Waxley the Bold Ch. 01byslyc_willie©
Wills pursed his lips, said nothing more. He stepped away from the cart, nodded to a pair of constables standing beside it. They quickly guided the pony that pulled it toward the Constabulary stable. Waxley watched as his uncle was carried away. His eyes lingered for a long moment, then turned back to his father. He was speaking with Dubil, who held an ornate, well-crafted crossbow in his hands.
". . . always said he wanted you to have this, you know . . . In case something like this happened."
Waxley watched as his father accepted the venerable weapon, which had been Riley's pride and joy for over two decades. There was no finer crossbow in all the village. It was lighter than most, yet stronger, with a powerful oaken bow and an ebony stock. Seeing the weapon brought a tear to Waxley's eye; he had learned to shoot with that weapon. Riley used to take him out to the fields outside of town and nail targets to trees. Waxley remembered vividly the first time he let loose a bolt from the crossbow; the recoil had bruised his shoulder.
The crowd somberly dispersed, offering words of sympathy to Waxley and his father. Within minutes, only the two of them remained in the village center.
"You wanted to know what was out there, boy," said Waxley's father dourly. "That's what's out there. Death."
Waxley stared at his father for a moment, his expression intense, his eyes quivering, then silently turned and headed back toward the house. By the time he made it to the front door, he had already made the decision that would change his life forever.
That night, a stealthy figure crept through the shadows of the hillside home. More than sharpening his skills as a pick-pocket, Waxley had learned through his many illicit forays into Heimdall that being able to hide and approach others without them hearing him was at least as valuable as being able to stand beside them whilst stealthily cutting their purse from their belts.
Now, that stealth served him well, for he was able to creak pen the door to his parent's bedroom just enough to allow him entry. Nearly crawling across the floor, Waxley headed unerringly for the heavy oak box that lay upon his father's dressing table. He filched the lock quickly, and opened the box in silence. With a glance to his parents' bed, Waxley grabbed the crossbow within, then ducked out back through the door.
Outside in the cool air, a grim-faced Waxley tested the strength of the bow, made sure it was tight, the trigger slick. He had already strapped a case across his back holding twenty well-crafted bolts; he hoped that would be enough. Drawing one of the bolts and settling it into the furrow of the crossbow, Waxley headed toward the western gate, beyond which lay the Bogarty Wood.
He did not realize, as he walked amongst darkened houses and past closed-down shops, that he was being watched by a tall, slender figure in the dark, a figure with the height and proportions of a human, yet with the pointed ears of an elf. The figure watched with interested eyes as Waxley made his way to the gate and climbed over it, then retreated into the shadows, vanishing from view.
In Waxley's mind, the scenario would go something like this: he would find the deadly dire badger who had murdered his uncle, lapping water from a moonlit stream. With a well-placed shot from Riley's crossbow, Waxley would fell the beast, then cut off its head as it writhed in agony. Triumphantly, he would march back into town and announce his victory to his fellow Warrows.
But the reality was much less dramatic. The Bogarty Wood was cold, damp and dark, and Waxley had a difficult time making his way. More than once, he stumbled, almost fell, and his clumsy feet snapped twigs loud enough to rouse rabbits from their burrows and night rats from the underbrush. He searched blindly through the forest, not having realized that the moon was only quarter-full, and thus its light was minimal.
Finally, after circumventing Bluster's Glade twice and venturing as far as a hundred yards in several directions, Waxley sat down against a tree and grimaced, contemplating his fate. True, he had been spared the humility of returning his ill-gotten coins to the Heimdall folk from whom he'd stolen them, but now, he was sure to catch Hela's fury from his father for taking Riley's crossbow. Obviously, it seemed to Waxley, there was nothing he could do right.
Fatigue and frustration combined to make his eyes heavy, and as he sagged against the great oak behind him, he drifted off to sleep . . . .
The snapping of twigs and the gibberish voices of goblins roused Waxley instantly. His eyes snapped open, and he clutched Riley's bow against him. He looked about, heart hammering, eyes fearful. Then the voices came again, from a small gully below the great oak, about thirty feet away.
There were five of them, Waxley counted, including a great, hulking figure twice the halfling's -- and goblins' -- height, clad in patchwork armor, a battle axe rested against his shoulder. Obviously on patrol, they had decided to break for a few moments, and sat in a small circle, no fire between them, munching on the dried remains of some unfortunate animal they had hunted days before. The goblins were filthy, wearing dirty leather armor, shortbows across their laps, slender swords across their backs. Even from his distance, Waxley could smell their gamey odor.
