Along the fifteen foot tall wooden walls surrounding the town of Pine Bluff roamed several guards on constant patrol during the full mobilization order. On the inside as well as the outside of the wall patrolled more units and they swapped out at individual times so there was never a large gap in coverage.
It was morning the day after the full mobilization order first went into effect and the sun had just started rising a little while ago, making it still fairly dark but bright enough to see. It was in this twilight that one of the guards on the wall spotted a contingent of goblins walking across the field toward town!
‘What are they doing walking so slowly?’ The guard thought to himself for a moment before he rang one of the nearby alarm bells, alerting the rest of the troops. After his bell he heard bells continue to ring all along the wall as people repeated his alarm, letting everyone know to be on alert.
The goblins were unaffected by all of this noise and continued their trek before finally stopping about halfway across the field. They seemed larger than your average goblin - taller, stockier, more muscular, - because they were in fact not goblins at all but hobgoblins, the elite warriors of the goblin race.
They were donned in rough leather armor and carried pig-iron short swords and shields. What was odd to the human guards was that it seemed as if the hobs were guarding something, or someone, rather than coming here for a fight. That suspicion proved true when one of the hobgoblins stepped forward and loudly yelled in a deep gravely voice, “Humans! Shaman bargain! Human chieftain talk! Come!” The creature’s English was hard to understand and quite poor overall, but the words were unmistakable.
The goblins, regarded as mere animals just a few days ago, wished to bargain with their leaders! The humans were stupefied for a moment until one of the commanding officers on the scene composed himself and loudly replied, “Give us ten minutes and we will have our leaders here to talk!”
The hobgoblin that had spoken before simply nodded and sheathed his sword. At this signal, the other hobgoblins sheathed their weapons as well, although none of them sat down or relaxed in any other way. Nobody could make out the figure, supposedly a shaman, hidden within the midst of its guards, but they were all plenty curious.
By the time that the ten minutes were up, the three members of the council and the elder had all managed to make it to the wall in time and now stood facing the odd group of hobgoblins standing in the no mans land between Pine Bluff and the forests.
After a brief conversation between the four of them, John, the youngest of the gathered leaders, was decided to be the liaison as he would be able to yell the easiest considering the ages of the council and elder. John was in his early fifties and had buzzed black hair, brown eyes, and tough wrinkly skin. He spent most of his time out in the sun and enjoyed working with his hands. He often took charge of the construction projects in town and made sure everything about them ran smoothly.
“Greetings! My name is John, and I will represent us during these talks. What brings you to our doorstep in such numbers? We know of your camp and war band.” Jason yelled across the field. He then turned to the side and said quieter to one of the younger guards on the wall. “You there, boy, yes you!” He pointed at him as the young man looked around in confusion. “Go get me a full flask of water! I can already see that all this yelling is going to be hell for my throat.” He growled out in an annoyed tone.
John turned back to the gathered hobgoblin delegation and watched as their ranks split and an ancient grizzled looking goblin took center stage. He was not a hob goblin-like the guards but a regular goblin instead. He had long white hair and a long white beard, wore dark brown robes despite the goblins normally wearing naught but loin clothes and leather armor and carried a wooden staff with a skull of some sort mounted atop it.
The goblin shaman swirled its staff around a few times and seemed to be muttering something. The guards and adventurers along the walls drew their weapons and some stood in front of the council to protect them in case of attack, but none came. After a few moments of this, the shaman planted his staff in the ground and looked up to the assembled humans.
“HUMANS!” Its voice bellowed across the space feeling as if it was rattling their very bones. “Oops.” It said and smiled a toothy grin, clearly not sorry at all. “Quieter, better. Still loud.” The shaman said but this time at a much more reasonable volume.
It pointed its old gnarled hand at them and said “Surrender, and mercy. Fight, and death. Ancient tale of war-lord true. Goblin tribes unite. One leader. No can stop us.” The goblin shaman gave its proclamation and the council members and elder quickly spoke among themselves.
