The stinging chill of winter clung to Gottschalk’s bones, causing him to curse and pull his cloak about him more tightly. Gorm, only clad in barbarian overalls, laughed and clapped him on the back, the force of it nearly knocking the smaller man over.
“Come on. It not that bad, Gott-chalk!”
Gottschalk smiled meekly at his friend, but then turned and frowned: Esservassa was still with them.
“Why didn’t you go with your goblin friends? You never did tell me why they can have borders and nations, but we cannot.”
The blue-haired, one-handed cultist glared at him and raised her middle finger. Cultists rarely had a response when their warped ideology was shown to be false. And since Gorm took her wine bottle away, her only recourse now was hostility.
“Gott-chalk make valid point. You should cheer up, Kalla. At least goblins not attack you again!”
Esservassa winced at the statement and turned her gaze to the ground. Whether it was from Gorm’s use of her old name or from memory of the goblins’ many outrages, her harshness seemed to turn to dismay.
The trio tramped further down the mountain trail and the Fjord shone below to the east in the cold afternoon sun. Other lands, Caelum Mount, Monjaksen, and even Narquay further south, shone to the west. Before them, but still miles ahead, they caught a glimpse of ruined Dinglesfuhr through cedars and barren oaks.
“And you should be happy, Kalla. We soon help save Dingle-furry-ones at Wilbur-grade from goblins invaders! You like helping people, right?”
At that, Esservassa’s dismay turned back to anger.
* * *
The sun hung lower now in the winter sky, casting long shadows upon the many broken Platzhauses here. The stench of smoke and tragic death still filled the air.
“Why would we need to come back? I thought you were trying to leave this place?”
Gottschalk glared at the woman’s statement, but knew enough to keep his voice down. “I thought you loved being closer to your goblin friends? We’re doing what we can to help anyone left in Dinglesfuhr- anyone who wants to be saved.”
Esservassa glared back, but had no response. She looked around nervously.
Gorm came up then, showing a surprising degree of stealth for one so large and unrefined. A blueshirt and a black hat, one soldier and one officer of Mauriatown, accompanied him. Esservassa looked ready to run.
“We were about to make attack, but most goblins already move on to Narquay!” Gorm kicked a pile of debris in frustration.
The blueshirt seemed more interested in Esservassa and her obvious cult garb. Her group was the ones primarily responsible for letting all the goblins and other invaders in.
The black hat, who Gottschalk now recognized as Captain Schnitt, put up his hand though. “We may need her alive, sergeant. Let’s hold off on the execution for now.”
Esservassa started to slink off, but Gorm was quicker and grabbed her arm. She feebly tried to bat away the large barbarian with her remaining stump, the same that once held her hand- the hand that she had been forced to give away to goblins by the very cult she still followed.
“Me thought you like Maurians? You really seem to like their wine bottles!”
Suddenly, there was an inhuman shriek: a gang of grey-skinned humanoids had burst from a ruined platzhaus! Despite his shock, Gottschalk noticed that some even wore the traditional garb of Dinglesfuhr, ill-fitting of course, but still a testament to the horror of having his people killed off and replaced.
Gorm reacted quickly and drew his great axe. The Maurians made ready their weapons too. And just as Gottschalk got out his miner’s pick, they were upon them.
The humans shot and fired and hacked at the inhumans. Many goblins fell, yet still more came. Gottschalk ducked one’s crude spear to only be nearly decapitated by another’s rusted saber. Luckily, Captain Schnitt had intervened and punched the foul creature in the nose. Gorm and the blueshirt finished them both off then with great axe and a crossbow bolt.
With a moment to spare, the four backed up to find a vantage point upon a ruined pedestal.
Gottschalk breathed heavily, spotting even more throngs of goblins in the distance. “I thought you said that most had gone to Narquay?”
Gorm shrugged. “Most did!”
Now standing fully upon the pedestal, they saw the city center in the distance. New red flags were being raised and the rainbow banners that had welcomed the ‘New Friends’ into Dinglesfuhr were being torn down. It was now clear to even Gorm that all the talk of the cult that Esservassa belonged to, their cries for 'Love’ and ‘Acceptance’, were merely lies to cause this city’s fall.
“Where she go?” said Gorm looking around quickly.
“She left us,” replied Gottschalk grimly. “It seems that she would prefer to have others deal with the goblin disasters that she and her cult had caused.”
Captain Schnitt turned to Gottschalk and nodded. “And Narquay may be next. The Franks there are working to mount a defense.”
Because if they were, then Narquay might be doomed too.