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No good deed

A halfling is suckered into being the unhappy host to a group of adventurers

“Ugh, Cursed Red Fangs!” She peeked out from behind a rock. Six or seven rust monsters stalked the trail ahead of her. This was the only way to the goblin’s camp. She knew she didn’t have any choice but to continue, and the goblins certainly knew that, too. She reached behind her back and tugged at the straps holding her armor on. It would be easy to pass them, as long as she stripped off her armor. It was cold tonight, too, she thought.

Her armor was leather mostly, light and easy to move in, but parts of it were lined with iron and silver studs. Despite their weight, they were two crucial metals for a thief. She spent a lot of time at night, in the forest, alone; casing for jobs, lying in wait for guards to leave, the iron helped to protect her from the fey and the wildlings. Not that it would prevent them from harming her, it served more as a warning that she could be a lot more trouble than a different target. The threat of a struggle is what really kept them away.

The silver served a more defensible position. Many honest men hired thieves to retrieve family heirlooms and lost treasures from haunted grounds. The silver studded leather would repel the malign spirits, disrupting them and allowing her to escape, with the treasure of course. Although the malign bit was negligible to her. She was just as pleased to be rid of the pleasant spirits as well. She liked to keep the dead far away from her. Most halflings did.

She had followed their tracks up here. The little devils might be sneaky, but they were a far cry from discrete. Her house had been ransacked. They had, of course, missed most of the valuables, instead taking common things. Perhaps fire pokers and pie pans were of great value to the goblins. She had no idea. She just knew that if she didn’t respond appropriately to the invasion, it would only happen again, and get worse.

Quietly she dug a hole behind the rock. All of her armor, her weapons, and her valuables went in. So long as she didn’t carry any metal past them, they wouldn’t even notice her presence. She kicked the dirt back over her belongings and knelt over it. With her finger, she traced a few runes in the dirt over the hole she had dug. Kissing her finger, then pressing the kiss into the dirt caused the lines she had traced to glow faintly blue. That would keep her things safe, just in case any goblins were lying in wait, to steal what she left behind.

It was getting frightening how much the goblins were able to learn and manipulate the ways of humans and other more sentient races. They used to be great training fodder for young adventurers, so inept at fighting or strategizing that the novices were never in any sort of danger. Being captured and slaughtered en masse had driven them out of the open forest. They had hidden in caves or burrows underground, but they had watched.

They had found new allies in the darkness. They had domesticated or enslaved depending on how domestic goblins can be in the first place, but certainly harnessed the power of many of the pests they had encountered. Their plans for revenge had not been grand, they were after still only goblins, finding satisfaction mostly in ransacking vacant homes, destroying anything they could find. From time to time, you would hear of them ambushing travelers, but that was rare, and even rarer was it successful.

This was their newest tactic. The rust monsters were between two rocks at a pass ahead of her. They were tied so they couldn’t wander off, which they were prone to do. They were placed so anyone hoping to pass would have to be in their reach. It was really cold tonight, she thought. She rubbed her palms on her upper arms as she stepped from behind the rock. She kept her sling, the simple scrap of leather was the only weapon she could get past with, but at least she wasn’t unarmed. The goblins wouldn’t be too much smaller than her, and she wasn’t interested in hand to hand fight with the whole colony. Killing a few of the larger ones from a distance should be enough to send the rest fleeing.

The leather armor was stuffy underneath, but she was regretting having dressed so light now. She wore short pants, barely reaching her thigh and cloth tunic, with no sleeves, that failed to cover her midsection. She was plump and rotund, as most halflings were. Her hands and feet were larger in proportion to the rest of her body. She moved low to the ground, her feet padding silently as she approached the monsters.

Almost imperceptibly she crept past the first few, but as she began to relax, she saw one of the monsters ahead of her perk up, his head rising in attention. He looked as if he had caught the scent of something to corrode, but it couldn’t be. She checked back over what she buried and she moved closer.

She hadn’t worn shoes, halflings never really did. She could feel the creature’s breath on her legs as she passed them. The breeze was bracing against her shoulders and stomach; that was evidence enough that she had left her tunic. She could feel there was nothing around her neck, her hair was pinned up over her head.

