Monthly Archives: May 2009

Of Goblins and Hobgoblins

Maruc felt tired, eight solid hours of meditation and no sleep was as testing as any combat he’d encountered. He pushed himself to his feet and walked over to the dwarf. He settled his hand on his shoulder. “One moment Feldard from your thoughts.” he smiled. “Blessed Halav has been bountiful. I have been gifted with greater powers of recuperation.” Maruc closed his eyes and healed him.

Leaving the dwarf he walked over to Stephan. “I’ll not allow you to seek your mares in that state. Come let me see to your wounds.” He sat the warrior down and spent is remaining magic on him. “There you go! You look like you could strangle a hill giant. Now if you guys don’t mind I need some sleep.”

Miklos woke. The priest was snoring nearby. He wondered over the the others huddled discussing some trinket. “May I see that?” he asked. Stephan passed him the amulet. A circular charm with a tower image. It brought to mind Dentiata’s tower but then again… there were many towers. There must be some significance to it. “This is a token. It proves the bearer is a trusted messenger or servant. The Tower image is faceless, much like our foes in the Darker brotherhood. It reminds me of their ..ahhh, methods. Where did you find it?”

“I didn’t, Hasan found it in the woods.” replied Stephan.

Miklos gave Hasan a questioning look. The elf gestured toward the north east. “I found it amongst the ruin of the goblin encampment about thirty yards into the forest that way.”

Miklos looked back to the amulet. It didn’t look particularly beautiful, quite ominous in fact. “I don’t think this is stolen. It’s quite a depressing image, though well wrought. I think one of the goblins bore this as a special mark. Perhaps a chieftain?” He eye’d the bulky trussed goblin. “Worth a question, but I doubt you’d get the truth from him.”

Miklos stood to one side as Stephan pressed the chieftan with this further question.

“Still to surmise, what we have discovered so far is that ‘Vlaak’ is a brute hobgoblin that had managed to convince three warring goblin tribes to co-operate in order to control the river – a vital route for Dwarf trade in Highforge no doubt. This creatures terminology interests me. This is a raid force. Not a ‘take and hold’. That means they are harrying the boarders, scare tactics to make people leave by fear or fight.”

“I am not convinced that Vlaak is as persuasive as to be able to master three tribes. I agree with Stephan there is more to it.” Miklos sipped at a glass of water.

“The Skull and Viper clans may well have fled because our defense was too strong. I suspect that in order to maintain the assault on the homestead that the clan leaders were eventually obliged to lead the latter assaults and suffered the consequences, without leadership the remains of the clans had fled?”

“I think the horses might be a side issue. No offenxe Stephan. Conrol of the river means blocking weapons and armour for Specularum and food to Highforge. This is a bold move by any goblin standards. It won’t take long for Stephgan to flood this place with troops. And doubtless the Dwarves of Highforge are unlikely to stand idle.”

“I hope the isn’t some clever ruse to draw the armies here. But this is just the sort of thing that would do it, if word gets back the Specularum that the clans are uniting…”

Maruc yawned. He’d managed to climb out of his armour before sleeping. His clothes were cleean and neatly folded next to him. He smiled, one of the women of the houseold no doubt. There was low conversation coming from the great hall. He pulled on his tunic and joined the others. Miklos was boring them with one of his lectures. “Silver linings Miklos, silver linings. You call a glass empty if it had one sip taken from it! Don’t tell me. Have you have tried to implicate the Sons of Night in the raid yet?”

Stephan felt the healing wash of Havlav at his faithful servant, Maruc.

“Thanks be to Havlav and his faithful servant. I shall pray for you, Maruc. That you are visited by the Halalli, the angels of Havlav, in your sleep.

“Now, well! ‘Tis strange to feel so lively after such battle!”

Stephan, listened keenly to Miklos. His eye brows rose at his conjecture.

“That would be a terrible day, surely, that Stefan’s forces be lead astray.

“And what of the ’slavers’ the gob spoke of? ‘Take what you want but leave the humans for the slavers’. Could these be coming to collect?”

“The horses are not as important in light of everything we now know. And they are not mine but my brother’s. It is certainly a hard loss but,” Stephan looked around the ruined household, “much else is lost already.”

Turning to Pyotr, “We’ll have to get you and the family to the ferry. In Specularum we can meet Altaar. He can help.”

