Sarah leads us diligently through the mountain pass. It is new scenery that Jess and I have not seen before. Lots of smaller bushes and plants and the occasional clump of small, brightly colored flowers. On this rocky mountain side the grass has also thinned out considerably.
As we move up the thin winding mountain path, we have to be careful not to get blown off, the wind up here is a bit stronger. It probably isn’t strong enough to blow us off to be honest, but that doesn’t make it feel any less scary.
After taking another bend, Jessica points out, “Look, over there!”
We all follow the direction of her gaze and sure enough there was some kind of camp at the foot of the mountain.
“Those are definitely goblins,” Jessica explains, “I would not mistake them anywhere.”
I’m surprised she can see that much detail. All I can make out are the various huts that make up the camp and what may very well be some kind of large campfire. I guess that settles it then, she’s got herself some keen elven senses.
“It looks like they have set up camp in such a way as to guard the exit of the mountain pass,” Sarah comments.
“Can we deploy the locator then?” I ask.
“No,” Sarah answers, “It is too far away. We need to get closer. But I don’t think that following the mountain pass is very safe, if it was their intent to guard it all along. Also, we need to deploy the locator somewhere out of sight to make sure no one finds it, so I think we should go off road and get closer to the camp like that.”
Nobody objects and once again we all follow Sarah as she leads us off the road and through the mountain side. We have to carefully watch our step and due to the bits of climbing in between, our progress is significantly slower than before.
Nevertheless, we finally come to a spacious ledge overlooking what remains of the mountain side. I can now see the goblin camp in much greater detail, they are more or less directly below us. There are many goblins of all shapes and sizes mulling about. Their huts appear to be teepees made out of sticks and dried up branches.
Sarah pulls me from my thoughts, “Let’s plant the locator and go, it’s not say here.”
Hardoen immediately retrieves the locator from his side pouch. He places it on the ground and as soon as his hand retreats, I hear the little device start making small mechanical whirring noises. The top of the pyramid all of a sudden opens up revealing a small green glowing orb, embedded in a variety of miniscule mechanical parts.
“There we go, all good,” Hardoen comments, “It’s green”
“Green,” I mumble out loud to myself, pondering the implication.
“Yes,” Hardoen seems to pick up on my question, “It glows green if it’s found the target creature it was set to by the guild. It instead glows blue if it was not able to detect the creature in question, or if it is out of range of them. And finally it glows red if something went wrong with the pairing and it is not able to connect to the paired device.”
I’m speechless at this point. That is some pretty advanced non-technology technology.
He simply smiles at me, no doubt guessing my thoughts, “Don’t underestimate the artificer job class.”
“We should get going,” Sarah interrupts us, “It’s not safe to hang around here.”
We all nod as once again Sarah leads us back towards the mountain pass.
“I doubt we will be running across any small goblin groups anytime soon,” Hardoen comments.
“Why would you say that?” I can’t help but ask.
“Well, looking at the way they had a large force protecting the entrance to the mountain pass like that. From what I heard goblins normally hang out in small groups, so that sight is a bit unusual, it would seem they are trying to protect their ‘territory’. If that’s the case then I don’t imagine there will be any camps beyond that point. Of course we could still run into a group of goblins raiding, I suppose.”
As we were busy discussing goblin military tactics, or lack thereof for that matter, we had arrived at a large plateau. It is a brief relief from all the narrow, scary paths and climbing we’ve been doing.
Jessica all of a sudden tugs on my shirt, “Someone’s there.”
I look over to where we need to descend to meet back up with the mountain path. Four men are coming over the hill. Our party had stopped moving of course and were eyeing the oncoming men suspiciously.
“I think they’re bandits,” Sarah comments to the group, “Stay on guard.”
“Hello there!” A large muscular man, armed with a one handed axe and a small round shield, says with a wide grin. “What are you fine people doing out here on your own?”
You could practically hear his voice dripping with ill intent. “We don’t want any trouble.” Sarah answers his provocation, “Four clearly experienced fighters versus a well balanced adventurer party. That could go either way and would likely end badly for both of us.”
She practically spelled it out. But she does have a point. The bandit leader also seems to be considering her words seriously, while trying to size us up. Aside from the bandit leader I think I recognise the three men with him.
It’s villager B and villager C from that time under the bridge! Or should I say Bandit B and Bandit C! Wait, that also means… I look to the right of the lineup of four bandits and sure enough I recognise ‘Fat bastard’. Something is strange though, Fat bastard is making a strange gurgling noise. It must be due to the fact that there is a large crossbow bolt stuck through his throat.
I turn towards Jessica and sure enough she is holding an empty crossbow pointed at his direction. I hear fat bastard collapsing to the ground. She just killed him without a moment's hesitation!
Before anyone can react, the bandit leader already issued an order, “Kill the priest!” I instinctively step in front of Jessica, my shield and sword at the ready, as Bandit B and C approach us. The bandit leader has veered off to the other side and is charging straight at Sarah.
I ready myself to intercept Bandit B and C, but they instead charge right past us. They must be following their leaders instruction and chasing after Hardoen. Actually now that I look at it, that fucking coward has run away! Just then, a crossbow bolt comes whirring past Bandit C. It missed, but caused Bandit B and C to stop chasing Hardoen, who was now at quite a distance and turn to face us instead.
