There are those that say fear comes from the not knowing. Perhaps, but it also comes from the knowing. For following the blow of a distant horn and the beat of drums, marches a horde of goblins driven from behind by foul orc bosses. Wolves yammer of a coming feast. And so the wise should fear at what they know.
Too many shrug off goblin and orc only to be fooled or tricked or outnumbered in the end. To many stories of friends and family have ended thus. Men are strong and brave and cunning, but it is the sheer numbers that mount wave after wave that have overcome so many good men.
I said it is the wise who fear and this of course precludes the orc and goblin. It is the Freefolk that drop their great blades, wrought with good steel and ancient spells, into countless goblins, rending tainted flesh, killing in swaths like reaping wheat… yet they persist. We remove head and arm and limb, and they push. We kill their brothers, their wives and children and they show no sorrow. We fight these raging storms in all seasons.
Broken and battered we hobble to safety just to do it all again. When will you reveal yourself, Dark Lord? When shall I have my turn at thee?
April 28th, Evening
We stand and listen and squint at a hill between the mighty Anduin and the Misty Mountains. We hear the drums and the harsh clamor of orc and goblin and now wolves all round.
I spy a trail in the fading light that heads to switchbacks up the hill. At her summit we believe are the merchant halfling, Dindy and his protectors. Survivors from a caravan raid. Knowing there is scant little time, we rush through and up the scrabble path to their sides. We meet well those we thought it would be but only names are exchanged and a quick plan to take up arms at the two most likely lanes of attack.
On the other side, the Beorning called Long-Leg, Bill the Bowman, Tom LumpyFace, Andy Blackthorn and of course Dindy who himself was taking cover at the base of great boulder to watch for any who might come up from the unlikely steeper sides.
As we all stood ready, each company could see and hear shadow and sniggering and slobbering curses and promises of death. Above and at the tail of this ruckus we hear a strong hoarse shouting, “Drop yer weapons! Surrender to great Uggburs and we might let you live!”
The promise of a chance from the one leading from the rear found no reply from us or our neighbors but the sounds of snapping bow strings! A few of our arrows find marks, felling an Orc and his boot licking goblin lackey.
They reply in kind and it is like a swarm of diving insects upon us! Non were hurt seriously as our good armor and fast shield arms honor us well.
Brünhild opens the melee removing the shield and hand from a goblin aiming for her legs! This, as Elryn, plants his good foot upon a low rock wall thrusting a hand towards the stars. He begins singing a song of courage and strength in his native elven tongue.
As a crawling goblin almost latches onto Elryn’s leg with an ugly hooked tool, Hannar pops up and sweeps his axe up and over a low wall! And like trimming an errant hedge row, the goblin’s head is clipped from its shoulders.
Three goblins scramble up towards me, one ahead of the other two. I have already drawn Guinà Dagnir which glows like magic from captured moonlight all along its ancient edge. The lead goblin flinches at the sight, stalling. I drop the storied blade hard into its forehead, its gloopy eyes now separated by fisher of gore. The two behind gulp with instinctive fear but are then hopelessly shoved forward by crowding allies.
Meanwhile, Sassafras, from a keen position, sends an arrow into a staggering goblin who was licking its wounds brought on by Brünhild, dropping it instantly.
Goblins whack and screech and stab, scoring few hits with no serious wounds. I look behind me at the Dindy's mercenaries who seem to be fairing well. The Beorning yelling threats easily heard above the raucous melee.
At the foot of the hill, the goblin numbers swell like a flood making us feel as though we are the last sailors on a sinking ship. A sneaking goblin from the grass, reaches out it’s spidery arm and skewers Brünhild's foot, the pain being so acute as to foil her swing at another goblin.
Elryn’s song reaches a dramatic note as Hannar sends another goblin flying with anvil force. Such was his swing that I had to check my swing to dodge . To our left an arrow whistles between Hannar and a lucky goblin and sinks into a already dazed goblin. The sound of a lanced melon is punctuated by a swirling spray of syrupy blood from struck goblin's head. Sassafras squeaks with glee as the thing finally drops after its odd little dirge.
