View Full Version : Goblin Musicians. Part 2: Treasure (1724 words)

February 8th, 2017, 11:05 AM
Quite a while ago I posted the first part of a Goblin story.
Now I wrote the second part.

If interested, you can find the first part here:

The metallic sound of weapons clashing rung through the camp of the trolls, the air thick with the smell of blood, smoke and sweat. The sun cast long shadows throughout the camp, but the setting sun had not yet tempered the battle that raged around Swort, Peevy and Kras. Swort sniffed the air. He loved the smell of blood and sweat, it usually meant he could pick up some new stuff he never thought to own before. He could do without the fire, but it could not be avoided in their line of work.

“Come masters, it's here. Yes, yes,“ The gnome squeaked and pointed at what looked like a tent. “You wanted a big chest? Yes? Pipron find chest, the biggest you ever see. Pipron good gnome.”

“It better be something interesting this time.” Peevy said and pushed forward with his foot. “Hurry up.”

“Pipron find real treasure this time. Yes. You will see and praise Pipron. Yes yes yes. This way, Masters”

The gnome bounced on his feet with excitement, then darted towards the tent. The tent could hardly be called a tent, a canvas thrown over two long sticks and a few cords to tie it all down. The sides were hanging down and the strings waved lazily in the soft breeze. A blanket-roll stuck out underneath one side of the canvas and a monstrous armored boot laid in the entrance. The gnome clambered on top of the boot, then motioned for Peevy and Swort to follow.

For the last months Peevy trained the gnomes to find the right kind of treasure. The gnomes idea of treasure was tainted by poverty and a low standard in general. The first times the gnomes returned with useless rubbish; flimsy pieces of fabric, metal scrapsor inedible food. Peevy decided to use rougher, more violent methods after the gnomes had led him to a cellar filled with moldy cheese and broken barrels. He found it was hard to train the gnomes effective, when you lacked the example of real treasure.

The bells in his robes jingled with every step as Swort sauntered after the gnome. It was important to pretend to belong in the camp, if you just looked nonchalant or busy enough, people didn't question whether you belonged there. He heard Peevy mutter under his breath. The gnome chose the most showy and risky place to wait for his masters. Those gnomes really didn't get the idea of thieving.

At the entrance of the tent, he couldn't believe his eyes. The gnome had understood his misson this time. A huge, ornate and official looking chest was chained to four stakes on the ground. It was so big, the goblins could only see the chest from the side. The sides of the lid were decorated with intricate golden patterns, small paintings of flowers and animals, was closed with a solid iron lock.

“Yes! Good gnome!” Peevy rushed towards the ornate chest and put his hands on the lid. “It seems, you have just found yourself an extra good dinner gnome. Maybe this time, you can have an extra piece of bread.”

Peevy knocked on the side of the chest. Swort could only hear the knock of his fingers on wood. The chest was full. The chains meant that the chest wasn't only full, but contained something solid. Swort smiled feral at Swort, then started yanking at the pins that the chest was chained to.

Swort dawdled at the entrance, the filled decorated chest seemed off. It was hard to imagine that a troll owned a chest as such. If one did, any troll would guard it with his life, and would not leave it in a badly set-up tent. Something wasn't right, but he couldn't find what it was exactly. Peevy on the other hand, did not share his apprehension and puffed with exertion as he pulled the chains again. It didn't budge.

Peevy stuck a grimy hand inside his robes and rummaged in his pockets. He searched for a while with the tip of his tongue out of his mouth, then pulled out a set of different lengths of pins with different shapes.

“If we can't take it, we'll just stuff our pockets with gold.” Peevy stuck two pins inside the lock and started pushing, pulling and turning the pins inside the lock. “at least these stupid bells will finally be useful. Keep an eye out will ya.”

Few trolls wandered around the tents as most of them had attended the entertainment on the crossroads. The ones that were around, were too focused on their cooking fires. Weapons crashed on one another in the distance, he could he occasional explosions whenever dwarfs discharged their pistols. Swort took up post outside of the entrance. Tents were set up all around them. Most of them a simple cloth with a stick. Only a few trolls had put more effort into setting up a tent by finding an extra stick. Fire pits were randomly scattered among the almost deserted tents. A large fire pit was set up in front of the tent, and rows of logs circled around the pit.

“Aaahaa!” Peevy held up the lock in triumph, a greedy smile on his face. The muscles in his neck and arm bulged as he tried to lift the lid of the chest. “It's too heavy for me to lift alone. Swort! Come quickly.”

With united effort the goblins opened the chest, but instead of the expected glow of gold and jewelery, the top of the chest was remarkably dark. A pungent smell of urine, mold and stale sweat drifted from the open chest and invaded Sworts lungs and sent him into a fit of coughs and retches. He held his chest as he breathed superficial to suppress the tickling in his throat. He then held out his hands in front of him and puffed as Peevy roughly climbed onto his shoulders to take a look inside the chest.

“What the... “ Swort couldn't see Peevy's expression, but the disgust in his voice was undeniable. “Why would anyone.. Yugh!”

