The first to act this round was the little Kender – and her actions seemed likely to have a huge impact on the outcome of this fight. She crept forward (To the tree at the front of the gulley – it is the only way to move forward and remain hidden.) Upon arrival Lily started whirling her hoopak in a big circle and the little holes in the stick caught the air and started making a whistling noise. At least it started as a whistling noise but quickly rose to an ear-splitting shriek. Anyone within 50’ of her desperately wanted to clutch their ears and everyone looked around for the source of the sound.
(OOC Note: On a failed wisdom save the hoopak noise can have one of two effects – either a shaken effect that prevents a creature from taking an action (they can still take reactions or bonus actions and may respond to being directly attacked, or they have been taunted – they will have disadvantage on attacks unless they move towards the source of the sound. These effects last 1d4 rounds. I may modify this effect in the future if it seems too strong.)
Amidst the goblins the effect was quick and immediate. Three of those holding ropes seem impacted in some way, as did 4 of the 5 coming out holding supplies. It was hard to tell what impact it had on those still in the gulley. But if the goblins had been confused before there was true chaos now. All knew they were under attack, but none seemed to have a clue where it came from.
But the effects of the hoopak attack were not all beneficial to the party. Both Hornet and Soledad were staggered by the sound and would be unable to take any actions this turn. (But luckily for both – only this turn, you will be fine next turn.) The others fared better as their locations gave them some chance of seeing the Kender and realizing what was going on. Hornet was still able move stealthily forward but before he could nock the arrow he held in his hand he instead held his hands to his ears. The noise was shocking and painful. Soledad had great plans for getting the gnolls to attack each other with a spell, but those plans also came to naught as she hunched behind the rock providing her cover and tried to identify the source of the noise.
Uthal luckily saw the little Kender start whirling her noise maker and ignored the noise as best he could. He cast frostbite on the goblin holding the lead prisoner – the same one he had previously nocked on the head with a sling stone. The creature was quickly covered with a numbing white frost and looked almost like a tree covered with hoar frost. Whatever the appearance, the goblin was dead and quickly dropped to the ground like a dutiful corpse and dropping the rope that held the first prisoner. That prisoner, while clutching his ears and clearly impacted by the noise, saw his chance and took off running – he went 60’ North along the riverbank- away from the party. (The bank in front of the Vargolg allowed for fairly easy movement – any further movement North in this direction will be slower.)
Thaoran had started the round right next to the Kender and so identifying the source of the noise was not hard. It was still ear splitting, but not disconcerting otherwise. In fact, he smiled at the impact it had on the goblins. He grabbed his bow and drew an arrow – it was a great disappointment to discover that the last prisoner was a ½ elf and not the desperately sought-after parent, but he would still try to free that one first. He aimed and fired – and his shot was true. As the creature was staggered by the sound the elf’s arrow pierced its beady little eye just as he had envisioned. It fell to the ground, dropping the rope as it went.
This left the last prisoner standing there with a chest in his hands and the rope around his neck dangling free. He had seen the first signs of chaos and hoped this was his chance. As the noise started, he had switched his grip on the chest and prepared to swing it at the creature holding his rope, but before he could do so an arrow sprouted from its eye, and it dropped dead at his feet. The time for action had indeed come! Instead of swinging the chest at the now-dead goblin he simply dropped it on the beast’s head and then reached up and attempted to remove the gag in his mouth. It took a moment, but he got it free. (Tann – a slight interpretation since the goblin was already dead. Instead, you switched to the other action you wanted. Dropping the chest is an item interaction and you get one of those each turn but swinging it like a weapon would have been an attack – an action.)
The five goblins holding bags and other goods all seemed to panic. As a group they dropped their goods and ran. But they didn’t seem to know where to run. One ran straight for the river. Three ran North along the river away from the party. And one ran straight at party, going right past Lily directly at Gerdar. It was impossible to tell which of them had been impacted by the noise, because their panic and confusion had already begun.
There were two more prisoners yet to act – the two twins in the middle of the group. Seeing the chaos and hearing the noise they also seemed to decide that it was time. Each reached out and grabbed the rope holding them to a goblin and gave it a hard yank, trying to tear it away from the goblin that held it. The two young men were the quintessential ‘strapping young farm lads’ and the first easily yanked his rope free and sent the goblin stumbling. The goblin holding the other twin’s rope however in his fear at the horrible loud noise coming from nowhere clutched what he was holding in terror and when the farm lad yanked the rope the goblin instinctively clutched harder and held on. Goblin and farmer stared at each other still connected by the rope.
With two of the guards around the prisoners dead there were three of them left after the various tug-of-wars. The first, who had lost his grip on the rope of the first farmer, had been tossed forward by the yank on the rope and just kept on running. He was 50’ out into the water and moving quickly away from the fray. The one still holding a rope seemed surprised to find himself still holding on and just stood their gaping at the farmer. (Shaken by the noise maker and unable to take an action.) The last goblin spun towards the South having correctly identified where the attack was coming from and fired an arrow. He aimed at Thaoran and might well have hit, but the tree the elf was crouching behind gave him partial cover and took the hit instead. The goblin then spun and moved to the tree directly away from the party getting some cover of its own.
There were also 5 goblins dozing in the river. But dozing in fast flowing rivers is a difficult thing to do and drowning, or even near-drowning, has a tendency to wake people and goblins up. Two of the sleepers had already been swept past the ford area and as they were swept into deeper waters both struggled awake. But they were pulled down stream by the current and having just woken were struggling to stay afloat. The party had already seen one goblin swim the river (Back at the pyre) but in the clutches of the current it was unclear what the fate of these two now awake but desperate goblins would be. Of the three that were still near the gnolls in the ford two of them woke up as their heads were dunked under water and came up sputtering. They struggled to their feet and looked around in confusion. The last sleeper seemed to have achieved by accident a sort of back-float posture and snored his way past the gnolls and into deeper waters past the ford.
The two remaining lead goblins were already halfway across the river when the noise and the arrows caused them to turn around. They stood their ground and grabbed bows – firing arrows at the closest target they could see – Hornet. The tree he was hiding behind gave him partial cover but one of the arrows still found its mark, but it was only a minor scratch. (-3 hp)
It was at this point that the entrance to the Gulley seemed to almost erupt with goblins. At least 20 of the things suddenly ran out of the opening and scattered. They were a mixed lot – some few were carrying weapons. Others were dragging younger goblins with them. Some still clutched bags of goods. What they all had in common appeared to be a desire to get as far from the gulley as possible. Most ran straight towards the river. A couple ran towards the party and several headed North along the river. Some looked like they might have been under the influence of the Kender’s hoopak but it was impossible to tell. They all ran.
As several goblins ran towards him Gerdar picked out one carrying a sword and swept his axe at it as it ran. It was hard to tell if it was the dwarf’s strength, the magic already on the axe or the goblin’s speed, but when goblin met axe, it was split cleanly (actually, in truth, very messily) in two. It was clearly out of the race.
This left the gnolls still to act. Seeing where the goblin archers had targeted the first and closest enemy, they saw Hornet as he crouched near the river. Uthal also was right there. They ran forward to engage their foe. (Far enough they had to use their action to dash – so no attack this round. But both Hornet and Uthal are now considered engaged in melee.)
The overview is that the area between the gulley entrance and the river is chaos. I will get an updated map up soon. You will need it.