Raising his shield, Stephan stepped to help shield Miklos and Feldard from the stones. It was his instinct. Three of the shots loudly impacted the round, wooden shield denting some of the metal-cladding, but a couple of the stones did strik the unarmored Miklos.
Miklos shuffled gratefully behind the proferred shield. Not used to coming under direct attack, the mage’s adrenaline temporarily subdued the pain, and he spoke even more quickly than normal. “Let’s back to the tower! Hasan is right though! I wish we had another means of defending.”
As they made a defensive retreat in the moonlight, Stephan voiced an idea.
“What say we find suitable cover to snipe them when they come? There are many places to hide. There,” he pointed to part of the ruined barn, “Feldard, you could crouch. And there Miklos, and I over there. But are we seen? If they’ve not seen us, we can attack from behind when they are focused on the door. What say you?”
“Secrecy seems to be out of the question,” said the mage. “These goblins have gone up in my estimation! Not only is it night time but that has got to be over 30 yards to the treeline through the cover of the ruin.” They went back behind the ruined doorway a moment later. With only a few pieces of the oak door clinging to metal hinges, there was no barrier to stop any invading goblins. “It is clear they can see well in darkness.” he continued, “It seems the retreat was some sort of feint.”
Hasan raced up to the top of the tower, hoping to get a better look at the positions and numbers of the goblins. He saw nothing new, however, just the pitch black of night forest. He slowly surveyed the area around the encampment and strained to sense anything beyond the ordinary. Nothing seemed amiss.
Miklos thought for a moment. “I wonder…. a trap. I at first thought perhaps that the warriors could pretend a sortie, cover themselves in blood and dust and ‘collapse’ in the hail of sling stones only to spring up in surprise when we have lured them out.”
“The point being to lure them out en mass, and that plan would not work because they wouldn’t be sure of the kills. It is plain that they do not wish to burn the homestead down, they would have done so already, so they are after the contents. I am thinking we could try and make them think we have fled. They come in and provided they all come in—being greedy—we have several advantages. One, we know their numbers, two, we know where they are, three we will have a better idea what they are after. Four, we can attack them where their numbers are of little advantage. If we could lure them into the main hall and hide on the balcony we would have the advantage of height as well. I could block the exit with my web spell. All we need is a nice pile of treasure to lure the in with and a woodland trail to make them think we have fled.”
“Well, thats what I say anyway.” added the mage.
Maruc listened carefully to the mage trying to keep the grin off his face. “Oh Hasan!” he called after the retreating elf. “Miklos has a job for you. I don’t think you’ll like it though.”
The priest thumbed the handle of his flail. “Its a high risk strategy. There could be a hundred of them out there.”
“If there were a hundred of them out there, there would be eighty of them in here right now,” replied the mage larconically.
“Fair enough. It’s high risk, there’s a great danger of death, we are exposing the women and children and we are giving up our only defensive advantage,” he grinned brightly. “Sounds like a plan! Lets do it!”
Miklos turned to Feldard. “Exactly what drives a goblin? I can see by their tactics they are cunning, but are they intelligent? I am rather assuming they are greedy. What I am attempting to do here is use their weaknesses against them and I have a rather unsophisticated view of goblinoids. Being a Dwarf and a traditional enemy your insights could prove vital. Unless of course dwarven-goblinoid enmity is unsophisticated too.”
“The whole plan rather leans certain assumptions about goblinoid psychology. And some of those assumptions, like the clans joining up, are proving shaky.”
“Would fear wield them together?” the mage added.
Feldard considered the plan as suggested so far.. then looked to the mage. “These goblins are not acting like most that I have ever battled. Normally it is greed and natural enmity that lures them to battle. But is almost unheard of to have goblin clans work together. There is more to this raid than mere greed. I suspect a guiding hand in their efforts.”
The dwarf shook his head at the mage suggestion. “Normally fear would only further drive the clans to bickering and fighting amongst themselves to get away… but now … can’t be sure how they’d react.”
“Well then. Shall we be brave souls and bring this to a head?” offered the Mage.
“Aye,” Stephan agreed with the dwarf. “Some hand guides these beasts. And,”nodding to Miklos, “they fear that hand.
“And, I fear….that hand is on the way. That they have not burned more or pressed the attack relentlessly suggests they may be waiting for someone or something to arrive. Perhaps they are here to soften us up only.
“But why?” Turning to Pyotr, “What is it Pyotr? Why do the goblins work together to take Sukiskyn? Should we ask everyone in the household?”
“‘Tis a mystery to me, brother. You are of course welcome to question everyone and even search the grounds to find out if there’s something we may be missing.”
Stephan drank deeply of the water someone handed him. The cool liquid was wonderful but made his head pound for a moment as his blood flow raced to the knot on his head from the slingstone.
“This plan,” Miklos, “would be better if we had a better idea of their numbers. To allow them in like that without knowing…..well, sure, we’d then know but it could be an overwhelming number. Very risky. It’s like grabbing a pot off the fire before first checking to see how hot it be.”
“Well we could ask them, Stephan. But I doubt they can count!” replied Miklos. “Sorry that was foolish of me. No. We don’t know how many of them there are, but we have the advantage. They wouldn’t expect it.”
It was two hours until midnight, and the goblin drums and chanting again emanated from the forest.