Mike swore under his breath.
Making good time through the sewers, he’d come to the last turn in the tunnel before the access grate up into the shopping center, only to find a small goblin encampment.
There were upwards of thirty of them, possibly as many as fifty.
They’d just finished eating something that looked vaguely like a pig. More than half of them were clearly drunk.
Even if every single one of them had been drunk, Mike knew he couldn’t handle so many at one time.
He couldn’t go back either.
Wilson would pull back his support.
While, the old vampire had been all for a quick strike to break the enemy’s back. He’d almost certainly be unwilling to risk his men and resources on a drawn out counter-siege.
Mike couldn’t let him withdraw.
Jessica was in there.
He didn’t know her that well, but he definitely liked her. She was pretty, good in a fight, and seemed to like talking with him. Finding all of that in a female package kind of felt like a once in a life time deal.
He couldn’t let her die because some goblins were smarter than they looked.
Besides, she wasn’t alone. Just because he only knew Trisha and Emma, didn’t mean he was okay with letting a bunch of unrelated people die.
Grasping at straws, Mike decided to be patient and observe the goblin camp. He didn’t have any idea what he was looking for exactly. He just knew he needed to look.
Time seemed to crawl by as the goblins grew rowdier and drunker.
They partied so hard, Mike started to considered rushing through them to make for the grate itself.
He didn’t do it.
The idea was pure stupidity. He’d never have considered it if he wasn’t so stressed out.
All it would take would be a deadbolt or a chain. Then he’d be sitting pretty in the middle of the goblin army.
He didn’t even have his magic ax or backup grenade.
It was basically a suicide scenario.
If he was going to commit suicide, he’d find an easier way method than being turned into an impromptu spear rack.
Watching the goblin’s party, Mike noticed something odd.
The goblins camp was spread out quite a bit down the long tunnel. It had to be, considering how many of them there were. But it meant there were two runnel digger burrows in the vicinity of their campground.
Both holes were under constant guard.
The four goblins unlucky enough to be guarding the burrows did not participate in the shenanigans. They stood vigilantly watching the tunnels, spears in hand, determination written plain on their ugly little faces.
A suspicion began to form in Mike’s mind, followed by a crazy plan.
Unwilling to risk his life on an unconfirmed hunch, Mike retreated. Following the sewer line back to the corpse of the bugman. Taking a deep breath he raising his machete and went to work.
Several minutes of hacking, sawing, gagging and prying later he found what he’d been looking for in the bugman’s stomach. A goblin head and several limbs.
The bugs and goblins were not allies.
System monsters could and did kill each other.
The bugmen ate goblins. He new had proof.
Washing off his hands in water he took out from his ring, Mike muttered a broad spectrum prayer to every deity he’d ever heard of. His new plan was almost as stupid as rushing through the goblin camp.
Unfortunately it also had a legitimate chance of working.
In order to ensure as little chance of getting lost as possible, Mike waited to enter the burrows till he was right outside the goblin camp again.
Once there though he headed in following his chosen burrow back to a branching cavern. Marking the tunnel most likely to lead him into the middle of the goblins with an X big enough he wouldn’t miss it on the run, he headed deeper.
If Mike had been the least bit claustrophobic, his plan would have already failed. Even without a normal fear of enclosed spaces, he found it uncomfortably tight. He had enough room to do jumping jacks, and still it felt like the earth was slowly closing in on him.
He ignored the paranoia.
Pushing ever deeper, Mike passed through a second and then a third open cavern. Marking them as he went, he ignored his worries. His only serious chance at getting through the goblins, was to distract them with something else. What better a distraction than a natural predator?
The deeper Mike went the less confident he felt.
It was’t that the distance was great. He hadn’t actually gone that far. Not even a half mile had passed from the entrance to his current position; the distance traveled seemed more downward than out.. The problem was, he wasn’t finding any evidence of the bugmen, other than the tunnels themselves.
What if they were territorial?
If they were, he’d probably killed the only one in the entire area.
His fears proved unjustified.
Almost as soon as he had them his tunnel opened up into another cavern. But unlike the branching hubs he’d passed through previously, the cavern was huge.
