• Matt Brown

Chapter 49

It was a curious thing, being so close to them. The struggle lay in trying not to think of them as kin. These tamed dragons were mere beasts, bred to serve. Freeing them from their chains wouldn’t be enough. Death was the only true release for them.


Even mating with them to produce viable offspring would be difficult. Young frost dragons shared a deep bond with their mothers. They would seek to learn from her before turning to their father.


Issfang sighed and looked away. Such a sad state for my kind.


He shifted his attention from the frost dragons to their masters’ camp. From his vantage on the wall he saw everything. Issfang clenched his fists when his gaze fell on the giants themselves.


Look at you, eating and drinking without a care in the world. You think yourselves kings!

As if sensing his malice one of the guards passing by on patrol paused, turning in his general direction. The human gripped his spear, visibly unnerved he was. His eyes darted back and forth searching for its source.


Issfang simply waved his hand dismissively at the human. The guard’s eyes glossed over briefly and he turned around shaking his head then began walking away.

Idiotic humans…Eadra may the exception. Possibly Wulf.


He brushed the thought aside, his focus returning to the frost giants. It was would be so easy to kill them, they would be helpless. In a panic, the dragons might even add to the chaos and lash out. It would be almost guaranteed if their riders were killed first.


A dark smile wound its way onto his face, while visions of the slaughter tantalizing his imagination. It would be the perfect stab at a race who had caused so much pain. It would be what they deserved.


“So much malice,” a graveled voice commented.


Issfang spun around to find a goblin wearing a ridiculous looking crown sitting on the sill of the wall. He wore mostly leathers and furs for warmth. There were two small daggers sheathed on each leg. The sheaths were held in place by hide cords, threaded through loops on his fur trousers.


“Volkin,” he said with a grin as he held his hand out.


Issfang curled his lip. “Don’t expect me to touch you, goblin, as I have no idea where you have been.”


Volkin laughed, his mouth seeming wider than it should have been. “Fair statement,” he replied, flashing the jagged rows of canines in his mouth. The goblin hopped off the wall, moving to the opposite side to get a better view of the giant’s camp. “I’ve known hatred,” he commented. “But yours…Runs deep.”


Issfang cast a glance to either side of himself. The guards hadn’t patrolled back yet. The towers hadn’t taken notice of Volkin either. At least not yet. The goblin didn’t seem very concerned either way.


“How are you able to see me?”


The goblin grinned wide. “This,” he said pointing to a small gem in his ‘crown’. “The warrens of my home are full of things from ancient days. Some we understand, others we don’t. This lets me know when others lie to me and when they try to keep things hidden.”


“Interesting. Does this gem tell you anything else?”


Volkin chuckled. “Perhaps it does and perhaps it doesn’t,” he replied.


“So, you say you can sense my malice toward them?”


“Whatever do you mean?” he replied. “Aside from the fact that it's written on your face whenever you look at them. You also tense up and your scales show just a bit. You have more tells than gambler at cards.”


“Scales?” He was playing a dangerous game, this goblin.


Volkin flashed a toothy grin. “There it is again.” He propped his leg up on the wall and drew one of his daggers. The goblin then began using it to clean underneath his long fingernails. “You want to protect something.”


A simple incant, that’s all it would take. I could freeze him solid and then toss his body over the wall. It would shatter like glass on impact.


“Thinking of killing me?” Volkin asked. “Go ahead, might be amusing.”


“Why are you here, goblin?”


“I was curious,” he replied. “You came with the druids and I couldn’t help but wonder.”

“You were watching us?”


Volkin glanced at the towers, then at the guards patrolling along the wall on either side of him. “Time is short,” he replied, sheathing his dagger. “My job is to watch and learn. It’s what a good king does.”


His broad grin was becoming an annoyance, but his confidant demeanor was a bit amusing. “I don’t think I’ve met a king before,” Issfang replied.


“Then you have been graced with one,” Volkin said, sliding off the sill of the wall and bowing. “Now this king must depart before he is discovered. We will see each other soon…Dragon.”


Issfang moved to intercept him, but Volkin was agile. The goblin king glided past as easily as a bird soars the sky, hopping on the sill closest to the city and jumping off. Issfang rushed toward the spot Volkin had leaped from and scanned the crowd below.

The goblin king had vanished.


Strange creature. Issfang turned his attention toward the frost giant’s camp. Anger still burned in his chest, but he shook his head. Your time will come, just not today.


**********************************


Volkin waded through the crowd like a fish in the water. It was always amusing how Humans seemed to ignore him. Of course, not many were very tolerant of a goblin.

He scanned the crowd, noting some of his subjects were drawing near. Illhiem had asked for a dozen of his best to tag along for the trip. The delight on their faces after being chosen was riotous.


There were six in all. They had scattered themselves among the crowd, while the others tended to their assignments. Information was one of the many things they provided Illhiem. He had done much for goblinkind over the years and it was a debt they could never repay.


