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The Half-Goblin's Daughter
The Half-Goblin's Daughter
The Half-Goblin's Daughter
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The Half-Goblin's Daughter

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Trak Dragonfire, the half-goblin Thaumaturgist of the Goblin Realm, is recovering from his battle with Tironock Kan the demigod who ruled the Underworld. His complacent existence is upset when his daughter, Ardani, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. She finds herself thrust into a two thousand year war between the Wasteland Elves and the sorcerer, Snall the Undying. The war envelops the goblin world as Dragon Riders fly over the continent for the first time in a thousand years.

Release dateAug 23, 2014
The Half-Goblin's Daughter
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J. Craig Argyle

I am a Maya archaeologist excavating at a site called El Mirador in Guatamala's Peten jungle. My past carreers include: organic chemist, military pilot and pathologist. When I'm not excavating, I like to paint and write.

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    The Half-Goblin's Daughter - J. Craig Argyle


    Port of Argelos, Southern Continent:

    The dungeon is crowded. Trak Dragonfire, the half-man, half-goblin, has claimed a spot next to the metal bars fronting his cell. He has been sitting in the same spot for five days. It is as far from the stench as he can get. He is filthy. Dirt is ground into the scabs that cover the scrapes on his face.

    The dungeon smells of urine and excrement. Its cold walls are crudely hewn from bedrock. There is no light except for a glow coming from a lamp in the adjacent guardroom.

    Trak came to Tara, the Southern Continent, six-weeks earlier to search for his adopted daughter. The Wasteland Elves directed him to the continent’s east coast. In a cave overlooking the sea, he was captured and taken to the prison in the Port of Argelos, the emperor’s capital. Trak’s fellow inmates, with one exception, are strangers—riffraff, soldiers and petty officials who disappointed the emperor.

    The exception is Edwin Snall, known to the world as Snall the Undying. He has lived for two thousand years. Age and sorcery have left Snall emaciated—dry, yellow skin stretched over a skeletal frame. In two days he is to be drawn and quartered. Trak anticipates he will be next. Trak schemes, searching for a way to use his special gift to improvise a different fate.


    Sixteen years have passed since the Northern Continent was overrun by white wraiths, Underworld goblins, fleeing a soul-twisted demigod called Tironock Kan. In the chaos, the earth became a battleground. Goblins and trolls, driven by Tironock’s will, cornered the armies of the surface dwellers on the Isle of Uisgebeatha. Not until the final hour of the struggle did the peoples of the earth defeat the demon.

    In the aftermath of the Second Sowing, as the event is known, disease and hunger followed the devastation like carrion birds come to feast on the remains of a dragon’s kill. Those left homeless by the destruction of the surface cities and underground hives live in squalor.

    Those who possess land and titles fair better. Trak is a direct descendant of the goblin’s religious leader, Septan, and revered for his role in the defeat of Tironock Kan. He has been living a life of comfort in the goblin temple, the Septantrak. He never expected to find himself spending his last days locked in a Taran prison.

    Chapter 1

    Among the ancient elf houses, the Dragon Elves ruled supreme.

    Glories of the Kings of Astralos

    Isle of Elmongorn, Northern Continent: Thirty Years before the Second Sowing

    Among the people of the Northern Continent, only one group will escape the chaos wracked by the Second Sowing—the Dragon Elves. Off the southeast coast of the Goblin Realm lies the Isle of Elmongorn, the ancient home of the Dragon Elves. They have inhabited the island’s peaks since before men and goblins arrived on the Northern Continent. The isle is all but unknown to the rest of the world. The harsh sea lashes the island’s cliffs. Access by boat is possible only through a sea cave, hidden in the pounding surf. The towers of the elven castle cling like tree brackets to the sides of the island’s highest peak. From the sea only the sharpest eyes can spot the castle’s turrets and balconies, and then only on the clearest of days when the island is not shrouded in mist.

    For the Elves, their age of resplendence is long past. Elves, who once lived on the mainland to the west, left for the arid lands of Tara, the Southern Continent, a thousand years ago. The elves of Elmongorn are the last of their race still in the north. Their number a mere score.