Pyotr’s eyes burned at his younger brother.

“Uncle Altaar won’t be able to bring Taras back.”

A sad silence draped on the room.

“I must bring my son to the family plots. I’ll not leave him in the gob-infested Dymrak.”

The stricken father hung his head in sorrow.

“Miklos, I think the situation may be worse than what you have described,” interjected Hasan. “Not only have we seen cooperation between goblin tribes that have acted separately since the end of the last age, but we are also seeing something even more dangerous. Did the goblin chieftain not say that they were working in concert with those same humans who attacked our riverboat? That is key to this mystery. Whether the evil tower is involved or not will become clear over time.” Hasan began to pace. “Unfortunately, the trail of the man who escaped from the site of the ambush has probably been destroyed by the commotion of last night’s siege. Perhaps that man went with the goblins. Perhaps it was he who bore this coin, as a marker of safe passage. Perhaps the bearer was the great hobgoblin. Perhaps it was something unknown yet still more terrible. All these are possible. But our choice is not hard. Let us take the one path that lies ahead of us.”

“Ahh. I had quite forgotten our human raiders.” Miklos cursed his own memory, it must have been an aftereffect of the poison. At least Prince Hasan was paying attention. “I was not sure that they were connected, such an abhorrent idea, goblins and humans colluding. Still the Darker Brotherhood are probably as bad. I don’t like where this is heading. Every stone we overturn reveals yet more worms, it seems.”

Feldard remained silent during the majority of the interrogation and the resultant discussion. One sole comment did however stick in the dwarven warriors mind—that the dwarves of Highforge would not likely sit idle. It concerned him that his bride to be might get involved as well.

As he waited for the humans to come to the only true option, Feldard rested.

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Goblin Interrogation

Maruc releasing the last remaining power of Halav upon his friends knew he had no time for rest though he sorely needed it. He immediately began praying for further aid. “Holy Halav I beaseach you yet again for aid least our foes distance themselves from us overly…..”

Thankful that that responsibility of the captives was in other hands, Miklos pocketed his wand and returned upstairs. He made his excuses, and retired to bed. Exhaustion and the after effects of poison undoing what will he had left to do anything useful. “I must sleep,” he mumbled. Sleep came swiftly.

Meanwhile, below the interrogation of the goblins was underway.

“Hasan, may I borrow the amulet for a moment?” Stephan examined the amulet some more. “Was this on a body, Hasan? Or did you find it on the ground or such?”

“It was lying amidst various goblin rubbish and such,“ replied the elf. “From its placement, it seemed to have been dropped by accident as the group departed in haste.”

Stephan examined the front and back of the amulet.

“Are these letters of some kind? They do not look like the goblin scrawls I’ve seen on dungeon walls.”

The amulet was very old. Though weathered by age, the odd markings looked strangely familiar to him.

Keeping the amulet hidden in his hand, Stephan approached the Red Blade captain.

In goblin he spoke, “Fool! You got the orders wrong! The Master of the Tower did not want this homestead destroyed! What route did you take from the Tower? What did Vlaak say?”

The bodyguard seemed confused, and the king remained silent. Stephan engaged the goblin leader in conversation in order to elicit where the tower is and who is the leader there if not Vlaak.

In a sneering manner, Stephan sought to “test” Red Blade leader. “Do you even know why you were sent to clear the homesteads?”

The King of the Red Blade clan raised an eyebrow. The human had touched a nerve. “Fool Vlaak say this would be easy! Skull and Viper cowards leave Red Blade. Even Vlaak abandon us!”

Stephan hoped to gain valuable information. He often mentioned his dwarf friend—Feldard stood nearby, impossibly muscular arms crossed — will “not be so kind as to just ask simple questions the Red Blade chief should know.”

The dwarf’s presence was a palpable force on the chief.

“Vlaak say we take whatever we want, but leave houses and humans for slavers,” said the leader. “Say they control river. Say we will raid humans and be gone before help come. Liars!”

Taking a break from the interrogation, the group gathered to discuss what they had uncovered.

Hasan was not surprised that the goblins could tell nothing more than the tracks already clearly indicated, that the party would go east as soon as they were ready.

“It makes sense that they head to the east,” Stephan said after hearing Hasan’s report. I wonder if the Wolfskull mean to take the horses from the Vipers. “Regardless, their trail may lead to that tower. But we should have someone more versed in lore examine it. I suspect there’s more to this than some high-level hobgoblin chief.”

