14. The Goblin Boss

Our heroes awoke to discover a small party of goblins outside their fort. Said goblins had been instructed to bring Jarmangle & company to Ugblar, the Boss of All Goblins, who was none too happy to discover Jarmangle had made a claim to that title. The group reluctantly agrees to go with the goblins, except for Robyn, who was still recovering from her bout of mummy rot.

En route, the group is ambushed by hippogriff-riding eladrin, intent on taking Tralamin back east to face his death sentence. The group barely manages to defeat the eladrin. Feer attempts, somewhat successfully, to tame one of the hippogriffs. The question of what to do with their unconscious eladrin prisoners is a more difficult matter.

Irving suggests they find some ethical way to fake Tralamin's death, so that the brewmaster might continue his life and business under a new identity. Jarmangle and Tralamin suggest they "accidentally" smash one of the eladrin's faces in, then dress it in Tralamin's clothes. Irving says that this isn't exactly what he had in mind when he said "ethical".

In the end, they decide to take the prisoners with them, pressing on to the goblin encampment. There, they are searched by goblins to ensure they carry no fire or acid weaponry. Likewise, they make Irving promise not to use any sort of fire magic while in the encampment.

The reason for these precautions becomes clear when they meet Ugblar. The Goblin Boss is no goblin himself, but a very canny and surprisingly thoughtful troll. Taking over the goblin tribe in lean times (after all, there's not much civilization west of the Devil's Vulva for the goblins to rob), he's regulated their lives to ensure survival.

Jarmangle explains to Ugblar that he didn't say he was the boss of Ugblar's goblins, but rather an obscure tribe to the "south-west". Ugblar accepts this, and talk turns to the possibility of trade between Hodam and the goblins. Ugblar doesn't want much that Hodam has to offer-- the goblins have their own, much stronger, alcohol that renders Hodam Swill obsolete-- but is amenable to having the Hodamites expand out west; civilization means there'll be more for the goblins to leech off of.

Irving is a little trepeditious about this, but Ugblar assures him the goblins would only rob "within reason". Tralamin is interested in acquiring the secret of the goblin's brew for Hodam, and Ugblar agrees to give it up. However, they adventurers will have to harvest a particular kind of wheat that grows wild just to the north. The heroes agree on this course of action, reluctantly leaving their prisoners with Ugblar.

En route to the wheat field, they pass through a gnollish burial ground. The moustache Jarmangle stole from the fort's commandant starts to glow and itch; suddenly, the corpses rise from the dead, all of them targeting Jarmangle. This proves dangerous, as Jarmangle comes close to dying more than once. His sister manages to revive him each time. Surprisingly, Jarmangle proclaims his cursed moustache to be "cool". "I don't know if it's quite so cool," admonishes Irving.

They reach the wheat field, which is guarded by two minotaur. Irving and Tralamin distract them, enabling Jarmangle to sneak in and grab some of the wheat. They're very nearly caught but manage to escape.

Once back at the goblin encampment, Tralamin goes into Ugblar's tent alone to learn the secrets of the brew. There, he tricks Tralamin-- "Hey, poke yourself with this shiny needle" "Okay"-- and the eladrin falls into a deep uncharacteristic slumber. He intends to use him as a bargaining chip, to get the adventurers to return to the dungeon beneath the merman prison, find the vampire lord who lives there, defeat her, and bring the troll her magic rings. It's not so much a betrayal, Ugblar insists-- he just knows they won't do it otherwise, as he is a troll.

"Actually, it's kinda what we do," says Jarmangle.

"Yeah," says Irving, "you could have just asked. We don't care if you're a troll."

Ugblar apologizes, and promises to take good care of Tralamin, who will be unconscious for at least a few days, while the others venture into the dungeon.

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