“Wake up!” urged Barry in a hushed voice. A small boot dug into my shoulder when I didn’t respond fast enough. “There are torches coming our way. I can hear voices.” Kaius shook Lluc and Greg awake. Max stretched his front paws out in front of him, arching his back. He let out a long yawn.
A few heartbeats later and we were all up, half-hidden behind trees as we poked our heads around in an effort to see our camp’s invaders. Their torches were too low to the ground for a grown man, and the green skin of their bearers was a dead giveaway.
“Goblins,” Kaius whispered. He and Lluc moved to either side of the path next to our camp, each of them ducking behind a tree, ready to ambush the goblins. Greg, Barry, and I crouched behind the low bushes that formed a wall of leaves along the path.
Max had followed us over to our cover and nuzzled at the bag on my belt I had stuffed dried meat in. I had started using venison as a training reward. He sat down as I directed him to by holding my closed hand up to my shoulder. I pulled a small cube of meat out of the pouch and let him take it.
The goblins were almost on top of us now. I could hear them speaking in their rough, crude language. Their torches cast a dancing light onto the forest around us. Beyond, on the other side of the path, Lluc’s armor glinted through the dark.
Kaius and Lluc crashed into the goblins as the last one passed by. I jumped through the bush I had been using to hide and threw my shielded arm into the closest goblin, stunning him. Kaius’s brutal morning star made short work of the goblins near the back of the line, and Lluc had already begun to shorten the distance between him and me by eliminating any short, green impediments in the way.
One of the goblins managed to slice the side of my leg with a bent longsword. That was when Max leaped from the bushes. In the blink of an eye, Max had the goblin hamstrung, then turned his fangs on the creature’s throat—ripping it open with a savage jerk.
The two goblins nearest to Max dropped their weapons to the ground. The wolf bared his teeth and began to snarl at them, stopping only after I laid a hand on his neck and started scratching behind his ears. I gave him another piece of dried venison.
Greg joined us on the path and gestured questioningly at the goblins Lluc was now standing over menacingly. He spoke to them as if he was talking to a deaf man. “Do. You. Speak. Common?” Greg asked in loud, staccato speech.
“Yes, we do” one goblin replied in common. He crossed his arms in irritation and gave Greg a flat stare. “Apparently better than you.”
“What are you doing out here?” Kaius asked.
“We live here now. Another tribe pushed us out of our old lands,” the goblin said.
“Why are you killing the people and burning the villages around here?” Lluc asked.
“They have things we want,” the goblin answered. “We take them. If the humans fight, we kill them.”
“What about little girls?” Kaius asked. His voice was getting strained with anger. “Why would you attack a little girl?”
“I hate little girls,” the goblin sneered. He gave Kaius a wicked grin that was short several sharp teeth.
Lluc rushed to hold Kaius back as the cleric brought up a gauntleted fist to strike the goblin.
“Enough!” Lluc shouted. “Lead us to your camp, goblin.”
“I’d sooner die.”
“I’d be willing to oblige you.” Lluc lifted the point of his longsword to the goblin’s chest. He set the tip against the skin and blood began to well up on the point. The goblin winced in pain, but kept angry eyes locked with Lluc’s and refused to respond. “As you wish.”
Lluc drove his sword through the goblin.
The second goblin screamed in rage. It snatched his sword up from where it laid on the ground in front of him, and made several slashes at Barry in a frenzy of movement. The halfling backed up into me while trying to escape, and took a cut on an arm he had held up in defense. I caught the next blow with my shield and swept up underneath his guard. The blow sliced his chest open in a diagonal cut.
Barry sat between my legs, gripping his injured arm to stifle the blood flow. “I hate goblins.”
We slept through the rest of the night afterward. Goblins didn’t like sunlight, so we figured the best time to attack would be during the day. It would also put us humans on equal ground visually. Goblins had infravision and could see much better in the dark than we could.
Eventually, we wandered into the outskirts of the goblin camp. A few dozen shacks comprised the larger part of the camp pressed up against the hill. Some of the unseemly constructions were completed and showed signs of life inside, but most of them were still missing roofs, walls, or doors. A few goblins roamed the camp still, but none of them wore any visible weapons.
“Barry,” I asked, “can you scout out the camp for us?”
“Sure,” Barry said. “I’ll just walk right into camp—in broad daylight. Did you notice they burnt or cut down all the cover?”
“Just go the the edge of the village,” Lluc said, pointing at one hovel to our left. “The trees go right up to the buildings over there. See if you notice any patrols.”
Barry’s brow furrowed with indignance. “Fine.”
We watched Barry creep up to the rear of the shack and peak around a corner. Then the rest of him disappeared around the side as well for a few moments. He reappeared a few buildings down, hugging the wall of another hovel as he worked around its exterior.
Greg spotted the goblin around the corner from him first and started slapping Kaius’s armor. He pointed with his other hand. “There’s a goblin. He’s heading right for Barry.” We started waving our arms to get his attention, but Barry was too enthralled in his skulking to notice. The goblin rounded the corner and shouted an alarm as soon as he saw Barry. The next thing we saw was a horde of goblins, pouring out of every shack and tent, chasing Barry east into the forest.
“I hate goblins!” Barry shouted as he disappeared into the trees with scores of angry goblins on his tail.