“You are not satisfied by General Lodii’s answer,” said Zaldi.

“She’s hiding something. Even Roir could see that,” said Myn, spitting an apple seed onto the ground. “I’m not going back home with my tail between my legs just because they threatened to kill me. I owe Eyon more than that.”

“Are you sure this is about the Legion and Lord Eyon?” said Zaldi. “You have asked about this Liat Raligaia at every turn.”

“Yes, who is Liat Raligaia?” said Tinain. “That’s a name from Pexate, isn’t it?”

“He stole something from me,” said Myn. “Something very precious. I intend to inquire about it in person, and I would have done it already if the Legion hadn’t taken him.”

“Lodii said he was a mercenary, working for financial gain, which that big orc didn’t like,” Zaldi added. “You don’t believe that either?”

“Let’s just say that if General Lodii told me the sky was blue, I’d still want to look up to see for myself.” Myn said.

“Tell me about this Goblin Legion,” Tinain said. “We have heard so many rumors here, for years, I scarcely know what’s true and what’s lies.”

“Lord Eyon came to control Pexate after the Battle of Huxton’s Bend,” said Zaldi. “I was there, and so was Myn, and Lodii. Half of Lord Eyon’s army was goblins when he defeated and captured King Uxbridge and the barons who were tugging on his puppet strings.”

“Yeah, so Eyon wanted things to be better for the gobs than they had been,” said Myn. “He’s tried a lot of stuff, like saying that the gobs can have names based on their town, and saying that they’re actually citizens of Pexate, which the barons were kind of wishy-washy on. The Legion was another one of his ideas.”

“Arming and training gobs to give them opportunities to better themselves, after they’d helped him win that battle?” Tinain said.

“And names,” said Zaldi. “Don’t forget the names. To most gobs, names are everything. And each of the 10,000 in the Goblin Legion has a name. When they fall, another gob may step in and claim their name by right.”

“It was a big risk,” said Myn. “everybody expected Eyon to name himself king, to add a token gob or two to his retinue, and then abandon them to their fate. The gobs expected that. But he insisted that their lot had to improve, and he fought hard against all sorts of people to create the Goblin Legion.”

“I do think he missed an opportunity to call it the Goblegion,” Zaldi laughed.

“Agreed,” said Tinain, joining her merriment.

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Coba Hohka was an older man, maybe fifty or so, with long white hair pulled into a ponytail. Eyeglasses were perched on his thick nose, and he was shorter than Myn, about the height of any full-blooded goblin. But his skin was a similar olive drab hue, and his stocky build left no doubt that one of his parents had been a dwarf.

“Those boys have been making trouble on this road since the siege began,” Coba said, leading Myn through his shop. Aisles and shelves overflowed with books and scrolls, spilling onto the floor and leaving only the narrowest of passages. The whole place smelled like moldy paper and ancient, crackling glue. “It’s what happens in cases like this, if you ever care to research it. Thee confined turn on their own, just as they did in the Siege of Crannequin when the dwarves were restricted to the Undercity.”

“You don’t say.” Myn took the proffered seat–stool, really–once Coba had swept a few manuscripts off of it. He took up a perch at a high writer’s desk.

“So, who are you that has come to my door with the blood of my neighborhood’s petty annoyances on her hands?” said Coba. “A mule like myself, clearly.”

“Very observant,” said Myn. “Those eyeglasses must really help.”

“Bah, I knew you were a mule before I even laid eyes on you. They way you announced yourself, with all that false bravado? That could have been me, thirty years ago. ‘Coba the Mule, scribe for hire, the bookiest man in Gaiza, son of Maala the Bronze and Twyxim Lockwork.’ Sound familiar?”

“False?” Myn said. “I believe every word.”

Coba laughed. “Bah,” he said again. “You don’t believe a word of it, you’ve just convinced yourself that you do. We mules are like that. Unless you favor one of your parents enough to pass for them, or something else, we’ve got to loudly declare how worthwhile we are to ourselves if we’re to believe it.”

“I’m guessing you were about as welcome in the Dwarf Quarter as I am in the Goblin Quarter,” said Myn.

“Ha! That’s putting it mildly. I’m about as welcome in the Goblin Quarter as you are. Luckily for me, the written word does not discriminate. Now, what was it you wanted?”

“Information,” Myn said. “Lots of it.”

