Chapter 1 – Bedtime
“Time for bed buddy boy.”
“Daddy, no! I don’t wanna go to bed!”
Edward smiled at his son, “I know you don’t Bud, but you have to go to sleep now so we can get up tomorrow and start a new adventure.”
“An adventure?!” The small boy’s eyes lit up at the mention of the word.
“Yes sir!” responded his father.
“Let’s go on an adventure right now!”
Edward laughed. “Alex, we can go on an adventure tomorrow. Right now we need to go to sleep.”
“Can I sleep with you and Mommy?”
“No buddy, you need to sleep in your own bed, like a big boy.”
“But what if something gets me?”
Edward laughed heartily, “Nothing is going to get you bud. I promise. Now hop on up in the bed, I’ll tuck you in.”
The small boy threw his arm around his father’s neck.
“I love you daddy.”
“I love you to bud, now let’s get you under these covers.”
Edward stood up with his son in his arms and laid him on the bed; covering him with a blanket decorated generously in a random assortment of dinosaurs.
Good night bu-” Edward took a step away from the bed but upon doing so he immediately heard a loud crack. Looking down, Edward saw a plastic toy airplane crushed under the sole of his barefoot. “Alex, what did I tell you about leaving your toys on the floor?”
Edward looked around his son’s room. The floor was littered with toys. Super heroes, race cars and alien fighting robots lay scattered across the room. He gathered up the toys with relative speed and dropped them into a half-empty toy box in the corner. Edward noticed a small round handle protruding from the pile of plastic action figures. He reached down, grabbed the handle and pulled a large wooden baseball bat from the box.
“Al, what is my bat doing in your toy box?”
Alex peeked from underneath his blankets, keeping his nose and mouth covered, leaving only his eyes and forehead visible.
“Alex this is my bat from college bud, you know it’s off-limits.”
“I know daddy, but I needed to borrow it so I could practice baseball.”
“So I can be as good as you one day.”
Edward stared at the bat for a moment, then looked up at his son with a smile that, unbeknownst to him, can only be smiled in those rare father-son moments when a son says to a father they very type of thing his son had just said to him.
“I’ll tell you what bud, tomorrow we’ll get you a bat of your own to practice with and we’ll take this one here and mount it up on your wall.”
“You mean I can have it?”
Edward took another look at the wooden baseball bat. It was covered in some eighteen scribbled autographs each with a number beside it. He let his fingers slide over the message etched into the wood that read:
‘To Edward Polanco, a true leader both on and off the field.’
“Yeah bud, it’s all yours.” Edward said leaning the bat against a book shelf that sat right next the bedroom door. He stepped over to his son’s bed and placed a hand on the boy’s head.
“Sleep tight okay buddy.”
“Okay daddy, I love you.”
“I love you too bud, see you in the morning.”
“See you in the morning daddy.”
Edward kissed his son on the forehead taking an extra moment to inhale deeply, taking in the smell of him, then rustling his hair as he stood. Edward quietly made his way out of the room, switching off the light as he left. The room darkened from within but was then softly re-lit by the silver streaks of moonlight that filtered in through the bedroom window.
Edward left his son’s room, and started down an open hallway, flicking light switches from the ‘on’ to the ‘off’ position as he went. First the hall, then the laundry room, then the den and then the bath. He walked pass a set of stairs, that lead down to the first floor of the house, and into his own bedroom where a slender brown women with shoulder length hair pinned into a bun was sitting on the bed with a book in her hand. She didn’t bother looking up as he entered the room.
“What are we gonna do with your son?” Edward asked with a sigh and a simple smile.
“The two of you are something else.” she replied, still not looking up from her book.
“I found my bat in his room… again.”
The woman finally looked up from her book revealing an alarmingly attractive face.
“Your U of M bat?”
“Yep,” Edward flopped down onto the bed next to her.
“Aw babe, your teammates gave you that bat for your final season.”
“Yeah, I know but Alex said he needs it to practice with so, ” Edward couldn’t help but to giggle to himself once again. “I’m just gonna let him have it.”
“Practice!? He’s only 5 years old, what is he practicing?”
Edward laughed out loud. “His words, not mine.”
“That boy really idolizes his father. He wants to be just like you.”
Edward’s smile faded away and was slowly replaced by a grimace.
