The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Eighteen: Nazghoul, Inc.
There were no walls
around Min-Ashtireth — or Haughz, as it was now called. They had been dismantled to
provide material to build roads and factories and housing. The powerful world-magic of
Midgarde had been turned to support the mandated doctrine of Progress, forcing the
wholesale rise of new industries where there had been only a simple agrarian, essentially
medieval way of life a decade before.
Haughz was the center of the New Economy,
a bustling city of commerce, manufacturing and trade. The busy riverfront docks were
crowded with boats of every description, loading and unloading around the clock, in and
out of tightly spaced warehouses lining the waterfront. Behind them were ranks of
smoke-belching industrial buildings, surrounded by bleak rows of cheap housing, along with
shops, eateries, public baths, sloppers, saloons, tea houses, fornicatoriums, gaming pits,
Goblin stations, boozeries, vomitoriums, side shows, peeperies, worshops, apothecaries,
tonsorilariums, safe houses, seweries, lockups, squealers, laundries, petit courts,
assessmentors, sobering tanks and attitudinizers.
The streets were packed with every manner
of wagon, cart, truck, rickshaw, sedan chair, surrey, chariot, palanquin, rollbox, coach,
travois, and dolly — pushed and pulled by horses, mules, oxen, engines,
Goblins and Men
from every corner of the world. Foot traffic inundated the spaces between conveyances, and
occasional tides of pedestrians carried the irresolute to unknown destinations. Everybody
seemed to be in a hurry, or at least wanted to appear to be. Nobody seemed to want to talk
much out in the open, before eyes of uncertain scrutiny.
Toward the center of the city, the
buildings climbed upward amid wider avenues, some sporting new electric trolleys or even
the occasional newfangled automobile. Offices hummed as clerks and secretaries, executives and middle
managers, accountants and bookkeepers scurried to attend their burgeoning enterprises. The
pace on the boulevards was no less frantic than in the outer environs, and conversation no
The city's incongruously
well-scrubbed core was overrun with gigantic, obscure monuments, empty parks and brooding
government buildings of dubious utility. One colossal skyscraper towered above all else,
topped by a greenly-glowing transparent orb like a monstrous beacon of smug
self-importance. Sara thought it a suitable lair for the Great and Powerful Wizard of
Haughz. She had no idea where to even begin looking for the Nazghoul, but figured that
confronting Soloman might flush them out.
She landed on the sidewalk before the
structure's imposing façade and pushed her way through a heavy glass door into the
cool interior. It was deserted and impossibly quiet, her soft footsteps and rustling cape
echoing almost imperceptibly from the polished green-veined granite walls, floor and
ostentatiously high ceiling. There was an enormous uncluttered desk in front of the
single, wide elevator shaft in the center of the lobby. Behind the desk was an elaborately
coifed, coldly haughty, sweater-enhanced receptionist with nothing to do but ignore Sara,
who was in no mood to be either patient or polite.
"Is this where your Wizard hangs
out?" Sara demanded.
The receptionist slowly examined her
fingernails for a moment, then turned her head ever so slightly, averting her eyes in the
general direction of the river, and condescendingly announced, "Perhaps you'll
be able to find a suitably…" she turned back to look at Sara, arching one
eyebrow, "…inexpensive…" paused to select just the right disdainfully
nuanced word, "…conjuror…" then sniffed in disdain,
"…on Borghat Street." She dismissively went
back to pretending Sara wasn't there.
Sara snorted. "No, I think
Soloman will do. Where is he?"
After a suitable delay, the receptionist
announced, "Mister Soloman does not receive…" she paused for
emphasis, "…common visitors…" then added,
"…without an appointment."
"He'll see me,"
said Sara forcefully.
nodded almost imperceptibly at a large book in front of her.
"I believe his schedule is
quite full…" she glanced ever so briefly,
"…this year…" and pretended to turn a page,
"Look, lady, I'm here to see
Soloman, and I mean now," Sara said, "Right
closed her eyes and said, "…so
sorry," as if she wasn't, then turned her attention to the empty space next
"Do you know who I am?"
"Why don't you
receptionist hesitated ever so slightly, "…a card…"
she glanced at the door, "…on your way out."
"My name is Sara Corel and I was sent
here by Gundolf to defeat the Nazghoul and take their Rings. But while I'm at it, I
want to give your stinking Wizard a piece of my mind."
receptionist looked bored, "…that's quite interesting."
"Do you know what these are?"
said Sara, holding up her right hand with the Three.
