This goblin was not exactly like the ones described in fantasy books and video games. First of all, he was freakishly ugly. Not that it was a surprise, but in addition to his coarse greenish-gray skin, bulging yellow eyes, long hooked nose, ape-like features and long pointed ears, he was also horribly skinny.
Skeletal, in fact.
On top of this sickly thinness, his skin was wrinkled like a hairless cat's, and his mouth was too dry to salivate at the sight of the two humans. On the other hand, there was one organ in his body that was functioning perfectly.
As soon as the goblin identified the two creatures in front of him, a conspicuous bulge stretched the fabric of his filthy loincloth. Immediately afterwards, his previously dry tongue began to drool, a puddle of saliva quickly forming at his feet.
How could Ikaris and Ellie not notice these obvious physiological changes? The girl immediately started shaking in horror and before Ikaris could even tell her to, she was shuffling backwards, ready to run away at any moment.
As for the boy, his body was also shaking but for a very different reason.
'Fuck, why does this creature have a boner while salivating? Does he plan to eat us alive while humping our corpse?'
Now that was having a vivid imagination. To make matters worse, the goblin's gaze wavered between Ikaris and the girl, as if he were unable to make up his mind. If it wasn't for the fading caution that kept him from acting rashly, the hideous humanoid creature would probably have attacked long ago.
Suddenly, the goblin seemed to make up his mind. His gaze locked on Ellie's tender thighs and a carnivorous smile distorted his face, revealing a row of rotten teeth.
Ikaris's focus was abruptly broken by the young woman's frightened scream behind him and before he could even tell her to calm down and stay alert he heard her running off in the opposite direction.
'Fuck, am I dreaming or this bitch has just left me alone against a hungry and horny goblin?'
The teenager was both furious and maddened. That was why cowards and crybabies couldn't be trusted. When things were going well, they could be the best of friends, their kindness usually genuine. But as soon as things turned sour, there was no one to be found.
The goblin was as chagrined as he was. With his malnourished state and short legs, he knew he had no chance of catching up with such a lively prey. Fortunately, there was always the other human.
As if sensing that this was his last shot, the creature licked his lips and began to salivate even more while the bulge under his loincloth became even more prominent. Seeing this, a chill of fear ran down Ikaris' spine.
'Get a grip Ikaris, it's just a hungry, messed up little goblin. If I take away his ugliness, his appearance and strength can be compared to that of a four or five year old. Nothing to freak out about.'
Once the teenager began to think rationally, he immediately regained his composure and forgot about Ellie's betrayal to focus on the enemy trying to devour him. Aware of his physical weakness, he adopted a defensive stance, lowering his knees and his center of gravity to better respond to the creature's low attacks. His torso was slightly sideways, his right leg bent in front, and his left leg also bent behind.
He pointed his wooden pike in front of him and visualized multiple times the action of swinging the bone knife hanging from his loincloth if the first stroke failed. Left or right? A horizontal swing should do the trick. Up or down? A vertical strike. If the goblin managed to dodge by rolling forward, he would lunge forth and knee him in the nose with all his weight. If all else fails then...
While Ikaris was busy trying to anticipate as many moves as possible, the goblin lost patience and rushed at him. Ikaris' pupils dilated sharply, startled by the small creature's speed, but he regained his composure immediately. Gritting his teeth, he waited for the goblin to come within range and then struck first.
The first thrust was blocked by the goblin. The goblin didn't try to dodge, jump over or dive under to counterattack. Instead, the little monster tilted his upper body slightly, dodging the stabbing move, then with his club struck hard against the wood pike, deflecting the weapon and knocking Ikaris off balance.
With a predatory glint in his eyes, the goblin ducked through the gap, then leapt right at the boy's face, his club raised high above his head and ready to finish him off with a single blow. His heart racing, Ikaris dropped his wood pike, and drew the bone knife with his left hand in a backhanded grip as he had pictured it.
The club swung down and the boy's knife came to meet it. The human's frail arm seemed to be a step behind, the outcome of the fight most likely a foregone conclusion.
A split second before the two weapons met, Ikaris' eyes glazed over, his mind focusing all its wits on visualizing the spell he had learned not long ago. He blinked and in that fleeting instant when his eyelids were closed he shouted out in his mind,
All of a sudden, the goblin who was already foreseeing his victory went blind, the boy's figure, the pond and the jungle around him disappearing, as a black veil of pitch blackness plunged him into utter gloom. This impromptu change unsettled the little creature, the arm lowering the club flinching for a split second.
That was enough for Ikaris. Knowing full well that he would pass out 0.5 seconds later, he adjusted his stance by shifting slightly to the right and slashed upwards with all his might, slitting the goblin's throat cleanly. The writhing monster crashed to the ground behind him, unintelligible gurgling sounds resounding from its throat as a blood fountain gushed from the wound.
