The Silver Tower Chronicles Adventures in other worlds, other times, and other realities

15May/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0046

The arrival at the base camp brought some joy to those stationed there. However, the news of Kasamir's death weighed heavily on them as well. The Hunter of Man was still on the loose. The oddest sight for the returning heroes was the target that many had used to practice archery. Lunaris was there, awake, and hard at work practicing to fire her bow. Her aim was still terrible, but they were surprised to see her doing anything but sleeping.

Such things mattered little. There was a war that needed to be won and enemies that had to be stopped. Supplies and troops were on their way. The exact numbers and what the resources would be was unknown. Almost anything and anyone would be useful. Too many had been lost to the Beast that Takes Trophies. The small camp was understaffed as it was. Reinforcements would be more than welcome. Very little would be able to defeat the base camp itself with the two golems at its disposal, but the people were spread too thin to keep the goblinoids from incursions.

With the immediate known threat taken care of, scouts were sent out again to look for trouble. They went in pairs now to keep the Hunter of Man from easily slaying them. This also meant that much less territory could be covered. It was a terrible trade off but losing the scouts would hurt more than anything at this point. At the ned of the day, however, the worst was realized. One of the patrols did not return. However, this led to a very different action.

“This monster has to be stopped now,” Medeus said, “I am taking all the rangers and heading where the patrol went. We will track down whatever this creature is and end it.”

“It's a goblin,” Kava said.

“Impossible,” one of the rangers said.

A soft but determined female voice spoke out, “No, she is right. I saw it. A goblin that camouflaged itself, set traps, and came from the shadows like a ghost.”

It was the voice of Lunaris but the ranger that had spoken earlier laughed and spoke in a patronizing tone, “I question your eyes apprentice. Your aim shows to me that it can not be trusted. You told us your story before, but a ranger like Kasamir could not fall to the simple traps of a mere goblinoid, especially not a tiny little goblin. Whatever you saw shocked you I am certain. The adults will go out and deal with this menace. Perhaps you will recover in time.”

Kava rolled her orange eyes. She had little taste for willful ignorance but was used to humans underestimating inhuman creatures, especially if they were small. It gave the vodyanoi a great advantage in battle Kava looked to Enzi and motioned her head towards the leaving group of rangers. He nodded and the vodyanoi smiled with her frighteningly overlarge mouth.

“Don't worry kid,” Kava said to Lunaris, “I'll head out and kill the goblin. At least I'll know what to look for. Then we can both have a laugh at the rangers later.”

Enzi looked to the rest of the Irregulars, “Let us head out. It is time to end this menace once and for all.”

***

Two more skulls settled into their spots on the wall of trophies. The goblin had been prepared for a pair this time. He was not disappointed. He had never expected to survive this long or to make this many kills. He began to wonder how many more he could take before his time was up. He knew that the pairs had failed them. Would they do groups of three? The Hunter of Man sharpened his knife, reapplied his camouflage, then headed out the door of his home and trophy hall.

He slipped carefully past his traps. He had constructed a great many of them. It had started to protect his home and perhaps catch a meal. Now he used them to kill his human prey. He made his way towards the human camp and saw something both glorious and frightening. All of the remaining adult rangers of the camp were headed out as well as some inhuman creatures and a dark skinned man. The goblin's eyes settled on the dwarf. He wanted that one to die most of all.

He watched as the group approached the area where the last two rangers had been slain. The goblin smiled as he realized this whole group was out to hunt him. He decided it was time for his glorious end. He would lead these humans through pain and death before he would give up. No matter how many or few died now, it did not matter. He had slain a great many and had done his part. The goblin felt satisfied. Now it was merely time to see how much more he could do before it finally ended.

***

Mayitso sniffed the area as the rangers looked for evidence of the killer. They knew he often traveled by the trees but they were determined to find a trail, even if it meant searching for several days. The group had no idea they were being watched by their target. The goblin reached into his pouch and pulled out a small stone. It was time to get the adventure started. He took careful aim and flung the stone with all his might. It landed deeper in the woods.

Several of the people in the group heard the noise and slowly made their way in that direction. One of them suddenly disappeared as he fell into a hidden pit. Another ranger rushed forward to help. A yell of warning came too late. The pit trap had set off a second trap where a log swung in behind the blind spot of the man at the edge of the pit. He turned just in time to take the log to the side of his chest. If it had just hit his side it might have glanced off, but the turn had made things worse. The swinging log lifted the ranger off the ground and rammed him into a nearby tree.