“Nah, I’d much rather him be better than me.” Edward clenched his right knee, kneading and massaging it with both hands. His wife noticed his apparent discomfort.
“Are you okay babe? Is your knee bothering you?”
“No, it’s just a little ache-y.”
“Well the news did say it was supposed to be a big storm tonight, you know the rain always seems to set your knee off.”
Edward sighed, “Ang, that’s an old wives tale, the weather doesn’t have any eff- ”
“Excuse me?” Edward’s wife cut her eyes sharply at him from her side of the bed. Edward stopped in mid-speech.
“Oh, Did I say ‘old wives’ tale’? I meant to say that’s a ‘young wives’ tale’.”
“Uh huh,” She went back to her book.
“I meant to say that’s a ‘pretty young wives’ tale’.”
“Yea, nice try.”
Edward leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek.
“I’m just going to go to sleep now.”
Edward leaned back on to his pillow.
“I love you babe.”
And with a smile, Edward fell into a gentle sleep.
Chapter 2 – Goblin’d
It was the crash of thunder that woke Edward. The trembling and shuddering of the house that not only forced his eyes open, but also forced his consciousness out of the dream world and back into a cold dark reality. It took a moment for his mind to catch up. To distinguish what was real and what was not. He could hear the rain, see the flashes of lightning, feel the rumbles of thunder. But then there was something else. Rustling from within the house, sounds that were not part of the storm. Shuffling, movement, maybe Alex was awake and stirring, or maybe… there was a thump, like the sound of something heavy dropping to the floor. The sound set off an alarm in Edward’s mind and he was out of bed and half way across the dark bedroom before he knew it. He tried switching on the bedroom light to help him get his bearings, but the switch was unresponsive. The storm must have knocked out the power.
“Damn” Edward thought. Alex was probably terrified. Undoubtedly woken by the storm and had most likely fallen in his room while fumbling around in the dark. That had to be it. “But why hadn’t he cried out? Why hadn’t Alex called out for me or his mother.” Edward rushed around to his son’s room. The entire time attempting to reassure himself that he was overreacting, his parental instincts in overdrive. He had been this way since Alex was born. Even when he was an infant, Edward would wake in the middle of the night and sneak up to Alex’s crib just to check that he was still breathing properly. It was silly, he knew, but what could it hurt. Always better to be safe rather than sorry. Angela teased him for dodding in this way but he didn’t mind, he had been teased about a lot worse in his 32 years and being an overprotective father was a badge of honor in his book. Edward made his way through the house, pass the stairs, the bathroom, the den, the laundry room and then down the small stretch of dark hallway to Alex’s room. The entire house was practically void of light, leaving Edward’s memory of his upstairs layout and a freehand on the wall to serve him in place of his eyes.
Edward stepped across the threshold into his son’s room half expecting Alex to still be in bed sleep, either that or he would be on the floor of his room quietly weeping after having fell in the dark. What Edward found instead was something else altogether.
Like the rest of the house, Alex’s room was still dark from the lack of power, however, unlike any other rooms in the house, Alex’s bedroom window was wide open allowing rain and wind to sweep into the room uncontested. As well, unhindered moon light poured in through the opening and made the room glow with a sliver luster. It was then that Edward saw it.
For an instant Edward thought he was looking at an old man standing on his son’s bed, but the thing’s pale green skin betrayed any indication that it might be human. It was like a man… but not fully. It was more of a gaggle of bones and sinew poorly wrapped in sickly green leather. It was only about four feet tall, with gangly and twisted limbs that seemed slightly too long for its shriveled and wrinkled body. It was wearing nothing but a tattered scrap of brown cloth around its waist, from the bottom of which, thin stringy legs protruded and ended with dirty and gnarled feet whose jagged thick toe nails looked like they had been purposely sharpened into claws. It was a creature. A grotesque little monster the likes of which Edward had never seen before. Startled, he took a step back, but then saw something else… Edward saw what the thing was holding.
Alex’s limp body lay cradled in the creature’s arms. The boy stirred, but before he could fully open his eyes the monster pushed its face towards Alex’s and opened its mouth releasing what looked toxic green fumes directly into the boy’s face. Edward could see the green mist curl and sway before being inhaled directly into his son’s nose and mouth, who upon breathing the monster’s exhalation immediately went back limp. Upon witnessing this, Edward’s mind snapped from a frozen state of mortified horror, to an unyielding rage, and almost without thinking he reached down and grabbed the wooden baseball bat that lay leaning against the bookshelf.
