“You! Filthy wastelander! How much further until we reach our prey?” Esolpe Dupler brayed as he and his rotund son, Galdrich, attempted to match my pace. The blackened valley was treacherous. Progress was slow.
I pulled back the hood of my cloak and spun around, “Not much longer, my Lord. We are fast on their trail.”
“We had better be, simpleton!” He added, “I’m taking the cost of new boots from your fee!”
There were surprising numbers of civilized noblemen willing to pay a skilled ranger to guide them through the Wastes for a chance to bag a dust goblin or two. Ill-advised, but I’ve built a living on the bad decisions of nobles. Suffering insults from wealthy popinjays like Dupler was not an enjoyable aspect of the job, but payment for my services made it worth the while…
We marched seven punishing days north from Savoyne. I took a meandering route, partly to avoid the greatest dangers, partly to make a show of following tracks. Truth was I knew exactly where the goblins were. Close now. Quite close. Shadows circled above. The air itself had grown heavy and I was eager to get this over with.
“Father,” Galdrich whined, “I’m bored. When do I gets to murder me a goblin? I wants to hear it beg and scream.”
Before Dupler could reply, we were ambushed. Dozens of goblins from the Sand Bird tribe burst forth from the rock around us. Some glided down from above on artifical wings. Armed with spear and sword, they surrounded us, screeching. Terrified, Dupler grabbed my arm, “Ranger! What do we do?”
“I suggest you lay down your arms, my Lord.” They did as I advised.
The scabbourous leader of the raiders stepped forward and faced me. He spoke in his guttural goblin tongue, equal parts croaking and death rattle. “These do not look like they will last long in our tunnels.”
I shrugged, “If you find them lacking, feed them to the ticks.”
He sneered and pressed coins into my hand. “Take them away!”
The goblins quickly shackled my hapless wards. Dupler gaped at me wide-eyed as I turned to leave. Smiling, I pulled the hood back over my head and pocketed the coins.
As I said, payment for my services made it worth the while.