“Hobs love to keep humans alive for a few days,” the wandering errant Clast told Father Ismay darkly. “They have a special mix that they feed to on our kind to make us tender and pleasant.”
“Ohh,” Ismay moaned, thinking of brutal monsters holding John and Tabitha Miller prisoner, and fattening them up like lambs for the slaughter. “So, what assistance are you asking of me, sir errant? Am I right in thinking that you do not simply need a blessing of strength before you go into battle?”
“No, father,” Clast insisted. “You must come with me to confront the hobgoblins, to serve as the strong right arm of the Lord God, in the service of Saint Birgit. You can curse the hobgoblins in Lady Birgit’s name, and…” He trailed off, uncertain just how much the virtue of a Saint might be able to accomplish in a melee.
“But I am no warrior priest,” Ismay protested, though he was starting to wonder if this was indeed the path that Birgit had laid out before him. “Birgit is a bold woman, fierce in the defense of the innocent, but – but I cannot join you in this enterprise, before consulting her in my prayers, and that is something that I will not be able to do in this hour, or the next. If time is truly short, then you will need to seek some other aid for the Millers.”
“How long will it be before Birgit expects you to meditate and pray for her?” Clast asked, and Ismay looked up, startled that this layman had asked this question. How did he know so much of the ways of priests and their prayers?
“An hour before sunset tonight.”
“And must you pray here in the temple?”
Ismay stared at his visitor, wondering if he was being mocking by referring to the small village chapel as a temple. “No, Birgit will hear my prayers wherever I am. Let me guess, you mean to have us travel out into the woods near the Hobgoblin camp, rest a safe distance away so that I can pray, and if Birgit gives me her blessings, then we fall upon the Hobs in the fading dusk, as they build their cooking fire?”
“That would suit me,” Clast agreed. “Will you come thus far, for the Millers?”
“I suppose I must,” Ismay said, sighing. “How soon must we leave? Is there anything I will need to take with me?”
“If you have any protective gear, or a weapon that you feel competent to use in your own defense, that would be well,” Clast told him. “I have already gathered the rest of the supplies and equipment that we’ll need.”
“Hmm.” For a long moment, that possibility of needing such things stunned Ismay, and then he left the chamber, heading towards the chapel storeroom and gesturing for Clast to follow him. After searching half the shelves, he finally produced a long, sharp rapier.
“I used to fence when I was in the seminary,” he said. “The bishop gave me this for my trip into the hinterlands, in case I should need to fend off robbers.”
“Aren’t priests forbidden from taking the way of the sword?” Clast asked him.
“That depends on the sect. Saint Birgit discourages the use of blades, but a rapier has no edge, so it falls within the rule.” He cast one more look around the room. “I’m afraid I have no armor, though, though I did once train to march in chain mail. You don’t have a spare set?”
“No, I couldn’t afford or carry such an extravagance,” Clast told him.
“Would my heavy winter robes offer any level of protection, do you suppose?” Ismay asked.
“Well, we can but try it, I suppose.”
Neither of them spoke much on the trip through the forest to the hobgoblin’s hideout. Clast had a few questions to ask about Ismay’s ministry in the town that he had made his home for the past fifteen years, and Ismay asked for a few details about the errant’s travels and the adventures he had embroiled himself in, but the pace was quick enough to not leave much breath for idle chatter.
“Well, I think that this is about as close as we should get to the Hobs until we are prepared to challenge them,” Clast said, looking over the clear bank of a stream surrounded by tall trees. “And it remains not much more than an hour until the sun sets.”