The boy fell to his knees, but surprisingly did not pass out this time. With blurred vision and gasping for breath, he watched the creature's final moments of agony, until it breathed its last and its eyes glazed over in puzzlement and reluctance.
'It's over... I won.' Ikaris sighed cheerlessly as he sprawled on the ground on his back next to the goblin's corpse.
He should have been giddy with shock, but he was actually very excited. Just now he had maintained the Black Veil for almost 1 second, but he had not fainted.
The spell's duration was almost twice as long as the first time, and he also had this feeling that this Black Veil was more powerful and easier to cast than the previous one.
'What's going on? Is it my Spark that has grown bigger since earlier?'
He closed his eyes to focus on the distant speck of light attracting his gaze, but he saw no difference. If it had grown, the difference was far too insignificant for him to notice.
Yet Ikaris was certain that this Black Veil was stronger than the previous one in every way. More lasting, better, smoother, easier to cast.
lightsΝοvel'Maybe I'm just getting the hang of it.' The teenager ultimately concluded, deciding to put aside his suspicions.
He would have plenty of time to ask Grallu and Malia his questions the next day.
While Ikaris was enjoying his victory and his progress in magic, he suddenly heard the bush rustling again. Like a reenactment of the scene that had just played out a few minutes ago, a second goblin as hideous as the previous one sprang from the bushes.
Spotting the goblin's corpse and Ikaris lying exhausted on the ground, this second goblin started to drool just like the previous one and armed with a bone dagger, he pounced on him straight away.
'I'm done... I can't move anymore.' Ikaris paled, fright flushing all the blood from his face.
Knowing he was screwed, he clutched the knife in his hand, but his grip was powerless.
'I guess this is the end.'
This death was very much like the last one, except this time he would surely be eaten and ravaged before he could rest in peace.
'NO! No way will I die so miserably! This is a world of magic, so let's do some magic!'
He turned his head with difficulty towards the goblin and with bloodshot eyes he pictured a heart beating fiercely in the rib cage of the rabid creature. He imagined the atria, the ventricles, the aorta and other blood vessels, then without missing a beat he drilled a hole, as if he had just stuck a fine needle through.
Ikaris did not see the result. His vision blackened instantly and his own heart stopped beating as if he were the target of his own spell. His eyes rolled back as his body suddenly turned as cold as a corpse in a freezer.
He didn't hear the goblin collapse to the ground beside him, but within seconds of passing out, someone began to give him CPR. Just as all seemed lost, his heart timidly resumed beating and his cold body slowly began to warm up.
An unknown time later, Ikaris opened his eyes.
He was still lying on the ground and the first thing that filled his vision was the blue sky of the Forsaken Lands. This name he had heard from Koko. It was the name of the Confederation territories. Everything inside the Great Wall was part of it. What lay beyond belonged to the Crawlers.
"You're awake." A deep voice addressed him.
Raising his head with difficulty, he recognized the villager with the bronze sword who had also participated in his capture. If he remembered correctly, he was the squad leader.
This aborigine was different from the others. Although he was close to fifty, he really looked his age. He was lean and weathered like the other villagers, but he still had some muscle left. His look, his demeanor and his manner were also more civilized and refined, as if he hadn't always lived in this hellhole.
After studying the one he presumed to be his savior, he noticed the campfire and the spit hanging over it. An animal was roasting on it, a tantalizing smell titillating his nostrils. It wasn't until he squinted his eyes more closely that he recognized the roasting thing's appearance.
"The-the goblin I killed?"
"That's the one." The warrior laughed as he continued to watch the spit. "I must congratulate you. Two goblins on your first day out, you can be proud of yourself. You won't mind me sharing some with you, right? You owe me big time, you know. A few seconds later and you were dead for good, kid."
"Y-you plan on eating that thing?" Ikaris asked, struggling to suppress his disgust.
The man stopped spinning the spit and turned to him with a grave expression.
"Let me guess." He sneered disdainfully. "You think this creature looks somewhat like us and has some intelligence? To you, eating this goblin would be like cannibalism? Am I wrong, kid?"
Ikaris remained silent, but his thought could be read on his face.
"Let me tell you, you're wrong about everything." The aborigine continued in a lecturing tone. "That goblin is not a human, he is your enemy. If you hadn't killed him, then you'd be the one impaled from ass to mouth on a spit just like this one. Except that your body would have been ravaged and toyed with with such savagery that I would rather spare you the details for fear of offending your civilized human sensibilities, hahaha."
The man laughed alone for a few seconds before giving him a chilling look.
"It's them or you, kid. Here, there is no fruit, no vegetables, no easy prey to hunt. Without meat, you'll keep getting weaker until it's too late to turn things around. Then, the ritual will ask you to give blood sooner or later, weakening you even more."
The veteran warrior then scraped off a good amount of goblin meat and piled it onto a skewer. As he handed it to him, he solemnly snarled,
"Eat. Weak and virtuous or strong and ruthless. The decision is yours."