Monthly Archives: May 2010

River Crossing

The elf’s aggressive pace gave the dwarf no end of troubles, wounded as he was, but Feldard said not a word and did his best to keep up, grateful that as rearguard it was expected for him to fall back at times.

As the party trooped onward towards Xitaqa, Feldard brooded over the twists and turns of his adventures thus far. It was good thing that Hernane had chosen his brother—he realized that now. As much as he might grumble and gripe, Feldard was very much committed to solving this mystery along with his companions.

Speaking of which, they had moved out of sight once more. With a bracing breath, Feldard jogged to catch up with his friends. He looked forward to when the others would call camp.

Hasan led the party until late afternoon, then called a rest, thankful the day had passed uneventfully. The group made camp in the shelter created by the fall of a giant elm, the roots of which still reached out hungrily for earth, water and safety. Miklos looked askance at the millipedes, worms and beatles he would share his bedroll with tonight, but Hasan argued, “Better to have at least wall nearby to protect our backs. I reckon we have passed the lair of the Viper, if this goblin map is true, but we aren’t close to the northern settlements. We’ll reach them tomorrow, if all goes well.”

Miklos and Maruc walked together, the former chattering his way through the forest. Feldard snorted his disgust, the boy seemed to think he was romping in the Duke’s Park with his wetnurse—while Maruc walked without a word. The cleric turned inward, trusting Hasan to guide the party, while he walked with his god, wondering again at Halav’s restoration and thanking all the immortals, but Halav above all, that he, Maruc, lived in this golden time. But Maruc recalled that long days of terror passed before Halav led the Traladaran to their triumph. Does his country face such sorrow again? The cleric quickened his pace, intoning to none in particular, “We must find these beasts and smite them down.” Miklos looked at the man rather queerly.

Ludo daydreamt as he walked along, looking at each of the group in turn he wondered what destiny had bought them together. They seemed alright, except for Feldard he mused, he was a grumpy dwarf, which in his limited knowledge of Dwarfs seem to fit the bill of their kind. Hasan seemed ok even for a Prince, he concluded, it least he was not afraid to muck in with the others. Jerking his thoughts back to the present, focus on the task at hand he reminded himself.

It was good to be out of that cursed petrified wood, even the Dymrak Wood was ok compared to where they had been. As they camped for the evening Ludo crouched down beside Maruc, keeping his voice low “I suggest you keep an eye Feldard, he seem to struggle a little today, I think he needs a bit longer to recover. Perhaps you can lay hands upon him?”

Haggard from the march with a still-healing body, Stephan collapsed on the forest floor, not even bothering with his bedroll. He assumed the stalwart dwarf would take first watch. Stephan’s eye cracked open to see Feldard. He did seem pretty spent himself — despite his dwarven constitution.

His eye shifted to Ludo. Well, he thought, he can probably take the watch. The comforted Stephan and he was soon dosing. But soon a nagging thought pulled him from the depths of slumber. The rogue! We’re letting this new, proven rogue, take first watch! To the others, Stephan still appeared to rest peacefully but in his half-awake mind, great alarms were sounding.

He eventually tore himself from rest (aided by a driving thirst, crushing hunger and full bladder — all demanding attention) and checked on the watch situation. “I’ll take it from here,” he said, relieving Ludo who, glancing at the sleeping Feldard, shrugged and allowed Stephan to take the watch.

* * * * *

As expected, the group reached the human settlements in the northern forest. They arrived a a lumber camp. It was still recovering from the goblin assaults. Bushka was tired but relieved that her ordeal was over. She quickly explained what the heroes were done for her, and the Traladaran lumberjacks rejoiced that the goblins had been decimated. Though much had been lost, they were eager to provide the party with whatever food and supplies they needed.

While at the lumber camp, Stephan set about replenishing his quiver and rations. He also tended to some armor repairs and had a loose seam on his boot mended. And when he was done, he took some time to carve the Sukiskyn emblem into the back of his new shield.

The folks of the camp were a much needed dose of humanity and Stephan found himself up late the night before the continued march. With his fellow Traladarans, he sang several robust drinking songs while imbibing into the wee hours.

In the morning, Stephan assisted some of the lumberjacks with harnessing the horses. His natural horse sense drew him to the task and while at it, he noticed one of the mares was pregnant. The main handler was shocked when he too saw the signs aright.

“You’ve a keen eye for the horse, master Sukiskyn!”, said he. “I’d have driven this poor mare hard today but now I’ll go easy on her. Sure, I’d ‘av seen it in a few days, but ’tis best to know sooner. Thanks to ya.”

With a good night’s rest behind them, they embarked early and resumed their march toward Xitaqa. It was not long before they reached the banks of the Volaga. Upstream from the lumber camp, there was a ford where the river could be easily crossed and the group would be traveling through the moors.

Not long after they had crossed the river, Hasan’s keen vision was the first to spot a squad of eight warriors on horseback. At once, the warriors kicked their horses into a gallop towards the party.

