Trace of Breath
Harken Village Burned
Chapter 2 of the Quest to Free Barfield
The Gatekeepers travel on to Harken Village, which can be seen smoking from a distance. Suspecting an attack, Polycarp encourages his comrades to proceed cautiously. Leaving Taima to stand guard outside, they enter the village quietly, but quickly realize that the battle here is over, the villagers (men, women and children) have been piled and burned in the town square.
Detecting a flicker of movement near Old Kellar’s house, they move their way through the burnt structure. Navigating falling debris and unstable flooring (as well as set traps!) with varying success they find a cloaked and diminutive figure hiding in the basement. The creature strikes Calumnior with a pitch fork and Camden Young II rushes to his aid, blasting the figure with lightning. Polycarp enters the scene and discovers their attacker to be Ellen Smith, the blacksmith’s little girl whom he had saved from a previous goblin attack (175 XP). Calumnior recovers from the ambush and begins to bandage the unconscious girl when a roar of alarm can be heard from Taima on the far side of town.
They exit Old Kellar’s house to find that goblins, who must have been watching the from the other buildings, have now taken up position in the center of town. They have cut Taima off from her friends and brazenly demand surrender, claiming to have “many moe gobbins” in the village. The heroes slide into better positions and begin to challenge them with a show of strength as well, and it seems to be cowing the creatures, when Camden is overcome by the pain and anger of the murdered villagers and lashes out. He is cut down in the battle, but Polycarp sustains him with a healing potion while Taima fights her way through their opponents and heals him as well. A few of the goblins survive the fight and are tied up by the Gatekeepers (160 XP). The goblins seem to have nothing of value on them, so the questions become: what will they do with the goblins, what about Ellen and what mysteries remain in Harken Village?
The heroes interview their captive goblin leader, while Calumnior heals Ellen. A very grim Camden translates, “Youah fends now! Bigga joke, yes? Hee hee hee!!” He claims to be innocent of the villagers’ blood, “No knowin watta happen here. Big-foke ah dead, not need houses anymore.” He says they most recently lived in Mythos Barrow, working for hobgoblins until “bosses get big-scared of human soldiers. Switcha sides and kick usah out.”
Calumnior emerges from Old Kellar’s house with a restored Ellen, who seems pretty tough, explaining that she has lived alone in hiding these past few days, having set traps to keep the goblins away. However, when she sees Polycarp, the hero who rescued her from a fire, her mask of strength fades and she collapses sobbing against him. Unused to human emotions, Polycarp gently extricates himself, and Calumnior soothes her with gentle words until she is able to explain what happened. She confirms the goblins’ relative innocence, saying that it was human soldiers, and a “burning man,” that attacked the village. She said they captured Old Kellar, and that her mother hid her until the fighting was over, where Ellen discovered all the dead. Thankfully, her father Karl Smith, had been gone to market his wares in Tor’s Hold when the attack happened, but she’s worried because he should have been back by now.
Because of Ellen’s emotional display, Polycarp remembers his first visit to Harken, and how the goblins had attacked Harken Village when he was first freed from prison, and that as soon as their leaders saw him, they retreated. When asked about it, the goblins says, “bosses say scare big-foke, they letah you out like some bigga hero.”
Having been imprisoned himself, for reasons he can’t remember, Calumnior begins to ask about Polycarp’s incarceration. When he hears about the killing of Agathat Mistwater, he seems abnormally upset about it, shouting at Polycarp to not kill anyone else on his list until he finds out why they are on it.
Camden, who seems changed by his recent mistakes (almost killing Ellen and attacking the goblins who were not responsible for the death of the villagers), brings attention back to their cause by asking if the goblins are willing to help them against the Iron Circle. The goblin replies, “Ony bad bad, no can leave grubs. Big frog-bads eatem. You kill frog-bads, we help you!” The heroes realize that the goblins must have been working for the hobgoblins and now squatting in this village because they were chased out of their home by Bullywugs. They also realize that the goblin “grubs” are probably children they are hiding. They agree to help the goblins, and their suspicions are confirmed as they are taken to the goblin “”/campaigns/trace-of-breath/characters/goblin-auntie" class=“wiki-content-link”>auntie" who presides over an entire warren of little ones. She celebrates their heroes that will rid their home of the fowl frog-bads.
After a strange goblin feast, Camden takes young Ellen aside and apologizes for hurting her. He promises to look for her father and to keep her safe. She can see his heart is changing, and takes him to her father’s workshop, where she changes his armor for one more befitting a defender of the innocent.
After a heated discussion about what to do next, where the Gatekeepers recognize that Old Kellar must have been taken to Mythos Barrow (which probably has some secret significance) and they need to make good on their promise to the goblins while still helping fight the tide against the Iron Circle, they finally decide to first take Ellen to Tor’s Hold to find her father.