She strode to the gates of Goblinburg, formerly the abandoned city of Wild Fringe. Her dainty hooves sizzled on the damp ground.
“Oy!” shouted one of the two sentries that stood guard, “’Alt an state yer business!”
Both Goblin guards were dressed in shiny chainmail armor and wielded what were obviously enchanted weapons.
“I am Hala Half Daemon and I have come to parley with you leader,” she said with a flip of her blue-black hair and come hither smile.
“We dunt have leader,” said one of the two guards whose name was Hurg.
“Excuse me?” inquired Hala.
“Everyone thunk dat putting yer faith an’ trust into the ‘ands of one individual leads to sum less dan ideal decisions,” added the other who was called Poxu.
“Power haz de unfortunate side effect of corruptin’ folk.”
“So we choose ta talk things out.”
“And abide by de will o’ da majority.”
“We call it, Talkocracy.”
“’Cause we talk things out, yah see.”
Hala waited for the punchline. None came.
“I see. In any event, I have been sent here to parlay with whoever is… here.”
“An who are you ‘ere on behalf of?” asked Poxu.
Adjusting her bone gown, Hala said, “I come in the name of Garthort the Wicked, master of the arcane arts, crafter of the staff of ultimate wizardry, traveler of the outer AND inner realms, and author of the best selling tome, ‘Secrets You Cannot Understand.’”
Hurg and Poxu gave each other sideways glances.
“’Right den,” said Hurg who gave a sharp whistle.
Two other Goblins, as well armed as the two guards arrived.
“Dis lady is ‘ere for a parley,” said Poxu, who definitely put some sarcasm on the word ‘lady.’
“Roight,” said Zirg, one of the two new Goblin, “Follow us den.”
As they wound their way through the streets, Hala has to say that the Goblins had done an excellent job at revitalizing the city. Everyone appeared to be well-fed and clean. Merchants were doing brisk business, and they passed several pubs, The One-Eyed Elf, The Beardless Dwarf, and The Weeping Wizard. On that last sign, there was a clear resemblance to Garthort. Apparently, they had gained an appreciation for satire with their new freedom.
Finally, they came to the city center and building with a sign that read, ‘Da Honorable Guild o’ Free Goblins,’ in large gilt letters. Upon entering, she was led to a large circular chamber filled with many, well-dressed Goblins. As Hala stood in the center, a hush fell over the room, Zirg shouted, “Listen up ya mugs, dis is Hala Half Deamon, ‘ere to parley on behalf o’ da wizard Garthort the Wicked.” He was quite keen on announcing.
A hush fell over the chamber. Hala put on her most winning smile and spoke.
“My friends! I have come to find common ground to heal the rift between the good folk of Goblinburg and the mighty and puissant Garthort the Wicked. As you know, there is a long history of partnership betwixt Garthort and Goblin-kind. It grieves him to see such a rift occure. So in the interest of-”
“’ Cuse me!” someone interrupted the speech, “But maybe we jest cut to da chase.”
Dressed in finery, Vork stepped out of the assembly.
“And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?” asked Hala who was anything but pleased, even if her face did not show that.
“Vork, current co-shop steward of the DHGOFG,” he replied.
“The DHG-” began Hala.
“-Da Honorable Guild o’ Free Goblins,” supplied Vork, “And me co-shop steward, Bork.”
Bork, now attired in wizard’s robe, complete with pointy hat stood up, waved, and said, “Hullo!”
Hala waved back.
“So you are the leaders of this fine group of Goblins?”
“Technically,” corrected Bork, “A group of Goblins is called a malignity, it is.”
“Well spotted Bork,” said his co-shop steward, “Now as I ‘pect ya already know, we have no leaders, as such. Bork an I jest take care of some o’da particulars. When our time is up, a couple of udder likelies will serve an so on and so forth.”
“An intriguing system,” she replied.
“Innit? Now, seems to me dat ya dunt come all dis way to chat ‘bout our managerial style. So, wot exactly are you here ta do?”
This was not going the way she had expected but she was good at improvisation.
“I have been sent to negotiate the return of items that you… liberated from Garthort the Wicked.”
A loud murmur arose from the Goblins that had the potential to turn ugly. It was cut off by a shrill whistle from Vork.
