It was three days on this leaky tub, meandering upriver at a snail’s crawl, and most of us were starting to climb the cabin walls in frustration. We had left Dunraven quietly and my attempts to get to know the others have been rebuffed for the most part. The Elven Magi was recaltricent as ever, and I began to wonder about the safety of our journey. Just before we left, a red robed mage of High Sorcery took him aside for a private meeting, and he left pale as a sheet with a look of petulant defiance on his face. The Baronial Vizier to Dunraven was not pleased with whatever was said between the two, and ominous glares constantly passed between the elf and the Vizier until we left. Our trip would have been difficult enough, without trouble from the Tower. Anyhow, the elf would not speak of what happened, and so I would not press the issue, for now.
My earlier suspicions were unfortunately confirmed with regard to the intelligence of our female warrior. After dragging a few words from her in some mangled semblance of an introduction, she betrayed her true ignorance by opening her mouth and offering a few words.
It was all forming into this hard knot in my stomach as we continued our trip upriver. The temperature was rapidly decreasing, so it couldn’t be much longer before we hit Ice and were forced on foot. We had ample supplies, but for some reason the trade delegation still had not reported or sent any word, so something was waiting for us up there. I suppose another game of cards with the captain will help pass the time.
Today was a very exciting day, our first real battle as a group, and all things considered we did fairly well. Just as expected we hit an ice blockage in the river and the captain began to veer to the side bank when we heard several loud sounds. A hobgoblin raiding party had lain in wait, and attacked as soon as we hit the ice dam. Before I realized what was happening, grapplers had been tossed from the far bank and were being used to haul us over towards the hobgoblins. Most of us resorted to bows and crossbows, while Gabriel, in a feat of daring acrobatic skill, ran down the grappler line to engage the Hobgoblins on shore. Black shafted arrows peppered the side of the boat as hidden archers returned fire and Gabriel came within striking distance of the Goblins.
Everything became a blur, as I nearly passed out from fear when an arrow almost pinned my skull to the foredeck behind me. Gabriel twisted and turned, punching and kicking with bone breaking power as the rest of us kept pouring arrows into the Hobgoblin attackers. Finally everything began to turn, and the Goblins fled or were killed where they stood.
It should be interesting to note, that Gabriel refused to kill the Hobgoblins, and spared the life of any that he engaged personally. The rest of us had no such compunctions about slaying the raiders which would have likely strung up our entrails before sacrificing us to whatever brutal God or goddess they worshiped. After the battle, the leader of the raid identified himself as some sort of important figure to the hobgoblins and requested the opportunity to parley.
It looked like he was some sort of shaman, as during the battle he had cast several weavings at us in their attempt to take the ship and its supplies. Fortunately for us, they failed and now he was at our mercy. The name of the Hobgoblin tribe to which he belonged, was called the Iron-tooth, a name which Gabriel seemed to be familiar with, but wouldn’t discuss at the time. And so, at Gabriel’s behest we entered into parley with the humanoid, and he explained that we had gained his respect, and that by following him back to their camp they could discuss a deal that would allow us to pass unscathed through hobgoblin territory.
I had my misgivings about the whole affair, but I would be lying if I said that Gabriel’s optimistic views were not becoming infectious. The idea of a long journey through Hobgoblin infested terrain, fighting back ambush after ambush really didn’t appeal to anyone, so perhaps some safe passage north could be negotiated. Gabriel seemed to be an accomplished diplomat, who had some sort of familiarity with these Iron-Tooth, at least enough to know what he was doing. Something however, just kept tickling the back of my mind and setting off that little alarm in my head.
We drew lots, and it was decided that I should remain behind with the boat and supplies, to wait until everyone else returned from the negotiations. After gathering only enough food to get them there and back, they set out on foot with the Iron Tooth shaman in the lead. I just hoped everything turned out all right. Anyways, It was off to cook some of the fish I caught in the afternoon, and maybe a round or two of cards with the captain.
It was all a trap…. A stinking trap and we fell for it, like idiots!!! The others had barely been gone a few hours when I was talking with the captain, and a Black shafted, Hobgoblin arrow pierced his throat with that wet, squishy sound. I cried out and hit the deck as more arrows and hooting laughs came up from the side shore. I couldn’t count how many were there, but there were a lot of them, and I froze, not sure of what I could do. I was the only one left on the boat, as a second raiding party had circled around to take me out while the others were being led straight into a trap.
We were all screwed, we got lazy, and now we were going to have to pay the price. I didn’t want to die, so I kept my head down as they shot more arrows into the boat. It didn’t take long for them to realize that I was pinned and wasn’t going to budge without some encouragement. That was about the time I heard a loud crash, from a masonry jar that had been tossed into the boat. This, slick, grayish slime spread out over the back half of the boat.. then seemed to pull back into itself. I couldn’t help but stare in horror as it pulled together into this wet, sticky looking grey blob, then extended some sort of psuedopod to look for prey.
With a shout, I jumped over the side, wearing my pack and hanging on to the side of the boat as the thing started to slide over in my direction. As I felt movement in the boat I pulled my taloned hands away just in time, as a lash-like psuedopod flicked into the wood and burned a gouge with its acidic ooze. The boat started to sink and this thing was lashing at my hands. So, I did the only thing I could do.. I let go, and surrendered myself to the current. A few minutes later, the Hobs were fishing my half drowned body from the river, and stringing me up with my hands and feet tied over a long shaft. That was about the time things really started to go downhill.
They had rushed me back to their camp, taking a different route then the one my friends had been led down. The Hobgoblins wasted no time in putting me to work, and I was chained to a gang of twisted mongrelfolk, working to clear away some sort of debree along the south wall of the keep. It was hard, as I was beaten repeatedly.. and as much as I wanted to cast some sort of spell to smite my tormentor, I knew it would only bring my swift death. I had thought about using my cooking knowledge to negotiate some sort of deal with the hobgoblins, but it was the desire to negotiate and look for an easy way out that had landed all of us in this predicament in the first place. No, I had to be patient and wait for some hole that I could escape through. Fortunately they had no idea about my race either, and so mistook me for one of the mongrel folk I was chained with.
That Night was the worst, and I don’t think I will ever forget it. I was ankle deep in excrement, and surrounded by creatures which may have walked on two legs but did not deserve the title of sentient beings. They were animals, and came up to sniff me in hopes of finding some morsel of food. I showed their “leader” one of my wings, and he pulled out a feather to show the others. An instant later his blood sprayed across my face as I tore out his throat with my talons. I screeched a warning to the others as he fell into the excrement with that wet gurgling sound, and the mongrel folk slowly reeled him back. At first I thought they intended to mourn him in some way, but as they ripped off his tattered rags and set their jagged teeth to his flesh, I realized that they intended to make a meal of their former pack leader. It took every bit of my self control to keep from retching my guts out, in that foul little hell-hole.. but it made me realize that I had to get free… I had to get out, because I couldn’t last here.
Now, I was no thief or cutpurse by any stretch, but I did posses enough cunning to work my way to the top of the pit and crawl out. Fortunately they figured me for another mongrel-folk, and so we had no cage or lock over the top. After sneaking out of the pit, I had several close calls with hobgoblin guards, but managed to sneak to the edge of the compound, and use my wings to glide out past the sentries. Before first light, I had escaped the keep, and was hiding in the forest…