The Grave Ambush at Tirisvale
Part I of the Terrence Saga
Part I of the Terrence Saga
Pitt rubbed his eyes. The trip from Tirrem’s Crossing had been entirely uneventful, but uneventful meant boring. Normally he needed both hands to count the number of bandit attacks, cart breakdowns, and otherwordly encounters his caravan would encounter on any given run. But the past week? Nothing. Zero.
The coins in his purse clinked as the cart hit a rock. In hindsight, he mused, “zero” was exactly how much gold he should have spent on hiring extra guards for the trip. They had done nothing but sit in their respective wagons, invisible except for mealtimes and the nightly watch. Food for four and sixty gold pieces, wasted.
At least he had a payday to look forward to. As the merchant caravan crested a hill, a modest city wall surrounding a modest city came into view: Tirisvale. Boring as it had been, the trip was over, and his caravan was safe.
Pitt sprinted towards the rear of the caravan, sword in hand. Around him, goblins shrieked. Men screamed. Several carts were on fire. The city gates lay open, and goblins streamed into the town, singing a whimsical war song about boiling humans alive.
Pitt reached the first wagon, but before he could throw open the canvas, a slender figure emerged, bow in hand.
Pitt gestured towards the chaos behind him. “What in the nine hells took you so long?” he demanded of the elf.
Derfin Lavaynay nocked an arrow and looked down at Pitt. “Wasn’t sure if you needed me,” he said. He deftly shot a goblin that had been sneaking up behind the caravan leader. He shot it again, just to be sure. “Looks like you do.”
“You think? Grab your friends and defend the caravan, if you want to get paid. I’m leading the rest of my people into the city!” Pitt ran towards the gates, calling for the rest of the caravan to join him. Weapons in hand, they plunged into the fracas.
Derfin sighed and jumped lightly to the next wagon. “Hey! You in there! Pitt says we fight these goblins or we don’t get paid!”
“What? Goddamn it!” cried a voice from inside. “NGE, get my crossbow. No, the other crossbow!” A man with pointed ears hopped out of the wagon, hair rumpled, crossbow in hand. A winged symbol glowed blue at his forehead. Behind him came a cloaked figure holding a very large sword.
Derfin cocked an eyebrow at Chadwick Harlington III and his crossbow. “Can you even kill anything with that?”
“Sometimes! NGE doesn’t always kill things in one shot.” The symbol floating in front of Chad’s forehead flared blue for a moment, and a corresponding flash of blue lit up the interior of the cloaked figure’s hood. It dashed off and cleaved a nearby goblin just right in half.
Derfin gave Chad a look that said he recognized game when he saw it. Chad returned the look. Their mutual game-recognition was briefly interrupted by the slight matter of the wagon next to them exploding.
Fingers outstretched, eyes turned completely black, robes flapping in the sudden wind, the man standing in the wreckage spoke a harsh word. Daggers of light streaked from his fingers, neatly taking out a group of goblin archers.
Chad and Derfin stared at Gavin Telesseron, who hadn’t spoken a single word to anyone for the entire trip. His hand still glowing slightly, he gave them a dead-eyed smile, which they deigned to return due to being freaked right the fuck out.
Chad shook his head to rid his soul of Gavin’s totally-not-evil blank stare. “That’s us three, then. So there’s just the gnome left?”
Derfin nodded. They both looked at the last of the rear wagons, which also chose that moment to explode. This time, however, it was due to the goblin bomb lobbed into it only moments before. Standing within the flaming wreckage was…nobody.
“Shit,” commented Chad. “Guess he’s dead! That sucks. Welp, let’s get rid of these goblins!”
“Who’s dead?” piped a voice from within Chad’s wagon.
Chad ripped the wagon flap open. A swarthy, bearded gnome peered out from underneath Chad’s bedroll.
“GOD DAMN IT, CHOMSKY,” explained Chad. “THE FUCK ARE YOU UNDER MY BED AGAIN?”
“It’s like a den,” Chomsky said. “We gnomes like small, enclosed spaces where the comforting weight of the earth presses down upon us. Smothers us. The intensity of the weight makes it hard to breathe, but that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it, so you sit there and you let it just overcome you, and you could struggle or get more air but the lack of air is what makes it so exciting, and–”
Chomsky grunted and retreated under the bedroll. “I’ll be out in like, two minutes, you guys.”
Chad dutifully wiped his mind of this interaction and readied his crossbow, directing the cloaked NGE to cover himself, Derfin, and Gavin. NGE instead opted to dart into another cluster of goblins, sending limbs flying everywhere.
