The days began to pass on for the goblins in their newfound home. The largest island of the so-deemed Lost Isles was rapidly beginning to expand from a simple refuge to a more permanent settlement as more and more goblins began to grow accustomed to the idea of staying. The trees were tall and lush, fresh fruit grew everywhere, beautiful flowers decorated the landscape, there was rarely a cloud in the sky, the air was light and warm, and it made the goblins want to vomit. It didn't take long for the old habits of the quirky little race to begin re-surfacing; machinery littering villages, failed engineering experiments still smoldering on beach sides, thick plumes smoke rose up off the island like those of massive pyres, and pollution began to quickly spread as the goblins' wasteful natures began to show again, even if still microscopically compared to the defilement of Kezan. Being lost at sea for so long (a week being an eternity for a goblin), real "industry" had been lost. Now though, with towns cropping up around the island, the goblins were rapidly making up for lost time while the Bilgewater Cartel began to return to business as usual, in every sense of the term.
Four primary establishments were quickly created; Oomlot Village to the south, on the west side of the river, Fizwitz Village on the east side, Oostan to the north of there near the entrance to the mountains, and the impromptu Town-In-A-Box that was completely built within a matter of hours on the exact spot the goblins landed after leaving the smaller island. Commander Flagg made this town his official outpost, and, by Mida's orders, kept watch on the smaller island from which they came. The Horde and Alliance were still crawling on it, not to mention that there could possibly still be goblin survivors yet to get ashore. Oomlot Village was primarily established, and named, by Dr. Skulind, as once he found where he wanted to stay, he wouldn't move. He claimed it was an ideal geological location for healing to occur based on some pseudo-science involving the harmony of the arcane flows of magic on the planet and the elements. No one really cared why he did, but being the first doctor found on the island forced the goblins to sort of "work around him," wherever he chose to set up shop. Across the river from Oomlot was Fizwitz Village, named after Mida's father, and it was where Mida called home. There she set up her "base of operations," far away from the fighting Horde and Alliance, but also close enough to maintain communication since a vast majority of the goblins called Oomlot, the village within shouting distance from Fizwitz, their home. Some goblins dwelt within Fizwitz, but Mida's senior staff and trusted loyalists made the majority of its inhabitants. Mostly though, from her village, Mida ran many of the "operations of government," such as a crude town hall and forum, an outdoor paper and pencil factory and, of course, a place to print and coin money. Mida's own home was nearly twice the size of any other shelter on the island, and one of the few actual "huts" made of wood, mud and straw. Finally, far to the north, there was the small outpost village of Oostan. Oostan was a village of mostly hunters and scouts on the edge of the wilderness. More importantly, it was a "fall back" position nestled between two small mountain ranges that could bottleneck enemies marching on the island. Plus, not far to the east was a deep volcano crater, preventing sneak-attacks from behind by the Alliance or Horde in the area. Some goblins voiced concern for building so many villages so close to another volcano, and feared it displayed signs of activity. As usual, though, most goblins cared little to keep safety on their minds for too long.
Having vast experience in large-scale construction projects, Mida appointed Gazlowe as her Grand Foreman for all operations on the Lost Isles. He oversaw the construction of the four villages, and was quickly placed in charge as a "field general," of sorts, when scouting for resources. Within days, Gazlowe had already designated the primary lumber supply location and sniffed out two massive mineral veins that turned into small mines. Given the goblins' obsession with riches, however, and their idle and very bored hands, the mines quickly went dry. Most materials went to coining money at the goblins' demand, while a smaller percentage went to actual construction. The goblins were quite skilled in scavenging, though, and many treasures and materials were washed ashore daily, eliminating such a dire need for the raw materials to be used for such. Apparently the storm that had doomed them also consumed several other ships from all factions, races and cultures. Quickly merchants and traders cropped up on the island, and when combined with the rapidly expanding industry, resource collection and construction, it wasn't long before things began to feel like home again.
