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The room was silent as Edic watched his boss read the message that he’d just delivered. Werrick was standing behind a desk, and there was a scowl on his face that revealed carefully contained fury. It only got worse as he continued to read.

Edic glanced off to the side where Zelena was sitting in a chair. The beautiful but cold blonde woman looked relaxed as she patiently waited for her master to finish. Edic was less sanguine about the present situation. He didn’t like being put on the spot when his boss was angry. Although Werrick had a reputation for fairness, he could be very intimidating. He was a huge man and famed for his martial prowess. You didn’t keep several small armies of outlaws in line by being non-violent. Edic was used to being around dangerous people, but Werrick was different. He wasn’t a noble and he didn’t follow the chivalric code. Edic was the last son of a now deceased knight from lands near the border. He was a knight himself, even if his lands were worth almost nothing but the title they granted. He had seen which way the winds of fortune were blowing and decided to forswear the king who had never done anything for his family and offer his services to the rising power.

“This is an unwelcome development,” Werrick observed in a frosty tone as he finally looked up from the piece of paper.

“Yes, sir” Edic replied neutrally. He wanted to draw as little attention to himself as possible. He was just the messenger.

“Have you read this?”

Edic flinched and tried to hide it. “Yes, sir. I have. That’s why I brought the report to your attention right away.”

Werrick’s scowl grew deeper. “My subordinates have been slaughtered, and worse, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The perpetrators are long gone and have escaped into the forest. Sending men out into the deep Green to follow a hobgoblin sounds like a great way to never see those men ever again. This entire mess makes me look weak and foolish. Cedric’s position was an important one. Having him in Daggerpoint reminded all the local bandits of my power and control. I need them to fear me. There are too many for me to fight all at once.”

“We can send out orders for everyone to be on their guard, and Cedric can be replaced with ease,” Edic quickly responded. “The hobgoblin will have a much harder time getting into a properly fortified building full of men that are waiting for him. We can adapt to this tactic with ease. It won’t work again. Cedric was lazy and arrogant.”

Werrick huffed. “That’s what I like about you, Edic. You’re constructive. That’s one of the better traits to have in lieutenants, I believe.”

“I’m simply trying to do my best to serve,” Edic replied stiffly as he stood straight.

“And you do a good job of it,” Werrick admitted with sour grin. “Send out the order, and make sure everyone is on the lookout for hobgoblins. If he isn’t afraid to strike at the center of a city then anyone out on the road should be extra vigilant.”

“Immediately, sir.”

“Of course, that only helps us reduce the damage of any further attacks. It doesn’t deal with the actual heart of the problem.”

“As you said, going after the hobgoblin would be difficult. He could be anywhere out in the Green, and he undoubtedly knows it far better than we do,” Edic agreed.

Werrick sighed regretfully. “Mahedium warned me about this hobgoblin, and it appears he was right. I thought he was being paranoid, but I was wrong. I admit it. I will have to summon him so we can discuss what he knows about this Blacknail.”

“You want to meet with him directly instead of just communicating via letter?”

“I don’t trust that mage to be completely forthcoming unless it’s in person. I’ve rarely met anyone as secretive as him.”

From off to the side, Zelena finally joined the conversation. “I agree, lord. It is important you question the mage face to face. He has no allegiance to you beyond convenience. He also won’t want to leave his work. The Broken Wheel has supplied him with a lab and all the toys he could ever want.”

Werrick scowled again. “I don’t care what he wants. This comes first. Having magic support is nice, but I can do without any new mana stones. The hobgoblin is much more of a concern. If we can’t hunt him down, my first instinct is to set a trap for him, but I know too little about him right now. What does he want?”

“He’s a hobgoblin. They are little more than beasts. He probably just struck out at random,” Edic said.

Werrick shook his head. “I don’t think so. Mahedium said that the hobgoblin’s inhuman intelligence was a threat. The death of Cedric might be only a minor blow against me, but considering the strength of our opponent, it’s one of the best opening moves he could have made.”

“Surely that was just luck? I have a hard time seeing a savage like him coming up with a grand strategy.”

“Underestimating him again would be a mistake. Don’t forget that after my victory over Herad most the troops sent after the group he was with didn’t come back, and we’ve lost several other groups of bandits in that area that pledged themselves to me. No, we can’t underestimate him. I sense a pattern unfolding. This hobgoblin is going to be a dangerous opponent, maybe my most dangerous.”

“I’m sure you’re right, sir,” Edic replied. He didn’t necessarily agree, but knew better than to challenge his boss when he’d already made up his mind.