The receptionist glanced at them briefly,
then looked Sara in the eye and said, "Plated?"
"All right, that's enough,"
said Sara. She picked up the desk and hurled it completely across the lobby
large plate glass window. The sounds of splintering wood and shattering glass filled the
space with slowly dwindling echoes.
Sara advanced on the still-seated woman, confronted
her with feet planted widely, hands on hips, and ordered, "Soloman. Where is he? Tell
me this instant — or I'll tear the building apart around your ears and look for him in the
The receptionist seemed unperturbed. She gazed distastefully at the emblem on Sara's chest, as if
just now remembering some insignificant detail. "Ah,
yes…" she acknowledged, "…that Sara Corel. I
believe Mr. Soloman will be expecting you in the Board Room." She
went back to examining her nails.
The elevator marked
'Express' opened its doors behind her. An immaculately liveried
motioned her inside, announcing, "Going up — top floor: Wizard's Suite, Board
Room." As Sara entered, he closed the doors and muttered a word in
Sara looked at him sharply and replied in
his own language, "So's your mother."
The Goblin stiffened, eyes wide. He turned to
Sara and growled, "Not you. Her."
Sara couldn't help but smile.
"You probably know her better than I do."
The Goblin frowned, harrumphed, and turned
back to his panel as the elevator reached the top floor. Another splendidly uniformed
Goblin bowed as she stepped off and motioned her down a spacious hallway to the right where still
another Goblin was opening a wide, ornate door.
The Board Room was richly elegant, with
thick, deep-red carpeting and darkly polished paneled walls. There was a conference table
of considerable acreage surrounded by a dozen leather-upholstered chairs, and
tall shuttered windows on three walls.
An ancient but robust gentleman who must
have been Soloman greeted her as she entered. He was dressed in a finely tailored white
business suit, with a white shirt, white tie, white shoes and socks. His neatly trimmed
full beard and carefully arranged flowing mane was gleamingly snow-colored as well. He
looked like a cross between Colonel Sanders and Santa Claus, with the glad-handing
charisma of a CEO for a major corporation.
"Sara, my dear! I'm so very
pleased to meet you at last. Please, do come in and sit down. You must be tired from all
your travels. Can I get you anything?" He motioned and another
"I don't want anything from you
but some answers, buster. Do you know why I'm here?"
With another wave of his hand, he
dismissed the attendant, who closed the door behind him. "I believe I know why you
you are here. And I believe I can be of some assistance to you. I can imagine that you
must have so many questions, since you have been on our world such a short time."
"I've been here long enough to
see some things that I don't like, and find out you're behind a lot of it."
"Ah," he said, "you must
have encountered some of our Progress initiatives. I must admit, some of the rapid changes
have produced a certain amount of displacement. I would imagine every civilization faces
some temporary unpleasantness during the course of moving to an industrial base, but
I'm confident that things are improving everywhere."
"Not in Muriah," Sara said,
obviously struggling to restrain herself.
The Wizard looked suitably somber.
"Yes, I've been reading the wire dispatches. A tragic accident. I warned them
about the dangers of their experimentation, but the Dwarves were always a stubborn lot. I,
uh, understand that you might have been involved in some small
sentence dangled like an accusation.
Sara looked stricken.
"I… I didn't… I tried to stop it. I was there — for their Rings. Not for what
"I assume you were successful,"
he said, looking at the Three. "You have quite the collection already."
He went on, "Nasty things, those
Rings. Never had anything to do with them, myself — other than academically, of
course. Their owners think they're so precious, they'll do anything to hold on
to them. But you couldn't have known, I'm sure."
"It was your so-called
brought this about," countered Sara. "They were making nuclear weapons for
"Is that what they told you?" He
looked surprised. "Now, why would He want such bombs? Since the establishment of the
Central Authority, there has been no more war. In fact, there's no conceivable
for war anymore. All I did was teach them some simple things, like electricity.
What's so horrible about electricity?"
"Don't try to confuse me,"
Sara said. "The Dwarves' Rings were under the influence of the One Ring. Their
Kings were under Soraun's control."
"That's not necessarily how it
works, Sara. The use of the Rings is under control of the Central Authority. You
may not believe this yet, but there's a great deal of autonomy for the various realms
under our protection. The Dwarves had always been the master crafters and engineers of our
world. Once set down the path of Science and Technology — and I must admit I had a
hand in that — they were quite clever enough to develop such things on their own
"Believe me, if I had been able to
exercise such control over the Dwarves, they would have spent their time and resources on
much more productive enterprises. No, this was their own doing, I'm afraid.
