By David Pontier
When Goblins Attack is the property of the author, David Pontier and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Email David with any comments and feedback on When Goblins Attack and visit his website at: http://www.geocities.com/piqsid/stories.html.
Chapter 3: The Ambush
Elliorn's group did not stay long in Hillcrest. They arrived in the small town shortly before nightfall. The trip up into the mountains had been rough. Snow had not fallen on Garrilport and was not expected for another few weeks. Climbing up into the mountains at this time of year was like experiencing the seasons in fast forward.
The group ate heartily and slept well in the small hotel above the local tavern. They woke early, loaded up with supplies, and set out. Elliorn was not familiar enough with this area to guess at a different route to the goblins' area, so she led the men toward the McClure cabin and then through the pass.
These men knew what to expect and had been instructed by the ranger on how they were going to approach. Several men, including Elliorn, had bows out and ready to shoot down any goblin scouts that might be able to announce their approach. The rest of the men had their swords ready. Even Elliorn, who normally only carried her bow, staff, and a few daggers, had a fine, Elven blade strapped to her hip.
She led them up from the ledge into the jagged peaks at about the same location she and Steven had climbed. She remembered the giant footprints and was pretty certain they would lead her to whatever cave or living environment the creatures had set up. She found the pass after half an hour of careful climbing, but the prints were gone. It had snowed almost every night since she had last been here, but she still had assumed that fresh prints would be here.
The pass itself looked like a riverbed. During the short spring and summer months, this pass ran with melted snow, and centuries of such activity created this wide pass amongst the rocky cliffs. As soon as they were all walking in the pass through the heavy snow that had collected in the wind trap, Elliorn grew nervous. She knew a good ambush site when she saw one.
In the pass, there was no cover to speak of, and the sides of the mini canyon were almost shear. With the deep snow they had to move through, a hasty retreat was not possible either. Still, she was yet to see any sign of activity around her. She had not even seen one track anywhere. Either the goblin she had killed several days ago had been lost, or the goblins were staying indoors for a reason.
They walked for no more than fifteen minutes before Elliorn held them up. John was at the end of the group, as he moved the slowest, but quickly worked his way to the front. "What is it?" His eyes were searching the peaks around them, but he saw nothing.
"Up there," she pointed straight ahead at the pass.
John looked but saw nothing. "I don't-"
"The snow drifts slightly," she explained. Now that John knew what to look for he could see it too, but how Elliorn had seen it or why it had made her stop the troupe was a mystery. "The wind should normally blow straight down this pass, but something up there has caused it to swirl slightly."
"An obstruction?" John ventured.
"A cave," she corrected. "Probably a large one."
She stayed motionless, examining the situation for a long while. "Are we going to continue?" John asked. "I mean isn't this why we came?"
Elliorn cast a look at both sides of the pass again, searching for something to indicate an ambush or at least some type of presence, but she saw nothing. "Yes, we will continue. I do not like it, but we will continue. After all, they are only goblins."
John let his men pass him by and took up his spot in the rear. The pass curved slightly as it neared the drift and that kept the cave mouth invisible until they were right upon it. The opening was roughly circular and slightly over four yards in diameter. The level of the snow was two feet from the bottom of the cave mouth, meaning it probably stood close to five feet off the floor of the pass, keeping it safe from the springtime river.
Slowly, Elliorn stepped up into the cave, the light from outside casting a long shadow on the floor before her. The men followed suit, and soon they were all creeping cautiously down the cave. Elliorn saw a brief shadow flutter across the floor as if a bird or something had flown by the cave opening. "John," she whispered harshly, knowing the captain would be in the rear, "check outside."
He had not seen the shadow, but as he turned, he watched as a few clumps of snow fell passed the opening. He and three other men moved silently toward the light. John got to the edge and peered out and up. Another clump of snow fell and hit him in the face. He growled and sputtered as he wiped it off. When he could see again, he found himself staring at a dozen grinning goblin faces.
The creatures screamed in attack as they jumped from their elevated position and rained down on the captain. John got his sword out in a hurry and skewered the first goblin to hit him. The dead goblin slid all the way to the hilt, and John before could remove it, a second foolishly fell on his blade. The weight of both creatures sent John's sword to the snow, and he had to fend of the other raining goblins with his fists.
The other three men that had accompanied him raced to his rescue, hacking up the goblins around their captain so John could free his sword from the two bodies at his feet. Once he got his weapon back, John laid waste to the goblins around him.
Inside the cave, Elliorn and the remaining six city guards heard the noise from outside, but they also heard noise from within the cave. Once they saw that John and the three other guards had things somewhat under control, they kept their attention ahead, not willing to turn their backs to the dark recesses of the cave. The dim light from outside reflected off the approaching eyes of the goblins, illuminating them long before their bodies became visible. There were dozens of them. Elliorn also noticed that two sets of eyes seemed to hover over the goblin hoard almost three yards off the ground. Giants!
"Everyone get back outside!" Elliorn cried. What kind of ranger was she if she could lead a group of men into an ambush set up by goblins?
They turned to rush outside, but an explosion near the mouth of the cave stopped them short. Elliorn raced to the front of the group as a second rock smash into the cave floor. She crept forward carefully just in time to see a third rock come shooting in. She jumped back barely in time to avoid getting crushed, but not before she saw the creature that had thrown it. More giants!
