It was after midnight when Ungo raised his head from the folds of his cloak, suddenly alert and gripping C***slicer in both hands. He could hear something moving rapidly through the undergrowth, and then falling silent.
Half a minute again the sequence repeated itself. With visions of monstrous spiders crashing jerkily and erratically, Ungo quickly started to wake the others.
The commotion started again, and this time a dark figure crashed out of the forest and into the edge of the campsite, finally falling face downwards onto the floor. Rasha pointed his bow at the figure, while Ungo moved forward.
“H…Help me…” moaned the figure, and realising finally that it was man, covered in filth and close to exhaustion, the group approached. Koya knelt down beside him, and started to pour some water down his throat, and to wash away some of the grime.
After a few minutes of this he sat up, and beneath the torn clothing and layers of woodland detritus they could see that he was a fairly ordinary looking man of early middle age: his name was Bob, and he worked at the Spider Farm. Clearly something had gone badly wrong.
“We were at the evening meal, all gathered in the Dining Hall”, explained Bob. “I had popped out for a leak-the latrine area is some way off from the Hall, when I saw some little figures barging into it- and then screams. They were goblins as far as I could tell, and there looked like there was quite a few of them.”
“Anyway they hadn’t seem me, and so I snuck off behind one of the other buildings. I managed to creep behind the Dining Hall and I heard that they’d hered all the staff into one corner, and placed some guards outside. The rest was hunting about for stragglers- then one of them spotted me. I ran- you found me. This was all maybe two hours ago.”
The group considered their options. Clearly the attackers would not expect any intervention from the town for well over a day, and so they themselves might surprise them with caution. Bob explained the layout of the Farm-essentially a deep narrow pit covered with a strong metal frame, within which the spiders were kept. The silk was collected on long spiked poles from the frame, or more commonly from a series of wooden bridges which also ran across the chasm, and arranged in a rough rectangle around the pit were the various workshops, offices, living quarters and so on which comprised the farm. The Dining Hall was located along the western side.
Rasha and Ragnar approached cautiously from the south side, the wagons having been parked some way off. Shaleelu approached with them, and then indicated that she would circle the camp and eliminate any remote sentries, while the group saw to the rescue of the prisoners.
Creeping up to a stable block on the south side, the noises of horses could be heard in the stalls: they didn’t sound disturbed and so that presumably indicated they were goblin free.
To one side of this was a deserted house, and creeping in through the window Rasha saw that it was fairly well furnished, including a couple of rooms with a distinctly feminine touch. This, he surmised, was the ranchowners dwelling. Peering through a window northwards he could see the spider pit running through the centre of the encampment, with a line of builings on both sides. Those on the eastern side were all in darkness, but he could see that several of those on the western side had lights on, and even goblin guards outside. From Bob’s description, he thought he could see which one was the Dining Hall.
It was determined that Ragnar and Ungo would sneak around the western woodland edge until they were on the far side of the Dining Hall, while Reynald appraoched one of the smaller buildings which appeared inhabited. Rasha would provide cover from the Manager’s House while Aulukka and Dinald would rush the nearest builing, once the alarm had been raised by Ragnar and Ungo.
Ragnar and Ungo managed to move quietly towards their position, but did have to quietly dispose of a goblin guard who had decided to move around the back of a building to relieve himself; once this had occured, it was only a matter of a very short time before it was realised that something was amiss.
The moment came when Ragnar was in position along the northern edge of the Dining Hall. A goblin voice called round for the missing guard, near whom Reynald was waiting. Realising that the game would soon be up Ungo and Ragnar rushed around the corner, quickly disposing of the two door guards. A shout went up, and for the next few minutes chaos reigned.
Rasha shot one of the guards in front of the southernmost building, as Ailukka rushed forward in a most un-sorceress-like way wielding her battleaxe; Dinald hesitated and then followed behind. Inside the Dining Hall Ungo and Ragnar rushed in to see a group of about a dozen frightened workers herded behind an improvised pen of upturned tables and furniture, surrounded by half a dozen goblins. Protected by one of Ailkukka’s spells they tore into the surprised greenskins, knocking down half of then before they had a chance to respond.
Peering through the door Reynald determined that his help probably wasn’t needed in the Dining Hall, and he moved southwards towards one of the two smaller buildings between the Hall and Rasha’s position. Unfortunately a few peripheral guards had started to approach, and he found hinself under bowfire from a couple of goblins in the vicinity of the spider pit. Deciding that the buildings were a safer immediate option he rushed in, confronting four goblins, one of whom appeared to be casting a spell.
