by Trevor Hopkins

Captain Harriett Luncardy was a Goblin to whom swear words and coarse language did not usually come either fluently or frequently. So when she said: "What the..." and followed it up with a string of choice epithets I knew for certain that she was severely rattled. Despite my frustration, I could not help but smirk at her discomfiture.

Characteristically, Luncardy regained her composure with commendable speed. She took a deep breath, put her gun back in its holster under the sharply-tailored grey suit and gestured me over.

"That was quite some magic," she said shortly, her eyes narrowed as if I had something to do with it.

"Yes," I agreed, "And probably nicked from the Old Ones."

"So we won't be able to trace it?"

"I doubt it," I agreed, nodding.

She snorted, thought for a moment and then said: "I'm out of options. Any thoughts?"

I was suddenly distracted.

"Just one," I said uncertainly.

Various things came together in my head just at that moment. I had a sudden intuition about the nature of Garrick's true intent. I gasped soundlessly as the full nature of Garrick's plan, the sweep and majesty of its scale, sunk into that overheated and over-tired grey matter between my ears.

"Don't be coy," Luncardy snapped, "Spit it out."

I explained as best I could, trying to express myself clearly but forever going around in circles with the complexities and interlinkages. I think the message got through eventually.

Dulelm Hollows would become a new living space for Goblins on the surface. The real estate was already owned by Garrick either directly or indirectly. The hamlet would be turned into one vast repulsion zone, protected by magic stolen from the Old Ones to keep away any itinerant humans and more puissant glamours to keep away Goblins. In any case, it would be a location on the surface which would be hard for Goblins to approach, even under cover of darkness.

Dulelm Hollows would become a base for Garrick's nefarious operations and a base for his own power in the Goblin world. Come to the surface, and set yourself free, from the oppression of the official Goblin government and their lapdogs, the police, and away from the tyranny of the humanfolk from whom we have hidden these last five thousand years.

Luncardy and the few of her team who were within earshot, and Trinity too, listened to my ramblings in silence until I wound down to a stop. I felt drained, shocked by the enormity, the audacity of the scheme Garrick had hatched. He must have been working on it for years, decades.

The Captain was the first to respond.

"Right," she said, "Let's go and get him, before he gets entrenched."

"No!" I insisted.

Both Luncardy and Trinity looked at me strangely.

"We've tried the mob-handed, brute-force approach," I explained, "And look where that got us. Besides, they'll be casualties; people will get killed. Perhaps, lots of people. Neither of us want that kind of body count."

I could see realisation sinking into the psyche of both ladies.

"We need a softly-softly approach," I went on, "Just a couple of reliable Goblins. And me."

"And me," Trinity added grimly, "You're not leaving me out of this."

Luncardy sighed.

"Okay," she said slowly, "But let's have plenty of backup to hand, just in case."

It was my turn to nod.

"And I'm coming in too," the Captain added in a voice of steel, "Nobody's going to do my job for me."

Part 92 Part 94