They set out the next morning for the goblins' cave in the mountains.
Elie: How did they travel? Were they driving?
Me: No, this was long before there were cars. Let's see... they probably each rode a horse from Mandalar's stables.
The hills rolled easily at first but grew steeper the closer they got to the mountains. Finally, they crested the tallest hill yet and found themselves looking at the rocky slopes of the mountains before them.
They tied the horses' reins to a tree near a cool mountain stream with plenty of fresh grass growing nearby for the horses to eat and set up the rocky trail on foot. Within a few moments, them found themselves facing a pair of large stone doors blocking the entrance to the cave.
The doors had no handle but rather just one small keyhole set in the middle. The four pushed with all their might but the stones would not budge. Mandalar began searching under nearby rocks for a key. Sarai checked in the scraggly bushes. Tiana felt along the doors' edges hopefully but had no better luck. She even tried to pry it open with one of her daggers but was afraid the blade would bend and break. Alatar, though, looked at the keyhole itself.
It was small and dark, but not very deep. He touched it gingerly with his thumb and found that the black stone within slid back easily at his touch. As it slid, he felt a latch spring up from underneath. This he tugged ever so slightly, and was rewarded with a resounding thud of some unseen lock falling into place.
The doors creaked heavily, shuddering and releasing a cloud of dust gathered during years of disuse. They began to swing ever so slowly inwards revealing a long, dark passageway into the mountain. They lit torches and began treading carefully into the tunnel.
Elie: Did Mandalar put back on his helmet?
Me: Yes - though he lifted the visor so he could see better in the dark.
Elie: Why does he have a helmet?
Me: To protect his head from... bumps, I suppose.
A short distance into the tunnel they found another door, this one made of wood but no less solid than the stone one behind them. Alatar, Mandalar, and Tiana set to searching for another keyhole or any other means of opening the door.
Sarai, on the other hand merely stood looking at the door for a moment, tapping her chin thoughtfully with one finger. An idea struck her, and she knocked firmly on the door three times. The sound echoed through the cave with each blow, filling their ears with its deep tone.
For a moment, all was then silent. Then, without warning, a panel slid open halfway up the door. Two large glowing eyes peered out at them.
"Hey, who goes there?" asked a squeaky voice, almost bubbling with excitement.
Sarai smiled warmly. "I'm Sarai, and this is Alatar, Tiana, and Mandalar. We -"
"Nah, we don't want any," the small voice interrupted. "Thanks, bye."
And with that, the panel swiftly slid shut.
Sarai, surprised, looked at her companions and then back to the door. Determined, she knocked again more firmly.
"Yes?" the small voice said, now sounding almost annoyed.
"We just want to come in!" Sarai answered firmly. "We're not selling anything. We just heard the goblin king may have a crown that once belonged to the old king and we wanted to ask him about it. We want to bring the symbols of the old king back together to help restore peace for everyone."
"Oh! Not selling anything? And peace? Well that sounds rather lovely. We like a good bit of peace as much as the next folk around here. Why didn't you say so in the first place?" the small voice seemed to be smiling as it replied. "Right this way, come on in."
And with that, the heavy door began to swing inwards.
Me: We'll have to pick up the story there tomorrow.
Elie: Do you have an imaginary bookmark in your head?
Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.