the sounds of a goblin tracking party grow steadily closer. zavuv yanks rocus’ goblin dog off the freshly made bear carcass shouting, “my bear!”
hubrix leans close to the bear, besides the severe burns inflicted on the bears thick pelt, there is no sign of the torch-wielding goblin that took it down. a group of eight goblins arrives at the scene, the goblin in front clearly being the lead tracker. he eyes the three beleaguered figures standing next to the massive beast one after the other, “excellent, you got the bear. lets get this thing back to camp”.
zavuv stands in the way, her arms outstretched defiantly, “its my bear! i found it!”
the goblin tracker takes a step back, “thats fine, go on then, get it out of the river. field dressing is crucial at this point too, but go ahead, pull it out if you dont want our help”. as if to drive the salty words of the goblin home, several dangerously ominous vultures begin to gather in the trees above, seeming to eye the goblins gathered below as much as the bloody meal that attracted them there.
a smaller goblin in the back with enormous ears pipes up during the lull in the argument, “where is lunatic bear-riding goblin?”
hubrix spouts a story about mr. grundledump going further downstream to kill more bears and find their bear treasure which makes the younger goblins in the group drop their jaws in awe, but produces little more than a knowing grimace from the tracker. two of the fearsome birds glide down to feast on hindquarters floating in the river.
zavuv and hubrix try to ward the birds off to no avail until finally zavuv gives in, “fine, we will all take bear back! but i get the head!”
most of the goblins look uncertainly at the tracker, but he accepts her offer with a shrug, “sure, you can have the head”. before they can begin removing the bear from the river, the sound of a horn blast erupts from the silence to the south, “braaap! braaap! bra-!”
the tracker orders two of the younger goblins to pull as much of the bear as quickly on to the shore as possible, then come after them downriver. zavuv has already started tearing through the brush, the promise of something more exciting than bear meat drives her on faster. minutes later she comes across a a large clearing where rocus lay on the bank of the river. a cloaked figure stands up a few feet away from him with the head of a goblin hanging out of a small sack, the drawstrings wrap around its neck like a noose in the figures hand. zavuv rushes the figure, swinging with all her might, only missing for fear of hitting the captured goblin now being used as a shield. for a moment everyone can see the beady, dead eyes, crooked beak and dirty grey feathers vaguely concealed by the strangers cloak. a creature they know as a consumer of goblin flesh in humanoid form. a vulture-bird-man. his arm drips thick drops of blood from a dagger lodged deep in his shoulder. hubrix, the tracker and two goblins rush to aid zavuv, but the vulture-man spews thick green clouds from his mouth and narrowly escapes. the screams of the three goblins behind them cause chills to run down everyones spines. zavuv follows the sounds of rocus’ shrieks about a demonic anti-fire bag and they share several confused moments investigating the profound sack the vulture-man was using to capture goblins. hubrix and the tracker valiantly attempt to save the goblins being attacked by vultures. the tracker takes a brutal attack to an eye and things look bleak for the group.
then the noxious fog forcefully dissipates when a blast of incredibly sheer wind knocks the goblins off their feet. vultures begin picking up the goblins left unconscious by the blast and flying off. vulture-man can be seen floating above the battle through the hole in the remaining fog. zavuv lands two hits with rocks. the tracker, one eyed and delirious, manages a lucky shot in the same injured shoulder as the dagger wound, before he collapses with a dull thud. rocus attempts to attract the fleeing vultures with taunts and challenges to very little avail. hubrix is picked up and for one terrifying moment he sees the goblin next to him, blood smeared from the scratches on his face, pleading at hubrix to save his life. NNNN leaps from the shadows and kills the absconding vulture, hubrix’ world goes black as the three collapse in a jumbled heap on the ground.
NNNN, zavuv and rocus manage to drag the tracker and hubrix back to the village where they are given emergency medical attention, the best mud and crooked stitches are applied as quickly as possible. goblins are sent to bring the bear back.
the next afternoon, after the heroes from the night before are all on their feet with the exception of the tracker who is still in critical condition, the chief gives a speech lamenting those lost in the night. the bodies recovered are then cremated. he praises those for killing and bringing the bear meat to the village while it is roasted on a giant spit over the cremation fire. then the village feasts. the chief calls a dozen or so goblins into his hut where he relays the news that the bear raided most of the hoard, it must have been devouring meat and even various treasure voraciously for quite a while before being discovered and run off. there is enough food to last the village for a few days but a big raid will be heading out to the eastern plains to gather meat and another group will be sent to the nearby human settlement to the west to barter for supplies. there are a few who ask about the goblins taken, some seem angry, ready to give chase, while others seem afraid they will be chosen for that particular duty. the chief says he cannot spare the manpower hunting an unknown figure until the hoard is replenished, but if you wish to conduct investigations during your missions that is fine as long as you know that the village comes first. the humans to the west may know something since that is closer in the direction the vulture-man fled, while slavery is legal past the plains to the east as well as having many species of vultures living in it. there will also be an investigation into the bear itself, female bears typically do not recklessly endanger themselves by wandering into goblin villages unless they are starving or with cub and this bear clearly was not starving. easy meat is easy meat he explains simply. “you can all pick one item from the chiefs personal collection of great-goblin stuff, this is a great honor and should you mess up or otherwise not be able to return the items i give you here, there will be consequences”.