"Me wants to kill halflings," sputtered one in its native tongue, chewing a mouthful of jerky.
"Yeah, why ain't us killing halflings?" queried another. "All we do is hunt, patrol. Where halflings?"
"Shut up," growled the taller figure, which Waxley now recognized as a hobgoblin. In the pale moon light, Waxley could make out the insipid reddish hue of its skin. "We do what Master say. We kill halflings later."
"But why?" whined another of the four goblins. "No glory killing rabbits. Why big badger have all the fun?"
Waxley's ears perked up at the mention of the dire badger. Were these goblins somehow involved with it?
"Because that what Master wants," said the hobgoblin. "When time is right, we invade village, kill everyone. Master smart. He already kill best hunter in village."
"If best hunter already dead, why wait?" asked another goblin pointedly, eliciting supportive comments from his fellows.
"We wait for Master's approval," said the hobgoblin forcefully. "Village has strong wall. Master will weaken wall, let us through. When time is right."
"And when time is right?" challenged the first goblin. "I say we attack now, when all asleep. We bring back great glory, many halfling heads. We --"
The goblin stopped suddenly, and all in the band became silent. A twig had snapped as Waxley tried to creep closer. The goblins all looked upward, above the gully, in Waxley's general direction. Waxley froze, staring directly into the eyes of one of the closest goblins. The goblin's eyes grew wide in surprise.
"Halfling!" he shouted. "Halfling sniper!"
Cursing himself at forgetting that goblins possess better night vision than Warrows, Waxley quickly raised his crossbow, knowing that only the power of Riley's bow could save him from this unfortunate circumstance.
The hobgoblin stood, whirled about, brandishing his axe. His eyes, glittering unnaturally, fell upon Waxley. The Warrow could only make out the enormous form, but it was enough to take aim. With a desperate, grim expression, Waxley sighted and fired, just as the hobgoblin bellowed a powerful war-cry.
The dull, thumping twang of the crossbow was all but drowned out by the battle-cry, yet the aim was true. With a gurgle and grunt, the hobgoblin pitched back, clutching at its neck as it toppled backward. Even in the dim light, Waxley could see the fountain of blood spurting in an arc from the vile humanoid's neck.
"Patrol leader down!" cried one of the goblins, knocking an arrow in its bow. "Kill halfling!"
Watching the shadowed silhouettes of the goblins as they knocked their bows, Waxley scrambled for cover behind the great oak, gasped as he heard arrows thump into the body of the massive tree. He jerked another quarrel from his bolt case, reloaded Riley's crossbow with shaking hands. The sound of goblins running through dead undergrowth toward him made his movements frantic.
"Have him, hah!" shrieked a goblin, looming over Waxley with sword held high as the Warrow crouched. But with a fearful cry, Waxley raised Riley's crossbow and fired blindly. Bragi's luck was on his side then, for the quarrel, fired from a distance of less than ten feet, slammed into the body of the goblin, knocking it backward. The goblin sputtered, howled in pain as it tumbled down the slope from the tree. The feathering of the bolt could be seen protruding from its chest.
Waxley gasped, eyes wide in fear, and skittered up the slope, wanting nothing but to flee the goblins. But they pursued, firing arrows from their bows. One of them sliced through the thin leather on Waxley's right leg, and the young Warrow grunted in pain. Yet still he clambered, clutching Riley's crossbow in his grip. Panting and gasping, he reached the edge of a low stone wall, overgrown with vines and moss, a remnant of a bygone time, and vaulted over it. Arrows clattered against the rocky surface.
Eyes wide and full of fear, Waxley nonetheless had the presence of mind to reload his uncle's weapon. Breathing deeply and loudly, Waxley chanced a look over the stone wall. An arrow greeted his appearance, barely missing him as it shot past. He ducked his head below the wall again. His momentary spying had given him the relative positions of the remaining three goblins. One was coming directly toward him, curved and knicked sword held high. The other two were circling around, attempting to catch him from the sides.
As quietly and as quickly as he could, Waxley eased forward, crawling across the ground. His sharp ears could hear the breathing of the goblins and their movements through the underbrush. The closest one was coming from his left, about thirty paces away.