As Elryn begins a new song, he wholly steps up onto the low wall with eyes upward and one arm to his breast. At that step, Sassafras hones in on a skulking goblin who just missed the bards ankle with its cruel saw-knife. She aims and hits! The snot-nosed retch yowls as if ran through by a Rohirrim’s pike but refuses to die.
Brünhild shouts a word of thanks to Elryn as his songs quench the exhaustion brought on by battle and she drives her blade straight downward, pinning for a moment the goblin at her feet.
I wait this time for the Dwarf’s great swing, as he finishes one foe I nod approval and take my swing in turn finishing another. We approve each other’s work and brace for the next trade of blows.
The goblins keep swinging and stabbing and cursing and slipping on their dead but their weak and untrained blows are again turned by parry’s or armor.
Elryn, at the sound of the crying goblin at his feet stops his song, leaps down opposite of the pathetic assaying and knifes the thing, graciously shutting it up for good. There’s a shout of thanks from our party and the other.
The rest of us land and kill more goblins as they crest to fill the ranks. Brünhild shouts in pain as very fat goblin charges between others and sticks her hard in the leg. Then from the other side of the hill we hear a collective gasp and a pause in their fighting.
Brünhild, now favoring one leg, hits the fat goblin but its protective flab’s keep the blow from hitting vital organs. Elryn steps over the wall as his chest swells and he begins anew his song of healing coming straight at Brünhild shoring her up and readying a knife for the fat goblin should it dare another attack.
Hannar and I politely kill our quarry’s with bows and nods before and after. Then we hear an arrow whiz through the night air and straight into the fat goblins wattle who then rolls over grabbing hopelessly for the shaft with arms too fat and short to reach. After that I am struck by another hiding sneaker. But for my well crafted Anorian armor this may well have ended me as its cruel blade was driven hard at my spine! I loath goblins!
We then hear from the other side in a collective yell, “For Lumpy Face!!!” We now know what the gasp was about.
As the goblins pile up at our feet the orcs in the rear are closing. Brünhild, with renewed strength steps away from Elryn over the choking fat goblin and hacks deep into the first Orc slogging over their dead cousins, adding more flesh to the ground.
With a laugh, Elryn finds high ground again and sings high and valorous into the night. The orcs wince and complain at the stream of lilting elven words.
Hannar frees another head. I turn on the would-be assassin as he was retreating but I could not stay my swing. He died with his back to me. “I am better than this.” I find myself whispering. My back to the path, two orcs found my inattentiveness to alluring and two jagged chops rent my side and back. I jerked round, yelling in anger and pain as a heavy black fretted arrow showed me it could get worse as it drove deep into my ribs and garbled my words into just a grunt!
As Brünhild too, was awarded that same fell gift we heard a cry of victory from the other side and something about the last of them are on the hill.
From the corner of my eye, a tall shadow looms, cresting the hill where Brünhild stands still wrestling her blade free from the orc at her feet. The monstrous thing steps to close the gap, slippery corpses slowing its pace. Pulling her blade free Brünhild clamors atop an adjacent block from the ruins.
What turns out to be an orc of giant proportions finds its footing. At the same time Brünhild stands tall and starts beating her wondrous shield with her blade causing great clashes of sound like a massive anvil being struck by a giant’s hammer. With this she begins shouting and her voice to is great and full of power and the remaining orcs pause as if troubled.
Elryn from an even higher perch begins another welcome sonnet akin to fresh rain upon broad leafy bows. Hannar takes full advantage and hews an orc like a willow. For me what should have been an easy hit was a miss as my footing was betrayed by rolling goblin limbs beneath.
A familiar pint sized arrow sticks in the arm of giant orc. The thing acts like nothing hit it. It stomps hard, cracking bones and squishing goblin parts between it's toes. The monster orc swings for Brünhild's legs, smashing one into the other. Now teetering on one knee she lifts her head and finds herself looking straight into a horrible horrible face.
