The City on the Mountain
The leader of the goblin hunting party—whose name or title, it seemed, was Zveguestek—was a tough sergeant. His tattoo-covered body was lean and muscular, and his yellow, feline eyes were cold and uncaring. It did not concern him that his captives were ill and weak, nor did it bother him that his underlings were hungry and wanted for respite—his only priority was to march them to their destination with all possible haste. And so they trudged through two days and the better part of the night in between them, stopping only at midday and early evening to eat, drink, rest and relieve themselves.
It was shortly after sunset on the second day when they finally arrived. They had been climbing steadily uphill for most of the day, and the forest had grown thinner and more coniferous with their progression. Now, as the last of the light was draining from the dusky grey sky, they came to the tree-line. Before them, a steeply sloping rock field spread upwards towards the jagged peak of the mountain. Amongst those rocky crags was built the goblin city.
Goblin architecture, as it turned out, was much more complex than any of the three could have expected. Unlike the human variety, which was based primarily on geometric figures, the goblins’ style of building seemed to depend upon integrated functions—a fact that evaded all but Simon. Intersecting parabolas outlined roofs and arches to form shapes resembling leaves, pointed teeth and arrowheads, rotational solids bounded by hyperbolas topped tall spires, and light gleamed from windows bordered by trigonometric curves. The combined effect was one of strange, unsettling beauty.
It was terribly cold there at the top of the mountain, and no longer impeded by the trees, the icy wind whipped at them relentlessly. This did not seem to bother the goblins in the least, despite their minimal dress and hairless bodies, but it put their captives in miserable pain.
The trek up the final stretch of barren land seemed to last an eon, but eventually, they reached the main gates of the goblin city and entered. Immediately, the wind died away as they passed into the shelter of the thick stone walls.
“A la Uarla,” Zveguestek snapped. “¡Arpidiamentez! ¡Irégueted!”
The goblin hunting party closed closer about their captives, shepherding them through a narrow alleyway, through a plaza and up several sets of stairs at a quick jog. At the top of the stairs sat a large, ornate, onion-shaped building with a pair of enormous, oaken double doors carved in the approximate likeness of a butterfly. Standing watch beside these doors were two armored guards, significantly better-clothed than the members of the hunting party.
“Delagmogued endral,” Zveguestek snarled at them. “Traeglat kaptiban par vel a la Uarla.”
The guards opened the doors and stepped out of the way. Dragging Seymour, Simon and Seoc along with them, the hunting party trotted urgently into the building.