~In my dreams, it was all so real. I could feel it and touch it and taste it. It was happening to me. But I know it was still coming from Azzen because there were parts that I wasn’t in and I was just watching. It was really cool to experience it in first person, but I’m still going to tell it the way I’ve told the rest of the story, to keep up the flow.~
In the morning, the two rose together and made a meal of leftovers for breakfast.
“Are you ready for a new day?” Fel asked.
“I’m always ready, every day,” Azzen replied.
“Noh. Today is different.”
“Today we make new life.”
“This was real big score, Azzo. I know you donno cuzo you new here. But this big money we got now. We live good now.”
“Oh, okay. That’s good,” Azzen said unconcerned. He was perfectly happy just being here with Fel, but if this made her happy, then he was glad for it. “So what do you want to do with the money?”
Fel grinned and began to talk. She seemed excited and it became clear that she had passed the days while he was asleep by letting her mind run through a thousand different ways to spend the gold. It had been frustrating for Fel to not be able to do anything with their treasure for so long.
She wanted dresses and jewels and sweet smelling soap for her skin. She talked of the best dishes to eat and lounging by pools of clean water and she hoped she’d stay thin. Azzen had never heard her talk like this before, she’ had always acted so frugal and practical. At the most, he’d expected her to want a fancy weapon. The boy had always seen the catty side of her, but it turned out that there was some girlie in there too. The catgirl seemed particularly pleased that Azzen didn’t care what they did with the loot, leaving it entirely up to her.
“Go ahead and buy your dresses,” he said with a smile. “I’d like to see you in them.”
“I don’t always like being in dresses…” Fel said slyly.
“Yeah, I know. I never really expected this out of you. You never mentioned wanting nice things before,” Azzen replied, missing her context entirely.
Fel smiled, unperturbed. “Just because I don’t whine doesn’t mean I don’t want. I want a lot of things that I don’t ask for…”
“Well you can have it all, you know better what to do with it anyways,” Azzen demurred.
“Right?” Fel acquiesced with a giggle. Unsure if Azzen was actually catching her drift or not, she continued on. ~Who am I kidding? Of course he didn‘t understand me. At least, not back then…~ “First we use the coins to buy two horses to carry all the armor and weapons, I met a Goblin that can give us a real good price. They are probably stole, if that okay with you…” Fel tentatively offered.
Azzen was surprised she would even bother telling him that fact and replied that it was fine. The horses were already stolen, it wouldn’t make a difference now.
“Okay, then we go to Mucktilla and sell. Mucktilla best place to sell because they like Dark weapons. Merchants here shy away and offer less gold. In Mucktilla, they get excited and you can hold out for more.”
Fel seemed to be proud of this thought, but something bothered Azzen.
“What do you mean, ‘Dark weapons?’”
“Weapons used by Black mages.”
“What’s the difference?”
“They could be imbued with magic. In fact, I’m almost sure they are. All of those men we fought were magicians, they would have imbued their weapons with Black magic.”
“I donno. That’s why regular people shy away. It could be that the blade is poisonous or that if you wield it without the proper authority, if will turn you into a toad. Or maybe it gets sharper with each cut, or burns red hot when it makes a kill. It’s very unpredictable and even just testing to find out can be dangerous. But at the same time, that makes them special. Gives them value.”
“Okay,” Azzen said. He understood the concept, but there was something still nagging at him. “So this stuff could kill you before you even know what it is.”
“Yah,” said Fel. “Some things are like that.”
“And in Mucktilla,” Azzen continued, “they like that sort of stuff…”
“Yes,” Fel said. “Very much.”
“Why do I get the feeling that Mucktilla is not the safest place to go?”
“Whaaa? No, you crazy. Mucktilla is great city. Marvelous and grand. In Center of all three kingdoms. Only city like that, because the big wizards keep it so.”
“Mucktilla is the Magic city. No allegiance. Just Magicians. Schools of Magic. Towers of Astrology. Vast underground Libraries. Great discoveries and wondrous innovations come from Mucktilla. The Magical Consul protects it. Nobody dumb enough to invade. Some say it is the fourth kingdom. Elf, Human, Goblin, and Magician. Mucktilla. But just one city. They not scary. They just not scared.”