“OY!” he shouted, “Shut yer gobs! We ain’t done palaverin’ ‘ere!”
The murmur dissipated.
“Roight, go on den.”
“My master has authorized me to offer not only full pardons but the reinstatement of former positions with no punishment for the misunderstanding. Additionally, your wages will be doubled, if you return.”
Vork scratched his chin thoughtfully.
“Well den, dis is an important decision dis is. Better get everyone in here sos we can take a vote.”
Within moments, the room filled with another full malignity. It seemed as though everyone wanted to have a say in this.
“We gots a proposal to ponder lads an lasses. Dis here lady sez dat Garthort the Wicked wants us to return wot we took an go back to work fer him, no hard feelings, plus double wages. Two copper a month iffin me memory serves me roight.”
“It duz!” added Bork.
“Thanks. Or keep on da way we are. So, who’s in favor o’ going back? Say oy.”
“An dos of ya wants ta keep on da way we are, say oy!”
“OY!!!” thundered the assembly.
“Der ya go,” said Vork with a shrug, “Talkocracy in action. Thrillin’ really.”
Hala’s eyes glowed a vivid green and large bat wings unfurled from her back as she said in an unnatural voice, “DO YOU HAVE ANY NOTION OF WHAT IS IN STORE FOR YOU?”
Many weapons were unsheathed as well as a not inconsiderable amount of wands, rods, and staffs.
“You lot! Sit yer bums down!” shouted Vork.
“PREPARE FOR TORMENT!” hissed Hala.
“It dunt need to be this way. I think we might have summtin in common.”
“WE ARE NOTHING ALIKE!”
“Well, fer starters, all of us have labored under unfair circumstances.”
“I AM NO MERE SERVANT!”
Vork nodded sagely.
“Anyone can see dat. But I figger old Garthort, he’s bound you, wit a contract of some kind.”
The one called Half Deamon paused, then returned to a less terrifying form.
“Oy, Bork, com’er!”
Bork walked over with a large tome and asked Hala, “You ever read dis one?”
Embossed on the leather cover(human skin most likely)were the words, ‘Infernal Codification, Vol. III-Contacts of Servitude.’
“We… I was not aware of this tome,” she replied slowly.
“Real page-turner dis one. Lots o’ tips ‘en tricks for dealing wit infernal contacts an whatnot.”
“Dunt ya come across sumthing about bindings da utter day?” Vork asked his co-shop steward.
“I think yer roight. Lemme jest check,” Bork responded as he flipped through pages, “Aha! Ders da thing.”
Both Goblins leaned in and read for a moment.
“Facinatin’, all binding have a loophole,” stated Bork.
“Power o’ enumacation,” concurred Vork.
Hala licked her lips with a forked tongue and asked in a casual tone, “Would it be possible for me to look at that?”
Her query hung in the air. Vork and Bork looked at each other and made a hmmm sound.
“Given da circumstances… Why not? Here ya go!”
He handed the tome to her and she read it with an ever-widening grin.
“Since we’re all bein’ pally an such, ya can keep dat particular volume.”
“Why would you do that?” she said, waiting for the other boot to drop.
“It occurred ta us, given we all have bit more leisure time dese days, dat it might not be jest Goblins what get the short end o’ things. So in da interest o’ fairness, consider dat a gift.”
Hala regarded the Goblins and then bowed. Not a deep obsequious bow, but one of respect.
“I accept your gift and hope that this might be the beginning of a mutually beneficial accord.”
“I like da sound of dat,” replied Vork who also bowed with esteem.
“Sumthing tells me that you might want share dat book wit udders who moight be in similar straights as yerself,” suggested Bork with a wink.
“Oh yessss,” she agreed.
“Now next time ya speak with Garthort, tell him while he still owes us back wages, innit roight Sput?”
A bespectacled Goblin wielding an abacus stood and said, “Too roight dat!”
“But we ain’t greedy, given dat we got enuff to get things rollin’, we consider things square betwixt us,” declared Vork.
Hugging the book to herself, Hala smirked and said, “I’ll pass that along.”
With that, she began to leave, but Vork cleared his throat and added, “Remind ‘im We ain’t lookin’ fer trouble but iffin he wants sum, we got loads of it.”