The rest of the goblins shrieked and retreated at the Cuisinarting of their allies. Derfin casually shot one of the fleeing goblins in the back. The caravan was safe, for the moment, but screams and the sound of combat still rang from inside the city.
“Sweet!” said Chadwick. He walked towards the nearest corpse. “Time to loot the bodies!”
“Don’t you think maybe we should go into the town?” said Derfin.
“Why?” replied Chadwick, inspecting a small beaded necklace.
“Maybe to make sure our employer doesn’t get killed? So we get paid?”
“Can’t he just wait until we get everything from out here? Look!” Chad pointed at a nearby corpse. “That one has a fancy leather belt! I could probably get at least fifteen gold for it!”
“I just have a feeling that maybe you should get moving and help the townspeople,” said God.
“UGH, fine,” said Chad. He trooped towards the city gate with Derfin and Gavin, silently calling to the cloaked murder machine to take the lead.
Chomsky hopped out of the wagon behind them. “Hey guys! Did I miss anything?”
NGE entered the city, and the rest of the group followed behind. Before them lay the main road of Tirisvale. It was clear that there had been heavy fighting here, but there was little left to fight. It looked as if the battle had progressed down the main road. The group ran ahead, with Chadwick casting longing glances at the unlooted corpses they were leaving behind.
The sounds of fighting drew their attention to an intersecting street. Overturned carts of various goods cluttered the lane; clearly this was a market. Far down the street was a goblin with a headdress and a crude staff, flanked by two bodyguards.
In between our heroes and the goblin trio was a large stall. Two humans had clearly used the stall as cover, but one of them lay still on the ground.
“Derfin!” called Chad, snickering. “What do your elf eyes see?”
Derfin glanced askance at Chad. “The exact same fucking thing your human eyes see. Those guys are, like, ten feet away.”
Chomsky chimed in. “Yeah, but can’t you, like, count how many testicles they each have or something?”
“And I’m half-human, thank you very much,” added Chad.
Derfin decided that silence was the preferable option. Gavin silently agreed.
Meanwhile, the conscious human had dropped her sword and was tending to a nasty arrow wound on the fallen man. “Come on, Pitt,” she said. “You’ve been through so much, you can’t–”
“SHIT.” said Chad. “That’s Pitt? We have to help him! He has our money!”
“Well, yeah,” said Derfin. “That’s why I already killed both of those bodyguards.”
Chadwick peered down the street. The goblin mage was indeed looking panicked at the fact that both of his companions had sprouted more than the usual number of arrows in their necks.
The entire party had, however, missed the fourth goblin hiding on the other side of the stall. Shrieking with rage, he leaped over the stall and lunged for Pitt’s as-yet-unstabbed face.
“MAYBE DON’T DO THAT,” said Chomsky.
His voice had changed. Or, rather, it hadn’t. It was still grating, high-pitched, and generally infuriating, but suddenly all of those qualities just seemed like the best things a voice could have. The others felt it, but the goblin seemed to be afflicted most of all. He stopped short of Pitt, smiling benignly.
Chadwick, Derfin, and Gavin all stared at the gnome.
“Oh, yeah, forgot to mention. My voice is magic? I guess? I can sometimes make people do what I want them to.”
“Welp,” said Chad. “That’s terrifying. NGE, go cut that other goblin in half.”
NGE darted down the lane. The panicked goblin mage began to cast a spell or something, nobody really cared. It waved its stupid little goblin stick around stupidly.
Chomsky decided that the mage was a threat, and that NGE coud use help. He cleared his throat and spoke again to the enthralled goblin. “YOU SHOULD CALL YOUR FRIEND OVER HERE.”
From behind the stall came the unmistakable sounds of a goblin being cut in half. A few seconds later, Chomsky’s goblin decided to act. “Hey!” he yelled shrilly to his deceased ally. “Quick, come here!”
Gavin looked skeptically at Chomsky. He skeptically pointed a finger at the remaining goblin, expanded his skeptical pupils to engulf his eyes in empty blackness, and spoke a skeptical eldritch invocation that smelled faintly of icy decay. The goblin promptly froze to death.
With the area safe, Chadwick rushed to Pitt’s side. “Thank the gods we made it in time,” he said to Pitt. “Is this a good time to talk payment?”
Pitt said nothing, because he was fucking unconscious. “He’s fucking unconscious, you dick,” said the woman next to Pitt, helpfully.