“Oh, okay, That makes me feel a little better. I thought you were taking me to some sinister city, where they just loved black magic.”
Fel laughed. “I forget you not from here sometimes, Azzo. Mucktilla is a city bright and beautiful beyond all others. I’ve only been there once, and I’ve been longing to go back. But I never had no money, so there was never no point.”
Azzen was excited now. He wanted to see the magic city and he wanted to take Fel places she wanted to go. The way her voice lifted when she talked about it, it almost seemed like she viewed it as a vacation destination. And that sounded alright to Azzen.
“Well let’s go then,” he said happily.
The two first had to procure the horses. They traveled into town with only as much money as Fel said they needed. The girl excitedly led him through the gate and down the familiar main road to where Azzen knew would be the city center. Fel told him that this was where the Goblin said he would meet her.
This time, the fountain in the center bore a statue of a God that Fel called Fren. Fren was the God of Green. Green turned out to be Earth Magic, as Fel explained. If you wanted crops to grow or lands to shift, you needed a good Green.
“But good Greens are hard to find,” Fel went on. “The driving emotion behind Green Magic is Friendship. Kindredness. Unity, so to speak. So many in the world are selfish. Greens become more and more rare.”
“That’s a shame,” Azzen said as they entered the square. “I guess a good Fren is hard to find.”
Something was different here. The city centers he had been to before were always bustling, but this one was packed. People were cramming in, shoulder to shoulder. Fel pulled Azzen through the crowd and found her Goblin.
“What going on?” she asked.
The Goblin looked at her and then at Azzen and sneered. Or maybe Azzen just couldn’t judge Goblin facial expressions very well. He had never seen a Goblin before. This one was shorter than the average man, but very stoutly built. His skin was evening green and his eyes were yellow and a little bloodshot. His brow was thicker than a Human’s and his lips were fat and jutted out due to two large teeth shooting up out of his jowls. Other than that, he resembled a Human, just with thicker hair all around and yellow clawed fingernails.
“Prophesy been fulfilled,” he growled. It wasn’t really a growl, it was just the way he talked. He almost reminded Azzen of a cancer patient that had to talk with a voice box.
“What?” exclaimed Azzen.
Fel just “hmmm”’d pensively.
“Yah,” the Goblin continued. “Scrying water’s broke, but the Noble Green Dragon brought the news yesterday. Today the priest is gonna tell us all what the new prophesy is.”
“New prophesy?” Azzen asked.
“Yah, dah. You can’t fulfill a prophesy and then not get another one. Otherwise how would we know what to do?” the Goblin asked, seemingly irritated.
Just then a low horn blew long and deep. The large crowd immediately fell silent. Azzen looked towards the temple, but couldn’t see over some very tall men that were in front of him. He heard the voice though. He heard the words loud and clear. And they sent a chill down his spine. One sentence, One simple statement.
“The Red will fall.”
Azzen looked over at Fel, who was grimacing. She noticed his gaze and cocked a smile.
“I never believed in prophecies anyways,” she stated amiably.
Both Fel and the Goblin seemed to think they were getting a good deal with the horses. The green man even offered to let them stay the night, but Fel quickly declined, saying that the sooner they set out, the better.
They began riding the horses back to the campsite, but after a while, Fel said it was hurting her legs and that she would prefer to run. So the catgirl jogged alongside the trotting horses as Azzen guided them. He wondered who would win in a flat out sprint between the horses and the Pria.
“You know, that Goblin didn’t seem so bad,” Azzen stated, making conversation. “Where I’m from, Goblins are always portrayed as mean and evil.”
“They are,” said Fel in a flat tone. “They’re only happy when they get what they want.”
“But he gave us a good price on the horses, right?”
“Yeah, but that was only because we made a deal last night. That’s one good thing about Goblins, they honor their word. But don’t ever cross them. They’re cunning and vicious. Don’t think he’d have thought twice about killing us for a silv.”
