Original fiction by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic School Academic Director
Link to previous installment:
Part 1: We meet Thrill the goblin. He is fascinated by the Declaration of Goblin Rights, which stands as a monument to goblin pride, though no one can read all the words carved into the high, dark cavern wall.
Part 2: Thrill admits to a crime.
Like so many others, Thrill would strain to understand what the bottom parts of the hidden words said. He had once even travelled to the upper level. The climb had been strenuous, but he had been rewarded: the sight of the words he had only heard about moved him to tears. He had quickly sketched them into his book, below his sketch of the words below. That day, in the silence of the upper level, he had sworn quietly to himself that he would figure out what the rest of the document said. It would be the goal of his life. If he succeeded, he could die a happy goblin.
The most logical step after making such a declaration was to apply to be a librarian. If any copies did survive of the Declaration, they might be hidden away in the library and, again, only librarians would have access to it. This posed a problem for Thrill. He was a proud descendent of Werva, but only proud descendants of Orif (who, tradition maintained, was also a signer of the Declaration) could be librarians. As a son of Werva, Thrill felt fortunate to be even a book stacker, since most of his kin were lawyers or businessmen who were not allowed anywhere near the books. Pamphlets and manuals were all they needed and all they were given.
If he could not be a librarian, then he had only one option: to read the books as he stacked them. To do so would be breaking the law, but then Thrill was a goblin. Breaking rules, even goblin rules, was not something new to him. In fact, he was breaking a rule at this very moment, since his shift had begun twenty minutes ago.
“Where have you been?” Sistig asked as soon as Thrill entered.
“Cavern D,” Thrill said as he took a stack of books and shuffled down the aisle. Sistig shuffled alongside him.
“Again? What else can you possibly learn from that place?”
“I just like it.”
Thrill did not want to elaborate, and he hoped Sistig would go away. He had not glanced through these books yet and one of them was tantalizingly entitled, In the Nights of Old. Perhaps it had an entry on the Declaration that no one had seen before.
Sistig would not leave him alone. He had been lonely for the first twenty minutes of Thrill’s shift. “Can I go there with you next time?”
“Because I said so.”
Sistig snarled. Why did Thrill have to think he was better than everyone else? Just because he could read?
“You’re not the only one who can read, you know.”
Thrill shot a hand out and batted him on the head. “Keep your voice down or I’ll clip your ears!”
Sistig swallowed and covered the tips of his ears. “I’m just saying,” he whined, “that I can read too.”
“No, you can’t.” Though Sistig was hardly a military specimen, his family descended from the warrior clan. No written words necessary.
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Do the librarians know?”
“Do they know you read these books?”
Thrill did not answer. Instead, he brushed past Sistig and gathered up another stack. In the Nights of Old would have to wait. “You can’t read. Recognizing letters doesn’t count. You have to know what they mean.”
In response, Sistig pointed triumphantly to the binding of a book. “That’s a ‘V’”
“Yes, but what does the rest say?”
Sistig had to admit defeat and it hurt. So he resorted to anger.
“I can tell the librarians,” he hissed. “I’ll tell them you’re looking at the books! You can’t keep my mouth shut forever. I’ll tell—” His voice had begun to carry before Thrill clamped a hand over his mouth.
“I’ll get those clippers, Sistig. You watch!”
Sistig’s eyes grew wide, causing Thrill an uncharacteristic twitch in his stomach. Sistig was not a bad goblin. He was just lonely. Then Thrill’s goblin nature took over again. Let him be lonely, it said. He’s too embarrassing to be with other goblins.
He still had his hand over Sistig’s mouth. “Just be quiet,” he snapped.
Sistig nodded and together they went about their work. It was going to be a new moon tonight, which meant many wonderful opportunities for goblin-kind. They could see so much better than humans, whose tiny eyes could barely make out the shadows. Humans were scared by shadows, especially when the shadows moved and danced around them. Dancing shadows was a favorite goblin trick: they would wait for a band of humans who traveled with torches, then make quick, darting movements around their camp. The humans would be unnerved by the sight, usually crying something about their souls. And when human were scared for their souls, they tended not to watch their money pouches. It was a weakness goblins had exploited on many occasions; the care of humans for their own souls was the primary reason the goblin treasure room was so magnificent.
Thrill enjoyed these outings. He liked seeing goblins acting in such a clever way. To him, the treasure was secondary. Like any good goblin, he relished the glint of gold and the sparkle of rubies, but it was just as exhilarating to see his brothers and sisters sneaking around the firelight, dividing into groups to make the humans think they were surrounded (which they were), and picking just the right time to relieve the humans of their riches, coin by coin and jewel by jewel. Goblins were truly the cleverest of all creatures.
Tonight, though, he was distracted by his earlier encounter with Sistig. Of course the nosy creature would have noticed that he was reading the books. Thrill never worked alone. Sistig was always right there. Thrill had been a fool not to realize that he would be a factor. The question was, what was to be done now?
Thrill, despite his goblin nature, did not think violence was his best option. No matter what the other races thought, goblins did have a code of law. Thrill could not simply remove Sistig from the picture without his local branch of the Goblin Senatorial Committee asking questions. He would therefore have to content himself with the hope that Sistig was harmless. He might even be an ally, although hardly a trustworthy one.
The attack on the humans continued largely without his help. The target that night was a group of politicians sent from one human government to another. They must have been trying to travel in secret, since they were very small. And they must have been trying to impress the people they were going to visit, since they had also brought many riches.
Because of the riches, they had also brought a few soldiers, who tried to look brave in the middle of the dancing shadows. The men they were guarding were huddled by their fire, clutching their cloaks tightly around them and shouting at the soldiers to do something. But the soldiers had nothing to fight but insults and short glimpses of their enemy. They stood their ground, which was the smartest thing to do, until one of them decided to go further into the trees to see what he could attack. In an instant, he vanished. To the humans watching, it seemed as if the trees had swallowed him. To the goblins, he looked like a sack of potatoes, strung up among the branches by a net made just for the occasion, his sword lying useless on the ground.
Delighted by their game, the goblins started howling and the humans cowered even more. But the remaining soldiers looked grim and unmoving, determined to wait it out until morning. They had dealt with goblins before.
Only when Sistig’s warrior cousin darted into the clearing with a cloak thrown over his head did things get really exciting.
To be continued. . .
Part 3: Thrill comes up with a daring plan.