How to Capture a Fartmoodle
Chapter 7: "Like being in a closed room with an angry Skunk.'
By: Nellie Tobey
KettleStruck had lost all patience. The debt was paid in full, with every scrap and bobble they had brought with them. But now the Goblin magistrate wanted an 'Overdue' fee on top of it. Kettle was very sure there was going to be a tribe meeting soon to discuss a different passage around the Human cities.
"Your honor, we've given you all there was, and that was the debt, can we not take care of these, " Kettle tried not to snarl, "Overdues our next trip through?"
The Magistrate's ears were especially droopy from the amount of heavy gems and jewelry hanging from the tips. "If we let one member do it, then EVERYONE will think they can. It is non-negotiable."
Kettle's mouse form was growing extremely hard to hold. "Our kind can not survive in the mines, without light, we die in days. Can you really justify a life is worth that amount of credit?"
The Magistrate grew grim, and raised a long fingered hand into the air. "You knew the price of going beyond your capability to pay, when you refused to make right your debt on time."
Kettle's mouse grew significantly bigger, and the fur started developing streaks of violet. "My little ones have no chance at all. They will die if they don't see sunshine for seven days, At least let me take their punishment, and work the mines." Kettle forced herself back into the small mouse, but the purple streaks remained.
The goblin pondered for a moment, and called to another goblin, who's ears were spry from the lack of decoration. The two goblins whispered together for a short time, and the two sets of ears twitched as they spoke. For a moment Kettle thought maybe the virgin eared one was gesturing for mercy from the loppy eared one.
Kettle heard a conceeding 'Ok, but I don't want the blame for this.'
Dangling hoops clanged against the gems in the floppy ears when the magistrate stood. "Dishonor upon the Gremlin KettleStruck, who shall be restricted from credit for the next three seasons. No goblin trade will be allowed on behalf of your tribe."
Kettle knew it wasn't going to be that simple. The goblin magistrate continued, "But for the balance owing on the final debt and as punishment, You shall offer one of the Pixies into our services for no longer then the length of those three seasons. "
The Badger had sprung out of Kettle without any forewarning, and Kettle just managed to restrain it's size. "They aren't even a part of the clan, they are visitor's from an entirely different region, we can not make a deal for their servitude, it's unheard of even for the Goblins!"
The magistrate frowned a bit, and then called in the guards. "Dowse it with the diminishing dust, and take it to our dungeons."
Kettle did not fight, but felt the dust, falling like light grey snows upon the fur. The teeth were straining to stay hidden under the gums, but this gremlin had not achieved such rank with hostile invocations. The dust made everything heavy, even the eyes. Soon Kettle was a sleeping small badger being dragged away to the Goblin Market dungeons.
******** **** -------- ***** ********
"What do you mean we're leaving Kettle?!" Tooty had already retrieved her steel pick sword from the right vest pocket. The Gremlins were all quite ready to put themselves into turtle form, but as they transferred messages in their hand language, no one wanted to volunteer to be the one, 'not turtle', to drag Tooty through the portal just behind Steve.
*** If you intertwine your thumbs and wag your fingers like your making the wall shadow of a bird, you'd get 'FlutterBait', but Steve is the easier translation in this case. Many hand words had dual meaning, and at the moment the one finger of solitude was being flashed about quite readily. Along with , 'I ain't getting stabbed!' ***
Steve remained calm, wondering if he would have jumped to such passion if one of his Gremlin escorts had been taken to the dungeons. Clearly they had an unsettled debt and knew the consequences, why had they done such a deed and expected to get away with it? "Why would they put KettleStruck in captivity if the debt had been paid?" He tried to reason with his ward. "Tooty, it is the Goblin Market law."
Tooty turned her small jabby blade towards Steve's belly. "We are part of this Steve, and we will not allow one of our own to be unjustly kept like this."
Steve was no longer calm, and his wings twittered slightly as he looked at that matte shine on the scary end of her blade. "I can't let you go in the Gremlin's place Tooty. It was not our debt, not our crime." Steve took a deep breath and stepped into the point of the sword. "Let me go, but don't send me back to your parents with news you were a Goblin servant for even a second." Tooty still held firm and looked like she was struggling to decide. Steve stepped in so that the point was very close to piercing his flesh. "Or kill me. It would be death to see a student of mine subjugated in this way."
Tooty dropped her sword, and her wings went from boldy arching around her, to laying sadly at her sides. "We can't let them suffer this either Steve." She looked at the other gremlins whose hands now were still at their sides. Most had taken on the form of dark furred rats, but one stood triumphantly toadlike, with long tendrils of white curls starting to grow out of it's previously bald head. The hair grew long and luxurious, and then two big pointy ears popped into existence on either side of the head.
The other gremlins started pulling jewelry from any pocket they could find, and began pinching it onto the ears whose skin, along with the rest of the body, grew orange instead of green. "YoungOwl, we have a plan."
Tooty looked at Steve, and Steve smiled. "It's your name with them now." Steve wrote furiously in his notebook. Tooty looked sideways at the now striking image of a grand old goblin mistress now giving orders to the pack. The rats scurried into the shadows and were absorbed by it.
