Chapter 49 - Jason



“Kaiden,” I call out to him. I don’t get any response.

He’s still sitting there, just scooping his hands together. Still shaking. If we’re going to get out of this, I’ll need him to help me out. Right now, he’s a mess, but I need to get him back to this world. Just long enough for us to get out of here. I can deal with everything else when we’re free.

First thing is first, I take the jacket off him and toss it to the back of the room. I grab a roll of paper towels and wipe as much blood as I can from his hands and face. All of it won’t come off, but hopefully it’s enough to get him out of shock. I figure he’s cold, so I give him my jacket. It’s big enough that it’ll cover his hands, so he won’t be able to see the remaining blood. None of it helped. He’s still there just scooping as if he’s broken a toy and can undo it. Okay, I can do this.

I kneel in front of Kaiden so we’re at eye level, even if he won’t look into my eyes. I take his hands and hold one in each of my hands. He resists, attempting to continue his scooping motions. I refuse to let go and continue to stare into his eyes, but he won’t look up.

“Kaiden, I need you to look at me,” I just ask repeatedly before he finally looks up. “Kaiden, we’re trapped, and it’ll take both of us to get out of here. Are you following me,” he returns a shallow nod. “I’m going to cause a distraction and you’ll need to run. Just run fast and make sure you get to safety. Can you do that for me,” another nod. “I need to hear you say it.”

“Yes,” he barely whispers.

“Good, just don’t look back no matter what.”

“No,” he grips my hands digging his nails into my flesh.

“Yeah, I’ll catch up. I promise.” 

“No.”

Elsar used to tell me two things all the time. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and don’t force someone to do something you know they can’t. I know Kaiden can’t do this. He’s too screwed up right now. I’ll tell him to run and he’ll cling to my leg. I need to find another way out of this. I’ve got two guns, a lot of bullets, a sunlight grenade and some smoke bombs. That might be my way out of this one. I’ll wait until they’re nearby, roll the grenade out and just shoot as many as I can. While they’re still blinded I’ll get Kaiden outside where we’ll have a better chance of getting away. I force my hands free at the cost of some flesh, nothing that won’t heal.

I peek outside the door again. They’re getting closer, distant shouts sound like shouts from across the room now. I don’t have much choice in the plan at this point. We’re going to shoot it out. That was probably the first time Kaiden killed anything, much less a walking, talking, and sentient person. Still, I need him to tighten up right now, just for the ten, maybe twenty minutes it’ll take for us to get out of this place.

“Can you walk,” I ask as I close the door.

“Yeah,” this time with a little more volume.

“Then tighten the fuck up, we’ve gotta move.”

“We’re doomed.”

“Shutup, and take this,” I force a gun into the pocket of my jacket he’s wearing now.

“I can’t.”

“If we get separated, you’ll have to. Hopefully you won’t need to. Better to be prepared. Now get take my hand and close your eyes as tight as you can. When I say go, you just run with me. Don’t open your eyes for anything.”

I put on my sunglasses and lean out the door. I spot a single Orc at the end of the hallway and whistle. He yells out for help. I know the others won’t be long, and they aren’t. Soon they’re making their way towards the supply room from both sides of the hallway. I didn’t expect so many Orcs would want to avenge his death. I’d usually be excited for a moment like this, but I’ve got a frightened and panicked kid gripping my hand. For now I wait until they’re just outside of the door.

They start the banging. I don’t even ask if Kaiden is ready to go. If he’s not I’ll drag him out myself. There’s no countdown, I just roll the grenade out and close the door. I hear them converse about what it is as I wait for the sound of the shell breaking on the grenade. I hear the boom, and the screams. 

“Go,” I yell at Kaiden as I fling the door open.

Chapter 48 - Jason



“Don’t move you stupid fooking battyboy mook,” the orc screams pointing the gun at me.

As funny as it is that he’s got his movie gangsters mixed up, the moment is serious. I don’t really care if he shoots me. The bigger issue is that he’s got a Kaiden in a chokehold. He’s taken him hostage, which is something Orcs don’t do. That probably stopped the chaos as much as the gunshot did. 

“Alright, I’m still,” I promise the orc with my hands in the air.

“Bilge you can not do this,” The Chief approaches him. I suppose that’s his name.

“We can talk this out,” I side with The Chief.

