Broken Horizons – Vol2, Interludes 3

Interlude – Cambrell

Most people in the Fallen Kingdoms expected goblins have names like “Rot Teeth” or “Gunk Nose”. That was because most people were not goblins.

Cambrell hurried down the rain soaked streets of [Thaldinforge] wishing he was not a goblin either. At least not for the next thirty to sixty minutes. 

[Thaldinforge] was not a goblin city. There were only a few of those. It was not a city which was friendly to goblins either. There were several of those but no where close to a significant percentage. It was, in fact, a city where being a goblin was punishable by immediate execution.

Cambrell hated working in cities where murdering him on sight was both allowed and encouraged but sometimes that was where the work was and so that was where he had to go.

Technically, Cambrell was an [Assassin], a role which cast him inline with every superstition people had about goblins. Possessing the skills required to be an assassin however did not mean that one was necessarily a killer for hire. Cambrell, for example, more often served as a covert body guard. Unsurprisingly perhaps, that role tended to involve substantially more killing than a straight forward assassination job.

As he hurried down a back alley behind a cargo holding building, Cambrell took stock of his remaining weapons; two poisoned daggers, a blowgun with half a dozen poisoned needles, and a clerical holy symbol infused with one, and only one, charge of divine radiance.

The last had been a special gift, and one he knew he had to reserve for his target.

“Ha! Try to stay dry kid!” a man called out from a rear loading door as Cambrell ran by. The man sounded delighted that a “kid” was suffering in the weather. Cambrell was tempted to run back and stab him on general principal, but forced himself to remain focused instead. Humans were the worst. They made it a point to slaughter goblins as often as they slaughtered themselves, but when it came time to talk peace, they always believed that they had the moral high ground. 

That wasn’t why Cambrell had become an [Assassin] but it did make some jobs easier. 

Not this one unfortunately though.

This time he was helping the evil human monsters by protecting their evil human city from an even worse monster.

Down in the depths of [Thaldinforge] there had been a plague of [Night Hungers] which grew with every victim they took. [Night Hungers] being somewhere between zombies and proper vampires meant that creating new ones was terrible easy and could end a town the size of Thaldinforge rather quickly.

Unless, of course, someone stepped in and slew the entire plague of them for the ungrateful humans who lived above the [Night Hungers] lair. Someone who didn’t want to see [Thaldinforge] have a reason to mobilize its armed forces, since those armed forces would not succeed in discovering why townsfolk by the dozen had gone missing, but would pay a visit to the nearby goblin villages and begin killing “the greenies” because “you might as well be sure it wasn’t them”.

Cambrell’s only problem as he cut over to another alley and began hoisting himself up a drain pipe was that having begun the job, he couldn’t leave it half finished. Wiping out the [Night Hungers] was all well and good. They were mindless husks driven only to consume. Easy pickings for someone as experienced as he was.

Their creator on the other hand though? He was problematic on a number of points.

First, as a [Plague Vampire], he could replace his loses far too easily. If Cambrell didn’t stop him, the vampire would have his lair repopulated within the week.

That would have been easier to achieve if the vampire wasn’t also the senior member of the [Thaldinforge] Executive Council though. Assassinating a vampire wasn’t impossible, especially not when armed with an item with divine radiance. Assassinating an Executive Council member wasn’t impossible either. Humans were generally predictable in their habits, which was an [Assassin]’s best weapon. The real difficulty lay in taking out a hard and important target without implicating any of the nearby goblin cities and undoing all of the benefit his work on the [Night Hungers] was intended to produce.

Fortunately, Cambrell had a plan for that!

Tensions within [Thaldinforge] had been running high since well before the disappearances had begun to occur. The [Executive Councilor]/[Vampire], Exarian Dreslun, had to die before the morning came, and his remains had to be discovered so that people would understand that the threat to their city had come from within and not from their goblin neighbors. His death though did not have to be attributed to a daring and skilled goblin. Not when it could instead be place at the feet of one of Dreslun’s fellow Executive Council members, all of whom would be delighted with his removal from the world.

