Sharing my first drafts with the world


The sun was setting behind the jungle canopy of Kol’tan, and the rest of Squad 13 was nowhere to be found.

“Will ye stop your damn mumblin,’ holy man?” barked Oldarian Private First Class Hosgritte Mountainstone, her dwarven voice thick with irritation.

Father Auristhus, the company Cleric, rose from his knees and calmly dusted off his raiment:

“I was simply praying for our Squad’s return, friend Hosgritte. They are few, and our enemy many. it would be wise to beseech Oldar the Almighty for aid.”

“Both of you, shut up, unless you want to be arguing in a goblin stewpot before sundown,” hissed Sir Willem, their knightly sergeant and highest-ranking soldier of the three.

The trio sat in a small clearing around a campfire. They had returned from patrol to find their entire squad missing, with only a trail of footprints leading deeper into the jungle to give any hint of where they went. Willem was dead set on waiting for the rest of the squad, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that they were likely in mortal danger and would not be coming back. They were in an active war zone after all. 

The trio lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Unwilling to continue the conversation, Hosgritte picked up her great two-handed warhammer from the dirt and set to sharpening its pick. What a motley crew they were, an elven war-cleric of Oldar, a human knight who stirred the pot so much in Oldaria he got himself demoted all the way to the front lines, and a dwarven grunt, so new to this war that her cheap leather armour was still wet from the tannery. Hosgritte hated it here in the jungle. She had signed up for the war in Kol’Tan hoping to be a scribe, but here she was, sweltering in the humid air and probably minutes away from getting a goblin spear in her guts. Deep in thought, Hosgritte didn’t notice Sir Willem leaping up from the stump he was sitting on before whispering:

“Did any of you hear that?”

With a start, Hosgritte replied, “Hear what, sir?”   

A faint but recognizable sound emanated from the north. Hosgritte was no veteran, but even she had been in this war long enough to recognize the sound of a person howling in agony. 

“That,” replied Sir Willem.

 “Oldar has revealed the path of righteousness, my friends,” Auristhus said, pointing at the footprints. “The sound came from the same direction as the tracks. We would do well to follow them.”

“Or it’s a trap, ya daft knife-ears,” Hosgritte grumbled.

“Either way, I want both of you to get ready, We’re heading out in five minutes,” Willem replied.

Five busy minutes later, Sir Willem crashed into the thick underbrush, hacking his way into the quickly darkening jungle with the wavy blade of his trusty flamberge.  Progress was slow, but Hosgritte’s heartbeat was not; she’d been in the jungle before, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying. Not two months prior, she had stumbled upon a pyramid of flayed heads while on patrol. The mere thought of it made her shudder. If that’s what the gobs would do to a few dozen soldiers, imagine what they would do to less than a handful. Hosgritte was knocked out of her daydream by a sudden noise. Something was rustling through a bush to her right,

Pointing at the movement, she said, “D’ya see that?”

Willem turned his head and looked at the movement for only a moment. Then, not wasting a second, he smoothly unhooked a small crossbow from his belt, whirled towards the foliage and let loose. The bolt struck true with a fleshy thunk, and the movement stopped. Hosgritte walked over to where Willem had shot and pushed apart the leaves to reveal a small, six-legged squirrel, now very much dead.

“Just some wildlife, sir. No cause for ala-”

Something whistled through the night, and Hosgritte’s shoulder lanced with pain. She looked over to see a crude arrow embedded in her shoulder. Through gritted teeth, she shouted:


As she spoke, four short, green-skinned figures burst out of the trees around her squadmates. Hosgritte did not have the time to see if they had survived the ambush, as she was suddenly beset by a single goblin wielding a wicked-looking scimitar. The creature dove out of the tree above her, screeching its crude battle cry.

Hosgritte rolled to the side and swung her hammer in a savage arc towards its ribs. Confident, the gob met the blow with steel of its own. The greenskin wasn’t nearly strong enough, though, and flew into the trunk of a nearby tree with a crack. As the creature lay there, dazed, Hosgritte brought her hammer down to crush its skull. Moments from death, the goblin rolled away and hopped to its feet. They clashed again and again, filling the air with the song of battle. It didn’t take long for the goblin’s breath to become heavy. It was running out of steam, and Hosgritte knew it. Overconfident, she went for a killing blow to the head, but her enemy spun to the side, narrowly avoiding certain death and sending her reeling off balance. Seizing the opportunity, the gob’s blade flashed and Hosgritte felt cold pain along her ribs. She stumbled back, feeling her blood soak through the cut in her boiled leather. The goblin rushed her, baying for blood. Powering through the pain, Hosgritte ducked under the gob’s sweeping scimitar and slammed her shoulder into its chest. Ribs cracked, and the goblin fell to the forest floor in a heap. Hosgritte gripped her war hammer in both hands and swung it with all of her remaining strength. With a disgusting crunch, the creature’s head burst apart, showering the forest floor with gore.