“I usually am,” Werrick agreed with a grin. “Was there anything else you wanted to bring to my attention?”

Edic took a second to think and coughed to clear his throat. “There has still been no progress in opening communication with anyone to the west, and we lost another scout. Neither the lords nor the outlaws out there care much about what goes on here in the eastern lands.”

“No one even wants to talk?” Werrick asked. He sounded slightly surprised.

“They just want to keep to themselves. As per your orders, we’re trying to find someone powerful there to negotiate and ally with, but usually they just kill the messenger for trespassing or speaking with the wrong accent.”

Zelena spoke up again. “That’s not surprising. Since this continent was settled, the West has always been a dark and wild place. They’ve never had kings or any central authority out there on the edge. Every hill is ruled by its own paranoid little lord, and they are always fighting each other, with the occasional break to oppress the peasants. Not that the common folk are any better. They’re just as vicious and insular.”

“We can’t even find any half decent maps of the place,” Edic agreed. “It’s all just hamlets and tiny forts out in the forest. Half of them are probably abandoned by now. Hells, they may all be. There might only be a few villages left west of Eloria. It’s impossible to tell because they bloody keep to themselves and there are no real roads. Look at what is happened here in the North, everything is collapsing, and they’ve been dealing with this sort of chaos for over a century.”

“You have a good point, but the difference is that they’ve always been like this,” Zelena told him. “I think they never would have settled out there in the first place if they couldn’t survive, or they would have died off long ago anyway. Don’t forget, the far West was settled all in one big wave from the Homelands, and there have always been dark rumors about the nobles that rule them.”

“I don’t know much about that. I’m not a scholar, but I don’t put much faith in old monster stories,” Edic replied respectfully.

Zelena chuckled. “And yet our current problems center around a monster from times long past.”

“Regardless, it might be best to just leave the West alone,” Werrick admitted. “We have problems enough already it seems. Inviting more would be foolhardy. Outside of the occasional raid or trading caravan, the people of the West haven’t had anything to do with East for a century, so I doubt we need to worry about them.”

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ClearMadness

Bio: Not actually a goblin.

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Baracutey @Baracutey ago

Thanks for the chapter. Your forshadowing is great, "the West haven’t had anything to do with East for a century, so I doubt we need to worry about them.” He just jnx himself

zeph @zeph ago

Great chapter!!

Lord Of Mild Interest @Lord Of Mild Interest ago

Edit will learn the horror of the Gob

    He who travels the stories @He who travels the stories ago

    Where do we restart our discussion? I think I just got new amunition XD (Also: did you catch the irony between your name and writing pages of text on the uses and dangers a fictional character has in a fictional world? I absolutely envy you for bringing forth such brilliant discrepancy XD)

      Lord Of Mild Interest @Lord Of Mild Interest ago

      I am the Lord of mild interest so I do it better than anyone else, so well I nearly AM interested, only nearly tho.

      He who travels the stories @He who travels the stories ago

      Impressive, being the best at what you do. While I'm just a simple traveler. Maybe I should have tried harder to become someone more awe inspiring?

      To our discussion, we can at least note that:

      1) Luphera manipulates Blacknail into doing things that annoy Werrick pretty much (the 'perfect opening move' was heavily influenced by Luphera; I reread the scene and she nudges/leads Blacknail towards killing that 'bandit mini-boss'; she at least encourages behaviour Blacknail is likely to show either way and directs it into more efficient forms)

      2) Blacknail lost most of his information cruical for catching his opponent of guard already (except for the existence of his hobgoblin minions); all without Luphera selling him out; it was just known beforehand

      3) There actually are possible allies to be made, both in the north and the west. So both the points of fear and second chances communicated toi them can actually be used; that was more of a conjunction before XD

      So far it wasn't a mistake to let her life. But it also didn't bring much benefit either. We'll see if it was a smart or dumb move in future chapters.

      Lord Of Mild Interest @Lord Of Mild Interest ago

      I don't trust her but I see what your saying.

      The biggest reason I want her dead is cause it would be funny.

Taki @Taki ago

Thanks for the chapter!

zenla @zenla ago

Can t wage a war without stable land yep.

Serpentine13 @Serpentine13 ago

I get the feeling Blacknail may go and force those western lords to fight for him against Werrick, or help instigate into mobilizing against a common enemy.

Killashard
Premium

Killashard @Killashard ago

Thanks for the chapter!

Temaki-dono @Temaki-dono ago

"I doubt we need to worry about them.”

