The original timeframe of the journey stretched out several more days due to more difficulty navigating terrain than expected, but wasn’t that how everything went in the long term? Unless something had been done many times before, there were always unforeseen difficulties. Honestly, there was a good chance that things could have gone worse than just delays. In the next day or two they might spy their destination on the horizon, depending on the exact layout of terrain.
The growl and bark from Brick’s small vocal chords wasn’t very loud or particularly threatening sounding, but it did its job to get attention. Frederick Hughes turned his head to look towards Brick and then where he was looking. Reln was slightly faster, and yanked on his arm, pulling him out of the way of arrows. Fred had just barely seen them, but seeing something and comprehending them was different. “Attackers!” Fred called out. It wasn’t the most descriptive warning, but it got the point across.
Reln and Fred were on the left side of the wagon, and they dropped around to the rear and to the other side to avoid more arrows. Fred could just barely make out goblins concealed in the bushes firing at them. Half the size of a man, with skin that usually ranged from green to brown, goblins were nonetheless dangerous despite their size. Their bows couldn’t pierce plate, but nobody was wearing much in the way of armor. With the number of arrow shafts flying from the woods, there were more than a couple. Calls of alarm came from other parts of the caravan.
The woods to the other side had more goblins, and Fred found himself diving back around and frantically climbing into the wagon. Arrows swished past him, hitting the wagon and landing in the dirt around him. Inside the wagon he could probably just duck down behind the wooden sides, but Eustathios was still out front driving the wagon. He couldn’t just leave him out there.
As he grabbed the pitchfork the wagon stopped and he looked out the back. Eustathios was running off to the left side of the wagon, shortsword in hand. Reln had managed to grab a mallet and was moving that way as well. On the other side, Thazeln was running into the woods with an axe. “Brick! Go help Thazeln!” He didn’t want to send the little dog into danger, but then again the danger had come to them. He wasn’t even sure if Brick would understand the order.
Fred was about to step out and go support Thazeln when he saw several small figures dart out of the woods towards the wagon. He ducked behind the canvas, hoping they had somehow not noticed him despite his shouting. He heard their feet pounding closer and tightened his grip on the pitchfork. When they had to be close, he moved- taking only the barest moment to make sure it wasn’t anyone he recognized- and thrust out with the pitchfork.
They were much lower than he had expected and the awkward angle meant he couldn’t aim for the chest as he planned but the head. One of the prongs of the pitchfork scraped along the outside of the skull of a goblin, sending it reeling back. There were still two more with spears at the ready- but their spears were no longer than his pitchfork. Fred’s own arms were longer, and he jabbed at them with the pitchfork, keeping them at bay. The wagon gave him cover on his legs, and he was able to keep a stalemate against the two goblins. The first one he had injured had run fleeing into the woods already, leaving a trail of blood.
A series of barks made the goblins by the wagon turn their head, and by the time Fred could think to properly thrust at them they were fleeing off into the woods. Brick came running into view, and a brief view of him made Fred realize something. While Brick was still basically a puppy, from a goblin’s perspective he was still nearly equivalent in size to a great dane. Waist height dogs could be quite frightening… and Brick had blood on his mouth. He sat down at the base of the wagon, wagging his tail as he looked up at Fred.
Fred climbed down from the wagon and looked around. Thazeln was walking back towards the wagon and the other two seemed alright as well. Fred reached down and patted Brick on the head. “Good boy.” Brick licked his hand, leaving a trail of blood. He wasn’t sure if he wanted a vicious dog… but Brick hadn’t even attempted to bite anyone he liked yet. “Let’s check on the other wagons! One of you… Thazeln, you stay guard here, inside the wagon!” Thazeln nodded.
By the time Fred got to the front of the wagon Reln and Eustathios were halfway to the one in front of them, just fifty or so feet ahead. The half-orc stabbed at one fleeing goblin who had an armful of things taken from the wagon, but most of the goblins were already gone. After a few short minutes of chaos, there was time spent binding wounds and the like. Fred had a long gash on his forearm he had no idea how he got, though he could certainly guess. Thazeln had an arrow in his gut, but his belly was thick enough with muscle and fat that it hadn’t gone too deep. Not all of the rest of the caravan was so lucky. Two people had died, and several more were seriously wounded. About a dozen goblins had been killed in the attack, and many more were wounded and driven off that way. Some had managed to flee with some supplies from the wagons, but nothing critical seemed to be missing.
Fred found his way to Lavias Tophill. One of the caravaneers was cleaning up a gash on his cheek. “These are the goblins you saw, then? I’d hoped we left them behind a week ago.”
Lavias shook his head. “No. Actually, I don’t think they are. As you said, I spotted the others far back and hadn’t seen any since. It was unlikely they would have been tracking us for so long without attacking, and unnoticed too.” He pointed to a dead goblin by the side of the ‘road’. “See that? Yellow feathers on their arrows, and more furs than leathers. I think this is a different group. I wouldn’t be concerned with the others, though.”
Just because he was told that didn’t mean Fred could stop worrying about it. The attack would put a damper on the enthusiasm everyone had for the final leg of the journey. Steven and Arlen… while Fred hadn’t known much more than their names, they were people. And now they were dead. He could have easily been one of them. Perhaps he should have chosen a different life for himself. What was he thinking, that he could handle himself without any special skills out on the frontier? He’d spend his whole life in offices and urban areas with trimmed lawns.
The last days of the trip were tense. Every time a stick cracked Fred whipped his head around… but it was either a wagon or Brick or someone else scouting around looking for goblins. Sleeping was difficult, but at least the noises of owls and other night animals were distinct enough to recognize as not being goblins.
Fred found that others didn’t seem to have so much difficulty, but then again some of them had been in real fights before. That wouldn’t necessarily make it less concerning to them, but they might know how to handle it. Or they just didn’t show it. Fred supposed it was better not to pry.
The wagons continued onward during the day, and as it turned out there wasn’t a grand view of the future site of their little village. Then again, when they finally arrived it wasn’t so distinct that they would have necessarily been able to spot it.
When the wagons all started pulling up to a stop before it was time to set up camp, Fred looked around. Then he asked Eustathios, “Any idea why we’re stopping?”
“I think this is it,” he waved his arm around. “The site of our grand future.”
Fred looked around, squinting his eyes. It was basically a field with a moderately sized stream nearby. Even that wasn’t quite true, because the ‘field’ was half filled with bushes and trees. He could certainly see potential, but it really was just land at the moment. Then again, every settlement had to start that way.
Before they began setting up camp, they began work. The word came back that they were supposed to start clearing the field… so clear they did. Everyone seemed to have a different idea of what that meant, but Thazeln took out a shovel and started digging out bushes. “Trees will take more work,” he said, “Might as well clear things up first. Give us more room to set up and all.”
Fred agreed. He looked around, seeing that a few people were chopping down trees- small trees less than a foot thick, but still significant. As they fell the trees came far too close to hitting wagons, horses, and people. Then there were still stumps that would need to be cleared. It wasn’t that things weren’t getting done. Everyone was competent enough to work… but so many people were sitting around with nothing they could do. Maiele seemed to be doing her best to get things going but it wasn’t enough. Could he do anything? Could he afford not to? The only problem was he didn’t know what needed to be done.