Jongle looks at his gaunt hands now riddled with liver spots. “Like a…skeleton,” he mutters.
He pauses for a moment and cracks a smile revealing, nubby yellowed teeth. “What did the ghost say to the other ghost?”
“Do you believe in goblins? Heh heh…Hah HACK HACKkk…Geh.”
None of his friends laugh, especially not his daughter, the girl he’d only just met hours ago.
“What, you’re gonna leave me hangin’? Don’t look at me like that, you guys. Like I’m some angry drunk causin’ a scene! Hey Bert, ‘member the time I projectile vomited all over the Grudgewood bar and it hit everyone ’cept you cause you’d just slipped on your own piss. HAHA! HACkkk.”
He turns to Valeria, his wrinkly, old eyes still warm with mirth, and gets quiet. Behind the crow’s feet is a profound sadness.
“I’m…I’m sorry, my dear. Looks like your old man is done for. These last couple days have really been the shits, eh? Heh.”
The old goblin slumps down on a treasure chest for support, and unfastens his shortsword from his belt. It clangs to the ground. “Too heavy for me now.”
“Come, have a seat. I wanna tell ya story. It’s about the first time I met your mudda. She was a beautiful girl. The most beautifulest I ever saw, to be honest. And that’s why she first caught my eye. But…it ain’t why I stuck around. It ain’t why I crossed a haunted desert and saved her from a fire cult neither.”
“It was ‘cuz she had a certain strength. A kind of courage. Nerve. Vim, Vigor, whatever you wanna call it. It was hidden in there, cuz of her upbringing, bein’ ashamed of bein’ goblin and whatnot. But I could see it in her from the start. And sometimes that made her real stubborn as all get out, but mostly it made her a broad of real integrity. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. Somethin’ I’ve lacked here and there throughout my life.”
“But you. You’ve got it in spades. You’ve got a heart of gold. And you’re buff, and whip smart, an’ you’re a real looker. I mean, I look at you, and I know you’re gonna save the dang world. My daughter! Can you believe that? Hack HACK hackKKkk” Jongle gasps and wheezes, clutching his chest.
“I wish we coulda…I wish more than anything we coulda spent more time togedda. I wish I coulda watched you grow up, and been there for ya when ya needed me…but in the blink of an eye things keep changin’.”
“I love ya, Valeria.” Jongle’s speech slurs, and his eyes turn glassy. “You’re gonna do good. Real good. I wish I coulda been there, but things keep…changin’…”
A puckish smile sweeps across Jongle G. Janglemancer’s face as he looks into Valeria’s eyes, before his own roll back into his head, and he slumps forward lifeless into her armored chest.
She holds her fathers body to her chest. It feels so small and fragile. “I just got you back. Teks said it was his time, and that he had to get me back to you. And he did. But this isn’t fair.”
She cries for some minutes, and then, exhausted, she looks up at Ervendio.
“What do we do? To honor him, or bury him, I mean. I…I don’t know the Goblin funeral rights. I’ve never been in a Goblin church, really. And mom always said he hated the church.”
Ervendio stood silently over Valeria as she held Jongle. His eyes were closed and his head was bowed. One hand resting on the hilt of his sword and the other hanging limply at his side. He replayed all of his important Jongle moments in his head. Their first meeting among the saving of Grudgewood, his popularity at that silly brothel, his wretched poetry and uncouth jokes, the great battles together, his choices of impatience that often accompanied the younger races, he still remembered the night when he wrote that ridiculous poem to Minja and she took it as a proposal. A proposal! And look what’s become of that wretched poem. Jongle had a daughter! Valeria! and she was here! Ah the gods play cruel tricks. Poor Valeria, to lose both her father figure and then her actual father within hours of each other. Poor Valeria.
“… said he hated the church.”
He opened his eyes. He saw Valeria looking up at him. He had seen her, a small fierce goblin fighter. When he looked at her now he saw a sad goblin girl, lost and alone with strangers in a mystical wasteland that killed two of her fathers in a day. His eyes softened. He knelt by Valeria and folded Jongle’s hands over his chest.
“No, he was not fond of the church. That would be an understatement. He actively fought against the goblin church and army. Besides, I do not know of any goblin ritual. I know nothing of goblin culture at all. Jongle was the first and only goblin I had the pleasure to know… until your mother of course, and now you.
“I know Elven practices for funerals on the combat field… would that suffice? and his belongings now are yours. Though it is customary for the funeral rite I know for him to be burned with a weapon. I would not prefer to do hold it here though. Let us use a bedroll to wrap him. Can we put him on your mount? we can collect the items and leave quickly. I do not wish to stay here any longer.
“Yes. With his weapon, if that’s what your people do.”
She looks at jingle again. “If everything my mom told me was true, he probably would have wanted us to make a puppet out of him. Carry him around on a stick.” She smiles for a second saying it, and then cries again, preparing his body alongside Ervendio."
“His things…well, instead of taking them, maybe we should sell them, as soon as we can. And give the money to the orphanage back in Grudwood. He would have liked that, right?”
A few slips of crumpled paper are found in Jongle’s pockets. One reads…
Sqeakin out a nasty puffer
Spoiled eggs and steak
Push her head below the covers
A funny joke does make
The next appears to be observational comedy?
“You ever wonder if owlbears have identity issues? Like…their owl friends are scared of ‘em, but their bear friends think they’re pussies?”
The third slip of paper is an updated will.
Hey, you! Congratulations. Either you found my dead body or you managed to pickpocket me. Well, here’s my stinkin’ will, ya dirty graverobber and/or thief! There are a number of crossed out entries including the names Canicus, Proteus and Khalid.
To Minja, or if she’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my smelly slippers and my crystal ballz.
To Bea, or if she’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my Cloak of the Bat. Ya might wanna dry clean it. Also, you can have Ow Bear back, of course.
To Teks, or if he’s dead, Ervendio. I bequeef my shortsword, and all of my poems.
To Ervendio, of he’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my Fan of Wind, for you to blow people!
To Golgaraz, or if he’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my kazoo and hand puppets.
If any of you are alive when my daughter Valeria comes of age, all this shit is goin’ to her! Don’t make my ghost hunt you down!
Send all my money to
the orphanage on 42nd street in Skull CapValeria. Don’t touch it! If I’m dead she’s gonna need a nest egg. Make her go to college or somethin’
Ervendio finds the notes as he composes Jongle’s body.
He reads the will out loud to everyone.
He opens the other note.
“Listen to this droll…
“Night farts…” as Ervendio continues through the lines he laughs. He sighs at the end, “Jongle, that’s disgusting.” And he slips the foul poem in his pocket.
“Valeria, the money you can do with what you wish. But he had some powerful items. You still have an enemy out there. Jad will try and stop us, and his wyvern. Your quest with Ruat is his quest. We have to be ready… if we ever leave this gods forsaken chaos storm.
“Come, we should hurry. Let’s collect the piece and check the pedestals for traps. If we rest for an hour I can pray to the Kuraphai to assist our exit. We should leave. I want to build a pyre during the day. A great funeral pyre, in the tower. Let’s burn this place.”