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“They took the children!” the woman’s shrill voice still pierced Razad’s memory as he stalked through the muddy undergrowth.

“Goblins!” the man had said, “they’ve been roving up the country side, small twisted things that take our children and feed upon them!”

Razad—it should be explained—was a monster hunter, and followed the disturbance reports to this little stretch of backwater towns. He’d never met a real monster though, usually it was just a wolf or a bear in the dead of night, and people’s imaginations would run wild.

But this job was different, unnerving, he had been tracking a party of what appeared to be tiny, stunted creatures—based on their tracks—and each beleaguered, war torn town was missing their children. The piercing wail of grieving mothers was haunting, and only made worse when they were silenced by the few men who were deemed unfit for the front.

Razad left that last town some days ago, trying to focus on finding the children and tracking these strange beasts, and not focus on the bruised eyes or mangled limbs of the towns women. The Goblins were not the ones who had abused those women . . . The people weren’t right out here, the war had taken its toll on their minds. But he had a job to do.

Now he was out in the wilderness, trudging through hill dotted moors and dense shrubbery, tracking the band of Goblins whose tracks grew dense and fresh. He was drawing nearer to his prey.

As the sun set and the stars splayed across the deepening twilit sky, he made camp upon a hilltop surrounded by dense growth. The red glow dissipated into the horizon, leaving a black heath of jagged stone and rugged bush land.

It grew cold and the heath was lit by the pale starlight. Razad decided not to make a fire, which might have prolonged his life . . .

It was the encroaching rustling that alerted him to the danger, and the hissing and giggling and singing. The band of Goblins split around his little hilltop, keeping to the line of shrubbery to pass him by, and in the silence of their wake he heard the distant cry of a child in the dark.

Steeling himself, Razad crept through the dark brush in the direction the creatures had come from. If a child still lived, he was going to save it.

He eventually stumbled upon an encampment. It was a mess, with rubbish littered sleeping areas and putrid wastes lining the outer edges. Within the centre of the chaos a small child sat, filthy, shivering and wailing.

Razad slipped into the clearing and approached the child, “Hey there little one, fret not, I’m a grown up here to help.”

The kid—a young girl—turned and started screaming, crying out in terror, “Man, man!”

Razad tried to hush the toddler but, but before long the encroaching rustling returned. The Goblins encircled the camp, keeping to the line of dense shrubbery. In the starlight Razad could just make out the stunted shapes of leering creatures and the glint of rusted knives.

He scooped up the wailing child and held her close, “You won’t take this girl.” He said.

“Put her down!” a goblin emerged from the brush, a more gangly creature who pulled off a rough cloth sack from his head.

Razard gasped, it was another child, “Kid, what’s going on here?”

“You’re here to take us back to the bad adults! I won’t let you take her!”

The band of goblins hissed and skittered out of the brush, chanting and stomping their feet against the ground.

“You’re all just . . . children?” Razad could not believe his eyes.

Runaways and saviours . . . children who would not sit by and let their bereaved caregivers take out their abuses upon them. He looked down at the little girl he was holding in his arms and she glared back up at him through her tears. He had not realised she was holding a fork, she jabbed it into his side and he cried out, dropping her and sprawling over the ground. “Kill the adult!” their leader cried, and the band of kids swarmed Razad with a hacking and slashing of rusted blades.

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