The Dwarf Cleric’s camp was tucked away in a thin forest. Underbrush and low trees obscured lines of sight. We saw campfire smoke so we approached with caution. When we stormed the camp’s perimeter, we found no one.
The camp may have been here a week. It had two dead hobgoblins. They hadn’t been dead for very long. Xel’Xaran and Ayreskin scouted the surroundings for tracks as the rest of the group searched the encampment and checked the hobgoblin corpses for gear. Much of what was found at that camp were bags of horribly rotten food. ‘Food’ being the wrong word for whatever the material was, but accurate in that something had intended to consume it. Gord found rope, or the remains of ropes. Someone had been tied up, and then their bonds cut.
Our Barbarian newcomer found tracks leading away from the site. Six to eight humanoids, likely hobgoblin, and the tracks were perhaps an hour old. They were in hasty retreat.
We followed. Dax, Düd, Ayreskin, Xel’Xaran led the way, scouting effectively and keeping us on track. Adiana, Alex and I followed in the back of the pack. We didn’t share the eagerness of BOB, Pulp, Gord. Even Isis, who normally doesn’t get excited about very much, looked ahead anxiously.
After an hour we came upon a corpse. A dead Dwarf. And not the Dwarf Cleric we had seen in combat yesterday. This Dwarf was not wearing metal armor. Alex and I took a close look. The dead Dwarf was in poor health before he died.
Pressing on, our eager associates wanted to make ground. They scoffed at the idea of lunch. We stopped only as long as absolutely necessary, then moved on. Now and again we would find discarded items from the fleeing foes, who at that time we thought to be hobgoblins.
Bags of spoiled rations; mundane equipment; eventually even armaments and armor were cast aside as our targets lightened their loads. I wondered aloud why the enemies were dumping critical survival gear, unless they were in the final sprint before making it to the safety of home territory.
Shortly after, we caught sight them. They were spotted at a distance of about seven hundred feet away. They were Dwarves.
A painful exercise in pursuit and flight took place; we would advance in jogs and sprints to catch up, the Dwarves would nudge ahead of us. It was a long, drawn-out foot race.
At no point did anyone think to question the situation. Why were we chasing Dwarves as if they were more hobgoblins ? Thinking on it now, this angers and frustrates me. At the time, I was simply running to keep pace with my companions, who might need healing in what looked to be another fight about to happen. It would be a lopsided battle, but not in any way requiring my assistance in the usual fashion.
The end result was predictable. As our ranged attacks slowed the Dwarves’ retreat, they turned to fight. The Cleric from yesterday led them. BOB and Ayreskin were first to arrive, others joined the fight moments later. Isis barely broke a swift stride in the last distance to the Dwarves. As eager as he had been all morning, he didn’t seem to want to dirty his hands in this melee.
Six Dwarves. Five went down in the fight. Ayreskin deftly pulled punches with his weapon. He dealt the Dwarf Cleric enough nonlethal damage to knock the Dwarf unconscious. Pursuit and combat were over.
This was the start of things going really wrong.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
43rd Day, grasslands, territory of Ælim.