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Goblin Threats at Grukmar's Edge
Lumeshire
Goblin Threats at Grukmar's Edge
Valarian
Valarian
April 03, 2024
6 min

The Outpost

Varian walked up the muddy path to the outpost. Elric followed, yawning. Varian’s hand touched the sword at his hip, thumb rubbing the pommel. The girl’s scared face stayed in his mind.

“Did you sleep at all?” Elric mumbled.

“No. You?”

“Same.”

Silence stretched between them, heavy with unspoken fears. They passed between the outpost’s wooden walls. A few soldiers walked about, faces tired. Varian nodded to the sentries and headed for the captain’s quarters.

Alden waited outside, leaning on his spear, fidgeting. His young face looked worried.

“What’s happened?” Varian asked.

“Riders. From the frontier villages.”

“Goblins?” Elric’s voice rose.

Alden shrugged unhappily. “They’re inside with the captain. That’s all I know.”

Varian squared his shoulders and knocked once on the old door before pushing it open. Captain Aldric stood behind his desk, two men in dirty cloaks before him.

“…found three more dead cows,” one was saying. “Throats cut.”

Aldric glanced up, face serious. “Varian. Elric.” He waved them forward.

“Goblins?” The word sounded loud in the small room.

“It seems so.” Aldric rubbed his bearded chin. “These men found goblin tracks near the bodies. But no sightings.”

“They killed three cows?” Elric asked.

“Yes,” the cloaked man said. “But they didn’t take them.”

An uneasy silence fell. Varian felt his heart beat faster. The girl’s scream echoed in his memory. He stepped forward.

“Sir, we had an incident in the village last night. A girl, attacked near the square.” He described her terror, the strange absence of any attacker when they investigated. As he spoke, he saw Aldric’s face grow more serious.

“You found no tracks? No signs?”

“None, sir. But the girl was very upset. She kept staring at the forest…”

Aldric nodded slowly. He sent the cloaked men away and then turned to Varian and Elric.

“I’ll be honest, lads. This is bad news.” His eyes were dark. “But we mustn’t rush into anything. Panic is the enemy now.”

“What do we do?” Elric asked.

The captain straightened. “Double the watch. Patrol in pairs, never alone. I want a full search of our borders.”

“We’ll need more men,” Varian said. “The outpost is already short-handed.”

“I know. I’ll get some from the village. Elric, see to that.” Aldric gave them a firm look. “But listen well - no one goes into Grukmar territory. Understood? We watch, we guard. Nothing more.”

“Yes sir.” The words tasted bad in Varian’s mouth. Grukmar territory. The thought made his skin crawl. How many times had he stared into those trees, wondering? The dark treetops hid a thousand nightmares.

Preparations

They walked out into the pale morning, steps heavy. Elric blew out a breath.

“Blood and ashes. I never thought…” He trailed off.

“I know.” Varian’s hand found his sword hilt again, a habit. The weight was comforting.

They walked the outpost border in grim silence, checking the simple wall for weak spots. It seemed a flimsy barrier against the huge forest. Varian’s eyes kept flicking to those dark trees, searching the shadows between the trunks.

By midmorning, they had a dozen men gathered, sleepy villagers holding spears and axes. Some looked barely older than boys.

Varian looked at them, mouth dry. “Right. You all know why you’re here.” Blank faces stared back. He swallowed. “There’s been trouble on the frontier. Attacks. The captain needs extra hands to patrol our borders.”

Whispers went through the group. Varian raised his voice. “We’ll be working in shifts. Four-hour rotations. You’ll have an experienced guard with you at all times. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you.”

He met each man’s gaze one by one, trying to seem confident. “Any questions?”

Silence. He nodded quickly. “Good. Elric will assign your posts.”

He walked away before his mask could slip, Elric’s soft instructions fading behind him. The sun rose as he walked the village edge, a cold eye peeking through moving clouds.

The Watch

By the time he returned to the outpost, the new patrols had been sent out and an uneasy calm settled. He found Elric in the armory, carefully sharpening his blade.

“All quiet?” Varian asked.

“So far. You?

“The same. It feels wrong. Like the calm before a storm.”

Elric tested his sword edge against a thumb. “Captain’s orders were clear. We watch and wait.”

“I don’t like this waiting,” Varian growled. “If there are goblins out there…”

“What? You want to go hunting? In Grukmar?” Elric shook his head. “You heard the captain. We don’t cross that line.”

“And if they cross it first?”

Elric met his gaze. In his eyes, Varian saw his own frustration mirrored. “Then we’ll be ready.”

