. The man’s trousers were around his ankles as Ask pressed against the man’s back, propped up on his toes for additional height. “For Njolr,” he hissed, and for a moment, he spotted recognition in the woman’s eyes before he gave the man the death of the honorless– a stab to the groin.
His claws were covered in hot, red liquid as he stepped over the bleeding, dying man. “Are you hurt?” He looked up at her.
“No. I’ll share his coin with you if you get his filth out of here before anyone comes looking. Take his horse and kill it, too. I will protect my husband’s good name.”
Ask frowned. “Done. Pay tomorrow night when I come, so you don’t have to be seen.” He tilted his head. He grabbed the man and pulled him over one shoulder. “Don’t cheat me.” She went inside, and he dodged guards as he took the body out of town, where he used the man’s own blood to write a message.
“A gutless swine who spoke against Njolr.”
Satisfied, he returned to the inn and grabbed the horse from the hitching post, then led it to his own home, and inside. Hunger shone in his eyes as his bloody hands hurried to remove the expensive leather tack. He felt starved, and horse meat was on the menu. Even if the innkeeper’s woman didn’t uphold her side of the deal, he would still get a meal.
There was only one problem. The horse was too big to eat on his own, and would spoil quickly. He had no way to store food– it had never lasted long enough to need it before.
For a time, he pondered until he decided– he should take it to a butcher. They knew ways to keep their meat fresh. To the lone goblin, a butcher was like a food wizard. He took flesh from an animal and cut it into pieces that lasted longer than a bloody corpse.
The neighbors would complain less if the meat didn’t smell bad after only two days. For the night, he simply tied the beast to a rafter and curled up in a corner far from it, in case it decided it didn’t like him during the night.
Slamming at the door woke him, and he hurried over and peered out a crack.
It was the innkeeper, and his wife was gripped tightly. The tall man looked angry– no, worse than angry, and his wife was obviously in pain.
The slamming continued, and he snuck onto the roof. The blood was stuck to his hands. Oh well. He jumped down. “What?” He glared at the innkeeper.
“A guest at my inn was found dead outside town. My wife says you did it.”
“He was a raper, and spoke bad of Njolr.” He snorted and spat to the side. His yellow eyes never left the innkeeper’s soulless brown eyes.
“That doesn’t matter. He was here to spend a lot of money.”
“Your wife has the money.”
“She says half is for you.”
The goblin looked at the hurting woman. “I told her to, as payment for protecting her.” He looked back at the man defiantly. “Whores aren’t worth this fuss.” Ask scratched his head and snorted.
Ask’s cheek suddenly stung. “She’s not a whore, you filthy beast, and if you speak to her again at all, or even look at her, I’ll tell the guards about your night activities.” The innkeeper spat in Ask’s face. The bubbly spittle slowly dripped down from his closed eye, and Ask inwardly fumed.
“Feh.” Ask snorted and wiped his eye with one clawed finger, then smeared the mix of blood and spit onto the innkeeper. “Keep your spit to yourself, human.” He jerked his fur vest about until it felt comfortable, and then shoved past, into his shoddy little home. Thoughtlessly, he touched the horse’s muzzle to calm it.