The two Goebleen hid behind the crenelations of the tower, peering over the lip out at their foes.
"Gob," mumbled one, "I think we're fucked."
Gob nodded, "Yup, we sure are, Gor."
Gob had both his pistols holstered while he hid behind the crenelations, a cigarette clamped between his lips. He beat his thumbs against his knees, which were pulled up against his chest. His brother sat beside him, burly and scarred for a Goebleen with teeth like spear tips, rather than needles like his brother. He wore traditional hides, stitched with clan symbols and luck fetishes given to him by their uncle. His pack sat beside him against the stone of the tower.
Gob drew his right hand pistol and flipped it around to pass it butt first to his brother.
"I suppose you'll be needing this then."
Gor accepted the pistol and gnashed his impressive teeth, "Can't exactly kneecap 'em, now can it?"
Gob nodded and asked, "You bring the drink?"
Gor nodded, "Uncle is downstairs finishing the rites, once he's had his little chat with the ancestors, he said he'd have an apprentice bring it up to you."
Gob scowled, sticking out his lower lip in a pout, "He's not maybe gonna stick around for bit, possibly?"
Gor snorted, "Not to save some pirate fort in the middle of nowhere. He'll be sticking around to get our guns when we get hacked to bits. Dad'll want the guns."
Gob sighed, "You're probably right. They're not pirates, well, ok, they are pirates. They're not stupid though. Well, I mean, they are, sometimes. Like they keep building this tower and I'm supposed to put up a wall, but we don't have a mushroom cave and I don't think they're supposed to have this place because they haven't told the other pirates they have it and I think the other pirates would get mad if they knew they had it, so they just keep lying, which isn't smart but it's cool to have a fort. They don't have a flag though and they keep calling it Fort Jagged Tooth, I think the drunk one is confused about geography because one time he said it was because of the mountains but the mountains are way over there. But they're cool, they helped kill the shits that ended Kar and Kyr, aunt Akra and aunt Alkyra both hugged me when I gave them all those ears. One is really tall. Like, really really tall. I dunno how he can stand it, and he's got two knees on each leg, it's nuts. He's got six fingers, what the fuck do you do with six fingers? One of 'em does this thing where he gets hurt, and his skin looks like dry bat shit and falls off and then fixes itself. It's weird, but cool. I think one of 'em has a drinking problem, but he's cool, seems to like us. One has these creepy giant eyes and does magic and has guns, but I don't think I've ever seen him talk to an ancestor or a familiar and none of 'em knew what Immortals were. The Known World sounds like a messed up place."
Gor nodded slowly, grinding his teeth together, "Neat."
"I feel like I should be making bombs, grenades and stuff. Uncle got the mixtures of all the powders right for bullets, and it didn't take him long to figure out grenades and I think grenades would come in handy now. "
"You're probably right, Gob. Be patient, Uncle will be done soon."
Someone called from down below at the foot of the tower in Goebleen, "Ratlings, this tower is surrounded and we outnumber you, for once. Open the door and allow us to secure our fortification and we'll allow any women among you to leave peaceably. Maintain your defenses, and we will slaughter you all."
Gob said, "How many women you bring with you?"
Gor screwed up his face and ground his teeth together, "Sixteen, I think."
"Any of 'em cousins?"
"Do we like any of them?"
"Nah, they're all uncle Lar and aunt Illy's second litter."
Gob spit out the stub of his cigarette and said, "Dad'll still be mad if we get 'em killed though."
"You're probably right."
"I'm always right," Gob said with a smile, "I'm the smartest and smallest of the litter."
Gor shrugged, but he was smirking around his huge, tusk-like teeth.
"Go eat giant dicks!" screeched Gob as he and his brother lurched atop the crenelations and unloaded six rounds each into the massed Asosans below.
There was screaming and yelling and dying, then a flight of arrows sent the brothers scurrying back into cover. Gob tossed his brother a handful of rounds as he reloaded his pistol.
"This is weird," said Gob.
"You mean hiding out in an Asosan fort waiting for Uncle to finish jawing with the ancestors before Asosans storm the place and kill us because you don't want to run away and let the Asosans have what your friends stole from them?"
Gob stuck out his tongue at his brother and said, "No, Asosans outnumbering us. How weird is that? I mean, there are lots of us. We always outnumber them, that's what we do. I don't like being outnumbered, it's a little irritating.
Gor nodded, "It sure is. Can I get a smoke?"
Gob nodded and passed his brother a cigarette. Gor accepted it and struck a match against one of his teeth. He inhaled deeply, exhaling slowly while staring up at the sky.
"Kinda cool to see the stars," he said finally, "like a bunch a torches in the sky watching us, keeping us safe from demons out here. I miss mom, and dad, grandpa too. You ever wonder if the stars are the ancestors keeping an eye on us? That'd be pretty cool."
Gob nodded, "Yeah, that'd be neat. You see dad more than I do though."
