It took a few seconds for Blacknail’s brain to start working again. During that time he continued to stare at the female hobgoblin in front of him. She was standing in line with the other three new hobgoblins.
“Ah, I see,” Blacknail mused to himself to fill the awkward silence. He had been planning on acting tough in front of the new recruits, but he had been thrown off track.
Why was this such a surprise anyway? It wasn’t like Blacknail hadn’t considered the idea of female hobgoblins before. He had. It was just that he’d grown used to all of the new hobgoblins being male. Why now had one finally appeared now? There were as many female goblins as there were male ones.
“So, you’re a female,” he told her.
“Yes, I am,” she replied. The female hobgoblin’s eyes shone with excitement as she stared directly at Blacknail. Her intensity was a little unnerving.
“Good...” Blacknail mused aloud. He knew he sounded stupid, but he couldn’t help himself. “Why are you a hobgoblin?”
“Don’t know. I just follow you around everywhere and watch you all the time, and eventually I became like you,” she answered him.
“Huh, I don’t remember you…” Blacknail replied uncertainly.
“No reason a great one such as you should. I was small and unworthy. I stayed back. I avoided other goblins that would distract me.”
“Ah, that makes sense,” Blacknail told her while he forced a smile. That didn’t make sense. He was getting a weird vibe from this female.
The hobgoblin chieftain coughed and took a step back so he could see all the new hobgoblins. He shouldn’t focus on just one of them.
“I’m going to give you all names now,” he told them.
“We have names already,” one of the two lanky hobgoblins remarked as he looked at the other.
“You do? Goblins don’t usually give themselves names,” Blacknail replied. He was more than a little surprised.
Normally, Blacknail only named hobgoblins because no one else did. If they wanted to name themselves that was fine with him. Coming up with good names that everyone had to use forever was sort of annoying anyway. It was too bad he couldn’t just name them all Gob. That was a great name for a hobgoblin.
“No, we gave each other names,” the second lanky hobgoblin explained. “I call him Twig Arms.”
“And I call him Bone Face” the other added with a smile.
Were they being serious? Blacknail scowled at both of them. Why would they insult themselves? This had better not be a joke at his expense, or they were going to get it.
His look didn’t go unnoticed. Bone Face quickly spoke up to explain. “We fight and insult each other a lot.”
“Well, those names are still too annoying to say. You’re Bones and Twig now,” Blacknail told them before turning to the third hobgoblin.
“Do you have a name?” he asked him.
“Then now you’re Rolly, because you’re almost as fat as a human,” Blacknail told him.
“Sure,” the chubby hobgoblin replied as he shrugged. He didn’t seem to care all that much.
“What about me? You’re giving me a name, right? It will be a connection between us, forever,” the female goblin asked.
“Er, how about you name yourself?” Blacknail suggested. He didn’t know what to call her. His mind kept going back to Tits, but he didn’t think that would work well.
“You should name me,” she insisted.
Since he apparently didn’t have a choice, Blacknail racked his mind for a name that wasn’t Tits.
“I think I’ll have to name you later. It’s hard,” he told her. He wasn’t coming up with anything. The weird way she was staring at him wasn’t helping him think either.
“Because it’s so important to you?”
This made her smile fiercely enough that Blacknail grew uncomfortable again. He looked away and addressed the entire group. He ordered them to remain loyal to him and explained that he would be taking over their swordsmanship training.
“…and if you disobey then I will make your skulls into cups,” Blacknail said as he finished up his motivational speech. It had been one of his better ones. “Any questions?”
The other hobgoblins wisely remained silent, except for the female.
“Wanna sex?” she asked him.
“Er… right now?” Blacknail replied uncertainly. Her sudden question had caught him off guard.
“I’m busy. Maybe later,” Blacknail told her.
He had a feeling that he shouldn’t commit to anything. It could end badly. He needed to think things over first. Her weird behavior made him more than a little suspicious. She might simply be planning on getting close to him so she could kill him and take his place as leader. Also, she reminded Blacknail of Khita. That was a huge turn off.
With his speech complete, the hobgoblin chieftain then made a break for it. He wanted to get some advice so he went to find Gob. He was the only hobgoblin Blacknail could trust, and they came from very different backgrounds. Maybe he would have some wisdom to share.
“What do you think of the new hobgoblins,” Blacknail asked when he found Gob over by his longhouse.
“They will serve you or die,” Gob replied seriously
“Well, of course, but one of them stands out, don’t you think?”
“True, it's weird how he is still fat. Is he going to get even bigger if he eats?” Gob replied thoughtfully.
“No, the female!” Blacknail hissed. “Why is she the only female to transform?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought much about it, because you haven’t ordered me to.”
“Fine, what do you think about her, as a female?” Blacknail asked him. This was obviously one of those times he had to be very specific with Gob.
“Umm, she looks a little thin, because she just transformed, but she will probably thicken up and become attractive after a while.” Gob replied uncertainly.
“Do you have any advice for dealing with her?”
“Well, she is a hobgoblin, so try not to get killed?”
