Chapter 30 - A Guide

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Northern Barrier Range

Mikkin swatted at a low-hanging branch within arm's reach as he and Jamie continued their trek deeper into the mountains. The land they traversed was rugged and unforgiving. They had been walking for several days since capturing the Gobelin leader. Thus far they had gotten little information from it.

Several days prior, Mikkin promised that no harm would come to the creature if it surrendered. Now he regretted this. He was tempted to hold a knife to the little thing's neck if the Gobelin didn't volunteer some information. Trekking through the range was difficult work. More often than not they ran into impassible areas—raging rivers, cliffs, and vertical rock walls—requiring them to double back and work their way around. Progress was slow.

Mikkin knew the Gobelin was hiding something. He knew this because when they encountered difficult terrain, the wretch began smirking as though it knew something they did not. Perhaps the creature was simply happy with their failures, after all, they killed its comrades leaving it all alone in the forest.

As they walked, he spared a glance at the wretched creature. It plodded along, tethered to the rope it was tied with. Its short legs meant slow strides, and that meant slower progress, which left Mikkin scowling. The Gobelin noticed his scrutiny and offered him a wicked grin. He quickly turned his gaze away and focused on the way forward.

As the day progressed, his frustration grew. By evening, he had had enough. He presented the Gobelin with an ultimatum. "Unka"—that was the creature's name—"I have a proposition for you. I believe we can both benefit from it, but that depends on your cooperation. Where are the wild dragons are hiding?"

"Unka not know." Unka looked away in an attempt to ignore Mikkin.

"You're lying!" Jamie cried, allowing frustration to seep into his voice.

"Jamie, let me handle this."

The lad scowled but he held his silence after that.

"Unka, we know the dragons have a lair in these mountains. We've seen them fly overhead. Now, I am not a betting man, but I'd reckon you know these mountains far better than I."

Unka squared his shoulders and grunted.

"My deal is this—you show us to the lair and I will set you free. I have lived up to my word thus far. I have not harmed you, have I?"

Unka's face puckered as his green skin pulled into wrinkles. Then the Gobelin scowled. Goblins were rather dim-witted creatures where critical thinking was concerned. However, Mikkin could tell that Unka was considering his words despite the hard work of it. At last Unka's expression changed. "Bad idea traveling to lair. More than dragons there."

"What do you mean?" he asked. He was met with silence. "Unka, tell me. What more is there?"

"A sorcerer." An evil glint appeared in Unka's eyes, which now glittered in the firelight like little black orbs. No soul liked captivity, and even less so their captors. The little Gobelin would be thrilled to see them fall into the hands of a powerful magical being—especially a sorcerer.

He considered Unka's words. Why would there be a sorcerer dwelling with the dragons? No dragon of legend cooperated with any of the sorcerers. According to myth, the first dragons killed all the ancient sorcerers. Why would they suddenly want to work with one?

"I do not believe you, Unka. Why would there be a sorcerer with the dragons?"

"I no lie. I knows."

"How? How do you know?"

"Kane." The Gobelin hissed the name. Mikkin's skin prickled. There was power in the word. He heard enough stories to know that. Magic did things—made a person uneasy. Evil magic was even worse. If Kane was real—if hearing his name created discomfort—perhaps Unka was telling the truth.

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