Chapter 23 Cleaning Up The Valley
Kegan kept up a steady schedule for the next two weeks. He would sleep a few hours in the morning, then head out to try and harass the group of bone knights in the valley. With all of the dead goblins lying around, their supply of bone was replenished. However, the bone knights were not immune to food poisoning issues. The rotting corpses of the goblin weren’t safe for them to eat. Instead they had to resort to slaughtering fresh goblins and cooking them over fires. Goblins do have some self preservation instincts, so when they realized that they were the only food on the menu at camp they simply abandoned the camp.
Kegan mostly tried to leave the roving goblin groups alone. They were scouring the valley clean of anything remotely edible, which served his purposes.
If any of the bone knights split off from the group to go hunt goblins, Kegan would try and hunt the bone knights in turn. His strategy had put them in a no-win situation. To catch the goblins the bone knights had to wear lighter bone armor. To survive a harpoon throw they had to be either covered in thick bone armor or deflect the throw with a shield. Taking a large group of bone knights or taking a shield meant spending more energy to hunt goblins.
Anytime one of the bone knight commanders left with a hunting group, Kegan would try extra hard to harass the group. He would lead them into pit traps, and use fire against them as much as possible. Kegan knew that without those commanders the bone knight thralls would be useless.
As darkness fell he would stop harassing the goblins in the valley. He would climb up the secret path he’d made and sneak over through the mountain pass. Then he would begin a harassment campaign against the goblins and bone knights outside of the valley. His focus on this side was just on disrupting their food supplies.
They tried to set traps and ambushes for him. But these traps were either too obvious with an extra dozen bone knights and an extra hundred goblins lurking around, or ineffective. Kegan could simply run faster than anything they could bring against him. With his camouflage perk and scentless perk they had little hope of tracking him down once he decided to hide.
Before dawn arrived each day Kegan would sneak back into the valley to his hiding spot and get some sleep. Before the army had arrived he had already switched his home to this new location, so he was enjoying all of the homeowner perks and only needed a few hours of sleep each day.
The routine was broken up by the arrival of the bone sorceress and her retinue. Kegan discovered them already in the camp when he started his night time scouting routine.
She brought along twenty bone knights that all seemed self aware, rather than the mindless thrall bone knights. There were also about fifty hogs for carrying the individual bone knights, and also pulling what appeared to be a large circular solid bone pedestal.
The night time raids were over. Kegan didn’t want to get caught in a chase with the hog cavalry. He snuck back into the valley, and decided it was time to clean up the surviving stragglers. The goblins had already stripped every piece of food from the valley, and now they were the only remaining source of sustenance.
In two weeks Kegan had never attacked any of the goblin groups in the valley at night, so they had gotten complacent. There were no night guards posted, they would all just sleep as a group on top of one another.
Kegan could usually slice half their throats before any of them woke up. Once the rest of a group did wake up it was usually over very quickly. They were sleepy, tangled up in one another, and were no match for Kegan even if they had been ready. Each group was piled back up with some kindling added and then lit on fire to dispose of the meat and bones.
When morning came the smoke from all the separate fires could be seen from outside the valley. There were a few goblin groups that had escaped Kegan’s notice, and the remaining bone knights that were still trapped in the valley.
The bone knights needed to be eliminated, they would otherwise provide good intelligence about the traps and dangers of the valley.
He walked up to the group in broad daylight without his camouflage, holding a harpoon in each hand.
He got a head count. Thirty one of them remaining, including all five of the commanders. They had become wary of him, even after he was spotted they just took up a defensive stance. Thick bone shields propped up in Kegan’s direction. They marched slowly towards him. They were lifting the bone shields and slamming them back on the ground to check for traps.
They diligently followed Kegan. Once or twice they tried to throw a volley of bone javelins at him, but he kept enough distance to make the tactic useless. The second time they tried Kegan grabbed as many of the bone javelins as he could carry and ran off with them. The smoke and fire in the distance told them what he had done with the bone javelins when he came back smiling at them. The bone was a precious resource for them, so they didn’t waste any more on such an attack.
A couple thousand feet away they reached the spot in the forest that Kegan wanted them in. Their shield slamming discovered a pit, then another pit, their whole path forward was blocked by pits. Before they could do anything to maneuver around the pits Kegan ran forward.
He threw his harpoons to keep their heads down behind the bone shields. Then kegan slammed his body into a tree. The base of the tree had been chopped away and covered back up with mud and loose bark to hide the chopped area.
The tree fell slowly at first toward the group of bone knights, something in the canopy of the tree snagged on something and then it fell the rest of the way. The bone knights were able to split in the middle of the group to dodge the falling tree.
The sound of the first crashing tree had hidden the sound of the two trees behind them that were also falling down. The much larger trees that fell from behind crushed a half dozen bone knights each, and knocked a few bone knights into the pits in front of their group.
The first tree that had ‘snagged’ was attached by a rope system to the larger trees that caused them to fall at the same time.
Kegan had grabbed the weapons he had stashed at the base of the first tree and ran into the tangle of branches and limbs.
