Tanval Keen-Eyed found himself tied to a tree. It was not how he saw his day going. At all. A group of surprisingly well-armed Goblins clustered on the other side of the clearing, chatting quietly.
“If you’re going to kill me, just do it!” he shouted to them with a bravado he honestly didn’t feel.
The Goblins paused, looked at him for a beat, then turned back to their conversation. In no way did he find that reassuring, which might have been the point. After what seemed like hours but was actually only five or six minutes, one of the Goblins sauntered over to Tanval.
“I’d like ta have a few words with ya, iffin’ ya don’t moind,” said the Goblin with a very casual air.
“What do you want? Goblin!”
“Dat’s funny, dat is. I wuz ‘bout to ask you da same question.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Roight, it loike dis. You an yer mates, come inta Goblin lands, an start making all sorts o’ trouble.”
“Goblins hold no lands,” stated Tanval.
“Dey din’t, up till recent developments. Des lands wuz abandoned after the Battle o’ da Wild Fringe, which wuz… Oy! Nivmo! When wuz da battle o’ da Wild Fringe?”
Another Goblin flipped through a book and replied, “Eighty-seven years ago!”
“So,” continued the interviewing Goblin, “according to da law, any what can claim and maintain such land may take possession of said lands.”
Tanval squinted at this Goblin. He thought it made him look as though he was not to be messed with but he really came off like he was confused.
“Am I speakin’ too fast fer ya?”
“NO!” shouted Tanval.
“Roight. Jes checkin’.”
“Now that you’ve seized these lands-”
“-All legal like,” added the Goblin.
“So you and your ilk are raising a hoard to sweep across the land!”
“Ilk? How da like dat lads? We’re all ilk now!”
Snorts of laughter were their only reply.
“All roight, all roight, simmer down der. Wot’s all dis about? Why are all deez adventuring types comin’ inta Goblin lands and harrassin’ our innocent citizenry.”
“Oy, Surma!” Which was the name of the interviewing Goblin, “Put yer peepers on dis!” said Nivmo who handed him a scroll, which was amongst, Tanval’s belongings. Surma read it and turned back to Tanval.
“So sum one puts a bounty on Goblins, and ya just totter off and do dat?”
“My father killed by Goblins!” growled Tanval.
“I’m sorry to ‘ere dat,” replied Surma.
“Gloat if you will… Pardon?”
“’Ard to lose a parent ‘tis.”
“Did ya see it?”
“Well, no. My dad went out to sell a cart full of turnips and never came home. I was told that he was set upon by a vicious pack of Goblin turnip bandits.”
Surma looked at him for a moment, then asked, “Did yer mum and da get along?”
Tanval sighed and said, “I mean, dad used to say he wished he could just disappear and mom said she had the exact same wish but I think they were just joking.”
Wishing to change the subject, Surma read from the scroll, “It sez here dat da bounty is backed by da Consortium o’ Concerned Lords, Ladies, an Merchants.”
“’Eres da thing, do you know which particular Lords, Ladies, an Merchants are behind all dis?”
“Moight warrant a bit o’ lookin’ inta, given the vagueness o’ dis Consortium.”
“Are you suggesting that some villain created a dodgy bounty and sent every adventuring party to attack Goblins, perhaps hoping that the two groups might kill each other?” asked Tanval.
“It seems a bit far fetched.”
“An yet, ‘ere we ar.”
Both said nothing for a few minutes.
“So, what happens next?” enquired Tanval.
“Lemme ‘ave a quick palaver with da lads,” replied Surma who walked back to the other Goblins.
After a vigorous discussion Surma returned.
“Roight, it’s yer lucky day old son. Seein’ as ya been hoodwinked, so da speak, and no one got any grievous wounds, we’re gonna set ya free-”
“Thank the gods!”
“-Wit da followin’ conditions. One, ya swear not to trespass inta Goblin lands with malicious intent. Two, the purse o’ coin ya had on yer person has been donated to da Goblin’s widows ‘n orphans fund. A right worthy cause, if I do say so meself.”
“Three, ya’ll be escorted to our borders, den, and only den, will yer weapons be returned to ya. Jes so no utter misunderstandings happen, ya know wot I mean?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Fourth ‘n last, once ya get back to yer fellow adventuring types, ya tell them wots wot, wit regards to dat bounty bizanezz.”
“I will do that.”
Surval whistled and two of his group came over and began to untie the adventurer.
“I moight also suggest dat ya look inta who’s behind all dis.”
As Tarval rubbed his wrists he mused, “It seems we have a mystery on our hands.”
“I’ve got a clue fer ya den, free o’ charge,” Surval said with a sharp grin.