We left the cover of the forest after the river of goblins chasing Barry disappeared from sight. The village was strangely quiet after it emptied. Even the forest around the huts was completely silent. What life there was had retreated from the vicious goblins once they claimed this land as their own.
We passed the outer homes, moving toward what we thought was the village center. When I got closer to the structures, I could tell the craftsmanship left something to be desired. The doors made poor seals with their frames. Windows and shutters seemed mismatched, even though they must have been purpose-built—goblins didn’t steal shutters.
None of us seemed eager to be the first to speak. The last thing we wanted was to come across a goblin who hadn’t gone to chase after our fleeing halfling. We stopped in front of a large entrance to a cave. Torches, spread too far apart, poorly lit the corridor leading into the hill. A lot could have been hiding in the dark places between each light.
It was Greg who finally broke our silence, albeit in a whisper. “We should burn everything,” he said.
“Are you insane?” Lluc asked incredulously. “We’ll bring that army of goblins right back down on us!”
“He’s right, Lluc,” I said. “We can’t fight them outright, but we can make their lives more difficult. We should burn all of this down and take what we can carry with us.” I could feel the land around us screaming at me. The goblins weren’t even trying to make use of all the trees here. They had simply burned clearings out, as was evidenced by piles of ash and scorched, dying trees in the direction Barry had fled. They deserved the same treatment to their own homes.
Kaius nodded his approval. “We can’t let them raid with impunity.” He took a torch that Greg held out to him, as did I. Lluc fetched one from his own pack.
“We need to make this quick,” Lluc said.
Fortunately for us, goblin homes go up like kindling. The whole village was burning in less than a quarter of an hour.
Another hour passed without any sign of Barry or the goblins. Greg returned from camp with the cart and horses. Lluc was losing his patience and had started pacing back and forth in front of the cave. Kaius kneeled on both knees in meditation.
We all looked back toward the smoldering remains of the village and saw Barry, still panting from his run, with a huge smile on his face.
“I gave them a good run!” he said, and turned to regard what was left of the village. “Please tell me you found all the gold in these already.”
We all burst out laughing together. Barry caught us up on his flight through the woods. It was a good thing we burned the village, as it turns out, or Barry might never have been able to find us. He led the goblins across a small creek, and the last he saw, they were still going out into the woods. He had used the creek to hide his trail and had taken cover in some of the foliage, waiting for them to pass.
Lluc clapped Barry on the shoulder. “Now that you’re back, how do you feel about a scout trip into this cave,” he said, thumbing back over his shoulder to the entrance.
“I just got done running from goblins,” Barry said, “and you want me to go looking for more, now?”
“If I know goblins, that hole is where they are stashing their gold.” Lluc crossed his arms and tapped a finger to the side of his nose.
Barry grimaced. “Fine. But if we find any goblins, it’s your turn to deal with them.”
“Done. I’m tired of skulking about anyway.”
Greg tied the horse leads to a section of a tree trunk nearby that the goblins hadn’t uprooted yet, then we followed Barry into the cave. Greg lit a torch for us; the torches on the wall didn’t provide nearly enough light for human eyes.
Barry eventually disappeared around a corner ahead of us. We waited a few moments to make sure the coast was clear. As we started to move again, several sharp barks brought us all to a halt. Lluc put his head around the corner and swore through his teeth. He and Kaius stepped into the adjoining corridor. Lluc readied his sword, and Kaius his morning star.
Barry burst around the corner, feet slipping on the damp floor as they fought for purchase. “Dogs!” he shouted. “Big dogs!”
Four massive wolfhounds barrelled into Kaius and Lluc as they started to swing. I saw Max’s ears pressed flat down on his head and he started to growl. One of the wolfhounds turned toward us and eyed Max. They both leaped at each other, teeth tearing into flesh and fur.
I tried to take a swing with my scimitar to help Max, but the last wolfhound came running right for me. I shouldered my shield into his muzzle, causing him to reel back, stunned. The other wolfhound had grabbed ahold of one of Max’s legs. Max let out a yip of pain.
“No you don’t,” Lluc growled. He brought his longsword down in a wide arc and took Max’s attacker right in its side. The wolfhound slumped to the ground while Kaius helped finish the wolfhound attacking me.
Max gave Lluc an appreciative bark and started licking his wound. Kaius put hand on Max’s back, and a soft, blue glow began to radiate from the wolf. The wound on Max’s leg closed up completely. Max nuzzled Kaius hand with his nose.
“Thank you,” I said to Kaius. He gave me a nod, and we started around the corner.
The cave opened up into a huge cavern that was much more well lit than the halls leading here. On the far end, two goblins stood at attention on either side of what could only have been a throne. The goblin in the throne had full mail on and held a war hammer in one hand. They looked bigger than the goblins we had seen outside.
“Be careful,” Barry said, “they’ll be stronger here than they are outside.”