Lorcan stepped past the treelike, and into the meadow leading to the village of Woodland. The leather bag he carried over his shoulder was heavy and bulging, and he would be glad to soon be rid of it. He had spent the past few days with the Rangers on a hunt/hike in the woods, and it had been brutal. It was freezing at all hours, and the Rangers themselves were inexhaustible, trudging through mud and cold, not once taking a break. What’s more, Lorcan was terrible with a bow, and was pretty embarrassing as a hunter. Luckily, the others had taken pity on him, and had given him a share of an enormous stag they had found and slain. He was very grateful for their generosity, but the stag meat in the bag was killing his already aching shoulder. He likely wouldn’t be leaving with the Rangers again anytime soon.
He strode quickly through the frosted plain, and made his way to the chapel, barely visible in the distance over the rooftops. In about ten minutes, he was pushing open the gate to the chapel ground, and looked up at the sturdy stone building, smiling. “Home sweet home,” he said, grunting as he readjusted his bag. He walked up to the door, hitting it a little, as the door had gone stiff in the cold. He pushed it open and stepped inside. Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks. “What the-?”
The chapel was somewhat well-lit by the morning light streaming it, and chilly, due to him not being there for some time, but that wasn’t what was unusual. The odd thing, was how the entire floor was completely green, with no stone visible at all. Lorcan unslung his bag, throwing it to the side. He closed the door behind him and knelt down on the ground to better inspect the floor. “Why is it that everything around me that should not ordinarily be green, becomes green?”
He touched the sprouts beneath him gingerly, and pulled a few up to inspect them. “Hello there,” he said, “what are you doing here?” He stood up, picking up his bag, and walked over the green carpet to return to his room. Surely, this was no accident. Chapels didn’t suddenly sprout foliage overnight; not even Woodland ones. This… was Shay’s doing.
As he came to his bedroom door, he noticed something glinting on it. He pulled it off, and looked at it closely. It was a chicken feather, with the tip covered in some gold foil. That was an odd signature. Nobody he knew really held chickens in any special significance. He pocketed it, and entered his room, finding the same meadow/carpet as in the hall.
He groaned. How was he going to get rid of all this? He wasn’t going to waste a week trying to pull up the sprouts, or cut them. He couldn’t poison them, because that would damage the chapel. He could burn the chapel down, but that did seem a bit drastic. He sat down on his bed and stared at the floor, trying to make sense of this recent turn of events. Suddenly, he chuckled. He chuckled, then laughed, and then couldn’t stop laughing. “Oh, well done Shay,” he said. “Well done indeed.”
“No! It’s horrible!” shouted a voice from beyond the door. Puckleflup and Dobble pushed the door open a little, and strode inside, looking quite agitated, and pulling up little sprouts as they came. They looked up at Lorcan, Puckleflup shaking an accusing finger at him. “This is all your fault!”
Lorcan raised an eyebrow at them. “Oh really? What exactly did I do?”
“Locke-lady thinks you’re the one who put the chickens in her house! And now she’s taking it out on us!” Puckleflup looked offended, and stuck out his bottom lip as he turned to the side. “This green floor is awful! We don’t want the outside here on the inside! If we wanted the outside, we’d go…um…”
“Outside?” offered Dobble helpfully, as he began eating some of the sprouts he was pulling up.
Lorcan held up his hand. “Sooo…who DID put the chickens in Shay’s house? You two?” Gears were turning in Lorcan’s head. This would explain the chicken feather at least. But who could have gathered up a bunch of chickens to prank Shay? The goblins were good, but they didn’t have the ingenuity for something like this. It wasn’t their style. Plus, they didn’t have anything against Shay, so-
“Courth it with,” said Dobble, through a mouthful of plants. “Wathn’t our idea though, that wath-OW!” He stopped abruptly, as Puckleflup elbowed him hard in the chest. This stared a wrestling match between the two, filled with biting, scratching, cursing, and kicking.
‘Ah, of course,’ thought Lorcan. ‘They had an ally, but who?’ He decided to play calm. These two weren’t the brightest in Woodland; he could get anything out of them if he played his cards right. He put on a knowing face. “Of course, yes, the three of you. I knew that.”
The goblins paused a moment. “You did?” they answered in unison.
Lorcan spread his arms, as if it were obvious. “Well of course! You two alone couldn’t have rounded up all those chickens, or thought to put them in Shay’s house. It was…” he had to think a moment. He had to make the wrong guess on purpose. “Tilly! Tilly helped you do all that!”