    The rest of the world has forgotten the elves, sequestered on their island for a thousand years. The elves pursue one great task: to guard the dragon eggs kept in a lair beneath their castle. The Dragon Elves protect the eggs until the moment they are needed. For three hundred years there have been no living dragons.

    The island’s two youngest inhabitants are adolescents, cousins named Rivervoth and Arna-anra; they have seen only three hundred years. Neither has ever left the island. The two cousins have been inseparable from birth. They are fated to wed and rule a dying kingdom. On this day they sit in a pool of hot water flowing from the rocks in the cavern beneath the castle. The girl, Arna-anra, is the elf king’s daughter. She is tall for an elf, equal to the tallest human female. Her long white hair falls to the small of her thin back. It shimmers pink-gold in the light of the torches that illuminate the bathing area. Her skin is alabaster, her nipples the palest pink.

    Rivervoth is her equal in size and beauty. His sinuous muscles reflect the countless hours he spends practicing sword craft. Although the skill has not been needed in hundreds of years, it is his passion. He expects to someday replace his father, Arontallos, as the Sword Mastre.

    Riva, my father speaks of quickening a dragon’s egg, Arna-anra is saying.

    There is always such talk, Rivervoth replies. The issue is what would we do with a dragon if we had one? They are creatures of war. Whom would it fight?

    The elders pine for the time of splendor when dragons ruled the sky and they ruled the dragons, Arna replies. My father must have seen something in his Second Sight. Perhaps he has foreseen an attack by the spider trolls.

    I suppose it is possible, although the last time the trolls attacked was fifteen hundred years ago. It is likely the spider trolls are all dead.

    Riva looks at the leather saddles hanging from the cavern’s walls. When I get my dragon, I will fly from this rock and never return.

    Are you going to abandon me? Arna feigns hurt in her voice.

    Arna, we are inseparable, he replies with a smile.


    Indeed, King Orlonora has decided a Dragon Rider is needed. He addresses the community. Our numbers are few. Our elders grow feeble. In a few hundred years only our two children will be left. They cannot rule an empty kingdom. We must reestablish contact with the elves on the Southern Continent. It takes fifty years for a dragon to mature and be trained. We must begin now. The king does not reveal all his Second Sight has shown him.

    The ritual for quickening a dragon’s egg is prescribed by tradition. The island’s last inhabitants gather in the dragon lair beneath the castle for the ceremony. It is the tenth night following the new moon, when the orb is waxing gibbous and its humpback is prominent. Arna-anra watches her father, the elf king, draw his curled dagger across the palm of his hand and drip his dark blood on an egg, the egg of a red dragon, the mightiest worm to ever soar above Morgana, the Northern Continent. In two years the egg will hatch.

    Rivervoth is pleased. His time as a Dragon Rider is approaching. It is the task of Mastre Arontallos to teach his son the art of dragon riding. In a mere thirty years the dragon will be ready to bear a rider.

    The wedding of Arna-anra and Rivervoth occurs a year later. It can only take place during a lunar eclipse. There will not be another opportunity for twenty years. Elf weddings are extraordinary. They are rare, only half as frequent as births, and births almost never happen.

    The guest list is small. With only eight aging knights left on the island, the traditional tournament of champions is cancelled. The outcome is a foregone conclusion anyway. No one can best the Sword Mastre.

    The traditional cleansing ceremonies are followed in the smallest detail. The bride and groom fast for many days. They stay locked in a darkened room and are left to ponder the revelations that flash into their starving brains. Weary from their ordeal, they are bathed and dressed in the sheerest of elven cloth—the translucent fabric of the silver moon.

    The musicians play their ancient instruments as the hour of the eclipse approaches. They play with perfection, as though a thousand kings are in attendance. When the sun’s shadow embraces the moon, Arna-anra and Rivervoth stand beside King Orlonora as he recites the wedding litany. When Orlonora dies, Arna-anra will become Queen and Rivervoth her Consort. The couple is the Dragon Elves’ last hope of preserving their ancient way of life.