A moist, flimsy fur dropped on the ground next to Swort and all over his boots, followed by a dry boot with holes in the nose. A cacophony of clangs rung his ears as Peevy dropped a score of open cans on the ground and he brought his hands to his ears to block the prying sound. Jolts of pain ran through his shoulders as Peevy jumped to dig deeper into the chest.

“Interesting” Swort could hear Peevy mutter under his breath and another jolt of pain ran through his back as Peevy jumped again and the pressure of boots disappeared.

Swort looked up to see Peevy sit inside the chest. Staring at fists full of shiny, golden paper he held up in the air. The paper looked as if it was of the expensive kind and elaborate, silver letters decorated the middle of the pages. Small holes seemed to indicate the papers could be torn neatly into squares, the insignia on the sides of the paper were unknown to Swort.

“Whats'da?” Swort asked Peevy who frowned at the printed silver letters on the papers.

“Some kind of coupons for Madame Zelena's beauty station for trolls.” Peevy replied. He threw a fistful of coupons at Swort. “Says here the dwarven Madam Zelena offers all trolls a discount on baths and the scrubbing of tusks.”

“Thats' why the trolls are here.” Swort laughed out loud, looking out of the tent. Outside in the darkening sky, he could still hear weapons clashing and trolls singing verses of his poem. “I wonder how welcome they are after this encounter”

“Wait, wait...” Peevy brought the coupons closer to his face, then burst into a wild laugh. “I'm not sure how welcome they are, but the coupons expired three months ago already. I'm afraid Madame Zelena prefers to not have them on her doorstep at all.”

“The paper seems valuable though and the silver writing might be worth something at the least.” The bells on Peevy's robe jingled a he stuffed hands full of coupons into the pockets of his garb, then threw hands full of coupons at Sworts feet. “Perhaps we can find some buyers when we finally made our way to the capital of the orcs.”

Paper did not attract Swort much, the prospect of hauling such a bulk of paper for a possible profit even less. Instead, he walked around the shaggy tent, hoping to find at least some kind of real treasure.

He inspected the boot that the gnome had clambered on meticulously, but found it was discarded cause it was just a plain old boot. The tent was otherwise sparsely decorated. The moldy rug on the ground likely was the most valuable item inside and that was not gonna sell. They had spend so much time and effort into the ruse, only to find useless garbage that only held value for trolls. Such a disappointment. He intended to have a very intimidating discussion with the gnomes as soon as they reached Kras at the outskirts of the camp.

Where was that gnome anyway? The gnome had been silent since they entered the tent, which was uncommon for the tiny creature. He eyed the tent around them again, but the gnome was nowhere to be spotted.

“Where's that tiny little - “

“Yes. There they are!” A squeaky voice interrupted him. “See, they pillage your tents and try to take your riches for themselves. Yes. Bad bad goblins. Pipron told you truth, did he! Pipron is good gnome.”

Swort spun around, but two huge dirty fingers closed his wrists in an iron grip. A strong hand pulled him off the ground by his neck. Swort shook like a cat, hoping to wrestle free of the hold. A jolt of pain shot through his back as his captor shook him. Resistance was pointless.

“Lemme go, you dirty son of a trogg!” Peevy wrestled with a set of hands on his own, but the troll that held him just laughed at his efforts.

“Look a tha,” The breath of the troll smelled like rotten fish. A tuft of hair crowned the bald spot between his ears, the small gnome perched on the trolls shoulder. “Yer think ye can steal from Trolls, ey?”

February 8th, 2017, 01:07 PM

In general it is good. It's kind of Pratchettian, with these characters fumbling about the place. You also combine evocative writing with actual goings on and inner monologue in good, well-balanced measure so there's no issues there with showing and telling or any of that stuff. I am definitely "there" and living it, not "somewhere else" and hearing about it third hand.

Your biggest problem seems to be repeated words, ideas, visuals and so on, and because of this, along with a slight tendency to overuse filler and low-ranking text, some of your sentences could be smartened up; eg:

The metallic sound of weapons clashing rung through the camp of the trolls, the air thick with the smell of blood, smoke and sweat.

Let's split this into 2: the main clause "The metallic sound of weapons clashing rung through the camp of the trolls," and the subordinate "the air thick with the smell of blood, smoke and sweat".

In the main clause one issue is that you have 2 verbs, clashing and rung, trying to work together, but really they are pulling in slightly different directions because they sound a little different. Add to that the adjectives and nouns that repeat this idea: metallic and sound are about the same noise. The effect of that is that the sensory impact is lessened because readers try and processthe whole lot and it gets a bit jumbled. I understand that given the clashy nature of the event you might think it would work stylistically, but that's a little like trying to suggest, let's say, impoverishment in a movie by making the film quality poorer. It sort of works but it's not really artistry in most cases, it's a bit too "meta" for a single piece of auditory data and just harder to experience. So pick one thing - clashing, rung, or even go one further and use a noun as a verb or invent an onopatopoeia - because in many cases all the good verbs are taken:

"The metallic shing! of weapons clashed through the camp of the trolls"

Next is filler words and passive writing: "camp of the trolls" -> why not "trolls' camp"? It has less filler ("of", "the") and more killer ("camp", "trolls").