The goblin grinned at the horrible crunching sound that come from that collision. Two rangers were certainly dead. The needles in the pit were coated with filth and poisons. After a careful search of the area, the two rangers were extracted from the traps. The one ranger's chest had been crushed. He was quite dead. The other was alive but bleeding. He was writing in pain from the toxins that now slid through his body. If the poison did not kill him, the infection from the filthy wounds almost certainly would.

The group used some of their clean water to clean out the wounds, but held out little hoped for the survivor. The rangers had heard the tales of a trap from Lunaris but they had not fully realized the situation until it happened before their very eyes. Kava merely shook her head at the growing realization among the overconfident Nuvroci that it might just be the goblinoids. The next several hours consisted of a sweep of the area for traps. The group quickly found over a dozen of the goblin's creations.

Finally dusk began to creep over the area and the group set up camp for the night. The fallen was buried outside the camp and the wounded man was laid by the fire to keep warm. He shivered despite the warm weather. The Hunter of Man watched the whole spectacle with glee. He had not expected his traps to hold up to someone looking for them. He was only one goblin after all. His crude creations had been born of haste. Most of his time had been spent in making sure they were concealed enough that only someone looking for them would find them.

“These traps are crude,” Medea said at the gathering of men and monsters, “We have to accept that this is the work of the goblinoids.”

“Perhaps it is true,” one of the rangers said, “But if it is, this is certainly not the work of just one little goblin. There must be dozens of the creatures working together to cause this much trouble.”

The discussions continued until it grew late. A pair of rangers kept watch as the rest of the group slept. The Beast that Takes Trophies slipped out of his hiding spot and crept forward towards the camp. He came first to the crude grave of the ranger with the crushed chest. He slowly and carefully dug into the dirt. He did not want to alert the humans. Finally he saw his prize. His dagger cut deeply into the ranger and removed the corpse's head.

He placed the severed head in a bag he had tied to himself. He then watched the two humans on watch. He waited patiently for a couple of hours to make sure the camp was asleep and the watch had become bored. Then the goblin slowly crept forward once more. The shivering ranger was still twitching near the fire and emitting a low moan. The goblin grinned toothily as he slipped past the two rangers on watch and neared the sick man. His knife plunged into the man's throat and ended his moans with a soft gurgle.

The goblin ripped the head from the body and let out a whoop as he leapt over the fire and dashed into the woods headed towards the swamp. The blood of the head left an obvious trail. The camp was soon awake and on his trail. They were hot on his heels, exactly as the goblin wanted. He kicked out at a hidden trigger, releasing a trap. He cackled loudly as he heard the scream behind him. He slid the severed head into his bag as he ran back towards his home. The pursuit had fallen behind thanks to the threat of the traps.

Enzi looked at the horrible spike that had been driven into one of the ranger's legs. The goblin had goaded them into following him. He was sharp. The raid into the camp had been daring, perhaps even too daring. This was a goblin with no fear of death. The Feergrus man could think of no foe more dangerous than one with no fear. However, it was a foe they could not afford to let survive. The group returned to camp and treated the wounded leg of the ranger.

The next morning most of the camp headed down the trail of their prey, carefully searching for traps. The wounded ranger limped back towards the base camp with another ranger as escort. The trip towards the goblin's home was treacherous. The group disarmed one trap after another. It made the progress quite slow. Soon they had to pause for the night. The watch was increased and at least one of the Irregulars was on watch for each shift.

The goblin knew he had an advantage in the dark. It was his time to take advantage of it. He could not allow his advantage to slip away. He gathered up several resources and began his new campaign. With a slingshot the goblin began lobbing objects towards the human camp. He was too far away to aim effectively. The distance was to keep the humans from targeting him as well. His goal was not to hurt any of the humans, although if that happened it would be an added bonus.

All night long the goblin pestered the humans and the Irregulars, moving from place to place and launching debris. He interrupted the sleep of the group. No one in the group dared to chase into the woods for fear of traps hidden in the darkness. As morning came the Hunter of Man slipped away back to his home to rest while the drowsy humans worked to disarm his traps. The Beast that Takes Trophies slept well. In the evening he prepared to harass his enemy once again. His goal was to keep them awake at night and force them to get their rest during the day. It did not hurt that being tired during their daily work to clear traps made them more likely to make a mistake.

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