There were a small pocket of goblins, however, that were changed by their experiences of late. Their time on the Hulking Hippo, the destruction of their homeland, the loss of friends and family, and now being stranded and cut off from the rest of the world in a tropical paradise. These same goblins often romantically saw what Kezan must have looked like before industrialization, much as Mida herself felt upon initially arriving, in this new land. Because of their near-death experiences, among other reasons less common, these goblins developed a newfound respect for nature, or at the very least, the power of the elements that nearly killed them. For some reason, they had been spared the global cataclysm, the worst of which struck at the heart of the industrialized world – Kezan. Was it karma, for what the goblins had done to the planet for so many centuries? Many goblins now pondered this question as the foundations of new goblin lifestyles and even an all new goblin civilization lay before them.
But even such a philosophy couldn't stop the goblins from questing and gathering. Many goblins volunteered to excavate mines, cut and haul lumber, scout and map the island, and other small jobs for a modest income. Larger work consisted of hunting the unusually massive turtles that roamed the island. A single turtle could feed an entire family of goblins for days, not to mention their shells were large enough to fashion small shelters and goblin homes; to which they quickly became adept at constructing and, of course, furnishing. Those brave enough were hired by Flagg and Gazlowe to help fight off the native creatures of the island that appeared to be some form of mildly intelligent primates based on what early sources reported. Interestingly enough, with income being re-introduced to the goblins, luxuries quickly followed. Home, or rather shell, furnishings were crafted from natural resources, artificial lighting was beginning to be strung around the villages, and even large statues of goblin hand-symbols were carved out of tall trees and decorated the villages to further claim the island as theirs. No self-respecting goblin would dare live in a society without a beautification project, after all. Despite their diversity in occupation, nearly all goblins shared one thing; beach combing for the countless items brought in by the tide. Thanks to the cataclysm, as goblins thought of it, relics and heirlooms from all around the world, from kingdoms and empires new and old, were being tossed to their feet, and as the old goblin proverb says; where there are materials, there is materialism.
The greatest treasures, however, were all so close, yet so far, on the tiny island on which they and the wreckage of the Hulking Hippo landed. If a goblin could just get back over there again, he or she could turn a massive profit selling back to the goblins what was once theirs anyway. Of course, the screams and shouts of war between the Horde and Alliance could be heard from Town-In-A-Box all too frequently, and goblins quickly found themselves turned off to such a risky venture. Mida even issued an order banning any goblins from traveling to the island, as much as it pained her given that goblin survivors may still be trapped over there. She feared the current survivors could get hurt, or worse, their location could be compromised by a blindly greedy goblin. The general ideology of the island quickly turned the small island into the "forbidden fruit," and temptation would inevitably be the fall of one goblin sooner or later. Mida feared this, and quickly made it her top priority to somehow find a secure means to get back to the island before some mad, untrained and undiplomatic goblin found his or her own way there.
The dire nature of this issue was the topic of Mida's senior cabinet meetings nearly every day. Some goblins had even been caught either trying to steal some of the confiscated goblin jetpacks, or trying to fashion crude canoes. Today, they were to meet in her private hut in Fizwitz village. Of course, the ever-diligent Bowie was the first to arrive, and ten minutes early. Granted, such a feat wasn't exactly difficult, as his official "post" was the reception desk seven feet in front of Mida's home. He got up from the paper-filled desk, knocked on the tree-bark door gently, and stepped inside.
"Well, you're early." Mida said unsurprisingly.
"I know My Tallest." Bowie said. He tapped his tree bark clipboard and continued, "But I've finished compiling the report about the incidents likely linked to goblins attempting to reach the small island to the southwest."
Mida smiled, "On top of things as usual, Bowie."
Bowie smiled back, "Thank you, My Tallest, but actually I've come early for a favor."
"Favor?" Mida asked. She was about to ask about the nature of this favor, but then she saw Bowie rub his head painfully and a nerve throb in his forehead. "Need more of that medicine again?"
Bowie groaned, "Yes, please."
Mida barely giggled as she dug through her drawers, "More stress migraines?"
Bowie nodded, "Yes My Tallest."
Unable to find the medicine, Mida went to the next set of drawers, "Why don't you just get your own?"
Bowie stared at Mida, "Because that would require seeing the doctor. Correction… zee duke-tor!" Bowie mocked.
