A band of goblins huddled behind their iron door, fearing to discover what horrors awaited in the throne room beyond. These tunnels were supposed to be safe- that was the entire appeal of hiding deep underground. Down here, the biggest threat to goblinkind should have been the rats… and rats were no match for the goblin king. So what was causing the commotion in the throne room?
“W-we’re not supposed to go in there!” a trembling guard cried. “Duck told us to wait outside no matter what! There’s no danger that he can’t handle better than us.”
“We have to do something,” the captain urged. “We’ve all heard the reports by now… A group of surface dwellers is creeping through our sewers. They murdered Zyt, and Goodwin couldn’t even stop them. They must have gone for our king.”
“But Goodwin told us to hide!” a meek goblin recalled.
“They tore through Goodwin’s squad,” another spoke. “If they’re in the throne room, they’ll kill us too!”
“Duck is our king,” their captain reminded the squad. “If he’s in danger, any one of us should be willing to die for him.”
The four goblins collected themselves, bracing themselves in a diamond formation before the door. “We can’t be hesitant about this,” the captain warned. “Whatever beast is in there, we’ll have to kill. There is no room for- listen.”
The screaming within the throne room had ceased; the silence remaining was so absolute that each goblin could hear only their tremored breaths. The squad remained petrified for a moment more; then, the captain pushed open the iron door.
The four goblins crept carefully down the short passageway. Emerging into the throne room, they found the area enveloped in darkness; only a faint candlelight could be seen flickering in the abyss, which soon gave way to oblivion.
As the squadron entered that dark place, an aura illuminated the candles, revealing the gruesome source of the screaming. King Duck, great and mighty as he once was, lay dead at the foot of the throne in a puddle of his own blood. His golden crown, dressed in crimson, had tumbled onto the dusty stones nearby.
The goblins knew it was their duty to determine what happened, and promptly marched closer to the scene. Now they saw clearer signs of the battle preceding. The two interlopers’ smoldering corpses rested in an oily pool. It seemed the human and dark elf had died fighting each other- somehow, in a bizarre circumstance beyond the goblins’ imaginations, they had managed to light each other on fire. It was their screams that had attracted the group to the scene.
“How could this happen?” a goblin spoke up, now assured that the danger had passed. “Duck ruled for centuries… not even King Herald could kill him. What happened here?” The group broke formation to examine the scene.
“Check the backdoor,” the captain commanded. Two of the goblins scurried behind the throne, discovering that the intruders had indeed found the backdoor, and had even placed the key in the lock. “They came so close,” one had to laugh. The goblin retrieved the key and snapped it in half. That door would never need to be opened again.
The captain knelt by his once-king’s body. “Rest easy, King Duck the Second,” he murmured solemnly. He drew Duck’s golden crown from the bloody mire and gazed at its incorruptible glint. “May your soul live on forever,” he added.
The others had begun cleaning the throne room: piling the corpses, scrubbing the stones, and retrieving anything valuable from the bad guys. “We need to alert the civilians,” one suggested. “And we need to call all commanding officers. Who survived the slaughter?”
“Someone should write to Egen,” another goblin spoke. “She’ll want to be here for the council.”
“No.” The captain’s voice demanded their attention.
“Sir,” the guard continued hesitantly. “The king had very specific instructions for succession after his death. We have to call a council, and the best among us will be chosen-”
“No,” the captain repeated. “Has Duck ever endorsed someone specific as his heir?” The others shook their heads. “Once we call a council,” he continued, “who among us do you think Egen will choose? Goodwin can’t rule, he has his own path. Who would you have lead us? A baker? A stonemason? None are Duck’s equal.”
“There’s a process to this,” the bravest guard responded. “You dishonor his memory by surpassing it.” His warning went unheeded; the captain was twirling the crown he held in his hands.
“Duck had no worthy successor,” the captain spoke to no one in particular, “and I got here first, so…” He donned the crown, and changed the goblin kingdom forever.
The captain was transformed; the crown’s magic flowed into his body, and he grew larger, stronger. His jaw protruded as his muscles strengthened, his eyes deadened. Promptly, the once-captain resembled the late king inseparably.
King Duck the Third bellowed, his rumbling, hostile laugh echoing in the cavern. The new goblin king took his place on the throne.
“Y-you can’t do that!” the guard cried. “You’re not supposed to wear Duck’s crown!”
“SILENCE!” the king roared. “I am Duck now, and there’s nothing left to be done. Now kneel before your king. I will not warn you twice.”
Reluctantly, all three goblins dropped to their knees, groveling before the new goblin king. The crown had a power that none dared to challenge.
“The old Duck was too... careful,” the king decided. “He waited far too long to retaliate against the human threat… and they killed him for it. You must all learn that there are consequences to the choices we make.”
The goblins whimpered, imagining the atrocities Duck would subject them to for their perceived misdeeds. Yet the goblin king was not interested in them.
“Go find the fallen knight,” Duck commanded, “the one who failed to stop two misfits from killing his king...
“Bring me Goodwin.”