Rirosorchalwen was tired of studying magic all day.
“Booooored!”1, she groaned, closing the book in front of her. She tilted her head and placed a finger to her lips, considering her options.
“Hmmmmmm.” Maybe I can just go play for a little bit…, she thought. She was supposed to study for a while longer, so of course she’d have to go out through her room’s window if she didn’t want to be discovered by her parents. She was tall for her age, but still had to stand on a chair to get started out the low window. With one leg over, the rest would have been easy—had the door to her room not suddenly opened. Uh-oh.
Wearing his usual white robe and a knowing smile, her father held the door with one hand, standing to the side as he called to her. “Riwen, sorry to interrupt your studies, but there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
Clearly in a compromising position, this was not the scolding she was expecting. She hopped down from the window and followed her father to the common room. She hoped this wasn’t going to turn into one of those times when not getting into trouble felt worse than an actual scolding. Despite their strictness, Rirosorchalwen had to admit her parents were fair. Still, not getting caught was usually preferred.
Walking behind him, she thought about how big her father seemed. Despite his relatively thin stature, the tall, scholarly-looking man with his black hair pulled into a ponytail, projected an air of confidence and wisdom. He always knew what to do and say, she thought. When she wasn’t worried about getting into trouble, she fantasized about growing up to be like him, one day.
As they arrived in the common room, Rirosorchalwen still wasn’t sure she wasn’t in trouble. However, upon taking notice of the “guest” awaiting them, she immediately forgot about what punishments might await her. The short, green-skinned creature clad in dark leather was humanoid, but unlike anything she had seen—at least with her own eyes. “Gross!”, she inadvertently blurted out, more out of fascination than anything else. From her story books, she thought it must be some kind of goblin, but he was nearly twice as tall (although just as filthy as expected).
Sitting not ten feet away from the creature, nearly finished sewing the blue silk dress she had been working on since earlier in the week, sat her closest friend and the woman she most admired. Without even raising her head, she chided her daughter, “Now, now, Riwen, is that any way to greet a guest?” The white-haired elf was as universally adored within the community as her husband, but there was something frightening about the way she spoke now, despite her calm and pleasant, almost intoxicating, voice. As if reading her daughter’s mind regarding the creature’s identity, she continued, “Mr. Assassin here is a hobgoblin visiting on behalf of the Hammerbeards, our dwarven friends.”
Wait, that didn’t sound right—first of all, ‘Mr. Assassin’ could not be a real name, because no one has a name that cool. She also remembered from her story books that goblins don’t get along with dwarves or elves. What was it doing here?
Looking more closely at their guest, Rirosorchalwen noticed that he actually seemed a bit on-edge, like he was in trouble. What a weird guy, she thought. Her father walked over to the fidgeting “Mr. Assassin” and placed a hand on his shoulder. The hobgoblin immediately straightened, as if frozen in place. That’s right. And Mr. Assassin has agreed to help with your training before going back home to his people." Then, turning to look at their guest directly, “Isn’t that right?”
“Er… ah, y-yes, this one… agreed… to help”, his deep voice doing little to mask his anxiety. Rirosorchalwen wondered what he had done. Maybe it had something to do with why he was visiting the Hammerbeards. In her storybooks, goblins of all types only tried to kill dwarves—or worse—and the dwarves often killed them back, in greater numbers. Maybe this one was special. “Umm… what kind of training is he supposed to help with?”, she asked.
“Go on, tell her what she’s to learn.”, said her father, giving their guest a slight nudge. Nearly jumping out of his skin, the hobgoblin struggled to quickly regain some composure. “هذا واحد سيتم تدريس قزم الشباب للتحرك بسرعة وبشكل حاذق.”, he responded, trudging toward the door, as if part of some arrangement Rirosorchalwen had yet to to be informed of. What was that!? She looked to her parents for clarification, but none was given.
In an even voice, sweet as honey, Rirosorchalwen’s mother addressed her and the guest, Now, go play with your new teacher for a while, Riwen. And do take good care of her, Mr. Assassin—I dread to imagine what might befall anyone who allows our dear little daughter to come to any harm." Rirosorchalwen still wasn’t sure what was happening, but decided it best not to question her mother and followed the hobgoblin, now moving more quickly, out the door. As she left, she looked back at her parents, still wondering when someone would explain what was going on. Instead, her mother continued sewing, uninterrupted, and her father flashed her a warm smile, offering a slight wave.
Translated from Elven
“Stupid! Slow! Stuuupid elf still too slow!”2
Each day, in addition to her regular studies, Rirosorchalwen chased her “teacher” through the forest, ducking beneath branches and through bushes, hopping over rocks, roots, and other pitfalls. Teacher? More like tormenter!, she cursed the hobgoblin as he hopped effortlessly around, under, or over each obstacle more quickly than she thought she ever could. Over the past few months, she often wondered if there really was any point to this “training”.
“Hurry, stupid! Catch this one!”, he yelled back to her, playfully hopping backwards over a gnarled root half his height. She had gotten used to the insults by now. Not that she didn’t still want to beat him senseless when she caught him. Show off.
Having all but mastered “conversational Goblin”, it would be another month before Rirosorchalwen could finally keep up with Brak—“Mr. Assassin’s” actual name—and another month before she considered that she might eventually move nimbly enough at his speed to catch him.
Translated from Goblin
Finally, after almost a year of chasing, taunting, stubbing her toes on rocks, and bumping her head on branches, caught he was. As she began to suspect in the final weeks, catching her teacher meant the end of his training. In the end, Rirosorchalwen found that not only had she learned a great deal about agile movement, but also terrain navigation and various makeshift traps(Brak was very proud of each one of those), thanks to this rude, smelly creature whom, by now, she almost thought of as a friend. Despite growing closer, Brak seemed greatly pleased to finally be relieved of his duties and was neither seen nor heard from again.
Rirosorchalwen still thought of him sometimes, mostly when running through the trees sparked memories of her childhood. Knowing what she now knew of goblins and their kin, he was probably dead since long ago. She hoped, for his sake, that was not the case. Whatever his fate may have been, she’d never forget his final words to her as she waved him farewell, “It is still stupid elf. At least now it is stupid, fast elf.” He turned away with a grin. A jump, flip, and leap later, he was gone.