The heart tree was amazing. Vast root systems supported it, twisting from the trunk, three main roots could be seen. One root was anchored to a hillside with lesser roots spread through and across the lower section of the hill, while one of the middle height branches had arched downward to the hilltop and it had rooted from that branch as well. At intervals the roots grew above ground, most notably towards the main trunk, their twisting growth had created numerous hollows and many of the roots had sprouted leaves and branches reached upwards to the sky again. The other two main roots grew over and along the edges of a large pond or small lake fed from numerous springs around the base of the tree. The trunk and visible root system took as much space as a small village would have. From there the trunk twisted upwards, with only a few major branches along the lower quarter of the tree, but those branches were as large as most of the bigger trees Adwin had seen in his life, lesser branches twisting to the ground and where they met the earth they rooted. Upwards it went, twisting around, branching out. The higher branches becoming progressively smaller and reaching higher. In height Adwin guessed it was eighty or more paces tall and the branches and root system seemed to cover close to one hundred paces from one side to the other, the main trunk at its base being over a dozen paces across.
The goblin town was mostly build up in the tree, though a fair amount was down in among the roots. Most industry and domesticated animals were on the far side of the hill from the water. Under some of the larger roots along the waters side the goblins had a couple little docks and afew small boats. The trunk and branches had pathways worn smooth, catwalks and hanging bridges joined one section of the town to the other. There were baskets on pulley systems to transport goods and goblins up and down to the various inhabited areas. Small buildings were around the pond, over the hill and throughout the tree, hundreds of them in total. Most of it was well crafted and cunningly put together, nothing Adwin would have ever imagined goblins building.
The singing of the sun was a twice a day occurrence, like Tipper and others who followed the old ways, at dawn and sunset. While the basic structure of the song was the same, a thousand or more goblin voices raised together gave it a different feel.
They had to wait three more days, until there were heavy clouds in the morning, then the town gathered to show their gratitude to Adwin and his friends. They were also to send their own people out to diverse places across the land, hoping to rekindle contacts that had existed a hundred or more years ago and to learn what was happening in the wider world.
The ride-out ceremony, or whatever they called it, was taking place at the base of the tree, along one of the main roots over the water, the trunk slightly bowled, a natural amphitheatre. He and his companions, the Historians and a hundred of so of the most ranked locals gathered on that root. The Historian had cast her spell on them again so that they could understand the proceedings. Most of the rest of the town had gathered in the nearest branches and roots, bright in formal garb.
Adwin was formally acknowledged as the slayer of the bog-witch, the Historian placed a mark on his neck, just below his right earlobe, designating him as a friend of goblin-folk and she gave him a small box containing a nut from the tree. Other gifts were given to he and his friends, crafted by important citizens, a sign of their gratitude.
Then they were moved to a place of honour behind the historians and nine of their own took their place. These goblins were also given gifts and the blessing of the town, that they should go out into the world and seek the places goblins were known to dwell and speak on behalf of the town. Carrying word to others of their kind that Heart-Tree-Valley was a place of goblin-folk and they would welcome their kin. Then they paraded up into the tree, along the branch that lead to the hill and down the other side where more goblins waited with mounts. The ponies and horses of Adwin and his companions and goats and dogs for the goblins. There were a few carts and small wagons as well. Each of the nine messengers would travel with five others goblins.
A while later, around mid morning, Adwin had the honour of leading the procession westward, Mokha and Tipper to either side, the others following in order of precedence, over fifty goblins. When they had ridden out of the valley, beyond sight of the world tree, three of the messenger parties broke off, heading to areas northeast and southeast. The remaining six messengers continued west with Adwin and his companions.
Adwin was still partially of the opinion that he was dreaming, maybe he had succumbed to wounds and was near death, perhaps he lay in the field of flowers dying. Yet, if that was the case it was the longest, most realistic dream he had ever experienced. Tipper and Mokha seemed to be getting along well, Tipper’s distrust of the Aggedrah had finally passed. Tipper had calculated that their diversion to the migratory path was likely going to add a couple of eight-days to their overall travel time. Though she had assured him that this would still get them to GreensBridge long before the weather turned cold.
