The rats were the first to discover that Pubton was overrun. It was only by grace of their world-spanning connections that they saved Dragomir and his band from a most disadvantageous situation. Landing several kilometres away, they sent Logan out to scout the situation personally. The news he brought back…
“That’s a goblin town,” he confirmed, grimacing as he spoke to Dragomir. “Through and through.”
Dragomir saw as much for himself almost an hour later. Once a small, two-dozen-building-strong town surrounded by a badly-beaten stone wall, Pubton had blossomed into an impressive city. Spanning several square kilometres, its pointed rooftops cut ominously into the sky, their curving, spiky tips rising well over the massive, reinforced defensive wall surrounding the whole of Pubton. Dominating them all, however, was an enormous tower, constructed upon the bones of Pubton’s Weekendist monastery. Dragomir recognized it at once.
“Fuck me,” he muttered, glaring over the wall. “That’s… that’s Gok’s tower. Innit? Libby?”
Crouched at Dragomir’s side, thigh-high in mud, Libby nodded. “Yeah. For certain. Can even see his shitty glass apartment on top. What the hell happened here?”
Dragomir, Libby, Logan, and Jeffrey were all crouched in a small, wooded swamp a good distance from Pubton, using the smell to hide their presence from the ever-attentive goblins. Tiny but highly visible they patrolled the walls of Pubton constantly, moving back and forth with small spears against their shoulders. Dragomir suspected that they would immediately resort to using the dozens of cannons also lining the walls if trouble brewed.
Dragomir’s pack began to jostle. Grimacing, he pulled it from his back and dropped it on the ground, releasing its two occupants: a diary and a rat. The rat scampered up to a log, peered towards Pubton for a moment, went stiff, then turned to the diary. It swung open, grinning like an idiot, and words appeared on the page.
“Goblinoster has fallen to the Non,” the rat proclaimed. “The siege lasted for almost a week. Kierkegaard had to step in personally to break the goblins, and by the time the Non surged past the walls most of the populace had fled.”
“Why didn’t you warn us before?” Dragomir growled. “You must’ve known about this.”
The rat paused at this comment, seeming to consider it, then shook its head. The gesture seemed almost curt. “We cannot track everything that happens in this world, Dragomir. We do the best we can.”
Dragomir somehow doubted that - What’s the point of a fuckin’ worldwide network if it doesn’t keep you up-to-date? - but he dismissed his anger. “Whatever. So, what? Gok brought his people here? Pagan did that, too, I guess, but… this doesn’t look the same.”
“The goblins are in charge,” the rat confirmed. “Gok led his subjects to Pubton seeking shelter. Once the doors were open, his soldiers overran Pubton’s defences and enslaved the population. He has proclaimed himself king, and vows to strike back against the Non.”
“Sounds like him,” Jeffrey muttered. “Always did want more than one city, that bastard. Used to tell me that he’d set up a goblin empire before he died. Treacherous to the end.”
“Don’t talk like you were any better, dad,” Logan snorted.
Jeffrey flushed. “I… I had a sickness of the brain. Or something. Leave me alone.”
Libby craned her neck, scowling as she peered at the walls. “Damn. They did a pretty good job on those defences, I hate to say. Lot better ’n stupid Harold ever managed. Wall’s almost twice as high… looks like it’s covered ’n shit to keep climbers out, too… spikes, arrow slits, couple of oil cauldrons on top… gettin’ in there will be hell.”
“Not giving up already, are ya, Libby?” Logan elbowed her.
“Fuck no!” She elbowed him back, much harder. “You seen what they did to my town?! That goblin shit is ugly! Probably fucked up my house, too! I’m gonna punch that ugly-ass ‘king’ right in the balls!”
Listening to their banter with only half an ear, Dragomir shook his head. If only Grylock was still around. This’d probably be a hell of a lot easier. Or… well, I guess it could be harder, if he decided to go back to Gok… moot point now, I suppose. “Logan.”
The younger man looked up, halfway through a joking retort. “Hm?”
“We need to get in there. I want a lay of the land. You up for it?”
“We can provide intelligence,” the rat wrote in Dragomir’s diary.
“I’ll get my own, thanks,” Dragomir huffed. “So? Think you can manage?”
Grin faltering a little, Logan took closer stock of the walls of Pubton. He inspected the rows of spikes, the innumerable arrow slits, the empty-but-ready oil cauldrons, the primed cannons, the not-too-obvious-but-obvious-enough revolving traps built into the superstructure, the patrolling goblin guards. Then, as cocksure as a kid, his grin returned.
“Pfffft.” Logan waved a gloved hand. “Cake walk, boss. I’ll take mine chocolate.”