“PUT HIM DOWN!!” Edward lunged forward swinging the bat savagely at the thing’s head. The creature looked up for the first time, apparently unaware that Edward had been standing in the doorway up until that moment and in an unexpected show of agility the monster leapt backwards off the bed and landed firmly on the window sill, Alex still in his arms, and his eyes, now, duly fixed on Edward.
The creature was ugly, which Edward had already suspected, but it wasn’t until he looked directly into the face of the thing that he realized exactly how hideous the creature was. The old man motif persisted throughout the monster’s face. It’s skin, weathered and beaten hung loosely from its face and a tuft of gritty black hair sprouted from the top of its skull. It stared at Edward with bulbous, yet penetrating eyes that seemed to glow a nightmarish yellow. Long pointed ears jetted out of either side of its head, while a large over-sized nose, hooked, broken and crooked, sat over top a pair of thin black lips that were currently curled back to reveal teeth, all jagged, chipped and stained. Then… without warning, the thing spoke.
“FiNd tReASure.” It said with a voice that sounded like a tin fork scraping against a dinner plate. It was both raspy and high-pitched, “ClAiM wHaT iS pReCioUs, tAkE bAcK tO cLaN. THaT iS GObLiN wAy.” Its words were hard and forced, as if it were painful to speak. Edward winced at the receipt of each word, as if it were also painful to listen.
“Goblin?” Edward responded more to himself then to the thing. “Is that what you are? A goblin?”
“niL’boG clAiMs hU-mAn tReASure. mAn NoT HiDe, mAn NoT PROtect. niL’boG cLAiM!” The goblin, Edward surmised, seemed to be getting agitated, and a thick white foam begin to accumulate in the space between its gums and lips, gathering in mass around its rotten teeth, spittle flying from mouth as it spoke with more and more enthusiasm.
“So you’re Nil’bog… the Goblin? You want treasure? I can get you treasure, just… just put my son down. Okay?” Edward tightened his grip on the bat. Alex was still laying in the Goblin’s arms, apparently fast asleep. He was watching closely and could see his son’s chest rise and fall of its own accord. Perhaps the goblin’s breath acted as some type of makeshift anesthetic to keep Alex docile and under control. Regardless he had to get the creature to put Alex down and if the thing could talk, perhaps it could be reasoned with.
“niL’boG clAiM gReAtEsT tReASue,” the goblin spewed, while at the same time throwing Alex over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “tAkE bAcK tO cLaN, niL’boG pRoVE niL’boG brAvEst, niL’boG stRoNGest. niL’boG nAmEd ChiEf,” The Goblin thumped his chest with the free hand that was not holding Alex tightly to his pale green body. “iS GObLiN wAy!” The last three words Nilbog hissed out, his bright yellow eyes narrowing into thin slits of spite and enmity. Then he turned and jumped out of Alex’s dormer window onto the surrounding roof and out into the night and rain.
“NOOOO!” Edward screamed dashing over his son’s bed and to the now empty window sill. The goblin was still on the roof, still watching Edward, still choking out horribly broken English, while slowly walking backward closer and closer to the roof’s edge. “ANGELA!” Edward screamed for his wife who came running into the room almost immediately, the previous commotion having already sent her on her way.
“What’s going on?” she screamed in a desperate and confused panic.
“Something… a monster — a goblin grabbed Alex! I have to go after him, call the police!” Edward refused to take his eyes off of Alex and the creature, he didn’t bother looking back at his wife.
“A what!?! What grabbed Alex? Where is he?”
“ANGELA CALL THE POLICE, SOMETHING HAS GRABBED OUR SON AND I HAVE TO GO AFTER IT!” Edward broke his vow and looked away from his son and back at his wife, his face painted in the color of rage and fear, hers only in fear and confusion. He looked back out the window to see the Goblin jumping from the roof. It had been waiting for Edward to break his line of sight and took full advantage of the opportunity. It was attempting to run. Edward flung himself out the window and on to the roof without a second thought.