    Rivervoth trains to become the mightiest of warriors—a Dragon Rider. His preparation begins before the dragon is born. Arontallos gives him his first assignment. Watch the seabirds, especially the gannets. Study their movements until you see through their eyes and understand as they do. The assignment leaves Rivervoth incredulous.

    Arna-anra stands beside her consort as he watches seabirds pluck fish out of the churning surf. Riva complains, It is bad enough, I spend half my days watching birds, but why seabirds, wouldn’t an eagle be more appropriate?

    Arontallos has his reasons, Arna replies. What have you learned so far?

    Not much, replies her consort. Seabirds are not quick but they are deadly fishers. They seem to know where a fish will dart even before the fish commits.

    That seems useful. You must find out how they do it.

    How? Rivervoth replied. "The surface is turbulent. Only rarely do I catch a glimpse of a fish. I need to observe the bird and the fish at the same time to discover how they interact. I need two sets of eyes.

    Riva, your father said you must see through the bird’s eyes. If you become one with the bird, you will see the fish as the bird sees it.

    Rivervoth selects a gannet that is flying high above the cliff and imagines himself inside the bird looking out through its eyes. He concentrates, blocking out all competing thoughts.

    What do you see? Arna asks.

    It is amazing, Rivervoth replies. "I no longer see what is directly before me. I see to my right and to my left at the same moment. The two images don’t overlap and become one. With the right eye I see the waves below, and with the left you and I standing on the cliff.

    The bird enters a sweeping bank and dives toward the water. The world swirls around me. On my left side the cliff face soars into the sky while on the right the waves rush to swallow me.

    Can you feel the wind on your body? the princess asks.

    Yes. He concentrates until he feels the wind’s direction change as he banks toward the breakers and the earth’s pull as he turns and climbs. He perceives how slight adjustments to his primary feathers initiate minute corrections to his flight. He feels the spray hit him the moment before he impacts the cold water and scoops the fish into his mouth. Rivervoth senses the salt water flowing off his well-oiled feathers as he again soars skyward. He practices until the meditation becomes easy.

    Weeks are required before he sees the fish swimming in the turbulent surf. Through a gannet’s eye they appear as bursts of sunlight. He reads in the flashes the direction the fish travel relative to the sun. He discovers how a threatened fish breaks toward deeper water. The angle and speed of the break are constant for each species. He learns not to dive at a fish, but to the spot the fish will be the moment he strikes the water.

    Gradually, a remarkable thing happens. Once Rivervoth enters his meditation and locks himself with his host, the bond is not easily broken.

    I have learned the gannets’ secrets, Rivervoth triumphantly informs Arontallos.

    Good, replies the Sword Mastre. Now I want you to study the black eagles until you can snatch a swallow in midflight."

    Rivervoth climbs the high peaks at the south end of the island where the eagles build their aeries. The black eagles fly higher and faster than the gannets ever carried him. Their bodies are powerful. They rule the air. They effortlessly pluck the nimblest swallow from the sky. Through the eyes of the black eagle, Rivervoth can spot butterflies flitting near the surface or glimpse a sparrow on the distant horizon.

    The Sword Mastre informs him, You have one more task to complete. Hurry, for the moment of binding approaches. Enter the passages beneath the castle and learn to fight like a cave spider.

    By lamplight the spiders are easy to find. They are as large as a hand with fingers spread. Their razor-sharp jaws open to clamp shut on a cave mouse and other creatures that scurry in the dark. Rivervoth extinguishes his lamp. A cave spider fights in darkness. Rivervoth finds a spider stalking his prey. He enters the body of the spider and looks through its multifaceted eyes, scores of eyes, each recording a different image in near blackness. He extends his fingers like the spider extends its tactile hairs. He searches for the faintest vibrations in the earth to tell him his prey is near. He imagines his jaws opening and clamping. It takes time to feel his eight legs working together to hold and stab his prey. I have studied the spider, he tells his father.

