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Wyanet and I jogged through the forest. Mist penetrated every layer of clothing. Soaked to the core, our every motion felt heavy. Kalista had abandoned us. I was certain we ran headlong into the waiting arms of a Goblin-masked death. The gentle rise of the hill emerged from the mist fifty yards ahead. Thunder rumbled overhead.
“Listen for my signal.” My hand found Wyanet’s arm. We stopped. “Once we are together again, we’ll make a break for the cave.”
Wyanet didn’t answer. Her eyes jumped at every sound. I grabbed her other arm and gave her a gentle shake.
“Wy?” The look in her eyes reminded me of a hungry animal. “Are you here?”
Wyanet focused on me, the woman I had first met months ago gazed back. She leaned her spear against her torso. Wyanet reached up and grasped the curve at the back of my head. She pulled my head to hers. Wyanet whispered in her native tongue, “Wakan takan kici un.” She let go and stepped away.
“Be safe my friend,” I whispered.
We went in separate directions. I moved to the opposite side of the gully as silently as the shadows I hid in. I scaled the rocky hill that formed the back of the cave. Despite the rain, I could smell the meat rotting on the drying rack. I clambered on my hands and knees to the top of the hill, a rumble of thunder greeted me as I approached.
From the top of the hill, I could see the drying rack. It groaned under the added weight of the dead woman from the day before. They stripped, gutted and strung her up like livestock. The cage that held the prisoners was thirty feet away. A miserable Goblin
wearing a shirt of poorly repaired rings leant on an axe with a broken beard. Huddled in the corner of the cage under a tattered tarp, the remaining woman and the gnome used the man as a pillow. The elf sat in the centre of the cage. His back was stiff as a board. He watched the cage door.
I brought my legs up and got into a low crouch. I took a few deep breaths. Pulled my sword from its scabbard, and focused my entire being on the shadows before the Goblin. I took another deep breath. I stepped off the front of the hill and into the world of shadows. Sorrow and anguish clawed at my mind, threatening to consume me. I stepped back into the material world as quickly and effortlessly as I had stepped out of it. I reappeared at the tail end of a flash of lightning, now face to face with a startled Goblin.
The Goblin jumped back against the cage. It scrambled to bring its axe up. I grinned. The Goblin opened its mouth to cry for help. My sword, honed to a razor’s edge, passed through the Goblin’s throat without effort. It gurgled once and crumpled at my feet. I flicked my wrist and cleaned off most of the brackish Goblin blood. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, a crow cawed.
“Your attempt is admirable, monk, but your subterfuge is about to be undone.” The elf said. He now stood with his arms through the bars. I couldn’t tell how old he was. One of his eyes was swollen shut, he was missing half an ear, and his once resplendent silk shirt stained with blood.
With a single strike, I cut the rope that bound the cage closed. “ What do you mean?” I asked.
The elf pointed at something behind me. I followed where he was pointing. Half a dozen crows had started to peck at the rotting meat on the drying rack. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Goblin poke its head out of a nearby tent. It held a crossbow, and it saw me before ducking back inside.
“Shit,” I mumbled to myself. “Hey!” I called to the other three captives, stealth no longer an option. “It’s time to go!”
The drying rack groaned again. Somewhere a rope snapped. Timber clattered to the ground. A drumbeat began in the centre of the camp, its tempo constant, and its volume increased. The elf stepped out of the cage. He snatched up the axe from the dead Goblin and moved ten feet closer to the Goblin camp.
The gnome woke up first. He saw me and jostled the humans awake. The Goblin drum beat was louder than the thunder. Rapid footsteps squelched in the mud.
“Hey! You lazy humans!” The elf shouted back. “Now’s your chance! In the name of the Wildmother get out of here!”
A lone Goblin charged the elf, and promptly lost its head. The elf collected the dropped Goblin sword before it hit the ground.
The humans realised what was happening and tripped over themselves to get out.
“Can you get away from here by yourselves?” I asked quickly. Several more Goblins had appeared, and the elf now fought four by himself.
The gnome spoke up. His speech hurried struggling to contain his excitement. “Yes, yes, I take them to my village, we be safe there!”
“Go, may the gods keep you safe.”
The gnome grabbed the hand of the humans. The woman pulled away. She rushed over to me and planted a kiss on my cheek. I nodded and pointed toward the hill with my sword. The man, a burly fellow with legs as thick as tree trunks, picked up the gnome, grabbed the woman’s hand, and sprinted in the direction I had first come from.
I shifted my attention to where the elf was fighting. Three more Goblins laid dead or dying on the ground. The elf fought six more, but he was losing ground. I bolted towards the fray. When I got close enough, I launched off the ground. I flew through the air, shifting my body to drive my left foot forward. My kick connected with a Goblin. The Goblin, thrown off balance, tumbled away into the mud.
I landed. A spear shaft shot towards my gut. I rolled to the side and lashed out with a heel kick. The kick caught the Goblin in the side of the head. It staggered into one of its fellows. The elf saw the opening and brought the scavenged axe down onto the Goblin’s skull. The elf jerked his axe twice. It didn’t budge. He abandoned it in time to parry a sword lunge with his off hand. A Goblin on the far left tried to hack at the elf’s forward leg with a hatchet. The elf slid his leg back. The Goblin missed. The elf tossed his sword into his right hand and plunged it through the Goblin’s throat.
I dodged another spear. I kneed its wielder in the nose. I was starting to feel like we could win.
Bowstrings twanged. I bent backwards. Two arrows, one with filthy black fletchings and the other with magnificent white, sailed through my space. I grabbed the black arrow out of the air and threw it back in the direction it had come from. There was a grunt, and I knew the other arrow had found the elf.
An arrow shaft protruded from the Elf’s right thigh. He twisted and pointed two fingers at a tent in the direction the arrows had come from. Two Goblins stood in front of the tent knocking another round of arrows. A thin streak of orange light shot from the elf’s fingers. The tent ignited. The archers scattered.
An angry roar echoed through the camp.
The fighting paused. Our current opponents backed away. They snickered and cackled.
The burning tent illuminated the camp, and I could see Blarg charging at us at the head of fifteen more Goblins.
The story will continue, May 9th
Written by: Sweeney
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