“The main trail is no good. They . . . that’s the direction they came from,” he concluded with a sullen countenance.
Grom’s face lost all trace of color. “You mean . . . they came-” He choked on his words.
“That’s right,” Hedrum replied, “the goblins descended from the Peaks.”
Now Grom understood why the smith was so persistent about the pertinence of the route. If Snowberry was assailed from the main trail that connects to the mountains, it would be suicide to ride against their tsunami of violence. He also discerned why Hedrum delivered the ill news with such dismay; at the foot of the Redwing Peaks, tucked away quietly near the main trail, was the cottage in which he, his mother, and Bornen resided. Without a second’s more delay Grom was sitting on the back of the pony and heading for the back roads. He stole a final glance backward, catching Chlora watch him go with a wrinkled brow that said, (if brows could speak), “Take care.”
The nighttime air was crisp and chill as it was sucked up into the nostrils of the racing pony. It galloped at a pace that even impressed itself, somehow borrowing a share of Grom’s overwhelming desperation. Bells continued to ring frantically in the distance and from the top of a sloping hill the panorama of Snowberry was brightly illuminated by the incandescence of fire, and littered with the fallen. The silhouettes that scurried about like tiny ants from afar were the numerous goblins, doing what they do best; wreaking havoc.
At length Grom reached the cottage, bounding off of the beast’s back and running up the lane several paces before falling to his knees. Countless tracks dotted along in the snow all around him, and just beyond a stony staircase was the familiar threshold he occasionally stumbled through, but all that remained upon his arrival were charred planks or burnt piles of debris. An acrid odor clung to every surface.
“I’m too late,” he muttered, “they’re gone.” Warm tears trickled down his cheek and rolled off of his bushy beard. He covered his face with his hands, sobbing and bereaved. Then an encouraging idea surfaced; “Wait a moment,” he thought, “what if they’re hiding somewhere nearby?”
He ventured to attempt a second, more concise, search of the premises. When he discovered a distinct pattern of red blood trail off to the backside of the cottage, Grom’s heart nearly skipped a beat. He followed the scarlet stains, silently sidling along the western wall as he lurched into the backyard.