“Balls,” said Chad. He busied himself with looting the frigid corpse of the goblin next to him.
“Also,” said the woman, “A much larger group of goblins continued down that way!” She pointed down a wide lane past the market. “I think they’re-“
“SCORE!” interrupted Chad. “Alchemist’s fire!” He proudly held aloft a bottle marked “EXTREMELY VOLATILE. DO NOT JUGGLE.”
“Yes, but they–”
“More goblins to shoot over that way? Awesome,” said Derfin. He walked briskly down the lane, followed closely by Gavin and Chomsky. Chadwick looked mournfully at the rest of the unlooted bodies. He contented himself with grabbing the stupid goblin mage’s stupid little staff as he ran to catch up with his colleagues.
The group followed overturned carts and carnage down the road. Here and there they found evidence of fighting: discarded arrows, crossbow bolts, splashes of blood. A single goblin lay dead against the Temple of Ior. Suspicious eyes looked out from the temple windows.
Derfin ignored all distractions, determined to find goblins to kill. He followed the trail with the trail-following skills of someone skilled at following trails. Finally he raised his arm at an intersection.
Chad walked into him. Derfin glared. “What?” said Chad. “Was the arm supposed to mean something? Shit, man, we’re not in a war or anything, these are just some goblin chumps.”
“Don’t underestimate goblins,” Derfin said darkly. “They can be cunning little bastards. Look where they’ve gone.” He gestured to the diverging path. To their left, the road wound between two small grassy fields studded with trees before emptying into the town square. In front of them, the road dead-ended at the Tirisvale branch of the Royal Alchemists’ Society. The building’s granite facade looked out over a flagstone courtyard, stern and powerful. The entrance to the Society was set several feet aboveground, accessible by a small staircase.
The road through the field was smooth and untrampled. The road to the Alchemists’ Society was littered with debris and bloody goblin footprints, and the wooden doors were flung wide open.
Gavin raised an eyebrow. “The Alchemists’ Society? That was their goal here?”
“Makes sense,” said Chad, nodding wisely. “There’s probably plenty of super valuable stuff in there, not to mention magical potions.” He lowered his voice. “Just imagine a goblin raiding party hopped up on Enlarge Person potions.”
His words didn’t exactly have the desired intent. Derfin smiled for the first time that day, presumably at the thought of easier arrow targets. Chomsky flushed slightly and bit his lower lip. “Gods,” he said breathlessly. “They’d be so huge. They could just grab you, and–”
“ANYWAY THE GOBLINS COULD BE DANGEROUS,” said Gavin loudly. “So we should prepare, right? Like, make sure we’re ready for a serious, climactic fight before we charge in there?”
“Definitely,” said Chad. “If they get the drop on us, we’re EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
When recalling the event later, the others weren’t sure whether the shriek they heard came from Chadwick or the rocket. They dove for the scant cover offered by the courtyard as the rocket detonated above them.
Goblins were swarming out of the doors to the Society. At the top of the stairs, a tall goblin wearing a furry shawl cackled and waved a torch. “Yes! Yesss! We take fireworks! We make boom!” Two smaller goblins pulled more rockets from a large wooden crate and set them in position.
“Oh man!” yelled Chomsky. “Explosives! How cunning!” He rifled through old lecture notes, looking for good battle material.
“YES THANK YOU,” Chad yelled back, fitting a bolt into his crossbow. His symbol flashed a command, and NGE darted towards the stairs. Blue needles streaked past her, perforating two goblins that were charging the group’s cover. Chomsky began reading aloud a passage from his lecture “On Goblins, And Why They Suck Just SO HARD, You Guys, You Have No Idea.” His voice, annoying as it was, filled his companions with vigor.
Vigor nonwithstanding, Chad fired and missed. Derfin did not miss; one of the rocket goblins went down. The other two by the doors set off a barrage of rockets, which careened around the courtyard before exploding in multicolored fire. The remaining goblins cheered, seemingly content to sacrifice their lives for the sake of fireworks.
The group made short work of the goblins that had run towards them, and NGE cleaved the hell out of the rocket assistant goblin. She stood at the top of the stairs and faced the fur-shawled goblin, seemingly the leader of this raiding party.
The goblin hissed at NGE. “You longshanks think you win, but we win in the end! We be Grubchin! We have powerful friend, and you will-“
Derfin wasn’t waiting for no last words. His arrow went just straight through that goblin’s head, pinning her to the door.
Her torch fell into the box of fireworks.
“Oh,” said Chad. “Oh shi-”
The courtyard exploded.