Hendra’s World • Book One • Part One
“A Filthy Smudge on The Forest Floor”
Fossahana, the great badger, moved smoothly down the rocky steps from the high mountainside platform, and disappeared into the piney treetops of the forest below. The company of 18 Dwarves followed, with Hendra leading them single file, spears and shields held ready at their sides, should they be ambushed. They were not.
As predicted, when they found the Goblin camp, Hendra and her band easily dispatched 29 of the 30 Goblin incursionist soldiers caught sleeping under their thin covering of leaves and earth. Half died not knowing who or what had ended them. Others awoke only to catch a momentary glimpse of a figure in black before being piked through and through while scrambling for shoddy weapons in the dirt. Two managed to run into the forest but were quickly cut down, shredded by Fossahana’s sharp claws.
As usual, this Cliven of Goblin wretches had been poorly armed and clad only in the soft, reeking, brown leather armor common to their kind. The camp itself was not much more than a filthy smudge on the forest floor, a trampled black circle around a shabby fire pit, where the dark earth was now stained with pools of blood, none of it from any Dwarf.
Senhendra had done as ordered and captured one Goblin, though he was not the Clubherd, just another lowly grub. After the melee, she held her prisoner to the ground by its neck with one hand, her spear raised over her head with the other.
“Tell us about the children!” her voice was low, and threatening, “Where are they?”
“None!” croaked the Goblin, straining and struggling under Senhen’s grip, “Gone!”
Hendra called her daughter by this name around their enemies.
“There are no children here,” she said. “Either we were mistaken to think so, or they’ve been eaten already.”
The Goblin began to laugh.
“FUCKED AND EATEN!” it screeched, now cackling maniacally.
Had her mother not stayed the younger Dwarfmaid’s hand, she would have thrust her spear through the middle of its hideous face.
“Listen to me, Goblin, and listen well,” said the elder Maiden calmly, “How did you come to enter our lands? I advise you, answer true, or my son will start by poking your eyes out.”
“Fuck you!” sneered the Goblin, and Senhendra poked one of his eyes out.
The Goblin screamed and wailed and clawed at her armor furiously, all to no effect. Senhen finally held his face tightly pinched between her vice-like fingers and threatened his other eye with her spear-tip nearly touching it.
“Nooo! “ he whimpered, and went limp. “I’ll talk! Talk talk talk… taaalk…”
He began to weep and moan and sniffle and whine, and the sound of him was so pathetic it was almost too much to bare. Every Dwarf in their company felt an instinctual compulsion to end the pitiable sound with violence, though none would dare harm this vile grub without the explicit consent of their Great Maitron.
“I ask again, Sir One-Eye,” said Hendra, “and please tell me true, for now all of my sons and brothers are aching to end you. How did you come to enter our lands?”
“Caaave…” he whimpered between sobs, “There’s a cave, Sir Dwarf.”
“Keep going,” growled Senhen.
“Under the river. A cave, a cave. Old, and rotten, but still good! I’ll take you there! Just please let me go back to Gob’lin, and you’ll never see me again! Please Good Sirs! Fuck this place! Fuck this shit! Fuck! This! Shit!”
He began to beat his fists on the ground and struggle again, wriggling like and angry worm under Senhen’s unmoving grip. When he reached for her spear, she used it to pin one of his large pointed ears to the ground. He screamed, then seemed to black out.
Senhen slapped him hard with her jett-gloved hand, which sent several of his tiny, sharp, green teeth flying. He was awake again and whimpering more incessantly than ever.
“Whyyyyy?” he cried.
Hendra shook her head in disgust. “Which way to this cave, Goblin?”
The creature pointed South. Blood and foam had started to come from his mouth and nose, and his punctured eyeball had slid out of the socket and hung limply on the side of his face.
“Hel’s tits,” said Dinha.
“Get him up, and bandage him,” said Hendra. “We leave as soon as he’s fit to travel. Everyone else, rifle the campsite in the meantime.”