    The Sword Mastre says, Let us see if you are ready. He hands his son four short swords. He takes four for himself. Two he slides into his belt. Rivervoth follows his example. Arontallos flies at him with both arms flailing. The young elf blocks the first strike only to find Arontallos’ second sword resting against his throat.

    Fight like a spider, his father shouts. Rivervoth understands.

    The young elf backs into the darkest recess of the cavern where there is hardly light to see the silhouette of Arontallos approaching. He imagines he has a hundred eyes and countless arms. He assigns each a different task. The master delivers a series of quick slashing blows. Rivervoth blocks them all. When one of Rivervoth’s swords shatters, he smoothly replaces it with one from his belt.

    Better, says the Mastre. I believe you understand the concept. A few decades of practice and you will have it mastered.

    Father, if the spider fighting technique is superior, why for the last two hundred years have I been practicing with a sword and shield?

    It is the way men and goblins fight. The style is useful for learning the basics. In truth, there is no one right way to fight. Pick the style that best serves your purpose. If you find yourself facing a giant spider troll, don’t fight like a human.

    Father, do you think spider trolls still exist?

    I think they probably exist. At least, it is best to assume they do. We must be ready.


    The time for Rivervoth to bind with his red dragon arrives. The surviving Dragon Elves gather in the cavern where the green egg has begun to glow red. It signals the hatching is near. Only at birth will a dragon bind to a master. If the dragon fails to bind, it is forever wild and untamable.

    Arna-anra stands by Rivervoth. Her father, King Orlonora places the youth’s right hand on the glowing dragon egg’s scaly surface. In the pale red light, Rivervoth tightens his grip until his fingertips crack the thick shell and open a large window. He reaches into the egg and grasps the dragon chick by its neck and pulls it free.

    The dragon chick is born of magic. It squawks and struggles in protest. Its yellow eyes dart about the cavern seeking an escape. It is all teeth, scales and claws, but Rivervoth holds it firmly at arm’s length. His father watches proudly as his son clamps the beast in a determined grip. An hour passes before the beast concedes; it stops flapping its wings and clawing the air. It accepts its new master. The youth clamps a gold chain on the red dragon’s neck to secure it to the wall of the cavern.

    The moment has come for the dragon to receive its name. Over the decades Rivervoth has considered and discarded hundreds of names, but now he must choose. Rubicund the Elf Bearer, Rivervoth proclaims.

    Thirty years is hardly more than a day in the life of an elf. Elves are not immortal as men often suppose, but they live a hundred human life spans and appear ageless. Rivervoth continues his daily training ritual with his father. He practices seeing the world through the eyes of many creatures, not all of them predators. Through the eyes of a fish, a swallow and a cave mouse, he learns what he must do to escape the deadly hunters that pursue them.


    Arna-anra begins her study of elven magic. She must learn to summon the clouds that hide the Isle of Elmongorn. She must develop her Second Sight, the ability to know the future.

    She locks herself in the castle’s orrery. The brass model of the universe fills the dome-shaped room. At the center sits a spherical lantern representing the sun. Its surface is covered with glass lens that amplify the flame within. Light from the central orb illuminates globes attached to armatures radiating from it.

    Arna-anra sets the pendulums that drive the orrery in motion. The moon begins to spin around the orb, which is the earth. Ten more spheres swirl around the sun. They represent the five visible planets and the five dark worlds of Astralos, the ancestral home of the elves.

    She slows the orrery’s mechanism to match the pace of the universe. She stares at the orrery for a day. The change in the position of the moon is barely perceptible. The motion of the earth around the sun is not. Only the rotation of the earth about its axis seems real. All the rest is ephemeral. Motionless orbs shine in silence. Shadows hold their secrets.

    The princess focuses on the illuminated orbs and their companion shadows, the black specters that wander the walls of the dome. In these spheres and shadows she must find the truths that presage all that will ever be. She must learn to see.