Cambrell had already done the hard part of that work, infiltrating the house of the council member his intel indicated had suggested had the best ratio of animosity for Deslun and personal resources to arrange the vampire’s destruction.

Leaving one borrowed dagger at the scene would cast suspicion away from the goblins, and leave the whole mess as resolved as it was going to get, since humans never called their own rich and powerful to task for their misdeeds.

At the top of the drain pipe, Cambrell stopped and surveyed his surroundings. The multi-story house where Dreslun was staying as part of his masquerade of being human was within magically-assisted leaping distance. 

That was good. It would make tracking how he arrived and where he went afterwards more difficult, which would in turn give him a better chance of escaping the city before he stumbled on someone who would try to stab him.

With the cloud cover and the pouring rain, visibility was terrible. That was good too, not only because it made hiding easier but because it kept the streets open and free from witnesses.

Except for the ones who were huddled together on the rooftop.

That was bad.

“What is a kid doing up here?” one of the forms covered in a shapeless cloak asked another.

“How the hell am I supposed to know?” the other said. [Human] male. Big. [Warrior]. Armed. Armored. Skilled. More Skilled than Cambrell.

Those were the details Cambrell noticed, with the last observation raising his eyebrows.

They were adventurers. 

They had to be. No one else developed as much skill as Cambrell had. Cambrell revised his earlier assessment. The situation wasn’t bad. It was horrible. Basically as bad as things could get. He was dead. Probably.

On the plus side, it wouldn’t take long. 

Well, the run to the nearest goblin accessible [Heart Fire] would take a while. 

“Ask him what he needs,” a third figure said.

There were five of them, which was four more than they needed to send Cambrell to the [Dead Lands] and five more than he wanted to deal with.

“Ask him where we are?” a fourth figure asked. [Elf]. Female. [Archer]. Top tier weapons. More dangerous than the [Warrior]. 

Cambrell translated those observations into a simple conclusion; he couldn’t fight them and he couldn’t run. 

He was definitely, one hundred percent, dead.

Except, he didn’t feel mathematically crushing despair grip him. By every statistic he could think of, a fight was inevitable, and he simply could not win. He couldn’t even take one of them out with him. 

But he didn’t have to.

Something had happened, something Cambrell couldn’t identify. The version of him from a day ago would have thrown himself into battle for no better reason than even inflicting a scratch was better than dying without putting up a struggle. Those limited options still crowded his thinking but, in the moment of mortal peril the presence of high level adventurers always heralded for goblins, Cambrell found new paths opening before him.

“I’m sorry Sirs,” he said, trying his best approximation of a high pitched human child’s voice. “I didn’t mean to bother you. I’ll just go now.”

Why fight or run when he could just leave? It was so simple but it left his mind swimming. They hadn’t identified him as a threat and there was no reason for them ever to do so. Cambrell would simply find a different route to the vampire’s house and avoid encountering adventurer’s entirely!

“Wait!” the Archer said. “I’m sorry, but could you tell us where we are?”

Cambrell waited for the snappy one-liner indicating they were only playing with him. It would inevitably be followed by the gratuitously overpowered attack, but neither came.

“You’re on the roof of the [Melgin Dairy Depot],” Cambrell said, beginning to pick up on the profound confusion the party before him was gripped by.

How could anyone, even someone as fundamentally dim and clueless as a human not know where they were? 

For that matter why were they standing on a rooftop in the pouring rain? Cambrell hadn’t tried to offer an explanation for his presence because there weren’t any he could think of which sounded even slightly plausible. 

No one should be up in here, in this weather. So why are they? He wondered.

“The [Melgin Dairy Depot]?” the Warrior said. “In [Thaldinforge]? In the [Fallen Kingdoms]?”

His questions grew more soaked with disbelief as he uttered them.

