Hail and well met, salty biscuits!
If you dear readers recall, last week I was recounting a time I had performed a good deed. I hadn’t quite gotten to the deed, mind you, since last week’s storytime was rather short. I admit I was having a bit of indigestion while regaling Geldrin of my time by the sea—we’re currently trying out a vegetarian diet and it does NOT agree with my draconic stomach. Vegetables taste like nothing. No dreams, no ambitions, just an utterly dull need to grow with some violently bitter vitamins and minerals. Disgusting!
On the other claw, if you remember, a food I greatly enjoy is the taste of ambitious, honorable hobgoblins. I had heard tale that some of their ilk had recently seized control of a collection of islands only a day’s boat ride from the port city of Kraken’s Rest. It was here I had been attempting to learn to swim (unsuccessfully at the time) and where I learned of the situation on the islands. A treat like this is one I could not pass up, and thus I found myself captaining a nervous crew on a ship barely large enough to support my substantial figure.
“Yes, I HAVE been ‘eavesdroppin’,’” I bellowed. “And I’m intrigued by what I hear. Pick up that crate, swabby. And the rest of you keep unloading the ship. I’ll need room to stretch out on our trip!” Storytime With Grendel: Good Deeds – Part 1
“Mister dragon, sir…” One anxious sailor finally worked up the courage to speak to his new captain. “…sorry to be botherin’ you. We be headin’ to the Grumhold Isles, right?”
I let out a low growl. I had been slumbering on the deck, one wing shading my eyes from the blistering glare off the water. I hadn’t quite recovered from my aquatic ambitions a few hours ago, but I couldn’t let my new crew know I was feeling anything less than intimidating.
“Yes,” I rumbled.
“And… uhh… after that you’ll be letting us go?”
“No. I’ll need a ride back after I eat these hobgoblins.”
“Oh! I see…” The sailor took one careful step forward. I uncovered my face and glared at him. He took a step back. “So… after we deliver your mighty self uh… there and back again… then you’ll let us go?”
I covered my eyes again with my wing and said a simple, “…possibly.”
“Right. Uh… yes. Perfect. We’ll address that when we come to it. Right. Thank you, sir.”
I went back to dozing with my new crew cautiously manning the sales around me. (I know I’ve stated before how altruistic I am with my “No slaves or servants, just meals” attitude, and while it seems as though I had forced these sailors into servitude, it was only for a bit. More like a quick employment situation with their pay being the privilege of serving me!)
(…Geldrin is saying that this is how the other dragons with permanent minions justify it… But whatever. Ocean law blah blah blah.)
Not an hour into our trip, I was disturbed once again. The sailor in the crow’s nest was yelling about some ship approaching off the starboard. Or port. Poopdeck? I don’t know why mariners insist on naming everything at sea differently. Anyway, apparently one of the king’s navy ships was approaching, shouting something about us heading into “restricted waters” and how “the isles were off limits till the king decided how to handle the hobgoblin situation” and whatnot. All I knew is that if they were trying to stand in the way of me and my meal, they were going to regret it.
I stood imposingly at the approaching ship, causing the soldiers aboard to begin drawing their swords and crossbows in terror.
“Why does your ship transport a dragon? Be you cultists?” one particularly boisterous officer demanded.
“Ha! These pathetic men wish they were worthy of worshipping me!” I bellowed back. “These dogs are currently under my employ. We sail for Grumhold Isle so I may feast upon the hobgoblin army there. Now depart lest I immolate your ship!” I let out a quick burst of flame to punctuate my threat and was pleasantly surprised to see that my breath had returned.
I braced for an onslaught of crossbow bolts, anticipating the relentless tickling feeling they would impose on my powerful form. To my surprise, however, no volley occurred. Instead, a quick murmuring among the soldiers led to the lowering of their weapons and their ship sailing away, but not before these navy men actually applauded me! Yes, as they left, a great number of them were singing my praises! The fools. I was NOT doing anything heroic, yet they seemed to be approving of my plan. The feeling was nauseating.
Half a day’s trip and through the night later, we came within sight of the main island of Grumhold. A sprawling port city was nestled in the arms of a great stone spire, jutting from the ocean like the pointy part of a discarded wizard’s hat. Or something like that—I’m not great at similes.
