Gosh, where to begin? It seems our adventure has truly started in earnest. After our celebrations in the Broken Wheel, we informed the Hunt Masters of our victory and the Cook signed our writ, the oath that the Hands make to complete a given task. Admittedly he just signed a rough X, but the thought was there. As Olasha filled in our paperwork confirming us as true Hunters, I mentioned to Callidus how rare it was to see a Tiefling of the colouration I had noted in the young lady at the tavern as we were celebrating. Apparently she had also been killing giant rats, from what one of the patrons was saying. We never spoke to her, but as we talked of her, Olasha asked us to confirm some details about her, then asked us to remain on site for the next few days. I think she wanted all the Thumbs to come back from their trials before she dealt with the problem.
We were asked into a small meeting room, where four newly accepted Hunters sat around a table whom I knew the names of, if not claiming to know them as friends or even exchanging but a few words with them. We confirmed that we had seen the Tiefling with Olasha and another one of the Masters (a halfling I think), and apparently so had they.
There was a very powerful, strapping figure with long blonde hair wearing a heavy type of armour. He seemed the friendliest of the lot, and I knew him to be Aldrich Reinhardt, I believe he is in service to the Church of Lidia. There, too, was a very typical looking Dwarf. Lots of old leather, facial hair and such, a heavy red cloak carried over his shoulders, his name was Rurik Ironhand. Next there was a Dragonborn with blue scales, and I knew little about him other than his name was Alcherin. Finally, there was a woman who had something of an ill reputation, and I didn’t feel comfortable looking her in the eye. I had never spoken with her, but I believe her name is Baganaidd Feganiaeth.
Olasha was very keen to leave as soon as we entered, her job supposedly done, but I wanted to know why we were there. We had no idea. I thought I was in trouble after being late (thank you, Callidus) to our Thumbs Trial, but it was because we had a passing encounter with the Tiefling at the Crooked Wheel. Well, then two Silverplates walk in, none other than <male> and <female> themselves! I had never seen them up close before, but they walked in as if they owned the room. Well, then I REALLY thought I was in trouble, if the King’s own Guard were involved. They just wanted us to confirm the location of our sightings and the times, talking between themselves, before <female> wanted the others to take her to the same location they had seen her, near Little Mound to the east of Pylor. Apparently the others had gone out to clear a Goblin infestation (that sounds closer to a REAL test) and she was there, once again, helping.
The thing is, the way the Silverplates were talking, it didn’t sound like she was wanted for any wrongdoing. Only that she was very powerful, that she had escaped their custody, and that it was vital to King Lucien that she be recaptured, but getting that scant information from <female>, you would have thought I was asking her to admit her darkest secrets. The Silverplates truly take their business seriously, but with a bit of the Stormbreaker charm, I managed to get more than she had bargained to give, I feel!
After a carriage journey of a few hours, we arrived at Little Mound – or rather a short way from it where we came upon what was once a Goblin camp. A few festering corpses lay around, but it was nice enough. To be honest, Father, I was quite bored by this point. Once I knew that <female> wasn’t going to be forthcoming with information, I had Zanna prepare lunch. The Dragonborn manifested a replica of a dagger that this Tiefling had on her, and Callidus suddenly seemed interested. He said something about a maker’s mark from an artisan back in Pylor, who only worked for a criminal underworld known as the Clickers, and even then working for a high price. Callidus seemed taken a back, so too did <female> and the Halfling, whom I learned was named Alton Treeditch. Well, then my interest was peaked, especially when <female> then commandeered one of the Coachman’s horses and rode back towards Pylor. It felt quite rude, really. I am not used to being spoken to in that manner.
Alton then explained that the others had failed in their test to some degree, serving only to drive the goblins onto a neighbouring village, tastefully called Little Ditch. Wanting to make a good impression (and make amends for Callidus’ tardiness), I volunteered that we would help them in their task, and Callidus seemed interested enough to follow suit. Little Ditch was not too far away. It was clear from first impressions that the town was beseiged, but also informed that it was the Hands of Emrys who had driven the Goblins towards them. I felt it was important to make amends as soon as possible, and after speaking with the townsfolk, we agreed to drive the Goblins off.
