Hello againn :) Hopefully this will make up for my neglect of this fic over the past few months ; ;

Also, I think I mentioned it before, but a reviewer reminded me that Hilari Bell has two more books coming out in this series. Are you as excited as I am? ^_^

Disclaimer: These ideas and characters belong to Hilari Bell, not me.

Chapter 13:

The Hedgewitch:

"Trapped! I'm trapped!" The Hedgewitch cried. The only responses to her exclamations were the eerie echoes her very own voice made in the recesses of the dark world in which she was stuck. She had no perception of time, no reference beyond the swirling dark tones that she initially thought were the backs of her shut eyelids. Those dark colors came from somewhere far beyond her own body, yet the pain she felt aching her body all too real. Her only connection to the world surrounding her mortal body was the brief and infrequent sound of voices. Most were unfamiliar, or indistinguishable, but when the deep soothing voice of her human companion made it to her ears, she finally saw a glimpse of hope. The curse which was cast upon her was unique and advanced in nature. While her body may fret and sweat under a fever, and decay, her mind was the real subject of torture. Although the old sorcerer was strong, Makenna was certain someone much more powerful had taught him that spell.

"Once I am free of this blasted curse I shall hunt down the one whose aim it is to exploit this world." She vowed, though no one could hear. Her spirit began to still in the quiet. Every second she thought passed could equal days in Otherworld. She already sensed Otherworld time was unmatched with the Old Realm, and knew there existed variances in how life elapsed for different realms. She grimaced.

"Tobin..." she whispered. "Mourry...Miggy, Regg, I miss them all." Her dry tears of anguish flowed away into the abyss. She wondered if everyone was alive, or safe. Until she would know for sure, she had to endure through the unwaveringly dismal cage that was her lonesome mind.

The Ambassador:

Zvonimir stood tall in the medical wing chambers, his head only feet below the rafters. A small group of familiar faces crowded around him, while the sleeping form of Makenna lay only an arms distance away behind their concerned expressions. Tobin crossed his arms, his gaze unforgiving. Of anyone of Makenna's companions, he was the one most concerned with her fate. He was willing to take on the weight of an entire race while finding a cure for her plague. His hollow eyes also told Zvonimir that the knight missed his hedgewitch dearly.

"First of all, I'd like to thank you all for your patience. I'm glad only a few confidants have been brought here." Out of habit the ambassador bowed respectfully to the knight, an old looking goblin, and finally Mourry. The head nurse was out on errands for the morning, seeing as the centaur nurse aids refused to help or oversee the 'infected' Makenna for fear they'd catch the plague themselves. Zvonimir barely had time for explanations, but the guests of the centaur were owed much more than they received.

"Allow me to correct the information you received, Lord. Our King did not cover all topics of importance. For one, there are all together six centaur clans. My own clan, the Aggrippians, the Ferken, Kozlo, Ferkai, Seerz, and Aggripa. The names are unimportant, but we hold onto them out of pride. As an ambassador, I must be accepting of all tolerances, even intolerant beliefs. Most centaur live in a stubborn segregation, only united by the core clan, the Noble Ferkai of this city. The Ferkai are the root of all clans, and breed our rulers. The King failed to mention these divisions." Zvonimir folded his own arms in contemplation.

"You think that your clan issues will be bothersome to the goblins?" Mourry inquired. Zvonimir reclined into a seat, closer to the faces of his acquaintances.

"Yes. Most certainly. The King always has an agenda, and that is to maintain control over his domain. If he were to gain the trust of an ally, such as the goblins, he would have even more leverage over the other clans." The ambassador answered in a deflated tone. "I respect Erol highly. He means nothing malicious by his decisions, but the other clans are becoming more and more upset by his actions. It came to my attention that the Ferken clan leader has failed to attend out councils for many months. This fact does not bode well. The messengers sent to the Ferken city have returned with refusals of contact. Initially I thought the Ferken had been attacked by sorcerers, but it is now my belief that they have been corrupted by dark magic. This persuasive force could spread among the clans. If that is the case, we desperately need someone who can fight that magic on equal footing." The group nodded in mutual agreement.

"Zvonimir, that seems possible, but why would that mean we should not bargain with the king?" Tobin questioned. Mourry and Erebus looked at Tobin surprised.

"What is this bargain?" Mourry demanded. Tobin ran a hand through his own brown hair in uncertainty.

"I didn't mean to withhold this information from you. I was going to tell you last night, but the night faded away quickly..." He began, ashamed. Mourry nodded in understanding. "The King wants us to formally align with Ferkai against the barbarians, and in return he will bring us into contact with Agna, who could possibly help Makenna." Tobin finished.

"That's right. Now to answer your questions sir knight, I remind you, you came to fight the barbarians by yourself, without any knowledge of the centaur. The goblins only have a loose alliance with my clan. In our contract we made a promise to help one another, not an oath as the king would demand. Aligning with the Ferkai also implies that you would be under the subjugation of the centaur, for the Ferkai are the noblest of the clans and hold imperial power. As a result, the King could use you as any common standing army, to fight both the barbarians abroad, and possibly the barbarians corrupting one of our own clans. I know that is not the war for which you signed up." The ambassador finished.

Tobin shut his gaping mouth for a moment. He cursed his blindness to the obvious twisted nature of the bargain. The bargainer always has the advantage, and being among goblins for as long as he has, he should have seen it.

"It is no wonder the goblins trust Makenna with their lives. In the few days that I have been overseer in her wake, I have been blind to the details of this bargain, details which she would have understood. It is most definitely not in our best interest to make any bargain with Erol." He stood and began pacing, his mind racing with his new realizations. The sound of heavy rain made its way into the room. Like a thousand steel knives cutting into the rock, the late fall storm was turbulent. It was also uncommon. The weather should be drier this late in the season. The disparity in the weather behavior only added to everyone's feelings of unease.

"Here are my instructions for you knight Tobin. It is my understanding that Agna resides in the mountains many leagues away. After three days of traveling due south from dawn til dusk, you should happen upon a frozen lake. Do not cross the lake, instead, travel around its perimeter. Immediately after you pass its yonder shores of ice, you should spot a log and boulder structure in the mountainside. Agna resides there during the winter months. The weather at those elevations is much colder than here so you will need extra provisions, which I've already set aside. Fortunately, the cold also means you're unlikely to run into any rogue barbarians. I know you are a capable of safely guiding the goblins, and your hedgewitch." The ambassador had every detail set out for them. Tobin could not have been more appreciative. He awaited the centaur's final words solemnly.

"I fear I cannot say much more, for I have already betrayed my nation. But I will say this: If you and your goblins happen to disappear in a day or so, you would still be allies with the Aggrippians. The other clans would not follow you, and you would have our aid in battle with the barbarians." The Ambassador bowed low, and gazed for a long time at the bed ridden hedgewitch.

"Farewell, I hope to see you all again soon." With that, he stepped out of the room and disappeared from the knight's sight.

Tobin stood in contemplative silence for a long while before turning to his goblins companions. They both peered up at him in a mutual understanding of their plan. Mourry grinned his crotchety grin, and stood with a energetic spring in his step.

"I don't know about ye two, but I think it's high time we get out of this blasted city and wake the general!"