The city was where I might find a contact to the Harpers. If not them, then their trail…or more resources and funds for the organization. I ended up speaking to a dwarven merchant, Gundrin Stoneseeker, who needed escort work. Said he knew some information that I could use to contact the Harpers and get my distress call out to them, not that the dwarf needed to know why I wanted to contact the group. He can continue to think I’m another mercenary with a heart of gold looking to get myself a shiny pin.
He didn’t tell me he booked more or the job. Not surprised, though. Treacherous roads. Stoneseeker set off a day ahead with his bodyguard. We were to meet in Phandalln, where he would take the goods back into his possession and pass me the information I wanted. He said there’d be a monetary reward, but that would be sent along to the organization for more food and equipment.
The group is…diverse.
There’s an elven wizard who is, as his kind always are, full of ephemeral thoughts and inscrutable motives. I believe he is named Nelthis, though I could be wrong.
The dwarf, Voljenog…I do not trust him. He slings a huge hammer like a warrior, but has the eyes of a yet another merchant. One more interested in the coins in his coffers than the ones whose works put them there. He warrants a keen eye.
A cleric, human and female. Where I see the love of material things in the dwarf’s eyes, I see in hers the reason I’ve taken on this life away from my family and home. While I can only guess the particulars, all who have suffered under the slaver’s lash share that tormented look, no matter how deep they bury it under rage, purpose, or apathy.
Now we come to the other halfling, Reed. A spellslinger, and much like many of my kind: affable and engaging. He’s certain to make me stand out by comparison. I’m not going to appreciate how much his presence will remind me why I can’t join in the fun.
I could be jovial and trusting. I have the capacity. Even the desire.
Many of my kind are in chains. Reports have reached me, and those I work with, about entire halfling settlements and villages conquered and enslaved, either through violence we’re not strong enough to turn aside or malevolent workings of fell priests and wizards who warp the minds of my naïve, trusting brothers and sisters.
We made for Phandalln, the others staying with the cargo as I kept to the flora. Granted, I am much more comfortable within city walls, but I can manage in the wild as well as any other halfling.
The goblins set up an ambush. Reed went down. Two black arrows hit me as I was aiming my own. Black crept around the edge of my vision, slowly devouring the light. My death was not going to stop my work, as another would pick up where I left off, but that doesn’t mean I was happy about my predicament.
Then, light and life. The woman, the cleric, called down a surge of life that had me back on my feet. I took aim again, but the shot went wide, my senses still adjusting to near death and new life. My next shot was perfect. The goblin’s head didn’t even snap, my arrow punching straight through its eye and out its skull.
The ambush thwarted, I pieced together what had happened. The horses used to form the blockade had belonged to Stoneseeker and his bodyguard, with drag marks leading away from the road. The lack of blood suggested that they were taken alive. Arrow nocked, I scouted ahead, finding a couple crude traps along the way, until we came upon two goblins doing their damndest to be the worst lookouts in history. They didn’t last long.
We entered their cave and quickly found ourselves confronted with three wolves wild from hunger and tethered to the ground. I drew an arrow, the familiar strain of wood and sinew granting me a moment of peace, and readied an end to them before they could attack or raise an alarm.
An arrow that Reed damn near took to the back of his head. He approached the wolves with portions of his own rations. Within moments, he had those three wolves as tame and friendly as puppies. I would have sworn magic was involved if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
We found what I can only describe as a garbage chute and climbed it. While dignity is not my priority, especially when there’s a mission, the taste of garbage is not something I’m ever going to expound on in these pages. We came out of the chute to find a couple goblins, a wolf that seemed too far gone to save, and a damn bugbear.
Taking them unaware, the bugbear fell first and fast to maul, arrow, and holy flame. The goblins, true to form, were stupid enough to try and run past the dwarf to get to the cleric. The dwarf made quick, and dirty, work of one. The other goblin managed to get by the maul, but my arrow brought it down before it could hurt the human.
Voljenog rifled the treasure, with some of the goods bearing the same symbol as his clasp, and counted out the coin. I didn’t pay much attention, as information is my currency. I will take my share of the job, of course, but it has other purposes.
Two goblins, most likely attracted by the sounds of maul and spells, came into the room and immediately ran back out, screaming something in that gutter trash they call speech. As though having worked together for years, the elf mage and I took them down with deft precision, his fire and my arrow.
The rest was more an exercise in extermination. Goblins that didn’t run fast enough were sent to rot, though no one would be able to tell the difference solely by smell of the rancid things. It didn’t take long before we discovered the bodyguard, Hallwinter, beaten and chained. We released him while he said that some entity called Black Spider wanted Stoneseeker alive. There is some connection the dwarf has to a magical forge. What I know for certain, those willing to throw in with goblins to achieve mysterious power will use that power to dominate people like my kind who just want to live simple lives.
We reached Phandalln after loading bodyguard and stolen goods into the cart, which was now close to collapsing under the weight by my estimation, but better the goods make their way to civilization than go to rust and ruin in a brigand hideout full of dead goblins. No sooner was the transaction complete than I was off to the underground. Whispers came back to me that while this Black Spider was carving his name into all manner of shadows, no one knew who or what the bastard was, or his possible endgame.
I hired a courier to take the bulk of my earnings back to those who would use it to procure much needed supplies. I’m back at the inn with the rest of the group. Maybe our motives are different, but I’m not stupid enough to turn away from resources when I’m up against a ghost.