The Goblin led him to the edge of the Goblin tribe's cavern. As they walked a fine drizzle started to fall from the crystal formation that crisscrossed the ceiling. Rain held out a paw and a few small droplets landed on his paw pads. He realized belatedly that the Goblins used tents for more than just keeping the perpetual crystal light out of their eyes when they wanted to get some sleep. The ecology of the dungeon was more than anything he had imagined in his past life.
They came to the cavern wall and slipped into a small side tunnel. The light from the cavern crystals rapidly dimmed and vanished behind them. Fortunately they both had excellent night vision so this wasn't an issue as it would have been when Rain was human.
A short distance later Opal held up a hand and they came to a stop. She pulled a wooden device from a nook in the wall and Rain realised after a moment that it was some kind of handmade trap. Not hard to figure out considering the foot long dead rat inside.
Opal pulled apart the wooden frame and extricated the rat, removing a small wooden stake that had ended the rat's life in the process.
“Uhm, well it's not as big as the fish…”
“It’s fine,” said Rain taking it in paw. “A hungry person doesn't complain when given food. And I’m always hungry.”
He munched on the rat as they walked, every twenty meters or so Opal would stop and magic a new trap from some crack or hole in the wall. Most of them contained rats but two had a small lizard that was delicious if not very filling.
“You seem to have a natural affinity for caves and tunnels.”
“Well I was born to be a scout.”
“What does that mean?”
“I was born with some memories from Gobbo ancestors, a knack for telling direction, knowledge of the dungeon’s shape, how to recognize when water is near, trap making. I was lucky.”
Rain blinked at her. “Like you came out of the womb knowing this stuff?”
“Yes, exactly. Monster tribal memory is powerful. Gobbos are born knowing how to speak Common, that’s why Gobbo babies are so annoying, they can tell you exactly what they are demanding and in great detail.”
“I was going to ask how you spoke Common so well, I didn’t think Goblins would have much need for teaching.”
“We don’t, Gobbos learn mostly from tribal memory.” She shrugged. “Maybe Gobbos could make a better life for themselves if they did, but Gobbos just don’t make very nice or constructive tribes. I realised that because I was a scout and spent more time away from the tribe than other Gobbos.”
“Was your tribe the only Goblin tribe?”
“Nope. We were the great lake tribe, just one of many, though most aren't very powerful. Ours was one of the deepest, most Gobbo tribes prefer to remain near the surface. Less monsters and the levelers tend to be weaker and not as much of a threat.”
“Do you think that any of those tribes might come and try to move into your tribe's cavern now they are gone?”
“I think, that… that…”
She paused suddenly and started listening intently, her knife ears twitching.
“What is it?”
She gestured and they moved up the tunnel.
Toward the end, a flicker of light appeared. Warily they approached it trying to not make a sound. They reached the edge and peaked around the corner. An open cave met their eyes and in the centre a fire upon which a rack of rats were roasting.
Around the fire sat a half dozen Kobolds. Scaled lizard people a multitude of colours with long tails and about the same height as a Goblin.
Opal tugged Rain back.
“You know I was going to say who might move into the crystal cave?” She hooked a thumb at the light. “Those Kobolds would. They don’t like Gobbos, I don’t like Kobolds, nasty vicious things, they would love to roll over Gobbo territory.” The light flickered off her eyes as she looked at Rain with intensity.
“What should we do?”
“We should definitely kill them,” she hissed. “Kill and eat them.”
Rain gnawed on a claw. “Alright, but how? I saw them, they have spears, and while I might have tougher skin than you would expect I don't want to risk some fluke hit taking me down.”
Opal rubbed her chin. “Well, they aren't actually holding their spears, they’re on the ground by their sides, so if you can take them by surprise…”
“What did you have in mind?”
“I’ll go round the side and draw their attention, you wait here and watch, and then attack when they are distracted.”
