Chapter Eight of Under the Goblin Trees
Campaign adaptation by Thomas Kelly
Before first light, Cirilli and I conducted our devotions and invoked the power of our lady. Moreover, Cirilli said, “We should turn our prayers to Ehlonna in whose woods we wander and who has summoned us hither.” I shrugged off the suggestion. Cirilli raised her invocation to the fey Lady of the Wood. I left her to her reverie.
As the morning light filtered through the boughs, Ivan pointed out a path of prints in the snow circling around our camp. “Last night’s werewolf came from the tower and returned to it,” he said. Now we were perplexed. As yet, we had no better plan for assault. Ivan suggested, “If perhaps we can draw them out to pursue us …”
Myron drew our attention to something that none of us had previously noticed. Outside the tower, not more than fifty feet from its stone walls stood one lone Roan, swaying slightly as if in the wind.
“That tree was not there when we arrived yesterday,” Belvenore said. “That tree was not there even a few moments ago.”
“An illusion,” I suggested, but Myron insisted that our eyes were seeing the truth.
“If you observe, you can see that the tree is moving,” Cirilli stated. “The trees are laying siege for us.”
So it was. As we watched, we discerned the distance between the Roanwood and the tower closing. The tree slowly advanced, leaving a trail of freshly turned earth behind it. The goblins took note of the approaching Roanwood too, and they launched flaming arrows from the tower top, trying to set the menacing besieger ablaze.
Sir Belvenore exclaimed, “By Cuthbert and Heironeous! The gods are fighting for us! Now woodcutter, take your axe and drop that tree on yonder tower and let it serve us as our siege ramp.”
Cirilli objected and called it a sacrilege, but Ivan, who also revered Ehlonna, saw no moral difficulty in dropping a Roanwood tree, whether it moved about or not. We had not yet even eaten breakfast and the warriors were donning arms, armor, helm, and gear. Ivan set to the task of felling the tree while Sir Belvenore and Sir Merciful shielded him from the goblin’s darts. Ivan’s axe unbalanced its immense weight. The Roanwood began to lean and groan. A few more blows and it tottered, staggered, then made a crashing fall broken by the tower’s battlements. It crushed goblins as it struck and tossed others to the ground. There it remained, leaning up against the tower, as neat a siege ramp as you could ask. The blow caused some collapse to the structure. Dislodged stones rained to the ground.
Sir Belvenore, Merciful, and Bruin immediately began to ascend the trunk, threading their way around the boughs and branches. Ivan assisted with his axe, cutting a path for their ascent. They made slow progress in their cumbersome armor, and at one point, Sir Merciful slipped to the ground. Uninjured by the fall, he clambered back on the leaning trunk, crawling on hands and knees, scrambling behind his colleagues in arms. I followed more cautiously. It took me a few tries to get up onto the great trunk, and, even after I had done so, I made only small progress up the tree not without losing my footing once. No broken bones. Cirilli helped me up, and we made the ascent together. Myron followed last and slowest.
The crown of the Roanwood rested on the battlements, making for a tangled confusion of branch, leaf, and broken stone. The fighting men pushed through the thick mass of foliage, emerging into a volley of goblin darts. Less than a dozen goblin guards remained atop to defend the battlements. They wore the sort of leather and chain armor favored by the goblinfolk, and they carried long knives, short swords, and bows.
Bruin thrust his spear into the first in the midst of the leafy obstruction. Arrows bounced off his armor and shield, but more than one punctured their way to find flesh and draw blood. By then we were all caught up in combat, swinging madly and blindly, netted in the crown of the Roanwood tree. Belvenore found one with the end of his sword. I came behind with my sickle and finished the wounded guard.
“More coming,” Bruin shouted. Free of the entangling brush, he ran his spear through another defender. The force of the thrust sent the goblin flailing over the edge of the tower, Bruin’s spear still impaling him. Sir Merciful clambered out of the tangle and rushed the last defender on the ring of the tower, thrusting him backwards and into the open center of the tower. I peered down to the ground at the center of the tower ring. I saw his broken body lying in a courtyard below. At the center of the court stood Nyssa’s oak, rising up the height of the tower, it’s crown spreading out above our heads. Even as I peered down, two great trolls with axes shamble out into the courtyard.
“Trolls below!” I shouted.Continue reading “A Battle before Breakfast”