“Bastard.” She panted, before limping off to help her friends.

The fighting had led further into the forest, Auristhus and Willem had become separated. Father Auristhus was bleeding from a dozen small wounds and seemed on the brink of collapse. The cleric was ill-equipped to fight in such close quarters. His measly dagger was nothing compared to his opponent’s crude shortsword and chipped steel shield. Hosgritte recognized the insignia, that shield belonged to someone in Squad 13. Limping towards the battle, Hosgritte watched the cleric’s feeble attempt at hand-to-hand combat. Auristhus was barely keeping his foe at bay, shakingly parrying blows away while his other hand clasped the lightning bolt-shaped pendant around his neck. As Hosgritte drew closer, she began to hear the prayer the Father was reciting,

“And Oldar grew wrathful, for His flock was beset on all sides by philistines and barbarians. The faithful cried out for aid, and He responded in kind, with the crash of thunder and the flash of lightning!” 

As he spoke, the hand holding his necklace began to spark and crackle, holy light emanating from within. Zealous eyes shining, Auristhus thrust his hand forward, firing a blast of radiant lightning. 

The goblin screeched with fear, raising its shield. The flimsy piece of metal did little to protect it from Oldar’s wrath. The crackling energy struck the metal shield and conducted the lightning bolt’s current to its holder. The greenskin didn’t even have time to scream as it fried it to a smoky crisp. Auristhus winced as Hosgritte gave him a playful smack on his side,

“Well done, holy man,” she said.
“My thanks, friend Hosgritte, but our work is not done yet.”

Father Auristhus looked at her wounds and closed his eyes. He laid a hand on her shoulder and one on his chest, before whispering another passage:­

“Before their very eyes, their wounds closed, their bones reknit. Oldar, the Father of Fathers, had healed his faithful, knowing their hearts were good and pure.”

As he spoke, a warm yellow light emanated from his hands. The wound on Hosgritte’s side closed, and the pain vanished. Hosgritte nodded, reluctantly grateful.

“Let’s go, Father, Willem’s probably just as buggered as we were.”

Without another word, the two companions ran to help Sir Willem. They found him further down the path, furiously battling three goblins all armed with swords. Willem’s own sword was a blur, constantly parrying, slashing, feinting, and blocking his opponents. The man was a dervish of movement, never still for a moment, for that would mean his death. His opponents were not his equals in swordplay, but their numbers bridged the gap. His plate armour was dented and pierced, his breath heavy. It was clear that Willem couldn’t keep this up for much longer. All four combatants were so focused they didn’t notice Hosgritte and Auristhus approaching from behind. 

Despite having shorter legs than the cleric, Hosgritte arrived at the scene of the combat first. She slammed her war hammer down onto the leftmost goblin’s head, caving it in with a wet crunch. An instant later, Father Auristhus plunged his dagger into the back of the middle gob’s neck, spraying blood onto Willem’s chest plate. Foolishly, the rightmost goblin turned to look at its dying companions. It had only the time to let out a squeal of fear before Sir Willem ran his massive sword through the goblin’s belly. The creature gasped before slipping off Willem’s blade to the ground.

“Thanks, I wasn’t getting out of that in one piece,” said Sir Willem, his face red with exertion.

“You’d ‘a done the same ‘fer us,” replied Hosgritte.

“It was the very least we could do, Oldar teaches us never to abandon a companion in need.”

As they spoke, Father Auristhus put his hands above his head and began to chant another piece of scripture.

“And lo, Oldar sent down his servants to cure the sick and tend to the wounded, for he was the one above all, the Stormhead. It was his responsibility to care for the faithful, as a shepherd tends to his flock. The sky opened in a torrent, and the faithful saw their flesh renewed and their bones reknit.” 

