Still curious about the attacks by the goblins, Emmeline approached a villager. Sometimes, she knew, common folk knew a lot more than those in charge simply because it can be hard to approach an authority figure like a noble.
“Hi there,” she said to someone she recognized as having been saved from the slave pens by her companions and herself. “Have you a moment to speak with me about those goblins?”
The young woman looked up. Clearly recognizing Emmeline, she nodded.
“I’m Emmeline, by the way.” She stuck her hand out in a common, friendly gesture of introduction that was paired with a charming smile.
The woman took her hand and said, “I’m Sevé.”
She paused and said, “They came upon us at night suddenly. We didn’t hear anything until it was too late.”
Emmeline frowned sympathetically as she imagined the horror of waking up to chaos, sounds of goblins breaking into houses, screaming women and children, then being corralled, roped and drug off. “So that was it. No warning, no cause, just all of a sudden those green terrors showed up and made people work at the mine or die?”
“No, some of us didn’t even wake up,” she explained, “as I understand it the nightwatchman was dispatched first. Poor Malo, all he ever had to fight was a hungry wolf. After him the monsters carefully went from house to house. Everyone said they heard nothing until it was too late. Esté told me she couldn’t even scream out words of warning. It was as if her voice disappeared. By the time they got to my house, they must have gotten sloppy. My daughter heard a noise and woke me. I saw out the window a shadow, darker than night creeping from house to house. A few of the men by this time had been alerted, but it was too late – they were now easily outnumbered. I barely had time to hide my daughter and son before I too was captured.”
She paused, obviously upset, but continued, “Nearly all the town was captured and led north to the old dwarf mine. That was horrible. They killed a couple of old women and one old man. I don’t know what happened to their bodies after that. Best not to think about it…”
“I’m terribly sorry all that happened,” Emmeline said. “I really didn’t mean to upset you, but I was curious because I would really like to bring word of what happened to people out here to other towns and villages in the north. In song and poem, I mean. I want to tell the story of how brave you and all your people were for holding yourselves and each other together through such a frightful series of events. I want everyone to know that goblins are out there and they can strike. People need to be on guard, the lords of the land must send stronger patrols and scouts to protect people who live out here. Maybe your story could be told in a way that celebrates your strength but also warns others to prepare in case these creatures might come again.”
She replied, “We’d had peace for over a score years. There are a dozen villages in the valley and innumerable small farmsteads. The ones higher in the valley, no one knows if they were attacked or not, but no refugees ever appeared from there. We are proud and independent. We don’t want to rely on the Baron of Uzec or any of his kind. Finding the old Dwarven mine this year opened up a lot of possibilities, but from what I’m told it really isn’t very productive in the long run. We are farmers, herders and ranchers up here. Even with that small mine, I can’t believe we would have anything they would want. The men said they were forced to dig and keep their eyes out for black rock, crystal or carvings. I really don’t think they were looking for silver. They didn’t even dig in the mine proper, but in the old mining citadel ruins buried in the hill above the mine. Hard to tell them apart.”
She paused and reflected, “though there was those strangers that visited last month. A foreign couple. Apparently they asked a lot of questions. I think Fané said that Udo the mine foreman addressed most of them, but he is dead. But,” she thought,” I think Udo’s brother heard most of it. His name is Poul. He’s right over there.” She points to a group of ragged men at a table across the building. The man Sevé points to wears a cap and has a pale complexion, making his unshaven appearance even rougher.
“Thank you, Sevé. I will ask him.” Emmeline bid Sevé adieu and then made her wear to the man she identified as Poul.
“Excuse me, sir. My name is Emmeline, part of the group that was fortunate enough to get the drop on those awful goblins that … well. You know. I understand that before the goblins arrived, there were a pair of strangers that had come through last month. Would you share with me what it was they wanted?”
Poul looked over and smiled the kind of smile that always made Emmeline uncomfortable, but she was sadly used to, “Of course child, take a seat. We don’t get too many passers by like those. We had just reopened the old Dwarven mine and the couple approached my brother and I. The man was older, gaunt-looking, with an odd accent – maybe an Easterner or from the Rift country? The woman was tall, less gaunt, but certainly thin. She had long white hair, and I think, maybe an elf or of elven blood. At least I think so, I only got a glimpse under her cloak. She spoke to the man, I think his name was Tudor Rick, or Tuderic in an odd accent as well, but I couldn’t make it out. I don’t think it was even in the Common speech.”
“They asked us if it they could purchase rights to the mine for a season. We’d only discovered it a few months before, but hadn’t extracted much yet. But their interest convinced my brother there must be more to the mine, so he said no. They offered a good deal, some thousands of gold, but my brother said no again. Then they asked if they could explore the area for a couple of days. Again, my brother said no. Udo didn’t like others in his claim. Adventurers had scoured the area a couple years before, when he was prospecting and, well, he didn’t want to get robbed again. Anyway, he sent them away.”
“Tuderic? Sounds like an old imperial name to me,” Emmeline said. “So when they couldn’t buy rights to the mine, they brought in goblins to force the issue. Sounds to me like the strong-arm tactic of an age long past, but an evil jerk is an evil jerk in any age, am I right?”
“They are evil all right. Now I’ve seen strong arming before, but nothing like this. People are truly scared. There is some talk of moving out of the valley entirely. How can you fight something like this? The hordes of Haalkhan are back, ‘cept they are green and eat you. As far as Imperial, I cannot say, but they were strange. If they brought on the goblins, then they have some sway over the basest of evil. Or maybe one had nothing to do with the other, as the goblins were led by some kind of goblin sorcerer and a cloaked black-haired woman. She’s thin, but not the same person. Unless they were transformed by magic or something? It’s too much for this merchant too deal with frankly.”
“Hm,” Emmeline mused. “That means there are a lot of parties involved and that can be quite confusing. It’s difficult to tell a tale of woe and heroism when one does not know who the enemies is.” She flashed a quick smile before growing serious again. She knew how to distract, how that smile tended could make a man forget what he was just talking about. “Well I suppose that as a humble entertainer, I’ve interfered more than enough here. Thank you sir, for speaking with me.”
“No problem child. But I think they must have disguised themselves, I mean I heard the goblin transformed into a sheep and she became a harpy or something. They did transform. Must be. I mean magic can do that, right? Well, they headed south when they left, likely to Uzec and beyond. Maybe someone there saw something. There are only a few inns in Uzec, and they were pretty unique, shouldn’t be hard to find someone who talked to them.”
Emmeline smiled. “If I happen by that way, I might ask around.”