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Captives

Maruc helped bring Taras down. It would be a while before they could perform the proper rituals, and Kuzma was more that qualified to do so. His eyes strayed over the battle worn group. Their need for swift action was pressing, but also they couldn’t leave in this mess. If Stephan was ever going to retrieve his horses, he would need to leave as soon as possible, but would he sacrifice this need over the the most immediate needs of his family? It was his decision to make and Maruc didn’t envy it. Also, Hasan was scouting, no decision could be made until he reported what he saw.

“Well, I don’t know about you lot. But I have to rest and pray. Before long all your wounds will need to be treated.” Maruc used what healing he could on the most severely wounded members of their group, leaving Kuzma and Irina to attend to the wounded members of the family.

Miklos too felt tired. He sat opposite the tied goblin wondering what they were up to on the battlements. He knew he was no impressive man to look at, so he menaced the goblin with Denetiata’s wand. Miklos knew it was devoid of power…but the goblin didn’t.

He waited for Feldard to return and relieve them all of this creature.

Hasan returned. “All signs lead to the east. The Vipers took the horses that way, and it appears the Wolfskull abandoned the assault in order to pursue them. See this, which I found there—recognize the tower, by any chance, Stephan?”

amulet-detail

Stephan examined the silver amulet, but did not recognize the tower.

The elf continued. “Although the tracks from there are unclear, it would be no surprise if they led away to the east in the end. I also saw the clear tracks of the horses and two smaller clans heading east. Unless those bats can serve as messengers, the goblins that have left cannot expect us to have survived the night. We should pursue them as soon as we can.”

The dwarf marched in the door, returning from his chase. He found the former floating goblin now all trussed up. Feldard looked to Miklos “Why are they still alive? Or are you hoping I can get them to talk?”

The dwarf walked over to one of the goblins and kicked it, asking it why it had attacked. “Bruhla lak tor rud hakta?”

He totally ignored the creatures first attempt at an answer and kicked it again demanding the truth. “Vrra!”

The goblin bodyguard was quite terrified. His entire clan had been wiped out. His once-mighty king sat a few feet away, also captured and helpless.

“Glaak hrak vshklong cklachkach Vlaak…” the goblin started talking. Apparently, the clans were brought together by a powerful hobgoblin named Vlaak. Their mission was to clear all the settlements in the area. It was supposed to have been easy.

As the interrogation was under way, Stephan checked on his family. After seeing that everyone was safe, he went to Pyotr. His brow was furrowed. “Brother, would you have me pursue your horses? It may be the only thing left of value with which to rebuild. I know it’s difficult right now, but we should….”

His words trailed off as he looked in his brother’s swollen eye, grey eyes. He knew all too well that pursuit in this condition was folly. Stephan himself could barely stand. He needed rest and found it on a mat in an upper room.

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The Day After

Darya, herself grievously wounded, half crawled and dragged herself to the side of her fallen son.

The vicious Red Blade the delivered Taras’s death blow unwisely took a half second to gloat with a sneering laugh.

“Ba lak tu….”

But his words were cut short by the ferocity of father, Pyotr. The Sukiskyn leader uttered a cry of rage and sorrow while hacking the goblin to pieces, several of which he sent tumbling over the battlements.

Stephan, feeling a chill at seeing what was surely the death of his nephew, made quick work of the final goblin. The body was still whole and kicking when Stephan managed to send it cartwheeling to the ground below.

“Humph,” said Feldard, seeing the last hunk of goblin meat impale itself on a fence post. “Is that all?” He was about to turn away when the last goblin splatted with what to the dwarf was a satisfying finale.

“Now! There’s a punchline!”

Stephan turned to do what he could for Taras. Pyotr searched his son’s body, hoping against hope life was still there.

Darya sat slumped against the stonework. Her vacant eyes told the truth. Her son was dead.

Hasan watched the young man fail, mutely, horribly, with no breath to vocalize his anguish. Hasan briefly rested his fist on Pyotr’s heaving shoulder, then left the family to their own.

Below, Feldard was still in the midst of battle-fervour, when he saw the Red Blade turn and flee. The dwarf, intent on the death of every last goblin… gave chase. Speed-wise, the goblin did have him at an advantage – it wasn’t wearing platemail; but Feldard was a man driven. He charged out of the broken doorway and across the compound, axe upraise ready to bring it down on the hapless foe just a step or two out of range. The moment it faltered—he would be on it and the deed done.