“Ah, gotcha,” Azzen replied. He was catching on that ‘a silv’ meant one silver coin and was only a moderate sum of money.
“And don’t ever offend them. They’ll be rude to you, but don’t you dare be rude back. Even if you think you can take him on, a Goblin always has a trick up his sleeve and back-up on the way.”
The two companions got back to their campsite and uncovered the items they had hidden. As they packed everything up onto the horses, Azzen came across the sword he had liked.
“Ehy Fel,” he called. “You mind if I keep this one for myself? I really like it,” he said, holding up the sword for her to see. He felt powerful when he held it and was proud that he had taken it by taking the life of another man.
Fel looked over at him, annoyed. “We’ll see, Azzo. We don even know what it do. Could be making you crazy every time you swing it.”
“Okay,” Azzen agreed, but he clipped the scabbard onto his belt anyways and sheathed the sword in it. Didn’t hurt to be prepared, right?
“You should pick one too,” he said.
“I just told you-”
“I know. But come on, it’s kinda fun. Which is your favorite weapon?”
Fel sighed. “I guess if I had to pick one, it would be the spear. Spears are traditional Pria weapon. I’ve been trained with one since I was a cub.”
They finished packing their gear and Fel led them in a different direction from the city where they’d gotten the horses. Azzen rode, Fel walked.
“What’s it like growing up as a Pria?” the boy asked. “I mean, what are your towns like? What are your people like?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Azzo,” Fel said. “I left.”
“Oh. Why did you leave?”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it,” Fel snapped. “Mierda. If you must know one thing, then know that when a Pria leave her pride, she not welcome back. Ever.”
“Oh,” Azzen said, not sure what to say. “That sucks.”
“No it doesn’t. It was my choice,” Fel said in a tone that told him the conversation was done.
“No more talking Azzo. We run.”
Fel took off, sprinting hard ahead. She was already distant by the time Azzen figured out how to “Yah” the horses into high gear. It was uncomfortable riding on them along with all the baggage, but he didn’t complain. It was faster than he could run on his own, but apparently Fel could outrun a burdened horse. She became a dot in the distance that Azzen could only follow. The young boy resolved not to bother her about her past anymore.
Several hours later, Fel slowed down and allowed Azzen to catch up with the horses.
“We stay there,” she pointed to lights in the distance. “Mucktilla still two days travel. I want to sleep comfortably tonight.”
Azzen agreed. Sleeping on leaves tended to leave him itchy.
As the two grew nearer to the city, Fel sniffed the air.
“Something wrong,” she said in a low tone.
Azzen halted the horses. “What is it?”
“Burning. Fires. Can’t you smell it?”
Azzen sniffed the air and found that he could faintly smell soot in the air. But there was something else. “It smells different than wood fire,” he said. “What is it?”
“Flesh,” said Fel. “That’s the smell of burning flesh. But the town seems calm.”
“Yeah,” Azzen agreed. “It doesn’t look like there’s a battle going on. I don’t hear any shouting or anything.”
Fel stared intently towards the town and focused her ears forward. “Krish…” she muttered. “We should go.”
“You don’t wanna check it out?” Azzen asked, unconsciously resting his hand on the hilt of his Black sword.
“Noh. Definitely not. We should leave now.”
“Let’s go check it out,” Azzen said.
“No way! Not with all this loot. Are you crazy?”
“Come on. It will be fun. Looks like a battle,” the boy said grinning. He wrapped his fingers around the handle of his blade, gripping it tight. He felt a rush of excitement.
“Azzen. Battles are not fun.”
“Sure they are.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Fel asked suspiciously.
Azzen began leading the horses towards the town. “I’m going,” he said boldly. “No way I’m gonna miss this.”
“Azzen stop!” Fel shouted. “What’s wrong with you?!”
Azzen drew his sword out and examined it in the sun. “My blade needs blood, Fel. It’s far too clean right now.”
“That sword…” Fel said, getting an idea of what was happening. “It’s got a hold of you, Azzen. It’s Black magic. It’s making you act like this. Let go of it.”
“No, I don’t think I will, little Pria. I think I‘ll hold onto it.”
