The brothers traveled north with Olhos as their guide. They headed north to ally with the raiding tribes residing on the river flowing through the ruined city they planned to conquer. When Olhos heard this, he lectured the brothers about the impossibility of conquering the city, the strongest organized entity inside the forest. But Sun did not pay him much mind. They have the strength to challenge a hundred men or more. They just needed more soldiers to form a formidable army.
Not a large army by any means, but one large enough to fight battles the family could not fight. Olhos wondered what they meant about family, which Sun replied as those they shared a cup with just as the brothers did in the barn when they shared the blood of their ration. Shuja, Spat, and Cossack shared the cup with them, and they all share a bond as strong as a family. "And what do they have to do to be considered so close to you?" Olhos asked.
"That they are good people," Sun answered. "But maybe there's more to it than that? All I know is, if I like you, then I won't hesitate to invite you in. And if you were wondering, yes, my invitation back there also extended to being a family. I never heard of a goblin being alone and still managing to survive. Let alone be as strong as you."
"I'm not that strong."
"No need to be humble about it,"
"I'm not, really, I'm not."
Sun could see Olhos visibly nervous when discussing his strength. It wasn't because he was shy. Sun could feel an emotional trauma leaking from him as if he was afraid of himself. Maybe this was related to his transformation to a red goblin? But he doubts it, as the only change was the improvement of the goblin's mental capacity. He'd like to ask Olhos for more detail, but it was probably better to let it go, for now.
Instead, what caught Sun's attention was the goblins Olhos mentioned to them. Goblins that looked like them. They learned that many goblin tribes or clans inhabited the city, and each of these groups has a leader that answers to the ruler of the city. But that was the most the dwarves have gathered about the culture of the three cities, and expeditions made by smugglers and treasure hunters did not help shed light on their culture or ruling system. These renegades were more interested in becoming rich than learning about goblins.
But now they know that there are more like them. And what's more, they have the advantage in terms of numbers. The city is made up of five tribes, and if Olho's assumption was correct, then at most, five true goblins reside as rulers. They outnumber them. It should be caused for a celebration, but Sun also believed that these goblins were also connected to Pagasa's former student. This means that these five goblins would also be equally stronger, if not more, than they are due to their experience. Whatever the case may be, they're going to need the Zackons tribe as an ally.
The Zackons tribe is a tribe located north of Lev. They are a raiding tribe that uses the river coming from the city to raid the northern villages. And they work closely with the city tribes because they relied heavily on the river.
Everflow City was the name of the city they planned to siege. It was a city created during the silver age of the goblin's kingdom. The name came from the artificial river created by the kingdom's strongest mages to connect the landlocked kingdom to the ocean. The river cut across the mountain and into the vast open plains and swamps of the northern regions and the Caltic Sea.
Now it was used by the barbaric goblins to raid the settlements along the river with their ancient longships. And they were far more successful with their raids than Lev, which relied on an influx of adventurers and treasure hunters to raid. The dwarves believed that this tribe had the best warriors in the eastern region, and adding them under their command will help secure their victory.
After several hours of walking, the brothers reached a cliff overlooking the Zackon tribe. Olhos left the brothers the moment the tribe was visible without them even noticing. They felt sadden by his sudden departure, but he did promise to lead to their target, and with the promise fulfilled, there was nothing more Olhos can do.
At the base of the cliff was the river that came from Everflow City. The brothers had no choice but to dive as the river was too large to jump over. While swimming across the calm waters, a goblin fishing by the river bed saw them swimming towards him. At first, the fishing goblin thought it was a school of fish jumping, but once the brothers got closer, the fisher immediately panicked. "Its city, gobs!" He yelled. "Get, Chief! Warn Chief!"
When the brothers reached the other side, they were met by a group of goblins wearing rusty armor and green leather coats. And they surrounded a large red goblin. "Greetings!" The red goblin bellowed.
The brothers shook themselves dry as much as they could before greeting the goblin Chief. "Hello, I'm Sun. Are you the Chief of this tribe?"
"Yes, are you new?" The Chief wondered, "If so, then I should introduce myself. My name is Horder. The Chief of Zackons tribe."
"Nice to meet you. This is Rock, Smoke, and Stick. And we are here to ask you some questions."
"Of course, but let's talk inside and dry you off too."
"Yes, please," Stick remarked, walking ahead of the brothers and into the tribe.
"Wait, I can't move!" Rock yelled, "I think my clothes shrunk."
"Are you serious?" Smoke and Sun asked.
"Then strip!" Sun and Smoke grabbed Rock's pants and pulled them down.
"What are you doing?" Rock tried to fight them off, but his heavy jacket wore him down. Eventually, the brothers managed to strip him of his clothes, with his undergarments being the only ones left for him.
