I could only shrug, for in truth one goblin looks much the same as another to me. Though I had relatively close contact with three of the creatures earlier that evening, which is to say having kicked two and poked one in the head with my knife, I can’t say that I had become familiar enough with any of the three to distinguish them from any other of their race. That being said, I was relatively sure that the one I had poked in the head with my knife was not among those now in the little cabin. These goblins were singing or drinking or dancing or doing some combination of the afore-mentioned, all of which are extremely difficult if not impossible to do when one is dead.
“What are you going to do?” wondered the orphan.
“Why do you suppose I should do anything?” I wondered.
“Shouldn’t you avenge the poor man lying on the floor? After all, he is a human being killed by foul goblins, and you are a… I mean we are human beings too.”
“Aye, it is true that we are human beings.”
“And he was killed by goblins.”
“I do hate goblins.”
Hysteria knickered. She hated goblins too, probably because they stand so low to the ground and as I have pointed out before, she dislikes anything too near her feet.
“And I am frozen,” the orphan continued. “I would love to spend the night inside of doors and near a warm fire.”
“Now you make a compelling argument,” said I.
“So what are you going to do?”
“Have you ever heard of Brementown?”
“There is a story told there of a group of musician animals.”
The orphan rolled his eyes. I explained my plan, devised on a variation of the Brementown story. Turning Hysteria so that her rear end was pointed toward the wall of the cabin, I left her with the orphan while I went back to the front and took a position by the door. Pulling out my knife, I placed my fingers in my mouth and whistled, which was the prearranged signal for both my noble steed and the orphan.
At the signal, Hysteria began kicking the wall of the cabin with both hind feet and the orphan commenced to making all manner of strange noises. I was so surprised by the cacophony of sounds, which is to say noises that came out of the youngster’s mouth that I almost forgot my own part of the plan. I am aware that boys are well-versed in the creation of creative noises as well as all kinds of mimicry, having been a boy myself once. But this orphan was a true artist. He belted out the yowls of a wildcat, the braying of a donkey, the barking of a dog, the screech of harpy, and the gurgling growl of a frog-bear. Not to be outdone, Hysteria let loose with the squeal of an angry equine, which is to say a horse.
It was scant seconds before the door burst open and the goblins began pouring out into the snow, their shrieks clearly indicating that they were frightened out of their tiny little minds. The first two who came out were quickly dispatched with my knife. After that I decided that it was too strenuous to keep bending down to kill them, as they are so low to the ground and I had been riding all night long, which under the best of conditions can give one a sore back. Thereafter, I reverted to my now well-practiced maneuver of using their heads as makeshift kickballs, which is to say I kicked them on their kickball-shaped heads.
In the space of twenty seconds, I managed to get rid of all the goblins, which turned out to be seven. I can’t swear that all of the goblins were dead, as five had been sent in long arcs through the air into the darkness of the woods. They were gone though. Scant moments later, the orphan, Hysteria, and I were inside the cabin. I put Hysteria in the corner furthest from the fireplace and directed the boy to stoke the fire, while I pulled the body of the unfortunate former owner out into the snow next to two of his apparent murderers. Thereafter, I went back inside and bolted the door.
“That was a wonderful plan,” said the orphan.
“Indeed it was.”
“I’m surprised you thought of it.”
“Just one of the benefits of a classical education,” said I. “If I did not know the story of the Musicians of Brementown, I would not have known what to do. And as I recall, you looked noticeably unimpressed when I mentioned my knowledge of this particular bit of culture.”
“I do admit I thought it a waste of time, um… at the time,” admitted he. “I offer you my apologies.”
“I suppose I will have to accept them,” said I. “What with you being a poor, ignorant orphan.”
“Your magnanimity is wonderful to behold,” said he. “In any case, I think I would like to hear the story of the Musicians of Brementown.”
“Oh no!” cried I. “You still owe me a shiny penny for the story of Queen Elleena of Aerithraine.”
“But you didn’t finish it.”
“Of course I did.”
“No. You didn’t. When you stopped, she wasn’t even Queen yet. She was stuck in the temple in Fall City.”
“When she turned fourteen, she returned to the capital in Illustria and was crowned Queen by the Pope, after which she took control and banishing him back to Fall City.”
“How did she do that?”
“No one knows.”
“Gah!” he cried. “You are the worst storyteller ever!”
“What would a poor, ignorant orphan know about it?”
“I know you’re not getting my penny!”
“Go to sleep,” I ordered him. “You sleep on the rug by the fire. I will take the bed, after I give Hysteria a good rub-down.”