By: Zachary S. Lehman

Clink! The moons' ethereal light shone through the cage's barred ceiling, parsed by the winding branches of the Chapporealle Forest's Boa trees. Clink. Kaymus sat on the cold woodland floor, staring up at the moons past the bars. He could hear—clink, clink, clank—the guttural snores of the orc warden, who sat on a wooden chair just a dwarfs throw away, and the rhythmic squeaking of, what Kaymus presumed was, a bed frame in the tent adjacent to his cage on the outskirts of the orc camp. They're working up an appetite, Kaymus thought, he needed to find a way out of here soon as to avoid becoming their morning protein. Clink, clink, clink, clink. Not to mention, he glanced at the Goblin rattling the chain that bound the two by their wrists; he didn't know how much longer he could bear to be in this animal's presence. Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink, clink!

"Enough!" Kaymus bellowed, flinching a bit, as the last thing he aimed to do was awaken the guard.

The Goblin pointed at his chained wrist, "Key."

"No," Kaymus said, maintaining eye-contact with the Goblin, something the academy educated him was an effective way of conveying austerity through body-language. "Make no mistake, you are still my prisoner."

The Goblin chuckled, "No," he waltzed to the edge of the cage, sticking an arm through the bars to point at the sleeping Orc, "Rit, his prisoner." Kaymus eyed the keys to the cage door dangling from a ring on the Orc's belt. Gods, he needed those keys.

Kaymus slowly stood, his armor, crafted of elven steel, customary issue for a UCA knight, refracted the glow of the moons. "I will remind you, goblin, it was your shrieking that alerted the orc pack to our position."

"Yeah, Rit hope to sneak off while Elf was eaten, but… Elf must not smell appetizing."

"Rit," Kaymus scoffed, "What a stupid name."

"And elf name?"

"Kaymus. It means distinguished lead—"

"Anus?" "No, not—!" Kaymus' face betrayed him, revealing a flash of agitation. He turned toward the cage wall beside him, attempting to conceal his frustration, "You disgust me, Goblin."

Rit smirked, walking over to the partition Kaymus was peering out of, and maneuvered his small frame through the bars, stopping in the path of Kaymus' gaze. Eye's locked with his, Rit shook the chain once more, "Rit could escape if not chained to Anus."

Kaymus' eyes narrowed to thin slits, "Still. My. Prisoner." He tugged the chain, yanking Rit back into the cage, the Goblin deftly leaned to one side to avoid colliding face first with one of the bars.

Rit allowed the momentum to carry him right over to Kaymus, "Why? Rit not do anything wrong!" Kaymus raised an eyebrow at him. "Today…"

"Precisely. This is Elven land now, as sanctioned by the Unified Civilizations Act, and your kind's very presence is a notable enough offense."

"Elves selfish! This Goblin land first," Rit gestured to the Orc camp, "Orc land first!"

"And it is ours now," Kaymus leaned down, leveling his eyeline with that of the small creature, "Listen, Goblin. Ours is a more sophisticated people. There is no sophistication—no goodness, in Goblins or Orcs. You are savage, cultureless, animals, and you will either leave, or you will be relocated! You are lucky to have even been granted a choice!"

"Quiet!" The Orc guard stirred on his wooden chair.

They both looked at him. Kaymus, took a deep breath, making an attempt to compose himself. Rit kicked at a pebble on the ground and murmured, "Sophisticated people not named Anus." At this, Kaymus' eyes flooded with rage, he let out a frustrated grumble and tackled Rit to the ground. The two wrestled, a tornado of limbs rampaging throughout the width of the cage. "Help! Help!" Rit cried out.

The Orc guard finally opened a single eye, glancing at the cage in his periphery, he groaned and hoisted his hulking mass up, inadvertently knocking the chair to the ground as he did so. "Hey," he marched toward the cage, "Knock it off!"

The two prisoners kept at their quarrel, swinging and scratching at one another. The Orc guard ended his march at the cage's door, he growled and slammed his knuckles into the bars, a loud metal twang reverberated throughout the cage's frame. The inmates covered their ears and looked up at the guard, glaring at them with grim resentment. Kaymus tossed Rit off of himself and stood, brushing the dirt off of his armor.

The Orc guard released a huff from his snout and turned to return to his chair, and hopefully, his slumber. However, Rit scrambled up and jumped onto the bars of the cage door, elevated enough to reach eye-level with the exhausted warden. He extended his chained arm through the bars' gap, jerking Kaymus forward as he did so, and grasped onto the Orc's collar. "Wait, wait! Orc have to help Rit!"

"Rit," Kaymus pulled back on the chain like he was yielding a misbehaving dog, "Stop!" But the Goblin held fast.

The Orc guard turned to face Rit, clinging to his collar, through gritted teeth he snarled, "Let go…"

"Orc move Rit to different cage? Elf mouth foaming… could be rabies."

"Oh, cease your lies!" Kaymus was taken aback, how dare this creature suggest he was the feral one?

"And Elf reek bad! Might have shit in pants."

The Orc guard glanced at Kaymus over Rit's shoulder and shook his giant head in disapproval.

"Oh, Gods—I did not!"

The Orc guard looked to Rit, "Don't care. Get off," he tried to shove the little creature loose, but Rit tightened his grip.

"No! Please, save Rit!"