“Arrgh!” I heard Sarah shriek. Glancing over at her, she is on the ground, covered in blood. The leader got to her and ‘axxed’ her. Shit. I’m sorry Sarah there’s no way I can spare a thought for you right now, Bandit B and C are coming right at us.
The leader must be experienced, he sent his men after the priest right off the bat and he himself went after the sorceress of the group. He must clearly have ‘hunted’ adventurer groups before. That being said he obviously could not have known that our priest was apparently a coward and that our sorceress is a glass cannon, not our main DPS.
I step in front of Jess once more and brace myself. I know from our last exchange that Bandit B is more skilled than I am. Bandit C probably isn’t as much of a problem though, he seemed like a real coward last time. Before the two of them reach me however, “Heal!”
I hear Hardoen cast a spell. He seems to be healing Sarah from a distance. Was that his plan all along? To provide support from a distance where he can’t be interrupted with fighting.
“Kill the fucking priest already!” The leader calls out with irritation in his voice. Bandit C immediately peels off to chase down Hardoen again. Bandit B decides to remain and come after us.
Out of the corner of my eye I realise that the leader has raised his axe with the intention of finishing off Sarah before she can be healed. Just moments before he executes her, a crossbow bolt lands firmly in his left shoulder. He grunts in pain as he stumbles backwards. Looks like Jessica just saved her life.
Bandit B had reached us and I attempted to hold him off with my shield held high and my sword pointed resolutely at him. He did not fight me with a shield last time, so this time, he seemed content with the occasional jab of his dagger which I easily blocked with my shield. I can only assume he’s testing my defenses before going in for the kill.
I hear a battle cry, coming from Hardoen of all people. Bandit C is almost on top of him, brandishing a curved sword. But Hardoen isn’t running away, he’s charging at top speed towards Bandit C, yelling like a maniac. He’s gonna get himself killed, what exactly does he plan to do with that short staff his.
Just as the two are about to collide, Hardoen shouts “respite!” Bandit C looks like he ran head first into a steel beam. His body contorts in unnatural ways just before he flops to the ground lifelessly. Did he just use a defensive skill, offensively? Hardoen quickly picks up Bandit C’s curved sword and drives it into his heart without hesitation. Man, cold.
The distraction seemed to reveal an opening in my defense. Bandit B pretended to come at me with his dagger high and to my left. As I pushed my shield out to deflect the blade and try and through him off balance, he did not retreat or harden his stance as he had done before.
Instead he let go of his dagger just before the impact and caught it instead in his left hand. As my shield collided with his right arm, he pivoted on his left foot like an axel and used the momentum sent into his right side, and translated it into a lunge with his left arm, now wielding the dagger.
The dagger easily cut into my left leg. What is this guy? Is he from a fucking circus or something? My left side crumples underneath me and I fall to the ground. Shit, he must of hit something important.
Jessica is exposed now, if he goes after right now, I won’t be able to do anything about it, with his reflexes and skill, he’ll probably kill her instantly. I vaguely heard her firing of another bolt just a moment ago, presumably at the bandit leader again, he would be the biggest threat to her while I’m occupied with Bandit B. She should not have had enough time to reload another shot. If he comes at her right now she’s done for. Although I have a feeling that even if she did, this guy could not be stopped by a single crossbow bolt.
Just as Bandit B looked away from me to eye his next target, or maybe just to quickly survey the battlefield, “Heal!” I could feel my leg wound starting to heal. Hardoen must still be trying to heal from a distance.
This did not escape Bandit B’s attention, he immediately raised his dagger, clearly intent on finishing me off before I can heal. Oh well, so much for that. I am about to shout for Jessica to run away, before she also dies, but I notice something strange, Bandit B has stopped moving.
Bandit B suddenly collapses to the ground to reveal Jessica. She is off to the right-side, rear of where Bandit B was standing, facing away from us. In a half crouched, half standing position, with her right arm stretched out to her right and above her head. She is holding her dagger in a reverse-grip where the back of Bandit B’s neck should have been. The dagger is coated in blood.
When did she get there and how did that crazy guy not even notice her? She must of moved very quickly judging from her current posture, it looks like it was a very fast and fluid attack. She must of taken advantage of the moment he was distracted by the prospect of finishing me off. Is this perhaps one of those ‘finisher’ thief skills.
Jessica stands up and Hardoen calls out, “You all okay?” I look around and see that he is jogging towards us and that Sarah Is standing up again, all recovered. But what happened to the bandit leader?
I notice that the muscular man is trying to run away and save himself amidst all the confusion, with one crossbow bolt stuck in his shoulder and another two in his shield. Looks like Jessica kept him plenty busy and off of Sarah while she was healing.
“Misty, would you be so kind?” Sarah seems to be asking Jessica something, “I don’t want to fireball him, I need his head.” His head? Jessica raises her crossbow, takes aim and fires a bolt into his back, more or less where his heart should be. He drops to the ground like a log.
I look around, at the dead bodies around us, blood pooling on the ground under each. Jesus Christ we just killed people. I feel sick to my stomach. Is Jessica okay, she just killed two of them. I look at her face, but she seems calm, disconnected even.
Sarah is busy walking over to the bandit leaders corpse. She pulls out a hunting knife and after a short chant, it’s blade is glowing orange, with heat. “We’ll take the leaders head back, I’m sure the guild will offer a decent reward for it.” She smiles at us while she begins hacking away at his neck.
I am definitely gonna vomit.