Fel jogged to catch up to the departing boy. “Azzen stop!”
“Shut up,” Azzen said casually, waving her off.
Fel grabbed him by the leg and was about to yank him off the horse, but Azzen swung the Black blade to her throat and pressed the edge into her skin.
“Don’t tempt me, Pria,” Azzen spoke coldly. “My blade wants blood, and yours seems sweet.” The boy smiled wickedly and there was a dark gleam in his eyes.
Fel froze. The Azzen she knew would never hurt her. The Azzen she knew had even pulled himself out of a Berserker rage to keep from hurting her. But how powerful was the magic in that sword? How much hold did it really have on him?
“Drop. The. Sword,” Fel stated, her veins lighting up.
Azzen laughed heartily and withdrew the blade from her neck. But he didn’t drop it, he simply turned and continued riding his horse towards the city. So it seemed to Fel that he wouldn’t actually hurt her. But he was still determined to find a battle.
“Wait,” she called after him. “At least leave the horse.”
The catgirl wasn’t about to lose her ticket to a new life.
“Noh. That’s okay,” Azzen called back.
“Well at least dump the baggage!” Fel shouted. “That way you can ride into battle more quickly.”
“Good point,” Azzen replied. He sliced expertly at the straps they had tied and cut them cleanly without so much as grazing a hair on the horse’s hide.
Their bags fell to the ground and Azzen kicked his heels, charging the horse forward.
Fel sighed as the boy raced away. “Azzo…” she muttered. Then she began loading the gear onto the other horse.
Azzen rode boldly towards the city gates, sword still in hand. The guards raised their shields as he approached. They were Goblins, which Azzen thought was weird. He had thought they were in Human territory.
Oh well, the boy thought, it will probably just be easier to start a fight.
“Halt right there, Man-thing!” one of the guards shouted.
“Nope,” Azzen replied casually.
“Ee’sed stop!” the other Goblin shouted.
“And I said no,” Azzen responded with a smile as he rode up on the two guards.
The first guard raised a spear, which Azzen swept to the side. He swung his blade back into the neck of the Goblin. The other guard slashed his sword across the horse’s chest. The horse whinnied and reared up high, dumping Azzen off the back before it galloped away.
Azzen chuckled and dusted himself off as the Goblin came at him. The green man raised his sword to strike Azzen down, but Azzen caught his attack by the wrist and deftly plunged his own blade into the gut of the Goblin.
The body slid off the boy’s blade as he smiled. It was too easy. Azzen walked into town. His sword’s thirst had not yet been satisfied. And it probably never would.
Whistles blew from some other guard that had seen the attack at the gate. Troupes of Goblins swarmed down the main road and several others slunk out of buildings and alleyways.
Azzen laughed. “What’s with this? A green parade? Is it St. Patty’s day? I thought this was supposed to be a Human town anyways.”
“Not anymore, Man-thing,” one of the closer Goblins snarled. He came at Azzen swiping a blade. Azzen blocked it easily and shoved an elbow into the Goblin’s nose. As it crunched, another Goblin came at him with an axe raised high. Azzen simply plunged his sword into the Goblin’s throat and pulled back before the axe even fell. The next enemy came at Azzen with a long glaive. Azzen leaned sideways to dodge it and then grabbed the shaft with his free hand; he directed the thrust of the blade into the chest of another enemy charging from behind, then let his sword run against the glaive wielder’s arms. The enemy dropped his long weapon and Azzen snatched it, swinging in a wide circle, causing the crowd of Goblins to back up.
The possessed boy laughed. “Is this really all you’ve got?!” he demanded. “There won’t be a single one of you left.”
As he said it, a massive fireball fell out of the sky and exploded at his heels. The bomb blew a crater into the ground and knocked Azzen backwards, throwing him twenty feet into the city wall. Both of his weapons were flung from his hands and he finally came to his senses.
What was he doing here? Why would he come here? This was such a dumb idea. Where was Fel?
“Fel?” He called out groggily as he stumbled to his feet.
Had she thrown the fireball?
“Yes you did,” growled a Goblin’s voice.