It was obvious that Gob wasn’t an expert on female hobgoblins, and that he really wasn’t understanding what Blacknail was trying to get at. He had been hoping Gob would have knowledge to share since he had come from a wild tribe that had been ruled by a hobgoblin. With a disappointed sigh, Blacknail headed off towards his cave.
Was he just over thinking things? Gob seemed fine with her. Maybe some form of human stupidity had rubbed off on him. Their mating rituals were weird and complex. Females and sex had never bothered Blacknail before. He had mated with quite a few female goblins in his life, but he had mostly lost interest in them over the past year.
Was he attracted to the female hobgoblin? He wasn’t sure. She was a lot more human-like than a goblin. That was both a turn on and a turn off. In particular, memories of his experiences with one human in Daggerpoint kept popping into his head, Luphera. Thinking about her always set Blacknail on-edge. Actually, it had been after Luphera had ambushed him that he had started to lose interest in female goblins… No, that was just a coincidence. There was no way he found humans attractive, not even the ones with big breasts like Luphera. Er…
Was it too late to leave this village and find a new one?
“La la la,” Blacknail hummed loudly to himself as he headed for his cave. He was trying to drown out his own obnoxious thoughts. It was even sort of working.
“What are you doing?” Khita asked from where she was standing outside the cave. “That’s some of the worst singing I’ve ever heard. Barking dogs sound better when they’re in heat.”
Her voice made Blacknail stop and look up. Khita wasn’t someone he would usually go to for advice but maybe she might have an idea about naming the female goblin. She was technically a female as well.
“Shut up and listen,” the hobgoblin told her before explaining his problem to her. He left anything even remotely connected to sex, though. He didn’t want to confuse her simple brain.
“Oh, there are female hobgoblins? I can’t wait to meet her!” Khita replied as she grinned and looked around. There were no female hobgoblins in sight so she turned back to Blacknail.
“Of course there are, you idiot,” he told her.
“Ah, I was beginning to wonder since all of you were male, but then I thought it might just be because of you,”
“Because of me?”
“Ya, I was thinking maybe hobgoblin women were avoiding you.”
This statement earned her an annoyed glare from Blacknail. Why would anyone avoid him? Female goblins had thrown themselves at him. He was both strong and incredibly handsome. His nose had a perfect pointy tip.
“Stick to the name, stupid. What should I call her?” he told Khita.
“I don’t know. A lot of women are named after flowers, especially ones from romantic plays, not that I’ve ever watched anything dumb like a play. I um… spend all my time fighting and shit.”
Since he had no idea what she was on about, Blacknail ignored the later part of what Khita had said. It didn’t sound important anyway.
“Hmm, flowers…” Blacknail mused to himself as he began walking away from Khita. She called after him but he ignored it. He was done talking to her.
Saeter had taught Blacknail the names of quite a few flowers, like Goat’s Beard or Stinging Creeper. Stinging Creeper sounded like a good fit for the female hobgoblin. Hmm, it wouldn’t hurt to get more input first, though. Geralhd might be worth talking to.
With the mutant wolf dead and his pack scattered, Blacknail was probably safe making the journey to Shelter by himself. It would take a while for other creatures to move into the wolf’s old territory. However, Blacknail didn’t feel like walking all the way there. He had just gotten back and his feet sort of hurt.
Maybe he would just take a stroll around the camp instead. He still hadn’t seen everything that had changed, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check in on Imp and Ferrar. Who knew what they had gotten up to?
They didn’t disappoint him. After crossing the camp, Blacknail found Ferrar over by the clay firing pits. The little goblin wasn’t alone. Imp was right beside him, and they were both studying a furnace.
The sight of the huge oven surprised Blacknail. It was a long structure with an entrance at the front and a chimney at the back that was taller than him. It wasn’t made from just clay either. The walls and roof had been reinforced with countless bricks. The roof even looked to have been made from a brick arch.
“What in the deepest Green is this for?” Blacknail asked as he walked over.
“Making bricks,” Imp replied.
“But you already have bricks… and you needed them to make this,” Blacknail pointed out.
“We used a smaller kiln to make the bricks for this so we could make even more bricks,” Imp explained.
Looking around, Blacknail saw the other kilns. There was the small one Ferrar had created first. It looked like one big lump of clay the size of a goblin. Beside that, there was also another kiln that was about three times as large as the first. It was bee hive shaped and it looked like it had been created using crude bricks that had been plastered with clay. Three tall pots could be seen cooling down inside of it.
“Why do we need to make so many bricks?” Blacknail asked.
“To burn more interesting things!” Ferrar replied cheerfully.
“So we can build important things, like even bigger kilns,” Imp added.
Blacknail sighed. “Why do you want a bigger kiln?”
“Magic!” Imp explained as he raised both his arms dramatically. “I need better tools. I need to tame the flames. Crystals must have steady heat to grow.”
That was probably the best answer Blacknail was going to get. He had no idea what Imp got up to when he was doing his magic stuff. It wasn’t like Blacknail couldn’t see a few ways to use the bricks himself. He was just surprised Imp and Ferrar had gone to such lengths. They had obviously worked hard on this since Blacknail had left, and that thankfully meant that they had been too busy to get into trouble.
