Having satisfied himself that Kuzma, Stellios and Matvey remained attentive to their watches, Hasan returned to the main hall. There, he found Miklos engaged in a rambling lecture on goblin psychology and the merits of an elaborate trap. “Miklos, that knock on the head may be a bit worse than it looks. The door is open. We need not hold ourselves out as bait to trap them at this point. We’ll be lucky if we can hold them out. We cannot leave the tower now, at nighttime we’ll be cut to pieces. ‘Til then,” he handed the mage a wet rag and a generous slice of dark bread, “I suggest you find some rest.”
Though his stomach ached for food, Stephan found himself compelled to search for a solution. But he hungrily devoured an apple and pull of bread someone handed him.
“Pyotr, in the seller, is there not a second, deeper cavity for the tubers and such? Could it not serve as a hiding place? At least for some of the women and children?”
“To be sure, Stephan. But we risk entombing them. I’ve no doubt that these goblins will seek the very depths of this place and with their ability to smell…..I don’t think we can hide. If we could hide someone, it would have to be behind much earth and stone. And that’s why I fear entombing someone. Even if the gobs leave, they may not be able to free themselves.”
Stephan’s lips pressed hard together. “What of a sturdy line? We could arrow it from the tower and slide to safety in the river or near the boats.”
Pyotr shook his head. “It’s good to think out loud, brother, but again, I don’t think we could get everyone safely down such a line even if we could secure it in place.”
He turned to look out at the black night, gloomily lit by moon and goblin fire. Smoke wafted through the windhole. “The burning here has been large. It must be visible for leagues. Surely my good neighbors, the VanKyn or Thominsin will rally to our rescue. I’d do as much for them.”
“Noble Hasan,” Miklos called after the elf, “I’d take more than a stone to adle my brains I hope. But I fear you have misinterpreted my idea. I was going to suggest that the most capable of us lay a trail to mislead the goblins into believing we have left whilst they were unattentive. They assume they can walk in unopposed. We entrap them and we’ll suggest they surrender or butcher the lot of them.”
“Whether or not they all come in, dividing their numbers is to our advantage as well. The best form of defense is attack is it not Feldard?”
Feldard glanced over to the mage considering. “Have you a means to hide the unfortunate person you’d have make this false trail? If you didn’t notice… our leaving the hall was met with a hail of stones.. The goblins have have us surrounded, and with the barn and palisade burnt down can easily spot us when we leave the building. Unless you have learned of some magic to hide one of us or know of another with the skills our departed Nicolai possessed, then I would say your plan is less than well thought out. But yes, the best defense is an unexpected attack.”
Maruc nodded to Feldard. He was feeling sore and tired so he took the time to pray to his deity for healing them clambered up to the battlements and tried to enjoy the fresh air filled with Goblin voices…
“Miklos, I have every confidence in your plan,” replied the elf. “And I expect we will execute it just as you say. But I don’t think we need an elaborate feint, be it a trail, or treasure, or fallen warriors. Let us just fight the best we are able, knowing that when they penetrate our now thin barrier, the fight will continue. Because I agree with your main point. We will fight better inside the main hall than simply shooting arrows from above. And until that fight is joined, I will watch from above. My main fear is that, if we all fight in this Hall, we will lose vision of what happens beyond it. So I will stay above, even if the melee begins. I will try to let Feldard know if I see others coming, and what archers we have will try to slow them down.”
With that, Hasan went to the armoury and pulled out two full quivers of arrows and brought them up to the battlements above. As he looked around he saw various equipment in addition to the bows. 2 short bows, 2 longbows, a battle axe, a couple small shields, a longsword, numerous spears, a mace and a dwarf-sized suit of plate mail.
He then went down the bedroom below, and tried to read his spellbook once again. He hoped to memorize web.
Feldard took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat himself and then let Maruc know that he was going to rest for a couple of hours. “Wake me to relieve your watch if the goblins haven’t attempted an attack by then.” Soon enough the resonating snore competed with the goblins chanting.
Maruc attended to his wounds, as the most injured member of the party, and then took up watch from the battlements.
His helmet on his knee. Head bowed. Hands massaging his temples, Stephan executed an arresting sigh. “You are right, Miklos. We must act. Your plan is all we have for the moment. But I would see the innocents off to Halav’s glory by my own hand rather than fall yet living into the hands of Gobs!”
Standing, his helm clanging to the flagstones, “Can you smell them out there! By Hav’ they stink. They must be shatting and pissing in the flames! I would see all their heads cleaved to the ground! The foul beasts!”
Clearly, Stephan had succumbed to fatigue and worry. He showed the classic signs of a warrior about to face his doom. But then he settled himself, stooping to retrieve his helm and tucking it in the crook of his arm against his armor. A strange calm washed over his countenance.
“We shall stand under the guiding hand of Halav! These fell creatures shall pay a dear price for their venture.”
The minutes passed slowly, except for the slumbering dwarf. At an hour before midnight, the goblins once again halted their tribal noises, but after a few minutes of ominous silence passed, they resumed. Perhaps, it was just a feint to see what the defenders would do, or just a move to keep them on edge. Or something else, there was no way of knowing. It was very unnerving.
As the time approached midnight, the sound of screaming came from the woods east of the clearing. The spotters turned their eyes to the woods, and they caught a glimpse of a human-sized figure in a yellow dress being dragged through the woods by goblins.