"We can rebuild this," said the old man, looking around at the ashes of the village, "but I'm not sure we should."
Tavros nodded. The survivors were less than a third of the original villagers, and they were not in good shape: shocked, grieving, hungry, some angry and some hopeless, others stubbornly determined.
Anica said: "The temple will offer what aid it can, and of course anyone who chooses can shelter there -- we serve Ammon, and do not require vows. The more vulnerable of your people could shelter there while others rebuild..."
"...if you choose to rebuild," Tarric put in. "I would understand if many found it too painful."
The old man nodded. Berrin, his name was. "I will talk to them, and we will see." He sounded forlorn.
As he moved away, Anica turned to Tavros. "How did you kill that thing?" she asked quietly. The villagers seemed to take it for granted that Tavros had won by force of arms or possibly some inherent virtue, but Anica and Tarric weren't fooled; they knew him too well. With armor and a blade, he would have been a match for a hill giant; without... it should have been a much closer contest, if he'd won at all.
Tavros quirked his mouth -- not a human expression, but his friends had learned to read his face. "I let Mother Mia paint my nails before the battle."
Tarric said, "...What?" and looked down at Tavros' claws.
Tavros nodded. "You know these elderly village women. A bit of herbcraft, some cunning... though in this case, I think it helps that she's a retired assassin."
Anica said, "...What?"
Tavros nodded. "She coated my claws with something she'd managed to keep with her -- I didn't ask what it was."
"And you cut into him, early in the fight," said Anica. "You poisoned him."
Tavros nodded. "After that, it was just a matter of staying alive until the poison took effect, and then... well... more or less bluffing the hobgoblin chieftain. Though I admit, I hadn't expected Olvern to find our equipment, or start covering our escape with arrows."
"That's why you took out the priest," said Anica, nodding appreciatively. "It wasn't just getting rid of the spellcaster, you were giving the chieftain a way out."
"Mother Mia's idea," Tavros said. "She said he was the one pushing the tribe to invade and expand -- and to eat other peoples. And from the brief exchange I had with him, I think she was right. So yes, the moment the hill giant wasn't a threat, he was the target."
"Ah, there you are." Mother Mia stepped up to their circle, almost out of nowhere. "I knew you were taking my name in vain, I could feel my ears itching."
Tavros snorted. "I was singing your praises, and don't imagine otherwise."
"Well, good," she said, "because those idiot goblins burned my house down and even if you taught them a lesson I just don't feel like living out here anymore. I think I might take vows, join your order. Maybe see what I can do straighten things out in the world."
Tavros managed to keep himself from gaping at her, but it was sheer effort of will. Tarric's eyes were as wide as his fists. It was Anica who grinned, stepped forward, and put an arm around her shoulders. "I think we'd do well to have you," she said.