Chapter 23:

Chapter 23 What Little That Remain

Hermit's Diary

The once-innocent field, now littered with the mangled remains of goblin hatchlings, bore witness to a horrifying massacre. Limbs and entrails were strewn across the grass, and the air was thick with the stench of hatchling blood and guts.

In a frenzied panic, I scuttled away, my tiny goblin heart pounding like a drum. Tears and snob streaming down my dirt-streaked face.

"Eeeeek! Monster! RUN AWAY! Ahhh! Tiny feet, hurry! Run from the big scary thing!" I shouted at myself.

 My snot trailed behind me like a grotesque banner, and my meaty ears flapped wildly in the air as I desperately sought safety.

My mind was a chaotic whirlwind of fear and confusion, and every instinct screamed at me to find shelter. That's when I spotted it, a towering mound of dung, fresh and steaming in the dim light under a colossal leaf. Without a second thought, I made a split-second decision and hurled myself headfirst into the mound, my grimy claws digging into the foul-smelling dung with every last ounce of my feeble strength.

"Shelter! Sniffer burning, smelly shelter! Into the dung! Ah! I dig! I dig for life! Gross! Gross! But safe! I think?"

I burrowed deep into the dung pile, my small body squirming through the semi-liquid mess as I carved out a hidy-hole for myself. The muck clung to my skin, and the overwhelming odor threatened to choke me, but I didn't care. I needed safety from the Pig Wolf.

"Me in poop. Good, safe from the big scary beast. Stinky bad, but better than being lunch. Eeeeek! What is that noise? Ooh, the noise is loud. Maybe the beast coming. No, no, no, stay away, beast. Don't find me here. I hide, he can't see. Keep quiet, Hermit, or he'll eat me!" I mumbled in fear to myself. 

With frantic urgency, I covered the entrance to my dung sanctuary with more filth, leaving only a tiny peephole to observe the unfolding horror outside. There, in the reeking darkness, I huddled, trembling and praying that the monstrous pig-wolf wouldn't find me in my repulsive hidy-hole. My thumb found its way into my mouth and I sucked on it to find a little bit of comfort.

"A peephole, I peek out. Big beast, so big, so scary. Don't see me... Please don't see me. Me tiny, he huge. Maybe eat evil goblins. Not me, not me!"

 As minutes wore on, the pitiful cries of the hatchlings grew fewer and fewer until, at last, they fell silent. The relentless rampage of the pig-wolf had claimed the lives of my fellow hatchlings.

"Me so scared. Friends gone. Where they? Oh no, no, no," I muttered to myself in a panicked frenzy, my goblin voice trembling, "Where did they go? They were here, but now they're not. Maybe they're hiding? Yes, hiding, like me. But what if... what if they're not hiding? What if they... they... Oh, this is bad, very bad. Spirits of the forest, help me!"

In the foul darkness, I remained hidden, too terrified to make a sound. The monstrous beast continued to prowl, its snuffling and grunting filling the air. I could hear its heavy footsteps, each one sending shivers down my spine. It was as if the very ground trembled beneath its immense weight.

"Oooh, spirits of the forest, protect me!" I whimpered, my voice trembling like a leaf in the wind.

 "Big, scary beast out there, want to gobble me up, it does! I hide here, safe and quiet. Just stay hidden, little gob, and you'll be okay. Yes, yes, quiet as a mouse, that's me!"

I clung to my dung-covered sanctuary, peering out through the tiny peephole. My eyes darted in every direction, seeking any signs of the monstrous creature's approach.

 "Shhh, don't make a peep," I muttered to myself, "I don't want to be its crunchy snack. Maybe it'll go away, or maybe Kaka will come save me. Yes, yes, Kaka's strong, he'll protect us!"

After some time the beast got bored and with a final, blood-curdling howl, it disappeared into the depths of the forest, leaving behind a scene of unimaginable horror.

Tentatively, I uncovered my dung-covered sanctuary and emerged into the dim daylight. The once-thriving field was now a gruesome graveyard, littered with the torn and mangled remains of my fellow hatchlings. The stench of death hung heavy in the air, and I could hardly bear to look upon the gruesome sight.

"Oh, no... no... this... this is horrible! Gobbie... gobbie friends! Where... where are they," I stammered to myself, my voice barely above a frightened whisper, "What happened here? Where... where are my friends? Gobos are gone!"

My tiny feet carried me hesitantly through the field of death, my eyes darting around as I searched for any sign of life. But all I found were the remains of my hatchling companions, their mangled bodies a cruel testament to the merciless carnage that had taken place.

I couldn't help but mutter in anguish, "Gone... all gone... my gobbie friends... my... my friends..."

Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to process the horrifying reality that surrounded me. The stench of death was overwhelming, and I gagged as I forced myself to look at the gruesome scene.

As I continued to wander through the field of death, my voice wavered with fear and sorrow, "I need to find Kaka... Kaka will know what to do... Kaka will help... Kaka..."

As I walked through the blood-stained ground, my cowardly yelps echoing in the eerie silence, I held out a glimmer of hope that there might be survivors. After a few desperate calls, I saw movement and heads cautiously peeking out from their hiding spots.

"Is anyone there?" I called out, my voice trembling with a mix of fear and hope.

One by one, my fellow hatchlings who had somehow managed to escape the pig-wolf's rampage revealed themselves.

"I'm here," said a small voice as a few goblins jumped out from under a large leaf, their tiny bodies trembling with fear.

"I made it!" yelled another, poking his head out of a tiny hole in the ground, his eyes wide with a mixture of relief and anxiety.

A pair of hatchlings burst forth from a big clump of moss, their faces pale. 