Mida giggled, "You know, we do have more than one doctor on the island now. What's his name, Doc… doc…"
"Doc Zapnozzle." Bowie said with a shutter, "and don't remind me." He remembered his first encounter with this goblin, complaining of headaches. All it took was the doctor's opening question – Now Bowie, it's been years since medical school, so remind me, spontaneous combustion in our species; fatal or non-fatal? – and he ran out the door as fast as his feet could carry him.
"Regardless, you should learn to take it a little easier, Bowie." Mida said. After tossing garments and small, half-built engineering devices out of the drawer, Mida gave up and turned to the third and final drawer. With a sigh, she continued, "You're in a tropical paradise for gold's sake, and you look like your head is about to implode."
"I know, My Tallest, but it can be quite difficult to keep tabs on all of these reports. Criminal reports, damage reports, construction reports, resource allocation reports, ration reports, injury reports… Oh gods the injury reports. Do you have any idea how many explosions a single, average goblin causes in one day?"
"I could take a guess." Mida said with a devilish grin. At long last, she pulled a little package of pills out of her top drawer and began to tear it open.
Bowie groaned, "It's not exactly made any easier by the amounts of paperwork, My Tallest. I mean, is it really necessary to make triplicate copies of each report? And to sign it by both myself and another senior cabinet member that was somehow involved? That stack of papers on my desk is almost as tall as I am!"
"Bowie," Mida said in a calm, soothing voice, "Just calm down." She dropped the pills into a cup of water on her table and handed it to Bowie as the pills fizzed. "It's all for a reason; safety and legal and… whatnot. We're rebuilding civilization here, Bowie, and I know it's not an easy job, and we didn't exactly choose to be the ones to do it, but we are the ones doing it now, and I know you're the best goblin for this job."
Bowie chugged the cup like a dehydrated plant and tossed it aside. He shook his head and sighed, "I know, My Tallest, and I guess you're right. I did get a minor in paperwork at A.C.M.M.E."
Mida continued with an uplifting smile, "And, I know you were eying a Masters in Beaurocracy."
Bowie grinned, "That's true, and I could have totally earned it had it… you know, not blow up with the rest of Kezan."
"Thinking about the good old days?" A third voice said almost mockingly from behind them both. Mida and Bowie both jumped as they suddenly saw Flagg in the room with them, as if out of nowhere.
Bowie, feeling his chest and head pound, asked, "Flagg? Where did you come from?"
Stoically, Flagg responded, "Need I remind you, Bowie? I'm…"
"The wind." Bowie interrupted, "Yeah, I know, I've heard it, could we go ahead and start this meeting?"
"I suppose so." Mida said, "Flagg, being in charge of defense and protection, you're the other senior cabinet member to whom this issue concerns most."
Flagg nodded, "I'm listening."
Mida looked to Bowie, who immediately pulled up his clipboard and began reading. "At 0431 this morning, a goblin was spotted via searchlight trying to paddle across to enemy territory in a hand-made canoe. The watch group at Town-In-A-Box retrieved him before he made it too far. When interrogated, in an attempt to justify his actions he quickly confessed to attempting to reach the outlying island in order to, in his words, 'make an honest buck.' It is unknown if he was spotted by the Horde or Alliance, but he did manage to cross the safety line in which Horde troops are known to scout from shore."
Mida turned back to Flagg, "Thoughts?"
Flagg nodded, "I was informed of the situation by my watchmen. Thus far intelligence tells us the Horde did not see him. I assure you, he has been properly… dealt with."
"This is the fourth time something like this has happened." Mida said, "How do they keep slipping through your guards?"
"Two reasons." Flagg said, "The first being that I've no trained men left in my ranks, My Tallest. They all elected to side with Maldy when he escaped the ship. I'm making do with what I can among the survivors, but goblins are not the most skilled of warriors, let alone the most loyal, which is the second reason. These goblins here are not in any way shape or form military or professionally trained. With a simple bribe, you can plug their eyes, ears, noses and mouths. Worse yet, staying on watch at Town-In-A-Box tantalizes my men with a view of the small island in the distance. This last goblin that attempted to reach the island actually was one of the goblins I was attempting to train. I do what I can, My Tallest, but at the end of the day, a goblin is still a goblin, and I'll be lucky if I can even bring them up to any military standards of professionalism, let alone those of a KIA agent such as myself."
