Introducing a new thread in the story of Ghost.
Jägerson thought he was a goblin hunter. He thought this for the simple and straightforward reason that he spent his time and earned his keep hunting goblins. There was reasonable money to be made hunting goblins, in part because they often had stolen goods that could not readily be returned and in part because people troubled by goblins were often happy to offer bounties pre hoc or gifts post hoc.
Jägerson did not think of himself as a goblin slayer. This was a bit odd, since he had killed every goblin he had hunted, but such are the intricacies of self-definition. He also did not think of himself as a nail-biter, a swordsmith, a magician, or an expert in goblins and the fey, which was good as he wasn’t any of those things.
The reason Jägerson was thinking about what he was and wasn’t was because he was lost, and he was given to introspection when lost. Calms the soul, helps the eyes see clues afresh.
This latest goblin… the other goblins… it wasn’t like…
His thoughts were all mixed up. He drew a breath and began to speak aloud. Keeps things linear.
“Usually hunting a goblin’s pretty straight-forward. You go where it’s been, find its trail, track it down, and hit it was a sword a few times.”
It wasn’t always as simple as that, his thoughts chimed in, but that was tangential to his point so he chose not to give it voice.
“But this one’s got me stumped. Most goblin trails lead a few miles to a dank hole somewhere, but I followed this one for hours, and into a bright cheery forest too.”
Too bright and too cheery, his mind added. Too much nature to be natural. He wasn’t sure what that part of his mind meant, so he chose not to give it voice either.
“Most goblins fall after a few sword strokes but my sword crumbled like so much dry clay when it touched him. Most goblins kill and eat any prey they defeat but this one seems to have left me with no worse wounds than a bruised head and ripped-off nails.”
He looked at his finger nails again. Torn right to the quick; painful, but nothing that wouldn’t heal in a day or two. And he had been unconscious when it happened, so it couldn’t have been torture.
“So I’m guessing this means real magic.”
By “real” magic Jägerson meant the kind of magic that shows up in stories, not the trivial kind that means there are goblins and werewolves and that a sprig of anise actually can cure mummy-warts but only if you chant the right verse as you apply it. Basically, he meant that making steel crumble was pretty spooky.
“And if the goblin has real magic,” he went on, “and if those stories about magicians are really true, then the finger nails are probably part of some kind of strange spell.” He shuddered at the thought. “On top of that, there is no sign of any trail here, not my own or the goblins. So I’m stuck in a strange forest with nowhere to go, no weapon, and a magical goblin carrying around my fingernails. I have never been in so sticky a situation.”
He paused for a moment to see if he could contradict himself, but no part of his mind disagreed with that last situation. Or nearly no part; the mocking bit did say something about it was stickier when you face-planted in current jam that one time, but that part of him was always best ignored.
“Well then,” he said a last, “I suppose I might as well be going somewhere as nowhere. Lets see how my woodslore is at plotting a straight line.”
He picked east, which was approximately the way he had come from and also a bit downhill—people live by waterways so downhill was good. Good in general, but bad in this instance since he had trailed the goblin mostly downhill—west and downhill.
“Bother magic,” he said. He looked around for the sword that wasn’t hanging from his belt, then remembered why it wasn’t hanging there, shrugged, and set off as nearly eastward as he could.