Monthly Archives: March 2010

Goblins Everywhere!

Stephan hustled back to get his shield and sword ready again after having hoisted Feldard up. He knew Feldard would be delayed having just been extracted from an unpleasant experience. He readied his lightstone to blind the first goblin that tried to enter.

The pile-blocked door shuddered at the impact from what seemed like 30 or more goblins given the cacophony of voices. He could make out some of the goblinese shouts.

“I smell the vile elf in there! Knock it down Bowlaak!” Another voice spat, “And I smell dwarf. Sick wet dwarf. I smash it! I break its skull! We’ll slide it its blood.”

“They might have reinforcements.” Stephan shouted to the group. He looked to Miklos, hoping the mage was preparing something for them. Just then the door burst open part way. Luckily, the piled debris required more pushing before the goblins could make a full entry. With his light stone in his shield hand, Stephan directed the light with his cupped hand directly into the eyes of the first goblin face he saw in the doorway. The goblin cringed at the light and violently turned, knocking back at least two of his mates.

“Baal al tu luuck ta!” Stephan shouted in goblin. “Prepare to die!” And then he added “Yulatuk vo!” which in goblinese referred to the arcane wizardry goblins so dread. Stephan hoped that the ploy would work — the that goblins would think some magic was being cast on them other than a bright light in the eyes. He was rewarded for his efforts. The goblins fell back a bit even before getting the door completely open. Stephan launched his shoulder against the portal, slamming a goblin arm at the wrist. The mace it was holding fell clattering to the stone floor.

Stephan turned to see the progress of the others. “Can we get past that trap door?” We’re gonna have a lot of company any second!”

Feldard, once hauled up through the trap door, rolled away from the opening and lay prone on the tunnel floor breathing heavily from the ordeal. Blood seeped freely from numerous piranha bites. Freeing himself from the coils of rope the priest swiftly blessed him with the remaining power that Halav had gifted him. Colour flushed the dwarf’s face and Maruc breathed a sigh of relief. “Welcome back. Again.” he said.

The shouted warnings from their companions urged Feldard to his feet. Pushing the priest aside he hurried his way back into the chamber to meet the new goblin threat. The surprised priest barked protestations at his back.

The dwarf emerged from the tunnel like a pit demon. Blood smeared and stained with river grime his gleaming axe blazing with ancient runes, the priest at his shoulder. His expert veteran eye swiftly assessed the situation. “Ludo.” he commanded. “We need you to check to see if the rest of the tunnel is safe. We may need to fall back to whatever is beyond that door if we get overwhelmed again.”

He met the goblins just as they poured out through the the forced door and into the woodsman. With a bellow he charged forward, his axe swinging – the rush of battle pushing the weariness of his muscles and the pain of his wounds from this mind.

Ludo was stunned at the number of goblins rushing into the room. Shaking his head to clear the tunnel vision descending upon him he plunged headlong into the hollow log. He focused his mind on the job at hand, quickly securing the trap door so it would not open again. He did not find any more traps in the tunnel so he proceeded to unlock the door at the far end.

Maruc knew Ludo would need more that a few moments the secure the trapdoor. He rushed in next the Stephan lending the weight of his charge to close the door. Fortunately being the the prison door it had been reinforced. Unfortunately for the goblin who’d trapped his arm there came a sickening crunch as Maruc made contact. The ruined half of its arm hung limply in its socket of flesh. Maruc lost is footing as a determined counter push bounced him away. The door flung open. The armless goblin had fainted and spralled into the room. Its battle fevered kin trading him into the dust in their attempt to enter. Too eager they were as Feldards mage-axe bit into their ranks. Maruc rammed the edge of his shield into the second but was slowly pushed back by the tide of the foe. “Miklos! Miklos! A little help please!”. Help came unexpectedly from Stephan’s sword. The priest nodded his thanks and swung his mace into the mass.

They were so thick pressed he couldn’t really miss.

Miklos eye’d the press calmly. He’d anticipated the rear assault and had stood to one side. The side where the blocked door faced him. He waited to see if Stephans ploys would delay them enough for Ludo the complete his task. He doubted it. He groaned inwardly as Feldard, obviously revived by Maruc by the colour of him sprang from the shadows and started hacking and slashing. No subtlety that one he thought.

Tactically speaking, it was impossible to calculate how many goblins lay beyond the door. But he could handle, say, half a dozen with the sleep incantation he had prepared. All he needed was a clear line of sight to as many of them as possible. But guess who was in the way. Oh well, never mind. He toyed with the idea of letting the dwarf enjoy himself. But taking in the haunted look that played around Maruc’s eyes he guessed the Halav’s favours for the day were done.