    Days go by. Only when her eyes grow weary, does Arna-anra see points of light leap from the glowing orbs and swirl across the dome. Shapes coalesce in the black shadows. A face appears on the roof of the dome. It is the face of a young elf, her mother, she thinks.

    Why did you die? Arna-anra asks. I would so much like to know you.

    The face answers, We are much alike. Know thyself and you will know me.

    Will I ever leave this island? she asks. I want to know the world.

    You will never leave, but know the one you love will come to you.

    In this manner Arna-anra gathers her visions.

    The Dragon Rider, Rivervoth, bonds to the Rubicund the Elf Bearer.

    Chapter 2

    Seek the dragon in the calmness between the tempest and the coming of a new wind.

    The Brignata of the Elf Kings

    The Isle of Elmongorn, Northern Continent: Two Years before the Second Sowing

    The day the Dragon Rider soars arrives. Rubicund the Elf Bearer measures eight strides in length, nearly half his adult size. He is large enough to support the weight of a rider.

    For thirty years, Rivervoth has visited the dragon each day and stared into his cat-like, yellow eyes. He uses fish to train the dragon to obey his verbal commands. The trust between them has grown until the Dragon Rider sleeps using the dragon’s back for his pillow. The dragon learns to wear a saddle and fly tethered by the gold chain that binds his neck.

    Today Rivervoth will mount his dragon, remove the neck chain and command it to fly. It is a dangerous moment. Elves have been lost if a dragon throws his rider or ignores his command to return to its lair.

    Rivervoth talks to his dragon. The creature only understands a few words, but it senses their shared bond. Arna-anra and Arontallos are there to witness the attempt. They watch Rivervoth seat himself firmly in the saddle and fasten the safety strap before releasing the collar. The dragon anxiously rocks on its clawed feet with his wings spread waiting for the command to fly. When it is given, the dragon launches with a powerful downward thrust of it wings. The rider is violently thrown against the back of the saddle. Before Rivervoth can take a second breath, the dragon has exited the cavern and is climbing into the sky above the island.

    Rivervoth allows his dragon to enjoy this moment. He relaxes as his dragon spirals above the island’s highest peaks. From dizzying height, Rivervoth looks toward the mainland to see the ends of the rocky coast disappearing into the horizons. As the young dragon begins to tire, it spreads its wing and rides the hot air currents that lift its bulk effortlessly. When the dragon has rested, Rivervoth places his hand on the dragon’s neck to indicate the direction of flight. Rubicund streaks above the balcony where Arontallos, the Sword Mastre, stands witnessing his son’s accomplishment. The old elf’s mission is complete.

    Rivervoth’s spirit merges with the dragon’sr . The dragon’s wings become his wings. He feels the wind as Rubicund feels it. When Rivervoth senses the drake’s growing weariness, he commands the worm to return home and land. Rubicund is rewarded with a cartload of fish. Bloated, he crawls to his bed of straw to sleep. The dragon will sleep for days before it awakens hungry and ready to soar again.

    Rivervoth strips off his riding clothes and climbs into one the hot springs that bubble from the cavern’s floor. The heat relaxes his sore muscles.

    Arna-anra joins him. I’ve never made love to a Dragon Rider, she teases as her lips touch his.

    And someday I’m sure you will. For now, watch over me while I sleep. I don’t want to drown. It would be most anticlimactic.


    Rivervoth discusses with King Orlonora what must happen. The king tells the Dragon Rider, In twenty years when your dragon has matured, you will journey to Tara, the Southern Continent, and find the Wasteland Elves.

    What has your Second Sight shown you? Rivervoth asks.

    A sorcerer has arisen in Tara. Hate fills his heart. He is intent on enslaving the world. Today he wars on the people who inhabit the coastal cities, but soon he will turn his gaze on our brothers, the Wasteland Elves, the king replies.

    My dragon can help, Rivervoth suggests.