He found himself standing on a thick shelf of stairs leading down into a vast open abyss of mound shaped buildings and branching naturally-formed arching paths. Like he’d just stumbled upon some lost civilization under the earth.
It was the kind of cavern he’d have expected to see in a movie called, “journey to the center of the earth,” not underneath his city.
Mike didn’t really have time to think about the implications of the vast underground city before he heard the chittering.
Just down the stairs a group of three spear carrying, bug-men had spotted him. They were not happy with his presence in their world. Two of the three charged him, while the third cheered them on as it stayed in its original position, evidently intending to continue guarding the stairs..
Mike, was momentarily taken aback.
He’d thought, based on the brutal, flailing of the first bug-man’s fighting, that it was a mindless beast. Now seeing a group of three of them, armed, organized, and guarding a city, he was forced to come to another hypothesis; the one he’d fought before was likely a worker, or a scout.
The two charging him were warriors.
Mike turned and ran. He didn’t hold anything back. He was no longer confident in his qi attack being able to kill them. If they knew any sort of martial art of their own, given their size, strength, and natural robustness, he was probably screwed.
Speeding through the burrows, Mike emerged in the midst of the goblin camp, to a chorus of howls of rage. Howls which turned to yelps of fear only moments later when the warrior bugs emerged hot on his heels.
Seeing the goblins, the warrior’s initial mission was instantly forgotten as some sort of instinctual hatred, or possible hunger, took over. The bug men charged through the goblins, limbs flew and blood was spilled.
A particularly robust goblin, wearing a rather decent set of chain mail armor, shouted orders. Slowly the goblins formed up into a loose square, their spears pointed out.
Watching as the two forces engaged, the brute strength of the bugs versus the goblin numbers, Mike retreated to the grate. Climbing the metal stairs he pushed upwards. Immediately he swore. They were chained shut. With multiple chains.
It seemed the shopping center had known about the goblin’s in the sewer and taken care to make things difficult for them. Shouting up into the basement drew the attention of someone off to the side, probably assigned to guard the grate, and report any activity.
Whoever it was didn’t come to the grate to investigate.
Mike could just barely hear his retreating boot tread as he ran of to find someone else, leaving him in the lurch. Swearing again, Mike looked back to the race war going on behind him. It was obvious that the bugmen were going to win at the rate things were going.
The goblins seemed to want to surround their enemies, to give their numbers a better chance to work. But the bugmen weren’t stupid, every time one of them was about to be encircled, its partner would charge into the rescue. It seemed the goblins numerical advantage was just not enough, and it was steadily dwindling.
The goblin’s weren’t completely helpless. Their spears found gaps and drew blood. But it could be said, they looked like children fighting armored adults.
Mike began to gather his qi into his right hand.
Calmly regulating his breathing, he watched and waited.
He didn’t like the idea of facing two enraged bugman at the same time. Unless he changed things, that was the only way things would end.
Several minutes passed as Mike observed the fighting.
The goblins that were left were the best of the group. They were desperate. And they were still losing. They refused to give up. Mike thought it was almost admirable.
Finally Mike saw his opportunity.
One of the bugmen took a spear to the bulbous eye. Rearing back it stomped on the goblin who’d wounded its eye, and letting’s its partner cover for it, it momentarily retreated. Unfortunately for the bugman, it retreated with its blind eye pointed toward’s Mike.
Breeze stepping with grim determination, Mike launched his fist into the bugman’s head, as he swept on by the monster. Never stopping his momentum he dodged the death flails as its head pulped and its body began to jerk spasmodically and with full force.
The goblins actually cheered momentarily, seeing him kill the giant bug. but the warrior bug in front of them, shrieked, redoubling its efforts to destroy them, and they stoically kept up the fight.
The goblin commander had somehow managed to survive. Likely by pushing its subordinates in front of death blows aimed in its direction. Doing his best to command the sixteen remaining goblins, they slowly surrounded the bug-man and brought it down, through systematically targeting its weak points, the gaps in its armor, and its vulnerable head.
The lost anther five of their number doing it. All while Mike watched and waited.