“Stand BACK I say!” he commanded his voice ringing clear and cutting through the battle din.

The combatants paused. It was strange. Miklos thrust his spell into the goblin ranks through the door, over the head of the bewildered dwarf.

There was a clatter of dropping weaponry.

At the sound of collapsing goblins wrought by Miklos’s magic, a sudden but short silence fell upon the chamber. The silence was broken by Ludo’s announcement of a clear tunnel.

Gathering his wits, Stephan started making his way for the tunnel, trailing Hasan who was already at the other end. “Time to leave, I think.” The sounds of more goblins was already growing stronger.

“By Halav! Die, gobs!”, Stephan bellowed while making a fighting retreat toward the tunnel. “We may need to get back in that river, Feldard!” He shouted but was pretty sure no one could hear.

“The tunnel is clear!” Ludo yelled to the others, with the din of battle prohibiting him from hearing anything that might lie beyond the door, he trusted to luck and with sword in hand opened the door and advanced into the room at the end.

Hasan was torn – stand and fight with his longtime companions – or follow and protect the impulsive thief. A half measure was all he could offer against the goblins from where he stood, and so, calling on his heretofore unused ventriloquism skills, he cast his voice to the opposing wall. In clear, elven Common, he laughed, “ha ha ha! The little goblins shall perish now. You didn’t look behind you…” The elf laughed again as some of the goblins momentarily broke off to try to find the illusory voice. He then turned and rapidly followed Ludo into the chamber beyond, trusting his companions would follow soon.

The chamber was empty. It seemed better appointed than the others they had encountered and the wooden furniture was larger. A door at the far side of the room was also larger than the other goblin-sized doorways.

Meanwhile, at the other side of the conflict, thanks to the mage’s spell and the mounting casualties inflicted upon the clan at the hands of the heroes, the goblins number no longer seemed as insurmountable. The ones that were left however, seemed to be the largest and most well equipped. The leader, wearing a fur cloak and gold belt, was desperately barking out orders as he knew the future of the Wolfskull was at stake.

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Ow.. Hey! Ow.. Aargh!

Feldards worst nightmare and then some came into being, when the floor gave out and he dropped into the stream. Fear had him gripping his axe on the way down. When he managed to get to his feet and his head was above the water level, he thought what a stroke of luck… until the first of the nibbles came. “Ow.. Hey! Ow.. Aargh!”

The dwarf tried flailing at them with his axe but slicing through the water slowed the axe and altered its trajectory – he was lucky he didn’t hack off his own limb.

Ludo heard the trap door slam shut, and whirled around in disbelief, swearing he immediately rushed into the tunnel to search for the release mechanism to open the trap door safely. “Hasan, Stephen quick, get a rope he managed to gasp”, as he frantically searched for the release switch. Finding the switch, he pulled it and saw the hatch swing open. After opening the hatch, Ludo looked down into the dark water for the dwarf. “Feldard where are you, are you OK?” he yelled.

Hasan watched the fish turn the water below into a frothing mass of fins and tails. Suddenly, the elf began rifling through his pack. Finding what he was looking for, the elf dumped his packet of rations in the river. It pained him to see the last of his Elyan biscuits float to the top, only to be carried rapidly away, wholly ignored by the devilish fish. But his offering lured away at least a few of Feldard’s predators.

“Get me outta here! They’re biting at every crevice they can find!” Feldard cried out reaching up with one hand toward the log overhead.

The dwarf cry and splash were enough to have Maruc hunting for his rope. He looped it into a swift bowline and wrapped the loose end round his waist then cast the remainder past his milling friends and into the blackness beneath. It was fortunate the dwarf could see in the dark.

He glanced about him. “Stephan. Brace the rope with me.” The he cried down the hole “Feldard! Grab the loop and tell us when to pull.” He waited until the dwarf had secured himself. It was a long time as the dwarf floundered in the swift inky water hunting for the loop.

Maruc felt a tugging and nodded to Stefan to take the strain. “Now.”

They pulled bloodied dwarf from the swell.

Seeing Stephan was taken with more urgent matters Miklos stood rearguard. He mentally prepared a sleep spell in case of a surprise attack from behind.

The mage then heard a goblin shout in the distance. He then heard the sounds of crude goblin armor clanking as both doors to the room began to move. The pile of obstacles that had been piled against the entry started to shift. The goblins would be inside at any moment.

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Kerplunk!

Ludo stood back to allow Feldard to go first, damp dark tunnels he figured would be a natural place for the dwarf. “Feldard, after you,” he whispered, grinning. “Age before beauty.”

