A steady snow muffled our approach to the shore. Aimon and Alexey crept ahead, and then told us there were three medium skiffs and a small camp. “We can take them,” urged Alexey. I nodded absently, thinking more about the resources and organization required to build ships. What could muster goblins and hobgoblins to this level of cooperation? It’s true, hobgoblins can be crafty at times, but it frightens me when I think about the materials, skills, labor, and planning to build even a small fleet of three ships. Someone must be driving all of this.
Still distracted by the thoughts of the bigger picture, I simply obeyed as Alexey told me to quietly move forward. I crouched and stepped carefully. The stillness of the snow swallowed the sound of my approach. I peered over a small rise and into the camp just in time to hear a soft ‘twang’ and see an arrow bite deeply into a bugbear. The beast roared and charged Gledrick, who just emerged from behind a bush. The dwarf tightened the grip on his hammer and grinned.
My quick survey of the area showed a few goblins with bows charging into deep brush. Mechanically, my hands and mouth started a Dormiris spell, which came out quickly and penetrated into the undergrowth. I couldn’t see whether the spell worked, and suddenly I heard Master Vontaze in my ear. “Step one, protect yourself.” “Always cast your shield first.” “What can you do if you are exposed?”
I cowered behind Aimon.
The arrow from the bushes never came, and I began to think the spell worked. I looked up. Goblins were running everywhere. Gledrick stepped up, shield bashed two attacks, and then struck hard against the bugbear. I watched as Alexey materialized out of some shadows right next to the bugbear. The rogue brandished a sword and a dagger and looked rabid. Over his shoulder, however, a second bugbear charged from his blindside.
I pulled out my wand, gripped it tightly, and shouted, “Mell’on.” A warm energy flowed from my chest, down my arm and across the open space to the second bugbear. He paused in his charge. His fierce look relaxed and his eyes sought mine. I smiled and nodded, then called to him in my broken goblin tongue, “My friend, we need your help.” His brows creased and he stepped toward the main fight. Again, Master Vontaze haunted my inner mind. “Do the goblins sleep, or do they take careful aim.” “Where is your shield?” “You didn’t protect yourself.”
Once again, I cowered.
Gledrick’s hammer whistled with the force of his swing and the disturbing crunch hung in the air for a moment before the bugbear’s body thundered to the ground. I began to think we’d gained the upper hand, when a sharp pain shot through my leg. Vontaze was right. I looked down, expecting to find an arrow. Instead, I found a goblin had crawled through the brush and stuck me with his sword. I staggered backwards, unable to catch my balance and prepare a spell. The goblin stood and stepped toward me, readying his sword for another swing. The sword never came forward. In a bloody shower, an arrow from Aimon’s new bow burst clean through the body of the goblin. The small creature crashed to the earth.
I finally took a few seconds to cast shield on myself. Protect myself first. “Yes, Master Vontaze! I won’t forget,” shouted my leg.
Another sickly crunch drew my attention. I saw my bugbear friend standing over a dead goblin and look at me. “Gling Gra!” (“Thank you!”) It looked pleased. With no enemies in the immediate area, I limped toward the bushes where I hoped to find two unconscious goblins. The bugbear followed closely. We each killed one of the sleeping goblins. When I killed mine, the bugbear grunted a laugh, and told me something in goblin that might translate as, “Good one, Little Bit!”
Near the shore, in front of two beached skiffs, the battle continued. Aimon’s arrows stuck into a strange looking goblin clothed in a cloak. Two hobgoblin archers fired at Gledrick, causing the dwarf to howl wildly. The cloaked goblin chanted in an unknown language, and spread his arms wide. A desperate doom crept into my mind, and I struggled to fight it off. Gledrick crushed a hobgoblin. Aimon fired again. Then, out of nowhere, in a flurry of flashing steel, Aimon appeared and cut down the cloaked goblin with sword and dagger.
One of the ships had departed, and I asked my bugbear friend to keep his eye on where it went. Then, I departed to search the tents. While I was gone, the final hobgoblin was killed, and Alexey used his newly-learned, two-handed attack to slay the bugbear. I even heard that Aimon fired a long shot and hit the lone hobgoblin on the fleeing vessel.
With our victory secured, Alexey pointed out that we could use the two remaining ships to take the caravan to Hammer Hill. I wish I’d thought of it. It’s such an obvious choice and gives us a safe path home. I hope some of the merchants know something about sailing.
We departed, with a few limps and groans, to find the caravan.