She shifted past him and vanished into a crack in the wall. Rain settled down to watch, an eye peeking around the corner to spy on the Kobolds. They hadn't noticed anything fortunately and they seemed relaxed.
One of them belched and lazily poked at the rats roasting over the fire with his foot.
“Stupid Gobbos, just leaving their traps out,” grumbled the Kobold.
“Weird though,” said another.
“Well I’ve never seen all of the traps full when we try to steal from them, usually they check to see if they caught anything. It’s like something happened to stop them doing the rounds.”
“Pshh, it’s just Gobbo laziness, same reason we haven't seen any patrols.”
“Dunno if I believe that. Gobbos are lazy but they don't want to starve.”
“Yeah, somethings gotta have happened to ‘em. Maybe a big monster found them.”
“We can only hope!”
The group cawed with laughter.
“Hey I’m serious!” said an indignant Kobold flicking sand at the Kobold next to him with his tail.
The target Kobold spluttered sand out of his mouth and glared at the indignant Kobold.
“h-hElp,” quavered a distant voice.
“Hey, what was that?”
“Huh? I didn't hear anything.
“No, there's a voice, there it is again.”
The most attentive Kobold, and least lazy, climbed to his feet and looked around with curiosity.
At that point Opal came limping from around a corner. She’d removed all her clothes and was buck naked only covering her shame with her hands.
“Holy shit, is that a clean Gobbo?!”
Opal paused for a moment hearing that, a look of irritation momentarily crossing her face, but then she regained control of herself and kept walking.
“Why’s she naked?”
“I don't know do I. Why don't you ask her?”
“Hey, Gobbo girl, why are you naked? And why are you approaching us?”
“I- Oh gods, it was terrible! A group of Human levelers! They’ve taken over our Gobbo camp and turned us all into slaves, even worse they made us bathe!”
“See! See! I told you something had happened! I told you so!”
“Oh shut up Kiln.” One of the Kobolds tossed sand at the triumphant Kobold.
“Okay Gobbo girl so you lost your tribe, but that doesn't explain the nakedness.”
“The l-levelers, they took all of us girl Gobbos and they, they, oh I can't even say it, you know what they do to monster slaves. I escaped when one of the men tried to pin me down and ravage me, now I’m here…”
The Kobolds grumbled.
“Levelers, tchh, they get worse every year, this is our dungeon, a monsters dungeon, they got no right coming in here, even if it is Gobbos getting killed we’ll be next on the chopping block.”
“Well whatcha wanna do with this one?”
“Let's eat her.”
Opal let out a pitiful whimper.
“Eat her huh?” said one raising a brow suggestively.
“No, shutup, I mean kill her and eat her.”
“No! P-please! I’ll do anything! Just protect me!”
She scrambled toward the standing Kobold and came to her knees in front of him, clutching at his thighs
“I-I’ll do anything! I’ll be your rutting post! I got skills! I can suck the polish of a pommel, l-let me show you!”
“H-hey! Get off!”
The other Kobolds shook with laughter as the unfortunate standing Kobold tried to push off her advances.
“Ahahah! Ooh Bairns gonna do it with a dirty Gobbo! Have a bunch of half Gobbo kids!”
“N-no, I'm not! Get off me you crazed Gobbo!”
“Mind, I’ve ever seen a clean Gobbo, she’s not bad on the eyes…”
“Oh, you too? Wait till I tell your girl Kiln, she’ll run a sword up your butthole just for thinking that!”
“No wait! I was joking! Nasty ugly Gobbo! Yuck!”
By this point most of the group was rolling around belly laughing.
Rain took this as his opportunity and slunk from the wall, padding across the sand as silent as a shadow. Three seconds, four seconds, five, he saw Opal eye him from around the standing Kobold’s thighs that she was holding tightly in place.
Suddenly one of the Kobolds happened to glance his way and the Kobold froze. Rain Moved.
