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.
"Goom!" Murt had finally made it to the top of the mountain where Goom was tied to the obelisk.
"Murt? Murt where are you?" Goom looked toward the sound of Murt's voice but saw nothing.
Murt lowered the enchantment over himself and Dennis, and they magically appeared next to Goom.
Murt gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, but Dennis couldn't help himself, and he gave Goom a big hug despite the time-sensitive circumstances.
"Oh Goom," Dennis said, "I'm so happy to see you. Okay, what gnashes on boulders and drinks vigor from rain, sleepless he-"
"Dennis! Seriously? We can talk about the riddle later," said Murt. "Give me that sword."
"Oh, this sword?" Dennis asked. "This sword that you told me was useless? This sword?"
"Give me the damn sword!" Murt yelled.
"Give him the sword Dennis and stop being so loud, both of you," Goom commanded. "The Ulimni are here, and they just flew off for something."
"Yes! That was our distraction," Dennis said as he handed his sword to Murt.
"Yes! That was our distraction," Dennis said as he handed his sword to Murt. "Shh! We can go over everything after we get you free," Murt said. He took the sword and stood behind the obelisk.
Carefully, he lined up a swing that would cut through the ropes and release Goom.
He lifted the sword high over his head, and brought it down with the deftness of someone who'd spent an hour-long lesson swinging around a wooden katana at the magical dojo.
His swing found the ropes that bound his brother, but they bounced off as if the ropes were made of steel.
"They're enchanted. I was worried about this," Murt said. Goom could hear the concern in his brother's voice, but Murt's face was focused.
He dropped to a knee and quickly set out some of his magical supplies. He rifled through his spell book, but the more pages he flipped through, the more his confidence faded.
Clang! Clang! Clang! Dennis had taken his sword back, and he was wildly swinging the sword against the ropes. If the Ulimni hadn't sensed their arrival, they were sure to hear them now.
"Dennis! Stop!" Murt yelled.
"Dennis! Stop!" Murt yelled. "We don't have time Murt!" he yelled back in between falls of the sword.
"Dennis! Stop!" Murt yelled. "We don't have time Murt!" he yelled back in between falls of the sword. "You're not-" Clang! "You can't cut-" Clang! "Dennis!"
"Dennis! Stop!" Murt yelled. "We don't have time Murt!" he yelled back in between falls of the sword. "You're not-" Clang! "You can't cut-" Clang! "Dennis!" Clang! With that final clang, the ropes broke and fell to the ground.
"Oh? I can't what? I can't cut what, Murt?" Dennis taunted. He had a cocky grin reaching from ear to ear.
Murt was befuddled, but there was no time to waste, so he'd have to save the fuddling for later.
"Let's go," Murt said sternly. He mumbled a spell, and reapplied the cloaking enchantment.
"Where are we going?" Goom asked. "We're still trapped in the middle of the Shrouded Mountains."
"Just come on, we'll head down. Fewla is in the valley with a bull horn. We can follow the sound when she blows it," Murt said.
Skraaaaah! The dragon's roar rattled around the peaks, and when the trio turned their heads toward the sound, they could make out the silhouette of the dragon far off in the white sky.
She was nothing but a small black spec off in the distance.
If they didn't know better, they might have mistaken the shape for a bat, but unlike the frantic flapping of a bat, her wings fell in slow, powerful strokes.
They only had a few minutes before she was upon them.
Goom looked at the approaching silhouette then he looked up at the lute.
"I'm going for the lute," he said.
"I'm going for the lute," he said. "Goom, let's go," Murt said.
"I'm going for the lute," he said. "Goom, let's go," Murt said. "You guys go ahead," he said. "I'm going for the lute."
"There's no time!" Murt yelled back. He grabbed his brother by both shoulders and stared into his eyes. "It's not worth it, Goom. We need to go now, and we can worry about Sil-kuru later."
Goom stared back at his brother. "Murt, you need to trust me," he said with a fitting tone of cryptic cliche.
"Trust you for what?" Murt asked. "We either escape now or we die on this mountain."
"If we run now, we're running from a dragon, the Ulimni, and Sil-kuru. We can't outlast them, Murt. You need to trust me. I have a plan," Goom replied.
"Damn it Goom! We came all the way from Gellring to save you. We climbed these mountains. Can you for once think of someone other than yourself?"
"I am," Goom said. "I'm tired of hiding in the shadows like a rat. I'm tired of being a victim of fortune and running away from the problems I've created. I'm done being rescued."
"Goom..." Murt was going to try one last time to convince his brother, but he could see that his mind was made up.
He breathed in deeply through his nose and narrowed his misty eyes at his brother. "You're just like dad," he said.
He didn't say goodbye as he pulled Dennis by the arm and walked back in the direction from which they'd come.
Goom acted as if he hadn't heard the cutting remark as he turned his sights on the lute.
He took off at a run across the top of the mountain and began climbing the steep mountainside toward the glowing lute. His body was weak, but he was determined to get to the lute.
Another dragon cry cut through the misty skies and shook the jagged rocks of Skrye that Goom was now climbing.
He'd made his way to the dragon's den, but he still needed to climb his way up to the nook where the Ulimni had placed the lute.
His arms were burning, and his fingers were tensing up as he felt for hand holds in the cold stone.
The lute was only another few feet above him when he heard his brother scream.
"Ahh, arghh, Goom!" Murt yelled. Goom looked down over his shoulder from high on the mountain. He could see his brother and Dennis floating over the mountain top.
Their hands were behind their backs as if they were tied, but Goom didn't see any ropes. Below them stood the Ulimni.
One of them had his slender hand raised toward Dennis and Murt, but his eyes were on Goom.
"Ahh!" Another scream grabbed Goom by the ear drums. He thought back to when the Ulimni had a hold of him at The Rift. He remembered the feeling of being crushed by the grip of their magic.
Two of the other Ulimni had turned their magic on Goom. They shot at him with deadly spells, but he was far away, and protected by the jagged rocks of Skrye.
Rocks exploded around him, and small fragments of stone rained down over him while he tried to press himself close to the mountain.
In between the sounds of shattering and clattering stone were the agonizing screams of Dennis and Murt. Soon, the sound of flapping wings joined the chaos.
The dragon swooped down to the open space in front of her den. Her claws gripped into the rock and dug out deep trenches as if the mountain were made of soft clay.
She hadn't seen Goom yet, but the Ulimni's spells soon revealed his location.
The dragon roared up in Goom's direction, and several boulders jumped free from the mountain and crashed down the mountainside.
They joined other heavy stones and created avalanches that flowed like sweat from the solitary peak. The dragon inhaled a deadly breath and screamed a wave of golden fire up in Goom's direction.
He was still hidden among the stony outcroppings, but he could feel the heat fill his entire body as the stones around him began to glow a deep shade of orange.
The stones began to liquify, and splashes of molten rock sizzled against the mountain. A tiny bit of glowing liquid hit Goom in the leg and ignited his pant leg in a blaze of fire.
He cried out as it melted into his skin, and he swiped at the fire with his left hand while still clinging to the rock with his right.
He grimaced, but again he looked up toward the lute and continued climbing.
He could still hear the screams coming from Dennis and Murt. They sounded weaker now, but they still rung out though the thunderous sounds of dragon fire and cascading rivers of stone.
Murt and Dennis were writing and screaming in pain. The Ulimni held them aloft and forced them to look up at Goom who struggled against the hellish barrage of magic and dragon fire.
Woosh, woosh. The dragon, seeing that she was unable to hit Goom, began to flap her mighty wings once more. Goom climbed for the lute that was now nearly within his reach.
The dragon took to the sky to get a better view of her victim.