Bat in hand, barefoot and wearing nothing more cotton pajama pants and a white v-neck t-shirt, Edward hit the roof with tears in his eyes as his mind tried to process what was happening at this exact moment. A goblin has crawled into his son’s room and was now trying to carry him off into the dark for reasons beyond his understanding. All he knew was that he could not let them get away, otherwise he’d never see his son again. The night wind was cold and unforgiving as it swept in and battered itself against Edward’s under-dressed body. Raindrops pelted down soaking through his shirt almost instantly. The rain had already done its duty to the exposed roof as well. When Edward’s uncovered feet made contact with the rain drenched shingles they immediately abandoned any idea of grip or traction. Ed slipped; his feet went up and his body went down, slamming onto the wet roof and sliding towards, and then over, the edge. He fell off the roof and his body hit the soft wet grass below with a resounding thud, knocking the wind out of himself in the process.
His back took the blunt of the damage. It was a fall of a little over 10 feet and aside from a bit of dizziness from the jolt and a bit of huffing and puffing from the air being knock out of his lungs, Edward was convinced he was fine. He shook off the haziness and stared intently around his own backyard for any sight of his son and his captor. Through the rain and mental fog he spotted a small green body carrying a boy over its shoulder, running through the grass and mud like an ape would. Bounding forward on two legs while using its free arm to help propel him along. Nil’bog was attempting to carry Alex away as fast as his little goblin body would take him, and he was heading out of Edward’s backyard and into a dense patch of forest that lay behind their home.
Chapter 3 – The Chase
Before Edward he’d even gotten well back onto his feet, Nil’bog had leapt onto the top of, and then over, the backyard fence with what seemed like little effort. Ed used the bat to stable himself as he scrambled up from the grass and to the base of the six-foot fence that the four-foot goblin had just treated like a minor hurdle than a major obstacle. Edward tossed the bat over, then grabbed hold to the fence and pulled himself up onto the top in one adrenaline filled motion. The fence was digging into his gut as half of his body leaned toward the dark forest and the other half dangled over his backyard. With the fall from roof still clear and strong in Edward’s mind, he flipped himself over the fence head first, turning a full 360 degrees in the air and this time landing flat on his stomach in a large puddle of mud that splashed in ever direction as his body hammered itself into the ground. “If you can survive a fall from a roof, you can survive a fall from a fence.” his mind screamed into his ears forcing him to jump up from the mud almost as quickly as he had landed in it.
He pushed himself up to his hands and knees. Looking around he quickly found the bat laying not to far from his own point of contact. He threw himself toward it, grabbing hold to the wooden handle. At the same time he both heard and saw the rustle of a nearby bush planted right at the edge of the forest. He grabbed the bat in both hands.
“Come out!” he yelled into the darkness. The night did not respond, but as if to quiet itself for his benefit, the rain seemed to let up. “Nil’bog! I know you’re there! COME OUT!” His body shook as he screamed. He stood hunched over. Barefoot in the rain and mud his head and eyes darted in each direction often times, one unable to keep up with the other. He had only been outside for a few minutes but he already looked almost unrecognizable from the man who had just been in his son’s room. ” I SAID COME OUT!!!”
From the suspiciously rustling bush shot out a maw of open teeth and mud stained goblin claws. Nil’bog the Goblin thief was flying at Edward in fury of bites and slashes with the apparent intention of either biting into his face or clawing out his eyes. Though Edward had requested it, he was still surprised by the creatures attack, and the force of the barrage had put Edward on his back. Placing the bat between them and using the momentum of his fall, Edward was able to fling the flying goblin over his head and into fence they had both come over. It was quick thinking on Edward’s part, and in an effort to maintain that pace, Ed flipped over onto his stomach and looked to the bush from which the Goblin had come. Laying there, as he had hoped, was a small boy, Alex was there, in the bush. Left behind by his captor if only for a moment as it attempted to either scare off or cripple their pursuer. But the monster’s plan did not work and Edward’s son was in sight.
The father scrambled forward still on his hands and knees attempting to get to his son. He was almost with arm’s reach of the boy’s ankle when he felt a strong forceful push into his back that sent him once again face down into the mud. As he looked up he could see the goblin jumping from off his back and into the bush that held his son, and almost as quickly as he had appeared. Nil’bog had scooped Alex up once again and took off into the dark woods. Edward cursed the goblin under his breath, stood up and begin to give chase.