Senhen pulled her spear out of the ground, unpinning the Goblin, and lifted him to his feet. She held him tight while one of the men tended to his wounds. The rest of the company searched the camp and their dead enemies for contraband and stolen Dwarfmade goods, then placed the bodies in a circle and covered them in dirt and leaves for the forest and the Faeries to reclaim.
While the others went about their tasks, Hendra led Dinha to the edge of the campsite to talk privately.
“I still smell Humans,” she said to her sister, “Live ones.”
“I do as well,” said Dinha, “And if they’re not traveling with these Goblins, they’re probably not children.”
“My thoughts are the same.” said Hendra, “When is the last time you faced an adult male Human in combat?”
“At least a hundred years ago, if not more. In Minha’mia’lin. They’re more formidable than these little grubs of course, but they die easy enough for something so large. When last I faced them, their arms and armor were forged of bronze at best. They didn’t even know how to make steel yet, let alone jett.”
Dinha tapped the butt of her spear on the ground, and Hendra tapped Dinha’s spear with her own. They both nodded grimly.
Their spears were timeless heirlooms of each Dwarfmaid’s Family House, cast from solid matte black jett, the hardest metal known to exist. Jett weapons could cut through almost anything, including hardened steel, and solid rock. And jett armor was impenetrable, as well as fireproof, incorruptible, and impervious to time. Once honed, jett blades and points never needed to be sharpened again. Likewise, once it had been forged, jett could never be melted or reforged, and every piece of raw jett ore that has ever been mined, had been forged long before Hendra’s Great Great Grand Maitrons were born. Each House had enough ancient, ever-lasting jett metal arms and armor to fight for an eternity, which it seemed to Hendra they had been.
There were far fewer Dwarves now than when all of the known jett in the world was forged by the first Thalaminians so many eons ago. In Hendra’s time, there were many thousands of majestic suits of armor standing empty in the graven Halls of each House. Suits that will never be filled again. A silent, motionless army of the dead.
Under her own dark armor, like all Dwarves, Hendra wore a snug, one-piece, padded cloth suit, with a quilted silk lining, called an aketon. Under her aketon, Hendra’s skin was warm, smooth, hard, and tight across her muscled frame. She longed to be nude again.
”Easy to poke holes in,” said Dinha.
“What’s that?” asked Hendra roused from her thoughts.
“Humans,“ said Dinha, “They’re easy to poke holes into.”
“Indeed. But they’re still dangerous,” said Hendra. “Clever.”
“They have the underspeech,” said Dinha, “and other evil magics.”
“Let us remain grim, good Sister,” said Hendra, placing her gloved hand on Dinha’s armored shoulder. Both peered into the dark forest around them. “The Beewolf’s Dwarfking can wait until we have rid these lands of all intruders.”
Dinha nodded in solemn agreement, her eyes became slits behind her visor.
After a few more quiet words, the two sisters returned to the rest of the company, and Hendra gathered them to her.
“There may yet be Humans afoot,” she said. Senhendra stiffened as if to speak, but Hendra raised a hand, and continued, “Adult Humans. Probably male.”
The men looked at each other.
“If you see one,” Hendra continued, “launch your spear without pause. If you wound it, or miss it entirely, run it down with great speed and dispatch of it using your swords. Most importantly: Do not listen to it. Do not let it speak at all.”
The men looked at their two Maitrons, and then into the dark woods around them.
“Who here has faced Humans in battle before?” asked Hendra.
Along with herself, only Dinha and the Beewolf raised their hands.
“Adult male Humans are large and strong, but their weapons are weak, and will break against our armor,” said Hendra.
“Their own armor is as nothing to our jett weapons, and their flesh is as soft as soap,” added Dinha, “We have the advantage from below. Stab them, just like this!” She thrust her spear upward at a sharp angle, then pulled it back.
A few of the men tapped their spear butts on the ground and murmured.