"Relent, Goblin," Kaymus yelled, "You're going to have us both killed sooner!" He tried to reel Rit back in, but Rit fought to pull himself up to the Orc's ear.

"The Elf conceals a knife," he hissed, the Orc guard turned his gaze to Kaymus, eyes hot with rage, "he's going to kill everyone in this camp."

The Orc guard's green face became flush with a wave of glowing red anger! "You," he bellowed.

"Lying Goblin bastard," Kaymus screamed, "I'll kill you myself!" Yanking the chain as hard as he could, Kaymus brought Rit careening into the cage, and, with him, the Orc's head crashing into the doors steel bars. Bong! The Orc's eyes went cross as he staggered a few steps before inevitably collapsing to the ground.

Kaymus froze, then looked to the camp, confident any second now he would see several angry Orc's awakening to devour them upon the discovery of their unconscious warden. "You fool," Kaymus whispered, "What have you—" That's when he noticed Rit, standing, triumphantly, outside of the cage, twirling the guard's key ring around his finger, a cheeky smile across his face.

Against his will, a smile formed across Kaymus' face as he observed the Goblin revel. Then, a frown. He's going to force me to release him while he's got control, Kaymus thought. But no, Rit, to Kaymus' wonder, pulled himself up to the door's lock, inserted the key, and sprung Kaymus. The two stepped over the guard's unconscious body and sprinted off into the forest, laughing as they ran.

After adequate distance was placed between them and the camp, they stopped to catch their breath at the base of a thick Boa tree. Leaning against its trunk, Kaymus said, "Ha! Well done, Goblin! That was…"

"Sophisticated?" Rit proposed, an eyebrow raised.

Kaymus chuckled, "…something." Rit snorted and waved a dismissive hand in his direction. Kaymus took a deep breath and gestured to their general whereabouts, "See, I told you I could transport you through the Chapporealle, and everything would be fi—" Bam! A battle-axe slammed into the bark of the Boa tree, a pixie wing's length from removing the tip of Kaymus' nose. The two turned and saw the Orc Guard charging at them like an enraged auroch, a bump the size of a cherrynut protruding from his forehead. "Oh, Gods…"

Before Kaymus could move, the Orc was upon him, delivering a fist to the stomach that drained his lungs of their wind. Rit lunged at the Orc but was met with a backhand that launched him as far as his chains allowed him to fly before growing taut and snapping him back to the ground. Kaymus made his best attempt at an uppercut, but the Orc caught his weak fist, then grabbed him by the head and slammed it against the Boa's trunk. Kaymus went down hard. The Orc guard grabbed him by the ankle, turned, and trekked back towards the camp, Rit in tow.

Kaymus, through dazed and blurry vision, glanced back towards the Goblin, being pulled through the dirt, grass, and leaves face first, trying to push himself up and find footing, to no avail. He observed the creature—observed Rit—continue to fight, resist, and claw for his life. His freedom. Then, Kaymus sighed, dug into his pocket, and pulled out a key.

Rit struggled to keep mud out of his mouth as he was pulled, moving his head best as he could to avoid rocks jutting from the forest floor, fighting to break free, and then, suddenly, he just halted. He looked up, confused. The other end of the chain was no longer attached to anything. Rit shot up from the ground and looked to Kaymus being dragged away. Kaymus, maintaining eye-contact with Rit, mouthed, "Run."

Kaymus watched Rit take off in the opposite direction, towards the exit of the forest, towards freedom. The sound of the chain's rattling grew faint in the distance, Kaymus looked up to the moons, Earomaros and Gemdelen, traveling side by side through the night sky, their glow washed over him. He smiled and closed his eyes…

Clink, clink. They shot back open. Clink, clink, clink, clink! Oh, no!

Kaymus turned in time to see Rit sprinting back towards them, as swiftly as his little legs would move him. Rit let out a battle cry and leapt onto the guard's shoulders, he wrapped the chain round and round the Orc's neck and squeezed them taut. The Orc reached up to grasp at the chain restricting his airflow, releasing Kaymus' leg. Kaymus kicked the Orc in the back of his knee, bringing him kneeling to the ground. He jumped up and struck the Orc with a right hook across his jowl, knocking him backwards and on top of Rit.

Kaymus pulled Rit out from under their unconscious captor, and they both took off, sprinting toward freedom, together.

By the time they emerged from the Chapporealle and onto the road, the sun was just beginning to peak its orange crown over the eastern horizon, Earomaros and Gemdelen disappearing together in the west. They rested, palms on knees, in the middle of the road, their chest's ebbing and flowing to match their heavy gasps for air. Kaymus glanced over his shoulder at a town up the road, "Ah, see, town," he said between breaths, "told you: forest… shortcut."

Rit shrugged, "Rit was wrong."

"And perhaps so was I." Kaymus stood, "I've misjudged you, Rit. I… apologize. You're not so bad for a Goblin."

Rit smirked, "Kaymus saying Goblins can have goodness in them?"

"Perhaps. Or perhaps I am just exhausted and concussed."

"Rit was wrong about Kaymus, too… mostly. Elf does reek."

Kaymus gave his armpit's a whiff and grimaced, "Ah! Yes, well. It's been a long day." They laughed, clink, Rit's chain rattling as his shoulders bounced. "Oh, here," Kaymus said, removing the key from his pocket. Rit held out his wrist.



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