The goblins watched the motley crew assemble. Kate's face reddened as the invaders pointed and laughed. One towards the left turned to his comrade and mimed the pitchfork which the other blocked with his sword. The mock defender then pointed his sword on the other and the first one fell to the ground with his hands over his stomach. The two laughed.
The others in the company watched. A few seemed nervous. The goblin commander rode up on a pony and shouted at them. Kate couldn't make out what was being said, but the two jokers fell back in line and kept their faces grim.
The commander rode up to the front of the line and turned toward the elves. "So this is how it ends? If you had continued to pay your taxes, we would have left you alone. But this rebel incites you to violence. Turn her over to us and we will overlook your rebellion. Fail to do so, and you will all die."
The elves looked at each other nervously. One of the elders approached her, his eyes down. "Your highness, the goblins say they will spare us if you go with them."
"I heard them," Kate said. “But if I go, they will kill me."
"If you don't, they will kill us all."
"I will protect you," she insisted.
Kreelan strode up to them. "Gralin, you can't be taking their offer seriously, they will not honor it." He shook his head.
Gralin was silent. Kate looked at the two of them. "I am not going with them. You can fight with me or you can stand behind me. Your choice."
He examined his feet further. Kreelan pushed. "You came out of the gate. Why do that if you weren't prepared to defend our home?"
Behind the three of them, Kate noticed a sound. She looked up and noticed the elves were chanting. It was soft at first but soon the volume grew. "Kate, Kate, Kate."
That was her, she realized. They were chanting her name.
Gralin finally looked up, "I guess it is decided. We fight."
The three of them walked up to the commander. Gralin spoke up, "You offer is rejected. You will leave us. You may leave in peace, or you may meet your ancestors. The goblin hissed. He kicked his spurs and retreated. When he reached the back of the line, he pulled a horn from his side and blew. The goblins roared and advanced.
Kate looked around at the villagers. They eyed the exit but stood their ground. Kate called to them, "This is for your home, for your children. We can defeat them. We fight for Fawla. We fight for Zanor!" The elves cheered and raised their weapons. "Attack." They ran towards the goblins.
The field filled with the sound of clashing metal. The goblins had better weapons and better training, but the elves had superior numbers. The attackers found themselves against two and sometimes three elves.
At first, Kate thought that the elves would defeat the goblins. As the goblins’ shock wore off, they fought more effectively and beat the villagers back. Kate tried to focus on her own battle, but the cries of her comrades distracted her.
It started with grunts and squeals of pain. Then there was a cry, louder than the others. Kate lowered her guard and look just in time to see a goblin run his sword through a farmer. The ground turned crimson beneath him.
Kate was so focused on the death that she never saw the sword hilt as it smashed into her skull.
When Kate came to, she was tied up on the ground in the goblin encampment. The goblin commander sat at a desk with his back to her. She tried to move but a jolt of pain washed over her followed by a tinge of nausea. She retched, narrowly avoiding her hands where they were tied to a post.
The sound got the commander's attention. "Ah, good. You join us. You would not be useful if you were dead."
"Do what you want with me, as long as you leave the elves alone," Kate said. The taste of bile filled her mouth. She pulled at her bindings and they gave a little.
"All of your friends will be put to sword for defying Lord Zang. Then you will help us subdue the others. The riders give us problems and we could use someone of your talents," he said.
"I'll never help you," she shouted. A little more.
"Oh, but you will," he replied. "Zang’s rule will be absolute."
She tugged again and came free of the post. She leapt at the commander and knocked him down. He struggled against her but she had 50 pounds on the tiny creature.
"Guards," he shouted. Kate took the length of rope between her two hands and looped is around his neck. She strained against the bindings and he gasped for breath. He bucked but Kate continued to sit on his chest. He tried to shout again but only a weak gasp came out.
She rode his spams. Her wrists burned against the rough fibers of the rope. Then, he was still. Kate unwrapped the rope from his neck and stood. He wasn't moving. She kicked him to be sure but he just lay there.
She looked around the commander's tent. The fight still raged outside but it didn't sound like it was going well for the elves. She saw her sword and helmet on a table. It didn't look like they got the armor off. Kate wasn't sure she could get the armor off when the time came.
She lay down on top of the sword and pressed the rope against the blade. It hurt even more than the choke hold. Blood trickled from her wrists where they had been rubbed raw. It took several minutes, but she broke through a strand of the rope and the knot fell apart. She up and rubbed her wrists. She couldn't wait any longer. Kate put the helmet on her head and grabbed the sword. She picked it up but dropped it and collapsed.
She heaved on the ground and retched again. Her entire body shook. Kate wasn't going to be of any help like this.
For the first time she noticed the smell. On the desk where the commander had been sitting was a half-eaten plate of food.
Kate jumped at the plate. She didn't bother with utensils but tore into hunk of meat. It was bloody and Kate didn't want to try to guess at the animal it came from. But it was the first thing she had eaten in almost a day. She licked the grease from the plate and gnawed at the bone.