Gorm stared past the Caelumian wall; Gottschalk stood by his side. Both shivered.
The clouds were darkening in the cold, late morning sky, but goblins continued to charge and howl at another section of wall, roughly 50 yards to the south. The archers and hoplites there shot and stabbed the inhumans as they tried to climb over, but cultists stamped their feet and howled to let the goblins in.
Both groups yelled from either side of the soldiers, their false-righteous demands to flood this human land thus far being only met with spirited defense. Ironically, the cultists stayed safely away from the goblins as they protested for their entry.
The duo then turned their attention to the north where a winter storm raged. It seemed to have come from nowhere! Gottschalk guessed that it might be the work of cultist too- only they would evoke something so unnatural.
Others soon came up behind them, levies drafted to hold the border of Caelum Mount. With nearby Dinglesfuhr having fallen to the east and Walstock conquered by red dwarves further north, a good number of human refugees had volunteered to fight at the sides of their Olympian cousins here. Being skilled warriors, as well as having made a good impression on Captain Salpinx earlier that day, both Gorm and Gottschalk were tasked with leading these troops.
They soon regretted it.
“Are you Amaranthine? I hope you’re not! Hey you over there: what do you think of Amaranthinists? Aren’t they terrible Racists?!”
Gottschalk glared at the stout man from Walstock who had spoken. He was moving about the other displaced patriot levies, Caelum Mount flag in hand, ostensibly checking to see if they had any sympathies for the fallen wizard who had once ruled Dinglesfuhr, nearly a century ago. Nowadays though, ‘Amaranthine’ was simply used as a pejorative against any who might be daring enough to fight to keep lands for themselves and their folk.
“Who cares?” Gottschalk shouted down at him. “We’re about to be overrun by goblins and you would challenge what beliefs the men by your side have?”
The stout man fumed, his face turning red. “I won’t work with Amaranthinists!” he declared.
Gottschalk glared back. “You only think they might be Amaranthinists because they’re men of the west! You’re the racist!”
The man, realizing that he had no other words to debate with, then trained his crossbow on Gottschalk.
Another to his side, a ragged man from Dinglesfuhr, struck him in the back and kicked away his weapon. “You sound like a commissar, Walstocker! You’d shoot your own people rather than believe that you might be working with Amaranthinists? Don’t you know that’s just what the red dwarves want? Maybe you’re working for them!”
Gorm leapt down then. He was a simple man, but also a barbarian, so he knew an impending fight when he saw one.
The levies paused for a moment with having their large leader so close by. But the Walstocker arose again and some of his fellows joined with him.
“We don’t care if you’re human or goblin or orc or elf or red dwarf or what have you!” he began. “We just care about the Righteous Written Law of this Land- any who follow it are fine with us!”
“Death to all red dwarves and those who support them!” countered the Dinglesfuhrian. He too had his countrymen gather around. They were ragged like him, for unlike Walstock, Dinglesfuhr had been devastated, rather than merely conquered and occupied.
Gorm made to silence them both, but then Gottschalk spoke. He turned to the Walstock group first: “How will your precious Written Law save you when the goblins come to burn your homes and slaughter all you love?”
The Walstocker made to blubber out a reply, but could only utter little more than he had before: “Amaranthinist! I’m not an Amaranthinist! My forefathers even fought against the Amaranthine Wizard!”
The Dinglesfuhrians laughed and jeered at him, but then Gottschalk turned, now addressing them too. “And if all the red dwarves were gone tomorrow, we would still face the same threat. They may have started Equalitarianism, but it still has enough human disciples to destroy us all.”
The stout man made to speak, but then Gorm quickly bonked him on the head with the side of his axe. The man fell to the ground, unconscious.
Barbarians weren’t much for political debate, but he had to admit that Gottschalk had made an excellent point, if not a poignant one.
* * *
The clouds cleared somewhat, revealing patches of splendid blue Vale sky beyond. It had warmed a little too, taking the worst of the chill out of the air.
Looking about the street, Gottschalk’s heart stirred. It was good to see people about, men and women, families and tradesfolk happily living in the town, but only a few miles east, in Dinglesfuhr, he knew those who had done the same just weeks ago were either now enslaved or dead. How long before the goblins and cultists would do to Caelum Mount what they had done to his homeland?
Seeing that his friend seemed to be getting moody again, Gorm nudged him and pointed out some pretty Olympian ladies staring back at them in alluring ways. Their dress and hairstyling were exotic to a Teuton such as he, but they otherwise looked just like Dinglesfuhrians in color and complexion, though perhaps without the pronounced cheekbones that his land was known for.
Gottschalk made to approach the women, but then Captain Salpinx arrived. They giggled and swooned at the presence of a man of such influence being so near, even if he was old enough to be their grandfather. His young son entered the road then too, rumored to be some sort of Baron. The women turned to coddle him.
“Terrific job manning the walls!” he exclaimed. “I think your team gets along really, really well!”
Gottschalk didn’t know what to make of the man’s statements. The levies hadn’t seen any fighting except amongst themselves, though Gorm did have to knock a few more unconscious before they were brought back in line.
His mouth dropped though when he saw who came into the street next.
Flanked by Salpinx’s elite hoplite guards were a number of goblins, unbound and dressed in a similar manner. Gorm raised his axe to attack, but Gottschalk held up his hand: it was obvious that Salpinx wanted them here.
“These goblins have a dream of making Caelum Mount great again- and who am I to tell them no?”
Gottschalk was at a loss for words. There were thousands of goblins, at this very moment, clamoring to breach the gates of Caelum Mount... and he let some of them in?
Seeing his concern, Salpinx added, “Oh no- no! These goblins were born here, right in Caelum Mount. The magic of the soil makes them True Caelumians!”
Gottschalk went pale. Gorm wondered if someone had hit Salpinx on the head too, just like he had done to that foolish Walstock levy earlier that day.
Finally, Gottschalk found the words to speak. “How does that make you any different from the cultists? They would have our lands overrun and us bred out of existence!”
Salpinx shook his head in frustration. “Not all the goblins are so bad! Many of them are just terrific- perfect patriots of Caelum Mount!”
It dawned on Gottschalk then that the insane philosophy that many of the cultists followed, Equalitarianism, had inculcated its foul view into more than just the cultists themselves.
Of course, not all goblins were ‘bad’, but it was never just a few goblins: there was always scores, hundreds, thousands, millions of them! And even if the inevitable evil ones that came in an invasion didn’t destroy all that you held dear, enough of the others would be around to crowd you out and do the same.
Even if they were ‘patriotic’ when they did it.
Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XVI!