In the other building Ailukka had hacked one goblin down (“she seems a bit aggressive for a mage” thought Dinald admiringly). Deciding that he couldn’t really back out when an unarmoured woman was getting stuck into the fighting, Dinald engaged another, skewering him easily much to his surprise (and Ailukka’s, if she had noticed).A goblin at the rear of the building fired a bolt of magical energy at Dinald, making him yelp.
Rasha meanwhile was engaged in an archery duel with three or four goblins positioned near the pit, or on the wooden bridges across it. His cover in the doorway gave him an advantage, but even so the range and the darkness, dragged the exchange out, though he did fell two of them.
Meanwhile Ungo and Ragnar had joined Reynald, and the three made short work of the goblin shamen and his cronies. In the southernmost building Ailkukka and Dinald managed to finish off the remaining two goblins as Ungo charged out and cut down the remaining archer. And then everything went quiet.
Breathing heavily Ungo peered down from the wooden bridge and through the heavy wooden lattice into the darkness below. Shuddering with disgust he caught a glint of multiple eyes close to the wooden latticework- the monstrous creatures no doubt excited by the scent of blood. He wasn’t going down there.
As he looked up he saw Shaleelu approaching from the western side of the pit. With her were two individuals- a middle aged bearded man, likely of Ulfen extraction, and a young woman.
“This is Ulayah, the owner of the farm. And his daughter Heri. Locked up over there.” she nodded towards the buildings to the north east. “Guards all dead.” Shaleelu nodded at Ungo and walked off back towards the direction of the caravan, leaving Ulayah staring after her looking somewhat bemused.
“Err.. thankyou friends for your rescue,it….”
“Hauld ‘yer weelin maester. Ah’ll geet yin o’ the cissyboys tae shell yer flaap.” Putting his axe over his shoulder Ungo stalked off towards what he hoped was a storeroom, looking to find something to drink. Seeing Reynald nearby he jerked his thumb behind him towards the two standing on the bridge.
Reynald started to move forward before he was tapped on the shoulder. Turning round he saw no-one but then heard Dinald introducing himself to the attractive young woman and her father. Muttering he went to look for a healer.
Shortly the rest of the caravan arrived, and the farm started to come back to life as the workers attempted to restore order to the site. Ulayah confirmed many of the details of Bob’s story, but he had no insight into the reason for attack. He did say that the goblins seemed especially angry with him, as they had been pointing down towards the spiders-he had feared that they intended to fling him down into the pit.
Once he arrived Sandru started to enter into negotiations with Ulayah, and as the group prepared a very early breakfast he suggested that they should stay here for the day: everyone was pretty tired anyway, and Ulayah had offered the use of one of the dormitories.
“He also offered this-one of you should probably have it” said Sandru, proferring a heavy and ornate belt. It’s some sort of magical belt-make you tougher or something, he said. We should be able to get a good silk deal out of this too hopefully."
Dinald had overheard Sandru talking about the belt, and breaking away from a mollified Heri he ran over to where the belt was being proffered.
“Me ! Me ! Me ! I want it ! I want the belt !!” he shouted as a jumbled array of half remembered bedtime stories flooded across his (limited) mind, all of them featuring a central hero who wore a magical belt. He had to have it!
“I’ll take it if no one else wants it.” he said as he shoved his way to the front, pushing Ungo away by the face and elbowing Rasha in the stomach. “Mine!”
Fearful that Dinald might bite, Sandru gingerly passed the belt to Dinald’s greedy, jittery hands. Dinald admired the feel of the fabric, the toughness and sturdiness of the craftsmanship. The glimmering blue turquoise stones set into the burnished silver buckle and the…black leather. Black leather?
“Ah…excuse me Sandru. Does this come in any other color? It doesn’t quite match my armor (I got it in Magnimar)” He whispered the last part to Ailukka who looked like she couldn’t care less.
“I’m actually going for a ‘Rose at the Dawn of Battle’ motif and I’d like this to be in a burnt umber if possible?” Dinald asked.
“No.” Sandru stated somewhat coldly, muttering under his breath.
“Oh…If that’s the case this… fine… belt can probably be used by one of the more weak members of our party.” With that he absently tossed the dark belt back into Sandrus’ hands and begin to look for Heri who had seemingly wondered off.He only did this for a very short time as Ungo punched him in the groin, and then as he folded to the floor, started to stamp on his fingers as Rasha looked on dispassionately.
“Give it to Ungo or Ragnar" said Rasha,as after a somewhat overlong pause Ailukka and Ragnar dragged Ungo off Dinald. "They’re on the front lines a lot”.
Reynald piped up, almost shyly, lacking his brothers flamboyant Flambeau trait but applying his usual logic: “I’d say I could use it, it’s not like I’m shying away from fights but I’ve not the resilience of our friends Ungo and Ragnar”