They were trapped, Elliorn knew that, but the goblins and giants within the cave could be dealt with. The marksmen on the cliffs out side could not. She pulled her staff from her back and moved back to stand between the men and the goblins. The creatures in the cave did not advance but milled about, stirring as if ready to charge but not doing so for the moment. Elliorn thought it looked like they were waiting for something. Then she heard a loud rumble from outside and swore.
Outside, John heard the rocks whizzing by and had a chance to look up. He did not like what he saw. Three giants stood across from the cave opening, hurling rocks down at them. The rocks were bigger than a man's torso, and would easily kill anything they hit. This was proven a few seconds later when a goblin leaped up into the cave and was pulverized.
John saw that the attacks were not meant to hit them, but to keep the rest of their party in the cave. The reason for this became obvious when the giants changed their target to the heavy snow bank above the cave opening. Four well-thrown rocks started the avalanche. John had nowhere to run.
Rock and snow came down in a tremendous rumble that echoed loudly down the pass. John tried to scramble out of the way, but he and his men were covered within seconds. Inside the cave, the noise was tenfold, but even more frightening than the noise, was the silence that came after. Darkness consumed them. No one even bothered to check the landslide for holes, knowing the cave was efficiently sealed off.
Elliorn reached for the unlit torch that hung by her side, opposite her sword. She quickly lit it. The eyes in the cave were visible once again, only this time they were advancing. She dropped the torch and readied her staff. It was impossible to miss her enemies for there were goblins all around her. Her weapon created a spinning shield and goblins flew away from her in every direction. She could here the cries of the men around her as they were struck, but Elliorn was yet to be hit.
That streak lasted ten entire seconds. At the end of that time a huge club, that Elliorn would have likened to a tree trunk if she had seen it coming, smacked her in the head from above, and she went down. Her last thoughts were of the torch extinguishing, but it was actually only her mind darkening as she lost consciousness.
* * *
John woke up slowly and thought he was blind. He blinked several times, but the image never changed. As his mind slowly retreated from unconsciousness he realized that it was not that he could not see anything, it was just everything he could see was the same. Then he remembered the avalanche. He was buried alive. Well, he thought, at least I am alive.
All he saw was white. As his eyes slowly came into focus, he began to see the crystal structure of the snow and other slight variations, confirming that he was not blind. He was lying on his stomach, his right arm pinned beneath him and the other outstretched to his left. Directly beneath his face his helmet had created a fairly large air pocket. He was glad he had worn his armor. It was not full plate, but it was more than most of the other men had worn. If it had not been for that, he would have been crushed. Also, if he had been lying on his back, he probably would have suffocated.
He tried to move but was mostly unsuccessful. The most he could do was shake his head around. Having first thought he was blind, now he was amazed at how much he could see. He had not been buried in a snow avalanche that often before - this was his first - but he had guessed it would be darker. Also he seemed to be able to breathe rather easily. If air and light were filtering in through the snow, that probably meant he was not very deep in the pile.
He could move his head about, but not enough to tell for sure from which direction the light was coming. Bracing his arm beneath him, he pushed hard against the snow above him, and felt it give slightly. With a little room now, he slammed his back into the ceiling again, listening as the snow packed together, another sign he was not that deep in the snow.
Soon he could move his right arm back and forth beneath him. He extended it to his waist and was happy to find the handle of his torch still attached. He brought that up in front of his face. The torch was wet, but it was also soaked in oil, and he hoped it would light. Before he did, though, he pulled his face guard down. This was going to be hot.
The torch sputtered at first, but the heat was enough to begin a small rain shower on the back of John's head. Before the heat became too much, John was able to angle the flame above his head slowly, hoping that the snow above him was melting fast enough so he did not thrust the torch into the snow. He was getting very wet as the melted snow continued to rain down, and the flame was stealing the oxygen from his small space.
John held his breath and kept slowly moving the torch above his head. Suddenly he felt a rush of air on the back of his neck and the rain slowly let up. He was through! He slowly brought the torch back down, moving it side to side to melt as much snow as possible. When the flame was near his head again, he moved it forward this time, careful to melt the snow evenly so he did not create a mini avalanche that would put the torch out.
It took a while, but when John could finally move his upper body, he pulled and tugged until his legs began to move. His left hand was holding his sword, and he had to let it go to free himself. After ten minutes of strenuous work, he was free. It took him a minute or two to locate his sword; it was not too deep either.
John took stock of his situation while he warmed himself with his torch. The avalanche had been complete. The pass now looked like a box canyon with no feasible way to dig through. He had been on the very perimeter of the slide, only three feet from the edge.
John looked suddenly up at the cliffs around and above him. They were empty. He breathed a sigh of relief. If he had been any deeper inside the pile, he would not have been able to get out, or would have been crushed to death instantly. If he had been any closer to the edge, the giants would have seen that he had escaped and finished their dirty work.
John returned his thoughts to the avalanche and his men buried inside. He wanted to start digging, but common sense began to set in. They could not still be alive. Also, there was only a few hours left of daytime, and he was cold and wet. If he did not find shelter, he would die. John said a brief prayer for his men and then moved quickly away, heading for the McClure cabin. He promised himself he would come back. And when he did, he was going to bring an army.
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