The elder spoke first before any of the other three could voice their opinions on the matter. “Before you all state the obvious in different ways, of course we are not surrendering to goblins. The question we need to answer is how best to respond to the shaman so that we buy a bit more time to prepare versus angering him into committing to an all-out assault right away.”
Amanda, an old Asian woman in her seventies with shoulder-length grey hair and a moderate sundress on, said: “Why don’t we try the old classic of asking for some time to think? It would be obvious to humans that we were just trying to buy time but the goblins might buy it. Worst case, the shaman denies us and we try asking to speak to this war-lord instead and buy some time that way.” She finished explaining calmly.
Jordan, an African-American man in his mid-sixties with short cropped black hair and black eyes wearing a simple button up linen shirt and tan linen pants, agreed with Amanda’s assessment. “I agree, the plan that Amanda has laid out is likely our best approach to buy as much time as we can. All in favor?” He asked the group while looking at them one by one.
“Agreed” “Agreed” “Sure” “Agreed” replied all four voices, as it was proper for even the person who presented the idea to vote. Jordan continued, “Now that that is taken care of, if you would do us the honor, John?” Jordan asked politely while looking at their mediator.
“Sigh, always getting stuck with the jobs like this just because I’m the youngest of you geezers…” John mumbled under his breath just loud enough for the others to hear. He turned back to the goblin shaman and began relaying their decision. “Esteemed shaman, would you grant us a period to discuss this amongst ourselves before we give our answer?”
The shaman gave a disgusted look and lifted his hand before jutting it out with a fist, then making an upside down thumbs up. “No talk! No think! Surrender or die at hand of war-lord!” He screamed back fervently as he started to really get worked up, spittle flying from his mouth.
John and the rest of the leaders collectively sighed, before he proceeded with plan B. “May we speak to this war-lord and negotiate with him directly? If we are to surrender to such a mighty warrior, then we would like the honor of surrendering directly to him.”
The shaman was visibly agitated and began shaking. “No! No no NO!” It screamed at the top of its lungs. “Surrender now or face the war band!” It screamed as its guards drew their weapons and got to the ready.
John turned around to face the others and shrugged. “Well, that went about as well as I would have expected a meeting with goblins. Mark!” He yelled out, but not loud enough for the goblins to hear of course.
“Sir!” Replied a voice some distance behind John.
As John turned around to face the voice he saw a man in his thirties coming up to him. Broad shouldered, muscular, tall and looking like a god of war, was Mark, leader of their elite archer corps. “Have every one of your men on duty fire at will. I want that shaman and his guards to have more holes than Swiss cheese.” He said seriously, but with a smile on his face.
“Yes, sir!” Mark replied before turning around and relaying the orders to his men. A moment later dozens of arrows flew from their wall towards the goblin delegation, where the shaman screamed in fear and hid behind a hobgoblin. True to their duty, the hobgoblins blocked the arrows with their shields and best they could and with their bodies where shields were insufficient.
More than 2/3rds of the force present was felled by the arrows but the shaman and the rest managed to get under tree cover before another volley could be sent. Several that escaped had not done so unscathed and were visibly limping or cradling an arm, but this did not slow down the retreat of the sturdy beasts.
The human leaders turned back to each other again and right as Amanda was about to speak a horn blast drowned out their speech. On and on it went before finally petering out. “Well,” Amanda said, “That could have gone better.”
“Indeed.” Responded the elder. “We are already in a full mobilization so at least we will be prepared for whatever force they try to throw at us. I will check in on Alex and Jeod soon and see how they are progressing. If Alex can manage some useful spells he could very well turn the tide of this battle and save countless lives.” He said seriously.
The other leaders nodded at him in unison and they spent a few minutes talking about the usual goings-on of the town and what needed to be done and of meetings and so on before eventually parting to go take care of the various tasks that fell under their purview.