“Why the Mayor Won't Leave His Porch”
Jack was called Goblin Jack, and the origin of that nickname haunted him.
In his fever dream, the former bandit leader was at the scene of the massacre again.
He flung his arms out, knocking both of his goose down pillows to the floor.
He saw the bare halfling feet of a military commander in the service of the Champions of Phaeton – his hairy feet- walking through the burnt out shell of the enemy village.
A nonsensical, shrill voice came from everywhere at once, as if Goblin Island itself was singing:
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy.”
The covers jumped up and down with his thrashing.
In his dream, he stepped around the bodies of soldiers and fallen goblins. Blood spread from good men and women , his broken soldiers, as well as dead goblin men, women… and children. The blood pooled in unrealistically prodigious quantity, swelling in unison with the rainwater and mud.
An old sergeant sat dumbfounded in the mud and the blood. Horace’s arms around his knees, rocking back and forth.
His singing was louder than screaming, reverberating painfully in Goblin Jack’s head:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"
Horace was the one witness who could clear his name, who could swear that he had not done this, had neither ordered the attack nor the slaughter of goblin children. And Horace’s mind had snapped.
Averting his eyes from Grigsby’s father, he looked down, and saw the rising pools of blood enveloping his feet.
Goblin Jack forced himself awake, and tore the quilt from his feet.
Prudence woke to the sound of scrubbing. The halfling lass sighed dramatically, and held a pillow over her head to drown out the sound. After a few heartbeats, she gave up, and slowly got up. She slipped into waiting slippers, and adjusted her night gown and ribbons in her long blonde pigtails first. She scooped Fluffy from his nest in his pillow. They called Fluffy a boneyard terrier, but the native species did not resemble a dog other than being a ball with fur with four legs. His face and nose were too flat, his tail a mere nub, and his eyes were too beady and red. Also, his mouth contained too many long sharp teeth to sensibly fit in that homely little head. But for whatever reason, Fluffy tolerated being carried around like a doll and spoiled like royalty, and that was good enough for Prudence.
She walked out of her room, and onto the porch of their cottage. Like the Hedgewitch’s hut, the house of the lead councilman was on stilts, but had more rooms and a grander porch. Also, the poles were wider, sturdier, and more even. The Hedgewitch’s hut looked like it could amble off into the swamp at any moment, or tip over in a stiff breeze.
Goblin Jack dangled his feet off of the porch. He stopped scrubbing them with the boar bristle brush. They were pink and sore and nearly hairless from the scouring, an embarrassment for any self-respecting adult halfling. “Dearest Prudence. Did I wake you?”
“Your feet are fine, Daddy,” she took the brush from his hands. “Cleaner than an angel’s intentions. Go back to sleep. You are worrying Fluffy.”
Fluffy snored in her arms, his long purple tongue lolling out the side of his mouth in oblivious abandon.
“Yes, I can see that,” Goblin Jack said. He ran his fingers through his white hair, and absent-mindedly traced the scar that ran from his temple to cheekbone. He looked back at his feet and scowled. There was still blood on them, he was sure of it. He just could not get to it properly. “How am I to run this village if I don’t want to set foot in the mud?” he asked himself.
Prudence was already shuffling back to bed. She yawned. “Do it from here. They can come to you.”
Goblin Jack smiled. “What a novel thought.”