Not willing to trust the goblins would be grateful for his help, he made his move the second the last bug went down.
Breeze stepping he executed a series of kicks, slashes and punches that would have amazed any Hollywood producer, as he cut through the goblins like a scythe through wheat. The goblins were worn out, and Mike was rested. They were wounded badly, and while Mike still had a tender side, he had been meditating the entire time, lessening the severity of the wound significantly.
It wasn’t even really a fight. More like an execution.
Only the goblin commander managed to block more than a single attack from him before his machete separated its head from its body.
Almost as soon as the commanders head quit rolling Mike got a system announcement congratulating him on being the first player to kill an entire goblin war band. That amused him a little, considering he’d made use of a third party to achieve it.
Almost like the system recognized he hadn’t done it through his own strength, the random skill he received was ridiculous. A joke skill in comparison to most of the one’s he’d seen.
It was called [Rupees} in obvious reference to a specific game franchise. Simply put, for every vase, barrel, or crate he smashed, he would have a chance of finding a small amount of credits.
Mike thought it was funny. But he didn’t really know how useful it would be. He’d have to try it out in the shopping center. Surely they had a few vases laying around.
Wiping his blade off on a goblin corpse, and picking through the loot for stuff worth keeping or selling, Mike quickly gathered everything into his ring, and went back to the metal ladder.
A few moments later, with no words needing to be exchanged, the grate was unchained, and thrown back. Several hands bent to help lift him out of the sewer and into the basement.
Standing in what looked a lot like a loading dock, Mike’s eyes were adjusting to the changing light when a short blur shouted, “Mike,” with obvious excitement, and barreled into his chest.
It took Mike a moment to recognize the blur as Emma, as she pressed her face against him, squeezing as hard as she could.
“Mike I missed you,” she said, leaving Mike a bit out of sorts. Her affections seemed like that of a kid sister to her older brother. But he’d only known her for a day or so. They hadn’t even really talked much.
Then, after considering what kind of day they’d spent together, Mike sighed and hugged her back.
She was still just a kid. This new world was too dark for kids, too brutal. She’d been saved by him more than once. Maybe he even made her feel safe. If it helped her sleep better, he’d be glad to be her big brother.
As Emma snuggled into him, Mike scanned the room. There were a handful of men and another woman besides Emma. None of them looked much like fighters.
Considering where he was, Mike realized they probably weren’t. This area was probably a safe area of sorts. The fact the goblins were in the sewers was worrisome. But with a permanent presence in the area, there was a significantly lower chance of being caught unawares by those same goblins.
These people he was looking at now, these were the people he was really here to save. The ones fighting on the front lines might just be able to fight their way out after the fall. The people down in the basement were the people who had no chance without him and Mr. Wilson’s resources.
Maybe by the world’s new standards they seemed useless. But in the long run that was naive. Could any tribe/civilization/culture survive with only warriors? The answer was a resounding no.
They might be able to use slaves, preserving a warrior class but there were many things a warrior couldn’t do and still be a warrior. If he had to farm, smith, construct buildings, and make clothes then he wouldn’t be able to protect the tribe all the time. He wouldn’t have time to hunt, and learning new things would be straight out.
No, when an army marched it might have as many as ten support staff for every true soldier. Mike knew that statistic wasn’t verified. But the number was definitely high. It included cooks, fetchers, smiths, servants, prostitutes, clerks, wagon drivers, and more.
A soldier who had to wash his tunic, repair his breast plate, cook his own meal, and then march into battle, wouldn’t be in the shape to do battle when he got there.
“Emma,” Mike said, peeling her off of him to look in her eyes, “take me to whoever is in charge. Okay?”
Emma smiled and grabbed his hand, pulling him along even as she said, “No problem.”
Man I got seriously side tracked this week. I revived an old idea for a website I thought I’d abandoned. Then I started trying to put together a new story idea…
It was too much all at once I guess. I don’t think the chapter suffered. It did get a lot less time put into it than it probably should have though. Let me know if the quality dropped. I’m okay with being called out. I mean I can’t release less and let the quality drop, that would be ridiculous. Thanks for reading.
Author : The Steve