"KIA?" Bowie interjected, "Another organization?"
"Kezan Intelligence Agency." Mida said dismissively.
"But…" Bowie said, "I thought it was the UIA? Undermine Intelligence Agency?"
Flagg stared long and hard at Bowie. He took two steps towards the secretary, looked up into his eyes with a fierce squint and quietly muttered, "What?"
"But, you said…"
"There's no such thing as the UIA." Flagg barked, interrupting Bowie, "There never has been." Flagg glared at Bowie again. Bowie gulped, but just as he inflated his lungs to speak again Flagg barked, "And there's no such thing as the KIA. It doesn't exist. It never has. Got it?"
"Anyway!" Mida shouted over the bickering boys. "We need to figure out what we're going to do about this. I want to get to that island as much as the next person, but for all we know the Alliance and Horde have already gotten to our supplies anyway."
Flagg clinched his fists, "With all due respect My Tallest, do you honestly think they don't know we're over here yet? Or that we're somewhere nearby? We did leave a massive goblin vessel wrecked on their shore."
Mida sighed, "I know Commander, it's likely they do know we're here, but for some reason they have not approached us. Given how easily the Alliance turned to hostilities earlier, I will not risk provoking either side of this war further for the sake of both safety and politics."
"We destroyed two of their ships!" Flagg shouted, "As far as they care we are in the Horde."
"Which is why we have to be extra careful!" Mida shouted back, "The Bilgewater Cartel has done fair trade with the Alliance for nearly as long as the Alliance has existed. I don't know what provoked them to start attacking us, and we will defend ourselves whenever it comes to it, but as acting leader of this cartel I cannot simply give up on such a valuable contract, let alone ally, in this time of such need. I know it's unlikely, I'm still a pragmatist at heart, but if there's even the tiniest chance to save our relations with the Alliance, nearly half of the world, and to uphold the Tanaris Treaty, Commander Flagg, then isn't it worth trying?"
The words Tanaris Treaty always cut straight to Flagg's heart. He bit his lip and mumbled, "Yes My Tallest. But what would you have us do in the mean time? It's not like we can just send a diplomat."
Mida said nothing at first. There were just a few seconds of silence as she scanned her brain for a solution. Before she could find one, though, there was a shouting from outside. Mida's ears twitched, and she turned to Bowie, "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Bowie asked.
A faint voice in the distance cried, "My Tallest!"
"Someone's calling me." Mida said.
"My Tallest! It's an emergency!" The voice shouted, drawing nearer.
"Bowie." Mida said, "Check it out. Greet them for me."
"Yes My Tallest." Bowie said. He tucked his clipboard under his armpit and walked out of the hut. He came up to his desk to see two goblins running up to them. The two goblins soon saw Bowie, recognized him, and ran as fast as possible to him in a panicked huff.
"You there!" The first goblin shouted, "We must see Her Tallest… immediately!"
Bowie sighed and pulled his clipboard out. He muttered to himself and flipped through the pages. With a scratch of his head, Bowie looked at the two exhausted, dirty, terrified goblins and asked, "Do you have an appointment?"
"What?" The first goblin asked, "Well… no! Of course not! That's what an emergency…"
"Oh dear," Bowie interrupted, flipping his pages back, "Well, Her Tallest is in an important meeting right now, and her schedule is rather full today, so…"
"So?" The goblin shouted, "SO?! What part of emergency don't you understand?"
"Sir, the shouting will not help." Bowie calmly said, "And the attitude is only making it more difficult to…"
The second goblin, silent until now, lurched forward over the desk and grabbed Bowie by the collar of his robes with both hands. He yanked Bowie forward violently over the desk, knocking over his massive stacks of papers, got right up in Bowie's face and shouted, "Look here you little titmouse! There's something EVIL on this island, okay? Something big, bad and that eats goblins for lunch!"