Once they arrived inside the village, the brothers were led to a bathhouse where they washed off their bodies. Their weapons were left inside the storage room in front of the tribe, guarded by the goblins wearing green helmets. While the brothers were at the bathhouse, Horder started preparing a feast for his guest. His younger sister, Gever, helped with the preparations. She took the best ingredients they had to offer and cooked them over the fire, despite Horder's protest.
Gever and her attendants took their ingredients into the communal kitchen to cook. After Horder finished setting the table, he burst into the kitchen, mortified to see his best ingredients being used. "They don't need this. Why must we cook them our freshest meat?" Horder watched over his sister and her attendants cooking the meal.
"Brother, they from city," Gever said. "They want best, if not give best, they kill us!"
Horder gulped, "But they're already taking away my treasures, and now you're giving away my meat."
"We no have many treasures anyway. We give good meal. Make city gobs happy. So city gobs less mad when brother gives no treasures."
"I'll give some. It's just that, why did they come so soon?"
Once the food was ready, the brother entered the dining hall where Horder and his retainers waited. Gever's helpers pushed out the meal as the men gathered around the table. Rock's mouth was watery after witnessing the food strutting its way to the table. Roasted deer hind legs and grilled mushrooms and wild onions. A bowl of wild rice topped with steamed yams with ginger juice drizzled on top. Food, the brothers, could wait to dine on.
But such a fabulous dinner must have come with a prize. "What's with food? Is there an occasion today we were unaware of?" Smoke questioned.
"I just wanted to be generous," Horder coughed up blood, uttering the word.
"Are you ok?" Sun asked.
"Yes, I'm fine. My sister, Gever, prepared the food. Since you only come once a year, it was especially amazing to see four of you city gobs, so we might as well treat ya with the finest food we have."
"Well, you're generous," Smoke complimented the Chief.
"Yes," Horder coughed up blood once again, "Very generous."
"Are you sure you're not ok?" Sun asked again. "Because seeing so much blood come out of you is starting to make me lose my appetite." Sun looked back at the food. "Haha! Who am I kidding? This food is the best!" Sun grabbed a handful and stuffed his mouth, "Send my compliments to your sister." Gever was watching behind the doors leading to the kitchen. She smiled with pure joy after noticing the brothers enjoy her cooking.
"Yes, well, we do have a request. You see, we couldn't reach our required amount of treasures to give the city as a tribute. and that's because of a little thorn on my side."
"Tribute?" Sun's eyes widened. They were mistaken as the goblins from the city, and that Horder is having trouble paying tribute to those city goblins.
And this gave Smoke a brilliant idea. "No tribute?" Smoke took a stone knife and stabbed his meat. "That's a problem. Are you sure you don't have any gold to give us?"
Horder's legs began to tremble, "We have some, but it's not a lot." His voice cracked.
Smoke winked at Sun, "But are you willing to do anything else?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, since you don't want to pay the city with your treasures, then there must be something else your willing to do."
"Do you want to keep giving away your treasures to the city?" Sun added, "Because if not, we have a proposal to you."
Horder quickly got up his chair, "Wait! Before you give us your demand, you should at least hear out my reason that I. I mean, our treasure to you!"
"Oh, by all means. What is your request?" Sun could not help but smile at the Chief, "What is this thorn that's been stabbing your sides?"
"A monster!" Horder proclaimed, "A monster that is destroying everything and stolen everything! And not only that, but this monster has even seduced my sister!"
'What?" Gever burst into the room. Her face was crimson red. "What monster brother speaking? Wait, brother not mean him. He no bad monster. And he no seduce me."
"See," Horder pointed at his enraged sister, "The monster managed to capture her heart and could no longer distinguish between good and evil, normal and deviancy! You must kill this monster at once!"
"No!" Gever ran to the brothers and got on her knees, "Please no kill!" She clung on Stick's legs, "No monster. He like you. No monster!"
"Alright, everyone, calm down!" Sun yelled. "This monster of yours. I doubt it's even real and that you just want to dodge paying your tributes. Well, lucky for you, your sister's performance was convincing, unlike yours, and that we're willing to accept a different form of payment. So we'll do it this way. Gever stand up."
"You will be guiding us to this monster of yours. I don't think I'd want this monster to mess with our plans, but since this monster managed to woe you, maybe it could be reasoned with. We'll leave first thing tomorrow morning. And once this monster is taken care of, it will be your turn to return the favor. Can we agree on that?"
Horder accepted the terms, and dinner officially ended. The brothers went to the guest house to sleep. They originally planned to used brute force to coerce the Chief if a negotiation proved futile. Still, with the Chief's obvious disregard for the city's demands and the presence of a monster potentially harming their future plans, the brother changed their tactics.
First, Horder seemed to be under the impression that they came from the city, which meant that the city has yet to collect their tribute and the brothers now have a time limit. If they arrived, they would discover the brothers, and their plans for a surprise attack will have to change. Then there was the monster. An unknown variable that could impede or aid the brothers. A monster that could change the outcome of the war, depending on how strong it was.