Famous last words.

theeyecansee @theeyecansee ago

As for a grand and arrogant bandit chieftan Werrick is a paranoid sort. I would expect him to care less. "No, we can’t underestimate him. I sense a pattern unfolding. This hobgoblin is going to be a dangerous opponent, maybe my most dangerous" That's really paranoid thinking for someone arrogant and intelligent. He makes himself look weak in front of his subordinates by saying that... And a prideful man wouldn't let himself to say that aloud.

    Kiriaru @Kiriaru ago

    Is it paranoia if you are right though? Besides this is one of his bigger problems right now, he should think rationally about it.

      theeyecansee @theeyecansee ago

      I could understand if he would say that the hobgoblin "might" cause "problems" and "must be dealt with" but saying that "This hobgoblin is going to be a dangerous opponent, maybe my most dangerous" is overreacting. He is in no position to tell that yet. And as I said - it doesn't fit his personality type and his position. The top dog can't let himself show any weaknesses especially among bandits - never. Just remind yourself Herad. Bandits are like wolves. They never lower their guard and they hide their fear. Think as a follower - what kind of a leader is he if he consider just some random hobgoblin his worst enemy? A paranoid leader - a coward - someone weak. He is making a laughing-stock out of himself. So his behaviour is strange as hell. It looks like if the author didn't think this through.

      Kiriaru @Kiriaru ago

      Well he isn't in a shack in the middle of a forest, surrounded by possible competitors, he is in a room with two other people, both of whom are loyal to him we can assume. He has the power and influence to get away with things that he says, people fear him enough even Edic, who is nervous just being in the same room as the guy.

      theeyecansee @theeyecansee ago

      From the talk I wouldn't be sure if Edic is loyal enough. And even if - I would expect him to have that strong habit to hide his weaknesses. What if Edic will say too much when drunk? What if he will start seeing Werrick as weak? Heck - I'm a guy and I don't show my weaknesses in front of others just because of that. What about someone like Werrick? No. I don't think such a person would be taking any chances to look weak in front of anyone. Even Blacknail knows that if he will look weak - hobgoblins will try to kill him and take his place. Soon that type of thinking is part of your personality - something that you do without thinking - like walking. You just don't suddenly start whining how hard it is just because you are among "friends".

      Kiriaru @Kiriaru ago

      Well you are exaggerating everything and talking about how weak he will seem, it doesn't matter. Everyone knows he is extremely strong, nobody is going to think he is weak because he assessed a threat properly. He showed no fear of Blacknail only recognition of Blacknails many feats of skill and strength.

      Werrick is not going to "look weak" because he said, "I don’t think so. Mahedium said that the hobgoblin’s inhuman intelligence was a threat. The death of Cedric might be only a minor blow against me, but considering the strength of our opponent, it’s one of the best opening moves he could have made."

      He recognizes here that Blacknail is a weak opponent practically.

      Werrick then says, “Underestimating him again would be a mistake. Don’t forget that after my victory over Herad most the troops sent after the group he was with didn’t come back, and we’ve lost several other groups of bandits in that area that pledged themselves to me. No, we can’t underestimate him. I sense a pattern unfolding. This hobgoblin is going to be a dangerous opponent, maybe my most dangerous.”

      He recognizes Blacknail as a stronger opponent than Herad and maybe some of these western Lords.

      Why? You may ask, because as Mahedium warned him this Hobgoblin has an inhuman intelligence and is a threat, Blacknail is a monster and a smart one at that. The Green is his home while for humans it is a treacherous place.

      Far from fucking whining...

      theeyecansee @theeyecansee ago

      You don't get me - It would be OK to THINK like that - but not to say something like that. It's like whining because others are too stupid to see that it isn't. When you work with idiots and half-idiots you know that they see things in 2d while you see them in 3d. They see your sign of intelligence as a sign of weakness because they can't think of anything else - and when they see an occasion they jump at it. Werrick is going to look weak - because you need a brain to understand his reasoning - and it's hard for a decent brain around brute outlaws. You just don't say that anyone is going to be a problem for you - that makes you look weak and is undermining your authority. The problem is that I doubt he would say such things even in private. I think that the author just used his words to explain few things to us and didn't pay attention to how it looks. It's bending ones character to inform instead of talking how it would really talk.

      Kiriaru @Kiriaru ago

      You are wrong, it is okay to say it too, as well as think it. I never saw a problem with either.

      You are underestimating the people here, he isn't friends with dumb brutes. Of course his friends would be intelligent like him, but maybe not as wary as he is of this threat.

      You could be right that it doesn't fit his character, I think it does but whatever.