With a whimper, Bowie lifted up his quill in one hand and his clipboard in another, "Oh look at that, I think I can pencil you in."
"Calm down Blunderfix!" The first goblin shouted. The second goblin, Blunderfix, let go of Bowie, who promptly melted back into his desk chair. He put his quill to the board and began to ask questions.
"Okay, so…" Bowie said catching his breath, "What are your names?"
"I'm Khazar." The first one said, "And this guy here is Blunderfix."
"Uh-huh," Bowie said, writing, "And what is the nature and or topic of the meeting you desire with Her Tallest?"
"Well see, it goes like this." Khazar said, "We were sent out of Oostan as a group of three hunters, out to scout the island and collect food. There was a third with us, Redcloak was what he called himself. Well, see, we went down into that volcano crater to follow these mysterious tracks we've found. They go in and out of a lot of the caves at the base of the mountain, and also straight down into the crater. We're on our way down, when suddenly Redcloak lost his footing and fell."
Bowie looked up, "Oh, is this just an accident report? I'll need another form for that…"
"No, no!" Khazar said, "Well, sort of. More like missing person, or rather, dead person."
"Dead?" Bowie shouted, "Oh, you've no idea how much paper work that'll cost me."
"Listen," Blunderfix said, "The fall didn't kill him. Redcloak fell a long ways, but he shouted up that he was okay. We told him we'd go get some more rope and fish him out, when suddenly something began to light up the bottom of the crater. Something like… red, orange… almost like lava or fire. First thing my mind went to was that the volcano was active, but it was something else. We watched on as Redcloak got up and looked down one of the tunnels. His expression wasn't that of him seeing lava, it was something worse."
"There was a roar." Khazar continued, "A loud one. A very deep, gurgling one, almost like lava churning, but far more… menacing. The light came out of the tunnel steadily as smoke rose out of it. We watched as Redcloak began to scream, and try to scramble up the side of the crater, but it was no good."
"Then it came." Blunderfix took over, "Snapping and roaring. This huge, black and red, turtle-dragon thing! It looked like a giant ball of lack molten lava, with turtle feet and a long dragon-like neck and head. And jaws! Big, big jaws! Smoke was coming out of its nostrils, and sides, and back and… everywhere! Redcloak, he… he tried to get away but…"
There was a silent pause between both disturbed goblins as they remembered the images of their helpless comrade. Blunderfix sniffed loudly and said, "He got ate. One big chomp, and his screaming got muffled and… and…"
Bowie, with a doubtful eyebrow raised, continued scribbling on his clipboard as the two trailed off into silence. He looked up at the two goblins and said, "Turtle… dragon… made of lava… right." He paused. Following procedure, Bowie checked a special box on the form and asked, "So tell me, were you two under the influence of any sort of medicine or alcohol when this alleged attack happened?"
"It was real!" Khazar shouted, "We both saw it! It lives up in that crater!"
"Well then," Bowie arrogantly said, "You won't mind taking me to him, will you?"
"Um," Blunderfix said, "Well, it's not there, anymore. It burrowed back into the ground. That's why there are tunnels and caves all over the place. Apparently he's the one making them. That's probably also why we haven't seen him yet."
"Of course." Bowie said in a very condescending, insincere tone, "Well, like I said, Her Tallest is still in the middle of a meeting anyway, but it looks like Grand Foreman Gazlowe, her one-o'clock, isn't here yet anyway, so I'm sure you'll get to talk with her as soon as…"
"My Tallest!" Another voice shouted in the distance, growing closer, "My Tallest it's an emergency!"
"Oh for crying out loud…" Bowie said, rubbing his aching head, "I'll need an aspirin the size of a kodo before this day is done."
"You there!" The new goblin shouted, "Mr… uh, Mr. Her Tallest's assistant!"
The goblin approached the desk, shoving the two hunters out of the way, and Bowie sighed "Yes?"
"My name is Fizzex. I was up sneaking around north of Town-In-A-Box, looking for some stuff to find on the shore, when I saw something!"
"Hang on," Bowie sighed. He flipped to the next page of his clipboard and began writing, "Okay, continue."
