Author’s Note: Stan Lee is gone but he’ll be sorely missed.
Growing up, a significant portion of my comic book diet came from him; Spiderman, Fantastic Four, The X-men. It’s incredible how much I learned from him. Creativity, characterisation, storytelling. I can actually look at my work now and see places where he influenced it and I’m far from the only one. There are many others out there
They say people live on in our memories, in the lives they’ve touched and in the legacies they leave behind. I guess that means Stan Lee will never die.
Chapter Fifty-seven: Hobgoblins
Geoffrey was the only one stunned by the sudden assault. Ogbad stared widely, slack-jawed and confused as he cast healing spells at their pathfinder oblivious to Sirai screaming at him. It did not seem to register in his mind that the woman was beyond saving. Unfortunately, Teca was not the only one to be hit. Verrin had been shot too. Right now, the slender mage was being cradled in the warden’s arms. The priest took no notice of this. Instead, he cast a second spell on her unresponsive corpse, the pit in his stomach deepening with every passing moment.
“SHIELDS!” Gauwyn yelled frantically as he pulled a shell-shocked Ogbad out of harm’s way. Another pair of arrows flew from the tunnel mouth. One of them passed through the spot the healer’s head had previously occupied. The other slower by a few moments met Athart’s hastily raised barrier.
Only now did the warden realise how great an ambush spot they were in. The entire party had halted in a well-lit, open field not seven metres from the opening of a dim tunnel. There was absolutely no cover to be found. As if their guards were not down enough, they were distracted by the flimsy and oh so obvious trap.
Reaching into his own bag of holding, he took a precious healing potion and forced some down the mage’s throat. She coughed, bloody bubbles forming at her lips. Gauwyn stared at the arrow shaft protruding from her chest. It quivered every time she took a laboured breath. Clearly, it had punctured a lung. Raising his head, he searched for her attacker, his eyes a pulsing cobalt blue. Nothing could be hidden from them, especially not by the insignificant pieces of trash he sought.
Name: Dagle | Race: Hobgoblin (Asura Variant)
Age: Nineteen years | Sex: Male | Rank: 2 | Class: Sentinel
Status: Healthy, Excited
STR: G | AGI: G
Name: Nauree | Race: Hobgoblin (Asura Variant)
Age: Seventeen years | Sex: Male | Rank: 2 | Class: Sentinel
Status: Healthy, Worried
INT: G | AGI: G
Gauwyn’s eyes widened at the information. Hobgoblins! What’s more, hobgoblins with classes. That only happened if they were led by a much more powerful figure. His mind raced, trying to estimate the power if his foe using the bosses they had encountered thus far as a basis. Something else occurred to him, hints the construct on the fourth floor had dropped. The trials were over. What remained were quests for the elite. If the first three were for ordinary people then…? Gauwyn started. If what he feared was the case then, he had to stop the hobgoblins before…
One of the ugly hobs – the one with greater intellect—put a longhorn to his lips and blew, sounding an alarm.
Only one thought went through Guawyn’s mind at that moment. ‘Shit!’
Nearly all civilized races hated goblinoids. Most considered them a race of bandits and scavengers with their lesser kin, the goblins, being treated like vermin. They were, essentially, bigger more adroit rats that were more annoying than they were threatening. They lived off beaten paths, killing, stealing and breeding until they grew enough in numbers and false courage to storm towns and villages. When that happened, they would score a few short victories before a squad of soldiers or adventurers would be sent to slaughter them. Any survivors would scatter, beginning the cycle anew.
Gauwyn would often be approached by adventurers who tired of this. Goblins were no threat. They did not even require adventurers to defeat. Anyone with a sword could cut them down with ease. Why bother with them? The answer was staring him in his face as it nocked an arrow to its bow. Hobgoblins! The ranked up versions were nothing like their lesser kin. They were the reason that the guild spent so much time making sure that the goblin population was kept suppressed, wiping them out wherever they were found.
If goblins were vermin, hobgoblins were a scourge. Leave the former alone for too long and members of the latter would start appearing in their ranks. Comparing goblins and hobgoblins is like comparing grasshoppers to locusts. The first was an infestation and the other was a plague. It would be bad enough if they remained scavengers like goblins but hobgoblins believed themselves to be called to greater things.
They did not steal or scavenge, they took and assimilated. They did not raid. They attacked and subjugated. They did not infest. They dominated. Physically, hobgoblin’s were simply man-sized goblins but mentally, they were a different thing altogether. Hobgoblin societies were cruel, martial and conquest driven. Given enough time, they learned skills, gained classes and developed armies. Given time and resources, they had the potential to rival humanity.
The fact that the hobgoblins he saw already had classes of their own was bad enough but the fact that they were undoubtedly led by a much more monstrous figure was truly worrying. Gauwyn reminded himself that these were dungeon monsters. They could not leave or live outside of their dungeon. Thanking the gods for small favours He did not want to be the person who informed the Grandmaster that they had an invasion on their hands.
Verrin was breathing normally now. The blood had ceased bubbling at the corners of her lips. Feeling it was now safe to do so, Gauwyn pulled the arrow out of her chest. There was a lot of tearing involved, causing the mage to scream in pain before passing out from the shock. The pyramid-shaped arrowhead was barbed on all three sides causing the newly opened wound to be wide and jagged. It bled profusely but the elixir he had given her worked on repairing that as well. Already, he could see the blot clot and the tears mend.
Handing her to the cleric, he motioned to the other party members.
“Do you have any experience with hobs?” he asked them.
Geoffrey and Athart nodded but Sirai shook his head.
“They’ve sounded the alarm so expect more of them to be on us in a few seconds. Don’t think of them as goblins!” the warden warned. “Treat them as evil men or adventurers turned criminals. They are just as smart, strong and aggressive. However, they favour deception to fighting fairly so be wary. That being said, they are highly specialized. You see a sword, it’s a swordsman. See a bow, it’s an archer. They prioritise maximisation of skills over variety.”
Turning to the assassin, he said, “I expect them to flee when we attack. You’ll have to flank them and prepare for that. Athart! Keep your eye out for the reinforcements. You see any group approaching us, you blast it!”
“Leave none alive!”