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.