They took first watch together, walking the wall as the sun sank in a blaze of red and gold. The forest crouched in eerie stillness, not even a breath of wind in the leaves. They patrolled in tense silence, senses straining. Every snapping twig made hands leap to hilts.

As dusk darkened, they lit torches, the flames hissing and popping. Varian peered into the growing dark, imagining eyes looking back. Hungry eyes, waiting for their moment.

Elric paused, torch casting jumping shadows over his angular face. “Do you believe the stories? About the Goblin rituals?”

Varian shrugged. “Fireside tales. Meant to scare children into behaving.”

“The captain takes them seriously.”

“He has to. It’s his job.”

“But you don’t?”

Varian looked out at the trees, their trunks pale in the fading light. “I believe something evil lives in that forest. Maybe the goblins find it. Maybe it finds them. Either way, only a fool would go looking for it.”

Elric grunted, then froze. “There! Did you see that?” He pointed with his torch.

Varian squinted. The torch cast a small pool of light, barely cutting the shadowed bushes. Darkness pressed close, thick and heavy.

“I don’t - wait.” A flicker of movement, there and gone. Varian drew his sword. The sound of steel was very loud.

They stood ready, barely breathing. The night hung perfectly still. A branch cracked, echoing like thunder. Varian whirled, heart pounding.

A shape burst from the trees, running toward the wall. Elric shouted, lunging. His torch swept down -

And a scared rabbit scampered between the posts, racing for cover.

Elric sagged, laughing shakily. “Looks like we’ve found our goblin.”

Varian didn’t smile. He stared into the forest, the night breeze cold on his face. Branches creaked and settled like old bones. Leaves hissed, whispering in a forgotten language. The dark spaces between the trees gaped like mouths.

Slowly, he sheathed his sword and turned away.

They finished their walk in watchful quiet and stumbled back to the barracks, stiff with cold and tiredness. The outpost lay silent save for the crackle of fires and the occasional murmur of voices.

Elric paused outside the long, low building. “Varian. The things we heard as boys…”

“I know.” He put a hand on Elric’s shoulder. “Get some rest. Tomorrow will be what it will be.”

But rest was hard to find. Varian tossed on his narrow bed, mind racing. He saw again the girl’s torn face, the old trees cloaked in shadow, their branches reaching. When sleep finally came, it was filled with large shapes and glinting eyes and the smell of blood.

Signs of the Enemy

Dawn broke grey and gloomy. Varian got up tired, body aching. He forced down a bowl of watery porridge and walked out to the yard. Elric was waiting, face drawn. He looked as if he’d slept as poorly as Varian.

“Patrol’s back,” he said shortly. “They found something.”

Varian’s stomach tightened. “Show me.”

They walked through the outpost gate, Elric in the lead. A handful of men clustered near the tree line, voices low and tense. They moved aside as Varian approached.

Dug into the damp earth were tracks, long and spread out. Not human. Elric crouched, tracing one with a finger.

“Goblin?” Varian asked, though he already knew the answer.

Elric nodded seriously. “Found them ranging half a mile along the border. Looks like a scouting party.”

Cold fear settled in Varian’s gut. He stared into the forest, the trees suddenly more threatening. Goblin scouts, testing their defenses. Looking for weakness. It could only mean one thing.

“They’re coming,” he murmured. “Gods help us, they’re finally coming.”

Elric rose, face hardening into a mask. “Then we’d best be ready to meet them.” He turned to the gathered men. “Back to your posts. Sharpen your weapons and keep your eyes open. Those goblins won’t catch us off guard.”

The men left, muttering. Varian stayed, gaze fixed on the dark spaces between the trees. The forest seemed to mock him, secretive and watchful.

How long? How long had they lurked there, waiting? What horrors did those shadows hide? He thought of the farmers carving their fields from the wild land, planting crops within sight of that evil treeline. Brave foolishness, or blind ignorance?

“Old gods protect us,” he breathed. “I fear a great evil is stirring in Grukmar.”

He felt Elric’s hand on his shoulder, the grip tight. “Then it’s our duty to stop it. Whatever crawls out of those trees, we’ll stand against it.”

They walked back through the outpost gate, steps heavy. Around them, men went about their work with nervous energy, as if the very air was full of waiting. Above, the sky churned, dark grey.

The shadowed treetops hid a thousand nightmares.


Tags

#goblins#grukmar#skirmish shadows

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Previous Article
A Guard's Glimpse into Grukmar
Valarian

Valarian

The Unrelenting Protector

Table Of Contents

1
The Outpost
2
Preparations
3
The Watch
4
Signs of the Enemy

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