Desperation

Janne rolled out of the way, nearly falling into the firepit as the goblin’s heavy punch smashed into the ground.  Leaning her head up to look, she saw that her attacker was a head taller than the other wood goblins.  Its metal shone in the reflected light, a mishmash of chain and plate that in places looked more like a part of the creature’s skin than a worn suit of armor.  It leapt towards Janne, heavy boots hitting the ground on either side of her chest.  Leaning down, it leered at the hospitalier with shrunken black eyes.  “Is wriggly, yes?  Is better if I eats it alive, yes?”

She flailed desperately, trying to crawl away as the metal goblin leaned in closer.  Panicking, she brushed her hand against one of Asgeir’s wooden skewers.  She clutched it and thrust it up, jabbing the pointed stick into the monster’s face.  It howled in agony as Janne rammed the skewer into the goblin’s open mouth and embedded it in its throat.  She scrambled out from under it as it writhed , floundering about as blood poured out of its mouth.

Finally finding the scream she’d been trying to get out, Janne charged the wounded goblin.  Throwing her body weight against the monster, she shoved it into the cracking firepit.  The flame hissed as the metal-clad monster came crashing down on it; the beast yelped in pain as the fire seared its exposed flesh.  It rolled off the flames only to collapse at the feet of the Archbishop, who calmly pushed his last opponent off his sword and pushed the blade down through the metal goblin’s chest.  The mismatched mail gave  easily to Valgard’s fiery sword; the monster twitched a few times before falling silent.

Janne looked up to Valgard for a moment, panting softly.  Valgard returned her gaze for a brief moment before ripping his sword from the corpse.  “Are you all right, Bishop?” he asked.

“I… I…” Janne gasped, trying to calm her heart down before it pounded out of her chest.  “I will be, Your Grace.  It startled me.”

Valgard nodded.  “Good.  Asgeir, burn the others.”

“At once, Your Grace,” the page answered.  Janne looked over to see the two goblins that had assaulted him lying in puddles of blood and ichor.  Asgeir finished wiping a knife clean, then moved to his pack and drew out a torch.  “Milady, would you be so kind as to light this?  I’ll move the bodies.”

“Of course,” Janne replied shakily.  As she turned towards the campfire, she saw Valgard hauling the metal goblin off to one side.  His sword was still out, flames trailing along its edge.  “Your Grace?” she called out timidly.

“Twenty-four years, Bishop.”  Valgard turned and looked over his shoulder to the puzzled hospitalier.  “I have served the Church as her Archbishop for twenty-four years.  I was a Cardinal for fifteen years before that, and I served as a page to Archbishop Gildarsson for ten years as he swept the western edge of our lands clear of this defiled filth.”  He turned back to the fallen goblin, dropping it at his feet like a sack of refuse.  “In all that time, I have never seen a goblin that made an oath with metal.  Stone, wood, water, air – any material of the fallen world you can think of, I’ve seen.  But not this.”  He held the sword over his head again; the flames flared to life.

“What does it mean?” Janne wondered aloud.  “And what are you going to do?”

“I do not know what it means.  I intend to find out.”  Pointing his blade at the goblin’s chest, Valgard prodded the creature.  The fire flowed from the blade and encompassed its crumpled form, giving it an eerie glow.  “Beast, I am Valgard Broddrson.  I am the Archbishop of the One True Church, wielder of the locking key.  You will answer me.”

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