The Spooky Hin Ranger
Only late at night does the hin ranger come out. He wears a dark brown and green-hooded cloak to blend easily into the wooded background. Few have ever seen him, and he almost never speaks. Only to the merchants in Silver Valley where he comes to buy fishing supplies, arrows, and hinnish pastry. Sometimes he brings them a few goblin charms and some coal to sell.
No one knows where he stays or sleeps during the daytime. At night, he roams around the Misty Pond and into the Howling Woods hunting goblins. He hates goblins. He attacks them without warning, strikiing from the shadows of the trees with his bow or sling, and then retreating. He avoids large groups of them, prefering to strike only individuals. He also avoids packs of wolves that are more likely to sniff him out.
Another thing he hates is big people. Especially those from the fenced city that are cruel to animals. He hides from them and doesn't speak to them, but he often watches them. Recently, while scouting near the south gate of their town, he saw a human magic user who thought he was alone come out the gate and start killing animals with his spells. He did it deliberately, without reason, seemingly just for amusement. He killed at least three badgers and a hawk, then just left their bodies lying on the ground. He thought no one would notice. But the hin saw. He doesn't know the man's name. Never saw him before. But if he ever sees him again, he will put an arrow into him.
A few nights ago, the hin had a very moving experience. Southeast of the Misty Pond near the entrance to Howling Woods, he came across a white stag. The hin has a strong afinity for animals and tried to approach the stag. But the stag couldn't see him in his dark cloak. So the hin deliberately revealed himself and petted the animal. They seemed to form an instant understanding.
"It's too dangerous for you here, my friend", the hin thought. "The goblins don't hunt deer, but the big people do. Come, let's find you a safe place."
Enticiing the white stag to follow, he led him northeast, staying near the woodline and out of view from the walls of the town. He went this way to avoid the wolves that sometimes congregate near the Misty Pond. Then he turned west and led the stag all the way to the bridge and the wooded pass. North of there, along the stream, he knew there was a haven for animals. Near the druid's glen, he released the stag and let it run free. Safe from the big people, he hoped. It was a good day for a change.
The hin ranger heard that Silver Valley was to be retaken from the goblins. The Silver Dragoons were asking for help, and even allowing big people to join them. These were no ordinary goblins, he was told. There were hundreds of them in the Valley , some powerful with magic and fiendish blood. He joined with the Silver Dragoons to fight. He could always fight goblins, even though it meant other people would see him, which he didn't much care for.
The Battle for Silver Valley went on a long time. The big people helped. In fact, they did most of the difficult work. He remained with them throughout, using his bow and firing most of his arrows. He was pretty effective. It surprised him how accurate he was becoming from long distance.
The goblins had a bear. He told the big people that he was good with animals and would try to tame it. During the battle, he managed to get close enough to it. It was a ferocious bear and it turned on him. He felt bad that he had to shoot it. Others did too until it died. Now he was really mad at those goblins.
Clearing out the goblins in buildings was the hardest part. They fought to the death, and many of them were in hiding. During a battle in the lower level of some big building, he got stuck in a doorway. An elf lady, one that he liked, picked the lock on a door and goblins came running out. He and one other were the only ones in the hallway. The rest had all moved into another room. He tried to run into that room also, but the door closed and locked, trapping him between it and several very powerful goblin fighters.
He didn't make it. Something hit him on the head very hard. He woke hours later with a bad headache. Someone was standing over him, healing him. He thanked them, and picked up his meager belongings. Then he ran after his healer to find the rest of the battle.
He got caught again inside a doorway to the Silver Valley Bathhouse. Hoards of goblins were just inside attacking whoever came in. Most of the party were outside still. He saw one lady go down. Then the goblins were on him. He ran out the entrance, but was felled once again. Luckily, an elf in a golden robe ran and force fed him a potion. It revived him enough that he was able to shout for the others to go inside and help the lady. They won the battle.
Now that the goblins were gone, he expected Silver Valley to return to normal, but it had not. None of the shopkeepers have come back, and nearly all the animals are missing. There is no place to buy food or ammunition. He used almost all his arrows in the big battle. Reluctantly, he set out for the walled city to try to purchase more arrows there. But most of their merchants were gone too. The shops were locked. Only the Adventure's Mart north of the Inn was open, but it had no arrows for sale.
There were still goblins around Misty Pond. He shot a few of them, just like the old days. But he couldn't afford to remain there long. He had to hoard his few remaining arrows. So he set off through the woods by the druid's glen. It was full of hawk and deer and badgers again. No more hobgoblins. He kept to the woods all the way to the big hole in the ground. He shot a couple more goblins there, but then slipped away to the north. The Gypsy lady near the big Temple to the east bought the coal, daggers, and little colored stones he took from the goblin bodies, but she had no arrows either.
Reluctantly, he returned to his hidden campsite near the Legion Tower. Tomorrow, he would have to brave entering the big stone-walled city. He had to have more arrows, and more food. Maybe someday Circe would come back to Silver Valley and he could move there again. He would just wait.