He shot across the remaining sand like a thunder bolt. Half the spears were collected on one side of the fire and he managed to kick them into the fire before twisting his momentum and falling on the nearest Kobold. A flickering sight of a terrified Kobold face passed his vision and then his jaws closed around his throat and he ripped out the unfortunate lizard person’s windpipe. Blood sprayed from the wound arcing with his jaws. It sprayed across the nearest Kobold from head to toe, paralysing the monster with the abrupt and unexpected violence.
The Kobolds started yelling and screaming, pure panic making them mindless. Opal took the opportunity to push the Kobold she had been harassing into the fire, the Kobold screamed as the flame licked over him. She managed to grab two of the spears and throw them in with him.
Rain launched himself from his first victim. He ignored the one who had been splattered with blood, better to focus on those who were trying to fight back than those frozen in fear. He landed on a Kobold attempting to drag one of the spears from the fire, burning his claws in the process. He hit its back hard and slammed it into the sand where he was able to get at the back of his neck unrestricted. He crunched down and crushed the Kobold’s spine instantly stilling its desperate attempts to escape.
“Behind!” screamed Opal. Rain turned just in time to dodge a Kobold carrying a smoking spear that he had managed to drag from the fire. The Kobold roared in frustration as the blade tip missed Rain’s head by inches and he tried to pivot to hit Rain with its shaft. Unfortunately for the Kobold a paw landed on said shaft and the Kobold was taken completely by surprise by Rain’s strength as Rain ripped it from his claws and smashed him around the head with it so hard it broke his neck. The Kobold corpse flopped bonelessly to the ground.
A burning Kobold ran screaming from the fire before collapsing on the sand.
Only two left standing. Opal was handling the blood-spattered one, or at least was trying to. The best she could do was fend it off as it tried to snap and bite at her. The other Kobold had the only spear that had not fallen into the fire.
“You bastard! I’ll kill you!”
It charged at Rain and he dove out of the way. The Kobold was far more prepared than its brethren however and pivoted to track Rain with the spear tip. Rain could only watch in frustration as the metal point punctured his shoulder, unable to escape its reach. He howled in agony as the Kobold pinned him to the sand.
“What new kind of monster are you!? What dark abyss did you crawl from?!” snarled the Kobold.
Rain struggled but just moving caused lances of agony to grind through his body. He was pinned like a fish and unable to escape or reach anything that might help.
“Kiln! You need to tell the tribe! Tell them that- oof”
Opal who had been backing away from the other Kobold bumped into the spear Kobold’s back, he stumbled forward and quick as lightning Rain’s paw whipped out and caught him by the ankle and pulled him over. The Kobold fell prone with a whoosh of breath, winding and stunning him. Not for long though as the Kobold felt teeth come down on his foot, and then he could no longer feel his foot, there was only pain. The Kobold looked down in horror to see the wolf creature shoving his leg into his mouth, already he had devoured up to his shin. He howled and tried to kick at the wolf monster’s head but it grabbed his free leg and its sheer strength held him as sure as iron manacles.
He could only watch and scream as the rest of his leg disappeared down the monster’s throat. Nothing could stop the sheer strength of those jaws and they scissored up from his hips and began dividing his torso in two. He blacked out as the black wolf’s nose reached his sternum.
“Hey, stupid dog! Stop eating and help me!” yelped Opal.
Rain shook himself free from the bloody gorge he had instinctively made of the Kobold’s torso and stumbled to his feet. His savage attack on the Kobold had worked the spear free but he still had to hold a paw across the agonizing wound as blood sheeted down his arm to drip from his claws onto the sand.
He caught himself and blinked a few times. Opal. Right. He glanced around and found the Goblin wrapped around a Kobold desperately trying to crawl away, using her own body to weigh him down and trip him. Rain stumbled over to him.
“I- I got him, you can let go.”