Puckleflup and Dobble stared at each other for a moment, then burst out laughing. They laughed for several minutes, rolling on the ground, tears streaming down their faces. Puckleflup was the first to recover somewhat. “No, you idiot, not even close!” he gasped. “It wasn’t Tilly, it was the Cap-“
Before Puckleflup could even realize his error, Lorcan leapt at the goblins, grabbing each one around the middle, and held them up in the air, kicking and yelping in protest. Lorcan was pale, his eyes wide. He squeezed the troublemakers, staring intently at them. “KANE is involved!? HE’S your ally!?” He glared at Puckleflup. “Tell me everything you know, or so help me, I’ll boil your toes, cut off your ears, and make you both into a soup!”
They squealed, “NOOO! Not a soup! Anything but a soup! Please don’t boil our toes!” They clutched their ears close to their heads, and flailed their feet, as if to avoid placing them in a vat of broth.
Lorcan squeezed harder. “Tell me everything, you little monster!” His head was reeling. You didn’t just face the Captain in battle, much less in a prank war. This was serious. Lorcan already felt color draining from his face, and dread filling his gut. He held the two goblins as close as he dared, and lowered his voice dangerously. “Tell me, who are all the people involved in this war?”
They both swallowed, and Dobble spoke up first. “We’s been working with the Captain, sir. We’s the only ones with ‘im, sir.”
“And the Locke-lady has been doing all sorts of wicked things with the Tree Man, sir,” piped up Puckleflup. “She’s been stealing apples, and making Dobble pies, and turned the Captain’s house upside down, sir.” The goblin shivered. “And you’s been conspiring with the magic man, sir.”
Dobble nursed a bump on his head. “When the Captain found his house all upside down, he threw a book at Puckleflup, and Puckleflup used me as a shield, sir.”
Lorcan took a minute to let it all sink in. He didn’t know who the “Tree Man” was, but it was good to know that Shay had an ally. He could handle that. But getting back at Kane…that was going to be no easy feat. How had Shay turned his house upside down? What did that even mean? He smiled in spite of himself. That must have been quite the spectacle. He had to hand it to Shay, what she’d done was, admittedly, hilarious. He looked at the two goblins and smiled. “Thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful.”
The tricksters smiled nervously. “Of course sir,” said Puckleflup.
“We only lives to serve sir,” added Dobble.
Lorcan considered his next move. Kane, as far as he knew, hadn’t done anything to him yet. He’d leave him alone for now, until the Captain made his first move. Shay however, after such a clever move, needed something special. Something…Biblical. He eyed the two goblins sternly. “Alright,” he said, “I’ll let you go. You can keep helping Kane, and live your lives as you see fit. But, I need you to deliver a message for me.”
The goblins nodded energetically, so he set them down. Lorcan pulled a piece of parchment, ink, and a quill from his bedside table, and wrote two short notes. He addressed one to Kane. The note held a Bible reference from the book of St. Matthew, chapter 24, verses 42-44. Nothing serious, just a warning for Kane to be on his guard from now on. On the other note, addressed to Shay, he wrote a scripture from the book of Exodus, chapter 8, verses 2-4. That would be his next move. He handed each note to one of the goblins. “There you are,” said Lorcan, “now scurry, before I change my mind about your ears.”
Covering their ears, Puckleflup and Dobble ran from the room, hurrying from the chapel. Lorcan laughed to himself as he sat upon his bed, admiring his new carpet. So what if Kane had joined the fray? It was daunting to face so many opponents, but an intriguing challenge nonetheless. If everyone was getting help from their allies, he would start working with his own. He got up again, notwithstanding the protests of his cold and aching joints, and left the chapel.
As he approached the gate outside, Lorcan called out, “Dyn Hysbys! I need you!”
A calm voice directly behind Lorcan immediately answered, “Alright. What do you need?”
Lorcan jumped a mile in the air. He wheeled around to see the crazy old man a few feet away, staring at him and smiling benevolently. Lorcan clutched his heart. “Don’t…don’t DO that. I mean, I appreciate the punctuality, but don’t…” he trailed off as he noticed an enormous bulging bag in Hysbys’ hands. “What do you have there?”
Dyn Hysbys’ smile widened. “The next part of your prank war. I felt I’d get a head start to help you out.” He offered the bag to Lorcan, who took it, opening it slightly.
The contents of the bag were moving, and making a small cacophony of croaking voices. He didn’t dare ask how Dyn Hysbys already knew his plan, but he wasn’t complaining. Lorcan’s own smile grew. “This is a good start, but we need much more.”
Hysbys nodded. “Where do you want to put them?”
An evil light flashed in Lorcan’s eyes. “Everywhere. Starting with Shay’s house.”