“Dude, how are you doing that with your voice?” a male human, the first speaker asked. Wizard. Top tier gear. Powerful wards active. Most fragile member of the party. Priority kill target. 

Cambrell dismissed all of those observations, clearing his mind to put on a better show of being non-hostile. True, they couldn’t see him well at all, but adventurers had all sorts of unexpected abilities and Cambrell had no interest in triggering any [Danger Senses] or [Psychic Alarms]. 

“Doing what with my voice?” the Warrior asked.

“That [Thaldinforge] thing,” the Wizard said. “Oh my god. I did it too. [Thaldinforge]. [Melgin Dairy Depot]. [Fallen Kingdoms]. Oh that is so weird!”

Cambrell was lost. It sounded like the adventurers were discovering basic speech, which given humans’ generally low intelligence would have made for a good joke but under the circumstances seemed less than plausible.

“We can’t really be here though? Can we?” the Archer asked.

One of the ones who hadn’t spoke began hyper-ventilating and uttering the sort of nonsense noises that suggested their mind had snapped. 

Cambrell really wanted to leave. He turned to leave again, but, of course, the adventurers noticed the movement.

“No wait! Please! Stay!” the Warrior said. “I know it’s raining a lot, but, um, we can pay you?”

The urge to leap over the side of the building was only held in place by the certain knowledge that the [Archer] could make her arrows follow practically anything.

“Ok,” Cambrell said. “For what though?”

“We, uh, we need a guide,” the Warrior said, the uncertainty in his voice painting a clear picture of his sincerity. 

Cambrell shook his head. Nothing about them made sense, and now they were offering him money to get involved in their madness? Adventurers were renowned for being wealthy – at least the very experienced ones – but there was literally no amount of gold in the world, including all of it, which could tempt Cambrell to remain on the roof and risk discovery for a minute longer.

“I’m supposed to get back to my family,” he said, casting around for the kind of excuse a human child might use when confronted by a handful of strangers in an equally strange situation.

“Oh, yeah,” the Warrior said, his shoulders slumping in defeat.

The Elf nodded in agreement but paused in mid-nod as her cursedly sharp eyes caught the glimpse of him which Cambrell had dearly wished to avoid.

“And where would that family be?” she asked and lest he try to prevaricate further added, “Goblin.”

It was Cambrell’s turn to drop his shoulders in defeat. The run back to the [Heart Fire] was going to suck.

“Does it matter?” he asked and turned to look the [Archer] in the eyes so she could at least see the weariness that filled him at the thought of what was to come.

“Holy…What…That’s a Goblin!” the Warrior said.

“They can talk!?” the Wizard said.

“I can dance, pay taxes, and cook a halfway decent steak too,” Cambrell said for no other reason than educating the ignorant gave him a fleeting sense of superiority.

“Oh My God! It’s a People!’ the Wizard said, in what Cambrell was reasonably certain was grammatically incorrect on a number of levels.

“He, unless I miss my guess?” the Archer said. “And why wouldn’t he be? Goblin’s are a playable race too.”

Cambrell blinked. Goblins were a what now?

“Ok, ok, ok,” the Warrior said, struggling to grapple his wits back under control. “He’s a person. [Thaldinforge] isn’t a Goblin town though.”

Cambrell saw the other shoe beginning to drop as the obvious questions arose in their mind. He expected said shoe to squash him like a bug, but it landed on an altogether unexpected thought instead.

“Yeah, it’s not a goblin town, which means if he’s here, he must know his way around it pretty well,” the Archer said. “So I’m thinking he’s perfect for a local guide. Uh, if you’re willing to help us, Mr…?”

The [Archer] was smiling. So was the [Warrior]. So were all the rest of them. They were happy to meet a goblin on a dark and stormy night.

That along should have been enough warning to send Cambrell running for the edges of town, [Perfect Seeking Arrows] be damned, but the thing about madness is that it’s highly contagious in the right circumstances, and Cambrell really hated long runs in the [Dead Lands]. 

So he smiled back.

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