Hey, sorry for the delay, again, but I did warn you that it might be a while before I posted my next chapter. Anyways, this is a little shorter than my previous chapters, but not by much. My general goal is to break the 3,000 word wall for every chapter. The previous chapters made it to over 4,000, but this one just barely broke the wall. Not from a lack of inspiration, but because I found a good place to end it. Well, enjoy, and like always, please comment and feel free to give any suggestions or criticisms that you see.
When Harry left the wand shop, he was still somewhat in a state of shock from the feeling his new focus was giving him. It felt like it had been grown just to connect to his soul and core one day. However pleasant the tingling his insides were doing, or the feeling of the tiny roots curling on the skin of his arm, there was more yet he had to do before he could go home and look over his books.
It was currently around 7:50 P.M., and the shops were all closing for the day now that families were going home to put sleepy children to bed. Harry would have been part of that crowd, but Grushulk had promised him that they could meet and talk about Goblin culture after he had gotten off of work. With that in mind, Harry made his way over to Gringotts, his satchel slung over his shoulder holding all of his new things.
The walk took only a couple minutes to complete, and that meant that when Harry reached the bank, Grushulk was still on duty. Mindful of his work, Harry just sat neatly near the feet of the goblin on one of the bank's stone steps. He figured he would just wait for the goblin to finish up.
Meanwhile, Grushulk eyed the child on the steps with amusement, making parallels between this young girl and his own little girl back home. Of course, last-minute pedestrians gave the child weird looks, some in disgust, and Grushulk made sure to give nasty, threatening glares towards those few, sending them hurrying away.
The time flew by quickly, and soon the bank was being closed down for the day. Harry watched as his goblin friend said goodbye to his coworker, and said coworker went inside, presumably to go home via the bank tunnels. Grushulk then turned to face Harry.
"Well, come inside, we'll speak more once we get to where we need to be."
Harry was ushered inside, then Grushulk turned around to lock the door with a key that positively reeked of curse magic. That feeling seemed to trickle into the door from the key, presumably to help ward the door against intruders. His thoughts about curse magic were broken, however, when Grushulk spoke again.
"I figured we could talk at my home deep under the bank, where the rest of us live. There, you can speak and act freely without worry that a human will persecute you. That, and my daughter seemed eager to meet you. She is about your age now."
Harry was excited; what better place to learn more about goblins than their home?
Grushulk spoke again. "Right now, there are no humans anywhere inside, and they can't get past the bank defenses no matter how hard they try. You can take off that cloak now, and not feel afraid of us. We are all magic kind, after all."
Of course, Harry was nervous. However, Grushulk knew he wasn't human from the very first time they had met, and the cloak he wore really was quite hot. Plus, honestly, he couldn't wait for the time where he wouldn't have to hide who he really was.
So with those thoughts in mind, Harry undid the clasps that held his cloak on his shoulders and pulled it off.
Grushulk choked on whatever he was going to say next as he got a full view of Harry's previous hidden features. The wings were obviously the most eye catching, the eyes the second, but then it was all blown away by the pretty gems resting between those startling green orbs.
Judging by the guarded look Harry was sporting, Grushulk could infer that the expected reaction was to start bowing, apologizing, or stuttering. So, he took the casual route to try and make the child more comfortable.
"You know, when I asked you to take off your cloak, I was expecting something unique, but not quite that unique."
Harry was relieved that the goblin hadn't commented on the diadem, and thanked him for his compliment. They both then went to a side tunnel in the bank that was located behind a heavy door. There was another cart there, and Harry took joy in the fact that he got to ride the cart again. This time, when they took off, they didn't pass any vault doors or mythical guardian creatures. Instead, the entire trop was made of plain rock walls lit by sparsely scattered lanterns. That all changed when they came out into a gigantic cavern lit by tiny glowing gems imbedded in the walls.
There was a city inside, made of small huts constructed with natural materials like wood, stone, and straw thatched roofs. In one area was what appeared to be a huge marketplace with stalls bartering strange looking roots, meats, and fruits. Some also held things like armor and other metal things of value. There was also what appeared to be a dueling arena where goblins were going head-to-head with weapons of all types.
Goblins of all types were running around too. Males, females, and even children. Some were dressed in suits, obviously bank tellers, but most were dressed similarly to Grushulk, in armor, leathers, or some combination of the two.
The cart had come in high near the ceiling, so Harry had a good amount of time to look around as it circled its way down into the city. Of course, their entrance started out unnoticed, but as they got closer to the ground, some of the goblins noticed their arrival, and upon catching sight of Harry, began spreading the news around.
By the time the cart screeched to a stop behind several others, a sizeable crowd had gathered around to get their first look at what could only be the heir to the magical throne, based on the jewelry he had resting on his head. There was whispering, and as soon as Harry was assisted out of the cart, goblins began bowing in respect to him.