Unfortunately for the creature, he had not looked up to see two of his fellow footsoldiers falling down from the battlements, shoved out by the enraged Sukiskyn clanhead. One of the two landed right in front of him, tripping him up. The dwarf closed the distance, raising his might axe for a deathblow.

* * * * *

The goblin hung in the air. It had stopped struggling though but Miklos knew that the spell wouldn’t last forever.

“Maruc?”

The priest watched Feldard bound off after the unfortunate Goblin that had fled before Maruc had a chance to get a proper swing at it. “Stop stealing my foes Dwarf!” he laughed after his retreating back. He looked up. Ah at least there was this one. “Yes Miklos?”

“I’m going to have to drop it soon. Be ready catch it.”

“One sec, I need some thing to bind it with.” Maruc yanked a strip of a ruined curtain. “Ready.”

Miklos raised the goblin to about ten feet and dropped him. That should stun him enough for Maruc to jump him. He cancelled the spell.

With a cry of dismay the goblin plummeted to the ground with a sickening thud. Quick as a flash, Maruc kicked the axe from the goblin and pinned him—the platemail lending much needed extra weight. He expertly grabbed an arm and twisted it behind the stunned creature. Trapping the arm between his legs, he fished for the other. Leaning on the prone arm sent enough encouragement to the goblin not to struggle too much. He looped the strip around the loose arm ,and bound it to the other behind its back frapping it in both directions. Lifting him by his bound hands, he frog-marched it to an over turned chair and righted it. There, he tried to force the goblin into the chair, but had to threaten violence with his flail before it got the idea. With the remainder of the strip,he bound it to the chair then bound its legs together.

Coming downstairs, Hasan saw the remains of the lopsided contest. Gesturing at the enchanted goblins, the elf halfheartedly accused, “Your handiwork, I trust, master mage. We could have used your help above. Two of the Susikyn, Taras and Darya, fell; though Darya may recover, the boy will not.” He frowned at Maruc’s clean weapon, and said, “not much of a contest, in the end, eh? I shall scout a bit outside, I won’t be gone long, but let me see what I can find while you’re cleaning up here.” The elf slipped out the doorway and gingerly crossed the northern clearing.

Miklos clapped, “I’m glad for your dignitiy that I was the only one watching that display.”

“I thought I did quite well,” he replied a little too defensively.

Maruc watched the mage circle the balcony and descend the stairs. He looked ashen-faced.

“You need a rest. That poison hasn’t left you yet.” Marucs eyes returned to the captive. “Can you speak the Black speech of goblins?”

“No, I know a passable elvish. That is all. Feldard is your man.” Miklos replied.

“Err, Dwarf?” grinned the priest. He returned to the doorway. The goblin had put a good distance between itself and the murderous dwarf. “Perhaps we should get him stilts? Or a warhorse? Warmule?”

Miklos laughed. “I’ll give you a crown if you say that to his face.”

“Well, I could talk to the top of his head…. would that count?”

“Your’e a very bad man Maruc.”

“Oh hang on, no its tripped over. Unlucky.” Maruc said with meaning. He winced at the spray of black blood. “Thats got to hurt.” He turned to the struggling captive. “I’m sorry, your mate tripped over and got, well, ‘dwarfed’ for want of a better adjective.”

The look of incomprehension, or what Maruc thought looked like incomprehension crossed the goblins face. “Nevermind, I’m sure Feldard will explain to you all you need to know.”

Maruc turned back to the doorway. Feldard was returning, coated in gore, looking like some undead revanent. His gaze swept back and forth expertly scanning as he returned to the homestead. He didn’t look in need of humour. Running was not an activity he enjoyed, but at least his sprint was rewarding in that the dwarf got one last goblin kill for the night.

“On second thoughts, you can keep your money Miklos.”

* * * * *

“I’ll, get Kuzma.”

It was all Stephan could say or do. He rushed down the tower spiral, wincing a few times at his own wounds, and emerged in the main hall.

“Please,” he said in a weary voice, “where is Kuzma? Taras is fallen. On the battlements.”

The fleeting hope that Havlav could bestow his grace upon Taras through his servant Kuzma crossed his mind.

