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The Goblin and the Demon by SkunkStarlight The Goblin and the Demon by SkunkStarlight

Long ago, there lived a goblin named Gruly. He was a curious sort, and wanted to see everything the forest had to offer. However, most goblins did not like to explore the forest as Gruly did, for in the forest lived a demon in black. The demon would disappear from the forest, only to return as she had done for thousands and thousands of years. Gruly grew up hearing stories of the demon, and the stories he liked most were of the treasures the demon kept in her tent. Books, rare herbs and mushrooms, strange food and devices from outside of the forest. Any goblin who could successfully raid her camp would find themselves in possession of quite wonderful things, as well as praise from their fellow goblins.

But while there was reward, there was also risk. Many a would-be thief had returned to Goblin Town, wielding cursed equipment that could not be removed, afflicted with maladies such as slow, heavy, or exhaustion curses, or, worst of all, a curse which was believed to never wear off, and for which the goblins knew of no cure, that would make them smell so bad that even other goblins would refuse to be anywhere near them, thus exiling them from their society. Gruly cared not for any risk, for he dreamed at night, over and over again, of sneaking into the tent and finding things so amazing that they made him cry with joy, and he knew that he must satisfy his curiosity, no matter what.

And so, one day, Gruly set off for the campsite. It was afternoon by the time he arrived, and when he got near, he stayed hidden and watched for a while. Satisfied by a lack of activity, he snuck forward carefully, watching his step, looking out for traps, and making sure he made as little noise as possible, just in case the demon was inside the tent. And there he was, standing by the doorway. His body stiff and his heart racing, he broke into a cold sweat and shivered before collecting himself and focusing his attention on the door. Clever as he was, he located the zipper for the door and, already knowing how to work this mechanism, proceeded to open it. And there, before him, was the place of legend.

But it was not as Gruly had dreamt it would be. It was just a normal tent, albeit a fairly large tent, with a sleeping bag and various sundries. Zipping the tent back up again, he looked around and found a strange device, a rectangle of some unknown purpose, and upon examining it, he hit a switch and it made a strange noise that scared him, causing him to drop it. Music came from the rectangle, and there was a moving picture of some kind on it now. He picked it up and pressed the strange protrusions on the device, and found himself confused as strange shapes kept coming from the top and reaching the bottom. Eventually, the shapes stacked to the top, and the abrupt noise this made scared him once again. There was no time to figure this out now, and it was too dangerous to continue making noise like this, so he hit the switch again and it went back to being dormant.

Placing the device in his bag, he noticed his hunger and began to see what he could find. He spied a magically sealed container with a sign that said "POISONOUS! DO NOT EAT!". As clever as ever, Gruly broke the seal with what little magic he did know, and to his great surprise he found a beautiful pie, fresh and only missing one slice, and filled with a gorgeous purple filling. "Of course!", Gruly thought, "That sign was a bluff, for what pie would be poisonous? It must be an amazing pie, to go to such lengths to protect it!". Gruly laughed to himself, taking pride in his brilliant deduction, as well as the fact that he, a young goblin, continued to outwit this ancient and cunning forest demon.

And Gruly's doubts went away as he took his first bite. Such a pleasantly mild and refreshing berry flavor, and... oh, it has a really unpleasant aftertaste. He continued to eat the slice of pie until it was gone. Not the best pie he's ever had, but not the worst, he thought to himself. Not enough to want another slice, but just having been able to eat this demon's rare pie at all was sweeter than any dessert could have ever been. What other secrets may lie in this pla-

Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no. To his absolute horror, he heard the sound of the tent's zipper being undone, and what did he see but a tall human woman with a tan complexion, flowing hair as dark as the night itself, and just as in the stories, garbed from head to toe in black. Gruly had had his doubts that this was actually the tent of the demon, but those doubts were now a distant memory. What was going to happen now? Would his life be ruined, or would it be ended entirely? Gruly snapped out of his paralyzing fear, and instinctively he made a mad dash past the demon and ran as fast as his little legs could take him.

"What the!?", the demon thought to herself. Looking inside the tent, she suddenly noticed to her horror that that the sealed container had been breached. Directing her attention back at Gruly, she cast a spell and before him was a large wall of ice. Gruly tried to run around it, but she continued to summon more walls of ice. "Please stop! I'm not going to hurt you!", she yelled, but Gruly had no mind for her attempts at deception. But it scarcely mattered, as the demon had sealed herself and Gruly within a circle of ice. There was no escape now. His body feeling weak from fear, his life flashing before his eyes, Gruly sat before the demon and quaked with fear, cupping his face in his hands.

"Hey, it's okay. I'm not mad at you, I just want you to tell me if you ate the pie I had in there.". Moments of silence passed, and then the demon spoke again. "The pie I had in there was very poisonous. If you ate it, I can help you, but if you leave, the poison will become very painful and you won't survive to see the morning. Please, tell me now, yes or no, did you eat the pie?". Gruly hesitated for a moment, and then weakly uttered out "N-no".

A moment later, the demon spoke. "I'm... I'm sorry for scaring you like this. I was just worried", she said. "I just... I just hope you're telling the truth". Once again pausing, she reached into her coat, bent down on her knee, and in her cupped hands were several gold coins, which she then let drop to the ground in front of the scared and crying goblin. "Here, by way of apology for keeping you captive like this. I think you've already been punished more than enough, and hopefully this will keep you out of trouble and help you have a much better day tomorrow than you did today. Please take care". She stood up and turned around, gestured her hand, and the ice around them was shattered. She walked back toward the tent, when suddenly...