Harry, being the shy, caring person he is, rushed over to the nearest bowed figure and started trying to convince him to treat him normally, much to the poor goblin's bewildered confusion.
However, what truly convinced him, and the other goblins, to stand up was when a little child-goblin toddled over to Harry and clung onto his leg, much to her mother's horror. The baby goblin must have only been about a foot tall and was dressed in a little fur dress and boots. When it looked up at him with gigantic soulful eyes, Harry promptly squealed and scooped her up for a cuddle.
Apparently, the image of two adorable children cuddling together was too much for the female goblins in the crowd to bear, and they swarmed the two of them like mother hens are apt to do.
That broke the ice, and the men dropped the bowing and acted normally, even if chuckles were exchanged at the behavior.
When Harry finally escaped, after handing the baby goblin to her mother, he quickly hid behind Grushulk who had been watching the whole ordeal with amusement. Harry was ushered away, presumably to Grushulk's home, and left behind the snickering of the other goblins who felt some amount of humor at his torture.
The humiliation was soon forgotten and replaced with amazement as the two of them walked down a street made of earth. There were huts on both sides, with an assortment of goblins everywhere. Harry received some strange looks, some reverent, but he was too excited to pay much attention for once. The entire trip there Grushulk was explaining the intricacies of goblin culture to the boy, using the things they saw on the way as physical examples in the explanation.
Soon, the two arrived at a hut, similar to the others, that had two young female goblins play-fighting in the clearing behind the house. Grushulk called out to the girls, and they immediately paused their battle to turn and look at the two approaching figures. At the sight of Grushulk, one of them jumped into action and rushed him, tackling the goblin and attempting to wrangle him to the ground. However, Grushulk was no pushover, and with startling ease, threw the girl onto the earth and had her pinned within seconds.
"Awe, come on! I thought for sure that I had you that time," said the girl from the ground. Grushulk just chuckled and responded, "Nice try, but your fighting is getting sloppy and your reaction time was slow. Not to mention, I am much stronger than you, and have many more years of experience under my belt, young Earthworm."
The girl pouted, and by this time, the other goblin girl had caught up and was now eying Harry from the corner of her eye. The first girl seemed to finally notice that Grushulk had brought a guest with him, and turned to face Harry.
Of course, the curiosity in her eyes was replaced by reverence once the little girl noticed the diadem on Harry's head, and she proceeded to gawp unashamedly at him. Harry shuffled uneasily in her presence, and the awkward atmosphere may have continued had Grushulk not broken up the tension.
"Now, now, little ones. My guest is simply that, a guest. And I would hope that you would treat him as you would any of our guests, despite his status."
The girls both approached him, and circled him slowly, eyeing up his form. Harry did his best to appear indifferent to their perusal, but inside, he was nervous. Finally, the girl from before spoke.
"He doesn't have much muscle on him, does he? He'll need to fix that if he ever hopes to become a true warrior like me." The girl puffed up her chest in pride.
The second girl, the one who had yet to speak, finally commented. "My father mentioned that he had recently evaluated the newfound prince and had elevated him in status. Had I realized that I would be meeting him today, I would have dressed more appropriately."
The first girl spun around to face her friend and said, "Wait, you knew he existed and didn't mention him to me? How cruel, Thornberry!"
Thornberry's eyes narrowed in mock anger, "Well, Hollyprune, how am I supposed to mention him when all you want to do is battle all day?"
Grushulk seemed to have had enough, and rounded on the two girls.
"What am I supposed to do with the two of you? Honestly, you're going to scare away our guest. Now, hurry inside and tell Mapleburn that I've arrived with our guest."
The two girls finally hurried inside, leaving Harry alone with Grushulk again. Harry let out a sigh of relief, as he was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by their excitement, especially so soon after the mobbing he had received earlier. Grushulk noticed his weariness, and hurried him inside to a mostly empty kitchen. There, a female goblin, presumably Mapleburn, cold be seen stirring something inside of a large pot on the stove. Harry was ushered onto one of the wooden stools surrounding a sturdy, oak kitchen table.
Grushulk approached Mapleburn and greeted her quietly, letting Harry have a brief moment of peace and quiet. Of course, that was when the two girls from before came rolling into the kitchen in a tangled pile of limbs. Grushulk paused his conversation, and was about to step in, if Mapleburn hadn't beat him to it.
Stomping over angrily, the female goblin yanked he two apart by the scruffs of their necks, and chastised them. "Hollyprune, what did your father say to you outside? Honestly, do you ever listen? And Thornberry, you of all goblins should know better than to get into fights. What happened to that decorum that Grushulk was telling me about just a moment ago?"