"It was a Horde banner! And it was being raised on the bluffs just north of Town-In-A-Box!"
Bowie's eyes flew open as he dropped his clipboard in shock. "The Horde? Is here? Are you sure?"
"Positive!" Fizzex said, "I went and snuck around up there – it's a Horde Lookout! There are orcs, and trolls, and tents and… flags! They're all setting up a camp on this island!"
"My Tallest!" Bowie shouted at the hut, "It's an emergency! Please come out here now!"
"So THIS is an emergency?" Khazar shouted, "But ours isn't? A handful or orc soldiers and we all lose our minds, but a giant fire-breathing turtle isn't?"
"Priorities sir!" Bowie shouted, "And, um, don't worry. We'll look into your… turtle… soon enough." Bowie ran from his desk and back up to Mida's hut. He pounded on the door and shouted, "My Tallest! It's an emergency!"
The door flew open, revealing a very disgruntled Mida who only glared at Bowie and said "I swear, if I hear that one more time today, someone's going to be shark food!"
"My Tallest!" Bowie shouted, "It's the Horde, they're here on the island!"
"What?" Mida gasped, "Where?"
"The western-most shore!" Fizzex shouted, "It's a small group, no more than a dozen soldiers, and they're still unpacking. I don't know what they're here for exactly."
"Damn it." Mida cursed, "I was hoping we'd have more time to plan before having to re-establish relations with either side. Can you lead us there?"
Fizzex nodded, "Yes, they're just north of Town-In-A-Box. I can take you whenever you're ready."
"Good." Mida said, "I suppose it's better the Horde than Alliance. Negotiating with them might not be so difficult."
"Negotiating?" Flagg shouted, "What exactly do you plan on accomplishing?"
"Simple, Flagg." Mida said, "Are we goblins, or are we goblins? We already control all the resources on this island. If they want some of it, they'll have to give a little back, and peacefully respecting our neutrality is our demand. If they agree not to fight the Bilgewater Cartel, we can re-establish our trade with them as well as have relatively safe ground to enter the southwest island via what ground the Horde still controls."
"It could backfire." Flagg said, "If the Alliance sees us with the Horde."
"I know Flagg." Mida said, "But right now we've little other option. The Horde has come to us now, and it would be best if we were the first goblins they met. Gods know what may happen if we make a bad first impression. Besides, if we can have safe passage to the island to the south, we may yet find a way to get to the Alliance Beachhead and begin negotiations. Keep in mind who controls the resources here, Flagg, and with that the power. Both Alliance and Horde won't exactly be in any position to deny us our neutral sovereignty. If one of them has an objection to us continuing our long-standing policy of funding both sides of the war equally, or at least fairly, then we simply won't trade with that one side any longer, and that's something neither side here could afford given our control of the island."
Flagg took it in for a moment, but then nodded, "Yes My Tallest."
Mida turned to Bowie and the others, who all nodded and chanted, "Yes My Tallest!"
"Good then." Mida said, "Flagg; return to Town-In-A-Box as quickly as possible. Get what goblins you can armed and ready, just in case, and barricade the road that leads east from there to Oomlot Village. You there… whatever your name is, you lead the way to the encampment. Bowie, you're coming with me. Bring your clipboard and take notes. You two hunters need to go out and spread the word to the island that the Horde has arrived, but not to panic yet. We'll pick up a few other goblins when we pass through Oomlot for a slapped-together security detail and representative body."
"Yes My Tallest!" All five surrounding goblins cried. Flagg and the hunters took off towards Oomlot to the west, while Fizzex giggled almost uncontrollably in his pride and Bowie shuffled through his papers frantically.
Mida went back to her drawers and quickly pulled out her two trusty daggers. She thrust them into her tool belt, along with her near-bursting purse of gold – the two tools a goblin needs to negotiate. She smiled as she realized this, locked the door to her hut and motioned for Bowie and Fizzex to follow. Mida grinned all the way down the road to Oomlot Village, thinking to herself, "This is it; first chance to make or break my cartel in this new world. Win or lose, peace or violence, we're going to leave an impression and show the Horde a kind of goblin they've never seen before."