“Maruc,” perhaps you too can say a prayer over the young man? It might bring some comfort to his parents. Even now, they are alone atop with their fallen son…”

Maruc’s head snapped up. “What news is this? Taras is dead? Of…of course Stephan lead the way.” Mixed emotions swamped the priest as he follow Stephan to the body on the battlements, but he hid them with a professional somber face as he stepped up onto the gusty battlements. The iron grey sky bleached the colour in the faces of Pyotr and his wife. The rustling of the trees sounded like a sea of lost souls.

One look told Maruc Taras was beyond any aid he could summon. He knelt beside to boy he ran his hand gently closing his sightless eyes. He looked up into the pleading faces of his parents and shook his head sadly. An urgent sob escaped Darya. Pyotr stared, stony silent, a tear caressing his cheak.

Maruc stood over the boy. He glanced up as others gathered around, grave faces and grim. He bowed his head. “To the halls of hero’s and enternal rest grant brave Taras entrance, Holy Halav. Blessed is he for he sacrificed himself for the life of his family and homestead. Few amongst us will have so noble a passing.” Maruc looked up. “Folk gathered here, fix in your mind his smile and courage. For these shall be our lasting memories and his final gift to us that have known and chreshed him as he has chreshed us. At the right hand of Halav Incarnate he now stands tall and uncowed by the ravages of time until the end of days when at last all of us are reunited with Him.”

“Bury him at the foot of the halls he defended with his life as a blessing to this house.”

Maruc stepped back, turned and gazed over the battlements and the foreboding wood, his knuckles whitened on the cold stone. “What a waste.” He didn’t realize he’d spoken aloud.

Stephan caught Matvey as the lad made for the battlements.

“No, Matvey. It’s best you stay. Your parents are with your brother.”

Turning, he saw the ashen face of Alfana—new widow of Taras. Stephan went to her. The poor woman’s legs collapsed under her and Stephan helped her to a chair.

“I’m sorry, Alfana. He fought well and died bravely.”

Alfana looked up at Stephan with watery eyes. Then down at her midriff, her hand resting gingerly there.

“Taras will yet live…in a way,” she spoke with choking words.

* * * * *

Dawn finally broke over the Sukiskyn homestead, revealing in full the carnage caused by the battles of the previous night. Burnt oak and goblin bodies littered the landscape. For some unknown reason, the Wolfskull had not chosen to take part in the final attack.

Hasan hoped to make some sense of it all as he surveyed the forest for tracks. There was ample evidence of the goblins’ presence in the form of camp fires, chewed animal bones, fruit rinds and other rubbish. All of the goblin corpses were stripped and left bare. The Red Blades had made their camp in the woods to the east of Sukiskyn. Hidden amongst all these tracks, there were a few larger prints. Hobgoblin from the look of them. Some tracks led off in many directions—clearly, they were making efforts to hide their trails. Amongst the rubbish was a silver amulet in the shape of a ruined tower.

In the woods to the west and south of the river, there were numerous footprints of goblins, along with dire wolves. Their clan had abandoned the Red Blade before the final assault. Their trail led to the east.

Lastly, the trail left by the Viper goblins and the stolen horses was very clear. The goblins, who had stolen the prize Calaari horses right before the companions’ arrival at the homestead, had also gone east.

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The Final Battle For Sukiskyn

Stephan parried to his right bringing his left boot around to push the Red Blade goblin away so he could bring his blade around. The Red Blade stumbled, almost laughing, and it was enough for Taras to get a clean slice.

The young man was strong and not wholly untrained in sword work. The goblin’s head sprang from its shoulders in a fountain of blackish blood. The jaw as still moving as the severed head sailed over the battlements, striking an ascending Red Blade.

Darya, for her part, was a woman possessed. Her home was invaded. Her husband assailed. Her son fighting for his life. Her battle scream was something no one, including herself, had heard before and it somehow penetrated the goblins catching, momentarily, their attention. She bellowed as she struck with a mace an unfortunate Red Blade who seemed confused. The stinking creature collapsed in a heap.

In that fleeting moment of the scream, both Pyotr and Stephan delivered horrendous wounds to two of the goblins. One fell back–stone dead. The other turned and wretched over the battlements. Pyotr grabbed a leg, lifting and flinging the goblin over. Its squeals faded into the chaos below.

