Ygnas got bored and left to pursue her newfound obsession with the language of the fire creatures. She contacted a friend of hers, a druid named Selaena, to help us out. Selaena was not impressed with any of us. Also, it turns out the bugbears are actually hobgoblins.
Upstairs was more of the same: filthy goblin trash mostly picked clean. Nothing but bits of copper and a few silver. We did run into three more goblins in the process of looting a crude prison facility. They fled, leaving behind a few coins and a set of manacles. Shit treasure. But the prison had an orc in it, still alive, named Throk. After some discussion, we let him go after he agreed to help us explore and kill the hobgoblins to the east, the ones we had already met. We agreed, figureing they had already told us to fuck off and we were weak at the moment. Even a single ally could be useful, and if he lived, he could introduce us to his tribe of orcs for more possible allies. These monsters seem more than willing to turn against each other, which seems likely to be to our benefit.
When we met the hobgoblins later, there were 6 of them; 3 crossbows and 3 melee. Throk short-circuited negotiations by charging immediately. u-Heury and I charged a step or two behind. My mind was mostly on the treasure these hobgoblins had – treasure in the form of useful gear, like crossbows, swords, and armor. Unfortunately it should have been on the fight. My handaxe, an unfamiliar weapon at best, barely connected with the hobgoblin I was facing. Thruk the orc killed his in one blow. u-Heury had the same bad luck I did but didn’t have the backup, so his hobgoblin lived. Then the crossbows fired; I took one of the shots right through my leather armor, and it weakened my sword arm considerably. I had no luck attacking, it seemed like all of their attention was on me. u-Heury could have taken the abuse better, the man’s still in his proper armor and healthier than a horse, but I wasn’t doing so well and they had us thoroughly outnumbered. I ordered a retreat down the corridor so we wouldn’t have to fight in melee while under crossbow fire. Thruk refused to fight with his big head and died for it. But, he did take out at least one more.
The rest of us engaged in a fighting retreat to a nearby entrance, higher on the hillside that the one we had previously used. I nearly caught a crossbow bolt in the face; I managed to catch it on my borrowed shield but it destroyed the handle, so I had to leave that behind too. And one of them was fleeing to fetch reinforcements, so I threw my handaxe at him. That and a goblin spear from Selaena dealt with the fleeing hobgoblin, but not before he had yelled out, and I didn’t have time to even retrieve my handaxe. I switched to a goblin spear and continued the fighting retreat, but we did not manage to kill any more. No doubt we put at least a small dent in their total numbers, for the loss of only a single impromptu orcish ally, but we came out of the encounter with less equipment than we began with. That was very definitely not the way we had hoped things would go.
u-Heury was feeling his oats and kept taunting the hobgoblins. The most effective of his insults appeared to be “Whistlekittens”. I have no idea what that was about.
Dispirited, we returned to Eastdale and took inventory of the party treasures. We had many small, marginally valuable knickknacks to sell, so we did. That brought in roughly 60 gp each, enough to outfit me with a proper sword, shield, and chain mail again. We resolved to bring the more arcane items to the local wizard, mostly scrolls and a spellbook or two, in the morning when fresh pastries for the butler are available.
I was ministering to a patch of woods (and by ministering I mean I was gossiping with the dryads) when I heard an ungodly crashing. Upon inspection, I saw Ygnas blundering through the forest. There is no one who makes more noise in the woods than Ygnas. She babbled something about fire language and how she had to go, and asked if I would go to the caves and assist her two companions that she’d left high and dry. Well, her god is unpredictable, so he must be ok with her dropping everything and wandering off rather than completing a task. I didn’t have anything better to do, and I was curious about the companions she’d talked about, so I went to the caves. Found the companions easily. One makes almost as much noise as Ygnas, even in leather. The younger one, the barbarian, he has potential with passing through nature quietly.
The men were in the process of clearing out a cave of goblins. Since goblins are nasty vermin, I was willing to help out. We got to know each other, which means the men got their fill of oggling me and making dumb jokes. U-Heury went hunting. I went foraging. Made myself a quarterstaff along the way, since a backup weapon would be a good idea. U-Heury passed by, having had no luck with hunting, and said there was a pond with dead animals. I checked it out. There was something wrong under the water that was poisoning the water and making animals sick immediately after drinking it. I couldn’t see a way to fix it from above-ground. Left the dead to warn other animals of the danger. Brought the men the food I’d foraged, and had to sit through snide comments about being vegetarian. Hey, u-Heury hadn’t found any meat either. The predator-prey cycle is perfectly natural, and I have no issues with eating meat. But, like bears, I also have no problem eating plants when there isn’t meat available.
There were stairs in this cave section. Stairs in caves isn’t something you see every day. Goblins aren’t usually that ambitious. The area before the stairs, and the area up the stairs were all empty and stripped clean. We surprised three goblins carrying sacks coming from a tunnel to the south. Feverborne was all for killing them on sight. u-Heury tried to intimidate them into dropping the sacks. One did. They all ran. We opted not to follow them. The sack had chains and manacles in it, and a metal pick with blood on the end. Ominous. We went down the south tunnel and found a torture chamber. There were dead bodies chained up along the walls, and at the far end, an orc that wasn’t quite dead yet. He said hobgoblins had been capturing people, torturing them, and killing them. At the point creatures start torturing or enslaving in my woods, they need to go. One breath of that to the Ygg priests, and those fanatics will burn down my woods looking for the “monsters.” Since I doubt the hobgoblins will just up and leave if I point this out to them, I suppose we’ll have to kill them.
After some prompting about manners, the orc said its name was Throk. All he wanted was a chance to kill the hobgoblins. We searched the room and found a set of keys. We freed him, and Feverborne gave him a mace. We followed the tunnel the goblins ran down, and came upon a small room with 6 hobgoblins in it. They threatened us, but Throk charged in. We all shrugged and followed him in. We managed to kill one and Throk killed one, then the hobgoblins bashed Throk’s head in. Feverborne had taken a hard hit, so we retreated backwards down the tunnel to one of the exits. U-Heury was behind Feverborne and I, and kept taunting the hobgoblins. When we got outside, he refused to follow at first. Like any teenage boy, stupid as a rock, and refuses to listen to people that know better. He did kill a third hobgoblin, though. Maybe he’ll grow out of the stupid. Some do.
I’d lost one of my spears, u-Heury had lost a dagger, and Feverborne had lost spears and a hand ax. I let him borrow one of my spears so he had a weapon. Ygnas said he was ungrateful to her, but he thanked me. Although he then ruined it by stupidly asking me if I could identify a livery patch we’d found on a dead prisoner … because the patch had trees on it. How someone hasn’t killed him yet for the dumb things that come out of his mouth, I don’t know. The men decided to go to town to heal up and sell stuff so they could resupply. I didn’t have money to pay the fee to get into the town, and had no desire to go in anyway. I said I would stay outside, and asked them to pick me up a few items with any gold they happened to set aside as my share. I don’t need money. I gave that up when I heard the woods calling to me, and left begging. Gold is the crutch and drug of the so-called civilized folk. I’ll wander the farmlands and talk to cows while I wait for the men. Not sheep. Sheep are idiots.