We'll miss them, but what's done is done. In any event, their obsession with
such power would have been their inevitable downfall soon enough. I'm sure you must
have seen how they had poisoned themselves."
Sara nodded dubiously, "The sickness.
They knew they were dying, but they kept fighting anyway, even though they had to know
they'd lose. They sacrificed so much. Why? They could have told me the
set off the bomb, and I would have dealt with it first, before I got their stupid Rings.
It was just so awful."
"Don't be too hard on yourself,
Sara. You were just doing what you probably thought was right. Which brings me to another
"I must assume, since you now have the Three, that my old, dear friends
Gundolf, Eldron and Gladariel are no longer with us."
He looked down for a moment, as if
reluctant to broach a sensitive subject. "I know you have not been on our world very
long. How is it you believe you know enough about us to involve yourself in our, uh,
"Whoever sent me here gave me the
identity and memories of… Well, I guess the original Sara Corel, from Earth. I
read — I mean, she read — a story
that's a lot like everything here — only, sorta mixed up a
little. In the book, the good guys won and the One Ring was destroyed,
along with Soraun."
"Ah," he mused, "a Cosmic
Inspiration Resonance. Fascinating. Albeit slightly flawed, it would seem." He added
with a smile, "I take it I was not one of the 'good guys'."
"You don't seem to be,"
Sara said evenly.
"Your three friends and I go back a
very long way. To a large extent, we were instrumental in
developing this world. Obviously,
we had our disagreements. Do you know that we have been mired in primitive feudalism for
more than eight-thousand years? Yes, we've developed our world-magic to a high
degree, but it remains inaccessible to most. A privileged few guard its secrets jealously,
and dole out meager dollops to the masses.
"Meanwhile, there is disease,
ignorance, high infant mortality, war after war, famine, inequality, unceasing toil,
shortened lives and universal suffering. There doesn't have to be. The Sara you were
must come from a technological society whose history you surely know. Was Progress so bad
"Well, no," Sara said
doubtfully, "I don't think so. But… I mean, Soraun — how can you make
anything good come of teaming up with Him? He's a… A creep! You know, like evil
He chuckled. "That's certainly
what I would expect to hear from Gundolf. And, really, it's quite true. I'll
concede that. But so what? He mostly stays in Maurdur these days and leaves the rest of us
alone. Goblins and Men work together building roads, housing, industry, commerce. I'll
grant you there's much to be done, and maybe our methods are sometimes troubling, but
overall, things are slowly but surely getting better. Not worse.
"I submit to you that
triumph of 'evil' has made the concept irrelevant.
It's all quite relative, you know.
Gundolf and his companions were not
hunted down and killed after the War. They undoubtedly bore a heavy burden for their
defeat. I can imagine how that must have preyed on their minds. Through the years,
bitterness over the loss of their noble cause unmade their minds. Very understandable.
"When, by some cosmic chance, you
came along, perhaps he saw an instrument of his redemption. He was always the master
strategist, and schemes came readily to his mind. With little to go on but a book from
another life and sympathy for a dying man, there was no way for you to judge his
plan's merits. There was no one to cast doubt upon his designs."
Thoughtfully, Sara said, "Actually,
Gwenafir wasn't exactly enthusiastic."
"You spoke with her? Oh, this is most remarkable! You've actually been to
Avalon? And spoken with the High Elves?"
"They weren't too
friendly," she said cautiously.
"I can imagine not, if you penetrated
their security. They were always a haughty bunch, magical immortals who would not share
their gifts. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you how you found them."
He looked thoughtful for a moment, making
Sara feel as if she had violated some confidence.
But then he said, "So, now that you
have seen how Gundolf's designs have turned out thus far, maybe you should consider
that there may be another side to this story."
Reluctantly, Sara admitted to herself that
the Wizard made a lot of sense. In the book, it was assumed that if
Soraun won, everything
would be horrible — in some unspecified way. Well, He'd won. And maybe things
weren't like they were on Earth, but it certainly did seem that
Soloman was trying
his best to improve what he could. Who would want to live in the Dark Ages forever? And
poor, mad Gundolf had orchestrated nothing but death, death, death
— followed by
Soloman interrupted her thoughts.
"I've scheduled a meeting with my Board of Directors to present some proposals
to you which I hope you'll consider. They should be arriving soon."