Seeing this, I begin to move toward the two but am caught by two blades wielded by a pair of waiting orcs! The move is like giant shears across my midsection and I gasp, doubling over.
Hannar shouts, “Chin up!” And removes the face one of those that cut me deep. Sassafras shoots an arrow into the fudgey ear of another orc, who grabs it, pulls it free, regards it and dies. I force my frame to unbend from its pain and swing up and around cutting clean through the other with Guinà Dagnir. The top half moves off with the force of the swing! The lower half stands alone for an instant before falling on it's former self.
Elryn’s song hit another high point as Brünhild, on a knee extends her arm and sword straight through the giant orc’s chest where it’s heart would be then bashes the head open like an egg, the yokey brain uncoiling like a ball of worms across the party who then let up a shout of victory as the remaining orcs flee at the prospect of their shrunken numbers and the colorful end of their leader.
Our parties then came together in subdued joy while remembering Lumpy Face and then at a complete loss when none knew what had become of Dindy! In a flurry we found that at the base of the rock from where he hid was a tunnel of sorts! Not a new hole but certainly unsettled as if recently touched!
We called down the hole and found no reply. I turned and started down the hillside saying we’ve got to find him. Others fell in behind and we found the other end and a clear swath of downed foliage heading west towards the mountains.
We parted with Dindy’s mercenaries so they could mourn and bury their comrade and we went west easily following the wide destructive swath. In a few hours we came to their cave. Entering cautiously we hear the ugly sounds of singing and marching retreating within. We do comprehension some of the dreadful meaning which included boiling a halfling for an impending feast!
We are forced to light torches in black black as we follow a singular route deeper in and down. After hours of stumbling and the deepening cold wet air, these factors begin to take their toll on Sas and Elryn who we have to stop for more often.
As we are near lighting our last torch and all of us beginning to loose hope that these merciless creatures would never come to rest or to a lair of some kind, the sounds of their march suddenly dampens as does their chatter.
She stop and send Sas to investigate who learns of two drunk sentries at a bulge in the cave before continuing on. She hears greater numbers of orcs and the clatter of crocks and revelry beyond in what may be a larger chamber judging by the sounds.
We execute a perfect plan in taking out the sentries and move beyond. Before reaching what will be a grand orc feast hall, we find Dindy! He is shackled to the wall in a mid sized chamber surrounded by all his stolen goods; crates of food stuffs, boxed herbs, dishes, blankets, lard, ale and wine and more!
Dindy says he is cooking their feast and the orcs are getting restless and will be back to retrieve the roast he’s been turning. After some talk we decide turning in extra lard into the upcoming soup could well make most of the host sleepy and compromised in surprise fight.
Worth noting is we find Sassafrases’s missing father’s legendary cookbook among other stolen loot. We then all hide as two orcs come for the roast then the soup a little later.
We spy up the passage finding offshoot passages and the feast hall with a throne but no chief. We begin looking through adjoining caverns and chambers all having nothing of note or sleeping orcs or goblins. Sas takes on the grizzly work of killing many as they sleep, a dark business that begins to take its toll.
We find another guard post to the hall but decide to circle back to kitchen and that entrance to the hall.
We all move in along the walls dressed as orcs and Sas as goblin dressed in halfling attire since many goblins here have done the same from loot taken from the caravan.
We pass into what turns out to be an anti-chamber to the Chief’s sleeping quarters. We dispatch the guards there and move on the chief who is sleeping. We quickly tie him to his bed then question him as he wakes. He is stubborn and makes us deal. Info on Sas’s beau and captured father for leaving him be, albeit tied up.
Most egregiously, he relished telling us they ate her lover. Of her father, the old cook was traded to a tribe that lairs at Mount Gundabad.
In the end we took what we could before leaving the caves for the Inn. Of greatest interest was a pearl broach of dwarven craft and an exquisite elven crafted travel pack.
Back at the inn Dody has given us four letters of recommendation, a prize worth more than coin to be sure. Time for a much needed safe nights rest.