As he spoke, a cloud, dark with rain, took shape in his outstretched hands. As prayer went on, it grew in size, rising above their heads. Once he finished, it put forth its blessed contents. The rain was warm and sweet. Everywhere it touched, their wounds faded, as if they were being washed away. They sat under it for a while, resting for the battle they knew was ahead.

As they rested, Hosgritte said,

“Sun’s almost set, do any of ye have torches?”

They shook their heads, but Auristhus said:

“Oldar shall guide us, friend Hosgritte. Pass me your weapon.”

Hosgritte handed it to him. He put his hand on the head of the hammer and said,

“Oldar is the guide, his light is the path, and the path is one of salvation.”

With those words, the hammer lit up like a torch. Confused, Hosgritte put her hand near it, afraid that she would burn herself, but found that the weapon was still cold to the touch. Father Auristhus handed it back to her, and with some reluctance, she thanked him.

“There is no need for thanks, friend Hosgritte. You are my companion and it is my duty to aid you wherever I can.”

By the time they were healed and recovered, the sun had disappeared below the treeline and darkness descended. Finding their companions now, even with the magical light that shone from Hosgritte’s hammer, would be nigh on impossible, but they weren’t going to give up after coming this far.  

As they set off, Willem asked Auristhus, “Hey Father, how you feelin’? Magic-wise, I mean.”

The Father replied, “Oldar is generous to the faithful, but I fear my capabilities may be limited after our previous battle.”

“It’ll have to do, I guess.”

The jungle at night is more terrifying than it is in the day. The lack of sight makes the mind fill in the blanks, and it imagines far greater terrors than what are truly there. Each rustle became the nocking of an arrow, each root the loop of a snare. The thought that her magically-glowing weapon was the only thing keeping her friends from being in total darkness sent shivers down Hosgritte’s spine. An hour passed and the moon inched higher in the sky, sending small, merciful shafts of light onto the forest floor. Soon enough, the group had reached the border of the forest. It opened to a flat expanse of fields, surrounding a small village. Sir Willem stopped and thought for a moment before saying,

 “Alright, here’s the plan. Hosgritte, you scout ahead and find out if it’s civvies or enemies. If it’s safe, we ask about the squad. If it’s dangerous, we go down there and kill gobs until someone ‘fesses up. Got it?”

Hosgritte nodded, then crept down the gentle slope towards the village. As she approached the settlement, Hosgritte was surprised to find herself smiling. She was happy to finally be back in her element. Sure, she was good in a brawl, but she was more at home sneaking around and stabbing her enemies in the back. As she crouched in the cold muck, she thought back on her youth back home. It seemed so long ago, but couldn’t have been longer than six months. 

She skulked around the edge of the village taking in everything she saw. The place was bisected by a stream that fed the fields. One side of the waterway was lined by a half a dozen rickety shacks. As she peeked between the logs that served as the buildings’ walls, Hosgritte the shapes of people crowded together, all seemingly asleep. While she couldn’t see much, Hosgritte could tell that there was not a single child in the village. Hosgritte recalled the stories she’d heard about child soldiers. She spat on the ground and moved on. On the other side of the water lay three buildings, a temple of some kind, a pigsty, and a single hut, better built than the others.

After returning, Hosgritte updated her companions on the situation and explained the town’s layout,

 “Alright, I guess we’re going for the diplomatic approach. Father, you’re on translating duties. Hosgritte, you’re doing crowd control,” 

“Of course, sir,” said Auristhus.

“Aye,” said Hosgritte.

No longer even attempting stealth, the three marched through the fields before arriving in the sleeping town. Hosgritte led them to the large house by the temple,

“After you, sir.”

Willem gave her a sad smile and kicked the door in.

The shoddy construction gave way and the door crashed onto the ground, revealing a small, well-furnished, one-room home. A goblin couple cowered before them in their bed. Willem angrily stomped forward and lifted the male goblin up by his nightshirt. Auristhus stood by his side.

His voice deafening in the silent village, Willem bellowed,

“Where are the Oldarian soldiers? Where!?”

In a much calmer voice, Father Auristhus repeated the message in the goblin language. The male stuttered and sputtered and eventually stammered out a weak sentence.

“He says there is no one here but the villagers. He says they are just civilians,” said Father Auristhus

“Horseshit,” said Sir Willem. His armored fist cracked across the goblin’s face. A spray of blood and teeth shot across the room onto the female’s lap.