The Hin ranger left his campsite in the woods south of the Legion Tower and began exploring his new hunting grounds. He went in daylight to do his initial reconnaissance so that he could memorize the terrain and important landmarks. Crossing the road, he bacame especially careful, always staying in the shadows of the trees. But he found no goblins in the woods immediately south of the crossroads where the Legion scout had reported them, not even around the big hole in the ground near where the Rats and Bats Restaurant lies.
Disappointed, he returned to his campsite and waited for dark. He moved back and forth through the woods, memorizing where all the trees were and the distinguishing marks so he could find his way back in the dark. After a night or two more, he was ready to venture south of the crossroads.
Slowly and carefully he crept south through the woods, walking as silently as a hin and a ranger could. He kept well back from the ledge of the big hole until he had searched all the areas around him and made sure there were no goblins hiding behind him. Finally, he moved past the bottleneck at the southeastern corner of the big hole and into the trees on its south side.
He spotted the goblin almost immediately. It was standing in the open over the crest of the hill in front of him. It was a small one, the kind the big people called a Shortie. Judging it was too far to use his sling, he took out his bow. It was still one of the longest shots he ever attempred, and the arrow would have to sail over the crest of the hill and downward. But his aim was true and he dropped the goblin with a single shot.
Immediately several more goblins came into view. The hin slipped back into the shadow of the trees. He didn't panic or take off running, but moved slowly and silently. Three or four goblins were standing around the body. If he had been near his usual hunting grounds by the Misyt Pond, he would have shot another and then taken off running to let them separate. But this was still unfamiliear ground to him and he had no idea how many more goblins were lurking behind the brow of that hill.
Slowly and carefully, he found the opening in the trees that led back to the road by the most hidden path. None of the goblins pursued him. No matter, he would be back for them another night. Now that he knew for sure where they were hanging out.
The Hin ranger woke at his campsite in the woods to the sound of loud shouting, and fire. He knew that the walled city had been overrun by bugbears earlier, but he assumed he could continue hunting goblins around the Mysty Pond and retreat through the hidden valley where the druids lived. Now all the residents of Silver Valley were being evacuated. Big people using magic were involved, but the leaders of the small community were urging all to go and not ask questions. The Hin ranger was a loner, and instinctively recoiled from going with the others. But then he was told that the escape route north through the woods was barricaded. Quickly reaching a conclusion, he gathered his meager belongings and blended in with the other hin refugees.
After entering a magic portal, he found himselve on a beach near a roaring lake of ice. A tall elf with a bow was motioning all the hins up the hill. Tressa, the one-armed fighter he met on that quest to the Wyverns to retrieve a gnome's lost gem bag was there too, urging all to run and follow the elf. So he followed, up hill around to the edge of woods, and then back down through farm fealds to the big walled city.
He didn't like the look of the city. Not only was it too big, but it was full of big people. Not his kind of place at all. They said they were headed for some theater where they would be given a place to sleep and food. "Not for me!" he thought. As they descended the last hill before the walled gate, he slipped away from the crowd and vanished into the twilight. Skirting the city to the south, he headed east till he found an empty path leading southwards between the trees. He set up camp there alone, just like he always did.
Over the next few days, he went out to explore his surroundings. The walled city was near enough, just beyond the trees by a pond. Luckily, he had bought a stack of Hinnish pastries from Circe shortly before the Valley was evacuated. They would last him until he found a good place to fish. He didn't like going out in the daylight. He preferred the night. But to navigate successfully at night you have to know your surroundings and commit all the landmarks to memory.
South from his wooded hiding place, the path led back and forth until a tower came in sight. He recognized the Troff Legion flags on the little walled yard in front. Big people were there, so he turned back and went the other direction. Exploring to the north and east he came to a swamp. There were kobolds there. They looked a lot like goblins, but there were too many and they had some strange birds with them. He knew better than to attack them in the daylight. He would come back at night.
Over the next few nights, he made several trips into that swamp. He used his sling instead of his bow because he was more accurate with it. The Kobolds were no harder to hit than goblins, but they were quick to react and run towards him. Also, they had coal and gold, but he didn't hate them like he hated goblins. Many of them threw darts at him which stung. They didn't hurt too bad, but he had no healing skills yet and couldn't afford to get badly wounded, so he left them.
One night while he was sneaking back through the swamp, he heard the commotion from another fight. He found nothing, not even dead bodies on his path. But when he exited the swamp he saw a slender elf sitting alone ahead of him. She looked weary and wounded and just sat down right there to rest. He was less afraid of elves than other big people, but still, he was too shy to reveal himself to her. He stayed in the shadow of the trees watching her, and guarding her if need be. When she woke up, she drank several bottles of some kind of healing potion, and then set off, bow in hand, towards the city.
Not long after that, he discovered that many of the hin refugees had left the city and were camping out near the Legion Tower. He casually walked among them to learn the latest news. They told him that a Legion scout had just warned them that goblins were moving north and were now in the woods just beyond the crossroads to the south. "Goblins!" he thought. And a predatory gleam appeared in his eye and a smile curled across his lips. "Time to move south and go hunting!"