    Perhaps someday, for now your dragon is too young to face catapults and spears. Rubicund’s scales must age and harden. To lose your dragon in war would be a disaster. It will take thirty years to raise another. If you fall, where will we find another rider? Say to the Wasteland Elves their peril is great and we are too few in number to send warriors. Have them send four promising youths to our island. We have dragon eggs and will train four to be Dragon Riders.

    You intend to quicken all our remaining eggs?

    Yes, it is necessary. Chances are good we will hatch at least one female to breed with Rubicund. Without more eggs, the dragon race will die.

    Chapter 3

    Fear the good intentions of those who seek to revenge a wrong.

    The Teachings of the Thaumaturgists

    Port of Argelos, Southern Continent: Two Years after the Second Sowing

    Snall, the Conqueror sits on the throne of his defeated enemy, the rulers of the wealthy port city of Argelos. The vanquished still lie where they fell in pools of blood at his feet. The practice of sorcery has left Snall wasted. His dry skin is stretched across his skull and skeletonized frame.

    Snall speaks to his general in a broken, labored voice, Once again, General Wung, you have delivered as promised. I now control all the major cities on the Southern Continent. Only the Northern Continent and the elves in the Wasteland remain to be subjugated.

    The general is savoring his victory. There is no need to be concerned on that score. Already, your sorcerers have gone north. By stealth they will undermine the power of the northern kings. When you invade, their kingdoms will be in disarray and ill prepared to resist. For now, we must turn our attention to the Wastelands. The Wasteland Elves are elite bowmen and adequate swordsmen, but they are few in number. Without dragons, they are no match for your armies.

    The general doesn’t understand Snall’s obsession to rule the known world. Snall is too old to enjoy the women he enslaves or the gold he heaps in his palace. But no matter, the general has his own agenda. He believes the Conqueror grows feeble. Soon he will become too weak to lead. At that moment, I will take what is rightfully mine. Snall’s offspring will present no great obstacle. They are weak. The children are not powerful sorcerers like the father.

    How may I reward you for your service? Snall asks his general.

    My King, to command your armies is reward enough. I only dread the day when I have crushed all your enemies and I have no foe to battle. The general thinks, it is good the Conqueror cannot read my thoughts.

    Perhaps the elves will present you with an unexpected challenge, the Conqueror muses. They are few in number, but they have magic at their disposal.

    Chapter 4

    Neu Ardonbrae, Northern Continent: Six Years after the Second Sowing

    From atop his broch Trak gazes at the goblin capital, Neu Ardonbrae, rebuilt from the ashes left by the Second Sowing. The spring’s first blossoms are appearing in the temple’s gardens. It is a moment when the earth hesitates to ponder possibilities. Trak’s battle six years ago with Tironock Kan left him scarred. In the broch atop Holy Mountain he has healed. He still feels a dull ache in the arm that held the Dragon Fire sword he plunged into the demigod. He is leaning against the broch’s red basalt battlement, half watching his five-year old son, Alrik, play beside him. Myrel’s dog, Dungoth, is sleeping in a sunny corner. Trak reflects on how the world has changed and how it has not.

    Trak no longer struggles against what he is. His soul is at peace. He is content to be a cross-breed and the son of the Thaumaturgist. He has abandoned his quest to be respected by sneering bigots. He still pursues magic, not for power, but to be filled with wonderment. The earth’s magic fills him with awe. Never has the air tasted so crisp or the flight of a bird appeared so wondrous.

    He delights in watching his son. The boy is lost in an imaginary world, playing with his tiny bronze figures: a winged dragon and a handful of goblin and elf soldiers. Father would you make me some trolls and some men? the blond boy asks.

    Perhaps I can cast more figures for your next birthday, Trak responds.

    Myrel hands Trak a flask of ale. What are you thinking? Myrel is now the High Priestess of the Temple. She has grown regal with age. Her golden hair is becoming white.

    He replies, "The rebuilt Neu Ardonbrae is almost an exact copy of the original. Considering there was an opportunity to improve the city in so many ways, why were there so few innovations? We have rebuilt the same tired buildings and outmoded institutions that existed before the Second Sowing.