He dropped a paw on the Kobolds shoulder but his blood slicked paw and the Kobold’s smooth scales caused him to slip. He blundered into the pair and the Kobold, seeing its chance, twisted and squirmed until Opal’s hands slipped off him.
“No! Get him!”
Rain lunged and his teeth came down on the Kobold’s tail, closing like a steel trap. The Kobold ran out the length, slammed to a halt, then kept going as his tail detached itself from his butt.
Rain stared in confusion, detached tail hanging from mouth, as the tail-less Kobold vanished into a nearby tunnel.
“Gods dammit!” scowled Opal kicking the sand.
Rain dropped the tail into his paws. “What.”
The Goblin sighed. “They do that when their tails get caught sometimes, it’s an escape trick, like a lizard. It’s my fault, I should have told you they can do that.”
She crouched on the sand and looked glum.
“Will this be a problem? That he escaped?”
“Kinda. Not really. The nearest Kobold tribe is aways away, it’ll take days for him to get back and organise a raid, that is if their top Kobolds even want to... I just wanted to feed him to you and make you bigger.”
She made a circle in the sand with her fingertip dejectedly.
“Well it’s fine, five is plenty.” He winced as his shoulder twinged causing Opal to look up.
“Oh you’re hurt!” she leapt to her feet and rushed up to him and gently prodded at his wound. He hissed through his teeth.
“Oh no, this is my fault, I should have distracted them better, or- or gotten more of their spears!”
“It’s fine, really, Didn’t you think it was odd that I wasn't injured when I took on your entire tribe alone? Well, I was, but I healed.”
“Gods that's not fair, a wound like this would kill a Gobbo half of the time.”
He shrugged and winced at the pain from moving his shoulder.
“Let's just count ourselves lucky we came out alive. You didn't exactly get away unscathed either you know.” He gestured at a claw scratch across one of her cheeks.
She smiled, “A Kobold war wound is a Gobbo mark of pride.”
“Sure it is. Now strip these bodies for me.” he flicked the Kobold tail at her leg playfully.
She grumbled but moved to do so, dragging each Kobold toward the fire until they were lined up.
The Kobolds as Rain had noticed had much better gear than the Goblins. The spear heads were mostly unrusted and the few helmets they had had only a few puncture holes. Opal was quick to nab a pair of low-waist cuffed shorts one of the smaller Kobolds had worn and wiggled her hips into them. Rain tried one of the helmets on but found that it was never realistically going to fit being shaped for a Kobold’s head. He tossed it aside. Wouldn't have fit once I’ve grown a bit more anyway. He thought.
Opal found a small coin pouch which she showed to Rain. It contained five small gold coins and ten silver. More than Rain had seen at any one time in his previous life.
“Keep it. Some monster tribes trade right? Plus levelers do, though I guess a leveler is more likely to kill us and take it than offer to trade. Still, hang onto it.”
Rain passed the dismembered Kobold tail to Opal and after he had eaten the remaining rats that had been cooking over the fire Opal spitted the tail and set it to roast.
Rain rubbed his paws together looking over the Kobold spread. He could already feel his mouth watering. His stomach growled in anticipation.
“Do you think you’ll ever tire of eating?” said Opal settling in to watch with eager eyes.
“Well, would you, if you always felt like your last meal had half a day or more ago? Plus, I can't get enough of the bit that comes after… the growth. I need more.”
He dove on the nearest Kobold and blood began spattering across the sand as he enthusiastically consumed it.
One Kobold down and he rolled into a sitting position and breathing hard, his tongue lolling from his jaws. His belly gurgled as it shrank down.
“Holy shit that’s spicy! My mouth feels like it's on fire!”
“Hell no! I want more!”
Opal pulled the Kobold tail from the fire and ran it under her nose breathing in the scent.
“Gobbos love Kobold tail, after a fight we divy up the loot, top Gobbos always get the tails.”
She bit into it and moaned. “Shco fshucking gshood” she mumbled from around amouth full of tail.
“Never tried it before?”