"The metallic shing! of weapons clashed through the trolls' camp"

Now why not, while you're at it and have a little more space after excising the fluff, invoke senses; world-build; hell, exposit if you like. I would say world-build because this is fantasy and we fantasists can never resist that ;) but it's up to you. Examples:

"The metallic shing! of iron weapons clashed through the trolls' camp" # senses - with iron being a relatable thing in terms of its look, feel etc
"The metallic shing! of Grimatch weapons clashed through the trolls' camp" # worldbuild - invokes some distant realmy thing that may feed into a sense of history and scale
"The metallic shing! of stolen weapons clashed through the trolls' camp" # exposit - suggests some past activity concerning the weapons.

I dunno. There are a number of ways you can do it depending on your plotlines and what you want to achieve. You could even name the weapons - sword, pike, mace, etc. Just cut the fluff :)

Now onto the subordinate clause: "the air thick with the smell of blood, smoke and sweat"

There's alot to be said for the power of three. But it should be used for important moments of impact. This is really just scene setting. I would say dial it back to two otherwise it is too much focus on something in the backdrop and that disrupts your flow quicker than a pub bore on ladies' night. Move one elsewhere. Let's say smoke because smoke is something we could perceive from anywhere. Blood could work but given that your characters aren't really fighting they're not likely to smell much of that. Ask yourself also whether blood is something that smellwise gets alot of action or if you are resorting to cliche. But let's stick with it for now. Consider lastly "thick with the smell" - can that concept of being thick with a smell be condensed into something less overused; suffused (possible), redolent (a bit pastoral for this moment), fragrant (nope), heavy (not really specific to smell but ok I guess), saturated (possible again because blood and sweat are liquid). Also maybe start thinking about whether "air" can be retooled to invoke some of the smelliness you want. Let's not call it air. Let's call it a fetid miasma. And let's not call it a smell but a stench.

"the fetid miasma heavy with the stench of blood and sweat

Okay, that's probably a bit OTT but hopefully gives you some ideas :) I note that you have Swort sniffing the air moments later (actually you repeat the whole blood and sweat thing almost verbatim) so there's an opportunity to combine events - maybe have the fetidness invoked then, but certainly aim not to repeat air, air, sniff, smell and so on otherwise, well, it's duplicated and that too messes with your flow of events. Just some things to bear in mind as you visualise things and write them. The details matter.

Watch your dialogue tagging:
“It better be something interesting this time.[<- that should be a comma]” Peevy said and pushed forward with his foot. “Hurry up.”

"For the last months Peevy trained the gnomes to find the right kind of treasure. The gnomes idea of treasure was tainted by poverty and a low standard in general. The first times the gnomes returned with useless rubbish; flimsy pieces of fabric, metal scrapsor inedible food. Peevy decided to use rougher, more violent methods after the gnomes had led him to a cellar filled with moldy cheese and broken barrels. He found it was hard to train the gnomes effective, when you lacked the example of real treasure."

This is backstory. I undertand that you want us to "know" the characters - and for you it's necessary - but this takes us right out of the moment. Aren't we sneaking along the sides of a battle here? If this is important, put it in an earlier chapter. If it is not that important other than to give the look and feel of the gnomes, have a gnome catch some crappy rag they're wearing on a sharp object, to suggest poverty and low standards. Have Peevy snap at them (you do this already, so his methods of training are covered). Let this history inform current events so we get a distinct sense of it without having to sit through a lesson on it.

Point of view: Who are we in this bit? Swort? We know he loves blood and sweat, though the second paragraph suggests he is the gnome. If that's not the case just ensure you track who is who and don't confuse your readers. We then get the little bit as mentioned above from Peevy's memory banks. You could cut that bit, as above, and continue to be Swort. This helps readers invest better in characters, feel that they are them, rather than excess chopping and changing, which makes characters very two-dimensional. Who is Pipron? This name seems to come out of nowhere.

It might be me but your characters seem to have a quite Harry Potterish feel to them; Peevy, the gnomes - I am thinking Peeves and house elves. Be inspired, not derivative.

Anyway, hope this helps. :) Ignore if not. I would say you can probably apply these ideas to a few parts of the writing.

February 9th, 2017, 11:42 AM
Harry Potterish? :D Not really something I was aiming for. The gnomes are based on my idea how a captured small creature should respond to a cruel world around him.
I aimed to write something that is funny, light but still has a deeper sense.

Thanks for the pointers, will definitely take them into consideration for my next revisitation.
Thank you for taking the effort. I really feel I can do something with this.

For the exposition part, good point. I realize I already did that, but just repeated it cause I liked the idea of the exposition here.
Too bad it doesn't seem to work.

I don't know if you read the first part too, but would you continue reading?

Thank you <3