Gah… where do I start? Okay, nix that, I’ve already started. It’s not even that I’ve hit a wall… It’s like someone cut a wire in me connecting my imagination to my hands. I’ve lost all desire to do anything. I have late gifts to make, I have foods I want to try and make… Hell I have books I’m dying to write. I just spent the last half hour reading through clips of things… or trying to. I can’t stay focused enough to even make sense of what I’d already written. I know what I need to do, how I even want some of them to go… But everything feels… bland. I don’t know… maybe it’s knowing that my plans have all fizzled apart – like a chain reaction, it burnt away that spark of creativity in me. Part of me can’t help but feel – what’s the point? I can sit here and write and write… but at the end of the day, it’s the daily grind that puts a roof over our heads. You’d think with how simplistic my goals were, I could have attained them by now. But the year keeps slipping away, and I’m looking closer and closer to 31 with little to show for it. I can’t even get my son to an ideal place to live and grow. For every step I take I keep getting pushed back two or three.
Oh well, writing exercise… 1000 words in the middle of a book – go.
There was a light shining through at the end of the long, narrow tunnel. Rhiannon felt her heart leap as they turned in that direction.
“Are we finally there?” Dani asked hopefully.
“There, where?” Olend asked, glancing back over his shoulder.
“You know, to the end of the tunnel,” she clarified.
“My dear, we have but merely reached the most treacherous part of the caverns,” Afra informed her as we approached the mouth of the cave. Rhiannon wasn’t sure if “mouth” is really what she’d consider the exit of the cave, but she’d preferred that over the alternative.
The light was blinding for a second as they emerged. Rhiannon couldn’t quite place where the source of the light originated from. The cavern didn’t end, so much as expanded what appeared to be infinitely. The trail lead down nearly three hundred feet on a sharp decline. It ended abruptly at a wall, and beyond this wall was the most magnificent thing Rhiannon had ever seen. Her breath caught in her chest as she recognized what she saw in the cavernous valley. As heart stopping and imaginative as Jim Henson and Brian Froud could be, they did not do the labyrinthine city justice.
It appeared to stretch for miles into the cave, encompassing everything before them. The wall ran up the hill toward them, funneling them down to the large gated entrance below. Just as in the movie that Rhiannon remembered, a tall twisted castle rose from the center of the maze. It was surrounded by what appeared to be a bustling city. Two guards were standing below them at the gates, halberds in hand, watching the group tentatively. They were clothed similarly, in blue and gold with what looked like it might have once been polished silver armor. There were heavy gouges and scuffs dug into each guards’ armor. These were no men however.
One, a tall, slender, hairy beast of a creature with large slow eyes and long drooping ears. The other was short and slightly dumpy with a large crooked, actually crooked, nose.
“What the hell is that?” Josh snapped.
“It is the Goblin City. Our only recourse is to ask for safe passage through the maze,” Olend explained.
“Those are goblins?” Andi asked, a hint of a smile on her lips. She glanced back and shared a smile with Rhiannon.
“So is there a Goblin King?” Rhiannon offered in jest, sharing a smile with her friend. Afra and Olend almost looked surprised.
“There is, but how did you know?” Afra asked.
“Rather than ask how we know – which one spent time down here? Jim Henson or Brian Froud?” Andi asked.
“I’d guess Brian. Just look at all of his other works,” Rhiannon pointed out as she took a couple steps down.
“That name is familiar, I believe it was before my time, but there was once Froud at the school wasn’t there Madame?” Romney asked, glancing over at Afra.
“Yes, a young man from your world stumbled through. Instead of rushing straight home, he spent time studying our world. I did not know what happened to him, but it sounds like he must have made it through the caverns,” Afra explained. The tall elf turned and looked down to Olend.
“Young sir, I believe your people have had more experience with the Goblins than we elves ever have. Do you feel prepared to request an audience?”
“I think I can manage,” Olend said, rubbing his thick white stubble thoughtfully. “The Dwarves and Goblins have never necessarily had an alliance, but both sharing a love for the underground, we at least have a few things in common.” He took a long steadying breath and turned to the group of humans.
“Yes, there is a Goblin King. He is very recently the Goblin King, and the youngest in an age. Do not think him untried though. The Goblins have taken a neutral stance in the fight against the Darkness, and only within the last couple of months have fought back an invasion of Grootslangs and Trolls. I’ve heard that he is something of a recluse, so we may only have one shot at this. Please keep your heads down and respectful.
Olend took point, leading the way down the trail. Logs had been cut and put in place of steps periodically. Many of these were scorched and trampled under what looked like hundreds of footprints.
The guards watched the group’s descent with interest, adjusting their weapons quite obviously. Olend raised his hands as a show of peace, the armed elves followed suit.
“Greetings Goblin neighbors. I wish to be so bold as to request an audience with your King,” Olend said with his strong voice. The goblins exchanged looks and started laughing. The tall one had a high, wheezing groan of a laugh, while tubby’s was a deeper guffaw.
“What a ragtag group to make demands of one so important,” the tall one said. His voice as slow as his eyes suggested.
“It is imperative to the success of our mission that we make it through your city, and I’m afraid we don’t have time to solve your labyrinth. I must speak with King vonDeicken, right away.” Olend tried again.
“The King is busy! We will not summon him for the likes of you, baby Dwarf! If you want in the Labyrinth, just lay down your arms and we’ll let you pass,” Tubby said. There was a deep grumble to his voice.
“As I said, we do not wish to go INTO the Labyrinth… we wish to go around it. I must speak to the King!” Olend demanded once more. The short one moved to open his mouth, but a voice from behind startled the group instead.
“So speak young Dwarf, but be wary of wasting my time.” His voice was smooth as silk and tenor. He was tall, and very humanoid, unlike his guards. His skin was a sparkling gold with pitch black eyes and longish, wavy gold hair.
What? I said 1000 – count ’em.