Blacknail stepped away from the pot of stew he had been cooking and drew his sword. The late afternoon sky overhead was dark and cloudy. The wind was still and quiet, but that only created an expectant atmosphere that filled Blacknail with unease and amplified the other noises. It sounded like the goblins’ base was under attack. Blacknail could hear howling and screams, and neither of those sounds usually meant anything good. Feeling concerned, Blacknail peered over the heads of the nearby mob of goblins, towards the rocky hills beyond them. It was good thing they were so short.
Across the clearing, three goblins ran out from behind a hill as if something dreadful was chasing them, because something was. There was a vicious snarl and a grey blur burst into sight. It tackled one of the goblins to the ground. The green critter screamed in pain and struggled to escape its attacker. Long jaws descended and there was a crunching noise as it bit down. The goblin was being mauled by a large grey wolf. It looked like it hurt.
One wolf wasn’t much of a threat to Blacknail, but there were probably more around. Wolves were cowards like that. Blacknail felt fury start to bubble up from within him. How dare this animal enter his territory with such impunity. It was an insult! Blacknail snarled and lunged forward toward the wolf. He was going to cut the mangy beast to pieces and eat it! He didn’t care how bad it tasted.
The nearby goblins reacted at the same time as their leader, and immediately fled in the opposite direction. Blacknail hadn’t been expecting anything else from them, but it still annoyed him. The cowardly creatures outnumbered the wolf ten to one. This was why you had to beat your goblins regularly.
The wolf looked up from its prey and noticed the charging hobgoblin. It studied him for a quick second, and then without a word, it bounded away back behind the hill. Blacknail hissed in frustration as he slowed down. The overgrown doggy was running!
Just as Blacknail came to a stop, he heard another growl from behind him. The hobgoblin glanced over his shoulder in time to see two new wolves dash in and pick off one of the fleeing goblins behind him. The nearby goblins shrieked in terror, and then one of them veered off to the side and ran straight into the firepit. There was a crash as the goblin smacked into the pot and sent it crashing over. The goblin rolled through the fire pit, scattering sparks and embers, and then jumped up and continued running.
“No, my stew!” Blacknail wailed in horror. As he watched, the food splashed out of the pot and spilled out across the ground. That was way more dirt than the recipe called for! His stew was ruined. He had put so much effort into making it… This wasn’t fair!
Blacknail stood there frozen, as the wolves that had pounced on the goblin turned and began to run off with their prize. Blacknail shook himself to clear his mind. Now wasn’t the time to focus on spilled stew. There were important things to do. The wolves were killing his minions, and he wasn’t going to let that happen. If he didn’t get any food then no one was!
Infuriatingly, the wolves were too far away for Blacknail to catch. They were fast bastards, and it was like they were working together to keep him off balance. Well, that wasn’t going to work. Blacknail was a genius and thus much smarter than them.
There was more than one way to hunt. Blacknail didn’t need to catch the wolves. He hurriedly sheathed his sword and drew his sling instead. A moment later, he sent a rock through the air towards the closest wolf. It yelped in pain when the rock hit its leg, and then it crumpled and rolled across the ground before coming to a stop. Blacknail was already running towards it. Its companion saw him coming and took off with the goblin’s corpse, but the wounded wolf wasn’t so lucky. Before it could get up, Blacknail dove on top of the wolf and grabbed its furry neck.
“Got you!” Blacknail yelled victoriously. His bloodthirst was in full swing now.
The hobgoblin pulled out a dagger with his other hand, as the beast struggled to escape. It rolled onto its back and raked the hobgoblin’s arm with its rear claws, but the pain just enraged Blacknail. His fury muted the feeling into irrelevance.
The wolf snapped at Blacknail and hot spittle splashed across his face, but the hobgoblin kept his grip on the beast’s neck and held it away. Blacknail snarled as he stabbed the wolf in the chest over and over again. A few seconds later, it went limp as blood began to pour out of its wounds. The hobgoblin relaxed but kept his grip on the beast as he stood up and looked around. He could still hear goblins screaming in panic but there were only a few stragglers left nearby. The others had fled towards safety, but that wasn’t the important thing. There were still more wolves that needed killing.
There were too many piles of rocks blocking his view, so Blacknail decided to get a better vantage point. He needed to know what was going on. He ran over to the nearest hill and began to climb. After scrambling hallway up the rocky incline, Blacknail stopped and looked around. Below him, mobs of goblins were still rampaging around aimlessly. The occasional wolf could also be seen darting around.
