Gibbo & Gobbo
Best Friends Forever!
Gibbo ducked his mother’s flailing wooden spoon as he followed his siblings out of the house -- cackling as they fled her threats to feed them all to spiders if they couldn’t give her some peace and quiet. The whole pack of them ran down the street, whooping past the stone houses of their neighbors, getting wistful looks from other children and disapproving or indulgent ones from the adults.
Breathless, they all arrived at the edge of the jungle.
Gibbo was the youngest of the five and smaller than the others. He made up for his petite stature by bouncing up and down all the time.
“What are we doing, what are we doing?” he asked eagerly, eyes turned to his sister, Silca. She was always the one with a plan.
Silca looked around at the jungle and then up into the leafy heights, “Hmmm… honeyflowers!” she decreed, “A honeyflower hunt! Yes!”
Honeyflowers grew high on the big trees of the jungle, clinging to the mossy bark of the larger flora to get close to the sun. The older siblings cheered, but Gibbo paused in his bouncing for just a second, disheartened.
“S’too high for me,” said Gibbo, sadly.
“You can be our lookout,” said Silca.
“For what?” asked Gibbo.
“Forest gremlins,” said Silca seriously, while the others giggled.
“There’s no such thing!” said Gibbo, offended.
“Well…” said Silca. “You can always go home.” She turned and lead the others into the trees. Gibbo followed, without his bounce. Why did they always pick things he wasn’t good at?
“WHY DO YOU ALWAYS LOOK SO NERVOUS?!” shouted Gobbo’s father, spit flying as he banged the table with the medallion of his office. Gobbo had been dreading his father’s return from work -- knowing he would be in a terrible mood returning from the court. Not that Gobbo’s father wasn’t always in a terrible mood. Gobbo’s ears drooped and he shrank away from his father, wishing he could sink down into the floor.
“Ah, well. Ahem…” Gobbo started, trying to find the right words.
“Speak up, boy!” snapped his father, gesturing angrily.
“It’s just… sir. I didn’t… I didn’t…”
In disgust, Gobbo’s father dropped his medallion on the table and reached instead for the stick he kept by the door -- for intruders or angry stray hollerbirds or for when he was very annoyed at Gobbo.
“I didn’t qualify to begin magistrate training!” Gobbo blurted out, ashamed. He hung his head.
For a moment his father froze, and then he reached for his stick anyway.
“Spearman Gibbo!” shouted the captain, “Stop bouncing!”
Gibbo tried. He really did. But he just couldn’t stand still for more than ten minutes. The captain’s voice droned on and on about the importance and honor of the spearman’s corp, and the needs of the great pyramid and their great matriarch. It should have been interesting, but Gibbo just couldn’t stay focused. Of course, he wished to defend the endless forest and the Rinji from all intruders! But… he thought being a spearman would be more interesting.
The other new recruits groaned, all turning just a little to be able to glare at Gibbo.
Gobbo dropped his spear -- again -- crouching down entirely behind his shield while his sparring partner whapped and smacked around the rim. He didn’t get hit, but that wasn’t exactly the purpose of the drill either.
His captain strolled down the line of sparring goblins to Gobbo and kicked him from behind. “Get up! Up!” he roared. “Get your spear! Get up!” Gobbo scrambled for the spear, still with his shield raised to ward off attacks.
“What are you?” asked the captain. “A coward?”
Gibbo croached in the bushes, on a hunting excursion with his squad of spearmen. They were after the wild pigs. He managed not to bounce… until a leaf rustled up ahead. Gibbo leapt forward, first out of cover and charged the underbrush -- stabbing and shouting.
“Spearman Gibbo!” shouted his captain. “Be care--”
His voice cut off as out of the underbrush came an acid-fanged tree monkey. It bared its teeth at Gibbo, who backpedaled -- his yell turning into a scream as the creature hawked a glob of corrosive spit at the the little goblin’s face.
Standing in a crowd of spearmen, Gobbo tried not to panic. He took a deep breath, he focused on the trees in the distance. He tried to listen without really hearing the high priest telling his squad and a dozen more that they were leaving in the morning, going beyond the sacred river Qarapo to keep the humans from crossing into Rinji territory and desecrating sacred forests. They would be led by the strange goblin knight, Sir Florianus.
“The gods are good!” cried the priest. “The signs are good! March without fear! Serve the Rinji! Serve the gods! Kill the humans! All is good! Good! Good with no fear!”
Oh no, oh no, oh no… thought Gobbo. There was fear in his heart. Definitely lots of fear in his heart. He wasn’t going to serve the gods right. He couldn’t be a magistrate. He made a terrible spearman. He was bad at everything, not good.
“Now, my noble hearts, make ready!” cried Sir Florianus. He was easy to spot even in the shadows of the trees -- riding his nearly-tame hollerbird, and twirling the strange hair on his face as he watched the clearing before the goblin fighters. The humans would get here soon -- hopefully stumbling out of the trees and into the clearing so the slingers could have a crack at them before a dozen squads of spearmen joined the fight.
Gibbo trembled with excitement and Gobbo with fear, unaware of each other, with only a few souls separating them.
The humans appeared, white uniforms making them easy targets to see and their solid armor making them difficult to take down. They were singing as the marched, tramping in orderly lines as much as the trees allowed.
The slingers loosed, sending stones to rattle against the human’s breastplates and helmets, making the forest ring -- but no more effective than buzzing insects. Less, even.
“Come, noble hearts!” cried Sir Florianus. “To battle! To battle!”