The scouts closed in, each keeping a respectable distance. Only one dared venture closer.


“Dragon?” he asked. His name was Scrask.


Volkin grinned. “Yes.” The goblin king stopped, taking note of the connecting streets, his eyes falling on a narrow alleyway. “Follow,” he commanded.


Scrask nodded, then distanced himself.


Volkin turned down a narrow side street. Judging by the refuse, it seemed people often dumped their scraps from the windows above. Rats skittered about as if someone had invited them to a banquet.


Two of the scouts eyed them hungrily. One was quick enough to snatch at his feet and take a bite out of it. He then offered some of it to Scrask.


Scrask happily took the dead rat and bit a chunk from it.


Volkin glared them. “Report now, eat later!”


Scrask immediately dropped the dead rat on the ground. His large eyes filled with panic. “Forgive, Great King!” he screeched.


Volkin smiled. The others were equally afraid.


“Humans talk much,” Scrask said. “Some talk too much, very easy to learn what they are planning.”


“Yes, we found a brewery, but the wine smells wrong,” another chimed it. Both he and his companion seemed very pleased with themselves.


Scrask went to continue, but Volkin held his hand up to stop him. “Smells wrong?” he asked.


The scout nodded. “It smells of blood.”


“Poison?” Volkin asked.


The scout didn’t seem convinced but nodded in affirmation anyway. “Must be?”


If Viktor plans to poison Illhiem I will cut his sac off and feed it to him before he bleeds to death!


The others quickly shied away, terror written on their faces. Volkin blinked and took a breath. “Your report is good, feast on bounty around you and return to this brewery. Remain hidden and remember what you see.”


Delight shone on the duo’s faces as they disappeared into the refuse. The sound of screeching rats in their death throes rang out in the alley as they began gorging themselves.


“Scrask?” he asked.


The scout enviously eyed the other goblins as they relished in their reward.“Rangers talk a lot, they speak of uprising and allies. They claim to have a dragon and frost giant,” he said.

“Must be that dragon you spoke of. One Ranger, called Wulf, fought a Thran and beat him.”


The dragon’s presence made more sense. Somehow Huntsman Wulf and the druids had enlisted it.


Impressive.


It obviously had something to gain by their alliance and wasn’t some dumb brute like the giant’s pets. The frost giant was interesting. “Did anyone die?”


Scrask shrugged. “Not sure,” he answered. “They were taken away. To a healer, I think. Both hurt badly.”


“Stalk them, watch them, learn more,” Volkin commanded. “See if the Huntsman lives.”


“And Thran?” Scrask asked.


“Him as well.” Illhiem will want to know if one of his own has fallen. “Scrask may eat.”


Scrask scooped up the dead rat at his feet and began tearing to pieces. Blood and gore covered his eight fingers and mouth as he devoured it.


“You three, speak!”


One of the scouts he was pointing at nervously stepped forward. “Mighty King, Cleverest of All, we have watched the humans as they guard each other. The Ranger watch Blades and Viktor’s men. They, in turn, watch Rangers.”


“Yes, yes, any fool can see that,” Volkin replied. “What else?”


“We think Viktor has daughter.”


Volkin felt a chill overtake him. His cheeks tightened as a broad grin crossed his face. “Tell your king more.”


“I observed guards following a child, a female, small like us, but not as small.” He paused contemplating her height. “Maybe this tall,” he added raising his hand just a few inches above his head.


“Height not matter!” Volkin roared.


The scout jumped back hiding behind his companions. “Height not matter, yes, of course, King of Kings,” he shrieked. “She trains at Ranger Lodge, well Blade Lodge now. She was at market later today, made deal with smith.”


“What deal?”


“I hear him say he make weapon read for her in two days. Same day as banquet.”


Volkin couldn’t believe his luck! “Find out if she is daughter,” he said. “Must be certain!”


“We will learn truth, Great King!” the scout replied.


“What of Savar?”


The scout suddenly seemed uncertain. “Savar seem strange, not like have heard before.”

“Strange how?”


“He obeys Viktor like…loyal dog,” he replied. “Viktor commands, he obeys. No disagreement. Savar men very angry about this, but listen to him.”


This was bad, but possibly an opportunity. If Savar’s behavior was too complicit and his men are upset, then it could be exploited. Still, their combined might, plus the giants was a problem.


“You two, watch Savar.” Volkin shifted his attention to the scout who had spoken. “You, watch daughter. Find truth,” he said. “Report pleases me, you may eat then return to work!”


The trio followed suit with the others and began rummaging around to catch whatever rats they could. Most had already been scared off, but it didn’t deter them.


Volkin watched them for a moment and turned toward the street at the end of the alley. Illhiem must be told these things.


He stepped out onto the street and turned his attention toward the city walls. The dragon was nowhere in sight. It seems your rage has been tempered. You’re fortunate our goals align or I would have simply watched.

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