I slept fitfully that night, because even though I had escaped the clutches of the hobgoblins, the other members of my party were walking straight into a trap. I had escaped with little more then the clothes on my back, so had to scrounge and forage for food. I will confess that I had never received formal training in how to survive the wilderness, and only after several hours of hunting about, was I able to pick some berries that I remembered as being edible from my childhood. Shivering, starving, bruised and beaten, I suddenly became aware of the distinct possibility that this might be the end. The sinking fear started to creep into my thoughts, but concern of my friend Gabriel, kept me from giving up. He saved my life when we first meet, perhaps now I could find some way to return the favor. They were walking into a trap, and would need help. Of course, being without equipment of any kind or weapons aside from what lay at the tips of my birdlike fingers, I didn’t know how much help I could have been, but I had try. After some searching I found some narrow tree that had been carved out by a lightning strike some years ago and settled down to try and get some rest. Perhaps a little sleep would clear my thoughts and help me find some way to deal with this. At that point, as my hunger was gnawing at my bones, I had a vivid memory of my human mother, cooking the most delicious apple dumplings. The smell seemed to permeate my senses and for a moment I was lost in the memory, taken from that dark place in the forest to bask in the comfort of the home I left behind. I cherished that memory and savored the moment, because it seemed like forever since I had any memory of life back home.
I awoke on the Morning of the 16th to the loud clamor of armor and weapons. At first I didn’t know what was going on, so I moved to the edge of the forest and looked out at the hobgoblin keep in the distance. That was the second time I saw him, but it was the first time I realized what he truly was… The Warlord, and true leader of the Irontooth clan. We had been such fools to think that a mere shaman would control such a complex and powerful tribe as the Irontooth. The Hobgoblin warlord was a massive brute who inspired fear in troops and beasts around him by virtue of his mere presence. The other hobgoblins cowered in his presence and made all sorts of obsequies gestures to placate him.
As I watched, scouts were being deployed and much of his force was being sent to wait in ambush. Archers were moved into position, heavy infantry deployed in covered camouflaged pits, skirmshers and assault beasts being positioned so they could quickly come around the side of the keep to attack the group as they were being led down the trail. It was both terrible and fascinating to watch as creatures I had previously assumed to be a marauding rabble, quickly and efficiently went about their duties in preparation. All of it was powered by the sheer will and presence of the Warlord. If he were to be killed, another of his sub-chiefs would step up and take command, but it would take time for him to consolidate his power. Although they were efficient, they were also evil and selfish in their very nature. This foray alone had taught me a great deal with regard to the true nature of evil and how it responded to others. There seems to be nothing more dangerous then claiming to fully understand the complexities of evil and trying to predict its behaviour. Time would tell if Gabriel and I had another chance to repay the hobgoblins for their hospitality, but I truly hoped so. In the meantime all I could do was record what was happening and hope there would come a day when we could use this experience against them and the War-chief.I circled around the keep, staying far enough from the sentries to avoid detection, because I had to know if it was indeed my friends they were preparing to ambush. Maybe in my hopes, I was searching for some way to warn them, but there was a lot of ground to cover and the others were almost on top of us. To be honest, I had also lost track of time out there in the forest. The hobgoblin hunters who had captured me took a direct route, and so I had been taken straight back to the keep while the others had been led through a meandering path to give the Warchief time to prepare an ambush. When I had first been taken by the hobgoblins I half expected to see the others captured there as well. The Hobgoblins had many slaves, and so perhaps we had been separated. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had arrived almost a full day before the others who had not even been captured yet.
Hobgoblin scouts were deployed on either side of the ambush, making any approach to try and warn them exceptionally dangerous. At this point, even if I had moved close enough to communicate the danger of an ambush, there was still an army of hobgoblins ready and chomping at the bit to rush forward and take all of us down. So, I hunkered into a tree, and tried using some stones or other signaling devices, but it was no use. I was simply too far away, and the trap was already sprung. The Shaman led them into a clearing.. where the warchief and his entourage were waiting. Then the signal was made to attack. Hobgoblins surged up from the ground, circled around the keep and poured in from the surrounding forest to attack our small party. It was plain by their hideous expression that the hobgoblins were hoping for some sport and not a quick surrender, but as I saw my friends being led into the keep I can only assume they had realized what would have happened and gave over their weapons.
It should be interesting to note, this was the last I saw of the idiot warrior woman, and the half elf mage. Gabriel was led towards a collection of cages, while the others were marched towards the kitchens and the mess hall. I shiver to think what may of happened to them, but I don’t think the tower of High sorcery will concern itself with pursuing the half elf any further.. (unless their bounty hunters cared to check the Hobgoblin privy for some sort of personal affects.) As for the woman, I suspect she was lucky if they only killed and ate her. There are harrowing horror stories of female prisoners who were taken to humanoid camps never to return. Bastard half breeds must come from somewhere, and rarely are such couplings voluntary. As I said, she was lucky if they killed her, but I have no idea what really happened, as I never saw her again.
Gabriel and the others were taken into the keep and I could no longer tell what happened, so I sat impotently out in the forest, hoping for some break that would give me a chance to free them.. but that break never came.