Was it his imagination or was the breakfast brown looking at him? Luckily his buckler had cost him only 10 copper so that he still had enough for breakfast, but if he was going to eat dinner and not sleep in an alley he was going to have to pick up a new quest.
The notice board had the following:
White Dragon Extermination 500 Gold
“Come on Jack you want to earn that name of yours don’t you?”
Jack was of course perfectly capable of slaying any dragon, but he wanted to wait for his legacy to build a little more gradually, also a better shield and some proper armor would be nice.
“White Dragons breath ice right? Perfect for your new jacket, cloth orphan armor, err gambeson”
Yeah as nice as it was, after he got the stains out anyway, he still wasn’t quite willing to test it against a dragon just yet.
Vampire Extermination 66 Silver
No thanks, vampires creeped him out.
Stream re-channeling for irrigation 60 copper
That would just be digging, which is more manual labor than a proper quest.
Bandit camp extrication (extermination preferred) 15 Silver
An entire camp? Maybe something a little more mild, just to get his feet wet.
Barn refortifying 30 copper
Also manual labor
Stable Cleaning 60 copper
Is this board just suicide missions and manual labor?
“At least you won’t smell like rats”
Goblin Extermination 1 Silver
Wasn’t there anything on the board that wasn’t extermination, like recovering lost jewels from a hidden temple or something? Then again that probably couldn’t be done before dinnertime. Goblin slaying it was. The farmers in the area had posted the quest.
He picked it up and handed it to the innkeeper
“Lovely quest there why you showing me?”
“I thought I give it to you
“Not unless them goblins are infesting my basement”
“Oh well then I knew that” Jack said getting up to leave.
“No you didn’t” His ax helpfully pointed out.
“Know you already know an’ such but you’ll be wanting the guildhall, big ol’ building in the market square.”
Jack nodded his face was as red as a ripe cherry. “Oh by the way if those little kids come back can you give them this?” Last night while getting the stains out of his new gambeson he had thought about the makeshift toys, so he had made one with a minor enchantment and some wood scraps he had taken from the fireplace. It was a little wooden mouse that would run around in circles, he put a tiny bow on her head.
“O’ course I live to serve, anything else you need my liege.”
“He is being sarcastic again.”
Walking through the bustling marketplace made him very aware that his current net worth stood at precisely zero.
“I guess I could always sell you, you gotta be worth something.”
“Don’t be like that Jack, anyway I’m soul bound to you, besides you know you’d get lonely. Who else would root for you like me champ?”
“Well I bet they would let me buy you back at a discount after they figured out no else could lift you”
“Excuse me” Jack looked over at a rather large beast-man who had apparently been walking besides him “Are you talking about me?”. Beast-men slavery was still legal in some parts of Elthiar they were as a rule fairly sensitive to discussion of being sold.
His ax rang in his mind “See Jack, see what your intensive words caused, not only did you threaten to enslave the poor creature you also insulted his weight!”
“No I was, talking to my… self, sorry got to go” Jack decided it best to run directly to the guild hall.
It was an expansive building with carved stone pillars. There all sorts of adventurers drinking mead, wine, and ale their armor and weapons shinning in a decidedly non-cloth like manner. He saw on the back wall there were many more quests than had been at the wall of the inn. He looked around for where he was supposed to go doing his best to not look awkward, he noticed several people turned to look at him, he lifted his arm flourishing his cape and place his hand on his hip, walking forwards making a point to look above the crowd. He passed by what he later registered was probably the counter for quests, pretending to pick something off the floor he then turned around and walked back to the counter.
“Don’t worry champ real smooth you are looking totally natural.”
The girl behind the counter was extremely cute, long wavy hair and rosy cheeks. It is okay Jack thought to himself he was great at talking to girls.
“Umm, excuse me” He could feel redness growing in his face “Is this where I go to start quests?”
Putting the tips of her fingers to her mouth and giggling the girl said “Yes indeed, I take it this is your first time?”
“Nope! Yesterday I completed the rat extermination quest for the innkeeper.”