"We're okay," one of them assured, though the quiver in his voice betrayed fear.

A group of several hatchlings hesitantly stepped out from a thick grass bush, their eyes darting around, scanning for any sign of danger.

"We're alive," one of them whispered.

A few more crawled out from their shelter beneath rocks, their movements slow and cautious.

Seeing these survivors filled my heart with a mix of emotions, a relief that I wasn't entirely alone, but also grief for the ones we had lost. We gathered in a tight circle, our eyes meeting, each goblin hatchling sharing in the trauma. The bonds among us had grown stronger.

Out of many only a handful of us was left. Amidst our huddled group of trembling goblin hatchlings, the distant sound of muffled moans and cries of pain sent shivers down our spines. Fear gripped us once more, and our tiny voices erupted into a racket of panicked chirps, clicks, and mumbling as we tried to make sense of the situation.

"What's that noise?" one hatchling whimpered, his eyes darting around nervously.

"Is it more danger?" another one asked, his voice barely a whisper.

"We can't stay here! We need to go back to camp!" a cowardly goblin declared, his fear shining in his eyes. 

I stepped forward and said, "No! We need to look for Kaka! He... he tried to save us! We need to find him! The cries! Kaka! It has to be Kaka! We go help Kaka! We do!"

Hatchlings looked at each other with uncertainty on their faces and agreed to look for Kaka. With cautious unity, we started to move toward the source of the sounds, our trembling bodies huddled closely together. 

As we ventured forward, our hearts pounded in our chests, and our minds raced with thoughts of what horrors might await us.

We ventured deeper toward the forest, and the moans and cries continued to grow louder, leading us further into the thicket of towering grass and dense foliage.

"What's that noise? Why does it get louder? Oh, goblin spirits, help us!"

Approaching a massive, thorn-covered bush, we could see that its vicious vines and stems were adorned with knife-like thorns, glinting ominously in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the leaves. We tried to go past the thorny wines but we only hurt ourselves. 

"Ouch, thorn in the foot! Ouch! Big bush, mean big bush! Why hurt us so? Ouwie! Thorn in my butt!"

"Thorns, thorns everywhere! What do we do? Thorny death, scary thorns!"

Hidden within this treacherous tangle of thorns, we discovered the source of the distressing sounds - it was Kaka, our caretaker goblin, ensnared in the cruel embrace of those spiky vines.

 "Look! Kaka trapped! Thorny prison! We help, yes? But thorns, oh, they hurt!"

 "Yes, it's Kaka! In the thorns! Kaka needs us! But thorns are so... pointy!"

 His body was lacerated, the thorns cutting deep into his skin and flesh, and he sobbed in sorrow as he mourned his lost hatchlings and endured his brutal injuries.

Our hearts ached for Kaka, and we longed to rush to his side, to offer him comfort and aid. However, the thorny vines served as cruel sentinels, preventing us from reaching him without suffering the same painful fate. Their sharp thorns sliced our sensitive skin like blades, and we winced with each attempt to get closer. The needle-like thorns were laying on the ground, poking our soft, puffy feet, preventing even the slightest thought of coming closer to Kaka. 

Kaka's tear-filled eyes locked onto our tiny forms, and he yelped in joy, his voice echoing with gratitude. 

"Ohhhh! Little gobs! You've survived! There are survivors! Thank you, spirits of the forest! Thank you for sparing at least some of my precious gobbies! Thank you!"

Despite the pain, Kaka began to crawl out of the thorny bush, the spiky vines scraping and slashing his already battered body. He was missing an arm, making the task even more arduous, but willpower and the desire to reunite with us fueled his efforts.

We gathered around him, our small bodies doing our best to hug him, tears streaming down our faces as we wept in fear and sorrow. Kaka, however, wasted no time in consoling us.

 "Little gobs, we have little time. We need to return to camp, but I will need your help, my brave ones."

We nodded vigorously, our goblin hearts filled with gratitude and loyalty.

 "Anything Kaka needs! We help! We do! We help Kaka!"

Kaka gave us clear instructions, his voice steady despite the pain.

 "Good, tiny gobs. Kaka will need help. My leg snapped, and I need you to hunt down two long, strong sticks and grab all the vines you can. But be sharp-eyed and sly. Keep watch over each other, and don't be foolish wanderers. At any hint of trouble, you scatter and hide, no matter what."

With Kaka's instructions firmly in mind, we set out on our mission. We scuttled and scurried through the underbrush, careful not to step on any thorns or disturb the lurking dangers of the forest. Our tiny feet pattered softly on the forest-opening floor as we ventured deeper into the tall grass, our eyes darting around, searching for the sturdy sticks and vines that Kaka required.

After some time, we came across a fallen tree, its massive branches and roots reaching out like the gnarled fingers of a giant. It seemed like a treasure trove of possibilities, and we quickly got to work. Some hatchlings used their blunt teeth to gnaw at the tree's branches, trying to loosen a suitable stick. Others used their tiny hands to gather vines, which we needed.

As we gathered our materials, we communicated in hushed goblin whispers, ensuring that we remained alert for any signs of danger. We understood the importance of looking out for one another, just as Kaka had taught us.

Finally, we had what we needed - two sturdy sticks and an assortment of vines. We formed a line of tiny goblins and put the branches on our backs. With our precious cargo in tow, we carefully scuttled back to where Kaka awaited, his eyes filled with a mixture of pain and hope.

Kaka's grubby goblin fingers reached out to accept the sticks and vines, his voice filled with gratitude.

"Good little gobs! You've done well. Now, let's get to work. We need to make a split cast for my broken leg. We need to hurry, little ones. The night is soon upon us. We need to get back to the camp before the night comes or we will not survive. "