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. “Perhaps a spell at Highforge might loosen their tongues eh?” he remarked. “I’d suggest we get them and a message there as soon as possible. If anything to warn the dwarves of the potential theat to their trade route. They’ll have to set up highly armed trade caravans and double their guard at the least.”
“I hope Highforge isn’t besieged.” he added darkly. “I don’t think we have the luxury of time anymore. Two clans are ahead of us. A rogue human from the raid. My guess is our presence is well known to our enemies, from the bandit raid and the bloodied clans. But who do we chase?”
Miklos tapped his fingers. “Lets narrow down the options. One; the human has three days on us since the raid to my mind, it may be possible for Hasan to track him but even with his skill we will not move as fast our quarry. If we choose to follow him each minute lessens our chances of success. But we may learn something useful from where he has been.”
Miklos jutted a second finger up. “Two; we follow the clans and learn something of their size, organisation and disposition and report this to the relevant authorities and Highforge and Specularum. Three.” Miklos’s third finger waved. “We go directly to Highforge and deliver the captives for further interrogation. Give them all of our information and then perhaps let the Dwarvern scouts follow up on our leads and continue on our main mission to Threshold.”
“I agree those are the way forward for us,” Hasan worried. “But what about Pyotr and the rest? We must assure their safety. And so, I fear we may need to wait out another night, for we cannot leave them here alone or send them to travel at night. The trails our enemies leave will fade even more. As such, I think our only option is to follow the most obvious quarry, and likely the slowest as well, and pursue the goblins.”
“Well, all roads lie east of here.” said Maruc, “The Clans may already have destroyed what trail the human had left. I agree with Hasan, we must see the family to safety if that is their wish. I would not presume that they would wish to leave after building such a place and devoting their lives to it. True, they have had losses, but they are not weak and have shown undoubted character and perserverance. My words atop the tower were not vain, this place is sacred, and abandoning it would be no easy thing, despite the threat. I wouldn’t imagine the goblins would return here too swiftly.”
Maruc sighed. “My advice would be to wait until morning, a fresh start with fresh blessings. But I see the logic in Miklos’s comments, each moment that passes reduces our options and brings the fruition of our enemies plans closer. But a lack of preparation causes greater delays.”
When Stephen’s questioning began to meet resistance, Feldard stepped forward and delivered to the goblin some much needed ‘incentive’ to talk.
“What does this marker mean? Who bore it? Where is Vlaak’s den? How many other clans are in involved in these raids along the river?” Feldard grilled the chieftain and his second with these questions until he was satisfied that the answers were honest. It took a LOT of ‘incentive’ to be satisfied.
It was clear that High Forge was in no danger. The goblins had been directed to attack the human settlements in the immediate area. The amulet did not belong to any of the Red Blade clan. It seemed likely to have been dropped during the course of the night, most likely by one of the hobgoblins, perhaps even Vlaak himself. Vlaak had rallied the tribes of the goblins and ordered the attacks, apparently, according to rumor, at the behest of some human organization, likely the Iron Ring. The settlements were to be left intact, and survivors to be rounded up for enslavement.
In the end, the dwarf was satisfied that he had been able to get the goblins to answer his questions to the best of their knowledge. The Red Blade clan had always been the weakest of the goblin clans in this section of the Dymrak, and now it was no more. Such had always been the goblins’ blight, to be pawns in the dark schemes of more powerful forces.
Pyotr stood quietly in the room. He was a practical man. His heart was full of sadness and rage, but his head knew that perhaps these goblin scum held some valuable information as to why this tragedy had befelled his clan. He waited until it was clear that the goblins had no more to offer, and then he struck. He gutted the Red Blade lieutenant—a lethal blow, but one that would lead to a slow and painful death. Then, with deliberate speed he moved to the king. Gnhass, clanhead of the Red Blade, pleaded for his life as the mighty Traladaran approached. His cries turned to gurgles as Pyotr wordlessly cut his throat.
Pyotr dropped his bloodsoaked blade and approached the others.
“Brother,” he began, “these creatures have attacked our land, killed our kin. It seems there are unseen forces at work, and my son, your nephew, has become a casualty of something we do not yet understand.”
He turned to the others. “I have to stay here, to guard my kin. You have already done so much. It pains me to ask for more, but my loyalty to our clan and to my son demand it. Hunt these retched creatures down. Find those who were behind this attack, and make them pay for what they have done.”