“It’s like they want to be found, isn’t it boy?”
Whiskey responded with his usual dismissive grunt. No matter, goblins were easy enough to track even when they tried to hide their trail, especially a group this large. Garrett easily caught up with them by late evening on the first day. The goblins had barely made it a mile outside of Sandpoint before they started in-fighting and squabbling. They might as well have held a banner high for all to see.
This gathering ended, as Garrett surmised, as all goblin gatherings end – with anger and violence. The groups blamed each other for the raid’s failure and made threats upon threats to each other. It was a little difficult to make out enough of the main conversation with the constant screeching and bickering, but Garrett understood it was a “longshanks” that directed the raid from Thistletop, and a female one at that. What was even more difficult for Garrett was to suppress his overwhelming desire to put a bolt between the eye-sockets of each and every one of the dirty little bastards.
Garrett and Whiskey followed the largest group, east and north. This was apparently two groups – Thistletops and Birdcrunchers. The latter seemed reluctant to follow, but without other options. They dreaded the Thistletop warchief, Ripnugget – who they feared was likely to throw them into some pit to be devoured by an enourmous fish-ghost-octopus-crab (depending on which goblin was complaining at the time) monster Ripnugget had apparently kept as both a pet and a method to keep the other goblins in line. Still, with their chief Gogmut slain during the raid (another fact Garrett gathered that allowed him to chuckle at the goblins’ misfortune) they had nowhere else to turn.
As the last rays of light set under the waves to the west, the goblins made camp along the coast. The Birdcrunchers made their camp a good distance from the Thistletop goblins. Garrett counted their number fourteen, a few smaller than the Thistletop band. However, the difference in morale and organization between the two groups was stark. The Birdcrunchers were all but defeated and panic threatened to consume them at any moment.
Garrett settled in as evening drew on, secreted among the many briars and deadfall along the tree line abutting the coast. Autumn provided a greater amount of natural camouflage allowing Garrett to stay within earshot the majority of the time. Luck was with him as well, as a near-perfect opportunity began to form before him. The two goblins set for the evening’s first watch appeared nervous, packing their belongings into filthy sacks. They were making to leave at first opportunity.
Garrett looked to Whiskey and gave a nod. The mastiff understood immediately and quietly moved off into the woods. Garrett tracked the goblins as they slinked off, out of sight of the camp and back south just inside the wood line. Goblins were fecund and callous and would not risk too much exposure to the perils of the deep woods. They could move faster along the forest’s edge, but were easier to track.
Garrett allowed a mile and a half to pass before he quickened his pace. By now, his prey was well outside of earshot of the goblin camp and any help. The moon shone brightly tonight allowing Garrett to maintain sight of his quarry at over a hundred feet. Holding his finger on the stopper of the oil flask to control the flow, Garrett allowed two drops to fall into the bolt notch on his crossbow and coated it’s metal groove with his middle finger. He slid the flask back into his belt pouch and drew a solid bolt quietly from its quiver, loaded and readied his shot. He then gave a sharp whistle. Whiskey responded with a long, low and fierce howl.
The two goblins suddenly froze at the sound. Garrett, within sixty feet to his best reckoning, slid to a crouched position on his right knee, let out a smooth exhale and released the trigger on his crossbow. The bolt flew quick and straight striking the closest goblin just below the base of his skull, propelling the unfortunate little beast forward. He flew a little more than a foot before the tip of the bolt struck a large gum tree pinning the goblin’s body to the tree’s trunk. A weak gurgle emerged from its mouth, followed by the slow flow of dark viscous goblin blood.
The other goblin turned and drew it’s dogslicer in one swift motion. Its eyes widened as it came into focus on Garrett, who could see the telltale gleam of the large goblin eyes, which were as keen as his in the darkness. Before the goblin’s instincts could kick in and make the decision to flight or run, Whiskey barreled out of woods into the goblin, locking his jaws on the goblin’s weapon arm.
Even at a young age, Whiskey was large for his breed. His powerful jaws easily tossed the goblin about like a doll. Garrett could hear the snap of the goblin’s bones over the high pitched shrieks of pain. Whiskey tossed the goblin up above, released his bite, and clamped down again as the goblin descended, choosing the goblin’s legs as his next target. Garrett strode up just as Whiskey crushed down on the goblin’s left ankle.
“Good boy, that’s enough”
Whiskey obediently dropped the limp goblin to the ground, who could do no more than pant and stare up in shock. Garrett looked over the broken thing, eyeing it to make sure it was as incapacitated as it appeared. He kicked away the dog slicer and went to work binding the goblin, making no effort to avoid pain. After the goblin was secured, but before he set about building a litter from his remaining rope, Garrett moved over to the gum tree – checking the other goblin’s vitals, ensuring it was dead – and retrieving his bolt. He did a quick search of the goblin’s belongings and found nothing useful.
A pair of dead branches and rope made for a quick litter, fixed with a hoop for dragging.
“Meech grac grac raas, dun raas, dun mee-cho.” The little goblin snorted weakly as Garrett placed it on the litter.
“To vas, to saara vas, meecho meecho lammassh-to, vas pur vando. Mal-veecho-shne-kar-to, vas pur das!” it continued, with a sour look of anger as Garrett finished binding it to the litter.
Garrett stopped to ponder this, with a single eyebrow raised. He responded in goblin. “Malfeshnekor you say” as he produced his knife from its sheath, “do tell me, then, how exactly will Lamashtu and Malfeshnekor avenge you…”