”So, this is your castle then?” Gilbert ridiculed the goblins’ efforts.
The goblins had worked hard to collect stones to build a mound that was about five meters in height and more than twice that in diameter. On one side, some larger flat rocks were arranged to work as a staircase to the top, where the goblins had placed a pair of large tree stumps to serve as thrones. Structurally the whole thing was held together by clay and a few branches. Anastacia pulled King along, climbed to the top and sat down on her throne.
“Shut up, you old fart. It’s a work in progress.” Anastacia yelled down at her friend. “I don’t see your goblin tribe building anything for you! Oh, wait. You don’t have one! So silence your goblin servantless face!”
The goblins were ecstatic to have their royalty oversee their progress and kept dancing around the throne mound. Anastacia tried counting them as there seemed to be more than before, but gave up at thirty-seven as she couldn’t remember which goblins she had already counted.
“Gobby, bring me the spy.” She said, trying her best to sound royal.
“No can. We bury spy.” Gobby answered and shook its head.
“Of course you did. Where?” Anastacia asked and got down from the mound.
Gobby led to them to the field the goblins had apparently gotten their clay from. They had dug a large hole into it, which had stared to gather water from the soil around it, forcing the goblins to expand it sideways instead of making it deeper. Anastacia though that this was a good thing, since the goblins would no doubt dig a hole so deep they couldn’t climb out of it. Next to the hole, there was a bucket that had been turned upside down. Gobby grabbed it and revealed the head of an unconscious half-elf, who had been buried from the neck down.
“Spy yell too much, so we put bucket on.” The goblin chief explained.
“Brilliant… Dig him up before he dies there.” Anastacia commanded. “We’re going to have a talk about what you guys can and can’t do.”
The goblins were surprisingly effective diggers and it didn’t take long for them to dig enough for Gilbert to be able to pull the half-elf up. Anastacia and Gilbert were somewhat surprised when the other half of the spy turned out to be dwarven. Before they had seen the rest of his body, they had only known he wasn’t a pure elf because his ears weren’t long enough, but now that he had been lifted from the clay, it was very clear, as he was shorter than Anastacia. Normally elves are a bit taller than an average human and their hybrids somewhere in between, so seeing a dwarf-sized elf was odd to say the least.
“What are these kinds of mixes even called? Dwelf?” Anastacia asked, hoping Gilbert knew something.
“Exactly that. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Sometimes folks call them half-elves to piss them off, because it’s like they were a half of an elf.” The old adventurer explained knowingly and hoisted the spy on his shoulder to carry him to the thrones.
Anastacia asked the goblins to gather some firewood so they could make a campfire to warm up the dwelf, while being very clear that no fire would be given to the goblins. Gilbert inspected the spy’s pockets to find any connection to the guild, and found a quest notification offering a reward for looking into Anastacia’s goblin tribe.
“You were right, he’s working for the guild.” He said and showed the paper to Anastacia.
“This might be a problem… The whole burying deal won’t look great on a report.” Anastacia worried. “The reward is pretty small, any chance we could bribe him?”
“Worth a try.” Gilbert agreed.
“I’m open for offers.” The dwelf suddenly said and opened his eyes.
Both Gilbert and Anastacia were surprised enough to almost draw their weapons.
“How long have you been awake?!” Anastacia asked and let go of her dagger. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I woke up around the time the big guy pulled me from the mud. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you can get some marvelous info if you keep looking unconscious.” The dwelf said and tried to wipe some of the dirt off his clothes. “Give me ten thousand gold and a kiss, I’ll tell the guild these goblins help blind orphans and poop gold.”
“Five thousand and that’s it.” The necromancer bargained.
“Oh no! Looks like the goblins have started killing traveling merchants!” The dwelf smirked. “Seriously, girl, don’t even try. Fifteen thousand and a peck on the cheek, or ten if sit on my lap. Just something to keep a man going.”
Gilbert thought the bargaining was hilarious, but was ready to step in if needed.
“You’re disgusting. I’ll just ask the goblins to put you back into the ground.” Anastacia threatened and pulled out her daggers.
“A lass of action, are we? I like that. But you’re pretty unlucky, as we mages are never unarmed.” The dwelf laughed and snapped his fingers. Some sparks appeared around them and small lightnings arced between his fingers.
The two stared at each other, looking for a sign of an incoming attack. Or at least the mage was, Alice spent the time taking control of his body and was about to start punching his face with his own fists before Gilbert stopped her.
“Alright, Anna, I know what you’re doing. Stop it now. We don’t need his death in our consciences.” Gilbert said and got up. “And you, half-elf, step down too. I know you think you’re being smart here, but trying to extort a necromancer is among the worst ideas I’ve come across.”
The dwelf laughed heartily and lifted his hands up as a sign of surrendering. Of course, that means nothing for someone who knows magic, but he was the type to know when he had been defeated. Anastacia put away her daggers and threw a pouch of coins on to the ground.
“There’s ten thousand gold there. You’re going to take it and leave, then you’ll tell the guild that these goblins aren’t bothering anyone.” she stated.
“Okay, that’s fair. Anna was it? My name is Valimir, Val for my friends. Pleased to meet you.” The mage said merrily and offered his hand.
“I really don’t care.” Anastacia responded coldly and left to sit on her throne, next to King who had been busy exchanging pebbles with the goblins.
The Granite was a fully equipped castle controlled by a group considered to be barely more than bandits by the surrounding nations. The only reason it hadn’t been cleared out by any of them was that it was poorly placed and had no tactical value for any army. The residents themselves insisted on being called adventurers, and many of them had been turned away from Valor for causing too much trouble or breaking the city’s rules. They made most of their income with mercenary work or by raiding old ruins and bandit camps. Normally the self-nominated lord of the keep gladly accepted guests as they usually came with plenty of money. However, he was not prepared for today’s guests.
Coquelicot and five of her apprentices stood in front of him, covered in his men’s blood.
“I come here, offering a fair exchange, and then someone shoots an arrow at me. You really need to work on your hospitality.” The high inquisitor stated.
“We know of your corps. The red inquisition only comes to destroy! Whoever shot you, did so from fear.” The lord pleaded. “What could I possibly have that someone like you is interested in?!”
“Well, you see, I heard that you successfully raided a ruin right outside Mournvalley recently. I was wondering whether you found a bracelet in there?” Coquelicot asked and took a step closer to the lord, who gripped his sword so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
“I… I think so? All the loot we found is in the storage room over there.” The Lord cowered and pointed at a door in the corner of the room. “Wha…What were you going to offer in exchange?”
“Oh don’t worry about that, we just weren’t going to kill everyone, but frankly, it’s a bit late for that now.” Coquelicot noted as two of her apprentices went to look for the bracelet. “Go ahead and run, you’ve earned that right by being so helpful.”
As the lord ran out of the room, he found out where the red inquisition originally got its name, as every surface of the castle was covered in blood wherever the inquisitor and her apprentices had been.