“The time for talking has past, I’m going to blow this kids brains all over the room,” Bilge chokes Kaiden harder.

“I got some demands. First, I’m the new Chief. Your time is up old man. Second, I’ll let the kid go, but I get to shoot the big oaf in the face.”

“That is unreasonable,” The Chief shouts in a boisterous voice.

“Yeah, I’m not budging on that one either,” I regret those words almost instantly.

Kaiden stops struggling and becomes a willing hostage. He probably took it as I don’t care about him or something like that. He’s a real pain in the ass. That can’t be debated. But, the last thing I want is for him to get his head blown off by some wannabe gangster Orc. Dalia entrusted me to take care of him, and even if it is his own fault, I’m not letting him die tonight. Any night.

“New deal. How about you let him go, we leave and I don’t rip your spine out through your asshole,” I offer my terms of peace.

“A real fucking wise guy you are,” he takes the gun off Kaiden and points it back to me.

“Bilge, stop this madness. You have strayed too far from what an Orcs true nature is. You have twisted it and turned it into something sick. We do not kill children. We do not use machines to kill. We are warriors. If you have some issue with this man, then fight him, hand to hand, single combat until one of you no longer draws breath on this Earth,” The Chief makes an impassioned plea.

He seems to have parts of the crowd on his side. You should always be afraid of the man who draws his gun first. Something like that. I was never fond of the old proverbs, but I understand why they lasted so long. Bilge turns his gun to The Chief and shoots him in the leg. The old Orc falls to the ground. Others rush to him to provide medical treatment. In the chaos, I draw my gun and now we have a real standoff. We’re left to stare at each other as The Chief passes out and is taken away for medical. Just me and Bilge now.

I should have saw it coming sooner. That stupid thing Kaiden calls magic where he blows everything up. I haven’t even seen him practice getting it under control. It starts with tiny blue sparks surrounding his hand. I already know the kind of damage that thing can do. A small part of me wants to let it go off, just kill us all and be done with it. But, I know that’s not the right call.

“Hey Kaiden, I need you to calm down,” I plead.

“You’re dealing with me,” Bilge fires another shot in the air. 

“Kaiden, just relax for me,” he’s still not responding.

I feel the energy in the room shift, and dive for cover as Bilge fires off his gun at me. The blast comes after his third shot. I expected some kind of noise or explosion. Not this time. Just silence and a blinding blue-white light filling the room. It looked cold, but it was so warm. Welcoming almost, although I’m not sure where it was welcoming me. This was different than the other times I had seen Kaiden pull off this trick. Maybe he had been practicing, I don’t know enough about magic to be sure.

When I can see again my relief is gone. Three Orcs lay injured, screaming. Many gathering their senses, ready to kill Kaiden. Oh, Kaiden. He’s kneeling there covered in blood. The green jacket he was wearing now mostly red. Slowly he’s just scooping together pieces of what I can only assume is Bilge. Stuffing brain matter into a collapsed skull. I don’t think he knew what he was doing. The first Orc makes a move towards Kaiden. Not thinking, I shoot right through his skull, splattering more blood on Kaiden. He doesn’t flinch, just looks on dead eyed and tries to soak up the blood with what may have been a hand.

I rush over and scoop him up. He doesn’t fight me, just keeps trying to scoop up pieces of Bilge. I toss him over my shoulder so I can run better. While I shoot at our pursuers. I’m not sure he’s aware of any of this. I take up refuge in a storage room. I know they’ll be after us soon, but I need to get Kaiden back to reality. I sit him a small plastic chair before I peek outside the door. I hear them shouting in the hallways, but they haven’t come down this far yet. That gives me a little bit of time to figure this out.

Chapter 47 - Jason



The stupid fucking ladder is no good. Who leaves a wooden ladder outside year-round? It’s guaranteed to rot, who even has a wooden ladder these days? No problem, I’ve got another way up. I push my hands to the side of the home and take some deep breaths. I focus my magic on the palms of my hands and visualize myself climbing. I haven’t used this trick since I passed the test, but I should still be able to do it. 

I pull myself up one arm at a time, okay, good. I still got it. I’m putting holes in the siding, still can’t release any magic slowly. All or nothing, I guess. Now comes the hard part, turning half of that magic towards my feet. I slip the first couple of times because I can’t get enough magic to my feet, the next time I inadvertently put a foot through the siding. I will never understand how people use magic so easily, especially those without wands or spells. They just think and it happens. But I can’t wave a wand for my kind of magic. Thoughts for another day.

