Having seen the smoke in the distance, the heroes pushed as hard as they were able and were able to return to Rannon’s Hill by late afternoon. Before reaching the town proper, with the smell of smoke all around them, Kysmer bid his friends farewell as he (understandably) hurried away south to check on his family’s farm.
Once they had reached the village proper, the companions were able to see that numerous buildings had been put to the torch. Soot covered villagers hurried back and forth carrying the wounded or water buckets. At this point each of the companions went their separate way, so as best to check in on their loved ones.
Kara arrived at the house where they gathered for their Temple sessions and was able to gather, from Elsa Strongwillow, that the town had been attacked by goblins. After making sure that the Temple was fine, Kara then headed off to see where she could be of assistance.
Hoatzin and Nortrix had both headed down to the Hillbottom Tavern, where Marigold Fairweather almost lifted Hoatzin off his feet upon finding him alive and safe. She was then saddened to find that Skip wasn’t with him. The tavern itself was, although damaged, in good condition. Nortrix was able to get inside and find that his belongings were all right where he’d left them.
Grax had, of course, made straight for the Shrine of the Old Gods, where he found Cleric Lodin tending to the numerous wounded. While aiding the Cleric, Grax learned that goblins had raided the town right after the town guards had all left to investigate a plume of smoke rising from the Greenthumb farm. Apparently the goblins had been indiscriminate in their attacks, but they had been seen taking several prisoners.
It was not until several hours later that the full extent of the attack was known. Nearly a hundred goblins had swarmed over Rannon’s Hill after first attacking some of the outlying farms (the Greenthumb farm included). Many of the villagers were badly wounded in the attack, but thanks to the tireless efforts of Cleric Lodin and his apprentices only fifteen people lost their lives (including Elwyn Greenthumb, one of Kysmer’s brothers). However it was also clear that ten people had been rounded up and taken prisoner by the goblins (including Skip Fairweather and Cleric Susan).
Hoping to catch up to the goblins and to somehow find a way to free the prisoners, Sherriff Arvel Zannis offered to lead the town guards (at the directions of their tracker, Ronnoth Silverwing) after the goblins. Hoatzin, Kara, Nortrix and Grax immediately offered to go along.
To begin with the goblin trail was easy to follow. Close to one hundred goblins leave a large patch of trampled underbrush to show which way they had headed. For over an hour they walked into the darkening forest until they came to a point where the goblin force split. Most of the goblins (as in 70 or so of them) turned towards the distant town of Leland’s Falls while a smaller group (including the prisoners) turned directly towards the mountains. After a brief discussion, Sherriff Zannis sent one of his guardsmen jogging back to Rannon’s Hill in an effort to send word to Leland’s Falls of the approaching goblins. The rest of the group continued chasing after the prisoners.
It was not long after the trail had split that the group from Rannon’s Hill made a gruesome discovery. Staked out in the middle of the path that Ronnoth was still following they found the remains of Laryx Goldenbraid, a young dwarf that the companions had all known from back in the village. A spear had been driven through his stomach, his eyes had been stabbed out and his throat had been slit. Blood covered the area. Solemnly they freed Laryx’s body and then covered him as best they could with stones and wood before moving on, vowing to return for him.
It wasn’t much later that Ronnoth finally called an end to the night’s tracking, for which the four companions were greatly relieved. The tracker didn’t want to miss the trail in the worsening light, while the companions had already had a full day of walking and adventuring before this and were all starting to feel quite weary.
With dawn they were all up and travelling again and closing in on the goblins from what Ronnoth could tell from the tracks. Sure enough within an hour they were brought to a halt by the tracker, who said he had found the goblins up ahead. The leader of the small group of goblins was apparently having a heated argument with one of his underlings, but Ronnoth couldn’t understand their language. Luckily, the goblin language was one of several languages that Grax had learned in his studies and so, carefully and slowly, he followed Ronnoth forward to listen in on the goblins.
The goblin all wore small banners upon their backs, indicating their clan or allegiance or something. Each wore the same banner: a set of white teeth on a field of black, with one blood red tooth dripping a drop of blood. One of the goblins, the leader, wore a second small banner on his back which displayed a downward pointing barbed dagger, dripping blood, on a black field. Yet another goblin, a standard bearer, held a larger banner affixed to a pole. This displayed a strange black face-like design (but with tendrils, or tentacles) on a field of orange. Listening to the leader berate his subordinate, Grax was able to discern that the subordinate had performed poorly on guard duty and would have to answer to Golag. Whoever that was.
With no further information to be learned, Ronnoth hurried off to fetch the others while Grax kept an eye on things (and didn’t move… so as to not make nay noise). While waiting he had ample time to see that the remaining nine prisoners were all present and accounted for.
Within twenty minutes Ronnoth had returned with the others. Hurriedly everyone spread out before they started shooting arrows at the unsuspecting goblins. Although taken unawares (and despite being initially misled by Grax yelling out in goblin), these were battle-hardened goblins who were quickly able to respond to the ambush. If not for the element of surprise, the goblins would have surely won the day. As it was, the goblin leader very nearly turned the tide of battle all by himself, before he was finally cut down by Hoatzin, Kara and the guards. Hoatzin then made sure of the leader by thrusting the goblin’s own barbed dagger deep into the creature’s eye.
With the villagers rescued the group turned back towards Rannon’s Hill, but not before they had gathered up a copy of each banner as well as a written set of instructions that the leader had been carrying. These instructions instructed Golag, whoever that might be, to make sure that prisoners were captured to be sold into slavery before his return to Cho’Rong Mountain Castle. Along the way back to town they gathered up the remains of Layrx, so as to give him a proper burial later.