This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
[Before reading, please be aware that there may be spoilers ahead for the D&D campaign books. Equally, our stories are fluid, so things may not follow the books too directly]
“I’ll fight yah in single combat!” Burian called out, trying to appear as confidant as possible. It was clear that the group was suffering without Enna, Levan and Luna, so to his mind, bluffing the hobgoblin chieftain with supreme confidence in his own fighting ability was the only way to go.
“No weapons!” the druid added, hoping that the hobgoblin would leave the greatsword on his back away from the fight. If he was unarmed, there was a chance Burian could take him down in a more predatory form.
“He’s an idiot,” Kalashnikov cut the tension with an insult, as always, “None of us want your stupid chair, and you don’t want to fight us.” At the same moment, Burian tripped over a flagstone in his posturing, and the chief sneered at the thought that this bumbling fool could fight him in combat.
“I would rip you apart, little man” he growled, making his way around the deep shaft.
“Challenge is on, deal, I would like your warriors to step back, as will…mine.” the druid’s bravado dropped a little here, not sure his brother could abide by this charade, “Mah…mah warriors. Honest, they report to me.”
He walks closer, and Burian realised that against the curved backdrop of the room, the hobgoblin’s size had appeared deceptively smaller. In fact, the hobgoblin boss was about twice the height of the stout-but-short dwarf, and appeared to be fingering the handle of his weapon.
“Ah, you’re a little goblin then,” Burian tried to continue the bluff, faltering more than a little, “How we doin’ this? I reckon fisticuffs. I will kill ya with these two fists!”
Whilst the hobgoblin considered his prey, Kalashnikov sidled up to his druid brother, and whispered to him through his beard “Ah…don’t think you’ve got this brother.”
“Just wai’ for it, I’m gonna turn into a bear as soon as he drops tha’ sword” the druid replied quickly.
“Yes, I know ya will turn into a bear, but ‘e’ll kill the bear! Look at that fucker! ‘e looks like ‘e’s half bear” the warlock hastily whispered, concern for his own wellbeing boiling over since it now seemed to rely upon his hated brother.
“Alright then, any funny business, and my warriors will kill all your friends,” the hobgoblin threatened, and as Burian was trying to respond with a similar boast, the door they had entered through slammed shut.
Now that Kalashnikov, Drenk, Knott, Logan, the gnome and even Jester were trapped in the room, Knott tried to interrupt the fight by asking some questions.
“Before you fight this dwarf to the death, I’d just like to check, have you seen any rings or apples about?” the elf called out, before those with keen eyes noticed that the chief was wearing a gold signet ring, possibly that of one of the Hucrele’s.
“So, are we having a fight? Or did you want to talk?” the hobgoblin said by way of a response to Knott, and motioned to his spearmen as Drenk attempted to get closer to the well, to have a good look down. The hobgoblins with spears pushed him back, stopping him from looking.
“I’d quite like to talk!” Jester called out, louder than Burian’s wavering “Ah’d prefer to get this fight finished.”
“We’re not here for your throne,” Drenk continued, “Only here to look for a few things.”
“Ah suppose we could do a more friendly fight? For the apples, ah mean.” Burian conceded, but the glare he received from the hobgoblin told him that was not an option.
“I only fight to the death, and this dwarf has challenged me. We shall fight, it matters not to me how quickly his death comes.”
Kalashnikov and Burian were still talking in muted tones to each other, and the warlock added under his breath “Ya seem intent on dying today brother.”
“Ah can’t back down now! Not in front of this hobgoblin. He’s double mah height!” the druid protested, earning a begrudging modicum of brotherly pride from the warlock, as their matching duo of inferiority complex’s won out.
“Ah can respect that Burian. Ah really can.” Kalashnikov said.
“It’ll be a noble death,” Jester hissed, having appeared behind the brothers Roundtree and Rowntree, making them jump.
Kalashnikov addressed the huge hobgoblin directly, delaying the death of his brother further.
“Now just ignore him, for like two seconds, we’ve all tried it and got there eventually. We’ve been sent here t’ find certain people and acquire certain…”
“Evidence!” Drenk chipped in.
“Items, yes. We’re very sorry we killed ya men, they were…in the way…unfortunately…” the warlock continued, looking around at his companions, all of whom seemed completely taken aback that Kalashnikov even remembered they were nominally here to find people, not apples. Eyes flicking to the vines rapidly, he continued, “So, from one extravagant individual to another, I really think we can come to an understanding.”
“There have not been any people in this citadel in over a month. Other than the one on your skeleton, there have only been three people come through this way.”
“That’s mighty int’restin’, considerin’ yah jewellery.” Kalashnikov pointed at the ring shining on his pinky finger, but the hobgoblin only shrugged.
“What way did they go?” Drenk asked the direct question, as always.
“Well, I have an agreement with the one who looks after the tree. I send any of my prisoners down to him, but I killed one of them, just to…send a message” said the boss, with a gleam in his eye.
“How can he send a message if he can’t tell anybody?” the half-orc picked the statement apart quizzically, and that gleam was extinguished by confusion before the chief recovered.
“Send a message to him, that I’m the one in charge up here.” The hobgoblin gestured down the pit, indicating the master below.
“You do not sound like you’re friends with this Belak, why is he still here?” Jester asked,
“He was here before I was, and from what I know he was here long before any us of lived here.” The warlord responded, trying to mask the fact he was obviously frustrated about the situation.
“We desire the one of the one as much as you do, ah presume. So ah’m wonderin’ if we couldn’t come to an understandin’. As an enemy of mah enemy is mah friend and all that.” Kalashnikov reasoned out, thinking he might have convinced the hobgoblin.
“See now, I like you. I like the way you think. However, this one has insulted me, and I cannot back down from this fight.” The chief turned back towards Burian, who had been rolling his shoulders and cracking his knuckles throughout.
“Well, can we postpone the fight, in any way shape or form? We’re here on business matters, and while he is, unfortunately, an affront to nature,” Kalashnikov continued over the top of Burian’s, the druid to his unnatural warlock, blustering, “his existence belongs in this group.”
“How about a fight to unconsciousness rather than death?” the half-orc tried to convince the chief, to no avail.
“I only do to the death.”
“Alright then. Now, just let me get my full armour on,” Burian said, hoping to confuse the chieftain to such an extent that if he turned into a bear, the chief would just roll with it, but of course, this was not to be.
“I can see you’ve already got armour and a shield. For the sake of being fair, you can keep the shield, puny dwarf. We said no weapons, fisticuffs alone, you’ll need that shield.
“Ah, well, that seems fair,” Kalashnikov interrupted the pre-fight rule-laying, “Ah understand the merits of tradition, but as one who has also seen the shackles of family tradition, ah also know that business must come first. Surely we can do a deal?”
“How about this? I have one fight with your friend here, and if he kills me, you’re free to do whatever you want and my men will back down. If I kill him, all is well, and I’ll allow you to go looking for the man down below.”
“I think this might be the best deal we’ll get.” Knott said to the group, and Kalashnikov responded for them, “Ah accept you’re offer. Good luck brother.” He said
“Don’t worry Burian, if you die, we’ll be sure to tell your story.” Jester reassured the druid, patting him on the shoulder before pushing him into the ring…