He strolled to a window and opened the
shutters to peer down at the street far below, where nine black limousines were parading
past the entrance to discharge their passengers one by one. A Goblin
working party cleaning
up glass and wood debris saluted each black shape as it passed into the lobby.
the receptionist would not be giving them a hard time.
Soloman sat at the head of the
conference table, with five Directors along one side, and four on the other with Sara,
sitting to the Wizard's right. They wore expensive suits that fit them well
— black on black, of course. Sara had expected crowns borne by unseen heads, with red flames
for eyes, but Soloman explained to her that such antics were behind them, unnecessary
since the end of the War. She could sense their Rings burning on their fingers.
For they were the
Black Horsemen, Generals of the Armies of Maurdur, Harbingers of Doom, Undead Minions of
Soraun, Slaves of the One Ring. Now calmly discussing mergers and acquisitions, research
and development, capitalization and infrastructure, profitability and cost/benefit
They had once been Kings of Men. They had
become Captains of Industry, wielding greater power than ever before. They looked no more
— or less — evil than any other high-level executives.
Soloman called the meeting to order.
"Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce Sara Corel, a recent newcomer to our planet.
She is a Gift to Midgarde from the unknown warders of the Cosmos. My extraplanetary
studies — which, as you know, have brought us so much useful information in the cause
of Progress — have revealed to me that such beings as she are bestowed upon many
planets whose peoples have reached the threshold of potentially joining the vast
fellowship of ancient and honorable civilizations throughout time and space.
"They are made to resemble the beings
they serve, and endowed with all their languages. Their guise is made to be familiar and
reassuring, most often taken from a legendary figure of great portent.
"In her short time with us, she has
been suborned by Gundolf, visited hidden Avalon, wrested the Three from the dying hands of
Gundolf, Eldron and Gladariel, conquered the Dwarves and then tried to save them from a
holocaust ignited by a Jabberwauk, and come to us in wrath that passed into understanding.
"How shall we now treat with this
awesome Gift, this puissant instrumentality, this beautiful Sara?" His speech
concluded, Soloman sat down to polite applause.
For some time, the Directors shuffled
through their supporting documents and consulted in whispers among themselves.
Soloman smiled at Sara and reassuringly reached out to comfortingly squeeze her hand.
"You have come to us," began
one of the Board members, "as a strange visitor from another planet, one that is far
advanced compared to our own present backwardness. With the memories you must bring of an
age we can only hope for, you can tell us how your cities are organized, how
we can modernize our
distribution networks, and teach us how to improve our transportation and communication, finance and
capitalization, energy and fabrication. What miracles we can
accomplish together. Join with us,
Sara. Help us to grow."
Another addressed her, "You have
powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal Men, Goblins and even Wizards. With your keen
senses, you can scour the world for those resources vital to our increasing industry. With
such information, there will be no limit to our eventual prosperity. All
"With the power," said a third,
"to change the course of mighty rivers, the wastelands and deserts will bloom and
bring about and end to famine and want. Navigation will be extended to places that are now
unexplored wilderlands. Our civilization will spread and great benefit will come of your
kindness. For this, we will be forever thankful."
The fourth Director told her, "If you
can, indeed, bend steel in your bare hands, then consider the great works we can together
accomplish. We can erect lofty bridges across the natural barriers of our lands, promoting commerce and
travel where it is not now possible. We can construct roads where none
now dare to go, through precarious
mountains and across trackless swamps. The benefits to our grateful nations will be
"As a swift messenger who is," said the fifth in his turn, "faster
than a speeding
cannonball, you can link our entire planet with vital intelligence, alerting others to
far-off calamities so that aid may be summoned. You will earn the gratitude of scores who
will owe their lives to you."
"As it is possible for you to
leap tall buildings with a single bound," said Director number six,
"so can you
soar high above our world and beyond, bringing us the discoveries of new worlds,
increasing our knowledge and understanding of the universe. Our scientists would salute
"It is reported," said the next,
looking up from a memo, "that you are more powerful than a
loco-motive engine. With such overwhelming force, you can level whole mountains, fill in the low places
of the land, create new islands in the midst of the seas, and dam unruly torrents to
provide irrigation and electrical generation. To employ such energy in our service would
win our utmost admiration."
The penultimate Director told her,
"Even more than all these mere menial tasks and accomplishments, the grace of your
mild-mannered demeanor will fill us with hope and confidence."
At last, the leader of them all directed the smooth
competence of his
personality toward Sara and told her, "All these things can be accomplished with you
as our guide and inspiring spirit. Together with all the support and strength of every
creature in Midgarde, a great and wonderful chapter of our history opens before us. We
will rise from the ashes of war and the chains of barbarity into a future of brightness
and success to someday take our place in the beckoning heavens."
concluded, "What do you say to our pleas, Sara?