More goblins tumbled into the room. Their entry was such that they were fairly easy picking for the five defenders.

“Die you gobs!,” Stephan yelled in a gruff voice as he hacked off a sweaty Red Blade arm.

Hasan couldn’t match the fury of the Susykyn, who were defending their home. He eased away from the melee line, which was crowded with humans that cut and thrust as the goblins charged two by two through the narrow doorway. Hasan tried to support the best he could with his bow, focusing especially on the left side of the line, where Darya stood in her leather jerkin, virtually unarmoured. But, while no goblin penetrated the line, the elf’s contribution to that feat was minimal.

Miklos listened to the shouts of battle on the battlements and from below. “Stay at the window boy,” he advised. “Yell if you see any goblins exiting in a hurry. I shall aid the defense below.” He crossed the room and entered the balcony of the hall. Glancing down the first thing he saw was Maruc backing off from two goblins. Well I can even up those odds, thought Miklos. Miklos could think of nothing better than to lift one of the goblins off his feet —he could hang in the air for a while. Unpracticed with this spell, but otherwise confident of the theory, Miklos formed the word-thoughts and encapsulated the unfortunate creature. Losing traction, his feet peddled the air ineffectually as he drifted upwards. Failing, caught in the net of the levitation the goblin screeched in frustration as it waved its shield and scimitar uslessly. Miklos smiled—I have you for questioning later my little friend.

The table splintered. At last the goblins had broken through – not as many as he had thought but it mattered little, as they would all share the same fate, thought the dwarf.

Maruc’s eyes were drawn to the huge goblin and his right hand servant. These were obviously some sort of leadership element to the assault. He didn’t think twice, ignoring the two advancing goblins and Feldard’s potential reaction He threw his last remaining magic at them. Spreading the incantation lessened the chance of the spell taking effect but if he could stay just these two brutes for a few minutes it could turn the tide of events.

“Blessed Halav on your carven throne! I, Maruc your humble servant beseach thee to stay thy foes with your might. Let not these godless heathens divert thine holy purpose!”

Halav must have been listening. As the last sylable of his entreaty left his lips the lead goblin was lifted straight off his feet. Maruc’s jaw dropped. It wasn’t quite the result he expected. The goblin charging behind gaped in similar fascination as his companion rose before him. A few seconds passed, then the priest looked back just as the goblin lowered his gaze.

Their eyes locked.

They both shrugged.

Maruc grinned.

They charged at each other. Maruc didn’t know if his hold incantation had landed until he saw the goblin drop to the ground, his movements frozen.

The dwarf, had held his ground and swung back his axe to cleave the obvious leader. But his swing met naught but air at the last moment, as an instant before the two were to meet the creature was stilled out of range. At the same time, one of the goblins moving towards Maruc lifted off the ground. Feldard took advantage of the situation and while they were unmoving, he stepped forward and beheaded one.

Only one lonely goblin footsoldier remained. His death chant pledge forgotten, the Red Blade turned and ran.

* * * * *

On the upper floors, the battle raged on. Stephan, Hasan, Taras and Darya had all sustained various wounds as the final battle continued. There were no more goblins coming. Those that remained were the last of the contingent, and thus they fought with ferocity.

Two more goblins fell. But, just as it seemed as if the tide was turning for the defenders, Taras caught an axe blade which pierced deep through his leather armor. He fell to the ground.

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Assault on Sukiskyn

“Ladders!” called out Matvey in warning as he was pulled away from the window by Alfana.

Feldard cussed at hearing the boys shrill warning. He glanced about quickly determining who could be spared. “Hasan, go assist Stephan, Pyotr and Taras in keeping the tower battlements secure. We will be lost if they take the tower from above. The boy and the women can remain in the bed chamber continuing to provide archery cover. Stellios take your sling and go assist the archers.”

With the charge on… Feldard began his own bellowed out singing, a dwarven tune meant to inspire everyone to battle with dwarven ferocity. He stood alongside Maruc, waiting with axe in hand, for the magically held door to fail under the goblin onslaught. He and his companions would prevail—of that he had no doubt.

Maruc grinned blightly at the scowling dwarf. “I’m getting a curious feeling of ‘deja-vu’ here. Try not to get yourself killed my friend, ‘Hacked to pieces by a fifteen foot Bone Golem’ is something to put on a headstone not ‘Stabbed by Brogg the Goblin Cesspit-Licker.’ Maruc slowly winked as he waited for the magic on the door to fail.