Wait, her hair was pinned up, which pin was that? She wondered. Slowly she reached to check. She felt the wood in her hand and breathed a sigh of relief. The creature ahead of her jumped up suddenly, as her finger traced down the pin, to the copper ring at its head. Sadly, this metal was strictly decorative and served no purpose, except of course to alert the monsters all around her to her presence.

Pulling it from her hair, she threw it at the screaming monster. The pin stuck straight into its neck, it was too late, though. His screams had woken the others, who roused from their sleep to notice the shiny metal ring, sticking out of their friend. They pounced instantly, tearing the poor creature apart, Lussi ran, reaching the other side safely to see the cries of the rust monsters alerting the goblins to her arrival.

Grabbing a handful of rocks she loaded one into her sling. She spun it for momentum quickly and let it fly at the largest goblin she could see. The rock was too small, it glanced off of him. Picking a larger one she aimed for a wolf rider rushing to the head of the mob. She hit the wolf in the side, it whimpered and jump to the side, the goblin on top toppled from his seat, the reins keeping him strapped to the wolf as it ran away. An archer took position at the top of a rock. Several quick shots to the area around him sent him scurrying for cover.

She couldn’t hold them all off though. She would need a more aggressive tactic. She looked around quickly, a goblin camp usually had a horde of fire hazards waiting to be set off, she just had to find the right target. There it was, towards the back, by their tents, it wouldn’t be easy to get to but she saw a large bubbling cauldron; that would do nicely.

She ran toward the advancing mob, screaming wildly at them. A few were always turned away by this, they cowered and hid on the sidelines. Charging at the first brave goblin she could find, she leaped at him; her feet finding purchase on his head and propelling her high into the air. She came down on a large one and brought him crashing into two behind him. Springing over them she dodged around the three coming up behind them. With expert timing, she stopped short, allowing a small dart to pass harmlessly in front of her, instead of hitting her and poisoning her slowly. She flung a rock into the bushes and hit the shooter.

Rolling between the legs of a larger goblin running at her, she hesitated for a second, sizing up the two goblins standing between her and the vantage point she wanted. One was much larger than the other, both were armed, she noticed the smaller was wielding her fire poker, though. They both came at her from the front, but each from a different direction. She kicked behind her, crushing the ankle of the large goblin turning to grab her. Taking a few steps to one side, she waited for the two charging goblins to be right where she wanted them.

Now was her time, she charged, not screaming this time, she needed both of them to keep coming at her. They were close now, just a few more steps and the three would collide. Lussi tumbled and rolled safely in front of the collision. The goblin wielding her poker impaled the larger, just to have his corpse fall onto him, crushing him and pinning him defenselessly to the floor.

Lussi laughed as her momentum carried her a few steps up the side of a tree, allowing her to spring off and sling a rock towards the cauldron. She took a second before releasing the rock to choose her target. A young goblin danced precariously on the spit passing over the cauldron. He would be prefect, she knew he would panic. Although who wouldn’t after being set on fire.

She loosed her shot at the height of her jump and watched as the rock flew across the camp at the miniature dancer. It collided strongly with his stomach, deflating his bravado and tipping him into the vat of boiling grease below that they were using to prepare their dinner.

He caught fire instantly, the rags he was wearing igniting and causing him to run wildly through the camp, flailing and slinging fire at everything in his path. The goblins, as a whole scattered, terrified by this little goblin comet. He of course set several other goblins a blaze. The tents burnt away quickly, forcing the few goblins that had hid instead of fled to find another refuge.

As they fled though, several of them came flying through the air back at her. She rolled out of the way, lest she be set on fire too. Bursting from the other side of the camp came a large woman, a human. She was clad in shiny armor and swung at the goblins with a large two handed sword. Some of them were cleaved in half, but those catching the broadside of the sword were thrown, as far as Lussi could see, into the dark forest around them.

The woman screamed, not at the goblins so much, but against them. Her scream was a plea for more strength, more power, more might to lash against the goblins with. Lussi saw it answered, the woman’s eyes flashed white and her body began to glow. She raised her sword high above her shoulders and screamed as she struck it down, spinning with the sword. The blade lashing out in every direction. Lussi raised her hands in a ward and dove out of the path of the attack.