Azzen looked up. He saw a large Goblin approaching him. This one wore a crown and a kingly cape. And this one’s veins were red hot. With one hand, he was casually juggling two fireballs and he bared a wicked smile at Azzen.
“Night night,” the Goblin sneered.
Azzen raised his arms in defense, but the blow to his face exploded beyond any force he had ever felt. The punches that Fel gave him were love taps compared to this. His world went dark and all sounds faded away.
The next thing Azzen was aware of was that his head was lying on wet ground. His face felt like it was smashed in. The boy groggily sat upright and realized that his hands and legs were more than just tied, they were completely bound. His arms were wrapped up behind his back all the way up to his elbows and his legs were laced up all the way to his waist. He was trapped in a rusty metal birdcage with barely enough room to wiggle. The cage was strung up to a post in the town center. Azzen could see several Goblins lazily standing guard below him. And to his side, dangling in a cage next to him was…
“Ehehey, Azzohn… They gotchu too, yah?”
“Yah, they got me here when they first came. I wouldn’t leave the bar, yah. Now me strung up on display, neh. You too. They like big strong guys. Give us water. Good sign, yoh.”
Azzen looked down at the floor of his cage. It was solid and there was a half-inch lip that had been filled with rusty water and blood. That explained why his face was wet.
“We’re supposed to drink that?”
“Yah, yah. Is good,” Wido explained. “Mean they don’t want us die. Means they sell us as gladiators probably. That’s why it’s always good thing to go down fighting. Enemy know you worth a profit, yoh.”
“I guess,” Azzen said, trying to figure out a way to get loose. He could barely shift his arms and legs and legs at all. He glanced at Wido, who was in only a slightly larger cage and far more cramped. The big Troll was tied up in a similar way. “Oh, by the way, you’re a damn bastard,” Azzen stated.
“Ehy, I know, Azzohn. But that don’t help you now, do it?”
“Yeah, it didn’t help me then, neither.”
Wido laughed. “Yah, yah. You funny Azzohn. We may be gladiators soon, maybe you get to get even with me, neh?”
“Yah, maybe,” Azzen replied. “Any idea on how we can get out of here.”
“Yah, yah. I got a good plan,” Wido said.
Azzen was surprised by that. He shifted his eyes down at the guards. They didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the two prisoners. Actually, three of them were drinking and the fourth was passed out halfway in the fountain. Azzen noticed with sleight interest that the statue in the center was of Pria.
“Well what’s your plan?” Azzen whispered.
“It came to me when you got here, Azzohn. I wait until your girly cat come to save you, and then beg her to save me to, yah? Good plan, neh?”
Azzen sighed. “You really do just fly by the seat of your pants, don’t you?”
“Ehy, if I could fly, I’d still be in birdie cage, same as you, yoh.”
“We’ll see if she comes then,” Azzen grumbled. “I think I might have pissed her off when I left.”
The boy tried to recall exactly why or how he had departed, but found that the specifics in his memory were foggy at best.
“Yah, we’ll see or we won’t see. That be life,” Wido said sagely.
Azzen pulled a half smile. At least he had somebody he knew with him. Even if it was the same guy that had sold him out. All he could to now was pray to the statue of Pria that Fel would care enough to save him.
Fel watched with amusement as the Goblins caged Azzen next to white Wido. Two idiots. Probably the only two idiots dumb enough to get caught and caged.
“Doonkah doofa,” she muttered from the rooftop where she was crouched. Scaling the city wall without claws had been no easy task. She hoped Azzen appreciated this. Especially when she could’ve just taken all the loot and left.
As things were, the horses were tied to a tree down the road and the baggage was hastily hidden. Not her best job, but it’d have to do since she had been rushed. By the time she got back, Azzen had already been captured, and a large Goblin with a crown and cape caught her eye.
This was not the Goblin King. Fel happened to know that the Goblin King was missing an ear and a large chunk of his nose. But this Goblin certainly acted like he was in charge. And the rest of the Goblins seemed to fear and respect him. He wasn’t a Warlord. He flew no banner and Warlords weren’t allowed to wear crowns. In fact, wearing a Crown was an offense punishable by death in Goblin society, unless you were the King. This Goblin was defying their law, and he had a small army behind him.
