By Ian Wilson (Rated G)
The pub was filled with music, laughter, and merry hobgoblin voices, singing and telling jokes. Robin Goodfellow sat in a corner with his feet on the table nearest the fire. His apprentice, Bobert, idly threw darts at the board.
“What are we even doing here?” asked the young hobgoblin.
“You’re playing darts while I wait for the barmaid” answered the master thief, nonchalantly.
“No, I mean what are we doing here?” asked Bobert, more emphatically this time. “We haven’t had a job in weeks. Shouldn’t we be out pounding the pavement?”
“Occasionally, you have to wait for the jobs to come to you,” said Robin, taking a swig.
“Well, they’re taking their good old time,” said Bobert impatiently.
“Patience, Bobert,” said Robin. “The right job will come.”
A pretty young hobgoblin maiden approached them.
“What can I get you two?” she asked with a smile.
“What I want ain’t on the menu, sweetheart,” said Bobert with a mischievous wink.
“I’m not taking special orders, buster,” she replied, placing her hands on her hips.
“We’ll both have the stout,” said Robin, “And a bit of bread and a ripe cheese.”
“Thank you, Mr. Goodfellow,” said the barmaid, and she went to fetch their drinks.
Bobert stared after her with a silly smirk on his face.
“Don’t bother,” said Robin. “She’s above your station.”
“She’s a barmaid,” retorted Bobert.
“I doubt there’s a hobgoblin woman who isn’t above your station,” said the master thief. “And if she exists, she’s probably not worth looking at.”
“Is chronic cynicism a mental disorder for you or what?”
“It’s kept me alive this long,” replied Robin.
The barmaid returned with their drinks and set them on the table.
“Haven’t spilled a drop, I see,” said Bobert.
“It’s a skill I’ve honed over the years,” she replied.
“Maybe you could tell me what a girl of your talent is doing working in a place like this?” said Bobert.
“That would be none of your business,” said the barmaid.
Bobert stared after her.
“Oh, please, Bobert,” said Robin. “You’re simply salivating! Most undignified.”
Bobert shot his master a perturbed look and went back to admiring the hobgoblin woman as she went about her business. A patron tossed her a coin, which she caught and placed in the pocket of her smock. Another patron reached out and grabbed her by the arm.
“I believe you have something of mine,” he said in a gruff tone.
The barmaid slammed the coin on the table.
“There!” she said. “Satisfied?!”
The patron took hold of her smock. The skull and cutlass tattoo on his shoulder revealed that he was a member of the corsairs’ guild. Bobert hated corsairs.
“I shouldn’t have to remind you why you’re here in the first place!” he growled.
“You were going to take us for everything we had!” said the barmaid, scowling. “I may have to work my fingers to the bone for you pirates, but I don’t have to like it!”
Bobert had seen enough. He picked up a dart and threw it into the hobgoblin man’s hand. The corsair shouted and cursed.
“Maybe your mother never taught you manners,” said Bobert, approaching the angry creature.
“You don’t even know who your mother is!” Robin said to his apprentice, rolling his eyes.
“That’s beside the point,” retorted Bobert.
The rude patron rose from his seat. He was taller than Bobert thought.
“This ain’t your concern,” he said.
“Actually, I think it is,” said Bobert, puffing out his chest.
“No, it’s really not,” said the barmaid.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” said Bobert.
“Listen, thief,” said the corsair, “I’ll decide what I do with my property.”
“Oh she’s your ‘property’?” asked Bobert, taking a short step forward.
“Ay, until she pays off her indenture.”
“Ah, I see,” said Bobert, nodding, “I understand, now. My apologies.”
Bobert turned away from the corsair but in a split-second, spun around and punched him in the face. The corsair fell backward into a table, upsetting his friends’ supper. He shook his head, dazed.
“You really shouldn’t have done that,” said the barmaid.
The corsair reached for his cutlass, but Bobert kicked him in the chest, sending him backward again. His two friends stood up, knocking their stools down. They glared at Bobert, baring their teeth. Robin, meanwhile, sat in the corner, drew his smoking pipe from his coat, and placing some aromatic herbs inside, he lit up and took a few puffs.
One of the corsairs made a wide roundhouse punch at Bobert’s head. Bobert ducked underneath and punched the pirate in the ribs. The other drew his cutlass. Bobert kicked backward, putting him off balance while he dealt with the other. The corsair tried to strike him with a bottle, but the thief ducked just in time. Bobert cross-punched in the face, knocking him out.
“Look out!” cried the barmaid, as another corsair came in from the side with a dagger. Bobert dodged the stabs, while simultaneously ducking the cutlass-wielding corsair to his left. Bobert grabbed a wooden bowl off the bar and, dumping its contents, used it as a shield. “I could use some help!” said the embattled hobgoblin.
Robin took a long drag on his pipe. “You seem to be doing just fine on your own. I wouldn’t wish to interrupt a valuable lesson.”
The dagger thrust into the bowl and Bobert wrenched the weapon away from his attacker. He then tossed the bowl at the corsair, hitting him in the head. Bobert then drew his own daggers and turned to his other assailant. He dodged and deflected the strikes of the cutlass with the ease and skill of a seasoned fighter.
“Aren’t you going to do something?!” the barmaid asked Robin.
One of the corsairs, the one Bobert had knocked out with a cross-punch, was returning to his senses. As he was rising from the floor, Robin Goodfellow broke a dish over his head. The corsair slumped back to the floor.
“There. I did something,” said Robin, lacing his hands behind his head.
Bobert blocked a blow from the cutlass with one dagger and sliced the corsair’s arm with the other. He growled with anger and pain dropping the weapon.
“Alright!” said the landlord, crossing his arms, “That’s quite enough! Look at what you’ve done to me pub! It’s a mess! There’s blood on the floor! Either you work out your differences in a less destructive fashion, or get outta my pub!”
Bobert looked at the corsair with eyes like daggers.
“How much does she have on her indenture?” asked the thief.
“Forty stone,” replied the corsair.
Bobert thought for a minute. Forty stone would empty his reserves. He’d have to find a big job to build them back up again, not to mention Robin would be cross.
“I’ll pay it,” he said.
“Deal,” said the pirate. They shook hands.
The barmaid set about cleaning up the mess from the fight, setting chairs back upright, cleaning up spilled food and drinks. Bobert leaned down to give her a hand.
“Why are you doing this?” asked the barmaid.
“I made the mess, I should clean it up,” answered Bobert.
“Well, thank you, but I meant starting a fight with a corsair.”
“He was treating you like a thing,” said Bobert. “But I took care of that. I’m paying off your indenture.”
The barmaid sighed. “I guess you own me now.”
“Nope!” said Bobert. “I only own myself. You’re free.”
The barmaid looked at Bobert in surprise.
“Why would you do that?”
“Because no one deserves to be treated like a thing.”
Bobert paused as a tear rolled down the barmaid’s cheek.
“I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced,” said the apprentice. “I’m Bobert.”
The barmaid smiled and put out her diminutive hand.
“I’m Demelza,” she said.
These characters may be found in the epic graphic novel Legend of the Sword Bearer very soon. You can read the first chapter of Legend of the Sword Bearer at LEGENDS AND SONGS – Legend of the Sword Bearer.