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Onward

“Well, our mysterious Vlaak continues to elude us, but it is good to have a name for Golthar — though Skinny Legs had a ring to it,” laughed Hasan as he discussed the day’s events over some trailbread and tea he borrowed from Miklos the next morning. “Should we now pursue the remaining goblins of the Dymrak? I would free this forest of its horrors. But there is no telling what has happened the prisoners who were taken. Our first duty is to them, and so onward to Xitaqa, I think.”

The elf stretched his legs, at ease despite yesterday’s gore. He idly fingered the five fine arrows they captured yesterday, then handed a pair to Stephen and one to Ludo. “I have made some arrows, but none such as these. Guard them well, and use them carefully. These are elvencraft, if my eyes do not deceive, and will fly long and true.”

After munching down his breakfast, Ludo thought to himself that after yesterdays events he was surprised that he felt as good as he did. A few scratches but overall he felt good, fresh and keen to get back on the trail. He couldn’t believe that they had broken the back of this Goblin tribe. He felt elated and even though Vlaak and skinny legs (he liked the name) had eluded the group, they had a good lead as to where they were heading. Time to make up some ground.

Nodding to Hasan, “Thanks, I think I will save this for Vlaak” as he took the arrow. Glancing at Stephen, “what are we going to do with the old women, a pursuit of Vlaak and his cronies is no place for her”?

Ludo idly wondered what Feldard would do with the prisoners, thinking what was likely to happen, he packed his kit and goes outside to the main gate and awaits the others.

Stephan helped Miklos translate the map they had found. “Ah, it’s just as Bushka said. The moors are those hill-like markings on the map. See, Sukiskyn is here, on the other side of the Volaga. She said from here to travel ‘with the moss’ which would be northerly. You can see it is practically due east of where the river splits.”

The mage used the native Dymrakian’s knowledge of the area to help navigate the goblin’s crudely drawn map. It seemed as though the goblin king had been gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of his rival goblin and hobgoblin clans and had added their locations to the map. Miklos added the relevant coordinates to his own map that he had been keeping of the Duchy.

Stephan asked, “We will be traveling fast. Do you think you can make the journey with us back to the civilized lands?”

The Traladaran nodded confidently. She was old, but of sturdy stock.

“Thank you, Hasan, for the arrows.” Stephan marveled at the craftsmanship. “I’ll save these for special use.”

He eyed the shield, glancing back to his own tattered one leaning against the wall. It was clear he desired it, but did not want to make a claim when it was equally won by all. He took a few glances also at the ornate, ceremonial shield carried by Maruc. Then back at the new shield. His hand flexed. He could almost “feel” it on his arm. His left arm instinctively raised as if warding off an attack. All this, while just looking at the beautiful shield. He shook off the covetous feelings and got to work readying for another journey.

The dwarf woke from his sleep unwillingly. His muscles ached and his wounds, though cleaned now, were still quite sore. If he had an honest choice, Feldard would rather have slept the day away than prepare himself to trek onward. The there was no choice.. not really.

Equally, there was no choice in what do to with the prisoners. One by one, while the others did their morning preparations, Feldard dealt with the hobgoblin and goblin prisoners. There was no pleasure taken in killing them, bound as they were helpless. What the dwarf did was necessary for the party’s safety as they journey onward toward Xitaqa.

Splitting up the booty that morning was rather easily decided – at least according to the dwarf. He had no bow, therefore would not need any of the elven arrows that Hasan handed out. Though he would make a point of trying to salvage any of his bolts used yesterday on their way out of the stockade, it had been too dark to see them last night when he retrieved his crossbow. And the shield – well that was obviously meant for human warriors, not to mention his axe required both hands. “Stephan, you might as well take the shield. Maruc, I suspect is content with his and our new rogue—he can make do with your old old if he feels the need for a shield.” Perhaps some might think, it unfair. But the dwarf still held some reservations about the convenient appearance of the human just outside the goblin encampment.

As for the cronas, those were divided evenly—yes even with the new rogue. The gems however Feldard was adamant that Maruc carry until they could be assessed and sold to a jeweler.

Afterward, Feldard ate some jerked meat while peering at the map Miklos that was studying. “So which way is it to Xitaqa?”

Ludo trooped back inside the compound, “it’s as quiet as a graveyard and the sun is well up. We should get moving before any goblins return to reclaim their home” he said to Marac. “I think we should travel with speed, before Vlaak and Golthar knows what has happened here, we have some surprise on our side and we should use it”. He grinned, “Feldard did you catch any fish yesterday”?

“Yes, let us go,” agreed Hasan. “We can follow the same trail we took here to leave the forest. We’ll then head east, away from the gnomish mines. Let us hope our journey passes swiftly.”