Waxley rolled forward, hoping his gifts at stealth would mask the sound of his actions. He spied a tree in the dimness of the quarter-moon, just wide enough so he could hide behind. As he did so, coming to his feet, he heard a valiant cry as the closest goblin charged where Waxley had been sitting . . . Only to find nothing there.
"Hunh?" grunted the goblin. "Where he go?"
"Right here, devil-spawn!" cried Waxley, popping around from behind the tree. In the pale moonlight, he could see the surprise evident on the goblin's face. But that surprise was soon transformed to dull, mindless shock as a crossbow bolt found its mark in the goblin's forehead. Noiselessly, the goblin fell back, stiff-bodied, like a tree felled in the forest.
Not waiting for the others to arrive, Waxley ran along the path bordered by the low stone wall, heading back toward Crawley's Crossing. His breath forced from his lungs in desperate spurts, his only wish was to reach to safety of his village . . . without a goblin's arrow in his back.
"Goblins!" cried Waxley as he stumbled back into the village, clambering through the western gate as the two guards atop it turned the wheel. "Goblins in Bogarty Wood! Goblins!"
He panted his way toward the constable's office, a low, earthen structure with a lantern burning in the window. As he approached, the door was flung open, and there was Dubil, a surprised and concerned look upon his face. Another constable, known as Farley, appeared with crossbow in hand.
"Calm down, boy!" barked Dubil, catching Waxley as the young Warrow fell against him. "What's the bother?"
"Goblins," gasped Waxley. "I killed three . . . But they're out there, and they know about the badger. They're part of it!"
"What?" cried Dubil, startled at Waxley's words. He helped the young Warrow steady himself, looked down at Waxley's leg. "Gods, lad, you're bleeding!"
"It's nothing," panted Waxley. He stared at Dubil. "I have to speak with the Captain. Please!"
"All right," said Dubil. "All right, lad, just calm down, have a seat. Let's get your wound tended, and then we'll see about speaking with the captain."
Captain Wills seemed none too pleased with being roused from his sleep, but, being the captain, he had no choice but to answer the summons given him by one of his men. Not bothering to take the time to don his uniform, he threw a pale blue robe about his night clothes and trundled off after his constable to the constabulary. Within, he found Riley Paddins' nephew, a suspected pick-pocket but otherwise good-natured lad, sitting upon a stool as the village's healer and Waxley's occasional target of affection, Corabell Undertree, used her healing magicks on the Warrow's leg.
"What's this I hear about goblins?" growled Captain Wills, looking upon Waxley.
Waxley bolted from his chair, startling Corabell as she knelt on the ground before him.
"Captain Wills, sir!" exclaimed Waxley.
Wills rolled his eyes. "You aren't one of my constables, boy, so cut it out," he said tiredly. "Tell me what happened."
Quickly -- and with some excited sputtering and stuttering -- Waxley described the encounter in the Bogarty Wood, including what he had overheard of the goblins' conversation. Mention of some unknown dark 'master' of the goblins made all within the room look at each other in surprise and consternation.
"Now, hold on," said Wills. "Are you sure you heard what you heard?"
Waxley nodded vehemently. "Riley taught me the goblin tongue from the age of eight," he said. "I know what I heard. The goblins follow a master, and that master wants nothing less than to invade Crawley's Crossing! The dire badger is only part of this master's plot."
Wills pursed his lips, frowning. "All right, Waxley, calm down. You've had a rough night."
Waxley took a deep breath. "Yes, sir," he said. He noticed the concerned -- but excited -- look Corabell gave him from the corner of his eye. Waxley tried not to think about her at the moment, although, clad in her flimsy nightgown and burlap robe, she looked demurely attractive, and the golden curls framing her round, sweet face were undeniably arousing . . . every bit as much as the swell of her round, firm breasts.
"We'll post watch," announced Captain Wills. He looked to his constables. "Rouse the others. I want every constable on the wall. If any goblin comes within bowshot, it is to have a bolt placed in its breast."
"Aye, sir!" said the two constables at once.
Wills turned back to Waxley. "As for you," he said, hands on his hips. "Congratulations. 'Tis not easy to skewer a pair of goblins and a hobgoblin. In the morning, we shall head out to look for these villains. Mayhap, if we can find a lone goblin, we can interrogate it, perhaps find out more about this 'master.'"
"Yes, Captain," said Waxley.