For now, I shimmy over to the window and peek inside. It isn’t the master bedroom like I thought. There’s nothing in there at all except a few folding chairs. I pry the window open and slide in. I thought this would be a quick thing but I guess I’ll have to move around. If I stay quiet and low to the ground, I shouldn’t run into any trouble. I stick my head out of the room, and peer around the corner. I can hear snoring downstairs. If he’s not in own room, he’ll be sleeping downstairs with everyone else. I make my way to the stairs and check over the balcony. I don’t see my guy but I only have a clear view of three, maybe four. I take a deep breath and clutch my knife just in case. This is going to be rough even if it goes through with no problems. 

“Where the fuck are you going bitch,” I hear to my right side.

Before I can turn my head to see who was there it’s firmly placed in the drywall. My ears are ringing from the blow to the side of my head and my vision is blurred by the flakes of drywall as I pull my head from the wall. I should be trying to protect myself but I’ve lost two of my senses. Instinct takes over, and my instinct says flee. Unfortunately, I can’t see my attacker. But I feel the foot kick me in the chest, backwards down the stairs. My ears don’t stop ringing as tumble down the stairs. This was a trap. They knew I was coming somehow.

As soon as I’m done falling, I’m met with punches and kicks. I’m too messed up to defend myself, so I just take the beating. I almost pass out a few times before the beating stops. I need to stay awake for this. If they try to kill me, I need to fight back, no matter how hard. I’ll save my energy for that. They ziptie my hands behind my back. From there they start to drag me. Not sure where I’m going but it’s a moment. Slowly my ears stop to ring. I’m blinking my eyes repeatedly trying to clear the debris. I’m going to have a fight on my hand wherever they’re taking me so I need to prep. 

I’m placed in a chair, the front of a room with a small crowd. They use more zipties secure me to the chair. I’ll wait for now. Slowly more people walk into the room. Small chants in some language I don’t know. Maybe a forgotten Orc language. If they plan on a sacrifice, they’re going to work for it. They’re too arrogant, I lost my knife but I have everything else. I’m willing to play this out while I use magic to help me recover, but the moment they start talking sacrifice I’m breaking free.

The sound of metal being dragged across the floor silences the crowd that seems larger. Another chair is being dragged across the room by a large Orc. Strapped to the chair is no other than my sidekick Kaiden. It doesn’t look like he put up a fight. They’ve got him secured, but his arms are in front and he’s not strapped to the chair like I am.

“Sorry,” he whispers to me as The Orc drops him and leaves.

“For what?”

“They caught me, I kind of told them you were here,” he smiles as if that’ll make me forgive him.

“That’s exactly why I left you at home. You can’t do everything I do and I can’t take you everywhere and before you say anything, I know you helped with the Hobgoblins and Dwarves but that isn’t this. You need to listen to me if you’re going to stay around. This shit isn’t some fun game. You’re not on a fucking field trip.”

He doesn’t respond, just looks away from me. I feel bad now, because he might be crying. I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings. I’ll apologize if we make it out of this alive. I know he doesn’t mean any trouble. But he can really get in the way sometimes. But that probably isn’t the best way to get my point across. Even if he’s gotten a little bigger, and keeps telling me he’s sixteen, the fact is mentally he’s still thirteen after being stuck for so long, and I don’t think that potion will fix that, or maybe it takes time. Still to be seen, for now, I need to act like he’s thirteen. Probably scared to be alone.

“My people,” the Orc I came to stop starts to parade around in front of us. “Tonight, we have people coming to kill us. To take our heads, and mount them on pikes,” he continues. “But our chief would say that is not the way of this modern world. This old man would have us turn the other cheek,” he continues.

“Boy that is enough,” another Orc stops him. “Did you even ask these men why they came here,” he makes his way towards me. “Why are you here,” he leans down.

“That guy with the ugly suit and fedora has been extorting business and one hired me to stop him. I tried to talk it out at the abandoned building his gang stayed in, but they attacked me, and he ran off like a coward,” even if I die, I’m making sure his leadership does too.

“You see, you caused this, we have enough. Why must you be so greedy,” the Old Orc asks.