“Ahh yes, he did report that the quest was closed, and that you took the rats alive?”
“May I ask what precisely you did with those rats?”
“Maybe” Ax said “if you told her you cleverly used those rats to defeat a veritable bandit horde she go out on a date with you”
“They are, well… they are all forest rats now”
She continued “I see, a real life pied piper, so your class, what is it? Are you some sort of druid? Really you were supposed to register before taking any quests.”
His class? What was his class?
“You have that giant ax on your back” She looked somewhat unbelieving at his skinny frame “And you don’t have much armor, are you some kind of animal loving barbarian?” Due to the enchantment his ax felt virtually weightless, if it were made out of normal materials he probably would have been bent over.
“I wish you were some kind of barbarian, I must be the unluckiest enchanted ax in the realm.”
“I assure you, this ax is purely ornamental”
In a hurt tone his ax said “Ornamental, is that all I mean to you? You wound me Jack, really you do.”
“I have a sword and umm, shield kinda” He pointed to the buckler he pinned to his cape. “And I can do magic, just not very destructive magic.”
Ax as helpful as ever “I am pretty sure wuss isn’t an official class but if it was you’d be a master wuss champ.”
“I see” the girl at the counter said “Quite the Jack of some trades, I’ll just put down ‘novice adventurer’ for now though I doubt you’ll get a lot of offers to join parties that way, you should really consider specializing.” She handed him a form, he filled in Jack Dragonslayer as his name and handed it back.
“I don’t need to join a party” His ax was already more company than he needed.
“I see well then, I’ll register you for this quest, to kill goblins, though you might want to consider a different quest, the a team of two more experienced adventurers who took the goblin quest never returned. The reward was posted by the farmers in the village a little north of here called Esther ask them if you have any more specific questions.”
“Why did they post it?”
“Well, People don’t tend to like goblins very much”
“Discrimination!” his Ax shouted mockingly in his head.
“They have been breaking fences and eating cattle, and with the wolves there already taking their fill farmers can ill afford to lose more.” Glancing down at the form “Oh and Jack, this is an extermination quest, and goblins can find their way back to their lair, so no Forest Goblins if you want the farmers to pay you. Goblins might have a reputation of being easy to defeat one on one, but don’t let your guard down, they come in groups.”
“Plus you’d need an awfully big bag” his ax said.
“Yes thanks don’t worry I’ll take care of them!”
She said. “Good luck on your first quest, I’ll be rooting for you!” Second quest Jack ruefully thought.
“Look Jack before you face the Goblins how about you give offensive magic one more try, not saying I doubt your warrior prowess, it is just I very much doubt your prowess as a warrior”
His ax had a point, well it had an edge, but in this case it made some sense.
Since no one else was around he would aim it at the rock first a minor fireball
O’ From the Heavens
From the Abyss
Let Fire Rain
5 4 3 2 1
He got the syllable counts right but, nothing perceptible happened.
“Hey I think I felt a slightly warm breeze!” His ax offered.
Okay maybe try a spell to launch the fire from his hand
1 2 3 2 1
This time the flame was noticeable, it extended out of his palm roughly a noses length and then quickly fizzled out.
“Nice party trick, pity you don’t smoke, you could really turn some heads with that one. So looks like you still can’t cast any of that offensive magic your dad was so good at. Maybe it is just that you are too protected, try it again without the jacket and little tin pin.”
There where lyrical approaches to pyrokinesis he just didn’t like the way they sounded on the ear. Spells outside the body could be done by syllables descending at a fixed rate, the longer the stronger, from the body had to rise and then fall back, spells to the body had to rise. Spells affecting nature were other spells dealing with syllable counts namely five seven five. No one knew why, it just seemed to work better that way. Though for best results he found a little rhyming still helped.
Jack was more of an enchanter. Magic was a fickle thing, its power permeated everything everywhere but could only be unlocked with the right combination of feelings, words, and rhythms. Each spell had to be made up in the moment, it could repeat lines from before but only so long as that line was not recalled from memory. Magic was a thing of general theory, intuition, and intention rather than strict forms, which is probably why the more vulnerable one was to danger the more powerful their spells became.
