“It’s no good,” Chlora wailed, “they’re catching up to us.” Everyone could hear the snarling mockery of the goblins grow more and more audible. Two more quarrels were shot and one of them grazed Grom’s ear. The other sailed overheard and lodged itself into the trunk of a pine tree, (with a solid thunk!)
A pair of brothers from the Southlands stopped their sprint, sliding on their heels as they halted. “Don’t worry,” they called out to Hedrum, who fixated upon them mournfully, “we’ll hold them off for a while. Just get your family out of here!”
From the avenues they heard fierce clashing from all sides, bloodcurdling shrieks, and sounds that usually accompany total chaos. Goblins were looting the houses, homesteads, ranches, shops, and farms, carelessly slaying every bird, beast, and mortal being they crossed while doing so. There was resistance on the side of the villagers, but that had begun to waver; their forces were easily outnumbered. Those foolish enough to surrender were sentenced to suffer a fate more miserable than any Death would declare, and the injured were cruelly collected, bound, and dragged off with the other captives. It was a horrific sight to witness no matter where they looked.
It was simple enough to guess when they had arrived at the stables, because the neighing of frightened horses locked away in a burning barn was near earsplitting. Studying the property with an all-too-careful scan, Hedrum counted three goblins that were generously heaving large stacks of hay and bits of lumber onto the already raging flames. Shadowy figures, crouching low and lurking silently, crept up to the band of arsonists undetected; before any of them could notice, they were all lying in a supine position with their eyes crossed.
It required three sets of strong hands to lift the long plank barring the barn shut. When the doors swung ajar, a wave of heat enveloped everyone in its path, and fire licked the entryway threateningly. Hedrum shielded his face with an arm and shouted, “Wait here,” then disappeared into the screen of ashy smoke. There was a brief moment of uncertainty, then he returned sputtering a few coughs and grasping onto the leather reins of steeds. Altogether he was able to rescue two mares and a pony, but eventually the barn collapsed into a blazing wreck.
He grimly turned his attention to Grom. “Here,” he said, “take the pony and ride home.” Then he added urgently, “But take the back roads.”
“Why the back roads? If I take the main trail I can-"
“No,” he protested sternly, “you must take the back roads. They-“ He paused and sighed grievously.