The next 10 days provided the group with a relatively peaceful and relaxing ride through the beautiful woodlands. The darkness of the woods seemed to have lifted, Y’smir believed it to be the work of the Court of Stars.

“Their job is to banish that which is unnatural from our world. They care little for the good or evil they do, their only love is the forest,” she told them more than once.

The group had chatted readily during the downtime, yet as time wore on Azoloth grew silent more and more. The fate of the Kingdom rested heavily upon his shoulders. It had been nearly a month now since Sir Gregory had been slain in the treacherous attack by the Queens forces. They had been forced to flee, and he did not know what transpired in the surrounding Kingdom. The only thing that lightened his burden is those who still lived and were closest to him were with him here. At the thought, he patted Stravos’ neck and smiled down to Crimson. He took a deep breath, enjoying the comfortable weight of Y’smir who was pressed against him from behind.

During this respite, each of the companions had shared their stories. Trinsic spoke of his upbringing in the thieves’ guild of Nezbin before being rescued by Sir Gregory from a beating for cutting a man’s purse strings. Azoloth spoke of life in his village and his Mother. Both men spoke of their time as Squires under Sir Gregory. Y’smir told them in turn about what it was like growing up among the Druids. Yes, there were horrors to be had in plenty there, but also joys and fond memories. She expressed her desire to help them save the Kingdom. She explained that if they could best a Demon Lord here without the use of Blood Magic, mayhap the Druids of the Emberwood could be convinced to change their ways. Maybe they would join in a grand crusade against the Demons. The young often have such lofty ambitions and naïve dreams. Rarely do they survive in the real world.

The peace of the day was shattered with Crimsons baritone growl. All three of the companions were instantly alert. The hairs stood up on the back of Azoloths neck as he looked around. Hand headed towards his sword, he froze as soon as an arrow sailed out of the trees and embedded into a tree right next to him. Rough voices carried through the words, they could not make out the words, yet their intent was clear. Azoloth held both of his hands up and away from his weapons.

Azoloth felt Y’smir go still behind him, however, Trinsic was not that smart. He attempted to dart away and a heavy bola flew from the shadows and struck him on the side of his head. The heavy thunk of leather bouncing off bone was followed by the heavier thud of his body hitting the earth. Azoloth took the momentary distraction to let out a low whistle. They had trained Crimson for years for this type of ambush. The canine burst forward, between two of the emerging Goblins, and off into the forest. Azoloth smiled to himself as the Goblins hurled spears, which missed the dog. Azoloth was paid back in kind for the act though and one of the larger Goblins standing at around 4 feet tall came up and struck him in the stomach with the handle of a polearm. Even with his Gameson on, the blow was enough to cause Azoloth to double over in his saddle as the wind knocked out of him. Strong hands grabbed him, pulling him from the saddle. While the Goblins were smaller than a man, their green skin showed thick corded muscles working as they held him in place. As he was drug from the saddle, he caught sight of Y’smir who had quietly raised her hands in the air. 

Y’smir paled as she looked at the Goblins. Of course, with their short stature, green wrinkly skin, and overly large facial features, they were horrific to look at. However, it was their reputation which had her palling, and likely why Trinsic had attempted to draw his sword. Goblins were known for their cruelty and ruthlessness, said to be worse than the Demons and their deprivations.

This was the first time Azoloth had seen a Goblin up close. He noted their skin was covered in bumpy green warts. Each one only wore a loincloth, and each of them carried a bow on his back and a wicked-looking polearm in his hands. Azoloth noted the polearms were made of wood and bone. A few of the Goblins bore finer weapons, one held a sword and another an axe. These better weapons and the bows were obviously looted from some poor dead travelers. 

Y’smir and Azoloth were hauled roughly to their knee’s, and the goblins used short lengths of twine to bind their wrists behind their backs. Then another course loop of rope was slipped over their necks. Trinsic was unconscious on the ground and was being trussed up as if he were a hog. They likely viewed him as more of a threat since he ignored their initial orders. 

As if they were sacks of grain, all three were thrown over the backs of the horses. Azoloth gave a click of his tongue when Stravos objected to being led by the Goblins. Azoloth knew he would need his steed and canine companions to get out of this in the end. It would do him no good if the Goblins slaughtered Stravos now for his meat instead of using him to carry them. Hesitantly, the steed allowed himself to be led after that, following the Goblins deep into the woods. 

In the several long hours it took them to reach the Goblin village, Trinisc had come to groaning, trying to lift his head from where it hung at his horse’s side he puked. The Goblins only laughed and mocked him. The Goblin village looked like it held around 20 huts, mainly made of straw and mud. Goblins were not very sophisticated, but despite that they were cunning and deadly foes.

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