“This isn’t greed Chief, this is success. There isn’t any need for us to live together like rodents any longer. You need to see the bigger picture,” he explains his actions.

“And you need to know your role and how to address me child,” the chief smacks our Orc. 

“Your time has past old man,” our Orc argues. “You have been eating scraps for a decade now. You can’t have success without some enemies!”

“You can be successful and have friends, you can also be unsuccessful and have enemies. Your so called success took a shot at you. What are you going to do now? You going to kill them?”

“Yes, I need to send a message,” he screams at the chief.

That’s all I needed to hear. I break free of my bindings and lunch at the Orc. After all this time, I’m finally able to touch him. I land a strong blow that knocks him to the ground. He isn’t used to being hit. It doesn’t take long before other Orcs rush me. The whole thing turns into a free for all. The Chief’s men, the Mob Orcs and Myself all taking turns knocking each other down and getting back up. All of that comes to and end when a gunshot goes off. 

Chapter 46 - Jason



The information Sorkina came back with was great. Pictures of the housing addition they live in, the community center down the road where they gather. I wasn’t expecting much but she came through for me. I would get her a gift, but she charges a lot of money already. This one is going to be a stealth operation. Go in at night, when they’re all asleep. Find the Orc, a quick injection of cyanide and then I’m out. The other option, I simply abduct him on his way into one of their nightly gatherings, but if he travels in a group that option is out of the question. Either way, it’ll be quick.

I wait until Kaiden is asleep and head downstairs to my cab. I can’t risk having him along on this one. If something goes bad, he’s going to be a liability. If I don’t get killed protecting him, he’ll get himself killed. That’s if things go south, but with his mouth, and inability to remain quiet, they will. I have a cab let me out. I walk the rest of the way on foot, avoiding the noise the cab might cause, allowing me to hide in the night. From behind a tree I watch as they exit the community center.

It’s only the men, so this must have been some kind of leadership event. The heads of different families in the Clan uniting to discuss the future maybe. I don’t know. I spot my Orc in a fedora and zoot suit. Is that his idea of dressing for the occasion? I must admit in the few times I’ve seen him this Orc is a strange one. I move around the outskirts keeping an eye on him as he enters the home he lives in. A few other Orcs follow, as to be expected. Orcs just don’t live alone. I imagine he’s going to be in the master bedroom, most likely the top floor. If there’s a ladder around, I can use that to climb in through the window. Nobody else will see me. For now, I just need to wait until lights start going out to tell me everyone is asleep.

“So, what’s our plan,” I hear a whisper in my ear.

Instinctively, I attack. I grab at my stalker’s body, and quickly lock him in a choke hold. The hair kinky hair rubbing against my face force me to let go. I realize it’s Kaiden. He followed me out here. He coughs and wheezes for breath on his hands and knees. I take a seat next to him and pull him closer to the bush I was using for cover.

“Why, did you, choke me,” he asks through big gulps of air.

“You snuck up on me. I thought you were an Orc.”

“Orcs don’t whisper.”

“And you should be at home in bed, but I guess I was wrong about that. So maybe, Orcs can whisper.”

“You left me.”

“Because it’s too dangerous out here. You need to go home,” I try not to yell at him for fear of giving away our location.

“But I can help,” he pleads.

“No, you can’t.”

“I helped with the hobgoblins, and the dwarves.”

“This isn’t that, and I’m sorry I choked you, but you need to leave.”

“No, I’m not going anywhere. We’re a team,” Kaiden is no longer whispering.

“You’re going to give away our location if you don’t stop talking so loud.”

“Look, if you want to be involved, stay and play lookout for me. I’m going to go in there and kill the orc. We can leave after that.”

“You don’t have to kill him. You can just talk to him,” Kaiden suggests.

“I don’t like that plan.”

“We’ll if you’ve got a better one, I would love to hear it.”

“I don’t.”

“Then play lookout.”

I can’t believe he followed me out here. I can’t believe I didn’t notice him. Maybe he didn’t tail me, just woke up and saw I was gone. Either way, it wasn’t a good idea. Now I need to move twice as fast to get this done. I make my way down the hill quickly towards the house. I spot a ladder, my way in. The lights are off, but I still hear talking. I’m forced to wait a few minutes, uncomfortably close to the home.