Will you favor us with your boundless talents? Will you lead us to that better place? Will
you fulfill your destiny and ours?"
In a murmuring susurration of entreaties,
she heard, "Join us." "Come with us." "Be our light and compass."
"Bless our land with your sweetness
and mercy." "Help us in our need." "Know our love and respect." "Let us rejoice
"Uplift our aspirations." "Multiply our wisdom."
Sara's mind's eye beheld visions
of wonders, as the relentless suggestions poured into her brain.
Yes! It could be done.
The world would be remade, there would be new ideas and grand plans for improvement after
improvement. Growth, development and progress — no, Progress —
would sweep all
the old ways and unproductive throwbacks aside. And she could do it. They could do it.
Between her boundless capabilities and their resources and peoples, nothing would be
It was heady stuff.
There was something else.
Something that nagged at her, that
A thought that wouldn't go away among
the tumult of their flatteries and her own leaping imagination.
The Little People.
Lines of Little People, trudging down the lanes
of their tiny village to their workhouse on the reeking road.
Fear in the eyes of their leaders while
mouthing how grateful they were.
Hopelessness at the endlessness of their
drab lives, or of the end that awaited them if they wavered in devotion.
What was the meaning of Progress when it
trapped the helpless? What was the point of expanding an economy of misery? Who benefited
from all this unceasing labor?
She understood now that this was the
attack that she had not been expecting, and what Gundolf had meant about her
'confident invulnerability' extending to lies — and to hope.
Sara held up her hand, stopping the
mounting prayers. The Board Members sat back in their overstuffed chairs, with the
self-satisfied smiles of sharks surrounding their prey.
"Thanks for your really great
presentation, guys," she said. "It was pretty interesting, that's for sure.
I'm really very honored."
The Nazghoul glanced smugly at each other
around the table.
"But I have a few questions,"
she went on, "that I don't really expect you to answer. Just some ideas I want
to go over before I tell you what I want to do. That OK with you?"
They serenely nodded their agreement
"I think I get the big picture. With
my help on some things, this whole place can be brought up to at least my old planet
Earth's twentieth century in pretty short order. I mean, I got the horsepower and
stuff, and you've all your people, plus a whole lot of magic mojo. So far so
"You're exactly right, of
course," purred Soloman. There was a murmur of agreement around the table.
"What I don't really get is what
the point is. I mean, who's gonna benefit from all this? Sure, a lot of roads and
trains and buildings and all that are nice and everything. I suppose there'll be a
big old baby boom all over the place to get more people for all the new cities and all
that. But everything on this world flows in one direction. It all comes from the top, and
that's the problem."
"Now, Sara," said
Soloman patiently, "of course there's some, ah, direction at this stage. That's
necessary to get things started. All our people need guidance to help them on the path
toward Progress. This will change as we reach more of our goals. The State will wither
away, you'll see."
"I don't really think so,"
she answered. "You know why? 'Cause where I come from, people make choices all
the time about what to buy, where to live, how to act, who to believe. Maybe not all the
time and not everywhere. But even in the worst imaginable dictatorships, it still comes
down to what people will put up with.
"There have been some awful evil
times on my old planet. Some of the bad guys there did things that would probably make
even your hair curl — and I don't even want to give you any ideas. All of
the evil they did was based on the fact that they had too much power over people. But they
eventually either got defeated, overthrown or just died after a while. That's not
gonna happen here. Whatever else, your old pal Soraun and His buddies are likely to be
"I know this is gonna sound kinda
corny, but there isn't ever going to be any kind of basic freedom as long as your
'Central Authority' is around. Just the possibility that there might be
would change everything, but that won't happen. Everybody will always have to do what
they are told, and all the benefits flow only one way, too. To the top.
"Freedom, even the tiniest bit, even
its memory or the hope of it, is the only thing that keeps evil at bay, that eventually
wears it down. Where there is the most freedom, there is the brightest achievement. As
inefficient as all the unguided choices of a whole world might be, no central authority
has ever been its equal. People who trade their freedom for security
wind up with neither, and lose
their souls in the bargain.
"There's a saying that goes,
'Absolute power corrupts absolutely,' but in your case, this is absolute power
that never goes away. The corruption is never-ending. There will never be any choices in a
world of permanent fear, no matter how it might eventually glitter. And
that looks like a
pretty good definition of 'evil' to me.