“Alright, whatever,” Blacknail told his minions before turning and starting to walk away.
Now that he’d met with all the hobgoblins, Blacknail decided to see what had happened to the body of the fallen wolf. He’d brought it back with him to camp, but he hadn’t seen it since. He wanted to keep its hide as trophy and its teeth would also make an interesting necklace. Anyone that saw Blacknail wearing that would instantly know how big of a deal he was.
What was left of the mutant’s corpse was hanging up on the drying rack. Someone had skinned the beast and hung the hide up to dry.
Blacknail walked over to the wolf’s pelt and gave it a sniff. He smelled brains. It seemed like it was being prepared correctly, but it wasn’t done yet. It would be a few more days until it had dried out. Out of curiosity, Blacknail ran a hand across the grey fur that covered one side of the hide. The hairs prickled his skin and pushed back against him. They were much tougher and springier than normal hair, even if they weren’t as hard as when the wolf had used them to defend itself. Still, the hide was probably strong enough to make a useful cloak that would turn a blow or two.
Blacknail’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by someone yelling “Hello, boss!”
He turned around to see Scamp headed his way.
“What are you doing here?” Blacknail asked. Scamp usually skulked around so that no one could find him and force him to work.
“Gob ordered me to tan all these hides. I catch most the big beasts, and that’s a lot of work, but he still gets mad if I let any of their skins rot,” Scamp replied. He sounded annoyed about it.
“Good for him,” Blacknail huffed. It sounded like Gob was doing an excellent job.
“It isn’t fair! Why do I need to do everything?”
“What happened to the rest of the wolf?” Blacknail asked. He didn’t feel the need to respond to Scamp’s sniveling.
“The meat smelled funny and went bad right away. The bones are in the cold cave there, and Imp took the crystal thing that was in its skull,” Scamp answered.
“The mutant’s horn, it was a magic stone that went into its head. Imp took it.”
“Huh,” Blacknail remarked to himself. He would have to talk to Imp about that later. “What about the little piggies? I remember claiming those. No one ate them yet, did they?”
“No one would dare, boss. The piggies are all in a cage.”
“Good. Have you been feeding them? I want them nice and fat! Pig meat is so juicy. I can’t wait!”
“They’ve been getting food scraps,” Scamp answered.
There were things that goblins wouldn’t eat? Blacknail couldn’t picture that. “Who exactly has been looking after them?”
“Khita was doing it but she stopped. The piggies don’t mind goblins, but every time she tried to pet them they squealed and bit at her. They really don’t like her much.”
“I’m keeping them, forever,” Blacknail exclaimed gleefully. He had finally found the means to keep the annoying redhead away. All he had to do was train the pigs to follow him around and then they would chase her away every time she bothered him.
“Um, boss. Are you going to talk to Gob about getting someone else to tan the hides?” Scamp asked tentatively.
“Sure, no problem,” Blacknail replied.
“Ya, all you have to do is find another hobgoblin and get them to take your place. Feel free to beat them up until they agree.”
“Oh,” Scamp exclaimed disappointment. He didn’t sound too optimistic about his chances. Blacknail wasn’t either.
“Now get back to work,” Blacknail told him before starting to walk away.
All the distractions had been nice, but now it was time for him to train the new hobgoblins. That meant he had to decide on a name for the female hobgoblin. He couldn’t put it off anymore.
Screw all this thinking. It was annoying. He was just going to go with the first thing on his mind. There was no point getting worked up over the name of a hobgoblin just because she was female.
After crossing the camp, Blacknail met up with the new hobgoblins at the training ground. They were waiting for him with training blades in their hands. Blacknail appraised them and gave the female a particularly long look before approaching them.
Their features and attitude hadn’t changed but the female was now wearing one of Khita’s shirts. The redhead must have tracked her down and given it to her. That or she had stolen it. No, that couldn’t have happened. She wouldn’t have dared steal anything from Blacknail’s cave.
Blacknail stopped in front of the female goblin and studied her for a second before speaking up. “Your name is Herah.”
She had already been smiling as she stared at Blacknail, but the grin on the female hobgoblin’s face widened considerably as she listened.
“What does it mean?” she asked eagerly.
Blacknail snorted. Names didn’t have to mean anything. He made most them up on the spot, and most the humans had nonsense for names. Although in this case he had chosen hers for a reason.
“It’s based on the name of someone I used to know. She was angry all the time and killed lots of people before she died.”
“Wow! I love it so much,” the hobgoblin exclaimed breathlessly. Her eyes were practically shinning with joy.
Blacknail was sure that Herad would have approved of her name inspiring that of a hobgoblin. The bandit chieftain had always been very hobgoblin-like herself: ruthless, cunning, and quick. Blacknail was unsure about her opinion on cheese, though.
“Now listen you rats. If you think Gob was hard on you then you were wrong! I’m going to really train you,” Blacknail announced as he stepped back and addressed all the hobgoblins.
A grin appeared on Blacknail’s lips as he picked up a training blade and held it up. He would probably feel better about Herah after he had beaten her up a few times. That was how he’d grown to accept the presence of all the other hobgoblins.