Chapter 45 - jason



“I think we’re getting better at navigating the city,” Kaiden says as we make our way up the street.

“What makes you say that?”

“We actually found the place, and took the right bus this time.”

“We haven’t found it yet,” Kaiden points down the road, “okay we’re not too bad.”

I expected a convince store from the outside, but inside looks like more like a general store that happens to have a pawn shop attached. There is nothing convenient about this place. Candy, chips, musical equipment and electronics all jammed into this small shop, seemingly at random. One Orc sits at the counter, behind a bulletproof screen, not even noticing us walk in.

“Is that the guy,” I point to the Orc.

“Yeah, that’s him.”

I make my way over to have a conversation. The Orc is asleep, unbothered. A little pudgy for the Orcs I’ve been fighting, but I suppose every Orc isn’t trying to live the warrior way still. This guy is trying to live the relaxed fit life. I knock on the window and he almost falls off his stool.

“What do you want? Hurry up and buy something,” he’s obviously upset.

“I’m here to talk about your brother.”

“I don’t have a brother,” he denies it. An obvious lie.

“The one who goes around extorting business along the river. You know, the one with the two-bit criminal organization that used to be in the abandoned building,” I try to refresh his memory, the calm way.

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” he stays firm.

“Do you have any of those lemon-flavored cupcakes you used to bring to us,” Kaiden leans from behind a shelf to ask.

“Yeah, right over by the….shit,” he knows he messed up by acknowledging Kaiden.

“Thank you,” Kaiden smiles and points his fingers at him. A goofball.

“So, now that we have that out of the way. I need to know where your brother is,” I bring us back on track.

“Why do you want to find him? That your kid? You want revenge,” he jumps to the worst.

“Alright, let’s start this again. I’m Jason, that’s Kaiden. Nice to meet you,” I introduce myself properly this time.

“The name is Blazr from the clan Valthurg. I don’t participate in the current family business,” he’s calmed down a little.

“What was the old family business,” Kaiden asks with an arm full of snacks.

“Legit business, manual labor, construction. My brother thinks he leads the mob. We never did this crap under our father. My uncle had to have gotten into his ear,” Blazr stops, as if he’s said too much.

“If you tell us where he is, we can get you back on track,” I make the offer.

“I can’t do that,” he answers.

“Well, why not? You want him stopped. Jason can do it,” Kaiden is bad for interrogations.

“Because if I told you where he was, you’d try to go kill him, and my entire clan would fight back. They would kill you and I can’t have that on my conscience. Then again, you might kill them all, and I would have to avenge them, even if I don’t agree with their life choices. Everyone who has gone bad just needs one person to bring them back to the right side. I’m trying to be that person so I can’t tell you where they are. Even if we’re not fighting wars anymore, we still have our honor as Orcs. Good or bad. Sorry.”

“Are you fucking serious? Your brother is beating up old people and stealing their restaurant profits but you want to talk about honor? You are one ass backwards Orc,” we’re going to do this the hard way now.

“Jason, I think we should go,” Kaiden pulls at my hand.

“Not until we get answers.”

“He’s not going to give us anything. Look at him, he’s on the verge of tears right now. We’ll find the place another way,” Kaiden pleads with me.

“I owe you for the hobgoblins, so we’ll leave.”

Outside the shop, I’m pissed. I can’t bring Kaiden along if he’s going to stop me every time he thinks I’m being too mean. Sometimes you need to be mean to people so things get done. Especially in this line of work. You can’t just hug it out with everyone. Sometimes you need to kick in the door and make them understand you mean business.

“Why did you stop me? I wasn’t going to hurt him,” I need to know his reasoning.

“Because we got what we needed,” he shrugs.

“What?”

“You said that the Orc Clans all have their own communities, right? Well, we got their family name. Valthurg. We just give it to Sorkina and let her do the rest.

“I’m sorry, you made the right call. I let my emotions get in the way. Good job.”

“What’s that? I can’t hear you. Almost sounds like you said sorry,” he mocks me.

“I can still beat you up.”

Chapter 44 - Jason



I can’t remember the last time I woke up to freshly cooked food. The smell of Pancakes and eggs fills up my room. I think I might be a morning person now. Yesterday I thought Kaiden was joking when he said he was a better cook than me. What would a kid know about cooking? We got paid and went to the grocery store, a diet based on takeout is going to get you out of shape really quickly. He wasn’t a fan of my baked chicken last night. I didn’t think he’d try to prove me wrong this morning.

