“Ahhyi!” Ismay exclaimed, putting his rapier up in a guarding position in front of his face by habit, and then realized how useless it was to use a light, edgeless sword to try to parry a heavy wooden club with. At the last moment, he tried to dodge back, and managed to sprawl backwards onto the sparse grass – effectively avoiding being hit by the club for that moment, but the hobgoblin was still orienting on him, chuckling nastily, and Ismay knew that wouldn’t be able to scramble out of the way of the next attack. Birgit’s curse upon the hobgoblins might have helped him slightly there, or it might have just been his own dumb luck, but the priest doubted that he could count upon that again either.
As the tall brute made his way closer, though, Ismay realized that he did have one opportunity. He’d dropped the weapon, but its handle was lying quite close to his right hand still. Choosing his moment, he grabbed the rapier again, and drove the point into the hobgoblin’s upper leg.
For a moment the monster didn’t seem to notice, and even moved forward and forced the shaft further into himself. Then he seemed to notice that something was wrong, looked down, and gestured with his club to brush the rapier away though it was now piercing him too deeply to make this possible.
Desperate to incapacitate this inhuman creature quickly, Ismay pulled the rapier out, stabbing again, lower on the opposite leg, where a stumpy knee could be seen between the heavy clothing that the hobgoblins wore. Suddenly the hob fell – toppling forward, onto Ismay’s own legs, and he began immediately thrashing and punching with bare fists against anything within reach, including much of Ismay. Try as he might, he couldn’t extricate himself from the maddened hobgoblin. Was it in its death throes? Would Ismay be, soon enough?? “Clast, I need your help!” he called.
“I’m busy,” the gruff Errant called back. “Can’t Birgit come to your aid again?”
Somehow Ismay didn’t think that he could concentrate enough to discharge Saint Birgit’s grace now, even if she had left him any blessings or other gifts that would avail in this situation. But since there didn’t seem to be any other option, he racked his brain, and desperation seemed to make his link to the back of his soul firmer, instead of impossible to reach. No, there were few of the new bequests that remained to him – a few works of healing, which might be useful if Clast incurred injuries in his own struggles, or if the prisoners that they had come to save were badly hurt, but Ismay could not ask them on his own behalf – and they would not keep the hobgoblin from striking him again in any event. But there were a few minor signs of the power of his patron Saint that he had held for a while, which Birgit had not withdrawn in preparing him for this trial…
Hoping desperately, Ismay seized a dry pine branch with his left hand, and held it above the hobgoblin’s face. It would serve, if only… “May the flame of the Holy Spirit serve my need in this desperate moment,” he croaked, his voice failing him.
That was enough. The pine needles burst into vigorous flame, and the hobgoblin spooked. Though they used fire, his kind must be primitive enough to still fear it more than civilized people did. The wounded hob had only enough strength to scramble a few feet away before lying still, but that was enough to free Ismay.
When he had finally struggled to his feet, Clast was still trying to fend off three hobs, and he appeared to have taken an ugly gash on his left arm from a bronze blade. When he spotted Ismay, the warrior called out hoarsely. “Do it, father! We have no other choices. Let loose the most dreadful curse of all upon these vermin!”
That sounded good to Ismay, except that he had no curses at all remaining to him, never mind the most dreadful one of all! “Do it now!” Clast called again, more authoritatively. “Before it’s too late.”
Then Ismay thought he saw what Clast was getting at, and dug in the pockets for his silver cross, and raised it high, taking a deep breath.
That was enough for the hobgoblins, who must have also been watching to see what the priest would do next.
To be continued…