Though he worried no further about the Wolfskull, the elf would set an aggressive pace in the brooding forest. He was sure danger still lurked in the Dymrak. Still, he was glad to leave that petrified wood behind. Even this unhappy ground, as it emerged from winter, allowed the occasional shoot of crocus. Hasan fingered the jade ring of Elyas as he walked and wondered what evil had wrought the changes they were rapidly leaving behind. He had much to learn about the land beyond the Radlebb.

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Where Is Xitaqa?

With the battle over and done with Feldard scoured the room – what he was looking for? – he had no clue. “Maruc you’d best interrogate this lot. I would be apt to kill them outright if they so much as sneer at me.”

Maruc glanced over questioningly at Feldard. “I fear you must question them yourself and hold your ire Master Dwarf. I cannot speak their tongue.” He returned his attention back to Ludo.

Puss seeped from the claw mark but his colour was returning. “You’ll be fine in a few minutes. Miklos and I had a similar experience and Stephan’s place.”

Stephan wearily treaded over to the paralyzed Ludo, sheathing his sword and setting aside his shield as he did. Kneeling, he repositioned the rogue to at least be more comfortable. It was clear the thief yet lived.

“Nasty stuff, those hobs,” he spoke falteringly. He turned to look for Maruc who was already approaching to see what could be done for Ludo.

Hasan approached the hobgoblin ensnared in the web and spit out a few harsh words in the unforgiving tongue his grandfather had taught him long ago. “Your life hangs in the balance. What you say in the next few minutes will decide whether you live or fail. Where did Vlaak go with the prisoners? Where is Xitaqa?”

The hobgoblin, that seemed not quite a hobgoblin, hissed at the elf like a wild animal.

Ludo slowly regained the feeling back in his body, He examined closely the captured Hobgoblins’, these were no ordinary Hobgoblins, of that he was sure. “Seems Vlaak has left the building” he announced, “I wonder if he left any loot or clues as to where he went. Personally I believe we should stay the night here, rest a bit and then move on after him. After battling through an entire Goblin stockade I could do with a bit of a rest”.

Feldard nodded at Ludo’s suggestion. “As much as the stink of goblin and hobgoblin revolts me.. I agree with you.”

Seeing Ludo revive with alacrity, Stephan stumped heavily around the complex, ensuring they would be secure for the night.

Upon seeing the old woman, he spoke gently to her in his Traladaran accent. “I think it best you not leave till morning. We can find a comfortable a place for you to rest.” Proffering some meager rations, “Take this. And here is some spring water.

The woman ate and drank but with a plodding sorrow. Stephan was overcome. The sight of the woman reminded him of his own mother. Perhaps it was the weariness of battle. Perhaps just the sad visage of the woman. Whatever the case, the big fighter now felt tears welling up. He wiped them quickly, looking around to be sure none of his companions noticed.

Maternal compassion took over and the woman patted Stephan’s cheek — giving his arm a comforting squeeze. In a grating voice, “Halav will guide us. He brought me here more a purpose and I suspect you as well. Come, let us rest and shed this sorrow. Tomorrow well deal with practicalities.”

Stephan assisted her with finding a secure and somewhat comfortable place to pass the night. Not requiring as much coddling, he eked out warrior-suitable bedding for himself at a respectful distance but close enough to allow him to protect her if necessary.

Feldard bound each of the held hobgoblins and led them back to the prison area, chaining them up in place of Bushka.

The dwarf then carefully left the compound in search of his tossed aside crossbow and their still trussed up and gagged goblin-guide. As soon as the small warrior saw that he was about to be imprisoned with the hobgoblins, he began to scream.

It was obvious that though the strange hobgoblins were of no use for information, they would make for excellent tools in the interrogation of their smaller cousins. It was not long before they knew all the information that the goblins had to give.

The man in the yellow robes was named Golthar. He was a Master of the Iron Ring. Vlaak was the clanhead of the Bloodhead (Vlaakag) Tribe of hobgoblins who were headquartered in the old ruins of Xitaqa. The rank-and-file goblins were largely in the dark as to its exact location, but the king had a map hidden in his treasure stash located under the stone throne in his room.

Ludo explored the compound, scavenging for equipment including rope, lantern, oil flasks, arrows and anything else that he thought could be of use in the pursuit of Vlaak. Miklos joined him. He was particular in his search for writings, maps and scrolls such as might be out of place in a goblin lair.

The Wolfskull bounty was easily obtained. Along with the map there were 500 crona, a broken coronet with all but one of the gems removed and a very handsomely crafted human-sized shield. In Vlaak’s room, a small compartment was found in the trunk of one of the petrified trees. Ludo was able to disarm the trap, which would have dropped a giant tree branch onto them from above. Inside the locked chest was more crona, double the amount found in the goblins’ quarters, a collection of 5 gemstones and a quiver with 5 arrows.

As the party settled in for the night using Vlaak’s own room, Feldard took first watch. Keeping awake was difficult, but to do any less might mean being caught unawares should any escaped goblins return.

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