Gor shrugged, "Yeah, he's not the same though. It's different. He's all, I'm king of the Goebleen, I have to do stuff and keep the clans from infighting and the Asosans from overrunning us. I dunno. It's weird."
"My buddy Karrak, the drunk one, he wants to be an Immortal."
When Gor stopped cackling and finished wiping the tears from his eyes he said, "Can pirates even become Immortals? I wonder what their price would be."
Gob shrugged, "They met the Wanderer too, and the tall one has the Hound hunting him."
Gor laughed some more and when he stopped he asked, "Do you wanna burn this place down now, or just sit back and watch the disaster they've made of things. Could be pretty cool. The Hound and the Wanderer are involved, and one of them wants to be an Immortal and The Black Mountain is all the way on the other side of Orcunraytrel. One way or another, something entertaining is bound to happen. Actually, can I hang around? It'll be like a chronicler observing a battle, to record the events for future generations. Or something. I dunno. I'm bored."
Three more volleys of arrows had arched over their, heads while they spoke. Somewhere in the tower, someone bellowed an angry string of curses in Malstern. After the third flight clattered against the stone tower, accompanied by the cursing of Asosans, a young Goebleen in robes clambered up out of the hatch on top of the tower. He grinned at Gob and Gor and held out of fired clay vial to Gob. The liquid in the vial bubbled and hissed and when Gob brought it to his nose to sniff he immediately began sneezing and coughing. Gor and the young Goebleen chuckled.
"Time for your medicine," said Gor.
Gob grimaced and downed the brew. Once it was down, he immediately began coughing and spluttering.
The young witch looked at Gor and said, "If he throws it up, his uncle is going to be really mad."
Gob was coughing so hard tears were running from his shut eyes, but he managed to give his brother and the young witch a thumbs up. Gor and the young Goebleen looked at each other and shrugged. The Goebleen climbed back down the hatch and left the two brothers to their business.
"Hey Gor," Gob said as he stopped coughing and opened his eyes.
"I don't think we're fucked anymore."
Gor looked at his brother and his wide smile and mad eyes. His brother was stretching now and cracking his knuckles. There was an unnatural grace and agility to the way Gob moved. Gob had always been scrawny and quick, even for a Goebleen, but there was something about him now. Something of the quickness of a biting goat's snapping teeth or the ambush leap of a mountain cougar in him when he moved.
Gob began rummaging around in his pockets, pulling spare ammo and empty casings, bits of feather and leather, and the occasional piece of lint. His fingers moved like striking snakes, pulling apart bullets and emptying their powder onto a few pieces of leather. He tossed a few brass casings to his brother while he was preparing the concoctions.
"Chew those till they're jagged and sharp."
Gor set to chewing brass and spit out the fragments into a pile before Gob and Gob quickly began mixing them in with the powder. He spent a few more minutes pulling odds and ends from his pockets before folding the leather and using string to tie them into mostly round leather balls. He picked them up and began juggling the half dozen leather balls.
"Whatcha doin, Gob?"
"Magic, I think. Not sure. There's a whole bunch of stuff in my head right now. Do smell biting goat? I do. I thought it'd be neat to juggle them. This is kind of fun, I should do this more often. I wonder how many I can juggle at once. You have any rope?"
Gor found a coil of rope and held it out to Gob. Gob looked from the leather balls as they went up in the air and then at the rope.
"I didn't think that through. Do me a favor and tie it off on one of the stone thingies we hid behind."
Gor did what Gob asked.
"Ok, throw the rope over."
As he tied the rope off Gor said, "Uh, Gob, I feel like I know where this is heading and I think it's a bad idea."
"Nah, it'll be fine, just yell out attack when you think it's right."
Gob launched himself off the top of the tower, plucking the balls from the air as he did so and grabbing the rope with one hand, screeching, "Bangarang!" at the top of his lungs as he went flying over the side of the roof.
Gor felt that this was the right time, so he screamed along with his brother, "Attack!"
Thirty Goebleen came boiling out of the tower and rushed the fifty Asosans screeching and squealing like a horde of armed rats. The Asosans bellowed cries in the name of the Armiger and Asosa and the two forces met in a crunch of metal and bloody mayhem. As Gob slid down his rope he began spitting on his leather balls and lobbing them into the rear mass of Asosans. When they met the ground or the unlucky Asosan head, they exploded in blasts of fire and shrapnel and threw Asosans everywhere.
When Gob hit the ground his eyes were as big a saucers as he looked at the mangled ruin he had made of the Asosans. Then he started screeching in pain and holding his torn apart hand. The rope had shredded his palm. Gob hopped around screeching, curled over his wounded hand, completely oblivious to the waning battle around him. Completely oblivious to the battered Asosan soldier approaching him with a drawn sword.