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“Lord Eyon said that there was another way, that we gobs did not have to be as we have always been,” said Lodii. “And he was right. But there was something that Lord Eyon left unsaid, something very important.”

“Yeah, he’s like that sometimes,” said Myn.

“Indeed. And what he left unsaid was this: the gobs must become what he wants us to be. The gobs must become like him. In that way, he’s no different than the thousand other conqerors that have tried to remake us in their own image.”

“All I’ve seen are you betraying everyone that’s ever put an ounce of trust in you,” replied Myn. “What’s that say about you?”

“We believe in gobs for gobs. The old ways are failing us, and have failed us for many years. Everyone has an idea of what’s best for us. The humans want us to be humans, the orcs want us to be orcs. But we have to find out own way.”

“Yeah? And where does that way leave a mule like me?” said Myn.

“It’s simple,” replied Lodii. “Like all mules, you must choose. So far you have chosen to favor your human half, to be the exploiter rather than the exploited. But all that will be over soon, and those who have thrown in their lot against the oppressed gobs will find that the tables have turned. That’s the choice, Myn. Join us as a gob in pursuit of a bright future for all our people, or accept as a human your just reward for the lowly state of our kin.”

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Myn hated her goblin tutor, Hacta Scribbleshank, but didn’t realize the feeling was mutual until Hacta tried to kill her.

It had been another lesson in history and etiquette. Another lesson calling for Myn to squeeze herself into uncomfortable court garments. Another lesson with her tottering about in shoes made to sound pretty on polished floors rather than fit comfortably. And all the while, Hacta had been calling out facts and figures to memorize.

“Why do the boots of court dress reach the knee?” Hacta barked.

“To make people with big feet want to kill themselves?” Myn growled.

“It was imposed by the Layyians when they ruled Pexate for 50 years!” Hacta cried back.

“Then why do we keep doing it?”

Their conversation was abruptly interrupted by the sound of a cannon on the walls of Toan Castle. Two more followed, a triple blast.

“What does that mean?” said Myn, struggling to remember the lesson about cannon shots. “I know this one, I swear. It’s either the birth of an heir to the throne or welcoming a prince from a petty duchy.”

Hacta reached into her bustle and drew a slim, finely-wrought misericorde dagger. “It means the lesson is over,” she said. “I will now teach you the most important etiquette of all: how to die with dignity.”

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“They’re always going to be stronger than you,” said Myn. “Always. That’s why you’ve got to be quicker and cleverer. If you’re not as quick as me or as clever as me, they’ll pin you in close where their stupidity can’t hurt them and they’ll murder you to death.”

“So what does that mean?”

“You attack them only when you can surprise them. Otherwise, you run and you climb. If you cross swords with them, you’ve already lost.” Myn took out one of her daggers and twirled it. “You can’t run with a sword very well, even less with armor. But one of these will kill a man just as dead.”

“But that doesn’t really seem fair.”

Myn spat. “Fair? Fair is something those big idiots invented to make you fight on their terms. I say they’re not playing fair by being bigger and stronger than me, so I’m doing what I can to make things fairer through judicious stabbing.”

“You can’t always stab.”

“Of course not,” sniffed Myn. “That’s why the Creator made stuff like this.” She drew her Gob Legion hand cannon. “It’ll blow a hole in their armor from 20 yards away.”

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In the palm of Nä Ti, the Dead Hand
Lies Rait Tirat, the Tomb of the Rebel
He who rebelled against It
Nyir Rvi, murderer of the Creator
Xon Vty, father of the Goblins
The father awaits his children
To give to them purpose anew
And to anoint them with right
And free them of their sins

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The goblin cackled through cracked lips. “The Dead Hand…five long lakes, five thin lakes, but no real water in them. To drink is to die, but one must drink to pass.”

“It is true,” said Tinain. “The fingers of the Dead Hand are saltier than the sea, and there is no fresh water outside of rainstorms, which are so violent as to sweep all before them.”

“It is…barren as a salt cracker,” croaked the goblin. “The Gob Legion carries its water with it, water rightly won in battle and borne by our own willing porters…where will you find such?”

Myn sneered. “If we move fast enough, we won’t need water.”

“I hope so…for your sake, ctonb. But it matters not. When the Gob Legion reaches the Palm of the Dead Hand, what we seek shall be ours.”

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