The problem was, after sending Callidus and the strange woman off to scout the camp out, the Goblins were strangely organised. Unlike the common vermin we know in these lands, these Goblins were in camps. There were children, and pressing the others for detail, the previous camp had things like a smithee and other such items that showed they had technological prowess of their own. It gave me pause for thought, such an organised group of Goblins could cause a grave problem indeed. Therefore it didn’t enter my mind that anything would be wrong in destroying the Goblin camp, my first true taste of Heroism. I changed my clothes and had Zanna remain in Little Ditch for her safety.
We gathered the oil that the group had together, and a handful of villagers we inspired to assist us in taking up arms. Callidus and the strange woman were sent off together again, with instructions to burn down the camp with improvised incendry weapons made from the oil, as we awaited nearby.
We saw the first signs of smoke coming from the camp, and then we began to advance. We heard screams, so began to ran, thinking our comrades had fallen into some sort of incideous trap. But the screams were Goblinoid, high-pitched things. The camp was in disarray, a chaos of bodies of all ages and with no weapons, fleeing with children in their arms, terror in their eyes. They gave us all a wide birth when they saw us, running in all directions. My ran became a canter, then static as my mouth hung wide open. These weren’t raiders, this was a hamlet of peoples. Callidus and the strange woman were lost to their battle-lust, in fact it looked like Baganaidd had come too close to the flames and set herself alight. I could see Rurik in the distance, flaming oil in hand. I called out to Aldrich that this all felt very wrong, and he agreed with me. I knew I had to stop the attack, there had been a grave misunderstanding. I called on one of the cantrips I had learned at my time with the College of Magics and disguised myself with a few hushed words. In a heartbeat, I looked like one of the Goblins, a King of them no less. I made sure that the spell included uncut gems and tribal fetishes. Aldrich, understanding my intentions, made a show of calling upon his divine powers to bluster and intimidate. I told him he had won the day, and ordered the goblins that grouped around us to flee back to the East.
You see, it was a story Mother told me when I was quite young (I know, a story I haven’t read myself!) of an invasion force of Goblins that had intelligence. They came from the east in great numbers, and were blighting the land. It was only when the Hero, whose name I forget, reasoned with the Goblin leaders and exiled them back to their homelands. But the goblins who looked up at me in confusion said they couldn’t return to the east — in common, no less. Why, I couldn’t tell at the time, but I told Alderich that I was going to travel with the goblins for a time and find out more. Time was against me, the longest I had kept this cantrip up was an hour and no more.
We arrived at a small outcrop of trees, and I had sensed that most of my comrades were closeby in case I needed assistance, but the poor shivering wretches I saw as the survivors looked incapable of standing up for much longer, let alone attacking me. When I released my disguise, explaining that I was not of their number, nor their King, one said that he knew, for he was their King. To my credit, I was not far off the mark. And while he was nothing like our King Lucien, he was quite impressive in a humble way.
The Goblin King explained that their homelands were overcome by a great evil, it seems some sort of Blight had infested their heart-tree, a tree that they held sacred, and warped the woods around them. The entirety of their civilisation had been reduced to this handful of refugees, and I could tell many in our group felt a great guilt at our actions. The poor things didn’t know about Humanity, only that we had food and wealth that they needed. Their attacks hadn’t been raids, but scavenging attempts. My comrades and I tried to explain to them that they mustn’t do these things, that they could trade with humanity for what they needed to get a good start in their new lives.
But, I fear, our attack had jaded them to humanity. And while they were not hostile, they were not friendly either. We bid them farewell, and were left to reflect on the destructive actions that we had been part to. I no longer felt like a dashing hero, but a cruel villain. These people only wanted a new start in life, and we had robbed them of what meagre possessions they had left.
I looked to the West, to the halo of light that was projected against the darkening sky of Pylor, and dearly wanted to be home. It was not what I had hoped would happen, and I would take no pride in recounting the story, I feared.
Sleep did not come easy, and while I did not kill any of the goblins, I felt their blood on my hands, and deaths on my conscience.