Wills approached the young Warrow and clasped his hands on Waxley's shoulders. "You've done well," he said. "If this should this turn out favorably . . . Mayhap there is a place for you in the constabulary. 'Twould only be fitting to add another Paddins to the roster."
Waxley's heart swelled with pride. "Nothing would give me greater joy," he said.
Wills smiled thinly, nodded. "We shall see," he said.
Corabell's healing had erased all trace of the wound on Waxley's leg. He felt not even a twinge of pain as he stepped out into the cool night air, Corabell beside him.
"Will the hero be willing to escort a madchen to her home?" she asked sweetly.
Waxley smiled. Corabell was the belle of the village, the target of every Warrow bachelor. Yet it was said that she remained chaste, pure, a mare unridden. Scarcely a year older than Waxley, the young blonde Warrow was still girlish in demeanor. But her classic voluptuousness identified her to one and all as a woman.
"Of course," he said. Cautiously, he took her hand, find her grip firm and ready. It was an encouraging sign.
"I am so glad you weren't badly hurt," she said as they headed down the slope toward her modest home. Corabell was an orphan; her parents had both perished a few years before while fishing.
"Ah, 'twas nothing," dismissed Waxley. "Barely a scratch."
Corabell smiled, soft cheeks bulging and revealing her dimples. "Of course."
They walked quietly for the remaining moments it took to reach the little cottage, built into the base of a large oak. Paper lanterns hung from the boughs glowed softly with orange-yellow light. At the door, Waxley took Corabell's dainty hands in his own.
"I am tempted to ask if you would come in for a nightcap," she said, her voice soft and breathy, wide blue eyes glittering. She had never looked upon Waxley in this way before, had never felt the stiffening of her nipples and the moisture between her legs.
"I would certainly not refuse," responded Waxley, feeling his own stirrings of arousal. Years of pining for the beauty of Crawley's Crossing, receiving nothing but teasing looks and remarks, and now . . . now she seemed on the verge of offering herself to him.
Corabell's cheeks flushed, both with nervousness and arousal. She took a deep breath, which naturally forced her impressive breasts to press against the flimsy, almost transparent fabric that covered them. Waxley felt his mouth go dry as he made out the shape of her stiff, pink nipples and the slightly swollen areolae that surrounded them.
Idunn's sweet, he thought.
Finally, Corabell spoke. "Perhaps . . . perhaps another time?" she ventured carefully.
Waxley tried not to show his disappointment and smiled. He gave her hands a gentle squeeze. "Of course," he said.
Corabell smile in return, nervous tension evident upon her face. She pushed open the door of her cottage, turned back once she had crossed the threshold. "Sweet night, my hero," she whispered.
Waxley nodded, glad that his dark breaches concealed the almost painful swelling beneath them. "Sweet night," he echoed, then turned about and hobbled back up the hill.
The morning sun cast a pale yellow radiance over the village. News of Waxley's encounter with goblins so close to Crawley's Crossing had reached every ear. Nearly everyone had turned out to see the constables gearing up in the village circle, tightening the straps on their blanched leather armor, securing quarrel cases to their backs, checking the resistance on their bows. Only four constables would be left behind with Captain Wills, who informed everyone that he had sent a messenger pigeon to Heimdall, asking for assistance.
Waxley strode from the tanner's shop, clad in stiff, dark, form-fitting leather segmented at the joints, with a thick guard over his right shoulder. All his gains from pick-pocketing had gone into purchasing the armor and his weapons. In his hand was Riley's crossbow, over his shoulder a case of bolts, at his hip a polished shortsword. Mutterings and murmurs passed through the crowd as they beheld the new hero. Yet Waxley's face registered neither pride nor self-congratulation. What he was doing was not for himself, but for the memory of Riley Paddins.
He started toward the constables, but his eye caught the stern look of his father, and the worried expression of his mother, standing side-by-side at the edge of the village circle. Oblivious as always, Marilee twirled and danced with her stuffed teddy bear clutched against her, moving to some melody only she could hear.
Hesitantly, Waxley approached his father, who took a deep breath at his son's approach.
"Waxley--" he began.
"Father, I must do this. I can't explain why, but I must."
Father Paddins paused, mouth open as if to speak further. Finally, he gave a slight nod. "Your mother has something for you."
Waxley, surprised at his father's unexpected acceptance, looked to his mother. She rolled a tiny loop of metal in her fingers. Her face fought back emotion as she approached her son.