“This story is boring!” One of the children whined to Eldra.
“Yeah, all they are doing is finding rocks.” Added another.
Eldra chastised them with a click of her tongue. "You children. Always so impatient! Any story worth the telling must take some time. If I just told you about hobgoblins attacking the town, that wouldn’t be that fun, would it? A monster attacking for no reason gives no point. But, shall we see if we can find out why they attacked?
“Of course, remember that our heroes had finally fended off part of the hobgoblin attack. For it was obvious there were others. They could hear the shouts, screams, growls and sounds of combat nearby. But there were burning buildings to attend to. Citizens of the town were quickly filling the streets and buckets of water were moved in a line. As ou heroes went to help with the growing flames, something happened.
“It was like a snap sound, and they they saw lines of flame shoot into the nighttime sky. Orange fingers stabbing the darkness. And there were seven in total. One in the place where they had found a stone and moved it, another in the place where they’d hidden the stones in the chest, four surrounding the town of Terrian’s Stand, and the last one right in the center of town. It looked, in many ways, like a clawed hand.”
“What stone did they find and move?” One of the children spoke as he raised his hand.
Eldra cocked her head. “What, my dear?”
“You said they found a stone and then moved it. I don’t remember you telling us that.”
Eldra through for a moment and rubbed her forehead with a wrinkled hand. Then she smiled. "I didn’t did I. Well, yes, our heroes had found another circle, through some determined searching, and had found a stone within. It was dug up, then moved slightly and reburied. Perhaps they were testing the obvious magical nature of the stones. But back to our tale.
“The heroes stood transfixed by the flame fingers, but not for long, as they quickly vanished. Sheriff Rufus soon found them. Though our heroes had rescued someone from the hobgoblins, several others had been taken by the fleeing beasts. They needed to be rescued, and quickly. Panic would soon set in. Sheriff Rufus was worried as well. These hobgoblins appeard to be from a tribe known as the Nightmoon Bloods, one of the larger hobgoblin tribes in the area.
“But the good Sheriff was worried because the Bloods had been, for the last few years at least – peaceful. He even claimed there were stories of trade with the beasts. If the hobgoblins were starting to raid like this again, it could only mean one thing. War!” Eldra gave the word a harsh whisper, bringing a gasp from the children.
“But, if our heroes could rescue the kidnapped citizens, and slaw the hobgoblins, a war might be prevented. So off into the woods they went, all three of them. Kerrick, the brave woodsman’s son soon found their trail and tracked them through the woods.
“It didn’t take long to find them. The beasts had made their camp. There were a number of hobgoblins, maybe ten or more. They’d tied up each captured citizen to a long stick, and built a raging fire. It looked like they were getting ready to cook the good people!”
“The heroes were unsure what to do, but Kerrick had a clever plan. He set up his traps and snares, the few he had. He would cause a distraction, and get most of the hobgoblins to follow him. From there, Torris and Tarik would move in from the other side of the hobgoblin camp, and try to free the captives, fighting any hobgoblins along the way.
“Kerrick made himself known to the beasts, and slew one with his steady aim. From there, he ran, with almost half the hobgoblins in pursuit. One by one, they fell pray to his traps. Through they did not hurt the hobgoblins enough to kill the vile creatures, it did catch them up and slow them down. By the time Kerrick ran out of tricks, there was only one left. He did not want to face the mighty woodsman’s bow, so he fled into the night.”
“But what about the other two?” A child asked, worry on his face.
“I was getting to that.” Eldra smiled. "The other two surprised the camp and moved in. With the small crossbow of Tarik and the mighty raft staff of Torris, they dropped one, two, then three hobgoblins. But the leader was still there. His massive form came upon Torris and cur him savagely with his axe. The blood rage overcame the simple raftman and his swung his mighty staff, striking the gruff beast square in the head. He hit so hard, his staff cracked a bit. Now it was the hobgoblin’s turn to be in a rage. He cut the raftman once again. This time, however, it was too much to bear.
“Torris, the raftman fell to the ground.
“As the leaders turned to the lowman merchant, Tarik (who nearly wet himself in fear), Kerrick returned. A mighty shot from his bow, slew the leader where he stood. Seeing their commander now dead, the rest of the hobgoblins fled.
“Tarik raced to Torris’ side, desperate to save him, but alas it was to late. The Hu had died. His last word was love for his now dead dog, ‘Grady’ was all he spoke, before the life left him.
“The heroes, of course were sad to see their new friend die, but they couldn’t mourn him for long. With the newly freed citizens of Terrian’s Stand, every set out to return to their town. But before they could, something strange happened.”
“Strange?” One of the children muttered.
“Yes,” said Eldra. "Strange. They were all about to leave when suddenly everyone felt an odd feelign of menace. As if something was very angry at them. It didn’t linger long, but they all felt it nonetheless. This unnerved everyone, and they made haste back to Terrian’s Stand.
“Once back in the town, Torris Raftman was buried by the river he worked most of his life on. Kerrick and Tarik counseled with The Right, Honorable Sheriff Rufus about what to do next. The Sheriff voiced worry over the masquerading hobgoblins. Kerrick and Tarik voiced theirs over the stones. Eventually, they agreed that the Sheriff’s guard captain, Derrick, along with a squad of his own men would seek out the Nightmoon Bloods and Tarik and Kerrick would travel to see the baron’s Magister, Fennel.
“And that is what they did.”