She shook her head as she devoured the tail.
“I suppose the top Goblins would never let the lower Goblins have anything nice when they could take it for themselves. Leveler society is similar.”
She nodded absentmindedly in reply.
Rain snorted a breath from his nose and left her to it. He moved onto the next Kobold which he quickly worked through, even the claws went down his gullet to be digested. He noted he’d even started to eat bone he would have ignored before, it was just so easy to splinter and crush with his teeth and it was more food. He liked more food. As such there was little but the skull left by the time he was done.
He was Sweating with his mouth hanging open but he didn't wait. In fact, he didn't even wait for his abdomen to finish shrinking down before he began forcing the feet of the next Kobold into his mouth. The spiciness was quite addictive.
Partway through his fourth Kobold he glanced up to see Opal watching him intently and surreptitiously rubbing herself through her shorts. Next time he glanced her way she was blushing and looking away. He gravelled out a laugh as he polished off the fifth Kobold, happily slurping up its tail and gnashing it to pieces before swallowing it all down. He belched long and loud and circled a paw around his stretched stomach.
Opal silently wandered up and put a hand on the rounded surface. She watched with her lips slightly parted as it trembled and shrunk, making an impressive growling as sound as it did so.
Rain groaned as his body surged, gaining mass, pushing outward and becoming larger, his muscles swelling in size. He shivered in delight as it finished and then he stood up.
He’d gained a couple of inches since eating the Goblins and now he estimated he must be at least a foot taller than Opal, a bit more even, the top of her head came midway up his pecs. She bit her lip and placed a small hand on his chest, it looked outsized.
“M-more,” she breathed.
“Yes, more.” he agreed. “But not now, we should go back to camp, we can continue tomorrow.”
He had the Goblin girl pick out a spare change of clothes from the pile of clothing stripped from the Kobolds. He used to be human so he knew the value of having two pairs and the Kobold’s clothing was much better quality than anything the Goblins had. He almost let her take a spear but hesitated and decided to wait still. He considered picking one out for himself but his previous life had provided exactly zero experience using one and in this life he was an instinctive master of tooth and claw, best to focus on what he knew. He checked his wound and found that while it wasn't fully healed it had healed slightly and stopped bleeding making it manageable.
After burying everything and kicking out the fire to make the cavern look untouched they broke camp and left. After a short journey back, slightly delayed because Opal insisted on sidetracking to empty the rest of the rat traps for Rain to eat, they made it back to the crystal cavern and the Goblin tribe’s camp.
Thankfully it remained untouched, whatever monster tribe or monster that may have been interested in claiming it for themselves were still oblivious to its recent depopulation.
Rain made his way to a Goblin tent and crawled inside. He was pleased to see his shoulder wound had started to heal over. Soon his eyes started to drift and sleep took him.
Some time later he awoke to a noise. He stilled himself and listened carefully. Movement. With one of his eyes cracked he spied the flap of his tent open. Opal cautiously looked inside trying to not make a sound, and then carefully, like a scared rabbit, began to crawl inside.
That little bitch, this is it, I fucking knew it, this is where she backstabs me. I was wrong to trust her, gods I’m such a fool and to think I was willing to let her close after I'd already died once from being betrayed! Why, why did I let her close!
He watched carefully with a steely gaze, his paw tensing, ready to grab her and drag her close to tear her throat out.
She raised both her hands and he was confused to see that she was empty handed. His paw untensed a little as he watched and waited. She crawled up beside him, ready to stick a hidden knife in his ribs? No, she was... Putting her head on his chest?
Opal curled up beside him resting her head against his chest, her body under his arm and curling her hand through his fur. She relaxed into him.
Oh… That’s why I let her close...
Afraid to move and make her aware he was awake he watched as she fell asleep, lips slightly parted.
This... isn't bad…
Eventually sleep took him too. When he woke in the morning she was gone from his tent and neither said a word about the night before.