“Well, they were looking for a dwarf and elf. We might as well give them what they want.” Hasan followed the dwarf through the tunnel. “Give us a second, then follow,” he hissed back at the humans. “Just us for now, Feldard,” he smiled at the dwarf. “Let’s do this.”

A hollowed out log was not much of a tunnel and the sound of running water just on the outside of the petrified wood did appeal to the dwarf. Still he wasn’t about to back down from taking the lead in this. Feldard stepped into the tunnel, not needing to crouch… but the low ceiling meant that his axe would be difficult to maneuver, if it came down to a battle in there. Again, he mentally chided himself for leaving his crossbow behind.

Feldard, glanced over towards the elf at his words. Recalling not that long ago, when it was Hasan who was the untrusted newcomer. ‘Bah, I must be going daft, to travel with companions such as these,’ he thought to himself. But if truth be told, he knew he would lay down his life for any one of his travel companions.. well he still had his doubts about the new human, but the others he trusted and knew they would do that same for him.

After the dwarf left the north door to lead the way through the tunnel, Stephan kept an eye on the north door. Muttering mostly to himself, “It’d be a bad thing should we get plugged in that tunnel from a rear ambush.” He held back taking up a rear guard as the party moved into the stone tunnel.

Maruc listened to the quiet banter between his friends. A smile played across his lips at Stephan’s concern they’d be caught and held in a five foot bough. He seriously doubted it would accommodate one axe-wielding dwarf.

Leaving Bushka, Miklos stood by the door next to Stephan and watched the lithe elf follow the stoic dwarf into the shadows the the doorway. He held no fear for his friends, in many respects he felt a sad inevitability in the bloodshed that lay in store for the rude inhabitants. He tried to recall all he knew about the name Xitaqa. It sounded vaguely Traladaran, perhaps an offshoot of the dialect. As for the moors, being a city dweller, Miklos was largely at a loss when it came to the wildland of the Duchy.

Feldard moved across the tunnel quickly, certain that at any moment, the log would be dropped into the stream that it crossed. His footsteps echoed loud in his ears.

“Good thing that hardy dwarf is at the lead,” thought Stephan as he watched the dwarf and elf progress into the strange petrified tunnel.. “He’ll give those gobs a fright, I’m sure…..And if he goes down, well, there should be a little less bitterness in the world.”

SPLASH!

A trap door in the floor had opened beneath the dwarf’s feet. It snapped shut above him, while Hasan managed to narrowly avoid the same fate. Feldard sank to the bottom like a stone. Thankfully the river was not deep and he was quickly able to raise his head and get his breath back. Unfortunately, the black water was infested with cold-water piranha. A shoal of vicious fish immediately swam toward the fresh mass of dwarf meat.

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Xitaqa, Somewhereabouts In The Moors

Feldard cursed as the goblin made it through the north door – that way he knew led back towards the hoard that greeted them initially. Rather than run headlong into a dozen or more goblins on his own, Feldard closed the door and sought about for a means to bar it shut until the others were done with the old woman.

“Maruc, bar that southern door!” he yelled.

Feldard grumped as he piled some crude goblin furniture against the door, and then jammed his eating knife into the door to make opening the door even more of a trial.

“Be well, Bushka. We will return for you,” promised the elf. “But for now, stay safely here.” The elf handed the woman small tin whistle. “If the goblins return, sound this, and we will return as well.”

Hasan then left the cell and followed his comrades into the next room. It was clear there was little space left in the goblin hideout. Old Skinny Legs surely was near. The elf quickly prepared his ventriloquism. A little confusion in their enemy just might save his battered crew.

After the suddenness of the ambush, Ludo leaned against the wall, and took stock of his light wounds that had started to sting. He bandaged them up as best he could.

He was disappointed, “seems that Vlaak has flown the coop” he said no none in particular. He wasn’t sure where Xitaqa was, but hoped Stephen might. Looking about Ludo surmised that there could not be that many Goblins left within the compound considering that a large potion of the compound had been explored. Still he was worried, the party was small and could easily get overwhelmed. ‘Surprise’ and speed were their best weapons, the longer they hung around this warped place the more organized the Goblins would become. Still if Vlaak and his cronies were traveling with prisoners that would slow them up and may allow the party to catch up and spring their own ambush. With that happy thought on his mind, he sprang into action, bounded over to the door with the Goblin crude painting.

“Bushka, can you tell us where Xitaqa is? In what direction did they go?” asked the warrior. The Traladaran had made a home of the Dymrak for much of his life, and had never heard of the place.

“Somewhereabouts in the moors I gather,” she replied.