Not only that, but he had invaded a Human city. This could start a war. Fel crept around from rooftop to rooftop, examining the going ons. The townsfolk that had resisted were killed and their charred bodies were left to litter the street; a common Goblin intimidation tactic. The Humans who had submitted were being locked in their homes.
Goblins were going through the houses one at a time, methodically removing the families, separating the men, women, and children and then looting the home of valuables, food, and supplies. They were surprisingly organized and doing a damn good job of keeping the townsfolk scared and uninformed. At this rate, all the men would be sold as slaves and the women would receive worse. Fel eavesdropped on a couple of grumbling Goblins.
“Damn meat wagon’s ‘r takin forever. Why can’t the slavers just come to us?”
“Cuz that would give away our location, numbskull.”
“Like that even matters with Frayne here.
“Quitcher grouchin. Aint so bad here, Got plenny of food an new women erry night.”
“Pshehh. You’re disgusting touchin those Man-thing wenches. I need me something green to dig my claws into.”
“There’ll be plenny of Goblettes around when we make this loot.”
“I donno about that, with Frayne sayin he wants to take on the King. You really think he can? I mean, he‘s strong, but we can‘t take on the whole Horde”
“Won’t need to. We’re gonna get the Manthings to,” the Goblin guffawed.
So they do want to start a war, Fel thought. They’ll probably just keep ransacking towns until word gets out to the Human King. With those burnt bodies laying around, everyone will know it was Goblins. If they destroy three or four towns, there won’t even be an attempt at negotiations. The Human Empire would demand blood for blood.
And this “Frayne,” would probably just slip out of the picture for the carnage, returning to usurp the crown when the Goblin King was weak. Fel could already see how it would play out. Frayne would assassinate his own King and then negotiate a treaty with the Humans. The Human King would assume Frayne had done him a favor, and at that point, both sides would be looking for an easy way to cop out of the war without looking like they were backing down. Frayne would be heralded as a civil-minded hero.
Informing the King now could avert the war, but none of the townspeople had escaped. If they’d stood up to the Goblins, they’d have had a fighting chance. But they were making it easy because they were frightened and unorganized.
There were far fewer Goblins than townsfolk. If the people only knew what was going on, they could overcome their oppressors. But even if they escaped and informed the King, the message would still be that a Goblin with a crown demolished their town.
Fel sighed. Nothing she could do about it at the moment. She’d just have to wait until night and find a way to break out Azzen. For now, she stretched out, laying in the sun on a hot roof. After a moment’s thought, the catgirl took off all her clothes and laid back down, closing her eyes. She figured if she was stuck waiting around all day, she might as well get a tan.
Plus, the hot sun on her bare skin helped charge her Red magic. But mostly, it was for the tan.
Night came and the cool breeze woke Fel. It was time to get down to business. The catgirl dressed and checked her knives. They were the only weapons she had brought, not trusting any of the other Black weapons.
The girl still had no idea how to get Azzen free, but she had to try. Though for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why.
The girl scoped out the situation. There were only two guards posted in the town center at night. They were casually talking, probably trying to keep themselves awake. They rarely checked on the prisoners, eyeing the streets more than the cages. Fel dropped silently down into an alley in a way that only a Pria could.
She faded into the shadows as naturally as an assassin and progressed near the moonlit square. When both of the guard’s backs were turned, Fel scampered towards the fountain and leapt silently onto the hidden side of the statue of Pria. Immediately the catgirl was flooded with warmth.
<Fel…> a voice whispered into her mind.
The catgirl sucked in a breath and held it.
What was that? She wondered.
Whoever it was needed to shut the hell up before those guards heard. Fel swiftly climbed the statue to a point that was well hidden from casually roaming eyes.
<Do not be afraid, Fel…>
Who was it? Where was the voice coming from?
<Do not be afraid…>
“Be quiet,” Fel breathed to words so inaudibly that the movements of her lips didn’t even reach her own ears.