"Y'know, everything I've
heard since I entered this room is based on lies, starting with the old Wizard, here, saying
how pleased he was to meet me. Then he lied about the Dwarves, he lied about
lied about Soraun, and he lied about himself. He's good at it, too. Had me going,
"Then each and every one of you lied
to me by telling me what you figured I wanted to hear. It was phony baloney in a silk
suit. I'm not buying it.
"Do you want to know why? Because I
ran into some of your folks whose clothes don't match, and never will. Who were uprooted
and exploited by threatening to remove their 'protection' if they didn't go
along. By gentle little people who are 'mighty grateful' for their lives but
have lost their hope and their freedom.
"If for nothing else, I don't
like you for that. And I don't like you for what happened to the Dwarves. And for
what happened to Gundolf and Eldron and the Lady Gladariel. And for the bleak and hopeless
horror that you have made of Midgarde.
"So here is my answer,
'gentlemen'. Go to Hell. And on your way out, I'll have your damned
They were defeated. All of their wiles and
subterfuges had been exposed as pitiful scrabblings, without substance or meaning. The
awful, blazing glory of her truth was their certain downfall. It towered over them like a
radiant angel that they could not bear. Her command to them was their doom and their
The façades they had been clothed with
melted and ran like cheap wax, revealing their hideous formlessness. In futile rage
against the loosening of their substances, they poured forth the bitter hatred and fear of
their whole energies upon her, closing in as the table flared with intolerable brightness
and was consumed, its ashes blown away by a sudden gale of sweeping forces.
The great building shuddered to its
foundations, cracking and breaking away in huge chunks from its swaying, shrieking steel
skeleton. Soloman hurried from the unendurable scene in the crumbling Board Room to scurry
into the waiting express elevator. No Goblins were to be seen.
As he started his downward plunge, the
quaking tower shattered the supports for the giant, heavy, solid ball of crystal atop the
roof. With ever-increasing momentum, it fell straight down, bursting every structure in
its way like rotten cardboard until it caught up with the dropping elevator car,
shattering its roof and carrying the remnants to the basement with
Soloman, flat on his
back, looking up at his death.
he muttered in his last seconds. None of his lies could save him.
In the space above the disintegrating
skyscraper where the Board Room had been, Sara endured the unimaginable onslaught of the
failing Nazghoul as, one by one, their black and furious flames went out, leaving their
Rings and a terrible sound of despair as they went to that place of eternal torment long
prepared for them.
All across the city and far beyond into
every corner of the land that had been dominated by their now vanished presence, a great
cry went up as some terrible pressure was lifted from every living being. As their
Masters' works crumbled and their plans were unmade, their now directionless
creatures howled in unrestrained madness at their unexpected release.
Sara surveyed the damage, but was able to
do little to check the myriad raging fires, calm the lawless mobs or stem the general
panic. This day would end in a fall of dreadful night as long-repressed hatreds, longings,
compulsions, fears, passions, excesses, hopes, jealousies, sicknesses and hungers
were given vent. Perhaps a new beginning could be formed by the survivors, perhaps not.
Sara was not sanguine about the prospects, for all of Midgarde had been held too long
Around midnight, she finally abandoned the
city to its fate and raced north to where she had left the Little People. In the deserted
village she'd visited just this morning, she found only a few Goblins, now reverted to the
savagery of their natural inclinations. They had looted and destroyed the tiny cottages
and ransacked the workhouse and company store. Now, under a tree by the side of the
yellowed brick road, they were crunching the bones of their supper.
Little Peoples' bones. Some of their leftovers were
still clothed in brightly colored poly. Nob's dead eyes stared accusingly at her from his
head atop a pile of scraps.
Crying aloud in rage and horror, she
vaporised the filthy band on the spot, sending a thick, greasy cloud into the night sky.
Rising quickly with the awful, sinking realization that she was too late, she scanned the
surrounding countryside for any that might have escaped. She spotted small groups hurrying
west with as many belongings as they could carry, but whenever she approached, they
cowered in abject fear, mewling pitiously, only to scramble on their way again as soon as
she left them. They would have to fend for themselves, she thought, and would probably do
as well as anybody else. She doubted eyes less keen than hers would ever spot them, for
they had learned the stealthy ways of the hunted. She silently wished them luck. It was
all she could do.
All the Rings save one were hers, now.
Only the middle finger of her left hand was still bare. She intended to show it to
Soraun before night fell again.
© Patrick Hill, 2000