The rain, which had been a curse to Edward’s efforts when he was slipping and falling off of his roof, had now become somewhat of blessing now that he was running barefoot through mud and wet grass of a forest floor. The woods, he knew, would go on for another three to four miles before they would hit another shore of civilized society. He was wading deeper and deeper into a sea of undeveloped land. He had imagined that this makeshift wilderness would serve to aid his son’s childhood, a place to explore and discover, hunt frogs and chase squirrels, build tree forts and secret club houses. All the things he wished he had the space to do as a kid, somehow, that had all gone horribly and terribly wrong. Now all of the chasing and hunting was being done by him, and sadly not for the betterment of his son, but instead, for the sake of him.
The rain had slowed to nothing more than a light drizzle, but the previous downpour had already soaked into the earth making the ground soft and pliable. The thick mud was caked at the bottom of Edwards feet offering him just enough protection to sprint through the undergrowth as if he was wearing running shoes. He would step on the occasional rock or pebble or even the randomly placed sharp twig, but whatever pain the layers of mud did not dull, the large amounts of adrenaline being dumped into his bloodstream eradicated.
Nil’bog was a lot faster than he was, but it appeared that even goblins had limits and carrying around a small boy who weighed roughly forty-five pounds when the creature itself couldn’t have weighed more than sixty, kept the goblin down to a pace that Edward could at least keep up with. Nil’bog tried his best to pull away. The monster bounded through the forest with an aggressive and intimidating agility. It darted over and under bushes and fallen log with relative ease. It would dash between and around trees, turning and twisting in ways Edward did not think were possible. The goblin ran with its whole body, still using its free hand as a third leg, it pattered through the mud unimpeded by the things like ground suction on slipperiness. It would jump and swing from low hanging branches, reach out and grab tree trunks to offer itself assistance in making those unsavory turns, and then to add insult to injury it would randomly sling mud and stones over its shoulder in an attempt to blind or impair Edward whenever the opportunity presented itself. It ran as if it were use to being chased. Regardless Edward was undeterred.
He hounded the goblin’s heels with an ungodly determination. He pounded and splashed his way through the forest floor, intermittently releasing guttural screams and yells as he forced his body forward through the cold wet wind. His arms, legs and chest all burned as if his blood have been replaced with hellfire. He could hear and feel his heart beating in his ears. His breath ragged and mean, in between his feral and primitive grunts. He gripped the barrel of the wooden bat tightly in his right hand while his left waded out in front of him constantly clawing at the Goblin, just out of his reach, and also knocking away flying debris and the random assortment of small branches that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The forest was dark and navigation by sight was nearly impossible, however there seemed to be just enough moonlight shining on the Goblin small frame to keep it in Edward’s vision, and that was all he needed. As long as he stayed close to the goblin he could take the same path that he took, Edward may not have been able to see in the dark light of the moon but the goblin had seemed to be doing just fine.
Chapter 4 – Confrontation
The trio twisted and turned deeper and deeper into the forest until suddenly, without warning, the trees stopped and Edward found himself chasing the goblin through a wide open field. They were in a clearing, and now with no trees to dash between or around, Edward finally had the upper hand on the goblin. Its stride had weakened and it was no longer moving nearly as fast as it was before. Carrying all of that extra weight had caught up to it and now it would either have to drop the boy in order to avoid being caught, or simply stop altogether. Edward saw his chance. He reached down into an unknown part of himself and mustered up the energy to close the distance between him and the monster. His legs pumped as hard as they ever had and he pummeled through the grass, he reached out his hand, once again his son so close he could almost touch him, and then it appeared at the edge of his vision and for the first time since he began the chase, Edward purposefully slowed down, and then stopped.
Across the clearing, at the edge of where the forest began again. Ahead of Edward, ahead of Alex, and ahead of the goblin Nil’bog, flames flickered. Not wild unchecked flames. No, that would have at least partially made sense to Edward. These were small controlled flames, flames from a camp fire, no more like a bonfire. Beyond the flames, reaching up to the night sky like a bony hand bursting forth from the earth and attempting to strangle the moon itself, was a tree. A gnarled and twisted tree that stretched and curled upward like the smoke that floated up the base of it. The tree, massive and grotesque, looked almost more like it was actually two trees that had twisted themselves together over the many years that they had grown there. It’s black limbs splayed out into every direction and its branches were covered in dark broad leaves that rattled like dead men’s bones every time the wind blew. While the other trees swayed in the breeze brought on by the receding storm, the twisted twin trees seemed to go into violent convulsions that reminded Edward of the hunched over fits of coughing and hacking one would expect of someone on their death bed. Behind the bonfire Edward could see twisted roots of the tree which plunged into both earth and stone like skeletal fingers in grave yard dirt. The tree grew on a mound, or a hill of some sort and upon the side of which, between its gnarled and twisted roots, there was a gaping hole, forming a cave entrance that looked more like the giant open mouth of a monster then a naturally occurring land formation.