<The Red will fall, Fel…>
“Yeah, so I’ve heard,” Fel silently replied.
<He is here…>
“What are you talking about?”
<Trust me, Fel… Trust yourself…>
<It won’t last long… Do it now… The shard is here.>
While everything else seemed cryptic, Fel caught the last part loud and clear. The shard was here. And she would bet her life that the Crowned Goblin had it.
Suddenly the warmth that the statue of Pria was channeling into Fel turned into searing fire. It was so intense that the girl yelped in surprise and lost her grip on the statue. She fell into the water with a splash.
The heat radiating off of Fel’s body sizzled and boiled the water around her. The two Goblin guards whirled around and saw a flaming demon rise from the water. The intensity of the flames surrounding her evaporated the entire fountain and spread out across the ground. It was so hot that the green men shouted and hopped up off the ground repeatedly as though they had stumbled onto hot coals.
Bells rang out and shouts came from around the city.
“Fel!” Azzen shouted.
“Ehy, Kitty Cat. You mind-”
Fel cut Wido off with a thrust of her arm. A stream of liquid flame burned clean through the post that was holding the cages. It toppled over and crashed to the ground while Goblins began to swarm the square. As the ground grew hotter and hotter, glowing like embers, none of the Goblins could get close.
“Is that Frayne?” one shouted, seeing Fel’s flaming body.
“Is who me?!” the Crowned Goblin barked stepping into the burning square.
Fel strode towards Azzen’s cage and ripped the door off its rusted hinges. The blazing catgirl touched his bindings and they were instantly incinerated.
“Hey!” Frayne, the Goblin leader shouted. “What do you think you’re doing?!”
Azzen climbed out of his cage. The heat on the ground didn’t bother him like it did the Goblins.
It didn’t bother Frayne either. The Goblin strode forward. Fel swung a flaming arm at him and a launched a fireball. Frayne casually swiped it aside with the back of his hand. The fireball exploded like a block of dynamite. Frayne continued walking calmly through the resulting explosion.
“Not bad, not bad,” he chuckled. “If you’re lucky, I might make you my wench.”
Fel scowled and raised her arms up, pointing her palms towards the starry sky. The ground bubbled below Frayne’s feet and then erupted into a geyser of flame. The force shot the Goblin high into the air, through the clouds, rocketing into the sky.
“WHOAAHOHOhohohohoooo…” he laughed as blew up high out of sight.
“Oh yeah,” Azzen said. “Fel, break Wido out.”
The catgirl seemed to have cooled a bit from her devilish state.
“Why?” she asked.
“Just do it,” Azzen sighed.
“Whatever.” Fel grabbed his metal door, and with considerable more effort, ripped it off.
“Thanksya, Pria. Ooh, hot hot,” Wido said, dancing on the red hot. ground. The Troll shoved a fist into the ground and appeared to yank out a cooler patch of dirt that he was able to settle on comfortably.
Fel growled. “I’m almost spent,” she told Azzen.
He could see that the ground was cooling down and around the edges, the red was fading to steam. The Goblins were edging closer and a few were throwing weapons. Wido whipped his arms out from his patch of cool earth and caught a few, flinging them back expertly.
“Well let’s get out of here.”
“Ooooohoohooooo…” Frayne called as he fell back into view. The Goblin shot a stream of flame down under him, slowing his descent towards the ground. He landed lightly on his feet.
“Yah,” said Fel. “Time to go.”
“But the party’s just started!” Frayne shouted, thrusting a fireball at Fel.
The catgirl was blown backwards and off her feet. She scrambled up and fired a bomb back, but this one fizzled down and barely poofed as Frayne brushed it aside.
“That tickled, Merca. You couldn’t even scratch my back.”
“Arright, kiddies,” Wido said, scooping the two up in his long arms. The tall Troll took an enormous leap, bounding over the surrounding Goblins and sailing over pointed spear tips and gleaming sabres. He landed and dropped Fel and Azzen down. The three sprinted off towards the city gates, escaping relatively unscathed.
Later that night, Fel cursed Azzen’s birth and name. When she brought them back to where she had stowed their loot and remaining horse, all was gone.
