It felt like Joanna’s eyes had only just closed when they were wrenched open by the vibrant sounds of chaos. She lurched awake, panicked. Her long dark hair fell about her eyes as she shook off the sleep and attempted to understand. Through the window on the opposing side of her small home she saw the dancing hues of fire light spreading about the village.
Fear gripped at her as her mind raced, she jumped from her single bed and frantically searched in the dark for her gear. The sounds of screams and clattering timber were growing. Howls and shrieks set motivation into her fingers as she pulled on her boots and hastily flung her armored tunic over her. She clutched at the scabbard of her sword, which rested by the door and set out into the fray.
She ran towards the madness. Trying to understand what could’ve happened. Then she saw them, a horde of Goblins. They were destroying the town. They had come in from The Wilds! She charged thoughtlessly, Joanna Brandished her sword and let loose her most inspired war cry as she charged at the nearest Goblin.
It was over as fast as it had begun, the other villagers rallied to the cause and chased those terrible creatures away from the village. All remaining goblins scampered off into The Wilds, laughing and tittering all covered in blood.
After the danger had passed and the fires had been put out, Joanna plopped down on the grass and tried to breathe calmly for a moment. She closed her eyes and exhaled deeply before someone shouted her name.
“OYE JOANNA!?” She opened her eyes and swung her head towards the voice. It was dark yet and the smoke still hung in the air but she knew it was her uncle Kav, she stood with aching joints and jogged to him as he stood amidst the rubble of the village.
“It seems you saved the night! Well done, your ma would be proud.” He clapped her lightly on the back, proud of her burgeoning abilities. “Though, seems there was a reason the goblins came about. They took one of the Mayors boys. Must have made off with him before the ruckus. I suppose they’ll put together a rescue party once the sun comes up and all this dies down a bit more.” Kav said as a grimace grew across his face.
“Which of the boys?” Joanna asked, though she knew the answer, It made sense all of a sudden.
“The pretty one, the one they all fawn over. Hammond is his name I think, with the long hair and that.” Kav said as he resumed his work, grabbing debris and tossing it into a common burn pile off to the side.
“That means the Goblin Queen wants him.” Fatigue washed over Joanna. “That also means we can’t wait until morning.” She cracked her neck and began to stretch. Everyone was still in shock. Everyone was tired and scared and annoyed, no one had the proper headspace except for Joanna, and she wasn’t scared of goblins or battle or any of it.
“I’m sure the Mayor is losing his head over it though so you’d probably catch a fine reward if you had the stones to go fetch the lad Joanna” Kav said as he winked and returned his focus on his work.
She found the Mayor, he was stressed in his night gown and was eager to see Joanna off to rescue his son Hammond, he was after all the prize of the village, and promised to be married to the princess in the spring. Joanna would be the champion of the village, maybe the whole kingdom if she were able to save young Hammond from the terrible hands of the Goblin Queen, who would do gods know what to him.
So off she went, in the night, into The Wilds, which was easily the worst time for one to go off into The Wilds.
It was dark, but her sword was sharp and her senses were wired from adrenaline. It didn’t take her long to pick up on the Goblins trail, they weren’t careful beasts by any means. She could hear them off in the distance, yammering on in their strange language. It hurt her mind, but it made following them easy. She could also hear Hammond, shrieking about being promised to the princess, and that he was very flattered and all that but he really must be getting home. And so it went, until they came upon the Goblin Queens Castle.
Joanna waited for them to all cram themselves into through the gates of the castle. “Eh what a pitiful castle.” It was ancient and rickety, Joanna could smell the age on the place. She decided going through the front gate would be a touch too cheeky for her liking and opted instead to scale the far south wall of the place and invade from the top most floor.
She had never been good at sneaking on account of her lacking a certain awareness of her surroundings. She much preferred swinging a sword in broad daylight than sneaking about in the shadows, though that’s what made a hero she supposed. Versatility. She crawled about the castle, looking and listening for signs of Goblins, it was easy going. No Goblins in sight. But she could hear them, and Hammond.
“No, my goodness you’ve been most hospitable but I really must go. “ Hammond shrieked from a few floors beneath Joanna, his high pitched voice hurt her ears.
She snuck about a while longer, until she found that there were was no real need to sneak. It seemed that every single Goblin was congregated below her. So as any hero would’ve, she set about finding the Goblin congregation.
