“That looks like a good startin’ point,” Fewla said. “I think I’ll wait ‘ere.”
Back near the top of the mountains, Goom had been placed on a sort of altar like some type of sacrifice.
He understood that the occult display of sorcery in which the Ulimni had cast a ring of fire above the range was their means of summoning the dragon back to the mountains.
She had, no doubt, been out scouring the land for her stolen heart strings. It was only a matter of time before she made her way back to the mountains.
Goom was still wrapped in rope, and he was tied to a stone obelisk that had been magically erected from the mountain top.
Dragon fire was known to melt stone, and Goom knew that he and the obelisk would soon be nothing more than ash drifting on the icy currents that ran through the Shrouded Mountains.
He hopped that some small part of him might find its way back to the Gellring Foothills.
After they'd tied him up, the Ulimni had made their way up near the top of Skrye to get a better view.
Goom could still make out their shadows which were easier to see in the glow of the fiery ring that hung above them.
The Ulimni were standing in front of a large dark spot on the mountain which Goom believed to be the dragon's den. They were still far below the peak of the great mountain.
In between he and the Ulimni was roughly a half mile of steep and jagged rocks.
This was probably the time when he was supposed to reflect on his life.
He should have been tearfully thinking of the friends and family he'd leave behind, or whimsically imagining the friends and family he'd shortly be joining on the other side of The Sea of Souls,
but the only thing he was feeling was sorry for himself. Murt was right. The life he was leaving behind was a life of deceitful hustling and material gains.
He didn't even know if he had a soul inside of his physical frame.
Even with that realization, he was most disappointed to have missed out on the chance to sell the heartstrings that's he'd worked so hard to steal in the first place.
Goom again turned his attention to the Ulimni, and he could barely see their pale faces staring down at him with condemnation. He couldn't hate them for it.
He was a bad guy, and his death would be an appropriate end for a thief of ill repute. The Ulimni who carried the lute unslung it from his back.
As he did it, he incidentally strummed a few of the strings, and even in the wide distance between them, Goom could hear the pure sound as if it were a songbird on his shoulder.
A faint, high-pitched cry sliced through the air like the head of an axe falling on the chopping block.
The dragon was on her way, and although the sound was coming from a long way across Fairyland, the dragon's great gray wings would allow her to traverse the distance in no time.
At this point, Goom was encouraging her swiftness.
The Ulimni with the lute released the instrument from his hand, and it levitated before him. He held out his hand and commanded the lute to float higher and higher into the air.
He placed it on a perch above the dragon's den as if it were a beacon to guide the dragon home.
As he softly lowered it to the stone alcove, again the strings sent ethereal music through the air.
A second dragon dry cut through the air and joined the sound of the lute and created a sort of ominous chord.
A tingle ran through Goom's spine, but he furrowed his brow as if he were in deep thought.
Goom suddenly became aware of a disturbance among the Ulimni who were now moving around as if they were searching for something.
They spread out across their perch and put their hands to the mountain at their feet.
For a moment, Goom thought they were going to summon another tower of flame, but as he looked on, it appeared as though they were feeling for something.
One of the Ulimni silently signaled to the others, and together they floated down from the mountain top.
He didn't know how, but Goom could feel that his brother Murt was near, and he feared that the Ulimni had sensed the same thing.
Even if Murt had brought an army of reinforcements, they'd be no match for the Ulimni.
Goom was resigned to his own death, but it didn't seem fair that his brother would die in the same cold, alien mountains.
* * *
The Ulimni passed below Goom's range of vision in their pursuit. They moved soundlessly through the mist as if they were part of it.
Their hands were to their sides, and their hollow eyes were fixed in concentration. They moved over ridges and through wide fissures in the mountains in search of their prey.
It was only a few minutes before they'd homed in on the source of the magical force that had interrupted the execution. It was coming from the other side of the ridge.
They moved to ground, so they could remain unseen in their approach.
* * *
Murt and Dennis had made their way up into the Shrouded Mountains.
It wasn't easy to navigate the inconsistent and jagged terrain, but the glowing ring of fire above Skrye made it easy to keep their destination in view.
Murt had cast his usual spell of enchantment over he and Dennis.
Murt had cast his usual spell of enchantment over he and Dennis. The gravity of the situation made it easy for him to concentrate on his magic, but he knew that it wouldn't be much help against the Ulimni.
They would remain unseen, but the sorcerers wouldn't need to rely on their vision to find the rescuers.
They would remain unseen, but the sorcerers wouldn't need to rely on their vision to find the rescuers. Still, he hoped that the enchantment would buy them some time or make it difficult for the Ulimni to direct any spells toward them.
Again, Murt had been tempted to use the single heartstring that they possessed to amplify his own magical powers, but he thought better of it.
The string would still play a vital role in their rescue efforts, nonetheless.
The severity of their mission wasn't lost on Dennis, and for once, he was focused and silent though his heart was loudly beating through his chest.
He kept his hand on the hilt of the sword at his hip. Murt had told him that it would be useless, but it gave him a bit of confidence, so it was worth it to him.
With Murt in the lead, they continued through the rock-strewn valleys. In some places they had to climb and scramble over jagged boulders and they did so quickly and with resolute focus.
They were both sweating heavily when they reached a small peak. Looking up toward Skrye, they could make out the small but unmistakable silhouette of Goom.
Murt allowed himself a deep exhale now that they'd been assured that all their climbing was in fact leading them in the right direction.
He was exhausted, but the sight of his brother gave him a revitalizing boost. He and Dennis made their way toward a ridge that they could follow to Goom's mountain top imprisonment.
* * *
The Ulimni spread out to surround their target.
Despite being voted as the five most powerful sorcerers in Fairyland by the The Council of Elder Magic, Trickery, and Bamboozlement,
the Ulimni were wary of the power that they felt emanating from their unseen foe.
They communicated through unknown means, and simultaneously, they flew over the crest of the ridge.
They were ready to unleash their lethal conjurings, but rather than the formidable opponent they expected, they laid their eyes on a giant distraction.
Martin looked back at the Ulimni with an unassuming blank stare plastered on his giant, fuzzy face.
The Ulimni were incapable of the full range of emotions enjoyed by the various races of Fairyland, but they went through their versions of surprise, frustration, and anger at the deception they'd fallen victim to. They unleashed a barrage of attacks.
One of them conjured lightning, another used his telekinetic powers to heave boulders at the weasel, and a third flamboyant Ulimni tried to turn him into a pile of slugs.
Fortunately, Murt had prepared Martin for this event, and although the Ulimni were powerful,
Martin still enjoyed the incredible speed afforded to him by virtue of the dragon heartstring on his forepaw. He zipped around like a hummingbird with ADHD, and he was able to elude the spells.