I turned to the still terrified and now exhausted crew, issued another threat detailing what would happen if they left the area, and took to the sky, nearly capsizing the ship in the process. I soared over the salt-encrusted village which showed signs of recent battles. Sure enough, crowds of chained residents were being marched through the streets by hobgoblin captors. Things sure looked bad for them! Good for me, though. Hobgoblins that were determined enough to enslave an entire town would taste fantastic! Drooling a bit, I decided to make my way directly to where the leader would surely be. Some may save the best part of a meal for last, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I hadn’t eaten for nearly a day! (I didn’t want to eat any of the sailors from my ship for two reasons—one, I wasn’t sure exactly how many was the minimum needed to run a ship. Second, I was in fairly close proximity to them, and by my fiery breath did they stink!)
As a flew over the town, a most sickening noise met my ears—mortal approval. Again! Apparently, the enslaved townsfolk took my presence as their moment of salvation! Throngs of the downtrodden were shouting their support as I made my way to the city’s castle. Again, absolute fools. Why did they assume I would not eat them next after I had finished with the hobgoblin leader?
I reached where I assumed the hobgoblin leader would be—in the tallest tower of the castle. I perched astride it—my claws digging into the stone. I tore into the reinforced roof, roaring with anticipation for the delicious meal that was surely inside. Sure enough, only a minute later, I was staring down through a hole in the tower roof at a cluster of very frightened hobgoblins. One specifically wore more armor than the rest. His face was a patchwork of scars, and he had a plethora of medals adorning his uniform. Now this was a hobgoblin general!
Quick as a hungry dragon, and before the rest of the troop could react, I grabbed the honor-marinated warrior and threw him into my salivating maw. He tasted fantastic! Notes of duty, honor, the freshest of bread… A feast for the senses… though something was not quite right. As delicious as this general looked, I could not ignore the aftertaste of… what was it? I thought for a moment as the remaining gobs tried running for their spears or the door, though the rubble blocked their escape. I would have found it quite humorous to see them panicking had I not been disturbed by the flavor in my mouth. I couldn’t quite put my claw on it… Then it hit me. This was the leader of this troop, sure, the one that was currently occupying Grumhold itself, but the flavor that hit me the most was the taste of inferiority. A lack of complete control. Like eating a cupcake without frosting, this hobgob tasted good, but not quite as good as it could.
A mixture of frustration and anticipation hit me as I looked down at the frightened group of soldiers already attempting military formation in the room beneath me. With bits of their leader still in my teeth, I asked them,
“Tell me, mortals, was that meal your leader?”
They looked at one another with worried expressions, then another one—I assume the next in command by her medals and the way she held herself—replied with a tense, “…Yes, it was, foul beast.”
“Ok, yes, yes, I get that this was the leader of THIS detachment of soldiers, but was this the highest up of higher ups?”
They looked at each other with confusion.
I sighed and tried again. “Did the mortal I just consumed answer to anyone else?”
They all nodded in unison.
“Great. Perfect. And WHERE is the one he answered to?” I fumed.
The new leader stepped forward, her hand going to the hilt of her sword. “If I were to tell you this, I would be filled with dishonor most foul!” She drew her sword, pointing it up at my fearsome figure and continued, “I shall never, nor shall any of these brave souls EVER reveal the location of which you ask! For if—”
I grabbed her in an instant, gobbling her up quicker than the last and turned back to the startled troop below. She tasted like even more determination than the last, which was interesting. Before I could even demand an answer, they all pointed at once to a map on the table. Their fingers met in the middle on a neighboring island. Garrisdal.
A few moments later I returned to the ship, picking pieces of the troop from my teeth. I demanded passage to Garrisdal, and just like that we were off, sailing for the next island. I was somewhat full, sure, but I knew there was a greater meal out there, ready to be eaten.
Did I find the leader of the hobgoblins? Who could their leader even be?
Though I know not if you dear readers prefer one quick story, or a multi-parter like this, I will still have to leave you here for now. Geldrin once again says this story is getting too long, and I still have not gotten to the good deed I did! What will that be? Find out next week!