With a dwarvish war cry, Hensvik charged the larger hobgoblin to the left ("Always go left") whose whip whistled harmlessly over his candled helmet. Reed and Mac followed close behind, dropping torches to the ground, and drawing their blades.
Lando charged the hobgoblin on the right. "C'mon!" he yelled to Joachim, who surreptitiously drew his dagger and hurled it, hoping to end the fight quickly. It whistled past the ear of the hobgoblin, and Lara and Chuck berated the elf telling him he was blocking their way into the chamber. Joachim drew his own dagger, cursing the balance of the curved goblin knife, and widened his stance.
A clash of steel from the left! The dwarf's axe blows resounded on the heavy chain shirt of the hobgoblin, who was deft in his deflection of Reed's clumsy blows. Only Mac was able to break through the monster's defense, scoring a long laceration on the creature's arm. The hobgoblin turned his attention on the grizzled man-at-arms, and rung blow after blow on the human's shield.
Lando was having no luck with the 2nd hobgoblin, but was at least able to keep the monster's own blade from finding his flesh. A second thrown knife nearly clipped the witch-hunter, but sliced the hobgoblin's ear! "Stop throwing those damn knives!" he bawled at his companion. The elf drew his own sword and charged.
Nearly 30 seconds had passed since the combat was joined, and the trio of adventurers were hard pressed by their larger opponent. The red light of the chamber gleamed on the hobgoblin's blade as a tremendous blow clove Mac's helm in twain, sending the man-at-arms to meet his maker.
In the other corner of the chamber, the deft swordwork of Joachim was finding home again and again in the 2nd hobgoblin. A final cunning lunge placed the sword tip in the monster's heart, and it let out a bellow as it sunk to its knees. Barely pausing for breath, the pair turned from their fallen foe and pounded across the chamber to the aid of their comrades.
Surrounded, the beast decided to sell itself dearly. However, the adventurers never gave it a chance. Hensvik and Reed drove the hobgoblin back, while Lando slashed across the creature's chest, and Joachim drove his blade into the creature's back, ending its life.
[we all found it amusing that after "wasting" a bunch of attacks throwing knives...what can I say, Steve likes throwing knives?... Steve's elf managed to get the killing blow on BOTH hobgoblins. Luke was a little distressed at his string of missed attack rolls, despite his being the only character that received a bonus to hist attack rolls for his 16 strength]
The party immediately went to see to the welfare of the chained prisoners; two of the PCs were, after all, Lawful (Hensvik and Joachim). The humans - including a plump merchant, his wife, and their two bodyguards - were a no-brainer. The orc was likewise a no-brainer. "We ain't freeing him," stated Hensvik, point-blank. The dwarf was putting his foot down, despite the orcs attempt at appealing to their mercy and his promises to help them kill goblins if they'd only free him and arm him.
The gnoll was another matter. Obviously less-than-sane, the think appeared to be raving and drooling, straining its mighty thews (it was larger than either hobgoblin) at the chains. Joachim was intrigued.
[the B2 description, by the way, states that if the crazed gnoll is freed, he'll immediately attack the party]
"Can I speak his language?" Steve-O asked. As a matter of fact, B/X elves do speak gnoll for some unknown reason (does anyone know the justification for this?).
"All right, I want to cast charm person on him."
And the charm goes off without a hitch, the gnoll becoming docile and subservient to the charismatic (and ballsy) elf. "How may I serve you, my master..."
The freed mercenaries were ready to pledge their loyalty, too, if only the players would arm them and get them out of the caves in one piece. "Can you use a whip?" asked Joachim gesturing to the fallen hobgoblin. Shaking their heads, the Elf gave them the goblin spear and curved knife recovered earlier. Meanwhile, the gnoll had already wielding a blood-stained sword pulled from the grip of a dead hobgoblin. "I can use a whip, my master..."
"Oh, good!" Hensvik and Lando were starting to look a little leery at the lumbering humanoid, now fully armed and deadly, but Joachim was positively stoked at the turn of events.
They looted the hobgoblins for a handful of coins (including electrum, which AB and Steve-O had been most extremely curious about ever since I first explained the B/X exchange rate...they squabbled a bit over who got the electrum, and Hensvik was gracious enough to allow them to divide the strange coins between them), and a carved silver armband that looked to be worth a nice chunk of change. Since the merchant was also offering the adventurers 100 gp to get him and his wife back to the Keep, the party decided it was time to leave the Caves.
The Lawful Hensvik also insisted they bring Mac's body back to the Keep, for proper burial and to see that his worldly possessions made it into the hands of his next-of-kin. The neutral Lando (AB) was not too enthused by this, but went along with it. After all, the dwarf had a 16 strength and was willing to walk a point...plus they had enough "help" (with the new men-at-arms) to carry the body.
Steve-O had taken over mapping duties and done a good job, so there was no issue finding their way out.
Back at the Keep, Joachim had his new "friend" wait outside in the wilderness. "The soldiers at the Keep might not understand, pal."
"I shall await your return, my master..."
"I'll try to find you some armor," the elf promised.