Edward stood there, staring up at it, a monstrous tree whose disfigured roots had literally ripped a hole into the earth, forming a cave, that for all Edward knew, was a portal to an entirely different world. The flames from the bonfire flickered and rolled, randomly casting its light into different direction, cracking and popping in the dead silence of the night.Everything was still, even Nil’bog had stopped running, and it was then that Edward saw them. Thirty… no, forty glowing yellow eyes materialized in the darkness. And then the wind beging to whisper, sputtering out words in much the same forced way as the goblin did when Edward first heard it speak.
“niL’boG hAs rEtURneD.”
“hE hAs REturNeD?”
” hAs rEtUrNED….”
The wind whispered in a medley of different voices that seemed to surround Edward from every direction.
“niL’boG hAs bRoUGht trEaSuRe”
The voices ricocheted off one another and cut through the air like bullets in a fire fight, it was impossible to tell where they were coming from, or in which direction they were going. Nil’bog laid the still unconscious Alex at the base of the fire. Edward was now close enough to see that a number of other things lay around the fire as well. Trinkets, jewelry, rings and watches, but then there were also scraps of clothing, half eaten pieces of food, a number of indiscernable broken things and even a few dead animals. It was like someone had rustled through a hundred garbage cans and dropped what they had found here.
Nilbog stood over Alex hunched and wheezing still exhausted from his run. “niL’boG hAs bRouGHt gReAtESt trEAsUre. niL’boG hAs pRoVEn, niL’boG sHaLL bE nAmEd-”
“NO!” A thicker even more raspier voice cut in, silencing Nil’bog’s speech. Edward instinctively tightened his grip on the wooden bat. From behind the flames and out of the mouth of the cave another creature slowly stepped forward. It looked similar to Nil’bog, however this creature was markedly older and considerably more decrepit, it wore a shroud over half of its body as opposed to just the simple Lyon cloth and it was also adorned with a number of beads that it wore as necklaces, it leaned feverishly on a crooked stick that was as long as its body, and its nose and ears drooped, apparently weathered down by the passage of time. It looked like a fiendish dalai lama and its sudden appearance made Edward scowl.
“niL’boG tHe NameLess ONe, yOu hAve brOUght dishOnOr to our clAn, niL’boG the NameLess hAs brOught MAN!” the old goblin spoke English much better then either Nil’bog of the disembodied voices that whispered into the wind, but this offered little comfort to Edward as the old Goblin’s eyes looked down on him with a disdain that Edward had grown all too familiar with.
“niL’boG hAs bRoUgHT mAn!”
“niL’boG!” the voices whispered.
Edward stepped forward, he held the bat in one hand and with the other he motioned toward his son. “I’ve only come for the boy, let me take him and we’ll go, we’ll leave.”
The old goblin seemed to ignore Edward altogether.
“niL’boG hAs brOugHt shAme to clAn, niL’boG hAs brOUght mAn to sAcrEd trEE. niL’boG hAs brOught dAnger to aLL GOblins”
“I’m no danger to you, I only came for my son!” Edward said, trying foolishly to interject reason into a situation he himself could make no logical sense of.
“niL’boG hAs brOught shAme to scAred trEE, GOblins mUst appEAse grEat trEE, grEat trEE mUst hAve blOOd.”
“What?” said Edward.
The old goblin placed its withered hand on the root of the tree that protruded near the cave entrance. “GOblins kIll mAn, kIll bOy, trEE appEased…. It iS GOblin wAy”
“kiLL mAn” said the wind.
“kiLL bOy” the wind replied.
“FOr sACrEd trEE” the wind added.
“iT iS gObLiN wAy” as the wind spoke the whispers slowly started to take shape. The glowing yellow eyes begin to move in closer crawling out of the dark corners of the field revealing themselves to be monsters of the same build as Nil’bog. Goblins, dozens of them began to pour out of every available shadow.