It didn’t take long, the castle was a wreck, it mostly sat upon borrowed time and crumbling rock foundations. The walls echoed and gaped in places, the lights bled through the floors and so it was that Joanna found her way through a fault in a floor to be perched upon a gargoyle above every single one of the Goblin Queens subjects, and a very captured, very uncomfortable Hammond.
“Honestly you’ve been so gracious but the PRINCESS will be so very worried about me I must get back. If you fine fellows might just unbind by person I shall see myself out.” Spear tips lurched towards his neck, which did a fine job of shutting the young Hammonds squeaking mouth.
Just before Joanna was about to lunge into action, she heard a deep rumbling.
“The GOBLIN QUEEN approaches” Shouted all of the Goblins in unison. They tittered nervously and jumped about, shuffling feet, there must have been a hundred of them. The rumbling grew louder and Joanna was forced to clutch at the gargoyle so as to not fall into the pit of Goblins.
Through the horde of Goblins sauntered the massive queen. She must’ve been seven foot tall, and easily as wide around. Even from where Joanna sat, she could see the massive warts that etched the massive protruding beak of a nose on the Queen, she was dressed differently than the other Goblins, and she wore a dress, a filthy and tattered off white dress. It wouldn’t be long until the Goblin Queen made an honest man out of Hammond, and as hilarious as that would be for Joanna, The princess and the Mayor and the townsfolk probably wouldn’t share in her humor. This was shaping up to be a terribly lame quest after all. Joanna watched on, hoping for a golden opportunity to open up.
“My You’ve found me a gem this time around boys. He’ll do very nicely.” The Goblin Queen came within inches of Hammonds face as she spoke, she ran her long crooked fingers through his hair and Hammond recoiled politely.
“Your majesty, It is such an honor to meet you, truly.” The young man Hammonds voice shook as he addressed the massive Goblin Queen “And I find myself so flattered by your considerations, but unfortunately I am very much spoken for by the Princess of his majesties kingdom, I would hate to sully relations between goblin folk and The kingdom after all.” Hammond seemed confident in his pleas.” There was silence for a moment. It seemed all the goblins were waiting for their queen to decide how they collectively felt about it.
“Dear sweet handsome human, I intend to take you as a meal, not a spouse. I’ve been craving handsome humans for ages, my sweet Goblins found me you for a snack my darling, not for a relationship. “ Said The Goblin queen, as she licked her lips.
Hammond squeaked. Joanna lept from her Gargoyle perch, Chaos ensued.
Joanna hit the ground slashing, and screaming. She fought wildly against the stunned and surprised goblins (goblins were terrible at surprises, confusion hits goblins like a concussion). The Queen screamed and lashed out at the battling Joanna, who sliced at the queen in the last moment and took one of the queens fingers as a trophy. It plopped to the ground to the tune of Hammond gasping and goblin shouting.
The Queen recoiled with a terrible cry that seemed to shake the foundation of the faulty castle. Joanna leapt about swinging and cursing as the goblin horde bore down on her, The queen continued screaming uncontrollably urging her goblins on and saying very unsavory things about humans in general. Her shrieking fury was causing tremors in the floor. Joanna felt uneasy on her feet as she fought and found her way To Hammond.
“JOANNA! You’ve saved me!” mused Hammond, who seemed completely unaware of the horde of Goblins, a screaming queen and a castle that was coming down around their ears.
Joanna nearly smacked him. “Well we’re not quite out of the thick of it just yet.” She slashed at Hammonds bonds and he squealed as he fell loose. Joanna turned and slashed at the advancing army of Goblins as the walls began to shake and stones started falling from everywhere.
“Time to go!” Joanna grabbed at Hammonds shirt, he eagerly leapt to Joanna side as she slashed and hacked and ran for the door to freedom, as the castle began to come down over them. They lurched passed the screaming Goblin Queen who lashed out again, and who lost another finger just as they felt the towers of the castle crumbling. Joanna shouldered the front gate as Hammond fainted and fell limp in her arms. They escaped in the last possible second. The castle came down and it took the goblins along with it, She wasn’t sure about the Goblin Queen, but she couldn’t see how anyone had survived, plus she’d stopped her shrieking. Joanna plopped the limp Hammond down on the grass, who landed like a pile of laundry and sat beside him as the dust from the castle collapsing rose from the ground.
She looked down at the incapacitated Hammond and chuckled, “You’re not even that handsome dude.”
Hammond squeaked unconsciously.