Friday, November 13, 2015
The Revenge of the Elementals, Chapter 3
An owl hooted. The bushes rustled. The forest rang out with the sound of a hunt reaching its completion, then settling back into the loud silence of chirping crickets and croaking frogs. Govad held his torch high, yet the trees and boulders that crowded the road blocked the light from reaching any farther than ten feet away from him. The shadows his torch created danced as he marched, creating the illusion of bodies darting around the corners as soon as he approached.
Govad took the final swig from his flask. He would have quickened his pace if he hadn't already reached his peak speed.
The road took another sharp turn as it made its way down a hill so steep it could have been given an award for effort in a class for cliffs. Govad was amazed that horse-drawn caravans could even make it through the forest with all the ups and downs the journey included. Then he noticed the wreckage of a wagon at the bottom of the hill.
He heard movement again in the brush to his right. It felt like something was following him. He pointed at it, but that didn't do anything. He had chosen to make this journey alone. And that was the right choice, he thought to himself. With someone else he would never make it out of the kingdom safely. Safety in the forest was traded for safety from someone discovering why he was trying to leave.
“Got him,” Lorn said, lowering the dead body of the goblin stalker to the ground. Govad lowered his arm, and nodded for the group to press on through the trees.
“Good ear,” Vilmos said. Govad smirked, but didn't say anything. His soldiers knew that he would protect them, even when they were neck deep in the enemy territory. Even when the enemies were the unpredictable goblins of Sievermlat.
Govad made a hand motion, and the team spread out. Ahead, past the thick trunks of the dense northern forest, Rhona had signaled that she had spotted the goblin encampment. The five soldiers and their captain crept through the snarl-branched bushes to encircle it.
Govad found a spot behind a tree on a small hill overlooking the camp. He could see goblins inside. They were strange creatures; some small, some big, some with two heads or three arms, all different colors. They moved about their own camp in random swathes, creating a vision of chaos from above which yet never knotted or clogged. They were always moving, pulsing with energy and the unifying drive to destroy whatever they deemed not goblin enough. In the past few months, that had been the kingdom of Cadereria. Govad was sent to one of the outposts to take it down, or at least report back with information.
He looked at the defenses the goblins had erected. They had chopped down some trees to build a wall, though that was the generous way of phrasing it. More accurately, they decimated a section of the forest and lashed together the resulting logs and sticks to make a border around their encampment. They fortified it with stones and support beams along the inside, but it was still a crude job at best. The goblins clearly didn't intend to stay here long.
He cupped his hands over his mouth and made a call that sounded something like a bluebird. Hopefully the goblins were unaware that no such birds were around in the autumn. It was the signal his team was waiting for to strike.
Vilmos charged in first, shouting and yelling before he even got close enough to strike. The goblins all across the encampment heard him and turned towards the source. Rhona came from the opposite direction, running without stepping on the leaves so that she didn't make a sound. While groups of goblins armed with spears and daggers were rushing out of the camp to confront Vilmos, Rhona vaulted over the crude wall, and became hidden behind one of the tents within.
Govad, Lorn, and Micah were next, suddenly appearing alongside Vilmos. The charging goblins faltered when, all of a sudden, the one adversary became four, and that was the opportunity Govad's team needed to carve their way through the front lines. Some goblins left their allies outside to die while they fled back into the encampment...right into the waiting blade of Rhona. She had already silently dispatched four goblins, and now was closing the gap between her and the rest of the team.
The four outside made their way through the gate of the camp's defenses. Goblins hidden behind the wall sprung at them from the sides. Rhona stabbed a short yellow goblin's neck and pushed it to the ground, moving to where it had been standing so that she could rejoin the group. The five soldiers formed a tight circle, beating back the goblin hordes that were assailing them.
“There are more of them than I thought,” Lorn huffed.
The gate suddenly swung inwards, and Vilmos had to jump out of the way to avoid being stuck between the door and the wall. A goblin stabbed its spear into his shoulder when he was out of position. The gate closed, trapping them inside the encampment.
“A few more, yeah,” Govad said.
The goblins pressed closer, but Govad and his soldiers fought back. Vilmos swung his mace, Rhona twirled her dagger, Lorn and Micah stood back to back casting spells, and Govad kept them working together and fended off goblins with his sword and shield. Still, they started taking wounds more often. They were growing tired, but the goblins they killed or fought off were replaced with fresh troops.
Govad looked at the gate. It was shut tight, a wooden beam flung down across it to prevent it from being opened, and the goblins were intentionally guarding it. His eyes then strayed to the wall they were almost backed up against.
“Move over there!” he ordered. His team followed without question. After all, Govad had kept them all alive up until this point. While other squads suffered casualties when they were sent out on the front lines, Govad's team had never needed to replace a soldier, whether that be warrior or mage. Govad intended to keep it that way.
They were backed up against the wall. The goblins flung themselves at the soldiers, trying to knock them to the ground where they could tear their bodies apart with their rotting fingernails. Govad then gave the call to retreat.
He and Vilmos body-slammed the wall of the encampment, sending it toppling to the ground.
The timbers were fortified from the inside of the camp, but the goblins hadn't considered the possibility that someone might want to go through it from that direction, so there were no braces put around the outside of the wall. The wall smashed to the ground, and Govad's squad bolted back for the protection of the forest. Goblin slings and arrows clattered uselessly into the trees around them as they made their escape, while the others in the squad whooped and hollered at their success and survival. Govad just grinned as he ran behind them, holding his shield up to protect them during their retreat.
The bushes trembled again. Govad was now walking in squiggles down the path, half from attempting to lose whatever was following him and half from drunkenness. It came as no surprise when a small creature leaped out at him, holding a dagger and a rope. He couldn't see them well, but there were apparently more of them, as he stumbled backward and was tripped by something, falling into the waiting clutches of scaly claws. He was scratched and stabbed a bit, but not killed. The creatures tied him with rope, bound his mouth and eyes, and hoisted him into the air. He could feel a dozen tiny hands lifting him, carrying him away from the safety of the path and into the heart of the forest. Govad writhed a bit to escape, and was again not surprised when he felt something heavy come down on his head and knock him into unconsciousness.