I head out into the living room to see that he’s packed the table. Scrambled eggs with plenty of mixings; peppers, sausage, onions and anything else I might want. I’ve never seen a tower of pancakes like the cartoons in real life but here they were. I know we didn’t buy pancake mix, did he make these from scratch? The kid can be annoying and clingy, but I’d be lying to myself if I said he didn’t keep finding ways to impress me.

“Right on time, I was going to wake you up,” Kaiden takes a seat.

“Did you really cook all this,” I sit on the opposite side of the table.

“Yeah, I told you. I’m a great cook,” he smiles and stops short of patting himself on the back.

“I guess I underestimated you.”

“Take a bite, start with the pancakes, I promise they’re great.”

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“Oh, I’m going to eat a lot,” Kaiden starts loading his plate. “But, a chef likes to see people enjoy their food.”

“Alright, but this better not kill me.”

I pour a little syrup on the corner of one of the pancakes. It smells good, but that doesn’t really mean it’s good. I break off a piece with my fork and my mouth instantly fills with saliva. This is so good. The kid can’t fight, and his magic is janky at best. But if there’s two things I know he can do it’s solve riddles and cook.

“Yeah you like it,” Kaiden laughs and finally digs in.

“Where did you learn to cook like this?”

“My nanny used to let me help in the kitchen, but I never got a real understanding of baking.”

“What? You had a nanny? Are you a rich kid?”

“Very,” he shrugs and takes a bite of eggs.

“Why would you run away from all that?”

“I guess I didn’t really belong there. When my nanny died, I felt like nobody there really knew I was there. I basically walked out in the middle of the day and nobody has found me. I’m pretty sure they aren’t even looking for me.”

“That’s crazy,” is the only thing I can say. I see it upsets him so I try to change the subject. “So we need to get back to finding the Orc.”

“Got any idea where he’s at?”

“Nope, but I’ve had Sorkina looking for information. I’m pretty sure he’s at an Orc Stronghold, but I can’t really just kick down the door of each one until I find him.

“What’s a stronghold,” Kaiden is puzzled.

“Well, in the old days, they were like little gated communities for the Orcs. They didn’t have cities, but they had strongholds which where smaller and usually held one clan. It’s the same today except instead of being out in the woods somewhere they’re usually a culdesac, or housing addition or something like that. Maybe part of an apartment complex.”

“So we just have to find which one.”

“Yeah, you don’t happen to remember anything else about the boss, do you? Any lady friends, addictions, favorite foods?”

“He had a brother. I think he has a convenience store. He always brought snacks and stuff for everyone even if he was just going to get in argument with his brother. He even brought stuff for me.”

“We can use that. I’ll tell Sorkina to look for an Orc with a convenience store.”

“Can I ask you another question Jason,” Kaiden gets super serious.

“Sure, what is it?”

“I saw this movie about a vampire hunter who was also a vampire. He dressed really similarly to you. Is that why you dress like that?”

“No, I just took some modified version of my father’s gear. He actually came up with the runes that are featured on my guns and knuckle dusters,” my father was also a big fan of Blade and I didn’t know that, but I can’t tell him that.

“Oh, well that’s cool. I guess maybe a lot of vampire hunters wear that gear. Those movies were weird anyway. There were vampires, but no werewolves and the vampires were just focused on killing other vampires.”

“Never saw it. But this food is great.”

Chapter 43 - Jason




“How many do you,” I ask Kaiden, as he stands on my shoulders.

“There’s just so many of them. Maybe 30 or 40. It looks like they’re just hanging around. They even look happy, like they’re joking. But they don’t look like Leprechauns,” he says confused.

“Well Sam isn’t a usual Leprechaun. He’s part Elf, and he’s a werewolf. What do these guys look like?”

“Well, they look like Goblins. But, they’re way shorter, maybe two or three feet tall. They’re also really pale, like a pinkish white color.”

“Yeah, those aren’t leprechauns.”

“Then what are they?”

“I don’t know, let me stand on your shoulder and look.”

“Ha-ha so funny. You don’t have a guess?”

“Yeah, they’re probably hobgoblins. Not really goblins, but they look alike. They mostly play pranks , but can be a real pain because they move in big numbers.”