Mage-wrought words tumbled in quick succession as Miklos tried to hold the power of more magic in his already tired mind. Goblins. One would have thought they’d have given up by now. His dry eyes blinked back the residual grit and his head span with the aftereffects of the poison. If the words were less familiar this task would be impossible.

‘Its not the words themselves that are important,’ his lecturer on runes had said, ‘but it is utterance that forces the mind to become a funnel or focus for residual magic to collect different spell affect its ’shape’ and ‘type’ which is why and unpracticed mind can only hold so much. Can you imagine how much power you need to control to force a gateway between worlds?’

Right now he could. The sigils in front of him blurred as he fought to control the poison, the growing headache and the twisting focus of his spell. The yelling of the boy next to him wasn’t helping.

Miklos eventually recited the last word. The spell teetered and wobbled barely under his command. The haze of pain threatened to undo his work. There was no finesse. He elbowed the boy away from the arrowslit and with an explosion of effort he unloaded the sleep incantation at the crowd of chagrined goblins that were somehow repulsed by a doorway that was essentially a table.

Virtually all of them slumped over where they stood, dropping their axes. The four that remained were the largest of the bunch. They abandoned their attempts at kicking the table away–having determined that it was held in place by some force they did not understand. Instead, they hacked at the thick oak of the table—it wouldn’t be long before they would be able to breach the makeshift enchanted barrier.

Miklos slumped back out of the way of the arrowslit. There was a jug of water on the bedside table. He drank some and splashed the rest on his face. Refreshened, he looked up and he frowned. He swore he saw a goblin climb past, upwards. Crossing to the arrowslit he looked closer. A ladder, then a goblins head, then a goblin scimitar jabbed through the hole forcing Miklos to step back stand on his robe and collapse on the floor. Cursing, he picked himself up and fumbled around for his staff. Fortunately, he had left it behind in here when he had run from the bat.

Grimacing, he took up the staff rammed it through the arrow slit at the surprised goblin, but he was aiming at the goblin. The staff wedged against the bound corner of a rung and with all the force he could muster he began to push the ladder outwards. The frantic goblin slashed his crude axe against the seasoned oak of the staff. Beads of sweat sprung from the mage as the weight of the goblins kept the ladder against the tower he wondered the goblin would whittle his staff to nothing before the ladder started to move. A disturbing crack came from his complaining staff. He was pushing a full tilt and he knew he wasn’t going to shift it when suddenly the staff shot forward.

Mikos thought his staff had finally snapped. Then he heard the cries of flailing goblins. He sank to the floor again exhausted.

Pyotr winked at him as he darted for the stairwell. “You looked like you needed a hand,” he laughed. Then he vanished up to the battlements.

“Thanks.” Miklos said, staring at the hacked remains of his staff.

Stephan found himself bounding up the tower stairs before Matvey shouted “ladders” a second time. Pyotr, though severely wounded, was behind him.

As he reached the top, Stephan was a bit startled to not see his older brother right behind. But the visage before him instantly consumed his full attention.

Taras lay clutching his shoulder where a lucky goblin arrow had found it’s mark. For the moment, he was safe behind the battlements.

Hasan was deftly loosing arrows and taking cover between shots. “Don’t poke your head over. They’re covering for the ladders.”

Stephan could see the ladders tilting toward the tower with a few goblins already part way up as their mates below strained to leverage the ladders against the tower. He took aim, along with Hasan, at the ladders.

“I’ll take the one on the left.”

“The right for me then.”

“And I’ll join you brother, at the left. I’ll shoot lower.” Stephan was pleased to see Pyotr crouching at his side.

On Hasan’s mark, the three loosed arrows at the teetering goblins. Two struck their mark sending squealing goblins plummeting to the ground below.

Taras, having dealt with what turned out to be a slight wound. Joined them for the next volley.

There were so many of them, crawling like insects up the ladders. As soon as the defenders brought one down, another ladder took its place. Finally, two of the goblins made it inside, Stephan sliced down one of the pair with his sword. The other managed to lightly wound the warrior as he adjusted his positioning, preparing to meet what was now a steady stream of goblins that burst into the room.