Off to one side, Gob was standing his ground outside the longhouse. A small formation of goblin overseers had formed up around him. Blacknail decided to head over there as well, but before he could, he heard something that caused him to jerk in surprise. A deep haunting howl washed over him. It was coming from his left and sounded far too close for comfort.
Alarmed, Blacknail quickly glanced to his left, and he saw a wolf jump up onto the top of another hill. The beast was huge and stood out from the others. Its furry grey body dwarfed that of the other wolves Blacknail had seen, but the most startling thing about it was the series of dark blue spikes that ran down its back. It was a mutant.
The vicious looking creature stared directly at Blacknail, and the hobgoblin met its eyes. For a few seconds neither of them moved. They just glared at each other. Blacknail didn’t like this new development. He hated mutants. They were trouble. There had been this one giant snake…
The wolf that had run away from Blacknail appeared behind the alpha and took up position beside it. It was still holding the dead goblin in its jaws in a way that was very suggestive. The bloody thing looked smug, and it seemed to smile as it turned to stare at Blacknail.
Well, two could play that game. The hobgoblin grinned as he lifted up the wolf he had killed. This seemed to anger the alpha wolf because it immediately growled. Blacknail growled back, but then realized he was at a disadvantage here. He was outnumbered and he didn’t really want to fight a mutant. They could be very tough.
Fighting would be a bad idea, but he wasn’t going to back down either. This was his territory and no giant wolf monster was going to show up and scare him. That would make Blacknail look bad in front of all his minions.
The hobgoblin and the beast continued to stare at each other hatefully from their respective hills. Blacknail couldn’t help but notice how massive the mutant was, and he began to feel his rage fall away. Self preservation was important after all. A lot of people depended on him.
The beast looked like it weighed well over twice his weight, and like most mutants it probably had some sort of magical power. Attacking the wolf would undoubtedly be ill-advised, but showing weakness might also invite an attack. This was a problem… Maybe if he glared at it hard enough it would go away. He couldn’t think of any better options so that was what he did. Blacknail made his best scary face and took a confident pose. He continued to hold the dead wolf up, even if his arm was starting to hurt. The mangy carcass was heavy.
The mutant wolf snarled and glared, but Blacknail didn’t back down at all, not that he had much choice. It would be strategically unwise to move too much.
Suddenly, there was a chorus of shouts from behind Blacknail and the stomping sound of a lot of small feet. Gob’s voice was recognizable among the others. The wolf alpha looked away from Blacknail and towards the noise, so the hobgoblin snuck a quick glance over his shoulder. What he saw cheered him up considerably. It looked like Gob had managed convince a small swarm of goblins to charge towards Blacknail’s location. Gob and several overseers were at the back of the mob, where they could drive the others forward. Blacknail was going to have to reward Gob somehow. He was a great minion.
The wolf threw a look back at Blacknail and snarled viciously, but it didn’t attack. Instead, it raised its head and let out another echoing howl. Right away, the scattered wolves began to turn away from the camp and run towards the forest. Their grey forms zoomed through the rocks and out of sight. The alpha wolf then jumped down the hill and darted off towards the forest. Its companion followed it.
“Ha, you’re not tough. Fear me!” Blacknail shouted after it as he dropped the wolf carcass. His arm muscles really hurt now.
“I’m here to help, supreme one! Let us drive the enemy away!” Gob said as his mob met up with their chief. The collected goblins looked nervous but they were all armed, so they probably felt safer together and wouldn’t flee.
“I already did that,” Blacknail replied proudly. “I just scared the enemy leader with my greatness, so they all ran. It was a huge and very dangerous mutant.”
“You are truly a mighty warrior,” Gob remarked in awe.
“I am,” Blacknail agreed as he nodded smugly to himself. He had sure shown that furry freak who the boss was. He was!
“The beast still lives, though. Should we chase it? It killed some of our tribe. Blood must pay for blood.”
A mental image of him trying to lead a mob of goblins through the forest after the wolf popped into Blacknail’s head. It didn’t seem like it would work very well, because they were so stupid and cowardly. The goblins would lose their confidence and desert in short order. That would leave Blacknail alone in the woods with the angry wolf pack, which didn't sound fun.
“No, I have a better plan. We will have another chance to kill the foul beasts,” Blacknail quickly replied.
He actually had several different schemes that could work. His first plan involved hoping the wolves went away and never came back. This was the optimal outcome. His second plan involved waiting, building up his forces, and hoping the wolves didn’t kill anyone important until he was ready for them. A dozen hobgoblins should even the odds enough. His third plan was to dig a big hole and hope they all fell in it. It wasn’t a very good plan.