She screamed, and suddenly, the sound of doors being opened sounded from across the village. Hosgritte saw a dozen goblin silhouettes leaving their homes.

“Where are our soldiers! We know you have them!” Bellowed Willem.

The male goblin continued to blubber out the same sentence as Willem repeated his own, each question punctuated with a blow from his mailed fist. Soon enough, his gauntlet was covered in blood and the goblin’s face was a mass of cuts and bruises. Father Auristhus grabbed Willem’s arm and said in a calm but stern voice,

“Sir, this is inadvisable. It is clear that this village is a dead end. The Squad is not here, and I will not have the death of an innocent on our hands.”

“Stand down, Father. That’s an order,” Growled Willem, glaring at Auristhus.

Frowning, the Father let go of Willem’s arm who then continued to shout and beat the goblin. With every hit, Father Auristhus flinched, and the goblin female wept more. Minutes passed, and an angry mob had made its way to the doorway. Hosgritte’s shouts and threats of violence were the only thing keeping them at bay. Every few hits, the male would pass out, and Willem would have to slap him awake. The goblin was more dead than alive. As time went on, it became clear that Willem had no intentions of getting an answer out of the male anymore. His eyes were instead fixed on the female goblin. Crack after crack echoed into the night until Willem raised his fist for another punch when the female screamed out a torrent of sentences.

“What did she say, Father?” asked Willem, his face inscrutable.

“She says our companions are under the food in the pigpen and that whatever is in there has all their children, and is going to give them back after it’s done with our men. She also says that no one in this village has anything to do with it.”

Willem seemed to deflate. He laid the battered male on his bed and put a hand on the father’s shoulder, “Heal him, Father.”

“Of course, but bear in mind that it may tax my powers for the coming conflict.”

“I don’t care, just do it, and tell the woman I’m gonna get their kids back”

Sir Willem stepped to the side and wiped the gore off his gauntlets, as Auristhus began to heal the unconscious goblin, Hosgritte could swear she saw a tear rolling down Willem’s cheek.

The other goblins heard what the Father said to the weeping female and let the group pass to the pigsty. They brushed the vegetables away to reveal a trapdoor with a ladder. Willem went first, Hosgritte second and Auristhus at the rear. They descended for almost a full minute, until they reached a large cavern, illuminated by a series of torches along its rough-hewn walls. Stalactites could be dimly seen overhead, yet the floor was polished black marble.

The chamber was occupied mainly by two figures, a powerful looking goblin, taller and stronger than the others, and a single human wearing crimson robes, floating a few inches off the ground. At the far end of the cavern sat the goblin children, bound and gagged, but more importantly, at the two figures’ feet, the seven missing members of Squad 13 lying on the ground, either dead or dying. 

The goblin flinched as the sound of Willem’s boots reached his ears, the other figure did not. It smoothly turned towards the trio. Her face, for it was a her, was pale, bald, and covered in a pattern of dried-blood tattoos. She spoke with a smooth, full voice, 

“I was wondering when you would arrive.”

She motioned to her minion, “Ralkor, take care of them, I must complete the ritual.”

“Yes, Mistress Savina,” replied Ralkor, unsheathing a pair of rune-covered scimitars.

The companions stood side by side with weapons drawn, Willem at their head. He looked at Ralkor, then at his squad, and said, “You two take him, I’ll go after that bitch.”

With a roar, the trio charged across the cavern, Hosgritte and Auristhus ahead of their commander. Before their eyes, Hosgritte and Auristhus saw Ralkor’s form shimmer and waver like a mirage, before splitting into two identical copies. 

Hosgritte brought her hammer down on the leftmost copy of Ralkor as Auristhus engaged the rightmost one.The goblin caught the blow with crossed blades, looked at her and pushed her weapon up into the air. Hosgritte barely kept her grip on the hammer, and had enough time to twist her body out of the way of a slash aimed at her throat. The blade sliced through the flesh of her back instead. The pain nearly made her pass out, but she clenched her teeth and pushed through the agony. She leaped back and saw Auristhus dueling the other doppleganger of Ralkor. Auristhus spun and slashed and stabbed before retreating, one hand holding a dagger, the other, a crackling blade of lightning. He was faring better than she was, his nimbleness far more suited to a slippery opponent such as Ralkor than Hosgritte’s brute force. They both glanced at each other before diving back into their respective battles.