    Myrel responds, The goblin culture favors permanence. It is a gyroscope that holds its course and counters all attempts to deflect it. Change must come slowly. From one instant to the next, the universe must remain an almost identical copy of itself. If the change is too rapid, the universe becomes unrecognizable and chaos results.

    He answers, We can’t alter the magnitude of the change wrought by the Second Sowing. The change was considerable. The basic fabric of our existence has been forever distorted. To ignore the transformation only magnifies the resulting chaos.

    As the High Priestess, Myrel is adept at defending the status quo. It is almost a requirement for the office. It takes time to weave a new pattern into the fabric of existence. The familiar is the glue that binds the community. Without the familiar, the community fragments. Understandably, those who enjoyed wealth and power in the past strive to preserve and reclaim the past. Yet, there have been some changes. King Humock has redesigned the city’s justice system and disbanded the secret police. I sense the city is more open to possibilities.

    Perhaps, but consider the daily routines of the temple. Nothing has changed. The entire system the ancient clerics created to prepare for the Second Sowing has been perpetuated. If the fundamental reason for the Septantrak’s existence is gone, shouldn’t the system change as well?

    Myrel replies, The temple’s rituals were created to bind the faithful to the Earth Spirit. They apply as much today as before the Sowing. What you are really asking is, why do goblins continue to worship the Earth Spirit now the threat of the Second Sowing has passed? It is because many believe the Earth Spirit still lives and its protection will be needed in the future.

    I can’t see the future, but I see two things. Firstly, the Second Sowing left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless. Nothing is being done to aid the countless Underworld inhabitants who are destitute. The huge disparity in wealth and opportunity will inevitably lead to future problems. Secondly, the goblin kingdom has retreated behind its traditional borders and abandoned all contact with its former allies. We are creating a world where old racial hatreds will again fester. We are seeding the fields from which future conflicts will grow.

    If you see the problems so clearly, why don’t you step forward?

    Trak laughs, You are right to point out that I am at fault for doing nothing. It is so easy to sit comfortably in our broch.

    Following the Second Sowing, Trak and Myrel built the broch in the gardens of Holy Mountain. Trak lived in seclusion as he healed the injuries he received in his confrontation with Tironock Kan. Myrel, on the other hand, chose to actively participate in the daily governance of the Temple.

    I am sure you have done enough in your life to aid the goblin cause. But if you wish, you could take a leadership role in the temple, Myrel reminds him.

    I feel out of place when I attend a gathering of the senior clerics. I share none of their training and experiences. They base all their decisions on ancient religious beliefs I find untenable. They wrap themselves in a many-layered cocoon of ceremonial duties and endless routines. It is not a life I can embrace.

    It doesn’t help that Krage is not here to provide direction, Myrel laments.

    I’m sure you are as effective as he would be, Trak responds. Our father has never shown an aptitude for administration.

    Trak’s son grows bored listening to the conversation. Father, tell me a story, he asks, one about dragons.

    All right, but just one. I want to finish a project in my workshop.

    Trak begins. In an age now past lived a sorcerer named Ethor. He was the finest sorcerer in the land. He lived atop a craggy peak. To reach his lair one journeyed through dark tunnels and traverse narrow ledges, which threatened to crumble with every step. Ethor lived alone with his owl, Whitecloud. The owl was magical. It communicated with the sorcerer using the ancient hand signs.

    One morning the owl flew into Ethor’s alchemy chamber and signed, ‘a visitor approaches.’

    Trak reflects as he speaks, Ethor sounds more like me each time I tell this tale.

    The visitor was none other than the elf king, Lindagon. He has ruled the elf kingdom for a thousand years. The king has come to ask Ethor’s help. ‘A dragon has invaded my lands and captured my palace. He has decimated my villages and imprisoned my daughter, the Princess Myrel. The dragon is too powerful for my elf magic. Help me before all is lost,’ the king pleads.