“FOr sACrEd trEE”
“iT iS gObLiN wAy”
The goblins begin to slink toward Edward, crawling like slow-moving lizards across the ground, their voices still slithering through the wind like snakes without bodies. He took a step backward, setting his feet. He dug the ball of his right foot into the moist grass, bent his knees. He let the bat swing freely toward the ground then lifted it up to his ears gripping it with both hands, tightly, but not to tight. He held his right elbow high, strong, his biceps flexed. The Goblins scurried closer, they were moving faster now, frantic and excited, thirsty for blood. Edward took a deep breath. the nearest goblin lunged at him, and like a programmed machine his body reacted. His left shoulder dropped, his left foot rose slightly off the ground, his hip torqued, he stepped out to the lunging goblin ripping the bat around him so fast that the solid wood turned into a wispy blur, right up until it connected with the head of the over-anxious goblin. Meeting the monster’s skull with a loud “Thwack!” The goblin went somersaulting backwards, flying through the air and flipping two or three times before landing on the ground motionless.
For a brief moment the Goblins froze, they looked back at their motionless brethren that now lay on the ground just a few feet from the bonfire and the mouth of the cave. Then they looked back at Edward, then back at their friend. And for a moment even the elder goblin looked stunned. But not Edward, he was done being stunned, or shocked, or surprised or confused. Now he was just angry.
“I’VE COME FOR MY SON, AND NONE OF YOU ARE GONNA STAND IN MY WAY!!!” Edward screamed at the top of his lungs, his every muscle flexed and then bulged as his body once again dumped even more adrenaline into his blood stream.
The goblins seemed jolted back into action by Edward’s war cry and they once again begin to dash towards him even more feverently. The goblins lashed out with their clawed hands and bearing sharp crooked teeth. Edward swung the bat like a club swatting away goblin after goblin as the lunged at him. A downward slash caught one Goblin in the back of the head, nailing its face into the dirt. An upward swing caught another goblin under the chin, audibly shattering the bones in its jaw before sending him heels over head into the dirt. One goblin managed to land itself on to Edwards back , digging its claws into his torso and gleefully sinking its teeth into this right shoulder. Edward screamed out in pain, banged the bat against the goblins unprotected head, then reached back and yanked the creature over his shoulder onto the ground and brought the bat down onto the goblin’s head two more times for good measure. Another goblin grabbed Edward’s leg and took a bite, he growled and hit the thing with the butt of the bat handle, a random claw swiped him across the cheek, blood trickled down the side of Ed’s face but did little else to slow his movement. The goblins had numbers but their bodies seemed weak and frail under the weight of Edward’s rage.
Regardless of how many he struck down, the monsters kept coming. At one point between the vicious swings of the bat and the occasionally goblin bites Edwards looked up to see three goblins moving in on Alex, who still lay passed out by the bonfire. With a primal roar Alex shook off at least two of the goblins that had latched on to him and begin to barrel toward his sleeping son.
“DONT YOU TOUCH HIM!” Edward screamed, and at the same time the bat came down like a guillotine, crushing the neck of one of the goblins standing over Alex. The other two jumped out of range of the bat, redirected their efforts and jumped on to Edward instead, joining the other odd number of goblins that he had not already managed to shake off. The only Goblin who was not actively trying to kill either Edward or Alex was Nil’bog, who was still sitting in the same position that he was in when he was being scolded by his elder. He looked like a heart-broken child, sitting on his knees and staring blankly down at the dirt, seemingly completely oblivious to the chaos going on around him.
The Goblins had thoroughly latched on to Edward now, their was scarcely a part of him that was not in some way covered by a pale green goblin body. As quickly as he could throw one off of himself another would jump up to take his place. The Goblins close to his head had begun to do something peculiar. They began retching and hacking their little green heads would bob and a couple of seconds later they would burp, or at least it seemed like a burp. The goblins would open their mouths and exhale a misty green gas from the back of their throats, spewing it into Edward’s face. Ed breathed in the green mist with little regard at first, his focus had been more concentrated on ripping the biting and clawing goblins from his back and legs, but after a while he felt his body becoming heavier and more sluggish and then he thought about what Nil’bog had done to Alex in his bedroom and realized the goblins were trying to knock him out. Since they could not over power him they were apparently planning to use their goblin’s breath to do to him what Nil’bog has done to Alex. He could feel his head start to spin. Even the biting and scratches felt less and less painful as goblin after goblin released green mist into his face. He looked at down at his soon, still sleeping serenely by the fire, still untouched, still protected. Edward lurched forward, his eyes now focused on the flames that burned before him, the only thing between him and them was the solemn and silent Nil’bog.