The moors. A wide swath of uncivilized hill lands inhabited by all manner of creatures. If they could not get any more specific information about the whereabouts of this Xitaqa, it could prove to be even harder to find than this Halav-forsaken petrified wood.

After speaking with Bushka, Stephan joined Ludo at the southern door. Maruc was barring it but Ludo sought to enter. Stephan stood ready for onslaught from either door. Feldard, thankfully, seemed to be securing the north door.

Stephan walked quietly over to the piles of ragged bedding. Using the tip of his sword, he poked around at the larger piles to be sure no goblins were hiding. He returned to the southern door, thinking the other goblins were probably routed out of the complex.

Maruc nodded curtly at the wise words of the dwarf and started to brace the door as best he could. He took advantage of the lull in the assault to tend to Ludo’s wounds.

Looking a the pitiful captive Miklos felt ashamed at his initial view of her. He considered how the woman’s words would fit into the actions of the goblins so far. On the face of it it felt like a series of raids within the confines of the Dymrak itself. The yellow robed man seems to have intelligence that the map he was seeking, or clues as to its whereabouts, were held by its human inhabitants. Hence the raids, a somewhat blunt instrument because bribery would have got his answer more as quickly and probably more cheaply than paying goblins raiders and bandits for their services. Miklos doubted it would take much to convince a goblin warband to raid human settlements – if they were advised of the advantages of co-ordination, most likely provided by him.

Still despite the little the woman knew it showed interesting insights to the foe they faced. The goblins and bandits appeared to be relatively expendable, the higher echelons of command were using hobgoblins as their veteran warriors, perhaps a heavy infantry with the reference to the iron collars? Or perhaps a tribal affectation?

One good aspect though was the lack of divination demonstrated by the foe. On or two well cast incantations would have had the map in their hands without any trouble. It was the only evidence so far the man was acting more like a noble rather than a mage. Another was that they appeared to be time constrained, hence the frustration of Vlaak, also the balance of power between them wasn’t clear. Miklos was convinced that the mind behind the intrigue was human, not hobgoblin, but he was being forced to use goblinoids to achieve his ends.

By his question to the old woman the woodsman clearly hadn’t heard of the map until now and ancient ruins peppered the land from Specularum to Threshold and beyond so the others were right the only recourse was to rid this compound of its evil and see what clues could be found.

Suddenly he felt strangely alone, snapped from his thoughts he looked up to see Maruc waving him to follow into the room beyond.

“This isn’t over yet Miklos.” grunted Maruc, “Lets help the other before they get themselves killed. Any bone guardians in there Feldard?” Maruc called ahead. Despite his souring humour, Maruc couldn’t help grinning as he followed the others into the next clearing.

“Can you hear anything through the door, Ludo?” A hush fell over the chamber as the rogue strained his ears. He heard nothing but still silence. Stepping to one side, Ludo slowly opened the door.

As Ludo began to make his entry, Stephan braced for battle. He stood a bit to the side in case any of the goblins burst through the north door but his main attention was on the southern door.

The door opened into a dark, damp 5-foot diameter tunnel running through what was a large hollow log. A closed door was at the end of the tunnel.

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Bushka

Ludo, rushed to the door, to see what way the Goblins had gone, he wanted to check that the door at the far end of the corridor was unlocked and accessible. “Damn, we have stirred up a hornets’ nest here,” he muttered to himself.

Feldard, attacking from the flank, followed the retreating goblins, taking advantage of their panicked fleeing to take out yet one more with his axe. He followed after the last two. Maruc was getting into the swing of the combat followed Feldard’s example and followed the fleeing goblins.

The next room was unoccupied. Piles of course bedding covered the ground. A circular door bearing a crude painting of a split skull was set into the southern side of the room. The goblins headed not for that door, but rather the door on the opposite side.

He flailed out with his chain and stunned the goblin as it reached the relative safety of the next chamber, unluckily for the goblin its somewhat faster neighbor beat him to the exit. Maruc took full advantage of its misfortune and swept it from consciousness.

The last goblin was moving faster than its more heavily armored pursuers and was out of range of melee attacks as it fled through the door into the next room.

Miklos breathed a sigh of relief as the goblins withdrew. He righted his staff and assumed an air of superiority. “They’ll think twice before trying that again I suspect.” He couldn’t help admiring the quality of the swordsmanship that his comrades displayed.

Hasan let the goblins flee—there wasn’t much he could do to deny them their goal. He hoped his comrades were being successful in their pursuit. The elf slouched over to the holding cell and sought to free the human. “Come now, tell me your story,” the battered elf asked the woman. “Do you know the House of Sukiskyn? I travel with Stephan Sukiskyn.”