Tipper seemed to have picked up a fair amount of the goblin chatter and Mokha at least understood a few words, while it all still sounded like gibberish to Adwin. At least a few of the goblins understood a bit of Andalee but the real obstacle to communications, according to Tipper, was how the mouth, nose and throat of the two species were different. She also said that the goblins used gestures and body language differently than humans did.
Early in the afternoon the small caravan stopped to rest and eat. With all the dogs, goats and horses, not to mention the chattering goblins it seemed more like a travelling circus than a diplomatic mission. Or, whatever the goblins were doing in their efforts to contact the older communities they remembered. After the chaos settled a bit, a pair of goblins approached the three humans, seemingly wanting to speak with Adwin.
Of the pair, one of them was of the honoured messengers, Adwin was fairly sure it was male as it was a bit shorter and somewhat more robust than the other one. The second was one of the younger Historians, she wore a small golden cone-like hat with strange markings on it, she chattered something at Adwin.
Adwin did not know what was going on but gestured for them to sit. They did not, but conversed between themselves then the male stepped forward and bowed to Adwin. “We sit. We go. Speaker-of-what-was,” The goblin gestured to the female beside him, “Lay open, elf-path long. Go fast.”
Oh boy, Adwin wondered what they were saying, he looked to Tipper. She said something to the goblins and the male responded to her with a trill and a whistle and gestured to the golden hatted goblin beside him. This happened a couple more times and then the goblin pointed his two middle fingers at Adwin. Tipper turned back to him and explained, “I think they are asking you for permission to enter the Ways.”
Mokha perked up, clearly interested. Adwin still felt confused, “What way?”
Tipper explained, “The Ways, the border between worlds, the Historian can create a portal that we could all pass through. In that space we will travel many times faster.”
Still confused Adwin looked to Mokha who was certainly interested in ’entering the ways’. “Alright then.” Adwin agreed. The goblins seemed happy.
After everyone had packed up and remounted they fell into ragged line and the golden hatted goblin moved to the front. She gestured and chanted and after a moments stepped back, bowed to Adwin and gestured for them to proceed. Adwin did not see a door anywhere, but Mokha assured him that if he road forward he would pass through the portal the Historian had just opened. So he encouraged his mount forward and led his string of horses through the unseen door, his companions followed as did the goblins. Absolutely nothing had changed. He shrugged, maybe they were having some fun at his expense or maybe this was just some odd goblin ritual. In either case he could ride in a western direction, vaguely towards GreensBridge.
After some time Adwin became aware of periodic blurred surroundings, especial at the periphery of his vision. Though when he tried to focus on a blurred area there seemed to be no such effect. It persisted throughout the day, Tipper told him to stop rubbing at his eyes and she spent a fair amount of time making sure Mokha did not get distracted and stray away from their path. As far as Adwin could tell the goblins seemed unconcerned, maybe unaffected, about any of this. Towards the end of the day the Historian returned to the front and opened ‘the way’ back to their natural world.
Adwin remained unconvinced that anything magical had happened and was still pretty sure his friends were playing an elaborate trick of some sort. Mokha however was pretty excited and speculated with Tipper a bit about what the Historian had done. Mokha seemed to think he would be able to replicate her magic if he could see it done a few more times.
Despite the brightness of the following days the other parties had agreed to stay with Adwin’s until they needed to diverge to their own course. After another day of travelling through the ways, three other parties broke off, heading to the south. On the fifth day two more continued westward leaving Adwin and his companions with the last messenger group, all headed northwest towards GreensBridge.
The last of the messengers was a goblin by the name of Lit-Mot-Tow, a woodworker by trade. He was the one travelling with the young Historian and apparently the mission to GreensBridge was somewhat more important than the others. During the journey Lit-Mot-Tow spent a fair amount of time with Adwin, sometimes Tipper would join them as well. They spoke of simple things and both the goblin and Adwin started to communicate better with each other as the days passed.
After the first day of travel northwest Lit-Mot-Tow asked Adwin if it would be alright for them to make their own way. They were close to the White Road and soon would not be able to travel through the ways. As well, human towns and villages would be much more numerous the closer they came to GreensBridge. This would likely cause problems for the goblins and they would have to use a different entrance to the city, either way. They could meet again, later in GreensBridge.
Adwin agreed and thanked the goblin for his respect and companionship and promised to look him up near the equinox, in GreensBridge.
The following day he and his companions made good time and reached the White Road before sunset.