Part One

Mbala was well aware of the answer, but having the Goblin King Guard smack his head against the tree was not encouraging him to share it.

The big guard screamed into Mbala’s ear “Do you know anything about it?”

Mbala felt his thick, warm blood streaming down the back of his neck. His ear was ringing from the screaming it endured from the guard. But his mind was still clear, calm and focused.

“I know nothing” he exaggerated the pain in his voice. Believe the pain is too much even when it was not all that bad.

The guard threw him to the ground and towered above him to instill his power. Mbala kept his head down, looking at the earth in front of his nose and smelling the richness of the soil. The patter of rain was beginning, droplets bouncing off the leaves as if trying to make music.

“I know you know something” the guard growled. He knelt down to talk into Mbala’s ear and whispered “The King might want you alive because of your deeds, but the first chance I get I will slit your throat, ear to ear”

Mbala turned his head and whispered back “I would like to see you try”. He may have overstated himself a little. The guard stood, kicked him in the stomach, making a deep thud and kicking the breath out of his lungs, then walked away into the dark of the forest.

Mbala rolled onto his back and stretched himself out to ease some of the impact damage out of his body. The rain was increasing, some drops were making it through the canopy to land on his skin. The drops were large, making loud thuds as they hit the leaves, trees and ground. The smell of the moistening soil filling the air with a rich earth smell.

Deep breaths. Suck in the air deeply and slowing release it back to the world.

He stood up, checked his sword for damage, patted his blue armor for dents and loosening buckles. Barring the gash to his head and what would be bruising ribs, he was okay. What was important was the bastard guard was still ignorant to the upcoming uprising. He wanted the King dead and replaced, there was no way this rebellion would be shared from his lips.

Mbala knew the King was a fraud.

He understood that the King had been good to him, had pulled together seven tribes and formed a super massive single tribe, established a secure warren that was safe even from human attacks. In fact, the King could be the greatest Goblin King the world had ever known.

But Mbala knew he was a fraud.

He had stayed silent about knowing for years because things we so good. Why bite the hand that protects you, feeds you and provides the benefits that come with standing beside the powerful.

Yet here he was, the guard who helped bring the King to power, who had saved his life at least three times, delivered death to insurgent leaders and provided sound advice throughout the last four years, groveling in the mud. He who had led assaults on human villages and defended the warren from attacks. Here he was, outside in the rain and unsure of his next meal and being beaten for information.

He understood the Kings reasons for removing him from his position. On the night in question Mbala was searching for the trinket of power, ruffling through the Kings room for it quickly and silently. If he had found it, things would have been different. If the King had not walked into the room when he did, the trinket would have changed hands that night. If he did not have the vial of poison to show the King he was searching for more, the King’s suspicions would have been enough to kill him on the spot.

“What are you doing Mbala?” he asked.

“I found this” showing the vial of poison. “If you touch it, you die. I chased the assassin from the room but decided to remain to search for more. I found this but nothing was removed. The room appears safe, My Lord”.

Mbala was afraid, would he believe the lie or figure out he was up to no good? The King looked on for a moment, considering the disheveled room and who had done it. Mbala was sure the Kings instincts for betrayal were screaming at him, he was done for. As the King came forward Mbala considered stabbing his knife deep into his chest, but the King had his armor on. Considering the situation, he knew that a single misstep would be the last, he needed to be patient.

The King said “You allowed an assassin to reach my quarters, you fail to tell me about it and decide to wreck my home while letting the would be murderer get away. I think your time is up Mbala.”

That day he was banished outside. He managed to keep his sword and armor as a gift for good service. This was much better than the typical method of death by hanging.

Banishment is the reward for being of good service.

Sadly, Mbala was not all that loyal in the first place. He had fought hard, gained trust and, eventually, discovered the true source of power, and it was not the King.

It was the trinket.

As far as Mbala could tell, only two people knew this. The King and himself. The trick was to be in the right place at the right time to remove the trinket before another goblin got his hands on it.

Easy to think, not so easy to do.

Being an Outer for the past year was difficult, but Mbala was smart, patient and capable, he just needed to wait and stay alive.

With the King Guard sowing suspicion and putting the pressure on, the time was coming soon.