Hosgritte couldn’t hit anything. Blow after blow, she was met with nothing but frustration. Her weapon was not meant for close quarters combat against an agile opponent. She bled from a blizzard of cuts and the gash on her back. She knew she couldn’t keep this up for long and so did her opponent. Suddenly, she took a step back and threw her war hammer at the goblin. Ralkor smirked and deflected the attack with his blades. However, in blocking the hammer, he had let his guard down, and Hosgritte rushed him in a bare-knuckle fighter’s stance, dodging a clumsy swipe before slamming her fist deep into his stomach.

She heard a gasp of air and knew she had the upper hand. She threw punch after punch into her now disoriented opponent. Ralkor stumbled and fell forward, unconscious. Not wasting time, Hosgritte picked up her discarded war hammer and brought the pick side down onto Ralkor’s exposed temple, thoroughly destroying it. As she did so, the Father did a final pirouette and slammed his lightning blade deep into the other Ralkor’s chest. 

His battle over, Auristhus rushed over to Hosgritte, laying a hand on her wound. He mumbled a few words of scripture and closed it. Seconds later, the two rushed to the aid of Sir Willem, who had a serious fight on his hands.

The knight was losing ground against Mistress Savina. His powerful swordsmanship was no match for her sorcery. In her hand she wielded a thin rapier that seemed as if it was made from blood. With every nick that managed to penetrate his armor, Willem withered just a little more. She dueled Willem with one hand, the other busy forming a circle of runes out of blood in the air. The circle could hold ten runes, seven had already been completed, and the eighth grew brighter with every hit Willem took from her rapier. 

As Hosgritte and Auristhus reached him, Willem swung a clumsy blow at Savina. Smirking, she deflected his flamberge and rammed her rapier through his chest. As he hit the ground, Willem let out a scream like nothing he had ever made. The deafening noise shook the cavern walls and suddenly Hosgritte knew what it was. It was the same noise they had heard all those hours ago when they were still at the campsite. The same noise that had started this whole journey.

“Willem!” cried Auristhus before charging at Savina, his blade of lightning bathing his face in a warm yellow glow. Laughing at his pain, Savina danced back and parried his blows. Moments later, Hosgritte joined him. Even two on one, she held her own. They were at a stalemate, until Father Auristhus cried, “Hosgritte, I entrust my safety to you!” And lept back before beginning a prayer, clutching his necklace with both hands.

“You what?!” Hosgritte screamed, furious at Auristhus for leaving her alone and knowing she would not last for more than a few seconds.

Hosgritte was no match for Savina. The sorceress was easily overpowering her and Hosgritte couldn’t do anything about it. The minutes they fought felt like hours. Hosgritte had not landed a single blow. Her flesh was withered in a dozen spots and bled from even more. She knew she was on her last legs and this would be her last blow. With her remaining strength, Hosgritte swung her hammer at Savina’s bald head, but met nothing but a cackle. Not a second later, she felt the rapier slide into her stomach and out her back. The pain was excruciating and Hosgritte saw the ninth rune in the circle on the edge of being completed by the sorceress. Consciousness was nearly out of her grasp until she heard what sounded like the end of a piece of scripture, “… and so, upon seeing all the injustice the world had to offer, Oldar chose not to help the evil, but to smite them with great prejudice.”

The biggest bolt of lightning Hosgritte had ever seen pierced Savina’s chest. The impact flung her into the wall of the cave, her spine cracking with the impact. Father Auristhus rushed to support Hosgritte’s wounded form, spending the last of his magic to heal her injuries. With what remained of her strength, she stumbled to her feet and grabbed her war hammer. Slowly, Hosgritte and Auristhus trudged over to Savina. Unable to move, the sorceress spat,  

“How dare you interfere with my ritual! I am Savina Karholde, last of the hemomancers, blessed by the dark gods, touched by the far realm and heiress to every inch of this fetid ball of dirt you call a planet. Who are you to trouble me?”

 Auristhus looked too exhausted to speak. Hosgritte looked at the corpses of the rest of her Squad and at Ser Willem’s body. She felt herself be filled with rage at this vile sorceress and knew just what to say,

“We’re nobody special, just the Boys from Squad 13.”

And then she showed Mistress Savina what happens when a warhammer meets a bald, unprotected head.

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