Chapter 16

Title: 091. Failure

Rating: G

Words: 559

A/N: This chapter DIDN'T WANT TO BE WRITTEN. I sat in front of it numerous times, trying to get what I needed down into words, but nothing seemed to work. Finally I just threw out the original idea, and wrote whatever seemed to come easiest. And in the end, I was pretty satisfied.

Crisco Copperwelder sat in his office, his precious ledgers and blueprints going unnoticed for once.

He was working on a problem, which was nothing new. But for all his great intellect, this mystery he was failing to solve.

Drawing an angry puff from his pipe, he showed his chair backwards and stood.

He was a goblin, for blast's sake!

So why in the name of Gallywix's gonads was there a human and her two brats in his house?

After hearing the whole story, he had somehow been blindsided by some sentimental whim, and given the girl the job. He had even given her a decent wage, though she had been ready to work for food and board. He was almost ashamed to call himself a goblin.

He paced the hallway, still chewing on his pipe. It wasn't just the financial aspect that was gnawing on him. A lone human, barely more than a girl, taking in greenskins? This was dangerous stuff. She was setting herself up to be accused of treason, and he was risking a lot more than his reputation if someone decided he was also guilty by proxy.

Lost in thought, Crisco meandered over to the kitchen door and stopped to look.

Sorrel was working by the counter at the end of the room, her back to the door. The troll whelp was playing by the fireplace with a couple of wooden animals. The orc toddler was napping in a hammock strung up in one corner.

The creases on the goblin's forehead deepened in a frown. What did he really know about the girl? Sure, she had told him all about what had happened to her since she found the littles, but what made her tick?

As he was puzzling this, the woman turned to stir the pot over the fire, and noticed her employer at the door.

"Oh, Mister Copp-"

"I told you girl, it's Crisco. The only people who ever call me "Mister Copperwelder" are trying to get something for free."

The human pursed her lips for a moment and then nodded. "Alright… Mr. Crisco."

One of his brows lifted almost on its own, and the girl let out an impish giggle before ducking her head and turning back to her pot.

"It'll be another half an hour before dinner is ready. Do you need something else in the meantime?"

"… Nah, I'm good." the inventor muttered around his pipe and turned on his heel.

As he returned to his office, Crisco felt like he had found a new angle on his puzzle. When he'd first seen her standing in his foyer, she'd been gaunt, exhausted, and far away from home, with two littles to care for. So this happy and eager to please thing… was she pulling something, or was it the real her, coming out now that she and the smalls had a roof over their head?

The goblin settled himself back into his chair and steepled his fingers. Maybe this research wasn't a complete failure yet. He just didn't have all the relevant data yet. He had to let the situation simmer for a while to see how it developed.

Bolstered by this new plan, the goblin nodded and picked up his pen. He'd figure this thing out, even if he had to see it through till the end. Boom or bust.