Scarecrow left the severed head on the kitchen table and relieved the body of its oversized ring mail armor. Donning it took some effort as slipping his pumpkin head through the neck hole was a tight fit, but he prevailed in the end. Standing at the edge of the hallway that led from the kitchen to the rest of the house, his twiggy fingers felt the boiled leather beneath the rings that covered where the dagger had pierced him. It was far from a mortal wound, but he still felt pain there while his stuffing began to knit back together. Even among the killing, it had never occurred to him that he himself could die. Mortality was a trait he had come to associate with goblins and the commonality grated his conscience like sand.
The hallway ahead was dark, illuminated only by a halfmoon of pearly light from the window above the door. It had been ransacked just like the kitchen but showed less wonton destruction. A vase of wildflowers lay shattered on the floor spilling water and petals across the hardwood. The cabinet on which they had rested was pulled open and its contents scattered.
Scarecrow stepped across the threshold and the floorboards creaked underfoot. He paused at the rabble of odds and ends littered in front of the cabinet, tilting his head. Then he squatted down and scooped up a ragged bit of cloth and stuffing. It was a doll or had been at least. Its mismatched button eyes stared back at him from above its placid stitching smile. He turned it over. The back had been slashed open and the stuffing half pulled out as if she had been gutted to search her insides. Monsters, he thought as his eyes bent into melancholy crescents and grew a dim yellow.
With a twiggy finger he traced the doll’s lifeless smile and caressed between her button eyes. As he stared, his mind churned. He could see himself in the doll. Not literally of course but the fundamentals of his construction where there. Perhaps he himself was modeled from a form like this when his creators lovingly crafted him. Would she have been given life too?
For a moment he felt as though something might break inside his chest and then a familiar inferno burst behind his eyes. It consumed the heaviness in him and grew to a searing glow. Sacrilege! Heresy of the highest order! How DARE these vermin come to sack the temple of the creator? Scarecrow’s thoughts roared a psychic scream that rattled through him so powerfully that his wooden bones creaked. He tucked the dead doll tenderly into the pocket of his ragged trousers as his eyes flamed crimson once more.
A sound pulled him from his vengeful mulling. It was a heavy pounding as if against a door, loud enough to carry through the floor to the hallway below. Scarecrow looked up at the ceiling and cocked his earless head toward the noise. He was still listening hard trying to decern what could cause such a sound when a voice broke through. “Open the door, sweetheart. I promise I won’t hurt you. We’re just gonna have a nice chat.” The voice was deep and greasy. There was a pause. “No? You don’t want to come out to play? Well then ol’ Urlfar will just have to come to you!”
There was a sound like slapping feet pounding down the hall and then a hard thud that rattled the ceiling. The sequence repeated itself once more and Scarecrow sprinted down the hall. At the far end, he found a staircase leading up to a landing. As he mounted the stairs, a tall, helmed goblin charged from one side of the landing. He threw himself bodily against a closed oak door at the far side. The wooden frame splintered, and the door swung free. From within, a trio of screams erupted.
“Oi, don’t be like that little ones,” sneered Urlfar, menace spread thick as jelly on his words. “We’re just gonna have a nice talk.”
Scarecrow thundered up the stairs and vaulted over the railing onto the landing. Face contorted into a glowing grimace, he gripped Urlfar from behind with both hands and hurled the raider against the wall. Then silhouetted in the orange glow of the open door, he widened his footing, hoisted his shield, and readied his sickle to face the goblin leader.
Urlfar climbed to his feet, his eyes bugging and spittle foaming in the corners of his mouth. “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, lad, but that was the last mistake you’ll ever make!” The goblin squared his helm, unslung his own shield, and drew a rusty scimitar from his belt. With a throaty war cry, the goblin raced toward his waiting adversary.
A storm of strikes rained from Urlfar’s scimitar with such dizzying speed that Scarecrow would have found it easier to defend against a hurricane. The few slashes Scarecrow managed to sneak through the maelstrom were easily deflected by the seasoned warrior. The onslaught showed no signs of slowing and Scarecrow twisted, slashed, spun, and maneuvered to avoid the chopping strikes while not giving up the doorway to his roaring aggressor.
A grim smile slid into Urlfar’s eyes as he saw his opening. The Scrap Knight, or whatever the junky construct before him was, lacked cunning. He could see that now and that gave Urlfar all he needed. The goblin feigned a cut with his scimitar and watched as the Scrap Knight twisted to block with his stolen shield. Urlfar side stepped to the right and threw his weight behind his own shield, bashing into Scarecrow and pushing him off balance. Then Urlfar swung hard with the scimitar at the Scrap Knight’s exposed shield arm. The blade bit deep notching the wood of Scarecrow’s arm.
A silent howl of pain flashed across Scarecrow’s face as he recoiled from the cutting blade. Weight already on the back foot, he stepped toward the goblin and lashed with the edge of his shield. Urlfar ducked beneath the clumsy attempt with a chuckle and swung again at the threadbare cloth of the Scrap Knight’s trousers. The savage blade sank into the unprotected wood like an axe.
Scarecrow stumbled forward as his eyes went round as full moons and his mouth warped into a tormented grimace. He dropped both shield and sickle. The Scrap Knight bent forward and wrapped his arms around Urlfar’s middle. He arced his back and heaved the goblin upside down into the air. Urlfar’s dented steel helm tumbled off as the raider swore in surprise. Then Scarecrow slammed the raider headfirst into the floorboards with all the weight of his wooden frame.
Urlfar’s head bounced against the floor with a sickening crack. His vision swam as he lay dazed trying to clear his wits. Scarecrow climbed on top of the prone raider. Pressing both knobby knees into Urlfar’s chest, he squeezed the wind from the goblin’s lungs. The raider gasped for air while fog still clung to his senses. Twiggy fingers found the lost helm and raised it high above Scarecrow’s head. His eyes burned bright and wild. For a moment, when those hellish eyes burned a torrent, Urlfar thought he caught the faintest whiff of brimstone. Then he thought no more. Hot blood spattered the landing walls as the Scrap Knight brought the helm down again and again on Urlfar’s face until it was nothing more than pulp and splintered bone.