Gor, now on the ground as well, saw the soldier and charged towards his brother screaming his name. Gob looked up, saw the soldier and went for the gun he had given his brother. He remembered and went for his other gun, but forgot his hand. He got the revolver in hand, thumbed the hammer then completely fumbled it as his blood slick hand and torn up fingers couldn't manage the weight. The Asosan swung his sword at Gob's head and hit it at the same time Gor's body hit the soldier's arm.
The sword bit into the left side of Gob's face just as Gor slammed into it from the right, preventing his brother from losing his head. Gob fell away, holding his bleeding hand to his bleeding face. Gor latched onto the Asosan's arm with his giant teeth and wrapped his arms and legs around the limb. The Asosan dropped his sword and tried to bash his shield against the Goebleen, but Gor wouldn't let go. He gnashed his teeth and spat blood and flesh from his mouth while bellowing like an enraged biting goat. Eventually he found bone and wrenched his neck around and severed the limb midway between wrist and elbow and let go. The Asosan topped over, pale and on the verge of passing out. Gor leapt atop the fallen Asosan and tore his throat out. He stood atop the Asosan's chest with his fists clenched, hissing and spitting blood through his gnashing teeth. He shook his head back and forth for a moment and then ran to his brother.
The left side of Gob's face was gashed open, his eye gone and the tip of his ear clipped off.
Gor screamed, "Witch!"
Gob and Gor's uncle appeared from nowhere and looked at Gob, scoffing.
"I knew this was a bad idea, nephews."
"Uncle?" asked Gor.
The greatest witch among the Goebleen glared at his nephew and set aside his black staff and kneeled over his other nephew.
"This really hurts, uncle," whispered Gob.
"Of course it does, Gob. You had a sword in your face."
"How's my ear?"
"Shut up, Gob."
Gob's uncle began muttering under his breath, it sounded like a sorcerous incantation, but it might have been the mutterings of an older Goebleen lamenting the folly of young Goebleen with new toys. Sorcerous light began to fill his hands, and the flaps of skin hanging off of Gob's face quickly began to mend, though his eye was not restored and his ear remained clipped. When his uncle was done, Gob stood up. There was a thick scar running across the left side of his head from where his ear had been clipped across where his eye had been with just the smallest tip of it marking the left side of his nose.
"You've been in charge of this place for, what? Almost a week, Gob? Already you've lost an eye, a chunk of your ear, seven Goebleen lives, and my respect. How much will you sacrifice for your friends? Friends that are pirates that will most likely come for us eventually, just as the Asosans did. You belong in the warrens, fighting beside your brother for your father and I. There are young ones that look up to you, you are a legend to them, both you and Gor. They would follow you into the Underhel if you asked it of them. You could be a warleader of your people. Instead you have friends of questionable character that will inevitably betray you and our people when they decide it is appropriate."
Gob scowled at his uncle, "I won't sit in the warrens, I won't scurry around in the dark raiding Asosan cities because I'm bored. That's our problem, that's always been our problem. We sit around our fires and tell tales of the ancestors and fighting the giants and puff up our small chests. We ignore the other races because no one was there to help us when we fled here and dug our warrens. We ignore them because we think we're better because no one held our hand and saved us from our enemies. We tell ourselves that Goebleen only matter to Goebleen and that is the way it should be. I dunno what these guys are doing, but they're tough and they're funny and they're alright, so I'm going to call them friends and blow holes in giants and Asosan with them because I'm sick of sitting around the fires bragging about the past and how we never needed any other nation."
Gob's uncle looked at him for a moment and gave a small nod before saying, "And when they inevitably betray you because they don't need you anymore? Or because they want something you have? Or because the rest of the pirates decide we're in the way of their expansion and your friends decide they're just following orders?"
Gob shrugged, "I'll kill 'em myself if that happens. Told 'em I would."
"All four of them?"
Gob grinned from ear to half ear and said, "I'm quicker and tricksier now."
His uncle snorted and said, "Come Gor, we should leave this place. Your father will wish to hear of your brother's escapades."
Gor toed the ground in front of him kind of sheepishly and said, "Uh, uncle, I was kind of going to maybe stick around with Gob." He looked at his brother, "If that's alright with you."
Gob grinned at his blood soaked brother, "Of course!"
Their uncle sighed and threw up his hands and said, "Fine, go. Be among the other races. Do whatever you want. I'm old and tired and I need to properly thank the ancestors for their assistance with my sorcery this evening and I am leaving. Just make sure you kill plenty of giants and Asosans and at least pretend you have the interests of your people in mind."
The nephews and uncle exchanged hugs and the witch reclaimed his staff and apprentices before wandering away in the direction of the Goebleen warrens.
As Gob and Gor walked towards the entrance of the tower Gor asked, "What the fuck does bangarang mean?"
Gob said, "Not sure. It was rattling around my brain, felt like saying it, so I did."
Gor shrugged and nibbled on a piece of Asosan stuck in his teeth and the two brothers went into the tower to look for the cook and his cleaver before they started scalping Asosans.