Disclaimer: I do not own "Hollow Kingdom." If I did there'd have been more scenes with the Goblin royal family.

Sometimes "monster" is a term applied to liberally. Sometimes the title monster really belongs to a select few.

"I do fear we're running out of amusements now. I'll need to go collect some. Fresh blood always rejuvenates everything. Really livens the place up, don't you think?" the man questioned, tracing his long nailed finger along the pearly skull.

The man chuckled and stood fastening his cloak. He turned about the room humming as he passed the cages. "I'll be back soon my sweets."

With a cackle and swish, he left the wagon and vanished into the darkness.

Catspaw tried to contain his excitement as he strode down the hall. After all, it would not do for a future Goblin King to disgrace himself by racing through the palace. Father himself had said that composure in all situations was an important quality of being a leader. A good Goblin King should never appear uncertain…or easily excitable.

Still…it was very difficult-or at least he thought so as he came to wait at the door. It took every ounce of Catspaw's willpower not to hop from foot to foot, waiting for his father's council room to open.

His first time outside! The moment that door opened, Catspaw, his father and a selection of guards would visit the top side of Hollow Hill. He'd get to see the moon tonight and maybe he'd understand why his mother loved it so dearly.

The door opened and the young goblin had to scramble out of the way as the ghoulish guards exited. Seylin offered a smile as he passed by and Catspaw beamed at his tutor.

"Catspaw" his father called and the boy darted into the room.

"Father" the boy greeted his eyes meeting a fellow pair of mismatched irises.

His father smiled from his seat and beckoned the child closer.

"I had a feeling you'd be standing in front of the door. I'm rather surprised you evaded its swinging open."

The boy frowned. "I'm not so foolish."

Marak laughed and pulled the boy closer. "No, of course not. Just a little anxious."

"It is my first time outside" Catspaw pointed out-feeling the need to justify his excitement.

Marak continued to smile in amusement. "Indeed, a very special occasion" he conceded.

Catspaw scowled a bit deeper. Sure his father's words agreed with him but that smile was mocking him! If it was one thing the boy hated, it was the insinuation of being foolish. Ever since, the boy had learned that his namesake meant "fool" in certain dialects-he become fiercely determined to show that such a label did not become him. And his father seemed to enjoy agitating that sore spot.

"And since this is such a special, unique event. Special, unique rules will be put in place. Tonight under no circumstances are you to stray from my side. You will stay within three feet of me at all times. Fail to do this and I will leash you to me. In fact, your mother is distressed that I'm not leashing you from the start. I told her that there'd be no need."

He placed his hands on the boy and looked him sternly in the eye "don't make a liar of me."

Catspaw gnashed his teeth. Three feet! Even as a toddler he'd never been instructed to be so close. Such an order made it sound like he'd risk himself stupidly the moment they were outside. Such an assumption was insulting!

"The landscape will be very interesting and adventure will seem appealing. But wandering off-"

"-Father, I'm ten years old!" the boy snappeed. "I don't need to hold your hand so that I don't get lost. I'm smart enough not-"

"-Yes, yes a very smart ten-year-old. So smart that he knows not to argue with me when what I say is final."

Catspaw bit his lip to hold back a retort. He knew better than to say anything more-Marak wasn't smiling and his eyes blazed.

He heaved a sigh and his father lips quirked again.

"The guards will be waiting at the door. We should be on our way."

The boy nodded and the two entered the hall. He risked a glance at Marak, but his expression was pleasant again. Marak caught his gaze and smiled. Marak reached out his sixfingered hand and caught his human one.

With a rather wicked grin, Marak announced "Wouldn't want you to get lost before we even start."

Catspaw sighed. Well, he supposed, it was still better than being leashed to his father with a spell.