Chapter 17
Paving the Warpath

South Pendragon Forest, Pendragon

Even after the victory of the Goblin War, no human foot trod the depths of what was once known as the Goblin's Forest. However, the lone figure making his way through the woods was no human, even if he took the shape of one. Because he walked so purposefully and without fear, he was not confronted by the Goblins of the forest until they had assembled overwhelming numbers, over to twoscore to his one. Little did they realize it was not enough.
Most of the assembled Goblins gathering around the figure were common Tree Goblins, but there were a few Orcs as well. And it was a particularly large and fearsome-looking Orc, even by Orcish standards, who stepped forward first.
Snuffing the air like a beast, the Orc said in his barbarous tongue, "Look like human. Don't smell like human."
Throwing back his hood, Forktongue replied in their tongue, saying, "That is because I am not human, though I do make use of them."
"What you mean?" the Orc demanded.
"I wish to forge a pact with you."
"Pact? What pact?"
"A pact with Cain-Uwain, ukhrom of the humans."
The Orc bared his teeth and hissed while the Goblins around him started chattering like apes.
"You serve Dragon-Head? I kill!"
He raised his club and would have caved in Forktongue's skull if he could. Before he could try it, though, Forktongue raised his hand and the Orc's legs froze mid-stride. Struggle as he might, he could not move from where he stood.
"It is because you are such simple brutes that the Dragon-Head prevailed over you in the days of your strength," Forktongue said. "Now you are few and weak. Should the Dragon-Head march again with his war-band, not one among you would survive. You would do well to hear what I propose."
The Orc breathed heavily, puffing his cheeks in another animalistic display of aggression, all he could do with his impotent anger while under the effect of Forktongue's binding spell. The others were too cowed by his grip on their warchief to make a move against him.
"Serve the Ukhrom," Forktongue said, "fight his battles and you shall have blood and spoil to your heart's content. To the rising of the sun, there is the domain of the Ukhrom's brother. It is a fat land with a soft people. The Ukhrom gives them into your hands. Serve him well and he will grant you these woods, Everything within it and everything touching upon it will be yours."
The offer seemed to have some effect, so he pushed it further.
"There could be a Khrom Shilrundan once more, Ghúl, son of Ghoel."
"But man-Khrom above," the Orc Ghúl noted.
"Do not think of that," Forktongue said, hoping to bypass his pride, "think of the taste of manflesh and the woods teeming with your kind once more."
"I don't bend knee," Ghúl said defiantly. "Don't bow head in dirt."
"The Ukhrom does not require it of you," Forktongue replied. "When he points to an enemy and says, 'Kill,' you kill. That is all he would have of you."
"Kill Dragon-Head for Dragon-Head..." Ghúl mused. He did not think over the proposal for long before concluding, "I kill. We kill."
Forktongue released Ghúl from the binding spell so he could rally those with him. Holding his club aloft, he shouted, "We kill!"
"Kill! Kill!" was the Goblins' reply. "Blood! Blood!"
"The Ukhrom is already in these woods with his war-band," Forktongue said over the din. "Gather all who wield spear, blade, bow, and sling, and be ready."
Though he frowned at the interruption, Ghúl nevertheless turned and nodded to Forktongue, saying only, "Ready to kill."