"Wait", Gruly said meekly. "Hmm?", the demon replied curiously, turning around. "Y-yes. I... I did. I ate the pie. One... one slice". Gruly fell to his hands and knees, fell over onto his side, and curled up, shivering and shaking. "Please don't hurt me! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" he sobbed, consumed with more sadness, regret, and fear than he ever thought possible. "Oh, you poor thing", the demon said comfortingly, and lifted the goblin, gently rocking him in her arms. A few moments later, the demon spoke. "Here, let's get you some medicine", she said, carrying Gruly into the tent with her. Gruly didn't know if this was going to be a trick or not, but he was too scared, sad, and exhausted to even think about it or care anymore. His life was in the demon's hands, and, assuming the worst, his thoughts drifted toward fond memories of the past, and everything that he would soon be leaving behind.

Gruly noticed that he was no longer in the demon's arms, but instead on a sleeping bag, and the demon was coming towards him, holding a freshly mixed potion. "Please, drink this. I'm sorry, it won't taste good, but you need to drink all of it, okay?". Gruly sat up, and holding the potion in both hands, he drank the potion, every unpleasant drop of it, and laid back down. "Very good. You should be feeling a lot better in about an hour, but you're going to need a few more of those before the poison is gone, so you will need to stay here and rest overnight. I was planning on making some chicken for dinner, is that okay with you?".

He replied with a nod, and the demon smiled and exclaimed "Wonderful!". The demon went outside and retrieved the gift of coins that had been left on the ground. Returning to the tent, she placed them into the goblin's bag and noticed something of hers inside. "Oh, did you figure out how to play this?", she asked curiously. Gruly shook his head, and the demon's eyes lit up and she smiled. "I know! I can show you how to play! No better way to pass the time when you're unwell than video games!" she said, ending the statement with a grin and a chuckle.

Sitting down next to the goblin, she turned on the device and let him watch her demonstrate. "You have these blocks coming from the top, right? And you can move them and rotate them like this, and you want to match them up into lines. Just watch me play a little and it should make sense, and then I'll let you play while I make dinner". "A game?", Gruly thought to himself. "That was not at all what I thought this thing was. If the other goblins knew I was almost scared out of my wits by a little game, I'd never hear the end of it". Gruly laughed to himself, and the demon looked over at him, closed her eyes, and smiled a kind smile. "Do you think you've got a handle on it? If you have any trouble, just turn it off and on again, like this. Nothing bad can happen, so just mess around and you should be able to figure it all out. Just call if you need anything, I'll be right outside".

At last, dinner was ready, and the two of them sat outside by the fire on a pair of tree stumps, and under the night sky they ate. While they ate, they talked, and Gruly shared much with the demon, and the demon shared much with Gruly. She laughed when Gruly called her a demon, and claimed that she was a goddess, confirmed and denied several of the stories he had known about her, and told him that her name was Skunk. By the time dinner was over, all of Gruly's fears had melted away. In fact, he felt the happiest he had felt in as long as he could remember. Skunk noticed how relaxed and joyful he was now, and beamed the same contagious joy right back at him.

"I'm going to make you another potion. After that, you should be good until tomorrow, and then I'll make you another potion after breakfast. After that, you should be okay, but I'll give you one last potion for the road to take later in the day, just in case. I prefer to sleep during the day, so I'll be awake just outside tonight if you need anything. Make yourself comfortable, help yourself to anything that isn't sealed."

In the morning, the two of them had a breakfast of tea, beans on toast, and bacon. "Mmm, that was good. Was it to your liking?", Skunk asked the goblin. He nodded enthusiastically, and the goddess laughed and replied "I'm glad". While cleaning up a little, she began to speak again and said "I'm going to make you those last two potions. You are free to take that video game with you if you'd like, as well as anything else you'd like to bring with you. Just, please try not to encourage too many others to come here. I make quite a bit of coin from dungeon crawling, if I'm being honest, so whatever you take with you won't set me back much, but I can't afford to help the whole world. But you are welcome to return here whenever you like".

A few minutes later, Gruly and Skunk were standing outside of the tent. "How are you feeling?", she asked. "I'm good. I feel really good. I'm... I'm sorry about yesterday", he replied, tilting his head down to face the ground. Skunk got down on one knee and spoke softly to Gruly. "Hey, it's okay. We all make mistakes. I'm just glad my pie didn't kill you. I'm immune to poison, so I can enjoy stuff like that, but I would have felt no end of guilt if it ended up killing someone".

"I took a few things with me. I feel guilty about it", said Gruly. "Hey, as long as it makes you happy, that's what's important. I can get more things, and they'll probably bring you even more joy than they brought me. Pay it forward, show generosity to others, be nice to others, and the world will be a nicer place for it", she replied. Gruly was holding back tears. Skunk wrapped her arms around him, and said "Oh, you have such a good heart! You take care of yourself!". "I will! You too!", he replied. A moment later, Skunk stopped hugging Gruly and stood up, and Gruly turned and began his journey back home, the two of them waving goodbye to each other before disappearing from view.

Skunk returned to the tent to clean things up and go to bed, but she was surprised by what she found. Far from an unpleasant surprise, she noticed that a sketchpad and a set of colored pencils had gone missing, and laying on the table was a drawing of her and Gruly, sitting outside by the fire together, eating the dinner they shared that night. She sat at the table and just stared at the picture, with a smile across her face and tears running down it.

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