“Nil’bog” Edward thought, the cause of it all. He couldn’t imagine that he could last too much longer with the Goblin’s constantly breathing in his face and the only thought that he could hold steady in his mind was that if he was to go down he would take as many of these little monsters as possible. And Nil’bog would be one of them. He took another step forward. Closer to the fire closer to Nil’bog. The goblins held on tightly they pushed and pulled trying everything they could to stop his movement. He advanced one more step, Nil’bog was in reach, he stuck his arm out. If he could grab him he could simple fall forward into the fire, crush Nil’bog in the process and let the flames burn the goblins that were holding onto tightly, if he was lucky maybe he’d only suffer minor burns and if he could hop up fast enough, he maybe could grab Alex and run, if he was not lucky, well, at least they would all burn together. Edward reached further, his vision darkened, his arms got heavy, his knees buckled, the weariness was beginning to catch up with him, he was tired and he was hurt. He dropped the bat which landed with a thud at his feet. He fell down to his knees, the goblins piled on. He tried to stand back up. but the monsters were too heavy, he dropped down on to all fours, his hands now in the mud, struggling to hold him up. His knee started to throb with pain, but not the pain of goblin bites and scratches, not the pain of running or exhaustion, but old pain, pain from an injury long ago, a pain of things lost in past lives a pain of could have been and what would not be and in the pain he began to think. For some reason he thought about that stupid bat, his bat… no. Not his bat, not anymore Alex’s bat. His son’s bat, a bat that had been given to him as a reminder of the past, that he had given to his son as a reminder of the future. A reminder of hope and new dreams. A reminder of a father’s promise to a son. A promise to teach and to protect and to guide.
Edward felt one more burst of strength, not of adrenaline, not even of rage but simply a strength of necessity, because a father must due what is necessary. Like a bomb
Edward burst forth sending little green goblins flying in every direction in his wake. He Grabbed hold to the bat once again, his eyes finding Nil’bog still sitting in the same position as he rose his weapon. He squeezed every muscle in his upper body and then…
“sToP!” The Elder Goblin called out in his crooked and twisted voice. He banged his stick into the dirt and a wave of muffled green light irradiated from the ground beneath his feet, washing over everything in the clearing. Edward froze, bat still raised in the air, his body paralyzed, completely unable to move. The goblins around him froze. All movement had stopped in that instant.
“mUch GOblin blOOd hAs bEEn sPiLLed tHis nAme dAy.” The old Goblin looked up at the twisted branches of their tree. Then looked down at Edward, still frozen in place, covered now in mud and blood, his clothes ripped and torn and his eyes, full of rage and desperation. Broken goblin bodies lay all around him, splats of there sickly green blood seeped into the soil, mixing with water from the fresh rain.
“tHe sAcrEd trEE hAs bEEn aPPeaSed. mAn mAy tAke bOy, tHey mAy gO.” And without another word, he grabbed his stick and crept back into the mouth of the cave among the roots of the goblin tree.
The other goblins followed suit dashing back to the base of the tree, lifting and dragging the others that could not move on their own. Within moments the goblins had gone and only Edward, Alex and Nil’bog remained.
The lone goblin looked up for the first time since the fighting had started, his yellows eyes staring into Edward’s. “niL’boG fAiLed, niL’boG unworthy…”
Whatever force hat was holding Edward released him and he found himself able to move once again. He looked down at the goblin, and in one fluid motion slammed the butt of the baseball bat’s handle into the goblin’s forehead. The goblin collapsed to the ground with a thud, unconscious but still breathing. Edward picked up his son and begin walking away from the tree back toward the forest. Over the crest of trees he could see the sun beginning to rise as the sky slowly begin to lighten from a deep dark blue to a lighter morning shade of cobalt. Alex stirred in his arms. Waking for the first time, completely unaware of everything that had taken place.
“Daddy,” the boy yawned “Where are we going?”
“Hey buddy, we’re going home.”
Alex didn’t bother opening his eyes, but instead snuggled up to his father’s muddy chest.
“Are we still going to go on an adventure?”
“Yeah bud, you and me, we’re gonna go on plenty of adventures.”