Both girls looked properly ashamed, but Hollyprune still had a spark in her eyes.
"Well, what are we supposed to do? Look at him, he's so weak. I mean, really, isn't he supposed to be the next king?" Thornberry rounded on her and started arguing.
"Didn't I just tell you about what my father said? He…"
"No! I don't care! A true warrior should have fought back against people like that, even if they were relatives!"
Harry had been confused at first, but then it all finally clicked. Thornberry must have been Ragnok's daughter, as that would explain some of the things she had said earlier. But now, he was feeling angry at the girl's words. What right did she have to judge his actions in a situation she had never been in before? Suddenly, Harry had this strong urge to prove himself, and show this girl just what he could do.
Grushulk must have noticed the expressions rapidly flitting across his face, and made a suggestion.
"Well then, if you think he's so weak, why don't you face him in combat? A little spar before dinner couldn't hurt."
Hollyprune had a fire in her eyes, and immediately rushed out of the room, only to come back a moment later with a heavy-looking axe in her hands and wearing a bit of leather armor.
Harry, who had been momentarily stunned by the suggestion, hurried to follow her outside to where she was already marking out a ring.
Grushulk appeared beside him and said, "You might want to take this seriously. From what I understand, this will be your first time in a fight, but it won't be your last. Holly has been fighting since she was a toddler, and has more experience. You, on the other hand, may be inexperienced, but you have power. You also have a will to survive that has been honed by the experiences your relatives put you through. This may only be a spar, but in our culture, not giving it your all is an insult to your opponent. Show her, and the world, that you're ready to fight."
With that, Grushulk motioned to Harry's bag that had been ignored thus far. Immediately understanding what the older goblin was referring to, Harry knelt down and dug his hand into the bag. After fumbling for a bit, he pulled out the beautiful armor he had stashed away from his vault.
Harry slowly strapped on each piece of the beautiful armor, admiring its shimmering features. When each piece had been strapped on, it fitted itself automatically to Harry's slight form. Next, Harry pulled out the battle fans that had come with the armor. He didn't really know how to use them, but when his hands wrapped around their forms, the weapons hummed and warmed reassuringly, giving him a confidence boost. Behind him, his wings, which had been demurely folded down, flared out to their full size, painting an intimidating picture to those who were watching.
The whole set glowed as soon as he had settled into it, and Harry could feel a brief pull on his magic. That was probably the feeling of the armor bonding to his magical signature. Soon after the armor finished, it was time for the two children to battle.
Grushulk stood in the center of their battle ring, Stripe around his shoulders, between the two opponents. Briefly, he explained the rules of their bout.
"There will be no serious injury. I don't want any maiming or serious broken bones. The winner will be declared when one of you either forfeits the battle or is declared unfit. Are there any more questions? No? Then let the battle begin!"
Immediately, Harry jumped back to give himself more space from his opponent. Briefly, he eyed her and made a few quick observations. First, and foremost, she was a close-range fighter. An axe that cumbersome couldn't be thrown, so in order to hit an opponent, she had to get in close. Second, she was experienced. That meant that she would have some technique with her swings. Third, she was slow. That axe was heavy, which meant that she wouldn't be able to dodge blows, but would instead try to block or fight right through them.
Coming to a conclusion, Harry determined that in order to hit her, he would have to fight from a distance, and avoid getting close by any means necessary. Harry didn't want to use his wings and fly, as that would be cheating. So, he did the next best thing, which was to tap into his powers that he had noticed before his inheritance.
So, dodging a swing from the wildly charging girl, Harry did his best to focus his mind on the ground in the ring. It took several tries, and several narrowly-dodged hits, but eventually, Harry managed to connect with seeds from deep underground. Mustering up his will, the plants rapidly grew and erupted from the ground in a spray of dirt and mud. Green vines waved in the air, several feet high, before swooping down and entangling Hollyprune. She valiantly tried to fight away the tendrils, and even managed to chop off a few pieces, but in the end, there were simply too many of them and they managed to ensnare her.
Grushulk called the match, and Harry focused his will on the tendrils, coaxing them to let the goblin girl down and retreat back in the ground. The earth inside the ring had been trashed as well, so, feeling guilty about the mess, Harry used his powers to reform the ground back into a clean, unmarred surface. In the background, a pouting Hollyprune stood, mad about her loss and not understanding why. Grushulk approached Harry to hand Stripe back over, and the snake eagerly slithered back around his charge's shoulders and hissed compliments about the fight.
The moment was interrupted by Mapleburn's voice calling them inside to clean up before dinner, as it was going on the table. With that, a stampede of hungry children, followed by a bemused adult goblin, hurried inside where delicious scents were escaping.