Four harpoons found the chests of the unharmed bone knight stragglers on the right side of the formation. The three remaining thralls drew their weapons to fight off Kegan. He cracked open a skull and bone helm with his hammer before they could ready themselves. He grabbed the bone knight by the neck to block the strikes of the two remaining mindless thralls. Their blows landed on downed bone knight and left Kegan unharmed. He jammed a metal rod into the slowly closing skull wound and then broke off the tip of the rod, leaving a piece of it inside the brain.
He shoved the body towards one of the other bone knights, knocking them both over. His hammer connected with the shaft of the bone sword swinging towards him. The top part of the sword kept its momentum and the tip embedded itself in Kegan’s chest plate. The hammer came back around cracking the bone knights arms, and then the head. Kegan jammed another piece of iron into the head wound and broke it off again. The last bone knight had just gotten free and was rising to its feet when Kegan’s war hammer found his head. Another piece of the metal rod was driven into the wound and broken off.
The metal rod was too short now and kegan pocketed the remaining piece while pulling out another rod. He repeated the ‘rod in the brain’ process six more time on some of the more lightly wounded bone knights. There was shouting at two of the commanders and eight of the surviving bone knights from the left side of the tree came over the fallen trunk to see what was happening.
Kegan grabbed a fire starter, lit it and threw it into the pit before running away from the second bone knight group. The pit began burning quickly and catching the trees and ground on fire. Kegan had littered the whole area with good burnable material.
Unlike last time, Kegan didn’t run far. Instead he just ran to get another stash of harpoons and wooden javelins he’d hidden nearby.
He harassed the bone knights as they tried to extricate and save the other bone knights. They were most baffled by the nine bone knights that seemed to have nothing wrong with them, yet remained unconscious on the ground. One of them eventually got up, but kept stumbling and falling back down.
Kegan managed to harpoon two more bone knights before they gave up trying to save the trapped bone knights and stood a ways away in a protected formation. There were just two commanders and seven of the thralls left.
Kegan was trying to think of a way to deal with them when a distant horn sounded from the entrance to the valley. All of the bone knight thralls perked up and immediately started moving towards the horn. They seemed to be ignoring the orders of the commanders. Kegan took the opportunity and threw harpoon at the back of one of the commanders. The harpoon went straight through. The other commander realized the danger and caught the second harpoon on his shield. Kegan ran towards the lone commander as if to attack him, before just running around him after the fleeing bone knights. The commander still had free will and could put up a fight, but the bone knight thralls had to be eliminated before they escaped.
Ten minutes later the thralls were all down with spikes in their head. Kegan ran back to where the commander last was. But the area was empty. It took Kegan a few minutes to find the trail left by the last bone knight.
The bone knight had smartly fled in an indirect route back to the entrance of the valley. There was also a lot of spare bone lying around. He’d chosen to move fast and light.
The trail was only hidden for a little while before it seems the bone knight had decided speed was better than stealth and had just taken off running full speed directly towards the entrance of the valley.
The foot race was on, and Kegan flew through the woods. He knew the location of every bramble patch, shortcut over streams, and deer path in this valley.
Even as Kegan ate through the distance between him and his prey, they drew dangerously close to the entrance of the valley.
As he caught sight of the fleeing bone knight his heart sank. There was still armor on his back and head. He had formed a sloped back armor that would probably deflect any harpoons. He had just one harpoon and a few javelins.
Before the bone knight broke the tree line and became clearly visible to the camp forming at the valley entrance, Kegan threw the harpoon. It flew true and struck the back of the fleeing bone knight. But to Kegan’s dismay the bone armor had worked and deflected the shot. The bone knight got up threw a smirk back at Kegan and started running again.
Kegan kept chasing him even as he realized that goblins and orcs in the camp had seen the running bone knight.
Before Kegan left the tree line he got another good throw in, but with a wooden javelin this time, his old goto weapon. The javelin didn’t hit the bone armor, instead it grazed the bone knight in the unarmored back of the leg, just below the knee. The bone knight collapsed from the mangled leg. His bone armor was flowing down his body to heal the wound when another javelin came out of the woods and impaled his leg into the ground.
The bone knight screamed in anger and fear as Kegan slowly walked out of the woods. The last javelin he was carrying missed the bone knight’s head by an inch when he turned at the last second.
The goblins and bone knights in the camp were just watching. No one had told them to act, and they were all stunned to see the human they had been hunting just brazenly walk out in front of them.
Kegan kept his eye on the camp as he walked up to the struggling bone knight. The bone knight tried to fend him off with a few feeble punches, but Kegan just grabbed his head and slit the bone knights throat with a knife.
There was still plenty of bone armor on the knight, and he still seemed barely alive. So before the camp could react Kegan cut deeper with the knife sawing the neck off all the way to the spine. He laid the body down and stomped on the neck crushing the spine and further separating the head. With one last slice the spinal cord was severed and the head was free. Kegan tossed the head aside. The last of the bone armor quickly melted away trying to heal the decapitation.
The camp was dead silent. As Kegan turned around and walked calmly back into the woods. As he entered the woods he hear a loud high pitched shriek from the sorceress. He even knew enough orcish to understand what she said: “Killl himmm!”
The camp erupted into chaos, and Kegan turned on the camouflage perk and started running.