Turstin watched as the goblins descended, two by two, into the cavernous opening beneath the tree. When all but four of the goblins had disappeared into the secret cave, the goblin leader motioned for Turstin and his master to follow them into the abyss. Turstin was hesitant with his movements, but the wizard walked forward determined, unafraid, eager to join the wretched party.
“I don’t want to go,” Turstin spoke quickly.
“Quiet,” his master said, and held his hand in front of Turstin’s face for silence. Turstin tried to speak, to voice his concern for their apparent demise, but the words became stuck in his throat.
The wizard sat on the ground in front of the tree and rolled onto his belly, grasping the gnarled rope. As he slowly disappeared into the trees’ base, he kept a solid stare on Turstin, who imagined his master being eaten alive by the sylvan beast. The thought put Turstin in mind of his own hunger and he shook with desperation.
“Get in there, you,” the goblin leader grunted and poked Turstin with his rusty old spear. Turstin buckled, convinced the jab had drawn blood, and held his side as he fell to his knees. The goblin leader and one of his kin hobbled toward Turstin and picked him up from under his arms. Without concern for his wound they dragged him toward the tree and shoved him mercilessly into the cavernous hole.
All was black to Turstin’s eyes as he slid into the opening, and after a few seconds he felt a number of hands grab him and pull him forward. When the hands let go, Turstin fell several feet into a pile on the soft, mushy dirt. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and tried to look around, but the impact with the ground had skewed his vision, blinding him temporarily. “Get up, you little weakling,” a gruff voice demanded. Turstin glanced up, expecting to see one of the goblins grimacing down at him: but his heart fell in his stomach when he saw the contorted face of the Great Andolian Wizard looking at him with disgust and disappointment.
“Can you try to compose yourself?” the wizard prodded.
Turstin stood wearily and took in a deep breath, desperate to dispel his master’s poor impression.
“I’m okay,” he said. “I’m sorry. I had the wind knocked out of me.”
“Fine,” the wizard said. “Just stay behind me and try not to let your emotions get the best of you.”
Turstin stepped forward, tensing his muscles and forcing himself to breath with steady inhalations. A crash behind him grabbed his attention, and he was able to dodge out of the way just before the Greust leader and his companion came tumbling down behind him.
“Out of my way,” the leader yelled, and kicked Turstin in the shins before pushing his way through. “Just two more left and we can move on toward the dungeons.”
“Dungeons?” Turstin winced. “They’re not taking us to dungeons, are they, master?”
The Andolian wizard laughed, and tried to cross his bound hands across his chest. The action reminded him of his situation and he allowed his arms to fall to their original positions.
“Did you think our confinements would be elaborate?” the wizard chuckled. “No, we won’t be treated as kings, my little friend. Be prepared for a struggle.”
The goblin leader pushed his way past the Greust standing before them and waved his arm for the group to follow. As Turstin passed, the goblin leader caught his eye and smiled at him. “We have a special place for you, my prince. Would you like something dark and dusty, or would you prefer something damp and moldy?”
Turstin tried to ignore the goblins’ jeers, but the idea of confinement terrified him. He looked to the ground as his captors edged him forward, and before he glanced up again the sound of clanking bars and locks filled his ears. The room in which he was trapped wasn’t big enough to lie down in.
“Master?” Turstin called. “Master, can you hear me?” Turstin listened closely for an answer, but none ever came.
“He’s gone,” a goblin replied. “You’re on your own now.”