OldRed fiddled with another necklace pulled from a bag on it's shoulder. "We'll get KettleStruck, I just need a little trust from you two."
Tooty and Steve agreed instantly. Both echoing the other, "Let's do it."
Steve and Tooty walked behind OldRed as the Mistress goblin form met with distressed looks from the other goblin's they passed. Tooty got close enough to whisper in the ears, "They don't seem convinced OldRed."
Hurriedly rifling through pages, Steve made a triumphant snort and then gasped... then got closer to Tooty to give her the message to relay to OldRed, "Tell them the ears are how they display desire for companionship, the ears are way to perky for such weight of jewelry, OldRed is making them all seriously uncomfortable!"
Tooty went to whisper up to OldRed, but they turned around ran a long fingered hand through the long white curls. "Darlings, I've got this covered, I know what I'm doing." Noticing a few curious onlookers, OldRed spoke up a bit louder, "You call me Mistress or you shall add even more time to your sentence!"
The pixies took to following the mistress again instead of offering advice.
When they met the guards at the front of the gates a golden faced rat could be seen in the distance scurrying around a different set of guards and down a stairway.
The Mistress stood firm in front of the two guards, and watched them nervously trying to avoid looking at her ears. "You two need to let me in, I have business in those dungeons."
The guards, with dry throtes hoarsely made out the words, "Yes ma'am." And moved out of the way. The mistress motioned for Tooty and Steve to proceed, but before she followed, she nudged the older more broad shouldered goblin and said quietly, "The Magistrate asked for this in our exchange last night." The mistress handed the guard a bottle of the Gremlin Special Brew #99, winked, and then followed Tooty and Steve down the stairs.
*** Gremlin Brew #99 looked very similar to the tiny sample bottles of whiskey in this area. (identical) They were very similar in taste also (It really was the sample whiskey with that special Gremlin component added), but as anyone who has had more then one sip of the stuff can tell you, the next morning you'll wish for a grave about as much as you wish for the toilet to stop spinning.***
The guards at the bottom door were not so easily distracted by the Mistress. They were granite faced, and firm in their answer. "No one get's in or out without written permission from the Magistrate." Steve nudged Tooty's arm and pointed to the rat tail sticking out from what was a very subtle amount of wall missing around the corner. Tooty dropped to her knees, and began to plead with the mistress, "Please, I don't want to go in the dungeons ma'am!"
OldRed's blue speckles started showing through the orange. Steve noticed it now too. Steve bent to one knee, and pleaded also, "We are fragile tiny folk, our wings are brittle and a dungeon would surely kill us!"
OldRed's goblin ears started to droop, and oddly to the guard's perception, they were shrinking. "Wait, " The guard was about to pull his daggers when a great commotion came from the other side of the door. Goblins were pounding on it, yelling, "Let us out!", and "For the love of all the money in the world you have to get us outside!!"
More voices joined, and the guards hurried to open the large double doors, OldRed had transformed back into a small raccoon, and was standing aside while the furry little paw remained in front of Tooty and Steve warning them to stay against the wall.
The goblins went running out the doors, and soon, so did the bewildered goblins holding open the doors as their faces twisted in an unnatural way. It hit Steve first. "Oh the heavens, I haven't smelled that godly odor in such a long time!" Tooty got a whiff and dove her arms into her top pockets looking for the peppermint and a handkerchief to cover her nose and mouth.
Charging through the doorway came a barking skunk. It's teeth were shining with drool, and it's eyes darted around viciously. OldRed jumped forward, "Who got hurt KettleStruck? What happened?"
Kettle transformed into the silver rabbit and hopped hurriedly back to the room to show them.
The two younglings, now laying limp on the ground in their chipmunk form, were still and silent. Tooty rushed over and began examining one, Steve the other.
KettleStruck held back a torrential downpour. "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!"
OldRed bowed, and looked smaller by the second. "We had to save you."
KettleStruck bellowed again. "I would have survived, I could escape on my own, you may have lost our younglings in this stupid stunt Red!"
The other gremlins kept trying to take on a shape that would be useful in carrying the two little ones safely, but couldn't manage to pull them efficiently off the ground. Steve looked quizzically at them. "You can change into a Beaver or something can't you? Why can't you lift them?"
"It's hard to explain, but when we are unconscious, we are heavier, and harder to displace from the earth. We look like these forms, but we do not bear the same physical strength."
Steve nodded to Tooty, and they each grabbed one of the young critters. Pixies were much much stronger then the normal tiny folk, and although it was not an allowed display of Pixie magics, it was going to be done. Tooty and Steve easily lifted the chipmunks and flew passed OldRed and KettleStruck. Tooty yelled at them as they zoomed by. "You two get it sorted, We gotta get them out of here!"
They had all made it through the portal without much of a chase. Most goblins ran, or dove out of the way as they travelled through the streets and alleys.
Only one thing scares Goblins more than a cat. And that's a skunk.