“I am Bushka,” she said weakly.

With the flash flood of battle receding, Stephan felt awash in relief. Wincing, he examined two deep cuts on his right arm. But his attention was soon drawn to the captive woman. Walking in a pensive gait, Stephan approached the forms of Hasan, crouched and trying to help, and the woman sitting in a fetal position against the petrified wood.

Noting her Traladaran appearance, he greeted her in the regional way: “King’s Day to you, ma’am.” Not wanting to interrupt Hasan’s ministrations, Stephan crouched next to Hasan and said nothing more for the moment.

Assured of her safety, Bushka told them her story. She had been captured during a raid on her clan’s homestead along with her teenage granddaughter and brought here. They were joined by other prisoners who had been swept up by the goblins. Eventually, the group was interrogated by the man in yellow robes who the old woman had nicknamed ‘Ol Skinny Legs.

“Ol’ Skinny Legs kep’ askin’ ‘bout great map. ‘Where de great map? Where de great map!’ None a’ de lot of us know nothing ‘bout no great map. All de goblins racin’ around lookin’ fer dis great map. Big hobgoblin, Vlaak, be getting angry. Some few days ago, a batch of hobgobbos show up. They be wearin’ iron collars. Ol’ skinny legs, Vlaak and the hobgobbos take all de prisoners, cept’ fer me. Say they be going to old ruins at Xitaqa.”

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A Quick Combat

Ludo, immediately sprung into action with a yell of ‘watch out!’ he leaped to meet the Goblins head on and engaged the first Goblin in combat. Blocking a clumsy attack with his sword, he sidestepped to the left and thrust his sword into the chest of the goblin facing him.

Stephan, had not crowded in close to see the strange woman but was, nonetheless, curious enough about it to be taken slightly unawares by the ambush.

“Gobs!”, he shouted while trying to spin and establish solid footing. The first goblin to connect with him delivered a deafening thunk on Stephan’s shield. The blow sent seismic pain up his arm but the adrenalin in his veins dismissed it allowing him to slice through the goblin’s shoulder with a sweep of his blade.

Feldard, still in the doorway keeping watch, heard his companions shouted warning, and whirled about to see the pack of goblin ambushing the party. Bah! He longed for his crossbow at the moment; but he was without it, so instead he charged the ambushing goblins from the flank as they reached the first of his companions.

He swung his axe with ferocity at the tailing goblin, bellowing his usual dwarven warcry – that should give the attackers pause.

The closest goblin hissed his unintelligible rage and struck the elf with an iron-spiked cudgel. Hasan shrank from the blow and gathered. The elf’s studiedly cool combat visage dropped, and the elf’s rather thin bellow joined the goblin in an unnatural duet. The enraged elf’s sword crashed down unstoppably until the goblin’s chorus failed.

Already on edge Miklos was not as surprised by the assault as he might have been, he ducked behind Stephan and free’d his staff. Lurking behind the stout fighter he used the length of the staff to jab at the goblins as they pressed their attack ensuring he didn’t get within range of their sharp knives.

Maruc cursed and sprung to his feet, “By Halav you shall pay!” he cried as he lauched himself into the fray. He wrong footed the first goblin, swaying out of the way of its brutal swing. He crashed his flail into its side and rounded on the backswing allowing the momentum of the attack to take the weapon round to deliver a bonecruching deathblow. It was a trick he’d seen Feldard do, he hoped the dwarf didn’t mind the plagiarism.

It wasn’t long before the goblins found themselves outmatched. Their numbers were down to three when they turned from the battle and ran toward the exit.

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Ambush!

Maruc’s eyes adjusted to the gloom within the guardroom. The elf had spied a captive and Maruc swiftly went to see if another poor, wayward soul had be tormented by the goblins. This one had not been so fortunate as Ludo.

“What’s that? A prisoner?” inquired the elf.

Miklos eye’d the stranger suspiciously, rags or no. He could be in the employ of the goblins. Or perhaps the Yellow Robed Man in disguise? He turned to Ludo and quitely whispered out of earshot, “Do you know this man? Were you ever confined together? This all seems a little convenient if you have not. Perhaps hastily contrived? We’ve met the cunning artifice of goblins before.”

Hasan leaped past Ludo and moved hastily to the cell. “Come now, come out, help is here,” the elf urged the ragged prisoner.

While the others looked to the prisoner, the dwarf kept an eye out from the doorway for goblins returning.

As they approached the cell, they saw the figure was that of an old Traladaran woman. She was trying to tell them something, but her voice was strained. She pointed at the tree in the middle of the room. A group of seven goblins rushed out from behind it, ambushing the group.

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