He charged first, a hundred spearmen on his heels.
Carnage ensued. The humans tore through the goblins with their big metal swords and hammers. The goblins mobbed some of the slower humans, bearing them down to the ground and pulling off bits of their armor.
Gibbo got close to one of the humans, bouncing around -- dodging and weaving -- and jabbing with his spear to no effect at all. The human he faced also had a spear -- and clearly a lot more practice with it. The human stabbed towards Gibbo sharply -- and only the small goblin’s speed saved him.
“Light curse you!” said the human as Gibbo dropped his own weapon, and bounded away again and again, retreating.
Finally, Gibbo bounced in close to the human and just grabbed onto his enemy’s spear, clinging to the wooden pole so that he stayed away from the sharp edge. In disgust, the human tossed the spear and Gibbo away before drawing his sword.
Gobbo, meanwhile, ducked a blow while raising his shield -- he’d already lost his spear. The human brought down a warhammer on the shield and snapped it in half -- leaving Gobbo holding the two broken piece in shock.
Gobbo scrambled back, reached for anything else he could use to defend himself. His hand closed on a spear -- but when he tried to raise it, he realized it was a human weapon. Twice his size and far too heavy. And with another goblin already holding onto it!
Gibbo, dazed from his flight, and Gobbo, terrified, looked at each other.
Behind Gobbo, the human raised his warhammer, ready to smash the little goblin’s head in.
Gibbo leapt up, levering himself into the air and still clinging to the end of the spear. Gobbo pulled too, propelling Gibbo forward and up. Gibbo’s feet landed on Gobbo’s shoulders bringing him eye to eye with the surprised human. Gibbo jabbed with the oversized spear and Gobbo stepped back -- giving them the room they needed to maneuver the mighty weapon.
Gibbo managed to drive the point of the spear into the human’s shoulder, between the shoulder and breastplate of his armor.
They watched, stunned, as instead of bringing the warhammer up over his head and down on the two goblins, the human was pulled back by the weight of his own weapon to topple to the jungle floor.
Gibbo cheered and Gobbo gasped. In a lull amidst chaos, Gibbo hopped down to face Gobbo, shouting: “That’s amazing! Who are you? We’re going to be best friends!” Gibbo raised his hand for Gobbo to slap.
Gobbo flinched, thinking he was about to be hit. He looked nervously at Gibbo -- waiting for the other goblin to see that he was actually a coward, that everything he’d done just now was luck. That he never would have picked up that spear at all if he wasn’t trying to get away.
Gibbo’s beaming smile and raised hand didn’t waver in the least. Around them the battle continued.
Slowly, Gobbo realized what Gibbo was waiting for. Tentatively, Gobbo raised his own hand and slapped it on Gibbo’s. Gobbo found, to his surprise -- and for the first time in a long, long time -- that he was smiling too.
“Come on!” yelled Gibbo. “Let’s go-go!” He leapt back onto Gobbo’s shoulders and swung the oversized spear over their heads.
Gobbo snatched up a fallen shield in each hand and charged back into the fray. Quickly, they were surrounded by humans, but now the two goblins knew exactly what to do about it.
They spun in circles -- Gibbo balancing easily, and attacking as recklessly as he liked with Gobbo guarding his back. They pirouetted around the field, skewering their opponents and thwacking the humans with their captured spear or smashing their feet with the two shields. They rescued half the spearmen in the process. Soon the humans were ignoring all the goblins on the field except Gibbo and Gobbo and Sir Florianus.
Faced with five grim faced humans, Gobbo realized they’d been surrounded. His legs started to shake, sending a shiver through Gibbo.
“Hey!” shouted Gibbo, and he stabbed out. The human reached up with a gauntleted hand and snatched the spear -- trying to yank Gibbo off his companion’s shoulders.
With a shout, Gobbo rushed forward, giving Gibbo better leverage and swinging his shields brutally up between the human’s legs. The man let got of their spear with a grunt, freeing Gibbo to slash and stab around the pair -- knocking down the other humans for their fellow slingers and spearmen to finish off.
When the fifth one was down, Gibbo and Gobbo turned to find their next opponent… and discovered that there were none left. They’d cleared half the field between them -- defeating more humans than all the other spearmen combined.
Coming towards them was Sir Florianus, riding his wicked yellow hollerbird.
“Good show!” he called. “Well done, indeed. You, my fine pair of miscreants, are clearly soulmates. No two ways about it! But something’s not quite right… Hmmm…” he broke off, frowning.
Gibbo hopped off Gobbo’s shoulders and they exchanged a glance -- both worried that despite the congratulations, they were about to be told that their new found fighting style was too outlandish for the Rinji military.
“I’ve got it!” announced Sir Florianus with a broad smile. “Take this!” He handed Gibbo his ornate lance -- “Much better than that silly human weapon,” said the knight, conspiratorially. “Can’t have Rinji heroes fighting with foreign equipment. Wouldn’t do, wouldn’t do!” With that he guided his bird back a few steps and saluted the two goblins.
“My friends!” shouted Florianus to the watching fighters. “I give you…” he dropped his voice: “What are your names, again?”
“Ah there,” said Florianus. “I knew you were meant to be partners. That’s got a ring to it.” Then he turned back to the crowd. “I give you Sir Gibbo and Sir Gobbo! Huzzah! Huzzah!”
A chittering cheer went up from the others and Gibbo grabbed Gobbo’s hand, hoisting it up into the air in celebration.