I was crawling on the ground again, the third time this week. I wiped my forehead, sipped from my flask, then, sighing, continued my trek across the rough landscape. My reason for crawling, indirectly, was a goblin clan, whose two last members were fleeing from me. The fact that I could keep up with them was just probably sheer luck, if we do not count the elixir I received from the elves. Those sips were replenishing. It took me quite an effort to acquire them, having to reassure Queen Nariel herself that I would use this flask only in the most dire need.
I crawled along little, scrubby bushes. It was almost miraculous how they could withstand the searing rays of the sun, even in such infertile soil. My thoughts were interrupted by nearby voices. I slowed to a halt, then, lest I be noticed, I dragged myself behind a bush.
The voices grew in volume, now I could discern what they were talking about. Except, I did not speak their language, for they were goblins, those two I had been chasing. I carefully moved a branch aside and, lifting my head slightly, I peeked out from behind the bush. They were about to lower themselves to the ground near a burning fire. One of them was carrying a dozen birds hanging from a string. I was incredibly lucky: they came from a direction opposite me. Had they found my footprints, I would have been unable to surprise them.
You ought to know that nothing and nobody is sacred for the goblins. If they decide to put their hands on something, it will be theirs, no matter the cost. They are shifty and cunning, while they are brilliant pathfinders. No wonder I was hardly trying to mask my presence. These abilities, however, pale in comparison to their alertness, so they claim. They are hunted by many, their shorter statue giving false hopes of being an easy prey. The last two I am after certainly counter this theory. Their clan fallen, they are left with almost nothing, yet they do not give it up.
The one holding the birds drew a long knife, then cut the string around the middle. Punctuated by grunts, he threw one of the packs to his companion. A short while later, the birds were gone, stomached by the two goblins with feathers and all. The knife, along with the strings, landed in the first goblin’s pocket. Now, he stood up, turned round and sniffed the air. He said something to his companion, who also stood up. They must have noticed something, for they chose to run, instead of spending the night here. Time was dear.
I nearly jumped into the air, leaping at the goblins.
Perhaps the elves are the only ones who can match the swiftness of a goblin. Had I been counting on my quickness, I would have found thin air where they stood. A rock, sparkling like a crystal, appeared in their hands, yet another impressive display of their incredible speed. They smiled and threw it into their opening mouth. But I did not smile. I made a circling motion with my right hand as I flew, yelling:
Their smile froze on their face, they were unable to move. They could not do anything about it, as my words came from the ancient tongue of the magical art.
A bluish cloud appeared above their head. I did not have much time. The moment the cloud dissipates, they are free from my will. This is one annoying property of ice magic.
I landed gracefully in front of them. I drew a rectangle with my right hand, following it up with a dot in the middle, with my left. Starting at my fingertip, a snake-like web appeared, forming a landscape. Numerous rivers to the north, while rocky mountains lied to the south, touched by burning sunlight.
“Kpah, ngol?” I snapped, which means Where is the land of the clan? in the goblin tongue.
One of them looked at me, shivering, the other’s green eyes were darting around, looking for an escape.
Time, of course, was with them. I sighed and waved. The top of three mountains turned red.
“Kpah!” Clan, I said, pointing at the three mountains. I was referring to the fact that I knew three locations of their clans. The one who had looked for an escape, now frantically tried to close his mouth. The other hung his head and his bulky shoulders began to shake.
“Yes, Kpah. Where? Ngol?!”
The goblin raised his hand, at which point three things happened in quick succession. The cloud disappeared, the goblin fell to the ground, with a long blade in his throat, while the second goblin raised his head. Instead of shedding tears, he snapped his teeth shut with a glorious smile. This was followed by a soft, snapping sound and in the next moment the goblin was nowhere to be seen.
I sighed and looked at the goblin’s corpse. Thorough work. He did not show mercy even to his own companion. I had mentioned before that nothing and no one is sacred to the goblins. Well, this is not the complete truth. My only hope was their faith, faith in their own gods. But this truly does not matter anymore. I sighed again and looked at the sky. I said:
“You can come back.”
My last hope turned suddenly visible, a quite tiny, human-like figure, apart from the fact that its body consisted entirely of light. It nodded its head towards me.
“Yes, I know that they moved. Somehow they could, despite the cloud. Were you able to look into the mind of one?” I asked. It nodded again.
A ray of light, as thin as a string, emerged from its body, and began to close the distance between us. I reached out and touched it with my hand. Even though it was light, it was quite warm, as it began strangely pulsing to my touch, with the creature of light on its other end.
I know where the area is, announced a soft, distinct voice around me. Most peculiar. It never talked directly to me. Come! We do not have much time.
Its brightness grew in intensity, and I felt as if something had tried to flatten me into the ground. I closed my eyes without meaning to. When I opened them, the sun was not where I saw it last.
I looked around. We were on a mountain, surrounded by snow, as far as a gaze could reach. The sun was about to set.
I sighed. If only it were so simple, I would have been at the elves already, thanking them for the fiendishly challenging task of acquiring their help. Rarely do they intervene in mortal matters.
“shining so bright, may not make divine,” I voiced my thoughts. I cannot be free, I cannot make divine. Thus, if I want to fulfil the prophecy, I cannot be free. Either myself, or the prophecy.
I looked at the creature of light, then as if by divine intervention, glanced at the mound under it. I uttered a prayer for my teacher, for parting a few goblin words to me, and because he made me practice the basics of my magical art for hours. I imagined the mound rising, exposing its secret. Lo and behold, the mound moved, slowly sliding aside. A marble-sized sphere rose from under it. Most of it was bluish, only some parts of it carried darker spots. I nearly touched it, when the world faded to black.
Welcome aboard PX42. The oxygen level is at 25%. By sending the coordinates, you will not have enough energy to maintain a consistent oxygen level, as well as initiating hibernation.
I swallowed, and I felt as I had nothing to drink for days.
“Reset,” I croaked hoarsely, as my memories slowly returned. Then, darkness again…
I sipped from my flask. I felt they were near, I had to crawl if I wanted to surprise them. As slowly as I was able. I have to find the magical sand after all.
Thus, I crawled, while muttering the lines of the prophecy:
Bringer of light, now arrives, looking for answers within,
Bringer of light, hoping with him, two as a peregrine. But peregrine with bringer of light, cannot spin a thread,
Even if bright, one shall fall, their star flaming red.
Bringer of light, as white as snow, seeks without a stop,
Bringer of light, now loses hope, fails a path to spot.
Though there’s an open pathway, he, too, can be light,
But bringer of light, shining so bright, may not make divine.