“What are we going to do? You can’t beat them all up.”

“I could be up 40 hobgoblins. Easily. They’re small, and not really fighters. I could probably do it with just kicks.”

“Well, didn’t you tell me that fighting isn’t the solution to everything,” Kaiden does listen, even if he doesn’t seem to.

“Well, don’t worry. I got a different plan.”

“Alright, lets do it.”

Kaiden jumps from my shoulders. He lands on his feet and stumbles forward, I grab the back of his shirt before he face plants. We make our way to the door. I stretch and warm up. I don’t plan to fight but anything could happen. I take a deep breath and force one of the garage doors up before making our way in.

“Hey, who’s in charge here,” I yell out.

“Will you get a load of this guy,” one of the hobgoblins yells back, the others laugh along.

“I’m not playing,” I shoot a hole through the television. I’ve got their attention now.

“Woah, what are you doing? I thought you said you weren’t going to fight,” Kaiden whispers aggressively.

“I’m not. I got this. I’m just going to scare them out,” I whisper to him.

“You want us out,” a hobgoblin with a suit, a monocle and tiny top hat makes his way to my shins.

“Yeah, and if you aren’t out of here in twenty minutes, I’ll make all of you match that, TV.”

“Okay big guy, no need to get violent. Unfortunately, we can’t be bothered to leave. Some really good basketball games this time of year. So, you’re welcome to come back later without those little pea shooters and we can talk,” he smiles at me like he just won.

“I will smash you under my booth you little shi…”

“Jason, can I talk to you outside,” Kaiden pulls at my arm and leads me outside. “I think I got this. You said Hobgoblins are pranksters, right? They aren’t going to respond to threats. Maybe there’s another way.”

“You really think you got it?”

“Yeah, I can do this.”

“Alright, but if not, we’re punting them all for distance,” I follow his lead back into the building.

“Mr. Hobgoblin, would you please leave the warehouse,” Kaiden asks the one in the top hat.

“Ah yes, of course we can leave,” he smiles at Kaiden.

“Well, will you leave?”

“Under certain circumstances.”

“Well, what are those circumstances?”

“You have to answer three riddles.”

“Well, let’s do it,” Kaiden says cheerfully.

“Alright, riddle number one,” he pulls a slip of paper from his hand. “You can see me in water, but I never get wet. What am I?”

“Oh, that’s easy. A reflection,” Kaiden answers gleefully.

“Right, lets kick it up a notch, shall we?” The hobgoblin sticks his hand in a different pocket. “Oh, a good one. I am not alive, but bring to life love, beauty and strife. Though I don’t speak, I never fail to captivate you with my spell.”

“Don’t speak, spell. Bring to life. Hmm.”

“Time is ticking my boy.”

“I know it.”

“Then share.”

“The answer,” Kaiden drags out his words. “A book.”

“Very good. One more and we shall leave,” He doesn’t reach into his pocket and his face contorts into a mild rage. No longer smiling. “I don’t have eyes, but once I did see. Once I had thoughts, but now, I’m white and empty.”

Kaiden looks stumped. I know the answer immediately. Hobgoblins. They’re pranksters. They’re jokesters. Unlike Goblins. They look like smaller versions, and they live in large groups. One similarity that gets overlooked is that they can be violent. These days Goblins and Orcs are very different with how they’ve embraced the world. Goblins can still be violent, they were always stealthier than Orcs anyway. Hide in plain sight. Hobgoblins have not embraced the new world. They’re still the same. Charming, then they cut through your legs.

“I don’t know,” Kaiden whispers to me.

“What’s that? Did you answer? Time is up,” the hobgoblin smiles.

“The answers is a skull,” I speak up.

Rage fills his face, then quickly vanishes when I grip both my guns. “Very well, we will leave.”

They move quickly and efficiently to clear out everything they brought. I feel the malice in their little mayor, chief or whatever. The others are kind enough to wave goodbye. I almost feel bad for them. Almost. I still want to punt top hat into the nearest river.

“I thought you were going to have to shoot him.”

“Well, you were doing a good job. Didn’t want to ruin it.”

“We make a good team right,” he smiles at me again.

“We’re not a team. Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“We’re a team. You like having me around. Admit it.”

“No, now lets go get paid.”