“You may have to stab them twice, or more, in order to kill them” said The Beewolf, the largest among them by far, thrusting her own spear upward several times quickly.
“And don’t let one fall on you,” added Dinha, “They are not only tall, some of them are quite fat as well!”
The men enjoyed this banter. They were fearless as always. No Dwarf in Hendra’s company would hesitate to engage a hundred humans in combat, she knew it well. Good Stalwarts all, whether they were Hendran or Dinian.
After a moment, Hendra raised her hand, and the men went quiet again. She turned to her daughter.
“Bring me the Goblin,” she said.
Senhen gestured, and one of the men appeared with their mended captive held tightly by the neck in an archaic yet effective device called a Goblin-catcher, consisting of a metal clamp-on collar at the end of a long pole. The collar was lined with spikes that dug into its victim’s throat should he squirm too much.
Hendra stood in front of their prisoner and looked down upon him, eyes smouldering. He was puny in comparison. Slowly, deliberately, she showed him her bright white teeth from under her thick red mustache in a practiced approximation of a smile that sent shivers up her daughter’s spine. Every Dwarf stood silent.
“Since you have asked so nicely, Sir One Eye,’ said the great and powerful Hendra at last, using a calm, deep, even tone, “I have decided that I will grant you your wish, and allow you to lead us back to this rotten old cave of yours, where we will release you to crawl through it, back to your stolen Goblands, so that you may warn your entire hive about us, and tell them that we are not sleeping on this border, or any other.”
“Hen’lin, Din’lin, all of D’waiv’lin. They are off limits to you, and we are watching, always“ said Dinha leaning in, also showing her straight, white teeth. Her smile being only slightly less malevolent than her sister’s.
Hendra pointed to the sky.
“The Eye watches you, and she tells us all that you do,” she said.
“The trees whisper in our ears,” Sendinha added. Her large frame cast a shadow across his mangled face.
“Now lead us to this cave,” said Hendra, “But do not attempt to mislead us, for we are excellent trackers ourselves, and can manage without you. My sons and brothers would have me extinguish you here and now, but I see value in setting you free.” Her teeth shone bright in the starlight.
The Goblin simply cowered, and made whining noises while they threatened and intimidated him.
“Our badger is eager to eat you alive,” Senhen said, closing tightly on the Goblin.
This was not true of course, Goblins taste as horrible as they smell, but Fossahana bared her sharp fangs just the same, and also stepped toward him.
“It’s up to you, Sir One Eye.”
“Will you choose to live or die?”
“Eat again tomorrow, or be eaten today?”
The Goblin’s bottom lip began to quiver, and they all expected him to start crying again, but instead he began to smile, weakly at first, then broadly, showing his own broken, jagged teeth, and bloody gums.
Then the horrid little fiend began to chuckle, laugh, and cackle loudly. Sneering viciously at them through peels of high-pitched laughter, he mocked their own false smiles with hateful grimaces, and made an obscene gesture with both of his hands and his long black tongue.
“EEEAT MEEE!” he screeched, laughing uproariously now, which caused him to shake so violently that the Goblin-catcher clamped tighter, and the barbs drew blood from his neck, at which point he settled back down, only to resume whimpering all over again.
“No no no…” he whined anew, “Don’t eat me, don’t, I beg you, Good Badger. I will take you. I will take you, Sir Dwarf. Good Sir Dwarves! Yes, good Dwarves all. I will take you to the cave! Please, you are good Dwarves, nay?” He was laughing softly again, while also whining and crying. Then, as they all watched in astonishment, he began touching himself through his leather pants. He had an erection.
“What the fuck?” said one of the men.
The Goblin only chuckled and shrugged its shoulders, while he continued to rub himself lewdly, one of his hands now inside the front of his leathers.
Hendra and Dinha looked at each other. Dinha’s eyes narrowed. She shook her head, then wound-up, and kicked the creature hard in the crotch, which only caused him to ejaculate.
“Oh, for fuck…” she said.
They were strange and awful to say the least.