Jack took the road well-traveled, learning from his previous mistake, he read the book on communicating with Goblinoids as he walked. As he did this he only occasionally tripped over rocks and only once fell on his face. He would have to exterminate them, but he might as well learn a little more about them. The book was written by a scholar who had stayed with a settlement of goblinoids for a few years. Contrary to popular belief it seemed they were sentients, low level sentients but sentients none the less. Goblinoids had some things in common with each other, such as having strict honor based societies but each species had their differences. Unlike Ogres goblins actually were largely monogamous, the idea that there were no goblin females was a misunderstanding, they just all looked like that, they only expressed secondary sex characteristics one way or another when they gained a higher position within a large group and then become polygamous. In big camps there could be alphas, champions, and brood mothers. The group he was after was likely too small to have anything but normal bog standard goblins.
The book had a strange preface for a book about communicating with Goblinoids, it gave the warning that under no circumstance should one actually try to communicate with Goblinoids. The writings had been recovered by a team of heroes who had “cleared out” the settlement, apparently the author had at one point made a fatal miscommunication. The reader was encouraged to view the book more as a practice in folly than an actual how to. Still it made for a fascinating read.
“I am pretty sure the farmers won’t pay you to make friends with the goblins, you are going to have to kill them you know. You sure you are up to that?”
“I am just reading this because it is available, don’t worry I know I have to.”
“Just remember goblins are evil, they eat babies and don’t pay taxes.”
“Actually according to this book they prefer older stringier meat, and he insisted that they didn’t eat humans, too soft. Additionally they pay something akin to tax within their tribal structure especially in large settlements. It is actually quite fascinating how goblin biology seems to have built in ways of handling cultural scaling.”
“Yeah you definitely sound exactly like someone determined to murder packs of them instead of someone who wants to invite them over for dinner. Keep it simple, they are little green beasties with daggers for fangs. Seriously I don’t want you to die. I’d have to spend the rest of time in some stinky goblin cave.”
Speak of the devil there it was, there was no mistaking a goblin cave, clans tied sticks together in order to signify familial line, the larger the sculpture the larger and more prosperous the clan. Unfortunately Jack had absolutely no frame of reference to gauge if this specimen was impressive or not.
It had been further away than he thought, his stomach was grumbling and it was already dusk. Goblins were nocturnal so it was now or never.
“I bet we could have been here earlier if you didn’t get lost at every fork in the road.”
Jack mumbled softly back “Sorry didn’t see any signs ‘this way to goblin lair’ ”
Hiding behind a tree he reinforced his armor with a murmured spell, defense spells always worked better for Jack when he was near danger. That should block at least a few blows. Then he cast an enhancement spell on his arms and legs to make him swifter. He grabbed his sword, and slipped his buckler onto his left hand, it was time to go.
“You got this champ, though you know what makes slaying a bunch of goblins easier? An enchanted sentient ax”
Jack ignored the voice
“That loves you”
The cave was dark but magelight now would alert the creatures, there were two guards near the entrance, they appeared to be arguing with each other. He could catch them by surprise, but not if he just ran in head on. Picking up a rock Jack threw it as far past the guards as he could and as soon as they walked to investigate the sound he rushed forward sword held aloft towards their exposed backs.
“Do it!” His ax yelled “Now!”
But he just couldn’t, he tried sending the signal to his arm, but it wouldn’t even begin to listen. He thought about a joke that apparently they all loved ‘What good? Big teeth, What bad? Small teeth, What worst? No teeth.’
“Goblins are evil little monsters, quickly strike before they turn around, if you hesitate you’ll die!”
It was no good, he was frozen. A guard let out a loud gurgle sound. He hadn’t realized it in the dark but he was actually standing in an intersection of the cave. In moments he was surrounded by at least six of them, spears, rusty swords and fangs.
“Jack, I told you how much I hate the idea of spending the rest of eternity in a smelly goblin cave, didn’t I?”