    Trak proceeds to relate how Ethor fashioned a sword of gold to deal with the evil worm. Trak always begins this tale the same way, but after Ethor fashions the golden sword, the tale diverges depending on Alrik’s answers Trak’s questions. For instance, Trak might ask, How do you think Ethor entered the palace? Alrik’s reply dictates the course of the story and keeps the tale fresh. Like the beginning, the story’s end remains the constant. Just when it looked like the dragon was about to slay the sorcerer, Ethor with his last ounce of strength plunged the golden sword into the heart of the great worm. The dragon died in agony, twisting atop his pile of stolen gold.

    When Trak concludes his tale and assures his son that the dragon is gone forever, Alrik asks, "Is the story true?

    I don’t know, but my grandmother, Meg, who told me the tale, believed it.

    I would like to meet an elf, Alrik announces.

    So would I. Meg said they were in hiding. She promised if I keep looking, one day I would find them.


    Hand in hand Trak and his son leave the roof of the broch and descend the spiral staircase to the cellar where Trak has his workshop. The workshop contains a small forge that vents through the broch’s wall. It is designed for working with soft metals. If Trak wants to work with steel, he visits the royal smithy where he has access to the huge kilns and forges he built for King Humock.

    Trak pulls out a protractor and shows his son how to draw perfect circles on scraps of parchment. The activity grasps Alrik’s imagination, and while Trak engraves, Alrik invents ever more intricate patterns.

    Trak engraves a dragon design on the back of an astrolabe. Two years ago, Lord Ran, his friend in Bretwalda, sent him the astrolabe, saying it was a new navigational instrument that permitted sailing out of sight of the coastline. Trak has often puzzled over how it works and has decided to visit Bretwalda and learn firsthand. He has already delayed the trip two years and still finds reasons to procrastinate.

    Chapter 5

    Neu Ardonbrae, Northern Continent: A New Brother

    Alrik’s eighth birthday arrives. The boy is enjoying his new toy soldiers when Myrel answers a knock at the broch’s door. A small albino goblin stands in the doorway.

    Welcome. Who might you be? Myrel asks as she opens the door and sees the lost looking boy standing beside a large sack and holding a paper in his hand.

    Are you Myrel? the boy replies in a nervous voice. She nods and accepts the paper he offers. It is a letter from Baron Ran Teiber, the Regent of Bretwalda and Trak’s longtime friend.

    Myrel reads, I write on behalf of Terrin Samraet. Terrin gives you his son Laard whom he wishes to attend the temple’s school. He knows you will be good parents. He asks you to prepare his son to follow him as the leader of the hive beneath Dragonton. May the Spirit grant you a long life. The letter is signed Ran. There is a postscript. Tell that lazy husband of yours to visit me as promised.

    As surprised as Myrel and Trak are by the sudden arrival of a second son, they are happy to accommodate their friend Terrin who so often aided them in the past. Their own son, Alrik, who has no close friend, seems willing to share his room in the broch. The two eight year olds form an unlikely friendship. I am going to take Laard on a tour of the temple, Alrik announces. Myrel is pleased. Her son rarely ventures outside the broch and never by himself.

    Alrik leads Laard to the Great Hall and shows the boy the glassy, red lava that covers the floor. It was here your Grandfather, Ghad Samraet, fought Tironock, Alrik informs his companion. Alrik and Laard encounter a group of children who stare and whisper as they pass. You will get used to that, Alrik explains. They think we are strange because we look different.

    Laard seems most interested in the side passages. Where do these tunnels lead? he asks. Alrik confesses, I have never been down most of them. At that point Laard takes control of the tour and dives into a side passage. Alrik follows Laard as he descends ever deeper beneath the temple. Laard doesn’t stop even when they reach the cavern where Septan’s remains are entombed. He selects a dark tunnel and enters. Alrik balks. He is frightened to be in an unfamiliar part of the mountain. We can’t go in there; it is too dark to see.

    One doesn’t need light to navigate tunnels, replies Laard. It’s a matter of remembering your position in space. Build a map in your head from where you start and record exactly your steps. It is easier if you make only precise right hand turns.

    Alrik can’t catch on, but

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