Thankfully, they had done a pretty handy job at thinning their ranks. Only nine remained to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Sukiskynians. To take them on, there were the brothers Stephan and Pyotr. The son and wife, Taras and Darya. And lastly the elf, Hasan. Irina and Stellios were ill-suited to melee combat, and as per the plan, retreated to join the other non-combatants.

Meanwhile, downstairs the table/door finally gave way to goblin steel. Four goblins burst forth. One appeared to be a standard Red-Blade grunt, but the other three were larger and better equipped.

Amazed to see the dwarf yet alive, the clan-head shouted goblinian epithets as he followed the others into the room. Swinging a large, blood-red-painted battle axe, he made a direct line towards Feldard, followed by one of his lieutenants, and the other two darted for Maruc.

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Charge!

Maruc could do no more for the present for his poisoned comrades. He gathered his shield and flail and descended into the main hall and joined Feldard and Stephan. At least he could lend a supporting arm in a tight spot and he had spent his healing. He looked over to Hasan, who was looking much better. Maruc offered a brief prayer of thanks and protection to Blessed Halav and turned to Stephan.

“Death chant eh? Oh goodie, it seems they’re getting the idea.” he said dryly. “Haven’t they got the message yet? To my count they are beating us in the mortalities. But that’s why they need to psych themselves up I guess. They’ll probably make some grand gesture like try to burn the place down.” he added with a grin.

Miklos’s eyes felt sore and gritty. He wished he could close them. This was more frustrating than a whole crowd of Goblins jumping up and down on him. The itch he had discovered some time ago was adding to his misery, that, and the knot in the carpet in the small of his back. Maruc, the least he could have done was lay him on a bed. He tried to switch off, lose himself mentally. He started recanting the fifty symbols of elemental control he followed this with Mordensky’s theory of Minor Levitation and its uses in potion production. Time ticked by impossibility slowly…

The eastern noise puzzled Hasan. “Unusual, Feldard, don’t you think? They have attached this door every time. Well, if they will present yet another feint, maybe this will hold them just a bit.” The elf approached the battered door and carefully outlined the doorway with his hands. Focusing intently, he began to speak in a lilting, gauzy voice. He pulled his hands together; the apparently gentle clap made an outsized bang. Hasan then collapsed a bit and shrugged. “I don’t know if the spell worked. I guess we’ll see. The magic may not hold a portal as battered as this.” And then the elf went carefully upstairs to watch the eastern wood.

Feldard didn’t comment back regarding the ‘death chant’ – it was all meant to instill fear, and Feldard was too pumped to be afraid. He just wanted the damn beasties to attack already…. the wait was annoying!

The dwarf watched with a slight frown as the elf cast magic on the door. Feldard somewhat tolerated magic these days.. from Miklos—the man had proven himself to the dwarf through their journeys. But to see others doing it still made the dwarf wary. He moved a bit away and took up his waiting position further from the door.

He hoped the magic wouldn’t hold the door long. He was already on edge, eager to get back into the fray and show the goblins that nothing—not even near death—would keep him from slaying each and every one of them. His leg vibrated under his armour in anticipation.. and his grip on his axe was tight. Soon…

Irina did not try to keep Stephan or the others that now bore significant wounds from readying for battle.

Stephan positioned himself to have a clear arrow shot when the attack began. He checked his leather armor fittings, tightening two of the ties. Gathering what arrows he could, he ensured his quiver was secure and stretched his arm so it would be limber for reaching arrows.

The chanting suddenly stopped, and the clearing was quickly overrun with the creatures as they charged the tower. The main contingent consisted of what looked to be about thirty goblins. All Red Blade. They carried with them five crude ladders.

A separate group of about a dozen raced over the remains of the burnt palisade, charging toward the door.

Miklos was halfway through Traditional Bylaws in governance protocols as it pertains to daemonolgy and summoned spirits when the itch behind his ear got too much and he scratched it. He put his arm down and laid there for a few moments. He frowned trying to remember law 14b iiiv. He got up and went to his spell book and flicked through it. Aha! there it was. Gods his back ached. He frowned again as the sounds of fighting filtered up from below. Were the students revolting again?

He went to the window and stared at the young man frantically firing a longbow in a concerted attempt to use up his supply of arrows as quickly as possible.

That’s a bit harsh for students, thought Miklos absently.

Then he remembered. The bats. The poison.

He opened his spellbook and glancing at the horde approaching started chanting straight from his book.

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