Goblin the Shoony was an outrider for a local lord, riding a Neapolitan Mastiff into battle.
Her squad earned their coin keeping their lord’s countryside free of wolves, bears, brigands, wild goblins, and other pests that would, if left unchecked, ruin the peaceful balance of this small kingdom.
She was well loved by her comrades and the countryfolk and despite the violence involved lived a good life, spending most nights at the bar entertaining the patrons with her strange but captivating voice.
Goblin isn’t her real name mind you, but due to her stature, oversized eyes and ferocity iun battle she earned this nickname which everyone knew her for.
One day as her force of outriders was chasing an especially devious group of bandits through unknown woods on the kingdom’s border, Goblin’s riding dog got overly excited and, refusing to obey her, split them from the rest of the group.
Leaving the trail to run amok in the bush, the pair soon got lost.
Worse, the great canine, seemingly upset and out of control, ran the pair straight off a steep hill that was hidden by thick bramble.
Goblin was launched out of her saddle and went rolling and tumbling down the hill through rocks, branches, and fallen leaves. The shoony outrider opened her eyes. She was dazed and lost. When her vision stopped spinning she realized she was lying in something wet and stinky. Flies buzzed around her and the sun was only visible through rays that pierced the deep green canopy above. Her nose was being assaulted by pungent smells.
A swamp! Goblin usually loved swamps for they were full of odors and forgotten things that she could dig up and bring home, clean up and display. This place… smelled rotten and made the hair on her back stand up.
Worse, she couldn’t find her mastiff. Had the loyal beast gotten lost?
As she was looking up the steep hill, wondering if she would be able to climb it back up, Goblin heard a noise behind her. She spun around, reaching for her short sword –
Which was not in it’s scabbard.
She eyed the swamp, staring in the direction of the noise she had heard.
She sniffed the air carefully, trying to identify a threat but had to quickly give up. The stench overwhelmed her senses. Too late! She fell to her knees, water up to her chest. She started gagging, her face inches from the black water.
Gasping for fresh air, she opened her eyes. In the still waters, instead of her reflection there was another face.
The shock made the poor Shoony stand up and fall back on her derrière. Panicked, she attempted to climb up the hill she had fallen down of but the angle was too pitched. Her paws, too wet and slippery.
A strange voice that carried sounds of rushing waters and boots stuck in mud spoke.
Shoony did the exact opposite and let out a yelp. She lost control of her bladder and the smell of her own urine added itself to the surrounding miasma.
A strange mist started moving from out of the surrounding birch woodland and over the water, covering everything in its pale embrace.
“You are here for a reason…” the voice continued, calmly.
After her initial shock, Goblin remembered her training. The past days spent in battle, the times she almost died but didn’t. She plunged her right hand in the cold, dark water and pulled a dagger out of her right boot, which in her small hand looked like a short sword. Wet, shivering, she brandished her weapon fiercely.
“I’m getting out of here,” said the Shoony. She wanted to sound defiant but her voice trembled.
“Yes, in due time… I have some things to teach you before you leave, however”.
Strangely, hearing these words calmed the Shoony. She was now completely surrounded by the mist and couldn’t see around her. The birch trees that were poking out of the water seemed at most like strange shadows in the close distance. From above her, she could only see dim light trying to pierce through.
Seeing that there were no exits, Goblin the Shoony lowered her guard.
“What have you got to teach me?” she asked, her tiny shoulders slumping.
“So much!” said the voice excitedly.
“What… what about my mount?” Goblin asked, her voice cracking with hope.
“You will forget about that part of your life. That is not your… destiny”.
“What do you mean?! That is my whole life! Riding through the lands, helping people!” she shouted back angrily at the mist.
The mist didn’t budge.
Behind the pale white curtain, however, a tall shadow stirred. There was no noise in the swamp, no ripples in the water. The shade moved closer but stayed at a distance.
“You will help people” the shade replied.
“I will give you the power to help so many more people. But you need patience. Follow me.”
The shade turned its back on the Shoony and started leaving, making no ripples in the water. Goblin, suddenly very afraid to be left alone in this cursed swamp, followed her strange guide as best she could. Through marshland, over fallen trees and under vines, past rocks and slippery slime and oversized insects, she followed it.
Even swimming in deep, cold, dark water. She had to discard her armor to avoid drowning. She didn’t know why she did it, she always adored her armor and took great care of it. Gifted to her by her local lord, it had inspired her in gloomy mornings or during lonely nights.
Now it laid at the bottom of an unknown lake, in the dark.
Finally, after paddling quiet waters almost to the point of exhaustion, Goblin reached a grassy shore. She pulled herself up and out of the water. The miss parted. She was on a small island in the middle of a wide, still lake. The black waters acted as a mirror, reflecting the perpetual dark clouds that hung low overhead, moving unnaturally fast.
Behind her, the noise of something cracking startled her. She turned around, shivering, holding her body with her small arms, her blond fur wet and dripping. A fire! She hurried to its side, shaking the water off her coat. She started feeling warm and exhausted, absent-mindedly gazing in the embers.
In the embers, she saw the face she had seen in the water. This time, Goblin didn’t scream. She didn’t even flinch. The face, its features impossible to discern, smiled at the Shoony outrider, unarmed and practically naked, shivering in the cold air.
“Yes. Good. You look marvelous. Welcome home” said the strange voice. This time, the sound of wood cracking in the fire was added to the chorus.
Goblin looked down. She suddenly felt very scared, alone, and tired. She held back tears, her hands spread out in front of her to feel the warmth of the fire. She tried to find comfort in the heat but couldn’t.
Cracking from the embers, the voice spoke: “You will find a small hut a few meters from shore. This is where you will reside until you have learned what you must”.
The Shoony peered over the flames, past the light smoke. A few feet past the shore started a small forest. Through dense bush and trees, she discerned a mud hut, stocky and solid. A little window let the light of a candle slip outside.
“Very well,” said Goblin sternly.
It was exactly a year later, a year after the outriders had been almost completely wiped out by a group of cunning bandits that Shoony returned home. The word spread quickly. After all, everyone knew and loved her. However, after a few days, the visitors all stopped saying hello when they saw her. There was something strange about the Shoony. Her fur, previously golden and shiny now had black tips and her laugh had a strange, cackling quality to it that most people found unsettling.
She was offered her old rank by her lord. She joined up the outriders again but this time, refused to charge at her enemies like she used to, choosing instead to keep back. Soon it was revealed that Goblin the Shoony had acquired strange powers, which she unleashed during battle.
On the days she was not riding, she was usually seen peering through market stalls in the surrounding countryside in search of ingredients, talking to a little red treefrog sticking to her clothes.
Goblin the Shoony flashed her crooked smile to anyone who recognized her, but that smile was now unsettling, not warm.