“We need to build a wall,” Blacknail mused aloud.
He had a new appreciation for all the walls he had seen around human settlements. They had always seemed so useless to him, because they had been so easy for him to get through, but now he realized that keeping out amazing sneaks like him wasn’t their purpose. They were meant to keep less awesome things like giant wolves or other predators out. Really, there was nothing that would keep Blacknail out of somewhere he wanted to go, anyway. He was too amazing.
Yes, a wall was what he needed. Blacknail had thought that gathering a large tribe of goblins together would scare away most predators, or at least prevent them from coming right into camp where the important people were, but obviously that wasn’t the case. More goblins just meant more food to some beasts.
“What the bloody hells is going on?” Khita yelled as she ran up to Blacknail. The young redhead had her sword out and looked excited as she glanced in every direction.
“That mutant wolf I warned you about was real, and it attacked,” Blacknail told her. He was always right and she was always wrong.
“Really? Is it still here? Will it come back?” she asked him as she stared at the edge of the forest.
“No, it’s gone. I scared it away and it won’t dare come back. Now it knows that only death waits for it here.”
“Blast, I wanted to see it, and to get a chance to take it down,” Khita said as she sheathed her sword and sighed. She sounded really disappointed, and Blacknail rolled his eyes. If Khita had come face to the face with the wolf she would have been petrified from fear. She wasn’t brave like him.
“Where is Elyias?” Blacknail asked her.
“Cowering at the back of a cave with Scamp,” she answered dismissively.
“Ah, good.” Blacknail had been slightly concerned. He hadn’t seen them around, and losing them would be inconvenient. He still had a use for them.
Blacknail and Gob spent the next hour calming down the camp. The wolves had picked off a few goblins but they didn’t seem to have done any structural damage. Once everything was back under control, Blacknail put a few goblins on lookout. If the wolves returned and tore them apart their dying screams would give him a chance to prepare.
As he was working, Blacknail’s stomach suddenly rumbled. He had completely forgotten that he hadn’t eaten. The attacking wolves had rudely interrupted his cooking. Blacknail quickly headed back the firepit to see if there was anything left. He approached the toppled iron pot, knelt down, and peered within it. It was completely empty.
“You filth! I will find you!” Blacknail roared as he stood back up. He shook from rage as he glared in every direction for any sign of a convenient target.
It was obvious that some goblins had even taken advantage of the chaos and cleaned out the inside of the pot while he had been bravely facing down the alpha. What a bunch of thieving scum! Why did Blacknail even bother defending them! If they weren’t so easy to turn into menial laborers then he would have already left them all to die.
Grumbling to himself, Blacknail went to get some food from the larder. It wasn’t very satisfying and only reminded him of the hot meal that had been stolen from him. Goblins were scum. After finishing his food, Blacknail headed off to bed. He didn’t feel like staying up or doing anything useful. No one here appreciated the things he did for them.
The next morning Blacknail felt better. He immediately tossed Khita out of her bed and went to work. Or at least he went out and started to get other people working. He was the leader.
The first thing that needed done was to construct a wall. It was far too easy for dangerous forest creatures to get into the base and start munching down on goblins. The forests of the North contained an endless supply of slavering beasts, and Blackail was using these goblins. Every barrier between his cave and an attacker was also appreciated. You could never be too careful.
“The wall will be made of pointy sticks. It needs to go around the entire base and be too high to jump,” Blacknail explained to Gob.
He had just finished showing the other hobgoblin how he wanted the wall built. As Gob watched he had chopped down a several thin trees and stuck them in the ground. They were also tied together and supported by another piece of timber that was jammed in behind them on an angle. It was a crude copy of a design he had seen Herad use before.
“As you wish, I will make sure this wall encircles all the base, great master,” Gob said. The hobgoblin nodded along seriously and looked eager to get going.
Something about that reply bothered Blacknail. He took a second to think it through before replying. “Leave a gap for an entrance.”
Sometimes Gob took him too literally. There had been an incident a few days ago after Blacknail had asked someone to knock some sense into Elyias.
“Make that two entrances; I want one at the back as well. It’s too far to walk,” Blacknail added thoughtfully. “Round up all the overseers – and make some more - and get them to force every goblin they find that isn’t already working to start cutting down trees.”
As Gob started to get down to work, Blacknail went to track down the other two new hobgoblins. He felt like getting some early morning exercise, it was past time to start training them, and he felt like beating someone up. It sure was convenient that he could do all three at the same time. Maybe Scamp or Imp would even try to kill him! That would really amuse Blacknail. He couldn’t wait.