“And I don’t even know why I bothered rushing after you! It didn’t take twenty minutes until you were captured. If I had known you’d fail that fast, I’d have spent more time hiding it better! OohMatra youso doonkah! Tonight I tie you to a tree! Upside down! And leave you here for Wolf to eat!”
Wido was laughing heartily while Fel ranted. “Ayo Pria,” he chimed in. “Tell him what your kind do with useless male.”
“Oiyo! You no talk neither Troll, NawNoh! You talk of useless male. Iyo cutchu thru to tomorrow, Use yo head for a bowl, eat me a morning meal outa you.”
Wido hooted with laughter.
“IT AINT FUNNY, WIDO!” Fel shouted. Her veins seemed to flicker, but she was exhausted from the day. So instead, the catgirl pulled out a knife and threw it as hard as she could at the Troll’s head. Her aim was true and the blade struck him between the eyes, knocking him onto his back.
Azzen would have worried if Wido wasn’t still laughing. The Troll sat up and plucked the knife out of his forehead. It hadn’t penetrated very far, apparently he had a thick skull.
Azzen wasn’t laughing. He was taking Fel’s verbal lashings with somber dignity. She was right. She had warned him about the sword and he hadn’t listened. And as a result, all of her dreams of luxurious living had been dashed.
It wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to make her happy and have her enjoy life. He hadn’t lost anything except maybe for her affection, but he knew she would get over it. They were both physically well, fit, and healthy. But he wanted to give the catgirl more than that. And when it seemed like, for once, he finally could, he had bungled the whole deal.
“All you had to do was not get involved,” Fel muttered, finally calming down. “All we had to do was keep on going…”
“Ehy, little Pria,” Wido said, yawning. “You gotchourself involved, neh. You could have kept on going.”
“Don ack like you don’t decide for yourself,” the Troll continued. “Now I’m decidin’ to go to sleep. You two keep it down, yoh. No rough sex.”
Fel threw her other knife at the Troll, hitting him in a spot she knew was far more vulnerable and the Troll let out an uncharacteristically shrill squeal.
“OIYO! You merca… You lucky you juss saved me… We even now, remember that.”
“Not until I stab you in the back,” Fel muttered.
The Troll ignored her, laying down and closing his eyes. But he did speak again to Azzen. “Azzohn. I owe you now. Your word save me after I betray you. This is great debt I owe. I stay til I repay.”
Azzen wasn’t in the state of mind to respond right now and remained silent while Wido fell asleep.
Several minutes passed before Fel spoke again.
“Azzo,” she spoke in a low tone.
“Yes, Fel?” Azzen replied humbly, ready for more ass chewing.
But Fel wasn’t in the mood to fight anymore. There was something else on her mind.
“That Goblin, Frayne. He has the shard,” Fel stated.
“What?!” Azzen replied. “How do you know?”
“God told me,” said Fel. “We need to get it.”
“You get for me. I forgive you. Shard bring big money, yah.”
“Yah,” Azzen eagerly agreed.
“Yah?” Wido asked, cracking an eyelid. Apparently he wasn’t as asleep as he’d seemed.
“Hush Troll. No concern you,” Fel spat.
“Moany Money always concern Me, Pria,” Wido said.
“I don’t know if we can beat him on our own, Fel,” Azzen said. “He seemed pretty strong.”
Fel sighed. “Whatever. We talk in morning. Get some sleep.”
Azzen agreed. He didn’t mention that it was a stroke of luck that they just happened to have wandered into the first shard without even looking for it. He doubted Fel would appreciate that thought right now. But in his own mind he wondered.
Were they the “chosen ones”? Was it really coincidence that this was occurring, or was it really their destiny?
Other thoughts ran through his mind while he tried to rest.
Did Frayne know that the shard had materialized in him? Hopefully not.
Which Red was the new prophecy referring to? Hopefully the Goblin.
What were Wido’s intentions? Hopefully good.
Would Fel ever let him hold her again? Hopefully…
After making a fire, the catgirl laid down in it and went to sleep. Azzen dozed soon after.