“HA HA!” the adventuress laughed. “Take that, wretches! Come by our camp again you’ll get more of the same!” She was boasting and gesturing, looking around for where Lussi had landed. Lussi was lying behind a tree, a tree that had been cleaved in half by her sword. “Fear not, citizen,” the adventuress called to her, “you are safe now!”

“Oh now?” Lussi called back, “Sure you wouldn’t want to hurl any other swords my way before you decide that?”

The swordswoman’s shoulders sunk a little, she looked confused. “I have slain the monsters, they are of no danger to you anymore!” she called. Lussi was all too familiar with this part. The swordswoman believed she had saved Lussi from the goblins, and she expected a reward. Lussi didn’t care much for adventurers. As a thief she negotiated her price up front, these heroes just ran into a fray unannounced and expected to be paid afterward, not a way she liked to do business.

“They never were you twit.” Lussi snapped at her rescuer. “You were the only danger I was facing, lobbing that sword around, no warning at all. I had them all running already, I did!” Lussi jumped onto the stump she was hiding behind and faced the woman.

The woman was impressive for an adventurer, she stood tall, her armor was well maintained and her great sword shimmered in the night, probably enchanted, by what looked like rubies in the hilt. With power and protection like that, taking on a few goblins didn’t seem too brave to Lussi. The woman tried to continue her heroic posture, but slowly a smile crept onto her face, and soon she started laughing.

“Little creature, why aren’t you dressed? Did these mangy things pull you from your bed? Whatever have you been through tonight?”

“I’ve been nuisanced by you is what I’ve been through. I come home to find my house invaded and smashed, track these rotten creatures all the way up here and you try to kill me as I chase them off?”

“But why aren’t you wearing any clothes, little one? It’s awfully cold out here tonight.” The woman shivered a little to demonstrate to Lussi what she meant. “It would be nice to sit inside and sip a hot cup of tea.”, she ventured, hoping Lussi would invite her in as thanks. “You said you tracked them here from your house? I could accompany you, make sure you aren’t attacked again.”

“Yes, I suppose.” Lussi sighed, defeated. Adventurers were like stray dogs, if she rewarded this one, surely others would show up. But it was cold, and she just couldn’t bring herself to leave the woman out here, she had been trying to help at least. “You can come for some tea, but you’ll have to find elsewhere to stay, I’m not having visitors all night.”

“Splendid! Thank you kind lady, your hospitality is good service to…”

“For tea.” Lussi interrupted, “and you’re not protecting me on the walk home. I can take care of myself just fine, thank you. I think the parade of flaming goblins should be proof of that. I will get you some tea though.”

“Excellent!” The swordswoman seemed quite excitable, probably a result of her shout. “And perhaps you have some grog which we could fortify the tea with?” Typical with adventurers, always pushing for more. “I could use a strong drink after a battle like that.”

“A battle like that?” Lussi ranted. “One mighty swing? Is that so exhausting? If its spirits you’re after you’d have best brought your own. I’ll make you tea, and no more.” Lussi stayed firm in her offer. Lussi continued to grumble about the woman as she led her towards her home.

“Yes, yes. I would not want to put you out on my behalf.” The woman conceded the spirits. “But there is the matter of the rest of my party?”

“Aye!” Lussi screamed, “Of course there is! It’s never enough with you lot, is it? Bring them along, but you’re all drinking outside now.” Lussi berated the woman. Signaling to them quickly with her hands, the woman’s party came out of the forest around them, not too many of them fortunately. “Outside.” Lussi repeated. Behind her, Lussi heard a small explosion, followed by a sizzling and the smell of burnt goblin. “Now, let me retrieve my clothing and we can go.”

As she approached her hole she saw the remains of the goblin that had tried to steal her things. Lightning traps were ever so useful. She was sure it was just a matter of time before the goblins figured out that they needed to send two goblins to scout a trick like this. Her things were slightly unearthed. She tugged her pants back on, slid her arms into her tunic and fastened her sack to her belt. She decided to humor the party, “Do you have any good stories to tell?”

The adventurers faces lit up, eager to talk about their own conquests.

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